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Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we

Merry Christmas!

Wish you all a very merry Christmas, with this glimpse of Christmas decorations in kolkata! I am traveling through Christmas and New Year, so to keep up with my updates, follow me on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram .

St. Francis Xavier and the Churches of Old Goa

The Decennial Exposition of St. Francis Xavier is being held in Goa till the 4th of Jan, 2015. This article on the Saint, and the churches of Goa appeared in the November 2014 issue of Being Woman Magazine.  St. Francis Xavier He was born in Spain , and during his lifetime, travelled across Europe and Asia, spreading his faith. Death would normally put an end to such a life of travel, but after his passing, his remains travelled once again, re-tracing the route he had taken in life. More than five centuries later, he still arouses faith, drawing from far and wide, the devout and curious, across religions. Such is the inspiring story of St. Francis Xavier, the first Jesuit Missionary.

Tharangambadi - The Neemrana Experience

The roar of the sea is all I can hear . Then, the skies open up, and the rain beats a rhythmic tattoo on the roof, adding an element of percussion to the musical note of the waves. Sitting alone on an easy chair, watching the interplay between the sky and the sea, it feels like nature is putting up a show, complete with a musical symphony, just for me! It is easy to understand why, in the local language, Tamil, this place is called Tharangambadi – land of the singing waves!

Birds from my Window - Hoopoe

One of the best things about birdwatching is the excitement we feel on spotting a new bird. Even better is spotting a new bird in our own backyard! We were decorating the road outside our building with rangolis to welcome a procession of a local deity, and Samhith, who was hanging around, giving his opinion of our artistic skills, suddenly called me... This is what we saw....

When stories come alive - An Encounter with a Hanuman Langur

Bheema, it is said , once came across an old monkey, lying with his tail across the path. Not wanting to step over the tail, Bheema asked the monkey to move. The monkey replied that he was too tired, and could Bheema himself move the tail, since he was so strong? Bheema, always confident and proud of his strength, bent to lift the tail, but was surprised that he couldn’t even shift it an inch! After trying multiple times, he finally gave up, acknowledging that his strength was no match for the monkey. Pleased, the monkey revealed his true form. He was Hanuman, the older son of Vayu, the wind, and thus Bheema’s elder brother. He then blessed Bheema, promising to stay by his side in the great war which was to come.

Skywatch Friday..... So many shades of blue!

We were on the ramparts of the Dansborg Fort at Tarangambadi, when Samhith excitedly pointed out the clouds looming low over the sea. "Amma, look at how many shades of blue there are!" he exclaimed...... Tarangambadi in Tamilnadu is where the Dutch first landed in India, and this little town was once a Dutch colony. Today, it is a sleepy hamlet, with the restored fort the biggest attraction, and the sea a constant reminder of nature's vagaries. The Tsunami of 2004 washed part of it away, and the scars remain, making the sea not very safe for bathing or swimming. It rained through the two days we spent there, and we enjoyed the experience of just sitting, listening to the pitter patter of the raindrops, and the roar of the waves... no wonder the name of the town, in Tamil means "Land of the singing waves" I am posting this as part of Skywatch Friday ... Lots more pics and stories coming up about Tarangambadi soon! 

My tryst with the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

What is it that you look for, in a phone?   Photo Courtesy: Sony Xperia Z3 website  

All Lit up! Lamps from Tamilnadu and Maharashtra

Diwali is over , but kandeels still hang, a reminder of the festival. My post on the festival has been long overdue, and, here is my article, which appeared in print, as part of a series on the festival....

Asian Open Bill or Asian Open Billed Stork

We first saw these birds at the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary , but on my recent trip to Tamilnadu, we saw this one in a rice field, somewhere between Mayiladudurai (Mayavaram) and Tarangambadi (Tranquebar).... Would I be right in thinking that its the Cauvery which draws them? What do you think? P.S. Posts on the blog will be erratic for a while because of some major renovation work in our house which has restricted my access to the computer. I will, however, be posting regular updates as well as photographs on Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram . Please follow me there to see what I am up to. Besides, I am off on another trip soon, so stay tuned for a lot more photos!!! 

Happy Diwali!

Deepavali greetings to everyone!  We are celebrating the festival with family down south, visiting relatives and bursting crackers,and this photo is a collage created with photos I clicked of samhith bursting fire crackers. All the photos have been clicked with the Sony Xperia Z3 compact , and I have created the collage and posted this from the phone too :-) Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.

A new trip... With a new phone!

I am relaxing in an easy chair, watching the rains lash and the waves crash against the shore. Yes, I am on another trip, this time to South India,  and as I type this, at Tarangambadi or Tranquebar. I am staying at the Neemrana property, Bungalow on the beach, and have with me for company,  Samhith of course, and the newest member of my gadget family - a Sony Xperia Z3 !

White Browed Fantail Flycatcher

This is one of the birds I usually spot from my window, but this particular one I saw at Hindu Cemetery at Banganga. I love seeing the bird spreads out its feathers, and shows us why it is called the White Browed Fantail Flycatcher ! This is a test post. I am trying to publish posts from my tab, so i can post on the go. Please bear with me, and let me know your feedback on the appearance of these posts so i can improve.

Little Green Heron

Walking around the Club Mahindra Cherai Beach Resort, I noticed a flash of feathers as a bird rose out of the water and flew to a tree. Curious, I waited till the bird returned, and I realized that it wasn’t wading in the water as I had thought, but stood at the edge of the water, on the boundary wall….

Navaratri Day 10: Winding up

Dusshera or Vijayadasami - either way, the tenth day of Navaratri is one of celebration. This year, I have been less than enthusiastic about the festival, but surrounded as I am by the celebration in all its many hues, I have still managed to post (almost) every day! Wondering how to wind up my posts, I came across this sight, which inspired me to write....

Navaratri Day 9 : Ramleela

Navaratri might be about the goddess, and her victory over the demon. However, the festival is also about another war - that between Rama and Ravana. Ramleela is just as important a part of our Navaratri celebration, so here is a peep into the Ramleela at Chembur...

Navaratri Day 8: A Golu which tells us a story

Finally catching up with my Navaratri posts, here is the celebration at Fine Arts, Chembur. The Bommai Kolu is just as grand as ever, the 15 steps towering over everyone!

Navaratri Day 7: The Golu we were waiting for!

Every year at Navaratri , apart from keeping a Bommai Golu at home myself, the one thing I look forward to, is the Golu kept by Mr. P.E.P. Swamy, of Garodia Nagar. His incredible attention to detail makes his arrangement stand out, and we await the chance to visit him and see what he has put up every year! This year, he has depicted a typical railway station....

Navaratri Day 6: Dashavatar Set from Chennapatna

Navaratri for me, is all about the Golu. Many of you must have been wondering why I still haven't posted any photos of Golus. The reason, rather prosaically is that I can't celebrate the festival this year, and, unfortunately, neither can many of our relatives, and friends. That, plus some unexpected events have kept me from visiting and posting about Golus so far. Meanwhile, I am sharing with you today, one of the items on my wishlist for next year's Golu.... I saw this beautifully carved wooden set of the  Dashavtar at Chennapatna. The small town is known for its wooden toys, and whenever I am in the vicinity, I can't help stopping, even if just for a look!! Of course, I always end up buying something... I did buy some toys for Samhith and a few gifts for friends, but I restrained my temptation to buy this beautiful set! Maybe another time! 

Navaratri Day 5 : Dancing Girls

I was going through my photos and wondering what to post today for Navaratri. And I found this... from the outer wall of the Vitthala Temple at Hampi... When we think of dancing with sticks, we think of Garba during Navaratri in Gujarat. But such forms of dancing aren't confined to Gujarat alone. Down south, the same is called ' Kolattam ', which literally translates to 'dancing with sticks'!! And this is what is depicted here. Doesn't it look beautiful???  Interestingly , if you look closer, you will notice that, on the right, the last figure isn't a girl. It is a boy, holding what looks like a trumpet in one hand and a drum in the other! It is such small details which make these temples so special! 

Navaratri Day 4: Faces in the Crowd - The Tightrope walker

Tender feet.. Wearing pretty anklets... They should be busy running around, playing... Yet,  They walk a tightrope.. Literally as well as figuratively.. Balancing themselves on the rope of jute,  as well as that of life..

Navaratri Day 3: A Jain Goddess in Ellora

We tend to associate female deities with Hinduism. It was therefore, interesting to see different representations of female goddesses in the Jain caves of Ellora. Ambika is the Goddess of Prosperity. She is the Yakshi or the protector - goddess of the 22nd Teerthankara, Neminath. Here are two of her figures, seen in the caves of Ellora...

Navaratri Day 2: Two Interesting Temples

On the second day of Navaratri, here is the story of two temples dedicated to the Goddess. Both are in Jaisalmer, and though I have visited Jaisalmer twice, I haven’t yet visited these temples. I first heard of them from my uncle, who, on an official visit to the city, took time out to visit the border, and, on the way, these temples. I was so fascinated by his stories, that I asked him to pen them down for me. So, here they are, as a guest post from Mr. K.S.Raghuraman, who, apart from being my maternal uncle, also worked at the Airport Authority of India , and managed to travel across the country and beyond, for work and pleasure! :) 

A Date with the Goddess - Navaratri begins!

Navaratri begins today - nine days and nights dedicated to the Goddess. I cannot celebrate the festival at home this year, (once again) for various personal reasons, but here, on the blog, the celebration is on, and I shall try and bring you interesting aspects of the festival as well as temples and shrines to the Goddess...in short, whatever I come across!  I begin with a small shrine to the goddess at the Khaba Fort that I visited during my tour to Jaisalmer with Suryagarh . 

Birds from my Window - Purple Rumped Sunbird

Their busy twittering is the one that I hear every morning, as I relax with my morning cup of coffee. Capturing them on camera hasn't been so easy though, which is why, when I saw one of them grooming himself on a tree right oopposite my window, I set aside my coffee and rushed for my camera! This is what I managed to photograph.... The Purple Rumped Sunbird... .

24 Hours in Fort Kochi

I visited Fort Kochi in May this year, and since I returned, you have been reading about it on the blog. After a long, ten part series, spread over three months, it is time I wound up my narrative, bringing my posts together for easy reference. Considering that I spent just a day there, the length of this series has been remarkable, so, what better way to do that, than summarize my 24 hours in Fort Kochi!

Fort Kochi - Part 10 : Maritime Museum

“Maritime Museum” announced a board. “It is closed today” said our auto driver, and we reluctantly turned the other way. The next morning, however, before heading out of Fort Kochi, we decided it was time to try the museum once again. “There is nothing much to see” lamented our driver of the day, but we insisted, and, in the pouring rain, arrived at INS Dronacharya, which is home to the Southern Naval Command (SNC) Maritime Museum. 

Fort Kochi - Part 9 : 3 Cafes, three experiences

Wall to wall shelves filled with books, paintings by local artists, interesting sculptures to stare at while we ate; juices, pancakes and sandwiches, made just as we wanted them. What more could we ask for? That’s what mealtimes were like for us, at Fort Kochi.

Skywatch Friday - Clouds, from a plane

Clouds have always fascinated me... from searching for shapes in their formations to eagerly looking forward to cloudy skies during flights. Which is why I am sharing these images today...

Fort Kochi - Part 8: A Boat Ride

Wandering the roads of Mattanchery after visiting the Palace and the Jew Town, the Jetty beckoned, and we headed off to take a boat tour. After all, the sea and the port are the reasons for Fort Kochi’s existence, and its importance. And so, after all those long, detailed, historical posts, here is a photo blog for you… The sea beckons, Fort Kochi to the left, Willingdon Island to the right... the contrast is clearly seen!

Fort Kochi - Part 7 : Jew Town and Synagogue

Our introduction to Fort Kochi and her glorious history began with our visit to the St. FrancisChurch , the oldest European built church in India. Then, the Mattanchery Palace gave us an insight into the lives of the Hindu rulers, who were the original inhabitants of this beautiful town. A few minutes’ walk now brought us to another, and even more fascinating aspect of Fort Kochi – the Jew Town. Special Cancellation at the Jew Town Post Office, Mattanchery Jetty

A truly eco-friendly experience at Avalanche, Ooty

This is the story  of a man who impressed us for the dedication he showed to his work. I wrote this article for The Alternative , an online magazine which strives to make sustainability a way of life. I am re-posting it here for those of you who haven't already seen it on Facebook or Twitter. Please click the link below to read the original article... An eco-friendly Avalanche at Ooty The bus was full , and we looked forward to our jaunt into the Nilgiris. The driver was ready too, but it looked like we were waiting for someone else. Finally, the guide arrived, armed with a scythe in one hand and a jute sack in the other. My 10 year old son voiced aloud, the thought that was in most people’s minds –“What does he need the scythe for?”  

My Suryagarh Experience

The early morning sun streamed in through the window, and I awoke to the muted strain of music. Eager to trace its source, I hurried downstairs, and was welcomed by the sight of a pair of peacocks ambling on the lawn, and a flock of doves waddling in the corridor! My morning at Suryagarh couldn’t have begun on a better note! Spotting the musician sitting in one of the window niches, I sat down for a hot cup of tea, wishing that every morning would be as picturesque!

Birds from my Window - Crow Pheasant

The Greater Coucal , called a Crow Pheasant, is neither a crow nor a pheasant, but belongs to the cuckoo family. They are commonly called 'Bharadvaj', and sighting them is believed to be a good omen.

Ganesha on a Govardhan

Today is Ganesh Chaturthi, and with everyone writing about Ganesha in some way or the other, I thought I should do a post too, but related to something I saw on my recent visit to Jaisalmer. Are you now confused? And wondering what connection Ganesha has to Govardhan and that too, Jaisalmer? Well, then, first, let me show you what I am talking about….

Stories of the Desert

“It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story”                                      – Native American Saying All of last week , sitting on my computer, trying to write the next post in my Suryagarh series, I was lost – for words, for ideas, for inspiration. Most of what I wanted to say had been said by others before me, and I began wondering if I should be writing at all. Then, this morning, I stumbled onto this quote, and suddenly, the ideas poured forth, as if a thousand voices were indeed telling me their own stories! And therefore, without much ado, here they are…

A Flag of Devotion

On our way to Jaisalmer from Jodhpur, we often saw groups of people walking, those in the lead holding a flag, and the others carrying bottles of water on their head. These, we were told, were devotees of Baba Ramdev of Ramdevra near Pokhran (not to be confused with the Yoga guru of the same name), walking to his shrine. Like the warkaris who walk to Pandharpur for Ashadi Ekadashi, these devotees  walk to Ramdevra during the months of August- September, to participate in the festival commemorating their guru’s Samadhi. I wasn’t able to photograph them, or the flag they carried, but, when we visited the Jaisalmer Fort, I was surprised to see the same flag flying high! Apparently, a shrine to the saint has been erected near the temple at the base of the fort!! This is certainly a new development, one which wasn’t there when I last visited, but I took the opportunity to click the multi-coloured flag! Post by A Wandering Mind .

Viceregal Lodge, Shimla

This Independence day , let me take you to Shimla, where the Indian Flag flutters over the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge.

Of Ker and Sangri - not as food, but in nature.

This tiny flower, nestled amidst thorns, is so pretty, that I brave the thorns (and the others' warnings) to try and get a decent photo....

Re-tracing the Silk Route on the Sands of Time

A caravan makes its way across the desert, the lead vehicle stopping often to check their route. They have a long way to go, and the desert terrain is rough, and easy to get lost in. It is monsoon, and they are relieved to be spared the scorching sun. The cloudy sky is such a blessing after the harsh summers they have experienced here. The landscape offers them a change too, with pools of rainwater breaking the monotony of the sand dunes.

Wildlife in the Desert

Black Bucks ran across the road, peacocks danced as we watched, birds flew into the air, and insects and reptiles scuttled into their safe havens at our approach. Our recent trip to Jaisalmer was full of such 'wild' encounters! 

Of old journeys and new ones... and a glimpse of my recent trip

June 2007: Shankar and I head out to Jaisalmer, 4 year old Samhith in tow. It is a memorable trip, one where we walk for hours over the Golden Fort, clicking photographs with our trusted old Kodak camera, as we take turns carrying Samhith and posing! We trudge across sand dunes on camels, even as I close my eyes tightly to avoid the queasy feeling, and then happily play on the sand, though it still retains some of the heat of the day! I return with so many tales from the trip that my sister in law suggests I start a blog. A string of camels walk across the desert. Somewhere in Jaisalmer @suryagarh #monsoonmagic pic.twitter.com/MhSnaIkU4s — Anu Shankar (@anushankarn) August 2, 2014

Fort Kochi - Part 6 : Mattanchery Palace

The Mattancherry Jetty was busy, crowded, and lined with shops. A horde of tourists had just arrived, and amidst all the chaos, we couldn’t figure out where was the palace. It was our auto driver who pointed out the arched doorway, urging us out, obviously in a hurry to be paid and find his next customer. Walking inside, the first thing we saw was the temple of Pazhayannur Bhagavathy, and we wondered once again, if we were indeed at the right place. Thankfully, an ASI board pointed us to the staircase, which led us up to the first floor, where a wearied looking caretaker sold us tickets to visit the palace, which is now a museum.

Cheraman Juma Masjid - The First Mosque built in India

Eid Mubarak!! On the occasion of Eid, I take a break from my Fort Kochi posts to bring you something special, just for this occasion – an account of my visit to the first ever mosque to be built in India!

Fort Kochi - Part 5: The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

On the outside, it is a grand, Gothic structure, resplendent in its whiteness.