Welcome to this travel blog which is inspired by the wandering clouds effortlessly gliding through distant lands. Sometimes almost still as if watching the beauty of the earth below and at times rushing to some place far away – as if on an endless travel mission. This is where I share my observations, experiences and thoughts gathered during my travels

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Texan Icon

Erecting statues of historical and important personalities is a universal phenomenon and I wonder if there is any country which is an exception to this. In India, we find that the decision to raise statues can lead to huge political tensions and so whenever there is such a threat, the statue remains under a cloak. One never gets to see it even after spending tax payers’ money on its construction. Many times, statues are used only as landmarks and they are never appreciated or maintained. Sometimes, I am unable to identify whose statue it is because there is no sign declaring the personality and his/her work. But statues are meant to remind us about the contributions, sacrifices and ideals of the person.

One of the statues that I still recall vividly is that of Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas. Houston (1793-1863) became a President of the Republic of Texas, then the Governor of the State of Texas, and then a US Senator when Texas joined the Union. The city of Houston is also named after him.

Driving north on Interstate 45, one finds the statue on the right. Although one cannot stop on the freeway to take pictures, it is worth taking a slight detour and going from the back through the Sam Houston Statue and Huntsville Visitor Centre. There is a small museum and a souvenir shop. One can take a small trail that leads to the statue and one emerges from behind. Along the trail, there is a discarded part of the face and it is a spot for photo-ops. This statue is claimed to be the world’s tallest free-standing statue of an American Hero. It was built by a local artiste, David Adickes. With a height of 67 feet and resting on a 10 feet high granite base, the statue is quite overbearing. Sam Houston is shown in his formal attire holding a walking stick. On the side is an inscription that says, “Govern wisely and as little as possible”. Surely, a thought that one can chew over as one drives away.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Body Worlds

No, this is not the name of my gym. But I must confess that the thought of writing about Body Worlds did occur to me last week when my gym instructor was explaining me about the science of body building. He told me that one of the challenges that body builders work themselves towards is to develop a perfectly chiseled body where one is able to show every single muscle to the viewers. This requires taking off every ounce of fat that covers the muscles. In other words, a well sculpted body is where one must be able to see clearly from the outside what actually lies inside! That is when I remembered the Body Worlds exhibition I had seen a few years ago in the US. It is the one of most fascinating exhibitions I have ever seen. It shows exactly how our human bodies look from the inside, without the ugly fat or the beautiful skin covering it. And the best part is that it showcases our insides with the help of real human bodies and not artificially built specimens that are used in laboratories or med schools.

Body Worlds is a traveling exhibition and has been displayed in many parts of the world. It has not come to India so far and I wish it comes here some day. Developed by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the exhibition showcases real human bodies that have been preserved through a process of plastination. This process involves preserving the human body/ its organs and tissues by removing the water and fat content and replacing it with polymer so as to avoid it from getting decomposed. The use of polymers also offers the flexibility to give the desired shape and posture to the human body specimen. According to their official website, it takes over 1500 working hours or a whole year to prepare one body specimen or plastinate, as it is called. The bodies are those willed by various individuals for this cause and they have a long list of those who have offered to get themselves plastinated after death. To read more about this and see some of the pictures of the plastinates, see http://www.bodyworlds.com/en.html

The exhibition showcased how the insides of the body work, the muscular system, the skeletal system, interiors of key internal organs, how various systems are structured inside the body, how bodies look from the inside when a person is healthy, diseased or has had an implant and also during various stages of life. I remember seeing an exhibit of a pregnant woman with a baby in the womb. There was another one of a smoker with distinctly darkened lungs, a shriveled liver due to cirrhosis, and the weak heart of a heart patient. There was a majestic plastinate of a horse and a man riding atop. The muscles of the horse and that of the man were absolutely stunning. Some of the plastinates were shown engaged in various activities – playing chess, fencing, skateboarding, gymnastics, acrobatics, running, dancing and singing. This was absolutely artistic and one could imagine how real life persons must be looking from the inside when doing these complicated mental and physical activities.

Visitors are not allowed to take pictures or touch the specimens for obvious reasons. It took me almost four hours to see the entire exhibition.  One always has the option of going back and seeing something one finds particularly interesting and many specimens have benches provided in front for visitors to sit and observe. I was told that the exhibition is always crowded so there is no point trying to find a slot when it would be relatively less crowded.

I remember distinctly that my first reaction on seeing the plastinates was that of awe and disbelief and as I left the exhibition, I was feeling humbled and somewhat philosophical. My daughter who was about eight years at that time was quite cool and unperturbed and I remember some concerned parents asking me when I came out if it would be appropriate for children. But I must say that some visitors (especially adults) were evidently uncomfortable and were not able to stand the not-so-pleasing sights of the human interiors. So if think you fall in that category, you are better off watching a body building competition instead. If not, don’t miss this exhibition if you happen to be in the same city.

Monday, March 19, 2012


The movie 3 Idiots may have made the name Ranchhoddas well known and perhaps cool. However, in Mahabharata, Krishna was called Ranchod because he had ‘run away’ from the battle with Kaalyavan who had gone to Mathura to help Jarasandh. The story goes like this – when Krishna was in a duel with Kaalyavan there came a point when Krishna realized that the only way to kill Kaalyavan would be to burn him. He knew about Baba Muchkund whose ashram was not too far away. Baba Muchkund was known for his long sleep. It was said that anyone who woke Baba Muchkund would be turned to ashes by his gaze. Knowing the powers which Baba Muchkund possessed, Krishna ran away from the battlefield and reached his ashram. Kaalyavan followed and when he did not find Krishna nearby, he kicked Baba Muchkund who was asleep. At that instant, Kaalyavan was burnt to ashes and Krishna won with the help of his wits.

The ashram of Baba Muchkund is located near Dhaulpur, Rajasthan. On the way to the ashram from the town, one passes another point of interest called Pahad wale Baba ki Dargah which sits on top of a peak. In fact, the Dargah can also be seen from the Shergadh fort and I had seen it lit up from the fort the previous evening.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rustic Charm of Chambal

This one is after another long hiatus. During the past two months, work took me to various corners of our country - from small towns to nondescript villages to tribal hamlets; from places known to be exotic to those known to be notorious. I lived in hotels where I was the lone guest and sometimes spent the nights in the office itself because there wasn’t any hotel nearby. Most of the times I did not consume more than one and a half meal per day because there was no place or time to stop and eat, but there was a rare occasion when I feasted on gulab-jamuns and rasagollas smuggled out by the hotel boy from some wedding reception. But the best meal I ate was the hot ‘mid day meal’ served at the government school in Dhamtari, Chhattisgarh.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Driving eastwards on Interstate 90 in South Dakota, we ran into some very unpredictable weather. When we started, it was bright and sunny but suddenly out of the blue, the skies were covered with thick black rain clouds. We were on our way to the Badlands National Park and before we could decide whether to go ahead with the plans or call it a day, it started pouring. The rains were lashing hard on the window panes and we could barely see the signboards. Our gut sense was that we had at least one more hour to drive. Despite the thunderstorms and lightning, we braved our way towards the Park. We thought that it would be much better to drive towards our destination rather than face the same bad weather to go back to the hotel. We exited at a city called Wall, which is named after the sight of Badlands Wall and just followed the map.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stranded in Thamel

Out of the four days that I was at Kathmandu, two days were declared as bandh. Upon my arrival at the airport, the hosts phoned and apologized for not coming to receive me because of a total bandh called very suddenly. Due to the volatile climate, only tourist vehicles were allowed to operate and I was told that instead of going to Park Village Resort where I was supposed to stay, it would be advisable to spend one night at Kathmandu Guest House which happens to be run by the same group. After much discussion and deliberation with the hosts, the taxi driver and the hotel and after weighing all options of the safest mode to travel, I finally got into a tourist vehicle along with a colleague and a couple of other passengers.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Chandigarh…visit incomplete

Now that I look back I think my visit to Chandigarh was meant to be incomplete, so that I can go there again with a little more time.

After wrapping up all the work that we had come to do, my colleague and I decided to go around the city for a few hours before heading back to the airport. Our hosts had given us a cab (gratis!) and told us to take it wherever we wanted (Go to Shimla if you wish, we were told) but little did we know that the cabbie would be such a spoilsport. Lesson learnt- think twice before accepting anything free.