“I’m telling you it must be some firang (foreigner).”
I can’t help overhearing this excited chatter and squeals of anticipation as I step out of the Museum of the Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur. A group of 20 somethings is standing to one side and craning their necks over a barricade to see something that I cannot. I am intrigued and join them as do some other tourists. And soon we are looking at the entrance to the Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel, which was abuzz with some activity. What happened next is not really an unusual sight in a 5-star hotel, but as a tourist in a touristy place, I couldn’t help be one myself.
A bright red silken canopy is being unfurled and readied.Who is the visitor, I wonder? So do others and the guesses are flowing fast and thick.
Our story begins on a warm, sunny day in late February this year.
A tourist bus turns off from the Bikaner – Jaisalmer highway at Phalodi and rattles its way towards a village called Khichan. As the bus passes a sign announcing that Khichan was just a kilometer away, excitement mounts. Sunglasses are readied as are cameras and binoculars. Soon the group will be seeing what they have come to Khichan for — to see the Demoiselle Cranes, which migrate here to escape the harsh winters of Eastern Europe.
Everybody in the group is a birding enthusiast. Everybody, but one person who is frankly quite bored with all the bird talk going around and trying to be as indifferent as possible to the contagious and palpable excitement filling the bus. That person is me.
As soon as the bus stops, the group tumbles out looking all around them. “Where are the birds? Where are the birds?” they demand. A local, who is passing by points vaguely and mutters “across that rise” at which the group sets off purposefully in that direction. I trail behind the group, dragging my feet and looking disinterestedly around me.
As the first of the group crests the rise, sounds of “Ooh ! Look at them, there they are”, floats back to me. My steps quicken of their own accord and in a minute I am over the rise myself and get my first glimpse of the Demoiselle Cranes. And stop in my tracks so suddenly that I almost slide all the way down to level ground.
The sight of so many live birds outside of a TV screen or a photograph is a sight that I am never going to forget for as long as I live.
On that beautiful summer’s evening in 2009, after a day spent exploring London’s Docklands, I came across this near the West India Quay DLR station.
St. Peter’s Barge or London’s Floating Church
St. Peter’s Barge claims to be London’s only floating church, but for me it could have been the world’s only as far as I was concerned. For till then I had not seen or come across anything like this and have not till date.
The fine print revealed that the floating church had a crèche for children, personalised prayer service as well as the terms and conditions for hiring the barge for ‘Christian occasions’. I was really disappointed to find no one around as I would have loved to know see more of this church.
Have you ever come across something like this? If yes, please do share your memories and experience in the comments section.
PS: The photograph does not really convey the floating nature of the barge and I apologise for that. When I took the photograph, I had no idea that I would be blogging about it in the future.
A rainy day in September 2011. It is mid-morning and I have just completed a climb of the Pavagadh Hill to visit the Mahakalika Temple on its summit. It has been a tough and painful climb, partly because of the steep steps, and partly because of a sprained ankle. By the time I finish with the darshan at the temple, I am quite bad-tempered with pain and just want to get back to my hotel room and rest my ankle.
I decide to take the cable car back to the base and as I make my way to the cable car station, I see something that stops me. It is a smile. A beautiful smile beaming away at me from a small roadside shrine built under a tree. It is a smile that literally shines and sparkles amidst other expressionless, almost dour faces surrounding it. It is an open, wide and happy smile, and one so infectious that I forget my painful ankle and smile back in turn.
Today morning, I woke up with an overwhelming desire to go on a boat ride. I don’t know why, but there was this yearning to be on water and allow for its soothing motion and rhythm to take over. But today was also a Wednesday, a weekday and a working day. It didn’t feel right to give in to the temptation to take leave from work and go to the Gateway of India for the nearest boat ride I could take.
Instead, I went to work. But thoughts of the boat ride kept intruding between editing documents and meetings, and during lunch and and coffee breaks. Well, if only thoughts were boat rides, I would have gone on a real one … So, I did the next best thing — photograph therapy.
Once I reached home, I raided my digital photo library to look at all the trips that I have taken on water. One of the trips stood out for sheer novelty and beauty — a boat trip on the River Thames from Richmond (in Southwest London) to Hampton Court in July 2009. The novelty lay in the fact that this the first time I got the opportunity to observe how boats navigated river locks. This boat ride was part of an explorer day organised by London Walks to first explore Richmond, then take a boat trip along the Thames to Hampton Court Palace, for the second part of that day’s activities. It is a journey that took about an hour-and-a-half through a very picturesque route and in typical English weather It — sunny, cloudy, and rainy at the same time.
Come on, join me, as I take that boat ride from Richmond to Hampton Court once again with some photographs and a video.
The Guest Post Serieson “My Favourite Things” has contributions by those sharing my interests in travel, books, photography, music, and on issues that I am passionate about. Though the guest posts are not always by fellow bloggers, the guest authors are always those who have interesting experiences to share.
Ever get the feeling that you are being pulled in three different directions at the same time? I do. Every time I have a moment to spare, I feel like my interests/passions/hobbies all gang-up and pull me towards their individual selves. Films and Travel have always occupied the highest tier on my activities table. Photography was recently added to this knocking down books and food to the under-appreciated second tier. So now when the weekend rolls in I am never sure what to do, which eventually leads to me doing absolutely nothing.
But, just once in a while, something magnificent happens. Everything falls perfectly in place and I end up with a photograph, a memory, or in some cases my vivid imagination wherein all my interests amalgamate. Searching through countless photographs (thank you digital camera technology) I ended up with these few instances wherein my lust for cinema met with my passion for travel to collaborate into a unique photo.