Rays

Sikkim. Viewing the peaks in the non-peak season. Therefore, none of the clichéd photos of either the summer blooms or the wintry snowy landscapes. Mostly barren mountains, with the promise of colour. Expecting clear blue skies and getting clouds. Making us look harder and deeper. Winter may be coming, but we got there first.

As always, I began my holiday planning from the homestay search. Gangtok, Lachung, Lachen, Rumtek, Pelling … all beckoned, but when Airbnb lobbed ‘Zuluk’ at me, there was no other place I wanted to see. Mum and Usha Aunty, my travel companions, had little choice but to go along with my plans.

It took a fair bit of my hard headed determination to get us to Zuluk, and what a delightful experience that journey was. Living with the locals, partying with strangers, and the private theatre of the sun’s romance with Kanchenjunga at dawn to cap it off!

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Our hosts’ kitchen at Zuluk

 

 

 

Getting to the viewing site was an adventure itself. A series of misunderstandings and an overcast sky the night before all threatened to put a dampener on our excursion. We left late, and hoped and prayed with all our might that it was not too late. That wish was granted:

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Kanchenjunga waited alone until we got here

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The sky turned fiery

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The clouds made way

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And the sun came out in a blaze of glory

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While Kanchenjunga blushed

We woke and dressed up at 2.30 am to get to this spot in time, and were blessed to be the only ones at this spot. More of the scene unfolded as the day got brighter.

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Paused our chattering teeth just enough for a sunrise selfie

After we had thawed a little in the sunshine ourselves, we looked beyond the obvious landscape, and found this:

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A bit of frost that couldn’t decide whether to stay icy at the freezing temperature, or to thaw with the gentle persuasion of the sun’s warmth.

And the reason I picked Zuluk? The ‘roadscape’:

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Laze

A journey through India is never complete for me without stopping by in Kolhapur. It’s a shame that I had a 3-year gap from the last visit to this one. Happily, not much has changed in our neighbourhood, except for the addition of many new neighbours. The lake is still visible from the terrace, and plenty of birds to be sighted and identified. 2 out of 3 was not bad for me (identifying birds… ahem… not my specialty).

First, I had to drive out to the Khidrapur temple (or Kopeshwar temple, as it is known), a 7th? 12th? century, ancient site that has been on my wishlist for a few years now. Baba told me about the design of the temple: how the natural light is gradually cut from the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum which is completely windowless. The idea being, your eyes gradually get used to the darkness, and at the most sacred spot you can feel one with God, with no further need for external light. However, the Archeological Society of India has put a dampener on this experience with strategically misplaced tube lights. Plus, the guard at the entrance prohibits photography inside, simply as a show of his power, I guess. The temple is beautiful, and atmospheric, and some other lucky people have made nice pictures in their blogs here.

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Besides the odd outing around town, there’s nothing better to do at home than loll around, breathing the fresh air, and walking down to the lake. Which was made even more fun this time with my uncles and aunts visiting, and college friends driving down from Pune to spend a weekend together.

There’s a happy family portrait from that time sitting in my camera chips somewhere. I must shake off the laziness and put it up one of these days.

 

Forays

A wedding in Agartala. My reason for the last India trip. First time in the north-east part of the country. Suitably excited.

Wedding excitement aside, there are always sunrises to chase and palaces to paddle to. Scenic lake inside the college campus, great spot for landscapes and pre-wedding photo shoot (did both!). Would’ve liked to venture out further north and east, but for now, this will have to do.

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Sunrise at College Tilla Lake

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Before the wedding party could wake up, I was perched on their terrace, enjoying the views and the stillness

Ma and I spent a day out of town, driving up to the Neermahal and back. Agartala feels more of an extension of Bengal than the exotic “northeast” of my imagination, but hey, the wedding and the company all made up for it!

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Our day of sightseeing at the Rudrasagar lake

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Approaching the Neermahal

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Maharaja Bir Bikram was inspired by a palace in Jaipur, and built this one in the middle of the lake

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Life is a boat…

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Yes, it is!

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Lake. Tree. Sky.

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Live for the Golden Hour!

Haze

And an eventful Friday photo walk at Jama Masjid, Delhi. So nice to be reunited with my photopals, Sara and Arun, on this one.

Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Winter, Haze. All the ingredients for an engrossing morning.

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Mughal Architecture

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One of the big entrances

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Why use a tap when you can wash at the tank?

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Like this?

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It takes a lot of focus

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The devout

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Jama Masjid, the Friday mosque

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One of the popular selfie guys

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Prayer hall

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No birds were harmed during our shoot, but we did our bit, shooing them around

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Take a picture, make a friend

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This shot has been 3 years in the making for me

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Waiting..

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Waiting.. and posing ..

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For a small additional fee, you can climb up a minaret, and pause at the terrace

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Did I say, “Haze” already?

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On a clear day, you might see the Red Fort in the distance, but this was not one of those days

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This man claimed his photo was in every country in the world, and I believe him

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Friday Prayers

We rewarded our industriousness with a paratha feast in the famous Paranthewali gali. We may have ordered everything on the menu there!