Category Archives: Sight seeing

Pink Hawa Mahal of Pink City in Pink winter…

…Couldn’t have asked for more!

After completing the first exciting day at Jaipur Literature Festival at Diggi Palace, Aarti and Mohit decided to take me to the old city of Jaipur which is home to many shops painted in Pink (Probably they knew shopaholic in me was restless). It was a breezy wintery evening, and I had some cool time there!

I found Hawa Mahal to be quite imposing, artistic, having an extraordinary architecture which is delicately honeycombed and rises a dizzying five stories. Certainly, it is much grander than it looks in the picture, you can’t escape its grandeur while in Jaipur. My child-like excitement in the vicinity of Hawa Mahal was palpable. We clicked many pictures there and gathered some beautiful memories of this beautiful monument.

For the uninitiated, Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city. The top offers stunning views over Jantar Mantar and the City Palace in one direction and over Sireh Deori Bazaar in the other.

Popularly known as “The Palace of Winds” or “The Palace of Breeze” is in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Made with the red and pink sandstone, the palace sits on the edge of the City Palace, Jaipur, and extends to the Zenana, or women’s chambers. Made for ladies, it holds special importance for me as a lady.

There’s a small museum (open Saturday to Thursday), with miniature paintings and some rich relics, such as ceremonial armour, which help evoke the royal past. Entrance is from the back of the complex. To get here, return to the intersection on your left as you face the Hawa Mahal, turn right and then take the first right again through an archway. Shopkeepers can show you another way – past their shops!

Its 953 small windows called Jharokhas are decorated with intricate latticework.  The original intent of the lattice design was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals celebrated in the street below without being seen since they had to obey the strict rules of “purdah”, which forbade them from appearing in public without face coverings.

This architectural feature also allowed cool air from the Venturi effect to pass through, thus making the whole area more pleasant during the high temperatures in summer. Many people see the Hawa Mahal from the street view and think it is the front of the palace, but in reality, it is the back of that structure.

In 2006, renovation works on the Mahal were undertaken, after a gap of 50 years, to give a facelift to the monument at an estimated cost of Rs 4.568 million.

The palace is an extended part of a huge complex. The stone-carved screens, small casements, and arched roofs are some of the features of this popular tourist spot. The monument also has delicately modelled hanging cornices.

The corporate sector lent a hand to preserve the historical monuments of Jaipur and the Unit Trust of India has adopted Hawa Mahal to maintain it.

#JLT Jaipur BookMark – Where Books Mean Business inaugurates today

Every January, while the world comes to the Jaipur Literature Festival to celebrate the written word, the publishing fraternity gets together to celebrate and discuss upcoming trends and achievements at the Jaipur Bookmark, where books mean business. Jaipur BookMark harnesses the collective energy of authors, literary agents, translators, publishers, designers, marketers, publicists, booksellers and festival organizers to discuss new ideas and how to take them to the market. Jaipur BookMark is a rich platform for all those who may be interested in the practical aspect of books and publishing, including translation and rights exchange across geographies, which have always been a focus at JBM.

The 7th edition of Jaipur BookMark 2020 will be held from 22nd January to 25th January. Jaipur BookMark (JBM) brings together stakeholders of the book industry from across the world. It provides the right atmosphere to inspire dialogue and a space for one-on-one meetings and networking, as well as provides an opportunity to “talk business” through relevant sessions and focused roundtables.

Namita Gokhale

The inaugural address, introduced by Neeta Gupta features H. E. Hans Jakob Frydenlund, Namita Gokhale and Sanjoy K. Roy. This is followed by the much-anticipated keynote by acclaimed writer and publisher Jo Lendle, editor of the Hanser publishing group, introduced by Naveen Kishore. Titled The Roaring Twenties, the address focuses on key issues of publishing for a new decade. There have been many publishers of world renown who have made a keynote address at previous editions of Jaipur BookMark, including iconic author and publisher, Roberto Calasso; the CEO of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Juergen Boos; the creative force behind Seagull Books, Naveen Kishore; and others. In this edition, we look forward to interacting with publishers like Jo Lendle, Naveen Kishore, Urvashi Butalia, Vera Michalsky, Michael Dwyer, Niko Pfund, Atiya Zaidi, Richa Jha and booksellers like Arsen Kashkashian, Jeff Deutsch, Priyanka Malhotra, Maina Bhagat and Rick Simonson, among others.

Sanjoy K Roy

According to Namita Gokhale, Co-Director of Jaipur BookMark, “Jaipur Bookmark celebrates the core values of publishing. We nurture creativity through our iWrite programme, support and showcase translations, and explore the changing books and narratives. I am very excited about what promises to be a brilliant 7th edition.”

At Jaipur BookMark 2020 there are many publishing-related sessions, such as The Heart of a Bookstore in which iconic booksellers from around the world speak of their profession and the joy and learnings they derive from it; The Big Book Box for Kids where authors, publishers and booksellers discuss challenges in making children’s books visible and accessible to young readers, as well as marketing strategies for overcoming them; Food for thought: gastronomy and literature, a session in which some of the most talented food writers in the world gather to share their recipes for food and literature; and Consumer Intelligence: Who’s Reading What, a session in which publishers and authors will discuss how big data can be used to analyse book-buying behaviour.

Neeta Gupta, Co-Director of Jaipur BookMark says, “Translations remain our top priority at the 7th edition of Jaipur BookMark, with sessions focused on Borderless Literatures, Translating National Narratives and Translation as Intimacy, along with launching Norwegian playwright Ibsen’s plays in Hindi. We also announce two coveted translation awards, the Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator award and the Romain Rolland prize for Translations.”

With its finger on the pulse of the publishing business, Jaipur BookMark has always featured crucial sessions discussing the most contemporary and critical issues facing the literary world. Towards a Borderless Literature promises to be an inspirational session on the need for translations and words without borders; The Changing Face of Digital Narratives will focus on the fascinating array of possibilities opened through new genres of digital narratives; Libraries as Communities discusses the role of libraries as crucial community hubs and centres of learning, communication, professional development and collaborative projects; Why Publishing Poetry is Important brings together dedicated and engaged publishers who will discuss their commitment to publishing poetry; and A Textbook Case for Diversity brings together acclaimed publishers who discuss the importance of striking a balance between mere tokenism and embracing true multiculturalism.

Aditi Maheshwari Goyal says, “The 7th Edition of Jaipur BookMark will witness important stakeholders in the global and local publishing industry – authors, publishers, editors, designers and literary agents. The only platform in South Asia that shines the spotlight on those who work behind the scenes, creating books. JBM is all set to celebrate books in 360°- print, digital and audio editions.”

In 2020 the Norwegian Embassy is once again partnering with Jaipur BookMark. This will mark the 7th year of their association. Naveen Kishore of the Seagull School of Publishing is on board both as an advisor and supporter of the festival. Seagull Books Kolkata has single handedly put India on the International translation map with its international list of authors, that include Nobel Prize winners and others shortlisted in major international literary awards categories. The French Institute in India is bringing representatives of the French publishing industry to JBM 2020. India will be the Guest of Honour nation at the Salon du Livre in Paris in 2020.

“The Indian publishing industry has grown rapidly and the world’s attention is converging on it,” remarks Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts and Producer of Jaipur BookMark.

Apart from being a B2B platform that brings together the who’s who of the publishing industry from across the world, JBM also provides aspiring writers with an exciting platform called iWrite: Creative Mentorship Programme. This Mentorship Programme invites poets, literary enthusiasts and novelists to share their stories and get an opportunity to be mentored by experts in the field. No longer limited to first-time writers, this initiative not only gives writers a chance to express themselves, but also lets them mingle and interact with publishers, literary agents, translators and other industry experts in a pitching session, and perhaps even get a chance to sign a book deal!

Three major awards will be announced at Jaipur BookMark 2020 – The Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award. The Romain Rolland Prize and The Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize.

Jaipur BookMark was conceived to run parallel to the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2014. In the 7 years since its inception, JBM has emerged as a nodal point for the South Asian publishing industry and is indeed a focus for the book trade.

 

 

Indeed, WAAH TAAJ!

Probably my last post of the years would do the honours for monumental beauty of India – The Taj Mahal as suggested by our traveller friend Kamal Mathur, who recently visited Taj Mahal and clicked some exclusive pictures for my blog. A trip to India is not complete without visiting this monumental marvel carved in marble located in Agra, UP, India. Kamal Mathur’s recent visit to Agra refreshed my memories of my visit to the place while in school, years ago. I am sure, Kamalji would have been mesmerised by his visit to magnificent Taj Mahal, which is beyond words, thus making his task even more difficult as he is “man of few words” and “thousand pictures”.

In an interview given to Sprangled magazine from the US, I have mentioned, “ I have a very vivid memory of visiting Taj Mahal in Agra, UP, India which I visited while I was in grade VIII, with my parents on a full moon night. Till then I had seen Taj Mahal only in my history textbook. And when I was there at the Taj Mahal, I found a vast difference between Taj Mahal in my history book and the one before my eyes. The real Taj Mahal was quite a revelation, as it’s much bigger and magnanimous than the one in my textbook.

By all means, it was splendid and looked absolutely out of this world on a blue moon night, though I could not think it to be the most romantic spot in the world. The ‘marvel’ created in ‘marble’ by Mughal Emperor Shahjehan was stunning and this is when I was inspired to travel to different places. It was a true revelation to me how places are so different in reality than the one which I had seen in photographs or movies. This way the adventure streak was in me since childhood and when I grew up the passion to travel stayed with me.”

Please click the link to read the full interview: http://sprangled.com/index.php/2015/12/30/734/

Pictures clicked by Kamal Mathur:

Coming back to the beauty, The Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal is a white tomb built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The building is in the city of Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Widely thought as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, it is one of India’s biggest tourist attractions.

It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Constructed entirely out of white marble in the 17th century, it is among the finest edifices of Mughal architecture. Recognised by the UNESCO as a world heritage site, this monument is also considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Every year visitors numbering more than the entire population of Agra pass through the magnificent gates to catch a glimpse of this breath-taking monument, and only a few leave disappointed. Shah Jahan said about the Taj that it made “the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes“.

Rabindranath Tagore described it as “a teardrop in the cheek of eternity” while Rudyard Kipling said it is “the embodiment of all things pure“. The construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1631 and took 17 years before it was completed in 1648. The tomb is laid out in a rectangular shape and can be approached through a massive gateway which has an arch and alcoves on either side of it. The Taj, so majestic from the exterior, has equally splendid artistic work done in the interiors.

There are water channels and fountains in the entrance which makes the monument even more spectacular. The reflection of this majestic spectacle in the Yamuna is almost poetic in its perfection!

The Taj Mahal can be accessed through east, west and south gates. Inside the grounds, the ornamental gardens are set on the classic Mughal Charbagh lines (formal Persian garden). The monument stands on a raised marble platform at the northern end of the garden, facing its back to the Yamuna River. Its raised position is a masterstroke design as it leaves only the sky as its backdrop. Each corner of the platform is graced with 40m high white minarets. Taj itself is made of semi-translucent white marble, inlaid with thousands of semi-precious stones and carved with flowers. The four indistinguishable faces of the Taj are in perfect symmetry, featuring impressive vaulted arches containing pietra dura scrollwork and the quotations from the Quran. The whole structure is topped off by four small domes.

The cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal lies directly below the main dome. It is an elaborate false tomb which is surrounded by an elegant marble screen inlaid with various types of semi-precious stones, offsetting the symmetry of the Taj. The light enters the central chamber through finely cut marble screens. These tombs are false tombs as the real tombs of Mumtaz Mahal, and Shah Jahan lies in a locked room below the main chamber.

Indeed, Waah Taaj!

Not to be MISSED! Jaipur Literature Festival 2020

 

The Jaipur Literature Festival, famously known as ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, is all set to return for its thirteenth edition from 23rd to 27th January 2020. The five-day literary extravaganza promises to bring together a line-up of exemplary speakers from India and across the world at the historic Diggi Palace.

Jaipur Literature Festival is a sumptuous feast of ideas and the past decade has seen it transform into a global literary phenomenon having hosted nearly 2000 speakers and welcoming over a million book-lovers from across India and the globe. For five days, the Pink City is infused with enthusiasm, a riot of colour and infectious energy as literature and art-enthusiasts flock to Jaipur for the Festival. During the festival days, there are endless places to see, and things to do, some of which include insightful sessions and an exciting and buzzing carnival encapsulating a bookstore, food stalls, a bazaar along with artists at work, and multiple parties hosted on the Festival’s fringes.

Here are some reasons why you would not want to miss out on the thirteenth edition of the festival.

Listen to some of the greatest minds of the world

Jaipur Literature Festival hosts some of the world’s best literary minds and brings them together for several panel discussions and interactions. Experts from diverse fields such as literature, economy, environment, food and science take the stage for stimulating and thought-provoking conversations. Eminent speakers such as recipient of the 2010 Man Booker Prize Howard Jacobson, Pulitzer-winning authors Stephen Greenblatt and Dexter Filkins, celebrated culinary expert Madhur Jaffrey, acclaimed author Elizabeth Gilbert, and leading Indian film director Vishal Bhardwaj, are amongst the first few announced speakers at the Festival for the 2020 edition – so be there to be a part of some life-changing and inspirational sessions!

Book-signings and an opportunity to meet your favourite authors

For all those literature enthusiasts who have spent days glued to books, turning one page after another captivated by the magic of a well-written novel – the Jaipur Literature Festival offers the perfect opportunity to meet your favourite authors in person. Besides attending noteworthy sessions and witnessing book launches, the Festival also has book-signing kiosks at all venues where you can grab that rare signed copy and earn bragging rights!

Art, Culture – Memories Galore!

In addition to being a platform for conversations related to literature and books, the Festival also gives the opportunity to its visitors to experience various forms of art and music. From fascinating art installations to beautiful backdrops for the perfect Instagram shot – there is something for everyone. Dance and music performances make the Festival even livelier. For shopping enthusiasts, the annual Festival Bazaar is a must-visit as several craftsmen, designers and entrepreneurs display and sell a vast array of hard-to-resist collectable items. Amongst the many things to be bought are embroidered shawls, exquisite minakari jewellery, funky stationery, edgy accessories, spiffy footwear, and exciting home décor.

Morning Music

For those passionate about music, the Festival begins each day with the calming strains of Morning Music.  The stage will be graced by acclaimed artists such as BC Manjunath, an exponent of Konnakol and the mrindangam; sitar maestro and recipient of the President’s Award for best instrumentalist, Purbayan Chatterjee; leading Carnatic veena-player Saraswati Rajagopalan, and Supriya Nagarajan, a renowned Carnatic vocalist and founder of ‘Manasamitra’.

Heritage Evenings

The Festival will also host a power-packed Heritage Evening at an iconic and historic venue in Jaipur. Supported by Rajasthan Tourism, this majestic evening at Amer Fort will feature a mesmerising performance by Pandit Rajendra Gangani, one of the leading practitioners of the Jaipur Gharana of Kathak. He will pay tribute to the age-old classical dance form, along with an ensemble of Kathak dancers. Les Souffleurs or The Whisperers, an artistic group created by Olivier Comte, will enthrall audiences with a unique production where they whisper poetic secrets into each other’s ears, using a hollow cane.

To end the evening on a musical note, world-renowned sitarist Shubhendra Rao will present ‘East Marries West — A Legacy’ as a celebration of his Guru, the sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar’s 100th birth anniversary.  He will be joined by his wife, Saskia Rao-de Haas, who is hailed as a pioneer for introducing the ‘Indian cello’ to classical Indian music.

iWrite at Jaipur BookMark

For all aspiring authors and poets with multiple drafts scribbled behind every notebook and diaries filled with words that you hope will one day be read by the world – ‘iWrite’ by Jaipur BookMark is the perfect platform. After a very successful first edition last year, iWrite is back to inspire literary aspirants. Shortlisted participants get a platform to share their work and receive constructive guidance from international publishers, literary agents, translators and other industry experts in a pitching session at Jaipur during JBM.

Blogging Competition

If you can write compelling copy and want to get close to where the action is, the Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 Blogging Competition is your chance to make that leap. Highlighting the Festival’s core aim to support and promote artistic expression through writing, the Blogging competition will give ten chosen writers a chance to inspire audiences through their words on the Festival’s official blog site. The winners will also be invited to the Festival and cover various sessions from the 23rd-27th of January 2020.

The Delegate Experience

While the Festival is open to all, specially-curated Delegate packages guarantee an experience to remember. Delegate-only lunches serve as an opportunity to meet and mingle with like-minded literary enthusiasts and make new connections. The well-stocked Delegate Lounge provides a luxurious reprieve and priority seating on special occasions ensures a close-up view of the Festival.  The Delegate package also includes an invitation to attend the beautiful Heritage Evening at Amer Fort, and a tote to take home. These Delegate Packages range from INR 6,300 per day to INR 23,800 for five days.

Information on Registration for the Jaipur Literature Festival can be found here: https://jaipurliteraturefestival.org/registration/

Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Park: Green Lung of Lucknow

Now, I will take you from where I had left, Janeshwar Mishra Park, Lucknow. After having some great time in the morning, we moved on to Lucknow’s Lohia Park in Gomti Nagar, which looked to me nearly 20 minutes’ drive. Indeed, Lucknow’s greenery and cleanliness are talking points. Janeshwar Mishra Park is very well-structured, equipped with modern amenities, you name it and have it, overall made by planning and design (by LDA) offering a variety of experiences for one and all.

But, if you are a true nature lover, love your morning walk and jog, yoga and meditation or just love to sit and look around, and if you love to blog and write (like me), Lohia Park is the place to be in. The park is lush green, which made Me Mumbaikar green with envy. We don’t have anything anywhere close to this park. Amidst sky-scrapers, highways, metros, flyovers, commercial offices, schools, hospitals…we have forgotten that what a good park is like.

Me, Ritu & Kamalji, after buying tickets at the park’s entrance started walking on the jogging track which was covered by huge trees. These trees provide dense shade to joggers and walkers like us, I am sure temperature would have been 1-2 degrees less than the city. On both sides, there are green belts, some rare flora and fauna, unique variety of plants, trees, some very old trees, flower beds, water bodies and an imposing statue of Lohia ji. No wonder, Lucknow is known for its statues…more on statues later!

…While we were walking, I spotted a swing and I did not miss the opportunity of being on the swing. I don’t remember how many years ago I sat on a swing, real swing not the ones we have in Essel World, Imagica, Singapore’s Sentosa Island or Hong Kong’s Disney. Who would know the pleasure of swinging on a simple swing except for our generation! Gen Y doesn’t even know what they have missed!!

I was told that park is developed by Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) and I must say there are doing the commendable job by keeping Lucknow Green and Lucknowites Pink. Made in the memory of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia ji, the park is spread in 76 acres. It has four courtyards and all have ticket windows with ample parking space.

Starting from the South-East corner of the park, the Main Navigation Path goes through the centre and ends at the North-East corner, measuring around 1 kilometre in length and 4.50 metres in width. The Main Navigation Path which is made up of Kota stones flooring also has a strip in the middle of the path where seasonal flowers are grown. Special architectural lights on designer polls can be seen all around the navigation path.

Right from the entrance, there are pathways in various directions of the park along with natural mounds, flower nursery and other areas. It looks like a light spreading in various directions. The total length of these light beam path is 2.7 kilometres and it is made up of vitrified tile along with white sandstone strips in the middle.

The semi-circular path situated near the main memorial area is almost 500 metres long, also six memory columns and walls are situated along the semi-circular path.

Just near the main memorial area, a flower garden is located in the area of 2 acres. This garden is always blooming with seasonal flowers, also there is a baradari located in the middle of the garden.

A unique system for Rain Water Harvesting has been installed in the park.

Indeed, I loved being there, more than anywhere else in Lucknow. Can’t thank Ritu and Kamalji enough. They are just wonderful hosts…

 

 

 

UP’s answer to Hyde Park London, Lucknow’s Janeshwar Mishra Park

Indeed, Janeshwar Mishra Park in Lucknow deserves a dedicated blog post, which I visited during my recent trip to Lucknow. Why I am drawing a simile to Hyde Park, because I have visited that too, though some years ago. Janeshwar Mishra Park is truly an answer to iconic Hyde Park, London.

Ritu & Kamal Mathur, my gracious hosts for this morning drive from their residence in Indira Nagar to Janeshwar Mishra Park in Gomti Nagar extension, may be fully credited for taking me there. From outside, I could not figure out what was waiting for me inside. As I had mentioned earlier, I hardly have any penchant for parks and I expected it to be close to NTR garden, Hyderabad. But yes, many surprises unfolded!

Admeasuring whopping 376 acres, the park lies between Lucknow and Faizabad, in the north-eastern side and rich fertile plains of River Gomti on the southern side. The site for the park is bordered by river Gomti and a bund road on the other side. It is one of the most prominent green lungs for Lucknow. The bund road offers a vantage location to enjoy fully developed panoramic view of the park.  The size, structure, length, breadth of the park was beyond my comprehension, it is just not possible to see it in a single visit. You need to make multiple visits to let the feeling sink in!

The park houses a very imposing statue of Janeshwar Mishraji in golden colour (I did not understand the logic behind golden colour) on a huge podium, now I found it difficult to imagine how imposing Sardar Patel’s statue would be in Gujarat.

The park was made in memory of late politician Janeshwar Mishra from Samajwadi Party, during the tenure of Akhilesh Yadav and inaugurated by Mulayam Singhji in August 2014. We can’t thank them enough for this iconic landmark of Lucknow.

So more on the park, the most striking feature was very wide jogging track running several kilometres where Lucknowites were seen jogging, moreover, it was quite spic and span. There is a need to maintain the cleanliness not only by authorities but by the public too.

Developed by Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) it is an eco-friendly park habitating some unique flora and fauna, located in the heart of the city. It has been conceptualised and designed as a multi-functional environmental and recreational green patch which not only provides a sustainable habitat for various species of birds but also double up as a major entertainment and recreation centre for everyone. It has enhanced and improved the ecological balance and help restore sensitive habitat for numerous species of birds, small animals, fishes, amphibians and even insects. How I wish MHADA also builds one such park in Mumbai to provide respite from pollution & over-crowding to Mumbaikars.

I could see two large water bodies which immensely added to the glory of the park and also enabled harnessing migratory birds and provide a haven for them in winters and summers, through the creation of lagoons and marshy lands. The area of this water body is 14 acres.

The second water body consists of a freshwater lake spread over an area of 18 acres on the southern corner of the park. The lakes are interconnected with a meandering tree-lined channel to ensure all-weather perenniallity. Collectively, the two lakes along with the channel covers an area of approximately 20 Ha and account for nearly 15% of the park area.

Another additional feature was a huge tank at the entrance and a replica of big Air Force aircraft inside, which would definitely appeal children. It has something for everyone, age, caste, creed, no bar and it is differently-abled friendly too. If you are unable to walk around, there is a provision for E Carts also. The park has lots of lights all over and I am sure it would have looked wonderful in the evening.  Special lighting is also being done in the lakes which makes mesmerising sight in the evening, told Kamal Mathur.

 

I was very fascinated by a series of jogging, cycling and walkways are built in the park. The total length of these tracks was 5.28 km., 8.85 km. and 10.5 km. respectively. The system of jogging tracks, cycling tracks and pedestrian paths have been identified in the ratio of 2:3:4.

The walkways are designed in a curvaceous manner to maximize the visual potential of the site and provide the inter-linkages to various activities proposed in the park. They run all along and across the park, along with the water bodies, connecting cultural hub and theme gardens, parking and cycle tracks.

With heavy heart, we parted ways from this beautiful destination, as I wanted to spend some more time there. On the way I clicked some more photos of the greenery surrounding the mark. Kamal Mathur clicked some beautiful pictures and you can see for yourself, how camera friendly he is!

Thanks, a tonne, Ritu & Kamal ji, I couldn’t have asked for more!

 

Lucknow: Invoking nostalgia, excitement, anxiety, everything!

हम फिदाये लखनऊ, लखनऊ फिदाये हम!

Lucknow brings back many a nostalgic moment for me…the years spent there, the time spent there is just unforgettable, in fact, they are running like a flash-back in my mind. Since I have planned a trip to Lucknow, there have been many vivid memories of the place, my stay, my office, my home, my friends and my colleagues…all are making a beeline in my head and heart.

I didn’t know I would be going through all this and more…I am overwhelmed. How time rolled, how so many years passed, I never missed Lucknow so much, as I am doing now. Anxiety and Excitement are in equal measure. I am remembering visits to Hazrat Ganj in the evenings where we casually strolled, did “Ganjing” as it was popularly called, on many a pleasant Lucknow evening. Coffee in the coffee houses there, Chaat at the chaat corners, window shopping and some serious shopping too, at various places was my favourite activity. No measure can match up the pleasure of Ganjing in those days.

We stayed near Bhootnath temple in Indira Nagar which had many a shop in its vicinity, while returning from office, I would come via Bhoothnath and pick up whatever I liked to eat. I knew each and every shop by name, as I was quite a regular there. I made many precious friends there.

Soni Bhaiya, was always around till we stayed there, and always. His love and affection for me are unconditional, then there is Kamal Mathur, polite, courteous, creative, friendly always…look forward to meeting him and wife Ritu after say 25 years.

When all of a sudden, I decided to leave Lucknow for a new life in Mumbai, it was a sort of culture shock for me. Lucknow is a place known for its culture and tehzeeb and Mumbai…less said the better. Being a capital of the largest state of India, U.P. it has always been a multi-cultural city. Known for its courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known amongst Indians and students of South Asian culture and history. Even after leaving Lucknow, many many years ago, I keenly follow the political and social developments there. I always, how I wish I was in Lucknow now when Yogiji is CM. Such is my love for Lucknow!

Lucknow has many places for sightseeing like Bada Imambara, Chota Imambara, Residency, Rumi Darwaza, Gomti River Front, Lohia Park, Janeshwar Mishra Park and many more. Of course, not to miss Ganjing and chai and chaat in Chowk. I heard that Lucknow has Metro now, so Metro ride to banti hai, Mumbai mein to ban hi rahi hai…

The trip to Lucknow is not complete without shopping for some chikan kari, which is matchless because of its craft, the intricacies, embroideries and love for the dresses, sarees! The place is Ameena Bad for that. It brings back memories of dear Papa who loved visiting Ameenabad always, it was his city after all.

Lucknow is famous for its Awadhi cuisines and if you are a non-vegetarian, don’t miss Tunde – Ke – Kabab’s, most authentic kababs one can think of. Mouth-watering chaats, shakes, kulfis, fruit chaats etc. are other add-ons. Being a foodie, I would love to try all this and more!

I heard that Lucknow has transformed completely and is developed enough to give some serious competition to Metros, but I am going to explore my good, old Lucknow where I spent such precious carefree years, not without doing some serious work as UP Govt’s Class I officer.

In Mumbai, people did not even know what it is to be like UP Government official, this is life you encounter all…it is a roller coaster ride, ultra-highs and ultra-lows!

