Weekly Photo Challenge – Nostalgia


WordPress’s Weekly Photo Challenge – Nostalgia invites us to share nostalgic moments brought to the fore by the change of seasons.

The changing seasons has heralded the “festival” season in India – they are lined up one after the other from august onwards till December and provide the perfect excuse for family celebrations and friends get-togethers. It brings back memories of college celebrations and the nostalgia of college days. Ceramic figurines were our preferred gifting option specially by my friends to me because of my love for the same – and these now form the centre-piece of my little collection.

How do they know?


It is a source of constant amazement to my parents of how much I remember of my childhood, even as early as around the age of four years. Some of the memories over the years seem to be the product of my active imagination superimposing images from the stories told by my parent over the memories of places that I had, however some stand out very clearly as distinct experiences – like the day when mom carried me around for ages with a cold compress till dad could get home and take us to the hospital for stitches, after I had cut my head against the flower bed brick border. Or that evening when dad walked us a to a hitherto unseen area to pluck flowers and the kaleidoscope of impressions of the day – the lovely colours of the setting sun, the shower of pink blossoms bursting through a creeping bed of green leaves, parrots squawking as they returned to roost and the simple joy of being with loved ones. That childhood bubble of joy still channels through the years and hits me every time I look at the golden hues of a setting sun.

When I was around six, dad was posted in Arunachal Pradesh and we got to spend our summers in this eastern extremity of India. My memories are filled with towering mountains, lush green vegetation, gushing streams, roaring waterfalls and the weird creature – leech. Besides the fresh water black blob variety the higher altitudes also had a grey-green terrestrial variety of the most tenacious kind. One just couldn’t complete a stroll through a grassy green without having a couple stuck on. They were also very hardy and could tolerate high dosages of salt before they would let go. This one time when we had gathered some wild flowers dad found a minuscule one crawling on one of the twigs. As soon as dad picked up the twig the leech changed directions and “charged” (if that’s possible while crawling) towards dad’s finger. When dad held the twig by the other side the leech promptly changed direction and headed again for the hand. As my six year old self watched the movements of the leech in awe, the only thought in my head was – how does it know where to go??!

A Foreign Perspective


“Suddenly turning into one of the city’s main thoroughfares we were swept along in a whirlwind of Indian traffic. Bullock carts and sacred cows meandered across lanes of pollution-belching cards. Vespas buzzed past. Drivers overtook, undertook did U-turns in the middle of moving traffic, reversed down one-way streets the wrong way, and honked their horns incessantly. Overloaded truck accelerated and then slammed on their brakes. Motor-scooters slalomed. Battered buses cut across lanes at breakneck speed. It was as if every vehicle was piloted by a circus clown.

I watched as a mother and her child tried to cross the street, the two terrified figures clinging to one another like passengers on the sinking Titanic.”

– Tarquin Hall in “To the Elephant Graveyard”

I love it when I read a foreigner’s account of Indian chaos. We being part of the chaos seem to hardly register the comedy of it all. The book however is a serious look at the loosing battle on their right to their habitat faced by the elephants of Assam – portrayed through a hunt for a man-killing Indian Elephant.

70x50cm @ 2 cm. sq. per min

Am talking about this mammoth task that we voluntarily took up last weekend – assembling a 70 x 50, 1,000 pieces Ravensburger puzzle. We bought this glow in the dark version of “Evening in Rome” – amazing architecture, lovely sunset hues, fabulous reflections in the water – lots of identifiable features – easy peasy! We thought with combined effort we could get it done in a day.


“Evening in Rome” – Ravensburger Starline Series

Oh, naive us! We started with the relatively easy part of setting up the borders, and then sorting the colours – which ended up taking most of the first day. Sorting through the colours is when we clued on to the fact that there were a number of areas with identical colours and it was kind of difficult to decide which violet was the sky and which was the water and which blue / black was to the left and which to the right – all of which made comprehensive sorting very difficult.


End of Day 1 – Borders set up and sorting of colours

So, we decided to plunge in and start assembling the the most easily identifiable areas like the bridge, the buildings, the sun and the streaks in the sky AND THAT is when it struck us – 1,000 pieces is A LOT of pieces! Even after assembling what seemed to be the focus of the landscape we had only completed about 40% of the puzzle by the end of the 2nd day. (Of course the hours we spent on it was a lot less – it being the weekend and all)


Assembling of the structures and portions of the sky

On Day 3 began the work of setting up the reflections in the water. This was comparatively easy – somebody had paid enough attention to the puzzle break up to ensure no piece in a reflected vertical line of light matched another reflected vertical line – and so the lines were easy to trace out. The hard part was smaller yellow and black areas under the bridge pillar – all looking very similar.


Still can’t differentiate that one piece from the hues of the sky

The last mile and the most difficult began on Day 4 when we had to do the sky. Gradient areas were the most easily done but, barely varying shades of pink had us resort to trial and error to fit it all together.


Multitude of pinks


Almost there and it still took half hour to figure out the right fit!

At the end of 4 days patience and perseverance won out and we had the fully assembled puzzle!!


The final outcome of hard labour – worth every minute!

Kudos to the designer – that despite all the similar colours and textures each piece was differentiated enough for us to be sure of the correct fit, and the night glow is pretty amazing (very difficult to photograph though). Also, must appreciate the photographer – We didn’t find any other puzzle that had this amazing a landscape in the 1,000 piece puzzle series.

Only wish they had added a pamphlet of the landscape inside the box since all the images on the box  had some text banner or the other hiding areas of the landscape.

And now to figure out how to store this!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half

So much for the rule of thirds! When I saw this week’s photo challenge I though I would definitely be able to get a couple of sunset shots in my archives to meet this challenge. It turns out I could find only one sunset image but a large number of other landscape images to meet the challenge.

Note to self: Need to keep rule of thirds in mind next time onwards while shooting landscapes.

Along Powai Lake - flowers and leaves.

Along Powai Lake – blend of yellow and green 

Mumbai Skyline from Airoli Bridge

Mumbai Skyline from Airoli Bridge

The plateau of Mahabaleshwar against the sky filled with monsoon clouds

The plateau of Mahabaleshwar against the sky filled with monsoon clouds

Western Ghats in the monsoons

Western Ghats in the monsoons

Navi Mumbai urban skyline against the sunset

Navi Mumbai urban skyline against the sunset

In An Antique Land

Phew! Its been a long time since I put pencil to paper – and it shows! Picked out Amitav Ghosh’s “In an antique land” to read and loved the cover art so much I decided to sketch it. Though the rustiness of skills are evident I still liked the outcome –

In an antique land cover art

The book itself is an ethnography based upon the author’s stay in Egypt & his interactions with the people, at the same time discussing the relationships between India and Egypt during the medieval times by tracing the life of the Jewish Merchant “Abraham Ben Yiju” (utilizing the documents from “Cairo Geniza“). The multiple parallel timelines and locations in the book are a bit difficult to keep up with, however once one gets used to the style, one realizes that narrative is designed to bring out the numerous contrasts of the two eras –

The rich multi-lingual, multi-religious trading ethos of the medieval times, to a generation where relations are broken to the point of ignorance of others’ existence, religious intolerance and warring nations.

From a time when the Indian Ocean Trade enriched the cultural and economic aspirations of all the countries involved in the trade, to a generation where a country’s progressive aspirations are measured by the number of weapons of mass destruction that it can accumulate.

An era when just communication and travel used to take days and months, to a time when a few years changed the financial and economic situation of a village for the better.

From the observation of how the military might of the west ruined the peaceful nature of the Indian Ocean Trade, to the observation of how western education and progressive ideas overtook the agrarian village society changing the lives and lifestyles of the inhabitants.

The book gives a graphic description of Egypt and its transformation over the centuries – the medieval times, the modern times and the build up and discovery of the Cairo Geniza. The stories in the book left me with a deep sense of loss – the loss of not knowing a culturally rich era and the loss of living an era of war torn nations and religious intolerance.

P. S.: The cover page is the work of Viren Desai & Bena Sareen and is used (it seems) only for books sold in the Indian Sub-continent.