Category: Lifestyle

Inspector Montalbano

It’s not often that I write about, or indeed, watch TV shows. But a curious sequence of events lead to this article.

I was casually browsing through a guide-book on Sicily the other day (yes, I love reading travel guides!). And reading about the many baroque towns on that island led me to reminisce about a TV series that I used to watch while living in Dublin, Ireland. Inspector Montalblano chronicles the life and adventures of a police inspector in Sicily. It’s wonderfully easy-paced show, highlighting to great effect the natural beauty of the sun-kissed Mediterranean island with charmingly weathered baroque architecture. The plots were nothing spectacular, but that was never really the point of watching it, at least for me.

So I read up a bit about the TV Series during my commute to work (hadn’t known that the first episode aired 20 years ago in 1999!), looked up some of the locations where the TV series was shot on a map. And then, while I was browsing a new site later that evening, while at home, I came across the news that that Andrea Camilleri, author who created the character of Inspector Montalbano, had passed away… It seemed a strange co-incidence, hence the article.

RIP Andrea Camilleri.

If you want to know more about this series and its author, BBC has a great piece.

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!


Train Travel – Sleeper Class

Of late, I have been traveling by train more often. We recently took the 24 hour train to Mumbai as a family, traveling in AC coaches. Recently, I took the overnight train to Kerala, traveling sleeper class after a very long time.

I have always enjoyed train travel, liking nothing more than sitting by the window watching the world go by. As a child, I used to look forward to the long (30+ hours) journey from Mumbai to Kerala as much, if not more than, actually visiting Kerala and meeting family. But as I grew older (and with a family), whatever occasional train travel we did was in AC coaches.

While these are very comfortable, they just do not provide the same fun as the Sleeper class where one can open the windows and feel the wind in your face. Which is why, when I had to go to Kerala by myself recently, I took the opportunity to travel by Sleeper class.

The journey to Kerala was in a new coach. It was clean and quite comfortable. The only aspect where I felt that the older coaches were better were in the design of the window bars. Regular train travelers would know that, in the older sleeper coaches, the window bars bend outwards slightly. This is just enough that, if one were to place your face flush against the bar and peer out, you could get a great view along the sides of the train and catch glimpses of the engine around bends. In the new coach, sadly, the bars are straight. Which means that one does not get the same pleasure of peering out the window. Nevertheless, it is still far more fun that the sealed windows of AC coaches.

The return journey was on an older coach. And it was less crowded than the outward journey. The other pleasure of train travel, though definitely not recommended, is to stand by the open door and get a widescreen view of the scenery. This is, as one can image, a popular pastime, so I was quite surprised to find that the doors of the train were vacant and I was able to enjoy the beautiful Kerala countryside.

Some photos from the journey below:

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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

Towards more sustainable travel

I love traveling and think it’s a great way to refresh, recharge while at the same time learning more about different places and cultures. So I was a bit unsure how to react to this news article –

As kids, I remember our annual summer holidays where we would take the train to travel to grandparent’s place. The train journey was as much part of the holiday as meeting family. Maybe one option is to try and take more sustainable modes of transport while holidaying, wherever feasible.

The first holiday we took when we moved to Bangalore was to Mysore. And we took the train rather than a car. We took the Shatabdi and it was extremely comfortable and stress free. Similarly, when we took a trip to Kerala, we took the train one way. Kids enjoyed the experience of an overnight train, sleeping in ‘bunk beds’, as they called it!

Yes, it is not always possible in this day and age, when time is in such short supply. The impact of travel and tourism on sustainability is a topic that I am very interested in, and will look at in more detail.

If you have any suggestion, ideas, please let me know. Thanks!