Restarting, Yet Again.

student-writer-2400pxThe year 2014 was when I last looked at this blog. Would two posts a week be too much to ask? I make the commitment each time but fail to honour it. Why? Is it because I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the task? Or is it because I procrastinate? Or could it be the lack of inspiration? Or blame it on my inability to focus for long periods. Whatever the reason may be, I think it’s time that I started writing again, and write to enjoy it and not because I have a quota of posts to fill. What do I write about? Should it be only about travel and photography? Or should I start writing about other things as well? I thought long and hard about that and decided:

  1. I will write about everything. At some level, everything on earth is a journey. I may even post a short story.
  2. I will write two posts a week. At least for the first three months.

Let us see how that shapes up.

Picture credit: Open Clipart
Advertisements

Forgotten

Traveling is such a joy.

One of the few times where I am the happiest is when I’m traveling. However as you go up the corporate ladder, it invariably becomes one of the sacrifices one has to make.

Another sacrifice was this blog. This blog is A commitment I couldn’t keep.

This short post here is to reaffirm and to recommit to myself to blog very regularly and to travel more often. Will it happen – time will tell.

_N0A9214-2.jpg

Mother’s Love

A mother Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata) and her baby. She is alert and watching for an alpha male, who was bullying all the monkeys around @Bheemeshwari –April 01, 2007

A common and favourite theme for me in my photographs is that of Mother and children. Well, not of the human variety, but from the forests. I am fortunate to have a loving family and parents, and I guess that image is what is reflecting through my photographs.  I have been lucky enough to get a few opportunities in the wild to photograph these beautiful moments. I always say a silent prayer just before setting out on a trip, hoping I’ll get to photograph at least one mother and child. I haven’t been as lucky as I would have wanted, but I am not complaining either! The Maternal Instinct, in my opinion is one of the strongest forces in the world. The first story that comes to mind is the Story of  the brave Milk maid Hirakani and Shivaji Maharaj. (thanks to Amar Chirta Katha when I was growing up)

Hirakani was trapped inside the fortress, because the gates had been shut, and by the royal decree, would not be opened till sunrise. She had to get out to her baby in the village below. She scaled the walls, and climbed down to the foothills, going down a vertical drop of over 2700 meters, so that she could go home to her baby to feed him.

Quoting a Marathi poem
And as she strolled around inside the gigantic fort
Tired and desperate, found a last resort
She found the vertical drop of the hill lacking a fence
Without a slightest fear of death to sense
The mother in her drove away her helplessness
Hiding her milk pots there and she slid/ clung/ down the dizzy ravine
She plunged in through the unknown path and way
where bravest of the men would not travel in day
The thorny bushes scratched her clothes, limbs and face
As she struggled to reach home to feed her child in grace
No danger could have stopped her that night
A mother turned ferocious for a glimpse of her baby’s sight
She reached home and kissed her child passionately
Fed him, touched him and caressed him happily.

Shivaji strengthened that side of the fort, (the eastern side if memory serves me correct) and named it Hirakani Burj, and it still stands today, a long lasting testament to Mother’s love!

A young mother African elephant (Loxodonta africana) suckling her calf at the Samburu National Park, Kenya – Aug 2012

As someone who loves wildlife and spends a lot of time in the wild, I have had ample opportunities to see such instances, both in person and on video.  I have seen a video shot by a friend of a Sambar Mother with her fawn cornered in a pond by a pack of  about 10 Dholes (Wild Dogs). She stands facing these ferocious and hungry pack, thwarting any attack from any side from the pack and an hour later, exhausted, she emerged triumphant, with the pack beating a retreat. You can see an edited version of the video here, shot on location by a friend Jayanth Sharma. I have seen in person, a pair of Plum headed parakeets, chase away a mighty Black Kite on one of my trips to the jungles. They perceived the Black Kite sitting on an adjacent tree to be a threat to their nestlings and they didn’t hesitate for even a minute to attack the bigger bird. The Mother led the attack!

Many such instances can be recounted both from human and natural history. Part of what

The plains zebra (Equus quagga, formerly Equus burchelli), also known as the common zebra or Burchell’s zebra, with her young spindly legged colt. At the Lake Nakuru National Park, Nakuru, Kenya

we are, is because of that strong force – the maternal love that we have gotten from our Mothers.  Her offspring, are a part of her, she has carried them in her, nurtured them, undergone pain in delivering them, and she is definitely going to stand up to any force, however stronger or greater than her, to protect and nurture what she still considers a part of herself.

Which, on another note, is also reason why, Mothers never get over the death of an offspring, where as Siblings and Fathers in most cases manage at least to cope with it! Believe me, I know!

Cheerio!!!!

——————-

EXIF Data For the pictures in the post:

  1. The Bonnet Macaque : Olympus E500 | Zuiko 40-140 @ 128 mm | f 4.3 | 1/500 Sec | ISO 125 | Sunset Mode | ev comp 0 | Handheld | White Balance – Auto | Metering – Pattern | Basic PP on LR3
  2. The African Elephant: Olympus E30 | Sigma 50-500 mm @84mm | f 16 | 1/125Sec | ISO 160 | Shutter Priority | ev comp -0.3 EV | Handheld | White Balance – Manual | Metering – Center Weighted Average | Basic PP & Conversion to Monotone in LR3
  3. The Plains Zebra: Olympus E30 | Sigma 50-500 mm @390mm | f 9.0 | 1/1250Sec | ISO 200 | Aperture Priority | ev comp -1.0 EV | Handheld | White Balance – Manual | Metering – Pattern | Basic PP , increased Black Levels in LR3

The Gentle Cascade of the Baker’s Falls – Sri Lanka

The Silky Gentle Cascade of the Baker’s Falls

I had done a shoe-string budget trip to Sri Lanka last year (April 2011) with a group of 8 friends. It was a 4 day trip with us flying to Colombo from Chennai and the total came to roughly about 13,000/- INR (233$) per head – airfare inclusive. That story is better saved for another day. (I seem to be setting a lot of future posts, but with no idea on how to complete them.)

So there is this friend of mine who is a travel writer and a blogger, and it was he who had organized this whole trip and planned the itinerary.

The 9 Kilometer trek through the Plains

On our itinerary was the Horton Plains National Park (named so in honour of the then British Governor General of Ceylon Sir. Robert Horton. ) in Nuwara Eliya District. Nestled between the foot of Thotapolakanda and Kirigalpottha mountains, the Plains are famous for its birds, specially birds endemic to Sri Lanka and more so endemic to the Horton Plains itself. One of the highlights of a visit to this park is the 9 KM trek through the park. This trek passes through 3 big attractions – the Worlds End, the Lesser Worlds End and the Baker’s falls.

The main attraction of the national park is the World’s End, which is a sheer precipice with a drop of nearly 3000 feet and the Lesser World’s End has a drop of about 900 feet. I must mention that the panoramic view from World’s End is absolutely spectacular and breathtaking.

The other attraction of the park is the Baker’s falls which is named after the famous hunter explorer Sir Samuel White Baker. I haven’t been able to find out if it was named to honour him as a prolific explorer and hunter who honed his skills hunting Asian elephants and Sri Lankan Sambars on the isle or because he discovered it. Legend has it that Sir Baker used to rest at this falls during his numerous expeditions.

A candid shot of a tourist enjoying the cold spray of the falls. Love the way the light plays through her hat onto her face.

This is one of the most beautiful falls in Sri Lanka ( I have seen only two – the other being Ravana Ella) and is not like one of those typical gushing waterfalls we are used to seeing. This falls is on one of the tributaries of Belihul Oya and cascades almost gently from a height of about 66 feet over 3 different elevations, thus creating a silky gentle fall that almost rolls off from 3 different shelves so to speak.

It is a bit of a trek for the non-active traveller, nonetheless worth every bit of effort spent in

Couple of our friends posing The ‘Pose for the family album’ ! 😛

trekking down to the falls. Though bathing in the falls is explicitly banned, the more foolhardy adventurous tourists do go up to the foot of the falls to splash around. The more rule abiding ones stay close to the shore and satisfy themselves in the shallows, which itself is absolutely rejuvenating. The foot of the falls is surrounded by rhododendron bushes, trees, and other vegetation which combined with the cool mist from the falls gives the weary hiker a naturally cool and refreshing rest station!

Baker’s falls comes towards the end of the trek and is a refreshing and fitting end to a brilliant trek through the verdant plains of Horton.

Reaching There:

  1. Via Nuwara Eliya, Ambewela, Pattipola (20 miles/32 km) or
  2. Haputale or Welimada, Boralanda, Ohiya (24 miles/38km) or
  3. Nuwara Eliya, Hakgala, Rendapola, Ambewela, Pattipola (24 miles/38 km). or
  4. Take a train to Ohiya which is the nearest rail head and trek or take a cab to the plains

RoutesSource: http://www.angelfire.com/planet/wildlifesl/hortanplains/horton_plains.htm

Cheerio!!!

Globetrotting with Bread!

The fruits of our labour!

I spent this Sunday at a place called Lavonne for a day of bread making. Kneading flour and getting covered in it was not exactly how I wanted to spend a precious Sunday. I am a home cook who has, after 3 years of owning a Convection Oven cum microwave, started to use it. To date I have baked 2 cakes (which turned out surprisingly well – even though I wasn’t following any recipe on the second one) and 3 batches of cookies – which didn’t look like cookies! So knowing my love for cooking, a colleague of mine booked herself and me into this class. I had said yes thinking it would be just a couple of hours; therefore the cribbing! However, in spite of having had to stand from 10AM to 4PM, I ended up loving every bit of the class.

We had a fabulous instructor – Chef Avin, who patiently explained everything to us, peppering the session with his humor and trivia behind each bread.

The main reason why we enjoyed the class was the passion of Chef Avin – his passion came across in buckets and it was a pleasure to learn from him. He wasn’t just an instructor there, I’d prefer to use the term they use on their website – a facilitator…sharing his knowledge & love for food, and trying to awaken the same passion in us. His last words as we were leaving was “Now on, you people should appreciate the Art of bread making every time you eat bread, and don’t use a knife on it – break it with your hands and eat it!”

I am a fan – a complete fan!  Of baking and bread making. Its funny, I took a course in Handcrafted Artisan Bread and now I want to go back for basic classes. I most definitely will (Note the positive reaffirmations to myself to remind me not to be lazy) be back here with more posts on breads and baking. That is, if I can get my butt off from my couch and haul it across town to Lavonne.

This was my first cooking class ever and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Watching Chef Avin at work was like watching an artiste, a maestro at work… as he lovingly kneaded each set of dough, explaining in detail why we were doing each thing.  Another picture that came to mind on seeing Chef Avin, with his apprentices was of a surgeon with his attending interns in tow and it certainly was like that, with the same respect and love.

Through the food so ye shall know people and lands, said the great Lazy Traveller!

Partybrots and Softrolls before they went into the oven

The breads that we made that day was from five different countries. We started with the Partybrot, which is from Germany, much like our Pavs and we also learnt to make the Soft Rolls from the same dough – twisting, braiding and rolling them. The next one was the Sourdough. Though it is believed to have originated in Egypt, this one took us to San Fransico with all the stories of how it developed and the fascinating trivia behind the Biga or the Starter Dough.

