Monday, January 3, 2011

WISHING ALL READERS OF MY BLOG - A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR.Partying in Coonor,Kodagu,Turtle Bay and Munnar


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December is an excellent month. Weather is great all over India and I am sure everyone looks forward to winter. Good weather brings cheer to everyone; people are friendlier, less aggressive, more tolerant and generally well behaved. Anyone who has been through a Delhi summer at 43*C, I lived there for ten years, will agree, that Delhites are better people in winter. Bangalore is blessed with lovely weather throughout the year, but December is lovely – especially this year, due to depression in the Bay of Bengal and cold North Easterly winds, there is an extra nip in the air. Bangalore has remained overcast with occasional light rain. It’s a pleasure to go for a walk in the morning with lot of mist in the air. The afternoon temperature has been around 16*C to 18*C.

There are a lot of things, one can do in winter. It gives you an opportunity to dress well – as we say ‘suited and booted’. Suits and combinations are very much visible in the clubs and military messes, while catching a bit of sun and sipping a horse’s neck. I can well imagine a Shillong winter. My daughter describes her husband’s 92 year old ‘Boramma’ (grandmother) every now and then sitting in a different place in their garden “like a sunflower, following the sun for warmth” she further adds “Night descends on inky blanket with a million twinkling stars. The silence that accompanies the crisp air and cold chill….” Very romantic indeed. But in Bengaluru, moment the temperature drops slightly, Bangaloreians are the first to wear their colorful monkey caps and sweaters of various hues and colours. Tibetan shops spring up all over town selling winter clothing. Surprisingly they all speak good Kannada, having been brought up in Tibetan colony in Bylakuppe near Mysore. A lesson for others who have chosen to settle down in karnataka – learn a new language – it enriches your lives. We have spent our best winters in Delhi – under a Jaipuri Razai (quilt), soaking up the sun and having piping hot chai, picnics to the Zoo, Rail Bhavan, Buddha Jayanti National Park, lazy afternoon in Kotah House having beer and biryani and much more.

Eating habits changes all over India in the winter and some of the dishes which take precedence over others are – Bhutta or Corn on the Cob - Muskin Jola for Bangaloreians, Gajar ka halwa (Carrot Pudding), Masala Dosa (Pancake made from rice and black gram), Hot Tandoori Chicken, Makke Di Roti and Sarson Ka Saag (mustard leaves curry and maize flatbread),Channa Bhatura,Alu Tikki, Onion Pakodas (fritters), Hot Idly and Vada Sambhar (savory cake made from rice and black gram with spicy vegetable stew) and decoction coffee. Unlike polar bears, which hibernate in winters, we end up eating more.

Figure 1 - Cat basking in the sun on top of a water tank in our colony

Picnics to ‘Cubbon Park and Lalbagh’ are a common pastime for the city dwellers. The landscape also changes a lot. Beginning November to March, the bright flowers of Tabebuia, Sampige, African Tulip and Jacaranda add a new and colorful dimension to Bangalore’s skyline.

Figure 2 - Tabebuia in full bloom – Cubbon Park – we have four Tabebuia trees in our colony

Come 22nd of December, all schools close for Christmas holidays, office goers and government staff proceed on long leave till the end of the year. News papers are full of adverts for Christmas and New Year parties, discount sales, out of town holidays and the whole city gets into party mood. There is lot of bonhomie and goodwill all around. During this season, nothing to beat the atmosphere of Goa, it’s simply fantastic. In our family it’s time for reunions. My wife who is a principal of a school gets a long break from her hectic schedule, daughter dear with hubby and their children arrive on the 24th, son and DIL take leave and the merriment starts in right earnest.

Christmas has long ceased to be a purely religious function – today it is celebrated by many non Christians as a week of fun and frolic. One look at the advert, which I received the other day in my mail box, will tell you, what Christmas is all about in Kamannahalli – Bangalore, where I stay.

Figure 3 - Santa better watch out. You have competition from someone named Cruz. He can even place a necklace, where there is no neck!!!!

Every year without fail, we light up a Christmas tree and have a barbeque party. My wife, who loves singing and music, joins the local choir for singing Christmas carols. With my huge stomach and loud voice – I am an ideal choice for Santa. I have been Santa several times for my children and now for my grand children. Believe me, its lot of fun.

Figure 4 - 1988 Bangalore with children, brother and MIL

Figure 5 - 2008 with grandson - Bangalore

Figure 6 - Barbeque on Christmas night - 2010

Come 29th the whole extended family – meaning us, son, DIL, daughter, SIL, grand children and at times the ‘Sambhandis’ (children’s in laws)go out of town for the new year. The very act of planning, coordination, disagreements, battles, bookings, cancellations and the actual travel makes these trips extremely enjoyable and memorable.

Both our children got married in a span of two days in August 2005. Our trip to Coonor in Dec 2006 was great and nine of us stayed at the Dunmore House which was established during the British rule as the Naval Hydrographic Drawing Office (NHDO). Subsequently, after independence, NHDO shifted to Dehradun and Dunmore House was converted into a holiday home for serving and retired Naval Officers. The weather, old world charm of the cottage, excellent food prepared by khansama (master chef) Mr Philip, dumb charade after dinner and a spot of Remy Martin followed by a lovely Cuban cigar, was the routine.

