Nature

The Chennai Rains – what it taught me!

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December 2nd 2015 – A day I will remember in great detail. And by that I mean like Sheldon – eidetic memory and all that! For the rest of my life! Why? Because I learnt a lot of lessons. Life lessons. Hopefully positive too!

December 2nd 2015 was a Wednesday. A very rainy one. The previous night was a bummer because there was a really long power cut. And we had to make do with no TV, low charged mobile phones for mindless whatsapping, and no microwaveable hot dishes.

Many near and dear ones called us in the morning to find if we were ok, thanks to tv reports, rumors and truth on social media, tamilnadu weatherman forecasts and the panchaangam (traditional methods of hindu astrology). Well, we were ok. We smiled. Reassured people. And stocked up for the rainy days ahead. And then it all began.

Lesson 1 . You think you have a plan.

I surely did. My plan was to live a “simple”life during the badly forecast days of rain. I prepared myself mentally for power cuts. So I had stocked up on provisions that would not be easily perishable (read rotis, dal and eggs). I had my work cut out. I was going to do a lot of written work that did not include electricity. Letters to write (Yes, I have a bunch of pen friends and we write to each other the pen and paper way), assignments to prepare for and the like. Priding myself on being ultra organised, I was relaxed that Wednesday morning.

But what did I really learn?: I thought I was preparing myself for a simple life. Turns out my version of simple was not simple. I should have thought minimalistic. Couple of hours down the line – I had no thoughts of food perishable or non perishable, no fancy words to write in my letters, and no creativity to showcase in my assignments. All I was thinking was how to creatively salvage what we could and how to get out of my house.

Lesson 2 . You think you are connected.

John Donne said ” No man is an Island” More so in today’s world where we are connected through Whatsapp groups, private chats, phone calls, Face time, Skype, Facebook, Instagram and what not. And you think that all these will help you in case of an emergency. I can upload on Facebook, tweet about it, send a message in groups  – that’s what we take for granted every single day.

But what did I really learn?: News Flash : You need wifi and there is no power. You need mobile data (Yes all the 3G and 4G the pretty girl tells you is unlimited on TV!) But the network operators decide to shut down. And you are relying on your senile memory to desperately grasp at phone numbers that are just an illusion in your head. Arrogantly displaying your useful as a brick smartphone. Pity, the landline is the only thing that works. But sadly redundant in our heads and homes. Sorry John Dunne. Man was indeed an island on Dec 2.

Lesson 3. You work hard so that you can afford stuff.

You buy a house. And then a car. And do it up well. Look up magazines, hire an architect. Paint it. Lights. A lawn. The works.

But what did I really learn ? : None of these matter. You cannot take them with you. You may have to leave it behind. All of them. The things you waited so many days to buy. Or saved up for. The envy of others. Anything. When I left home – I carried my wallet, mobile 2 sets of clothes, my grandparent’s photos, an ID proof and a couple of certificates. That’s all. None of the books I heavily invested in and thought were the reason for my life. Not the Laptop. Nor the Tablet. Nope. Din’t think of them even once.

In a way – the Chennai floods taught me a lot more. That you are never safe. That things change. That the things and people you thought you could rely on, may not be so reliable. But that random people you din’t think of, step up to the occasion. That people help. That some like to see you struggle. There are more expenses than you imagine.  But it does not seem important in that minute.You are powerless against Nature. Or stupid bureaucracy. That you yourself are not the person you thought you were. You are extremely strong on auto pilot. And can be really more arrogant and self-obsessed than we realise too.

 

Surprisingly, when people were clicking their tongues and enquiring about all the material damage (read vehicles, electronic equipments,cleaning, plumbing, carpentry ) – I feel like I have some clarity. Or maybe I am just zombied out.

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DESTINATION DUBAI – Part 2

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DESTINATION DUBAI – Part 2

THE DESERT SAFARI

If you have read Part 1 of my trip at Sukanya’s Blog (https://sukanyaramanujan.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/guest-post-destination-dubai-by-mathangi-jeyabal/)

– let’s take off from where we stopped last. While locals at Dubai might not really be gung ho about the Desert Safari (they must have done it a zillion times) – as a tourist , it is something that you cannot miss. There are innumerable choices to book a desert safari – right from something that looks really affordable to the ones that make your eyes pop out (are they throwing in a camel for free or what?). Jokes apart – read the reviews and pick the one that suits your budget and maybe a bit more. We went with Orient Tours , and I was happy with the whole experience as you might infer on further reading of this post.

If you fix a slightly upscale option – you get picked up from your residence in the vehicle of your choice (we got a really smooth Land cruiser / you can even opt for a Hummer) and are driven to the outskirts of the city. You pretty much observe the well planned out city’s landscapes fading out as you enter desert territory – arid conditions, prickly bushes and miles and miles of nothingness. You get a pit stop – where you can stock up on some snacks / coffee etc and then you go further into the land of fantastic sand dunes.

You are really not prepared for the first experience of dune bashing as they call it – where your driver simply plunges vehicle et al right from the top of the sand dune till the bottom. Once you get used to it – you secretly start wishing the dunes get higher and higher and your drop gets steeper and steeper. Your driver will stop at half point to let some air out of the tires so as to get a better grip driving up slope. Its no fun when you are halfway up there and realize you are tumbling back down uncontrollably. Its useful to check on the cars that go ahead (there are many of them that stick to a particular route) – to have a fair idea of what’s coming next.

Did the car behind ya get stuck?
Did the car behind ya get stuck?
Steep fall
Tracks ahoy !
Tracks ahoy !

Your tourist and Facebook friendly driver lets you get out at the most photo friendly spots – giving you sufficient time for selfies/ groupfies and what not!

Groupfie time! Random tourists
Groupfie time! Random tourists

The sand surprisingly is not so hot to your bare feet and is almost silky smooth. There are many almost virgin sand dunes, where your footprints do leave the first imprints making you hope it stays there embedded in the sands of time ( wishful thinking eh ?) Kids and adults just go crazy here deciding to climb up and slide down – forget inhibitions and think childhood memories .

Footprints in the sands of time...
Footprints in the sands of time…

Post play time is a visit to the camel farm, a chance to see some exotic, fat lipped “Camelus dromedaries”, lazily chewing something and giving you the shifty eye. They are willing to be petted and photographed with and are absolutely friendly.

Camelus Dromedarius - yep its a camel!
Camelus Dromedarius – yep its a camel!

Your last stop is the actual camp at the desert. As the sun sets, you are under the vast skies , in small tents – you can either put your feet up and relax, or go sand dune sledding, get your hands painted with henna, hold a captive falcon, get a hookah fix,watch some sand art before dinner is served. Sadly there are not many options for the vegan or vegetarian population, but if you like your proteins (read meat) you are in for a treat. The food was good, the activities make you tired and you are ready to call it a day – when you are invited to a treat of some Arabian music, traditional dances including a voluptuous belly dance.

Henna time
Henna time
Dinner is served!
Dinner is served!
This guy did quite a number...
This guy did quite a number…
And so did she !
And so did she !
The sun sets over the desert ... time to wrap up!
The sun sets over the desert … time to wrap up!

. As you get dropped at your residence you sleep well happy in the thought that it was a day well spent.

My next post is about the extravagant gold souks and enchanting spice markets… don’t forget to watch out for this space…

Legend of the Hidimba Temple (Built in 1553)

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The Hidimba Temple is located in Manali, famous resort town in Himachal Pradesh. This ancient temple situated at the foot of the Himalayas, in a forest of cedar trees is said to have been built in the year 1553.

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This is probably the sight you would see as you walked through the forest flanked by huge deciduous trees. A three-tiered structure that almost looks like a house. The deity is believed to be a part of a huge rock cut out of the ground around which this structure was built.

TRIVIA

The most surprising feature of the temple or what believers could call the most reassuring feature of the temple is the fact that inside the temple the imprint of the feet of the Godess carved on a block of stone are worshipped and if you go to Google Satellite and zoom into the area where the temple is located, you can clearly see the imprint of a giant foot spanning across the valley in the area near the temple. It’s thumb starts from where Google shows the Manali Heights hotel to be located and the rest of the foot goes all the way down the slope.” – Wikipedia

WHO IS HIDIMBA DEVI?

Hidimba Devi, is a character from the great epic Mahabharatha. Who was she? The mother of Gatothkacha (The Giant Asura – son of Bhima) and devoted wife to Bhima ( one of the five Pandavas, known for his extreme strength in combat.)

WHAT WAS THE LEGEND?

The Pandavas along with their mother, Kunti Devi  and wife Draupadi were wandering through the forests during course of the exile. Having arrived at this very forest the women in the group felt very tired and decided to halt for the night. Having climbed one of the huge deodars, Bhima looked around and decided it was safe enough for them to spend the night there.

As was common – the brothers took turns at keeping vigil while the others slept. When it was Bhima’s turn to keep watch – he spotted a very attractive woman walking towards him in the middle of the night. While the gallant Pandava asked her if she required any help, the beautiful woman begged him no end to leave the place immediately, for fear of their safety.

Not being one to give in to fear – Bhima asked her to explain herself. The young woman Hidimba told him the truth ” I am a man-eating Rakshasi (demon) staying with my brother. My brother has decided to kill you all this night and devour you. Please do go away as soon as possible. I have come in guise of a mortal to warn you”.

The courageous Pandava replied ” Fair maiden, thank you for having warned us. But I assure you, it your brother who has to be warned against us and not the other way around. I refuse to disturb my tired mother and brothers as they sleep so peacefully in order to humor your brother”

By this time Hidimba’s brother had tracked her down, and was furious that she had sought to warn the humans, mere mortals. Needless to say – a huge battle ensued. Trees were uprooted, violence galore as man and demon met face to face.

Trees  of this size are believed to have been uprooted during the battle.
Trees of this size are believed to have been uprooted during the battle.

Finally Bhima overpowered the Asura and killed him. The gentle Hidimba, having fallen in love with the strong and brave Bhima asked him to marry her. Bhima agreed, on the one condition that he will stay with her until a son is born to her after which he will join his brothers to complete the 13-year exile. The son – who was born later on was the gigantic and gentle Gatothkacha. His is another story to be told later. Thus ends the legend of the Hidimba Devi temple.

THE TEMPLE UP CLOSE

Sculptures and carving show the level of intricacy in detail even as far back as the mid 1500’s.

The carvings are believed to be 400 years old!
The carvings are believed to be 400 years old!

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While some people just pray to the Godess as the “Hill Godess” a legend and a story woven into the history always makes it more memorable – I think. I leave you now, with a final view of the temple.

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Blue and Gold

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Caught her mid way as she was sliding gracefully within the space allotted for her… Almost looks diaphanous as though she might just disappear into the royal blue in a whiff of smoke!

Beauty in blue and gold!

Yelagiri Hills

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The Yelagiri hills / sometimes also known as Elagiri hills – is one of the quickest get away to a hill station if you reside in Chennai. A 3 hour drive on a National Highway and you are at your destination away from congested traffic jams, wifi, and mall experiences.

The temperature here is cool NOT very cold, making it ideal to just relax from the four summers of Chennai, especially if you are the kind of person who misses the slow pace of life, like I did. So Yelagiri it was after I decided I needed a break from everday routine, where it was ok to be slow, walk slow, eat slow and not run towards a goal/ target/ or deadline.

We made reservations at a resort just near the lake – there are many of them and at quite affordable rates. Most of them serve absolutely fresh food as per your choice, only after you confirm you are going to dine with them. There is a no plastic rule which prevails in yelagiri. Another point in its favor. Beautful skies, the sun and the trees, simple flowers and the water and wind. Sometimes the simplest things that are ever present are the best things.

The sun and its rays piercing through the green leaves - a great sight to behold!
The sun and its rays piercing through the green leaves – a great sight to behold!

 

Still blue waters, wonderfully calm sky, and a smidgen of green here and there...
Still blue waters, wonderfully calm sky, and a smidgen of green here and there…

 

En route to the lake.. short walk over the bridge...
En route to the lake.. short walk over the bridge…

People do complain about the lack of “entertainment” options at yelagiri. Well if you are looking for adventure options,or touristy fun stuff, maybe this is not the place for you. This is ideal for people who want to slow down, be aimless for a couple of days, or just follow a minimal routine with lots of  time to just lie down, sit and observe people and take refuge in minimalism..

 

Giant size custard apples...
Giant size custard apples…

This tree with its brilliant orange flowers against a royal blue background captured my heart each morning during my stay at yelagiri...

This tree with its brilliant orange flowers against a royal blue background captured my heart each morning during my stay at yelagiri…

The lake at Yelagiri, is the main place where almost all tourists head to after their morning breakfast or for their evening walk. Entry to the park surrounding the lake is an abysmal Rs 10, with an extra Rs. 10 you have to throw in for your camera. A short walk around the lake with some broad footpaths, a bridge and through the park will bring you to the boating area and “snack” counters. Most families indulge in both and many did sing the praises of the  fried fish.

Botanical gardens
Botanical gardens

Besides the lake, the only other place where you probably could spend some time is the Botanical Gardens. A walk through the garden would take you about one and a half hours. But if you did it the way we did… that is …

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sit in this quaint thatched roof hut for a good forty-five minutes, the walk around the park would take you much longer. Though I would have liked to see more varieties of flowers and trees – the park is well maintained and well cared for.

Branches reaching to the blue sky...
Branches reaching to the blue sky…
Brilliant colours of the bougainvillea - shot in natural light. No editing required for this one...
Brilliant colours of the bougainvillea – shot in natural light. No editing required for this one…
These small red and white flowers looked like an arrangement of little bulbs and so caught my eye!
These small red and white flowers looked like an arrangement of little bulbs and so caught my eye!
Dark violet on the inside but radiating into a pure white...
Dark violet on the inside but radiating into a pure white…
Bright and yellow...
Bright and yellow…

 

 

Dancing Fountains...
Dancing Fountains…

The park / botanical gardens ” boast” of a light show and the dancing fountains. The novelty wears of quite soon unless you are a kid within the age of 10 who would burst into peals of laughter when the fountains spray some water on you while they “dance” 🙂

Solitary rock... ideal for the book lover
Solitary rock… ideal for the book lover

But me – I would rather comfortably perch on this rock, by the lake with a book , maybe a cuppa and lose myself with the passage of time…

Wallflowers

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Wallflowers…

As much as they take your breath away – I am forced to tell you the truth. These are artificial flowers, mounted on a wall at a Market.

But to see so many colours at one time – Breathtaking. Dont you agree?

 

Looking back on the past

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Turning back on the past ?

The tiger in the present, seems to reflect carefully at the ‘past’ and memories that went by. What’s past is also not in color, and the scene ahead is also in Black and white. To let us know – only  the present counts. Neither the past. Nor the future. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy life.