Highway On My Plate


 

 

DHABA…… The very word is enough to make the mouth water.

 

A dhaba conjures up an image of a rustic eatery with a charpoy( cot made with woven ropes) and  platefuls of fresh scrumptious dishes which  scores of itinerant truck drivers  enjoy..

Traditionally Dhabas were made of mud structures and a wooden plank was placed across the width of the cot(charpai) to keep the dishes.

The dhabas with time have become more comfortable and cater to all kinds of people, who look out for low cost food with no overhead costs . There are no constraints, no dress codes or fine dining rules, one can lick the fingers and belch ,with no one objecting. It is basically a no frills eating joint  for the common man .

 

A dhaba can be a simple shack which sells two three dishes like dal (lentil), rice ,rotis(Indian bread) and a seasonal veggie ,or it can have a large menu which can consist of various cottage cheese preparations like Kadhai paneer ,matar panner ,shahi paneer ,Kadhi chawal  seasonal green vegies like sarson(mustard) ka sag and makki ki roti (in winter) ,scrambled egg or egg curry , butter chicken ,or kadhai chicken etc. One can sum up the Dhaba food in three words :Buttery, spicy and hot.

 

Almost all the dhabas, especially the highway Dhabas serve large glasses of lassi (sweet n salted), curds, onion slices and pickles which are part of all dhaba meals.

Most of the dhabas serve Panjabi cuisine, as the Dhaba culture has originated from Punjab.

The mouth-watering rich aroma rising from the cauldron full of boiling mah ki dal (black lentil), the freshly made hot rotis straight from the tandoor(clay oven), oodles of butter on stuffed parathas and strong Adrak wali 500 miles chai(strong ,sweet tea), malaidar lassi (thick creamy curds drink), and, if you are a non vegetation, then there is no end to what Dhabas can offer you .All this, combined with the Panjabi warmth of the owner, is enough to lure any hard core foodie to the roadside dhaba.

 

Eating out in a dhaba can be a heart-warming experience. Usually dotted along the highways, dhabas dole out hearty rustic fare. They are  India’s Mecca for food lovers, and equivalent to the British transport café. This place is the true example of national integration and cross cultural exchange.

 

To watch the sweet smiling person in a string vest, artistically churn out rotis from the tandoor with his bare hands, is a sight to enjoy.

 They make a great show working their trade, kneading and slapping fist sized balls of dough with pomp and flair, churning out dozens of flat chapatis(breads) in a blur of motion. In fact the whole process of dishing out food from the containers into the plates in remarkable .It just adds to your hunger and makes the wait impossible.

 

The moment the car hits the national highway, dhabas decorated with colourful signboards, lights, flags and mouth-watering specialties are the first sights one notices. . It’s an amazing glimpse into the world of entrepreneurs who have created a food cult with quality & hygiene.

 

The Dhabas on highways, generally have a small pan n cigarette shop nearby or a local liquor shop called Theka , selling chilled bear sometimes written as ‘child bear’. With huge signs all along the highway .That attracts a large number of  travellers and drivers .

 

On our various trips, we discovered some of the finest dhabas strategically located on G.T.Road. Most of the Dhaba’s have their secret recipes to attract customers. These dhabas may look rustic, but as far as the menu is concerned they are at par with any other multi-cuisine restaurant in the city. Though Tandoori and Punjabi menus are the hot favourites, they also serve Chinese dishes like noodles and chilli chicken.

Some of our favourite stopping joints are Puran ka dhaba near Ambala cant. A must stop for all who love their food.

There is one on way to Mandi, which takes pride in having catered to the likes of Bollywood  actor Salman Khan and some film unit members. They even have pictures and autograph comment book to prove it .The food is excellent and the ambience very good. It is worth a stop.

There are many others on way to Shimla, Mussourie and Manali.

