When I think about going home, I remember Thomas Wolfe: “Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.”
This week WomanScape traveled home to India, where we learned from award-winning filmmakers Deepa Mehta and Gurinder Chadha. Their stories helped us to learn about India’s history, people and culture, making our world feel smaller and life, much bigger. And we didn’t have to go any farther than our neighborhood theater, the local bookstore or our television remote. Glance through our recommended list of movies by Mehta and Chadha, listed at the end.
But before you do, remember that every Thursday WomanScape goes deeper into related stories and celebrations. This week, we dive into three very unique aspects of India’s culture: Masala Chai, Pashmina and Bollywood.
Every fall season when pumpkins start to dot porches and storefronts, I start thinking about chai. My local café offers seasonal coffees and teas filled with the rich smells of their chai concoctions. In many places, chai has become a favorite tea offered year round because of its medicinal benefits and delicious taste.
Have you ever wondered what’s in your chai tea? Is chai the same as masala chai?
Chai is a type of Indian tea (usually Darjeeling) made from boiling tea leaves with milk, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom. In the West, it usually means the same thing as masala chai, as long as Indian spices are added to it.
Chai tea is fragrant and spicy, and considered an elixir for boosting heart health, reducing blood sugar levels, aiding in digestion and helping with weight loss. To enjoy the benefits of this rich antioxidant, try our recommended tea.
Did you know it’s more than just a cashmere goat!
That’s right, pashmina is a fine type of Kashmir wool and its name is derived from the Persian word pašhmina which literally means “soft gold”.
So it makes sense that pashmina shawls have been worn by royalty for centuries and gifted as part of wealthy women’s dowry’s in India and Nepal. In the East, pashmina is worn as a status symbol. This soft, rich fabric is something you can wear over your shoulders like a loose sweater or it can also be used as a light blanket.
Check out this beautiful option; the WomanScape purple color is particularly beautiful.
Bollywood dance is to India what popcorn is to movies – absolutely inseparable.
Bollywood dancing is an expression of song and dance that combines Jazz, Hip Hop, East Indian Classical, Salsa and Bhangra dances.
As an important element in India’s storytelling traditions, it’s also of great cultural significance and used in films like a chorus to reinforce the story. In the movie Husband Material, all of the actors break out into well placed dance routines and a set of twin sisters interrupts the storyline on many occasions to sing poetic verses.
None of the dance routines makes much sense to inexperienced “Bollywooders” but it’s crazy popular and expected for real “Bollywooders”.
For now, consider trying a little Bollywood dance for beginners with Jaya Vaswani. This CD program includes Indian dance hand gestures, dance moves, and key descriptive words you’ll need to know. There is also a full Bollywood routine and dance-along section!
But rest up for tomorrow when WomanScape shows you how to throw your hands up in celebration, as we bring you a few ideas for a Fun Friday Bollywood party.