Figure 7 - Daughter with a friend - Dunmore House

Figure 8 - Pykara lake - Naval sailing club – Coonor

Figure 9 - Tea estate Coonor - DIL, D and hubby

2007 New Year belonged to Kodagu (Anglicized by the British as Coorg). We went and stayed in ‘The Nest’ – Home Stay. We had a rollicking time and our entire stay was one long party- cocktails by the camp fire, lovely Kodagu food such as Pandi curry (Pork) which my Sambhandis from Shillong loved it, Kadambuttu (steamed rice dumplings). The Nest is a warm and friendly home stay and the credit goes to its owners Sagar and Asha. We visited the Tibetan colony in Bylakuppe and Dubare elephant camp to show my grandson Pachyderm at close quarters. These holidays are great opportunities for bonding.

Figure 10 - The Nest

Figure 11 – Bylakuppe Golden temple and Monastery -2007

Figure 12 - New Year revelry. Daughter with her SIL

Figure 13 - Jai with grandson – The Nest 2007

The New Year of 2008 at the Turtle Bay resort was one of our most enjoyable trips. The resort is located at Tarsi, close to Kundapur on the Western sea board on Mangalore – Karwar highway. The resort has a lovely private beach, excellent Manglorean style sea food and lots of swimming. The manager, Suresh, looked after us very well. The weather in December is mild and one can enjoy the sea to maximum. Be it swimming, underwater diving, boat rides, lovely massage, catching a tan, dusk and dawn walks on the beach, shell collection or making sand castles, there is always something to do for everyone – reasons galore to be there for the New Year.

Figure 14 - Shacks on the beach front

Figure 15 - Beach off Turtle Bay

Figure 16 - Beach Front off Turtle Bay

The following year in 2009 we went to the Munnar, a beautiful hill town, with tea plantations, lakes, forests and winding walks. Located at an altitude of 1,829 m, it is home to South India's highest peak called Anamudi, standing 2,695 m tall. We stayed at the High Range club started by British planters in 1905. Their website describes the stay vey aptly “The distinguished Gentleman’s Lounge transports the visitor back in time to re-live an era long since past of swirling cigar smoke, dimly lit corners, period furniture surrounded by the hats of the pioneering planters who painstakingly fashioned Munnar and its Plantations into what they are today”. An unforgettable trip.

Figure 17 - High Range Club 2009

Figure 18- Walk in the club 2009

Figure 19 - Mattupeety Lake Munnar - 2009

Figure 20 – Son, DIL and GD at High Range - 2009

Figure 21 - Bonding with GD

When the entire clan is in Bangalore, we conduct ‘Satyanarayana Pooja’ (Thanks giving) every year. A beautiful way to end the year. I perceive it as showing gratitude to the almighty God for looking after us and acknowledging his divine presence in all facets of our life. This year it’s even more important. Here, I will deviate from the script a little bit.

One morning when going to the office in November 2009, I received a call from my daughter – she was talking, crying, laughing, happy, scared and expressing a host of other emotions all at once, “ baba I went to the doctor this morning and he told me I am carrying twins”. I assured her that “it was an act of god and he has specially chosen you because you are a very good mother”. My wife’s grandmother was one of twin- if that’s any reason. Under doctor’s advice, she decided to stay put in Mumbai and deliver the twins at the Lilavati hospital. As the pregnancy progressed she became huge and on 06 July 2010 around 1130 AM, she delivered two lovely boys. She has now three boys and husband dear, making her a true ‘Queen Bee’. This year also, we were planning to go somewhere nearby for the New Year, but decided against it, as the twins – ‘Port and Starboard’ are too small.

Namakarna (Baptism, Christening). The naming ceremony of the new born. Nama means – name and Karana – meaning ‘to make’ or ‘to effect’. All the near and dear ones are invited to the function and amidst all the gaiety and goodwill, the children are placed in a cradle which is appropriately decorated for the function. The priest narrates suitable shlokas relevant to the occasion and the parents, followed by the grandparents, whisper the selected name into the ear of the child. So on 27th December 2010 at about 1230 h the twins were named ‘Agastya’ - after the famous sage who spread Vedic religion South of the Vindhayas and ‘Aarin’ meaning a mountain of strength, also means ‘a person without enemies’. In addition all children are also named Gundappa (strong and round like a stone) and Jeevappa (one who lives long). The twins joined a long line of A – Anirban, Akhila and Ayaan the first born.

Names are very important. My daughter’s MIL – Rita once narrated a very interesting episode which happened in their SBI Shillong Branch (State Bank of India). She along with another officer, who happened to be from Karnataka, was responsible for disbursing loan to local Khasi people. At the end of the day, her colleague noted that a lot of people from ‘Imtip’ family had taken loan. Rita burst out laughing, as ‘Imtip’ in Khasi means ‘I don’t know’. That was their standard reply to the question – What is your name?

This year has been very eventful, with Agastya and Aarin joining the family. Akhila has managed the twins very well. My GS- Ayaan and GD- Samara joined school this year. My son Vivek and DIL Shubhra opened their new firm- ‘Chumbak’ at this year and have dug in their heel well in the market. My Son in Law, Anirban’s new firm- ‘Kwan’ at /- is already a year old and well established. Freedom International School - at where my wife is the principal, is well into their fifth year.

As for me, this was my first year of retirement and when I look back, I think, I have managed fairly well. The blog is already seven months old. Blogging has become my hobby and obsession – I really take pleasure in writing. The fact that the blog has a very wide readership, gives me a high and a sense of satisfaction which is totally new. I wish to thank all the readers for visiting my blog and hope you enjoyed reading it, as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
Happy New Year, once again from all of us.

Figure 22 - All the GC - Ayaan, Samara, Agastya and Aarin


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