Get lost in the green and blue

UIUC has a huge, widely apread out campus. Within it, you’ll find a wide range of places.

One such place is the Arboretum. It is a large area of land (where you can probably get lost easily) with different views as you keep walking. And it’s the perfect place for nature photography…

…ohmygosh the butterflies! I was highly gratified when one butterfly (pictured below) was kind enough to keep still for the time needed to focus and take a photo. Butterflies usually aren’t that calm (no need to pass judgement on my blog title, okay? Okay.)

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There were these tiny peppers in so many colours. A new entry on my Bucket List is to eat purple peppers somewhere soon.

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The sky was all kinds of beautiful too that day…

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A few sections of the arboretum (technically, most parts of the arboretum) are like something out of an old English novel countryside…wildflowers, long, swaying stalks, a small pond, a wooden bridge…

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And this is probably one of the most interesting photographs I’ve ever taken. Again, I would like to thank the grasshopper and the tiny moth (look for it!) for taking the time to pose for this…

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While roaming around there, I realized that the walks where your shoes get lost in the grass, are well worth going out for. It’s well worth the 5 mile walk, and the aching feet.

And I later realized that I hadn’t looked at my phone for the whole time I was there.

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A Golden Harbor in a Rainstorm

Some days are made for getting Chinese food, even though its raining heavily.

Its sort of like the concept of a ‘personal fable’ (can you tell I’m attending classes?)…even though its been raining all afternoon, you are optimistic enough to believe that it won’t “be that bad” when you leave the house.

And then, of course, when you get off the bus, its pelting, and only you’ve got an umbrella (the other two under the impression that they had their umbrellas, but actually didn’t). 

So everyone huddles under one umbrella, clutching onto each other…and inexplicably (or maybe not so inexplicably) we’re all laughing like crazy.

The laughter turns shriek-y when we’re splashed on by passing cars. Now we begin whining about how wet we are. The umbrella overturns in the wind, and now we go looking for shelter (find it and stay there till the rain relents a bit).

All in all, when we enter the restaurant, we try to act dignified even though we’re soaked. And we get our much-desired Chinese food too. Here’s a badly composed photograph as proof…

(The restaurant is named Golden Harbor, and is one of the most famous restaurants here in Champaign. The food is good)

Nighttime Excursions and Celestial Mysteries

Every night, I go out for a walk in the park in front of my house with a friend who lives a few houses away (Hi Abhiti!). We’ve formed this tradition of sorts since a year or so (though it’s become regularized more recently) and we never run out of things to talk about.

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(from the interwebs)

For example…

where is the Moon? (a daily favourite, because the Moon hardly ever appears in the same spot in the sky and on some days hides behind houses, frustrating us to no end as we debate whether it’s a new moon night or not)

is it a rat/mouse or frog or cat which is rustling through the hedges? (this is creepy and more of an inner monologue I think, though we do discuss it too)

how well-trained is the pet dog that someone has let loose in the park while we walk? (I really like dogs, but when a hyperactive one runs towards you barking, you kind of freeze and wonder whether you should begin looking back at your life)

what kind of nocturnal birds are screeching at night and sounding nothing like owls? (I have realized that my information-level about nocturnal birds, save for owls, is woefully inadequate)

oh cool! That’s a bat flying around the big flood lights (more of an observation. We don’t get to see too many bats here)

what invisible creature is the cat stalking so intently? (we don’t have night-vision, so it could be ghost for all we know)

when we were kids, we could see so many more stars in the sky (this is another daily observation. Clear skies are a delight)

we should go to the Planetarium some day (follow-up to previous conversation)

how lucky are we that the power outage occurred on a full-moon night? (one night, there were power outages three times, leaving parts of the park in pitch-black darkness, so we retreated to the open areas where the moon, thankfully, showed up and shone bright)

air traffic has become so high! (there are planes zooming in all directions above our heads)

will we see an UFO? (my friend claims she saw an UFO once while she was in the park. So now, we look up every time we hear a noise in the sky, and I think we’re both hoping to see something…outside the ordinary)

Needless to say, our walks are more about us chatting and less about the walking itself. But even then, it’s a part of my day I look forward to, because being outside at night is always a mysterious and interesting prospect. And there are still so many questions to be answered!

Early Morning Epiphanies : Addictions

I’m usually not the quickest to wake up in the mornings; I am a mumbling, puffy-eyed, ill-coordinated human being at least till my first hot beverage.

But some mornings, I open my eyes, I remember something I was working on the night before, and I’m instantly awake…rushing through daily ablutions so that I can get back to whatever it was I was doing.

At one point, it was my research into the world of crafting (it’s an ocean, and I emerged from it so much more enlightened, and also conflicted because there was so much I wanted to try but didn’t have the supplies to do it with). Then, it was fanfiction for a while (I learned what headcon, f/m, AU, x!y whump and TW meant). Most recently, it has been YouTube (let’s not get into exactly how obsessed I still am with that).

My point is, addictions can be of different kinds, and when I get addicted to or obsessed with something, I end up learning everything I can about it, and then after a while, I’m done with it.

Today, I’m obsessing over types of acrylic paint markers. See y’all at the other end of the tunnel.

 

Sometimes I have epiphanies which I wish I didn’t have (though they’re actually helpful)

(Note : This post is brought to you by screenshots, Ctrl+PrtScr, MS Paint and my awesome annotating skills. And an online meme generator)

It’s weird how we tend to not notice things which have been right under our noses, until our brain just suddenly catches it and goes all, hey don’t you feel like an idiot now? Haha.

So my brain decided to be extra active recently. It was only a few days back, when I was going through my mail, that I saw a email alerting me about a post by a blogger I follow. And something caught my eye… ‘Respond to this post by replying above this line’

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(Side note : I smudged out the blog name because I didn’t exactly know whether I should keep it on or not. I’m pretty sure though that if you search for that title, you’ll find it quicker than I can say I’m-bad-at-making-up-my-mind)

Believe you me, I REALLY did not know of this. I have been unconsciously reading this line since 4 years on WordPress (that’s right…4 years. WordPress even sent me a graphic to thank me for taggin’ along. You’re welcome WP).

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Digressing from post – Part 1

Back to the post…so I first subscribed to WordPress blogs 4 years back, and I’ve been getting post updates since then, but it was only 2 days back that I suddenly realized that Holy Guacamole! I can comment via email! Such a novel idea! Such amazing! Much wowe!

Now this was a happy moment. I quickly sent in a comment via email, and then went onto the blog itself, to check whether I was doing it right, because surely it couldn’t be that simple?! Click ‘Reply’, type comment and click ‘Send’?! Or could it?

Voila! There was my comment on her blog, and I didn’t even have to log in to WP and all! Oh boy!

To explain my (apparently) unfounded happiness, I would like to tell you all that the only reason I’m bad at commenting on other blogs, is because I’m lazy. There…I said it. I just can’t bring myself to login to WP, then open the blog, and then the post, and then put in a comment.

But if I can comment from Gmail itself…well, you’re all in for a lot of comments from me now!

This epiphany (or ‘sudden alertness’ could be a better description) was definitely helpful. But it made me feel like such a fool. Gah! How could I have not noticed this in four years?! Y u be lost and inattentive, brain?!

So now, if you suddenly see me around on your comments a lot, don’t fear. I’m not stalking you. I’m just revelling in the fact that I now know how to comment by mail. And I’m loving it \m/

In other news, I also figured out why I wasn’t getting updates from a lot of blogs that I follow. Now I don’t know whether, similar to the commenting fiasco, I just happened to overlook these settings, or WP somehow bungled stuff up. Because I stopped getting updates from some blogs after a while of getting them.

So anyway, there are settings you need to add for each blog you follow via that sneaky little ‘+Follow’ button on the top of a blog you’re visiting. Clicking that, just begins showing posts from that blog onto your Reader on WP, but doesn’t automatically subscribe you to email updates.

(Digressing from post – Part 2 : I would LOVE if everyone would add a ‘Subscribe’ button on their blogs! Makes following them so much easier!)

You have to change the settings you see…

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Now if you, like me, prefer reading your blogs on your email and not on the WP reader, then YOU NEED TO CHANGE ALL YOUR SETTINGS TO THE SECOND (GOOD) SETTING RIGHT NOW.

It has made my life so much better.

And if someone posts a lot, you can easily ask for mail updates only once a day, or once a week. Or never (but then, why follow them anyway?).

With my new-found knowledge, I promptly began following a few new bloggers, and changed settings to begin getting post updates from some of my favourite bloggers (who had sadly gotten placed in the BAD SETTING somehow).

I also unfollowed some blogs which didn’t have any posts in, say, 3-4 years, and some which had been deleted by their users.

Unfollowing blogs is quite a nostalgic experience. A few of the blogs I had to remove, had been part of the first few blogs I’d followed and enjoyed reading. And their authors had been the first ones to comment on my baby blog. But they’re somehow not around anymore. Oh well. Hopefully they’re happy and busy doing something else!

It still felt weird though. Like, letting go of some part of the past in a very tangible way.

Change will always be resisted I guess.

All things said and done, I think I should’ve sat down with the WP Manual/Handbook 4 years back. Or maybe I should just go and comment on some new posts now.

Back to the Mountains

It was my parents’ 25th Anniversary (yep, silver jubilee and all) some time back. And we decided to spend it away from home. Once again, my parents spent ages ruminating over the options, and never deciding. So once again, I had to finally put my foot down and decide on a destination by myself.

Because we couldn’t get too many days off from work, the place had to be nearby, and had to provide some much-needed respite from the Delhi heat. So after much thought, I zeroed down upon the Queen of the Hills – Mussourie.

It was a good decision!

It was smoggy, so we didn’t get a perfect view of the mountain range around. However, the one day we decided to amble along the Mall road, it was sunny enough to give us all sunburn (we returned with red noses and foreheads).

All in all though, it was lovely. We stayed at the lovely Kasmanda Palace, which has beautiful English gardens, a restaurant deck which overlooks the valley, and old-world vintage decor inside the main building, which is fascinating to look at.

The trip was centred around admiring nature, relaxing in peaceful surroundings, and me trying out my new DSLR.

Kasmanda Palace (view from the restaurant deck)

Kasmanda Palace (view from the restaurant deck)

Slightly smoggy views in the morning unfortunately

Slightly smoggy views in the morning unfortunately (as in, it broke my heart, because I had been looking forward to some spectacular views)

The palace gardens are beautiful. Such a lot of flowers!

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Still searching for the name of these flowers. But just look at those colours!

Calla lilies

Calla lilies

SO MANY FLOWERS

Swaying Himalayan Aster (according to my extensive research)

And what’s an English garden without a birdbath…

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There’s a Magnolia tree in the garden too. And it was flowering. Win!

And for those of you who haven’t seen magnolia flowers before (just like I hadn’t before this trip), here’s how they look off the tree…

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Surprisingly, more than the flowers, I was enchanted by a huge Maple tree. I even got a leaf home, as a souvenir and memorabilia of our time here.

This maple tree had me captivated

This maple tree had me captivated

We took a half day trip outside Mussourie. We first went to Landour, which is famous for being the place where Ruskin Bond lives. I was very excited about going there. I imagined bumping into him somewhere, and discussing how much I liked his books.

Imagine my disappointment when the driver suddenly drove past a red building, with ‘Doma’s Inn’ written on it (surrounded by distinctly Tibetan paintings) and pointed out what looked like a side door, and said, “That’s where Ruskin Bond lives”.

And that was it. Before I could protest and ask the driver to stop, we had flown down the narrow road, leaving Bond’s house behind. The disappointment of not even being able to see Bond’s house properly, let alone him, was so much that I didn’t take any pictures in Landour at all. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to plan a stay at Doma’s Inn soon.

After Landour, we moved on to Dhanaulti. This wasn’t the first time we were going that way. My parents and I remember Dhanaulti as the place-we-were-on-our-way-to-but-our-car-broke-down (this happened at least 10 years back). So, though we knew about Dhanaulti and should have already visited it, had it not been for a very bad road 10 years back, this was the first time we actually went there.

The roads are a lot better now, I was told many times by my parents, who have a better recollection of what had happened the last time we were on that road than I did.

The place to visit in Dhanaulti, is the Eco Park. It’s supposed to be a peaceful place, but now has a variety of ‘adventure sports’ (kids hanging from harnesses and zipping down a line) and swings (in the shape of animals). I understand that children must be kept occupied in such a place where there is nothing to do, but it affects the serenity of the place. A lot.

It was only when we walked quite a distance into the forest, did we actually experience the stillness of the forest; the only sound was the incessant buzzing of cicadas (which are found in abundance here), and the occasional trilling whistle of some bird.

Deodar trees at the Dhanaulti Eco Park. Towering above us, I could tell why they were regarded as sacred by Indian sages. And below our feet, their needle-like leaves covered the forest floor

Deodar trees at the Dhanaulti Eco Park. Towering above us, I could tell why they were regarded as sacred by Indian sages. And below our feet, their needle-like leaves covered the forest floor

The fun part was when I had a long whistled conversation with a bird in the forest. When it whistled, I whistled back, and it replied back in turn. I was hoping it would show itself, because I could make out by the increasing volume of it’s whistle that it was coming closer, curious to find out whether I was some new bird who just did NOT know how to speak bird.

Sadly, it didn’t reveal itself. I only saw one bird which allowed me to photograph it…

This tiny little guy was the only one who posed long enough for me to get a photograph

This tiny little guy was the only one who posed long enough for me to get a photograph

Side note : I love ‘conversing’ with birds. And if you want to try, you just need to know how to whistle. When you hear a bird chirping, whistle back. In most cases, the bird will whistle back and keep replying every time you whistle. I did this with another bird in Mussourie too

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So, back to Dhanaulti Eco Park…

Gorgeous flowers were in abundance. And interesting insects to boot

Gorgeous flowers were in abundance. And interesting insects to boot

The Eco Park was lovely, and if we would have had more time, I would have loved to just sit on one of the many log seats in the forest, and enjoy the surroundings.

Yes, I’ve grown old.

Back from Dhanaulti, we enjoyed some time on the Mall road, went up to Gun Hill (so called because there used to be a canon on that hill, which was fired every hour of the day to tell the time. It was stopped because the canon ball once crashed through someone’s roof. I surmise the person wasn’t very happy about that) by cable car. Because of the smog, the view wasn’t as great as it should have been, but we did catch a bird’s eye view of our hotel!

See the red turrets? That's the Kasmanda Palace, the hotel where we were staying

See the bright red roof and turrets? That’s the Kasmanda Palace, the hotel where we were staying

A special mention to the night view of Mussourie. Spectacular!

Mussorie at night. Glittering and bright.

Mussourie at night was as gorgeous as ever. Glittering and bright.

There’s still so much to explore in Mussourie. And so many other seasons to see it in. Now I kind of get why people go there multiple times. And as Ruskin Bond puts it…

“It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.”
― Ruskin Bond (Rain in the Mountains : Notes from the Himalayas)

(All photographs belong to me. Please ask before sharing them anywhere.)

Serendipity in a Valley : Marchula, Jim Corbett National Park

Last year was a great year for trips and I had a chance to visit a number of beautiful places, a few for work and a few simply for holidaying (no prizes for guessing which of the ones I’m going to talk about right now).

On the long Diwali weekend, I planned a short getaway to a resort in Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. Notice the phrase ‘I planned’ here; it’s the result of my parents not reaching a decision about our destination, and what made me take over the reigns was when their discussions began taking ginormous proportions of “Why-don’t-you-take-a-few-more-days-off-and-we’ll-just-go-to-Honolulu (for example)”.

So anyway, I jumped in, heart and soul, and after much exploration (World Wide Web FTW!), I decided on Jim Corbett National Park. I found us a gorgeous resort. Victory!

It was a nice long drive, and as we began early morning, the roads were nice and empty.So empty in fact, that one stretch of road in between green fields was so foggy that we couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of us.

We didn’t book any safari beforehand (note : if you really do want to go for a safari, this is not a good option) and decided to leave it to chance.

So the place…I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

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Towering trees in the valley, surrounded by mountains all around. With a river running in front

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Because a clear, clean mountain river is the perfect place to while away some peaceful time

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Majestically tall trees, dwarfing us.

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Walk a little farther down, and more delicious sights await. This one from a bridge

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Gorgeous evenings

Though we didn’t go for the main safari, there is one forest we visited, called Sitavani. It isn’t frequented by too many furry inhabitants, so you can go inside with your own vehicles, once you get a permit. Inside, it’s quiet, calm, the air so pure that it’s enough to make you give up your worries and smile.

The forest is also home to numerous enormous termite mounds!

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Just one of the many termite mounds in Sitavani

If you make it through the small, winding forest path and reach the end, you’ll see the Sita temple (protected by the Archaeological Survey of India).

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Artsy photograph of the temple to Goddess Sita, after whom the forest is named

After coming back home from this trip, I suffered withdrawal symptoms for quite a while. Who wouldn’t? Mountains, sandy beaches, trekking and leisurely walks…I need a longer time back there. Where every corner takes you somewhere new, and nature surprises you in all ways possible.

Oh well. Till the next trip then!