Friday, 16 December 2016

The Broke Millennial's Guide to Ooty

I could not have been more excited as I alighted the bus into the chilly December morning, to a lofty little town, standing a breathtaking 7350 feet above sea level. This is the highest the coastal town-bred me has planted my feet in the dead of winter. My mind was flying a few feet higher at this feat of mine. I hugged my flimsy white shawl to myself, playing tug-of-war with the cold breeze, which was keen to have it.

Here’s Tip 1: Do not take an auto rickshaw with your travel bags and obviously touristy face. Unless it’s a trunk filled with currency notes and you’re a millionaire. Okay, world, laugh all you want, while us broke (and lugubrious) millennials take respite in our imagination, which we have truckloads of. Yours truly, unfailingly gullible and stupid, had to learn this the hard way. Buses in Ooty ply through the length, breadth and steep heights of the town. Also, they are so light on your wallets, you’ll be crying tears of gratitude.

The upside (and downside) of bus travel is all the fun downhill prancing you get to do with the lush greenery taking your breath away and if you’re unfortunate, that tedious uphill climb, that also takes your breath away.

So, while you are on these walks, and craving something, anything to keep you alive, there are these strategically located “Iyengar Bakery”s serving the most heavenly ginger tea and lemon tea. Or if you happen to be at, as I like to call them, the “Manga hotspots”, you could treat yourself to raw mangoes dipped in chili powder and salt ~salivates~
Map showing major snack zones

Tip 2: Staying at Charring Cross at the heart of the town seems like a wise choice. I shall not contradict you here. But wouldn’t you like to wake up to the chugging of the toy train among terraces of tea plantations and plump sheep grazing outside your doors? This is something you should not miss out on in Ooty and something you are definitely not going to experience in the bustling traffic at Charring Cross. Split your stay to get the best of both worlds. Lovedale is a great place to soak yourself in pure Ooty-ness.

View from Zostel Ooty
Tent at Zostel Ooty
Staying in a tent on the ridges of the Nilgiris in December probably sounds like the most ludicrous idea EVER (if you’re not used to single-digit temperatures like me). Trust me, it’s not. It’s the best experience you would have. Ooty is not too cold during the day, and the tent is just right to let in the daytime warmth. With a couple of blankets, you will be alright at night.

Tip 3: While we’re on the topic of soaking in the Ooty-ness, be sure to check into the tea factory and the chocolate factory. Though every shop, including pharmacies, show off stacks of homemade chocolate, the best are at the source. And it’s not every other day that you get to drink free samples of expensive white tea (although it tastes no different from warm water) and chocolate tea and cardamom tea (yum!).

Food suggestions: PLACE TO BEE!! Without question, this is one place you HAVE TO visit. Three reasons:
1. Great food (especially the cream of mushroom so
up and the hot chocolate) 
2.The indigenous products store. From honey to shampoo to note books to clothes, all locally produced by the Nilgiri tribes. Such a great initiative.
3. It is a bee museum! (Don’t worry, bees are not all over the place) 
This place is going to startle your poor little wallet a little, but it is worth every rupee.

On the slightly pricey places list is the Sidewalk Café. Great salads and it is vegetarian-friendly (yay!)
If you want a quick simple meal, nip into Adyar Ananda Bhavan or Quality restaurant. The sambar and rasam at Quality are blissful.

Tip 4: You could be the clichéd tourist running to all of the famous “Viewing Points” of Ooty and clicking pictures that have other clichéd tourists jostling around in the background, or you could be that enlightened tourist who knows where to go to get the best views. How, you ask? I am going to tell you.
The right spots
     1. As you enter the Botanical Gardens, don’t follow the herd that is ambling to the left of the park. Take the road not taken – the one on the right. And keep going up and up. Go all the way up to the Toda mund on top. Thank me later ~winks~
    2.Now you’re wondering what a Toda mund is. The Todas are the earliest inhabitants of Ooty and they call their hamlet “mund”. There are numerous munds peppered around Ooty. One of the most beautiful ones is the one at Glenmorgan, which is around 10 km from Pykara. Do take the residents’ permission before clicking pictures of their houses or themselves.
    3.Walk back to Ooty from the Tea Factory. It is an easy downhill stroll with plenty of potential photo spots.

