March 2018 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Festival of Pongal from a Traditional Tamil Nadu Village

Pongal offering to the sun god on the occassion of Uttarayan, Kallidaikurichi, Tamil Nadu

You have to love India for its incredible festivals. We seem to have so many of them, but in spite of these huge numbers we still end up celebrating our festivals with gusto. And the fervour is more in the Indian countryside where we still follow the ancient traditions and cultures and the joy of celebrating the festival is very much intact and untarnished.

A colorful and traditional Pongal shopping moment from Kallidaikurichi, Tamil Nadu

One such festival that I got to see at close quarters is the Tamil festival of Pongal, which celebrates the northern movement of the sun (Uttarayan), Makara Sankranthi and welcomes the first harvest of rice in the year. I know that I am about 2 months too late to get this across to you, but nonetheless it is an experience that I wanted to share with all for you to enjoy and experience in future years to come.



The village where I experienced this festival is a traditional Tamil Nadu village called Kallidaikurichi that is tucked by the fertile banks of the Thamarabarani river in the Tirunelveli district. This village located right under the towering Western Ghats, is known for its iconic saaral season, its appalams, its orthodox brahmin culture and  rich traditions, its laidback environment and its river and canals.

Sugarcane to celebrate Pongal - Kallidaikurichi market, Tamil Nadu

This village in India’s deep south happens to be my ancestral village and hence offered a comfortable base from where I could experience the largest and the richest festival of Tamil Nadu. The festival of Pongal usually lasts for four days starting with the Bhogi festival and followed by Thai Pongal, Maatu Pongal and Kaanum Pongal. Even though the actual festival is celebrated on these four days, work begins much before, some even a couple of weeks before.



Nearly all households get their entire homes thoroughly cleaned and then they ensure that their home is given a fresh coat of paint. While the modern houses get to choose from the diverse color palette offered by the paint manufacturers, the traditional houses, especially the ones located in the Agraharam, they use limestone (locally known as sunnambu) mixed with indigo as the main coat and then, they use the rust or red color for decorations, akin to the look of the traditional temples of Tamil Nadu.

Colorful Kollam or Rangoli to celebrate Pongal 2018

The markets too are not far away from the festive action. Two to three days before the start of the festival, truck loads of colorful flowers, massive stalks of sugarcane, fresh roots of turmeric, lots of banana stems and many varieties of bananas and other traditional fruits arrive at the local market. Locals throng to the market to buy these festive essentials. The ones who buy early can drive a price bargain and those who buy on the day of the festival end up paying the price quoted by the shopkeeper as they know these items are in heavy demand.

Pongal festivities adorn Kallidaikurichi village market, Tamil Nadu

For me, the days preceding to the festival were as vibrant and action packed like the festival itself. Early morning and late evening walks to the local flower, vegetable and fruit market would be an absolute treat to the senses. The biggest crowds would be at the textile shops where people were buying everything from sarees to shirts, dhotis and more. And the best part of the pre-festival preparation is that everyone seems to have a sparkle in their eyes and a spring in their steps. After all, this is the state’s largest festival and for four days, everything literally comes to a standstill and all people do is wear new clothes, eat good food, visit temples and have a good time with family and friends.

Decked up Agraharam of Lakshmipati Temple, Kallidaikurichi, Tamil Nadu

The day preceding Thai Pongal or Makara Sankranthi is the day of the Bhogi festival when people wake up at dawn and light up a bonfire with old clothes and belongings. This is believed to get rid of all evil and old and welcome the new. The cattle herders and farmers also paint the horns of their buffalos, cows and oxen on this day. During the day, the entire house is cleaned and decorated with flowers, banana stems and sugarcane stalks. On the night of this Bhogi festival, people keep a lot of fruits, vegetables, sugarcane stalks, banana stems and more in front of their prayer room.

Cows are invited into homes at Kallidaikurichi during Pongal

The 2nd day is the main festival day. It is the day of Makara Sankranthi and also of Thai Pongal. As soon as people wake up, they are supposed to look at the fruits, veggies, sugarcane stalks and banana stems so that the rest of the year is bountiful for them. Then, everyone’s head in the household is anointed with sesame oil and they then take a bath and wear new clothes. Then, the action either shifts to the part of the house which gets direct sunlight (in the case of the Brahmins) or to the street in front of the house (in case of the other castes).

