Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Rajasthan Trip!

Mum, Dad and I took a trip to Rajasthan this week, visiting Jaipur and Udaipur. Mid-February is a lovely time to visit – the weather was pleasant with rather cool nights. (You’ll need sweaters and shawls) We reached Jaipur by train from Delhi at around 1 AM and took an auto to our hotel – ‘Chirmi Palace’, located on a quiet side street. (All hotels seem to be called ‘palace’ or ‘haveli’, btw). Our room was on the ground floor and was one of several set around a small courtyard garden. The room was nothing fancy but was clean and neat.

In the morning, we arranged for a cab to go around the city. Since we had only one day here, we visited only very few landmarks. We covered Birla Mandir (lovely place – temple and small park. Moti Dungri fort stands right above but it is open to public only once a year on shivrathri), Albert hall museum (I loved the metal work section – such intricate work! The shields with scenes of Ramayana (see pic) and Mahabharata were amazing) and Amber fort (we took the cab to the top but I am told it is best to trek up. The fort seems to extend for miles along the hills!)

You can’t go to Rajasthan and not shop! Jaipur is famous for its textiles, handicrafts, jewellery, carpets and leather goods. However, a word of warning – don’t let the auto \ cab drivers direct your shopping. We had a tough time in Jaipur as the cab driver took us to a few shops (we assumed that he got a commission there) and just refused to go anywhere else leaving us very annoyed. While those shops may have something nice, you do want to look around others as well. The salesmen at those shops were also very pushy, and quickly showed their annoyance if you didn’t buy anything at their place. I guess we were shopping at the wrong places.

We took the night train to Udaipur and reached early morning at around 7 AM. An auto took us to our hotel ‘Karohi Haveli’. Udaipur felt like a very hilly city, with narrow twisty roads in many places. I kept having a feeling that our auto was going to crash into someone soon, but we didn’t. The hotel was right on the banks of Lake Pichola (rather dried up at our end, but still!) and very close to the City Palace. Our room was on the first floor and overlooked the lake (lovely room, with a large window seat – as large as a single bed!). Lying on this seat each night, I had a lovely view of the lakeside. This also seemed to be wedding season and I had the best seat to watch awesome fireworks from each night.

Thanks to Veetrag, I had a detailed list of places to see in Udaipur and felt more comfortable here than at Jaipur. We walked around the first day, visiting the City Palace (which was in the process of getting decked up for some lavish wedding) first. The whole palace is converted into a kind of museum with lots of paintings, handicrafts, armory and loads of history. It took us about 2 hours and we then took an auto to see the Vintage Car Collection near Sajjan Niwas Park.

We just fell in love with the beautifully restored cars of all makes – Rolls Royce, Chevrolet, Austin, Mercedes Benz, Cadillac, Buick, Ford and even horse drawn carriages! There is a restaurant in the same compound and a thali meal + a walk through the cars will cost you Rs 150 each. Money well spent, I assure you - the food was very good. We shopped a lot – Hatipol is the place to go if you want to purchase Bandhini Sarees and Mum had a good time going through shop after shop before she finally bought a saree.

The next day, we visited Moti Magri – a memorial for Rana Pratap and some of his courtiers. It is a short walk uphill inside, but vehicles are allowed in. A sound and light show happens every night, but we had to miss that. Next, we visited ‘Lok Kala Mandal’ which is a small museum of cultural artifacts. The highlight was the 10 minute puppet show that is performed throughout the day. We stopped briefly at Sukhadia Circle – this is a park at a junction with a small pond in the middle and fast food shops all around. Paddle boats are available for use in the pond.

Now, I’m guessing that if you are at Udaipur and express a preference for the ‘Thali’ style lunch to your auto \ cab driver, I think they’d take you only to ‘Adarsh Dining Hall and Restaurant’. I don’t know what the deal is though. Both days, we were taken here by the respective auto and cab drivers! The food isn’t bad but I found it a bit too oily. But, we did get to eat ‘Dal Baati’, which Dad thoroughly enjoyed.

After lunch, we headed for Saheliyon ki bari – a beautiful park with fountains and gardens. This did not take long and we visited ‘Shilpgram’ next – an artists’ village. It was a quiet place with only about 10 other visitors there. There were about 10 to 15 shops for clothes, pottery, jewellery, footwear etc. Laden with our purchases, we made our way to ‘Dudh Talai’ where a ropeway takes passengers to the top of a nearby hill. The view is nice and there is a small temple there (White mice are kept here and they keep peeping out from their hideaways). You can also walk to the top if you wish. On the way back, we shopped again ( poor dad looked quite worried at our enthusiastic shopping :) ) but ‘Man Singh’ with his harmonium joined us anyway.

At 7 PM, we were at Bagore Ki Haveli – close to the City Palace to catch a show of Rajasthani folk dances like and a short puppet show. Don’t miss this show– it was totally awesome. The last morning, we visited Jagdish Mandir (the carvings on the temple are amazing! see pic.) and shopped in the shops around the temple before leaving to catch our flight. Overall, I loved the stay at Udaipur. The hotel staff were very helpful and friendly, making it a good experience (and they made great aloo parathas)

Sigh…trips really need to be longer than four days! Read More......

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Save our tigers?

You must have seen this video on TV or someone must have forwarded it to you.  Either way, most of the TV watching population in the country now know that there are only 1411 tigers left in Indian sanctuaries.  The video urges us to spread the word on this.  What are we looking for?  Someone with a solution?

A bit of googling led me to this page dated February 2008 – that’s when the tiger census results showed that only 1411 tigers were left.  It has taken two years for a common person like me to hear this fact.  Two years.  Massive #fail.  So, yes.  The campaign and the video is going to help people aware of this one number.  But, what next?  What am I to do with this fact?  The campaign website gives us some options but I still don’t know if blogging and donations are the best options. Public memory is weak. And the ad campaign can't run forever to keep it fresh in people's minds.  

What exactly is the problem, anyway?  Poaching?  Habitat loss? Is that going to stop through awareness?  Why do people poach and why are the habitats shrinking?  Because they are evil villains right out of old hindi movies?  I’m guessing because they have no other choice!  So, what do we do with such a campaign? Have we really addressed the problem?  Do we even recognize the right problem? And how on earth is blogging about it going to help?  Ok. Let’s look at the demand side of the story.  How about those who buy the products made from parts of the tiger’s body – do you think they don’t know that a tiger had to die to create that product?  Yeah…that guy in China is going to stop using those products JUST because India’s tiger population is dwindling. 

Just in case you want to know more – learn about the existence of Tiger farms in China , about the efforts of this organization in stopping poaching and rehabilitating poachers , follow this blog by a lodge owner in Ranthambhore (one of India’s tiger reserves). 

I know that this topic is moving closer towards any animal being bred in captivity.  About the lives of others who we share the planet with.  About nature’s and man’s motives.  I just wish I knew what to do to really help.  I know I’m not likely to jump on the next train to help stop poaching or encroaching upon forest reserves.  But, I don’t want this number to become a mere fact that I’m aware of either. 

Read More......

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Last Time?

Ever notice how beginnings are well defined, but the end never is? You know when to say hello, but you can never tell when it’s time for a goodbye.

Maybe that’s why I like beginnings more – not just because of the novelty; but because I actually know that it is the beginning and can say so.

You can’t define any other stage that way. How do you know? Is it the middle? The end? Somewhere in between? You think? But, what is?

You never know when it really is the last time. And you can never treat every goodbye as the last one – because there is no such thing as the last goodbye. Read More......