Serene


This isn’t the first time that a Chennai beach forms the setting for a post. And it probably won’t be the last. And every time I have written about the waves, it has always been with fondness, and serenity.

This week’s photo challenge, Serene comes at the most appropriate time. It has been a month of blogging madness—and a deeply fulfilling creative extravaganza. It’s perhaps most fitting, that NaBloPoMo culminates in that experience, which it perhaps the closest to me.

I wrote previously about the rather sad state of the Marina beach in Chennai. The Elliot’s beach, more popularly called the Besant Nagar beach, fortunately, does not share the same fate, and is my favourite place to visit early in the morning for relaxing—especially during Margazhi.

Besant Nagar Beach
A quiet stretch of sun, sand, and the sea, next to Arupadai Veedu Murugan Temple, Besant Nagar

Photo taken with a Moto G3, edited with Befunky.


This is the 30th, and last post of this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano. Tomorrow, I won’t have the pressure of posting something. A chance to put my blogging feet up for a while, take a short break, and try to put myself back into a more sane routine.

Throughout this month, on most days I had absolutely no clue what I would post about, often till the moment I began typing. And every time, I surprised myself. I almost didn’t participate, because I am still recovering from the health crisis I put myself into last year. But it has been an absolutely amazing journey, and you, my friends, have been the best part of this journey. To each and every one of you, who has read, liked, rated, shared and commented, thank you.

A happy reader makes it all worthwhile.


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Behind the sounds


Entering the bar, the small stage was straight up ahead—the drums, electric guitars, the tabla, all set up, lit beautifully. The mikes stood straight, the huge speakers on either side waiting for the music to flow through them.

The few seats on the left were exclusively for patrons; the bartenders were on the right.

9:40 pm.

“The show should begin at 10,” Vikram tells me. “I guess we’re waiting for more folks to turn up. We’ve sold 150 tickets!”

Standing at the back of the bar, just beside the entrance, Vikram is busy fine tuning the settings on the mixer. He’s a seasoned professional—I find out that he’s been with Indian Ocean for a while now, and he’s also worked with Euphoria.

“So, these gadgets interest you?”

“Well, yes. I do find them rather fascinating.”

“These are digital ones, the sound isn’t as great as analog. You know, like how digital doesn’t match up with film.”

“Digital? But where’s the touch screen? I see all these physical sliders”

He hit a button to the left of the console, and all the sliders danced their way into different positions.

Oh.

We continue to talk about our digital society, and how it has impacted the way we work, the way we live. And then we get back to the music. We look towards the stage. The crowd had swelled up a little. “The view may be good there, but the sound isn’t going to be as good. That zone there, in the center, that’s the worst place to be. You won’t hear the beat at all!”

So what was the best place to be?

“‘Round here along the gates!”

Coming up INDIAN OCEAN live!

A post shared by Atul Srivastava (@chitraakriti) on

10:30 pm

The band members finally take the stage, and we step away to let Vikram do what he does best.

We cheer and hoot along with the crowd. Some voices request the popular songs. “Bande!” “Kandisa!”

Deeply engrossed in the music, some in the audience sway around with their eyes closed, oblivious to other people’s gaze. And some others, sway with eyes wide open, a drink in one hand, and a hookah in the other, pretty much oblivious to their own selves.

We stay at the back just as Vikram had told us; but only after the first song. We wanted to feel the difference in sound for ourselves, and stood in front for a while, before moving to the back.

11:30 pm

After playing their lesser known songs, the band finally gives in to the requests of “Bande!” And the audience suddenly grows larger.

The first request fulfilled, the crowd insists on Kandisa. The musicians tease the crowd. A few more songs, and the crowd grows restless. Two men, who had had more music than they could handle begin singing Kandisa by themselves.

12:15 am

The first few notes play, and we dance along to the tunes of “Ma Rewa”. The band and the crowd play together—a jugalbandi with a difference. And then the final song of the night. The crowd has now swelled to its fullest strength. This is what they’d been waiting for all night. “Kandisa Alahaye, Kandisa Esana…” the crowd’s voice drowns out the singers’. The strings and the classical vocals fill up the hall, and we sway and sing along too, with one eye set on the watch, the other out to avoid those who had transcended into a different zone altogether.

We give out a loud cheer and clap for the musicians out in the front, and equally for the supporting team standing at the back, who stood sane and still, concentrating on making sure the sounds were just right.

As we make our exit into the cold morning, out of the corner of my eye, I catch Vikram giving a high five to his assistant. All in a night’s work.

Behind the music
Vikram with his muse

This is post #29 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


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The mocking mural


Have you ever felt like the universe is sending out messages to you? I ask because that’s what I’ve felt lately. Take for instance, this chain of events that have taken place over the past two days.

Yesterday, quite by accident, I came across a TED talk by Manoush Zomorodi, in which she explains the connection between boredom, or ‘spacing out’ and creativity. She conducted a challenge with her radio listeners, and asked them to switch off connectivity, and actually experience boredom. As she continued explaining, one of the things that struck to me was this:

Some of them (the people who took the challenge) told me that they didn’t recognize some of the emotions that they felt during challenge week, because, if you think about it, if you have never known life without connectivity, you may never have experienced boredom.

Watching the video, I couldn’t help feel smug. After all, I belong to the generation that grew up without affordable & accessible connectivity. I was also a very very reluctant social media user—mostly because of privacy concerns (I signed up for Instagram only last week!) I thought to myself, ‘we’d always find ways to remove the boredom from our lives through creative pursuits. What a pity, the youngsters of today have no idea what it was like, without phones and apps!’

In reality though, I was in denial. Over the past two days, Atul had chided me for looking at the phone constantly, checking my notifications, and not realising that there was tons of work to be done. (I’ve heard very similar rants from my parents too!) Okay, so maybe I was a bit caught up with this month-long challenge. “It’ll be different after November,” I had protested.

Today, I visited my Alma mater, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, and saw these beautiful murals outside the cafeteria. As has been the case for quite some time, my friend Ankita and I took out our phones to take pictures.

Murals at Shaheed Bhagat Singh College
Fascinating and beautifully detailed murals by the students of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College

“So, are you going to post these to Facebook?” I asked her. “Oh, it’s not me, it’s you who’s going to be posting it!” she replied with a hint of mischief.

And that did it. With this chain of events coming together, the full effect of my denial towards my phone addiction, stood mocking at me.

Here’s a closer look at what I saw.

What was most ironical, was that my smug attitude about my immunity to social media addiction was clearly illustrated by the very generation of students whom I had pitied just yesterday.

I believe in signs, and when so many clues point in the same direction, it’s definitely a sign.

Here’s the full video of the TED Talk:

(If you’d rather read than watch, visit the TED transcript here)


This is post #25 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


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The haveli next door


Lal ghat is perhaps the most tourist-y area of Udaipur, filled with havelis-turned hotels. Most of the hotels and cafes in the areas now boast of roof-top dining, and we explored as many as we could. One particular one, though, stood out. Jaiwana haveli was highly rated on Trip Advisor, and we headed straight there after our visit to the Monsoon Palace.

“Is the roof-top cafe open?” I asked at the reception. “Yes, it is! And if you’d like to use the washroom, then it’s on the ground floor—there isn’t any upstairs!” The man at the reception smiled and answered. We thanked him and then climbed up the narrow and steep staircase to the open-air dining area. It was around eight o’clock,and it appears that we were the early birds that night. The tables were all empty, and we took the best seat in the house—the corner table, with a splendid view of Lake Pichola and its illuminated islands. We picked our menu, and then immersed ourselves in the soft sounds of the waves of the lake and pleasant rain washed air. We could see portions of the City Palace in front of us, and all the heritage hotels—which were once palaces—on the opposite side of the ghat. Below us, were a few anchored boats, and other rooftop cafes, and way off in the distance, was the hill we had just visited. And then, out of nowhere, came a loud noise, startling us.

