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Down dusty lanes to a glorious history

Anshu Khanna

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Jodhpur, one of the most majestic cities of Rajasthan, is home to many forts, havelis and palaces, resided in by nobilities who were connected to the Jodhpur royal family in more ways than one. Some led the army; others sat in court while many ruled over large clusters of villages that existed within the borders of Marwar, flanked by Udaipur on one side and Jaisalmer on another.

One such family is the Jhalamands, a noble family that belong to the Sisodia clan. They made their way from Udaipur to Jodhpur in the 18th century. So great was their bravado that as a gesture of gratitude their ancestor, Thakur Gambhir Singh, was gifted the Jhalamand jagir, including the Garh built by the Jhala Rajputs, by Maharaja Takht Singh of Jodhpur in 1840.

A majestic yet warm fort that has a lived in feel, it is now home to Sarkar Saheb Raghavendra Pratap Singh and his wife Thakurani Devyani Singh. Tucked away in the middle of a village, surrounded by well manicured gardens and flanked by an arched façade in yellow sandstone, the Garh is run like a hotel which Raghavendra shares is more like a “homestay”.

“We like to make each guest feel like they have come to our home,” he says. And while in their home there are two things guests can revel in. Bask in the majestic glory of the Marwari horses bred by the family, and enjoy the spectacular cuisine that the couple oversee and often cook themselves. Marwari horses, temperamental, drop dead gorgeous and tough nuts were originally used in the battlefield. Says Raghavendra, “Maharana Pratap Singh ji’s famous horse Chetak was also a Marwari.”

As were many other horses bred in Jhalamand in the past. “My great grandfather was ADC to Maharaja Umaid Singh of Jodhpur. Many Marwari horses fought for the army.” Today the Marwari horse is bred as a stud and used for dressage. “Though they are too moody to play polo”, they are champions at pig-sticking (a sport where men hunted wild boars with a lance, mounted on a horse).

“These horses can run miles and are very resilient,” he informs. A fact that prompted him to flag off an endurance run in 1998 to commemorate the 50th birthday of Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur. Horses run 20, 40, 80 or 100 km. Winning is based on the shortest time taken by a horse to complete a stipulated distance. “The endurance run is a muchawaited sport in the Jodhpur calendar. Many nobles breed Marwari horses and for us it is a way to share the pride we have in the breed.” He is thrilled at how the sport has picked up.

And the fact that, “many Marwari horses have run and won the 100 km race.” Like his best racer, Benazir, who was grandmother to his current dote, Sarang, a horse he is grooming to be a stud. Raghavendra’s other love — cooking — manifests itself in the great spreads his guests are treated to. The family cooks royal Marwari cuisine. “But there are traces of Mewar (his mother hailed from there) and Madhya Pradesh (where his wife comes from).”

A desert state, Jhalamand relied a lot on grains, dehydrated vegetables that were “dried in monsoons and then eaten through the year. We still dry mushrooms, Ker sangria, chilis, amla”. “Soak them in water and they are good as new. The Jhalamands are known for their unique Muttu Shahi Laal Maas.” “Muttu was my father’s pet name and he cooked this meat dish in the most unique manner where he mixed all the ingredients, including the oil, and let them simmer together,” he says. Their Dakhni Gatta too is with a twist.

“We first cook the besan and then steam it.” With grains he makes chakki ke sule (Otherwise a meat recipe). Even lauki ke sule! There are unique recipes that the Singhs add their own twist to. But the one ingredient that makes a stay at their Garh truly special is the sheer warmth with which they cook your meal, chatting with you, regaling you with tales of yore, filling you up with the finest course of verbal tales from their glorious past.

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BJP MAKES BIG GAINS IN HYDERABAD, TRS FALLS SHORT OF MAJORITY

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Hyderabad: The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi is facing a saffron roadblock in its endeavour to wrest the 150-member municipal body in Hyderabad. The TRS emerged as the single largest party in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections winning 55 seats, but it was the BJP that showed a remarkable performance by winning 48 seats.

The strong performance by BJP came on the heels of its victory last month in Dubbak assembly seat. The party had wrested the seat from the ruling TRS.

The GHMC results have been declared on 149 of 150 seats with result in Neredmet division held.

Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM won 44 seats and Congress two seats.

BJP leaders hailed the party’s strong performance in the elections.

