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Home Features

Features

On the occasion of Children’s Day, which falls on 14 November, we salute the NGOs, who continuously strive to better the lives of the less fortunate children by not only offering them basic amenities like food, clothing, shelter, but also enriching their lives with other art forms.

Across the globe, Children’s Day is recognised on various days. Women’s International Democratic Federation during its Congress, in Moscow, on November 22, 1949, declared June 1 as International Day for Protection of Children. Even the United Nations at the General Assembly in 1954 declared November 20 as Universal Children’s Day. Universal Children’s Day is not simply a day to celebrate children for who they are, but to bring awareness to children around the globe who have succumbed to violence in forms of abuse, exploitation and discrimination. Children are used as labourers in some countries, immersed in armed conflict, living on the streets, suffering by differences or disabilities.

In India, Children’s Day is celebrated on 14 November, on the birthday of the country’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru fondly called Chacha Nehru. Nehru emphasised the importance of giving love and affection to children, whom he saw as the country’s bright future. He wanted to enhance the progress of the youth and established world class institutions like AIIMS and Indian Institute of Technology.  On this day, most schools hold sports day or cultural performances, while the governments organise Children’s Film Festivals. This year Hyderabad will be buzzing with activity as it is the venue for the International Children’s Film Festival scheduled to be held from November 14-20.

We look at some of the NGOs working to bring smiles on the faces of children. In this context, we spoke  to Chaya Pamula, founder, Support Organisation For Kids in Need (SOFKIN), a non-profit organisation registered in Hyderabad, India and New Jersey, USA.

Following is a tete-a-tete with Chaya Pamula:

What motivated you to set up the NGO?

Having lost my parents at an early age, I experienced the deep pain and emptiness in my heart throughout my adolescent years.  The lack of a safe environment and the dearth of opportunity made me resilient as I endeavoured to live up to my vow to my mother that I would grow up as an independent and successful individual. I longed to give some kind of help or support to others who also had no parents. Over the past four decades, I have overcome numerous hurdles as I established myself as a corporate executive, an entrepreneur blessed with a beautiful family. All of this was made possible because I was presented with ample opportunities along the way to excel that was fuelled by my astute determination. The notion of being able to provide a similar forum to the less fortunate had always been at the back of my head.

As I began to investigate, I realised that children from impoverished families do not have the requisite environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle and prevents abuse and exploitation and neglect. Access to quality education was not easily affordable and opportunities were not common. It also dawned on me that the few that had the exposure and the opportunity and the attitude were able to rise and shine only when given a secure environment filled with love in abundance.  After hearing to the heart rending stories and experiences from many of the less fortunate and orphan children during my visits to India, I decided to take the first step towards my ideology and launched SOFKIN.

My mission was to “Support the upbringing of under privileged children, irrespective of name or nationality, caste or creed, race or religion by providing basic amenities, education and medical aid in a secure and healthy environment.” I was aware that there were many organisations already in that space but felt that there was a need for more.  My quest to find a suitable model to adapt and adopt ended with a visit to Maher where a simple concept of a “a home” fascinated me. It is a concept where a small group of children are nurtured in a safe family like atmosphere and provided the basic amenities, including education, medical facilities in a homely setting.

What work do you do?

We work around meeting the following objectives:

1.  We create safe and secure homes for orphans, destitute and under privileged children and to extend support to other global and local organisations undertaking similar activities across the world.

2.  We feed, shelter and educate underprivileged kids and enable them to become self-respecting members of the society and to help create a healthy and a safe environment for the kids. The endeavour is to try and make a little difference in the lives of  a few unfortunate and underprivileged children of the world.

3.  We provide financial support to children needing medical aid, including but not limited to surgeries and providing equipment deemed necessary to carry out normal functions such as providing hearing aids and speech therapy.

4.  We rehabilitate destitute women and widows by providing them opportunity and employing them as house mothers to take care of the kids.

5. These children are treated no different from our own children.

How do children come here?

We had set up the first SOFKIN home as a trial with three kids and a house mother. This was primarily supported by my own funds.  The kids were chosen based strictly on need basis after an evaluation process and a home study.  The children demonstrated exemplary attitude and used the opportunity to excel. The success of the first couple of years in being able to maintain the venture encouraged me to expand and grow. We added 10 more kids during the second year and a second house mother to help run the home.  The work done by SOFKIN and the benefits that the children were getting was spread by word of mouth and the influx kept growing and growing.

The children’s overall improvement in nourishment, health, behaviour and their academic achievements are the witness to the good work which increased the credibility of the organisation and attracted more children to approach us. The children are inducted after a thorough screening process undertaken by trained social welfare professionals.

What kind of facilities do you provide?

SOFKIN provides a safe and secure home with basic amenities like food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical attention and most important of all, a loving family. I am involved in their day-to-day activities giving them support and guidance, inculcating leadership skills and ensuring there is no scarcity in resources provided to them The children are sent to regular private English medium schools and are provided with the tools and technologies to perform better in the modern world. The children are encouraged to use computers under staff supervision.

The children are provided medical care from both preventive and a cognitive context. The Health of the kids is continuously monitored by reputed doctors of the local community and appropriate medical records are maintained. All necessary vaccinations and medications are provided. Utmost care is taken to provide nutritious, healthy and a balanced diet to the children. Sports and exercise are encouraged and the children have an opportunity to participate in various community activities.

The house mothers and the social workers promote and maintain family and moral values through constant interaction with the children. They mentor the children and also tutor the children and enable them to excel at school both at curricular and extra-curricular activities. The entire SOFKIN team is committed to maintaining safety while promoting and encouraging moral values such as honesty and integrity and giving back to the community. We recognise and motivate the children demonstrating these values. Besides supporting the children, SOFKIN also encourages house mothers and caretakers towards higher education so that they may contribute better.

Till date how many children have benefitted?

Today, SOFKIN supports over 90 children in five such homes in Hyderabad and Pune. SOFKIN ensures that the children, teens and young adults are all comfortably placed and are completely self-sufficient throughout their stay.

From the children who have benefitted, have they paid back in any form?

The children live like a family and the older ones train, teach and mentor the younger ones. The sense of responsibility demonstrated by the children is exemplary. The older kids help in the daily chores (cooking, cleaning, teaching etc.). It is their way of contribution to keep the engine running. SOFKIN teaches children the importance of giving back to the community.

In your opinion what is it that the society can do to help the less fortunate ones?

The society should realise the social in-equality and social injustice and work towards eliminating those. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us who are privileged to help uplift the under privileged in some form or the other and bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots. Organisations such as SOFKIN should work together to strengthen their services and extend the reach. Value based education allows the children to appreciate the need to give back and stand as leaders in the community. Therein lies world peace and eliminates the need to have these types of organisations in future.

How can they be integrated into the society?

The society should accept these children and provide equal opportunities to them.  The society should foster compassion and love towards these children and make them feel welcome without adherence to race, religion, and nationality. Proper education and career growth eliminates the discrimination and encourages equality among the communities.

Manavatha Navodaya Foundation: According to R K Raju, founder, Manavatha Navodaya Foundation, Manavatha means humanity and Navodaya means rising of the new dawn, thus the organisation is ushering a new era of instilling the sense of humanitarian service ahead of one’s self.  Manavatha Navodaya believes in awareness to doing selfless service to the needy in the journey of life.

The founder said that Manavatha Navodaya will strive to nourish the young minds with inspiring thoughts that catalyze humanitarian concern to proactive action that sets limitless potential to progress on all fronts. The NGO wants everyone to ‘gift their present’ to the well-being of the future generations in more ways than one.

Manavatha Navodaya Foundation’s key objectives are towards imbibing a sense of selfless service in the young minds of children and youth during their formative years. To nurture the parent child relationship in developing strong family bonding which provides the magical environment for instilling the conscience needed to respect one’s environment, societal values with a sense of responsibility towards common good society that enjoys progress built on peace, harmony and principles of live and let live.

Project 511: Many of you who have watched the bi-lingual socio-fantasy Eega, a couple of years ago, would remember the projection of Project 511 in the film. Project 511 is a Charitable Trust of the Hyderabad Roundtable No.8. Every year, during the Joy of Giving Week, held in the first week of October, they hold a charitable dinner to raise funds for their projects. A research on Government schools in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district unearthed the plight faced by the lesser privileged students who lacked access to even the basic necessities such as blackboards, toilets and notebooks in schools. The unfortunate state of these schools not only led to a severely compromised quality of education, but also resulted in high dropout rates.

The need for a healthy and holistic environment led Hyderabad Round Table No. 8 (HRT 8) and M.V. Foundation to join hands and work towards a common cause. During the time, the number of schools in Hyderabad district was 511 and thus, on 27th October 2003, Project 511 was born. Since its inception, Project 511 has worked closely with the Government to improve the quality of education among lesser privileged children. They work with 1022 schools currently and have impacted the lives of more than 500,000 children.

 

Come September 5, all school children want to honour their favourite teacher, while the senior students are eager to enact as teachers, and the governments at the State and Centre honour meritorious teachers. On the occasion of Teacher’s Day, we salute two teachers – Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who have played an immense role in shaping the future of the country.

Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Gurudevo Maheshwara, Guru Sakshat Parabrahma Tasmai Sri Guruva Namaha. (The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru is Great God Shiva and salutations to the Guru)

Since ancient times Guru has been revered with respect and dignity and he has been given the status of God on par with parents. As per the Hindu Almanac, Poornima (Full moon) falling in the month of Aashad is called Guru Poornima and the Gurus are respected and honoured. Though the ancient guru-shishya parampara, where the shishya spent his educative years by staying with the guru and helping in all household chores, like Lord Rama went to stay with sage Vishwamitra to kill demons and learn weaponry, is weaning, now seen only in imparting of vedic studies. However, since 1962, across the country, September 5, the birthday of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the great teacher, academic philosopher, the country’s first vice president since 1952 and second president since 1962, is observed as Teacher’s Day. He was conferred Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, in 1954, in recognition of his meritorious service to mankind.  On this day, students thank their Teachers for helping them learn, while school administration and governments honour Teachers for their work. Across the globe, Teacher’s Day is observed on different dates, but the UN has declared October 5 as Teacher’s Day.

How is Education Instructed?

Education is the procedure of helping people learn. When a person instructs knowledge, skills, values, belief and habits to other people through storytelling, discussion, teaching, training or research, it is Education. This takes place mainly under the guidance of educators/teachers/instructors/mentors. Today’s modern education is divided into stages – pre-school, primary school, middle school, secondary school and senior secondary  school and then college, university or apprenticeship.

The state of Telangana has numerous primary and secondary schools and multiple institutes of higher education universities. In the state, the education system is of 10+2 before joining under graduation. A number of schools in the State follow State/CBSE/ICSE/IB curriculum, while some of the top universities include University of Hyderabad; Palamoor University, Mahaboobnagar; International Institute of Information Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Indian School of Business, Institute of Hotel Management Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition, National Institute of Technology, Warangal; Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Hyderabad; Kakatiya University, Warangal; Osmania University, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Telugu University, English and Foreign Languages University, NALSAR University of Law, Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS-Pilani), Hyderabad; Urdu University, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, CR Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. and National Institute of Animal Biotechnology.

It is often said and believed that a good teacher plays a major influence in shaping the life of a person. Every successful person always remembers his/her teacher in their school-college days, who have left a lasting impression. A teacher’s job is a thankless job as he/she apart from teaching in class has to prepare in advance, the chapters to be taught, correct notebooks, take tests and also answer the doubts of pupils with a smile even if it is for the 100th time. Sometimes also sort small squabbles between students.

Students in schools are more enthusiastic about celebrating this day. They want to show their appreciation for their ‘favourite’ teacher. On this day, senior students take charge of running the classes and also organise cultural programmes to entertain their teachers as a token of love and respect.

The Philosopher President

Born on September 5, 1888, in Tirutani, to a middle class family, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was sent to school at Tirupati and then Vellore. Later, he joined the Christian College, Madras, and studied philosophy.

It is said that his father did not want Dr. Radhakrishnan to learn English, instead wanted him to become a priest. His first book, The Ethics of the Vedanta and Its Material Presupposition, being his thesis for M.A. for the Madras University, published in 1908, at once established his fame as a great philosopher of undoubted ability. All his works are landmarks in their respective fields.

To create the bridge between the past and future, the philosopher moved beyond being a mere academic and sought to engage his philosophical and religious studies in the political and social development of the country. Very popular among his students even as a professor at Presidency College, Madras, Dr. Radhakrishnan was offered the professorship at Calcutta University.

Later, for a period of five years beginning from 1931, he served as Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University and in 1939, was appointed the Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University .Two years later, he took over the Sir Sayaji Rao Chair of Indian Culture and Civilisation in Banaras. The warm hearted person was invited to fill the Chair of Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford in 1936 and he retained it for 16 long years.

From 1937 – 1947, Dr. Radhakrishnan ably represented Gandhi’s principles and after country’s Independence provided the ideological armour for Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreign policy. He became the first vice president in 1952 and 10 years later became the second president of the country.

Tribute To India

Bertrand Russel, hailing the appointment of Dr. Radhakrishnan as President, said: “It is an honour to philosophy that Dr. Radhakrishnan should be President of India and I, as a philosopher, take special pleasure in this. Plato aspired for philosophers to become kings and it is a tribute to India that she should make a philosopher her President.”

During his tenure of Presidency, the country saw two wars - in 1962, there was the Chinese invasion and in 1965 Pakistan violated our Western frontiers. On both occasions, Dr. Radhakrishnan’s voice, firm and resolute came on the air to reassure a shaken nation. In an address to the Nation, on May 12, 1967, before demitting office, Dr. Radhakrishnan said: “Indian Constitution has worked successfully so far. But democracy was a way of life and a regime of civilised conduct of human affairs. We should be the architects of peaceful changes and the advocates of radical reform.”

People’s President

Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam popularly known as APJ Abdul Kalam, always said: “To enable development of youth first and foremost, the teacher’s love for teaching is essential, with teaching as the soul of the teacher. The teacher must realise that they are responsible for shaping not just students but ignited youth who are the most powerful resource under the earth, on the earth and above the earth. With their full commitment to the great mission of teaching, the teacher transforms himself or herself as a great teacher only when he or she is capable of elevating the average student to high performance.” After demitting office of President, in 2007, Dr. Kalam spent his life travelling and meeting children. His died also addressing the students.

Born on October 15, 1931 to Jainulabudeen and Ashiamma, Tamil Muslim family, in Rameswaram, Dr. Kalam was the youngest of four brothers and a sister. To supplement his family income, at a young age, he sold newspapers.  After completing his education at the Schwartz Higher Secondary School, Ramanathapuram, Dr. Kalam went on to attend Saint Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli, from where he graduated in physics in 1954. In 1955, he joined the Madras Institute of Technology to study aerospace engineering.  After graduating in 1960, Dr. Kalam joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as a scientist.

As a first job, he designed a small helicopter for the Army, but was unhappy with his job at DRDO. He had dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot and missed it by a whisker. After nine years at DRDO, he was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) where he was the project director of the country’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully deployed the Rohini satellite in near-earth orbit in July 1980. Between the 1970s and 1990s, Dr. Kalam made an effort to develop the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects, both of which proved to be successful.

Soon Dr. Kalam was bestowed with many responsibilities and the government initiated an advanced missile programme under his directorship. Drs. Kalam and V S Arunachalam, metallurgist and scientific adviser to the then Defence Minister R. Venkataraman worked on a proposal for simultaneous development of a quiver of missiles instead of taking planned missiles one after another. Some of the well-known missiles developed by him include Agni, an intermediate range ballistic missile and Prithvi, the tactical surface-to-surface missile.

Great Visionary

It was during July 1992 to December 1999 that the Pokhran-II nuclear tests were conducted during Dr. Kalam’s tenure as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organisation. Since then he came to be recognised as the country’s best nuclear scientist. In 1998, along with cardiologist Soma Raju of Care Hospitals, Dr. Kalam developed a low cost coronary stent, named the ‘Kalam-Raju Stent’. In 2012, the duo designed a rugged tablet computer for healthcare in rural areas, which was named the ‘Kalam-Raju Tablet’.  The People’s President has always stated that he learnt leadership from three great teachers—Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Prof. Satish Dhawan and Dr. Brahm Prakash.

On July 25, 2002, Dr. Kalam took over as the 11th President of India, succeeding K. R. Narayanan, to become the country’s first scientist and the first bachelor to enter Rashtrapathi Bhavan. In 1981, he was conferred with the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan in 1990 and the highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna in 1997.

During Dr. Kalam’s term as president, the Office of Profit Bill was his toughest decision. In September 2003, during an interactive session at PGI, Chandigarh, Dr. Kalam supported the need for Uniform Civil Code. After stepping down, he became a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong; Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad; and the Indian Institute of Management, Indore; an honorary fellow of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram; professor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University; and an adjunct at many other academic and research institutions across India. He taught information technology at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, and technology at Banaras Hindu University and Anna University.

For making the Gen X responsible, Dr. Kalam launched a programme called ‘What Can I Give Movement’, with a central theme of defeating corruption in May 2012. The missile man always said: “I feel comfortable in the company of young people, particularly high school students. Henceforth, I intend to share with them experiences, helping them to ignite their imagination and preparing them to work for a developed India for which the road map is already available.” As a mark of respect to this great man, the Tamil Nadu government announced that his birthday, 15 October, would be observed as Youth Renaissance Day.

Before signing off, I totally agree with Dr. Kalam that the teacher should treat all the students equally and should not support any differentiation on account of religion, community or language and continuously upgrade the capacities in teaching so that they can impart quality education to the students, who are country’s wealth.

PEOPLE SPEAK

I became an artist thanks to my Social Studies and English teacher, Satyanaryana Sir of ZP High School, Amangal, Mahboobnagar Dist. He saw my sketches and encouraged me to take up a career as an artist. He met my parents and told them that they should send me to an art school, in Hyderabad. In my second attempt I cleared the test and enrolled at the Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University. While still at school, Satyanaryana Sir also took me to a drawing teacher Yadagiri sir at the boys high school and requested him to guide me in drawing as he visioned me to be an artist. Even to this day, he connects his students to help one another. Salutations Sir!

L Saraswathi, Artist

On the occasion of Independence Day this year, I had gone to school along with my friends and there we met our English teacher Rebbeca ma’am. She immediately remembered me and questioned whether I was still scoring good marks in English? Teachers have sharp memory and even after we have passed out of school, they remember our names and how we fared. May God bless her.

Jaishri Budaraju, ex-student, St. Joseph Public School, King Koti

There are teachers who motivate you, scare you, influence you, and so on. And then there are few who you just adore! It was in my 6th standard that I came across this extremely sweet ‘Class Teacher’, Ms. Vini Vijayan. She had a very sweet disposition and ample patience to explain Mathematics to a disinterested student like me! It was for the first time I figured out that a teacher could be friendly while being authoritative. I fondly share about ‘Vini miss’, who I couldn’t meet since long, but etched in my memory and continuing to inspire me to be amicable! Thank you, Miss!, (inset Vini Miss) Sindhuja, Dancer

There about 50 teachers in my school. But only seven of them come to teach us. My favourite teacher is Munnysa ma’am, who teaches us Maths. Maths is a very tough subject, but she makes sure that we understand the subject well. At the end of the class, Ma’am asks us questions and we are able to reply to her. Her way of explanation is quite well and even difficult problems look easy. All of us eagerly look forward to her class. May her tribe grow.

B.Kiran Sai, Class IX, F1, Bhashyam High School, SR Nagar

Call it Dussehra, Durga Puja, Batukamma, Navratris or Navratras, it is festival time across India. The customs and traditions are different, but it is time to honour Mother Goddess, from October 13 – 22, and celebrate the victory of good over evil.

In our country festivals are celebrated throughout the year. With the 10-day Ganesh Utsav just coming to an end in the last week of September, come October, the citizens are getting ready to celebrate the Bathukamma Festival, Navratris, Dussehra and Durga Puja. The 10 day festival beginning on Ashvina Shukla Padyami and culminating on Vijayadashmi is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and fervour. Many children look forward to this festival as this is a major festival and it is vacation time, at the end of their quarterly exams.

If you are coming from the office in the evenings during the Sharad Navratris, this song would be familiar: “Batukamma Batukamma, Uyyaalo! Bangaru Batukamma, Uyyaalo! Naa Noamu Pandindi, Uyyaalo! Nee Noamu Pandindaa, Uyyalo? Maavaaru Vachchiri, Uyyalo! Meevaaru Vachcharaa, Uyyalo?”This festival is celebrated in Telangana by the women and the State Government demarcates special places where women can celebrate this festival.

Batukamma Festival: Bathukamma is a beautiful flower stack, arranged with different unique seasonal flowers, in seven concentric layers in the shape of potter’s clay like a cone. On the top, gynoecium of a pumpkin flower or a cone made of turmeric to represent Batukamma is installed. This floral arrangement is worshipped as Goddess Batukamma. Young girls and women sing songs and dance around this floral arrangement.

The legend goes that King Dharmangada of Chola Dynasty, who had no offspring, was blessed with a daughter after lot of penance and prayers. This baby girl, named Lakshmi, survived many accidents forcing her parents to rename her Batukamma (Batuku = life, Amma= suffix to female names and mother). Since then Batukamma festival is celebrated by the fairer sex for good partners and their longevity. The girls and women dance around the floral arrangement on all nine days and on the final day these are left in the waterbodies. The floating flowers on the water are a beauty to watch.

According to tradition, on the first five days, women sprinkle cow dung water to purify the entrances of their homes and decorate the courtyard with beautiful rangoli patterns. With cow dung, Batukamma is prepared for the first five days and kept in front of their main doors. A special prasadam is prepared for the goddess consisting of corn, sorghum, bajra, black gram, bengal gram, green gram, ground nuts, sesame, wheat, rice, cashew nut, jaggery, milk etc.  on different days. On the last day, Maleeda - a combination of roti and jaggery, is distributed on the last day.

Sharad Navratri: Gujaratis, Rajasthanis, North Indians look forward to Sharad Navratri. Some of them fast all nine days, while some adhere to simple food. Many restaurants and hotels also have special dishes during Navratris. Navratris as the name suggests is a nine-day festival. All nine days during Navratri are dedicated to nine forms of Goddess Shakti.The nine forms of the goddess worshipped are on: Pratipada - Shailputri, Dwitiya - Brahmacharini, Tritiya - Chandraghanta, Chaturthi - VaradVinayaka, Panchami - Skandamata, Shashthi - Katyayani, Saptami - Saraswati Puja, Ashtami - Durga. The nine-day festivities culminate on Vijayadashmi. It is believed that women, especially in Maharashtra and Gujarat, wear nine different colours on each day of Navratri.

With Hyderabad becoming cosmopolitan, the city reverberates with various festivals. During the Navratris, one can hear the beats of Dandiya and Garba songs and the young and old swaying to foot tapping music dressed in their best traditional attire. It is fun time and many small and big Dandiya and Garba events are organised in the city. The programmes start at 10 PM and go on till the wee hours of the morning. The most prominent ones are at the Ramoji Film City, Malla Reddy Gardens, K J R Gardens, to name a few. The devouts also observe jagran singing bhajans in praise of the goddess all night long.

Navratri celebrations at Mysore is very well-known. Many foreign tourists and Indians across the country visit the place. In Mysore, the royal deity Chamundi is the star attraction. On the 10th day, there is a grand procession of elephants and horses and the King heads to worship the Goddess Chamundi at her hilltop temple. The celebrations culminate in grand fireworks display.

Citizens in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, also display dolls during the Navratris called Bommala  Koluvu. The dolls are usually arranged by girls and women in steps. Critics say that first steps are filled with dolls of deities, the next steps by saints, followed by artwork of the woman of the house,and the last step showcases the children’s work of organising their toys. As per the traditional customs, women invite other women to their homes and flowers, paan, betel nut and vermillion is given.

In Kerala, Durgaashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadashmi is considered very auspicious, and young children are initiated into learning. They are taken to temples and in front of the deity children are taught to write their first alphabets. Here also just like in the north of the country, Vijayadashmi is known as Dussehra, the day Lord Rama defeated Ravana and this is celebrated as the triumph of good over evil, and effigy of Ravana goes up in flames.

In North India, many observe fasts during Navratras, especially the first seven days and spend their time in praying to Goddess Durga. Some devouts also organise Mata ka Jagrans, where they sing hymns of the goddess the entire night and stop after sunrise. On Durgaashtami, the fast is broken by inviting home young girls as an avatar of the Goddess herself known as Kanjak Devis, are treated with respect and they are offered poori channa/halwa. Those who can afford, buy red coloured clothes and give it to the young girls.

In the North, on the first day of Navratras, seeds of pulses or cereals are sown and worshiped every day. By the ninth day, Mahanavami, the grains would have sprouted and after the puja, the seedlings are immersed in water to signify harvesting customs of the area.

Ramleela is also a major part of the 10-day festival. Some popular actors stage Ramleela, depicting the birth of Lord Ram to the slaying of 10-headed Ravana. In many colonies, there are small time actors who also stage this drama. Every day scenes from the Ramayana are enacted and on Vijayadashmi, the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkarna and Meghanand are burnt to signify the defeat of good over evil.

In Delhi, the main celebrations taken place at Ramleela Maidan, where the Prime Minster and other dignitaries are present. At such places, the children are eager to buy bow and arrow or the gada as seen in the hands of Lord Ram and Hanuman.

Durga Puja Festivities: If you can hear the Rabindra Sangeet even faintly from far, you must be assured that you are somewhere close to a Durga Puja Pandal. People coming from the eastern region of the country, especially, Bengalis celebrate Durga Puja in a big way. They look forward to this festival. Huge idols of Goddess Durga are brought home or to a public place and the devouts throng these places for celebrations. Basically, Durga Puja festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasura.

In Hyderabad, during the festival time, there are many Durga Puja pandals, and many of them hop from one to the other. The most prominent ones are Hyderabad Bangalee Samity’s at Domalguda, Cyberabad Bangali Association’s at Miyapur, Bangiya Sanskritik Sangha’s at Secunderabad, Hyderabad Kalibadi at Sainikpuri, Bengalee Cultural Association’s at Masab Tank, Navarun Sangha’s at Balanagar, Ramakrishna Mission’s at Domalguda, Hyderabad Bengali Welfare Association’s at Charminar to name a few.

Sharing his views, Subhro Mukherjee, General Secretary, Cyberabad Bangali Association, Miyapur, said that in 2007, a group of professionals from the IT, Pharma, and PSU sector came together to start an association and organise Durga Puja. “The prime aim of establishing CBA at Miyapur and organising Durga Puja is to inculcate the Bengali culture into our next generation,” Mukherjee said.

He went on to add: “Such community gatherings give a chance to the elders to recreate the festival magic they have witnessed back home. Also stay connected with friends and family. Our primary aim is to promote community bonding between locals of the area and the Bengalis. Also promote Bengali culture and dying forms of Bengali art and craft.”

Over the years, CBA has grown immensely and is now recognised as one of the important Durga Puja venues in Hyderabad. “We were awarded the Best Durga Puja - 2013 in the Recent Entrant Category by a newspaper in the city in the year 2013. We launched our Mobile App over the Android platform in 2013 and have expanded it on Windows platform as well. The idea is to be able to help our patrons navigate to the venue; get a listing of the stalls, timings of the events and the cultural activities at their finger tip,” Mukherjee said.

Explaining on what happens during the Durga Puja, Mukherjee said: “We serve Bhog (community lunch) for five days and we organise cultural events in-house and promote external talent in the form of dramatics, musical band, dances and children activities. We also conduct competitive events for children and adults on all days. Each year, we promote a dying form of art from Bengal like Chhau dance, and Baul songs.”

Coming to the Goddess Durga idol, Mukherjee said: “The idol is made by artists from West Bengal’s Kumartuli who specially come to Hyderabad for  making Durga idols. It requires special clay from the banks of the Ganges. The pandals are also made by artisans from Bengal. This is also a means to keep the Bengali way of Idol and Pandal popular as well as provide employment opportunities for artisans from Bengal.”

According to Mukherjee, “This year the festival gets off to a rousing start on Sunday, October 18, and will conclude on Friday, October 23. The CBA is setting up the idol at the JP Nagar Community Hall, Miyapur. The festivities are open to one and all.” On the first day, it is Bodhan at 6 PM, the following day is Adhibas at 7 PM and on Oct. 20 it is Maha Saptami Puja from 6 AM onwards. The following day, the big day – Maha Asthami Puja from 5.30 AM onwards, Pushpanjali from 7 AM onwards, Sandhi Puja from 8.11 AM – 8.59 AM, Balidan at 8.35 AM, Hom/Chandipath from 12 noon. On Oct. 22, Maha Navami Puja from 5.30 AM onwards, Maha Dasami Puja from 10.30 AM onwards and Sindur Kela from 1 PM onwards. After all the five day festivities, on Oct. 26, devouts will celebrate Kojagari Lakshmi Puja from 9 PM onwards.

From whatever region you belong to, it is Festival Time to pray for peace and prosperity and spread happiness and cheer.

People Speak

Durga Puja is the ultimate festival for us. It is a combination of puja of Maa Durga along with five days of fun and frolic with friends and family, lots of good food, new dresses and much more. Being attached to the Cyberabad Bangali Association, our celebration starts two months before the festival. We start meeting regularly to plan, distribute responsibilities, reach out to sponsors etc. It gives a great opportunity to our next generation to know our culture. Looking forward to puja 2015.

Sirsha Haldar, Associate VP,  ADP Pvt. Ltd.

I have been living in Hyderabad for the last 15 years, and we enjoy celebrating the Durga Puja. The festivities bring the community together. The younger generation comes to know about the cultures and traditions. Oh, it is true, during Puja time, we get a new wardrobe. Traditionally, the themes are the same as back in Kolkata with some renowned artists flown in from there. The stalls are also a major attraction. Apart from the Bengalis, others also join in the celebrations.

Surojeet Sengupta, Head of Product Mgmt., Thomson Reuters


74th Numaish – 2014 (All India Industrial Exhibition, AIIE)

Where: At Exhibition Grounds, Nampally, Hyderabad.

From: 1st January 2014 to 15th February 2014.

 

The Numaish Masnuaat-e-Mulki or Numaish is back again! The only event of its kind in the world to be organized at a stretch for a 46-day period at its 23-acre permanent venue in Nampally, been held for the past 73 years consecutively. Now, that's a feat that none can boast of! So, every time you step into it, remember that you are stepping into a part of history!

Numaish, an annual affair for many Hyderabadis to visit, continues to charm and attract customers from all over the country. It continues to draw vendors and customers alike from across the country who come to Hyderabad just to visit the exhibition. With over 2000+ odd stalls and over 20+ lakh people visiting it in the 46-day period, it is an event that you cannot miss!

The Exhibition Society is a voluntary organization that was established in 1938 to conduct and manage every year the All India Industrial Exhibition. The first exhibition was organized in 1938, by Osmania Graduates Association (OGA), Hyderabad. Today, it has come to be recognized as one of the biggest display windows in the country for trade, commerce and industry, and for display of products ranging from cottage, small and heavy industries with participants from India.

Several cultural programs are also conducted in the Exhibition Club during the 46-day period that includes concerts, singing, dancing, magic shows etc. Apart from the State & Central Government Departments and Public Sector Undertakings, many corporate and multinational companies also participate in the exhibition.

Month: January 2014.

That’s what you will hear at any of the innumerable quintessential Irani cafes that abound in every nook and corner of this great city. Enter any café at any point of the day or night and they are as busy as ever. Above the whole din and bustle, people enjoying their morning cup of tea, strangers sharing a table for lack of space and time, kids scurrying around enjoying their bites or the classic Osmania biscuit; and a waiter hollers above all the noise, ...ek single chai aur Osmania lana!

Blink and you miss it, for within a few minutes the waiter puts a plastic plate full of delicious, crispy and hot biscuits in front of you! For many a person out there whose day starts as early as the sun rises, it is the proverbial breakfast for the day; ek chai aur ek plate Osmania biscuit!

Ask any hard-core Hyderabadi out there and he will vouch for all things Hyderabadi, especially the Osmania biscuit! A biscuit that has a history behind it, a biscuit that has transcended all barriers to be hailed as the most popular one in the city, a biscuit that is exported across the globe, a biscuit that has its own little variant version at every Irani café with a slight change in taste, a biscuit that leads to fights with hard-core loyal customers of each café deciding which one tastes better, a biscuit that is the fastest moving item at any café, a biscuit that sells so much that it is next to impossible to keep count, a biscuit that is not just a biscuit but a delicacy that cannot be stopped from devouring!

The Osmania biscuit is what Hyderabad is readily identified with, apart from the biryani and the Irani chai, and is in fact the first thing many eat or want to try once they set foot in the city to experience the zaiqa of the land of the Osmania. Delicious, crispy on the outside and simply melt-in-the-mouth on the inside, its taste is intensified when taken with authentic Irani chai. In fact, it would definitely not be an understatement to say that chai time in Hyderabad is incomplete without the tasty Osmania biscuits. Young or old, locals or guests, anyone who has tasted them once, just cannot stop picking up the next one and munching into it greedily.

Osmania biscuits are by far, the most common yet very popular biscuits available in all Irani cafes, local bakeries, local hotels and chai stalls in and around the city. From the exotic haleem to the lazeez biryanis to some very authentic and explicit sweet dishes, Osmania biscuit is also a hardcore Hyderabadi café snack. Irani chai with Osmania biscuit or single chai aur osmania biscuit is the colloquial way of hearing sounds around the café shops in Hyderabad. It is the best and most wanted accompaniment served with a single cut chai, as they call it. In the bustling streets of Hyderabad, there are dozens of Irani cafés when you find men hollering “ek single chai aur biscuit lana”. When served a small plate of Osmania biscuits with the chai, the biscuit is dipped into the chai and sucked into the mouth. The person takes a good amount of time relishing and savouring the Osmania biscuits till it actually goes down along with the tea. The Osmania biscuit is not just mouth melting, but full of flavours and gives a nice feeling in the palate while eating.

One thing common among all the Hyderabadis, right from an auto driver to the owner of a Mercedes, is chai, Osmania biscuit and the Irani samosa. Ask anybody on any main road for directions to the nearest café, order a cup of tea with Osmania biscuits and enjoy. There is no particular time to have chai - be it early in the morning, be it midday, be it afternoon, evening, or after a tiring day at work, Hyderabadi chai with a couple of Osmania biscuits, and some friends to give you company works wonders.

An auto driver, an IT engineer, a super-rich realty guy, all having chai under the same roof and same section of a café is a priceless sight to watch. Here you share the table with complete strangers not just for the want of space but for the sheer thrill of giving in to your urge of eating an Osmania biscuit. And because it is hard to eat many without drinking anything, the Hyderabadi chai gets you to forget everything you are except that of being human. That’s the magic of the Hyderabadi Osmania biscuit. At any tick of the clock, chai and Osmania biscuits are available.

Most friends and visitors to the city feel that a trip to Hyderabad is incomplete without tasting chai and biscuit especially when the service in an Irani cafe is faster than any star hotel! Why, one even stated that ‘What Coke is to America, Osmania biscuit is to Hyderabad.’ While yet another one states that, ‘Next to pearls, Hyderabad is also synonymous with Osmania biscuit, thanks mainly to the many Irani cafes, bakeries that seem to have mushroomed in almost each and every bylane of Hyderabad.’

It is not 5-star restaurants, it is not banquet halls, and it is not the posh lunch tables, but it is the Irani cafes where many business meetings are held over a bite of Osmania biscuits. Visit any Irani Cafe and you can invariably find groups of people rich or poor discussing everything under the sun and even about the tasty biscuits they are eating at that moment. Many locals choose to sit and nibble on an Osmania biscuit whilst having a chai to meet a friend at a café or a bakery rather than go to an upmarket joint. Here you need not worry about the cost, since Osmania biscuits cost as less as a rupee each.

It is quite true to say that in no other city of India would you find so many cafes and bakeries offering the deadly combination of chai and Osmania biscuits, like the ones in Hyderabad, what with more and more cafes coming up every now and then. It is really not possible to know how many cafes would be there in Hyderabad!

It is bewildering sometimes to know when many say that discussing any hot topic of the day or just spending time chatting with a friend over a cup of chai and innumerable plates of Osmania biscuits, one never knows how time flies in a cafe! Added to that are the waiters at these cafes, many of whom would not have studied beyond primary school, who won’t bother you unless you call them but will nevertheless keep refilling your plate with biscuits till you ask them to stop. They will still remember each and every thing ordered by each of the customers. There might be ten customers and as customers go to the counter to pay the bill, the waiter remembers the bill of each person. If you’ve had ‘teen Osmania biscuit aur do chai’ and another customer has had ‘ek chai’ as soon as you reach the counter the waiter hollers ‘payle ka pandra rupya baadme teen rupya.’ (Fifteen rupees from the first customer, three from the next). That shows that even if they haven’t studied, they have a good memory and know the business. That is the way it is, in almost all the cafes. When you ask for biscuits and order for ‘chai aur biscuit’, the waiter will get four biscuits and if there are two of you, he will get eight biscuits. You eat what you want and pay for what you eat.

If there is any ‘ready food’ that symbolises the city of Hyderabad much the way the Vada Pau does for Mumbai, then it has to be Osmania biscuits with Irani chai served in the umpteen cafes that one can find splattered across the city. Of course the biryani, the haleem, the lukhmi, the onion samosa or the double ka meetha are the choiciest preparations from the land of the Nawabs, but they sure do not come under the ‘ready food’ or snack category.

The Legacy

Osmania biscuit is named after the last ruler of the ‘Princely State of Hyderabad and Berar’ (from 1911 to 1948), H.E.H. The Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan. It is named after him as he loved these biscuits! Surely it is food befitting royalty!

Like many other Hyderabadi cuisine, Osmania biscuit too is a princely legacy. It is for a reason that the biscuit is named after the Seventh Nizam. He liked the biscuits made at Vicaji Hotel, a popular restaurant those days at Abids, so much that every evening a car from Nazari Bagh used to fetch the biscuits for him. Pleased with the royal patronage, the hotel named the biscuit ‘Osmania’ and the name has stuck long after the Nizamian era is over. The hotel is believed to have worked out the biscuit taste to the Nizam’s liking by reducing the salt content and making it slightly sugary.

Even though Osmania Biscuits are thought to have been named after the erstwhile Nizam many of the old bakers in the city feel that their origins might actually date back to much earlier, albeit with another name. It was well-known to be a favorite of the British who would get the biscuits procured from Hyderabad and shipped it to their city!

The Delicious Taste

Osmania biscuit is a kind of Indian short bread with its traditional recipe which includes all purpose flour, butter, vegetable shortening, corn flour, milk, powdered sugar, condensed milk, and a little salt. It is sometimes flavoured with cardamom powder for better taste! All the ingredients are mixed well and let to chill. Then the dough is rolled, cut into biscuits, glazed with milk for a nice colour, and baked for half an hour. The biscuits are served chilled with tea.

Osmania biscuit still holds its name and uniqueness in taste. The minute you bite into one, the rich creamy texture of the biscuit hits your palate with a bang and the taste of the butter combined with the flour and the rest of the ingredients melts in your mouth. And before you know it, the biscuit is over and you would have reached for the next one. The dribble of getting the actual taste from the Osmania biscuit is eating it with an authentic Irani chai. When dipped into the tea, the taste of the biscuit just manifolds. Other popular tea time snacks are Irani samosa, dil pasand and bun maska, but Osmania biscuits are the fastest moving delicacy on the shelf. High-end state-of-the-art bakeries opened in town offer the best of the biscuits, cookies and what have you, but the Osmania biscuit still holds its own royal place and whatever the season, it remains the most popular tea-time snack.

The taste of the Osmania biscuit is the same whether you go in the morning, afternoon or late evening to any of the cafes or bakeries. Most popular ones offering them are Subhan Bakery, Karachi Bakery, Sarvi Bakers, etc.

The Recipe

There could not be any better way of having a hot cup of chai than to dip these salty-sweet, soft and crumbly Hyderabadi biscuits. They are so delicious, they simply melt in your mouth. You no longer have to buy them from an Irani bakery or café as you can make them at home with this simple recipe. What is chai (tea) without a biscuit to dip in it?

How to make Osmania biscuits:

Ingredients:

All-purpose flour      -           200 gms

Baking powder         -           ¼ tsp

Butter                         -           120 gms

Cardamom powder  -           ½ tsp

Custard powder        -           10 gms

Milk powder               -           10 gms

Saffron                       -           ½ gm

Sugar powder           -           80 gms

Milk                             -           20 ml

Milk for glazing

Directions:

Take a bowl and add butter, sugar powder and mix well. Add little milk and mix again. Take another bowl, add all-purpose flour, custard powder, milk powder, cardamom powder, baking powder and mix well. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mix and combine all the ingredients to make smooth dough. Roll the dough into a thin sheet and cut them into round shape. Arrange the biscuits in the tray and pour over some saffron milk mixture on top. Drain off the excess milk mix and bake at 180 deg C for 15 minutes. Osmania biscuits are ready to eat.

Baker’s Speak

Subhan Bakery in Nampally is the most favourite haunt of Osmania biscuit lovers. You have to see the rush at the counter to believe the demand his shop has for his most popular selling item, yes, the Osmania biscuit!

Syed Irfan, the co-owner of Subhan Bakery, who runs it along with his brother Syed Imran, speaking about the popularity of his shop’s Osmania biscuits said that “we use the best quality and top most quality of products to make the Osmania biscuit and it is our process that makes the whole difference in not just its taste but also its shelf life.” He says that other popular items from his shop include milk rusk, cashew cookies and roat but it is hands-down the Osmania biscuit that is the by far the most popular selling item from them.

Started in 1948 by Irfan’s grandfather, Syed Khader, it is housed at the same place since 1950. It has literally seen the place and city around it grow and change, but the popularity of its Osmania biscuit has only grown leaps and bounds. Initially famous for making bread, slowly the biscuits popularity overshadowed everything else.

Speaking about the biscuit, Irfan says, “we did a lot of research, tried and tested and then decided on the packing type for the biscuits so as to help retain its freshness. Now with our packing, the shelf life is good and they stay fresh for at least one-and-a-half-month. We do not want to open other branches to cater to the popularity since then it would be difficult to maintain consistent of quality across all the outlets. That is why, we are at this outlet only.”

“Giving the best to our customers and helping them, we also got the nutrition information per 100gms done by a nutrition institute and it states that it has about 561.80 kcal / 100gms. Such information will help our customers know what they are eating,” said he. He further added that, “our competition is with ourselves, on how to improve and better ourselves and not with anybody else.” He sums up his loyal customers and says with a smile, “the best compliment I got was when a new customer came to me and asked, ‘biscuit fresh hain kya?’ (is the biscuit fresh?). To this, another customer standing next to him said, ‘kya puchrein bhai, fresh hi rehta! (what are you asking, it will be fresh!).”

Mohd. Iqbal of New Hyderabad Café says, “No matter how many biscuits we make, they end up getting sold at the end of the day. Initially we would make less, but with the demand we increased it and yet they get over soon. On some rare days, when they are left over, since they stay fresh, they get over before we get our daily quota of biscuits ready.”

Satish Murugan of a local Iyengar bakery in a colony says, “we sell a lot of bakery stuff but in biscuits, the demand for Osmania biscuits is more than the rest of them, especially over the weekends, I don’t know why!”

“Our customers like our Osmania biscuits a little more saltier than sweet; mind you they are not the salt biscuits (we don’t add sugar in them at all), so we are known for that,” said, Narsing of Shilpi café.

Customer’s Speak

“Yeh tho hamara rozi roti jaisa hain subah subah (it is like our early morning meal every day),” said Indra, an auto driver who had stopped his auto to quickly get his morning cup of chai and added that, “Osmania biscuit ke bina tho kaam shura nahin kar sakthe kyun ki baad mein bukh lagtha hain (I cannot start my day without eating the Osmania biscuit because later on I will get hungry if I don’t eat it in the morning).”

“They are light, refreshing and definitely delicious with the early morning tea and the newspaper in hand. A perfect start to a day and definitely healthy too, so why not eat the Osmania biscuit and enjoy it too,” said John Mattew, a corporate professional.

Accompanying him was his friend Sriram, another corporate executive, who was heartily digging into a Osmania biscuit and relishing his mouthful with a big smile. While I waited for him to enjoy his mouthful, he smiled bigger and said, “what to do, they are so delicious, it hard to stop eating them. What is worse for me is that since they are so small, we keep eating them while talking about our work and it is hard to keep count. They are definitely better than eating the oily puris and parathas early in the morning.”

Another elderly gentleman who was ordering a kg of Osmania biscuits to be packed at a local bakery, said “they are a perfect snack for me, my wife and my grandkids in the evening. Since they are light and do not fill up your stomach, like say the curry puffs, they are ideal. These are the quota for the week.”

For the love of the biscuit!

There is no love sincerer than the love of food said George Bernard Shaw decades ago, and I would like to add to that saying that there is no other love greater than the love for the melt-in-your-mouth Hyderabadi Osmania biscuit when it comes to Deccani food!

So, how about a chai with biscuit?………ek plate Osmania biscuit lana!!!!

Month: January 2014.

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AP - Facts

Golconda, near Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh, India), was India’s richest diamond mine, having produced renowned diamonds like: the Koh-i-Noor, the Darya-e-Nur, the Nur-Ul-Ain, the Hope diamond and the Regent diamond

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