Space Elevators

Anoushrayan Deysarkar

Illustration: Victor Habbick/Getty Images

Megastructures are truly massive structures, which are used for projects beyond anything we can do today. One of these is the space elevator.

A space elevator is a theoretical structure stretching from Earth to space, which allows the transport of materials and spacecraft from Earth to space and vice-versa, without the use of a rocket.

The construction of a space elevator would be extremely expensive and difficult, but the payoff would be immense. It would require an extremely strong thread, one that only became possible after the invention of artificial super-fibers like C-60. However, no existing material has the required strength to support such a structure. Several plans have been put forward for the construction of a space elevator, though none have been realised yet.

Apart from the thread, another problem is location and actual construction. A space elevator would have to be built at the equator, to avoid major problems. Several locations have been suggested, in regions free from storms and heavy winds. The western equatorial Pacific is a possible location, as it has the best possible natural location, free of environmental hazards.

Many ideas, such as building the elevator on top of a mountain or tall tower, have been proposed, to reduce the stress on the cable. The construction would probably be done by a satellite, feeding cable down to the Earth’s surface, and a counterweight to create centrifugal force, upwards. The space elevator is a fascinating megastructure and has the potential to cut costs down by up to 100 times. It would be very useful and making one would be very rewarding for whichever country manages it.

Making of Anoushrayan – Entering the teens

The first year | The journey till 12 | The 14th year

At the eve of being 14

I love to see things grow, and a human baby is one of the most intriguing of all. All this time since birth to his 12th birthday, Anoushrayan had been changing slowly – the face, the structure, the voice and the abilities.

But then all of a sudden things started changing so rapidly that it was like riding a whirlwind. I wouldn’t say I could no longer recognize my child, it was not that dramatic but there were things which I needed time to cope with.

To begin with there had always been discussions and long chats but now they turned to heated arguments. Anoushrayan was never ready to take my words on face value; I had to prove everything by showing it on google – a concept I introduced him to, but now that he was knowledgeable enough to form his own opinion, or so he thought, he would debate even the established ideas. His ‘WHY’ haunted me day n night.

His memory had been sharp but now it became sharper and yet the scores started dropping from the usual 100%. The reason was none other than the multitude of fancy fantasies that had started making his head their home. From Harry Porter to Percy Jackson to Ravagers to what not – featuring demi-gods, artificially intelligent life forms, all crowd his mind space. Anoushrayan always an avid reader; reads the stories intently and then makes different versions of them on his own. He then plays them in his mind over and over again, chants the dialogues and sometimes enacts them too. He has turned out to be an acclaimed script writer and is asked to do the same for most school projects.

We had decided to skip travelling out of town in the summer of 2019 as Rajib had to get his cholcystectomy done and would need time to recover. So I started looking for horse riding classes, Anoushrayan had been keen on riding since early childhood but it had really taken his fancy since the ride in Pahalgam, Kashmir where we went in 2018.

I found one that could suit my budget, horse riding is an expensive affair. It was a bit far off yet we signed in, for a preliminary course. We had to go early morning but it being summer helped. The drive was refreshing for the most part, and the place was absolutely delightful. Huge grounds with trees around. The horses were tall, much taller than the ones we rode in Pahalgam.

Anoushrayan took to riding as fish would to water. The head coach who is also the owner of the place – a retired army colonel, was impressed by his natural ease. Though tiring I felt this was worth the long drive and the early wakeup regime even in hols, we are owls – night people, all three of us and early mornings are not our thing.

He was so much at ease that I thought having some shared genes I could give it a try too. But the moment I got up on the beast I was certain I did not share the riding genes in particular. I was very very scared. Over the days I did get a bit comfortable but I am definitely not a rider material.

Over a period of two weeks Anoushrayan picked up trot and canter. The horse seemed to respond to him well. Though it would not be possible to continue the classes once school started, we discussed the possibility of coming back in the breaks.

As planned we bought a Duster just a day before the last day of the horse ridding class, Rajib was fit to drive by then. The last day was a Sunday, Rajib came along as we had planned to dine out on the way back home, may be after a bit of a longer drive to give our Duster a good run.

It was my last riding day as well; we – the not so riding savvy adults were taken for a short ride away from the arena where the budding riders were practising, Anoushrayan being one of them. We were on our return journey, the time having got almost over and then we heard a cry and saw a commotion inside the arena from a distance. Once we reached I saw Anoushrayan on the ground and a lot of people around him. Rajib looked nervous.

Our humpty dumpty had a great fall. The way he explained the fall was hilarious and gave a glimpse of the naive baby that he still was. He knew he was falling from almost a height of 7ft or more and yet he didn’t think it might break his bone. He didn’t think of rolling over or giving cushion to his head, hands or legs simply because he thought nothing would happen after all, nothing ever happened to Tom and Jerry!

There was a doctor on spot and he apprehended a surgery. Anoushrayan was in great pain but he was upbeat and was trying to analyse what might have happened. We rushed to Narayana Multispecialty Hospital in Whitefield that would be nearest to our home as we anticipated multiple to and fro visits. Also having got Rajib’s surgery done in there, we were quite satisfied with the facilities of the place.

Anoushrayan was taken to the emergency ward and diagnosed with ‘Left elbow posterior dislocation and fracture epicondyle’. So 21st Apr 2019 Anoushrayan was admitted to a hospital for the first time in his life in order to have the surgery performed on him. He turned out to be a brave fellow, quite excited to undergo such an experience.

I was not nervous but definitely worried. The late night surgery took quite some time but all went well. The healing would take time, the doctor said and even after a good deal of physiotherapy the elbow might never regain its original position.

I am an optimist and so is Anoushrayan, so we didn’t pay much heed to the nay saying and rather focused on getting a proper physiotherapy done. So we spend the summer vacation visiting the physio lady near our home, and a good job she did. Within 3 months Anoushrayan was completely cured with hardly a tiny mark of the accident.

I had always wanted a pet, a dog to be precise. Rajib also loves pets, he felt very de-stressed when Limca was around. We had also fostered another puppy called ‘Poppy’ for a few days. Both Rajib and Anoushrayan had wanted to keep Limca or Poppy but I was not in a condition then so I promised him a pet once he was 12. So that he can share the responsibility of looking after the pet. He readily agreed. But we figured that summer rather than his birthday month February, would be a good time to bring in the new baby. Thus came Dogmatix in May. A month old shihtzu baby hardly the size of our palm.

Kheti n Bheti

The new school session started and Anoushrayan was bowled over by the sheer size of the campus and its grounds. He liked the ambience. Over the months he faced a mixed bag of emotions from his classmates. He faced hostility and humility for something which we were not made aware of till then – apparently he spit while talking and the boys did not take it lightly. The spitting problem could have been an outcome of the braces.

Anoushrayan proved to be good even amongst a good lot, but he started facing good competition and that enthused him. He tried harder and though he failed to score a 100 every time he was close and thus established himself as an academically bright student.

We travelled to Chikmagaloor in August in our duster along with Dogmatix. It was Anoushrayan’s first experience of staying in a coffee estate and he loved the laid back no hoping around trip.

I had planned for a fitness focused summer vacation, which of course did not really materialize but I had been looking for opportunities to get Anoushrayan into some sort of physical sport. The idea came from his classmate’s mother. Her son was into Basketball and since Anoushrayan had an interest about the sport we thought of giving it a try.

It was a real game changer. Anoushrayan emerged from a chubby fellow rounded in the middle to a somewhat elongated boy with a flat tummy. His muscle mass increased, fitness levels enhanced and he started showing off his strength, to the poor mommy of course.

In October we went on a road trip in our duster again with Dogmatix, this time to Hampi, Badami, Pattadakal Aihole and Chitradurga. Anoushrayan had visited Hampi earlier in 2011 but he was a little baby then all of 5, perched up on us most of the time. This time however our 12 year old was my able companion as we went up the Matunga Hill. It was easier to handle Dogmatix with Anoushrayan around as we went on a coracle (round basket boat) ride in the Tungabhadra river that flows beside the ancient grand temples of Hampi.

Right after we came back, we brought Zhauwu, another Shihtzu baby, a month old again. The breeders want to do away with the babies as soon as possible and do not wait till the prescribed 2 months. I feel everyone needs a friend of his/her own kind and so I had planned for two puppies together but that didn’t happen so our doggo babies are 5 months apart. Dogmatix was a full grown Shihtzu at 6 months and Zhauwu was a tiny little thing. He was a complete opposite of Dogmatix; while Dogmatix kept to himself mostly, allowing us to pet him at his will, Zhauwu was always licking and wagging his tail.

Anoushrayan wanted to pet Dogmatix and had been bitten and snapped many times, now with Zhauwu he was free to do rolly polly and licky and whatever his heart desired, finally he had the pet he had always wanted.

In November we shifted to a new housing complex, AWHO Sandeep Vihar, on rent, leaving our small 2bhk flat in Sai Sarovar to the tenants, as we wanted to have more space and amenities for the babies – mine and the adopted ones. For the first time we were staying in a flat that had 4 bedrooms and was more than 2000 sq ft, even Anoushrayan, who is not much concerned about where we stay, was reverential.

Anoushrayan took a few rounds of the campus, which is quite a big one with loads of amenities and is quite delightful, for a couple of days on-foot and cycle (dad had been teaching him to cycle and now he was a pro), and then lost interest; he is anyway the ‘comfortable@home’ kind of person.

In December we went to the Andamans again keeping in mind Anoushrayan’s love for beaches, most of our holidays and trips are now planned in accordance with his holidays and preferences. He loved the sea and the pristine beaches, the boat rides and the overall tranquillity.

1st January 2020 we were back to Bangalore all set for another round of exams – the school’s third term, SOF second level and finally the final session ending exams in march, and thereafter a trip to London and Scotland in summer.

Rajib went to London for a couple of days; his usual office trip and I invited a few of Anoushrayan’s new friends for a small get together. Two of his friends, namely Nandagovind and Vedant were to stay back overnight, this was a first time experience for Anoushrayan and he enjoyed it thoroughly.

We were a tad worried about our visas but all was done in good time by the beginning of February. Anoushrayan entered into teens on the 7th of feb 2020.

And then came, the news first and the embargoes next. The final exams were cancelled hardly after they had just started, within 2 days. The children were all promoted to the next grade nevertheless.

So it was a novel experience for all of us owing to the novel corona virus, being imprisoned in our homes. Anoushrayan was indifferent to the situation. He feels he has everything he needs to entertain himself, at home; in-fact he even cherished the idea of not having to go to a cold place as London/Scotland. The only thing he started missing after a while was food – outside food. His favourites are Subway, KFC, Pizza, pasta and sandwiches/burgers.

Once again my plans for a physical activity laden summer went out of the window. Instead Anoushrayan read a lot of story books, played a lot on his comp and also studied a good deal. He also started learning Guitar.

Anoushrayan was now well into 13 and the colours were showing loud and bright. He was highly distracted at all times. Focus was almost nil. School started online and that gave him the opportunity to be online more often than I would have preferred.

The biggest change in my lad – he started lying often and on. It was as though he was unable to control himself. He started reading stories on some sites while the teacher was teaching in class and when I questioned he would deny. Being a not so seasoned liar he would easily get caught then apologize but then do the same thing again.

His scores fell, missing out a mark or two in almost every subject. But amazingly fared very well in adapting to the online system, together with another friend he found loopholes to chat with certain people he wanted to talk to.

We never had any dreams for him. We are committed to support him in anything that would catch his fancy. He had first wanted to become a sweeper, as the broom was the most exciting thing and our maid always has to sweep while he was asleep or away at school lest he would take it away from her. Next was the garbage truck driver, who he felt drove such a fascinating huge truck and must be oh so powerful. Then he wanted to become a genetic engineer and a scientist and own a farm where a huge number of animals would be housed. He is sticking to it till now.

All our efforts are focused to help him fulfil his dream. He wants to join IISc or IIT; though he has the potential, he is getting driven by his hormones and is getting derailed from the path that might lead to accomplish his desired task. I literally have to work on my nerves to keep him steady on the path by screaming like a banshee most of the time. This is by far the most challenging task I have assigned myself to. Anoushrayan is also trying hard, fighting his hormones, my poor naive teenager. He is righteous and sincere to the core, hardworking and quite an obedient fellow. He respects others, has a very soothing behaviour and has an intelligent streak of humour which is pleasing.

Anoushrayan has been assigned many household tasks and though it took months he slowly managed them well without my surveillance. He is quite capable of taking care of himself and his pets now though he tends to play the baby whenever am around.

Anything digital, the younger generation picks up fast; he also became quite adept in taking shots of the homework and uploading them through which looked like quite a complicated process to me. Though he did miss uploading some tasks on-time, he was more or less consistent. Interesting were the exams, where they had to write on paper in a stipulated time, get the parents to sign it and then take snaps of the answer sheets and upload them in a stipulated time.

After the half yearly exams we started braving the outside in October. We started eating outside food, though nominal. We took a short day trip in our car to Kolar, about two hours from our place. Dogmatix and Zhauwu were kept in a pet boarding along with Jerry (a neighbour’s  3 months old shihtzu baby who had been residing with us for two weeks then on lieu of his parents being away on urgent work). The trip was to take a break and also try out the pet boarding. The boarding thing didn’t work well but our trip was refreshing with good roads and a lovely weather.

In December we took a road trip to Sultan Bathery, Wayanad, Kerala. I had booked a cottage in a plantation and the plan was to chill out. Anoushrayan had a lovely time chilling out with his kindle. He was in the room mostly, taking just a single stroll around the plantation in three days.

On the way from Bangalore to Wayanad, one has to go through Nagarhole, the reserve forest; Anoushrayan was totally oblivious to the beauty of the forest and rather wanted to doze through the scenic journey along with Dogmatix and Zhauwu.

He loves to be in the world of fantasy – aliens, magical creatures, mythology, space or time portals; and as of now earthly things and its bountiful nature does not fascinate him. As he turns 14, time management is the biggest challenge he faces with hordes of activities, loads of dreams and throngs of distractions.

The first year | The journey till 12 || The 14th year

Making of Anoushrayan – The journey till 12

The First Year || Entering Teens || The 14th year

The 12 year old

It felt so distant. It felt so far fetched. It never felt like an eventuality. Well I was wrong. Every other child becomes 12 every other day and so did Anoushrayan; on 7th Feb 2019.

The naughty but innocent eyes were expressing feelings yet beyond his comprehension. The little toddling feet had grown taller and stronger than mine. His palm was bigger, his grip was firmer and we now held hands, more for me in need of support.

Flashback 2008. After his first birthday, which we celebrated in Science-city, Kolkata along with both the grandparents, I and Rajib left for Bangalore and my parents and Raspy left for Guwahati – Assam, where my dad was posted at that time in the capacity of a plant protection officer for the govt of India. We visited them off and on. The residence in Guwahati was in a delightful surrounding. It was some distance between the city and the airport and was like an isolated hamlet. Raspy got ample space to play and explore. He got introduced to numerous animals and birds. The two storey house faced the main road and the hill range thereafter. At the back it had a water-body and then fields.

Guwahati 2008

Raspy was a happy child and very much at ease with my parents. Mom had been there since he was born infact before that, so he didn’t differentiate much between mom and me. Mom had put up two huge photographs of me and Rajib on the wall and used to identify them as mamma and dada to him. When I visited them the first time a wonderful thing happened. I had just settled in the drawing room, he had been sleeping when I arrived and presently he was coming out of the bedroom, he looked at me, looked at the photograph, gave a broad grin and ran back into the room. I followed and sat down. He slowly came to me and perched up. It was lovely to see the recognition and love in his beautiful little eyes. He also recognized Rajib with ease when he arrived a few days later and was very happy to have all of us around.

The crazy hair fellow – Guwahati

We got his mane cut, having got a barber over to our place and Raspy happily slept through it.

The monk – Guwahati

In October Raspy came to Bangalore for a visit with my parents. He was thrilled to see and board the train as earlier he had travelled by plane only. We went on a trip to Mysore and had a lovely time exploring the zoo and the animals through his eyes. Raspy’s jaw literally dropped as he saw the Giraffe. We also visited Udupi and Raspy was at a beach for the first time as we went to Malpe Beach. He loves beaches.

Mysore Zoo
Boat to St. Maries Island
Malpe Beach, Udupi

Back then we only had a scooty pep and he loved the little rides standing in front or sandwiched between us.


Flashback 2009. We had trouble toilet training Raspy. One such evening, I wanted to scold him for not trying to learn and took him into my room. I made him stand on the bed so that we became the same height and he could see me in the eye. After a short while I realized he was intently following my mouth and was very intrigued. All this while I was scolding in English, (as ‘am comfortable in the language when agitated or overwhelmed or want to make a point) and there stood my 2 yr old baby with an appreciative look and happy nod. I continued, trying to sound somber. When he had enjoyed enough he jumped on to me and started eating my nose. The last accident on bed happened when he was 6 yrs old which of course was a one off case, by 4 Raspy was well trained.


The time he took to get toilet trained is inversely proportional to the time he took to be english alphabet trained. When he was a little over 4, we were once travelling by train and he started reading station names, as big as Visakhapatanam. We are a family of readers so we have numerous books at our homes, be it Kolkata or Guwahati or Bangalore. So little raspy started reading voraciously, from bottle labels to magazines, one could see the pleasure in his cute almond eyes when he read. He actually always read ever since, he can’t sit without reading. Though now he has choices and preferences, that time he just read not knowing most of the things he read. It was very comforting in a world where parents were literally having to dance on their heads to make their kids read.

The first three years of his life we kept on travelling to and fro between Bangalore, Kolkata and Guwahati, sometimes I / we went, sometimes he came over with my parents or we brought him and dropped back. He was happy everywhere.


I went back to Kolkata with him to stay with mom. Rajib joined us for a short while. He was a little over 2 then and it was time for school. The scheduled day for school arrived and we were all very excited. He was very happy to hang the tiny bag on his shoulders which had a snack box and bottle, all decked up in new cloths. Thus three of us – me, Rajib and Roddur, hand in hand, walked down the lane to the school, namely Kidzee, a little distance away. Raspy’s official nick name is Roddur.

Kolkata – All set for school

All went well till the lady help took his hand from ours and started to get inside. It was mayhem. We had to bring him back. We tried for a couple of days and then had to give up.

I started looking for other options and found one which had a more open atmosphere. The kidzee near our place was basically a huge decorated hall and apparently Roddur was uncomfortable to go in a walled place without us.

Welland Goldsmith is a school of good repute and they have a kindergarden standing separate from the main school building. Their round hall in a standalone structure had big windows on all sides and was quite airy and sunny. Somehow Roddur liked it to my relief. I wanted him to socialise, mingle with other kids of his age and he did fairly well in getting along with his mates and teachers in the school. All this while he had only been surrounded by adults, mostly people the age of his grandparents.

I was scared if I would be able to recognise him amidst all those tiny tots and an experienced teacher reassured me, “…even if you don’t, he will find you…” and every day he would find me and run back into my arms when the school got over.

We visited Pondicherry in October and once again Raspy loved the beach though there wasn’t much of it. He enjoyed Auroville, the famed concept village. He also loved the boulevard. On the way back we stopped for cakes and it had rum, the poor little guy could not process it and vomited. 

Pondichery – Auroville

Flashback 2010. After a short stint at the play school in Kolkata, Roddur came over to live with us in Bangalore. He was almost 3 then and we decided to get him admitted in a school called Fusco’s School. It is a missionary school run by the nuns. We liked the grounds and the classrooms. It was a perfect place for a tiny tot to discover his surroundings and he enjoyed his Pre-KG and LKG with the wonderful teacher Martha madam, who made him want to go back to the place; but the beginning was a nervous affair.

Fancy dress, Sunflower

Anoushrayan was to face an interview the next day for admission in Pre-KG. The Principal would interact with the child, we were briefed previously. We expected her to ask him his name, our name, favourites and stuff like that. We felt it was most imperative to know one’s name; so we had taught him well, both ours and his.

Context one – few days back we had watched the movie Madagascar, and he loved it. He identified himself with Alex(the lion), me with Gloria(the hippo) and Rajib with Marty(the zebra).

 Context two – Since his early childhood days my mom would read to him the wonderful Bengali poems and stories written by Sukumar Roy (Satyajit Ray’s father); it is a delight to read them even today. However we identified Anoushrayan with a character called ‘Hijibijbij’, which literally means nonsense. It is a seriously funny character who would make one roll with laughter. So was Anoushrayan, and thus the connect.

Starting a couple of days before the D-day, every time we or anybody else would ask him his name, it was either Alex or Hijibijbij. The eve of the D-day really got me nervous. This was a school in our proximity, a reputed one and within our means, so I wanted him to be admitted there. However hard I tried with the 3 yr old, rolling my eyes and making my voice demure, the answer would not change. Next morning we went all dressed up and as I repeated the question in the car, the little brat gave the most heart warming smile and said, my name is  Alex, my mother’s name is Gloria and my father’s name is Marty. I knew not what to do and just sat there twitching nervously till the call came. I kissed him and he kissed back smearing saliva all over my cheek. We went in holding hands, Rajib tailing us. The principal, a nun with a sage like demeanour called him and he ran to her. She asked him his name as we were taking our seats and to my veritable relief, he said Anoushrayan Deysarkar. Man, it did sound sweet!

First day of Fusco’s School Bangalore

Every morning we would pack breakfast and drive down the short distance to his school as Anoushrayan was likely to throw up and felt sick if he had to ride after having food. Fusco’s has a big parking lot, we always reached quite early, played a little, fed him, cleaned him up and then walked down the beautiful pathway leading up to the classrooms. He would kiss me and hug me and then bid me goodbye to join his classmates. I would walk back to the parking lot with a heavy heart though I knew I’ll see him in just 2 hrs. It was a routine for 2 years and I re-learned and honed my driving skills in this duration, going over the same route each day.

Our golden WagonR – Wago at Fusco’s parking

At around the same time Anoushrayan was experimenting with the gift of his glib, Rajib noticed that he was unable to say ‘coconut’ properly; he could say Canada, Center, Cute, City but not Coconut, on further probing we found that he was converting the ‘C’ to ‘T’ for any word which had ‘CO’ to begin with. I said it’ll get corrected with time but Rajib was worried and started working on it. He would show him how to roll the tongue day after day and interestingly Anoushrayan would keep practising it, I often found him sitting with his toys or in the balcony and repeating the tongue roll. And after many days he was no longer saying ‘totonut’ but had mastered ‘coconut’ and the other words.

Little Raspy, Bangalore

Over the years Anoushrayan retained his ability to overcome challenges by sheer hard-work and determination. But again he has to be really convinced about its utility, if he doesn’t feel the need he can be as obstinate as possible to resist learning or practicing. My biggest challenge being making him to do any physical activity / any form of exercise.       

Every step that we had taken together had been so vibrant and high on drama that I have never missed the vivacious opportunities of work that I lost in lieu of being with my child 24 by 7.

We were quite invested into photography at this time; we still are but not so extensively, majorly due to lack of time, the pattern of our travels which has changed due to Raspy’s preferences and also to an extent for not being able to use the multitude of photographs we have, productively.

So there we were at Thanjavur at the Brihadeshwara temple. Raspy was tagging me as I clicked and for the most part either I was holding him or he was holding me. Rajib was somewhere happily taking shots of the temple. This one place I had to focus a bit at an extraordinary angle so I made him sit and said he should keep sitting till am back. I was about a yard away from him and yet in his vicinity. I took a couple of shots and possibly had to be out of his sight for a minute or two. As I turned to go back to him, he was not there.

Brihadeshwara Temple, Thanjavur

That was the first time in my life, my heart skipped a beat. I had been happy and sad and angry but never never never so scared. I had literally lost him. I ran to where he was sitting, it was a big open space and he was practically nowhere to be seen. Kumbakonam temple is famous for child lifts and Raspy would be an easy target. I called out his name and started walking past a smaller temple structure in whose shadow I had made him sit. A minute later I saw him walking a little ahead of me amidst a crowd calling ‘mamma, mamma’. I ran to him and picked him up.

The lost and found episode must have lasted for a max 3 mnts but those were the longest 3 mnts of my life. I continued to have nightmares about losing him for months thereafter. We lost him a couple of times in supermarkets as he would never stand at a place. He kept moving and if I would stop for a moment to checkout something he would have trotted on somewhere.


Flashback 2011. This was a challenging year. I was finding it very hectic to manage Raspy, a bundle of energy – curious and hyperactive. I mismanaged myself and was diagnosed with diabetes type 2.

We went to kolkata in Oct. Fusco’s was very reluctant about granting leave and I had to make up a lot of stories to get a few days extra. We visited my ancestral village, Karanjali too and Roddur enjoyed wadding around in the pond with my dad.

Karanjali, my ancestral village

Flashback 2012. We celebrated his fifth birthday and our tenth anniversary with pomp and show amidst friends and family in Kolkata, the idea was to get him introduced to the multitude of our far and near relatives. I let him choose the cake and to my dismay he chose an airport, I had grand plans for a tiered cake.

Anoushrayan joined a new school Shishya BEML Public School in UKG. The major reason for changing school was the second language. Fusco offered Kannada as second language but we preferred it to be Hindi. Nevertheless he started learning kannada as a third language. This school was even nearer to our residence. It had big grounds and huge classrooms and a number of staircases. 

Rashmi Menon was his class teacher in UKG and I was amazed by the way she managed a class full of chattering bundle of energies. She did not pamper them and yet she took great care. She taught them little things like tying shoelaces, stacking the notebooks neatly, eating the snacks in a tidy way. The kids loved her.

Anoushrayan was never any teacher’s pet as he somehow never warmed up to anyone, teacher or classmates, though he liked them all and never complained. The teachers also liked him because of his amicable nature and outstanding performance from the very onset in anything academic.

A lovely boy named Swaroop befriended him in grade 3 or so, otherwise, Anoushrayan turned out to be more of a loner since childhood.  

This year, one fine day shortly after moving into the apartment – Dalli Sai Residency, I and Anoushrayan then just 5, stood atop the elevation holding hands. The apartment had a basement parking and one had to drive up an elevation to get to the road. It created an excellent opportunity for a downhill or uphill run. He was scared but we walked down side by side hand in hand. We went up and down, first walking then running, day after day, he trailing me and for years I outran him.

The second shave

Flashback 2013. Anoushrayan in Grade 1. The respective class teachers would bring the kids to the gate and call out the names at dispersal. I went when she said Anoushrayan. He looked at me, top to bottom, with surprise and suspicion, then he hugged me and then smiled. Moments later, in the car he said, I could not recognise you at first, as you are wearing a full pant (a salwar, I usually wore quarter pants) but when I hugged you I recognised the smell.

We mostly travelled the less than 1km distance to school in our scooty, initially Anoushrayan used to stand in front but as he grew taller than the handle, he had to sit at the back. He would hold tight and my back would have a good backrest. Years later when he grew a lot bigger he would sit a little further back and my comfort was gone.   

Well this was the year little Anoushrayan started winning accolades. He reported one afternoon as we were heading back home that he wants to take some exams. I gathered from his diary and his incessant blabbering that he wants to participate in the exams conducted by SOF World which goes by the name Olympiads and he was asking for my consent. I willing gave it and also guided him with his preparation. Anoushrayan was exuberant with joy when his name was called in the assembly, he had stood first in all the three exams he took, namely Maths Science and English. He later told me that he was almost trembling with happiness as he made his way up to the podium to receive the medals and certificate.

Thereafter he kept on bagging many prizes in the field of academics. In grade 5 he received an excellence award for outstanding performance and a hefty amount in prize money. In grade 6 however he wanted to take a break and didn’t appear for any external exam.

This year Anoushrayan got introduced to the idea of a pet. We got two cockatiels from a pet shop and named them Murray and Darling as they are indigenous to Australia. I had taken them for a check up and a lady brought in this little puppy who had been running amuck at a signal, he was hardly 2 months old. She was ready to pay for food, medicines and vaccines but since she had cats at home and a large number of them, she was unable to take him home. The clinic was not in a position to let him be there as he was too young. The only option was to take him home and foster him till he would get adopted.

Murray and Darling

The lady, the clinic and a few good people tried hard, I and Rajib went to an adoption camp and sat there all day. Anoushrayan was very happy when we came back home with Limca since he had not been adopted, well not that day.

Limca with Raspy

It broke our hearts when he finally had to go. I was not in a position to take care of a pet dog as I was still trying to do some work in the external world and Anoushrayan needed a lot of mamma time.

The Photographer

Among other places we visited Kanyakumari with Anoushrayan, both for the train ride that he loves and the beaches. In fact Anoushrayan took a lot of photographs himself; he has quite a steady hand.


Flashback 2014. I love Art; music, drama, drawing and painting, sculpting; just anything creative, romantic and beautiful. I found a wonderful art (drawing and painting) teacher and would take him there in the evenings thrice a week. I was still committed to professional work at the time, so I would sit in the car working while he, I supposed, would make an inception into the creative world. His drawing copy would have lines and a few drawings which he needed to copy or colour. After about three months, one evening I stepped into the studio where the kids were all spread out and were at different stages of drawing and painting. I found Anoushrayan standing at the teacher’s table and looking at the drawing that she was making. I repeated the visits and always found him standing and watching. The other kids told me that he always does that and never does anything on his own. I had a hunch as his drawing book was rather empty and one day asked him why he is not doing anything and just watching. He said he just likes to watch.

Before heading to Rajib’s office party

This was one of those rare years when we didn’t go on a vacation out of town. We instead bought a dream flat making a huge investment, which turned out to be a bad debt as it never got constructed, atleast not until feb 2022. Rajib went to London for the first time on office work. Anoushrayan watched chicks hatching from eggs for the first time as our finches went on to extend their family.

Flashback 2015. Starting with Karate at around 5 yrs, we tried Kung fu, dance, Lawn Tennis and Skating before giving up. I felt very humbled at the Tennis court and felt a beautiful balance. In school Anoushrayan was the topper winning accolades in any exam internal or external, so I had to face both appreciation and concealed jealousy. At the court I was the mother of a very dumb player and a subject of sympathy. The coach even told me that he is really worried about my son’s future because if someone can not pick up tennis after almost 2 yrs then how would he manage maths or any subject for that matter in school. I just nodded suppressing a smirk.

His curious mind was ever hungry and school books not being enough I introduced him to the internet. We would watch youtube videos on many topics and thereafter discuss at length. Anoushrayan got lovely teachers in Shishya BEML as he went up the grades, one namely Nisha Madam who taught maths was his favourite. She was strict yet polite and jovial.

Anoushrayan loves energy and energetic people.     

We did two wonderful trips this year. One where Anoushrayan had his first stint with mountains – Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal and the second where he had his first encounter with the jungle – Kanha in Nagpur. Anoushrayan was fascinated when we came face to face with a Royal Bengal Tiger but wasn’t much impressed about the snow capped mountains and rather grew distaste for the cold accompanied with it. He loved the vintage toy train ride in Darjeeling though and of course the pony ride.

Kanha National Park
Kanha National park

Flashback 2016. A 9 year old Anoushrayan was all excited about his first trip abroad, and so was his 41 yr old mother as it was her first too! Unless Nepal is considered foreign which I and Rajib visited in 2013 without Raspy.

So Singapore was the destination for the summer of 2016. The zoos and the wonders of Sentosa were overwhelming for Anoushrayan but he thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Being accompanied by my parents on this trip added the extra pampering he always enjoys around them.


In October we plunged into another kind of sea – the sea of sands. Anoushrayan was thrilled to ride a camel in Khuri desert where we spent two nights in an unusual tent like setting. Jaisalmer is a household name, thanks to ‘Sonar Kella’ by Satyajit Ray and Anoushrayan was extremely happy to be on the scene that he had seen on tabloid so many times.

Khuri dessert, Rajasthan

Flashback 2017. Here we were at the same elevation where in 2012 I outran Anoushrayan, now he could outrun me by far more number of seconds. He sometimes even dragged me up as I got out of breath, helped push the scooter up if need be. My little boy had grown up.

Ready for Cricket Camp

 The dream flat (Skylark Ithaca) we had booked, was due in march 2017 and the work was going on in full swing, there was a possibility of a delay as is normal with most big projects and to be on the safe side we decided to change Anoushrayan’s school from the next session that is next grade and also move our residence closer to Ithaca. In effect he would not have to travel a longer distance in case we got the flat in possession any time during his school year.

We bought a small 2bhk in Sai Sarovar Apartment near Skylark Ithaca with our remaining means, thinking we would live there for at most 6 months before moving into Ithaca, and Anoushrayan was admitted to Mount Litera Zee School nearby for grade 5.

Combining farewell and birthday we threw a small party for his friends from school and it was good fun. This time the cake was black forest with fruits.

In the summer of 2017 we shifted to Whitefield on the outskirts of Bangalore. We were fortunate to find the last remaining white fields of eucalyptus plantations from where the area got its name. Our balcony became home to sparrows eliminating the need to keep caged birds. We had anyway given away all our birds before we shifted to this smaller place.

Eucalyptus Plantation

Anoushrayan not only managed to fit in the new school but also managed to win the hearts of his classmates, teachers, and even the principal. It was in this school that Anoushrayan gained humongous confidence regarding his abilities and emerged as a beautiful all-round soothing personality, thanks to his wonderful teachers, Bharati Madam who had been his class teacher and mentor needs a special mention as she had been largely instrumental in his growth. Anoushrayan made two good friends, Saket and Premraj.

The school has a swimming pool – half Olympic size, and swimming was part of the curriculum as was skating. He also started taking additional swimming classes in the evening and to our delight was eager about it and picked it up rather quickly and learned well enough to hold on till the rescuers arrive in case of any emergency situation. It is imperative to mention here that earlier when he was younger we had enrolled him for swimming classes and it was a complete failure, as he was outright scared of the coaches and their strict methods, he preferred free-floating and a little doggy paddling as my dad had taught him at our village pond. The coaches won’t allow that and hence his aversion towards swimming.

Mount litera Zee School, Kadugodi

This was again another rare year of no travels but Anoushrayan didn’t complain. We went for a short trip to Horseley Hills nearby. He loves to spend time at home with his computer and books and is happy playing with me and one or two select friends.

Flashback 2018. The onset of 2018, namely the month of February his birth month, marked his first big stage performance as an anchor of the Annual Day Program for his school. He was enthused by the appreciation and applause.

Annual day 2018

A few days before the annual function in January, Anoushrayan was given braces in an attempt to correct his mole teeth look.

In his summer vacations, we went to Kashmir via Delhi. This was Anoushrayan’s first visit to the capital of our country. He liked Delhi. In Kashmir the most significant event for Anoushrayan was the pony ride in Pahalgam. He enjoyed the Gondola in Gulmarg but it was too cold for his liking.

India Gate
Trying Skiing
Ziplining in Betab Valley

Once again a change of school was on the cards. NPS came up in the lane next to Zee school; this was even nearer to our residence, Sai Sarovar Apartment. NPS is known for its academic orientation and that aligns perfectly with Anoushrayan’s demeanour. He loves to gather knowledge and can be at it for hours. No other vocation attracts him, neither sports nor cultural activities. So we decided to give it a try; I filled out the forms and Anoushrayan appeared for the written entrance exam and interview in October.  

Winters took us to Madurai and Rameshwaram. Anoushrayan tried snorkeling and loved it. We tried banana boating but it turned out to be quite strenuous for us. Anoushrayan was fascinated standing at the last land point of India at Dhanushkoti.

Dhanushkoti, Rameswaram
Snorkeling at Holy Island, Rameshwaram

Flashback 2019. Anoushrayan witnessed a ceremonial wedding for the first time. My niece got married in Kolkata and we all went to attend it taking special leave from school. I would not say he enjoyed the ceremonies cause it was too complex and crowded for his liking with all my cousins and their families around but it definitely gave him a sense of how big families can be. Being out of Kolkata for the most sensible part of his life till now, he had never known family apart from just his parents and grandparents.

Anoushrayan with a few cousins
Anoushrayan with an elder cousin he shares his birthday with
The other set of grandparents

We also took the opportunity to take a peek at the Sundarbans – the famed mangrove forests that are the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Anoushrayan loved the boat rides, he is too happy when he doesn’t have to walk, doesn’t have to write… in a nutshell doesn’t have to do anything which involves engaging his physical self actively. And yet he loves to ride… horse, camel… don’t know what else…

At Bali Island, Sunderbans

Back in Bangalore we had a lot to look forward to… one of them was to arrange for the party we had planned for Anoushrayan which was again going to be a farewell cum birthday bash.

And then he was 12. 155cm tall, 54kgs.

Time doesn’t fly; it stands still; in those images, that the camera lens creates and our sweet memories that never fade and need no technology to preserve.

The First Year || Entering Teens || The 14th year

10 days in Andaman – Baratang – 25th – 27th Dec’19

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve|| Diglipur – North Andaman || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman

For a mainlander it is an experience of a different kind, especially if one is a first time visitor like me. Of course, with water filling three fourth of the Earth we all are living on one island or the other, but ours is a huge one, and the more inland we live, it does give a sense of safety – at least from tsunamis.

Getting on with Baratang, one can do a couple of things. We chose to begin with visiting the parrot islands. You can’t actually step on the island but sit in the boat and wait for the chirpy parakeets to fly back home after dusk.

The setting is surreal. Imagine water all around you, tiny lush green islands floating here and there. The coastline of the island of Baratang is visible at a distance on one side and on the other the hills of the middle strait – the Jarwa territory come flowing down to touch the waters. Any moment poisoned arrows could come flying. The golden sun which was already melting would shortly give way to a glistening darkness full of stars. The breeze is strong and chill. The wide ocean beckons from where the channel meets it, far to fathom and yet near if one goes with the flow.

All of a sudden a shrill cacophony hits your ear. You raise your head to trace the direction of the sound and spot them flying towards you. A flock, then another, and another and another – they are of varied sizes: Small parrots, big parrots, long tailed, short and stout. If you have seen Hitchcock’s ‘Birds’ you would be scared. Even if you have not, you would be thrilled.

The moment, the surroundings –anything could have happened, had we been in a novel, an author could do a thousand things with a setup like this.

The parrot island is named so as the parrots have made it their home. Every evening they come back to this island. They have decorated the island with their beaks and the tree tops look perfectly manicured. This distinctive feature has turned it into a tourist spot.

By the time we started our journey back through the channel, it was completely dark. We sped through the waters under a star lit sky and came back to the Jetty. Pricey it was, but a boat ride I’ll remember and delight in all my life.

Dew Dale – our abode, tucked in the little village by the road can be perfectly cast as a haunted resort. Of the 12 cottages, only two were occupied at the time we stayed there, one ours and the other by an Englishman.

At dinner we got talking to the manager and chef, young chaps with promising careers. The food was excellent both in taste and quality, at par with star rated hotels. The resort is usually occupied by corporate guests and government officials.

To go to north Andaman, one has to pass through Baratang, as the ATR continues across the channels. Thus Baratang has a lot of passing traffic but hardly any stay on and hence the dearth of hotels. The tourists prefer to visit Baratang on a day trip from Port Blair.

We had stayed on, as we usually do. So the day we reached Baratang, we visited Parrot Islands in the evening. Next day we started early as was advised to visit the Limestone caves. This is the journey I had been really really looking forward to. It is majorly a motor boat ride and a bit of trek.

This time we went in the opposite direction to that of the parrot islands and towards the Jetty on the middle strait. We went past the Jetty and further down… or up? Well that depends on one’s point of view. The motor boat was gliding at a tremendous speed cutting the waters. After a while we slowed down and headed towards the bank lined with mangroves. We got into a channel which was quite narrow and the boat waded for a while. The mangroves could be seen closely now.

We were asked to de-board at a small jetty. A guide took us on a short trek through a narrow mud path lined with tall trees.

The trek has a few ups and downs and a sturdy foot gear is recommended. First we reached a small village. The villagers were selling fresh lemonade under make shift tents. After a few more steps we saw hoardings describing the Limestone caves. There were restrooms too.

Going further we reached the natural wonders. A very narrow one way path goes on to the end of the caves laced with stalactites and stalagmites forming beautiful patterns inspiring vivid imaginations.

The place was so crowded that it is difficult to find a footing. Batch after batch of people following their guides were either in the process of going in or out. The caves are on a level ground so one doesn’t need to go down into a cavern or anything like that. In other words it is not scary at all.

On the way back we stopped at the village, had lemonade, clicked some pictures and then went back to the small jetty where we had de-boarded, but instead of going into a boat we were directed towards a walkway on a series of bridges, it is called –‘mangrove walk’.

The winding bridges took us through the mangroves jungle which was indeed a delight. The light was low for photography. Occasionally crocodiles can be spotted but we didn’t spot any. The walkway ended in another Jetty from where we got into our boats again for a return journey.

One has to wear a life jacket while on these boats mandatorily and given the speed at which they move, I would definitely support the rule though it is immensely uncomfortable. Once on shore, we headed for an eatery next to the Jetty. The food was simple yet tasty.

Mud volcano is another natural wonder that this island has on offer. We took a detour from the ATR this time and moved towards the interior of the island in order to reach them. A few steps up a hillock adorned by well nourished gardens on both sides makes for a serene landscape. It is in sharp contrast to the baron top where numerous mud mounds are created and the mud is bubbling and boiling and gushing out of the mouths of these tiny volcanoes.

No sooner had we finished marvelling at this earthly wonder we found some wonderfully coloured feathered friends unique to Andaman vying for our attention. In our whole trip this was the only place where we saw some spectacular avian life. Most other places we saw their pictures or at best heard them.

After another delicious lunch at the dhaba we returned to our cottage in Dew Dale. Evening was spend playing Monopoly with ‘chay’ and ‘pakoda’(snacks).

Next morning we woke up early got freshened up and were all set to head north… again… yes further north! Stay tuned for our journey to the Northern most town of Andaman – Diglipur.

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve|| Diglipur – North Andaman || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman

10 days in Andaman – Jarwa Reserve – 25th Dec’19

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Baratang || Diglipur – North Andaman || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Aalu paratha is one of my favourite dishes and to my excessive pleasure whether in Kashmir (had the unforgettable experience of having them on a shikara) or in Andaman I had the fortune to savour them; it almost always comes as a complimentary breakfast. Following the tradition, breakfast was on the house in shelter hotel at Port Blair too.

Happily fed, to the ‘North’ we headed. This was to be an interesting journey. Andaman is a conglomeration of islands. South Andaman is one big mass with a few small islands scattered around, like Ross and NorthBay that I had earlier mentioned. Baratang can be considered to be the last considerably big island in South Andaman.

To reach Baratang, one has to cross the much romanticised ‘Jarwa’ territory. Imagine a dense forest, tall trees that can be seen in tropical rain forests – reaching the sky, shrubs overburdened with wildly fragrant flowers, a slightly hilly terrain sloping down to the shores of the pristine waters. That is where they live, the Jarwa tribe.

From the city of Port Blair one needs to go past the airport towards further south and then take almost an u-turn to go northward on the Andaman Trunk Road, which runs from the north to the south and is the only arterial road for commerce and commuters. Earlier when the ATR was not completed or those times when the reserve was off limits for common use people and goods used to travel by small launches and boats to Mayabunder Jetty from Chatham or Port Blair Jetty.

As we left the city behind, the landscape started changing. First came a few houses amidst fields and then the road started getting lined by woods. The road condition was pathetic and Sanju was driving very slowly to avoid damage to the car and rolls in our stomachs. Anoushrayan and I are motion sensitive creatures.

We reached a place called Jirkatang which is where all the vehicles line up who need to go North. There is a gate here operated by the government officials. It opens four times throughout the day – 6.30am, 9.30am, 12.30 afternoon and at 15.00 hrs. An escort vehicle leads the way and all the vehicles must follow it all through the Jarwa Reserve till the Jetty where one needs to cross over on a ferry to the island of Baratang.

There is a beautiful south Indian style temple at Jirkatang on an elevation beside the road. The roadside is also lined up with Tea stalls which have a range of snacks to cater to the passengers. Toilets/washrooms are present for our convenience. A small curio shop has an interesting collection priced reasonably.

We got the 9.30am gate. For a first timer it is nothing less than an adventure, passing through a land inhabited by the dreaded Jarwa tribe. We envisioned them as an aboriginal race that hunt with bow and arrows and are fiercely hostile towards civilization.

The first 5kms are buffer zone and actually have a few settlements, mostly village homes that have been there for many decades. We were given strict instructions to not take photographs all through the reserve, it is a punishable act to the extent that we could be jailed and fined. On top of it the driver would lose his license for 10 years. The windows were to be kept rolled up.

The reserve is indeed a serene terrain to traverse through. We were going in a convoy and then it seemed to slow down. Sanju said in a hushed voice, “See see Jarwa.” We started peeping but could not see any one for some time. Then we saw a guy in sunglasses, wearing a green shirt and khaki trousers walking down the road towards our car in style. His facial structure and skin colour were the only things that made him look any different from an average Indian. He had Negroid features and a very shiny black skin.

As we moved on we saw many more Jarwas sitting by the road side, mostly women and children. Most of the adults were clothed with a very few exceptions. They were accompanied by a man from the our world. We came to know that the government has tried to post personnel along the whole length of the road that cuts through the reserve to prevent any possible contact with the Jarwas.

Many indigenous tribes have perished from coming in touch with us as their body is not immune to a couple of diseases that we can spread. Also ‘civilized’ people have the unique tendency to exploit the trusting and somewhat naive people.

Our journey through the reserve was peaceful and pleasant and also quick – the road being well maintained. We reached the jetty where a channel separates the island of Baratang from the mainland of South Andaman. The cars and buses need to queue up and buy a ticket. We got out of the car as Sanju lined it up and then went off to get the tickets.

The channel is quite wide and the flow is fast. As we were waiting at a sit out we saw the birds diving for fishes which were a plenty.

After a short while we saw a big launch coming afloat and positioning it in such a way that its rear aligns with the slope of the jetty. The launch had a huge belly where the cars and a bus rolled in. The people then percolated in – the scene was akin to salt trickling in a jar filled with pebbles. The ride was short but exciting. At the jetty on the Baratang side, the salts, I mean the people went out first then the vehicles. The whole affair is very well organised by personnel on both sides.

Food was at the top of our minds with the stomach growling. Sanju took us to a nice joint, one of its kind in Baratang. It was a bustling place with two front rooms of a two storey house converted into dining halls complete with sitting arrangements – a batch of people were eating and another batch waiting at the porch beside the road. This was a north Indian household with origins from Delhi, who had made Baratang their home decades ago. As I went to the washroom that was a clean affair at the back of the house accessible by a passage by the side of the dining hall, I got talking to the lady of the house. She got married more than 25 years ago and settled amongst these transparent people – as she calls them, on this small island amidst the pristine waters.

Her husband takes care of the front-desk while she runs the kitchen. Almost all the people who visit Baratang either for a day trip or as passerby to further north dine here and there is hardly anybody who stops over for a night and thus there aren’t very many places to put up for the night.

We quickly got our seats and the plates were laid. The menu was fixed as the footfall was too high to cater to different choices for an optimal task force. Rice ‘daal’ vegetable curries and ‘papadum’ kept coming in a sequence. One could ask for as much as the stomach would agree with, but I went beyond my capacity as it was delicious to say the least – All this for just a 120INR per plate.

We went off to check in to Dew Dale Resorts, half an hour’s drive owning to the precariously bad road condition. Dew Dale, tucked in a village by the roadside with its aesthetically designed huts to match the ambiance complete with all the modern amenities is worth an experience by itself.

Join me as we go on to explore Baratang and beyond… So long…  

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Baratang || Diglipur – North Andaman || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman

Chasing Temples in the Capital of Mallabhum (Bishnupur) – 1

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

4 day trip including journey dates – 20/12/2017 – 23/12/2017

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Twenty four structures including temples, ruins and a museum in town; a temple 25 km to the north-west, another 10kms to the northeast, a village 22 km to the south-west and a popular pilgrimage 43 km to the south-east; that’s all we had planned for the 3 day trip to one of West Bengal’s hottest tourist destination in winter – The temple town Bishnupur.

Bishnupur town is around 200kms in the northwest direction from Kolkata located in the district of Bankura (one of 23 districts of WB) that is included in the area known as ‘Rarh’ in West Bengal, India. ‘Rarh’ popularly means ‘land of the red soil’. Bankura finds a mention in Mahabharata where it is called as ‘Suhmobhumi’.

We started on a Wednesday, last December, early in the morning and boarded a train from Shalimar station. The station gets its name from Shalimar Paints; who have painted the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Howrah Bridge, the AIIMS and many other prestigious structures since 1902. One can still see their dilapidated guest house and grounds near the station.

The train was on time, we hopped on to it and settled the little luggage we had on the rack above our seats. I directed my gaze towards the tea stall where the mob was, interestingly it was called Pillai tea stall. Rajib went to get us the steaming cuppas. A helpful gentleman educated me about the terminal station which had a name, that I thought was quite funny – Bhojudih.

Bhojudih is in Jharkhand. It is surrounded by three rivers, Damodar, Ijari and Guwai. It also has a famous kund (lake) that our epic Mahabharata hero ‘Arjuna’ created while the ‘Pandavas’ were in exile.

The journey in a reserved chair car on a winter morning is promising from the word go. I missed my boy, who loves trains just as we do. We omitted him from the trip as he would get bored spending hours around the brick temples as we study, survey and document each of them from every angle, brick to brick.

I suggested we move out right after lunch so as to be able to cover the huge list, but Rajib was craving for a little rest after the good meal. Lunch was simple yet delicious. Daal(pulses), aalu-posto(poppy seed curry), aalu-bhaja(finger chips, really thin) and a fish curry. The WBTDC lodge is the favorite eat out for day tourists as well.

The train having reached almost on time we had checked into WBTDC lodge after a medium rickshaw ride from the station that is to say the distance was neither short nor too long.

So we went into the AC deluxe room with a full stomach, body yearning to retire having been subjected to activity since the wee hours of the morning, put on the AC and slept off.

At about 3ish in the afternoon we pulled ourselves up from the alluring comfort of the bed, got ourselves and our gear ready and came out to conquer the land of the Malla Kings, Bishnupur was the capital of Mallabhum for almost a thousand years; and the sun gave us a wink! He was taking an early off and we were caught unawares. It was no good for photography.

Stunned by the sun’s stance we decided to just walk around heartbroken and headed to the museum that is less than a km down the alley from the guest house. It was open but photography was allowed. It’s a nice old structure with many artifacts.

Dihar, around 10-12 km north of Bishnupur was a site of human habitation as the Chalcolithic people settled on the north banks of the river Dwarakeswar by 1000 BCE. Excavations have revealed many utensils and tools used in those and later times. Some are on display at the museum.

The stone and brick sculptures we saw at the museum had interesting formations and names. They were mostly Shiva and other Gods from Hindu mythology alongside the ‘Jain tirthankars’.

Once out of the museum we walked along the directions on the roadmap and also google maps to reach a group of temples we knew was lurking somewhere around the corner amidst the development happening in terms of apartment sites scattered here and there.

We walked beside a school/college campus that was big and a very old one too, stretching from the beginning of the road till the pond that was a long way ahead. It had many hostel blocks and grounds, that’s definitely a student’s delight.

Uncertain about the distance and the navigator girl at google which like Cuthbert’s pendulum kept on pointing north we decided to ask a human being and in a short while reached our destination.

We tried a few shots but the sun said “Sorry! Expiry underway” like the stockbroker who won’t let one buy or sell any more stalks after 4 pm and we just sank in the dusk amidst ages of history day 1 went by.

As we strolled back to the hotel this time by another route, we passed by a live temple which was rather crowded and had many shops adjacent to it selling terracotta artifacts. I started peeping into them while Rajib quickly did a handy work with his camera getting snapshots of the goddess. Most live temples in India do not allow photography.

Chinnamasta Goddess

It was not until I had seen the picture Rajib shot that the name struck me, the goddess is called “chinnamasta” which means “severed head”. She is worshipped as a form of power and according to mythology had severed her own head to satisfy the hunger of her two mates, Varini and Dakini.

The road from the temple to the guest house had shops all along; apart from terracotta the shops also had “dokra” crafts; there were the famous “baluchori” and “bishnupuri” sarees, some woodcraft and the usual tea stalls and sweet shops.

Shop in Bishnupur

A mega fair was to start the day we were supposed to leave Bishnupur and it being on the grounds right opposite to the guest house there was a lot of hustle bustle, preparations were on a full swing. We indulged in local made sweets and chops, the medium of cooking showed its true colours a day later and we didn’t try to brave them ever again.

Accuweather predicted that the next two days were going to be foggy with the sun mostly working undercover. We sat down with the list of “to be visited” with a grim face, no sun meant no shoot and we had only two and a half days in hand.

It reminded me of our honeymoon trip. Traveller’s cheques were in vogue back then, but by the time we managed to visit the bank anticipating a probable cash crunch, it was closed; we were supposed to leave for Geyzing from Gangtok(Sikkim, India) the next day thus were left on a shoestring budget until we could get a bank that was operating.

Tsangu Lake, Gangtok 2002

Back then it was money and now it was time. We would have to be very prudent, take wise decisions using all our experience and ration time.

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

10 Days in Andaman – Port Blair – a deeper look – 23rd – 25th dec’19

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang || Diglipur – North Andaman || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

It grew dark as we whiz past the jetty in Sanju’s car and as we were passing by the harbour front road with the sea on one side and a hill slope on the other, I wished if we could stay nearby and the wish came true! The Shelter Hotel is on the base of the hill slope which houses the Cellular Jail. The ‘honeymoon suit’ as they call it is just another double bedded room with a clean attached bathroom; but the balcony is a love affair for sure. It has a moderately good sit out option facing the sea, right across the road.

We freshened up and went out, heading for the ‘sound and light’ show at the cellular jail at 9pm. We needed to grab our dinner before that somewhere on the way. The road by the sea is both delightful and a bit scary for first timers like me, though the railings bracing the footpath were mostly present, the once that were broken did pose a danger. The breeze from the sea was strong and we felt the chill. There weren’t too many pedestrians or vehicles at this hour. At a junction the road bifurcated, one branched up the hill and we followed.

A short way up was the Cellular Jail, all lighted up. We got the tickets.

Our road went on bypassing the Cellular Jail and going down to meet that road which had continued straight on from the bifurcation. We went down that way and found a road side arena decorated with lights and umbrellas with many fast food stalls and sitting arrangement, we got some of it for dinner. The waterfront has many options for dinning. This is an interesting place, and is just a walk away from Aberdeen Bazaar. We explored this area after coming back from North Andamans.

The sound and light show brings alive the sufferings of the prisoners, the cruelty of the Jailer with dramatic narration and inspiring songs.

We came out with a heavy heart but the breeze and the distant lights in the dark, the huge Indian flag hoisted at the tip of the waterfront brought back the lively mood as we walked back to the hotel. Rajib and I sat in the balcony late into the night watching the ships anchored in the harbour. Some had dim lights, few had bright, and we could even see small boats sailing in the light of the stars. It was beautiful, mystic.

We almost started the day on the balcony again, we means me and Rajib, Anoushrayan as I have said earlier has eyes for only kindle; he came, he saw and said a brief nice before rushing back to his beloved.

Luckily to our left was the fresh catch fish market, so we got a glimpse of a lively merchandise exchange. A boat was anchored at the opening of the wall / railing on the footpath. It had many varieties of fishes which had been caught fresh. The boatmen, two of them were busy segregating them and they didn’t finish until we left for our day tour, which would be about an hour. The retail sellers were mostly women in their brightly coloured sarees. People came in small and big cars, all residents of Port Blair. Some bought directly from the boat man as the ladies were busy setting up their shops. Some were waiting patiently and slowly the place that had a quite sleepy start was bustling with activity.

The plan was to see the museums and enjoy some water sports. We didn’t go for water sports in Havelock, which was definitely a mistake we realised later. I was particularly interested about the sea walk which didn’t need any swimming or diving experience. But we came to know only after reaching North Bay Island that it has been stopped after some unfortunate incidents.

Sanju, who by now had almost become a chauffeur, was ready at the gate. We drove off to the island of Chatham, which is connected by a land bridge over the sea. Chatham is where the felled trees are cut into sizes as is in demand and sent out to far far away lands on ships. Chatham is where the first and the second penal settlements were established. Chatham is where the 200 prisoners first landed on 10th March 1858. The date is still celebrated as the foundation day of Port Blair and those prisoners are considered the ancestors of modern residents of Andaman.

At Chatham one needs to buy tickets to enter through the gate, there is a nice little museum stuffed with photographs with information on various important things and places and people of Andaman and Nicobar. It has many beautiful articles on display, majority being things made of the famous ‘Padouk’ wood that is indigenous to the Andamans. At a time only 20 people are allowed inside.

//——–We saw many Padouk trees on our journey to Baratang and further north to Rangat and Diglipur, but could not identify even one on my own, however hard Sanju tried to educate me.—–//

Then there is the bunker to hide from the Japanese bombing, the huge ditch created by the Japanese bomb that fell on Chatham and mostly destroyed it and last but not the least one gets a walkthrough of the saw mill. Huge bundles of logs, huge machines to cut and polish them, it is a fascinating place and definitely not that one gets to see on a day to day basis. It is not a tourist destination by definition, but an amazing experience.

The curio shop has items made of the Padouk wood, it has the cheapest and the best collection in town. We bid farewell to this historic island with loads of souvenir to visit another, Ross Island. The motor boats take 6 / 7 passengers, first to Ross then to North Bay and back to Port Blair. While Ross is where the Brits had their headquarters, living quarters, entertainment arena which is all in ruins now, having been captured by the Japanese for a brief period and then finally abandoned; North Bay is for water sports ranging from scuba diving to visiting the marine life in submarines.

Ross Island has many things for the ones like us who are interested in ruins. It has a haunted feeling about it. It also has peacocks and deer roaming about. Beware the coconut is way too expensive in Ross. From Ross we went to North Bay.

Since underwater sea walking was not possible, we wanted to opt for Scuba. The norms don’t allow diabetics and hypertensive to go scuba diving thus we sat on the shores as Anoushrayan took the dip. It is expensive at 3500INR per person. The experience was not so great for my child as his braces hurt against the mouthpiece. We found many oldies with sugar and pressure taking the plunge not withstanding any warnings and coming out clean. We also saw many young girls and boys failing the test that is mandatory (to be able to follow basic instructions) before diving in.

One can go snorkelling, which is open to all as it doesn’t take one deep down but once again Havelock would be a better place to try all these.

Lunch was a quick affair on North Bay in one of the make shift shacks but it was good to taste.

We were transferred to a submarine parked a little way into the sea by a motor boat; though there is a great deal of marine life to be enjoyed and the boat belly where we were seated was taken very close to the bottom of the sea exposing a multitude of corals and fishes and plants; the sapiens inside the belly were too noisy and unsettling in contrast to the vibrant calm outside. I puked and realised that land, plain land not mountains not on fast moving vehicles – is where I belong, neither the sky nor the oceans.

The moment the submarine ride ended we were almost snatched off and ushered into our motor boat, our co-passengers were a tolerant lot muttering the grudges only under their breath, in the morning they had to wait for us for a whole 2 hrs, while we took our time at the Chatham saw mill, in the afternoon another two as they didn’t engage in any sports. That is how they gather the passengers; 2 here 2 there to make 6 or 7 in all, our co-passengers where a family of 4 so they had to wait for us 3.

Once back on the island of Port Blair we rushed to the Anthropological Museum, as all museums close by 5pm and we had just about an hour to spare. It is a fine building which houses many artefacts that the different tribes of Andaman and Nicobar have been using since time immemorial. We also saw the models / photographs of the men women and children, belonging to different tribes that were and are residents of the Andamans. But the most interesting was the model of the boat called the outrigger canoes. It helped these people to brave the seas, then and even today. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the museum.

By now we were hungry as a hippo. We had only grabbed a cucumber at the waterfront after de-boarding the boat; the most expensive cucumber I have had in my life. All through Andamans cucumbers are extensively expensive, most other food items raw or cooked are not. The auto dropped us at Aberdeen Bazaar and we walked through the busy streets lined with shops on both sides. We found a good looking restaurant, had our fill, bought some cheap tshirts written Andaman and Nicobar on it of varying sizes and colours for ourselves.

The next day we were supposed to head on to Baratang, so we picked up some cash and bakery stuff. In Andaman we had to fish out cash everywhere except The Taj. We picked a few souvenirs on the way back to the hotel and skipped dinner. Once again we enjoyed sitting in the balcony and gazing out at the lights from the ships and the stars and the dark waters and the light house that stood at the edge of the island opposite to us, for the last time.

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang || Diglipur – North Andaman || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman

As I Woke Up an Aspiring Author

One fine morning… well not really, it was more like I had been brooding over for a couple of days, months actually – what do I become? A little late do you think? Given that am 45. Yes!!! The August of 2020, the year of the Corona… I reached the magic number – but no celebrations… bhoo ooo ooo. Okay that’s enough of crying.

The question of ‘what do I become’ came up so late in life because I actually realized what I want to do pretty late, in the rather recent past. Fortunately or unfortunately I was a good academic, so I excelled in whatever I tried doing, but my heart didn’t go with it. So I left it, left them all – I have quite an interesting agglomeration of degrees and certificates. Am an eccentric who needs to love what is being done or must have a dire need, like a family crisis to love what I am doing.

So I didn’t become anything, money and position have never motivated me and I was perfectly happy having a loving spouse who does all the hard work of making a living for us. I handle the family finance portfolio though and you know by now that I love the job as I have been continuing it for the past 18 years. I also love to organize and plan; so the household and its inmates, my child(13 years old) and spouse, to be precise live in a closely monitored strict regime.

I love activity, I always wanted to live on the edge… but that never happened, and now when I am reaching midlife – I believe I’ll live to be 90… at the least! I suddenly have the wish to become something, such that I can say like ‘Evelyn’ in ‘The Mummy(1999 movie)’ –    “Evelyn: Look, I… I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am.
Rick: And what is that?
Evelyn: I… am a librarian.”

An astronomer, a zoo-keeper, or an artist – these are the three choices – I want to be any one of these. A zoo-keeper the most, I love animals. But alas! my situation physically and mentally doesn’t allow me to step out of home or go all out to chase wild dreams. They are not dreams actually, just the things I could have been and enjoyed, given sufficient effort and time.

And then it came to me, no not like a lightning bolt, but from friends and family who have read my small narratives that if I put my heart and some years to it, I could become a writer! That would not exactly be being an artist but definitely close – it is creative after all!

Thus in the wake of my new found enthusiasm, I wrote my first novella…

Dogs n Balls

by Anoushrayan

There it was – yellow in color, beautiful in shape. Which sane being wouldn’t want it? He crouched, leapt and – ah! A hand had snatched it up into the air, beyond his reach.

That wasn’t the scientific discovery of the millennium, nor was it a lump of pure gold. No, it was a ball. And our protagonist was a dog.

Dogs love balls – this is one of the only beliefs about dogs that isn’t a myth. Balls, stuffed toys, ropes – even socks! – are all favorite toys for dogs. However, balls take the cap. No matter what they are doing, dogs nearly always chase after a rolling ball. Some dogs love playing fetch. Others just like cuddling up with a ball and biting it. By the way, if you are wondering why the ball was yellow, it wasn’t. It was actually red but dogs can’t see red. They can only see the colours blue and yellow. Everything else appears yellow to them. In case a dog can’t find a bright red ball in vibrant green grass, remember, he’s looking for a yellow ball in yellow grass.

Dogs love balls, and they’re always ready for a new one. A dog and a ball go paw in hand!

10 Days in Andaman – The Havelock Chapter – 21st – 23rd Dec’19

Facts Figures and Touchdown || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang || Diglipur – North Andaman || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman
By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Havelock was there in about one and a half hours. It has a pretty and small Jetty where we disembarked. The luggage had been loaded separately and had been unloaded similarly. We collected it and walked towards the gate. Autos and taxis had lined up. Some hotels send their personal vehicle if you opt for one. Good eco buses ply regularly on the main roads and are the cheapest means of travel. We hired an auto and told him our destination. Cross-Bill Resorts on the Govindnagar beach. Also called beach number two, where most hotels are, is the nearest to the Jetty. It is hardly 2 km and the auto fare was a 100INR.

Our abode was a small cottage with a little sit out. This hotel has some 10 of them in two rows. It is run by a Bengali lady who came to the island years ago having been wedded to a school teacher residing here. We freshened up and yessssssssssss, headed to the beach, the property grounds practically merge into the beach.

The sand is white! The water is turquoise! And I am in the heavens! That is what I felt. The sun was yet to begin his goodbyes so we took a little stroll along the beach, Anoushrayan in the waters mostly, I was ecstatic but skeptical, not knowing the depths. We found that all the properties lined up on the Govindnagar beach had this unique facility for the guests to wander on the beach late night or early morning or just as and when one felt like.

We had hogged on bread and tea as soon as we had checked in, cause that was all that they had to offer apart from Maggi. Dinner was elaborate to compensate for the missed lunch. The beach beckoned us once again and it was almost an out of the world experience. Pitch dark, innumerable number of stars and planets twinkling in the clear sky above, the sound of water gently kissing the sands and swaying away, the shimmering lights from the boats anchored in what seemed like nothingness. I will never forget that night.

We finally hit the bed after about 24 hrs of leaving home to Anoushrayan’s delight, and our’s too.

The morning sea was calm and cold. Waterline had receded to reveal the rocks. We went wading in and in and in and in and yet the water was only till my waist and I am just 5ft. We could see the water sports guys taking the tourists quite far off into the sea for scuba diving and snorkeling, so the waters must be deeper there. Anoushrayan was very happy to be in this large open pool and so was I. Rajib played along for a while then went off, the salt in the water makes him sick. We made sandcastles on the beach, mine was better, so claimed Anoushrayan too. We two went back to the waters; it was a little difficult maneuvering through the rocks which by now had come out in the open completely. It was about 8ish and very low tide.

We had a sumptuous complimentary breakfast and headed on to exploring Havelock. The options were: auto / car / bus / hire scooter. When we set out from the cottage we had auto in mind, but it changed to hire scooter by the time we finished breakfast. The charges are 400 INR per scooter plus two ltrs of petrol (160 INR) and a refundable deposit of 4000 INR.

Now helmets are a must in Havelock otherwise 10000 INR fine for the rider, but Rajib’s is one the biggest heads on the planet; an Australian company had to manufacture a hat to match his head girth, they quoted that they are equipped to manufacture just one more size above his and they don’t keep these sizes as ready stock due to infrequent orders of these sizes coming in. Bottom line:  getting a helmet for him is next to impossible. We got one though that had to be forced onto him and that broke the tender temple of his spectacle. He was left with one ‘temple’ throughout the rest of the Andaman trip, but for once he wasn’t grumpy about it!

Zoooooom we went, Anoushrayan as my pillion; all three knights armed with shooting gears and refreshments for the hunt. Destination: Elephanta Beach. The directions are quite clearly marked yet we stopped once or twice to be sure. There are two ways to reach this beach. In a ferry from the jetty that takes about 45 mnts or by road to a place called Krishna Nagar (which is well marked) that takes about a half-hour and then hike for 2 km through the jungle and mangrove flats.

We chose to hike or rather I chose to make us go hiking. Rajib doesn’t enjoy it at all. Anoushrayan detests walking of any kind anywhere. One needs to register their names phone numbers etc before setting out on foot so that they can be searched for if they don’t return in time. The folks do insist on guides and try to scare you into taking one but there is no such need.

Thus we started and got lost, only briefly though. There was a dwelling and the people showed us the right way. Thereafter we followed the road over the hill, up for a while then down to the broken bridge, passed the resting hut where we sat while coming back.

As the mud pathway made its way into the forest, the trees became tall and the vegetation dense. Remember Mirkwood (Hobbit lovers).

The terrain was a little hilly and muddy and did call for good boots. Through numerous ups and downs, some tad trickier and not for the faint-hearted, we trecked.

And reached the flats.

Mangroves and her domiciles, the hermit crabs, mudskippers and countless other tiny creatures posed for us.

A bend there and through a thicket of mangrove we popped on to the beach. Ah! the shades of blue she wears are beyond envy, and her beach skirting is sparkling white. This part of the beach was quite deserted.

The action was concentrated where the water sports were.

We could see parasailing happening far into the sea on a boat.

Anoushrayan wanted to play in the waters but we were running out of time and also I didn’t want him to get too much wet.

Rajib caught a ghost crab, it is completely white and in the white sands moves like a spirit; we made it a model.

Couple of shots and we started the return journey. We also met a human on the mudflats, while trying to observe a mudskipper; Ankit from Delhi was a solo traveler with a keen eye but without a camera. He spotted a monitor lizard and a red back lizard, and I captured them though not so well.

We got lost again on the way back but I found the path before Rajib could hit the panic button. Though not interested in walking Anoushrayan is quite enthusiastic if the road has a little adventure to offer, so he played a good sport.

We rushed to Radhanagar beach – the one which has made its way into the top 10 beaches of the world. But we had to stop for food before we hit the beach and guess where we thought of flaunting our hard-earned painstakingly saved money? At the Taj. But we were not the only ones flaunting, The Taj Exotica Resort and Spa occupies a whopping 46 acres of land!

We ate prawns curry, rice and a crab (Anoushrayan called it a fortune crab, as it was worth a small fortune to him – INR 5000/-). The huge crabs are brought from Diglipur in north Andamans. Most of them board a ship to go overseas and a few adorn the local exotic dining facilities. We didn’t find crabs in the usual restaurants.

After the luncheon, it was time to hit the famous beach. The Taj staff showed us a short cut and we arrived onto the glorious beach through a tiny opening amongst the thicket of the tropical rain forest trees. What one can’t get enough of is this blue and white. It kind of never gets old. And did I miss the green? So its the greens of the tropics, the sparkling white of the sands and the blues of the open ocean, the true beauty is hard to capture on any media, it is only for the eyes to behold and the heart to make elephant legs with sand.

We waited to catch the sunset, caught it, and then ran back to our scooters. It gets dark within half an hour of the sunset and we were to drive at least 45 mnts to reach the main market area. The road didn’t have much light and was narrow with face to face driving. We managed, driving for decades now. It could be our alternate profession.

Havelock Market is a lively place, with a big ‘mandi’ at its heart where vegetables. fish, meat and all kinds of vendors put their wares on display. The footfall is heavy and the place is ablaze with activity. There are good snacking options and a few shops that sell handicrafts and knickknacks.

We went off to our resort after getting refreshed and hanging around for a while. Again the mystique home beach beckoned us and after dinner, we hit the bed relaxing after the day’s toil.

Now came the last day on Havelock, a fine morning to wake up to. There is plenty of space to dry clothes. We were mostly packed except for the wet clothes which we let there be to collected later after our morning odyssey.

The plan was to walk down the Govindnagar beach to the Vijaynagar beach which has no separate demarcation except that on Vijaynagar beach one encounters huge ‘Mahua’ trees that seem to have been beckoned by the blue waters and were hurriedly reaching out to it. The Vijaynagar beach continues on to Kala Pathar beach but the stretch is interlaced with rocks and is devoid of any shade.

After breakfast, we started walking and disturbed many a crab small and bright who were trying to go about their daily business.

The Mahua trees provide good shade to walk under or sit on to rest for a while.

We met a few indigenous birds who did not agree to pose for us, it being a rush hour for them. We walked for about 15 mnts and reached the end of the Mahua tree line.

We then went inshore into a property, Rajib was skeptical about trespassing but as the properties have no borders with the beach and none have cared to keep any demarcated roads, we pretty much passed unnoticed.

Once on the main road, we took an auto to kala pathar beach and saw many enticing restaurants and properties and also plantations on the way. The Kala Pathar beach was full of life forms mostly humans and dogs as this was a bathing beach, though only in a designated area and the coast guard were very vigilant. We asked the auto to be back in an hour which he agreed to and took off.

Loading ourselves with coconut water and pulp we walked for a while on the tar road that went beyond the beach and up on a hill. We came across a restaurant with an interesting name: “The Flying Elephant” and turned around to head to the beach.

Since we were to leave by a catamaran that afternoon we didn’t want to get our clothes wet, so we just walked on to find more Mahua trees trying to reach the blue across the white, some perished on the way.

We came back after a long refreshing walk, dipped our feet in the Havelock sea for the last time but didn’t find our auto. We waited for a while and boarded a bus that came our way as we were on a tight schedule, all the while feeling guilty about the payment that was due to the auto.

Back at the resort, I packed the remaining clothing which had dried by then and was brooding over a means of transport to go to the jetty, when an auto came looking for us. He had been sent by his friend, our auto guy, who had got caught up in something. I could not have been happier. He agreed to drop us to a restaurant adjacent to the Jetty and we paid him all the dues.

Lunch was good and tasty and different but it didn’t go well with my stomach and I gave it all to the waste bag while riding the catamaran back to Port Blair. Anoushrayan and most of our co-passengers preferred Bollywood song videos over the panorama of the setting sun over the horizon.

We reached Port Blair almost at sundown. Sanju had called while we were still at the sea and it felt good to see him at the Jetty. He dropped us at our next abode The Shelter Hotel.

The next two days we tried to take a deeper look into Port Blair. Stay tuned for our finds.


10 days in Andaman – Facts Figures and Touchdown – 21st Dec’19 – 1st Jan’ 20

The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang || Diglipur – North Andaman || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman
by Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Return Airfare 3 Pax: 78732INR || Stay 3 Pax: 44789INR || Food 3 Pax: 17398INR ||

Local Transportation: 42320INR || Fees (Museum, watersports etc): 19140 ||

Total: 202379INR

Our Itinerary

21st Dec 2019  Bangalore (Karnataka, India) to Port Blair(Andaman and Nicobar, India)


From airport to Aberdeen Bazar Breakfast, Corbyn’s Beach, Cellular Jail, drop at the Jetty

Port Blair to Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep)

Check into CrossBill Resorts, Havelock

22nd Dec 2019Elephanta Beach, Radhanagar Beach
23rd Dec 2019Govindnagar Beach, Vijaynagar Beach, Kala Pathar Beach


Havelock to Port Blair

Check into The Shelter Hotel, Port Blair

Light and Sound Show at 9.00PM at the Cellular Jail

24th Dec 2019 Port Blair  – Chatham saw mill (forest museum), Ross Island, North Bay Island – water sports, Anthropological Museum
25th Dec 2019Port Blair to Baratang Island(Jarwa Reserve is on the way)


Check in to Dew Dale Resort, Barantang

Parrot Island, near Baratang

26th Dec 2019Limestone caves, Mud Volcano, Baratang
27th Dec 2019Check in to Pristine Resort, Diglipur


Sit out at the beach waiting for Olive Ridley to come and nest

28th Dec 2019Checkout from pristine


Dhanninallah Mangrove Walkthrough to a beach

Check into Lakshmi Villa, Rangat

29th Dec 2019 Back in Port Blair check into Atlanta Point


Waterfront at night

30th Dec 2019Fisheries Museum, Samudrika Museum


Check into The Oceanus Resort

31st Dec 2019Wandoor Beach, Kalapani Museum, Chidiya Tapu
1st Jan 2020Port Blair to Bangalore

Tips for your trip

The beaches in Havelock and Neil are the best both for bathing and water sports. Bathing in the beaches of Port Blair is banned owing to fear of crocodiles. The water sports at North Bay / Corbyn’s beach are not so much fun as in Havelock.

The journey to Baratang can cater to most excursion enthusiasts. It passes through Jarwa (Andaman tribe) reserve, where they can be seen quite often.

If the duration of the trip is longer, Diglipur north of Andaman can be explored, it is a big town with Ross and Smith twin islands accessible from the Areal Bay. A new airport is coming up at Diglipur. It has beaches where the turtles come to nest from Dec to Feb.

If the trip is shorter then Havelock is a must (2 nights), Neil can be dropped, in Port Blair the Cellular jail, Samudrika Museum, and Chatham Forest Museum can be done in a day and another can be spent to visit Ross Island and North Bay and the city in general.

There are a few hiking and mountaineering opportunities but in Andaman, the blue is what predominates; the weather is ideal to be in the waters and the beaches are too alluring to forgo.

Recommended Itinerary for 10 days

Day 1Fly into Port Blair – Cellular Jail / Fisheries Museum – Both are near the waterfront


Head to Havelock(Swaraj Dweep) by Macruz around 3pm, check-in at Havelock

Day 2Spent the morning at Govindnagar Beach / Vijaynagar Beach  / Kala Pathar Beach to bathe in the shallow waters and build castles, water sports are available at Govindnagar/ Vijaynagar, have lunch at the Something Different Beach cafe, explore the market after sundown, retire to the hotel
Day 3Visit Neil Island  (Shaheed Dweep)
Day 4Explore Elephanta Beach – Hike /Water sports, be at the Radhanagar Beach to catch the beautiful  sunset
Day 5Enjoy the bath at the beach near you or just laze around looking at the azure waters and return to Port Blair by Macruz, enjoy the light and sound at the cellular jail
Day 6Port Blair – Chatham Forest Museum, Ross Island, Northbay, Anthropological Museum
Day 7Head north towards Baratang through Jarwa Reserve, visit Parrot Island, check-in at Baratang
Day 8Visit Limestone caves, Mud volcano at Baratang and return by the last gate
Day 9Reach Port Blair by sundown and enjoy the waterfront / Aberdeen Bazar is lively at night
Day 10Flyback

And now our travel story…

The brief Port Blair Stint

If I were Sanjay, no not the famous Dhritarashtra’s Charioteer from the Indian epic Mahabharata, but the guy who drove us around in Andaman, I would possibly start the blog thus:

It was another usual day at the airport. Tourists were not so abundant. I had no party to cater to. Usually, December is rush hour and I am overbooked. But here I was waiting at the arrival gate having queued for any stray passenger to be dropped at the hotel, generally, that is what they do, check-in first. Suddenly a trio in black jackets emerged; the grumpy one had a receipt in hand with my car number. As soon as the scanty luggage was fitted into the boot the chatty one started spilling out the beans regarding their travel plan. This was a family I gathered, with a 12-year-old son. They would be in Andamans for 10 days, definitely a good party to latch on to and that is what I did.

If I were Anoushrayan, our son about to be 13 with eyes only for kindle and is waiting for the day when we could teleport everywhere, I would have possibly started the blog thus:

The ordeal was not over yet. We had started late night on the 20th of December around 10pm after dinner, spent the night at the airport as the take-off was around 4am. The 1st-row seats were airy with a good leg space and since the door was open for long, I did not nauseate. My travel happy mom had not booked any hotel in Port Blair, the entry point of Andaman as we were supposed to be heading to Havelock around noon by a catamaran the same day. There we can finally hit the bed is what she has promised. The first thing we did in the port city was, have breakfast and good it was; both tasty and sumptuous, that made me very happy. I needed the energy as we were about to ride on a whirlwind for the next 10 days.

If I were Rajib, my hubby who loves to travel as much as me, has a keen eye for details and is fact-oriented, he also needs to get value for money from everything, I would possibly start the blog thus:

Andaman’s only operating airport for civilians is at Port Blair, it is called Veer Savarkar International Airport. It has a very small arrival and departure lounge. We collected the luggage which came quite fast and freshened up, the bathrooms were decent for Indian small city standards. A band was getting ready to play in one corner. We headed towards the inquiry counter and asked about the catamaran Sea Link. They suggested we better checkout at the Jetty, booked us a cab and gave us a receipt. The grey Suzuki Ciaz was comfortable and the driver Sanju though a serious kind of Bengali gentleman was quite efficient. He took us to a good breakfast joint understanding our requirement. We wanted to book the return journey from Havelock after 2 days, so he took us to a travel agent and we got it done.

If I were me, well which I am, a romantic storyteller who forgets names but remembers experiences, for whom the loss of money counts the least, I am going to write my blog thus:

As I stood behind the bars of the cellular jail I could feel the scream, the pain, the torment that this jail was supposed to have caused to the hundreds of innocent people who were not criminals but political prisoners entitled to humane conditions though in captivity. In Port Blair, the cellular jail and a ferry away the Ross island are the two major places where lies the dark history of Andamans, of the deported Indians, Burmese and the brief but devastating Japanese occupation. A must-visit for all who value their independence and want to know the level of human endurance.

The Great Andaman Tribes were worst affected while they were enslaved in their homeland, forced to give away their cultural identity and accept the so-called civilized way of life. Today as we know the ‘Sentinelese” remain the only tribe that did not let the outside world touch them. The Jarawa are at an interesting crossroad of modern and primitive lifestyle. The Nicobarese tribes though modernized keep to themselves. Tourists are not allowed in the Nicobar Islands, only the government officials and residents of Andaman can visit and stay there. Thus there is no chance of meeting the Nicobar Pigeon and other endemic life forms, in person, any time soon.

We went to Aberdeen Bazaar from the airport to have breakfast. It was early morning and most of the shops were closed. We immediately recognized the Clock tower at the crossroads, having read Deepak Dalal’s Andaman story more than once.

After the breakfast and return booking from Havelock, we went to Corbyn’s beach through the waterfront.

Port Blair’s waterfront which opens up to a harbor with lots of colourful motorboats parked in the blue pristine waters of the Andaman sea, steals away one’s heart from the first look. The capital is a small city, somewhat in layers, the city kind of spirals up the hill and slides down to the sea level.

Corbyn’s beach is the nearest beach from the airport/city center and it has a few water sport options. Though bathing is strictly prohibited due to possible attacks from crocodiles, a few have recently been spotted nearer than what could be called a safe distance.

We stayed at the beach for a while for the photoshoots and headed to The Cellular Jail. Even if I don’t make it as dramatic as calling it a life-changing experience, it is definitely going to create a mark. The seven spokes, of which only 3 survived with the surrounding grounds that house the hanging room, the oil churning equipment, the chair where David Barry sat and saw his cruel tortures being executed, create a heart-wrenching experience. The 3 wings are open to the public, one can go inside the cell to feel it more. I felt claustrophobic inside the cell, even with the iron door open. We went up the tower, which joins all the spokes/wings that house the cells. A sentry was enough to keep a watch on all the seven wings with 696 cells.

The terrace of the wings has some breathtaking views of the ocean around. A public hospital has been established where two of the wings used to be. At the entrance to the jail, there are two museums to the right and left of the gate, packed with photographs and write-ups about the horrible times this jail has witnessed, we could finish only one as the other one was being moped and we didn’t have time to wait so long; definitely, a reason to go back.

Our catamaran was to leave at 12.30 so we headed to the jetty.  Sanju readily exchanged numbers so that he could catch us when we are back from Havelock. The Jetty has two big lounges with chairs, restrooms, and a small canteen. Sealink, the catamaran was supposed to provide lunch so we didn’t plan for it. Unfortunately, it got canceled and we had to fill ourselves with snacks and beverages available at the small counter. We were accommodated on another catamaran called Makruzz, the best and the fastest. The wait was long, till about 2.30pm but the journey and the sitting quarters compensated for it.

As we sailed on the blue waters of the Andaman Sea, I could see, through the huge glass windows, the fading lines of the islands; I could see the waves but could not feel them, as the catamaran is a very stable vessel. We bought tea, 40INR per cup, but it felt good to have it in this smooth sailing vessel as we watched the horizon where the two blues met.


Kashmir, its Mughal gardens and temples

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Kashmir || Pahalgam || Gulmarg

From the sweltering heat of Delhi we reached the wet and cold capital of Kashmir. It was nothing like the Meluhan Srinagar but a city just like any other in India. Cars and traffic jams and flyovers and ongoing construction work, all the same. But then came the mighty Jhelam in sight and the mightier mountains to frame its calm and serene nature which she portrays once on these flat lands.

The Kashmir valley is about 100 kms wide and is at an average elevation of approximately 6000 feet. The Pir Panjal range (inner Himalayas with average elevation 16000 feet) surrounds it in the south and west (where we have the LOC with Pakistan). 

Gulmarg is on one of the shoulder’s of one of the peaks (Apharwat) on these ranges.

The north eastern sides of the valley are flanked by the mighty Himalays. The Amarnath peak, Mount Kolahoi and a lot of other peaks pop up from this side when the skies are clear.

Pahalgam is a little valley tucked in between the lower ranges of the Himalays, 16kms from the base of Amarnath peak.

The centre of attraction in Srinagar is undoubtedly the Dal Lake. Funny though it is like saying the ‘lake lake‘ as ‘Dal’ in Kashmiri means lake. According to local legend, Kashmir is a land desiccated from water.

Our hotel was a stone’s through from the Boulevard that runs beside the Dal. Walisons is a mid range hotel which gives heavy discounts on online bookings with complimentary breakfast and other goodies. We had booked their family room for 2 nights before and a night after the Pahalgam trip. It was more than a pleasant stay with exquisitely decorated clean rooms and bathrooms, loads of good restaurants nearby, one being at the hotel itself. The Stream and Shamiyana are two renowned but tad expensive food joints on the boulevard. We enjoyed various Kashmiri Wazwan’s, the best being Mutton Yakhni.

Our Kasheer (Kashmir in Kashmiri) trip began with rains and as long as we stayed in Srinagar 90% of the time it rained. The “burkha clad” Autos, as I called them were a great relief. Though they hamper visibility, the chill winds accompanied by the showers are kept out by the covers on both sides of the auto which also has a door.

It takes only an evening to see the beautifully decorated ancient mughal gardens of Pari Mahal and Chashme Shahi along with the new Tulip Garden (only from 3rd week of Mar to mid Apr); but to the initiated heart, they are worth spending a life time in, specially Pari Mahal, which gives a panorama of the city being situated in the Zawarban ranges. The garden with 7 terraces was Dara Shikoh’s Library and place for meditation. We visited them amidst light showers, slipping in the mud trying hard to capture the beauties.

The Zabarwan ranges (sub mountain ranges of the Himalays) also houses the other two famous mughal Gardens, Nishat Bagh and Shalimar Bagh. They are rectangular gardens sloping uphill. The spring water from the hills is channelized downhill and ornate stone structures adorn the garden in the true Persian style of the Mughals.

The Tulip Garden in the lap of the Zabarwan ranges; the largest in Asia will remind any hindi film buff of the famous Amitabh – Rekha starrer song, “Dekha ek khwab to ye silsile huye”. There are almost 50 varieties of tulips.

On the second day in Kasheer, we paid a visit to the Nishat Bagh. Beautiful as it is, but would be further enjoyable on a sunny day in full bloom around June.

After Nishat we then drove past Shalimar Bagh, again in a burkha auto to Burza Hamma or Burzahom. It is about 4.5kms from Shalimar Bagh. Our driver bhaijan had a faint idea about the place but had never been there. He had to put some effort into finding it and finally he did!

Burzahom was the home of our species around 3300BCE, when we lived in pits. We continued to live there even after stone-age but this time on the ground in mud houses. Loads of excavated artefacts are on display in the Museum in Srinagar. They date till 800BCE, thus Neolithic age. But as usual we believe more in folk lore than archaeological finds, so the locals believe that a sufi saint lived here 10000 years ago and thus the area was populated.

Amish, in his fictional story book assumes that Kashmir was part of Lord Ram’s domain centuries before Shiva was brought down from the mountains by Nandi to save the Meluhans. The recorded history can only take us back to the times of Emperor Askoka. There after the Indo-Greeks, Kushans, Sakas and Huns occupied Kashmir. The first true king of kasheer is considered to be Praversena II (580 CE). Karkota Empire established themselves as the rulers of Kashmir in the 8th Century. Lalitaditya Muktapida the third ruler of this dynasty extended his kingdom significantly. He is also credited with the construction of one the only three sun temples in India (the others two being Konarak-Odisha and Modhera-Gujrat); Martand Sun Temple near Anantnag. We visited it from Pahalgam, hardly an hour’s distance.

Suhail, our driver was unaware of the sun temple, so he took us to ‘Martand Mattan’ in the town of Mattan which is nearby. It is a Shiva temple cum Gurudwara.

Eventually, some army officers were able to help us find our destination. The locals know the Sun temple as ‘Pandav leni’, the place where the Pandavs from Mahabharata stayed for a while. Again folk lore beats history and archaeology!

The other magnanimous creation of Lalitaditya was Parihaspora, about 20kms from Srinagar, which we visited on the way to Gulmarg.

In the times of Ashoka the great, Buddhism crept into Kashmir and many places of worships were established, none of them are in existence today or may have been converted to Hindu temples.

Talking of temples, the famous Shankaracharya temple atop one of the edges of the Zabarwan range is attainable by any vehicle or even a jog by the enthusiasts. Bags and cameras are not allowed from the base of the stairs. There are about 250 of them to reach the top. Not only the top but even the way to the temple gives very scenic, far and wide views of the Srinagar town below.

Srinagar has many mosques in the old town, which is best visited in a hired car or auto. Some of them might be closed for tourists from time to time. The architecture of these mosques is of great interest to the enthusiasts.

The Hazaratbal mosque in particular, gives a very pleasant feeling. The imposing structure in white with its dome against the backdrop of the Zabarwan ranges makes it very appealing. The grounds as we went were flooded with the beautiful people of Kashmir, children playing around, men and women sitting in circles, chatting up happily made a very happy scene.

Two of the most unique attractions of Kashmir are the Houseboats and shikaras rides. We stayed in a House Boat called Martin’s House Boat in the ‘jewel in the ring’ – Nageena or Nigeen Lake as the locals call it, to the south-west of Hazratbal nearby. This is part of the Dal, but secluded, away from the hustle bustle connected to it only by a small strait.

We lost an entire day which we had preserved for shikara ride to the torrential rains but we managed an hour’s ride on the day of our departure and the experience of having breakfast in a shikara is the “must do before I die” kind.

The day we arrived from Gulmarg back in Srinagar was also a wet one but it wasn’t really pouring so we didn’t take a chance and rushed to Shalimar Bagh – ‘the most famed mughal garden’. The Chinars, one of them 400yrs old are a delight along with many other beautiful and strange flowers.

We met three Kashmiri boys in the bagh, who approached us to shoot them. They were mere kids studying in 11th grade and as a testimonial that the school was indeed closed that day and they were not bunking, they showed us the sms sent by the school.

We agreed to click and later send their photos through whatsapp, which we did; but what we didn’t apprehend was that they would give 75 shots!

There are many amazing things that one encounters on a trip, one such was the ‘kashimiri Dosa’ available right outside the bagh.

Of all the Mughal Gardens, I liked the one in Achabal the most; its in Anantnag and we went there from Pahalgam. It is smaller than Nishat or Shalimar but is none the less ornate.

In the land of natural springs and gardens, Kokernag is another beauty tucked amidst the mountains a little further away from Achabal.

Anantnag also has another gem, the Verinag spring which is considered to be the major source of the river Jhelum. The Mughal Arcade surrounding the spring is declared as a monument of special importance by the ASI.

We missed it.

We met two more wonderful Kushir (kashmiri people) at the temples of Awantipora in Anantnag. Both temples are in ruins and yet are a testimony of the days of glory they had once witnessed.

At Awantiswami dedicated to Shiva, we met a local guide who approached Rajib as he becomes very approachable when the camera hangs from his neck. A fine friendly neighbourhood man, a muslim, well versed in history, he poured out his own ruinous condition and that of the valley as he narrated the story of the ruins.

Less than a kilometre away is Avantishwara, a temple dedicated to Vishnu. We met a Sikh caretaker here, who was sweeping the floor of this bundle of ornate stones that once stood arranged in an array of well-structured walls and roofs. He was more than happy to see a visitor and was overwhelmed when he was tipped.

All said about the breathtaking beauty of Kashmir, if I have to pick only one from a dozen days experience, it would undoubtedly be its beautiful people.

Kashmir || Pahalgam || Gulmarg

Gulmarg – Meadow of Flowers

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Gulmarg and back || Pahalgam || Kashmir

We the people of the plains, living near the sea level have a remarkable attraction towards the mountains and specially the white ones. The mountain people can hardly live away from them if not forced. Either ways mountains are revered by one and all, possibly because it is close to the perceived heavens. Whatever the ethos, man has always found the beauty of a snow capped mountain supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Well I wanted to use that word because it kind of suits the grandeur of those high peaks. It simply means wonderful. Pardon my idiocy.

Gulmarg is just an hour and a half, tops two from Srinagar. It is a steady ascend from Srinagar at 5200 ft to 7021 ft till Tanmarg that is the base of the mountain atop which the ‘meadow of flowers’ lies. We started from Srinagar with a slight drizzle and took a detour to Parihaspora, the ancient seat of glory built on a plateau by Lalitaditya Muktapida, the ruler of Kashmir, around 700CE.

Parihaspora or Paraspor as it is called now; 20kms from Srinagar, is known to the locals more for the SSM College of Engineering and Technology that stands atop the plateau sharing grounds with the ruins of an ancient temple that was magnanimous and housed idols which reached the skies according to Kalhana, the 12th century Kashmiri author famous for ‘Rajtarangini’.

By the time we reached Tanmarg, the drizzle had turned into a steady rain, though not a heavy shower. Our driver convinced us that it would be best to hire the snow boots and jackets from Tanmarg, and he knows exactly the place. We also ended up hiring a guide @ 700 a day, who would supposedly get the tickets for the Gondola next morning and wait for us at the Gondola gate.

From Tanmarg the mountain slopes up. ‘Peril in Paradise’, a detective thriller by Satyajit Ray written in 1987 states that ‘Feluda’ (The sleuth) and party had to go up these slopes in Horses. Roddur was looking forward to it after the extraordinary experience we had in Pahalgam.

However this is 2018 and the Innova went on uphill; the rain and the mist restricted our view. It was chilling outside. After a couple of enquiries we found the building called ‘club’ where our hut would be allocated. I had booked the JKTDC hut online.

Vicinity was almost nil but we shortly found our hut and its care taker. The most interesting thing in the hut was a ‘Bukhari’. We sat around it as Fayaz bhai (care taker) got the fire going. Later I and Roddur tried a hand at it, and boy its fun!

It was too foggy and chilly to step out and then it started raining, which cleared the fog a bit but lowered the temperature further. It was hovering between 2 to 5 degrees. We kept indoors hoping for a better tomorrow.

The next morning didn’t get any better. The weather had been thus for the past 6 days and was likely to continue. Our guide Tarik bhai came with the bad news that the Gondola was not operating and offered to take us around the other places instead. The rain and the chill or the fog which were alternating did not create a welcoming outdoor, so we decided to be at home near our Bukhari.

Tarik bhai demanded his 700 bucks as he had come and supposedly his day was wasted. We gave him the money out of sympathy as tourists are the only means for earning for these people. But we felt cheated.

Fayaz bhai told us that the boots and jackets were being charged at double the rate in Tanmarg. I read in ‘tripadvisor’ that these are available at a cheaper rate in Gulmarg and should not be hired from Tanmarg. Yet the weather and the trust in the driver Iqbal bhai which was the residual effect of Suhail (the driver for Pahalgam) being such a wonderful lad, led me to hire them and the guide from Tanmarg. Bad mistake.

It is not the money that made a big difference; we were paying out large sums as tips absolutely out of empathy; but the feeling of being cheated in paradise made our hearts heavy. Till then we had been experiencing hospitality at its best, in India.

We decided to brave the rains and went out around 11 am. We took a car till the slopes of Khilanmarg, a place to learn skiing in winter, when the snow is deep and steady. The horses were asking 1200 per head. The car asked for 1500. It was raining and we didn’t think the pony ride would be worth so we took the cheaper option.

The snowline was a little way up the slope from where the car dropped us. We walked up alongside horses and men, over streams and rocks and muck and reached. Here also there is a shack for refreshments.

The day tourists looked miserable. Though Gulmarg is a small place, its weather is unpredictable, and since its all about the amazing view from different points, the rain and the mist could render the whole day a waste. I would definitely recommend a stay over.

We had lunch at Grand Mumtaz Hotel. They had a dish called ‘Fried Ice cream’ in their menu but none, from the waiter to the manager could describe it, leave alone producing one.

The food was good, as in all through Kashmir we found people didn’t know how to ruin a dish, whatever we ate, wherever we ate, it was delicious. But if I have to rate it amongst Kashmiri food joints, it was not the best we had. We played Monopoly, cards and lighting the ‘Bukhari’ for the rest of the evening and night in our cosy room. It poured like cats and dogs all through the night making the prospect of the Gondola ride very bleak.

To our hearts delight, we woke up to a sunny morning. Fayaz bhai fed us a quick breakfast and almost shooed us to the Gondola, which was a short walk from our hut.

Rajib went a couple of minutes before us to get the tickets and got them with ease till the first phase (740 INR each – credit card facility is available). The second phase tickets (900 INR each) they said would be made available at the base of the first phase.

Dressed in snow jackets and boots and loaded with our cameras we boarded the little yellow cable car. It has a sitting capacity of 6, 3 facing either side, front and back.

The car goes up and down on the cable at a very comfortable speed, way up to about 10000 ft (Kundoori Mountain). Gulmarg is at a little more than 8600 ft, the second phase takes one up to 12293 ft on the shoulder of the Apharwat peak which is at 14000 ft.

Roddur was not very comfortable, he is scared of heights and has extreme motion sickness too, but he managed. We decided to check out the first phase and then buy the tickets to the second phase.

As soon as we emerged from the base station, a horde of horse men, sledge men, ski men and snow bike men surrounded us. We wanted to walk up to the snowline of the first phase but the whole place was shrouded with mist and the direction unknown so we gave in to the touts and hired three horses for 500 bucks each to and fro.

The ride was not very enjoyable; the horses were also feeling the chill and slipping on the wet rocks and mud. But it wasn’t afar and I was thrilled to see so much snow.

I made Roddur try some skiing which he didn’t like at all.

We also rode on sledges only because they said if we don’t then they won’t get food. It is agonizing to be pulled by another human, when you are sitting on a plank, up a steep slope. I even felt sad for the horses. But this is their only livelihood. We went on for a while and then when the slope got even steeper we walked beside them.

I walked with a Chachaji, who was holding my hand and preventing me from falling in the snow that was knee deep. It was fresh snow from the day before. Talking about Kashmir and its state of affairs, he said ‘hamara (our) India’ in a very pensive tone. Standing in Kashmir, looking at the people, talking to them, it is absolutely impossible to take sides. Our army is very vigilant, we saw convoy after convoy as we went from place to place, we also saw personnel posted at every nook and corner. Yet the hopelessness in the eyes of the people creates an air of melancholy and confusion. All does not seem well.

From where we stood, not so far away I could see the waterfall that is a stream flowing under a large rock which is fed by the glacier above. There were paper trees on one arm of the Kongdoori. Snow bikes were blazing past up and down the slopes. Then all of a sudden the crowd thinned out and the snow fall started. One of the sledge man who was still with us said he’ll go call the others who had gone for some tea.

The three of us stood there, in the country of the white witch, amidst a snow blizzard. It was both scary and thrilling.

After which seemed not like a while but a considerable amount of time, the sledge men came back and took us downhill in a manner which is a ‘must experience’ once in a life time. The sledge puller sat in front of the sledge, I sat at the back putting the legs around his midriff and he held it tight with his hands, the man controlled the speed of the sledge with his legs as we slid downhill.

The blizzard was still on and our horses or their keepers were nowhere in sight. There is a shack for refreshments where we huddled along with others of our species.

A little later we were on our way down, the horses were cold and uncomfortable due to the freezing air, and so was Roddur. He shivered by the mention of a climb to the second phase, would have possibly bitten me if he had the strength to. The red cars on the cable, moving above the white snow were too alluring to be left out.

Yet we did. One the child was not at all interested and two the weather was bad and vicinity minimal, so the great views expected from the car atop were not going to happen.

After the Gondola ride and the snow experience, I and Rajib were beaming with happiness like little kids and the actual kid in our group declared he never wants to see snow in his life.

Thanks to the day being a bit dry, I walked around, gathered some pine cones and tried to befriend the ponies who were happily munching away after a hard day’s work.

The next and the last morning in Gulmarg was another delight. There was fresh snow on the grounds of the huts, the ponies were grazing and the whole vista was sunlit. Swift clouds came over pretty soon as we prepared to go back to Kashmir.

Iqbal bhai was supposed to pick us up but we cancelled him, as it was he on whose insistence we had to go through the distasteful incident. There were reparations. The guide gave back the 700 bucks as we met him while returning the boots and jackets, he realised it was iniquitous to receive payment for the services we never took.

On the way back we visited a place called Baba Reshi. It is nearer to Tanmarg, half way or more down the hill from Gulmarg. The Sufi saint Baba Payam ud din Reshi (15th century) used to live and meditate in this region and then it became the site of his tomb and a shrine for his disciples. The ornate structure was built in Mughal and Persian styles.

The vehicle we hired from Gulmarg for Srinagar cost us only 1700 INR and 300 INR extra for the little detour as opposed to 3300 INR that Iqbal bhai charged.

There are many other places nearby that can be explored by foot or pony or car, but one needs more time, as days may have to be spent indoors due to the erratic weather. En route Srinagar, beyond Tanmarg the weather was pleasantly cool sans the chill. We passed many towns and also got caught in a traffic jam. This time we went to a different part of the town and not the usual boulevard beside the Dal lake where we have been residing at the Walisons Hotel ever since we stepped into Kashmir. We were to check in to a house boat in the Nigeen Lake but that story goes into the another blog, which will cover the Mughal gardens and the ancient temples.

Gulmarg and back || Pahalgam || Kashmir

Vacation – how to make the most of it

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Summer vacation is by far the longest in India, and they become a pain for many a parent who run out of ideas to keep the little devils and the darling princesses occupied. Vacations of any duration for that matter are worrisome. Disclaimer: for many parents but not all.

Show me the world

An Outing is definitely the best option; it helps expand a child’s imagination by the exposure, not on a shopping trip though. Outings could be far or near, in town or out of it. The venue doesn’t have to be exotic in monetary terms; it is not luxury that the children need to be subjected to. Their young bodies are tough enough to take on the adversities of nature and will adapt with ease.

Very young children will like nature, wild and abundant. Slightly educated ones can be subjected to historical monuments, culture and tradition, the ones native to them first and then of their neighbours and stretching out further by and by.

Though outing could be a part of the vacation, it can’t be stretched out for the entire duration for obvious practical reasons. Sometimes it is completely out of bounds owing to varies factors like, no availability of leave or even other monetary obligations on the part of the parents, after all travel does cost time and money.

Not Another Routine

With the advent of summer camps parents are happy to enroll the kids big or small for the whole day 9am to 5pm. Well, it might seem like a respite from trouble, I feel it is unfair. The kid is again bound by routine, which he or she has not set; whether or not the drawing gene pops up into one’s head at 11am, one needs to draw. 12 to 1pm art and craft, candle making, 3 to 4pm cooking on an induction stove.

Innovative, imaginative, constructive, productive and very well suited to bring out all those creative pursuits for a child of a particular age, these summer camps are. Or are they?

Every child is different, says every psychologist in the world. Then how can we have a summer camp for 7-11 yr olds and expect all of them to like all the activities every day? Since a camp also doesn’t come cheap, one will generally be hooked onto it for the duration of the camp that is around 20 days to a month.

Having said this, ‘am not all averse summer or winter or any other season camps, but the duration.

Do As You Like

My 11 yr old had never had a dull moment at home even from the age he learned to say ‘am bored. Here is a firsthand recipe for a happy vacation time that is not only trouble free but also productive without being expensive or routine. Disclaimer: each child is different and should be handled thus.

At the advent of the holiday season or whenever it looks suitable, make the child sit and tabulate a list of things that she or he would like to do at free will. From one such tabulation, I learned that our son would love to learn to play chess.

Before or during the exam preparations, is another time when ideas about ‘what I want to do when ‘am free’, pours in like hails in a storm. The best thing is to write them down as they come. Keep a paper or copy handy for jotting down these ideas which will work as a ready reference when the free time finally comes.

Yes! vacation is free time. It is time for doing things that one can’t do when they are bound by timings; this goes true for school goers as well as grownups. All of us need free time to unwind, to keep ourselves productive and healthy, both mentally and physically.

Amongst the couple of ideas that get thrown the child then needs to pick up a few and make his own schedule on day to day basis or weekly basis, whatever suits her or his fancy and carry them out. They might even show interest in one or two camps which are focused towards a particular faculty, like hip-hop dancing, aqua Zumba or 3D modeling or anything that is on offer.

Parents will find it is way easier to make them follow their schedule than the one made by anybody else. It is also a different way of saying “go do what you like” only it is quantifiable because both you and the kid know what she or he is going to do.

Amidst all this fun one subject should be ushered in as a breather, that is mathematics, whatever the grade and whichever the school it is, one should never go out of practice.

Some kids are not so imaginative or their horizon is not so wide as to come up with a plethora of ideas, parents could help them out initially or why not let them be with the one that they wish to pursue except for if it is watching TV/tab/mobile/internet.

Passive engagement of the brain that happens when children or adults watch TV/tabs/mobile/internet kills productivity and also the urge to be productive. Otherwise, man is born a pioneer.

In a nutshell:

# Don’t just drop them to a camp for the day.

# Don’t just force some activity on them.

# Let the kids come up with their own ideas.

# Restrict digital time.

# Take them far or near.

# Take time out to play or chit-chat with them.

A typical holiday day schedule from a child’s note (grade 6):

Day 1

Wake up to breakfast – Freehand exercise and story writing

Breakfast to Lunch –electrical/mechanics kit

After lunch – Reading

Evening –

Computer Games 1 hour

Swimming camp 1 hour

Mathematics 1 hour

Watching video on Youtube till Dinner

Day 2

Wake up to breakfast – Freehand exercise and Mathematics

Breakfast to Lunch –Drawing and craft work

After lunch – Reading

Evening –

Computer Games 1 hour

Swimming camp 1 hour

Chess online or with mom

Skateboard practice till Dinner

Children who have the option of playing with other kids would definitely add that to the list.Visiting or being visited by relatives and friends is an added pleasant holiday ritual.

Bottom Line(Literally):

Making a schedule only makes it easier to gauge/ measure, whether its fun or work; so that “You know what you did last summer!

Sparrows in a box in a balcony

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

GM Palya near the old airport in Bangalore to Kadugodi in Whitefield is only 15 km tops by the longest route, yet it seems like eons away. The landscape is entirely different, with high rise towers scattered everywhere and considerable amounts of plantations tucked in.

As we were checking out the apartments, the first thing we got love locked onto was a quarrel of sparrows. Soon we found sunbirds and drongos, the cranes and many other unknown species. With the small pockets of lakes and streams still untouched and vast areas of undeveloped land as they are called, the birds are thriving, as of now.

After settling the household and the pots on the small balcony in May 2017, we put a bowl each for food and water to get acquainted with the birds. Many came and our mornings turned into a cacophony of bird calls, loud yet soothing.

One fine day the idea of turning a shoe box into a nest popped up and we set to work. First, we covered it with cellotape completely, more on top and bottom. Then cut a small door enough for a small bird to enter and exit. We also cut a couple of tiny windows for air and light. We then painted it with oil colours and let it dry for days.

Once ready we hung it up on our balcony grill and secured it as much as we could. Thence started a long wait. For weeks none would go in. They would dance and hop atop the box but that was all. Then some of the males ventured in but failed to elicit interest in any females. Months went by.

In November to our delight a pair started frequenting the box and one day as I looked inside, it was filled with cotton and twigs!

Yet time passed and the pair just kept coming and going. I and Rajib agreed that they had accepted the box as their farm house which they visited only for pleasure.

In Feb this year I saw the lady spending more time inside the box and suspected something. I ushered my hand in and yes! There were three eggs!

By the beginning of March the racket of hungry kids started rising and I found three fledglings! Now they are almost grown up and will probably fly off in a week or two. We have been instrumental in the addition of three more sparrows to the otherwise dwindling population, and hope to add more.

Over the next year the duo produced 4 more clutches. There after we were to shift home, so we took down their nest after the last of the fledglings flew away.

Karnataka Hoysala Temple Trail Day Trip

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Destination :  

Govindanahalli, Kikkeri & Hoshaholalu; Karnataka, India, Hoysala Temples.

Distance Travelled: A day round trip – 352km.

Time taken :  15hrs.

A quick shower & we hopped into our little WagonR around 6:20AM. Heading towards the Tumkur road (NH4) via Yeswanthpur we reached the end of the “under construction” toll bridge. 5 km ahead New Agarwal Bhavan is a decent joint for la nourriture. It was around 7:23AM & the parking was full already. The prices are competitive & the choices galore. On the way to Nelamangala crossing a little further down, a huge Anjaneya statue on the left is an eyecatcher. Hassan road NH48 is to the left of the crossing, while NH4 continues straight down to Tumkur. The Hassan main road was being broadened & with lots of heavy machinery at work & freshly tarred widespread roads laid; it felt good at the very onset.

We reached Hirisave at around 10:00Am, caught a glance of the distant Sravanabelegola as we rode a few km further to Channarayapatna, where we stopped for tea. Thereafter we abandoned Hassan road at the main town crossing to take SH7 towards Mysore.

The sites say 16, people said 10,12,14, so we kept a vigil from 10km onwards & enquired from a pedestrian at about 12km & just before a petrol bunk reached a signboard in kanada directed towards Govindanahalli on the right at around 15km from the Channarayapatna crossing.

Just before reaching Govindanahalli village through a winding lone road, we took a left to the Panchalingeshwar temple, the only Hoysala temple with panchakutas(5 pinnacles). It is a neat structure amidst lush green fields, attended to by a priest from the nearby village. Tourists are rare & mostly locals.

The temple is home to number of chameleons coloured very brightly in a red & yellow combo. The sky is so clear blue that the smog accustomed city eyes hurt but the heart sings. The temple has a rectangular mowed lawn around it & a high wired fencing with a gate to keep cows, buffaloes & goats away.

Just half a km behind it across a field is the Venugopal Temple, which is in utter ruins. Venugopalaswami as the temple deity is fondly called has to guard building material like rods, cement etc which is dumped inside the remaining single chamber of the temple & is being used in the house that is coming up very next to it.

kikkeri is 4km further down on the SH7 towards Mysore.

 A little enquiry led us through a village settlement till the banks of a big lake, beside which we located the “Brahmeshwara” temple. The gate was locked but there is a small walled courtyard around the ekkuta(1 pinnacle) temple & we managed to jump in.

The temple walls have a good collection of hoysala art, many small & big statues of entangled snakes are standing in a row in front of a well which has lots of fishes & a big Nandi is siting facing the temple door. Yet we couldn’t find what we had come looking for, outside, so Raji went looking for the priest & I stood waiting outside the gate shooting the surroundings. Buffalos & cycles were being bathed in the water-body. Children were happily playing in the water while women were going about the chores.

The priest came & this time we entered decently through the gate after he unlocked it. He also opened the temple door, lit up the dark chamber & there they were “The Madanikas” or “The dancing girls”. Beautiful ladies, ornately decorated & perched on the pillars. The priest quickly did some puja, gave us prasad & let us take some snaps. He had a story for why the main deity was a Shiv linga when the temple is named Brahmeshwara, but that was so bizarre am sorry I forgot it instantly.

Back on the SH7 again, 15km down is Krishnaraj Pet. It was 2 ‘o’ clock & Jairam got a suitable joint for lunch, we had our aalu parathas that we had packed from home in the car itself. They were actually fresh & tasty so we have decided to carry them on all our future trips. At the junction we turned right & moved along SH85 for about 3.5km before taking another right into a narrow lane following a sign board on SH85, that says “Lashminarayan Temple, Hosahulalu” in kannada.

This temple structure is exactly at the middle of a semi urban settlement. It has a well kept lawn & a fence around it but is surrounded by houses all around which puts a photographer’s skills to test. The front portion of the single pinnacle temple seems to have collapsed & has been build up with bare stone blocks, in contrast the rear still boasts of intricate carvings.

A couple seemed to be discussing serious issues, little girls & boys were chirping around, two of them even took a liking in me so much so that I had to take their snaps & finally get inside the car to shake them off my back. It seemed more like a garden where locals could breathe a little open air.

None of the three temples have any entry or camera fees. Chapals if left outside would make the locals feel good.

It was just 3 in the evening so we decided to have an idea about Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary off Srirangapatana on the Mysore road. We spend a good 2 hrs there with birds & crocodiles & were back to Bangalore city limits by 8 ‘o’ clock.

Karnataka Hoysala Temple Trail Weekend Trip

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Destination : 

Arsikere, Belavadi, Halebiddu; Hoysala Temples, karnataka, India, .

Distance Travelled: 515 km. Weekend trip.

Jayram is always on time but we can never start before 6:25. This time we had a set of extra cloths in addition to the cameras & tripods & ofcourse loads of water & some aalu paraths.

We took the ring road to Tumkur from Old madras Road & reached New Agarwal Bhavan, the good food joint with washrooms, at around 7:20AM. We went straight down on NH4 till the by-pass road just before entering Tumkur city, a distance of 41km from the food joint. The by-pass road meets NH206 at the rightmost outskirts of the town, which runs through Gubbi(19km) to Tiptur(82km) & reaches Arsikere (107km).

The Ishvara temple(devasthana) at Arsikere is accessible through a number of streets on the right of NH206. The most convenient way we found is to get into the lane opposite to the town bus stand. The lane goes through a market area straight down to the temple. This hoysala temple is unique in terms of structural design & carvings. The walls are decorated with carvings from the base to the pinnacle but they are not intricate.

There are several rows of geometrical patterns & just a single row of neatly carved medium sized figurines of various deities. The temple has a single pinnacle(ekkuta), the extension(mandapa) in front of the main door is circular as opposed to being rectangular in most of the other hoysala temples. A hall with many pillars stands as an individual structure to the left of the main temple at about one hand distance from it.

ASI has been taking care of the temple for the past 20 years & the premise actually stands out as a breather in an otherwise densely populated not so hygienic locality. We spend about an hour, took some 100 snaps, got back on the main road, had coffee & checked out the washroom facility(quite okay) at the bus-stand, which was now to our right. Straight up the main road & into the lane on the right we went, just before NH206 tries to leave Arsikere.

In a short while, we arrived at a junction where a road went off towards Mysore & the other, SH102, towards Haranhalli 11km away. At Haranhalli we left SH102 & took another lane on the right namely SH74 & reached Javagallu 22km away enjoying the exuberating beauty of nature. windmills perched on distant hill tops & the valley glowing with colors of sunflower, mariegold & lush green crops.

We turned left to take SH58 leading to Halebiddu at the Javagallu junction. A number of state & private buses along with Sumos & autos were boarding & unboarding a lot of people. Jayram found a good mess for lunch & we had our aalu parathas. 5km down the road there is a diversion towards Belavadi, another 5kms & we reached Belavadi.

The Veernarayana Temple built around 1200CE is huge. It has three pinnacles(trikuta) housing the three deities “Veernarayana” at the center “Venugopal” on his right & “Yoginarasimha” on the left. The deities are an example of fine craftsmanship & are completely unscathed. The built-up area is probably the largest among all hoysala temples with the hall having 132 pillars. The pillars are very interesting, some of them have unfinished carvings, some bereft of any work & some have carvings which are completely out of place. The architectural grandeur is surrounded by a very poor local population but ASI is doing all it takes to preserve such an heritage.

5km back to the diversion & 6km more to Halebidu. It was around 4ish & had started raining when we reached the Hoyesaleshwara temple. Two years ago we had visited this temple & it was raining heavily, that was March.

Across the road is Hotel Mayura Velapuri KSTDC which can be either booked from Belur or Bangalore ( Corporation Circle) in person. Rajib wanted to take a chance & walked down to the office. Two double bedded rooms were available @ INR350/-. We grabbed the offer, canceled the booking at Hassan & stayed back. The room is big with a TV, dressing table, two chairs & a small wooden table. The floor is clean, sheets are not so inviting & the bathroom is big, old & messy. The garden is refreshing & the huge premise is shared by PWD guesthouses.

Amidst the drizzle, we ventured into the Jain Basadi about 200mts from the hotel & to the Kedareshwara temple another 200mts down. Either the vandals were too tired or didn’t have the heart to destroy such lovely creations of beauty for most of the sculptures are unharmed. The Jain basadi has wonderfully polished pillars & a 14ft tall Lord Parshwanatha Swamy.

Bellur is way too famous to be missed and can be visited easily on the way back to Bangalore.

If you are looking for a day trip… read here.

Chasing Temples in the Capital of Mallabhum (Bishnupur) – 4

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

4 day trip including journey dates – 20/12/2017 – 23/12/2017

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Morning temple target was accomplished with ease; we went to the farthest first in a rickshaw(the three-wheeled two-seater vehicle that the puller pedals) to save time.  

Set amidst the garden maintained by the Horticulture society which also houses many trees are the two ancient temples. The last one on the grounds lining the boundary is Kalachand temple. Some 20 people had gathered both men and women when we reached there and more were pouring in; not for worship but some meeting which involved distribution of money.   Adorning the entrance is the Radhamadhob temple. Its walls are sculpted with the story of Ramayana.  

Walking back towards the town within a 100 mts is the Radha Gobinda temple. Distinguished I would say for the little structure beside it which creates a magical frame for portraits.  

Further down is Nandalal temple and here is where we met a guard who has a rifle. He was there to protect the temples from vandals and petty gamblers.  

Right opposite to Nandalal temple is the Jor Mandir, which is a conglomeration of 3 temples neatly tucked in a compound and this too has an armed guard. This compound is hardly 300 mts from the famous Chinnamasta temple.    

We walked back to the tourist lodge, taking one last glance at the terracotta market, checked out, and drove off to Panchmura, this time in an Indica to my utter disappointment. The 22kms drive though is so delightful that I could make it in a tin van from our school days if required. The metalled road goes through a series of ‘Akashmoni’ plantation, commonly known as earleaf acacia, that is native to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It is used as fuel and for making furniture, paper and tools. It has medicinal uses too.  

The plantations were interrupted by fields and ponds and small tribal villages. A tourism savvy state could have turned this drive into a money churner. There are no restrooms or eateries on the way.  

A sudden congregation of people and cars almost midway in an otherwise deserted road elicited inquiry and revealed a curious info. It was an ashram, a little off the road, where people came from afar and near to find a cure for cancer. There was a basic eatery on the roadside and to our expectant glances driven by the stomach’s calls, our driver shook his head so fervently to convey a ‘no’ as if, even to look at the food would mean instant doom.      Panchmura is a usual village but for the housing of the unusual artists whose livelihood is to build these wonders with mud. Horse, elephant, bison, rhino, birds, masks, motifs on tiles, vase and so many small, medium, large and giant items. It is overwhelming.  

Here again our request for a stopover at a sweet shop was met with the same vehement shaking of head by our driver Malay. Yet having next to nothing for lunch was a small price to pay for the extraordinary experience that we bagged from the trip to Panchmura.

We reached the station well before time for the train. Bishnupur station is a neat affair; decorated with flowering plants and terracotta tiles, it has two platforms and a couple of tracks. The train got delayed and we got ample time to explore the small town beauty. It has 86 benches placed uniformly, first class and second class waiting rooms and retiring rooms too. The stalls were all closed.

The original plan was to drop in to a relatives place at Kharagpur, sort of midway, the station that boasts of the longest platform in Asia, and stay over for the night; instead we changed it to just paying them a visit and de-boarded at the station.

To secure a train back home we went to counter to enquire about the last passenger train to Howrah and to our utter dismay found that it was due in a couple of minutes.

We rushed back to the platform got a somewhat empty passenger train where we could stand with our luggage and I started watching the co-passengers with great interest. These were people we call the mass. These were people we hardly interact with, in lieu of being able to do almost everything online. These were people who make the backbone of our country and yet are the most ignored except for the few days before elections.

There were hawkers selling almost every item that a household might need and savouries of all tastes. It is like a mini super market on the move only a class apart. Is it not so intriguing, how we humans have divided and subdivided into classes and sub classes depending on practically virtual notions?

The train was to terminate at a stop before Howrah, our destination. The first thing I did as we got down was to use the public washroom. The train had a toilet but it was unusable – for us.

Shortly we got another train and reached Howrah. We were famished and food was our top priority. I called dad to pick us up from 26 kms afar and he did; a dad is someone you could always rely on. I Remember calling my parents from Gulbarga while on a college trip and man! They did go to get me.

My little son was already asleep as we stepped in home a little after 12. And that was how the beautiful 4 day Bishnupur trip came to an end.

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Chasing Temples in the Capital of Mallabhum (Bishnupur) – 3

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

4 day trip including journey dates – 20/12/2017 – 23/12/2017

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Terracotta or baked earth art is extensively in use in West Bengal, from temples to jewellery, decorative sculptures to tiles and everything in between. The rest of India and abroad also adores terracotta, for its pliability which helps give form to a plethora of ideas that is bound only by one’s imagination.   The sun was shining bright negating the weather forecast and we set out to shoot all that we could at will. 24 temples was a bit too over the top sort of a target but one must try.   This time we started from the nearest one. Rasmanch. You got to buy a ticket, Rs.15 per head, it also pays for two other temples maintained by ASI, Pancha Ratna and Jor Bangla.   Rasmanch is a raised platform for displaying the idols of Radha and Krishna from temples around on a particular occasion. It has the essence of a step pyramid to it. There are loads of Drongos for the bird lovers.  

A 10 min walk along the canal took us to the Gumgarh, which is a very ancient structure and is yet to reveal its purpose to the archaeologists.   The famed Pancha Ratna temple is another 5 min walk. We found it being renovated and thus could not capture this one of a kind beauty with 5 pinnacles; the images we took are like that of a bandaged heroine.  

Further up the road, we found a twin temple which now has the privilege to witness martial arts training.

The Mrinmoyee temple comes up next as we keep going along the road. Built in 997 AD, this temple houses goddess Durga and is alive with the sacred rituals being performed till date.

Bang opposite to the Mrinmoyee temple on the main road is the Radheshyam temple. Across the grounds beside it, where children were happily playing is another hottie the Laljiu temple.

Marching backward through the grounds onto a mud lane on the other side of Radheshyam temple we found Jor Banglo, the most famous of them all. It had a small contingent of makeshift shops in front of the entrance selling souvenir and also some local specialties like the cotton towels the size of almost a bedspread for peanuts.

We had refreshments at an open-air spread out shop which had benches to sit, tea, biscuits of all sorts, sour, sweet, sweet and sour, chocolate flavoured, adorned with nuts and many more. It also had a dish favoured by most Bengalis, the ‘ghugni’ which was on offer with or without bun. ‘ghugni’ is black gram or dried yellow peas or dried white peas cooked with gravy, in the traditional eastern Indian style.

A mud lane from the gate leads up to the Mrinmoyee temple, we went past the temple looking for a place to relieve ourselves and found one behind it. It is a ‘Sulabh’ sort of a place, not so unclean and usable. The keeper, however, was very confused about what to charge. He wanted to ask something big but was suddenly mobbed as a bigger group came around. This group had ‘English speaking Bengalis’ who loved to throw their weight around and the poor fellow was completely mellowed. We paid him the dues and went off.

We walked and walked and walked, through the big and small gate of the fort walls that once stood there, down into the densely populated part of the town through winding roads, left and right, asking local guides and finally hiring a rickshaw to reach Madanmohan Temple.

A man very humbly dressed offered me ‘prasad’(anything edible that has been offered to the god), it was some variance of the ‘khichri’(rice and pulses cooked together) and it was nice. The man said he had made it himself at home.   From this temple which was deep into the heart of a maze of lanes, we tried reaching out to other temples but that seemed impossible on foot. After a good amount of trekking when we were about to give up we got a ‘toto’(a battery operated three-wheeler which does not need a license to be driven; this is restricted only to West Bengal).  

A couple of more temples could be covered thanks to the ‘toto’, but most were in a dilapidated state, being family owned who were unable to bear the cost of a proper maintenance. In some, the deity is actively worshipped and is expected to take care of the structure with its divine grace.   Back in the tourist lodge, we had a late lunch and soon after went out shopping for curios. I bought terracotta neckpieces for reselling; Rajib bought a ‘dokra’ artifact modeled on the famed canon that is called ‘Dal Madol’ which can be seen on display in a small courtyard near Chinnamasta temple. It was made around 1600 AD, was lost after the Malla dynasty declined only to be found by the British.  

Legend has it that Lord Krishna himself used the canon to ward off the enemies.   We bought a few more souvenirs for ourselves and as gifts including the famous ‘dashavatar cards’ which is handmade on cloth and depicts the 10 avatars of Vishnu. Its a Mallabhum specialty, collectible item.

The day was well spent culminating with a flavoursome dinner at the lodge and speculations about our next and final day at Bishnupur.   Time management was crucial on the last day, as we still had a few important temples to visit, travel 44kms to and fro to visit a village called Panchmura where they make the famous terracotta horses and other artifacts and catch a train back home at 3 pm.

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Temple List::Bishnupur –

JOY to HOPE in 13yrs

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

There are many things in a girl’s life that she holds dear to her; dolls, frocks, earrings, shoes, watches; that’s going to be a very long list, let’s skip.  A scooter was one such for me. Daddy’s scooter was way too heavy for me to handle. As a child, I loved to ride a bicycle. The freedom of being in charge of my movements gave me a high. I had an inherent dislike for buses, cars and utmost distaste for aeroplanes. Train was and still is the storybook prince who will always remain a fantastic dream and romantic endeavour. Ships however, are aliens to me, still waiting to board one and find out my feelings for it.

It was not until 2005 that I got my own scooter; TVS Scooty Pep. The brand new shiny black ride felt nothing less than a grand stallion. I loved it. No, I adored it. It was freedom personified for me. I had driven automatic scooters earlier; but this was mine. I could go out at anytime, anywhere. Just pour in some petrol, push a button, roll your hand and accelerate!

It gave me ludicrous joy so I named it JOY.

Joy has seen the happiest days of my life. It was bought for going to college in the second year of my MBA. As Rajib moved to Bangalore I moved in with him into our little one bedroom home. It was the first time we were living together all by ourselves. His office was far away where he had to change 2 buses and my college was also not a walk away.

With Joy around, managing home and college was a tad easier.

Rajib had never driven a scooter and believed that he never could.

I was quite scared and had to be coerced to bring it on road at first. One evening soon after Joy came home, courtesy my friends, an aunty who lived at the ground floor of the two-storey house where we had taken rent was in great pain but in great need to go to a nearby store.

She approached me to give her a ride and I was scared stiff. Yet I wanted to help and possibly deep down somewhere wanted this urgency which could force me to try a hand on my cherished vehicle.

The first ride wasn’t easy, but I managed, and then there was no stopping. Soon I could ride with Rajib to far-away places amidst traffic and my happiness knew no bounds.

Joy has carried me to college, to the office, to ad hoc jobs, to markets and for joyrides. It was only when I was carrying the little life within me; the rides were restricted and then suspended for a couple of months.  

After I went off to Kolkata with my lil baby, Joy had to lie idle day after day with Rajib just giving it some ignition from time to time. One day it didn’t wake up and Rajib consulted a mechanic. The mechanic fixed Joy but warned that he needs to be driven every day.

I came back to Bangalore to be greeted with a very pleasant surprise; Rajib could ride Joy and within a short time he could drive with me.

After giving me joy, Joy succeeded in delighting a one-and-a-half-year-old Raspy. He loved the breeze, as he rode on, sandwiched between Rajib and me, and embraced it with an open mouth. These rides were never long for safety’s sake.

When it was time for Raspy to go to school we brought in Wago, our first car, a golden WagonR. Joy was now more of Rajib’s companion to office and back but weekends Joy kept for me.

As Raspy grew older and Rajib’s office got further away we switched vehicles. Joy started carrying Raspy and me to school (which was just a km from home now), library, small get-togethers and to acquire essentials.

Joy was brought home to JP Nagar, a year later we shifted to Thippasandra that was near my office then. After what seemed like ages, in 2017 May, we shifted to a new locality, Whitefield.

Joy continued its services as before, though it was in need of frequent services itself and finally as the new year crawled in, it could hardly manage a steady ride for a couple of consecutive days.

It was given a new battery on the 31st of January but that too failed within a week. All through my years with Joy I could never put it on the main stand and now Joy could not be started without being pulled on it. Raspy has grown almost as tall as me and my back isn’t as strong as it used to be. Driving remains my passion but now I need a backrest. So I no longer go for joyrides, its only on purpose.

I need a scooter as it is very useful for swift trips. I am hoping for my own shop in the near future near home and that will require fleeting rides. I am also hoping to give Raspy a hands-on-training before he goes for a formal one and gets his own vehicle to drive.

On the 10th of Feb, I took out Joy for the last time with more anxiety than joy due to the trepidation that it might stop on-road and never start again. 12th Feb 2018 the Yamaha Ray ZR rode into our lives with new hopes and I christened it HOPE. Joy went off as majestically as it had come in, never stopping in our vicinity as our gaze followed it until the gate where the road takes a bend and a silent tear fell.

13 years of togetherness through thick and thin from house to house it had become one of us and now it was gone, on a new journey, with new people. I wish it all the best.