2 Nations…1 Land : A Visit To Kutch

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After much thought we zeroed in on the Great Rann Of Kutch and reached there on a full moon night last week. We chose to visit a less explored part of the area called ‘Ekal Ka Rann’ to experience the sunset and full moon on the white desert. To our pleasant surprise the vacation was not just about the Rann but also its people, traditions, cuisine, rural life and understanding the notion of borders.

Our first 2 days were spent a little village called Chobari, about 5 hours from Ahmedabad. The area was the epicentre of the massive earthquake that rocked Bhuj in 2001.

We stayed at the ‘Meriya Nature Resort’, a village homestay run by Ramjibhai Meriya, a journalist, photographer, conservationist and a virtual encyclopaedia on the Kutch region. His home was next to a lovely lake.IMG_1410 (2) A wide range of birds including migratory birds could be spotted near the lake and the farmland around Ramjibhai’s home.

The Ekal Ka Rann , named after the Ekal Mata temple at the edge of the white desert was about 15 kilometers from his home. We reached the Rann at about 5.30 and walked some distance. The place was simply amazing. We watched in awe as the desert seemed to change colours with the setting sun.IMG_1432 Soon it was dark we soaked in the vastness of space. Later we saw the moon rise and the white surface glisten in the moonlight. No words can describe the serene beauty of a full moon night on the Rann.

The best way to learn about a place and its culture is to interact with local people. We were lucky to be staying in a village homestay.IMG_1417 (2) Ramjibhai’s brother in law who was also present there told us about how the family had been affected during partition with some members having stayed behind in Pakistan. Later some of them, he told us came to India and even gained Indian citizenship. He also told us about how he had heard tales of people riding on horses across the Rann from Chobari to Rahim Ka Bazar which now lies in Pakistan to get their provisions.

“This land belonged to all of us, it became 2 nations at the time of partition!” he told us. As we continued to explore the region, we realised that Pakistan was never far away.

The next day we drove about a 100 kms to visit Dholavira, the largest Metropolis of the Indus Valley Civilization. The better known cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa lie in today’s Pakistan. Dholavira was first established about 5000 years and we were told that the place was destroyed and re-established 7 times over a period of 2000 years. The last settlement dates to about 1500 BC.IMG_1553

Dholavira was once an island. Today the sea bed has risen and the island is surrounded by the Rann. The 7 km drive along what is called the Rann of Kutch lake is beautiful. road to rann

The excavation site of Dholavira is interesting and the water management systems are extremely impressive. We also drove to the fossil park at Dholavira.

While the fossil park was disappointing, the view of the Rann from the park was amazing.

And Pakistan lies just 40kms across the Rann.

Dholavira is a remote village and even today there are no restaurants or places to stay. Ramjibhai arranged lunch for us with a villager who was also our guide. Having grown up in Dholavira, our guide Ravjibhai was familiar with the place and knew all the details about the archaeological site. He told us that barely 10% of the site had been excavated and studied. When we asked him why excavations had stopped, he smiled and said, “ jab zindon ke liye paise nahi hai toh murdon ke liye kahan se ayegi!”

He also took us to his home for a simple and delicious Kutchi lunch. We then visited Ramobhai a leather craftsman who lived a few homes away. He sat in a dark corner working on a beautiful leather handbag.leather dholavira The wallets and bags made by him were beautiful. He took pride in his work and it was nice to know that he got orders on a regular basis from big cities.

While talking to Ramjibhai we learnt that Chobari along with Khavda was a major centre for production the milk sweet “mavo”. His son son brought some Mavo for us from the village. It was delicious. The next morning, on our way to Hodka we stopped at Bheembhai Patel’s Mavo making centre to pick up 2 kilos of freshly made Mavo.

On the advice of Ramjibhai we also stopped at Dhamadka, the original centre for Ajrak Block printing.

