Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Lost Sea! Tales of Ben Sands..

Sailors who travel seas wouldn’t mind another sea on the world map, but what if by magic one whole sea disappeared! No fellow environmentalists! Am not talking about the fast disappearing Dead Sea! That is a concern but anyway, here am talking about a sea, which has been lost off the map of world seas! Really?? Really!!
What if I told you a story? Of curious children! Well all children are curious! But if I tell you about this boy who was way too curious for a 13 year old! He climbed down into a cave, and walked nearly a quarter of a mile and entered a small rabbit sized hole and discovered that there was water in the cave! But with his tiny lantern, yes! He was carrying a small lantern! Psst the story is really old…Long long ago types! J Ok now our bonny boy! He realized that he had found something so unique and wanted everyone to know about this discovery of his! But how much water was around him! He could not see much! So what did he do! Made wet clay balls from the mud fisted out from the shallow waters of this very water body and began flinging it across the expanse of water…all he heard was a plop, plop and plop!! The clay balls never managed to find any wall on any side! The clever boy concluded that it was indeed a very big water body that he had stumbled upon! Excited with his discovery, he raced back home and told everyone in the village about it! None believed because all villagers thought they knew the ‘moonshine place’ well! #alert whiskey lovers!! Moonshine!!  

But finally this boy’s father agreed to accompany him to ratify the boy’s find! And what disaster! The cave and its entrance totally disappeared! After chiding the boy to stop dreaming, the boy’s father was off on his way! The boy grew up, believing that he did indeed see that water body underground and there was water below those caves!! He withered and became an old man all 70 years of age! And one fine day, some people came knocking on his door! Was he that little boy who said there was water in the cave? Ah! Yes! And yes indeed there was water! Rediscovered around 1965, that boy was honored for his find and that cave which has the water body, was named after him! He was Ben Sands! J And what had he discovered! Well something really unique! Deep inside a mountain near Sweetwater in East Tennessee is a remarkable body of water known as The Lost Sea.

Listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as America’s largest underground lake, the Lost Sea is part of an extensive and historic cave system called Craighead Caverns.  So 300 feet below ground, there indeed is this Lost Sea! 800 feet long by 220 feet wide! Even to date, only 13 acres of this Sea are mapped, and the most expert divers have searched this place only to get a faint idea that there are more caves, cave rooms filled with water, how many, how much water, the actual depth of this entire water body is still a mystery! With the deepest points of this water body as deep as 70 feet and water and the room which holds it, constantly at 58 degree Fahrenheit, bejeweled paths with Anthodites, Lost Sea is indeed a bucket-list place to be! And an experience worth each penny they charge!! J And yes! How do I know all this? We went there to find it out ourselves! What is the more fun part! Near blind rainbow trout (a fish variety) which leaps out of this water to eat food! Part of an experiment being carried out by the team researching the Lost Sea, these fish were introduced into the Lost sea a few years ago, and the research about how these fish thrive 300 feet below ground level in a water body completely devoid of sunlight.

 All this exciting information and the bits of silence in between the noise of water gently lapping around our boat, which ferried us across the biggest water rooms of the sea, as tall as 35 feet above the water level and 70 feet deep water below…
And then there was the wide eyed baby A nestled at my bosom, sensing the difference of this place! Different sensations piling up her tiny self, as she saw ma-sha ma-asha (fish) and pa-pa-pa (water)
A sense of wonderment filled us up and so did a sense of admiration for that teenage boy, whose curiosity led the world and eventually us to this place!
Such wonders of the world! A big satisfied tick on my bucket list this visit! J

Ruby falls, Tennessee

Always aching to have the “one in a lifetime” experiences, we set out to find places of interest in the Midwest…With the 4th July weekend fast approaching, we scanned hurriedly on the map of America, reactivating our rusty Geography lessons regarding the geographical wonders of America and general topography…we always knew two mountain ranges in America, the Smoky and the Rocky mountain range! And as it was the monsoon season in India, our regular trekking season, we were all the more inclined to travel to the mountains! Smoky mountains were our choice for the trip! And were we disappointed? Never ever a moment!
The lush greenery in Nashville greeted us and set the perfect tone for our hilly sojourn. We drove merrily past the cities and towns and headed south, towards Chattanooga. Sounding strange on our tongues, we kept repeating all the different Red Indian place names we encountered whilst we drove…Our first halt was Ruby falls, just read quickly through the history of the falls here, just to get the hang of what I describe next…
Reaching the lookout mountain, well that was our first taste of hilly roads, and mountain terrain of the States, and we must appreciate the perfect road condition and ample road signs, warnings and caution boards at the right places! The roads had perfect landings and shoulders, how we wish Maharashtra learnt about them too! J
We drove through thick rain, yes! Thick indeed! The rain was almost out of any Yashraj or Dharma production movie! Big drops dropping off the clouds in such profusion, we could hardly see beyond a few feet! And the mist hung low in the mountains, so through the curtains of rain and swirling mists, we reached this magical land of the Lookout Mountain!
There we entered the lift that took us 1120 feet below the ground! Upon entering the mountain from inside, we marveled at the calm and darkness that spread around…Our guide led us around the falls, gave some super expert tips regarding the caves and the stalactite and stalagmite formations in the caves! We walked around the various ‘rooms’ of the caves. Each route was laden with limestone deposits, mineral deposits and some amazing natural formations. The Stalactites formed chandeliers in our path and the stalagmites rose to greet us, their faint irradiance and soft sound of running ground water, created an ambience beyond words! The Selenites amazed us with their flower like shapes, “growing” on the low ceilings of the caves.

After a mile long trek, which involved a lot of bending low and walking down dark paths, we entered this cave ‘room’ with an opening the size of a marriage hall! Imagine thousand feet below ground an opening which is so deftly carved out by underground water movement! And the guide simply switched off the guiding lights here! The calmness now had a fearful edge! The silence and darkness assaulted us with their magnificent potency and all pervading presence! ‘You will all go blind in a few months time if you continue to stare in the darkness…’ the guide informed! Our pupils stretch out trying to seek light and in the process, get damaged and soon are rendered useless in darkness! Wow that was some trivia!
As the room lit up, we could see cave pathways, as small as rabbit holes or just the size of a double spread newspaper; these pathways were open to exploration! But we really couldn’t stomach that idea! Especially after the recent darkness episode! We left this room, thinking about the sages of India who meditated in the caves of Himalayas, and also about thousands of mine workers around the world! Suddenly perspectives changed, and newfound respect rose for these people!
We walked into the final hall of the cave; the final sight froze us in silence! Literally!
With temperatures hovering around 58 degrees Fahrenheit Celsius, crashing our silence, was a massive waterfall, gushing into the pool below…what a sight it was! Gooseflesh prickled our skin and smiles wreathed our faces, eyes marveled at the sight and the real pricking feeling of being a mere human being, just one of the average creations of nature seemed to gnaw away at our ego…Such a delightful creation was this! And for nobody in particular, hidden away thousand feet below the ground surface, in the heart of a mountain, gushing, rushing and delighting itself in a way!

Read more about Ruby falls here and do go visit this superb place once! And yes if you folks are in Europe, a must visit on these lines is another marvelous creation of nature, beautifully protected by man..The Truemmelbach falls  
Geography learnt like this would be so interesting! J Am glad my baby A is learning it so!
On the side note, all this wandering included my baby girl, just shy of being one year old! I carried her in my trusted beco baby carrier!

PS: I am not being paid to endorse any of the links or sites above.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Motherhood newly bestowed upon me, had taught me my initial share of sudden fear, uncertainty and chaos. After a neat two month tumble down the motherhood roller coaster, I was headed for a bigger joyride, that of balancing motherhood and life otherwise which includes household chores, husband, in-laws and the likes…
Funnily the precursor to my joyride turned out to be an episode in itself!
This incident now looks funny and strange et al but when we lived through it, it seemed like mini hell!
With our trusted rickety bright neon green car, in which we dumped a lifetime belongings of a two month old (trust me the kid owns more than us adults) :P we set out on a fine Pune morning to head towards Mumbai. The initial leg of the tour went perfectly well, as the clouds of parting emotions drifted away, me and my husband finally got some “us” space to talk sensible adult conversation! (I keep needing doses of it regularly to last me through my days of endless baby talk). The baby Miss A was blissfully asleep and smiling intermittently creating almost a dream-like scene! As we wound around the sahyadri ghats, rode up to Lonavla and drove down Khandala, my chondromalacia afflicted knees knew it was time! Time to rest!
We stopped at the Khopoli foodmall, topped up petrol and as we readied ourselves for the second leg of the journey, poof the magic began! :P The car miraculously stopped, wouldn’t budge an inch and all attempts at starting the engine, reviving the car back to life were met with disappointment! Now the glaring afternoon sun caught us unawares and pricked the baby alive from its slumber by shining down upon her tiny eyes! So now there was a very frustrated newly minted father, ditto for the mother and a baby threatening to cry out her loudest!
As we pulled out all the baby stuff crammed in the car, without a clue as to what is wrong with the car, we helplessly fidgeted around without success.  Finally a mechanic was hailed from the closest settlement, as we were stuck in this oasis in the desert called expressway! Bleh to all mommy advice, the new mother with the baby walked into a pizza outlet, thankfully that was the correct choice.
What ensued next was a two hour ordeal of figuring out what was wrong with the car, and a helplessly flitting father at one end, and at the other, baby peacefully sleeping on the comfy sofas of the pizza outlet, enjoying the AC there, a worried mother gobbling her pizza lunch, eyes fixed to the watch, for baby mealtime was close…
Friendly and unfriendly stares, mixed with hushed surprise exclamations, all thrown at the new mother were deftly ignored, while she gobbled her pizza. As soon as she was done, Miss A decided to begin her lunch time wailing! With no newly minted father in sight, mommy newest thought out the next best plan! Requested the outlet manager to allow her to feed the baby some place closed, what she got in return was a basement room where the store supplies lay!
A baby in hand sure opens doors! New lesson learnt! So finally the new mom peacefully fed her baby in the basement of the pizza stores, where there were empty pizza boxes and cheese and sauce bottles for company! Meanwhile the father was clueless about the baby and mother’s whereabouts! But still ate the leftover pizza aimlessly, waiting for the other half of family to return. The mom and baby arrived, the mechanic arrived, and finally after what seemed like eternity but was a mere 2.5 hours, the car decided to come alive! The baby decided to sleep, and the parents decided to re-start the final leg of this strange journey!
There was a relatively incident free drive till Mumbai, only to be banged really badly from the rear side of the car by some unruly car driver, who wanted to jump signals! Welcome to Mumbai baby! Where signals are to be broken! The car ran along a mile post this bumping in, later the car engine began sounding so ominous that it scared the parents to the core…please no more adventure they prayed but alas, the engine gave in! Finally an auto-rickshaw was hailed, mom and baby got home, car and father followed suit! Only to have a long spell of power cuts at home which meant the entire family ended up fanning the baby all evening!
Phew! So much for getting the baby home!
What a way to come back to the city of your birth! :P

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Travel Plan!

