The Telegraph
| Sunday, July 27, 2014 |



Plant talk

Maneka Gandhi's love for animals is well known. And when she is not talking about protecting animals, the minister for women and child development likes to talk about conserving the environment. Which is what she did in Chennai recently, while launching a book called The Sacred Plants of India. "Thirty thousand acres of forest land is being cut down every day," she bemoaned. But Gandhi, who has been in the eye of a storm recently following her move to get juveniles charged with heinous crimes tried on a par with adults, also showed her mellow side. She spoke fondly of how her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi would celebrate birthdays in the family by placing mango leaves on the doorways — as mango leaves are a sign of rebirth and renewal. She also talked about a commune she visited once where she heard plants talk to each other. Talking plants? Hmm. Well, as they say, there are more things in heaven and earth...

Power of one

Mita Vashist has wowed audiences with her performance in films such as Drishti, Drohkaal and English August. She is popular in Hindi soaps too. Now Calcuttans can get a chance to be up close and personal with the actress when she delivers a solo performance enacting Hindi writer Nirmal Verma's play Weekend on August 3 at Swissotel. Her act will be part of the city's solo arts festival called Monologues, curated by elocutionist Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee. Food for the solo, shall we say?

Musical apps

How do Indian classical musicians connect with GenNext? Why, via mobile apps, of course! Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya, santoor maestro of the Maihar gharana and disciple of Ravi Shankar, is showing the way in this regard. He is coming up with Mobile Apps and QR Code, which will give you a whole lot of information about his music with just one click. The musician feels that since apps cater to almost all kinds of human needs today, there's no reason the huge app market in India should not be exploited to draw young listeners to Hindustani classical music. Bhattacharya also urges his fellow musicians to use mobile technology more effectively for their works. How app-ropriate!

Music mark

Richa Sharma, a sufi and folk singer, seems to have got a global audience now. She made her mark at a jazz music festival in Ottawa, Canada, and says that a crowd of around 40,000 people listened to her songs which included popular hits such as Billo rani, Mahi ve, Zindagi mein koi and Zor ka jhatka and many others. And she says that she also surprised the audience by singing Celine Dion's Titanic song, My Heart Will Go On. Sharma, who is the first Indian to be invited to this jazz festival, performed on the same stage as multiple Grammy winners Bobby Mc'Ferrin, Dianne Reeves and others. Good show, Richa.

Queer lore

Devdutt Pattnaik, author, inspirational speaker, culture consultant and storytelling advisor to television companies, is out with a new book called Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don't Tell You. Pattnaik says he chose to focus on Shikhandi, a character from the Mahabharata because "it is the story of a female-to-male transsexual person written 2,000 years ago. In India, we have a vast body of stories which challenge established notions of what constitutes male and female. God can be male, female, neither or both. Very few cultures think in this way." And this, he says, is what evokes the "diversity, inclusiveness and affection" that's so much a part of the Indian tradition. If only today's morality brigade remembered that.