Tag Archives: Offbeat things to do in India

Bioluminescent Experiences in Karnataka

Karnataka is “One State Many Worlds, without a doubt! To explore a different aspect of travelling through this beautiful state, I take you on a path that is en-Lightening, in literal sense- ‘Bioluminescence’. Bioluminescence is a naturally occurring phenomenon of production and emission of light in living organisms. Apart from the visual treat to senses that they offer, the presence of these organisms can tell a lot about our environment as well.

With the Arabian Sea forming the entire coastal belt and the Western Ghats forming most of the green-cover of Karnataka, it is easy to witness bioluminescence anywhere in the state. Traversing a path from the southern rainforests of the state to the northern plainlands through the coastal beaches across all the seasons, here is a list of the different kinds of bioluminescence that one can experience in Karnataka.

  1. Fireflies: An aerial illumination for spectators, these insects produce light to attract a potential mate. Abundant during the months of pre-monsoon showers and summers, the untouched sacred groves and the organic farms of Kodagu and Malenadu offer a post sunset visual delight. A good number of fireflies indicates the good soil and air quality.
  2. Bioluminescent planktons: These light emitting micro-organisms are present in the sea water. They produce a greenish-blue light when disturbed. This means, they produce light irrespective of day or night but can be seen with normal eyes after dark. These glowing waters can be viewed at their brightest best on a no-moon night between two consecutive monsoon months. But what is not the brighter about it is the fact that the brighter the sea glows due to these planktons, the poorer is the health of the sea water.
  3. Bioluminescent fungi: This can be the hardest find of them all. Enter the core of the rainforest during the peak of the monsoon season, with a slow and careful walk and without use of any torch or flashlights. Only if you are lucky, you can spot these glowing sticks or the fallen barks covered by the glowing fungi. Documented sightings have been found in Karnataka, but I’m sure the Western Ghats are home to more species of luminant mushrooms.
  4. Glow worms: These are larvae of some insects that can be largely found along the banks of streams, rivers and under the foliage on moist ground. An indication of healthy soil, these worms emit light to ward off predators and visually offering a delight to the human eyes.

Have you witnessed any other bioluminescent experiences? Are there any specific place that you wish to share your stories about? Do let me know in comments below!

A Rare Connection of Hockey Between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

I have been fortunate to meet many like-minded people online, through travel blogging. Recently, I happened to meet one of such friends offline, during his visit to Bangalore. He greeted me with a souvenir, a nice palm leaf box containing chikkis. He explained that it was the ‘panai olai petti’ containing the famous candies from his hometown. After I returned home, a little bit of online browsing about this souvenir unfolded some interesting facts for me.

The palm leaf box containing the Kovilpatti chikki
The palm leaf box containing the Kovilpatti chikki

Talking about the southern states of India, two neighbours have a lot in common. What triggered this thought were the names of places starting with the letter ‘K’, one from each state. Kodagu and Kovilpatti from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu respectively. Meanwhile, the ‘C’ is what makes these two ‘K’ places famous. ‘Cauvery’, the holy river originates in Kodagu and ‘Chikkis’, the peanut candies of Kovilpatti has earned a GI tag for itself. Enough is written and done on the internet about either of the places.

Palm leaf boxes of Kovilpatti mithai being Repurposed as planters
Palm leaf boxes of Kovilpatti mithai being Repurposed as planters

But what turned out to be more surprising and a rather rare connection between the two ‘K’ places of these states is their common love for the National sport of India- Hockey. In my earlier post, I have mentioned how the largest festival in the world dedicated for any sport (hockey) is celebrated in Kodagu. But what I learn now is that Kovilpatti too, shares its history with Indian military and the influences of the British to have a strong hockey culture. With at least a dozen hockey clubs and several players making it to the Indian national team over time, the people of Kovilpatti have an unabated enthusiasm for the national sport.

What I do know is, that there are several other lesser-known places in India where people celebrate sports other than cricket. Only initiatives by governments, support from sponsors and adequate media publicity can encourage and motivate more people to nurture a sporting culture in our country, anything other than cricket.

I Belong to Everywhere: Uttarahalli

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Napoklu

‘Uttarahalli’ translates to ‘Northern Village’ in Kannada. The irony is, it is located in the southern-most part of Bangalore. This is the current place of residence of my family and is also the last post in this series. This home seems like a perfect retirement plan for a family that seeks a little bit of nature in the midst of a bustling metropolitan city.

With very little vacant space available, my parents try to grow their own vegetables and fruits, welcome birds and squirrels to have meals with them and sip their ‘kaapi’ while watching the sun go down. These are some among many other things they do to keep themselves running through the day.

The sparrows in my portico
The sparrows in my portico

The area is soaked in rich history as well.. While the ‘Vasantha Vallabharaya swamy temple’ dates back to the Chola era, an adjacent cave is believed to be the place where Rishi Mandavya had meditated.

The Turahalli forest is a small patch of lung space nearby, that joggers, cyclists, conservationists and the realtors all seem to have an eye on!

The latest addition to the landmarks is ISKCON’s ‘Krishna Leela theme park’ located on the Vaikunta hill. The sunrises and rainbows on cloudy days are mesmerizing, adding a backdrop to the view of this temple from my doorstep.

Annual fair of Vasanthavallabha temple, Vasanthapura, Bangalore

This is the last post of this series: “I Belong to Everywhere“. I hope you all have enjoyed time travelling with me hopping on- and off from Bangalore to Kodagu. Which place did you like the most? What place would you want to go after reading my posts? What more do you want to know about, from these places?

I Belong to Everywhere: Napoklu

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Yelahanka

Napoklu is a small town located in Madikeri Taluk, in the northern part of Kodagu district. I have spent several memorable holidays here, living a high energy childhood. There are several places of interests for tourists and local pilgrimage that are centered around Napoklu. Some of them are ‘Sri Makki Sastavų temple’, ‘Chelavara waterfalls’ etc. The ‘puttari festival’ is one of the best and the most elaborate one celebrated by the Kodava clan native to Napoklu.

Puttari festival at Kolu Mand

If any of you find a tinge of madness in me, it is likely that it has been due to the influence of my cousin who hails from this town. He has been my closest friend as we both grew up together, roaming farms, fields and streams. On weekends when he didn’t come to our grandparents’ house in Madikeri, we would be roaming together, around the other places that are mentioned in this series of posts.

Although I have spoken about how I developed the awareness for conservation of wildlife in one of my earlier posts, but it is in Napoklu, that I originally imbibed the qualities of empathy for animals. Apart from the cattle, dogs and cats that I was surrounded with in Madikeri, my cousin had birds, fishes, tortoises, rabbits and poultry in his house. They shared a unique bond with him. While during the days, we caught dragonflies with aquarium nets, we chased fireflies at night and trapped them all together in empty glass jars to create a mini ecosystem of our own.

Beetles and ladybugs
Beetles and ladybugs

If you wonder how I know some names of celebrities from across the globe, it is because we followed them. I watched Formula-One, WWF, Tennis and Cricket without missing a single match or a tournament, because the TV remote would always be with this guy and I had no option. The craziest automobile geek I had ever known, much until I became an automobile engineer and met a few other geeks along the way, was this cousin alone. We traded ‘trump cards’ and fought each other over the ownership rights of the rarest WWF and Cricket cards. We still hold back some of these treasured collections and often reminisce those good days of innocent fun. These are the same things that trigger little momentous joy to me even today and that which helps me spread positive energy.

To be continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Uttarahalli

I Belong to Everywhere: Yelahanka

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Jalahalli

In this post, I’m going to tell you about my connection with ‘Yelahanka’, an area located on the northern side of Bengaluru. It is rather popular for the air force station located here. And that’s also why Yelahanka has my heart with it.

This is where my engineering college was located, at very close proximity to the Airforce base. My love for airplanes has a separate post dedicated to it. This is also where the Aero- India show happens, a biennial display of India’s air might.

The campus of Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology
The campus of Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology

One of the camps of the Central Reserved Police Force (CRPF) is located at a little distance from my college. So, most of the morning drives to college were alongside the CRPF troops running on their daily fitness routine. The sight of camouflaged men (at least a hundred of them), marching or running in a single line, with rifles in their hands, weight bags on their backs and the tapping of their heavy boots were just enough motivation for a girl whose little heart goes numb in front of any man wearing uniform of the forces.

And then there are days when we bunked classes and we set out on adventure activities: Adventures of sneaking into random grape vineyards around the college campus, grab a few bunches before being pelted with stones by the farmers if caught 😀 It was sort of days of co-existence between the farmers / local villagers and the students. The students just lived up their share of fun from their college days and the villagers were just entertaining themselves with our tactics.

Some structures at Gantiganahalli, Yelahanka
Some structures at Gantiganahalli, Yelahanka

The Yelahanka we know today wasn’t the same back then. There were hardly any good restaurants, cafes or any place where we could hangout apart from the college canteen. Some of the addas that the students would swear by are the railway tracks, the lake, the stables and Balaji. Well, mention these places to any student from this college and watch their expression: These were not just places, these were emotions.

And the most fun rides were those when we wanted to bunk classes and to find transportation to reach to wherever we wanted to go (out of Yelahanka). Back in those days, the college bus was the only available mode of transportation from college until the airport road / highway. If any commutation was required during the day (if we bunked, that is!), the only options were to either hitch a ride or walk to cover the distance of almost 4-5 kilometers. On some days we sat pillion, some days a bumpy lorry, on some days were cars with AC and some days, we sat on haystack and tractors that carried firewood.

Gantiganahalli lake, Yelahanka
A view of the Su-30 on the otherside of the Lake.

Yelahanka is where I have spent four memorable years of college, a place that has made me worthy of a human being and that has guided me towards earning my own food. Yelahanka will always be closest to me, because my heart will always be wandering around my college (in the form of fighter planes :P)

To be continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Napoklu

I Belong to Everywhere: Jalahalli

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Theralu

Jalahalli is a locality in the Northern part of Bengaluru where my family stayed for a brief period until I finished my graduation in Yelahanka. Being involved in sports, languages, music, travelling and so many other things along with regular college, some of the busiest days of my late teens were spent here.

On a lighter note, our family lived with a confused identity for all the years spent at Jalahalli. We were surrounded by employees of BEL and HMT in majority, and none in our family worked at either of these organizations. More often, we struggled to decide which side to take when we had friends from both these companies sitting on either side of a discussion table 😀

The seven signature clocks of HMT
Above: The seven signature clocks of HMT placed in different cities of India Below: Floral clock at Lal Bagh, Bangalore

The BEL sports ground was one of our favorite places, where I accompanied my father for his evening walks and my brother for his hockey matches, while catching up on conversations with some of the who’s who of Indian hockey. The Ganesha temple in the BEL colony was one of the go-to places when my family wanted a shot of calmness, not in praying but by simply soaking in the tranquility of the silent atmosphere.

The HMT sports complex, HMT hospital, HMT theater, HMT employees’ quarters and the HMT shopping complex were less just concrete structures and more like emotions.

A racing heart while entering the ‘Jalahalli Airforce station’ would calm down only after a plate of parathas from the air force canteen and some tasty samosas and Sondesh at the Bengali sweet meat stall at Gangamma circle. Catching up with friends mostly happened on the new-BEL road or at Malleswaram.

The entrance to Jalahalli Airforce Station at Gangamma circle
The entrance to Jalahalli Airforce Station at Gangamma circle

Well, Jalahalli is a place which reflected the importance of having a friendly neighborhood. Even when any of us had to stay alone at home, there was always someone from the neighborhood checking on our safety and sharing food with us. The months of yuletide were especially memorable because the carol singers came to all houses and we all made merry together.

We left Jalahalli and thus, North Bengaluru to finally come one full circle by making South Bengaluru our forever home (where we currently reside at).

To be continued as “I Belong to Everywhere: Yelahanka

I Belong to Everywhere: Theralu

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Chamarajpet“.

This is a small village in South Kodagu that is closer to Kerala borders than it is to Madikeri. This is where my maternal cousins originally hail from, and they went to school with me at some point while staying together at our maternal grandparents’ house. So, it was natural that I too would accompany them to their native village on several occasions when they went to their parent’s house at Theralu.

Apart from the expansive Tata tea estates and the Kerala borders some of the other popular landmarks that I enjoyed day tripping here were Irupu waterfalls, Mrithyunjaya temple and the Nagarhole National Park.

For all that I can remember from those visits were that there were people speaking and following different culture than I was familiar with. All the workers that worked in both my maternal and paternal hometowns were from the local tribal communities who spoke and ate quite same as what I did at home. But those working at my Uncle’s estate in Theralu spoke so many different languages. The larger group had almost created a mini-Assam in the site of their labourers quarters. They had built so many structures, equipment, tools out of bamboo (the most common site in all over Assam) and ate food that was made with ingredients that we in Kodagu didn’t know were edible until we saw them.

The Glenlorna tea estate Coorg
The Glenlorna tea estate Coorg

This is also where I was introduced to Tamil language and their movies. A large group of workers came to work in the farm at Theralu during the peak coffee harvest season and returned back to Tamil Nadu after the season ended. During evenings or on weekends, these workers often came to my cousins house to watch TV. Although I didn’t know their language and didn’t comprehend with most things they communicated, I picked up names of the stars whom they clapped hands in enjoyment or sounded a “Shhhhhh” to express disappointment while watching their favorite stars on the screen. In spite of not understanding a word of what the movie or tele-serial was about, it was an inevitable situation for me to sit and watch through whatever was being played 😀 Looking back at the days, those stars from the early 2000s are the only few whom I can associate with while talking about movies with a Tamilian!

Assamese kids enjoying their shower in a small stream in the estate
Assamese kids enjoying their shower in a small stream in the estate

With limited means of communication, the major exposure we had in this small hill-district was just limited to living in estates or serving the army. Here, I saw migrant workers coming from faraway places in search of ANY doable jobs, saved a portion of their limited income and sent it to their families back in their hometowns and still lived a life of modesty. I learnt that life was not all easy for people living in other parts of the earth. It always made me think and reflect how unequal and different life was for everyone. Theralu taught me lessons of gratitude for the life I am living!

To be continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Jalahalli

I Belong to Everywhere: Chamarajpet

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Malleswaram

Chamarajpet is one of the two well planned residential areas of Old Bengaluru. Chamarajpet is in the South whereas the other one is Malleswaram, in the North of the original geography of Bengaluru. Chamarajpet is where my parents lived and worked through all the years at the time of my schooling at Madikeri. So, this locality is like my 1.5th home 😛 (first home is in Madikeri and 2nd home was at Vasanthanagar). I came to Bangalore (and thus, to Chamarajpet) only when I had a long vacation from school. Twice a year, to be precise: Once during the monsoon and once during the summers).

One of the earliest memories I have from this locality is of my family and all our neighbours watching and distributing drinking water and snacks to people who gathered for prayers during festivals at the ‘Eidgah grounds‘ and for the all-night harikatha renditions that happened at the ‘Male-Mahadeshwar temple’ in 2nd main. A large jamun tree in the premises of our house was often mobbed by kids from the entire locality for its fine fruits and the aroma of Rasam from the ‘Vataaras’ of 3rd main are some unforgettable memories.

Eidgah ground at Chamarajpet
Eidgah ground at Chamarajpet

There were several things that I saw on TV (Doordarshan) and wanted to learn along with regular school while growing up. But there was unavailability of trained people who could teach me any of these extra curricular skills in the small town (Madikeri). Whenever I visited Bangalore during vacation, my effective time spent with my working parents were mostly for eating out in the evenings and making day trips over the weekends. A major chunk of my Bangalore visits was mostly meant for attending summer schools. With a very large community of literary scholars living in and around Chamarajpet, I could learn different art forms. I attended crash courses across various streets of Chamarajpet (and Basavanagudi) to learn sketching, painting, dance and music.

Every stone, structure and lane has history in Chamarajpet. Makkala koota, Bangalore fort area, Tippu’s palace, all the temples around the fort and the old pete area: Talk about them to my mother and she would be in tears of nostalgia. These are the places she saw every day during her career that spanned nearly four decades.

A scooter decked up in a Sandalwood theme (Kannada film industry)
A scooter decked up in a Sandalwood theme (Kannada film industry)

Talking about my family’s favorite eateries, many things have changed and so many old-world structures have been erased now. However, Karnataka Bhel house in 3rd main road along with Gajanana fruit juice center and Iyengar’s bakery in 4th main have managed to stand the test of time.

My family has lived here for 15 years and there is a bond with every lane and its people that we share in Chamarajpet. Here live so many friends, who are more than family to us! Going to Chamarajpet every time is nothing less than travelling to our hometown! So, it is definitely difficult to quantify how much part of me belongs to this area!

To be continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Theralu

I Belong to Everywhere: Kumbaldal

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Ontiangadi“.

Kumbaldal is a village in Madikeri taluk, north of Kodagu district. The descendance of my maternal lineage belongs to this village. Currently, my uncle stays here with his family.

This award-winning wildlife photograph not often but always brings back memories of simply being at Kumbaldal.

'Lights of Passion’, An award winning photograph of the bioluminiscent fireflies in the Western ghats
‘Lights of Passion’ fetched Aishwarya the ‘Highly Commended’ award at the 56th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards (2020) under the ‘Behaviour-Invertebrates’ category. | Photo Credit: Aishwarya Sridhar

If you are there at the right time, then your senses can feast on bioluminescence. Millions of fireflies rest on the ground under the coffee plants all night and it literally feels as if you are standing on the porch of a mud house that is surrounded with a zillion flashlights. No words of mine can justify what I want to express! But, what I now realize is that the experience is not the same anymore. The usage of chemical fertilisers and pesticides have done damage that’s beyond repair to the environment. Going organic would need several decades to fix these glow worms and fireflies back into their normal habitat.

Every village in Kodagu has its own deity and it is quite an experience to participate in these local festivals. At Kumbaldal, the temple’s Kuli kund (the holy bathing pond) happens to be in our land. Hence, the idol of the presiding deity of the village is brought to our farm for the first ceremonial formalities during the village’s annual festival.

The annual village festival at Kumbaldal
The annual village festival at Kumbaldal

Not until late 2010-ish, that this village house had an electricity connection. The lifestyle was rustic and charming, to say the least. Mud smeared walls, cow dung smeared frontal yard and prayer room, firewood cooked food, kerosene lit lanterns and a perfectly mountain facing portico: Why wouldn’t anyone want a vacation like this! For me, my visits to this village were wholesome experiences.

The kitchen at the Kumbaldal house
The kitchen at the Kumbaldal house

Accessibility being scarce for reaching the commercial areas as and when required, the food and the entertainment at uncle’s house used to be the most traditionally rooted. Even to date, a visit to Kumbaldal is welcomed with a festive spread that largely comprises of the traditional Kodava recipes and prepared with the locally available ingredients as much as possible.

When I think of Kumbaldal, it reminds me of staying rooted to my culture and grounded with a minimalistic lifestyle. if you liked this story, you might also want to give a read to: “The monsoon delicacies of Coorg” for some more nostalgia.

To be continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Sadashivanagar

I Belong to Everywhere: Ontiangadi

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Vasanthanagar“.

‘Ontiangadi’ literally translates to The Only Shop’ in Kannada, and it is the name of a village in South Kodagu, where my paternal lineage hails from. Now, this village has grown beyond just one shop, into a tiny township.

As a child, I would come here on those weekends, when my parents came down from Bangalore. But whenever I came here, there has always been a calm of a different kind. There are two ancestral houses located within the large premises: one nearly 200 years old which is now used as a warehouse and the other, around 50+ years old that is currently being resided at by our family. The latter is surrounded with coffee plants, paddy fields, overflowing ponds and streams, an open well at a walkable distance to fetch potable water. This place has always seemed magical to me, then and now!

View of the farm from our ancestral home in Kodagu
View of the farm from our ancestral home in Kodagu

While the green paddy fields have been a treat to the eyes, the offseason is when I have lived some of my best holidays. The paddy field would turn into a playground when my cousins, other kids from the village and their cousins, would all congregate here for a game or two of football. Not with a foot-BALL, but with hollow balls of pomelo skin (grapefruit).

And then, came the first monsoons: we ran to the large wild-mango tree and fought a mango war. Who won or lost the battle would be decided by how much mango juice we were soaked in and who got the maximum scolding from our elders!

The farm and the mango tree, on the drier days in Ontiangadi
The farm and the mango tree, on the drier days in Ontiangadi

Wait for a few more days to pass by and the monsoon will peak. Then, the streams would overflow and bring that time of the year for our prized catches: Laying bamboo traps to collect fresh water eels and Koile meen (a local fish in Kodagu), fishing out mud-crabs from crevices along the downstream were normal. On (un)Lucky days, one or two smushy crabs would turn out to be snakes after being grabbed out 😀

Once, the workers had brought home several soft shelled turtles which they had found while working in the paddy field. It was timed well with my then recent experience of volunteering for a sea turtle conservation project in Chennai. With all excitement and inspiration, I had written to so many organizations about my new discovery in the western Ghats 😀 Aaah, what memories!

Clockwise from top left: 1. Koile meen, 2. Freshwater shrimp, 3. Cattle, 4. A soft shelled turtle
Clockwise from top left: 1. Koile meen, 2. Freshwater shrimp, 3. Cattle, 4. A soft shelled turtle

Apart from this, the ‘Subramanya temple’ at Byrambada and the ‘Palli Swamy Dargah’ (Pulkimaad dargah) have been important landmarks in and closer to Ontiangadi. A nice warm day even now, is often concluded with a hot plate of palam pori and a cup of kattan chai from ‘Ganesh hotel’ at Ontiangadi.

'Ganesh hotel' at Ontiangadi, Kodagu
‘Ganesh hotel’ at Ontiangadi, Kodagu

I borrow my surname from this village and so, definitely a part of me belongs here 😀

If you liked this story, you might also want to give a read to: “OMG! Life has changed!” for some more nostalgic content.

To be continued as- “I Belong to Everywhere: Kumbaldal