Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Story in Out of Print

To cap off a wonderful writing year, here is a story of mine, Blink, published in Out of Print. I like it very much - I hope you do too. :) Read it here.

Funny how my blog falls silent the moment my non-blog writing picks up. I plan to change that - by committing myself to at least two posts a week in the next year.

I hope you all have a great year. :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Story published in Papercuts

"Homecoming" is another story I wrote long ago, which has been published in the "Metropolis" issue of Papercuts (Desi Writers Lounge.) It is the story of a person who comes back to Bangalore after having lived for years abroad, and finds that nothing seems to be the same.

You can read it here - Homecoming.

"A Killer on a Coconut Tree" in New Asian Writing

I had written a story ages ago, one of the very first I ever wrote, based on a true incident that happened in Mysore. The story has faced several rejections and gone through dozens of revisions, but yet, it remained one of my favourite stories. Somewhere in between, it did get accepted for an anthology, but I didn't like the terms of the publishers, and withdrew this story.  Finally, it has found a home. You can read it here - "A Killer on a Coconut Tree" in New Asian Writing.

Just back from Goa. Had a beautiful time, especially in the sea.


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Two conversations with Puttachi

I put these up on FB, but they'll just get lost after a while - so recording them here too.

We're expecting someone for dinner and I'm running around trying to do everything at the last moment. As usual. The kid is tailing me, telling me a story. As usual. I'm making an honest attempt to listen to her, but somewhere in the middle, I lose track of the storyline. She notices. As usual.
"Amma!" she says. "You're not listening!"
"Puttachi," I say. "Please continue the story later. My mind is on 100 different things right now."
"If your mind can be on 100 different things, why can't you make it be on 101 different things?" she asks.
I wish, Puttachi, I wish!


Me: Puttachi, time to go to bed!
She: Not sleepy.
Me: When are you ever sleepy?
She: When you wake me up in the morning.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arithmetic and economics with Jayalalitha

Puttachi is totally taken with this whole Jayalalitha episode. She is following the story with fascination.  When I told her that when the police raided her house, they found 800 kg silver, 28 kg gold, 10,500 sarees, 750 pairs of shoes and 91 watches, her eyes grew wide, and after that, she hasn't stopped thinking nor talking about it.

Note that the "Amma" in the conversation below is me, and not Amma Jayalalitha.

Puttachi: Amma, what will she do with so much stuff? Totally unnecessary!  They should just let her keep 10 sarees, 1 pair of shoes, and 1 watch, and give away 10,490 sarees, 749 pairs of shoes and 90 watches to the poor.

*After an hour*

Amma I have a better idea. What if the poor don't want sarees and shoes and watches?  So what they should do is - open a mall, and call it Jayalalitha Mall. They should put all this up for sale, and give the money from the sale to the poor.

*After another hour*

Amma, how big her house must be, if she had all this in her house! Then how much would she have spent on building the house?

*Half an hour later.*

Amma, just imagine, how many cupboards she would need for 10,500 sarees!
Me: How many do you think she would need?  If 1 cupboard can hold 50 sarees, how many cupboards will she need for 10,500 sarees?
Puttachi: 10,500 divided by 50! *Grabs a pencil*

*Some time later*
Amma, how much money would she have spent on buying all that?
Me: Calculate. If one saree costs Rs.6000, and if one pair of shoes cost Rs.800 and if one watch costs Rs.4000, then how much did she spend on the sarees, shoes and watches?
Puttachi: *works it out furiously*

We'll add the gold and silver, and get back to you with the final figure :)

Whoever thought you could use Jayalalitha to teach kids arithmetic? 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kukkarahalli Kere on Mint Lounge

My article on my favourite lake, Kukkarahalli Lake is a part of Mint Lounge's travel special issue.  Read it here.   You can read the rest of the stories here.

I've written about it on my blog before, several times, here.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Review - Hangwoman by KR Meera

One of the most intense books I've read - Hangwoman by KR Meera. My review on Women's Web.

Had been to Jumpstart Fest today. Good experience.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Here comes the god of all things!

My article in yesterday's DH Living - Here comes the god of all things!

Comments welcome!

Last week, DH asked me to write about why Ganesha is so popular. They gave me a deadline which I could almost reach out and touch. I wouldn't have minded such a short deadline had I not had two other deadlines before the DH one. Yet, I decided to step up to it, and accepted it.

Two days later, DH told me that I'd have to give the article 1 day before the original deadline. They apologized too, saying that something had come up and they needed it earlier. So essentially, after I'd sent off the other two articles I'd been working on, I had 24 hours to research, interview and get quotes, write, edit, and turn in this front page article on Ganesha.

Last year, I couldn't have done it. But this year, I did it. In 24 hours, the article was done and dusted.

You can see that the result is not too bad.

So why could I do it this year, and not last year?  It is because I've been writing more regularly this year. My brain is used to churning out decently-formed sentences. Where previously I would have struggled to form good sentences at one go, where I would have had to think much more, wonder which sentence was effective and which wasn't, it was far smoother this year. Regular writing has strengthened my writing muscle.

It is to be noted that not all the writing I've done is publish-worthy. A lot of it is garbage. Yet, the very act of writing regularly has helped.


Friday, August 01, 2014

Stalking Ruskin Bond - in Mint Lounge

Sometimes, some bits of writing turn out better than I expect.  When I started writing about meeting Ruskin Bond and sharing a roof with him, I never knew the result would satisfy me so much. 

Writer on a Hill - published in today's Mint Lounge.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 31 - Somanathapura

From Shivanasamudram, we went to Somanathapura - one of my favourite centres of ancient architecture.  Beauty in miniature.

And that brings to an end this month's a-post-a-day. Thanks for being with me :) Coincidentally, I'd ended my first a-post-a-day attempt with Somanathapura too, a sketch, though.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 30 - Shivanasamudram

We'd been to Shivanasamudram on Monday.  Puttachi hadn't seen waterfalls, and I knew she would like it.

There are two falls there, Gaganachukki and Bharachukki. (Such musical names, no?)  Till Monday, I thought that Gaganachukki and Bharachukki were two segments of the same falls.  But turns out that there are two separate waterfalls 12 km away from each other.  


Bharachukki from a higher point.

Gaganachukki also has a hydel station, which was the first in India, established in, I think 1902.  Bangalore was the first city in India to be electrified, thanks to these falls.


The other segment of Gaganachukki

We'd been to the hydel station when I was a kid.  I remember the thrill of going down the slope in the trolley, but I don't remember much else. I get it confused with images of the other hydel stations I've been to later, as an adult. 

