Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Vamsee had tagged me a while ago and the rules were fairly simple. I had to select the 6th picture in my 6th folder and write the story of the picture. To begin with, Ive altered the rules a bit here. Its the 6th picture alright, but its from my latest folder - the Chennai photowalk that started at Dasaprakash and went on till Rippon Building. Ironically the latter is the landmark of the city, but my post speaks of the former.
When Aarti told me that the walk started from Dasaprakash, I couldnt say no . After all, I lived down the road. This was my area and it would be fun to discover it through a lens. Secondly, the hotel has several fond memories - of playing as a kid, enjoying the icecream in the parlour , meeting friends and being treated by parents in the restaurant. The dasaprakash dosa was the most delicious dish ever tasted. This was of course years before fast and junk food took over our lives .
Sadly however, the hotel doesnt offer services anymore .In fact no one knows whether it does or not, but it has an empty look about it.The picture says it all. Family disputes followed by litigation, union strikes have been the cause - but if rumours are to be believed, there is a talk of a buy over and a revival. Until then, the landmark lives on as a reference to the traffic junction opposite the building,as one haggles with the auto driver .
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Travelling is often passing one milestone and moving on to the next. I am now back in Bangalore and lazing around in the summer heat.My thoughts however go back to the photowalk in Chennai last Sunday.
I walked up to the milestone(in the previous post) to take a picture of it from the other side. It was at the intersection of Egmore over bridge and Poonamallee High Road in Chennai. With all the muck lying around, it was written in Tamil -
Poondamallee - 22kms
Bengalore - 328 kms..
The Poonamallee High Road leading to the village is one of Chennai's main arteries and it also connects to the highway - NH4 between the two cities. Well, I didnt take the road this time, but the late evening train. By road or rail, commuting time between the two cities is just under 6 hours (oops - had written years by mistake..my dad called to correct it..and in the meanwhile quite a few comments as well..)
Sunday, February 22, 2009
A friend seeing my status on Facebook asked me "What, you are on a jaunt again ? " I relied saying " Home ." The status said that I was heading to Chennai aka Madras . His prompt reply was "I thought Bangalore was home." I was planning to reply - " Bangalore is where I live, but Chennai is home ." I went for a photowalk today, my second and the 17th organised by the photowalkers . The walk was not just in my hometown, but also in my locality and even though the weather was very hot , I couldnt resist the walking down the streets .Incidentally, my story on the birth of the city was published in Jet Wings in the January issue.
(The milestone says 3 Km to Chennai - from Egmore over bridge to Fort St George -Parry's corner )
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The 40 kms stretch of the Cauvery in Karnataka is home to Mahseer, one of the most famous sport fish loved by anglers all over the world."Angling is all about a game of wits between the fish and the angler and the mahseer, 100 pounds and more gives a real fight ..."
I made an unplanned day trip to Bheemeshwari, on the banks of the river where Jungle Lodges runs its Cauvery Fishing Camp. I was listening to a presentation on angling and eco tourism and was fascinated by the mahseer. It is indeed a big fish and a prized catch .I had been there a decade ago to do a TV show on the location and it was wonderful getting there again ..
My Bheemeshwari trip was courtesy JLR who had a IFS training camp for all IFS officers across the country..And it was wonderful listening to some wonderful presentations on eco and wildlife tourism in an eco-wild setting..Needless to say, I did see some jackals , a small snake , the Indian giant squirrel , plenty of avifauna including the wagtails and stood fascinated as a gillie showed us how to catch a Mahseer .
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
“ Can you see that light, madam ? It has seven bulbs.” Balu points across the vast expanse of waters to a long horizontal contraption with outstretched rods. ”That’s a Cheena vala,” he says, referring to the Malayalam word for the Chinese fishing net believed to be brought into Kerala by the 14th century Chinese mariner, Zheng He.
I am at the Ashtamudi Lake , near Kollam sailing around the islands .Balu is from the local resort and is accompanying me on my morning cruise.He speaks fluent Tamil and Hindi and says he picked it up from the tourists .
The entire water scape is littered with these shore operated stationary nets. Long metallic and wooden rods jut out into the waters ,held in place by ropes. We sail a bit closer to take a look. The structures are more than 10 metres high .The rods stretch out as the birds perch on them and nets are outstretched on them.
Balu explains the process and says that fishing usually starts in the night. A net can be operated by a team of about five fishermen. They normally lower the net and submerge it at a certain depth. The lights suspended from these rods are placed on the surface of the waters and are used to attract the fish and crustaceans. The electric cable stretches out from the fishermen’s homes from the bank to the contraption .
“You can find more than 1000 of them ,” he says referring to the Chinese fishing nets . Popular in Kochi, , they are used by the local fishermen here to catch mainly prawns and crabs. Balu tells me that on a lucky night, the catch can be anything around 4-10 kgs.
We move on passing islands and islanders as Balu points out to “seacrows” .These cormorants were perched on the rods that were immersed in water. “This is Karimeen fishing,” he says referring to the pearl spot fish which is a delicacy in the backwaters.According to him the fishermen promote breeding and even cultivate “fish sanctuary.”He shows me the fish which is probably the size of the palm .
“The fishermen , even women catch by hand,” explains Balu , “We call it Vellavali.”I ask him about the rods and he explains that they are stems replanted on the waters . The fish he says feed on the leaves of plants that are littered below the surface .Stems are placed above the water and the nets are cast around them to catch them in the night. I listen fascinated as Balu tells me that lanterns are used by the fisher folk and karimeen auctions happen early in the morning .
It is Sunday and the backwaters are silent. It is a five day week for the fishing community. As we sail back, Balu sums up ,” There are different kinds of specialists for various varieties of fish and each technique is different from the other, even the nets ..” Its amazing, I thought how we take such simple things for granted.
The Inside Story is a fortnightly column published in the Metro Plus, The Hindu every Monday. Its not my story, but the story of the destination . I decided to reproduce some of my published columns and start a new series.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I went to Kollam (Quilon near Trivandrum, Kerala )beach in the afternoon-obviously not the right time to be there. However the endless stretch of sands caught my attention with the striking contrast of colours..difficult to pick my fav pic as I took quite a few with two different cameras. But I liked this for the sheer depth .
On a different note, its been 25 days since I left home and I finally came back to Bangalore to spend a week at least. I will be heading back to Madras soon and hopefully everything will be sorted by March..Funny how life takes you through a journey on its own ..
Friday, February 06, 2009
The breeze had just set in clearing the overcast clouds .The coconut trees gently swayed ,touching the backwaters which lashed against them. I stand at the edge of this wide shore and take in the scene , as Dr. Ratheesh joins me , exclaimining.“ This could not have been done by a human.. ..” I look up to see him holding a book on Ayurveda.
“Can you imagine 4000 years ago..getting all the herbs from various parts of the country and mixing them in the right proportion ? I mean there was no documentation at all ,” adds the doctor about this science of life.
I am in God’s own country , getting a taste of God’s own medicine at Svaastha, an ayurvedic spa in Ashtamudi. The doctor goes on to explain that Brahma, the creator of this science has passed on the formula to Dhanavantri, the divine doctor . “It is part of Atharvana veda, created by Gods and preserved by man .” he says.
A lone boat comes into the horizon. The Ashtamudi Lake stretches out in front of my eyes with the coconut trees interrupting the seamless flow.Several small islands are home to locals who live in these backwaters. “It is called Ashtamudi for you can almost see eight branches of waters joining the Arabian Sea like an octopus’ arms ,” describes the doctor
The second largest lake after Vembanad and yet , tourism is a recent phenomena here .Shades of blue emerge from the waters as I was lost gazing at the colours.It is one of the best kept secrets of kerala.. It seems to be the perfect setting - not just to discuss Ayurveda, but to pamper the self with an Ayurvedic massage. I am spoilt by choices - from a traditional massage to various spa treatments, Svaastha promises a balance between body, mind and spirit. But before that, a complete diagnosis follows as the oils are chosen accordingly.
