Category Archives: Weekly Challenge

Homeless, but owns a Washing machine?

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Washing machines made their entry in India around the mid 80’s giving relief to maids who until then washed clothes by beating them on a washing stone!The first washing machines were the semi-automatic ones with separate washer and dryer and was replaced many years later with the fully automatic one. Today, every middle class household in India boasts of owning a washing machine, though the poor still use the traditional method -washing by hand.

So, I was mighty surprised when I saw this lady (coming out from my sons’s basketball class), who lives in  a shack in a corner of a playground, but owns a washing machine! Times are a changing?

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Frizztext’s Story Challenge : Letter W

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The Evergreen street vendors

Street vendors are a common sight in India. You can find them in every nook and corner peddling anything from books, CDs, clothes, home and clothing accessories to vegetable and fruits. Most of them set up shop illegally and usually scuttle away at the sight of the law enforcers.

But some have made a place for themselves on the roads and in the hearts of local people. In Malleshwaram,one of the oldest areas of the city of Bangalore, one can find these vendors, come rain, sunshine or cold. Their  fresh produce , mainly fruits , vegetables and flowers ,piled up  carts, boxes and plastic tubs can put any supermarket to shame.Be prepared to haggle though and be wary that the price they quote varies depending on your attire!

For decades now, these vendors have been the pride of our city. Only time will tell though if they can continue to retain their place as the city and its people bear the brunt of change and construction in the name of development. (The city development authorities plan to reconstruct the main Malleshwaram market -not shown here- into multistoreyed building).

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Frizztexts Story Challenge: Letter V

A word a week Challenge: Flower

Sue from A word in your ear has ‘ A word a week’ challenge. The word this week is ‘flower’.

In India, not only are flowers appreciated but also venerated to a great extent .  Besides  being used for decoration and  offered as a symbol of love and friendship, flowers also have a spiritual significance in Hinduism. They are used to worship Gods at home and in temples not only on religious occasions but also for the everyday puja. Women adorn them in ther hair- some wear them on special occassions like a  wedding or a puja and  some women , specially in the South, wear flowers in their hair every Friday as it is considered an auspicious day.

My favourite flowers are the Frangipani  and Jasmine for their divine fragrance and  Geraniums and Hibiscus are they are fairly easy to grow 🙂

Click on any of the images for a larger view.

Soft and New

I’d been missing Ailsa’s Travel theme for the last few weeks by a whisker . This week, I decided to combine it with Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge to make it on time! Cee’s challenge is to post something new while Ailsa’s theme for the week is ‘Soft’.

Here are a few new and soft photos taken on our latest trip to Kerala.

The soft morning light falling on the lotus leaves (Pookote lake, Wayanad district, Kerala – pic taken yesterday)

We just celebrated Diwali over the last 3 days. The soft glow of a firecracker – chakra or spinning wheel.

No festival is complete without sweets. In addition to the hordes of Indian sweets, we also had freshly baked (by me!) soft brownie cake !!

Road Trips

No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me round

Everyone loves a good road trip once in a while! Wind in the hair; sun in the eyes, maybe some dust too; engine at full throttle; listening to ‘highway to hell’!!

There are movies dedicated to road trips (Thelma and Louise and Road trip) and road trippers too who pursue the hobby very seriously.

My road trips haven’t really been road trips in the true sense, more a method of travel to get to a destination. I’ve travelled by road in many countries, but the most memorable ones have been here in India.

My earliest memory of a road trip was as a child of 10 or 12, travelling with my father’s extended family to the temple town of Tirumala for a wedding. The drive through 7 hills with hair-pin bends , steep roads and deep gorges on one side was a challenge for even an experienced driver. Halfway up, it started raining cats and dogs and visibility reduced to almost zero. The driver continued driving; the relatives started chanting bhajans (prayers). Whether it was divine intervention or the driver’s acumen, we reached the summit in one piece!

Delhi to Dharamshala  was another eventful , never-ending journey with 2 flat tyres and an un-cooperative driver intent on driving way below the speed limit. The only  consolation  was that the extra hours helped to catch up with old friends with beer and tandoori chicken!

Others trips were memorable for their scenic landscape, such as Ladakh for its stark mountain ranges and steep winding roads; Rajasthan for the dry, sandy and rugged topography.  Our recent trip to Chikmagalur was also dotted with some lovely rustic scenery.

Ladakh
Ladakh
enroute Chikmagalur

Driving on Indian highways requires more than just admirable driving skills. You will encounter partly constructed or non-existent roads, dodge villagers, chickens and goats trying to cross the highway (not their fault if the highway cuts right through the village!) and mistake a single beam of light for an oncoming bike(more likely to happen when there is no separation between traffic going in opposite directions) which in reality will be a speeding truck , probably carrying unsuspecting animals.

Enroute to Chennai
On the Chennai to Bangalore Highway

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Frizztext’s A-Z Story Challenge: Letter R

Exquisite carvings that tell stories of beauty, valour and life

The Belur– and Halebid temples, proposed UNESCO heritage sites are two of the hallmarks of Hoysala architecture .The Hoysala Empire in Southern India flourished between 10th and 14th century, and spawned an era of artistic exuberance.

The name Hoysala and the royal emblem are taken from a folklore according to which a young man, Sala saved his guru from a tiger by striking it dead (‘hoy’ meaning strike in local language).

Hoysala emblem

Legend has it that the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana and his dancer-wife Queen Shantala, who were Jains (a religion founded by Mahaveer Jain) had a daughter who suffered from an incurable chronic mental illness. She was miraculously cured by a greatly revered Hindu saint (Ramanuja) who was visiting. After this, the King converted to Hinduism and commissioned the creation of over a 100 temple monuments, that to this day are the pride and joy of our state. Most of the temples were in the making for close to 100 years and finally completed during the reign of Vishnuvardhana’s grandson.

The temples are known for their unique stellar design; thousands of embellished figures carved out of soapstone; horizontal Friezes of elephants, lions and horses and many ornate pillars- some of which used to revolve on ball-bearing structures.

The sublime and ethereal carvings transported me into another world and I could almost imagine the lithesome dancers, their bells chiming in unison and their graceful poses which inspired some of the famous filigree idols such as ‘beauty with mirror’, ‘the lady with the parrot’, ‘the huntress’. And hear the rhythmic beating of the mallet on the chisel as the skilful artisans carved the soft soapstone with exquisite craftsmanship into intricate sculptures that depict celestial beings and stories of mythology.

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Weekly Image of Life: Stories and Photographs

An ordinary Quest!

“The real act of discovery lies not in finding new lands, but seeing with new eyes” – Marcel Proust

I recently came across this video where the speaker informs us that to be creative, we need to think like a traveller, since we tend to be hyper- aware of our environment while travelling.  So if we can keep our brains super active, as in travel-mode, and notice common and everyday things, we can capture fresh ideas to use in our lives and work.

But more than travelling, it’s blogging that helped me to look at the common and ordinary with new eyes, be more aware and curious of the happenings around me.  It made me feel like a hunter who tracks, pursues and captures, only in my case it was  ideas and knowledge.

Blogging is such an integral part of my life, that I’m now introduced to people as an avid blogger, just as I was recently at a women’s get-together.  But when the ladies heard my blog’s name, I had to quickly clarify that my blog actually has no aspects of home-making.

It then came to my mind that perhaps I should also put this disclaimer on my blog, so that it doesn’t confuse the readers who may expect to read about parenting or any other issues that concern a homemaker. Though to give myself some credit, I actually intended to share my life as an individual and a homemaker through this blog. But then I hit 2 roadblocks.

  1. My sons forbade me to write about them- especially what they said or did. (The only allowance I got was for the dengue dairies!!)
  2. Others like my mom didn’t want me to write about any member of the family –both immediate and extended, lest someone takes offence (as I seem to lack the artful skill of diplomacy!)

Left with no choice, I started rambling about things that had nothing to do with the blog title. Sometimes, I wondered if I should change it or even stop blogging, wondering if it made sense to post something just for sake of it. But I couldn’t stop – since what started out as a hobby soon became a passion. And added to it was the unexpected response from friends and family-   like the encouraging note I received a few days back from an old and special childhood friend whom I haven’t met in over 15 years.

So I continued writing and blogging soon became a quest – to find my voice, a niche for my blog; to learn about other cultures, experiences and especially about writing.

Since I’ve been reading about how important it is to have a niche , I hope that you, my readers, will bear with me as I venture on this quest (and continue with my ramblings) until I ‘m able find a niche . (Or maybe I never will :-)!)

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FrizzText’s Story Challenge Letter Q

A Village celebrates!

On our holiday last week, we stopped enroute at my husband’s ancestral village. His forefathers and for a brief time, his father too had lived there. But with the entire family having embraced city life, there weren’t any family members living there anymore. The only connection remains the custom of taking the village name as the middle or last name and the occasional visit to pay respects to the family diety.

There was an unexpected crowd at the temple and we had to wait a while before we could pay our obesainces. Finally, as we were coming out of the temple premises , we heard the loud beating of drums and here’s what we saw:

It was a village festival! My husband and I pulled out our cameras and videocams , quite surprised and fascinated. There were people dressed up in colorful costumes , some wearing masks, people and children dancing and even an Elephant! I gathered that the villagers were going to install an idol of Ganesha, the elephant-God and the entire village had got together to celebrate the event.

We were thrilled that we had some unique memories to take back with us, especially since this visit was long overdue. Afterall, its not everyday that we get to be a part of our ancestral village celebration!

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Weekly Image of Life: Celebration

Elephant Procession

The streets are decorated with colorful lights, women have adorned the houses with flowers and festive ornaments and children are enjoying the start of the 2-week school break. Today is the first day of the ten day Dasara festival in India. (you can find a detailed post about the festival  here)

Mysore, one of the popular tourist destinations in the Southern India, is also famous for the Dasara festivities. The Mysore Dasara, a 400 year old tradition, attracts large numbers of tourists, including foreigners . The major attraction is the  Grand procession that takes place on Vijayadashami, the 10th day. Horses, camels, colorful tableaux carrying music and dance groups and decorated elephants form a part of the procession.

Image from bangalorebeats.com

The elephants, usually 12 in all, play a vital role in this procession. The lead elephant carries the 750 kg ‘golden Howdah’, a wide 2-seater carrier made of gold, which originally  carried the King and Queen of Mysore. Since the abolishment of royalty, the idol of the goddess Chamundeshwari is carried on the Howdah.

The elephants are brought to the city of Mysore from their home base, Nagarhole national park, about a month and a half before the festival. A run through of the 5 km route is performed daily and 4 elephants are trained to carry sandbags weighing 750 kg, the weight of the howdah. At their home base, their staple diet is a mixture of ragi (finger millet) and horse gram. But when they reach Mysore, they are fed a calorie-rich diet of wheat, boiled rice, vegetables, and lentils laced with butter twice a day, apart from coconut, jaggery, and sugarcane for snack!!

This year, there is some speculation as to which elephant will lead the procession. The local favourite and celebrity , 54 year old Balarama, who has been carrying the Howdah since 1999, has got people worried about his fitness as he has lost weight(down to 4,500kg  from 4900 kg last year!) and slowed down considerably. The next in line could be Arjuna, a 54 year old elephant, who was the original choice for the lead elephant, but side lined in favour of Balarama after he trampled a mahout (caretaker) in 1997. He is supposed to be calmer now and is in the reckoning as he is stronger and heavier- by 1000kg- than Balarama!!

On 24th October, Vijayadashami day, all eyes will be on Balarama- will he continue in his customary role or will he have to take a backseat? We have to wait and watch as the final decision can be taken even hours before the event starts.

Related:

Weekly Image of Life: October Magic

Official website of Mysore Dasara

Balarama, the Elephant(Wikipedia)

Odours that Rise

“To-day I think
Only with scents, – scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,
And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke’s smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.

It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.”

– Edward Thomas, Collected Poems

Odours. Smells. Fragrances!

People, animals, birds, insects; all living beings have a strong sense of smell.  We can identify the source based on the odours we perceive before we can even see it. Certain smells can also evoke beautiful and powerful memories of places, food, things and even people.

All of this is possible due to the olfactory receptors present in our body. Receptors are protein molecules sitting on the surface of cells that receive chemical signals from outside the cell. The chemical molecule attaches to a specific receptor, just like how a key fits into a specific lock, and induces certain responses in the cell.

The olfactory receptors belong to a family of receptors called G-protein coupled receptors. Last week, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka for their ground breaking studies performed over four decades on how the body responds to external stimuli such as taste, smell, sight etc . They were responsible for discovering the G-protein-coupled receptors (in 1980s) which are involved in several physiological processes such as sensory detection and mood regulation.

Olfactory receptors are responsible for the detection of odour molecules. Mammals have over 1000 different olfactory receptors, each of which detects a few different odours, usually with similar molecular structure. The odour molecule attaches to its specific receptor and activates certain processes in the cell which in turn sends signals to the brain that perceives and identifies the odour.

Incidentally, in 2004, scientists Linda Buck and Richard Axel won the Nobel Prize in medicine for cloning an olfactory receptor.

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Frizztext’s A-Z Challenge: Letter ‘O’