Friday Photo walk: Ramadan prayers

All of Indonesia has been observing Ramadan – the holy month of fasting, so what better place to photograph than the masjid and Friday prayers?

I’ve blogged about Masjid Istiqlal before, but this was totally worth it. It is the largest mosque in South-East Asia; with a total capacity of 200,000 people. While we didn’t see it packed to capacity, the grand hall was full and a sight to behold.

Waiting for the prayers to start

Praying while they wait

Looking over

The official Friday prayer

Tip: Always dress conservatively when visiting a place of worship – knees and shoulders and sometimes the head must be covered. A scarf is handy.

Sun catcher in my eye

Last week I attempted a new skill – crafting stained glass into pretty objects. My friend Sara is a master craftsman and when she offered to teach me, I was most delighted. The bonus of learning with Sara is that she feeds you all kinds of goodies too.

We started with a visit to a stained glass factory, where they import glass from the US and make their own objects to order.


Sara has a neat little workshop at home with every tool you could possibly need for this activity. Zoey supervises.

Stained glass art at Sara's


I had to start with something simple and 2-dimensional, so sun catcher it was.

First, drafting the design on paper.

Stained glass art at Sara's


Next, transferring the sections on glass as per the colours I wanted.

Stained glass art at Sara's

Cutting glass and grinding to smooth the edges followed, to have them fit on the design.

Stained glass art at Sara's

Copper foil on the glass edges.

Stained glass art at Sara's

The individual pieces were joined to one another by soldering.

Stained glass art at Sara's

A wire looped around the edge to make it easy to hang, and some copper patina later, we had one sun catcher:

Stained glass art at Sara's

Now it hangs in my window with by a wire, to catch the early morning sun.

Suncatcher in the window

If only I would wake up early enough to catch the rising sun!

Don’t know if you can spot it but there’s a kitty perched on the glass.

Suncatcher in the window


I did wake up early enough one day!

Tour Onrust Island

Not long ago on a warm sunny morning, a bunch of us intrepid study group members embarked on a short voyage to Onrust Island, not too far from Jakarta, amidst the Thousand Islands.

The modern history of Onrust goes back to the 17th century, when the Dutch obtained permission to set up a storage facility to promote trade between the spice islands and Europe. Like a good greedy colonial power, they then proceeded to establish their supremacy over the archipelago, but that’s another history lesson.

Since 1615 when the island started functioning as a warehouse and defence base and later became a fort, it stayed very busy, thereby earning the name ‘Onrust’ which is Dutch for No Rest. Control of the island went back and forth with the British during the late 18th century, and the structures on the island were destroyed multiple times. There was some restoration, and after 1827, the island was developed into a floating shipyard, very busy until the Tanjong Priok harbour was built. Further, the Krakatau explosion in 1883 is said to have destroyed the structures on the island.

The early 20th century saw Onrust take on the role of a quarantine station for the pilgrims returning from the Hajj, and even a prison for criminals. After Indonesia’s independence, the island was used as a leprosarium until 1960.

Sadly today little remains of the frenetic activity on the island through 400 years. There are ruins of the sanatorium and a small museum that give some idea, but largely it seems that Onrust is finally at rest. The caretakers work at a languid pace, there are few visitors, and we probably disturbed the ecosystem of the island by our presence that day.


The café on the island is ok for light refreshments but not quite lunch-worthy. Our group jetted off to the neighbouring Bidadari Island (Island of Angels) that has been developed into a resort from its more humble origins as a site of leper hospitals. The Dutch had built a fortress here which was mostly destroyed by the Krakatau eruption, and now all you can see is the base of the old tower. There’s an entrance charge if you want to set foot on the island, after which you can indulge in a number of entertainment activities (paid separately), and eat (pretty good meals).

It being a week day, we didn’t come across any other tourists, only a couple of hard-working photographers on the job for pre-wedding shoots.

Tour to Onrust Island Tour to Onrust Island

A Grave Tour…again

My fascination with cemeteries continues, this time with a photo walk in Taman Prasasti Museum, a museum of graves, mostly Europeans who died in Jakarta during the colonial period. Set in a quiet area in the heart of the city, just behind the Museum Nasional, the museum is a different sort of tour for those who want to know more about the history of Jakarta. It’s pretty easy to get to, and for a change, most locals can direct you there too: 

The museum is notable for a couple of aspects: one, some famous people are buried here (Thomas Stamford Raffles‘ first wife, Olivie), and the other, being a Christian cemetery, the headstones are elaborate. There’s usually nobody there, barring a few caretakers – friendly folks who let you alone. The carriages at the entrance lobby transport you to the colonial times and are a delight to photograph.

Photo walk Taman Prasasti


Photo walk Taman Prasasti Photo walk Taman Prasasti


It is called a museum, and managed by the Jakarta History Museum, but has a somewhat ‘forgotten’ look of plenty of overgrown grass, unraked leaves, cats and birds frolicking, that makes it more attractive than if it were ultra spick and span.

Photo walk Taman Prasasti Photo walk Taman Prasasti Photo walk Taman Prasasti

Like I said, the headstones are interesting.

We didn’t look to carefully for the tomb of Olivie Raffles, but that can be a project for another time.

Photo walk Taman Prasasti

Photo walking into 맛있는 한국 점심 식사 *

Last Friday, we took up Grace on her offer of a Korean cooking demo, and combined our photography session with a Korean lunch. We learnt to make kim-bap Korean rolls, customised to our individual preferences. What you need is a sheet of seaweed, layered with cooked rice, some pickled, sautéed, nicely chopped veggies, eggs, sausages, all rolled expertly together with a mat, and voilà!

And then you cut them up neatly with a sharp knife and not too much pressure.

That wasn’t all we had. While Grace put out a few more delicious dishes, we practised some food photography.

She served Dwenjang Chigae (forgive me if I spell everything wrong) – a stew with rice, and some side dishes, by which time we were too hungry to take pictures, plus the most delicious sweet potato laddoos (I have no idea what is the Korean word for that) to top a fine morning of hard work ;-) and indulgence.

* A Delicious Korean Lunch

The Grass is Greener

So we’ve moved house. This time the strain of moving got to me a little. Either I’m ageing, or we simply have too much stuff. Fitting things into a smaller house poses a challenge even for the puzzle-inclined type like me. Thankfully I have Souvik and Rofa to do the heavy lifting and cleaning up. We’ve tried our best to make the house look pretty – there was a lot of pushing and shoving, and the kitchen had to be organised 3 times before it met my workflow requirements. Getting the bulky sofas out of the door and putting in the compact furniture was a lot like giving birth, with loads of moaning and groaning. The best part of the house is the outdoors; not for nothing is this complex called The Green. It really is.

At the first opportunity I invited my fellow photo walkers (only one made it), and we had a jolly walk in the peak of the hot day. In addition to the welcome greenery, there’s some bizarre er…. sculptures to keep you interested. It being Friday, all the women working in maintenance had gathered together for the Friday prayers and meal. The kids, as usual, were ever willing to pose.

Yeah, living here is turning out to be entertaining!

Ode to Homes

For someone who craves variety, I get plenty packing and moving. The number of times we’ve moved seems like we don’t pay our bills anywhere, and have to make a run for it! Consequently it’s rare for me to get nostalgic about any place, though there are plenty of anecdotes about each one.

kholiTake my ‘kholi’ – a poky little room at Warden Road in Mumbai. I can’t remember if it had a wardrobe, but there was a horribly dusty attic, and to enter the room, you had to jump in about a foot deep at the door. The location was the best part about that room – close to work, close to the seaside, the fanciest shops in all of Mumbai, some lovely walking parks, but I had to fight over the use of the phone line with the neighbouring electronic repair shop.

House hunting in Mumbai after we were married was quite a challenge, since we had very little money and seemingly different priorities. I wanted the apartment in the building with the pool, but Souvik refused to live there because it was called Mota Nagar (Mota = fat). After some desperate searches, we settled down at Amboli Naka, right at the traffic junction, a spot that we both hated; every time the light turned green, all vehicles blared their horns. There was little to recommend that place except that we could afford it. After that disaster, we got on a continuous improvement curve, thanks to our careers and the 11-month lease agreements.


Paranjpe Complex at Vile Parle


Moving to Bangalore was a breath of fresh air. Apartment buildings were swanky shiny, compared to whatever we had seen in Mumbai. Koramangala was the nicest place to live. There are mixed memories of our apartment there. Souvik’s dad battled with his illness there, and sadly lost. We packed up and moved to Chennai.

