A Drive Through Hasanur and Thalamalai

Lake enroute to Sathyamangalam
Lake enroute to Sathyamangalam

Our last holiday in 2019 was to Annamalai Tiger Reserve near Pollachi, Tamil Nadu.

We decided to break our journey to the Tiger Reserve at a friend’s farm-house, located near Mettupalayam. We were informed that the more scenic route would be via the mountain road running through Hasanur and Bannari, connecting the town of Chamarajanagar in Karnataka with Sathyamangalam in Tamil Nadu.

We decided to take the Kanakapura Road towards Chamarajanagar as it is the more direct route. We left Bangalore at 7 am and halted for breakfast at Nasa’s Food Court at Nettigere. This is a recent and very welcome addition on this road, providing delicious South Indian breakfast in a clean, family and wallet friendly setting.

After a filling breakfast of dosas washed down with excellent filter coffee, we hit the road again. Our next stop was at the stunning Hoysala era temple at Somanathapura.

By the time we finished seeing the temple, it was past 11:30 am. We reached Chamarajanagar by 12:45 pm and decided to halt for lunch there. The drive, almost immediately after we crossed Chamarajanagar, took us into the forests that form the boundary between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The road, which was very good till then, started deteriorating significantly. But thankfully, traffic was quite minimal and we were able to make steady progress.

No sooner did we cross the border into Tamil Nadu than the condition of the road improved significantly. It was silky smooth, as good as any road I have been on! The scenery was also stunning, though the dense fog at the top of the mountain pass reduced visibility to just a few metres. It made for an exciting drive, but we could not appreciate the beauty of the lushly forested hills and valleys.

Foggy ghat section
Dense fog severely restricted visibility of the hills and valleys

But this disappointment was more than made up for by our encounter with a lone tusker. The male elephant appeared out of the forest to our left, a few metres in front of our car and proceeded to cross the road and walk towards us, but thankfully on the opposite side of the road. It then passed our vehicle, not more than 5 metres away from our car. It is the closest I have ever got to a wild elephant and was a memorable encounter.

Wild elephant
The wild elephant that crossed the road in front of our car – picture taken through a dirty windshield

The rest of the journey was sedate and we reached the farmhouse by around 5:45 pm.

Ring in the New!

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

As we begin a new year (and possibly a new decade!), here’s a brief look back at what 2019 had to offer:

Visit places, new and old – While we did not do as much traveling as I would have liked (:-)), I still managed to see quite a few new places – Pench, Shivanasamudram, Talakadu and Annamalai Tiger Reserve – while revisiting some places I had last been over a decade ago – B.R. Hills and Ahmedabad. Most of all, I enjoyed spending a couple of weeks in my hometown, Mumbai, showing my kids some of the landmarks of this unique city.

Bird-watching – I have been watching birds for well over 35 years now, and this year was a good one. Highlights include observing over 90 species over 4 days at Pench, spotting ‘lifers’ at Ahmedabad and Attakatty, and reconnecting with my old bird-watching group in Bangalore. I ended the year with my e-bird checklist showing 163 (with 149 in 2019 alone).

Healthy lifestyle – While my journey to a healthier lifestyle started in 2018, I managed to stay focused on this in 2019. I have tried to make healthy eating, exercise and yoga a part of my daily life and do feel that it’s been beneficial.

Teaching – Again, while 2018 was the year I started teaching, I was lucky to have more opportunities to teach in 2019. This also enabled me to revisit Ahmedabad and the IIM-A campus.

Consulting – 2019 was the year when I expanded my consulting business. I was lucky to work with some exciting brands and great founders.

Writing – I started consciously focusing on writing in the second half of the year. It is something that I have been wanting to do for a while now, so I am glad I finally gave it serious attention.

Reconnecting with friends – I was fortunate to meet and reconnect with a lot of friends in 2019, from my student to working days. This will definitely be one of the highlights of the year.

Spending time with my kids – My kids are growing up fast, and I have been extremely fortunate to have spent some good quality time with them this year. And I am very grateful for that.

So as I look forward, on this first day of the new year, I hope to be able to do more of each of the above.

Here’s wishing everyone a very happy 2020!

Somanathapura Temple – A Sculptural Marvel

Chennakesava Temple Somanathapura
Chennakesava Temple Somanathapura

The Chennakesava temple at Somnathpur was built by rulers of the Hoysala dynasty in the 13th Century. It is located on the banks of the river Kaveri, about 20 kilometres to the South East of Mysore. Along with the more famous temples at Belur and Halebid, this temple forms part of the magnificent Hoysala temples of Karnataka.

I recently revisited this temple (more a monument as active worship does not take place here anymore) while on a visit to Annamalai Tiger Reserve. The intricacy and profusion of carvings is simply stupendous. I know it’s a cliche, but words really cannot do justice to the beauty of this monument.

Somanathapura Temple Compound
Somanathapura Temple Compound neatly maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India
External walls of the Chennakesava Temple
External walls of the Chennakesava Temple
Profusion of carvings
Profusion of carvings covering literally every inch!
A finely carved chariot
A finely carved chariot
Intricately carved ceiling
Intricately carved ceiling
Smoothly Carved Pillars
Smoothly Carved Pillars inside the temple

Monday Reads – 30/12

apple blank business computer
Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

As we near the end of 2019, and look forward to what 2020 holds, here are some websites / newsletters that I found particularly helpful and insightful over the past 12 months and that I will continue to reflect on in the next year as well:

The Minimalists – I am sure that, by now, minimalism is a fairly well-understood concept / philosophy thanks, in no small means, due to the popularity of Marie Kondo. I came across this website by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus while reading more about minimalism and have subscribed to their newsletter. While I admit that it’s not easy to adopt completely, I try to keep the mantras of ‘less is more’ and ‘throw away what you do not need’ front and centre while going about my daily life.

Farnam Street – The aim of this blog by Shane Parrish is very simple – ‘Understand how the world works’. And his weekly newsletter is possibly one of the most useful ones I receive.

Nutrition Science – I have written a few articles on healthy eating. I attended a workshop conducted by Dr. Achyuthan Easwar in 2018 and have been consciously trying to apply the principles to my diet. I believe it has helped me tremendously.

Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik – I have been following Avinash’s blog for a while now and it continues to be one of the most insightful Digital Analytics blog out there. A must read for any Digital Marketer.

Happy 2020!

Discovering Bengaluru

Discovering Bengaluru

It’s not often that I write about a book before I have completed it and absorbed it. But in the case of ‘Discovering Bengalure‘ by Meera Iyer, I am making an exception.

The book, as it’s sub-title point out is about Bengaluru’s History. However, forget any preconceived notions of what a history book might read like. This is a history book with a difference. By focusing on specific neighbourhoods of Bengaluru, the book immediately makes history accessible and personal. No longer is it an abstract concept of people and events long gone by, but it makes us aware of and appreciate the history all around the city. This is done primarily by grounding the narrative around important heritage structures around Bengaluru.

The book also describes interesting walks in each of these neighbourhoods by which anyone can get out, explore and become more familiar with the history of that area. This technique immediately gets the book out of a library or home and into the streets, in the hands of ‘explorers’. Indeed, a logical extension of the book could be a mobile site or app that can serve as a reliable and handy guide for people interested in the history and heritage of a place.

Meera Iyer is Convenor of the Bengaluru chapter of INTACH and her familiarity and passion for the heritage of the city comes through in this book. Do get your hand on a copy and go out and explore Bengaluru!