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December thoughts

Happiness. Often used as a substitute for success. Both highly intangible words. Both can't be contained in a single definition. And yet, we are conditioned all our lives to believe that it is something we 'achieve' if we do certain things. As kids, we make our parents happy and ourselves happy if we do things that are supposed to be 'right'. So, we complete our engineering or medical degrees (what else can poor South Indian children dream of? shudder shudder if they think of something like the arts, especially boys!) and we will be happy? We go off to the US, do our MSes, and think we and our parents and our families have been wrapped in one big happy bubble! Then we marry. If that partner fits the standards set by our closest set of relatives and friends, we are doubly lucky. Soon enough, we start a family. And the cycle continues. A car, an apartment, then two, our quest for material symbols of success is one long relentless one. We parade our achievements on s…

December - What have you thrown at us?

The end of 2014 must go down as one of the worst months ever, at least for me, personally. How do you come to terms with the freakish manner in which a young cricketer who was just about starting his international career had to say goodbye to the world? How do you even begin to internalise the death of a couple of hostages at Sydney? A mother of three children, what wrong did she do? Or the death of the manager of Lindt Cafe - how does that make sense? December 2014, what have you done to us? What made you take the lives of over hundred innocent schoolchildren in Peshawar, all mercilessly gunned down? What about their families? What do the parents have to look forward to? December is indeed the cruellest month. You took away a former colleague of mine, an honest man who worked hard, who was also a very good friend to me ten years ago. I think of his wife, his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. What will life be like for them from now on? How do they deal with their loved one's abs…

Land of the Hoysalas

Not worth losing a life over

(This post has been published in unboxedwriters.com. Here: http://unboxedwriters.com/2014/11/not-worth-losing-a-life-over/ ) 

This piece has also since been published in The New Indian Express
Losing a wicket is a far far better thing to strive for. No batsman would say that under normal circumstances, but given Phil Hughes' death, he would certainly say that. 

The sight of a fast bowler tearing into a batsman has been one of cricket's most romanticized images, especially in the pre-helmet era. It was a test to the batsman's technique and mental make-up to duck a bouncer or take one on and dispatch it to the fence. Some of the most celebrated tales in cricket come from anecdotes where batsmen have withstood or batted on in spite of a broken nose or a jaw, samurai-like. It is also very macho, I guess, for both players and spectators to witness such episodes involving sweat, and blood, in some cases. Almost all modern-day sports are civilized and evolved versions of some ancien…

Going nuts, are you?

Several years ago, my brother and I took out our handy cam and went around the city capturing the essence of Bangalore on our recorder. It was on one such occasion that we went to the kadlekai parishe or the groundnut fair in Gandhi Bazaar. This was over a decade ago. That was my first brush with the parishe, but I have been there many times later. So, when this year's parishe came along, I decided to make a small trip. Much like most of our festivals, this fair is also rooted in an agrarian past. Typically, our festivals are about changing seasons, harvests, fertility. All rooted in the land we till. And yet, we have lost our roots with that lifestyle. Our festivals today are gaudy affairs, display of gold, silver and riches. And excessive gift-giving with no respect whatsoever for our bond with the soil and forces of nature. I'm digressing, so, back to the kadlekai parishe. There's a fascinating legend that describes how this festival came about.

A raging bull ravaged fi…

Secrets of the River

(This piece has been published in The New Indian Express)

A thick green forest, vast grassy stretches, and a river running through the undulating landscape. And to think all this is a mere 100 km away from Bangalore! Cross Kanakapura, and you will get to see hamlets of about 30-40 families punctuating the forest. As we go past Sathanur and take the Muthathi road (which by the way is an adventure in itself, considering the poor state of the road), we see stretches of mulberry plantations, banana crops, and all the pastoral scenes that jump straight out of a fourth-standard textbook chapter on rural life. Bheemeshwari Nature and Adventure Camp (was a fishing camping earlier) is an initiative of Jungle Lodges, Karnataka government's excellent eco-tourism project. The camp was earlier a fishing camp that attracted tons of visitors because of the Mahseer, the fish that has made the gushing and throbbing River Cauvery its home. Fishing (even catch and release) is banned now, but the ca…

Singapore and its colonial past

My story on Singapore in today's Sunday Herald

The other OrientColonial Singapore With Singapore celebrating its National Day recently, Savitha Karthik tries tounderstand the city-state’s colonial heritage, goes on a World War II trail and comes back feeling enriched...
The Universal Studios, Sentosa’s water wonders, the Marina Bay Sands, the Merlion, the Jurong Bird Park, Gardens by the Bay, add or subtract a few more and a trip to Singapore is quite over. Oh, and yes, I forgot the Changi Airport! But, if you are the type who wants to get a better sense of a city, understand its people, culture and heritage, you will walk. Stop. And stare. Like we gazed at the wonderful colonial structures and read aloud street names. The names unravel a story... Fullerton Road, Havelock Road, Albert Street, Church Street, Victoria Road, Stamford Road... the story of Singapore’s British past. Much like India, you can’t miss the stamp of the British Raj. 

In fact, the story of modern-day Singapore doe…

Kodagu calling

It's cold, gloomy and drizzling in Bangalore. Reminds me of a holiday in Kodagu I took last year. The piece I wrote for Deccan Herald is here. The memory of that bella kaapi is fresh in my mind:)
In the lap of nature Savitha Karthik, Jan 27, 2013 Coorg’s bounty Any description of Kodagu is in danger of turning into a cliché; but the endless rows of coffee plantations, the crisp mountain air, the clear blue skies...can all mean just one thing, that the place is indeed a slice of heaven. There can’t be a truer cliché than that.

After a five-hour drive, I find myself at the entrance of Madikeri’s Vivanta by Taj, and nothing prepares me for what I am about to experience. Set at an altitude of 4,000 feet, the hotel lobby takes my breath away. I can see the rainforest in the distance, the grasslands dancing in the breeze, as I sip bella kaapi, coffee with a generous helping of jaggery.

All about birds


Rejuvenated, I am all set to explore the property, which is set across 180 acres, with 15…

Vidurashwatha

Re-plug of an article I wrote five years back ahead of Independence Day. On Vidurashwatha, which is known as the Jallianwalah Bagh of Karnataka. Vidurashwatha is actually very close to my hometown and the temple there is a much-visited one by my family.





Of lives lost under the peepal FREEDOM STRUGGLE Vidurashwatha is known as the Jallianwala Bagh of the south. At least nine people died in the summer of 1938, when British authorities fired indiscriminately at a fair held there, writes Savitha Karthik
If the giant peepal trees here were to tell a story, what would that be? That of the Mahabharata character Vidura coming here to plant a sapling of ashwatha, or the ficus religiosa, in botanical terminology? That of the holy peepal being worshipped by generations here, along with hundreds of idols of the snake god installed by believers? Or would the peepal trees choose to tell another tale? Of nine brave souls who fell victim to an oppressor’s guns, right under the stoic trunks?

The ficus…

Rows and rows and rows....

See the symmetry. Little India adds that dash of spice to Singapore, but that too in a structured, organised manner. Somehow, these endless rows of roofs symbolize Singapore to me.
Humayun Mahal

Have lived in Chennai for about a year and have made several visits to the city, but didn't know a thing about this beautiful structure called the Chepauk Palace. Only came to know about it after reading this news item Another interesting link below:
http://madrasmusings.com/Vol%2022%20No%2022/index.html

Land of the Hoysalas

This is a travelogue I wrote last year after a visit to Chikmagalur-Belur-Halebeedu. It has since been published in The New Indian Express
It is to coffee land, Chikmagalur, that we finally head to, after much deliberation. The idea is to take long walks in the coffee plantations, breathe the fresh spice-scented air, and unwind. Far away from the Internet noise that everyday life has come to mean for us ‘city types’. So, we land up at a homestay, a 13-km drive from the heart of Karnataka’s Chikmagalur town, also the district headquarters. While we manage to take a stroll or two in the coffee plantations, the constant rain means no trekking, and no outdoor activities. No signal on the phone, no signal on the iPad – leave us tearing our hair out wondering what to do, unused as we are to the silence and the sound of constant rain.
It is then that the manager at the homestay comes up with the idea of Belur - Halebeedu. Why not, we say. The husband and I both vaguely remember seeing Belur as…

Timeless

The permanence of things, or the impermanence of things, whichever way you look at it. We shot this during a visit to Hampi several years ago. Hampi was once the seat of the mighty Vijayanagar Empire. The fabled city where gold and precious stones were sold on the streets. The Empire is now dead and gone, while the structures, symbols of the glorious architecture of the 14th century, still remain.


A moment in time

The colonial facades of Singapore stand testimony to its British heritage. A heritage India shares with Singapore. The juxtaposition of the past and the present is never so clearly evident as in the modern-day city state of Singapore. The past doesn't go anywhere. It is here.

Quite the head turners!

Chinatown in KL. A melting pot of cultures.

Stopping by a Kopitiam

Well and truly Asia




All these at the Batu Caves complex. With Murugan lording over the hills.

Bihun sup, mee kari, soto...

The hawker centre/food stalls at Masjid India area, KL had boards selling mee kari, which is rice vermicelli cooked with coconut milk, spicy curry soup, sambal, seafood, chicken etc. Bihun sup is vermicelli in beef broth and soto is soup...at least that's what some Internet research tells me.

Kedai Makans, the food shops

Kedai Makan is Malay for food shop. Wiki tells me Nasi Kandar is mildly flavoured steamed rice served with curries. Here's the link for more on Nasi Kandar
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasi_kandar

The pic below of a Kedai Makan near Sogo Mall.



Hello lamp post!

Hello lamp post! Whatcha knowin' I've come to watch your flowers growing - Simon & Garfunkel, 59th Street Bridge Song

Streetscapes - Singapore and KL

Out head-hunting?

To say the streets of KL are colourful would be an understatement!


Holland Village, where there's magic in the air

On a whim, we took off to Holland Village and were smitten by the place. A certain bohemian spirit in the air. Check this out:
http://www.holland-village-singapore.com/the-history-of-holland-village/








An eye for an eye. Yeah, take that!

More food for thought

China Town in Singapore has a food street that is hugely popular.


And then, some more!

KL and Singapore, and the food we didn't eat

F&B!
Street food, hawker centres, high-end restaurants (restorans in KL), you name it, you have it. KL and Singapore are a food lover's paradise, especially if you love nasi lemaks, satays, and all that blah. Except we happen to be vegetarians who settle for the roti, rice, or dosey, idli routine and a rare coffee at one of the kopitiams. Nevertheless, had fun gawking at the boards and reading out the names of dishes.





The streets, they tell a story, if you listen carefully

"Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,The muttering retreatsOf restless nights in one-night cheap hotelsAnd sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:Streets that follow like a tedious argumentOf insidious intentTo lead you to an overwhelming question. . .Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"Let us go and make our visit. " (T S Eliot, 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock)