sounds in the silence

I’m in love with the weather in Bangalore today! It’s partly cloudy, it’s not hot, it’s not humid, it’s not glaringly sunny. It’s just perWeatherInBangalore-22April2011fect (and personally, I think it could use some real good downpour as well!) But well, the weather report says there’ll be scattered storms and showers today and tonight. And well, in the weather’s favour, it does NOT “feel like 29 degree celsius”!

And though I love rains, and wouldn’t mind if it rains day and night, I think today’s climate — or at least how things are right now — is perfect! And it’s a lot silent when compared to other days.

The vegetable vendors have gone home after quickly selling off their wares — probably in anticipation of a storm 😉 So there are no more yells and screams of “pappaya, vendakka, pavakka, muringakkaaa” 😀

There’s very little traffic flowing by the road in front — so things are relatively calm and silent.

There’s the distant drone of a concrete driller somewhere, that’s bringing in the effect of a waterfall closeby!

Pumbaa’s behaving well, and so there are no yelps, barks and “Pumbaa, NO!”s

The street dogs also seem to be mourning “Good Friday” today; I haven’t heard a single bark / fight since morning.

(Best of all) Hathway seems to have lost connection with the satellite; so the TV is dead and life couldn’t be better on a holiday, with husband at home 😛

The crows, a few pigeons and some butterflies seem to like the area around my house, and have set up a conversation (yea, of course, the butterflies seem to just listen and not say a word!), but without any cacophony.

We celebrate our 5th unofficial anniversary today, and I opened my groggy eyes this morning to see a handwritten — yes, HANDWRITTEN!! — love letter from the husband, and a wonderful three-folder card with a lot many of my favourite pics of “He and I” designed in a lovely collage waiting for me! I knew right then, today would be awesome 😉

And I was right. It’s an awesome day. And I hope it brings a lot of rain as it makes way for the night.

Oh, I think all Fridays would be this awesome if it’s a holiday 😀 😉

CoffeeGudda @ Chikmagalur: a travellogue

Yay! Travellogue time again 😀

Yea, so I “tripped” again. This time, not with the husband / family, but with colleagues! After joining this company, there were two trips planned, both of which I backed out of — them both being weekend trips, and it being impossible for me to sleep without my daily night quota of the husband’s hugs and kisses 😀

This time, however, when the trip was planned itself, I was told that the previous trips were cancelled because I backed out at the last minute, causing a chain of backing-out! 😀 So, after much confusion and tantrums (me saying ‘don’t wanna go’, husband saying ‘go, have fun’), I gave in and said OK. I had no clue what I bargained for!

Anyway, after work on a Friday night, 14 of us set off to Chikmagalur, a hill station in south-west Karnataka. We left by about 12 am and reached Coffeegudda, the homestay we book for ourselves, by about 7.30 – 8.00 am.

And was the place awesome! After all the speculations of the place’s existence, we were all mighty pleased. And I say this, because when we Googled “Coffeegudda”, nothing turned up!! And of course, if it’s not on Google, it just does not exist, right? 😀

But well, it did exist, actually! Tucked away peacefully, even beyond Google’s reach!

Well, the place is rather new, and the guys are yet to make a website of their own. All they have now are a few pages of CoffeeGudda hosted on wix.com, a free website builder 😉 So, I suppose this post of mine would be CoffeeGudda’s first official mention on any website! Yay! 😉

CoffeeGudda: 16 acres of one of the most well maintained coffee and betel nut estates in Chikmagalur! A pretty homestay, mouth-watering food, fantastic hospitality, warm people, awesome surroundings, a gentle stream that meanders by and a waterfall of its own!! How much more can one ask for!?

Yes, you read that right! A huge, amazing, natural private waterfall!

An awesome suspension bridge takes one from the road to the homestay, over a serene, delightfully lovely stream that gurgles along happily beneath. The mood-setter for the vacationer 😉 I swear it’ll set your mood. We were all wide awake from our seconds-ago groggy state the minute we saw the stream 😉 The bridge ends where the gate is and a pathway starts. Lined on both sides by majestically tall betel nut trees, the pathway keeps you in its mysterious clutches for quite a while before it hands you over to the homestay.

View of the suspension bridge

The betel nut trees that stood majestic and tall 🙂

Where the pathway leads to the homestay...and you see...

...CoffeeGudda, the homestay!

CoffeeGudda, the homestay. Another view: of the three rooms, the swing chair and the serenity 🙂

Where we ate and drank. The little, thatched dining centre 🙂

Day 1 began with all of us freshening up and heading for some breakfast to the lil’ thatched shed. 🙂 Hot idlis with some real yummy sambar and coconut chutney. Anyone who can make a sambar that yummm can make any damn food the most tastiest way! 🙂 Oh and some very nice kesari too 🙂

And then, we set off to the “private” waterfall. I asked them how high it is, but they weren’t sure! Imagine having one’s own waterfall and not even bothering to know its height. Sigh! Life is very partial to some 😀

The foot of the waterfall. Technically 😉

The trek up to the falls... (pic courtesy: a colleague)

We trekked up to the water fall from below — and it was a tough job! We had to climb up huge boulders, duck under fallen trees at places, cling on to ropes and pull ourselves up at others, get bruised and grazed on the shrubbery around…but when we did reach up, it was worth all the effort!

The waterfall...in all its glory. 🙂 And the IBMers, in all theirs 😀

With such force it came tumbling down the rocks...

Standing there under all that force was awesome.

It was magical. There was just the water, greens, birds and us. It was truly magical! And standing there under all that force was awesome. It gave a lovely massage — water therapy — that washed away all our weariness, all the strained muscles, all the tiredness. It was just splendid. And I guess the BEST part of it all was its being exclusive to us. There were no mad crowds, no litter, no lack of cleanliness. The place was spotlessly clean 🙂

After spending about 2-3 hours there, we were on our way back. the trek down was tougher. We had to almost slip down the slops on the sides of the boulders, hanging on to just one rope for support! 😀 It was sexy! 😀

We were all tired and again went for our baths and freshening up. Lunch waited. A real spread that was. Chappathis, two kids of chicken curry, egg roast, rice, sambar, rasam, beetroot subzi, cabbage sabzi, curds, pickles…and all of that in ABUNDANCE! We all ate to our tummies’ fill and praised the cook to no end! 😀 In fact, we were all surprised they served so much; we only expected a humble meal!

After lunch, while some of them went off to snore, a few of us sensible ones set off to chill by the stream. I swear! I haven’t done anything that “wow” in quite sometime. The time we spent at the stream was so amazing, we yearned to extend the trip and stay on for another day 😀 I personally wished I could just stay there forever, and tell the husband and parents and Pumbaa to come over with all the clothes and furniture 😀

Bridge across the river Quay...er er...the stream yay!

Gently flowed the water, gurgling, giggling and swirling...

And we chilled out in its coolness...

Miss it soooo much!

By about 6.30, we headed back to our rooms, freshened up (again!!) and sat around a campfire to enjoy the clear night! The temperature had dipped, and   the fire began dying out, one of us would rush to get more firewood! 😀

The campfire that kept us going way into the night...

After anthaksharis and ghost stories and dappankuths and more dancing, we had some yummy dinner. After which, we all split into groups, each doing their own thing. Some sat by and drank; some had pep talks, we played rummy 😀 I had sprained my neck as we trekked down the falls, and by night, it was horrid. I could barely move my neck 😦 There was another trekking planned the next day, and i was almost sure i wouldn’t make it. And that added to the pain 😦 😦 😦

Came morning, and I woke up hoping I was alright. but no. Could still barely move the neck. There was game of badminton in progress, and while i badly wanted to join in, I was in no state to play.

Early morning badminton

A few concerned ones said I better stay back…but well, even if I didn’t trek, the neck wasn’t fine. Might as well trek, I said. And off we went. How can I ever say no to trekking? And well, it was just in a tea estate (or so we thought!). Now how bad can that get!? So, once again, while a few losers slept, 9 of us set off. A bus took us halfway, and then we were to get on to one of those open jeeps that resembles the ones that carry cattle 😀

We were in for a major surprise. Turned out we were not actually headed to a tea estate, but was going to trek down an insane mountain range and trek up another!! We were headed to Horanadu and beyond!

Horanadu...scenic, isn't it?

The cattle jeep took us cattle, crossing little jungles and streams and coming out on to rough roads with the sun above us, scorching!

The little jungles, all of which had streams flowing across the roads! Sexy it was!

The roads were worse than it looks heer. At points, it bordered on scary!

With us almost dangling all over the jeep. My neck was becoming worse that I ever imagined it would…but the scenery was soo good, I was clicking away like crazy 😀 [reached home to find the ugliest bruise I got from all that banging onto the jeep railings! sigh. Lesson: never click way while on an open jeep on bad roads! :D] And when I almost started wondering if I made a stupid mistake, deciding to come, we left the rough roads to reach the zenith of the mountain!

The zenith of the mountain: Gaaligudda!

And the views took our breaths away!

Gaaligudda: the best trekking I've ever done! How many colours and textures do you see? 🙂

Painting or picture?

The open jeep that took us cattle to Gaaligudda

View from the top. That little piece of green down there was a field we crossed while in the bus, even before we got on to the jeep! Which shows that we came up quite a height!

This has been by far my toughest trekking experience! Mainly because of the incline. It was almost an 80 degree slope downwards — with NOTHING to support you climb down: no boulders, no sturdy rocks, no plants, nothing! In fact, to add to all the scariness, here was a lot of loose gravel! And nothing to even break a fall if one of us were to go tumbling down!

Except three of us, the rest were all plain scared to move an inch down. But the fact that our jeep had left us there and had gone all the way to the top of another mountain where it would meet us again, left us all with no choice but to trudge down. There was a guide who helped three guys. And two other guys and I helped down the other three girls. The scariest part was that if the person we were supporting were to lose footing, she’d take us along too!

See that white spot towards the left of the pic? Draw an imaginary line up from the words "Draw an" here and you'll find it 😀 That was our jeep, waiting there for us to climb this slope down, climb the other one up and reach there!

And let me tell you, the slope isn’t as easy as it looks on the pics!

The group inching down slowly, carefully...

And that, is when I, for the first time in front of the colleagues, loudly and clearly yelled “F***!” 😀 I and the girl I was helping down had made headway and reached what looked like the bottom first. I turned around, clicked a pic and was just putting back the lens cover when I heard a shout from above. We both looked back to see a rock tumbling down right at us! My greatest fear was that it’d bring along more loose rocks and gravel. if that happened, we both would surely have reached the foot of the mountain in no time! As the rock passed us by in mere inches, I looked up sheepishly to yell out a “Sorry”! 😀 They pulled my leg all day for that! 😀

As we trekked further down and finally did reach the foot, we heard a lovely gurgling sound. “Water!! Waterfall, more like it”, we all yelled and rushed forward to find this little beauty nestled among some rocks and dense green!

The beautiful stream that takes origin from the foot of a lovely waterfall!

The cute "little" water fall which proved size does NOT matter, water does! 😀

No. It just looks small. When we got under it, it was almost double our size. yet, the water came down with such force, that when we leaned against the rocks and went completely into the water, it was like we were deep under the sea! Awesome, splendid and fantastic it was!

The first two to get into the ice water 🙂 Just for perspective.

We spent about half an hour frolicking there. The water was icy cold and getting people in was a huge challenge 😀 But with the effort of our official “water splasher”, we all were in, finally! Had a fab time. Though we wished to remain in for longer, we had to leave back to Bangalore by 1.30…and it was already 11. we had just another hour to climb back, another to reach the homestay and a half more to have lunch, pack up and leave!

Heaving, panting and almost dying, we trekked back. trekking in wet clothes, that too UP a mountain, is not a good idea at all 😀 Yet, we did it, every now turning around to catch the wonderful painting Nature painted. When we finally caught a glimpse of the jeep, extra adrenaline pumped and we all almost ran up! And we were on our way back to CoffeeGudda 🙂

A beautiful tree we saw on the way back 🙂

The way back from Gaaligudda, to CoffeeGudda

The tea estate we "thought" we were going to; shot from the bus 😀

The stream near CoffeeGudda...where we idles the previous evening, and where the losers who didnt come trekking idled while we trekked 😀

While this trip definitely gets NO points for being a fab one by all respects, CoffeeGudda definitely gets it for being a real ‘getaway’, for yummy food, for a private waterfall (I still can’t believe the awesome luck of those ppl!) and the best trekking I ever did!

We bade goodbye to the homestay owners and left content, loaded with packs of CoffeeGudda-Chikmagalur coffee powder! 🙂

CoffeeGudda rocks! 🙂

ETA: Here is the link of CoffeeGudda’s very own website 🙂

A mid-summer night’s views…

Waiting for the husband to switch off his darling TV and come to bed is an everyday ritual I go through. I’ve already written about how much I hate it. I’ve tackled it in various ways:

  • cajoling him to see how droopy my eyes are, gain his sympathy and get him off the sofa to switch the TV off
  • losing patience, yelling and going off to bed on my own when he doesn’t budge or switch the TV off
  • giving him “5 more minutes” before I switch the TV off (!!)
  • covering his eyes in a light moment and taking advantage of that moment to convince him to switch the TV off

Let me tell you: 95% of the times, I’ve ended up not winning the situation and in me ending up all miffed and cross 😀 So, the latest strategy is to let him be, snuggle with him till I can tolerate the TV, and then either go upstairs to our room and just read a book. Wow! Now I realise, that is the most effective utilisation of waiting-time 😉 Or, I play DX-Ball on my iPod. Or, I get out on to the balcony and catch on cam what gos on in the ‘outside’ world 😉

These happened yesternight 😉

I went up to our room to realize that the night was warm. When I opened the balcony door to let in some fresh, cool air…I saw how nice the view was. And I rushed down to get the cam, rushed back up and clicked.

View from the balcony

As I went out on to the balcony, cam in hand, going through the many shots of the “view”, I noticed how good the tree in front looked in the pale moonlight and the bright street light. And I clicked.

The beautiful tree just outside the gate 🙂

So, then I realised if I tilt the cam further up, I can avoid the bright street light and catch the pale moonlight. It was a challenge. there were just too many dark clouds moving about, and the moon kept playing hide-and-seek. Now and then, it peeped out, daring me to click. And I clicked.

Moon caught in the act 😉

And that’s when Bangalore’s most famous inhabitants, the stray dogs, decided to embark on their daily round table woof sessions. Punctual like a cuckoo clock, I must say! The lead of one pack managed to scare away the other and then stood back to woof the last woof of the night. And I clicked.

The last woof of the night...

Suddenly, the night became silent. No dogs woofed for a while. No vehicles whizzed past. No lone walker walked. All that remained as I turned around to get back in, was a lone car by the park. And I clicked. the last click of the night.

A lone car on a lovely night

Yes, I agree. Senseless post this one. Only for you, for it made a lot of sense to me 😀 It isn’t always that I take some time off to enjoy a breezy, cool night.What the heck; I work till 11 p.m. and come home tired and ready to hit the bed!

