December 13, 2011

Mario Mirandaaa....aah!

A paper, a pencil and a quiet corner. How much can one achieve with this? Some paintings and drawings, and a few inevitable bulges in the waistline, owing to an inanimate lifestyle, perhaps?

In Mario Miranda's creations, the bulges were only in the eyes of the people he drew, and in the buxom women his work was filled with; and they were anything but inanimate! There was life and movement in his every stroke. And one need not talk about what he achieved from his quiet corner.

Mario caught the essence of India in his work...his drawings were always full of people in wonderful detail. "How much he saw!" said a friend of mine, and I totally agree with that. Not many of us really 'see' things as we go about our mundane lives.
My earliest memory of Mario's work is from the Illustrated Weekly of India, a magazine we all read and loved as children. We looked forward to episodes of Minister Bundaldass and his secretary Moonswamy. They were hilarious, filled with tasteful humour, and we enjoyed laughing at politicians, as we did at the film actress Miss Rajni Nimbupani.

Apart from his amazing body of work, I think Mario taught my generation to laugh at ourselves. Yes, India is this and India is that, but what the hell! The cows on roads, the overflowing trains, the streets with people rushing about their daily lives...hey! there are funny things going on around us all the time!

He also depicted romance in a charming way. His lines calmed down, and created a mood at once pleasant and beautiful. His cross hatching was masterly and his buildings and monuments were an architect's delight. I must add that his depiction of flora was amazing too.

On my last visit to Goa in 2008, I wanted to meet Mario, but couldn't. But I was very happy to see that his work was available in stores in Panjim, especially in the elegant Velha Goa Galleria. And now there is a website showcasing his work:

Thank you, Mario Joao Carlos do Rosario de Britto Miranda, for being born amongst us, for showing us everything you saw. India will miss you.

November 30, 2011

Bookaroo 2011

Here's a peek at Bookaroo 2011 (, which Ragini and I attended from 26 to 27 November 2011. I did a session on "Just look up..." and Ragini and I together did one on "Autorickshaw blues..." For two days, spending time with writers and illustrators from all over the world, we actually felt somewhat famous, especially at the signing sessions or when a visitor came looking for us :) ! It was also reassuring to see children thronging the beautiful Sanskriti Kendra and breathing books for 2 days.

The festival began with Jeeva Raghunath, a professional story-teller...she is AWESOME!

Adeline Foo from Singapore talking about her book "The diary of Amos Lee"

Ahem! Ahem! At Eureka, the bookstore!

British writers "the 2Steves"...Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore doing their double act...they had the crowd cheer and scream!

Our very own Jerry Pinto at an informal tete-a-tete with children.
Yes, he is very funny.

At Sanskriti Kendra's beautiful terracotta museum...btw, in 2004, Ragini and I stayed for 4 days at the Kendra when she attended an illustrator's workshop. She was 10 this was a nostalgia trip too. We were delighted to meet the artist Mr Sudhasatwa Basu, who helped Ragini with her drawing in 2004.

Another genius...Devdutt Pattanaik (left), whose books on Hindu mythology are well written and timely. His session was fabulous. He's a natural.

Satoshi Kitamura's session was fun; the kids loved it. He's a Japanese illustrator and writer.

Chatura Rao (right) and Lovleen Mishra talk about how to bring stories to life.
Yes, Lovleen is Hum log's Chutki!

Kunzang Choden (left), a Bhutanese writer, reads from her book.

Ragini with Jo Williams, one of the main Bookaroo organisers.

All in all, the Bookaroo festival was a pleasure to attend. Congratulations, Swathi Roy, Jo Williams, and Teamwork Productions...for a job very well done!

At the end of it, Ragini said, "Let's write another book, so we can come here again!"

October 16, 2011

Borderline drive 3: thoughts en route to Kalpa

We load Haliatus and begin the drive to Kalpa. It is exciting because leave alone Maloo and me, even Harsha and Prabha are not sure about the route. It seems mysterious and slightly scary, but fun. As we begin the drive, I decide to jot down sights, thoughts and feelings. Here are some of the more interesting ones, written in my notepad in shaky handwriting. It would have become a poem if I had better skills!

Pink and white morning glories
A place called Katrine!
Pine trees, deodars...
A gurgling Beas, an unending road,
Paratha-filled stomachs and Kailash Kher
At Aut, a 3-km tunnel...ooooh!
There was light at the end of it.

Apple transport across hills
How many types of flora...even palms!
Road sinks because of landslide
It is dangerous, so stones piled to indicate to drivers
We leave NH and are now on the narrow roads
through villages of HP
Unbarricaded roads winding through grand mountains

No road now --- katcha!
No vehicles in sight...forest sounds!
Fresh mountain air on face.
A burst of violet blooms
Sunshine filters through pine trees
We are the only people on earth.
Rang de Basanti adds to ambience.

Suddenly, houses up on the hills
A chubby little boy in orange clothes looks busy
Then a school with the slogan...'come to learn', 'go to serve'
A cowherd talking on cell phone!
A pine forest breaks the view of the sky.
On the other side, terrace gardens.
It is warm now.

As Harsha steers expertly, we get tossed and turned...centrifuged!
Mules and horses tethered on roadside
A man works on cementing a new milestone!
Three young men in jeans
It suddenly gets cold again; jackets back again
Forest sounds continue, stomach turning.
Misty and cold; valleys and clouds beneath us.
Just wow! Vijay gets cut.

See jungle fowl...then suddenly,
Vultures feeding on dead cow. WOW!
So many of them! We stop and watch.
I hope the cow hasn't been injected with the banned drug.
We then see the red beaked blue magpie...
beautiful bird with long designer tail

We move on
Now we are IN the clouds!
Listening to Senorita
We are heading towards Tattapani
No words to describe this beauty--neither Keats', not Frost's;
No camera or painting can do justice to this.
Deodars are full of flowers--yellow
Delicate white cloriander-like flowers all along

A village and a little distance from there,
the hills, the hills!
We have been in the car for 7 and a half hours now!
Now, kacha road. Landscape dry, trees sparse.
Pine trees disappear, it is dry and warm.
Dirt track continues endlessly
Suddenly, a waterfall.

It is scary now...where are we going?
We took the wrong turn.
Cannot takea U-turn;
luckily, after an hour, it ends in a village.
We turn back. Spirits up, we continue.
A river appears...a welcome sight.
It is now River Behna.
We finally get to NH 22. Phew!

It is warm now and we have the AC on.
Another river appears...this is Sutluj.
Beekeeping on the roadside
Pine trees are back again; there are also Eucalyptus.

I stopped writing after this became dark and we were on katcha roads for 2-3 hours--- very narrow; sometimes it seemed like there was no road at all. But then, we would see the lights of another vehicle before us, to prove that there was a road! We were driving at 10-20 kmph, with the dry, rocky mountains and one side and the steep valley below on the other. Very scary, and I tried hard not took look at anything! But there is trust in Harsha's driving...

Finally, after a long, long drive, we reached Reckong Peo, and were told that Kalpa was another 7-8 km from there. The whole town was sleeping, even the mountains on all sides seemed asleep. The drive to Kalpa was steep and we suddenly felt our ears clogging up. Hotel Kinner Villa, where we stayed, was the highest point. After climbing two flights of stairs (and panting!), we were in our room. Everything felt strange and new -- and cold!

We had driven for 15 hours.


In the morning, looked out of the window and found this:

It was worth every second of the 15-hour drive!

October 15, 2011

Borderline drive 2: Manali

Manali was 'Jab we met' country and the postcard-worthy landscapes and people were a delight. My own favourite definitely will always be dominating presence of the mountain on one side and the companionship of River Beas on the other. I will let the photos and captions speak...

Haliatus, Harsha and Prabha's Xylo.
The most important character on this drive!

The gurgling Beas was like a hyperactive child!

The Hidimba temple...

Not far from there is the Ghatodgaja temple, which is a tall pine tree--
my idea of a temple!

A decked up Manali beauty; she's smart too...
she charged me ten bucks for taking this photo!

A typical landscape as one drives around Manali.

A lone Sadhu lost in thought. Harsha firmly believes that he was fully doped.
"These guys live for the moment...:, he says.

Solang, an hour's drive from Manali. This is where parasailing and other activities happen.

The Hyderabad team at Solang.

The Vashisht temple...this wood-stone architecture is typical of the region.

We were fortunate to witness this procession...a local folk festival.

A Budhist monastery -- the region is dotted with them.

A prayer inscribed on stone. Artistic calligraphy.

Malini turning the prayer bells at the monastery.
I find the concept of prayer bells very charming.

And then, there's so much colour everywhere!

This, I think, is Guru Padama Sambhava

And these people are the borderline adventurers
--Harsha, Malini and Prabha.

It was very difficult to choose 17 photos out of at least 300. But these do capture the essence of our stay in Manali.

Please ignore the date on the photos...I had given Maloo my camera and had borrowed a cam (thanks, Vasanthi!), and the date wasn't set.

October 14, 2011

On the borderline drive with Harsha-Prabha - 1

It was a long journey to get to the point where Maloo and I got on Haliatus (Harsha-Prabha's Xylo). I went through the usual ups and downs...should I do the trip? Can I take the time off from family and from work? Am I being selfish going away with Maloo like this? And then I had to deal with the many whatifs that come to my very imaginative mind!

Now I am so glad we did this trip. It is great to, once in a while, drop everything and go off on a small adventure. To be with the fun-loving Harsha and Prabha is a chance to, literally and figuratively, sit in the back seat and not have to think or plan. I feel recharged and ready to take on everything that comes my way!

This was our schedule:
Day 1: Hyderabad-Delhi-Manali
Days 2 and 3: Manali
Day 4: Drive from Manali to Kalpa
Day 5: Kalpa
Day 6: Drive from Kalpa to Solan (near Shimla)
Day 7: Drive from Solan to Corbett (here we got off the car)
Days 8 and 9: Corbett
Day 10: Corbett to Delhi
Day 11: Back in Hyderabad

In Delhi, we spent a few hours with my cousin Sharmila, and then took a bus to Manali, where we met Harsha and Prabha in Hotel Picadilly.

This was (roughly) the route we took from Manali.

The aim was to drive across the Himalayas to Reckong Peo and Kalpa which are close to the India-Tibet border. From Kalpa, the original plan was to drive to Khab, which is the closest point to the border. But we were told that the roads were bad and that the army would not allow us to go to the border, so we spent a day in Reckong Peo instead, and then continued the drive the next day.

This road trip gave us many new experiences---visual, spiritual and emotional. There is much to write about, and many photos to share. I really don't know how to do this. I think I will do it in batches, so that it is easy for me to find the time to write, and easy for people to read.

The one dominating thought I came back with is that Himachal Pradesh makes one feel like an insignificant dot that can easily get blown away in the wind, and not make a difference to the world.

It is good to feel this way once in a while.

September 13, 2011

To my large family...

The large circle of relatives on my father and mother's side looks somewhat like the spirograph here. There are circles within, and circles outside circles. Some small circles overlap large circles, some large ones overlap smaller ones; some make loops with others, which in turn make loops with some others. As the family grew by loops and bounds, the spirograph grew in circumference and complexity, and would be a challenge for any mathematician. Some circles get knotted with others and become an unentangle-able mess, much like maanja and thread on the floor of the terrace if you don't wind the charka quickly enough after losing a kite!

The innermost circle comprises our immediate family--my father, mother, my brother and his family and me and mine. The next circle consists of my father's 9 siblings and my mother's 6 siblings, their spouses and my 30 first cousins. These people are very close to me, and I try my best to keep in touch with them (when time and distance become an issue, there's Facebook). We even ran a family magazine called Chatty Chitti at a time when we realised that half the family was moving to the US. The magazine wanted to turn into a novel after a few years, and we gave up...

Now my cousins have grown up and have their own spouses, children and in-laws, thus either adding new circles or crisscrossing existing ones. At last count, the family--on my father's and my mother's side--stood at a handsome 108!

My grandmother was the oldest and passed away early this year, at 90. The oldest living person now, in one of the closer circles is at a healthy 99. She is my father's sister's husband's mother...not too far from the innermost circle! (one secret if anyone's interested...she has been eating fruit for dinner the last 60 years...easy thing to do?)

And then there are my father's cousins and their children and my mother's cousins and their children who we used to meet, mostly at weddings. Some were Very Important People with jobs in high places, some were learned and awe-inspiring, some were simpletons. Some I admired, some I liked, some I ignored, and of some I was terrified. With none of them, unfortunately, I could be myself, and most of them really do not know who the real me is.

These circles look like the spirograph here.

AND, when I married Vijay, a few more circles were added to my spirograph (as newly weds, we spent a few weeks studying each other's family jungles). While his father's side has comparatively few people, his mother has 9 siblngs, with one of them having had nine children! Add to this, their families. I have never counted the number of people on Vijay's side, but I bet they don't beat us at the numbers game!

As time goes by, the spirograph of my family is beginning to look somewhat like this.

Sometimes I get dizzy just thinking of all these people in my life. Sometimes I love the fact that I belong to this HUMONGOUS group of makes me feel humble. I often get invites to weddings, engagements, cradle ceremonies, birthdays, wedding anniversaries...25th, then 50th; sashtipoorthis and sahasra chandra darsanam birthdays (80th). As the family ages, there are funerals to attend, then 13th day ceremonies, and then once a year, death anniversaries. I cannot attend all of them. I honour invites from the innermost circles, and those of others with whom I have some childhood connection.