Believed to have been first practised by people of the Indus Valley Civilization, the traditional method of block printingsample ajrakh printing blocks using natural dyes is still prevalent in parts of Kutch and Sindh in Pakistan. Several centuries ago the Khatri family settled in Dhamadka and was involved in traditional ajrakh block printing. We were told by Dr.Ismail Khatri, now a resident of Ajrakhpur,DrKhatri and man striving to keep the ajrakh tradition alive that a river near Dhamadka dried up in the late 1980’s. Families began to depend on borewells. Also with increasing competition from mill made cloth, many traditional practitioners of ajrakh printing went elsewhere for work. The earthquake in 2001 destroyed Dhamadka. Many of the surviving families chose to leave the village and restablish themselves in Ajrakhpur near Bhuj. The family of Sulaiman Khatri sulaiman khatri chose to stay behind at Dhamadka. These elderly men are extremely proud to have kept this ancient art alive. They emphasised that even today no chemicals are used in the process of ajrak printing. We visited both Dhamadka and Ajrakhpur.

After some shopping we reached Hodka situated in the Banni Grasslands for lunch. Hodka was just 20kms from the popular ‘Tent City’ on the Rann. Sham-e-sarhad the resort we stayed in was managed by the Hodka village Panchayat.The employees were all locals and every one of them was proud of the quality of service they provided.

Following a lazy afternoon we went to the Hodka village to meet the leather artisans there.

Community living in these villages seemed very different from what we see in cities. Every compound had a cluster of homes. These were occupied either by members of a family or people or practising a specific profession. The cluster we went to had leather artisans. We picked up some hand crafter leather wallets from them. The children of these artisans were extremely talented and young girls made beautiful bead jewellery. Their enthusiasm was amazing and we got some pretty jewellery made by these girls. “You are so young. How did you learn to make this?”, I asked a young girl. She shrugged it off saying, “ Hum to hamesha se banathe hain!”

The following morning we drove to Kalo Dungar. On the way we stopped at ‘Siyaram Sweets’ at Khavda for some more authentic Mavo!

Kalo Dungar was more crowded and touristy. The view of the white Rann was nice but we felt that it paled in comparison with the view from the Dholavira fossil park. Driving back from Kalo Dungar, we decided to test whether the hill was actually ‘magnetic’ as the locals claimed.IMG_1706 We were shocked to note that our vehicle moved at a constant speed of about 40 km/hr even when the engine was switched off. The vehicle even climbed a steep portion at a speed of 20 km/hr. All of us were thrilled to experience that.

Our next destination was the India Bridge. Civilians are not allowed beyond India bridge because of the area’s proximity to the border with Pakistan. We had the army’s permit to drive on the road to the border. Locals advised us that it may be unwise to drive upto the border in an Innova as the road conditions could be bad. However at the BSF checkpost we were told that we could drive about 15 kilometres upto the ‘Martyrs Memorial’ and return.

All of us were thrilled to drive into the restricted zone. We stopped at the Martyrs Memorial built in memory of soldiers who died fighting at the Rann during the 1971 war with Pakistan. We also visited a BSF camp there. We had carried some sweets for our soldiers. The chief there came to meet us and spent some time talking to all of us. We also had tea with them. For us, it was an opportunity to meet people of the Indian army and just say, ‘thank you!”

We had to leave behind our phones and cameras at the India Bridge check post. So all we have is beautiful memories of this part of our trip.

It was also our final glimpse at the white Rann. For the first time we got to see some deer running along the Rann.20181226_130028

The next day we decided to spend some time seeing Bhuj. On reaching we found that most tourist destinations were closed as it was a Thursday. We then decided to drive to Koteshwar and Narayan Sarovar.

It was a 3 hour drive to Koteshwar, the western most temple in India. Beyond this lies the disputed waters of the Sir Creek. On a clear night in Koteshwar, we were told that the lights of Karachi city could be seen. Though it was still day, my sons and I looked around for a while and were convinced we could see Karachi!IMG_1778

Legend has it that the Shivlinga at Koteshwar was gifted to Ravana, the Lord of Lanka by Lord Shiva himself. Huein Tsang the Chinese traveller also mentions the temple in his writings.

The nearby Narayan Sarovar, a spot as significant as the Man Sarovar was disappointing. It was completely dry.

While Koteshwar was a beautiful the long drive did make it tiring.

That night we drove back to Bhuj at stayed at an artisan and crafts village called ‘Khamir’.khamir Here we learnt some more about forgotten crafts and traditions that the organisation is trying to revive or keep alive. We met weavers of Kharad, practitioners of different types Kutchi embroidery. We also learnt about ‘Kala Cotton’ an organic cotton that is not water intensive.

