Monday, April 21, 2014

Dandeli: Home of Malabar Pied Hornbill

Spotting the Malabar Pied Hornbill is not difficult if you are in the vicinity of Kali River that flows through the western ghats in Dandeli in Karnataka, India. One of the about 60 odd types of Hornbills, Malabar Pied Hornbill is predominant in Dandeli, in addition to jungles of Madhya Pradesh and Sri Lanka. Our very short trip in March this year to Dandeli Jungle resort was an opportunity to sight this amazing bird to our heart's content.

A distinguishing feature of the adult birds is the huge black and yellow colored bony hollow structure on their bill called casque, which enables them to resonate calls. Our noise pollution levels are so high in cities that we may not appreciate how it enables the birds in the dense forests to locate their own. Malabar Pied Hornbills have black and white plumage with yellow bill. The females have the white orbital skin, in simple words look at the photograph below that has a male and female bird. A white colored ring/patch around the eyes is not seen in males, the bird on top is the female one.

Spotting cashew apple with nut and wild berries in their bill indicates their primary diets.

We saw a lot of these Hornbills in small groups of 4 to 6, flying across the river, landing on top of the trees and socializing.

Bird lovers with professional cameras with a decent zoom and time on hand, in the winter season, can capture awesome images of this near threatened bird Species at Dandeli.

While you can find a variety of birds around Kali River basin, Hornbills distinctly stand out in mind. For me both the welcome and farewell shots, just past Ganesh Gudi were by Hornbills. 

We left Dandeli with a hope to come back again and a prayer  that Malabar Pied Hornbills survive and thrive in these woods.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Go Goa X: An Ode to the Houses of Goa

Walk through the streets of 'yet to be dominated by modern construction' parts of Goa and one wonders if people tell their address as that bright pink house next to the bright green one on a road. The houses are as colorful as they can get and churches are pristine white -standing gracefully in the town squares, on the crossroads leading to various parts of the town. I saw this but did not realize there is a connection between these two color schemes till I visited Houses of Goa museum and discovered that people were not allowed to have an All White House as that was a privilege reserved for the churches in the city. Designed like a ship, that to me looked like a bird with two round windows serving as bird-eyes, this is a museum that values design as much as it values the history of Goan architecture. A kind of paradox though - a very contemporary / modern building trying to preserve the heritage of yesteryear - may be that is how it plans to documents itself in the pages of the history.

A brainchild of famous Goan Architect Gerard da Cunha it documents different aspects of the architecture of the region in a 4 floor structure that is built around a huge central pillar that houses the narrow steep circular staircase connecting the floors. There are maps, there are sketches, there are pictures and there are stories and descriptions as if making you time travel through the various houses of Goa. There are vertical flaps like a book standing against the wall that talks about the various components of a house like balcony, doors, windows, pillars, flooring, panels and sitting spaces in detail. It is treasure house for architecture students. An old Machila - a hand ported carriage that can seat two people face to face sits next to a sketch of it. 

Another floor has the actual tiles, wood panels, door frames and wooden pillars displayed. I found a pair of hands that were used to hold the picture or paintings on the walls, particularly intriguing.   The collection tiles with their patterns and creative design tells us how much we used to invest in our houses. We used to creative in minute details, what did the era of industrialization and mass production did to us. Come to think of it, our ancestors used to construct houses for many generations to come, but now we start thinking of the next big house as soon as we have settled in the first one. No wonder there is no emotional and hence no creative investments in the houses. 

Mario Miranda being one of the key persons associated with the museum and the city can be seen all over, specially at the small souvenir shop at the entrance that also doubles up as the ticketing window. There is small shop where you can buy beverages and packaged snacks.

On the top is a small auditorium that feels like an open air auditorium with a well like opening in the middle. There is a curious display of 30 odd Tulsi plant bases from various homes in Goa. From here you can see the school next door that has an open theater with walls and backdrop of the stage made from empty glass bottles arranged in pleasing patterns. 

What makes Goan architecture unique is the amalgamation of native architecture with the Portuguese architecture that can not be found elsewhere.

If you can not visit it, they have a comprehensive website and another one that lets you look at the architecture in detail. 

