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Below are the 14 most recent journal entries recorded in usha's travel blog - an Indian perspective's LiveJournal:

Thursday, July 15th, 2010
11:06 am
Reclaiming urban spaces for people
This was a sign that I saw in Camden town near the heart of London. An initiative by the town council. The street had been pushed back a bit at the corner to make a wider pavement on which seats and large plants had been placed. What a nice idea..reclaiming streets of big cities from vehicles for people!

The other bit I enjoyed was discovering the Regent canal in a pretty central part of London. From Camden town to Little Venice. Similar to the enjoyment of a great open space like Central park in the middle of busy busy Manhattan. I love the way these big cities create/maintain these open spaces amidst probably the world's priciest real estate.

Sighhh, Bangalore! I guess that is the next step in the evolution of a big city...maybe in my childrens' lifetime :-)

Greenery amidst skyscrapers..Central park, Manhattan

Regents Canal pretty close to central London

Friday, November 6th, 2009
11:10 am
Monday, March 9th, 2009
10:53 am
This was written spontaneously in response to 'Why Slumdog Millionaire is unbelievable' in the print edition of Mint Lounge a couple of weeks back..

I thought my point of view was ignored, but a couple of days back, I found out (thanks to Anush) that it was published in Mint Lounge.

my published response below (March 7)...


in response to the original article in Mint Lounge (Feb 21)


I find the whole conversation disturbing....

any thoughts? (but please remember that both the article and response are written in an Indian cultural context)
Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
10:11 am
Writer's Block: Bird by Bird
It's National Bird Day in the U.S. Do you think it's cruel to keep birds in cage where they can't fly freely or flock with others of their kind?

It always puzzles me when I see these birds in cages.. it feels the same as dogs that are kept perpetually chained up..or animals in zoos..who gave us humans the right to artificially control their living environment?
Monday, May 12th, 2008
6:22 pm
Travelling in Vayuvya (North West) Karnataka
According to live journal, I have not posted for 64 weeks :-)

Couple of weeks back, we travelled to North west Karnataka ( which direction according to Vaastu, the Indian architectural science, is dominated by Vayu or (the)wind (God). And I am proud to say, we discovered Vayuvya Karnataka, its name by the logo on the local buses and its beauty by our travels.

Now I have a question to myself (and ofcourse to Karnataka state) here. Why are we so well informed about places that are in other places of India, for example, Konark in Orissa or the world, for example, Rome in Italy or Angkor vat in Cambodia and visit those places as part of the 1000 places to visit before we die, and yet we don't even plan on going to these beautiful, beautiful places that are within 12 hours of the city that we have lived in all our lives? Is it like the Kannada proverb 'hittala gida maddalla'( the plants in your back yard are not medicine) or is it indifference on the part of Karnataka tourism?

Well, our 'tour' to these beautiful places inspired me to make a post about them, so in case anybody reads my blogs, I would have contributed my mite to tourism in my state :-)

The route was Bangalore to Hospet by, literally and metaphorically, a really cool train , the Hampi Express. I am not sure whether it is thanks to the new business guru, Lalu prasad Yadav. Clean curtains in A/C second class, crisp white sheets and pillow cases packed in brown paper bags. Toilets cleaner than in trains that I have been in earlier. I was told that this was because all these services are 'outsourced' these days.

A nice, clean hotel at Hospet. Called Malligi. So far so good.

A day trip to Hampi.

Hampi was mind blowing in its beauty. The monuments are a part of the history of Southern India, the Vijayanagar empire at the height of its glory around 500 to 700 years back. It has now been declared as a world heritage monument by UNESCO and the improved funding is visible. Extensive landscaping and hardly any litter.

And it has hundreds of monuments, carved in granite, scattered over a large area, several kilometers long and wide. Intricately carved temples, large statues, mantapas, strewn between natural boulders and rock formations of incredible beauty. Truly an intense collaboration between man and nature. Surrounded by green hills. Our history. From the 14th to the 16th Century.

Boulders at Hampi

Read more...Collapse )
Saturday, December 9th, 2006
4:37 am
Perhaps I should call my entries 'Letters to Trish'. Because she - travelertrish always tells me 'Now put it on your blog!'. And this time, I succumbed :-)

Partly responsible was villager9999 who added me as his friend because he thought an Indian perspective on travel was interesting. Enough to make me feel guilty about my non contribution to my blog. So Scott, here is some virtual travel by me through India!

So Trish said - 'and in the meantime, you can tell me more about the (Dasara and attendant dolls) display.' and I said -

"Let me try.

Key words: Dussehra, Mysore Dasara, Navaratri, Rangoli

Celebrated for 10 days in September/October (Hindu calendar month of Ashwayuja/Ashwina so does not come on the same days of the Roman calendar every year) . Called Dussehra in North India, Dasara or Navaratri (nava = nine, ratri = nights) in the South. ( As a Nepali friend told me at Oslo, also the biggest Hindu festival of Nepal).

Basically, different mythological stories symbolising the victory of good over evil.

In the North, supposed to symbolise the vanquishing of the demon Ravana by the good king God Rama (from the Ramayana) . Also called Ramlila in the North, where stuffed figures of the ten headed demon Ravana are burnt.
In the South and in West Bengal, the demon changes identity. It is the vanquishing of the demon Mahishasura. (Mahisha =buffalo asura = demon) by the Goddess Durga (representing woman power). Read moreCollapse )
Thursday, December 7th, 2006
3:12 pm
what kind of reader am I?
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

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Thursday, October 12th, 2006
2:35 pm
these are a few of my favourite travel pictures
Amsterdam windmill museum 2004
canal with drawbridge at windmill park

Grand canal at Sunset Venice 2004

grand canal at sunset

WAlk in the woods just outside Oslo 2004
still and clear water-reflections of an autumn sky

On the Sognfjord in Norway 2004

sognfjord 069
Sunday, August 13th, 2006
11:15 pm
updated states in india visited
Valsad Gujarat - this was where I went

Valsad road to Tital beach

and Daman

and Daman

then updated

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006
5:04 pm
Saturday, February 25th, 2006
3:30 pm
Getting to Kovalam
As I decided rather late about travelling, all the direct flights to Trivandrum (at least the ones I can afford like deccan, easy fares on Indian and economy on Jet) were all full..surprising that so many people are flying back and forth everyday… I had to go to Cochin and from there to trivandrum ....kovalam is in the opposite direction from Trivandrum when you land at the airport..it is 150 rs by auto ( prepaid fixed by the auto drivers themselves) and 250 rupees by taxi. There are autos and taxis parked at one end of kovalam beach..the local dadas will not let anybody else come there..sundeep had a real unpleasant experience where he called a taxi from the city.. his mother couldn’t climb up the slope and so the taxi had to come down (they had stopped it outside earlier) ..there was a physical scuffle between the locals and the city taxi driver….the local transport is a real rip off…even for us who could speak local indian languages. So I think the next time I do the kovalam trip, I will drive down from Bangalore, probably cost close to AC second class or budget airlines, take care of my local transport at Kovalam at half to one third the price plus spare me from being ‘taken for a ride’ by the local auto/taxi drivers! Not that it is any different in Bangalore.. the auto driver demanded 40 rs when he saw me waiting with my baggage..it would have probably been half that if he had put on the meter.
Cochin airport is 37 kms from Ernakulam, so though i had a few hours to spare, I was advised not to into town..apparently there are huge traffic jams on the road and one cant be sure of getting there and back in 6 hours!!..the airport itself was a pleasant surprise for one used to the anarchy in Bangalore airport..when I came back to Bangalore from Paris in December, we stood one hour in the immigration queue and another queue for baggage screening by customs and finally waited endlessly for the checked baggage..passengers from three airlines were milling around and nobody had a clue as to whose baggage it was on the only carousel available..not sure whether cochin airport is new or remodeled but it is huge and air conditioned, with nice bathrooms, several book stores and handloom handicraft shopping, etc. a rather expensive restaurant run by oberois..makes a bangalorean feel rather small that even in the year 2006, our much hyped city cannot provide the kind of infrastructure much smaller cities in other states have (and well, the roads in Trivandrum too).

. It was suggested that I could visit Kaladi(the birthplace of shankaracharya) which is 7 kms from the airport but surprisingly, cochin airport had no place for left luggage and I really didn’t fancy the idea of lugging my bag around town..so I just sat down and waited..the waiting area post security check is very comfortable with nice cushioned seats and a huge glass wall looking onto the tarmac..

the book stores (shankar’s, mathrubhoomi, etc) provided enough material to browse leisurely and choose ....i found an interesting book called ‘the united states of Europe’ ( by an American journalist T R Reid, Penguin books) and the blurb said ‘How did Europe become a superpower while the world wasn’t paying attention?’ ( I think he actually meant when America wasn’t looking) got me thinking ‘how did Bangalore become a IT capital and mega city while me and people like me weren’t paying attention?’ .. here we were growing up and living in Bangalore all our lives and one fine day in the 21st century, we open our eyes and poof! Everything that is familiar is gone..and there is this unrecognizable megacity .. anyway the book was a good time pass and worth a read..
12:14 pm

I was in Kovalam for four days starting Monday. Actually it was a work related trip to Trivandrum. after reaching Trivandrum I found that all my colleagues (some Norwegians had their families too) were staying at Kovalam and commuting to Trivandrum every day. Since I did not want to be staying alone at Trivandrum, I decided to move to Kovalam too..

My last visit to Kovalam was a month back, when i had gone there for dinner (a beach side restaurant called Leo?) with my colleagues. Reaching there at half eight at night with a mixed bunch of indians, norwegians and mozambicans, it suddenly gave me a sense of displacement to the South of France or some other warm mediterannean beach in europe...the place full of gora tourists with two colleagues and me being the token indian faces..a row of beach side restaurants nestling cheek by jowl along the sea side with barely any indian dishes on the menu. all the restaurants were almost fully occupied by Europeans from Scandinavia, Italy, England, France? and a sprinkling of others including americans. to add to the effect, some of the restaurants even had names like cafe de la mer. the menu was mostly (local version of ) continental..with display of live lobsters and dead aquatic life in all shapes and sizes on tables outside, big fat fish, transparent squids, orangey red crabs, etc.. I left my food order to riddhi, a young indian woman in our group..i think she ordered vegetarian noodles and after waiting for the best part of an hour, a cross between spaghetti and noodles with an unrecognisable dressing was placed before us...i can only say i came away feeling slightly bemused..one of the norwegians had come to research 'upward social mobility among Indian tourists'..i asked him where are the Indian tourists...he assured me that they come earlier in the evenings..it still puzzles me why one would want to come thousands of miles from their place and re create the same in another place..i did ask my european friends this question and their answer was that it is much warmer here and therefore much nicer to tan and swim in the sea..such are the ways of human beings..the Indians buying 'fair and lovely' and hiding in the shade and the western tourists buying sun tan lotions and baking in the sun ( and the local enterpreneurs..read beachside shopkeepers.. laughing all the way to the bank by stocking both:-)

so here I was again in Kovalam a month later, but this time staying in one of the beach side hotels..well not exactly beach side..between the aforementioned beachside restaurants, there are small alleyways like the ones in some medieval european towns barely 3 feet wide leading inwards for a few hundred metres with these hotels (all called resorts) lined up on either side. i checked in at SURYA hotel? resort? i am not sure what it was called..which was about 150 feet down this alleyway.. our group had liked it during their previous stays..and was pleasantly surprised to find that the room rent was only Rs.350/- for a decent sized (spartan) room with a balcony, clean sheets on the two basic beds, a mirror with a plastic chair in front, a table with a lockable drawer and another table to keep your suitcase on, a really clean bathroom with 24 hours hot water ( which one doesnt really need at Kovalam) and a cold shower which can pour out a stream of water strong enough to clean away all the sand one gets covered with..i think the description is 'homely'..one young man who spoke good but heavily malayalm accented english served as the resident help during the day and housekeeper during the night, a young woman came in during the day to leisurely clean the room and iron our clothes at her leisure..i almost left behind a saree since she had it with her from the day after i reached there ..but i must say i had no complaints about the cleanliness of the place..it had new ceramic tiles everywhere..staircase, lobby, balcony, room, bathroom..everywhere..i was impressed by the linguistic capabilities of the day housekeeper ..several indian languages and english. Apparently november and december is high season in Kovalam and the same room costs 1000 rs a day then..the rates are lowered in January and stay that way till October. it starts raining in may and continues through september. March and April are really hot months..so January and February seem the best time to go..off season rates, cool mornings and evenings..Surya as well as its neighbour White House which appeared very similar in acco and rates were pure 'Lodges' and did not have any food service..but as I will write a little later in the food blog..all you need to do is to walk 10 to 500 metres from any of these places to find 'world food'..
12:13 pm
travel blog
i was born just post independence. Professionally tied down till my late forties, i decided to liberate myself by throwing up whatever i was doing till then much to the amazement of my professional colleagues and some comments of 'wish i could do what you are doing'. at that moment, there was no greater aim than just being free from routine for some time. Being soon bored with the extreme lack of routine looked around for something to do and found an entirely new area of work involving a lot of travel..from somebody who worked seven days a week in Bangalore city to somebody who travelled several months in the year into rural India and Europe..both have been eye openers and expanded my life and thinking in many ways..

i feel just a little sorry that i havent documented my somewhat extensive travels and consequent evolution in the last 5 years..and hope to make a beginning here..the purpose is to store information for my future reference and also to share it with anyone who is planning to travel to these places or or finds my (sociological?) perspective remotely interesting

so here i start from my next entry
11:36 am
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