Madhubani paintings- from local to glocal

Think Bihar and the larger than life image of a toothy Laloo Prasad Yadav springs up. Think Bihar again, and you’re most likely to envision a bright Madhubani art piece.

Madhubani – forest of honey – a non descript district located in the north of Bihar is today being talked about fervently among artists, NGOs, interior designers, corporate houses and yes even humble souls like moi, for its centuries old painting viz. the madhubani paintings.

While I leaf through the pages of a glossy art book featuring madhubani art, in Landmark (one of the popular and modern book-houses in Chennai); while my sister is busy registering herself for a three-day ‘madhubani workshop’ at Dakshinachitra; while students of Fine Arts in Stella Maris College and Government Arts College are busy learning about Indian folk-art designs, the women of Madhubani are in all probability doing what they do best – the Madhubani painting. This art form is second nature to these village belles, and while we trace designs and struggle to learn the technique, they deftly sketch the vivid designs freehand, borrowing images from everyday life. They are the real artists who have learnt the nuances from their mothers and in turn pass on the skill and knowledge to their daughters.

The origin of Madhubani is multi-pronged. Legend has it that the King of Mithila had ordered that the walls of the city be adorned with paintings at the time of his daughter, Sita’s marriage. Folklore claims that the Gods visited the homes of the people living here to bless them and this was a welcoming act, in anticipation of the Supreme Beings. The art form was mostly confined to the region until the 1960s, which is when it took a commercial turn. The women were told to transfer their designs on hand-made paper instead of the traditional cow-dung coated walls and voila, that was the beginning of the journey from local to glocal.

Madhubani paintings have very distinct characteristics. Images quite naturally are drawn from everyday life and mythology. Common themes are: women at work, shown as either drawing water from the well, carrying pots of water, caring for cattle; animals, cows, fish and birds being the most prominent; village celebrations, like a marriage or festival; nature, like the sun, moon, tree of life and flowers. All paintings have a border and is usually a double line, with the gaps being filled by diagonal lines and other geometric designs. The women folk are portrayed in saris which have intricate designs and jewellery. Their heads are usually covered and they are shown to have large eyes and a stubby nose. Other designs are drawn from mythology and showcase Krishna and his consort Radha or Rama and Sita. Madhubani paintings can be very bright and colorful – blue, pink, red, yellow, black and green being the primary colors. There is no shading and no mixing of colors. The other category is the non-color or line painting, just done in black and white lines. This looks very chic, smart, classy and sophisticated – a bit somber though.

Colors were traditionally natural dyes – black was from soot, yellow from turmeric or pollen, blue from indigo plants, red from the kusum flower, green from the leaves of wood apple trees, white from rice powder and orange from the palash flowers. The paint brush was nothing but a piece of cotton wrapped around a bamboo stick. This definitely sounds exotic and I would crave for such natural dyes, but urbanization leaves me with a box of poster colors or a set of Indian ink bottles and a couple of thin paint brushes. I can neither draw from memory because if I did, I would only draw cars and buildings and women in corporate attire working behind a computer. Now that isn’t a very pretty picture is it? So I enroll myself in an art class and I am given a stack of designs (once the art work of the Madhubani women) to trace from and then I go on to create “my very own Madhubani painting”.

Today Madhubani paintings have gone places. Several NGOs are mobilizing efforts towards promoting this art-form, popularizing it in urban India and even taking it abroad, trying to give the real artists exposure and commercial value as well. Corporate houses often sport a Madhubani mural in their reception area or try and incorporate the art form somewhere in their business space to render that touch of elegance and ironically, contemporary Indian art feel to their office interiors. Expats fancy such art work on their walls. Interior designers recommend this art-form heavily to their clients.

I just returned to my writing after attending to a phone call from my sister. She wanted to know if I wanted a madhubani painting done on a khadi raw silk kurta. She was sending hers to a village in Bihar (somewhere in Madhubani I suppose) and reckons it would look smart. She can have it delivered here to Singapore just in time for Diwali. What demonstrates better, the story of the Madhubani painting going from local to glocal.



‘Life is a combination of magic and pasta’ – Fellini

Looking for a quick, scrumptious, pocket-friendly meal in a pleasing ambience to satiate that voracious appetite? Well look no further. Pastamania is here to take care of all your cravings for that perfect meal with its promise of “quick casual dining”. It can’t get better than this.

One visit to their restaurant was enough to make me a regular, lining up for my usual order every single weekend. The ambience is simplistic, minimal, chic and smart. The bright lighting and signature colors of black, red and yellow cheer up many a dampened spirit. If that weren’t enough, the friendly smiles of the efficient personnel can’t be ignored. The USP of this Italian, fast food eatery is its impeccably quick service and affordable price. Even on a busy day orders arrive in less than 15 minutes and within minutes of placing the order during non peak hours.

Some of the fare you must sample:
Garlic bread ($1.80) with soup-of-the-day ($2.30). All soups (creamy chicken, creamy mushroom, cream of tomato, minestrone) taste delicious and are a wonderful way to start the meal. This followed by a plate of steamy hot pasta coupled with a cold drink will gratify your taste buds. Pasta prices range from $4.90-$13.40. If you’re looking at something simple then ‘Pomodoro’ (pasta tossed in tomato herbed sauce) or ‘Chicken Bolognese’ (pasta and chicken tossed in tomato herbed sauce) makes a good choice. Be sure to add a healthy sprinkling of pomodoro cheese, conveniently placed on your table. If you’re in a mood for something more exotic, try sampling ‘Spinach Tortellini’ (spinach and ricotta cheese stuffed pasta in tomato herbed sauce) or ‘Mediterranean’ (pasta tossed with carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers in tomato herbed sauce). There is an interesting range of pastas listed under their selection of ‘Rich & Creamy’, ‘Baked Specials’, ‘Seafood Delights’ and ‘Vegetarian Specials’. You can also choose from a range of cold salads to add that extra zing to your meal. My personal favorite is the potato salad, which is a portion of boiled potatoes mixed well with creamy white mayonnaise and a sprinkling of herbs that gives it its delectable taste.

I would recommend staying away from the pizzas as they are expensive and have ultra thin crusts. The mango dessert pizza however seems to be a favorite among many.

Bottom line: The belly rules the mind after a meal at Pastamania.


If you are the discerning film enthusiast, who would rather watch fewer (quality rich) films a year than the run-of-the-mill fare that is dished out, then ‘Aamir’ should definitely feature on your impressive list.

High on drama and suspense this is a no frills movie that awakens the mind. There are no exotic foreign locales, nor traditional Indian settings; no A R Rehmans nor Shankar-Ehsaan- Loys nor Vishal-Shekars duets; no stunning heroine to complement the hero and no exaggerated emotions that tug at your heart.

Right from the opening scene this movie holds promise of being fast-paced and intriguing. London returned, Aamir Ali’s life takes a turn for the worse the moment he sets foot in India. Just minutes after stepping out of the airport, he is thrust with a cell phone and the trail of the movie is set ablaze. Alphonse Roy’s camera work is laudable as he captures Mumbai in its truest form, leading us down narrow, crowded, filthy alleys, capturing sights and sounds of the city which the modern, urban Indian is ignorant of. Amit Trivedi’s music adds character to the scenes and blends into the narrative. Aarti Bajaj’s crisp and tight editing requires a special mention. Applause for the star of the film Rajeev Khandelwal, who carried the entire film forward, expressing emotions as if he were in that situation for real and for showcasing talent we are so much in need of. Raj Kumar Gupta’s direction seemed flawless and there were certain unforgettable scenes. The film carries a message for all, refrains from being over-the-top and ends on a poignant note. Bottom-line: Must watch!

Paddy Indian

‘Paddy Indian’ is yet another “NRI” novel, battling the all-so-familiar issues we come across in books of this genre; yet it is refreshingly different. For starters, Madhavan has chosen an off-the-beaten-track locale for her debut novel – Ireland. So, fancy a young Indian (Tamil to be specific) doctor, who lands in Dublin to practice at a local hospital there and eventually appear for his Fellowship exams. That is Padhman (or Paddy) for you. Hailing from a wealthy, medical, “westernized” family in Madras, Padhman finds himself in the company of his childhood friends, Renu and Sunil (an easy-going, fun loving, happily married couple). He also finds himself being self-conscious for the fact that he is an “Indian”, a “foreigner” in an Irishman’s world. Yet this is the land  where he finds his true love – Aoife. This love interest ruffles doubt and speculation for both the Irish and Indian families. Does their love survive the cross-cultural test? What happens when Padhman’s world is shaken by a traumatic incident?

The novel is fast-paced, interesting and makes a good read. There is a healthy sprinkling of Tamil slang and references to iconic buildings in Chennai, which makes the reader silently smile; the relationship between Padhman, Renu and Sunil is well brought out and totally identifiable; the situations, people and conversations are all something you can relate to. All in all, ‘Paddy Indian’ is old wine in a new bottle – nothing spectacular yet definitely worth reading.

%d bloggers like this: