Travel Shot: The confluence of blue and grey

Karcham, in the Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh, is a pretty ordinary looking place and one can be forgiven for dismissing it as just another Indian town. However it is not “just another Indian town” as I found out.

This is where the highway (or rather the dirt track that passes for one) bifurcates into two — one leads to Kalpa and the other leads to the Sangla Valley. It is here that the Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant is situated. And it is at Karcham that the Sutlej and the Baspa rivers meet.

Baspa, Sutlej, river confluence, Kinnaur,

The blue Baspa meets the grey Sutlej at Karcham

According to a Kinnauri legend,

the rivers Sutlej and Baspa are brothers, with former being the older one. Sutlej was the more serious and sedate sibling, and Baspa the mischievous one. Like all siblings the two were rivals for everything, including whose name should be retained where their waters joined at Karcham. It was decided that whoever reached Karcham first would get the honour of lending his name to the river from that point onwards.

And so the two rivers set forth towards Karcham. Baspa, the faster of the two. He rushed forth through valleys and gorges, but was easily distracted and stopped to play with other streams and take mini diversions. On the other hand, Sutlej flowed slowly and steadily towards Karcham. And we know which type of person wins, right?

Sutlej reached Karcham first and that is how the river from Karcham onwards is known by that name even though it contains the waters of Baspa as well.

Wherever I travelled in the Kinnaur region these rivers were never too far from me. If the Sutlej was within my sight from the Kalpa side, the Baspa kept me company in the Sangla Valley. Two brothers, so different in looks and character, both heavily dammed, and yet in their own ways lifelines for the regions they flow through.

The confluence is stark and one can easily pick out the blue of the Baspa and the grey of the Sutlej. It was a sight the kept me mesmerised for a long time.

PS: Isn’t the Kinnauri folktale delightful?

Celebrating World Photography Day with Google+

A photograph has picked up a fact of life and that fact will live forever.

With these words, distinguished photographer Raghu Rai drew the audience right into the heart of the magical world of photography.

World Photography Day, Google +, Raghy RaiNot that he really needed to considering that the select audience comprised professional and amateur photographers, and also photography enthusiasts like me who had been specially invited by Google+ to commemorate World Photography Day at the Tote on the Turf restaurant in Mumbai.

Raghu Rai delivered the Keynote Address at the event and it was one where he spoke of his own journey as a photographer and shared experiences and anecdotes on developments in the field of photography and transitions over the years; how he never touched a film camera after getting introduced to a digital camera; how he was introduced to Google and its various features by his daughter, and much more. He also engaged with the audience and answered their questions. I particularly liked his response to a question on how to choose a mentor. His answer: “Your conscience is the best mentor you can ever have.”

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Photostory: A red-canopied welcome

“I think someone important is coming.”

“Do you think it is SRK?”

“No, it must be the Maharaja himself.”

“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. :-D

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.

Umaid Bhavan Palace Hotel, Jodhpur

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Three minutes with Demoiselle Cranes at Khichan

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.

Demoiselle Cranes 1

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Travel Shot: The floating church

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.

London, Floating Church

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. ;-)

Travel Shot: The orange smiley

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.

Roadside shrine, Pavagadh

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