A photo taken of the murti of Lord Ganesh at the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav Mandal festival located in Love Lane, Mazgaon, Mumbai. Devotees of God as Ganesh are getting ready for the 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival which commences on the 24th August 2017.
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It is with heavy heart and deep sadness that we mourn the passing away of Ajay Mody, also known as Ajaytao, blogger of “Ajaytao2010” and the “Ajaytao Botanical Photography” blogs. He left this world on the 10th August 2014 after a short illness at his home in Mumbai, India.
Ajay was an incredible blogger, a great friend and a proud Mumbaikar. I was humbled, yet reassured, by his kind and spiritual take on life. His imagery was moving and beautiful. He loved nature, loved children and loved life. He has been a great blogger and a firmly loyal friend to many of us.
United by a common knowledge of Gujarati language and our love for blogging, I first encountered Ajay in April 2013 after I stumbled across his blog, possibly after he had visited one of my articles and liked them. The simple imagery of flowers, exotic birds and the kindly smile of a young neighbour on her favourite tricycle that was the highlight of Ajaytao 2010 in those early days of our friendship soon warmed my heart to what I appreciated as a kind and gentle soul. I related to Ajay as a fellow introvert and a keen photographer, and soon developed a respect for him as an elder brother. It was no surprise that I took to calling him “Ajaybhai” – literally “Brother Ajay”. In our first conversation, responding to comments left by him on my blog’s information page, he complimented my rather derisory attempt at speaking Gujarati, and always addressed me too as his brother and friend.
Apart from his sheer talent as a blogger, Ajay also struck me with his generosity and support for the Half-Eaten Mind as we marked our second year of operations. He often sent various blogging awards my way, and indeed probably a third of the awards we picked up were thanks to my new and illustrious elder brother in the blogosphere. His comments were sweet and reassuring, but he did not hold back from telling me I made a mistake if I did. But this was rare, and never in a harsh voice, but merely to guide and notify. I looked up to him, the way he blended powerful imagery with quotes from the famous and the historical, and was slightly jealous, in an admirable way, of the many hundreds of followers he had acquired. Ajay was someone I looked up to and aspired to be like.
Ajay made many friends and supporters during his few years blogging. He was probably one of the most enthusiastic and patient bloggers I have met in my more than two years at WordPress. Yet he was never an overly proud man. Obviously brimming with a talent and wit that was apparent as soon as you visited his site, Ajay always expressed himself boldly but in another way, was quite understating in the skills and mastery of language and visual that he had. Many of his images were profound and detailed, yet were calming. Glimpses into the beauty of nature. Ajay must have made quite an impact on behalf of the world battle to safeguard the environment beyond his laptop and camera.
The last time I wrote to Ajay was a day before his passing, when he posted an article on his worsening health. I knew that Ajay was advanced in his years and had a heavy blogging schedule, yet always kept things going on Ajaytao2010. Only a few weeks previously, he had started two more blogs and was branching out into one of them, which was a homage, an online gallery of his invitingly vivid photography of plants. Botany was one of Ajay’s pet loves, and one which he could happily wipe Magnus Magnusson over the studio floor with had he ever appeared on Mastermind. Unfortunately old age did take its toll on my good friend and he was confined to home due to a cardiac issue. Though his heart troubled him, he made happiness blossom in all our hearts. His dedication to blogging was so strong, that even though the doctor handling his condition advised him against using the computer, Ajaybhai still wanted to give it his all to the thousands of fellow bloggers lovingly following his every post. I told Ajay, in that friendly jokey joshing way that we Mauritians always do, that his doctor must have surely made a mistake and that he should get a second opinion. I wished him a speedy recovery and glowing health…as you do.
I am still reeling from the shock as I type this. I am tearing up but trying to keep a brave face. I was not even aware of Ajay’s departure from this world until I visited another blogging friend, Serena, and saw on her site her own dedication to this shining bright light of the blogging world.
I can understand that he passed away from a heart attack brought on by the protracted illness on that Sunday morning with his friends and brother passing on the sad news to those who had called Ajay’s home in Mumbai to check up on him.
