Monday, July 21, 2014

Ruchir Learns to Dance!

21st July, 2014

Here is a funny video of Ruchir that we shot on June 26, 2014. Ruchir is dancing to the tune of the popular song 'Dinka Chika Dinka Chika" song from the Salman Khan's comedy movie 'Ready'!

This was Ruchir's first "dance" after he started walking a month ago. Ruchir was 1 year, 2 months and 23 days when this video was taken.

Hope you folks enjoyed it!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Celebrating our 11th Wedding Anniversary @ Mysore

Celebrating our 11th Wedding Anniversary @ Mysore

June 21-23, 2014Blissfully married for 11 years and it was time to celebrate. I had taken a day off on 23rd June, Monday so had 3 full days to whatever we wanted to do but we had no thoughts on what do about it.

June 21st, Saturday:
Without knowing what to do and where to go, tanked up our car, packed a set of clothes and left Bangalore on 21st June (Saturday) at around 10 AM when the direction was still yet to be decided. And when the we were still wondering where to go, our Car went on Auto-mode and steered itself towards Mysore road and that set the course of our outing for the next couple of days.

We had breakfast at Maddur's Adigas Hotel. On the way we had read a sign post that said 'Kokkre Bellur' which showed some photos of Birds. I also had read about this place in a few other blogs earlier as well. So turned around our car and went towards Kokkre Bellur.

"Kokkre Bellur" - In Kannada Kokkre means 'crane' and 'bellur' means 'a white village'.

About 15 kilometers off Mysore road, we reached a small village with loads of Picture Boards of numerous birds. There was an information center and Parking area for visitors and looked like we were the only visitors that day. A huge parking yard which could accommodate 500 cars and ours were the only 1 car around, and that gave us the picture of what to expect. It probably was the inappropriate season to visit this place! Asked the locals on where the birds were and everybody's answers were that this was not the season and all of them had left and that they stay here between December to May and now that it is June already there are a very few and we could spot them only if we were lucky.

Disappointed, we were about to head back, when the guy at the information center & parking lot told that there were still a lot of birds and that he would take us to a small area next to a pond. About a 500 meters into the village, he asked us to take the road that went into the gully and vanished.

We took his advice and drove for a couple of minutes on muddy roads and stopped in front of a huge tree and behold - Loads of birds! Painted Storks with wing span up to 6 or 7 feet everywhere. On the ground, nesting over the trees, sunbathing on the thatched roofs of the houses, gliding up and down in the sky... Everywhere! And completely invisible from the main road where they said, this is the place to watch the birds!.

 It seemed for once that common crow were replaced by these huge Painted Storks!. There were dozens of them! We spent a couple of hours going around this place watching these huge birds and then left back towards Mysore. The weather was just perfect.

 Reached Mysore by around 3 PM and first thing on the mind was to get a hotel accommodation for overnight stay. The last time we were in Mysore, we stayed in @ Hotel Siddartha and wanted to get there. We had forgotten the name as well, but we thought it was Hotel Sandesh!. So we asked for directions to Sandesh and were soon given the directions, but somehow, the roads led us to the hotel where we actually wanted to stay and finally drove in front of 'Hotel Siddartha'! And we realized we actually wanted to stay here but were searching for Sandesh! So much for our luck! (Later on, got to know Sandesh was just a few meters away from Siddartha!).

Checked in and took a Triple room. The room was pretty decent and we knew that they served great food downstairs and it was pure veg. That way, it serves all our needs in one package.

It started raining and pouring and we took rest in our room, which also gave Ruchir and Pooja some rest. One of the things we wanted to cover was to visit the famed 'PSR Silks' showroom at Mysore, which was so heavily advertised on every Kannada magazine back cover and Souji was very impressed with the beautiful sarees they had showcased. So we had to visit this place when we were in Mysore and now was the time. We drove to 'Saraswatipuram' about 4 kms from where we stayed and visited PSR Silks. It was decently big and did have a lot of varieties. But not comparable to the Saree houses back here in Bangalore in terms of Size or Scale. For Mysore it seemed to be big, but bigger than the showroom was their advertising spend.

After about 2.5 hours and a couple of sarees packed, Souji finally dragged herself out, still leaving her heart behind, promising herself that she would return again. We returned back towards to Siddartha and stopped midway at Devraj Urs road, which is the shopping street at Mysore. I remember having spent good time when we were here with Pradeepa about 4 years back. So we just roamed the street with absolutely no purpose for about an hour or so. 

It was quite a long day so we finally headed back to Siddartha, had a good dinner downstairs at the restaurant and then slept like a rock. 

