Of Butterflies, Dragonflies, Flies, and How Time Flies

It’s been FOREVER since I logged in and blogged, mostly thanks to a slight change of pace in my real life. Photography had taken a backseat, until this morning, when I joined a bunch of friends for a macro photography shoot.

I am a macro novice, and never been tempted to buy the expensive lens. We’ve found a great guy to rent camera equipment from in Jakarta – these people are priced reasonably and they give great advice too. I shan’t share the name, coz then my secret will be out! Hahaha, just kidding, good service deserves good publicity, and I shall do my bit for www.sewakamera.com.

We went to the butterfly park? museum? thingy at Taman Mini – the Indonesian showpiece ‘amusement’ park – which had to be the saddest butterfly display ever. Pity to see the live ones in captivity (Yes!). Singapore has a better park at the airport! In any case, I was there to learn macro photography, with all its technicalities, and was pretty determined to look beyond the obvious.

And then my eyes opened. WIDE. Who knew that these creepy crawlies were so cute! I’ve seen other people’s macro pictures, of course, but looking through your own (or rented) lens is a completely different feeling.

I have a long way to go, and a lens of my own to buy some day, this is just the beginning. Click on a pic and see the enlarged view, I absolutely insist. That humble little fly, I just want to enlarge and give a great big hug!

I’m not winning awards any time soon, but thanks are due to my friends who taught and inspired me today. The knees hurt from all the crouching, but who cares.

It may be the Chinese New Year of the Monkey, but it’s gonna be a weekend full of the lil bugs for me!

Yet Another India Travel Story – Introduction

It’s been a roller coaster of a summer lately, what with the traffic woes during Ramadan, then the highs of receiving the work permit, just in time for a long and hectic travel to India. Yeah, you read it right. There’s ‘work’ in the statement above. About time too. But not before some quick journeys to exotic places.

I managed to grab a short vacation to the historic towns of Mandu and Maheshwar with Reva & her friends. Chetna, our intrepid group leader, not only organised the tour and all the logistics associated with it, she also cracked the whip to make sure we had everything we needed and nobody got left behind. There was a unique ‘essentials’ list – homemade Shammi Kebabs from Hyderabad, home-baked brownies, tortes, banana loaves (all properly delegated), colouring things for the lil ones, alcohol preferences, secret social networks for the latest updates, a wicked sense of humour – to name a few.

Who better then, to write a guest post for my blog, than Chetna?

If ‘Mandu’ is evocative of romance and poetry, you’ll be surprised to know that it’s real claim to fame is not the best known tale of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati. I was pleasantly surprised. Look out for Chetna’s post, and you’ll know.

 

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.

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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.

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Purva Park, Cox Town

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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.

 

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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.

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Dosti, Wadala

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Cousins at Kalpataru

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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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Intro-spec-ula-timistic

This year couldn’t have been more different from the last one, same time. Last year, we had a house full of guests for 4 months, shrieks of laughter and fun, dashing about madly with monthly trips to Bali.

This year, we’ve had no travel after the Mumbai trip, now we’re in the process of moving house, and the future is one big blank. We have no idea where we’re going, and the move is a month away. What will it be? Back to India? Stay in Indonesia? Move someplace else???

In the midst of all this uncertainty, there was one bright spot – a tour to the Basoeki Abdullah Art Museum. Basoeki has been one of the prominent artists of Indonesia, having painted numerous portraits, particularly of world leaders, which are displayed in this museum.

The museum offered us a short art workshop after the tour. This was my output:

Art workshop

 

Good or not, it was great to step out of my comfort zone. I feel better already.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

What timing for this theme! Just last week, my friend found a kitten abandoned in her garage, and adopted it. Then she had to go out of town for a while, so I happily took charge of the little fellow while she was away. He’s called Ginger, and in the space of 7 days, has grown from a tiny squeaky creature, to a confident, still-tiny little brat.

Milk from a bottle, potty in a litter box, oodles of cuteness, this boy has it all!

His family is back tomorrow, and only Mia will be happy to see him go. She’s had enough of sharing him with Rofa.

Abandoned no more, this blue-eyed beauty is bound to be a heartbreaker!

Ginger at home