Coffee Break

Summer riding piggy back on +40 centigrade during daytime and I’m frazzled by multiplying dust particles, the seeping lethargy and the unhealthy attachment to my air-con. The blanket of snow, recent visit to Calgary, seems an illusion, another planet. I rather have a glass of cool, refreshing Lassi (yoghurt drink) but then any hot beverage is an ideal companion to loosen thoughts.

The early morning walks are the best time of the day,  before the sun lays claim to the land below., recently renamed Guru-gram, replacing Gurgaon. The sun too must be mystified as the name change has had no effect on animate and inanimate objects, except for change of status to  ‘ first cousins of Insta-gram’ or ‘entire city is equal to a gram’. A full article can be devoted to this horrendous name change. The new name of Guru-gram is to honor Guru Dronacharya of Mahabharata fame.

But what truly is an epical spoof, of Mahabharata and Ramayana,  are the gangs of monkeys staking claim to their habitat desecrated by concretisation. Instead of trees the simians terrace vault in search of food left for them by gullible humans who consider them as avatars of Hanuman (Monkey God).

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On one of my earlier returns home I had a mother and son visitation. I was out for my evening walk and on nearing my building I could see the duo saunter into my apartment through the unlocked balcony door. I never felt so appreciative of my  cell phone and called the colony Maintenance number. For a change there was prompt response and the minute the monkey duo heard the thuk-thuk of bamboo sticks they slunked out from where they had entered. Fearing the worst, I walked into the living room and kitchen strewn with contents of a ransacked refrigerator…. bread, vegetables, eggs, butter, milk all over the kitchen counter, the floor and living room couch. Food must have been on their bucket list as my laptop was still where I had left it…..on the couch.

Few days later, on a particularly scorcher of a day, a monkey gang  yanked the neighbour’s terrace water tank cover and took dips in the cool water. It was their swimming pool for an hour as they took turns to dive in and out. Once done the leader, I suppose, slid the cover back and the ‘cool’ gang left. We had to tell the neighbor not to use the water and to have the tank cleaned.

There are monkeys in Hong Kong but not as brazen as the ones found in indian cities. In Mathura, North India, I remember a monkey swooping away my niece’s shades. Someone suggested that we should offer a box of sweets and it worked. The minute the monkey saw the sweet box he came down, took the box and left the shades. It makes one wonder whether they are trained to harass tourists/visitors.

This week the gang appears to be in hiding, except for the lone monkey, jay walking on a parapet.  I can see him/her from my study window, and wait for its next move. A few minutes later there it was, swinging Tarzan, hiding in the branches of the  of the Mango tree, enjoying raw mangoes. Few minutes later our Tarzan disappears and I am left staring at my laptop screen.

In two months time I am off on my travels, Canada, USA, and wish my simian friends the best of Gurugram ambiance.

 

 

Sonnets and Flowers

Shakespeare Garden, a speciality garden located within Brooklyn Botanic Garden in an English cottage garden informal layout, is the perfect place to spend a summer afternoon reminiscing the quirky from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. The  Garden is a gift by Henry Clay Folger, founder of Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C.

The 52 acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden or BBG in the Prospect Park neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York City, has other flowery attractions including a Japanese Garden, themed mini gardens, conservatory, museum and an art gallery. (I had visited the Garden in 2011)

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Blooms of all varieties…….I missed clicking the Rose. The other flowers compensated  because as Shakespeare rightly said…. ‘ What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’.  from Romeo and Juliet.

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My favourite was ‘Parsley’ from ;TAMING OF THE SHREW.

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Landscape…..lakes

https://travtrails.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/landscape-lakes/

Whether in frozen magnanimity or tranquil anticipation…..lakes add oomph to their surroundings.

Winter blanket: 1.Kananaskis Lake, upper and lower, located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada .

2. Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

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Summer Special:  1. Okanagan Lake, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

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2. Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada,

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Accidental Expat: Returning Home…Gurgaon….INDIA

The regular work hour traffic pile up on Delhi-Gurgaon road

Returning home is anxiety raising its head like a ‘jagged ominous rock exposed by the receding tide’ with every step taken on disembarkation and walking the extended airport walk to the waiting chaos of Indira Gandhi International Airport.

The question ‘Now What’ ricochet around me as neighbours barge into our still to be cleaned dust-laden apartment wanting us to sign a petition against a proposed petrol pump in the green belt of our colony, DLF-1. It is a reasonable demand and we sign the petition, but then the intrusive-icy is a nothing-new novelty.

A week later home is no more a transit place as we settle down to daily routine of morning walks, time out for chores, writing, reading and meeting with friends and relatives. The cricket fever is in full swing with the ongoing World T20 (limited overs) match and we desperately contact our cable service provider to renew our connection. We get the connection with a caveat… have to lump the streaky visuals and disappearing vocals. The company boys troll the house but to no conclusion and finally end up with asking us to get a complete wire changer. One small mercy….. we can continue with our old television set.

The city/country is simmering with reservations, nationalism and sedition condiments. The reservation cauldron will soon run over if attempts are not made to contain it. Our neighbor informs us that during the  Jat quota bill agitation, whence basic supplies were disrupted, people subsisted on rationed water, delivered via water tankers. The Jats are residents of Haryana state and  they feel they need special seats in education and job markets. The pugnacious lingering reservation policy for different castes and communities is going to the death knell of any progress. The lower castes, the Dalit and others need special favours but at the rate everyone wants to be part of this creamy layer is anyone’s business. As a friend remarked that probably India is the only country where people want to be considered backward.

Maybe the intentions were good when the concept was inaugurated but increasing demands and misuse has eroded the very concept of reservation. I recollect how a classmate in school was complacent about her medical college entrance as she was applying through backward hill tribe. She was studying in convent school, her father was in the Indian army but she preferred the easy route.

When my children were applying for professional colleges in India we decided to send them to USA simply because we did not want to pay capitation fees or make them go through the grind for limited seats. We have crossed the bridge but seeing newer parents quibble over the educational options of their children, I am glad of the past. As someone commented that at this rate ‘soon the upper castes, Brahmins will be agitating for their share of the quota.

Add to this headache the engulfing surround sound of anti national and intolerance debates and cause of frayed tempers and ‘stressful existence’. Reading and listening to news about Jawaharlal University, Hyderabad University, about Indian colleges ‘on boil’, The continuous blame game between the Left, Right and Center political parties and their followers appears to be more of personal agenda than thought of sufferers.

I had studied in a Convent school and am grateful to the nuns in helping mould my thought processes. I willingly followed whatever we were taught or told and now when I think about it we, including our parents, were too much in awe of ourselves studying in English medium schools to question anything. The present generation, our children and grandchildren,  decide what is right for them, to accept or reject the Brown Sahib attitude, to imbibe what is best of both cultures. There are loose canons, people, who indulge in intimidation and arson, giving vent to their complexes sometimes aided by governmental ineptness, changes and detours.

Living out of country makes you more In-your country and though frazzled by non-working Internet, phone services and general maintenance, the emotional bondage makes you look at the discrepancies through impassive eyes.

Glimmer or sparkle of hope is through fiction. I was given   “KITTY PARTY SANYASINS’ written by a friend’s friend Ananya Banerjee, a tongue-in-cheek account about ’40 plus’ five friends getting together over brunch to talk sense and not gossip, to ‘catch up on their lives’.There are tales within tales with a golden-haired, green-eyed Indophile lending a semblance of maturity to their meetings. The group reminded me of 19 year olds, undergrads of Allahabad University, India, (1970’s) who would spend intense  hours over coffee and bowls of chicken chow mein and chilli sauce shredding relationships. It was the impact of the Women’s movement and though we did not have a nom de plume. I suppose it set the tone for our future gender interactions. Thank you Ananya for the memory jog..

Another fiction I am reading is THE BOOK OF GOLD LEAVES by Mirza Waheed. The story, set in Kashmir valley during the political strife of 1990’s, is about two young lovers and their reactions to the engulfing violence. Few pages into it I am beginning to understand the emotional strain/strand of violence threatened relationships.

Check Out   *Jat Quota Bill: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jat_reservation_agitation

*indianexpress.com › india › india-news-india › Haryana Jat Quota Stir

Kananaskis, Alberta

DSC07254Before bidding adieu to Calgary and Canada we took a short trip to Kananaskis set amidst the towering Canadian Rockies hiding their bleakness under passive layers of melting snow. I suppose it is the pronunciation, Kananaskis, emphasis on two Ns, that adds to the topographical mystique of the place. It took me some time to get the name correct and this helped set the genial mood of the drive through the now brown prairie land towards the mountain foothills. Kananaskis Valley was home to nomadic Stoney Indians, a mountain Sioux band, who had lived and hunted in the barren flats of Bow Valley and mountain paths of the treacherous Rockies. One does get a feel of the awesomeness of the surroundings from the Lookouts along the walking trails overlooking Kananaskis River.

FotorCreatedKananaskis Country or K-Country and Village, an hours drive from downtown Calgary, tumbles out of a picture gallery with snow-covered meadows, gurgling mountain rivers, swishy- chirpy cool breeze rustling through Spruce Pines, trembling Aspens and other vegetation visited by discreet wildlife. The bears were still in hibernation and once again we had to be content with grazing Elk and mountain goats.

Frozen Kananaskis Lake

Winter is the time for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and ice fishing, came across a couple in the frozen Kananaskis Lake areaClose at hand are the Nakiska Ski runs and we could see the skiers cascading down snow-ribbons. Nakiska was developed during the 1988 Winter Olympics and remains popular with novices, professionals and habitual skiers for its variety of terrain. Other nearby popular ski runs are Fortress Mountain for cat skiing and Canmore Nordic Center Provincial Park for its 65 km of designed ski trails.

Summer is another holiday opportunity and the mountains resonate with enthusiastic energy of mountain bikers, trail-blazers, hikers, horse riders, campers and golfers. Add to this kayaking, rafting and water sports and for loungers perfect selfie moments from decks of cozy lodges amidst the greenery.

ImageHike: Our hike was confined to Village Rim Trails, a flat, short paved easy path wrapped around east end of Delta Lodge. It is an exhilarating walk with spectacular views of the meandering Kananaskis River and valley, a beaming Mount Kidd and other peaks. The lookouts, Points 1 to 5, with conveniently placed wooden benches, are tempting journey breakers to watch the changing colors of the peaks attuned to bracing mountain air.

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The entire Kananaskis region with its wooded and rocky slopes, caves, canyons and river paths is a hiker’s haven, graduating from simple to tough.

IMG_4235The refreshing mountain air makes us ravenous and our short walk ends in Woody’s Pub & Lounge.

 

Winter Fun–Calgary (2)

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Calgary in winter !!!!!!‘ …but here I am revealing in frisky icy winds and the white blanket all around. I had compiled a Calgary winter activity list in an earlier post.  Now, when it is time to bid adieu to Calgary, for Hong Kong, I glance through my jottings to see how many I re-accomplished… 7 out of 10…not a bad score.  https://travtrails.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/wintery-fun-calgary/

1. Walk the Malls…this i did aplenty…. especially on days when the temperature dipped to minus 20. There is choice, depending on area where staying, from themed CrossIron Mills, Chinook Plaza, South Center Mall and others to spend entire afternoons and evenings walking along the length and breadth of inner space flanked by brand outlets and showrooms, restaurants, pubs, coffee slots and children’s play stations.

Wonderland …a 12-metre tall sculpture made of wire in Downtown, Calgary

2. Continued with Downtown visits.…..particularly Stephen Avenue the pedestrian mall/ walk in centre of Downtown. Past and present comes alive with cafes, street musicians and vendors, cultural shows against the backdrop of restored buildings flaunting architectural styles of the 1800s to 1930s. Calgary is referred to as the ‘The Sandstone City‘  because of the sandstone buildings replacing most wooden buildings after the devastating fire of 1886. Stand alone buildings are the Old City Hall, east end of Stephen Avenue Walk, and the upscale Teatro restaurant (200-8 Avenue) housed in the former Dominion Bank building  and an example of Beaux Arts classicism. The Avenue walk can be divided and sub –divided into segments to appreciate and savour the settings. One can break the classicism monotony by loosing oneself in the nerdmania of INDIGO on 7th Avenue or the innaneness of Winners or Dollarama stores.

