Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A First & Hopefully, A Last Experience!


Hot ice cream
My mobile was stolen when I was watching this person making 'Hot ice cream' and eating hot jalebi!

Even now, I am not able to believe how I was careless to lose my 2 month old Mi 5 mobile!

We were in Agra a few weeks back.  After visiting Agra twice in daytime, we were eager to attend the 'Taj Mahotsav', a 10 day festival of Arts & Crafts organised by the U.P. Govt.

It was nearly a very well organised festival.  Many police personnel and volunteers were seen arranging traffic and monitoring the crowd.  Many stalls were inside, from furniture to clothes to food court.  Announcements were going on to be careful about our belongings again and again. Still, my mobile which was in my hand, was stolen and I came to know about it while eating the hot icecream:) I always keep it in my handbag and hold it tight, fearing someone might steal it:) I had got a call from my son earlier and after speaking to him, was still holding it in my hand without keeping it inside, which was a big mistake.  Well...I lost it!

I searched in the shops I had gone earlier, though, I knew I won't find it there...then went and complained at the police chowki which was inside the festival area.  The inspector asked many questions and then asked us to go to the Agra police station and place an FIR.  Since it was late night, we decided to go in the morning.  Anyway, we knew and the inspector also hinted that once we lose our mobile, it is very difficult to get it back.

The police station was situated at just one Km. away from our hotel, which was on the same road of the festival area.  We, I and my son, reached the station by about 9 am.  I could not believe that a police station of the prominent Taj Mahal area looked so bad.  Have a look:

It looked decent from the opposite side!
One sentry was standing behind me, which was the door, with a rifle and spitting paan all the time.
The green grill door is the entrance to a dargah  (Dargah sharif...the name is there if you zoom it!). This dargah is inside the station!  The blue door seen on the right side, is the entrance to the Inspector's room. I felt very sad looking at it.  It was like an old store room with so many stacks of papers.  I think the floor was a mud floor.  It was full of dust and the Inspector was sitting there with a walkie-talkie on which he was getting messages continuously.  He had an assistant with him.

He asked us to give in writing about what happened the previous day.  The writer or someone, had not yet come.  He asked us to note down the mobile no. and then the mobile tracker IMEI number too.  (I had it in my husband's email, so, we noted them down.  Emailed airtel and the mobile company too).  I wrote down my husband's number for contacting me later.  He told us that the thieves just dismantle and sell them off or start using them after a couple of months! Since we had to leave Agra on that day itself, we needed some reference number.  He stamped our FIR paper and wrote down his mobile number, asking us to take down the reference number later.  I called him after a few days and took it.

Well....no sign yet, of the mobile (no, I am not a dreamer to dream of getting it back as it was!) but still, called him a couple of times.  This is the story of my lost mobile.  Now, to the situation at the dilapidated station:

I was sitting on the chair to write my FIR and then had to wait for sometime to meet the inspector.  Son had gone inside.  I was uncomfortable sitting and watching the thieves or somebody inside the grilled room on the right side which was the 'lock-up'. What we had seen in the movies were quite different!
I noticed many condemned motorbikes inside the compound.  Some young policemen were going here and there.  They looked neat though.  But the police station is not liveable.  This is such a prominent area...'The Taj' is in this area.  Many tourists visit this place.  What kind of protection can these people give? Even now I feel sorry for the people in the station.

I had blocked my number and got it back and it is in my old phone now! A new experience for me!


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dharamshala...Temples, Dalai Lama & More!

I am writing about Dharamshala again here! But about other things, not cricket!  As I told you in my previous post, we had stayed in a hotel in the market place and visited other sights.  2 mts. walk and taxi stand was there.  They take us to the destination for a fixed price.  All drivers, whoever took us, were good, soft spoken and friendly.  Walk the other side and the Buddhist temple/monastery  is there where Dalai Lama stays and he was there when we went there! Though he doesn't give 'darshan' everyday (our friend at the hotel told us so!), I think I was lucky to see him interacting with press persons and others inside the temple/monastery.  The temple looks very simple.  We were not allowed to take cameras/even mobile phones inside the temple.  I have seen Buddhist temples in Singapore, Malaysia also and they were beautiful, colourful.  This was very simple.  But the Buddha statue which was inside was huge in gold colour with lots of intricate designs. 

Got this image from here, thank you!
I have heard that the Dalai Lama is a practical person, very well educated too.  I was not able to hear his speech properly.  The crowd was laughing and he too was in a happy mood.  Know more about him here! 
The temple/monastery

This place looks simple from the outside and it is simple inside also, except for the Buddha statue.  Dalai Lama also was speaking like an ordinary person.  No air at all.  Nice.
A colourful Buddhist temple near our hotel at McLeod Ganj! It was on the busy market road.

The lower part of the temple.  The street was too narrow to take a full picture! You can see many drums with designs and people walk around the temple, just touching and rolling/turning them.  Whatever we want we can ask for while rolling them, it seems.  People keep on rolling while going across to the parallel road through this temple!
This was the bus we went to the cricket stadium.  Medium sized only for them to drive through the narrow curves/bends. It is always crowded, esp. more during matches, it seems! Share jeeps are also available. 
This was our favourite hotel.  We had our breakfast and sometimes dinner too, here.  Vegetarian restaurant. The owner is a Tibetan lady. Good food. Had momos too! You can see a Tibetan lady with her display.  These are Tibetan refugees and we can see them in all the narrow market roads, selling clothes, trinkets, brass sculptures of gods, Tibetan things etc.
We kept on coming across many Buddhist monks and some were having breakfast when we were having it in this restaurant.  Noticed an American Monk too! The roads were full of monks...saw many child monks inside the monastery.  All of them looked happy.  Giggling among themselves!

A restaurant named 'Bodhi Tree' also was good.  And another, Nick's Italian restaurant was good.  Had ravioli there! All these restaurants were in walking distances from our hotel. 

A view of Dharamshala among the trees!
You can go on a trek too, here!
Looks so beautiful!
My son went on a 22 Km. trek, one early morning.  He enjoyed.  The above 3 pictures were taken by him during the trek. The next one too!

A road at Dharamshala!
Well, we enjoyed our visit to this place.  We will remember the scenery while watching cricket match always.  Visited Kangra Fort,
which was just OK.  Sunset was beautiful.  I have posted it here!
Nothing else is there for us to stay for more than 3-4 days.  Cricket match is the catchy event here, I think.  The market area is stinking with dirty water on both sides of the road.  Still we see many foreigners on the road.  They can be seen even during 'no cricket match' days too, it seems.  Noticed many furry dogs and lots of sparrows and small birds which was good.  A taxi driver was saying that Modi's Swachh Bharath mission is quite active there.  So the place will improve and attract more visitors, in the future, he said. They speak Hindi with some accent! Slight Punjabi?!

Farming is done in the surrounding villages.  Otherwise only tourists' income is the main income for the place, it seems.  Well, still, this trip is a memorable trip.  One more beautiful picture of the place taken while watching the cricket match, for concluding this post!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dharamshala...Snow Clad Mountains, Clouds AND Cricket!

This is the right picture for the caption!
We had been on a three week trip to Northern India.  The main purpose was to watch the March 25th Test match between Australia and India.  Though I have noticed the beautiful Dharamshala stadium in the TV before, I never expected it to be so overwhelmingly beautiful.  And it was a test match, not a one day or T20 match! And some of my readers might remember about my earlier post about our visit to a cricket match here and one more post about cricket here. 
Well...my husband and son are cricket crazy people.  So, whether I liked it or not, I am familiar with the matches.  Sometimes I too sit with them and watch when it is too interesting to resist, esp. when India is poised to win!

We had stayed in a decent hotel in the market area ('M' Hotel, Temple road, McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala). So, we had a choice of restaurants to visit and it was the main shopping area.  Though a bit crowded, we enjoyed the place.  First, we thought of hiring a taxi to reach the stadium, it was tooo expensive (10 Km. Rs.400).  So, like many other visitors, we too went by share jeep and then local bus! It was a good experience since it is a long time since we went by share jeep and crowded buses in our place:) The roads were very narrow, with ups and downs, as is common in hilly areas.  Hairpin bends were many.  This is a typical tourist place.  The buses were not long like our city buses.  They were quite small ones.  One more thing we noticed is, the people are unbelievably too friendly.  With all the traffic chaos, nobody got angry, the driver or the passengers.  Oh, let me write about these things in another post! Now, to cricket!

We reached the stadium at about 9.15 am, I think.  The match was to start at 9.30 am.  We were checked thoroughly as usual nowadays...we got delayed because my son had taken a binocular with him! Their net link didn't mention about it but we are not supposed to take it, it seems.  He had to meet some 4 top officials to get clearance! Some small changes and an eye drop bottle was confiscated from me! They were put in a small pouch and thrown in a basket with others' things! We were asked to pick them up when we returned! We did!

Then we entered the venue!!! What a scenery! I just stood in the first step and gasped! Then pulled myself down the steps and sat just below the pavilion, which was the best place to view the match and the hot midday sun didn't roast us here much! Yes, it was cold in the morning and evening but hot in day time! The match had already started.  In the beginning, I was not watching the match but just enjoying the snow clad mountains, clouds all around! We were not allowed to take even water bottle...everything should be bought there! One plastic cup of water priced Rs.10! Pop corn Rs.50, Ice cream Rs.50.  But while going up to get water, I saw Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri...so, forget about the cost of water!

As soon as the first wicket fell down, the crowd started involving...chanting 'India, India'...'Bharath Maatha ki Jai' etc.  Smith scored 111 and that was the highlight of the Australian team.  The afternoon session was the best...Umesh Yadav and Kuldeep Yadav (test debut!) started stealing the show.  Wickets started falling one by one...the crowd chanted 'Kul deep, Kul deep' continuously.  Kohli had some injury and Rahane was the captain.  Whenever Kohli came out during drinks, the whole crowd chanted his name.  Some friends of mine said that since Kohli won't be playing, the match won't be interesting.  But, NO, it was very very interesting...it was like a one day match.  The Australians were all out for 300 runs, thanks to our bowlers. We played an over also at the end of the day.

We didn't see much crowd on that day, i.e. the first day.  On the left side, the area was full of school children in uniform...free entry for them it seems.  

School children in uniform on the left side!
We went back to the room by a through bus to McLeod ganj! The bus was full but stopped midway because of some repair.  The driver put on some gloves, opened the gear compartment, did some repair work! The passengers were just watching.  No one grumbled! It must have taken around 15-20 mts. He was chatting with people all along asking them to 'havaa leejiye baahar' (to get some fresh air outside)!  Hmmm...our Chennai means, a big hungama would have been there!

The next day, we took a taxi...the adventure mood was not there on the second day! Son had left the binocular in the room itself and I left the change also in the room.  So, we sat in our seats before the match started.  The match was a bit slow.  We started enjoying other things than the match! Many Australian fans had come.  A huge kangaroo doll also was there, sitting among us.  They were very friendly people.  All were chatting, in a friendly way.  One old man was selling ice cream, some 'lotus' brand... he was cutting jokes about the old players and humouring people.  More crowd was there on the second day.  Not very eventful, though.  Jadeja played well on that day.

Unfortunately, we had to leave for Chennai on 27th.  My husband and son enjoyed the match and I, the scenery, esp.cloud movements on the snow clad mountain peaks and people.  My picasa album is full of snow peaks and cloud pictures which can be watched always.

Now, to some pictures, for you to enjoy!

2nd day afternoon.  You can see the spider cam with the cloud background!

Australian fans with a Kangaroo doll...notice the Indian flag on its cheek. Very friendly people!

The Australian fan with the green cap was standing up and dancing for 4's, 6's or when any player scored 50 or 100 or got out! Australia or India didn't matter for him! True fan! The whole crowd around him were HIS fans! Us, included!
On our way out of the stadium in the evening.  Felt a bit sad.  Cricket match is played everywhere, but Dharamshala match experience is unique.
You can see the score board here! We won the match by 8 wickets! Jadeja and KL Rahul were the top scorers! Jadeja was the 'Man of the match' and 'Player of the series'! This test match was a memorable match for us/for me! I never expected the first innings of the Australians to be over within a day! That was the highlight of the match.

Click on the pictures to view the scenery better!


P.S.: Sunset shots at Dharamshala

Friday, March 31, 2017

Foto (s) Friday!


Friday, February 17, 2017

Foto Friday!



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Visit To Kalakshetra - The Dance/Art School In Chennai!

Kalakshetra Ganesha under the famous banyan tree!

Dance class under the Banyan tree (Image courtesy: here)

We went on a heritage walk to the Kalakshetra campus on 26th January, '17.  I wanted to go for this walk for a long time and at last I did it! The tour was for just the 7 of us and so we were able to grasp what the guide/ex.student of Kalakshetra, was explaining about the place, with passion!

First she took us to the 'temple', the shade of the famous Banyan tree, which Mrs.Rukmini Arundale had planted long back, around 1936, when she had started the school with one tree, one student and one teacher (this line is famous in the history of the school, it seems!).  Any new programme they planned, was started at this place, under the banyan tree, she said.  The Ganesha vigraha is the only god here, in the campus, she said.

In olden days, dance was practised by a particular lineage of people (Devadasis, means, God's servants). The families pledged their daughters to the temples who danced in front of the god during festivals.  Men in their family taught dance and played music (singing, percussion etc. and never danced). Apoorva said that this changed during the British occupation of India, when the girls were taken for private visits and made to dance in front of rich people.  So, girls from traditional/good families were not allowed to practice this dance form (Sadhir), which had many movements of Shringaara rasa (erotic movements).  Then came Rukmini Devi, who changed everything!

Rukmini Devi Arundale (Picture courtesy: here)

Rukmini Devi Arundale (29 February 1904 – 24 February 1986), was born 
in a Brahmin family in Madurai. Her father Neelakanta Sastri was an engineer with the Public works Department and a scholar, and Seshammal was a music enthusiast. He had transferable job and the family moved frequently. He was introduced to the Theosophical Society in 1901.

After retirement, he moved to Chennai and lived near the headquarters of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, where Rukmini Devi met George Arundale who was a patron of the Society and married him, much to the shock of the then conservative society, they belonged to....Read more here!

Once she had the opportunity to watch a dance form 'sadhir' at the famous Music Academy and got interested in dance.  She learnt dance from Mylapore Gowri Amma and with the help of Krishna Iyer (a lawyer, freedom fighter and art enthusiast), gave a public performance at the 'Diamond jubilee celebration of the Theosophical society'...no looking back later.  With the help of Krishna Iyer, she created a new dance form 'Bharatnaatyam' which didn't incorporate the erotic movements of the 'sadhir' type of dance.  Stories were taken from mythological stories and performed in dance form (dance drama).  Many other instruments like flute and violin were also used alongwith drama settings. Slowly girls from good families started showing interest in this dance form.

Then Arundale and Rukmini decided to start a separate school for dance and in 1936 (Arundale expired in that year itself, later), started this 'Kalakshetra' with the famous line 'one student, one teacher and one tree'! She bought 100 acres of land, piece by piece, from the funds of well wishers, near the beach at Thiruvanmiyur (Chennai, Tamilnadu).  The area was just plain beach except for a small fishermen's hamlet.  She talked to them and bought that land too.  Even now we can see a road going through the Kalakshetra from the beach, in to the city, which was given by her for helping fishermen, as a form of gratitude,  to use it as a short cut.

Slowly, she started getting students and she made the place as 'Gurukul', a residential teaching school.  Small small huts were built as classrooms under the trees which were planted by the students themselves.  Honorary faculty came from all over India to teach dance, music, both vocal and instrumental and slowly a full-fledged art school was born. Many eminent musicians like Mysore Vasudevachaar (famous veena player) and others stayed here and taught the students.  A room with all string instruments, percussion instrument etc. is named after him.  The class rooms are named after the famous teachers who taught here in the early stages of the forming of Kalakshetra.

The Mysore Vasudevachar room.  The veena which is on the top left was used by him and is still in use!

Some 800 trees are there in the campus.  Some trees had fallen during the recent cyclone. We were shown only a small part of the campus.  2 regular schools, hostels, canteen, looms where silk sarees with kalamkari designs are made, are all inside the campus.  One old water body is still there which is made like a pond with steps around.  It is used as amphitheatre and students conduct small musical get togethers here.

The pond where small musical gatherings are conducted by the students. The name of the pond is Padma Pushkarini.  The name Padma came from Padmasini, the first caretaker of the Kalakshetra hostel, some 40 years back, who was very close to Rukmini Devi.
This Vishnu statue is in front of the Instruments room.  A huge tree used to stand as a canopy near this statue, it seems and it is no more there now.  Fell down during the cyclone. Apoorva said that this is a very old Pallava style statue from the collection of Rukmini Devi.  She had collected many unique sculptures and artifacts from all over the world, which are kept in the museum yet to be opened to the public. 

Kooththambalam, under renovation.
The dome of the new auditorium can be seen among the trees.  The right side is covered by huge trees.  We can see the beach on the left side.  No multi storied building is inside, as far as we have seen.  Classes look like small small huts with tiled roofs.  We saw a dance class too with wooden flooring.  Very limited no. of students per teacher, it seems. 3/4 year dance/music courses are there.  Apart from Bharath naatyam, Kathak also is taught here mainly for male students. Only Carnatic music, not Hindustani music is taught.  But Hindustani music concerts are conducted often!

You can see in the above picture, the dream auditorium of Rukmini Devi, which is undergoing some repair work.  We could see only a part of the structure.  Still workers are inside.  The name of the structure is Kooththambalam, means Temple of dance.  The centre stage is built like sanctum sanctorum in temples. But no god's vigraha is kept there! She, Rumini Devi, was particular about not keeping any god's image/vigraha, inside the premises. 

Likewise, we could not take the picture of the current auditorium where music and dance programmes are conducted but you can see it in this link.  It is not a concrete structure but sort of open auditorium. I had attended some good dance/ concerts here.  Some are with tickets and many programmes are open freely for public.

The campus is huge and full of trees.  A pathway is allowed for morning/evening walkers and I and my husband go there for our walks.  Pure, clean air.  Security people can be seen on all sides, so it is very safe for senior citizens to walk.  Since Kalakshetra was taken over by our Central government, security is provided by them.  Now, it is called Kalakshetra Foundation after it became Government property. 

The area is huge but the duration of the walk was just around 80 mts.  Only a partial area was covered.  I read that MS Subbulakshmi's grand piano and Rukmini Devi's small piano are there.  No, we didn't see them.

Ruminidevi was a strict vegetarian and promoted vegetarianism!

One dog was following us near the pond and we saw many of them (a few pups too, which is rare nowadays!) around the campus during this walk and our morning walks.  Rukmini Devi was an animal lover and an animal activist.  Apoorva said that a few dogs come inside the class rooms, sit and watch the music and dance classes.  A student once told her that a dog who was a regular to a music class once left in the middle of the class it seems...she said that maybe the dog didn't like the way Kalyaani raaga was sung on that day!

Kalakshetra allows to conduct Crafts fair often in their ground.  I had taken this picture during an exhibition!
We had a good experience...separate tour is conducted to have a look at the looms, pottery making etc., we were told.  One day I might do that tour too!


Friday, January 27, 2017

Foto(s) Friday!

On our way back from Aihole (North Karnataka)

On our way back to Chennai from Kurnool.  We saw some 9 herds like this one!
The herds were of single coloured goats.  We saw one herd with just black ones! It was interesting to watch!

Reminded me of the Kannada movie, 'Thithi'!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Cyclone Vardah hit Chennai on 12th December '16.  We had never experienced such a cyclone as long as I remember.  The wind blew with a hissing sound.  We could hear breaking of the tree branches near our house.  Since last year's December flood had given us a good lesson about natural calamity, this year lot of preparation was there by the State and Central Governments.  More than human loss, this time natural loss was more.  The avenue trees, huge ones too had fallen down.  Many very old trees inside the IIT, Kalakshetra, Theosophical society etc. had fallen down and repairs are still going on.  Some trees were lifted and re-planted.  Huge amount of green waste was seen everywhere. Many compound walls have got huge gaps now.  It will take a long long time to get back the green cover in Chennai.

Many volunteer groups have started planting new saplings everywhere.  Rainfall this year, is not helping.  Hope it rains soon as is predicted, which will help the trees to come up fast.

Let me write what happened to a beautiful tree behind my house:

This is my favourite tree in the neighbourhood.  Everyday we could see many parrots coming and chatting on this tree.

Same tree...spring is coming! This picture was taken in 2014.
I have got many snaps of this tree in my album.  My favourite one is this with Rufous Treepie birds!

During the Vardah cyclone...this is the same tree which is shown in the first picture. Many branches have flown away (On 12.12.16). Picture taken from our window.

Next day (13.12.16)
This was taken on 9.1.17...It has survived! It should be back to normal like the first picture by next year! Parrots and other birds will be happy...Me too!
Some trees which were affected during the cyclone are fighting back to come out now! Feel so happy to see them during our morning walk!

A tree which was damaged during Vardah...the new branches have started coming out (1.9.17)

Many huge trees had fallen down but some like this, survived even after losing all the leaves which had flown away during Vardah.  Many tree are like this in our neighourhood!

On the Elliots beach road.  The small ones are given support now by volunteers and they are coming back! ((9.1.17)

Only a small base is remaining...still they are surviving!
Now, let us wait for Chaennai to become green city soon...like Bengaluru ones was! Reading about many groups taking action! Hope for the best!

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