Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kettuvelum photos

As requested, I am posting additional shots of the kettuvelum part of our Kerala vacation. Since there were 11 of us, we had two 3-bdr houseboats, and sailed separately, meeting up for meals and mooring together for the night, so we could cross back and forth.

Our sister houseboat. Both were well appointed with private baths, some even had tubs. This kettuvelum had a balcony, which was where I was for sunrise the next morning.

The living area of our boat. We had wicker furniture with benches running the perimeter of the living area and large mattressed area at the front, which was the best spot of all.

Sunset on the backwaters, always breathtaking.

Mural in our bedroom. Each room had a different one.

Lots of interesting frames everywhere. This was in the backwaters in Kumarakom where we started and ended our journey.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Inspired words

I've been so inspired by the quotes I read on flickr today. Several of my contacts had such beautiful quotations that I was inspired to dig up some great ones that I like and go back to time and again. All three quotes are ones that I have used in a Blurb book of my photographs, which I printed out last year. They suit both life and photography quite well!

Life forms illogical patterns. It is haphazard and full of beauties which I try to catch as they fly by, for who knows whether any of them will ever return?
--Margot Fonteyn

What the human eye observes causally and incuriously, the eye of the camera notes with relentless fidelity.
--Berenice Abbott

"I do not want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."
--Diane Ackerman

The above photo is of a flowering simbal tree in a park in Chandigarh that I took in March 2008. This park has some lovely monuments as it was the place where Nehru was brought to be shown the masterplan of the city. I went to nursery school nearby and have played in this park since I was a little kid. Incidentally, my father lived in a house facing this park and played here too. And even more incidentally, my parents now live a street away from the park and I love going back there on each visit home :-)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kerala Trip - Day 6

Day 6

* I can't believe it's time to leave Cardamom Club - I must come back here again.

* We leave around 830am in the morning and drive through beautiful tea plantations towards Kumarakom, arriving just after 11am.

* Wow, the kettuvellums (houseboats) are beautifully decorated, with traditional carved paneling. We have two 3 bdr houseboats for 11 of us, each is fully equipped with large kitchens, cooking and serving staff. The bedrooms have beautiful murals behind the beds, are air-conditioned and have private baths, some even with bathtubs!

* The best part of the kettuvellums is the open sitting areas, with fantastic views all around. Our kettuvellum has a bench all around its perimeter in the living room, so one can have lots of choices of views!

* We start sailing and snacking, taking in the scenery, going past all types of houses in the backwaters, noticing the nonchalant way that the locals guide their small boats.

* After about an hour we meet up with the second kettuvellum and moor together for lunch, which is fantastic. We had specially requested for traditional sea food and coconut curries they have not let us down.

* We all spend the afternoon reading, dozing and watching the world go by!

* Tea and banana fritters for our evening snack. The evening light is so warm and beautiful, that everything looks even more spectacular.

* We moor with our second boat for the night in a smaller channel of the backwaters. I go onto the shore with a few others to explore the area.

* We settle in for a relaxed evening watching childhood videos of my husband, my sis-in-law and cousins, a good way to end a beautiful day!

following the signs

We spent our Saturday on a day trip to Fujairah and what we noticed so starkly was the difference between the city and monuments there and in Dubai where everything is so well marked with an exit sign or two, directions are clearly displayed, places of historical importance are marked which makes it so much easier finding them. Yesterday, we ended up going in circles to find the old fort, which we actually drove past from a side road and thought no, that's too small it couldn't be it. Well, it was and after doing a full circle, we ended up back there! Photos a bit later...once I sort them out!

on blogging topics

The thing with blogging is that even though one has a general topic in mind or rather a theme for a blog, one often gets sidetracked and starts blogging about completely different things. Sometimes it is completely unintentional but at others it is due to compulsion of sorts. Whatever the reason you blog for, I think it needs to be made into something fun, something lively and something interesting, even if you're writing about bathroom safety no less. Since blogging is such a personal form of expression, it is quite a creative way to let go and be inventive!

Sunday, March 22, 2009



~ the longer days, the way the sun is creating shadows.
~ that my reading has slowed down lately....no books in January, and still on my first one in March.
~ the sudden warmth in the air, waiting breathlessly for the ac in the car to be effective.
~ that life forms its own patterns and you can not mold it where it does not want to go.

finding the right hotel

Finding a good hotel is the essence of having a good vacation. A good way to ensure that the one you pick is actually all it says it is, is to look for reviews of the hotel by travelers. Every hotel site will toot its own horn, glorify its rooms whether they are luxury hotel rooms or simple B&B rooms, and so it is left to the judgment of your travel agent and yourself to decipher all the hotel-speak and see the reality. Going by recommendations of people you know is by far the best way to ensure that the hotel actually is going to be a great place. Happy planning!

a spontaneous wedding?

Weddings in the US seem to have such a pre-determined formula, everything has to be practiced and rehearsed and nothing spontaneous it seems. Right from the kind of flowers to the number of steps to take, to having the best man in a tuxedo, there is very little room for variety and spontaneity. I personally like there to a bit of a chaos, as that is what one really remembers after years and years, something that makes it more memorable than other weddings. It's not for me.

your company logo, where?

When I was sorting out stuff in my desk the other day, I found a couple of promotional items from a company that I worked for earlier and in my bag, is a box of mints that was sent to me complete with a set of promotional products with the company logo, a huge pen, a foam finger and tons of clips with the company name. OK, so the mints are really nice and the little tin is pretty cool, but the humongous pen and foam finger remind me of college days and have to go. Frankly, I've never really understood why companies spend so much money on stamping their logo on everything they can think of, but most employees seem to love it. Getting cool free stuff from the company you work for is often a huge incentive apparently!

My fave part of the Kerala trip

In my last description of my Kerala trip-Day 5, I completely forgot to write about the absolutely best part of that day! As soon as we reached the Cardamom Club Plantation Resort, I knew I Had to go for a exploration walk of the plantation. The owner George Cherian promised me that he would arrange such a walk....and he did!

A few of us set off walking down to the stream, which wasn't really a stream anymore as it had been lined with stones so that the water did not seem into the soil. There was a couple of open tanks of water for irrigation there as well. Accompanied by the old caretaker, we started climbing through the groves of cardamom, and if you've seen cardamom plants you know they are lush and planted quite close together. So that meant that we had to bend down to avoid some of the branches and create a path in front of us with our arms, literally like swimming!

As someone who has grown up in the hills, and on a working orchard, I've always been interested in knowing about the crop cycle, harvesting and so on and learned a lot on this walk about cardamoms. We also got to see the famed Malabari squirrel high up in the trees and a bison footprint. Definitely more interesting than the boat ride at Periyar! Interestingly, the upper border of the property touches the Periyar wildlife reserve, but we didn't have enough time to climb up all the way.

writing for the job

As a freelance writer one is often not in the position to complain about the kind of writing one has to do, either you happily or unhappily do it or they will very happily find someone else to do it :-)I try to take it in the right spirit and spend time researching and writing every little assignment that comes my way, whether it is for a Mesothelioma lawyer, car seats or London hotels. It's part of the job and if you want to do good, then you have to build a variety of writing. A lot of web-content writing is very varied and it can sometimes be a bit lopsided going from writing about hotels in Chelsea to ways to get financial aid for US universities. I still love it!

shopping by impulse or need

Sometimes one just feels like buying something for no reason at all, right? I don't often get that feeling, well apart for books etc, but last night I saw this lovely little jade pendant when I was at the mall doing my weekly shopping. I have very similar earrings already, so thought aha, it would made a great set, although I really don't like wearing things as sets...too matchy-matchy for me. But it seemed like a good way to convince myself to buy it, which is what I did! I have a friend who does not do her shopping without looking at the Sale page, but I've got no sense for prices and remembering what is priced where, I just buy as I go along and it works out nicely for me. I must add that I always do my weekly groceries using a list, I feel a little lost without it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kerala Trip - Day 5

Day 5

* I set off on an early morning walk, up through the plantation. It's absolutely peaceful, a stillness that can only be felt in the mornings.

* Did I hear someone say tea?

* I head back down to the rooms. Everyone is already gathering outside their rooms for their morning cup. I've come to love tea, especially when surrounded by family.

* Periyar Tiger Reserve and boat trip on the lake is the plan for the day. I must say that I'm not all that enthusiastic about it. I love nature, but have always been a scared of wildlife, even when it's in the distance. But I simply cannot miss the experience of it all!

* We don't see any animals at all, except for a birds, butterflies and a wild boar that was tied up near the shore. Oh well!

* We have lunch in Kumli and go spice shopping. There's a spice festival going on and we head there to buy some spices. I find some lovely organic tea from Poang and buy 3 boxes of it.