22nd June, Sunday:
After a good breakfast, we inquired at the reception on what else we could see while we were in Mysore for the 100th time! We probably had more information than the reception staff, but hoped just in case, if they they had something better. Listened patiently to their recommendations and then we were on our own again.

Called up my doctor friend, Pradeepa (our 'Talking and walking Google' on places in Karnataka)  and told that we needed to be doing something different in Mysore, that we always wanted to do, not knowing what to do, but more of natural things like visiting Mango Gardens, Flower Gardens, Forest areas, Fruits etc..As expected he, understood our predicament and roared his best result in a thundering voice "Drive towards Hunsur and your wishes will be fulfilled!". And without any second thoughts, we drove in the direction of Hunsur!

Just off Mysore, the roads turned wider, better and traffic turned less denser, and with greenery on both sides. Apparently Hunsur is famous for Mangoes, Jackfrutis and Tobacco! As you drive by we could see hundreds of small carts selling Mangoes of different kinds so neatly arranged, anybody driving would be enticed into buying a few Kgs for sure.

The long drive was just perfect. Imagine a beautiful hilly backdrop in the horizon, lush green fields, winding roads, drizzling rain, soft beautiful music and bundle it up with nothing to do and nowhere to rush, Absolutely Priceless!!!. And this was probably exactly what we wanted all along!. It was exactly what the patient wanted and the doctor ordered (literally).

We saw a green grassy meadow that stretched its incline to the horizon making it a beautiful scenery. So we got out and played there for a while took loads of pictures before continuing towards Hunsur. Once we reached Hunsur, we asked locals where we could get to visit a Mango or a Jackfruit garden or any other fruit / flower garden...We got a few directions but not very convincing. That's when we recollected that we had noticed  a sign-board that said 'Nagarahole' 60 Kms. So we considered our options and headed towards Nagarhole - our forest destination for the day and we had never visited it earlier. This was a great opportunity for Pooja to see a good forest area.

We were stopped at the Check-post which had a huge Arch which said 'Welcome to Rajiv Gandhi National Park (Nagarhole Tiger Reserve)'. The 2 authorities at the check-post with a Walkie-Talkie asked us about the purpose of our visit, and other details and noted it down. He told that there was no entrance fee but he would be happy if we gave him something. Initially, I thought I would give him some piece of my mind, but knowing that we were entering the forest and that he was calling the shots by having a communication device that could very well secure us while we were driving from check-post to base point, I had to yield to his demand and had to grease him. 

Upon inquiring, he said that we need to be at the camp between 4 PM to 6 PM if we wanted a Safari tour and we were so pleased we could do that!

The next 45 Kilometers to the base camp of the Nagarahole forest was a bit scary. 

The roads turned single lane, bumpy most of the time. Dense forest, Scary noises, absolutely nobody else apart from the 4 of us, no civilization anywhere! All we could see and hear was Nature's wilderness at it's very best!

The tall trees leaned on each other forming huge canopies, making the noon sun disappear and creating darkness all round, like a dark tunnel. The feeling was quite creepy and all the more amplified due to the screeching noises made by the insects. All horror movies I have seen have these noises but that was in the dark. This was was at noon, but the effect was incomparable! Nature gets the Oscars, hands down for the best Sound Effects un-edited!

On our way we were looking forward for some Elephants, Deers, Boars, Bisons etc... but could only manage to see a few herds of spotted Deers. They actually came pretty close to our car. Unlucky we couldn't get to see the elephants, which we heard, it was a common sight and one would never miss them in the wild there. 

Unlike Muthanga forest (Bandipur to Wayanad stretch), Nagarhole strech was 10X more thick, less populous, zero civilization and a lot more creepier. 

We reached the base camp, with overcast weather, all set to rain, but there was nothing much to do there. The forest tourist information center was open, but there were no services they offered., Disappointing was the fact that the Jungle Safaris were closed for about a month now due to monsoon season, but the check-post guy with Walkie-Talkie at the entrance had mis-informed us just so that he got his share by saying that the safaris were still on. 

We spent some time taking good pictures of the beautiful setting the base camp had to offer. Got to know that Nagarhole offers some 6 to 8 Cottages to stay, but booking needs to be done from Mysore before arriving and most of the times, it is full!.

No hotels there to eat either. And we were quite hungry. So we headed back on our return journey, which was not that scary anymore as we already knew what to expect. We reached the check-post and asked the guy why he misinformed us and took him to task. He swore he did tell us that safaris were there 'but only not during monsoon months'!!!

The roads got better as we reached Hunsur. We stopped briefly at a roadside vendor who was selling Jackfruits. The same guy had given us free samples in the morning and had told him that I would come back and pick it up on our way back. The one we purchased was quite a big one. Almost 2 times the size of a football! It was looking as if the inside core was ready to explode!.

