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Friday, 28 December 2018

Kutch Diaries #RannKiKahaaniya

I have a penchant for planning holidays on the mountains or beaches and my family keeps complaining that all the holiday pictures look the same with similar locales and scenery!
A short sojourn with my better-half to Kutch, changed our holiday routine and scene! 
We started the trip on a spiritual note with a visit to the amazing Somnath Temple, then visited the Rann Utsav at Dhordo, followed by a trip to Dholavira and a bit of retail therapy at Bhuj
The ongoing Rann Utsav was something I'd wanted to attend for a while now. There was hardly enough time to plan, pack or do any kind of research about the trip, so yeah, I totally went on this trip with a clean slate - no expectations and a mild curiosity about the White Desert. You know at a certain point in life, you are happy with any holiday that doesn't involve domesticated chores like cooking, cleaning and serving!


Our 4N/5D itinerary was something like this: 
Besides the flights from Mumbai to Rajkot and from Bhuj to Mumbai, all other journeys were made by road in a dear friend's chauffeured car (friends totally rock, don't they?!). 
A special word of thanks to some really dear friends of the better half who made this entire trip so memorable and enjoyable for us!
Follow the three part Kutch Diaries series:
Kutch Diaries #RannKiKahaaniya >> Kutch Diaries #Dholavira >> Kutch Diaries #Shopping

Reaching Bhuj
After a 6 hour drive from Rajkot, we arrived under a blindingly bright sun at Dhordo. Highway roads in Gujarat are really good, so the long drives aren't too tiring.(Rajkot-Dhordo: 308 km). You can directly arrive at Bhuj by road, rail or air as Bhuj is well connected via all routes. We stayed for a night at The Tent City, Dhordo. You get a Tent City pick-up coach (fixed timings) from Bhuj to take you there. (Bhuj-Dhordo: 81 km)

Tent City, Dhordo 

The Tent City is something you may detest if you are the kind of traveler who loves serene environments and craves solitude. Sorry folks, this is just not the place for you!
This is a place that is totally festive, mela-like, bursting with people, energy, wares and colors! Well, consumerist that I am, I obviously loved it all!
Interestingly, the entire set-up is a temporary one that is erected and set up for just the four months of the Rann Utsav (Nov-Feb) and then dismantled lock, stock and barrel.
The grand Reception lounge
The Tent city has 400 tents spread across 9 clusters, two large dining halls with a capacity of 350/200 respectively, an art gallery, a club house with indoor games, a rejuvenation spa, conference area, a handicrafts bazaar, open air entertainment. The larger tents are grouped in clusters of 32 tents while smaller tents in groups of 68 are arranged in a semi-circle overlooking the entertainment area which also has the interesting Skyzilla. They have a medical center and round the clock CCTV surveillance. The network connectivity is extremely good in this area.
I was overall impressed with the magnitude and efficiency of the personnel (about 350) that milled about this mini-city to manage the day-today smooth running of the facility. Personnel are always at hand to assist you at every nook and corner.

Besides the evening entertainment on the grounds, through the day one can avail a host of sport activities ranging from Paramotoring, ATV rides, Segway and Trikke rides, Paintball etc. besides sightseeing tours to nearby places such as Kalo Dungar, Mandvi beach, Mata nu Madh etc. These are not included in the package and one needs to individually book and pay for them.
The shopping here is pretty well-stocked with the famous Kutchi handicrafts, embroidered fabrics and more, probably a tad costlier than at Bhujodi but not too much. These are alright for souvenir shopping but the products are most probably machine-made and mass-produced instead of the claims of being handmade. The entire setup is a visual delight with a play of colors showcasing the art, culture and spirit of the Gujarat through the Rann Utsav.

Tent Package
The Tent City has differently sized and priced tents. All tent package stays include fixed timing coach pick up from Bhuj and drop off along with local sightseeing tour of Bhuj. The package also includes pick up and drops along with camel buggy rides to the White Rann twice, once in the evening to view the sunset and once at night for the moonrise. All meals beginning from bed-tea, breakfast, lunch, evening tea to dinner are included in the deal. 

Weather during our stay (Dec 3rd week) was extremely pleasant at a maximum of 27 and minimum of 9 degrees celsius.

Food is pretty good at the Tent City dining hall. Dishes from Punjabi, Continental, Gujarati and Kathiawadi cuisines are on the Menu. The delicious meals at the large dining halls are efficiently managed and catered by the Sayaji group of hotels. 
Dining Hall

Our Stay
While we checked in at the large reception area, our bags were whisked off in a jiffy. We were explained the itinerary for our stay and escorted in one of the several golf carts to our tent. We had opted for the Premium tent (Rs 10,000/person/night) and it was really a pretty neat set up with AC/Heater, comfy bed, TV, sitting area, bath-toilet area etc. 
We took the evening coach starting from the gates to the White Rann at around 5 pm to enjoy the sunset. A short 15 minute ride takes you to the white desert through a BSF check point. Another 2 minute camel buggy ride drops you off to a point from which you are free to marvel and wander the White Rann.
I was under the misapprehension that the White Rann would have white sand. 
The Rann of Kutch is a vast, low lying salt flat that extends along the western edge of India. During the rainy season, water level of the adjacent sea increases enough to cause the flooding of the Rann. As the waters recede, the area dries leaving behind mud encrusted with salt. By winter all the water evaporates, leaving behind a white, salt covered terrain.
Honestly speaking, the Rann at Dhordo isn't all that white, thanks to the heavy footfall, camel buggies, dung et al!
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset unfettered by man-made structures listening to lilting folk music by local singers, marveling the surreal white terrain around us!
Back at the Tent city we headed to the bazaar and indulged in some souvenir shopping. That done, it was a scrumptious dinner at the assigned dining hall. The city is beautifully lit at night, with aesthetic lighting that pleases the eye yet is bright enough to serve it's purpose.
Next we headed to the entertainment area which had a host of brilliant live performances ranging from catchy Bollywood and interactive Garba beats, dance by the Siddi community, folk singers and performing artistes.
Around 10 pm, we took the coach again to catch the beauty of the White Rann in the beautiful full moon (yes, we couldn't believe that we had timed our trip so well!). 
The night air was nippy and we were glad we'd packed our warm things!
It took us a little time to get adjusted to the night light. Once we did, we were left awestruck at how well we could see in just the moonlight because of the white terrain reflecting the light back. Indeed a marvel! Sadly, people were going crazy with mobile flash modes marring the beauty of the moment. 
After a comfortable night's sleep in the cozy tent, rendered cozier by the heater and warm blankets, we had breakfast at the dining hall. It was time to check out of Tent City for the next leg of our tour to Dholavira, the archaeological site of the ancient ruins of Harappa carrying happy memories of lovely experiences at THE TENT CITY!

The Tent City Itinerary Booklet
You can get more information on the Rann Utsav and Tent City, Dhordo HERE

Stay tuned for the next leg of my Kutch Diaries at Dholavira.

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and it does not intentionally promote any place or property. All the information and opinions shared here have been gathered and compiled by me based on my personal experience. 

Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Washroom Woes

It is 2.00 a.m, an unearthly hour when regular folk are cozily tucked in bed getting their zzz's. But Nina being on a mission, waddled dazedly to her bathroom. A minute later she walked out, shaking her head in disbelief. Simply incredible!
The building she lived in was inhabited by some rather uncivil, vile beings. The most irritating, abominable to outright scary noises traveled all through the common duct area into which all the washroom windows of the ten-storied building looked into. The sounds emanating from outside her loo window were on in a non-stop loop, 24x7. She'd actually taken the day off to test her theory.
The area of dispute, the duct, was a hollow shaft area that hid from public view the unsightly plumbing pipes. All you could see from outside was a decorative facade of intricate cement jali.  This facade was a veritable perching treat for the vast number of pooping pigeons. If you thought performing your morning ablutions was a matter you took care of in the privacy and sanctity of your own bathroom, you were mistaken. It was like you were putting on a show for these feathered follies, who had premium balcony seats to the show. 
The architect had to be complimented for yet another value addition to this duct design. The stereophonic sound effects, surround system like audio in the duct area were a breakthrough in design! Sounds were amplified to multiple levels in this zone, whether or not they were desirable!
Well, the pigeons were the lesser of worries now, Nina conceded. She'd learned to ignore their plaintive cries of encore and mute out their exuberant exclamations of violence (or copulation), while she carried out her jobs in the loo. 
What worried her now was the other different noises that made an appearance whenever she visited the loo. Before you go dismissing them as the humdrum gut-related unmentionable noises, no, these were different.
She'd even questioned Nik, Neel and Varun on this. Somehow none of them had noticed such weirdness, as they called it.

