Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lager than life

Bangalore has long been known as the Pub City of India and generations of consumers  have grown  up on the locally brewed international beer Kingfisher.  With the city rapidly adapting international trends,  micro-breweries are making a bee-line here, with The Biere Club being first off the mark.

Bangalore’s first craft brewery opened its door to the pub city recently and in doing so has given an insight into how the city’s fast changing demographics and hunger for new places has given rise to the new trend.

A micro-brewery is basically where beer is brewed, sold and drunk, all in the same place. Siblings Meenakshi Raju & Arvind Kumar who started the place have introduced people to beer in a manner never done before. They brew fresh and original beers in small batches, using only the finest ingredients with traditional methods.

The Biere Club offers  a variety of  beers ranging from light froths like wheat beer and lager, ale to heavy-bodied. Complementing their brews are appropriate gastronomical experiences, excellent service and an unforgettable ambience. Spread over three floors in the upmarket locale at the intersection of Vittal Mallya Road and Lavelle Road, the USP of this place is of course  the beer.

Food served at the Club are from the Mediterranean belt and consist of Middle Eastern, Turkish, Greek and Spanish Tapas; experiments to cook their food with the brew are also on.

Few Indians have any idea about what lies over the mountain of pasteurised, preservative-added bottled beer; fresh draught beer has never been a well-sustained tradition. Microbrews are served as soon as they are ready to be drunk, and the breweries stay in continual production. Free of preservatives, the beer suffers no alterations in flavour.

The concept seems to have certainly caught the fancy of customers of all ages. Says Tariq Wali, 22, “Its unique taste of Stout beer was refreshing, definitely my new hangout”.

Gita Budhrani, 38: “This is a very different concept, and for the first time, I like the taste of beer – the wheat beer is so light”.

Having quickly become the hippest location in town, the Biere Club has given beer its due and cheer to people who have tired of the usual pub scene.

- Aditya Mendonca / Raintree Media Features/

Monday, August 29, 2011

Treasure trove of delights

Within the hustle of a global city on the move, Russell Market, one of Bangalore’s oldest markets, maintains an old world bustle that seems never-changing. Where else would you find cheek by jowl aubergines and broccoli, cutlery, crockery and other household knick-knacks along with a dusty old shop that may just have a genie in a lamp, waiting to be released.
Homemakers on the lookout for good bargains come to Richard Square confined within the crowded by lanes of Russell Market. You have to make your way past plastic stools and buckets, ironing boards, wrought iron waste baskets, folding aluminium clothes stands and various other handy objects coupled with persuasive shopkeepers eagerly announcing the utility of their wares to finally reach a little gem of an antique shop.

In all likelihood you will find in dusty ‘New Castlewood’, the sideboard of your dreams tucked away in a corner. A marble inlaid round centre table hidden under a pile of cardboard and burlap beckons shyly even as you spot a genuine ‘His Master’s Voice’ gramophone seemingly reminiscing about the tunes it once played. Bureaus, corner pieces, sideboards and centre tables apart; you can also find porcelain figurines peeking precariously from the top of various bits of furniture.

“We have been running this shop for almost three decades now,” says Masroor Ahmed as he vigorously dusts a small table. He candidly points out the real antiques from the newer reproductions. Masroor says that he goes door-to-door to collect vintage items and shows off a recently procured porcelain vase, which according to him, is the real deal. “I have a lot of loyal clients and I personally go to their houses to collect anything they want to sell. I also inform them when I acquire something interesting,” he says.
In the olden days, British memsahibs would come to Russell Market in their horse drawn carriages to get fresh vegetables and meat for their kitchens. Built in 1927, Russell Market is a smorgasbord of treasures. It is the one place where you will find exotic fruits and vegetables like avocado, kiwi, red jalapeno, Chinese cabbage, artichokes, celery and broccoli rubbing shoulders with plastic containers and steel utensils.
Most of Bangalore’s restaurateurs source their raw materials for their mouth-watering dishes from here and if you don’t want to make a journey to a fancy restaurant, there are stalls within Russell Market that sell Iranian tea, skewered kebabs and other delicacies. Dew-laden stalks of roses, orchids and gladioli sparkle in the sunlight even as the ninety-four year old St Mary's Basilica stands stoically watching over the routine stirrings of the market.

- Raintree Media Features

It's the time to Jigg

The quintessential Punjabi, Jiggs Kalra loves life and all of its good things. A stroke has placed him in a wheelchair for the last few years but he remains as peripatetic as ever and is busy opening more restaurants.
Last week, he was in Bangalore to launch his signature restaurant ‘Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra’. Oblivious to the glitterati milling around, Jiggs had ensconced himself in the private dining room. After a whole day of media interviews, he wanted some downtime and chomped away on lusciously tender kebabs as son and heir apparent Zorawar held forth to the public.
Jiggs is one of the pioneering food writers in India and has authored several recipe books, several of which adorn my kitchen shelf. I have found the recipes very tasty but rich and have shied away from using them on a regular basis. And now he has come to my town and opened a restaurant focusing on Punjabi food, which I am persuaded is full of calories. So I asked him what he had to say in his defence.

Being a journalist gives you licence to ask what could be construed as rude questions, but well, needs must and one has to do a job well. Jiggs, having been a journalist himself before becoming a self-taught chef, can take it on the chin.

“A Kebab is the healthiest food – all the fat goes into the tandoor when it is being cooked, preserving the taste and your health”, he said. The twinkle in his eye got brighter, because just then the waiter placed a plate loaded with Duck samosas Punjab Grill’s specialty dish in front of us. Deftly, Jiggs reached across the tray and said, “Try the salmon tikkas. We have more seafood on the menu in Mumbai and Bangalore than in Delhi. This city will take to our chicken; people here will not go in for lamb much”.

He is right as usual for he knows the city well having had a long association here with the food business. He has worked on the recipes of the north Indian dishes for the ready-to-eat business for MTR. For years, he has had breakfast delivered from MTR at whichever five star hotel he is staying in and a surefire way to curry favour from him is to arrive with idlis from his favourite eatery.

He was by then “fully fed up” as we say locally and sent me off to peek at the ‘pateelas’ – the traditional cooking pots in which copious quantities of black dal and murg makhni simmer throughout Punjab.
Jiggs Kalra with son Zorawar
Did I not begin by saying that Jiggs is a Punjabi through and through – well, he’s displayed his smarts by tying up with Amit Burman of the Dabur Group to open this chain of fine-dining Indian restaurants. Zorawar told me that this is the seventh restaurant they have opened in three years; the company owns and operates the six in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh and Singapore, while Bangalore is the first place where it is run by a franchisee. 

I like what I see – it is modern and mercifully avoided being kitschy; the food is served with a flair of fusion, definitely Indian with a glamorous gloss. It is not far from where I live and it’s obvious that it has certainly caught the fancy of Bangaloreans.  

- Sandhya Mendonca
(Sandhya Mendonca writes the weekly column 'My Bangalore' for Oheraldo)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bangalore basks in Floral Beauty

As sweet floral scents permeated the air, shutterbugs went on a clicking frenzy over the profusion of vibrant hued flora at the famous Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in the city.

In its 100th edition, the biannual flower show at Lalbagh added special fervour to the Independence Day celebrations held in the city. An aura of cheer intermingled with the heady awe of visitors as the flower show surpassed expectations with a mind-boggling display of flowers.

Visitors to the show were treated to a replica (20 feet high and 30 feet wide) of the serene Baha’i temple of Delhi Lotus temple at the Glass House. “We chose the Baha’i temple for its beauty and simplicity. The temple is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and we thought we could highlight it by building a replica in the flower show,” says H M Krishnappa, Deputy Director of Horticulture at Lalbagh. The massive spectacle required 175000 white carnations and 85000 white roses along with the rarely used tube roses which were progressively replaced by several thousand white orchids.

The Glass House also displayed a number of temperate flowers brought in especially from Ooty including agapanthus, lily, alstroemeria, prenula and cyclamen as well as 15 varieties of anthurium from Coorg. “The flower show was a big success with a footfall of over 8 lakh including students which is almost 2 lakh more people as compared to the show held earlier this year in January,” said Krishnappa. Stalls set up on the premises sold everything from flower seeds to jewellery, attracting a large number of people. Along with the flower show, the Horticulture Society also organizes a number of competitions where individuals and companies display their green thumb with gusto. While 72 prizes were given out in the individual category, the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) walked away with a number of prizes in the ornamental garden, kitchen garden and landscaping competitions organized for companies. 

The foundations for the Gardens were laid by the ruler of Mysore, Hyder Ali and were later expanded by his son, Tipu Sultan. Saplings were imported from Cape Town, Mauritius, Turkey, Afghanistan and Persia to add to the beauty of the Gardens. Today, the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens are spread over 240 acres in the heart of Bangalore city and are home to over 1000 species of exotic trees, shrubs and plants. While the garden was in the care of the East India Company, a Glass house was constructed remodelled after the Crystal Palace in London. It is here in this glass house that a garden show is held twice a year on the occasion of Independence and Republic day.

“Our theme this year was well-liked. We are now pondering over the theme to be used in next year’s flower show,” said Krishnappa. Although appreciating the skill involved in portraying Delhi’s Lotus Temple, visitors to the show felt that the theme should highlight Bangalore’s magnificent legacy.

- Raintree Media Features 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

All the World's his Stage

Jonathan Atherton gets Bangaloreans laughing at themselves… and the rest of the world!

“For a country this size, it is quite surprising that there are more brain surgeons than stand-up comedians here! There are other traditions of comedy, but this is probably the rawest form – it’s just spotlight-microphone-talk, no juggling, no music, no magic, no acrobatics,” rues Jonathan Atherton.

Snapping out of cynicism mode, Atherton confesses: “I’m lazy. Being a stand-up comic is the only job I know where you can work an hour a day and call it ‘busy’.” The Singapore-based Australian performed three power-packed gigs, presented by BULCHEE Commedia del’Arte.

Atherton, who has performed to sold-out crowds across the world, is known for his rapid-fire comedy characterised by multilingual skills and a knack for spinning the quirks of different cultures effortlessly into his act. He has lived and travelled extensively across Asia and Africa and speaks Indonesian, Malay, Thai, Japanese, Swahili, Luganda, German and some Hindi.

His performance was replete with choice ingredients, including the old stand-up’s ruse of picking on the front row seaters – at the Manchester United Bar & Lounge on Sunday, it was a couple of men with their arms around each other who bore the onslaught! Atherton did not disappoint on the risqué front either, throwing plenty of sexually explicit jokes at his gasping audience. The highlight was his (in)famous ‘global perspective’ –  Indians to Americans to the British to Singaporean Chinese to Malaysians to the Aussies, none escaped his far-from-kind observations and merciless reenactments.

He manages to absorb different cultures with alacrity, he says, “by not staying inside those air-conditioned artificial environments. I’m a street person. I’m hanging with rickshaw-wallahs, I’m drinking chai on street corners. I don’t dismiss anyone. I learn as much from a rickshaw-wallah as I do from a university professor, often in a far more direct way.” His reply makes sense when you see the unlikely spot he’s chosen to enjoy his smoke in: the security guard’s bench at the gate, far from the glitzy crowd buzzing inside.

He is happiest discovering the ‘real’ India and makes no effort to hide his disdain for the ‘too many middle-class Westerners coming to India in search of something that Indians secretly know isn’t even here’.  

“I walked into the Osho Ashram (in Pune) and they wouldn’t let me in – I guess I didn’t have enough money to buy moksha. I went to the bookshop instead. He (Rajneesh ‘Osho’) was obviously a bright guy – I mean anyone who can get the men to give all their money and the women to give their bodies, yeah, good, man!”

So what does he look forward to each time he goes under the spotlight? “When the men want to buy you a drink and the women want to sleep with you. If it’s a choice between the two, I’ll forego the drink! And it is very rare for an Australian to say that!”

Atherton wears many hats – comedian, actor, television presenter (‘Lonely Planet’ on Discovery Channel and ‘Pilot Guides’ on ABC-TV), voice artist, screen writer and photographer. Which one does he enjoy the most?

“A comedian’s, by far. The comic writes his own material, directs and performs it. There is no one else to blame when it goes wrong, and when it goes really well, there is this incredible sense of idea that, ‘It was all me!’ We comics constantly flip between depression and elation, depending on how the last gig went.”

-Remuna Rai, Raintree Media Features 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Humour in 'Newstalgia'

Having grown up on a steady dose of Phantom and Mandrake comics, Rasheed Kappan never thought of himself as an artist. Today, his cartoons which could be described as a healthy marriage of acerbic humour and deft artwork are on display at the Indian Cartoon Gallery in Bangalore till August 25. The exhibition titled ‘Newstalgic’ is a compilation of 60 odd graphic cartoons portraying a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the biggest headline-grabbing happenings from the last 3 years. “I’m quite a regular on Facebook and regularly update my status with witty lines about some current happening. I collected 500 such status messages and decided to turn 50 of them into visual art,” says Kappan.

It took Kappan a month to convert digital words to dazzling works of art. “I have used colour for the first time in my cartoons because I wanted to bridge the so-called gap between serious art and cartoons,” says Kappan who has been dabbling in graphic designing for the last 15 years. He believes that his work takes him out of the straightjacket and helps break stereotypes. “The humour I use is social humour. I firmly believe that cartooning has no boundaries,” he says with conviction.

He began his stint in a national daily as a reporter and was sent to cover a workshop on cartooning in 1996. He enrolled in the workshop and fell in love with cartooning. He hasn’t looked back since. “I met other like-minded people and we formed a group called Cartoonist’s Unanimous. We have had several shows in the past decade. In fact, this is my eighth exhibition,” says Kappan, passionately recollecting his foray into the world of cartooning.

Inspired by the works of legendary cartoonist Mario Miranda, Kappan dreams of writing his own book one day. “I would love to publish my own book maybe 2-3 years from today. I want to do a lot of things especially for people who do not have access to cartoons,” he says.

Kappan has attempted something unique by making cartoons for the visually challenged. Called Tactile Cartoons (Touch and Feel), Kappan has used paint that is distinct to touch and added captions with explanations in Braille script below each cartoon. “These cartoons were appreciated by the students of National Association for the Blind (NAB). At present there are only 8 such cartoons on display but I wish to make many more for future exhibitions,” he explains.

Kappan plans to create many more satirical works for audiences in the future. “One day maybe I can put up cartoons on digital format and have digital tablets displayed in the exhibition for people to operate. But then, I suppose, preventing them from getting stolen would become a problem,” he says mulling over possibilities.

While Kappan dreams of futuristic displays, one can’t help but notice a cartoon showing the ‘Android Robot’ riding a bull with the caption proclaiming: “Android is bullish, Nokia is Finnish-ed”.

-Raintree Media Features

Monday, August 22, 2011

Look before you plant

The desperate plea of biodiversity experts and ecologists to the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) whose ambitious plans of greening the city may very well cost the IT city its last surviving grassland.

The BDA plans to plant one crore saplings around Bangalore under its ‘Our Green Garland’ campaign which kick-started earlier this month and it has chosen areas around lakes, valleys and vacant government land for the purpose.

Amidst looming fears of global warming, the initiative is a welcome gesture which has been eagerly endorsed in other parts of Bangalore, but it has struck a wrong chord in Hesarghatta. According to biodiversity experts, introduction of tree cover will rob the savannah of its unique eco-system.

Located about 35 km from the city centre in Kodihalli village, Hesarghatta is the only grassland of its size remaining in Bangalore. The vast green cover spread over 300 acres is a thriving ecosystem and wintering ground for migratory birds from Central Asia.

Biodiversity expert Harish Bhat offers a glimpse into the rich ecological legacy of Bangalore’s grasslands. “According to the British gazette, Bangalore had undulating topography with rocky outcrops, scrub jungle, deciduous patch forests, plains, and in the outskirts, several patches of vast grasslands which was called ‘Gomala’ meaning grazing patch for cattle and sheep. Among the best grasslands mentioned were Hesarghatta, Malleswaram and Nelamangala. These used to be inhabited by wolves, Black Buck, the Indian cheetah (during the 1800s), the highly endangered Great Indian Bustard (also during the 1800s) and other rare fauna. Today, the Hesarghatta grassland is the last remaining one among them.”

 Elaborating on the significance of grasslands, he informs, “The grassland ecosystem is a unique type of landscape harbouring primarily grassland specific species of butterflies, reptiles and birds and animals like jackals, hares and jungle cats. It supports an entirely different food chain that needs the grassland ecosystem. To maintain this eco system, there needs to be proper maintenance of such a habitat without tree growth as naturally it is without tree cover. Planting trees will gradually occupy the openness and convert the ecosystem to wooded areas, thus depriving the dependent species from their habitat. Grasslands are under threat due to being mistaken as non-productive and barren. This negates the ecosystem, food chain and finally erodes grassland ecosystems.”

Photographer and conservationist Mahesh Bhat agrees. “Bangalore used to be typically a grassland. The trees came in much later. The grasslands are an important eco system and certainly not ‘barren’. For one, the roots of the grass here which run into hundreds of kilometers are beneficial in tilling the land, holding water and preventing silting of the top soil, while paving way for the insect progeny.  Further, since it is open, it is an ideal foraging ground for migratory birds of prey such as eagles, buzzards, hawks, harriers and vultures which come here to escape the cold climes of places like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

In addition, this grassland is also rich in resident local birds like Snake Eagles and Black-shouldered Kites, Munias, Pipits, Larks, Lapwings, Partridges and Quails. So you can imagine the repercussions on this treasure trove of animal and bird species if this grassland is disturbed. Planting trees is good and obviously preferable to constructing buildings, but you have to know where to plant them. ”

-Remuna Rai, Raintree Media Features 

Big brother is watching you

Denizens and visitors will surely scoff at this, but apparently Bangalore’s traffic control is the role model for other cities. I found it hard to believe this claim but when the person who told me this had just won the President’s medal for distinguished service, I had to pay attention.
  Praveen Sood, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) an engineer from IIT Delhi and a Post Graduate in Public Policy and Management from IIMB, goes on to assert that the lack of gridlocks shows that the traffic cops are working well. He adds a rider, “Traffic can only move if there are roads; what can the cops do if large chunks of road are dug up or rain-laden?”

The truth, as they say, lies in seeing. So there I am in Sood’s office where he plugs into the central server and pretty soon, we are able to see views of traffic across the city. Very few know that befitting the city’ s stature of a tech capital, a state of the art Traffic Management Centre (TMC) monitors every traffic junction in the city. Specially trained traffic police personnel at 80 workstations pay special attention to 20 corridors that have high traffic density. 

The little blimps on the screen are the GPRS equipped buses operated by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Company (BMTC). The TMC is hooked up to the BMTC control room; if the buses move smoothly, the cops know there is no problem, if a bus slows down, they can zoom in their cameras to assess the situation. Pretty cool, isn’t it? It gets cooler –the cops also assess the traffic situation is from the density of mobile phones. The algorithms of higher usage of mobile phones as an indicator of congestion is calculated from information shared by mobile telephony operators.
“We have 2500 policemen working in three shifts. Not enough in a city that has 4 million vehicles, with four lakh new vehicles added each year. It is a fact that Indians follow rules only when they think they are watched. Since we can’t have enough cops on the roads, we turned to technology”.
Cameras at traffic junctions across the city capture images of traffic violations and notices are mailed to offenders. Blackberry toting cops – the only traffic cops in India to have them- present a cool picture themselves as they print out receipts for on-the-spot fines. Transparency has been built in to the system as the central office gets real time updates of the fines collected and syncs it to the treasury. Sood insists that there would be no corruption if violators pay the full fine and collect their receipts; the problem arises when a violator wants to pay only part of the fine. Obviously then the violator is perpetuating corruption. 

Sood spends a lot of time interacting with people on Bangalore Traffic Police’s facebook page and at various public forums. Modestly, he says, “All the good ideas are not mine. Many were started by my predecessor and I network with bright minds who have interesting solutions.”

-Sandhya Mendonca
(Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for Oheraldo)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Motorcycling Legends

“I’m addicted to bikes. Unfortunately, there is no de-addiction or counselling for something like that!” chuckles SK Prabhu who has opened India’s first motorcycle museum cum café on Wheeler Road. Vintage bikes mounted on walls and memorabilia displayed in glass cabinets at Legends Motorcycling Museum and Cafe can turn any biking aficionado green with envy.

Prabhu’s love affair with motorcycles began in 1992. He started out with a BSA and later graduated to a 1962 Royal Enfield. “I sold my first bike, but I’m now trying to get it back for my collection,” he says wistfully. Prabhu is vocal about his fondness for BSA bikes and  it comes as little surprise that these bikes dominate his collection of 20 odd motorcycles on display which include a 1924 BSA 250 cc; a 1928 BSA 500 cc; a 1934 BSA 500 cc with hand-gear lever as well as a military use BSA M20 1942 500cc. The bikes that make him misty-eyed with pride however are the BSA Bantam 1953 and the Bantam D1 1966 which still flaunt their foreign registration plates.

Prabhu has traveled extensively to put together such an enviable collection, attending auctions and coaxing people to part with their bikes across South India - from Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. One of the outstanding models on display at the museum is a red-and-cream 1962 model Czechoslovakian ‘Cezeta’ scooter with a trailer. Prabhu says he picked it up at an auction at the Jawa Factory in Mysore. An avid biker and a restoration artist, Prabhu has painstakingly restored each of the bikes on display and says that each motorcycle is in perfect running condition.

“The idea for the cafeteria came to me when friends would come to see my bikes which were earlier stored at home and then wander into the kitchen in the hope of a bite to eat,” he says. Using his savings, Prabhu decided to open a cafeteria to cater to the insatiable hunger of bikers who drop in to see his collection.

The café, which is on the ground floor, serves continental fare and chicory-free coffee. In the hope of turning it into a watering hole for bikers, Prabhu has also applied for a wine license. “We are experimenting and expanding our menu on a daily basis. In fact, our cooks perfected the Chicken Kiev last week,” says the man who lives life by his own terms.

Prabhu has undertaken several biking expeditions across the length and breadth of the country. He explains that most of his biking trips are unplanned and that he has enjoyed the hospitality of people all over the country. “I’ve been everywhere in India, except Nagaland, on my Royal Enfield. I generally spend the night in some hospitable stranger’s house and then push off the next day,” says the adventurous biker.

As tiny raindrops splatter on the window at the cafeteria, you can’t help but notice photographs of Prabhu exploring the wilderness with his beloved bike plastered on the glass even as strains of classical rock can be heard in the background mingled with the sound of steak sizzling on the grill.

-Raintree Media Features 

Dabble in a rabble of butterflies

A peaceful oasis replete with mini waterfalls, lush foliage and filtered sunlight is the charming setting for vibrantly-hued butterflies that flutter around in the Butterfly Park at Bannerghatta Zoo.

India’s first butterfly park, inaugurated in 2006, boasts of 25 species of the winged beauties including the Blue Mormon, Common Coaster, Crimson Rose, Cabbage White and Red Pierrot. The butterflies found in the park are of various species belonging mostly to the superfamily of Swallowtails (Papilionoidea), called so because of the presence of a forked tail in the butterflies which resembles that of a swallow.

The butterfly park is spread over 7.5 acres of land, consisting of a butterfly conservatory, museum as well as an audio-visual room and makes for a delightful climax to Bannerghatta’s rather tame animal safari. An entry ticket costs as little as Rs.10.

Carefully selected shrubs and plants that attract butterflies have been planted in the conservatory which is a 10,000 sq. ft. circular polycarbonate dome. The temperature and humidity controlled environment has little pathways crisscrossing the shrubbery, and miniature bridges lead across bubbling streams of water. Guides appointed at the Butterfly Park are knowledgeable and helpful, often helping amateur photographers by pointing out different butterflies camouflaged within the plants. Says tourist Sneha Ram, “I visited the Butterfly Park last year and I was very impressed. The guide was very helpful as he assisted me find the Blue Mormon butterfly. The park is quite well-maintained and much better than the safari”.

The Museum has a collection of dioramas and exhibits that showcase the different varieties of butterflies found in India. The Audio-Visual room plays an interesting film providing factual tidbits about the butterfly population. “However, I feel that there should be more pictures of the butterflies inside the enclosure, as most visitors cannot identify different butterflies,” says Deepa Mohan, a nature lover.

Amateur and professional photographers throng the park to capture breath-taking images of vibrant butterflies perched delicately on leaves.

The Postal Department came out with a special cover with a cancellation depicting “Malabar Banded Peacock” (Papillio Budda Westwood) at the Post Office at Bannerghatta in 2009 according importance to the park.

The Butterfly Park beckons tourists, nature lovers, entomologists, photographers, philatelists and locals looking to do something different on a rainy weekend.

-Raintree Media Features 

Sister Jean: Bangalore’s very own ‘Mother Teresa’

For someone who has spent the last three decades of her life taking care of thousands of leprosy-affected patients, Bangalore’s 63-yr-old Sister Jean got a rude awakening when she was almost deported earlier this year. A last minute u-turn by the government has ensured that she continues with her indefatigable social work.

Nicknamed ‘Mother Teresa’, Sister Jacqueline Jean McEwan came to India in 1982 as a part of the Montfort Missionaries which comprised nurses and medics. She began working with Leprosy patients and has now become an indispensable member of Sumanahalli Society in Bangalore. Her untiring dedication towards the cause has fetched her accolades from colleagues and the people she has helped. “I have come to think of Bangalore as more of a home than England. I adjusted perfectly here. The people are as warm and loving as the people back home,” she says. Born in Newcastle, England; she studied midwifery and trained as a nurse. When a mission was being sent to India to work with leprosy patients, she signed on immediately and made Bangalore her home.

In fact, Sister Jean is quite the Bangalore expert. She can find her way through the twisting and narrow by lanes of the city and has been spotted riding fearlessly on a moped amidst heavy traffic. She has a fantastic memory that helps her accurately recall the names of almost all the 5000 patients she has dealt with in the last 29 years despite the language barrier. “I don’t think of it as much of an accomplishment. When you interact with patients, you meet their families and a bond is formed. You simply cannot forget the associations that you make,” says Sr Jean. She goes the extra mile to visit her patients in the various slums of the city after they have received treatment to enquire about their well-being. 

However, Sr Jean recently faced problems when the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) asked her to return to native Britain earlier this year. The problem occurred when her application for a resident permit was denied on grounds of lack of documents. “I was stunned initially. But I did not panic and realised that I may have to pack my bags and leave,” she says.

A hue and cry by colleagues and activists coupled with national media interest ensured that the government stepped in at the last minute to stop the deportation. “I was 20 minutes away from stepping into the jeep that would whisk me away to the airport when I was told that I was being given a 14-day extension. The next day I got the news that my resident permit was being authorised,” she says while thanking the media for taking up the cudgels on her behalf.  Home Minister P Chidambaram himself intervened to state that her visa had been restored “without limit of time”.

Greeted by the patients of Sumanahalli with garlands and flowers when the news broke out, Sr Jean says, “I am very happy with the news. I never realised how much these people love me. When the deportation order came, so many people came up to me and asked me not to leave. It was wonderful to see their love and support.” The humble soft-spoken lady intends to continue resolutely with her work, happy to be allowed to live in a city she cannot think of ever leaving.

-Raintree Media Features

Doing it old school

“`Tis about bicycles, no horsing around!”, claims the website of Bums on the Saddle, a Bangalore-based organization that sells high end bikes. The cycling bug is fast making its presence known in the city and with good reason. Doctors recommend cycling for a healthier heart and as an effective stress reliever. It is not just a great way to reduce your carbon footprint; it also helps trim away the extra kilos and develop calf muscles to die for. Of course, not getting caught in Bangalore’s legendary traffic jams is incentive enough to popularize cycling in the city. 

Several Bangaloreans have been switching to bicycles and have prodded the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to convert the city into a cyclist’s paradise by building separate cycling paths around the city.

The implementation of the project has begun with 45 kms in Jayanagar dedicated to cycling paths. Authorities are in the process of putting up route maps and signage with the paths becoming operational within two months time. Authorities intend to include other areas like Madiwala Lake, MG Road, Indiranagar, RT Nagar, Koramangala, RMV Extension and Malleshwaram in the ambit of the project.

According to GoGreenGoCycling’s Prabhakar Rao, “Most people cite lack of space as the reason for not taking up cycling. We welcome this initiative as it will encourage more people to pedal. When the project is complete it will set a good example for other cities.” 

As per a feasibility survey done by DULT, 12 per cent of the population is using cycles to commute and over 50 per cent of the population has shown eagerness to cycle if their safety is ensured. Although these paths will not be segregated from normal traffic using barricades, cyclists can expect patched lanes, say officials. Cycling enthusiast Vivek Misra says, “I’m excited to hear about these cycling paths. However, most motorists in Bangalore are not very sensitive towards cyclists. The only thing I worry about is the safety factor. I don’t know how safe these cycling paths will be. But its great news for people like me who love to cycle.”

Imagine wind-tousled hair and wispy patches of greenery hurtling by as you pedal your way through the by lanes of this bustling city. Even better, Imagine making it to work on time even as you smile at the sight of motorists stuck in choc-a-bloc traffic. 

-Raintree Media Features 


The idea of someone studying in one of India’s premier management institutes doubling as the owner of a modest tiffin service is rather incongruous. But that’s exactly what thirty-five year old Dinesh Yadav has managed. As a second-year PGP student at IIM-B, he is also part owner of Anushree Tiffin Services which operates out of Mira Road in Mumbai.

Mumbai’s dabba service has been praised for decades for its entrepreneurial ingenuity and efficient delivery. In a city that has lakhs of workers running the country’s economy, a home-cooked meal makes all the difference. With that as inspiration and past experience of living in a hostel without proper meals, Dinesh came up with the idea of running his own enterprise. He started in June this year and cleared the benchmark of 1000 meals within a month, serving 35 customers a day.

With a background in electrical engineering, Dinesh says that he loves cooking and always wanted to start a business which did not require much capital investment and special knowledge. “In this business the requirement of working capital is minimal. Your receipts from customers are generally one month in advance and payments to suppliers are after one month,” he explains. He iterates that the business is scalable since it can be started from home.

Dinesh has handed the operational reins of the business to his wife Rekha of 9 years, who handles the groundwork in Mumbai while he looks into the online support and tele-orders sitting here in Bangalore. “I consolidate the orders and send them to Mumbai, where my wife looks after the actual operation i.e. cooking and delivery. It is difficult working from here, but there are advantages being at a place like IIMB. My friends here give me important inputs and feedback about my start-up,” he says.

Each of the ‘Standard Gold’ tiffins contains six rotis, one vegetable curry, one dal, rice, pickle and salad. They charge Rs.75 per meal and interestingly, offer a 20% discount to IIMB graduates working in Mumbai. The enterprise is on the verge of rolling out corporate lunches with elaborate menus. They focus on providing lunch and dinner to residents in Mira Road using their own deliverymen. They also send tiffins for lunch through Mumbai’s celebrated Dabbawalas on the Western Railway line.

The duo is very particular about hygiene and insists on serving only vegetarian food. Given the surplus of tiffin services in the city, Dinesh feels it is the hygiene factor that works for them. “We only use good quality oil and purified water for cooking,” he clarifies.

Dinesh says that he plans to expand the business once he graduates and intends to apply the IIM learning in running the business.

-Raintree Media Features

Bangalore's dose of Fashion

Dizzying lights, elevated heels, painted faces, eclectic cuts and vibrant hues. Yes, Bangalore was once again home to couture with the fifth edition of the Bangalore Fashion Week (BFW).

 The theme of the fashion extravaganza seemed promising with inspirations from art forms in nature, November rain, sea life, the opulence of the Mughal Era and even fruits and spices from the souks of Marrakech, but it lacked the punch that well-established fashion weeks in Delhi and Mumbai deliver. The celebrity quotient was low too, which did not make things anymore interesting for the audience. 

To give the show its due, it did feature well-known names from Mumbai like Rocky S who showcased delicately handcrafted lehengas and sarees and Narendra Kumar, who displayed smart work wear for men and women.

 Pria Kataria Puri, inspired by her visit to Morocco, introduced a collection with earthy hues like ochre, crimson, cinnamon and sienna. Kaftans, ponchos, jackets, peasant tops, maxis and beach wear rich in the textures and colours of the Middle East set the event off on a high. To add to the oomph was Puri’s showstopper Preeti Desai of ‘Shor in the City’ fame. 

Designer Jattinn Kochhar stuck to the classic combination of black and white while displaying his collection comprising of elegant gowns and westernized churidars. Singer Shibani Kashyap walked the stage for him in a retro dress.The designers from Mumbai and Delhi were the silver lining as most of the fashion show was dominated by insipid collections. 

Local ‘designers’, however, were quite pleased with the event as it gave them a platform to showcase their latest collections. “With God’s grace mine has been the only show apart from the grand finale which was completely packed (sic),” says Bangalore based designer Ramesh Dembla. Be that as it may, the Bangalore Fashion Week still lacked the sheen and glamour that is usually associated with an event of this kind.
-Raintree Media Features

Learning on a Full Stomach

Looking for the local municipal ward office to pay our property tax, I heard voices piping up, “Miss, what do you want?” I looked around to see cheery little lads, obviously from the government school in front me; I mentioned my quest, and they helpfully pointed out the little office, tucked away behind their school. It was then that I noticed that they had put down huge steel containers that were carrying from a blue van. It was their mid-day meal supplied free of charge by the Akshaya Patra Foundation and I just have not been able to get over their happy, smiling faces.
Just over three years ago, we had profiled the organisation in the Best of Bangalore, and in the interim, its central kitchens have increased from 10 to 18 feeding 1.2 million children in over 8000 schools in eight states. Nutritious food is hygienically cooked to suit the palate in different regions and trucked without fail to reach the schools at mid-day. 
The Foundation is a secular not-for-profit entity of the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness); it launched the midday meal programme as a voluntary effort in 2000 in five schools in Bangalore; by the next year, the Supreme Court mandated that all government schools had to provide mid-day meals and called in the Foundation to provide testimonials.

Private donors had by then begun supporting this noble mission and the Ministry of Human Resources followed suit. The results are very evident in the increase in school enrolment and fall in the number of school drop-outs. The meal is the incentive for children to continue their education and the only way for them to break out of poverty. For several children, the school lunch is their only meal. There are several heart-breaking and heart-warming accounts of such children, their teachers and the volunteers that is a must-read at 

What is heartening to note is that the Foundation has won awards for its financial accounting. With many high profile individuals and institutions amongst its donors, financial transparency is obviously high on its priorities and rightly so, as the tiniest smear of impropriety would affect thousands of young lives.
It is happy to welcome donations of even Rs 500 – even this is enough to feed a child for a whole year. It is happy to permit visits to its kitchens – the big centralized ones that churn out 50000 to 150000 meals daily and the little decentralized kitchens in difficult to access rural areas. It also welcomes volunteers who want to work with the Foundation.

Along with increasing classroom attendance, the Foundation seeks to remove malnutrition, caste bias and to empower women by employing them. A noble mission indeed.

-Sandhya Mendonca
(Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column 'My Bangalore' for Oheraldo)

Flight of Dreams

Srikant Salecha is certain that he will not study engineering; Pranav Shankar finds solace in photography and Janardhan Mahadev loves graphic design – These are just some of the members of the team from Bishop Cotton Boys School, Bangalore who won the International Space Settlement Design Contest held at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, USA from July 29 to August 1. The ten-member team has done the country proud by winning the contest despite being pitted against teams from all over the world. Their feat also marks the first ever for a school from South India at the international competition.

Upon reaching the finals, the teams had to combine to form a company that undertakes the task of preparing a plan for settlement. The Bangalore boys had to design a settlement on Mars by forming a company with teams from Wales, Romania and USA. Debarun Dhar, who went on to become the Vice-President of the company for the competition, says lightheartedly, “I think my biggest learning would be the awesome accent I picked up by interacting with the Romanian and Welsh teams”.
“I think we won because our team was innovative and we met all the minimal requirements set by NASA and of course we didn’t sleep throughout the competition,” says Issac John. The boys reached the finals after a gruelling year where they went on to clear the national round by designing a settlement in an asteroid belt and then making it past the Asian level where they were asked to design a shuttle service between Earth and Mars. It was during the Asian finals held in Gurgaon in February this year that the boys bonded which helped them in the US. “We had a two-day journey back from Gurgaon. On the train, all of us linked our laptops and played videogames,” grins Shubham Joshi.

All the members of the team are students of Class 12 and most of them will be appearing for entrance exams next year. One would think that a year of painstaking work and research would have made them neglect their studies but the students admit they managed just fine, also finding time for sports like tennis and football. “Our school and our parents have been extremely supportive. We don’t think that our studies have suffered in anyway. In fact, I think this experience will help us in our professional lives,” says Tejas Rai.

The two teachers who accompanied the boys, Asha Balaji and Neelam Patil, Heads of the Physics and Computer Science Departments respectively, admit that they not only mentored the boys but also mothered them during the competition. “In fact, members from other teams came to us for counselling,” says Asha. The Bishop Cotton team was amongst the few teams that were accompanied by their Principal, John K Zachariah. “It was an absolutely fantastic experience. I have received accolades from all over the world, especially from ex-Cottonians. In fact, one of them wrote saying that he would rate this achievement the best in the history of the school,” he says beaming with pride.

On the concluding day of the competition, the boys were treated to an interaction session with astronaut Nicholas Patrick who spoke of his stint on the International Space Station. Strangely enough, none of the boys have thought of taking up aeronautical engineering in the near future.
-Raintree Media Features

A high five from Innovate Publishers

If you needed to meet the most brilliant minds in Bengaluru, well, you had to be at the Innovate Bengaluru Festival on 11/4/19, at WeWor...