Every time I come to Chennai, I leave having met and known more people than I did the previous time. The city feels smaller every time as I get to meet so many new people. Chennaiites are far more welcoming, than most people in other cities I have been to. As an artiste, I feel it’s great to have an audience that will listen to you till the end and that’s more than anything an artiste can ask for,“ begins Delhi-based Dhruv Visvanath, multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer-songwriter and the only Indian to be mentioned in a US magazine’s `30 Great Guitarists Under 30′. He recently performed in the city as a part of his all-India crowdfunding campaign launch for his forthcoming album that he plans to release in the first quarter of next year, The Lost Cause. We stopped by during his practice session and an excited Dhruv told us, “This is my second performance in Chennai and this is the city where I have had the best ice cream in the country .“
In 2015, Dhruv signed on Vishal Dadlani’s record label, and shortly thereafter, he released his debut album Orion that got critical acclaim.

Dhruv is a soloist and he says, “People like me do not need a team to release an album, but they do only to record it. One just needs a little bit of idea about composing, lyrics, etc.“

MY LYRICS ARE STORY OF MY LIFE14_10_2017_118_034_008.jpg

“We musicians work differently and we are all unique in our own ways. I have been making music alone for a very long time and I find a lot of joy in doing that. Every time I write a new song, it just becomes slightly better than what I wrote before. I am not much of a writer, but I really enjoy writing lyrical tales about my childhood and the darkest experiences of my life. Writing lyrics makes me feel closer to the songs, where I can express the emotions that I already went through back then: and I relive that moment all over again. So, it feels very holistic. I would love and I do try to perform on stage what I compose just the way I record it. I want the audience to also get the emotion behind each song that I have composed and sung. Every time I get that `perfect composition’, I have this stupid grin on my face like the one we have looking at our crush.“


He says, “I think I am lucky and am very grateful for the chance I have got. The right platform is always there for the talented. If that were not so, how would I have ever been discovered? I was lucky enough that my music found its way to somebody’s ears.“


Indian music industry is not very competitive, but it’s very collaborative and I also think there are far better guitarists in the country, who are more talented than I am, and younger, too. There is no sense of competition. We only need to look out for each other and I think that’s a very important thing.”

Dhruv also lets it drop that he is open to working in the film industry. He says, “Film music is a different ball game altogether, and it comes with a different set of ethics and codes. However, I would really love to be a part of the industry and I am hoping that opportunity comes knocking soon. Working in films will change my outlook and the way I make music at the moment and I really wish that would happen soon.”

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Pandals, Idols, Bhog And That Pujo Feeling

Every year, in the balmy month of July, three artisans from Bengal pack their bags and head towards ‘Madras’. They do not come alone with their bags and belongings; they also carry clay from the banks of the Ganges, considered the most essential ingredient in sculpting the Durga idols. It’s been 23 years since Jiban Pal from Baidyabati, Hooghly district,West Bengal has been coming to Chennai.The first time he came here, there were only two pujas organised in Chennai.What’s new this year? “For the first time we have got an order from Kochi, Kerala. The idol is being made,” he smiles, while he ties a

bunch of hay and straw together to mould a basic shape for the idols.There are nine
orders for Durga idols, for the ones to be held in T Nagar, Anna Nagar, Korattur,

Besant Nagar, Madras Kali Bari and the Bihar Association…and now, there’s this
order from Kochi. One set of idol,that includes Durga, Saraswati, Ganesh, Lakshmi
and Vishwakarma, takes a week’s time to sculpt. “We come in July, and it takes us three
months to finish our jobs here. By the time we return home to our families, the pujo will be over.We do miss our family during this time of the year,but it is okay, nothing feels greater than seeing the excitement in the eyes of our children when we reach home,” he shares, washing his hands clean of clay and soil.IMG_20170827_171817_462.jpg

For 20-year-old Nilaoy Pal, it is his first time in Chennai. He is here to contribute his artistic skills to crafting the idols.Previously he used to go to Chhattisgarh.

