Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kerala - Indeed ,God's own place - ( country ) -India !!

It's hard to believe when someone uses a tag line - God's own country . It says and conveys a lot . And as always, for most of the things in life you need to - travel, down south to this amazing state located in the south-west region of India. The name Kerala takes the form Keralam in Malayalam, the main language of the state .


Since this was my second visit to Kerala - I decided to focus my travel on the western coastal belt of this divine state criss-crossed by a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes, estuaries, and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters.

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Kochi –

The journey started with Kochi - formerly Cochin, a major port city on the west coast by the Arabian Sea , part of the district of Ernakulam . It is also the largest urban agglomeration in Kerala.

Kochi is home to the Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy and the state headquarters of the Indian Coast Guard . Commercial maritime facilities of the city include the Port of Kochi, an International Container Transshipment Terminal, the Cochin Shipyard, offshore SPM of the Kochi Refineries and the Kochi Marina.Kochi is home for the High Court of Kerala and Lakshadweep, and the Cochin University of Science and Technology.

We stayed at the superb looking Bolgatty Palace, the exclusive heritage hotel located on the picturesque Bolgatty Island in Kochi (http://www.bolgattypalacekochi.com/ ) . A beautiful picturesque property which will make you fall in love , all over again .

Key places to be seen in Kochi are - Cochin Jewish Synagogue or the Mattancherry Synagogue , Dutch Palace , Cherai beach , Fort Kochi and Willingdon Island. Just like other big cities it has its own MG road for a shopping spree and indulgence. Traffic , indeed is like a city traffic so keep your nerves cool .

We took a little detour and headed for the divine - the famous Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple, the fourth biggest temple in India in terms of the number of devotees per day. A short two hour drive to this temple town will make you feel connected to Krishna again.

Strict dress code exists for people who wish to enter the Guruvayur Temple. Men are to wear mundu around their waist, without any dress covering their chest. But it is allowed to cover the chest region with a small piece of cloth (veshthi). Presently the dress code for women have been relaxed with shalwar kameez . Indeed, this also happened to be the first time ever , I stripped ( if that’s the right word ) and worn a mundu . Indeed a sight !!



Guruvayur Temple
Did you know - Kerala has the highest media exposure in India with newspapers publishing in nine different languages; mainly English and Malayalam .

Did you know -A merry making feast called the Cochin Carnival is celebrated at Fort Kochi every year during the last ten days of December till the new year . Various unique games, dirt bike races, beach volleyball and fireworks display are held as part of the festivities. The carnival is celebrated as a continuity of the Portuguese New Year revelry held here during the colonial days.



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Munnar

Munnar is a hill station on the Western Ghats, a range of mountains situated in the Idukki district of the Indian state of Kerala.The name Munnar is believed to mean "three rivers", referring to the town's strategic location at the confluence of the Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers.

You have breath in the tea air , as it is called in this part of the world. This green hill station is surrounded by the country's highest tea gardens. Layers and layers of tea estates, mountain mist, waterfalls and wildlife sanctuaries make Munnar almost surrealistically beautiful.

Did you know - Munnar is also famous for the wild orchids locally called Neelakurinchi which blooms once in 12 years. During this time the entire valley turns violet. It is also home to Nilagiri tahr, a rare breed of mountain goat.


Neelakurinji


Key places to see in Munnar  – are the Tata Tea Museum ,Lakkom waterfalls, Rajamalai National Park (Eravikulam National Park) , Mattupetty Dam , Forest Rose Garden & Anamudi Peak (- the highest peak in the Western Ghats and South India, at an elevation of 2,695 metres (8,842 ft), literally translates to "elephant's forehead ) .

For shopping you can purchase and see for your self the entire process of tea making at the Tata Tea Museum . This place is beautiful and a perfect destination for long nature trails all over.


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Thekkady

Also known as God’s own district - located in the Periyar forest of Thekkady is one of the finest wild life reserves in India and spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks.

One of the rare places where you have spice gardens, lakes , forest reserves & tiger trails . Key places to visit in Thekkady  - are Abraham's Spice Garden , Periyar Lake & Tiger trail at the Periyar National Park & Kadathanadan Kalari Centre  - well known for Kalaripayattu martial arts.



Periyar National Park

Did you know - Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (PNP) is a protected area in the districts of Idukki and Pathanamthitta in Kerala, south India. It is notable as an elephant reserve and a tiger reserve.


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Kumarakom  

Always used to wonder and think – what exactly were backwaters . Until , I visited and saw them eye-to-eye . Nature has so much spread all across that it’s impossible to cover everything . Yet , if we manage to cherish some of these offerings it’s our good luck than destiny .



Kerala Backwaters - Kumarakom
Did you know - Kumarakom is a popular tourism destination located near the city of Kottayam - famous for its backwater tourism. It is set in the backdrop of the Vembanad Lake which is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Kerala

This is one of those places where you just need to sit back and enjoy God’ creation . We enjoyed our stay at the luxury cottages overlooking the vast Vembanad Lake. It’s hard to describe in words and hence you need to be there to feel it .

There are only two places to be visited in Kumarakom – in case the water sets you free - Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary & Bay Island Driftwood Museum .

Did you know - A one hour drive to Alappuzha ( Alleppey ) can take you to the The Nehru Trophy Boat Race -Vallam Kali held in the Punnamada Lake near Alappuzha.Vallam Kali or Vallamkali literally means boat play/game, but can be translated to boat race in English. The most popular event of the race is the competition of Chundan Vallams (snake boats). Hence the race is also known as Snake Boat Race in English. The race conducted on the second Saturday of August every year is a major tourist attraction


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We stayed at the ABAD group properties ( http://www.abadhotels.com/ ) . They are a renowned hotel chain across Kerala and the properties are indeed great .

Also, the Kerala tourism website  offers great options and insights into the places of tourist interest in Kerala .  To add , with 44 rivers, a vast network of lakes, 1500 kms of labyrinthine canals, snake boat races, over 300 species of birds, floating markets showcasing the magnificence of  Kerala backwaters, Kerala tourism has recently launched a focused campaign on the Kerala Great Backwaters .  I feel in love with it all over again . 





Authentic Kerala cuisine , pools ,backwater cruises + not to forget the Kerala massage experience . A lot on offer.

Keralites are sweet and simple people . They love wearing and purchasing - Gold . Women have a strong inclination towards silk sarees and hence you will see many out of home media dominated by these two key themes. Across the state you will find more number of churches than people . The NH roads are small since on both sides you have residential houses .

Keep the place safe and clean . And don't forget to have coconut water everyday . Apply a sunscreen for sure .
**

PS  - As always , I have kept some things under the wraps . In case you plan to go visit Kerala and have any queries whatsoever , let me know / drop in a  Tweet at my twitter handle . As you all know , I do my ground work research before visiting any place and would be happy to chip-in for any queries that you may have.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Featuring in Fortune India - October'12

The October '12 -  anniversary issue of Fortune India - is special .



Got featured in Fortune India - anniversary issue - Editors selection of letters . Hope to make it to the cover page someday :)



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Whispering Pines

It was indeed a much needed break .  As I look  back this year , I realised that I have been a workaholic all through .  So I decided to give myself a good rejuvenating break and that too far from the chaos of Delhi.

And where did I head to ?!  The place is called Mashobra -  a close 300+ km from Delhi . This place is a 20 minute drive from Shimla , HP. Located and surrounded amidst beautiful pine trees all over , only word describes this place - divine .

A small sleepy town where you will find that the ClubMahindra resort is indeed picturesque . Well lit and an old heritage property located with surrounding pines all around and minimalist noise , I said to myself - "such places do exist " .  


Club Mahindra - Mashobra

It has a well arrany of tastefully done series of room options and a host of dining treats . Besides , if you are travelling with family and kids - they will simply enjoy .  The staff is all from Himachal and hence courteous to the core .  They will make sure your stay is worth remembering . The folks visiting this place are also great to connect and talk , since everyone has a clearcut agenda - Relax and enjoy.


Going back to my homestate ,made me nostalgic and believe me I never knew a place like this existed . We often just limit the thinking to - Shimla only ; but this place is far better .
One can travel to Naldhera , Fagu and Tattapani ( hot water springs ) day each .

Our mornings typically consisted of long walks around the Mashobra and breathing in pure air . The people here are so simple and special that you will feel at times , gosh ! what the hell am I doing . These walks are a way to connect you back to the nature and take a look at yourself and the life you are living . I already am missing them.

The evenings one can head to the Mall Road - Shimla and explore various options that it gives or you can just relax at the SPA at the resort . In case you prefer none , just head straight to the curvy mountain roads for a fresh walk and a nice cheer ! 


You have to see for yourself the sunrise and the sunset from the valley view rooms at the resort . It's -  awesome . I could just glance and sit through all day long . When the night sky  comes , one can see the star studded blanket set which can make you think - wow !! So many stars !!




Mashobra
 
But ,as they say all happy things come to an end . Wish I could go back and stay forever . After all life is to live simple and smile .


PS - In case you are wanting further details on Himachal Pradesh feel free to ping me . Or any insights to the resort as well .  At the end , when you travel to the hills - do not litter and make sure you do your bit for this mother nature.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Move on....Time to shift

Shifting or change are more or less the same words with a thin line of differentiation .  Both disturb or so to say challenge the normal course of life . And are at times accompanied by highs and lows .

It could be anything - a change of city due to family movement , change of country due to planetary movements or simply change of house due to a big house in waiting .

It could also be changing your status on FB or updating one on twitter . It can include a positive attitude towards life from tomorrow or a negative outlook towards the perils of staying up late at night.


It all boils down how you take it . Recently , of the many changes that keep on going in the ecosystem around me ; we took a decision to move our home and shift to a place where - we had no choice but to move in. In short - came all the wise words of people who are accustomed to changes ans shifting . Believe me , in today's world shifting and that too shifting homes is a big task .

First of all as Indians we don't want to let go off anything . So we make sure that gift which my mom's aunt gave for me is still intact and is with us till time . Another thing as Indians we all are fond off are - books - .Word of wisdom - we never knew when we were born there would be a day when all of use would have our own library of sorts . One mini truck actually had only my books over the years . Gosh !! I studied so much ..

Then you have the most important component of any home kitchen . This is the place without which you can't do zilch . It's like a sky without a sun and the best part is this is the domain which takes the maximum time to settle down or get up and running.

It's not a easy job and I always wonder and salute our folks in the defence and civil services who move every year from one part of the country to another . It's good to say that you meet different people as you cover distances but shifting every year may be quarter - I am no game for it .

But , can you life in world without change . NO. Change is an inevitable part of our life . It is  bound to happen . Just like the time keeps moving , people move in and out of your life and a person is born and dies and then again takes a rebirth - it's nothing but a change .

On that serious note , happy to hear your views and your shares of changes and movements.

btw - Did you know Citibank India became the first ever bank to host a bloggers meet in Delhi @ Olive Delhi   . Read what our fellow bloggers have to say / share :

Raghav Modi  & Mridula


On that ending note - wishing you all  - Eid Mubarak !

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Firsts are always firsts & special

What significance does the number 1 hold to you . You ask this to anyone and the answers that would come would more or less be the same . Similar to what you might have thought for . Then why did you ask ?!

A common thing which people might miss would be saying - First is special . Firsts are special . Ask them to name a few and then it will take time for the same spontaneous group to come back with an answer .

That is because they have never stepped out of the thinking process , never took time out , they were always running and running to make sure the things to do list was dealt with on priority . They never had the time to enjoy those special moments , those special people that came and went by all this time.

It's hard to recollect . Your first smile , your first tear , your first kiss, your first break up , your first hands on experience in the most scrumptious dish in the world . The first time you took her out ,the first time you started to learn how to walk , the first time you started saying hi and hello . Goodness ! Remember them .These were all a part of your life once and you never had the time to cherish them or grab the moment .

Often when I go out for my walks / jogs as you call , I always wait and glance at the bridge . Life comes to a standstill . Looking at the bridge I feel time has stopped . There has been so much in life that I never really knew what do make or take out of it .  When I take a deep breath I realise wow - life is indeed  beautiful  and so were the firsts in the life .

That sight of seeing your little kid walk , your wife making the most tough moments in life so easy , the sight of your grandparent holding your hand and walking by and your parents who are everything . It's so much that God has given to all of us , yet we don't know what we keep chasing all the time. 

The sight of the mom whose young daughter is wearing a churra , the smiles on the face of the groom when he sees the girl / wife - these sights are forever . These  are our firsts and yet we miss them all the way .



Whenever we see a movie of any genre , at times we feel so connected yet it takes three hours for an entire team to make us realise what we had already experienced .  Bad !!

Seeing people running after money , working not hard but crazy hard , not having a second to call and wish someone on b'days  - is this the life we wanted . Certainly not  . Why do people move away to places on vacations . To enjoy . Not really . They think so but deep down they don't count seven days of bliss , they think seven days and the clock starts again .

Every time I see such people make me think , man ! these are gone cases . When was the last time they went to an ISKCON and jumped with delight in the  prayers . When was it that they sat quietly at the dargah of nizamuddin auliya . These folks need much more than a break .

They need to appreciate the value of 1 more than just a number . It's then only they start living and living life to the fullest .....



Nice song   - http://bit.ly/GN1tfy

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Special - They are there

How often have you felt really happy from deep inside ?
How many times have you felt saying thank you more than once ?
How fast have you been able to share all your stories with someone ?
How many people have taken the time to care for you ?
How often do you glow when you get gifts from someone you never expected ?


