Category Archives: posts about india

Walk through graffiti lane, KOLKATA.

Whenever I travel I make sure to squeeze some time for checking out non touristy places of a location. It’s the best way to feel the local vibe unbiased by clean, decorated, post card perfect exhibitions of monuments and museums and markets.

So of all the touristy things that I could have done in Kolkata, I chose to do what I believe in. Chuck the museums and malls, and  wander to  get lost for a while. Lo and behold, I came across lanes full of youth hotels, backpacker stays in narrow alleys around Park street in north Kolkata.

While wandering I did come across a particular set of lanes, which intrigued me enough to deserve their own blog post. Entering deeper into the labyrinth of lanes, after a couple of turns, I was welcomed with a riot of color and art spread over walls on both sides of a walk way.

A little googling later tells me that not many people are aware of the graffiti lane near Park street.

Graffiti as an art form is not an Indian creations. Yes, we have been painting walls since stone age. But graffiti gained identity in the west as a means to shout out thoughts of the common man. More so in days before Twitter and Facebook, very few means of expression could make common man heard.

So where mostly these days public walls are littered with ugly political slogans, here was some dash of color, intellect and comic relief for public display where it is not really expected.

I had fun clicking them and enjoying the mind of the artist. Here’s your turn to have a look.

P.S. if anyone can tell me who are the artists, I’d be thankful.





A day at Kumartuli.

Once upon a time long long ago the East India Company won the battle of Plassey and entered Calcutta. They decided to set up colony on the river banks of river Ganga. It was decided that a separate district would be allotted to the works-men collecting people of similar profession at one location. Hence Coomartolly or present day Kumartuli was born.

Today Kumartuli is home to potters from all over Calcutta. They furnish idols of Gods and Goddesses, primarily Durga idols. Their creations are not only the backbone of Durga puja celebration in India but also around the world. The idols are made mostly from clay and straw which is environment friendly too.

Kumartuli is also on any photographer’s map visiting Kolkata.  The artisans are lesser known hard working souls who toil for many hours a day for months at stretch to make a decent living. Be sure to tip them if required and get the photo clicking permit for rs. 10 and rs. 60 from one of the offices.

It is an intriguing experience to see these idols being made. We are used to seeing the intact human form in everyday life. What makes a stroll through a potter’s studio exciting is the sight of life like separate heads collected in one corner. Headless bodies being crafted at a different place. Straw made statues being layered with clay. Painters working to color the skin, then the clothes. Elegant dresses being draped on these life like idols.

It almost felt like one of those heads in the artisan’s head was smiling for real. Like those idols would move when no one’s watching. Like the asuras were actually froze while being killed by Durga ma. And the smile and eyes of Durga idols nothing less than hypnotic.

I was lucky to have been there  around Mahalaya, the first day of Durga puja. It is a very auspicious day for Bengalis. Its also the day when eyes of the Durga idols are painted. It symbolizes breathing of life into those idols. Certainly the idols did feel lifeless so far, but spookily real once the eyes came to life.

I’ll leave you with my favorite pictures from the walk.



Your’s truly being a cooli…! 🙂

Wandermates #5 – Gramlines


Of the many things I liked about the Ziro music festival was that it was very relaxed and informal. The artists who performed on stage came down and joined the crowd, sharing drinks, chatting, enjoying other shows, being one like the audiences.

So on my way back, in the sleeper coach of my train, I found myself in good company of the Italian band called Gramlines. They had performed at the fest and had kept the audience in awe throughout the show. They play rock in an alternative/soft genre with good lyrics.Since I had the opportunity to talk to them, I was curious to know what would they do in everyday life. As audience, the general practice is to hold artist o a pedestal, and one never comes to know about them as a person. I find it intriguing.

To my surprise, theirs was not a full time band. They are a bunch of long time friends who came up with their own music, but still  are pursuing their education. So, one of them is a pharmacist. One is pursuing PhD. in Physics from Australia. Two of the members are students of philosophy. I was impressed to see that these guys were rooted firmly in the reality and not whimsically drifted to the lure of glamour and money.

It was also interesting to learn their understanding of what makes certain bands super successful and some die an unnoticed death under the shadows of popularity. They said that its mainly because to please the masses,  as a band, you generally have to deviate from your own style of music and become what is promoted to the population as ‘cool’. So, in return of money and fame, you might give away your creative freedom and emotion of the music.

You can checkout their Facebook page here  :

Have fun.

The Apatanis of Arunachal.

Sometimes when I travel, I come across places far flung from the plague of industrialization and concrete shadows. At times, the philosophy of life imbibed in people living here makes me reconsider the meaning of progress, success, culture, values, tradition and civilization.


What do you do if you look so stunning that people of the other tribe want to steal you away? Tattoo your face and wear a nose ring, intentionally to look at ugly. Crazy.!

Meet the Apatani tribe.They are a non- nomadic tribe residing in the Ziro valley of Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh, India. They worship sun and moon, Donyi-Polo. They cultivate rice and farm fish and frogs.

Social structure.

Hong is the second largest village in Asia, home to the Apatanis, I was told. Yet it felt uncluttered and peaceful to see. It got me curious about the working of the society and how did they maintain order in spite of being so spread out and populated. Speaking to the locals this is what I discovered. The Apaptani tribes are divided into small ‘titles’. Each title, from what I could understand, is like a big joint family. They have their own place of worship. People cannot marry withing the same title, but can freely do so from other titles.

Also, after the indoctrination of Christianity and Hindu ideas into their concept of worship, they have becmome more streamlined with the present day practices.

It is surprisingly forward compared to some communities popularized by mainstream media from mainland India in the light of enmity against inter caste marriages, love violence, etc.


Way of life.

Women hold  major stake in everyday life here. They work in farms along side men. Run businesses. Take decisions about property and household alike. It is in complete harmony with the men, unlike many modern societies we come across in cities often.

I was glad to hear that people from Ziro and north east in general feel as Indian as any of us. In fact, the anchor in Ziro Festival of Music, on many occasions would invite people from other states to come down and settle in Ziro, and marry Apaptani women. Way ahead of its time I say.




Tribal tattoos.

Amongst other things, tribes, world over are often known for their distinct tattoos. Apatanis are no different. The story goes that women of these tribes were/are so stunning that men form the the tribes would come to teal them. Hence, to intentionally look ugly, women would tattoo their face in T-shape to ward off unwanted attention. Of all the kinds of tattoos, facial tattoos are most intriguing to me. Your face is your identity, and to permanently modify it by tattooing is committing to a belief unconditionally. It means making the idea behind the tattoo a part of your identity.Its not only just tattoos, they also apply nose rings to enhance the ugliness.


Tattoos and nose rings.


Modern Apaptanis.

The present day generation swiftly switches between traditional and modern practices. They party with as much glamour as they dance to the folk songs. They believe in education. Hong village was full of schools and colleges and many book shops I saw. People are well aware of current affairs of not only their own region but rest of the country as well. They speak Hindi and English well and are able to communicate about their culture and feelings freely.And they love Bollywood and Apong, their local rice beer.


It was a pleasure hanging out with these folks..!


Sarpanch of Hong village, Mr. Tatungnada.


They showed me around the whole village and told me lots of what I have written above.Thanks for the ride guys.!


Wandermates #4 – Byron.

“A journey is measured in friends rather than miles” – Tim Cahill

This is an attempt to share all the interesting stories of people I’ve come across while on the road .

One at a time.

We often bump into  a lot of people everyday. Some interesting, some outright rude. Some cunning and some sweet as honey. Nevertheless, for a brief moment,  two lives intersect each other.

Generally while traveling we’re more receptive to strangers.

I like to chat with the locals and hear the tales of their  childhood. The fables of the land. The beliefs built by that human being over a lifetime.img_20160921_111027shrink

This meek looking gentleman is way more than what meets the eye. He runs the most popular homestay deep in the jungle of Sohra or Cherapunji. He speaks fine english, his place is very clean and the food menu is an extensive palette. All these tings made me curious, so probed a little deeper.

So, Byron has wore many hats, including being a teacher of environmental science in Meghalaya, working for multi national corporations and so on. But it was his love for cooking and the emptiness of staying away from family while at work that bought him to give up city life, and make the forest of living root bridges his home.

It was fun staying at his place. Smoking hot tasty food while its raining like donkeys in the heart of forest make for memory of a lifetime.

Living root bridges.


The living root bridges are one of its kind, wonders of nature. Found in the Indian state of Meghalya at many places. They are essentially rubber trees on both sides of a river or stream. The roots of trees on both the sides entangle among each other over the water and make a sketchy bridge over the river. Thats when the Khasi tribe folks come in. They tighten the structure and make them into usable bridges. These bridges can last for hundreds of years.

All said and done, they are a work of art created by man and nature. For city dwellers who are used to concrete jungle, this comes as a surprise. Its also astonishing to know that tree roots can be so strong and long lasting.

Their sight reminded me of scenes from Avatar the movie. The creatures of Pandora live amongst the trees and sleep on hammocks swinging between branches.

Of the many bridges scattered all over the jungles of the state, there’s one in particular deep in the heart of Sohra or Cherpunji. Its unique because there are two bridges one above the other, over crossing the stream. Aptly, the bridge is called a ‘Double Decker”living root  bridge.

The walk to the Double Decker root bridge is long and patience-testing. But to make it all worth wile, I would strongly suggest anyone to stay a night at the homestays in village near the bridge. Living deep in the jungle is a rejuvenating experience not to be missed. The homestays are neat and clean. Pocket friendly. Food is basic but tasty. There’s elcetricity most of the time. Also one gets a chance to interact with the locals.

There is also a wonderful waterfall further from the Double Decker root bridges that must not be missed. Just pray for clear sunlight and the Rainbow waterfalls will certainly be a memory of a lifetime.


Mawlynnong root bridge.




Way to the bridge, Mawlynnong.


Mawlynnong, Asias cleanest village.




Reward after the walk.!


Way to Double Decker root bridge.


Khasi tribe woman.


Cheers, from the bonfire night, Byron’s homestay, Double root bridges, Sohra.


Greater crater – LONAR lake.

Pictures from Lonar crater day trip. Write up is here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


%d bloggers like this: