Sunday, January 20, 2019

Masai Mara at long last: Day one at Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Masai Mara has been one of my dream destinations for as long as I remember....

My Masai Mara travel plan took a while to materialise because I wanted my father to accompany us. He has been instrumental in getting all of us interested in wild life! I still remember one of the first books on wildlife that my dad gave me from his bookshelf was a book of snakes (although I can’t say that I developed a liking from snakes!)

Going to Masai Mara without my dad was unthinkable! 
Since his health has not been that good in the past few years, I wanted him to get better before recommending this trip to him! He was hesitant, but finally gave in to my persuasion:) and our team of five (my parents, my sister, niece, and I were ready for Mara!)

Because our parents were travelling with us we did not want our trip to be too long or too hectic…we managed to keep it short, but it did end up being hectic considering the distances we had to travel. However, it was all worth it, every bit of it. Even though the long journeys were a bit rough on my Dad, he commented at the end of the trip that he would not have minded a longer trip!
That's the Mara effect!

We went through a Kenyan travel agency and they were very good. They took care of the entire arrangement starting from pick up from the Airport to dropping us back to the airport. The park entrance tickets, accommodations everything was included in the package:

Two days at Masai Mara National Reserve
One day at Lake Naivasha and Hell's Gate National Park
One day at Amboseli National Park

Masai was everything we had hoped for and more…there is certainly something about the rolling grasslands...can’t really describe; it charms you, steals your heart and leaves you wanting more. The experience of sighting not only the big fives but Hyenas, Ostriches, Giraffes, Zebras….in their natural habitat was an experience of a lifetime!

Our first day sighting at Mara was of a Cheetah, a pride of Lions (a slight distance away...yet awesome!), and a leopard. We were ecstatic!

Interestingly this Leopard was quite close to the pride of lions, watching them from a safe distance!

Wild Boar, Masai Mara
Hyena at Masai Mara

This cheetah video is not the best but will give you an idea!

Will post the day two at Masai Mara soon.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Beautiful Baul song from the Baul Fakir Utsav 2019, Jadavpur

Happy New Year!

May this year bring more of the things that you love…more happiness, good health, peace, passion, prosperity, and most of all love for the environment!

I am starting off my first post with this beautiful baul song song video from the Baul Fakir Utsav 2019 at Shaktigarh, Jadavpur. Baul songs are folk songs from Bengal that have an influence of Vaishnav Hindu and Sufi songs.

Spiritual, and sung with so much passion and simplicity that every time to listen to Baul songs, I feel overwhelmed.

You may be interested in the following as well:

Monday, October 29, 2018

Beautiful & Unique Durga puja pandals from North Kolkata 2018

Ahiritola Durga idol
I am sharing some more unique Durga puja pandals from north Kolkata. The first one is from Ahiritola. I try to see this one every year, and this time when i went there..I saw an old palatial house, and I was wondering how did I miss it last time...and well...guess what...this  old house was the "Ahiritola durga puja pandal"I. I was spellbound!!! It was so well done...starting from the plasters on the walls, the pillars, the old furniture, ceiling lamps, the chipped so very well done...It had the exact same looks of durga puja that is celebrated in various beautiful old houses in Kolkata.

 I have included a video of this pandal at the end of this post, it is a brief video, and I don't know why I hurried through it...sorry about that...but it will give you an idea.

Ahiritola Durga puja pandal 2018
Entrance to the pandal

The chipped floor effect

So well looks so authentic!
This following pictures are from the Kumartuli Sarbojonin durga puja where the theme was Matti (soil). Very beautifully done with reusable material; I especially liked the idols because of the unique treatment.
Durga idol, Kumartuli Sarbojonin 

Kumartuli Sarbojonin durga puja
Pandal decorations, innovative and unique!



Ceilng is beautifully decorated

I like the different portrayal of he idols

Monday, October 22, 2018

Happy Dussehra and Subho Bijoya from the city of joy

Durga idol Ahiritola Jubakbrinda
Kolkata comes alive during Durga pujas. Every year, I think, they will run out of ideas and themes this year, but every year there is a fresh new theme. It is just too awesome!

Durga puja is a not just celebrated by  Bengalis, the entire city celebrates this festival. People from all walks of life celebrate this joyous festival about the victory of good over evil. It is one of the most inclusive festivals I have ever seen, and which is why it is so unique and has to be experienced at least once!

The Durga pandals have different themes with social messages. The innovative, artistic, and creative pandals leaves you in a dream like state….

I am sharing some of the Durga puja pandals that I loved. I could only see a fraction of the Durga puja pandals this year but even that is enough to give you an idea of the  love, joy, and inclusiveness this festival is all about!

I will start with a pandal which left a deep impact on me.

The one thing that really makes durga puja so very unique and inclusive is...the soil that is used in making the Durga idols. The soil, which is one of the key elements in the mix, is sourced from Sonagachi, and Sonagachi  happens to be Asia's largest red light area!

This year, the Durga pandal of Ahiritola Jubakbrinda in north Kolkata depicted the struggles and  challenges faced by sex workers who have been forced to enter this profession.Through poems, graffiti, and powerful messages this durga pandal made sure that they spread awareness about the difficult life that prostitutes live. The message was clear "sex workers have the right to live in the society with respect and dignity".

It is humane things like this that restores my hope in mankind, and makes me optimistic about a world where all is not lost, and that humanity in human beings still exists.

Entrance to the pandal

The write -up on the top right, is from the perspective of  man, addressing the prostitute as "Mother". I will try to get the essence of this message across, not certain though if I will be able to capture it that well...but let me give it a try:

Who calls you a prostitute
who asks after you or
who wants to know your story
That's why one more time I address you as mother
though I know you are forced to exist on the margins of the society
so many helpless women like you wait in the dark dressed to attract
If you are a prostitute what sort of gentleman am I
My uncle and father they too desire you if they find you alone in the dark
You are like Ganges carrying the sins of others on you
You bear the responsibility of your family, taking the last train home
and returning to your children and ailing husband.
Today it is not your dignity but looking after your family is priority for you hence today
you are not a prostitute but a worker, whose workplace is Sonagachi
We are not men but demons....

Imprisoned by unfair means

Very powerfully depicted

This message is a request to stop trafficking of people

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Chamba and Khajjiar in Himachal Pradesh are breathtakingly beautiful

Chamba, Himachal Pradesh
Chamba is a quaint little beautiful hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India.

We stopped by Chamba because Dalhousie happened to be so misty that we could barely see anything there:( We were expecting bad weather in August....but this was disappointing!  The misty weather is beautiful but when combined with pretty much can't do any sightseeing!

However, Chamba was such a lovely surprise! When we reached Chamba…the sun was shining brightly... what a marked contrast from Dalhousie! I wish we had more time scheduled for Chamba….we only had a few hours.

Our first stop was a 10th century Lakshmi Narayan temple: The architecture of this temple is very different from other ancient temples. The wooden entrance is quite unique. The temple walls have some beautiful carvings.

Bhuri Singh museum: We wanted to get to know about Chamba's history, culture, and heritage.This museum has a lot of paintings, sculptures, artefacts, coins....they have a very good collection. However, there wasn’t any literature that we could refer to. They did not have any pamphlets or books …so it was bit difficult to navigate.

By the time we completed our tour of the museum the weather started to get bad… and we had to rush. We knew that we would be up against unpredictable weather…however now that we were here, we were going to make the most of it, and see as much as possible. On the positive side...because of monsoons the hills were beautiful, magical, and dreamlike!

We had heard of Khajjiar (which is known as the Switzerland of India) and since it was about an hour away from Chamba, we wanted to fit that in as well.

And Khajjiar did not disappoint, it was beautiful…you come upon this area that is so completely different…the wide expanse of the green meadows really hits you…you are transformed to another world!

Our journey back to Pathankot was quite an adventurous one…it started raining heavily and it was getting dark….and we were still in the hills…we had a four hour journey to Pathankot through hilly and winding roads. It was a ride I will never forget…we reached Pathankot at almost 9 pm.

The next day we heard of flash floods in various places, and of a landslide on the Chamba-Pathankot road, all roads were blocked! We got away just in time!

View of Chamba
View of Chamba

Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Chamba
Lakshmi Narayan temple

Carvings on the walls of the temple

Bhuri Singh Museum art work
Miniature painting
Khajjiar, Himachal Pradesh
Khajjiar, the Switzerland of India