And to add to that, it was a night without quarrels, without pressures, without misgivings. Just content, happy enjoyment of a mid-summer night’s views. All that was missing was Pumbaa, who was snoring away downstairs, in Amma’s room. And, the husband who till then had been struggling to switch the TV off, had actually ditched it for me 😀 😀 😀 For he knows I just can’t sleep without the daily dose of hugs and kisses 😉

Pongala: for the Devi, by the devis

Looks like if I’m not travelling, I have nothing to write about 😀

Well, not entirely true. I did write a love letter, for CB‘s latest contest “love is in the air”. There were two parts in the contest: on was to create badges, and the other, to write a love letter. Well, halfway through the design, I realised the deadline had passed 😀 so i gave up. Which meant I also gave up on the yet-to-begin love letter, till CB extended the deadline. (Damn! There was no excuse i could give after that :D)

Today is Pongala, and I thought I might write about how we celebrated it.

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For the uninitiated, Pongala is a religious festival celebrated by Hindu women. ‘Pongala‘ means ‘to boil over’ — and on this day, women devotees get together for the ritualistic offering of payasam: a porridge made of rice, sweet brown molasses (or sugar), grated coconut, nuts and raisins.

It’s celebrated across a few temples in South India, but it’s been made famous by the Attukal Temple at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. It’s the one time when the sleepy Thiruvananthapuram city witnesses a night that’s longer than the day 😉 Women from all over South India (I guess there are people from all over the country now) gather in the city, near or in the temple premises, stocked with the ingredients, round earthen pots, bricks and tiber from the coconut trees.

On a day or two prior to the festival:
Women travel to the city and set up temporary homes on the roadsides. They book their spots on the roads, lanes, footpaths and shop fronts in a radius of several kilometres around the temple (fighting for the one nearer to the temple). The bus stands and the railways station are NOT the place to be, if you’re not a devout devotee, and especially of you’re a member of the male gender 😉

The roads are filled with vehicles bursting with their occupancy. The city dwellers don their hospitality hats and wait their turns to help the devotees. They let their courtyards be used as tent spots, let the devotees use their precious toilets, offer excellent home-cooked suppers and comfort elements — for they consider the very act of a hospitality a means to please the Goddess!

A visit to the temple is mandatory on the previous day; so is a fasting. If you are a man, you will not be allowed anywhere near the areas where the festival is in progress—unless you’re a badge-donning member of the temple volunteer group or the police force.

On the Pongala day:
All the arteries of this tiny town—less than a hundred and fifty square kilometres of land area—becomes look-alike rows of make-shift stoves ready to be lit. No vehicles ply within the city; the police and volunteers stop them at the outskirts. Volunteers set up free food-and-lemonade stalls at every 500 meters!

Security is the biggest concern of the government on the day—what combo could be worse than crowds of women and fire!? Over 5000 police men and 500 women constables plus more senior officials. Volunteer organisations work around the clock to provide medical aid, food, water and help. And the day experiences an uncanny pleasant demeanor by all people, and there is no bossing round, no bad attitudes, no negativity.

A cannon sound reverberates when the priest lights the hearth within the temple. The flame is quickly passed from the sacred hearth to others, and in an unbelievable and superb gesture of community participation, over a million hearths burn up class, creed and sects on this day, as the Devi replaces everything in their hearts with devotion and prayers.

The city is then enveloped in a cloudy cloak.

While some struggle to light a hearth and handle the smoke, sun and the streaming eyes, there are others who, having participated for many years, handle up to a 101 hearths: an auspicious number for everything divine. Another cannon announces the “boiling over” at the temple, and then the wait begins — for the temple representative priests to sprinkle the offering with scared water, as a sign of the Goddess’ blessing. Once the holy water is sprinkled on each one’s earth, they’re ready to head home.

Women also use this opportunity to exchange addresses and goodies. Traffic begin its craziness and vehicles make a slow-moving bee-line to various parts of the city and out of it.

Over 2 million burning hearths and twenty square kilometres of land! Fire, gender security, pollution, traffic problems, the concerns are numerous. But they’re all overcome and the pongala continues to be a success year after year.

After the festival:
The city is a mess after the festival: miles of blackened bricks, firewood and earthenware. You may not have seen where the food-and-lemonde stalls were, but the left over cups and the paper plates will tell a tale. And before one knows it, its time for the sanitation workers to jump in for the rescue of the roads. By late night, the city is back to what it was two days back 😉

A ceremonial rain (which has marked its presence every single year) washes down the pollution and the smoke: Nature’s certification of a festival well-celebrated.

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Of the pongala tales I’ve heard, the one bit that has been vivid is that it used to be a festival for the poor. Apparently, in the olden days, the house helps were the ones who used to participate in the festival. It was considered a festival / a day off for them, to revel in the Goddess’s blessings and attention. But over the years, as the festival became more popular. it became a matter of ‘participation’, I guess. And today, like everything else, we have a pongala that’s commercialised. Media channels interview ‘stars’ who ‘share space with the non-stars, the lesser mortals*rolling eyes*! It’s no longer a day that allows the “poor” to have a dedicated day with the Devi. Sigh!

Anyway, today being pongala, Amma was busy and ‘not-on-kitchen-duty’. Though initially she had been all sad she wasn’t at Thiruvananthapuram to be a part of it, when we decided “God’s everywhere” and she could easily “boil over” up on our terrace, Amma was thrilled 😀 Well, heaven was just a little further up than three stories high 😉

Amma's little terrace-temple 😉 and the pongala payasam in the making 🙂 Pic courtesy: my brother

After a long time, I was put on kitchen duty for the day 😀 But of course, I woke up late, and Amma had to take care of breakfast. Boy, was she pissed!

After all the scoldings and everything for ‘almost’ spoiling her day, I went to the kitchen 😀 And while she sat out in the hot sun, lit a fire and made the pongala payasam, I stayed back in the cool kitchen and made Mushroom Biriyani for lunch 😉

The Mushroom Biriyani I made and we binged on 😉

Pumbaa binged on it too 😀 He wagged his tail, licked me and (almost) said “Pumbaastic lunch that was!” 😀 😀 😀

Took the recipe from Nag’s Edible Garden and added my own 2 cents (i tnd to do tht all the time; mostly, the result is yumm, but i’ve had my share of yucks too) 😀

Personally, I’ve never quite liked this festival — only because pongala, as far as i can remember always constituted an off-work day for Amma: but she’d be out the entire day and would come back in the evening tanned, tired and tyrannic 😀 Well, she had a migraine problem and over 5 minutes in the sun could give her a headache…so imagine a whole day out there in the heat, smoke and pollution. Pongala evenings were always of payasam, and “be quiet, i have a headache” and us tiptoeing around to give Amma a quiet time. No, not a good, ‘fun’ festival 😀 And a sun-hater myself, I’ve NEVER been out there for a single pongala!

The only good part was the holiday at school and college — but again, since the traffic comes to a stand still the entire day, the ‘holiday’ always went for a waste and we were all stuck at home. I really don’t think such things should be imposed on the entire population. What of the people who do not participate, the ones who do not believe in it, the ones who might have an emergency? life cannot come to a standstill just for the sake of a celebration 😦

Anyways, after a rather long time, I enjoyed this year’s ‘pongala‘ — one that was minus the crowds, minus the pollution, minus the smoke, minus the heat, minus an Amma who comes back home in the evening with a bad headache and a badder mood 😉

The payasam was extra tasty this time! 🙂

two thousand t(h)en: the year that went by :-)

2010. It was good, it was bad.

The year began with a long weekend, with JANUARY 1 falling on a Friday! Most of the month kept us busy house hunting. I had completely given up on blogging, and had not blogged at all, after 15 October 2009! Had joined a new company in November 2009, and was finding myself in a whirlwind. Though the designation and the job was the same, the medium was online (and not print) media and I was very new to it. Shifting from the house in J.P. Nagar, Bangalore, was a difficult decision. But the commute to work was taxing and we figured Koramangala was a mid-point for both me and the husband from our respective offices. By the end of Jan, we chanced up on the house we are at now – and the so-don’t-want-to-move decision became a can’t-wait-to-move one. To add to it, the owner of the previous house became a nag and started bargaining on the advance he had to pay back: finally, he paid us 15k less of what we had given! In a financial crisis ourselves, we almost wanted to smash his head, and waked out of their in fury 😀

We moved into this house in the first week of FEBRUARY and fell in love with the place. As for the owner, one gem of a person! A philanthropist of the highest order. Will need a complete post to describe him! 🙂 Anyways, most of Feb was spent settling in, and parents visiting, and making friends at work, and meeting neighbours, and other mundane stuff.

MARCH came in rather quickly, and I was completely settled at work. I made three real good friends there, and the 4 of us hung out like fevicol buddies! 😀 But apart from office and home, I realized I wasn’t having a life. And so, I came back to blogging. I had had one too many blogging breaks – and I was almost sure I’d be ignored, not read anymore and the like. But to my disappointment, most of the lovely bloggers I’d known and loved had left the blogville! That only made me more worried.  I’d have to start all over again, and make “blog friends”. I’m glad I decided to go ahead. Though I still miss the old “gang” (I still have ALL of them in my blogroll, in the hopes that they’ll come back someday, like I did), the new people I got to know are the best on the planet! 🙂 So, exactly 5 months after my previous post, I made my first post of 2010 on 15 March! It was also then that a school mate wrote me a lovely mail that took me all the way back to school. Thanks MC!

APRIL slowly rambled in and bought in its wake the loss of the husband’s dear mobile. I’ve never seen him so depressed! And I made a post out of it and got labeled ‘the wife who laughs at the husband’s misery’ 😀 Three days later – after a gap of 4 months – I called up one of my closest friends to know she’s pregnant! Again, all the way back to school I went. Those were the days! It made me think of how much I’ve changed in all those years—and I came to the sad conclusion that I hadn’t changed much. Andthat’s when I listed down some of my LOL stupidities in life—one of my favourite posts so far. April is also the month when the husband and I celebrate our ‘unofficial’ anniversary: and to spice up our life, we decided to go on a week-long trip. A getaway from everything else. Anyways, the father-in-law was retiring the next month, and he also wanted to go on a vacation with us: for gelling-better purposes 😉

We were on vacation all of MAY first week. We went to Coorg and from there to all of his relatives’ places in Kerala and then to Poovar, Tihruvananthapuram! We reached back, got back into the home-work-home lifestyle and I decided to go on a trip every month. Weekend trip, long trip, half day trip…I didn’t mind. I also took a few resolutions: swimming, driving, music classes, gardening and monthly trips. The first three didn’t work, while the last two worked for the most part. My parents relocated to Bangalore and took up the 1BHK on the ground floor of our house. So, we have the whole house to ourselves now! Yey! End of May, we also went ahead and booked our first-ever car: the Tuscan Wine Fiat Grande Punto 🙂 At work, things were getting bad. All four of us were fed up and was planning to move out. Personally, right from the day I rejoined after the vacation, I’d been fed up 😛

JUNE was an exciting month. My blog turned 2 and I was mighty proud 😀 At work, all four of us got new offers and things were being processed. We couldn’t be happier. I was the one who decided to move out, and pulled the other 3 into the bandwagon! So, when there was a plan formulated for a meet-up of us college friends, I couldn’t be happier. The day before our trip, I rushed out from office, requested a dog to excuse me and literally ran home to pack! We were off to Munnar! Cousins, Uncle and Aunt came for a week to Bangalore from Trivandrum, and we all had a great time! We went to Mysore and Srirangapatna – my first time to Mysore after I came to Banaglore 3 years ago 😀 Well, on the flip side, my uncle had a heart attack (!), my mom’s BP rose high, my aunt had a bad fall and my bro (alone in the UK) had a baaaaaad fever!

JULY came and saw us at Manipal: a most lovely place! It was also a month of so many changes: the Tuscan Wine Fiat Grande Punto came home, I got into IBM—new work timings, new sleep timings, new friends, new work profile… And I posted my first and last ever Thursday Challenge. It was ONLY to show off that photograph: I’ve never participated in a TC or a WW before or after that 😀

Starting 15 AUGUST, we celebrated the 10 days of Onam and made the pookkalams on all 10 days:
Atham, Chithira, Chothi, Vishakham, Anizham, Thrukaetta, Moolam, Pooraadam, Uthraadam and Thiruvonam. And after falling badly ill, the week after that, we went off to Wayanad: one of the best places I’ve been to! We trekked up to Edakkal Caves and the Wayanad Heritage Museum, went to Pookkode Lake, Banasura Sagar Dam and the Jain Temple @ Sultan Bathery and went for a safari to the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary.

SEPTEMBER was a fun month, blog-wise. Chatterbox ran the Finish It To Win It contest, and it was a load of blogfun! I finished it to win some prizes! Was too caught up in this, had no time for a trip! 😀 😀 😀 😛

Now OCTOBER was horrid. Horrid, simply, indescribably horrid! Caught in a mad man’s world, we suffered a load of mental tension, sleepless nights, unproductive work hours and insult to injury! And if all those weren’t enough, there were even nightmares for rent! Was the WORST MONTH of the year, and filled us all with a lot of hatred and negativity! To ease some of that negativity and bad moods, uncle, aunt and two brats came from Delhi for a week-long vacation and we had fun. We went to Ooty and Mysore—didn’t want to break the trip-every-month vow 😀

NOVEMBER, every year, had always been my fav! That’s when my birthday is—and since the past2 years, the wedding anniversary too 😉 November 2, the day I turned 26, I got Pumbaa and the Canon EOS550 DSLR Rebel T2i: two of the most precious gifts ever…from a totally precious person—a husband who doesn’t just SAY “anything for you darling”, but DOES something about it too 😀 It was also the month when I ‘discovered’ an unknown relative through the power of blogging 😉 Of course, there were no trips in November—except the ones to the veterinary clinic with Pumbaa 😉

All of DECEMBER literally flew, with Pumbaa keeping us all busy—why, he even had visitors coming in, with appointment, to see him and play with him!!!—and the upcoming end-of-december vacation keeping me super busy at work—result? No time to blog! And on 24 Dec, wrapping up work and packing up clothes, food and Pumbaa, we were off to our Kerala-Goa vacation! Yep, travellogue coming up soooon!

So, a very good year in all, except for the dampner in October—which is like a dampner for life. Everytime we see the scratches on the Punto the blood boils!

Sorry for the boring post, but it’s a record of 2010—for future references, just in case 😀 😛

Anyways, here’s wishing you all a
FUNtastic, grace-filled, prosperous year ahead.  Let 2011 be the year of your dreams! 🙂

Ooty: a travellogue

When I signed into WP yesterday, I accidentally clicked on “Random Post”, and I was led to this post, where I listed a few things I had decided to do something about, to avoid getting back into the rut of a monotonous life.

And I noticed that I had written “Vacations are life’s necessities”, and had sworn to go on one every month 😀 And then I again checked up my blog to see if I had stuck to my decision, and I realised I did it without fail from April – August, and had failed badly from September – November. [September was a month of break from the monthly travels 😀 and November, well, Pumbaa wobbled in].

No, not December, because I’m off on vacation now: from 24 Dec – 1 Jan 2011! 🙂 It’s a B’lore-Kerala-Goa-B’lore road trip, with Dad, Mom, Bro, the husband and Pumbaa! 🙂

Anyway, while checking the blog, I again noticed (!) that there was a trip in October, to Ooty, and I’d completely forgotten to update my blog with photographs and superlatives. Well, it wasn’t mere forgetfulness. It was also the fact that the trip wasn’t all that great and I had no superlatives to remind me of it with. 😦

I had high expectations of Ooty, and they all crumbled down all the way to the valley! I think Wayanad is the culprit—the root cause for this “hmmm…this place is nothing in comparison with Wayanad” attitude!

