Friday, December 14, 2012

Browns and greens - A trip to the village

Last month I made a trip to a village in east coast of Andhra Pradesh, which was still recuperating from the effects of the deadly cyclone Nilam.  Driving to the village, I could see the destruction wrought by the cyclone first hand.  There were fields of ruined paddy crop and farmers with stoic faces counting the losses.  Speaking to some of the people there I learned that these farmers do not get any government help for their losses, they simply have to take a loan from banks or money lenders and hope that the crop for the next season comes good.  The 'annadaata' though heartbroken seeing the loss of his crops still soldiers on and will break his back for the next crop.  These people  feed millions of people and are the true backbone of the country.

Next morning as I was walking around the village with my good friend Laxmi absorbing the soothing scenery, I comment on the lack of people and my friend informs me that once children complete their 10th standard and college they leave their village; the lure of the big city lights too strong to resist.  Most of the young generation leave either for the 'Hitech city' Hyderabad or the nearby port city of Vishakapatnam.

Village of Yedida.

Next we come across the huts on the edge of a lake that are on the outskirts of the village.  These huts are a stark reminder of caste system that is still deeply rooted in this village society; a dark side to an otherwise beautiful village.

Next, we paid a visit to a village school which is run by one of my relatives.  Children wake up by 6 in the morning and will be present in their school by 7.  There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing little children with bright faces carrying their books; children with hopes and dreams in their eyes.

As the morning progressed I expected some sort of morning rush, but there were only deserted streets with farmers already in their fields and their grown up children living their life in one of the big cities.

With stories to tell and camera full of images, we went back to our house for tea and breakfast.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A FEW HUMBLE CLICKS - Pictures from a camera phone

Unless you are a pro, you cannot have a dedicated camera on you all the time.  So what do I do?. I take my Android phone and click away.  I feel bad for not having a camera, forget about the pictures for a few days and then look at them again.

Pictures taken from a camera phone are not very good even if you pile on effects and filters in Photoshop but there are quite a few image-enhancing apps available in Android market and using them on your crummy photos can produce surprising results.  Here are some of my favorites.

Taken just before attending a bloggers meet in Hyderabad.

Sun Dog.  It was cold this day, but the sun came out for a brief moment.

A plane, a rocket or a meteor?

Was listening to The Beatles and spotted a plane.

Opposite my workplace.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No Colour - Black, white and many shades of grey.

The strong brown of the early morning coffee, that unexpected yellow in concrete jungle or the incandescent orange rays of setting sun, the human eye responds very strongly to colours.  The advertisers and filmmakers no doubt have recognized the subtle power of colour to catch the human eye and influence our moods, but great photographers and filmmakers also recognize the other important aspect in the visual medium; the forms and shapes.

When you look at a black and white photograph, your eye is forced to examine the forms and shapes without the distraction of colour.  There are photographers like Ansel Adams whose images are superbly balanced and he clearly elevates the photography to an art form.

In my college years one of my seniors used to bring a digital camera to our campus, but oddly enough he used to switch the camera to black n' white mode and take pictures repeatedly of an old banyan tree.  In conversing with him, I found out that he was trying to capture "the balance of things, you know, the shapes of things."  We thought he was a nut job and left him alone; I wonder where he is now.  Later in my life after countless number of days with my humble camera, I think I understood what he was trying to say.  Here's me applying some of his principles.

Dargah at Moula-Ali

Arabian Sea and a silhouette of a friend.

Tamilnadu-Kerala border.

Disused warehouse, originally a colour photograph converted into black and white.

On a Friday at friends' house. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A gift by a guest

I got a gift yesterday.  It's a guest post by none other than Subho's Jejune diet, one of the most influential bloggers around; also a person I look up to when my life feels rudderless through his writings, conversations and music sharing.  So without further ado here is his guest post which sparkles with wit, embedded wisdom and some truly creative images.


Some posts package your abilities like well shot glamor pics of aging divas. They are like well designed apps that intuitively know what you want them to do. Their shoes shine like in the ads, and their clothes are clean and starched, and they obediently line up and sing the national anthem in three part harmony. They unhesitatingly sort into openings and closures, and bullet point themselves into bite-sized chunks. Such posts make gloomy days seem sunny to me and Readers Digest read like high art.

Painting with light.

Some posts just don’t write. They sit like a sullen child holding its breath and daring you to end a paragraph. They file themselves away into the back of the bottom shelf in the drafts folder and pretend to be invisible when you peer to look. They disappear into the soil of the mind like an expensive seed that waits to germinate till you forget to water it. I keep taking them out, bathing, feeding and drying them out like pet geckos in the sun. These posts are very dear to me. Like children with special needs.

Chili plant.

Some posts write themselves, brushing you aside like an unpleasant thing lying on the road. They roll themselves out like a magic carpet of thoughts and images, usually unlike anything you were prepared for. Then they look back at you and gloat, as if saying, now what are you going to do? Some of them go a step further and announce it to you even as you sit to write. What I usually do with such posts is generously gift them to my fellow bloggers in the guise of a guest post. Like curses in a Stephen King story, they become their problem after that.


Thank you Subho's Jejune diet for taking your time and contributing a post to this blog and turning it into a much better place.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

On a Sunday - A walk in the park

Located in the heart of the city, KBR park is like a beauty spot on the face of Hyderabad.  This is the park where you are more likely to find spirited senior citizens walking than couples sitting on the bench and holding their hands.  One fine Sunday morning as I was having a steamin' cup of coffee and preparing to read  the vivid and stately prose of P.G. Wodehouse in my favorite reading spot, my brother came bursting into my room and proposed we go to a walk since the weather was sensational.  Why not?

With the morning sun peeking from behind the palm trees and dragonflies hovering around like mini helicopters, we got into our tracks and tees and off we went to KBR park located in Jubilee Hills.  With no agenda on our mind and a Nikon camera in our pockets, we explored the 24-acre park.  It is very unusual to find a mini jungle like this in the beating heart of the city but here it is, the local flora and fauna in all its glory.

A family of flowers.

The park is well-maintained with few ponds, wooden benches, a duck here and a peacock there.  The air was fresh and the light was golden.  We came across many colorful sights and we were furiously clicking away on our camera.

Nature's supermodel.

Suddenly without warning a peacock appears out of nowhere and lands across the path.  With the attitude and swagger of a seasoned supermodel, he starts strutting around and showing off his colorful feathers; we were happy to oblige.

Old world charm.

After spending nearly 3 hours exploring, we rested our weary legs in the shade near abandoned garage somewhere in the park.  We knew that when we get home, mom's crispy Sunday special dosas will be waiting for us.  What a way to start off a Sunday.  So when was the last time you took a walk in the park?

The mystic bond of brotherhood.


KBR (Kasu Brahmananda Reddy National Park) is located near LV Prasad Eye Hospital.  The place is well connected by buses and autos.  The park opens its gate at 4:30 a.m. and closes at 9 in the morning and starts again at 5 in the evening until 7 p.m.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In Wild Heaven - Kerala in pictures

It has been exactly one year since I visited Kerala.  Yesterday I was browsing through my computer and found these pictures that I took on my trip to Kerala last year.  Many would like to call it God's Own Country, but after experiencing the stunning beauty of Kerala firsthand, I would prefer to call it the Emerald State.  So last year around August we packed our bags to attend one of our Nair's wedding in Kozhikode (pronounced koi-koh-de).

Crossing the TN border into Kerala.

Our train journey was mostly comfortable.  At midnight we traversed through Tamilnadu and we just entered the Kerala as the sun was about to rise.  The landscape changes dramatically from a semi-arid flat landscape to verdant hills touching the clouds; we knew we arrived in Kerala.

Green grows the rushes.

Our friend's place is a little village some 50 kilometers from Kozhikode.  When we finally arrived at his place, we were treated to the typical Nair hospitality. Each of us were given a large glass of tea.  I took my camera and explored the backyard.

My friend's backyard.

In this village and mostly across Kerala, the houses are not cramped together tightly like in the cities, they are separated by a considerable gap allowing one house to have a luxury of a garden.  The weather is cool but damp.  Everywhere I look there is greenery, even the walls are covered with moss.  We drank plenty of tea and were waiting for a typical Malayali breakfast.

The moss covers everything.

A blue tent was set up in front of the house and the lady of the house got our breakfast.  This is "puttu", which is made from rice, coconut, few pulses and cereals.  It is delicious as it looks and has an offbeat taste.

Puttu, a breakfast dish.

Because of the dense moisture-laden air, the light takes on a magical quality.  It was like we walked into a Mani Ratnam movie.  After we had our bellies full, we decided to hit the beach.

Getting ready to hit the beach.

The beach was a 2-3 hour drive from the village and it was mostly deserted.  We had all the beach to ourselves.  While some of us entered the blue waters, others decided to chill out beneath the coconut tree shades.

An isolated beach.

After our day at the beach, we went home weary but satisfied and preparing for the wedding the next day.  This trip was particularly satisfying to me as with this trip I completed my journey of all the Southern States.  I cannot recommend Kerala highly enough, the people, the place and the food are all beautiful.  If you do get a chance, do not miss out on exploring Kerala.

A dash of pink in a sea of green.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Strip of paradise - Mom's garden

Mumbai has the glitzy marine drive, Hyderabad has the pretty necklace road and my home has a little strip of garden that is a treat to the eyes.  While I am not particularly interested in gardening, I enjoy photographing the flowering plants.  In the morning the plants seem organized like little school kids when my mom brings out the watering can.

The plants maintain their own routine and one day they simply decide to give out flowers of stunning beauty.  I just put aside my morning coffee and rush inside the house to get the camera.

I just use a low-budget Nikon camera but with the right settings and good lighting conditions, these low-cost cameras can rival the best SLRs in the market.

There is no post-processing involved when I am photographing plants and flowers.  I just use the RAW images from the cameras, but I try to get it right many times before I am satisfied with the results.  It seems tempting to remove the glare after I take my photographs in Photoshop, but for now I decided not to.

The morning light seems to have a magical and fresh quality to it; it enhances and brings out the pure colour in the surroundings so I photograph mostly in the morning.

To top it off, my house overlooks a gang of palm trees and the palm tree climbers take out the toddy in the morning and evening.  Could I ask for more?

In search of my mother's garden, I found my own.

                                    - Alice Walker - author, poet and activist.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dancing Matt - Who the hell is Matt?

Matt is just like you and me.  I do not know Matt personally but he seems like a regular guy, he loves to travel but most importantly he seems to enjoy dancing, a very peculiar kind of dance.  I do not know what events transpired or what got into his head but in 2006 he did something very remarkable, something that I am sure no one has done before.

What he did is he took the goofy dance trick, traveled around the world (14 countries) and recorded himself dancing in front of major landmarks.  The video of Matt dancing went viral.  In 2008 armed with bigger budget and somewhat of a minor celebrity status, he visited 42 countries.  This year he visited 71 countries.

This was his first video released in 2006.  Background music is Sweet Lullaby by Deep Forest.

The second one where he visited 42 countries where more people join in on the madness.

Released in 2012, this is his most recent adventure.

Crack the sky salutes Matt for bringing smiles to millions of people around the globe irrespective of their caste, creed or culture.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hyderabad Indi Bloggers Meet - Fireworks in a coffeehouse.

As the thick monsoon clouds gathered and the distant sounds of drumroll began, Hyderabad bloggers came together for a meet organized and announced by IndiBlogger.

Starring a diverse and colorful bunch of characters, it was quite an experience to be among such people.  It was very interesting to see and meet the bloggers in person as each of the blogger brought something different to the table be it gardening, organic farming, value living, cool tech tips, publishing, gaming and life in general.

