Sunday, April 15, 2012

Into the wild - Bandhavgarh National Park

Visiting a national park in India has been one of my dreams, especially considering that I have seen numerous pictures of Indian wildlife and caught myself longing to capture some of those animals on camera. So, we began our meticulous planning for a wildlife trip. We decided on Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh(MP) because of its high tiger density.

We live in Mumbai with no real flight options, the only direct flight from Mumbai to Jabalpur was cancelled thanks to the Kingfisher drama. So, we resorted to taking a train to Katni which is 95km by road from the park. My wife did an insane amount of research and finalized on Pugdundee Safaris' "Tree House Hideaway" for our stay. In hindsight, I realize what a wonderful decision that was.

Tree House Hideaway has been inspired by the Treehouse concept that is common in African jungles and they've done a fantastic job! They have very thoughtfully equipped luxury rooms atop trees. There are all of five treehouses ensuring that it never gets crowded and every guest receives individual attention and pampering. Their package includes station pick-up and drop, forest entry and safaris, stay and 3 delicious meals a day.

Day 1:
After a 16 hour train journey from Mumbai, we reached Katni at about 3.30 pm on a Thursday. We reached the resort at about 6pm after spotting a Nilghai and a few deer on the way. We checked into the resort and after a light tasty dinner, settled into a night of anticipation before our first safari the next morning.

Day 2:
We received the wake up call at 4.45am and were out of the room by 5.15am. Our Gypsy was waiting outside and we boarded it after grabbing some coffee and cookies. We were given blankets to cover ourselves as it was mildly chilly when we left. Our first Safari wasat the Magdhi Zone or Zone 2 of the park, which is a relatively newer zone created to accommodate the increasing crowds visiting the park every year. On our way, we picked up our permits (which had been reserved well ahead of time by fantastic folks at Pugdundee) and we were the 5th jeep at the park entrance. The drive began at 6 am sharp and the excitement started kicking in slowly. We didnt go 500m before we saw one jeep stopping ahead of us to take a picture. We caught a Jungle cat, probably hunting for an early morning snack in the grass. Apparently a Jungle cat is a rare sight and we considered ourselves lucky.

Our driver Wasim was a young guy and he knew the jungle roads like his backyard. While we looked intently for pug marks and signs of a tiger, we spotted numerous birds getting up and about at daybreak.

Our drive continued towards water holes and regular visiting spots of the tigers, but no luck yet. We saw a Sambar deer and langurs and we continued our drive for the next 1.5 hours. The gypsy drivers asked each other if they had seen a tiger and used the information to plan their routes.

Midway we made a stop for coffee, juice and fruits that the resort had sent along for us. Moving on, we drove to a watering hole where we saw a few jeeps waiting as they had just heard an alarm call. We stopped too and patiently waited for about half an hour expecting the tiger. But we weren't too lucky and the tiger never showed up. We were running out of time and started driving towards the exit gate. We drove back cracking jokes at people who were totally sullen or angry as they had not spotted a tiger. I daresay we were among the few who didn't mind it so much. After all we went there for a wilderness experience and were alright saving the tiger for another day.

We reached the resort where hot breakfast was waiting for us. This was when we met a naturalist, Saravana Kumar, who incidentally hails from Tamil Nadu like us. He works half of every year leading nature and wildlife trips in India. He was currently hosting a couple from Switzerland. We ended up chatting quite a bit with him and became friends.

After a refreshing shower and a relaxing nap, we had lunch and were ready for our evening safari. Since we had booked the evening safari in Tala zone or Zone 1 (which was in higher demand due to better chances of spotting tigers), we didnt want to be too late.

The safari gates opened at 3.30pm and we were just ahead of time. As we entered the park, the excitement kicked in again. We went to a Vishnu statue in the Tala zone right at the footsteps of the famous Bandhavgarh Fort. After a few minutes there, we continued our drive. We were driving around for about an hour with no tiger in sight. Nevertheless, we had a great time sighting deer, birds and langurs.

We then reached a spot where about 10 jeeps had parked and our driver indicated there was a tiger for sure. We stopped and looked at the direction where everyone was looking and there she was! The Banbehi female Tigress with her three cubs! I had my camera gear ready and tried to get a good angle but there were too many bushes obstructing our view. Just then, we sensed movement in the bushes and our driver did a great job by quickly driving a little off the road, passed a few jeeps and stopped ahead of all the jeeps right in the middle of a small bridge. Moments later, one of the cubs slowly walked out of the bushes into the clearing, he walked towards the road, snarled at us, crossed the road, and walked towards his kill (a sambar carcass lying under the bridge). He made sure it was still there, then went to the stream for a sip of water, and took a nice short swim in the water. He then decided to walk around the rest of the jeeps, crossed the road again and sat comfortably under a shade. All this took about 10 minutes and I would have fired close to 350 photographs. There were moments when I was standing on the open gypsy with one foot on the windsheild and the other on the driver's headrest. We watched the tiger family for the next hour or so until it was time to leave the park. We couldn't have been more satisfied and I was elated at having shot nearly 600 photographs of just one tiger!

A few pictures below:

We went back to the resort feeling triumphant and exchanged hi-fives with the resort owner (a Dutch expat who runs the 2 Pugdundee resorts at Badhavgarh with his girlfriend). After exchanging a few stories with him and fellow travelers over dinner it was time for bed before another early morning drive into the jungle.

Day 3:
We started our day at 4.45am and were thrilled to see that the resort had honored our request for the same driver who drove us the previous evening. After all, he was the one who made me climb atop his gypsy so that I could get great photographs of the tigers, and were reluctant to lose him! And before we knew it, we were entering the Magdhi zone. This time, wiser from the experience of the previous two drives, we kind of knew what to look far in the jungle and spotted a beautiful Changeable Hawk Eagle in the first 10 minutes. He was busy eating his morning breakfast and gave me ample opportunity to capture bird and prey to my heart's content!

As we continued our drive, we learned from one of the forest rangers that a tiger has been spotted in the other end of the zone and we decided to head there. The driver cautioned that it was going to be a bumpy ride and a little far away. Without hesitation, we signaled to him that we were up for it. when we reached the spot, we saw a few other jeeps waiting and joined them in excitement. We were alert for alarm calls, but all we got to hear was an annoying kid in the next jeep.

Thinking the tiger will never even approach the area thanks to the noisy kid, we moved a few 100 meters away and waited there. No luck there either and as we decided to drive away, we heard an alarm call from a Sambar. We instantly rushed towards the nearest water hole (where the alarm call was coming from according to our guide) and where we saw Spotted deer with huge antlers. We waited hoping the tiger would come in for a drink. In seconds, the deer let out a few more calls and took off. The guide told us it could be a false alarm probably from the scent of tiger in the water hole from the morning. No luck yet.

After driving around for some more time, we spotted a kingfisher, a few Indian Rollers (Blue Jay) and some storks. We even spotted some sambar and spotted deer a ubiquitous sight in the jungle). During our breakfast stop, I spotted a bird atop a tree almost half a kilometer away. I used my telephoto lens to identify the bird while guide casually identified it as a Red Headed Vulture. As we were talking about the bird, it graced us by flying towards us and doing a few circles right above us. After a couple of great pictures we moved on.

On our way back, we spotted Bison which were recently brought in from Kanha and hence kept inside a fenced area for protection. However, there was one wild bison roaming around freely. Here was one fat animal grazing peacefully occasionally letting out a low moo, probably to attract the femal bison inside the fence.

After a few more photographs, we continued our drive and spotted a jackal and a few peacocks.

By then, it was time to bid adieu to the forest and head back to the resort.

We had the entire morning and afternoon to while away as we didn't have to leave for our train until 6:30pm. As the Treehouse Hideaway was booked for the day, we were given a complimentary room and lunch at the other Pugdundee property- King's Lodge, a few kilometers away from Treehouse. That's what I call top notch customer service! So we showered and checked out of Treehouse and were driven to King's Lodge where we dropped off our luggage.

Saravana Kumar (aforementioned Naturalist) had invited us to visit a Conservation Farm along with his Swiss clients. We readily agreed because we'd never seen an Indian farm before. The little farm called "The Farm", perched at the edge of Bandhavgarh, is one of a kind. It is run by Mr. Dhruv Singh and his wife, who in their previous Avtars, have built and run a couple of the luxury resorts at Bandhavgarh. The Farm, the couple's new baby, promises to be a completely different way to experience the wilderness.

The primary goal of The Farm is to regenerate part of the barren land surrounding the park, and to do so in a manner in which the local village communities can benefit from the effort. The Farm is designed to allow its guests to engage closely with members of local community, of which at best a select few work as (largely "invisible") English speaking staff in the high-end resorts in the area. At The Farm, the villagers play the numerous roles involved in running a farm- gardeners, chefs, caretakers, waiters, you name it. They also display and sell artwork by the local artists. What the owner likes to call a Nature Walk makes one realize that "Local, sustainable and ecologically balanced" runs through the DNA of the farm. The small but ambitious organic garden, containing only species of plants, herbs, vegetables etc. that are indigenous to the area. All food is cooked to order on a non-commercial scale, in a very thoughtfully built kitchen equipped for a variety of cuisines, both Indian and international. I suspect that after an afternoon at The Farm, one would leave with a wonderful taste of minimalist living, a whirlwind education in eco-tourism, and maybe even a newfound appreciation of Indian village life.
On our drive back to King's Lodge, we realized how well we'd escaped the scorching morning sun at the farm. The better and lady half of the Dutch couple welcomed us at King's Lodge and showed us to our room. This resort was again a beautifully executed project, albeit with more rooms to make it more pocket friendly. We retired to the cool comfort of our air-conditioned room after lunch. I slumbered all afternoon while Kavitha, predictably, tucked into a book. We left the resort with the setting sun, after conveying our gushing appreciation to the Dutch couple and the other staff who worked so hard to make our stay at both resorts truly wonderful.

A much delayed 24 hour train journey and a long week of work later, here we are in good ol' Mumbai, reminiscing on our near-perfect wildlife experience, which I suspect we'll do many a time in the months to come!

PS: I'm sure you can spot which parts of this post I had no hand in writing !

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chennai to Mumbai - road trip!

"Indian roads are not like US roads", "Do you know people at times drive on opposite sides on Indian highways?", "Do you know how many dogs/cows/people try to cross the highways in India and cause accidents?", "Do you even realize the distance?" are just a few of the questions I have been asked by people in the past week or so. All this because I decided to drive my Alto from Chennai to Mumbai. Of course with the interesting companionship of the fiance.

The more I think about the drive, it seems very similar to the cross country road trip we did in the US, only much shorter and seemingly a little complicated, thanks to the questions in the first paragraph. But I have thought enough about it and spent sufficient time reading about the long distance road trips people have done in India. My conclusion: it's not that big a deal. Roads definitely are much better in India these days (especially the freeways that form the Golden Quadrilateral and the likes) and needless to say, our enthusiastic level is slightly on the higer side!

So, we decide to set off and here goes the plan: We leave from Chennai friday morning and reach Bangalore where we plan to meet Amar. We will then spend rest of the day atBandipur national park, thanks to my new found passion for wild life photography. Time per mitting, we might visit Mysore as well. Rest of the road trip is pretty much driving, where we are planning to do Banglore to Belgaum on saturday and Belgaum to Mumbai on sunday. Not a very exciting or a touristy plan per se, but driving on NH4 in itself should be fun!

We will be sure to post pictures and God forbid, the fiance might even write a travelogue in this blog! Now, be good and wish us luck!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Star Trails at Cherry springs state park

After my crazy first attempt at star trails photography, which by the way was not hugely successfull, I gave it a sincere shot two weeks ago. Considering all the lessons learnt from my first try, I decided to try out a place that's not awfully light polluted like Valley Forge National park. After some googling, I found out about Cherry Springs state park, which claimed to be 'gold rated' for dark skies in the east coast of US. Wonderful! In a split second (and out of sheer enthusiasm), I decided to do the 200 mile drive all by myself to photograph a few stars.

I checked the weather - everything looked alright. On my way, I casually looked up at the sky and I saw the moon staring at my face. Before I could appreciate the beauty of it, I realized that such a bright moon would completely screw up the visibility in the sky! Oops! I should have checked the moon calendar. Since I had driven about 150 miles at that point, I decided to continue with the trip. I reached the park around 8pm, only to see a vacant astronomy field and not a soul around. I walked around the park (with the moon light shining, I did not even need a flashlight) to understand my coordinates. When I thought I had the whole field to myself, I see another car pull over. I was more surprised to see an Indian couple from New Jersey. After a few minutes of conversations, I understood they love nature and wanted to check this park out. And they did not even have a camera or a telescope. Whoa! after all, I was not as bad, there are people with dangerous levels of enthusiasm!

I then decided on a spot and setup my tripod. Any exposure more than 30 seconds made it look like a daylight photograph, thanks to the Moon who seemed like he was continously mocking at me! Few random conversations and some unsatisfying pictures of the moon later, I decided to sleep in my car hoping I might be able to get some sunrise shots. The morning was totally cloudy which made me return back home completely unsatisfied.

Moon and a lone tree

One of the astronomy observatories in the morning

As I was narrating this story to one of my colleagues Eric last week, he showed interest in going there again. My enthusiasm rose again. I checked the weather, moon calendar, etc., and decided to make it there this past weekend. And this time, Eric drove. When we reached the park saturday evening around 7pm, I just could not believe my eyes. There were 100s of people, most of them setting up humungous telescopes! In a short while, the sky started becoming darker and at about 8.30pm, the sky was like one huge planetarium screen. It was one amazing sight and I will not forget the view for a while now!

I then setup my tripod and started taking pictures, each of my shots needing exposures of about 20 minutes or so. We spent the new few hours taking multiple photographs and amazing ourself at the sight! Thanks to Eric, he brought a couple of chairs where we sat and discussed everything under the sky (literally!) while we were waiting for the camera to take the pictures. We left the place around 11pm. We would have spent a few more hours only if the weather was not getting unbearable cold. Here are some pictures!

Star trails captured by exposing the camera for 22 minutes

Milky Way

Star trails captured by exposing the camera for 12 minutes

Star trails captured by exposing the camera for 30 minutes

Arun and Eric on the way to the park

For any photographer looking for tips on
star trail photography, here is some technical info from my experience:

I first checked the ambient lighting by shooting a 30 second exposure at f/4 and ISO 1600. Once I knew how my camera sees the light, I reduced the ISO to about 200 and increased the exposure to 20 minutes. I had my camera set on a tripod and used a remote control to fire the shot. Since I also had the high exposure noise reduction setting ON in my camera, I had to wait for an additional 20 minutes for the camera to cancel out any noise. After 40 minutes, I got this photograph where I could see the trails rotating around Polaris. After two trips to the place and numerous attempts at star trails, I finally got a photograph that I was satisfied with! I was one happy camper for those few seconds! Regarding the composition, I used a 10-20mm wide angle lens and included a little bit of tree line in the horizon so that it adds perspective to the photograph.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Frankfurt and Amterdam - quick taste of Europe in 4 days - part II

Part I here

After a few discussions with the locals, we started the day2 at Amsterdam with a visit to Flower market, which turned out to be just a market that sells flowers (what a surprise!). I was expecting the place to provide a little more photographic opportunities. Nonetheless, it gave us an idea of how freaking expensive tulip bulbs are. Damn, who even buy those?!

Our next stop was 'iamsterdam' symbol, which I have seen in some photographs earlier and was planning on visiting. I dragged my friends along and took a tram to reach the place, which (as against my expectations) turned out to a place that has monkeys (in people's bodies) climbing on the very symbol for silly photos. I have always hated such people and wondered if some nice locations can be reserved for just photographers, at least one hour a day so that one could spend a peaceful hour shooting pictures without people monkeying around in the frame.

We had to deal with what we had. I tried my best, walked around a bit trying different compostions, but was not too pleased with the results. Later I resorted to taking 'typical tourist' pictures of ourselves. After all, the tram ride should be worth at least for my friends!

We spent the second half of the day at Madoradam, which I thought was very unique and European. Its a small park that has miniatureds/models of remarkable locations/icons in Netherlands. I liked the place (once again would have loved it if people were not around!).


We spent close to three hours in the park and headed back to Amsterdam Main station, just in time for our ICE back to Frankfurt.

The day which went fine till then became all the more interesting when we started playing Dumb-charades in the train. Added to the fact that we had a coupe for just the four of us (which was considered to be a 'silent' one too with sound proof doors). We had an absolutely fun time in the return journey and I was secretly wishing for that journey to become longer than scheduled. Who knew I had such evil powers?!

Kranthy (one of our other friends) looked outside and called out that the train had just stopped at a train station called (Duisburg), the same station we had passed about half hour ago. Confused, we stepped out of our coach only to hear the announcement that the train is travelling towards 'Amsterdam'!

After a short 'what the fuck?!' moment, we took out our tickets to confirm that we indeed had a reservation on a 'direct' train from Amsterdam to Frankfurt. And we were not sitting on a wrong coach either. Frustrated at the pace the train was gaining (in the wrong direction), I and Vijai went to the train crew to enquire.

The crew lady slowly said "Oh sorry, this train is heading towards Amsterdam. You should have changed trains at Koln. We made an announcement too, didnt you hear?!" in a thick German accent. When I told her we heard no announcement, she simply apologized and pointed us to a senior crew member. Now, this senior crew member was drinking at the bar and suggested very casually that we should alight at the next station, take a train back to Koln and switch to another train to Frankfurt. As he finished talking, the train was already slowing down. His final word was that our current tickets were good to travel in the first class of whichever (or how manyever) trains we were going to take that night.

We got off the train at a station called Dusseldorf and walked to the next platform, only to read the signboard that said 'train to Koln is delayed by 35 minutes'. Awesome. As we were waiting, two cops came and asked us for ID (and said they were from some international border control/passport control or something). We all had our passports except for Kranthy. All he had was his work ID card.

I said to myself 'Great, this night is just getting better and better!". If it was US, we all would have been taken into custody, enquired and questioned till the cops confirm our identity from the immigration department. Looking at his work ID, the cops let him slide and wished us good night. Whoa! Europe is cool!

We waited for close to 40 minutes and the ICE train that was supposed to arrive never did. Instead, a local train to Koln came. In a few seconds, we got on to the local train, our only concern being what if the ICE train arrives afterward and overtakes this local train. The flipside was to wait to Dusseldorf station all night (if the ICE train never comes). We took the lesser evil and reached Koln in the local train.

It was close to midgnight (we should have reached Frankfurt at 10.30pm per our original schedule). With no other option than to laugh at ourselves, we waited for another one hour at Koln before the ICE train for Frankfurt finally arrived.

Four of us waiting at Koln station

When we thought it all ended finally, we came to know that the train was taking a round-about route and will take close to 3 hours (instead of regular 1 hour). Great. We finally reached Frankfurt at 3.30am. After taking four trains and a six hour delay, to say that we had a nice experience is a complete under statement.

Whoever said Europe's train network rocks, here, get it from me 'Europe train network sucks!'

On the same note, Vijai bought this toy called Rolling monkey at Amsterdam. For all that we went through that day, this is what kept coming to our mind!:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Frankfurt and Amsterdam – a quick taste of Europe in 4 days - part I

It was about 3am Eastern when the captain announced that the flight has started its descent. That is when it truly dawned on me that I have indeed made the long awaited trip to Europe. Its been about 2 years I and Vijai have been talking about making such a trip and have been dreaming about it for even longer.

The flight touched down at Frankfurt Airport at about 7am local time. The immigration was surprisingly quick (if I compared to US) and climate was quite pleasant hovering about 8 to 10 degrees Celsius. Outside the airport, Vijai was waiting to receive me as well as for an unforgettable travel experience.

We reached Frankfurt Hauptbahnof (where Vijai lives) in about 20 minutes. After breakfast and a few hours of random conversations, we headed out to do local walk-about around downtown Frankfurt. Frankfurt was the first foreign city I visited (about 6 years ago) and it still sort of remains one of my favorite cities. Last time, I was gaping at the wide difference between Frankfurt and the Indian cities.

This time, I was able to appreciate more than a few things in the city, the best part being the architecture.

The city does not have towering skyscrapers, but it has a nice mix of old buildings and funky new ones next to each other. Such variety in architecture means only one thing: nice opportunity for photographs.

We pretty much spent the rest of the day roaming around the city, a nice long walk along the Main river waterfront and ending the day with a visit to Frankfurt Main tower observatory.

We had an early morning the following day, as we had reservations made on the ICE train to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is about 550 kms from Frankfurt and the ICE train covered the distance in about 4 hours. The train hit a top speed of about 300kmph more than a few times and it was quite a comfortable ride, thanks to Vijai for booking first class tickets.

We reached Amsterdam at around noon. After a delayed visit to the Tourist information centre (with a long line of freaking tourists!), we quickly planned for a high-level agenda for the day.

Amsterdam is about as dirty as any European country could ever get. It could have been a lot neater – I, for sure, did not expect people to pee on the roads (they have some strange road side closets that people pee on – I guess only the Gods and the locals can understand the funda behind the concept. For us tourists, it was nothing but a disgusting stinking intersection!)

As much as the city is clumsy, it still had an inexplicable charm to it. Blame it on the unstoppable tourists or the undying activities happening in the city or perhaps the numerous canals that act as veins to the city. We started off with a customary visit to Madame Tussauds wax museum, which in my opinion was so-so. The exhibits were alright, but the museum layout was so poorly planned that there was absolutely no room in most places. After coming out, we were joking that the museum was so cramped that Gandhi almost seemed like he was touching Dalai Lama's ass and Dalai Lama was blessing Mandela's balls!

We then checked into the hotel and took the Canon ride tour in the evening. Idea of touring inside a city completely on canals was a nice experience and felt very European to me.

We then went to photograph the only Wind Mill (or Molen as the dutch call it) in the city and spent about an hour there. I wish we had the time to go photograph a few more wind mills.

Later in the night, we strolled across the red light district (and our hotel was right there!) and took a few more photograph the city's night life. City did not have too much of what a photographer might call a night life.

The story of day 2 at Amsterdam and the funny ICE train experience on our return journey here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gettysburg Battlefield!

I did a solo trip to Gettysburg National park this past weekend. This was the first time I made a trip to a 'touristy' location in US all by myself. It was a different experience having to navigate the auto tour using a map and driving at the same time. I started out at the visitor center where the national park guiderecommended me to visit the museum before I go on the auto tour. I am not a great fan of museums (and nothing much to photograph there either) so I paced through the various sections of the museum fairly quickly. If you like museums and a fan of history, this is a great place for you! If not, you may skip the museum. There was a interactive video and the famous Cyclorama in the visitor center, I skipped them too!

After a quick visit to the museum and a customary visit to the restroom, I headed back to the car and started the auto tour. The auto tour at Gettysburg National park is about 20 miles long (most of which is one way and perfectly guided by signboards). It covers pretty much all of the important spots that are relevant to the three day part of the civil war that happened at Gettysburg battlefield. Gettysburg battle is apparently bloodiest of all wars where more than 51000 soldiers died in a span of about 3 days (in July 1863). It was a little brutal to realize the amount of bloodshed, but what else can I expect during a visit to a battlefield?!

I followed the tour map and visited the various marked spots, stopping very frequently for photographs. I also considered this trip as a test run for my new Canon 7D before my trip to Germany/Amsterdam next week. Of all the features, I liked Canon 7D for its sheer speed. Man, the camera is quick! 7D takes 3 shots in less than a second, which I could never have achieved in my older 450D. The day was quite bright and I was able to shoot HDRs, without tripod most of the time.

Flipside of the day being too bright was it was too freaking hot. After every few pictures, I had to take refuge in my car as the sun was scorching right on the top of my head. But that did not stop me from continuing the tour. As I drove through the tour route, I marked a few spots in the map to come back during sunset (as I thought those places would be more beautiful to photograph during sunset).

I liked the Pennsylvania memorial better than many other spots for it gave me a complete panoramic view of the surroundings and still presenting a beautiful foreground. I took close to 4 hours for the auto tour, when the park officer suggested it would take about 2 and half hours. Maybe I spent too much time photographing a few spots than he had imagined.

During sunset, I was in the 'The Angle' region which in my opinion was the best! It could not have gotten better, I spent about 1 hour there (forgetting all about the other spots I had marked before to revisit - maybe some other time!). The region was very beautiful and every photographer would enjoy this place for the sheer number of different composition ideas this place offers! I had a great time and considered that a satisfying end to a tiring day.

Overall, Gettysburg is a great place if you are either a history buff or a photo enthusiast. For others, it might be a slight toss up!

Friday, August 27, 2010


It is a strangely inexplicable feeling when your loved one leans on your shoulder and cries her heart out, when you are absolutely helpless but to offer some vain consolation and talk hopefully about the future. It is sort of difficult to seem absolutely positive and say 'everything's going to be alright' when you have no clue of the future and are only half sure of what might happen. But I think I did alright with Kavi as she went through one of the toughest phases a Wharton grad can endure.

After having gone through what I call as the absolute testing times, Kavi finally got a breakthrough and got an awesome job in the financial capital of des last week. It was one hell of a journey and now it seems like all the turbulence has finally settled down.

I am not too good at expressing what I feel most of the time, but I wanted to write this blog post to tell her how proud I am of her. She fought through the tough times like a real fighter and she always seemed to know that she was going to get what she wanted. She used to occasionally falter, break down at the hard luck she is destined with, but she never doubted that she would get what she wanted.

If I was her, I would have succumbed to the pressure long ago, but she really stood out as a fine example of perseverance. I guess I want to congratulate her and I can't think of a better way than to write a post for this!

And with this, I am also one step closer to my long time ambition of becoming a house husband and now it seems very attainable! Wish me good luck :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Desi Saga!

I don't think I have spent a weekend at India that has been boring and dry. And when one is on vacation, every single day seems like a weekend! In the last (almost) six years that I have been out of the country, I have made sure I pay a visit to chennai at least once a year (if not more) on an average. And thanks to excellent family and friends circle, any amount of time spent back home has seemed surprisingly short, every single time. This vacation I had a couple of weeks ago is no exception.

Though most of the days meant multiple commitments in terms of meeting people, I never felt too busy. I started the vacation with an awesome drive along the ECR with the best of friends (the same set of friends who surprised me at the Airport when I landed the previous night!). A drive to ECR, at least for me, necessarily means a visit to the casuarina bay. We did go there to do some random photo sessions, conversations and had a great time playing with our very own 'chennaiite's tennis ball high-catch!

The gang at ECR

Later in the day towards the sunset, we did the renowned Catamaran ride at Fisherman's cove where all 8 of us were taken deep into the ocean and provided with the option of jumping into the waters (with a life jacket of course). For someone who does not know to swim, faking to do so in the middle of the ocean is what I really call 'bliss'. To say that the one hour of laughter and fun, with the wobbling waves constantly bumping us around, was fun would be a total understatement.

In the same week, as if it's a personal Tryst I have with God, I made the customary trip to Tirupati. I saw actor Madhavan in the queue to darshan. Not that its a big deal nor anybody even took account of him, but adding such extra information to blogpost, in my opinion, sort of adds to the whole 'pointlessness' of blogposts. Anyways, a few pictures I took at Tirupati:

Tirupati Temple Pond

Tirupati Ghat Road (HDR)

And as a measure of being a dutiful son, did some furniture shopping and TV purchase for the house as well. A photo of the apartment with the new setup:

Apartment Makeover

To fulfill all desires, I went to a few movies, a few malls and an IPL match too (where Chennai lost miserably, as pre-planned). Also did a photo trip with a fellow photo enthusiast (Amar). Having done millions of such trips with him in the US, it was really nice to do one such trip in India. We went to Mahabalipuram and I had a whole new perspective for the place with the camera in my hands. I was a little bugged because they did not allow tripod in some places. When I tried to ask for a reason, I was told something that was completely out of my comprehension level. They don't allow tripods to photograph sculptures because placing tripods in front of them will create cracks in rocks! I swear to God, thats exactly what I was told!! I nodded at the lady who said this and put my tripod into my bag. Nevertheless, got a few pictures:

Lighthouse at Mahabalipuram
One of the temples at Mahabalipuram

Sunset at Mahabalipuram

Though the Volcanic ash over Europe tried to extend my vacation, it could not do better than delaying my return by a day. Have to give it to Jet Airways for re-arranging a flight thru Athens to get to the US.

Overall, just like every single trip to India, it was one hell of a trip!