Tranquility in the Tea estate

It is that time of the year when we are roasted by the sun and seek the cool hills. One big advantage of being in Coimbatore is the easy access to the Blue Mountains a.k.a the Nilgiris. It is just a 3 hour drive from Coimbatore – ideal for a quick getaway. Every summer, we make it mandatory to go to the Hills for a quiet vacation.  This year, in April,  we booked the Madhawa Row rooms in The Devashola Tea Estate.( Also known as The Palaniappa Tea Estate) near Coonoor.  The estate is sprawled over many acres and has 4 guest houses – Mango cottage, Sultana Cottage, Bison Valley row rooms and Madhawa row rooms. We had already been there once in June 2017 with our relatives and we loved the place so much that we wanted to go there every year. This April, it was not just our family, but my mother’s students (she tutors in the evenings at Coimbatore), few family friends, also joined us in this trip.

Madhawa Row Rooms

There were four, spacious rooms in a row with a beautiful garden on the front, a hammock and a swing by the side. The dining was at one end next to the kitchen. From our suite, the view was spectacular. We were surrounded by tea plantations on all sides.

 

A husband and wife duo were in charge of the kitchen and they made sure that we never went hungry! We reached the Madhawa Rooms by 12 pm, tired, thirsty and hungry. A big can of lime juice was ready for us and soon we were all exploring the rooms. ( They were renovated recently). The children lazed around on the hammock and swing , while lunch was being prepared. Soon ,the lunch was served – Rice, Piping hot Sambar, Carrot and Cabbage Poriyal, Rasam , Curd , Appalam – It was delicious and the hungry lot just gobbled down the food!

Safari in the estate

A jeep safari around their tea estate was on the itinerary next , at 4 pm. Soon two open ended trucks arrived and we were on our way inside the estate. Within 15 minutes of the safari, we encountered a herd of Indian Gaur ( with 3 calves) grazing happily.  They were not bothered about our presence and carried on with their eating. Our truck’s driver was full of praise for the Gaurs.

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The Gaur family

He said that the animals were used to the humans in the estate and never troubled them, if they were not troubled by the people. The owner of the estate had strictly instructed them to not to disturb the natural water source, food source of the animals inside their plantation . In extreme heat, they had even constructed water pools for the animals and birds to make use of.

An unexpected sighting

The drive continued till we reached a peak. There was a temple and a trek route. Since it was getting late, we stood at the peak and enjoyed the spectacular view from there.

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On top of the world!

On the way back, we suddenly heard a loud crack and a branch from a huge tree in front of us broke off and fell a few metres ahead of our truck! We heard sounds up in the tree and were hoping to see monkeys. But to our surprise. a huge bird flapped its wings noisily and flew to the next tree. It landed on a branch and only then we realised what that bird actually was – The Great Indian Hornbill ! We were thrilled beyond words and stood rooted to the spot, watching the beautiful bird. After some time, we returned back to our rooms. The heavenly aroma of bajjis greeted us and after many plates of bajjis, we relaxed in the garden.

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The Great Indian Hornbill

It was dark, warm and a mild chillness hung in the air. To while away the time, we played a lot of  outdoor games. It was refreshing to be playing with the children and away from the madness of the daily routine. After a heavy dinner of Chappathis and Vegetable gravy, we sat down on the steps leading to the rooms. A few were chatting, playing around, lazing on the hammock and I was sitting quietly admiring the beauty of the moon-lit night.

Ghost-Stories

Soon, the children began to nag the elders for stories. And what best time for ‘Ghost-stories’ than that night? Each story was scarier than the first and when my sister finished the story telling session with a ‘nail-biting, spine-thrilling ghost story of Durrell’s ‘ the children had enough! It was around midnight when all of us went to bed and soon peace and quiet reigned. However, we could hear a lots of  sounds of the nocturnal inhabitants of the forests. An alarm call of a barking deer was heard  in regular intervals – but soon we were all asleep.

The end of the trip

The sun was up bright and shining, early in the morning. After a quick tea, we went for a trek-stroll. There was big pond nearby and we walked around it, over the tea plantations  and clicked pictures. We watched a great number of birds – Bul-buls, house sparrows, kingfishers, hoopoe.  Idlis, Vada , Sambar and Cocunut barfi were ready by the time we came back from the trek-stroll. To be able to enjoy without having to worry about cooking was so relaxing! I dumped the diet and just ate to my heart’s ( tummy’s ) content!