Ramachandra Street, Kallidaikurichi, Tamil Nadu

Here, the women of the household draw a colorful kollam or Rangoli on the ground and then set up the makeshift stove to cook the Pongal. Once the fire is burning, the women mount a traditional brass or stainless steel vessel on top of the stove, add milk to it and wait for the milk to boil. Once the milk starts overflowing, the women add freshly harvested rice grains to it, they blow a conch, ring a bell and then make a sound called olave while everyone shouts ‘Pongalo Pongal’. They then offer look up at the Sun god, offer him their respects and send a silent prayer hoping for a bountiful harvest all year long.

Happy Pongal 2018 at Kallidaikurichi, Tamil Nadu

Once the prayers have been offered to the Sun God, the action shifts indoors and to the dining table where a feast consisting of Vennu Pongal (Salty and Spicy Rice Dish), Sakarai Pongal (Sweet Jaggery based rice dish), vadai, murukku and payasam has been prepared. After the delightful and delicious breakfast, the entire family make their way to the temple to offer their respect to the lord and to seek his blessings. The rest of the day is a combination of family get togethers, more delicious meals, a day trip to nearby scenic getaways and some home entertainment.

Freshly painted streets of Kallidaikurichi in preparation for Pongal

The third day of the Pongal festival is for the cattle. Called Maattu Pongal, this day is known for Jallikattu or the bull taming game. Even though a lot of animal welfare groups want this activity to be banned, the Jallikattu still takes place and is extremely popular in Madurai and nearby districts. In spite of the threat of injuries, a lot of brave men try their hand at taming the bull. The winners get cash prizes  or household items like a refrigerator, television, gas stove, blender, grinder, etc. While we all hear and see the Jallikattu on the TV, the true festival is for the cattle, where in, they are bathed, decorated with flowers and vermilion and treated to delicious fruits, sugarcane and food. In many places, people also celebrate Kanu Pidi, where the young women and girls feed crows and other birds and pray for the welfare of their brothers.

Colorful Kollams galore on the occasion of Pongal at Kallidaikurichi, Tamil Nadu

The fourth or the last day of the Pongal festival is called Kaanum or Kanni Pongal. This is the day of family excursions and get together. The idea is to for all the family to be together, be happy, eat good food and celebrate the festival together. A lot of people are also known to gamble on this day and eat non vegetarian food.

Riot of colors at Kallidaikurichi Market during Pongal 2018

In all the four days of this festival and the days preceding it, there is vibrancy in the atmosphere and there is a lot of sumptuous food on the table. Colorful scenes, happy faces, beautiful kollam (in front of the houses), gorgeously decked ladies and a total party atmosphere is how I would describe the Tamil festival of Pongal. The experience of celebrating this festival in a traditional Tamil Nadu village just makes it a whole lot sweeter, richer and surreal. I hope you get to experience this too in the years to come!

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Monday, March 26, 2018

WD My Cloud Home: Affordable Personal Cloud for your Home Environment

WD My Cloud Home - Affordable Private Cloud Solution

I love having my data backed up on the cloud! After all, who in their right mind would want to carry all those storage devices, chargers, cables and manage those data recovery headaches when it crashes. Cloud storage is the future and the way to go! It is so easy, but I hate the time, effort and cost it takes to retrieve my data from the cloud, especially in a developing country such as ours where connectivity speeds and especially upload speeds are ridiculously slow. I prefer cloud storage at my home and home office where I have fast fibre optic internet, but I tear my hair apart when I am traveling and out of my home office environment. And that is why I like the Western Digital My Cloud Home storage device as in this point in time, it allows me to get the best of both worlds, which is a private cloud environment and faster access speeds. And till the time when we have truly fast internet all across our country, such private cloud storage devices are the way to go.

I first heard about the Western Digital My Cloud Home device late last year when it was launched in the US, but I got a much deeper insight and personal look at it when I attended their launch event in India this January. I have been using and testing the WD My Cloud Home storage device ever since. This is why I think this device is amazing!

BEST SELLING POINTS

Your own private cloud

One of the best selling points of the WD My Cloud Home is that it offers the best of two worlds – cloud storage and personal physical ownership. You get cloud storage as you know that is the way to go, but you need not be worried about having your sensitive data stored on a public cloud (Google Drive, iCloud, Amazon, etc.). And you can also use it like a regular physical storage device, which means that all your content can be retrieved immediately from your various devices (phone, tablet, laptop, television, etc.). Think what kind of a nightmare it would have been if we were playing a movie from our regular cloud storage on the television. This My Cloud Home makes entertainment streaming a dream come true.

Very affordable

Unboxing the WD My CLoud Home Storage Device

There is only a one-time cost for device acquisition and no additional monthly subscription fees. And for this you get heavy duty storage,  a private cloud and many more awesome benefits. The My Cloud Home comes in many storage options from 2 TB to 8 TB and the listed price is between INR 12,000 to 25,000. You might even get it for a much cheaper price during a retail or online sale. At first look, this price might look high, but once you realize how many different storage devices and cloud storage subscription accounts you avoid, you will make sure that you get your hands on it. To understand the cost dynamics better, read the benefit mentioned below.

One device for your home’s digital storage

Say, you are a family of four members. In today’s era, each one of us owns at least one physical storage device and one cloud storage account. And I am being very conservative at that. Now, that means, we have at least 4 physical storage devices and 4 cloud storage devices per family. Not only does it mean possible redundant content, too many devices means too many cables, chargers, charging points and most of all, a higher acquisition cost and more cluttered storage. Wouldn’t it be ideal, if our digital storage mirrored our physical storage, say for example like our bookshelf or library?

The Western Digital My Cloud Home is a step in that direction. It not only aims to be that one library for all your home’s digital storage needs, but it also provides individual private spaces for each user that is akin to a compartment in your library with your own lock and key.

WD My Cloud Home connected to the home wireless router

My ‘WD My Cloud Home’ sits in the middle of my home, connected to my home Wi-Fi and my TV via the Ethernet cable. The TV connection ensures that my entertainment storage is easily accessible to any one watching the television at home. And to access the storage, all the people living in the house can access their data using their mobile, tablet or laptop using the My Cloud Home app and/or website and your WiFi connection. So, what it means is that all the home’s digital storage is in one place and all the people who are connected to the home WiFi and who have the required access rights can use this storage device like their own mini personal cloud storage device. It is as simple as that.

OTHER HELPFUL FEATURES

Super easy setup

All you need to do is connect your My Cloud Home device to your Wi-Fi router, use your mobile device to visit MyCloud.com/hello to setup up your account and that’s it! You can now start backing up your data to the My Cloud home device and start accessing and sharing it. It is as simple as that.

On the go access

WD My Cloud Home Mobile Interface

Whether you are sitting in your home patio, in your garden or on your terrace, at your friend’s place, in your office, traveling to a different city or simply anywhere outside of your home environment, you can easily access your important files, favorite memories and stream videos from your My Cloud Home device using the My Cloud Home mobile app, desktop app or MyCloud.com account. The video streaming is quite smooth, though it is advised to have good 3G or 4G speeds on your phone.

Auto backup

I use Google Pixel 2 XL as my phone that allows me unlimited storage on Google photos, so I am usually not worried about running out of space, but if you are an iPhone user or any other phone user, you are bound to run out of storage space sooner or later, unless you have opted for paid cloud storage. And that is where the My Cloud Home’s auto backup feature comes in handy as it allows you to automatically backup photos and videos from your phone to the device. All you have to do is configure the settings once and enjoy auto backup throughout. And like most auto backup options, you can choose backup only on WiFi or backup on any kind of data connections.

Starting on the My Cloud Home Mobile App

The auto backup feature is not limited to mobile devices, but it also applies to your Windows PCs and Mac computers at home. Using the desktop app or interface, you can choose to backup entire hard drive partitions or specific folders. It also works seamlessly with Windows Backup and Time Machine software.

USB port to import photos and videos from external devices

A simple, but amazing feature of the My Cloud Home device is its fast USB 3.0 port that allows you to directly import content (photos, videos, files) from your existing pen drives, flash drives and old hard disks, thus making it your main digital storage device. There is no need to connect via a laptop and a simple plug and play will suffice. And you can monitor and work on the content using the mobile app.

File search to find content easily

The My Cloud Home mobile or desktop app or your My Cloud.com account allows you to quickly find photos, videos, movies and documents using its simple search interface. Like the file explorer on Windows, you can filter the files by date, size, folder structure, etc.

Good customizability and integration with third party applications

These days, we create so much content and end up storing it on different cloud platforms, ranging from Facebook, Google Drive, Dropbox to many more. The My Cloud Home device allows you to automatically download all your photos, videos and files from these accounts at the click of a button. Further, you can use various integrated services for a more wholesome and rich experience. This is one area where improvements keep taking place, so do ensure that you keep you app updated at all times.

Quick and easy sharing

Even though the My Cloud Home is your heavyweight storage device, it essentially functions like any other regular app. This means that with just a few clicks, you can share photos, videos and documents with your family and friends so that nobody misses a thing and the best thing is that you save a ton of money on data transfer. I am not saying that this will take over WhatsApp or other popular chat services, but it is a nice option to share private content that you do not wish to store on public servers.

MY VERDICT

I hope by now, you have realized why I am so gung-ho about the WD My Cloud Home storage device. It is affordable, it gives me my own private cloud, it looks sleek, it avoids wires, it avoids cluttered storage and it allows me to tide over the fact that we are still not truly ready for a full time cloud solution. And it gives me tons and tons of digital space that our lives seem to need more and more these days. I will keep moving towards 100% cloud storage, but until then, the WD My Cloud Home will be my preferred storage solution.

An important thing to remember

Power cuts are quite common in India and if you lose electricity at your home environment, both your WiFi and your My Cloud Home storage device are bound to switch off, which means that you will lose all remote access to it. To avoid this and to ensure 24x7 connectivity, have a UPS or power backup at home at least for your wireless router and for your My Cloud Home cloud storage device.

For more data redundancy…

For those looking for an extra layer of redundancy and backup, there is the My Cloud Home Duo, that uses mirror functionality to save your data twice on two different hard drives.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

5 Reasons to go on a Gap Year Holiday

Gorgeous Kuang Xi waterfall near Luang Prabang, Laos

I wrote this article first for Ask Men India “ Here’s How A Gap Year Can Change your Life Forever” and I thought why not share these benefits with my audience too. So, here we go!

Tongpen La View Point

‘Gap Year Travel’ is a fairly popular concept in the developed world and is just picking up interest in India. Either taken straight after completing one’s education or taken in between jobs, this involves the person traveling to some of their favorite destinations for about a year or more. It could be for a cause, to learn something, to contribute to society or simply to explore our gorgeous planet. Sounds fabulous right? Wouldn’t it be totally awesome if I told you that not only can you have loads of fun during your gap year holiday, but it will also provide you with these 5 astonishing benefits that will augur really well for you in the long term.

1) You add serious value to your resume

The Holy Buddhist scriptures in front of a monk at Shey Palace, Ladakh

Surprised that a fun trip adds value to your resume? Well, when companies or HR agencies hire someone, they not only look at skills, but see if he or she is a well rounded personality who can adapt to the changing needs of the organization and who will add value to the company in the long term. And that’s why they like people who have undertaken gap year travel projects as these folks are flexible, adaptable, might dibble and dabble in more than a few languages, appreciate foreign cultures, think on their feet, are fearless, find it easy to break the ice, have decent international exposure, have good people skills and last, but not the least, know how to contribute to a cause. In simple words, such a person is a well rounded international personality with a flexible nature and an eager mind. And this something that companies love in their potential hires!

2) You lose your fear

The mighty strong canines of a Tadoba wild dog, India

When you are in the comfort of your family and home, all your needs are well taken care of. While, this is certainly good to have, it usually builds fear in the mind of the person especially about the unknown and what better unknown element than international destinations with different cultures, geography, demography, languages, food and so much more. During the course of your gap year, you start losing the fear about the unknown. It could be as simple as successfully exploring a country where you know absolutely nothing about or it could be attempting an activity that was set as a phobia in your mind or even as simple as traveling far and wide all on your own. Once you overcome this unknown, you become fiercely independent and fearless. And there is no doubting this feeling of elation. Once you taste this fearlessness, you will treasure it for your entire lifetime.