“Yours is a pitha-vatha combination.” Says Dr Ratheesh . He refers to the bio energies in the human body - vatha,pitha and kafa .”Vatha is air and ether, pitha is fire and kafa is water and earth. “ he explains as ayurveda is based on these five elements called Panchamahabudhas .”
My eyes close as a heady fragrance lulls me to sleep. The distant flicker of the lamp goes slowly out of focus. A lilting melody floats out of nowhere. “It is the jasmine flavour,” she says softly by way of introduction. The kohl brimmed eyes smile at me coyly. “This is the Shrishruka thailam .It treats sinus,”she adds. I open my eyes as she pours the oil from a miniature bronze jar onto her palms. Sandhya, my therapist is a demure young woman whose delicate fingers work magic on my scalp .
I try not to think. After all massages are about shutting your mind and pampering your body. The fingers soothe every ache and coax the rigid muscles as they move from the head to the neck .I feel the essence of ayurveda inside me - a harmony of mind, body and spirit . I float into semiconsciousness . The wooden bed is soaked with the oil –Pinda thailayam as Sandhya deftly strokes my body, caressing and fondling it . She suddenly pounds it and awakens every dormant muscle. Her fingers go deep,the strokes get faster and then she gently lets go .I become limp and let my senses take over .The herbal steam lets my skin glisten as the warmth seeps into my body.
I step out ,rejuvenated and the beauty is mesmerising. The calm lake add to the serenity. Small clusters of clouds float in the sky. The Chinese nets lay scattered on the waters as the fishermen are waiting for the night to dawn. I ask Dr Ratheesh as to why he chose to become an ayurvedic doctor . He laughs, amused .”As children, we used to go only to ayurvedic doctors even for a cold or fever like the way you go to a doctor..its quite common in Kerala .There are universities teaching ayurveda here like allopathy ,” he adds, saying that he graduated from Trivandrum after a five year course.
I wonder how an ancient science like ayurveda has become an exotic treatment, restricted largely to resorts and a few centres.”Thats because tourism thrives on wellness , but ayurveda can even be used for surgery ,” explains the doctor adding that there are nine branches of ayurveda which includes general medicine, surgery,ENT, pediatrics,toxicology, gynecology ,psychiatry,infertility and antiaging Reading my mind, the doctor continues,”.The basic principle of surgery as we know today was earlier created by Susruta,but after the advent of Jainism and Buddhism , dissection as we understand today was not encouraged..then of course, western medicine took over..”
I sip cool coconut water and walk around the small herbs garden.My initiation into ayurveda continues.”There is hardly any documentation. Families have preserved the various formulae on palm leaf and hand written manuscrips and they have been handed down every generation.Thats how this science has actually survived across centuries.”
I watch as cormorants dip their beaks into water and look for their morning catch. There is complete silence but for the breeze . The landscape is devoid of people , but for us. I look at the vast expanse of water, the sun’s rays stroking it, the birds and the islands..Its little wonder why Kerala is called Gods own country. The doctor’s words come back “Svaastha or Ayurveda is a balance of body,mind and spirit.”Standing on the fringes of the Ashtamudi lake, I feel the balance restored inside me.
Kollam or Quilon is the closest town to Ashtamudi as its on the banks of the lake. The lake connects to the Arabian Sea forming an estuary and it can be viewed from the Needakara bridge enroute to the Kollam town. The beach at Kollam and the old lighthouse at Thangasherry are some of the common sightseeing options for tourists.
PS - Some of you have read this story in CLAY, however I wanted to post it on my blog as well. It has been published in The Hindu-Metro Plus segment in Chennai, Bangalore and Kochi .Click here .I want to acknowledge that most of the pics of the lake were taken by my husband, Sharath
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
"Have you put it on the blog ?" My dad asked me last week when he was shifted to the ward after spending almost six days in the CCU at Apollo Hospitals .I smiled in relief, telling him that I had no time for the blog, but had send twitter updates from my mobile phone .I had no net access either. My sense also was that he didnt want me to blog about it.But now that he has come home,Ive finally found some time to blog. Thanks everybody who enquired after my health and that of dad ..I will probably be another week in Madras and although my laptop has crashed now, I will definitely be back in touch in a week's time and catch up with all your posts.