Party chief J.P. Nadda said the “historic result” for BJP in Hyderabad GHMC elections shows people’s unequivocal support towards PM Narendra Modi’s development and governance model.

The newly elected corporators and 52 ex-officio members elect the Mayor. Since TRS has majority ex-officio members, it required 65 corporators to have its Mayor. The party may now have to negotiate power sharing agreement with the AIMIM if the latter doesn’t extend unconditional support. In 2009, when GHMC polls had thrown a similar verdict, the Congress had shared power with the MIM, leaving the post of Mayor to MIM for two years.

The post of Mayor this time has been reserved for woman.

The results have come as a huge shock to the TRS, which had bagged 99 seats in the 2016 polls. The BJP, which had secured only four seats in the previous elections, saw a big jump in its numbers to emerge as the second largest party, a position which MIM was enjoying.

The saffron party made big gains as it fought the polls this time with all the might at its disposal with top Central leaders and Union ministers campaigning for its candidates.

The police in Hyderabad, Cyberabad and Rachakonda have imposed a ban on victory rallies for the next 48 hours. Out of the total 74.67 lakh voters, 46.55 per cent had cast their votes in 149 divisions on Tuesday. There were 1,925 postal ballots.

Polling in one division was stopped due to discrepancy in ballot paper and re-poll was held on Thursday.

Union ministers Amit Shah, Prakash Javadekar and Smriti Irani, BJP president Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath campaigned for the BJP.

The campaign saw no holds barred attack by political opponents, while remarks by some leaders created controversies. The promise by the BJP leaders to change the name of Hyderabad to Bhagyanagar if the party is voted to power also sparked a row.

WITH AGENCY INPUTS

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Covid vaccine will be launched in a few weeks: PM Modi in all-party meet

The virtual meeting discusses the current Covid-19 scenario in the country; Prime Minister
Narendra Modi urges political parties to keep the masses aware and protect them from
rumours surrounding mass vaccination exercise

Brijesh Pandey & Sabyasachi Roy Chowdhury

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NEW DELHI: In an all-party meet on Friday to discuss the Covid-19 situation in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the vaccine is expected to be available “in the coming weeks”. During the virtual meeting, PM Modi and floor leaders of all parties discussed the present situation of the pandemic in the country. Notably, this was the second allparty meeting called by the Centre to discuss the matter since the outbreak of the pandemic. Addressing the meeting, Modi said that Indian scientists are very confident of succeeding in their endeavour of making a Covid vaccine. “The world is keeping a watch on the cheapest and safe vaccine,” he said.  About 12 leaders from prominent political parties, including Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad (representing the Congress), Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Trinamool Congress) and Sharad Pawar of the NCP, attended the virtual meeting. Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary also attended the meet. Apart from PM Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan were present. Parliamentary Affairs Ministers Pralhad Joshi and Ministers of State in the same ministry, Arjun Ram Meghwal and V. Muraleedharan, also reached out to floor leaders for the meeting. PM Modi further stated, “India is one of the few countries where the testing and recovery rates are very high and the mortality rate is very low. Compared to developed countries, India has fought against Covid well and managed to save a lot of lives.” “From the time of fear and apprehensions in the months of February and March, when India reported its first Covid cases, to this atmosphere of ‘hope and confidence’ in December, India has come a long way,” he added.

A National Expert Group, that includes technical experts and officials of both the Central and state governments, has been constituted to shoulder the responsibility of the campaign related to the vaccine. The National Expert Group will take decisions collectively as per national and regional requirements. “Experts believe that the wait for a coronavirus vaccine will not be long, and it may be ready in a few weeks,” said PM Modi.

The PM also reportedly asked the representatives of various parties to send their suggestions in writing. “Public health will be the top priority as far as Covid-19 vaccine pricing is concerned, and states will be fully involved,” he said. Lok Sabha floor leader T.R. Baalu was the only one among the 13 Opposition and NDA allies who raised the issue of the ongoing farmers’ agitation at the end of the speech. However, Prahalad Joshi interrupted him and told him to stick to the topic. As per sources, the DMK leader retorted with, “For the last 10 days the farmers have been on the road and should not be ignored”. The two had a heated exchange, and according to sources, Baalu’s microphone was muted in the meeting ahead.

In his speech, PM Modi also urged political parties to keep the masses aware and protect them from rumours which are often spread whenever there is a mass vaccination exercise. “We must make sure that rumours are not spread during the vaccination, rumours that are anti-national and anti-human,” he said.

The Prime Minister further thanked the leaders of all parties for their valuable contribution in the fight against Covid, adding, “Jan Andolan and Jan Bhagidari with support of all political parties is the key for the success of India’s vaccination effort.” Along with this, Modi again appealed to citizens to be constantly alert and not let their guard down against the virus.

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Weaving a fabric of compassion

Covid-19 has hit Varanasi’s famous handwoven sector hard. But as Amrit Shah, owner of the wellknown label Shanti Banaras, says tough times demand tough measures laced with kindness.

Anshu Khanna

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Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” —Author Mark Twain, on Varanasi

The Assi Ghats of Varanasi are lyrical, mystical and mythical. As you tide across them in a hand-rowed boat, all you see are magnificent havelis and ashrams built by erstwhile maharajas, rich merchants and the landed aristocracy for their old and ailing to live in and look for eternal peace. Many of the leading Indian families lived in these homes and, whilst there looked for the finer things of life to fill their home with.

The women of the household began working closely with the local silk weavers to create masterpieces for their own use and to gift to their loved ones. Voila were born the kin khwabs, the brocades, the tanchois and the gold weaves. In short, a legacy we all know today as a Banarasi weave which became part of the Indian heritage fable. No trousseau was complete without an addition of a tanchoi or a brocade from Varanasi.

It was only in recent times that many brands emerged from this ancient town, making Banarasi silk a member of the haute couture club. The Daily Guardian catches up with one such brand, Shanti Banaras, which is two-generation old and has crafted masterpieces for many renowned brands before it flagged off its own well-orchestrated label, Shanti Banaras.

Led by Amrit Shah, Shanti Banaras adopts entire villages of weavers and employs them to work on designs that they create. And it is in these Covid times that both Amrit and his studio have shown exemplary patronage by nurturing their weavers, feeding their families and not cancelling a single order.

While talking about the plight of hand-made luxury post-Covid, Shah fears it will take a severe beating and be last on the priority of spends, especially in the scenario when festivities of all kind stand postponed. Excerpts:

Q. What is the impact of Covid-19 on the domestic market of handwoven textiles?

A. Handwoven textiles are a luxury product and when the times are tough, the consumer may restrict themselves completely or partially in indulging in acquiring such highvalue items. The postponement of weddings and the mentality to spend less on luxury products will take a toll at the handwoven sector. 

Q. In the list of luxury items, will the hand-made score at the lowest?

A. Well, there is another school of thought on this topic which says that the consumer that is aware of handlooms shall still continue to invest in it. And based on the historical consumer demographics, handloom customers are usually in the rich strata of the society and may continue to have the spending power. Although there may be certain postponement, but the industry will get back on its feet. 

Q. How will it impact the looms of Varanasi?

A. The impact on the looms is drastic due to an immediate slack after the lockdown is over so there may not be any immediate work as the production in hand will have to move first. This may be a hard time to sustain the looms and their artisans. It may also lead to production of lower value and commercial products.

Q. How should the textile Industry move forward post the lockdown?

A. It’s a very icy road post the lockdown and we need to step very carefully. We need to sustain the people working with us and improvise and give something new to the market. The process of business is going to change, there’ll be more planning to consumer tastes with precise production for the precise customer. There’ll have to be greater efforts made to woo the customer back into the right mindset. If at all the levels everyone pushes then only the engine will kick start again.

Q. Will the depression lead to precedence of power looms over hand looms?

A. The weaver might make that shift for making easier money. The buyer might be tempted. But the real connoisseur will still look the pleasure of wearing something woven by hand. That happiness in unparalleled.

Q. How do you think the policymakers/ government can help at this time?

A. There are great efforts that have been put by the government to maintain positivity and help the weavers during the lockdown, but once it opens they rely solely on the companies they have been associated with. I feel that a relief on such companies with taxes and incentives to promote and produce textiles shall help the industry overall. Although thinking practically, this may not be possible for the government as this is a hard time for everyone. So just the positive spirit and to ensure a healthy environment for us to work, rest we shall fight this and get back on our own.

Q. The wedding markets will be at an all-time low post-Covid. How will that affect the textile industry?

A. The weddings have been postponed and those that may continue will have less spending and fewer guests. Since the handloom saree sector majorly depends on events and marriages for the majority of its sale, this may have a scarring effect on the industry. Yet, most of them are postponed till late November, December so in turn the market may lift itself during those times. We have to wait and see if the postponement leads to better results that time.