Diwali at Purva Park-3

Purva Park, Cox Town

Raheja Residency-2

Raheja Residency, Koramangala

MKaka & Varun at home

Gandhinagar 3rd Main, Adyar

So many people complain about Chennai, but we had one of our best years there. Living in Adyar, there was my weekend schedule of grocery shopping at Besant Nagar, brunch at Murugan Idli, coffee and a book at the Barista on the beach. Alternately, driving off to Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry at the drop of a hat. Hanging about the house as little as possible.



Our own place in Bangalore



By this time we had invested in buying an apartment of our own in Bangalore, and ironically that is the one in which I have spent the least time (1 night) calling home. Back in Mumbai, we had a jolly ride over 3 years. Dosti Acres – tiny flat, massive furniture that I had to move around like a jigsaw puzzle to make it fit. My cousin got married there, well, across from there. Moving from Wadala to Pump House (yes, that’s what the area is called) and Kalpataru at JVLR because of, you guessed it, the 11-month lease. And just as I was ready to renew my lease at Kalpataru (gasp!), we took the call to shift to Hanoi.


Dosti, Wadala


Cousins at Kalpataru


Ciputra Window, Hanoi

We were blissful enough in our Hanoi place for Souvik to make a crazy video of it. I spent hours looking out of the big window, blogging about my life there. Then we realised what a jinx we had with lease renewal. Every time we signed that paper, we would have to move. This time to Ho Chi Minh City. That year I spent half the year looking at houses. As we were about to finalise the flat there, we ended up moving to Jakarta instead.

(Click to view video)


I went into an ‘instant hate’ mode with the city. Endless traffic, horrid apartments where windows wouldn’t open, big palatial houses that seemed like to much work for an apartment-inured person that I was. After sound advice from a friend, we settled on the house that we’re in now. Finally there was some love, especially with the pool in the backyard. The house was too big for just the two of us to enjoy, we were happy to open it up to welcome family and friends. And plenty obliged. Not that they were lacking in our ‘smaller’ places, but the joy of jumping into the pool at will is irresistible. We renewed our 2-year lease last November. And guess what – we’re moving again! Right this very week. And this time the nostalgia seems to be coming on, mostly for that backyard and pool. Never have I enjoyed a house (not counting Kolhapur) as much as I did this one. Watching the rain in the afternoon. Barbecue on weekends. Painting the wall. Sewing curtains. Killing off plants one after the other. Negotiating banjir, the floods after a heavy downpour. Jalan Tikus, the tiny lane shortcut to the main road. Decorating at Diwali. Chasing Mia.


In the midst of packing chaos, I’m letting the shifting blues set in, but visualising living in the new place. The landscaping is definitely better, with plenty of tree lined avenues to walk, run and cycle. Actually, with a lot of our ‘stuff’ packed already in round 1 by those efficient packers, I’m in the mood to get going right away. Going by the lethargy I’m exhibiting though, it’s clear that I enjoy unpacking and setting up house, but sorting and packing is just not my favourite thing. HELP!

My top tips for painless relocation:

  1. Hire a good packer-mover service. That’s money well spent.
  2. Pack a week’s clothes, towels, toiletries, shoes, bedsheets separately yourself. If it takes time for the washing machine to be installed, you’re not going crazy. If you’re moving cities, make that 2-week supply. That should give you enough time to figure out the laundry.
  3. Pack VALUABLES (jewellery, electronic gadgets – phones, laptop, tablet, chargers,cameras, power adaptors,  important documents – passport, tickets, IDs, insurance policies, bank papers, house papers) and MEDICINES yourself, and don’t let that bag out of your sight until you have set up the new house. If you are moving cities, carry your valuables in cabin baggage.
  4. It’s useful to wear something (like a jacket) with plenty of pockets to hold small stuff like keys, phone, pens, wallet, so you don’t put it down and accidentally have it packed up, or worse, stolen.
  5. If you’re moving country, make sure to finish or give away all the beverages – yeah, have a big booze party the night before. Spillage in the suitcase is such a pain.
  6. If you’re an Indian like me, take your pressure cooker with you.
  7. Keep calm and enjoy the change!







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