Main story 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»

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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»


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»


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»

In the news

The ‘what if’ is top of mind when you are in an insurgency-hit place. The immediacy of experience-offensives like landscape and language, food or culture doesn’t negate the nag altogether but pushes it a bit down. Nevertheless it resurfaces every now and then – along those dark ghat stretches, jungle paths,  by the secluded waterfalls. Even in the midst of milling mankind where you see not one familiar face but feel a hundred prying eyes boring into the back of … More»


Before the ‘make in India’ clarion call there was the original made in India, the jugaad. Variously described as a ‘hacked up improvisation’ or ‘frugal and flexible approach to innovation’ this is the desi avatar of the denim-clad DIY. Some of these frugality-fuelled approaches to sorting everyday problems – which abound in Indian hinterlands – are literally jaw-dropping.
In Punjab I saw two-wheelers of all makes wildly mutated into water pumps; only the Bullet motorcycle was spared from the agrarian outing … More»

Logo courtesy: HoHo website

Till a few years ago a typical ‘Delhi darshan’ for visiting friends and relatives would be topped with a ride aboard the piece de resistance, the Metro. Then Kerala announced its own which has been raking up plenty of muck – and not just during the monsoon – and causing enough choke and congestion that it came to be viewed with a pathological dislike my fellow-Madrasis generally reserve for Malaysian rubber exporters. As luck would have it nearly five years … More»

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