Anyways, let me not let the trip slip into the little wedges between the neat piles of good memories and travellogues! 😀

So, here it is: the Ooty travellogue.

Uncle, Aunt and the two brats were coming down from Delhi for their first ever Bangalore trip. Their usual agenda is Delhi-Trivandrum-Adoor-Delhi; and it’s been just that ever since my aunt got married way back sometime in the early 90s 😀 Anyway, this time, they broke the spell and decided to get off the train before it touched Kerala 😉

Now, this is an aunt who loves being crazy – and has raised two equally crazy brat-girls. The elder one is the embodiment of the word ‘tomboy’ and the younger, as feminine as any girl can get. And the Uncle, for as long as I’ve known, is as strict as anyone can get and has successfully completed 50 years, in spite of living half of that in a house with three crazy women 😀 So, while I was soo looking forward to have them all home, I was a bit anxious about what might and might not upset him. Turned out, he’s a new man 😀 He was the most fun to have, this time!!!

Yea, so they reached Bangalore on a Friday morning. After loads of hugs and laughs and leg-pulling, I came to work, dreaming of just a trip to Mysore on Saturday. At about 8pm, the husband turns up at office and says, “we’re going to Ooty tomorrow early morning, so come home early. I’m here to pick you.” Ooty!? Yippeeeee! The first and only time I’d been there was in Dec 1999. Over 10 years! I was super excited—and immediately wound up for the day 😀

We had planned a quick Bangalore-Ooty-Mysore-Bangalore trip for the weekend. and set off early Saturday morning. The four of us ‘kids’ in the Punto, and the four oldies in the Alto 😀

As is customary, we had a quick stop at Srirangapatna, to pay respect to Tipu and his ‘tharavaadu’ 😀 Well, with the senior brat around, respect was just NOT a possibility! 😀

The body of TIPU SULTAN was found here

Entry to Colonel Bailey's dungeon

The dungeon's story...

The King's Battery -- now called "Sultan Batheri" -- which hides the dungeon.

A view of the many arches "under" the vault. The stone slabs on the far end of the pic, where prisoners were chained to. the part of a canon, just a decorative piece (per what I overheard a guide say :D)

After a quick tour of Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon, we stopped at Tipu’s favourite mosque, the Masjid-e-Ala built in 1784 (whoa! 200 years before I was born :D).

Twin towers of the Masjid-e-Ala

The open terrace, near the entries to the prayer hall.

After a quick tour of the mosque (it was closed), we drove on towards Ooty. The weather was splendid, and we had a good drive—light drizzles, sunshines, rains, drizzles and more sunshine.

The harbinger of rains...

Rains that splashed all around...the car 😀

View from the shielded side of te windshield 😀

When the rains left, and only the droplets remained 😉

Anyway, on the way, we passed through Bandipur National Park and spotted a few animals (unlike the experience at Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary.Oh, but nothing “wild”, anyways 😀 😀 😀 😀

The elephants and a little one.

The "dears"...

The monkeys...

The python that crossed the road...

...and the long, winding road.

The brats were thrilled to see the animals, the various other animal safety signboards, the sexy, winding road and the greens on both sides. And of course, that was no python. It was just a piece of log, which did NOT cross the road 😀

And it was then that a trip plan for December was formulated and agreed up on. I was explaining to the brats how this National Park was spread across 3 states—Bandipur in Karnataka, Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu and Muthanga in Kerala—and the name Muthanga just COMPLETELY avoided me! We all kept wondering what the name was: one that starts with M, had a tribal case in Kerala long time back in the name of that place, a tribal female involved, etc. And finally, the husband said some name and was sooooo sure he was right. I was soooo sure he was wrong, knew it was a longer word, though I couldn’t quite get the right name. Finally, he agreed for a Delhi trip end-of-Dec if I could prove him wrong.

The next 15-20 minutes, I was super silent. All I had in mind was a violent and sad tribal police case known by the name of this place, the letter M and this tribal lady’s face and her curly hair :D.  It was almost a half hour later, while in the midst of photographing a group of hyper active monkeys, I dropped the camera, dug my nails into the husband’s shoulder and said “Muthangaaaaaa”!!! For a moment, he was so blank-faced, I felt like apologising! 😀

I won the bet. So, the plan was on for Destination Dilli in December 🙂 “Before that, where to, in November?”, I asked. To which he smiled slyly and said “That might not happen, and you might not even want to”. It was a mystery to me then. But when Pumbaa wobbled in, I knew! 🙂 Of course, Dilli plan changed the day Pumbaa came in—and just a week back, we finalised Goa plans:D

As we began the climb to Ooty, the beauty of the Western Ghats slowly unveiled. It was soothing and a prelude to better things to look forward to.

First sighting of the Ghats...

The mingling rain clouds and the emerging sun gave a captivating image...so we stopped for a few clicks.

This is when, the teenage senior brat got into the ro-ro-romantic mood a love song and a backdrop of cloud capped hills can get one into. And she, in a most dreamy way, said “I think I’ll come to Ooty for my honeymoon…with a horse.” “You marrying a horse!?”, we asked, to which she said “Yea. Free horse ride all over the place.” “Hmmm…and horse power advantage too”, I said. She was shocked, and immediately regretted the horsey honeymoon idea. And we teased her no end about it.

We stopped at a view point a little further up to see these:

From the viewpoint...

We reached Ooty by about 6pm and settled into a decent hotel.

Oh, in between, let me not forget to mention that Amma was feeling nauseous the previous night and feared dysentery—and her fears were met the next day! In spite of which, she was trip-ready! 😀 The poor thing threw up so many times, and was totally exhausted by the time we reached Ooty! 😦   After freshening up, we took Amma to the nearest hospital. Bad news greeted us: Amma was badly dehydrated and had to be put on a double-bottle-drip treatment! Poor thing 😦 We stayed with her at the hospital till about 11, leaving only to have dinner, that too, in shifts! Took her back, and we all had a good night’s sleep.

Amma was all healed and completely rejuvenated the next day morning, and we set out to see Ooty: which wasn’t much. We went to the Honeymoon Boat House, had a good round of boating (throughout which I, highly disappointed in the scenery, kept bragging about the boating we had at Pookkode Lake, Wayanad).

The Honeymoon Boathouse

The lake and more...

The brilliantly blue sky is what made the lake look this good!

They grazed the occasion 😀

And that’s when the senior brat noticed a few horses nearby. “Horse ride next”, said she. In between peals of laughter and more leg-pulling, it was then rounds of horse rides for the two brats and the uncle! And me, the photographer, had to trot, gallop and out-race the horses to get pics from all angles. Phew! Was that tiring!

The boat house was maintained very well, and had some really beautiful flowers that adorned the place. The blue sky and the towering trees added their bit too 😉

We then headed for the toy train which we spotted from the lake and had a joy ride–yelling “chayey…chai”, “vadey vadaa vadey”, “meals meals meals”, etc. We created such a din that the folks in the other “bogies” were either laughing, or cursing us 😀 No one joined us, though. Kill-joys!

Spotted this from the boat, and just HAD to have a ride 😀

As we chugged this way and that...

...and even went squealing through a tunnel!

Then, we headed to Doddabetta, the highest peak in Tamil Nadu (2634 mts above msl) that lies near the meeting point of the Eastern and Western Ghats! The thing I loved the most there were the bisi bisi bhajjis and the cold cold ice creams 😀

The view tower, which promised a telescopic view of the Coimbatore city, was a complete scam. I even told the operator that much. Said “Anna, even without my glasses, I can see the city more clearly than through your silly, unfocused, scam telescope.” He soooo didn’t like it, and almost shooed me off the pedestal, to make way for the next! 😀 But seriously, such a waste of time and effort, I tell you! Why, there was even a long queue to be eligible to view. Bah! I even discouraged quite a few people joining the queue, much to the operator’s chagrin 😀

The scam centre 😀

This is what we COULD NOT see through the telescope! 😛

Way to Dodabetta...and back.

Ooty was done. We bought a couple of bunched from the dry-flower vendors outside the Botanical Garden, and were on our way to Mysore, stopping only for a quick lunch.

Mysore was brilliantly decked up: all lit up and crowded. It was the 10-day Dussehra period. And to add to it, this year it was specially special. It was the 400th Dussehra being celebrated!Thanks to a stupid camera and a milling crowd, all pics taken were blurred!

One of the two royal "chariots" on display

One of the two royal "chariots" on display


But honestly, the palace stands like a real jewel when the surrounding areas are dark! It seemed to lose some of its splendid beauty in all the light! But beautiful it was, nonetheless. The crowd was overwhelming, and we decided not to go into the palace, after the disappointment a couple of months back! I recently got this by mail…a 360 degree view of the Mysore Palace—interiors and exterior. Probably filmed ages back, or maybe as a means of getting people to visit, in spite of all the missing artifacts!

So, after more pics , by about 7.30pm, we decided to head to the Vrindavan Gardens which was slated to be open till 9pm, thanks to the festive season. But well, like last time we tried to reach the Palace from Chamundi Hill to catch it lit up, we went around in circles for almost an hour, with every single of the 12 people we asked directions for, sending us in opposite directions! That all the roads were blocked up at different parts because of the festival, traffic and finding the route became a chaotic nightmare! Finally, by the time we were given the right directions, it was just too late and we’d have no way reached the Garden before closing time 😦 We gave up! And by about 8.45, took the road back to Bangalore. We reached home tired, exhausted and unbelievably sleepy by about 12.45am!

.

The trip was not just disappointing, it was hectic as well. Our mistake. We should’ve either taken an extra day, or left Mysore for another day. But well, even the time at Ooty wasn’t all that exciting. Sigh.

Protected: Wayanad: clean, friendly and breathtakingly beautiful (Travellogue Part 4)

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Protected: Wayanad: clean, friendly and breathtakingly beautiful (Travellogue Part 2)

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Protected: Wayanad: clean, friendly and breathtakingly beautiful (Travellogue Part 1)

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