Monday, June 17, 2019

Figure out the WHY

Everything in life has an aim, a purpose. Every single task that we or any living being for that matter undertakes, has a destination. From time immemorial people have been doing the impossible, because they focussed on the all important WHY. Without the WHY, life would be an aimless, lazy stroll through the seemingly never-ending years and decades.

If you have your WHY figured out, the HOW is merely planning and taking one step at a time. 

I now realise why certain aims for me are in limbo. I haven’t a clue as to why exactly it should take priority over everything else. I keep on finding excuses for these goals, like learning classical music. My excuses range from lack of time, lack of a good teacher nearby etc. If I had the WHY sorted out, I'd have made efforts to find a teacher; the teacher won't seek me out, right? कुआँ प्यासे के पास थोड़े ही आएगा, प्यासे को ही कुँए तक जाना पड़ेगा ! :D

Anyway, these are short-term WHYs and can be managed with fixing short-term goals. What's a short-term WHY, you ask? Imagine getting up on a snoozy Sunday, you would hardly be thinking of finishing the daily chores within a short stipulated time. But how things change, when a friend calls with movie plans that involve reaching the theatre in an hour! Electricity practically runs through you as you find short-cuts for chores, finishing each in a record time!

Long-term WHYs, on the other hand, need a catalyst. The very idea that your life or the meaning of your life depends on accomplishing a particular goal is the motivation that spurs you on through life. Some people are lucky enough to find theirs early on; others know what these are, yet have not given the HOW any thought. And yet others have ambiguous ideas about their WHYs and WHEREFOREs.

And then there are the medium-term WHYs. One recent, decently medium-term WHY for me was a borrowed one from a good friend of mine. It was her wish to see the collection of newspaper articles of her father published (a 1200+ pages book). It triggered something in me and I found time post work, on the weekends, basically any spare time that I had and was able to help her proofread a major part of it, click and finalise a cover photo, get the book published and plan the book release function. All this without taking off from work (except for the day of the book release). The experience enriched me beyond my expectations and is one that I would cherish for as long as I live.

Seek out your WHYs, is the only advice I‘d give you. The HOWs can be planned and programmed.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The shortest ever 2.5 hrs flight!

It’s nice to be out in fresh air... The distant hills, fortunate enough not to have been mined so far, lend KIA the aura of being India‘s air conditioned city’s airport. I’m a little conscious of the short slits in my long skirt, never having chosen this attire for the practicalities of flying, but heck, how does that matter? Like the guy with a fear of thunderstorms (there must be a word for it ending with “phobia”, may be "Thunderophobia"!), who tied himself high up in a tree during a storm to get rid of his "Thunderophobia“, I might take to wearing skirts while travelling. Confront your fears, they say, so I won’t skirt around the issue, or maybe I will. Well, you get the point. ;)

The plane speeds on the runway, getting a li'l jiggy with it and it feels as if the pilots were motorcycle fanatics trying their hand at flying for the first time... the uncle on my left complains about the little jig loudly. I had presumed my flight to Jaipur to be as mundane as a flight to any other metropolitan city in India or in the world, but I‘m changing my opinion and getting nostalgic about the train journeys in the 2nd class compartment, where snacks and ideas are exchanged nonchalantly throughout the trip. Or maybe there is no need to be nostalgic, coz it’s happening again and I‘m right in the middle of it! :D

Let me give you a clearer picture... The uncle on my left tells me that ladies travelling with him are having problems. What kind, I do not ask... but some problem that gets solved with some eating. The guy on my right... you got it, yes, I didn’t get a window seat this time! Usually, if I don’t check in till I’m at the airport, I do get a window seat that no one wanted to pay extra for, but flyers to Jaipur apparently didn’t mind paying a few bucks extra... but I digress... So, the guy on my right asks me if I have flown with this airline earlier. At my affirmation he asks my opinion about what to order.. "What would you recommend? Should I order salted cashews?" I am baffled by the existential question and pass it on to the airhostess, who surely should have the elusive answer. Fast forward: He orders salted cashews and enlightens me that these are really good. I am so glad to know this, was having self-doubts about my general flight knowledge! Snacks over, now am being entertained with loud (by flight standards) Rajasthani slapstick comedy featuring on my neighbour‘s cellphone, who convulses with laughter every once in a while. And the airhostess tells us to fasten our seatbelt, as the plane is going through turbulent weather. Inside or outside, I wonder!

The lady in the row in front has perhaps taken the motto of my latest buy "The subtle art of not giving a f*ck" to heart and gives zero f*cks about being heard by others while giving out her life history to her fellow flyers. The story so far: Her husband‘s name is Rahul and she didn’t ask him a single question about his profession the first time they met. She only asked someone to let her at least know his name ("ladke ka naam to bata do"), when he came to "see" her for an arranged marriage. Her dad’s now 60 and hale and hearty. Her fellow traveller has 4 sisters and some nephew or niece needs to be "set up" for marriage... so the conversation continues... Uncle at the left finally comments: She is speaking since the last two hours, no commas, no full stops. I burst out laughing and the cashew neighbour agrees with uncle, "lots of stamina". 

A newly wed couple on the other side has managed to move over to the window, exchanging their aisle seat for the window one and is now happily cosying up as the sunset paints the sky in rainbow colours. How apt! :) A foreign couple on the seat behind them is looking at the noisy exchange all around with the first-trip-to-India look in their eyes.

And before I know it, we’re about to land post the shortest 2.5 hours flight I‘ve ever taken! :D Or as uncle on the left says: Ye to bhaga ke laya hai plane, itni jaldi kaise pahunch gaya?"

Wish I could take photos of all this, but I wouldn’t want that done to me, so I refrain.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Erasable Text

We’re here a moment, gone the next!
Momentary existence, erasable text.
Remember, retain, stay true and calm,
Let all nice memories act as a balm.

As the sun sets on twenty eighteen,
Only one wish in my heart remains:
Don’t judge things by what once could’ve been,
Count all your blessings and all your gains.
Coz time once gone, does never return,
Gifting us just a chance to learn
That life’s not about just counting days
Or hurtling through this time n space,
Not wondering ’bout the wheres n hows,
It’s rather about owning your nows
And pondering o’er what more could be,
Then aiming higher than the eye can see
Being true to one’s heart sans bending at the knee
To make your dreams as real as can be,
To make your dreams a r-e-a-l-i-t-y...

Essentials for 2019

Quiet, peaceful corners
To ponder over things,
Timely, inspiring words
To endow you with wings,
A sense of purpose,
A source of pride,
A positive person
Always by your side,
And along with these
I wish you surprises
Of the pleasant kind
And of all shapes and sizes!

Friday, November 2, 2018

The New Golden Tooth

Imagine you earn 1000 bucks in one year, but you have taken huge loans that you need to return soon. And your whole body needs medical attention. You suffer from terrible headaches, your eyesight is affected due to pollution, your left arm is wounded, so is your stomach and your liver is damaged and requires immediate medical intervention. Your kidneys are failing and as far your legs are concerned, they have their own share of sores.

So, what is your next step? Do you address the problems one by one?


You tell your mind, aal is well, and dress up in great clothes with a few patches here and there ... and you go for a gold tooth that costs Rs. 1 or more, but hurts your right arm. And you expect everyone to pat your back and say, wow, a gold tooth! Clap, clap, clap!!!

Makes sense so far?


Let's put this in perspective.

India's total GDP in 2017 was, as per Google, $2.6 lakh crores.

We owe the world about $529.7 billion, i.e. 52,970 crore.

We have internal defence issues in J&K, North East, Jharkhand etc.; our infrastructure needs major investment; our law and order is getting worse; our farmers are committing suicide (852 reported in Jan-April 2017); a huge state (Maharashtra) just declared drought in 151 talukas (nearly half of Maharashtra), just to mention a few issues.

And what are we doing?

We displace people in Gujarat (72 villages!) and build the tallest statue in the world of a man, who, if he were alive, would be embarrassed beyond words to have Rs. 3000 crore ($430 Million i.e. $43 crores) spent on his statue!

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel does not need the tallest statue for his tall stature. The "Iron Man of India" was the force behind the formation of our country and a guiding, uniting light against the forces of division. Someone, who, post 1931, having been elected as the President of the Congress Party, used his position to ensure that confiscated land was returned to the farmers, now has 72 villages protesting against his statue. On October 31, the day the statue was unveiled, these 72 villages affected by the confiscation of their lands, did not cook food in protest.

It’s time we asked some tough questions from those in power:
  • Who benefits from the statue?
  • Does it increase the stature of Sardar Patel?
  • Does it unite the country or further divide it?
  • Can we afford to spend 0.1% of our GDP on a controversial project that does nothing to solve the issues facing our country?
  • Do we not have enough pressing problems that need immediate attention?
  • Are we expecting tourism to pay for the statue in the coming years?

If we are expecting a rush of tourists owing to this statue, then we should not forget that India, despite being a subcontinent, attracts far less foreign visitors than Thailand or Malaysia. This is not due to there being a dearth of statues, or other tourist places. In fact, we, being an ancient civilisation, have them in abundance.

What we do not have is proper infrastructure and law and order everywhere. We do not have economic parity, our average standard of living is pathetic (a third of global poor now reside in India, as per the World Bank), our health services are insufficient, our unemployment is scaling new heights (31 million Indians are currently jobless!), our neonatal mortality is the highest in the world, our population ratio of males and females is skewed (943 females per 1000 males in 2011), the gender inequality at the 132nd place in the world...

What should then have been the priority of a supposedly popular government? The answer is obvious, but our government can't do the math and risks everything on the whims of a megalomaniac!

First demonetisation solved the issues of terrorism, black money and corruption and now the statue will solve the problems related to drought and farmer-suicides. Aal is well, aal is well!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How NOT to cook Stuffed Eggplant and Paranthas with Ed Sheeran's music!

Disclaimer: Ed Sheeran's music and Tarla Dalal's recipe are not responsible for the end result on this page.

Ingredients for Background Music:

  • Youtube - Ed Sheeran songs
  • Good internet connection and enough downloadable data

Ingredients for Masala (copied from the recipe site):

  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts , roasted and coarsely crushed
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 4 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 1/2 tbsp tamarind (imli) pulp
  • 2 tbsp grated jaggery (gur)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander (dhania)
  • 1 tsp oil (optional)
  • salt to taste

Ingredients for the main dish (copied from the recipe site):

  • 8 small brinjals , black variety
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds ( rai / sarson)
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)

What (not) to do:

So, you're back home a bit delayed and guess what? You feel like eating eggplant. So you look up the recipes online (where else!) and come across this promising recipe site:

And you start with what so far seems to be a verrrry yummy dish! 

Part 1 of "What (not) to do"):

  1. Take your laptop to the kitchen, keep it at a safe place. 
  2. Open Ed Sheeran songs in Youtube, let them run in the background.
  3. Reach out for onions, realise today is the last day of Navratri and decide to do without them.
  4. Roast and coarsely crush 1/4 cup of unsalted peanuts.
  5. Grate 1/4 cup coconut, all the while feeling good about how great this is going to turn out.
  6. Take 2 tsp chilli powder instead of 4 (on hindsight, take only one or none!)
  7. Keep aside 3.5 tbsp tamarind pulp.
  8. Search frantically around for jaggery, realise that you do not have jaggery at home, settle for 2 tbsp of Boora sugar instead.
  9. Keep aside 1.5 tsp of turmeric powder and 1tbsp of garam masala.
  10. Look closely at the coriander that you thought was lying in the kitchen, realise it is mint and decide to go for it anyway.
  11. Oil is optional, ditch it.
  12. Take 1 tsp of salt (as per your taste)
  13. Mix all of the above except your laptop and Ed Sheeran songs.

Part 2 of "What (not) to do":

  1. Open the refrigerator to find that you do not have 8 small eggplants, but 2 medium sized ones! Shake your head and go for one medium sized one.
  2. Make criss cross slits on this one (watch out for tiny worms - shouldn't be there! If you're a non-vegetarian, carry on regardless.)
  3. Stuff the single baingan with as much of Part 1 of "What (not) to do" as you can. Leave the rest of the mix aside.
  4. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds and once they start crackling, add asafoetida and the rest of the masala mix. Sauté this on a medium flame for a minute.
  5. Add the stuffed brinjal and instead of 1/3 cup of hot water as suggested on the site, add 1 cup of water at normal temperature.
  6. Mix gently and pressure cook on high flame for 3 whistles.
  7. Let this cool (instead of using the quick release method to release steam as suggested) and work on paranthas!

Paranthas (Flat bread):

  1. Take two cups of wheat flour in a bowl and add a little water to it. Mix using your hands.
  2. Realise you put in too much water, add more dry flour to the container.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 as many times as required.
  4. Once the dough is more or less consistent, add a little salt and little water and knead to give the dough a good finish. Yes, giving a good finish is realistic.
  5. Make two small tennis balls out of the dough, flatten and roll them out (One at a time please!)
  6. Spread a little oil on the top side of the rolled-out-previously-tennis-ball-shaped-dough and fold it twice.
  7. Roll it out to the length you like best, keeping the size of your frying pan in mind.
  8. Once the pan is hot, put the rolled out parantha on it, dab a little oil on both sides and let it cook till dark brown spots appear on both sides.
  9. Take down the parantha once it looks well cooked. Repeat the procedure for the other tennis ball.
  10. Important: Do not make more than 2 paranthas, if you're having this as your dinner.

Procedure to eat:

  1. Clean the kitchen to ensure that there is no evidence left of your deeds.
  2. Plate the paranthas and the baingan sabzi nicely. It should at least look appetising (see picture).
  3. Sit down to eat, take a bite, ignore the fact that your ears are on fire and chew slowly.
  4. Decide to eat only one parantha.
  5. Finish the food and convince yourself it was yummy.
  6. Keep dishes in sink, rush to the refrigerator, dish out half the bar of ice-cream in any (at this moment it doesn't matter which!) vessel.
  7. Eat your dessert and be happy about the happy ending! :)

Important: Remember you are a decent cook and that you have intentionally exaggerated things "a bit" at your own expense while creating this post. :D

Friday, June 12, 2015

Shravanabelagola (long pending post on a long flight of stairs!)

Apart from the fact that the name of this place is a mouthful, the main activity here entails climbing the long flight of stairs, with pauses in between, all the while enjoying the lovely breeze even in the middle of a supposedly scorching afternoon (for those trained in Delhi summers, this is literally a breeze! :D).

So, our trip went from Belur back towards Hassan to rest for the night and to recoup our energies for the next exciting morning. :)

It's a short distance from Hassan to Shravanabelagola, but one always has the option of  getting lost! :D

The next morning was the 26th of January and was as such dominated by the 66th Republic Day Celebrations on T.V. and we couldn't do anything else other than sitting glued to the at-that-moment-not-so-idiot box. Even the foggy skies in Delhi couldn't bog down our spirits. But this did interfere a little with our plans, as we could only start after the parade was over and that meant past noon... No hay problema! :)

Loved the theme of the 66th Rebublic Day Parade: "Nari Shakti" (Women Power)! :)

While driving from Hassan to Shravanabelagola we were again struck by the lovely highway and its green bodyguards on both sides! There is something about Karnataka apart from its fantastic heritage sites that puts it in the same league as Kerala and Rajasthan in terms of touristic value - its landscapes.

Disclaimer: This photo was taken while standing still on the side of the highway and not while driving. The dash-ing median is proof. ;)

Through these very greens was a turn that we were looking out for - the shortcut to Shravanabelagola. Our GPS pointed towards one right turn (actually a U-turn and then a left) and we confidently took it. The misgivings arose after 5 minutes. Were we on the right track? What if this village road was not connected to the main road leading to Shravanabelagola? Would the road condition deteriorate? Would our GPS continue to pick up signals here?

Shortcut through a village - Praying the whole slightly bumpy while for the GPS to be correct!

The prospect of getting lost didn't stop us from appreciating our surroundings. How lovely it is to venture through green fields and coconut trees on a small road! And in the end, we did come out on the main road and from there Shravanabelagola was just a few minutes away.

