Mumbai can't get enough of food

Feb 05, 2012, 10:51 IST | Dhamini Ratnam

That's evident when the week-long cultural jamboree, the Kala Ghoda festival, gets a new category in its 14th year -- food-making demonstrations. Meanwhile, food writing has nudged its way into the literature section, even as a workshop on spices jostles for attention in the children's events category. Oh, and did we mention a Heritage Walk on the public dining history of Mumbai?

That's evident when the week-long cultural jamboree, the Kala Ghoda festival, gets a new category in its 14th year -- food-making demonstrations. Meanwhile, food writing has nudged its way into the literature section, even as a workshop on spices jostles for attention in the children's events category. Oh, and did we mention a Heritage Walk on the public dining history of Mumbai?

The 14th edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts festival that opened on Saturday has a few surprises up its sleeve. For one, Cross Maidan is the new venue for several of the music concerts lined up. Clearly, the organisers, who ran into a spot of trouble regarding silence zone regulations, are taking no chances this time round. 

The Table chef and co-owner Alex Sanchez will hold a demonstration on
making Beetroot Risotto and meatballs

Pic/ Bipin Kokate

But what's even bigger news this time is the inclusion of food demonstrations as part of the list of events that people can participate in -- restaurant 5 All Day will host demonstrations by noted chefs and patisserie owners all through the week.

On February 5, Alex Sanchez, owner and head chef of The Table, a Colaba restaurant, will hold a demonstration on how to make meatballs and Beetroot Risotto, while on February 8, Le 15 Patisserie owner Pooja Dhingra will hold a workshop on making truffles at home. Chefs of restaurants Busaba and Le Pain Quotidien are among the others who will hold workshops, as well.

Both Sanchez and Dhingra aver that the workshop will help them reach out to a large number of people. "This workshop will give me an opportunity to take relatively common food (like meatballs, or what we'd call Patti or Kebab in India) and elevate it to a level of gourmet food. After all, simple foods are easier to mess up."

Dhingra, on the other hand, is keen to showcase the simplicity of what is usually considered gourmet food.

"Most people would assume that truffles are really tough to make, but they're actually very simple and can be made at home. By focusing on techniques, rather than recipe, I hope to impart some of my knowledge about desserts," says the owner of the much-loved patisserie.

Like Dhingra, Sanchez is thrilled that food has been included in an arts and culture festival, but for him, food has more to do with craftsmanship than art. "Food is such a big part of our culture, it's about time it was included in this festival!" she says.

Besides these workshops -- for a full list, visit -- food blogger Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal will hold a workshop for children between the ages of nine to 12 years, called Tadka, Spicecapades with Kids, on February 8 at the (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya, formerly known as Prince of Wales) Museum Gardens.

On February 10, Mohsina Mukadam, professor and head of the Economics department at Ruia College, will offer eager listeners a brief lesson on the history of public dining and the emergence of Irani caf �s in the city. This will be followed by a heritage walk mapped out by architect Kruti Garg, who will help participants explore this slice of the city's food history. The walk begins in front of Rhythm House at 4 pm.

Registrations for the events and food demonstrations will happen at the venue, on a first-come-first-serve basis, so make sure you get there early.

Usha Venkatraman, February 5
Heritage walk for kids, followed by puppeteering workshop

Puppeteer Usha Venkatraman believes in the power of stories. And for her, the power also lies in her hands, quite literally.

A trained kindergarten teacher, Venkatraman has given children an introduction to classical music through puppets (named Sa, Re, Ga), used glove puppets to tell folk tales and mythological stories to enchanted children, and on Sunday, will accompany architect Kruti Garg on a heritage walk meant only for kids in the age group of eight to 13 years, with her puppet -- a 'boy' from 19th century England, who has come for his summer vacations to India.

"Kruti has been doing this walk for the last few years at the festival, so last December, I introduced myself to her and asked her if she'd be interested in introducing stories in these walks," said Venkatraman.

Venkatraman's puppet will hold a map -- of the same trail that Garg will take the children through, starting at the Gateway of India to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya gardens -- and at certain points, such as in front of the Mumbai Police Headquarters, will interrupt Garg to tell the children a story.

The rest of the time, Venkatraman insists, the puppet will be a good boy, and listen to Garg narrate the history of the monuments.

Once at the Museum Garden, Venkatraman will hold a puppetry workshop in which she will teach the participants to make and use puppets to tell a story.

"I will teach them how to make a single block puppet like a marionette or finger puppet or stick puppet. I will then ask each one to come up with a story based on the places they've seen. The children will be divided into groups and be encouraged to let their imagination go wild."

The walk will last 45 minutes, while the workshop will be an hour-long. Venkatraman insists that prior registration will not be needed, and all the children will have to do in order to participate in this event, is to wear their curiosity hats.

Where: Assemble at Gateway
At: 11.30 am

Susheela raman, February 5
Music performance

Although Susheela Raman, a UK-born Tamil artist was taught Carnatic music, she veered to Rock in her teenage years, and later, experimented with Blues. However, her first visit to the country as a musician seeking musical roots nearly two decades ago took her on an altogether different musical journey. Raman travels to her parents' country every year and lives there during winters. She travels to different cities, looking for musical notes and collaborations they may engender. Last December, her journeys took her to Birbong district in Paschim Banga to learn Baul music from septuagenarian guru Kenai Mondial. Over the past eight years, Raman has also learnt Bhakti music, and three years ago, began collaborating with Rajasthani musicians after hearing them perform at the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Mumbai will get to hear some of Raman's newest tracks that have made it into her recently-released album Vel, where Manganyiar Kudle Khan and Nagara (drum) maestro Nathu Lal Solanki, have accompanied her to make a unique blend of Marwari, English and Tamil-worded music. While the album will release in India in September, concert-goers may get to hear some tracks from the album when Raman performs at the festival.

"I use music as a vehicle to bring together various strands (of my identity and learnings) as a dialogue. I came to India looking for a connection, and continued to explore that," says Raman, when asked to describe the various influences on her musical style.

"Music takes me on journeys, and it will take the audience on a trip," she adds, smiling.
Where: Cross Maidan Gardens
At: 9 pm

Alarmel Valli, February 8
Bharatnatyam performance to Arundhati Subramaniam's poem

Bharatnatyam exponent from Chennai Alarmel Valli refers to herself as a choreographer -- the dancer of this classical form has collaborated with poet Arundhati Subramaniam for her performance at this year's Kala Ghoda festival. Titled Only until the light fades, the idea of the performance grew out of a conversation between Arundhati and Valli about love poetry through the ages and across languages. Valli was keen to also include contemporary poetry in her performance.

"Arundhati is a poet I admire immensely, and one with whom I share many common artistic and aesthetic ideals. I have long wanted to work on one of her poems and in fact, a couple of years ago requested her to write a poem specially for dance, as poets did in the past. That did not come to pass, but while discussing 'Only until the light fades', Arundhati sent me a few poems to select. Vigil was the perfect choice."

"The theme of love is explored in a selection of poems through the ages in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and English," reveals Valli, who performed the piece at the Nakshatra Festival at the NCPA in 2010.

The poem's narration is woven into the music of composer Rajkumar Bharathi, who has created "a melodic palimpsest," according to Valli.

Where: Cross Maidan Gardens
At: 7.15 pm

Dashavtar, February 4 onwards
Installation by Institute of Industrial Design

Dr Ajanta Sen, founder, Design In India and visiting faculty IIT-Bombay, came up with the idea of Dashavatar in 2009, during an international seminar on sustainability held at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay.

And, says Sen, she was partly inspired  by the cut-outs of newly-weds in Las Vegas. But, more significantly, Sen was keen to take the mythology of Dashavatar -- the 10 avatars of Vishnu, which is also in many ways, a mythology on the origin of man  -- and tease out its several complexities in the interactive installation that will now be displayed at the Kala Ghoda festival.

For one, Sen points out, the illustrations with cut-outs (through which people are invited to fit their faces and have their photo clicked), become as increasingly complex as the avatar. The height of the illustration increases as well. So, the less complex avatars of Vishnu, such as the fish and the tortoise are not only made with simple lines and lesser colour, they are also shorter than the cut-outs of Parshuram and Narsimhan, Vishnu's other, later avatars.  The tenth avatar is a Robotic Man -- the tallest and most visually complex.

Even as the installations are highly interactive, inviting people to participate as they would in a mela, they also offer an interesting take on technology.

 "(The installations) are also a critique of the obduracy and arrogance of technology, and ask the viewers to look at technology in a much more humble way, where the agency of technology is not seen as being above human agency, but simply part of it," says Sen.

Where: Traffic Island at Rampart Row road
At: All day

Our pick of Literary events you must not miss
Feb 5, Sunday, 6 PM
Where does literature stand in spaces where free speech is censored and judged, and how has that changed, if at all, in light of the recent Salman Rushdie controversy. With Urvashi Butalia, Namita Devidayal, R Sriram and Peter Griffin.

Where: David Sassoon Library Gardens 
Feb 5, Sunday, 7 PM
Taj Mahal Foxtrot -- The story of Bombay's Jazz Age by Naresh Fernandes. In the three decades following 1935, jazz seemed to perfectly embody the spirit of Bombay. Naresh Fernandes explains why.
Where: David Sassoon Library Gardens

Feb 6, monday, 7 PM
The Mad Tibetan: Stories from Then and Now -- a reading with actress and author Deepti Naval.
Where: David Sassoon Library Gardens 

Feb 7, tuesday, 6 PM
Trying to Say Goodbye -- poetry reading with Adil Jussawalla.
Where: David Sassoon Library Gardens

Feb 8, wednesday, 6.30 PM
Meet the author -- Gulzar.
Where: David Sassoon Library Gardens 

Feb 9, thursday, 7 PM
Queer Ink: Out and About -- Personal journeys of passion to inspire, entertain and enlighten us.
Where: David Sassoon Library Gardens 

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