Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day out at Olde Bangalore

The Coffee Decoction Friends have been wanting to go on a picnic from a very long time. Snitch wanted to know if people still did ‘Picnic’. May be these day people just ‘Chill Out’. To some, the word picnic makes you old and ancient. For this reason people hesitate to join in on a picnic. Like it or not, it has been around for a very long time. Encarta says - An informal meal prepared for eating in the open air or the food that makes up such a meal. The origin on the word picnic is French – Piquenique. At these Piqueniques, the attendees would all bring food to the occasion, similar to what we call potlucks today. On romantic and family picnics a picnic basket and a blanket are usually brought along. Outdoor games or some other form of entertainment are common at large picnics

I have attended many picnics before, wherein each family brought chairs, ground sheets, picnic baskets filled with exotic food and the usual ISB (Ice Soda and Booze), small eats and soft drinks. Staff College was full of picnics – there was ready made company, time on hand and lots of scenic spots. Similarly Delhi was another place which offered us many opportunities – Zoo, Rail Museum, Buddha Jayanti Park and many more. Vizag was even better with the sea – Rishikonda and Dolphin beaches were excellent picnic spots. After reaching the destination we looked around for a suitable place – preferably with a shade and a view and parked ourselves. Simple as that – so I thought.

With a traditional picnic in mind I proposed Tippagundhalli lake which Is 34 km from Bangalore. The lake is the main source of water to West Bangalore. When all of us met at our palace for the monthly get together I explained the finer points of the picnic. All hell broke loose. Somebody said what about food and I said you will make it the previous night or early next morning and take it – not all were ready to cook. One of the ladies said what about the toilet and I said what about it. So it went on and on and I said to myself “Boss this is going nowhere - better to change the subject and move on”.Thats exactly what I did - announced ‘dinner is served’. I later realized that all of us have grown in age and got used to certain way of life with lots of comfort and conveniences around us. What everyone was looking forward to was not a traditional picnic but something very organised with lots of creature comforts. No behind the tree or adult diapers but a good and clean loo. No BYOB but a well stocked bar with a smiling and helpful steward. No home food but a spread of culinary delights. Next day I went back to the net and found a place meeting most of the requirements. In the mean time KM rang up to say that the new Navy Mess Secretary Cdr Janardhan and his family own ‘Olde Bangalore’ a resort on the way to BAI and he was willing to host us. A fresh e mail was sent giving the details.
Figure 1 Kempegowda Mural

Come, 19th Sep 2010 all of us in our Sunday best were at the resort at 1100. As you enter the main lounge you see a huge mural artistically depicting areas around old Bengaluru with names of prominent townships. None other than Kempegowda the founder chieftain of Bengaluru standing majestically welcomes you to the resort.
The resort stands majestically on 60 acres of fertile land offering a very tranquil and soothing view of outskirts of Bangalore without any hindrance of ugly concrete structures, congestion and ocean of humanity. Indeed a true getaway.
Figure 2 Distant View

Figure 3 Janardhan house under construction far left

Figure 4 Near View

We met up with Janardhan our gracious host. After a brief introduction of the resort we were treated to a very interesting and informative ‘Walk the Talk’.

Figure 5 Our host in light blue shirt

Located in the midst of scores of trees are the tented accommodations. Tastefully decorated with all modern amenities while maintaining the ambiance of tents. One inside you certainly feel like an Arab sheik in an oasis.
Figure 6 Tented Accommodation

Figure 7 Close up of a Tent
Figure 8A The man behind the show and in front of the tent - KM

The clock said 1210 hours and we were getting restless and twitchy. Janardhan’s well trained eyes noticed the subtle changes taking place in the demeanor of his guests and as a good naval officer he suggested that we proceed to the bar to quench our thirst. Certainly a manna. By then snitch had joined us directly from the airport.
Figure 8 Wish the navy listened to Snitch so seriously

Figure 9 Pondi serving the ladies

Figure 10 Chief Steward announces lunch
Then we proceeded to the dining hall to be treated to an excellent sitting in lunch with Red and White wine. It was Janardhans ‘Gastronomic tour-de-force’. He had laid out the table in best naval traditions.
Figure 11 The lunch table
Janardhan a logistics commander from the navy brings with him years of experience in matters related to food. I am sure Olde Bangalore will benefit from his knowledge and understanding of gourmet catering.

