Monday, December 27, 2010

Travel and Deception

While on a tour one has to always watch out for deception. Its happeining all around us and in many different forms but we seem to overlook it all the time. Well its quite obvious that people are the usual suspects but anything under the sun can be deceptive! Yes deception is an everyday phenomenon but it according to me can be the decisive factor between a great holiday experience and a shambolic one. Though I was lucky enough to experience a few "fairly mild" deceptive incidences but it helped me become more cautious of anymore future threats!

So I hired this bike in Bhuj to visit the beach town of Mandvi and the White Rann. Initially the bike dealer wouldn't give out his bike to an Indian but after a thorough background check he agreed to lend a lesser bike model which seemed hardly capable of touching 60 kmph. But I still had to cough up the same rate that applied to a better bike say a Pulsar. And that is deception point 1. I was made to believe through all the sweet talking during and after the background check that I was one of the select few Indians who could hire a bike in Bhuj and thus was an elite! Yet for this privilege, I could only get a bike that was last seen on Indian roads almost a decade back! And not to forgot the bike came at the price of a modern bike!

Deception point 2. On a scale of 10, I gave the bike a 2 for its performance before I set out on the ride. I was really not happy with the deal that I'd struck but the whole "elite Indian" feel good factor made up for it. And surprisingly, though the bike scored very low in terms of overall performance, but it was by no means a Gas Guzzler! And this was enough to win my heart 'cause mileage in any motor vehicle is very very crucial for a middle class Indian. In this case, I was "pleasantly" deceived.

Deception point 3. The bike suffered two flat tyres on the first day. But by some strange coincidence, both 'em happened right outside a bike mechanic shop! Initially I didn't pay attention to this as I was relieved that I wouldn't have to go through too much of an ordeal but on closer observation I realized this was no coincidence. Its a dirty game that these mechanics play. They carefully lay out these nails and other minute metal scraps that can cause a flat tyre, around their shops on the highway to ensure steady business through out the day. Deception at its very best! So the next day I was really careful whenever I came across any such "puncture repair" shops and slowed down the bike in order to watch out for any such alien metal pieces that would derail my journey.

So that brings us to the questions, is it possible to get square with deception? And does Newton's third law apply to deception? The answer is not known to me at the moment but there is hope in the form of caution and awareness. Oh but I did get my chance to get square with the bike dealer for lending me such a shitty bike. I was bored of nurturing the bike through out the ride and on the last leg I decided to push its limits. Though I was a good 100 kms away from Bhuj, my night halt, I didn't hold back and as expected the bike broke down due to the extra throttling! I knew God was with me on this one because within 10 minutes I found a trailer to a hitch a ride back to Bhuj. On reaching Bhuj, a little play acting and a sad weary face was enough to convince the dealer that I had gone through shit 'cause of the bike and he waived off the rent for the second day! Yay!

Deception is unavoidable during travel but having a calm head always helps!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Castaway at Alibaug

Its been a day shy of a week since I had the most amazing time at my friend's beach house in Alibaug and the experience is still fresh in my mind. Its great fun hanging out with the Capoeira gang in this part of the country and the guys are very passionate about this martial art form. Its like Brazil is right here in Mumbai. I can't wait for Baba, the Capoeira instructor, to start classes in Bangalore. Am sure its gonna be well recieved!

Here's a sneak peak at Capoeira..

Big thanks to Baba, Zorro, Mancha and all those who shared their space with me and made my holiday a better one!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Philosophy of Mumbai

Mumbai as we know has a huge influx of population from the smaller Indian towns and villages too, who come to the city in search of a better life. Its not everyday that someone goes up to them and speaks to understand their psyche but when the opportunity presents, these guys are efficient enough to hold on to the attention that they are receiving presently. I chatted up with one such Mr. A Balsubramanium, a street food vendor on Marine Lines promenade last evening.

