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RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK: WILD LIFE

Though for most of the visitors, the single most important sighting would be of a tiger, however, this park like most of the other wild life parks, has many other attractions in form of animals, birds, and many kinds of plants and trees. And then, Ranthambore Fort in itself demands an independent visit.
The other wild life that we could see during our visit were spotted deer, sambhar deer, neel gai, wild boar, monkeys and langurs, and crocodiles. The spotted deer are among the most beautiful deer in the wild. It is so graceful in its walk, and runs almost effortlessly. We could see many small and large herds of spotted deer, and each herd any many adult males and females. However, in case of sambhar, there was one adult male with many females in a single herd. Due to its antlers, it looks majestic and formidable, and walks upright showing off its antlers: it is for no small reason that it is popularly known as ‘ghamandi barasingha’. There were large number of monkeys and langurs all …

RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK

Finally we made it to Ranthambore, the sanctuary we had been longing to visit for a long time. The sanctuary had its reputation for having the friendliest of tigers, and visitors had returned not disappointed. The Lord of the Jungle had been obliging visitors to its sanctuary by giving them an easy audience. May be, that has been the precise reason for its continuously dwindling numbers everywhere including Ranthambore. The greed of man had exploited the easy and friendly nature of tiger to kill it for flimsy reasons, the most laughable being that its mortal remains are potent aphrodisiacs. It should have preserved its savage nature to preserve itself and for preservation of its progeny in the country which prides itself in having tiger as its national animal.
We had seen tigers in our first visit to Kanha, but the Lord had eluded us in many other popular sanctuaries. Now we know why. The Lord was not acting ‘pricey’, but because it had ceased to exist in many of the sanctuaries. It i…

NIGHT FLYING INTO ANTARCTICA

I wanted to post this as a "BREAKING NEWS", last month, but many things kept me away from doing it. Finally, I am able to post it.

It’s been nearly 80 years since Adm. Richard Byrd made his famous flight over the South Pole without landing there. Traditionally, the only mode of accessing Antarctica had been by ships that were especially designed and built for navigating the rough and turbulent Antarctic Ocean. However, these can also negotiate the Antarctic Ocean only during Antarctic summer, November to March, when the weather turns less hostile and the ocean which had frozen during the winter starts melting. These are custom-built ships, ice-class or ice-breakers. Kindly see the post: How to reach Antarctica.
History was made in the year when the first aeroplane made its landing on the Antarctic continent by landing on the frozen ice air strip. Since then, air flights have become a regular means of transport carrying Antarctic scientists and logistic experts, equipments, su…

SWIMMING TO ANTARCTICA

Antarctica is fast developing into a land, or I should say, a continent for innumerable and diverse kind of adventures. However, Antarctica itself is not new to adventure. It has received adventurers and tested their stamina, strength, endurance and abilities for over a century. Even when commuting to Antarctica is becoming easier and faster each year, and man having almost colonized it for many decades now, Antarctica continues to offer challenges to never-say-die spirit of humans. Every year during summer season of Antarctica, adventurers attempt to negotiate Antarctic challenges in their own styles. Last year only, adventurers got together to organize first of its kind, South Pole Race 2008, to replicate historic race between two legends of Antarctic exploration, Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen to reach the South Pole. Though there were many records attempted and made, a unique feat of the race was that of a blind man completing the arduous journey of 483 nautical miles across some…

SHIMLA – THE SUMMER CAPITAL OF BRITISH INDIA

I had been to Shimla a few times earlier, however, when I went to Shimla (spelt ‘Simla’ then) with Chitra, Ishu and Vasu way back in 1987, I almost vowed to myself never to return to Shimla again as a tourist. Though I have been to Shimla many times since then, but always for work, and have stayed there just for a day overnight. At that time, we had stayed in the AIIMS guest house at Summer Hill. India’s first Health Minister, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur had a soft corner for the AIIMS, and had gifted her property at Summer Hill to AIIMS. Gandhi Ji is said to have enjoyed the hospitality of Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur at this house. It is beautifully located surrounded by tall pine and deodar trees, and is very close to the University.
What put me off in 1987? Climate wise, Shimla was not much different from Delhi in the month of June. The Mall Road was as crowded with tourists as Chandni Chowk or Karol Bagh. We ran into some of Delhi wallahs there whom we saw only infrequently back in Delhi. One c…

NEVER CHALLENGE A LOVER

This morning when I went to the back courtyard, I saw two monkeys climbing down the pipe, and then casually walking towards the kitchen garden. I realized they did not cross the boundary, but had settled comfortably in a corner. Not liking the idea of having two monkeys in the garden, I yelled at them to get lost. Instantaneously, the bigger monkey came charging towards me, showing his all incisors and canines and growling menacingly. I just stood frozen, not knowing how to react; but my dad who was enjoying his morning newspaper and cup of tea sitting on the swing, stood up charged and came forward making equally menacing sounds. The monkey had not seen him earlier, but was now taken aback and stopped in his track and retreated back to the company of his mate, nudged her, and both of them walked away, but showing no urgency to leave. I am sure he must have said to his mate that he spared this middle-aged man in consideration of his old father. Now I realized they were a young couple,…

