Sunday, 25 September 2011

Travelling light

Way back in 2000, when Prasad Phanasgaokar visited the Elvis Presley’s Graceland  Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee in USA he was taken aback. He saw a spectacular display of Elvis’s cars and custom jets. Presley’s Pink Cadillac and Harley Davidson bikes left Prasad speechless. A wheelchair accessible bus installed with a hydraulic passenger lift took him comfortably inside the mansion. That is where an idea struck him. What do you think was the idea? “ I dreamt of having  a wheelchair accessible car in my city- Mumbai,” says this thirty five year old Goregoan resident who is stricken by muscular dystrophy. He is dependent on a battery operated wheel chair for all his mobility. Today, with a successful car rental business Prasad Phanasgaokar has come a long way. This avid traveller with a diploma in mechanical draughtsman made his dream come true. He modified a Tata Winger to make it wheelchair accessible! Not only did he meet his need for travel but he has also fulfilled the dreams of several physically challenged people in and across various cities in India!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Dive To Corals And Reefs

More than a decade ago when Anees Adenwala was teaching veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah to scuba dive in Lacadives ( Prahlad Kakkar’s island at Lakshadweep) every dive he did,  he was diving with his hands opened out. Seeing his hands in this peculiar position, surprised Adenwala.  Normally, the diving posture is that you fold your arms, you don’t touch anything and you stay away from coral. So what do you think was Shah so enamoured about?  The beautiful corals, the exotic fishes, the sea anemones and  the wide array of colours under the sea left him speechless and spellbound. “ No human can gauge  the plethora of this  incredible display of life under the sea,” he said.  Until a few years ago scuba diving courses were offered at several establishments outside India.  However, thanks to Adenwala who has brought this interesting sport closer to the heart of Mumbai. He formed a company named Orca Dive Club in 2008. “ It’s a pleasure to watch the expression on people’s faces once they have experienced the underwater world,” says Adenwala who has  been teaching this sport with great passion since fifteen years.

Bandra makes me feel younger

The life of a COO is interesting as well as challenging and that’s how living in Bandra has been for Gautam Gulati, COO of Kiah Diamonds. In the Australian aborigin culture Kiah means “from a beautiful place’’. The beauty and spirit of Bandra has created a deep impact on Gulati who has been a resident of Bandra for over thirty years. “ Bandra is very youthful,’’ says Gulati who strongly feels that the people of this suburb redefine the whole concept of youthfulness that not only enhances the spirit of Bandra but also empowers it. Even though the suburb has witnessed several infrastructural changes over the years, life in Bandra every hour is still the same reminences Gulati. “The famous bandstand is still a walker’s delight except that it is now called the Bandstand promenade,’’ says Gulati. However, he misses the famous five star hotel ‘Searock’ for its revolving restaurant which was very popular way back then.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Being Bigger Than Life

If you were to visit the Carter road promenade at 5pm on a Saturday evening, you can hear several children reeling with laughter and exchanging high fives. They are happy because Avideep Gaikwad fondly called Avi Bhaiya, plays the guitar and conducts craft and sports activities with them. This HR professional working with Avintz Consulting is using his skills to fulfill the goals of several underprivileged children across Mumbai. "I want to showcase their talent to the world," says the multi faceted professional. His adventurous persona combined with his flair for music drove him to take an initiative which is so close to his heart. Spearheading a project called Bigger Than Life, he, along with a few committed volunteers are making a difference, transforming the lives of many.

This project began in March 2011 when on a Sunday evening Avi saw a few underprivileged children at the Carter Road promenade being taken care of by foreigners. This incident inspired him to take up ownership towards such children, and he along with a few volunteer friends began conducting diverse activities like singing, dancing, crafts and sports thus exploring the talents of the children residing near the Danda slum. He envisions building a community centre for these talented children. He is in the process of tying up with several NGO's to facilitate resources for them. Recently, six girls have received admission in St.Joseph’s School in Bandra.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Gem of a Ganesha

Dazzling Ganesha at Versova Breeze Society

If you happen to visit the Versova Breeze Co-operative society Ganpati, you will be instantly transported to a diamond mine in South Africa!  As soon as you draw yourself closer to the bejewelled idol which is in the innermost part of the “cave mine” there is a motion sensor which detects your presence and you can see a  illuminated, dazzling and  beautiful  Dagdu Seth Ganesha in all its splendor! 
So how do you think these residents created the dazzling display?

