Photo 101: Water

No one can think of ‘Chennai’ and ‘Water’ and not shiver at the devastating floods of December 2015. For a city that had always suffered from water scarcity, Chennai suddenly had too much water. Too much, in fact, that many buildings had gotten submerged up to the second floor! Nature had unleashed its wrath and humanity shuddered. But somehow, we made it out of it and¬†the whole things remains a morbid memory.

As I was stuck indoors the whole time, I do not unfortunately have any first-hand photos of the tragedy but this photo below was actually taken just a week before the rains intensified. This is the Chengalpattu Lake which is towards the southern part of Chennai and you can see it brimming with water already!

Also in view is the Chengalpattu railway station and a suburban train.

WP_20151114_07_54_52_Rich.jpg


 

This is my contribution for Day 3’s prompt of Photo 101. Click here to see my other entries.

Photo 101: Street

So I’ve now decided that the Photo 101 this time is gonna be my ode to Chennai. I dunno if I can keep this up for all the daily prompts but I’m gonna give my best shot anyway ūüôā

This is the road adjoining¬†Chennai’s Egmore Station, which is yet another jewel of a building from the colonial times. A quintessential Indian street too –¬†unpaved, chaotic, and the cute little tuk-tuks!

WP_20160213_17_32_31_Pro_LI (2).jpg

A visit to St. Thomas Mount!

 

WP_20160131_18_08_25_Rich

Well, don’t let the ‘mount’ in the name throw you off. St. Thomas Mount is actually a tiny little hillock at the heart of Chennai, overlooking the airport on one side. There’s a suburban train station with the same name, but I wonder¬†how many locals have actually tried to explore this quaint¬†place!

Being the sunset freak that I am, my primary motivation to visit this place had been to capture decent sunset shots over the landscape. Well that and the fact that I do really admire churches and the kind of tranquility that prevails around them. With that in mind, I wouldn’t suggest anybody to visit this on a Sunday evening unless you don’t mind the prayers and hymns blasting through the speakers¬†wherever you go.

Getting here is easy enough, one could either drive all the way up. Or better, take the 135 steps to the top! Easy-peasy and you get to enjoy the scenery as well. The entry to the hill is open from 6 AM to 8 PM, so if you can make it I would heartily suggest making the trip either early in the morning or just when the Sun is setting.

WP_20160131_18_10_20_Rich

WP_20160131_18_04_00_Rich (2)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To give you a little history of the place, St. Thomas Mount is deemed to be a holy ground as this is¬†where St. Thomas, one of the apostles, was martyred. They have some rare relics on display including a finger bone of the Saint himself. While the church itself is very unassuming, it is charming nevertheless and has some nice artwork. There’s a side chapel which has the Last Supper in bas-relief which I thought was pretty cool! I suppose the actual mass is undertaken outside in the pavilion as the church is indeed very small.

This place is something I would definitely suggest everybody to visit for a change of perspective. Chennai looks amazing from a height, and the vast plains of the airport runway to one side just sweeten the deal. The cherry on the cake is of course getting to catch the Sun like this. It’s like the sky is playing with a paint can, splashing these gorgeous swirls all around.

The Hindu Lit For Life 2016 – Day 2 & 3

WP_20160115_11_04_16_Rich
The brochure!

Lit For Life 2016 is the¬†¬†sixth edition of Chennai’s¬†own literary festival, organized by The Hindu newspaper.

The three day deluge of stimulating conversations has come to an end and I’m here ¬†now with my mind going off in multiple places. I have to thank the people at The Hindu for bringing this to Chennai. The city has definitely bagged one more feather to its cap. And I hope to see this festival blossom into an even bigger phenomenon to become a go-to literary festival for South Indians at least. The Jaipur Literature Fest has already set the benchmark quite high.

There were two themes that will probably be my key takeaways this year¬†– one has to do with “taboo” fiction, and the other is the whole mythology/religion/intolerance debate. While it’s true that the audience is equally split between the older and younger audience, it’s nice that we are able to have these conversations without anybody batting an eyelid. I mean, I expected there to be at least a groan or two when author Ananth read out an explicitly raunchy conversation from his erotic novel, but nothing happened and no ambulances were required after all. ūüėõ

As Devdutt Pattanaik rightly put it in his speech, progress¬†do not arise out of a tug-of-war. Nobody will gain anything¬†if either side takes an unassailable position. One has to give a little for the back and forth debate¬†to happen. That’s the only way we can sustain¬†a healthy conversation. It also tied in neatly with the whole freedom-of-speech conundrum¬†in that currently it is indeed very true that the “leftist” ¬†society is going too left that they almost seem like the right wing.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my favourite sessions from the final two days of the fest…

True Detectives: Of sleuths in Gaborone and Edinburgh ‚Äď Alexander McCall Smith

Am I the only one who hasn’t read Alexander McCall Smith, y’all?¬†Well apparently, he’s this very popular British writer¬†with a staggering number of 84 books under his belt and he’s still writing! This had been a fun session as the author himself seemed like a jolly good man, with a lot of funny one liners that had the audience in splits. And I’m most definitely gonna pick up his title “The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” as everyone had great things to say about it.

Kama‚Äôs Sutra ‚Äď Amrita Narayanan, Ananth Padmanabhan, Margaret Mascarenhas

An interesting discussion on erotic fiction. Though all three panelists wrote erotica, they all had different sensibilities which really made me see the number of ways one can approach any topic. My favourite was Amrita Narayanan’s attempt to¬†delicately sexualize everyday life in her short story collection, which for the most part is not even given a curt nod to in this part of the country.

Coming Out ‚Äď Sandip Roy, Living Smile Vidya, Philip Hensher

I was pleasantly surprised that they even had this session. As expected, the auditorium was only half filled for this one but what matters is that people came at all. Sandip and Philip are both openly gay authors and Vidya is the first transgender woman in India to hold a proper corporate job. The discussion was a bit desultory given the breadth of the issue at hand but it was interesting nonetheless.

Forbidden Fruit ‚Äď Lionel Shriver, Manil Suri, Amrita Narayanan and Annie Zaidi

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver¬†will be the next book I read. The book became a widespread phenomenon for its content which is of a mother hating pregnancy and childbirth and then¬†her son, later on. The rest of the panel too had written something on the lines of a “forbidden fruit” which is the danger zone in literature, the unnecessary line that you are expected not to cross. Lionel’s words that while you’re breaking taboo several new ones are continuously taking birth ring very true.

WP_20160117_16_33_14_Rich (2).jpg
As one will eventually come to realize, smartphone cameras are just not made for zooming! You can barely make out Amish here. 

Scion of Ikshvaku ‚Äď Amish

The penultimate session for the year, author Amish got a full house with this one. And as for something that I had been wondering myself, he explained why he cut down the “Tripathi” from his name. Turns out, Tripathi is a caste name in the north and he did not want that to be part of his identity. Which is thoughtful, I guess. Amish came in last year as well which was when he revealed that he was working on a new series which came true in the Ramachandra series. This time the conversation flowed more towards the concepts of religion and belief which I always find interesting. And I’ll admit that while I’m not a fan of the author himself, I’m grateful for what he’s done to increase the readers in our country!

To be honest, the three days flew so fast that time doesn’t seem to be have passed at all and yet here I am at the end of the third day with a lot of experiences and memories to cherish. So long for 2017 now.


Here’s the recap of Day 1 – > link

The Hindu Lit For Life 2016 – Day 1

WP_20160115_12_06_31_Rich (2).jpg
Get inkspired, ya’ll!

I wanted to be one of the first people at the auditorium to catch the best possible seats today, and I failed miserably. Who invented this damn Snooze button anyway? Well, as it happened, the event is actually scheduled to start off at 9:30 AM and I found myself entering the gates only at 9:35 AM, which is not good at all. As expected, I had to make-do with a seat at the very back of the auditorium (which by the way, was not as worse since Sir Mutha Venkata Subbarao Concert Hall is actually a pretty amazing place with steep seating so one always gets a clear view of the stage).

WP_20160115_12_33_37_Rich (2)

 

With that rant aside, let me say that I cannot explain just¬†how much I was looking forward to this literature festival in Chennai. It’s not often that a group of distinguished personalities come together to discuss and debate stuff in a civilized manner, leading to a multitude of enlightening and enthralling moments. I like how¬†conversations such as what I¬†witnessed today rekindle the gears in my head, and I’m sure a lot of the audience went home with something substantial to mull over as well.

The event is organized in two venues, one being the main auditorium itself and the other is the Hindu Pavillion which is just outside the auditorium. Sessions are conducted in parallel in both the locations so it’s necessary to be prudent when it comes to planning one’s day as you cannot be in two places at once (unless you’re Hermione Granger with a Time-Turner). Needless to say, there was a lot of hopping involved as I flitted back and forth between the Main Auditorium and the Hindu Pavillion to be present¬†for the sessions which I thought would be interesting and up my alley, so to speak.

WP_20160115_12_34_15_Rich

WP_20160115_12_06_02_Rich

Turns out, I made all the right choices – at least for myself!

I won’t spell out the whole day but would like to talk about some of my most favourite ones at least.

KEYNOTE – My Kashmir: Omar Abdullah

This was the very first talk of the day and I enjoyed every second of Mr. Omar Abdullah’s (former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir and current MLA) commentary on¬†the status quo of¬†Kashmir. And I will say this, that a lot of us are probably misinformed or foggy when it comes to the matters of the state of Kashmir; but everything I haven’t learnt in my lifetime I learnt in those fifty-five minutes. He detailed why India and Pakistan behave the way they do when it comes to this sensitive issue, and how he hopes that the next time somebody does talk about Kashmir, they wouldn’t have to talk about the problems of Kashmir but of all the good things about it.

WP_20160115_13_57_56_Rich (2)

Anatomy of a Murder: The Aarushi story ‚Äď Avirook Sen and Tanveer Ahmed Mir

The murder that intrigued and disgusted the nation (and especially the press) to no end, and the court trial which was a ground for countless blatant mistakes. Avirook Sen, the journalist who covered the investigation from Day 1 and Tanveer, who still represents the parents of Aarushi in court,¬†dissected the issue and laid out precisely what went wrong and how our legal system failed in dishing out a proper judgement. Avirook Sen also has a book out titled ‘Aarushi’ and I’m eager to read it. (And by the way, am I one of the very few people who loved Talvar, the movie?)

The Uses and Abuses of Religion ‚Äď Devdutt Pattanaik and Laila Tyabji

Probably a very hot topic in our country right now which explains why this session turned out to be as fiery as it did! From Devdutt’s passive stance on ‘religious stupidity’¬†to Laila’s relevant counter-questions, it turned out to be a great discussion (for me personally, as an atheist). While Devdutt is too much of an agnostic for my liking, he does say that we need to respect others’ beliefs and opinions even when we do not subscribe to them. I found myself not agreeing to a lot of what he had to say otherwise (he is a mythology guy after all) and I think I’ll do a separate post on what I think about the topic.

But his one quote rings true – “Never reject the real in favor of the theoretical”


So that’s about it folks, I want to write a lot more but I’m pressed for time. Totally pumped for the coming two days though!

WP_20160115_12_07_26_Rich
Well you’ll never guess what I wrote!

WPC: Circle

Didn’t want to go without a post on the very first day of year and there’s still 15 minutes left to midnight so here I go!

The only photo mildly resembling a theme of “Circle” in my gallery is this chandelier that I shot very recently at Palazzo Multiplex in Chennai. I probably didn’t do it enough justice but totally prepped for next time!

WP_20151227_20_41_34_Pro.jpg

There are about 3-4 circles here, can you spot all of them? ūüėõ

WPC: Treat!

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat.”

WP_20150808_21_39_38_Rich (2)

You are looking at Chennai’s iconic popcorn flavor mixes!

1. Mexicana Cheese 2. Sour Cream and Onion 3. Sweet Chili Barbecue

As iconic as Sathyam Cinemas is when it comes to the multiplex experience, their pop-corn is equally iconic! In fact, I’ve once seen people visit the multiplex just for the popcorn. Yes, it’s that good!

So the way this works is this,

First you buy the popcorn (in any size).

Ask the guy at the counter to load up on butter! And if possible, more butter. (This step is critical)

And then, you are given free-reign at these flavor-dispensing kiosks! Mix and match and shake your bag of popcorn to your heat’s liking, until all of those corns are perfectly covered by the seasoning.

Enjoy the movie! Even if the movie turns out to be bad, you’ve still had the best popcorn. Day is not wasted!

WPC: (Extra)ordinary!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “(Extra)ordinary.”

Sunset. Everyday the sun sets. But every set is unique.

And that is what makes something that should have been mundane so extra-ordinary for me!

WP_20151017_17_23_35_Rich
An attempt at HDR. Somewhere on the ECR, Chennai.
WP_20151009_18_14_24_Rich (2)
Even on an overcast day, that little glimmer of gold is all one needs.
WP_20151018_17_33_52_Pro
From my terrace.

Hope you all had/having a great weekend!!

A very good morning in Chennai

One thing that you should know about me is that if I have my mind set on something, I’ll do whatever may be required to achieve it.

Wait, did I just say that? Strange, never realized that till now myself!

Anyway, where I’m getting with this is that – I had a sudden realization on Saturday evening that it’s been almost two months since I last caught the sunrise over the beach! I had this nagging voice at the back of my head that I had to remedy it ASAP! So I decided right then that I’d go the Marina beach today morning, not because it’s a good beach but that’s the only beach that’s close enough for me to take public transport to AND reach before the sunrise. And that meant that I had to wake up early, how early?? 4 frickin’ AM! I calculated all the times in my head and found that unless I wake up at 4 and get on the suburban train by 5, I had very slim chance of reaching before the official sunrise time today that is 5:57 AM. Yes, I checked.

You probably know that I’m a night owl so my usual go-to-bed time is around 3 AM. Yea yea, I know it’s bad for health and everything but my brain is just so much more active before I sleep than¬†after.¬†As I type that now I see how nonsensical that sounds, but it’s true. And I never trust myself with the alarm; once I get to the REM sleep mode, not even an atom bomb exploding right next to me can wake me up!!! So I made the executive decision that I simply won’t go to sleep at all! I’ve done this before and I had a little sleep Saturday afternoon so it shouldn’t be such a big issue. Passing time was not a challenge, I had a backlog of Masterchef Australia Season 7 episodes to watch, and I binge-watched 3 of them.

Then it was time, and after my morning ablutions I found myself on the 4:59 train to Chennai Beach! All aboard and set!

The rest, as they say, is geography. (Hehe)

There is just something about the morning weather that is so mystical in quality. Be it the chilly wind brushing your skin, the sweet scent of vegetation, the chirping birds, a little dew on the grass and the intensifying blue and orange of the sky.

As I walked to the beach from the station, there was the smell of fish in the air (probably the fresh catch of the day) and I had a sudden craving for fish! I’m not someone who squirms at the stink of fish you see, in fact I quite like it. Probably was a sailor in my previous life. Anyway, turns out that I won’t end up having any fish for the day sadly.

But I’m digressing, so the walk yes. I walked about the iconic Napiers bridge and my mind suddenly erupts into the song ‘Fanaa’ from the movie Yuva for no reason. But then I realized that an important scene in that movie takes place on this very bridge. Human brain works in mysterious ways indeed!

After that I finally reached the beach, though I was off the target of 5:57 by a large margin that the Sun had already risen and was a good 20¬į above the horizon. But it was totally fine, as it’s almost impossible to catch the Sun touching the surface of the sea anyway! I spent the rest of the time doing beach-y things, read: sitting meditatively and staring into the beyond. ¬†And watching dogs play in the waves. Yes, I had a jolly good time.

And then, I did two important things that have been in my to-do list for a long time!

1. Have Idly Sambhar at Ratna Cafe, Triplicane (Breakfast)

They really do have the best Sambhar and are very generous with their servings too.

2. Try out BACON! Ciclo Cafe, Kotturpuram (Lunch)

Yes, I’ve never had bacon before. For one, pork is not eaten much in India due to various reasons (psychological and religious) and bacon is not something you can go to any supermarket and purchase. Also,¬†only a few restaurants have it on their menu.¬†I had the Carbonara, which is a classic Italian pasta dish with bacon. And I can now totally see the draw for bacon, as it was yummy yummy yummy! I was like, just get me a bowl of those pancetta and I’ll chew away to glory!

And what did I do in-between breakfast and lunch? I went to the Anna Centenary Library and read up on the Knights Templar! Did you know that the Priory Of Sion is completely fictitious? Boo, Dan Brown! Totally disheartening, I say.

So goes the life of a wandering soul.