Special thanks to Dr. Raveesh Shrivastava, who made this happen from Millennial Works.

 

Hussain Sagar Lake & Hyderabad Blues!


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We planned to visit iconic Hussain Sagar Lake of Hyderabad while returning from Chilkur Balaji Temple, it was afternoon time, dark and cloudy, even drizzling. In such a weather, any site could not have been more fascinating than Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad. The lake is situated in the midst of twin cities: Hyderabad & Secunderabad. The lake is so huge that it almost looked like a seashore, in the middle of the lake, there is a huge statue of standing Lord Buddha which has a height of 16 m and weighs almost 350 tonnes. Made up of white granite, the statue is on the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’. The lighting show at the statue is something that is worth watching.

The stroll on the sides of the lake was quite pleasant and soothing. Had I been living in Hyderabad; I would have visited this place quite often. It was a pleasant site to see the cleanliness around the lake. In fact, all places which we visited were quite clean, rather spic and span, which made a rather unusual sight for #MeMumbaikar. Probably this is the impact of Modiji’s Swachchta Abhiyan for which we are paying 2% Cess. At least in some state, it is properly utilised.

Having been bordered by Indira Park in the east, Sanjeevaiah Park in the north and Lumbini Park in the south, the lake presents a setting quite rare to find in the middle of any city. There is also a bund on its banks, which was built to control the flow of water. This artificial lake now beautifies the city gracefully. Not just for beauty, it is also known for its historical connection. On the banks of this Hussain Sagar Lake, the treaty between Mughals and Golconda was signed.

This trip took us around the city which boasts of huge commercial buildings, shopping malls and shopping arcades and general shops. Roads are wide and well maintained, traffic moderate and everything easily accessible. There is an impressive network of Metros which must be helping office goers in a big way. There are many flyovers also, which boasts of vertical gardens beneath. Yea, the striking feature would be that though the city has the tag of tech city with a lot of development taking place all over, lots of residential complexes and commercial complexes coming up all over, the city boasts of its fair share of greenery all over.

My cousin Vandana shared that ladies love to work here that way it is quite safe for them. It is very well lit and some areas are quite impressive with their lighting. If you are in Hyderabad, Hyderabadi Biryani is must, we could see Biryani joints all over along with some attractive pan boutiques. Paradise Biryani, being most famous and biggest, has a junction in its name called Paradise junction. Vandana hosted us most delicious biryani I could think of made by her expert cook Shabana, under the guidance of Vandana. One more memorable experience!

Shopping in Hyderabad is quite a delightful experience for its inimitable pearls, south silk Mangalgiri cotton, Gadhwal silks and Kanjeeverams and other assortment of beautiful and reasonably priced sarees. I freaked out on them…shop keepers and staff are very cordial; they show you any number of pieces without any expectations and are very well – equipped with interiors, lighting, display and staff. They speak very good Hindi besides Telugu and English and understand the consumer’s pulse.

I noticed two Kendriya Vidyalayas and many other schools in the vicinity. Hyderabad is famous Education Centre and boasts of ISB, Administrative Staff College of India, IPS Police academy and ICFAI.

Indeed, we loved being in Hyderabad and spending some very quality time with my cousin Vandana, who I believe equally cherished my company. Hyderabad Blues persist

NTR Gardens: Baby’s oops Babes’ evening out!

Though I am not a park-park person, somehow park reminds me of old Bollywood movies where the hero and heroine romance behind trees and sing love duets, which is not the case with me. So, I don’t relate to an outing in the park…

…But visit to NTR Gardens, Hyderabad turned out to be quite a unique experience. Sisters decided to visit the park and there we were! I was apprehensive that it may be a local park, like any other park, but that was not to be. We became kids amidst kids and we enjoyed every moment of it. I was fascinated by the entrance itself which had unique architecture and Nandi Bull beside a waterfall added to the beauty of the facade. I knew something much more exciting was in the offing…

We started our visit by boarding the toy train which took us around the park, this way we could have the complete view of the park, which somehow reminded me of night safari, Singapore. With child-like excitement, we were relishing every moment of our joy ride.  One of the most striking observations about the park would be its neatness and ticket pricing, just 20 Rupees for so much fun.   

Vandana told me that NTR Garden is built in the memory of late Shri N T Rama Rao, former and one of the most popular chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh. Spread across an area of 36 acres, it presents a soothing atmosphere and refreshing setting to visitors. Built at a cost of Rs. 40 crores, it was in 2002, when the NTR garden was opened to the public.

Breathtakingly beautiful and intricately landscaped, the Garden presented a very fascinating view besides offering various kinds of recreational options as well. Some of these are a boat ride, Japanese garden, Roaring Cascade, a Fountain, etc. We clicked lots of pictures and why not? We were in the most picturesque place of Hyderabad.

One of the striking features of the NTR garden is the Desert Garden, consisting of about 150 plant varieties, mainly of those plans which are commonly referred as desert plants such as cacti, succulents, etc. The plants, which also boast of medicinal importance and are used for various herbal remedies, have been brought to Hyderabad from various parts of the country like Kolkata, Shirdi, etc.

The garden has been created in such a way that it offers breath-taking natural surroundings along with ample entertaining activities. Excellent facilities for food are also provided in the garden. Various eat out joints, car cafe and fruit restaurant which is a 2000-square-metre restaurant circumvented by three petal-shaped ponds offer not just mouth-watering dishes but also a beautiful setting to relish the same. The Car Cafes are primarily cafes with a seating capacity of six and which are mobile.

It is close to the popular Hussain Sagar Lake, which makes a visit to the park even more enjoyable. One can visit the till 9 in the night as the NTR Garden timings are from 12:30 pm- 9:00 pm.

As goes the saying, pictures speak louder than words, enjoy our sojourn to NTR Gardens in pictures. Actually, I am short of words to describe the beauty of NTR garden.

The day concluded by a visit to Hanuman Ji ka Mandir, which was so divine and loved being there the most. I couldn’t have thanked Vandana enough for these divine sojourns.

Must visit while in Hyderabad!

Charminar, Hyderabad: Yeh Dil Maange More!!

June 28: Day 3 in Hyderabad


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After enjoying two-days stay in lush – green Aalankrita Resort, now was the time to move on to my cousin Vandana’s place in Jeedimetla, Hyderabad. They (Vandana & Jijaji) keenly awaited our arrival in their beautiful apartment and loving hearts. This was the first time I was visiting them with husband Mukund. Our meeting was like a house on fire!

After the initial meeting, greeting and eating, sisters set out for the day outing. Though the day was not that well-planned, it turned out to be the most exciting day of the entire trip. We set out for iconic Charminar where her friend Shahla with her daughter Laiba joined us. I had never visited Charminar earlier, so I was quite excited to view it even from a distance.

An identifying feature of the city, Charminar is the most prominent landmark located right in the heart of Hyderabad. The monument was erected by Quli Qutub Shah to signify the founding of Hyderabad. As is evident from the structure, it was so named as it consists of four minarets. Although it lies right in the centre of the city with traffic and crowds milling all about it, Charminar certainly manages to hold the gaze. It is also famous for the market that sprawls around it and is called ‘Laad’ or ‘Chudi’ Bazaar.

The market was not open yet, so we had to make up with the whatever shops were open. If it is a Friday, then visit Charminar market only after 3 PM before that market doesn’t open that much. After scouting for some bedspreads, we moved on for some marriage shopping, which Shahla wanted to do. Initially, I got slightly nervous as I found the market quite strange, with no women present in the market. We were the only bunch of women in the market. But I must admit that shop keepers were really respectful and cordial, who showed us many pieces. She picked up some beautiful suits, dress material for shararas, kurtas and dupattas. Though the market is very big around Charminar, there are no eating joints, so we had to catch whatever was available from a streetside joint. Snacks were really delicious.

It was not just shopping time, but bonding time too! Though I met Shahla and her daughter Laiba for the first time, we bonded well. There were discussions on choices, selections, occasions, children, family, engagement and Shahla shared some fine details about Nikaah ceremony.

I and Vandana clicked a lot of pictures, she was very generous with that. We recollected those good old days when we were studying and strutted around the Rajouri Garden market for the nitty-gritty. For the first time, I saw some beautiful Khada Dupatta outfits worn by Muslim brides. I must admit that the outfits were really creative and reasonably priced.

Now was the time to visit Bangle Bazaar, actual name Laad Bazaar in the vicinity of Charminar, you can’t call them Bangle shops, they are fit to be called Bangle Boutiques which sold some outstanding collections. Shopkeepers stand outside and lovingly address you as Baaji (Sister) for inviting you to their shops. The self-confessed, bangles obsessed that I am, it was a mecca for bangle shoppers like me. I did not know what to pick, what to leave. I had a great time looking at such beautiful, intricately worked bangles, finally, Vandana helped me with picking some. Now some clarity came, and I freaked out on bangles, jhumkas, chokers, sets etc. I have returned several hundred bangles richer.

While in Laad Bazaar, use your bargaining skills to the T.

Shahla did that for me, I had laddoos in both hands, Shahla bargained and Vandana paid…

Couldn’t have asked for more!!

But I was like, “Yeh Dil Maange More!!