Category: Heritage

An Ode to Mangoes

There was a post recently on a Social Media group that I am part of which spoke of the Mango season coming to an end with the arrival of ‘Neelam’ mangoes in the market.

For most Indians, summer equates to mangoes. I was one of the fortunate ones growing up in that we used to travel to our ‘native place’ in the summer to spend time with grand parents, uncles and aunts and cousins. This, for us, was Kerala. And one of the fond memories of that time was spending time outdoors, playing under and on mango trees, and, goes without saying, plucking and eating fresh mangoes.

As I recollect, there were a couple of mangoes that we used to eat. One was juicy and fibrous that just had to be eaten by hand. And the other was green and tangy which was best cut open with a knife and eaten with salt and chilly powder. Yum!

As I grew older and trips to Kerala reduced, the raw earthy delights of childhood were replaced by city experiences. We used to wait for the price of ‘Hapus’ or Alphonso mangoes to come down to a more acceptable level before buying a box or two. And staying in Mumbai meant that ‘Aamras’ was never very far away!

This annual ritual came to an end when we moved abroad for a few years. While mangoes were regularly available and consumed, it was just not the same experience (and taste).

We moved back to India 3 years ago and it’s only now, in what is the third summer since we came back, that I feel that I am back into the annual rhythm of life here. This summer, I took a train journey to my ‘home town’, which is now Mumbai. Enjoyed delicious mangoes and mango foods (Aamras, mango ice cream, mango milk shake, mango pickle). Started to understand and appreciate the different varieties of this glorious fruit – Badami, Bainganapalli, Mallika, Sindoori being just a few of the ones consumed this season!

So as the season comes to a close, it’s time to say good-bye and thank you to this most delicious of fruits and wait patiently for the season to come around again in nine months’ time!

 

A visit to Pench National Park

I visited Pench National Park a couple of weekends ago along with a few friends. It was my first pure National Park trip after 10 years and something I was eagerly looking forward to.

My first impressions of Nagpur were positive – clean, peaceful airport, good roads, metro construction happening apace.

Pench straddles Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. And on the absolutely wonderful road from Nagpur, we were at our resort in about a couple of hours. The National Highway has regular elevated stretches so wildlife can cross underneath, avoiding unfortunate accidents. I wonder if any studies have been done to understand the impact of this on wildlife – do they use the tunnels or still attempt to cross the road?

The resort was small, with A/C tented accommodation. It is located a few minutes away from Kharsapar, the entrance to Pench National Park from the Maharashtra side. We left for our first safari immediately after lunch.

We quickly settled into a routine – wake up early (around 4:30), leave for the morning safari that starts at 6:15, end the safari by 10:30, come back to the resort to rest and refresh, have lunch, leave for the afternoon safari around 2 pm, come back around 7 pm, refresh, relax and have dinner.

We did 8 safaris in total, which in the end, proved one too many for me. The hectic itinerary, heat and cold, oily food meant that I fell ill by the last day and took a couple of days to recover after reaching home.

But it was a very fulfilling trip. I spotted over 75 species of birds (full list in the next post), a tigress, two one year old tiger cubs, a jungle cat, mongooses, sambar and chital deer, herds of gaur and some nilgai.

It was interesting to view the difference in landscape between the Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh sides of Pench. While the Maharashtra side is dryer and rockier, the Madhya Pradesh side is visibly greener. The wide open patches along the Pench river were especially scenic.

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The other interesting thing for me was to see that most of the guides were locals who were earlier living in or near the National Park. It was also heartening to see many women guides. I would definitely recommend Pench for anyone wanting to visit a typical Central Indian jungle – the setting of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’

Bird watching at Hebbal Lake

It’s been a while since I have indulged in my hobby for bird watching. So it was with some excitement that I made my way to Hebbal Lake on Sunday to join the bird watching session organised by Bngbirds every first Sunday of the month at Hebbal Lake, to the north of Bangalore.

Hebbal Lake is a fair distance away from where I live in Bangalore, but thanks to the reasonable efficient bus transport, I was able to reach it comfortably and inexpensively.

It was a cold, quiet morning with surprisingly few people around, even at 7:30 am. We were a diverse group of 10 and observed birds from the periphery of the lake for about a couple of hours.

The list of birds seen:

  1. Great Cormorant
  2. Little Cormorant
  3. Darter
  4. Purple Heron
  5. Indian Pond Heron
  6. Cattle Egret
  7. Median Egret
  8. Little Egret
  9. Oriental White Ibis or Black Headed Ibis
  10. Northern Pintail
  11. Spot-billed Duck
  12. Black Kite
  13. Brahminy Kite
  14. Shikra
  15. Booted Eagle
  16. White-breasted Waterhen
  17. Purple Moorhen
  18. Common Sandpiper
  19. Asian Koel
  20. White-breasted Kingfisher
  21. House Crow
  22. Jungle Crow
  23. Red-throated (Taiga?) Flycatcher
  24. Blyth’s Reed-Warbler
  25. Great Tit
  26. Tickell’s Flowerpecker
  27. Purple-rumped Sunbird
Hebbal Lake
Hebbal Lake
Hebbal Lake 2
Flowering tree – Hebbal Lake

Mumbai

Born and brought up in Mumbai, I must admit that I still have a fondness for the city, even though I have not lived there now for over 10 years. Having lived in many cities around the globe, I do genuinely believe that it’s a global / world city. Natural beauty, culture and heritage, food, mix of people from all walks of life, the city has it all.

I spent Diwali in Mumbai, the first time in a few years that I got the chance to spend about a week in the city. Yes, the city has changed and will continue to do so, but it felt like many things are for the better. There is massive construction work going on which is disrupting traffic, but at the end of it, Mumbai should have a world class metro system in place, even if many years late. Juhu Beach was the cleanest I have ever seen it, roads seemed in good condition (except for the construction work for the metro). Public transport was as good as ever. I am presently living in Bangalore, and one of the most fascinating things about Mumbai transport is the fact that you can hail an auto or taxi from the street and they will run on the meter and even give you back Rs. 1 in change!

The food as always, was fantastic, especially the street food. I am yet to find as delicious chaats such as Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, not to mention Vada Pav as the ones you will find at any roadside stall in Mumbai.

The only downside to Mumbai (other than the omnipresent crowds) is the weather. And yes, it was hot and humid even in early November. But for everything else that the city offers, I am willing to live with it!

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Have you spent time in Mumbai? What are your thoughts?

Nandi Hills

Nandi Hills is one of the more popular day trip destinations from Bangalore. Though I had visited this a couple of times during my first stint in Bangalore, we had never made it here in the two and a half year since we moved back to the garden city. So when we were discussing places for a day trip the other day, we decided to visit Nandi Hills.

We hired a car from Zoomcar and drove down the Devenahalli highway. After a stop for a late breakfast soon after the airport exit, we arrived at Nandi Hills around noon. It was an overcast day and quite cool atop the hill, which made for a pleasant afternoon.

We visited the standard tourist places – the lookouts, Yoga Nandishwara temple, Tipu’s Drop and the Amrith Sarovar. The last was a pleasant surprise – a stepped pond surrounded by thick greenery with a walkway around it. Tipu’s ‘Summer Palace’ is also located here.

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After a late lunch at the base of Nandi Hills, we went to pay respects to one of India’s greatest engineers – M Visvesaraya. Located at Muddenahalli village a few kilometres from Nandi Hills is the house where he was born and a neat, well maintained memorial. The house itself now contains a small museum dedicated to his life.

Finally, on the way back, we stopped at what I consider an absolute must-visit while in Bangalore – the Bhoga Nandishwara temple. I have written about it earlier and delighted to say that the second visit was as memorable as the first.