Main story Unveiling a green Rajasthan

Angrezi babuls scramble from both sides eager for a prickly embrace, turns around with a ‘whoa’ just as you pass. We sped along a spit of a tarmac flanked by bristly rows of the shrub towards Khamblighat railway station; the train had to be late by at least 10 – 15 minutes if we were to get on it. But my host Thakur who was driving didn’t seem to be worried.
“These were brought from Africa.” Thakur said with a vague nod.
For a moment I thought he was talking about the …

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Putana suckling Krishna

Decapitated, defiled or deified, the human body has always enjoyed centre stage in Indian art. Whether the unabashed exploration of the sexual we see in the cave temples of Khajuraho or the unrelenting pursuit of the sacred depicted by the stupas of Bodh Gaya, the body has been the faithful transport. Quite understandably it is the pivot of celebrated ancient Indian treatises on desire and rejuvenation – the Kamasutra and Charaka Samhita, a basis of Ayurveda. And of course the medium of that ‘union with the divine’ the greatest Indian …

View from Bir Singh's chhatri

Around this time two years ago Katrina Kaif sat languid, sated, gazing out of her boudoir, a reveur, across the floodplains of Betwa. Following her gaze through the viridian penumbra that gleamed off the landscape, we were treated briefly to an array of elevated dome-shaped pavilions, solemn sentinels along the Kanchana Ghat. The scappled-gold morning light radiated desire, her four-poster bed hugger-mugger. There was promise of more liaisons in the air. Giving wings to our hopes, she took off her chudis – bangles, an auspicious symbol in Indian marriages – …

Mukesh Saxena with Hiten

The alaap strained through the tightening dusk before it was devoured by the traffic cacophony on Achleshwar Road. Kaalu gave me a triumphant ‘Didn’t-I-tell-you-it-was-here’ look. In all fairness Kaalu did say that but by then we had looked everywhere else. I managed to nod an appreciation as I backed Red into a parking slot twisted between a low hanging bough of a banyan or maybe a coral tree and a wobbly side mirror – unhinged by a brake-free rickshaw at the Bada Bazaar which we combed earlier that evening. We …

A mural in Raghurajpur (from IncredibleIndia.org)

From Kalinga to Vedanta the transformation hovers around Ripley’s realm. Here was a bunch of people who, a little over 2,000 years ago, were feared for their mercilessness, respected for their heroism and courage, people who were the subcontinent’s first frontiersmen. They excelled not only in war but trade as well; maritime commerce flourished with Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Malaya. Later when their emperor, Ashoka, famously repudiated gore and glory, the edicts to peace and sacrifice literally carved in stone were taken to heart. Just a couple of millennia later, …

The lidded, eyeless Tirthankars can see

The elation of driving into a heritage OD that is Gwalior is heralded by an eerie feeling: that you are being watched. The fort ramparts peering over boulder-strewn hills keep an eye over you, the way they were meant to. Blinking only at the bastions, measuring your every move, an arm inching gingerly towards the leather-clad quiver. Surrender the scelerate, announce you come in peace. That was what I did. I parked Red right by the Dakshinapatha, the ancient trading route, which connected the affluent kingdoms in the north to …

Auto driver

This Women’s Day we can feel happy and warm about the momentous strides made by women across spheres. I, personally, can vouch all the women in my life are better and stronger than me. But when it comes to the woman traveller, she is still mauled, molested and cunningly manipulated. And like the recent incident from Agra goes, killed, even. As part of Wanderink’s ongoing attempts to keep the women traveller safe while on the move this post throws light on a seemingly innocuous request you need to be wary …

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The highway became the set for a ‘Dream Girl’ song: save the noble-hearted, shiny-tessellated Hema Malini, vigorous gusts of translucent fog guffawed from many hidden directions enveloping my windscreen. What was earlier the billowy contour of a truck segued into a muddle of a silhouette; taillights snarled like the Joker’s lips. Vast swathes of cerulean fields that meandered open on both sides till the horizon were suddenly draped in curtains of shifting grey. I veered dangerously close to the divider and my tyres scraped the zebra-striped concrete; as if on …

Leviathan-like pretty

Many of the heritage marvels we have today were ostentatious self-indulgences, sandstone and marble diktats rooted in personal tragedies – and victories – and the ensuing emotional upheaval, vanities and carnal excesses. Though not strangely but indeed rarely the climate, specifically the sweltering summers of the arid plains, has played edict to not just architecture but as an impetus to construction itself. Babur, the marauding Mughal from Kabul, used to bivouac at the Arram Bagh in Agra; personally designed for pernoctation. The weather-harried Mughal was happiest at the subterranean hamams …

Out-of-this-world vistas

A murder and a rape within the span of a week are not that random when the victims of both incidents are from the Northeast. Denying there is racial discrimination in Delhi would be a monolithic bluff like calling the Commonwealth Games a ‘grand success’. On the upside citing deep-rooted hatred, fear and insecurities as reasons would be a bigger bluff – with farther-reaching ramifications – like justifying the Yamuna landfill with a bus depot. There are no dearth of help centres, support groups, university departments and even a dedicated …

Acropolis from up here

Romance gets precedence over credence in populist writing. And travel writing is one big pleaser – aiming to pull, pique and prod. Many of the bubbles are what you ‘buy in’ to when you just pass through, fated to burst if you look around a little longer and engage deeper with the locals. So those – is there a TRP for travelogues? – of who throve on populating the Bhangarh Fort with bhoots should script for the Ramsays. Was that pen shaky when you took down those haunting tales? Or …

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