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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Bhangarh : The Ruined City and The Ghosts I Met There

 

Ever been compelled to watch a horror movie in the dead of night even though you know it would lead to countless sleepless nights? Ever been infatuated with the idea of exploring a haunted house? No? Yes? I was.

So were four of my friends. The big question was – where? Residing in Delhi which has seen its share of cold-blooded assassinations, bloody battles and betrayals, we thought it would be easy to spot restless, revengeful souls here. After making trips to the Khooni Darwaza, the Malcha Mahal, Agrasen ki Baoli and even a neighbouring house in the residential area of Lajpat Nagar, and not meeting any ‘other worldly’ (just because it is an accepted term, if they are in this world, how are they other-worldly? Anyway more on that later) creatures, we couldn’t decide where would our efforts find fruition. We finally zeroed down upon Bhangarh. What better place to get the thrills than a ruined city which is famed to be India’s most haunted place?

Archaeological Survey of India board

Archaeological Survey of India has put up a stone inscription outside the fort describing the construction

On the D-day, we rose early and started preparing ourselves according to the lengthy to-do list put together by our friend. She insisted that the place was infested with djinns who cling to open hair – which made all of us pull our hair into tight buns. Applying perfume or fragrant shampoo was a definite invitation for ghosts – hence, avoided. We had breakfast with an uneasy sense of foreboding and then drove away. Throughout the 60-odd km drive to the destination form Jaipur, we were excited and discussing details with our jolly driver – Param bhaiya (In India men are ‘bhaiya’ until they become ‘uncle’ at about the age of fifty or so. It is the polite way of addressing them).

It was a bright December morning. As the majestic ruins loomed towards our eyes, the Sun warmed our souls and we walked on towards the fort from our car. And I thought, would it be just as beautiful had it not been chaotic? If this is its state in abandonment, how did it look at the peak of prosperity?

Stairway of Bhangarh

The stairway leading upto the main fort complex of Bhnagarh

Immersed in thoughts, we came upon a notice by the Archaeological Survey of India, prohibiting anyone from staying inside before sunrise and after sunset. After reading this proclamation of the dangers inside, we ventured onwards into the realm of ghosts.

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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #18

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Title: Her First Smile
Location: A village near Munsiyari, India

Her name is Keenu. She, alongwith some other naughty kids of her village, had come to visit us, while we were camping a few hundred meters away from their remote Uttrakhandi Village near Munsiyari.

While the other kids were busy running around our tents, little Keenu had her eyes fixated on my cell phone. It suddenly dawned upon me that it was probably the first time that she had come across this miracle consumer product. Not only was she delighted by the bubble like icons on my phone screen, she giggled each time the phone made sounds.

Perhaps her major delight was reserved for the last. For when I finally started my phone camera on ‘selfie mode’, she gave an expression that was part happiness and part disbelief. After all, this was the first time she was watching her own face on a phone screen! I’m glad I pressed the click button right then.

Not all selfies are bad, ay?

 

 

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit Munsiyari in Uttarakhand, India, do not forget to visit the ‘Master Ji’s’ Museum. An overnight trek to the Khaliya Top is also highly recommended.

 

Vibhav

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My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 1) – An Early Appointment With The Sun and Suicide Points

“And that is the suicide point”, our driver said and allowed the jeep to splutter to a halt so that we could scramble out. A tall rock, smooth and majestic, which reminded me of the hacked torso of an unfortunate lone messenger who dared to carry a peace treaty to the enemy barracks, was the addressee of the name. There’s this thing about India, every hill station has a ‘suicide point’ and an ‘echo point’. We stood at one of those, somewhere in Munnar, a town in Kerala, on our way to Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, which are the world’s highest tea plantations producing flavorful Orthodox Tea.

Board guiding visitors to various points of interest in the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate

Board guiding visitors to various points of interest in the Kolukkumali Tea Estate

I found myself uttering the meaningless question to our driver – “Do many people come here to die?” I think I sounded stupid, but he exclaimed “No! No! No one has ever committed suicide here”. So it was baptized ‘suicide point’ for no apparent reason just like all its other namesakes in India.

While we clicked pictures, the minimal amount of knowledge that I have in Physics told me my voice would echo better here than it had at the Echo Point where we stood to watch a new day dawn some minutes ago. In spite of the severe insistence of our driver that our voice will reverberate and probably wake up all the village folk in the valley down below, even our loudest shouts feebly regurgitated for a second or so before dying out in the endless chatter of birds. The only thing which had echoed at the Echo Point was the image of the Sun, rising from behind the mountains, like a shy child rising from the crib. It must be painful for the Sun, waking up before the rest, assured of your return to the same bed. Was constancy a curse?

And the Sun had finally risen like a shy child rising from the crib, scattering its glorious warmth

And the Sun had finally risen, scattering its glorious warmth

But we had beaten the child today. We had risen before the Sun, set out in what seemed like the hour of death on a wobbly road, in the throes of the cold wind which wanted to embrace us like a jilted lover while the whole town snored in deep sleep down below, to witness one of the most beautiful early morning spectacles we have ever witnessed.

The Sun took its time, rising lazily from behind the clouds. And as it made an appearance, clouds were scattered like a mob before the cops

The Sun took its time, rising lazily from behind the clouds. And as it made an appearance, clouds were scattered like a mob before the cops

And after paying a visit to the punctual host we were brought here, to the suicide point. Maybe they called it suicide point just to preach caution to the travelers? A misplaced step around there would lead to a steep fall. I think I’d rather die somewhere like that. I mean if it has to be my last experience, I’d want it to be beautiful. And settings like these are definitely numbered

A view worth dying for! - Sunrise at Kolukkumalai

A view worth dying for! – Sunrise at Kolukkumalai

There’s more coming from me about Kolukkumalai and Kerala soon. Stay tuned! 🙂

Update – Read here for Part 2 – My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 2) – The Tea Factory, The Workers And Some Conversations

-Swetambara

Want to know more about Kollukumalai or Kerala?
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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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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© Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Swetambara. 

Introducing: SlowRover Snapshots

Starting tomorrow, 10th of August, SlowRover will publish a series of awesome one-off photographs from our travels around the world. These snapshots will be accompanied by a fact sheet revealing interesting trivia about the respective shots!

So watch out for the SR Snapshots starting tomorrow!

Don’t forget to share, like, and comment on SlowRover!

Keep Roving!

A Chance Encounter In McLeod Ganj And The Musings Of A Wandering Mind

Woods are enchanting.They are partially the reason for my fixation with mountains. While reading Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood in my childhood, I had convinced myself that woods were magical. And somehow they held more of a sway over me, it seemed to be more potent than the magic of the toys which used to come alive in her other stories. Pixies, goblins, fairies, unicorns – all could be my friends if I lived in the woods.

As I grew up, I was faced with the strict logic of textbooks which declared Santa Claus to be nothing more than an impersonator (I think he is a phenomena). Anyway, the books were still there. The Forbidden Forest deepened my liking for the woods, grave as the dangers lurking there might be. So, I can safely say that I love the rank of trees, the smell of pine cones and sweet Earth, the little rocks which make great seats to sit and ponder life.
So much for my growing up. But this story isn’t about that.

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About Goodbyes And The Plight Of A Traveller

This is not about the goodbyes you bid to people as you hug and smile with the promise of meeting again. It is about those goodbyes which ring a bell of finality, of an end.

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Girls waving goodbye while I drove away in Ladakh

Every time I visit a new place, I find myself taking an oath to return. Because I feel that I leave behind a part of my soul at all the places and it is necessary to come back and collect it later, to make myself whole again. But somehow I know that it won’t happen.
I will leave a city, a village, a town, behind.
A place where I had sat on the grass and gazed at the stars. A place where I had the first taste of coal burnt fish. A place where I camped in the darkness for the first time.
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An hour before departing from the place, a strange restlessness seems to take hold of me. As if I was Frodo leaving behind my Ring. I want to stay back, if only for a couple of hours. I can’t begin to describe how many times I have wished for the flight to be cancelled or to miss the bus which would lead me away from the place.
And then I have silently chided myself. For wanting to stay behind. Because isn’t it my aim to see the world? And the quicker I move from one place to the other, the better will my chances be of living that dream. And hence I have passed on, from one place to another.
Don’t get me wrong. It is not that I have not found happiness chasing different places. But it is much like the feeling you get when you are faced with the last day of school? Or the last day at work in your office? You are sad because you are leaving something behind, some people behind, a place which gave you beautiful memories behind. But that doesn’t stop you from moving forward in life, does it?
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Driving away from Warsaw, where I experienced the first snowfall of my life

That’s exactly how I feel with places. I want to see the world. But somehow I also want to stay forever at some places. The city lights appeal at the darkest hour of the night and the cool mountain breeze at dawn. Sometimes I want the opposite. And I find myself thinking again, maybe one day, someday, I would go back to those places. The places which are forever present in the memory palaces of my mind, breathing and whispering. One day, someday, when that whisper grows louder, I shall follow it. Until then, like a true traveller, I shall keep looking for new pastures to graze my mind upon.
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A man I met in Trakai, walking away after saying farewell

Tripoto

The author served as a staff writer at Scoopwhoop! and is a freelancer. Send her virtual chocolates on her Twitter and Facebook. © Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Swetambara Chaudhary, unless stated otherwise. 

Lithuania – My Visit To The Country Which Had Intrigued Me Since I Read Hannibal

My curiosity about Lithuania, was deeply connected to Thomas Harris’s works. I looked at it as the majestic country where Hannibal was born and which shared Hannibal’s fate of destruction at the hands of the Nazis. And like all booklovers, I would like nothing better than to go and visit the country of the anti-hero. So when the opportunity to travel there cropped up, I was extremely happy.

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The World Wars had ravaged the landscapes of the beautiful country in the narrative. And in fact it has been an uphill climb for the country which knew such prosperity before the war. A considerable number of Jews, were forced to abandon their homes and migrate to other countries because of the imminent threat of German occupation in the early 1940s. With them they took a huge part of the country’s soul.

If that was not enough, Lithuania faced Soviet occupation in 1945. It was finally declared an independent country in 1990. And now, slowly and steadily, Lithuanians have come to a place where they can actually look back at the painful history and take lessons from it. The Grūtas Park, which won its creator an Ig Nobel Peace Prize, is a step in this direction.

Source : Andreas Moser

Around a two-hour drive from the capital city, Vilnius, the park houses the remnants of the Soviet occupation. Several statues of Soviet activists and leaders like Stalin which lay strewn about the country have been procured by the founder Viliumas Malinauskas and now adorn the theme park. According to Malinauskas, it is a way to criticise the ill-effects of the Soviet ideology which held the country captive. This is a bold step I believe. One visit to the park and you will know.

Lith4Source : Andreas Moser

The best way to prevent something horrific from happening again is perhaps to keep the memory of the event alive and breathing. However, just remembering is not enough. That is the tragic flaw of Hannibal (yes I do think he is a Shakespearean hero). He remembers each and every detail with the help of the memory palaces. But he is seething with the fire of revenge. He does not condone the actions itself but the people. Condoning such events will prevent us from making our future, a mirror of that past.

Lith5 Source : Daily Mail

The Hill of Crosses is one vantage point from where I could clearly make this observation. Twelve kilometres from the city of Šiauliai, is a hill which has over time become a mark of solidarity, a symbol of peace and hope for Lithuanians. It is here that the people found strength during the November Uprising when they decided to take their lands for their own from the Russian authorities. And again, during the Soviet and Nazi occupation between 1940-1990.

Source : Wikipedia

How did they manage to do achieve this feat? By turning to religion. They showcased their strength by leaving Crosses at the hills. This silent gesture reminded them again and again that they were not alone and their cause was not lost. The pile of Crosses keeps growing and it is a burden. A burden upon the hearts of tyrants and usurpers, upon the hearts of those who wish to take what is not rightfully theirs. Maybe Hannibal should have made this pilgrimage once. Maybe he would have if he had not been forced to elope from the country. Maybe then he would have been different? Who’s to know!

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Though Hannibal did not spend much time in Lithuania, it was his birthplace. Would it be too much to expect that his tastes, his elegance and sophistication were in some way a result of this ancestry? I was thankfully not proven wrong.

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The cobbled streets of Vilnius which greeted me as I walked on the cobbled streets of the city. The rustic appeal of the streets was enhanced by the maple leaves strewn all around, reflecting all the hues of autumn – from a mild yellow to a deep orange.

The buildings of the old town are a legacy of the Baroque movement. Beautiful cathedrals beckoned at me, to observe the peace that lay inside alongside the beauty.

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Food in Hannibal’s country was a treat for the traveller in me. Not only do they make the best potato dumplings, they also call them Zeppelin! (The fan inside me was singing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ the moment I set my eyes on the dish).

Lith7Source : Ausrine art 

Another favorite was the beetroot soup which is kind of the ‘national soup’ there.

Lith8Source :Pinterest 

My trip to Lokys – the most highly rated restaurant was rather dull because of the mandate by my parents to abstain from eating meat during the Holy period of the Navratras. Still, the eggplant dish was delicious. I can’t wait to go back and try some their special stuff (though I LOVE and adore bears).

Could I forget Hannibal’s love for music? I was waiting to be enchanted by Lithuanian art and the opportunity presented itself when I got invited for a violin recital at the town hall. The first half of the recital was dedicated towards expressing feelings of great joy. i could feel my feet moving in a happy tap-tap as the bow moved against the violin. During the intermission, I felt as happy as I could, drinking some espresso and treating myself to some handmade chocolates. Then came the second part of the recital. The range in the artist’s work was clear as he drowned me in a sea of sorrow as I felt the bow move across the violin with short twangs and lengthy movements.

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I was deeply affected by the music the previous night. But then the puff pastries happened. When in Lithuania, watch out for all these wonderful bakeries which dole out goodies made in HEAVEN. They taste magnificent. And I thought what more could I possibly see around here?

I did have the ancient Trakai on my list though. and so I was driven to the castle town. The magnificence of the castle greeted me across the bridge.

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  As I walked in towards the gates, I took in the size and architecture and the beautiful lake amidst which it was majestically perched. Happy school kids out on a trip, families showing their kids around and lovers walking with their hands linked – it was the perfect place for all.   l8 (1)

I read up all the information put up in different corners regarding the glorious past of the Grand Lithuanian Duchy of the fourteenth and fifteenth century. (Yes, the castle is THAT old. My proud Indian father kept comparing the fort to Chittorgarh – that grand abode of the fearless, warrior clan – the Rajputs. That’s another story) The tales of the Civil War were narrated by our friend and the impressive armory had much to say.

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Unknowingly, almost naturally, I had become friends with a bunch of schoolkids who were there for a school picnic. They kept following me, playing peek-a-boo at times and making much noise in general. You know what was the most entertaining thing for them? That someone could be called ‘swaatee’. To avoid causing great agony to non-Hindi speakers, I like to use my shorter pet name ‘Swati’ when introducing myself (in fact even Hindi speakers at times).

Indians are taught the importance of speaking English, and speaking it correctly early in life. Most of us have no problems in pronouncing a certain English name like James or Thomas. Now sometimes, the child in me thought everyone puts in efforts to get someone’s name right. Boy was I wrong! Those kids ran around the entire castle shouting out my name with an absolutely unique pronunciation of their own. Hannibal would probably put in a lot of effort.

While walking out, I set my eyes upon a pillory that was used to punish criminals and set to take pictures. And those kids ran out and trapped their friend so that I could get a perfect shot.

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*******

I stayed at this comfortable modern establishment called ‘Comfort Inn’. The buffet breakfast was great. But I think I would love to go and stay at the Shakespeare Hotel. There is something absolutely enthralling about it. The hostels like July are amazing to stay at.

Another of my biggest regrets is not having visited the Curonian Spit. I hope to take a trip soon and walk on the sand while the Baltic sea rages on one side and the Curonian lagoon on the other.

Lith10 Source : Pinterest 

I did fall in love with the country. With the architecture, the food and the people. Making friends with people allows you to come closer to yourself. And that is the whole point of travelling. Isn’t it?

-Swetambara Chaudhary


Tripoto
The author is a staff writer at Scoopwhoop! Send her virtual chocolates on her Twitter and Facebook. © Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Swetambara Chaudhary, unless stated otherwise. 

The Ross Island- Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces

Ross Island is a deserted island that is a part of the Andaman archipelago in India. Once the seat of the royal Britishers, it now lies in utter ruins. A shadow of its earlier self.

Despite this, Ross Island has a charm of its own.

This post covers the macabre beauty of the  Ross Island.

Welcome to Ross Island

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This sight greets you at Ross Island

Sights like these are abundant:

IMG_4069Nature, the Ultimate Conqueror

Ross SIlandA little perspective

Nature has engulfed everything here, EVERYTHING:

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IMG_4166Only the memory remains!

But there’s more to see here:

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Some views are more beautiful than others:

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Whoaaa!

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An old swimming pool!

IMG_4215An ancient tree at Ross Island

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The Presbyterian Church

IMG_4234-001The Ross Island Cemetery

IMG_4243Yes, this place has a beautiful pond!

Wildlife’s abundant too :

IMG_4196Deers roam freely here

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Liked the images? Check out our other post on Andamans.
Click here to read more about the history of Ross Islands.

-Vibhav Bisht


The author is a hardworking lazy-ass! He loves to travel though!
Feel free to disturb his naps on Twitter and Facebook.

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© Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Vibhav Bisht. 

ARCHITECTURAL SERIES – MOHAMADPUR VILLAGE: TEEN BURJI MOSQUE

Guest Writer Anahita Fotedar writes about a forgotten architectural marvel of Delhi.

This is the first part of her Architectural Series.


So, this series deals with, monuments in urban villages of New Delhi. Initially, I will give focus to those monuments which are not very prominent but hold an equal grandeur and elegance as that of any ruins of Chandani Chowk.

The Teen Burji Mosque, Mohamadpur Basti, R.K. Puram, New Delhi, India.

Located near the busy junction of the posh residence of Safdarjung Enclave and the district center-Bhikaji Cama Palce of New Delhi, the Teen Burji Mosque is often ignored in the hustle-bustle of the activities around it.

IMG_2871[1]View of the mosque from the main road

Built during the Lodhi dynasty, (1451-1526), it is assumed that the monument is a mosque due to its architectural features like large tomb, covered with hemispherical domes etc. Although, it is unknown as to whose grave it is exactly, but due to the imposing height of the monument, the building is considered that of a high value.IMG_2869[1]The building measures around 56.4m x 18m.

One may have the right to decipher that the imposing height of the building is directly proportional to the fact that Mohamadpur was an extended part of the Mehrauli/Munirka summer palace of the Lodhi & then the Mughal dynasty respectively. The building further consists of three different apartments, the center of which is covered with a traditional hemispherical dome, while the chambers on either side is covered by low fluted domes.

It is sad, that the authorities have closed the main doors of the monument as the monument was utilized as a public space by the residents of the urban village and the kind of activities the kind of activities they indulged in were considered harmful for the monument. On conversing with the residents, I was notified that while during the mid-afternoon and the rest of the evening men indulged in activities like gambling and conversations, during the night because of the high youth population, the monument became a place of “illicit activities”. Obviously, the terminologies left me extremely disturbed and at unrest.

What is also, interesting about this particular monument is, that even though according to the ASI regulations it is considered, a Grade I, national importance monument, the conditions in which it is left to struggle on its own, is horrendous.

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National importance? Where?

ASI or the Archaeological Survey of India, mentions that according to the importance of the heritage monument, along with the present urban conditions, a particular radius is provided around the monument in which any other built structure cannot be procreated. In case of this monument, it is a 100m stretch. However the actual scenario, is something entirely different.

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100m? More like 10cm

While the idea of waking up to a beautiful view of the monument, may sound romantic and splendid, one needs to understand that the monument itself is a living heritage, it is but a legacy of our past, our culture, and our vernacular architectural style.

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Creating my own Hauz Khas Village moment?

Before we dwell further on this topic, there has to be a brief understanding about why this phenomenon occurs in the urban villages. There are plenty of factors involved, in this situation to occur, thus to blame it on, one community or individual is out of scope. What we see today, as urban villages, were at one point of time, agricultural lands. During the Colonial era, a term called Lal Dora was coined, Lal Dora or the Red Line was an arbitrary line drawn by the Britishers to differentiate between the villages and the city centers. However,with industrialization and urbanization and the mass exodus of people invested earlier in agriculture, the face of these Lal Dora districts started morphing into low-rate, high density, plotter development lands. Mohamadpur Village, gained high density also because its next to Bhikaji Cama, a huge economic center of the city.


Rear of the monument.

Another reason, for the government authorities to shut down the main gates of the monument was the rapid growth of plotter development houses and the ignorance of the ASI laws. But one may also see this situation from another perspective, its a high density place, with no designated public spaces and parks, where would a resident possibly go?

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Some breathing space.

The only breathing space for this monument is this park in front of it. The park has become a popular congregation spot for both men, women & children of the Mohamadpur village. The open space is now a reflection of all the activities that used to take place inside the monument. Majority of the hours, you see men loitering around or indulging in gambling & conversations. Women, are not seen in the parks when men occupy it because of the very prominent caste system followed in these clusters. Which is extremely interesting because its almost like the monument is re-living its past, because even in the Lodhi dynasty most of the monuments, especially mosques were avidly visited by the men and women were left to their own devices in their pretty palaces.

While the park//open space gives you a pause point to relish and revel in the beauty and the grandeur of the monument, it also causes an obstruction because from the main road all I am able to see is line of trees. As an architecture student, what I find most disturbing is the fact, that the master plan 2021 for New Delhi, which aims at making Delhi a “world-class city” has no regards for such situations and for a moment I did think that it is perhaps because I was looking at an extremely macro scale, so I zoomed in and read up the zonal map of South Delhi, (Zone F, South Delhi-I) and even there I found nothing.

At the moment, the urban cluster of Mohamadpur is full of individuals who provide services to the city, it is a super-essential link in what formulates the back-bone of the city. It lies next to what is considered the second biggest business district of South Delhi but in reality is extremely dead, and to add upto that you have a monument begging for recognition and revival. Does this not make sense to anyone? One could totally draw the potential and services of the Mohamadpur link it to the business district of Bhikaji Cama Palace, and it could be a community powering the potential of a central district hub and the monument can finally get its recognition as a national heritage because of the incoming funds, audience etc.

On that note, I did like to bid an adieu on the first edition of the architectural series. However, please post your comments, queries, change in perspective, I did be glad to hear you guys out.

Thankyou.

– Anahita 

(Originally posted on Anahita’s own blog. Check it out!)


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The Pigeons of Jaipur

The City Palace is one of the most frequented tourist destination in Jaipur. Throngs of tourists, both Indian and foreigners, come to see this beautiful palace/museum everyday.

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The City Palace, Jaipur

All the tourists, whether they arrive in those mammoth Volvos or in the humble ‘desi’ alternative– the cycle rickshaws, have to enter the vicinity of the City Palace via a narrow gate.

I call it the ‘Pigeon Gate‘ and this is where our story starts.

Do you recall the “Coo-Coo” sound that a pigeon makes? Some people like it while some people abhor it.

Now amplify the same Coo-Coo sound a million times, add to that the sound made by the flapping of an unimaginable number of wings– that’s what standing at the Pigeon Gate feels like.

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Get Out Of The Way!!
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Now, don’t get me wrong. It is indeed an astonishingly overwhelming experience to be surrounded by pigeons who outnumber the population of certain European cities. But that’s not what this article is about.

This article is about a symbiotic relationship between humans and pigeons probably unique to this place.

Right in front of the Pigeon Gate is a massive courtyard bisected by a busy road (the same road that passes through the Pigeon Gate and eventually leads to the City Palace). The vicinity of the courtyard seems to be the favourite hangout spot of all the Pigeons of Jaipur. Boy, do they rule this place!

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The reason for this strange endearment towards this particular area, as I later found out, is food! The courtyard is perennially brimming with food grains, purposely thrown by both the tourists and the locals.

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Meanwhile, Mrs. Cow enjoying the Feast!
Flocks after flocks of pigeons accumulate all over and around the courtyard and hungrily gnaw at the abundant feast lying there. Once a flock has eaten to its heart’s content, it flies away from the spot to make way for the next flock of pigeons to do the same. Yes, all of them fly off at once! (And trust me, it is an unforgettable moment when a flock of thousands of pigeons just casually flies over your head!).
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Now here comes the interesting part. At one corner of the very same courtyard, a bunch of people were selling food-grains, which were kept in open baskets, to the tourists. Surprisingly, not even a single pigeon made an attempt to steal the food kept in the open baskets of the food-grain sellers. It was as if both the parties- the pigeons and the sellers, had made a silent agreement to keep this fruitful partnership going.

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Both of them respected each other’s territory. Both of them enjoyed the fruits!
How beautiful!

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Struck by the discovery of this constructive paradigm, I broke into a smile of cognizance.
Since it was the only thing left to do, I bought a packet of grains for 60 bucks and fed the street smart pigeons.

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I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time. Neither could they.

-Vibhav Bisht


The author is a hardworking lazy-ass! He loves to travel though!
Feel free to disturb his naps on Twitter and Facebook.

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