With a wonderful host , Mr. Ashwin who owned the estate and took care of every detail to make our stay comfortable and the couple who cooked such heavenly meals for us, we felt rejuvenated and recharged. But our vacation was over and with a heavy heart but beautiful memories, we returned to our monotonous routine.

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Stopping by the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal in Madurai

This post is a continuation of the previous post  ‘ Travelling through time at Nellaiappar Koil , Tirunelveli. ‘ by my sister Senchudar Tamizharuvi.

The drive from Tirunelveli to Madurai takes about two hours. We reached Madurai right in the middle of the day when it was unbearably hot. Our visit to Madurai especially at that time of day was to visit the famous Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal. Since it was closed for lunch we decide to have our lunch too. Hot, tired and hungry we roamed the place looking for a good restaurant. After a quick lunch which wasn’t as good as I had expected (except for the cool juice) we reached the Palace. Since it was a public holiday, there were huge crowds of people having picnics on the lawns around the palace. There was a considerably long line at the ticket counter. We bought the tickets (separate tickets have to be bought for the use of cameras and mobile phones) and went in.

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The huge pillars ! 

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The cool corridors and the ornate ceilings

 

The crowd seemed to diminish as we entered through the huge arched gateway. I realized it was because of the enormity of the palace. The first thing to capture our attention- the enormous pillars, enclosing the courtyard. These pillars supposedly measure 82 feet in height and 19 feet in width. It took five of us ,holding hands to encircle the pillar!

     We wandered around the pillared corridor, marveling at the huge domes; ornate, high ceilings ,the golden throne and the  exquisite designs. The presence of domes indicated that the architectural style was not just Dravidian but had an Islamic influence too. There were huge locked doors on the sides which let into the outer yard of the palace.

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          We came across a sign that had the plan of the building. According to it, the original palace structure was four times bigger than the current structure. Today, the Entrance Gateway, the Main hall and the Dance hall are the only ones that remain. The Svarga Vilasam or the court has an audience chamber. The dance hall is surrounded by an arcaded gallery on the sides. The palace also has many ancient sculptures of Hindu Deities. Some of them are preserved wholly while some of them are chipped or missing a piece. Enclosed within glass cases are artifacts such as pieces of pottery, huge urns and  ancient paintings.

           From there , a door leads into a chamber which is the Museum of Epigraphy . Around the room are a number of stone inscriptions. Each inscription  has the explanation on a board behind it. This conveys information about the time period ,the ruler and the purpose of the inscription thus making them more understandable to the general public. There are also a few ancient manuscripts in glass cases. A chart which traces the evolution of the Tamil script is quite interesting and informative. I remember, the first time I visited the palace, I had no idea that it would be so wonderful. In my haste , I had forgotten to buy a ticket for Photography. Fortunately, this time I remembered , so I was able to  take photos of everything!

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Evolution of the Tamil language

                 The Palace is a national treasure! It is under the Tamil Nadu Archaelogical Department . As far as I have seen , the monuments under the Archaelogical Department are well- maintained with all the necessary information ,and their authenticity and antiquity mostly retained.

        However ,these treasures are defaced by irresponsible ,idiotic youth .They scribble and carve their names on these sturdy walls that have stood the test of time,  but have now been tainted by the touch of these thoughtless troublemakers! It is painful to see such beautiful buildings that can never be recreated even in our dreams, become victims of the ignorance of the present generation.

       I remembered that on my last visit I had gone through a door which led into the outer courtyard. There were a few old sheds with rows of stone sculptures. This time however , I could not locate the way out . I searched in vain. On our way out we enquired the person at the ticket counter and were informed that it was closed due to repairs.

    I felt  lucky that I had been able to visit the palace twice! I was so enraptured by its beauty the first time  that I made up my mind that I would visit it whenever I crossed Madurai. My family was thankful that I had dragged them to the palace despite the heat of the day.  It was definitely an afternoon well spent in traversing the forgotten and unknown paths of history!

