Photo walking in Kuningan

Kuningan – a neighbourhood in downtown Jakarta characterised by high-rise buildings and traffic snarls. Get on foot, and into the back lanes, and you can discover a completely different picture and a myriad of individual stories.

Photo walk Kuningan

No dearth of colour:

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80-years old, perfectly happy to pose:

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Kids at the fish farm:

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Pigeon racing trainer:

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Cock-fight trainer:

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A world view of their own:

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Just happy:

Photo walk Kuningan

On the banks of Narmada

Maheshwar is just 91 km from Indore, but our reluctant bus driver made it seem like forever.

Once there, and well-fed at the MPTDC resort, I couldn’t wait to get going, and neither could some of the other women in the group. The decision to get out in the heat of the afternoon was made easier by the availability of boats that took us to the main ghat in a couple of minutes. Life along the sacred river looks exciting, with little temples dotting the banks, and people bathing at all hours, plus colourful boats to add to the scenic beauty:

I read that the town of Maheshwar has a mention in both the Ramayana and Mahabharat, but it reached its pinnacle of prosperity during the rule of Ahilyabai Holkar, who is believed to be among the most perfect rulers ever. Reva & I photographed our way to the top of the fort while the others attacked the shops. The carvings are simply marvellous!

A spectacular view of the ghat from the top of the fort:

On the ghats of Narmada

The sunset landscape on the ride back was even more grand:

On the ghats of Narmada

If that wasn’t enough, I was up at sunrise for more of the same:

We had no time to visit any of the temples of Maheshwar, but a quick stop at the sari shops was a must! There are plenty of shops on the road leading up to the fort, apparently the ones at the foot of the hill are cheaper than those at the top. We found happy prices at a few in between, and came away loaded.

Water, water, everywhere

When Aarti asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I was very flattered. After all, I’ve never blogged before, and if a “professional” blogger asks you to write, you assume they think you have something to write about.

In order to keep a good image, and to live up to the task at hand, I started reading up articles on the internet on how to write a good guest post. What seemed like a common tip was that your content should be unique and backed with facts.

Keeping that guideline in mind, I wrote about a subject that I feel very strongly about (those who know me will say that covers my feelings for almost everything). In this case it was water, or to be more specific, rainwater harvesting.

Water is a touchy topic with me, and if you happen to be washing your hands in my kitchen sink with the tap running, well, I’ll leave you to imagine the consequences of that….

Anyway, I got down to the task of writing about our recent trip with Aarti to Mandu, and it’s centuries old rainwater harvesting systems. Backed with solid facts, it was, a “good post” (in Aarti’s words) but not “me” (Aarti’s words again mind you).

Now, there are two words I’m always vary of. The first one is interesting. When someone describes ANYTHING as interesting we all know it is anything but that. And the second is not you. Oh – oh.

So, here I am, back to the writing board, trying to be as me as possible (which, I accept is a very shallow, frivolous image, not fit to talk about a serious topic as rainwater harvesting). But I’m serious. Honestly.

There are two reasons you should visit Mandu. On second thoughts, let’s make that three. The first two are the usual good old reasons to travel – it’s a beautiful place, green, serene, largely untouched by the concrete jungles we make of any pristine location and it has awe inspiring, unusual historical architecture. The combination of the two in the monsoon is simply magical.

However, if you are touchy about water, like I am, then I think Mandu is a pilgrimage. You should go there and bow your head, look at the skies in wonder, gasp with tears in your eyes and imagine yourself dead and in heaven – even though with the life you’ve lead so far, you’re probably better suited for hell.

So imagine this, over 1400 years ago, the wise kings of the Parmar and the Mughal dynasties, knowing that they were making Mandu their base, and knowing that the hill town is not quite wisely located – on top of a plateau with no ground water and no river in sight, decided to solve that issue smartly, sophisticatedly and beautifully. Frankly, one wonders if humanity is losing it’s common sense as it’s gaining it’s technological sense. Anyway, I digress….

What you find in Mandu is a very well engineered rainwater harvesting system in place, and lying idle (yes, the town faces acute water shortage every summer). There are over 1200 manmade tanks and baodis (stepwells), for catching rainwater, for storage, supported by filtration systems, aqueducts and pulley systems to take water up to higher ground. The system must have captured rainwater during the monsoon and sustained life long after the rains have come and gone.

Your heart will swell up when you see water provision made on such a large scale. Yes, someone knew how important water is!

Go to Mandu, pay your homage and feel good that all that destruction you see on your TV is not all that we humans are capable of. We are capable of creating beauty, of sophistication, of art in something as basic as a water system, and if we could do it then, we can do it now.

Mandu, in its days of glory was called the City of Joy. To me, it still is.

Quick facts:
Mandu is 98 kms from the city of Indore (the closest airport) in Central India.

We stayed at the MP State Toruism’s Malwa Resort. http://164.100.196.72/mptourism/pages/56/MANDU.html

Best time to visit is the monsoon.

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Filtration plant with many levels of sedimentation

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Jal Mahal in the Munj Talab

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Yes, even pools!

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Of aqueducts and tanks

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Wondering at the wonders

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There are tanks, and there are tanks of Mandu

The Pumpkin Chronicles #2: Spicy Red Patio

Don’t ask my why this dish is called patio. Whatever the reason, if you like spicy, this one is addictive!

Spicy red bhaji 001

Reva emailed the recipe a while back, and I’ve made it a couple of times. Here’s how:

Red pumpkin patio (4 servings)

Ingredients: ½ kg red pumpkin, 1 large onion finely sliced, 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp oil, 1 tsp sugar, salt to taste, grind into a paste the following: 6 cloves garlic (¾ tsp), 2 tsp cumin seeds, 3 dried red Kashmiri chillies, 1 medium onion

Method: Peel the pumpkin and remove the seeds. Cut into 2 cm cubes. In a pan, heat oil, fry the sliced onion until soft but not brown. Add the masala paste and cook for 5 minutes. Add pumpkin, salt, ⅓ cup water (I end up adding some more), bring to a boil, then cover and cook on low heat till the pumpkin is tender (about an hour). Mash the pumpkin in the pan. Add lemon juice and sugar (I skip the sugar, as the pumpkin is sweet already) and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot with rice.

Finger-licking good!

 

Photo walk Markets

If you want the real shopping experience in any city, shun the air-conditioned malls and head to the traditional markets instead. Jakarta is no different. While I enjoy shopping in ambient surroundings, for photography, only the hot and sweaty will do! 😉

Moreover, I’m lucky to have friends who will all push each other to head out in the sun, and make it a fun outing. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve managed to visit not one, but three such exciting markets.

Pasar Minggu. Best known for fruits and veggies. Don’t head into the enclosed building as we did. All over town, we are stopped and barred by security guards from taking photos with big cameras inside market buildings. In any case, the outdoors is more fun.

We found some excellent fruits and some vegetables at the end of the street, and a lot more than we bargained for.

 

Flower market. All big cities must have a flower market. It’s only a matter of waking up at an ungodly hour to find out, because flower deals are all done well before sunrise, to have them looking fresh and pretty when customers want to buy. I will be missing the flower market tour with my explorer group because of India travels, but the tour organisers let me tag along on their recce trip, and I got a sneak peek.

 

Cake market. That one I hadn’t seen coming. Housewives from all over bake cakes of all sizes and sell at the cake market where local bakeries source their wares. The market lasts for less than 2 hours after which it turns into a parking lot.

 

Whichever market we visit, we find that the character of the place is defined and enhanced by the people. They smile and chat with us, and happily pose even if we aren’t buying anything.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual POV

This week’s challenge is to present an unusual point of view. Here’s my story.

Souvik and I went to Dalat, Vietnam one weekend. I was feeling adventurous, and TripAdvisor had advised that mountain biking was one of the top things to do in Dalat. Souvik was not yet converted to the joys of cycling and I had all my experience only on the road. Still, I persisted (nagged) and we signed up.

The route went right through the pine forest, very scenic, but the whole deal about mountain biking is the rough terrain. Sure enough, there were plenty of tree roots, stones and other obstacles jutting out unexpectedly on the barely there trail. Plus some stiff uphill and insane downhill slopes that I could only manage on foot, pushing the bike. There was even a stretch where I struggled with myself and when our guide offered to push the bike, I weakly accepted. On the final rest stop, I lay flat on the bare ground, and prayed for it to end soon. As I looked skyward, the cyclist in me was dying, but the photographer leapt to life, and I couldn’t resist this shot from the ground up.

Unusual POV