Category Archives: Weekend trips

Dances with Lions

The International Lion Dance festival was held at Jakarta, and by some chance, I happened to be in the right place at the right time!

Lion dance is a form of traditional dance in Chinese and Indonesian cultures, in which performers mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume. It has evolved from the martial arts of Wushu into a more artistic skill which takes into account the lion’s expression and the natural movements.

Most often lion dances are staged as a cultural performance or a stunt during competitions. It has evolved and developed into this modern form on stilts, where teams compete based on the best skilled and most lively “lion”, coupled with the most creative stunts, choreographed moves and acrobatic difficulty

There were 18 teams and I witnessed the agility and creativity of two of them, one being the home country, Indonesia.

Here is a sequence of their performance…

1. The duo that is going to perform test the stilts


2. The team says a prayer before stepping into the Lion costume


3. Getting into the costume


4. The audience wait with bated breaths…


and just to make it clear…



5. The Lion is ready for the leap


6. The musicians captivate the spectators and judges with heart-throbbing rhythmic and pulsating live instruments


7. And the lion dances…


… so, how was it?


9. A final salute to the audience


10. The judges doing their thing…


11. And the winner is………..


12. [The ‘I was there’ picture] 😉


Sightseeing in Singapore

The school was sending me for some official work to Singapore. The plan was to get there by 9:00 am, finish the paper work and then I had the whole day till my flight at 6:00 in the evening. Unfortunately, I was on a shoestring budget hence could not venture far! But the sights of Singapore in a 3 km radius were enough to remain etched in my mind forever.

Let me take you for the tour of the 6 hours I was in Singapore!

Here is the first sight straight from the taxi…


And this one is a kind of message to one of my students…. (Stephen, I hope you are proud)


Singapore, a city run by prefects quipped a comedian once… I vouch that he could not have said it better!


singapore square

The red dot building – museum to all things traffic!


After the ‘official work’ was over, I was on my own, and found my way to Chinatown! Was hesitant to shoot in the streets at first, but when I saw so many people trigger happy, I was at my camera best!










The multidude of fridge magnets to choose from (I brought quite a few  too …)



Found a shop in Chinatown entirely dedicated to Tintin memorablia! IMG_0549

This one is for Dad… that is supposed to be the world’s largest coin…


India is everywhere…



And now for those bizarre signs in a bustling city




Spent my evening at this plaza dedicated to the national flower of Singapore… the Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’

orchid pano

and captured some things familiar…


Here is the Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ against a backdrop of the magnificent Carlton


I could spend a day photographing the artwork along the streets.

Beginning with this bronze structure of the Vanda


This very abstract piece which describes itself as ‘Reaching’ symbolising the infinite possiblities of growth, the shores are limitless…


Or this one which had no description in sight…


And this is something I could not help shooting… Singapore is a car/bike lover’s paradise!



Spent some time in the quiet shade of a botanical garden…

forest garden pano

and there it was time to count the cents remaining…. a reminder that I had to head home 😉


Singapore airport…


Well, I wished this would be my ride


… but instead had to be content with this one!


Down in Lansdowne

Originally known as, Kaludanda, after Kalun (Black) and Danda (Hill) in the local language, Lansdowne was founded and named after the then Viceroy of India, Lord Henry Lansdowne in 1887.

IMG_1164Today, Lansdowne is a cantonment town in Pauri Garhwal district of  Uttarakhand and houses the command office of the famous Garhwal Rifles of the Indian Army.

At an elevation of 4600 ft, Lansdowne presents a unique choice of a hill station still in its pristine glory. However this may deter those who would want all the amenities of a comfortable holiday.

It was a three day getaway to this place with family and the sights of this place that relaxed my mind.

This is one of the signs you cannot afford to miss if you are driving on your own (or like us you might end up a little lost).


The first thing that meets the eye are unending blue pine forests and thick oak trees.


After a refreshing time in the resort we headed out for the touristy places. First there was the War Memorial, at the Parade Ground of the Garhwal Rifles Center. The Regimental Museum (also called the Darwan Singh Sanghralaya), houses artefacts from the beginning of the Regiment. No photos were allowed of course 😦 only this one of the entrance.


We then headed to the two churches that Lansdowne is known for:

St. Mary’s Church was was built by Colonel AHB Hume in 1896 and has been restored now by Garhwal Rifles Regimental Centre.

st marys church hdr pano2-2 Pre-independence photographs and an audio-visual display of the Regiment’s history can be viewed at this place.

chapel inner st marys pano-2

St. John’s Church is a Roman Catholic Church situated on the mall road. St. John’s Church is the only Church of worship in Lansdowne.

IMG_0658 hdr

st johns church hdr pano-2

Experimented with a bit of HDR to get the feel of the church interiors

chapel inner hdr pano 2-2

The guest book there appeared like a divine list in the light of the window … 🙂

IMG_0667 hdr

The only place that offers a bit of the usual refreshment is the Garhwal Mandal Rest house.


For me this place, was a set straight out of a horror flick!

IMG_0817 hdr

Fortunately, the GMVN is constructing new wooden cottages which I plan to visit if I make this trip again.


Tip n Top (aka Tiffin Top) is a vantage point that promises both views of the sunrise and sunset, but which also has too many people vying for space.


Because of a technical malfunction in my car I could not wait till sunset and had to head to the local market to get a puncture removed from the tyre.

The evening was spent at Bhulla Taal (Little Brother Lake) which is maintained by the Garhwal Rifles.

IMG_1075The serene waters and the colourful paddle boats were invitation enough for me to exercise my legs and spend the time with the ducks.


Bhulla Taal has its fair share of wildlife, and these guinea pigs kept my little son in splits.


But the best part of the holiday for me was spending time in the balcony of the resort letting in the panoramic view around.



The tea they made there was unmatched to any I tasted before!

IMG_0487 hdr

Got a few stills of the birds too…




The evening walk too were fantastic photo ops…


…. and there was enough time to fool around with the camera settings to get a bit artsy

IMG_0622 hdr

And these are a few miscellaneous shots that bear a mention… 

IMG_0826-2 IMG_0913-2 IMG_0916-2


Three days and a lung full of fresh air later, it was time to get back to the grind!


Diwali with a difference

Diwali was celebrated with a difference this year, for two reasons… firstly my wife decided that we make our own lamps to illuminate the portico and in a short while she had tiny glasses painted in elaborate ways.

Together with some water and floating candles they indeed made a pretty sight outside and inside our home.

The second difference this year was keeping away from the colossal waste of money in the form of firecrackers and spending time with the residents of Cheshire Home in Dehradun.

This is where diwali being the festival of light made so much sense to me. Not only was the place lit up to enliven a festive glow all around

…but seeing the people at the home with tiny sparklers and an even greater sparkle in their eyes will remain in my memory forever.

Happy Diwali to all of you!!!

Virasat 2012 – Handicrafts and Heritage

Virasat is a fortnight long arts and crafts heritage festival in Dehradun. It brings together artists and crafts people from the length and breadth of the country. This year, for the first time, there were performances by groups from countries across the globe. I was lucky to be at the performance of the troupe from Morocco.

Some of the instruments there were playing were works of art in themselves. If anyone knows the names I would be glad to add them out here.

The stuff that is for sale is amazing from tie and dye fabrics, lac churi, terracotta pottery, dry flower arrangements, woolens from Bhuj, Lakhnavi Chikankari, leaf painting, fine Chamba embroidery on handkerchiefs.

(Picture courtesy above goes to a friend, Aldred Gomes)

It was here that craftsman would give you a live demonstration of their work…

Other than the handicrafts there were also some marvellous culinary delights… for the first time I savoured ‘makke ki roti aur sarson da saag’!

With a range of digestives to choose from too…

Compared to similar handicraft festivals in Goa the prices were very reasonable and I have done most of my Christmas shopping 😉

Tons River Trek

Kasiga School is lucky to have a river (or more of a roaring stream) running around the campus. Sunday saw us take a day trek to this ‘Tons river’

The Tons is the largest tributary of the Yamuna and flows through Garhwal region in Uttarakhand, touching Himachal Pradesh. The Tons valley is a remote area and has a culture unlike any other in the region. The villagers in the Tons valley are believed to be descendents of the Pandavas and Kauravas from the epic Mahabharata.

This river boasts of adventure sports in river rafting… however, we had a different kind of adrenaline rush when we explored some of the undiscovered parts of this river

Uno Party Italiano

Bruschetta, Diavola, Spaghetti…

I may not be able to pronounce these words correctly, but their memories still make my mouth water.

The event was a party hosted by a friend, Elton Fernandes.

The moment we entered his house, the menu greeted us at the door and it was buon appetito from the start

And what followed were one appetizing dish after the other to tease our taste buds

olives pickled cabbage and garlic olivesfunghikebabs and saladanother italian dish

devilled eggs

What is Italian food without the spirits to wash it down with…

The Bar

the bar counter was also well laden with the choicest 🙂

DJ Marc
Livening up the atmosphere was DJ Marc at his console, who obliged the eager party with music ranging from pop to country, and trance to jive!

But the celebrities of the show were these three

(from L-R): The Host – Elton Pinto
The Sous Chef = Juao
The Chef = Mikey

Mille Grazie!

Star Gazing

How did I spend my Sunday evening? Watching Aamir Khan live in action giving away the awards to the achievers of Sharada Mandir School!

I wondered what must be going on through the mind of a celebrity while he witnesses a a veritable display of young talent. Glimpses into the folk traditions of Goa, his own songs enacted before an enthralled audience, and listening to all the adulation about how he has made an impact with the music and dance of his films…

And does he wonder what is in the “token of appreciation” that required two helpers to carry!!!


Ground Realities – Torangatti

A much awaited break was waiting for us on the long weekend of 13 – 15 August. And thanks to the planning of a good friend, Jimmy, we were off to our neighbouring state, Karnataka to a place called Torangatti.

The journey had its fine share of scenic waterfalls, landslides and dense fog.

and the hard to miss macaques that lined up the climb towards Amboli.

But Amboli was not our destination. We had to hit the Belgaum – Hyderabad highway to a surprise like I had never experienced before.

This highway is a born temptation for those who want to stretch the speed limits of their vehicles (both bikes and cars)… I am not going to mention the high speed I touched on this stretch… for fear of retribution on the home front 😉

This was our destination. It is a Jesuit Mission station in a village called Torangatti. Please note: Most of these pictures are clicked on day 2. We were lucky on day 1 to reach the right place in the pitch darkness!

The mission station of Torangatti boasts of a beautiful church which incorporates elements of Indian tradition.

The pictures will speak for themselves

There were lots of plans that we had chalked out, but faced with the enthusiasm of Fr Prakash SJ, the priest in Torangatti, everything else had to wait.

Fr Prakash, took us around the farm which he has cultivated and supervises. Vast stretches of maize fields are indeed a sight to behold

But looking closely there was a tiny world of its own in each leaf and under each stone

Besides maize there are also plots for vegetables, like the corriander below

This may appear to be a wild flower, but out there, everything had either a commercial or medicinal value !

This was one of the marvels of nature… a pumpkin growing on a papaya plant… or is it? 😉This is a “closer look” into the pumpkin flower…

Fr Prakash proudly showed us his organic farming techniques with large vermiculture pits that provide manure for the farm. There is a big difference between merely learning about organic farming and actually holding one of those red wrigglers in your hand!

These newly hatched birds were another one of those star attractions that we attempted to capture… through the camera lens of course..Karnataka is famous for sandalwood…. and I guess the trip would not be complete without a picture of that tree

This is one of those pictures I always wanted to take…

And on our way back, I attempted a bit of “street photography” and this shepherd was kind enough to strike a pose for the lens. Apparently, every herd of sheep has goats intermingled which actually lead the way for the sheep… thus quoted our expert on the area of shepherding 😉

The place is beginning to show signs of development… a new bridge is being constructed, but until then, the traffic has to follow the road less travelled 😉

450 kilometres of memories… Goa – Amboli – Belgaum – Torangatti and back. The tiny bug on my hand which refused to fly off for a long time was indeed a constant reminder of this grand journey!

Lesson in Patience

Back again to Raia to spend a weekend and this time I took my nephew and niece along.

My niece, Megan, has begun to be an avid photographer in the recent past. This time, the task that I set before her was the capture the butterflies in the garden… through the camera lens of course.

She tried and tried and finally just gave up. “The butterflies are too quick” she said. And so began the lesson in patience. I had to take the camera from her and we both waited with bated breaths. The wait paid off well …