We looked around. There was an elderly lady seated behind us, and having recognized our searching glances, she offered an answer. “That’s the cultural program at Bagore ki haveli. It takes place every evening.” In the darkness of the candle-lit night, we couldn’t see her face clearly, but something in her voice sounded gentle and elegant. We continued to talk, and asked her about the other items on our list of things to do, and how might we plan them.

Shortly after, our delicious dinner arrived, and we noticed the lady giving instructions to some of the waiters. That’s when we realised, she was probably part of the management of the hotel, if not the owner.

The staff treated us so beautifully, it was hard to believe, especially after the harrowing time we had experienced at another famous tourist destination (more on that in a separate post). They thanked us multiple times and asked us to review them on Trip Advisor. This sweet hospitality, we later realised was common to all the cafes we visited. We made a mental note of the service, and decided that we’d visit again.

As we were winding up, other tourists began trickling in, and the moment we got up, one staff member placed a placard on our table. It was marked “Reserved”.

Bagore ki haveli Panorama
Bagore ki haveli with Tripolia gate, along Gangaur ghat

Before we visited Udaipur, our itinerary included the sound and light show at City Palace. Having heard the cheers of the crowd, and the recommendation by the lady at Jaiwana haveli, we decided to skip that and attend the cultural programme instead—a decision we are very thankful for!

The next morning, we visited the museum at Bagore ki haveli, and returned in the evening for the cultural show.

While my phone wasn’t able to capture the beautiful ambience atop Jaiwana at night, here are some pictures atop the haveli next door—Bagore.

Lake Pichola Panorama
Panoramic view of Lake Pichola atop Bagore ki haveli
View from a window of Bagore ki haveli
View from one of the windows of the haveli
The Chhatri in water
The chhatri in the water

Photos taken with a Moto G3. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream


This is post #22 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Puppets


One of the exhibits at Bagore ki haveli, is a hall filled with puppets—of colourful Rajasthani men, women and animals. I’ll let the puppets introduce themselves:

The Durbar
Recreating the Durbar

We are only puppets, our strings are being pulled by unknown forces.
― Georg Büchner

The Dancer
The dancer
The Queen
The Queen

“Sometimes when I’m writing, I wonder if the words have a mind of their own, and if they’re really just using me as a puppet to manifest themselves.”
― Travis J. Dahnke


Photos taken with a Moto G3, edited with Befunky. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream


This is post #21 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

The other Victoria Memorial


Victoria memorial in India is pretty much synonymous with Kolkata. But Allahabad has its own version too. Built with Italian limestone, this monument was opened in 1906. It resides in Chandrasekhar Azad Park (named in honour of the freedom fighter), originally called Alfred Park (to commemorate Prince Alfred’s visit to the city), and commonly known as Company Bagh (possibly a reference to the East India Company). Hey, don’t ask me why so many names!

Here are a couple of shots taken on an early morning in September.

Victoria Memorial, Allahabad
Straight on

There used to be statue of the Queen, to whom this was dedicated. Since its removal, the open skies have filled in.

Victoria Memorial, Allahabad
Up close, in perspective

This is post #20 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

The Tibet in Delhi


Earlier today, we visited Kashmere Gate. About a kilometer from the historical site is an old Tibetan refugee settlement. Within the settlement is a Tibetan monastery, and a thriving market, popularly known as the Monastery market. Our main agenda today was to visit this market. Despite the peak rush hour—Sunday afternoon—we managed to explore the shops and lightened our wallets a bit (okay, make that a lot!)

My real aim today, though, was to visit the Monastery. The Tibetan Monastery has been on my wishlist of places to visit for almost two years now. Despite having lived for over two decades in this city, I had no idea of its existence, until early last year, when I asked a Buddhist colleague of mine where she went to pray.

Having come all the way to the market, we made a quick stop at the Monastery. It may not be as large or grand as the ones in the traditionally more popular Buddhist cities, but it was every bit spiritual.

Tibetan Monastery, Delhi

We admired the seated Golden Buddha, and for a change, we took no photos of the interiors. There were many devotees, several of whom were dressed in traditional attire; and we felt it would be insensitive to behave like crazy tourists. We turned to leave, when a middle aged gentleman stopped us. “Have you taken the prasad (sacred offering)?” he asked us. And then quickly went inside and brought our two cloth bags and gave them to us.

We asked if it was a special day. Indeed, it was. It was the third, and last day of an annual fast, and an auspicious day, that we had happened to visit. Lucky coincidence, or divine intervention? I’ll leave that question alone; the world works in mysterious ways.


Photo taken with a Moto G3, edited with Befunky. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream and Instagram feed.


This is post #19 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Art for all


The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.

–Pablo Picasso

Which is why, perhaps, it must spill out of the halls of exhibitions and galleries, and enter the public space.

Tray of stones
Three course meal

Perhaps it was the influence of Mario, or the general laid back ‘hippie’ culture that is now synonymous with Goa, that encouraged art to spill on to its streets — from graffiti on the rocks, to sculptures at street crossings.

Graffiti at Palolem
Graffiti on the rocks. Palolem beach, Goa
Close up of sculptures
Sculptures at a crossing in Calangute, Goa

Check out more street art from around India: Chennai, Darjeeling, Puducherry

Oh my! What sharp teeth you have!
Oh my, what sharp teeth you have! Graffiti at Palolem beach, Goa

This is post #17 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Pots of fire


“I don’t think we’ll be able to catch the dance show. They’ll probably cancel it with this much of rain.” Sitting on a bench around a tree in the courtyard of the City Palace, two umbrellas and the narrow roof above us couldn’t prevent us from getting wet.

Earlier that day we had visited Bagore ki haveli and had seen the venue of the cultural program conducted every evening—an openair theatre assembled in the courtyard of the heritage building with a shamiana for a roof.

The stage
The Stage

Eventually, the clouds decided to pause the shower. We left the Palace and walked towards Gangaur Ghat. We stopped for coffee and a cinnamon roll at one of the cafes to recharge our (and my phone’s) batteries and then walked over to the haveli.

Tripolia
Tripolia—three tiered gate of Bagore ki haveli. Just beyond the gate is Gangaur Ghat

We looked at the ominous clouds and asked the guard about the program. “Oh! Don’t worry about the rain! We have all the provisions here. The show is definitely on.”

We bought our tickets as soon as the counter opened and then proceeded towards the theatre. The key to getting a good seat is being the first to enter. We weren’t the first, so the best we could manage was the second row at the mattresses laid out in front of the stage, barely a few feet from the stage.

7 pm. The musicians began performing the rather cliched Rajasthani folk song ‘Kesariya balam’. Soon after, the emcee walked out and welcomed the audience. The stage was ready for some very colourful peformances. First up, Chari dance.

Chari dance is a folk dance performed traditionally by ladies from the Gujjar community of Rajasthan. Living in the desert, ladies often travelled for miles to collect water in a ‘chari’. It is the celebration of this ritual of collecting water that is depicted in this folk dance.

Pots of fire
The ‘Chari’ waiting to be lit for the programme

Just as the emcee finished explaining the significance of the dance, the show began—on the stage in front of us, and from the heavens above.

In walked the ladies, dressed in colourful traditional attire, balancing pots of fire on their heads. Down came the shower of raindrops, applauding their entrance. The shamiana held up rather well.

The ladies clapped and swayed, moved around in circles and spun more times than my head could count. Out they walked to thunderous applause, drowned under the sound of the downpour.

Spinning
Spinning with a pot of fire on her head!

There were more dances, followed by the puppet show. Traditionally, it is the puppets who take centre stage, and the puppeteer stays behind a screen. But at this show, the puppeteer takes centre stage, revealing his craft.

The most thrilling performance came, quite fittingly at the end. A lady entered, balancing two pots on her head. Dancing gracefully, she made her way to the table kept at the back of the stage. She placed her hand on the raised floor behind the table, and then placed her palm on her forehead—a salutation to the stage.

She climbed up the table, still balancing the pots. And sat down. She bent forward, and picked up a kerchief placed on the table, with her lips.

The crowd applauded.

She climbed down, an assistant came and placed more pots on her head. In the meanwhile, another assistant unrolled a cloth package on the table. Out came shards of glass. She went back to the stage. She made the saluting gesture, and climbed above the table again.

We may have been seated on the floor, but we felt edgy. More than once my hands clutched my face. If the pots on the head and the shards of glass were not enough, the shamiana overhead was threatening to give way under the weight of the rain. A few drops of water were beginning to trickle down.

We all gasped in silence. I was too nervous to take any more pictures, my palms pressed against each other, in front of my face, praying with the dancer, as she walked on the table and began thumping her feet on the glass.

Dancing on glass
Pots on her head, glass beneath her feet

We all collectively heaved a sigh of relief and applauded for the marvelous performance.

The assistant climbed up a chair, and we assumed it was to help her unload. But no. There were more pots coming.

Eight! The crowd cheered, and the applause didn’t stop. Nine! We all went crazy.

And then the musicians began singing that classic song, “Dama dum mast kalandar”. Ten! The crowd went wild. We were certain the cheers of the crowd could be heard a few blocks away—we knew because we had heard the loud cheers of the audience the day before!

As the emcee walked out to wrap up the show, the crowd still applauding the performance, he announced something even more bewildering. The lady who had just captured our imagination was a ripe seventy years old!

If you visit Udaipur, be sure to catch the cultural show, and please buy the tickets for the camera. Most of the arts on display are on the verge of extinction, and the proceeds of the tickets are the only way these arts can be sustained.


Photo taken with a Moto G3, edited with Image Composite Editor and Befunky. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream


This is post #15 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

The temples of Mylapore – a photo story


Mylapore is to Chennai, as Chandini Chowk is to Delhi. One of the oldest residential areas of Chennai, Mylapore is home to a colourful bazaar as well as a number of temples. Last year, we decided to explore this area on foot.

We began our journey at the Kapaleeshwarar Kovil.

Gopuram at entrance of Kapaleeshwarar Kovil

Of the numerous beautiful temples of Tamil Nadu, the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore, Chennai is one of my favourites. The detailed sculptures on the gopurams, the elaborate kolams on the floor, and the peaceful ambience of the temple always leave me spellbound.

Kapaleeshwarar Kovil

We then walked towards Santhome Basilica. On the way, we saw a beautiful Jain temple.

Jain temple in Mylapore

The temple was closed, so we continued walking.

Santhome Basilica

Being Christmas time, the Church was decorated with colourful linen and stars.

Inside Santhome

San Thome Basilica was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, after demolishing the original Kapaleeshwarar Temple which stood on the grounds.

There is a small museum next to the Church which has architectural remains from older constructions, including some distinctly Dravidian motifs. Strangely, the plaques on the exhibit attribute it to the Church, even when the stone sculpture is clearly distinct from the rest of building materials on display.

Our next stop was the Marina Beach Lighthouse.

Marina Lighthouse

No, we didn’t have to climb all the way up. But it sure was interesting to look down the flight of stairs!

Staircase inside the Marina Lighthouse

The viewing area at the top of the lighthouse is quite narrow, and it was quite crowded. Nevertheless, the view was amazing!

Marina Beach from the lighthouse

With the sweeping panoramic views of the beach done, we decided to walk towards the sea.

Sadly, the state of this world-famous beach was not as beautiful as its surroundings. Nearer the sea, the beach looked more like a dump yard than a space to relax in. The only solace, for us, was the sounds of the sea – the waves caressing the sand and filth with equal warmth. Humanity may attempt to seek redemption and forgiveness through spiritual and religious pursuits, but isn’t it ironical how that concept of cleanliness, that is the holiest of them all, is still some distance away?*

Our route map:


* I don’t mean to pick on Chennai. In fact, it is a relatively cleaner city, as compared to many of its northern counterparts (especially the temples).


This is post #14 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging