Sunday, April 20, 2014

Quaint encounters

Q of the A-Z Blogging challenge

In my travels, as limited they may be, it is astonishing to turn the corner and find something quite out of the ordinary in the middle of the city.  An old world charm here, an interesting piece of history there, something incongruous in the middle of a busy street, a different culture all make for quaint.  Here are a few pictures of my ‘quaint’ encounters. What are your quaint encounters?

Toy train at Elephanta island, Mumbai

A houseboat in Kerela
Oud perfume and Oud holders in Oman

Tram at Kolkata, India
Vintage car museum, Udaipur

Cobbled streets and stone walls of Cuzco, Peru

Friday, April 18, 2014

Photographing the baby

P of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

Ever since the day she was born, all I wanted to do was to take photographs!  Record her every moment. Be it crying, sleeping, smiling when she was awake, smiling while sleeping, wailing for a toy, recording her first or second or third or zillionth flip to her tummy, and all her possible actions (or inaction). 

Those first three months saw me with a battery of cameras, tablets and phones clicking her all the time. As the days passed by, her movements increased and became stronger, and it became increasingly difficult to obtain a still image quickly!  And then, my mum used to wonder why I am taking so many photos incessantly…well, out of say 20 photos, only one would come out 80% right! Now the latest obsession is videos instead of photos.  If a picture is worth a 1000 words, a video is worth a 1000 photos! It makes everything come alive in pictures and has sound as well!

There are several professional services that have baby photography as a service offering.  Most of them charge exorbitant amounts for a handful of photographs (5-10).  The photographs usually include the use of props, the baby in usually a sleeping pose, a naked baby, black and white pictures, and pictures with the parents.  Much as I would have liked to have one done, the price was too much to pay and the fact that SSS hardly slept for the first three months made it impossible to have a photoshoot for a reasonable amount of time. The photographs of such shoots are beautiful of course, and way better than what we amateurs can take. However, there are plenty of resources online as well that provide tips and tricks on baby photography, and though I didn’t try too many of them, I must say, they are quite helpful if you end up using them.

I use a Nokia 925 phone for all her photos and videos.  It is great to be able to take photos and share them instantly over wifi or 3G on Whatsapp or social networks.  It is also easy to make any edits to the photo using this phone.  The very reason I bought the Nokia 925 was because it boasted of a fantastic 8.7 MP camera and I must say I am quite impressed with the picture quality.

 Now that one set of her grandparents don’t get to see her frequently, it has become a ritual to take a video a day and a photo a day at minimum for them to be able to see her progress. I guess by the end of her first year, I will have a fine collection of videos of her each day!

Some tips for photographing babies that I read here and there and used -
  • Google for those adorable new born baby poses and use them in photoshoots
  • Don’t use any unsafe pose that may harm the baby. Professional photographers usually photoshop those amazing poses of those levitating babies!
  • Use all sorts of props – headbands, cute caps, baskets, colorful pillows, colorful backgrounds to get that perfect photo
  • Use a bean bag with different covers on it to get awesome snaps
  • Choose the time of the day when the baby is the least cranky. For new born photographers, the sleeping baby is a good time
  • Try different camera angles
  • Clear up the background – remove the diapers, hankies, too many toys, etc. before focusing on to the baby
  • Take photographs of the baby in the same place/background, with a toy perhaps, to prepare a monthly progress photo calendar
  • Get someone else to make your baby laugh if you want a smiling photo.  She may just stop smiling when you point the camera at her!
  • Post some pics on your social media, but please don't do this every day! She may be your darling, but other people may get bored! Share them privately instead with the people who want to indeed see them
P.S: I did finally manage the professional photoshoot at a reasonable price and the pictures are totally worth it.  Here are a few pictures from the photoshoot and otherwise.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Off we go..

O of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

There was a time when we used to just dump a few clothes in a backpack and go on the spur of the moment out for the weekend!  Well, gone are those days, and every outing over 1 hour is planned with much packing involved!  A whole list of things needs to be checked on before we dare venture out.  Sterilized milk bottles, milk formula, extra handkerchiefs, wipes, diapers, a clean cloth to put her on, a hat, an extra dress, toys (and just one won’t do), boiled water to prepare her milky concoction are all packed in the bag with much care. For a one night trip to Pune to visit family, SSS hogged one full suitcase space which was three times her size! 

If you plan to pack the bag with the baby around, be prepared to have her pack herself into the suitcase, very helpfully unpack all that you have packed, flee with the bottle of lotion and tuck it away in a corner behind the door, upset a glass of water into her clothes, poop atleast once, try to eat the diaper, and finally, you just dump everything and zip the suitcase hoping all that is required is in there! Of course when you get to your destination, you realize that the all-important baby toiletries bag has been left behind and you have to rush to the medical store to buy everything again!

 And it is not just one bag you pack, her handy travel bag also needs to contain one of everything her big suitcase contains and trust me this is even more important than the big suitcase.
The day you think you’ll just hop across to the neighborhood store without the BAG, she  will not need just a change in the diaper but also a change in clothes! Even if you have just fed her, don’t you think she won’t get hungry again in a few minutes!

Forget the designer bag you bought to match with the shoes.  That has been substituted with the capacious baby bag now! Oh well, one of the few minor sacrifices Mom’s have to make J.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nursery Rhymes - Not that innocent!

N of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

I sing a lot of nursery rhymes to my baby daughter these days.  We learnt these very same nursery rhymes as kids and they continue to be very popular still. However, as an adult, I have now started delving deeper into some of the lyrics that seem downright violent.  After some research, I discovered that many of these are not as innocent as they seem.

It is funny to know that the story behind many of these nursery rhymes alludes to political histories, atrocities, diseases, and religious intolerance!

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown and
Jill came tumbling after

Going up the hill to fetch a pail of water sounds bad enough, and poor Jack broke his crown, is probably much more serious than a happy occurrence! How poor Jill must hurt after tumbling down the hill!

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?
Really? Cutting off tails of blind mice with a knife? – This rhyme actually refers to Queen Mary 1 of England burning and executing three Protestant bishops

Peter Peter pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well!
The Poor poor hostage wife!

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.
Certainly not the right rhyme I would like to hear in this day of violence against women!

Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!
Everything about this is violent!

Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.
This probably refers to the anti-Catholicism wave in England’s history where Catholic priests were hidden in secret chambers in houses.

There are many more poems that I wouldn’t like to sing to my baby girl anymore, but well, perhaps it is best to not look too deep into the meaning unless it is not downright explicit. I will continue to sing Ring-a-ringa roses to her.  She’ll not know how it alludes to the bubonic plague!

For more such rhymes you may be interested in links below.


Myriad M Musings

M of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

I thought of a variety of topics I could write an M post on –
Magnificent Mangoes, Mini Marathons, Maudlin Motherhood, Mythical Mahabharata, Manic Mondays, Memorable Moments, Multi-tasking Moms, Magical Memories, Majestic Mountains, Mad Mornings, Mainstream Movies, Mythical Moorings, Melancholy Melodies, Mysterious Murders, Melodramatic Movies, Mellifluous Melodies, Maximum Mumbai, Multifarious Mumbai, Minimal monochromes, Mischievous Monkeys, Menacing Monsters, Messy Marriages, Mundane middle-class, Malicious Magazines, Misty Mornings.

But Alas! The M day got over by the time I finished finalizing my topic, and now I am just leaving you with a few beach photos of Marvelous Mauritius where I had a Merry trip to break from the Monotony.

Monday, April 14, 2014

LOST: A fantastic television series

L of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

I have never written a blogpost on a tv show earlier, but this is one show I have raved about for long enough to merit a post. 

Touted to be one of the greatest dramas that unfolded on television history by fans, LOST caught the imagination of millions of viewers around the world who were hooked to the adventures of survivors of an Oceanic flight that crashed on an unknown island. With several characters in shades of white, black and grey, and a gripping story with tight editing, LOST was a runaway hit.

A drama interspersed with some science-fiction based on the lives of the survivors of the flight is the theme of the serialized story. Episodes are around the lives of the characters off the island and on the island. After surviving on the island for a few days, the survivors realize that they are not alone and that there are ‘others’ on the island who might want to kill them.  The story veers from the characters onto the secrets of the island in subsequent seasons – on its electromagnetic nature, its healing properties, the propensity to not allow pregnant women who have conceived on the island to survive, how there are people mainland who are desperately searching for the island, etc,

You can read all about the story and characters on Wikipedia so I will not delve deep into it. 

What I liked
What I liked about the story was the gripping storyline that seemed to have and had a finite ending unlike the rambling shows on Hindi TV. However impossible it might seem, the plot was constructed in a seemingly logical way and even made us believe when it shouted out for us to ‘believe’ the impossible parts, A wow location at Hawaii where it was shot was fantastic too. Crisp editing was another strong point. 

However,the greatest asset to the serial was the presence of very strong character roles.  Each of the characters were well suited to the roles they played, from Jack the Doctor, who wanted to always ‘fix’ things, to Ben, the manipulative leader of the ‘others’. My favorite though was ‘Sawyer; the suave conman and Kate the fugitive on the run.

Although the end was debatable and several open ends were not closed, all in all, a great series had ended when it did and the journey through it was enthralling as it was entertaining! I miss a show like that!

Veering back to reality, RIP MH370, the real life Malaysian plane that was never found after its journey on March 8.

Some interesting links for LOST fans -

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kerala - The poster state of Incredible India

K of the A-Z Blogging Challenge

My first visit to Kerala was many years back when I was visiting a food grain processing plant to inspect a ‘paddy-husk boiler’ on a paddy farm.  Back then I didn’t have a mobile with a camera or a camera during my visit to Palaghat or Pallakad as it is known, but some images that have stayed with me from that first visit include a mass of green in every frame, lush paddy fields, a verdant scenery with fields and coconut trees, a lovely natural skyline that I had never seen before in India, and the scenery that completely changed from a picturesque luscious green to an unremarkable brown and green when I crossed the state border.

Many years later when I visited this state, on a very short trip, I found that little had changed. The emerald hues were just as enchanting, and the scenery was just as idyllic unspoiled by ravages of civilization.  This state has much to offer to leisure tourists and with all there is to see and do here, it is little wonder that Kerala is the poster state for Incredible India!

What can you see here and what are the key locations? –

  1. Beautiful vistas of lush green farms – peep outside the window while travelling across the state
  2. Unspoiled beaches – Kovalam, Cherai, Varkala
  3. Pristine Hill stations – Munnar
  4. Tea-gardens - Munnar
  5. Coffee plantations – Wayanad
  6. Houseboats on tranquil backwaters – Alleppey, Kumarakom
  7. Relaxing Ayurveda treatments, - Across the state
  8. Amazing wild-life sanctuaries – Thekkady, Wayanad
  9. Quaint cities – Cochin, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur
  10. Exotic Katthakali dance – across the state
  11. Exciting snake boat racing - Alleppey
  12. Majestic temple festivals
  13. Ancient temples – Padmanabhaswami Temple at Tiruvananthapuram, Ayyappan Temple at Sabarimala, Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvayoor

A few glimpses from my brief visit on the back waters of Alleppey –

A Houseboat

Cruising along the backwaters at Alleppey

All grace - A Katthakali Dancer

A walk in the fields

A lotus blooms!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jerome K Jerome - Humor writings

J of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

Of the many writers I have admired, Jerome K Jerome (JKJ) is one who has made me nod my head and laugh out really loudly in public places where I might be reading!  While I admit that PG Wodehouse was the king of humor writing, JKJ has also given us books that are downright crazy but utterly believable.

There are two acclaimed books which I particularly enjoyed and have read over and over again – Three Men in a Boat, and Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow.  While the first is a splendid travelogue on adventures of three lazy friends and their dog Montmorency who take a boating and camping trip on river Thames, the second is just a series of essays on various topics. 

A few memorable lines from Three Men in a Boat that still make me laugh –

My tooth-brush is a thing that haunts me when I’m travelling, and makes my life a misery.  I dream that I haven’t packed it, and wake up in a cold perspiration, and get out of bed and hunt for it.  And, in the morning, I pack it before I have used it, and have to unpack again to get it, and it is always the last thing I turn out of the bag; and then I repack and forget it, and have to rush upstairs for it at the last moment and carry it to the railway station, wrapped up in my pocket-handkerchief.

 “I like work: it fascinates me.  I can sit and look at it for hours.  I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

A few quotes however may not do justice if you get a chance to read the various anecdotes narrated in the course of the book and the journey.

The story of Uncle Podger who fixes a painting ‘single-handedly’ after enlisting the help of the whole house, finding lodging at one of the stops, opening a tin of pine-apple, cooking food are all hilarious.

A few quotes from Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow –

On Being in the Blues – “I can enjoy feeling melancholy, and there is a good deal of satisfaction about being thoroughly miserable; but nobody likes a fit of the blues. Nevertheless, everybody has them; notwithstanding which, nobody can tell why. There is no accounting for them. You are just as likely to have one on the day after you have come into a large fortune as on the day after you have left your new silk umbrella in the train. Its effect upon you is somewhat similar to what would probably be produced by a combined attack of toothache, indigestion, and cold in the head. You become stupid, restless, and irritable; rude to strangers and dangerous toward your friends; clumsy, maudlin, and quarrelsome; a nuisance to yourself and everybody about you.”

On Dress  - “They have a wonderful deal to do with courting, clothes have. It is half the battle. At all events, the young man thinks so, and it generally takes him a couple of hours to get himself up for the occasion. His first half-hour is occupied in trying to decide whether to wear his light suit with a cane and drab billycock, or his black tails with a chimney-pot hat and his new umbrella. He is sure to be unfortunate in either decision. If he wears his light suit and takes the stick it comes on to rain, and he reaches the house in a damp and muddy condition and spends the evening trying to hide his boots. If, on the other hand, he decides in favor of the top hat and umbrella—nobody would ever dream of going out in a top hat without an umbrella; it would be like letting baby (bless it!) toddle out without its nurse.”

On Memory – “It seems as though the brightest side of everything were also its highest and best, so that as our little lives sink back behind us into the dark sea of forgetfulness, all that which is the lightest and the most gladsome is the last to sink, and stands above the waters, long in sight, when the angry thoughts and smarting pain are buried deep below the waves and trouble us no more.”

Go ahead and enjoy his books for free from Project Gutenberg!

Thursday, April 10, 2014


I of the A to Z Challenge

When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, I wonder if he realized what a revolutionary device he had created.  But I am not here to talk about how the light bulb changed our lives.  It did change the way the world operates and the use it has is just stupendous.

Apart from its daily use, the light bulb has also been used to embellish and illuminate buildings and celebrations.

As the world moves on to energy saving mode, I just wanted to share some pictures of illuminations that have stayed with me. 

The New York Times Square is the most visited illumination perhaps in the world.  Bright hoardings stare at you from everywhere you look at.  If the lights aren't enough to light up your life, the delightful happy atmosphere of photo taking tourists surely will! My very favorite illuminated place!

The Empire State Building as illuminated on occasion of the Indian Independence day makes for a resplendent sight 
Diwali is a time when all buildings in India are done up and dressed in twinkling lights and lanterns to bring in the light into lives and homes

The Disney Castle in Disney world is every girl's fantasy and a reality in the Disney park!

A  delightful parade I can watch over and over again with characters from fairy land prancing about in a jolly atmosphere!

A natural illumination of a beautiful sunset I could not resist posting! 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Here comes the Mumbai Monorail

H of the A to Z Challenge

I woke up this Sunday all excited. I was after all finally going to take a ride in the first Mumbai Monorail today!  I know I speak of it as a joy ride instead of something that should be more of a commute, but well, ever since its inception, almost a lakh people were found to be taking joyrides on weekends and I was just one of them!  For a paltry Rs 11, one could take a ride all the way from Chembur to Wadala in the monorail that snaked its way from its elevated tracks offering views that ranged from the refinery, the eastern freeway, to quiet neighborhoods and unfortunately, also slum colonies. It was little wonder that people came from far and wide through Mumbai to take a ride in this much touted mode of transport.

Much has been said about the route selected for the first monorail in Mumbai – Chembur to Wadala, and how mostly useless it will be.  However, people do need to understand that this route will be extended to South Bombay to the hub of several office areas.  With enough slums all over Mumbai, there must have been only a few pockets where they could actually clear out the slums or buildings and create infrastructure for the monorail.  That being said, I agree, that the current route to Wadala may not be that useful for a lot of commuters, but at the same time, it has connected several areas of Chembur that were previously far off from any station for local trains.

I went early in the morning at around 9:00 a.m. to avoid the crowds and get a quick entry and skip those winding queues that I had previously seen  at later times snaking down the stairways spilling on to the roads.  My bags were checked, I was frisked and I could enter the swanky station onto the ticketing line.  Tickets were in the form of tokens that one needed to swipe at the entry point and save through the journey and return at exit.  I guess, all these security measures will work for now, but once the real commuter crowds swell, I doubt if this time consuming model of checking, frisking and ticketing will work if the crowds swell to the level of local train stations.

