December 1, 2023

Food Bazaar

Get In My Food Bazaar

Sunday Long Reads: Ranbir Kapoor’s return to the big screen, holiday in Bhutan, Bhupinder Singh’s legacy, and more

Ranbir Kapoor, who returns to the big screen with Shamshera, has his heart set on his new avatars

After a four-year hiatus, Ranbir Kapoor returns to the limelight with a slew of releases. But months before these, the Bollywood “lover boy” threw a googly at unsuspecting audiences by tying the knot, at long last. Kapoor 2.0 is rejuvenated, responsible and is raring to go. He is picking diverse characters hoping to chart unexplored terrains. He has his eyes set on the mass market and, quite uncharacteristically for the private person that Kapoor is, it also seems to involve making regular appearances on our social media feeds. Routine media interactions on multi-city promotional tours aside, he is making reels with influencers, fun videos and engaging in banter with paparazzi trailing him.


A brush with beauty and mortality in Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon

A Walk in the Clouds: Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Credit: Adityavikram More)

Peace is overrated. When our life flashes before our eyes in that penultimate moment, will we remember the calm or the torrents? The quiet or the adventure? One such life-flashing memory for me arrived in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, as close as you can get to the last Shangri-la. We were driving from Phobjika to Bumthang Valley. The dells and hills were ablaze with blinding snow. The freshly snowed-in mountain road was as treacherous as Judas with his kiss, making our car skid to the edge of the great fall with the slightest break. Our hearts were sinking like the Titanic as my partner, Aditya, drove us through not one, but four mountain passes before the roads were completely snowed in. And we lived to tell the tale.


Is the palm oil the wonder plant it is made out to be?

A palm oil plantation in Malaysia (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

WonderIf there’s one palm that stands head and shoulders above all others in terms of its usefulness to us, it has got to be the oil-palm. This tree, which may soar to over 20 m in height, has two species: one native to West and North-west Africa, and the other to tropical Central and South America. The African variety has taken to life in South-East Asia – especially in Indonesia and Malaysia and we are now offering it large tracts of suitable tropical habitat too. There’s no environmental altruism involved; there’s just one word: oil.


What makes Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam a name that worries the powerful elite

Shahidul Alam

Your exhibition “Singed but not burnt” at Emami Art, Kolkata (curated by Ina Puri, on till August 20), documents the shift from early photorealistic images to documentary work, evident in the series such as “Crossfire” (2010), on extra-judicial executions in Bangladesh. Can you talk about your work that straddles art and activism?

I have developed a visual vocabulary where politics cannot be disengaged from my art. Photography’s ability to provide information was not what was needed in the case of “Crossfire”. The story was known. The need was to build resistance, to shake people, to get under their skin, and to challenge a repressive regime. Creating a tangible link to the moment of death, I felt, would evoke a much more powerful response. It was confirmed not only by how people responded to the work but also how fearful the terror squad, Rapid Action Battalion, was of the show itself.


Bhupinder Singh was matchless, from being a giving ‘elder brother’ to a man with a unique voice

(From left) Jagjit Singh, Talat Aziz, Bhupinder Singh, Mitalee Singh, Chhaya Ganguli at a press event for HMV’s Jashn-e-Ghazal in Mumbai in 1986. (Photo courtesy: Chhaya Ganguli)

Music composer Jaidev would often refer to Bhupinder Singh as “yeh mera sher hai (he’s my lion)”. But to singer Chhaya Ganguli, Singh was like an indulgent elder brother. Whenever she needed any personal and professional assistance, he never said no. When Jaidev died in 1987, Singh stepped in to compose some beautiful ghazals for Ganguli’s albums Taskeen (1989) and Ishq (1991, latter with his singer-wife Mitalee Singh). Before the recordings, he took out time to rehearse with Ganguli, giving her tips to perform better. “Working with a knowledgeable artiste, you learn a lot,” she says, “He understood a singer’s voice and capacity, and composed in such a way that it would be comfortable for, and sound nice on, the singer.


A food trail through the ancient silk route in Kyrgyzstan leads to moveable feasts

Oriental Delights: Fresh produce at a local market. (Credits: Rinku Ghosh)

The lantern is swinging wildly in the mule-drawn cart as it follows the light in the watch tower and nears the inn next to the bazaar….And what a bazaar it is! A colonnade of the most richly decorated shops, wrapped in velvet and satin, each pillar coated with copper and gilt, gigantic tiered lamps fed by butter, burning like the sun and fairy lamps on the parapet etching their brilliance against the night sky…. There’s everything that you thought only belonged to bahisht, gold, silver, jewels, gems, silk, brocade, carpets, porcelain, spices, even the finest horses. They say they melt gold here continuously in the mint and the king sleeps on a gilded bed of ivory and jasper. The merchants are bedecked in the finest attire as are the Turkmen, their beards waxed and curled. The plebeains retire in tents. The innkeeper refills the samovar, lines up fresh fruits from his orchard, keeps the lentil soup on the boil and stews the meat in its own juices. Meanwhile, the carpets, coats and pillows warm up the weary traveller. And he sleeps with stories, of how the tower was actually the home of a warlord’s daughter. How her father confined her there to protect her from a prophecy that she would die of a spider bite at 16 and how he cried so loudly the day she died after being bitten by a spider hidden in her fruit basket. They say his heart-breaking grief shattered the tower so that it broke into pieces. Tomorrow is another day on the road.