Friday, December 13, 2013

Maverick Designer – Mukul Goyal believing in the “The power of product”

My meeting with IIT trained engineer with a further degree from NID was for writing on his Marwari antecedants for the magazine Marwar. Marwari background not withstanding, it came out though in the way he ran his business, what proved extremely interesting was the range of designs for every day products. Quirky shaped human forms doing ordinary things except in a not so ordinary actually extraordinary design, a man picking up weight actually an ice scoop, peeping men, bearing load… a hippo drinking water from a huge lake, actually a serving tray drawing inspiration from the animal kingdom, each carefully crafted into a practical useable product….design with a little twist - welcome to the world of Mukul Goyal. What further makes the designs fascinating is that, Mukul has played around with designs in products which were never considered design worthy in India. Be it bathroom accessories – towel rods, soap dispensers, hardware area the good ole taps, curtain rods, rings…..each offers that little design edge which makes it unique. Mukul has carefully straddled the designer based accessory into a more retail medium.

The first launch was designer hardware – curtain rods. The first of the series was the personal table product – book ends. Called Id of the shadow or that of the inner being, the inner self vis a vis the outer shelf, but it was distorted down to id as in email id…Mukul reminisces.

Speaking of brass, Mukul goes into raptures saying, “I love the material and have a close relationship with it, understand it and can push it. There are subtle nuances which I can bring out when I sandsculpt it by hand. There is the gentleness, the curves, each fall which can be controlled with the material.” Nearly, 85% of their product is sandcasted, it is done to get good form and finish, which cannot be achieved by dye casting. Neither can the consistency be maintained in hand crafted pieces. The products are handcrafted using light engineering. They are made in an industrial environment using craft techniques, which gives it that special edge.

Today, he has two lines – Tatva which has a range in drapery hardware, door handles, door and cabinet hardware, bath hardware and lighting. It is curated for a larger audience so there is something for everyone. This can be varied and customized according to the needs and choice of the customer. The Mukul Goyal line which is a mix of home and personal use products, which is essentially sold as it is. A new collection is launched every year under the Mukul Goyal line while in Tatva it varies from a year to two years.

If you are looking for quirky fun designs for your boring everyday home - be it curtain rods, door handles, knobs, table accessories.. Mukul' s creations are the best bet for it. 


Mukul’s creations are available across the country. There is a limited range displayed at his office cum factory as well in Gurgaon.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Weekly Markets of Delhi – Shukra Bazaar at Mohammadpur – Safdarjung Enclave


Yes, this one is set up near a village. In days of yore when we lived in Safdarjung Enclave, the market would come right on the main road, Africa Avenue. This is in the 80s. Those were the days when kids were allowed to cycle on the Ring Road alone!

The market used to come up near Mohammadpur village. It still does now, the venue though has shifted to the bylane or road turning left from the Church, when you are driving towards Bhikaji Cama Place. It is the road which leads to R.K.Puram and the famous Ayyappa temple. The stalls start filling in from 3:00 pm onwards during winters, probably it is later during summers. The initial shops are those of vegetable sellers. And these are worth their weight in gold during the winter months. Fresh carrots, with amazingly clean white radish, loads of coriander leaves, long mirchi just the right kind to make into pickles, peas fresh, the lesser known gandh gobis, zuchhini, yam, fresh tomatoes, guavas, pears and oranges… the range impeccably fresh and reasonably priced. Of course, the trick in the trade is to visit the market late in the evening, when the shops are being wound up when one can get bargain prices for the vegetables.

Apart from the vegetables are the rows and rows of sellers selling everything one needs under the sun. There is kachri or dried fryums which one can fry and eat. The quality is pretty decent. Then there are those selling pickles, ground and whole masalas and spices. The Chole Bhature stall with interesting looking pickles of radish and carrots as accompaniments does brisk business. What stands out and are most frequented are the clothes shop selling everything from sarees, churidars, kurtis, cloth and more. The knick knacks plastic buckets, dustbins, mugs, sponge for cleaning utensils, clips, ropes, threads… There are a couple of gypsy women who sell good quality iron girdles, frying pans, tavas, handis, kadais and cups. As also skewers, hand masala grinders, belan, chakli. The quality is good and prices bargainable and affordable. Much cheaper than Dilli Haat!!!

Timings – Every Friday evening 3:00 pm onwards. Go around 5:00 pm when nearly all the shops are set.

Insider Tip – Watch out for the crowds, pickpockets and of course maddening traffic. It is chaotic but if you can handle yourself, your belongings and the crowd, it is immensely enjoyable. Fresh vegetables are the best pick. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Weekly Markets of Delhi

The weekly bazaars of Delhi are legendary. Decades ago, it was the place where everyone shopped for day to day necessities especially vegetables, plastic knick knacks, masalas, glassware etc. Most of the bazaars can be said to be held next to the villages of Delhi. The origins may have been a Haat or a market for the villages to sell their produce. With time, with urbanization of Delhi, the markets have held their place. Instead of loosing out on popularity, they have gained in numbers and the crowd that visits them. The migratory population in Delhi finds it an apt place to shop for clothes and cheaper varieties. For many lower middle class Delhites, it is a way to beat the inflation. It might not be “the” place to be seen but for many regulars it is an ideal joint to pick up vegetables and fruits. The range is wide and the prices are very reasonable. So for even the upper middle class and above, it is a place to shop for fresh vegetables.


The weekly bazaars are held all over the city, with a day specified for it at that place. Many of the sellers are regulars and are organized through an informal organization. So a seller might sit at a Budh Bazaar (Wednesday market) in one locality and for the Veer Bazaar (thurstday market) in a neighbouring place. When I was young, I remember to have bought a pair of very small glasses made of brass for playing. The seller was a local craftsman who had bought it and on my falling in love with it, my mother bought it for me. I do not know the price, but I still have the wonderful pair. At the weekly bazaar in Saket, Malviya Nagar, there are sellers who bring some wonderful wooden crafts. There are gypsy women selling their wares of iron girdles. The circuit of the participants varies, someone operating in the East Delhi area will have one market every day to cart his wares in the East Delhi area only. The same goes for Rohini, Janakpuri and more. The organizer for a small fee ensures that places are allocated and given to the same person in that market every time. There is also a sense of discipline. South Delhi has seen a reduction in these markets, but I start this series in a bid to document the various Weekly markets of Delhi. Speaking to the organizers and more importantly picking out what can be bought here, any particular ware which stands out…. Here’s to the “village markets of Delhi”, which keep reiterating that despite all the urbanization, luxury malls and fast paced metro like life, Delhi is still a gigantic village at heart!!!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ambarka - A haven for Studio Pottery

This one is for my potter friends – Ambar Agnihotri and his lovely wife Monica. Both are die hard studio potters who love experimenting especially with the firing, colours and glazing. They are passionate about designs, about getting the right dimensions and both believe that the ultimate pottery product is a gift of the kiln. Ambar is a trained NID designer who sketches meticulously, finishes it gives it shape and then turns it on the wheel. Monica is a natural who works straight on the wheel. Together they have created a unique line of utility products of theirs called Maatika. It is sold from their little home run gallery called Ambarka. Of course, Ambar says, “yeh Monica ka bhi hai”.

The couple sell a beautiful range of products both utility and one of a kind piece of pottery art. They specialize in stoneware pottery. The utitlity range includes cups, mugs, bowls, soup bouls, spoons, plates, serving plates and more. There are Ganeshas in all hues, lamps, diya… take your pick given the entire range of their work. There is a crystalline series of Monica while Ambar’s Sculptural Stoneware called De-construction takes inspiration from engineering works like bridges, hence the embellishment to shape giving it a precision industrial like feel – machine signs and symbols. They also teach pottery to enthusiasts.

Go take a look at their work or the gallery and listen to both of them speak passionately about pottery. It is well worth the trip.

Location: It is located in Kalkaji, opposite Nehru Place, behind Bhairav Baba Mandir.
Timings: Call before going to find either of them there.

Insider Tip: Monica also stocks Masalas, pickles made by her parents home grown business. Check out the gallery and their collection, if nothing else, you will return reformed as a pottery enthusiast or lover.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Udbhava – A treasure trove of natural fibre products in Delhi


Products from banana fibre, hibiscus fibres, jute, sisal, ram baas, nettle are some of the fibres woven into an astounding array of products. Each product carefully designed, aesthetic, with some excellent colour combinations. These natural fibre products are the toast of the town for lovers of eco friendly article. Welcome to Udhbava, a little nook tucked into the bylanes of the busy South Extension Part I near the famous Gummad. Run by the husband and wife duo V.V.Sukhathirtha and wife S.Sudha. The couple stock their products in their home and are active in the exhibition circuit starting October onwards. Be it Dastkar, Christmas Carnivals or Melas organized by the various embassies. What stands out in their products is the innate knowledge and passion that Sukhathirtha has about natural fibres. A passion which transcends commercial calling.

Specialising in banana fibres, there is banana fibre woven pieces worked in tandem with cane, cane, coir and banana fibre, They also deal in fabrics woven out of these fibres. The range of the fabrics especially in dual shades and tie and dye is extremely eye catching. In the last few years, they have moved to creating value added products using a combination of these fabrics from natural fibres with cane. Fibre boards, moulded pieces, small gifting items like books, pen stands, holders… Another interesting range uses handmade paper for some extraordinary pieces. Korai grass mats are again popular. It is also teamed with leather and cotton fabrics.


If you are an ardent lover of alternate fibres for everyday use, Udbhava is the place for you. The banana fibre woven into fabric can be put into some extremely interesting uses be it as a front for a door to a cupboard. Go and meet the couple and indulge in shopping therapy which is good for the environment! Since Sudha deals with SHGs to source her fibres and raw material and a couple of NGOs to convert it into finished products, the money goes for a good cause too!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Meeting the sculpture artist - Atul Sinha

Uttarakhand has been inspirational for many including Atul Sinha. Atul is a multi faceted artist, who has worked across mediums. I have known him and his work for some time now. 

To read about his sculptures inspired from the valley of Uttarakhand, published in the Hindu at:
Read the unedited version here below:

The hills beckon again with a ray of hope

Shiva’s trilogy is a set of three sculptures inspired from the Trishul of Shiva, with touches of temple architecture from Pauhri in Garhwal district, there is Aradhak with lingam like formations, half man half woman Ardhanarishwar series, Mukti, a boat shaped form with the third eye of Shiva carved on it, omnipresent in each is the Lord of the Hills - Shiva in various symbolic forms. This and more are the sculptures made by Atul Sinha in the last eight years drawing inspiration from the peaceful hills of Uttarakhand. For Atul Sinha, a multi faceted utilitarian artist of the traditional mould, Uttarakhand has been an escape and a place from which he has imbibed consciously and unconsciously little nuances which are reflected in his work. As Atul says, “Whenever I drive up and walk in the meandering Himalayas it takes me to a different trance, tranquillity, serenity with positive shakti, which propels me to create forms in my medium.” The medium is wood – shisham or rosewood genus; his creativity overflowing into over 100 forms in the last eight years.  Atul grows pensive now at the mention of Uttarakhand saying, “it is a man made tragedy and people have wrought havoc there.  Earlier Shiva was protecting and it was serenity and bliss. Now, his anger has been awakened so what is happening is destruction or dance of death. Shiva is a creator, protector and destroyer. It is the last which has been awakened.” Brightening up he adds, “so what, landslides happen in Hills all the time. The place will bounce back.  As in Mythology, once Shiva’s anger subsides, it will heal. It will take time, but is not finished yet. The peaceful virgin untouched places have been an inspiration and they will continue to be. I am planning a trip there soon.” Educated at Sanawar and with a BFA (Sculptures) from The MS University, Vadodara, Atul has experimented with various mediums including ceramics, ink and, kerosene, glass etchings, foam bricks, paper machie, bronze and of course wood. Atul says, “I graduated from ceramics to wood.”

It is with wood that one sees the play with the textures, the grains and the final treatment. He uses the natural surface of the wood, yet shaping it to reflect his thought process, the sculptures literally come alive. There is precision and a sense of natural rhythm in the work. It might seem sacrosanct to suggest that art can have an utilitarian component and sculptures can actually be used as a furniture. But that is true, there is an unintrusive element, with its symbolism yet finding a form utility. For example the composition Panchatatva, captures the five elements, these are in the form of near table and stools.  His lighted sculptures are a part of the NGMA collection while sculptures for use are in the collection of several galleries like Delhi Art Gallery, Art Konsult and Gallery Ganesha. What stands out about his work is its myriad interpretations.  

With Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh becoming more commercialised, it is Uttarakhand that has inspired.  As he says, “These works reflect soul, nature and God, expressing the process of life to moksha. The composition elements are from the surroundings, temples, sadhus and local folks. The vision imagery that is embedded in my subconscious mind is transformed into rough sketches, which later becomes into sculptural forms.” Taking cue from the beautiful undulating step farming that dot the hillside, the entire series of work has captured this to perfection giving the pieces a gradient fluid terrace like appearance. The terraces symbolising the harsh conditions of life in the Hills and also the movement of body and soul as one goes in search of Divinity. It reflects the physical motion of going round and round the hills. Atul says, “it was rough when I first did the Shiva’s trilogy in 2008. I later finished and perfected it in 2010.”  There is Mukti in the form of a boat, reflecting the tranquil peaceful moment of death with the ashes being rowed to be immersed in a river.  The boat can double up as a seating piece as well. In Shiva’s trilogy, the winding road of the hill leading to the Almighty Lord Shiva is captured perfectly, the smallest piece draws inspiration from the spout of the Shiva Lingam and the temple architecture of Uttarakhand. Each of the piece has a Lingam like formation at the top. In another interpretation, it is a form of cosmic unity – the creator, protector and destroyer.

The boat called Aradhak is a prayer to the place.  The Ardhanareshwar shows the man and woman separated – connected yet separate. It is almost amazing as to how Shiva especially the Lingam is used in different forms. It is symbolic yet subtle. There is Shristi, the all encompassing woman, mother earth or nature. The Kalyug 2 is a recent addition, carved out of a stump of a tree, with an angry, scary face which Atul likens to Shiva’s locks, open and swaying in anger.  

As a parting shot, Atul adds, “don’t be too negative, it is a manmade disaster. Landslides happen. That place still beckons and it retains the power to inspire.”


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Antique copper and brass vessels

To read the article in Hindu


Kitchen craft | The Hindu


Read the unedited version here below

Nostalgic trip down memory lane -  in a world of old cooking vessels at Shilpguru Jagdish Prashad’s workshop  

Cooking in today’s age is convenient thanks to a host of modern gadgets – be it cooking equipments or vessels. The vessels range from non-stick cookware, copper bottomed steel, microwaveable dishes and more.  Harking back to another era are the age old cooking vessels fashioned out of brass, copper and bronze. A common sight once upon a time, these have now slowly faded from memory, being replaced by more high tech glistening substitutes. Laxmi Narayan Jagdish Prashad, Master Craftsman 1974 and Shilpguru 2007 is a wizard at the crafting of brass and copper vessels and is a fountain of knowledge of the times when every village boasted of a thatera or a brass / coppersmith. Given the dictate of the market, his work now borders more on decorative pieces finely engraved and enamelled and hardly any utensils. After a lot of reticence and much prodding what becomes evident is his fondness for old vessels, their unique shapes and how it was used.

Jagdish Prashad says with a lot of feeling, “purane bartanon ki baat hi kuch aur thi”(old vessels are literally a breed apart). They were heavy and shone like gold when kept properly. What is there today? A vegetable gets cooked in four whistles in a pressure cooker. Where is the taste? Earlier food was cooked slowly in copper or brass vessels simmering on a Chula or a coal based stove. The taste was different.”

Prashad is a hereditary craftsman who learnt the art as a child. What got him recognition was the combination of this hereditary skill with the art of decoration – chitai. He says, “chitai I learnt from Mohammadans. All their utensils especially copper have beautiful chitai or engraving on it. Our profession was just to make the vessels.”  Even now in traditional Muslim families, copper utensils are given at the time of weddings. He elaborates saying in earlier times there were no aluminium, plastic or steel, so utensils were made of copper and brass. Copper is also used in rituals for its purity. Drinking water stored in a copper cup overnight is beneficial for health. For cooking in copper or brass vessels it has to be coated with tin. In North it is called “kalai” and there are specialists who do it. This involves giving a tin coating to the inside of the brass and copper vessels. A small amount of tin is heated and exploded into the vessel and when it is still hot rubbed into the metal with a rag cloth. Prashad says, “without this coating, cooking in such vessels will be equivalent to poison. Cooking in utensils which have kalai not only adds to the taste but lets the food absorb small amounts of the metals for natural intake. There are a lot of benefits.” Today, such kalai valas are a rare breed with a few present in the bylanes of Old Delhi.

Tracing his ancestors, he adds, “many of the older generations worked in palaces of the royals. They would turn out new vessels giving vent to their imagination and this was encouraged by royals. Usually, since a lot of space was required, so thateras were spread on the outskirts of the city. It probably explains such presence in Old Delhi also.”  Everything was made, gharas (pots), kanastars (jars with handle), parath (plates in which atta is kneaded), paan dans, buckets and more. Today, he grins, “an old paan dan becomes a jewellery box by removing the insides, the old gharas become flower pots or planters. Copper is a wonderful metal which does not corrode with time. Which is why during excavations, copper jars are unearthed after centuries with their contents intact.”

His little workshop has several items tucked in everywhere, huge cauldrons, plates, pots in various shapes, sizes. What stands out is the versatility of the utensils and their utilisation. Prashad shows a dish which he explains was used for serving raita from Punjab. It has a little handle to carry with a pointed nose or spout through which the raita can be poured directly on to the plate. It is known as Punjabi Gagar. A modern day adaptation could be as a serving bowl at the dinner table, where it can be directly poured into katoris or plate. With its design it does away with the need for a spoon. A little bucket with a collapsible handle was an interesting travel companion along with a rope. The traveller could use it at any well or pond to drink water or bathe and simply move on. A very light weight travelling companion! He describes the copper boiler from Amrtisar called the Amritsari Hamam.  The ones from Amritsar were made in copper, brass and a combination of copper and brass which was called Ganga Jamuna because of its two colouring. Similar ones are also made in Maharashtra but these are taller and longer. Today, he rues, “they have virtually disappeared. One could spot them at all Railway Station.”

He collects many of the old pieces and reinvents them by working all over it with chitai. The pot is filled with lac and worked on. It is then further plated to a look alike copper, silver or gold finish. Such pieces are used as planters or flower pots and in demand in spas and resorts. An old vessel is salvaged from the scrap yard and is put to a decorative use. He adds, “no one makes old vessels like these now. The joints in the vessel were done on fire, bhatti. Now it is soldered. The old joining lasts centuries. Copper was cheap then about Rs. 2 a sear, now it is several hundreds a kilogram. It makes a difference to the workman and the buyer. Maintenance of these vessels is high which is why no one wants to use them.”

With pride he says, “I have travelled thanks to the Government of India to various countries and have seen cooking vessels across the world. But their repertoire is not a shade to the variety and diversity of cooking vessels that we have here.” Cooking utensils then were another ball game altogether!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Craft of North East, being made in Delhi

The Original Article published in the Hindu can be read here:

A capital market - The Hindu

Read the Unedited version here...

North East craft being made in Saddi Delhi, It will not be wrong to say, if urban Delhi consumers do not go the North East to pick handicrafts, well then the handicrafts will come to Delhi. And by this I do not mean those crafts which are sent for selling in the capital but those which are actually made here by craftsmen from North East. The definition of North East is though slightly broad, to be precise several crafts of Manipur, the Thangkul Naga, Nagaland and Assam are made with fervour in Delhi just like they would back home, yes using the same raw materials and process of making. I chanced upon this trend quite accidentally, while watching and shooting WungShungmi, a Manipuri black pottery craftsman at the Craft Museum. Taking a break while the innumerable cups which were being baked in the open kiln filled with leaves etc., he casually asked where I lived in Delhi. Then of all the surprising things, he asked, “can such a kiln be fired in your area? Curious I dug deeper, only to realise that WungShungmi stayed near INA and was actually making the traditional black pottery products here in saddi Dilli for the last eight years. And like him there were several traditional craftsmen who had made Delhi their home but continue to ply their traditional crafts with elan.  From pottery, loin loom weaving, beaded jewellery, baskets, quilts, bamboo work to kawna mats.

The number of craftsmen making Manipuri black pottery also called Longpi or coiled pottery is slightly more as compared to the other crafts. The pottery is made of powdered stone sans a potter’s wheel, entirely shaped by hand. In recent times, good design intervention has ensured eye catching products. There are plenty of potters making black pottery in Vasant Enclave and Mahipalpur area. Like WungShungmi, there is Ashim Pearl Shimray, pottery artist and jewellery maker who has her workshop in Mahipalpur where the black pottery is made. As she says, “the biggest advantage of making in Delhi is the transportation cost is avoided. In pottery the breakage is a lot. So we get the raw materials and make it here. Also Delhi being closer to the buyers, it is possible to make whatever designs buyers want. Greater experimentation is possible.” Pearl came to Delhi to study MA Sociology in 1998 and has been in Delhi since then. She is a studio potter and also makes traditional tribal jewellery of the Hill people of Manipur covering all the Naga tribe. Each tribe has its specific colours, motifs and jewellery, she makes them all here. The materials come from Bhutan to local sources.

Pearl also a runs a shop with Pamringla Vashum in Shahpurjat. Pamringla not only runs the shop but also makes product on the loin loom or back strap loom from her home. The normal drawing room simply doubles up as a weaving zone. When we enter, her aunt, is busy counting the threads to be affixed to the loom. The thread or yarn of fine count is procured locally from Sadar Bazaar. The frame which was doing the work for counting, is simply spread, the end of the loom which is usually affixed to the wall is expertly tied to the open window. She adjusts the length and voila sitting on the floor the work starts. I am impressed with the ease with which the loin loom sits in her drawing room. She has different sets of looms, all cleanly stacked at one end and no one will actually believe that it is actually a loom in working. She explains the concept of the loom, “once the design is set, the weaving is easy. As the loom is set anyone who knows weaving in the family simply picks it up and weaves.” The back strap loom is a rarity and specialty from the North East. The width of the fabric is smaller and to create larger fabrics, two exactly similar pieces are joined together.

The traditional shawls of the Thangkul Naga has today been innovated to make runners, table mats, cushion covers, bags and more. She makes these products with ease dealing with buyers. When there is more quantity the work is simply off loaded. She says, “there are many people who make it in Delhi. I give them the work. Tell them the pattern and give them the thread. They take it home and work.” Pamringla came to Delhi in 1999 for an exhibition, then worked for some time with Trifed before branching out on her own. She was one of the few from whom the First Lady Michelle Obama bought crafts from at the Crafts Museum. She though does not elaborate on who are the others who make similar products fearing loss of business. She adds, “Delhi is a very good market. Back home in the village it is very difficult to sell our products. Here there is a good market and there are places – melas, haats and exhibitions from where these can be sold.” Similar is the story of Annie from Nagaland who makes beaded jewellery. Seeing the response here, she has plans to stay in Delhi adding, “we actually get better and more raw material in Delhi than back home. Here it is easier to buy.”

Vivekananda Bagchi, a National Award winner for Bamboo jewellery in 2010, is a wizard with bamboo. Though traditionally from Bengal he has made Delhi his home and specialises in making bamboo work from Tripura as well. As he says, “it is easier to get the raw materials in Delhi than anywhere else. At home, we have to scour the villages for it. Here Paharganj and other markets stock good quality in plenty. The prices are nominal too.” There is Apam Ahum who runs Hao Craft and they make black pottery jewellery also, a new addition. There are plenty more, the entire area of Sangam Vihar, Mahipalpur, Vasant Kunj – Kishan Garh, Gandhi Nagar has a fair representation of craftspersons from North East. The underlying fact remains that in this market driven world, the craftsmen prefer to be nearer to the buyers where it is easier to deal. The question of raw material is easily taken care of with several trips home. What matters is the market and that is where they are. With Hindi speaking abilities, it is the market driven economy which dominates. Long live enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chidambaram's New Madras Hotel


Yes, authentic South Indian mouthwatering fare dished out by Chidamabaram’s for over 60 years. This old establishment has it all serving from the usual Idli, Dosa, Uttappam, vada to thali, butter milk, kesari and more. Despite Delhi being flooded with Idli Dosa joints or those serving South Indian food, there are very few which maintain the authenticity and taste. This one does, the coconut chutney is actually made using coconuts and not simply bhuna hua chana dal. The food is not spicy, loaded with chillies variety and tastes quite good. It is a wonderful mix of affordability and more importantly nostalgia for my father. It is ideal for a good dose of near home cooked food at affordable prices when one’s cooking fails. Usually the best South Indian meal for a Tambrahm is invariably at home. But this one does win our hearts for a near substitute when our cooking takes a back seat.

Old Recollections – Chidambaram’s Mess (it was run by the owner - Chidamabaram) as it was known was frequented by my father, a bachelor then in the 1950s. The entire Lodhi Colony was barracks built for the American soldiers during the World War. A set of four rooms had a kitchen and two separate bathrooms and loos. After the war the barracks were vacated by them. Following Indianisation, it was allotted to Government employees. Of course, the number living in each such quarter far exceeded that permissible. It was known as Chamaris. It is in one of these kitchens sublet that Chidamabaram’s mess operated. With plenty of youth and bachelors living in the area, region wise messes were common. So for South Indians there were Chidamabaram’s, Rao’s mess, Mannadiyars and Nair’s Mess. 

Of these as per my father, “Chidambaram existed because the food was good and he maintained the quality and standard.” From the others, one ran away, Mannadiyar moved to Sarojini Nagar and vanished. It was difficult running out of rented space. Having eaten for over five or more years Chidambaram was well known to my father and the last time he met him was when they travelled together to Madras (it was known that way then, most regulars do call it that!) by GT (Grand Trunk) Express. My father proceeding to Kerala via Chennai, that’s how travel was then. Daddy moved on, married and settled in Delhi but nay a nostalgia to revisit that place. Mom was such a fabulous cook. With my longing for South Indian food outside home being limited, there was never an opportunity to revisit.

This nostalgic visit to Chidamabaram was thanks to my father’s recollection of his food. A casual trip to Meher Chand Market was backed with an impulsive, lets go to Chidambarams. After much search, we found it in the Khanna Market street, small reminding one of coffee shops tucked away in a typical South India. It had long moved out of the Chamaris and was a part of the huge market. The establishment was there and in the words of my father, “the food is still good and tastes good like those of yore”. Chidambaram though is no more. The restaurant is now called Chidamabaram’s New Madras Hotel. It is now being run by his son. The Menu now is no longer just lunch and dinner as in a mess but includes a host of dosas and idlis. The range of dosas, uttappams and adai is a decent 28 variety. Apart from South Indian food, there is a variety including Chinese.

Location – Khanna Market – Turn into the bylanes of Lodhi Road flats from Meher Chand Market and simply move down the road of the market. This is a small shop located near the end of the market. Shop No. 7.

Timings – 8 am to 10:45 pm (ideal for a typical South Indian breakfast!)

Highlight – The entire South Indian fare is good. Coconut chutney is made the authentic way, my father vouches for it. It is easy on the tongue and not loaded with spice. Sambar is like home made with a good taste to it. Dosas, idli, uttappam…take your pick. I am told the thali with typical Tamilian vegetables – kootu, curry – is excellent. My father is a finicky perfectionist for food and he vouches for it. We are yet to taste it, I will give a full blown account then!!

Insider Tip – Forget the routine dosa, vada, idli routine, instead go for the snacks. My father narrowed in on the Masala Vada (of course it will be good, Chidambaram was a good cook my father’s verdict). It is served with sambhar and chutney. There is Raw Plaintain bhajji – called vazhakay or kachha kela bhajjis, bonda, onion pakora and onion bhajji. These are typical items made at home and not so easily available in restaurants here in Delhi. Try them and enjoy it. The South Indian filter coffee is par excellent, (my dad’s verdict second to mine – sweet of him!). There is masala mor (firang bikers sip it before zooming away)… The tiny shop outside offers batter and namkeens – the mixture is good.

Go fill up on traditional south Indian food, the ambience, Tamil music does transport one to a typical hotel in Tamil Nadu.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A deck of cards with a Classical Touch Bharatnatyam Dancer Jayalakshmi Eshwar


The original article in Hindu 

The Hindu : Features / Sunday Magazine : Dance with the cards

Read the unedited version here.....

  
A full hand - set of sequential cards from the 13 cards of diamonds, clubs, spade or hearts - yes that is the typical rummy.  Fast track it to the world of dance and it is a set of three cards of Kathak, another with Chhau and top it off with a set of four of from say Bharatnatyam and voila full hand – that is the dance rummy game devised by danseuse Jayalakshmi Eshwar. Unlike the traditional deck of cards of 54, this has a whopping 90 cards covering the 9 traditional classical dance forms of India. It is a game for children six years and above. The deck of cards can be used to play two different games one of course on the lines of rummy. The game innovative, thought provoking, educative yet fun has been conceptualised, researched and executed by Jayalakshmi Eshwar. Jayalakshmi, a trained Bharatnatyam dancer from Kalakshetra is the Head of the Bharatnatyam Department at Triveni Kala Sangam and also runs her own troupe – Abhinaya Dance Group.

A talented multifaceted personality, she has maintained the traditional and purity of the dance form yet has embraced modernity with technology. As she says, “in today’s age, children do not have the luxury of time to learn the way it was done earlier. Neither do the gurus have that kind of time available. Today after the 8th standard, students get busy with the board exams then it is admission, where is the time to learn slowly. So an audio visual medium can be played in the evening at home and learnt from.” Thus both her books cum instruction media, one on a how to on Bharatnatyam a step by step guide on dance  and the other one on the use of hands – Hastha Prayogaah in Bharatnatyam come with an accompanying audio visual CD.  The card game was an extension of this mindset. As she recalls, “my second son Avinash Kumar is from NIFT and was working with the toy industry. He then suggested that I develop a game for children based on the dance form.” The earlier idea revolved around Bharatnatyam but research proved that the general knowledge on dance as a medium was more or less absent.

The game in itself is very interesting. It has been painstakingly put together. Be it the in depth research in getting the information or the succinct manner in which it has been written in the cards, such that it is informative yet not academically overbearing. The cards are larger than normal cards measuring approximately 5 inches by 3 inches. Each of the nine forms are represented by a different colour. The dance forms covered are: Bharatanatyam, Chhau, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniyattam, Oddissi and Sattriya. There are 10 cards in each of the 9 dance forms.  The 10 cards are actually 10 broad categories giving information on each of the dance form. These are – state of origin of the dance form, introduction on the dance form, reference texts on the origins of the dance form, temple / tradition which it is associated with, few gurus and exponents of the dance form, costume, two cards on the ornaments worn in the dance form, instruments accompanying the dance form and the technique or nritta position. The information has been patiently compiled with help and suggestions from co-artistes of their particular tradition, Sangeet Natak Academy and CCRT.  The information on costumes, ornaments, musical instruments and accompanying photographs were collected from well wisher friends each a master proponent in the field of dance. For example Guru Shashadhar Acharya, the well known proponent of Saraikala Chhau has provided these for the cards for Chhau. Similarly for Kathakali it is the well known International Centre for Kathakali, New Delhi.  The photograph used in the depiction of the costume in Kathakali is that of Sadanam Balakrishnan.

