Trip to God’s own country!

Kerala is called ‘God’s own country’ but I had heard that in the monsoon season, it looks even more beautiful that it looks in the other seasons. The beauty and serenity makes it feel like heaven. It’s so clean and green.

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Weather in Kerala is pleasant throughout the year due to nearness to the sea and Western Ghats on other side. There are two monsoons seasons -: South-West Monsoon and North-East Monsoon. South-west monsoon starts from May-June and continues till September and Western Ghats gets the 1st rainfall.

Obviously watching sunset over the Arabian Sea while sitting on the Kovalam beach would be a romantic idea, but getting drenched under the cloudy sky and being in the huge tea estate will revitalize the mind, body and soul. So I chose to go to Kerala in the monsoon.

From Delhi to Kochi it was 3-hour flight journey, which was spent with half-sleepy eyes. By the time we reached Kochi or Cochin it was 9:30 am, and a cab was already waiting outside. We made a small halt for quick dosa-idli and filter-coffee breakfast and we were off to the mountains taking rounds & rounds that led towards Munnar. Some 135 KM away and at 6000 ft height, we were in between the misty sky and waterfall flowing among the greenness. Via a quick trip to spice garden (quite like our Sri Lanka trip, where the cab driver takes you to spice garden, elephant ride & shower) we entered Munnar. Quick tip – if you are in Munnar, buy some tea for sure and spices too.

Our hotel was overlooking the tea planted mountains and a small school, where bells rang every few hours and there was a cuckoo that woke us up at exact 6 o’ clock! Weather was cool and rain was just perfect to enjoy the vacation. (Especially if you were carrying the umbrella).


We did a mountain trek at Eravikulam national park and, funny enough, saw just 1 mountain goat! While coming back from park, one should try tree tomato or corn on the cob or have fried cashew nuts with a mug of coffee and not to forget homemade chocolate sellers along the way! Next we went to Mattupetty dam, it was a nice sight but nothing much. So we headed to echo point, which was 6 km from Dam. We absolutely loved the panoramic view with the mild rain-fall while sipping the masala tea with chilly vada-pav.

 

Next was driving down to Thekkady. It was some 110 KM drive amongst the most beautiful green patches made due to the grand Tata Tea Estate. We checked-in at our beautiful resort in the heart of Kumily with 8 acre of greenness, canopy of tall trees and a tree house café. BLISS. Soon we had to head to Periyar lake, where boating starts at 3:30 in evening and makes one witness one and half hour of cruising among flora and fauna with few sights of wild pigs, tortoise hugging the trees, sambal deers and wild elephants. Later we spent the rest of evening by watching Kalaripayattu (the martial art of Kerala) and Kathakali performance.

Next early morning we headed to Kumarakom, which is near Kottayam city. It’s set at the backdrop of largest fresh water Vembanad lake. Started a 4 hours shikara ride along the bird sanctuary with a break in between at some small resort along the Vembanad lake. The fresh homemade style food was heavenly. Well, shikara ride was different as it took you through small canals where houseboat couldn’t go. Later we checked-in at our resort and did some fishing at the resort private lakeside. The best part was Allepey’s nearness to Kumarkom, which meant we didn’t have to rush for early morning checkout.

 

We had heard so much about the backwaters of Kerala and when experienced, must say, one should plan a houseboat vacation in Kerala for sure. After driving through canals and lagoons and passing through villages when your houseboat comes to rest near a paddy field in evening, all you want to do is run towards that small church on the other side and return back to your houseboat living room only for freshly prepared traditional kerala food. Waking up on a houseboat with sun peeping through coconut leaves and some music coming from another boat was another world’s experience. As we went in July, we also saw the preparations for famous Nehru trophy boat race or Vallam Kali (which happens in August). These boats have 50 to 100 people seated in the Chundan Vallams (snake boats) and row hard to cover 1.5 Km in 3 minutes!

Before taking flight back to Delhi, we had a quick city tour of Kochi that included visit to Mattancherry palace or Dutch palace, Synagogue. Both places have Rs. 5 entry fee, so better carry the change. Chinese fishing net was another good place (if only visited at sunset time). We concluded our trip with a visit to St. Franchis, an oldest European church and a trip to private collection of interesting antique pieces at Folklore museum.

