Sunday, 19 June 2016

Picturesque Journey With Photographers


 You know that time when you just need a break from every familiar face out there? In case you can’t relate to this then you are still in your first year where everything is bright and shiny. Well, for me it was Oct 31st 2014. I had reached my breaking point and for me this was highly unusual because I am the bright and bubbly. I lay on my bed, a thousand thoughts running through my head as I scrolled through my Facebook hoping to come across some positivity quotes. Suddenly I noticed a post about a trip to Kudremukh organized by the Photography Club, Manipal (well MIT). The discovery of the trip was exciting. It was on 2nd November, a Sunday. Without a second thought, I took down the contact number and the next day I was at Kamath Circle looking up at a skinny guy who was from Photography club. He briefed me about the trip. I handed him 450 rupees and I knew it was done.

On the day of the trip, I was up at 5.45am and had made my way to MIT by 6.30am. I should have expected that 6.30 was not the actual departure time. By the time we left MIT it was 7.45am! Turns out people went to have breakfast in the MIT mess when we were going to be provided breakfast on the bus. That was the only irritating part about the trip. Once the engine of the bus started it was a smooth ride from down there. Through some miracle, amongst the fifty something students on the bus there were only two people from a college other than MIT. Both were from MCOPS. That’s me and a junior girl who I was friends with. She had come because of her brother who was studying in MIT. We sat together and the journey begun.

Our first destination was Moodbidri which was about 64kms from Manipal. On the way we were given sandwiches, which were delicious or maybe I just thought they were, since I was hungry. Some girls were seated in the row in front of ours and they insisted on some music which had a magical effect on me and I was suddenly having fun. In Moodbidri we visited the Saavira Khambada Basadi temple. It was a beautiful old temple with 1000 pillars. It was almost deserted and we had it to ourselves for an hour. After a silent prayer, I circled the temple. My tour friends had already started clicking as we had limited time. I decided to do the same. I, being the amateur photographer that I am, took a few photos and listened to the pros, talk about lenses and do the usual Nikon versus Cannon fight. I had no opinion on the matter since I was using a point and shoot Sony camera and had never used a DSLR before.
We were back on the bus and that was when the real fun started. It had been ages since I had played antakshari. With a grandfather who sings, I like to believe that if I had a good voice I would have sang too. The only time I sing in public is during a game of antakshari. The cheerful girls ahead of us made two teams and then everyone in the bus was playing! We played for an hour or so and I was shocked by how much fun I could have with total strangers.

Next stop was Hanuman Gundi Water Falls, which was an hour away as well. Everything around me was lush green. As we descended from the bus, I inhaled the air. I could feel that it was cleaner and certainly chilled. The only instruction, we got here was to be careful as it was slippery. Turns out that was an important instruction. It was an easy climb down to the waterfalls. The sound of water against the rocks blocked every other thought in my mind. I made my way through the rocks to the middle of the stream that emerged from the falls. Before I could stop, I had slipped. Luckily, it has been just one foot. Now my shoe was drenched with water. I let it dry as I focused on taking some photos and just enjoying the place in general. There were some tripods set up on rocks in the heart of the stream and we took a group photo with a press of a remote. That was the first time I witnessed that technology. By the time we started the climb back up both of my shoes were soaking wet and I was out of breath due to the extra weight of my wet shoes.

Our destinations as well as everything along the journey was picturesque. I prayed that my camera battery would not die on me. Next stop was for lunch. We passed by a dam which must have been closed as the rocks and pebbles were exposed and shining under the afternoon sun. It was a beautiful place. We had stopped there to have lunch. The menu was gobi manchurian and fried rice! Just as we were done with lunch we heard a local call out to us. It was in Kannada. After a bit of an argument we realized that we were not allowed to stop there since they could release the river water and open the dam anytime. The instructions on the board were in Kannada. How were we supposed to know? We had senior MIT student with us who sorted it out and we were on our way once again.

At about 5pm we reached the tea plantations in Kudremukh. The place was heavenly and the thought of going to college the next day felt like a sad joke. I learned that day that leeches could be found in tea plantations and applying salt was the solution. No, I did not get a leech on me. There was a tea house and everyone was having tea. I didn’t want any without milk. I bought some coffee powder (that’s me) and chilled with my junior friend. After a while I was told that milk tea was available. It was the perfect drink for the cold weather. After another group photo we boarded the bus once again for our return journey. We reached Manipal at about 9.45pm. We said our goodbyes and I returned back to my old life. I had an amazing time on the trip. That day I learned a lot, including a new song 'Sutta Na Mila'(Hindi: translates to 'We couldn't get smokes') which was the last track for the night as our bus rolled into MIT campus.

Thank you for reading :) Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Acknowledgements: The Photography Club, Manipal for arranging this trip. Click on their name to see the full photo album and the best collection from that trip.
P.S This blog was first published on  Ideas Pixelated. Credits for the links in this blog post goes to them. It was easier putting the same blog post here on my official blog compared to importing it, which was taking hours.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Online Shopping at 576104 (Manipal)

The year 2007 was a game changer for online shopping in India. Flipkart had good discounts and attractive offers up it's sleeve and succeeded in reeling-in consumers to get on board with online shopping. However the foundation for online shopping was set much earlier. The first encounter of most of the Indian population with E-commerce was way back in 2002 when the government introduced train booking through IRCTC. Following this flight tickets, hotel booking, tours and travel packages were also introduced. Following the success of Flipkart, many other online stores have come into the market of online shopping like, Jabong, Myntra and so many more which sell make up (I might not know how to contour my face but when I see make up... *drools*). Today, E-commerce has expanded to every nook and cranny of  the country. That's where the Pin code 576104- Manipal comes in.

The power of the internet is the driving force behind online shopping.The catalyst for boom in online shopping is the fact that smartphones and internet services have become affordable A few years ago Dar-es-salaam (my hometown) had not heard of online shopping so when I came to India as a college fresher I could safely say I was 'mshamba' (Swahili word that translates to a person who does not know something). After getting my own State Bank of India bank account as part of the enrollment process I learned to handle my own finances (only the spending, not the earning!). It took six rounds to the bank and a barge-in entry to the manager's office to get my Online Banking activated. I am still not sure about the difference between Net Banking and Online Banking. All I know is I can pay for things online after receiving a One Time Password on my mobile number.

It has been two and half years since that day and I have not looked back when it comes to using my 'power' (as I like to think of it). I have been able to manage everything through a click of a button. To this day I am amazed with how easily an order is placed, the ability to track it's location, get regular updates and to choose the option of paying online or through Cash On Delivery (COD).

The students at Manipal like to shop (including myself). I did not realize how big online shopping was in Manipal until about a month ago when I moved to a different, a bigger hostel. Everyday at lunch time (when the students are free), around a dozen men on motorbikes come and wait outside the hostels. If you are expecting a delivery that day, you get a call asking you to come down and collect your parcel. Sometimes I wonder if they judge us but then I see my new, shiny delivery and forget it all. I would like to justify at this point that Manipal is located in the middle of nowhere and the shopping options especially for clothing are limited in the small town. I recall my first birthday in Manipal when I had to pick my birthday outfit and I only had two choices in my size! Luckily one of them turned out to be the perfect addition to my collection but the other was  a mustard colored dress which I swear I could not have pulled off. 

With the 'power' of online shopping I get to buy clothes, many times at great discounts too, in my size and in the color of my choice. The free return and exchange policies make the process so much simpler that it's just impossible to resist (especially when the brilliant computer knows what you want and keeps those advertisement tabs on every page you visit). Shopping once in a while is healthy (but you must browse! After all you have to be aware of the Sale, duh).

Online Shopping : The Pros and Cons List.

-Easily accessible.
-Large variety of options.
-Easy means of payment.
-Efficient Delivery system.

-Spending and Shopping more than necessary.
-Mistake in order (size, colour etc).
-Time (It does take a few days if you don't like in a Metropolitan city).
-In-genuine products.

If done wisely, online shopping can be your key to staying in trend and saving a few bucks through those discounts.

Thank you for reading.
Hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and can relate to my story.

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Beach Therapy

"Travelling - It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller" 
-Ibn Battuta. 
I was on one of my usual browsing sessions on the internet when I discovered the destination to my next getaway, Murudeshwara. Thousands of Lord Shiva devotees visited Murudeshwara each year to pray at the holy temple. The temple was home to the second tallest Shiva statue in the world standing at 123 feet tall. One of the best things about the place, according to me was it's geographical location. The temple was on the shores of the Arabian Sea. It provided the perfect blend for a day trip. The photos on the internet escalated my excitement and I was ready to get going. Murudeshwara was easily accessible from Manipal by a two hour train journey from the Udupi railway station (four kilometers from Manipal).

 The next day, eight people including myself took the early morning train to Murudeshwara. It was safe to say that it would be an economic trip since the transport cost was bare minimum. As a student budget-trips were my top priority. The Western railway tracks of India, particularly South India provide a scenic view of fields that turn into lush green mountain with milky-white river water. Train travel allowed us me to enjoy this picturesque journey many times and here, on this trip, I sat once again lost in the my dreams as I looked out of the window. My friends and I got off the train as we finally reached our stop and took rickshaws to the temple, which was not very far from the railway station.

We felt the cool sea breeze and the scent of salt in the air as we approached the temple. The grand Shiva statute could be seen all the way from the railway station nevertheless we stuck our necks out from the rickshaw to get a better glimpse. It was around noon and the temple was crowded with hundreds of devotees when we arrived. We visited the temple after standing in a queue for a good amount of time. The gopuram (the entrance to the temple) was pyramidal in shape and to match the tall Shiva statue, it had been made to be eighteen floors tall. We waited some more to take the elevator up to the eighteenth floor. The view of the beach and the statute from that height was out of this world and I never wanted to come back. After taking some photos we decided to grab some lunch as all of us were hungry.

The Arabian sea looked immensely inviting post-lunch. We all made our way to the beach to dip our feet in the water. Growing up in Dar-es-salaam, I have grown to love beaches and coming to Murudeshwara brought back so many of my childhood memories. One of my friends arranged a boat ride for us and off we went into the sea. I enjoyed myself watching the boat break the waves and take us farther away from the shore.  After the boat trip and a little more beach fun we got into clean clothes. Many changing and showering facilities were available right by the beach and even though they were not fancy, they were decent for a beach trip. After all what was the point of some beach fun if you didn't get a little dirty, right?

  My friends and I sipped on some fresh juice as we watched the sun set. After browsing through the local street shops we went back to the railway station and took the train back home. On the way back we played Antakshri (Hindi songs singing game) and my friends were so good that they later went to win at the college level competition!  The trip was a memorable one and now I get to share it with you.

Thank you for reading. I hope you liked this blog post :)
Acknowledgements: The photo of us in the boat was taken by my friend and classmate Tridib :D

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Wanderlust: Agumbe, Kundadri Hills & Hanuman Gundi.

Are you looking for a quick getaway? If the answer is yes, you have come to the right place. This time I guide you through my trip and adventures at Agumbe, Kundadri Hills and Hanuman Gundi waterfalls all of which can be covered in one day. Continue reading to know more!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
-Mark Twain.

In college, when you get a break once in a week, life seems pretty unfair.  It gets even tougher for hostel students as they are expected to have superhuman powers to do the household chores and balance their studies, social life etc.. As someone who is passionately curious about everything, I suggest once in a few months (may be one Sunday every month) one must set aside some time to explore and experience something completely new, out of his or her comfort zone. After all, experiences are our treasures. Being the one who always takes the initiative, I usually try to convince few of my close friends to accompany me on my adventurous endeavors but this time I was planning something bigger, a class trip.

 I knew it would be a Herculean task to get everybody to accept. Like all other group trips, it had its own challenges. Many people agreed initially with full zest and later were slowly withdrawing giving lame excuses. The clich├ęd question that annoys me the most is 'Who else is going? The sudden interest in other people’s opinion on the trip. I never understood why people ask that. As someone who has traveled solo plenty of times, I think it is absurd to depend on others for your travel plans. But I was prepared for this and was ready with my Plan B which was to unleash the audacious, stubborn at the same time persuading side of me. Successfully, I convinced two of my classmates to get information on vehicles that we could hire. After a lot of effort from my friends, Kavya and Abbas, we had booked a bus and around twenty people were ready with their backpacks to leave at 7am on a Sunday morning (kudos! for that!). The plan was to visit three places-of-interest: Hanuman Gundi water falls, Jain Temple at Kundadri Hills and Agumbe. 

If you are coming from far away and need to book your bus tickets try Red Bus. It is hassle free, comfortable and convenient. 

The first stop was the Hanuman Gundi water fall, 70km from Manipal town in Karnataka State. All my friends were too excited and full of vigor and energy. I was just very happy that everything had fallen into place and the trip was happening. We had to trek down through the forest to reach the water fall which made it all the more fun. We had adrenaline gushing through our body and could hear our heart thumping. We carefully made our way closer, avoiding the slippery surfaces on the wet rocks. The mere touch of the crystal clear stream of water against our skin was revitalizing. We dipped our feet in and simply relaxed for a while breathing in the nature around us while the fishes did the pedicure for us. We were spellbound with the 22meters high waterfall. Some of my friends even dived into the water but I didn't. After spending the morning at the waterfall,  we went back to the bus and asked the driver to pull over at a restaurant as we were all starving.

 On our way to the Kundadri Hills, which was another half an hour away, we stopped at a small road side canteen that offered South-Indian food. I was famished but I was in no mood to eat a South Indian Thali that would consist of daal and rice. I got myself a plain Dosa instead. Post- lunch we got back into the bus and decided to play some Antakshri. Being a die hard fan of Bollywood cinema, I absolutely love playing Antakshri and singing all the latest numbers, we even have some very fond memories where we had sung our hearts out on previous trips with some little dance.

