PHOTO: #ThrowbackThursday to Venice

The cobbled streets, the souvenirs shops, the small stylish cafes lining up their wooden chairs, the hustle bustle in the by lanes, the pretty gondole and charming gondoliers – oh how much I miss my time in Venice! And dedicate my #throwbackthursday to this wonderful place where time comes to a standstill as the old meets new.

I walked all through the crowded streets, taking my time to try on the Venetian masks, capturing the domes of the churches into my camera, and listening to the water boats make a splash in the grand canal; and of course treating myself to a ride in the gondola. The romance of the place is slightly overrated, but for what it’s worth, a trip for Venice’s artistic sensibilities and sustenance in the modern times will not disappoint you!

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PHOTO: #ThrowbackThursday to Hampi

From Rome last week, we travel to another land standing tall in its ruins, in India for this week’s #ThrowbackThursday photo. The place holds a special place in my heart for its gorgeous views & monuments and of course, the million memories that I packed into my time there. This post is dedicated to these amazing set of friends I have, how much I adore their presence in my life and just how much I miss them here!

Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as a Group of Monuments. You may read more about it here.

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Tryst with Cops and our Night-Trek

It was 1:48am on Sunday morning. We had just reached the foothills of Skandhagiri. This was where the night trek was supposed to begin! We had a huge preparation behind this trek. From warm clothes, to trekking shoes, to water reserves, to food items to munch on, to cameras to carrying loads of energy and lots of enthusiasm to go up the hill on a clear Spring night. With cars zooming past us and the brightly lit Airport Road, the drive on our way to Skandhagiri on the B’lore-Hyderabad highway was no less exciting! Only that the excitement came to sudden halt when we reached the foothills.

There were several Policemen standing by the jeeps, carrying a stern look and that of suspicion on every vehicle that stopped by. They had some bikers stand in a line; had the pundit of the temple nearby with them too. They seemed to be threatening him and if put in softer words, rebuking him for some reason. As we stopped there, one of the Policemen approached us and peeped inside the vehicle. He looked rather cross with us from the very moment he set his eyes on us. Wonder why all Cops are Angry Men all the time!
Well, we slowly came out of our Qualis. And within moments, the two Cops came to our driver and started asking him to turn around the car and take us back! All this in Kannada, but you need no language to show or understand anger and rudeness… As they hit the roads with their “laathis”, we figured we were in no mood or foolishness to mess with the Cops there!

As we turned around Raghu immediately suggested we go up the Nandi Hills. Sounded like the perfect alternative to all of us. But the only problem was it was just too near and the main gates to go onto the top of the hill opened only at six!

Eight friends, sitting in a Qualis, some sleepy, some singing, have nearly four hours to spend in the darkness of nowhere…
Seemed just perfect!

To kill time, we stopped by at a kutti tea stall on the highway at around 2.30am. There were trucks surrounding us from almost all directions… our Driver was more interested in the tea than us, but slowly as the sleepy ones decided to get out of their slumbers we did get in a few cups as well. In all the strangeness, the only thing that interested Minakshi was the small TV screen strategically positioned in the tea stall playing apparently a Telugu movie – which she was rather excited to translate for us, only if she could lay her ears on it! Oh btw, I should tell you, she is one bong I know who can speak Telugu quite well.

After comfortably killing about half an hour there, just sipping over tea and trying to figure where the grapes were that KD brought with him; we headed for the Nandi Hills, at an unbelievably slow speed of about 25-30kmph covering a distance of just about 40kms! The only advantage of having driven so slow was the countless number of songs that were sung and played and enjoyed through the drive. One after the other, Raghu-the-DJ had to succumb to pressure of backseaters and give in to some of the most wonderful songs that Bollywood has produced in the recent times. We sang along and drove along our way!

Half way up the Hills, we halted to make some fire, enjoy some time star-gazing, playing catch-the-torch-light, listening to Amit sing some very profound songs… of course eating and clicking every now and then.
We talked about poetry, and philosophy – the understanding and not understanding of these two forms of writing, we talked about BITSian astronomy workshops, we relived the golden days of being seniors on campus and gained the age-old sadistic pleasure out of ragging the only junior among us – and she was a sport all through!

As the stars started to disappear, we took the final lap to the top, bought tickets and started the so-called night trek that we were supposed to have been doing only at 6am in the morning! And boy, was it not fun!
Of course it was. It was the company that mattered; and the versatility and randomness of our group made all the difference. Made the night more magical than we could have ever imagined!

Once at the top and a round of clicking was over, slowly for a while, all of us delved deeper into the silence that spelled around us. The vastness of nature, its beauty and its wonder – enveloped us with heavy winds blowing all over making us feel as if we could be flown away any moment. Into the open skies towards newer horizons.

The golden rays and cloudy streaks on a blue sky filled the heart with joy;
While the naughty monkeys ran all around quick and coy.

Something Apsara would surely agree with!

On our way down, we finally found the KD’s grapes and devoured on them. As we reached Blore, the frequent sudden breaks owing to city’s Sunday traffic woke me up to reality… and as the Qualis slowly started to get empty, our little adventure trip came to a close.

Oh btw, if you are wondering about the Cops and what happened with them… well, our small encounter ended right there. Thanks to Hindi movies! And we never found out what murder mystery they were after… I hope at least they did.  

Tours

I dint know where this tour was heading when I started it and that was really exciting. 

Sitting in the train, reading a magazine called Jade which I have never read before, munching on Good Day biscuits and looking at the door of the AC II tier compartment every now and then to check who’s going to be occupying the berth next to me… well, the uncertainty of it all was indeed exciting! 

That to me is the greatest high when I start on something; that I don’t know whether it’s going to be good, or is it going to be bad. I know I will be sad if it isn’t good, and I will feel very happy if it is good.  Yet, it gives me a high. And the second thing you know when you start off anything is the knowledge that it’s going to end, either ways. Nothing in Life is permanent. Tours included. This is 100% a Lifetime on its own; it has a beginning and it has an end. And if it is good, strangely the ending will be sad. And that’s the strangeness of Life; of everything we do. We never want the party to end; well, it is lucky now that we have everything captured on cameras and videos in a certain way…

In that hustle-bustle, if somebody stops you for a moment, giving you an opportunity to capture that moment in itself; and asks you by poking you at your back, “How does it feel?” All that comes to your mind to say is, “Right now, very tired!”

It is like those days when you lose yourself entirely, impatiently, yet completely be with yourself patiently encompassing the moments as a whole within. 

I don’t know how to word it, but it’s a very strange experience. It is like… the continuous noise of “Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” and then of nothingness “              `”; again, “Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” and              `”… then it dawns upon you that both of them are you. Even the “Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa” is you, and the “            `” silence is you. With that I reflect upon this one week that went past as I toured the beautiful city of B’lore, and I realize so many things in my life are attached to that reflection of just this one week. I return from these tours knowing that there are a lot of people who love me; I come back from these tours knowing that I love a lot of people, and I shall always do so. But I also go and come back from these tours realizing that I do love me also. And, I get an opportunity to turn around, look at myself and say that to myself. Something that each one of us should be doing more often I say!

I mean both the Tours and the saying that to yourself part! 🙂 

Visits

Friends’ visits are always like a fresh breath of cool early-morning breeze. They arrive, with bags full of energy, enthusiasm, (and gifts if they remember to); life changes for those couple of days, it is loaded with all sorts of activities – sight-seeing, roaming on the streets aimlessly yet consumed in talking about ambitions and future, eating, laughing and most importantly, feeling happy!

Even God loves it when friends meet up. You want to know why? Well, Hyderabad weather hardly rocks, but last weekend, as one of my BITSian friends planned a sudden trip to the city, God made the blues of Hyderabad heat vanish altogether and we couldn’t have asked for more.

Two days and the Threesome. There was not a road left un-touched. From Old City to the modern one, the two city-dwellers among the three of us covered every nook-and-corner of the city so that this friend gets to feel the true air of Hyderabad!
Three spots we visited are worth a special mention here for three different reasons. One was Charminar, second was VengalaRao Park, and the third one was the Barista coffee shop.

Every tourist to Hyderabad has Charminar on top of the list of places-to-visit. It wasn’t so on my friend’s list (he had no list actually!) but once there standing in front of the monument, he couldn’t resist going up. Although the climb is not much of a delight, the circular steps of Charminar remind you of two things – one, the fact that you are entering ancient history; second, you think of how easy it was for Harry Potter to go up such a staircase when going to professor Dumbledore’s office, that you wish it magically started to rotate!
Once up on Charminar, you can get a microscopic view of how huge our population is. People sprawling all around the monument, it seems and feels as if the monument is adjusting itself between the swarm of people, somehow balancing itself amidst all chaos. And in that chaos, there are the lives of hundreds of people – some praying in the mosque on the left, some stopping by the small vendors to buy balloons bags or bangles, some auto-wallahs looking for a customer, some kids playing on the sides of the roads, some fruit vendors… And that is not chaos for them! That is Life, and everyone there, here, everywhere survives on a balancing act!

VengalaRao Park is a city park developed by the GHMC (in the Naidu times), that stands near the Nagarjuna Circle on the road towards City Centre Mall. It has an extremely beautiful and placid landscape, adding to the scenery is a small pond in the middle. The green lawns sprawl all around it, with many ‘comfy’ spots for couples on one side, and a playground full of swings and slides for children on the other! We reached this park late afternoon on Sunday after a tiring climb at the Golconda fort. And for the most part of the time that we spent there, we slept. There was so much beauty all around, yet all that we did was sleep. And, we couldn’t have enjoyed the place better. Facing the overcast sky, with dreams on eyelids and serene breeze blowing on the face – all that one can do is Sleep! So we did!

Barista was our stop in the evening. This was my first visit to Barista – THE coffee shop! My brother later congratulated me on achieving the feat; he is 16 and has been there more than he should. What I liked the most about this coffee shop was the game of Scrabble they provided to customers! It delighted me totally J Of course, I did enjoy the coffee, oops, Cappuccino as they say, Cookies dipped in Cream and Chocolate syrups and obviously the Conversations. The coffee shop does come across as a simple and Costly affair, but for those who love chocolates as much as I do, the Dark Temptation is a must-try, although the Strawberry Delight looked equally delicious for a summer-evening snack!
Apart from the eating, licking and drinking there, we realized how meticulous we were at filling up the Feedback forms, how strangely what seemed to be there was actually not there, how when it came to chocolates and syrups we lost all etiquette, how miserly we were at paying compliments, how girls attach more emotion to detail than boys ever imagine to, how distracting a cricket match can be, how interesting coincidences in life are… and much more. After all, life is all about realizations!


Two days, the Threesome and it was Terrific!

Visits are always too short than they seem to be. But, KD – thanks for making the weekend so full of fun and laughter! (And perhaps, gear up the longer weekend trip that’s coming ahead.)