Qutub Minar Part II – The Alai Minar

Looking at that incomplete structure standing lonely and sadly, I felt pity for the one who started this venture.  It almost looked as if God wanted to punish him for being so proud of his achievements.  It is a fate that almost all who want to show off and brag about their successes ultimately receives in this world.   The one who felt that I can build better and show the world who is mightier has had to taste its ridicule even after generations have passed!!

The Qutub Minar Part II – Alai Minar was started by Alauddin Khalji who usurped the Slave dynasty and wanted to build something bigger and better than the Qutub Minar in the same complex.   The building construction started with almost double the diameter and was also visualised to be of double the height of present day Qutub Minar!   But Alas, the construction was left incomplete as he died immediately after the construction started and his successors were never interested in taking this up and completing it.

Standing in the same complex, it is an eye sore but a reminder for all the mighty and powerful, of what it could all turn out to be… unfinished and unsightly!

 

Read our full blog on Qutub Minar

The New Year Resolutions

Another New Year looms. And the accompanying resolutions have started nibbling away at the recesses of memory, forcing them to come to surface like long held bubbles fleeing the clutches of time and popping into relevance. The usual suspects are the largest bubbles; exercising, going for a walk, defying the urge of the electronics, dieting and the rest. There are a few smaller bubbles that are growing in size as they race towards the surface of relevance by combining their power. The responsibility of a parent subsumes the bubble of prudential spending which in turn had merged with systematic investing. Gifting oneself with a holiday, going on short travels to places of interest also join the bandwagon.

However, as with previous experiences, I am quite convinced that these are annual trips to wish town and the long drive back to practicality will be on the highway of routine.

We all wish a drastic change to the predictable mundane. But since it always involves a degree of discipline, the change remains a phantasm that fades away into oblivion under the incessant onslaught of monotony.

Thus lives are existed, corroded, maimed and psyched. And yet the new year offers a glimpse into the possibilities, since circumstances change, fortune beckons and opportunities arise. Not always in the form one desires, but come, they do. And fortunate is the person who can catch it by its vicious horns and ride to fulfilment. It’s a short life filled with nobleness. Let’s pledge this year to identify and enhance it.

Happy New Year 2017, slightly in advance.

 

[Video credit – facebook post]

Christmas in Delhi

December is a pleasant month in Delhi though it can get to be a little bone chilling towards end of December around Christmas and New Year.  The trick to beat the winter is to keep busy, get out in the open and enjoy the sunshine whenever possible!

Christmas time can be lot of fun.  For Christians in Delhi, it is one of the busiest time of the year.  From learning Christmas carols to baking cakes and going around door to door singing, wishing people Christmas, and looking around at the Christmas decorations!

These days, Christmas has come to be recognized as a common festival. Festivities and decorations are done in quite earnestness by malls, hotels, airports and even small shops.  They compete to stand out and attract attention by placing a Christmas tree, have Santa cutouts, and hang stars all around.  

The Christmassy red, green, white, gold and silver colors make the whole place look cheerful.   The celebratory mood is visible though this time I should say the mood for spending has been a little less because of the demonetization problems.  People are only spending for what is the basic!

Celebrations, therefore are a little restrained but there!!

The Mother I Never Knew by Sudha Murty

Book Review

Story of two young men who discover suddenly that they have a mother they never knew existed.   It is a search for lost love, lost opportunities, lost bonds and a lost family that they need to get in touch with.  A past they never knew existed.

The first novel is about Venkatesh, a bank manager with a money hungry wife and 2 children.   He stumbles upon someone who looks like him when he is posted in Hubli.  He sets out to find out who this person is and soon discovers that he is his brother and his father had married earlier and left a wife and a son behind.    He is horrified to find that they were left to fend for themselves without any fault of their own.  He wants to make amends for his father’s and grandmother’s wrong doing.

The story reveals the struggles he has within his own family.  His wife and son are very ambitious and his daughter who is more attached to him, understands him and his motives in helping out this other family.