* In keeping with the theme of the book I am reading The Kindness of Strangers, I decide to buy a couple of books to donate to the library at Cardamom Club, where we are staying. I buy The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux and Wise And Otherwise: A Salute To Life by Sudha Murthy for Cardamom Club

* We see a Kathakali performance and see the elaborate way how they put on their makeup and clothes before.

{Edited to add }* The owner of the resort George Cherian takes a few of us on a walk though the cardamom plantation. It's a wonderful experience, to part the plants with our hands as we walk, ducking down to avoid the fronds, learning about the harvesting cycles. We see a bison footprint and the famous Malabari squirrel high up in a tree.

* We have a bonfire at the resort and the other guests join us as well. The atmosphere is so relaxed that I sing my first song :-)

I think it's time to upgrade!

Being able to work from home has lots and lots of advantages, but it does have some drawbacks too. The one thing that I have to be very careful of is data. I have to ensure that the client's data is not in any danger, of me losing it, or of others getting to it. So, I have had to add several devices to ensure that my work is secure and I don't lose any data. Having an external hard disk is a must and I'm also considering one of these compact flash cards which are likely to be a big help as well once I upgrade my camera.

Almost the weekend :-)

Am I glad it's the weekend or what! This has been another hectic week, especially since my current assignment requires me to work 6 days a week. Nothing like a ton load of work to make one appreciate the weekend isn't it? I love how the weekend comes up so quickly here in Dubai....as we have Friday and Saturday as the weekend. When we moved here, I really thought it would take a lot of time getting used to working on Sundays, but surprisingly it didn't since one does get two full days off usually! Sunday is a really good working day since you don't have too many mails coming in, nothing much going on at Flickr to distract you and before you know it, it's thursday already!

Game on!

OK, so I'm not the most video game savvy kind of girl, but I was seriously offended when my neighbor's 8 year old kid thought I wasn't smart enough for PS3. The battle lines are drawn and it's time to get down to playing a bit. Well, I first need to practice a bit, I suppose! I've somehow never gotten into video games, although there was a time when I used to play a lot of games online, but they just never intrigued me enough. Unfortunately, now I need to catch up and prove the punky kid next door wrong.

searching on the Internet

A couple of weeks back, I received a mail from a blog reader asking me if I knew which the best kind of diet pills were? I wonder where that inquiry came from but I was glad to point her in the right direction with search options on Google and Yahoo. With the Internet playing such a huge role in our daily lives, it sometimes seems that everything starts and ends with it. That is a bit scary, since we are more than the Internet, our lives should be more than a collection of information, right? I wonder how it will affect our lives over the next generation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Argentina beckons

It's been over two months since our last vacation, and I'm getting edgy about finalizing our next one! The one place where I've really never considered going before in the near future is Argentina, simply because it seems so far away, but lately it's really been intriguing me a lot, especially after a friend went for a volunteer vacation trip there.

So I started doing a bit of research on Argentina travel and seeing which places I would like to go to and the things I would like to do. One thing I know for sure, I really would love to stock up on their traditional textiles. My ideal kind of vacation is not the regular tourist routine, so I'd like to go into the country side, stay at smaller and less hotel-like places and explore on my own and maybe add in a bit of an adventure too.

When I travel to a new place, I like to do a little reading about it as most people do. Besides Lonely Planet guides and online research, I like to browse the travel literature section of the bookstore to find books about the area, but not necessarily travel guides. I find that these books often give a nicer perspective and a more realistic one of a place. In the sense that, you certainly don't want your travel to be just a series of tourist attractions that merge into one another by the end of a trip.

It's important to sit back and take in the atmosphere of a place to really enjoy it rather than go from place A to place B and so on. The trick is that not everyone has the time to do that and since most people feel that, well, I don't know when or if I'll be able to come back, so might as well see as much as I can. Hard as it is, I try to resist seeing everything in one go.

All photos from Argentina For Less.

Monday, March 09, 2009

list: 5 must read books

Kanchan at Elan and I have decided to start a monthly feature where we make lists of a certain topic and post on our blogs. We are both into list-mania, for no reason other than the simple exercise of cataloging things we like, things we don't like, things we ought to have done, things we are doing and so on!

The first of this series is on....surprise, surprise.......books, specifically books that have impacted us, affected us and stayed with us long after we finished reading. In essence, books that we highly recommend to everyone!

Here is my list:

1) My number one recommendation is Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. This book is about one man's unexpected journey to build schools and educate young girls in remote villages of Pakistan. This book grows on you and does not let you forget it for a long, long time. In keeping with the thought of the book, it has been lent to people continuously after I finished reading it. My full review is here.

2) The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. This book made an impact and changed the way people thought of global business. Very well written, it's not your regular 'business' book, but extremely readable and quite gripping. Since I have read this book, I have been a lot more interested in reading books of this genre.

3) East of Eden by John Steinbeck. A classic written in the classic style. A saga about a family and how it survives in a tumultuous time. After reading so many new authors, it was great to go back to a legend.

4) Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. I read this in October 2000 and since then I have been hooked to travel reading, but this still remains my all-time favorite. I loved this book for how effortlessly it transports you to your own imaginary villa in Tuscany.

5) Kulanthapitha, the end of the habitable world by Penelope Chetwood. This is an astounding book written about her journey from Simla to Kulu over the Jalori pass accompanied by two mules and porters, a journey that she once did in grand style as the daughter of Sir Philip Chetwood, Commander-in-Chief of India during the 1930s. Chetwood Hall at IMA in Dehradun is named after him. I loved this book because of its setting and because it really goes into everything about the region, the flora and fauna, the geography, the history, and my favorite, the architecture of traditional Kulu style houses and temples.

I think a good book is one that is not only meaningful but also connects with you personally, one that you keep recommending to everyone and one that keep going back to.

More pics and reviews from my flickr set on books.

Updated at 930 am Tuesday, 10th March:
Read Kanchan's list on Elan.

Updated at 12noon on Tuesday, 17th March:
Read Lakshmi's list on Celebrations of Life

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Kerala Trip - Day 4

Day 4

* Early morning finally shows us the paradise we are staying in. The Birds Lagoon Village Resort is absolutely fabulous! What an incentive to wake up early and explore.

* We bypass our morning visit to the Thattekkadu Bird Sanctuary in order to reach our next destination earlier due to an injury of one of our party.

* We drive to our next destination, Kumily located next to Thekkady and the Periyar National Reserve. The drive is simply breathtaking on small and narrow roads through cardamom plantations. This is paradise, I do believe.

* Arrive at Cardamom Club, the resort we are staying at near Thekkady. At first glance it reminds me of our cottage in Juneo. I think it is the stucco walls. The final approach to the resort is on a narrow road through a narrow valley full of cardamom plantations.

* The resort is owned by George Cherian, who lives on the premises and also takes care of the 15 acre cardamom plantation.

* Yay, there is a tree house and hammocks! Unfortunately, they're all occupied by other guests. Hmmm....will have to do something about that!

* Have a late lunch in the charming dining room, with a bookcase full of interesting books.

* Explore the rooms and the resorts. There are a total of 7 rooms, of which 5 are occupied by us and the other two by a French couple and their guide, who arrived a day before us.

* We head out in the afternoon to tour a spice garden and see a kairali performance.

* A nice relaxed evening at the resort.

PS: the food was really great here.

Birds Lagoon Village Resort, near the Thattekkadu Bird Sanctuary, is an idyllic place to stay completely in the middle of nowhere. The quality of the rooms is good, and the service is excellent.

Cardamom Club Plantation Getaway in Kumily, Thekkady has 7 rooms on a working cardamom plantation. Even though it is called a resort, it feels like a homestay or a boutique resort. The food is excellent and is personally supervised by the owner George Cherian and his family.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Blogger Reactions

Read about a relatively new tool that Blogger has introduced called Reaction, where you can add a little poll at the end of a post to get quick reactions from readers, especially those who are not necessarily interested in commenting. This is especially true with all the comment moderation, word verifications stuff that I wrote about in my previous post. You can change the number of options as well as what they read....such as "good", "bad" and "ugly" for one post to "i like" and "i don't like" for another post. Well, that's how I perceive it to be, so let's see how it goes. Read up more about Blogger Reactions on their blog.

Update: First of all, it really doesn't work unless you add a bit of code in the HTML after the post footer line...read this post on Blogger Buster for the how-to and second of all, I certainly don't want the same options on all of my posts. I want to be able to change the question on a post-by-post basis or not have it at all for some posts.

Sorry blogger, I'll pass on this one.


Enough of these spammy comments, thinly disguised as real comments. You're not going to get through, so please do not bother wasting your time. For my actual readers, sorry for the word verification and moderation and all that, but it really is required.

Go somewhere else if you want to spam.