Open 10:00 - 7:30 PM

Mondays closed

Entree Fee : Rs 100/- on weekdays and Rs 25/- on Sundays

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hyderabad Hues XXXV: Creative patterns at Paigah Tomb, Hyderabad

There are many intricately designed geometric patterns all over the place. These are not just unique, but also a demonstration of excellence in craftsmanship of the artists.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Video of the month: Shigmotsav Ghodi Dance

Shigmotsav 2014 at Panjim, the Ghodi Dance performance in colorful attire with high decibel Har Har Mahadev in the air.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Go Goa IX: Shri Mangeshi Temple, Ponda

It is not very well known that Goa is home to many prominent and ancient temples. Before the Portuguese came, Goa was home to Saraswat Brahmins and the temples of their deities. As Portuguese took over and started pushing religious conversions, some percentage of population converted while the others moved to areas that were yet to come under Portuguese and when the moved they took their deities along with them. This is how most temples today are found in the Ponda district of Goa – that came under Portuguese much later and by then they had become more accepting of the other religions.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Jhabua's Micro Bead Jewelry

I traveled to Jhabua last year for Bhagoria festival and on an evening stroll we went to an artist shop who makes these micro bead jewelry in vibrant colors. Now I have seen this in many modern jewelry shops across India and was surprised to know that it is made in remote villages in tribal belts of India.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hidden inside Dandeli - Syntheri Rock

In the middle of Dandeli forests, stands a lone giant rock like an old saint who has chosen to live in the jungle and has grown sitting or meditating here. River Kaneri, a tributary of Kali River, flows at its base, as if touching the feet of this giant old saint. The size of the rock makes you feel small – somewhere telling you that you are a very small part of the big universe and the way it hides itself in the folds of the forest is bound to make you feel curious.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Go Goa VIII: Shigmo – a little known cultural extravaganza

Shigmo is the Goan version of Holi, a springtime festival that is a farewell to winters that in Goa’s case is also the tourist’s time and get indoors for upcoming summers and monsoons.  Now what makes it special is that it is celebrated on the streets of various villages for good 14 days. Each day a few villages celebrate and the villagers dressed in all their finery come out, play loud music and dance. This year I got to see Shigmo up, close and personal as it happened two streets away from my home in Goa.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dandeli: By the river Kali

Kali is a common name for many rivers that flow across Indian subcontinent right from Nepal to Uttarakhand to MP and Karnataka. Last week I got to spend some time by the Kali River that flows through Uttar Kannada district of Karnataka – not too far from my current home in Goa. First thing that we encountered as we drove towards Dandeli is the tall dam called Supa Dam on the river and the back water that it creates. Towards the end of the day, we saw the sun setting on the backwaters from the ramparts of a wall bridging the area for dam. There were lots of tourists swimming and playing at the edges.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Wish List in Travel Secrets

My travel wish list appeared in Travel Secrets Magazine couple of months ago. Hope the higher forces are listening and re-aligning themselves to make this happen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Discover Delhi XXXV: TJs - The brand from Tihar Jail

I was in Delhi for some work and for the first time I crossed Tihar Jail.But for the boards announcing its presence, I would have never figured out that this is country's most famous jail. I was still sorting out the dichotomy between reality & perception, Tihar Haat - a swanky looking shop saw me in my face. I passed by it on first day but made a mental note to stop over the next day.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Win an All expenses Paid Trip to Malaysia

Is visiting the beautiful country of Malaysia in your to-do list? We give you multiple chances to strike it off and win an all expense paid trip to Malaysia!  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Andhra Adventures XVI: Mythology Museum, Surendrapuri

Kunda Satyanarayana Kala Dhamam is its name but it is more popularly known as Surendrapuri or Mythological Awareness Center. It  is  a museum that celebrates the Hindu Mythology, its history, its epics, its Gods and Goddesses. Located roughly 40 kms from Hyderabad, it was founded by Sh Kunda Satyanarayana in memory of his son Surendra Babu. Once you have gone through this vast museum you wonder at the effort of one man who had the vision of bringing all the divine places and concepts of Indian Mythology at one place and that led him to build this unique museum. I am not aware of any other similar museum in India or anywhere else at least not at this scale.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


As the Indian winter draws to an end, the right season to be in Delhi, some of the best flower shows one can visit are held at Garden of Five Senses that I wrote about revisiting again, and all over NCR region. Lalbaugh at Bangalore is another must visit flower exhibition destination.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Germany Gems VIII: Spinnerei – From Cotton to Culture

Western Leipzig emerged as cotton spinning area in late 19th CE. Spinning mills were setup and that brought skilled workers to this area and the area became a living community around these spinning mills. Gradually it became a complete eco system with schools and entertainment facilities. However, by the end of 20th CE the mills closed down and the huge buildings with large rooms lied empty. This is when they were converted into a cultural space by offering it to artists to use them as their studios cum residences. Today it is a vibrant cultural space that has many resident artists that includes painters, fashion designers, sculpture artists, lithographers, potters, architects, porcelain manufacturers, filmmakers and goldsmiths.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Travel Stories VII: Lady Tourist Guide

Her name was Premlata. We met her at Orchha when we reached the gates of the palace there. Many guides came to us offering their services. She was also one of them. A frail woman wearing a wine colored Sari properly pinned on her tiny shoulders and a mangalsutra hanging around her neck pronouncing her marries status. She stood apart, as she could not get through the virtual maze other tour guides had created around the tourists. Her eyes had hope and pessimism in equal measures, hope that made her stand there and make eye contact with the tourist and pessisim because not many took her seriously, for when did you see a young woman guiding the tourists. Remember Orchha is a small place and not an urban place where you do find women guides, though there are hardly any in the mass segment that is completely dominated by men.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Go Goa VI: Upstream on Mandovi

Panaji city is on the southern banks of Mandovi, the biggest river of Goa. While in the urban areas the river is bustling with river cruises, if you go upstream a couple of kilometers you get to feel the natural beauty and also experience the ferry services across the Mandovi by the River Navigation Department of Goa.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chandigarh Chimes IV: Sukhna Lake

Sukhna Lake is the only prominent water body in the city of Chandigarh. It is a go to place for both locals and visitors, for the abundant nature that it offers within the city limits. In the mornings and evenings you can see the city people walking along the lake and during the day you can see visitors sitting by the lake and enjoying various activities here. You can do boating, admire the sails, look at the oldest tree now called the heritage tree of the city, do shopping at sovenir shops and enjoy the coffee at its coffee shop.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

5 Places that celebrate Love in India

This is that time of the year when love is in the air. So I thought of writing about a few legendary places that celebrate Love in India.

Vrindavan: You can not grow in India without hearing the eternal love story of Radha & Krishna. The city of Vrindavan celebrates their love. While Krishna is more popular in the Indian conscience, in Vrindavan it is Radha who rules. I was told that while Krishna controls the universe, it is Radha who controls him so she is more powerful than him. People use Radhe-Radhe for just about everything - to say Hello, to say Good Bye, to say Excuse me and to say Oh God!. Holi here is a celebration of their youthful love that has become a ritual where women from Radha's village Barsana beat men from Mathura & Vrindavan. You can feel that in the air of Vrindavan their love is celebrated as a divine blessing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hyderabad Hues XXXIV: On top of Mahindra Hills

Mahindra Hills must have been a hill at some point in time in the true sense of the word – hill. Today it is a highly populated locality that lives on the inclines of the hill. You realize it is a hill only when your lungs or engine of vehicle you are in indicates the incline you have to negotiate.  Once you reach the top of this hill you get a bird’s eye view of Secunderabad. My first thought after the view was, Oh, is the city so dense and crowded. Looked around and discovered two temples on top of the hill one belonging to the Buddhist and the other to Mata Amtritanandmayi.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Speaking at WIN 2014 - An event that celebrates Blogging

This Sunday i.e. Feb 9th, 2014 I would speaking at WIN, an event by Blogadda that goes with a tagline Celebrate Blogging.

I would let the pictures do the rest of talking.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Chandigarh Chimes III – Nek Chand’s Rock Garden

Rock Garden is the signature destination of Chandigarh. I have seen it innumerable times as a kid, then on several picnics during student days and this time I visited it almost after couple of decades. It is a place that has come to define the ethos of the city and now you can see the sprinkling of the style in the souvenir shops and in city graffiti. The broken cutlery and bangles, the discarded electrical pieces and unused tiles, drums and cement bags have been immortalized in the form of an art that has become the face of this young modern city. Sometimes you feel as if the cleanliness of the city comes from the fact that it respects the waste so much to make it de facto art material. In fact I visited the garden early in the morning and I met an army of workers cleaning the premises that to an Indian eye looks clean enough.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Go Goa V: A day in the life of Utorda Beach - A Photo Essay

Utorda beach in South Goa is one of the cleanest beaches with white fine grain sand. Moderate crowd and availability of water sports like sea bike, boat riding & parachute flights makes it an experience to cherish. 

