April 03, 2016

MicroAdventure - March


Location: Coorg
Plan: Night Trek and Camping, Find a waterfall and sit under it, Go to Coorg and find an accessible natural water source! 

This summer weather has made me quite grumpy. I've been spending a large percentage of each day complaining and sulking about (and blaming everything on) the weather. To make things worse, I did not have an escape plan and somehow the days went by so fast and it was already the last week of March. I had some random ideas towards the end of the week, but sadly they didn't materialise into actual plans. I sulked more on Saturday, knowing that Sunday was my only day to go somewhere. Anywhere.

Aditi, who somehow tolerates most of my complaining all day at work came to my rescue. She messaged me Saturday evening telling me that she'd come along if I had any trip plans. Exactly 2 hours later, we were at the bus stop! We spent 7 hours on a bus with hard non-reclining seats and slightly squished next to a lady who didn't have much regard for personal space. It was still worth the cheap tickets though! At 5:30 in the morning, we found ourselves in the chilly Madikeri bus stop up in the Coorg hills waiting for daybreak. 

Sunday is a slow day for the already slow-paced town. With the exception of a few morning walkers, life unfurled gradually over the course of our town exploration. We watched gardens being swept, cars being washed, newspaper rounds, and milk being put to boil in the coffee shops. We nosily peeked through gates and over walls as we walked and within two hours, we had covered most of the little streets and even scaled the ramparts of the Madikeri fort.








Post breakfast, the town seemed to be a little more awake and we inquired about waterfall options in the area and then headed out to the closest one from the town. It was quite a disappointing waste of a couple of hours, I should say. The trickle of water that formed a greenish frothy pool at the bottom of the rock face was not what I had in mind. The pathway at the edge of the water was filled with selfie-stick tourists who somehow still felt the need to take a gazillion pictures. Ugh. The ride there and back through forests and coffee estates was quite pretty though. 



Our borderline desperation attempts to find some water to jump into put us on a local bus shortly afterwards for an hours ride to the Cauvery river. The conductor had to wake us up at our stop and we jumped off the bus in a daze only to find ourselves still another ride away from any water. 

We reached the river at Dubare Forest and much to our dismay, found the place teaming with picnickers and squealing rafters. We walked along the river banks until we were far from all of that. The summer had brought down the water levels baring many rocks that divided the span of the river. 





This space was our own and the water was so inviting! I cannot tell you how the next few hours passed. With barely any energy to do any proper swimming, we let the gentle current rock us into bliss. The surface of the water was warmed by the sun but deeper down, a refreshing coolness. We found perfectly shaped rocks to wedge ourselves between, and with just our faces out of the water surface, we could easily be mistaken as lifeless. 


We stayed in their until our fingers and toes resembled raisins and we had started smelling of the river. The only other people we saw were a group of stark naked village kids who jumped between the rocks in and out of the pools fishing with one piece of cloth. They were fully immersed in their afternoon fun oblivious to the hot rocks, the sun and us. 

It was seriously difficult to pull ourselves out from the water. After drying ourselves in the sun we headed back on the bus to the town. Aditi wanted to try some local Coorg cuisine, so we managed to find one restaurant that was open for an early dinner. We were ravenous and gobbled up the food despite it being a below average meal. We were asleep before the bus even left Madikeri and woke up back in Bangalore at 4 in the morning and we were back at work a few hours after that. 

So much post-trip depression to add to Monday blues. I found myself dreaming about floating in the river so many times through the day. Until next time. 

March 04, 2016

MicroAdventure - February


Location: Jayamangali Black Buck Reserve, Tumkur
Plan: Spot some black buck and (hopefully) camp in the reserve. 

I had made two other plans for February's microadventure, and both completely flopped. One Sunday, my brother and Dad went out birding to Jayamangali and much to my delight, found out that with permission from the forest reserve, you can camp there.

The day before the trip, we got a reply from the forest department rejecting our request. I was quite grumpy at the thought of failing my yearly plan in month 2. Nevertheless, my optimistic family packed up the car with tents, sleeping bags, pillows, cameras, binoculars, 16 litres of water and plenty of food, and we left home at 3 in the morning.



We were in the park at dawn. We spent about 3 hours driving through the reserve in our not-a-four-wheel-drive car. The bird enthusiasts were quite enthralled by their sightings and even saw a few lifers (first sighting in their life). I learned a few new bird names which I've already forgotten. Most exciting of all were the black buck. Despite the open grasslands, they weren't easy to find. Camouflaged against the grass and with their ability to disappear behind bushes and rocks, it was quite a treat when we spotted them. We usually saw them in pairs or groups of females, a male and an immature male. They always saw us before we saw them and they watched us as intently.  





Black buck are not found in many regions of India. Being a near threatened species, Jaymangali is one reserve where they are found in abundance (about 150 of them). The males have stunning markings- the dark browns and whites, their curly antlers, eyes and ears. Even their butts are quite pretty! The females are quite plain in comparison and the immature males are sort of a cross between the two - female colours with the antlers (after some argument on the subject, we came to an agreement!)

Another bonus of the day was that, besides the forest ranger and some of the villagers passing through, we were the only people in the reserve. We found a lovely watch tower where we spent the hot hours of the day sleeping, eating, and watching the birds and more black buck from the higher vantage point. The best time for animal spotting in the wild is sunrise and sunset, so we spent the last hours of the daylight driving through the park again. 










Towards the end of the day, we went back and met the forest watchman to ask if we could stay. After a few phone calls to the forest range officer and lots of begging, we were given permission to camp there! 

The reserve had a few tent platforms and we had only a short time left before nightfall to pitch our tents. Before long, we were engulfed by darkness, lots of noisy crickets and cicadas, but thankfully no mosquitos. We relied on phone torches and starlight as we ate dinner since we forgot to bring the torches. We also only packed 2 spoons, so we had to take turns eating! The forest house had nice toilets, so our camping night didn't have to be completely wild. :) 





I sat out in the chair for a while on my own after the others went to sleep watching the stars and listening to some unidentifiable noises from trees and bushes. There were some lights on the hills in the horizon from the villages, so the night wasn't as dark as I had presumed it would be. The rest of the night went by with no wild visitors. 

We had an early start the next morning. After packing up and eating, we drove around a little more. Spotted more birds and more buck, and then it was back on the road and back to the city. All in all, it was such a restful trip (for me at least). A perfect way to spend the Sabbath. I caught up on all the lost sleep from the week, the fresh air cleared my lungs of all the city dust and smoke that I breath in on my commutes and the quiet time with family and wildlife was certainly rejuvenating. 



January 15, 2016

MicroAdventure - January

Hello dormant blog! I keep making plans to start putting together all the almost-long-forgotten material I have built up over the last couple years. But getting started is always a bit hard. Let's see how this year goes.

Last year I did a project to make a playlist significant to each month of the year. It was great fun and often challenging to think of themes and make the perfect playlist. In case you want to listen - here.

So, I was looking for something similar- a fun project to last me the year. I then discovered this. And now Alastair Humphreys is now my new inspiration. His list is tailor-made for England residents and I don't think some of his ideas are apt for the Indian context, so I'll have to make do with my own ideas for each microadventure (I don't even have a bivvy bag!)

Just two days after this breakthrough, I found a microadventure I could manage over the weekend, as well as three trip buddies as eager to get out of the city as I was and soon the bus tickets were booked! Seemed like a simple trip, but the spontaneity of it gave it extra points for adventure. 


Location - Kudremukh National Park
Plan - Hike to the Kudremukh peak

We arrived in the little town of Kalasa in the wee hours of the morning after an overnight bus ride (with a driver who seemed to enjoy the curvy mountain roads a bit too much!). For about half an hour we wandered the streets guessing constellations in the clear sky. A brisk walk was necessary to keep ourselves warm until we found a light on in a tiny tea shop. Hot teacups were perfect to thaw out our numb fingers.


Daylight brought some life into the town and after breakfast, we caught the local bus to the village of Balegal. On meeting the jeep guys, we were sadly informed that Kudremukh peak was closed to control forest fires. Having heard this before on a trek a couple years ago, this news was a bit of a downer. They suggested another peak to scale as an alternative- Kurinjal. All geared up and ready, we boarded the jeep. Quite unaware about what kind of trek this would be, it added an element of suspense. 




The level terrain started to ascend once we crossed a stream. We trekked a steady slope that cut through tawny grass lands, while a couple sambar deer watching us from a distance. The morning sun was quite high up, so the forest was a welcome break. Dipterocarp trees towered above us, moss hanging low from their branches, their buttress roots spanning large areas on the forest floor. Being dwarfed in these surroundings brought conversation to a halt. Has it ever felt like the trees are listening? 






Back into the grasslands, the last couple of kilometers zig-zagged up the side of the mountain bringing to view vast panoramas around every bend. The last leg was a bit of a push, as we pulled ourselves up over rocks on the steep peak of Kurinjal. The sheer expanse and magnificence of the surroundings from the top always remind me of the Creator. A combination of peace, feeling sucked up by awe and being alive - it only intensifies with each trek.

With time on our hands, there was no rush to get back down. We had time to appreciate the views again, the forest and the stream. The icy water was refreshing and numbing in equal measure. We built rock cairns (as if there was a need to contribute art) and picked up a stone each as souvenirs (with a slight guilt of displacing them). 





We took the remainder of the day slowly - enjoying home made food, drives through villages and walks along the ridge of a barren dam. Dusk came quickly and we found a portico to rest weary feet and discussed "Happiness" and anything else besides the city and work that we would have to go back to. 

February; what adventure awaits?! To plan, or not to plan: that is the question. 




October 21, 2015

Karaikal Passenger



Good morning and good evening from my daily commute.

Oh, the joys of a window seat on the train.

The city-scape and landscape with new detail on every journey.
The fields and the villages gradually changing into high-rise apartments and bridges under which unfortunate commuters wait in standstill traffic. 
The morning crisp breeze versus the evening sultry air. 
The sun setting into hues of red and purple.
Building facades transforming into light matrices.
Village mud roads into highways dotted with red and yellow.
The slow moving horizon and blur of faces thronging the gates of the railway crossings.

The deep chugging.
The shrill whistles piercing the air.
The tinkling of the key chain seller.
The clapping and coquetting of the hijras.
The vendors announcing their menus: lime rice, poori bhajji, idli chutney, samosas, bhel puri, muruku, peanut chikki and lots of chai.
The pleadings for seat space,"Auntie, swalpa adjust maadi."
The impatient sighs while we halt at railway signals.
Hungry, whining toddlers.
The silence of those with phones- eyes glued, ears plugged.

The hyperactive children clambering up the baggage racks.
The bickering, gossiping ladies with handbags that need seat space.
The uncles with their newspapers.
Vacationing families with packed breakfasts.
The commuters with their backpacks and emotionless faces.
And the dosing grandma whose head keeps falling on my shoulder.

The smells of onion chutney and tamarind rice.
Fresh jasmine and strong cologne.
Smelly feet and sweaty children.
And eucalyptus from the trees at the Ballandur Road station.

The bogey we share with invisible mosquitos and the odd cockroach.
Once a bird flew right through.
(So far no mice!)

The eyes of ladies judging my clothes.
Babies eyeing my bright blue phone 
My neighbours peering at the front cover of the book I'm reading.
And the nosy boy reading my text messages. 

Days when I can put my feet up on the seat in front of me. 
Days when seat space is a luxury, luggage racks become seat space and lap space become luggage racks.
And standing space and leaning space will have to make-do.

But despite all the excitement on the train- 
My favourite is thrill of a passing express train at the station.
Standing a few feet away.
Feet apart for balance.
The gust of breeze, the thundering of wheels. 
The monstrous engine barging through.
The streaks of blue, indigo and yellow.
Eyes squinting.
The platform quaking underneath.
The roof sheets shuddering overhead.
The station master with his green flag in silent adieu to a couple hundred passengers on another train from somewhere else going someplace else.

April 28, 2015

My Roman Holiday

Hello!

The other day, I was cleaning out a cupboard in my room and I found a travel journal from a trip to Rome in 2002 when I was 11 years old. I remember being quite enthralled by the trip on a whole - the exciting history, architecture and art. But my travelogue dictates otherwise; I seem to have been more excited by all the new food we ate. I have listed out in detail everything we ordered at each restaurant. I was quite amused at my focus on the food so I've have typed out what I wrote. 



key- [additional notes]

My Roman Holiday

Thursday 21.02.'02

7:30 am - Plane was delayed 'cause of high winds in Rome - 1 hr. Take off about 9:00
Breakfast - Roll and cheese, plain roll, yogurt, sweet roll with almonds, jam and butter, orange juice and hot drink.
Flight was 2 hours.
Lunch - Special mushroom fettuccine, Ravioli, Onion Pizza, Veg Penne (first we got meat by accident)
Walked passed Colosseum, Santa Maria (Moses statue). Ate dessert whilst it was raining.
Supper - 2 pomodoro, 1 carciofi and aubergine fettuccine, 1 agliata coushette [sp. courgette] fettuccine (white)
Bed early (Hotel Aphrodite) 

Friday 22.02.'02

8:30 am - Woke up and had showers. Got coupons for Breakfast - sweet rolls and orange juice.
Bus to Vatican, St.Peters Square.
Lunch - 4 penette pomodoro, dessert and drinks, rolls and cheese.
Museum was closed. Climbed 346 steps (halfway was by lift). Sun down in the square.
Supper - Starters - fish my mistake, then changed to veg [I remember that we ordered fried zucchini flowers which came with anchovies], 1 ravioli (Rohit), 1 penne pomodoro with aubergines (TLC), Pizza with mushrooms (Mum), Pizza with aubergines (Dad)
Bus home.
Good night.

Saturday 23.02.'02

Breakfast - same
Pantheon, Trevi Fountain
Lunch - (small quaint rest.) 2 Risottos, pieces of pizza- roast potatoes and courshete [sp. courgette
Went to some Basilicas and looked at some of the Forum.
ICE CREAM for dessert.
Temple of Jupiter - disappointment.
Michele Angelo's Square.
Supper - PIZZARITO PASTARITO!! folded veg pizza (D), 1 farfelle white mushroom (M), 1 spirelli garlic pomodoro (T), 1 spinach ravioli (R) [I deciphered the drawings of the pasta to name them here] Big helpings.
[insert signature]
Played UNO

Sunday 24.02.'02

Woke up. 
Breakfast - Roll and juice.
Got a bus to the Colosseum. Got a piece of it (second floor corridor)
Then followed the map through the Palatine. I got a piece of it (Oval fountain wall near the dining room)
Lunch - Pizzas. R-Magherita, T-Aubergine (Melanzane), D-Funghi, M-Veg
Walked through part of the Forum.
Dessert - R-Lemon Cake, M-Caramel Cream and Pannacotta, D-Pannacotta, T- Choc mousse and Pannacotta.
No Supper.
Good Night.
Played UNO

Monday 25.02.'02

Checked out, kept luggage there, had breakfast.
Went to Vatican Museum. Saw [Creation of Adam] and spiral staircase.
Lunch - (Piazza Navona) M- Cream Gnocchi, D-Melanzane pizza, T&R- Spaghetti Pomodoro, M&T- Funghi Pizza
Collect Luggage
Train to Airport
Sky bridge. Gate 28 changed to 20.
No veg supper.
A.Kirra picked us.
Back Home.

I looked through the photo album from that trip, but my Mum seems to have only taken pictures of monuments and paintings and none of the food. Here's the coolest one from the set - the spiral staircase of the Vatican Museum.




March 10, 2015

A Brief Visit


Sri Lanka boasts the works of famous Architect Geoffrey Bawa. I had heard of him in college, but barely knew anything about his work or styles. I definitely did not know that he had a brother who was a landscape architect who designed his own home on a 5 acre estate near Bentota that he's named 'Brief'.


Two brothers, the offspring of Sri Lanka's elite society, initially educated for non-design careers but both of them have created masterpieces; each an obvious imprint of their personalities.

I am glad I visited this before Geoffrey Bawa's estate 'Lunuganga'. Although in overview, I preferred the grandeur of Lunuganga, Bevis Bawa's approach to create an intimate design is far more relatable. As soon as I entered the iron gate with those Narnian stone gate posts and through the archway to ring that bell to announce our arrival, I was instantly a wide-eyed nine year old again.



We began our walk through the gardens first. I am not exaggerating when I say that I felt like Mary Lennox when she first discovered the secret garden. Little paths winding almost unnoticed through the trees and shrubbery, making acute turns, up and down staircases, opening up unexpectedly into little clearings of refuge as if to say 'No, you are not lost. You were meant to find this'.  

I am so glad this wasn't a guided tour. It would have totally cut out the fun of discovery. The walk through the gardens was not meant to be hurried through. We had to slowly meander through this maze otherwise we may have missed spotting the stone frog and other little sculptures perfectly camouflaged in the foliage, the turtle shaped fountain spout, the earthen pots collecting rainwater from the trees above them, the little circular ponds and stone slabs for seating, stone mandalas, and of course those huge stone ball newel caps at the ends of the stairs; but those were not hard to miss!







The seemingly unruly garden design is obviously intentional. It seems as if it is an attempt to bring a human scale and understanding into the expanse of a dense forest of rubber and cannon ball trees. I especially loved how natural patterns were used in the man-made constructions. The stepping stones, table tops, walls and tiles all imprinted with leaves and other things from the garden.

And then, suddenly through the maze of staircases and terraced lawns we reached the bottom of a long stretch of tiered waterway leading up the house so perfectly framed by the bamboo thicket.

December 31, 2014

This is the New Year!

Hello again at the end of another year! Too fast, way too fast. Too many good things happened this year, and too many things to be thankful for. 

Like every other year, there have been new experiences, new people, hellos and goodbyes and plans that worked and plans that didn't work out. But I know that He has been there through it all. 
I.Can.Guarantee.That.

So, I'm going to skip the retrospecting I usually do in my usual year end blog posts. Instead of the 2000 word essays on life, this year I'm sharing some motivating lyrics by Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino. Here's an exciting song to bring in the new year. :)


Another year you made a promise
Another chance to turn it all around
And do not save this for tomorrow
Embrace the past and you can live for now
And I will give the world to you


Speak louder than the words before you
And give them meaning no one else has found
The role we play is so important
We are the voices of the underground
And I will give the world to you


Say everything you've always wanted
Be not afraid of who you really are
'Cause in the end we have each other
And that's at least one thing worth living for
And I will give the world to you



December 24, 2014

For December

Season's Greetings!

My favourite month of the year was as perfect as could be this year- from Christmas music programmes at church, carol singing through the nights, a campfire party with orphan kids, family time and lots and lots of cooking and baking.



I've put together a compilation of my favourite Christmas music of this year. It's undoubtedly my favourite music genre. There was so many good songs this year, so I decided to choose the best and make my first playlist on 8tracks.





November 21, 2014

eMi2 - Delhi

Continuation from Part 1 - Dimapur

I have visited Delhi on several trips in the past. Having seen most of the usual tourist sights, I was definitely keen to see more of the city. I was lucky enough to have two friends who lived in the city and in close proximity to my office and with whom I got to see more of the city.


We reached Delhi late. We spent the 3 hour transit time in the airport (and even parts of the flight) working on the final presentation. We were blessed to be part of a service at the Infusion church the next morning. The music worship session was so uplifting as was the rest of the service. It was such a warm and inviting congregation. We presented an overview of the project to the team and the church members who wanted to listen. We followed it with a more detailed discussion later. Thankfully it was received positively.



I got to visit Hauz Khas village on the first two evenings. To me it seemed like Delhi's version of the Galle Fort in Sri Lanka - historical architecture plus the quaint alleyways of fashion boutiques, tea cafes and vintage art galleries and all that hipster vibe!

The Hauz Khas monuments consist of many different 13th century structures- mosques, tombs and pavilions all built around a lake. We didn't get to spend much time exploring and we had to weave in and out of dozens of canoodling couples to get a few pictures.


Walking through the narrow streets (definitely no setback rules at all here!) it's so tempting to peek into every store. If I lived here, I would spend many evenings wandering in and out of them. This kind of window shopping is actually fun. So much variety of art in so many forms from hand painted clothes to leather suitcases, wooden chests to psychedelic coasters, retro movie posters and bonsai plants. Loved the random strange graffiti all over the place and was pleased that I found a funky stationary store to buy a bright orange notebook. 

We stopped at the famous Elma's bakery for cake. The cafe was spread over three levels with a narrow atrium connecting them. I love cafe's like this one - quirky decor, soft jazz music, extensive menus and good cake with lots of cream!


We had the team debriefing session and the had our final dinner at a Hyderabadi restaurant. I won't forget the facial expressions of everyone as they tried my jal jeera drink for the first time. It was like those videos that people make of giving lime to babies!


It was quite sad when our team started becoming smaller, but we had new fun people at the office to bond with. I really enjoyed the work setting - starting the day with music and prayer, continuing to work on the project by putting together what we had already worked on and drawing up the designs, a fun lunch break when the little kids dropped by and board games over dinner. It really felt like a big office family. 


I've been looking forward to food in Delhi so much. Having been in Sri Lanka the past year, I had to satisfy all the cravings for north Indian food in these two trips. I relished all the yummy meals from the tiffins at work to the chaat, fried momos, kulfi and jelebi, aam panna, the paneer in various forms, the dhal makhani and kadhi pakoda, the channa bhatura and everything else too. 




We went to Old Delhi one morning. The Jama Masjid was beautiful despite having to hop around barefoot on the burning hot ground. We walked down the bustling Chandni Chowk with so many "tour guides" stalking us (was bound to happen with the non-Indians in the group) towards the Spice Market at Khari Baoli. Countless wholesale stores with piles of dried fruit, nuts,  and sacks full of dried chilli, pepper, corriander seeds. We were all in tears, coughing and sneezing. Struggled to see and breathe, but it was quite an experience with the smells and colours and all our sinus' were completely cleared out by the end of it. 







November 19, 2014

eMi2 - Dimapur


The highlight of this year was undoubtedly the week I spent working with an awesome team on the Acts Institute project in Dimapur, Nagaland and the two weeks of work that followed in Delhi.

Ever since I heard about this organization- Engineering Ministries International, I decided that I would definitely plan to work with them sometime in my future. I found myself on their website many times while at work in Sri Lanka, but was never really sure how and when it would work out. One day, after much thought and prayer, I wrote to them asking to be part of a project, despite being a project for which I would have to cut short my stay in Sri Lanka by two weeks. 

It all worked out perfectly. In a few weeks, plans were all sorted and all tickets booked. I packed up, left Sri Lanka, reached home, unpacked, packed again and was off to Nagaland. I met the team in the departure lounge in Kolkata. Such a diverse group of people. We had traveled from a variety of countries- Canada, America, Germany, South Africa and Sri Lanka. We had different qualifications and different levels of experience, but were all there for one goal- to volunteer our time and abilities to design the Acts campus.

Nagaland was the furtherest East I have ever been. Despite being mostly a hilly state, our project site was in Dimapur which was a flat area at the foothills. I knew little about the Naga people and had mostly heard that they ate everything that moved- from dogs to frogs to beetles. I was a bit unsure how I would find vegetarian food. 

We were hosted by a lovely couple who took care of us for the week in their beautiful house. It was quite the opposite of the simple accommodation I expected. We were treated to multiple course meals (which included tasting the Raja mirchi- the world's hottest chilli!), a large air conditioned office for our work space and a swimming pool for afternoon chill time! 

We visited the site of the project early that week. 70 acres of agriculture land banking the Chathe River with the ranges of hills in the distant. We had to drive through the river to access the site. We planned out the site, dividing the land up into the various zones for the institute.




Working on this project was such an enriching experience. I have never been part of an architectural project that was Christ-centred. We shared personal testimonies and we spent a lot of time in worship and prayer for the project. We discussed design strategies over mealtimes and in the pool and spent late hours rendering site plans over mint green tea.

One of the mornings, we visited the village close to our site. It was really nice spending time with the local families. It was a small community and we joined them for a worship in the strangest, most interesting church building designs I have ever seen. A strangely proportioned aluminium and paper mache dove. Nagaland is a predominantly Christian state (90%) and it was nice to see the area dotted with churches.