This is the part where I tell you to pull on your sweaters, throw on your backpacks and set off to Ooty. Well, what are you waiting for?
Oh, and, don’t forget your monkey caps!
Walking downhill from Tea Factory

Road near Ooty Racecourse

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Thursday, 12 May 2016


It has been almost three years since I resigned myself to being a resident of this largely urban town called Manipal. I have lived in Chennai all my life and I make it no secret, Chennai is my greatest love, as a place, a home, a connection. Every inch of asphalt I’ve trudged upon and every piece of sky I’ve wandered under can tell you of my incessant banter on the occasion of this subject being raised. The feeling that comes to me from being on Chennai’s streets is, I’m not exaggerating, quite unparalleled. And I’m sure many would agree with me on this about your own hometowns.

So, whenever the question of Manipal being a second home arose, my unwavering heart always had the same answer. Do not get me wrong there! I am not incapable of accepting a second place as home. I have housed great longing and fascination for numerous places, which I one day hope to make my home. That fascination, however, evaded me in Manipal. Until today.

The rather overly normal events of today that brought this change began with a book. As I read the last page of the book and shut it with my sigh of satisfied completion, I sat in my room, clueless about my next course of action. Right then, my window presented to me an image extremely inviting and pleasant, like none I had witnessed lately. The world had turned yellow. The sky, the footpath, the trees, the very air, everything was yellow, like a playful child had overturned an enormous paint bucket, setting off a beautiful accident.

I pulled on my pants and bounded down the stairs and out into the yellow fabric, impatient to be part of it. Before I proceed with the rest of the evening, I should mention that I have been on many a solitary walk in Manipal, but I do not recall one for the sheer joy of it. As I walked into the captivating evening, I was beginning to have a conversation of firsts. Walking the streets, I truly went down memory lane, thinking about my initial days and thoughts of Manipal. The tiny toy houses that once made me smile out of amazement now brought me an old-friend smile. The quiet corners, the bustling junctions, the beauty that has become an everyday thing, does not fascinate me anymore like a mysterious person I am eager to know. They are like family now, just their presence is reassuring.

As I walked around having these conversations in my head, I realised how comfortable I had grown in its skin. It here being, of course, Manipal. I could be in every one of its streets, nooks and crannies, and I wouldn’t feel a shred of “alien”. I will always be an old resident, going about the place, unafraid of being lost and going as far as to forsake any conscious attention to my surroundings, letting my seasoned legs do the guiding. If you have stayed in this charming little town on the west coast for long enough, you get the privilege of such lethargy.

Manipal is not a place I want to make my home in the future. It is already that for my four years here. But it is a place I would go to if I needed to get away from the everydayness of life for some familiar comfort and much-needed lethargy. It would always be that old friend waiting with a beer (lemonade? Iced lime? ) in hand.

And the next time you’re here and see a bespectacled girl looking oddly preoccupied with the sky or smiling at a clump of grass, don’t be creeped out, welcome to Manipal! 

Friday, 1 May 2015


Like a modern day Rip Van Winkle, I walk back after years of slumber into my cobweb-filled blog. Luckily for me, everything is still the same. It's time to dust the ceilings and get the floors back to their old sparkling splendour.

It's exam time (read epiphany time). It was 8:15 am. I was walking back up the steps to my hostel room after a hurried breakfast when something outside the window stopped me and had me paralysed for one awestruck second. A full moon glinting faintly and unassumingly in the morning light below a mass of dark clouds. And behind the clouds, a punch of bright yellow that was the sun. Before I could break from my reverie and run to get my camera (as my greedy self refused to let the moment go unrecorded), it all disappeared. The mass of clouds descended over the moon, concealing it for the day and the Sun emerged dazzlingly. I waited till I became temporarily blind and then staggered back to my room. And after a long long long time, my grey matter decided to put my pen to work, much to my excitement! A poem after a million years!

Those moments
Coy and quiet
Hiding behind curtains
All but compliant.

Mischievous smiles 

And stifled laughter
A knowing that their discovery
Insists ardent chasing after.

They peep, not strike.

Unfolding daintily
Like the sun from a September sky
Coltishly and elegantly.


They rob your senses
Leaving you enraptured
Shattering your defences.

They grow more surreal

As you gape intoxicated.
And weave a memory
One unanticipated.

They depart

Just as fast.
An ephemeral episode
Dissolving into an ethereal past.

But its presence,

That you beheld astounded,
Fastens itself firmly
Never to be altered.

And you will recollect

With a drunken bafflement
The fantastic enchantment
Of those moments! 

Saturday, 25 January 2014


This piece will always be close to my heart as it couldn't have come to me at a better time, or rather, a worse time. I haven't written anything in a long time and it was beginning to worry me. Here are all my worries happily erased.

I uncage you
As guilt bathes me down.
By dirt and neglect
Your body is now adorned.

Delicately I feed you.
A sinner I have been
To have kept you jailed.
Not to be felt, not to be seen.

I put you to canvas.
You stutter,
I cringe.
I coax you gently
And the magic begins.

Realization hits me.
A fool I have been
For the exile was mine
And the rest, now I gleam.

You are my crutch,
I a cripple.
You're a prized possession,
My glorious pinnacle.

You are my parachute
A beautiful thing.
My most loyal companion
For as long as I live.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

The First Homecoming


After my failed attempts at studying for my imminent exams, I’ve concluded that the apparent abatement of guilt in daydreaming with a book on my lap as compared to daydreaming without one, is just that : apparent. So, I’ve given up trying to cheat my conscience. Instead I’m completely disregarding it. As my conscience glares at me, teeth grinding, I’m going to write about the most exciting event that has happened to me in the past three months.

It has been more than three months since I left home for college. Save for the first weekend that I mentioned in my previous post, I barely felt any homesickness in the following days. But how much I actually missed home dawned on me when the time came to go back. I was going back at a time of festive cheer and rejoicing. Diwali. Every Diwali has been a special one and I remember each for the maniacal joy that each has brought but this was a very different one, a Diwali of many firsts.

I’ve always been awed by the nomadic lifestyle with so many places, people, languages and cultures to get to know. But I’ve never experienced it myself. To me, home has always been the same place, the same house, the same neighbours, the same potholed roads, the same auto drivers, the same traffic signals and the same routes. All my friends, memories, encounters, experiences and events are tied to one place. So, I had never looked back at how much the place has given me in making me the person I am until recently.

The blissful anticipation of embracing the familiar sights and sounds of home heightening with each station the train passed, taking me closer and closer to home, and finally seeing family through the grills of the train windows are feelings of intense and ineffable ecstasy.

Now, home to me doesn’t just mean the house where I live. It’s the people, the familiarity, the sense of belonging. The same place wouldn’t be a welcome abode if the people in my life didn’t live there anymore. Now I understand why there is a craving in people to know their history. It tells you who you are and it gives you ground to stand on in the world, proud and unshakeable. It makes you possessive of your land and devoted to it. It gives you something solid to hold on to in an ever-changing world.

There will be many more homecomings in the future, but this will always be the dearest to me, the picture it first conjures in my mind being the smiles on those people’s faces that I had only seen in my mind for the last three months.

Monday, 2 September 2013

More Snaps!

A morning stroll with a fellow photography enthusiast in a place like the west coast is incomparable to anything else. So here are a few more clicks, the products of that particular stroll.

And I saved my most favourite for the last!