The Living Root Bridge Of Nohwet Village, Near Mawlynnong

I am sure every person who has ever dreamt of going to North-East India has read about the living root bridges that are common in this part of the world. These bridges, made by joining the roots of rubber trees (Ficus Elastica), are very much a part of living trees and are, in consequence, live too.

Read all about our experience visiting the amazing living root bridge across the river Thyllong, in Nohwet, Meghalaya!

Playing Hide-And-Seek With The Clouds In Meghalaya

While holidaying in Meghalaya, one of the husband’s and my favourite pastimes was playing hide-and-seek with the clouds. Like two excitable kids, we would shout out – ‘Look, there come the clouds!’. We would watch, fascinated, as the clouds would blot out things as big as elephants from our line of vision, letting us see only that which they wanted us to see.

Check out a few ‘cloudy’ snapshots we took at Arwah caves, Cherrapunjee – just in on my photo blog!

10 Reasons To Plan For At Least A Day’s Stay at Mawlynnong, Asia’s Cleanest Village

On our recent trip to North-East India, we had a memorable overnight stay at Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, touted as Asia’s cleanest village.

Most visitors, however, plan only for a brief stop-over at the village, not a stay. Mawlynnong deserves to be stayed in, though, felt, experienced, lived in, loved.

Do check out my detailed post about our sojourn at Mawlynnong!

 

 

 

Travel Shot: Panneer Drakshe Aka Indian Gulabi Grapes 

Have you heard of Panneer Drakshe or the Indian Gulabi variety of grapes? My upbringing in Gujarat ensured that I had never heard of or tasted these grapes – a Tamilnadu specialty – till my mother introduced me to them, on a trip to the south. 

Our recent trips to Madurai and Kumbakonam rekindled in me my love for these grapes. 

Curious? Check out my detailed post about these gorgeous grapes, here

In Pics: En Route To Goravanahalli

Like I was saying in one of my recent posts, we passed through some highly idyllic scenes of rural life on our road trip to Goravanhalli. This, and the pristine, untouched nature that we encountered on the way totally made our trip.

I’ll leave you with some pictures that we took en route. For today, I’ll keep my mouth shut and let only the pictures do the talking.

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Animal Musings

The other day, the OH and I were out with Bubboo when we came across a donkey.

Bubboo hadn’t encountered a donkey before that, ever. So, we turned around this way and that, pointed to the donkey, with excited shouts of ‘Look, Bubboo, that is a donkey! That is what you call a donkey!’. There was absolutely zero reaction from Bubboo, but that is not the point of this post. 🙂

The point of this post is that I immediately went on to feel guilty about our actions. Pointing fingers at the donkey, making it feel like an oddity – wasn’t that what we were doing? How would I feel if the donkey had pointed us out to its kids and shouted – ‘Look, humans! Those are what you call humans!’.

The OH, as usual, was super calm and there was no reaction from him to any of my rants. Gah!

Okay, I probably over-reacted a bit there, but I surely didn’t over-react about what this particular incident led me to think about – zoos and circuses.

I started hating zoos for this very reason – they make objects out of animals, pull them out of their natural habitat, all the while not even treating them right – once I became a conscious person, a more aware traveller on the path of life. Circuses are even sadder. But then, zoos are indeed great ways to teach little ones about different animals and birds that they might not see commonly around them. Of course, there’s always the fact that we could take Bubboo to Gir to show her lions or to Africa to show her zebras, but then, is it really a practical thing to do? Does that always happen? And this has to happen when the little one is still a toddler, curious and absorbing things like a sponge, right?

How does one draw the middle line?

Your thoughts, please?

Balcony Tales

Balconies have always been important to me. I love balconies. I think they are windows to the world outside, from where you can look out, all the while sitting in the safe comfort of your own home. They are sanctuaries, where you can grab a few moments of peace over a cup of tea or a plate of bajjis. They are in-between, neither inside the house nor outside, a place where you can escape to when the chaos inside the house gets too much for you, and you don’t really want to get out of the house. They make the house outward-looking, I think. Without a balcony, a house would be isolated from the rest of the world, cut off, very inward-looking – of course, my own two cents only, meaning no offense to anyone else. For this very reason, I do not like balconies with grills – they make a house safe, yes, but they also close out a lot of light and action and air and love and make the house, well, suffocating.

I especially love balconies that do not face dead, overgrown plots of vacant land or the back of someone else’s house. I like my balconies to look out onto a road, possibly, where there is a little action – just enough action, mind you, not too much. My ideal balcony is one where there are plants (flowers and a small patch of herbs and some vegetables), a swing and a little nook where I can sit and think and create.

Considering my love of balconies (thankfully, the OH shares a bit of this love), a road-facing balcony was one thing we always look out for while we are looking for an apartment to live. We had three balconies (three! yes, a rarity these days) in the place we used to stay in earlier, and a long road-facing one in the place we shifted to last year. It took us quite some time to set up the balcony garden in the house we presently live in, but now, I can safely say we are almost 70% done. The garden still needs a lot of work to bring it to the shape I want to bring it to, but at least there is some semblance of a garden now, there is a sanctuary in the house for me to go to, there is a little place that fills my heart with joy.