It was time to head home. From Khamir we drove back to Ahmadabad for our return flight. Our driver who was also visiting Kutch for the first time was also very happy with places we had been to. Meeting the BSF personel had been the highlight for him. Finally he insisted we have dinner at a restaurant run by people from ‘his’ part of Gujarat, Porbandar. He told us that there was a lot to see in his part of the state and we told him that we would plan a trip there in the near future.

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A Tough Life! But a Beautiful One

“But they have everything they need!” said my son as I described life in Janglik village to him.He is right. Life is certainly not easy for people living in the remote mountainous areas but they have work, food, clean air, clean water and a close knit community.

Janglik, a small village where around a 100 families live is about 150 kms from Shimla. It was the starting point for my trek to Chandernahan lakes. It is one of those rare villages in modern India that remains untouched by the wave of development in the name of modernisation.

The beautiful drive from Shimla to Janglik along the Pabbar river took us almost 8 hours and was exciting to say the least.

Along the way there were apple orchards and our group of trekkers stopped by to savour the freshly plucked fruit.

We were told that the bridge connecting to Janglik was broken and that we would have to walk the last 2 kms. We asked the driver when the bridge broke and he said, “kuch teen saal pehle.” We were amused but had no idea what was in store for us.

The broken bridge was a sight!

Our group crossed the river and were then asked to just follow the trail to the village. Carrying our 10 kg backpacks we struggled to negotiate the steep climb to Janglik. It took us close to an hour to reach the village and to me it felt like the longest 2 kms ever.“I don’t believe we paid to do this!” I told a friend on reaching the village.

The village is so cut off that we, so used to our urban comforts wondered how the villagers managed to go about their daily lives. What do they do for a living; how about school and medical facilities and how to they travel anywhere? Were some of the questions that troubled all of us.

It took my clouded urban mind some time to shrug off elitist perspectives and appreciate the stunning simplicity of life in this remote village. The villagers who were our guides for the trek were perhaps not very ‘qualified’ by urban standards but their understanding nature and the world they lived in was inspiring. There was so much for us to learn from them and so little that we could teach them.

Our first interaction was with a young school going kid in Janglik. He led us up the hill to a beautiful village temple.

He told us about his primary school in the village and said that his school team had many champions and that they had even won a trophy at the district level for Kabbadi!He introduced us to some of his friends. Most of the children were shy but curious. They told us about their families, parents working in fields or apple orchands and were quite amused that we had all come so ‘dressed up’ for a simple trek to the lakes. They children told us that they had all been to the lake as it was of religious significance. 

Trekking up and down the mountains carrying heavy loads was evidently a way of life for them.

After breakfast we started on our trek. Through the first part we walked right through the village.

It was amazing to see the villagers at work. There were people tending to this plots of land while some others were plucking apples.

There were shepherds who took their sheep out to graze and there were families where some members were shearing wool

from sheep as others working with the wool.( I later learnt that the wool was used to prepare shawls for use by the locals.)

Walking with me was our cook cum guide, Prem. Prem was great company. He told me that the village was self sufficient. He said that the fresh mountain air kept the villagers healthy and that they had lovely water.

There was a beautiful river flowing by the village and innumerable little streams that flowed through forests and went on to feed the river.

The water from these streams he said were full of medicinal properties. As we walked past a stream, he picked up some fruits that were fallen. He asked me to try the fruit. It was delicious. He told me that eating that fruit would ensure that we do not get tired as we walk. I assume he meant that it was highly nutritious. Soon he stoppd by another plant and picked out the tiny red berry like fruit. He said that eating that fruit would help anyone with stomach infection. As we walked I felt thirsty and stopped to take out my water bottle. He told not to drink water and led me another plant. He asked me to chew on the stem. I made a face but did chew on the stem. It was an odd taste but my thirst vanished. Prem said that the villagers chewed on the stem of that plant to prevent dehydration. I was amazed at his knowledge and understanding of the plants and trees around him.

He pointed out to some more shrubs and plants and said one of them could ease body pain while another was used for injuries and bruises. ‘Yahan toh har cheez ki dawah hai’ he told me. Just listening to him was an experience.

Prem said that over the next few weeks, villagers would remove all the grass and plants from the mountains.

They would store this to feed their cattle and sheep in winter.

He said that it was an activity that the entire village would participate in as they needed to stock food for close to 5 months.

We were also told that the villagers climbed to the higher ranges of the mountains every summer in search of a specific herb that is extensively used in ayurvedic preparations. Just 1 kg of that herb was worth 50000Rs.

Among the guides, the head was a person we called ‘Mushairiji”. On a clear sunny afternoon he ‘smelt’ the air and told us that we may not be able to climb up to Chandernahan lake as it was likely to pour the next day. That night it started raining and for the next 18-20 hours it rained without a break.

We had to spend a day at the ‘Litham’ camp. The evening was very cloudly and we asked Mushairiji if we would be able to head back to Janglik the next day. Once again he looked at the sky, ‘smelt’ the air and said that the next day would be sunny and that we should have no problems trekking back. And yes ! the next day was sunny.We asked him how he was able to gauge the weather conditions so accurately. All he said was, “hawa ki khusbhbu se pata chalta hai!”

Mushairji also happened to be a wonderful singer and that night, our guides the local people sang and danced for us.

They were also wonderful with the animals that lived and worked with them. A mountain dog, a friend of Prem accompanied us through the trek.

He assumed the role of watchdog and was extremely protective.

The mules that carried our tents and food stuff were also treated like babies.

Mushairiji told us that the mules did not like to get their feet wet and would never step out in the rain!

We also met shepherds along the way. Some of them had camped along the mountain with their herd. Some herds had as many as 400 sheep.

We were told that these sheep were very valuable and some of them could fetch as much as 15000Rs.I noticed one sheep limp.

Prem told me that the sheep must have had a fall. He then said that the villagers usually killed these injured sheep for meat.

Some of these shepherds wore a lovely while shawl. It looked coarse but extremely warm and comfortable. When asked if I could buy one in the village, they looked embarrassed. They told me that these shawls were made from the wool got from these sheep. City people like me should buy it from bigger towns. What I did not realise that the barter system worked there. They probably exchanged shawls for some food produce.

I did not persist as by now I was aware of the hospitality of these people, they might have insisted I take what they had.

Rajma was a staple at the camps. We were served rajma for almost every meal.

We learnt from our guides that rajma was one of the most popular crops in the region. Most villagers owned a plot of land and grew rice, wheat, rajma and some vegetables. Those who did not own plots of land usually worked in fields or apple orchards. The barter system was still prevalent and no one in the village went hungry.The life in the village is definitely tough but it is also beautiful. It was wonderful to see the villagers understand, respect and co-exist with nature.

I completely agree with my son’s sentiment. The villagers have everything they need and they value it.

P.S Our trek was 100% zerowaste and the local people made sure that we did not litter on leave anything behind. Back at Janglik I noticed that the only sign of modernisation was perhaps the beginning of the garbage trail.

At Home With Buddy

 

 

 

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It has been a 100 days since Buddy came home.

Personally it has been a huge challenge for me to get over my immense fear of dogs and become a pet parent.

It has indeed been a wonderful journey.

 

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From a timid but playful 6 week old, we have watched him grow into a confident little boy

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20180613_121828In the early days Buddy used to sit under the kitchen cupboards or the sofa. I have often wondered how difficult it must have been for that baby to get used to an alien home. Today he knows it is his home and is all over the place.

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My young boys have been true to their word. They have taken complete responsibility for Buddy. The three of them take turns to walk him, to sleep with him and manage all the work related to Buddy.  In the early days they did everything they could to make Buddy feel at home.

To my surprise, none of them shied away from cleaning after Buddy. The youngest one proudly says that it  feels wonderful to be a ‘big brother’!

I now realise that children are extremely sensitive to animals. While they may be careless with toys and other belongings, a pet becomes yet another sibling, one more to the gang!

Diet and travel with the pet were two more areas that were a cause for concern.

Buddy quickly adapted to the households typical “Tambhram” diet and loves his curd rice. We have been conscious to provide him a healthy vegetarian diet but the task is not as difficult as I assumed it would be.

In summer we travelled with Buddy to Wayanad. We fed him an hour or so before the car ride and that made him extremely uncomfortable. For the first two hours he insisted on sitting on my lap and wanted to be hugged. Gradually he grew comfortable and learnt to sleep during long ride. We too learnt that it was not a good idea to feed him before a car drive.

Once again I was surprised and touched to note that he clung to me when he was feeling uncomfortable. I had assumed that he was more comfortable with my husband and kids.

edwayanad2018-947Buddy enjoyed the vacation and we did a short trek with him.

Post vaccination, Buddy has enjoyed playing with the many lovely pets in our commuimg-20180527-wa0065nity.  He goes out to play twice every day and comes home completely exhausted. One of his best friends happens to live next door. The minute our door opens, he rushes to her house.

Toilet training Buddy has been a crazy experience. The first month he peed and pooped all over the house.  This did change once we started taking him for walks. However there are times we are unable to take him out. The boys have trained him to use either the balcony or the toilet. Well Buddy understands the concept. He make it a point to rush to the toilet or balcony, sticks his head out and pees in the hall itself!

Buddy comes with his set of idiosyncrasies and is a bundle of joy. Bringing a pet home is like bringing a baby home. 

 While I realise that dogs mean no harm, I continue to be petrified of them. Hope to overcome this fear someday. However I am completely at home with Buddy.

 

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Buddy was one of the ‘Miracle pups’ rescued by Kam Raghavan nearly 50 hours after his mother was run over by a speeding vehicle. The pups were around 2 weeks old when they lost their mother. Kam fostered them for four weeks before putting them up for adoption.

 

Thank You Kam for bringing Buddy into our world.

 

A Ride to Remember


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A cycling trip with my teenaged son was something I had never envisioned.

I was curious about cycling but not confident. When a friend who conducts cycling tours spoke about a week long trip to Srilanka, I was fascinated.

My 14 year old son, who in recent times, seems to feel that amma and her friends are quite ‘cool’ said he would like to join me. I mentioned this to my friend and on 1st of February , we, 3 moms and our teenaged children left for Colombo.

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3 others joined the following day and we went on to do 200 kms along the west coast of Srilanka from Colombo to Matara.

As a novice cyclist, I expected this trip to be a lifetime experience for me and hopefully the beginning of a new adventure for my teenaged son.

This first morning was a relaxed one. Colombo, to me, looked like any other south Indian city eager to shed its old world charm to embrace rapid urbanisation.

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We drove around Colombo and made the touristy stops at ‘Barefoot’ and ‘Odel’ . On our way back , the 3 moms decided to get off the vehicle and explore the city. The children and a member of our group drove back to the hotel.

We walked down a street close to the National Museum where artists had displayed their paintings. We were amazed by the quality of their work and spent a while there.

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We then got into a tuk-tuk and the enthusiastic driver took us to a shop selling gems mined in Srilanka. The collection of gemstones was nice but as none of us were jewellery enthusiasts we spent more time talking to the sales people there. They were happy to hear us speak in Tamil and one of them, a Srilankan Tamil from Mannar told me ‘we in Srilanka take pride in speaking in Tamil.’

Most signboards in Srilanka feature Sinhala, Tamil and English and locals seemed comfortable in all 3 languages. The sales people were impressed that we were cycling right upto Matara.

We then went ‘tea tasting ‘ at a quaint beachside cafe in Colombo. We were fascinated to see a train track right next to the sea.

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We decided that we must travel by the local train on our last day in Colombo.

That evening we went to pick up our cycles. The ride back to our hotel was exciting. Cycling at night was a new experience for the children and me. We followed our support vehicle efficiently managed by Rizan, our driver, as we navigated the city traffic to cover the distance of 14 kilometres.

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All Set for our First Ride

The next morning 7 of us set out for Wadduwa, a seaside town about 35kms from Colombo. We left early and after 2 stops, the first for coffee and the next for breakfast we reached Wadduwa by 9.30. The two other riders who had landed just that morning started later and met us for lunch at Wadduwa.

Barely 2 kilometres into our ride we had to climb a flyover. For some strange reason I was extremely thrilled to cycle over a flyover.

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After an hour of cycling we saw a group of young cyclist zoom past us. For the first time it occurred to me that we were cycling at a very relaxed pace.

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Most of the ride was on the highway and there were some stretches where we rode past pristine beaches.

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Post lunch, my friend and I headed to the Kalutaria Bodhiya. The Bodhi tree in this temple is believed to have grown a sapling of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura which itself is a sapling from the original Bodhi tree at Gaya.

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The Bodhi Tree at Kalutaria

The police near the temple seemed a little amazed to see two women come to the temple on cycle. He asked us where we were from. We gave him the details but he found it strange that we chose to leave our husbands behind in India to cycle in Srilanka.

Situated next to the beautiful Kalu river, the temple is now flanked by the Colombo – Galle Road on one side and a railway line on the other.

We sat at the temple for a while and then headed to the riverside.

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The ride to the temple and riverside exposed us to another side of Srilanka. There were catcalls, whistles and attempts by young men on the roads to catch our attention. “It is extremely annoying but should we be feeling flattered?” wondered my friend. After all those boys were not much older than my sons.

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The Beach at Wadduwa

The next morning post a sumptuous breakfast we set out for Bentota.

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We decided to stop by the Kalutariya Bodhiya temple again. As mandated by the temple authorities, all the riders wearing shorts had to wear a sarong. We spent some more time inside the beautiful temple.

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Lighting Diyas at the Temple

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The Riders in Sarongs

The mornings ride was a fast paced one and we covered the distance of 26kms in just over an hour. As our rooms in Bentota were not ready, we decided to ride a little further.

The sun was out and I found this second ride exhausting. As I struggled to keep pace, 4 of us decided to ride slower at a rate more comfortable for me. Through the ride I complained endlessly to my friend.

At one point we saw a a huge tree completely covered with bats. It was a wonderful sight.

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Bats on the Tree

We went a little further and saw 2 of our group members waiting for us.

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We turned back to return to our resort. On our way back we again stopped by the tree with bats.

We went a little and stopped by the beach to have some refreshing coconut water. The weather cooled down and there was a drizzle. We were happy to ride in the rain. We soon reached the Turtle hatchery and spent some time there with the extremely cute 2 day old turtles.

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2 Day Old Turtle

We then went to our resort for lunch.

I was happy that I completed my first ever 50kms that day. We had done a total of 52 kms that morning.

The lady managing the resort recommended that we go to the beach. “It is a clean beach, not like those in your country!” she told us. We rushed to explain that our country had many beautiful beaches.

Just behind the rooms was a railway track. We had to cross the railway line to go to the beach.

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Post lunch we walked 5 kms along the beautiful Bentota beach looking for the lighthouse. We finally spotted it and got back to the resort for tea.

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Dinner in Bentota was at an Indian ‘Dhaba’ that we had spotted during our morning ride.

The next day was the longest ride of our trip. We expected to cover a distance of about 60kms from Bentota to Galle. We stopped for breakfast at a joint facing the Madu river. The place was extremely scenic.

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Madu River

We then stopped at the Bamiyan Buddha next to the Peraliya Turtle Farm.

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A replica of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Budhas, this was built as a memorial for victims of the Tsunami that struck the land in 2004.

We later passed by the stunningly beautiful Hikkaduwa beach.

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As we rode I also saw that many high rise apartment complexes and 5 Star resorts were under construction along this scenic route.

As we reached Galle, I was shocked to see the crowds in the marketplace. We struggled through the traffic and reached our villa. Post lunch we headed to the Galle fort. We passed by the Galle Cricket stadium.

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The beautifully maintained Galle Fort retains an old world charm. After some time admiring the sea from the fort we decided to walk around the streets.

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It was interesting to see lovely homes tucked between boutique stores and elegant cafes.

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We had dinner in one such café and then we headed back to our room.

The next morning we set out on the last leg of our ride to Matara. We were all happy that our ride until then had been comfortable and incident free. The first 15 kilometres was very comfortable. We stopped for refreshments at a small shop near Unawatana beach.

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View from shop near Unawatana Beach

As we rode further, I heard a sound from my cycle. I had a flat tyre. The 45minutes we struggled with damaged tubes and managed to fix the tyre.

We continued our ride and when we were about 7 kms from Matara, one of the children found the ride getting tough and her knees started to hurt. We had yet another flat tyre. The cycle was loaded into our support vehicle and we rode our villa at Matara.

We had completed 200kms on cycle.

Matara was a quaint seaside town. We went to a lovely beachside hotel called ,The Doctor’s House’ for lunch.

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Post lunch we rested and clicked some pictures.

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Later in the evening some of the ladies headed out for a Musical Nite at a Beachside resort some 10kms from Matara.

The children, another member of our group and me went for an early dinner at a nearby hotel.

The next morning, 1 member set out at 2.45am to ride back to Colombo. This lone rider made it to Colombo in about 10 hours.

The rest of us drove down to Tangalle for surfing lessons.

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We spent 3 hours at the beach learning to ride the waves.

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It was a wonderful experience.

Post surfing we picked up our luggage from Matara to head for Colombo.

That evening we decided to the train ride. We headed to Welwatte station.

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Our plan was to take the train to Moratuwa. We got the tickets and waited at the platform. The train came and we were stunned to see the crowds. We stood shocked. The crowd was comparable to what one sees in trains in Mumbai. We then saw another train heading in the opposite direction towards Colombo Fort. We climbed on to that train. It was a beautiful ride by the sea.

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View of Sunset from the Train

We got off at Colombo fort and walked around the nearby areas. We saw the Lotus tower. The crowded market place was similar to the ones we have in India.

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We headed back to our rooms in a tuk-tuk.

Next morning it was time to leave.

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We got back home excited with lovely memories of cycling, surfing and a great time spent with some beautiful people.

And above all I will forever cherish the wonderful week spent with my teenaged son.

We too Pay Taxes 

Yes our water bodies are a mess! Haphazard  development and disregard  for basic rules has led to this. While we as citizens have played a role in the degradation  of of city, is it only the fault of us citizens  who live in apartment complexes across the city?

Most of us purchased our dream home from a builder who promised us that the all the concerned  ‘titles’ were clear. To be doubly sure we then verified these documents  with legal experts who affirmed this. Most of us then approached banks  to help fund our homes. Loans for our apartments  have been sanctioned by several leading  banks including nationalised ones. 

As a citizen, I expect that the bank would sanction loans only to properties that were ‘clear’. 

Now we are told that our homes are encroaching  upon lakes, Rajkaluves and other protected areas. We are told that the sewage from our communities  is destroying the water  bodies.

My question to the Government is what is your role here? Why did you approve projects that you now say have encroached upon water bodies? Why did you not stop the builder when you knew he was probably violating all norms ?  Why did you allow banks to fund these projects and give loans to buyers likeep us? Why have you been collecting  taxes from us?

Apartments  residents  across Bangalore  have worked to save lakes and set up efficient  waste management systems.  

Apartment Owners are willing  to follow norms and regulations. But the Government  must be reasonable  and offer viable solutions to manage our infrastructure  related  issues.

You asked us to manage our waste inhouse. Now you want us to use all our treated water. Tomorrow  we could  be asked to generate  our own power or build roads leading to our homes. Where will this end?

 We too pay taxes.

Hampi: A Victim of Tourism?

 

“This is supposed to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site! What have they done to it?” exclaimed my architect husband when we visited Hampi last week.

Hampi was originally not part of our itiniery. As it was just an hour drive from Sandur, we decided to make a quick trip to Hampi and see the Virupaksha temple.

Two decades ago my husband spent 3 days in Hampi. He has many beautiful memories of the place and as I had not seen it, it has been in our ‘place to explore’ list for some time now.

He told our sons and me, “As it is a protected area, vehicles are not allowed in Hampi and we will have to walk a lot. We will not try to do too much, just the Virupaksha Temple and the bazaar area! We will come back later and spend some time here.”

The Manager at our resort recommended a restaurant in Hampi for lunch and my surprised husband asked, “Oh you have a restaurant in Hampi?” He later told us that in protected areas construction activity is controlled and strictly monitored. He felt that the Tourism department must have set up some basic amenities for tourists in Hampi.

Going by his descriptions and the images of Hampi that I had seen, I conjured the image of a desolate rocky town with magnificent ruins.

“Hampi has changed”was his first remark as we turned onto the road which said ‘Virupaksha Temple 4kms.’ I asked him upto what point vehicles were allowed and he had no idea. We drove along the road and we saw a huge traffic jam. We decided to park our car and walk. “Anyways the car will not be allowed near the main protected sites!” he said.

A few moments later he said “They are allowing vehicles here…right next to the monuments!! How is this possible?” He was obviously irritated and upset but this was just the beginning.

Wading our way through the traffic, we reached the Krishna Temple and the path leading to the Krishna Bazaar and Pushkarni.

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Spice Market opposite Krishna Temple

 

 

 

 

We walked up to the Bazaar area. As we were clicking pictures my husband noticed a building and said, “How can such construction be permitted?” The building was certainly an eyesore.

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The Pushkarani (Notice the Building Behind)

Next we spent some time at the magnificent Krishna Temple.

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Krishna Temple. There was a huge traffic jam right outside this temple

We then walked to the Kadalekadu Ganesha temple. It seemed to be part of a large complex.

The police showed us the path from the Kadalekadu Ganesha temple to the Virupaksha temple. He also mentioned that we could avoid the traffic if we took this path.

From the Kadalekadu temple, we got the first glimpse of the Virupaksha Temple and surrounding areas.

hampi 149“I don’t want to see anymore of Hampi” said my visibly upset husband. “Look at what they have done to this place? It looks like a slum”, he added.

My younger two boys sat with him at the Kadalekadu temple. My eldest one and I decided to explore the place.

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Virupaksha Temple

We saw a large number of people head towards the Virupaksha temple. “Amma it looks too crowded” he said. So we entered the Hemakuta Temple complex, one of the oldest cluster of shrines in Hampi. It was beautiful and not crowded.

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We spent some time exploring the place.

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When we went back to the Kadalekadu Ganesha temple, I saw my husband and sons busy chatting. My sons were both amused and surprised to see their usually calm and composed father react the way he did

We then decided to go to the Vittala Temple complex. As we headed towards the beautiful Talarigatta Gate, we saw yet another traffic jam.

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Talarigata Gate

“I do not want to get stranded in traffic in Hampi!” said my very disappointed husband as we turned the car to head back to Sandur.

“I thought the idea of protecting a heritage site was to keep it the way it was,”

Hampi is certainly off his ‘places to explore’ list for now

 

3 is Fun!

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“3 kids! That must be fun!” This reaction, we have got from just 3 people till today.

“How on earth do you manage 3 kids?” is the more common reaction. Invariably the next question is, “Do you have a full time maid, nanny, cook?” Well we do not have any of these!

It then gets pretty entertaining with relative strangers feeling sorry for us and say, “It must be so tough..how do you get any time for yourself?”

My husband and I wonder what all this fuss about children is. Children are a lot of fun and time spent with them is always enjoyable. We argue, fight, get angry with each other but we also have a great time doing things together and looking out for each other.

When each of our boys brings home a friend or two, well our house resembles a day care centre. It is quite hilarious to see 10 boys between the ages 8-14 play some of the most inane but entertaining games. And we actually look forward to it. Dinner with the boys is something we try not to miss.

I guess it is a personal choice! Not everyone sees a noisy, chaotic home with things lying all over as fun.

Some people of course are extremely rude. I was with my second son at a friend’s place and a lady who barely knew me went on about how difficult my life must be managing 3 kids.

I was upset but my son’s reaction was amusing.

On our way home he said, “I think that aunty has a problem child…..she seems to think children are difficult to look after…we do not have any such issues in our house!”

Unfortunately I was unable to adopt his practical approach. To date I remain petty and avoid conversation with that lady.

During one of the waste segregation drives, in our complex, we met this lady who said, “I have 2 kids to look after so I cannot segregate waste!” Her logic took us by surprise. A friend later told me, “next time you meet that lady, tell her to have one more child. You have 3 kids and you segregate …problem solved.”

Now I follow that advice. Every time people talk about how difficult it is for them to manage 1 or 2 kids…I tell them, “Have 3 ….it is a lot of fun!”