Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Checklist for RoadTrips

Layers of BRHills

Given the holidays we had around Christmas, Keshav and I planned a short migration of our own to the Western Ghats. We decided to drive down to BR Hills.
This was our first long drive, by ourselves, so to be safe we thought we'd better do our research and make sure the car is in good health as well.

I googled extensively to find a convenient list of items to be carried along on such road trips. My searches yielded results intended for people driving across states/countries, lists for traveling with small children and some very girly list of must have cosmetics and how to fit as many outfits as possible into a small bag. We finally sat down and compiled a list on our own, taking some help from our colleague Ravi ( who travels extensively by car, interstate)

I thought it might be useful to post the list of what to carry on such road/jungle trips.

Ravi's Comprehensive List

1. Flashlight + batteries

"Britelite" brand with rechargeable batteries (comes with a single LED bulb) and lasts for 3 - 4 hours once charged for 8 hours.
Its a little expensive but worth it if you plan to keep doing trips. Available in majestic area in quite a few shops.
There are several models. We bought the "Ezkort" model.
There's another brand called "MAGLite" which is equally good/better. Not easily available in Bangalore though.

2. First Aid Kit

Ensure that this has: An antiseptic liquid like dettol, bandaids, cloth used for covering wounds, cotton, tablets for headache, Dolo650 (for fever),
maybe one round of antibiotics (Amox - 500mg - about 9 of them).

3. Thick Nylon Rope

Useful to tow your car incase its required or while climbing or in slippery areas. Lots of uses. Can keep it in car and if not used, its okay.

4. Map of Karnataka

TTK has a good one. Or you can buy the Eicher road map. Its very good.

1. Good binoculars (military grade is also available in the same store as where the Canon 350D was got).
2. Its going to be cold in the mountains in the night. Carry warm clothes. Shoes which cover ankles (incase you are going to walk).
Cotton/ear plugs to cover your ears (to shut out the cold wind) or a monkey cap.
3. Carry drinking water. Budget about 1.5 litres of water per person per day. You can get 10 litre water cans. You can also have one litre water bottles
with big mouths so that you can refill easily from the water can.
4. Plenty of fruits (like apples, oranges). Knife (or a swiss army knife if you have one).
5. Toilet paper rolls.
6. Backpacks - to carry water bottles, fruits, knife, flashlight while walking.

Some tips on driving:
1. Every 2 - 3 hours take breaks while driving and stretch out. If you feel sleepy, pull over and take a break.
2. Don't mess around with trucks, buses on the highways. If they want to overtake, let them go.

For the Car:
1. Check the airpressure for all tyres (including the spare one in the dicky). If you have tubeless tyres, carry a puncture kit.
Usually in the driver's side of the car door, the recommended airpressure for the front and rear tyres are mentioned.
For the spare tyre, add a few pounds more.
2. A spare tube (if your car has tubed tyres).
3. Ensure that you have the 24 hours emergency number of your car Manufacturer. They have a toll free number but based on the location, they do have local numbers
available. This should be there in the car's service manual.
The nearest Hyundai service point (in case you need to take your car there).

Not mandatory but if you can do these for the car, it would be good ......
1. Get the air filter cleaned. It takes a few minutes to get this done.
2. Replace car's headlamp bulbs with Philips Halogen (90/100w), 200w dc cutout. This should take about half an hour.
3. I am assuming that you've got the engine oil, gear box oil, coolant etc... changed and these don't need attention.

Our Brief List

Jackets + Pullovers (layering is good, jackets are handy since they have pockets and hoods)
Extra Pair of Clothing ( Just In case )
Extra shoe pair + Extra Socks ( In case they get wet - this has happened)
Sunglasses with hard cases
Led flash light (strap on/pocket size)

Basic Toiletries
Shampoo sachets (to avoid spills from bottles)
Body Lotion / Cold Cream
Toothpaste + Tooth brush
Paper soap / Facewash
Moisturiser + Lipbalm
Wet Tissues (for dusty roads)

For the visually challenged
Contact lens extra pair + solution
Hard Spectacle case + glasses

Camera Chk List
Equipment cleaned, settings set to normal
Cards erased
Batteries charged
Chargers + cord
1 plastic bag in each camera bag to protect from rain
1 soft lint free cloth to clean lenses.

Phones charged + chargers
iPod charged + cord
Mp3 player + batteries
FM transmitter + batteries ( for the Car )

Car Carry ons
1. Torch with batteries
2. Torch LED - rechargeable
3. Nylon Rope
4. Spare tyre with pressure checked.
5. Jack and other tools
6. First aid kit (dettol, bandaid, cotton, paracetamol, painkillers)
7. Tissues (use these to wrap around chewing gum and dispose safely)
8. Map
9. Water Bottle
10. Notebook + Pen
11. Outlook traveller and / or Times Food Guide :)
12. Bird book
13. 1 pair Scissors / Swiss Army Knife
14. Towel ( Remember the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy :) )
15. Full Tank and car serviced
16. Drivers licence, photocopies of vehicle documents (We never carry originals)
17. 1 small backpack
18. Plastic bags, large heavy duty ones - incase your purchases of souvenirs dont fit in your luggage. My Mom also uses these to pick up any plants she can find :)
19. News Paper to line the floor/ dispose off fruit peels /etc
20. Umbrella

Carry suffient Cash (for fueling in small towns) with enough Change
Carry at least one Debit/ATM card. Dont carry too many cards.
iMint card + Credit card - useful for fueling in cities (no harm in earning points)

Nutrition Bar ( if you want to be healthy)
Chocolate Bars
Biscuits / Crisps
Fruit - take something that wont spoil easily.
Medium size Water bottles ( as needed )
ButterMilk / Flavoured Milk tetra packs /Caffeinated beverage cans
Disposable Thick Plastic cups (Paper cups if you want to be Eco-friendly)

Note: Avoid the thin plastic cups, they cause spills if held too tightly.
Buying very large bottles of water is not advised for short trips, its heavy to lift and lug around in case you need to. More flexibility is achieved with smaller bottles.

Pls do not litter, help keep nature pristine. Keep a garbage bag in the car to collect the trash and dispose in a proper dustbin at hotel/home/on route. Pls drive safely.

For those who are interested, the Trip report of BRHills will follow shortly. Pls consider the picture at the top to be a preview :)
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Fly South for the winter

Its migration season and the winter migrants are arriving bringing cheer and some variety to birding :) I did a little research and compiled a little list of the birds we can see in and around Bangalore.

Pls feel free to provide additions or corrections.

1. Rosy Pastor / Starling

They come in from Europe and are seen in large flocks.
The breeding range of this bird is from easternmost Europe across temperate southern Asia. It is a strong migrant, and winters in India and tropical Asia.

Rosy Starlings

This photo was taken just as we rose from slumber and a large noisy flock decended upon the tree outside our balcony. Was shot without my glasses on, so it was really point and shoot. Flock composed of about 20 odd individuals. They sat happily for around 20 minutes, before leaving. We never saw them again.


2. Black Naped Oriole

They come from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where they are resident.

Black Naped Oriole MaleBlack Naped Oriole Male

This handsome guy is often seen, both photos were taken on different occasions. He sings quite badly, and often wakes us up with a horrid squaking noise. He sadly never shows himself when the light is good.

3. Verditer Flycatcher

Is a resident in Himalayas and north-east India and winters in the subcontinent.

Verditer Fly catcher

Was seen just twice in the same week and never again.

4. Blue-capped Rock Thrush

Blue Capped Rock Thrush

This thrush breeds in the foothills of the Himalayas and winters in the hill forests of southern India. This particularly bad photo was taken during our recent trip to BR Hills just outside our Tent. This is a record shot and I apologise for the poor quality. Lots more on our trip will follow in subsequent posts.


5. Bar Headed Geese ( Can be seen in TG Halli )
6. Green Sandpiper
7. Eurasian Golden Oriole ( Can be seen in Lalbagh )
8. Grey Headed Myna /starling ( Can be seen in Lalbagh )
9. Brown Shrike
10. Grey Drongo
11. Brown Flycatcher
12. Dull Green Leaf Warbler
13. Indian Pitta ( Can be seen in Nandi Hills)

Source : http://www.karnatakawildernesstourism.org/default.asp?id=20

"You better watch out,
You better not sigh,
You better look out,
I'm telling you why,
The winter migrants are coming to town"

Happy Holidays to all! :)

I would welcome any info on the sightings of the rosy pastors or other birds mentioned here. If anyone has seen any of them at lalbagh pls do let me know.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Butterflies at Bannerghatta

Common Blue Butterfly
Common Blue

A couple of Sundays ago, we drove to Bannerghatta National Park on an impulse, starting late for the first time, after a very leisurely and heavy breakfast. We left home, Im ashamed to say; at 11:00am.

It was my first trip to the park, which is rather surprising to most people who wonder why we go all over the place for birds and wildlife and ignore the park that lies in our backyard so to speak.

Ever since learning of the opening of the butterfly park there and reading Kousik's post on it, I have been wanting to go there.

The Butterfly Park is among several glass houses that serve as nurseries, there are a large variety of flowering plants and the area just around the entrance has huge numbers of Red Pierrot Butterflies. It was a first time sighting for me.

Red Pierrot
Red Pierrot

Also found was a Common Blue, also a first time sighting for both of us. I was hoping, given the numbers outside, there must be hordes on the inside.

I was wrong. The park is a large glass house, temperature controlled with trees and plants that are butterfly friendly. There is an artificial waterfall inside that forms a small stream and ends in a pool. A few gold fish swim about in the pool and a small bridge has been constructed over the stream.

Common Sailor
Common Sailor
Common Grass Yellow
Common Grass Yellow
Angled Castor
Angled Castor

At first sight, its quite impressive. Hordes of common grass yellows flutter around, as do the Common Mormon. Sadly though, other than a few Angled Castor and a solitary Blue Mormon there were no other species. A greater variety is seen in my office garden. Surprisingly, given the hordes of Red Pierrots and others just outside, there is not a single representative inside.

I was extremely disappointed to note that few of the larger butterflies had injured wings. There are several boards within the park with photos of various butterflies, but no live specimens. Even the Tiger butterflies, Lemon Pansies and Chocolate pansies that are quite common are not present here.

Common Blue Portrait
Common Blue Portrait
Red Pierrot Back
Red Pierrot
Common Mormon (Male)
Common Mormon (Male)

Still, it is a recommended outing for small children and those wanting to try out new camera equipment. It was quite nice to see small children looking at the fluttering butterflies in wonder!

I also did see a rather stern looking, heavily built man be completely disarmed by an Angled Castor that decided to sit on the sleeve of his shirt. The man was immediately surrounded by a group of youngsters with mobile phone cameras who told Uncle to please hold still while they clicked away.

Nitty Gritties

Avoid the weekends, particularly Sundays, if you don't want half of Bangalore there with you.
Parking is plentiful.
The park is open on all days except Tuesdays.
Timings : 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Cost of ticket: Rs 20 (Adults) Rs 10 (children)

Where to eat:
The park has a lot of stalls and the atmosphere resembles that of a fair.
The Jungle Lodges & Resorts have a restaurant, we reached there at around 2 and found that the only thing available was meals (North and South-Indian) Amazingly the North-Indian meal has curd rice and the south Indian meal has Dahi. :)

Black Shouldered Kite
Black Shouldered Kite

Before leaving for home, we drove around the bannerghatta area and spotted a few birds, notably a Black Shouldered kite and an Indian Roller.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Birds, lenses and photoshop

Purple SunBird Male
Purple SunBird Male - Manchinbele

I want to take this opportunity to thank my visitors, subscribers, friends and family who have visited this blog and provided kind comments. Thanks guys!!! Criticism and suggestions are welcome, please keep them coming.

I'm not really into Photography for the pictures, I'm really just in it for the birds, the butterflies etc. It is virtually impossible to identify a bird from memory (at least for me). A quick glimpse is not enough to note the details which make all the difference esp. among the smaller feathered wonders.

I took to photography so that I could learn to identify the birds I see. So I don't know a lot about Aperture Priority, Shutter speed etc. I shoot with a non-SLR which makes life simple and keeps the camera light in weight and small in size. I use a Canon Powershot S3 IS. I upgraded around 1.5 yrs ago from my S2.

I did however feel the need to invest in a Tele-converter lens for the S3. A trip to Bandhavgarh and Kanha (my first jungle outing with my Camera) was enough to convince me to upgrade.

One of the laws of birding - the most interesting bird always sits on the tallest possible tree, usually against the sun and with its back turned to you.

So 12x zoom just wasn't enough reach. I use TC-DC58B by Canon. My teleconverter adapter is from Lensmate. Canon makes plastic adapters and I wanted a metal one, since the adpater is grooved and the plastic adapter grooves can get warped if wrongly screwed in.

Later trips to Ranthambore and Bharatpur have convinced me that the reach I get with this combination is sufficient to keep me satisfied for sometime at least. A prosumer camera can never beat a SLR, but it can make your travel lighter and make sure you don't develop biceps. I would need a caddy. ( Keshav, pls note ;) )

Lessons I learnt with the TC

Initially there was great disappointment in store for me with the TC. The pictures were soft when hand held, the shake was amplified (I don't have steady hands) and the clarity just wasn't there.

To beat this problem, I used a tripod with considerable success. Tripod is as tall as self so I don't have to stoop ( like Keshav does ). First field trial was in Katpady Village in our backyard. Since the area to be covered was limited (1 acre), I simply set it up each morning and waited for hours. This strategy produced some amazingly clear pictures for the first time with the TC. The tripod eliminated shake, so I was able to get my first clear photo of a fidgety purple rumped sun bird as it sat on a flower larger than itself.

Let there be light!

On a trip to Madivala lake, on an overcast day, the tripod+camera+TC combo flopped, the photos were ok but soft. I have discovered that for optimum clarity one needs full sunlight. This is clearly not good for ones complexion, but its sadly the only way I have for now.

Tripods are a problem to carry around (for me), setting them up takes time and it means no flexibility in movement. As I got more familiar with the camera I found that I could do without the tripod. Sure, the photos wont be as great, but at least I'll get more photos (since I'm in it for the birds and not great photos)

Using the Car

On recent trips, we have been birding from the Car. This gives great camouflage and its great to use the door to steady the hand. The purple sunbird photo at the top of this post was taken handheld from around 5 feet from the bird; from the car.

I have also found that I can climb out and sit on the door (with my feet inside, on the seat) and rest my elbows on the roof of the car to get a better picture. The following photo was taken this way, since the bird was on the driver side and on a electric wire, it was very awkward to shoot.

Red Rumped Swallow
Red Rumped Swallow - Manchinbele

The holy trinity - The Camera, the lens and the photoeditor

I first used Picassa to process the photos - I would usually just crop and straighten the horizon (I can never get the horizon straight) and add a border.
Keshav introduced me to ACDSee PhotoEditor I use ver 3.1. and members of INW introduced me to Neat Image ( to filter out noise ).

I tried Gimp, but the complexity put me off since the time taken to master it was too great. Photoshop was complex too, with the manual being bigger than the executable. Recently though after closely watching Keshav use Photoshop (marriage has its uses) I find its not that hard.

Verditer FlyCatcher - Unprocessed
Filtered and sharpened With Neat Image
Verditer Fly catcherProcessed by me using ACDSeeVerditer FlyCatcher2Processed by Keshav-Photoshop

How one processes the photo is a matter of taste, the possibilities are endless.

Pls Note: For those who wanted to know, the Barbet photo was not processed to eliminate branches/twigs/leaves. But I did have to remove a distracting seed pod in the Oriole Photo. I was in a hurry, so the job is not as neat as usual. :)

For those interested, we visited Bannerghatta Butterfly park last week on an impromptu visit, a post and few photos will follow soon.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Birding @ Bagmane TechPark

white cheeked barbet
White Cheeked Barbet

When cooler weather makes it increasingly hard to leave ones bed in the pre-dawn hours to go birding; one wishes that the birds would be kind enough to drop by home for a photo session.

Sometimes, they do just that. We're having a good run since the last week. For a previous post on the "wildlife" at bagmane, see this post - Nature at Work

Night Heron
Night Heron

In case anyone is wondering what happened to the Pied Kingfishers, I have seen them at the other lake (near the Oracle Building (formerly iFlex).

I was rather surprised to read in the TOI that the White cheeked barbet is endangered. Check this link for the article. I also smiled to note that the barbet was "tiny", it may be small, but compared to a sunbird, its a giant :)

Verditer Fly catcher
Verditer Flycatcher

The other day, while looking at a few parakeets that were creating quite a din on the terrace, we spotted a small blue bird in the distance. A bad photo identified it as a verditer flycatcher. A few days later, the little guy obliged us with a few pictures on a sunday afternoon. It sat pensively, looking at the lake, in the bright afternoon sun. It also caught a bee a little later.

I did a little research on the Verditer FC:

Breeding season ( March - October ) Breeding grounds are in the himalayan foothills
Can be seen in Southern India from October to February, and in the north from September to March.
Diet : tiny flying insects. Birds may maintain a feeding territory.

Source : RiverBanks.org

Golden Oriole
Golden Oriole Male

The Golden Oriole is a recent discovery as is the Verditer Flycatcher. The female was also present, but sadly was more shy, and gave poses hiding behind a very distracting twig.

A little research on it:
This species O. o. kundoo has its eye stripe extending beyond the eye in the male. It is a visitor to the northern parts of India in Summer and moves southwards from August to September. Breeds - May to August.

Source : Popular Handbook of Indian Birds By Hugh Whistler

Bird List

Golden Orioles - 3
Purple Sunbird
Purple Rumped Sunbird ( M & F)
Small Green Barbets (3)
Spotted Doves (Pair)
Drogos (group of 3)
Night Herons ( 4 at a time )
Egrets (seen at the lake)
Pond Heron 1
Rose Ringed Parakeets (4)
Verditer FlyCatcher - 1
Great Tit - 2
Tailor Bird - 1
Large Pied Wagtail
Pariah Kites
Bats (large and small)
Koel (M&F)
Cormorants (several)

All the birds here are photographed on the same tree that is on the edge of the lake. I would attribute the huge numbers of birds to near by DRDO, which has extensive green cover.

PS: The Oriole and the Verditer photos have been post processed.
Next post will include details on what was done. I'm also finally learning to use Photoshop after watching Keshav use it with great success. :)

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mydanahalli Blackbuck Reserve

Blackbuck Male
Black Buck Male

Mydanahalli is home to the Jayamangali Blackbuck Reserve. The blackbuck, made famous by the Salman Khan brouhaha can be found here in the hundreds (only if you get there early enough).

This was a long awaited trip, delayed by scary looking directions (see below) and the need for a bigger group to go with. We set out at 4:30 from home, delayed by half an hour by a malfunctioning alarm clock. We took along my parents so that with four pairs of keen eyes and we were quite sure it would be hard to get lost. We couldn't have been more wrong.

Choosing the auspicious day of Aayudha Pooja to make our trip, meant that most of the traffic was off the roads, we made great time till the road to Maghugiri. We made our first mistake at a Y junction; where there was a massive hoarding depicting a black buck and an arrow pointing Right. Our directions here said go left.

Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark
Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark

We somehow felt that the forest dept cant be wrong. Apparently they can. From then onwards it was great fun, we visited several villages, stopped and asked for directions. Emboldened by daddy's fluent kannada and ability to read sign boards, we drove on.

At every village we were told, "oh, mydanahalli? Just few kms ahead, straight road, cant miss it". Finally reaching the village, where a man told us, there is a road, but only a jeep can make it. He however gave us directions to a tar road, which meant turning back and revisiting the villages already passed.

Finally found the tar road marked by a completely rusted board that declared that it was put up by a Sadak yojana. When we finally got there, it was just past 9.

Silver Bill
Silver Bill

Birding was fruitful, esp in the car. We stopped at the watch tower. Walked inwards for quite a distance, the area was rich in shy easily spooked birds. We found that we made more progress from the car.

We climbed into the bigger watch tower and had an early lunch before proceeding on the way. Finally reaching a gate which we assume was the gate to the sanctuary, we drove on finding lot of Bee-eaters, Drongos and Shrikes but no black buck.

In the distance we could see herds of goat being led to pasture. Finally deciding to turn back, we retraced our path. On our way back, my mom spotted 3 black buck, 2 male and 1 female. They were quite far away for good photos, but we tried none-the-less.

Small Gree BeeEater
Small Green Bee Eater

Bird List
Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark (2)
Grey Francolin (quick glance)
Bee-eaters (hundreds)
Rose Ringed Parakeets (several)
Drongos (several)
1 large raptor (too far to id, even from photographs)
Southern Grey Shrike (2)
Silver Bills (pair, busy collecting nesting material)
Bay backed Shrike (several)
Little brown doves (several)
White Eyed Buzzard (first time sighting)

Detailed Directions

This describes how we should have actually gone ( we came back the right way ).
Take Tumkur highway (NH4), 5 kms before tumkur take a diversion onto NH4 (bypass - Do not enter Tumkur City).
Continue on this road for about 10 kms, till you hit an under construction over bridge. Here, take a right turn and continue on this road for about 45 kms till you reach Madhugiri
Go past Madhugiri onto Hindupura Road.
You will reach a Y junction after about 5 kms. ( This is the confusing place - Go left here.)
Continue till you reach Puravara Village - around 17 kms
From here, continue on the main road for around 8 kms till you reach a temple on your left.
Slow down, go about a kilometer further and you will see a tar road bifurcating to the left (There is a completely rusted board in Kannada there - contents are unknown)

Take left here, continue for about a kilometer to reach another Y junction, take the right arm.
Continue on this for 1 km (you will pass a village, stay on the tarred road)You will observe a wide path.
The tarred road bends left here.
Get on to the un-tarred road (its hard to miss). You will see vineyards here.
About 300 mts further, take any mud road which your car can afford and pray.

No, really... pray like you mean it.

Blue Mountains

Tips - What you need to know

Carry along food, water. Its great if you can carry these in a large ice box, since its very hot and there is little cover to park under. Take along a pair of binoculars. A hat is an absolute must.
Take a long a kannada reader/speaker (abduct one if you must - after all its for a good cause) If this is your first visit, leave early ( you cant leave early enough actually! )
There aren't too many places to fuel along the way, fill up when you can. Most of the gas stations do not have restrooms, so be one with nature, pick a bush along the highway.
The villages along the way have interestingly descriptive names, one of them my Dad said could loosely translate as Dodda-pothole-ana-halli. (I'm not sure if he was joking)

Lake on the way to Mydanahalli

What I didn't like
Sadly, the place is most neglected, we found no forest guards or a proper entrance. We couldn't find a proper boundary, so we still don't know where the reserve begins and ends. The watch towers were not very useful in terms of watching anything. But it was a nice shady place to eat. Litter was all around.

Jayamangalli "River" is more like a trickle. I was quite disappointed.

What I did like

Villagers were extremely helpful all along, though a few did give misleading directions. A lady cutting grass at the reserve told us "Ginke" (deer) could be found on our way back, she said to look towards the right and she was spot on!

Black buck Male

The road to the reserve though carpeted with potholes is rather scenic, there are several huge lakes along the way. Our next plan is to just visit the lakes.

Lake on the way to Mydanahalli

Inspiration for this trip came from :

Lovely photos of maidenhalli from INW members.

I particularly liked several lovely ones from Kiran Poonacha.
I especially love this one, dont miss it.

A blogpost from Sachin and Neelu

Directions we followed (till we goofed up at the Y) were from Tumkur Ameen's excellent webpage.

Thanks everyone!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Goan HoneyMoon

sandy beach

Given that our wedding was in August, we had a tough time choosing our honeymoon destination. The rains and floods in most parts of India ruled out many locations.

We finally settled on Goa, one of Keshav's favourite places and the one place I had always wanted to go. My previous trips were with families on religious trips so beach visits and seafood were not an option then.

Goa was in the grip of a flood in the south and even as our plane landed, we could see large parts inundated. It rained on and off for the next 2 days stopping only briefly to let tourists take a few photos.

  • Miramar
  • Candolim
  • Calangute
  • Bagha
  • Anjuna
  • Vagator

We also saw:
Old Goa's Basilica Church
Aguada Fort ( Its open in the evenings - find out the time before you go)

We drove through Mapusa and Vagator for some lovely scenery.



We drove through some lush green country side, even stopping for a bit of birding, we saw a Stork Billed Kingfisher and a couple of red rumped swallows. The trees outside our room had a resident pair of fantail flycatchers and we saw a lesser Flamebacked woodpecker in the Taj Village Campus.



We stayed at Taj Fort Aguada, in North Goa. We were very impressed with the service - personal and warm. Food was great as well, though not exceptional. Staff would surprise us with roses left on our bed on evening, a drawn bath with rose petals the next day. It was simply delightful to say the least. Full paisa vasool! :)


We were recommended to eat at Mum's Kitchen, near Miramar Beach, a lovely little restaurant with a warm ambiance and known for its authentic goan seafood. We had Prawn Peri Peri ( simply delightful and cannot be missed ) as our starter. For our main course we had Chicken Vindaloo with steamed rice. The Vindaloo was by far the hottest dish we have ever had! Delicious though it was, the heat proved to be overpowering. Fortunately it was accompanied by some freshly baked crusty bread, which was simply wonderful. 
Our waiter recommended San Andres Port Wine, which I really liked and it was certainly needed to cool the tongue after the vindaloo. 

Getting Around

The best option would be to hire a scooter - we found a shop just opposite Taj Holiday Village where we hired it (with helmet) for Rs 125 per day. This gives great mobility (provided the weather is good). 
Most of Goa has nice roads and distances are small, there are lots of signboards in English which makes navigation very easy. Local people are happy to help with directions.

In line


Some of our best souvenir shopping was done at Anjuna. We bought some Shell jewelery and elegant little boxes made from coconut shells. We also bought a large shell that the shop keeper was using as a tray.

Sadly there are few shops selling Goan handicrafts, we did find great many shops selling Kashmiri and Rajasthani handicrafts. Even the souvenir shop in the Taj, "Khazana" kept handicrafts from all over India, but not from Goa. We finally bought a small hand painted tile bearing a coastal goan scene from there.

We bought port wine (thankfully in easy to transport plastic bottle) from a Kamath Wine Shop at Panjim, near the Bus Stand. We also bought some cashews.

Nitty Gritties

Distance from Airport to Fort Aguada - 65 kms Time taken 1.5 hrs
Distance to Panjim from Aguada - 15 Kms
Our stay; 5 days-4 nights; at Taj with food cost us around 30K (since it is off peak season) and includes luxurious airport transfers.

Flight Time to Goa from B'lore - 40 min
Charge to BIAL (Meru) - Rs 700 from Old Airport Road
Drive Time to BIAL from Old Airport - 1 hr (light traffic on Sunday)

We were delighted with Meru's Service, no rash driving and well maintained vehicles.

BIAL Tips:

The Tea is horrid (there is no other word for it) we had to discard it. Food options are limited (bad continental or bad indian) and exorbitantly priced for the quality served. Seating at the food court is limited, be prepared to hunt around.

There is no pharmacy (cant buy toothpaste/crocin etc), or shop for confectionery (cant buy chocolates/sweets to take as gifts).
There are however several shops selling diamonds and designer clothing should you have an emergency requirement for a bauble or two or for CK.

By the mercy of the powers that be, there was one bookshop.

Other than these irritations, we found BIAL quite nice, clean and well maintained. Toilets were ok, not great though.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Devarayana durga II

Date: 20th Sept, 2008


This was our first birding trip post marriage. Our original idea was to make a trip to the black buck sanctuary at Mydanahalli. Detailed Directions can be found here

The length and complexity of the route had me worried as did the fact that getting there, required asking directions from villagers and a knowledge of kannada to read sign boards.
Having never progressed beyond the first 17 alphabets, I think this is better left when my Dad is along to read the boards :) We were also told to go in a slightly larger group since getting lost is almost guaranteed.


We opted for Devarayana Durga instead, being very fond of it after our first visit. Starting at 4.45am we got there at 6:30am, stopping at times to see some birds. It was very overcast and drizzled all along.
We found the spotted owlet again on the same tree as we did last time. Also found some yellow billed babblers and the usual robins and bush chats.


The bad light and the drizzle made photography difficult. We parked at the little green building near the lake at the base of the hill. Sadly the lake's water level was quite high and we couldnt walk around it as we had done last time.

One friendly coppersmith made our day; posing patiently on a massive tree; while we struggled to locate it in a sea of green.

CopperSmith barbet

We saw an African Guinea Fowl among some chickens on the way, I wonder if it is being bred for meat?

Bird sightings

Spotted Owlet
Yellow billed babbler
Indian Robin (Male)
Grey Tits several
Coppersmith Barbets (4)
Red Vented bulbuls
Red whiskered bulbuls
White browed bulbuls (pair)
White browed Fantail (pair)
White breasted kingfisher
Hoopoe - 1
Small green bee eaters - several
Purple rumped Sun birds (pair)
Larks several - not sure of species
Ashy Prinia
Plain Prinia
Small minivet (male and female)
White bellied Tree Pie - glance
Red wattled lapwings - 2
Red necked falcon - along the highway, on the way back
Indian Roller

little lavender flowers

Where to fill fuel

Most of the stations we passed were closed in the morning and those that were open only filled diesel.
We filled at a station past the diversion to Devrayandurga( the big over bridge) on Tumkur Highway, cross Cafe Coffee Day. Another 6kms, it was on left of the road.

Road Condition

Marvelous for the most part, since the road has been recently laid.
For about 300 mts there is a very bad stretch watch out for it. It is just after the village having a Y joint ( the left turn at this junction takes ppl to some other place of pilgrimage, the right arm goes to Devrayandurga road.


Carry water and food, nothing is available along the way.
Bottled Water is available at the top, near the temple, as are few packaged snacks and cucumbers.

If the water level is down, there are 2 large rocks at the end of the lake on the leftside. Its a good place to have a picnic lunch.

Carry along an icepail, we tried it this time. It gets quite warm as the day progresses.

Boards are in english also, from Karnataka tourism and look nice and bright.

Directions (from Keshav)

Take Tumkur Road - (Cross Peenya - Nandi Corridor junction - Mangalore highway junction - toll gate)

About 15 to 20 kms after the toll gate, there is a huge overbridge that comes.
Take the immediate right after the getting down from the bridge - Take a U turn there, come along the side road of the bridge for another 500mts.
You will reach a market area, take a left U turn there. It cannot be missed. Continue on that road for about 17 kms to reach a village.
There is a Y junction there. Take the right arm of it. Travel another 1 km, there is a cement arch on the left indicating route to Devrayanduga there.
Take that, 2 kms on this road is the temple.

Part IV: GSB Wedding Rituals

The following rituals are combined after deep research from a book "Reethi Rivaz" (in Kannada) and from interogating our Pandit and relatives several times.

Wedding Rituals

On the morning of the wedding, the Pandit will arrive at the brides house and conduct a small prayer for proceedings to go smoothly. Elder relatives of the brides parents are usually also invited to this early morning prayer session.

After brief prayers, the bride touches the feet of all elders present and the wedding party proceeds to the hall. The Bride has to wear a not too grand sari (Sari 1) which need not even be new. ( The idea apparently is to keep expenses in control )

Inviting Groom's Party

The Brother of Bride / Maternal Uncle (Mama) of the bride will go to groom's house and invite the groom's family to the hall.
He will take with him a box of sweets (previously used to be a box of homemade laddus), flowers for the women of the house and token cash (in envelopes) for any small children of the groom's family.

Edur Kansani ( Receiving the Groom's party )

Once at the hall, bride's party prepares to receive the groom. This program involves only women.
The women will wait outside the hall with the paraphenelia as described. The Brides sister or Paternal cousin sister will hold a circular steel plate (thali/poleru in konkani) (Plate 1) it will have the following
1.Mirror supported by a Kalash ["tambio"(in konkani for a copper pot) with water and a coconut on it]
2.Gold chain set on the mirror
3.Flower garland on the mirror
4.Kumkum and Haldi in bowls
5.Raw Rice

Plate 2 with another sister will have flowers and a Rose Water dispenser
(Gulab-dani, usually made of Silver), Plate 3 with yet another sister will have 4 coconuts on it.
Plate 4 with folded Paan with supari (Veedo).

When the groom's party arrives, the women of the family will precede the men to the entrance. The Groom's sisters will hold Plate 1 (just as in the brides side) and Plate 3. Plate 2 and Plate 4 can be shared.

The women will now walk towards each other and apply kumkum and haldi to each others foreheads and wear a flower from Plate 2. They will sprinkle rose water on each other.

Entering the Hall

Before entering the hall, a aarti of kumkum water is given to groom. This done,
the father of the bride will give the Groom a coconut in his hand and put a small garland around his neck in greeting and lead him by the hand (lest he runaway) into the hall and seat him in a chair in the hall. Rest of the party will follow.

Phool Muddi ( The Flower and the Ring )

Along with the groom sits an un-married boy who is called "Dhedo" (previously the dhedo would be a young kid, nowadays young eligible bachelors are seated instead as a way to get noticed).
Once the groom is captive in the chair, his feet are washed by the father of the bride. A Gold Ring is placed on his finger. A new sacred thread is put on him (over this clothing), he will already have one of his own under it. A Peta is placed on his head.

Aarti is done to him by the bride's mother (with cloth wicks not cotton) and rice is sprinkled on him.
He is fed 5 different types of sweets and a sip of sweetened milk. The Dhedo gets a gift of clothing.

Now, its the brides turn. Bride makes her first enterance to the gathering (still in Sari 1)and is seated in the chair. Along with her sits the "Dhedi" (female version of the dhedo)
She is gifted a Sari and any other gifts (usually ornaments) from the groom's mother. Flowers (white managlore mogra) is pinned to her hair. Aarti is done to her by the groom's mother (with cloth wicks not cotton) and rice is sprinkled on her. She is fed 5 different types of sweets and a sip of sweetened milk. Like the Dhedo, the Dhedi gets a gift of clothing also.

Breakfast I
The first breakfast is served and the whole party tucks in. Bride changes clothes. Brides mother can also change. ( So can anyone else, there is no hard and fast rule)

Ghade Udhak ( Water clock )

Originally intended to help the gathering keep track of the time, now it is done only for symbolic purposes.
5 thambios (copper pots) are held, one each by five women namely bride, bride's mom, groom's mom and 2 others.
They are filled with water and Ganga Pooja is performed as instructed by Pandit.
These pots are then kept aside to be revisited later.

Udida Moorth (Grinding of Gram)

A mix of Green Gram, Black Gram (Udid in konkani), tumeric, oil is prepared and the bride (now in Sari 2) and her mother jointly grind it in a manual stone grinder. Not sure of the significance, if anyone has an idea, pls let me know. Further minor rituals are perfomed as instructed by pandit.

Once the bride is done grinding, her party proceeds to Breakfast II. Vacating the seats to allow the groom and his sister(s) to do the grinding too. The sisters also get to apply kajal to the groom.

Grinding can be done simultaneously also if there is equipment and space available.

Kaashi Yatra

Tired of all the rituals, the groom decides to renounce worldly life and meditate in Kaashi. He sets out with an umbrella, and a Potli ( cloth tied into a bag on a stick containing his worldly belongings ). He is stopped by the Father of the bride, who tells him of the virtues of married life. (Mostly he tells him, there is no escape now, you're doomed)
Once again captive, the groom is pacified with a gift either of money or a gift of clothing and an aarti and proceeds to Breakfast II. He can change his clothing also.

"Go Daan" (Gift the pandit a cow)

Traditionally at this point, the pandit performing the rituals is given a cow as a gift. Now a days ofcourse this is symbolic and cash and/or clothing is given instead.

Aarti is now done to the Groom's Sisters, Groom and the Dhedo and they make a pradakshina (walk in a circle around) the Homa Kund (central holy fire place).

The Water clocks/ Ghade Udhak is revisted by the 5 ladies to check if the water pots are hale and hearty.

Breakfast II

The second breakfast is served and all tuck in (again!)

Entering the Mantap

The bride now well fed and covered in mounds of silk, flowers (moggina ja-day - jasmine flower headress) and a ton of gold is led into the Mantap by her mother. Meanwhile, the Pandit does a pooja of the Mantap. She enters the mantap with her right foot first.

The Dhaare Mani ( black bead and gold chain with 2 large coral beads ) is Mangalsutra 1. It is given by the bride's family. The chain is taken around the hall to be blessed and inspected by the elders.
After remembering the family diety, it is put around the brides neck by her Mother. An aarti is done to her and rice is liberally sprinkled over her.

This done, the bride is dispatched away again, possibly to be decked with more gold.

Var Pooja

The Bride's married sisters and their husbands are called into the mantap in sequence and given a gift of clothing, aarti and rice sprinkling.

Groom Bashing! ( tying the "bashing" on the turban )

"Bashing" is an ornament made of thermocol and glitter held together by glue. It has lot of dangling beads and shiny papers stuck to it. Hideous though it is, it is tied to the Turban of the Groom. Traditionally it was tied over the Gandhi cap which was worn by the groom. It is a good idea to tie it out of sight behind the fan of the peta so that it is not seen.

Preparing the "Talee" ( Thali or Plate )

1 Plate (Vothu Ghadi - means "at the time of pouring" ) is prepared and held by the mother of the bride. It contains the following:
1. 2 simple non zari saris (meant for daily wear by the bride in her new house)
2. Paan Veedo
3. Flowers and Raw Rice
4. 1 Coconut, sari blouse piece, kunkum ( collectively called Vonti )

Plate 2 ( Lagna Talee - wedding plate ) is prepared and held by Groom's mother. It contains the following:
1. Post Wedding Sari ( a grand sari nowadays worn at the reception)
with Pallu visible (pallu has to be visible for aunties present to estimate the cost of the sari :D )
2. Mangalsutra 2 - Chunky Gold and coral bead chain.
3. Paan Veedo
4. Mogra Flowers and Raw rice
5. Silver Kunkum Box
6. A small box of Kajal
7. Ivory comb ( now replaced by a plastic imitation)
8. "Bashing" ( for the bride this time )

The Pandit now does a pooja of the Plates as above. The father of the bride brings the groom into the Mantap along with the Dhedo.

The Plates mentioned above are carefully placed under his chair.
Once he is seated, the parents of the bride will perform an aarti, arghya padya (feet washing) and then put a sacred thread for him. He is given a gift. The gift is usually a Sandook ( if not available, cash is used). A Silver Sandook set ( consists of a plate, a small glass, spoon, box to hold religious stamps, the stamps and a thambio (silver pot) these items are to be used for daily pooja )

Anthar Paat (Curtain)

A cloth is now held by two pandits to obscure his view, because the bride will be brought into the hall now and he should not be able to see her.

Here comes the Bride

The maternal uncle of the bride will bring in the decorated bride leading her by the thumb and will walk her down the aisle from the front enterance of the hall. If there are two they can bring her together (she has only 2 thumbs) . If there are several uncles, a sort of relay is done. Traditional music is played by the musicians and the pandits will commence chanting the mantras.

She enters the mantap again with her right foot and her uncle will sprinkle rice on her head and leave her inside. Now as per instructions by the pandit the Garland exchange between bride and groom takes place.

Dhaar Votuchain (Pouring the stream of milk)
also called Kanya Daan ( Giving away the bride )

A silver pot with a gold pendant of laxmi with a coconut placed over it and milk is poured from it on the hands on the bride, groom and several others as per the instructions of the pandit.
The laxmi pendant signifies that they are giving away the girl only and not the goddess of wealth.

Tying the knot

The Mangalsutra from Plate 2 is retrieved and tied around the brides neck. The "bashing" for the bride is now tied on her head. Plate 2 (Lagna Talee) is given to her. Aarti is done and Rice is sprinkled over her as a blessing.

Kankana (Tumeric pieces) are tied to the wrists of the bride and groom. The coals are fetched by the bride's mother to start the fire in the Homa ( sacred fire ). She is gifted by the grooms family for her efforts.

Lye Virkachain ( Pouring puffed rice )
While the fire is being started, the uncles and brothers of the bride will pour puffed rice through their hands until it falls onto a plate held below. The youngest among them will receive a gift called a Lye Shawl ( now a shirt piece )

The Maternal Uncle will place 2 pairs of toe rings to the bride's toes.

7 Pheras
The bride and groom take 7 circles around the fire as per instructions by the pandit.

Going Bananas!
Bride and Groom now feed each other with Bananas.

Var Ubharchain ( lifting )

The uncle and aunt will then attempt to physically lift the bride and groom. (a daunting task!)
Incase this is not feasible, Bride and groom are walked 4 steps forward and 4 steps back by the maternal uncle and aunt or just gently nudged. The 2 pairs are now given an aarti by the other elders present.

Sharage Ghalchain ( Putting the Pallu )
The mother of the bride will now place the pallu for the bride as a symbol of marriage and replace her half moon bindi with a full moon. The groom will tie a five rupee coin (symbolizing this savings) to the pallu of the bride.

Going Bananas again
Bananas are cut up into small pieces and the bride serves them to the groom's family and her own (symbolizing that she has cooked for them). She is given a gift of cash for her troubles.

Keeping the Name
Traditionally the bride would have a new first name after marriage. The name is still kept, but not used. The mother of the groom will whisper a name 5 times into the bride's ear.

Vonti borchain
The mother of the bride will give her a blouse piece, coconut, kumkum and sprinkle rice for the first time as a married lady.

Baagil Dhorchain
The sisters of the groom, unhappy that their brother will forget them once he is married; will stop him from leaving the mantap. They are pacified with a gift of cash from the Groom.

The wedding party proceeds for Lunch.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Frustrations of the bride

As the D-Day approaches, the planning gets heightened and more urgent. This is usually a very irratable time for all concerned. This is simply because Indian Wedding mandate a huge supportive family who will pitch in and share the work.

In todays weddings, with a Nuclear family and relatives dispersed in various cities and continents, I find that this is all but impossible. It leaves the bulk of work to the Parents of the bride and the bride herself. Trivial chores become monstrous and boring. Writing of Invitation cards is one of them. Finding out the addresses of relatives and friends you havent even met or didnt know existed is an associated problem.

Matters are made worse if one has an opinion on anything. If one is particular about how one looks, how the wedding hall will be decorated and how indeed the wedding will be conducted, be prepared for ulcers.

