Diwali Lights!

When Gods Descend on Mylapore…

It is that time of the year when Gods descend in droves onto Mylapore in their best colours.  It was Navaratri all of last week and hence “Kolu” time in Chennai. This is that time of the year when dolls come out of shelves and get neatly arranged on well laid-out steps in many houses.

I was in Mylapore last weekend looking for some of these “Gods and Goddesses” for my mom. She is a Kolu (or Bommala Koluvu as we call it)  veteran of almost 30 years. Some pics here:

Never saw a Kolu-specfic Satya Sai Baba idol before! He must be the only human being to make it to any  Kolu steps!!!

All the big ones are made of papier mache and weigh much lesser than the smaller clay ones. But papier mache ones cost more than clay or p-o-p ones. Besides, they are more brittle and need extreme care. If stored carefully, they can last more than 30 years.

The South Mada Street

I was looking for something specific…and I was so dizzy upon finding it (and imagining the pleasure my mom would have at this acquisition) that I forgot the golden rule: Bargain hard! Don’t ask me how much I paid for it…almost a bomb!!! The Garuda Vahanam, a strong Sri Vaishnava icon (follow the white arrow in the pic).

This might be purely ladies stuff….but there is a good deal of opportunity to test one’s mythology trivia quotient. By the way, my mom prefers to do her kolu during Sankranti (Pongal). So it really works out well for me to do this shopping towards the last days of Navaratri…the rates tumble down.

Photo Walk: Nageswara Rao Park, Chennai

It is Gandhi Jayanti today. I decided to do something I had not done in years. Parks were always my favourite places to visit as a kid. I remember one where I used to play as a child and the smell of wet grass was always so sweet.   So I decided to relive those pleasant memories with my camera. There are many parks in Chennai but I chose the somewhat historical Nageswara Rao Park in Mylapore. It gave me an opportunity to  ride the suburban trains of Chennai (including the elevated MRTS) too (a future subject for a photo walk…or a photo ride).

Presented here is the photo walk:

The board at the park. Though made of brass, it was in a precarious position. For those unaware of Kasinadhuni Nageswara Rao Pantulu, he was a freedom fighter , the inventor (if you please) of Amrutanjan pain balm and the founder of Amrutanjan Limited in 1893.

A game of volleyball was in progress at the end of the park. Looks like these boys play here regularly.

The park had a shady choupal too. But there were none sitting on it this evening.

Point taken. Apt advice. But where are the flowers???

Well, here they are, the flowers….Pale Pink Mussaendas (Maw-zin-das?)  in their full bloom.

Park and chess…! I was wondering what this sign meant.

It meant these…little concrete tables with chess boards. Bring your own pieces, find a challenger and get going!

There was this huge chessboard too! But no chess pieces…just a little girl playing what seemed like hopscotch.

…and someone playing badminton.

…and in quiet corners, there were those who bought the privacy for each other.

The health-conscious folks of Mylapore are all here thanks to its long pathways.

These could do with some walking too as the weather is so good.

I was acually looking out for him…the iconic man-in-the-park-with-a-newspaper.

Hmmm…Wet, green grass. How I wish I could roll in it.

Flowers blooming and continuing the cycle of life.

How thoughtful…apart from sponsoring the upkeep of the park, they also share some good historical trivia with the visitors.

Fresh fruit on sale just outside the park.

…and the balloonwallah too!

A face you cannot forget

Emilio Morenatti’s haunting photo of a child!

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Yo Mama!

Remember the poem recited by Robert Di Niro in “Meet the Parents”? Well I reproduced it below:

My Mother”, by Jack Byrnes.

You gave me life,

You gave me milk,

You gave me courage.

Your name was Angela,

An angel from Heaven,

But you were also an angel of God,

And he needed you, too.

I selfishly tried to hold on to you,

While the cancer ate away at your organs,

Like an unstoppable rebel force,

And now we’ll meet in Heaven,

And I shall see you

Nevermore, nevermore, nevermore.

A random search for something today led me to a poem not unlike this one.

Call me insensitive, impassive , rude or obnoxious but no matter how cute and touching the poem is, I cannot help compare it with the De Niro piece :-).  A real gem this one!

Tabletop Classics

What started off as an idle experiment at home one insomnia-ridden night became a passion. Crudely armed with a cheap tripod, a glass tea table (dark tint) and a cheap neon table lamp I shot my first table top in absolute darkness of my living room using a Canon Powershot S3 . The object was a 1:18 scale model of the 1955 Mercedes 300 SLR Coupe ‘Uhlenhaut’ gifted to me by my dad 6 years ago. Later I used a can of Diet Coke and also a bottle of wine with a wine glass. But diecast model cars seem a better option. Their photos put life in them.

Last weekend, I shot my second car, a 1935 Duesenberg SSJ using a Nikon D80. The 320 hp roadster broke the world speed record at Bonneville salt flats.  Only two of these Roadsters were ever made ($9500 just for the chassis !)-one for Clark Gable and the other for Gary Cooper.

Interestingly, Mercedes too made only two of the 1955 300 SLR Coupe designed by Rudolph Uhlenhaut. The open top original version won the second Mille Miglia with Stirling Moss behind its wheel. Mercedes reintroduced the 300 SLR after 48 years in 2003.

It is costing me quite a quid to indulge in this hobby. These tinny classics actually cost between Rs 600 – Rs 2000 each! I hope I can acquire a few more rare classics and photograph them.

1935 Duesenberg SSJ

1955 Mercedes Benz 300 SLR

Ruminating Patalkot

It has been almost a month and I still dream of the monsoon magic of Patalkot. Sometimes I wish I lived there amongst the tribes.


  • No  track of technology, fashion or markets
  • No need of an MBA
  • No Ipods, laptops or cellphones or roaming charges
  • No packaged water, cheesy pizza or low carb diets
  • No DishTV, Aaj Tak, bad movies or broadband
  • No cars, petrol shocks or parking dilemmas
  • No power outages, pollution or bad sewage system
  • No medical insurance, pension planning or tax returns
  • No credit cards, verification or cyber laws
  • No competition or capitation fees for kindergarten admissions
  • No masters degree abroad, H1B visa or stamping!
  • No job hunting!

Just live in a paradise, grow food, trees and even medicines. Walk barefoot, breathe fresh air, toil the body and keep fit. Live minimally and and live off the land. But I guess I will be stiff bored in two days without the usual poisons. We have come a long way from living off the land to crippling our lives badly by just losing the cellphone!

Patalkot is a home to the Bharia and Gond tribes and is situated in a deep horse shoe shaped valley near Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh. The forest at Patalkot is secluded in a valley far away from civilization. The tribes have been pretty much self sustained, growing their food, sourcing clothing and building their homes without dependence on the modern world. They also possess an astute knowledge of rare medicinal plants local to the valley and their application as a cure to a lot of ailments. It is a skill they have been passing down the generations. Had Dr. Deepak Acharya not documented about it, I would not have heard of it. It was this site that kindled the desire to do the central India road trip.

Destiny turned a full circle when I reached Patalkot. A man came over to me at this place (pic) wondering why I was here (I was flashing my Nikon with a 300m ‘long tom’ like a bad wannabe!). The man turned out to be Dr. Acharya himself who was on a holiday visit (it was August 15!) to his favourite place on earth. Dr Acharya probably took me to be a realtor looking out for fresh pastures to kill! According to him, the government of MP was contemplating a golf course here (see the pic above) to tap tourist potential and ‘develop’ the place. So far their efforts to reach out to the tribes in the valley (see below) consist of electricity to one village (Rathed) and a primary health center where no doctor ever goes (why exactly would these people need a health center when they have all the cures within their forests). Otherwise, the people here have been living the same way as 500 years ago. They grew millets and maize and sold it at the nearest ‘civilized’ villages in their vicinity.

They had a pretty life until probably civilization touched them and things started to go southward for them. Exploiters and forest mafia began cutting their trees, harvesting rare medicinal plants and tearing the ecology apart. A lot of rare species of herbs have already vanished from the valley due to the unchecked pilferage. To add, the government scheme of rice for two-rupee a kilo has weaned away the tribes from their traditional farming to selling off their indigenous wealth for cheap food. The new generation of tribals having tasted life outside their valley refuses to carry the legacy of traditional medicine or indigenous farming. They migrate seasonally to towns and cities in search of livelihood. The lack of water accentuated by the mass deforestation also forces the tribals to migrate to cities and towns every summer. Dr Acharya tells me that deep in the valley is another valley (the term ‘patal’ probably refers to it) even deeper where the Bharias did not even know the existence of salt! Now that they tasted salt, they wish to taste the rest!

I was in a prominent mall in Chennai last week wading through the mulling crowd. Lack of space, fresh air or natural climate within and my mind naturally sought the rain drenched Patalkot. I looked around and found a lot of brands – of clothing, brands of jewelery, shoes, accessories, fast food, and gadgetry. Globalization is a major shift in lifestyles of the civilized. What I saw around were fruits of globalization – mindless consumption. We have migrated to a new lifestyle; one that hinges on dependencies and we only moved from old ones to new ones (read my list of Nos above). Somewhat similar to the indigenous tribes of Patalkot.  Only they migrated from a life of self sustenance to that of dependence. They had no definition of economy before but now they are entering the strata called ‘poor’. A whole eco system is therefore vanishing.

Hindustan Ka Dil – Done!

Almost a month since the last post. The HkD trip went off really well. It was the longest drive I had ever been on. I have photoblogged the entire trip in my travels blog http://cape2jat.blogspot.com.

We did not stick to the plan I had posted here. We had to strike out Nainpur and Mandla and the Narrow Gauge train ride. But we hit 24 karat gold with Patalkot.

I will be posting the insights and observations from this trip shortly. Meanwhile enjoy the pix.

BTW My health plan went for a toss during this trip as i hogged on plates and plates of kanda poha and jilebis not to mention lots of chai. Luckily however, i did not gain any wait. Lost a kilo though 🙂 I am back to my regimen now.

Countdown: ‘Hindustan Ka Dil’

I have begun the countdown for my big August trip today.

August 13, 2008 I will be joining three others in touring the heart of India by road. More on this later. But for now here is a map of the tour.

The Sub Way

Day 15: 119.6

Jared Fogle lost 240 pounds living on 6 inch turkey subs at Subway. He walked as much as he could, rather than using transport, and would walk up the stairs rather than take an elevator. He also ate baked potato chips, which are offered at Subway, and drank diet soda! Now if you ask me that is one crazy diet plan!

I like to have the Subway salad once a while. Especially with corn and peas.  I like the way the cut their tomatoes and cucumber. I have noticed that a lot of people ask for the cucumber and tomatoes to be left out of their sandwiches though they demand a lot of olives, jalapenos and those awful sauces. Probably because they do not get to buy these for home often. I leave out the onion, jalapenos, olives and bell pepper, but I like the pickled gherkins.

But I can never live on a Subway diet though. It is too boring. Food should never be treated like a chore even if you are on a plan. On the contrary, food should be the most creative pursuit. Even though half of my experiments end up as disasters:-)

Here is my own salad  recipe:

Moong sprouts,

Diced cucumber,

Diced apple,

Pomegrante pearls,

Cherry tomatoes,

Black seedless grapes

Mix all of them on a bed of lettuce

Add salt, pepper, a dash of lemon juice and chaat masala!

Voila! You can refrigerate this and have it as TV snack whenever you want (leave the apple out if you wish to refrigerate or replace with diced pineapple).