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.

The Heritage Trail 2: Old City, Hyderabad

After the first walk we were very interested to walk the rest of the routes also, and ended up attending the Walk 3.

This route as usual started at Charminar and this time mostly covered the old buildings in the north eastern area around Charminar starting at Nizamia Hospital and ending at Purani Haveli.

Nizamia General Hospital / Unani Hospital: Built in 1938 by the last Nizam of Hyderabad State, HEH Osman Ali Khan

Nizamia General Hospital / Unani Hospital

Built in 1929 by the last Nizam of Hyderabad State, HEH Osman Ali Khan, under the schemes for post-flood development, designed by Vincent Esch, in the Indo – Saracenic architecture style.

Mecca Masjid: Opposite to the Hospital.

Mecca Masjid

Sardar Mahal

Sardar Mahal

Though the style reflects European architecture, the design and construction was indigenous; built in 1900 for the use of Sardari Begum the wife of the 6th Nizam of Hyderabad. Currently it is being utilized as the south zone office of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation

The old gateways of the city!

Glimpses of the old in the new



The minarets of Bargah Panj-e-Shah-e-Vilayat visible through the entrance of Kadam-e-Rasul Alava; and the Mansoor Khan’s Mosque – remnants from the Qutab Shahi Period.

Inside the mosques




The Old Palace

Purani Haveli – The Old Palace

The Heritage Trail 1: Old City, Hyderabad

A. P. Tourism conducts “Hyderabad Heritage Walks” in the old city every weekend. Recently we participated the in “Walk 2: From Charminar to Badshahi Ashurkhana”. With the vision of spreading awareness and to help with conservation, the tourism department conducts these tours for a paltry sum of Rs. 50/- per head.

Our guide met us at Charminar at 8 am and started with a brief history of the city. Hyderabad was established in the late 16th century by the Qutb Shahi Dynasty which continued to rule for almost a century before the Mughuls captured the region. The Mughuls set up the post of Viceroy in the region and this post was taken up by the Nizam Dynasty. The Nizams continued to Rule the Deccan a princely state under the British Rule.

All the iconic monuments of the city including the Golconda Fort, the Charminar and some of the palaces were built under the rule of the Qutb Shahi Rulers, and are a mix of architecture was Indo-Persian, a culmination of Hindu, Moorish, Mughal and Persian architectural styles.

Charminar: The iconic monument of the City.

The Iconic Building of the City.  Details of minarets and the arches.

The Iconic Building of the City -Photographed from the south eastern side
Details of minarets and the arches.

The interior - water basin and the dome

The interior – water basin and the dome

The various gates of the city: Charminar was supposedly set up at the centre of the Hyderabad City and the various sections of the city – palaces, bazaars, diwan ghaar etc were build in the four cardinal directions from this structure. All sections were accessed through large Gates called Kaman. 

Kamans: Vying to maintain their position in the now commercialised area.

Sher-e-Batil Kaman, Char Kaman, Diwan Dewadi Kaman: Valiantly trying to maintain their identity in the now highly commercialised area.

Pather-ghatti Market: The design of this market was based on the markets in Cairo. In recent times it is one of the most sought after wholesale market place.

The parallel lines of pathar-ghatti bazaar - consisting of some of the oldest shops still having slated wooden doors.

The parallel lines of pathar-ghatti bazaar – consisting of some of the oldest shops still having slated wooden doors.

Arched pathways providing access to the other side.  "Antiques" for sale.  Detailing on the pillars and roof.

Arched pathways providing access to the other side of the market. 
Curios for sale.
Detailing on the pillars and roof.

Badshahi Ashurkhana: The mourning hall for the shia muslims during the festival of Moharram.

Tiles originally set with semi-precious stones.  The high arched wooden roof and exterior minarets.

Tiles originally set with semi-precious stones.
The high-wooden roof and exterior minarets.

The walk provided great insights into the architectural designs of these monuments and it was increasingly brought to our notice the difficulty of maintaining these structures in encroaching push of the populace. These walks are the Tourism department’s way of increasing awareness of the historical heritage of the city, wishing to preserve these structures at-least in peoples’ memories.