Baguettes and a little left over dough! 😉

Lavash or Cracker Bread

The next stop was Paris and Notre-Dame for the famous Baguettes and intriguing stories of the Baguettes and its makers in French history.  It was interesting to learn that Baguette making was almost a ceremony and that its followed strict rules. Hah!  And, I used to think its ‘just’ bread.  Now from the street cafes of Paris we go across to Italy; Puglia to be precise to sample the Pugliese bread, which is a kind of an Italian hearth bread; humble and crusty and works well as a sandwich or a dipping bread.  Having wandered in the peninsula of Puglia, we now head off to western Asia to sample the Lavash, which is like our crackers and can be savory or seasoned with sesame seeds and so on.  Traditionally baked in a clay oven like the tandoor, we can roll it out thin and bake it at home in our ovens.

Thus, Chef Avin, took us on a culinary journey which lasted for a few hours and opened the doors of bread making to us.

I personally recommend this weekend class to everyone because, it’s a different kind of joy to be making bread (there is a lot of hard work involved) and also because of the young facilitators out there who try to make you love food the way they love it!

The fruition of all that hard work kneading and baking! The Partybrots and the Rolls are missing because we polished them off! 😉

I could have shared the recipes here, but then, that takes the joy out of going to Lavonne to find out. To get your hands dusty with flour and have that great joy of biting into a warm piece of bread that you yourself made and the joy & pride of bringing it home to your loved ones.

Cheerio!!!

PS: The pictures arent of the best quality, because they have been taken on my phone.

CARNIVORE, Nairobi – A ‘must visit’ place, so to speak.

Carnivore Restaurant – off Langata Rd, Langata.
Phone : +254 20 605 933

Before I left on my trip to the Wilderness of Kenya, many colleagues insisted that I MUST go to “The Carnivore.” Well, perhaps the profusion of recommendations shouldn’t have been surprising, given that my love for meat is pretty well known among my friends and acquaintances.

I had heard of The Carnivore long ago from photographer friends, who had raved about the variety of meats served there, including game meat, a menu comprising Zebra, Giraffe and so on. Though deep down I am curious as to how they would’ve tasted, I am really happy that they aren’t serving game meat anymore.

I didn’t have to worry about finding the place or planning a visit, because our tour operator – African Safari Destinations Limited had included a welcome dinner at The Carnivore on Day one. Since we didn’t have anything else to do, we headed out early to the restaurant, and were seated in about 10 minutes at a table facing the pit. The huge barbeque pit is what strikes you first on entering the restaurant. And soon enough you have Charles, with a tray, making the local cocktail, Dawa. Similar to the Mojito or caipirinha, the Dawa is a stiff Vodka poured over ice, lemon halves, honey and sugar. In Swahili, the word means medicine or magic potion, and it is stiff and potent enough to be a “cure-all”! My friend and I had 5 of these cocktails between us, and it cost us about 2800 Shillings (35$).

Here’s where its all done! Rare, Medium, Well done and what not!

The staff was very welcoming and helpful. They took the time to explain everything, and advised us on which sauces and accompaniments to use with which meats. These condiments were placed conveniently on the table on a Lazy Susan.. The staff were able to spend so much time guiding us because the restaurant wasn’t full. I noticed that they didn’t spend even a fourth of this time at other tables once the restaurant started to fill up.

The Sauces for the variety of meats that are going to be PILED onto my plate.

There was a variety of meats served, of which I loved the Pork Spare Ribs and the Chicken Legs: they were cooked perfectly and were succulent. The other meats – beef & pork in its other forms were a tad dry or overcooked. The turkey was not so great, and among the exotic meats, I was served Crocodile meat, Ostrich meat (which again was dry and chewy), Ostrich meat balls (all of which you will get in other places as well) and Ox Balls Testicles.

Savouring the Ox Balls!
Photo Courtesy: http://www.beontheroad.com/

This is how they serve you the meat. This one was Ostrich meat, and it was carved out using a Masai sword.
Photo Courtesy: http://www.beontheroad.com/

As for the quality of the food and the accompaniments, I’d rate the place a 3/5, but I do recommend a one-time visit for the experience. For the ambience I’d rate it a 4/5, especially because of the live serving – where the food is carved off the skewers using Masai Swords at your table. But please be forewarned that this has NOTHING to do with local Kenyan Cuisine, which is best had at one of the local restaurants. Ask your driver to help you. I recommend a G&R restaurant in the Business District where you get good grilled meat or curried meat with the local staples like Iriyo or Ugali or Githeri and so on. At the Carnivore, the non-vegetarian meal – which is essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet, costs about 2500 Shillings (30$) and it was about 2000 for the vegetarian meal – which was nothing to write home about (but then if you’re going to be vegetarian at the Carnivore…). My friend is an ovo-lacto vegetarian and chose (in his words) ‘an almost tasteless vegetable bake’. The desserts were also not great shakes, but merely passable.

The Carnivore Nairobi Menu.

Bottom line: Go for a one-time experience for bragging rights and to be able to claim and that you’ve eaten Ox Balls. My rating is a firm 3 out of 5!

Originally posted on Lonely Planet by TheLazyPhotographer
Cheerio!
Disclaimer: No harm has been done to the Reviewer during the sampling process!

It is indeed a long way home…

This picture was taken in January 2012 in the western Himalayas, somewhere close to the confluence of the Indus and the Zanskar. I love this particular frame, because to me, it indicates the distance yet to be traveled, whether I am the pioneer on that path or not!

It is a long way, a very, very long way to where I wish to be.

This picture was taken on a trip last winter to the Himalayas with three other friends of mine. My friend SS planned the whole trip and he chose winter, because he had been to there multiple times in the Summer, and I agreed to go along, in spite of no experience above 2000 m above mean sea level and no experience in sub zero temperatures. You must think I am crazy. Yes I am, but then, what’s traveling without some minor risks. I say minor because, we planned and prepared for it over a period of three months. The other reason why I agreed was I knew that we would get a lot of different types of landscapes and brilliant blue skies.

The story of that trip is material for at least five to six posts over the next few months, which, I hope to be regular and consistent with. All the best to me for that!

The picture is just a reminder and an affirmation to myself that I still have a long way home!

Cheerio
!!
EXIF DATA:
Olympus E30 | Zuiko 14-45 @14mm | f 3.5 | 1/5000 Sec | ISO 250 | Aperture Priority | ev comp 0 | Handheld | White Balance – Auto | Metering – Pattern | Basic PP on LR3+ Blues only preset.

The First Post – Some of the fun things to do in cochin. Not Kochi :D

A Note:
I started this WP account because:

  1. I am missing writing – used to be a prolific blogger till about a few years back- Nov 2005 to be precise
  2. I love and am passionate about wildlife & travel
  3. Am a photographer (call myself TheLazyPhotographer)
  4. I thought that this would be a fun way to combine everything and also explore an avenue to see if it would fund at least partially, my jaunts.

So, as the first post, I chose an entry from my now defunct blog, an entry about my hometown Cochin (or Kochi) because I think this post is an apt beginning.

This entry was first published on September 7, 2004 and has been reproduced here ad-verbatim without any edits. Any updates or comments are in red italics and within parenthesis. This was  initially written with the idea of developing a whole series, but true to my nature (which I hope to change now) I never got around to it.

Some of the fun things to do in cochin. Not Kochi 😀

Quintessential Cochin – a modern luxury liner, the traditional Chinese fishing nets and the ultra modern docks in the background. This, for me, represents the new Cochin, which has always a cornucopia of cultures and traditions. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Kochi) Fort Cochin May 2011.

This post is for Anita Rodricks,(Anita was the Nome-de-plume of a journalist and I used to love her blogs)a whose blog I have been frequenting for a few months now. I had promised her this entry.

