Month: October 2019

The Northeast Monsoon (or Longing for the Sun)

Rainy days

People who know me well know about my indifferent attitude to rain. I believe this is in no small part due to having grown up in Mumbai. The tribulations of going to school (and later, office) in a torrential downpour, leading to spending the day in wet clothes and shoes have possibly scarred me for life! Of late, though, I have gone from a dislike of rains to indifference. What else could explain the fact that I spent 5 years in UK and Ireland and actually enjoyed it (including the notorious weather)!

The reason for this post today is to rant a bit about the weather in Bangalore over the past few months. The rainy season in Bangalore typically starts in May, with the onset of pre-monsoon rains (they are definitely more than showers). It then continues through the normal monsoon period, though being in the rain shadow zone of the Western Ghats, it does not see the torrential rains of the West Coast. However, unlike in most parts of India, the rains do not stop in late September, early October, but continues intermittently well into winter. This is the effect of the second rainy weather system in India, the Northeast Monsoon.

This feature of our annual weather patterns is not very well known in most parts of India, who typically experience the rains only from June / July to September / October. However, the Northeast monsoon is the primary monsoonal system in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, as opposed to the Southwest monsoon, which is the primary rain giver to most other parts of India. The Northeast monsoon’s impact also extends to parts of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

What this is all means is that it is still raining regularly in Bangalore, and might continue to do so for the next couple of months as well. This means that we would end up experiencing regular, if not particularly heavy, rains for almost 8 months of the year! I thought I had left this pattern of almost year-long rains when I moved back to India, but it seems that the weather I left behind has decided to follow me to India! In fact, I woke up this morning to scenes that reminded me a lot of Dublin, albeit with much more pleasant temperatures! And while I enjoyed this weather in UK and Ireland, I am longing for the brightness and warmth of the sun now!

As I write this, the sun has decided to peek out from between the grey clouds. But it’s a weak, watery sunshine that is almost mocking in nature! The months from November to early March is usually the best weather in India, with (typically) plenty of sunshine and pleasant temperatures. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case in Bangalore this year 😦

Pallikoodam – school near Kottayam

I recently came across an article that spoke about a school in Kerala, designed by the eminent architect, the late Laurie Baker.

Originally from England, Laurie Baker settled down in Kerala, finally becoming an Indian citizen in 1988. He received numerous awards in his lifetime, including a Padma Shri and a nomination for the Pritzker Prize. His style was to incorporate local elements to design buildings in an environmentally sustainable fashion.

I hadn’t realised, though, that one of his works included a school. Reading further, it turns out that the school was started by Mary Roy, a social activist who, incidentally, is also the mother of famous author, Arundhati Roy.

Interestingly, one of the conditions that Laurie Baker imposed while agreeing to the project, was that Mary should admit his daughter into the school!

Photos on the school’s website reveal structures with a red-brick frontage. They have numerous small holes to let air and light in, a typical Laurie Baker design.

Located near Kottayam town in Southern Kerala, this is a little know piece of architecture that might be worth checking out if you are in the region.

The Geography of Culture

No sooner had I finished writing my previous article on the Geography of History than I came across a few articles that explore the Geography of Culture:

  1. A Painter on a Paris Pilgrimage – This article wonderfully explores the key role of Paris in the art movement of the last 19th and early 20th Centuries. I wish I had read about this before my visit to this City of Light. I had stayed very close to Montparnasse and would have loved to visit some of the places mentioned in this article.
  2. Sleuthing Through Feluda’s Kolkata – While Satyajit Ray is more famous globally as a cinema director, his books are equally famous in India. In this article, the author explores the different places in Kolkata mentioned in Satyajit Ray’s books about Feluda, the detective.
  3. Where James Bond Was Born – Though I cannot really be considered a fan of the famous British spy, I did not know till I read this article about the Portuguese connection that led to Ian Fleming creating the famous character.





The Geography of History

Historical Map

As a school student, Geography was my favourite subject. I used to (and still like to) spend time poring over a map, locating geographical features, studying the various places, etc. More recently, I have started developing a greater interest in History. And one of the topics that fascinates me is trying to understand the geographical features of places that feature prominently in History.

Is there anything in the geography of Italy that inspired the Renaissance? Or the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe? Going further back, what about all the great historical kingdoms of Southern India that spread their influence right across South East Asia? These are some of the questions that fascinate me.

So it was interesting to come across this interview with William Dalrymple, the historian who has written a series of books about the recent history of India. In this interview, he speaks about why it is important for him to visit the places that are to feature in the books he is working on.

I believe it will be an interesting topic to explore further and intend to dedicate some time on this. Let’s see how far I get!


Kalsi – Emperor Ashoka’s Rock Edict

I am familiar with the Rock Edicts of Emperor Ashoka, having been fortunate to have seen the one at Girnar in Gujarat. However, I happened to come across an article recently that mentioned another of Ashoka’s rock edicts, located in a place that I had not even heard the name of until then (I love my geography and traveling, so consider myself reasonably well aware of place names in India).

Kalsi is a small village in Uttarakhand state, located about 30 kilometres to the north of Dehradun (as the crow flies), very close to the bordering state of Himachal Pradesh. The village lies at the confluence of the Yamuna and Tons rivers. The rock edict of Ashoka located here is unique in that it’s the only major rock edict located in present-day North India.

Of the 14 major rock edicts in existence today, 3 are located outside present-day India (1 in Afghanistan and 2 in Pakistan). The rest are distributed across Western, Southern and Eastern India and can be found in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, and the one in Kalsi, Uttarakhand.

Online research reveals a few articles that talk about this specific Rock Edict. It is believed to have been built around 450 BC, making it nearly 2,500 years old! Online pictures reveal the edict to be covered with a dome shaped monument, surrounded by well-maintained lawns at the foothills of the Himalayan range. It looks a very peaceful place.

Google Maps reveals only a little over 350 reviews for the monument, so this is clearly a very off-the-beaten-track place. I would like to think of this as a very important part of our cultural heritage and would be great if more people discover this valuable part of our history.