Here’s how:
1. As soon as you enter the society, all you can see is a black curtain. You lift the curtain to enter a cave( space of two garages) which is created using thick cotton canvas cloth. Plaster of Paris mixed with dark grey colour is used to produce the stone wall  effect. One half of the garage is covered with red soil to give an appearance of a mountain. Ripples and deformations are given to this canvas cloth and  zari is sprinkled all over the cave which lends an added sparkle! 

2. The beautiful Ganesha is elevated two and half feet above the ground and an artificial false floor is created using plywood. Several small holes are drilled within the plywood and LED lights are fitted inside these holes.

3. What draws your attention is that the four and half feet Ganesha idol stands amidst  several plastic and glass cut crystals in various hues which are spread on the artificial floor covering the LED lights. A cluster of stones embedded on the walls of the cave enhances the attractive display. The Dagdu Seth Ganesha which is usually available in a neutral colour with gold ornaments was painted in a dark grey colour.   “ We gave the American diamonds to the artisan to be encrusted within the gold ornaments,”  says businessman Prashant Hebbar whose active and keen participation has been an asset to the society since several years.
The result has been dazzling, literally!

Past Glory

This closely-knit society is very popular for its theme based ganpatis since 1987. Several brainstorming sessions amongst the society members resulted in the idea of having a traditional theme this year. The previous years saw the formation of several themes like Avatar, Bhishma and Arjun, Samundra Manthan, Elephanta Caves and Our Solar system to name a few.  “The idea is to educate the young and spread awareness,” says businessman Alok Shetty who has been involved right from its inception. Hebbar and Shetty are the ones who are ever ready to delve into their pockets  whenever there is a shortage of funds for the celebration. Our Ganesh Utsav  instills great camaraderie and felicitates great bonding amongst everyone,” adds chemical engineer Ashish Patel. I T professional Haresh Awatramani who has been instrumental in contributing towards the idol since three years has shifted into the society just a  few years ago. What made you contribute for the society?  ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’ was his spontaneous reply.

To add to the glamour and glitz, programmes like magic shows for children, tattoo artists, stage performances and musical chairs contribute to the thrill and excitement of the Ganesh Utsav in the society. The dazzling  Ganesha was finally taken out  in a grand procession  to culminate the five day Ganesha festival. During the procession you could see them dancing and celebrating wearing Anna caps! So this was the grand celeberation of the Breeze society this year. Wonder what their theme will be to celebrate twenty five glorius years in 2012. Lets wait and watch.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Heard of community radio?

West Mumbai has the only two community radio stations that operate in the city.

Residents of Union Park, Khar, were pleasantly surprised recently when they tuned into their local community radio station Jago Mumbai. On air was Bollywood biggie Aamir Khan, who had come to lend support and his voice, literally, to the nascent community radio movement in the city. “The charm of community radio lies in the voice it gives the locals and the insight it provides into their lives. I would love to hear the kind of music they make,” he says. He had in fact, supported the cause in the initial stages when Navin Chandra, president of the Union Park Residents Association, went about setting up the radio station. 
Another personality who helped Chandra and his colleagues was local MP Priya Dutt, who feels “community radio is a great way to bridge the divide between the people and the elected representatives”. (see interview)
Aamir Khan at Jago Mumbai

 So, if you are a Khar resident, try tuning into 90.8FM. You would probably hear “Mutki” speaking in a squeaky voice. Mutki is RJ Madhu Raja, an effervescent senior citizen narrating children stories in a programme called ‘Choco Bangla’ which is aired on Jago Mumbai. This is one of the many other programmes aimed towards building community. “I feel empowered,” she says when she got this platform to express herself creatively. Live Alive 'is a programme aired on Jago Mumbai by Parinaz Mubaraki who is visually impaired. She says, 'I am living my dream of becoming a radio jockey,".  Jago Mumbai provides a mechanism for facilitating several people to share their experiences and learn new skill sets. Since its inception in May 2010, this radio station, which operates in a radius of about seven kilometres, has come a long way in delivering real and relevant programming. Says Nitin Makasare, programming head at the station, “The idea is to ensure that whatever you hear adds value to your life.”