 

On our  way to Ranikhet , we discovered Amritsariya dhaba .What made this place special was, the location .Just ahead of Rudrapur, comes a green and not so congested Bilaspur and this dhaba is in the very beginning .Owned by an old sardarji, the place is dotted with plastic chairs, wooden tables, a tube well and a hand pump which doles out chilled clean water at all times. Surrounded by paddy fields this place is one of our favourite places.

The old man is a perfect example of Indian hospitality and friendliness .The staff, very efficient and clean.

As our visit became regular, the old man became a part of our family, he would ask for our wellbeing and, about my elder one, who was studding in a residential school, way up in Ranikhet .He would always wrap up some parathas for us in nice packs with pickles and, never charge for them. They were a part of his blessings for the kid and our safe journey. He even shared the magic masala of his delicious pepper chicken, with me and packed a generous amount, in a small plastic bag for us along with the recipe. Now that our visits have become rare, we recommend all our friends going that way, to stop there and darji always remember us fondly.

 

Murthal is a Mecca for Dhabas lovers .located on NH-1 near Sonepat; this place has a vast variety of delicious food. People especially go to eat food there during weekends.

The city Dhabas are not as colourful as the highway ones and each one has its own specialty. Most of the Dhaba workers stay, in and around the joint, so they are able to keep up with the odd working hours. Many of them are open from early morning till very late in the night.

 

In Delhi also we have some of the best known dhabas like, Kake ka dhaba in Chandni Chawk. The owner Mr. Lovely Singh is a foodie himself and has tremendous knowledge about the stuff .He has gone for a number of food fests in India and abroad.

 

Rajender da dhaba in Safdarjang Enclave is one of my favourites. If looking for great food in the middle of the night; this place is where one should go.

The Delhi – Gurgaon border and the Kapashera border are also two great places for authentic dhaba food .Most of the places are open throughout the night and a hub for all the young people working late nights.

 

 Dhabas have undergone a makeover and the complexion of the clientele has also changed. It is no longer a roadside pit stop where truckers can fill their tummies.

One can see the hep call center and BPO crowd and the night revellers frequenting these places very often.

 Unfortunately most of these eating joints have lost their charm of traditional dhabas and have become a roadside restaurant for the youth. Gone are the fried parathas , there place has been taken by tandoori parathas .

The new health conscious generation prefers fat-free food and dhabas which were never known for this variety of food are now giving in to the whims of customers. The young new owners want their swanky young “always in a hurry young customers” to be happy , and, gladly serve, anything from chowmein and chilly cheese to fruit juices, coke etc .These hybrid dhabas have mushroomed all over the city. Even the highway dhabas have become modern in more than one ways .Some of them have mobile charging facilities ,A small T.V. set or a S.T.D. calling facility .Some have small but clean restrooms to attract more travellers .

 People travel short distances from Delhi just to eat at their favourite highway dhaba.

WE often drive down to moolchand’s paranthewala or the Jain’s dhaba in Connaught Place for a late night binge.

 

A few friends, winter nights, dhaba food, a  lot of laughter and chit chat and the warmth and joy of being together …..

 

 

There are some things that money can’t buy.

The Festive Foodies


One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote all our attention to Food .

 

KaBoom!  The countdown for Deepawali (the festival of lights) has begun.

The month of October is loaded with festivities ,with Eid ,durga puja ,navratras all happening at the same time .The markets are buzzing with shoppers ,the Mithayi shops (sweet shops)churning out scrumptious mithais n namkeens .Apart from the usual traditional motichoor ladoo, kaju katli, soan papdi, karachi halwa, barfi and peda,


Sweets for the calorie conscious are also available. Even sugar-free ones for those unfortunate one’s who are diabetic.

For those who like things with a pinch of salt the variety is immense, the aroma of the fresh samosas, kachoris and such sinfully delightful things is too much to resist. Dandiyas, puja pandals, festive sales…You name it and it’s happening here.

This post is not about the usual festive happenings …..It’s just a bit different

There is another aspect to this festive season .The Navratra and Ramadan fasting aka feasting which never ceases to amaze me.

