Photo Story on Russel Market

The story of my close to a weird obsession with Russel Market. Read the complete blog on Russel Market here.

Russell Market, is one of Bangalore’s oldest markets and also the most comprehensive place to shop for everything fresh — vegetables, meat, flowers and fruit. It was started by the British in the early 1900s as the central grocery spot and hasn’t lost its color one bit, since then.
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Trailing the “Silk Route” with Bengaluru-by-Foot.

It’s been long that I had set my foot beyond the city limits and that didn’t quite go well with my itchy feet. I was desperately looking for some weekend treks on eventshigh.com and that’s when I found out about Nagarathpete Pettah Walk hosted by Bengaluru-by-foot. It wasn’t the first time I heard or read about them as I am constantly hunting for ways to explore more of this city. So with no second thought, I hit on ‘book’ option.

And hence the Saturday morning began on a happy note, all thanks to Mansoor Ali, the man who has been helping people like me to make some sense out of their weekends. An architect by profession and historian by choice, Mansoor holds heritage walks in Bengaluru every weekend. Mansoor was inspired by similar Heritage walks that he used to attend in Delhi. The agenda of this was to take a deeper look into the crumbling settlement of the silk dyers. Nagarathpete is predominantly occupied by the weaver, dyers, whole sellers, and testers of silk yarn.

This tiny hamlet in Bengaluru, majorly famous for the Karaga festival and the Dharamaraya Temple, bears more history to it than your eyes see, and I would have still been oblivious to if it wasn’t Mansoor.

He narrated the legends of the beheading of Sayed Muhib Shah and the tombless dargah, the tales of the martyrdom of thousands of Mysorain soldiers and of course the rise and fall of these tiny settlements who have survived the wrath of time.

We began our walk from the Baba Sharfuddin Dargah which took me by awe with its astoundingly intricate mirror work. Thanks to my habit of sleeping late, I missed out on the briefing of the history. Before this, I had never set for inside any Islamic religious place.

Baba Sharfuddin Dargah,
Mansoor briefing us on the history of Sufism and Islam.

As we blindly followed Mansoor into the narrow rustic lanes of Nagarathpete, I got into some small talks with my fellow visitor who also was an artist and played with organic colours to dye fabric. Even small talks can reveal so much about the way one thinks. We finally reached what was supposed to be the focal point of the walk, the unit of the silk yarn dyers.

A tiny room tucked in a corner of one of the many narrow lanes there, this was a typical two roomed house with around ten odd men working at different stages of the tiresome process of reeling and dying the silk yarn. The entrance was used for drying and sorting the coloured yarn, but the adjoining room was where the real work happened. The room wore a blanket of dense fumes that rose from the steaming hot baths where the yarn was dipped for dyeing. The sight was as spectacular as it was straining. Spending just five minutes in that room left me sweating and burning. Needless to mention the hardships these craftsmen are subjected to. Going forward we had a chance to visit the weavers who constantly work amidst the noisy mechanical looms.

We visited the famous Dharamaraya Swami Temple and a few more dargahs which have some really interesting legends attached to them.  And finally, the walk ended with a hearty meal and some catching up of facts from the past which I had missed at the beginning of the walk.

I am not a huge fan of the pub culture in Bangalore but these stories preserved in the bylanes of such hamlets are what give some solace to the explorer in me.

Hoping to explore more and share my stories with you soon.

Till then keep wandering 🙂

Auroville is the La-La-Land to your Hippie Soul (Pondicherry-2)

The second day of our trip dawned upon us, we thought Paradise beach would be the best way to welcome it. I am not an early morning person at all but amazingly I transform into one when I am travelling ( That’s why they say “Do what makes you wanna wake up in the morning”). Paradise Beach was one such time I was up before the crack of the dawn and it surely paid off well. The sun wore the shrouds of heavy clouds and we had the wide beach all to ourselves except a few fishermen who were still preparing for the day. Paradise beach lives up to its name as it is believed to be the cleanest and most peaceful beach in Pondicherry.


We grabbed a quick breakfast at the very talked-about Indian Coffee House on Mission street. Do try the Idli Vada there. Since we were too early dosas weren’t ready by then but they sure must have been as good as everything else they served. Let me tell you, Mission street is one of the most important streets in the main city of Pondicherry. You will also find the roots of the very famous Hidesign here. The factory outlet supposedly sells the products at fractions of the showroom prices. So make it a point to not miss this one


Next on the agenda was exploring Auroville and spend the evening at the Serenity Beach. Although the plan went haywire, we still managed to unearth a lot about Auroville that I was so curious about. Thanks to Radhika who has been living there as an Aurovillian for two years now. Meeting Radhika was a chapter in itself. When one of my friends said we would be meeting her, barely had I known I was about to meet one huge inspiration who chose a tough life just out of passion. Radhika is an architect and works in Auroville among all other foreign nationals who have come together to make that place what it is today.

Auroville and everything you must know about it.

 

The vision of Mirra Alfassa – The Mother

Auroville that we see today is what Mirra Alfassa, also regarded as ‘The Mother’ by the world had envisioned back in the 1930s. She dreamt of a place which ran on the philosophy of “Vasudeva Kutumbakam”. The world which no country could claim as its own and citizens would freely live as world citizens, work towards the common goals of a sustainable growth. A land where art is the only weapon people would use. Where a person’s worth would be much more precious than money, power or any religion. In the very words of the Aurovillians, “Auroville is a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities”. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity above any religion. In the words of The Mother herself:

“Humanity is not the last rung of the terrestrial creation.
Evolution continues and man will be surpassed.
It is for each individual to know whether he wants to participate in the advent of this new species.
For those who are satisfied with the world as it is, Auroville obviously has no reason to exist.”
— The Mother, 1966

Life in Auroville

People in Auroville live in a world where money isn’t the end all be all. Although the ground reality remains that there is no sustenance without money but you can manage to feed yourself by merely volunteering in the bakeries and shops. On the surface to me, living in Auroville was like going back to the times when people had a minimalistic approach to happiness, were self-sufficient and self-reliant. The work you do is meaningful and paid with as much as you would need to survive in the town which is every moment striving to be a moneyless economy. Life wouldn’t be as fancy as it appeared to me on a one-day visit but surely worth it if you are looking for an inner connection and striving to master your ego. You can go through the entire procedure of being an Ayurovillian at http://bit.ly/2msuDAH


Things to do in and around Auroville:

Volunteer:

If you are here for a while say a week or more, you can choose to volunteer with the Auroville farm group. A number of farms in Auroville accept volunteers. Hours and possibilities for accommodation depend greatly upon which time of year you are planning your stay . Guesthouses and homestays tend to get full and busy during the guests season—December to March—and it’s always wise to grab your bookings well ahead of time if you are wanting to volunteer. Some bakeries in Auroville also accept volunteers, you can get your hands dirty in the ground level baking activities. You can also choose to intern with the International House, a living space built with sustainable and environmental architectural ideals.

Workshops and Therapies:

You can learn Permaculture to Tango, different forms of Yoga, Cooking to Tai chi, Tree-climbing to Clay classes, Sound therapy, Creative arts, in short, there is no end to learning in Auroville. Pick any workshop of your choice from their events list at their website.

Shop:

Auroville is famous for its indigenous essential oils, perfumes, incense sticks, candles and clay items. I bumped across Auro kind store right opposite to the visitors centre run by an old woman along with her son. The quaint little shot exhibited beautifully decorates scented candles, and lame and other clay and ceramic ware everything very reasonably priced.

Auroville Handmade Paper Factory:

Save a day (not Sunday) to visit the handmade paper factory in Auroville. Bespoke, delicate, and individually handcrafted stationery products from Auroville are definitely worth your money. You can watch the makers adding their creative touches to the papers which are purely made from cotton rag pulp.

Eateries:

There are over twenty eateries in Auroville my favourite being the Auroville bakery. The chocolate croissants are to die for and you literally don’t them you earn them because they are available early in the morning and are the first to go off the rack. For a lazy ass like me, it’s definitely a great deal of hard work. Right opposite there is Farm Fresh Cafe which serves serving freshly made dosa, burgers, pasta and pizzas. also, do visit Tanto’s pizza for your pizza cravings which is on the way to the visitors centre from the Pondicherry town. Options are many all you need is a lot of time to do proper justice to the “City of Dawn”.

I was overwhelmed listening to stories o Randika and looking at the ways people lived in this quaint little village in the corner of Puducherry. It got me nostalgic as I was thrown back to the memories of visiting my grandma’s back in Orissa. Everything looked pretty much similar except that there were a lot of foreign nationals here. If quitting my comfortable city life to settle in the countryside of Auroville and work for a more holistic aim is too much, I’ll at least try adopting a the minimalistic lifestyle and spread some of the goodness her in my city. This was my awakening in the land of spiritually.
Hope you find your’s soon too

How Pondicherry took a piece of my heart away! 

The city of French Villas and Bouganvillas did win over me but not for its beauty and charm this time but for the crazy stories that me and my friends Cannica and Pallavi will narrate to our grand children. The two day trip was a rollercoaster ride of weird twists and turns but at the end of the day it only left us laughing at the mishaps and of course a little bit of skin tan. Pondicherry happened to us in a much clichéd way when all three of us had reached the threshold of our 9 to 5 life pressure. We gave the trip a two weeks window time, meanwhile which we booked our stay and the transport. When we met at the majestic station the Friday night barely did we know that the two days ahead had in their bags for us.

Day 1 – White Town and Promenade Beach 

A comfy overnight journey in the Greenline Bus and we were in Pondy before the crack of the dawn. Here comes the lesson one – bargaining with auto drivers when you are tourists is a waste of time because you will be overcharged anyway. Nine kms away was the beautiful Airbnb property we had booked purely out of impulse, by just looking at the pictures of the beach-side huts by the pristinely blue sea. Well it’s a perfect budget hide out in a natgeo like set up incase you are looking for some insanely tranquil getaway. The cottage overlooks the blue waters of the Auroville Beach situated in remotest corner of the village. Although it’s not safe to hang around by the beach but you can have a gala time sitting in your room staring at the vast sea sipping over your coffee. To help you guys out I have attached the link to the property here. Samprutha Beachside Hut- Ganga Up, Bommapalayam.
It would have been too gutsy of three girls who had only carried the shortest of their outfits from their wardrobe for their much awaited beachside getaway, to stay at such a secluded place. With a heavy heart we cancelled our booking there and headed towards the main city.The obvious lesson no 2- Never rely on an auto drivers to get you to a decent hotel with a liveable room. Our drivers helped us witness the worst hotels existing in the city. After some 7 odd bad hotels we finally rested our tired bums in Hotel Vijayantra. Rented our scooters and headed towards the white town.

The enchanting White Town 

P.S it’s extremely easy to rent bikes in Pondicherry, I neither did I have a licence nor did I knew anything about a scooty except for how to start one. And about traffic rules? Well let’s keep that for some other time. Although I successfully made it back to Bangalore alive without killing anyone 😉 We  rode through the Promenade Beach to the White Town, also famous as the French Colony.  Beautiful eateries, vibrant colours, jaw dropping architecture and lots of Bouganvillas. White Town is the food for a vintage lover’s soul. We sat by the side of the streets whiling away our time, clicking probably thousands of random pictures of the walls, the doors, the cafes, the streets our faces and what not.

Cafe Des Arts

Like every other visitor we clicked our mandatory heavily directed and posed pictures against the quirky yellow walls of Cafe Des Arts. But there was much more to it than just good food and quirky decor. If you are a lover of vintage clothing you will find some lovely dresses in the store tucked in a corner if the cafe. The collection was truly vintage and pretty reasonably priced so you don’t have to worry about your shopping burning a hole in your pockets. 

Delhiwala 6

Delhiwala 6  is that happy emotion that a North Indians feel when they find ‘good’ North Indian food in South India. Quirky decor in a heritage building teamed with Chole bhature, Pav Bhaji; what more an insta-addict could ask from a beachy holiday.

Happy face and happy tummies walked out of Delhiwala-6 knowing not what to do and where to go. So we decided to spend some time by the rock beach and then wander in some random direction. I loved how the Promenade beach has made arrangements for tourists. Every road leading to the beach from the White Town is barricaded at 8 at night. So you only fond pedestrians strolling around the concrete pathway beautifully embedded with palm trees and elegant street lights lighting up the area. 

 

Shopping in Pondicherry

In the evening we stepped out for a ride across the city and stumbled across a lane that was a boulevard of tiny stalls that sold earthen clay artefacts, handmade paper lamps and ceramic items. Colorful lamps put for display lit the streets and we managed to pick some for ourselves too. 

 After a not so happy meal at Dis Dis & Co. the rest of evening was again spent sitting at the sores of the promenade beach watching the ocean crashing against the rocks, listening to the roars of the waves. Someone has very wisely said some experiences can neither be expressed in words nor through pictures. Sitting by the Rock Beach was what made me believe that authenticity of that statement. Summing up, Day 1 was picture perfect till we made our way back home. What followed wasn’t as pleasant an experience but worth sharing. Obviously who wouldn’t be proud of dodging a group of almost 30 drunk men on an empty street at around 12 in the night. 😛 Well! I’d rather keep the story untold but then yeah! I made it alive again 😀

 

The next day greeted us with another set of sweet surprises and shocks which i am gonna tell you on my second blog on Pondicherry. On the next blog I’ll be talking about everything you need to know about Auroville.

Till then keep wandering.

Coorg: A Place with Poetry Etched into Every Inch of It

Like any other tourist attraction, Coorg is also adorned with dozens of places to see. Not all of them fit into the list of a true experience seeker. I have made a list of most likely ‘never been to, never done before’ experiences in Madikeri which I am sure you won’t regret.

Most of the attractions in Madikeri are situated quite far from each other. It takes a great deal of time energy to cover them all. But make sure you do not miss out on these few.

  • Swing into the 17th century at the Madikeri Fort. Situated in the heart of the Madikeri town, this moss-laden rustic architectural grandeur is a sheer bliss for a photographer’s eye.

  • Madikeri Fort was first founded by Muffuraja in the second half of the 17th century. It was again rebuilt in granite by Tipu Sultan who named the site as Jaffarabad. Madikeri Deputy Commissioner’s Office is located inside the Madikeri Fort premises. The church building houses a museum, which contains several items related to history mainly the British rule era.

 

  • Steal a glimpse of our very own Desi Scotland at Madikeri Sunset View Point

Coorg has time and again been equated to Scotland. Coming to this spot you realise that beauty has only one address and that’s nature. No matter where in world you go, nature never fails to surprise you. For the photography enthusiasts out here; make it to the spot well before the sunset time. This will save you from the crowd barging into your frame. The vast stretches of the pristine grasslands calm your senses.

 

  • Indulge in some cloud porn at Mandalpatti. Be it some mere brooding or some me-time rendezvous, this mountain peak is all you need. Petrichor and tranquillity and you: isn’t it enough to get you packing your bags right away.

Experience the magic unfolds as the clouds push by you at the peak. Adjacent to the peak is the Pushpagiri Wildlife sanctuary which was unfortunately closed when I had been there. Reaching the peak isn’t as pleasant as the place itself. You cannot get your vehicle beyond a certain point. However, you can hire a jeep from there.

  • On your way back you can soothe your senses with an aromatic cup of Chai from the stalls.
  • Wander in the wilderness in the coffee farms.
    Let nature sing to you the lullaby of the birds and the winds gushing through the forests. Do not miss the early morning walk. Monsoons in the mountains are to be devoured in the mornings when the world is just up and is preparing for the day. That’s when you get to see these heavenly places at their absolute beautiful self.

  • Grab some Coorgie spices. You can visit a spice garden and see where our kitchen condiments come from cardamom, cinnamon, pepper even vanilla. Some facts may leave you totally surprised. You can carry some along. Make sure that you do not get fooled by the shopkeepers; they tend to overcharge the tourists. Avoid buying them from tourist spots and look for a regular shop instead.

Disconnect and let the Wild sink in at Coorg (Kodagu)

Give nature a chance and it shall heal everything! Wisely has someone said, “wilderness is a necessity”.

Bangaloreans are blessed to be living in a city so strategically placed not more than 500kms away from anything that one would need to answer their callings, be it mountains plains or beaches for that matter.

I personally am a mountain person. An incorrigible believer in the power of the mountains, I feel that climbing hills, soaking up the tranquility, letting the clouds brush across my skin is no less than the pilgrimage. If there could be a replacement for human love, it has got to be mountains only.

The western ghats lie at an arm’s reach from Bangalore and conceal the heavenly quaint little district of Kodagu. Coorg (Kodagu) is a cluster of some of Karnataka’s  most beautiful towns. A laid back town here is Madikeri.

To make the most out of Coorg you need two things; time and an unconquered urge to explore. Unearthing a hill station could be daunting but the beauty stuffed into every corner of this place keeps you hooked all the time.

EditKnown for Coffee plantations this place is much more than just a hill station. This place can leave you awestruck with its heavy dose of offbeat from the very moment you approach it.

My favorite travel season is the monsoon irrespective of the place I am going to. Rains coffee and hills; could there be a combination any more pristine 

There is a little piece of Twang in our very own Karnataka. Kushalnagar has a lot of activities for the adventure seekers. You can go rafting and fishing at Dubare.

If you are more like me who just wants to soak up the serenity of nature in the most sparsely explored locations then you must ditch the hotels and book yourself a room in a homestay in the hinterlands. Google maps could come handy in that case. Make your booking well in advance to save yourself from last moment harassment of not being able to find a place to stay 

We were lucky to chance upon Brookstone Villa on MakeMyTrip. Cocooned amidst the vast stretches of coffee estates in the outskirts of Madikeri, this resort is an absolute treat for the nature lovers.

An early morning walk to the neighborhood can treat you with some tranquil time with yourself. You might bump into a couple of coffee pickers and no one else. It’s wilderness at its most beautiful self till your eyes can see. The sun plays hide and seek with the clouds and the sky surprises you with drizzles in bright sunshine.

What a bliss would it be to feel the chilled stream flow under your feet tickling it all the way?

Unwinding is an art in itself. If done right, it can leave you with a whole new perspective towards life.

Coming up is a detailed post about places that are worth your time in Coorg.