Friday, 15 February 2013

SURAJKUND CRAFTS FAIR – OVERCROWDING MAKES AESTHETICS DISAPPEAR


SURAJKUND CRAFTS FAIR – OVERCROWDING MAKES AESTHETICS DISAPPEAR

Life is becoming more vibrant year by year at the Surajkund International Crafts Fair. It was the 27th year of its existence. Artists and artisans are nice people and I haven’t found anyone slipping from etiquettes for fraction of a second but the food stall business persons at the fair are irksome and an unwanted lot. They fleece the customers by charging not only exorbitant prices but also step up the prices four times the best of competitive market price for the stuff and items sold over the counter. I always carried my tiffin to the Fair and never visited a food stall. My sincere advice to the visitors is: take your food box or tiffin with you and the joy of visiting the fair will be far more at less expense. In fact, only Haryana Tourism catering department should open and manage food stalls at the Fair ground, which can charge moderately. 

The Fair ground is virtually a photographers' heaven but only until 1 PM because in the afternoon the whole of open spaces suddenly turn black as hair and head become more prominently visible as cover than glimpses of the colorful items of the crafts persons that are displayed all around. It becomes difficult to even take a sneak on them.The Haryana Govt. is a staunch business entity and earns crores through auction of stalls and sale of tickets as entry fee/permit. The Haryana Tourism maintains a three/four star hotel at the premises that is mostly occupied by Haryana Govt.’s senior officials or bureaucrats as well as the politicians and members of their families. No space for others! This is not fair. The performing artistes are strained every day and I have a feeling that neither their night stay is comfortable nor nourishing food is served to them. I have seen the feet of these artistes bleeding as they continue to give three to seven performances per day at minimum of DA......may be not more than 500 per diem. Very sad picture indeed! The Govt. of Haryana seems to the ruthless and careless as their officials also do not allow freelance journalists, photographers and writers to visit the fair free of cost.

My today’s visit at International Crafts Fair held annually at Surajkund in the first fortnight of the month of February wasn’t satisfactory and could provide as much contentment from a photographer’s point of view as it used to be 10 or 20 years ago. The Haryana Tourism Department had started the event as small affair on a regular basis in the year 1987. The convention of selecting a Theme State for bring particular focus to distinctly depict its cultural heritage began a few years later, which idea succeeded in tapping the native resources in performing arts, fine arts and crafts and natural heritage. Turn by turn many states have participated and performed well. A few years ago it was thought to invite the neighbouring countries to also display their wares of art and crafts. Many participated and the new generation got exposure to variety that was widened by their participation. Many new things got to be learnt by keen visitors. I appreciated the cotton fabrics, particularly the Mulmul sari created by weavers of Dacca and the woolen apparel from Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

For a couple of years my interest waned in the crafts fair as I had left no room in mind for absorption of repetitions. However, I thought of checking this time after a gap and was hugely disappointed to see that the fair-ground area has been enlarged by encroaching the adjacent mounds and by clearance of woods that used to provide shade and kept the temperature of the place moist and soothingly warm in these days of the year. This was the first point of disappointment and the second was the effect of abnormal crowding of space without giving a thought it were the empty spaces that absorbed people and added aesthetics to the locale. Otherwise, how could people move and observe wares displayed by artisans. ? The fair is open to public from 10 am in the morning and by 1 PM visiting people in large numbers fill the space at the Mela to such a level that it becomes a burden rather and experience of relaxation and joy.

The third point that pinched was the architecture of the stage at the Chaupal that provided platform to performing troupes of artists. It should be absolutely free from microphone stands, flood lights fixing and cables besides a strict check on the people that surround it. These encroachments become a camera-sore. I could click only 84 photographs and was fed up by 1 PM as large crowds had overtaken the clear and colourful view of the mela ground. Some respite could be available due the uneven terrain that has not been disturbed so far. If one is on the higher ground lots of stalls and moving people come to full view but by 2 PM the open spaces turn black and moving people block the view of the stalls thus marring all chances for shutter bugs. I came out of the Mela ground exactly at 1 PM because my space for filling the view in a camera was absolutely blocked by people. I have regrets for Haryana Tourism Department that they have no control over the entry. In fact the entry should be banned from 12 O’clock to 4 PM in the evening and then opened only at 4 and again stopped at 5 PM. But the business would be hurt. The crafts persons like crowds and the Govt. authorities are happy at the brisk sale of entry tickets so that both can earn huge money.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

ARE HARYANVIS SERIOUS ABOUT HEALTH ?

The adage that 'Dessan main desh Hariyana, jit doodh dahee ka khanaa' seems to have lost relevance for most Haryanvis nowadays as more people, particularly the younger generation, have taken to consumption of wine and other intoxicating substances. The consumption of wine -both Desi Tharra and English wine manufactured by Indian distilleries, has increased over the years. The rising figure of revenue and the quantity sold during a year are testimony to this fact. The pattern of consumption across social strata and the type of wine consumed has also changed. This consumption is more in the districts touching the national capital than those located far away simply because the acquisition of land by both the State Govt. as well as private builders. Sudden arrival of money for those that only lived on subsistence has proved disastrous and the people have taken on many a vice, acquired new lifestyles that is both unworthy as well as uncultured. The social organizations and the State that claims to look after the welfare of the people have no schemes to educate the people or do something to save people from falling into a trap of vices. As a result of the happening in the past decade or so, the health of the people of Haryana, in general, has declined and nowadays it hard to find 10 dandies in a village that used to boast of pure food and clean air. It is really a cause of great worry for the all of us that the consequences of consumption of wine and change to unworthy lifestyle may be retrogressive and we may lose culturally, lose stamina and physical prowess and lose respect in the eyes of self. The army and security forces are dependent on the nurseries of our villages from which they recruit hardy young men. The nurseries are now drying up throwing up new challenges before us to somehow preserve our security environment and its management. Where from the army will make recruitment in future if the present and future generation jeopardizes its health from ill-gotten or undeserved money?

WINE-CULTURE IN HARYANA

SEQUEL TO WINE-CULTURE IN HARYANA

A simple comparison of the data on the revenue collected by the Excise department of both Punjab and Haryana on sale of liquor -Desi Daru as well as IMFL, revealed that the figures have crossed the Rs.2000/- crore mark. This is just from the collection of excise duty on wine; it may be astounding if figures of consumption of wine and its total value is computed. In Haryana and Pubjab those that consume wine don't seem to 'take and enjoy' within limits but almost 'drink' the intoxicating substance in enormous quantity. They hardly realize that it is both a personal loss of monetary resource, reason for household tensions and loss to personal health. Unwarranted consumption in huge quantity on a daily basis as habit causes fat to get deposited in the the liver, causes cirrhosis of the liver and ultimately death. The liver, kidneys and heart suffer a lot due to degree of ethyl alcohol present in the liquor manufactured by our distilleries. It also puts enormous cost to our health system and also to the society at large. The total economic loss has been computed by certain NGOs. In view of this the vision of Gandhi of wine-free India has dashed to the ground. Even in Gujarat, home state of Gandhi Baba, I have seen liquor being served on the sly in hotels, obviously in connivance with the government officials. 

In Haryana, the youth has taken to consumption of wine on a large scale and it came to be known that they visit malls, certain hotels along the highways and bars run by private hoteliers as well as Haryana Tourism department motels/hotels etc. The hordes of these youth drive in these venues and spend lavishly on wine and food at these bars and often make big business deals at such merry-meets- almost on daily basis. No doubt these venues function under licence from Govt. and maintain certain standards but the point to ponder is if the youth follow standards in deciding how much wine to consume. I am not averse to consumption of wine and have seldom done so, but the cause of worry is as explained in my earlier note on the subject posted on the FB. Govt. says that it doesn't want to stop either production of wine nor ask the consumers to avoid taking alcoholic drinks but will spend a small amount on educating people about the ill-effects of consuming the wine. What an irony for us in a welfare state! Way back in early 1990s, I had published an article in Jansatta on the subject and recall that the value of the wine consumed in terms of money in Haryana at that time was about Rs. 600 crores. One can easily imagine a ten times ascend in the value. Isn't it frightening for people with simple and 'satwik' habits?

