Tag Archives: India

Valparai Tales! Part 2.

Contd from…

As I sweat in the Bangalore heat, while doing absolutely nothing apart from just breathing, which you would all acknowledge is a very crucial, and from what I know the most important factor for our existence, I think back of the vacation I recently took. And promised a second post on.

In my mind, as I say the word, Valparai, I close my eyes to be welcomed to memories of our four wheeler rushing through the short winding roads through hills, while green stems and young branches fell out of line by the side of the road, swaying to greet us. We are rushing past them, honking at each hairpin bend, serpent turns, waking us out of the slumber of hill travel every now and then, fascinated by the depths which greeted us to our right and the heights which beckoned us to our left.

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Oh the twists and turns! More than a Jodi Picoult book.

I see a kaleidoscope of butterflies pass us, yellow this one. My reflexes are too slow to brandish the phone camera for a shot of them. I simply close my eyes to capture the moment. Sometimes, I wish I had a pensieve to keep these memories untouched. But in its absence, National Geographic will have to do. The Sun, which at the base of the hills was unforgiving, seemed to be playing hide and seek with us as we travelled upwards closer. The clouds ran helter skelter, giving us a peak a boo of the scorch every now and then. It was almost lunch hour when we reached the outskirts of Valparai and unbelievable as it may sound, or read, there was rain, just like Google weather had predicted! Bless technology and the genius minds that worked behind it.

Valparai is so untouched by commercialization, that it was difficult to find a place to stay. We ended up finding a place that seemed like it had been vacated after its occupants had packed bags and moved to the city for better earnings. They offered us a single room for ten people when actually advertising as a home stay! I wondered how the others would react for I was already prepared for a little adventure. Standing at the crossroads of the little town, I sighed audibly with relief when I looked up at the three storeyed building, catching the occupants of the top floor room, my friends, look out at the tea estates as far as the horizon permit, with enthusiasm and unwavering excitement.

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If there was audio, you could have heard us singing too!

The evening that we spent there has to be my most memorable in quite a while. Walking through tea estates, and (this time) long winding roads, with no vehicles to honk at us, no bikes to rush past us, no traffic at all, paradise was not even on my wishlist then. We sang as the sun set, clicked photographs of trees that formed patterns different to each of our eyes, posed by the side of the road wanting  to post pictures online but never doing so, because we knew words would fail to describe the serenity we felt then. And we also didn’t want to lose those minutes buried in the phone. That says a lot about the place, doesn’t it? We saw people though. Some smiled at us knowingly, others gave us a pass, ignoring us as a brief little intrusion in their small town. A shopkeeper asked us our religion, offering a temple, mosque or a church to visit around accordingly. He chatted with us for over five minutes, but did not once try to sell his wares to us. So much for calling it a small town.

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Bouquet of flowers, a friend calls it. Anyone knows what these are called?

Graciously Yours!

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Nostalgia.

evszefhAs I stood by the the window of the balcony, my nose was pressed to it, my breath frosting the glass around my lips, I saw the winds outside swirling, droplets of water being bullied into submission, lights from the night lamps streaming through the air, making the paths of water borne air above the road, visible.

I yearned to step outside of my house and go play basketball in the rains, with the people below, kids I presumed. Their shrieks of delight floated uptil a dozen or so floors above. Instead I did something better.

I slid open the windows of the balcony, that kept the water borne winds out and was welcomed to winds so cold, no air conditioner could compete, the freshness of ice and spring combined! The hair at the nape of my neck stood in attention, out of excitement.

Back home, whenever it rained, torrentially as it was looking to today, my sister and I would sit at the window sill, legs hanging out into the dark, lightning flashing us time and again, shrieking in delight at every wave of wind that whipped through us.

As the water hit me, wave after wave, I shivered in excitement, and cold, but nonetheless not agreeing to go back inside! After all, the heat of so many days needed more time with the rains to sod off!

Staring up at the skies, blinking at every lightning flash, I felt the water seeping to the roots of my hair, the sides of my neck. I stood with my arms by my side, shaking but not willing to go into the house again. I looked down at my feet after a while. I was soaking wet from the top to bottom! Giggling, rubbing my arms, I slid the balcony windows shut, greeted with warmth in the hall. I’d missed the rains. I missed my sister more now.

Graciously Yours!

Valparai Tales! Part 1.

As another three day long weekend came up, the crowd of Bangalore, like me, decided to move away from the city to the surrounding hill stations where temperatures dipped and the real feel was more in the fresh early 20’s rather than the tiring late 30’s!

What do you expect when seemingly an entire city starts to move away from it? Well, apart from a lot of money for the tolls and travel agencies? A lot of traffic! So much so that at 2 AM, we were stuck in traffic for almost an hour. Well, a lot of people got to see a SpiderWoman on the top of our vehicle! Shh. Well, the vehicle carrier was lying unused. It must have been lonely and sad.

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Replace one of these monkeys with a woman! And remove the rest from the picture! Or you could keep the rest too. She doesn’t mind. I asked.

The SpiderWoman was tired after her two minute stint. After all, greater responsibilities requires greater power! So what would the next stop four hours later be for? Food! Breakfast combined food with ogling at a cute little bundle of joy, who was peeping out of his father’s arms and watching the early morning bustle at the road side eatery while his mouth hung open and eyes remained wide and bright.

The places we crossed, cities, towns all seemed to wake up the same way. The faces change, but the places remain the same – similar yet different in ways a traveler can’t distinguish in passing but only admire. The lone milk vendor on his cycle, the newspaper guys distributing the morning’s load, the vegetable sellers lining up for a swift morning, the jogger here and there, the early risers already on their way to work, more men, less women, more elders, no children, some yawning, others charged for the Sun’s next rotation.

A full belly and long travel dozed me off to sleep! I woke up next to find myself away from the cities and into the forests of the Western Ghats! Not to mention with a ‘Nearly Headless Neck’ and an almost bursting bladder.

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We stopped to answer nature’s call at the open air toilets provided by the Forest Reserve at one of the checkpoints, and lo behold! Their grit was eye opening! And their ways, harsh reality.

Let’s break this down for you. The gritty stuff? Well, their toilets were not gender biased – all unisex. Go figure, how! The harsh reality? Well, only 1 out of the 10 toilets had running water available. And when I say running, I mean 24X7 running, because the tap was broken beyond repair. Just like the 10% among us hold 99% of the wealth and waste it because they have no idea what to do with it.

What do you think when at an elevation of 340 metres, the heat is blistering and burning your skin but Google Weather reports that the 3400 metres’ elevation which is your destination is expecting rain? Well the obvious one is, ‘Google must be wrong. Finally!’. Apart from the obvious, I came up with, ‘Is it really possible that this same high and mighty Sun and sky will be shy and cloudy in another hour and 3060 metres?’. And after that I hit my jackpot!

‘Did the women of India really choose to cover their heads and faces with their attire because the men culture wanted it or because the women wanted to save themselves from the heat, the open countryside is subjected to? As if breathing fire wasn’t enough, they’d have to let it simmer their skin too.’

Looks like some of the heat got to me too!

To be continued...

Graciously Yours!

A Smile Here. A Smile There.

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He looked visibly frustrated. And he had reasons to be so. He’d been on his feet for almost half the day and the ordeal was not over yet. He kept shuffling his feet across the floor, trying to visit each table more than once. He knew his boss was keeping a tab. He had to sell the offer they had just rolled out. He collected the offer pamphlets from the doorman’s podium.

He walked to the nearest table. The occupants were conversing. “It is bad manners to intrude,” his teacher had taught him in school. He didn’t want to intrude but his job demanded otherwise.  He went up to the table, excused himself and started explaining the offer to the customers in the middle of their meal and conversation. Halfway through, they took the pamphlet and resumed their conversation. Not a smile, not an acknowledgement, not even the plain old nod. He called it the ‘wallpaper theory’ – he was like the wallpaper, essential but not cast a look at, never smiled at and walked past. Well, at least they were better than those customers who turned around to shout at him, or be rude, or asked him to go away! Oh yes, there were such too. They’d look up and say, “Could you go away?” If only they knew how to even say please.

Every trip to the bathroom involved washing his face more than peeing. Waiting on tables wasn’t his dream job, this was no one’s dream job but if he wanted to get a monthly cash deposit in his bank, this would have to do. He had to remind himself every couple of hours that this job was more important than rude and impolite customers, than being treated like wallpaper, than having to carry people’s soiled plates, sleeping with a pain in the feet which seemed like it would never go away again, and a bruise to your self respect each damned day. But it would have to do. They say no job is small, yet the way they behave each day belittles him.


I met Bhanu, who works at a fast food outlet here in Bangalore. I don’t know what his story is, why he does what he does, how he motivates himself to wait on tables all day long, how he lets out all the frustration that is more than visible on his face, but I am sorry I couldn’t get a smile on his face! Probably one smile from me wasn’t enough to make up for his tough day!

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Let’s try harder next time and be more polite to the ones who have jobs that could not be further away from the term ‘job satisfaction’. Can we do that?

Graciously Yours!

Unravel the Travel!

As promised (to no one in general), here’s a continued set of anecdotes from my trip to Gujarat!

Let’s begin right from the beginning of the trip, like is the norm unless I choose to write in reverse chronology. That’s a good idea but for another day!

Anyone who’s spent even a day on Bangalore roads would know how terrible a nightmare they can be, especially if you have a flight to catch. So  for my own mental peace and for all practical purposes, I left from home, four hours before my flight was to take off! And lo behold, I reached in just about an hour and a half, much to my annoyance and my cabbie’s surprise at my annoyance. The good people at the flight customer support counter however sent me off on an early flight as reward for my unacceptable promptness.

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That’s a long way to go! At Ahmedabad Airport.
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That’s a lot of lights! And white. At Mumbai Airport.

We came across not one or two but three locations where there were rubber band sellers – and when I say rubber band sellers, they were only selling rubber bands! A handcart full of crimson, kale, azure, gold, grey, fuchsia, violet, saffron, striped, polka dotted rubber bands! Out of curiosity, I asked one of those vendors what the price of the bands were and he said 1 rupee! Yes, you read it right – freaking 100 paise! 1 rupee! My first thought was how are they even surviving! My second thought was to buy a dozen or so of the bands. My third thought was exactly how much is the production cost of these bands if people are managing to sell these at such a nominal price!

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You get transported to the era of mutinies and sepoys with your first step in. At Diu Fort.

At one of the beaches, my sister was polite enough to do the human thing of clicking a picture for a couple of guys who requested her to. One of them started making small talk with her asking her if she was a resident of the town, did she know any good places to eat, et al. Having answered in monosyllables, we started walking away when one of them called out to her asking her, “I’m from the States. Would you want a picture with me?” Surprised, she refused. He insisted again asking, “Are you sure you don’t want  a picture with me?” While I was wondering if I could place his face to any of the Indian Americans I’d seen on the USA shows, my sister was muttering, “He’s freaking flirting with a 20 year old! He is almost double my age!”

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That’s vandalism, in modern times! At least something is changing with times. At Diu Fort.

We had visited a set of caves, to which there’s dispute about whether it was a geological formation or dug by the Portuguese for formation of the Diu Fort. Either ways, it was a beautiful maze of earth cut out in a variety of eerie and curiously un-human ways. There were stairs ending into nowhere, rocks hanging out precariously, cuts in the ceiling which didn’t seem to explain the purpose or history of its creation! And because it was so huge and devoid of many tourists, there were spaces where you couldn’t see another person as far as your sight and the maze allowed. The silence was harsh enough for you to hear your own breathing and each step you took creaked the twigs and dry grass below. I was thankful to have gone there during the day! In the midst of this little nowhere, was a bunch of DSLR equipped photographers capturing a to-be married couple’s shots. The pictures will turn out to be pretty, I tell you!

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Photoshoot, in progress. At Naida Caves.

When I recounted the saga of being stuck on the highway in a three hour traffic jam in the early hours of a new day, I did not mention a first I encountered! I managed to locate and confirm my first constellation sighting in the skies! It was the Big Dipper constellation, as confirmed by the StarTracker app I use, when I was very sure that it was Big Dipper! I wish I could have captured the night sky as pristine as I saw it, but technology has its limits and sometimes, what you see is too beautiful to be captured as is on camera. The camera just cannot do justice.

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Grainy, but memorable. At a resort in Gir.

Graciously Yours!

Life Notes #11.

Once in a while the Life Notes series of posts should be revived. They are so easy to title! 😉
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I went on a tour to the Indian state of Gujarat with family recently. It was fun filled, exciting, adventurous, reminiscent of the two decades we have spent together. Sure we had our tough moments too but very well overshadowed by the good moments!

The driver we’d hired was peculiar though. He had a fascination with keeping the car clean! Within an hour of starting the drive, when food was mentioned he immediately requested us to not eat in the car. As the trip progressed, his fancies for taking care of the car started to become nightmarish for us. We couldn’t use the pouches at the back of the seats because they’d become shapeless then. We couldn’t put up our cramped feet on the seat. We had to check the soles of our footwear before getting into the car. We had to try and dust every grain of the beach sand from our clothing lest we carry it into the car – even if it meant waiting in the noon Sun for an extra half hour drying ourselves, our clothes and the stuck sand! There was a moment when a couple of us were sitting in the car waiting for the others to join and there at the side of the road, as our car stood, replete with dust (because well, Indian roads are dusty, especially when travelling between cities) our driver was dusting the car’s body with a cloth. Why on earth would someone do that in the middle of a 50 km drive? It would all just come back!

So needless to say, in our seven day trip I was dreading spending the 40 hours or so in the car travelling, with that guy at the wheel!

The last night of our trip was planned such that we’d be travelling overnight to our final destination. It was also our first night travel while he was at the wheel. Around 1:30 AM, we got stuck in a traffic mess on the highway. And we’d just crossed a scene of an accident ten minutes ago. In the pitch darkness of the roads, the night only lit by star shine and vehicle headlights, even overturned stones may seem like human skulls. If that wasn’t enough to spook me out, we found out that there was another mix up that had happened ahead and we would be stuck in the car for a while ~ too cold to step out, too stuffy to stay in. We switched off our car lights and music to save fuel. And good we did, because the jam finally cleared three hours later! About 25 kms from there, we again crossed an accident spot. By now, I had tremendous respect for the driver because not only did he have a steady hand but he was very careful while overtaking other vehicles or maintaining the speed limits! Though I had noticed this over the week, that thought never got a chance to come to the foreground, because of his affinity to keep the car clean.

His sole job was to ensure that we travelled safely and on time. And he did that brilliantly, not failing us even once. Yes, he wasn’t the most charming talker or accommodative enough when it came to his car but that is not what was earning him his bread and butter. His driving skills were, and they were top notch.

Note to self : It is so easy to judge people, make fun of their personality if it differs from ours, without thinking or asking why they do what they do, without bothering to know what makes them them. Where’s the fun in being empathetic and sensible all the while? But would you rather live easy or live right? 

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Stop those attacks of judgment on people. #BeBetterThanTrump #HadToMentionHim.

In the background is a 15th century well cut out of hard rock to preserve water. It has 162 steps of descent and is located in the Uperkot Fort in Junagadh, Gujarat, India.

Graciously Yours!

FanGirl-ing over Daniel.

I generally don’t do mid week posts. And certainly not early morning mid week posts! But here’s one thanks to Daniel Fernandes; and my roommate who rushed around the house waking up probably every soul in the building while she tried to not miss her morning flight from the airport 72 kms away!

Why I hate Fawad Khan – Daniel Fernandes Stand-Up Comedy

So Daniel Fernandes hates Fawad Khan. Quick update for all those who are lost. Well, Daniel Fernandes is a stand up comedian I admire because his genre of comedy does not necessarily involve literal below the belt material or undertones and overtones so harsh and vile that they need to categorised as adult material. Fawad Khan is a Pakistani actor who is the latest but not the last butt of Pakistan hatemongers residing in India. So why does this deserve a post, you ask?

Because :
1. I was surprised to read the title of the video. I didn’t think Daniel would actually say this. Considering it is a pretty baseless thing to say. Because Fawad is an actor by profession who acts to earn his livelihood and is nowhere involved in the policies and decision making of Pakistan and India not coming to a peaceful resolution to the 69 year old enmity.
2. I was too sleepy to remember that Daniel has a classy sense of humour that has enough sarcasm to make my day! Every day.

Now that we are at the point where we are being smart rather than liberal, I have a confession to make! Remember the chai wala who became famous and then landed a modeling contract? The same one Daniel is talking about.

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I didn’t like the pictures from his modelling assignment. The first picture was rustic, reflected what he is and showed such an honesty in his eyes. The one from the modeling assignment? Well, it just looks so made up, which it actually is. I am not saying he doesn’t deserve a modeling assignment, but is that all we can give him? Is the equation forever going to be so simple? Every good looking person should be handed a modeling or film assignment. Will their looks always overpower the values that define them, the stories they’ve lived through, the love they spread, the depth of their thoughts, the reason for their existence?

There are so many arguments Daniel has sarcastically and directly slipped in to his act, that I could write half a dozen blog posts on them! And maybe I will. But that’s for another morning. Not this.

I’ll leave you to do your thinking. You have a brain. Be smart, not liberal.
I think. Therefore, I am.

Graciously Yours!

Thought Flash #6

If marriages are indeed made in heaven, are you telling me God actually went about match making on the basis of caste? Or religion? Or even for that matter on the basis of gender?

Souls, as per last understanding, were gender-less. Caste-less. And religion-less. So how can my soulmate be from the same religion or caste as me?

Shouldn’t arranged marriages and ‘matches are made in heaven’ be mutually exclusive?

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Graciously Yours!

P.S. : This post is by no means an attack on your personal beliefs. I’m rather questioning mine.

The Ideal?

Her eyes teared up as she wrote another long, lying letter to her mother. A letter which would give away nothing of what was happening to her, which killed her bit by bit from guilt every time she thought of her mother.

Her mother had always been her best friend. She still was. But this time she couldn’t share her happiness with her mother. Or her pain. She looked at herself in the mirror across the bed. She saw her blurred self lying on the bed, papers piled up neatly on a hard bound dictionary. She covered her bosom with her saree. The red marks around her neck didn’t need a mirror as a reminder.

She was in love. With a man not her husband. She was in pain. With a man her husband.

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To be contd…

Graciously Yours!

Picture Courtesy : Pinterest.

The Pixel Way.

Four days ago, I was awkward, silent and judgmentally observant. Four days later, I am lively, chirpy and still observant but not judgmentally! Oh and 104% tired!

What happened in these four days, you ask? PIXELS ~ the photography club at the company I work in. They organised a three day trip to Kodaikanal, Madurai and Rameshwaram and those three days have by far been the best in the last couple of months! Except the family reunion, of course! Jeez Mom, don’t doubt my love for you fellas! 😉

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#EarlyRisingPerks! P.C. : Ajit Singh

Waking up to such scenes may be difficult but when you have friends to capture them for you, there’s nothing better! 😉 Kodaikanal at 13 degrees Celsius in the morning is the best way to wake up to! Until you realize that the geyser in the bathrooms doesn’t necessarily spout hot water.

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VIBGYOR and beyond! P.C.: Nishant Aggarwal
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Clicking the clickers. P.C.: Deepanshu Tiwari.

Sightseeing had never been this interesting! With so many cameras clicking around me, for once I didn’t have to bother about capturing places. I only had to live through moments in the best way possible.

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Making Memories ~ One Day At A Time!

Sometimes you meet the most unexpected people in the most unexpected places. Period.

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Wanna go for dinner, Darling!
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Note the logo. Says the Professional, captures the Amateur. (Hint – Baskin Robbins!)

The names of the restaurants, schools, colleges we came across were hilarious! Apart from these, a few that stood out were Booty’s. And the *drum roll begins* ‘American University of India’.

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Yeah, visiting date and time at the temple noted. #VandalismMuch

From temples to beaches, parks to caves, waterfalls to forests – we covered it all. And the one most obvious thing which I couldn’t manage to squeeze in? Shopping! Such a relief, I tell you 😉

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The Flowing Light. P.C. : Janakiraman G.

And that right there is how each of these talented photographers’ create magic! The Pamban bridge connecting Rameshwaram island to the Indian mainland is one of those marvelous pieces of architecture that we’re forgetting about.

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Nothing tires us ever. Except office!

Three days of fun has never been called long and short in the same sentence! Until now. To each of those who came together for this trip ~ thank you for making the heat, the hunger, the pain, the sleeplessness and the wait at the temples all bearable! 😉

Graciously Yours!