Most of the time, there is little choice, reminiscent of the old India where if you wanted soap all you got was "lal wala sabun" and nothing else. Today we have opinions and our own personal taste and demand choice.
The consumer is king nearly everywhere but not at wedding planning. Tradition and lack of original thought have meant that the rituals of the caveman era continue to be perfomed today without any idea as to why.

Nearly all brides from a particular region therefore look nearly alike, almost uniform. You want to deviate from the beaten path? ( Gosh! What will people think? )

Our weddings and most aspects of our lives are governed by the "What will people think?" rule. It will decide nearly everything that can be decided. Including what one wears, eats, and does. Who these people are; who think; is never clearly stated.

Often the people involved will have ideas of their own, and impose them on you. Photographers will want to use graphics and transport you in your wedding finery to the swiss alps / back waters of Kerala / Waterfalls . They will be surprised when you say no to such advances in technology.

There is also a lot of politics involved in the whole wedding pageant. Chances are your bridal dresser will want to dress you to impress the crowd ( to increase her business ) so she will insist on a style that sits well with them; you will not be high on her list of priorities. No changes pls. ( what will people think? )

Indian brides traditionally look unhappy and sad ( to be leaving the parental home). Today this is simulated by making them as uncomfortable as possible. Stiff kanchivarams, several kilos of strong smelling flowers and mountains of gold all play a role in this.

So it took some convincing on my part to reach a compromise and I am happy to announce that people are far more flexible than before. I convinced the lady dressing me up to abandon the usual white coloured duppata that forms part of the Mangalore wedding dress for a more creamish colour.

It is also customary for a south indian bride to be covered in piles of gold. While I love jewellery, I dont want to be made up like a christmas tree. Protests fall on deaf ears ( what will ppl think? ) All Indians love going over the top, you cannot make it gaudy or shiny enough for most of them.

If you are a control freak like me, you'll want to organize things so that all your guests are comfortable and so that you yourself are not lost in all the confusion. This is hard in an indian wedding, where things work not on planning but on prayers and miracles.

Excessive planning is not good and not possible under the circumstances, attempts at bringing order to the mahem are frowned upon. People are used to indiscipline feel restricted when told of the agenda of events or given a time. People prefer to be surprised and hurried.
Till date not one of the people who were to come home have come on time. Delays have been anywhere from an hour to our decorator who suddenly arrived 4 days later than the appointment and said he was delayed by a traffic jam!

I would suggest stepping back and letting things take their course. If you cant beat them, join them. After all, if things go wrong, people are great at adapting to the situation. Swalpa adjust maadi.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monsoon Wedding II: Preparations

Once the wedding date is decided by the priest, there is no end to the preparations. The priest will provide both date and time (muhurath/muhurtham)

Our Date : 08-08-08 Time : 12:20pm (Abhijin Muhurtham)

Here is the most comprehensive list ever that I found : http://www.ourwedding.in/distributors_bangalore.php
( the detectives are a tad scary )

The usual practice is to make a book with your own list. We saw lists of several friends which gave us a lot of help.

1. Book the hall

If you're living in a city, this needs to be done several months in advance. In my case, it was done 6 months prior to the date. Most halls also have rooms, do check the rooms where the bride / groom will dress etc. In many cases, the hall may look grand but the rooms inside will be tiny and poorly ventilated with cracked mirrors and bad bathrooms. Check if power back up is present. Check for the presence of lock-able cupboards.

2. Caterers

Choose the caterer well in advance. Caterer will need to check the hall to confirm the presence and use of utensils and equipment etc. Make an appointment for this. Ensure that you get to sample the fare to get an idea.
Our Caterers: http://sonacaterers.co.in/

Menu for the following will need to be decided: Two breakfasts, drinks or juices between breakfast and lunch, Served Lunch and Buffet Dinner for the Reception.
Caterers can also be asked to provide snacks and savouries for a week before the wedding to satisfy the hordes of visitors who may come.

3. Gifts

For GSB marriages the following MUST be gifted by the bride's parents.
Gifts for the ladies are a Silk Sari and for the Gents a shirt and trouser piece.

a. Uncles and Aunts of the bride (Paternal and Maternal) - these are the most important and their gifts are correspondingly so. Maternal Aunt and Uncle are particularly important.

b. Sisters (of the bride) and their husbands (if any )

c. In absence of female siblings, Paternal female cousins and their husbands
( too bad for the Maternal cousins )

d. Youngest brother of the bride gets a shirt piece ( traditionally a shawl )
( I wonder why he doesnt get the trousers too )

e. "Dhedi" ( the unmarried girl who sits next to the bride )

f. "Dhedo" ( male version of above who sits beside the groom )

From the Groom's side:

a. Mother and Father of the groom.

b. Sisters of the groom and their husbands

c. Grandparents of the groom - i.e elders who are older than the Groom's Dad.

d. The priest and his wife must be gifted as well. The priest is given a silk Dhoti set (called Patte Thodopu) and a silk sari for his wife.

Outside of this list, it is usual to gift persons in the family who are close to the bride or her parents. For the elder ladies Kanchivarams in traditional patterns are preferred. The colours get darker(not brighter) in direct proportion to the age of the person. For the younger women - i.e younger than the bride's mother Saris can be gifted other silks ( bangalore silks / mysore silks )
For women, the borders of the saris get thinner in direct proportion to age. If they are very very aged they are given super light silks or cotton saris with thin zari border. Cotton to be given only if they insist on it. We bought one such cotton sari from Calcutta.

Tip: Keep a stack of post-it notes handy. Stick them on to the boxes with labels. This allows them to be reviewed and rearranged if needed.

In GSB weddings, gifts are NEVER gift wrapped. This is because they will be displayed when being gifted. The boxes that the saris and clothing pieces come in will be kept open and gifted.

Where to buy: ( we bought from all of these )
Angadi Silks, Jayanagar ( Best for buying in bulk )
Sudarshan Silks, Sheshadripuram
Cauvery Silks International, M. G. Road ( For mysore silks )
Girija Silks, Udupi
Dhakeshwari Vastralaya, Calcutta
Manish Silks, Patna
Johari Bazaar, Jaipur

3. Videographer and Photographer

These are provided by the hall as well. It is however best to pick an individual who is familiar with the wedding style, so that the important functions will be covered.
Be sure to ask the details of the package and mention if you dont want sound / video editing or any special effects.

4. Wedding Cards
These require a trip to Chickpet. It cannot be avoided, so do it when its a sunny day with no chance of rain. I would suggest parking the car in some shopping complex nearby and taking an Auto. We took several hours to choose our card. Take along water and some nourishment to keep the men awake.

Once the cards are bought, they need to be printed. This requires yet another trip to chickpet. If you want to save a trip, take along the text, typed out and formatted on A4 size sheets. Make a few copies just in case. Take along the route map to the Wedding Hall ( this will be provided by the Hall ). Printers often have ideas of their own. Ask for a sample for proof reading before the whole batch is printed.

5. Accomodation for out-station Guests

Service Apts are the best option for wedding parties. They provide transport and catering as well. This link has most of the places, sorted according to budget :

6. Transport
Includes Transport to pick up guests from airport/railway station and drop them at guest houses and for the wedding party itself. The hall / caterer / service apt/ hotel often provide these.

7. Hall decorators and Musicians

Usually these are provided by the hall itself. It is best to choose them since they will be well versed with the hall.

8. Wedding favours

South Indian weddings provide a bag/box with a Coconut ( this is in Kannadiga style ) or a Fruit. In GSB traditional style, its a box of sweets, a packet of savouries and a Sweet Pan - called "Beeda" . Sometimes a small idol of ganesha is also given.
Getting the bag requires a trip to chickpet. Many options (velvet / plastic/ jute/ cloth) and sizes are available.
If a sample is provided, the process becomes easier. Also needed is the dimensions of the sweet box from the Caterer. The Bag will need to be printed with the details of the wedding. Better to carry that along as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Monsoon Wedding - I

First of all, this is not a bird related post. I'm taking a small sabbatical from birding to concentrate on a personal project - My Wedding. This is the first of a short series of posts that will detail all you ever wanted to know about an Indian Hindu Wedding. I hope this will prove useful to anyone planning a wedding.

Pls Note: I belong to the GSB - (Goud Saraswat Brahmin) community.

The Horror Scope!

Finding the Groom/Bride, usually is a tedious process which involves horoscope matching. While a lot of the older Indians swear by it, most have little or no clue of what exactly is getting matched.

The matching process involves calculating a Score using 2 birth-charts or horoscopes. The Max Score possible is 36. Cut-off marks are high. The couple need to score greater than 18. We scored 24.
The Mangal Dosh (made famous by the Aishwarya Rai wedding) is cancelled out if both the boy and girl have it in their horoscopes.

Birth-charts : Are documents created when a child is born into a hindu family, noting the date and time of birth, location (latitude and longitude) among other things. The positions of important stars and planets at the time of birth are noted in the form of a chart.

Note: South Indian and North Indian horoscopes contain the same info but are organised differently. Usually the date, time and location are used to construct a fresh birth-chart of a similar style for matching.

The system supposedly checks for 8 different regions of compatibily. For details, check out this article on Vedic Horoscope Matching

Traditionally horoscopes are matched by family priests. The priest will usually take his own time and provide a verdict. Details are usually not explained.
Several sites offer online Horoscope matching. Its free, detailed and the report is mailed to your email address.

We used Planetary Positions
Our horoscopes (one north, one south) were also matched by 3 different priests - 2 north indian and 1 south indian and all gave the same results as provided by PlanetaryPositions.

The Engagement

Once the formalities are out of the way, an Engagement date is chosen by the priest. Time is as important as the date. Usually no auspicious activity should be done at Rahu kala. The panchang( hindu religious calendar) is consulted to find a good time.

For Tamil Muhurtham dates:
For North Indian Muhurath dates:
Free Software to calculate a date:
Disclaimer: I havent tried this one myself.

Many communities dont have a ring exchange at the Engagement, although now a days the western practice of rings is increasingly followed among many ( After all - Who wants to say no to Diamonds? )

A Simple GSB style Engagement will usually be done at the girl's house. Ideally there should be elder relatives from the maternal and paternal side to bless the boy and girl. The girl and boy are expected to exchange gifts ( usually a gift of clothing ). A small prayer is said and the couple can seek blessings of all elders present by touching their feet. The families will exchange sweet boxes.

In the north indian custom, the exchange of gifts is far more elaborate. A complete set of clothing, foot wear, handbag, jewellery, cosmetics is given in addition to baskets of fruit and dry fruits.

The girls in the south will usually wear Saris though many are now opting for Ghagra Cholis. Note: Unless you have occasions to wear it again sometime, this is a dead investment. In south india, the girl will be expected to wear some amount of gold. Parlours offer makeup services for Engagements - Rs. 3000 from Lakme

The guys will usually settle for Kurtas. Suits are a big NO, unless you want to look like you're attending a seminar in Europe.

Gift options:
For Her : Sari, Gold/Diamond Ring, Gold Chain/ Ear studs, Shoes, Perfume, Watch, Handbag, Salwar suit
For Him : Shirt and Trouser set, Kurta set, Gold Ring, Watch, Sun glasses, Cologne

Buy Gold from Big Brands that will offer buy back ( in case you need to exchange ) and will also provide free Service. My engagement ring was from Gili and they replaced it at no charge when a diamond in it fell off.

Try to shop at a Mall that has a loyalty program.

Use a credit card for all purchases atleast till the wedding is over. The huge bills in the coming months will generate a lot of reward points that can be converted to vouchers or Air Miles. (Remember to pay credit card bills on time.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Nandi Hills


This was our first birding trip to Nandi hills, the last one being just a fun trip with non-birding friends. Expectations ran high, we hoped for a glimpse of the paradise flycatcher and the oriental white eye and prayed for good weather and clear skies.

It was cloudy and drizzled a bit along the way. We made a few stops one to watch some bee-eaters along the highway and another to check-out a small waterbody that turned out to be quite devoid of any life.

When we stopped though, we got a rare chance to meet a lion-hearted purple sun bird male. Bold and unperturbed by the presence of our car or us, it settled down to have breakfast just 2 feet away in a flowering bush.

Purple Sun Bird Male
Purple Sun Bird Male

Our next stop was at a lovely curve in the road where Keshav and I followed a divide and conquer policy. He met a White Browed Bulbul and I met a Jerdon's Bush lark which stood meditating on a little ledge on one leg. I began to get concerned if it was injured, but shortly after, it hopped about quite happily on both legs.

Jerdon's Bush Lark
Jerdon's Bush Lark

Nandi hills did not disappoint. The hills were cloaked in mist and it was so refreshing to drive through it, leaving behind all the dust and heat of bangalore.
The road is quite sceanic and one will be tempted to stop all along the way by some breathtaking sights. Dont go by these photos, they are limited by my skill.

Misty Stairway to heaven

We did see a fair number of birds, few unidentified. Possibly scimtar babblers and a lark like bird that taunted us by sitting high up in a tree among leaves and singing at the top of its voice continuously "teee teeee taaaan".

It is difficult to spot and photograph in the dense foliage. The few who consented to pose follow.

Red Whiskered Bulbul
Red Whiskered Bulbul

Small Green Barbet
Small Green Barbet

Butterflies were plentiful particularly the crimson rose and chocolate pansy. The ones I photographed, I had never seen before.

Blue Mormon Butterfly
Blue Mormon Butterfly
Common Gull butterfly
Common Gull butterfly

We were very fortunate to see a Tickell's Blue flycatcher in an obliging mood. Keshav has some splendid pictures owing to superior skill, height and equipment. :)

Tickell's Blue Fly Catcher
Tickell's Blue Fly Catcher

Nittie Gritties:
Nandi Hills has a parking space and your car can be taken all the way up beyond the ticketing gate. Parking costs - Rs.60 for a car and Rs 10 for a bike.
There are several small eateries near the parking area. There are also some "guides" who will pester you; wanting to show you the nearby temples for a price, so be aware.
There is a Ladies loo, the maintainance of which is left to nature.

Nehru Park is a great place to see butterflies and birds. The tree opposite the statue of Nehru is visited by oriental white eyes. Several of the nearby trees too have a large number of birds visiting them - prinias, bulbuls and barbets.
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