SlowRover Snapshots #23

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Title: The Colours Remain
Location: Jamali Kamali, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi

Beyond the bustling lanes of Mehrauli, in the domineering shadows of the Qutab Minar, lies a oft forgotten gem known as Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Despite being widly covered by the plethora of the Indian travel bloggers, it still remains way from the eyes of the usual tourist.

The tomb of Jamali Kamali is arguably the most famous (and supposedly haunted) structure of this 20o acre park. Some say that the two tombs at the Jamali Kamali Mosque are of a gay couple called Jamali and Kamali, while other sources rubbishes the claims and address them as husband and wife. While the scholars are busy trying to refute such scandalous rumours, I couldn’t help but get enchanted by the intricate colourful engravings on the inner walls of this Tomb. Whatever the truth, Jamali Kamali did leave behind a colourful legacy.

SR Travel Tip: The Mehrauli archaeological park also hosts other historical marvels such as  Balban’s Tomb, Rajon Ki Baoli,  and Metcalfe’s follies. A weekend sojourn to this hidden gem of Delhi is highly recommended.

Further Reading: Djinns of Jamali Kamali  || Saga of Jamali Kamali


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Experiencing India: Sounds and Sights from an Indian Train Journey

It’s surprising how train journeys closely mimic the cycle of life. We meet people, make friends, only to let them go and find new ones- thereby knitting an endless chain of emotions- only to be felt but never to be broken. But again, what is life, but a collection of such journeys.

The following passage is an ‘as-it-happened’ description of a journey with the Indian Railways (the 12.30 Passenger train from Madurai to Rameshwaram, both of which lie in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu). Try not to find for a story in here, rather, seek to experience the billion personalities that make India Incredible. Here it goes.

Chug, Chug, Chug! The 12:30 passenger train from Madurai has just started to sing its rhythmic song, a melody it will sing for the next few hours till it reaches a mystical island called Rameshwaram. It is an overcast day of November 2015, the rain clouds looming over the horizon as I attempt to traverse, and hopefully document, the lush green landscape of Tamil Nadu, India.

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Tamil Nadu country side with the looming rain clouds

I yearn for the rain, as I am aware of the power of the raindrops to elate even the most dolorous environs.

As I try to get comfortable in my cozy window side seat, I am greeted by a distinct sound. ‘Wooooooo…’– a loud cheer, emanating from the far corner of my train bogie, surprises all the five occupants of the compartment I am in. The train had just passed over a small river causing a group of seven children, sitting at a corner of the bogie along with their parents, to let out a loud “Woooooo..” sound in a seemingly pre-planned unison. From that moment onward, the children failed to hide their excitement towards any river, tunnel, or even an old bridge that our passenger train crossed.
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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #19

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Title: Colours of the Dal Lake
Location: Srinagar, Kashmir, India

Cozily perched in the lap of one of the most beautiful valleys of nature, the Dal Lake possesses the wizardry to enchant even the most reluctant tourists.

The ‘Shikaras‘, or the small boats, that ply across this calm body of water are considered the highlight of this region. A sight of a distant, yet visibly colourful, shikara with its reflection etching the mirror-like surface of the Dal lake, and the hues of setting sun being reflected in the background. It seems that the term ‘Heavenly‘ was coined exclusively for such experiences.

 

-Vibhav

SR Travel Tip: If you get a chance to visit the Kashmir region of India, make sure you try the renowned ‘Wazwan‘ multi-course meal of Kashmir. Being a foodie myself, I can vouch for ‘Wazwan’ being one of the best food experience in India.

 

Want to know more about Kashmir, India?
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Barfani Baba And The Art Of Seeking Alms

There is something I have been concerned about since I turned 6 – the mystery which is the River Saraswati. It is kind of there and kind of not. Supposedly the entire Rig Veda was composed on its banks before it vanished from the face of the Earth (or started flowing underground if Hindu religious texts or Puranas are to be believed) . For some it is a mythic river which symbolises the Milky Way, while for some historians it is a case of misplaced identity. Mostly all Hindu kids learn Saraswati’s name as one of the three major rivers of India (the other two being Ganga and Yamuna) and have spent a lot of time trying to distinguish the river from the other two at the sangam in Allahabad.

I was intrigued by how it had managed to become an underground river and for most of my childhood it came to symbolise the gangster of the river world (because gangsters are supposed to be underground – I know, lame, but I was a kid!) Now, so this particular river has something of a Bond status in india, seems like every river wants to be Saraswati. Because of its ‘invisible’ nature and mythological importance, several rivers have been named ‘Saraswati’ and there is a lot of confusion over which the real one is. This story concerns one of the many Saraswatis in India – the Saraswati which originates near the Mana village (famed to be the last village of India, but not quite) in Uttarakhand and is a tributary of the Alaknanda river.

