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It’s like your first dinner with a date – you take a while to gather gusto. Except for the food on the way you know little else. You look around and take in the décor with intensity, inspect the chandeliers, peer approvingly at paintings and nod at waiters. You laugh nervously, not mirthlessly, a few decibels above normal. You forget to drink water. 
In Pachkoti Hotel – the original, there’s an imposter even, apparently, which is the one you didn’t go … More»

 
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There is not much difference when you look at Bahraich from half a kilometre in the sky and from street level. It is a tumbleweed cluster of shanty dwellings, lean-to shops, road-facing sculleries, pointy minarets, lowing buffaloes snacking on plastic, milling rickshaw pullers and little figurines cowering in black, chaffering with lingerie and veggie vendors on pushcarts. Main drags radiate like a Merc-sign from the town centre, the ‘Ghantaghar’ or Clock Tower. The grounds of this Raj relic are the … More»

Heritage plays a temporal trick – it can make history feel within reach. I walked up the pathway leading to Lahori Gate, entrance to Red Fort, where friends waited. On my right was the eyesore barbican built by Aurangzeb; Shah Jahan, his father, who built the fort, was miffed with the looming gorgon in garish orange. ‘You have made the fort a bride,’ he wrote from his house arrest quarter overlooking the Taj Mahal in Agra, ‘and set a veil … More»

 
Butterfly, butterfly
Fly in the sky
Butterfly, butterfly
Flies so high
Butterfly, butterfly
Lands on my thigh
Butterfly, butterfly
Motionlessly lies
Butterfly, butterfly
Gracefully dies
(Full transcript of poem ‘Butterfly, butterfly’ by Adryan Bates.)
For a life that rarely goes beyond a couple of weeks the amount of cloak and dagger was overwhelming. I, for one, stood agape, eyes wide with incredulity and misted over with marvel. Lepidopterist extraordinaire Peter Smetacek held forth on the survival tactics of butterflies. Camouflage – trying to look like leaves and twigs – I … More»

(Buoyed by the inclusion of my short ‘Highway 666’ in ‘Have a safe journey – The world’s first collection of short stories on road safety‘ I thought I’d do another zany one. While the first one takes place in a world I am yet to accustom – the underworld (of the Gehenna-order), this one I am closer to – the blogging world. Inspired by some wily ones, similarity of any character to somebody you know can be negotiated.) 
‘Like a gecko on … More»

 
We are on the Kumily – Munnar route, one of the most scenic drives in Kerala. I am being introduced to a large canvas – from where smaller ones originate. There are two via options – Kattappana and Udumbanchola – the latter, along which we are now, is simply breath-taking. Our eyes are alternately soaking up the lush rain-washed valley and peeled for the rare and endangered of the region – laughing thrush, wood pigeon, pipit and grassbird. We followed … More»

 
My favourite pastime while riding public transport in Kerala is listening to conversations of co-passengers especially when they are talking into their mobile phones. Then, this is like saying the bomber decides to die as his ticking torso goes off – there is not much choice here as they practically declaim into their devices. And this isn’t due to the engine din or network issues: my fellow folks love to be heard and to display publicly that somebody is actually listening … More»

The only woman passenger in the entire coach was furious and scared. Maybe she was furious because she was scared. As she huffed her way to the next, more inhabited, coach on the Patna Rajdhani, she kept taking photographs and venting.
“I am going to send it to Prabhu right away. He should see the scam for himself.” She said clicking.
One of the photographs, I think, has me in it. I am looking part dejected – she was an okay-looking sort … More»

The young sand sculptor was visibly chuffed as he stepped back to enjoy his creation – a mermaid. Recognisable as one from all angles. It was his first ever work, he claimed, beaming. I expressed a sincere appreciation and asked all the right questions – his name, place, where he stayed and even what he studied. Just as we were about to leave, the boys stepped in with their own questions. I braced myself.
“Do you believe in mermaids?” Asked the … More»

The balmy gale that was lashing at me, trying to throw me, became a full-blown storm now. Motorcycling toward Delhi along the NH1, I was the only one on the road. Everyone else seemed to have scuttled to the safety of dhabas, parked beneath juddering awnings, huddled inside maybe over chole bhatura and lassi waiting it out. 
There was no way I could have seen it coming. Nor heard. There was nary a whistle nor a rustle. There was no dry … More»

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