As we rounded the last bend, we saw a huge smooth surface on our right. In the distance we could see a tiny flight of stairs winding through the Vindhyagiri Hill. I tried to be cheerful, but my spirits sank as Ma and Pa looked doubtfully at the innocent hill and announced: We are not climbing up there! My feeble attempt to encourage them: "We'll take lots of breaks." didn't really seem to work. Nevertheless, we all bought the mandatory sun hats and socks offered to us by young businessmen-in-offing. As we went inside the premises, I tried not to say anything at all. They both are 65+ and know their limits and I didn't want them to do anything they physically didn't feel upto. After all there were 650 odd steps leading up (we didn't know the exact number as we stood at the bottom) and it was peak afternoon. All the while moving towards the place to deposit our shoes and bags I was wondering if I was going to go up alone. And then Pa said: "We'll take a lot of breaks, let's try." Yayyyy! I was willing to sit down after every 10 steps. :D

First break :)

So, up we went, stopping every now and then to admire the beauty of our surroundings, concentrating on the stone steps (that didn't seem to be very hot through our new oversized socks) and sipping water every 10 minutes or so. Shade was in short supply, so we tried to make the most of what was available. I was so happy, I could have gone up and down the stairs all day! :D

Caution: Last shade for the next 300+ steps! :D

It was lovely to see how friendly everyone was - families ensuring everyone stayed together, groups of youngsters and habitual climbers taking two steps at a time or not taking the stairs at all and climbing the mountain unaided, couples supporting each other during the seemingly tough climb, old people driven by religious fervour, few foreign tourists attracted by the ancient vista - all of them were happy to share a word or two, as we moved up at a comfortable pace.

We can do it! :D

I was counting the stairs as we moved up and they simply seemed to go on and on!! The reward was the view that we had on looking back.

The 'Belagola' (white pond) behind the name: The view became better as we moved up... talk about bird's eye perspective!

After about 550 stairs or so there was a flatter surface with ancient carvings and inscriptions. The site goes back about 2000+ years and the inscriptions throw light on the craftsmen as well as the great public figures of those times. For example the Tyagada Khamba built in the 10th century stands testimony to the minister Chavundaraya, who gave away all his worldly possessions, including his life, on this hill. This made me think of the Vivekananda Rock off Kanyakumari. Strange coincidence that huge rocks and hills in the South of India have for centuries inspired people to look within, away from the material world.

Tyagada (literally meaning 'renunciation' or 'sacrifice') Khamba

Not to be overlooked were the various inscriptions and carvings etched in the hard surface by the unknown workers of yore. So, someone sat on this hot rock and hammered in these figures that would, centuries later, fascinate people from all over the world; I'm sure one could hear the rhythmic pounding of the ancient hammer with the right amount of concentration and imagination. :)

Rock carvings of animals have been in vogue in all centuries. This artist was dreaming of horses - No Freudian significance insinuated!

Ma and Pa's enthusiasm to try new things was another thing to admire for me. And their smiles on having come so far were enough to make the whole exercise worthwhile. :)


As we reached the top, we could view the top of the largest monolithic statue in the world! Bahubali welcomed us with open arms... err, figuratively speaking. :D

Did you know that devout Jains try to safeguard every living being and practice non-violence and self control to the extreme? Picture this, as a strict Jain follower you would not harm any living being including insects, follow vegetarianism to the extent of avoiding root vegetables such as onion, garlic and potatoes (yes, potatoes!) and be open-minded towards other beliefs and practices! This has to be one of the few religions in the world that is so accommodating!

The majestic statue stands tall at 58 feet and occupies centre-stage. No amount of carvings in the area surrounding it can take away attention from the Gomateshwara. Jain pilgrims have been flocking here since centuries. Just to give a perspective into the history of Jainism here: Chandragupta Maurya, the first emperor to unify most of India into an empire, converted to Jainism and led an ascetic life on this very hill, finally leaving the worldly domain in 298 BC. And this awe-inspiring work of art and engineering has been standing on Vindhyagiri since 978-993 AD! It must be a sight to see, when every 12 years the statue is bathed in milk, curd, saffron, turmeric and gold coins (!) as part of the Mahamastakabhishek ceremony! To witness the next one, one only needs to wait till 2018.

Coming back to 2015, we were reminded of the upcoming Delhi elections in February, when the priest asked us politely, where we were from. On hearing 'Delhi', he immediately preached: "Vote for BJP!!!" :D Is religion apolitical? Definitely not in India!

Having had our fill, we decided to go down (also because our stomachs were rumbling their displeasure at being ignored for so long!) and took a last look at the magnificent history sprawled below us.

You glance down and history glances up through its centuries old veil!
This concluded our triple agenda of visting Belur, Halebid and Shravanabelagola and we were calm and ready to face Bangalore traffic on our way back. Not that being calm and ready prepares you for the actual thing, but anyway... :D

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Magic of Karnataka - Part 2

It was a single day, and yet there was more to come. While coming back from Halebid our GP-ESS ditched us, so we went back the way (towards Hagare) we had come, instead of taking the straight route from Halebid to Belur. Next time we know better. :)

(Don't miss the Dwarasamudra lake behind the Halebid temple!)

But this long route led to another experience. We went, mainly out of curiousity, to visit a temple on a small hill 'Pushpagiri' on the way to the midpoint Hagare. The hill is barely a few kilometres away from the Halebid wonders, but doesn't house any temple complex corresponding to what we gaped at in Halebid. As we went upstairs to visit the most prominent temple there, it struck me that here the adage 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness' is definitely not followed. The temple is neither dirty nor is it exceptionally clean, but the fact that the packaging of the material used to pray was strewn around the very place of praying left me aghast, specially because a dustbin is hardly a few feet away from the spot!!! Thus followed a minute, but very satisfying spotfix à la TUI (The Ugly Indian).

Just to be clear: The 'blue' corner in the 'after' picture is not garbage, it's my scarf. :D

We then continued to Belur to visit another masterpiece of the Hoysala dynasty and reached it in an hour or so. Having found a place to park our red riding hood (a cakewalk compared to parking in Delhi and Bangalore!), we walked over to the darling of the masses - the Belur temple. From outside the façade glinted in the afternoon sun, the architectural beauty being gazed upon lovingly through the gaps in the clouds by those in heavens above. But it didn't particularly impress me much at that time (I could barely see the photo I'd taken against the sunlight!) and thus my expectations were lower, just like in Halebid. Which, I always feel, is a good thing and a surefire way to be pleasantly surprised later. :D

The gopuram from outside

As we entered the temple, my first instinct was to turn back and look at the entrance (a 7 storey gopuram) to see its details. It was majestic from inside despite the restoration works being carried out. There was also a pillar right in front of the entrance (a little camouflaged here) that looked impressive, but was stubbornly refusing to fit into any frame. That brought out my stubborn streak and I made sure I captured it in one. :D

The gopuram from inside

There's a fascinating story about the other pillar outside the temple in the premises. They say that the second pillar called Garuda stambha (stambha = pillar) does not have a base and that one can pass a thin sheet of paper between the pillar and its so-called base (No, we didn't try that this time. I'm not sure if it's allowed anymore.). This reminded me of the non-corrosive iron pillar in the Qutab Minar Complex in Delhi. Ancient architectural marvels abound in India!

Garuda stambha

We then proceeded to take off our shoes as per tradition and ventured inside the temple built on the trademark star-shaped raised platform. There is a certain sense of spirituality in going around barefoot on stone (specially when it's warm and sunny :D), or maybe it is accupressure that leads to the feeling of wellbeing. Maybe it's both. :)

Another view of the star-shaped raised platform of the main temple

The Hoysala dynasty was undoubtedly a big promoter of art and artists, specially sculptors. Oh, and there is a legend behind the name Hoysala, which has inspired some of the sculptures in the temples built by the dynasty. It is supposed to be a call - 'Hoy Sa'la', meaning 'Strike, Sa'la' encouraging the courageous leader of the dynasty 'Sa'la', as he killed a tiger. And this pose has been captured and used as an emblem in both Belur and Halebid temples built by the Hoysala dynasty.

The 'Hoy Sa'la' emblem at the entrance - in the left corner and in the centre

Once inside, we had to remember everytime to close our mouths - the detailed carvings tend to have that effect. :D As with most of the temples of that period (it was built in 1116-1117 A.D.), this one too had elaborately carved ceilings, a sight to delight one's heart (but not at all good for the head or the rest of the body, as one moved with eyes glued upwards. Multi-tasking has its limits.  ;) )

A Ceiling to see!

What details - inside as well as outside! There are celestial nymphs in various poses on the upper outside part of the temple, connecting the wall to the ceiling. And there is a row of 650 (I'm told. I didn't count them personally, but it does seem to be true. ;) ) elephants near the base of the temple on the outside, with each of them striking a unique pose.  No wonder it took about 100 (103 to be a bit precise) years to complete this riveting engineering and architectural marvel!
Celestial nymphs adorning the external walls of the temple

We moved on, noting the different rows of musicians, dancers, animals and Gods. The apsaras danced in stone supported by the ornate carvings - Do they ever realise how many people they have delighted over the years?! :)

Intricate carvings

All my efforts to capture Ma & Pa against the awe-inspiring backdrop were unsuccessful (someone or the other kept on passing by) till I found a door to the temple that was not frequented by the throngs of the visiting humanity (Before that my parents had a short glimpse into the hard life of fashion models and I had a brief vision of the travails of a cajoling photographer! ;) ). And thus came about the perfect picture frame, which was worth the 3 day trip including the 2 night stay and more than 500 km in terms of driving pleasure. :)

Worth framing, isn't it? :)

The late afternoon mellowed by the winter sun (what they call winter in Karnataka, we call spring in Delhi ;) ) coupled with the magnificent surroundings made it a sight to remember. I would think back fondly on the time spent here walking back and forth, enjoying the ambiance, taking dozens of pictures of the serene monument and not worrying about the time spent there - talk about flexible, private and enchanting trips! :D

A bit of the star-shaped raised platform from another angle

My most favourite of the lot (actually I have a lot of most favourite photos from this trip, even though I'm bending the rules of grammar to stand by this stand of mine :D) is the one, where one can see a woman in a red sari passing by the temple basking in the sun, the clouds intermittently floating and stopping to wonder at all the fuss happening below and the green, swaying trees adding to the colour spectrum...

Serene masterpiece!

We strolled out of the temple, assuaged our hunger-ravaged tummies (that suddenly remembered to growl their displeasure aloud) and wondered what to do next. There is a dam nearby that could have been another highlight of the trip. But our tired limbs and wonder-filled minds (after experiencing Halebid and Belur in one day!) called for a halt to sightseeing and we drove back to our base in Hassan.

The next day was the Republic Day holiday in India and we were planning to drive back to Bangalore via Shravanabelagola. More on that in another part...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Magic of Karnataka - Part 1

Somehow all trips that start with me not having a lot of expectations from them, end up being spectacular! The long weekend trip from Bangalore to Belur and Halebid last weekend was no exception. 

Despite the infamous Bangalore traffic holding us captive for about 2 hours, we managed to escape and were soon on the lovely Bangalore-Mangalore Highway. Giving us competition was a train passing by. After chasing it for a while, we decided to let it win. :D

The speed limit on Indian highways is usually 80 km/hr, but a lot of cars were understandably using the flying gear. Blame it on the excellent roads and the encouraging trees on either side of the highway giving an overdose of green signals!

(This one was taken after the lunch stop, but the highway is the same. :) )

In all this, we just didn't realise when we strayed off the National Highway and were swallowed by the State Highway. Which, of course, was a stroke of luck because of the beautiful glimpses into the local green veins of Karnataka. I simply love the trees here... laden with ancient wisdom, they seem to be at peace with themselves and bend over themselves to pass on the serenity to the passersby, at times literally welcoming one with open arms! :)

After straying off the path a bit (part of every great trip!) we finally found our way courtesy our GP-Esses! (They didn't behave well some times, so the frustration is coming out in terms of spell-oh-fun, though within the limits of decorum! ;) )

Our route was supposed to be a stop at Shravanabelogola (more about it later), but after a tempting thick dosa post the conventional lunch time we felt more inclined to continue our trip to rest our precious heads!

The sun was getting ready to throw its nightly temper tantrum and so we hurried to find the first decent hotel to escape its wrath... It's a tradition (of not booking a hotel in advance) that we followed from our path-breaking trip last year to the deep South and it has its own charm and anticipation. :D It also reminded me of the road trip through Iran (not Iraq! ;) ), when finding a place to stay for the night was the end-of-the-day ritual almost every second day. :) Anyway, before I go off track completely, let me drag myself back to the topic... yes, so we were looking for a decent place to stay and we found one, the very first one, where our mechanical companion also had a place to park its tashreef. :D Talk about luck. :) And then we had time to turn our attention to the streets of Hassan that gave no indication of its small town status...

The next morning was the beginning of our mouth-agape-with-wonder visits to Belur and Halebid, both of which are about 30 odd km away from Hassan, making it the perfect base to visit both. We chose Halebid to first astound us and were a bit sceptical about its charms at the modest entrance.

Just one temple? I thought as we went inside. Happy to be proven wrong later. :)

You have to take off your shoes at the entrance, which gives a good excuse for some accupressure for your soles. Thankfully the weather was perfect to walk around and instead of jumping from one foot to the other in scorching heat, we were able to concentrate on our guide's informative and at times humorous anecdotes and explanations. Let me try to recapture it a bit...

So, as per our guide (I'm sceptical of guides ever since I overheard one in Amer Fort in Jaipur saying that the cannon there could fire all the way till Pakistan!!! lol) Halebid (Halebidu / Halebeedu) means ruined city and was named thus after the destruction at the hands of the Delhi Sultanate. The original name of this erstwhile capital of the Hoysala dynasty in the 12th century (Alert: History overload!!!) was Dwarasamundra or the Gateway to the Sea.

Here's an example of the panels. There are several layers covering different walks of life: There's one devoted to the arts, one to the stories and events from the epics Ramayan and Mahabharat, one simply ornamental and one to erotica! Yes, ancient India was not as prudish as it is today and depicted the different facets of life in its sacred spaces. Talk about people limiting girls from wearing jeans in today's so-called modern days and I wonder where the shift from such acceptance to such narrow-mindedness took place.

Hmm, another topic is threatening to stall my line of thought. Getting back... :) Here's (2nd row from top) a scene from Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean by demons and Gods to bring up nectar) with the legendary mountain Mandara being used as the churning rod and Vasuki, the serpent of Lord Vishnu being used as the rope.

This one (2nd row from top) from the epic Mahabharat shows the Pandav Bheem (who was supposed to be as powerful as thousand elephants) during the war, killing elephants single handedly and depositing them in a heap behind him (on the left)

And did you notice that the mouse of the elephant God is unable to bear his weight and beneath its tiny claw the pedestal of the structure is starting to give in? :)

The ceilings have their own special panels depicting mythology and are an attraction in themselves!

 And here's the divine trinity: Left is Brahma (with a beard), the creator, in the middle the destroyer of evil, Shiva, with his trademark damru and on the right Vishnu, the preserver.

Like most temples of this age, this one is also on a raised star-shaped platform.

 And here's one from the epic Ramayana, where Ram is shooting Bali through 7 trees as he helps the Vanara (monkey) king in exile Sugreev defeat his mighty brother Bali. Why through 7 trees? One, because Bali was blessed with sucking half of the strength of any enemy, who confronted him face-to-face. And two, because as per the Shastras (ancient Hindu holy scriptures), an archer is not responsible for killing anyone, whom he shoots through at least 7 trees.

And a thousand other stories etched in stone that I can't possibly tell in one day. :) On our way out of the temple we were made an offer we couldn't refuse... mini metal statues (10 of them) for a paltry sum compared to the craftsmanship and time invested in creating them.

Off we went to explore the other temples a short distance away, where polished pillars showed an inverted reflection (No, this guy is not waving to the deity! He's simply checking out his reflection. :) ) and the architecture wowed again.

The serenity, of course, was unexpected. This temple, for example, seemed reserved for our visit, lucky us! :)

And our favourite glint of red could rest undisturbed beneath a huge benevolent green friend. What a lovely place to read or simply relax and think of nothing in particular. :)

More in second installment. Time to rest my fingers... :)