Shekhawati - Open Air Art Gallery


29th Oct - We took SpiceJet flight to Jaipur but unfortunately could not make it within time due to technical problems and traffic congestion we were made to wait for 3 hrs inside flight. We reached around 22:00 to our pre-booked Hotel Madhuban by prepaid taxi.
On reaching hotel driver says "kya bekar hotel liya hain sir"....ughh. Lump in my throat as all booking was done by me. It was a laborious, monotonous job going through website after website, jotting down details regarding price. With heavy heart went in but found everything as per internet photos only. We asked for next day car-hire for Shekhawati daytrip which they arranged.
30th Oct - Morning 7.00am nice, clean amby was provided to us and we started our day trip towards withering Land of kuber. On way we had hot tasty parantha idly as breakfast from Dhabba. It takes 3hrs to reach that region.  On way after talking to our cab driver we made our circuit starting from towns like Fatehpur, Mandawa, Churi-Ajithgarh, Dundlod, and Nawalgarh back to Jaipur.
Shekhawati is world renowned for its painted havelis and paintings, their frescos depicting mythological and historical themes. Actually, when the Marwaris made their first foray with the Maharajahs and Thakurs, they found that there was money to be made from establishing business in distant centres. Under the British their prosperity aspired even higher, and they took their business to Calcutta, mumbai and other pockets of influence. Tradition in those days was whoever made it good would come back and build 4 things-haveli, baoli(well), mandir and dharamshala. With the money they made, they ordered lavish havelis back home and in order to make them attractive had them painted in what has come to be defined as the Shekhawati fresco style. A sense of competitiveness brought in excess, since this provided the worth of the owner's presumed wealth.
Today’s eminent business group Birla, Goenka, Singhania, Poddar are all from Shekhawati region which has now immerged as open art painting gallery well preserving its historical heritage. Havelis are guarded at the entrance by large wooden doors. Within these, a smaller door is normally used for daily movements. Intricate wooden carvings with fancy brass iron fittings demonstrating the owners’ wealth. The ground floor is normally recessed in such a way that balconies overhang the street. It was from the latticed windows on the balconies and over the courtyards that women were able to get a glimpse of the men’s world. The facade, the gateways, the courtyard walls, the parapets and ceilings, were all covered with frescoes.
All these paintings are made with natural colors. For example yellow was also obtained by evaporating the urine of cows fed for ten days on nothing but mango leaves. The resulting paste was rolled into small round ‘gayagolis’ and produced a brilliant yellow when dilated with water.
They  used  the ‘Fresco Buono’ technique -  in this method only a part of the wall was plastered at a time with three layers of very fine clay. Sketches were made on the walls scratching the outshines into the wet plaster with a sharpened stick. It remained without fading for almost as long as the building lasted. A gum made from local plant or a derivative of camel fat was used as the crucial binding agent.
At Fatehpur main attraction was Nadine la Prince which is bought and restored by a French artist Nadine. At Mandawa its Castle Mandawa besides Sneh ram ladia ,Gulab rai ladia haveli and JhunJunuwala golden painted haveli, Murmura and Double Goenka haveli (we could not visit as it was closed) at Churi Ajithgarh it’s Sheonarayans haveli at Dundlod its Goenka haveli and at Nawalgarh its Poddar haveli.
TIPS: Best way to visit this regions by own transport but still you need to do a good amount of walking once you reach one particular destination. Hire guide(negotiable) to take you around. No doubt beautiful painting, awesome architecture but one thing is sure at Shekhawati after craning your neck whole day long at end you feel like every other painting is same. After sunset there is no sense to be there as artificial light will be not sufficient enough to see the intricate painting details.
We skipped lunch to cover our itinerary and had very early dinner on way back to Jaipur and by 9.00pm we were at our hotel door.

Landed to jaipur

29th oct- We took spicejet flight to jaipur but unfortunatley couldnot make it within time due to technical problems and traffic congestion we were made to wait for 3 hrs inside flight.We reached around 10.00pm to our prebooked hotel by prepaid taxi.On reaching hotel driver says "kya bekar hotel liya hain sir"....ughh lump in my throat as all booking was done by me. It was a laborious, monotonous job going through website after website, jotting down details regarding price.With heavy heart went in but found everything as per internet photos only.We asked for next day car-hire for Shekhawati daytrip which they arranged.

Another Move


A few more week we will move from our current address; this time within Bangalore.  So compared to last moves it is going to be a very small one.  In 2003, we crossed Atlantic (California to Paris), in 2006 we crossed Indian ocean (Paris to Mumbai) and in 2008 we moved within India (Mumbai to Bangalore). Now this is just 20 Km move within Bangalore city.
The painters from Asian Paint Home Solutions are doing the paint job and they are supposed to finish by 25th November.  The color scheme is going to be primarily white with little variant on one major wall. Hope all things works out as planned.
We just had a wonderful week long break in Rajasthan during diwali; Pamela is working on the  travelogue. We are posting the pictures as we finish writing the details.

Des vacances

We are off to Rajasthan starting tomorrow. Here is the plan lets see what we achieve in next one week-
  • 29th Oct Fly to Jaipur on SpiceJet
  • 30th Oct shekhawati day trip from Jaipur
  • 31st Jaipur ; in the night catch train for Jodhpur
  • 1st Nov in Jodhpur
  • 2nd November in Jodhpur catch night train to Jaisalmer
  • 3rd November in Jaisalmer and  sunset in desert
  • 4th Nov in the evening catch train back to Jaipur
  • 5th Nov relax in Jaipur celebrate Deepavali
  • 6th Nov if possible make a trip to Ajmer and Pushkar
  • 7th Nov fly back to Bangalore
All the bookings are done and big thanks to Pamela.

Auroville


Almost after one and half year we went for a long weekend out of Bangalore; our very first road trip of 2010. We were looking for something near to beach and thought of heading towards Pondichery but due to unavailability of any sea facing hotel we opted of Auroville. Certain thing really happens for good. The road was Bangalore -> Krishnagiri -> Tiruvanamalli ->Tindivanam-> Auroville.
As usual Santanu had production outage @ work and went to sleep around 2 AM thanks to ‘new era new tool’ at work. Started early morning around 05.50; had breakfast at A2B (Krishnagiri) then around 07.50  we hit the road. Non stop drive to Pondichery and reached around 13:00. The road between Krishnagiri and Tiruvanamalli is undivided state highway with lots of pot holes. You need to be very careful as most parts of the roads are good but suddenly you get one big pot holes. Road between Tindivanam and Pondicherry is newly done 4 lane highway.

We booked our room at "Center Guest House" through the website aurovilleguesthouse.org just two weeks ahead. They sent letter confirming it and with fine prints where we were supposed to send the advance by Demand Draft now in the age of credit cards we didn’t pay attention to the bottom part of the mail till day before the trip. On contacting over phone they said to come over as there was no other booking. Their rates include meal for three times a day, bicycle and Yoga. . Its non-alcoholic and public smoking is strongly discouraged; it is not a place for vacation – most come here to meditate. Most Indian come and visit the Auroville as day trip from Pondicherry.
Me and my hubby fell in love seeing the place and particularly when they showed our room which is tucked between trees and you can see butterflies, birds. Was just mesmerized to see the greenery all around. Had Indian buffet lunch at dining hall and after relaxing for a while went out to look for cycle. The dining hall had two baby chairs as well which is so uncommon in India.
We found one cycle which had baby chair fixed; most cycles were tall and typical DESI type with hard seat. After maneuvering for a while I managed to get onto one finally as I am not used to these types of cycles; Voila... We cycled here and there without thinking much and looking at maps.
Best part is they have so many trails that you will never be bored and the same time you will not be lost. The roads are in spiral in Auroville just like the Paris is planned. Greenery is all around, few houses and buildings with lots of shades from tress to make it more pleasant. If you feel you are lost in this forest ask anyone be Indian or foreigner they will guide you. Most residents or visitors are from France as you can hear French all around you.

Its really place far off from city noise, pollution and traffic soaking in the best nature has to offer. Negative thing about Aurorville is you are forced to give up your fast paced city life. Everything gets closed for lunch even lots of the facilities are only available for those who stay longer like 8-10 days. If you stay longer you get an Auroville cards which is like a pre-paid cash card but gives exclusive access to some restaurants, café and others center like yoga.
We went to the visitor center and spent a good amount time in the various boutique shops and picked a school bag for Aarush.  Once it started to get dark we headed back to Guest House. We all had shower as this place is quite hot and humid. Had continental buffet dinner at night they do serve early evening between 7.00 - 7:30 PM. By 10.00 PM they expect to be pin drop silence so every one around is sleeping well. We also slept early.

Day -2


After breakfast we went to bicycle stand and found someone has taken away Pamela’s cycle and she has to find a new one all over again. Once we started paddling we decided to go beach. The ride was a smooth one but once we were off Green zone there were cars and as usual they did not have any courtesy for cyclist. The 8 KM long ride was fun. The access to the beach is not direct you need to access the trough a narrow lane. Both the lane and the beach are very dirty have not seen any thing dirtier than this.
From beach we came to Visitor center and watched video on Matri mandir. For the first time visitor watching of the video is a must and after  that one gets a pass to the vista point to see Matri-mandir. Inside access is rusticated but open to all who wish to meditate.    After that we came back to guesthouse for lunch. Santanu decided against touching the car which means we had to postpone the trip to Pondicherry for the last day of the trip. We went out with the cycle around 4 went to Solar Kitchen to start with. As Solar kitchen only except Auroville cards we could only smell aroma of good food and see other enjoying with our stomach rumbling we left that place. After riding the cycle till dark we came back to guest house and called it a day.

Day-3


We started early with quick breakfast and checkout by 9AM and headed towards Pondicherry. The destination was French Quarter and Aurobindo Ashram. We paid a quick visit to the Ashram. Children under 3 years are not allowed. After walking around French quarter we went to a restaurant and Aarush had his breakfast brunch. There was nothing much to do in Pondicherry and we found it hotter than Auroville. We headed back to Auroville again for our lunch as we wanted to try Roma’s Kitchen.

The food there was excellent one of the best pasta I had in India. The place is frequented by non-Indians and we noticed they all were having Indian dishes.We enjoyed our Pasta while Aarush was too busy running and playing with two French girls who were bit older than him. He was so happy that he was crying while we tried to put him car. By 14:30 noon we started from there; the drive was OK and we reached Krishnagiri by 18:30. But from there to Bangalore was long journey as there was a major accident on the road and we reached home at 21:30.
If you are looking for a doing nothing kind of a weekend Auroville is great. The best part is as most visitor who comes here from abroad lots of small things like baby chair; clean bathroom is common. The food is bit blend in Indian context but we liked it. People are courteous and helpful.
»More pictures

Puri – Konark


 We had to extend our planned holidays as we got a last minute invitation for my cousin's marriage now both marriages were only 6 days apart. Personally was quite unhappy about the whole situation of attending two marriages; instead of voicing opinions, kept cribbing and ranting. Confronting such family matters does not work as no one is right. Anyways, at times you are forced to go along with such decision whether you like it or not.
Plan to Sunderban trip was made by Santanu as we wanted to go somewhere around Calcutta not just one Wedding to start with. And now with extension of our holiday we were left with 2 more days in hand. So after lots of thoughts and web browsing we settled unanimously for Puri - every Bengalis dream place or second home. Digha an eminent beach resort of West Bengal was shelved as everyone recommended against it.


From Calcutta its one night train journey and reached Puri early morning by Puri express. Heard from lot of sources and found it in actuality too that all kinds of people will start approaching you ,offering help starting from getting hotel to visiting inside the temple by trying to rob you. Avoided these people as much as possible.
We booked for Hotel Santana which was not sea facing but not far from sea. It’s located on C.T. (Chakra Tirtha) Road where most non-Indian prefer to stay. There are steady growth of foreigners in recent years who find beaches of Orissa are more tranquil compared to the famous one on western coast of India. Puri beach front is divided in 3 sections starting from west you have the old hotels which are frequented by Bengali’s; the middle section is a no-tourist-land as there is a big gutter which opens at sea and at the end you have the C.T Road where new hotels are.

First thing for us after reaching hotel was to visit Jaganath temple. We asked our hotel people to arrange for darshan. They did it within hours time very kind of them. They told us not to pay any exorbitant amount to that person just anything you wish should be fine enough. I didn't know before that non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple. We had very smooth darshan despite lot of chaos and fight among police and pandas were going on just before closing of temple at noon. It didn't took much time too in queue compared to Tirupati.
After darshan we decided to come back and had lunch as we were empty stomach from morning so had food at one Jain place with no onion and garlic. Then strolled around in the street near to hotel. It was quite hot and bit humid at day time so went back to room. Rested for a while then left hotel on foot around 4.00pm to walk along the beach towards bazaar. Till 8.00pm we were roaming around and then decided to come back as Aarush was to be fed which was our concern. In evening we had temple bhog which was huge chunk to be finished by two. You are not supposed to throw bhog we shared the untouched portion with our hotel staffs who were also happy to have it. The Prasad is so holy that a Hindu Brahmin will eat the same even an un-touchable saves the same from a dog’s mouth.

Next day at 8.00am we left our room for Konark by a Cab from hotel and on reaching the spot hired a guide. The Guide was well informed and very decent took around and an hour or so to explain and then we took our own time to look around. From there we came to Chandbaga (Konark gold) beach. Aarush jumped into sea and was not willing to come out but we convinced him somehow that in evening we will come again. We came back to city center walked around temple area shopped some Saris and had food there in one restaurant from where temple is seen very clearly.
Did few shopping and came back to hotel. Then in evening as per our promise we took Aarush to beach and he was very happy. At evening its cool breeze which makes you to stay long then we came to street side food where we had fresh fish fry and hurried to hotel for Aarush before he gets cranky out of hunger.
At late night boarded train back to kolkata.

