Love Story…


Creative Musings..

“Baar baar aati hai mujhko madhur yaad bachpan teri…gaya le gaya tu jeevan ki sabse mast khushi meri”

Those were the days.Those were the days of 90s when we were of school going age. School was fun and very eventful. Cream shirt, maroon shorts/skirt, maroon striped tie, a colorful school bag, a tiffin box with our favorite dish and a funky water bottle was the way we carried ourselves. Except Wednesdays when it was color dress, meaning, u can wear any dress of your choice and on Saturdays it was all white attire with white canvas shoes. If at all you missed wearing tie, belt, shoes you were liable for hafta to be given to special students called as cabinet leaders. A good day earning would fetch them many ice candies and chocolates. 😛 These cabinet leaders reported to the School Prime Leader(SPL).On Saturdays, there would be couple of exercises along…

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Travel Diaries: Wayanad


Traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

Wayanad district at the southern tip of Deccan Plateau is one of the popular destinations in Kerala. It borders both the neighbouring states- Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The folk etymology of the word Wayanad says it is a combination of Vayal (paddy field in local language) and Naad (land) meaning ‘Land of Paddy fields’.

I had planned a weekend getaway with Crazy Yatra (a travel group who organizes treks) to Wayanad. We were a group of 33 members all excited to be in nature’s lap in Wayanad for next 2 days. We started from Bengaluru on a Friday night at 8 pm amidst cool breeze and rain.The rain added to our traffic woes due to water logging in some areas. Settling down in the bus after multiple pickups on the way and fuel refill, the organizers started a intro session. Some of them had been to previous outings from Crazy Yatra and others like me were travelling for the first time with them. Along with the intro, each one of them was supposed to share at least one of their crazy moments. It was nice hearing diverse experiences from fellow yaatris like scuba diving, free fall, getting lost during a trek, dancing in the middle of a highway at midnight with onlookers looking surprised, doing cabre dance in a supposedly cultural college event etc.

On the way to Mysuru, we stopped at Maddur for a quick bite for famished lot. Our target was to reach a town called Meppadi at 6 am the following morning, but only managed to reach at 7.45 am. Upon reaching our hotel rooms in Meppadi, got freshened up and had a nice breakfast with local delicacy like appams and sambar smeared with (generous amount of) coconut oil.

Day 1:

Now that we were all set and excited, it was time to scale the Chembra Peak- the highest peak in Wayanad at 6900 ft above sea level. To reach the base point we had to travel around 5 km in a jeep.

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Tea estate at the base point- Pleasant way to start the trek 🙂

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The organizers got a quick permission for trekking from the forest guards.  If you’re carrying any plastic water bottles, one needs to register their names. If you fail to bring it along on return, pay a fine- a welcome move to prevent littering of the place.

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Chembra peak trek comprises of 3 levels- about 1 km easy trail from the base point to watch tower, a 2 km trail through the forests, rugged terrains and grasslands from watch tower to heart shaped lake and finally a 1.5 km stepper trail from the lake to the summit.

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Currently, it is permitted only to trek till the lake because of some restrictions imposed by the forest department.

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Mist hovering over the hills..
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Kya scene hai!!
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The trail from the watch tower was through forests and steeper at some points. In between we could catch some amazing views of the tea estates. The sun was playing hide and seek and to our respite there were water streams in between to freshen up.

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Tea estates seen from a height

Traversing the rugged terrains, we reached the grasslands where one could see the misty peak. As it was early September, some of them got bugged by leaches when walking through the tall grasses.

Some insects
Some insects
Tall grasses
Tall grasses
Heart shaped lake also called as Hriday Saras in local language.
Heart shaped lake also called as Hriday Saras in local language.

Finally,we reached the heart shaped lake called as Hriday Saras (Hridayam is heart and Saras means lake in Malayalam). This lake is believed to have never dried up. We then caught some breathtaking views from the top and spent some quiet moments, a sense of satisfaction after having scaled the peak.

Breathtaking views from a vantge point near the lake
Breathtaking views from a vantge point near the lake

We started descending the peak and when we reached the watch tower for a much needed break, it started raining making our trail slippery. We braved the rain to reach the check post where the jeeps were waiting to drop us back to the hotel.

Rain infested trail which was slippery
Rain infested trail which was slippery

After freshening up, we had a quick lunch to board our bus to our next destination -Soochipura water falls. It is also known as Sentinel Rock waterfalls. Locally referred as Soochipara (Soochi meaning needle and Para meaning rock).

Soochipara falls
Soochipara falls

In about a hour journey passing by wide expanse of tea estates, we reached the waterfalls. After issuing of tickets and keeping our bag aside we plunged into the water to reach the base of the waterfall. All the tiredness of the trek went away with the refreshing dip into the water.One of the guys had brought a GoPro waterproof camera with a stick and next half an hour was spent for selfies,groupies.

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Then, it was time to relax for the day, so we went back to the hotel to freshen up. There was sufficient time to stroll through the streets of Meppadi after which it was time for dinner. A delicious dinner was waiting for us after which we went to a hall on the top floor. One of our fellow traveler was celebrating her birthday, so we brought a cake. While she cut the cake, everyone encircled her dancing along as she was the made the center of attraction. Just as she was all excited and happy for a lovely gesture, all hell broke loose when the organiser  took the whole cake and stuffed into her face. No one ate the cake that day except her face. Next an hour or so was spent playing some games as some of them retired for the day.

Day 2

After having a sumptuous breakfast, we headed to Neelimala View point where all the 3 neighboring states-Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka can be seen from a height. We descended from our bus from the road and hopped into a jeep to reach the point as it was a rugged terrain. What we experienced on the Jeep was one helluva ride with lot of ups and downs. On the way to the point we spotted coffee plantations along with ginger and areca.

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Exhilarating!
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As we reached the point it was misty and the panoramic view was playing hide and seek. After a whole when it cleared up, it was such a mesmerizing sight. No words to describe it, just have a look.

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Lukka Chuppi Bahut Huwi, Saamne aa aaja 😉
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Pristine..

We also spotted Meenmutti waterfalls (Meenmutty is a combination of Malayalam words Meen (fish) and Mutty (blocked))  and posed for photographs.

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Then it was time to head to Eddakal Caves for further exploration. Eddakal caves are two natural caves at a remote location at Eddakal, 25 km from Kalpetta in the Wayanad district. We had to climb up a elevated terrain to reach there. Here again one was supposed to register for any plastic ones carry which was a welcome move.We could capture some spectacular views on the way.

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Isn’t it gorgeous??

Through a guide, we understood the significance of these carvings which was one of a kind. Inside the caves are pictorial writings believed to date to at least 6,000 BC, from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilization or settlement in this region.The Stone Age carvings here are rare and are the only known examples from South India.After some exploration, it was time to descent and reach the hotel to checkout.

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Pictorial writings…
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Cave Explorers..

As we headed to Bangalore playing games all the way, we halted at a place called SultanBathery for lunch.

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Groupie..

It was such a wonderful experience and more so because of Crazy Yatra for organizing it in a best way possible.

References: Wikipedia

Calcutta Diaries…


Calcutta(now known as Kolkata)-the City of Joy is a fabulous city to live in, love at first sight you see. After traveling from Bengaluru, I was there for a mere four days which was not at all enough to see the uniqueness and intricacies of the city-the city with a perfect mixture of modern and heritage buildings,reminiscing about the yesteryear India. But I tried my very best to visit most of the places in my spare time and this blog post is entirely based on my experiences with the city and not influenced by anything else.

Calcutta has always fascinated me since I was a kid because of its rich history(served as the capital of India under the British Raj),sporting culture(Bengalis love their football and cricket),art forms whether its literature or cinema(Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray are in itself an institution) and above all Bengali sweets (Anyone here who don’t like RossoGulla?? Handful isn’t it?). I wanted to visit Calcutta at some point of time and I found the opportunity when one of my Bong friend decided to marry.Also I wanted to know more about the Bengali culture especially their unique style of marriage which is quite different from marriages seen in Southern India.

Before we get the ball rolling with our city tour,let’s start our day with a cup of tea by the road side on a kulhar(earthy mug) and The Telegraph newspaper.

Tea by Road side on a kulhar(earthy mug)
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Our first pit stop would be a visit to Dakshineswar in Barrackpore.

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The Dakshineswar Kali temple was built between 1847 and 1855 by Rani Rashmoni. Along with the Kali temple, we have 12 Shiva temples(lingas) and a RadhaKrishna temple situated along the Vivekananda Sethu(Bridge) on the East bank of Hooghly River.The presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, meaning, ‘She who liberates Her devotees from the ocean of existence’.

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Ramakrishna Paramahasamha, the saint of 19th century, regarded as incarnation of God, set his base here in Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna formed a group of spiritual aspirants which later paved the way for the formation of Ramakrishna Mission. Interestingly,before this temple was built, Nawabs of Chitpur used to hunt tigers in Dakshineswar.

Now that we have seen the beautiful Dakshineswar, let’s head to Belur Math on the other side i.e. west banks of Hooghly river. It is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission founded by his disciple Swami Vivekananda. This site was carefully chosen by Vivekananda on the banks of holy Ganges(Hooghly) such that a clear view of Dakshineswar and Cossipore- the two important places related to Sri Ramakrishna could be seen which add to its sanctity.

Belur Math is known for its splendid architecture and devotees want to develop inner appreciation of thought through this unique and beautiful architecture. On the day of my visit, it was 180th birthday celebration of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahasamha and visitors, devotees,media were sprawling from all corners of the world.

Self note:Visit this place when there is less crowd and more peace.

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It seems like I am hungry now, so let’s have an early meal. And here in Calcutta, no meals is complete without fish. So let’s try the Bhetki fish along with some prawns from a Bengali food chain- Bedouin Sher-E-Bengal in Gariahat.

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Now lets stroll to St. Paul’s Cathedral-The Mother Church of the diocese of Calcutta in the church of North India.Let’s gulp some RossoGollas as we get there and a bakery of N C Das- Creator of the iconic Bengali sweetmeat is the place to be. The RossoGolla(highly nutritious,easily digestible and truly a drooling affair) was born in 1868 in a moment of sublime inspiration.Now, the sweetmeat is packaged in a tin and distributed all around the world by his son K C Das.

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Self note: Get some stock of this sweet rhapsody before leaving to Bengaluru.

St Paul’s Cathedral church and it’s magnificent architecture is a must visit along with Academy of Fine Arts and Nandan-West Bengal Film Centre which is a stone’s throw away from the church. Some of the art installations beside the academy for a exhibition is exemplary.

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Lets now head to Kumortuli to have some dossier of information on artisans of the potters’ colony in North Calcutta. By virtue of their artistic and creative creations their clay idols supplied especially during the Durga Pujo on Dussehra is exported overseas too.

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Their idols are mostly ordered well in advance and their clientele includes Indian communities living in America, Europe and Africa. For a record, this colony supplies idols to around 90 countries worldwide with new countries adding each year.Their creations gives greatest joy to Calcutta(The City of Joy) by transforming crude structure of clay to a beautiful, mesmerizing bedecked Bengali bridesque Goddess Durga. No wonder, this colony is one of the seven wonders of Calcutta.

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During Pujo, these idols are supplied to countless pandals all over Calcutta. That their creation is going to leave Calcutta in awe and admiration for the entire duration of the festival and even beyond that is of no consequence to them as it is a just a means of survival to these talented and very skilled artisans, most of them creating these idols since a long long time. Needless to say, I was in awe of this place and their great artistic skills.

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Self note: Pay a visit to Calcutta and this colony during Pujo.

Next stop is Jorasanko Thakur Bari (meaning House of Thakurs(Tagore)) in a place called Jorasanko in North Calcutta. It is the house in which Calcutta’s and India’s pride-Rabindranath Tagore was born and spent most of his childhood. He was the most celebrated poet(Indian National Anthem was his creation along with the national anthem of Bangladesh) and first non European Nobel laureate.

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It was an exhilarating experience to visit this place and to know more about one of India’s jewels who contributed immensely in literature,art,music among other things. His legacy endures in several of his works on display here which is very well maintained and also in Visva Bharati University founded by him in Santiniketan.

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Self note: A visit to Santiniketan when next time in Bengal.

I am a foodie and I am on a see food diet- I mean see the food and eat without much adieu 😛 A satisfying meal will only do good at this stage. So lets move to Peter Cat restaurant in Park Street where they serve a dish called “Chelo Kababs”- The protected regional product of West Bengal. A dish consisting of mutton kababs-the best kababs I ever had, perfectly cooked egg, juicy and very tasty chicken, butter and aromatic rice. Such a perfect meal. Touché.

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Lets now head to Eden Garden reminiscing about the memorable matches played here in this very ground. Who can forget tat famous victory on this ground during Australian tour of India in 2001. Laxman’s and Dravid’s epic partnership, Harbhajan’s hat rick and moreover India’s unreal comeback into the match and then to wrap up the series in Chennai. Unbelievable to say the least….

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Calcutta has very unique facilities unlike some cities with respect to their public transport- Yellow colored cabs, cycle rickshaw, underground Calcutta metro and most fascinating of them all- Calcutta trams(mini trains on the road along with the other vehicles on the road). Have a look

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Calcutta Metro is the first underground metro rail system system in India operational since 1984. Those Rickshaw walas are one of the most hard working people around toiling hard in the sun for their bread and butter. The Calcutta tram is currently the only operating tram in India and the oldest operating tram in Asia running since 1902.

Let’s stroll now to Princep Ghat and then to ever so magnificent Howrah bridge. This bridge also known as Rabindra Sethu is symbolic to Calcutta and is the busiest cantilever bridge in the world.

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Now we head to The Victoria Memorial, a large marble structure built between 1906 and 1921 dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. It is now a museum and a major tourist destination by the bank of Hooghly river.

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It’s dinner time to end a fabulous day and what better way to end it by having Hilsa fish-probably the best fish in town. Bengalis love their fish and can swear by fish and I ain’t any different in this matter 😉

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After an excellent city tour which I thoroughly enjoyed, I witnessed an interesting Bengali wedding(my first time).But before we get started to experience its uniqueness, let’s know more about Bengali people and their culture through my retina display 😛

Bengalis are very emotional and passionate people.Given a chance they can lecture or talk continuously for hours together.But they are sweet people owing their love for sweets. I think Mishti (meaning sweetmeat) comes a close second next to their first love which is Fish.A meal without a fish is very rare and incomplete.They can swear by fish literally. Apart from fish,they love their football and off course cricket. Mohan Bagan/East Bengal match at Salt Lake stadium garners as much attention and interest as a World Cup cricket match elsewhere in the world. Cricket in Eden Gardens is as electric and noisy that most parts of Calcutta near the Maidan can feel the atmosphere when a game is on. And Durga Puja in Calcutta is one of biggest festival of India. What Ganesh Chaturti is to Mumbai, Puja is to Calcutta. I was told that Calcutta experience is incomplete without Durga Puja which is reveled and celebrated with as much pomp and glory as one can ever imagine.

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For my friend’s wedding, I lived with his family among his relatives and friends for four days which was an enriching experience. I was welcomed and treated very warmly and the icing on the cake was when I was given Mishti on arrival which bowled me over completely 😉 Since Hindi was the only common language we both knew, that was the mode of speech used for interaction. Bengali’s sound funny when they talk broken Hindi as most of them are not used to speaking Hindi. Also it was difficult for me to get their Bong accent and managed to get what they were saying or at least the context when they used some Hindi/English keywords. When they converse in Hindi, they pronounce some words such that its funny to a non Bengali who knows Hindi. My name being Harsha, over the years I have been called as Harsh, Harshu and off course Harsha but for the first time I was addressed as ‘Horsho’. Yes Horsho-The Bengali version of Harsha 😉 So Harsha becomes Horsho, Vidya becomes Bidya, Gaurav as Gourab and Rituparna becomes RituPorna. They say Jol Khaana(meaning eating water) for drinking water and Cha khabe( meaning eating tea) is what they sound when they ask you for tea. I found it sweet and funny and taught the kids out there multiple times that It’s spelled and hence pronounced as Harsha and not horseshoe amidst lot of laughs 😉

Unlike most of the wedding here in Southern part of India, a Bong wedding usually starts in the evening. On wedding day early morning at around 4.00 hrs the wedding rituals began where the groom and bride in their respective homes were made to have some food after which they were not supposed to eat anything until the next day when all the marriage rituals ended.

On the wedding day before lunch hours,a ritual called as Nanni Mukh took place where the groom remembered his ancestors before tying the knot (later in the evening) followed by haldi where all the women out there put haldi on the grooms face who was made to stand firm on a stone viz the most interesting time to click some candid and funny photos 😉 To wash off, he was poured with a bucket of water and then the groom had to crack open 4 small cups surrounding him made by mud. Once this was done, the haldi used to put on groom was passed on to bride’s place along with her wedding dress and some gifts generally called as shagun where bride is put up with same haldi. Amongst this, Rohu fish was decorated as a bride.

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After lunch it’s generally a break time where most of them overlooked about different arrangements and had a good nap after a satisfying meal. Then in the evening we started to the marriage hall with band baaja and baarat 😉

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The groom was greeted with all the necessary special attention and offered some mishti by bride’s side.During the mahurath, groom was made up to stand firm at a fixed place and the bride was carried to the mandap by her brothers while she covered her face with beetle leaves.The bride was made to take 7 rounds around the groom which signifies 7 vows of marriage and then to remove the covering from her face only when she faced the groom after saath phere amidst lot of cheers and clapping.Then they exchanged garlands 3 times followed by Sindhur Daan viz maang barna.The marriage rituals ended after a yagna(Agni shakshi).

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After having a special meal viz as I said earlier, having quality time with Bengali fish, we had a friendly interaction between both the families which was playing antakshari in this case. We played for over 2 hours such that all the songs were either already sung or we had no new song to sing for a particular word. Led by the groom, we won when the bride’s side was deliberately and repeatedly given a particular word and the game ended when they finally gave up at 4.30 am.Before that we had to negotiate a price with the bride’s friends, for making the couple enter a particular room.They were seven in total for which they demanded 20k and we gave them only 3.5k(500 per head) after making them wait for a long time and hence succumb to pressure and impatience.

The next day it was vidhaai time at bride’s place and a reception on the subsequent day on the groom’s side which panned out nicely.It was a most fruitful and enriching to experience a Bengali wedding as unique as this. Hope you enjoyed it too through this blog post.

Until next time we meet, Be good, Do good and Keep Smiling 🙂

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Also, this blog has been published in Tripoto. Please use this link to access this story from Tripoto.

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P.S: Here in this post, Calcutta(old name of the city) is used instead of Kolkata as someone rightly said “Kolkata is a city whereas Calcutta is a emotion”.

P.P.S: On my last day in Calcutta, early morning when I was listening to music in shuffle mode, coincidentally this beautiful song by Hemant Kumar cropped up which sumps up my visit quite brilliantly.

Myntra To Go App Only…


Mobile phones which was a luxury then and is a necessity now has created a revolution over the years.One can’t imagine life without a mobile phone as it has become a integral part of one’s identity.In 1990, cell phone subscribers were 12.5 million viz about 0.25% of world’s population then. In 2002, it grew to 1.2 billion(19% of world’s population) and in 2010 it grew leaps and bounds to 4 billion(about 67% of world’s population).With this whopping growth,mobile technology has disrupted every other industry one can ever imagine changing the way people interact and the way they use it’s different services.Interestingly,it’s true potential is yet to be understood.

With mobile revolution,came the internet revolution which is adding around 6 million new entrants every month.The estimated user base was 243 million as of January 2014 with internet usage growth at it’s inflection point.This has led to a boom in e-commerce industry which had a growth of 231% for a span of mere 4 years, estimated to be around 12.6 billion dollars in 2013.

Electronics and Apparels are the biggest categories when one goes for online shopping. In India, Flipkart has always been a industry leader ever since its inception in 2007 especially in electronics segment.

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Image credit: thehindu.com

On the other hand,another Bangalore based company-Myntra.com which also started it’s operations in 2007 provided on demand personalisation of gift items,has evolved into a leading fashion and apparel based e-portal. Flipkart acquiring Myntra(biggest deal in the e-commerce industry) has made it a much bigger entity to take on the likes of Softbank backed SnapDeal which is growing at a alarming rate and Amazon which is the big fish among e-tailers expanding it’s footprints in India.

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Image credit:iamwire.com and financialexpress.com

From 15th May,2015 Myntra announced that it will shut down its website and will operate only through it’s mobile app which is a global ecommerce first. Flipkart, the parent company will also follow the suit in a year or so, given that its much more complex to switch only to mobile apps altogether as it operates in various segments and categories unlike Myntra which caters to mainly fashion. On the other hand, its competitors like Jabong, SnapDeal and Amazon think otherwise and are of the opinion that it is incorrect to force a customer to do only mobile shopping.Even though mobile shopping is growing at an accelerating rate, the choice should lie with the customer. Nevertheless, its a bold move which will have massive implications on how shopping will be done in the future and Flipkart-Myntra want to lead the pack instead of following other retailers even though it may seem as a risky proposition now.However this decision is not taken at a haste and done with lot of pondering and detailed analysis.

Mobile accounts for 70% of Myntra’s revenues, with 9 million active mobile app users. It expects another 5 million mobile app subscribers to join the bandwagon in few months. India, the market which it operates is a mobile first country because of the total time Indians spent on Internet, 90% is through mobile phones. Interestingly, over 50% mobile traffic is coming from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities which has great prospects in near future and will drive their business big time. Myntra plans to hire lot of people especially from Silicon valley to live up to its vision by investing heavily in lot of innovative technologies in providing highly personalized shopping through the device which is very personal to them-their mobile phone.

As Myntra will start their business only through one channel i.e.mobiles,a lot of emphasis will be on the development of the app with never seen before features making it more engaging which will only benefit the customer and make his/her choices much simpler.Content shopping with lot of multimedia that resonates with the customer will drive their business to new levels.With advancement in social media analytics, it will provide you more personalized recommendations based on your choices and liking.You will be greeted by the application with listings only you want to see and eventually shop. Also to engage the customer more and take customer relationship to a whole new level, it may provide personalized discounts and deals more regularly than we see today.

Mukesh Bansal, Myntra CEO feels that smart phones are going to drive online shopping in the future. He says that the company will now put all its efforts to leverage its mobile shopping experience.

“Fashion is a very personal experience. We believe that only mobile can truly deliver this experience as it captures user’s lifestyle and context in manner that no other medium does. Think of all the hardware and software features that one can leverage like camera, contact, location etc. to understand the user’s context and deliver the experience that is deeply personalized,” he said.

Hope Myntra, a Indian brand leads the way spreading (h)App-iness and all the other global big players follow suit as it will be App-etizing to say the least.

P.S: Are you still thinking of downloading the app when u know that it’s gonna be the next big thing in online shopping in India?? I hope, the message is loud and clear.

This post is written for Myntra App Contest,one of the campaigns from BlogMint.

References: Wikipedia

Travel Diaries-Kolhapur


It was Gudi Padwa(Ugadi)-Hindu New Year and I embarked on a journey to Kolhapur in Maharashtra to visit MahaLaxmi Temple on this auspicious day. This photo blog is entirely based on my experiences in Kolhapur.

I was traveling on a Volvo in a overnight journey from Bengaluru to Kolhapur. After a good night sleep and upon nearing Kolhapur early morning, had a Maharastrian break fast in a pit stop after witnessing this beautiful sunrise.

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The Shri Mahalaxmi(AmbaBai) temple, first built in 7th century is one of the Shakti Peethas listed in Hindu Puranas. It is believed that the divine couple of Vishnu and Mahalaxmi reside here.

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The deity of Goddess Mahalaxmi, made of gemstone weighing around 40 kilos is considered to be at least 5000 to 6000 years old.

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Unlike many temples where the idols of God face north or east direction, here the idol faces the west with a small open window open on the western side.Once a year during sunset, sun rays falls on the face of the image through this window. This festival called as KiranUtsav, is believed to be very auspicious and devotees throng the temple in large numbers.

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Rathotsav (annual chariot festival) bearing silver representation of Goddess decorated with flowers is taken out for procession around the city in April celebrated with all the pomp and glory.

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This temple is an exemplary specimen of Vesar style of architecture in Maharashtra. Vesar is a confluence of Nagar and Dravidian style. In this style, temples have a complex with several small shrines around the main shrine.

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Flower market outside the temple is quite a spectacle too. Have a look.

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After the Devi pooja, I headed to some pet-pooja as it was time for lunch. Kolhapur is famous for very aromatic and spicy mutton curry called tambda rassa. However since it was a festival, was prohibited to have non veg food and settled for a very satisfying Maharshtrian meal- baakri(roti) and viangan bharatha(baigan ka bhartha) in Gokul restaurant which serves very good food for vegans.

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After a satisfying meal, it was time to head to Shree Chhatrapati Shahu Museum also called as New Palace museum. Built in 1884, the architecture of the palace is a combination of Jain and Hindu influences and local Rajwada style.

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This museum is dedicated to fine collection of possessions of Chhatrapaties of Kolhapur like costumes, weapons, jewelery,embroidery,games, silver elephant saddles,stuffed tigers, tiger heads, wild boar,black buck etc.The Darbar hall occupies a double height space, while the side halls display lobed arches filled with stained glass illustrating scenes from life of Shivaji.

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After a great showcase of regions history through this museum visit, I headed to city market for some shopping and some temple runs. Kolhapur is famous for hand crafted leather slippers called as Kolhapuris that are locally tanned.

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Then in the pleasant evening, I headed to Rankala Lake  for boating which is serene and picturesque on the western side of Mahalaxmi temple. This wide and spacious lake is so called as at its centre lies the temple of Rankabhairav.

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It also hosts another palace which is inaccessible to common public.

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And then signed off after having a delicious street food- some bhel puri and a fruit salad.

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It was a nice time in Kolhapur. Hope you enjoyed it too. Until next time we meet, Be Good,Do Good And Keep Smiling 🙂

Part3: Calcutta Diaries…


Hello, Welcome back after quite a some time. If you haven’t read part1 and its sequel yet, read before proceeding to this final edition of Calcutta Diaries…

For Part1,click here: Calcutta Diaries…  For Part2,click here: Sequel:Calcutta Diaries…

After an excellent city tour which I thoroughly enjoyed, I witnessed an interesting Bengali wedding(my first time).But before we get started to experience its uniqueness, let’s know more about Bengali people and their culture through my retina display 😛

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Bengali’s are very emotional and passionate people.Given a chance they can lecture or talk continuously for hours together.But they are sweet people owing their love for sweets. I think Mishti (meaning sweetmeat) comes a close second next to their first love which is Fish. A meal without a fish is very rare and     incomplete.They can swear by fish literally. Apart from fish,they love their football and off course cricket. Mohan Bagan/East Bengal match at Salt Lake stadium garners as much attention and interest as a World Cup cricket match elsewhere in the world. Cricket in Eden Gardens is as electric and noisy that most parts of Calcutta near the Maidan can feel the atmosphere when a game is on. And Durga Puja in Calcutta is one of biggest festival of India. What Ganesh Chaturti is to Mumbai, Puja is to Calcutta. I was told that Calcutta experience is incomplete without Durga Puja which is revelled and celebrated with as much pomp and glory as one can ever imagine.

For my friend’s wedding, I lived with his family among his relatives and friends for four days which was an enriching experience. I was welcomed and treated very warmly and the icing on the cake was when I was given Mishti on arrival which bowled me over completely 😉 Since Hindi was the only common language we both knew, that was the mode of speech used for interaction. Bengali’s sound funny when they talk broken Hindi as most of them are not used to speaking Hindi. Also it was difficult for me to get their Bong accent and managed to get what they were saying or at least the context when they used some Hindi/English keywords. When they converse in Hindi, they pronounce some words such that its funny to a non Bengali who knows Hindi. My name being Harsha, over the years I have been called as Harsh, Harshu and off course Harsha but for the first time I was addressed as ‘Horsho’. Yes Horsho-The Bengali version of Harsha 😉 So Harsha becomes Horsho, Vidya becomes Bidya, Gaurav as Gourab and Rituparna becomes RituPorna. They say Jol Khaana(meaning eating water) for drinking water and Cha khabe( meaning eating tea) is what they sound when they ask you for tea. I found it sweet and funny and taught the kids out there multiple times that It’s spelled and hence pronounced as Harsha and not horseshoe amidst lot of laughs 😉

Unlike most of the wedding here in Southern part of India, a Bong wedding usually starts in the evening. On wedding day early morning at around 4.00 hrs the wedding rituals began where the groom and bride in their respective homes were made to have some food after which they were not supposed to eat anything until the next day when all the marriage rituals ended.

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On the wedding day before lunch hours,a ritual called as Nanni Mukh took place where the groom remembered his ancestors before tying the knot (later in the evening) followed by haldi where all the women out there put haldi on the grooms face who was made to stand firm on a stone viz the most interesting time to click some candid and funny photos 😉 To wash off, he was poured with a bucket of water and then the groom had to crack open 4 small cups surrounding him made by mud. Once this was done, the haldi used to put on groom was passed on to bride’s place along with her wedding dress and some gifts generally called as shagun where bride is put up with same haldi. Amongst this, Rohu fish was decorated as a bride.

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After lunch it’s generally a break time where most of them overlooked about different arrangements and had a good nap after a satisfying meal. Then in the evening we started to the marriage hall with band baaja and baarat 😉

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The groom was greeted with all the necessary special attention and offered some mishti by bride’s side.During the mahurath, groom was made up to stand firm at a fixed place and the bride was carried to the mandap by her brothers while she covered her face with beetle leaves.The bride was made to take 7 rounds around the groom which signifies 7 vows of marriage and then to remove the covering from her face only when she faced the groom after saath phere amidst lot of cheers and clapping.Then they exchanged garlands 3 times followed by Sindhur Daan viz maang barna.The marriage rituals ended after a yagna(Agni shakshi).

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After having a special meal viz as I said earlier, having quality time with Bengali fish, we had a friendly interaction between both the families which was playing antakshari in this case. We played for over 2 hours such that all the songs were either already sung or we had no new song to sing for a particular word. Led by the groom, we won when the bride’s side was deliberately and repeatedly given a particular word and the game ended when they finally gave up at 4.30 am.

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Before that we had to negotiate a price with the bride’s friends, for making the couple enter a particular room.They were seven in total for which they demanded 20k and we gave them only 3.5k(500 per head) after making them wait for a long time and hence succumb to pressure and impatience.

The next day it was vidhaai time at bride’s place and a reception on the subsequent day on the groom’s side which panned out nicely.

It was a most fruitful and enriching to experience a Bengali wedding as unique as this. Hope you enjoyed it too through this blog post…

Until next time we meet, Be good, Do good and Keep Smiling 🙂

Cricket World Cup over the years….



Cricket(especially World Cup) then and now has evolved as wine getting better with age.At least I would like to think so.With the advent of T20 and the success of popular tournaments like IPL and Big Bash League,cricket over the years has changed rapidly.Sure enough,batsman have a slight upper hand than the bowlers but with time,bowlers are getting smarter too.

In 90s and until early next decade,240-270 was a challenging score but not anymore.300 is a norm these days.But it’s great to see that in this WC edition,bowlers have a say on par with the batsman though changing of rules like 5 fielders always inside the circle is bit harsh on them.On a positive note,captain would play his 5 attacking bowlers rather than depending too much on part timers.Along with the likes of Mitchell Starc,Trent Boult,Imran Tahir,Tim Southee,Morne Morkel who are doing well clinching wickets consistently in this WC,it feels proud to see our bowlers with the likes of Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma,Mohd Shami (strong contender for highest wickets) and Ravi Ashwin bowling equally good.

Let’s look back at India’s performances in world cups over the years. I started getting to know and watch cricket in 96 and have fond memories of India beating Pakistan and clearly remember the confrontation of Aamer Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad.The best part was Venky didn’t say a word when Sohail provoked him but at the very next ball when he bowled Sohail, the reaction he gave showing him the way to pavilion,was just awesome to see being an Indian fan.In death over, Ajay Jadeja’s hitting Waqar Younis for boundary and sixes consistently was a rare sight to see then which is quite regular these days where batsman takes on the bowlers at will. And then the infamous chase against Srilanka in semis in Eden Gardens where the match was stalled and awarded to Srilanka.Tendulkar gave us an excellent start but once he got out, everyone else got out like a pack of cards.In 99 world cup in England,India were expected not to perform as much we would want them to as they had lost couple of tournament finals consistently just before the world cup and clearly lacked some firepower in latter half of tournaments.India did well going into the Super Six stage but had to bow down after loosing too many matches.The highlight for me was the rise of what I call the holy trinity of Indian cricket- Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid (highest run getter in 99 world cup,including 2 massive partnership with Ganguly and Tendulkar).There was a ad campaign by Brittania-Brittania Khao WorldCup Jao in 99. In that one month, I along with my family and friends had eaten as much biscuits as we had eaten in our combined entire life.Such was the craze then-Anything for worldcup. In 2003,we played very well and were looking to win the world cup given our form when Ricky Ponting spoiled our plans in the finals.I think we lost the match by our poor bowling and our batsman couldn’t do much chasing a massive score.But still there was slight chance as it was raining in patches and D/L came into play.I had my SSC board exams the very next day and had to peep in and out to see the scores.But most of the times,it didn’t look good and it was a shock to loose after doing so well until the finals.2007 world cup was a forgetful affair as India were out in the first round,felt really sorry for Dravid who was leading the side then.Who knows,he would have been an exceptional captain had he continued to lead the side.And then came 2011,when we lived our dream to lift the world cup 28 years after Kapil Dev and his team had made us proud in 83.So far,2015 looks promising too to defend the title.By the way,Mauka mauka ad campaign has won hearts of everyone with its brilliant script and creativity.Over the years,cricket on a whole has gone through so many changes,it has got richer with new technology used,new shots being invented to score runs,new tricks being employed by bowlers to deceive the batsman and new techniques adopted by fielders especially on the boundary line to convert a certain six to a wicket.

