Kappad Beach

Kappad Beach
A nice, pretty beach about an hour's drive away from college. Nice place to get away from the madness!

Posted at at 12:36 AM on Saturday, October 23, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 6 comments   | Filed under: , , , , ,

Early Morning

Dew Drops
Beautiful dew drops in the early morning.

Posted at at 1:52 AM on Monday, October 18, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 2 comments   | Filed under: ,

Starfish

StarFish

Finally I get to post some updates from Kampus! Clicked on a recent trip to Kappad beach.

Posted at at 6:47 AM on Friday, October 15, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 3 comments   | Filed under: , , , ,

Mysore Pit-Stop

Mysore Palace

Sadly, the MBA-life is taking every ounce of my strength and right now even my camera is wondering where the hell I am! Quickly posting a shot of Mysore, had home-packed vadas and a coffee here before pushing on. Mysore Palace in the background!

Posted at at 7:52 AM on Thursday, July 29, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 1 comments   | Filed under: , , ,

Changes in Life

Riding to K
I don't think there's that many people that follow this blog but for what it's worth, I got through IIM Kozhikode. So I should hopefully be able to entertain you with more pictures of Kerala over the course of time. Yay!

Posted at at 1:52 PM on Sunday, July 4, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 14 comments   | Filed under: , , , , ,

Utopia

Utopia
Had an amazing ride during the last week and this picture captures it all. Beautiful sunflower fields, mist-shrouded mountains and a peaceful meadow.

Posted at at 3:16 AM on Tuesday, June 29, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 4 comments   | Filed under: , , , , , ,

Maharajas of Jaipur

Amber Palace
Some of the last pictures from my Jaipur trip. Will post more in the coming days, have some time on my hands now.

Posted at at 9:23 PM on Thursday, May 20, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 3 comments   | Filed under: , , , , ,

Hitting the curves

Hitting the curves
Hitting the curves - 2
Raju Bhaiya was my chauffeur for the day and a very enthusiastic driver! He was leaning off his seat on the curves and a little further and we might have been sliding. But good fun for the day. And he sort of became my guide as well :-)

Posted at at 3:02 AM on Saturday, March 27, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 0 comments   | Filed under: , , , ,

In Xanadu

- a review

There are many people who are adventurous and many more who are world-travelers. In today’s world of the internet and rich media streaming one can easily be an armchair traveler who can see the world from the comfort of their homes. But in 1989, there were no low cost carriers or dot com travel guides. It was in this year that William Dalrymple chose to retrace the steps of the great traveler Marco Polo on the old Silk Route. In Xanadu is a recollection of this journey that William undertook during the summer break of his final year in college and the book was published a year later when he was 23.

William starts his journey at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where he obtains a vial of holy oil aiming to do exactly as Polo had done before him. Carry this holy oil across Asia to the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan and hope to convert him to Christianity. Though in this case the vial contained nothing but ordinary sunflower oil, William was dedicated to his mission of delivering this vial to Xanadu, the summer palace of the emperor Kublai Khan during Polo’s times. The journey takes him across Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and finally China. What livens up any journey are your travel companions. And he is not alone during the journey. Along with countless strangers, two different but wonderful women accompany him. On the first leg of the journey till Pakistan he is accompanied by Laura, a fiery woman whose father is the British ambassador to India with connections in all the right places. Their visas for several countries and permits in others are all thanks to these connections. On the second leg through China he is accompanied by his ex-girlfriend Louisa which one would expect to add a lot of drama. But other than bouts of sickness and extreme diarrhea his companions remain largely drama-free.

The entire journey is sponsored by a grant of 700 pounds from Cambridge University. When traveling on such a budget, several corners are cut. They stay in flea-bag hotels, eat all kinds of local delicacies (chiefly because of the unavailability of anything else that is edible) and travel on all kinds of transport. So while they spend one night on the beach in Turkey and take a bath in the sea, other nights are spent on the top of coal-laden trucks. Their trip also involves several risky adventures like traveling in forbidden areas of China, entering countries without a regular permit but they push, twist or cajole their way through several sticky situations. But this not an account of a hippie journey across Asia. Coming from a Cambridge history major, this account is much more than a simple travelogue.

William has a very unique way of writing his travel experiences that makes for a very interesting read. He pauses several times during his narration of his travels to give the reader an insight into history. He paints a beautiful picture of the mosques and chapels during Polo’s time and rues their often dilapidated status now. But none of these pauses seem to hinder the progression of the narration. They are in fact subtle diversions that help the reader form a picture of the towns and locations along the silk route.

William is a history major at Cambridge and has got his research for the book pat down. In fact, he travels throughout the journey with a whole of sack of books to keep him company and read while traveling. He has scoured through several works of history on the Silk Route to paint a comprehensive picture across the ages ending with what he sees in today's world. And he makes sure that it does not become pedantic or boring at any stage. These are well interspersed with descriptions of people that he meets and help him. These conversations are often humorous and help make the book feel like a light read. The jokes are largely on him and his actions rather than taking cracks at the people or their customs. Sample this conversation that he has with a couple of Pakistani customs officials –

Customs official (pointing at WD) – ‘You like bottom?’
WD – I look like?
Customs official – ‘No, no sahib. You like bottom? I like bottom.’
‘I don’t understand,’ I said. I really didn’t.
Customs official – ‘Bottom, bottom,’ he said wiggling his head from side to side in the Indian manner. ‘I like bottom. I am bottom fan. You like bottom?’
‘Well I like bottoms,’ I said
Customs official– ‘You do like bottom? You are bottom fan?’
‘Yes’
Customs official- ‘All English people like bottom’.
‘Oh yes’ said the second customs official. ‘All Pakistani people like Imran Khan, all English people like Botham. He is your famous English cricketer.’

The author also makes some amazing discoveries during his journeys, places where he supposes that he is the first European man to go after Polo. He stumbles onto an ancient pagan ritual in progress in a settlement of the Gujar's tribe (probably related historically to their counterparts in India) on the Karakoram highway from Pakistan to China. He goes to grave lengths to discover unknown crafts still surviving from Polo’s times, befriends various locals who help him locate ancient buildings and forts that have been largely forgotten.

Those who have read his other books like White Mughals or Delhi - 1857, will find this one to be quite a revelation. In Xanadu is William’s first novel and shows various characteristics that are largely absent in his later books. In his other books, William the historian is showcased more and he is far more occupied with telling the story of others. In Xanadu catches William talking about himself and his story while the historical aspects of the journey take a back seat. This is William Dalrymple at his youthful best, a tad immature but full of wit and adventure with the same mastery over story-telling that make several of his books a must read.

Posted at at 11:51 PM on Friday, March 19, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 6 comments   | Filed under: , , , , ,

What a drive!

What a drive!
I so want to head for a road-trip right now but there just isn't any time!

Posted at at 10:14 AM on Sunday, March 14, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 4 comments   | Filed under: , , , , ,

How Beautiful

Beautiful
Mughal Garden, Jaigarh Fort
Located at the end of the Jaigarh fort overlooking the cliff down to Amber Palace is the Mughal Garden.
Framed by the two towers and the arches in the center, it a beautiful place and one can spend hours here.
Sadly, it is also one of the only areas in the fort where entry is restricted. You can manage to jump from the lower walls into the garden but I was not sure how I would get out so I didn't risk it!

Posted at at 10:58 AM on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 5 comments   | Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Jaigarh Fort

Jaigarh Fort
Tower, Jaigarh Fort
Jaigarh Fort is located on the crest of a hill and houses among other things, the armory and canon foundry.
It overlooks the Amber Palace which used to serve as the official palace before the royal family founded Jaipur and moved there. It has several palaces, expansive courtyards and beautiful gardens. The garden attached to the Aram Nivas is the most splendid. Pictures to follow soon.

Posted at at 8:46 AM on Thursday, February 11, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 7 comments   | Filed under: , , , , , ,

The Magarh Chronicles

-a review

The Mangarh Chronicles is a book written by Gary Worthington and is sold internationally with the title – India Treasures. Before I actually get into the book, let me tell you about how I got around to reading it. I have recently started a trend of reading a fiction novel based on a certain region or area before I actually visit that place. You can call this a 'localized fiction' category of novels. What I really like about them is that it gives me a lot of background on the place without reading boring wiki articles or random travel websites. These novels immerse me in the surroundings and I feel at home when I actually arrive. Most of the other sources just state facts. What makes history interesting are the stories and they need to be told in such a way as to captivate the reader's interest. I believe this is why my high school History professor was such a great man. A lot of WWII is still alive in my mind thanks to him and the Biggles series of novels that I read then. But I digress, let us get into the actual review.

I was going to be visiting Rajasthan, Jaipur in particular and thought of reading a novel that is set in that region. The Mangarh Chronicles is set in the fictional city of Mangarh located in Rajasthan, written by Gary Worthington, and was one of the suggestions that Google and some other blogs gave me. Mangarh is loosely based on the city of Jaipur and the author even provides a graphic display of the old city, palaces and the fort for better understanding. The story revolves around Vijay Singh, a tax collector who is raiding the Maharaja of Mangarh and searching for hidden treasures that would not have been declared in his returns. No one is absolutely certain what the treasure contains but it is referred to as The Mangarh Treasure and is supposed to have been passed down through the generations. While Vijay Singh is trying to unearth the secrets of the Maharaja, there are some secrets of his own that he is trying to hide. He has been able to reach his current position in the tax department by masquerading as a Rajput, one of the highest castes in Rajasthan. He originally hails from a village near Mangarh itself and belongs to the ‘Harijans’ or ‘Untouchable’ caste. His whole life is based on this one lie and it is a secret that he wants to protect dearly. During the course of the raid, we also come to know about the Maharaja and his family, particularly his beautiful daughter Kaushalya Kumari who surprises Vijay with her deep understanding of the history of the area and sophisticated outlook. This game of intrigue and suspicion plays out in the backdrop of the Emergency which brings it’s own set of complications and powerful political characters like Dev Batra, a rude, crass politician who will stoop at nothing to get to the treasure and implicate the Maharaja.

But what really separates this novel from several other treasure hunt mysteries is the style of writing that juxtaposes the present and past and weaves wonderful short anecdotes and stories that are set in older eras but are related to the hunt for treasure. During the course of the search, Vijay Singh visits several places around Mangarh, each with it’s own history and several monuments and legends. At such times, the author takes us back in time and weaves a fictional yet endearing story around that historical event or legend. While these flashbacks are sometimes a little jarring to the narrative of the main story, they break the monotony of a single-track story and gives us hints to the glorious past of the region. I got so immersed in these small stories itself that for a moment I forgot about the treasure hunt against which it is set. Each of these historical anecdotes have clearly defined characters in the typical settings of that period. Like the little boy, Jimuta who goes on to become a mahout for one of Ashoka’s lead elephants and subsequently rises to a minister. Or Samudradutta, the merchant of Kashi who is distraught after losing both his sons to the path of Buddhism. Or the painter from Mauryan times who weeps so much for his beloved that he leaves behind one of his masterpieces in the caves of Ajanta. Each individual story creates a suspense that keeps the novel ticking. Worthington does mention in the footnotes that he created fictional characters and stories but they have been based on known and established events and characters in history. I would say that these stories are like interludes in a beautiful drama that is playing out in the background.

So how did I feel in Jaipur after reading this novel? It brought a lot of life to the stories that I read in the book, like watching a movie based on a novel but here you're actually starring in it! As I roamed the forts and palaces, I pictured the countless generations of the Maharajas and Maharanis it must have played host to, how their kids would have had so much fun roaming about the gigantic forts and getting lost in them. And of the kind of intrigue, plotting and politics that would have played out in the Darbars. I was certainly happy that I had read the book before going to Rajasthan.

That is not to say that you cannot read the book at other times. It is definitely a wonderful read though it may seem stretched in some portions. But it has been one of the best books that I would attribute to this new category of books that I have become so interested in. Some other books that I can think of are William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal and to a lesser extent White Mughals as well as Amitav Ghosh's superbly written The Glass Palace. Dalrymple's books are superbly researched and based firmly in history but he too manages to convey a beautiful picture of the cities of Delhi and Hyderabad while Amitav Ghosh paints such a pretty picture of Ratnagiri that I wanted to travel there the moment I put the book down. Gary Worthington is not a sucker for history, his aim is more to create a captivating story and he does a very good job of it.

The author has also written a sequel to this book called India Fortunes but I have not been able to lay my hands on it. The Mangarh Chronicles too is an old book that is not so easily available. I spent close to an hour in my library before I found a dusty copy of the book. Though I believe they are both readily available on flipkart.

Do let me know if you have some across such books that immerse you in a particular place or region and you found enjoyable.

Posted at at 9:29 AM on Thursday, February 4, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 7 comments   | Filed under: , , , ,

Nahargarh Fort

Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur
Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur
Perched on a cliff overlooking the city of Jaipur, you get wonderful views of the old city from here. On a clear day that is!
The fort is illuminated at night and along with the city lights makes for an amazing experience. Sadly, I did not have much time to spare for that. I went shopping :-)

Posted at at 11:17 AM on Monday, February 1, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 5 comments   | Filed under: , , , , ,

Madhavendra Bhavan & Courtyard

Madhavendra Bhavan, Nahargarh Fort
Courtyard, Madhavendra Bhavan
Beautiful Doorways
The stunning Madhavendra Bhavan and it's enclosed courtyard and beautiful doorways.
It is located within the Nahargarh Fort, situated at the top of the cliff overlooking Jaipur. Although the Fort itself is might impressive and offers stunning views of the city down below, the palace located within seems to be a forgotten treasure. It houses 12 identical suites for the Maharaja's several queens and one entire portion devoted to the Raja himself. I found it devoid of much activity and you are allowed to explore every nook and cranny across the three floors. Wandering through the intricate corridors and colorful stained glass doors and some really small passageways, I could imagine the life of the residents at those time. Truly Royal Rajasthan.

Posted at at 11:36 AM on Saturday, January 30, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 7 comments   | Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
The Hawa Mahal was used by the queens and ladies within the palace to glimpse on the life outside in the bazaars. It stands at the intersection of Johari Bazaar and Tripolia Bazaar.
I must admit I was a little disappointed by the Hawa Mahal. I had formed a picture of a much grander structure and I actually confirmed with nearby shopkeepers if this was indeed it!

Posted at at 8:04 PM on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 7 comments   | Filed under: , , ,

Welcome to Rajasthan

Diwan-i-Khas, City Palace, Jaipur
Welcome to Rajasthan

This was the place where the Maharaja met convoys from other kingdoms/countries.
I made a visit to Jaipur for a couple of days and returned with great experiences and some pictures. First holiday destination of the New Year!

Posted at at 10:28 AM on by Posted by Sid | 2 comments   | Filed under: , , , ,

Beautiful, Naked

Beautiful, Naked

Posted at at 11:08 AM on Tuesday, January 5, 2010 by Posted by Sid | 2 comments   | Filed under: , , , , ,
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