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Three Offbeat Things I Did in Coonoor….

December 21, 2017

…and you should too.

I love the hills.  I love the weather, the vibe and the people in the hills.  I feel my skin takes on a special glow and my mind a rare calmness when I smell the hill air.

So it was only inevitable that I would take my parents for a vacation up in the hills.  Although we are from the Uttrakhand hills, I haven’t spent much time there.  But I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Nilgris.  I was in Coonoor a couple of months ago to participate in a run.  This past weekend Coonoor was colder, quieter, prettier.

 

We didn’t have many days and I wanted my parents to love the place as much as I did. So I wanted to do something different and memorable.  Also, I have an affinity for all things weird, offbeat and quirky.  So, without further ado, here are three offbeat things to do in Coonoor.

  1. Hit up a local and badger them for information.  There’s no better way to really get the vibe of a place than by hanging out with a local.  You end up hearing fascinating personal anecdotes and hopefully getting an interesting story or two.  My favorite kind are the scary ones and I was #sorrynotsorry to find out that there aren’t any ghost stories in the hills around Coonoor.  In fact, the lone deserted house that I was so sure was haunted was only up for sale…and not because it was haunted.  We were lucky to meet Zubin Contractor, resident and Coonoor expert.  From tea factories to how Eucalyptus oil is extracted.  From the history of the five tribes of the Nilgris to scenic walks around town, Zubin had us covered.
  2. Visit Acres’ Wild, Mansoor Khan’s cheese making farm, complete with its own gowshala and geese in a pond.  I had been to this property years ago on a cold and foggy day.  This weekend it was nice and sunny and we were there to find out how cheese is made.  We were given facts and figures, shown the apparatus and the equipment and had our questions patiently answered.  We came away with a few packets of their delicious cheese.  (You know what you’ll be served if you drop in for a visit.)
  3. Visit the cemeteries.  We went to two cemeteries and they were beautiful.  An old one with centuries old tombstones and a beautiful statue of an angel.  The other one we visited had graves from World War 1 and was maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission.  Although slightly creepy, its in cemeteries that you get a sense of an era long gone.  Of the aesthetics and beliefs of the time.  You actually get a sense of the individuals that lived and walked in the same pathways centuries ago.  It brings history to life.

Also, we go on vacation to take a break from the frenzy of city life.  A cozy little nook helps. It is important to find a comfortable home away from home to stay in.  Coonoor has many options and when dusk falls all you feel  like doing is putting on some comfortable socks and crawling under a soft blanket with a good book.  Luckily, I had the home away from home, the socks and blankets, a good book and family.

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Sunday the 18th – Koregaon Park

September 20, 2016

 

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Early morning walk around Koregaon Park.

 

Half the month is over, and, as Anuja pointed out in the car earlier today, half the year is almost over.  I bet a lot of people already made their New Year’s Eve plans. I’ve only been able to plan for the first week of December when I may be off for a new adventure.

 

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This should be better by December.

 

However, while I’m here I would like to experience a bit more of Pune.  So this past Saturday I decided to meet up with a friend of mine from my Infy days.  While in the UK, Bhavani and I were out frequently clubbing, pubbing, eating or just watching movies.  The last time I met up with her we went to Mallaka Spice (Bhavani & Me @Mallaka).  Last Saturday we went to a popular hangout here called The Bar Stock Exchange.  Nice place.  Good music, good crowd and nice drinks :).  We headed back to Bhavani’s house with plans of watching ‘Sinister’.  Once I realized I’d already seen the film, I promptly fell asleep.

The next morning was Sunday and I’m not one to miss out on a delicious breakfast.  Because of the early classes here, I’ve become very frugal with my breakfasts.  But I think I’m essentially a breakfast girl.  The other day (at Funky Kona in Baner) Anuja and I were discussing how much more fun and romantic breakfasts are over dinners.  Show me a breakfast and I’ll show you  girl who isn’t afraid to stuff her face.  So we drove around a bit to get to our breakfast place.  The Yogi Tree is right next to the Osho Ashram.  Bhavani had her usual parantha while I had a sandwich.  I have to confess, I don’t miss south Indian breakfast, but I do miss the coffee.  I’ve started to hallucinate the smell of fresh filter coffee!!!  I guess I know the first thing I’ll have in namma Bengaluru.

I pomelo_20160911194640_save.jpgwanted to indulge in a little bit of street shopping also while here.  I did go to Lakshmi road a day before the Ganapati festival.  It was crowded and I don’t think I’ll ever willingly go there again.  But I managed to pick up two pairs of beautiful Kolapuri chappals, which; for the record; happen to be my favorite kind of footwear.

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Many people told me that Koregaon park is known for its small quirky boutiques.  Bhavani and I decided to walk around.  I was looking for nice spots to take yoga photos.  Sadly, couldn’t find a single pretty background.  However, we did go to a few of the small boutiques and indulged in some retail therapy.  I got a sense of the vibe of the place which is youthful and vibrant.  There were interesting little food joints interspersed with the clothing and accessories boutiques.  Lots of places for dessert, but I’m keeping my chocolate addiction under control these days.

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Once I got home I said hi to Aston.  Aston makes a dog’s life look very chic.  He moves only if he has to.  He sprawls under the TV and sort of rolls around there every once in a while.  And he spontaneously has barking fits.  Playing fetch is his only form of exercise, but we know he’s in love with the tennis ball.  Anuja claims that he sleeps on his back and sometimes dreams about running after the ball.  So she says Aston’s legs move, as though he’s running after the ball.  Except he’s asleep.

I decided to strike a few poses while Aston was catching his breath.

Sunday evening Anuja and I decided to go back to Koregaon park to Dario’s.  I’d heard so much about the place and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed.  They have delicious food.  We decided to taste the vegan cheesecake and had some bruschetta and coffee.  We thought we’d go for a round of shopping before we sat down for dinner.

When we emerged from Dario’s it was raining, but the weather wasn’t going to keep a couple of girls away from clothes.  We browsed through a few boutiques in Koregaon park.  I was looking for interesting quirky stuff while Anuja was checking out the merchandise.  We headed home early so that I could be up bright and early for my 7 am.

 

 

Lifestyle Uncategorized Yoga

Nightlife of a Different Sort

September 13, 2016

Lord Ganesh would probably be the poster boy for Hindu mythology.  I’ve rarely met a foreign yogi who hasn’t heard at least one legend about how he got the head of an elephant.  I’ve rarely been to an Indian or an Indophile’s house which doesn’t have a picture or a statue of Ganesh-ji.  I don’t profess to have more than a rudimentary knowledge of Hinduism and am not in the least iconoclastic.  But I also have a beautiful statue of Ganesh in my house.  One of my favorite pieces of jewellery is a gold Ganesh pendant that a friend of mine gave me when I was about to embark on an import journey in life (thanks Lakshmi).

I guess it was destiny for me to come to Maharashtra when the most special festival is going on.  Ganesh Chaturti here is celebrated like Dusshera in Mysore.  The festival has been immortalized in numerous Bollywood songs and last night I had the pleasure of visiting the 5 famous Ganesh mandals here in Pune.  These are so famous in fact, that it is rumoured that Bollywood celebrities come all the way here to offer their prayers.  Going to the old city and walking through the crowds to make your way to the Ganpatis is no easy feat, and I guess it was destiny once again that I had a group who was kind enough to think of me when they made their plan.  Had it not been for Hariharan, Shivangi and Subbu I don’t think I would ever have had the chance to participate in the festivities.

 

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The route.

We had a very capable and organized navigator.  Hariharan did the groundwork.  We had the names of the famous Ganapatis and the walking route printed out.  We knew that it was going to be crowded, so we left our bags behind in the car and ventured out on foot.  Don’t get too close to the venue to look for parking because you won’t find any.  We parked on the other side of the  Mula Mutha river and crossed the bridge.  The area is cordoned off for vehicles.

 

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Have to go back to this.  I’ve heard there is a sound and light show here.  Also, it looks very different from how it does in Bajirao Mastani.  I will have to go back for a closer look.

The Ganapatis we wanted to visit were:

  1. Kasba
  2. Tambdi
  3. Guruji Talim
  4. Tulsibaugh (we missed this one)
  5. Kesriwada

So the Ganapatis, in no particular order are:

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The oldest Ganapati.

While here I want to make sure that I have as much vada pav and pav bhaji and other local fare, and in keeping with that we stopped at JumboKing for their famous Wada Pav Burger.pomelo_20160913161647_save.jpg

 

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Mario Miranda on the wall.

 

Fortune tellers, old and new friends, phenomenal yoga teachers and amazing practice sessions…what else will Ganesh-ji bring my way during the rest of my Pune travels and in my life?

 

 

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Stretching – Then and Now

September 11, 2016

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@Malaka Spice

 

It’s been close to 10 days here and my routine here is as challenging as ever.  I realize that if it’s your first time here, then it does take a while to adjust and adapt.  The first time I had a 4 hour practice I was incredulous … and didn’t know how to deal with it.  Rather, I didn’t know how to make the most of it.  When I practice at home it’s only for an hour and a half, and by the end of it I’m drained out.  So the first few days here, I was always exhausted.  So much so that I felt I couldn’t give the best in the asanas and always felt sloppy and ungainly throughout the practice.  Mondays and Tuesdays specially, since practice on those days is almost 4 hours long, and by the time I’m done with practice its an ordeal just to walk home.  My fantasies these days centre around buying an apartment next to the institute so that I can crawl home in no time and surface again only for the next class.

However, now I’ve started to get used to the routine.  I’m actually able to make the most of the extended practice sessions.  In fact, 2 hours is just about enough time for a satisfying practice…how I’m going to sustain this when I’m back in Bangalore is the stuff other blog posts are made of.

Yesterday I had my class in the evening (where I’m referred to as ‘Bangalore’, and another

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Milk tea just this once?

girl is called ‘USA’, oh and then there’s ‘Madam China’ in the 6 am session).  It was an amazingly intense session.  The class was fast paced with a focus on stretching the lower body (Janu Sirsasana, Paschimottansana, Baddhakonasana etc).  Finally we did the Upavista Konasana, which is a challenging pose for me.  I slowly made my way down and eased my torso onto the floor.  I remember the days when I started practicing yoga and this pose was a big challenge.  I wouldn’t be able to extend my back and my hip joint was stiff.  As the years went by, I was still pretty reluctant to practice this pose because it didn’t come naturally at all and it was frustrating.  Even now, sometimes I’m able to execute this pose well, and sometimes I feel like lead.

Yesterday I was able to ease myself down and placed my forehead on the floor.  I stayed there kind of happy and satisfied with myself.  There’s always an element of pleasant surprise also, because some days your body can extend and some days it just doesn’t.  This reverie lasted until I heard, “BANGALORE!  You’re sleeping!  Extend more!  Walk forward with your hands!!!  That’s it, that’s good.  Trance mein chali gayi thi phir se.”

And I realized that for the most part, this is how I practice.  I arrange myself into a pose and then my mind says, “This is it, you’ve done well.  You’re done.”  And then my pose goes dead, and progress stops.  Or, as the teacher said, I fall asleep.  So when I was told to extend more, I had to push through the limitations of my mind (kind of still the internal dialogue) and discover if I could, in fact, go further.  I realized that I could, and for that little bit of time I experienced new life.  And received a bit of enlightenment.

The Halasana is a pose that we do daily in class.  We use props to ensure that the spine and neck are straight.  The picture is of me doing the Halasana many years ago.  When my internal dialogue was loud and overpowering.  I’m sure it’s improved over the years.  And after this class, I know how to work in this (and in all other asanas).

Halasana (Plough Pose)

How To

  1. Lie down straight on your back making sure your head lies on the floor.
  2. Exhale, bend your legs at the knees and bring your knees close to your chest.
  3. Lift your buttocks off of the floor supporting your back with your hands.
  4. Make sure to plant your elbows firmly on the floor.halasana
  5. Bring your body perpendicular to the floor, until your sternum touches your chin.
  6. Gently extend your legs out behind your head.
  7. Keep your face and neck relaxed.
  8. Practice with your arms stretched out behind and fingers interlocked to relive pain and cramps in fingers, hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders.

Benefits

  • Relieves fatigue.
  • Helps to calm down the mind.
  • Relaxes your eyes and brain.
  • Controls hyper tension.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Lengthens the spine and improves alignment.
  • Reduces insomnia and anxiety.
  • Relieves stress-related headaches and migraines.

Contraindications

  • Don’t practice during menstruation and if you have cervical spondylosis.
Travel

A Yogi in Pune – Day 5

September 5, 2016

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I’m a lover of stories (maybe a collector of stories?).  The house I’m living in is located on Flight Lt Sudhir Pawar Road.  I found out early that Sudhir Pawar was actually related to my landlady.  He was her uncle.  Once on a sortie, the plane malfunctioned and he crash landed.  The government named the road on which he lived after him.  Once upon a time there were several bungalows on this road, however now there are only two left, one of which is the one I’m staying in.  The compound has 3 bungalows within it, and the grave of a fakir.  That piqued my interest.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak to my landlady’s father who is a retired architect.  In his 80s now, he is bedridden but his mind is spry and alert.  Deaf since the age of 17, he approached Morarji Desai for permission to travel abroad (in the 50s) to see if there were any doctors who could help him with his hearing.  Morarji Desai provided 400 pounds and letters of references to top doctors in Austria to help him out.  He set sail.  While on a quest to find a cure for his hearing loss, he managed to get a job in London, rented a Viscount’s house, learned lip reading from nuns in Birmingham, travelled all over Europe and finally decided to come home to get married and look after his younger brothers.  Still deaf, he decided on a final jaunt to Dubai for work before he came to India to settle down and start his own architecture firm.

So I decided to ask him about the fakir’s grave.  “No no he doesn’t walk…he doesn’t go anywhere.”

“What?” I was puzzled.

“Yes, he doesn’t walk anymore.  We’ve created a walkway for him and given him a house, so he doesn’t bother us.  He stays there only.”  So he was talking about the fakir.

The house he’s referring to is right behind the room which I’ve taken.  There’s a tree under which the fakir lies.  For obvious reasons I choose not to dwell on that right now.  However, I will try and get a picture of that house and tree one of these days.

Ganesh Chaturti is a big deal in Maharashtra and today was one of the first holidays pomelo_20160905130314_save.jpg(besides Sunday).  I realized this only last night and I got so excited when I realized last night that I could actually read all night if I wanted to.  That’s exactly what I planned on doing, but stumbled upon ‘The Painted Veil’ on YouTube.  I’m having issues putting the book down these days, and I was curious to see how they’ve done the movie.

I could hear ‘Ganpati bappa moriya!‘ as my hosts brought their Ganpati home and I went up later to see what they’ve done.  Family members have been visiting all day and festivity is in the air.  Tomorrow is the visarjan, where they will take the idol and submerge it the river.   Good to be in Maharashtra at this time.