Figure 12 Chief Steward at the table - Personal touch

The staff are extremely polite and warm. The personal touch of the staff makes the visit all the more satisfying. The fish with wine was without reproach, the meat was tender and tasty and so were the other dishes. It was a day well spent with good friends, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We finally bid goodbye to our host dear Janardhan for a very memorable day out at Olde Bangalore. We wish him the very best in all his endeavors.
Figure 13 The satisfied gluttons

Monday, September 27, 2010

Crossing the Line Ceremony

Since the beginning of seafaring, the high seas have always been a subject of adventure, mystery, myths and legends. Maritime traditions are as varied as the human experience of the sea. Some traditions are tangible, many are not, but all express the spirit of our interactions with the sea over time. Sailors of the ancient times prayed to god to please him, asking for protection from sea monsters and storms. They worshipped Gods for safe passage. Meanwhile early explorers pondered what lay beyond the known oceans. Many thought the earth was flat and there was always the fear of falling off the edge of the world. Seafaring has always been full of customs and traditions.

Somewhere along the way ‘Crossing the Line Ceremony’ was born.

Crossing the Line Ceremony is celebrated when a ship crosses the Equator. All members of the crew regardless of age or rank who have not crossed the equator before take part in the initiation ritual. Originally, the tradition was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long and rough passages at sea. The ceremony can be an arduous event and often filled with mischief. In the Indian navy the ceremony is held in the Imperial Court of ‘Lord Varuna – The King of the High Seas’.

At times, long sea voyages can be extremely routine and boring. Leaving behind family and friends for long duration is a tough task. Being away from land for extended period adds to the overall problem. Lot of time is spent in planning interesting activities involving all the members of the ship to break the monotony of sea passage. These activities were also part of our naval training. It gave us an insight into age old customs and traditions of the navy.

We were 28 cadets, crossing the equator for the first time on board INS Krishna the Indian Naval Cadet training ship on its passage from Mumbai to Mombassa. It was a great event and all of us looked forward to it. The ceremony began on 16th day of August 1968 at 1741 h
(-3).We crossed the equator at Longitude 45 Deg 05 Min East.

In a reversal of roles, all the cadets became part of the Imperial court of King Varuna and the rest of the ships officers and sailors - ordinary public. King Varuna takes pity on all the cadets who have been subjected to extreme hardship and untold misery by the officers and crew of Krishna. The court then initiates appropriate measures to bring about justice.

In the photograph, King Varuna is seen entering the Imperial court accompanied by his consort, judge, police, dentist, doctor, jesters, mermaids and other members of the entourage.

At the appointed time the Imperial court of King Varuna initiated the proceedings. The court consisted of Cadets ‘Chats’ as Lord Varuna and ‘Randy’ as his consort (seated next to him on the royal grating) , ‘Tanth’ the judge of the court and on the right of the king are ‘Moda and Makin’ as police. The judge is all ready to read out the royal proclamation.
Key officers and sailors perceived to be responsible for all the wrongdoings against the cadets were ordered to appear before the court. Prior to appearing before the king they were examined by the Royal Physician.

Commanding Officer, Cdr VS Mathur and the Executive Officer, Lt Cdr Surender Singh going through a medical performed by the Royal Physician yours truly Cadet‘Pubs’.

The judge then read out the charges against each defaulter. Simple punishments were handed out to the defaulters – hosing down with salt water, carrying a gun shell and running around the ship, a haircut, sit ups, bend stretches, drinking of special ‘Cadets Concoction’ and the rest.

At the end of the ceremony all 28 of us received a certificate issued by the Commanding Office INS Krishna (Reproduced below). Click on the image to enlarge and read the hilarious contents.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Festivals – Ganapati Pooja

Hinduism is a way of life. Consequently we celebrate everything associated with life - birth of Gods, victory and marriage of Gods, death of demons, new year, new months, full moons, new moons, harvests, birthdays, initiations, marriages, deaths and anniversaries - you name the event, and it is a reason for celebration, music, dance, processions, exotic food and the rest. If you have the time, inclination and money you can go the whole way.

Generation earlier used to conduct religious festivals with a lot of passion, zeal and fan fare. The intensity and fervor of these festivals have been diluted over a period of time. Even in my generation and my social circle, the desire to conduct festivals at home has been on the wane. Today, fewer people offer traditional prayers on a daily basis and in all likelihood there will be further dilution with the generation next.

Why has this change come about?

In a competitive society people are extremely busy with work and find very little time for anything else. Free time has become extremely precious and utilized in a very careful and prioritized manner. In addition people work and live all over the country. They marry people from different communities and faith. They end up practicing a mixture of different cultures, traditions, values and forms of worship. People are more exposed to science and technology which makes them ask questions, seek answers and proofs. They are unlikely to accept anyting at face value. Performing rituals without knowing its significance does not attract the youth.

Unfortunately our system of worship has remained the same over the years. The priest narrates the shlokas mostly in Sanskrit which is not understood by the majority. We sit quietly and follow his orders without the slightest clue as to what he is saying. We need to seriously redo the whole process wherein all the worshippers understand the reason and significance behind each action.

Religion and festivals is a product of social requirements of the day. The social environment dictates the level, nature and variety of worship in almost all the religions. Society is constantly evolving and dynamic - what was in fashion a generation earlier may not be of any significance today. In the years gone by festivals were forms of social expression. They provided an opportunity to express their member ship to a particular community, meet up with kith and kin and bond. It gave a sense of satisfaction and inner pleasure to observe festivals.

Over a period of time things have changed. The variety of festivals my parents observed was many. Gowri, Ganapati, Lakshmi, Dusshera, Balipadmi, Vijayadashmi, Ramnavami, Navratri, Gokalashtmi, Deepavali, Shivratri, Ugadi, Guru Purnima, just to name a few. Due to Various reasons we observe only two festivals - Ganapati and Satyanarayana Pooja. What my children will observe is very hard to say. Am I perturbed by this decline as we perceive it? The answer is an emphatic NO. My children will be dictated by the need of the hour and adjust accordingly, so will my grandchildren.

By all means do change – in your own way try and lead a life which has a place for culture, customs, traditions and a method to acknowledge the existence of the Creator.
On the contrary, the festivals have moved from the private to the public domain in a very big way. Politics and big money has made its way into religious festivals and totally changed its color and complexion. Commercialization has become an integral part of these functions. Festivals such as Ganapati, Navratri and Krishna Jayanti are celebrated in an extremely lavish and extravagant style. Stakes for ‘Dahi Handi’ competition during Krishna Jayanti have always been high in Mumbai, a city that perfectly embodies India’s religious fervor, but the grand prize money apparently announced this year was Rs 60 lakh, three times the price in 2009. If reports are to be believed, there are 10,000 Ganesha mandals in Mumbai alone. Lalbaugcha Raja's mandal cash collection exceeded Rs 5 Cr in 2009.

Ganapati is the most popular and loved god in the Hindu pantheon. God they say is omnipresent and Lord Ganapati has literally entered all facets of our lives. Any function, event or venture that we undertake today starts by invoking the blessings of Ganesha. He is everywhere in the pooja room, drawing room, car and the work place. He is extremely popular with the children.

I do not know where to begin or what to write on Ganapati festival. All that needs to be said has been said and there is very little left for us late starters. So I will keep it personal and write what it means to me. We have worshiped Ganapati ever since I can remember. My maternal grandfather, Shankar Rao Joshi was an artist and sculptor and used to make Ganapati from clay and paint it with attractive colours. Ajoba made Ganapati for us and his brother. He would let me stand at a distance and allow me to watch his dexterous fingers play with clay and give it shape and life.

Gowri and Ganapati pooja meant two days of holidays. As the elders were busy with the preparation, we got endless opportunities to be out and playing. My mother would have started the preparations well in advance. My father would pitch in to make the mantapa and decoration. After my Ajoba passed away, we used to buy the Ganapati from Gandhi Bazaar and carry it in a plate sprinkled with rice. Ganapati would be installed the previous night with lot of care and attention. Ganapati pooja has always been a very big socio - religious event and people put in a lot of effort to ensure their show is successful.
Click on photographs to view bigger image

The festival lunch is similar to any other, but for the ‘Kadabu’ (Steamed pastry with assorted sweet filling) which is made especially for Ganapati. In the evening I would set out with my friends to visit various houses keeping Ganapati. We were required to worship 108 Ganapatis.We would go to each house in the colony and ask whether they were keeping Ganapati. We would then offer prayers and eagerly wait to receive the tasty ‘Prasda’. We were also instructed not to see the moon that night. As anyone seeing the moon would be wrongly accused of theft. Ganapati would stay with us for three days and finally immersed in a well. The immersion ceremony would be followed by eating large helpings of delicious Usali (A nutritious dish prepared with sprouted pulses and grated coconut) and Awalakki Masaru Anna (Beaten rice with Curd)’. AMA is extremely tasty. Somehow we get to eat it only during Ganapati pooja.

Whilst in the navy I was not very regular in keeping Ganapati at home due to the nature of work. Since retirement in 1995, we have always observed the festival and invited kith and kin to join us in the celebration. Responsibilities have been clearly demarcated – I am in charge for bringing home the Eco Ganapati, provisions, pooja materials, fruits, flowers etc. LOH task is to decorate the mantapa and prepare lunch. As it is difficult to obtain the services of a priest on that day, we have always conducted the pooja helped by narration on a cassette or CD.The same evening we do the visarjane and immerse the god in a bucket of water. The next morning, the clay is put into the pot containing Tulsi (Basil) plant and scattered amongst other pots.

As usual my son Vivek, daughter in law Shubra and our grandchild Samara came for the pooja. It was extremely heartening to hear my ‘not yet 3 year old’ GD sing “Jai Ganesha, Jai Ganesha deva”. My daughter Akhila along with son in law Anirban and our grandsons Ayaan, Agastya and Aarin who are in Mumbai went to their cousin Resh and Arvind's house to celebrate the festival.

In Shubras words “Chumbak was born out of love for India and the love of travel. Along the way, Chumbak became a lot more than just fridge magnets! Chumbak became a way to take back a piece of India ... in the form of fridge magnets, key chains, t shirts, bags, pens, books and various other stuff….. And then I met Alicia Souza. The most awesome illustrator and my partner….. The rest they say is history…..

Vivacious Alicia Souza joined us in the Ganapati pooja celebrations. Affectionately called ‘Ali pronounced Alley’ has specially designed an exquisite fridge magnet for Ganesha Chaturthi. She wanted to be a part of the pooja to gain better insight of the deity she had just designed. She presented us this lovely fridge magnet which has totally captured the beauty and universal appeal of Lord Ganesha. Bravo Zulu - Alicia, Shubra and Vivek.

Visit for more details.

To all readers of my blog I wish “May Lord Ganesha bring you good luck, health and prosperity!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The way people look at you - Person Perception

What is perception? The word "perception" comes from the Latin words perceptio, percipio, and means "receiving, collecting, action of taking possession, apprehension with the mind or senses. In social psychology, the term person perception refers to the different mental processes that we use to form impressions of other people. This includes not just how we form these impressions, but the different conclusions we make about other people based upon our impressions. How can two people see the same person and make completely opposite judgments about the person or see a person and perceive him to be different from what he is actually. Social perception is the process of forming impressions of individuals. The resulting impressions that we form are based on information available in the environment, our previous attitudes about relevant stimuli, and our current mood. Humans tend to operate under certain biases when forming impression of other individuals.

The following anecdote may provide a better picture of what perception is all about. My late uncle Mr. MS Shankar Rao used to narrate an incident which happened on 02 September 1945 in Bengaluru. On that day World War II officially ended and the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed upon the decks of the US Navy battleship USS Missouri.

He used to recall – “The air was calm and tranquil as the bloody war had ended and a sense of excitement prevailed and hope that the future would bring peace and lots of prosperity. Such was the mood all over the world and Bengaluru was no exception. The students of Central College decided to celebrate the allied victory by visiting a very posh billiards parlor and bar on the brigade road – “Bull and Bush”. Research on the net reveals that Greens,Ye Olde Bulle & Bushe, the original location where Sir Winston Churchill played billiards in 1896 was very close to Eves Beauty Parlor opposite St. Patrick's Church. Photo just prior to its demolition.