3. Calgary Tower… for a bird-eye view of Calgary from the 191-meter Calgary Tower. We were unlucky as it turned out to be a cloudy day. The booking for the revolving restaurant, Sky 360 was already done, this includes the glass-floor walk for a peek down at city streets. The hazy view was compensated by the 60-minute movement (dinner time revolve) for an all round vista view of the city.

Display in Glenbow Museum

4. Visited Glenbow Museum. A must visit particularly for Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life (The Blackfoot Gallery) to share in the history presented through an interactive display of artifacts of Glenbow’s Blackfoot collection via a circular narrative path.  On 4th floor is the presentation Warriors..A Global Journey Through Five Centuries that compares ‘cultural approaches to war and people who do the fighting’ from First Nation of the plains,the Maoris, Samurai, Medieval Europeans and contemporary society. An multi-faceted display of armour and warfare choreography.

 

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Elbow Falls

5. Continued with exhilarating snowy walks …..along the frozen Bow and Elbow River.  (Start from Eau Claire and cross ‘Jaipur bridge’ for a stroll along the Prince’s Island Park, stop at River Cafe for refreshing coffee and sandwiches, continue towards the vermillion Caterpillar or Peace Bridge, west of Princes Island Park. This is a pedestrian only bridge ‘to nowhere’ connecting southern Bow River pathway and Downtown with northern Bow River pathway. The other easy walks are Heart Creek, the Bow Valley Provincial ParkNose Hill and other Calgary parks.

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6. Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise favoured all-weather activities. An all time favourite summer or winter drive is to Banff and surrounding areas such as Bow Valley ParkwayMoraine Lake valleyLake Louise and its Ice Sculpture festival held in January, the Jasper National Park and its environs,  Columbia Icefields (winter time restrictions are there) and Canmore, a quaint village town, an hours drive from Calgary, nestled in heart of Rocky Mountains along Bow River.

7. Christmas Markets, Farmer’s Markets, Crafts Markets, Calgary Library…an active winter. 

Still hovering in the horizon:

1Heritage Park. Spring and summer are the best times to enjoy the vastness and the exclusivity of the Park……family fun place for shopping and celebrations, buggy and train rides and viewing vintage cars at Gasoline Alley. If a history buff, like me, then the largest living history museum in Alberta, is the place to spend time in. The Heritage Park Historical Village started in 1964 and since then has become popular tourist destination.

 2. Canada Olympic Park…Not ski person hence watched the skiers from far. The recent death of two teens in a sled accident in the Canada Olympic Park was heart-rending. …..(Canada Olympic Park on the city outskirts is a legacy venue of the 1988 Winter Olympics. The park is home to North America’s fastest ‘zipline’ where riders reach 140km/h after launching from the ski-jump. No harm in going for a look around).

3. Saddledome….A tick on my future activity list is to watch a hockey game at Saddledome, with its unique ‘saddle’ flowing concave roof.  Another may-be is dog sledding and snow shoeing. or simply walking in the snow.

4. Drumheller located along Red Deer River (Southern Alberta) is a children’s and adults fantasy world with an interesting collection of Dinosaur fossils from the Alberta badlands housed in Royal Tyrell Museum.

5. FORT CALGARY and Calgary Zoo..a miss this winter.. .Fort Calgary was constructed in 1875 by North West Mounted Police at confluence of Bow and Elbow Rivers. The Fort comes across as a mansion, unlike the forts of India, but still interesting to see the reconstructed barracks and life of the people involved in setting up a new city. Close by is Calgary Zoo and during Christmas popular for Winter Lights.

6. The aerial Glacier Skywalk, an observation platform 918 feet over spectacular glacier-formed valleys and rushing waterfalls on route to Columbia Icefields. Unfortunately the Skywalk is closed for winter months.

Quarry Park, Calgary…winter setting sun