So when are you visiting Kerala? In monsoon or soon

Unofficial travel photography tips.

We have lots of photography material to read on how to get best frame – technical as well as composition related. But all these hardly matter when we reach a travel destination.

Ps: Im writing this for not so professional travel photographers, who spends day & night on research and after lotsa sweat get that one great. It’s for wanna-be-pro-photographer.

Mostly, when we are traveling, we are with friends or family or if alone than also on a short trip and have time constraints. This lack of time makes us cover all the tourist attractions in that certain time frame. Though we do research about the place, read about the tourist spot, and also check the weather conditions,

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when we reach we get a different story! (Also adding my own personal experience)

  1. If it is an Indian temple, we have to take off the footwear few meters away and that stone floor on a hot day just makes it difficult to go an extra meter to get that wide-angle shot. Or the marble floor is too cold on a winter morning. (Like Tajmahal, Agra)
  2.  Most of time, we don’t get a single photograph from the particular famous attraction because we didn’t check the signage ‘Photography not allowed’. And you have to deposit the camera / iPhone at the entrance. (Most of Indian temples like Dilwara Jain temple, Mount Abu)
  3. If it’s related to water or a beach vacation, we don’t have rain jacket for camera or forget to carry underwater camera. (River rafting at Rishikesh)
  4. Just when you are about to shoot a masterpiece, the monk who was busy in meditation politely asks you not to click. (Bodhgaya)
  5. You are in flip-flops and sand at beach is just too hot to walk. (Puri Sea beach)
  6. You are in a group or some facebook-photographers are standing next to you and as soon as you get the interesting angle or a subject, they too come and click the ditto and post it on facebook ASAP (no need to give example here :D)
  7. Time taken to change a lens and subject moves from its place in that time-frame – one of the common things. (Pinnewala elephant orphanage, SriLanka).
  8. Guy is ready to give a priceless smile but there is a price for it and you are out of local currency or not having small bills. (Musician at Statue of Liberty, New York).
  9. You captured the moment and some goon comes to you and asks you to delete all the photographs. No reason! (Gandhi Ashram, Ahmadabad)
  10.  Weather is unpredictable. So if you are planning for shoot with sunlight then keep in mind the other option to shoot too. Sometimes overcast sky does wonders too. (Napa Valley, California)

Handy tips:

– Wear a comfortable dress, especially if you are a girl and traveling in India.

– Carry 2-3 different types of footwear for travel.

– Apart from sunscreen, carry a scarf, hat or best would be an umbrella.

– Leave the extra lens at hotel room; you might need it for other tourist attractions – next day.

– Keep a water bottle, some snacks in backpack always for the instant energy boost.

Happy traveling and come back with lot’s great memories.

MTV – master at plagiarizing, 2010

Is it a matter of pride or a case of plagiarism – this was exact thought that came to my mind when on 18th august morning I saw my ‘Independent India’ image in MTV’s latest National Anthem video on Television.

Original MTV -jana gana mana video

After photo plagiarism case MTV India deleted previous videos, edited & uploaded new video http://www.mtvindia.com/newsense You can easily see the difference- so many images including mine was stolen by MTV.

I tweeted to MTV India and @MTVindia replied saying they are asking their production team & till then I stay a happy bunny!

STRANGE, I never got a response back after that. Instead, they deleted the tweet response, videos from MTV India website and their your tube links etc within in an hour. And 3 days later, I now see a new video, which does not have many images (including mine, which means other photos were also picked up without permission) – and the same video is on the Television and the Internet.

I kept writing to MTV on twitter and also I wrote an email to Viacom 18 COO, Rajesh Kamat  (Viacom 18 channels are Colors, MTV etc). But I didn’t get any reply.

People at Twitter / Facebook started suggesting me to send a legal letter to MTV for the same or talk to someone from media but when I tried contacting media like IBN (which is part of network 18), I didn’t get a reply.

The only option in front of me seems to be taking a legal route. In a country like ours, it is however a lengthy method to ask for credit and compensation by going to the court. However, I am tempted to do that not because of the wants for credit but also to spread awareness amongst other people of the illegal and unethical doings of these large companies. This photo steal case is 2nd for me, but there have been umpteen other cases like this which have happened with my photographer friends.

Through this blog, if there is one thing I want to do – it is to spread awareness amongst such media companies and their employees who routinely pick up pictures and content from internet without realizing that not only is it unethical but against the law as well. Perhaps it is their supervisor / seniors who don’t tell them about these basic work ethics!

When MTV India, a youth music channel, picked up my image and few more images to use in the national anthem ‘jana gana mana’ video, they probably searched for ‘india independence day’ or something similar and selected few good images and used in videos for which they spent few thousand dollars. This was all done and televised on TV without realizing that they had done a grave mistake of using images for which they did not have the copyrights.

Another bad ethical practice by MTV was them initially replying to me on twitter without understanding the consequences, where they later deleted video from website and Youtube and also deleted the tweet. They did not do the basic thing that they should have had done at the earliest was to handle this case of plagiarism in a mature way by immediately apologizing. Given what it was used for, I would have given my image for free but what eventually happened gave me a sad impression about MTV and seniors.

For saving few thousand rupees, MTV will carry a stamp of ‘pursuer of plagiarism’. They could have easily handled this more gracefully, but they ended up spoiling it and become the bad icon of the year!

I am hurt not because my ‘ Independent India ’  got stolen by MTV but for the shameful act of they trying to remove the traces of their wrong doings from the Internet. Poor MTV, you just become ‘plagiarizing icon of year, 2010!

a monk who sold her camera.

In essence of celebrating World Photography day– 19th august, I would like to share my perception on how monks & photographers are related.

Photography by Paavani, clicked at Bodhgaya, India

Monks are not simple human beings, they wear a peculiar dress and follow a set of rules. Just like photographers, they also observe extra ordinary in ordinary. Monks live an unconditional life and photographers try to give unconditional expressions via visuals. Monks change themselves from the very roots of his being and photographer present the things the way they want. A monk’s quest doesn’t end and a true photographer never gets tired of being hermit and rootless wandering habit to get her subject right. A monk gets peace when with God and a photographer gets solace with her gadgets which isn’t necessarily hi-fi. But just like having proper knowledge will lead a monk to a clearer route to God; proper equipment makes the findings easy for a photographer. But she can even do wonder with a mobile camera, and not necessarily a canon 5D mark II.

And if you have questions regarding what photographers do whole day, just like a monk, a whole day is less to pray (play) with images. So enjoy this photographic journey my dear photographer friends, and wishing lots such photography day (events & exhibitions) in your life.

Ps: it’s a pure religious post. A photographer relation with her camera and her respect hidden in photographs. Thank you.

Aerobics vs Yoga

Me! Writing a blog post on exercise is really an exercise for my mind! Well, I never exercised in past years apart from school days where P.T. was compulsory. I was so petite that I was under the impression; exercise is for those who want to loose weight. How wrong!

Our own lifestyles teach us lessons and me, the olive (remember Popeye the Sailor cartoon) kind of looking started gaining weight due to sitting in front of computer all the time. Long hours in cab – office & computer- food- Long hours in cab- food- computer- sleep. Where is walk when you talk? And see, I gained weight! In past 2-3 years I am no more same as I was in college. Now the same people, who used to tell me to eat, started asking me to loose weight!

So I joined Yoga class few months back. Yoga is a trend globally from some time. In foreign people pay huge amount to learn yoga and in our country Baba Ramdev is spreading the ‘yog rog’.

Yoga has different asanas, meditation and slow movements. You feel the pain in initial days and gradually you become flexible and learn to hold for longer period. As yoga is relaxing and slow, you feel relaxed and calmer after it. Yoga interests every age group- from young soul to souls going to heaven soon.
BUT
Aerobics! It’s fast (of course fun too) there is music and variations are many and you can do floor aerobics or step aerobics- many types. But yoga also many types like bikram yoga or circus yoga. But there is lots of cardio work, fat burning and muscle definition where as in yoga you are under control of body & mind and soul. And mostly young and middle age group people do aerobics.

So after doing yoga for 3+ months I switched to aerobics as I was looking for a morning class in my premises and I find the class very professional, strict trainer and fun filled. BUT legs are hurting like hell and the day you work with dumbbells, your every part is going to ache! After that I can only say, yoga is easy and aerobics is crazy. Yoga is relaxing, aerobics is taxing!
Let’s see, will I continue my fitness gaga or sleep & laziness will take over the saga!

Image Source: MSU.edu and fitnesscafe.

Go Goa.

Goa is a favorite tourist destination. But somehow I was not in favor of visiting Goa because I thought it would be crowded or beaches would not be clean. But when I went there, such doubts were clear. I would have made a mistake, if I didn’t come to Goa.

Goa for sure a fun place, as soon you land there you know you are going to have fun. Either you are looking for complete relaxing holiday or some water adventure based package fun & food would be there by default.

 

We stayed in South Goa and rented a cool bike. Tip 1– if in Goa, better have own vehicle else you would be paying a lot to rude auto rickshaw guys or expensive taxis. Anyway bikes/ scooters are cheap to hire.

 

Travelling on bike from south to north goa in itself was a fun filled ride. Narrow but traffic free, clean country roads for sure ignite the lost youth passion of riding a bike with glares on and bandana on head. Tip 2– before getting out from hotel room- put enough of sunscreen. Anyway, you are going to get tanned.

About water sports– You can do from water scooter to parasailing to going on boat to see dolphins or if dare than go for a scuba drive when in Goa. There are enough activities to keep you busy for a day that you would not mind warm sun rays on beach. Tip 3– being little apprehensive about water is normal. Once you are in water with your life jacket on, you will only flow and fear will go away slowly 🙂

 

If in Goa, and not going for a mid night walk on beach than there is something missing in your romance life. And ya, don’t be ‘kanjoos’ to have a nice candle light dinner. Also don’t mind having sea food in beach shacks too. Tip 4– forget about diet when in Goa. Just enjoy the food. Dieting can wait.  😉

 

Goa is also famous for hand painted tiles. I couldn’t do that during my visit to Goa in early march 2010 so whenever I go next, will do. BTW I loved my hotel (Zuri, South Goa) – their staff was very courteous and we even got a surprise cake but best was their own beach, we went their in night time only. Waking up early on a holiday is little tough thing so what I could not click sunrise shots. 🙂

Why say NO to crackers!

Festivals like Diwali has own uniqueness- “it’s a festival of lights” apart from mythological stories, God’s worship, sweets and gifts what we look forward is crackers! As a kid, I used to love bursting crackers. Fine, I was bit afraid and used to be away from bomb, rocket but it was fun. But when I see, today’s kids, all they get from school “say no to crackers”, Government making appeal “lets have a peaceful diwali” and parents saying “crackers are expensive”.

But my question is, why a small kid is stopped to have fun, why s/he is forced to all good deeds, when we as a grown up are still doing what is not good, like not believing in Car pool when going office as we have own ego problem with a colleague. When we don’t have patience and keep doing continuous honking, and when we emit lots of pollution by keeping engine ON on a red light and when we don’t obey order of not smoking in public areas – I wonder! Why a kid is getting mentally prepared that bursting cracker is not a good thing. Why we grown up learn good things first before preaching!

why Say NO to crackers?

I am not favoring that crackers are good for health or something. All I want is a little bit of fun, which is fine under a secure guidance. I have found today’s kid don’t even know how to light up gas. They never open match box. But if they play, they will learn how to deal with material safely. Watch them, teach them, just like when you were bursting crackers, your elder brother, uncle and dad guided you. Of course do not give them bomb or something to play but let them see the spectacular view of cracker bursting high and opening into an umbrella of colorful embers or lighting their name in air with a sparkler.

I did a small survey of 25-35 yrs old and found most of them enjoyed crackers- Chakri (ground wheel), Anaar (flower pots), Phooljhari (sparklers), fire pencil, rocket, toy train and bomb etc. But over time they got so busy with higher studies, settling in career that they left that sparkling time in their childhood memories but what about today’s kid , are they suppose to just content with ‘made in china’ wires of glowing and dimming lights on their balconies railing? On the name of ‘festival of light’ are they suppose to buy gifts with neon glowing lights or buying them a new PSP game will add extra sparkle and noise?