My favourite thing to do is to go to Fort Cochin and hang out there. A section of the city that still bears testimony to the Dutch, French and the British. You can clearly see the influences of the same in architecture, cuisine and the culture. I usually just spend hours walking down the roads and alleys gaping at the buildings, browsing through the antique shops and then stopping for a bite (excellent coffee and continental fare and yummy home made cakes) at Kashi Art Café and settle down with a book there for an hour or so, leaving my mobile phones at home. I have met some really interesting characters at the Café. One of them is a painter called Joshe who was in the news recently because a bishop had his painting banned by the court – a painting of Jesus with a Bindi. I come out completely invigorated after these sessions. There is also the marine walk, with its ancient canons and boilers on display and dotting this are the little shacks selling fish with a difference- YOU BUY, WE COOK. You select your fish and they will serve it piping hot, fried or curried. And the fish is fresh “the day’s catch” as they call it. I love to spend time on the beach, reading. The beach though now is totally dirty with a lot of trash and refuse, still retains its charms.

Another one of my favourite haunts is the maze like alleyways of Mattancherry. Walking down these alleys, with the strong smell of spices (the first spices exchange) permeating the air so thickly that it clings to your clothes you will be lost in a totally different world. Shops selling all kinds of stuff. I found a 1958 issue of theatre arts which carried the first print version of Becket’s Godot in one of the shops there for Rs. 25. The bugger knew I wanted it and hiked it to 25. If I hadn’t had that gleam in my eyes I would have prolly got it for 10. (I am a theatre graduate and was very active in the amateur and school theatre scene at that time) I get my imported liquor and my tobacco from a self styled bootlegger. There is my favourite textile shop “Mathews” a tailor who specializes in kurtas only! He has been making kurtas for 25 years and it was his dad before that. And if you are interested, there’s the Jewish Synagogue and the Palace. I do drop in occasionally. The curator at the synagogue now doesn’t bother to welcome me with a smile. and by the way there are some shops that sell “antiques” and also Belgian glass lamps and a variety of other bric-a-brac. A small restaurant, I forgot the name used to be my favourite there. It’s closed down now. Like my friends say, it closed down since I stopped going. The thought of their appams and ishtew has me drooling already. If I am plush with funds, I immediately take a boat- that’s the best way to go there! I must be crazy.. I go about a kilometer in the opposite direction and then walk to the jetty and board the boat. Get down at the Mattancherry jetty and head to the second hand book vendors first… and then its bargain time 😀 There’s loads more to do here.. including the clichéd tourist packages!

And another one of my favourite things is our impromptu boat parties. (I used to be a working partner & Creative Director at an Event Management Firm, and we used to specialize in parties as well) Someone or the other gets into a crazy trip and hires a boat (another friend’s). It’s a house boat complete with speakers and dance floor lights and a strobe. In a matter of 30 mins all of us – about 20 of us are networked and at the high court jetty with supplies: eats, drinks and smokes. We call in my Deejay from office and it’s tripping on classic rock and hip hop occasionally till around 5- 5:30 am. Had one recently, where I was told I was doing a pole dance on the boat. Didn’t believe it till I saw the clipping on my partner’s mobile. I will perhaps upload that someday. It seems I went really wild, forgetting everything! I was on a major trip with Tull and booze and I was making King of the world a-la-Titanic on the prow it seems. I gave one of our friends a complete lecture on Aristotle and modern stage. OW!!! I’d have kicked the person if somebody was doing that to me.

Phew this has put me into a nostalgia trip. Haven’t done any of these since I took up work at this firm since March. Have to find time to do it again. Dusted my camera and have set it up. Now to go off on one of my jaunts to fort Cochin and island. Another place I love Wellington Island. (the idea was to cover old and charming parts of Cochin… will pick up where I left off sometime soon)

CHEERIO!!!

PS:
Anita, can give you more another time and I forgot to mention: Its sea and sea and more of it here in Cochin and you will never tire of it! An endless blue expanse…Hope you like this…was on my own trip as was writing this:) and didn’t want to sound like one of those brochures that I write for clients  ‘azure blues’ and ‘emerald greens’ and what not. Plus an excuse for an entry:D (Used to moonlight as a content writer as well in those days)