We were quite hungry but good hotels or eateries were not to be found in Hunsur. So we headed back to Mysore. 

Just before the outskirts of Mysore, we saw lorry loads of people gathered and cheering out in an open field next to the highway. Police staff, VIP cars, Government Vehicles, Generator Sets and other vehicles parked all over the place. Couldn't resist the temptation and so parked the car and walked across the road. Found out that there was a Free Style Wrestling (Kusti) match going on!!! A 30X30 foot mound of mud and sand covered with 2 inches of Marigold flowers made up the ring. Village crowd came out in huge numbers. This was a proper tournament and the wrestlers were well built and well prepared. Officials ensured fair play and players apparently came from all around Mysore and beyond. I watched a couple of matches and they were awesome!. Much better techniques in 'pure desi' style! I had never seen a wrestling match live earlier but this one was a pleasant unexpected surprise and loved it. Made my day! Also got to know that such tourneys are pretty big thing in Mysore. Great stuff.

It was already 5 in the evening and we still had not had lunch. Just as we got closer to Mysore, we saw a Highway Pure-veg restaurant 'Green Food Court'. Parked our car, refreshed ourselves and had a feast of a lunch. The dishes were very tasty and the price was very reasonable. Definitely a must try for anybody returning back Mysore from Hunsur side. Highly Recommended.

Souji wanted to do the 2nd round of Shopping at PSR Silks. So we were back in the showroom again for a couple of more Sarees. It was about 6:30 when we finally reached hotel. We quickly refreshed ourselves and ran out of the door again in 10 minutes to the Lighting of the Mysore Palace! Sunday evenings the Palace Lights will be switched on. A heavenly treat it was. By the time we reached the Palace which was just about 500 Meters from our hotel, the palace lights were already hitting the clouds. The palace looked Magnificient. We could see the happy smiles and lit up eyes of the first time visitors and why not! We are watching it the 100th time maybe and the feeling was just the same.

We spent about an hour enjoying the lights, crowd, music played by the Palace Guards, and the weather too was just perfect. The huge Tarmac outside of the Palace gave Ruchir and Pooja unrestricted space for running and playing around.

We returned back to the hotel, tired, but feeling very happy about what we were able to do that day. A light dinner and we were off dozing.

23rd June, 2014 - Monday
Our Wedding Anniversary! Completed 11 years. In short, Life couldn't be better!

Had a great breakfast at our hotel's 'Om Shanthi' restaurant and we are back to planning on what we could do for the next half day. We could either do the Mysore Palace or visit the Mandya Sugar Factory @ Mandya. Decided that we will visit the Mandya Sugar factory some other time, but will take Pooja and show her the Mysore Palace as she had not seen it earlier. 

Walked through the same palace gate that we visited the previous day but was told that the entry tickets to the palace was issued at some other gate 2 kilometers away!. 

In the mean time, we visited the 'Anjaneya' Temple located right at the entrance of the palace gate and sought the blessings of the lord! Hopped onto an Auto-rickshaw and reached the entrance where they sold tickets to the palace.

Dropped our footwear at one counter (Free they said!) and handed over my DSLR Camera for safe keeping at the Free (again) Locker Depots and then walked into the Palace following the crowd. Pooja was seeing the Palace was the first time and was awed by the sheer superlatives of everything that was to see in the palace. It completely decimated her imagination of a Palace as she compared to what she used to see in in cartoon serials of 'Chota Bheem'. The funny part is Animation and Cartoons mostly depict things 100X better than actual, but in this case, the reality was 1000 X better than what she had imagined. Great experience for her and for us too to revisit and relive what it would have been when Mysore was ruled by a King,

We also got to see the official residences of the Kings which is right beside the palace, worth the visit. 

We got back to the hotel, had lunch at Om Shanthi restaurant and then checked out of our room. At 1 PM we started our return drive back to Bangalore. We stopped briefly at Maddur again to buy some Maddur Vada which also give some break to Ruchir. We reached Bangalore by about 4 PM and on the way, we visited Lavanya and Harish at their house and then to Vinayadeep for a couple of hours with Dad and Mom, and later reached back home at about 8 PM. 

Overall, a fantastic 3 days celebrating our 11th Wedding Anniversary. A time well spent with the family and a trip to remember! 

(Oh, by the way, the big Jackfruit we brought, had close to 130 pulpy fruits, thick and juicy and sweet as nectar! Finger licking good! Distributed them to all the near and dear ones... happy ;-))

Here are some photos and videos we took during our trip.