About me

Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie..

Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... Love reading books- sometimes i read 3books simultaneously, crazy about music- need it all around me, all the time and ofcourse, i totally am ga ga goo goo over my 7yr old naughty brat- Floppy!! errr, Prince Floppy!! :)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Skywatch Friday... Astronomy and science- Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

And what a glorious morning it was. We woke up to see the gentle drizze through the window, the spotted deer grazing in the park nearby and pigeons all over the place, probably looking for shelter from the rain. We decided to go explore a few places near the Hawa mahal- maybe the City Palace and Janta Mantar. 

We hailed an auto and reached the entrance within 10mis and noticed a small queue already there. We waited near the entrance for the gates to open and then were told that we had to go around the corner to pick up tickets! D'oh! Hoping the gentle drizzle did not transform into a crazy shower, we went ahead bought the tickets and entered the complex. I have read about Jantar Mantar and knew it was all about science, but was not prepared for the massive interesting structures scattered through the space. 

The 1st plaque gave us a sneak peek into the story behind the name. The name is derived from jantar  which meant "instrument" and mantar  was referring to the "calculations". And so, Jantar Mantar literally translates to  'calculation instrument'. 

As we wandered through the vast open space, with the gentle drizzle constantly falling on our heads, we were feeling high and chirpy. The weather was beautiful, the place was majestic and overlooking the city palace. 

A guide was taking a group of spaniards giving them information in Spanish. I stood fascinated, trying to catch the words and see if I could remember what I had learnt. 

The previous day I had picked up a book about the places to see in Jaipur which had a bit of information about Jantar Mantar as well. It said Maharaja Jai Singh II, the king who founded the 'pink city' was a great scholar and an avid astrologer. He had studied philosophy, architecture,astrology and religion in various schools and was very familiar with universal mathematical concepts -Euclid's Clements, Ptolemy's Syntaxes and the Master works of Aryabhatta. 

In 1718 he decided to build an observatory which drove him to study astronomy. He then went on to build five different conservatories across North India. But, the 'Jantar Mantar' at Jaipur is the biggest one of them all and it houses several instruments that offer precise measurements of time, the azimuth, declination of the sun and the positions of constellations, along with several other astronomical phenomena.  

The observatory consists of 14 geometric devices that are used to measure time, track the constellations and, observe the orbits around the sun. Popular structures within the Jantar Mantar are the 'Samrat Yantra' (the world's largest sundial), the 'Jaiprakash Yantra' and the 'Hindu Chhatri'..  We were not too big on science and dint really understand much of what we saw, but we did enjoy the leisurely walk around the place... 
For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Skywatch Friday..Jal Mahal Palace, Jaipur

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, the sun was shining bright but we were always on the lookout for the sudden downpour. Our past few days in Jaipur had proved that the weather was quite unpredictable, not that we are complaining. We quite loved the showers as they cooled the weather down.. This particular day we were on the road since 9am. We had just visited the Gaitore and were heading towards Nanhargarh fort and had plans of exploring few other places around. On the way, we spotted the Jal Mahal Palace on our right. It was beautiful. 

A palace of sorts in the middle of the large water body surrounded by nothing but water, mountains and emptiness. Wow. Our cab driver told us this was once the summer palace of the Raja as the main palace would get very hot. 

Jal Mahal (literally translates to "Water Palace") sits majestically in the middle of the Mansagar Lake. The palace and the lake around it went through a renovation sometime in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber. He also made the palace bigger, by adding more rooms and halls. Traditional boat-makers from Vrindavan were brought in to craft the Rajput style wooden boats. 

As I look oh yonder, all I see are the vast Aravalli hills dotted with temples and forts and on the other side is the bustling city of Jaipur. When the renovation took place, the lake went through the biggest transformation. The drains were all diverted, about 1-2 million tonnes of toxic sludge was removed, new eco system was created and local vegetation & fish were introduced back into the waters.  The wetlands around also welcome migratory birds every year. 

Since it was a Sunday, the whole world and sundry were there. There were children running around, street performers who were being chased away by cops, hawkers selling camel leather products and little trinkets and then ofcourse the men standing with a small table selling jhal muri.. The entire place was alive and buzzing... It was nice, but I did wish for some peace and quiet... 

Suddenly we heard a commotion and noticed that all the street hawkers were being asked to leave by the cops! They were all rushing to pack their stuff, and leave the area before the Cops got to them.But there was no sign of the crowd moving away from there. In fact, we saw quite a few go near the edge of the water and throw chips and biscuits and sev at the fish... We left there wondering what a lavish life the Royal must have led back in the days!! 

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Krishnapuram Palace, Kayamkulam

The four of us decided to do a holiday a year, and the destination for this year was Kerala. The place was finalised, resort was booked, and train tickets were on their way. We were headed to Allepey. After spending 2 days soaking in the sun and enjoying a long relaxing houseboat ride, we decided to head out and explore the town around. We hailed a cab and the first stop was going to be at Krishnapuram Palace in Kayamkulam, 47 km from Alappey.. 

This palace is said to be a replica of the Padmanabapuram palace, Trivandrum. Situated in Kayamkulam near Allepey, we were told this palace was built in the 18th century by Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma  of the Travancore kingdom. The architecture is typical of Kerala, the gabled roof, narrow corridors, rows of windows and nearly all rooms are interconnected.  There is also a temple nearby, the Krishnaswamy Temple at Krishnapuram where the King used to go say his daily prayers and where special festivals were celebrated.  It was built quite small, and later expansions were done by Ayyappan Mathsnada Pillai. 

What we see today is a three storied structure within the complex, which is after the renovations done  in the 1950s by the Archaeological Department of Kerala. As we wandered the vast palace, we were in awe of the small windows, narrow corridors and how natural light streamed in from every corner. There was also a spot where a few steps led to a door, which we learnt was to the pond and held an underground escape route to the outside roads. 

There are quite a few art pieces adorning the walls, the one that caught our eye was the  mural painting titled “Gajendra Moksham” . It is 154 square feet in size, the largest of such a kind in Kerala. There was also a double edged Kayamkulam Vaal (sword) on display within the palace museum. here.  Through one particular window we got a full view of the pond outside where I spotted a lone turtle happily swimming around. The beauty of the palace was the cool temperature across the rooms and levels. The underground pond is said to have provided natural air conditioning to the place.  

The man in charge told us that during Onam the place was known to come alive with festivities, feast and the Royal family filling all the rooms. As we made our way out, we stopped to admire the neatly manicured gardens and the giant buddha sitting under a canopy and wondered what the story behind this statue was.

 If you are visiting this part of Kerala, you should consider staying at Club Mahindra’s Property in Munnar, which is just about 3 hours away.

This post was featured on Club Mahindra's blog recently!

From hell to heaven-- autos in Chennai

I have been using Autos for as long as I can remember. Yes, I know, you probably think am crazy! I also use the bus and local trains to commute within the city. The very 1st time I got into an auto was in 8th standard.

[Image courtesy: Chennai gaga]

It was pouring and school had let out, but there was no familiar car or driver to pick me up. And so, I decided to walk home [I couldn't think of any other option and nearest was grandparents house, about a km or so]. Half way through Taylors road, an auto pulled over and he said he would drop me home. I don't remember having any money on me [I dint get pocket money at all]. He said no worries, took me home and dropped me off. The meter read Rs 3.50 p. I asked him if he could wait so I can go inside get the money, he declined and said he will wait till I get home. To my plight, there was no  one at home. He then offered to drop me off at my parents apartment in Harrington road and again charged me nothing!  

And then there are those who close their eyes and quote an amount with no idea of where I want to go, or how far the destination actually is. These are the guys that piss me off. I haggle and show the finger at times, sometimes the guys just follow me and try to haggle, sometimes they go on and on about the cost, and distance, and how he will not get a return fare and blah blah.. There have been numerous times where I have actually told the guy "Anna, neenga pinnadi ukkarunga, naan otarein [you sit behind, I shall drive], or when the guy ask for the sun and the moon, I tell them Am not looking to buy the auto, just want a ride. 

Off late, I have started using Bus and train wherever possible and it is easy, except when I have a meeting or am headed somewhere new or far. And then there are days when I settle for a call taxi, they are cheaper and I get to ride in style!! :-) 

Few months ago, one day I read about Namma auto on the net and heard from a friend who used them that they were really good. We were in Sterling road and she had to get back home [ near Chrompet]. We decided to try the Namma auto, a lady answered the call, took the booking and the auto arrived within 25-30mins. The lady called multiple times to enquire if the auto arrived and even after it did, she called to make sure my friend was alright. Apparently, she called an hour later to check if my friend had reached her destination and get feedback on the ride.  Friend was impressed and happy that she did not have to haggle or suffer but decided to go back to cabs as the distance was too long to handle an auto ride. Nearly 30-40kms! 