Let’s analyze some specific players and how it has impacted our psyche and the game.Take for instance AB De Villiers-the most innovative contemporary batsman who is literally changing the rules of the game.Some of the shots he has played are beyond imagination.More importantly he makes the bowlers bowl the way he want him to,even though they don’t want to. When the bowl coming from bowler by the time it reaches him he has all the time in the world to choose and perfectly execute 2 or 3 scoring shots.And very little can the bowler and fielding side do to stop him when he is in zone.Players like Chris Gayle and lot many batsmen of this generation can score a double and more importantly even think of it unlike last decade.In short, the approach to a game has changed completely,a batsman can chase 100 runs or may be more than that easily in last 10 overs. Sunil Narine who has a great impact especially in IPL can stun and deceive the batsman quite consistently by his mystery deliveries which is difficult to read.He is one of the few spinners who captain turns to during death overs as along with taking wickets,he can choke runs too.Unfortunately he is not playing in this WC.Dale Steyn needs a special mention here as he is the best bowler in an era dominated by batsman.When he is in rhythm bowling fiery,clinching wickets consistently,it is a beautiful sight to watch.Ever so magnificent bowlers like Mitchell Johnson, Daniel Vettori,Morne Morkel,Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ravi Rampaul have only got smarter with power hitters like Chris Gayle, Glen Maxwell, Keiron Pollard, David Miller, Brendon McCullum,David Warner, our very own MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli becoming ever so powerful with the bat.Fielding standard over the years have only improved.Jonty Rhodes who made people recognise that fielding can also be a art and who changed the facet of a match though his fantastic catches,brillant save and crucial runouts would be very proud to see some exceptional fielders like ABD, Raina, Warner,Dilshan,Kohli,Steven Smith, Rahane and many others in this generation.The other day,in quarter finals against Bangladesh,Shikhar Dhawan took a excellent juggling catch at the boundary which we would not have imagined say 10 years ago.So overall,the game is changing and changing for good.

Having followed cricket over the years and being a ardent fan,it feels great to see the game evolving and getting better.

P.S : This blog post is written for a blogging contest by Harsha Bhogle, one of the few cricket commentators I admire and look up to.Hope this blog post and being his namesake gives me a slight edge to be a part in his Bloggers Dream Team 🙂

Part2: Calcutta Diaries…


Before you proceed, if you haven’t read the first part yet, here’s the link for the first part Click Here.

It’s going to be a long day but I am excited after looking forward to today’s itinerary. So let’s not waste time and head to Kumortuli to have some dossier of information on artisans of the potters’ colony in North Calcutta. By virtue of their artistic and creative creations their clay idols supplied especially during the Durga Pujo on Dussehra is exported overseas too.

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Their idols are mostly ordered well in advance and their clientele includes Indian communities living in America, Europe and Africa. For a record, this colony supplies idols to around 90 countries worldwide with new countries adding each year.Their creations gives greatest joy to Calcutta(The City of Joy) by transforming crude structure of clay to a beautiful, mesmerizing bedecked Bengali bridesque Goddess Durga. No wonder, this colony is one of the seven wonders of Calcutta.

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During Pujo, these idols are supplied to countless pandals all over Calcutta. That their creation is going to leave Calcutta in awe and admiration for the entire duration of the festival and even beyond that is of no consequence to them as it is a just a means of survival to these talented and very skilled artisans, most of them creating these idols since a long long time. Needless to say, I was in awe of this place and their great artistic skills.

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Self note: Have to visit Calcutta and this colony during Pujo.

Next stop is Jorasanko Thakur Bari (meaning House of Thakurs(Tagore)) in a place called Jorasanko in North Calcutta. It is the house in which Calcutta’s and India’s pride-Rabindranath Tagore was born and spent most of his childhood. He was the most celebrated poet(Indian National Anthem was his creation along with the national anthem of Bangladesh) and first non European Nobel laureate.

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It was an exhilarating experience to visit this place and to know more about one of India’s jewels who contributed immensely in literature,art,music among other things. His legacy endures in several of his works on display here which is very well maintained and also in Visva Bharati University founded by him in Santiniketan.

Self note: A visit to Santiniketan when next time in Bengal.

I am a foodie and I am on a see food diet- I mean see the food and eat without much adieu 😛 A satisfying meal will only do good at this stage. So lets move to Peter Cat restaurant in Park Street where they serve a dish called “Chelo Kababs”- The protected regional product of West Bengal. A dish consisting of mutton kababs-the best I had ever had, perfectly cooked egg, juicy chicken, butter and aromatic rice. Such a perfect meal. Touché.

Lets now move to Eden Garden reminiscing about the memorable matches played here in this very ground. Who can forget tat famous victory on this ground during Australian tour of India in 2001. Laxman’s and Dravid’s epic partnership, Harbhajan’s hat rick and moreover India’s unreal comeback into the match and then to wrap up the series in Chennai. Unbelievable to say the least….

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Calcutta has very unique facilities unlike some cities with respect to their public transport- Yellow colored cabs, cycle rickshaw, underground Calcutta metro and most fascinating of them all- Calcutta trams(mini trains on the road along with the other vehicles on the road). Have a look

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Calcutta Metro is the first underground metro rail system system in India operational since 1984. Those Rickshaw walas are one of the most hard working people around toiling hard in the sun for their bread and butter. The Calcutta tram is currently the only operating tram in India and the oldest operating tram in Asia running since 1902.

Let’s stroll now to Princep Ghat and the ever so magnificent Victoria Memorial before we head for the dinner.

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The Victoria Memorial, a large marble structure built between 1906 and 1921 is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. It is now a museum and a major tourist destination by the bank of Hooghly river.

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It’s dinner time to end a fabulous day and what better way to end it by having Hilsa fish-probably the best fish in town. Bengalis love their fish and can swear by fish and I ain’t any different in this matter 😉

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With this the city tour in Calcutta comes to an end. An awesome time and sheer joy in the city of joy. However, I will share my experiences with very interesting and unique Bengali wedding in my next post. Until next time we meet, Be Good,Do Good and Keep Smiling 🙂

P.S: On my last day in Calcutta, early morning when I was listening to music in shuffle mode, coincidentally this beautiful song by Hemant Kumar cropped up which sumps up my visit quite brilliantly.

Part1: Calcutta Diaries…


Calcutta(now known as Kolkata)-the City of Joy is a fabulous city to live in, love at first sight you see. I was there for a mere 4 days which was not at all enough to see the uniqueness and intricacies of walking in the city with a perfect mixture of modern and heritage buildings,reminiscing about the yesteryear India. But I tried my very best to visit most of the places in my spare time and this blog post is entirely based on my experiences with the city and not influenced by anything else.

Calcutta has always fascinated me since I was a kid because of its rich history(served as the capital of India under the British Raj),sporting culture(Bengalis love their football and cricket),art forms whether its literature or cinema(Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray are in itself an institution) and above all Bengali sweet(Anyone here who don’t like RossoGulla?? Handful isn’t it?). I wanted to visit Calcutta at some point of time and having couple of Bengali friends did help my cause.One of my close friends decided to marry and thus I planned to visit the city and above all know more about Bengali culture especially their unique style of marriage which is quite different from marriages seen in Southern India.

Before we get the ball rolling with our city tour,let’s start our day with a cup of tea and a newspaper.

Tea by Road side on a kulhar(earthy mug)
Tea by Road side on a kulhar(earthy mug)

The Telegraph
The Telegraph

Our first pit stop would be a visit to Dakshineswar temple in Barrackpore.

Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Dakshineswar Kali Temple

Dakshineswar is a Kali temple built between 1847 and 1855 by Rani Rashmoni. Along with the Kali temple, we have 12 Shiva temples(lingas) and a RadhaKrishna temple situated along the Vivekananda Setu(Bridge) on the East bank of Hooghly River.The presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, meaning, ‘She who liberates Her devotees from the ocean of existence’.

 

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Vivekananda Sethu

Ramakrishna Paramahasamha, the saint of 19th century, regarded as incarnation of God, set his base here in Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna formed a group of spiritual aspirants which later paved the way for the formation of Ramakrishna Mission. Interestingly,before this temple was built, Nawabs of Chitpur used to hunt tigers in Dakshineswar.

12 different Shiva temple(Lingas)
12 different Shiva temples(Lingas)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that we have seen the beautiful Dakshineswar, let’s head to Belur Math on the other side i.e. west banks of Hooghly river. It is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission founded by his disciple Swami Vivekananda. This site was carefully chosen by Vivekananda on the banks of holy Ganges(Hooghly) such that a clear view of Dakshineswar and Cossipore- the two important places related to Sri Ramakrishna could be seen which add to its sanctity.

Belur Math is known for its splendid architecture and devotees want to develop inner appreciation of thought through this unique and beautiful architecture. On the day of my visit, it was 180th birthday celebration of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahasamha and visitors, devotees,media were sprawling from all corners of the world.

Self note:Visit this place when there is less crowd and more peace.

Belur Math
Belur Math

It seems like I am hungry now, so let’s have an early meal. And here in Calcutta, no meals is complete without fish. So let’s try the Bhetki fish from a Bengali food chain.

Bhetki fish curry
Bhetki fish curry

Mouth watering prawns curry
Mouth watering prawns curry.

Bengali Thali
Bengali Thali

Now lets stroll to St. Paul’s Cathedral-The Mother Church of the diocese of Calcutta in the church of North India.Let’s gulp some RossoGollas as we get there and a bakery of N C Das- Creator of the iconic Bengali sweetmeat is the place to be. The RossoGolla(highly nutritious,easily digestible and truly a drooling affair) was born in 1868 in a moment of sublime inspiration.

Self note: Get some stock of this sweet rhapsody before leaving to Bengaluru.

As we enter the church and get to admire this magnificent architecture with all its past glory we have come to an end of this journey for today.Excited and curious as ever to visit Kumortuli-potters’ colony in North Calcutta where they create artistic clay idols especially for Durga Pujo, Eden Garden’s Mecca of Cricket in India,Jorasanko Thakur Bari-Ancestral home of Tagore family, ever so magnificent Victoria Memorial,Calcutta’s very own tram and metro ride,Prinsep Ghat-one of the oldest recreational spots of Calcutta.

It has been a great time in Calcutta so far. Hope you enjoyed it too.

Lets meet again soon. Until then, Keep Smiling 🙂

P.S: Day started with darshan of Goddess Kali in Dakshineswar followed by Belur Math on the other side of Ganges. Bought some books on Swami Vivekananda and a book on architecture of Belur Math. Then a sumptuous lunch in Bedouin-Sher-E-Bengal in Gariahat.Some saree(Dhakai Jaamdani-traditional Bengali saari) shopping for mom and then a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral, Academy of Fine Arts and Nandan-West Bengal Film Centre.

Looking forward for more….

P.P.S: Here in this post, Calcutta(old name of the city) is used instead of Kolkata as someone rightly said “Kolkata is a city whereas Calcutta is a emotion”.

 

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral

Travel Diaries: Matheran..


Matheran is a hill station in Raigad district in Maharashtra on Western Ghats range at an elevation of 800m from sea level. Matheran means “forest on the forehead”. It is Asia’s only automobile free hill station.
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First view from the Top

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 Greeted by Beautiful falls and off course the weekend traffic
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 Amazing train journey enroute to Matheran Station
 Beautiful Matheran seen from different vantage points
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 Sweet little Gujrati Thali
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Horse Ride-one of the popular mode of transport
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P.S: Thanks for visiting this page.All pics taken from Nexus 5 🙂