Indiaaa Indiaaa

“I would love to learn Indian “, said one of my non-Indian acquaintances in London. Having heard this far too often to be amused by the gross ignorance of the Europeans I knew, whose knowledge about anything outside the EU was phenomenal, I had half a mind to teach this one the most lyrical blasphemy in ‘Indian’.

Like there is no language called ‘Chinese’ there is certainly no Indian. Also we do not have one culture, cuisine or any accepted common feature. The only thing that might actually bring a feeling of oneness is cricket and of course Sachin Tendulkar.

And as lucky as we are to be part of a country brimming with a variety of cultures and tastes, this is also one of the big problems facing India. A country with about 30 different languages, more than 20 local government bodies and various political parties is difficult to govern in the best of situations, but it is even more so in India.

A forced union:

India became India under duress. What was a collection of different princely states with individual identities, came together to fight their usurper, the British Empire. And while the British were in India, there was the common need to get them out of our country. But once the deed of getting the villains out was done, that chord of union began to strain.

When the Brits left, they gave us partition as their parting gift. Although Bangladesh and Pakistan were born as a result of this, India was never ready to let go and even today, millions are reeling under that tearing part of a country that was only freshly formed.

The North South Divide:

Although we are one country, there is a very obvious animosity dividing the northern and southern part of the country. The attitudes and attributes of the North and South Indians are so completely different, that it is easier to find commonalities in our Japanese friends.

And while sometimes it is nice to not have too many common aspects in this case it is not so. The divide is so big that there are so many issues for people migrating from one part of India to another. The most talked about one being the attitude of Maharashtra, a state in the western part of the country.

What the challenge is

The challenge facing the ever increasing populace of the country is that these various differences need to be united under some common aspect. Unlike the United States which has so many commonalities, India still needs to find one all-encompassing unifying factor.

And till that day comes along, we will have constant bursts of states demanding freedom and communities fighting for space. But when that does happen, India will become unstoppable.

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Capturing Camden

Outside the Stables Market

Amidst the swirling scents of exotic cuisines, through the graveled streets, under the canopy of London’s skies you find yourself in a haven of clothes, jewelry, food and drink. The Camden Market is a shopper’s delight with every nook and cranny filled with treasures to be explored.

With alleyways appearing at every corner, shopping at Camden is like an adventure. You never know what could be hidden behind the dark paths, waiting for eager owners. Sometimes, there is almost a sense of foreboding, but soon the exotic goods steer any negativity away.

“I remember thinking of it as almost medieval. It looks like you can find an apothecary just around the corner.” said Marsha Samsa a visitor at the Market.

Camden is the fourth biggest tourist attraction in London having stalls selling clothes, food and all sorts of bric-a-bracs. It attracts almost 100,000 visitors every weekend.

“I visited London for a few days, and this was the place I enjoyed the most. It’s so pretty and affordable,” said Alexandra King an Indian tourist.

Some of the more interesting offerings!

The biggest market in Camden is the Stables Market. The market is built in the former Midland Railway stables and horse hospital which served the purpose of horses pulling barges along the canal. Many of the stalls and shops are set into huge arches in railway viaducts.

When you step into the Stables Marketas the market is sometimes referred, you cannot help but compare it to Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Small little stores selling everything from pretty dresses to magical pendants can be found here.

The most interesting part of shopping in Camden is the specialist stores that they have. Burlesque, Rock n Roll, Vintage and Gothic stores offering such competitive prices are hard to come by in London. Shopkeepers invite you into their stores with almost feverish excitement.

“It is tough to find burlesque stores in many parts of the country. And the ones here are very affordable, which is why I keep coming back for more.” said a dancing student from Manchester.

There are a few Burlesque stores specialising in corsets and teddies for all sizes. Even if you are not into Burlesque, you can’t help but admire the intricate work. Goth fashionistas will find that their search for affordable specialist fashion ends here.

Fashion is not the only attraction at Camden. Exotic cuisines from all over the world are available here. Spicy Mexican fajitas, steaming Chinese noodles, pretty British Muffins and a host of other mouthwatering treats are available in Camden.

Unlike other markets in London, here you have the luxury of sitting at pretty Al Fresco arrangements and enjoying your food over some friendly conversation. Even on a rainy day, lunch in Camden is fun.

A small local food market has operated in Inverness Street since the beginning of the 20th century

Camden is not multicultural in just its gastronomic treats. African jewellery, Indian rugs and Middle Eastern sheesha’s can be found in tiny stores here. Sheesha parlours littered across the Camden Market, remind you of Arabian boudoirs with their bright red seating arrangements and long billowing curtains.

Adding to the fun and frolic of shopping is the thumping beats of reggae music playing in the background. Shopping and eating can only become more fun with Bob Marley.

If you are not really interested in shopping, you can still plan a visit to Camden. The picturesque cobbled streets offer the perfect getaway from the crowded hustle bustle of London.

“One should visit Camden not just for the shopping but for the entire package that it offers; an experience that is likely to be exciting and unforgettable.” says Chandni Sehgal an international student in London.

The Camden Market is open from Monday to Sunday, 10Am to 6PM. Hop onto the Northern Line and get off at Chalk Farm, the nearest tube station and take a walk to Camden Market. You can be sure to walk away with a lot of amazing affordable goodies.

The Victoria and Albert Experience

The Victoria and Albert Museum houses one of the most comprehensive ranges of art forms in the world. From ceramics and sculptures to textile and fashion, the collections in this museum truly cater to a variety of tastes. Being a relative novice in the art world, I ventured into the Contemporary Art collection of the museum, located at the Porter House.


Displaying a vast cornucopia of modern designs in textile, architecture, and ceramics and so on, the Porter House is a feast for people who like extremes. The colours in the room itself are a vast contrast, it changes from bright yellows and oranges to sober greys and blues. The designs themselves have very little of Victoria or Albert in them, and live up to the current sensation of contemporary art.

A piece that held my attention was a chair ‘Bar + Knell’ made out of recycled plastic. This was an artefact made from the plastic items donated by the staff. It was commissioned by the Furniture & Woodwork department at the V & A. Not too high, it is almost like a child’s chair. Clearly visible are the plastic bottles and containers melted into the cast which forms the chair.

Almost like a piece of furniture cloaked in one of Picasso’s paintings, the chair screams the influence of contemporary art and modern painting. The heavy, asymmetrical legs and arm rest less design of the chair is kitschy and stylish.

The superiority of the piece is that the colours have been meshed so beautifully. The bright yellow, the garish green and the subtle mix of blues and reds have been placed so strategically. There is a clear unity in the disorder. What is even more appealing about the piece is the fact that, it is relevant in today’s world where global warming is an ever looming threat. The social significance of the piece makes it even more commendable.

As appealing as this piece was, there were some others that did not quite live up to my expectations. The sculpture by Japanese artist, Takeuchi Denji, was a heavy let down. The piece which was a glass sculpture was lack lustre at best. The cast and glued glass, lacked panache, the lines were too precise to evoke any brilliance and the colours too were unimaginative.

The Contemporary art collection is very meticulously maintained. The pieces are fresh and imaginative, the colours bold and the lines dramatic.

On the whole, the contemporary art forms in the gallery are definitely worth a visit. Besides the contemporary art collection there are several other collections such as Fashion, Furniture, Jewellery, Architecture, Ceramics, etc. There are special exhibitions too in the museum.

The best part about a visit to this museum is the variety of interests and tastes it caters to. It is the ideal location for a group of friends with different interests to visit. However, since it is such a large museum, it is best to choose which things you would want to focus on. One can easily spend a day here.

The museum also conducts courses, lectures, quizzes etc. for interested people.

The entry is free, except for special exhibitions.

Occonsulting

Gone are the days when the oracle or Delphi were revered and feared. The high esteem which was attached to the mysterious workings of the occult has now become inundated with the over exposure and often over simplification of this world of mystique.

1604: After a long walk up the hill, the king approached his council. In the language of the gods, the priestesses spoke to their king of events to come. They warned him of a plague to come. A terrible plague.

2011: You get an email at 2 AM from a ‘visionary medium’, informing you of tactics to win your ex-boyfriend back.

With the number of numerologists, tarot card readers and a myriad other facets of the occult mushrooming over the last few years, the question now arises whether these mediums are authentic or merely feeding off the craving of millions of fortune seekers.  The new fad is to consult the occult for all ones problems. There has been a record increase in the number of tarot card reading and numerology sites between 2008 and 2010.

Kara Trough, author of ‘The Occult Stories’ said: “As sceptical as some people might be about the powers of the unknown, many people just find it easier to attribute their miseries to ill luck or black magic. Hence there is this great fascination with the occult.”

While it is easy to brush off the run-of-the-mill tarot card readers, and online ‘psychic mediums’ it is hard to ignore some of the stories where a consultation with a practitioner of the secret arts has led to a drastic change in fortunes.

Aditi Khanna, a housewife in Delhi, India, recounts the harrowing experience she had with tenants who were well versed in the art of black magic. After an altercation on some financial issues, she asked them to vacate the house. Soon after, there were a lot of issues in her life. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer, they were suffering huge losses and the general scenario was bleak. At the insistence of a friend, she consulted a visionary medium. He asked her to look under a lose tile in the room which was formerly occupied by the tenants. To her utter shock, Aditi found two voodoo dolls complete with the pins. She was shocked by the complete turnaround after she disposed of them. She is no longer a sceptic.

This is not a one off incident. There are several people who do not take any decisions without the express approval of their tarot readers, numerologists and astrologists. But most of the new age occult consultants cannot be described as anything but suspicious.

There are numerous mediums online. And they seem to have all employed the same web page designer. Most of them have identical websites, offering a free consultation. After the said free consultation, you are bombarded with a host of emails, all warning of the dire consequences you face if you do not respond to the psychics. Vulnerable and desperate people fall prey to this and soon, the psychic is literally living off your despair.

An online witchcraft site, 7witchescoven, advertises their expertise in solving all problems. From love spells, to world domination spells, there is nothing they cannot solve. But of course, it all comes at a cost. Some of their services are as expensive as £700.

Some of these people not only run huge financial scams on you, there are other murky aspects to this business too.  An astrologer in Indonesia would routinely ask the women to exchange sexual favours to please the gods. And because he had been lucky with the first few clients, whose fortune improved due to no effort of his, others soon fell for this trick.

It is easy to find the conmen, but how is one to approach a real visionary, if there is such a thing at all. Some of them attain cult status, because of the celebs that go to them. Ma Prem Usha, an American psychic, used to be the consultant for big wigs like Madonna, Phil Collins and so on.

It is hard to brush off the occult as non-existent, but it is harder still to accept it, with the innumerable fake practitioners doing the rounds. But one thing is for sure, occunsulting is never going to go out of style.