Life begins early for the fisher men, amidst the blue calm waters of the Arabian sea.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Andhra Adventures XV: Araku Tribal Museum

Araku Tribal Museum is located in the Araku town, a small town in the valley surrounded by hills and many waterfalls. Now, most museums are famous for what they showcase and the galleries they curate for their visitors. What makes Araku museum stand out in my mind is its very structure which is indigenous, absolutely native right from the architecture to material used to colors and contours. A double storey round building in red with white motifs painted on it, with white window frames and white outlines standing on green lawns. One look and you know it represents the essence of an Indian community.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hyderabad Hues XXXIII: Bling, Brand or Bread – Bangles of Laad Bazaar

Last of my Hyderabad walk was in the streets of Old city in Hyderabad – Laad Bazaar and the small lanes around it. Anyone who has ever visited these lanes knows how every corner shines and shimmers. Bangles in all colors along with garments in complimenting combinations vie for your attention. I had specifically gone to learn how Khada Dupatta – a garment that typically belongs to the city, is draped. Of course once you are in Laad Bazaar there is no way you can miss the Lacquer or Lac Bangles.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Year options in Tarang

Article on Travel Options for the New Year appeared in Tarang on Dec 22, 2013. Article has not been written by me, but I did provide the details of the all the options to the correspondent.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Germany Gems VII: Panometer - Recreating Dresden of 1756

The word for Dresden is re-creating. The city has been re-created, as it existed before it was bombed during the Second World War. As if they wanted to go even more back in time, they created a Panometer – a giant painting inside an out of use but giant cylindrical Gasometer. They engaged Austrian artist Yadegar Assisi to re-create the city of Dresden, as it existed in 1756 using a technique that mixes many art forms from pictures to paintings to architectural drawings to technical elements to create drama. Why 1756 – because this was the time of Augustus the Strong, the most famous monarch of Dresden and probably the most prosperous time the city has seen under him.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Chandigarh Chimes II – Le Corbusier Centre

Chandigarh is the only city in India that had been built ab initio, as a modern capital city combining the vision of India’s first prime minister and the genius of French architect Le Corbusier. It is modeled on the human body with government buildings in place of head, a market in place of heart, green gardens in place of lungs and industrial areas as limbs with roads criss-crossing like arteries and veins. It is a city where every road goes straight and the only angles you can turn at is 90 degrees or a multiple of it. City is divided into rectangular sectors that in turn are divided into 4 equal parts, and each of the sectors is self sufficient with its own market and school. Come to think of it, it may represent a congregation of independent units co-existing in perfect harmony.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Tryst with Kingfisher

Last month, I finally managed to click a decent image of this beautiful White-throated Kingfisher bird at Shilparamam, an arts & crafts village at Hyderabad. Is it really a king of fishing birds or why is named so is for experts to comment on. However it really is a colorful bird with red beak, blue feathers/wings and trademark white throat. It seems there are about 90 species of Kingfishers - a medium size bird with bright plumage, large head & long bills is their common feature.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Reflections from 2013

In 2013, I entered the 10th year of blogging and looking back it is a journey that opened so many doors and windows for me. It expanded my world vision multifold giving me multiple perspectives. This journey changed by identity from that of a software professional to a travel writer or writer in general – an identity that I never imagined I would have when I was growing up, at least not consciously. Yes, I used to read a lot even then, so it is possible that somewhere subconsciously I nurtured that dream of writing.

Through the year, I wrote about all the travels I did this year, so at the end of the year or shall I say at the beginning of the new year I wanted to share my reflections on the ‘Travel’ and how it impacts us and hence the world. Many years back I had read about Atal Behari Vajpayee’s speech that said ‘ Tourism is an anti-dote for terrorism’ and I could not agree more. It is very difficult to dislike people whom you have visited. There is a natural understanding that develops for the region and its people once you have visited them. You start understanding their context, their ethos and their problems. No wonder, the concept of Yatra or travel was so well integrated in our ancient learning systems and lifestyles. 

To me lately, travel is the way to build trust that is depleting in the world. My biggest insights on travel have come from being a part of Couchsurfing community where I hosted absolute strangers from around the world in my home and a few times lived at other couchsurfers’ home during my travels. I cannot think of a bigger example of human trust where for no gain; you open your heart and your home to a complete stranger. You tell someone I trust you and you contribute to building trust in the human society. So, I realize, Travel has a far higher meaning than a lifestyle activity it is perceived to be and I am getting inclined to consciously work towards it.

Travel wise two highlights of this year were snorkeling in Malaysia and 7 days on Luxury train Deccan Odyssey. I spoke on all three fields on mine – On Innovation at various colleges and universities, on travel at CII Travel Fest conference in Chandigarh and on Books at the Publishing next conference in Goa. The usual writing for blogs and print publications, media coverage and other speaking engagements happened this year too.

