Sitting atop the Hemkuta hill and watching the sun casting a golden touch on the Vithala temple at Hampi, India.
Feeling all my stress getting washed down by the waves of the blue flag beach by walking deep into the sea at Padubidri beach, India.
Feeling the vastness and emptiness of the world while staring at the setting sun from the ‘End Of The World’ viewpoint, Saudi Arabia.
Clapping my hands with joy at seeing the sun rising over the ruins of Hampi at Matanga hill, India.
Waking up in a tent pitched by the backwaters and kayaking out to watch the rising sun on river Shambhavi, India.
Hiking across an extinct volcano to watch the sun rise over the Arabian desert at Wahaba crater, Saudi Arabia.
Favorite Outdoor Activities:
Accomplishing the below outdoor activities in Karnataka that I had been contemplating for many years:
Cliff jumping at Sanapur lake, Koppala district
Rock climbing at Badami, Bagalkot district
Kayaking to watch the Bioluminescent waters at Mulki, Dakshina Kannada district.
Hiked new trails, explored new waterfalls, and feasted delicious cuisines in the Western Ghats.
Relished a variety of wild berries, took a dip at the Catherine waterfalls, and tasted Badaga cuisine while meandering through trails in the tea gardens at Kotagiri.
Walked through the misty grasslands to see a dilapidated fortress, stood atop the snout of a waterfall at Bandaje, took a dip in Kodige waterfalls, and tasted Malnad cuisine at Chickmagalur.
Discovered untapped hiking trails, visited lesser known view points and tried natural foods from the local tribal community and saw hills full of Arabica coffee blossoms at Yercaud.
Albeit not a movie person, 2022 was a year in which I watched the maximum number of movies at a cinema, and that too solo. Apart from catching up on some highly recommended movies on OTT platforms, I watched four movies on the big screen. These four were the regional movies whose release I had eagerly waited for and was particular about a theatrical watch only. Apart from ‘777 Charlie’ which I watched with my family; I watched three other movies in the company of just myself: Rocketry, Kantara, and Gandhadha Gudi.
Apart from these, some remarkable events made 2022 special for me.
A trek to Kodachadri hill on New Year’s Day was truly memorable that found me socializing with more people and making newer friends.
‘Glen’, my pet dog who was one month old at the time of entering our home and warmed up our hearts in the first week of the new year.
I said goodbye to my first job after serving the company for over a decade, a change that I had been long contemplating.
Experienced a moment of realization that I was all by myself. A realization that the contacts, the people, the respect, and the inspiration I thought I had accumulated and given to people around me could all mean just ‘Zero’. A moment of realization that trusting even the people you have known for a long could be wrong. A moment of realization that the closest people could have no emotions of empathy at all.
On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I had come across people of several nationalities, all living in harmony and brotherhood in the country. I noticed that the people from the larger Indian sub-continent are greatly respected by the locals irrespective of their nationality. By the Indian subcontinent I mean, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and to somewhat an extent, Sri Lanka. Everybody shares a common language, ethnicity, and identity of being an “Indian”. During my stay there, I witnessed National festival celebrations of three countries including Pakistan’s Independence Day, Indian Independence Day, and Saudi National day (Independence Day).
Celebrating Pakistan’s National festival:
I arrived in Saudi on 13th August’22. It was the first day of my presence in a new country, I was all excited to get acquainted with my neighborhood. But, I was suffering from a headache due to lack of sleep. Hence, I just identified a mall, some Indian restaurants, and a few grocery stores nearby for availing emergency items and called it a day.
On the 14th morning, I noticed that a big Pakistani flag was hung in a shop located right in front of the hotel where I was staying. It indicated that the store was owned/run by a Pakistani citizen, and they were celebrating Pakistan’s 75th Independence Day. For me, it came as a surprise that another country’s flag was allowed to be displayed publicly. But what piqued my interest more was meeting a Pakistani national for the first time. It needs no explanation that any form of free communication between the people of India and Pakistan isn’t accepted in both nations when we are residing in our respective countries. I decided to buy a small flag as a souvenir to mark my first meeting with any Pakistani person in my lifetime. Hence, I crossed the road and entered the large textile store.
Ranging from bangles, frocks, cufflinks, brooches, keychains, and flags, there were several Pakistani National day themed knickknacks available for purchase. The shopkeeper asked me what I was looking for. I asked him to give me the smallest available replica of the Pakistani national flag in the thought that I could paste it in my personal journal/ scrapbook. But, there was none in the size that could fit into my book. He showed me some of the other accessories available, and I informed him that none could be used in my country. A little surprised, he asked me where I was from. I told him that I was from India. Learning of my interest in buying a Pakistani flag as a souvenir excited him. He happily handed over a small stack of miniature flag stickers into my hands and asked me to keep them all, for which he refused to accept any money. He wished me in advance for India’s Independence Day and I returned the greetings for his country’s special day before leaving his shop.
Celebrating India’s National festival:
It was 15th August on the following morning, a day that India was celebrating as ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ back home on her 75th Independence Day. That day, there was no sight of any Indian flag hanging anywhere outside on the streets. I decided to seize the opportunity to explore the neighborhood a little more in the name of adding an Indian national flag to my journal in memory of my first Indian national festival celebration, outside of India. I walked into a few Indian textiles stores asking them if they had any Indian flags to which they responded with a negative. I walked into a few Indian restaurants to check if they had anything on display or if they could give me any leads to where I could find one. A few of them asked me the purpose of why I was searching for an Indian flag. When I told them that I wanted to use it as a souvenir, they either smiled or had a smirk on their faces. They must have wondered that I was some crazy woman walking freely on the streets of Saudi in search of my country’s independence.
None of them had any clue where I could find one. In the pursuit of an Indian National flag in Saudi Arabia, I wandered across a few streets walking over 9800 steps as indicated in the activity tracker on my smartphone. After concluding it to be a futile attempt to find an Indian tricolor, I decided to head back to my hotel. During my return, my eyes fell on a stationary shop and I decided to give it a last try. There was an Indian storekeeper who smiled upon hearing my inquiry. He took me to the section where a bundle of small plastic flags was kept. I asked for one flag for which he charged me 2 SAR without a bill. I came out of the shop all happy after a successful hunt at exactly the 10,000th step in the activity tracker, only to realize that I was standing just a few yards away from my hotel and that I had searched all over to find a little flag.
Celebrating Saudi Arabia’s National festival:
It was a long weekend due to the Saudi National day celebration on the 23rd of September. I was in Riyadh, the country’s administrative capital where several ceremonies were scheduled for the observance of the National day. The entire city was lit up and decorated with the theme of the Saudi national flag, which I was told was the case throughout the country. The level of public involvement and the fervor with which a national day is celebrated in Saudi was something that I felt missing back in my country on a national festival.
At the end of the National day celebrations, I and a few others who had accompanied me for the weekend were at the airport terminal in Riyadh, waiting for our return flight. We noticed that all staff working at the airport and the shops were wearing representative brooches or sashes. By then, I had realized that I had the national flags of two countries as souvenirs with a backstory of how I got them. I didn’t want to miss out on adding one from Saudi to the collection because that’s where I was to celebrate the national days of all three countries in 2022. I asked one of the staff about where I could get one for myself and that’s it. She got a sash not just for me, but one for each person who had accompanied me. Her colleagues and she were extremely excited to give us the sashes and click selfies with us wearing them. And any money offered in exchange was refused to be taken, as they called it a gift for us from them.
Sitting back on my flight, I was trying to recollect my experience of how a national festival was perceived by three different countries. As a foreigner, I was given a gift (free of cost) by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan with excessive excitement. Whereas, being an Indian, I expected myself to be warmly greeted by a fellow Indian on foreign soil and share the same enthusiasm to wish each other on India’s national festival. Instead, I bought an Indian flag from an Indian (it was a small cost by any reference, that could be waived off). It was not the free item I was seeking, but at least an Indian to be able to guide me to a place where I could get Indian products. The expectation was to meet another Indian who shared the same excitement to celebrate India’s festival as that of a Saudi or a Pakistani.
Are we Indians less patriotic? What are your thoughts?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
‘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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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 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.
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!