River Alaknanda keeps you company through most of the 9 km hike from Mana village to Vasudhara Falls

River Alaknanda keeps you company through most of the 9 km hike from Mana village to Vasudhara Falls

My aim was to hike up to the 400 ft tall Vasudhara falls. All the other landmarks like the Vyas Guha (where the Epic ‘Mahabharata’ was supposedly written), the Bhim Pul and Ganesh Guha were wonderful distractions on the way. But as is usual for me, I was distracted by something not so obvious on the 9 km stony trek from Mana to Vasudhara falls. It was this section in the stone wall painted red, right before the Bhim Pul. It carried a message by Barfani Baba. Roughly translated to English, it said, “Baba Barfani, Naga Baba – doesn’t demand donations, devotees are free to donate”.

The message outside Baba Barfani's decrepit cave

The message outside Baba Barfani’s decrepit cave

Now if you have spent any time roaming the narrow lanes of India, you will know how pushy saints can get. It can be anything from ‘Bhagwan lambi umar dega beta, babaji ka ashirwad lete ja’ (The Almighty will bless you with a long life if you seek my blessings), to ‘Babaji ka ashirwad thukraoge toh paap chadhega’ (If you don’t seek my blessings, you shall be doomed). I have heard them all. So, Baba Barfani’s method of seeking alms really stands out. He come across as a maverick of the world of Indian saints. I wanted to talk to him. Find out whether the message was written by him or some devotee helped him or if it was from some organisation responsible for Naga saints. Unfortunately, he was lost somewhere in his cave, concealed by the red-painted asbestos sheet.

I was taken by this show of brilliant salesmanship. Many people who would not bat an eyelid at a saint could be seen donating generously. I was impressed. And thought much about him through rest of the climb.
Don't be fooled by the seemingly dreamy gentleness of the water seen from afar, on approaching near, the water of the Vasudhara falls was cold and sharp

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly dreamy gentleness of the water seen from afar, on approaching near, the water of the Vasudhara falls was cold and sharp

I would like to go back and see him. Get the answer to some of my questions. Or maybe you already have and would like to tell me?

-Swetambara

Want to know more about Mana Village?
Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.


The author served as a staff writer at Scoopwhoop! and is a freelancer
Send her virtual chocolates on her Twitter and Facebook.

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SlowRover Snapshots #16

Kolkata, Fisherman,

Old Man and his Fish

Title: Old Man and his Fish
Location: Gangasagar, West Bengal

Each day millions of Indians use boats to traverse mighty water bodies of the Great Indian Plains. On one such boat ride, I noticed this peculiar man. He had his hands inside two containers while vigourously shaking the what was inside. After witnessing this strange, incessant act for more than 15 minutes, I went ahead and inquired about the reasons for his actions.

He replied “I am transporting freshly caught fish in these vessels. If I don’t  keep stirring the water inside, the fish will suffocate and die withing minutes. I must do whatever it takes to keep them alive and fresh!”

“And what will you do with the fish when you get down from this boat?” I inquired further.

“Kill them.” came the reply.

I gave him a gentle smiled and walked to the other side of the boat.

Little ironies that fill our lives.

 

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit West Bengal, We strongly advise you to visit the Sunderbans. It is the world’s largest delta and a home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Vibhav

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SlowRover Snapshots #15

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Behroopiya at Vrindavan

Title: Behroopiya
Location: Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh

He claims to be Kishan from a small UP village- I doubt if either of that is true. For he is a Behroopiya; ‘an Impersonator’. A man with no identity, yet identifying himself with everyone around him. He chooses to live a part of their lives- people he meets on the streets, people he watches in the movies, everyday. Some days, he’s a vagabond sadhu, seeking alms from the passerbys while giving them fake blessings. Today, he chose to be an army man wearing a Behroopiya name tag. Wonder how many lives he’ll save today on the streets of Vrindavan.

SR Travel Tip: The birth place of Hindu God Krishna, Vrindavan is not only one of the holiest cities in India but also a veritable pastiche of different cultures which is best reflcted in food. SlowRover recommends a stay and a meal at MVT Restaurant and Guest House while you’re here. 

-Vibhav

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SlowRover Snapshots #14

The narrow passage through the green cover looks like an entrance to Anaconda's lair

The narrow passage through the green cover, with knobbly branches stretching out their arms, definitely looks like an entrance to Anaconda’s lair

Title: Anaconda’s lair in Kerala
Location: Poovar, Kerala

I hope you won’t judge me for admitting that I haven’t seen any of the movies of the Anaconda franchise. Sure I have seen a scene or two while surfing channels but my attention has always been stolen by Colin Firth playing Darcy or Ellen’s wisecracks. So, I was surprised when during a backwaters tour in Kerala, my guide told me that the third part in the series was partially shot there. But I wasn’t amazed. In fact the dense, ghoulish green cover made it an apt setting. The presence of solitary, abandoned vessels further strengthened my beliefs.

An abandoned boat - a sign of imminent danger?

An abandoned boat – a sign of imminent danger?

I do know now that Anaconda was shot in Romania (thanks to Google and lots of scandalised friends). But I think the location would be just too apt. Take the hint Hollywood!

SR Travel Tip: Try to visit Kerala between the months of May-August. The humid climate keeps most tourists away (not all, of course). I stayed at the Over the Hill Resort and would definitely recommend it for its services and tasteful architecture.

-Swetambara

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Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.


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