Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas and a very happy new year!

Christmas at Bow Barracks
This Christmas I finally landed at Bow Barracks, I always wanted to visit Bow Barracks during Christmas but somehow I never made it there before.

It is not just Bow Barracks; the entire city comes alive during Christmas. It is really-really nice.

Bow Barracks is located in Central Kolkata, very close to the Bowbazar police station. The best way to reach Bow Barracks is to take the metro and get down at "Chandni" metro station. It is only 5 minutes walk to Bow Barracks from Chandni metro station.. You can't miss it during Christmas because it is lit up so well. The Barracks have been in existence since the First World War. During Christmas Bow Barracks comes alive with music, events, Santa Clause, fruit cakes, wine, merry making, and lots and lots of fun, love, and laughter.

My favourite part this Christmas was to come across a vendor who was selling home-made toffee. I had last seen such a vendor when I was perhaps 6-7 years old. I used to love these toffees because the toffee maker would make toffees in different shapes, such as, scorpions, tooth brush, flowers, watch…. I remember “the watch” used to be my favourite. For old times’ sake I got a watch toffee for myself! I had thought I would never get to see these toffees again. It was so good to relive my childhood days. My best Christmas gift!

It was a wonderful day of celebration. We had a great time soaking in the Christmas "spirit" and it made sense to end the day with a glass of home-made wine from Bow Barracks.

Bow Barracks, Kolkata
Christmas 2014


Bow Barracks
Toffee seller selling his unique creations





Saturday, December 13, 2014

Amur Falcons

Amur Falcon
A trip to Doyang-Pangti area in Nagaland in October is a must visit for anyone who wishes to witness these amazing migratory raptors. Amur Falcons are sighted in the Doyang Pangti area near Kohima in Nagaland. What is amazing about this migratory phenomenon is the sheer number of these birds. From a distance it would seem like the sky is full of insects and not birds.

Every October these Falcons can be seen migrating in large numbers over the Doyang-Pangti area near Kohima. They fly over India from Siberia and their final destination is South Africa.I am sharing photographs borrowed from Soma Jha who was there in Nagaland in October.


Because of the sheer numbers in which they migrate, the Amur Falcons become vulnerable and many of these birds do not survive this journey, not because of natural reasons, but purely because they are hunted for food. In parts of North-Eastern India, they are trapped and captured in large numbers.

However, on a positive note, there is now a fair bit of awareness about this and campaigns to protect these birds are helping in cutting down the mass hunting.

If you are interested here is a link to a very recently published article from Indian express about the conservation and protection of the Amur Falcons.


Doyang reservoir Nagaland


Falcons
More Amur Falcons:)


Amur Flacons all lined up!



Sunday, November 30, 2014

Jazz Fest 2014 Kolkata

It is that time of the year again. Yes, Jazz fest 2014 just got over today after a three day Jazz music affair that most of us wait for eagerly.

This time I got  a chance to watch Sumith Ramachandran perform.

As usual I loved the ambience and the music. Here is a clipping from the Jazz fest 2014 (Saturday, Nov 29th) at The Dalhousie Institute, Kolkata

Some of the the other artists who performed this time were, Four On A Swing, The Ska Vengers, Th richens Tentett, The Shuffle Demons, The Bodhisattwa Trio, Monojit Datta...



You can also check out a clipping from the last year's fest at Jazz fest 2013 Kolkata.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Immersion in the Ganges

Sharing a very brief video of idol immersion.
You will get a glimpse of idol immersion in the Ganges. The water and the lights make the whole scene dreamy and peaceful.

Not a very clear video but you can
make out the boats at a distance.

video

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bird sightings near Jadavpur, Kolkata

Flameback Woodpecker
I am sharing pictures of birds that flocked around my house (South Kolkata). We don't usually get to see a Woodpecker or Jungle Maina that easily!

The Jungle Maina picture is not good at all but I put it up anyway since we don’t get to sight it that often.








Jungle Babbler
Jungle Maina


Koel

Friday, October 3, 2014

Happy Dussehra

Today is Vijaya Dashami (Dussehra) and it is the last day of Durga pujas, and like every year, we think Durga puja gets over too fast and too soonL
And like every year, I saw some amazingly beautiful creations this year. I will post some of my favourites in the next few posts.


On the occasion of Vijaya Dashami (Dussehra), I would like to leave you with a message that I received from a friend today:-


Dasha Hara is a Sanskrit word which means removal of ten bad qualities within us:


Kama vasana (Lust)
Krodha (Anger)
Moha (Attachment)
Lobha (Greed)
Mada (Over Pride)
Matsara (Jealousy)
Swartha (Selfishness)
Anyaaya (Injustice)
Amanavta (Cruelty)
Ahankara (Ego)

So Vijaya of Dashmi literally means overcoming and defeating these bad qualities.


I wish you a life full of joy and peace. Happy Dussehra.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hoolock Gibbons; the only apes found in India

Hoolock Gibbon (female with a baby)
North East India is amazing in terms of the diverse flora and fauna it supports. It is therefore not surprising that the only apes found in India, The Hoolock Gibbons, are found in North East India.

The populations of these apes are on a decline.I am sharing some pictures of both the male and female Hoolock Gibbon. These pictures were taken by Some Jha during her Arunachal Pradesh trip earlier this year.

Hoolock Gibbon male
Hoolock Gibbon female


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Butterflies from Arunachal Pradesh, India

Orange Oakleaf
Here is another amazing collection of butterflies from North-Eastern India. These beautiful butterflies are from eastern Arunachal Pradesh near Wakro, in India.

These butterfly pictures were taken by Soma Jha during her trip to Arunachal Pradesh this year.

Isn't the Orange Oakleaf butterfly(the picture on the left) amazing! It looks just like a dried leaf!

Butterflies are often found around mud puddles, especially male butterflies gather around puddles of mud to get nutrition which they don't get from nectar. It seems they get nutrients and salts by sipping the moisture from mud puddles. Males transfer the nutrients during mating thereby ensuring that the eggs survive. Interesting!
Common Maplet butterfly
Mud Puddling 


Red-based Jezebel
White Dragon tail butterfly

If you like butterflies, you may like my earlier post on butterflies :-


Butterflies of India - Nagaland


Common Birds & Butterflies in China



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Every little bit counts; Agamani shows how

The world and therefore the people today are so focused on their own individual needs, and instant gratification, that it is indeed a refreshing change to come across people who are different!

I thought or believed that the majority of people today and especially, the youth of today are only interested in focusing on their own needs. In a consumerist society that we live in today, it is indeed difficult to focus on anything other than accumulating more and more. But thankfully, I am wrong, contrary to what I have been thinking, there are a bunch of people, I guess in every part of the world, who are different, and perhaps that is why there is still so much good happening in the world today.

A couple of days back I found out about  a NGO that was founded around 3 years back. The name of the NGO is Vijaya Agamani Foundation (Agamani) and it is based in Kolkata. It is formed by a group of bright young people who come from professional backgrounds such as Engineering, Medical, teaching,

What do they do?

They formed Agamani to support and help underprivileged people in our society, the focus being mostly on children. All the members have full time jobs, but they make time from their busy schedules to devote to this cause. They have the passion and the drive to contribute in whichever way possible to make the lives of underprivileged people better.

Some of the work that they are do involves distributing Clothes; with Kolkata gearing up for Durga pujas, almost every child will get to wear new outfits during pujas. Is it not unfair to deprive underprivileged children of the joy of wearing new clothes at least during pujas? Agamani founders believe that these children deserve to have at least one new outfit during pujas. No hand me downs please, for once they should wear something new! (This is such a good thought; sensitive and heart warming!)

Some of the other work that they are involved in, includes distributing medicines in the rural areas, helping out under privileged children to continue with further studies by providing then books and organizing various activities to create awareness, and distributing dry foods to the needy.

I like the passion and the dedication of the young members of this organisation. It is not every day that one comes across a bunch of bright youngsters who devote so much time in helping others instead of focusing on their own needs only.

I wish them all the success in life and I am sure this foundation will continue to grow stronger and bring about significant changes over time.

If you are interested in their work or want to know more, their website address is:-"https://www.agamani.org
and their facebook page is:- https://www.facebook.com/vijaya.agamani
You can also reach them @ +91 8450833083.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Spiritual significance of Ganesh Chaturthi

With Ganesh Chaturthi, the festive season begins, and I simply wait for this season. Not because of religious reasons ...but because of the joy festivities generally bring... people are happier, the weather improves, there is delicious food, and there are so many reasons to wait for this season...

Ganesha is worshipped for wisdom, prosperity, and good fortune. But what interests me more is the deeper spiritual meaning that Ganesha conveys, and celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi is a sort of a reminder to us about the true significance of Ganesha.

To me it is very simple really...whenever there is a celebration of some kind; it brings in togetherness, happiness, joy, love, and well-being. If we were to look at Ganesha, who has an elephant head, is pot-bellied, and has a mouse as his vahan, what would anyone think? Not the best looking God, right?

But if I were to describe Ganesha from a more spiritual perspective, I see Ganesha as one who epitomises inclusiveness, oneness, humility, humbleness, and one who defines beauty in terms of accepting and appreciating every living organism around us as is.

I like how every part of Ganesha is described in this article, it is quite interesting. If you want to know more about the spiritual significance of Ganesha you may find this quite a good read.

I wish you a season full of happiness, peace, and appreciation of all the wonderful things around us.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Amazing display of flowers at the flower show in Lalbagh Bengaluru

The flower show at the Lalbagh Botanical Garden in Bengaluru is worth visiting. It usually happens in January and August every year, and incidentally the 2014 August flower show was the 200th show! It was indeed a wonderful treat to see such beautiful flowers displayed so creatively!

We also saw a wonderful collection of medicinal and herbal plants!










Friday, August 15, 2014

Pataleshwar Cave Temple, Pune, India

Pataleshwar cave temple
I am deviating a bit from my US and Europe trip, I have to share this unusual ancient temple in Pune, India. Even though I have been to Pune several times, I never visited this ancient temple before, I am happy I could visit it this time.

If you like ancient temples, next time you are in Pune, or if you are visiting Pune in Maharshtra, India, for the first time, don't miss this temple. This is quite an unique temple. It is a rock cut temple dating back to the 8th century, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is located on the Jungli Maharaj Road in Shivaji Nagar.It is easy to locate; any auto will take you since it is quite a popular temple. I found some very interesting carvings and drawings in the temple.


Entrance to Pataleshwar temple
Nandi Mandapa


Nandi
Passage inside the Pataleshwar
temple


Carvings on the wall
Carvings on the wall
of the temple


Drawings on the
floor of the temple
Drawing


Drawing on the floor
Inside the temple

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Niagara Falls State Park,USA

Niagara Falls 
After getting a nice dose of history we went back to Niagara Falls. I had a few hours to spare before heading back to NYC.

There is a convention center right across the State Park. And among other things, the convention center also hosts events and shows.

I decided to watch a live performance show called the "Thundering Water Cultural Show" based on Niagara . This live performance used dance as a medium to depict how Niagara Falls impacted the lives of Native Americans and their culture. It was quite a good show, unfortunately, I could not get a seat in the front so the view was obstructed and I couldn't quite take snaps. But I was happy to catch the show.

Areas around the Falls
There was still a lot of snow in Niagara Falls in May




I went back to the Niagara Falls to enjoy the Niagara Falls. I still had 2 hours since our bus was waiting for some passengers from Canada. I enjoyed spending time there. The best part was the State Park provided free access to Wifi. Sitting right next to the falls and connecting with my family and friends, sending them pictures of the falls real-time through the internet was so great! It was a wonderful experience of using technology in such natural surroundings!

Here is a very short clipping of the Niagara Falls.

My trip ended as adventurously as it had begun. Our bus broke down and by the time I got to China Town it was 12.30, well past midnight! I was all prepared to stay back in NYC that night but I did not know anyone there and wasn't where sure about checking into a hotel that late at night. From Penn station it would take me another hour by the transit train to reach New Jersey. After waiting for a while I found a cab that dropped me to Penn station. Once inside the station it was almost as if it was 7 pm in the evening! It was brimming with people. I felt so safe. That is what I like about NYC! I boarded the next train and reached NJ around 2 pm! My poor friend had to crawl out of bed at that God forsaken hour and pick me up from the station! No cab services there:(

In the end I did make it back in one piece happy to have seen Niagara and so many other amazing things. Here is a “Quotation” from the Beatles song "The End" that I wish to leave you with. I found this next to the Hard Rock cafe near the Niagara Falls state park.

One of my favorite lines from a Beatles song