Now , remove the "how" from the above and see if something changes . See if your thoughts wonder a little less and check if your heart beats a bit faster .  Often in our living we seem to miss so many good moments that when we close our eyes and recollect we feel we are all lonely and nobody really cares or loves you.






It's good being negative at times given the fact the positivity may be way to much .However, if only subtracting is what you do then rest assured you will actually never reach the 1 .


People as I always say come and go in and out of our life's . Some do take the time to act and care for you . They do things that you never expected them from . They make you smile in situations when you need it the most . They make you upbeat and all charged up at times that you feel - this the perfect moment . They give you things you always wanted but never had the time to get them on your own . They fill your life and make it worth it . They can give you tears only to make sure that sometime down in time when you look back you cry but with a smile . They make you aware and unaware of not who you are but what you are .


These people are indeed special . They have no name in real life . They exist all around us  .They travel all around us . More importantly they know us .


Value such people when you meet them or even connect with them . Start accepting the fact that some humans are really special . They indeed are really nice and caring . A rare one to find in these times.....


So , next time you have any of the above marks , as I call - grab them ! You will feel - life is worth a living and moments worth a share !


“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”-Donald Miller

Sunday, February 12, 2012

CumpleaƱos feliz Karan

Often it happens , late at night that when the clock strikes 12 - someone awakes !

Given the same scenario a decade back - people used to sleep well and then wake up to a new day  . The scenario has changed now . People are more concerned to put the blanket aside , log on to the FB walls and see who all are wishing them . Check the beeping mobiles as to who texts and wished and who called in.


I remember a time when birthdays used to be a very hush -hush affair . Mom ; preparing the most amazing dishes in the world with her magic touch ; ordering and designing a cake which every year was different and talked about and very close network of people coming to wish me.

Times as they change and so does the age . People in graduation colleges have a different style of celebrating birthday . They believe in the art of parties . Why in the world people give parties to celebrate their own birthdays I feel to wonder ?!

Splashing cakes all over the face , kicking and licking in the name of bumps it is a different celebration all together. You need to be a part of this to see how it feels.

As one moves ahead ; the scenario further changes . When you join a professional course things become refined . People do come to wish you ; but the outlook is matured and refined . Cakes are eaten and enjoyed . You get hugs and kisses , as case be . :)

On a work front it's purely an internal driven task . You order cake/s ; one for splashing and the other for celebration . This is what we say - life is a full circle . Comes back to the start again.

An important part here is whom you celebrate your birthday with . Given , my personal opinion ; as you grow up you should change the way you grow . I have seen people who take a leave on this special day go to a far from the crowd place and spend time with the poor to help them in any which way they can . And then there are people who take their special someone for a date to some place exotic . People ! Parents are missing ?! Then , some plan a vacation or a holiday get-away to celebrate more than jsut birthdays .

I personally prefer to be very guarded when it comes to celebrations . I don't like being splashed over . Wishing is ok from everyone . And given my intellect I can make out who's is wishing with what motive . I like to spend time praying , visiting a religious place [ if possible ] , being myself and thinking what all has changed over the time and who all are still with me . It's more of a reflection in me as to what I have done every year to make me wait for the next one. It also is thought that time is near and the chance to spread the joy and make people love you goes passing every clock tick.

The idea of someone special calling you from across seven seas indeed makes you smile . More, when your class fourth teacher calls you and says - you were the best and the most disciplined of the lot - makes one feel - wow.

So wherever you are I am sure there must be times when you thought why birthdays ? At times one doesn't needs them and one is happy by keeping them secretive .

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rajasthan - Famous Desert Circuit route - Bikaner-Jaisalmer -Jodhpur-

This one was to be a complete bang-on . After working hard for the entire 2011 , I deserved a complete rejuvenating holiday . And this time I wanted to complete the missing leg of Rajasthan - my current crush state :)

So it was the desert circuit this time -  Bikaner , Jaisalmer and Jodhpur

Bikaner -

The drive to Bikaner , is a good one barring some rough patches of the NH-8. There are a lot of places and heritage property to be seen in and around Bikaner .

Our first stop was - Karni Mata Temple. Yes , this is also called as the Rat Temple . it is situated in the town of Deshnoke 30 km south from Bikaner on the road to Jodhpur. Karni Mata is worshiped as an incarnation of Goddess Durga.This temple is famous for rats which can be seen everywhere in the temple. It's conisdered good fortune if you see - a white rat . It's a rare one and the popular belief is that if you see one - you are fortunate .

Havelis - Rajasthan in particular is famous for castles and mahals . But Bikaner is known for havelis.  A must visit is the famous cluster of havelies -Rampuria Havelies. The havelies were built of dulmera [ red ] stone. Exquisite and minute carvings come naturally to both the stones. The patwa havelies have more carvings in the interior also. The Rampuria havelies are decorated with golden work of the highest quality.

One of my old time favourite movie - The Kshtariyas - was shot here. This is the famous - Junagarh Fort . The art and architecture is something which you need to see for yourself .

Laxmi Niwas Palace

In our two days stay  - lunch was - at the Laxmi Niwas Palace . This is something which you can relate to any where in Rajasthan .  A palace turned hotel the aura is simply superb.Red standstone all around it's a sight where you can take your loved ones and enjoy in the beauty of the royals.

Towards our last leg we visited the much hyped - Camel Research Farm, a farm engaged in research on camels. It is located about 8 km from Bikaner city . This is one of its kind institute in India. The farm is complex of stables and enclosures and buildings. One can enjoy camel ride or ice cream made of camel milk [ I tried and it was yukk....you can try once ;P ]. It is also known as Camel Breeding Farm to the locals.


Lalgarh Palace - The unique thing about this is being built in a tri-state manner incorporating Rajput, Mughal and European architectural styles.Currently, the Lallgarh Palace is owned and the hotel is run by his daughter, Princess Rajyashree Kumari - if you get a chance to meet her you will be taken away by her persona.

Kolayat - Kolayat is a famous pilgrimage spot with a temple dedicated to Muni Kapila who, according to his devotees, sat in meditation near the lake. A divine site.



Jaisalmer -


The very thought of a city inside a fort can make people wonder . The same was the case with me . How is it possible ? Inside a fort , people live, earn a living , shop and dine . This is Jaisalmer  for you .

Jaisalmer Fort

The city in the fort. Our very own Sonar Kella. The land of Bhati Rajputs.Named after Bhati Rajput ruler Jaisal, Jaisalmer Fort is situated on Trikuta Hill. Its massive sandstone walls are a tawny lion colour during the day, turning to a magical honey-gold as the sun sets. This is a living fort and about a quarter of city's population still live inside the fort. The main attractions inside the fort are: Raj Mahal ,Jain temples and the Laxminath temple.


The second thing Jaisalmer ia famous for are the Haveli's - The main havelis in Jaisalmer are Patwon-ki-Haveli, a wealthy merchant belonging to powerful Oswal Jain community and banker who had over three hundred trading centres from Afghanistan to China. This ornate five-storey complex took fifty years to complete. This is the largest, the most magnificent, and the most elaborate of Jaisalmer havelis.

Other include Salam Singh-ki-Haveli  & Nathmalji-ki-Haveli .

Nearby is the Gadsisar Lake - it is a scenic rainwater lake surrounded by small temples and shrines.Earlier, this lake was used to be the main water source of Jaisalmer.

They say if you don't spend a night at the sand-dunes you don't visit Jaisalmer . A strongly recommended stay is @  SAM DESERT .

About 42 Km from Jaisalmer is the place you will love to be a part of . The camel safari's , the sun-set and sun-rise,the luxury night dance by the Kalbelia dancer's - this is one night you'll never forget . My personal favouite . Make sure you spend a night @ the san-dunes .


Jodhpur  - The blue city or the sun city .
 
It is also referred to as the "Blue City" due to the blue-painted houses around the Mehrangarh Fort. Inside the fort is the temple of -  Chamunda Mataji . Crowds throng Mehrangarh during the Dussehra celebrations.There are seven gates, which include Jayapol ,fattehpol . The palm imprints upon these still attract much attention even today.
Within the fort, several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces are found. One also finds the fort museum comprising several palaces.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, is one of the world's largest private residences. A part of the palace is managed by Taj Hotels this monument has 347 rooms and serves as the principal residence of the erstwhile Jodhpur royal family.


Umaid Bhawan Palace



It was indeed a royal trip . On way back we stopped over at Jaipur for obvious reasons . A must eat is - Rawat ji ki kachori's . Lip-smacking delgiht . Do make sure at Sam Sand dunes you stay only at RTDC Sam Dhani cottages / huts as it's the best . Most palaces / forts have entry fees and a guide combination . These guys are a must since it's impossible to know and see the entire place all by yourself.Many stretches enroute's these places will give you a drive of a lifetime. Stop over and see the true colors of Rajasthan . Best time to visit is November - February .

There are certain things which I not shared since I don't want the fun to go away . However, in case of any queries / views - you can tweet me via my Twitter handle and I'll help you plan that great escape.

Travel Diaries & more - Make it count

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