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Land proprietorship in Kerala is classified under three broad no-need-to-quantify heads: muttam (yard), parambu (farm) and estate (estate). The lack of need to quantify arises from an everyday fact – nobody gives out actual figures and everyone assigns everyone else acreage inversely proportional to the degree of familiarity. And everyone is happy: while the meagre holders bask under the enhanced share – of property and thereby social standing, it helps the muthalali, the big fish, hide from taxmen, credit-seeking relatives … More»

 
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Old Jerusalem

The once-happening entrepot Alleppey in Kerala is popular today for backwaters, boat races and beaches, houseboats and homestays. Its immense historicity has been relegated to some sprawling warehouses bearing Victorian names and presiding over hyacinth-laden canals, a handful of ancient temples and a vastly retrenched coir industry. Missing from the milieu of ‘modern’ experiences was the museum – both as a beacon to an era past and a sensory-offensive like the V&A with its mind-dazzling array of decorative arts. The … More»

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Strangers have always mistaken me for a holy or an army man. Something which has boggled me and not little – while one means soft eyes in a serene face the other mandates a severe one with stiff deportment. Save for my mother – who thinks I am the accumulation of all features nice and wonderful – the rest of my blood relations have likened me to wanted criminals and soft porn movie stars. When it comes to forming an … More»

White ocean

Night descended on the Tirthan Valley without much ado. The shrilly, tremolo notes of swamp toads and crickets did not besiege us from all around but piped up sporadically, almost like an afterthought. Tiny rounded silhouettes rustled between the deodars by the side of the narrow road. The moon waning into Ramadan-crescent shone brightly above the overarching forest canopy. Beneath it was pitch dark and we had to use the flash lights from our mobile phones. Mountain peaks traced billowy … More»

Don't miss the drive by bussing overnight

The palanquin bearer winced as he stiffened to an abrupt halt. You could see he was under untold duress; cold beads of sweat broke out from his forehead, his eyes bulged out from their sockets like those of the shikhara-supporting bharavahakas. He started again, squirming and with swaying steps. He convulsed as if invisible lassoes tugged at him in different directions. At one point his eyes became hooded – all you could see were the whites – and he made … More»

Chai wallah in the Himalayas

Rarely did such splendid hyperbole live up to promise. ‘The best job in the world’ went the headline: concise, all caps, XL font. Nothing clever. The position advertised was that of island caretaker; cleaning the pond, feeding the fish and collecting mails were among the job description. Perks included accommodation in a million-dollar villa, free transportation around the island and a pay package of A$ 100,000. Anyone could apply. Everyone did.
The 2009 campaign garnered about 40,000 applications from 200 countries. … More»

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Those who waited on the Sahib at the Sukh Mahal in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Letters of Marque’ (Nov – Dec, 1887) have remained so, at least in spirit. The twitchy munshi today mans the reception – one eye on the fax machine; the eager-to-please chowkidar is still at your service – but once the babu has been fed and tucked in for the night at the tile-clad air-conditioned wing next door.

Going by how Kipling describes the Sukh Mahal – ‘delightful spot … More»

Wood denser, birds chirpier...

Decollement beneath Uttarakhand provides a coherent fault… warned two recent studies. In simple temblor-ese, a devastating earthquake could knock Uttarakhand off the mountain ledges into oblivion. The ‘fault’ which is a curved fracture has been forming for around 700 years – making it ripe for a rupture – the earthquake can strike anytime.
In all my eight years in Delhi, I have been to the salubrious Uttarakhand every summer for the usual reasons – trekking and rafting. It was like visiting … More»

Deeogee - among the few true loves

Life-altering journeys have less of an itinerary and more intent. To leave behind. To start anew. It is reminisced and written about as a spur-of-the-moment thingy which it is not really. But the apparent recklessness adds to the romance, gives it an edge. So be it. Anteceding it is usually years, if not decades, of unfulfilled living. It doesn’t always have to be one fraught with frustrations and disappointments but ironically could even have been one of material surfeit and … More»

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Several hours earlier I had passed through the last patches of green where gold-furred mountain dogs, companionable otherwise, were busy crunching on bones. A sort of picturesque Golgotha, a local in a homemade poncho modelled from worn tarpaulin informed me that a sky burial site was nearby. Now I was high above the treeline – not that there were many trees – and was almost cresting the trek at Dolma La, 5,640 metres. Save for a fleeting glimpse early that … More»

Something approaching divine

The guide designate – me in this case – doesn’t always have to be chatty, anecdotal or brimming with humour. Like any momentous realisation – not unlike Nirvana – this one too did not dawn on me at the start of the journey from Shimla that morning. Close to six hours and 200 kilometres later as we passed Mandi, I said something about ‘Shimla ki thandi’ and ‘Mandi ki randi’ (the cold of Shimla and the hookers of Mandi) – … More»

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