Thursday 29 January 2015

Road trip to Sindhudurg

To make the best of the long weekend around Republic Day, we decided to do a  road trip to Sindhudurg. This post is picture heavy because pictures speak a thousand words! :-)

The drive was lovely meandering through the mountains and sugarcane fileds....

Fiery red chillies that go into making the fiery Kolhapuri masala, in Kolhapur.

All along the way we saw tractors loaded with sugarcane on their way to sugar mills.

Shreeyog Paryatan- our home-stay in Padave village in Sindhudurg district.

Our room....

It was surrounded by mango, cashew and coconut trees

Mr and Mrs Kadam, our lovely hosts. Their only son, Lt.Col. Manish Kadam, was martyred in 2008 in Kashmir while fighting militants and was awarded the Kirti Chakra. In spite 
of their loss, they exude such inspiration, love and warmth. They treated us like their own children, asking us what we would like to eat, and giving us all the possible help and 

information. While leaving Aunty gave me a huge hamper with Malwani masala, thalipeeth flour, home grown raddish, raw bananas, mustard greens and what not...and both of them said "Come back as our daughter and not as a tourist". They are so large hearted. We feel blessed having met them.

Sunrise from our room..

Our hosts' vegetable garden. They grow all kinds of vegetables and fruits. We saw chickoo, raddish, brinjals, mustard, spinach, etc

Narrow village roads...just a hair's breadth between 2 vehicles...

Market in the village with fresh produce...

We took a ferry from Malwan to reach the Sindhudurg fort.

Approaching the Sindhudurg fort which was built by my childhood hero Shivaji maharaj, on the ‘Kurte' island...I remember our History teacher narrating tales of Shivaji almost bringing him to life with her narration. I would open the text book only to discover that the details that she gave were her own research and none of it was in the text book!!

It took 500 stone splitters and stonebreakers, 200 blacksmiths, 3000 laborers and hundreds of skilled artists who toiled very hard to complete this fort in a short span of three years.

The floor of the entrance....

The main entrance is concealed in such a way that no one can spot it from outside. At a time when Samudra Gaman (travelling by sea) was banned by scriptures, this construction on an island represents the revolutionary mindset of its engineer.

The zigzag pattern of outer wall was built so that the enemy would be visible from any point inside the fort and the troops inside could fire their guns and cannons effectively.

The ancient Hanuman temple at the entrance....

One of the best preserved forts of the Marathas, the 48 acre Sindhudurg fort has a four kms long zigzag line of 9 meters high and 3 meters wide rampart with 42 bastions.

 Inside the fort there are three wells for drinking water, which is a nature’s marvel as the sea surrounds the fort on all four sides.

Inside the fort....

The massive walls were designed to serve as a deterrent to approaching enemies and to the waves and tides of the Arabian Sea.

From where Shivaji's army scanned the seas for enemies..

Shivaji's hand print cast and preserved in limestone. I was surprised that it's just a little bigger than my own palm!! Inside the fort there is also the only temple dedicated to Shivaji, where he is worshipped as the deity. On display is the first sword used by Shivaji, an 'ekdhari' (sharpened only on one side), and measuring 4 feet. The handle was intricately
carved. Photography was prohibited inside.

The steps were very steep. May be Shivaji's men were very tall!

The foundation stones were laid down firmly in molten lead and were tested by putting them in boiling water to check for endurance.

On the way to the fort, there was brisk business even on the water..!!

We had finger-lickng awesome Malwani food at our home-stay. Too bad that we are vegetarians as sea food is the actual Malwani speciality.

We were treated to sumptuous Malwani food which we devoured admiring the garden as the birds chirped away!

Next day we went to the Tarkarli beach- exactly my kind of beach...with no people around..!!

Can you spot the little crab?

Apparatus to break coconuts like a pro...

I thought it's better for me to draw something in the comments book, because the hosts would have a hard time deciphering my handwriting.

We returned home at sunset...

Thursday 15 January 2015

Wall Art opposite Symbiosis College, Viman Nagar.

This one is 6 (h) x 20 (w) feet. This is diagonally opposite Symbiosis college in Viman Nagar, Pune, bang opposite the water tank. A big thanks to my dear friend Urmila for being such a support right from identifying the wall to cleaning the wall and right upto the finishing touches. And thanks also to the other volunteers who dropped by to add colour to the wall.!

Monday 1 December 2014

Thoughts when I was in the hospital.

I always boasted that I never get bitten by mosquitoes. People around me would be clapping their hands and hitting themselves and scratching while I sat unaffected by the dreaded insect. But all that changed. A fortnight ago, I was diagnosed with dengue and later hospitalized for 5 days. Dengue is known to be fatal in some cases, and in my case, while there were moments when I thought "Is this the end?" Well, these are a few thoughts that crossed my mind lying in the ICU. Even before I went to the hospital the high fever, nausea and extreme chills had battered my body. Somehow I did not pray to God to cure me. I did ask healer friends to send me healing energy and when I couldn't take the pain and bodily distress, I just prayed for help to cope with the pain. I was admitted to the ICU because my blood platelet count had gone dangerously low and a transfusion had to be done 5 times. Somehow when the body is completely worn out, I realized there is amazing clarity of thought. And there was little else to do apart from thinking lying with tubes fit all over your body.

The doctors were worried that there may be an internal haemorrhage because I was vomiting blood and there was bleeding in the gums. Again the thought came to my mind "Am I going to die?". Surprisingly there was no fear of death. Although the conditioned behavior would be to plead to God to help and save you, I did not feel like praying for that. I asked myself why am I not praying to God to save me. I got 2 answers. The first one was that for the last 2 and half years I've lived life passionately. I infused everything I did with passion on a day to day basis. I loved, ate, traveled (well, that could have been more), painted, read,  spent time doing everything I loved. I also cried, fought, hated, sulked, but so what? All these are part of my human experience. I had no regrets because I was fully aware of what I was doing. Even if I lazed around I did that passionately and fully aware of it and loved it. Another thought that occurred to me while at the hospital was that since the last 3 yrs or so I had chosen to interact and spend time with people who nourish me energetically rather than drain and deplete my energy, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And that I was happy about.  

The second reason why I did not ask God to save me was that I've read extensively on life after physical death and I knew it would be a continuation of life. So there was no fear. I was thinking if I asked God to save me and if He does, would I then call him the merciful God or the Kind God, and if he does not save me would I then label him as the merciless one? Is not life and death part of life as whole? Then why should I plead for life or label God depending on whether he extends my life. I decided I would just be an observer and see what happens to me. But one thing I had resolved in the ICU. And that is if I lived I would take the passion quotient a few notches higher and live life more fully. All that matters is the zest for life and to live each day as if it is your last. I also resolved to focus more on things that matter rather than fretting over petty things.

I'm really thankful to people who came to donate blood in the middle of the night, who visited me at the hospital and even now. Thankfully, I'm recuperating well and people who have been visiting me at home say that they did not expect me to look so healthy. One thing I realized is no matter how weak the body, the spirit within is invincible and that makes all the difference. Here I am, writing the thoughts that crossed my mind in the hospital and totally loving every bit of life..:-) 

Friday 14 November 2014

Buying from Tribal Artists.

Recently I attended an Art fair where artisans from all over the country had assembled to display their art and handicraft. Most of these artisans were from remote tribal areas which are so rich in Art that it is a way of their life. These included Gond artists from Madhya Pradesh, Madhubani from Bihar, metal workers from Bhuj, Dhokra from Chattisgarh, etc. 

I was at a stall buying some Dhokra neck pieces. Now for people who don't know about Dhokra art, there are intricately made metal pieces where molten brass is poured into moulds and then baked and polished. It is quite a lengthy procedure. There was this other lady too who had picked up some pieces. The cost of each neck piece was Rs 160. Now, anyone would agree that it is really cheap. I saw this lady bargaining with this tribal artist. I politely intervened and told her that considering he has come all the way from a remote village in Chattisgarh and factoring in all the overhead expenses, it is very little that would get and Rs 160 is indeed very cheap. She immediately got the point and bought it at the actual price.

Now why am I writing   this? I realized that not many people would know the effort that goes into hand crafting a piece of art. Ever since I've started creating and selling hand crafted items, I'm even more appreciative of other artists especially the tribal  ones. They are so unassuming about their art. They live in difficult conditions and still create astounding pieces of art.

So if I may make 2 requests here. One is avoid bargaining with artists, because by experience I know it is very difficult to price your own creations and for many that may be the only source of sustenance. May be one could just ask politely if they can reduce the price just once if you really can't afford it. But haggling over the piece of art makes the artist very uncomfortable. Secondly, try to buy directly from artists as far as possible. From my own experience of selling through various stores, most of which charge a commission of 40%, I feel really happy when people directly buy from me. I'm able to sell things at a discounted price and yet able to make a decent profit. 