Back to my auto saga, I have had interesting experiences- Once I rode in an auto driven by a guy who is a Kirigami expert, and only one in the country. He shared his entire story which i shared on Facebook and it went viral.. I mean so many people wrote back saying they had contacted him, he was featured in the papers, and recently I met him at an art exhibition.  He now drives auto once in a blue moon only and is busy doing workshops! 

Another time, the driver told me about his parallel life where he wrote fiction pieces in a Tamil weekly magazine. He wrote under a pen name and shared the story of how his wife's death inspired him to start writing.  I have also had auto rides where the guy told me about losing his entire fortune and driven to riding autos.. Another time was an old man who was frail and old, who said his sons had left home, and he had no support and so took to auto driving. 

I have also travelled a bit within the country and used autos elsewhere. Bombay, Pune are towns where the auto guys charge by meter, Bangalore used to be like that but then now they also quote a random price. Jaipur we realised the meter is slowly dying and guys are starting to fleece people. In the 5 days we were there, only one guy had a meter and charged by that. 

Fast forward to last month when news of auto meters was buzzing in the air. There was talk about calibration of meter, rolling out new meters and all this will be in effect shortly. And yesterday, there was a news item in the paper about the Meter coming into action! I like many others was skeptical, wondered if the guys will follow it or put up a fight. 

I left home , hailed an auto and the guy just said "polam" madam. I hopped in and just as I was about to ask about the meter, he turned it on and said "pottacchu madam".. I was impressed! Got off at my destination, paid to nearest round, and he offered change as well. I was still skeptical, but again in the evening when heading out to the meeting, once again had the same experience, he charged by meter. Now I was convinced!! 

One of the autos I travelled in yesterday did not have a meter. The guy did tell me "madam, will note the distance and you pay accordingly". He mentioned that you needed a ownership card to get a new meter and since he dint have one, he had to wait to get a meter. The card can be procured through a broker, but will cost him nearly Rs5000, so he is going to take the direct path and dig deep to find the documents and get the card. The last date for submitting the card was Sep 15th, so he was scared about cops locking his auto away. But hoped he could buy some time to get things sorted out!! 

Once again, I shared the pic of a meter and wrote about it on Facebook and had zillion people commenting, some skeptical and others surprised. Quite a few also shared it on their walls. Goes to show how important the autos are to the city and what a revolution this meter will cause! 

And today morning, once again I had to step out, and hailed a cab and the guy had a meter and turned it on the minute I hopped in. It showed Rs 41.50, I gave a Rs 50 and he gave me Rs 10 change.. While I fumbled for change, he nodded and drove off. 

This was a convo from a friend's facebook wall.. 

Yesterday, I kicked up a conversation with an auto driver who said he had to spend Rs 2100 to get the new meter. Apparently, the Government meter is not available everywhere but there are cops bringing it down on autos without meters, so this guy had spent out of his pocket and installed the meter. He said the only difference between this one and the Govt meter was the later would give a bill print out at the end of the ride. He also shared some interesting insights-
1. The meter will be detrimental to those who dont know where they are headed. Who are clueless and are searching for a place
2. The meter is good because we auto drivers know how much distance we cover for a ride
3. The meter will be painful for passengers who think the destination is close by but is infact further away
4. The meter is going to be painful for passengers because unlike earlier where auto drivers charged a fixed rate, but then with meter you will charged for waiting [even in traffic signals]... 

Today, I came upon a list of helpline numbers, which I have once again shared on my Facebook wall...  

An update:
A company has created an app through which people can figure out the fare between 2 points. It is very useful and as of now available for Android phones only. You can download it from the play store or visit the website chennaiautofare.in

Do share your experiences!! Have you travelled by an auto with meter or did you still come across guys haggling? 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pallikondeswarar Swamy Temple in Surutapalli

We met on Friday and during the course of the conversation my friend Ar mentioned this temple in Surutapalli and how it was very famous. I hadn't even heard of the place, leave alone the temple and so when she said "am thinking i"ll ask the husband and maybe we can do a trip there on Sunday" I shamelessly piled on and said I would like to come as well. 

Saturday night we met for dinner and that is when she announced "so tomorrow morning we will leave around 7am and go to the temple. They dropped me home and were back next morning [it did not strike us the previous night, I could have grabbed a dress and gone with them, stayed over and scooted to the temple from their home, would have saved about half an hour and some fuel]. 

Anyways, so there we were on the road getting out of the city when Ar's husband said we should stop for breakfast. We stopped at Vasantha Bhavan Express and had breakfast before getting back on the road. With our google maps on and gentle drizzle for company we rode on. There was nothing but lush greenery allong the way and what a sight it was. Infact we even laughed about how crazy it would be to just give up city life and move here, do a bit of farming and settle down. We wondered if it was indeed possible or we would go bonkers. 

Within minutes we had reached Thiruvallur and then saw the board saying "Uthukottai". We had done about 40 odd kms then, and knew we had another 20 kms to go before we saw the temple. The temple is located in Tamil Nadu- Andhra border, in Chittoor District. What is famous in this temple? It is the only temple where Lord Shiva is lying down. He is called Pallikondeswarar because of his sleeping position.  

We picked up an Archana thattu and entered the temple, the 1st shrine belonging to the Goddess Maragadamba [Goddess Parvati]. The priest told us that this is one of a kind temple where we visit the Goddess first before saying our prayers to the Lord. Infact, Pallikondeeshwarar is in a seperate temple to the right of this one. 

The garbha griha is guarded by Lord Kubera (God of wealth) with his consort Sanganidhi on left side and with his another consort Padumanidhi on the right side. The goddess inside the main shrine is sitting with Kamadhenu on one side and Karpa Viruksham on the other side. Apart from these, there are other Gods - Varasidhi Vinayaka,   Sri Venugopala Swami,Jawahar moorthy[ people who are unwell come here and offer prayers for good health], Valmiki muni, Kasi Vishwanathan with Visalakshi and others present within the inner praharam. We also saw Dakshinamoorthy with his wife Gowri [ unmarried people, those seeking children, prosperity in business pray to this lord every thursday for solution] on the outer wall of the main shrine. When you come around the Goddess' shrine, there is also the Indra's elephant Airavata sitting beside the shrine. There is also the Ekapadha Trimurthi (one foot and three forms) of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva with their Divine vehicles, the Swan, Garuda and Nandi, and Purna Pushkala Sametha Sastha here.

History has it that when Indra lost his kingdom and discovered that he can regain what he lost by consuming the Divine nectar a war broke out between the devas and asuras to obtain this very nectar. The two parties began churning the ocean using  the mountain  Mandramalai and Vasuki, the snake as the rope.  While they continued, Vasuki the snake began to spew poison. Lord Siva came and he gulped down the poison. This is how his throat became blue and he got the name "Neelakandan" ( neela-blue colour, kandam-throat). On seeing this, Goddess Parvati rushed and caught hold of his neck so the poison would not spread to his entire body. Shiva then became drowsy and fell asleep on Parvathi's lap. The place where he is said to have done this is called Surutapalli. And this is the only temple in the entire country where we find Lord Shiva in this position. 

Narada meanwhile being his meddlesom self spread news of this to all, and that is how the Devas, Vishnu, Brahma, and the Saptarishis came to see Lord Shiva. Nandi stood guard and prevernted them from entering the temple and so is considered important in this temple. That particular day when all the Devas, Brahma, Vishnu, Narada and Saptarishis came to see Lord Shiva was a Krishnapaksha Trayodasi. This is what we refer to as Mahapradosham day.  The nandi near the main shrine is infact called the Pradhosham Nandi and special puja is offered during Pradosham time. 

We were done with our Darshan, sat down for a few minutes and bid goodbye to the Lord and made our way back to the car. I noticed there was a wedding hall at the other end of the campus and there were 2 young couples standing near the entrance, probably waiting for a bus to take them home!! The girl looked very young, we wondered if it was child marriage. That is when I spotted the other Nandi outside. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Kadalekalu Ganesha in Hampi

There we were headed towards Matanga Hill to catch the sunset and see if we can spot the Yellow Throated Bulbul when we stopped on the way to catch a glimpse of the Kadalekalu Ganesha and the towering Virupaksha temple Vimana. 

The Ganesha statue is infact the largest statue, standing tall at 4.5 meters or 15 feet in height. The beauty of this is that it has been carved out of a huge boulder. This is situated on the north-eastern slope of the Hemakuta hill. It is said that the belly of this Ganesha statue is so huge that it resembles a Bengal gram (Kadalekalu in  Kannada)  which is how he earned the name Kadalekalu Ganesha.  There is also a sanctum built around this structure which is located in the center of a pillared hall. Each of the pillars has beautiful work on them, representing various mythical themes.

You can read more of my experiences in Hampi here