|The Ayurvedic and Unani Pharmacy|
If you happen to be at Shivaji Circle on a week day, do step in to the Ayurvedic and Unani Pharmacy on Meenakshi Kovil Street. As I stood there looking at it, my mind walked back to childhood days when our noses were held hostage by the common cold. My father would then call upon the miraculous powers of an old Unani remedy, `Joshanda ‘ to banish the stubborn sniff and have us breathe freely again. Years later, it is still our first option for curing colds. It is slightly bitter and must be drunk piping hot. Unani is an ancient, non-invasive, holistic healing therapy which originated in Unan. It was formalised as a healing system by the famous Hakim Ibn Sina and there is mention of it even all the way back to the time of Hippocrates. Ibn Sina,or Avicena, The Father of Modern Medicine, as he is called in the West, was deeply interested in the world and evidently found its layers fascinating.In order to plumb its depths ( a goal shared by most other famous men of knowledge.. Da Vinci, Galeileo ), he was not only a skilled physician but also a philosopher, astronomer and mathematician amongst other things. Unani is very effective and was extremely popular till a decade or two ago.It has faded a little from our daily routine probably because it hasn’t yet been discovered by Western pop / Hollywood film stars who can re-package it for the rest of the world and send it back to India !
Walking down from the Bus Station to Russell Market, I stop to gaze at the impressive BBMP murals. While opinions are divided on the quality of the art and the aesthetic sensibilities of our civic body, it is undeniable that they have given walls in Bangalore a new identity. I wonder, if in the process beautiful brickwork and heritage walls might have been irrevocably lost in some places across the city ? While I ruminate, elsewhere, the public is trying to cope with a new quandry. On one hand the walls aren’t available anymore, but then, neither are public toilets.To do or not to do…that seems to be the question !
|Amjad Bhai the local historian|
I walk past Russell Market and turn right. At the Haji Baba Paan Shop I ask permission to take a picture and am politely told Amjad Bhai has been shot previously by many dailies and magazines. Sigh. He’s right. Everyone who writes about Bangalore seems to follow the same same beaten path . Since he says his shop is over 150 years old, I stop anyway and ask him about `Blackpalli ‘. He squeaks in agitation, and informs me that `Beelakpalli ‘was only a locality and not all of Shivajinagar as we mistakenly assume.He also tells me it used to be called `Lashkar ‘ ( which means `army’ in Urdu-Farsi ). All this while he continues to intuitively make `paan beedas’ for several puzzled customers and promises to introduce me to his friend `Chaudhary ‘ who apparently is a veritable mine of information on Shivajinagar. Then he delivers the punch line and tells me that Shivajinagar is named after Shivaji Ganeshan, due to the sizeable Tamil population here ! Hmm. This is one theory even I haven’t heard before. He then makes me a paan beeda and admonishes me when I reach for my wallet to pay for it.
|Structure in the midst of chaos !|
Many shop owners have been in exactly the same space for generations. Sons and grandsons in turn, get educated and come back to run the family shop /business. The eco-systems are set and constant. When I came upon this unusual display of fruit, it seemed ironical that this extremely methodical and symmetrical layout was a direct contrast to the chaos and unstructured existence flourishing all around it !
|The perfumes of Arabia
When Lady Macbeth stated that ` all the perfumes from Arabia will not sweeten this little hand ‘ she probably hadn’t been gifted a little vial of `Ittr’ (or `Attar’) yet. When new plant species were brought to India by the Mughals from Central Asia it eventually lead to the discovery of the process of preparing attar from roses by Noorjehan, the Mughal queen. The term apparently comes from the Persian word ` Itr’ meaning `to smell sweet. ‘ Noorjehan was a smart, savvy woman, much ahead of her times and I can almost visualise her personally supervising the plucking of thousands of rose petals just before dawn, distilling the vapours in the royal palace, blending it with sandalwood oil and capturing it in a crystal bottle before dabbing it seductively behind her ears and on her wrists, while she waited for the Emperor Jehangir to come to her. This shop has no royal pretensions, but it did have many opportunities to lead fickle noses astray. ( A famous Attar shop in India is apparently Gulab Singh Johri Mal in Dariba Kalan, New Delhi, established in 1816.)