Guwahati on the Brahmaputra

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What was to be a day spent at Guwahati  to get a permit to visit Arunachal Pradesh turned into 3 days; thanks to elections, government offices were closed. We finally left without getting the permit as we were told we could get it at Tezpur instead, which was a better place to be hanging around! Parts of the city are quite pleasant to walk around with huge old buildings and trees lining the avenues, and plenty of birdlife. Things have a somewhat worn air, but pleasantly so.

The mighty river seems to make its presence felt even when not directly visible, and on one of those lazy 3 days we took a ferry across it to Peacock Island to see the golden langurs, a bigger attraction to us than the temple. They are quite beautiful, gentle looking creatures, and somewhat shy. It’s also known as Umananda Island after the temple originally built in the 1600s, then rebuilt in the late 19th c after earthquake damage. This is the smallest river island in the Brahmaputra.

This was a relatively relaxed part of the trip compared to the days that were to follow! Never squeeze in too many places, too far apart in a short time- I prefer to unwind and enjoy a place than rush through seeing as many things & places as possible. Fortunately, my travel companions now agree with me on that as well!

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And I just realised I still have a whole lot of incomplete sketches from Tezpur as well as Bomdila, Arunachal ahead. Hopefully they will be completed and up sooner rather than later ūüėģ

The Five Rathas (Mahabalipuram)

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Post morning sunburn (spent sketching the Shore Temple), we had an OK breakfast of omelettes and toast- the eggs were a bit under-cooked, ugh. Of course we did have a pre-breakfast breakfast? at a South Indian restaurant earlier that morning. But after the 2nd meal, it was onward to the 5 Rathas.

I really don’t advise serious visitors to go on a Sunday, the place was literally crawling with people, and like I may have mentioned in my previous post- the kind who clamber all over the monuments, which offends every sensibility. These are 1400 yr old structures, have a modicum of respect. Fortunately, an artist can eliminate unsightly crowds from a picture unlike a photographer!

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This is hewn out of solid rock to form 5 free-standing monoliths and I love the way the base rock is left raw, so the structures practically grow out of them, Despite the name, there is no historical basis of association with the Pandavas. They were excavated during the reign of Narasimhavarman I and are the earliest monuments of their kind in the country. The variety of super-structures indicate the many types of designs and roofing patterns used at the time.

The first temple from the north, named after Draupadi is actually dedicated to the goddess Durga. Dharmaraja Ratha, the southernmost is also the highest revealing that the rock sloped from south to north. There is also a large monolithic elephant sculpture (seen to the right of the 1st ratha).

There’s plenty more to see in Mahabalipuram like Arjuna’s penance, and numerous temples around it, but crowds and time didn’t permit anything more than rushing through them without being able to really take it all in. Oh well, I guess that calls for another trip there at some point.

Evening at Mahabalipuram

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I’m finally getting around to uploading another of the Mahabalipuram lot- sadly only having one complete day there didn’t permit too much time to sketch ūüė¶

Here’s where I spent most of my time hanging out, in between trudges to various sights- the food and ambience was great, and I’d sit here with smoothie or sandwich adding colour to¬†my sketches. The small area of town where all these guest houses and cafes are clustered is pretty clean, it’s nice not having constant traffic all around. You don’t realise how relatively silent a place can be until you DON’T hear the incessant sound of honking!

The food at most places here is pretty good with a helluva lot of seafood- yum yum!

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Sheesh- just realised it’s almost 2 months already since this happened- (hopefully) time for another trip soon.

Temple on the shore

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A few weekends ago, on a work trip to Chennai, it seemed a good idea to visit Mahabalipuram, only 50-60 km away, I’d only seen it in passing before but I was fascinated by the architecture, so different in style & scale from the typical South Indian temple¬†type. Like many parts of Tamil Nadu, it has an ancient history, and was known as a sea port at least 2000 years ago. Most of the structures were built in the Pallava era of Narasimhavarman I in the 7th c. AD. The Pallava line ruled from Kanchi nearby for nearly 400 years and played a major role in the development of art, architecture and culture here. Buddhism & Jainism flourished here as well.

The town itself has a pleasant laid-back feel, old courtyard houses lining the narrow streets converted to guest-houses now, and cafes where you can get all sorts of fare from banana pancakes to seafood. It was particularly relaxing with the monsoon rain making the weather pleasant. I spent Sunday morning sketching the Shore Temple with it drizzling around me and barely noticed when the sun came out and ended up with a sun-burnt neck & arms for my pains- Ouch! I think it was worth it though!

The Shore Temple, dedicated to Shiva is pretty much the main attraction here, it used to be partially submerged by the sea for centuries, but now a retaining wall is built and a stand of casuarina trees as wind-breaker planted. Sadly damage has already been done by sea water and wind to the sculpture. The scale is very much human with narrow spaces sometimes in the perambulatory paths. The 2nd shrine is dedicated to Seshasayi Vishnu. There is a pretty large courtyard with rows of Nandi sculptures.

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I’m finally using my water colour markers and I absolutely love them, I couldn’t get enough of them. This was my first attempt with using them.

More Cherrapunji the (once) wettest place on earth

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More butterflies in Cherrapunji, the magical¬†tea shop along the way (where I bought some locally made organic honey) run by the sweetest little old lady. I wish I could’ve grown roots there like the bridges. This is why we travel- to recreate that feeling of timelessness over and over again, the feeling of being alive in that moment and no other and everything else just drops away.

We spent the evening wandering around lower Sohra, where this little church was one of many gems discovered.

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More traveling in the ‘North-east’

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After a long, long (much toooo long!) break, I’m back with this. And I have another few already done, so ready to be posted, and another few getting done!

Even though work is supposed to be creative as well, somehow I end up being less creative when I get busy, and art suffers in the process. After a trip to Singapore a couple months ago where I bought yet more art supplies (haven’t used them yet), I figure I need to put them to better use.

Getting back to the post, this was my favourite part of this trip, it just blew me away- the vast open spaces, the little not-quite town with its quaint churches. It almost seems to have more churches than people. Sadly, the (now second-) wettest place on earth was bone-dry when we visited. On the long path to see the living root bridges, I saw more butterflies in a single place than I’ve seen in all my life put together, and I couldn’t get enough of their gorgeous velvety brightness.

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Projects: Renderings

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Been a long time since I’ve bothered about blogging, and I have plenty of incomplete stuff which can’t be posted. Decided to do a PG course in bamboo technology and I’ve been mostly busy with that, but more on that later. In the meantime, I figured it would be nice to start posting some early work- sketches & renders of project work.

These are for a residential interior project, which didn’t fructify (that’s the case for the large no. of them, incidentally!) For projects like these I have to very quickly, usually in a day or 2, turn out a presentation, so it has to look decent and can’t be too fancy.

These views depict the master bedroom, one of the living room walls, and the ‘entertainment/ family area.

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NE trip contd… (Day 1-2)

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Pages 3,4 -The first day was so packed, it didn’t quite fit into a single page!

Backtracking a bit, I intended to post the sketch journal separately from the detailed description of the trip, which was intended to be kind of a guide to other travellers planning on visiting. But it must’ve been a brain-fart because it doesn’t make much sense double-posting, so I’m combining sketch & written detail… ¬†I found it pretty hard to get good info on the north-east on the net especially transport availability & pricing, which is what I’ve tried to highlight in the hope my trials & errors will help others.

So here’s the dirt on it ¬†ūüėČ

11th March:

We arrived @ Guwahati airport around 10.30am, intending to head straight to Shillong. Taxis at the airport were asking for Rs.700 to take us into town, but then an auto showed up asking for 300, so we got into it. There are also shuttle buses from the airport charging 150/- per head, but it wasn’t leaving immediately. It was around 1pm by the time we got to Paltan Bazaar, so we had lunch at one of the restaurants serving local food. There are no menus in most of these places, so be sure to ask for the price of the fish/ chicken or whatever you’re ordering with your meal/’rice plate’/ whatever, as they will serve you the most expensive and charge a bomb for it, even when the ‘meal’ costs only 40/-!

Outstation buses/ taxis are available from Paltan Bazaar, but the last bus had already left, so we got onto a shared Sumo @ 160/- per head. Passengers keep getting on & off all the way through. The Guwahati-Shillong road was being widened and the hills were being pretty much eaten away by the JCBs et al. So unfortunately, it wasn’t a pleasant drive up, as the air was full of dust & pollution. Keep in mind, taxi drivers rip like maniacs so you won’t be able to take a single un-blurry picture en route!

We reached Shillong, which is in the Khasi hills of Meghalaya by 5.30pm and were dropped off at Civil hospital. There the local taxis asked us for 100/- to get to our hotel, which seemed rather steep. As far as I could tell, we weren’t far. On calling our hotel, they informed us the going rate was 10/- per person, they have a shared taxi system locally as well, so we got onto one for 50/- since we weren’t sharing. It was really dark outside already, so after we checked into Baba Tourist Lodge, we just took a short walk, had dinner & turned in for the night. Shillong gets pretty cold, so we had our sweaters & jackets out pretty quick.

12th March:

There are a bunch of places to visit around Shillong, including Umiam lake/ Bara Pani, Shillong Peak, Elephant Falls, but since we were there for only a day, we decided to just walk around the town & take in the atmosphere ¬†as I didn’t want to be ferried around in a taxi from A to B to C etc just to cover all the ‘sight-seeing’ points. Instead, we had breakfast at Delhi Mistaan Bhandaar, or DMB, where you the get the ubiquitous aloo puri, kachoris etc. and then headed to Ward’s Lake, next to which are the (not) Botanical Gardens. From the bridge between the 2, we spotted the Rufous-bellied Niltava, Black-naped Monarch, Chestnut-tailed starling, Oriental white-eye, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, all first-time birds for us, so just hung about there for ages. Unlike Bangalore, the town’s full of sparrows, which, when one looks closer turn out to be the Eurasian Tree Sparrow. They are bold, gregarious birds that are an absolute delight to watch for us city-slickers. We also met and made a new friend there, Sanjeev a fellow birder who lives in Shillong. He patiently stands there for hours getting some amazing photos of the local birds. Ward’s Lake has geese & ducks swimming around, with all kinds of¬†beautiful flowers growing around it. I’m not too familiar with their names, but I recognised a few like the pansies & chinese cabbage roses.

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The Botanical garden is¬†postage-stamp sized¬†¬†and ¬†just overgrown and not maintained at all, so we headed back from the lake. Police Bazaar area is full of quaint little tea shops and the chai is totally amazing. Apparently Meghalaya now¬†grows¬†their own tea, pretty much unknown¬†compared to¬†its famous counterpart ‘assam tea’. Post lunch, a walk to Iewduh market, dirty as it was, was quite fascinating and a single sketch wasn’t enough to do it justice. The dominant religion in this state is Christianity (over 70% of the population), which was brought by the British and later the Jesuits. But the road to Bara bazaar/ Iewduh is dominated by Sikhs and Muslims including a Gurudwara, which makes Shillong, small as it is, a fascinating and eclectic mix of cultures & people. Plus that means you get great kebabs & biryani here! The market itself is entirely along stone steps that diverge in various directions. It’s a women’s only market, where you get to see tribal women in their traditional Khasi checks.

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From there, we walked through picture-prefect residential areas, in sharp contrast to the messy chaotic Police & Bara Bazaar areas, past cemeteries and down steep, endless flights of steps to reach the Don Bosco museum & Sacred Hearts convent. We probably walked only around 6-7km in all, but when most of it’s uphill, it’s pretty darned exhausting! From Sacred Hearts, we hopped onto a city bus that rambled around town before it brought us back to Police Bazaar.

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The plan was¬†to leave for Cherrapunjee the next day, but we had a seriously hard time finding out where to catch a bus from, as we weren’t too keen on taking a shared Sumo. What they don’t tell you is that they seat 10+1, which works out fine for the locals as they are typically small-built hill people, but for us average sized people, it’s a really tough squeeze and every part of your body pretty much seizes up & goes numb by the time you reach your destination. There is an MTDC bus stand at Police Bazaar, but it turned out they only had organised day trips to Cherrapunjee & other places. Eventually we found the¬†bus stand at Bara Bazaar, from where there was¬†a bus leaving at 12pm the next day.

One of the best parts of the trip to follow…

My trip to North-East India

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I finally got a chance to go on a long overdue vacation last month, and visited Meghalaya: Shillong, Cherrapunjee & Arunachal Pradesh via Guwahati & Tezpur: Tawang via Bomdila. On the way back I visited Kaziranga National Park instead of Nameri as it was booked out.

I really wanted to do a travel sketchbook, but the trip was so hectic with too much packed into a tight schedule, so even though I did manage to produce a few sketches in-situ, so to speak, I had to cheat and complete the majority of them when I got back home.

As soon as we landed in Guwahati, we took a shared Sumo from Paltan Bazaar to Shillong, reaching around 5pm, by which time it’s already getting dark so far east. The next day, we set out to Ward’s lake, where we saw a number of birds in the vicinity, and hung around there awhile. In the afternoon we took a roundabout route to the Iewduh tribal market, passing the famous All Saint’s Church on the way which is depicted here in Pages 1&2-

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More to follow, with hopefully less of a delay!

more crafty stuff

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My first attempt at granny squares for a charity event, by a non-profit trust called A Hundred Hands. Coincidentally Hundred Hands is also an architectural firm I worked with in the past, totally unrelated! So anyway, it called crocheters in Bangalore to make granny squares which would be joined to make blankets and then donated to underprivileged babies . I went the whole hog and made the entire blanket. The patterns are from allfreecrochet.com again.

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There’s my little model again! She let herself be held for precisely 15 seconds.