allegory, feelings, Poem, rhyme, Uncategorized

Doubt’s Dreadful Deed

via Daily Prompt: Devastation

She shifts through the cracks
and makes home in the shacks
of feelings in those tendrils weak,
in sinew holding to the strength it seeks

Doubt makes her way up to the heart
playing on its mysterious part,
as shouts and screams reach cacaphonous highs
She pats her back,and grins more wide

Hatred seeks to place himself where once
feelings dwelled, bowing to none.
they have long deserted the splendid ways
of lovely walks and silly word plays.

Love is shunned out of his seat,
Jealousy moves in, swiftly meets
the despicable residents of the forlorn town
Called heart,which now breathes no sound.

Doubt’s done her deed, celebrations begin,
the shunned inmates cry out in vain
for some respite, to the one they belong,
unaware of the Love gone wrong.

article, jaipur, jaipur literature fest, jlf, life, literature and books, Uncategorized

One Great Literati Gathering

Jaipur Literature Fest, 10th edition

To all the art lovers, Jaipur Literature Fest comes as a breath of fresh air amidst the entire socio-political chant. It’s our escape into a literary world, which manages to allure the most disbelieving of people into its fold.  A 5-day extravaganza that is held in the pink (and ostensibly rich) city, Jaipur Literature Fest is an annual pilgrimage of sorts to most ardent of its lovers. One of the greatest literary shows in the country and with 10 years of history to its credit, JLF has hosted eminent writers, poets, business leaders, entertainers, thinkers, historians, politicians and humanitarians from all over the world on a common stage, their voices easily accessible to the masses.

In the decadal celebration of the amalgamation of literature, music and ideas, 2017 JLF promised to be bigger and better than before. Diggi Palace Hotel, which serves as the venue for the largest free literary festival in the world, is an erstwhile royal residence, which is still partly occupied by the royal family, who also run the hotel. The lush lawns and grandeur of the frescos and architecture, the place itself has an intoxicatingly rich history.

While many question the viability of the commercial idea behind the event, and whether bigger translates into a ‘better’ event at all, JLF has only gone from strength to strength as its attendance has grown each year and has turned into a motley gathering of authors and artists. This year is no less as the illustrious line-up made for a promising show. This year’s keynote address was delivered by two poets of international repute- Gulzar and Anne Waldman.

Gulzar’s speech was pivoted around the diversity of Indian Languages and how the term ‘regional language’ was for all we know, derogatory to the potency of the languages, which make up an extensive and exhaustive body of literature. He also laid bare the importance of being ‘grounded’-rooted firmly to our beliefs- in order to succeed in life. Anne Waldman, Beat poet and activist, was her poised self as she spoke poignantly about the dark contemporary times, and recited the poem-song Anthropocene Blues. She also described the present political scenario as a ‘war of imagination’ and reiterated the relevance of literature and poetry as a spiritual practice.

Among other revered authors to speak at the event include the likes of Man Booker Prize winners Paul Beatty, Alan Hollinghurst and Richard Flanagan; Kunga Tenzin Dorji, Journalist, Broadcaster & Musician; Mark Tully, Writer, Journalist & Broadcaster; Guillermo Rodriguez, Writer & Cultural Activist; Shashi Tharoor,writer, politician and an event veteran; Barkha Dutt and lyricist Prasoon Joshi.  With over 300 speakers and multiple sessions spread across five days, the festival has all the makings of a huge success.

Time Out says for the fest-“It’s settled. The Jaipur Literature Festival is officially the Woodstock, Live 8 and Ibiza of world literature. The Frankfurt Book Fair and the Booker Prize Awards are like watching the Pope sleep compared to an ambience best described as James Joyce meets Monsoon Wedding.”

 It couldn’t have been said any better.

article, marine life, ocean, REALISM, road trip, sea, traveling, Uncategorized

Jamnagar’s limestone fortress

Ankle deep waters glistening under the bright sun, with beautiful marine life, all culminate into a dream-like day. Gujarat’s town of Jamnagar, nestled near the western coast in the Gulf of Kutch, is an uncommon place for a vacation, often subdued into near oblivion by its sister towns Rajkot and Dwarka.  Jamnagar plays host to India’s first Marine Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park spread across 162.89 Square Kilometers of Marine National Park and 457.92 Square Kilometers of Marine Sanctuary.

The drive to the marine park is marked by a narrow road into the reserve. We would’ve been oblivious to its existence had my dad’s curiosity not led us to the gates with the aim of discovering that which no one knows about. And we were in for a pleasant surprise. Not just that. An archipelago of 42 islands (which are not inhabited by more than a dozen people at any time) the best being Pirotan, Karubhar, Narara, Poshitra are accessible by boat rides. One needs to carry bottled water for the lack of drinking water facilities. This untouched serene beauty is a spectacle in itself.

The coral walk, which is the most celebrated part of the Jamnagar tourism, is conducted during the low tide and takes about 3-4 hours. Coral reefs are discernible in the 1-2 feet shallow water, with mutable colours, host to a variety of small fish. During the low tide, the water recedes enough to enable a walk into the wide opening spread across a vast expanse of ocean bed, which reveal the veritable underwater forest. You don’t have to dive deep into the sea to be a witness to the marine life that makes itself visible to the naked eye in this marine park. Discovering the place on foot is marvelous. The guides will pick up a stray slimy octopus or a puffer fish, with jaws strong enough to chip off a coral! Sea turtles, lobsters, crabs, dolphins, ray fishes, jelly fish, star fish, sea anemones are other vibrant specimens of oft-sighted marine delights. . If one is lucky, dolphins can be seen rising to the surface for the delight of all the watchers. In winters, migratory birds dot the sky as travellers make their way through the shallow waters. The tranquil waters of Chejja creek are complemented by mangroves forest on both sides which trail the path to one of the islands. We walked about a kilometer into the park, with bent necks hoping to catch a glimpse of this beautiful show.

The colourful but fragile eco-system at display is unmarred by human existence owing to its almost non-existent common knowledge beyond the edges of the city. As we made our way back to our car, we looked back to see water slowly filling up the space our footprints had left. The park will live another day, safe from our destruction.

article, bosphorous, istanbul, life, LOVE, traveling, turkey, Uncategorized

ISTANBUL – A trip to the Turkish Delight

Istanbul, the gorgeous capital of Turkey, can boast of many things, being an exciting amalgamation of the old and the new, the traditional treats and the modern breath. Napoleon Bonaparte rightly exclaimed- If Earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital. It has had an adventurous journey, having been founded in 660BC as Byzantium, and then falling into the hands of the Roman conqueror Constantine, who christened the place as Constantinople. It earned its new name, Istanbul, in 1930, after Turkey became a republic in 1923.

Sitting on the famed European-Asian border, the city has much to offer in terms of stunning architecture, historical delights and boat trips on the Bosphorous, one of the world’s busiest waterways, connecting countries to the Mediterranean.

The Grand Bazaar

The bazaar is famed for being the oldest and the largest covered market in the world, with over 4000 stalls to entice any shopaholic’s interest. Situated in the Old City, Kalpali Çarsi has an assortment of thoroughfares from carpets to brassware. Be sure to haggle, for the merchants are known to often bend a little.

The Topkapi Palace

Home to the stunning 86 carat Spoonmaker Diamond, the palace was once the palatial residence of the Ottoman Rulers. The garden is a stunning piece of art, and overlooks the Sea of Marmara. Containing four courtyards and a number of other smaller structures, the palace’s Construction began in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmed II. It became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985. It is now a museum and shows on display beautiful Ottoman jewelry among other artifacts.

Hagia Sophia

It transcended a journey from a church to a mosque and now finally rests as a fine museum and one of the city’s favourite destinations. The byzantine architecture, with the intricate mosaics and marble pillars make for a beautiful scene.

The Basilica Cistern

All Dan Brown fans out there will remember the mention of this place in his book titled INFERNO, where the 6th century structure does not fail to impress even the most unassuming. Known locally as the Sunken Palace, one must make an eerie-full descend into the cavern which houses three hundred and thirty six columns with bases in a few feet of water. It was earlier used to store water for the nearby buildings. It might remind you of the nail-biting end of the movie, the dramatic setting of which will make you visit this place for a closer look.

