Category: Lifestyle

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!

Towards a healthier diet

People who are meeting me after a few months almost invariable comment that I have lost weight. And I tell them that it is by choice. I have made some changes to my eating habits that I believe has caused me to lose a few kilos and, more importantly, feel lighter, fresher and happier.

The story goes back a few months when I was going through a rather bumpy phase. My stress levels were high and so was my blood pressure. It was at this stage that my wife heard about a naturopathy based cooking workshop. As I have a strong interest in cooking and strongly felt that I needed to make a change, I registered for it.

The session was an eye-opener in terms of what we typically end up putting in our stomachs (and bodies). The workshop also recommended a few changes that we could make in our cooking habits to lead a healthier life.

I won’t say that I have implemented everything that I learnt in the workshop, but even the few changes I have made seem to be working. What are these changes? Quite simple actually. Reduce the amount of processed food that we eat (no chips, deep fried stuff, etc.) Reduce salt and sugar. Reduce (ideally eliminate) the use of oil in cooking (use nuts instead). Avoid tea. Have an early dinner. It was told that our bodies only need two meals a day. I still have three meals, but I only have a light dinner, and I typically have my dinner by 7 pm.

But the most important change I have made is to incorporate fruits into my diet. I begin my lunch and dinner with a course of fruits. I feel that this enables my body to absorb all the goodness in the fruits and also means that I eat less of the other (more processed) stuff.  If there in one change I would like everyone to make, it would be this.


Public Transport

I have always enjoyed traveling by public transport. Even when I had my own car, I preferred to use the local trains in Mumbai to commute to work, as opposed to driving my own car. I think I must have been the only person in office who had a car but still traveled by train!

This is my second stint in Bangalore and I must admit that, in my first stint, for over 3 years, I don’t think I took the public bus even once. I had my two-wheeler and used to to get around everywhere. Now, in my second stint, I don’t own a car or two-wheeler, and rely primarily on Uber to get around within the city (and Zoomcar for outstation trips). And when I am traveling by myself, I try to take the bus as much as possible. And, to be completely honest, I found the experience quite pleasant.

I think it’s a shame that most people who can afford not to, do not take the buses in Bangalore. I have found them to be quite clean, fairly reliable, with a good network, and obviously, fairly expensive. And now, with the integration of the bus timetable with Google Maps, it’s even easier to navigate and find the correct bus routes.

What do I like about public transport? I think it’s a great way to really get to observe the places and the people up close, as compared to the bubble of an air-conditioned car. It helps one to stay in touch with the reality of the place we are staying in. Its healthy – one has to walk to and from the bus stop. You get a better view around as you are sitting above the top of most vehicles around you. I don’t feel as claustrophobic when you are stuck in a traffic jam. I also feel less road rage as you do not observe all the nonsense around you. It’s obviously more environmentally friendly and, of course, it’s cheaper!

So, if you are in Mumbai or Bangalore, or indeed any city with a half decent public transport network, give it a shot and see how you feel.