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The Tiger's 25

Sep. 5th, 2009 | 07:58 am

So it started off the same way it has always started
D called me some time around aug 1st

D: Hey do you want to do something for the big day?
S: Yeah lets do it the weekend between my bday and yours.
But all parks will be closed re around this time.
D: Hmmm lets do some heritage thing na.. how about Mandu?

And then the search began for a totally off the track historical place. First it was neemrana, which was discarded cos it seems to be the first fort-resort that anyone thinks of around here. Then there was pataudi palace, etc etc... but on a casual sunday, when i was going through the tatler's travel guide I came across Bhainsrorgarh. the pics looked out of the world and that was when the decision was made. Immediately called up Mr.Hemendra who owns the place and made reservations.

Train to Kota, and a 2 hr cab ride from there and we found ourselves driving through thick jungle. soon the canopy opened up to reveal the chambal. and across the chambal on the cliff was a 400 year old fort. The sight was breathtaking. We were greeted at the entrance by Mr.Rajveer Singh who also owns the place. Little did i know that these two were brothers and heir to the crown of bhainsrorgarh. A little history here. Bhainsrorgarh is a 2000 year old fort hill. It has been rebuilt several times since then. The last time was in the 18th century by the Chundawat Rajputs. It comprised of about 250 villages. This is the last checkpost of the kingdom of Mewar before we enter the erstwhile Gwalior state. The fort hill had in the past sheltered many kings, Maharana pratap being the most famous of them. Every thing in the palace had a story behind it, a legend, a hearsay, something.. that made it different.

We chose to stay in the Mewar Suite which is on the third floor of hte palace and overlooks the Chambal. The view from the balcony was simply breathtaking. the way the kings lived really dazzled me. There was an entrance hall to the suite where the lesser nobles could talk to the royals, then there was an inner hall, where family members could sit and talk, and then a dining area which overlooks the stables. There was a bathroom that was twice the size of my bedroom and then there was the bedroom, complete with a paintings on the ceiling and two balconies with the most beautiful views of the chambal and teh dominion of Bhainsrorgarh. This was just one of the many suites in the former palace. Ofcourse only 5 are open to guests as of now.

A special mention for the hospitality offered is a must. They treat you like royalty and the food is D-licious :D. I stuffed myself till i couldnt stuff in anymore and I did so again the next time they offered me food. This continued over the 3 days I was there and by the end of it, i had a not so small paunch which i gotta burn off now. The terrace is brilliant. having breakfast under one of the domes, looking at the mightly chambal, with the rains making the river look especially violent.. and D for company.. what more can I ask for. The fort is dotted with stables, private temples of the royalty, secret tunnels, pictures from shikaar trips, erstwhile private hunting grounds and so many more things that are so typically from the good old days. The best thing is that this is no udai-vilas kind of ultra luxury experience, it is luxurious, no doubt, but it has a rustic feel to it that takes you back about 500 years in time.

I was standing in the balcony wondering what it would be like to see horses and canons on the other side of the chambal waiting to lay siege to the fort. I realised... there s no need to worry, this is bhainsrorgarh, its impenetrable!

Here are the pics

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vanghat - jhirna -jhilling

Aug. 7th, 2009 | 08:33 am

D was here for a couple of weeks and as always that means loads of fun, roadtrips and jungles. This is one girl who loves to rough it out. Anyways. We decided to go to vanghat as I believe that is definitely one of the most romantic places on earth. The stars, the gentle gushing of the river, the dark shadows of the hills, and occasional alarm call. Ofcourse when the alarm call is followed by a roar.. its a different story altogether.

Chapter 1 - A Night Under the Stars

So off we were at around 5 in the morning. I accounted for everything. Reach moradabad by 8. have breakfast in one of the dhabas. then reach tiger camp by 11. I just forgot to include the kawadiya factor

These guys jam the entire highway all the way to moradabad. So 45 minutes later, the milometer still read 1.7 km. that sucked. But around 6 the traffic cleared up and it was all sunrise and green fields after that. With the flyovers constructed the road to moradabad is pretty decent. We never really hit the towns but instead go flying above them. By 10 as planned, we were in Tiger camp. BTW, D took the wheel in between and I was surprised how well she negotiated the ghaziabad traffic. Anyways we had some time to kill as we were supposed to start for marchula after lunch.
Before I go on and document how D massacred me in TT, I have to talk a bit about vanghat. Its tucked away in the ram ganga valley behind the lohachaur range of corbett national park. There are two ways to reach this place. One, go via tiger camp, mohan, marchula, across teh river, across the rubble, across the river, .. do that a couple of times, and then walk across the river. The other way is even more adventurous, hike through the lohachaur range. Its a good 1hr drive and then 1hr hike down the hill to reach this place.

D was blown away when she reached. We decided to take rest and freshen up a bit till evening. For a place with such limited connectivity, the acco is surprisingly comfortable. In the evening we started walking around the jungles that surround vanghat. we heard a few alarm calls but nothing in particular. just tons of birds. When we came back, it was time for a nice drink under the stars and with D for company, it cant get any better. We spoke about so many things from the battle of kruger to the chandrayan. Oh, we saw a satellite in the sky that day. it was awesome.
There were a couple of alarm calls meanwhile but we are all too lazy to track them down, as it was dark and visibility was nearly 0.

The following morning we saw a couple of ghorials on the rocks above. vanghat is not about the safaris or the typical touristy jungle experience. It is more a nature lovers destination. Just lay back and let nature show you its splendour as and when it pleases. My kinda holiday.

The night with the elephants
We had a night to spare as the Manela guest house was booked by a babu. So we chose to stay at jhirna as thats the only part of the park that is open at this time of hte year. Jhirna is a lovely place. There arent many tiger sightings here but that doesnt mean the place is any less beautiful. However all the monsoon streams which i saw last year had pretty much dried up. the evening safari was nothing great. we did hear consistent alarm calls but nothing showed up. Eventually a tusker came wandering by the forest lodge and stayed there overnight grazing away in hte chaurs that surround it.
The dinner at jhirna is always a simplistic affair. dal, chawal and roti. The morning safari was eventful. we saw a crested serpent eagle fly right by us on two occasions. and a monitor lizard block our path for a couple of minutes. and the giant tusker frm the previous day was around as well. We came dangerously close to a tiger. the marks were super fresh and we knew he passed by about 10 minutes before we reached that place, but we just couldnt get hold of him.
We headed back to tiger camp. there was more to come.

Days of the Raj- Jhilling

I had never heard of this place ever. But G suggested that it was a great place and though he had never actually been there, it was owned by his friend and was in the middle of a huge stretch of deodar forests. Hmm.. sounds interesting. So we started on the road trip. tiger camp - kaladhungi - haldwani - bhimtal - jhilling. We did stop at the corbett museum along the way. The best part about jhilling is that the drive to this place is splendid! driving through the plains, with the jungle arching over you on either side, the stretches of fields once in a while and the blue mountains on the horizon... simply beautiful. It took us almost 3 hours to get to jhilling and then another hours hike up hte hill to get to the jhilling estate owned by Mr.Steve Lal. Its a beautiful estate spread across 140 acres. They have about 4 cottages apart for Steve's house.

the hike up was tiring especially because we came driving through the hills. but it was totally worth it. A small simple kumaoni cottage, with a study, a fireplace and a nice bed. the staff is so courteous its not even funny. They took such good care of us, that i just dint want to leave. Over the years Steve has managed to accumulate a huge collection of books which includes the 1946 edition of Discovery of India, and a 1942 edition of readers digest. The best part of hte cottage though is that it stares the entire nanda devi range in the face. How often can you claim to sit by a fire, reading a pre-independence edition of readers digest, and stare at the mighty nanda devi with a beer in hand. The experience is awesome. something you will always remember.
They have a couple of dogs as well. There s one called dhanno which was attacked by a leopard and somehow managed to survive.
All in all a lovely destination and I am sure I ll visit this place once again.

The pics

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Ghooming at dusk

Jun. 22nd, 2009 | 09:57 am

The proposed plan was to stay in the malani lodge inside corbett for two nights but with Mr.G being in Delhi, K in England and O in Delhi as well, everyone i knew in Corbett was out. So we decided to just spend the night at riverine woods in marchula.
Vikram and Chandranshu came along. IT was all planned suddenly and i dint really expect to have as much fun as we did as i thought the guys would be pretty disappointed.

We left Delhi around 4 and by 6 Vikram was already hungry. Kanta who was in the navigator s seat dozed away but vikram was quick to spot a dhabha. So 4 aalo parathas and a tea later, we were off again. Passed through moradabad on the way. Azzu bhai's pictures were every where. Does that mean we ll get to eat Dum Biryani in moradabad :D ?

We finally made it to Tiger Camp by around 10 30. The plan was to have lunch at Tiger camp and set off to marchula around 1. So we had a couple of hours to kill. Tiger camp is situated on banks of Kosi. The last time i was here, Kosi was wild! totally totally furious gushing river. but now it with no showers, it seemed pretty tame. infact we were able to cross the whole river on foot without any issues. Global Warming is now a reality and not just a concept!