Bala hails from a very small town in Tamil Nadu (can't recollect the name) and has been a regular to Mumbai for the past 32 years. Why I say regular 'cause Bala has a peculiar work philosophy. He detests permanent jobs and his work locations are decided by the Indian monsoons or the lack of it! So when there are rains in Mumbai, he heads to Chennai and when the rains are in Chennai, he is in Mumbai. Or when Mumbai is burning in the summer, he is in Kashmir carrying out his trade. He just doesn't wanna settle down in one place!

Bala, fondly called as Anna (elder brother in Tamil), goes on to explain the two simple things that make Mumbai tick, according to him. He says just soak up everything thats happening around you and when you are asked to testify, hold on to your ear lobes (the Indian way of gesticulating that you are sorry) and say you saw nothing! The other he says is the Marathi phrase "Aamchi Mumbai" which till yesterday I thought meant "My/Our Mumbai". Anna tells me it actually means "Maa Chudaye Mumbai"! Quite shocking coming from someone who has made Mumbai his second home for so long. But I guess thats how he has been able to survive in this big bad city.

As for me, only time will tell which of the two meanings will apply to my life!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Traveling the way I do..Aint for the faint hearted!

"Travelling" or "traveling"? What's the right way to spell the word? Nevermind... 'Cause there aint a right or wrong way to travel either!

This is gonna be the focal point of this post..

Had the most heart stopping experience last morning while boarding the train to Mumbai. Everything that could go wrong, went awry!

For starters, to catch the early morning 630 a.m. train, I woke up late. And then discovered that there was no hot water for my shower. Got delayed even more 'cause I'd to now wait for the water to heat up and by the time I got ready and headed for the station, it was already 620 a.m. Took me 5 minutes to get to the station but I landed on the wrong platform! My train was to depart from platform 6 and I was at platform 1! While I was dashing to my platform, the zipper of my bag gave way and all the contents started spilling out! If not for some friendly passerby I wouldn't have even noticed it. Had to retrace and pick up all my stuff from the trail and dump them in the bag and shut it. All this while precious sands of time slipped away...

Finally when I got to the designated platform, I was relieved to see the train still there and also that I didn't have to run further to find my wagon as it was parked right where the overbridge descended. After depositing my luggage on my berth, I was like "OK! This is it! Finally made it! Nothing can go wrong now!" but wait, episode 2 was even more gripping!

In my haste to the railway station, I missed making a pitstop at the ATM and so now I was pennyless! I had no idea where an ATM could be in this railway station! I ran the length and breadth of the platform and quite obviously there wasn't one! In the meantime, I bumped into an old pal who was also making the trip to Mumbai in the same train and who obviously was quite shocked to learn my current situation. We inquired at a vendor and learnt that there was one outside the station. So I made a dash for it and returned back just in the nick of time! By some stroke of luck, the departure was delayed by 5 minutes and the train started to move right when I got back from the ATM... Quite an eventful morning!

So like I said, there is no right or wrong way of traveling and the purists are definitely not gonna applaud my performance from yesterday but what the hell, I enjoyed every bit of it! This also gave me a chance to test the condition of my heart and it passed with flying colors! (Thanks to all those cardio workouts!)

The rest of the day was spent recuperating from the experience and in some rural landscape photography. Will put em up once I am back to my crib!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Break

Today's the first day of my first winter break since, lemme see, school may be. Hmmmm.. Considering I left school in Y2K, its quite a long time! So since these long breaks are hard to come by, I've some interesting things  lined up for myself. (My closest buddies know how much I detest plans but everyone also understands the value of a well deserved break, so I'd no choice but plan! Not that I'm gonna be a time table freak for the next couple of weeks, but I've managed to combine my "no plan" policy with a bit of travel research in order to make the most of this time on hand. The days of being brash are long gone I guess.. )

Winter is when the sub continent is most generous to travelers and there is a lot of activity over here as a result. Be it Kaziranga in Assam or the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat (Am excluding other options 'cause my choices were torn in between these two destinations). So where do I go was the big question for most part of November. What clinched it for me was the Annual Batizado, a capoeira convention in Bombay, of which I wanted to be a part. Even though I couldn't make it, I still believe that Batizado was the sole reason I ditched the north east.

Winter is also the best time to be in Bangalore 'cause of the weather primarily and also for the festive season. But the downside of being in town during this time of the year is I end up spending my New Year's eve at home every year. I do not know yet where I am gonna be for twenty11's new year eve but its most definitely not gonna be at home! May be Bombay.. Oh and for Christmas, I plan to visit Bombay's biggest church - Church of Mount Mary.

Am gonna miss my doggie, Magic the most for the next15 days!


Fingers crossed for the trip! Have a good one Bangalore!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wildlife Rescue Volunteer at People for Animals

I wanted to involve in this kinda volunteering program from a long time but wasn't finding the right channel until I came across People for Animals' Bangalore chapter. Well, they are quite well known and I guess I wasn't searching in the right places and thus the treasure hunt! :P

Last Saturday was a workday and so I landed at the shelter in Kengeri on Sunday along with my bro. While we were waiting for Mr. Kishen, the head caretaker at the shelter to brief us, he got a call for a snake rescue from a nearby village called Kodihalli and he asked my bro and I to accompany the rescue team! 

Snakes??!! It gave both of us goosebumps! Nevertheless we tagged along..

On arrival, the worried family showed us to the drain where the mysterious snake was taking a refuge. Rahmath, the PFA snake handler got into action and swiftly grabbed the snake by its tail! Surprise surprise! It was the dreaded Cobra! And a mighty one at that! Rahmath handled the beast with ease. He apparently has been in this business of Snake rescue from the time he was kid and has endured 28 cobra bites!

After securing the Cobra in the basket we headed back to the shelter. And back at the shelter Kishen had already received another call and he set us off on our next errand and this time to rescue a  juvenile crow that fallen from its nest and had injured one of its limbs. Rahmath and I set off for the rescue while my bro stayed back at the shelter. It was a long uneventful journey to Tyagrajnagar (except that it took us some time to locate the spot). Upon completing the quite a "regular" rescue we headed back to the shelter.

The afternoon was spent in exploring the shelter. The shelter's very own pet cemetery draws quite a large crowd  despite the steep price but it is this funding that helps in its smooth running. Pariah Kites, Parakeets, Star Tortoise, Barn Owl, Monkeys etc rescued from the city and the outskirts are rehabilitated here and then finally released in the woods.

By 5:30 p.m we set out to the nearby Turahalli Reserve forest to release the cobra and a few other snakes that had been rescued earlier. At the forest, Kishen gave us a few lessons on handling snakes. 2 cobras, 3 rat snakes and one sand boa were released in the forest and I even managed to get my hands on the sand boa. Yes, the experience was quite weird!

A few shots from Sunday...

Upon coming out of the drain-Furiuos
Rahmath directing the snake into the bag

PFA Shelter
Bro playing with a monkey
PFA logo
Turahalli Forest
Kishen giving handling lessons

Those who are interested in volunteering can look up the website Also to aid in wildlife rescue call PFA on the numbers
+91-80- 2860 4767
+91-80- 2860 3986
+91-80- 2273 3350

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Glamour in the neighbourhood

The ruling government of the year 2002-03 was kind enough to convert a barren patch of land in my neighbourhood to what is now the JP Bio-diversity Park. This is the third largest park in the city after the Cubbon Park and Lal Bagh gardens and over the past few years the green cover here has greatly improved. The park's water body supports several water bird species and is home to a good number of Cat Fishes.

Winter is upon us in Bangalore and so is the migration season. And there is glamour in the nieighbourhood! A flock of Spot-billed Pelicans have made the JP Park lake their winter home! Pelicans have been common visitors in the Hebbal Lake area of Urban Bangalore but this is their very first visit to Mathikere. This is a promising sign for the Bio-Diversity park and definitely a feather in the park authorities' cap. The good work that they've done in grooming this very young park is finally paying off!

Pelicans huddle up in the lake at JP Park


Some common problems that I've noticed are the presence of a large number of aggresive and territorial crows and the proximity to humans. Though all is not rosy for the pelicans yet I am positive! I am sure they'll adapt to this habitat in a few days and make this a regular stopover in thier migratory path each year. 

Crow chaisng a Pelican out of the lake area

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Birding pics from Byalkere and Hesaraghatta

1. First up is the Little Green Bee Eater.

2. The Purple-Rumped Sunbird

3. The Unidentified bird!

4. Oriental Magpie Robin

5. Nrityagram Amphitheatre

6. Prothima Bedi Temple, Nrityagram

7. Hesaraghatta Grasslands

8. Sujay reviewing his shots on the grassland

Monday, November 22, 2010

Birding at Byalkere Peacock Reserve and Hesaraghatta

Hello Blog World!

This is my first ever blog post and am really glad that I finally managed to convince myself to start a blog to document all my travels and photography experiences.

So the best place to begin with would be my weekend getaway to Byalkere Peacock Reserve and Hesaraghatta on the 21st of November, 2010, for a first time (yet again!) birding trip with my buddy Sujay Dsa. (Will skip out the details regarding where we met up and stuff before we proceeded to Byalkere.)

This Byalkere Peacock Reserve had been intriguing me from the day I noticed it on google maps and when on further research on the internet I found no related articles, I grew restless! The reserve forest is on the way to Hesaraghatta via MS Palya. We reached there when the sunlight was still forcing its way out through the morning mist. Finding the place was quite easy as help was always at hand in the form of some morning walker.

We were actually on the look out for the elusive Slender Loris also called the "Kaadu Papa" in kannada. From my research I'd learned that there are around 20 specimens of this endangered species living in these parts of rural Bangalore but looking for one was like finding a needle in a haystack! We put this pursuit aside and started enjoying the sights and sounds of the various bird species that came out of their nests as soon as the hot morning sun began to thaw the forest flora. Some bird species that we spotted here were:

1. Green Bea Eater
2. Spotted Dove
3. Purple Rumped Sunbird
4. Common Mynas
5. Bulbul
6. An unidentified bird.. (WIP)

What might seem ironical is, where is the peacock in a peacock reserve? Wait for it.....

On our way out from the forest, just as we mounted the bike and were proceeding towards Hesaraghtta, we had a peacock encounter!!! This particular peacock had shed its tail feathers and scooted across the road and ran towards the neighbouring village. I must say its quite a fast runner 'cause by the time i took out my camera from the bag, it had vanished into the thick shrubs! Both of us missed the chance of having it on ur LCDs! Sigh!

Next up was Hesaraghatta lake after a quick breakfast pit stop. This lake, I hear has been a birding heaven from a very long time and a lot of bird species (some migratory even) have been spotted here over the years. We spent a good 2 hours at the lake bed and some birds that we clicked here were:

1. Oriental Magpie Robin (Hope its the right identification!)
2. Indian Robin
3. Egrets
4. Brahminy Kites
5. Black Kites or the Pariah Kites
6. Kingfishers

While at Hesaraghtta, one should pay a visit to Nrityagram the dance village set up by Protima Gauri Bedi. This place is an interesting combination of great architecture, nature and music and dance. We spent another 2 good hours soaking in the ambience and enjoying a Odissi performance by one of the resident Odissi teachers, Surupa Sen.

With the camera battery dying and our energy levels plummetting we decided to head home. But hey wait! I still hadn't come across the picturesque Hesaraghtta grasslands yet!

Sandwiched or should I say elbowing its way past Nrityagram and Adarsh Film Studios is this vast expanse of grassland that has been a bone of contention between nature lovers and the government from a long time. The government wants to set up a film studio here while the rest believe (and so do I) that by doing so we will lose a heritage, a getaway and some breathtaking views.. On a clear day the views are just amazing! And we were lucky this saturday. Such lovely weather and such a clear blue sky! Heaven!

Eventually hunger rose its head again and it was finally time to head back home. On the way back, we spotted the Bulbul and the Indian Roller which is the state bird of Karnataka as well as that of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

All in all, it was a great weekend getaway and a good beginning to my tryst with birding. We want to come back to this place every weekend but there are more hidden teasures around Bangalore to discover still.. but we will be back soon!

P.S. As I am posting this from office, I am unable to attach the pics from the trip. Will upload 'em tonight from home and oh I've another interesting story to share too... :)