The noises in question were definitely man-made, just not the regular kind. They were acts of passion, the passion of a performer on stage. At any given point of the day, one of these "performers" took to live stage performances in a seemingly random order. But Nina had observed some patterns. The incredible acoustics of the hollow duct area made the sounds boom, a definite morale booster for the performers.
She'd coined names for each of them to distinguish them from one another. She had in fact devoted entire lunch-breaks at work to draw up character analyses for each of these noise-pollutants.

So you had the,

Bashing Batoness: The one who believed in the punishing act of bludgeoning dirty laundry into submitting the dirt they'd accumulated with a mighty washing paddle or dhoka. Had to be a she, 'cos one could hear her sighs of contentment in between the heaves during the episodes of brutal bashing and sloshing and even occasional humming of Bollywood numbers. A lady with pent up emotions that were vented out through this somewhat unconventional method. On weekends, she favored the afternoon siesta hours.

Whiny Imp: There had to be more than one of these, Nina decided. After all, sustaining an hour long performance on all weekday mornings was no single child's play! This character went on a relentless wailing, moaning spree with occasional high pitched shrieks. Nina was sympathetic to the distress of young mortals being subjected to the rigors of early morning rituals to get them ready for the day long torture at school, but there was only so much patience that one could have. 

Gargling Gargoyle: This was one character that could possibly have non-human origins, Nina thought miserably. This species had haunted her from as long back as she could remember. As a child traveling in the second-class Indian railway coach, she could remember being rudely awakened in the early morning by the crude, retching noises made by them. Like one was trying to bring up a hairball caught in the throat and gagging repeatedly. Most likely, the perpetrator favored the idea of disembowelment through the oral route. The gargling gargoyle had to be someone who OCD'd over his oral hygiene. Why else would he while away the hours of the day cleansing his oral cavity, gullet over everything else? Of the lot, he got Nina's goat the most! She'd even heard noises of a baby gargoyle in training, learning the ropes...and he seemed like a rather promising student!😢 

Trumpeting Typhoon: Nina strongly suspected that the Gargling Gargoyle and the Trumpeting Typhoon could be split personalities of the same person. This one had to be OCD'ing over a clear nasal cavity or it could be someone with a perennially choked nose. His vociferous nose-clearing attempts resulted in a trumpeting so long and prolonged that it could put a pachyderm to shame.

On weekdays and holidays, the Bashing Batoness, Whiny Imp, Gargling Gargoyle and Trumpeting Typhoon preferred the early morning and late evening peak hours and interestingly, they were the most annoying. Smaller irritants like Tuneless WonderRadio-active Rebel and Work-from-Loo Loser took the in between shifts when the lead performers were busy elsewhere, she presumed. 

Nina had assimilated all her observations and now her motto in life was to translate the findings to conclusive deductions on the perpetrators. She believed they were targeting her. What exactly they stood to gain by limiting her time in the loo, she hadn't still figured out but something sinister was definitely afoot. Was it just one resident or many who were a part of this plot, was yet another aspect she needed to crack. If only she could get hold of a Sherlock-like detective to assist her in sleuthing...


Read other stories from Nina's World:  Click on tag/label #NinasWorld

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

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Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Lessons from gardening

I sit twiddling my thumbs in the hope that inspiration will strike and make me start typing furiously on my brilliant piece. The one that seemed to flow quite effortlessly in the wee morning hours at dreamland. Sigh, doesn’t seem likely today!

I am pottering around my not-so-flourishing balcony garden, wondering for the nth time why these potted residents of my home cannot put on a better show. All they have to do is sport green leaves and look sprightly, huh? It’s not as if I am aspiring to see a great bloomin’ flower garden, am I? Stopped planting species that were supposed to yield anything more than just leaves a long time ago…errm…after laying to earth several failed experiments.

