Ziddi Dill: Indian Women at the 2012 Olympics

Indian Women 2012 OlympicsLondon Olympics 2012 was many things, it saw great wins and losses, cheer and fun, enthusiasm, energy and pride. Things that the ancient Greek traditional games always brought out in people – the games were and are almost a Catharsis of Sophocles-ian dimensions, one could muse. But what stood out in 2012 were the women participants, not just from the Indian delegation but from the world over.  For the first time since the Ancient or the revived Modern Olympics, for once all nations included women in their contingent. This very spirit of recognizing and celebrating woman began during the opening ceremony itself, as two sportswomen dressed in veils walked under the Saudi Flag.

The Indian contingent of 83 included 23 women of whom two would make us proud. The rest, people generally say ‘is history.’ History it is, but not just of medals won, but the struggle that went behind these achievements – a history that generally goes undocumented in our country. Both these women Saina Nehwal for Badminton and Mary Kom for Boxing won Bronze Medals, history will state in facts and statistics – that it shall in Libraries and Congress (not to be confused with the Indian National Party but is in reference to its original meaning as delegations of a nation or nations.)

Saina NewalHistory will not tell you how Saina Nehwal’s parents borrowed money to keep her training going. It will not tell you that many coaches wrote her off as mediocre and refused to train her. That she had to maintain a grueling exercise routine and give up on chocolates, a self-confessed Sweet tooth – it must have been devastating for a 13 year old girl! Her climb from an early age was steady with wins and close misses. But at the end perseverance paid off. We at USHA, are proud to have her as our Brand Ambassador.

Mary Kom Then there is Magnificent Mary from Manipur (Northeast India) where even living is a struggle given the region’s underdevelopment and unrest. Good training facilities are a distant dream. And let’s admit it for once racism exists and adds further hurdles to a sportsperson’s struggle: There were times when organizers doubted Mary Kom to be a foreign participant (Chinese or even Burmese), almost refusing her into the games and this happened at Indian tournaments!

imagesAdd to this the struggle of being a mother of two and you have impossibility staring at you, right between your eyes. But she did it. How? You question. Well, not to give away any spoilers watch the upcoming movie Mary Kom. It’s a movie without any fabrications, one that made the legendary Boxer for once break down and cry, as she watched her struggles and wins pass by on the silver screen.

USHA MARY KOM

Priyanka’s Kommitment

Waheeda Rehman recently voiced at Usha presents Mountain Echoes, that ” The role of women is changing in Hindi cinema, but we need more graceful, stronger characters.” Well, the aging Star got her wish in Priyanka’s portrayal of the World Boxing Champion Magnificent Mary, in the upcoming movie Mary Kom! If wishes were horses, we believe they would soon be running up the list of best performances (Fingers Crossed).

Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom

Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom

Magnificent Mary Kom

Magnificent Mary Kom

In retrospective Waheeda Rehman’s conversation with Arshia Sattar at the Bhutan Literary Festival had many other subtle associations on the changing role of Indian Women in Bollywood, which can be associated with the MC Mary Kom’s upcoming biopic. For instances Waheedaji hated most the Make-up ritual of the whole acting experience, carrying with her only a small mirror that simply reflected her eyes (By the way Rishi Kapoor had the biggest life size mirror during those Golden days of dramatic cinema). And here we have Priyanka with toned muscles and a look that would put many professional boxers to shame: Make-up doesn’t’ do that to you, hard work does. Thumbs up to Priyanka! And o’course to Mary Kom without whom nothing would have been possible.

“The most exciting thing for me in movie making is when the director says Action!” mused Waheeda, reflecting on her most memorable and treasured moments in her long and glorious acting career.  And for Priyanka, we guess it is going to be ‘Action’ from start to finito in Bollywood’s Millionaire Dollar Baby, only this time it is all true (Clint Eastwood eat your heart out.)

Both the actors, the graceful Waheeda and the pretty – make that – pretty powerful Priyanka Chopra will have another thing in common: After the ‘Actions’ and Pack Up’s’ their roles will linger in the recesses of their minds long after, for once. Waheeda Rehman mentioned “I usually step out of character once they say, Pack up! Sometimes, I end up feeling low and heavy. It happened with Khamoshi.”  We wonder what it’s going to be like for Priyanka Chopra, after all playing a legend, a boxing champion, and a mother of two from Northeast India, is a Raging Bull of an experience and no easy job.

For more of Waheeda’s thoughts, anecdotes and juicy secrets from the Usha presents Mountain Echoes 2014 watch the video below; as she, among many other things notes that unlike the twin roles of the vamp and the innocent heroine of the good old nostalgic days, both have merged into one today.

When asked about her favourite contemporary Bollywood actresses Waheeda Rehman listed out a few names from Tabu to Sri Devi, think she will have to add Priyanka Chopra to that list after Mary Kom boxes the office out, both commercially and critically!

Creative Branding: Cool it Raphael!

Ask a room full of people to name top three classical painters that immediately come to their mind? Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael, are the most likely ones to figure. So, was this all our Marketing Research behind naming our groundbreaking acrylic series of colorfully glossy fans – Raphael? The answer o’course is no, if it were, we would have named it the thrilling Da Vinci or the pleasing Mona Lisa.

The Raphael Series

The USHA Raphael Series

When we dreamed of the Raphael series, we inspired to create art – a fan that would be glamorous enough for the Renaissance and yet be equipped with the latest technology that would make the Renaissance look cool and comfortable! The Sistine Chapel, thus was out of the question with all due respect, so was the Medici household. And thus we settled on the gorgeous Farnesina Villa, (then owned by the Chigi Banking Family). In two words the interiors of the Villa are ‘glamours and classical’. We could add a hundred more adjectives to it, but to cut it short -this was the place our fan perfectly fit in, adding both glamour and style. Incidentally the interiors were painted by who else but Raphael and hence the name.

Villa Farnesina

Villa Farnesina

But the story doesn’t end there, Raphael’s most famous painting in the Villa is the Galatea – a painting so remarkable for its time, that many consider it to be the beginning of baroque, the very genre our gloss finished fan was inspired from. Well, that was the story behind the name (Please don’t ask ‘What’s in a name?’ that line has simply been overused a little too much).

Galatea & Raphael Fan Detail

Galatea & Raphael Fan Detail

For us the Raphael Fan was a first of its kind with its: Hourglass inspired exquisite canopy design, Sparkling colours and its uniquely designed parallel blades that enabled high air displacement. And again coincidentally for ancient Rome the waters depicted in the Galatea painting was the inspiration behind most of the first Roman fountains you see today. The waters from these fountains made ancient Rome cool, their aesthetic appeal still manages to make a Roman Holiday cooler; and as for the USHA Raphael Fans they will always keep you glamorously happy – switched on, soothingly cool and switched off, stylishly cooler!

Trevi Fountaib

Trevi Fountain

We just hope that our homage to dear old Raphael doesn’t make him spin in his grave! Or do we? For these hi-tech fans can spin glamour into the simplest of rooms. But we are sure Raphael the eccentric he was, would be loving it. For flaunting was second nature to him, just like the USHA Raphael Series, would be to you.

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Melon Juice: The Fountain of Youth

Why can’t Melons get married? Because they can’t-elope!

Musk Melon or Kharbuja, is popularly known as Cantaloupe in the Western world; ever since their seeds from the East were first planted at the Papal Gardens in the Italian city of Cantalupo during the 16th century. Jokes apart and history aside, if you are trying to lose weight than the Cantaloupe is a must for your menu!

For the health conscious a daily glass of Musk Melon juice is great for the body and eyesight. But best of all it helps you to fight aging with its high content of Vitamin C, which drives away free radicals and barbarian viruses responsible for damaging your cells. Ergo, you have found your own private Fountain of Youth in the USHA Juicer!

So here is the secret recipe:

Untitled-1 copyIngredients

  1. 1 Musk Melon
  2. Sugar as per required (brown sugar is a great option as it would deepen the colour and give a caramelized flavor to the juice, using honey would make it more healthier)

Method – Preparation in 5 minutes.

  • Rinse the Musk Melon in water.
  • Then slice them into long pieces.
  • Remove the peel and separate it from the flesh and remove seeds.
  • Add musk melon to your juicer / juicer mixer grinder with sugar and ice cubes.
  • Enjoy refreshing juice. Enjoy life!

Before we sign off here is another piece of advice: Always buy evenly shaped melons, which do not bear any cuts and bruises; and select the heavy ones, they make the best juices.

The USHA Fountain of Youth

The USHA Fountain of Youth

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The Spirit of Coffee

Our story begins in the mountain kingdom of Bhutan where people believe that, their is a Coffee Spirit! An occult being of element and air which can only be appeased by coffee! People take this custom seriously, religiously offering cups of coffee after coffee in various ritualistic forms to this airy being. Such beings that once walked the past, seems to have evolved with time – either just inside our heads or in themselves is debatable!

USHA Coffee Machines, to help you keep the magic alive

USHA Coffee Machines to help you keep the magic alive

Animism has been evolving over time as part of our culture and one cannot throw it away as utter mambo-jumbo because their very roots literally lie in nature itself. Arising from the trees, the elements and the world around us animism has a very conservative aspect to it. The slogan ‘Save the Trees’ could as well be an animist one. It puts forth a love and respect for nature in a ritualistic form rather than a scientific one – the belief that we can save ourselves by saving and appeasing the world around us, sounds like a very 21st century concern, yet it did exist when Shamans spoke to the stars and trees, and the trees spoke back.

LOTR Trees

The Living Trees from LOTR

Deep in our primal selves the sub-conscious still retains and respects the values of animism – the Box Office, talking walking trees from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy are a proof to that. Tolkien once wrote “…The first men to talk of ‘trees and stars’ saw things very differently. To them, the world was alive with mythological beings… To them the whole of creation was ‘myth-woven and elf-patterned’. And mark these words from yet another popular Television series The Game of Thrones “But there are some who still keep to the Old Way, worshiping the faceless gods of the Children of the Forest and the First Men.” The point being that animism has survived in various forms, hiding quietly beneath surfaces in our words and deeds. What is the plural for Magpies? A tidings of Magpies. Another point well made, shall we say?

As part of our culture, animism is so seamlessly and unconsciously weaved into our daily lives that it cannot be ignored, though often and always overlooked. Today’s Magic is tomorrow’s science, similarly yesterday’s superstition is today’s tradition, of which animism has become a part.

To learn more about the Coffee Spirit and other Himalayan animistic beliefs watch the session Wild Spirits: Animism in the Himalayas, where experts Sangay Wangchuk, Kunzang Choden in conversation with Manju Wakhley discuss the value systems, their merits and issues at Usha presents Mountain Echoes 2014

Sips of Wisdom

badge-clock copy“Honestly, if you’re given the choice between Armageddon or tea, you don’t say ‘what kind of tea?” – Neil Gaiman.

Enough has been written about this magical concoction of leaves and boiling water, and more cups have been drained with relish day after day as centuries came and went, and as they will come and go. What is it all about, one might wonder? And one might wonder what will it be like to sip a cup with Mad Hatter? Lots of mad talk with method one might presume, but remember that truth does set you free in the end but first it will drive you mad. So here is Hatter over tea with a little bit of tea trivia and a little bit of outrageous tea trivia.

Long before the commercial production of tea started in India in the late 1830s, tea plants were growing wild in the jungles in northeastern Assam, in India; and without o’course the factories, machines and what-not, the locals just used their hands (they still do) and bullocks (they no longer do) to create the first brews! On a different note, did you know that long long back the Assamese at times ploughed their land using Rhinos! Figure that.

Tea Plantation, Processing Plant, Bunglow and Horse Carriage - Sibsagar, Assam c1880's

Tea Plantation, Processing Plant, Bunglow and Horse Carriage – Sibsagar, Assam c1880’s

Darjeeling Tea is the champagne of teas! In the 1960’s two fellows Bernd Wulf and Ranabir Sen began to modify the processing of the various tea leaves in the beautiful hills that stretched below the snow-capped Himalayas. The result was the more complex aromas and oolong-like subtleties we find in many Darjeeling Teas today.However, beware for every 400 tons of tea sold under the name of the Hill Town every year, only 100 tons actually comes from Darjeeling! 

Varieties of Darjeeling Tea

Varieties of Darjeeling Tea

Tea from the southern Nilgiri hills of the blue mountains make great iced tea due to their liveliness and clarity! Besides it is really good for health: It reduces risk of heart attack and strokes, protects your bones, and bolsters your immune system too; besides bringing that smile to our faces every morning and sometimes at night too. Night? Well, here is how to have tea as a party drink: Mix gin and cold tea, flavor with little lemon rind, and you’ll get a great summer cocktail.

Dawn over the Nilgiri Tea Gardens

Dawn over the Nilgiri Tea Gardens

And to keep this glorious tradition on over all the mediocrity that time tends to throw at us, add a little style to your tea drinking style, perhaps you could use a Bamboo Kettle! (an homage to China, where tea originated). Try the exquisitely designed Real Bamboo finish Kettle by Usha. It even serves 12 to 14 cups, enough to keep the conversation flowing. So usher in tea with Usha.

Usha Bamboo Kettle

Usha Bamboo Finish Kettle EK 3217B

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Ancestral Whispers: Shivani

Before the advent of iPads and YouTube and even before Cable Television Soap Operas and personal Black and White Television sets; somewhere between the revival of Hindi literature during the Raj and the beginning of confounding Hinglish, at a time when the written word was more than anticipated and stories traveled through Newspapers, Magazines and Books there existed a legend called Gaura Pant. Better known as the legendary Hindi writer Shivani.

The late Padma Shri awardee left behind a trail of stories, a few of which are considered among the best works in Hindi literature. Faithfully translated to English by her daughter Ira Pande Shivani’s books and biography open up a new yet nostalgic world. A world with very Indian sensibilities, rooted in culture and yet dealing with relevant contemporary themes.

Ira Pande in conversation with Kunzang Choden speaks about her biography on Shivani, Pande’s translations of her mother’s works, and anecdotes from a distant childhood, at Usha presents Mountain Echoes 2014. To re-live a golden era of Hindi literature watch the video below.

Speaking of Hanuman – The Monkey God

Lord HanumanThe Scriptures say that among all the Gods in the Hindu pantheon only Lord Hanuman is still alive in flesh and blood in the whole wide world, walking its meandering paths in His various avatars. The Monkey God is also known for acknowledging the immense devotion shown by His followers, perhaps being a devotee Himself of Lord Ram, He understands the piety of disciples a little better than most Gods. We came across a few classic examples of such dedicated reverence, at Usha presents Mountain Echoes 2014 during the ‘Speaking of Hanuman’ session with Arshia Sattar and Dasho Karma Ura in conversation with Namita Gokhale.

Arshia Sattar who is a Muslim by birth was fascinated by the Monkey God as a child (and still is), a devotion that grew into worship and passion leading her to write a Thesis on Hanuman for her PHD at an US University. Her mother reasons that during her childhood Arshia was once bitten by a monkey and hence this obsession.

During the session Sattar relates various anecdotes about her Lord – how she found a Hanuman Chalisa out of nowhere in the middle of America or the time when a huge monkey walked right into her house and sat by her completed Thesis almost meaning to say  ‘Great work, now go and submit my story!’.

As the conversation progresses we get a glimpse of the many forms of the Monkey God, how through various avatars and names the Lord appears in myriads of mythologies, religious pantheons and legends across art, culture and religion. To sit through the entire discussion is like re-discovering Hanuman again in a new light. Go ahead and pay homage to the Lord by watching the video below.

A Change of Air

The Victorians were known for their travels, an endeavor to seek out the world which ultimately resulted with the sun never setting over the British Empire. However, there was another kind of travel recommend by doctors and physicians that involved visiting a sea side resort for a change of air. A prescription so religiously followed that soon the beaches of Bournemouth, Brighton and Blackpool turned into resorts catering to ill-health, perhaps the very first kind of Medical Tourism. However not the Victorians but the Romans need to be credited with the idea that physical and mental ailments can be blown away by a change in breeze and scenery. The reason why we don’t hear much about it in the Roman Chronicles is because people were a little reluctant to stay away from the Capital, where plots and power could change overnight.

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The British in their later endeavors to replicate the English Breeze (change of air)  in colonies namely India, went about building hill stations across the Himalayas from Shimla to Darjeeling. These hill stations in all their majestic glory still cater to Indians for a change of air and mood. However today we have become a little like the Romans, given our work schedules we cannot afford to rush off to the hills every time we feel the need for a fresh breeze.

Living congested in our metropolitan cities, entangled in our busy schedules and without any relief from the scorching sun, we have settled for air conditioners and air coolers. However, the former -air conditioners – only ends up making things cold and damp, if a change of air is what you are looking for than the air conditioner is an illusion. Whereas the latter – air coolers – besides being healthy can replicate the sought after ‘change of air’ pretty efficiently. Technologically advanced coolers that use evaporative mechanism to cool air naturally lets out air similar to a breeze flowing across a lake. The breeze lowers the temperature and has a relaxing cooling effect on people. These coolers will turn you into the ideal armchair traveler even while you go about your daily chores.

Usha Air CoolersTo learn more about Evaporative Cooling click here: Evaporative Air Coolers