Apr 17, 2014

Maharaja's Balance, Hampi

Maharaja’s balance; meaning a physical balance meant to weigh the King. The structure looks like three granite beams, one resting on two vertical beams, 15feet tall. The horizontal resting beam is sculpted in a more detailed manner. Only on close inspection the loops to hang the balance are visible.

Materials ranging from food grains to gold and gems were weighed against the Kings of Vijayanagara kingdom; these were then distributed among the poor and needy. I am trying to imagine the riches available then. All was looted by Mughals who invaded from north of India.

Apr 14, 2014

Salty Tea in Sundebans

The Sunderbans trip was a memorable one for me even though we couldn’t spot a single tiger. This often becomes a major disappointment to many tourists and they feel the entire trip is wasted, both in terms of time and money. It depends on the tourists, what exactly they want to do and see there. Chances of sighting a tiger are very less!

The resort we stayed was a well organized one, with good trips arranged to the villages and to the several islands scattered all around. The food spread was excellent, with tiger prawns and crabs. And there was refill till we were full. That is one advantage of going during the lean season. With not much crowd around and just two families we were taken care of well!

Something unique that I tasted there was salty tea! Yes, Salty tea! No, they didn’t add salt to it but the water there is salty so the taste changes. They usually don’t add milk to this kind of tea and it is served when you are being cruised around the several islands through the mangrove forests. May be you can add sugar to sweeten it, but I just let it be and enjoyed the unusual local drink of Sunderbans.

Our World Tuesday

Apr 12, 2014

Faces of India - 157

A localite of Chandigarh, he was visiting the Rock Gardens, the day I was there. While I was trying to get into conversation with another tourist there for a photograph, this young guy requested me to take his photograph too. He stood in style, hands in pockets, a slight tilt in head, a faint smile; it is he who chose this backdrop for himself. I very happily didn’t let the opportunity slip.

Faces of India, a series through which I intend to portray the various characters of my country whom I met during my travels. See more here.


Apr 11, 2014

Nek Chand's Rock Garden, Chandigarh

Chandigarh’s Rock garden is a must visit if you are ever there. Spread over twenty five acres of several thousand sculptures set in large mosaic courtyards linked by walled paths and deep gorges, Nek Chand's creations combine huge buildings with a series of interlinking waterfalls. It can easily take 3 to 4 hours to cover the entire area. Luckily the day I visited the sky was clear and I got good back ground for my pictures.

SkyWatch Friday

Apr 10, 2014

Lolita Learns A Lesson Of Life

This is a very personal post. 

Usually I do the travel or photography related posts, but "Close Encounters of the Smelly Kind": when I saw this topic from Indiblogger I was reminded of the encounter I had years back. That time the problem looked so enormous that I was on the verge of leaving my job. Never thought I would be blogging on it someday. The name is fictitious, but the story isn't.

I was a young mother then, trying desperately to balance life between my career and child. Leaving my toddler, who was just completing the first year of her life, was becoming a painful experience. The search was on for a maid who would look after my child 9 to 5. After talking to many baby sitters, nannies, maids, I settled for a woman who was in her early twenties, a mother herself. Lolita! She left behind her toddler with her mother to come for work. 

What won me over completely was the ease with which my daughter slipped into her arms! The woman's eyes were kind and she exuded a kind of warmth. 

Thus a new routine started in my life! By 8.30am Lolita would come; a slow ‘handing over – taking over’ session would follow and then giving her instructions for the day I would leave for office. The first few days were spent worrying how my daughter would adjust to my absence, but she seemed fine. 

Something else started bothering me. Every morning I noticed that as she entered a strange smell would fill the house. As if a garbage bin walked in. It took no time to realize the smell was from her. I returned home to a suffocating atmosphere of strange odor. The thought of my child in this environ broke me down. The first reflexive action was to open the windows to let fresh breeze in. 

I was confused and thoroughly disappointed. Getting rid of her and searching would mean another week’s leave from office and where was the guarantee the next maid would be different? 

Finally I picked up courage and told very gently to Lolita to have a bath before coming for work. I feared for some dramatic repercussion, but to my surprise she nodded and left quietly. 

Next day she came all neat and clean, with a long string of jasmine flowers on her hair. Now the smell was even weirder. She would wear the same sari for two to three days in a stretch. The sharp stink assailed our nostrils! To remedy that I gave her soaps and some saris and told her to have bath, change clothes and come for work. Her downcast eyes made me feel guilty, but for me my daughter was priority. 

Next few days seemed fine; she would come with well combed hair and different saris. But soon the smell returned. One day the stench was unbearable and I decided to take leave for the day. I simply had to discuss the issue with her. 

There is an odd smell from you Lolita, I have given you soaps for washing clothes and for yourself, yet you come unwashed.” 

She remained silent, hesitating to look at my eyes. 

If you keep yourself like this you may pick up some skin ailments and I am worried my daughter too would be affected.” 

“I keep myself clean Didi (sister)”, she replied softly. 

I then decided to ask her the direct question: “Do you have bath everyday?” 

“No.” she said. 

I was shocked now, “But why?” 

“Pani nahin hai didi.” (We don’t have enough water ma’am.) 

She then rattled out about her daily problem of shortage of water. Water supply in public pipes was just for a couple of hours, within that time the whole locality would have to collect water. They barely got two to three pots per family, which was used for cooking, drinking, washing utensils and basic sanitation needs. 

I was shaken! My own problem of leaving my toddler behind had taken such a huge form that I had become blind to the everyday problem this strata of society face. Water tankers sell water at exorbitant price, bathing thus becomes a luxury to be done once in three days or may be once a week. So here was a problem I had to view in two different ways. I had two roles: one that of mother and other that of citizen of the society. 

I had to work out a win-win situation for both of us. 

That day I decided to broaden my thinking a bit, broaden my concept of sharing and caring. We didn’t live in any mansion then. There was no servant’s room. I had to let her use my bathroom, a room which I spruced up very lovingly. Breaking the barriers of my mind, I asked her to have bath in my bathroom! Lolita couldn’t believe her ears! She looked wide eyed at me. I assured her she had heard right and I also told her to wash her clothes at the end of the day so that she will have a fresh set the next day.

Next day she came earlier than usual. 
I guided her to use the complex pipe fittings. 
I taught her the setting for proper mix of hot and cold water from the shower, 
I made her realize the importance of hot bath. 
I taught her how cleanliness is equally important for good health as is good food. 

After a good hot shower, she was ready for work. She looked a lot refreshed, in fact happier. 

She may have cleansed her body but I knew I cleansed my mind of several mind blocks. 

This routine continued for a long time. I paid her a few hundreds more so that she gets water to bathe her child and family too. We were moving out after a year. Like any parting this too was difficult, I saw the pain in her eyes, her affection for my daughter. The usual dialogues told, but the one sentence Lolita said made me happy. “Didi, you taught me to live cleanly. I am not going to forget that, because now, even I can’t tolerate the bad smell of un-cleanliness.” 

As I am writing this I am smiling thinking of those days. I am reminded of Lolita's inhibition and under confidence before I permitted her to have bath in my bathroom. How she had changed later! Wonder, where is Lolita today!

Wherever she is today, hope she is following the lessons of cleanliness, teaching her near and dear ones the values of bathing with hot water!

This post is written as an entry for the contest ” Close Encounters of the Smelly Kind ” in association with Indiblogger and Racold Thermo Ltd. their Facebook Page and enjoy this hilarious video.