Thereafter Old Bull and Bush was relocated adjacent to Nilgiris on Brigade Road.
“The students insisted that their Sanskrit professor Shri Narasimachar – a very pious and god fearing South Indian Brahmin with religious club markings on the forehead and a well grown and tidy tuft or kudami at the back – join them in the celebrations.
The professor took instant umbrage to the suggestion and even rebuked the students for taking undue liberty with him. He thundered, “How dare you people associate me with bars and alcohol!” and loudly exclaimed, “Oh God have mercy on these young souls!” The students would not take ‘no’ for an answer and told him that he should not play spoil sport. After all this was no ordinary day and they must celebrate. They told him, ‘At least come to the bar and you need not drink.’ After much cajoling the professor agreed to go along to ‘Old B and B’. Having reached the place and comfortably seated the students once again got after the professor and somehow convinced the old man to taste a drink. They all ordered a round of Scotch even though it was frightfully expensive – the occasion demanded it. All raised their glasses and drank a toast to the allied victory. The learned old man took a sip and yelled – “Ayooo paven! This is not scotch”.
After retirement from the navy I went to sea with the mercantile marine. There we did 45 days at sea and equal number of days at home. Seeing me home every day and always pottering in the kitchen, our new maid asked me “You don’t do any work?” to which I said “Yes, I work in a ship” to which she said “As a cook?” and I kept quiet. Later on a cousin of mine punned, “You should have said yes – as Captain Cook.”

I was to take over command of a major war vessel INS Dunagiri that morning. I was in the process of getting ready in the shore mess. I was still in my dhoti, with no vest. The door bell rang and I promptly folded the dhoti up and went and opened the door. There I found a very smart officer who had been sent to accompany me to the ship for the taking over ceremony. He surveyed the scene very carefully and looked me up and down and finally said “Sab ko bulao!’

It was December 1986 and National Junior School behind JVV was celebrating their annual day. My daughter was the Head Prefect and was commanding the parade. She had repeatedly told me not be late for the function. Dressed in a smart suit (‘PN Rao Since 1935’) I made an impressive entry. On seeing me, the cadet orderlies quickly came to attention, did an about turn and started marching towards the dais – yours truly behind them. Rest of the events unfolded with military precision – the bugle was sounded - the band started playing and all the parents stood up. The only two people desperately shouting, waving and gesticulating in all directions to stop the diabolical incident from happening were the principal and my very very embarrassed and red faced daughter. She refused to speak to me thereafter for a week.

Refusing to learn a lesson, I once again dressed up in a ‘PN Rao Since 1935’ creation and arrived at ‘Freedom International School’ where my dear wife is the principal, for their 1st year Independence Day celebrations. My wife with her military influence had placed a lookout to sight and report the arrival of the chief guest -Honarable Mr. Justice M.N.Venkatachaliah,Former Chief Justice of India. As per protocol I arrived a few minutes earlier and my driver Navin stopped the car and opened the door for me. As I entered the passage leading to the main assembly hall I saw a posse of teachers running helter - skelter and some saying “Why has he come so early - inform the principal”. The principal also rushed to the chaotic scene only to regain her calm and composure within a jiffy and say “oh don’t worry he is just my husband”. This time around I did not speak with my wife for a week.

My TV, party music and bar is located on the Northern side of my house. I have a very conservative and nosey South Indian Brahmin family as my neighbors. They have constantly complained about the music, parties, loud talk and the horrible smell of my Cuban cigars. If ever you meet them and ask about me, they are certain to picture me as sinful and depraved person.

World space was located in my bed room on the Southern side. I used to constantly play Shruthi, Jazz and Western Classical music. I also have my pooja mantelpiece fixed in the room. I do my pooja twice a day chanting Sanskrit shlokas and ringing the bell. The neighbors on the Southern side were all praise for my selection of excellent music and very impressed with my pious way of life.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Coffee Decoction Friends

"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Walk beside me and be my friend." - Albert Camus
I just cannot imagine a life without friends. We all start developing friends when we are tiny toddlers. Man is a social animal and is constantly on the lookout for companionship. We have all sorts of friends. We make friends in the neighborhood – chaddi dost, during our school and college days, at our work place, playing fields and when we travel and it goes on. Our journey on earth is like a river flow. It starts as a tiny drop somewhere and charts its own course and in the end reaches the sea and totally disappears. The river is not alone - along the way we make friends – like tributaries big and small they join us in the journey - all the time impacting our character and personality. Over a period of time, part of our body, mind and soul is shared by our friends. As we retire and settle down, we are finally left with a handful of good friends – like well percolated Coffee Decoction - with whom you wish to spend the rest of your life making merry.
All through my life I have been blessed with good friends and continue to have them – they help, criticize, bring you down to earth, cut you down to size and encourage you when you are down and out – they are capable of many things – most importantly they act as a security blanket – especially today. There is very little one can do in life and enjoy without friends.
So in Bangalore we make it a point to meet regularly in RSI, Golf course and each other houses once a month. We also go on short trips and picnics to indulge in a bit of bonhomie and elbow bending. Whenever outstation friends come to Bangalore we make it a point to meet up and enjoy an evening together.