Dearest Ajaybhai. Thank you for supporting me and inspiring me to reach new heights and for your steadfast support for my little east London blog. Your kindness and motivation, direct or indirect, was one of the reasons that I knew blogging would always be a part of my life. You were always a bright star illuminating the community and though the light here on earth has been extinguished, I know that now you are brightening up the heavens. May God/Bhagavan give you eternal Moksha and liberate your soul from all suffering and I offer my deepest condolences to all of your family and friends in this saddest of times.
Goodbye, Ajaybhai, my friend. May the heavenly flowers fill your heart with joy as much as the ones on Earth did.
This month just gets better and better on the awards front. Our good friend, photography blogger Ajay of “Ajaytao 2010”, has recently picked up an astonishing THIRTY nominations spread over fifteen different awards variants. Clearly Ajay has made an impact far beyond his humble home in far-off Mumbai, India, and has touched the hearts of a huge swathe of the blogging world. I have certainly felt the ripples of that impact over 4,000 miles here in London, United Kingdom – something that has been made totally achievable and possible by the all-encompassing arc of the Information Superhighway.
Choosing from Ajay’s impressive haul of lovely award treats is just like the days of my childhood picking out sweets from the pick and mix selection at Woolworth’s (British readers will remember that high-street store fondly). Including the usual well-known favourites, Ajay has also picked up a few new kids on the block, of which I have been permitted to choose three of my own to add to my rapidly lengthening awards page.
Ajay has not indicated any rules to follow for myself. As for moi, again if you are a blogger reading this article, you can claim these awards without any rules too. All I do ask is that you can possibly (at the very least) link back to this article, or the home page of the Half-Eaten Mind.
I would like to take this golden opportunity to once again thank Ajay for including me as a recipient in his nominations.
ભગવાન તમને એક સો હજાર વખત આશિર્વાદ શકે!
भगवान तुम एक लाख बार आशीर्वाद दे!
Ajay’s 30 Nominations can be witnessed in all their glory here:
Super Bunch of Awards – 30 Nominations
Here are the three latest awards:
The Reader Appreciation Award (first issued in 2011)
The Semper Fidelis award (designed by “Just Patty”)
The government of one of India‘s most populous areas, the state of Maharashtra, has passed a bill against so-called superstitious traditions today, despite concerns by religious groups that the new law will be used to persecute those following particular practices of faith.
Led by the Chief Minister, the Maharashtrian state assembly in capital city Mumbai passed the Anti-Superstitions Bill in the wake of the recent killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, the most vocal supporter of the “black magic ordinance”.
The Anti-Superstitions Bill, which still needs to be voted on by Mumbai lawmakers before becoming an official addition to the state’s lawbooks, is one of the more unique laws encountered in modern legal history. If passed by the legislature governing body, it will be given signed-and-stamped assent by Sushilkumar Shinde, the Chief Minister, an Indian version of the state governor.
The bill aims to prohibit the practising of superstitious activities and the widespread use of black magic. Rationalists claim thousands of people in India are hoodwinked, left in deep debts or even murdered due to the powerful grip of black magic practitioners and false gurus, many who have become infamously wealthy, while preying on people’s faith, particularly among the poor and uneducated. Supporters of the law also say that eradicating such practices would lead to a more rational and scientifically inclined populace which is necessary as India moves towards becoming a new global superpower.
Critics of the bill have lambasted it as an assault on religious freedom. Hindu politicians have expressed concerns that the ordinance will be used by anti-Hindu opponents to entrap the faith’s religious leaders; accusing them of being charlatans. There have been numerous protests by Hindu religious parties, along with organisations such as the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and the Warkari sect, who fear that the legislation is an attempt to criminalise harmless religious practises in an joint atheist and secularist conspiracy damaging the credibility of the world’s third-largest faith. The Shiv Sena, a Marathi ethnic/Hindutva party, which enjoys firm support in India’s financial capital, condemned the Bill saying that it would adversely affect Hindu culture, customs and traditions. Dabholkar was accused of being anti-religion, but in an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency he said: “In the whole of the bill, there’s not a single word about God or religion. Nothing like that. The Indian constitution allows freedom of worship and nobody can take that away, this is about fraudulent and exploitative practices.“
Narendra Dabholar, the Indian rationalist and social activist, who was gunned down last week in Pune. His bill prohibiting ‘superstitious’ activities, may soon become state law in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
The Bill has been passing through India’s notoriously slow political debate system for the past fifteen years, but is being rushed in following the aftermath of Dabholkar’s killing.
Narendra Dabholkar, a leading Mumbai-based rationalist thinker and the head of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti,’ — the Maharashtra Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith – was gunned down by two unidentified men on a motorcycle while on his daily walk on Tuesday morning. He was shot dead near the Omkareshwar Mandir (temple) in the neighbouring city of Pune by the two assailants, who allegedly fired at point-blank range. Two bullets penetrated his head and chest and he later died at a nearby hospital. He had been previously assaulted and threatened in the course of his social activism career since he began his work in 1983.
Wednesday saw citywide protests by various political parties angered by what they saw as an attack on free speech.
Mumbai was largely immobilised, as businesses shut up shop. Even vegetable markets were affected, while many of the city’s schools and colleges were also closed for the day for safety reasons. Public transport, especially the three-wheeled vehicles known as “riksha” or autorickshaws, were also prevented from collecting fares.
Up until his death, Dabholkar and his organisation had been heavily involved with legislators on the preparation of the anti-black magic laws. Despite this, several members of the Committee have claimed the state government is using their leader’s death to curry favour with angered voters. One member, Deepak Girme said: “It had to be his murder that brought the government back to its senses,”
“We are not happy because we have lost our leader. If the government had taken a step when he was alive, we would have been happy,” said Madhav Bagve, another member. He then added that Maharashtrian state politicos were only trying to save their reputations and careers.
“The government did this to save its face,” he commented.
Narendra Achyut Dabholkar was a social activist, author and rationalist whose career spanned over thirty years. Born in Mumbai in 1945, he had trained as a doctor before becoming involved in social activism in the 1980s, before turning his attention to the widespread practise of black magic, known in Hindi as “kala jadu”. He launched verbal attacks on self-styled “godmen” who claimed they had divine powers that could cure sickness and whose reputations had won them followers numbering in the thousands. His opposition to superstition, as he considered it, and his distaste against faith-based manipulation saw him co-operate with state lawmakers in the formulation of the Anti-Superstitions Bill.
The anti-superstition ruling is intended to protect the public from unscrupulous individuals or organisations who intend to which use misinformation and misguidance to cheat and harm them. This also applies to anyone who uses people’s superstitions, beliefs or faith to fleece them of money or possessions by promising quick-fix solutions or miracle cures. The law, if passed, will prohibit the performing of religious or quasi-religious rites for ‘magical’ purposes; the use of votive offerings for exorcisms; claiming to receive powers from God or ghosts; victimise or brutalise people for being possessed by evil spirits. The legislation could potentially prevent people from selling religious items, such as precious stones, charms and amulets . It could also theoretically outlaw the trade in herbal and medical remedies if claims are made that these objects are capable of curing illnesses without bona fide scientific proof.
Indian music has many great qualities. Whether it is bhangra from the Punjab or Carnatic music from India’s deep south, the song talent of the world’s ‘largest democracy’ has been very democratic in its popularity. The Bollywood film industry, as well as its regional variations, has built up an international fan-base numbering the tens of millions thanks to its steady stream of ‘filmi’ songs and sultry dance numbers. Indeed, no Bollywood director could ever imagine releasing a movie without a few feel-good tracks thrown in to maximise audience enjoyment. Not including a ditty or two would be unthinkable and would ensure a guaranteed slaying in the box offices.
A traditional Bollywood film poster for “Gair Kaanoonii” in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, India.
