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The first thing i did upon waking up was marvel at the ingenuity of the decor. My head was throbbing, threatening to split itself open. But over the years i had learnt to focus on other things through terrible hangovers, resilience cultivated through good time on the road. The jackhammer pounded at my temples from inside but i gazed, unblinking at the puke-green fabrication with a kind of awe you possess only when stoned. Through a nauseas, claustrophobic feeling of … More»

 
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‘Tatti par mitti.’ Soil over scat.
So suggested the Mahatma when he realised the enormity of the sanitation mission he had undertaken along with the relentless fight to uplift the untouchable bhangi, the scavenger. Bindeshwar Pathak, Gandhi’s successor in this seminal work, incidentally also referred to as ‘bapu’ by many, started the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in 1970. His much-lauded two-pit system was a low cost toilet technology that was indigenous as well as sustainable; it was eventually replicated and scaled up … More»

The courtyard

The unassailable often ends up the most assaulted. Ironically axiomatic, albeit, a historical truism. The ramparts are impregnable for the treasury must be laden. Or the courtly houris most desirable. Both accepted spoils of battle. ‘Whoever holds the fort holds the land’ goes an old Kangra saying. This made the Kangra Fort, despite its formidable layout – built atop a hill at the confluence of two rivers – and virtually impenetrable ramparts – rising like limestone outcrops from the escarpment, in … More»

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The dog-and-pony routine I had seen three decades ago. Forget animated ballyhoo, even the mandatory act introductions were sporadic and lacked verve. The funambulists were missing. They were missed too: watching the performer gingerly treading on the highwire used to give me enough time to conjure up my own vertiginous shudders. Charivari, the much-needed comic interlude to the adrenaline-packed aerialist act, was not even attempted; the clowns were instead reduced to juggler assistants and ball pickers. The iron jaw was … More»

Killing by cunning: Quiledaar Haveli

The Siliserh Palace 15 kilometres south-west of Alwar was built by Maharaja Vinay Singh in 1845. But you can attribute it to the colourful Maharaja Mangal Singh who ruled from 1874 for almost two decades if you are not finicky about historical facts. And if you believe that a dash of romance – a doomed one even, or especially a doomed one – will lend the renovated ramparts, the newly painted bastions and bartizans an old-world intrigue. The caretaker cum … More»

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“You must keep an eye on the tail – before a big cat leaps it will brush its tail softly on the ground, that’s how it measures the distance to the prey. Then you just jump from wherever you are.”
Many years ago a forest warden took me through the basic moves on how to ward off a tiger attack. I was selected from general public applications invited for transparency in a tiger census survey conducted by the forest department in … More»

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One late afternoon I emerged from Junagarh Fort, the city of Bikaner radiating in all directions, convinced why it was my favourite fort in the country.

There was no out-of-the-blue cordoning off of areas with the unsettling ‘The royal family still lives here’ excuse.
This was not a ‘living fort’ – and by extension undergarment-splattered ashlars, stinking bathroom nullahs cutting across your path, unyielding milch animals, and static squatters were missing.
The fort itself was immaculately, passionately, preserved. (My best guess was because … More»

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The trek was meant to be bonding time for Anirban and Amitav, father-son. They were understandably gung-ho and impressively geared up: Maui Jim glasses, supplex trousers, backpacks and shoes from North Face, imported granola bars and water purifying tablets, other Nike and Protrek works. Anirban headed a platoon guarding the Indian border with Pakistan along Siachen – planning to the last detail was everyday. Nothing was overlooked.
To prepare for the trek, Anirban drew from his own experience as a high … More»

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They lead us beyond yonder but seldom find their way into our acknowledgments or albums, status updates and shares.
The best mountaineer is not one who climbs the highest mountain
A couple of days in the jungle and I was good to snore my way through grunts and growls, squeals and shrieks. But this was strange, unheard till then, and it woke me up. Somebody was euphonically lilting his way through the Chalisa. At daybreak hanging around the kitchen tent for tea … More»

Agra book 2_1

Experiences and excerpts from ‘Experience Agra and Around On The Road’ written and photographed by me, published by the Times of India.
Whoo-hoo…
…I went.
Red too seemed visibly buoyant as we swayed to the simoom that swept the NH2 and lurched from a sweltering Delhi towards a scorching Agra. August last year was not any better from the summer of 2012 which was the hottest in decades, September was bound to get only worse with the rains – or whatever Delhi gets … More»

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I, like guys anywhere, have some of my fondest life-defining memories revolving around the bars in my hometown. In one I threw a bash after losing my virginity doling out the Marlboros she gave me which was also my first smoke, in another I celebrated a university rank, in yet another I drank to a divorce; much anticipated get-togethers with childhood buddies – couple of them out on parole – were always held in this one with spacious, smoking booths … More»

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