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Jain Temple at Kundadri Hils is located on a higher altitude and has an extremely steep road with crazy turns. The bus driver said he could not drive us up and we had to walk instead! This would not have been such a big problem but the 2pm sun was blazing down on us. I think that climb was one of the hardest that I have ever encountered even though it was a tarmac road. My friends and I were panting and dehydrated. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of torture we made it to the temple. The panoramic view was breathtaking (not that we had any left to give). If the sky was clear and one was present at the right time, they would be able to see both the sunrise and the sunset. The 17th century temple was smaller than any other South Indian temple but it was unique nonetheless. We chose not to wait there for the sunset, as we wanted to catch it at our final stop, Agumbe.

The road to Agumbe had twists and turns too, like hairpin bends. Agumbe, had the perfect location for an amazing sunset view if it were not for the clouds that crept in making it slightly gloomy and cold. The sun slowly went down behind the clouds and we climbed back into the bus for our journey back home. Every part of me wanted to just stay back and not return to the reality of hectic college life on Monday. My friends said their goodbyes and we all thanked each other for joining the trip and making it such a memorable experience. It may not have been a perfect trip but it is those imperfections that make our lives more beautiful and lively. The trip was over but the memories we made will always be etched in our hearts.

If you are planning a trip around the western ghats of South India Karnataka, you could also check out more highlands and visit Sringeri and Kavale Durga fort. Also, check out the absolutely lovely Coorg Adventures if you need a boost of adrenaline. They are a must visit for architecture, religious and history lovers!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Be sure to share this with your friends and share it across your social media. To never miss my blog post again subscribe to my blog.


Disclaimer: Some of the photos are not taken in my camera or by me. They belong to my friend and classmate Tridib Haldar :)

Acknowledgments: A heartfelt thank you to my friends Ashima, Anjana and Sonia for their motivation and editing help with my blogs whenever I am in doubt.

Thanks for reading. Share your favorite trips with me. 

Signing off,
  Nishma Khetia.   

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Dubai Street Shopping : My First Camera

"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera"
-Dorothea Lange.

The death of a royal-family member of Dubai in January 2009 cut our five day holiday trip to half. The delay in our visa processing left my family with no choice but to take the two days halt in Dubai while on our way back to Tanzania from India.

My family, just like everybody else's was torn between shopping and sight-seeing. My mother wanted to go to the gold souk in Deira that has over 300 gold stores. That place is one of a kind! It showcases and sells some of the finest jewelry designs in the world. I, on the other hand, wanted to buy a digital camera. The idea of being able to see the image captured on a digital screen was fascinating to me. The age of clicking photos until the camera film was full and then developing photographs was slowly fading away. Luckily, I was able to convince my father that our family needed a camera upgrade.

My father has always believed that I am capable of doing much more than what is expected of a girl my age. He casually told me, as if it was no big deal, to go look for a camera on the streets of Dubai, on my own! Well, I had my younger sister with me but I was supposed to take care of her so that does not count. The instructions were clear. We had to go to the electronic stores and look at digital cameras, understand their features and note the prices, and he would come pick us up after two hours. This was the time when neither of us owned a mobile phone and we were in a completely different country altogether. I was terrified. Although it wasn't the idea of being kidnapped that scared me, it was the notion of talking to shop owners. I had my doubts about how they would respond to two young girls who were camera shopping without any money or more importantly, a parent by their side. I was surprised when we were received with respect and no one made fun of us. Everyone helped us with the information we needed. As promised, two hours later my father picked us up and we took him to the shop that had the camera we liked the best. I wanted a touch-screen digital camera, but the shopkeeper told my father that it was not 'user friendly'. I am pretty sure I did not understand what user-friendly meant at that time.  I tried to argue but in the end we went with my second choice which was the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300.

There are very few moments in your entire life that tend to stick with you till the end and I knew that this was going to be one of them. As soon as I was back from my trip, my camera became an instant 'hit' at the school events and many of my friends started asking me to take their photos. I happily obliged.

In the beginning, I used my camera mainly to take photos of my family and friends. I had no idea about my camera's full potential until I came to college. My passion for photography grew in college and I took great efforts to understand the basics. I am still learning many of the technical aspects. The simplicity of it has motivated me and made my life better. I am glad to be able to share my photos with friends through my Facebook photography/blog page 'The Shutterbug Life'.

My first camera has been a close friend. I have used it in extreme conditions like in the Holi festival in India (without a cover!) and while lying on the beach during summer camp. At the moment, my seven year old camera looks like it might need a little fixing or maybe a new battery. I will have to get it checked. I am sure it will be great again. Hopefully it will continue to be my handy companion for many more years to come and help me capture the memories I wish to cherish forever. This blog post seems like the perfect tribute to my companion, my first camera.

Six Scenic Road Trips You Must Take In India

Road Trips In India credits  Vikas Sawant Road trips are classic adventure travel. Depending on how long the trip is an...