Another phenomena came to be realized nowadays is that at the time of assembly of marriage parties, lots of vehicles are parked along side the roads that leads to the venue. It seems to be OK but if we visit the site again in early morning we may witness a scorching of the space and see a huge number of disposable tumblers, wine bottle wrappers and cartridges, caps, empty glass bottles and plates littered on the road side. Obviously, those who arrived in the parked cars/vehicles had consumed wine and littered the space. Nobody cleans this garbage the next day: not even the Banquet owner or the PWD. Amazing!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Kochar and Quadri publish authentic book on Havelis of Bikaner


Kochar and Quadri publish authentic book on Havelis of Bikaner

Updated on Tuesday
BIKANER –A TOWN OF THOUSAND TRADITIONAL MANSIONS -Book by U C Kochar and Ziya ul Quadri I was filled with a sense of nostalgia when I returned to Bikaner after a gap of 12 year to witness the gala events, which are held at two venues during the now world acclaimed Camel Festival. The contact numbers of friends have changed as mobiles have become more a personal phenomenon that a tool of communication. Therefore, with only two names on my mind that I could never forget –Shri Updhyanchandra Kochar and Jenab Zia-ul-Hadan Quadri, I had forgotten the rest. I could recall the location of the residence of Shri Kochar and met him the same morning on which I stepped out of the train. Mr. Kochar readily provided me the contact phone numbers Mr. Quadri, Asad ji and Mathur ji. The same evening Quadri ji arrived at my place of stay and after exchanging goodies we discussed about the status of havelis and the progress of listing and publication of document about them. I was delighted to learn that the efforts of both the above friends had yielded concrete result and a noteworthy book on the subject with lots of photographs in both color and black & white was published in the year 2012 by Rajasthan Granth Academi with funding from Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. Two days later, Shri Quadri again visited me in the evening and presented the 128 page book to me. I gratefully acknowledged the presentation and started scanning the pages to have first look at this document testifying the great spirit of the monumental work about the traditional architectural heritage of Bikaner city. I presume that the project was completed by Shri Quadri by using his personal resources and the fpunds from Ministry of HRD were received only for the publication as per the rules known to me. However, had there been no personal interest of both Shri Kochar and Shri Quadri, the book could not have seen the light of the day. It was appropriately entitled ‘Havelion ka Shahr –Bikaner’ (हवेलियों का शहर- बीकानेर) with 4 color pages containing 21 images comprising fascia of the better known ornamental havelis. The content is not only well written but thoroughly researched that might have taken at least a decade in accomplishing it successfully. Shri Quadri told me that as soon as the publication was released it was hotly sought after and now only a few copies are left. Most were quickly sold on no profit, no loss basis; price of the book is only Rs.110/- which covers only the cost of publication. I don’t know if various wings such the Department of Tourism, Department of Public Relations and Department of Education of the Govt. of Rajasthan have acknowledged the contribution of Shri Kochar and Quadri and suitably awarded them for the creation of document. The language of the document is Hindi and the size is 9X7 inches with cover in color. Although the material used by the printer of book appears to be of low quality as the grant from the MoHRD could not have been large, the content is so rich and authentic that scholars and researchers can use it as reference and also cite in future publications. The material of the book is appropriately distributed across 13 chapters viz. The Geographical position of Bikaner including its physiography; Bikaner State (of course, indicating its erstwhile status)- From Rao Bikaji up to Sardul Singh ji; A General description of a specimen Haveli; Eminent Havelis of Bikaner (21 listed); Usta art in havelis (naming four renowned Ustas); Contribution of Chungar artisans [(Chungar is mason-cum-painter)- six names listed]; Contribution of Matheran artists; Carving on Stone (the process and two names listed); The masons of Bikaner –the descendants of Lord Vishwakarma; Noteworthy features of the Havelis; The famine, havelis and the employment generation; A few noteworthy names of owners of Havelis and their pedigree; Listing of Havelis of Bikaner and agglomerations. While sharing experiences during research investigations for the book, Shri Quadri told me that people were skeptic in the beginning and were inquisitive about our work. But when local collaborators played their role well and we persisted on documenting the architectural heritage, the owners allowed us to inspect and document various interiors spaces too and became docile. The fact is truthfully also recorded in the book acknowledging the assistance of all the residents/owners of these thousand havelis. Shri Quadri is adept at three languages- Hindi, Urdu and English, and can write with ease and command. As told to me, he is translating the book in English nowadays and hope to publish the version in two years’ time. As personal comment about the book I would say that I liked the sincerity with which the author duo accomplished the task, it language and approach but lack of adequate funding the design of the book and the quality of printing could remain ordinary. Had it been artistically designed, photos drum scanned before printing and art paper used the book would have been acquired an artistic look. In any way, the efforts of the duo are laudable and appreciation for the MoHRD, Govt. of India otherwise the efforts to document the heritage of Bikaner would not have become possible.