3) You learn to break the ice

All eyes on the phone - a sadhu baba and puppy moment, Orchha

This is one of the best perks of gap year holidays, but it usually slips under the radar. In spite of all the travel guides, travel apps and internet connectivity, you most certainly need to know how to start a conversation in a strange and foreign environment. We human beings are social creatures and are genetically programmed to communicate. This gene memory allows us to learn how to break the ice when pushed into an alien environment. After all, we need company irrespective of geography or demography. Gap year travel enables you to bring out this skill of yours. So, whether you are in Japan, Scandinavia, Africa or South America or any where in our vast planet, you will know how to break the ice, communicate and get your needs met.

4) You learn new languages and cultures

Inside a traditional Bedouin Tribal House at Wahiba Sands, Oman

Unlike a short holiday, where you are visiting a destination for a few days to a few weeks, in gap year trips, you certainly have the comfort of time. This time allows you to immerse yourself in your local environment. And that enables you to learn a new language or may be learn it enough to get your way around. You start understanding the local religion and cultures. And their history and current state of affairs. You could learn a dance form native to that country or learn how to cook a dish that you have taken a fancy to. Gap year travel accelerates your international learning like none other. To me, this is one of the inherent joys of long term travel.

5) You make diverse friends

2 Bhutanese boys and their colourful sunglasses

How many of us can claim to have a diverse group of international friends? Gap year travelers can certainly stake claim. That random stranger whom you learnt to trust, that random travel partner from an exotic country who shared your travel and life philosophies or that interesting connection you made in that new country, all these can be nurtured into long-standing friendships. And when they visit you at your home town or country or you meet again, that international friendship only blooms.

Young Monk looks skywards during Hemis Monastery Festival, Ladakh

I hope by now, you have enough incentive to plan your very own gap year holiday! As someone who has lived that life, I can certainly promise that it is one hell of a experience.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Mentioned in Live Mint on the Fruit and Vegetable Festivals of India

A farm of happiness - mentioned on Mint Travel Lounge

Yours truly was mentioned last Saturday on the Mint Travel Lounge supplement of the Hindustan Times Newspaper in an article called ‘A Farm of Happiness’.

We Indians love our festivals and we have so many of them. Yet, each one holds a special place in our hearts. This article on Mint Travel Lounge written by Deepika Gumaste talks about the traditional fruit and vegetable festivals of India, which are not only unique and colorful, but they find a way to appeal to our palates and that is what makes them so very special. From the Konkan fruit fest in April to the International Mango Festival in Delhi and from the Kadalekai Parishe festival in Bangalore to the tea festival of Assam in November, there are so many names that will boggle and amaze your mind. May be, the next time, you should time your holidays with these festivals so that you can experience these special fruit and vegetable festivals of India. A perfect recipe for healthy travel!

To know more, look up the Mint Travel Lounge Saturday edition (March 17, 2018) or simply click on this Live Mint e-Paper link.

A big round of applause for the writer Deepika Gumaste who has not only brought these amazing fruit and vegetable festivals to us, but also for thinking about boosting our agricultural economies, especially at the root levels and through fresh organic produce.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Handicrafts of Kutch: Great Travel Souvenirs and Retail Therapy

The colorful women of Gandhi nu Gram village, Kutch

The creative artisans of Kutch possess magic in their hands and oodles of imaginative power in their heads. Their work is reason enough to plan a trip to the white salty desert, which we all know as the Rann of Kutch. Not only do we get to enjoy some stunning creations of mother nature in Kutch, we also get to experience and appreciate the creativity of the people of this land. And the icing on the cake is that we can bring home these handicrafts either for ourselves, our family and friends or for somebody else as a unique and special gift. In essence, we get a great holiday, interact with some amazing people, indulge in retail therapy and bring something truly special back home. Sounds like a perfect holiday, right?

From scarves to stoles to wall hangings, Rogan art make for great gifts

If you are one of those who like cultural or handicraft holidays, love retail therapy and one of those who pick up souvenirs from your travels, the below photo story is just for you as it gives you a sneak peek into the colorful and diverse handicrafts of Gujarat’s Kutch district. You can experience this cultural side of Incredible India, bring it to your home and in the process, help these artisan villages of Kutch keep their skills alive.