Travel has always been my poison! I have always loved travel and loved exploring places and destinations! Am profoundly lucky to have found a life partner who also loves to travel!
It’s interesting what marriage does to two people! Even if there is a hobby to be shared, two people bring two very different perspectives to the same activity!
I have always been travelling for work and for pleasure and mostly never planned much! Either left it to my whim or to the management of the company from whom I was travelling.
On the other hand my spouse has been travelling widely and planning with even greater zeal and meticulousness! So marriage meant we blend our styles!
Our courtship period was hinged around wonderful treks in the Sahyadris and my! Did we plan!? ! Guess what! Yes! Excel sheets and their versions came to play! I am a big hater of excel sheets but yes they seem to love me n follow me like Mary’s little lamb! Duh!
And then before the big question was popped, we planned this huge trip to the Himalayas and lots and lots of planning and budgeting and excel work went into it! But yes it was fun! I wasn’t really complaining this time round cause I got to spend time with my beau and no one noticed that love blossomed while we dispassionately stared at excel sheets! It was super fun! The whole trip was a wonderful one! Very memorable!
And the super big question was answered again on a trek! So the Sahyadris have literally witnessed our love story!
Eventually marriage meant we begin planning again! This time the journey was no ordinary one! It was a journey for life! Such a long winding one and such a splendid one indeed! And yes we planned our life journey too with excel sheets! (Trust me I still don’t like them! :P)
Then the super journey of journeys was the Honeymoon! And how much did we plan! We scanned the globe, made a study of history and geography of the world, finalized a handful of destinations and literally came up with histograms and graphs of the average rainfall and snowfall of these places! Phew! More than any honeymoon it seemed an unending geography lesson!
But when we actually arrived at the emerald island, it was worth every single excel sheet mulling session! We knew the roads, by lanes and highways, sang the glory of Google maps and our guide was almost suspecting us, when we said we were here for the first time in our lives!
And now again we plan, this time for this much loved continent, the birthplace of my soul! 
And how long have we been planning? Nearly a year! But now when we reach the fag end of this planning session and actually await our boarding passes, I recall all our feisty sessions with Google and smile to myself! I learnt to actually plan a trip, book in advance and yes think down to the least possibility! It’s all worth it at the end of it all!
Another impactful angle to travelling is a camera! What began as a hobby has now morphed into a passionate activity for the both of us! Our brand new DSLR is our darling baby! Each new angle, each new lens acquired is so much fun! So many pictures and so many memories of wonderful trips, mesmerizing trips and yes these photos are a proof enough that meticulous planning pays off wonderfully and lets you sit back and relax. Truly lets you unwind on a trip!
Ah this looks like I just followed my hubby’s travel pattern of planning is it? Well not really! The unplanned part comes when we begin our journey, I suddenly find something interesting and we take off! The car takes on a new road and we follow our hearts! We have found so many new places, discovered such amazing places thanks to this unplanned diversion in our super planned trips!
We discovered this plateau full of wild flowers, green grass carpets and swirling mists all in Maharashtra thanks to my impulsive spurts! But yes now as we blend in our styles what I have come to discover is I love travel even more! And now it doesn’t begin when I sit in a car or train or plane but it begins months in advance, with just an idea or a fluttering map page, which is enticing us into its magical realm!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

One happy day!

The alarm clock is drowsy! I snoozed it a zillion times before finally grudgingly waking up for the day!
Am a confessed night person! Getting up early is not my thing! Ever! But then work and a career path the hard way up means waking up in the sensible hours and travelling to work every single day!!!
I predictably am late most times, thanks to this snoozing the alarm clock routines! L
Another such day when rest all things are just as any other day when am late, rushing and running out to first meet that divine creature – Rickshaw with a rickshaw driver who is willing to take you to the place you want to go! Today for once am lucky! There is indeed one such being who is ready to take met o the railway station! Blessed, I sit back counting my blessings and humming my favorite tune as the music player dutifully plays it for me…
Enter the platform, encounter beggars, give alms, move on and then wade through the swarms of crowd and reach one dream of a platform! Every platform which has slightly less crowd is actually a dream platform if that also happens to bring in a train to a place you wish to go! J
My whim got better of me and I decided to enter a second class compartment today! The people around were similar faced creatures, all late comers and banking on those last few trains which I think are designated to carry late comers to work! With practice and some gumption I have learned not to panic when I am late…but I think not all are on that same page! J
In came the train, the women jump in literally pushing, nudging and barging in the compartment. I find it scary still but yes still very adventurous! I too get in! Precariously perched on one foot and then landing on two feet I find some space to fit myself in, my joy is crushed within nanoseconds! When this foul moody lady just picks on me, to push and yell at! She wants to enter the seating area, which is already crowded! No amount of protest convinces her that she should stay in her existing place! Finally hurling abuses at me she enters that area! I on the other hand, instead of getting upset decide to smile, my mind fully circumambulating around the song on my music player and good times had the prior evening, so I smile at her! This riles her to no end! It distorts her face in every possible angle!
I continue the journey being pushed and jostled around! Every station means more people pushing, jostling and abusing, all women! Am surprised at their specialized vocabulary! Just that they use abuses as some heavy blunt weapon they can mindlessly swing in any direction! I still smile!
The riled lady and a few more around are really worked up! How can she smile! How dare she smile! Their faces seem to reflect this very clearly! I smile that knowing smile, smile that these women all are tensed about that hanging sword of late mark, of the salary cut that might happen if they have one more late mark on their muster! Frustrated at the delay, the work which was unavoidable, maybe a school going kid, an ailing family member, or husband who laid claim a little longer on their night…whatever but they are late! And angry! At themselves, at circumstances at their sheer helplessness! At the fact that these reasons are such limp creatures that they won’t even be a reason to give to the boss…and then the resultant stress… with such a complex bag of emotions, heavier than their purses, every single day these ladies enter the overcrowded train compartments and move on to work!
And definitely it must be irritating to see someone smile at them in return to abuses… they have lost that sensitive side, that beauty of the smile from a stranger…they are all happy with their dose of stress, an opium all are addicted to! Contrasting their regular bawls and abuses, I just observe all this and smile. Smile that they don’t see much beyond what their grid is, smile full of empathy, smile with the understanding that if I don’t act fast, I too stand the danger of entering this same abyss called routines, smile that am happy to currently observe and note it all! Someone suddenly roughly pulls my braid, I wince but stand my ground, calmly take my long braid on to the other side, and smile at the owner of those hands who pulled my hair! Now women around me are mad with rage, I can feel the heat in the overcrowded compartment!
I move towards the exit as my station approaches, still smiling…immersed in music and pleasant thoughts…I realize what all these women are carrying in their souls, how burdened this city life has made them and somewhere deep seek answers for this question…
Life is indeed not easy, am not wanting to get more preachy but then what matters is retaining and fiercely guarding the right to emote those emotions which are your own, and not mere responses to what others act like…am happy that am still guarding my own right and standing my own ground and yes, still smiling…

Billing in seconds

The hoardings cry out loud! Billing in seconds! Walk while you talk! What not! To entice every single mortal in its wavy techno grip! The mobile phone is indeed a blessing! The call waiting is also indeed! But what do you do when you have an important person on call and another important person calls? Whose call do you attend? Normal dilemmas all we mortals face! Right?
Now check out this one…a normal crowded second class train compartment, sparsely filled with an assortment of ladies of all ages, sizes and shapes, some reading, some eating, some doing a makeup touch up, some gossiping and bitching, some listening to music and some on the mobile phone…a very normal scene in every suburban local train in Mumbai … Its evening and the breeze is unnaturally heavy, I wonder what scent it is laden with… how many are noticing the change in weather and changing sky colors… I too continue listening to music, smiling to myself for being quirky that particular evening… having a first class pass I have disembarked from my privy compartment only to push myself into the second class compartment just for fun! Some jostling around… The compartment is relatively less crowded, am happy to have found enough place to rest my spine upright!
Then I notice her. Standing at the door, on the footboard, just above her is the pasted sign which warns of punishment and penalty for travelling on footboard…I still ignore… just like she is, ignoring the whole world and talking away endlessly to someone on the mobile phone… as my station approaches closer, I smile thinking of meeting my beau, and concentrate on the next romantic song playing on the music player…lost in my own world…another girl comes and stands behind this lady engrossed in telephone conversation…till suddenly the girl at the footboard suddenly disappears!!!!
The girl behind is numb, and frozen at the door! Women shriek!!! And someone pulls the chain, the train grumblingly halts a few yards ahead…what happened! Now the murmur regular womanish banter is replaced by alarms, shrieks and hysterical crying! What happened!!!
What I saw with my own eyes just is beyond belief! The girl so engrossed in the call, decided to replace her hold, let go of her hand at the main door bar wanting to hold the handles in the train…but the train jolted forth, the movement, one reckless moment and she was thrown out! Out of a moving train, phone in hand and all! Fell out! Maybe terribly injured, hurt, maimed or maybe even crushed and dead under the wheels of the train!!! Life suddenly stopped! In tracks!
On call, with an important person, but death on call waiting… Death can be an impatient suitor! Snatches you off! A second and you are gone! Gone and dead!
A normal work day, tired and heading home, chatting to someone special or bitching about her work, she must have done so many times but today was different. The claims were high, on her life that is!
All I say is, life is precious! Do not walk while you talk in the train! No! it kills! I have witnessed it!!!
Enticing it might seem to be billed in seconds but what price does one end up paying!
I froze at this thought!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Encounters with age II

A regular working day means waiting endlessly for that divine being- rickshaw driver and his rickshaw! Both ready to take us to another hell called railway station!!!
Then comes the swimming through those swarming crowds…once I imagined that these people were tiny glittering fish…some under water oceanic miracle and I was a ruthless shark or at least some stingray that could DO something to make this swarming crowd disappear!!! But no! Harboring such fantasies doesn’t really help!! You have to make your way through the crowd, reach your destined platform before bracing for the next level in this real life game...That of entering the already overfull local train compartment!!!
It’s the first class ladies compartment mind you that I am talking about, nothing less...but then all this turns out to be is, scented cattle class…the comfort you get is the perfumes doused on equally rubbery boring and lumpy female bodies...which are packed too close to your own…So finally you enter! Only to either get pushed right IN to the middle of this seemingly collective mass or are left hanging out for dear life! Either ways it’s not at all pleasant!
So daily routines are such! Back n forth you do it! What I have done to deserve this!! Am not born for it!! All such protests are drowned in the drum of facts and statistics that millions are doing it for years…nothing great about it!!!
Such is the life in the economic capital of the country…but yeah, smaller snippets n incidents warm the bruised, bumped soul….making some journeys really worthwhile and filling you with joy!
I recently had one such wonderful journey…
As described above my real life game day began regularly...The rickshaw hunt, railway crowds and then finally IN to the mass!!
I was lucky to be pushed to one end of the compartment so that at least my spinal cord didn’t have to turn jelly for this trip!
After collecting my bearings, taking cognizance of my joints n purse…I noticed something very different…someone very different on board today!
A teeny weenie girl all of 3-3 1/2 years…trying to hold the overhead handles…all excited and happy about being “tall” happily perched on her mom’s arms!
I weakly smiled…muttering to myself addressing the girl…hey lil’ one...don’t u grow up soon...take your time…Live in open spaces… breathe fresh air…once grown up…these jam packed compartments shall await you…Till then why hurry…take it easy gal…
The girl began crying suddenly… Most ladies seemed to be indifferent… which surprised me! How can you not be attracted to an innocent kid!
But the most noteworthy part came up next…her mom… who looked like an average Mumbaikar female… tiny mangalsutra strung across her neck, thin to a level which scares me...pale...almost white...draped in formals, specs and a brave hair band to hold back those cropped hair from flying…
That girl-like lady was her Mom! I was like is the Santoor ad for real!!! She slowly hoisted the crying girl a bit higher, then started talking to her in baby words…pointing out to the train handles, other women in the compartment and again asking the girl to count the handles…try reaching them…not a single word in raised pitch, no irritation, no frustration on the lady’s part…being in a crowded train at peak hours with a small kid in tow, which is bawling away to glory isn’t the most nicest situations to be in!
But this lady seemed to know it all right! She slowly let the girl dry her tears, talked to her softly sweetly till that innocent smile radiated a familiar warmth on the girl’s face…This was I think a lesson for all the women around as well to control their tempers at least in crowded trains…but yes of course…such subtle lessons are for the sensitive soul..
I was intrigued, what makes this lady travel this way… where is she heading and why is she taking the child along? Is it that US culture of ‘take your child to work’ permeating through the corporate fabric of India?
Or the child is put in a crèche so far away? And if the nature of travel is casual why is the lady dressed in formals!
As a divine chance to quench my curiosity…the crowd jostled further for space and pushed me closer to this interesting mother-daughter duo…
Happy to be close with the kid, I playfully winked and smiled at her…got my chance and enquired what was the lady up to?
She replied almost naturally…well my daughter was curious to know where does mommy go every morning and come back only after she has slept! So I promised her one day to take her along to show her mommy’s side of life…so here I am with my toddler on this crowded train…will change trains and take her to office, sit around till she is bored and come back again…she smiled…Again going back to her daughter who was asking her mom, ‘do you count these (railway overhead handles) everyday?’
Her mom replied something…I was hardly attentive…my destination station was fast approaching…and my thoughts already flowing…what a wonderful parent she was…what a different approach to parenting, to teaching an individual to live! That lady was consciously nurturing empathy in her young daughter, showing her that she was living a life beyond her home…beyond her daughter…yet she did all this for her lovely daughter…
And I think the daughter also taught her mom and me at least a lesson in travelling that day…never lose out the novelty of the routine… the mundane can also be fun…so next time even I am going to count the overhead handles and giggle when they swing wildly in the fast local…