Dec 26, 2015

Postcards from Kaziranga: Stork stalking food

Stalking for food!


‪#‎Kaziranga‬ is home to a numerous variety of birds. Sunsets are few of the most romatic times around this wilderness. Watching the wild in their own habitat, existing peacefully with the other and letting another day dissolve into peaceful new night makes me wonder...why are we humans always rushing?

Perhaps we are chasing beyond just food!!! :)

Also, do read about the other Kaziranga Postcards, memories collected during the North East India explorations:

Hope you enjoy this trail.


Xoxo,
S2S

Dec 22, 2015

Postcards from Kaziranga: As the mist lifts, display of the rising morning

Beginning from this series, I will share a daily postcard from Kaziranga to share nuances of our travel through this aesthetics state of India.

As the warm sun rays caress the cold flowing river we watched the mist lifting off Diphlu River.


Early mornings are a sight to behold. The fresh air loaded with the fragrance of wet mud and steaming hot cups of tea make it the perfect waking up experience. Of course, if you get to feel the mist lift off the cold water surface as the sun kisses earth, the feeling of 'PERFECT' moves to 'STUNNING & PERFECT'!

Here are pastel shades captured through my lens on the first early morning at Kaziranga.

The tranquil flow of water against a layer of escaping mist, I felt blessed to have experienced this beautiful phenomenon.

Also, do read about the other Kaziranga Postcards, memories collected during the North East India explorations:

Hope you enjoy this trail.

Xoxo,
S2S

Nov 21, 2015

Kaziranga Trails: our first North East India travel.

In the midst of a cluttered and chaotic Mumbai evening (classic scene from a regular workday), Satya and I decided on our Diwali break. Spoilt for obvious choices spanning few exotic International Destination to Luxury Indian holidays the heart didn't feel content with any of these options. Almost all tabloid shouted out plastic packages that were more than a put off- one size fits all strategy!

Having had a year full of jungle explorations the need to be in the wilderness was a common emotion between us. Like that wasn't enough, I blurted out my childhood dream...Kaziranga! A classic recall from the Geography Text Book, the one horn Rhino positioned in the middle of the page with big bold text 'ASSAM' marking the heading of the chapter. Vaguely, this chapter always attracted me. A memory etched deep in my being, now was a let out secret.

Geography Text book comes alive!

Destination Kaziranga

The obvious emotion one would feel looking at the transit hours was to drop this destination; out of sheer laziness OR in a valid case- shorter holiday time.
Collectively during that evenings research our unanimous choice was to take the plunge. We booked ourselves on a early morning Mumbai-Guwahati (via Kolkata, a 45 minutes stop over) flight. The travel search dissolved into  stay and we stumbled upon a quaint resort on the banks of Diphlu river. The stilt cottages and Trip Advisor clearly helped us make our choice. We further nailed it when we spoke with the resort and they offered an Innova pickup at Guwahati Airport. A 4 hour picturesque drive was all it takes to get to the final destination.

Glimpses of Diphlu- The lotus pond, a sky full of exotic birds and the fluttering prayer flags disperesed arourn the property.


All set for the 1st safari at Kaziranga.

Effectively a whole day of transit but it is all truly worth the effort!

First glimpses of the jungle: Mid Zone

We reached Diphlu in pitch dark of the night. It must have been 9:30PM when we finally entered the resort. A quick fresh-up followed by dinner was all we did that day. Owing to our 6:30AM safari the following day we had to hit bed at the earliest. Being in the extreme east zone of India, mornings touch you at least an hour and a half earlier. Was definitely a pattern that required getting used to! :)

All set up and ready on time the next morning we approached the patrol tower when the morning sun had just about begun lending its warmth to land. This land is unique. Largest proportion of this land is layered with miles and miles of water. The river and its tributaries are spread far and wide, hence making the land rich with plantation as well as wildlife.

The crisp Kaziranga morning. 

While we waited for our permission slip to arrive we dwelled over to the corner where the river bed was busy with the morning fishermen activity. The most unique sight to hold was to watch the mist lift off from the moving river water.

Watching the mist lift as warm sun-rays caress the cold flowing river.


Fishermen at work: 5 bamboos tied up with jute rope and it is ready for the one man show!

Smell of fresh clear air, a 10 degree nip in the air making you want to sip innumerable cups of steaming hot chai and the lifting mist; it was nature's flirtatious ways of making you fall in love, in love with mother nature and her mystic creations! Who wouldn't want to dwell here forever?

Finally the gates were ready to open for our much awaited elephant safari that will now take us into the core. Having chased tigers so far, 3 of us were quite calm on this one least expecting that even Rhino spotting would need us to scout deep and wide!

Stay tuned for the next few posts that will liven up the Rhino escapade and rural Assam.

Unfolding the One Horn Rhino escapade- next up!

Until then, do read about the other Kaziranga Postcards, memories collected during the North East India explorations:
Hope you enjoy this trail.

Xoxo,
S2S

Oct 7, 2015

Bourton-on-the-Water: It felt like a dream!

Little venice of UK, that's how this small village town is famously known in the Cotswold. The picturesque high street of the village is lined with stone bridges constructed over the Windrush River. Coming from the land of the Ganges one would think that this little tributary to the Thames is perhaps a cosmetic canal until you realise that the pristine clear water is actually a flowing river! A river that is full of Mandarin ducks wading through the day and then families flocking around impromptu picnics all along this beautiful water-front.

Little Venice of the Cotswold.



River Windrush and the legendary view of Bourton-on-the-Water Bridge.


Mandarin ducks spread along the water-front.


The perfect timepass and attraction for Children and adults!


Bakery on the Water

While at Bourton-on-the-Water, one can't miss 'Bakery on the Water'. Just a few strides from the bus stop, I was drawn to this family run bakery with its fresh bakery fragrance that filled the early morning air. No wonder it adds to the feeling of a magical village! I had my scrumptious share of sausage patty and a steaming hot cup of cocoa before I set out explore more.  



High street with boutique stores and irresistible restaurants

The high street is a shoppers delight. With boutique shops lined up one after the other, the lure for food and drinks is in equal demand, all this along a bee-line of speciality restaurants spread across this water front. The variety is beyond imagination. Whether it is Garden Equipments or a local perfumery or the 365 Day Santa Shop this little landscape has the works! I didn't miss a single store on that rue...

My lunch by the river side at a superb Cotswold Pub.


Truly the nook around the corner. Irresistible products on display. I would've bought the shop if were in INR currency! 


A popular Tea-house tucked away in a silent corner of the road.


The most inviting Sweet-shop I have ever encountered! The little joys of being in Cotswold.


Relics & Tourist Attractions: While at Bourton you just can't miss these...

  • The Model Village: A 1:9 replica of the village built by an artist in the 1930's. You will surely feel like 'Gulliver' on his travel in this model village.

  • Cotswold Motoring Museum: For all motoring enthusiasts, this museum displays the motoring history of the 20th century. 




  • Summer Medieval Football Tournaments: Time yourself for a wet football match right here on the Windrush. The goal posts are set-up on the river while everyone around gets wet and really wet during this event! I sure plan to have one personal trip planned during this enchanting season... 
More on the village, its historic relevance and a trek back to Stow-on-the-Wold, all coming up shortly in the next post!

Winding roads, leisure out-house decor that reflects the lifestyle of the Cotswold and historic relics...


In case you have missed my journey thus far, do click on these links to read through the Cotswold experience:


Open invitation to my readers:
Planning a UK trip and want some interesting Cotswold planning tips? Do write back. Happy to share some tips and places that will make your holiday beyond memorable, especially if you are single woman on wunderlust!

So, until the next read...

Xoxo
Sensuous2Spiritual

Sep 30, 2015

Moreton-in-Marsh: a great halt destination if Cotswold is on your travel bucket list.

Moreton-in-Marsh, is a thriving Market Town located at the head of the beautiful Evenlode Valley.

As we arrive at the rail station.


Apart from the fact that it is one of the most connected Cotswold towns, it is also famous for its popular agricultural show called 'Moreton in Marsh Show- The Countryside in a Day' This annual event is held on the first weekend of September every year and boasts an action packed itenary both for the trade buyers and the spectators. To know more on what can be done at this show, click here! As for me, I missed it by exactly one week!

1000 year old town with elegant 17th & 18th century building:

Moreton-in-Marsh is the most quaint habitat I had ever come across in the recent past. I arrived here on a wet and early weekend morning when the town was just about waking up. The stroll around the quiet streets had a nostalgic feeling attached to it. The town is nearly 1000 years old (dates back to the Saxon era) and each of its structures clearly boasted heritage- all lined with elegant 17th and 18th Century buildings.

Railway Station Gaurd Room at Moreton-in-Marsh.



English Country Homes


Iconic Cotswold Limestone Structure- The Old Post Office.


Series of homes yet uniquely different!


Boutique shops and B&B's:

Stark change from the commercial cities, I could finally see boutique shops with most attractive looking display windows. I yearned to lift some of them exactly the way they were back to Mumbai. Sigh! So much for wishful thinking... :)
 

Allium Florists, such a romantic stop!


Spoilt for choices- these sway just outside the florists shop!


A beautiful window that boasts the silhouette of floral decoration a few block down the florists shop.


Bed & Breakfast is a popular choice at Moreton-in-Marsh and evidently so given the proximity of this town to other distant Cotswold attractions. The rail connect is a huge advantage for tourists and thereafter the Towns connectivity via Bus builds on its share as the preferred stay destination.

An inviting B&B that contrasts the earthy tones with a stark blue.


If you are planning your Cotswold trip I highly recommend using Moreton-in-Marsh as one of the central stay halts. If you wondering what you can do at Moreton-in-Marsh, click here and get started on your plans!

And if you were wondering why I landed up at Moreton-in-Marsh, do stop over and read my post- From Kitchen Karma to Bourton-on-Water via Moreton-in-Marsh, the Cotswold countryside!

Next up- Bourton-on-Water.

Until then...

Xoxo
Sensuous2Spiritual

Sep 22, 2015

From Kitchen Karma to Bourton-on-Water via Moreton-in-Marsh, the Cotswold countryside

One sultry May afternoon I stumbled upon the vivacious Kitchen Karma's "weekend break" blog post from the English Countryside.
Her narration clearly encapsulated the excitement of her trip and she made her adventure with her 'Girls only' escapade simply irresistible.

Cotswold now was on my most desired bucket-list!

Cotswold on the web:

As Google says: "A rural area of south central England covering parts of 6 counties, notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. Its rolling hills and grassland harbour thatched medieval villages, churches and stately homes built of distinctive local yellow limestone. The 102-mile Cotswold Way walking trail follows the Cotswold Edge escarpment from Bath in the south to Chipping Campden in the north." 

Well, how can one resist the enticing feeling of being amidst this magical abode!

Wish come true: Universe grants my deepest desire!

Nursing the desire to explore this personally it almost felt like Universe granted me a wish exactly a year and a half later. I was part of a special assignment at work which required for me to travel to London and spend a work week training with my colleagues in the UK. I managed to squeeze in a couple more days for a quick escapade to my deepest desire- The Cotswold!

Glimpses of UK

Planning my trip to Cotswold: 

My end destination: Burton-on-Water and my mode of transport could be nothing other than train followed by the Pulhams Bus to take me on this adventure. Afterall, feeling the countryside was critical to the overall experience.

Moreton-in-Marsh to Bourton-on-Water via Stow-on-the-Wold:

To reach Burton-on-Water I needed to travel to the closest rail station Moreton-in-Marsh, a small quaint English village that had a stunning Railway Station and a cute Bust-stop a few steps away.

My destination station as I continue to explore Cotswold.


Moreton-in-Marsh, makes me want to eat it! :)

The quaint little station after a spell of rain.


This is where I got onto my connecting Bus.


I took the First Great Western Rail to get to my destination while I enjoyed the beautiful sights of Reading and Oxford en-route. The 5th stop from Paddington landed me at Moreton-in-Marsh.

The railways are so similar to the ones in India.


View of the terrains from my train ride.


Somewhere between Reading & Oxford.


A connecting Pulhams Bus reached me to Bourton-on-Water via Stow-on-the-Wold, again another small quaint town with the most stunning winding roads interspersed with ponds and vast green meadows.

On my bus ride, the clouds made me wonder whether I'd have a wet one!


Intersection of the roads lined with luscious greens and contrasting skies!


While I traversed through God's stunning creation I also crossed 2 more little villages Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter which would eventually become part of my unplanned trek on my way back later in that day!

Each of these are little stops need an independent post to give you the experience of this amazing land called Cotswold. Over the next few stay tuned as my English adventure unfolds!

Until then...

Xoxo
Sensuous2Spiritual

  

Aug 28, 2015

Varalaxmi Vratam

My loving Mother-in-law and me on the occasion of Varalaxmi Puja

Being married inter-caste has its own excitement associated to it. Apart for the initial turmoil of adjustments, it exposes one to a sea of traditions that are beyond the regular. This is true to my own situation. I come from a 'Probashi-Bangali' home and married a Vaidiki Vellenadu Telegu Brahmin. Sounds so chatoic...

Well, not really. As a couple we have embraced our traditions with complete open arms and are happy that our son is being exposed to a series of traditions that will hopefully keep him anchored to his roots...

Here are some glimpses from my 'in-laws' home celebrating the auspicious occasion of Varalaxmi- a festival to propitiate the goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, one of the Hindu Trinity.

Varalaxmi- The one who grants boons!

Varalaxmi Vratam is the celebration of Goddess Laxmi in her 'Ashtalaxmi' avataar. It is believed that praying to her on the occasion of Varalaxmi is equal to praying to all 8 forms of her that are worshiped as Siri (Wealth), Bhu (Earth), Sarasvathi (learning), Prithi (Love), Keerthi (Fame), Shanthi (Peace), Santhushti(Pleasure) and Pushti(Strength). This is the 'Diwali' equivalent of the Southern States of India.

Laxmi has 8 forms in which she is worshiped. 


It is a regional festival performed by married women from states of Andhra, Telengana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Maharashtra. The puja is performed on all Friday's in the fortnight known as Sukla paksha, preceding the full moon day of the month of Sravan. The most preferred of the Friday is the one that is closest to the Poornima (full moon), and it is the one that my family celebrates.

Handcrafted idol of Goddess Laxmi, she is known as 'Padmasini- One who sits on a Lotus & one who holds the lotus'.


Day of the celebration:

Decoration of the Goddess and her mandapam is kept ready a day prior to the festival. On the morning of the Puja a collective time is spent in getting the Neivedyam and floral decorations ready. True to its nature, while the puja is performed by the women the family chips in only to get treated to lip smacking neivedyam which typically includes a variety of South Indian delicacies.

The face of the Laxmi is placed on a coconut adorned with Silk in the form of a saree. Once she is placed on her throne she is decorated with Gold ornaments and flowers. It is quiet a creative job and its amazing to see the devotee pour her heart into decorating her Laxmi. 

Once the rituals are completed the family gets ready for guests, typically married women who come home for 'Haldi-Kunku'. The lady of the house welcomes the other married women with the turmeric & vermilion powder followed by handing her guest fruits, a sari, neivedyam & a sweet smelling jasmine flower garland for her hair. The ritual is very warm and inviting especially since there is tremendous camaraderie among the community who celebrates this together. It is one time when all the women chit chat and catch up, a welcome break from the mundane.

My Mother-in-laws Varalaxmi in her full glory.


Evening Deepam

The 'Mushunuri' family after a happy Varalaxmi celebration- August 2015


I am journeying through a lot of these beautiful moments as the Daughter-in-law of the house and each passing year is drawing more intrigue & participation from me in this beautiful annual celebration.

As I continue to learn under the able guidence of my Mother-in-law, a capture from my Husband that defines my being!



Until the next one, signing off!

Xoxo,
Sensuous2Spiritual

Aug 22, 2015

Shidoor Laal Dhakai, perhaps a choice of the new bride or maybe not!

Just the sound 'shidoor laal' (vermillion red) brings alive the imagery of a stunning Indian bride.In Bengal, it is the quintessential color of choice for the young bride and as custom has it, every traditional wedding concludes with the smearing of shidoor in the middle parting of the hair, customary to the Hindu brides. Kalighat, is one such place where you will find various shades of this color strewn across its aisles.

Glimpses of Kalighat: A newly married couple seek blessings of the Goddess& shidoor vendor with her wares.


Shidoor Laal Dhakai:

Coming back to my Dhakai, this shari was a Durga Pujo gift from my Mother to us, me & my sister (we are 3 sister, 2 of us married) in 2011. Red is the color of Shakti, a spiritual lineage followed by many Matriarchal communities in India and considered auspicious for the married women. This is one of my lightest and most glamorous Dhakai's and adds to the mood of 'RED' when desired.

Gold adornments that completes the glamour quotient of this shari.


Fish is very integral to Bengali culture. A Bengali Wedding is incomplete without fish!

Closer look at the mantasha design. Compliements the lota (leaf creeper) of the body.


The 'kamar patta' that jingles every time one walks. All sounds of joyous celebration & festivities.


Summing up the look for my RED Dhakai.


Well, not so much the bride, yet sporting the look. :)

A shari of this type fits in perfectly for all those traditional moments of life including ones like weddings. I am a big fan of contrasts and combinations of brokades, tissues or even bandhni would make this quiet a dramatic wear. Sharing some glimpses of this weave.

Resting a while post the Shondhi Pujo, the occasion for which Ma had gifted us the shari & a closer look at the weave.


This concludes my Dhakai Shari series. Now that you have read through my RED best, do flip over and look through some more in my collection:

Next up will be some silks that I just cant live without. Some looks that compliment these weaves and also 'Shari acquisition tales' that I keep pouring into you!

Until the next one, stay tuned and 'shari-lucious'!

Xoxo,
S2S
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