Monday, September 23, 2013

Echoes & Tremors: Ganpati Bappa Morya!

Glimpses from that time of the year, when my city tremors
Tremors to the beats of 'dhols and tashas.'

Glimpses from that time of the year, when my city echoes
Echoes with one singular voice, 'Ganpati Bappa Morya'

Glimpses from that time of the year, when my city celebrates
Celebrates the exuberant Utsav - Ganeshotsav!

The Ganesh idol moulded and ready awaiting to be painted. :) Clicked near Alka Talkies Chowk, Pune where the murtikaars live.
I came across this simple yet beautiful Ganpati mandap decoration and decided to capture it in a different way. Thus the bokeh. :)
And the enchanting Ganesha inside the lit up mandap. Such deft!
Attended the Jnana Prabhodini Ganeshotsav miravnuk, this Anant Chaturdashi. This is one of the most unique and disciplined groups from the city.
The dhol players are super-energetic, playing with intense passion throughout the procession.
As they play these boys perform little tricks which are absolute fun to look at, yet at the same time not as easy to do as it looks like. Here, Nikhil the dhol player is performing the 'dhol-lift' as he plays. The higher the dhol goes (sometimes higher than your head) as you play, apparently the stronger and better you are. :)
And here is my friend Paresh beating away at the dhol with utmost pleasure. Had I asked him what's happiness, I'm sure he would have replied playing the dhol and getting lost in the trance-like beats. For that's what his face reflects. Am I right?

There are stories all around you. And, this one is of an old woman staring down at yet another Ganpati Miravnuk, reminiscing of the by gone era and of the numerous Ganeshotsavs she's seen in her life. Contemplating about the changes time has brought with it and yet pleased with the familiar beats, she enjoys the moment. While, at the same time a young man adorned in ethnicity clicks his fellow mates in action with his Canon DSLR.
There's something synergistic about this moment. That fraction of a second when all hands are lifted, the beats of the tashas more audible before the 'tiprus' hit the dhol, all at the same time. :) Ecstatic.
Paresh leads this dhol pathak. He stands in the centre and around him are the other dhol and tasha players. One can see his remarkable exuberance as he beats the dhol with transonic fervour and passion.
The future dhol players! Following their elder dadas' footsteps to imbibe the same passion, unity and synergy.
'Playing the dhol doesn't tire me. I can go on and on...', thinks Soham, another of the group's best dhol players.
Prabhodini's Ganpati on its way to Visarjan, only to come back laukar, pudhchya varshi. :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Neelkantheshwar: A Perfect Monsoon Getaway

Where’s Neelkantheshwar located?

Neelkantheshwar is located on the outskirts of Pune at a distance of 15 k.m. from Khadakwasla dam.

What’s unique about Neelkantheshwar?
Apart from the Shiva temple (after which the place is named), the view from top is truly breathtaking. One gets to see the backwaters of all three dams - Khadakwasla, Panshet and Varasgaon. These dams supply water to Pune. Also, along with the temple this place has many statues which depict Indian mythological scenes.

Route Please!
Once you start nearing Khadakwasla from Pune, instead of driving straight towards the Khadakwasla Chowpatti, take a right. You will come across a new bridge built on the waters of the Khadakwasla Dam. Take the bridge and go ahead. You will pass the backwaters of Khadakwasla and a few villages on the way. Ask a few village men around and they’ll guide you to the Neelkantheshwar base.

How do I get there?
Car / Two-Wheeler + Trek

P.S: The roads are pretty good to travel by two-wheeler as well.

What’s the best time to visit Neelkantheswar?

Monsoons (From June to September)
For photography purposes, August and September is ideal as there’s less rain to protect your gear from. The clouds are nice and fluffy with a hint of sunlight unlike in June or July when it’ll be overcast and raining heavily.

How’s the terrain?
The terrain is mountainous with hills on all sides and a valley in between.

And the weather?

The weather is beautifully pleasant. Expect some rain and blinding fog too

What should I carry?

   1.       Rain Jacket  

   2.       Camera with proper rain protection

   3.       Water

   4.       Food (Preferably lunch as there’s hardly anything available there)

Travel Tale:

The last I discovered any place before Neelkantheshwar was Jaipur in January. After six and a half months the wanderer in me was hungry and restless. And my camera, devoid of any good photography lay locked up in a disturbing stupor. My computer had a folder called ‘Monsoon Outings’ which lay empty too. July was coming to an end. Every time I glanced at it, my mind clouded with guilt and distaste. A part of me was unhappy and disturbed while the other part was busy enjoying the highs of a first job!

