On the Nandi Betta Trail

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A revelation enroute to Nandi Betta

A tad bit later than our scheduled time, we were off riding to Nandi Betta over the weekend begun with a pleasant weather, not too hot as we whizzed past into the outskirts of Bangalore, away from fancy apartments, office buildings and deafening honking with slow moving traffic in some places, and into the Bangalore-Devanahalli highway. A quick breakfast at Nandi Grand on the way proved to be a great choice for the lip-smacking Sambar and tasty Shavige Uppittu we relished before we took off to reach Nandi Betta. A painted deity on a rocky hillside in Devanahalli (you’ll find it behind the Indian Paratha company) caught our attention with its stark blue and yellow colours against the sober brown surfaces, we decided to ride up and explore. And very early on the ride, this was our next best stop as we beheld the sight of the magnificent Shree Nakoda Avati 108 Parshwanth Jain Temple, after walking up from the sheltered parking area.

As the one of the temples within this sanctuary is still under construction, we had the wonderful opportunity of watching artisans meticulously carving on marble pillars forming exquisite patterns etched to perfection. The temple surfaces and statues are ravishing, and the left edge of the sanctuary houses a temple which opens to a little pillared courtyard with a ravishing view. After a delightful round of the sanctuary we headed back to the roads accompanied by vast stretches of land with cultivated flowers and grapes interspersed with small shops and the humble roadside worship spaces with a Hindu deity or two.

Hello hill fortress!

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The ride up to the charming hill fortress Nandi Betta was smooth with freshly tarred roads sheltered by trees throughout the hairpin bends give you a great view of the elevated land, apart from spotting gigantic Eucalyptus trees, monkeys and plenty of birds. Arriving at Tipu’s Fort was relieving in more ways than one, especially as you’d be dying to stretch your legs. You will find a parking area as you enter the fort, followed by stairs to walk up further. We found an unusually large number of vendors selling water, juice, ice cream, cut fruits and veggies and other quick bites, perhaps cashing on the festival rush. Oh, and is anyone else a fan of cacti? You’ll totally love the ones you’ll come across as you climb up from the entrance. The climate at the hilltop has been of avid interest to horticulturists as these forests act as substrates for cloud condensation, highly favourable for the growth of moist plant and animal species. The Horticulture Department is working on setting up a large-scale exotic botanical garden among other renovations. My disappointment was scores of names scratched onto the fort wall surfaces, and on the large cacti stems as well. Further from here, you can ditch the cemented steps for a while and head up the hilltop through the foresty clearing an ideal spot for bird watchers and photographers- we definitely spotted Flycatchers and Warblers. Beware of monkeys snatching eatables and water bottles though!

It was annoying to have a bunch of youngsters storm into these clearings where many were engrossed quietly spotting birds, only to scream out and make loud intrusive noises in the otherwise peaceful natural setting. Not sure if staff appointed to dissuade this behavior, like the ones regulating traffic at the fort entrance would help or if people need to be sensitized to respecting our rich biodiversity and environment – and so thought, perhaps- the flock of flycatchers that flew away with the manmade ruckus. We reached the Amruth Sarovara, a pristine water body formed by perennial springs enclosed on its edges by steps (temple pond, also referred to as Kalyani, Pushkarini, Tirtha, etc), in which large fish swam forming ripples in the tree laden reflections. The bamboo tree houses greeted us as we reached higher up, but were unfortunately closed for entry unlike the adjacent children’s play area teeming with children, adults and the occasional monkey exploring someone’s backpack.

On top of the ascend

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The final leg – walking up to the Yoga Nandeeshwara Temple, constructed by the Chola dynasty and dedicated to Lord Shiva – was flooded by devotees and vendors with carts of fruit, water and other snacks without a waste disposal system to accommodate the capacity of the generated scraps, it was extremely disheartening to see paper and plastic strewn all over the alluring hilltop. Also surprising to see the ‘Gili Shastra’ folks or soothsayers using parakeets to pick out cards and read the future, as I am not sure if it is a legal practice. Jolting through the crowd we reached the sunrise view point which is an absolute delight to walk through and be mesmerized with surreal puffs of clouds and misty air against the lush green landscapes and brown hills. Walking back is the Tipu’s Drop, known to be the spot where ruler Tipu Sultan had the condemned prisoners thrown to death. This compelling but fatal monument has a spectacular view of the hilly landscape it oversees, and these two spots seemed to be the hottest selfie spots for visitors.

Our walk downwards was blissful, flanked by the gorgeous bursts of seasonal yellow Tabebuia and  lavender Jacaranda blooms, the trees interspersed with sheltered spaces for resting. We rode back for a late lunch at the Indian Paratha Company, (just ahead of the Jain temple we explored during our onward journey) before gazing through sunsets reflected on glass windows we passed by on our way back, while I reflected on the day’s experience.

It seems to have become an ‘in’ thing to post pictures of travels although I am unsure how many of us are travelling with responsibility towards the environment. A bunch of us hope to have a clean up drive to clear out the plastic and paper waste to the capacity we can, both at the hills and within the city if possible, and we would love to know if there are volunteers up for the same.

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‘Buri Nazar’ for Bengaluru’s trees?

With citizens enthusiastically protesting against the proposed steel flyover on Bellary Road and the road widening of Jayamahal Main Road in Bengaluru, I join in with ‘Buri Nazar?’- a Performance art in public space. The local custom of using ‘Nimbu-Mirchi Totka’ hung from entrances of homes, offices and restaurants to protect them from unwanted attention and strengthen their prosperity is ubiquitous to many Indian cities. So is ‘Buri Nazar Waaley Tera Muh Kaala’ painted vibrantly behind lorries. The act of stringing together these two representative elements to the tree bark is a metaphor in my performance, a visual representing much needed protection for these trees that await their fate.

It is shocking to note the numbers associated with the flyover project- 2244 trees, and 205 saplings from 71 species and 26 families are to be felled. This could result in severe ground water crisis, rise in pollution levels and summer heat as well as a tragic loss of substantial urban biodiversity habitats.(Source: Report by APU and Project Vruksha). While clogged roads and increased commute time are current problems, improving connectivity with the public transport system operating at regular frequencies could be a solution worth being considered instead.

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Should you watch this?

THIS IS NOT FOR YOU, if you’re in the mood for inspirational anecdotes, preachy life lessons or romantic sagas. Or for replacing podcasts while throttling through the routine agony of traffic jams. Or for the unwinding hours after an awful day with the quintessential horrid boss.

 

What watching an indie-film like “A ‘Pitch-Dark’ Diorama” can do, however, is throw questions that consume you for answers as it unravels, variably to each viewer, as does the very identity design of its production house, ‘Vespertilio Motion Pictures’; an exercise in individual perception differences and imagination. As the 2 hour 4 minute long film progresses in 5 episodes, you shuttle between characters in parallel universes that command complete experiential attention, to a surreal drama surrounded by its varied under-layers.

 

Of course, slasher thriller lovers can rejoice as the indie-film intricately weaves together a pulsating storyline, intriguing direction and commendable cinematography with the joyful authenticity of the analog. Its disciplined crafting on 16 mm Kodak film, also, perhaps, reflects on some very organic acting experiences, for which Amjad Prawej as Indranil Deashi and Amit Ansshu as the detective deliver riveting performances with its subtle nuances.

 

Does each character seem compellingly honest to their persona, and yet vulnerable? Could this be the concealed appeal of the story, a piece fulfilling its initial intention to its best ability? Is the ‘end’ not definitive? Is it capable of inducing malleability in perception on another view? Experiencing the film perhaps allows the viewer some scope of indecisiveness, while, nevertheless, conceding its ‘completion’. And in this context, is this film incomplete, without the audience?

 

So, so, so, should you really watch this? Only if you enjoy the journey. The passing. And the conflicting realities it brings into picture. To unravel how it runs, or how you choose it to play out, rather. To answer the questions above. Or even better, to bring up many more. (Which I shall conveniently redirect to Vespertilio of course).

 

A ‘Pitch-Dark’ Diorama, exclusively on Vimeo on demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/apdd

Painting nostalgia on bus tickets 💙

 
The rickety local bus sploshes through rain-drenched roads, magically gleaming with kaleidoscopic reflections of vibrant city lights. A stray dog meditatively rummages the now deserted corner of the street side with a trail of plastic bags, while a cow rests under the shelter of the steadfast metro rail tracks, seemingly in oblivion to its surroundings. Impatient dark clouds completely eclipse the misty sun as the metro train speeds over, hurtling through the city’s pace in more ways than one.

The Spirit of Christmas

Shivajinagar in Bangalore, India is one of the busiest central bus stops that connects most areas throughout the city, surrounded by plenty of small shops and flea market stalls in the surrounding lanes. And St. Mary’s Basilica which is a stone’s throw away from the bus stop was the subject of a street photography session(Courtesy: Focus Bangalore) held over the weekend. This basilica is the oldest in the city, and was built along the lines of Gothic styled architecture with predominant arches, ornamental motifs and stained glass windows. The basilica is also the city’s most important destination for St. Mary’s Feast, celebrating the birth of Mother Mary for 10 days in September every year, culminating in a grand chariot procession on the last day, attended by over one lakh devotees. And for Christmas season, the small shops and bazaars were stocked with a plethora of exciting and colourful festive decorations that every passerby would glance at with awe.

I have been travelling through the same central stop for college for 4 years, yet the place seemed so unrecognizable. Not just with the colourful Christmas bazaars that had sprung up for festive sales. The area was still as crowded and choked with traffic, local auto drivers yelling routes and directions to motorists, loud honks, paan stained compound walls, potholed roads and hankering sellers. What had changed was the atmosphere in the market. Instead of the usual sale of grocery and goods that are picked up for oneself on any other normal day, the season’s festive sales did succeed in bringing people to shop for their families and loved ones apart from themselves. Or for their Christian friends celebrating the festival. The crowd just had to stop at these small shops on their way through the lanes, with its amazingly wide assortment of decorative goodies. What the festival brought in the most, was inexpressible joy in the eyes of the below poverty line  families running these small bazaars for a living, while their innocent children continued to dust off toys and other accessories on display, thrilled with the shopping crowd and the sales. I put down my camera for a minute and stood on the street side, watching, sinking in the rare certain warmth and love which could only be experienced for real-the spirit of Christmas.

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Colours of Christmas

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Heavenly Peace

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The season of giving

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Passing prayers

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St. Mary’s Basilica on Christmas Eve, Shivajinagar, Bangalore

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Reflecting faith

Rangoli Rambles

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A world of colour!

Rushing to work this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to spot a Rangoli, a decorative Indian folk art form in which delightful patterns are hand drawn with coloured pigments. The few times that I have spotted one is during festive celebrations alone, with most homes opting for the ready-to-use sticker versions due to time constraints. However, the look and feel of a hand drawn Rangoli can hardly be surpassed by any of the other available alternatives, and should truly be appreciated for its aesthetics, craftsmanship, composition and much patience.

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Auspicious beginnings

The Rangoli is mostly hand drawn by women in front of the door of their homes, living rooms or courtyard spaces, traditionally with plain and coloured rice flour and flowers. Meant to invoke blessings and bring good luck, the Rangoli lends its colourful and intricate charm to any space, and any auspicious occasion.

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Line and form

While the tradition has remained alive for years together, the Rangoli has had many adaptations down the line. The simplest decorative forms are drawn after the floor area is cleaned, and range from line drawings to forms filled with colour. Floral motifs, geometric patterns, elaborate designs and abstract forms in a mix of styles and executions are nothing less than a visual treat.

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Ethereal

 The traditionally used rice flour is usually combined with vermillion, turmeric and other natural pigments for a myriad of colour options. Synthetic colour variants, flowers, petals, sand, glitter, lamps and other accessories are sometimes added as a part of the arrangement. Ever since I’ve witnessed the long hours my neighbour used to spend on creating a beautiful Rangoli, I’ve been mesmerised by the immense patience and dedication that goes into this craft. So, when I heard about the Rangoli Utsav a year back, all I wanted to see for myself again was the now fading  art of hand drawn Rangolis. And to my delight, it did not disappoint.

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Facing Competition

The Rangoli Utsav in Bangalore, India, is a part of the annual Ganesh Chaturti festivities by Shri Vidyaranya Yuvaka Sangha at Commercial Street. For that particular day, the otherwise busy shopping hub of the city is the canvas for participants of the Utsav. The street is blocked exclusively for a massive Rangoli contest open to all ages and a duration of 3 hours to create a Rangoli pattern in a choice of materials and styles. One of the particularly different patterns I came across here was a portrait in progress, with different tones of the coloured pigment being used for a more 3D appeal.

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Taking to the streets

The smaller Rangoli design I ran into today in my vicinity was an immensely huge surprise in between the chaotic traffic snarls. I took a minute to examine the delicate strokes, the lines so precisely hand drawn, the filled colours so refreshingly appealing. Every resting grain of flour on the pavement could only speak volumes on the hours of faith and dedication that had conjured up a stunning aesthetic design. I love Rangolis, and with today’s inspiration I also reminded myself to try creating one at my home at least during a festival holiday, when I can make time for some homely arty indulgences. For more goodness, positivity and colour invoked to life itself.