The Bosphorous

Istanbul’s waterway, which forms the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, is straddled by the metropolitan population. It divides the Asian Turkey from its European counterpart, but what it does better is give the travelers a beautiful boat-ride.  The city’s official ferry company, Sehir Hatlari, offers short, full and night cruises to suit individual needs; and for a more breath-taking local experience, hop onto a ferry bustling with Turkish tea-sippers and catch a glimpse of the sun setting across an orange sky.

Hamam

For those jet-lagged days and sore travelling feet, the experience of Hamam is a must. The traditional spa experience in the old city includes masseurs engaging in the ritualistic series of soaking, scrubbing, exfoliating and rinsing treatments. It all varies according to the bathhouse; however, if one wishes to splurge, most hotels offer modern versions of the same experience.

Galata Tower

The spectacular view of the city from this towering structure is a must see for all first-timers.

Istanbul Modern

A perfect glimpse into the contemporary art scene of the city, the converted Warehouse near Karaköy on the banks of Bosphorous, showcases works of Turkish artists, sculptors and photographers. Book a table at the outdoor terrace Restoran Im and mix Cuisine with culture which makes for a sumptuous visit.  A set of Rainbow stairs nearby join Findikli to Cihanger.

Rumeli Hisari

The ruins of an old fortress, Rumeli Hisari,are located in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul, Turkey, on a hill at the European side of the Bosphorus. Since the 20th century, the place has been a museum and also doubles up as an open-air theater for various concerts at festivals during the summer months.

 

Lastly try the Turkish coffee, which is a thick concoction of black unfiltered coffee. ‘Mandabatmaz’ is one of the most famous variants!

*Featured picture credit- onorient.com

article, bhutan, road trip, traveling, Uncategorized

A Hidden Kingdom: In the lap of Bhutan

Bhutan is very near yet almost unknown and mystic to most, who happen to relate it with last kingdom in the world and also the last Shangri-La!

Bhutan’s pristine environment offers ecosystem which is rich and diverse, due to its location and great geographical and climatic variations. Bhutan’s high, rugged mountains and valleys boast spectacular biodiversity, earning it a name as one of the world’s ten most important biodiversity hotspots. Bhutan does not have GDP but a Domestic Happiness Index. Gladly one country has its priorities straight.

The journey to Bhutan is possible in two ways. You may start by flight to Paro from various places such as Bagdogra or New Delhi also but you miss the very essence of Bhutan which you capture once you start the road journey from Phuntsholing which is about 4 hours drive from Siliguri, West Bengal.  This is not the only road entry but happens to be the most popular. There are two more road entry points from India only and there is no entry from any other country to Bhutan.

Once you enter Bhutan the calm atmosphere is as loud as anything else. The aromatic luxurious nature of the country rejuvenates one instantly. From Phuntsholling the journey to the core of Bhutan begins and it’s an exhilarating and adventurous journey to say the least. Through the mountain roads, it is almost 160km to the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu.

In Thimphu are many places that are feast to the eyes and speak to the soul.

Buddha Dordenma:

This is a short drive from Thimphu city and a lovely place on the hill. The golden statue of Buddha, one of the largest in the world, was built on the 60th anniversary of the fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It’s almost 55 meter tall and is visible from Thimphu. You can see the Thimphu valley and enjoy the peace and chants of monks while the prayers are in progress. The Kuensel Phodrang nature park provides the forest cover which surrounds the statue.

Punakha Dzong

Called Pungthang Dewachen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness), this Dzong is the second largest and the second oldest palace in the country and competes for the title of the most majestic of them. The spring season is the best time to visit the valley, for beautiful Jacaranda trees surround the palace, lending it their beauty and borrowing some from it in the process. Nestled between two rivers, Pho Chu and Mo Chu, it is connected to the mainland by a wooden bridge.

Tashichho Dzong, the main Dzong of Thimphu:

Situated on the western bank of the river Wang Chu, it is massive, beautiful, and timeless. It’s a Dzong along with palace for the royals. Traditionally it was the seat of the country’s civil government, the Druk Desi, and also the summer capital.  The surroundings are beautiful and mystic. The carving on the walls, prayer wheel and majestic charm make for a delightful sight.

Dochula Pass: On the road to Punakha, this pass in the snow-capped Himalayas, is the one of the highest place in Bhutan and that makes it an excellent vantage point to see the mountains. With 108 Stupas or chortens known as “Druk Wangyal Chortens” in the middle, it’s an amazing experience while you can sip your coffee or something stronger in a small but well made café.  The pass leads to the Royal Botanical Park.

Tiger’s nest or Taktsang Monastery:

This tops the chart for all the reasons to visit this country. Also called Tiger’s nest, Tiger’s nest is perched at a hill top not meant for anybody with week knees. The steep 900m climb is strenuous but the view of the Paro valley makes you forget pain. Perched on a cliff with a dazzling view of pines and rhodendrons, the monastery’s entrance descends to a waterfall close to the Snow Lion Cave. Inside the monastery, the holy atmosphere among the monks makes it very serene.

Chele La Pass:

It’s a view point 4000 meters above sea level! A breath-taking view of the pass which separates Haa and Paro valley. A lovely drive with a view of Mt Jumolhari is definitely worth the visit but be very careful in winters as the temperature drops to the wrong side of zero.

And finally for those who like to indulge in high spirits, Ara a local spirit brewed from rice or corn can be tried and for little refined taste, a local raw fresh beer brand name “Red Panda” is fresh and good for the tingling taste buds. Cheers!

*featured image credit: makemytrip.com

 

animals, article, cat, life

Diwali Blues

via Discover Challenge: Animal

While most of my peers were busy uploading Diwali pictures in pretty clothes, much to my chagrin, I was nestled in the warm albeit dark corner of a cozy closet, which had doubled up as the nursery for my pregnant and visibly-in-labour cat, Hyde*. It all started on the night before Diwali, and the entire day was spent comforting my little kitten that was quickly (and annoyingly) on her way to motherhood.

With my phone in one hand, I probably spent hours surfing the internet, and hissing at random posts of people busy in Diwali festivities. I am not much of a festival fan, but I like getting together with people and dressing up in great clothes once in a while, so yeah, you get my point. I was almost fuming, as I sat on my bed, comforting Hyde, who was getting more anxious by the minute, with her tail constantly fluttering around my face, her way of catching attention. I petted her head and ran my fingers along her shiny coat. I could almost read her mind, as she jumped from the bed to the table, knocking a few things in the process. She must’ve been blaming Zaru, my elder male cat, who was probably the reason why she was now visibly exhausted (and fat).  Exhaustion was something we both had in common I guess.

So Hyde’s pregnancy had limited my Diwali revelries to the confines of my room, with my sister and mother in tow, who were both busy in stocking supplies and preparing probably the most weirdly comfortable birthing area for our cat. And that’s how the closet was chosen since it was dark and cozy, both things a cat’s favourites. We all manned the gate and alternated between attending to guests and pampering Hyde. Her condition worsened and we were overcome by a sense of foreboding- maybe her inexperience was hindering the delivery. Three years ago I had lost a cat to labour pains, and I couldn’t bear to think of past repeating itself.

In all the tension and chaos,Diwali came and went. The next morning, my mother called up the Vet in order to ensure that Hyde was tended to by a professional instead of us amateurs. But of the only two days his clinic is closed, Hyde had inadvertently chosen one. My mother hustled to find another doctor. In the entire frantic search for help, we left Hyde alone for a while. When my mother next checked on her an hour later, at around 9 in the bright sunny morning after Diwali, Hyde had become a gorgeous mother to two babies who looked just like her and were nestled carefully in the curve of her stomach.

One look at the kids and all my vanity vanished into thin air. I couldn’t remember the disappointment but only joy enveloped my mind. My mother finds solace in the belief that our love for them comes back to us through each happy day that we spend with each other. And I’d like to have faith in her faith. The quiet Diwali blues are a thing of the past. Those tiny fur balls were worth sacrificing any damn festival.

Always.

 * the cat in the picture is Hyde, with her two pretty kittens, Max and Cooper.

 

article, life, traveling

To the Roots of Immortality

Trekking to this entangled mass of root is every man’s dream and no child’s play

Meghalaya is quite a serene state – the only welcoming sounds are the bubbling streams that overflow the narrow banks as the rain fills them with gushing water. And I am not romanticizing to the point of exaggeration. The state can boast of a lot of things, among them, having one of the wettest places in the world as a tourist destination – Cherrapunji. The monsoons are the best time to visit our Eastern counterpart. The southern Khasi and Jaintia hills are humid and generally moss covered, the dense woods resonating with chirping birds that fly across swelling streams and crisscrossing rivers. The trees are a different green, carpeted across as far as the eye can see. I remember driving into the quaint, quiet town, panning my head left to right lest I missed something. The beautiful interiors, with tiny wooden huts strewn on the sides of curvy roads lead your imagination to distant places in some far off imaginary land. It literally rains almost all the time, the pitter-patter of the rain makes for your lullaby and the morning wake up call. Cherrapunji is about 3-4 hours’ drive from Shillong, the famous city that often overshadows the little rainy town.

Nestled deep in the forests, at the slope of these hills, lie the quaint root bridges that are a treasure trove of wondrous sights. Those who come to Shilling and drive up to Cherrapunji, cherish their decision for perpetuity. The Ficus elastica, a species of Indian rubber tree with an incredibly strong root system thrives and flourishes in this area. The tree produces secondary roots from higher up its trunk; roots which can comfortably perch themselves atop boulders across riverbanks. The Khasi tribe – which has been long credited for recognising the ingenuous trait of the tree, and utilising it as an opportunity to cross the area’s many rivers – use sliced and hollowed betel nut trunks to assemble a guiding system for the roots. As the roots cling to the betel trunks, they reach the other side and are allowed to take root in the soil, leading to the final magnificent structure: a sturdy, living root bridge. There is something eerie about them, and they wouldn’t really look out of place in a fantastical world.

THE TREK

One special root bridge, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world, is actually two bridges which are set naturally one overarching above the other and is called the ‘Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge.’ The trek to this bridge starts from a narrow path which descents as one travels further. Some 3500 steps guide you down to crystal clear streams which form a small pool at the base of the trees, the roots of which hang above it like an earthly chandelier.

With each subsequent step, the noise of the world is left behind and the chaos dies a peaceful death. The steps are moss covered and all you have are sturdy bamboo sticks to help you balance out. You have to be careful, or you might break a couple of bones. A good pair of shoes may be your lifesaver in the treacherous trek. The trip is exhausting, but nevertheless it’s the last thing that will cross your mind after you reach the destination.

Going down the stairs is not an issue- gravity lends a generous hand too. It is the walk back that is the daunting task. The steps are extremely intimidating – I am a regular trekker so I don’t say it lightly. But the on-foot exploration of the place is to be waited for, with bated breaths. The slope works against you and you might feel your feet buckle occasionally from all the strain, but when you see local children trot down the slippery slopes in oversized broken chappals sans sticks, it rejuvenates you and you begin to take strides with renewed vigour. The root bridges, some of which are over a hundred feet long, take ten to fifteen years to become fully functional. They’re extraordinarily strong. Because they are alive and still growing, the bridges actually gain strength over time and most of the ancient root bridges in Cherrapunji may be well over 500 years old. The trail helps you unearth many beautiful aspects of the place.

 

How can such an unnerving trek feel like walking headfirst into the lap of nature and being one with the surroundings?

Seeing the bridge at first makes your heart skip a beat. The place which appeared to be inaccessible suddenly looms in front of you, larger than life in its dimensions and looks like the work of some gifted craftsman who weaves magic with his hands. The sight is etched deep and clear in my head. The stream, which flows silently underneath the huge structure, reflects the beauty as the sun sparkles off its surface, making the place almost ethereal. I remember people being extremely quiet after the arduous trek, and I still believe they were all trying to drink in the magic and beauty of the place, capture its essence for eternity.

While the sun is still high, it does well for one to lounge around, sit with the locals who often pass by the place. You might stumble upon some legends of the place that make for great stories around the fire. These root bridges are an integral part of the culture of the Khasi tribes, who have, through their efforts over the generations, taken the onus of saving and celebrating all that nature has to offer. What makes this union of man and nature more special is that it is a specimen of a man using his constructiveness to project a microcosm of nature’s abundance.

While modernisation coupled with fast paced industrialisation threatens to trample tribal culture in a major part of eastern states, to see some still live at peace in an antiquated hamlet brings peace to me in my mundane metropolitan existence. While life is hectic all year round, visits like these make for the perfect escape and it doesn’t take much to realize that it is imperative for us to protect these natural wonders for the sake of the future which is inextricably linked to our present.