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Project Tiger has its takers and detractors. As much as I want to believe in its power to have rejuvenated wildcat numbers what I have seen on the ground makes me a sceptic. Rather, what I have not seen on the ground – the tiger itself. Sariska, Kanha, Corbett, Bandhavgarh and Barnawapara – all last year. And the Achanakmar so far this year. No Stripey crossed my path anywhere; not even a footprint. Nada! But according to reports, their numbers … More»

 
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Changing landscapes

‘Mindfulness’ is one of the secrets of famed Tibetan longevity. This means to spend time ‘in the moment’ and not worry about the past or the future. Living in the here and the now. Mindfulness helps optimise the different senses; the focus is on what one is seeing, hearing, smelling, touching or tasting at any time. This ‘immersion’ has been known to reduce stress vastly – which in turn adds to the years. Mindfulness takes dedicated practice in preferably quiet … More»

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Great landscapes make amazing photographs but people make long-lasting memories. They capture that moment in our journey – of unexpected warmth, curiosities answered, concerns voiced and insights shared. By giving us an opinion, showing us the shorter route or letting us in on a local lore, they open up a whole new world to us. A world we would otherwise just scythe through remotely, quickly, by dint of being the travellers that we are. They become fodder for great reminiscences … More»

And a nayika just walked out of the walls of the Bhoramdeo temple

I followed the nayika around Bhoramdeo Temple.
‘Nayika’ literally means ‘heroine.’ Traditionally she is heartrendingly beautiful, epitomises female grace and sensuality. In sculptural art she is marked by alluring embonpoint – full bosom and rounded thighs. She is also heavily ornamented – sports large earrings, thick necklaces and anklets – adding to her seductiveness. Nobody fires up the imagination of the traveller or the sculptor like a nayika. At Bhoramdeo she is everywhere. I saw her on the niches and nooks … More»

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“Do I want to see what?” I asked Soumik Dey of Chhattisgarh Tourism Board when we were charting my itinerary into the south of Chhattisgarh.

It was not that I didn’t hear him say the ‘Stonehenge of India’ but never one for epithets – after all, piggybacking can take you only so far – the question was reflex and rhetoric in equal part. I told him that I’d rather spend more time gazing at the Tandula Canal from the colonial era … More»

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Here’s putting the final brakes on the controversial cycle rickshaw rides that were going for thousands of rupees: the best way to take in Jaipur – the heritage part of it, famously, albeit a bit confusingly called the ‘Pink City’ – is by foot.
Going around Jaipur is like gadding about in a time machine. Medieval and modern coexist within a chaupar (a ‘junction’ or ‘square’) from each other. Sometimes even within each other like the Jaguar prowling about the City Palace courtyard, taking a … More»

Sirpur Festival, 2013

We have all been enthralled by talented soloists, dancers and ensemble performers who wove around us magical realms from myths and epics and immersed us in engrossing folkloric tales with narrative mastery. Their sublime gifts have left us in teary-eyed rapture, transported us into higher planes of existence itself. After an hour or few we are jolted awake abruptly from the sensory-awe, ruthlessly pushed off the flying carpet into the mundane of the everyday world around us. Literal curtains to … More»

Cockfight frenzy from Kodenar

We passed by villagers heading back from the weekly haat, market, in Kodenar. Women balanced empty vessels on their heads which had ferried local brews mahua and salfi that morning. Men veered drunkenly towards the middle of the road, tilted their heads in the opposite direction attempting to tread a straight line. Those on bicycles held their prized fighter cocks in the cradle of their arms more tenderly than the women their babies. It was a rough, dusty lane and most … More»

Sonabai - as her own art

Daroga Ram raked back with his hand the sparse tuft of white feathery hair repeatedly. Frowns cut burrows across his high forehead. He had no idea what to do: this time the scrimshanking contractor had abandoned work altogether and had vamoosed. The museum that was coming up in the memory of his mother, celebrated folk artist Sonabai, lay derelict in a space cleared next to the family’s fields, amidst sand in plastic sacks split-opened from the impact of careless, hurried … More»

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The cab went around the landmark state secretariat building for the third time making the passenger, a tourist, suspicious.
“But didn’t we pass by here earlier?” he asked, cautious, not wanting to offend the affable, garrulous driver.
“Sir,” the cabbie replied, in his die-rather-cheat tone, “in Trivandrum we have six of them.”

This could have been either a comment on tourist gullibility or a joke on cabbie cleverness but definitely before GSM mapping. Today wired fares direct taxis and auto rickshaws through the … More»

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What make a place really memorable are not its landmarks or landscape, wealth or history but the dreams of its people. As dreams shape action which chart destinies this could indeed be a faultless gauge on how it should be marked for posterity. ‘Dabanng nagar’ somebody had not scribbled nor sprayed in the hasty haze of a fly-by graffiti but painstakingly stencilled in broad white strokes which stood out against the orange brick of the warehouse wall that loomed over … More»

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