Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Goodbye 2015, Wishing all readers of my blog a happy 2016.Nagarahole,Navy Day, Killers Night, Night at the Museum, Deepavali, Barbeque on 24th night, Masnagudi and other stories.

Figure 1 - The Prabhakar clan - 31 Dec / 01 Jan 2016. Hugo the Lab joined us in Feb 2015

At the very outset I wish to thank all readers of my blog for continuing to visit ‘samundarbaba’. I take as much pride in writing for the blogs as you enjoy reading them. It is a matter of great satisfaction to know that ‘samundarbaba’ is read across 86 different countries.

2015- It was a very good year; I don’t mind joining Frank Sinatra in singing the song - provided the family permits. As usual we travelled a lot during the year. We visited Turkey, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia. It was a very interesting journey through these countries. Fortunately we visited them well before the refugee problem erupted. These countries have a lot to offer tourists. We went with very close friends and this makes an incredible difference. The trip becomes even more enjoyable when one travels with likeminded people. This year our internal travel was limited as we had to cancel Kaziranga at the last minute; instead we went to Cambodia and Vietnam. These countries offer a totally different experience. I have documented these trips in some detail in my blog - samundarbaba.blogspot.in

Among other things traveling, golf, grand parenting and cooking remain my most cherished activities in retirement.

2015 was a very special year for our children, Vivek and Shubhra. Chumbak added apparel to its portfolio by launching a fashion apparel line branded “Collection One” for men and women. It has been a remarkable success. They also plan to open 50 new retail outlets by the end of this year.
More than all this ‘Hugo’ the Lab joined Samara in Feb 2015 and has been the centre of attraction ever since then. Bow wow.

Figure 2 – Founders of Chumbak

Akhila and Anirban took time off from their busy schedule and went around Mumbai selecting a house to buy. Finally they decided to settle down in Pali Hill and moved into their own house during Deepavali. We went across to Mumbai to be with them for a very lovely house warming party. Anirban continues to be busy with CAAKWAN. Akhila was busy discovering new talents and interests within her. 

Figure 3 – A view of the new house from the drawing room

The grand children are growing up fast. Their need for the grandparents is slowly decreasing as they grow up. They have become very independent. Books have entered into the life of Ayaan and Samara in a very big way. Both have devoured the Harry Potter series and other books during the year. The twins are fun to watch and find great company in each other. But at night, before sleeping all of them without exception, come to Tata to listen to stories.

On the whole they had a whale of a time during the Christmas holidays in Bangalore and so did we.

Jayanti was busy throughout the year with the school. Freedom International School started 11th and 12th standard classes from this year. FIS completed 10 years this year.The school continues to grow in academics, sports and other extracurricular activities. This year’s piece de resistance was  undoubtedly their annual day play “Night at the Museum’. The play was loosely structured on the film by the same name directed by Shawn Levy and starring Ben Stiller and the late Robin Williams. 

The play was staged on two successive days and all the 1300 children of the school participated. The stage, lighting and acoustics were breathtaking and added to the overall effect. The children contributed their histrionic might, making it an incredibly memorable event. The audience sat captivated as history unfolded on the stage – from stone age to Nelson Mandela passing through Alexander the great and Porus, Abe Lincon, Mahatma Gandhi, 2nd World War, Moon Landing etc. Daughter dear wrote the script and made her directorial debut with a play of this magnitude for the very first time and emerged extremely successful. Many accolades went her way. The director of the school Mrs Sushama Rajesh Rao provided the all essential impetus and overall management.

Figure 4  -  A scene from ‘Stone Age’ period

Figure 5 – Julius Caesar holding court – Roman Empire

Figure 6Alexander the Great fighting Porus

Figure 7  - A paper mache creation of ‘T Rex’ made by the drivers of FIS – remarkable endevour.

Figure 8Mrs Sushama Rajesh Rao, Director of FIS appreciating Akhila’s effort as Jai is all smiles.

Figure 9  A very unique X – Mass tree displayed at Freedom International School

The Marine Commandos from Mumbai visited us in June for their summer vacation. The local GI Jane joined them in right earnest. Visits to Bannerghatta National Park, the Planetarium, a trip to Nagarahole and other local activities kept them well occupied. As they grow older, a detailed plan needs to be put in place to occupy their free time.

Figure 10Two Leopards sun bathing on a rock. Bannerghatta National Park

Figure 11Two sloth Bears fight on the road. Bannerghatta National Park

Figure 12Can’t get any closer. Bannerghatta National Park

Akhila organized a wonderful birthday party for the twins on 02 July. 

Figure 13All the children at the twins’ birthday party.

Figure 14Cake of their choice – Agastya and Aarin. Wild Kratts on the Left and Chris and Martin on the right.

All of us went to Sushama’s yet to be officially inaugurated wild life resort ‘Wilderness Retreat’ near Nagarahole.  It was a great experience for all of us – the children loved being in the midst of nature, sleeping in tented accommodation, safaris, feeding goats, bonfire and a whole lot of wilderness all around. They could not have asked for anything more. It was a lovely holiday. Thanks, Sushama. 

Figure 15At the entrance - under construction

Figure 16Akhila in front of a deluxe cottage

Figure 17Samara with the goat, as Anees and Akhila look on.

Figure 18Akhila and Sushama with the children on top of the viewing platform.

Figure 19An elephant encounter on the way. This one is known to be troublesome.

Figure 20A group of deer

Figure 21 – Jai, Sushama and Akhila all pleased

Figure 22Cottages hidden in the rich flora and fauna

Figure 23Bye bye ‘Wilderness Retreat’

This year I decided to attend the ‘Navy Day’ celebrations in Mumbai on 04 Dec. This day has a special meaning for all of us; especially to those who served in the ‘Killer Squadron’ which attacked maritime assets off Karachi on the night of 04 Dec 1971.I was a young ‘Killer’ on board INS Nashak as a Missile Officer during this historic occasion. After the ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony at the Gate Way of India, the Killers met at the USO Club to unwind and slide down the memory lane. Meeting old wartime mates after a long break was a very emotional and heart rending event. Long live the Killers.

Figure 24 - Naval Band at Gate Way of India as the Governor of Maharashtra watches the show

Figure 25A Seaking helicopter demonstrating commando slithering.

Figure 26The ‘Killers’ from 1971 at USO club, Mumbai

This year’s Christmas barbecue party was a big hit and the children enjoyed running around, eating chicken and generally keeping the place alive. Unlike previous years there was no carry forward to the next day. Finally I have settled down to cutting the chicken into eight pieces and allowing three pieces per head.

After a hectic night the kids woke up late next morning to be greeted by the gifts Santa had bought for them.

Figure 27Mighty pleased with the gifts.

As a part of our end of the year family outing we decided to visit ‘Jungle Hut’ located in Masnagudi. When going with children, it is very important to select a place which is children friendly. Ideally the resort should be close to a beach or a forest. Children love to spend time in a swimming pool and run around and play outdoors. Located at an altitude of 3000 meters Jungle Hut is an excellent property for a getaway from Bangalore. We left Bangalore at 0630 h to beat the Bangalore chaotic traffic. After a sumptuous breakfast enroute at Kamath’s, we landed at the hut around noon – nothing more invigorating than a glass of chilled beer.

The property is located on a 20 acre area amidst abundant greenery. The majestic Nilgiri hills overlooks the resort providing an enticing backdrop. The open space, salubrious climate and the quiet atmosphere is a great change from the noisy city life. The early morning weather was ideal for walks and treks. The sun picks up and becomes sharp as the day progresses exhorting the adults to seek shelter in the shade for some serious elbow bending, whilst the children splash around in the pool in gay abandon.

All the meals were delectable – the food was extremely tasty and there was a wide variety of dishes to suit everyone’s gastronomical urges. Lot of planning, care and concern appears to have gone into this culinary exercise.  
As the sunsets the bon fire is lit and the guests slowly gather around the fire to sit and chat. The crackling of cinder, clicking of glasses, mesmerizing jungle rumblings and occasional sighting of deers make the night all the more enchanting.

However the biggest contribution in making the resort truly remarkable comes from the owners – Vikram and Anu Shree. The V and AS combo, work tirelessly in creating a very cordial and homely atmosphere in the resort. They make it point to mix with guests and chit chat, making the whole ambiance friendly and vibrant.  Their smile and eagerness to help is contagious and goes a long way in creating a good deal of bonhomie.

Figure 28 – The proud owners of Jungle Hut – Anu Shree and Vikram

We stayed in a secluded and independent bungalow some distance from the main resort. We were dropped and picked up for all the meals. We also managed to go on a safari one night as news of a ‘big cat’s’ presence near our resort reached us.

We really enjoyed the outing and promised to return. 

Figure 29 The lovely bungalow we stayed in. 2BHK an ideal place for a family. Right in the middle of nowhere.


Figure 30View of the Nilgiris from the bungalow

Figure 31Akhila and Anirban enjoying nature. A lovely place to catch up on reading, long walks, doing nothing just taking in lungs full of fresh air and enjoying the solitude the place offers.

Figure 32Masti masters in the tree house

Figure 33Akki with Agastya all happy

Figure 34Enjoying- simply

Figure 35A typical Jungle Hut cottage

Figure 36Kids in the pool

Figure 37Relaxing after a swim

Figure 38Petting a young calf

Figure 39Collecting firewood on the trek


Figure 40Did you enjoy Jungle Hut – their signs and smile says it all


Figure 41Shubhra and samara – totally pleased

The year ended with a quiet family evening at home. We all sat around the bon fire remembering the year gone by and ushering in 2016 the New Year. 

Figure 42The bonfire on 31st night

Figure 43Letting go 2015