Travel Shot: Cow in the box

The cow looked up coyly at me through her false eyelashes. Her golden horns glinted with the light of Surya on her forehead. The various gods and sages on her flanks looked stonily at me — Brahma, Hanuman, Saraswati, Agni, Ganesha, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi… Only the sage Narada had a cheerful smile for me.

The fact that she was boxed in a transparent cage and leg deep in money did not seem to affect the cow at all.  And as for me, I stared at the cow with a touch of disbelief. You would have done the same if you saw a cow like this.

Cow in the box, donation box, Govind Gopal Goshala, Rajasthan

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Travel Shot: Laugh and the world laughs with you

May 20, 2009. Oxford Street London.

It is the opening day of special sales at the Marks and Spencer store on the occasion of their 125th Anniversary and there’s a long line of people waiting for the store to open. As opening time nears, the crowd swells and so does the restlessness. That’s when a group of entertainers come out to interact with the crowd keep them occupied till its time for the store doors to open.

One of the entertainers is a magician who moves down the line chatting a bit to each person and sharing a magic trick or two. It’s a smooth, practiced routine and quite predictable, not to mention boring. And then something happens…

One of the people waiting in the line says something and the magician bursts out laughing and continues laughing.

laugh and the world laughs with you, london, M&S Continue reading

Travel Shot: The 3 travelling painters

I love watching works of art being created. Be it a painting or a sculpture being made or an embroidery being done or a sweater being knitted or a pot being shaped at the wheel, I love to see creation happening. So when I saw this silhouette at the Kumbhalgarh Fort during my Rajasthan visit in winter last year, I just stopped in my tracks.Travelling Painter 1 It was a painter at work. He was seated on the steps of one of the many monuments in the Fort and painting the vista in front of him. It was mesmerising to watch him at work as he mixed colours, changed brushes and painted. His brush strokes were almost hypnotic – a dab of blue here, a swirl of green there, with some browns and yellows thrown in for good measure.

I would have loved to go and take a closer look at what he was painting and perhaps chat with him, but I sensed a “do not disturb” sign about him. I left after a while and almost stumbled upon another painter. Luckily for me, this second painter had a ‘do disturb’ vibe. :)

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Travel Shot: The sun temple of Ranakpur

Ranakpur in Rajasthan is synonymous with its world-famous Jain temple. So much so that another, older temple located less than half-a-kilometre from the Jain temple lies virtually forgotten, visited only by the someone who knows about it existence – the 13th century Suryanarayan Temple or Sun Temple.

Ranakpur, Sun Temple, Suryanarayan Temple

It is around 3 in the afternoon when our group arrives at the Sun Temple. Looking back, I’m still astonished that we made it to the temple for there are no signboards or markers to guide a visitor to the Sun Temple. If the manager of our tour group had not known about the Sun Temple, I doubt we would have visited it.

Built from low-grade marble, which has weathered beautifully over the centuries, the exterior of the temple is intricately carved with Surya or the Sun God seated on a chariot drawn by horses. The temple faces east, and has a sanctum topped by a shikhara in the nagara style, and an octogonal mandapa preceding the sanctum. The mandapa has some of the most exquisitely carved pillars and sculpted toranas I have seen. This is the first time I’m visiting a sun temple and I’m fascinated by the unusual motifs and iconography on the walls here.

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Travel Shot: The elevator with the pink seat

The elevator dings its arrival and the doors slide open noiselessly. I step in and look in fascination at the elevator’s interiors.

I am at Hotel Suryagarh, a luxury boutique hotel near Jaisalmer, and am being escorted to my second floor suite by a hotel attendant after completing the usual registration formalities.

“Why don’t you sit down, Ma’am?” the hotel attendant urges me.

This might have been a strange question considering we were in an elevator. But since the elevator had a large, cushioned seat upholstered in a velvet of bright pink, it really wasn’t that strange a question.

Hotel Suryagarh, Boutique Hotel, Luxury, Elevator

I politely decline as I feel a little stupid to sit down for a trip of two floors. But I do notice that the elevator speed is quite slow and discover later that this has been done deliberately to encourage guests to relax and sit down.

And over the over the two days that I spend at the hotel and the numerous trips that I make between my room and wherever I was headed to, I would use the elevator. Get in. Sit down. Relax. Take pictures. Normally, I would have used the stairs, but not this time.

Hotel Suryagarh, Boutique Hotel, Luxury, Elevator

To this day, the luxurious elevator with the pink seat at Hotel Suryagarh remains unique. I have never come across anything like this before, and doubt it I will.

Have you come across unique hotel elevators? Do share.

Travel Shot: The longest grape vine in the world

What I love most about travel is the unexpected. I don’t mean the ‘discovering’ type of unexpected; I mean finding something you were not aware of before and in a place where you least expect it to be.

Take for instance, the trip I made to Hampton Court Palace (near London) in 2009. It was a beautiful summer’s day and I had arrived at Hampton Court Palace in style — by boat over the River Thames, much like how King Henry VIII would have. I spent a wonderful time at the Palace (actually they are 2 palaces, but that is a story for another post!), and wandered around its extensive grounds, tennis courts, privy and knot gardens, and what not, and nearly drained my camera battery with the number of photos I took. Just what I expected a palace in England to be like.

When I came across a rather nondescript looking glasshouse, I almost didn’t go in to explore. But then curiosity won, and I found myself in the presence of the world’s longest, and one of the world’s oldest, grape vine, also known as the Great Vine.

Longest Grape vine, Hampton Court Palace, England, UK, Great Vine

The Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace. If you look closely you can see the vine laden with grapes.

The Great Vine was planted in 1769 on the site of the first glasshouse built in the Hampton Court Palace; today, the Vine has filled up the entire glasshouse. A lot of care is taken to protect the Great Vine from encroachment by other plants, as well as from disease. Only organic manure/fertiliser is used and the Vine is protected from mildew by vaporising sulphur using small electrically operated vaporisers suspended amongst the plant’s branches.

Even after more than 2 centuries, the Vine still produces grapes. According to the official website,

the average crop of black dessert grapes is about 272 kilograms… The grapes are … sold during the first three weeks of September.

I had visited Hampton Court Palace in late July when the Great Vine was laden with plump grapes and were due to be picked in a month’s time. I love grapes and wished I could have tasted them, though I doubt if I would have been able to afford them. Still, that didn’t stop me from imagining what they would have tasted like — juicy, sweet, and just a little sour. Just as I like my grapes.

PS: Apologies for the photograph quality; this one is from my pre-blogging days :-P