setstats The Herald of India
Home | About us | Contact us | Educational | Counseling | Letters | Archive | In memoriam | Obituary | Jobs & Careers | Classified
  Greetings to all our readers and patrons
Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
  Read more ...  
Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
  Read more ...  
Back to infancy -- they n
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
  Read more ...  
  Issue of survival
  By Meetu Tewari  
  THE Dongria Kondh is a tribe living in the Niyamgiri Hills in the state of Orissa. At present, there are about 8000 members of this tribe living in various villages around the Niyamgiri Hills. Over the years, they have become high-grade fruit farmers and horticulturists, growing a wide variety of fruits like pineapples, oranges, papaya etc.

The Dongria Kondh people begin their day by praying to their mountain God before going to their fields where they grow a variety of beans, roots, bananas and other fruits and vegetables. If their water supply dries up, they will be unable to continue farming. The wonderful forests of Niyamgiri Hills are not only home to these ancient folks but also to a number of endangered species like the Giant Squirrel and Golden Gecko.

However, recent years have revealed another precious commodity, bauxite, an important aluminium ore. This has drawn to the region a British mining corporation, Vedanta Resources. The company has set up an aluminium refinery in neighboring Lanjigarh. According to the villagers, they were duped, offered money for their land which they accepted but did not know it would lead to their water sources drying up. They claim that those who were not willing were roughed up and made to sell their land.

Vedanta Resources believes that there is 17 million tonnes of bauxite in the mountain and is keen to start mining, but the people of Dongria Kondh are ready to fight for their rights, even if it means a fight to death.

The open pit mine which Vedanta plans would mean a disruption to the rivers, destruction of the vast forests, danger to the already endangered species of animals so varied as tigers, bears, wild boars and also an end of this peaceful tribe and their way of living.

The life of these simple people revolves around the mountain, which they believe to be a God, protecting them and providing for them. However, after seeing the troubles brought upon Lanjigarh by Vedanta, the people are determined not to give up. Theirs is a fight to preserve their right to an ancient way of living which embraces nature. It is a fight to preserve the forests and against corporate greed.

In 2010 the Church of England withdrew its investments from Vedanta concerned by the firm's poor record for respecting human rights. The Norwegian firm Martin Currie has also sold its shares in the firm.

Pressure is mounting on Vedanta as the story of the struggle of these people is spread internationally, especially using the Internet as a means of informing others about the plight of Dongria Kondh. Joanna Lumley, along with Survival International, has been vocal in her support for the tribe. However, this inspiring story of struggle is little known within India itself, with few if any media coverage. Surprisingly, most of the media attention has been given by international newspapers and news organisations rather than the Indian media.

After the stupendous success of Avatar, Dongria Kondh appealed to James Cameron for help. For them the choice is simple, it is either the company or them.

Vedanta Resources has failed in its duty to society in pursuit of profits. In this day and age when CSR and good business are the mantras which help firms survive, Vedanta is clearly generating a lot of bad publicity which will be detrimental to it. Their actions have brought international attention to the region and to the vociferous protests of the tribals.

The Dongria Kondh want our help in stopping mining in Niyamgiri. Their struggle is not only for their way of life but also for the wonderfully rich forests, for the beauty and serenity of the green expanses, for the voiceless inhabitants of their depths. There is much we can learn from the Dongria Kondh, how they live at peace with the wild animals, their farming techniques and how a peaceful tribe living in huts was driven into a corner but found the strength to stand up together for their rights.
  A miniature India
  By Amy Yee  
  WITH its fluorescent lights and laminate tables, the little restaurant near the shuttered Chanakya Cinema looked like any no-frills canteen found throughout the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Diners bought copies of the Daily Thanthi newspaper, written in the curlicue script of Tamil. A small statue of Balaji, a deity worshiped in southern India, sat snugly on the counter. And the food was rich with the crepe-like dosas for which the region is known.

Young families and hungry bachelors were digging into uttapam, a kind of Tamil pancake flecked with coconut and green chili; paratha, a flaky and buttery bread served on a stainless steel plate; and lamb biryani, a mound of spicy rice topped with a shiny boiled egg.

But the Tamil Nadu House, a ziggurat-shaped concrete building where this 18-table restaurant is located, is nowhere near the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal. Rather, it is tucked in an affluent neighborhood of New Delhi where it's possible to sample India's entire culinary landscape by taxi.

Each of India's 28 states has its own government-run house for state affairs, known as a bhavan, in the bustling capital city of New Delhi. And most of the bhavans have a canteen that specializes in regional cuisine, whether it's the coconut-infused dishes of the southwest state of Kerala, or the Chinese-style momos, or dumplings, of Sikkim in the northeast.

Nearly all the bhavans are clustered in the leafy streets of Chanakyapuri, the capital's diplomatic area, so an adventurous eater can embark on a gastronomic survey of India without leaving the neighborhood. While not all the canteens are open to the public, most welcome walk-ins. An even bigger draw is the price: in a city that is expensive by Indian standards, a meal for two at a bhavan rarely exceeds 300 rupees, or about $7.

Among the most popular is the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan, which serves the fiery fare that this southern Indian state is known for. Situated in a squat, white plaster building near the triumphant India Gate, the bhavan is a minor attraction in its own right.

On a cool Sunday evening last month, the two-level cafeteria was packed. The boisterous chatter of families, couples and young friends echoed off the white-tiled walls. The 200 seats were filled, except for two granite-topped tables upstairs, reserved for members of parliament from Andhra Pradesh.

Dinner in this fluorescent-lighted space was a loud and harried affair. Men in white shirts and black pants directed new customers with the efficiency of traffic cops, shepherding them to tables as soon as they became vacant. There is a set meal, along with à la carte dishes that can be ordered from roving servers.

A thali, or sampling of dishes, was served on a metal platter with indentations that resembled a painter's palette, as well as in small metal bowls. They included a curry of miniature eggplant smothered in a piquant gravy; a pale groundnut chutney reminiscent of peanut butter; sambar, a watery lentil broth; rasam, a tangy tomato broth flavored with tamarind; cooling yogurt; and a double ka meeta, a special Andhra bread pudding soaked in cream, sugar and ghee.

Andhra Pradesh is also famous for its biryani: basmati rice cooked with spices and a choice of mutton, chicken, vegetables or egg. The waiters circled the cafeteria, serving generous mounds of plain white rice, chapati and crispy round papad.

The best part of the meal may be the end: the all-you-can-eat dinner is just 80 rupees a person, about $1.80 at 45 rupees to the dollar.

While the rice dishes of Andhra Pradesh may be familiar, the food of Jammu and Kashmir -- the northernmost state of India situated in the Himalaya mountains -- is less so. It is also India's only state with a Muslim majority, and spicy kebabs and lamb dishes are its signature.

Jammu and Kashmir House occupies a small compound on a tree-lined road near the Samrat Hotel in Chanakyapuri, with several three-story red brick buildings. Its driveway is lined with the white Ambassador sedans used by government officials.

One building holds the dining room, which has tile floors and white walls that are sparsely decorated with faded pictures of Kashmir’s snow-capped mountains. Curtains were drawn over large floor-to-ceiling windows. On a Thursday night, the six big wooden tables were occupied by men in taqiyahs, the caps worn by some Muslims.

There is no menu, so customers simply eat what the kitchen has prepared that day. On a recent visit, that included tender seekh kebabs, made with lamb and roasted with cumin and chili; moist lamb kofta in an oily pool of tomato and chili sauce; and haak saag, a dark, leafy green popular in Kashmir that was simply stir-fried.

It's not hard to find kebabs in Delhi, but dining at Jammu and Kashmir House offers the special treat of eating from a ceramic plate with the state seal: a lotus and two swans. Still, the no-frills canteen is a far cry from the idyllic landscapes of Kashmir.

Not all the bhavans are so utilitarian. Nagaland in northeast India is one of the country's smallest and most remote states -- so it was surprising that the dining room at Nagaland House was relatively formal. Housed in a three-story white villa with green trim on Aurangzeb Road, a fancy boulevard lined with expensive homes and government residences, the canteen had five tables that were covered with white tablecloths and lavender place mats laid with cutlery and ceramic plates.

Nagaland is known for its green mountains and the folk traditions of the Naga people. But tourists need permits to visit -- the state is plagued by rebel insurgencies -- so a visit to the canteen may be the closest that many people will ever get to tasting Naga specialties like smoked pork stir-fried with bamboo shoots, and pork stewed with nushi, the leaf of a local yam. Unlike in most of India, pork is eaten with zeal in Nagaland.

On a recent Monday evening, a waiter in a gray uniform attended to a largely empty dining room. Tourist photos of Nagaland hung in the lobby. Outside, there were no green mountains, just an endless stream of traffic to remind diners they were still in Delhi.
Andhra Pradesh Bhavan (1 Ashoka Road, near India Gate; 91-11-2338-7499 ; is among the most popular spots. Open daily 7:30 to 10 a.m.; noon to 3 p.m.; 7:30 to 10 p.m. Dinner for two, about 160 rupees, or about $3.65.

Assam Bhavan (1 Sardar Patel Marg, Chanakyapuri; 91-11-2687-7111 ), in a small basement, serves fish and unusual vegetarian dishes like custard apple curry. Daily 1 to 2:30 p.m.; 8:30 to 10 p.m. Meal for two, about 120 rupees.

Jammu and Kashmir House (9 Kautilya Marg, Chanakyapuri; 91-11-2611-2021 ) is known for its lamb kebabs. Not to be confused with Jammu and Kashmir Bhavan. Daily 7 to 9 a.m.; noon to 2 p.m.; 7 to 10 p.m. Meal for two, about 180 rupees.

Kerala House (3 Jantar Mantar Road, near Jantar Mantar; 91-11-3041-1411 ) serves coconut-infused dishes in a peaceful setting. Though it is not officially open to the public, walk-ins are welcome. Daily 8 to 9:30 a.m.; 1 to 2:30 p.m.; 8 to 9:30 p.m. Meal for two, 80 rupees.

Nagaland House (29 Aurangzeb Road, near Delhi Race Course; 91-11-2301-5638 ) serves unusual pork dishes favored in this remote northeast state. Daily 8:30 to 11 a.m.; noon to 2 p.m.; 7 to 10 p.m. Meal for two, 220 rupees.

Sikkim House (14 Panchsheel Marg; Chanakyapuri; 91-11-2611-5171 ), across from the United States Embassy, draws the diplomat set. Daily 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.; 12:30 to 11 p.m. Meal for two, about 250 rupees.

Tamil Nadu House (Off Africa Avenue; Chanakyapuri; 91-11-2419-3100 ) serves South Indian fare in a basic canteen. Daily 8 a.m. to 10:45 p.m. Meal for two, about 150 rupees.
  Terms & Conditions | Disclaimer | Advertise With Us |   Copyrights: The Herald of India, 2009. All rights reserved.