And I'm sure it's the same with other artists too. Most people would not know this. Please do not mistake this as an indirect hint to buy from me. I'm talking about artists in general. Most artists would bless people who buy their art which transforms the energy of the place. I surely do. So please be more kind and considerate towards artists. Art brings smiles to faces and delights the heart. Let's help spread that..:-)

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Happiness!- From the Simplest of Things!

My husband and I were driving down a road when we stopped at a signal. To our right at a little distance there was some construction work going on with a few labourers working and a few of their children playing nearby.  There was a large blue plastic sheet spread on the road, probably used in construction (not sure!). Four laborers came and held each corner of the plastic sheet and lifted it probably to shake off the dust or dry it. This caused a kind of rippling wave like effect on the sheet. Seeing this, the labourers' children jumped up and down clapping their hands and laughing happily. I thought to myself that these children probably have been out the whole day in mud and cement at the construction site, probably wouldn't have eaten stomach full, yet just the sight of the plastic sheet going up and down saw them dancing in delight. That's a wonderful lesson that dawned on me. Happiness can be found in everything, in the smallest of things, only if I allow myself to be open to it, to discover and delight in the magic that everything is! 

Wednesday 16 April 2014

My Tryst with Pollinating Vanilla Flowers.

Last year in April, I was scouting for places to volunteer for coffee (berry) picking, but I was told that coffee harvesting ends by February and that in would be time for vanilla pollination in March and April. Well, I just read vanilla and screamed 'yes' over email. Out of the 10 odd places I had enquired for volunteering, only Sujata Goel from The Rainforest Retreat responded promptly. She had looked up the links on my signature in the email and asked me if I could do some art work in any of the cottages and that was like the icing on the cake for me :-) 
Me pollinating a vanilla flower
But now about vanilla pollination. Vanilla is native to South America and the pollinators for the flower are humming birds. In India, somehow the conditions have not been conducive to humming birds and plantation owners have not been successful in rearing them. So humans have to hand pollinate the flowers. I was really excited and looking forward to playing the role of the humming bird and imagining that beautiful vanilla beans would break out from the flowers that I would pollinate. 
Vanilla flower before it is pollinated

The glorious vanilla creeper
On the first day, Ravi, an amazing soul and staff, at the Retreat took me to the area where vanilla creepers grew. He handed me a toothpick and demonstrated how it is done. So, to explain it simply, there is a little hood like thing inside the vanilla flower which needs to be ripped with the toothpick, the flap of which needs to be moved upward dexterously with one's thumb, and there's a distinguishable stalk called the anther which needs to be pushed against the stigma (inside of the hood) with the toothpick and then pressed down again with one's thumb. All this gets over in maybe 3 seconds and one needs a steady hand for this. For the first 2 flowers my hands were shaky because the flowers are so fragile and I had to be really sure what I was poking the toothpick into. 

Every morning I would spend around an hour looking for flowers that have bloomed and must be pollinated. The flowers last only for a day and must be pollinated in that window, preferably before noon. They also do not smell anything like vanilla. They are rather odourless. If they are successfully pollinated they wither on the stalk, or else they just drop to the ground. 

Vanilla beans.
It can take upto 3 years for a vanilla creeper to bear flowers. Once the flowers wither after successful pollination, it transforms into a vanilla pod. It is these green pods which are plucked and subject to a lengthy 3 month process before it becomes what we are familiar with in our kitchens. 

So happy I got this opportunity to be a Nature fairy to the vanilla creepers..:-) 

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Metaphysics to Physics.

A friend had visited us and while we were discussing various topics my husband said that the mobile phone, internet etc; was invented because there is an innate need in each one of us to be connected or reach out to others. That set me thinking further. Some of us who have read about the Atlantis civilization would know that there was a time when telepathy, clairvoyance, and the other abilities like teleportation and psycho-kinesis, which are now considered as 'super powers', came very naturally to people. Everyone was born with these abilities and they were not considered as extraordinary. 

However, people then, respected the privacy of others. This meant that though they could read others thoughts, they wouldn't because they respected the privacy of others and though they could travel astrally, they wouldn't go sneaking and peeping into other people's lives just for the heck of it. 
But then there came a time when people starting abusing these powers and that contributed to the fall of the Atlantis civilization. Fast forward to the present. Sometimes when I think about it, in our age, internet, mobile phones, bluetooth ad other technology have been invented to compensate for the lack of those powers which we lost long ago. 

They are an external manifestation of what was internal to us. What was metaphysical has now become physical. As they say history repeats itself. And we have people using these very gifts of technology to do harm in some way or other: read spyware, micro cameras, email phishing, etc. Wonder how this will end? ! 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...