The second story is about Mukesh who is from a wealthy family but comes to know through an accident that he has been adopted.  From there starts his journey to get in touch with his biological mother.  The journey takes him to different places and different families.   It is quite dramatic and a bit like a little Bollywood movie.  However, at the end, when he gets to see his biological mother, he is not sure if he is happy to find her at all.   He now feels a deeper obligation towards the mother who raised him and did not let him know even once that he is not her child.

Both stories are gripping and emotionally enthralling.   It shows the myriad faces of people and  their relationships, emotional tugs, confusions and struggles.

The language is simple and easy and the plot deep like the other books of Sudha Murty.  However, there are some dramatic situations that could have been avoided.

Overall a good read.

Rating 4/5.

The author, Sudha Murty, is the chairperson of Infosys Foundation.

Idli, Orchid and Will Power by Dr Vithal Venkatesh Kamat

After reading this book, I had half a mind to go and start a hotel business of my own!  The book was that inspiring.  And I also had the deep desire to meet Vithal Kamat in person. None of these things have happened till now.

It is a very well written auto biography of Vithal Kamat.   The book presents him as a completely self-made man.   From a humble beginning, as the son of a small restaurant owner that served south Indian stuff, his rise to the owner of a huge chain of kamat hotels and finally the 7 star Orchid Ecotel is a long long journey.

It is the story of ambition and will power.  He dreams big and he goes right after it.   In his struggle to achieve these, he also goes through some tough times.   He faces rejection and boycotts and a state of bankruptcy but he sticks on.    And in the end, it all turns around and he is able to complete his dream project of building the Ecotel Hotel.    It is a very simple story told simply and directly.

It is inspiring to the core.  Gives nuggets and tips to show how daring to take that step and staying on the course will bring results.  The book left a huge impression on me and I even wrote an email to him to congratulate on his superb endeavor. As usual, never got a reply!!!

For anyone who is down and out, I would recommend a dose of this book.

Rating : 5/5

 

Gently Falls the Bakula by Sudha Murty

Book Review 

I was introduced to Sudha Murty’s writings by my daughter who had a lesson in her English textbook about a young girl teaching her grandmother how to read.  That was a very touching story and it prompted me to buy her other books.  “Gently falls the Bakula” was the first one that I read.

The author has painted a very realistic landscape of a small town in Hubli with well drawn out characters. The protagonists are very identifiable with any townfolk in India, and that instantly connects the reader with spatial identification and empathy.

This is the story of a couple and their relationship. They study together in one class and stay nearby in one village. Shrikant and Shrimati are good at studies but Shrimati always comes first. So, there is a bit of competition with the male ego getting hurt sometimes. Shrikant is ambitious and wants to go for Engineering while Shrimati though intelligent is plain-looking and simple. There averred goals do not converge for she loves arts and history. She decides to pursue her passion rather than run the rat race!

The Bakula tree under which they meet and grow up sheds its sweet fragrance on their relationship, fusing their attraction into a bond of marriage. But little do they know how much of a “bond” it is for both as they race through life. Shrimati decides to forego her career and ambition as she moves with Shrikant to different places his career takes him to. He is ambitious and spends more and more time in the office and managing his career growth. With time, however, he becomes so engrossed in his career that he forgets about the needs of Shrimati.

She is left to herself and loneliness engulfs her like a disease. Thankfully, there is a ray of hope and she finds herself doing researches in history and going back to what she used to like as a young girl. And one day she finally decides to leave Shrikant and pursue what her heart truly desires.

A very simple story but very relevant to a lot of Indian couples and families these days who are going through the same grind.  Career choices and priorities in life keep pushing them ahead which makes them overlook and forget sacrifices the family has made for them, especially, a housewife.

A wonderfully written book.  I would give the book a 4/5 rating.

The author, Sudha Murty, is the chairperson of Infosys Foundation.

Delhi Winters and Moongphali Wala’s (Peanut Vendor)

As the winter in Delhi progresses, moongphali wala’s (peanut vendor) ubiquitous presence is welcomed across the nooks and crannies of the city. It is virtually impossible not to find it at a stone’s throw distance from where people congregate in public.

It is a common sight to see a peanut vendor with his various offerings in a cart standing near the bus stops, railway stations and almost all the crowded joints selling his provisions. It is a favourite pastime of Delhi wala’s too to munch on their favourite snack in the form of roasted peanuts that is available in different forms and sizes with these vendors. The vendors put an earthen pot with hot coals in the middle of the groundnut heap to keep them warm and hot. Sometimes I have a feeling that it is the warmth that people appreciate more than the peanuts itself.

It is also a physical activity that one enjoys – breaking the shell open with a bang and fish out the one or two or if you are really lucky three little peanuts from inside the protective casing and pop them into impatient mouths. After opening some, they get the knack of correctly opening the shell by pressing at the midpoint where the pods are joined at a beaky angle, so it pops out at the first instance.

There are different ways to eat the peanut as well. Some are so hungry that it goes right into their mouth as soon as it bursts open from the shell. But some who have all the time in the world, take their sweet little time and tease their appetite with some playing around with these peanuts before it finally reaches their ravenous mouths.

The young kids can even have a funtime with these little nuts as they make it their toys and try to throw them all at different angles and catch it with their open mouth.

The Moongphaliwala sells all the versions of these nuts – Peanut with shells, without shells, unroasted ones, roasted and salted ones, etc. Another interesting option that he stocks are the Delhi wala’s favourite chikkis.

Chikkis are a kind of a peanut bar made with jaggery. The chikkis can come in different shapes – round and flattened, rectangular like a normal granola bar or small round balls. The texture can be from anywhere between hard to soft with slightly crushed peanuts or finely powdered and blended with other ingredients. These are all kept in different polythene packs and sold at different prices.

Winters in Delhi and chikkis are inseparable, and so are the moongphali walas!!

History of Delhi and Tourist Attractions

I came to stay in Delhi about 34 years back (sounds like I am ancient!) with my parents.  My dad working at that time with the Defences was posted here. We kept moving from one place to the other in Delhi in search of a better place to stay, study and work in that order and I have to now say that we’ve covered almost all the corners.

Delhi is big and there are so many places to see in and around Delhi that it is overwhelming.  If a person comes to Delhi with the pure intention of sight-seeing, then it could take them anywhere between 3 to 4 days or even a week to cover all the monuments and parks and the important sightseeing places.

Delhi has been a place of action and centre of politicaland cultural hub for many centuries and history is embedded in each and every part and structure.  The heritage, the culture and the traditional architecture are living proofs that showcase a very interesting and exciting past.

It is believed that Indraprastha mentioned in the Mahabharata was Delhi. This place was ruled by the Rajputs under the Tomars and Chauhans when the Afghans attacked them and captured Delhi.   From then on, it fell into multiple hands – Lodhi’s, Tughlaks and Mughals.   Finally when Mughal empire was established across India Shah Jahan established Old Delhi as the capital from where he ruled.

The monuments, tombs and forts scattered around Delhi are tourist attractions.  These showcase distinct designs and architectural lineage to the heritages.   Still standing tall and preserved from each of these era, these buildings give out an eerie feeling when we step into them of having traversed unknowingly into that period.

The tourist attractions are Red Fort in Old Delhi (was part of Shahjahanabad), Jama Masjid (the Royal court of Mughals), Qutub Minar at Mehrauli (from the Slave Dynasty), Lodhi Gardens which houses tombs of Lodhi dynasty rulers, Humayun’s tomb, Zafar Mahal and other tombs around Mehrauli from the Mughal Era, Raj Ghat, India gate from British era, Lotus Temple and Akshardham Temple are fairly new additions after Independence.

So when one goes visiting these tourist attractions, one needs to have a little bit of the background.  It is intriguing to find out that there is so much history behind all these places.

The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad

It took me a few hours to go through the book entirely. My first impressions are below.

It was my fault!  I approached the book with a preconceived notion and I realized by the end that it was a completely erroneous thing to do.  It was gross injustice to the book and the writer.