It was our turn to host a get-together on 04 Sep 2010. We had the regular turn out - Sunder and Saroja, Prassu and Preet, Fali and Olive, KM and Sudhi, Pondi and Ragini, Rags and Meera. I had also invited Dore and Lalitha to join us.
Click on the photographs to view bigger image

Being teacher’s day some of the guests had ‘Teachers’ and others preferred G and B with a
dash of L. There was light hearted banter with KM, Prassu and Rags in the lead. Ragini says “I have never laughed so much and all this really makes me feel young”. One can party freely in the company of coffee decoction friends and let hair down without having to worry what others feel.

There was some serious discussion on ‘Right to Education’ act and KM felt we had little authority or experience to speak on education. The best part of the party is nobody remembers anything the next morning.
After a lot of Teaching, Blending and Pipering we all moved to the dining table.
Dinner was served and everyone seemed to enjoy the fare very much. There were many items on the menu but Bisi Bele Bath _BBB stood out. It is common in the Naval Mess to see PPK in the end of the menu card – meaning Papad, Pickle and Kuchumber. I am also reminded of Rags narration about people from NE of Bangalore – A hungry young boy comes home and asks his mother “what’s for lunch” the mother says “ B and B” the boy asks “what’s that” mother says “ Brinjal and Buggerall son”. BBB was prepared by the LOH and Meera was extra cautious and correctly complimented Jai and not me. Jai was ecstatic to be receiving compliments after a long time for her culinary effort and expertise. Next day Ragini rang up to find out the recipe for Methi sabji and Jai was truly pleased.
We all finally settled down to rest our feet and enjoy a bit of dessert. But the poor hand, had no rest, it had to firmly grip a spot of Eau-de-vie. As mid night approached we all bid good bye and decided to meet in KM and Sudhis house on 17 Oct 2010.
Until then cheers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trip to Coonor

This is a story I heard when I was young. There was this man his son and a donkey who were wanting go on a trip to the neighboring town. After much planning they all set out one behind the other. On the way they met a mendicant who stopped them and told the father “It’s very unfair on your part to make the young boy walk all the way – instead you should make him ride the donkey”. The old man thought for a while and let the boy ride. As they reached the next village a crowd gathered and the head man said “young man how can you ride the donkey when your father struggles to walk”. Hearing this advice, the boy quickly got down and let his father ride the donkey. Little further they stopped at a village shindig and were met by a soothsayer who had a totally different take on the method of transportation and said, "all of you must be barmy to have a donkey and not make use of it". So both the father and son rode the donkey for a while to be met by a stranger to be told that they were very cruel and had no consideration for the poor animal. So the last leg of their journey was made carrying the donkey.

When we decided to visit Shankar and Girija at Coonor it was only two of us and I thought going by a Volvo bus would be the best. It departs at 10 PM and reaches by 6 AM –it’s very comfortable, cheap and above all the journey is at night and one doesn’t lose a day travelling. When I was firming up the mode of transport Sunder called up to say that he and Saroja would also be interested in joining. I went back to the drawing board and offered many options to Sunder and in the final analysis we found that Volvo was the best option. I went to a nearby KSRTC franchise and booked four tickets to Coonor and back. Courtesy demanded I inform the Shankars’ about our plan and I rang up. They literally flew of the handle and said Volvo will not do as there are no taxis in Coonor and it would become very difficult for six of us to travel in their Honda City. After a few calls up and down, I went back to KSRTC and cancelled the ticket which I had booked only 15 minutes back. The girl at the counter thought I was completely batty. Some more deliberations and we decide to go by a taxi. I called up Mr. Satya who promised to send a new Travera. In the ensuing period we were visited by Shyam, Nair and Freddie on different days and advised to travel by own car.