Rogan Art

The stunning tree of life Rogan Art that can be seen in the White House

A 400 year old traditional oil painting influenced by Persian art, the Rogan art is made by only one family in the entire world. This skill passed down the family for close to eight generations is so special that one of their creations can be seen hanging in the white house. This work made from castor oil and natural colors takes different forms. It could be either a decorative wall hanging or a fashion accessory such as a scraf, shawl or stole. This Khatri family can be found in the Nirona village of Kutch.

Copper Bells, Wind Chimes and more

The hand made bells of Nirona, Kutch, Gujarat, India

They turn scrap metal into melodious musical instruments. The Hussain family of Nirona village make handmade copper bells and musical instruments that are not only fantastic handicrafts in itself, but will help with vaastu planning for your home. A fabulous experience to see and an even better handicraft to treasure.

Toys

A Nirona kid and her colorful puppet dolls, Kutch, Gujarat, India

The artisans of Kutch make very colorful toys and puppets using cotton, wood, beads and/or wool. These vibrant toys make for great gifts for the young ones.

Applique Work

The man from Bhirandiyara and his handicraft collection

Bedsheets, Bedspreads, table cloths, wall hangings, blankets, quilts, and many other household decorative items are made by the Kutchi artisans using applique patches of different colors, shapes and sizes. These products with beautiful designs are another avenue for interesting retail therapy.

Leather Goods

Applique and more designs at Bhirandiyara village, Kutch

While a lot of the handicrafts are made by the women of Kutch, the leather handicrafts are usually made by the men. Made from camel, lamb or goat leather, the male artisans of Bhirandiyara village specialize in making footwear, belts, hand bags, wallets, purses and more. The men create the main leather product, while the women of their family add designs and colors to these leather goods to make it an awesome buy.

Jewellery

Jewelry handmade by the women of Bhirandiyara, Kutch

Traditional designs, bangles, necklaces, ear rings, nose rings, bracelets, anklets and so many more items of jewellery are created by the artisans of Kutch. The designs are so intricate and gorgeous that women would want to buy almost everything.

Wall Hangings

Colors, mirrors, rich weaves and more - the handicrafts of Bhirandiyara, Kutch, Gujarat, India

An eye catching handicraft that is bound to add a lot of color to your living and bed room, the wall hangings of Bhirandiyara village are an absolute treat to the eye. Rich colors, stunning designs, beads, mirror work, colorful stones, amazing thread work and beautiful patterns make these wall hangings a total stunner. The good ones are pretty expensive, but they are certainly worth the price.

Wood Carvings

The famous wood work of Gandhi nu Gram, Kutch

In the Gandhinugram village of Kutch, the men do beautiful wood carvings. Trays, decorative elements, show case items and pillars are some of the items that they make. While the chemical varnish tarnishes their look, I would certainly recommend buying the wood in its natural form.

Lacquerware Kitchenware

Pakistani art form lives in Nirona, Kutch - handmade lacquerware

Quite similar to the toy artisans of Channapatna in Karnataka, there is a family in the Nirona village that makes beautiful lacquerware by hand. Their women make the raw materials – they collect the gum resin from the bark of the babool tree in the forest, heat it to make laak, the critical raw ingredient and then add natural colors to make the base. Then men then use this different colored gum resin on neem, teak or silver oak wood using a hand run tool to create colorful designs of kitchenware. They make wine glasses, beer mugs, spoons, spatulas, bowls, belan (roller to make rotis) and more.

Shawls

Lakshmi Bain - the master weaver from Nirona, Kutch, Gujarat

Using traditional looms and local designs, the artisans of Kutch create vibrant shawls, towels and scarves that are so good that you are bound to buy some for yourself. They come in many sizes and are usually made using cotton, silk or wool.

Pottery Work

Pottery Tortoises created by the artisans of Kutch

Kutch is also known for its pottery and clay work. Paper weights, lamps, pots, bowls and more are on offer. Or you could give in your own designs and ask the pottery artisan to make it for you.

Glass Work

Colorful Kutchi Glass work showcased at Rann Utsav Tent City

Last, but not the least is the mirror and glass work of Kutch wherein, the artisans stick glass pieces, mirrors and colorful stones on wooden boards or card boards to depict images from mother nature (leaves, plants, birds, animals), traditional art designs or pictures of popular monuments such as the Taj Mahal or life forms.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Family Schooled Sound Engineers of Kutch: Turning Scrap Metal into Musical Instruments

Scrap metal turned into amazing bells at Nirona, Kutch

Recycling is the need of the hour and is possibly the best gift that we can give back to our planet. Recycling gets even more interesting when something amazing comes out of waste. If melody comes out of it, then I would term it extraordinary. And if it is one of Incredible India’s unique skillsets that turns waste into melody, then it gets catapulted to unbelievable category.

Portrait of Nirona's Acoustical Engineer

Such an unbelievable art form is what a small family in Gujarat’s Nirona village has developed, harnessed and honed for the past eight generations. Another one of our country’s amazing hidden handicraft gems, this has been going on for the past 400 years and is deeply entrenched in the gene pool of the Husen (Hussain) family. They are ironsmiths and sound engineers. They make musical instruments such as Saregama, Morechang, Love Zummers, Zummers, wind chimes and others along with copper bells all by hand and without any schooling on acoustics or sound.

Hussain Family and their musical bell creations

This Husen (Hussain) family from Nirona are who I call the family schooled sound engineers of Kutch or if I were to be more filmy, I would say that they have music in their blood. They buy scrap iron metal from waste yards, beat them into shapes that they have imagined and then painstakingly beat the newly shaped metal at different places and with different intensities till it emits or resonates the sounds that they are looking for. This art of creating sound from metal is something that has been passed down in their family for generations and then the new generation sometimes do their own improvisations. In essence, their humble workshop on the main bazaar of Nirona village looks and sounds something like a sound or acoustics lab. To see this in a tiny village of Kutch is truly mind blowing and is one of the best perks of off beat travel in rural India.

The hand made bells of Nirona, Kutch, Gujarat, India

Here is a 10 step process of how the Husen family turns scrap metal into musical instruments and copper bells:




1) Buy scrap metal from the waste industry

2) Decide on design of product (as in which musical instrument, bell, shape, etc.)



3) Using a hammer, forceps, vice and other tools, bend the scrap metal into the desired shape

4) Make a mixture of metals and alloys (Copper, Zinc, Brass, etc)



5) Plaster this metal powder mix on to the scrap metal

6) Get the fire in the kiln going



7) Once they plastering on the scrap product has dried out, place it in the mud kiln so that the metal powder mix melts and sticks to the scrap iron

8) Let it air cool and then wash it with water. What now remains is a shiny metallic work product



9) Now, using different hammers, they beat this shiny metal product at different places and with different intensities till it emits and/or resonates the desired sound

10) The finishing touches are given and the product is ready to be used and/or sold



While most of the above work is done by the men, the women help with making the metal mixture, plastering and putting it in the mud kiln.

The sound engineer of Kutch, Gujarat, India

When you see the extremely humble and ever smiling family members of the Hussain family, their simple workshop that displays all the tools, bells and musical instruments and them going about their business with sheer genetic skill and with their hands, it is pretty difficult to fathom that these people are actually acoustical engineers, but without any formal degrees. They have no air about them and that quality is loved by all.

The head of the Hussain family - the family who has acoustics in their genes

This is one family that you should visit if you happen to go on a rural holiday to Kutch or if you are covering a trail on the different handicrafts of Kutch. And more so if you happen to love good acoustics and music. This amazing family, their workshop and their handicraft making skills are a total treat to the eyes, ears and senses. I would definitely recommend this place to all kinds of travelers. And if you happen to reach there, do make sure you bring back home some of their hand made acoustics.

The Hussain Family that creates musical melodies from scrap metal

Contact Details


To reach the Hussain family or to find their Copper Bell Art sound workshop, you can either call them at +91 94277 66528 (Luhar Salim Husen), +91 94264 67925 (Luhar Umar Husen), +91 95580 69627 (Luhar Faruk) or email Luhar Faruk at farukluhar5135@gmail.com.

How to Reach Nirona Village

The budding generation of acoustic engineers from the Hussain family of Nirona, Kutch, India

The nearest airport and railway station is Bhuj. From Bhuj, you can hire a taxi to cover the 60 kms distance to Nirona village. The drive usually takes 60 to 75 minutes.

Where to stay in Nirona Village

Stay with the locals in their homes to get the most out of the rural experience.

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Copyright © 2009-2018 Sankara Subramanian C (www.beontheroad.com)
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