Here I was on a short holiday at Landour and a few hours after arriving there, was stuck in a traffic jam. I thought I had left traffic jams and noisy cities behind me in Mumbai, but the honking, the slamming of car doors and the fact that my vehicle hadn’t moved an inch in the last 15 minutes brought a sense of déjà vu.
My car driver had switched off the engine and gone off to investigate what was holding the traffic up. It had started raining by then and after waiting impatiently for some ‘progress’, gave up and started looking around. School had just got over and the narrow road was filled with school children returning home and were having to do it by squeezing between the vehicles stuck in the traffic jam to find a ‘route’ to get through.
Then I turned left and looked out of my car window into this.
I love watching works of art being created. Be it a painting or a sculpture being made or an embroidery being done or a sweater being knitted or a pot being shaped at the wheel, I love to see creation happening. So when I saw this silhouette at the Kumbhalgarh Fort during my Rajasthan visit in winter last year, I just stopped in my tracks. It was a painter at work. He was seated on the steps of one of the many monuments in the Fort and painting the vista in front of him. It was mesmerising to watch him at work as he mixed colours, changed brushes and painted. His brush strokes were almost hypnotic – a dab of blue here, a swirl of green there, with some browns and yellows thrown in for good measure.
I would have loved to go and take a closer look at what he was painting and perhaps chat with him, but I sensed a “do not disturb” sign about him. I left after a while and almost stumbled upon another painter. Luckily for me, this second painter had a ‘do disturb’ vibe. 🙂
Karcham, in the Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh, is a pretty ordinary looking place and one can be forgiven for dismissing it as just another Indian town. However it is not “just another Indian town” as I found out.
This is where the highway (or rather the dirt track that passes for one) bifurcates into two — one leads to Kalpa and the other leads to the Sangla Valley. It is here that the Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant is situated. And it is at Karcham that the Sutlej and the Baspa rivers meet.
According to a Kinnauri legend,
the rivers Sutlej and Baspa are brothers, with former being the older one. Sutlej was the more serious and sedate sibling, and Baspa the mischievous one. Like all siblings the two were rivals for everything, including whose name should be retained where their waters joined at Karcham. It was decided that whoever reached Karcham first would get the honour of lending his name to the river from that point onwards.
And so the two rivers set forth towards Karcham. Baspa, the faster of the two. He rushed forth through valleys and gorges, but was easily distracted and stopped to play with other streams and take mini diversions. On the other hand, Sutlej flowed slowly and steadily towards Karcham. And we know which type of person wins, right?
Sutlej reached Karcham first and that is how the river from Karcham onwards is known by that name even though it contains the waters of Baspa as well.
Wherever I travelled in the Kinnaur region these rivers were never too far from me. If the Sutlej was within my sight from the Kalpa side, the Baspa kept me company in the Sangla Valley. Two brothers, so different in looks and character, both heavily dammed, and yet in their own ways lifelines for the regions they flow through.
The confluence is stark and one can easily pick out the blue of the Baspa and the grey of the Sutlej. It was a sight the kept me mesmerised for a long time.
A photograph has picked up a fact of life and that fact will live forever.
With these words, distinguished photographer Raghu Rai drew the audience right into the heart of the magical world of photography.
Not that he really needed to considering that the select audience comprised professional and amateur photographers, and also photography enthusiasts like me who had been specially invited by Google+ to commemorate World Photography Day at the Tote on the Turf restaurant in Mumbai.
Raghu Rai delivered the Keynote Address at the event where he spoke of his own journey as a photographer and shared experiences and anecdotes on developments in the field of photography and transitions over the years; how he never touched a film camera after getting introduced to a digital camera; how he was introduced to Google and its various features by his daughter, and much more. He also engaged with the audience and answered their questions. I particularly liked his response to a question on how to choose a mentor. His answer: “Your conscience is the best mentor you can ever have.”
“I’m telling you it must be some firang (foreigner).”
I can’t help overhearing this excited chatter and squeals of anticipation as I step out of the Museum of the Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur. A group of 20 somethings is standing to one side and craning their necks over a barricade to see something that I cannot. I am intrigued and join them as do some other tourists. And soon we are looking at the entrance to the Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel, which was abuzz with some activity. What happened next is not really an unusual sight in a 5-star hotel, but as a tourist in a touristy place, I couldn’t help be one myself. 😀
A bright red silken canopy is being unfurled and readied.Who is the visitor, I wonder? So do others and the guesses are flowing fast and thick.
Our story begins on a warm, sunny day in late February this year.
A tourist bus turns off from the Bikaner – Jaisalmer highway at Phalodi and rattles its way towards a village called Khichan. As the bus passes a sign announcing that Khichan was just a kilometer away, excitement mounts. Sunglasses are readied as are cameras and binoculars. Soon the group will be seeing what they have come to Khichan for — to see the Demoiselle Cranes, which migrate here to escape the harsh winters of Eastern Europe.
Everybody in the group is a birding enthusiast. Everybody, but one person who is frankly quite bored with all the bird talk going around and trying to be as indifferent as possible to the contagious and palpable excitement filling the bus. That person is me.
As soon as the bus stops, the group tumbles out looking all around them. “Where are the birds? Where are the birds?” they demand. A local, who is passing by points vaguely and mutters “across that rise” at which the group sets off purposefully in that direction. I trail behind the group, dragging my feet and looking disinterestedly around me.
As the first of the group crests the rise, sounds of “Ooh ! Look at them, there they are”, floats back to me. My steps quicken of their own accord and in a minute I am over the rise myself and get my first glimpse of the Demoiselle Cranes. And stop in my tracks so suddenly that I almost slide all the way down to level ground.
The sight of so many live birds outside of a TV screen or a photograph is a sight that I am never going to forget for as long as I live.