I fondly pet the money plant, spraying its leaves with water mist to keep them clean and shiny. This one is my sole salvation, the one that has thrived even under negligence when I was away on vacation. I scorn disdainfully at the stump of a rose plant that I had very optimistically picked up when the nursery guy told me that this particular variety would produce perennial blooms no matter what!
As I put away yet another shriveled plant to be disposed of, I contemplate whether it is just fool-hardiness to continue on this futile path of becoming the proud owner of decent-looking greenery!
It suddenly occurred to me that I could draw a few parallels between my gardening experiences and parenting.
Image source
Most family, friends, veteran gardeners and even total strangers have shared various tips and tricks to get the best out of my pet vegetation nook.
The crux of all that collective wisdom is, plants need your time, attention and love, besides of course the basic requirements of sunlight, water and soil.
Boy, isn’t that just what your kids require? Of course, kids don’t need soil, well, maybe some do, but most are in better health when fed human food.
Children thrive better when you give them your time and attention and even more so when you do it lovingly.

The thrill of watching a tiny seed germinate and grow day by day is no less than watching your own little baby grow.

I recollect that the rose plant, the pansy and peony, the daisy and chrysanthemum, yes all those and many more that I tried to rear, got my time and attention too.
But did I love them? I would have, if they’d given me a chance to, by displaying at least the slightest resilience to morbidity or even the smallest inclination of a bud!

As parents, are we doing the same? By self-righteously devoting our time, efforts and money on our offspring, are we holding back on the love our children need, simply because we have certain expectations from them? Expectations that need to be met with before the love is given. Is life any fun when one has to walk it through with the burden of expectations? 

I have this holy basil shrub, which I religiously (pun intended) try to keep reviving, replacing, with little success. I was informed that I am simply killing the plant with over-watering.
Sometimes the best of intentions are overdone, too much of a good thing.
Parenting can sometimes be overwhelming. Are we doing too less, are we being less attentive, is my child under-nourished, does my child have the right friends, is my child having enough physical activity, will he be okay alone at the picnic….you get me?
We are beating ourselves up, over-indulging the child, becoming over-sensitive to his needs and generally leaving no room for the child’s self-development, evolution, curiosity and independence.
Sometimes it pays to be a little less attentive. Let them fall down, pick themselves up and develop a thick skin. Resilience is a trait that will hold them in good stead life-long.

Along my gardening journey, I learned some tips on, "How not to kill your plants",
Water: less is more
Sunlight: the more the merrier
Soil: regularly turned over and topped up with natural nutrients
Well, there was a lot more but these are all I remember off the top.

So armed with even this much, I should be good to go, theoretically speaking. Then how come I am still burying the ill-fated remains of the coriander plant?

When it comes to parenting, most new parents today come armed with enough and more knowledge handed down from older generations and the all-pervasive google searches, parenting communities etc.
But there is finally no tried and tested common success formula for bringing up your child to be the all-rounder, physically fit, mentally strong kid you would like him to be.

Then it came to me, something my mom said to me, nurturing is something that is instinctive to every parent. Every child is unique with his/her own signs of developmental milestones. An observant and intuitive parent will be able to ascertain the child’s needs based on his responses and behavior and thereby decide when to indulge, stay put or start worrying.
Image source
Sometimes we parents are at our wits' end trying to figure out whether we are doing right by our children. Maybe they are just like the money-plant that requires little or no attention to thrive. Or they are like the special bonsai plant that requires all your focus. 
Whatever kind they may be, one rule still holds true. Once you are past the fragile times and they have their roots firmly planted, they will do alright. Even uprooting and replanting shouldn't bother them too much if you got the initial growing times right! 
As for you now, you can only advise them to either sway to the rhythm of wind or stand strong against a storm. You can worry, you can fret or simply just pray that they will do well, no matter what.

I realize, I need to watch over my green babies and learn what keeps them fresh and healthy, what makes them droopy or simply shrivel up.
That makes me think, maybe that coriander plant just couldn’t take too much of sun or wait a minute, were those white spots on the leaves, an infestation? Ah, yes, now that I think of it, it probably was! Time to put that big bottle of organic neem spray to work.

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Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI