Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Arrival of Ganesh

When I was growing up, festivals were a time for families to get together and meet friends and neighbors. It was more about socializing than anything else.

These days it seems everything is more about the noise - How much louder and longer I can blast my music and fire crackers than the next building. Where I stay, every opportunity they get, they bring in the loud speakers and mic. There will be an announcer no one wants to hear and loud music. In case of the current Ganesh festival, also a group of very out of tune bhajan 'singers'. Our ears have been ringing with all the noise. Except for Eid. Nothing happens on Eid. There aren't enough people who celebrate the festival who want loud speakers.

Now I don't have anything against people celebrating. I in fact have nothing against anyone doing anything as far as they are not infringing on someone else's space. I will also tolerate fire crackers for a day if required. But unfortunately that's not what usually happens. The 'celebrations' go on for a few days consecutively. That means you don't even get time to recuperate from the headache you got last night.

There is absolutely no consideration for people who don't celebrate the festival or for those who prefer to do it in a quieter fashion.

How I remember the festival is the colony getting an idol on day one; then every evening at the pre-fixed time everyone would gather around it and sing hymns (without mics); then on the eve of the idol immersion, there would be an entertainment show with residents dancing or singing. A procession would be taken out the next day to take the idol and immerse it in a water body. Plain and simple.

You know you're getting old when you wish for 'the good old days'. Sigh!

Friday, September 7, 2012


We had gone to Kenya in 2009 so this post is a little late. But I just realized that I missed posting about Amboseli after having written about Nairobi, Nakuru, and Masai Mara. So here it is, finally.

We drove down from Nairobi and most of the route was excellent (some sections of the road were still being built - should be all ready by now). However, construction for the rest was still underway so we did see some flat tires on the way (including ours). It took us roughly about 4 hours to reach Sentrim Lodge where we were staying in tented accommodation. The only difference was that it didn't lack any modern-day luxury. You could hear the chirping of the birds as they woke you up in the morning, and the distant rumble of the larger animals was the lullaby that put you to sleep.

We had gone in August and the temperatures dipped to singles digits in the evenings. Days were pleasant as well. On a clear day, Mount Kilimanjaro would make an awesome backdrop to this beautiful landscape. However, during our 2-night stay, it made an appearance but briefly.

The landscape is flat and so vast that it is not possible to see every detail from the assigned track even with good binoculars. But, the authorities strictly enforce the ban on vehicles that wander off the track. That way the rightful residents can go about their business without much intrusion. Don't let that dishearten you. You still get a front-seat to some awesome moments.

Our safaris were always eventful. The highlight had to be a mating pair of lions. It pays to stop and take in the atmosphere, because you will rewarded with wondrous sights. We happened to see this ritual only because we saw a lone baby elephant and stopped to say hello. While our guide was explaining how this baby could be under threat from lions looking for a meal, we see a pair trot by. They flirt, and mate. We wait for about 40 minutes with them just 20 feet away form us. They mate again and go off into the sunset.

Another incident was the case of the scratching elephants. Even though we had seen more elephants during this trip than we could count, we wanted more. So when we saw another pair, we waited while these pachyderms crossed the street, and went straight to a rock and started scratching their asses off on it. They did this for a good 5 minutes then went on their way satisfied, giving us a hearty laugh.

Amboseli is known for its elephants, and we found out why soon enough. Elephants everywhere you go, of all sizes, just roaming free without a care in the world. One of the herds encountered two lions resting in their path. They closed ranks and moved in a group cautiously, protecting their young. In the end, the lions had to get up and give way to the mighty tuskers. So much for the King of the Jungle. Here, elephants obviously rule.

Then there were other denizens of the forest who made brief appearances throughout our trip.

 If there were no fauna in sight, then we took the time to marvel at the flora and the awesome landscape.

The sunsets were quintessentially from an African Safari picture book

 And the moonlight was even better: