Friday, June 27, 2014

A good place to stop

On the way to the south (Bangalore Mysore road) there is this Kamat hotel which is a good place to stop for food. (Kamat Lokaruchi)
We halted for breakfast on the way to the Nilgiris. The best part is the open ambiance.  

As you enter, you get to see this aesthetically decorated place near the cash counter

We ordered Idli and  wada. The Idli over here is known as Mudde Idli.

It is steamed in banana leaf and the taste is quite different than a normal Idli.

The sweet dish too was not very sweet but at the same time tasty.  

I had a look at their open kitchen where the idli and the dosas were made.

One thing I observed about the place was that it was “manned” by gents and ladies.

In fact more ladies than gents

On the way back to Bangalore we stopped at the same place for lunch.  The assorted vegetable spread was a real treat to the eyes.  

What they serve first is a type of puran poli with ghee.  

When you are done with it, you get your rotis with butter (raggi roti) 

This is followed by rice. You can have as many helpings as you want. The butter milk is something that you should not miss.
Children too will like this place, as there is enough open space for them to unwind   

I found this in a prominent place, probably the founder.  

On the whole, a good place to halt and fill up. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Imagination of a child

 I remember the days when I used to play with these wooden toys. I especially remember the tram (which looked something like this) and imagined me as a tram driver, driving all over Bombay. (yes Bombay had trams till 1964)

After all what is a toy? I think it is just an object which, in the hands of a child turns into the actual thing.  The way a child’s imagination soars with a toy is unimaginable. So when a child sits on this rocking horse, he gets himself transported to faraway places, fighting gallant wars, saving damsels in distress. . . . . .  the possibilities are endless, which only a child can imagine.

Saw the display of these toys last week while driving down from Bangalore to the Nilgiris.  On the way is a small town by the name of Channapatna which is famous for its wooden toys dating back to many generations.

Now they have come up with many more fancy stuff, like these wooden flower vase which is bound to have some international interest.

A plethora of musical instruments

and artists who play them

I have no idea how an abacus works so I wonder if this is a real one as I see only nine beads in some rows.

These squirrels (and the penguin) with an articulate body is a work of art.

Somebody has come up with this saving bank made of wood in a unique shape.

Are these Flamenco dancers?

Car seat cover with wooden beads

With a choice of so many toys, I observed a child picking up a colourful plastic toy (made in China)

The toys of Channapatna are made of wood and coloured with vegetable dyes. They are cost effective and safe for children to play with, provided parents encourage them.
It is not surprising that Michele Obama was impressed with the toys at Channapatna and bought some to be taken back to White House as mementoes.
The next time I pass by this town, I will make it a point to go into the interiors and visit some factories where these toys are made.

Sunset at the Nilgiris.

A three minute video showing more toys:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A good place in Ooty

Hill stations are the best place to get away from the heat. But getting the right place to stay is the biggest hurdle.
Had been to the Nilgiris (Ooty) last week and found that the Grand Manor is an ideal place to stay. From outside it may not grab your attention but the perspective changes once you are inside. 

The location is very close to the Botanical Garden (about 3 minutes on foot) What I liked best about the place is its cleanliness and neatness. For some, the rooms may look small but who needs huge rooms for staying at a hill station.

The problem with Ooty is that you have to go for very high end hotels to get a decent and respectable place. Garden Manor has filled in that vacuum by offering a decent place for an affordable rate. I liked the rooms which faced the stadium. Being a sportsman I enjoyed viewing the young ones playing football, basketball and volleyball (yes all are enclosed in the same stadium)
The stairs are wide and the corridors are neat and clean.

They have provision for car park near the entrance as well as an additional open air car park. Many hotels don't provide food but here you can get breakfast and dinner (but this is purely based on advance order) 
Unlike other hotels which provide hot water from a central place, here geysers are fitted in every bathroom which ensures constant hot water as per your requirement.
The overall ambiance of the place too is good with some interesting paintings put up at strategic places.

I found this canopy over the potted plant out of place, but the staff explained that a bird decided to build its nest in the plant, and they tried to shield it from the rains. And indeed there was a bird, oblivious of all the activity around.

The owner and partner Mr Antony is pleasant to talk to and has some interesting stories to tell about the old Ooty and how things are slowly changing. I suppose that is the story everywhere.

This place is close to the famous  Modern Store. Hope to write about this store in my next blog post.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Bulbul and Mrs Koel

This is not the first time that the Red Vented Bulbul is making a nest on our terrace, but this time I got to see one of the natural habits of these avian species.

As usual the pair came scouting for a place to build the nest and within two days they decided on the location.  The work started in full earnest. The basic frame work was made and they never fail to get some sort of a thread to tie the nest to the base. (this time it was some white plastic thread)

As the days progressed, the nest took a firm shape with both the male and the female ones taking turns in getting the material for the nest.

When one came in, the other would leave for more twigs.

The items they got were just right for a nest. Dried flowers, cotton, broken broom sticks.

Once some unwanted material came along (I think it must have been chewing gum) and the Bulbul got rid of it, preened itself nicely on the fence and only then entered the nest.

Life was happy in the neighbourhood with the Robins hoping about and the Magpie looking for worms

Meanwhile danger loomed close by in the form of a Male Koel who was observing everything from a nearby tree.

The Koel must have informed Mrs Koel, as I found her lurking around well hidden in the foliage.

My observation was that she was hanging around more than Mr Koel. I suppose his work was to go scouting around for nests so that his female counterpart could lay her egg in those nests.
The only problem was that Mrs Koel had no idea if the Bulbul had already laid her eggs as the nest looked complete now.

So when the coast was clear, she made a dash for the nest and peeped inside. Even though my camera was on I could not capture that action.  Or rather I was awestruck by what this huge bird was trying to do and totally forgot to point the camera in the right direction.  All I got in my frame was her swooping down.

I don’t know if the Bulbul pair was aware of this action that took place as I saw them later giving their final touch to shape up the nest.

The next day, while I was working at my desktop I heard a big commotion outside. I could usually place a bird by its call, but this was a cacophony of many birds. I rushed out and found that a magpie, a mynah, two robins and two bulbuls were trying to attack something. The target was out of my sight (hidden by the foliage) but I guessed who it could be.

I got my camera and tried to capture the action. Mrs Koel was the target and probably she was a common enemy for all these birds.
Mrs Koel was outnumbered and knew that.  She went into the “broken wing” act, something that birds do, either to divert attention or for sympathy.  

From here she flew onto the swing with the bulbuls in close pursuit.

The bulbuls were not ready to give up and wanted her out of their territory. They made swooping sorties on her. Mrs Koel saw an opening in between these sorties and flew away.

I read some interesting facts about the female Koel on the net. One that caught my attention was written about seven decades ago by one Mr Krishna Raju on “Intelligence of a pair of Koels

In fact that typewritten archive has a lot of info for bird lovers (click here to see)

Coming back to our Bulbul pair, the nest is ready, but will they come back to lay their eggs?  What do you say? I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Have made a 12 minute video on the complete action (or rather all that I could capture) All bird calls heard in this video is the ambient natural sound.