Ideas were tossed around and fine-tuned until it coalesced into a definite shape.  It was heart-warming to see bloggers from different cities and backgrounds coming together.  Although the event was labeled as Hyderabad bloggers meet, we had people representing Chennai, Kolkata and Lucknow.  I do feel sad for the people who missed this wonderful meet.  I do hope that this small spark of enthusiasm will start something significant and relevant in the coming months and years.

After a hilarious confusion at the end while the paying the bill and how blogging and math do not go hand in hand, we left the coffee lounge with our minds stimulated.  While I was riding to home in the pouring rain, I still could feel the good vibrations generated by this meet and was reminded of this quote.

                        In our personal ambitions we are individualists, but in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people.
                                                                                                            --Franklin D. Roosevelt

Here's another account of how the bloggers meet went.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Under the milky way tonight - The simple pleasures of looking up.

I love living in the city. The greens of the village and the clear air of the rural country can never tempt me away from living in the filth and chaos of a thriving metropolis. To stand in the center of the city and watching people, animals and vehicles conduct their business is to feel the pulse of humanity.

Ever since the invention of light bulb, night in the cities are more livelier, less dangerous and a little less romantic.  One of the nasty byproducts of city lights is the wretched "skyglow";  a poison curtain of light which obscures the most dramatic happenings in the night sky.  To walk in the city in the evenings and looking up just randomly, seeing the ink-black darkness is the most hollow feeling one can ever have.  Sky-watching is one of my favorite hobbies but year by year its becoming an almost impossible task to observe celestial phenomenon due to light pollution.

Some 7 years ago when I was traveling by bus to Nagarjuna sagar dam, the driver made a routine stop at a dimly-lit highway dhaba in the middle of the night.  I saw some of the passengers get off the bus, after a few minutes the travellers were pointing fingers at the sky, some of them gasping looking up.  Curious, I got off the bus and joined them and I can never forget the sight above me.  Spread across the dark cloudless sky was the gentle curve of the milky way, like jewels spread across the black satin cloth.  There I was face-to-face with millions and billions of stars and galaxies, the light from which were emitted some billion years ago.  So right there besides the dhaba at night in my shorts and a tiny t-shirt, I had my "at-one-with-the-universe" moment.  Magical.


We are rapidly losing our view of the night sky due to unnecessary and inefficient lighting systems.  Fortunately, light pollution is one of the easiest pollution problem to tackle.  Using droplights wherever necessary reduces the light pollution and increases the lighting efficiency.

Dark skies are a precious asset and should be preserved for our future generations.  There is nothing more tragic than a frustrated stargazer.  We tend to lose our perspective about our place in  cosmos.  The constellation of Orion on a clear night sky with no light pollution looks magnificent whereas the picture taken of the same constellation in a typical metro looks like a pale imitation.

"I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly--or ever-- gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connectedness to the universe."

                                         -Dr. Brian Greene, physicist and author of the best selling book, "The Elegant Universe."

Monday, May 28, 2012


Goa looks prettiest in the rain.

Common wisdom holds that the best time to travel in India is in summer or in winter.  For once you can bypass that wisdom and head off to Goa in monsoon where forests are brilliant emerald green, the seas are wild and the roads are empty.

Traveling to Goa in monsoon seems like a silly idea.  Why go to some touristy place in monsoon and stay in your lodge room while it is pouring outside. If you are the kind who avoids the rain like a plague then this is not the time or place for you. If however you are the explorer/adventurer type then Goa is heaven in this time of the year.

The idea is to ditch the beach and hit the woods.  The rolling hills, the thundering waterfalls and the milky white skies are the order of the day.  Make sure you have a very good pair of shoes, supply of medicines and very minimal luggage.  The perks that you get for coming in this unusual time of the year are many, like very cheap accommodation and very less tourists.  Taking a hike in the day and getting down with Feni and goan fish curry in the evening, sounds good doesn't it?.

On a final note, be sure that this destination in this time of the year is very unconventional and that you will have to forego the luxurious rays of sun.  The rewards that mother nature offers in this place will more than compensate the sunshine.

Goa Tourism Board offers a monsoon package that are very reasonable. Check this out.