Anukrishna's Blog

The day the cobra came calling … April 11, 2010

Filed under: Random Thoughts — anukrishna @ 1:28 PM

I was walking down the apartment for my usual evening walk when I heard shrieks and shouts from nearby. Turning around a bunch of pre-schooler kids including my daughter and her friends were shrieking “Aunty ! Aunty ! Auntiiiieeeeee”. I was pretty flustered the way the kids screamed and stopped abruptly on my tracks until I could hold one of them and ask them what happened. The only words that came out were “Cobra, aunty, cobra”.

A cobra ? In the middle of this concrete jungle when we have driven out all the creatures out of their homes ? Slowly one of the ‘senior’ preschoolers caught her breath to say “Aunty, there’s a cobra in the swimming pool”. Another one screamed “aunty it was moving like this” and made a serpentine motion with his hands ! Ah ! so that was the cause for the excitement then :-). But it still belied me – cobra in the swimming pool ?!

Shortly after, all kids guiding by this ‘senior’ preschooler were found lying down with their ears to the ground. When we were observing this innovative asana of theirs, waves of nervous giggles broke out amongst them “hey, can you hear the cobra ya ?”, “listen, the cobra is making noise”. All of a sudden the kids leapt up into the air and ran back into the lobby on the way to their houses “hey, run run… the cobra is going to visit all our houses at 7 in the evening. Before that we should all go back safely” – almost as if one of them had divined the cobra’s language :-). Varied calls followed

“It will come and knock knock ! knock ! in your door. wait and see”

“Run ! Run!”

“I’ll tell my mother to close the door”

“Dont worry. My father will beat the cobra. Then we can all come out and play”

“Its ok. We’ll play only tomorrow. I wont come out today”

“I want to see the cobra”

Amidst the plethora of all these shouts, I became really curious and ventured in the direction of the swimming pool. Well, I almost fell down in a laugh riot into the pool – there was the suspected villain of the evening’s play – the cobra- all of a long stick that had fallen into the pool and creating the serpentine motion with the water ripples in the pool. Good evening to remember 🙂

 

The sugarcane juice vendor February 19, 2010

Filed under: Random Thoughts — anukrishna @ 10:23 PM

Now what’s about a  sugarcane juice vendor ? Little did I realize that this person who was unknowingly my sole companion in my bus-waiting missions would be the subject of this…

Before adding more mysteries, let me jump in straight. I have this very unenvious task of waiting for the bus in the hot, tortuous afternoons in a bus stand without a shelter. And being an ungodly hour, I do not have too many for company in the bus stand, except for this sugarcane juice vendor. Picture this … dusty hot afternoons with the blazing sun and empty roads. The sugarcane juice vendor almost merges unobstrusively with the surroundings with his rickety cart and squeaky juice machine… the 2 rolling pin type of machine. But he was an inspiration for me.

I would stand everyday watching his excellent juice-making algorithm with the optimum usage of resources and his time-management skills … well he could put a process person to shame 🙂 . And his efficiency in squeezing out the last drop of juice from the cane till the cane was reduced to a mass of fibres – he could have served well as an Income Tax officer hee hee…

The point of the story is how he inspired me…

The first few days, he had his rickety cart with the squeaky roller-pin machine and hardly any customers. Then he noticed the pile of squeezed  discarded cane fibres and the army of flies. So promptly came in a nice sack to store the  dried cane and out went the flies. The machine started looking cleaner and with it increased the prospects of customers on hot afternoons…

Now with increasing customers, he had the challenge of storing more cane. A spacious hammock-like appendage came up beneath the cart to store his supplies :-). Great going, I thought, after a week.  But the sun had by then turned from blazing to melting heat :-). This was a super-winner. He brought out 4 sticks and tied them projecting, each to one end of the cart. He bought a huge sheet spread it over the sticks and brought it down holding it with stones to make a nice, shady, cool tent for the heat.  Now that’s very tempting on a hot afternoon :-). And the queues kept growing. His policy of Just-In-Time inventory and his upgrade to a cleaner motor-based machine from the manual machine made sure that his customers never had to wait for very long to have their cup of refreshing liquid down their throats.

And he was a kind soul too…. kind enough to spare the odd glass for an urchin or to give a discount to labourers hanging around his cart (though I secretly wish that he would recognize me and let me know if my bus has left before I came ;-)).

Well, can anyone now say its difficult to innovate ?!

 

Gaajar halwa for dummies February 13, 2010

Filed under: Cooking — anukrishna @ 10:44 PM

I’m not an expert cook and this is also not a new recipe too. But I was excited about how easily and tasty it came in the microwave without even using khoa that I decided to post it , hee hee :-). Hence the title of the post too… Thanks a LOT to my neighbor Raji for sharing this with me.

Ingredients

1. Red carrot – 1 Kg

2. Sugar – 1/2 kg

3. Milk – 2 cups

4. Milk powder – 1 cup

5. ghee – 1 tbsp

Steps:

1. Cook grated carrot in 1 cup milk first in microwave (for around 15 mins)

2. When its half-cooked, add the remaining milk and cook carrots completely (another 10 mins)

3. After carrots are cooked completely, add the milk powder, sugar and ghee and microwave for 10 minutes.

4. Delicious gaajar halwa is ready ! Gaajar halwa is complete when there’s no liquid shimmering in the microwave vessel and the whole halwa scoops up in balls.

Here’s a pic of what I made today:

Gaajar halwa - all ready to serve

P.S:

1. The actual time in the microwave may vary slightly depending on how juicy the carrots are.

2. If the carrots are very juicy, reduce the quantity of milk.

3. Do NOT add sugar initially since carrots do not cook in sugar.

 

Teaching a bunch of kids February 10, 2010

Filed under: Cultural activities — anukrishna @ 9:52 PM

It was the annual day in our apartments. I was assigned the task of teaching kids aged between 4 and 5  a dance. It had to be a theme – so the organizers said. Well… choosing a theme itself was not an envious task. Finally I settled on the song “My name is Madhavi” from the Karadi Rhymes album by Usha Uthup. When I took this song to a few other people, there were very many opinions and our choice started vacillating in all directions from Lion King’s Hakuna Matata to Wall-E title song.

Finally, it was decided we were going to do “my name is madhavi”. This national integration song has multiple stanzas , each from a state. The plan was to make each kid dress up in different states and dance for that stanza. We had made a set of steps common to for all kids and some special steps for each state.

There were 11 kids in all to be trained and what fun it proved to be !!!!

The first day, getting all kids to stand in a line was in itself a challenge :-). I admire how school teachers handle them with such ease ! One kid came up and said “Aunty… I want to be first in the line” :-). Yet another refused to budge from the seat where she was sitting and plainly refused to dance. A third kid was not in station and would arrive in town only 4 days before the programme !

Finally, we got all kids to stand in a line and did a kind of counting exercise to teach them the movements.  All of a sudden one of the kids announced “Aunty, I know all these steps. So I wont dance” and promptly went off to sit in a chair. The first day of practice was a little eventful.

We had a little over a week to train the kids. Each day, the varied moods of the kids – some half-asleep, some fighting with the kids standing next to them, some insisting on dancing with dupattas everyday, some terribly upset because the kid beside her came before her for the practice … well, the list goes on with such eventful practices until the day of the dress rehearsal. One thing that remained constant was the little artiste who refused to budge from her seat to dance…

We were pretty insistent about a dress rehearsal before the actual programme. I was a little apprehensive of how the kids would dance in sarees and fancy dupattas over their heads. And the kids would just prove how wrong I was ! The day of the rehearsals , all the kids came dressed in their costumes. When I was wondering if they would trip and fall over each other, there they were jumping over sofas, playing hide-n-seek and football ! OMG ! But the highlight of the dress rehearsal was the little artiste who decided to do a turnaround. She insisted she wanted to dance and stood in line with all kids trying to do their steps. What more could we ask for ? She was immly made into a girl from Ajmer and there she stood between all the kids 🙂 !! Dance has the power we thought !

The day of the programme, there was palpable excitement among the kids and of course us… And what a show it turned out to be !!! All the little ones just over 4 or 5 years of age, dancing with perfect eye-contact with the audience with all smiles on their faces ! That was a professional show from the kids.

The kids on stage ...

Well, I slept that night a really happy and satisfied teacher !

 

Visit to Yelagiri

Filed under: Travel — anukrishna @ 9:44 PM

Visit to Yelagiri

We made a sudden unplanned visit to Yelagiri.  One of our neighbors had been there a few years back and they suggested the Zeenat Taj Garden (not related to the Taj group) as being very homely and nice. So we decided to stay there.

Yelagiri is a quiet hill station off Krishnagiri, near Ambur on the Bangalore-Chennai highway. It is around 150 kms from Bangalore. So the road is excellent.

How to reach there:

On the Blr-Chennai highway after taking a left to Krishnagiri, cross the first toll gate. Look for the Yelagiri sign-board and take a U-turn and go below the bridge leading to Tirupathur.  We immediately enter the state highway. After driving for a few kms on this highway, take a left to Yelagiri Hills at the TN tourism arch. There are a lot of sign boards to direct us.

Way to Yelagiri hills

The ghats are a short drive with around 14 hair pin bends. We are greeted by monkey brigands on our way uphill. After reaching Yelagiri, Zeenat Taj Garden is one of first hotels we encounter.

About Taj:

This is a 11-acre orchard sprinkled with cottages and play areas. The cottages themselves are very nicely furnished and clean. The food, very homely and easy on the stomach with a wide spread of dishes.

What to do in Yelagiri:

This is a quiet hill station not too very touristic yet. The place is really green. We reached there by saturday afternoon and spent a while playing with the badminton racquets and balls that we had taken. After lunch, we rested a while before making our trek upto sunset point. This is a very short walk through the brambles of the hills for around 20 minutes and a slightly steep rocky climb for around 10 mins.

Sunset from the way to sunset point

The sunset point offers a beautiful view of the towns below and of course, the hills. Once back, we visited the musical fountain in the nearby park.

Pics from the musical fountain

The next morning we spent walking around the fruit orchard within the place where we were staying. We managed to spot a beautiful paradise fly catcher bird in that calm surroundings.

Walk through the orchard

Apparently all fruit trees are full of fruits in summer. They have mango, guava, litchi, water apple, jackfruit and a few other trees.  So it might be a good time to plan a visit then.  After the walk around the orchard, we went over for boating and a visit to the park.

The park is just about ok. The lake is small and very clean.

View of the lake

One thing that many people do is a trek to Swami Malai, the highest point in the hills. They say the trek is around 2 hours. With a little one, the trek may not be advisable.

Dont forget to take the nice cycles on hire provided by the tourism department. This building is opposite Hotel Nigress and Zeenat Taj Gardens. The cycles are decently maintained. We hired cycles for an hour and cycled around the place. Our little one was thrilled riding pillion on the cycle :-).

Honey and jackfruit are available in plenty on the hills. So they may be worth a buy.

We left by afternoon from there. Another option is to stop by the Jalagamparai falls around 30 minutes from Yelagiri. We didnt do this because the locals told us water was very less now.

After that we returned home.. relaxing weekend at Yelagiri :-).

 

Rajasthan – Dec 2009 January 19, 2010

Filed under: Travel — anukrishna @ 4:19 PM

Our itenerary:

16/12: Depart from Bangalore by Jodhpur Express at night. (This is because we wanted to do a long train journey 🙂 )

18/12: Reached Jodhpur.

19/12: Jodhpur

20/12: Leave Jodhpur in the night train to Jaisalmer (11 PM)

21/12: Jaisalmer

22/12: Leave for Jodhpur by night train (11 PM)

23/12: Leave for Udaipur by afternoon flight (30 mins). There is no direct flight/train from Jaisalmer to Udaipur.Other option is to travel by road from Jaisalmer to Udaipur which we avoided, to save time.

24,25,26,27/12 – Udaipur

28/12 – Leave Udaipur for Chennai

Selection of Hotels/havelis:

First done by referring to http://www.tripadvisor.in for hotel/haveli reviews and ratings. Also searched the internet for more info on these hotels.

Wrote to the hotels directly asking information on rates/availability. They generally ask for one night stay as advance and they are very prompt in replying. Almost all hotels have a strict policy of checkin/out time of 10 AM.

Hotels we stayed in:

Look for our reviews on these hotels that we have posted in http://www.tripadvisor.in/. Reviews posted under the id ‘kcharan’.

19/12: Jodhpur: Mehrangarh Fort and Jaswanth Thada – both near to each other. The fort is walkable distance from the old city.Needs half a day. Evening was for shopping. Dont forget to visit Mishrilal Hotel near the clock tower for its wonderful makhaniya lassi and rabdi.

Mehrangarh Fort

Jaswant Thada

20/12: Morning visited Umaid Bhavan Palace. May need around 2 hours.  Mandore garden is also an option to visit after the Palace, but it is not very well maintained and was pretty deserted when we went in the morning. Also the locals advise not to go there during the late evenings with families bec of  anti-social elements present there. Both Umaid Palace and Mandore garden can be done together since both are a little away from the city. Its better to take the same auto to both instead of hiring an auto at Umaid Bhavan, the rates will be of palace standards. 🙂

Inside Umaid Bhavan Palace

Umaid Bhavan Palace

21/12: train from jodhpur reaches at 5 AM and it is extremely cold at that time. Visited the  Gadsisar lake and the havelis in the morning.

Afternoon 2:30 PM was the time to start for the desert safari. We travelled upto the desert tents by jeep. On the way to the desert safari you get to see the Bada Bagh (cenotaphs of the royals in sandstone) and a Jain temple. Reach the desert around 5 PM after visiting these places. Were alloted a tent in the camp and after some refreshing got onto the camels. One camel per adult, child has to share the camel with an adult. Camel ride is approx for about 30-40 mins (longer if you want it), they take you to the ‘sunset’ point where you can spend some time in the dunes and watch the sunset. After that you return to the base camp in the camels. This is followed by some entertainment programmes by Rajasthani traditional dancers/musicians along with light snacks. After this is dinner watching the dances, and you retire to your tents. Once at your tents in the night, do not forget to come out and watch the sky. The night sky is ‘amazing’! You’ll never see such a thing in the city. Though the tent had canvas doors, we never felt lonely/ scared at any time in the night. They provided us with electric rechargeable lanterns that we could have during the night. The lights are switched off by 11 PM. We went in December and the weather was definitely cold. However, we could do with thermals, sweaters and razais. The razais that they give are excellent too. Make sure you take something to cover the ears. The weather gets cold and the outdoor dinner might get chilly.

One of the many old Havelis in Jaisalmer

Bada Bagh

camels in the thar desert

22/12: Woke up in the morning to see a wonderful sunrise from the tents itself. You have an option of asking for another camel ride in the morning if you want. This is followed by breakfast and then you return to Jaisalmer in jeep, takes about 45 mins to 1 hour to reach Jaisalmer.In Jaisalmer had time to see the fort. There are many people living inside the fort wall, houses and shops etc. Take the audio guide here too, though the fort is not as good as the Jodhpur one, atleast the portion we are shown was not so good. Visit to the fort and the shops inside it can take you between 2-4 hours.

Also, while in Jaisalmer, try not to take a hotel that is inside the fort. The numerous hotels and houses inside the fort are actually damaging the structure of the fort! The fort was not meant to withstand so much water and now all this water from houses and hotels is ending up damaging the structure of the fort. So please do your bit to save the fort by not taking a hotel inside it. 🙂

After the fort, we saw the puppet show in the ‘Desert Cultural Center’ in Jaisalmer town (outside the fort). Night train back to Jodhpur at 11 PM.

sunrise from our tent

Jaisalmer Fort panoramic view

23/12: Reached Jodhpur at 5 AM. Took a hotel near to the railway station. We took Govind Hotel since we had read about it on the internet (tripadvisor). Anyway this was only for a few hours. Had some time in the morning for some shopping. Left in the afternoon to the airport which is very close by. It took us around 15-20 mins to reach the airport from our hotel near the Rly station, by auto. The flight to Udaipur is only about 30 mins.

Reached Udaipur and went to our haveli that is in the old city, very close to the Lake Pichola. The view from the terrace restaurant (of most hotels in that area) is excellent, with a view of the Lake pichola and the Lake palace in the middle of it.The area around the hotel is the old city which is completely tourist dominated, all shops are completely tourist friendly! Unless completely tempted , do not shop in this area as the prices are crazy. Do not miss Jagadish Mandir in the old city, especially during the arati time around 6:30-7:00 PM followed by bhajans. It is quite an experience.

Also make it a point to visit the Rajasthani dance/music show from 7-8 PM held in Bagore Ki Haveli. This is an excellent programme not to be missed.

rajasthani dance

rajasthani dance

One day trip options from Udaipur are as below. Taxi costed Rs 1500 for each of these day trips.

1. Kumbalgarh and Ranakpur

2. Eklingji, Nathdwara and Haldighati.

3. Chittorgarh Fort.

24/12: Went to Kumbalgarh and Ranakpur. Take a taxi from the hotel. Kumbalgarh is around 1.5 hrs from Udaipur, a magnificient old fort. There is no audio guide unfortunately here, we didnt find regular guides also, our taxt driver doubled up as a guide, so not sure how much much he told us is actually true!

Ranakpur is again around an hour from Kumbalgarh. Here is an old Jain temple fully made of marble. The carvings on the pillars and the ceilings are very nice. We returned back to Udaipur in the evening. Inside Udaipur we visited a tourist spot called ‘Sahelion ki Badi’ which is a garden used by the royal family in olden times. Pretty well maintained garden, worth a visit.

Kumbalgarh Fort

Ranakpur Jain Temple

Roof carving inside Ranakpur Temple

25/12: First went to Eklingji which is on the way to Nathdwara. This is a very old Shiva temple worth visiting. The temple has 108 shrines inside and looks amazing. There are some specific darshan times when the temple is actually open, so please verify the times before going. Don’t be put off if you find long queues in the temple. It moves very quickly. Went to Nathdwara from here which is very close by.

Nathdwara temple is usually very crowded with very less crowd management! Nevertheless it is a temple worth visiting. Lord Krishna looks very cute! 🙂

From here we went to Haldighati which is the battle ground of Rana Pratap and Akbar/ManSingh. This also has the samadhi of the brave horse ‘Chetak’. Visited the Rana Pratap museum that also has a ‘sound and light’ show. After Haldighati returned back to Udaipur.

Samadhi of Chetak the brave horse

Rana Pratap museum at Haldighati

26/12: Went to Chittorgarh which is a 2 hour drive from Udaipur by taxi. Excellent road, this is a national highway. The fort is another magnificent one. Take a tourism dept approved guide here, will cost around Rs 450 but he gives you an excellent explanation of the fort and the history behind it, for around 3 hours. Try stopping by one of the sugarcane fields on the way and savor some really fresh yummy jaggery they make!

Inside Chittorgarh Fort

Victory Tower inside Chittor Fort

Panoramic view of Chittor Fort from the approach road

27/12: Local Udaipur sight seeing day. Visited the City palace which was walking distance from our hotel. Took the audio guide here also, this place takes a couple of hours to complete. When you take the ticket, take one for the boat ride also which is about Rs 350 per person including entrance to the Jagmandir Island. We missed this since there was a wedding that day in the island and so no visitors were allowed. We took another private boat ride from Doodh Talai which didnt take us to the island but was just a ride till the hotel, costed Rs 100 per head (i think).

Also dont miss seeing the fully lit Lake palace and the Jagmandir island at night, it is quite a sight.

Udaipur City Palace - view from Lake Pichola

Lake Palace on Pichola Lake

28/12: Took the 8:30 AM flight to Chennai by Jet airways, via Mumbai.

Tips:

1. Please shop in Jodhpur only at the ‘National Handloom Corporation’ outlets. All other shops even those next to this one are very expensive. For ex- A chappal that costs Rs 40 in NHC will cost Rs 120 in the adjacent shop!

2. Use the ‘audio guide’ in the forts whereever available. They are very good and authentic.

3. Antique silver jewellery is available in Jodhpur near the Umaid Palace.

4. Visit Santhosh Dal Bati Hotel in Udaipur for a taste of typical  Dal Baati. Yummy jamuns are also available in a sweet shop near Jagdish Mandir temple. There are actually 2 of them. The one closer to the clock tower is the better one. Hathipole is the shopping area for the local tourists. Bapu Bazaar and Maaldhar Street is where the Udaipur locals shop. So, take your pick.

5. Try to finish you trip before the 25th of December. Every place gets extremely crowded in the last week of December. The queues and the palaces and the boat rides … all become extremely crowded.