Thursday, August 30, 2012

A tribute to a time that was

By Aditya Mendonca / Raintree Media Features

Delicate, haunting and evocative, Shibu Arakkal challenges himself and the viewer with his new photographs

  Artistic inspirations emerge from the most unexpected places and for Shibu Arakkal’s latest series ‘Finding Nowhere’, it stemmed from several visits he made to the countryside and lay dormant until he could not ignore that they told a story on their own.  

Shot entirely in monochrome on a film camera, the photographs capture the vanishing landscape of a rapidly growing city. It’s a tale that speaks of the artist finding shelter in the hamlet of Magadi; a town situated an hour away from Bangalore. “Whenever I tire of shooting in the city and the same old urban chaos and scenarios, I like to drive across the countryside hunting for something new and different. But look around you – Bangalore’s surroundings have all yielded to buildings!” he exclaims in frustrated disgust.

When a friend first recommended Magadi, Shibu was incredulous as Magadi Road is one of the worst traffic zones, but he was persuaded to visit the town which has become more of a hamlet really as time seems to have forgotten it. He says, “Magadi to me is such a place, one of retrospection, of things very real and of recluse. And if solace of a fading world does find you along the way, then I suppose it is somehow apposite”. 

Over the years, it became an oft-visited site for him, as the drive is very scenic and he took many photographs in and around Magadi. It slowly dawned on him that there was a series emerging from his random photos. 

Finding Nowhere is a series of 21 photographs, shot entirely on film in the old school photography black & white style. Shibu’s favourite palette is sepia. He shot the entire series on a Diana F + camera by Lomography. The plastic-bodied box camera costs just $30 and has a cult status. Using 120 roll film, most versions take 16 photographs per roll in a non-standard format of 4.2cm square using a simple plastic meniscus lens. The plastic lens helps give a diffused view adding to the romantic atmosphere of the picture. Shibu has many quirky toys; among his favourite is the Lens Baby (a freaky tilt and shift lens).  

Though Shibu has a frenzied love affair with the digital world, having picked up on Photoshop very early, when nobody wanted to touch digital manipulation, back in 98, he is puritanical when it comes to shooting with film. “Shooting in black and white is where the challenge lies “. The tone and lighting are where it all happens, even after 18 years of experience, there is so much one can learn from them, black and white leaves room for a lot of interpretation “ 

A freelance professional photographer since 1994, his travels include countries such as England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Greece, Scotland, Turkey, Russia, UAE, China, Singapore, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal and many parts of India. His works have been awarded prestigious international awards. His previous exhibitions have focused on ‘philosophies’ (‘Themes’ sound a bit shallow, he says) on the differences between the line and the curve, Skin (human), Absence (exploration of), space and architecture of the Eiffel Tower.

A tribute to Shibu, who incidentally is the son of eminent painter Yusuf Arakall, come from Jnanapith award winning writer, the multi-talented Girish Karnad, who says, “These photographs by Shibu Arakkal of Magadi village catch the majestic contours of desolation, almost making silence visible. The perfect stillness which he has captured in the rocks, temple ponds, and deliquescent walls, all haunted by their desolation, in turn transform the viewer into elements of the photographed moment, breathless in anticipation of the next shift in the light”. 

You can find the Original article at  Oheraldo  Goa , August 30 , 2012 ,Thursday . Page 9 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cycling around in Bangalore

In a city where traffic delays, pollution and road rage are all too common, we have a few beacons of hope who choose to use cycles as their primary mode of transport.

Cycles are the most eco friendly way of getting around a congested, traffic jam prone city. There have been a few organisations which have been working day and night to make Bangalore a more cycle friendly city. Among these organisations is ATCAG, which is running a pilot project in Bangalore.

ATCAG docking station at MG road, Bangalore

Their project is based on the Automated Bicycle Sharing System for Govt. of Karnataka, supported by Directorate of Urban Land Transport and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike. The pilot consists of just 3 docking stations comprising of 9 bicycles located in Central Business Districts around Bangalore. The idea behind the pilot is to get the people accustomed to the concept of Bicycle Sharing and also familiarize them with the operation of this automated transport infrastructure.

ATCAG currently does not charge anything for the use of these cycles, but will slowly graduate towards a nominal fee on an hourly basis. The response so far has been great and ATCAG has been in constant conversation with the Bangalore planning commission to chalk out specific cycling zones and lanes, all across the city. This project is currently underway and all the citizens of Bangalore are awaiting its completion with baited breath. ATCAG is also planning to install several docking stations across private campuses in hopes of reducing the carbon footprint of Bangalore’s many MNC’s.

Bike sharing process
Another organisation working towards making Bangalore cycle friendly is “The art of bicycle tours” team. Thanks to their efforts now even tourists are encouraged to use this eco friendly way to enjoy the city. Pankaj Mangal from the art of bicycle tours offers tours around Bangalore and a few other cities in India.

One of their most popular tours is the Passage to India tour. This tour takes you through heritage sites, picturesque country side roads and ends with a visit to Channapatna, a quaint little toy town that is famous for their exquisite craftsmanship.

Pit stop en route 'Passage to India' tour

When asked his views on cycling and the city, Pankaj Mangal said “Cycling could be a solution to all city problems like air pollution, noise pollution, traffic jams, health problems etc. It is a perfect antidote to a hectic city life. The current government has increased the import duty on bicycles by 30% which is highly absurd. The government should work towards promoting cycling in a city by offering income tax rebate for people who cycle to work, building cycling lanes and reducing import duty to 0% on international bicycles.”

Cycling is one of the oldest and most efficient modes of transport. You can easily weave in and out of traffic, give your credit card a breather from the increasing fuel prices and even lose a few kilos on your way to work. In today’s world of technology and modernization this wheel turning simpleton is the way to go.

By Akshaya Kapur/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald:


Saturday, August 18, 2012

In Pursuit of Passion

Art can boost tourism a lot more than tacky ads. Anyone who views Ganesh Doddamani’s richly textured images of Hampi would go there in a jiffy.

It is odd how contrary advice can be. A professor in the Davanagere art college told Ganesh Doddamani,“ Work on creating one good painting instead of ten bad pieces.”

Soon after, Doddamani visited an art mela in Bangalore and was stunned to see the skills on display by art students from Kolkata. Feeling that he could never learn to paint as well if he stayed on in his college, he dropped out and went to artist Shambhu Das in Kolkata.

Das told the young man that he wanted guru dakshina, and with great trepidation, Doddamani asked him what it entailed. “ I want 500 works of water colour from you”. Thrilled with the answer, Doddamani promptly set about painting. He soon realised that he could not paint more than three a day and that it would take him the whole year that he had planned to spend in Kolkata to complete 500 pieces.

He explained this to the master who replied, “ Exactly, by the time you are done with 500 pieces, you won’t need a master.” This was completely at variance with his earlier professor’s words but was the best advice anyone can get for any work. Practice does make perfect.


I met Doddamani at Art Bengaluru – a fabulous concept where various art galleries display fairly affordable art across genres in a public space. Of all the artworks on display, his oil paintings of Hampi shone with a radiant charm.

He told me that he had quit his job as an exhibition assistant at the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum as the bosses did not want him to exhibit his works. Two years on, he’s quite happy with the decision. “An artist’s life is always a struggle but my works are selling fairly well and I manage”, he says.

His whole life has been a pursuit of passion. He had decided that he would study art even while he was in school; after early disappointments he joined Shantiniketan for his master’s degree.

“It changed my life. The peace and calm I experienced in that atmosphere, especially after visiting Gurudev’s meditation spot inspired me to paint the face of the Buddha. It was immediately bought by a local businessman who told me that the image gave him a sense of serenity whenever he looked at it”.

Doddamani has focused on painting only the visage of the Buddha with an attendant motif of flowers. “We recognise a person by their face and it is the Buddha’s calm face that I want people to look at when they enter a room”.

In complete contrast to the soft, minute transferred pastel colours of his Buddha series, the Hampi paintings have thick strong applications with warm and vibrant results. “I hail from Ramdurg, just about three hours from Hampi and I have visited it very often. I had long thought of painting it but the burst of creativity happened only recently”.

The focus in his artworks is not so much on the famed architecture of the place but the play of light and shade. “Each time I visit Hampi, I see it anew”, he says.

His paintings created a surge of interest from our group to revisit Hampi and it struck me that the tourism department ought to use artworks to entice visitors to the heritage city of Hampi rather than tacky ads. Would that be asking for too much?

By Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)

Read the story on the Goa Herald

Monday, August 13, 2012

Varun Agarwal 25 and living it

Varun Agarwal is a young entrepreneur who has three companies and written his success story in his debut book that is already on its second print-run in less than three months and has sold 20,000 copies.

By Aditya Mendonca/Raintree Media features/

25 year old Varun Agarwal has a BE in Tele-Communications and currently runs three start-ups; Alma Mater (India's premier memorabilia company for top schools and colleges, retails online on their e-store. Their facebook page currently has over 171,000 fans), Reticular (Social Media Marketing Agency) and Last Minute Films (an Independent production company)
His debut novel titled, ‘How I braved Anu Aunty & co-founded a million dollar company’ is a hit!

His story is filled with humour, it talks about his popular start-up Alma Mater, and how he started his company with his partner Rohn Malhotra. You run into his friends , his mom , the girl he has the biggest crush on , growing up in pub city of India and yes, Anu Aunty who stands between him and his goal .
It’s got the perfect mix of how anybody fresh out of college has got dreams floating around and had to face certain obstacles before reaching the initial taste of success.
The book connects more with people who’ve grown up in Bangalore.
It’s got a chilling, goose bump reality scene and different vibe from the usual books we see hitting the market. A true reminder of the many hurdles, the Indian youth go through to start their journey to entrepreneurial success.

Here’s an interview with Varun.

Is Anu Aunty a social fad or a weapon of destruction?
She was a constant weapon of destruction, who now is a social fad.
How did the idea come up of writing your first book , based on reality ?I used to write blogs on the Alma Mater facebook page, they got famous, and somebody suggested that I write a book.
I ended up writing the book in 7 days, put it together and send it to Rupa Publishers.
One month later it was ready.
It’s very good to fail, because unless you fail, one never succeeds.
Indian society encourages one not to fail, but I disagree .I’ve learnt the most from my failures.

How I braved Anu Aunty and co –founded a million dollar company - The movie, do we see it soon? The movie is in the works, though I can’t give anymore details about it.

What advice would you give fellow entrepreneurs?
I would simply say take the leap and then think. Most ideas fizzle out because everyone spends hours just thinking about them and not doing anything .So if you have an idea just go for it.
Don’t aim at being just an entrepreneur. Rather aim at having a killer idea and having the passion and the will to execute it.

“It’s a fun read & very addictive “says Singer &  Writer Riccha Paul

This book is a reminder to our massive youth population, that if you stay focused and passionate about your dreams, you are likely to succeed. This book might well be a handbook for Indian youth to learn the ropes from the new Indian whiz kid.
You could get a really good deal if you order it from the official facebook page of the book -

Read the story on the Goa Heraldo

You can also find the article at

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mysore Manners

The palaces of Mysore are splendid and its weather several degrees cooler. But it’s the civility of its people that is utterly charming and endearing. 

Romantic, rainwashed and radically different from their nearest urban counterparts, Mysoreans are to the manner born*. A recent visit brought this realization home anew.

The city of palaces is just 120 km away from Bangalore but its people are so far removed in their disposition, one wonders whether we can truly be in the same state, speaking the same language and sharing a common heritage.

Amba Vilas Palace, Mysore

Driving through the city was such joy; not only are the roads wide and well-maintained, there’s hardly any traffic. Here in Bangalore, my office is less than a ten-minute walk from home. I often drive my car to work as I need to go out for meetings – the drive to work takes longer, there are needless bottlenecks, meaningless traffic restrictions and like every driver, I feel all others are boors who should not be given licenses. Did I mention that there are so many potholes that one feels like a frog, leaping around them?

We traversed Mysore from one end to other; we did not bother to use the GPS to find our way. How could we give up an opportunity to converse with a local? Whoever we asked for directions – cops, auto drivers (my favourites always for such help), other motorists, would pause, smile and then explain at great length. Most of the directions involved going right at the next big circle until a ‘deadened’ (not a dead-end) which amused us thoroughly.

The gentle cloak of civility soothed our jangled big city nerves, and as the day wore on, so beguiled were we by the genuine human regard of people we met that we had to jolt ourselves into remembering that we were not in a time warp.

In many ways, it is a closed society. You do need to know the right people who will connect you to their friends. But once they realise you are well-meaning, not haughty and are not going to waste their time, Mysoreans have all the time in the world to discuss the value of your proposition and share their insights.

They are modest about their intelligence and equally so about their wealth. They flaunt neither but if your antennae are up, you can sense both quite soon.

The city is not immune to change, but it happens so slowly it seems almost invisible. Without being intransigent about it, Mysoreans have held on to a way of life and their culture – by which I mean not just the arts and their treasure trove of artefacts, but a civility in daily conduct. They soon might be getting a new resident – it seems the ideal place to shift.

(*For those who wonder at my usage of ‘ to the manner born’ instead of ‘to the manor born’, I would like to point them to The original phrase “to the manner born” was coined by William Shakespeare in Hamlet, Act I, Scene iv. In the mid-19th century the variant “to the manor born,” came to be used, meaning “born into, or naturally suited to, upper-class life”. It substituted “manor” (the house on an estate; a mansion) as a symbol of an aristocratic lifestyle for “manner” meaning simply “customs or habits.” I use the idiom in the Shakespearean sense.)

By Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)

Read the story on the Goa Herald


Monday, August 06, 2012

An angry harmony, made melodious

It may be pocket-sized, it may look like a toy, but is one of the most difficult instruments to learn to play. As for the price, it ranges from a couple of hundred rupees to over two and half lakh rupees for the gold plated versions. Blow on that!

Sometimes people you meet take you by surprise. A friend who’s part of a harmonica club - apparently there are several across the country- called with an invitation to meet a ‘wizard’ and for the most part it was like encountering a fire breathing dragon.

Heading to the meeting, our heads were buzzing with the sweet melodies of yesteryear Hindi songs like Mana janab ne pukara nahin, ek ladki bheegi bhagi bhagi si, Na Jaane kyoon, Thandi hawa yeh chandni, Jeevan ke safar mein rahin. For all of which Gautam Choudury had played the harmonica.

Gautam Choudury
He looked pleasant enough but one did not even need to scratch the surface to realise that Choudury is an angry man. At times during our conversation, I felt that he was on the brink of an apoplectic fit.

What makes him angry is that the harmonica is not treated with respect in India. He says people like Raj Kapoor made the harmonica into a cheap toy by portraying it as the instrument of idlers.

He took up the harmonica as a boy in Patna and trained himself over the years. He came into his own in Kolkata, playing with many popular musicians at Trincas and Blue Fox, and had a band the ‘Bloworms’. He started playing music for films after meeting music director Salil Chowdhury, whom he regards as his mentor.

But music was only a hobby for this IT consultant; he left India as a young man to discover the world and travelled across many countries before settling down in the Netherlands.HMV produced a few of his harmonica albums that include Salil Chowdhury ‘Durer Thikana, Hindi songs of Kishore – ‘Tribute to Kishore’, ‘A Tuneful Tribute to Salil Chowdhury’.

Since retiring, Chowdury, who has created as a comprehensive guide to Salil Chowdhury’s musical genius, has also produced two music albums – a passion that brings him to India annually.

Hobby though it is, the musician’s angst stems from the fact that his instrument is not taken seriously in India. “The harmonica is one of the most abused instruments in India. How do you account for the fact that there is not a single world class harmonica player from here?” he asks belligerently.

“Unlike in Europe, here there are no institutions that teach how to play harmonics; there are some self-appointed teachers but they do not teach in a methodical way.” he laments.

Playing Indian songs adds to the problem as Indian music does not have notations; the composer does not provide sheet music, everybody plays by the ear and since each person’s hearing is different, the music never sounds the same.

Choudury is perplexed at the lack of interest in a serious study of this instrument; he’s met people who learn the violin, the guitar and piano, so why not the harmonica? He hopes that musicians here access learning material from the internet and practice.

It may be pocket-sized, it may look like a toy, but is one of the most difficult instruments to learn to play. As for the price, it ranges from a couple of hundred rupees to over two and half lakh rupees for the gold plated versions. Blow on that!

Ending on a happy note, Chowdury teased us with a medley of numbers that we tried to quickly identify before he moved to the next song. Sweet music indeed.

By Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)

Read the story on the Goa Herald


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...