Monthly Archives: August 2008

The Karvi Flower Visits Mumbai

The forests of Mumbai have borne a new look. karvi 5After a long gap of eight years, the Karvi plant peculiar to the Western Ghats has bloomed. The flowers can be spotted throughout the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali and at some parts of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) area near Film City in Goregaon. The last bloom was seen in August 2000.

The botanical name for the plant is Strobilanthes Callosa while the common man knows it simply as the Karvi plant. The Karvi has an interesting life cycle. “Each year, the plant comes alive with the onset of the monsoons and once the rains are over, only the dry and dead looking stems remain. Karvi 1This pattern repeats itself for seven years and in the eighth year, it blooms into mass flowering thus giving the entire area a lavender blush,” says Priti Choghale, Education Officer of BNHS. The lifespan of a single Karvi bloom lasts for 15 – 20 days. The Karvi season begins by mid-August and ends by the end of September. “After the flowers bloom, it enters the fruiting phase. The fruits take a year to dry up and will germinate by next monsoon. During the next monsoon, there will be loud cracking sounds of the Karvi seeds as they open,” explains Choghale.

The plant was first discovered by Nees, a resident Britisher of Mumbai during the last century. The plant grows about two to six metres tall while the leaves are about 10 – 20 centimetres long.

The Karvi plant has many uses. The plant prevents soil erosion. Medically, the plant also acts as a blood purifier. The leaves can be crushed and the juice when drunk is a cure for stomach ailments. After the Karvi season, the leaves and the stem are used for thatched roofs also known as Karvi Huts.


Filed under India

Invitations with a Special Touch

As one walks through the by lanes of C.P Tank in Girgaum and enters Khadilkar Road, a line of invitation card shops greet you on both the sides. Khadilkar Road is an invitation card market where people come from far and wide to get that special card for all occasions according to their specifications. 13032007(005)These shops also provide an array of handbags and gift boxes in addition to invitation cards. In these shops, the occasion and religion is no bar.

Meena Agencies was among the first few shops to open in the area in 1964. This retail shop stocks a wide variety of cards ranging from textile design, embroidery and handicrafts to the printing technology. “Earlier an invitation was a mode of information or an invitation. Today it has become a style statement as the invitation creates the first impression of the event,” says Anand Thakkar, the owner of Meena Agencies. This store has around 1000 different varieties of invitation cards within the price range of Rs. 5 to Rs. 150 that is affordable to the idle class society. The shop targets people who want to customize their card. “In this business, creativity and tradition have to merge,” says Gopal Shah, owner of Vardha Enterprises, a relatively new player in the industry. This shop sells cards at wholesale rates and has distributors across the country.

The peak season of business for all these shops is between March to May and October to December. The owners do not worry about competition as each shop is unique in its products and designs. Every shop is filled with customers round the clock. “I have come all the way from Mumbra to select a card for my big day. It is a tough choice as there is a wide variety to choose from and I feel like giving each of my guest a different design,” says Monisha Chatterji, a customer.

A shop that caters to high-end customers especially for the elite and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) is Mars Arts. “Everlasting standard of quality, intricate detail workmanship and immense creativeness is the strength of our company,” states the owner, Mahavir Shah. Mars Arts has been in the business since 16 years and has established a good rapport with its customers. The company boasts of an in-house design studio and customer service centre. The price range of a card in this shop is Rs. 45 onwards. “The most expensive card we have made was for Rs. 1000. It was gold plates and had intricate embroidery,” adds Mahavir Shah.

The next time you want to send out invitation cards you know where to go to – Khadilakr Road near C. P. Tank.


Filed under India

Mumbai Resident Trains Autisitc Children Only

Mumbai resident, Dinesh Kumar is on a mission to impart music to children with autism. DSC01918It all began five years back, when he saw an advertisement inviting applications for the post of a music instructor for Priyanj Special School for autistic children for which he had applied. “I did not know who special children were and thought a special school is for high profile kids and for those who have extraordinary talents and abilities,” says Kumar. When he entered the school, all the children there looked like anybody else and later on got to know the condition about the children“When I began teaching, I thought that the children were deaf as I was not sure if they were listening to me,” adds Kumar. As time passed, Kumar read about autism and devised a plan of action on how to teach them.

“Initially I had to observe the behaviour of the children and see if they respond to music,” says the 30-year old Kumar. Kumar started by imparting music sense by making them clap their hands and bang the table tops to a rhythm. “If they clapped or band according to the beat or rhythm, I could gauge the musical abilities,” he adds.

This resident of Kandivali, a suburb in Mumbai now knows all the minute details about the condition of autistic children. No more does he feel as though something is wrong with them. “If the children do not respond, I feel as though something is wrong with me and my teaching,” says Kumar.

Since the students have a difficulty in deciphering the notes and chords, Kumar teaches them to play by the ear. Kumar makes it a point to teach the children popular Hindi songs. He just gives them the starting note and the pitch and they can play with ease. In order to teach the children the notes and the lyrics, Kumar has to teach them over and over again for them to retain and remember. “Sometimes it takes over a year for the children to learn one song,” Kumar mentions.

