Category Archives: Karnataka

Travelling around my home state

Haniyur – A village with simplicity

It was a visit due for a couple of years now… Subbanna uncle is a family friend of ours and after repeated invitations from his family; the long pending plan had finally materialized. Mom woke up early that morning and prepared sufficient food for the two families. The idea was that the two families- Subbanna uncle’s and our’s, ate lunch together. We left home around noon towards Haniyur, a small village located at around 10kms away from Rajanukunte on Doddaballapur road. That’s where the Subbanna family lives, a little away from their farm.

As we entered Haniyur village, we were welcomed by fragile houses with mud smeared walls, dry- unpaved roads which had never seen Asphalt, dusty animals and open drainage running up to their brim in front of the houses on both sides of the road. When we arrived at his house, the door was locked and the neighbors informed us that the family was off to their farm. So, we decided to meet them in their farm itself rather than troubling them to walk back home in the hot sun.

Asters horticulture farm
A warm welcome laid by the Asters’ garden

Their farm extends to a very large area that has been divided into several portions depending on what crop is grown. The crops are largely short term and comprise of fruits, vegetable and flowers. This time around they had Asters’ flower garden and a grape vineyard. While the elders in the family were busy with the labourers, the youngest member of the family- Uncle’s grandson was busy playing with the water pipes that were laid for drip irrigation. They were all excited to see us in their farm and some welcome drink (Tender coconut water) was sanctioned immediately. We told them that we would be having lunch with them in the farm itself and opened all the packages we had carried with ourselves. For salad, we had fresh tender cucumbers from the garden. Main course was ‘Kodava food’ from my mom’s kitchen and some nice ‘Ragi-Mudde’ from the Subbanna family’s large lunchbox. Yummy lunch ended with fresh chikkus, guavas and plantains- all from his farm. No restaurant could make up for the cool, fresh and pleasant ambience under the grape vine, in spite of the scorching sun seeming ruthless just outside.

Grapes vineyard visit
Clockwise from top left: Onion farm; Grapes vineyard; Gerkins farm; raw grapes

Later, we walked around their farm and the village and breathed in the rusty country side as much as we could take in. After having a hot cup of chai from the fresh milk from the cattle in the family’s backyard, we decided to bid good bye to this wonderful family.

Local dieties and place for worship
Some kind of a place for worship of the Local deity

It was still around 05.00.p.m, when we started from there. We decided to take a small deviation from our road and visit a temple located at around 4kms from Haniyur before heading towards the city. I’m not a temple kind of person, but for my parents’ sake, we went to the “Madurai- Shaneeshwara temple”. We were done with the darshan in 15mins or so… and headed back to the grind.

Conclusion remarks: There was no set agenda, just catching up for lunch with some old friends in the shades of a simple village and farm. The simplicity of the people who live there and the simple, yet tastiest food from their kitchen, with fresh and chemical free vegetables from their own garden… It’s a different feeling. We the city souls will never understand what money can’t buy. ‘Keeping it simple’ is the way of life!

A lazy weekend at Railway Gollahalli

This is yet another outing from our endless list of random weekends. This time, it was the three of us. Dad, bro and myself who boarded a random train with a ticket to a random destination. We first enquired about the next earliest train leaving from Yeshwantapur railway station. And then decided the destination based on the parameter of distance that the train would cover such that it is not too far from the city and it is easy to find a transportation to return to the city. After the destination was decided, we bought a ticket and headed towards the platform.

So, at around 2.00.p.m.on a lazy weekend, we boarded the train going towards Tumkur. After a good 20minutes or so, we arrived at our destination, a small station called “Gollahalli”. Since every corner of Bangalore has a village named Gollahalli, it is normal if you are wondering which Gollahalli I am talking about. This one is called “Railway Gollahalli”. I don’t know why the name, maybe because it is the only Gollahalli connected by trains or so…

After alighting at the railway station, we decided to explore the village using our favorite mode of transport: “leg motor service”. Like always, we started to walk in a random direction from the railway station, without a set destination. We walked and walked, miles together… It was a thorough exploration of the rustic side!

We spotted a good deal of blunders with English which could give one a hearty laugh. And of course, the fresh village atmosphere, an unending list of birds, lush green farms, the charming village folk- All which definitely plays its magic on people like us who are frustrated with the hustle & bustle of the metro.

funny translations on roadside shops
Mutton stall- Matan steel- ಮೇಕೆ ಮಾಂಸ shop

It was a village that is neither of any scientific or architectural recognition, nor of any historical or mythological importance, but yet an amazing place in its own way. We were our own guides here. We did not want to ask for directions from any localite as we ourselves did not know where we wanted to go… We continued to walk… reached some main road… we further followed the main road… we reached Nelamangala BMTC bus stand. This was where our exploration ended and we boarded a bus back to the city.

Birds spotted around Bangalore
Birds at Railway Gollahalli

Closing Remarks: Be not a Columbus or an Amerigo, but one must definitely explore a new place, try out a new dish, make a new friend. It feels AWESOME 🙂

Up, close and personal with wildlife at Bannerghatta

I believe that we develop interests based on the environment and the social circles that we are exposed to. Born in a small hill-dwelling community whose lineage takes pride in hunting games, it once got me to think where my interests towards nature and wildlife conservation came from. Although I couldn’t join too many dots, one significant period was my high-school days where I would have long conversations with a friend, about animals’ health, their behavior, their habitat etc. Her father worked in the Karnataka forest department. I thus chanced upon once, to stay for a couple of days along with her, in the official quarters located inside the Bannerghatta Biological park.

A stay dating back to June 2007: Five friends and I embarked on this memorable trip (yeah, I can call it life changing too.. It probably changed my perspective about zoo keeping and keeping animals in captivity).

Day 1:
After bracing through long traffic jams and burping on our pre-booked lunch at the Jungle resorts within the park, it was Safari time for us. Even though I’ve been to Bannerghatta innumerous number of times in the past, this was a nice experience. On my previous visits as a normal visitor in the zoo, I would have to buy separate passes for each section. But this time, I was exploring the place with special privileges. The herbivores safari, tiger safari, lion safari, bear safari all done by sunset time and we unwound at the quarters.. You have 6 chatter-box girls in one house and what do you expect? A lot of gossip 😛 The evening thus passed by. The cook served our dinner and post that, we all geared up for one of the most memorable nights of our lives.

Photos of wildlife taken at Bannerghatta National park
Deep inside the jungle

We were all set for “The Night Safari”. The forest guards would go on their regular night beats in the forest and this time, we would accompany them. Apart from being the first experience for all of us out at night in deep jungle, what was more exciting was that we were going in an open pick-up vehicle. As the eeriness of the deep dark wild started to excite us more and more, we got a better understanding of such places at night. While we were being attentive and soaking in all the sensuousness of mother nature, we spotted some wild animal that crossed our path.. and then came back and stood infront of our vehicle. I thought it was some sort of a wild cat and my jaws dropped in awe. I shouted in excitement, “Cat, Cat!”. Then noticing the weird glances I received and the silence of others, I realized I had to shut up. A friend was quick to realise what it was. She shouted “Leopard, Leopard!”. Imagine a LEOPARD, totally untamed and WILD.. right infront of us…!!! The driver halted the vehicle. Another friend yelled out, “Don’t stop, don’t stop.. Move move..”. But the driver took the jeep in reverse and closer to the cat. The leopard had now walked past our jeep and come to the rear side. At a distance of less than 10meters or so.. Instead of pouncing on us and grabbing one of us, strangely the leopard ran away within a few seconds. PHEWWW… still feels like I just woke up from a dream..!!

We were then told that the leopard had littered cubs somewhere in the vicinity and hence, ran away. The forest guards know their forests and its inhabitants. The leopard was frightened about a threat to its babies and hence ran away to protect them. They are usually in defensive mode during these time unless attacking is an absolute necessary. The Safari continued.. We spotted bisons, antelopes, spotted deers, neelghais, wild cat, black bucks, mongoose, rabbits, so on and so forth… The nigh safari was indeed an experience in itself!

