Werehouse out in the papers

The excitement is building up for the May end release of Werehouse-The house of monsters. One of the three horror stories in the anthology are mine and I am quite excited about it as it’s my first horror comic coming out. Here’s what the Mumbai Mirror journalist had to say:

Endangered fury

A graphic novel ropes in some endangered Indian species and narrates tragic tales of the human civilisation through their perspective


Posted On Sunday, May 01, 2011 at 06:56:15 PM

w e have seen it all. From Benicio Del Toro playing the werewolf in the film The Wolfman (2010) to Rahul Roy becoming the weretiger in the film Junoon (1992). Cursed creatures have always been portrayed brutally devouring numerous innocent humans to satisfy their lust for blood. A graphic novel on similar lines of therianthropy (metamorphosis of humans into other animals by the process of changing forms through shape-shifting), titled Were House — Volume I, will be launched this month. The novel moves away from the cliched transformations of humans into wolves and tigers and introduces some lesser known but endangered Indian animals such as the Snow Leopard and the Dhol (Indian wild dog), along with a rat, as new therianthropes.
Graphic artist and creator of Ravanayan, Vivek Goel is self-publishing the novel under his newly formed publishing house, Holy Cow Entertainment based in Mumbai. With specie after specie becoming extinct from the world, the novel takes us closer to the heart of animals through therianthropes. Instead of being cursed, the creatures have been blessed with the power to change shapes. “We have conveniently exploited every possible living creature for our own selfish needs. But we hardly know what and how they feel about humans,” says Goel. “I thought it will be interesting to see the world through their eyes.” There is a lot of blood and gore in the story and it justifies the creatures’ need to kill as mere survival instinct instead of a mad blood-lust like that of werewolves and weretigers.

To read the full story, click here.

Ancient copies in a copyright world

Touring the Vatican museum, the audio guide informed me that a beautiful Roman time statue I saw in front of me (that of a marble woman, her curves delicately hidden by a flowing gown) was in fact a copy of the same figurine of a Greek sculpture, now destroyed. Copycat! I shouted, gleaming at the fact that it wasn’t a new phenomenon.  I thought this was the only one. To my surprise though, the whole gallery (and the Vatican museum has huge galleries) all the statues there had the same inscription. See how the plaque explained it.



Belvedere Apollo, by Leochares. Roman copy of 130–140 AD after a Greek bronze original of 330–320 BC. Vatican Museums (source: Wikipedia)



Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Copy after an Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC. Vatican Museums (source: Wikipedia)


Copying you see was an ancient form of appreciation in the Greeks and then the Romans. The helpful audio guide continued while I stood there astounded.  So you see the Greeks copied other cultures, the Romans copied the Greeks, the Renaissance artists copied both of them and then the neo-classical ones copied all of them. In the meanwhile the same period artists copied each other. Arch rivals copied with envy, while the students copied their master’s work to celebrate it. It was all in good faith. Woah! What was that again? For me, who belongs to an increasingly copyrighted world, this is downright blasphemy! ‘Copying is very, very bad! Almost evil! Don’t ever do it again!’ I remember by art teacher saying it as I peeked into a friend’s sketchbook on how she was making that tree. It’s the same with mythology btw. I just wrote a graphic novel on Krishna, a grand figure from the Mahabharata and am slightly ashamed by the guilt feeling that came in me which told me that it’s not an original (Gosh, did I just rewrite someone else’s story?).

I mean why didn’t the original Greek creator, the original one please, sue all these others? What did the law court do if not sue these copiers?  As if telepathically, the audio guide gave me the answer. Apparently copying a sculpture in the ancient European world (Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Renaissance and then Neo-Classical periods) was not only considered good, the copy was considered an ORIGINAL!How can a copy ever be considered original? It reminded me of something an artist friend of mine told me. ‘Shweta, he said. Don’t ever think that you copied a mythology. If you have written the story, it’s an original, even if it’s a story that all grandmothers of India know by heart.’ If you create it, a part of it becomes yours. Did he by any chance knew how the Romans thought? Maybe, maybe not, but that is not the question. The question is, Is copying, gosh I can barely say it, the highest form of appreciation? After all, aren’t we all copiers of nature? We try to xerox it in words, visuals and sculptures.

In our copyrighted world, where branding is everything, copying is the eight sin. Forget celebration, the copiers are usually struck with a lawsuit and sued for millions (depending upon who is the artist) and paralleled to devils and evil people. It’s considered the worse kind of creativity, in fact, there’s no creativity in a copy. Oh, and btw, I was sure about this myself. As an author who’s writing my first book, I dream of a time when I wont be financially dependent and the only way to do that is to copyright and sell my creative work. if someone copies it, I will be completely heartbroken.

But then what about the new copy-paste generation that is coming up? Aren’t they, with information just a google search away and no qualms about copy-pasting articles, thoughts, ideas from the online world, going the same way as the Romans? There’s one difference though. The Romans were crediting the master they copied. So if someone copies you as a creator and credits you for the original, would you be all right? Or do you need a part of the royalties?


I just took a two week trip to Paris and Italy. Instead of a one-shot summary of the travel, I am breaking my experiences up in thoughts, ideas and learning I took away from the beautiful continent. Presented in a series of blogs called Notes from Europe, it will be written across a few days, weeks or months, I am not sure which. I aim to present things I remember to have thought when I was in the continent from where modern culture as we know it has stemmed from.

Iron those wrinkles away

Botox and fillers are fast becoming a way of life in the high-flying corporate world from Mohali to Mumbai. By Shweta Taneja

Rajesh M., a marketing manager based in Mumbai, constantly got into arguments with his colleagues and juniors because they found him too critical. Then one day, he was told by a friendly colleague that it was his frown which made him look “angry” all the time. “I had these three deep frown lines in between my eyebrows,” explains the 35-year-old, “which looked like I was always frowning.” His colleagues felt he was always disapproving of something being discussed, which led to negative vibes in the team.

“I had had enough of this. I wanted to get rid of these lines. Someone suggested Botox to me. I looked up on that online and liked the idea,” says Rajesh. Over a weekend at the start of this year, he got Botox injections to freeze the area between his eyebrows. “The process took barely 10 minutes at a clinic and after the weekend I was all ready to join back work without those lines,” he says.

“Botox injections for treating frown lines have become quite common for men,” says K.M. Kapoor, senior consultant and head, department of cosmetic surgery, at Fortis Hospital, Mohali, who also runs a private clinic in Chandigarh. “Freezing that frown gives you a relaxed and friendly look, giving you a pleasant look.” According to him, Rajesh is among an increasing number of men who are not thinking twice before opting for non-invasive procedures to “correct” a facial expression or hide ageing.

Dr Kapoor gets around 600-700 patients, both men and women, every year who want Botox injections. Thirty per cent of these are men in the 35-45 age bracket. Three years ago, the percentage of men coming to his clinic for Botox was only 10%. “They are all well-educated, senior executives in high-paying jobs who want to retain their young looks, especially among their juniors who are in their 20s,” explains Dr Kapoor.

Botox, fillers and other non-invasive cosmetic procedures such as peels and laser hair removal are popularly known as lunch-time lifts. “All lunch-time surgeries take less than an hour, are non-invasive or superficial, can be done with local anaesthesia and show results immediately,” explains Mumbai-based cosmetic surgeon Manoj Kumar J. Manwani, who handles approximately 5,000-6,000 cosmetic cases every year. Lunch-time procedures are very popular with professionals as there is little or no recovery period, explains Satish Bhatia, 43, a dermatologist and skin surgeon based in Mumbai. “Most of my patients want non-invasive or lunch-time procedures due to weekday office timings,” he explains. They can recover over the weekend and be back on Monday looking “refreshed and relaxed”.

According to Dr Bhatia, corrections for which demand is growing in the corporate world are mole removal, skin augmentation, double- chin correction, chemical face peeling, laser treatment for unwanted hair, and facelifts.

Quick makeover

“The idea behind preferring non-invasive procedures to a full-blown surgery is that these men do not want to change their faces remarkably, but just give themselves a younger face which makes one feel more confident,” explains Dr Manwani, whose male patient list is full of professionals—engineers, doctors, managers, etc. All of them want quick, non-invasive procedures because they want little alteration to their faces and want to get it done quickly. “They also know exactly what they want and which area needs to be ‘treated’,” he says. “Most of my male patients come to me alone and after an initial consultation where they tell me the problem area, we decide on the kind of procedure they want to take up.”

Looking good: Frown lines, laugh lines, moles, scars—you can get rid of them in a jiffy.

Looking good: Frown lines, laugh lines, moles, scars—you can get rid of them in a jiffy.

Priti Shukla, a cosmetic surgeon who has been running Priti Shukla’s Cosmetic Surgery in Hyderabad since 2001, believes that the trend of men “doing it” is here to stay and will increase in the coming years. “Already 50% of all patients I get are men,” she says, “and most of my older clientele who are in their 40s opt for Botox and fillers.” According to her, the trend is most common among software professionals in Hyderabad who want to get cosmetic surgeries done to boost their confidence and come in with their credit cards handy. Money is not a problem for them.

The risks

Though treatments such as Botox and other non-invasive procedures are generally risk-free, some temporary side effects have been reported. “There can be some reactions in case you are allergic to the toxin in Botox or fillers,” says Dr Kapoor. In the case of Botox, you can experience droopy eyelids, nausea, muscle weakness, facial pain, indigestion, or tooth problems. In the case of fillers, you can experience prolonged redness, swelling, itching or skin hardness and bumps.

He cautions against trying out these injections in a beauty parlour or a spa since they are unregulated and the results can be disastrous. A trained cosmetic surgeon knows facial anatomy, so the chances of his injecting the wrong muscle are very small, explains Dr Kapoor. So the chances of you looking like a frozen bitter gourd on Monday morning are slim.

Do your research beforehand. Dr Kapoor suggests: “Read up on the procedure, what it does to your body, consult with a known doctor who will know the right questions to ask and ask if there would be any side effects, especially if you have a history of heart disease or popping pills like vitamins, medicines or even herbal products. Your doctor needs to know it all.”

Another risk is infection, or wrongly administered anaesthesia. “You should avoid any kind of cosmetic makeover during summer as there is more colonization of bacteria and chances of infection are higher,” cautions Dr Manwani. According to him, winters are the best time to get these procedures done. “Also, before you decide on a clinic, check the place thoroughly for its sanitization to avoid catching an infection floating around.”

“The biggest risk in these procedures is that of unrealistic expectations,” says Dr Shukla, who gets patients who want drastic changes to their face. “A face filled with Botox is never a good idea, it can make you look too plastic. Your doctor knows best and if she says that a specific wrinkle cannot be filled, take her advice,” she says.

Take the example of 24-year-old Kanishka S., who is already worried that his face is beginning to resemble a dried-up walnut.

To read the complete article, click here.

Be a gym gentleman

Are you a regular on the fitness floor? If you want to earn a reputation for courtesy rather than boorishness, adhere to our gym etiquette guide. By Shweta Taneja

You might have been rocking the gym for years now and know all there is to know about weights and postures, but are you “that” guy? You know the kind—the one who talks loudly on the phone, leaves behind pools of sweat on the bench when he’s done, ogles at the ladies, and is forever showing off his triceps. Everyone dreads his presence. If you are nodding your head, chances are you have met such a guy. “Most of the gyms have basic rules like allowing others to use the equipment after a period of time or wiping the seat of the equipment after use,” says Delhi-based Reebok fitness expert Nisha Varma, “but not many people follow those rules.” Here are some definite no-nos if you want to be known as a true gentleman.

Wipe that seat

Rules of conduct: Focus on the workout, not on networking.

“Who wants to exercise in a pool of somebody else’s sweat?” asks actor Rajvansh Rai, who gets upset every time he has to touch a handle or sit on a machine covered with someone else’s perspiration. “You need to be considerate towards other people who are using the same premises and equipment,” says fitness expert Vesna Jacob, of Vesna’s Wellness Clinic, New Delhi. “Imagine if the same happens to you!”

Manners matter: Always carry a towel with you and dry yourself and the bench as you move from one machine to another. “As a rule, after you are finished with a machine, wipe off everywhere you touched—the handles, the seat, the back,” says Jacob.

Switch off your phone

“I hate people who talk on the exercise floor,” says Sandeep Makkar, an IT professional, who works out four-five times a week. “They disturb everyone around them.” Most people who come to the gym are there to beat stress and not to hear you fire your employee or dish out a dozen instructions. So when you are on the treadmill, keep the telephone at bay.

Manners matter: Leave your cellphone in the gym locker, or better still, at home. Treat the time at the gym as your personal time, where you relax, bust stress and whip your body into shape. Your life won’t change if you stay away from your phone for an hour.

Don’t hog that machine

You might be really good at reserving your seat in the first-come-first-served concerts, but when it comes to the gym, keep your running-to-catch-the-window-seat instincts to yourself. “Hanging your jacket, towel, purse, sweat rag or keeping a bottle on a machine does not make you its owner,” says Sanjana Eipe, a marketing professional who works out at a gym five-six times a week. “The gym is public space and you do not own the equipment there, so be courteous and stick to one machine at a time.”

Manners matter: If you don’t plan to use the machine in the next 2 minutes, don’t monopolize it, especially during peak hours. Even if you are doing multiple sets on a machine, as common courtesy let others work out on the machine between your rest periods. If your health club has time limits for a cardio machine, respect the rules and let others use it.

Keep it quiet

“People treat gyms more as networking spaces nowadays than a place to build up your body,” says actor Aditya Singh Rajput, who works out four times a week. “I like to focus on my workouts, which becomes impossible if the person next to me taps me on my shoulder while I am doing my last set of push-ups to ask me where I got my Adidas pair from.”

Manners matter: When in the gym, follow a vow of silence. This means no grunting, no crackling at funny things, and definitely no chatting to the person who might be sitting on a machine and crunching. Keep your voice and music low. And network in a café instead.

Stop ogling

“Ogling is bad enough anywhere, but if a man stares at me while I am sweating it out, I feel completely creeped out,” says Aruni Singh, a management consultant who works out at a gym at least four times a week. Jacob, on the other hand, has learnt to take ogling with a pinch of humour. “Sometimes guys just try to be funny while you are in the gym, laughing that the gym is not a place for strong men any more,” she says. “Instead of getting angry at that, I simply invite them for an abs and flexibility competition. You should see their sweaty faces when I beat them to it.” Staring at a woman (or a man for that matter) while she’s working out her abs or shoulders is invasive and rude.

Manners matter: The girls are working as hard as you to tone up their bodies, so give them a break. In case you like a girl at your gym, a smile’s enough sign of your interest. That’s much more gentlemanly than gaping at her while she’s doing her crunches.

Don’t display your wares

You might think that your abs are custom-made to be displayed around the floor but for others, seeing your sweaty chest is not a very relaxing experience. “I hate it when men at my gym enter a sauna bath but do not take a towel with them,” says Delhi-based businessman Amit Arora, who goes to the gym around three times a week. The gym is a public space, not your personal bathroom. Strutting around in the buff in any part of the gym, including the bathrooms, is in bad taste.

Manners matter: There’s an added benefit to covering up. Since cold muscles tear much faster, a layer of cloth on your body will absorb sweat and keep your muscles warm, protecting them from tear. If you plan to do a lot of floor-based exercises and push-ups, make sure your neckline is not too revealing and your clothes are not too loose or too tight.

Don’t give unsolicited advice

You might have spent the last 20 years in a gym and have the crispest of abs around or a mountain instead of a tricep, but that doesn’t mean that someone next to you needs to hear how much you know about your weights or how the person next to you should use the treadmill or for how long.

Manners matter: Keep your gym knowledge to yourself. In case you see someone doing an exercise incorrectly, be very delicate when you approach them. Don’t preach or be derisive; be polite and ask if they need help.

Read the complete story here

Waking up to your online avatar

Do you blog, check your email or tweet as soon as you wake up? A tongue-in-cheek look at what your morning Net rooster says about you. By Shweta Taneja


Traditional Private Ryan

Your first window: Your personal email

Your medium of connection to the world is your personal inbox. Every morning, at home or after you reach office, the first thing you open in that browser is your personal email client. You generally don’t have any alternative windows open in your browser. All your social networking messages first come into your inbox. You check them as emails, commenting on other people’s Facebook status messages using the reply to comment link.

What it says: You are a person of habit. You took up email and have stuck to it for the last 10 years or more. It works for you and that’s the way you want to keep it.

Tweet tattler

Your first window: Twitter, Facebook or your favourite social network

Web-locked: What is your Net persona?

As soon as am strikes, your fingers start flying on the Qwerty keyboard or its touch-screen avatar, typing thoughts, emotions and experiences in concise word lengths. It’s not one-way communication—every few minutes you also need to check for updates, tweets, links, videos or ideas that your friends, family, cousins or complete strangers are posting online. On a dinner date, you type 140 characters on the sly while ordering the lamb dish. While seeing a movie, you are constantly thinking of what you will say about it on Facebook. You are on top of the latest social network trends, be it the review of Abhishek Bachchan’s latest flop or a blood donation camp in Alaska.

What it says: You are experimental and addicted to sharing your experiences. Social networks have given you the space to constantly reveal your thoughts and experiences through minimal interface. You are completely comfortable in your online skin, much more so than meeting face to face. You are also a constant retweeter.

Hard-working Joe

Your first window: Your office email client

For you the Internet is just another medium to stay connected to your work. You have the office email client set into your smartphone and check your email as soon as you wake up. You keep checking your office mails through the day, even when you’re out for a family dinner. You need to reply to every official mail you get, be it on weekends or late at night. In fact, the best way for your spouse to communicate with you is through an official email.

What it says: You are bordering on workaholism. Even when you’re on vacation, sitting on a beach, beer mug in hand, you itch to check your office mail (and usually do) to see if there’s an emergency where you are needed.

Anti-establishment ace

Your first window: Your own blog or other people’s blog

You get to hear things that might never come into mainstream media. You most probably have your own blog. You live in the non-conformist space on the Net. Every morning, you open a list of blogs of people around the world you have come to respect and hear what they have to say. You don’t tend to go to big news sites. Your news comes from individual blogs or tweets.

What it says: You have a voice, a strong one, and an equally strong following. You will not be seen hobnobbing with the big bad wolves. You like to stay away, a lion in his own space. You also tend to be Leftist and anti-corporate.

Multitask maverick

Your first window: Facebook, Twitter, email, weather, you open them all together.

You need to do it all. You open all the windows in your browser—your email client, social networking sites, blogs, news sites—together and then toggle between windows, commenting, answering and reading.

What it says: You are a multitasker and technology, especially the online medium, is a boon for you. You like to do everything together, fast and furious.

Read the complete story here.

Sanskrit Book Fair 2011 in Bangalore


It was a place to remember and a place where some prejudices about Sanskrit, our ancient language, were discarded. Spent a day at the grand Sanskrit Book Fair cum conference held in Bangalore. With 1300 volunteers, 154 stalls with 128 publishers and 4 crores worth of sales (took it form the same website), the fair was a grand success. See the enthusiasm and energy for yourself.


Outside the book fair


I was also surprised by the sheer amount of people who spoke fluent Sanskrit (Read up the Wikipedia entry on it). Enthusiastic city dwellers, villagers, students, teachers, scholars and passionate people were just ambling along the area suffused with sunlight, chattering with people in sanskrit, picking up books, hugging each other like long lost friends and generally having a ball walking in the midst of the ancient language. The book exhibition was huge with publishers and titles from across the country on epics (which is why I was there). They also had a village built into the exhibition area (other than the all pervasive food stall of course) which had a post office, a school, a repair shop, a vegetable seller, the works.


Enthusiastic seller of vastra!


Modern reading and writing in an ancient setting


Kudos to the NGOs and the government that made it happen. I aim to learn the language and practice it at the fair next year (or is that too hopeful?).

The photograph which was selected for Haptic 2011



About the photograph:
It was during a recent trip to Ajanta Caves that I clicked this. The Ajanta caves which were excavated during 2nd century BC to 5th Century ACE, are a series of Buddhist monastery sites, still beautifully preserved. In one of the caves stood these tall sculptures of Buddha which are more than 1500 years old and still exquisite. Hovering around them was this throng of tourists, both males and females, caressing them softly with their eyes and capturing them in their memories and cameras as they stood unapologetically naked–emotionally, spiritually and physically.

About the exhibition:

Bangalore has hosted film festivals on themes related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT or Queer) communities since 2003. Although they were small events, since their transformation into The Bangalore Queer Film Festival (BQFF) in April 2009, held at the Alliance Francaise, the festivals have made Bangalore a destination for international Queer films. Haptic is a photograph exhibition held during the Film Festival.

Notes from Road Trip 2011

Just a short photoblog on a trip which cannot be explained in words which limit one’s sense of experiences. Me and husband travelled across the hinterland of Maharashtra and N.Karnataka during the 26 January week this year and here’s what we learnt and unlearnt

We reached Pune from Bangalore, a total of 850kms in 13 hours flat taking three short breaks. All thanks to NH4, part of the butter smooth quadrilateral road (Quad) which connects Bangalore to Mumbai. Though the scenery is a bit boring (shrubbery for most part), the wind mill farms in the middle near Chitradurga more than make up for it. I didn’t know that a single wing of a windmill is longer than an airplane’s wing! It made me wonder why we don’t use more of wind and solar energy in this vast country of ours.

Amidst work days, we spend the evenings gallivanting across Pune and exploring it’s great street food culture. The thriving energy that one sees in this city is something which I haven’t seen yet anywhere else. The weather’s like Bangalore, the crowd of chattering students bring in a pure brightness to the atmosphere which work-stricken IT crowd can never bring in with all their ‘hobbies’. What I liked best was the street food—Misal Pao, Dabeli and those sumptuous street sandwiches (which also include a chocolate sandwich!), cut fruits aesthetically given to you @ Rs 10 per plate. Street innovations are part and parcel of both Mumbai and Pune and something that make both these cities special. Really loved the Irani chai @ Café Goodluck. Must visit for the mood if nothing else.


We spend a day walking around Shanivar Wada which was miss able and the Kelkar museum–a surprise in its cleanliness and detailed descriptions which I havent seen in many museums in the country. What I also enjoyed is seeing 18-19th century household items in a museum. With so much history, museums in India usually don’t go beyond 17th century (less than 500 years old? Don’t even call it heritage). The most interesting was reading the history of paan making and all the tools (yes, tools) to make them.

A must-visit is the lavish Agha Khan Palace, which is forgotten by even Pune-ites. It’s the last rest place of Mr Gandhi and the place where his wife and his closest aide took their last breath. It made me see how a great man is made by dedication and love of not-so-known loving friends.

Pune has the best hill views too. Take a short drive and you are suddenly beyond the city, though looks like it will change fast as there are huge amounts of real estate projects working their way skywards around the city. One must-visit is the Corianthan Club, a beer brewery and a damn fun place. Met the owner, who works with passion and dedication, a deadly combination.


There’s not much to do in Aurangabad in terms of places or food. It seems to be a bubble, living in the same space for the last 15 years (or more) years. Take a walk around Paithan Gate, Gul Mandi, Aurangpura and Nirala Bazaar if you feel like getting crowded and need a buzz. We were staying at a homestay where the family saw saas-bahu serials in the evening together. The city is more of a stopover for the next ones and definitely worth it.


they made you wonder. How could someone with relatively rudimentary tools, carved out such beautiful and breathtaking sculptures and monasteries out of solid rock? And then plaster them and paint them exquisitely? All done up around 2000 solid years ago. I mean, really? Was I dreaming? The hardwork, the patience and the focus required for it is something that the multitaskting, multi-clicking generation of us cannot even think about. The place was one of the most beautiful heritage sites I have ever seen. If you want actual information on Ajanta, don’t look here, check out Wikipedia. I will be silenced and just say this: if you havent seen it, you should. It’s something that just cannot be missed. Oh, and the weather is always dry and hot so keep the sunscreen, hat and water closeby.


We had seen Ajanta, so what could better it? Ellora was it. Ajanta which is an earlier period, astounds you by the extent of carving and excavating that people at that time did to create these retreats. Ellora on the other hand, from about 600ACE, astounds you by the sheer size and detailing in temples than can be carved out of a mountain. Kailasa, the largest cave in the group of 34 caves (It’s called Cave 16) astounded me by the sheer size first, then the planned temple area (they didn’t just put rock somewhere, but excavated to finish a temple) and finally by the sculptures created in relief all over the temple. Complete Ramayana, Mahabharata episodes, avatars of Vishnu. Most of all, Shiva in iconography which I hadn’t seen much – killing Mahashisura, Kalabhairava in his wasting away to a skeleton when he’s dancing to destroy, Shiva and Parvati playing dice, getting married. The iconography was more sensual, more in your face than the apologetic ones we see at present. I have already been inspired by what I saw and am doing a comic series on Shiva with a friend!

Cave 29 was again huge and is a must to see the sculptures which have been cut beautifully. In Cave 12, which is an earlier Buddhist temple and has three levels of building excavated into the hill side, we found a group of Buddhist monks from China performing puja in a hall with carved Buddhas. I wonder what made Buddhism end in this country. We even managed a video.


Monks perform puja in a centuries old temple


And while you are visiting Ellora, don’t miss Daulatabad Fort. The fort itself is a marvel, since it was the unconquerable fort and named Daulatabad after the hoard of treasure it had lying somewhere inside. I feel the fort was made by someone who was on the brink (or maybe beyond) of paranoia of an attack from an enemy. Three levels of walls, big iron gates, two walls with dry and water moats – dug about 50 feet below! And if you get past all of that, you get into the Bhool Bhulaiyan, a thin passage which leads inside the fort, made of lightless corridors, meant to confuse the enemy and kill one another. We entered the darkness of the bhool bhulaiyan with a guide (and his reassuring mashaal). I had my hat firmly on my head as I could hear the bats chirping right above me, irritated at the glow of light inside their lair. That’s all that I might have been in danger of. As for the enemies in Medieval times, if they managed to save yourself from seeming exits which go straight into the water moat (with poisonous snakes and hungry crocodiles) you will be attacked by hidden soldiers, get boiling oil poured over you, or even die in the darkness suffocated by poisonous smoke. Sheesh! These guys were ruthless!

A long winding climb of 450 stairs takes you to a scenic view of the whole fort outer walls which cover the small town around the fort.


Our next stop was Bijapur. The roads we took, NH 211, NH 13, were both bad. Averaged 70kmph, saved ourselves from the potholes and dreamt of NH4. Nothing much to see in the dry, dusty city. The weather was oppressing and already had started to miss Bangalore’s soothing winds and filter coffee. Gol Gumbaz, the largest dome in the world without any supports looked more like an ego construction for a man who was living. It took 30 years to complete and was made by the king himself to be buried in it. It reminded me of the saying: the bigger the tomb, the smaller the XX. Later on got to know that the dome was built by the money he got after he pillaged and destroyed the kingdom of Vijaywara and its amazing cultural heritage. Yup, that’s a king all right. Ibrahim Roza, the symmetrical tomb of another king from the same dynasty atleast looked inspired. It’s symmetry is quite a site.

Bad roads all the way till here. Max average was 60. Potholes in the last 20kms. Walked for three hours around Badami. After the marvels in Ellora, the four cave temples (which are the first Vedic cave temples, as per the ASI board) were a bit of a let down. The sandstone caves are a different effect though. The swirling hypnotic lines of ochre, red, yellow, while and black, which make you slightly blurry but also bring the sculptures alive. Loved the walk from the lake upwards to the Shiva temples. Beware of the monkeys there though, they pounce at anything in your hand, thinking of a camera as biscuits. It was 26th January so saw the tiranga displayed everywhere—at Bijapur Gol Gumbaz as well as the Badami fort bastion.


Last leg of our trip were these two sites around Badami. Aihole is an experiment in temple making where you can find anythnig from symmetry to asymmetrical temples, square, round, pentagon, you imagine it and chances are the architectures there have build it. It was fun to see how someone is given an empty canvas (empty space and lots of rocks in this case) to get creative and figure out the best way to make temples. Which someone did do with Paddatakal which is a world heritage site and beautifully maintained by ASI. Kudos to them, it was a pleasure walk all though. Don’t miss Ravanaphadi @ Aihole though. This excavated cave surprised us with the most beautiful sculpture of Shiva I have ever set my eyes on. It’s the mast of my blog, by the way.

From Badami it was with a sigh of relief that we came back to NH4’s butter smoothness. A beautiful trip and an uneventful travel back home. Sleep and lots of new memories as keeps. Oh and one record? The two of us travelled 2800 kms and didn’t put on music even ones in the car. Opinionated or argumentative, you decide.

What about people who don’t fit into your boxes?

In reply to my post on The Problem I have with Census 2011, a Swiss friend who has been married to an Indian friend and living in India for years with her husband and daughter, wrote a blog on her experiences with the census and dealing with daily prejudices. Being a Swiss, resident Indian with a PIO, she has faced it all. Do read it to understand why our government needs to wake up to the fact that people are mobile and not like furniture!

Then there’s a Facebook discussion it triggered. Sharing it here to understand the extent to which everyone is irritated by the Census. Is anyone listening?

  • G Yesss! and also so intrusive and leaves no space for anonymity. It’s like the big daddy watching and knowing everything about your life. HATE IT! Just got my friendly visit this morning!!!! In the name of census, this is how they accumulated data in Gujarat and massacred thousands of Muslims and changed the country forever! Left me feeling so exposed and vulnerable!
  • K They came to our place in Bangalore, and guess what? They didn’t even ask me about the other languages I know. Only the “head of the family”. I don’t think I have been asked my caste in ANY other official context. After a lifetime of answering curious foreigners, “hmm…yeah, I am not a practising anything”, it IS shocking to be asked these details by the government of my ‘own’ country.
  • A Wait till they ask you to enrol into UID .. give away your Picture, both you Iris scans and all ten Fingerprints
  • G Oh and you’ve got to check out the “PSA” for the census and the freakin justification! Please give govt all info so govt can plan and provide for every citizen! WTF! Do a little better than that if you must!
  • A And in case this missed the news .. The National Intelligence Grid – “According to informed sources, the data with 21 agencies and departments of government will now be forwarded to the NatGrid for integration. The data will include Pan car…d, voter ID card and ration card details, income tax returns, degrees obtained from schools and colleges, bank account numbers, financial transactions, travel documents, passport details, police stations and jails across the country among others.” DNA STORY
  • G Welcome to the gameshow! Big Brother’s watching your every move!
  • A Sometimes i wonder if its just a bunch of computer science / IT people od-ing on how cool will it be technically to integrate various data
  • G And marketing the idea to the govt babus to make money for their OD-ing trips! Totally!
  • K The thing that is really scary is that it would require just one inefficient, unscrupulous and/or corrupt babu for all the data to be used for all kinds of nefarious purposes

Reinvent your virtual life

The World Wide Web is a fast-changing, fast-moving space. Forget plain old email, Twitter and Facebook; now your online life is also shaped by the kind of apps you use (or don’t use). If you’re not in touch with what’s the latest in the world of app stores and on the Net, you will soon be left behind. We bring updates on some of the current trends in the online world.

Tag yourself geographically

Why you should: Status messages about what’s on your mind and what’s new are so last year. The burning question for social networking this year is where all you have been and where you are right now. Check-in or location-based apps are the latest way to interact with your connections—friends, family, colleagues—by telling them about your favourite places and where you are now in the city or outside it. If you think it’s a brag through a bot, especially if you are the jet-setting type, you’re probably right. It’s a fun one though.

How it works: The technology at the heart of these apps is called geolocation, which uses your GPS-enabled smartphone to locate your physical being. From there on, depending on the app you use and your preferences, these apps find out the nearby restaurants or hang-outs your online friends have been to and recommended, or the interesting people you might want to meet. They remotely check you in at clubs, bars and restaurants in live time and automatically share every place you have been to on your social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. You can do virtual check-ins at bars, restaurants, cafés, parks, offices, and pretty much any place else. There are around 6,000 apps to choose from in the market today, with the popular ones being Foursquare, Gowalla, BrightKite and Facebook Places. Of course, you do need to remember to turn off the app in case you’re not where your boss or spouse think you are.

What you pay: Zilch. Most of these applications are free. In fact, frequent a place enough and you might even get some freebies from them as a thanks. Foursquare, for example, has a massive list of places all over the world that offer special discounts and free drinks to regulars or to anyone who has registered a certain number of check-ins at their site.

To read the complete story please click here.