Category: Heritage

The Indian Monsoon

Monsoon Western Ghats
Photo by Satyan Chawla on Unsplash

The Indian Monsoon is considered as one of the biggest and most important weather systems on the planet. This is an eagerly anticipated event every year. By the end of May, with most of the country sweltering under the scorching sun, the eyes of the nation turn towards the South West, waiting for the first signs of the arriving rains.

The monsoons usually hit the mainland of India (the state of Kerala in the South West) on the 1st of June and makes it way steadily northwards to encompass the whole of the country by early July. June 10th is when it hits my home town of Mumbai.

Growing up in this city, I used to dread the arrival of the rains, bringing as it does long periods when the sun is obscured by dark, grey clouds. It did not help that the onset of the rains coincided with school reopening. Trust me, it is not fun to walk through school in the pouring rain and having to stay in class with wet uniforms, backpacks and, sometimes, damp books.

My feelings did not really change after I finished education and started to work. Other than the fact that school was replaced by office, everything else remained the same – commuting in the rains, having to make ones way through the crowds of umbrellas while trying not to step into puddles, having to spend hours in the air conditioned office with wet clothes and socks, the very thought depresses me!

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The rains bring renewal. I stayed at the foothills of Mulund hills and it was always fascination to observe the almost immediate transformation of the barren brown hills to lush green ones. Not to mention monsoon treks in the Western ghats (and the occasional holidays due to heavy rains and flooding!).

A few years older, and I have become a bit more accepting of this annual occurrence. It is a big change from the almost monotonous weather during the rest of the year (in many parts of India). It plays a very important role in irrigating the land and filling up the water reserves that sustain 1.5+ billion people and wildlife. I won’t go so far as to say that I enjoy this season, but I have definitely begun to appreciate it!

 

The King of Fruits

Varieties of Indian Mangoes
Varieties of Indian Mangoes, and other fruits

I am talking about the Mango, the undoubted King of Fruits, in my humble opinion. This is a fruit native to India (as highlighted by its scientific name, Mangifera indica). The best part of an Indian summer is the pleasure of consuming the different varieties of juicy and tasty Indian mangoes.

The start of this year’s season was severely impacted by the Covid pandemic crisis. For a while, there was huge uncertainty on whether we would even get to consume any mangoes this year. But then, the logistics slowly started opening up. Many farmers started supplying directly to apartment complexes. And because of the collapse of exports, the prices have been reasonable.

The first mangoes we consumer this season were Raspuris and Sindooris. This was followed by one of the varieties most commonly available in Bangalore – Banganapalli or Bemisal. We then started receiving regular supplies of the prized Alphonso varieties, but at very good rates. Next in line was the glorious Imampasand, possibly the best variety we have had this year. This was followed by Badami and Mallika.

Each of the varieties has unique flavour characteristics. While Alphonsos are usually considered the King of Mangoes, this year we were exposed to other varieties that are equally, if not more, delicious.

It’s a shame that most of the outside world do not know about the varieties of Indian mangoes. I came across this interesting article that explains more about this King of Fruits. Happy reading, and happy mango eating!

Mangoes
Photo by Gowri Subramanya on Unsplash

My Saharan Africa Bucket List

Mauritania
Photo by Daniel Born on Unsplash

The Sudan region, along with the countries to the West and South of The Sudan, is possibly the one part of the World that I would most like to visit, at some point. Here are a few places in this region that intrigue me:

Mali – Who’s not heard of Timbuktu? For a long time, I wasn’t sure that such a place actually existed. And ever since I discovered that this is a real place, I have always wanted to visit it. Djenne, for its Grand Mosque and the capital city of Bamako are the other places that I would like to visit.

Mauritania – Definitely off the beaten track is this large West African nation with an Atlantic coastline. It has a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Ouadana, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata that would be great to visit, in addition to the Banc d’Arguin National Park and the capital city of Nouakchott.

NigerAgadez for its Grand Mosque and the intriguingly named W National Park would be the places I would like to visit in this country.

Burkina Faso – I have a friend whose family was associated with this country for a while, and that’s possibly one of the reasons that I would like to visit it. Bobo-Dioulasso and the ruins of Loropeni seem like interesting places to visit.

My North Africa Bucket List

Man and Donkey, Fes, Morocco
Photo by Vince Gx on Unsplash

It’s a continent that I have never visited. And eagerly looking forward to doing so someday…

Egypt: I would start my North Africa visit with the country with one of the oldest civilisations in the World. Of course, it will be great to visit the Pyramids of Giza. But I would be just as excited to visit the ancient monuments along the banks of the Nile at places such as Luxor, Edfu and Aswan. I am also curious to see Alexandria – pictures reveal a city with similarities to my home town – Mumbai.

Tunisia: Another country with links to ancient Rome. Tunis, Carthage, El Jem and Dougga would be the places on my itinerary here.

Algeria: I must confess that this country, the largest in Africa, was not originally on my list of countries to visit. But a casual online read has piqued my curiosity sufficiently enough to add it to my list. Algiers, Oran and Constantine look like interesting places to visit. I would also like to experience Tamanrasset in the far south.

Morocco: Marrakesh, Fes, Casablanca, Tangier – the places in Morocco roll of the tongue conjuring images of the exotic. A country that I would love to visit!

 

Google Arts & Culture

red art relaxation girl
Photo by Una Laurencic on Pexels.com

I came across this site yesterday and spent an enjoyable time on it.

What is Google Arts & Culture?

This is what the ‘About’ section of the website states:

“Google Arts & Culture is a non-profit initiative. We work with cultural institutions and artists around the world. Together, our mission is to preserve and bring the world’s art and culture online so it’s accessible to anyone, anywhere.”

The initiative’s pitch to museums and cultural institutions is “We can help digitize, manage, and publish your collection online, for free. With our easy-to-use tools, your stories can be told beautifully to a global audience.”

In classic Google style, they present the results of these to the end user in a simple, elegant and beautiful manner. It definitely helps that they are presently leading with an article on the “Sphinx of Delft” – the Dutch master, Vermeer.

Scroll further down and you can explore architecture, food, music as well as indulge in virtual travel. There are also articles exploring concepts in science.

I have only just started scratching the surface of this and look forward to spending more time exploring it further!