The remote connectivity to my workplace was broken – due to some data center failure in the US. So I had to go to work in the morning – I wanted to go early and be back early. So I left home at 6:40AM. And wow, it was a ride to remember, to ITPL.
Was reading the NYtimes, and the portrait of the Obama family is pretty diverse. Very interesting mixture.
The president’s elderly stepgrandmother brought him an oxtail fly whisk, a mark of power at home in Kenya. Cousins journeyed from the South Carolina town where the first lady’s great-great-grandfather was born into slavery, while the rabbi in the family came from the synagogue where he had been commemoratingMartin Luther King’s Birthday. The president and first lady’s siblings were there, too, of course: his Indonesian-American half-sister, who brought her Chinese-Canadian husband, and her brother, a black man with a white wife.
Whether Obama will change the US of A or not, I think this mixture is definitely a change to the hypocritical ‘ruling class’ of the US of A ; which has predominantly been white protestants. The NYTimes say that, there were several thousands of people who came to the Inauguration, not for witnessing the event, but for making sure – they would not believe that they would have a black president, until they see one taking the oath. Wow. That is shocking.
Hm. I just read on lifehacker that the tech savvy Obama administration has unvealed a whitehouse blog. Infact, the whitehouse site itself looks pretty neat. Has a lot of facts about the white house. It has clear links (at the bottom of the page) to Briefing room (PR), administration, the government charter etc. Looks like a well designed corporate company website. And I see that, Obama is planning to go one-up on Bush, by providing a weekly video talk (every saturday). I believe Bush used to just ‘talk’ on NPR once a week.
We reached Sterling Elk Hill around noon. The location of this resort is amazing. Near the city center but not too real. It is on top of a hill (Elk Hill?) which overlooks the bus stand. So it is about a half hour walk (or 10 min drive) down the hill to reach the bus stand. The resort has some beautiful rooms. The one that we had was a deluxe suite. It had a living room, with an attached dining table and a kitchenette, and an adjoining bedroom. I personally liked the rooms. The rooms are a little old, and show a little ageing, in terms of plaster etc, but very comfortable. They had a room heater, which we could use. What more do you want ? Good clean bed, clean bathroom, neat sheets, and a room heater!. (Yes, it was pretty cold in Ooty/Coonoor – sub 10 deg cel).
We stayed in Ooty for 2 days. Both R and me had already seen the sights in Ooty. So the first day, we did not do anything. We just chilled in the hotel room. The biggest mistake we did that day, was to have dinner at Sterling. One point of advise – avoid the food here. Very substandard fare. It is not unpallatable or anything ; but if avoidable, nothing better to have a better holiday. The next day, we took the car for a spin around the Ooty lake. The lake is huge, and the road is lonely at points. All in all, a nice drive. Had lunch at the Cafe at Hotel Nahar (Charing Cross). They have excellent wood-fired pizza. Delectable. Brilliant. Both R and me are big fans of pizza, and this pizza tasted great. We then did some shopping/mindless wandering around Charing Cross area. Went to Khadi, bought some stuff etc. Then in the evening, again went for a walk. The pizza was so good, that for dinner, we went to Nahar too. They have a North Indian restaurant at the back. Decent food. Went back to the room and crashed for the night.
We left early for Coonoor the next day morning. The road to Coonoor from Ooty passes through Charing Cross. So we thought we would have a quick breakfast at Preethi Palace (a hotel recommended by the Concierge at Sterling). Again, please avoid this place – Preethi Palace. Very shabby place. The tables are not even cleaned when people get off. And the food sucks. Anyways, after that bad gasstronomic experience, we headed down the awsome Ooty-Coonoor highway – this is a national highway, and the road quality is something that matches international standards. However, having said that, I hated this road. Why ? you ask. When the moron drivers in our country see good roads, they dont kick back and settle down for a nice drive ; they put on their F1 race car helmets. Why ? Why ? The buses and lorries, and ofcourse the tourist Indicas/Sumos/Qualis/Innovas become rakshasaas on the road. And this was relatively early in the morning. We reached Coonoor at around 10AM ; and checked in to Velan Ritz in Upper Coonoor, one of our favourite places. Despite the slighty ageing interiors of the rooms, the location of the hotel is the best ; and the staff are very helpful and nice.
We stayed the full day that day in Coonoor – walked around mindlessly. Coonoor is a place which is perfect for mindless walking. Awesome climate, nice people, nice winding mountain roads, fresh chill air. We started our journey back early the next day. Grudgingly I drove that stretch between Coonoor to Ooty on the national highway. We had breakfast at the Garden restaurant at Nahar (we completed all three restaurants in Nahar with this – and yes, the food here is also good. Traditional South Indian breakfast of Idly/Dosa/Vada). I had already decided to take the shorter Masinagudi route down to the plains. I did not want to take the smooth national highway. I dont like big trucks/buses overtaking me on curves in the hills. The Masinagudi route was so peaceful. Saw so many spotted dear near the road.
Down on the plain, we crossed Theppakadu, Mudumalai, Bandipur – we were making good speed, since the traffic was low. Then the dreaded no-road stretch arrived after Bandipur. Midway through this no-road stretch, we saw this arch which said – Himavad Gopalaswamy temple. We had heard of this temple from Ombalan (at the Secret Ivory). On a sudden whimsical decision, I swung the car into this road (yes there is a road). It is about 11 km from the main road, and about 7km of it is steep ghat section. Just before the ghat section, there is a forest department checkpost. The temple (as the name suggests) is of Lord Krishna.
Very pretty nice tall statue of standing Krishna, playing the flute. He has the snake (naagam) over his head. It is around 700 yrs old. The temple is a regular temple – no cave etc ; but the miracle here is that, from somewhere, there is water trickling down above the God throughout the year. The pujari takes some of that water with this finger and sprinkles on you. Interesting. From the top of the hill, you can practically see the whole Bandipur/Mudumalai forest all around you. Great view. By the time, we finished the dharshan, it was about 11:30ish. We raced back to the no-road stretch, and thankfully covered it fast, and continued racing towards Mysore – we wanted to catch Chamundi dharshan as well.
I like Mysore for being such a good tourist friendly city. There are boards everywhere to every tourist spot. We found our way to Chamundi hills very easily. Again, the road laying is awesome. We took the Rs100 dharshan, which basically circumvents the queues. You are dropped close to the sanctum-sanctorum, and from there, it is the regular ‘jargugandi’ push. We were out in 10 minutes. Good dharshan though.
Back on the road, we asked for directions for Dasaprakash, my favourite eating place in Mysore. Been here innumerable number of times, when we used to go on road trips with my father. Good clean simple food. Had full plate mealsu. After that, it was Mysore palace dharshan. Both R and me had been here before, but it had been quite a few years before – so we did a revision study :-). Full crowd. So we milled around the palace pushed gently in a rapid fire tour of the palace. The palance still never fails to impress me though. What richness. What grandeur.
After the palace, it was back on the road to home sweet home. The trip back was nice and uneventful – Mandya, Maddur, Srirangapatna flew by. And we were at the BMIC confusion area around 7PM. There are absolutely no menafingul sign boards here for direction here. So I just kept following traffic ; and I realized pretty soon, that was not a very good idea – I ended up inside Kengeri Satellite Town. So I did the next best thing, hopped off the car, went and asked the nearest shop owner. And he said – “Straight hogi, Hoysala cirkal, right madi, straightu hogi, railway bridge, straightu hogi, mysore roadu“. Beautiful directions, except, I went straight and kept searching for a circle, and could not find one. After about 1/2 km, I asked someone else – about Hoysala circle. And it seems that small lamp post in the middle of the road, where one road branched off was the Hoysala cirkal. God, please teach these people what a circle is. Ask them to see the roundabouts in Mysore. Anyways, once I found the ‘cirkal’, I was able to find my way back to the main road. It joins just before the Raja rajeswari arch on Mysore road. Took the right turn on to the Outer ring road, and painfully made my way up to Deva gowda bunk, and then to Bansankari, Jayanagar, Bannerghatta, Diary circle, and then ….. home to Koramangala.
3.5 hours – 165 km Mysore to Bangalore Outer
2 hours – 30 km from Bangalore Outer to Koramangala
Not surprised. All entries to Bangalore are like that – Chennai-Bangalore resembles the same pattern as above. Hosur to Koramangala takes 2 hours.
All in all a great trip. I hope you guys enjoyed the trip report.
Tomorrow is Thiruvadarai, a festival in the Southern parts of India. Anyone familiar with the festival, first recollects the kali and the multi-thaan kuzhambu that is made with this. It is unspoken fact that, everyone eats the kali (which is a pretty bland sweet kichdi kind of rice-dish) only for the specatucular kuzhambu that is made along with this. Anyway, I thought I would give some salient facts about this festival here:
Thiruvadarai comes from the name of the star Arudra. This is one of two stars, which have the salutation Thiru in front of it (the other is Thiruvonam). Maybe the salutation is given because, ancient astronomical texts say that this star is H.U.G.E (apparently 2 and one half crore times bigger than the sun).
This festival is attributed to Lord Shiva – especially Nataraja. It is believed that the cosmic dance performed by Lord Nataraja is manifested in the light shown by this star.(Thiruvonam is attributed for Lord Vishnu).
It is famous for its kali (see recipe here) and the ultimate ezhu thaan (7 vegetables) kuzhambu (see recipe here).
Special abhishekam performed in Chidamabaram for Lord Nataraja.
It happens to be the birthday of Saint Manickavasagar, and is celebrated at Thiruperundurai.
In Sirgazhi (aka Sirkali), it is known for the birth anniversary of Saint Thiru Gnana Sambandar, who as a baby was breast-fed by the Goddess Parvati herself.
Now that you know all the facts, go and enjoy the kali-kuzhambu deadly combination 🙂 Happy Thiruvadarai all.
Note: This year, Thiruvadarai happens to be on Jan 10. It may fall on nearby dates on different years of the Gregorian Calender. In the Tamil Calendar, it is on the thirvadarai nakshatram in the margazhi maasam.