NINE DAYS OF FASTING where you are supposed to eat a specific kind of diet .and boy what  assortment of delectable dishes it is.

I watch with amazement as the five-star hotels, restaurants, chat walas prepare to lure the fasting community.

The women who are non working , gorge on the delicacies all through the day and still pretend they are fasting .The working women are less fortunate yet they grab whatever n when something comes their way .

A neighbor starts her day with juice followed by continues snacking of wafers ,potato chat , special vrat snacks and then at lunch it assortment of things from sabudana kheer to kuttu puris n two types of veggies ,fruits ,curds etc .

The evening is spent again munching something or the other and the night brings another round of choicest of delights.On asking she said, “Oh! You know I hardly eat these days..vrat hai na (am fasting na ) feel so weak”.

I sympathized with her and commented on how pale she looked, forming an instant bond with her .I gave her some healthy recipes to try and she gave the brightest of smiles I had ever seen.

You will wonder how I came to know of her all day hogging.Well that’s thanks to the human network chain (The Maids).

I burst out laughing the moment she was out of sight and narrated the whole thing to my hubby, who too was fasting. The story he told  had all of us roaring with laughter .A group of fat panju (Panjabi) ladies, all decked up and looking like ‘chalta phirta’ makeup kit , came to the 24hour coffee shop (he works for a five star) and demanded the navratra special thali(which contains 4 kuttu puris , two veggies ,sawan rice ,kheer or kaddu ka meetha ,sabudana vada ,buttermilk and chef’s special for the day ).

Some of them were regulars and on asking, my hubby found that they were all on a Diwali shopping spree .None of them looked famished or tired .the team leader asked the steward to give them all, a round of juice and some fasting snack, by the time the food arrived.

After having  some starchy snacks ,they attacked the main course as  like hungry cats .Each of them digging into the massive thali full of exotic delights .None of them uttered a word .The entire process took not less than 45 min. and then she called out , “puttar , sanu diet coke dena please ,you know normal wale vich badi calories hondi hai”(son ,give us diet coke please as the normal one has too many calories ).After paying a hefty sum they managed to move their mighty asses ,happy and content, ready to spend the rest of the day ransacking some mall.

It is the same story with those keeping the Roza for Ramdan .A visit to old Delhi after sunset , during Iftar ,or a Iftar party ,which are a rage in Delhi ,will make your mouth water as the aromas of Haleem, kormas, kebabs, sheermal ,sewaiyan , gosht biryanis , phirni and much more, fill your entire being .

Talking of food reminds me of the food stalls specially the chat stalls which are the, oh so important part of Durga puja Pandals and Ramlila pandals in the city.

Delhi loves its food and the variety is astonishing. I often wonder how these women manage to tuck that all in. as I watch them with a felling of awe and horror I sometimes feel one of them surely will explode after the next bite she takes but the bottom less pit takes it all in and the fried snacks, chat pakodas, sweets, cokes n juices all go miraculously in their allotted compartments.

All I can say is three cheers to the foodies of Delhi.

Breathtaking Jageshwar


 

With a passion for driving and a desire to explore new places, we decided to explore some untouched places around Ranikhet and Almora, region.
The whole area is dotted with remote picturesque places which can leave you asking for more .
We made Ranikhet as our base. The place has some power to hold you, be it any time of the season .It also is a second home to us so we could relax and workout which destination to select for a day trip .Jageshwar in Almora district came as a unanimous choice. A temple town buried deep in the heart of Himalayas.RANIKHET
AT 1829meters above sea level Ranikhet has the best combination of majestic Himalayas, lush green forests, hidden nature trails and lot of places of interest to visit. A
Perfect balance of old and new. It also offers an interesting mix of hill and military cultures. One can spend hours just admiring the majestic Bhagirathi peaks in the west to Nanda Kot in the east. The place has preserved its virginity and pristine charm
In every season there is something to come back to in this place ,be it the riot of colors in the skies during the sunset, variety of local flowers or trees laden with fruits of the season. The air is fresh and cool and one can enjoy the scenic beauty through mist and clouds and sun playing hide n seek among tall pine trees. Or one can add to the excitement with an evening of power packed volleyball or football matches between one of the stationed regiments, cheered by the local crowd.
An half an hour drive will take you to Chaubatia. The orchards famous for variety of exotic flora and delicious apples. The view is scintillating. The evenings are made even more serene by ringing bells of Herakhan and ancient Jhoola devi temples. A few kilometers from Ranikhet are the magnificent Kalika golf course.
The nights are also beautiful especially if it’s a full moon night. It casts a spell on you.
We decided to start early and packed some sandwiches for our two very exited kids. it was a great day for driving and we had a long way to go. We took the instructions from our army friends and set off to Almora reroute to Jageshwar.

ALMORA

Almora is nestled in the lap of nature with great view of Himalayas and lovely colorful houses built on the slopes, it also has great bio diversity. Famous for the local bal-mithai, Surrounded by thick pine forest, this place is unique in its traditions and culture.
Two lovely rivers Kosi and Suyal flow along Almora making it even more beautiful. Apart from the main Almora town one can go to BINSAR, JAGESHWAR, BAGESHWAR, BAIJNATH, AND GANNATH, known for its natural caves and Shiva temple. Almora is filled with scenic beauty and the town has maintained its ancient tradition which is different from other hill stations.

We filled the petrol tank full, as there is no petrol pump on the way to Jageshwar .The drive past the old Almora town, gliding on the long and winding road, was an experience I will remember for a long time .Lush green pine and fur forest on one side and deep enthralling valley with majestic Himalayan ranges as a backdrop lift us spellbound.
The fresh sweet smelling breeze brushing past the trees made a whistling sound, somewhere some bird call could be heard breaking the silence ,the small villages looked painted in rainbow colors ,full of vibrant seasonal flowers and bubbling brooks filled the us with awe.
A slight drizzle had started and the fragrance of the wet soil, mixed with the mountain air was intoxicating.
JAGESHWAR
It took us approximately three hours to reach pilgrimage town of Jageshwar, 5000 ft up in the Kumaon hills .As we approached the little settlement it seemed we have come in some other mythical world . Cluster of 150 Ancient Shiva temples made of gray stone built centuries ago, stood silently surrounded by the mesmerizing natural beauty.
The whole place gave me a feeling of spiritual calm and peace. Embellished with the tall deciduous deodar trees and winding river Jata Ganga, which finds its way to the side of the temple complex.
Jageshwar is the 8th Jyotirling among the twelve and has great religious value. Giant deodar trees stand as guards all across the area .the temples are of archaeological importance and one can spot signs put up by ASI everywhere.
The architecture of these temples especially the mritunjaya and jyotirlinga temples is worth a look the carvings ,the courtyard and ancient things like pots etc. brought out in excavations can kept us hooked for a long time. The archaeological museum has idols and exquisite statues dating 10th century. One can also take an excursion to virddha Jageshwar which is worth a look.
Apart from the religious aspect of the place one finds the old wooden houses pained carefully with vibrant colors and exquisitely carved panels all add to the glory of this place. The people are helpful and ever smiling. We stayed at Jageshwar for four hours and apart from offering prayers at al the temples, enjoyed the slight drizzle,a magnificent rainbow and cool water of the stream flowing nearby. It’s truly a magical experience which captivates you and holds you to the place.
With a heart filled with serenity, peace and calm we started our drive back to Ranikhet, pledging to return and stay longer.
On the way back we encountered a heavy downpour and driving through the rain on the serpent like road was an experience by itself. Visibility was poor but we had to go on to reach our destination before dark. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started and we managed to reach Almora without any problem. Here we got some famous local mithai packed and had or much needed cup of sweet tea. As there was still a little time on our hand we decided to go down to Koshi River and spend some time enjoying the cool clear water. Children had great time playing with local kids, who were having a swimming competition .The water glittered with the golden rays of the setting sun and the beauty of the place increased manifolds.
We reached Ranikhet at night just in time for a good, home cooked meal, at the army guest house, where we were staying .The night was beautiful and cool and very quite. Here the nature’s beauty overwhelms you with its sheer abundance.
Though a very short trip we really enjoyed every moment of it .I would love to go back and spend a few days there exploring and reliving the enchanting experience.

Dharamshala Adventure


Summers had set in and we were ready to explore yet another destination. We were offered accommodation in Dharamshala and so, instead of going to the unexplored places, we normally go to, we decided to visit the land of His Holiness Dalai Lama.
We went to Dharamshala from khajjiar which is near Dalhousie. It was a six nights five day trip.

Dharamshala lies on a spur of the Dhauladhar range, the Pir Panjal region of the Outer Himalayas; and commands majestic views of the mighty Dhauladhar ranges above, and the Kangra Valley below.

It is the land of awesome peaks, of Tibetan monasteries, and of meandering streams cascading down the majestic mountains rising up to 4000 feet. The gorges, wild daisies growing like a carpet of yellow n white, the springs leave you asking for more.

The main town is divided into two halves .The lower and the upper Dharamshala.
Upper Dharamshala has a distinct character of its own and is influenced by the Buddhist culture .It is known as McLeodganj and is the seat of Dalai Lama. This place reflects the Tibetan way of life and is tranquil n serene .The crisp breeze is filled with the chanting of hymns n tinkling of prayer wheels. It’s a world in its own. Heavenly, calm and breathtakingly beautiful. The locals are friendly and warm people and one can easily relate to them. The evening prayers, the meditating monks, the laughter of the little children dressed in maroon outfits, the mighty statue of Lord Buddha in gold, just takes your breath away. It was a treat to our spiritually starved soul.

Apart from the spiritual stuff, the place offers some of the mouthwatering Tibetan food, from thupkas and dimsums, to a wide variety of local food, hand woven carpets, artifacts and spiritual music and books. The place is a heaven for food lovers, the constant flow of westerners has added to its flavor with German bakeries offering delicacies, out of this world.
One can spend hours at this captivating place, walking down the trek routes, all along the hills.

The lower Dharamshala is a traveler’s base camp and a place where you can see people from across the world. It’s a busy town dotted with cyber cafes, crowded market place, restaurants, eateries, cafes and local shops.

The place is known for its beauty, elegance and charm that it expresses through the natural scenarios and the mystic ambiance. The coniferous forests and the snow capped mountains are a welcoming treat from the hustle bustle of the city life.

We were in a mood to chill out completely and didn’t want to go to usual places of tourist interest .Both the kids were ecstatic to find video parlors, cyber cafes n their favorite eating joints, and that was a bliss .We were left to do our own bit.
Loaded with ample supply of booze and the task now was to relax and find a good German café .Tucked on a hill side our search ended at a lovely café which not only offered great food but also had board games like Dominos, chess and carom and regular sessions of guitar playing.

The whole day, we explored the spectacular places like Bhagsunag waterfalls; the side of the rocky hill had been cut and paved with stones, to create a walkway to the waterfall. the path is approximately 1.5km. And very steep .it is a place one can spend hours without tiring..The water is fast and cold and one can sit on the huge boulders admiring the beauty surrounding the place.Bhagsunag also has an ancient temple of Shiva and is the ceremonial temple to First Gorkha Rifles. The monasteries and the nature trails in the forests, the local kotwali bazaar, church of St.John nestled between the wilderness and built in Gothic style , war memorial are the other places we explored , and, in the evening we returned to the café for steaks n barbecue, freshly baked breads n cakes. The owner, a young lad from Goa, was a friendly soul and after a little negotiation, allowed us to have our drinks at the far side of the café, dominated by the westerners. These hippies and regular travelers lived in their own world of dope n drinks and had little to do with anyone around .The music from their guitars and flutes floated sweetly in the night air. It was an experience of a life time for us.

Playing chess till the darkness and the cold enveloped us, we were transported to some other world .Slowly the crowd thinned and even our party broke up, but I was not in a mood to give up the intoxicating experience of the night life and persuaded our friend to stay on . Promising rest of the family, to return to the hotel, at dinner time.

It was our last night there at Dharamshala, and we wanted to make the most of it. Walking down the narrow lanes in the starlight, we saw a totally different aspect of the majestic Dhauladhars .Though most of the hill stations look the same at night; here something was captivating the senses. The air was pure n cool mixed with a heady cocktail of incense sticks and aromas coming from various road side food joints. We came across groups of hippies huddled together smoking pot or something similar.
One thing that I regretted, was taking my handy cam and not the digital camera or any other Camera for capturing the enchanting beauty of the place.

The nights are alive in Dharamshala, with so many soul cafés organizing rave nights, full of trance and techno music and dance .there are new events every night and places are mainly frequented by hippies and youngsters visiting the place.
Though I was very excited to go for an adventure of a different kind, the on growing pressure from the two male members of the group made me change my plans.
We reached the hotel well after the dinner time and sneaked into beds, only to be awakened and scolded for being so irresponsible .After a bit of buttering up things calmed down and we offered the angry lot, some scrumptious baked stuff, we had got packed on our way back.
No one was in mood to sleep so we kept chatting till the wee hours and then after a quick nap, packed our bags to say good bye to this celestial place. Getting up at around six we started our drive back to Delhi, full of happy memories and a longing to come back to this heaven on earth as soon as possible

The Corbett Tiger Reserve-An Introduction


This is an introduction to my visits to the most beautiful national park of northern India ..

Jungles can never run out of magic and awe and Corbett TR (Tiger Reserve) is Undoubtedly the most beautiful picturesque National Park in North and Central India, it is also India’s first National Park.. In 1957, the Park was renamed after Jim Corbett, the famed hunter-author-photographer-naturalist.
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Jim Corbett is famous for his exploits in the jungles of Nainital and Kumaon, where he shot many man-eaters. On the road to Nainital from the Park is Jim Corbett’s home, it’s now a museum.

The national Park is situated in the Himalayan foothills, amidst forested mountains that range from 400m (1,312ft) to 1,210m (3,970ft) in height. Ramganga river flows through the park creating breathtaking landscapes. Dhikala, Gairal and Bijrani are some of the main places to stay in the reserve. though Dhikala is popular spot for regular tourists ,Gairal is the place to stay for those who want to enjoy the serene beauty of the place

This awesome TR is just 300km to the northeast of Delhi and well connected by road.

Corbett National Park has more than 50 species of mammals, 585 species of birds and 25 species of reptiles, but the Park is known for its elephants and leopards, and unfortunately not its tigers. Many kinds of deer, namely chital (spotted deer), sambar (Indian stag), chinkara (Indian gazelle), pada (hog deer) and muntjac (barking deer) abound in the Park.Tiger sighting is rare, in spite of a lot of alarm calls from monkeys and deer. Elephant herds comprising tuskers, females and calves are commonly seen.An elephant herd with calves is perhaps the most dangerous encounter in the wild, for elephants are very possessive of their young and do not hesitate to charge at intruding human beings.Leopard sighting is even rarer than that of the tiger, as they confine themselves to the higher reaches of the Park. Other feline species found in the Park are leopard cats, jungle cats, the rare fishing cat, and caracal, to name a few. Sloth bears, wild boars, monkeys, dholes (wild dogs), jackals and ghorals (mountain goats) are also seen in the Park.
The aquatic reptile population in the Park consists of mugger (Crocodylus palustris) and gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) crocodiles, while Indian rock pythons, Russell’s vipers, cobras, king cobras and common kraits are some of the snakes found in the Park. Bird life includes parakeets, flycatchers, babblers, cuckoos, robins, bulbuls, Indian and Great Pied hornbills, warblers and finches.

Corbett national park provides invaluable experiences for adventurous and wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and anglers. Elephant rides for wildlife viewing, in the mornings and evenings or the jeep safari is the best as walking without permission is an offense.

Going into CORE AREA is prohibited and swimming is also not allowed in the Ramganga river due to the ghariyal population .

Apart from its enchanting wildlife, the park is also known for its diverse variety of flora.Ranging from the evergreen Sal to , Sheesam, dhak , bael and other flowering trees . The Sal and the Sheesam, are the two most important timber trees of north India.

In addition, there are many forest trees such as palas ( the flame of the forest), the lovely amalatas (Indian laburnum) and kachnar that burst into bloom during spring season, providing an enchantingly beautiful look to the Corbett National Park.

Exceptionally rich in its avifauna the park is a delight for bird watchers. There are about 600 birds species here which include domestic as well as the migratory birds. Cormorants, the Darter, the Grey Heron, Egrets, the Cattle Egret, the White-necked and Black-necked Storks, the Spot bill, the Large Pied Wagtail and White-capped Redstart can be spotted easily. Great Crested Grebe, Graylag Geese, White Storks, Black Storks, Sandpipers, Snipe, the Great Black-headed Gull, about 15 kinds of ducks, and a variety of Wagtails. Another water-bird in the park is White or Rosy Pelicans occasionally noticed.these water birds are a feast for nature lovers.
Crested Serpent Eagle, the Black-winged Kite, the Indian Shikra, the Himalayan Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, Himalayan Vultures and Lesser and Greater Spotted Eagles, Hawk-Eagles, the Crested Honey Buzzard and the Black Eagle are the common birds of pray to be found here .
The migratory birds of prey include the Osprey, the Peregrine Falcon, the Booted Hawk- Eagle and the Steppe Eagle.
Over 18 kinds of owls identified in the Corbett National Park including the Spotted Owlet, Fish Owls. The nightjars in the park include the Jungle Nightjar, the Franklin’s Nightjar, the Stone Curlew and the Great Stone Plover.
One can also see Green Pigeons, Parakeets, Cuckoos, Hornbills, Barbets, Woodpeckers, Orioles, Drongos, Pies, Babblers and Thrushes. Among the ground-birds (woodland) are the Peafowl, the Red Jungle fowl, and the White-crested Kalij Pheasant.
Black Partridge, Doves, Bea-eaters, Rollers, the Hoopoe, Shrikes, Larks, Mynas, Bulbuls, Warblers, Tailor Bird, Robins, Chats, Redstarts, Bayas and Finches are commonly sighted .
The famous Indian Alpine Swift, Crested Swifts, the Dusky Crag Martin, Striated (or Red-rumpled) Swallows, the Indian Cliff Shallow, and the Wire-tailed Swallow are some of the other species found here.

The joy of Letter Writing


Rummaging through the corridors of the bygone days ,I found in my drawer ,a red envelope ,neatly tied with ribbon …and my face lit up with the memory of my grandmother ,my aaji, Vardha Moghe ..A remarkable woman of substance, she did her Bsc. (Botany) From Ferguson college, way back when girls hardly ventured into the field of science .Wrote workbooks of science for little children ,and played sitar to perfection.
I remember her as a soft spoken charming lady whose very presence made me feel warm n loved .I treasure the childhood days spent at her home in Pune .the fresh dollop of butter ,laying in her cozy lap ,her chubby soft little hands caressing my head ,..Her sweet honey filled voice still fills me with nostalgia .I loved her so much that I called her Aai(mother).I still do .

Fondly I looked at the yellow piece of paper in my hand..Broken handwriting..Illegible words..This was her last letter to me .Her body was wasting away due to osteoarthritis and she was going through a lot of agony .I remember the time when my aunt had to cut her long silvery hair to a short bob cut as it was becoming difficult to manage them as she lay on her bed unable to move. .the letter was written in 1979 just two years before she passed away.