Fine, there should not be rocket flying in high rise buildings, there should not be crackers bursting in small balcony of 9th floor and no crackers 11 pm onwards but little bit of fun with those colorful sparklers and seeing the sparkling eyes of kid will not make any harm to earth. You can always remorse by planting two trees in your neighborhood or gifting a tulsi plant on this Deepawali. Let’s have a sparkling Diwali!

It’s a HOLI day time.

Festival of colors is around. It is one of the special festivals of India. I am not going to talk about this festival in details; you can read my old article on same that came on PingMag.

holi colors festival India
From past few days, I have been missing my childhood days. Is it the Holi fever or am I just getting nostalgic on few things, especially when I see children in park running around and playing with squirt and splashing water on each other? Today children are much more aware of simple facts; they use herbal, natural colors. They don’t play holi in such harsh way as it used to happen in our time. I still remember the days when putting silver paint on face and throwing each other in mud was quite common. Few activities like throwing water balloon in some streets are still a practice. Let me compile holi’s different types / styles.

Temple Holi- It is a traditional form of playing holi. Pandits and people play holi with Lord Krishna and Radha. It is like – 1st god play holi and the color that touched their holy feet will be used to play holi by their devotees.

Rural holi– a bonfire is set up by using the cow dung cakes and fresh harvest is offered to fire. In morning people put colors (gulal) on each other face and play with water colors, and in the evening they dress up nicely and visit the nearby fair.

In a city – people from the same location (apartments/ colonies) gather in park, and put colors on each other. Some snacks are there to eat. Of course, you have to pay for the same.

Page 3 holi– Music, dance and drinks. It is more like a party, either in a farm house or in a banquet hall, where people dress up in style and play in style. Entry is strictly by invitation!

Campus holi– it is full of fun. Best part is that students from different states, countries play together. It is complete fun. Even if you don’t like to play, anyway you will get pulled from your hostel room.

Street fashion– Some naughty boys will freak out on bikes and throw water balloons, harass people on street and make life difficult. It’s a non-decent form of holi. In small city and rural areas it is common. That’s how people avoid going out on road, using public transport like trains, buses & rickshaws.

Office holi– As HR has to do some event, so, a small event in office premises happen. Where little bit dry colors or flowers petals are allowed. You will get some munchies or holi special lunch.

Family get together– Family members and close friends will gather at one home. Some special dishes, specially gujiya, pakodas & thandai and lots of chit chat. Good time in today’s nuclear family time.

Bollywood holi– Indian cinema and a holi song in Hindi film is forever in demand, from classic film era to today’s niche class movies. If you are alone and nothing great to do just switch on TV (or search in You tube) and watch bollywood best holi songs 🙂

Get set go– It is actually a vacation time. One can escape from colors and have some relaxing time. It could be having a long vacation by using holi holiday plus some extended holidays.

holi, colors, people, festival, India

So in whatever way you are celebrating it, I just want to wish you a very HAPPY HOLI – day!

Toy story.

Other day I was having a conversation on recent ban on China toys, suddenly someone questioned, who is a toy designer? I recalled my post graduation days, when I was doing specialization in Toy design. Everyone thought it would be like making soft toys. It took long for me to explain that a toy designer does not make only soft toys or toys for babies. There is much more to explore, when we use the word TOY.

Apart from sewing soft toys, a toy designer works with many materials – wood, plastic, metal, rubber, bamboo, steel, paper and natural materials (like weeds, leaves, flowers) etc. If the material possibilities are not limited, then how the possibilities of areas could be?
It could be designing toys for sports, fun and education, special children, for teenagers, for adults (Sex toys!), toys for corporate (team building etc), stress busters, meditation and exercises, and even toys for old age people.

It could be anything from a social initiative to a fun filled activity to source of money.
And mind it designing a good toy is far more difficult than designing consumer goods. Money once spent on a gadget will not make you throw it even without using it. But if a toy is not attractive and not able to capture the attention of child; s/he might not play with at all.

Why there is URGENT need.
In early 2009, a lawsuit was filed by Consumer welfare of India on the basis of finding lead (and occurrence of Lead Poisoning*) in Chinese toys. India has banned the Chinese toy imports for six months. And as China was one of the major importers of toys this is going to provide Indian toy maker ample opportunities to take Indian toy industry at a different level. The global turnover of toy market was above $110 billion in year 2007 where China has 35,000 crore global market share where as India stands nowhere with 700 crore.
BUT China has grabbed 60 per cent of the domestic toy market. So are we ready? Can we grab this opportunity and show the world, our talent and skills to make these toys? It’s a difficult one. We have a Toy city in Greater Noida, we have many localized toy makers (Wooden toys from Uttarpradesh, Karnakta) but we need more conscious toys makers. Who takes this challenge and make toy more child’s friendly.

Let’s make a Toy Plan!
Being a country with a lot of diversities, we have a lot to offer when it comes to designing. One should just target one area from making toys for edutainment to fun to ecological and the possible ideas will come out by own.

Use of recyclable material, natural colors and more eco-conscious will not make a toy buyer happy but also keep a child healthier and happier.
There is one such cool example of greener toy- Fastronauts – Powered by Play

After all, what fun is a toy if you can’t play with it?

Chal Chalein Himachal (Lets go to Himachal)

After having a hard time at work, a break is very important. Not only does it help unwind, it also gives exposure to other parts of the country. We also took a similar break, from the heat of Delhi to the cool weather of Himachal.
Manali, Himachal pradesh, India
Manali-Abode of Manu (Manu, who recreated the human) in Himachal Pradesh, India. This town also has a way to Ladakh via Rohtang Pass. It’s a peaceful place famous for apple orchard and woolen shawls and nice cool excursions.

We started our journey from New Delhi National Highway -21 via Panipat, Chandigarh and Kullu. Taking a Volvo bus has advantages as you could relax in the night, and you would be somewhere in Himachal when you wake up the next morning for having a cup of hot tea. You will reach the city shortly thereafter.
Temples, manali
Shooting in temple

We reached Manali at 11am and after check-in to our hotel (Manali heights, which we found very good) took brunch and cab to see city attractions.
The local attractions, namely Club house, Tibetan Monasteries are just ok type. It is advisable to carry an extra pair of cloth, if you plan to go to Vashisht Hot water springs. Hadimba temple is nice specially for taking a walk around. It is apparently also famous amongst film-makers and we also witnessed shooting of a film when we were there. Manu temple in old Manali is also worth a check-out, to see old homes and walk down on narrow lanes.
Mountains and more

This place and its surroundings have loads to offer in terms of activities like para-gliding and skiing. Solang valley is a must-visit place, do indulge in paragliding other than good sightseeing. And if you are on a long trip, just keep half day time solely for this so that you can do this from greater heights (3-4 hours activity in total).
paragliding in Himachal
The road to Rohtang pass has lots of Nallas (or waterfalls) and you will like to stop there while driving on the broken narrow roads. Once you reach the destination, you can take a walk around, climb the snowy mountains or do skiing. Ginger tea and noodles is a good way to relax after a tiring walk. This place has small local shops for all these. Just beware of Kesar (saffron) and Kasturi seller, who will go all out to con you.
rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh
Rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh
When we visited, snow was there but not enough to really excite you (particularly if you have seen snow before). But it was more of wholesome experience, the journey that made it interesting.
On the way back, some dynamites were kept to clean up the road and our cab stopped right before that, so that way it was bit real adventurous. While coming down, we stopped at Mandi (which is a small village) and saw sunset.

And yes, before I forget to mention, I must advise you on keeping one day just to explore market and have lazy lunch at Johnson café or Casa Vella café. Both these places are highly recommended to have good food.


Point to keep in mind- don’t buy Chingu (kind of quilt but it is all a fraud) though the locals have pretty interesting story about the same, don’t buy saffron (you can’t get 15gm for Rs. 100 anyway).
Carry enough cash- there are just 2-3 ATMs and they hardly work.
Wake up early- go for walk, have nice food with tea/coffee, do activities- there are many options (trekking, rafting, paragliding, skiing etc)
flowers, Himachal Woman
And yes, don’t forget to carry woolen clothes. It’s cold there in any season.