Q. What is Shanti Banaras doing to support its master weavers?

A. Our organisation is involved with over 1,500 master weavers and process leaders who in turn employ a total of 10,000 people. We have made small payments even during the time of lockdown to our weavers and others who have been calling us for help. We have paid our salaries in full and given positive assurance to all that even in the future we shall work together and overcome, “whatever may come in the future”. Apart from that, we have been distributing rations via our weavers to the poor living in their locality. And to auto-wallas and other people who have been associated with us. Tough times call for tough measures laced with kindness and at the end of the day all that the weaver wants is work and money for raw material and we have ensured both.

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5 ways to avoid conflicts at home during lockdown

Noor Anand Chawla

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When China reopened after months of lockdown, the media reported a monumental spike in divorce cases, fuelled by endless bickering at home. Such reports have also come from other parts of the world, including India. As people continue to work from home, it is becoming increasingly clear that fighting during lockdown is not limited to married couples. It affects most people living together, including members of joint families, flat-mates and co-workers, siblings, and unwed partners.

Any student of human psychology is aware that forced sharing of space inevitably leads to disagreements and fights. There are many reasons for discord, such as a mismatch in priorities, the stress of dwindling financial and other resources, lack of experience in dealing with these situations, problems of anger management, among others. This negativity can be avoided by adopting five simple methods to maintain peace at home, during this unprecedented crisis:

TAKE FIVE DEEP BREATHS BEFORE REACTING

Staying calm in a pressure situation is easier said than done, but it is essential to stop fights from escalating. A sound policy is to count to five before reacting aggressively, which allows time for the anger to dissipate, leaving the mind clear to take note of the other person’s perspective. Calmly putting forward one’s view, while respecting that of others’, allows a mutually favourable solution to emerge, without resorting to emotional brickbats and bruises.

KEEP THE CONVERSATION OPEN

The biggest fallout of frequent friction at home is the closure of communication lines between cohabitants. It is crucial to express one’s feelings and to hear the other person’s point of view, if fights are to be avoided. Every party involved should be allowed to have their say and express their feelings. Things that are out in the open are far easier to resolve than when they are constantly bottled up.

ENFORCE A TIME-OUT

At times, it may seem impossible to meet someone half-way in their demands. Even if things seem to be out of hand, the situation can be salvaged by enforcing a time-out. Instead of yelling and making things worse, take a break by engaging in another activity. Time apart from each other puts things in correct perspective, so the problem can be addressed in a calm and practical manner.

FIND SPACE FOR YOURSELF

Spaces seem smaller when shared with others. In many cases, people are used to sharing spaces only for specific hours in the morning and night, as they work during the day. Lockdown has changed this scenario; so, one must create or claim individual space. It could be physical space, such as a corner of the house overlooking a window, or one side of the bed. Ideally, however, it should be space found within oneself. Meditate, follow therapeutic podcasts, read or listen to music — each of these will enable the creation of personal space without actively seeking it.

WRITE IT DOWN

If these tips do not work, turn to the age-old practice of writing one’s feelings down and letting go of them. Pen down each grievance, and encourage the other person to do the same. This will allow a glimpse into their mind, without dealing with the raised voices, ego battles and negative atmosphere that fighting often entails. Writing enables one to assess the situation more clearly, and more willing to compromise.

Do not be afraid to compromise, as it is an essential ingredient for overall happiness in life. Conflicts in relationships are inevitable, but one can control the way one responds to them. Timely intervention, patience and open-mindedness will certainly minimise the effects of conflicts at home. If none of the above measures seem to work, be open to seeking professional help online, or appoint another family member or cohabitant to mediate the conversations.

It is important to mitigate the damage now, in order for relationships to have a fighting chance when things go back to normal. The coronavirus has brought many hardships on everyone, but the breakdown of close and personal relations does not have to be one of them. The writer is a lawyer who pens lifestyle articles on her successful blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be found on Instagram @nooranandchawla.

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How Sailana became the citadel of culinary experiments in India

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It’s said that my grandfather Maharaja Digvijay Singhji of Sailana’s book was found even in Saddam Hussein’s palace, when the US army raided it. Every Indian royal palace treats it as its kitchen copy, trusting the recipe to the last dot. I have had the privilege to be born in this family where food has always been a passion and a way of life: Sailana Sailana is a town near Ratlam and Indore on the great Indian plateau.

I don’t know whether it is the water or the people of that town just cook well, because even the street food is amazing. The namkeens, mithai or the kachori and samosas are unbeatable. Every evening the kids of the house used to go for picnics with kachoris and spicy chips and yummy gulab jamuns. Whether it was a trip to Gaduliya, our lake property, Kedarishwar, the rock temple with a waterfall, or Shikarbadi the hunting house, the picnic basket was the most delightful part of the journey.

We had our own cinema hall and in the evening we would go for a movie and sit in our private balcony. Of course, with a lot of food packed for us! I have some great memories of this tiny town. There were no good schools in Sailana; hence we were all packed off to boarding schools at the age of 4. I loved it there. The nuns were amazing and I had a lot of cousins and aunts to look after me. Vacation time was in Sailana playing in the famous rose-and-cactus gardens and being pampered by the delicious food cooked as per my list which my grandfather asked me to make.

Every day my favourite dish for lunch was cooked. My grandfather cooked himself with 4-5 servants assisting him surrounded by our huge family. We lived in a palace, which was full of family and a battery of friends who would visit us. There was a lot of fun, chatter and picnics. At the end of every meal we decided the menu for the next meal. My grandfather sitting at the head of the huge dining table kept an eye on who was taking a second helping as it meant the dish was enjoyed. He did not like different dishes to be mixed as one could not make out the taste.

My grandfather was a perfectionist, whether it was the food, the cactus garden or the rose garden! My great grandfather compiled the recipes but my grandfather thought of publishing a book. He was not interested in the commercials but only to make the Sailana name and food famous. He managed it. Quoting my grandfather from his book: “The dishes given here should delight the palates of the severest critics and gourmets. Before bringing out this book I felt that if such a step is not taken, in a decade or so the fine art of Indian cooking would vanish beyond revival.” I totally agree with him.

My guru in Sailana food was my grandaunt from Nepal. She patiently taught me everything that I know. My husband is a real foodie and wants a Sailana dish for all his meals. My father Maharaja Vikram Singhji and my brother Yuvraj Saheb Digvijay Singhji along with my mother Maharani Saheba Chandra Kumari are taking the legacy forward. Sailana food is a collection of recipes collected by my great grandfather during his various travels to the 500 plus royal families of India. His main cooks travelled with him with a masala dani and they went into the host’s kitchen to see how their special dishes were cooked.

They asked for the masalas to be taken from their masala dani. As no chef will let out the secret of how much each ingredient is being put in the dish, the Sailana chefs measured the masalas after the dish was cooked so that they knew after measuring the masala used from the total masala originally was there in the Sailana masala dani. After coming back to Sailana the dish was perfected in the kitchen. My great grandfather asked friends, family and food connoisseurs to taste the dish and give their comments for improvisation.

Thousands of dishes were improvised in the same manner. Mutton, chicken, fish, rabbits, vegetables, dals, pickles, sweets and even liquors and continental dishes! There are a wide variety of kebabs also. Do Pyaza Narangi, Hari Mirch ka Keema, Murgh Mumtaz Mahal, Macchi Biryani, Kashmiri Kadhi, Makki key Dane, Sailana Dal and Hare Chand ka Halwa are a few favourite dishes of mine.

Cooking slowly and passionately and putting the exact measured ingredients at the right time is the essence of heritage Indian food. Each dish should have its own distinct flavour, which makes a meal memorable. The writer is the granddaughter of Maharaja Digvijay Singh ji of Sailana, who had authored ‘Cooking Delights of the Maharajas’, which generations of royal food enthusiasts swear by as the Bible of royal cuisine.

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Not just the Window dressing

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Known to craft luxury windows and soft furnishing, Window Passions, in these trying times of lockdown present a very innovative series of craft yourself embroidered accents that can transform existing drapes, curtains and soft furnishings in a jiffy. They present a range of very dramatic embroidered, embellished, beaded and gold foiled borders that you can add to your existing furnishings and transform it in an instant.

Says Rajeev Kanwar, who started Window Passions with his wife Amita: “Our homes are under lockdown. We have been seeing the same furniture for 24 hours for more than 65 days. With these borders and tassels, you can simply liven up the same old pieces. It’s like new wine in old bottle.” Adds Amita Kanwar, “It was while embroidering them on large textiles that I realised that even as borders the luxe appeal of the embroidery will remain, making the shining of your home such an easy task.”

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