Lalbagh Flower Show'10


Finally went to Lalbagh flower show last weekend (8th Aug). Thanks to my work; was awake from 3 AM and had no trouble of getting ready early on Sunday. By 8:40 AM we reached; crowd just started to show-up there was not much problem of parking and all. As soon after we entered the main glass-house Aarush started to sneeze incessantly. Among many varieties of flower main attraction was off course the huge structure of India Gate made of roses; it was tribute to soldiers who lost their lives during the Second World war. There were many orchids but my camera failed to capture their beauty. We took a quick walk around because of aarush and within another 60 minutes or so we were on our way back. Half an hour later we realised that our li'l one is allergic to pollens probably.

Coffee – makes me happy

My addiction to coffee is not new and there are few posts on the same subject in past. The culture of having a good time with a cup of coffee is catching up in India. Café Coffee Day aka CCD is expanding its footprints in rapid speed from past few years; people close to the business speculate they are just spending money and expanding in hope for a bought over by some FDI like Starbucks if the later enter Indian market.
Personally prefer Barista (inside Leela hotel more presice) more for the ambiance then the coffee. This chain has changed ownership a few times and their service is not consistent across franchises. The croissant I had in Mumbai airport last Wednesday felt like chewing gum.Now there are few entries to the market like Cuppa, Costa. Went to Cuppa(in Benarghata road) few months back after dinner with friends and were quite disappointed as they did not had any wine that we asked. Felt like they wanted to push some open bottled wine and my experience with coffee was not great either. Last Tuesday while in Mumbai went to Costa coffee for the first time and I must admit their coffee was really great. The price is bit higher from CCD but very much like Barista now need to see if they can hold on to the quality as they expand within India.

Progress @ New Apartment

Some update from previous post . Till far we made numerous trip on weekdays and weekends. We are almost done as far as carpenter work and civil work is concerned. There are still few things pending but we can wait for now. The next major one and obvious ones are hardware and shower enclosure fixing at bathrooms along with painting and electrical fittings. We need to make all the necessary holes for pictures and wall hanging before final painting work. Hope to complete religious house warming (griha pravesh) in July and wait till year end for final move.

Another weekend


The past weekend was very low key just wanted to laze around to be honest. It was great to watch to few late nights World Cup Football matches live with Jishu. Saturday went to usual vegetable market at HAL. After a quick and early lunch we went to southern part of Bangalore to drop Jishu back home. It started to drizzle at first and very soon it was pouring by the time we reached BTM layout. The traffic started to move in snail pace and meanwhile Aaarush dozed off while seating in his car seat. So from BTM we went to checkout Oyster Bath Concepts at Jaynagar showroom. Luckily the rain stopped and we left Aarush for 5-10 minutes while sleeping as car was parked right infront of the showroom. From there wanted to go to Commercial Street as rain almost stopped. But on the way it again regained its power and was splashing water all over. So we decided to keep our feet dry and head towards home. It was a long detour to reach home to be honest and only person benefited was Aarush as he completed his afternoon nap. So at the end instead of going directly to home we went to Sambit’s place and had a good time there.

Aarush's-Free ride


Well another small post with pictures. These pictures of Aarush are months apart. One on left with motorcycle are just after his tonsuring and on the right are just weeks old. He really likes to ride like any other boy. And if we try to stop him it does not go well at public place. When we were in Star Bazaar @ Kormangala few weeks back he remembered where this toy car was kept and every time we tried to refrain him he used to go back there. It was surprising that he remembered where the escalator was and went up all the way navigating those aisles of merchandise from the lower floors. Recently, we bought him a cycle from Fisher-Price which he rides inside home all the time. The picture of that is there in this album will try to capture a video some time soon.

Whats happening


If long hours in office and the phone calls at 2AM does failed to keep me busy this is another Work in Progress which is keeping me recharged.

Aarush Cooliris Wall

Playing with Cooliris and gallery3 but need to see how and when to migrate current gallery2 to gallery 3 without breaking any thing.

McAfee antivirus program freezes PCs

After starting my office laptop it goes for freeze within 5 minutes. I was very worried what went wrong;   my current laptop is cranky and that is why ordered a new one which was delivered yesterday. The  new laptop is getting build by the IT Team as I write this post.  But i was worried that I will lost all my data like a horror movie where every thing you do goes wrong.   Any way after trying Ctrl+Del+Shift many times I just pulled the power and removed the battery with a quick prayer. Well my Outlook In-box was corrupted as a result but it was fixed post reboot and I am back in action.  I saw a small pop-up about McAfee when it was frozen but could not make out what went wrong. But then I saw this news looks like I am not the only one who had this problem.

One thing for sure some how Microsoft delivered Winows-XP as robust desktop platform compared to those Win'98 and win-2k and that is a reason such small hitch are totally unexpected  as a end user.

IKEA - made in India

 It is no secret that I am a big fan of IKEA's clean cut design. And now every time I  go outside of India  try  to pick something from there. Wished  we got the whole modular kitchen, beds, chest of drawers, leather sofa while moving back from Paris. This time I visited IKEA store was next to Newark Airport(EWR, NJ) and picked some small stuff for Aarush. When a neighbour looked at the "Made in India" level asked from which store we picked up?  We were shocked twice first that person did not knew about IKEA , and secondly   wondered  what a journey this plastic item had across the world before coming to our apartment.

Thursday - Arab Street


Today was last day at Singapore. Packed everything night before so that after breakfast we can check-out without much wasting of time.It was holiday at Singapore as of some Muslim festival. My plan was to go to Arab Street. This area has beautiful old shop houses that line the streets. 
The highlight of the area is the grand Sultan Mosque, which was crowded as people were coming out after prayers.I think Arab Street is known for the fabrics a great place to go if you want or need cut piece. Here you can find materials of every imaginable colors. Not only fabric but also carpet, prayer mats, jewelries oriental carpets, pashminas, sarong, batik shirts etc. I think you can BARGAIN!!!! but not sure. The shops here sell French Lace, Thai silk, Brocade, Indian Silk buttons, and many more...anything related to sewing.

It is a great stop to just walk around and see the shop house architecture of Singapore. Seemingly endless number of fabric shops starts to make your head spin. On Baghdad street-there are a lot of new restaurants/cafe houses. Many of the restaurants have sheeshas or water pipes, which you can smoke while having sip of coffee. We had kasha laham for lunch at Cafe le Caire @ Al Majlis located at 39 Arab Street which was for more than 2 person in terms of portion.


After having heavy lunch we walked towards Bugis street but I missed the charm of it as Santanu was not in mood for any more shopping. Its place for shop-alcoholics with good street shopping experience. 
Then came to Raffles hotel to see its colonial style architecture. It houses museum shops, tropical garden courtyard and Victorian-style theater, tiffin room among many others. Best part is at raffles you will be first welcomed by a Sikh doorman dressed in white ironed Grieves and Hawks uniforms with thick mustache as you get down from your car. It is impossible to overlook the doorman dressed in traditional Sikh attire. But what is fascinating is the fact that they are one of the most photographed icons of Singapore.
Then visited raffles mall and after strolling for a while decided to return to our mandarin hotel as Santanu''s flight was ahead of us. Yes...you heard it right..we had different flight on way back as well.
While going from here to Singapore it was smooth journey with Aarush but on way back it was really terrible as flight was fully packed and with time difference and whole day moving around he was cranky enough. With very less leg space he was not getting proper sleep. Then after landing too we have to spend another 2 hrs. at airport as Santanu had phone call meeting.

Wedneday- Visit to China town



It was the day to visit china town and particularly Buddha tooth relic temple.  The day was very bright with little could in the sky. This is the view from our hotel room looking central Singapore Business District.
After a good breakfast headed out of hotel. Got down by MRT at China town & took exit to Pagoda street. One can't miss the colorful row of shop-houses along that street, with baby blue and yellow flowers painted all over. This whole area is labyrinth of shops selling all and sundry. Take a few minutes to explore the Chinese furniture shops close to the end of this street. Many of the pieces are indeed very beautiful.
I walked straight till South bridge road where there is one oldest Hindu temple on temple road SRI MARIAMMAN TEMPLE whose facade was under renovation so decided not to enter. So walked straight to Buddha tooth relic temple & museum. It took us 2 hrs to complete the whole. It was worth the visit.
Next to this place was Sago street. At end of sago street is china town complex. The most interesting part of the Complex is the wet market, located at its basement. The Chinese are reputed to eat everything from hoof to tail, and there's no better place to witness this than a market in the heart of Chinatown! You will be greeted by the sight of turtles, eels, pig trotters, live frogs being skinned and a fascinating array of fresh meat and seafood. Colorful tropical fruits and vegetables are abundant. There are also dry and preserved goods stalls selling a myriad of Chinese culinary needs from sharks' fin to century eggs. The market is busiest and at its best in the morning as told by one shopkeeper. I boycotted this part as I won't be able to eat anything later.

Took left turn to Terengganu Street which ends at Pagoda street. This street is crammed with shops selling clothes, antiques, wood carvings, etc. The goods are not sold at fixed prices, so one can test bargaining skills here. But while walking around I came across one juice shop selling juices of cactus to orange. Decided to have Bitter Gourd juice just for change. Not bad though. From there we came back to hotel to freshen our self at late afternoon and then in evening left for IKEA where we had dinner.

Hectic Tuesday


We woke up bit early; had heavy breakfast as usual. For today I have already decided to go to Botanical garden in first half of the day. So took a cab from hotel and I figured it was very nearby. This botanical garden is must if you want to see the greenery and variety of plants and flowers they have. Excellent maintenance, people come here for jogging, picnic and touristy purpose. They have one section of National orchid garden which is just awesome. After strolling for few minutes I realized that battery of my camera has not been charged for past 2 days and unfortunately after a while in major area of Orchid garden my camera stopped working. With orchid garden they have number of mini- attractions. I couldn't take any photo of mist house, cool-house. Other than that they have rain-forest, ginger garden, evolution garden. Then they have 3 lakes: Swan Lake, Symphony Lake and Eco Lake. Then even have French restaurant and cafeteria in the garden. It takes at least more than 2 hrs. to complete round of the garden.

At certain places they have flight of stairs where I have to carry Aarush as well the stroller up and down. Otherwise, overall pavement is very good for kids in stroller and handicapped people. I decided to return by public bus so got down at orchards street close to hotel. Went to hotel room put the batteries in charger. Meanwhile we freshened up, fed my son and put him to sleep. Then around 4.00pm I took metro while he was still sleeping and went to Raffles place by MRT.

From here I walked towards boat quay seeing parliament, supreme court, city hall building and Saint Andrews cathedral on the way. My objective was to see Merlion. So walked all the way on the riverside lined with restaurants basically hangout for expatriates and tourists with chic cafes, yuppie pubs. Here every restaurant employee tries to persuade you to come in. While strolling saw structure of arts along the river which was amazing. Walked all the way till the back of The Fullerton hotel then crossed highway to go to other side i.e., one Fullerton to Merlion park tourist icon of Singapore.
As located next to marina bay on city's edge it has seating arrangement to view Esplanade, sea and bum-boats to give tourists a tour of Colonial Singapore from the river. Me and Aarush sat there relaxing my feet after a hard day of walking. It was about to sunset & weather was very pleasant, chill air blowing.
While sitting there I was gazing people from different corners of world coming and posing with Merlion. One big Japanese group came; and they were posing like anything and I couldn't control laughing all alone; truly had a fun time. After a while I realized that we too also became tourist icon with Merlion as some of those Japanese women in late 40s wanted to have picture with me and Aarush (taklu baby) too.


Well, with the fall of day-light statue is floodlit and water pours from the statue's mouth. Fortunately we spent quite a lot of time there as it was today’s end point. Around 8 Santanu met us there and we left for dinner by cab to Little India.

Today we had south Indian thali; portion of food was too much to eat then we walked to Mustafa known shopping complex open 24 hrs. I believe They mainly serve tourists from India, Middle East, South-east Asia and Africa other then Europeans and Americans. They have wide range of items from pin to piano thronging with narrow aisles. Staffs don't respond properly except in diamond-gold jewelery section and most of them can't speak simple English neither they have product knowledge. Its heavily crowded even at 12.00AM.After a while I started feeling dizzy due to claustrophobia. Then quickly bought few stuffs and headed back to hotel via public bus.

Sleepy Monday


Monday morning mother-son woke up pretty late. Santanu already left for office while we were in sleep. Around noon we went out of hotel to nearby mall. Today I was not much interested in exploring rather looking for kids activities. Spent almost half day at Toys R Us play area in Paragon mall where Aarush enjoyed to fullest. He did not want to give-up the car and was seating there for hours. He was not interested in playing with slide,swing and all. In fact he was bit scared when I put him up there. From there went to Carrefour to get some food for him. Around 4.30 PM came back had shower and both took a beauty sleep. In the evening Santanu had phone call to attend so after that we went to food court of Takashimaya for Dinner.


Had noodles and killed time sitting at one corner of pavement as Santanu had another call to attend.Very uneventful day. Came back and went to deep sleep again.

Jurong bird park

After a full day @ Santosa on Sunday we woke up pretty late. We decided to go for Jurong bird park and offbeat track -Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, is the largest monastery in Singapore.

We had breakfast at ChatterBox as the normal breakfast side was packed. The menu was quite different  from the normal side as we had lots of traditional dishes to choose from. As usual Pamela had lots of dim-sum and I  preferred the usual cereal and fruits.

We started with the monastery, and when Orchard road tourist info office they were bit of surprised with our choice. The nearest MRT stop is Bishan and from there we took bus no 410. It took around 1 1/2hrs to complete the same. We enjoyed the serenity of that place painted in bright colors.

From there we went to Jurong bird park via MRT. This MRT journey is very long as covers almost whole Singapore Northern part. On the way we picked Zongzi (or zong) traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings; we had red bean paste. It is tetrahedral shape and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves where leaf imparts its own unique smell and flavor to the rice. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. After a long wait got into 194 SBS bus from Boonlay metro station by that the sky was already dark with afternoon clouds. As soon as we reached park gate it was almost 4 PM abut luckily rain stopped.
It is open concept park which houses some thousand birds. We started our walk from on left side of ticket counter followed by crowned pigeon- World’s Largest Pigeons. They are at tree-top level with walkway which offers a completely unobtrusive view of the birds since there are no wire meshes separating the visitor from the birds. Then they have large collection of horn-bills and toucans. Lory Loft showcases the Lorykeet where Visitors can enter, traverse and exit Lory Loft at treetop level, allowing for a bird eye’s view of the majestic panorama.
The bird shows at the Pools Amphitheater featuring flamingos, macaws, hornbills and cockatoos are both spectacular and funny we heard from others but we couldn't watch any as reached there late afternoon. African Waterfall Aviary, home to free-flying African birds and parrots paradise we missed. They have air conditioned panorail system with stoppages which covers the entire Park providing excellent elevated views.
They have birds of prey section too then ostrich, Double-Wattled Cassowary, Emu followed by Dino Dig which allows children and family members to experience archaeological diggings together and discover fossils hidden through time amidst the sands. It is entertaining for both adults as kids.
From there we walked towards riverine featuring ducks, fishes and turtles, swan and pelican cove and then flamingo .Penguin Parade enclosure, in a re-created Antarctic setting is worth seeing from kids point of view. Shoe bill, African crane, saddle billed storks and then at last we entered world of darkness which houses different species of owl.


TIP: Scrolling around the park would take more than 2-3 hours. So make sure to come earlier so that you can spend more time mingling with birds. And one can still have time to relax in one of their huts while watching the birds and listening to their symphony. Personally, seen different kinds of birds only in pictures and books. It really awakens our childhood desires. My son enjoyed a lot. We had to carry stroller up and down the stairs many a times. Although it was bit tiring but MUCH better on foot, at our own pace. Overall, spent fabulous day with birds of different species from different countries at one place. Best part is the whole area is very green and serene.

They have unique restaurant as all the chairs are made of metal with different kinds of animal figures. As well one can't miss their souvenir shop as it is at EXIT door. Instead of wounding up by taking the bus to MRT we hired a cab for our hotel; got freshened up then left for dinner at Lau Pa Sat known for satay and stingray under the stars.

Visit to hungry tide- Sunderban

For the first time in my life I spent more than 2 nights in a row at Calcutta. The initial plan was to attend Papai’s wedding reception and travel to some where around like Digha and back to Bangalore. We got our Bangalore – Calcutta ticket booked. Going was by train to save money and return was on flight so that we save time & energy before getting back to our daily routine.
Now people suggested against Digha and we settled for Sunderban. According to guide the place has not changed a lot - land where past lives in present and is not yet well connected well to Kolkata. We went through travel guide book and settled with Kali Travels. This travel company is run by two Australians out of Calcutta – David and Martyn.
We chose for 2 night 3 days package with them. So on the day Martyn showed up on time with a Innova. On our way out of Calcutta he briefed the plan for next 2 days.
As soon as we took the road out from Science City junction of EM bypass the landscape changed drastically. I felt as if I was on time machine. The small villages and rural bazaar on way reminded me of remote North Eastern part of India from my childhood which sounds surreal but true. Looks like in last 40 years of left-front government there is hardly any progress on their so called strongholds. The car dropped us at Sonakhali (approx 60 KM from Calcutta).
We had to wait there as was no immediate boat for Gosoba our destination. It was 26th Jan(Republic day) and there was not much happening at the river front. This allowed us to explore the adjacent village market. Found cobbler who are still selling stripes for rubber Hawaii sandals, reminded that uncommon in urban India where people probably changes their sandals if the strips is broken.

The boat was almost empty it was us and few passengers and the journey took almost an hour. As motor boat begins to sail towards its destination the scenery gradually changed from rural village evoking feelings of excitement, adventure and anticipation of unknown. We reached Gosoba - peak of afternoon had lunch and walked through the market. We got into the man pulled cycle-van rickshaw with flat bed to sit and put our luggage too. As it was our first time 6 KM long journey seemed never ending. Gosoba is one of the big island in Sunderban. There is no real electricity here, every machine that needs electricity runs on generator. There is no car or auto(Tuktuk) only few motorcycles which run on bio-fuel. Life seems less complicated in one sense but I was getting full EDGE signal on my Blackberry.
We stayed at Apanjan Hotel at Pakhiralya which is just opposite to Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve. One can see the tiger reserve entrance from this side of bank. At dusk went for village walk. Here most of houses are made of mattir ghor- house of mud which keeps it cool and walking through those winded narrow lanes we realized that we have become center of attraction. The attraction was two fold for the locals as we brown skin who shares a common mother tongue of the local along with tall blond fair skin Australian as their guide. But looked like Martyn is quite well known as “Uncle” to the local people. And they will converse in broken Bengali-English and lots of sign languages and catch up on their whereabouts.
Aarush was very busy chasing the stray dogs which were hanging around the hotel. And he went to sleep as soon as he finished his dinner. We had a simple Bengali dinner and chatted with Martyn on lots of subjects.As night begins to slip in the lullaby of mother nature, the music of blowing wind, distant call of restless wild life and rustling of branches gently put you to sleep as even generators are switched off by 10.00PM. Life in noisy city will drift away becoming a distant memory.
Next day woke up around 7ish and after breakfast got into boat and went to Sajnekhali Forest depertment to register ourselves. They assigned us one (compulsory) guide to show us around and enjoy a day cruise by boat through the creeks and canals of the dense forest. This hunting land is ruled by forest goddess Bonobibi to whom prayers are offered in order to maintain communal harmony between man & animal. So we too offered our prayers before starting our journey.
We saw lots of birds to start with displaying riots of colors and sounds and must admit few times we could not locate the camouflaged birds unless our guide with eagle eye pointed it. Egret, kingfisher, red vented bulbul, eagle, brahmini kite,brown winged kingfisher, indian roller, pond heron etc were spotted. There was baby crocodile who was basking in the winter sun as our boat approached he swam along the boat for a while before sinking altogether. While cruising we sighted water monitor lizard other than wild boars.
On spotting wild boar we realized suddenly our camera failed and was not responding to any button we pressed. Here the majestic king royal bengal tiger are endowed with good swimming power as told by our guide and are man eaters. We traced tiger paws while cruising along the mangrove covered banks.Well there are only few hundreds left in Sunderban and new census was going on while we were there. We heard fire-shots from Forest Officials who were in one of unmanned island collecting tiger poo(shit) to identify unique tigers. Earlier they used to get the claw molded in Plaster of Paris – as each tiger has unique claw just like our finger prints.
Our boat journey ended around 13:00 hrs. All along it was low tide which means you have better chance of spotting any wild life as more surface areas gets exposed.Actually both high and low tide has their own pros-cons. During high tide boat enters various creeks weaving in and out allowing to explore most forbidden areas of sunderbans. We stopped at watch towers where one can disembark and experience nature at its purest.While leaving from that point we saw some spotted deer and tried to capture it with Blackberry’s camera – what a luck!!!
After a day of adventure, had lunch thereafter Pamela & Aarush took siesta. I sat back and relaxed while discussing with Martyn his experience in China as a visiting Professor of English. Well his side of story is quite shocking as I never heard first hand experience on that matter.
In the evening we went for walk but it was dark. Lucky us as of full moon moon-light was enough to show us the way and we did not needed the torch most of the time. While walking we heard soundtracks from Hindi movies of 86/87’s played in distance causing havoc to the beautiful silence. It was surprising how much distance a noise can travel in a silent land.
The devastation from Aila (cyclone of 2009) can be still seeen; ground water is salty; when you wash your face for the first time you get real shock. The locals are yet trying to get back to their lives. But looks like there is hardly any or no-help help from government on that front. Lots of those broken dams needs quick fix before another floods hits this area.Potrait of words done by Amitabh Gosh on his famous novel " hungry tide" looks so real, people are really with big heart. The poorest one lives in the mud house next to dam where relatively well off stay inland. But as whole they are still backward in many terms.
As Aarush had a nap he refused to go to sleep early. There were only one couple from (Sweden) other then us in the hotel with a young noisy Nepali Guide. The guide arranged for a bonfire for them once the generator was put off at 10 PM. The tourist retired early while we enjoyed both the bonfire and moon-light from our balcony.
Somehow I felt bad as we started to pack our bags as I knew we were heading back to crowded madness of the city life soon. The boat was packed already when we reached Gosoba and it left immediately after we boarded. Me and Aarush took a privilege seat on the top of toilet but under shade. Aarush was not much happy with this arrangement – he was hungry as he refused to have his breakfast at hotel. So had some cheese and orange with me. But after 30 minutes or so I had to reunite with Pamela who was seating on the boat roof exposed to Sun. It was quite hot if you have to seat for long in Sun. So reached Sonakhali after almost 48 hours. Now had to wait for a while as we reached before expected time for our car to arrive.
The car came within 20 minutes or so and Aarush fall asleep after he finished a quick lunch.
Well if you like to travel and open to the ideas of exploring must suggest you to try Sunderban. On the economic front I am sure you can save a lot if you go by yourself. But we enjoyed going with Kali Travels and suggest you do the same if you have extra cash to spare. Binocular, sun-cap, umbrella, mosquito repellent and torch are must to be taken in this trip.