Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bhaji on the bypass

We’re on our way to peace, quiet and stupendous views of the Himalayas in the distant hill station of Kausani in Uttaranchal. Barely an hour out of Delhi, and the cow belt hits you, literally. Ambling senior citizens, regurgitating a late munch on some roadside grass provide ample experience in zig-zag driving. Cow on the right, swing to the left; tractor approaching on the wrong side, swing to the right; pothole ahoy, bump thump, oops too late, speeding Indica zooming up to kiss its maker, and a truck, swerve to avoid being spread like jam between them. Before the calm environs of Kausani can bring our BP down, the roads of UP and Uttaranchal are honour-bound to do everything to bring our BP up.

Beyond the concrete crush of East Delhi’s “flat”land, and the continuing urban spread in Ghaziabad (malls, flat, water parks et al), lies “dehaat”, the countryside. Miles and miles of flat wheat fields, interspersed with sugarcane patches, railway lines, slums, foul-looking and smelling industrial monstrosities and patchwork village huts outside which look vaguely ruminative buffaloes with expressions that say, “What’s the rush?” (more at the new blog site…)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tiger Sighting!

When my son and I went to Ranthambhore I was not expecting much more than an opportunity to spend some time with my son away from TV, PC, PSP, GSM… Guess what, we encountered the big cat! Not one, but three -- Mum and two of her fully grown. And, up close. So close that we could smell them. I exaggerate not! They were so close that I could not fit all three into one frame (I was using a telephoto).

Some eight years ago, we encountered a tiger at Sariska but I have no pictures to show. She was too far and showed herself for too short a time – my son just slept through that encounter. This time around, he witnessed the catwalk – literally!

-- Ajay Jaiman

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Traveling Photographer and a Nomadic Museum

Gregory Colbert has traveled the world for more than a decade and photographed encounters between humans and large animals in Burma, Sri Lanka, Egypt, India, Ethiopia and Kenya. This traveling photographer’s photo exhibition is, appropriately, housed in a 56,000-square-foot nomadic museum ( see photos of the museum). Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, this temporary structure is constructed by stacking 152 steel cargo containers – the kind typically stacked on cargo ships and available all over the world in standard shape and size. Structural elements are made of recyclable and reusable materials too.

The Ashes and Snow web site says that “The building’s design evokes the journey of the exhibition as it travels to ports of call around the world.” We can just hope it travels to some of the places where the pictures were shot.

Ashes and Snow is on show through May 14, 2006 at Santa Monica Pier, California. Read the NPR story here.

-- Ajay Jaiman

Friday, January 06, 2006

“So you were in Goa...”

“So you were in Goa for New Year!” is the question I have been asked repeatedly over the last week or so. I guess it must be important to be there at that time, though I did not notice any change in the water, sand or sun – all of it was as pleasant as ever. To us that was all that really mattered.

I must mention, though, that the quality of service and food at the hotel we stayed in was not as good as it was on our previous visit (which was not on the ‘New Year’). This is, perhaps, attributable to the 100% occupancy the hotel witnesses at this time of the year – the extra 10 percentage point occupancy must make a much greater difference on quality than what a layperson like me believes. Or perhaps the hotel is more established now and doesn’t need to worry about quality any more! Either way, two days later, as the occupancy dropped to 93 per cent (according to hotel sources), the food quality gallopped upwards and waiters and attendants were always within whistling distance.

Either case I don’t think there was any big deal being in Goa at ‘New Years’. Actually it may be better to go there at some other time -- for one, tickets would be more easily available, the hotels would not be crammed with tourists, the rides would be more reasonably priced and the chess boards, pool tables etc would not require advance booking. Next time we will not go there for ‘New Year's’.

We are now back home with our tan (which will last a year, like last time,) and an appetite for the sea filled, (which will last for two years, again like the last time!).

It is interesting that my appetite for the hills does not behave quite like this – it is always insatiable!