Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dr. Rajkumar Park

This has been in the draft for ever so just posting now. It might be useful for people living in Basavangudi or Banashankari stage I. I have tagged the location of the park you can check out the directions. It is a nice huge park with a few things for the amusement of kids. 

There is a train too but while I was in Blr. it was still not operating. 

There a face that gurgles out water

There are lots of jungle gyms and statues of Dinosaurs and plants shaped as animals. 

Since the terrain is uneven walking around is as enjoyable as a trek. Some pics here that might interest your kid. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chinmaya Naada Bindu

This year has been filled with music and dance. We have attended some really awesome music and dance programs. It began with the annual celebration of Pt. Jiyalal Vasant's death anniversary at Suresh Wadkar's Ajivasan, then a Kathak program at Ravindra Natya mandir in which a friend performed followed by a three day music and dance festival at Chinmaya Vibhooti.

The Chinmaya Naada Bindu is annually conducted to showcase the young talent and also to teach appreciation of the arts. This was a first of its kind event that we were going to attend. The whole idea of just soaking in the arts over three days drew me to it.

The schedule was like this...

April 19-21, 2013

Day 1: Inauguration of festival 
           Ranjani and Gayatri - Carnatic Vocal performance.

Day 2: Hindustani Vocal performance by Jayateerth Mevundi
           Lalgudi Bani workshop by Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi
           Bharatnatyam by Rama Vaidyanathan

Day 3: Carnatic Violin by Lalgudi Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi
           Bharatnatyam workshop by Rama Vaidyanathan
           Bansuri performance by Rakesh Chaurasia and Rupak Kulkarni and tabla by Kalinath Mishra
           Seraikella Chhau by Shashdhar Acharya

The cost of this retreat includes a comfortable stay in twin shared apartments, all meals and the cost of workshops and performances. It was a wonderful opportunity to interact with world class performers and with Swami Tejomayanandji.

The Campus of Chinmaya Vibhooti is spread over hundreds of acres of land still under phased development. The facilities for stay and food are excellent and there is even an electric car for internal movement.

Transport from Powai, Mumbai was arranged we hopped on to the bus at Nerul. it took us 3 hours to reach Kolwan thru the expressway traffic and a stop for tea at the Food mall.

On checking in at the Kaushalya building we were handed out CNB kits of T-shirts, program booklets and pens and notepads. The keys to our apartments we handed over to us. Post lunch until evening 6 pm we had time for ourselves.

Coming to the performance for which we were there, the festival began with a opening ceremony by the CNB social outreach members. The kids from neighboring villages are taught bhajans free of cost and this was their day for performance.

This followed by a Carnatic Vocal performance by the sisters Ranjani and Gayatri. They were born and trained in Mumbai before they shifted to Chennai. They enthralled the audience with lovely renderings of Tyagaraja's compositions and ended with a Marathi abhanga in their flawless diction inspite of having moved to Chennai years ago.

The second and third day onwards the program started in the early morning at 6.30 am! This was a sure treat for us present. 

The first performance on Day 2 was by Jayateerth Mevundi. He the one who carries the singing legacy of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. He sang well but thru the entire performance he was not focused and kept asking for correction in monitor and kept signalling to the sound engineer.

Post breakfast we were treated to a wonderful workshop on Lalgudi Bani by the brother sister duo Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi. While Krishnan has strength and Viji has a melodious voice and her bow dances on the violin. They shared a bit of history about their legendary father Lalgudi Jayaram and creator of the Lalgudi style of violin playing where the violin is held upside down with the base resting on the shoulders and the string shaft held between the toes while they play in the squatting position. This was on April 20th and 21st and the news came in that the great maestro Lalgudi Jayaram passed away on April 22nd. My wish of listening to Jayaram play his expressive music live will remain unfulfilled. But yeah atleast I have listened to his two children in close proximity.

In between there was a discourse by Swami Tejomayanandji on the occassion of Rama Navami followed by a small celebration of Ram janma. The musical was performed by Rama Bharadwaj the resident Dance director and a few other retreat participants.

Later in the evening there was a lot of excitement as everyone was looking forward to the Bharatnatyam performance by Rama Vaidyanathan. She completely mesmerized the audience and yet lit that spiritual light in the eyes that behold her form. To watch Rama dance is like watching a sculpture from the Chidambaram Swami temple come alive on stage! She is a gorgeous dancer and the bhava presentation moves the audience completely. When we went to take pictures with her she was still absorbed into that performance of the devdasi and it was a while before she was composed again. This was an experience in itself for me to watch the performer drown deep into the art.

Day 3 began with the early morning soothing performance of Lalgudi Bani by Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi. The violin speaks they say and in the hands of Krishnan and Viji it pours out emotions too. The piece on the expressions of the heart was just awe inspiring!

The famed Mayur Alaripu a Rama Vaidyanathan signature

The second event on this last day at CNB was a workshop of Bharatnatyam appreciation by Rama Vaidyanathan. Besides the teaching of mudras and bhava she also performed her signature Mayur alaripu. The icing on the cake was the controlled expression of desire of a Devadasi for the Lord Chidambaram and how she pleads that he engulf her being. This performance was to show how even sex can be expressed thru dance movements and bhava without making it vulgar.

Rama Vaidyanathan

Meeta Vashisht was a participant too

The next was the mellifluous Bansuri played by Rakesh Chaurasia and Rupak Kulkarni with Kalinath Mishra on the tabla. They rocked the concert with the playing and built a rapport with audience thru casual conversations. Kalinath Mishra is an icon that draws the youngsters like a magnet I had seen and enjoyed his tabla before at Ajivasan too.

The last performance of the entire retreat was a Seraikella Chhau dance by Shashdhar Acharya and team. The sounds of the dhol reverberated in the huge Sudharma auditorium and the graceful yet powerful prances and jumps made one sit at the edge of the seat. The best of the pieces was one on the love dance of Ratri and Chanda or the night and the moon. Ratri was played by Shashdhar Acharya himself. This dance form though folk is difficult as the dancers wear masks with just tiny drilling for the eyes yet the movements have to be precise and the balance has to be perfect.

It is beyond words to explain how we felt just soaking in the environment dedicated to music and dance for 3 days and the Chinmaya Naada Bindu. 

A view from the Ganesh Mandir, the highest point in the Chinmaya Vibhooti Campus

Here is the tour of the museum dedicated to Swami Chinmayanand the founder of Chimaya Mission.

Chinmaya Vibhooti is a gurukul dedictated to the performing arts. They conduct several intensives through out the year and the Winter Art Intensive starts on Dec 15 this year. Interested? 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Baneshwar Mahadev and Tukai Hill Climb

28th Sep 2013

Baneshwar Mahadev : Pandav period cave temple

It was my bro Hrushi's birthday on the 27th Sep and I wanted to celebrate it with him and Rupa. So Dad in tow just decided to go to Pune where he lives. The Friday night was spent at home over dinner I had made and part carried from Nerul and part made fresh there.

The next day after relaxing the entire day my bro decided to validate the clearance I had just received from the doc for trekking. Doc has permitted trek upto 5000 ft above sea level (ASL).

So Hrushi took me and Dad for a climb to Tukai hill. Hrushi is an avid trekker and biker so this trek he said would be good to test my stamina. It is a steep climb of 1654 ft from Baner 570 ft ASL to Hill top 2224 ft ASL.

We climbed upto the Baneshwar Mandir which is about a couple of hundred feet from the foothill. Since I began the climb without any warm up it felt slightly tough. Hrushi told me to see around the temple and once I had caught my breath he suggested we climb up to Tukai Mandir at a slow pace.

Baneshwar Mahadev Mandir is home to a shivalinga inside a cave. This temple is said to be from the Pandav period. One has to step down a few steps to go inside the cave. It is maintained very clean and puja is done regularly. The way to the cave is marked by a doorway else in the olden days it would have been a hidden place of worship with just a mast to mark the temple.

 The sanct sactorium

On the outer left side there can be seen some carved pillars, they are now protected in glass cases and needs expert interpretation.

After seeing the cave and taking darshan, we climbed up slowly as lots of athletes who climb the hill for daily training whizzed past us down hill.

Atop the hill sits the Tukai temple which was established in the 17th century and has been rebuilt into a glitzy Bollywood style temple with an awesome gallery that allows an uninterrupted view of the Pune city below, on one side the concrete jungle of Baner and the other side a greenery and water bodies I hope will not see a much dreaded fate.

I loved the fact that such a hill is in the vicinity for my trek loving bro. Punekars who do not know about this temple can visit it atleast once. 

Beyond the Tukai hill are the Baner hills that seemed like a lot to walk and get back before nightfall so we kept it for another time.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Plateau Of Flowers, Kaas Pathar and Thoseghar Falls

29th Sep 2013

Impatiens oppositifolia: pink flowers: These were the largest blooms covering Kaas plateau.
Murdannia simplex: the purple flowers.

While I was in Bangalore someone had asked me about a plateau of flowers in Maharashtra and I went blank. I knew so little about my own home state. So when I returned I resolved to explore Maharashtra as much as I did the South. 

Ipomoea barlerioides

Rainy season always calls for special picnics but except going to Thal I had not gone anywhere in the hills actually we did go to Gondavle in Aug but that route is something I know like the back of my hand and did not notice anything unusual or may be the drama of nature had not begun unfolding yet.

help me name this flower.

So when I discovered a company called The Western Routes that does some lovely themes in Maharashtra I hopped on to their bus along with Dad to visit Kaas Pathar. Enroute they handed out a print info on Kaas Pathar or Plateau in English. It gets it name from the Kaas tree. 

Kaas pathar and view of the Satara city below

The purple flowers: Cynotis tuberosa

In the two monsoon months of August and September the nature dresses the plateau of Kaas with vibrant colored wild flowers. The carpets of purples, yellows, whites, pinks. The flowers of one color start blooming then another and this drama lasts only for 2-3 weeks. 
The yellow flowers : Senecio bombyensis

We left Pune at 5 am and reached Kaas before 9 am. Turned out to be a good plan and ofcourse the experience of Jayesh who runs The Western Routes to save us from crowds. However we did have trouble with traffic while coming back as the road to Kaas is narrow and barely two lane. The bus had dropped us at the entrance gate and then came to pick us up again thru the crazy traffic. Some idiots had clogged the two lane road by parking along the sides. They should not allow vehicles to go beyond the parking area. Walking up the trail would do good.

Pogostemon deccanensis: the purple flowers in the forefront

Kaas is a visual treat so here are some iPAD pics of the beauty. It was foggy and as we roamed around it started raining. That set a really good mood for the day. No sun meant I could enjoy the outdoor without worrying about harsh sun burns. The soil layer here is very thin barely covering the volcanic rocks. The Sahyadri range in Satara is mainly made of Laterite and Basalt. This thin soil layer does not allow the growth of many trees but the wild grasses and shrubs are abundant. What was nice is there were a group of botanists who educated us about the Kaas and its environment and helped identify the flowers.

Eriocaulon Tuberiferum: white balls

Most of the plants here are endemic to Kaas, which means they grow only in the environmental conditions specific to Kaas. There are some 850 species of flowers that grow here and some are endangered. In an attempt to protect these species Kaas is declared as Biodiversity World Heritage Site by Unesco. We picked up some plastic and cans that the public had littered and brought it back with us to Pune to dispose to the municiplality, The Westren Routes is a very pro environment tour company and this is one of their initiatives.
Topli Karvi : gets its name from the basket shape leaf arrangement. 
Strobilanthes callosus blooms >once in 8yrs.

View from the bus as we came down from Kaas

We were well taken care off on this trip. For tea we stopped at a restaurant when cream biscuits were handed out. Breakfast was thick theplas, cucumber and cheese chutney sandwiches in packets so we could munch on when ever and where ever we wanted. After spending an hour or 2 at Kaas we were herded into the bus and taken to Satara city for lunch at the famous Khanaval run by Supnekar in Yadogopal peth. 

We enjoyed a very homely lunch and burped with happiness and some new connection were created over interesting conversations.

After this we headed to Thoseghar falls to view the rain water gushing down that makes these falls a sight to behold only in the monsoon season. There are two falls one with a straight fall and another one that flows down the edge of the ravines.

After a long time we were travelling with a group even though they were strangers we started chatting up with them and had a good time. More group trips for Dad and me in the future!

Kaas and Thoseghar falls exhaustive pics here...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Foodie's Delight, Mapro Garden and Venna Lake

Day 3 : 18th Mar 2013

I had heard a lot about Mapro from family and friends and have been using their products for a very long time so visiting their factory and Garden was a must for a food blogger and foodie like me.

It is a place that houses their chocolate manufacturing unit, we can view the chocolate coating process from the glass windows. There are numerous counters that sell their products. What is nice is they have a tasting counter where they give shots of all the syrups, squashes etc mixed with milk or water. You can decide on your picks and then buy what you like. I freaked out completely and here is my loot. Crushes, Syrups, Jellies, chocolates...

Besides the chocolate factory they have a large garden area with stone tables and benches and plastic chairs for plonking yourself to wolf down some tasty treats. You first take a look at the large menu.

Our pick was the Classic grilled sandwich which sounded great to me with baked potato mentioned on the board. It more that lived up to its name. It is a large sandwich with a side of potato chips that fill two people ofcourse along with a shake. Ours was a thick strawberry shake. We had already had cream and strawberries elsewhere and had to give a miss to it at Mapro, had we known earlier! We sat at a table overlooking the strawberry garden. 

In Mahabaleshwar and no strawberry and cream? How is that even possible!

 The roadside parlor with a strawberry patch.

Serious Marketing! Falero is a brand of Mapro's jelly sweets.

Post lunch we went to Venna lake and sat in the shades at the waterfront, watching honeymooners and families with kids pedaling boats on the lake. It was too hot to go trekking again. Just looking at the scenery was more satisfying.

Around Venna lake we saw Kavadwalas selling fresh carrots and shalgam with the greens on, you don't see these in Mumbai, strawberries ofcourse. I kept my strawberry shopping for the last day.

Horse riding in the hot sun, not my idea of fun!

Instead here is the cool lake, just the sight was a relief.

That's the Venna lake for you.

Day 4 : 19th Mar 2013

We spared the day for shopping in the town market, boxes and boxes of strawberries to bring back. We found a nice basket of cherry tomatoes, they were so sweet and I made them last long using in salads, curries and pasta. The aam papad was quite good which we bought from one of the small shops in Malcom peth.

Mahabaleshwar is a really good getaway for Mumbaikars especially Navi Mumbaikars as we save a few hours and bad traffic. Neeta's Volvos are very convenient for to and fro journeys. Our stay at the Citrus Chambers was so perfect and the cab we hired, everything made our time in Mahabaleshwar after this huge gap of many years very memorable. 

Check out more of Mahabaleshwar here.