Written by,

Senchudar Tamizharuvi.R

Travelling through time at Nellaiappar Koil, Tirunelveli

One of the main reasons I love visiting temples is my intense admiration for the uniqueness and magnificence of temple architecture. On a recent family trip to Tirunelveli , I had the pleasure of visiting the famous Nellaiappar Temple. I had previously visited it when I was younger but I didn’t remember it at all. So I was excited to go in and experience it again!

        As we walked through the entrance flanked by two huge doors, a cool gust of wind welcomed us. The  entrance has a detailed ,towering Gopuram – typical of the Dravidian Style of architecture. Many pigeons and parrots roost in the little spaces high up in the gopuram. We went into the sacred shrine of Nellaiappar(Lord Shiva) and worshipped him.

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Long, dark and cool corridors of the temple

    The inside of the temple with its enormous sculptures and  intricate carvings is an artist’s delight! The symmetry of the pillars engraved with floral patterns and animal figures awed  me! I took many photographs of the sculptures so that I could use them as reference for my paintings.There are also statues of the 63 Nayanmargal- saints who were staunch devotees of Lord Shiva .Walking through those cool, dark stone passages dimly lit by the small saalarams (skylights) here and there in the ceiling, with the smell of incense, transported me back to the past and I imagined the grand and elaborate rituals of the past that must have taken place there centuries ago! With some difficulty I heaved myself back into the present and we walked into the next mandapam.

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Musical Pillars

           The Mani Mandapam has the famous musical pillars. Tapping those hollow pillars produces a rhythmic, pleasant sound. We all took turns tapping them. My niece loved it!The walls of the temple have inscriptions on them in ancient Tamil script. As an avid lover of history ,I wished I could study epigraphy so that I would learn to decipher them on my own.

          The Sangili (Chain )Mandapam is the connecting chain between the shrines of  Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is adorned with huge decorative pillars on both sides. One pillar in particular caught my attention. It was built and positioned crossly in contrast to the other straight pillars. This astonished me. What an architectural marvel this place was!

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Clear and calm waters of the Kovil Kulam

 Finally we came to the  KovilKulam (Temple Tank). It was surrounded  by grill work. The water in the pond was clear,calm and green with the reflection of the trees around the outer courtyard of the temple. It sparkled and shimmered with the sun’s rays. Usually the tank is opened on festival days to allow people to take a dip in the holy waters. That day however, it was closed. And it looked so much the better ,without crowds of people thronging the area and littering it unscrupulously.

        We left the temple with our hearts full of peace and our minds full of thoughts about the glorious past!

Written by,

R.Senchudar Tamizharuvi

Sojourn in the Southernmost Tip of India

As a person who loved History and Geography, I was fascinated by Kanyakumari ( Cape Comorin to be precise) right from school days. Back in college, when we had an IV to Aralvaimoizhi pass to study about windmills, I was elated. Finally, I will get to see Kanyakumari. We stayed in Vivekanada Kendra ( I think so! ) and witnessed a beautiful sunrise. It was such a breathtaking moment. Inspite of staying in Kanyakumari just for one night, I loved the place which was thronged by hordes of tourists. We were not able to board the ferry to visit the Vivekanada Rock memorial as we had to be elsewhere by that evening. This was back in 2005.

After 14 years, I got the chance  to visit Cape Comorin again, in January 2019.  With my whole family, we started off to Kanyakumari without any plan! By late noon we were in Tirunelveli. As Courtallam was just an hour’s drive from there, we headed straight to the falls. Again, I have visited Courtallam when I was a 8 yr old and I had vague memories – only thing that had stayed in my mind was the thunderous falls. ( Five falls to be precise). As my daughter had never actually taken bath in a falls, I began telling her of how mighty the Courtallam falls was and all blah-blah.

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The Crowded and stinking Courtallam. (tap?)

However, we were all totally aghast when we saw the falls. My sister called it the ‘ Courtallam tap’. The water was just  trickling over the rocks, yet there was a great crowd. My daughter was totally disappointed and refused to bathe in the falls. But we took her and stood under the supposed ‘falls’ for a few minutes. The water was ice-cold but very less. The entire place was filthy, stinking and there were no proper rooms to change. All of us wished to be out of the place soon. I do understand that the falls will be in full flow during the peak season and Jan was not the right time to make a visit. But then, it was a total disappointment. To make it up, we headed to the famous Border Rahmath Kadai. The parotta was super soft and since all of us were ravenous, we gobbled up the delicious food. Although there was no gravy for vegetarians( they served only coconut chutney), the parottas were super yummy. We returned to Tirunelveli for the night.

We started to Kanyakumari by 8.30 am after a quick breakfast. It was a quick journey and the travel was a treat to the eyes as we had to pass through wind farms. Tall and robust wind mills were busily converting the wind energy to electrical energy and the road was stretching far towards the horizon. And suddenly, we were in Kanyakumari.IMG_20190116_090807

Since it was holiday time, it was crowded very much. Luckily, we got into the ferry within 10 minutes of waiting ( we got the Rs.200 tickets). The wind was rolling up the sea and the waves crashed all around us. Although we were given life jackets, I felt very unsafe in that big ferry. There was no life jacket for kids and I was constantly worrying about my daughter. Coming to my daughter, she refused to come for the ferry ride as she was frightened of the big waves ( it was extremely windy). However, I calmed her and took her in. Once the ride started, she seemed to enjoy it the most.

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The boat was tossed up and down and I was literally praying that for us to make a safe landing. All went well and we enjoyed looking around the Vivekanandha Rock Memorial.

The return journey to the shore was again frightening. Once we landed, I let out a sigh of relief and vowed never to go aboard on a boat without learning to swim first. We were the last batch to be ferried across. Due to high winds, the ferry ride was stopped. Lucky us!

We then checked out the ‘ Triveni Sangamam’ – the place of confluence of the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and the Indian ocean. It was filthy. Tourists were spitting left and right in the water and this discouraged me to step into the water.

After lunch, we drove to ‘ Tirparappu falls’ that was again an hour’s drive from Kanyakumari. The route was beautiful but the place was crowded. The menfolk went to have a shower while we just lazed in the car( it was a hot afternoon!). We then returned to Kanyakumari, on time, to view the sunset.

The Sunset – A Blissful experience

We parked our car in the ‘Sunset View Point’ beach at 5.20 pm . We had a good time in the water!  By 6 pm, the beach was full of people eager to catch the sunset .  And then the magic began! It was a total bliss to see the sun turn a reddish orange on the horizon and then disappear! Seeing this natural phenomenon in a beach is much more beautiful than watching it in a city amidst the towering buildings. We sat there for a while and enjoyed it to the fullest. My daughter was thrilled beyond words and I am sure she would cherish this experience for a lifetime.

The next morning, we visited the Nellaiappar temple in Tirunelveli. As it was 9.30 am, there was not much crowd in the temple and we were able to enjoy the antiquity, grandeur and serenity of the temple to the fullest. After purchasing the delicious ‘ Iruttukadai Halwa’ ( the shop is usually open at a specified time in the evening, but the halwas are stocked up in a nearby shop called Visaga where we can get it during the daytime also), we packed our bags to return to Coimbatore.

We stopped in Madurai for lunch during the return trip. As there was time, we visited the ‘ThirumalaiNaiyakar Palace’. What a wonderful piece of ancient architecture it was!  With its massive pillars and beautifully painted ceilings, every nook and corner of the palace seemed to reverberate with history.  However, it was very ill maintained ( this will take up another separate post! ) and I was angered at the sad state of this historical monument.

That was the end of the three day trip to the Southernmost Tip of India. We returned to our routine refreshed and rejuvenated and  with lots of wonderful memories!

A Surprise!

Well, it has been more than 2 years since my last post here. Thanks to my ever busy daughter , I did not have a single second to myself, let alone blogging. She is in the happiest, exciting and wonderful phase of her life ( she is just 3 yrs old!) and seeing her grow up has given me and my husband so much happiness! So no regrets for the long absence here.

A surprise meeting of a good friend – a strong, independent woman triggered some of my happy memories. And I just had to blog about it!

This blog has many posts about my life at Ooty. And those who have read them will surely remember the beautiful little house where I lived . It was a chance meeting between the owner and my husband that led to us live in that house. The owner had her own construction business and she had been living in Ooty, for quite some years, with her teen daughter and a faithful dog, Steffy.