More security greeted us at the platform as they guided the passengers to stand back and safely. A delightful pink hued monorail train soon arrived and we entered it. It had pink interiors, a few seats and was air conditioned. Wide windows ensured we got a lovely view too.  Most, if not all passengers were in high spirits excited to be in the monorail as everyone scrambled to be near the windows. But on the whole, it was fairly orderly inside. 

On the whole I enjoyed it and I don’t have complaints. Only, I wonder why there aren’t any benches on the station? After all, a 15 minute frequency for a train is quite tiring!

Being a resident of a neighboring area, I also wonder why the work has been done so haphazardly at the station – There are two half-finished stairways that lead to nowhere in the middle of the road that as it is has so little area to walk on being encroached on both sides.

I think the security measures are a must, but I wonder how long they will be sustainable.  I hope though that people are civil enough and take pride in this new mode of transport and desist from disfiguring it with paan-stains, graffiti, and disfiguring the monorail infrastructure in any way even without the security.

I look forward to the second phase of the Monorail that will extend to Jacob Circle and will finally be more useful as a commute to many more people.

A few pictures from the journey –
The Monorail map

A cricketing view from the train

As I took a photo of the taxi on the eastern freeway, the person in the taxi took one of the monorail!

Imax Dome as seen from the monorail



The inevitable slum view

Finally, the monorail itself!

Swanky station

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Gotta Ink that Finger

G of the AtoZ Challenge

It is that time of the year when roads are being repaired, repainted, beautified, built and passed to be built! It is that time of the year when the talk of the town is politics. It is when media starts being cautious about siding with only the ruling government.  It is when the report cards are being printed for the ruling alliance. It is the year of populist measures which may not be necessarily be good are ‘security’ bill was passed, electricity rates were slashed, more slums were legalized…This is when politicians start giving a damn about the common man. Ladies and gentleman, it is election time!

The longest elections in the country’s history have been announced to be from April 7 to May 12 in 543 constituencies in India to elect Members of the Parliament in the Lok Sabha.  About 81.5 crore or 815 Million people of the country are eligible to vote in the elections at an expense of Rs. 3,500 crore. Parties are expected to spend Rs 30,500 crore or US $5 Billion in the elections.

Most priorities have not changed over decades and clean water, sanitation, electricity, employment, and roads continue to rule the roost in manifesto.  After being party to several huge scams running in tens of thousands of crores, curbing corruption is another promise by most parties.  Price rise, economy, security and secularism are other priorities this election.

Key alliances/parties are –

UPA – The United Progressive Alliance ruling alliance led by the Indian national Congress party is the incumbent party which was in power for the last decade.  It has largely promoted Rahul Gandhi a scion of the Gandhi family which has ruled India for the greater part of the history of independent India.  He is the youth icon and leader for Congress.  Many see him to be weak, dumb and ineffective and more so after his (in)famous interview with Arnab Goswami. It remains to be seen if he can prove his detractors wrong.

NDA – BJP is the largest party leading the National Democratic Alliance.  Narendra Modi is the face of BJP and is touted to be the leader who can bring real change based on the development he brought in Gujarat where is Chief Minister. However, the ghost of the communal riots of Godhra looms large even though the highest court in the country has acquitted him and it remains to be seen if the Muslims vote for him despite his promises of development and his success in Gujarat.

AAP – The newly formed Aam Admi party by maverick Arvind Kejriwal took the country by storm when they won the Delhi elections.  With several populist promises and a sincere image to root out corruption, AAP has become a formidable opponent to the established parties of Congress and BJP.  However, it is a new party with little experience and the question is, will voters who are disillusioned with the current stock of parties actually cast their votes for him despite its inexperience.

Additionally, there are several regional parties such as BSP, DMK, Shiv Sena, MNS, CPI etc. which have considerable presence in specific states and may or may not be allied to the key parties mentioned above. Any alliances they make with the party stalking a majority come with a wide range of terms and conditions. These alliances are sometimes formed after the polls.  This can make the government if it meets the majority with their help unstable and vulnerable as it caters to their whims and fancies.

Will the 2014 general elections change who is in that hallowed chair of power or reelect them?  I do hope everyone eligible to vote in India is responsible enough to vote and I urge the literati to be a little less cynical about how everyone is the same and just go vote to bring about a decisive majority, stability in the government and a government who will be responsible.  Remember, it is a privilege and a right to be able to choose who will rule us.