Mumbai Lens: The Gorai Pagoda

Some things are “discovered” serendipitously, like the Gorai Pagoda.

One Saturday morning in January 2010, I found myself with nothing to do. I was Borivali to conduct a training session on report writing, which had got cancelled at the last-minute due to an outbreak of food poisoning amongst the group I was supposed to train.

I didn’t feel like returning home or going for a movie or visiting friends who lived in the area. I wanted to see and experience something new. As I was standing outside the training centre mulling over various options, I saw a bus heading for Gorai Jetty. And I knew where I wanted to go—the Global Vipassana Pagoda a.k.a. the Gorai Pagoda, a place that I had only heard about but had not visited.

A short and sharp auto rickshaw ride later, I was at the jetty buying a return ticket to Gorai Island for a visit to the Pagoda. As I walked towards the waiting ferry, I saw this shimmering golden pagoda rising in the distance, almost like a mirage.

Gorai Pagoda

I spent so much time looking at the beautiful,magical and ethereal pagoda and taking pictures that I missed the ferry and had to wait for the next one to take me to Gorai Island for an exploration of the Global Vipassana Pagoda. But that, dear reader, is matter for another post. :-)

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.

The BEST jugaad

Sometimes in the midst of trying to balance work, home, commuting, blogging, reading, indeed living, I am brought to a screeching halt by something very ordinary, something very simple. Something that always makes me pause and think about the details that I often miss, the little bits of creativity around us, and the gentler and hidden things we overlook.  Getting a bus pass made was one such incident :-)

I commute to work by Mumbai’s BEST buses. For the last 2 years or so, I have found it convenient to get a monthly or quarterly bus pass made, which till about a year back, had been outsourced by the BEST to a third-party. But due to reported discrepancies in collections as well as non-functioning of the smart card bus pass, the contract with the third-party was abruptly terminated. A press release from the BEST stated that they would be issuing the bus passes themselves.

So once the announcement appeared in the newspapers regarding the issuing of smart card bus passes, off I went to the nearest bus depot, which happened to be BEST’s Deonar Bus Depot. The security guard at the gate helpfully pointed me towards the right direction or where the bus passes were being issued from. Soon I found myself looking at this:

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Museum Treasure: Bust of Rameses II

The Egyptian galleries in the British Museum in London, perhaps, receive the maximum number of visitors every day. These galleries are full of mummies, figurines of gods and shabtis, sculptures of boats, doors, beetles, the Rosetta Stone, busts of various pharaohs, etc. Amidst all these objects and artifacts from Egypt, is the towering stone of Rameses II.

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Being a “Banu” in Bombay

Here’s introducing the Guest Post Series on “My Favourite Things”, which will have contributions by those sharing my interests, and writing about issues that I am passionate about. These guest posts will not necessarily be by fellow bloggers; they could be by anyone who has interesting experiences to share.

The first guest post on here is by Ashabanu, who writes about the prejudice and bias she has faced because of her name. Prejudice and bias in the supposedly liberal city of Bombay (or Mumbai, if you please).

“B…a…n…u”. This is the second part of my name, Ashabanu.

I never thought that part of my name will seek so much of attention in the city of Bombay (or Mumbai if you please), when I stepped into the city about 8 years back. This name of mine has never intrigued anyone in the small town I hail from, near Chennai, or in any of the places I have worked or studied in Tamil Nadu. However, it has puzzled almost everyone in Bombay. From the day I landed in Bombay, I have had to keep explaining the “Banu” part to people.

On my very first day at work in Bombay, a colleague asked me, “Oh…You are the Banu? Sorry I did not realise that, as we were expecting someone with a burkha.

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Ladies compartment, 8.47 local: Book release function and review

Sometime early last month, Mumbai experienced a few days of gloomy, cloudy, rather funny weather.Though this type of weather was quite uncharacteristic for Mumbai, it was  typically London weather. And suddenly I was remembering and missing my days in London. On a whim, I put a status update on my Facebook wall about missing London, which elicited some responses. One of the responses I got was this:

You really miss England, don’t you? Go back, Sudha. Steep yourself in the legends and the history, touch the old walls and let them flow up your finger-tips into your heart, let the lakes and the streams and the little sudden springs soak into your soul, let the 40 shades of green fill your eyes and mind, let the cathedrals and the quaint corners whisper forgotten secrets and fervent prayers to you. Then come back home again.

As I read these beautiful lines, I did “travel” back to England, experience all that it said I should and came back “home” rejuvenated. And excited. Excited, because these lines had been written and posted by Suma Narayan, whose first book I had agreed to review. If these lines were a preview of what Suma’s writing would be like, I knew that the book would be a good read.

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Travel Shot: Sunrise at Kovalam Beach

In the winter of 1998, a friend and I embarked on a trip along the West Coast of India beginning at Honnavar (Karnataka) and ending at Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) 10 days later. It was a hop on, hop off trip, one of the best trips I have ever undertaken, and a trip that I remember for various reasons.

While in Thiruvananthapuram, we took a spur of the moment decision to spend the night at one of the hotels on Kovalam Beach. That turned into quite an experience—being the only Indians staying back, being the subject of countless stares and comments, and dealing with plate-sized spiders in our room. After a sleepless night (you didn’t really expect us to sleep with the spiders around, did you?), we stumbled out of our room at daybreak—all red-eyed and cranky—to see a glorious sunrise.

Sunrise at Kovalam Beach, Thiruvananthapuram

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