Monday, February 27, 2006
There are times when I have half a dozen topics on my mind to write about and then there are days when I just...write, when I ramble on and try to hide the fact that I have nothing specific to write about, like I am doing here!
Anyways, life is going on. I was home this last weekend for some family commitments. Madikeri was the usual, beautiful and calming on my senses. I watched movies, worked on an environment report, usual stuff. I am back today and I have just realised that I have plenty of work to do and that it is time I got serious.
Meanwhile, I realised how precious life is. I realised that we need to grab every moment, look for something positive and be happy. There is nothing you cannot do if you have the will and the confidence. All old lessons that your parents would have told you. But the folly of youth is that you do not want to listen, even when you know it is true, until you go through a rough patch, learn it the hard way and write about it on a place like this, hoping people will take your word, though you very well know that they will read it, say, 'oh, she's right' and forget all about it, until they learn lessons the hard way too! (Did I make any sense at all?)
I have this new way to be happy and positive everyday. Every day, I look around me and consciously try to find something beautiful. Like the other day, I walking down the road when I saw yellow flowers fallen on the ground like a carpet around the tree, so beautiful. And then last night, I looked up and saw the deep dark blue sky lit up with the brightest of stars, in intricate patterns, one close to the other, the next one shying away in the distance, one a shade of red, the other with just a tint of yellow. To me the night sky filled with stars like precious gems strewn across a velvet blanket is the most beautiful sight on earth. I could stare at it for hours.
Now that I have rambled on for this long and now that you have read it, I should sign off for today. It works you know, looking for something or someone beautiful, consciously appreciating it for a few seconds and thanking God or whoever it is you believe in for keeping you alive on this beautiful earth for jut one more day. Stay happy, stay precious!
Saturday, February 25, 2006
I still have to write about Hyderabad. The whole trip will be in a coming post and I write here only about Charminar.
It was our first day in Hyderabad and we had 'done' most of the tourist places. Ma and I were wondering when we coud get down to shopping when Ahmed bhai (very interesting man, await the next post!) decided to take us to the famed Charminar in the older parts of the city.
It was built by Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah in 1591 to commemorate the end of the dreaded plague in the city. It is a huge structure with four minarets and is situated in a square with four huge arches forming entrances to four roads. The place is crowded, to say the least.
The Charminar was opened to the public recently. We got to go up for Rs 10 each. A very narrow flight of steps take you up. The top is crowded too. To guards yell at some tourists for leaning too far from the sides while another takes a picture of a family with the pesky kids fidgeting about. The top offers a good view of the city. You can see the majestic General Hospital which was built by the Nizam, a mosque and people so close together that they look like little ants hurrying about to build a colony.
We get down after the mandatory picture from the top. It is relatively more peaceful below around a little fountain. A few more pictures and we move to Lad Bazaar, very very famous for its bangles. The bangles are made of lac, aragu in Kannada (I am still hunting for its English equivalent), and embedded with glass pieces and beads in intricate designs. Every shop is dazzling with bangles of every hue and colour stacked up to the ceiling. We are supposed to be buying bangles for everyone back home but something happens. So many colours, so many varieties, ranging from Rs 50 a pair to a few thousand rupees leaves us blank. You are so spoilt for choice that you come away buying almost nothing. We just bought a few pairs.
Lad Bazaar is famous for its bridal shops. A lot of Muslims come here to buy their wedding clothes. It is hard to walk down the road but a pleasure nonetheless. I had never walked down such a busy road. If you think Avenue Road in Bangalore is congested and busy, you ought to go here.
It was fun though. Every shop was crowded, one more colourful than the other. I try to capture the wonderous colours with my mobile but the glass encrusted on the bangles is too dazzling and it reflects off the lens. Every guide book talks of Lad Bazaar, it is supposed to be a very old street.
The Charminar is charming for its people, a sea of them. Everyone is bustling about, shy brides are looking over jewellery and fitting bangles to their hands. The shopkeeper talks of how that colour looks stunning on her and she stares at them, dreaming, her eyes as bright as the bangle with dreams of marital bliss. There are foreigners, with Indian friends, oohing and aahing at the splendour. Then there are the tourists, like us, who look lost and stupified, given so much to choose from.
Charminar and Lad Bazaar...aah! Glitter, history, a modern crowd, hard bargaining shoppers, old aunties and young brides, fat gentlemen and no handsome hunks [sadly ;-)]. Variety, colour and shopping! What more could you ask for?
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Unfortunately, I do not remember where this was. One night, we were driving from Bijapur, through Gulbarga to Hyderabad. My eyes were drooping, we had listened to the same music over and over again and it was dark outside to look at the unchanging scenery. We came upon a little village, the kind tat you find everywhere in India along the highways. I have always felt that these villages developed to break the monotony of driving down highways, to give some colour to the dull grey of the never-ending roads.
Anyway, this village comes upon us. Okay, just another one, I think. I lazily look outside to see a HUGE statue of Lord Shiva staring out into the horizon, as if He were too nonchalant to look at the people and the cars going past his feet. In India, very rarely is Shiva worshipped in a human form. He is normally depicted as a linga. Before we could finish gasping in wonder, we were past that village and a turn of the road hid Him from our eyes.
I wonder why such a huge statue came up in the middle of nowhere because if I remember right, there were no major towns near this place. Maybe a politician lived there before he took off to the corridors of power and he got it built hoping to atone for his years of "service" (to himself).
The next wonder was somewhere along the roads of Andhra Pradesh. Again, it was a monotonous road. Suddenly, in the distance we saw a very huge statue of Kumbakarana, the brother of Ravana, who spent half the year sleeping. It was very long with little statues of his servants blowing horns, pulling his ear, screaming down his other ear, prying his eyes open to try to wake him up just like in the story from Ramayana. Now I could not think of a possible reason as to why that was built there.
This is one of the reasons why I love travelling so much. More than the place I am going to, I am amazed at what I see on the way. I miss travelling already. Cant wait to take off again! Something to do with stagnant waters to me... I just have to move, travel and live life!
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
This photo was taken by Mahesh in Dubare forest where we went to shoot our documentary. He has some other amazing shots but he wouldn't let me use them...so mean!
I must write about him here. He is an extremely talented person, fantastic with computers, a good photographer, writes very well in Kannada, can be charming when he wants to but is a big fool not to know all this! And the best part is that he pampers me a lot too! He he! :-)
He is quite different from the other friends I have. I write here to acknowledge to myself how lucky I am, for he is always there when I want to complain, crib about the world. He pretends to listen to my ramblings (he listens sometimes too!), knows when I am depressed, stays clear of me when I am in a rage and serves as my punching bag when I am frustrated.
There was a time in the not so distant past when I had almost stopped believing in myself. He was the one who literally forced me to trust myself and the world, he and my other friends.
Off late, I realised the value of friends in my life. I realised that there are good people in the world, that a lot of them are my friends, that I am loved a lot for just being me. That is a beautiful feeling, I realised.
Here is to all my friends... I used to think I alone was responsible for what I am today. I am glad I was wrong. Subtly, with discretion, my friends were there, all the time. I had just refused to see them. Thank you.
Take a moment, think of your best friends and in your heart, feel good they are there. Believe me, it is a beautiful feeling to be adored by beautiful people.
Thank you Mahesh, Vani, Raksha, Sushma, Smitha, Karthik, Raji and all the other lovely people I have as friends.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
There is a superstition among orthodox Indians that if you have a Garuda-rekhe in your hand, some mark of the eagle from mythology that ordinary mortals are not supposed to be able to recognise, you can spot snakes very easily. It has to do with the traditional rivalry between snakes and eagles. Ma is always jokingly talking about how she must have this mark on her hand for she can spot a snake when no one can. She has had some interesting times. Once she was cooking in the kitchen when a rat snake slithered down the slab almost garlanding her. Then another time, on her birthday, she was about to fling aside a plastic cover, when it moved and she realised that it was in fact a poisonous snake.
She has been the first to spot snakes at home and outside. Thankfully, none of the encounters have been fatal. Also, again thankfully, she has not been spotting snakes so often off late.
Last year, about the same time of the year, two snakes came inside the house. Oh, we thought. Nothing unusual, we believed and hit the roof a couple of times to chase them away. But fifteen minutes later, there they were again. It turned out that there had chosen the house for their romantic sojourn. A pattern was set for the next three days. The snakes would come in, we would shoo them away and they would come in again. Ma had problems cooking and the television, already not used much in our house, was totally out of bounds. But in a way, we all had a great time.
There are a few families of workers who live below our house in a line of houses earlier meant for estate workers. When snakes come in and dad is out, we call them to help chase them out. Shailaja, my maid (I have to write a whole post about her some day), is always a very enthusiastic helper. On the one hand, she would be the first one to stand and examine the snake while on the other hand, in typical fashion, she would grumble about how it was a sin to watch snakes mate. According to her, we had to cover the snakes with a white cloth! Dont ask me why!
Anyways, for those three days, we all saw snakes in their entirety, up close and personal, just like the high zoom lens of a camera from Animal Planet. Half the time, we could see the underbelly of the snakes, white, bare and quite disgusting. One window of my room opens up to the roof where the bigger of the two snakes would lie, basking in the hot sunshine, waiting for its mate. That image is imprinted in my mind even to this day. The snake was glittering, with the rays bouncing off its smooth body and having not a care for the half a dozen people trying to drive it away, it looked left, then to the other side, and slowly moved away with grace.