With its haunting melodies, toe-tapping beats and lyrics about love, life and the clouds in the sky, Indian music has enjoyed much success among South Asian communities and Diasporas scattered all over the world – as well as people whose Indian cultural journey may have only extended as far as the local curry house. One of the keys to its overwhelming popularity is its ability to adapt and to absorb influences from other musical traditions, all the while retaining its unique spicy ‘desi’ flavour’. In the United Kingdom, bhangra artists like Heera, Bally Sagoo and The Untouchables have mixed up traditional Punjabi lyrics, dhol drums and other instruments from the ‘pind’ with Western beats and styles since the early 1980s. In making their own take on the music genre once associated with farming villages in rural Punjab, they absorbed cues from nearly every genre, from rap to acid house and dancehall. Even in the birthland of Indian music, playback singers sung their honey-sweet vocals over tunes with Arabic melodies and European classical music. In 2005, the hit blockbuster ‘Bluffmaster’ featured the song “Boro Boro“, performed in Farsi by acclaimed Iranian pop singer Arash. Four years before, Egyptian singer Hisham Abbas joined forces with Carnatic singer Jayashri to create the melodiously haunting fusion song “Habibi Dah (Nari Narain)”
Conversely, singers and performers like Sri Ravi Shankar and Lata Mangeshkar have been wowing people of all ethnicities in packed-out concerts far outside the sub-continent for many decades. Mr Shankar even moved to the United States and had a relationship with a local woman. More recently,hip-hop rappers from the West Coast, usually to be heard rapping about ‘guns and hoes’, have been dropping bars to Indian-style scores. One rapper, Akon, who is originally from Senegal, but grew up in the United States – has even sung for the Bollywood film Ra.One in pure Hindi!. His track, ‘Chamak Challo’ is still setting dancefloors ablaze at nightclubs and desi weddings from London to Ludhiana.
As Indian singers leave no stone unturned in their quest for the next big trendy sound, a relatively unknown group, Botown, have been hitting the road as originators of a new sound on the block – fusing traditional Bollywood ‘filmi geet’ (movie songs) with sharp, guitar-soaked melodies from the African-American musical genres of jazz and soul. A multi-ethnic and multi-cultural outfit, Botown have emerged from the niche of the alternative British Asian scene and have taken the United Kingdom by storm, performing to packed houses at the Jazz Cafe, Momo’s and even London’s Trafalgar Square, gathering several five-star plaudits from music critics along the way. The London regional daily newspaper, the Evening Standard, described one of Botown’s recent performances as “soulful … playful fusion”. British Asian tabloid Eastern Eye said of the group “Apart from making old filmi music cool again, the cool British band has blazed a trail on the live scene, created a new genre and released a critically acclaimed album that has taken everyone by surprise”. The Eye has credited Botown with inventing a whole new genre of music, while preserving musical styles that had often been seen as uncool and unfashionable by some of the younger generations.
Frontman and guitarist Ajay Srivastav is the genius behind Botown. A minor player in the Indian film song industry, he was a solo artist who shot to fame with the song “Aaja Sajana“. Released in India by record label T-Series, a respected name in the field, Aaja Sajana shot to number one in the national charts. Born and raised in north London, Ajay decided one day to change his musical path and drew together a motley crew to form Botown. Even before founding his band, Srivastav was no stranger to cross-cultural musical collaborations, having shared the stage with personalities such as Jamiroquai, Gregory Isaacs, as well as fellow UK Asian fusion singer Apache Indian and Bollywood heartthrob Shahrukh Khan, a seasoned big bucks name with many years’ experience under the Mumbai spotlights.
Ajay has assembled a crack team of musicians spanning a wide cultural and musical heritage. Look out for the delightful vocalists Rekha Sawhney and Rajvi Rajani, sharp-suited Pavan Verma on the sax and flutes, who often teams up with fellow saxophonist “Ranchor” Murphy. The smouldering jazzy sounds come courtesy of Paul Batik, with the drums getting put through their paces by Pete Pentreath and Jon Harris. Altogether seventeen different artists come together to fill your ears to the brim with funky soulful Bollywood jazz vibes.
Botown’s characteristic sound has been described as Mumbai meets Memphis. They reboot much-loved and sung Bollywood film classics and add a hefty shot of Sixties soul and funk, lightly spiced with jazz.
Their hit Hindi melody “Roop Tera” made it to Number One on the BBC’s Official Asian Download charts in 2012, as well as an album reaching the top ten of the Amazon Funk charts. They have been featured on the English soap opera EastEnders as background music and have been represented the UK South Asian communities at the London 2012 Open Weekend which was held in July 2011 in collaboration with the BBC’s Olympic coverage – celebrating the Games and London’s cultural diversity. Indeed, Botown have expressed a dream to see their music helping to bridge the gap between communities and cultures. They want to acquaint non-Indian audiences with Hindi music and even getting them to sing along in perfect Hindi. Their growing non-Asian fan base is testament to that. Likewise they hope to introduce South Asians to the beauty of musical genres like soul and jazz, which have currently no real presence in the CD collections and MP3 players of musically-minded BritAsians. That seems to be working too, as they headlined the Lord Mayor’s Diwali festive show in Trafalgar Square in 2010, playing to a crowd numbering a few thousand, perhaps all leaving the square with a grand impression of the latest breakthrough in British Asian music’s thirty-plus years of existence.
Traditionally singing in Hindi, one of the national languages of India, Botown have released their first English-language single, “The Big B Shuffle” in honour of the original angry young man of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan. The Big B Shuffle is where ‘fatback drums meet talking tablas, whilst wild Bollywood strings crash over wah-guitars’. The album has been described as soul flowing over the Himalayas and it could serve a huge boost to the retro funk style. The song itself refers to a dance step made famous by Bachchan that is imitated the world over to this day.
As the world gets smaller and as cultures from opposite continents seamlessly blend into one another, Botown in their own unique way have shown the power of uniting humanity with the sound of music, combining two very different styles and bringing out a powerfully sensual and richly toned mishmash that will be serenading the cool cats in the nation’s jazz lounges and mela festivals for many years to come.
Botown in a live performance of “Roop Tera”.
Many thanks to Anjali Shah for suggesting today’s article – particularly as she was fortunate enough to see Botown live in action.
The Half-Eaten Mind has just being nominated for only its second peer award this month. This time we are recipients of the “Wonderful Team Member Award”, kindly nominated by Mumbai-based blogger and friend Ajay, who blogs under the handle “Ajaytao2010”. Ajay is a keen photographer and storyteller, located in one of India’s biggest, busiest and most magical cities, the home of Bollywood, legendary cricketers and fascinating history spanning thousands of years.
Having survived a terrible bout of cancer some years ago, Ajay, a member of Mumbai’s well-heeled Gujarati community, took to blogging as a way of sharing his ideas and views on the world and reaching out to the blogger community. I have had the good fortune to have known Ajay for about a month and I have really identified with his career as a thoughtful introverted blogger literally brimming to the top with stunning photos, both his own and assembled from other imagery artists. He is a friendly guy, and his eponymous and cosmopolitan blog, with its strap-line of ” My personal opening to the world” is a great read and full of surprises for everyone. I would highly recommended that you take a look – Ajaytao2010.
You can view Ajay’s WTM Award article at its original location here
Directly from Ajay’s site I have published the rules for the WTM Award:-
The rules are as follows;
1.The Nominee of the Wonderful Team member Readership Award shall display the logo on his/her blog. 2.The Nominee shall nominate 14 readers they appreciate over a period of 7 days, all at once or little by little. 3.The Nominee shall name his/her Wonderful Team Member Readership Award nominees on a post or on posts during 7 days.
I will shortly forward a special award comment message to all named nominees provided they are fine with accepting peer-based blogging awards, and they can carry on nominating their favourite bloggers for the WTM Award.
To all nominees, congratulations for receiving this award and may we forever celebrate the amicable and entertaining spirit that being a blogger is all about. A sense of community, the value of teamwork.