Lunch at Tiger camp is always an elaborate affair. Chicken,eggs, rice, curd, sweets, custard and beer ofcourse, it was all there. We then proceeded to marchula. The weather was bloody hot and it was worse cos we were in an open top gypsy, but the offroading through the ramganga made it all seem worth it. The guys were just thrilled to come to this place. completely away from civilisation as we know it. In fact until recently there was no power supply here as well. But now they do have low energy bulbs running. With the gentle gushing of hte ramganga as the background, the setting sun meant it was time for some ghooming at dusk. we went into the surrounding jungles and did some birding. Once we reached the river, Yashpal our guide asked us if we wanted to swim. Well the last time i went swimming was in 6th. I ve never been under water since then (well the one day at Y! year end party doesnt count). So though I was not sure, we decided to take a shot. Ramganga has a healthy population of mahsheer, trout and the gharial. Though the gharial are only found in the dhikala zone and are rarely seen this far downstream, There was the outside chance that they were present in the waters. So while vikram took some time to overcome his fear of water and crocs, I decided to jump in!!! The water was surprisingly cold for this time of the year. We were there for almost an hour. I realised i could still swim in the rivers.

Our shack was called jhirna jhali. We had a quick shower before dinner and ordered some beer. Now the darkness, the surrounding hills and the millions of stars in the sky and the quietness of hte jungle was almost perfect. D i wish u were there. But just as we began to settle down, there it was. the familiar "ooonk" of the sambar. The alarm call which indicates the presence of a predator nearby. I ran in to call vikram and then towards the dining area to call kantha. Both of them mistook it to be a trumpet. We took manoj ( a naturalist at the camp) and went towards the call. The call was coming from the other side of hte river. It was pretty dark. The calls dint stop. I was sure there was a predator. Then hte langur call came from slightly to our left. about 10 o clock. It was clear. the predator was moving towards the left. and since the left meant downhill, we figured it was probably coming for a quick sip from the river. If that was the case we would get an awesome sighting. So we remained silent. The langur and the sambar went about their calling. Then came the growl. The low guttural sound thats so typical of the leopard. From what i read in KA, this noise is only made as a deterrant to scare off possible danger. I could feel the tension in the air. After a few minutes there was a second call from the right this time. Not sure if there were two leopards or one, but they dint really show up on the banks and the silence returned again. So we headed back to the camp. Little did we know that the show was not over yet. A low howling noise came as if out of nowhere from the neighbouring hill. I was curious as i had never heard that noise before. Upon enquiring a bit, i had my first tryst with jungle lore. Many years ago a woodcutter died after he fell from a tree and it is said he haunts the surrounding woods emitting shrill cries for help. :D The rest of hte night was pretty silent. We had dinner and slept pretty early.

At 5 30 the next day, we went on another round of ghooming through the jungles. It was interesting to note how the tiny pools of water that are remnants of a tiny stream housed a whole micro eco system. There were algae, there were fish to eat the algae, spiders to eat the fish and well bigger fish to eat the spiders. It was fascinating. We came across two barking deer and a ghorial, on our way back.

We did take another dip in the pool and the star attraction was this white throated kingfisher which flew right by us repeatedly in search of fish. it was beautiful. At around 12, we decided to head back. Like i ve said a million times before, the ride back is rarely as exciting as the ride towards a holiday destination. There s no unknown left in the day. though it was a really short vacation. We had amazing fun! and thanks to Mr.G who inspite of not being at tiger camp, managed to arrange for us... a spectacular weekend in the jungle!

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Life @ Lime

Jun. 19th, 2009 | 02:30 pm

As you can see sleep is a top priority for employee satisfaction.
Note Kanta sleeping in the conference room. Wat makes it even funnier is that, it was his first day at work and he was being given the overview of the architecture. :D

The top-row-third-from-left is yours truly. god knows wen but looks like the old office. lol

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any given sunday

Jun. 4th, 2009 | 05:17 pm
mood: energeticenergetic

I don't know what to say really.
Three minutes
to the biggest battle of our professional lives
all comes down to today.
we heal
as a team
or we are going to crumble.
Inch by inch
play by play
till we're finished.
We are in hell right now, gentlemen
believe me
we can stay here
and get the shit kicked out of us
we can fight our way
back into the light.
We can climb out of hell.
One inch, at a time.

Now I can't do it for you.
I'm too old.
I look around and I see these young faces
and I think
I mean
I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make.
I uh....
I pissed away all my money
believe it or not.
I chased off
anyone who has ever loved me.
And lately,
I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get old in life
things get taken from you.
That's, that's part of life.
you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out that life is just a game of inches.
So is football.
Because in either game
life or football
the margin for error is so small.
I mean
one half step too late or to early
you don't quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast
and you don't quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game
every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us
to pieces for that inch.
We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.
Cause we know
when we add up all those inches
that's going to make the fucking difference
between WINNING and LOSING
between LIVING and DYING.

I'll tell you this
in any fight
it is the guy who is willing to die
who is going to win that inch.
And I know
if I am going to have any life anymore
it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch
because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.

Now I can't make you do it.
You gotta look at the guy next to you.
Look into his eyes.
Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.
You are going to see a guy
who will sacrifice himself for this team
because he knows when it comes down to it,
you are gonna do the same thing for him.

That's a team, gentlemen
and either we heal now, as a team,
or we will die as individuals.
That's football guys.
That's all it is.
Now, whattaya gonna do?

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