Personally, this was a year when lot of back room work happened that should hopefully come to fore font in 2014. I shall keep sharing with you as soon as the developments reach a stage of sharing.

Thank you for being a part of my journey.

Here is wishing a world with less cynicism and more acceptance for all of us, this year and every year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Hyderabad Bloggers Meet at Our Sacred Space

I have to thank Hyderabad blogging community for giving me this perfect end of the year piece.

This Saturday, we had a no agenda free flowing meet and as many as 25 bloggers from various walks of blogging joined in. Some were old faces but a lot of them were new. We discussed some fun and some serious topics, shared experiences from our blogs and technical tips followed.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hyderabad Hues XXXII : Etymology of Hyderabad

A few days back I was roaming around Charminar area looking at pearl shops and pearl workshops along with a friend who knows the area very well. She showed me this Lion, apparently made of clay and commonly known as Mitti ka Sher. This statue of Lion lends name to the lanes around it and you can read the postal address as Mitti Ka Sher, Charminar. This reminded me of an old e-mail that another friend Sriram had sent me about how many areas of Hyderabad were named.

Nampally: Raza Ali Khan, was the Dewan of Nizam’s State in 1670 AD. His Title was ‘Nekh Nam Khan’ A jagir was granted to him, which came to be called nekh-Nampally. This became ‘Nampally’.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pious Punjab I – Nature & History Trail at Ropar

I was born in Punjab. I lived there for initial years of my life with my Dadi, before we moved to Chandigarh. When I was growing in and around Punjab the state was all about agriculture and army. I never thought of it as a tourist destination. Yes there was Golden temple – but then its place of worship and not a tourism product. So, this time when I heard the tourism circuits of Punjab, including the heritage walks at Amritsar and Patiala and the restored palace of Kapurthala, I wanted to stay back and go around the state. Within the time available, Punjab Tourism organized a small trip to Ropar for an early morning Nature Trail. Now, I had crossed Ropar umpteen number of times but never knew this is home to thousands of migratory birds.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Parallels in Thai & Indian Cuisine

This time when Thai Pavillion at Vivanta by Taj invited me, I was not very sure if they would have anything new to offer. Then they said, Chef is going to explain the similarities between Indian and Thai Food and there I was there to understand it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Germany Gems VI – Leipzig, Celebrating Music

Leipzig is a small city in the state of Saxony in Germany, less than couple of hours by road from Berlin. It is a city known for its musicians over the ages with museums and music festivals dedicated to them around the year. To me this was a first that the whole city is organized around its musicians and their music – literally. There is a 5 kms trail called the music trail that goes through more than 30 musical spots of the city and is marked with stainless steel markers in the shape of musical notes on the ground along with a board explaining the place in both German and English. You can simply follow the marks and learn about the musical heritage of the city. Spots include churches, opera houses, museum of musical instruments, concert halls, archives, monuments and houses of musicians. Some of the famous names of Leipzig Music heritage include Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Mahler and Greig.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Video of the Month: Bathukamma

Bathukamma - Telangana's own way of celebrating Navaratri. What is common across Navaratri celebrations is the worship of Goddess - mostly the various avatars of Parvati. Here she is worshipped as mound of flowers. 

This was recorded in Hyderabad this October. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chandigarh Chimes I: Notes from CII Tourism Fest, 2013

I was in Chandigarh last week to participate in the CII Tourism Fest 2013 that was being held in the city for the first time. To me it was an opportunity to interact with the travel trade in the Northern part of the country, to meet new people who make the world travel and to go back to the city that I grew up in.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Hyderabad Hues XXXI: 10 Must Do things at Falaknuma Palace

Falaknuma Palace is the jewel in the crown of Hyderabad. Its Shining glory, its very own signature luxury symbol is a heritage property dating back to 19th CE. I visited Falaknuma twice, once to have dinner there on our special day and once again to take the heritage tour. There is nothing Indian about this palace except the hospitality that is as Indian as it can get. Here is my list of 10 things you must see  /do at Falaknuma:

Monday, December 02, 2013

Unsung UP XIV: Foods to Try in Varanasi

Food in Banaras is pretty much like the city itself – rustic and flavorful. I was browsing through the photographs of my trip and after every few photographs there were food pictures and that gave me an idea for this post. Here is a glimpse of types of food you must try at Varanasi. You do not really have to go hunting for it, most of it you will find in and around the popular ghats of Banaras.
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