She took up residence on the first floor and we had the ground floor. Owing to her daughter’s studies in Coimbatore, she used to visit Ooty during the weekends. She was a strong-willed, independent and a bold woman. She was such a help to us in many ways and her advice helped us a lot during our stay in Ooty. There were some flaws in her too  but then I always saw the better side of a person.

Before she could rent a place in Coimbatore that allowed dogs , she had no other choice but to leave Steffy with us. What happiness it was having that beautiful girl at home! Steffy was an ideal dog. I had  my own dog at that time – Shaggy – a wild fella. Steffy and Shaggy got along well but as Steffy was the senior, Shaggy had to be disciplined most of the times. Steffy was a senior ( almost 12 yrs) and Shaggy was a totally unruly kid ( 6 months). Steffy moved silently and gently through the house while Shaggy was like a runaway wheel.Despite the age gap, the two cuddled up together, shared their food and got along well. I had always dreamed of having dogs running in my house and that dream had become real.  However, my landlady got a house in Coimbatore and soon Steffy moved down with her.

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Steffy

 

I missed ‘Steffy-girl’, her welcome home licks. But there was Shaggy to make up for all that. He drowned me with his love. Life was going good when fate intervened. The husband had to move to Coimbatore for a job transfer. We had to move out of ‘ my dear little home’! A good friend agreed to take in Shaggy as we could not bring him down to Coimbatore. That was the end of one happy phase of my life.

We moved down to Coimbatore in May 2012 and soon got busy with each other’s work. Home – office -home- office – that was the monotonous routine. But then we had another wonderful celebration to look forward to, yes I was expecting! Our little princess came to us on July 2013 and from then on life became been super-duper interesting.

Coming to the present – September 2016 :

I was taking my daughter to the play area in our apartment for her regular evening playtime and guess who I met there? My Landlady of the pretty little house! Whatte a surprise!

Although we got along well with her during our stay in Ooty, the relationship became strained over time. ( I have no idea why this happened!)  The last day in that house was bitter and the last conversation hurt. That was the last time I saw or spoke to her.

I was totally at a loss of words when I saw her and her daughter after all these years. I was not even sure if she would recognise and talk to me. But I made the first move and spoke to her. It was a very formal talk and it lasted not more than 5 minutes. In that small conversation, I managed to find out that Steffy girl was doing well!  But I was flooded with memroies of the ‘ beautiful house’. I am always thankful, grateful to my landlady – the strong, bold woman for being the reason for those happy memories. I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and this sudden surprise meet after so many years may not be just to trigger my memories.Who knows?

#FingersCrossed

Living alongside the Ooty Roses.

When our move to Ooty was confirmed, the first thing that we did was to look out for a cosy house. As it was only the two of us, we were looking for a 1BHK house in a proper residential area within the city. Finally, we fixed one that was located at a walkable distance from the Rose Garden. Unfortunately, this house was too big for us and it was as cold as a refrigerator. We survived there somehow for 3 months when we luckily got another beautiful house. This was a few houses down the old house so we were still in close proximity to the Rose Garden.

Roses reminded me of Daffodils!

It was a bright Sunday morning in February when me ,my husband along with my in-laws walked in to the Rose Garden.As the Ooty season was approaching, the workers were busy cutting, pruning, weeding, watering. I could see every color of a rose!

” Ten thousand saw I at a glance

Tossing their heads in a sprightly dance”

Wordsworth’s daffodils flashed in my inward eye. Every rose was the size of the large saucer and their freshness and fragrance was so bewitching!

Roses and Romance

Inspite of living close to the Roses, me and my husband had never been there except for the first trip with the in-laws. On one of our Sunday strolls, we decided to check out the roses. It was the peak time of the Ooty season and I saw more people than the roses. I was literally pushed through the pathway and managed to get a glimpse of the pretty roses, by peeping over people’s shoulders! So much for a romantic trip! We were out of the garden within 15mts.

A Unique Friendship with a beautiful GSD

There was a shortcut to the Rose Garden from my house and I loved taking this route.During my solitary sojourns, I befriended a GSD girl who was the guard of a big house located on the way to the garden. I learnt that the inmates of the house were only the caretakers who lived in  a small out-house. She used to lie curled up near the gate among the bushes. She barked at everyone who passed the gate. This girl was deprived of company. My love for dogs made me stop every time at the gate just to look at the beautiful girl. At first, she barked at me. Seeing that I was undeterred, she slowly approached me. I began to speak to her softly – she cocked up her ears, listened to me. Slowly she began to trust me and I could see her tail wagging. That was the beginning of our beautiful friendship!

