Month: August 2001

In the Eyes

In the Eyes

Lord Ganesha has definitely blessed this family of Murtikars. The Bolinjkar family has been sculpting Lord Ganesha for more than 5 decades now. Anant Babaji Bolinjkar started his sculpting workshop with his two younger brothers, Purshottam and Narayan. Shri D P Lohar, a degree holder from JJ school of Art, who was an extremely talented artist-sculptor, trained Anant Bolinjkar in sculpting Ganpati idols.

Today, Anant Bolinjkar is no more but his younger brothers Purshottam and Narayan, have continued the tradition of sculpting. While Purshottam sculpts the idols, Narayan takes care of the colors and their sons help them in their efforts.

The artistic sense of a Bolinjkar-made idol can be easily observed in the intricately crafted eyes and the vibrant colors used to enhance the beauty of Lord of Prosperity. Sujata Phadke, whose grandfather helped Anant Bolinjkar set up a workshop in Thane in the 1940’s, says, "In Bolinjkar’s idols, the eyes of Lord Ganesha reflect a serene beauty that only a divine entity can possess. The color schemes too are absolutely flawless. Their sculptures bring out the paramount importance of Lord Ganesha."

People love this workshop for its cleanliness and orderliness. The idols are sculpted in a very disciplined manner and every idol from the workshop retains the exact authentic look. The look has been preserved for decades. It is this perfection and consistency in each idol of a Bolinjkar Ganesha that makes them the most famous and loved murtikars in Thane.

Come Ganesh Chaturthi, and the Bolinjkar idols are in great demand. Besides supplying Ganesha sculptures to various pandals and families in the cities of Thane and Mumbai, Bolinjkars cater to orders from other parts of the country too: such as Rajastan and Assam, and even across the border from USA and UK. "These days, Ganpati celebrations are not restricted to Hindu families, even a few Sikhs are known to keep Ganpati in their homes", says Subhash Bolinjkar, son of Anant Bolinjkar.

Organisations such as Raymond (J K group) and Thane Municipal Corporation order their Ganpati idol from Bolinjkars every year. Even politicians like Sushil Kumar Shinde are known to be loyal to Bolinjkars.

Such loyalty is not without reason. The Bolinjkar Idols have won several awards in the past. The Shiv Sena presented them a trophy every year from 1991 to 1997, for the best-sculpted idol. They have been felicitated 3 times by Girnar Loksatta Ganpati Trust. Last year, the Thane Municipal Corporation presented them 2nd prize for best idol. The famous Siddhivinayak Temple Trust chose their idol as the best in 1998.

With many new sculpting workshops coming up in Thane, Bolinjkars have faced growing competition in the last few years. In spite of this development, they still sold the maximum number of idols this year – 4200 to be precise.

The Bolinjkar family itself is quite devoted to Lord Ganesha and celebrates the festival with a lot of vigor, every year. Now you know why Lord Ganesha ensures their prosperity, year after year!

The Fake Terrorist

The Fake Terrorist

Mistrust among the people is growing, as was amply demonstrated in a BEST bus recently. It was about 4:30 pm and the 496 Ltd. had begun its journey from Thane Flyover to Andheri Station. When the bus reached Mulund Check Naka, a passenger noticed an "abandoned" suitcase lying on the front seat. The conductor inquired with the passengers if the suitcase belonged anyone of them. When nobody owned it up, fear began enveloping the passengers.

Soon, everyone was heard discussing what action should be taken. One passenger suggested that the bus be taken to the nearby fire station. Another proposed calling the police. Few passengers even tried to recollect if they had seen the "terrorist" slipping away. Patience was running out and the bus was finally evacuated at the Bhandup Police Chowki stop and the conductor informed the police station. A constable came to investigate but even he refused to take the "risk" of touching the bag.

The "case" was finally solved when a man from the next 496 Ltd. got down and came running to claim the bag. It turned out that he had mistakenly left his suitcase behind as he got off from the bus at the Thane flyover, which was the last stop.

A worthy Successor
Padmashri Padmaja Phenani-Joglekar is a household name amongst music lovers in Maharashtra. Last week, Thaneites had the privilege of listening to some vintage Marathi songs in her inimitable voice. She was at The Gadkari Rangayatan as part of a charity show.

During the show, the compere narrated an interesting anecdote about Padmajaji. Reporters at the New York Airport once asked Lata Mangeshkar which singer in her opinion was fit to be her successor? Lataji replied without hesitation, "There’s only one: Padmaja Phenani".

Recently, at a function in New Delhi, Padmajaji recited a few poems of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The PM was present too. The compere asked Padmajaji if she was nervous and overwhelmed by his presence. Ever humble and witty, she replied that India was indeed lucky to have such a sensitive poet-leader and that his presence and encouragement was re-assuring.

Once she started singing, she closed her eyes, as she usually does, lost in her melody, completely oblivious to her distinguished audience.

Wonder Kid’s Compassion
Amey Gawand’s compassion towards animals is really touching. This physically challenged child from Thane is extremely clever and won numerous competitions. His school friends have nicknamed him "the wonder kid" after Times of India carried a story on him last year with the same title.

When Amey was 6 years old, he created a profound impact on his father. Dr. Gawand, a self-professed, hard-core non-vegetarian, was preparing himself for his regular dish of chicken and meat, when Amey walked up to him and asked him a few straight-from-the-heart questions:

"Dad, can you give life to anybody?" "No", replied his father. "Then what right do you have, to take anyone’s life?"

"Fish, chicken… did they come and trouble you?" "No", said the doctor. "Then why do you trouble them?"

"Dad, I have seen small chicks gather under the hen for protection. This shows that they have a family. Would you like it, if someone troubles your family?" "Of course not, son" replied his father. "Then why do you trouble them?"

"If you really crave eating flesh, try eating tigers and lions. Why do you go after the helpless ones?" Dr. Gawand did not have an answer to this one.

Soon afterwards, he voluntarily left eating non-vegetarian food. His son’s questions had hit him real hard.

A hope for nature lovers
Of its many drawbacks, urbanisation’s toll on environmental balance is perhaps the biggest. But nature-lovers in Thane still have HOPE. Instituted by the Rotary Club of Thane, Here On Project Environment or HOPE, as its popularly known, is an active club of nature loving beings.

Don’t be too surprised if you see people of all ages, enthusiastically planting mangroves near the Kalwa Bridge. HOPE regularly organises such plantations, which go a long way in restoring and maintaining an ecological balance

A club dedicated to the environment, HOPE holds meetings every Saturday, between 7 and 9 in the evening. Environment experts, forest officers and HOPE members talk about their experiences and discuss future projects to deal with pollution, global warming, tiger conservation, illegal forest trade and more. These meetings are open for all and HOPE encourages nature-conscious Thane citizens to attend these meetings.

From time to time, HOPE also organises Nature treks and Workshops to teach new skills such as nature photography and garbage recycling.

The ever-increasing amounts of work in such fields require more dedicated members and HOPE invites collegians, housewives, retirees, and others with some free time to spare to come forth and join the organization. For more information, contact Shyam Ghate at 5422493.

"Good Health for Thane"
Yoga, which is enjoying growing popularity in the western countries, is also gripping Thane-ites. This can be gauged from the success of the Teachers’ course for Yoga conducted by Ghantali Mitra Mandal. This certificate course has initiated thousands of Yoga Teachers around the city since 1971. Young and old, from all walks of life, attend this course and then go on to spread the knowledge elsewhere.

The 10-week covers all the major aspects of Yoga, including history of Yoga, meditation, diet, the various asanas and pranayama etc. The organisation also holds focused programs on obesity, asthma, blood pressure and other stress related health problems.

Based on the tremendous success of these programs, the organization extended them new centres such as Gadkari Rangayatan, Sahyog Mandir and Shiv Malti Sabahgruh. The objective of the organization is to make the course and the programs available to as many people as possible.

Yoga is synonymous with stress reduction, and if practiced regularly, it is a very powerful healing and transformational tool. For those who wish to take the course or attend any of the programs conducted by the organisation, they may contact Ghantali Mitra Mandal at 5361349.

Sightless Wonder

Sightless Wonder

His efficiency on the TMC telephone exchange speaks volumes about his dedication towards work. So much so, that when he was selected for the best worker award by TMC last year, few were surprised – in spite of the fact that he is blind.

Ajay Chandrakant Bhide works as a telephone operator in Thane Municipal Corporation’s headquarters in Thane city. Though blind, Ajay has displayed tremendous inner strength. Blindness has not prevented him from striving to accomplish his goals. It has never bothered him that others working with him possess normal eyesight. To him, the outside world may be dark, but he has faith in himself. And that faith, together with his self-determination, has ensured that he lives a normal life.

Ajay did his primary schooling from Pragati Andhavidyalaya School in Badlapur, an institute for the blind. Later he attended normal school till he completed his matriculation. In 1990, Ajay took a mobility course at National Association for the Blind, Worli. This 4-month course enabled him to become self-reliant. The main objective of this course is to ensure all round development of the visually impaired person, ensuring that he is exposed to normal life in society.

A year later, Ajay enrolled himself for a telephone operator course conducted by the same institute. He then started applying for jobs. But, soon afterward he realized, that finding employment is not going to be an easy task. He applied to many organizations including public sector organizations such as Indian Oil Corporation. But he faced rejection everywhere. Even during his days of job hunt, Ajay chose to repay his alma mater, Pragati Andhavidyalaya School, Badlapur. He started training blind students as a substitute teacher in the school.

In December 1994, after great difficulties and struggle, Ajay finally found employment at TMC head office. He was the first blind telephone operator to ever work in TMC. Many wondered how a blind person could operate a telephone exchange – a job that requires tremendous dexterity and swiftness. Ajay even recalls vividly, "In my first few days in TMC, I was the center of attention. All my colleagues and other staff from TMC would gather around my desk to see how a blind person operates a telephone exchange".

Today Ajay has created such a niche for himself in the organization that his blindness doesn’t even occur to any of his colleagues. He has displayed remarkable efficiency, technical expertise and consistent reliability. His hard work fetched him the coveted the "Gunavanta Kamgar Puraskar" or "award for best performer" in the year 2000. "I am the first and only employee from my department to have achieved this distinction", Ajay mentions proudly. And why not – after all, to be chosen as the best worker from among 6540-strong TMC staff is no mean achievement.

Apart from his 9 to 5 routine job, which he enjoys a lot, Ajay involves himself in a number of extra-curricular activities. For instance, he makes it a point to "read" newspapers – specially the English ones, his favourites being The Times of India and Mid-Day. Says Ajay, "My friends read out the news and stories from Marathi and English newspapers." He’s a keen follower of politics and keeps himself abreast of all the latest developments. "Once upon a time, I loved cricket a lot – but when the match-fixing controversy surfaced, I lost interest in the game.

He’s Internet savvy too. He frequently visits a cyber cafe and, with the help of his friends, chats with his cyber pals. He has a few net pals across the border too. He loves movies and music. He’s even "heard" the latest Sunny Deol blockbuster, Gadar. He even wants to get married to a girl with normal vision. He is always ready to extend help to people in need and strangely, people do seek his help quite often.

And why not? Ajay does keep a track of things by keeping his ears open!

A Lifelong Appetite

A Lifelong Appetite

George Bernard Shaw said, "There is no sincerer love than the love of food". Mrs. V. S. Kangya demonstrates this very kind of love of food. Mrs. Kangya is all of 90, but she has not lost her taste for Paani Puri. This lady has a record of sorts – she has not missed her daily plate of Paani Puri since 40 odd years. “Maybe more”, says Dilip Sachdev, who runs the Pani Puri stall started by his father some 5 decades ago. “She is our oldest customer”, says Dilip. “Every evening, after finishing her daily prayer at the ‘darbar’ she visits this stall.”   She simply gives “prasad” to Dilip and doesn’t even ask for anything, it is implicit. Dilip knows her preferences since he was a child. His older brother initiated him, who in turn, was initiated by his father.

Mrs Kangya has a “sporty” attitude towards food. At 90, she doesn’t have any plans of giving up her addiction. She doesn’t seem to be too bothered about her health and abstains from her routine only once a month for her fast.  

But she’s not alone. In fact her whole family is obsessed with Paani Puri. Her son and daughter-in-law have continued the “tradition” for more than a decade now.  All of  Dilip’s clientele fall into a similar category. While he is at it, he relates a story of another old lady who was as stubborn as Mrs. Kangya. She was the grandmother of Luke Kenny, former Channel [V] VJ. Mrs. Kenny was a die-hard lover of Paani Puri and even though she was diabetic and was proscribed against all that is sweet, she still did not miss her plate of sweet Pani Puri till she died a few years ago.

Mark Twain once said, "Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you want and let the food fight it out inside." Mrs Kangya will agree.

 The Lost Planet
 “Where is Planet M?” asked a young man driving a Sumo filled with keen and enthusiastic youngsters. Turned out that they had asked for directions for “Hiranandani” at the Majiwada junction and were pointed towards Hiranandani Estate, Thane. On reaching Hiranandani, they asked a friend of this reporter where Planet M was and were told (with a grin) that it is located at Hiranandani Powai. They were obviously confused. “So which is this Hiranandani?” one of them asked. Poor guys! If only they knew how lost they were.