Pollution -A great threat to haveli heritage of Bikaner





Pollution -A great threat to haveli heritage of Bikaner

Updated on Sunday
BIKANER REMINISCENCES-III Way back in 1990s, I had first heard about magnificence of havelis or traditional Indian mansions at Bikaner and ever since had a subtle desire to visit the place to watch the architectural beauties in person. The newspaper feature articles that used to appear in the intervening period since I first visited Bikaner in 2000 AD could not satisfy my vision of depicting the splendor that could be individually felt by witnessing as personal inspection. Twelve years ago on my first visit to Bikaner the visit to havelis was facilitated by Tourism Writers Guild whose active members viz. Shri Updhyanchandra Kochar, Zia-ul-Hasan Kadri and several others had organized a Heritage Walk in the old sectors of the city covering major havelis. At that time, it was cloudy and digital cameras had not come in vogue, which could have given considerable advantage to accurately record the beauty of the mansions of yore. Everyone was using 35 mm negative colour or B&W film of 100 to 400 ASA. Tarun Chhabra, 30 at that time, civil engineer by profession and an ace photographer had accompanied me on this tour. I managed a few clicks but later was not satisfied with the results. However, 12 years later that is now, the situation came to be realized in an entirely different and more advantageous manner as the weather was cool-warm with a bright sunshine. Secondly I was equipped with a Nikon D800 and Kodak Easyshare Z990. During the five day’s stay in the City with friend Dhaneshwar Kujur and Pallave, her young, energetic and intelligent wife, I could thrice sneak into the old lanes and narrow alleys on whose arms the splendor of havelis was created by reputed architects or Suthars (सुथार), stone carvers (शिल्पी) and painters (उस्ता और चूनगर) whose names were collected with great research effort by Kadri ji. Rampurion ki Haveli (रामपुरिओं की हवेलियाँ) is the most well-known architectural wonder of a haveli at Bikaner. The Department of Archaeology of the Govt. of Rajasthan has declared these group of havelis as protected monuments. In fact it a cluster of several mansions in three lanes in which the buildings rise to three stories. The front of all these havelis was laid in red sand stone which was quarried in abundance at Dulmera in the erstwhile princely state of Bikaner. The city is situated amidst sand dunes, interspersed by several lakes full of sweet water that collect runoff rainwater such as at Gajner and Koyat (22 and 34 kilometers away on the road to Jaisalmer, respectively), abundance of thorny vegetation of the arid zones as well as shady trees such as Azadirachta Indica (नीम). Sometimes, it can rain in torrents in the Bikaner region but the weather may run dry for several years at a stretch causing scarcity of water. However, ground water aquifers are exploited to meet the growing needs of the people for water to keep them comfortable, which is sweet at some places and brackish at many. In the regions that sustain brackish groundwater, the people have devised innovative ways in the form of Kunds and masonry tanks to collect rainwater. Nowadays, many industrial units have been set up in the district, which may enhance the need for water. I don’t think that the State Industrial department will be able to meet the demand as well as manage disposal of waste and toxic water released by these newly set up units. Shri Kadri’s listing of havelis or old mansion at Bikaner and its agglomerations makes an impressive great number -1003, which is amazing in itself and indicates the great effort and time devoted by both the builders and the designer architects in addition to the crafts persons that could be involved with the creation of the architectural splendor, which has become not only a window for the world to depict the ingenuity and standards of workmanship of Indians artisans but also as rich source material for study and research to the students of the Schools of Architecture and Design. A close inspection of the fine carving on stone and wood, the methods of cladding and fixing of stones, juxtaposing of the carved pieces and brackets without a visual indication of the glue, creation of frescoes on wall, niches and roof and the layout can leave one stunned for a while. Every haveli had one or several internal courtyards, curved, narrow and vestibule type entrance whereas the Nauhras or business houses attached with godowns had a wide, arched gate with heavy door sets made of wood. The layout of the havelis and positioning of windows and doors afforded complete privacy to the occupants who could perform mundane activities without noticing from outside. Not much wood was used in the havelis but wherever it was, great wisdom and appropriate methodology was used such as in window panes , which deliberately kept small-sized, lattice or Jalee at certain places for the outer windows and, of course, door sets, lintels and the jambs. It came to be observed that from the year 1860s to 1930s, the wealthy Seths or traders, which, as builders, had commissioned construction of the havelis, were visionaries in a sense that they loved creation of art forms and splendor in stone that was capable of enriching the ambient space of Mohallas in a magnanimous manner. Additional creation of frescoes depicting contemporary events, episodes from Hindu pantheon and mythology, native life and other decorative motifs within the interiors provided cultural ambiance to life of the people. The architects of the havelis were fully aware about the fine rules of utilization of space in a creative and aesthetic manner as could be witnessed by inspecting all the major and minor havelis from within. It is regrettable that many havelis have become victims of intensifying air pollution laden with toxic fumes. The principle of cause of the air pollution and quality of air that consistently deteriorates as the sun rises on the eastern horizon are numerous numbers of auto-rickshaws that ply within the narrow lanes throughout the day. These vehicles run on diesel fuel and ooze out black smoke from the exhausts also causing respiratory distress to residents and visitors. I am not aware if a policy of controlling pollution of the air in th city exists or the district administration is alive to the problem to regulate the type of vehicles or the type of fuel that can be used within the city. It is high time the district administration thinks of introducing innovative ways of ferrying passengers by mini-vehicles that may run on battery power. In the area of Taj trapezium at Agra, these types of battery-run vehicles have given some respite from air pollution. The noxious gases that come out from the exhausts of diesel-run vehicles mix with small amount moisture already present in the atmosphere and transforms into sulphuric and nitric acids, and then comes into contact with red sand stones having fine carvings. It reacts with the stone and causes slow decay of the surface of the stone. Within a few years the cladding of red sand stone on a building becomes disfigured and weak. Therefore, with great urgency the suspended particulate level in the air as well as the content of noxious gases need to be controlled by the city administration in collaboration with Rajasthan Pollution Control Board and Department of Tourism that is essential to preserve the architectural heritage of Bikaner

Monday, 4 February 2013


BIKANER REMINISCENCES-III
Way back in 1990s, I had first heard about magnificence of havelis or traditional Indian mansions at Bikaner and ever since had a subtle desire to visit the place to watch the architectural beauties in person. The newspaper feature articles that used to appear in the intervening period since I first visited Bikaner in 2000 AD could not satisfy my vision of depicting the splendor that could be individually felt by witnessing as personal inspection. Twelve years ago on my first visit to Bikaner the visit to havelis was facilitated by Tourism Writers Guild whose active members viz. Shri Updhyanchandra  Kochar, Zia-ul-Hasan Kadri and several others had organized a Heritage Walk in the old sectors of the city covering major havelis. At that time, it was cloudy and digital cameras had not come in vogue, which could have given considerable advantage to accurately record the beauty of the mansions of yore. Everyone was using 35 mm negative colour or B&W film of 100 to 400 ASA. Tarun Chhabra, 30 at that time, civil engineer by profession and an ace photographer had accompanied me on this tour. I managed a few clicks but later was not satisfied with the results. However, 12 years later that is now, the situation came to be realized in an entirely different and more advantageous manner as the weather was cool-warm with a bright sunshine. Secondly I was equipped with a Nikon D800 and Kodak Easyshare Z990. During the five day’s stay in the City with friend Dhaneshwar Kujur and Pallave, her young, energetic and intelligent wife, I could thrice sneak into the old lanes and narrow alleys on whose arms the splendor of havelis was created by reputed architects or Suthars (सुथार), stone carvers (शिल्पी) and painters (उस्ता  और चूनगर) whose names were collected with great research effort by Kadri ji.

Rampurion ki Haveli (रामपुरिओं की हवेलियाँ) is the most well-known architectural wonder of a haveli at Bikaner. The Department of Archaeology of the Govt. of Rajasthan has declared these group of havelis as protected monuments.  In fact it a cluster of several mansions in three lanes in which the buildings rise to three stories. The front of all these havelis was laid in red sand stone which was quarried in abundance at Dulmera in the erstwhile princely state of Bikaner. The city is situated amidst sand dunes, interspersed by several lakes full of sweet water that collect runoff rainwater such as at Gajner and Koyat (22 and 34 kilometers away on the road to Jaisalmer, respectively), abundance of thorny vegetation of the arid zones as well as shady trees such as Azadirachta Indica (नीम). Sometimes, it can rain in torrents in the Bikaner region but the weather may run dry for several years at a stretch causing scarcity of water. However, ground water aquifers are exploited to meet the growing needs of the people for water to keep them comfortable, which is sweet at some places and brackish at many. In the regions that sustain brackish groundwater, the people have devised innovative ways in the form of Kunds and masonry tanks to collect rainwater. Nowadays, many industrial units have been set up in the district, which may enhance the need for water. I don’t think that the State Industrial department will be able to meet the demand as well as manage disposal of waste and toxic water released by these newly set up units.
Shri Kadri’s listing of havelis or old mansion at Bikaner and its agglomerations makes an impressive great number -1003, which is amazing in itself and indicates the great effort and time devoted by both the builders and the designer architects in addition to the crafts persons that could be involved with the creation of the architectural splendor, which has become not only a window for the world to depict the ingenuity and standards of workmanship of Indians artisans but also as rich source material for study and research to the students of the Schools of Architecture and Design. A close inspection of the fine carving on stone and wood, the methods of cladding and fixing of stones, juxtaposing of the carved pieces and brackets without a visual indication of the glue, creation of frescoes on wall, niches and roof and the layout can leave one stunned for a while. Every haveli had one or several internal courtyards, curved, narrow and vestibule type entrance whereas the Nauhras or business houses attached with godowns had a wide, arched gate with heavy door sets made of wood. The layout of the havelis and positioning of windows and doors afforded complete privacy to the occupants who could perform mundane activities without noticing from outside. Not much wood was used in the havelis but wherever it was, great wisdom and appropriate methodology was used such as in window panes , which deliberately kept small-sized, lattice or Jalee at certain places for the outer windows and, of course, door sets, lintels and the jambs.

It came to be observed that from the year 1860s to 1930s, the wealthy Seths or traders, which, as builders, had commissioned construction of the havelis, were visionaries in a sense that they loved creation of art forms and splendor in stone that was capable of enriching the ambient space of Mohallas in a magnanimous manner. Additional creation of  frescoes depicting contemporary events, episodes from Hindu pantheon and mythology, native life and other decorative motifs within the interiors provided cultural ambiance to life of the people. The architects of the havelis were fully aware about the fine rules of utilization of space in a creative and aesthetic manner as could be witnessed by inspecting all the major and minor havelis from within.
It is regrettable that many havelis have become victims of intensifying air pollution laden with toxic fumes. The principle of cause of the air pollution and quality of air that consistently deteriorates as the sun rises on the eastern horizon are numerous numbers of auto-rickshaws that ply within the narrow lanes throughout the day. These vehicles run on diesel fuel and ooze out black smoke from the exhausts also causing respiratory distress to residents and visitors. I am not aware if a policy of controlling pollution of the air in th city exists or the district administration is alive to the problem to regulate the type of vehicles or the type of fuel that can be used within the city. It is high time the district administration thinks of introducing innovative ways of ferrying passengers by mini-vehicles that may run on battery power. In the area of Taj trapezium at Agra, these types of battery-run vehicles have given some respite from air pollution. The noxious gases that come out from the exhausts of diesel-run vehicles mix with small amount moisture already present in the atmosphere and transforms into sulphuric and nitric acids, and then comes into contact with red sand stones having fine carvings. It reacts with the stone and causes slow decay of the surface of the stone. Within a few years the cladding of red sand stone on a building becomes disfigured and weak. Therefore, with great urgency the suspended particulate level in the air as well as the content of noxious gases need to be controlled by the city administration in collaboration with Rajasthan Pollution Control Board and Department of Tourism that is essential to preserve the architectural heritage of Bikaner.