Friday, December 26, 2014

Come Alive In Melbourne


Blue sparkling horizon
Where oceans kiss the sky
Creatures of wonder
Greet all the passersby

A peaceful journey
Along meandering roads
Accompanied with cracks of waves
Celebrating life where ever it goes

Puffing Billy steam rattles
Singing howdy mate to all
Where Bolt Bridge meet the sun
My heart suddenly runs just there

Koalas and kangaroos;
Tennis, cricket and food;
Just a verdant city of Victoria
Floods my dreams day in and out

No brownie points for guessing the place because it is literally impossible to not guess one of world’s most livable cities from these hints. Yes I am talking about Melbourne! It all started with Roger Federer’s first visit to India. I missed the chance to see him play live in India and all I could think about was - next Rod Laver arena aka Australian Open. (Big chance missed) And then it was the Aus- India cricket series. And finally Indiblogger’s Travel contest in collaboration with TourismVictoria website (http://www.visitmelbourne.com/India.aspx) – ‘What's your reason for falling in love with Melbourne, the most livable city in the world?’
So this post is all about my Melbourne love Mate! And yes, I have already listed the main reasons for falling in love with this Cosmopolitan lately, but guess what, there is way more to it than just a sporty soul!
Melbourne is a cultural and artistry melting pot. It is known for its quirky street art and graffiti donned alleyways and music, live raw enthralling music in lanes and corners of the city. From Federation Square and Bourke Street to Hosier and Rutledge Lane and Degraves street, this city is a canvas that allows you to splatter the colors from your palette while it entertains you with music. Don’t believe me? Well this video will convince you guys for sure.

And as much as I love art and culture I enjoy history! Nothing leaves you speechless and nothing gives you a story more than the places that helps you connect with history. From wooden pews, to intricate carvings and vibrant stained glasses – St. Paul’s Cathedral is an exemplary gothic structure of the 19th century.


St Paul's Cathedral

Close by, is Flinders Street railway station – one of the oldest and grand stations of the country. And from there starts the cultural walk of aroma, of sweet bitterness and of freshness. Did you know Melbourne is called the coffee capital of the world? Flinder's Street Station is surrounded by various shops, coffees hubs and cafes, and the coffee culture is ensconced here to such an extent that the walk through the lanes is equivalent to talking a café cultural walk (as unique as it sounds).


My Attempt at recreating the magic of the Apostles on Paper ages ago
To talk about Melbourne and not talk about the 12 Apostles and the Great Ocean Road is just not possible. The 12 Apostles have been a symbol of Victoria for years and just imagine - you on a long drive, accompanied by the symphony of breaking waves and cold southern whizzing winds and the destination – Peaceful company of Nature’s wonders! How would one not fall in love with it? And if you thought that was all the natural bliss of this city you are in for a surprise. Melbourne has more than 480 hectares of gardens and parks.

The Eureka Sky Deck

And if I say I am all about nature and history and art I would be lying. Who would not want to see a place from bird’s eye view! Luckily Melbourne has two such spots – The Eureka Tower Sky Deck 88 and Shrine of Remembrance. Both easily accessible by the City Centre Tram which is a free travel service that runs in Melbourne. Yes you read it right – Free! And if you don't have vertigo issues and can get more adventurous, you also have the option of Hot Air Balloon! Still not in love with the place? 
For now I want to be at the Shrine of Remembrance at the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month. Why?  Well, the center has a stone inscribed “Greater Love Hath No Man.” The roof of the Shrine has 2 holes and at the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month a shaft of sunlight crosses the stone and the word Love is illuminated by sunlight. Have read a lot about it so would love to witness it.
Shrine of Remembrance

Okay coming down to my normal not so elaborate plans of when in Melbourne – Watch Federer play in Rod Laver Arena, Sip fresh brewed coffee in a café overlooking the Yarra River at sunset, and spend a lazy early morning in Alexandra Gardens re-reading Lord of the Rings and then spend a stunning evening at Bathing Boxes. *Not elaborate at all, right?*
The Bathing Boxes

Contest Time!

Okay enough about me and my dreams! If you were to visit Melbourne, "Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why?"

Do leave a comment below and the best answer (chosen by me) stands a chance to win voucher worth INR 500 from Indiblogger and Tourism Victoria.

Contest Last Date – 5th Jan 2015.

The contest is now closed.

For more details click Here.

Results will be declared on My Blog so do follow or subscribe to keep track :D 

Drum Rolls!!! And the winner is Rajvi Doshi for her simple precise and straight from heart comment:
Lovely post..I would love to visit Melbourne for coffee. I love coffee! And to have it with a Masterchef in his kitchen would be an amazing experience. And maybe I could make authentic Mumbai Pani Puri for him also! :D :DRajvi Doshi.
P.S. - Except for the painting, all pictures are taken from Google or Indiblogger

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Small Dreams, Big Talent

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”  Arthur Schopenhauer

Everyone has a talent, but success comes to those who make it their passion, follow it and not just appreciate it but nurture it and grow. And what can be better than knowing your passion at a tender age? Reality shows that let people come ahead with their singing and talents have had a strong foothold in India since Sa Re Ga Ma first started in early 90’s. But slowly there has been a rise in programs that encourage young budding singers. And recently I was invited to be a part of the grand finale of one such program by Blogadda.

Kids all set to live their dream

Max Life Insurance ‘iGenius Young Singing Stars’ programme was launched by Max Life Insurance, one of the leading life insurers in India and a leading music label - Universal Music India, as a nationwide search for young singing talent. It provided a platform for aspiring young singing stars, giving children, aged between 8- 15 years, the opportunity to have their songs heard by industry professionals and a chance to have their own music album.

Ms. Anisha Motwani

Ms Anisha Motwani, Director & Chief Marketing Officer and the main brain behind this initiative said, “iGenius Young Singing Stars is a unique programme that celebrates, recognizes and rewards young talent. Out of 1.26 lakh entries, selecting 10 top talents was the toughest job we have ever done. It gives us a feeling of satisfaction when we see these children coming one step closer to their dreams.” These 10 kids were geniuses who came close to realizing their dream when Mr. Rajesh Sud CEO and Managing Director, Max Life Insurance and Devraj Sanyal, Managing Director - Universal Music Group and EMI South Asia saw a fire in them.

Manasi Scott
The grand finale of iGenius Young Singing Stars was hosted at Taj Land's End, Mumbai on 17th December, and was grand in a lot of terms but mostly emotions - Young talent, proud parents. The evening started on a high note with Manasi Scott’s performance: Farmaana – a song written and sung by her. 

Shraddha Sharma

It was followed by a dreamy performance by Shraddha Sharma (remember the girl with a guitar from Deheradun on Youtube who shot to fame with “Chupke se - Saathiya”).


Salim Merchant

Salim Merchant’s Ali Maula was a fitting tribute to the victims of the Peshawar Attack and Aye Khuda set the perfect mood for the highlight of the evening – the kids and their last test.

Shivam Ahuja - Winner of the Junior Group

There were 5 finalists in each of the two groups: The senior group and the junior group. Shraddha Shree (senior group) and Shivam Ahuja(junior group) emerged as winners in the end of the wonderful musical three hours and won solo album contract.  Other finalists won a single song contract with Universal Music Group.

Shraddha Shree - Winner of the Senior Group

Apart from these kids the event also saw some other impressive performances.

Ragga Trippin

Raaga Trippin, one of India’s most famous acappela, enthralled the crowd with their unique renditions of songs ranging from old Bollywood classics to Happy!

Kavita Seth

Kavita Seth of Iktara fame also graced the event and captivated the audience with her soulful songs.




All and whole the show concluded with on a high ‘note’ and was truly an amazing musical event.

P.S. - Photo Courtesy - Divyakshi Gupta and Me :D

Sunday, December 7, 2014

College Diary: When weirdness made something special

‘College is a refuge from hasty judgment.’ Robert Frost had said. But if you ask me Colleges, at times, need refuge from hasty judgments themselves. The not so young and naïve me always imagined my engineering college to be like some old castle in Dehradun; a shadow of Hogwarts would have done, but it needed to be a huge, old, artistic, bricked palace on endless verdant ground. Later I decided to settle for a remote huge campus by a peaceful lake or river, away from the busy world. To be reasonable, God was generous, very generous but in a quirky way.
My engineering college was in a huge campus that is 50+ years old. For people who have studied outside Mumbai, this might seem weird, but in Mumbai colleges hardly have grounds, campus is asking for way too much. But this one was different. There were no castles in my campus but huge green fields and canopied roads connecting the various ends of the mini forest in the heart of a concrete jungle. I called it a mini forest because the day I went there for my admission, it was early monsoon and the grass grew like wild bunch everywhere, trees stood like their shape and size had never been restricted and the dull roads were strewn with fallen leaves, stuck to the ground, refusing to move. Every car that came in seemed to stir the calm of the quaint place. And guess what, it was situated in Juhu – a place where half the Bollywood stars reside (should not have been quiet!). I got another wish fulfilled too – water body close to campus, though not peaceful. My college was right next to Juhu Beach.
After college started, for months I didn’t like the place at all but one winter morning changed something. Reaching early morning was a ritual for me, but that day my friends and I decided to walk to our college from Santacruz station as we had broken our own record of being early birds. It was 7:30 in the morning. The mist (mostly of dust) was slowly rising but the sleepy lanes of Juhu were anything but dull. While we walked through a shortcut we had heard about, it echoed with hypnotic chants and chiming bells from a nearby temple. Hidden in a corner, it was beautiful and peaceful and big. We went in without a second thought but little did we know this temple would become our must stop place for the next four years. I still remember there was a peculiar tree right in front of the temple, almost dead but every morning it was a sanctuary for hundreds of crows – weird 1 (a puzzle I couldn’t solve).
After reaching college that day, I still had an hour before the first lecture and decided to explore my campus. There was an old, half burnt building in our campus that people hardly visited, but I decided to go there that day only to find out that it was an old auditorium which was burnt down by an ill fate short circuit some years back. From there I headed to the University library, which is apparently one of the oldest college libraries of the city. I loved that place. The smell of books, the quiet hall flanked by lines and lines of books and a small pond next to it with lotuses – Library was my happy corner in the campus. But that day I met a chatty home science final year student there.

Old Auditorium

Final year meant infinite hours of campus expeditions and hostel stories, and she was more than willing to share them with me. She started with how our campus was a Bollywood favorite earlier (Dil and Kya Kehena were shot here) and how only the auditorium was the most prominent building of the campus. I took the opportunity and asked her more about the auditorium. She confirmed the story about the auditorium but also added that a lot of people consider the place haunted. Being a glutton for paranormal I asked her if she knew more crazy stuff about the campus. She told me there was a door in the hostel that was never opened. And there had been an “incident” in the hostel in the past which resulted in muffled noises in the corridors of the hostel, though it has stopped now. Couple of years later I also found an article that got me really intrigued. I tried confirming the stories from my classmates but other that the door part they never confirmed a thing.

Library

Irrespective of the authenticity of the stories, from that day I kept going to college early every day for almost a year. Early morning walk, a visit to the “Khandar”(auditorium), and then library in hope of meeting that girl again. (Yes, I never asked her name and finding a student in a crowd 5000 was nearly impossible. I never met her again. Over the four years, the place grew on me. Friends, festivals, crazy stuff like picking mangoes and running away, hours of exams prep in library, IVs and many more memories. I started liking it. But no other day could match the significance of that winter morning. The memories made the campus an important part of my life, but that winter morning had made it interesting for the first time.

The pond near Library


'This post is my entry for 'My College Diary' contest held by travel blog My Yatra Diary in collaboration with Collegedunia.com' I would like to tag - Manjulika, Roshan and Ragini for this contest! :D


Monday, December 1, 2014

On the way to Mawlynnong

Wildflowers on the side of the road 

Meghalaya is one of the many places in India where clouds hang insecurely low for most parts of the year. But the rains never linger a day more and the chill slowly sets in on the languid land. Early morning sees hazy green hills, who man the horizon, hiding a sun that tries to spread some warmth. Dripping moisture from leaves and settled dew drops on wildflowers are equally lazy to let go of the night and embrace the warmth. Clouds conceal the quaint lush green paths some days and other times it is the fog. But regardless of which season the clouds kiss the ground everyday at least once, like they did when I was on my way to Mawlynnong from Shilong.


East Khasi Range on the way to Mawlynnong

The drive to Mawlynnong is just mountains. Verdant East Khasi Range bordering the roads, not rising very high, flaunting Nature’s sense of geometry, keeps you in constant company with cool breeze whizzing till you reach a small avenue fenced by colorful flowers but mostly by hibiscus. Another half an hour and you would get a glance of streams and plains of Bangladesh and then you go down to the village. The whole journey is ordinary but listening to the silence of nature has its own charm.
On reaching Mawlynnong, you are welcomed by a clean, well kept courtyard, which is actually the parking lot if you plan to visit the living root bridge. A twenty minutes walk down from that point and you would find yourself facing a huge bridge of twisted roots that was made ages ago and has grown stronger over centuries. Oh yes, did you think they were completely natural? A local lady told me Khasi villagers over decades, have woven the roots of ficus trees across streams. Roots that grow laterally initially are given way like any other creeper and they end up growing into a mesh over time and then are used as a bridge over waterways. She said there are several bridges of this sort across Meghalaya but this one is the most accessible one. Many of these bridges can only be reached by hiking through the wood for hours. The next most accessible root bridge, which is double decked one is at Nongriat and requires a 2 hour to and fro hiking. I found it really hard to believe her explanation for the gigantic root bridge in front of me but what she said did make a lot of sense.


The Root Bridge

The root bridge is a must see and makes the two hours ride from Shilong worthwhile. The place is not beaming with tourist usually but you would not be the lone adventurer in this quiet forest spot either. What is peculiar about the forest area though is that there is no twittering of birds, none at all, but a loud ringing sound that merges with the woods seamlessly, loud and constant. When I asked some local shopkeepers (ladies again), one said it was some insect but it is never to be seen and another said it was the air reverberating from hollow bamboos of the forest and the village. Unsure of which fascinating answer was the fact. I made my way back up to enter the actual village which is another 2 kilometers from the bridge.


The Chapel at the entrance of Mawlynnong

More Hibiscus fence, bamboo baskets aka dustbins, a little church and smiling faces of kids welcome you to the cleanest village of Asia. Thatched huts and bamboo Machaans with locals – it is a small village like any other in India, but spotless. For me, talking to locals was fascinating and easy too, as almost everybody spoke in English (the village has a small school and has a 100% literacy rate). But due to the popularization of the village it surely didn’t seem authentic. NGO’s are constantly trying to make the village more tourist-friendly and to even visit the village there is an entry fees. Yes, it is beautiful clean and gives you a perspective of the Khasi People’s lives but frankly the bridge and the way to this scenic end was way more mesmerizing than the final destination.