They have brought 50 sacks, each loaded with 40kg of clay, from the bank of Ganges,along with clothes and decoration materials from Kolkata. “It’s difficult to find the same kind of material and designs in Chennai,” says Amit Kumar Pal, another

artiste who has been coming to the city for the past three years. He adds, “The hay and straw that we find in Chennai is different from the ones that we use to make the idols.We have to put extra effort because these are not long enough.As we don’t get fine bamboo sticks to shape and support the idols, we have to use sticks obtained from local trees.So, the finishing won’t be as great as the ones in Bengal.” Apart from idols of Durga, these artisans are also busy crafting 22 idols for Vishwakarma Puja, which falls on September 17. The Bengal Association in T Nagar is celebrating its 84th year of Durga Puja and has planned a series of events to mark the festival. “There are three parts to our celebration
— Durga Pujo, bhog and cultural programmes. The main celebration starts from September 25 and will go on till September 30.Away from home,organising this mega festival every year requires a lot of preparation.We make sure we follow and perform all the rituals exactly like it is done back home in Bengal,”shares Moloy Kumar Roy, secretary of the association.IMG_20170827_173508_935.jpg

“The members of the association will be staging Dampati, written by popular Bengali theatre, film and television artiste Manoj Mitra. Women will be participating in a ramp walk contest, the theme of which is ‘Mothers of India’.They will be walking down the ramp in regional costumes, and also present a folk dance performance,” informs Suramya Dasgupta,executive member of the association and director of the play.IMG_20170827_173711_787.jpg

A musical programme by reality show winners Debjani and Nirjhar will be one of the highlights of the celebrations. Madambakkam Kali Temple Association has also been celebrating Durga Puja for over two decades now. Uttam Kumar Malakar, coordinator of the association’s puja committee, says, “A cook and dhaki (traditional drummer) from Kolkata come here every year to help us organise the puja. We bring the idol from Guindy, where a group of artisans from Bengal come every year during this season to craft them.They rent a space in a primary school and make not just the Durga idol, but also idols for Saraswati Puja, Kali Puja and Lakhi Puja.”

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Finding love is just a swipe away, but are you ready to take the risk?

When 20-something Aradhana (name changed) moved to Chennai, she was quite excited about her dream job and the independence to live her life the way she always wanted to.

P.C.- cdn.skim.gs 

The only thing she was missing in her life was a good friend. She then happened to browse through a website that promised to help her make new friends in the city.
“In the process of finding a friend, I found a date for myself. It all started with nice, warm text messages — the guy seemed to be a great person on the virtual dating platform, but when I met him in person, his personality didn’t match the text messages he used to send. From my end, it was just a genuine friendship. I had not hidden anything from him, but he hid everything from me — his family background, religion and even his work. I came to know the reality only after getting married to him. It all happened so fast. Within six months of knowing each other,we decided to marry against the will of my parents, and it didn’t last more than four months,” recalls the 37-year-old woman. Aradhana found herself in a complete mess — she was beaten until she bled, and was mentally and physically abused every moment by her husband. She says, “He lost his job three months after the marriage and was also an alcoholic. His parents used to send pastors to pray for me. He used to come to my workplace, and that made my living in the city impossible. I wish I had never gone to that dating website.” dating-apps.jpg

However, today, she is happily married with a five-year-old son. She adds, “The irony is, I

met my present husband on a digital platform as well. It wasn’t easy to go about it initially.We both met on a trekking club’s Facebook page. My parents were sceptical about the match because I found love again on a digital platform. It took us a year time to convince my parents, who were more terrified than me to agree to this marriage. But I am glad that I took that leap of faith.”


P.C.- connectingsingles.com

In a generation, where people want everything to be available at just the swipe of their finger, there are several dating sites and handy mobile phone apps available in the play store. When 26-year-old Vanita (name changed) saw that most of her friends were either getting married or having babies, she decided it was time she at least found herself a date. She downloaded a dating app, but faked her personal details. “I set my location as
London instead of Chennai. I came across a lot of spammers, creeps and online abusers, but I did meet a likeminded person. I received a chat request from a 20-year-old based in Manchester, England. We became really close while chatting, but I came to know later that he is a Pakistani, born and brought up in UK.”

Abishek Muthian, an expert in developing artificial intelligence, has recently launched ‘FindDate’, a chat app network dating platform. “People have no time; they want everything to be sorted out as quickly as possible. Within two months of its launch, there are nearly 50,000 users in our chat app. Majority of them fall in 25-34 years of age and 51 per cent of them are women. The major demographies include India sub-continent,
South East Asian countries and the US,” he says, adding, “The dating platform that I’ve developed works inside existing chat apps like Facebook Messenger, Viber, LINE and Telegram, and doesn’t require any download or registration. Users don’t have to disclose
origin, gender, race or age; they are free to choose their match within those parameters if they like. All that is required to date is the user’s profile picture. A user can message another user only when they ‘like’ the former’s display picture. No user can spam another user even if they have ‘liked’ each other. If the user is inactive for more than 24
hours, the profile is made inactive automatically and the user is not shown to other users.”
However, 26-year-old Mohammed Hafiz, who works in the education sector, says that the idea of downloading dating apps or registering on any such website terrifies him. “I met my first love on a dating site. She was 18 then and studying in a college.We chatted for
eight months before we decided to meet each other. We had shared a lot of details about each other. So when we met, it was like we had known each other for a very long time. I met her mother, who approved of our relationship, but his brother refused to accept us. We were together for three years but had to separate as no one was happy. I’ve been wary of finding love on online platforms because I think that if I had met her first instead of falling in love in the virtual world, we would have probably made a wiser decision right in the beginning of our relationship,” he concludes.

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Singled out: No house for single women in city

Are you a single woman looking for a decent accommodation in Chennai? You’d have a fair shot at it if you stop socialising, stem your craving for chicken 65, and ditch that egg sandwich, say single women on the lookout for a house for rent in Chennai…


P.C.- @emilyanngemma 
An overheard conversation at a tea stall (a guy to the lady with him):“Why don’t you get married, that way you don’t have the hassle of doing things alone, and it has a bigger advantage, you can easily rent any flat of your choice.” This got us thinking, how many single women move into Chennai for various reasons, and how many still haven’t found a home to stay? And, how many women have to compromise on their lifestyle to make
themselves ‘fit’ into severely straitlaced social mores? “It’s been a month and I have just received my first salary, but I have moved house thrice. I have faced several rejections from the landlords — my crime is my gender! When a man of my age can afford the
place of his choice, why is it so hard for me to find one? I have many house-hunting tales, sad and depressing as well as funny ones. I have even been shown a workspace with sparkly green shutters, no window but a partitioned bathroom inside with zero ventilation and the landlord called it a one BHK for a rent of `10,000. When I was refused accommodation in many gated communities, which was my first preference, I had no choice but to check out everything I came across online. My phone never had so many real estate apps downloaded in the past,” says Poorna, who has just moved into
the city from Coimbatore. Finding a place to live in Chennai is one of the toughest tasks they’ve ever had to face, say these women. “The questions from the landlords go like, ‘Are you married?’, ‘How old are you?’,‘Why are you not married yet?’, ‘Do you have
‘boyfriends’?’… and then, ‘We can give it to a single man, but not a woman.’, ‘We only give our property to family, sorry!’, ‘ Are you vegetarian?’, ‘You can’t have friends, no one can sleepover, you can’t have guests’. ‘We are from aristocratic family, are you a Hindu
if not Brahmin?’…Twenty-seven-year-old Mano Bharathi, working in an IT firm, has been hunting for a good house since 2011. When the Salem girl moved here, she had to opt for an ill-equipped hostel with no safety and hygiene as it was closer to her workplace. “It was a women’s hostel which my uncle found for me. He couldn’t check it since men are
not allowed inside.When I entered, it was very dirty, lacking in basic amenities, and food wasn’t cleaned and cooked well. Timing was an issue so, I slowly started to search for a one BHK for myself. Dealing with brokers was also a big headache as they just want you to accept any home, without waiting to understand what exactly one is looking for. I ended up living in a 12 sqft room in Tambaram with a kitchen and attached bathroom.
One night, it was raining heavily, and I was asleep,when suddenly, I could feel my entire body going cold. I was sleeping on my mattress on the floor and it was all wet because
the rain water had entered the room. It was the middle of the night, and I was terrified. But when complained to the landlord, he refused to fix it,” recalls Bharathi,who, since
she had zilch choice, ended up living there for four years. But her search continued and “I ended up in a one BHK again. It was an apartment. Initially, I felt safe, but later, there were incidents of men entering the apartment without permission, drinking and smoking up, and there were even incidents of men climbing up the walls and roaming on the terrace,” she says. She had to leave that place and has now taken the risk of living in a congested lane in Triplicane. “For the past two-and-a-half years, I have been parking
my two-wheeler on the street. My search to find a safe and comfortable home in Madras is still on,” shares Bharathi. So, why do landlords refuse to offer their property to a single woman? “The first reason is there will be boyfriends coming over, they will drop them home, then slowly they will start entering the house, then they will start living in together, next, there will be a lot of friends coming over. They will all drink, smoke and create a ruckus in the society — it doesn’t look nice as we, too, have children, and what
would be the impression they will get? There have also been incidents of girls becoming
drug addicts, and committing suicide in the past.We don’t need such tensions, so we refuse to let our property out to any single woman,” says Saravanan Panchatcharan, a real estate broker also a property owner. Terms and conditions are not just for women from outside Chennai, it remains equally strict for the local single working women here.
Twenty-eight-year-old Suhasini Udayakumar, who studies arts at Kalakshetra Foundation, had a tough time when she came back from USA and had to look for a home. “After coming back to Chennai, I decided to live independently and I moved out from Anna Nagar,where I was living with my parents. Landlords had a lot of questions for me, it was a culture shock for them to find a single woman in her late 20s living alone. I had managed to find a 2BHK on a sharing basis with a girl from Bengaluru. We had friends of
both genders coming over, and we were asked to vacate the place. This was in Anna
Nagar. Now I am living in a one BHK, alone, but this time I have not compromised on
my lifestyle; let’s see how long it is peaceful here,” shares Suhasini.

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To the restless mind

To the restless mind,

Why do you keep wandering?

Why do you keep worrying?

Active, busy, hustle mind,

Be for you just a little kind!

You feel sad for losing so much,

You feel nothing for not feeling anything as such.

Bring some therapy to you,

Add some peace in you.

Like they say, just take a deep breathe,

And while you breathe out all your worries, be gentle.

Life comes just like the mega Indian thali,

It has different taste in every region of the country.

Food has different colours too,

And every dish do not taste the same, so shoo!

Sometimes it is hot,

Sometimes it not!

And there is a variety in sweets as well,

A rasmalai is not as same as sandwich malai.

So when the life is hot, spicy with a tint of sweetness,

Why not you learn to adapt and live with generousness?

Be calm, be compact,

Stop complaining that you don’t have that.

So, dear restless mind,

Get some peace in the warm blanket that’s in your favourite red.

Be happy, keep some peace,

That’s the only way you can enjoy the sweets.

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Don’t fly away

Already it is July,

The wind is blowing too strong to fly.

Don’t you think of leaving now!

Come home, to my warm home,

You can settle or wander on my shoes or wall,

We will watch rainbow from my window.

I’ll not let anything hurt your soft wings,

Daddy will get fresh nectar for you.

Dear Butterfly, 

Don’t fly away! 

Some days I doodle and get into the shoes of a six-year old who thinks simple with no twisted rhyming words in the end of every sentence. 
I have faded memories from my childhood when I used to chase butterflies for hours in the playground. I always wished if they could live with me in our home, sit next to me, watch me read books and sing a song.

After several unsuccessful attempts to get a butterfly, the wild child got an evil idea of capturing them inside glass bottles. And I did. I captured one and brought it home. I was so excited, feeling top of the world.

“Maa, maa…maa… See what I have got inside this jar!” 

She wasn’t as excited as I was. I was expecting a bravery pat on my back. But, I got frown brows followed by, “Come with me! You see this water tank your father got yesterday to install on the rooftop? You go, get inside and let me lock you from outside.”

“No, are you crazy? Why would you do that to your own child? It will be so dark inside and if you lock me, I will find it difficult to breathe air. I will probably die. No, I’m not obeying you, Maa.”

“If you feel so, how can you close this little beautiful butterfly inside this jar? What kind of monster does that? Let it be in the garden where it belongs, where it is happy. Why are you separating this little thing from its family? How would you feel if someone does that to you?” 

Mother’s words hit me inside. I cried for hurting the butterfly. I ran and ran long to the garden and let it fly away. 

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Don’t bottle your emotions up

Life is a box of chocolates. Sometimes it brings sugary sweetness and sometimes bitter, in the raw form of cocoa. 

Life takes different turns. Those turns and curves turnout to be the important turnovers of our lives. They form the foundation of major decision we take every day. Sometimes I worry too much about the ‘what if’ situation and over think what I do. But, most of the days I let go of those pointless ‘what if’ thoughts and talk to myself, “Listen! Being right or wrong doesn’t really matter. So, just chill and be happy! Do and say everything you think you cannot say nor do it. Just let it out.” 

It is easy for us to bottle our emotions up and hide it from the world. Years pass by and we earn the degree with a specialisation in the area of ‘Pretention’. But, the real degree would be the ‘Real Courage’ of letting things out of the bottle. 

Let yourself be expressed in however way you find it is possible. Choose your medium; it could be art or writing. It is the best way you can get someone to understand you.

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