To all those whose invites I have not honoured---thank you for including me in your list. I am touched that you thought of me and my family. I did not mean to be disrespectful; I did not come because even though there is a lot of space in my heart, there are only 24 hours to my day, and I have to draw a line (circle?) somewhere...

September 06, 2011


I have now been blogging for 5 years now. Actually the blog turned five in August, but I didn't remember. I looked back to see what my blogging year has been like, and I realised that I have posted a lot of significant events during this year. But I haven't been doing much creative writing, and this is something I should do. I also want to write humour, and about some of my ancestors, so that bits of family history are recorded here, especially for my children to read.

There is much to write, and I am convinced that "Lens and Sensibility" is here to stay. :)

Traffic to this blog has become quite less now, thanks to FB's domination. However, like most bloggers, I too follow the practice of giving a link to some posts on FB. In spite of this, once in a while, blogging still throws up some surprises in physical time and space. Some time back, a friend introduced me to her friend, who was very warm to me, as though she was an old friend. It was unusual and I began wondering why...and then told me she reads my blog!

Before I end, here is some interesting info about blogging from Wikipedia.
" was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. The designated date is August 31, because when written 3108, it resembles the word "Blog". On that day, bloggers recommend five new blogs to their visitors, so that readers discover new, previously unknown blogs."

Stepping into year 6...cheers, and thank you, my dear reader.

August 21, 2011


A week day, an Innova, a good driver, and four like-minded, fun-loving friends. It is perhaps the best way to do a trip. We went to Bidar last week, and discovered that it makes a great 2-day outing from Hyderabad.

For the record, we saw the following: Chaubara clock tower, Madrassa (Mahmood Gawan), Bidar fort (Sharza gate, Gumbad gate, Rangeen Mahal, Tarkash mahal, Diwan-i-am, mosque); Barid Shah tombs; Ashtur --Bahamani Sultan tombs; Gurudwara; bidri workshop. Towards evening, we visited the Blackbuck Resort---the newest Jungle Lodges branch---and on our way back from there, we were rewarded by the sighting of a hoopoe taking a leisurely stroll and a kingfisher at work.

I was amused by the pink facades of houses on the Chaubara street; I was touched by the vastness and quiet of the fort; felt the sincerety of the people at the gurudwara as we partook of the 'langar' (the free lunch); and was amazed when I saw the making of bidriware, and at how one of the ingredients in the process was soil from the Bidar fort! The langurs of Bidar charmed us, as they jumped up and down, ran and climbed, generally going about their monkey business.

At the fort, in the Rani's mahal, there was a mixture of Kerala (carved wood), Islamic (mother of pearl on granite) and Kakatiya styles, which I thought was unusual.

At the Narasimha temple, one has to go through a cave, wading through above waist-level water to get to the sanctum sanctorum, with bats on the ceiling of the cave, and occasionally flying out at you. Exciting, huh? However, what touched me was the 'sparrow wall' I saw there (photo below). Great idea for the conservation of sparrows. Inexpensive too.

Hotel Shiva International on one of Bidar's main streets (where we stayed) was great value for money, and we were delighted to find an authentic Kamat right across the road. What more does one want on a holiday?

A few unusual glimpses of the trip are posted below. For the more cliched ones, one can always look at Google images!

My favourite photo from the Bidar collection. This was taken near the Chaubara clock tower.

The neighbour doesn't want to be left behind...!

At the Madrassa...

The playful langurs...

The langurs on the fort wall

A view of the Bidar fort from the car
One view of the fort

This banyan tree had at least five parasites growing from its hollow, including a flowering lantana and a neem tree!

A Hindu saint (Panduranga, I think) apparently visited the sultan at the fort and left his footprint here. We saw people worshipping this spot.

Signs of Independence day celebration in the fort!

A view of the new from the old...present Bidar is conspicuous by its brightly painted houses...mustards, shades of pinks, blues and violets, even.

The Gurudwara

One of the Barid Shah tombs was apparently struck down by lightning.

These are nests of birds I could not identify. They fly around swiftly and keep going to the ceiling to deposit feathers and other material to add to the nest. They never stopped so I could not get a closer look at them!

A sparrow peeping out from its nest on the sparrow wall at the Narasimha temple.

The sparrow wall...why can't we do this everywhere?!

The tranquil Blackbuck resort at Vilaspur, about 20 km from Bidar

Sorry, no photo of the Narasimha temple wade-in-water scene. I would like to leave that undisclosed, so you can imagine the cave, the water, the bats. If you get too curious, ask Google.