Thirty-year old Kumar feels that music has made a difference in the lives of these children. Music has increased their concentration and even started keeping eye contact with others.

Today, Kumar has come a long way. He currently teaches music to 60 children in Priyanj Special School and visits 20 children at their homes to teach them music. He plays the guitar, keyboard, bongo and the tambourine. However, he teaches the children just the keyboard as that is the easiest way the children can learn to play music.

Kumar has many invitations to teach others but he refuses as he has decided to teach children with autism. “Anyone can teach music to normal children but teaching autistic children is challenging as you have to keep up to their pace and wait for them to respond to your teaching,” says Kumar.

Kumar has also benefitted by teaching autistic children “Teaching these children requires lots of patience and tolerance and hence my patience and tolerance levels have increased,” he adds.


Filed under Education, India

Italian Nuns serve leprosy patients

Located in Andheri, a suburb in Mumbai is the Vimala Dermatological Centre run by the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate which provides care to leprosy and tuberculosis patients.(l-r) Sr. Bertilla and Sr. LuciaBoth born in Italy, 69-year old Sr. Bertilla Capra and 64-year old Sr. Lucia Pala belong to the congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate also known as PIME – Pontificio Instituto Missioni Estere (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission). After joining the convent, they completed their nursing courses in Italy and had a mission to serve the sick and the needy. Their compassion for fellow human beings brought them to India leaving their hometown Italy. “I had a desire to go to either India or Bangladesh to help leprosy patients because they are neglected and shunned away by society,” says Sr. Lucia. After expressing her desire, she was deputed to India in 1977 and Sr. Bertilla in 1970 to serve leprosy patients in India. The duo worked in Bimavaram at Eluru in Andhra Pradesh caring for leprosy and tuberculosis patients. Sr. Bertilla came to Mumbai in 1981 and Sr. Lucia in 1985 to join the Vimala Dermatological Centre. Their dedication towards their mission even led them to learn languages such as Telugu, Hindi and Marathi to help them to communicate better.

“In Italy, we never saw leprosy. In India, leprosy is still a stigma. Nobody is ready to help people affected with leprosy. It was difficult initially as the patients would smell and had worms all over their bodies as they lost sensation,” says Sr. Bertilla. “But it was our desire to serve these people and the dignity of the human being was much more that their dirtiness,” adds Sr. Lucia.

Sr. Bertilla and Sr. Lucia have completed 27 and 23 years respectively at Vimala Dermatological Centre. The centre was established in 1976 and has three wards for men, women and for the children of leprosy patients. The centre aims to detect all existing cases of leprosy and tuberculosis and to treat these ailments. The centre also offers hospitalisation facilities and surgical treatments as well.

“Our main endeavour is to spread awareness and educate people about leprosy. We conduct talks and seminars on leprosy care,” says Sr. Bertilla, superintendent of Vimala Dermatological Centre. To begin with the sisters clarify the myths associated with leprosy. “People believe that leprosy is a curse from God. However, leprosy is not only for the poor. It can attack anybody,” informs Sr. Lucia who stresses that leprosy is curable and does not spread through touch.

Vimala Dermatological Centre has well qualified teams specialising in medicine, surgery, rehabilitation and paramedical activities. After treatment, the patients are adequately rehabilitated. They are taught how to carry out their daily activities even if their finger or toes or limbs are amputated. Most of the patients receive help for housing, employment, loans and training in tailoring, screen printing and motor mechanics.

The centre provides counselling sessions for the families of those suffering from leprosy which includes education on leprosy. “In spite of this, some families want the patients to stay here forever and do not want to take them back home. Fear is not the key – treatment is,” adds Sr. Lucia.

Sr. Lucia feels angry with the families of the leprosy patients who refuse to touch the person or even change the bandage or dressing. “Till the 1990s, nobody ever stepped into our compound with the fear of contracting leprosy. However, now people have started coming and spending time with our patients here but they still have to overcome that fear,” says Sr. Lucia.

The children’s ward was started in order to give shelter to girls between the age of four – 15 years whose parents are suffering from leprosy and cannot afford to give them education and a decent living. 12-year old Lata (name changed to protect her identity) was in her first stage of leprosy when she came to Vimala Dermatological Centre. She was expelled from school due to her condition. After undergoing treatment at the centre for two years, she stays in the children’s ward and now goes to a regular school without traces of her past ailment.

Sr. Bertilla and Sr. Lucia visit their hometown Italy once every four years. During their visit back home, they educate the people in Italy about leprosy and collect funds to run the hospital here as they do not receive any grant from the government. Former leprosy patients have been employed in Vimala Dermatological Centre to stitch clothes, bags and make Christmas decorations. These clothes, bags and decorations are taken to Italy where they are sold in order to generate funds.

1 Comment

Filed under India