Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Baklava

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This has been a busy day (and very tiring because of zero rest over the weekend and then an offsite yesterday) but I'm stealing a moment to post these yummy photos.





Originally from Turkey, 'baklava' is a sweet pastry with layers of filo, chopped nuts and a sweet syrup to hold it all. I thought I won't eat more than one small square of it, seeing how rich it was. But I was wrong. :-/

Anyway, just thought I'd share these photos that I clicked on a friend's Canon EOS 70D. This was shot indoors but no flash was used. Really nice camera, but oh-so-heavy to lug around.

~j~

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My kinda 'House' music!

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I'm in love. With this man. And boy, is he talented or what!

Hugh Laurie's two albums are fantastic. And this coming from someone who isn't into this kinda music. It's raining outside as I type this... Perfect weather to curl up at home and listen to these gems.





And those eyes! Le sigh.

~j~
 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Missing Mangalore

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I've always loved Bombay/Mumbai. Being born and brought up here, it's part of my identity, my DNA. But of late, this city has made me question everything around me. I am forced to throw away any rose-tinted glasses I may have put on. Let's face it. Mumbai is extremely burdened. And it pains me a great deal. And this realisation only hit me last year.

My folks have now moved to our native place, South Canara (or Dakshin Kannad). Mangalore, as it's normally referred to even though it's technically not Mangalore city. Anyway, back to my point. I visit at least once or twice a year. Usually, I can't take more than four days of being 'home'. I would miss the Bombay pace and feel like something is missing. Socialising there meant attending five weddings, two funerals, a house-warming lunch, and going to church. Electricity could sometimes be a pain and one would struggle to get a few bars of connectivity on the phone. I'd feel trapped and wait for the days to pass quickly. But that has changed now. I visited my parents in September for the feast of the Nativity of Mary when as per Mangalorean tradition, we also celebrate the harvest and have this elaborate vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf (more on that some other time). And I didn't want to return after my standard four-day whirlwind trip. 

What changed, you ask? Well, I think I've become old. Sounds silly, but I've been rather tired of hoping it will all get better. This city of dreams has made me an insomniac. When I'm extremely tired, I can't nod off to sleep. Once I do, it's barely 4-6 hours of any rest. And even if I do clock more hours of shut eye, I wake up feeling tired. It's not the case in Mangalore. My parents are early risers, so it's a given that they go to bed by 10pm latest. Lights out. I'm forced to sleep. And then, there it is. Silence. Occasionally interrupted by the sound of a cricket or leaves rustling in the wind. But for the most part, it's quiet. Eerie for my Bombay senses. But I get used to it and soon enough I'm zzz-ing away. Cut to 5am... The alarm doesn't go off because I haven't set one. But I'm wide awake. And feeling energised. Like a dead phone that's completely recharged. Back here in the urban jungle, I end up setting three alarms with loud tones on my phone. AND I STILL CAN'T WAKE UP. So, here I am. I started typing this on a Sunday night and it's already past midnight. Monday, bloody Monday beckons. And I don't look forward to it at all. There are a million things running in my head and all I have been thinking of is Mangalore.

(I was only supposed to post a few photos in this post. Too bad the ranting also happened. Ah, well!)

So here's what and why I'm missing Mangalore:

Our Home

Chillies growing at home
Pepper too...
 
Look up and the sky is always framed by those trees

Dad busy with his gardening and whatnot
Occasional visitors
Bursts of colour

Traditional Mangalore tiles on roofs
Some with a hint of modernity... TV dish and all.
Candy coloured residences at the other end of the spectrum
And some abandoned dreams

Ignore the rant. Hope you liked the picture postcards.

~j~

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

La-La-Lanka!

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2012. That was the year I had earmarked for a trip to Sri Lanka with a couple of my friends. But fate intervened. My brother met a lovely girl in April that year and decided to get married. That same year. In December! The same month I was to be off to the island nation. A bittersweet feeling ensued with having to abandon travel plans but a celebration in the family was  a very valid reason. Cut to 2014. And Sri Lanka has still not happened. Work and other priorities took over since the last few months. I wasn't even planning any travel even though at the back of my mind, the thought remained.

You know one of my favourite past-times is to browse travel-related websites and blogs. I've always enjoyed reading up about a particular place and dreaming of what it would be like to be there. Of course, that would then mean running searches on some of the trustworthy websites for airline fares, accommodation options and general information regarding any paperwork like visas for international destinations.

Sri Lanka still holds one of the top spots on my wanderlist. Reasons? Well, I give you three obvious ones:

1. The place itself! Duh!
Sri Lanka has a lot to offer. Travellers can soak up the sun at a beach or chug through the countryside in a train or be surrounded by lush plantations or even get in touch with their spiritual side. From whatever I've heard and read about the country, there's only been positive feedback. And the food! If those TV shows about Sri Lankan food are anything to go by, the avid foodie in me can't wait to try out native delicacies.

2. "So much to do, so little time."
It's not too far from India so it won't hurt my annual leave quota. I could take 5 days off from work and that effectively means 9 days in all (with the weekends on either side of the 5 days). That means exploring a lot more than if it involved travelling to the other side of the world. Time saved is always valuable. Plus it means I can do one more long trip in the same calendar year (Cambodia? Pondicherry? Now that's a topic for a separate post.)

3. The foreign exchange rate!
At the time of writing this, 1 USD = 130.510 LKR. Which means, 1 INR = 2.14 LKR. Which means MORE money to spend on a worthwhile experience and not have to worry about everything being expensive!

Now, now, now... it's not all good news.

Let's face it! Flight fares are expensive these days. Even heading to a place like Sri Lanka or Thailand will burn a small hole in your pocket. What do you skimp on? Especially when you're a female traveller, staying at a cheap-but-shady accommodation is ruled out because of safety reasons.

BUT here's where a resource like Skyscanner comes handy. I've been using the Skyscanner Flights app on my Android phone for a while now after a friend recommended it to me. The app is fantastic in itself. It tracks air fares across multiple airlines and gives you the best rates. And once you've figured what to pick, it directs you to the airline website or travel agent for the bookings. Simple!

You can filter your search not just by price (even though that's my main reason of using Skyscanner) but also by airline, class of cabin and even landing/take-off time.

One feature of the app which is beneficial to on-the-spur travellers who are not tied down to a 9-to-5 job is to search for any destination for any date from your country. That gives you fares across the calendar and you can then probably grab a bargain. 
Click to view a larger size
 
I just realised the website also offers hotel and car rental options. Wonderful! If you seen the screenshot above, June fares seem a tad better. With a stopover at Chennai, a SpiceJet return ticket could cost just under Rs. 16,000 per head. Not bad.
 
My smart travel checklist for Sri Lanka (or any place) would also include:
- Visa requirements, application and related documents
- Accommodation research
- Outline of an itinerary (which could be flexible)
- Research about the weather and essentials regarding safety
- Talking to people who've travelled there before and/or talking to any locals you may know
- Reading travel blogs/websites
- Setting aside a budget for the trip
 
As for the last point, if you're not born with a silver spoon, you better start saving for a trip anywhere. 
 
For now, I have about two-and-a-half months to research and plan. I'm looking to visit Sri Lanka after mid-June. I know it's the rainy season, but one look at Shivya's posts about her Lankan getaway in June 2013 tempted me a great deal. In particular, I'm hoping to try this train ride to Ella. The photos are just breathtaking. It also helps that my friend is game to join me in June. 
 
Ok, here's what I'm thinking: Take 8-9 days off exploring Colombo-Negombo-Kandy-Ella-Nuwara Eliya and maybe if possible, Galle or the Sacred City of Anuradhapura. The last one because it's a World Heritage Site and also because I know a local who hails from Anuradhapura. Would be nice to visit. Right now, I'm only in the very first phase of my research. So if any of you have travelled to this part of the world, please feel free to share your tips and advice.

Fingers crossed, this trip will happen. It's been almost four years since I took a long vacation and Sri Lanka is definitely a destination I would love to have stamped on my passport.
 
Cheers,
~j~
 
NOTE: This post was originally written as an entry for #TravelSmarterWithSkyscanner contest hosted on IndiBlogger. It's also the first time I'm participating in a contest. But win or not, I'm definitely going to Sri Lanka this year. :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kite Runners

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The blinds at my office window were down but I could see a moving shadow behind it. Then it hit me! There was a simple brown paper kite suspended a little away. 

So I tried sliding the window glass. It was jammed. Looks like it hadn't been opened in a while. Nail chipped. Left index finger. Dammit.

And then these three boys standing below looked up and saw I had access to the kite. And they start to scream, "Aunty, aunty, patang nikalo please." (Aunty, aunty, get a hold of the kite please.")
 
The three rascals waiting for the kite
 
"Aunty." Grrr.

They must have been 10-12 years old.

I didn't utter a word the whole time. Mainly because there are others working in the same room as me.
 
I had half a mind to yell back and say I wasn't going to give it to them - my own inner child rearing its head for a few fleeting seconds - but then I just smiled at the whole idea. Using my iktara (a single string musical instrument I picked up in Rajasthan*) like a fishing rod, I pulled the kite to bring it closer to the window grill. Realised the thread (manja) was stuck/entangled onto something above my floor. Kept tugging at it. The boys told me to wait and not throw it yet. I guess they were waiting for an audience to come along and earn bragging rights.
 
Finally, they go: "Abhi pheko!" (Throw it now!). So I tugged as hard as I could and voila! The manja broke loose. I had the kite! Managed to click a quick photo of it and I could feel anxious eyes watching from below... 

The Catch
So, I flung it down hoping it doesn't get stuck on another floor's window. The boys ran between the cars parked below to catch it. 

And then, "Thank you, aunty". :)

Happy Sankranti, folks. तिळगुळ घ्या आणि गोड गोड बोला.
 
~j~
 
*PS: I don't play the iktara or any other musical instrument. It was just a nice souvenir from Jaipur.

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