She rushed to the gate as soon as she saw me, allowed me to stroke her and pat her through the bars of the gate. Her big, brown eyes followed me till I turned the corner of the road.

I wanted to see her, stroke her, say goodbye to her one last time before we shifted from Ooty. With continuous packing and seeing to other work, I did not get the chance. Whenever I think of roses, the picture of the solitary GSD comes to my mind more than the beautiful rose garden.

Ever since I came away from Ooty, I have not had the chance to make a trip to the place I loved. I am sure I will visit Ooty sometime and when I do, I will check on my four-legged companion for sure. No excuses.

In Sparrowland !

I had long intended to blog about the fat and plump sparrows that I saw daily, during my one year of happy life at Ooty. As it the #WorldSparrowDay today, I jumped on the occasion to dedicate a post to my little friends.

Sparrows and Ooty

At home

My house was located in a residential area that had a lot of houses clustered together. In spite of this, there was a good amount of greenery around and lots of nook and corners. As a result of this, a variety of birds, especially the House sparrow was seen. Every morning, I would wake up to the chirping of a pair of these sparrows that had built a nest in the EB Box located outside my bedroom window.They were my natural alarm clock! The alarm of a clock would irritate me but these little birds’ chirping was such a delightful sound. I would wake up, go to the window and watch the pair go about their morning duties silently. Unaware of my presence,the birds would rest on the window sill, bump and peck at the glass pane of the window. A day thus begun was always eventful!

Fat sparrow!

One of the pair that nested near my bedroom window – My natural alarm clock!

As I buzzed about in the kitchen, another set of sparrows would pay their daily visit. A creeper grew on the wall next to the kitchen window and the this was a favorite haunt of these birds. They would jump from one branch to the other, chirping to each other. Suddenly one of them would swoop down to the kitchen window and peep in. I would go into silent mode once these sparrows are on the creeper, just to induce them to come into the window. Once they were confident that there was no danger in peeping through the window, I began to leave rice for them to peck. My happiness knew no bounds when finally one of the fat little sparrows, flew in and pecked the rice!

At work

My desk at work was opposite to a window and there were big bushes nearby. These bushes were constantly abuzz with the little birds flying in and out. To work alongside these busy buddies was always a delight!

I would walk back home from work in the evening and I always enjoyed this walk immensely. With the chill air biting at my face and the sun slowly disappearing down the hills, I would walk back home. Very often it rained, but I loved to walk in the rain. As I dragged my tired body up the winding road to my home, the fat little sparrows perched in the bushes and trees nearby would cheer me up considerably. The birds will be there always, no matter if it rained or the sun blazed down.Their chirp-chirp would liven up my spirits and I would forget my worries instantly, I would just stand there and gaze at the fat little busy-bodies – I can never bring about that feeling in words!

Sad state of affairs

Ooty being a hill station had a suitable environment for many birds and that was one reason why the sparrows flourished there. The plains ( especially Coimbatore) are a sharp contrast with regard to the sparrows. Only in the outskirts of the city, far from the congestion of concrete structures, that we are able to sight these tiny birds. People do not want trees anywhere – how will these birds build their nests? Sparrows are fond of nooks and corners in our house verandahs and other such places in the house. But how many of us open up our homes? Almost every home is shuttered up tightly as they prefer privacy and also as every room is air-conditioned. How the hell will these birds survive then?

#WorldSparrowDay is being celebrated by many nature conservation organizations in the city. Rallies, dressing up children as sparrows, distributing pamphlets to create awareness about the need to conserve sparrows are a total waste of resources and time. All I would say is “Open up your hearts and homes to the little birds”. They are an important and integral part of our ecosystem.

Memories of the Himalayan trek – Photo series

Proud Moment in my life – Reaching the Source of Beas river – Beaskund

A big SORRY to all those who were following my trek to the Himalayas, via my blog. Being a mom of an 8 month old girl takes much of my time and I was not able to finish my blog post. Here is the climax of the Himalayan trek!

Subsequent days had the same routine – waking up early by 6 am, tucking in hot tea with breakfast, trekking till afternoon ,exploring till sunset, playtime till dinner and then snuggling into the cosy warm sleeping bags. Every day we gradually climbed to higher altitudes and we could see the snow-covered peaks getting closer to us.

The route was interspersed with little streams and pretty flowerbeds. At times we had to cross across the stream by jumping over the big boulders of rock.

In the process of crossing a stream!

In the process of crossing a stream!

It was a totally different world – it was us and nature, nothing else. We stopped when we felt live having a snack or a drink, took small naps on the grassy slopes without any single worry!

Witnessing an avalanche

Avalanche – I first came across this term in Tintin when Captain Haddock used to bring down the avalanche by shouting at his enemies. I never thought I would witness the same in my life. in our fourth day of the trek, the climate took a turn and it rained during the night. We were all frozen numb and had very little sleep. However the next morning dawned bright and clear. The moment I stepped out of my tent I was stunned – the mountains all around were all glittering with snowy white cloaks. It was such a sight! Suddenly there was a loud rumbling noise and a part of the slope on the mountain opposite to my tent began to tumble-down.

After the avalanche!

After the avalanche!

Yes! I had just witnessed my first avalanche. It was all over in a minute!

At Beaskund – Proud moment!

We were close to our destination now, but it was a tough climb. And a long one too! We cheered each other up on the way and this took us to BeasKund . The youngest member of our team held the Indian Flag proudly upon reaching the source of R.Beas. The river trickled down from the mountain and formed a green pool before flowing down as the Beas river.

Crystal clear, green water of R.Beas.

Crystal clear, green water of R.Beas.

I am at a loss to express my feelings at that particular moment ! Even as I am typing this out, my heart flutters happily with the memories. All of us were elated and soon were clicking pictures to treasure this splendid moment of our lives!

Our team with the Indian Flag!

Our team with the Indian Flag!

Back to earth

When we returned to camp, our guide and the helpers had got pretty little bouquets for each of us!

Beautiful gesture to congratulate on completing the trek!

Beautiful gesture to congratulate on completing the trek!

It was a beautiful gesture and this was followed by a feast ! We were all totally fagged out after the arduous trek and the food vanished like magic! The return journey did not take much time for it was all a descent. We reached Solang Valley, from where we started out, in 2 days. We were back in earth. Yes, I felt that I was in an enchanted fairy land, all those days that I trekked up the mountains. No worries about people, work, study or materialistic things – we never had a bath during the 7 days ! I was in a world where everything around me was beautiful and happy! Nothing gives me more happiness than losing myself in nature and its beauties!

This post is the last of the Himalayan trek series. Hope you have enjoyed the trek as much as I had ! Meet you soon with another interesting travel experience 🙂

Women – From home makers to change makers

Women – From Homemakers to Changemakers

Present generation Indian women are brought up with ‘Study-work-marry-family’ mindset. Right from their childhood, they learn about the important role that they play in a family, from their mothers and women of their family. They are taught to manage their career –family lifestyle; but are never taught as to their important role in shaping the society.

Sarojini Naidu once said that every woman has a duty to perform, apart from her family & job, which is that of serving the society. It need not necessarily be an action that will make the headlines; it can even be a small deed – educating people, creating awareness about social evils, planting trees, caring for the abandoned etc, which will make an impact on the lives of the others in the society. This was said many decades ago, but sadly, even today we do not see many women working for social causes. Movies do come up with women- centric theme that showcases the heroine fighting all odds to stand up for the injustice in her society. But when it comes to reality there are only a very few women social activists in India. When it comes to politics, the number of women can be easily counted.  Why is this trend in our country? Are our women incapable?

Typical Indian Girl

When a girl child is born, the entire family begins to plan her future. They dress her up in pretty frocks, get her stylish accessories in gold, diamond and whatnot, get elegant dolls and kitchen sets. Right from day one the baby girl is exposed to every ‘typical-girl- things’. She learns music, art, dance, cooking, baking,oregami and all that is classified as ‘soft’ and ‘just for a girl’ activities. There are parents who train their girls in sports, martial arts but then they are just a minority. Rest of the girls are condemned to school books and soft activities. Once the girl enters her teenage, her world changes – it is all about fashion, dressing up, music, partying and Facebook.  Our society has defined and restricted a girl’s life to just these elements and the girls are just fine with it.