I am happy to say Bubboo seems to love the balcony as much as I do. It is the first place she heads to, as soon as she wakes up in the mornings. It is where she sits and watches the older boys and girls in our apartment play in the evenings. It is where I sit and talk to her about the different kinds of things that we see around us – from dogs and cats to vegetable vendors and trees and flowers. It is where Bubboo sits and watches the rain. She often eats sitting out on the balcony. I sometimes read to her there. We like basking in the sun on the balcony, on days when it is not too hot. We like watching as our neighbours wave to us in the balcony, and waving back to them. We like watching as butterflies and squirrels run in and out of our plants, searching for food. I could just go on and on and on!

Balconies have always, always been a place of solace for me. Our balconies have seen a lot of action. They hold a whole lot of fond memories for us. They have been a place of sharing our own kind of love, of bonding with each other. They have been places of sustenance for us, providing us with some home-grown ingredients for our food.

This new place is slowly, very slowly, beginning to feel like home. We are apart from the rest of the OH’s family now, very far away, but we are slowly finding friends here, bonding, building up relationships. I hope, with all my heart, that we soon forge friendships and relationships of note here, and that our balcony here goes on to witness a whole lot of special, little memories.

 

 

The Flower Of Patience And Hope

I love sunflowers. I have always loved them.They are special to me.

I love their bright, cheery yellow and their soft black centres. I love the way they signify hope. I love the way they turn towards the sun always, turning their back to darkness. They never fail to make me smile.

I have always wanted at least one sunflower plant in my wee garden at home. I searched high and low for sunflower seeds, but never found any that were suitable for home use, till the Krishi Mela happened in Bangalore last year.

The seeds lay forgotten in a drawer in our house for long, and were accidentally discovered by the OH a couple of months ago. I planted some in some flower pots and kept watering them diligently. I was not really sure if I would really see the flowers growing in my home some day, but they did.

About a fortnight ago, we saw a sapling grow from one pot and go on to become taller and taller. I continued to care. A few days ago, we noticed two little buds on the sapling. One of them remains tightly closed, like a baby’s fist, while the other one continued to open bit by bit every day. Yesterday, it revealed a seedy centre and hints of yellow around the edges. Today, after years of patient waiting, we have a lovely little sunflower looking admiringly at the sun, in our balcony. It looks like a little sun in itself.

Like a spot of bright yellow after several days of cloudy, gray skies, the bloom brings us courage, hope and love. It is magic for us. The magic of nature.

I am reminded of Pia’s words

When things don’t make much sense, when the news is a constant flow of abject misery, I look at sunflowers. Sunflowers make sense. Their orbs are filled with positive, yellow purpose; you can see why the world would need them. And you can see why a man who cut off his own ear, and later shot himself dead, needed to paint them. Sunflowers are made of hope.

I couldn’t agree more.

An Afternoon At The Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp

My blog posting on the occasion of World Elephant Day last week triggered some more memories – of a beautiful trip to Kerala that we undertook a couple of years back. One of the high points of this trip, at least for me, was a visit to the Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp in Guruvayoor. Our entire family had travelled to Kerala then for a wedding, after which we visited the Guruvayoor Shree Krishna temple and the sanctuary. Little did I know, when the trip was planned, that I would end up loving the camp so much that I would yearn to visit again even years after the trip!

The Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp is located just 3 km. away from the Guruvayoor temple, and houses the elephants that belong to the temple. When we visited, there were about 60 elephants housed in the camp. Not only are the temple’s elephants housed and maintained here, but also trained to participate in the various festivities undertaken in the temple. Most of the elephants here are offerings made by devotees to the temple, at one point or the other.

It was a sunny, but pleasant afternoon when we entered the camp. I still remember the sight that met our eyes then, and the collective gasp that escaped our mouths. Lush greenery all around, a number of elephants – some walking, some standing, some eating, some drinking, some bathing, some just sitting. Overall, an extremely beautiful sight. Considering that we are an elephant-crazy family, we started snapping away with our cameras as we explored the little sanctuary, my brothers-in-law chatting away, nineteen to the dozen, to the elephant keepers there.

The pens built for the elephants

We learnt that some elephants were kept in pens, unchained for most of the day. Some others were a bit ferocious, and had to be chained. Some were recuperating from diseases, and hence had to be kept in seclusion. It was rather sad to see the ones that were chained, but we were told it had to be done for certain animals. Overall, the elephants did look happy and well-maintained, and the place was quite neat and clean.

An elephant, chained to a tree
An elephant being walked inside the sanctuary
Feeding!
Feeding, again!

We were utterly fascinated to see some of the elephants being bathed. The mahouts use bits of brick and coconut fibre to scrub them thoroughly, and then hose them down with clean water. It was such a beautiful sight! The elephants seemed to be revelling in the experience, soaking in all of it!

Look at the way this elephant has lifted his trunk to enable the mahouts to clean under his chin! Cute, no?

The camp is located in the grounds of Punnathur Raja, a former ruler of the place. The complex also has a traditional Keralite home, which used to belong to the Raja. Presently, this house is used as a training school for mahouts. (We were too fascinated by the elephants to take any pictures of the home, in case you are wondering why there aren’t any!)

All in all, the elephant camp is one lovely place, a must-visit according to me. Definitely one of the lesser-known places in Guruvayoor. Don’t miss it!