Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Breakfast at Thangu; 14,000 feet above sea level

We woke up to the sights of a freezing Lachen (a town in North Sikkim) at 4:30 am on a cold December morning in anticipation of getting a glimpse of the Holy Lake of Gurudongmar [in all likelihood, the road to Gurudongmar maybe shut and I had my fingers crossed] . As most of the town slept, we warmed our hands from the tea cups as we sipped chai between piling on 6-7 layers of warm clothing.  Our driver Norge revved the car through the thin layer of ice shrouding the road just outside out hotel before heading out of town to reach Thangu while the bends in the road jostled us out of our sleep. 

Thangu, 14,000 feet above sea level is a non-descript village in North Sikkim at the foothill of Gurudongmar Lake.  It has its moment of glory when many a tourist stop here to acclimatize for onward drive to the Holy Lake where the low oxygen levels would leave even the fittest of the lot breathless!     

In the summer months, Thangu is bustling with life till mid-day and business for the locals running small food stalls is good.  However, winter is another ball game for the locals.  While most recede to lower retches of Sikkim, handful of brave ones cater to keep tourism alive.

We reached Thangu after an hour and a half drive gaining 4000 ft ie from 10000 to 14000 feet amidst views of snow capped Kanchenjunga, coniferous trees, road peppered with snow and numerous military outfits.  Thangu comprised of ten houses and one or two lodges both sides of the road to Gurudongmar and essentially built on bank of a river which serves as a source of water for the locals. 

Outside the hut
While there a handful of lodges serving breakfast, we ate breakfast in a small hut-cum-restaurant run by two women (bhabhi-nanand relation both of whose husbands were in army).  The hut was very basic and built around the fireplace.  As we were 8 of us, we quickly occupied the bed and wooden slabs around the fireplace and the women got our breakfast (hot tea and bread-butter-jam started). 

The Kitchen!

The hut and the hut-women quickly warmed up to us and we started a steady stream of conversation between sips of hot tea.  

Huddled around for chai and warmth
The women (brave women, I must say) spoke about life at such high altitude and how they brave the winter by catering to the tourists to earn some extra money.  Interestingly, the need to stay thin even in such cold climate keeps them from having  butter, sugar and quintessential Sikkimese butter-chai as recommended by their grandmothers to stay desirable for their man.  Even the thought of no butter and sugar sent shiver down our spine as we warmed our hands at a makeshift heater around the house chimney.

One breakfast at Thangu and the realization hit home.  Firstly it was so true that no matter where you live or how rich/ poor you are the need to look pretty/ presentable is universal.  Secondly, interacting with these women also made me realize that happiness is but a state of mind – these women looked happy, they were happy!  Hence, no amount of material things will make you happy if you are not at peace with yourself and thankful for all that you have.

And no, ultimately we did not get to visit Gurudongmar – but I was thankful for having met these women and with the (safe) decision taken by our driver to get a view of Chopta valley an alternative!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Doze of History at the urban village of Hauz Khas Village

For more Photos - Click here

Back in 2005 when I left the Capital for making a mark for myself in City of Dreams, I knew Hauz Khas as a quiet residential area.  On my re-visit to Delhi, Hauz Khas village (next to residential Hauz Khas I knew!) was bustling with designer boutiques, art stores, bars and cafes making it a distinctly hep place to hang out - a truly urban village!

Shailza and Anirban
However, we had other plans.  My friend Anirban (who I met in person for the first time) and his lovely wife Shailza (both very talented writers and photographers) weathered the Delhi heat on a Sunday morning to show me the historical side of this urban village, better known as Hauz Khas Complex!

The complex essentially comprises of a lake (supposedly a tank!), a Madrasa (Islamic institute for studies) and a tomb (of Feroz Shah who built the Madrasa).  The complex has a Board by the archaeological survey of India at the entrance.  The moment one enters the arched door, they are instantly transported to another era.

The stone structures

We walked around the complex taking in the sights - the ruins, couples deep in conversation, the tranquil lake - coupled with interesting conversations and photography!  Thereafter, we walked to the lake-side and park/ garden (they have nice walking trails, an enclosure for deer and peacocks, benches to relax and even a 
play area for kids!).

The Lake at Hauz Khas, and a glimpse of the ruin in the far right corner

The stone structures of Hauz Khas seem frozen in time.  The distinctly green lake lends to the magic.  The tall trees sway to the gentle breeze.  The birds are merry.  Everything around me mirrored and echoed the peace I feel in my mind and heart. 

Hauz Khas won me over; a rather perfect choice of place by my hosts. 

Indeed, it is hard to believe that a historic world could co-exist with the bustling urban village (where the party never ends!) beside it…..

Go here - if you like monuments, photography and a quite place to find yourself or to get to know someone better….

Friday, April 12, 2013

Oh Calcutta!

Calcutta through my lens - Photo Blog!

We landed at Calcutta airport on a transit flight to Bagdogra.  With a good 3 hours to kill, my cousins and I walked in and around the airport photographing the delightfully cute yellow taxis (as opposed to yellow top taxis in Mumbai!), enjoying a cup of coffee at the nearby CCD and chasing squirrels!

Thereafter, we stayed in Calcutta for two nights while returning to Mumbai from Sikkim.  While we were still recovering from Sikkim hangover, we got to know the City of Joy a little better.

We were staying in Hastings in Calcutta.  Fortunately for us, the place was on the banks of River Hoogly and a 15-minute drive from the famed Howrah suspension bridge and/ or Vivekanana setu (new bridge).  We began our day tour on a hazy Calcutta morning which did got in the way of our photography.  However, we did manage to spend a good half hour at the ghat photographing Vivekananda Setu from where we could see the faint outline of Howrah Bridge at a distance.

Our day tours also included driving around Fort William, where we spent a good 1 hour at the Eastern Command Military museum, Dalhousie square (Writer’s building, High Court, GPO) and a two-hour or more halt at Victoria Memorial which is a must see (it is a picnic spot for families, an adobe for couples and visited by many tourist not only for the architecture but also for the museum it hosts).   All the architectural sights in Calcutta were well maintained and the locals take pride in sharing insights about them.  

But what stood out about Calcutta was the predominant blue colour everywhere (lampposts, fences, etc) -  thanks to Mamata Banerjee’s decision to paint the city sky blue in line with the motto of the government ie 'the sky is the limit'!  I do hope she would spare the yellow taxis!

Apart from sightseeing, we also shopped for Kantha sarees at Gariahat (Adi Dhakeshwari), leather products at New Market (Shree leathers), ate street food (pani puri, moodi, rolls, kulfi and loads of Bengali sweets) at several places, enjoyed some baked delicacies at Flurry’s, Park Street (a bit over-rated) and ate a Bengali buffet at 6 Ballygung place.

Overall, Calcutta surprised me – the traffic was organized (most roads are one-ways, the roads were quite clean, I felt safe there and the people were warm and seemed to be content.  I admit I did not get an opportunity/ time to visit old Calcutta area - which may change some of my first impressions - but for now I’m basking in the joy that Calcutta gave me. 

Needless to say, I do hope I get to plan a dedicated visit to Calcutta sometime soon.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Colaba lighthouse

Last weekend I had the opportunity to join a bunch of 200-odd people for a walk to Colaba lighthouse which is 2.2 kms from the shore.  
It was a sunny day with extreme low-tide.  We walked over stones,  half-broken concrete walk way and battled lots of Moss to reach the lighthouse.
The walk gives you amazing views of the ships and rigs, mumbai skyline and Arabian sea!  After climbing 168 steps inside the lighthouse we reached the top and took in the amazing views!
It's amazing though that a tiny bulb with a lot of help from huge reflectors is what lights up the lighthouse! 
Overall a fun walk, especially amusing that while at the light house the gps showed or location as in the middle of the ocean!
Enjoy some photos from our walk!


Related Posts with Thumbnails