This continued for a while. I had few difficult decisions to make which included letting go of a few things and catching up on to a few newer ones. Till date I look back and wonder if I’d taken the right step and till date I don’t know the answer to it. What I know is that had I not, just like a traveller taken that risk, hadn’t done that free fall; I wouldn’t have landed down to write this. :)


One day my Uncle who too is a photography enthusiast rang me up and said he needs to go somewhere. It seemed like we both were sailing in the same boat. Asking around a few people for interesting places to go to, we planned a day’s outing to Neelkantheshwar.
We started from home at 8 a.m (which is pretty late, as early as possible is recommended) and reached the bridge near Khadakwasla dam. On the way we passed a lot of people cycling and jogging along the path. Cycling to Khadakwasla from all the way to Pune! I took a mental note of it as a thing to do sometime in life. :D

As soon as we drove on to that small bridge, we stopped. The morning beauty and the gurgling water flowing towards the city to satiate the thirst of Punekars looked stunning. The dam walls were hardly any distance away and the shimmering sun on the splashing water felt like a wonderful refreshment to re-start my wandering with.

We continued ahead to greet a whiff of fresh wind and the Khadakwasla backwaters. We asked a passer-by if we were on the right route to Neelkantheswar. He nodded. Moving upwards in the hilly terrain felt like rising above all the trivial things in life. A green hill here, a verdant vast meadow there, we journeyed, stopping at every sight that lured us.


We occasionally passed a few villagers and also came across a small wayside eatery that served hot bhajjis and chai. At a point there was a large hillock with a flat top besides us. We got out and climbed up to see a breathtaking view of the three dams. The gust of the wind was felt at the highest here and my Uncle ended up getting a few blurred pictures as he just couldn’t steady his light point and shoot camera.

With a lot of amazement in heart towards the kind of beauty the world holds and some good photographs in our cameras we reached the base of Neelkantheshwar.

Paying the old man for the parking ticket we began our hike. We were told it’s an half an hour climb. The climb is not a difficult one. It begins with a few steps and ends with another few. But one has to tread along an uphill slope all the time in between. People who don’t work out regularly might get out of breath but it’s not tiring, only beautiful. For you stop at every turn and bending to take in the breathtaking view that looms in front of your eyes. There’s dense greenery on your left and a picturesque valley on your right. The clouds are thick and low. Every time you stop the blowing wind fills your lungs and dries every bead of sweat. It’s inexplicable!

For me the trek was an introspective excursion - meditative and rhythmic. With every step, I was shedding the six month confinement rust. With every step I was getting higher and happier. As we approached the top it started pouring. We sat on the steps for a while to muse.

There was a Shiva temple in a dark dungeon like place. It smelled of incense. 

After stopping there for blessings we walked a few steps around the temple to reach a cliff. The fog was thick and the ferns swayed to the wind. In that, the clouds shifted a bit and we saw a glimpse of the three river's backwaters all at the same time...that very moment or a few seconds later it started pouring heavily. I opened my hands wide and tilted my face towards the sky absorbing the pelting rain.

 Some more glimpses from the trip:

(As written on 22nd Aug '13)

Monday, April 1, 2013

A little bit of the Punyanagari in Pune.

It's interesting to observe a place's timeline. It's fascinating to know what a city once was, and to live the thing it's becoming. Even as it embraces globalisation and comes of age as an 'upcoming metropolis', it's those few ancient structures that still exist, which give a threshold to the city's identity.

When you visit such areas of your own city, it's amazing how the modernity drains out to almost none and confuses you to believe you've stepped in to a 'multiple-decades-ago' scenario.

The feeling is almost euphoric.

6.35 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
Yesterday, I visited the 127 years old 'Mahatma Phule Mandai.' It's one of the prettiest vintage buildings in Pune, which roots the city's culture right from the time of the Raj. Made of stone, this structure is circular with eight entrances and appears Gothic and gruelling. In the pre-independence days, it was a central meeting place for reformers and the janta. And now it stands as the city's biggest 'Bhaji Mandi.'

6.40 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

Along with the overwhelming architecture, there were numerous other visual cues that took me back in the time, I haven't ever lived. 

Pune was once known as the Cycle City. And this is still so true of the areas around the Mandai. A lot of these Bhajiwallahs cycle here every morning and park their cycles against the wall opposite their stall. Yellow bulbs lit up the otherwise dark place and spread a warm, 'old-time-like' glow. It's beautiful.

6.40 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
You would still see vendors with a humble note-pad and pen doing the accounts. Vegetables shall still be weighed on this ancient tarazu (weighing scale) and not on an electronic weighing machine. When we talk about Digitalisation and the Internet, we forget that the opposite is also very true in a lot of places.

6.45 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
I really loved how cane baskets full of garlic lay stacked over tin boxes on a wooden platform. Also how a bulb hung down from a ceiling beside which was an old framed photograph. Probably the vendor's father lived in the era when this place became a Mandai.

6.45 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
Everyday lots of farm fresh vegetables come to the market. Along with that I'm sure there are lots of mice that breed here. And, to get rid of them you obviously have a lot of kitties around. These kitties keep bouncing off the onion sacks and old, kaput scooters, hiking away for a prey. That also explains for their friendly behaviour towards humans and vice-versa.

This cat actually paused; meowed away to glory as I clicked her. Unlike other stray cats.

6.50 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
If you've noticed the internal structure is still the same as it was back then. Also, you'll see a lot of kashta clad women around. You hardly see such women in most parts of the city these days. It indeed feels like being in a different era all together.

7.00 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

As the sun rises up, and as all stalls are put up a lot of people seem to stream in for vegetable shopping. It's been the same buzz everyday for years now.

8.00 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

There is a very pretty, but almost-in-ruins staircase there. This tabby perched on the staircase with grace and flamboyance as if it's her thrown. Wonder which all social reformers once went up and down these abandoned stairs, now taken over by cats.

8.05 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

This could have been one man who's seen Pune evolve. He probably comes here to be in his comfort setting and feel at home. Eyes closed, head lowered, palms intertwined, legs dangling, he sat there lost in a reverie, reminiscing.

8.10 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

And, his reverie breaks.

8.15 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
 Right outside the Mandai, and opposite a wada is this alley. There seem to be two shops opposite each other, yet to be opened. Locked old wooden doors, flaked paint, cycle, erected handcarts and a motorcycle-what a fusion of past and present! Minus the motorcycle I'm sure it looks like a 70 year old setting.

I love studying people. I love exploring cultural and understanding how it has evolved over time. It was lovely wondering session for the wandering me. :)

Thursday, March 14, 2013


It’s like a pendulum,
Without its steadiness;

It’s like waves,
Without rhythm;

It’s like rustling leaves
Without the intuitive calm,

It’s like a quiver of the beating heart,
About to stop!

It is, a wavering relationship.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Write Constipation

It’s a nasty, diseased like state of mind where a person who believes in his/her ability to bead together words as a form of expression, and has previously done so is unable to churn out anything, for reasons unknown. There is definitely no lack of thought, emotion or imagination (at times, imagination yes) and ideas, but it suddenly just does not seem to translate at all on paper.

The victim may initially disregard it as a ‘passing phase’ in oblivion or might not even realize it, thanks to distractions but will end up flustered and frustrated with one self. This is a stage between ‘having words’ and ‘having no words’, ‘an urge to write’ and ‘laziness’, ‘having lots to write about’ and yet ‘being blank’.
It feels no different than the other, the more common constipation; you want to get all of that out and experience ease and satisfaction.

It wouldn’t be hard to guess the reason for this piece and also what took me so long to post something new here. After reading my take on this acute form of constipation, you would be of the opinion that I spent the last six months in distress and boredom which I did for most of the time but, I also did a few interesting things.

I interned in Mumbai as a copywriter with one of these middle-sized ad agencies and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. Without the comfort of my hometown veiling me, I could explore a city the way I wanted. I realized what it is to have the sea around or to witness a high alert in the city (I was there when Balasaheb Thackeray passed away and when Dadar station was dead empty and haunting at 8.30.p.m. It felt weird to stand at the window and see the Bandra-Worli sea link on the right, the Siddhi Vinayak Temple in the middle and the pyre smoke rising up from Shivaji Park, towards the left, all in one frame. Not to mention the heartbreaking cry- Parat ya! Parat ya! Balasaheb parat ya! And the white clad dots that oozed out of Dadar station, visible from another window. It all gave me goosebumps. ). Often, as I embarked on trains, stories would brew up in my mind, stories would happen around me but…I say this with extreme self-guilt…but I never got to capture those in ink even if I had the urge to.

Hadn’t it been a week since I came back home, I left for this beautiful, ironically very colourful desert state -Rajasthan. I journeyed through Jodhpur, Jaiselmer, Mt. Abu and Udaipur. I love exploring a particular region, knowing its people, its history and that’s precisely what we did there. I felt so many things when I toured all these ancient forts and havelis that I had so much to say but with much regret it never reached the paper.  After this, I had another trip lined up in January- a trip to Jaipur for the much awaited ‘Jaipur Literature Festival’. That was truly a literary treat! Getting to interact with a few of my favourite authors and discovering many new books to read was fun.

The immediate day after I came back I joined another ad agency in Pune and thus beginning another new journey. In these months of exile from writing but on a travelling and photography spree, it pinched my heart to do all the things I loved to do except writing. When I captured most of what I wanted to capture through my lens and not words I felt I’m betraying my first love...

At times, I sit here in office and wonder why I don’t write in the free time I get in between two tasks. I muse over all the things I want to write about and I could have written about and feel a little dilapidated. Then again, I try to be positive and forget all the self-nagging and self-pricking I’ve felt for months, push my self hard enough to make the saturated constipated bubble to burst and come up with this, not so shitty, shit!