Current generation girls are highly talented, can multi-task and can be revolutionary if the situation arises. They no longer want to be ensnared in a cage. They want to explore every field and excel men in almost every sphere. However, this is a changing trend only in the higher strata of our society. .  And this minimal change will in no way help to improve the lives of other women in India. They need to think beyond New Year parties, birthday parties, kitty parties. They have so much of talent, ability and power that could be put to much better use. They need to shift their focus from being just beautiful damsels who spend a majority of their time in dressing up, shopping, TV and Facebook .

Change in the grassroots level

Women, especially, homemakers are well capable of coming up with solutions for the most common, day-to-day problems, in a quicker way. This is because they are the ones who come face-to-face with them. This does not mean that they have to become civil servants or contest the elections. Women need to get-together to handle the social issues that are happening at their doorstep.

Here are some ways by which every woman can contribute to the society, right from their homes. This is how I am trying to bring about a change in my society.

  • The women-folk of a colony can come together and organise waste management, increase the green cover and ambience of their colony. All they need to invest is a bit of their time for all other resources are available at their homes – water for trees, waste bins for waste management etc.
  • The educated women can teach the less-privileged children and illiterate women in their locality for free – Education is the basic solution for almost every social issue. Apart from spending time learning to weave, sew, bake etc , home makers can spend their leisure hours after their daily chores in learning about the laws of their country, the rights that they are entitled to as citizens . This will help them stand up against any injustice meted out to them.
  • They can do this at the comfort of their homes without compromising their family, children. They can take turns to represent their colony’s demands to the local corporation and get facilities for their colony.

If every street, colony has this kind of a contribution from its women-folk, it will be very easy for the Government bodies to function. For all that they have to do is co-ordinate with the women team of every colony to effectively implement the government policies. We have a lot of self-help groups that have helped women to become financially independent. But here again, it is through their culinary and craft skills that they make money. They need to think beyond that.

Be the change you wish to see

Be the change you wish to see

Women as change makers

Women in the middle and lower strata of the society are bound by superstitions and traditional customs.  Their family and their children are top priority and they devote their entire life towards the family’s happiness. That is what their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers have done, so they are doing the same.  There is absolutely no wrong in this mindset but then they need to think a little bit about their society, their country too.

Home makers need to come out of this shell and turn as change-makers of their own society. They need to understand their vital role in bringing about a change. This needs a lot of support from the men-folk of the family also. Just as Sridevi’s husband jokes -“ Sashi was born to make ladoos”- in the movie English Vinglish, majority of men opine that women are born only to cook and keep family. This mindset is a major deterrent to those women who struggle to juggle their lives between family and society.

Mothers are the best example for children – A hard-working mother who stands up for her own family and the society will serve as an inspiration for the child. Here is how a mother can go about it.

  • Set an example to your kid. Let them see you being actively involved in transforming the society for betterment. Practice and then preach.
  • Talk to your children – both girl and boy about politics, history of our country and the great leaders who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.  Tell them stories about our freedom struggle and of our brave kings and queens, inculcate a strong sense of patriotism right from their childhood. This is what my parents did to me and my sister and I am sure we will carry it on to our successive generations. When we are facing brain drain with most of our talented youth benefitting other countries, it is the mother who can put an end to this trend.
  • Teach them about our Constitution, the current political trends. Allow them to voice their views on politics. Encourage them to discuss and debate on social issues at home with other family members. Being able to interact with kids due to my role as a part-time teacher, I make sure that they learn some amount of interesting facts about our Country’s history and politics. Narrating anecdotes, short stories related to our freedom fighters helps them to develop interest in a subject that had been deemed to be otherwise boring.
  • Discourage family members from discriminating between a girl and boy’s bringing up. If a girl is interested in world affairs and politics, encourage her. She has just the same rights, capabilities and talents as that of her brother.

No point in complaining or lamenting about the evils and injustices meted out to women. We need to be the change that they wish to see in this world.  This change in the mindset of Indian women, right from the grassroots level will propel India to greater heights.