The detailing in the card is mind boggling. For example, in Kathak the list of gurus and exponents is large encompassing – Shambhu Maharaj, Lachchu Maharaj and Achhan maharaj, the exponents include: Sitara Devi, Pandit Briju Maharaj, Uma Sharma….. Similarly for Chhau the banks of the river where it is performed annually is beautifully put while the exponents have been drawn out carefully in the case of Bharatnatyam. A charming compilation is on the comparatively lesser known dance form is Sattriya from Assam. The set of 10 cards tracing the origins from 15th – 16th century to the tradition by Vaishnav Saint Srimanta to Sankaradeva to the gurus Maniram Datta Moktar and further detailing on the ornaments and costumes is a mine of information.

The colour codification of the dance form is also interesting. Satriya is brown while Odissi from the neighbouring State is a deeper shade of the same colour.   Kathakali is represented by green while Mohiniyattam from the state is bordered in dark green. Another little quirk that Jayalakshmi has introduced is that in each of the card at the top the entire name of the dance is not written. As she says, “I just wanted the first two letters or first letter of the dance form written. This will provoke the child to use his intellect and understand the dance form while playing. It is not only educative to the child but also to the parent, many of whom are not aware of the minute nuances of the dance forms.” It is true, people may know the dance form but not the intricacy like names of the instruments accompanying it or the ornaments worn.
The game is played like rummy. It can be played by 4 to a maximum of 9 persons. Each player is dealt 10 cards and the rest of the cards are kept in the middle. For winning the game, three sequences ( 3 cards of two dance form and 4 cards of another dance form) has to be made. The second way of playing it is as a simple question answer format. The cards are simply dealt.  Each player reads from one card giving out all the information, after which proceeds to ask questions on the information read out.  This helps the child memorise facts about the dance form. In the offing apart from her book on feet movements is another card game exclusive to Bharatnatyam to be played by a student. What else can one say except dance playing on!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dhokra craft traditions with a reverse twist - Subhash Arora, a non-tribal dhokra craft artist




Craft traditions are usually hereditary passed down from one generation to the next. It is also usual for successive generations on becoming affluent to move away from the craft into more educated lucrative professions. Exploding both these usuals and going against the grain is Subhash Arora, Master Craftsman of Dhokra craft.  A non-tribal, actually a Punjabi Arora from Delhi from a family involved in educational pursuits, who was so fascinated with Dhokra that he has made it his mission, his love and career. This love for dhokra which began in the late 70s still continues today with the same passion, a journey covering nearly 35 years.  With a dreamy look in his eyes, Arora adds, “I want to do it all my life.”  So you wonder how did it all start? With a smile he says, “I was not good at studies, so I didn’t have much choice except to take up graduation by correspondence. I was studying clay modeling at Bal Bhawan Delhi during the holidays. I knew I wanted to do something creative. There were many options - drama, writing art…” During the training he happened to visit the Crafts Museum, Delhi. It was here that the proverbial inspiration struck, there were tribal craftsman from Chattisgarh - Bastar to be precise who had come to demonstrate Dhokra craft. Subhash Arora saw it being made and literally was hooked for life. Even as he describes it to me, the passion, the madness for the craft shines in his eyes. He adds, “I worked with them casting, modeling the wax without a care about the weather, it was the craft and myself.” When they left after their workshop for one month ended, he was at a loss. In a fit of youthful madness he decided to pack his bags and head to Bastar as he says, “I was not interested in studies.” His parents dissuaded him saying he was mad going off to a village in the jungles far away from civilization with no access to landline phones.

He vividly recalls reaching village Konda in Bastar in the evening by bus and being welcomed by fire flies everywhere. Arora adds, “I had never seen a fire flies or a jungle let alone live in one. One look at the craft and he forgot the heat, absence of electricity, the bad civic conditions and the huts. As he says, “kaam karte hue mazaa ata tha - (I used to enjoy doing the work)”. Soon he persuaded his parents to buy him a small place within the village where he could stay and learn the craft. He learnt the craft and along with it the local language - Halbi. He says as a matter of fact, “if you live in Spain for 10 years won’t you learn to speak Spanish?” adding with pride, “the whole of Bastar knows me because I am the only non-tribal who learnt the craft living with them, speaking their language and understanding their culture.” He stayed with them for four years understanding every aspect of their life and of course the craft. It was not easy and it took much persuasion to be taught their skills.

Dhokra craft uses the traditional lost wax method to fashion objects from brass. The casting is done by both the hollow method and solid method. One distinguishing feature is that when casting bigger objects or three dimensional ones, the craftsman wind thin strips of wax around the clay model. They further adorn it with little drops, small motifs and more. The object when finished in metal gives a ribbed appearance which is the hallmark of dhokra. Subhash Arora shows me wax strips. Describing the making of a small bull, he plucks out a small bit of wax and moulds it in front of me. He then demonstrates the making of a tile made of Dhokra, he starts fashioning the leaves and becomes so lost in making it that for a moment he forgets I am watching and listening to him.

I prod him to go back to his days of learning the craft. He recalls, “I came back satisfied with some objects that had been made. Then I reached dead end. No one wanted to buy the pieces I had made. I had made what the tribals made.” After much running around he gave up. He then absorbed what was selling in the market and with a vague idea made a second trip after a few years to Bastar. This time he stayed and made designs of his own. When he showed them to shops in Sundar Nagar, Delhi and exporters, they went crazy about it. Looking back he says, “I was neither a designer nor an art student. So designing was alien to me. I could not extend the use of this technique to more saleable form then.” Further understanding of the design quotient occurred when he was called to repair some antique figurines by Rajeev Sethi, well known craft proponent and revivalist. He was shown a box full of old pieces of dhokra art from Kond village in Orissa. Arora says, “it was something I had never seen. The work from this village is far more beautiful than that of Bastar. But seeing it I knew how to create modern more acceptable forms for the market.” So out came a trail of horses, classic bulls, human figures, gods and goddesses, odd or free flowing forms of animals, birds. He went back lived with the tribals training them to make products which would work in the market.

He adds ruefully, “I was young and could withstand the harsh conditions. I used to live with them for 4 - 5 months in a year. Now I can’t. So I have brought a few villagers from there and have settled them in a village near my home in Faridabad.” His worked was recognized and he was awarded the Master Craftsman Award in 1993 for a beautiful piece depicting a tribalish rider on a bull. Another stunning work has been for the INA Metro Gallery, where a wooden frame adorned with metal dhokra pieces was made for the CWG 2010. Another fabulous piece which is a part of the Akshara Exhibition put together by Dastkari Haat Samiti. It shows a lady working on a computer, saluting learning. Every detail from the key board to the expression on the face is captured to perfection.

Given the high cost of metal, huge pieces or one of a kind are made to order. The focus now is on making utility pieces like wall hangings, key hanging boxes, trays which contrast fallen leaves with dhokra panels. He adds, “Dhokra is an eco-friendly craft since it reuses scrap metal pieces. I teamed it with leaves which have fallen on the ground. Then with left over leather and grass bits.” Looking at the piece, again the dreamy look overcomes him, and he starts thinking of other ways to extend the craft to more utility driven products. I leave him at that.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Murthal ke Paranthe



Read the unedited version here....

Murthal Ke paranthe

Paranthas or paronthe (in Punjabi) are what ideal mid morning brunches are made of during the cold winter days. Thus paranthas are made everywhere with all kinds of winter vegetables and eaten with gusto. So can such an ubiquitous parantha actually give a little non-descript town its prominence or better still make people drive all the the way 70 kms (I drove 82 kms one way to be precise with a friend in tow), just to taste the paranthas. The answer is an Unbelievable YES, when it comes to Murthal Dhabbas and its typical die hard favourite - the paranthas with the excellent kali dal. Murthal is actually one big village which falls on NH 1 linking Delhi to Punjab. It is beyond Sonepat and on the way to Panipat.

The Dhabas appear on the left side as you travel from Delhi towards Punjab. To reach the dhabas, avoid the newly built flyover which makes you shoot the profusion of dhabas, instead take the little road next to the flyover. And there stands clusters of dhabas - 50 or so some on the other side as well.

These are not your usual dhabas where you sit under the sky in the typical Manji (charpoys) with prompt service by Chotu the server boy. Instead, most of the dhabas have tin sheet cover fitted with fans, with uniformed servers (prompter than Chotu), eating is on very clean laminated tables and chairs, tissues on hand, ac restaurant is available, there are wash basins with electrical hand dryers, clean granite loos and like shops in a petrol pump there are several selling churans (digestive aids), pickles and even stuffed toys.

The Dhabas started around 1948 or so, to offer food for truck drivers passing by. Since there were limited options for the truck drivers, this stop proved to be popular. At that time, there were only 3 – 4 dhabas. Ahuja Dhaba around 64 years old is the oldest one around, followed by Gulshan which was started in 1950. No one knows how paranthas came to be associated with this place. The usual say is that crisp fried Paranthas a typical Punjabi staple breakfast item had with lassi and dahi was served throughout the day caught the fancy of the drivers and of course the passing traveler. Since paranthas are not so readily available the ones here caught on. Most people say, the dhabas were around from the time the road was a huge single road.

The first stop was at the much touted Gulshan ka dhaba and it did live up to its name. A cursory nod to an alu pyaaz parantha and my chit chat about the paranthas was rudely interrupted with “aap ke paranthe tande ho rahe hain! (your paranthas are getting cold). We were amazed, in a matter of a few minutes there was piping hot paranthas with dollops of home made white butter (it is milk country where largest sizes of washing machines have been known to churn out butter!), with kali dal (whole urad dal fried almost home made). This is accompanied by pachranga pickle, sirce wali pyaaz (baby onions pickled in vinegar) and fresh green chillies to bite into. The paranthas are not the typical ghee fried but made on Tandoor. I enquire on the typical ghee paranthas, to be told “who has ghee paranthas anymore.” Hearing this Manoj Gulshan, one of the owners of the Dhaba thinking me to a co-enthusiastic fan of ghee paranthas asked, “Do you want to try the ghee paranthas? It will just take 10 minutes.” Given his enthusiasm, I was much persuaded, only to see my friend glaring at me with an expression, “how can you think of ghee after so much of butter.” I mumble a quick, “no thanks.” Manoj explained, “originally the paranthas were shallow fried in pure ghee. It is this new health consciousness where people do not take pure ghee paranthas that 15 or so years ago we switched over to the tandoor ones. Those are real paranthas, I still have one made that way everyday. I do not enjoy the tandoor ones and feel they are slightly under cooked.”

Another advantage is that in the absence of non-vegetarian food and eggs, Tandoori paranthas go very well with liquor which is served in plenty.  All the dhabas in the area are Vaishno or pure vegetarian. The tale behind their being vegetarian is equally charming. It is said that in that about 60 years ago, a Naga Sadhu appeared here, some say he blessed the people, others say, he cursed the place. The dictat he issued was any commercial establishment selling non-vegetarian food including eggs 10 kms either side from the spot he sat would be ruined. All those adhering to this norm would be very successful and flourish. The words came true. To my query as to whether it was just a myth or was there some substantive truth was met with. “We have seen countless establishment who opened dhabas in scant disregard with a too hoots attitude, suffer loses and close down in the next 3 – 6 months.”

The paranthas offered include – aloo pyaz, mixed vegetables, gobi, paneer, mooli.. and cost Rs. 35 onwards each. The next stop is at Sukhdev. It is more on the lines of a restaurant than the humble dhaba with sweet corns and other branded on sale. Started in 1956, it is very popular given the hoards of cars parked around it. Then there is Phelwan dhaba, Ahuja, Jhilmil…The various kinds of paranthas offered is the same everywhere. On a scale of 20, the quality of paranthas everywhere is between 17-19, Sukhdev did not have hari mirch in it, but the dough was slightly more, at Gulshan, the green chillies are a problem, though they make it without it, at Jhilmil the paranthas cracked. We lost our heart to the first alu pyaaz parantha, probably we were hungry after travelling a good two hours or the piping hot paranthas served with so much care and friendliness took our hearts away.

Process: Approximately each parantha takes 80 – 90 gms of flour. The flour used is a mix of the chakki ka atta and that of the flour mill. The dough made is slightly loose unlike the tight way of kneading it for rotis. In the filling apart from the vegetable which is finely chopped, a fair amount of green chillies, salt, coriander leaves are added. The potato is boiled and mashed to which raw onions are added. This roasts deliciously in the hot coal tandoors to impart its own particular flavor. Around 20 gms of white butter is placed on it and voila it is ready to be served.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Shyam Lata Sihare - pickles, papads and more the ole fashioned way


The Original article in Hindu Mistress of spices CHITRA BALASUBRAMANIAM

(The unedited version is .....)

A catchy line, “Old Fashioned Gourmet” on a host of pickles, squashes etc piqued my interest. Further probing revealed a passionate lady; Mrs. Shyam Lata Sihare fondly called Amma, who was behind the products. And therein revealed a passion for food and all the ingredients that went into it. The welcome ring in the voice when I called up to speak to Shyam Lata, saying, “aap aayiye, hamare products chakiye aur phir achha lage to likiye - you come taste our products and if you like it, go ahead and write about it.”   Amidst the aromatic waft of spices permeating from the kitchen, an extremely courteous staff takes me to meet Amma. I am greeted with a warm beaming smile with affection, despite a foot in cast.  

And before long, I am drawn into an Aladdin cave of sorts with a treasure of information on spices, dals, food, jams, squashes and of course pickles. It soon becomes apparent, that the entire operation is more of a passion and hobby than a livelihood venture. Shyam Lata is a Marwari hailing from the J K Industrial Group family. She elaborates, “The reason we started was to make available quality products in which there is no adulteration. In a bid to make a product affordable, there is a compromise in the quality of the ingredients. If one does not eat right then how can one survive?” It is in this quest for making products which are 100% pure that her venture started way back in 1993 and her products are in demand by those who appreciate quality including the who’s who of Delhi.

So what is so special about her pickles and other products? Pickles are available all the time everywhere. Here lies the difference; the pickles made by her sold under Aravali Foods are made the old fashioned way using the age old recipes with nay a change. Everything is still hand made with little or no use of machines. Spices are bought whole, washed, sun dried naturally, cleaned by hand and then yes, hand pounded in a huge mortar and pestle. Salt is bought in rock form, washed, dried and then again hand pounded to the fine powder. So is the chilly, spice powders and garam masala. The mangoes, lemons, chillies are also washed, dried and cut by hand quantities not withstanding. The mixing of the pickles is done in huge vessels by hand using ladles just like it was once done at home. There is no compromise no adulteration. As she says, “I will not compromise on quality just to sell.”

With this perfectionist bend, she started making a few kilos of pickles, which given the good quality of ingredients, sold well. And then began the journey. Speaking of the recipes, she says, “it is recipes made by my mother and grandmother. First we made pickles, then squashes, then people started demanding that we also sell them the hand pounded spices which we used in our pickles, then came pappads, vadiyas, magode….. ” And more products are being added as the journey progresses.  

Given this obsession for quality, she realized what mattered was to establish the right sourcing for the ingredients straight from the farmers where there will be little scope for adulteration. As she adds, “even the wholesale mandi does not offer fresh good quality spices.” There were failures; an entire consignment of Ajwain had to be thrown away because it was old stock. When hand washed it revealed insects. A consignment of Badi elaichi went bad. So she got down to researching, finding out, getting samples from across places, testing-tasting them and finally discovering the niche source. So it was finally Unjha, Mehsana District of Gujarat from where the best of ajwain straight from the fields is procured. So fresh that she adds, “one can just use a pinch and feel the aroma.” The hing or asafoetida is sourced from Kabul. The liquid tapped from trees is imported into the country and is processed here. It costs as much as Rs. 9000 - Rs. 10000 a kilo, the aroma is unimaginable. The little packet that I have bought still manages to induce its smell in the entire home. I query, “do I use a pinch”? All her staff cries in unison - no a pinch is a lot. Shyam Lata adds, “Take a toothpick and prick it and put it in the dish.” Whole turmeric is bought from Erode, cardamom fresh from the gardens of Kerala, other spices from Bangalore. From Unjha come the dhania or coriander seeds. She explains, “we buy the smallest size of coriander which are tender and bursting with taste. The bigger sized ones are filled with husk and do not have taste and aroma. While jeera it is the medium sized ones.” The garam masala has a whopping 16 - 20 ingredients, including nag kesar, jaiphal, javitri, karan phool, pipli small and big, tej patta, black pepper and of course no coriander seeds. Rock salt called Sendha Namak comes from Sindh in Pakistan as also the Kala Namak. The huge rock in white and black salt is shown to me. Kasoori methi comes from Nagaur and she vouches is not bitter. The mangoes for the pickles are the Rajapuri mangoes from Maharashtra and Resham Patti chillies from Gujarat. This is just the tip of what is used.

Speaking of red chilies, her assistant Tannu adds, “we clean out the seeds and the top and nearly 40% of the weight is lost.”  The discussion of spices is so fascinating that I seem to have lost track of the products made. Matter of factly, she adds, “pickles can be made with mangoes, chillies, lemons. It is the combination and the spices which make it different. None of my pickles use acetic acid or common salt. It is made using hand pounded Sendha namak. There are oil free pickles as well.”

Unable to accompany me to the dining table where her staff has spread out some of the products, she goads me to ask them any question. The staff about 4 of them vies with one another to give me information with a tremendous sense of pride in what they are doing. So there is mango garlic, chilli garlic in a fine mash, which goes delightfully with Paranthas I am told. Garlicy it is nice and flavoured, Mirchoni uses mango with hing and is hot, there is chuara (dry dates) with lemon and other ingredients, ginger with chuara, mango lachha, meeti mirch, red chilli in orange juice, green chilli, red chilli with raisins, lal mirch banarsi, hari mirch jaipuri….  Then during winters it is gobhi shalgam and vegetable based ones. They make 40 or more types of pickles, (no, I think they have never counted them). Then there are squashes and concentrates, the kairi pudina (aam panna) is wonderfully refreshing. Each pickle has its own ingredient carefully sourced, sorted and then made. What is foremost is quality, as she adds, “even if a few pieces drop on the floor, we do not put it back. We keep it aside for someone to take it but we do not sell it to our clients.” Preserves do not use pectin. I am astounded by her attention to detail and running the enterprise single handedly. In true style she says, “any new pickle I keep it on my bed side table and carefully study its ageing.” For me, what stood out was the distinct home made taste, not once, did I feel it was a product made for the market. Lovingly made, delicious to taste and natural spicy aroma, it is another world of slow food and good homely ole fashioned charm.