Tender words of love and care, so painstakingly written to her favorite grand daughter .
I don’t remember how many times I must have read it folded and unfolded it during all these years..Even now, when I am low or troubled I see her round soft wrinkle free face and that priceless smile..It ceases all my pain.
This letter made me wonder how in the world of emails and sms, we have forgotten this wonderful art of hand written letters..The lovely stationary we kept..The personnel touch that each letter carried with it .the anticipatory wait for the postman to bring some news from a loved one..It was a wonderful feeling which was very private between the sender and the receiver. Sometimes the fragrance which brought back happy times spent together, all this is missing in today’s electronic world of communication.

Looking back I fondly recall writing and receiving hundreds of letters to and from my family, relatives and friends. But now my snail mailbox is wrought with bills, credit card inquiries and TONS of junk mail! I personally think it’s exciting to find a handwritten letter or card waiting for me at the end of the day.

Letter-writing is sadly a dying art form but it needs reviving. If not long winded letters, one should at least consider writing notes. I encourage my children to make cards ,write notes ,letters as we did .I myself make it a point to send hand written letters and cards as much as I can .It brings a person closer to you .


The Girl Child


It was at a construction site that I first saw her .A little girl about six years of age ..absolute bundle of joy. oblivious to the world around her she sat under the Gulmohar tree trying to cling to the tiny frock just about covering her thin frame and a torn shawl loosely thrown over the shoulders .But it was her face which caught my attention .Two large kohl lined eyes ,long eyelashes ,rosy cheeks chapped by the early winter chill.she was breathtakingly beautiful .Beside her on a piece of blanket lay an infant about one year old .the little girl continuously chatted with the baby and once in a while patted on its belly making the baby gargle with laughter .A toothy smile came to her face whenever she heard the laugh and she continued with her monologue and the game of stones she had devised for herself .It was a cold day and the work was in full swing at the sight ,i looked around for the parents but no one was in sight.A group of boys played at some distance and then there were more children and a small group of young women breaking stones .I dug into my shopping bag and took out a small packet of roasted peanuts .As I moved closer the girl suddenly looked up ,and for the first time I took a full view of her .it was a face of an angel ,the curls clinging to her forehead and the eyes telling the story of her life .she looked straight into my eyes ..i smiled but got no response from her .she shifted a bit as if uncomfortable by the presence of a stranger ,and keep her hand protectively on the little baby .I knelt and offered her the peanuts ..she didn’t move ..so i dropped it in her lap .She slowly covered it with her tiny hand ,her eyes fixed on me .” you are lovely especially your eyes ,they are beautiful ,you know?”I said , wanting to break the silence .”She doesn’t know “,a husky voice said from behind .I turned to face a boy of say around fifteen standing tall over me .”she doesn’t know “he said again looking at the girl with eyes full of admiration .”but everyone tells her so”he was willing to talk .I gave a small packet of cookies to him as well .he took it without hesitation .”she is my sister,my mother is working there “,he pointed to the group of women .”oh !i see ,why don’t you make her also play with you ?am sure she will enjoy “i said looking at the smiling girl .”no”,pat came the reply she has to be with the baby and besides ..he hesitated and lowered his eyes ..”besides she is blind “”from birth”.I kept staring at the boy unable to look in the lovely girl’s direction .speechless i turned to see her .she was once again busy with her stones paying no attention to people around her ..i simply stood up and walked away as if in trance ..many a times i wanted to look back but lost the courage when i thought of the beautiful little blind girl .Sometimes still pass that building but now the labourers are all gone .maybe one day i will find her again ,under some tree playing to herself

Life From Both Sides


One woman two worlds ..who am I ?what is my identity …which is the real me …?
the heart, soul, mind are in conflict ….
I am out of the trance …back to the reality of the mortal world ..
who am I ?
the question remains unanswered
the hour of the crystal ball is over ..the child is trapped in the depths of subconscious, the girl is desperate to break free ..the woman in me wants to overcome the daughter, wife, sister. mother .the feeling of caught between two worlds is getting stronger day by day… it’s time to transcendent the usual, the accepted …
….thinking