 Now there is also a solar power plant set up by BHEL in Gaganachukki.

Hydel station

Quite breathtaking in terms of volume.  Worth a visit in the monsoons.  It is about 135 km from Bangalore, 77 km from Mysore.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day 29 - Growing shoots in a glass jar

I remember doing this project in school - we'd lined a glass jar with cotton, and placed seeds between the glass and the cotton, and moistened it everyday.  Great way to see how a seed grows into a plant. Puttachi and I had started this last week.  We got back after 4 days in Mysore, and to our surprise, the shoots have, well, shot up!

Check out the roots!   This one is Rajma.

It took just about a week to ten days for the plants to grow so much from seed. We'd "planted" rajma, white peas, moong beans (hesarukaalu) and black chickpeas.  The fat stalk is the rajma plant, and the one with the tiny delicate leaves is moong. 
If you haven't done this with your children already, do it! It is a great way for them (and us!) to observe the sprouting, and the development of shoots and roots. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 28 - Monkeys

On a day-trip today, I clicked this pic of a monkey and its baby.  

I find it really adorable, the way monkey babies cling to their mothers.  Reminded me of an incident.  

When Puttachi was about two years old, we were watching a group of monkeys rampage around the trees of our neighbouring houses - from the safety of our barred balcony.  The people who lived behind our house decided to light crackers to scare the monkeys away. A monkey mother with its baby were examining the contents of an upturned dustbin on a terrace, and as soon as the first cracker was lit, there was a pretty loud sound.  The monkey baby jumped, sprang on to its mom and clung to her.  At the same time, in a mirror-image action, Puttachi jumped, sprang onto me, and clung to me.  The action was so similar that I was overwhelmed, while at the same time, I was laughing with amusement, and marvelling at how cute the entire thing was!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 27 - First prize in the DNA-Out of Print Short Fiction contest

Very pleased to share with you that my story The Awakening won the first prize in the DNA-Out of Print Short Fiction contest.

Here's what the editors have to say about my story: "The choice of winning story was ultimately influenced by the clean direct simplicity with which the protagonist approaches the complex choice he makes, and the deceptive lightness with which the story is told."

You can read it in the Just Before Monday section of DNA.  It is available online here - The Awakening  - or here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 26 - My grandparents' notepad

I'm in Mysore, in my grandparents' place.  I just saw this notepad that they've made.  Scraps of paper, the back of printed sheets, and the empty spaces behind advertisement pamphlets - they have cut them into pieces of approx the same size, and clipped them together.  They use this to write their lists, make notes - and note down Scrabble scores.

Yes, those numbers in my grandfather's neat handwriting is the score in one of the innumerable Scrabble games they play with each other.  And they are amazingly serious and competitive about each game.  They even have a fat dictionary on hand which they use to see if a certain word exists, and to cross-check if the other makes an unusual word.

Back to the notepad - saving resources like paper comes so naturally to them.  I find it so cute. I also use scraps of paper to write my lists, but my Tata and Ajji have elevated that to an art by making that neat makeshift clip pad. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 25 - Why I love writing fiction

I love writing fiction.   My world, my rules. 

No interviewing, no struggling to get quotes right.  Not much of fact-checking.  If I cannot confirm a fact, or if I don't find enough information about something that I want to use in my story, I can leave it out altogether, or tweak the story into doing what I want it to do.

I can make my characters listen to me.  Though some of my characters have a tendency to take off in the middle and do what they want to, I can bring them around to do my bidding, if I so wish.

The story on paper always, always, looks blander than the way it sounded in my head.  So I love spending time on my drafts, working with words, sentences, changing them to reflect the moods and the colours in my head.  I revel in the feeling of accomplishment that comes to me when I get a sentence, a phrase - as right as I possibly can at that moment.

Sometimes, a story or a scene doesn't sound quite right.  And then I leave it, and come back to it after a week. Then it strikes me what I need to do to change it.  If that means chopping, and hacking my precious story to pieces, then so be it.  If it means sentencing it to the Recycle Bin, so be it.

But the high of satisfaction that comes from a story well-written is addictive.

And every time I send a story out and it gets accepted for publication, I go back to it and read it immediately, and feel a surge of pride about my story - but it is a kind of detached pride - as if the work was done by my story, not by me.  Good job, kid, I tell my story.  And sit back.

But each time a story sees the light of day, the big pile of incomplete, half-finished, skeletal, first-draft-languishing-in-folder stories seem  to acquire a demonic dimension - as if challenging me, saying, "Oh yeah?  You think you're good?  Let me see how you'll shake me up into a publishable story."  The challenge seems insurmountable.

And every time I'm flushed with the success of one of my stories, I come across, as if by serendipity, stories written by writers who are infinitely more skilled than I am.  And then I withdraw, tail between my legs, into my personal space where I feel inadequate and sorry for myself for a while - and I wonder why I even bother writing - until I feel better enough to feel inspired to reach the next level in my writing.

And then the whole cycle begins again.

Day 24 - Throwback to Puttachi's babyhood

Peevee's new-born has my eyebrows.  Ok, so now that I've gotten that recorded, I'll move on to other less important matters. 

The baby's pictures remind me a lot of Puttachi.  Must be the mop of hair.   Though my other niece, my brother-in-law's daughter, also reminded me of Puttachi when she was born, the resemblance wasn't as striking as it is with Peevee's daughter. Got to be the hair.  It even falls onto their foreheads in the same way.  For each picture Peevee sends, I'm digging out a similar picture of Puttachi's at that age.  It's fun.

And I'm still restless that I can't wrap her in my arms.  Well, I've made and sent a crochet shawl to do the wrapping for me until I get to her.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 23 - Lazy post

Every a-post-a-day marathon must have a Lazy Post.  This time, it arrived later than it did in the previous a-post-a-days.  I couldn't put up a post today because I was too busy being un-lazy all through the day.  So I don't have the energy to think up an insightful post this late in the night.

So, see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 22 - When your story touches a chord.

It is always lovely when people let me know that my story has touched them.  Different people are moved by different stories, and it is interesting to see who is touched by what, and why. It is also fascinating to see how people interpret the stories.

My recent published story, Interlude - was no different. Some liked the format, some interpreted it as saying that family comes first, and some assumed it was my own story.

But what was different about this story was that within hours of my posting it on FB and on this blog, at least a dozen women mailed me to tell me that it is the story of their life.   And with each mail, I felt a little less alone, but a little more depressed.

Yes, the story is entirely fictitious, but it is also true that several times during Puttachi's early childhood, I wished I could take a break.  Not much - I didn't want to go away on a vacation - but I would feel this urge to go and sit under a tree in Lalbagh for the entire day. (Never got to do it, though)  So the seed of the story is true - the urge to get away - but the rest is fiction. 

And many women identified with it.  Enough to tell me that it was as if I was writing about them.  That they felt I was looking into their heads. 

And though that flattered me as a writer, as a person, it saddened me - to think that there are so many women out there who are feeling bound and frustrated in their roles.  Some of the fortunate ones get over it, we find things to do that make us feel better - but think of the millions of women all across the world who feel this way and have nowhere to go!

And I wonder if the people around these women are even aware that they are feeling this way.  If they do know, would it be better for the women?  Would it make a difference?  Or not?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day 21 - A little bit of nostalgia for the Mumbai monsoon

Eight years ago, I wrote about the Mumbai monsoon. 

Every monsoon, I remember Mumbai, mostly with fondness.  But one memory that keeps coming back to me is going to Pune from Mumbai during the monsoon.

The beginning of the journey wasn't pleasant.  Taking an auto to Andheri station, fighting the crowds to get on to the local, getting off at Dadar station, wading through water, and negotiating with the rains using a useless umbrella, getting to the Pune bus-stop.  And then once I was in the Volvo, it would be alright. The sights from the large windows weren't very pleasant till we got out of the city, but were interesting nevertheless.

And then once the bus reached the Mumbai-Pune expressway, it was like watching a movie.  The smooth roads, the rolling hills, the mist, the clouds - all through Lonavla and Khandala.  Those simple sights, comprising of green grassy hills and white mist and clouds are some of the most relaxing and pleasing sights I've seen.

Of course, mixed with it was the joy and anticipation of going "home" for the weekend.  "Home" in this case was my aunt's place, which was, for me, very close to actually going to my own home. I felt loved there, I could ask my aunt to make bendekaayi gojju and I could spend a fun, relaxed weekend with my cousins. 

Thinking of those Mumbai-Pune journeys now arouses in me, along with a tinge of nostalgia, a twinge of pain, because one of those cousins was her.

Day 20 - Yakshagana - Girl power!

We'd been to a Yakshagana performance yesterday.  All the performers were children, below 15 years of age.

Yakshagana performances blow my mind.  The tremendous energy of the performers, the costumes, the makeup, the music, the drums, the dialogues, the dance, the facial expressions - the combination is enthralling - and it has to be experienced to be believed.

South Kanara (a coastal district of Karnataka) has long been the hub of Yakshagana, and it is good to see it thriving in the far-off city of Bangalore.  And it is lovely to see children going in for Yakshagana training, ensuring the sustenance of this folk art.

But there was another thing that made me immensely happy. 

Yakshagana was traditionally performed only by male artistes.  Even the female roles were performed by men.  But yesterday, the lead role of Krishna was performed by a 13-year-old girl.  She happens to be the daughter of the director of the academy in which the kids learn Yakshagana, but yet!  To see her on stage, so confident, so uninhibited, so skilled, performing with an abandon that most dancers can only dream of - her performance sent thrills down my spine.

Here are a couple of pics.  Please excuse the picture quality - by camera phone isn't the best.

I hope more girls break more barriers!
An aside: My story "The Awakening" made it to the DNA-Out of Print Short Fiction shortlist.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 19 - Insects

A few weeks ago, I went to our apartment garden, and happened to catch this conversation.  A group of young girls, aged between 8 and 12, were excitedly calling to the mother of one of them, who was walking past.
"Aunty, aunty!" they said.  "Come quick, and look at this!"
"Look at what?" asked the lady.
"An insect!" said the girls.
The lady stood, feet apart, and put her hands on her hips.  "Insect?" she said, making a face.  "An INSECT?  You have nothing better to show me than - an insect?"  And she walked off. 
The poor girls - their faces fell.
Honestly, I hadn't given insects much thought or attention (except for grabbing a broom whenever I spotted a cockroach) - before Puttachi came into the picture.
Since little ones are so close to the ground, they see insects and other creepy-crawlies all the time, and when you see it through their eyes, you realize how fascinating they really are. Sure, some of them make my skin crawl, but I try not to show it openly, especially when Puttachi is so excited about it.
Puttachi spends hours sprinkling sugar near ant nests and watching them carry the sugar crystals away.  Once she came and told me how a fly and sugar had a fight over a sugar bit, and naturally that led to her own story!
A week ago, we spotted a slug lying on the path in our apartment complex.  It was alive, but ants were swarming around it.  Puttachi was disturbed.  She insisted that she had to move the slug away into the grass.  So she took a long stick and tried to prod it gently.  But she started worrying that she was going to  hurt it, and she handed the stick to me.  The slime of the slug makes me want to gag, and the last thing I wanted to do was touch it, even with a stick. 
But I didn't want to make faces and go ack-thoo and make a big deal out of it.  Puttachi saw me hesitating, and she asked me, "What happened, are you scared?"  So I said, "I'm not scared, but I'm feeling a little disgusted because of the slime.  But that's okay.  Let's see what we can do."
I pushed it, and it turned over on its back and exposed its underside to me, and didn't do anything to make me feel better.  But Puttachi was watching it so intently that I didn't have the heart to throw the stick away and run, which is what I wanted to do.  So I turned it over again, and pushed it slowly into the grass.   She was satisfied.  Then she told me, "Amma, thanks for helping it even though you were disgusted.  I was so worried about it."
Now for all my effort, she'd better not become like one of those annoying look-at-creepy-crawly-and-scream girls!
Btw, this is an insect we saw near Rishikesh.  It reminds me of Edward Munch's painting, The Scream.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 18 - Our children's safety

The news of a six-year-old who was raped 1) in school 2) by teachers 3) in broad daylight has driven parents crazy with fear and worry.   School, we always think, is absolutely safe - and suddenly we are not sure of that any longer. 

Day by day, the story is getting more horrifying.  This report made me cry.  To think that teachers, attendants, doctor, and the management - everybody knew about it, but sat on it for a week, and nobody thought of raising the alarm, telling the parents?

And the school is actually washing its hands off of all the responsibility?  How inhumane can we get?  While the rapists are direct perpetrators of the crime, the school, and all those people involved are equally culpable, and there is absolutely no excuse to let any of them walk away from this, unpunished.

Is there anything we can do other than feeling helpless?  The first step is to educate our children about CSA. If you haven't done this yet, please do.  There are several resources online to help you speak to your child in a way appropriate to his/her age. In this case, though, even if the child knew about CSA, she would've been helpless.

Rightfully, we should have strict security measures in all schools, and stringent background checks for the staff.  But that is easier said than done.  So we as parents have to do whatever we can to equip our children to be safe.

Also, tell your kids that it is okay to scream.  Loudly. And tell them that they don't owe blind obedience to teachers or anybody else in authority. And tell them that they should avoid going into any place alone.  And if anybody wants to take them away to a secluded place, they have to protest.  Again, loudly. 

I can't think too clearly right now, but this is what I thought of, off the top of my head. 

Please pitch in with comments, if any.

Day 17 - A course on music theory

I'm up to my neck in work and routine stuff. Sometimes it seems like I cannot manage everything.  There are several things around the house that need my attention.  And there are times when I feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the endless chores that I have to do everyday.

And so - I went and signed up for a course on Fundamentals of Music Theory on Coursera.

Yeah, I know, "mental."

I'm learnt Indian classical music, but for years, I've been wondering about the theory of western classical music.  I've listened to, and enjoyed it, just as music - but it always bothered me that there was something deeper out there that I didn't know.  Something that, I was sure, would help me appreciate the music better.

When my cousin V started learning western violin and saxophone, I tried to read up on the theory and notations, hoping that if I didn't understand anything, my aunt or V would help me.   But like with all my self-studying, this petered out due to lack of discipline.

I came across this course on the day it was supposed to start.  So I had no time to worry about how I have no time, and how I'll squeeze this into my schedule.  There was no time to change my mind.  I signed up, and jumped in.

I've finished the first week of lectures, and realized that it needs more work than I thought.  But it is not as difficult as I expected it to be.  I've already understood the very basics, and that itself makes me happy.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the course (only 5 weeks totally, thank goodness) and I'm hoping that I'll hang on and manage to finish it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 16 - My baby sister has a baby.

My little sister Peevee's daughter was born on the 14th.

When I got the news, I wanted to dance around and hug her and hold her, so - PJ Alert -  I hugged my knees.

I wasn't comfortable that Peevee wasn't around when Puttachi was born, and now I don't like it that I'm not around when her daughter is born. 

I have no idea when I'll be able to meet her, and it is sheer torture to look at her photos and videos and know that I can't hold that little bundle for several months more.

But yay anyway! 


Day 15 - A story in Earthen Lamp Journal

My story, Interlude, is in the latest issue of Earthen Lamp Journal.

"The lead story by Shruthi Rao is written is in the form of emails to a husband by a woman who has left home briefly in order to find herself again."

Did you hear that?  Mine is the lead story! :)  And I'm among writers I've enjoyed reading before - notably Madhulika Liddle of the Muzaffar Jang books.

It seems like a great collection - check out the whole issue when you can.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 14 - Finger puppets

Puttachi's finger puppets.  Except the two cloth ones, we made the rest ourselves, mainly with felt.  We made these two or three years ago,  and she's had hours of fun with them.  Really simple to make, too.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 13 - A pleasant change

We'd been to a six-year-old girl's birthday party today.  For a change, it wasn't a Disney princess or Barbie or Dora party.  There was no pink, no purple.  There was no cutesy stuff.  No frilly frocks.  No little girls wearing uncomfortable, shiny, toe-pinching, high-heeled shoes.

It was a football-themed party.  The kids were asked to go in comfortable shoes.  Which translated to comfortable clothes.  So the kids looked like they had come out to play in the park.  They kicked footballs, ran around, and jumped up and down, and scored goals.  Even the cake was a football-field cake.

And remember, it was a little girl's party. Such a pleasant change.  And the girls were behaving just like little girls, like this ad.

Come on, parents of little girls, get more creative in your choice of themes!  There is life beyond princesses and fairies and Barbies and Dora!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 12 - The role of critiquing in becoming a better writer

I'm part of a group of writers - we've been writing a story every month this year, and we submit it each month, and critique each other's stories.

Critiquing others' stories is a great way of learning the craft of writing. 

In the beginning, it seems difficult - how can you comment about others' writing when you are not so hot yourself?  But once you start, it gets easier, and you realize - it doesn't matter if you are a better writer than the other person or not.  What matters in critiquing is that unlike just reading a story and deciding whether you like it or not, critiquing forces you to recognize what you like and what you don't like in a story, and WHY. 

And the recognition of this WHY is essential because the next time you write a story, you subconsciously bear that in mind, and your story turns out to be better.

So, if you're looking to improve your writing technique, I highly recommend a critique group.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 11 - Movie adaptations of fantasy books

The thing about movie adaptations of fantasy books is that they tend to be darker.  A book is only as scary as your imagination is.  But in a movie, someone else's imagination is foisted upon you, and I think it tends to be darker and scarier than you've imagined. 

I noticed this first when I watched the Lord of the Rings movies.  I'd imagined the orcs as nasty creatures while reading the book, but the movie made them downright terrifying as well as nauseating, making me want to close my eyes whenever they appear on screen. 

Similarly, Harry Potter.  It's been a while since I read the books, but I keep watching glimpses of the movie now and then when I run into them on TV.  They are distinctly darker than I'd imagined while reading it.

So, while reading Septimus Heap, I naturally thought of Harry Potter, and I decided against reading it out to Puttachi, thinking that it will be too intense for her.  But there are some situations in Septimus Heap which are pretty scary, but Puttachi takes them in with equanimity.  That's because her imagination probably doesn't allow it to get that scary in her mind. 

That makes me think that I can probably let her read/read out to her the first book of Harry Potter pretty soon, perhaps immediately after we finish Septimus Heap. 

What has your experience been?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 10 - The Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage

Sometimes, something that seems insignificant just saunters into your life, and then, before you know it, takes it over completely.

During the summer holidays, we were at my mother's place, and Puttachi was, as usual looking for more reading material to devour.  My mother reminded me about four books that were lying in storage - books that my cousin V had read when he was a kid, and had left them at my mom's place.

I went upstairs, and came back with the books, the first four of the seven books in the Septimus Heap series written by Angie Sage.  I inspected them and said, "Hmm, two or three more years to go. The standard is a little high for Puttachi right now."

Just then, Puttachi came along, and looked at the books.  She saw the title of the first one, "Magyk" and was intrigued.  "Amma,, can you try reading it for me?" she asked.

I shrugged.  We've never been too much into reading.  I've always felt that Puttachi enjoys it better if I narrate stories, rather than read them out to her.  So until now, all that I've read to her are small stories and passages - not entire novels. 

But I thought, okay, let's give it a shot.  Two chapters and we'll know how it is going.

So I started.  Two chapters turned to four - and then ten, and then twenty - before we knew it, we were half way through the book, and Puttachi was totally obsessed with the story, characters, settings.  True, I had to stop and explain a few words, but she got the gist of most of it by my expressions while reading it.  So the story flowed seamlessly.  And I was surprised at how she understood certain situations and concepts - I hadn't thought she was capable of that, emotionally, or intellectually.

We are now into the second book - Flyte, and I'm being a wicked mom and using it for leverage to get things done smoothly around the house.  But, so far, it is working beautifully. 

But in the midst of being outright obsessed and eating, sleeping and breathing Septimus Heap, Puttachi was very bothered about what we'd do after we reach the end of the fourth book.  Are the other three available at the library?  Or can we buy them?  But her problem was solved - my parents presented the other three books to her. 

Now, even before we've finished the second book, she's started guessing what will happen next, and makes up her own tangential version of future events.  Today, she told me her idea of the histories of some of the characters before the start of the events in the books.  Her imagination is in overdrive - sometimes it s more than I can handle, but it is a new, wonderful experience for both of us, and though it is a lot of reading for me to do, I'm not regretting it one bit.  We're having a whole lot of fun.

And already, I'm wondering what we'll move on to after Septimus Heap.  Harry Potter, perhaps?

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Day 9 - Five minutes on an evening on the eve of a Hindi test.

So Puttachi has a Hindi test tomorrow, and since Hindi is not familiar to her, I have to sit with her a bit to make her understand it.

But easier said than done.  This is what happened today.

Me: Ok, Puttachi, I'll quiz you on opposites now, and will ask you to write down difficult words.  Keep your pencil ready.

She:  Pencil ready!  See!  Hey Amma, look, this pencil has such a sharp tip.  But look how its shadow looks!  See?  So pretty, right?  I love shadows.  Do you too?  Amma, see, if I turn it like this, see?  Now it looks like a rocket.  And if I keep my hand like this, it looks like -

Me: Yes, I love shadows too! Can we come back to opposites?  What's the opposite of "dheere"?(slow)

She:  I won't tell you.

Me: Why?

She:  I'll show you!  *Gets up, starts running around the room full speed, nearly bumping into walls.  Her hair flops about, her laughter ricochets around the room, and it looks like she won't stop.*

Me:  Ok, ok, you're right, but what is the word for it?

She: I'll write it and show you!

Me: Ok...

She: Last time I wrote it as Ja-la-di, and I want to show you that I've learnt it now, and I know that it is half "la" and not full "la" and so I want to write it and show you.

Me: Ok

She:  *Starts writing*  Ayyo I wrote the line of Ja too slanting.

Me: It's okay, it's okay...

She: No it's not, where's the eraser?

Me: Aaaargh, just draw a line through it and write it again.  Don't waste time looking for the -

She: Found it!  *erases it, writes it again, correctly.*

Me: Good.  Next word -

She: *jumps up on her cycle/scooter - starts going around the room - round and round.* you keep asking, I'll keep telling, I'll come when I have to write something..

Me: *Head spinning*  Puttachi, you decide if you want to study now or not.  We can do it later if you want to play now, I cannot keep -

She: Hey Amma, let's recite the poem. Come, I know it.  Do you know? Try.

Me:  C'mon as long as you've learnt it -

She: You also learn it, Amma.  Our life skills teacher says we should keep learning all our lives.  It improves our brain.  Don't stop learning.  Now recite, I'll stop you if you go wrong.

Me: *Sighhhhhh*

But at the end, she does sit down and study, sometimes by herself, sometimes with a little intervention by me.

Same story at your place too, I'm guessing :)

Note:  I'd gone to bed, turned off the lights, huddled under my blanket before I realized I hadn't put up a post today.  So I got out of bed to write this long post.  *Patting myself on my back*


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Day 8 - What Really Happened

My friend Madhu has taken the 100 Happy Days challenge on her blog - and she's started writing about what made her happy that day. Yeah, yeah, old stuff, you're thinking.  But she has got a USP, according to me.  Along with what happened, she's also writing about "What Really Happened."

Take a look at this to see what I mean.

One of my pet peeves is what people put up on social media.

All those lovely little moments we put up for the world to see are a few sparkling drops distilled and filtered from the huge cups of dirty water that our lives are all about.

Behind pics of idyllic beach holidays there might be lost luggage, missed connections, mosquito bites, skin-chafing sand, family flare-ups and indigestion.  Behind pics of cherubic babies are sleepless nights, endless diaper changes, post-partum blues.  Behind pictures of couples in love there possibly is mudslinging, name-calling, jealousy, all-night-crying.

Similarly, behind every publication that I brightly announce on my blog, there is endless rewriting, editing, disappointment, frustration, rejection.  And behind every aww-invoking incident of Puttachi that I write about, there are tantrums, and worries, and negotiating, and balancing...

The only thing we see about other people's lives are the bright, happy parts, and we feel miserable, wondering why our lives are not one big party.  So whenever we feel overwhelmed by looking at what seems like other people's good fortune, it'll do us good to remember that there is a "What really happened" story behind it. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Day 7 - The ultimate irony

Superstitions and irrational beliefs should rightfully be fading by now.  But it seems to be on the rise. 

"Scientists" performing nonsense rituals.  Otherwise logical and intelligent people going totally blind when it comes to "culture" and "heritage" and following outdated customs.  Fake godmen, fake medicines, fake everything - tricksters capitalizing on the gullibility of people, and taking them for a ride, and people willingly going with them!   

Who was it that said, "You should have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out."

I just don't understand it, and it always fills me with dread and sorrow, to put it mildly.

But the ultimate irony was this piece of news I read yesterday. 

Dr.Narendra Dhabolkar, who was shot dead last year, was a rationalist.  His murder is still unsolved.  And now, the Pune police are resorting to séances to find out who his killers are. The very unproven mumbo-jumbo that Dhabolkar fought against.

I wish it is a joke.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Day 6 - Indophiles, Everest's house, and neglected heritage

I took a course on Coursera last year, "Archaeology's dirty little secrets," conducted by Brown University.  It opened up new worlds to me.  I started reading up about the history of archaeology in India, which led me to British Indophiles, who did so much to bring India's lost history to light.  
The measurement of the Great Indian Arc is one such stupendous story, in which crazy-genius Brits are involved.  I urge you to read The Great Arc by John Keay.  Or start by reading this article "The men who measured earth's curves." I bet you'll come back wondering how it is that we don't know more about all this.  
One of the Brits involved in the measurement of the Arc was Sir George Everest, so when we visited Everest's house in Mussoorie, which was the centre of activity during this phenomenal effort, I was terribly disappointed to see what a state it was in.  Yes, we are famous for not recognizing or appreciating or preserving our heritage, and this is one of the more appalling examples.

Here are some extra pics:
The other side of the house overlooks the doon valley. This side overlooks the mountains.

It lies on a grassy hilltop terrace.

The inside of the house.

One of the observatories near the house.

The view of the doon valley from the house.
If you thought the interior was bad, apparently it was worse.  If you have the stomach, see this video.  Don't know when it was taken though.  But I'm sure you can make out how it must have been in its heyday!
 In 1990, it had been announced that the State Govt was planning to acquire it and turn it into a tourist/excursion spot, but there is no sign of it.  A couple of friends I spoke to told me that INTACH is trying to get control over it to restore it, but I couldn't find any official confirmation on it.

Honestly, I wouldn't want it to become a "tourist" spot, but some care and maintenance, and steps to keep defecating cows out, wouldn't be amiss.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Day 5 - Article in Mint Lounge

I forgot the post-a-day for the second time in a row.  Wonder what that means!  Anyway, again, I have a publication handy to share with you.

During our trip to Mussoorie-Landour, we visited Everest's 19th century house, which is near Mussoorie.  It is a dilapidated house, its condition all the more distressing because of the monumental things that took place in that house in its heyday.

My account of our visit has been published in today's Mint Lounge - Debris of an odyssey.

Tomorrow, I'll be back to tell you more about our visit, and I'll post pics that haven't been published in the article.

And btw, Mint Lounge is a biggie for me.  I'm pretty pleased to have been published in this :)

Friday, July 04, 2014

Day 4 - Across the Ages anthology

Okay, this was scary.  I nearly forgot I was doing a post-a-day. 

Luckily, this arrived today, saving me from having to think up a coherent post at this time of the night.

It contains my story "Hardly a walk in the park."
It came out of the blue, months and months after the story was selected for inclusion, and there has been no communication yet about where it will be available, and whether it will be available for sale, etc. 
Will update this post once I get to know more.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Day 3 - A bar stool

One of my nicest Mysore memories is that of my Ajji preparing dosas for breakfast.  She sat on a tall wooden stool in front of the stove in her kitchen, a huge vessel full of dosa batter sat next the stove,  and on two burners were two tavas.  There usually were at least a dozen of us there in the summer holidays, and we'd start eating, two by two, others coming to join in as the first two finished.  She'd churn out crisp golden dosas, and we'd eat it with freshly made chutney made from freshly grated coconut that came from the trees in their garden.

Yeah, my stomach is rumbling too.

Anyway, coming to the point.  The wooden stool.  Making dosas for a hungry dozen takes a long time - and she did the logical thing - she made them all sitting down. 

Recently, while I was taking treatment for a foot pain, I was advised not to stand for too long.  So S went out and got me a bar stool to use in the kitchen.

I grumbled at first.  It doesn't sound easy, working in the kitchen, sitting at the counter.  And it is not.  But there are things one can do sitting down.  Processing vegetables, for example.  Cutting fruits.  Making dosas and akki rotti.  Washing vessels.  And yes - even making chapatis.

I thought that making chapatis sitting down would be totally impossible. But I make quite a few chapatis at least three times a week.  So that's a considerable bit of standing time.  So I gave it a shot, and guess what, that frontier has been crossed too.  Yes, you need to manoeuvre your limbs a little, you need to keep all that you want handy before you sit down, but it is possible to make chapatis sitting down, contrary to what I had believed for years.

I've had the stool for two weeks now, and it is helping. My legs don't feel tired any more after making chapatis.  As for dosas - ah!  Now, without any guilt,  S requests me to make all kinds of dosas, and I don't mind at all.  It is fun, sitting on the stool, making the dosa, swivelling around (Ajji didn't have that luxury!) to talk to S and Puttachi, feeling quite trendy and all. ;)


Day 2 - Trees

Recently, I was writing a longish bio for a publication.  While writing about myself, I said, "Shruthi likes books, food and..."  Unbidden, the next word that came to me was "Trees."   I paused for a bit, and then shrugged.  Why not?  So I added "Trees."

Some of you would have already noticed my obsession with trees lately, in the last couple of years.  But for me to equate trees with books and food is, you know, huge. 

But that is how it has been recently. Though I've always liked trees in a vague way (like everybody does, I guess)  it has only been in the last few years that I've actually "looked" at trees closely.  And the more I look, the more enamoured I am by them. 

The deep green, the smell of them, the sound of the wind through their leaves, their shade - trees are, to me, perhaps the most beautiful creatures on earth. 

They charge my emotional batteries.  They leave me with a sense of peace and contentment. 

And I never tire of watching them.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Day 1 - Voice recording of a story

So it's been six months, and it is time for me to jump into the fire again with A-post-a-day on my blog.  So get set - here's to 31 posts in July :)

I'd shared the link to a story "At the wedding" recently.  You can now hear it too. 

The editors asked me if I would read out my own story, and my first instinct was to say no.  But S told me to give it a shot.  Even then, I was hesitant.  But S convinced me to at least try it out.  So I did.

I read it out three times first, to see if I'd get the emotions right.  And then, I recorded it - in one single take.  All 13.42 minutes of it.

And yes, I haven't stuttered even once.  So yes, this has been one of the highlights of my recent life.

So here is the link again.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Healthy competition?

My article that appeared in the Feb 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing is now online. In this article, I attempt to understand if there is any such thing as "healthy competition," and whether competition is necessary for children.

I am interested in your views on this.

The link to the article.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Writing full-time

I quit a job in IT 7 years ago to write.  I didn't know what I would write, or what I could write.  I just knew that I liked writing stories, and I knew I would find something to do.

When Puttachi was little, my entire day revolved around her.  If I think back on it, I smile.  They were some of the loveliest months of my life.  But there were periods of intense frustration and desperation - and whenever I snatched a few minutes of the day in which I could write, I told myself that there would come a day when I would be writing full time.  I still didn't know what I wanted to write, but I visualized it again and again, and I liked the thought of it.

The last couple of weeks have been like that.  All of a sudden, I find myself involved in multiple projects - some started on my own, some assignments, some paid, some voluntary, some fiction, some non-fiction, some creative work, some translation, some research, some imagination.   I write from 9 30 to 2 30, and then again for a bit at night after Puttachi goes to bed. 

It is tiring.  It is overwhelming.  And I'm just about managing to keep all these projects in sections of their own in my mind, and attending to them one by one.  There are times when it seems like the barriers between the projects will break and flood my head.  It is a fine balance, but so far, it's working.

It's tough.  I have housework to do, and cooking.  Puttachi comes back from school at 3, and I have her needs to attend to.  And most people don't understand the concept of writing being work.  For them, it is a hobby that I am following, not a profession I'm trying to build.

But yet, so far, it's working.

I know that a couple of months from now, it might not be the same.  And I might lie on my bed and read this post and say "oh for those days!"    But now, I'm doing just what I hoped to do when I decided to say goodbye to IT for good. And that makes me happy.

There's another thing  about me - that I long suspected, but now know to be true.  I need deadlines.  Deadlines not only as in days, but as in time too.  I need that 3 o clock every day before which I have to finish some work before Puttachi gets home. If the day lies open in front of me, empty, inviting, I end up wasting time and seeking distraction in food and FB.  Self-imposed deadlines work, but aren't that effective.  I need to make a commitment to another person, and I'll fall over myself to stick to it. 

I'm looking forward to see how this journey progresses.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Forest Research Institute, Dehradun

The Forest Research Institute in Dehradun is quite a treasure.  The building itself - lime and sandstone, beautiful.  And the trees, the flowers... worth a visit.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Glimpses of other people's lives.

For as long as I remember, I've been afflicted with cryptoscopophilia - The urge to secretly look through windows of homes as one passes by. And all I get is a glimpse - but there's so much one can tell, such a lot one can imagine from that brief window into someone else's world.  

This affliction was particularly acute when I was living away from my family.  I would walk past homes and watch families sitting together, and I'd miss mine terribly.  It hurt, but yet I wanted to catch glimpses.  I have forgotten most of the images, but  some of them have stayed with me - either for the setting, or for the scene playing out then, or just because of how I was feeling at that time.

And then there were scenes in which I wished I was there.  A sudden burst of laughter, perhaps, or a warm family room, a mother cooking and a child next to her, or just a person sitting quietly with a beverage.

A year or so ago, I walked past my own balcony (we live on the ground floor) and looked in.  I could see the balcony, the drawing room, and through that, right into the open  kitchen.  Puttachi sat at the kitchen table, under the golden light of the conical lamp that hangs over the kitchen table, and S was with her.  I realized that this was the exact kind of scene that, if I'd glimpsed elsewhere, would make me wish I was there.  And I smiled, and joined them.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Back to school!

And it is back to school again!  Puttachi starts Class 2 today. 

And here's an article of mine that was published on Saturday - Overcoming June Jitters.

I stuck to my own advice as is in the article, and the transition to school has been smooth - so far. :)

Thursday, May 22, 2014


The Resident Skeptic turns seven today.
She: *waking up one morning this summer* Amma, it's so cold today!
Me: Yeah it rained all night.
She: How do you know?

Me: I woke up a couple of times during the night, and I heard the rain both times.

She: That doesn't prove anything. It could just have been raining when you woke up, and it could have stopped when you went back to sleep. The correct thing to say would be: "It rained for at least some time last night."

Absolutely right, kid. Don't ever stop questioning everything!

Happy Birthday!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Close Encounters of the Bond Kind

What better day to write about my recent experience with meeting Ruskin Bond, than today, his birthday?

I have written before about meeting him in Bangalore.  And in it, there's a line:

I have spent many hours planning how I would go to Mussourie to meet him, sit on the porch of Ivy Cottage, sip tea, and talk to him.
I was wrong on two counts.

Count 1 - Ruskin Bond lives in Landour, not Mussoorie.  Small detail, but makes a huge difference.

Count 2 - Ivy Cottage has no porch.  Trust me.  I know. I stayed in an inn in Ivy Cottage [Try saying that line fast 3 times]

Okay, let's do this in order.

During our recent vacation to Uttarakhand, we stayed for three days in Landour.  Which, by the way is a beautiful place with some great views and green walks and is comfortably away from the mess of Mussoorie. We stayed in an inn that was a part of the same building in which Ruskin Bond also lives.  So, we literally shared a roof, and even a wall with Ruskin Bond.

Firstly, Ivy Cottage isn't set all alone in a grassy meadow, which was how I had imagined it.  A winding, narrow road leads up from Landour Bazaar, and hits Ivy Cottage.  This is where the inn is.  The road then turns to the right and climbs the hill.  So, basically, Ivy Cottage is bound by two roads that climb the hill.  One, the motorable road on the right, and two, the non-motorable, quiet, but steep road on the left. 

The day we checked in, I went round the cottage both on the motorable and the non-motorable one, looking for a likely entry to the house of a renowned, nature-loving writer.  I didn't find any prospective candidates.  I went back to the reception of our inn, and asked the friendly man who sat there.  He pointed towards the motorable road, and said, "Just next door, you'll see red steps leading up to his house."  He also invited me to go ahead and knock at Ruskin Bond's house, that he's used to it.

So, after that evening's walk, I went looking for red steps, but didn't find any.  Then S went with me, and he pointed to a very narrow, steep flight of stairs squeezing their way up through what looked like a break between two buildings.  "This can't be it," I said, even as I climbed it.   But we got to the top.  There was a door, the upper part of which was glass, and led into a kind of verandah.  I hesitated for a bit.  How would I feel if random people turned up at my house with no warning?  Yet, I couldn't help myself.  I rang the bell.  There was a movement at one of the doors leading away from the verandah.  And he appeared at the door.  Yeah, himself, Ruskin Bond.  It was one of the unlikeliest experiences ever.

"Who goes there, friend or foe?" he called out and opened the door.

I introduced myself, and apologized for having landed up without an appointment.  He said it was okay, but that he was in a meeting, and was apologetic about it in a charming way.  He said he'd be available the next day at Oxford Book Store in Mussoorie where he meets fans every Saturday.   He smiled at Puttachi and tried to talk to her, but she was looking at something else, I have no idea what.  I climbed down those stairs, and all I could do was shake my head.  This was unlike anything I ever imagined. 

I stood on the street, and looked up at his window.  That was the window where he keeps his potted plant, and where the birds visit him.  That is the window through which he looks out onto the world.  It overlooks the valley.  I looked at the valley. So that is the sight he sees. 

You know, there is something very spine-tingling about visiting a place like this - the home of someone you've read and admired - someone who's still alive too.

It is like visiting an imaginary place, only it is not imaginary at all.  How shall I put it?  How would it be if you visited, say, Malgudi, or Hogwarts, or Mordor?  Except that the world Ruskin Bond writes about is a real world.  And I'd been there.

The next day, I did meet him at the bookstore, and apologized again and he said he understood.  I told him that since the last time I met him, I'd started writing, and my stories had been received well, and thanked him for being one of my inspirations.  He said he was glad, and wished me well.  He then signed my book for me, and I got some pictures with him.

Later, back in Bangalore, I was reading some essays by him, and in one, he writes about some tourists from Delhi who came to visit him.  He could hear them as they climbed the narrow flight of stairs, and a lady said "He can't possibly live in this tumbledown place."  And I felt my cheeks go hot because though I didn't say that aloud, I thought it in my mind while climbing those stairs.   Only because the image in my head was so clear and well-formed, that it was difficult to reconcile it with reality. 

Even now, if I think of Landour, the first image that comes to my head is the original, imagined one.  Only then does the real image appear, and nudge the first one away.

Now, I only hope I don't appear in one of his future essays as the rude lady from Bangalore!

Edited to add:
At the bookstore, I told Ruskin Bond that Puttachi has read only one of his books - and promptly forgot the title.  Thankfully, Puttachi pitched in with "Tigers for Dinner" and then I caught my breath - it WAS his book right?  He has written before about people thrusting Tom Sawyer and Enid Blyton books at him and asking him to sign. [And he has signed as Mark Twain and Enid Blyton, in case you are wondering.  Har har.]
Phew :D

Friday, May 02, 2014

A story in Open Road Review

There was a short story contest on Open Road Review, and my story was among the shortlisted ones.  It didn't win, though, but it was published in the latest issue.

 Here is the link to the story, At The Wedding. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Rafting on the Ganga

No, don't scroll down looking for photographs - there aren't any.  But do continue to read.  Rafting on the Ganga was one of the highlights of our vacation.

It was totally unexpected.  We weren't planning it at all.  But AEF suggested it out of the blue.  "Why don't you go white water rafting?" she said.  "I'll look after Puttachi."  Even as we looked this way and that, she suggested it to her team of researchers and field assistants, and urged them to go too, and before we knew it, we were a team of eight, and one of them knew an adventure group who arranged a raft for us at a discount, provided us with an extra guide, and everything was settled.

But how about Puttachi?  Would she stay with AEF, whom she barely knows?  I asked Puttachi.  She listened, and she nodded her yes.  That was it.  Granted, part of the attraction of staying back with AEF was that Puttachi was looking forward to spend time with her new friend Himani who lived next door to AEF's field station. ( Himani is a calf, but what is a different species when it comes to friendship?)  But the alacrity with which she accepted was heartening.

But yet, I had a slightly disturbed night.  It was the next level of Letting-go for me.  Yes, AEF is a friend I trust completely, but I would be going rafting.  On the rapids.  On the Ganga.  Without a phone.  So far from home.  Leaving Puttachi.  In a remote little village. 

It helped that both AEF and Puttachi were supremely confident they would manage.  It was only half a day, after all.

And so, off we went.

We drove to Rishikesh, where we left our things in the jeep and parked it near the Adventure guy's shop.  We got into their jeep, loaded the life jackets and paddles in it, and the inflated raft on the roof of the jeep, and drove upstream to Shivpuri, 16 km away.  We drove by the Ganga, next to the very river-route on which  we were to come back rafting. 

Beautiful sights.  Deep green valleys, turquoise green waters, white sands, blue skies.  And the heart beating to the prospect of a never-before adventure.

We reached the spot where we would begin rafting.  We wore life jackets and helmets, and sat in the raft, and then the guide gave us the "training."  He told us how to paddle, how to lock our feet, what to do if we fall out of the raft, what to do if the raft topples.  He also said that there was an 85 pc chance of the raft toppling, and it was here that I started panicking.

We started.  The first two rapids were quite terrifying, and the guide noticed that I seemed afraid.  He probably thought that I would fall out in a panic, so, as we went into the third rapid, he made me sit in front of the raft, hold the rope in both hands, and crouch, with only my head outside the raft.  So basically, I faced the third rapid head on, literally.  And I knew I was safe because I had the rope nice and tight in my fists... my knuckles were white too - so there.  And I enjoyed myself thoroughly.  Got tossed about, got completely drenched.  And I wasn't afraid any longer.

And then, it got better.  We reached a stretch of calm water, and here, the guide asked us to just Jump.Into.The.Water.  And guess what, we did it.  Into the Ganga.  It was cold and it was lovely, and it was a 100 feet deep but of course we had on our life jackets.  For a while, we made a human chain and free-floated.  And it was bliss.  And oh, by the way, this is the Ganga, remember?  All my sins have been washed away, mind you. :D  Now, as long as other people's sins haven't come and latched onto me....

After this, I almost hoped the raft would topple in the next few rapids, but they were quite tame.  In fact, one was so mild that it was like riding on the pot-holed roads of Bangalore.

There was even a midway break place, a  Maggi-point.  By the way, if I had a rupee for each Maggi-point I saw all over Uttarakhand....  we stopped here, and ate - what else, Maggi, got the cameras out of the waterproof bag, took some pics, and then continued.

And then finally, we floated under the Ram Jhoola and the famous Lakshman Jhoola, past the Tryambakeshwar temple.  This place is quite beautiful and had a certain atmosphere, and was very clean for a pilgrimage centre.

We ended the ride on a ghat, and I was "reunited" with Puttachi at a restaurant in Rishikesh.  Seriously, I don't think I can thank AEF enough for what she did for me. :) 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rajaji National Park

Rajaji National Park is situated in a unique place - part-Shivalik range, part-Himalayan ranges, and part grassland, with the Ganga flowing through it too.  As a result, the biodiversity is pretty rich, not only in terms of fauna, but flora too. 
Here are some pictures.
The ground was covered with leaves from the deciduous trees
in some places.  It looked lovely.

Have I told you I like young spring leaves?
I have?  A million times?  Okay.
It is a 35 km circuit around the park, takes about 3 hours.

See, this is what I was saying. 
Geographical diversity.

A deer gate-crashes a langur congregation

That's Puttachi and me in the open-topped jeep. 
S was relegated to the lesser seat - next to the driver.


This elephant was quite close.

It is shy - off it goes.

Mamma and baby - enough to send Puttachi into raptures


- -