This went on for two days by which we were back to watching the television, cooking and walking without our heads raised up to see whether they were there. Then another pair comes in! Finally, with much pain, dad tied a cloth around a long stick, lit it and touched the sensitive underbelly of the big snake with the fire. It fled, took its mate with it, and did not come back, until this year that is.
I was home the weekend they started coming in again. Like last year, it was an experience, but not as tedious. The snakes played swing in the kitchen, slipped into the room where we store firewood and almost broke a few tiles on the roof but it was better. We had learnt to live with them, it was for just a few days anyway.
Another window in my room looks out at this ledge, the wall of which has, over the years, been home to snakes of various lengths, all harmless though. For one whole day, I sat on my bed, looking out at one really long snake, coming out for breakfast, crawling away for a walk, climbing the wall outside my room, going home, coming out for lunch, going in for a siesta and desperately missing its companion (At least it looked that way to me, the way it was being so restless). I noticed its glassy eyes, its slit tongue, the hissing call, the intricate way in which it moved in and out of its hole, the way its tail followed its body around, the way its body shone... I "looked" at snakes.
My friends think I am crazy to be so taken in by the idea of having snakes at home. But that was the way I grew up. Every summer our attic is home to at least two snakes. Every summer, I stay away from scrounging the attic for hidden treasures (It holds many. I once found a beautiful pair of silver earrings.)
Living like this is fun, believe me. Snakes are not dangerous reptiles out to get your blood. They are mostly harmless creations of that same God who created you, asking humankind to give them a small place on Earth to mate, and to live.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
The point is that my house in Madikeri is in the middle of the town, but we are sort of away from the town as a small estate surrounds the house. So, it is like a village mansion in the middle of the city. We play hosts to a number of beautiful, and sometimes exotic, birds, insects of the kind that I have never seen elsewhere, very very rarely to a mongoose, a koala bear (this was years ago. My dad tells me the story often but I dont remember.Wonder where that came from? In Kannada we call it 'kaadu paapa'), turtles, huge frogs and snakes.
Snakes have been regular visitors to my house. During the summer when we would keep the doors open to let in a wiff of air to ruffle up my frock or blow the hair from ma's eyes, someone had to be stationed at the door to keep an eye on these reptiles. They would be soaking up the sun in the lawn and lazily crawl in to cool off on the red-oxidised floor. Most of them were are the ones that still come in are rat snakes, more scared of us than we are of them. On two occasions, if I remember right, we have had cobras inside. We got someone to shoot the first one that had hidden in the prayer room and repented by offering puja to it. Brahmins are not supposed to kill cobras apparently and my granny insisted on a ritual. This was when I was in my second grade. I remember my dad had come late to pick me up from school while ma had been keeping a watch on it.
The second time around, I was in high school and I still remember how it had got into the dark store room, all shiny black and glittering under the 40-watt bulb. Try as we might, we could not chase it away or kill it. After a while, it just slipped away between the tiles and was never seen again. Then there have been 'kat-havu' (I dont remember its English name) with marks on its body that made it look like it had been cut into pieces. These are mildly poisonous snakes and while most of the time, we just let them go, we had killed them too. Now let me make it clear. We are all animal lovers at home. We hate it when we have to kill a snake and I know all of us utter a silent apology for doing so, but sometimes in the fight between us and them, the 'us' have to survive.
I have a lot of snake stories that I want to write about. A couple of them have been making our kitchen and adjoining room their mating place for two years running. More on that tomorrow.
Read about him, at least once, at www.peacehiker.com He blogs at http://peacehiker.blogs.com/
Monday, February 13, 2006
Do make it a point to check www.busybeeforever.com You will be hooked!
This was in Bijapur. Something went wrong with our car and dad had to take it for a minor servicing right after we took in the magnificent Gol Gumbaz. Ma, our friend were contemplating touring the rest of the city in a boring autorickshaw (we couldn't be more wrong in Hyderabad, but that later) when half a dozen people surrounded us to take us in their tongas.
We chose the one featured above with some apprehension, after much haggling. The driver agreed to settle for Rs 100 but muttered that we would pay more for the horse's wellbeing.
It had been ages since I rode in a horse-driven carriage. It was fun, though I took a while to get the hang of climbing up and down the carriage. The driver took us through some real bad roads, if at all they can be called that! I thought I had seen all the worse roads but this was bad with a capital B! There was no way we could have wound ourselves through the dirty and narrow lanes.
The structures we saw were all right, not special enough to write about. We were taken to Jamia Masjid which is supposed to have been built with the money plundered from the Vijayanagara Empire of Hampi. Then was the black Taj (not worthy of its name), Bara Kaman, cannons of various weights atop forts with great views and the Ibrahim Roza which was a good place with dark tunnels and well maintained lawns.
The best part was that we got to see the city stripped off its touristy feel. The worst part was that we went to one dargah where the courtyard was filled with people chained to windows and trees! It was horrifying, for I had never seen anything like it before. But apparently, it is common practice. People with strange illnesses, people believed to be possessed by ghosts are chained for a period of a little over a month to cure them.
The driver was not too talkative but I later got him to open up to say that his name was Chand and that he owned four of such carriages. Each carriage along with a not-too-good horse would cost Rs 20,000. He told me that business was good among the tourists. Unlike Hema Mailini's horse Banno in the film 'Sholay', his horse did not have a name.
The next time you are in Bijapur or any place where you can spot such anachronisms, try them out. I loved it for the way I was introduced to the underbelly of the city, something tourists rarely see in most places. And we were so pleased with the horse that we did pay more than he asked. This is one thing I loved about northern Karnataka. People never ask for more, sometimes not even for what they should be getting. They are yet to acquire the all-tourists-have-money-so-we-can-cheat-them attitude. I hope they never do. But then again, I hope they get it soon, for their survival.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Its not what you think. I will not be on the cover of any magazine and definitely not on television, never been into that sort of thing. We have this family friend, distantly related, who is an excellent photographer. He has this new Sony dika (check San Nakji's blog for this word! Thats Korean for digital camera, he says) with amazing features. He wanted me to be his muse for the day and having nothing better to do, i thought it would be fun and agreed. It was fun to pose this way and that, look at the right side, tilt my head just so, smile, but not too much.... I realised that it must be hard work for models to this every day.
Anyway, he took some amazing pictures. With complete immodesty, let me tell you people, I never knew I could look so good. The play of light and shade was great and I saw practically all that we had learnt in Photo Journalism class last year. I got him to take a picture of my eye that turned out to be superb. We saw the magnified version and could see the image of my house in my retina! The power of technology!
Friday, February 10, 2006
More of my travels now....
The northern parts of Karnataka is known for its heat. The towns are still not as tourist friendly as elsewhere and good restaurants, little stalls selling Pepsi and Coke are still a rarity. But the yoghurt sellers are a boon. We first came across these at Mahakoota. Half the water we had carried was already empty and the coloured juices and soda in dirty bottles just didn't look very inviting. A little girl and an older woman came and begged us to eat the curds from little matkas or mud containers, curd so thick that you could cut it with a knife. At just Rs 3 per cup, the curd is so refreshing, cold, with spoonfuls of sugar.
These women and little girls either buy milk from elsewhere or milk their own buffaloes. Such sellers came upto us even in Aihole, Pattadkal and Kudala Sangama, a pilgrim centre for the Lingayats. The first picture was taken at the last place. We had already had a lot of yoghurt and didn't really want another from the little girl. But she was so sweet that I would not have minded buying one more. But before I could put my camera in the bag and look up, she had disappeared somewhere.
The second picture looks odd because I had to crop out a bad background. It was also taken at Kudala Sangama, near a long line of little colourful shops that sold photos, holy ash and souvenirs to the pilgrims.
The woman in the picture is a typical example of the women of the north. I especially love the gold beads that she has around her neck, though you cannot see that very clearly. The chain is called 'Boremala', I believe I have written about it earlier. Again I say this, I love the way women conduct themselves, so dignified, so proud.
I had asked a guard at Pattadkal why they wore turbans of a specific colour only, just white, yellow and sometimes green. He told me that was for 'shobhe', for pride, that they wore silk turbans (silk turbans are available only in those colours there). True, they look so regal, so aristrocratic. The reality is quite contrary though.
Monday, February 06, 2006
I went home this weekend with a few friends to shoot a documentary on Dubare Elephant Camp near Madikeri, a unique place where you can bathe and feed the elephants. We did that for two days and even managed to cross the red tape of Indian bureaucracy to get permission to go into the reserve forest. That was an experience in itself. We got a lot of pictures, all digital, so I can upload them soon.
Back home, ma suggested we shoot the life of basket weavers who had set up camp in the fields below my house. Mahesh and I got some great footage.
It was a productive weekend. I used the movie camera, something I have never been comfortable doing. We felt so privileged to walk in the forests, something that no one usually gets to do. We got to see elephants in their natural environ, just being themselves, something you normally do not get to see. I mean to write everything in detail. Not today, because I also caught a cold and I have been known to form pretty incoherent words when I am sick. So there!