Saturday, April 30, 2005


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Newspapers get recycled by hand here - specifically they are often transformed into all-purpose paper bags of varying sizes. As a form of income, many women and children make these paper packets that are bought by pharmacies and sundries shops to package various items in...eggs, butter, strips of pills, small jars, bulk sugar and spices all land up in these bags for toting home.

The issue of recycling in India is a hugely complex one. Although the middle-class is discarding more and more waste, they take no responsibility for its separation into reusable resources. That's why we find women and children also picking through dangerous trash heaps to find recyclables like plastics, rags and paper. A recent trip to Dhapa, where all the city waste ends up, was a real personal awakening...Perhaps every Kolkata school child should take a field trip here soon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Everything from tiffin boxes, plates, cups, and cooking pots to teapots, bowls, spoons, forks, puja paraphernalia and trays --- you name it.

Because the cooking pots have no handles, they fit right into the fridge after cooking, which is a plus. However, you need another device, known as a sharashi to grip the side of the hot pot and pour things out.

It's durable, it's shiny, it washes up easily's everywhere!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

K is for KHADI

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
A most creative revival of this traditional handloom cloth is happening at the moment in Kolkata and throughout India. Khadi is the homespun textile that was one of the pivotal economic and social supports of Ghandiji's satyagraha movement, to bring independence to India. A special session of the Congress at Calcutta in 1907 prescribed hand-spinning and weaving of Khadi as a measure of discipline and sacrifice for every man, woman and child, and this resolution was later clarified at Nagpur. After Gandhiji's arrest in 1922, a committee laid great stress on constructive work and a special department for khadi work was set up, as an expert organization unaffected by politics. The most typical khadi item is the long, men's panjabi kurta but nowadays it is being used for all sorts of great new fashions. The spinning and handlooming of this richly textural cloth provides self-help training and a source of income still today for many women all over India.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Once you have your own stainless steel pot with a handle you can say goodbye to milk cartons and plastic packages...Mother Dairy, a government dairy company, offers bulk-style milk vending. I buy three tokens and then set the pot under the "udder" and wait for the milk to flow. The rival Indian milk cooperative, Amul, on the other hand has excellent advertising that stays right on the edge of current events.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Chitrakars are folk artists living in Medinipur, West Bengal. Everyone in the village holds the last name Chitakar! This group of artists, also known as patuas, have for many generations painted scrolls (patas) designed to be unrolled while the story accompanying the pictures is sung. The patas are sheets of paper of equal or different sizes sewn together and painted. Natural colors are often still used. Traditionally the scrolls told religious stories but in recent times the artists have added historical events, ecological disasters, and commentary on social issues. Karuna Chitrakar, pictured here, recently made a pata about the Tsunami. While most of the patuas are men, there are also quite a few women artists, like Karuna.

H is for HANUMAN

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Recently this langur paid a visit to the rooftop just below our apartment. A man had fed him a banana and he was waiting to see what else he might get.

The Hanuman langur is a revered monkey god that dwells from the Himalayan mountains through the semi-arid zones of Rajasthan to the cultivated plains of the Ganges. While Hindus often consider these primates to be incarnations of the monkey god Hanuman, a key player in The Ramayana, an epic story central to Indian culture, biologists call them variously grey langurs, Hanuman langurs or Indian langurs. They are equally at home in Indian cities as in the tropical forests of Sri Lanka, the ancient battle-place of The Ramayana.

The story of Hanuman
When the demon king abducted Rama's wife Sita to the island of Lanka, Hanuman lead an army of monkeys to rescue her. Halfway through the saga, demons capture Hanuman, wrap his tail with oil-soaked cloths and set it on fire. The noble monkey escapes and drags his torched tail across the roofs of Lanka, burning the villain's residence to ashes. The charcoal-black feet, hands and faces of today's temple monkeys are testimony to this heroic dash.


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
There is a movement in the world to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. In India, this mission is termed Pulse Polio and the aim is to make India polio-free by the year 2005. This requires that children up to the age of five years be given the polio vaccine and it is conducted at desinated centers and door-to-door. This drive is carried out on a larger scale all over the country and takes place three days in a year so as to enable everyone to avail of the services.

D is for DAL

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Here is a nice recipe for one of the staple foods here, Dal (Lentil Soup made from Musoor dal, the orange pulses)

Musoor dal, grated onion, fresh ginger (also grated), cumin seed, red pepper (dried), bay leaves (2 large); cinnamon stick (break up 3-4 pieces), cumin powder (3 pinches), turmeric (2 pinches or more), tomato (1 med. chopped), salt to taste

1) Wash dal and cook in pressure cooker (since these are small pulses, just two psssssssts should be enough in pressure cooker)
2) In a separate wok-style pan add hot oil. Now fry cumin seed, bay leaves, cinnamon, and red chilli. Now add grated (or just chopped) onion and ginger and fry until clear. Add turmeric, cumin powder, and salt; then add tomato and cook down. Add a little water if necessary.
3) Now turn the cooked dal in pressure cooker into this mixture and boil up at a hard boil for about 5 minutes.


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Although a lot of new cars are finding their way behind the grip of middle class Bengalis, the Ambassador is still a popular choice. Why not? It's groovy, comfortable, dependable, spacious and hearty. Ambassador was the first car to be manufactured in India, originally based on the UK's Morris Oxford in 1948. It is manufactured by Hindustan Motors with the tagline: You will be talked about -- mostly behind your back! Although it has been undergoing a series of changes, it has kept its basic shape and well, shall we say, bulkiness. Think taxi.