Finally we left Bangalore at 0445 hours on 20 Aug 2010 from Jalvayu Towers in my Linea Emotion. There are a number of advantages in leaving town early. Roads devoid of traffic, no pollution and the freshness of early morning. We reached Kamath restaurant which is located on the left side at 0545 hours. We were the first customers and the staff bestowed upon us total attention. We were treated to steaming hot mude idli a specialty of Tulunadu.

Cooked in banana leaf

A treat

The leaves of ‘Mundevu Kedige’ is woven together and made into containers and idli batter is poured into it to prepare Mude-a menu in the Tulunadu plate. We also had excellent Ragi Dosa and proceeded on our next leg.

The drive through Bandipur and Madumalai forest is always full of anticipation and the eerie silence adds to the overall mystery. Ladies at the back insisted that we drive very slow and catch glimpses of any wildlife that may cross our path. Driving slow was in total contradiction to the overall strategic directive which had been jointly issued by Sunder and Shankar – “Make it to Coonor not later than 1200 hours” cannot keep the beer waiting. Under these conflicting requirements I had to choose a speed which met both the objectives. We were lucky to sight - bison, boar, elephant, deer and peacock.

Regular Sight

Many on the way

National Bird

The elephant is on the top - with Sunder and Saroja

The entire journey is so full of greenery, never ending range of hills and winding roads, it makes the task of driving so much more interesting and relaxing. Having lived in cities all our life, we have totally lost touch with nature and its immense beauty. In addition to nature’s bounty, Saroja kept us engrossed throughout with her anecdotes, Jokes and songs which made the journey look even shorter.

Without any further delay we reached the newly built bungalow of Shankar and Girija. They have built a picture perfect house in a record time of 8 months and moved into the house in February 2010. The gated colony is located on Coonor – Kothagiri Road. The colony is laid out within a tea plantation and overlooks a beautiful valley and a range of hills at a distance.

Admiral's Abode

Front View

Distant View

The village below

They have two lovely Dalmatians, mother Lara and daughter Polki. The dogs were used to living in huge bungalows in Lutyens' Delhi and the expanse of Command House in Port Blair. When Shankars retired from the navy they decided to shift to Coonor and build a house with lot of open space for the dogs to run around. They have done an excellent job. The dogs love the surroundings and often take off into the estate to chase wild boars, barking deer and rabbits.

The Shankars decided the design and interiors. They have created a house which is warm and cozy and one gets a feeling of quiet and calm. An excellent place to relax and reflect on life, read books, write, listen to jazz which streams endlessly from their study, indulge in barbeque at night and finally settle down to enjoy the aroma and taste of single malt. Bravo Zulu to Shankar and Girija.

Snitch in his den

With Lara and Polki

The dinning area

Gir preparing lunch

Lovely drawing room

Hills with their ample supply of fresh air and soothing surroundings helps to get back on your feet in no time. You feel energetic and full of life – long walks and treks are a way of life in the hills. An excellent lunch, siesta and thereafter a dinner at the Wellington Gymkhana Club ended our day. We sat outside absorbing the night view. The cloud cover would clear all of a sudden and the villages in the valley would come alive with their shining light. For a city dweller it’s a fascinating experience. Being one with nature for a long time, I suspect that people in the hills are different from us – healthier, calm and composed, all their actions are slow and steady, and they have more time, trusting and level-headed.
Next day was spent in visiting Ooty.

Ready to hit the town

Last day of our stay

Shankars took us to two excellent shoe shop ‘Splendid Leather’ and ‘Skins’. I ended up buying two pairs of shoes and wifey dear a leather bag at very reasonable price. I recommend anybody going to Ooty to visit these shops and buy a piece of leather. Incidentally all the shops in ooty display ‘Home Made Chocolates’ sign board – I have a strange feeling that there is a factory quietly making chocolates in bulk and selling it under the name of HMC. If you know where to buy, it’s worth every rupee. Of course you have to buy tea and oils such as Eucalyptus, Lemon grass for fragrance and Gaultheria for body pains and aches. We spent a quiet evening at home absorbing some more of Coonor.

Next morning after a heavy breakfast we thanked the Shankars for a lovely stay and bid goodbye, promising to come back soon and for a longer duration.