Day 2:
Next morning we all woke up before sunrise and again, headed towards the jungle. This time, it was a morning ride with a hope of spotting a few wild elephants. As we travelled deep, deeper and deepest into the forest, the terrain got more bumpier and rocky. The painful ride however, did not yield any good sightings apart from fresh elephant dung everywhere. But, some wonders of the jungles that we had missed in the darkness of the previous night, made up for the disappointment of our morning ride. Picture these little scenes: hundreds of butterflies flying out of a bush, all at once; the glittering clear waters of the lakes lost in the deep jungle; many more.

After reaching back to the quarters, we immediately headed to a pond located behind the quarters. It was bathing time for the pachyderms at the zoo… Two majestic sweethearts walked past us, with a calf: Vanaraja, Darshan & Baby Nisarga (Those are the names of the elephants at Bannerghatta). We too stretched ourselves to give them a scrub and in the process, got all wet with the ever playfull little Nisarga.

Photos of elephants taken at Bannerghatta National park

It was our zoo time post breakfast. In a separate area, an elephant calf named Geetha was in deep slumber. The calf who was barely as old as a month-and-a-half was guarded by her mother. We accompanied the mahout to feed them and spent. During this, the little one woke up and we got lucky to spend some time playing around with her. She would nod her head and playfully chase us. We would run around the tree until both of us got tired, and then start the cycle again. While at this, the vetinerary doctors of the zoo welcomed us to the backyard of the Vet-hospital. Under their supervision, we got an opportunity to touch, carry and care for wounded or sick animals that were being treated there. Among them were an alligator, civet cat, guinea pigs, rabbits etc.

Later in the afternoon, we visted the SOS centre. I didn’t even know such a place existed within the premises despite coming to the zoo several times in the past Special privileges! This is a rehabilitation center for wounded lions, tigers, bears etc. These animals are mostly rescued from circuses, bear charmers etc. treated here before letting them into the actual zoo area. This is a public prohibited zone. The handsome Siberian tigers were my favourite.

Sloth bears at the SOS center in Bannerghatta National Park
At the SOS centre

Next was the drive uphill- to Udige bande. We got a nice view of the ‘Bannerghatta National Park’ from here. You can find innumerous dolmens here, believed to be the place where the local tribes once laid their dead ancestors to sleep. There is also another large rock, called as the Barber’s stone which is believed to have been featured in Dr.Rajkumar’s ‘Gandhada Gudi’ movie.

Views of the forest cover at Bannerghatta National park
From Top left: 1.The view from Udige Bande, 2. The Barber’s stone, 3.The Dolmens atop Udige Bande, 4.View of a small check dam constructed by the forest department as a watering hole for the wild animals.

Day 3:
We were taken to the tiger and lion conservation area. The pictures taken here are something that I would be flaunting for the rest of my life. Not all get a chance to touch and play around with tiger cubs 😉 The big cats that are ready for their breeding / mating are brought here. After the cubs are born, the parents and the cubs are nurtured here until the cubs are of a suitable age to go back to the wild. Here, there is no wild as such. They are let in the safari area to mingle with the other cats in a controlled space, which is also another form of captivity.

A tiger cub at the animal breeding center at Bannerghatta National park
Playing with a tiger cub at Bannerghatta lion and tiger conservation area

We took a walk around the museum and got a few insights into preservation and conservation of our natural heritage. We then headed to the last part of our long weekend. The butterfly park was newly set back then and it was a good crowd puller among the public.

To my experiences of going on wildlife safaris and what I had watched on discovery & Nat-geo, I guess this trip gave me a new insight into wildlife conservation. Until now I had only been hearing and watching it. This trip gave me an opportunity to EXPERIENCE it. You cannot connect with nature unless, you get up, close and personal with wildlife.

The Hesaraghatta de-tour

My wants are vague… This weekend I wanted to drive through countryside. As you may know, my mother worked for a government bank, a subsidiary of NABARD that lends agricultural loans. While she was processing one of the farm loan files, I had once chanced to take a glance at the filename- Hesaraghatta. Through her, I had heard that Hesaraghatta is an important centre of several agricultural research in India. I had been familiar with the campus of Gandhi Krishi Vigyan Kendra (GKVK) in Bangalore and the amount of green cover there. Hence, I assumed that there must be a lot of greenery around Hesaraghatta too, and decided to head there.

We started from home at around 8.00.a.m towards Hesaraghatta. We first passed through a village called Aivaragandapura. It is a small village that gets its name from the Pandavas. ‘Aivara-Kanda-pura’ translates to ‘A village that has seen the five people’. There is a temple complex dedicated to the Pandavas who are beleived to have stayed here, briefly during their exile.

We continued our drive to catch up with our plan of going to the area of agricultural research. The government run research institute is spread across a massive area and is divided into separate sections, each having its own administration and permit requisites. We first reached the poultry farm. Various poultry breeds are kept in separate enclosures for research purposes. Along with several native varieties, we also saw Ostriches, Emus, turkeys, ducks, white geese, grey geese, swans etc. With permission from the concerned authorities, we could also visit the Indo-Danish cattle farm. I was awestruck with their size. They were massive, comparable with elephants. I mean, really! There is also rabbit farm, pig farm etc. which we thought of giving a miss because we could not figure out the route. Hesarghatta is also a centre for Horticulture-research. You will pass through large stretches of seasonal flowers, mango orchards and other farm crops.

Birds at the poultry farm at Hesaraghatta
The birds at the Hesarghatta farms

We were done with our pursuit of agricultural research and still had a lot of time with us. We decided to drive around and explore hesaraghatta a little more. We drove further ahead and passed through a narrow pot-holed road. We stopped by a high wall by the roadside which we learnt, was the once famous Hesaraghatta lake. This reservoir served as an important part of water supply to Bangalore City in the past. This is now just a stretch of barren land, open for cattle grazing and a playground for some village boys who go there for a game of cricket. These days, it barely fills even during the heaviest monsoon. While we stood on the tank bund, we could see some village youth playing cricket on the tank bed with a little water at the far end of the large area. The breeze was indeed good and that’s why we spent some time walking along the tank wall.

From there, our eyes fell on a direction board that read “Nrityagram”. It sounded familiar and it struck to me that it was a Gurukul dedicated to “Learning Dance”, founded by the famous danseuse Late. Pratima Bedi. When we reached there, we were told that the place was not open to visitors. However, there was hope. A portion of the beautiful dance school (constructed of natural materials) is now maintained by the Taj group. They run the “Taj Kuteeram”, a nice cozy resort. We dropped in for light snacks and coffee, as we were well into evening. We walked around the area and spent some good time amidst the chirping birds and the splendid nature. Since the setting sun was coming down, we thought of heading back home.

Taj Kuteeram / Nrityagram in Hesaraghatta
The Taj- Nrityagram, at Hesaraghatta

Half a kilometer from The Taj towards Bangalore city, we saw many vehicles going to a place to our left. The place looked secluded but made us curious to check out what was in there. We followed the vehicles that were going there. Oh, believe me! It was a nice suspicion. There lied a vast-neverending-wide-open stretch of plain-land. All those vehicles were actually ferrying some film crew. So that means, we also got to be on the sets of a movie shoot. A stage was set, some other make shift pillars were put up etc. We learnt that, many many movies and ads are shot here almost everyday. This barren land is converted to anything from a helipad to a swimming pool, a crowded village to a concert hall depending on the requirement. It is popularly called as the Hesaraghatta Grasslands.

the Hesaraghatta grasslands
Top: A movie set at Hesarghatta grasslands; Below: The grasslands

We also had a good view of the sunset from the open area. It was getting dark by then. So, we drove back to the hustling and bustling city—away from the calm and rusty countryside. It was hard to believe that such calmness prevailed in our very own Bengalooru. I will surely go back there soon.. Very soon… It was a total get away from the maddening city life.