TREK TO PINDARI GLACIER

I had been thinking of trekking to Pindari for a long time. It had been a long cherished desire. I heard of Pindari glacier from Motor Mama who had done this trek in 1946 at a young age of 16-17. Motor Mama is my uncle, my mother’s brother (mamaji), from Indore and we have always addressed him like this since our childhood when we must have seen only him driving the family car. Motor Mama has never looked back since then, and must have measured the length and breadth of Uttarakhand many times over. Though I have trekked to some other glaciers, the Pindari eluded me even when that was the first glacier I had known, and is supposed to be one of the most accessible glaciers. But this year opportunity came almost knocking at the door. Vasu’s plans to trek to Sunder Dhunga glacier with a group had fallen through. I suggested to him Pindari for both of us, and planned an eco-trek, that is, we would travel by public transport, and stay and eat in road-side huts; the only luxury we would allo…

TRAGEDY STRIKES MAITRI

Tragedy struck Maitri, the permanent Indian station at Antarctica when it lost its valued scientist, Mr Kuldeep Wali, on the 1st June 2009. Shri Kuldeep Wali a professional meteorologist with India Meteorological Department was deputed to Antarctica as a member of the winter over team of the 28th Indian Scientific Antarctic Expedition in November 2008 and was expected to return to India by November 2009. Born on 12th April 1952, Shri Kuldeep Wali passed way on Monday the 1st June 2009 at Indian Research Base Maitri, Antarctica in service to the nation. He suffered a massive acute myocardial infarction at 11:45 UTC (17:15 Hrs IST). Doctors struggled hard with all possible treatment but could not revive him and pronounced him dead at 12:20 UTC (17:50 Hrs IST). He is survived by his wife Smt. Rita Wali and daughter Ms. Ranshu Wali.
Shri Kuldeep Wali left National Centre of Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa on the 17th November 2008 along with the second contingent of the 28th ISEA. He …

MOSCOW DIARY

To be honest, I did not know many of the amazing facts about Russia till we decided to visit it. Apart from my knowledge of Russian royalty of 19th and early 20th century, its architecture, its role in WW II, a little bit of Lenin, Stalin, and the communist era, my awareness of the current Russian nation was not too positive having been fed by the media of its mafia and crimes, and its stinking billionaires. I was a bit apprehensive: politically, India had always considered Russia as a staunch ally, but post-cold war scenario could be different; the generation which went berserk over Raj Kapoor in 50s and 60s would no longer be there; if there was no St Petersburg in the itinerary, I might not have considered visiting Russia
First some facts about Russia and Moscow: Russia, even after the disintegration of USSR into more than a dozen independent nations, is the largest country in the world extending over Europe and Asia covering more than 12 percent of Earth’s area and spanning 11 time…

ST. PETERSBURG DIARY

Our first stopover in Russia was St. Petersburg, formerly known as Leningrad. In fact, it had been known as St. Petersburg since its inception in 1709, but was renamed Leningrad in 1924 following Lenin’s death. What a better way than to begin Russia from St Petersburg, which is in Russia but not Russian! I was to attend the conference here, 12th Multi-disciplinary International Conference on Neurosciences and Biological Psychiatry with conference theme of “Stress and Behaviour”. I was to chair a scientific session as well as make a presentation. And with my continuing preoccupation with Antarctica, what else would I speak other than ‘Psychobiology of Mood and Behaviour in Extreme Climatic Conditions of Antarctica’, more on this subject in some other post. This conference was being organized by two Ukrainian scientists settled in the US with support from local scientists and professionals. They were organizing successful annual meetings year after year in St. Petersburg. I was told abo…

FLYING AEROFLOT

As if once was not enough, I happened to choose Aeroflot, the Russian airlines, once again. However, this time it was to fly into Russia only, and I was not looking for a cheaper ticket to fly to Europe or US. This year, in any case, air tickets for flying to London or New York are way down the price tag even on prestigious European airlines, and it does not make sense to go there by budget airlines. The first time I was on board Aeroflot was way back in 1983 when I was working in Addis Ababa. I was to attend a conference at London (it was ironic that Pan-African Psychiatric Conference was being held in London), and with limited resources was looking for a cheaper air ticket. People advised me to fly Aeroflot as it offered London ticket at half of the price. It only involved a change at Moscow. With very limited international flying experience, I had no idea what this ‘change’ involved. Buying the ticket was another issue. Aeroflot office in Addis Ababa would sell cheaper ticket only …

TIBETAN INSTITUTE OF PERFORMING ARTS

The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) was founded by the Dalai Lama on reaching Dharamsala, after his exile from Tibet in August 1959.It was one of the first intitutes set up the Dalai Lama within 4 months of his arrival in India. It was established to preserve Tibetan artistic heritage, especially opera, dance, and music. After the occupation, the then Chinese authorities had attacked and destroyed every aspect of Tibetan culture, and it had become essential to preserve the rich Tibetan culture and promote it in successive generations before it was lost forever. That also became a major source of entertainment for exiled Tibetans.

We enjoyed good music and vibrant and live performances by the dancers. Dancers were dressed in traditional bright and colourful dresses. Some of the dances were very vibrant. Some focussed on rhythm and quick-stepping. The numbers where girls challenge boys in martial arts as well as romance and activities of daily living were very entertaining. T…

NORBULINGKA INSTITUTE

We visited the famous Norbulingka Institute known for keeping the Tibetan culture and values alive in India for the Tibetans living in exile. It is named after the traditional summer palace of Dalai Lamas in Lhasa, Tibet. It was established in 1995 for preservation of ancient art practices of Tibet, especially the crafts.
Norbulingka is dedicated to handing down tradition and restoring standards by providing training, education and employment for Tibetans. It supports an environment in which Tibetan community and family values can flourish. It reconciles the tradition creatively and respectfully with the modern, and seeks to create an international awareness of Tibetan values and their expression in art and literature. It offers training in Tibetan statue making, thangka painting, printing, thangk applique and tailoring, wood carving, wood and metal craft.
We saw the young students working painstakingly on all these arts. I have always admired the intricate designs and pattern of than…

VISITING DHARAMSALA AGAIN

It just occurred to me that Dharamsala happened to be one of those towns where I have gone a few times. Of course, Dharamsala is a hill station, but mercifully it is not in the same league as Shimla, Nainital or Mussoorie. For more than 20 years now, I have stopped going to the ‘mainstream’ hill stations. They are not better off than Delhi during the tourist season – hot and humid and civic amenities breaking down. And then there are traffic jams, and familiar food corners selling chholey-bhature and jeera chow-mein fried in ‘pure desi ghee’. You hear the same bollywood numbers blaring out from the cars of puppies, and then also bump into the same people whom you assiduously wanted to avoid back home. These hill stations, and Manali included, remind you of Lajpat Nagar or Sarojini Nagar. But Dharamsala is different. It is less frequented by hill-station hoppers, and the presence of Tibetans with their rich heritage of culture, politeness, crafts and variety of food make it an interest…

BLOGOSPHERE FROM ANTARCTICA

When I started this blog in October, 2007 to post my Antarctica experiences, I was too preoccupied with a number of things and could not get opportunity to look for other people blogging live from Antarctica. Over the time I learnt that many expeditioners to Antarctica have been blogging live from Antarctica. However, most of these blogs remain active during the summer time which most of the blogger spend there, and cease their postings afterwards. Blogging occurs during wintering period too, but not as frequently. There are some expeditioners, explorers, and scientists who have been taken so much by the issues concerning Antarctica that they have devoted their life time in doing scientific projects related to Antarctica and have spent many summer and wintering periods in Antarctica. And then, there are some who are bipolar, that is, they are active at both the poles periodically. When I was blogging from Antarctica, this blog was picked up by a Norwegian doctor who had reached Antarc…

LIMCA BOOK OF RECORDS

I am happy to share this news with the readers and followers of this blog that this blog has found an entry in the Limca Book of Records for being the first live blog by an Indian from Antarctica. When I was preparing for my expedition to Antarctica, there were many things in mind. Though we had received some training at the Indian Mountaineering and Skiing Institute at Auli in Garhwal Himalaya by the expert instructors of Indo-Tibetan Border Police for negotiating snow and glacier walking and learning to tie various kinds of knots used in rescue operations, yet there were doubts and issues which needed attention and fixing up. One such concern was communicating with the family and friends on regular basis since I was going to be away for not less than four months. Though Chitra had very sportingly supported my wish to go to Antarctica, but she needed to be assured of my welfare on regular basis. I had told her that Maitri, the Indian station at Antarctica, was well equipped with inte…

SCOTT'S HUT

If one ever thinks of Antarctica explorers, one name that invariably conjures up in memory is that of legendary explorer of Antarctica, Robert Falcon Scott. Scott was the person who fired up the imagination of European explorers in early 20th century to reach South Pole. He was a British Royal Naval officer and explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions: the Discovery Expedition, 1901–04, and the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition, 1910–13. During this second venture Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, to find that they had been beaten by Roald Amundsen's Norwegian party by a few days in an unsought "race for the Pole". The chosen group had reached the Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that Amundsen had preceded them by five weeks. Scott's anguish is palpable from his diary: "The worst has happened; all the day dreams must go; Great God! This is an awful place". "I'm afraid the return journey i…