When I accidentally came upon the first book of Twinkle Khanna, I found it to be very funny and hilarious.  I therefore, somehow assumed that she would continue in that genre.  But the assumption was completely shattered by the time I came to the end of the first story in her book.  I still kept searching for her razor sharp humor and kept trudging through the second and third story for a similar thread.  However, by the time I came to the last one which was actually the only story that stood out for me, I realized this is something I had not expected at all.

Twinkle Khanna has managed to surprise her readers a second time.   If in the first one, it was for her witty and satirical style, this one was for her astute sense of seriousness in bringing out social issues.  Issues that people were not comfortable speaking out.   Issues that were considered taboo in public domain.

The book is a combination of 4 different short stories picked up from news articles in recent times.   However, since I was not aware of this when I started reading, I could not make out when one story finished and when the second one started.

The first story is about Lakshmi, the young girl who brings about a change in the status of women by empowering her through wealth in the form of owning trees.    It was a good story by all means but was not gripping enough for me.  It just skimmed past me and ended quite abruptly.

Second story starts with two retired elderly sisters having a relaxed routine.   The story is about the one called Noni Appa who is unable to express her inner desires even at this stage of life.  She is still saddled with the thought of how she wants to be viewed by others around her.  A near death experience makes her realise that it is more important to enjoy the moments and grab happiness when life offers it to you.

The third one that completely flew over my head is based on a Malayali Christian girl who is twice unlucky in marriage.  The first time, she takes the plunge and second time, she goes ahead with her parents’ wishes but still lands in problems. The story of Elisa Joseph is yet another washout.   Twinkle really made an effort in understanding the Malayali Christian culture with the correct names and churches and rituals, the story itself did not stand out very clearly.

The fourth one is about Bablu Kewat, a person who feels concerned about the unhygienic condition of sanitary napkins used by his wife and the village girls.  He makes all efforts to invent a machine that can shell out low cost sanitary pads for rural women.  In that struggle, he loses everything from his wife, mother, house, his work, image etc. but in the end comes back victorious.  Though it is an exact copy of the life of Muruganandan, the story stands out and the way it is written keeps the interest of the reader going on till the end.

So, I would give her a rating of 2 stars for this book.

2/5

 

Read my review of the first book : Mrs Funnybones

Kerala Kattan Kaapi (Black Coffee)

The early morning Kattan Kaapi is one of the most followed rituals in a Keralite family.    So it is for most of the keralites settled outside Kerala too.    And for this one cup, they would buy an entire year’s ration in one go during their annual visit to Kerala.    The kattan kaapi evokes feelings of nostalgia and an invisible  bond towards their hometown and the place they belonged to once upon a time!

This one concoction in the morning satiates and helps them to keep going for an entire day.  The rest of the day can then be dedicated to the lesser preferred tea in any form…  plain tea, tulsi tea, ginger tea, green tea, etc.

The special taste and aroma of the kattan kaapi can only be achieved with the special South Indian coffee powder that is available in South Indian stores outside kerala.      Though the preparation of this simple beverage is equally simple, many don’t get it right.  It is the proportion of the sugar and coffee powder that matters.

This cuppa is supposed to be high on sugar and coffee powder both..  but the preparation is slightly tricky.  The coffee powder should not be so strong that it starts turning sour in the mouth or so light that it becomes tasteless and watery.  So, it has to be prepared carefully.   Some people prefer the coffee powder straight – the coffee beans roasted and powdered just as it is, but there are others who prefer the coffee powder with a little chicory added to it.  Both tastes equally good.

A very simple method of preparation – in one cup boiling water, add one heaped teaspoon of sugar and then one not so heaped teaspoon of coffee powder.  It usually takes me atleast two three preparations per coffee powder that I buy new, to get to the right proportion to follow for the rest of the days..  so, essentially it is about practice!!!

 

 

About India Travel Blog – We have tried capturing our experiences travelling through India and our aim is to give you a holistic view of the sights and sounds and smells of this beautiful country .