Hall of Paleobiology

The National Museum of Natural History is located on the National Mall at Washington DC and is administered by the Smithsonian Institution. It hosts the largest group of scientists dedicated to the study of natural and cultural history in the world. I was stunned every five minutes with so much to see and absorb all in a day! The hall of paleobiology was my favorite section in the entire museum. Never in my life I’d thought that I’ll get to look at the fossils of dinosaurs and other reptiles! This was when I started giving thought to evolution and have started reading more about it now.

Jurassic Park was the first movie I saw when I was 3 or something. I’ve also had dinosaur winding toys when I was a kid, and hardbound large size books about these extinct marvels. It was funny how I’d forgotten about all of this. It all came back to me that day – at the hall of paleobiology. I stood in front of the real life size fossils of different dinosaurs, trying to get their names right and learn about them. The following are some of the photographs of this section of the museum.

Their Fossil Lab was very impressive too. It was a huge room open to public viewing from the outside -with sound proof glasses – and was situated at the corner of the main dinosaur hall. We could see scientists working (without getting distracted by people gazing through the glass) and pieces of bones/stones/what not stacked everywhere waiting to be assembled.

Washington DC was the last city that we visited on our summer road trip in July. It is one of the cleanest cities that I’ve seen so far – with relevance to politics and administration at every few blocks on the streets. Do not miss to visit this museum (along with the other ones of course) if you’re there. Plus, the entry to all the Smithsonian museums at DC is free! I wish I’d seen something like this when I was a kid – I would have probably developed an interest in science & biology earlier and got some kickass ideas too. Other parts of the museum that I really liked were the Ocean Hall, the Hall of Gems & Minerals and the Hall of Bones where I got to see their Forensic Anthropology lab! It was all too much to handle in one day.

B’lore Photo Walk at Avenue Road

After one year and one month, the members of B’lore Photo Walk got together for a photoshoot at Avenue Road. I had seen a lot of photographs everywhere and heard a lot of stories about it’s relationship with shutterbugs in the city (as a matter of fact, I could recognize the various shops and locations on the street today just by recalling the photographs!). Even though I had seen some initial parts of the road before to buy books, I had never gone further inside to explore/shoot. Every time I see pictures of Avenue Road, there has got to be people’s portraits, colorful doors & windows, MAD rush, vehicles, more people, wires hanging all over the place, name boards, all kinds of stores dealing with stationery to sarees to jewelry and what not. In short, “absolute chaos”. However, today, we all mat at the old famous ‘coffee-wallah’ at the Mysore Bank circle at ~ 7:30 and started from there. Being a sunday and a little too early, all the shops were closed and the street was less of a hustle. This gave us an opportunity to explore the place in a completely different environment. Newspaper stands were being busy as old men discussed news with chai cups in their hands. In other places, young boys arranged books on the footpath. What is interesting is how these boys know every book they own with precision and can tell which academic course requires which book by which author (including different editions!) without even having received basic education themselves.

We walked into the crossroads along side (which were VERY small and had like a hundred protrusions from everywhere). How do families live here?! The garbage filled gutters would become a menace during rainfalls. Children walked barefoot to school on these streets. Cows, dogs and mice must have made a mutual agreement to live in harmony- just like everyone else. Experiencing a place like this in a city as big as Bangalore is like having a reality check. However advanced this city may be, there lives some parts of it as old as the 80′s. Some parts which may sell and deal with today’s items, but whose lifestyle and ‘feel’ remain the same for years. It’s a good thing in a way. It’s like a connection between retro and new. People may move in/out and the shops may get reinvented, but the street leads the exact same life for years.

Today’s walk wasn’t about clicking intensive cliched photographs of streets and people. It was about meeting the people with whom I started this journey around 2 years back. It was nostalgic to walk with the same bunch of folks with whom I began learning about my city and it’s different faces. It was also about meeting new interesting people! Even though we ended up shooting a lot (duh!), we got an opportunity to talk about our experiences and findings. I can just sit for hours together and listen to how this dude walked for eight hours in the rain atop a hill to get back to his home in Dargeeling or how this another guy got caught up at the Delhi railway station not knowing where to go, and ended up in a cab to Jaipur! In the end, if there is a plate of Idlis and Vada to go with the stories, even better!

last few days in pictures

From 40 C to 25 C (plus rain!) was a pleasant change, especially after 22 hours of sitting in an upright position in artificial atmosphere. I woke up to the sounds of dogs barking, scooters accelerating, yelling vegetable vendors, steel vessels and dad’s daily dose of vishnu sahasranama after catching sleep for only a couple of hours in the morning. Images from the last 2 days below:

I left with a single bag 50 days back and returned with 2 bags yesterday. It surprised me how all the luggage could be unpacked and sorted within minutes. The real cleaning and sorting begins tomorrow, with a newfound love & respect for personal possessions.

all my bags are packed, i’m ready to go

What has been another wonderful vacation has come to an end. I have one day more here and then it’s St.Louis to New York to Paris to Bangalore! I hope getting back to college will be different (and better) this time. I should probably stop thinking about it and just let things happen by itself. The last 50 days were a blast (more than what I’d expected). Some usual and unusual memories (in no particular order):

  • Thai, Peruvian, Italian, Chinese, Indian fusion, Mexican, French cuisine.
  • MacBook Pro!! With free 100$ to use on the app store + free HP wireless printer….STOKED!
  • New York City.
  • Monsanto.
  • Standing at the bottom of the majestic Niagara falls. The permanent rainbow.
  • Sky deck at Willis tower at Chicago 1053ft high. City skyline in the night.
  • July 4′th fireworks in New Jersey.
  • Getting a feel of the university life at Madison, Wi.
  • Biking in Washington DC.
  • Smithsonian Air and Space, and the Natural History museums.
  • Learning to read the map and navigate. Traveling by subway in NYC and metro in DC.
  • Sitting by lake Michigan and dreaming about owning a boat some day.
  • HARRY POTTER 7 in 3D! Waiting in the queue for 2 hours wearing a slytherin T-shirt and feeling joyous after getting out of the theatre.
  • Watching ZNMD in a house full theatre and repeatedly making fun of Abhay Deol.
  • City museum at mid night with torch lights, hanging on ropes, exploring the ‘enchanted caves’ and sliding down from 10 stories. World’s largest pencil.
  • Sunset by Creve Coeur lake.
  • Shopping! Spending hours at malls.
  • Lego store at Times square. MINDBLOWN.
  • NYPD officers on horses.
  • Ferry ride to statue of liberty and Elis island.
  • World Trade Center memorial.
  • Baking chocolate fudge with vanilla frosting and peach topping.
  • Saint Louis County library.
  • Forest park, science center, anheuser busch, zoo, grant’s farm, hobby lobby.
  • ..

Chicagoland

I fell in love with Chicago downtown as soon as I saw the skyline from the interstate highway many miles away. It was a good change from the plain horizontal view of Saint Louis to the populous land of the skyscrapers. My neck was titled upwards all the time as I laid my eyes on the beautiful old and new buildings – all compactly crushed together.

The plan was to explore the city (most parts, if not all) by foot. We started off by visiting the sky deck at Sears towers after crossing the millennium park and cloud gate sculpture – walking past many sidewalk stores and cafés. What a spectacular view of the city from the 103rd floor it was! This was followed by lunch at Giordano’s where we had the famous Chicago deep dish pizza. We then walked on the bridge to the art museum, recalling scenes from the dark knight as visible from different locations!

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Walking alongside lake Michigan made me want to own a boat one day (new addition to the #bucketlist!). Went up on a Ferris wheel after ages and also finally got to eat the famous Ben & Jerry’s ‘Americone Dream’ ice-cream at Navy Pier. Finally, we made our way to Devon street which has been settled by many immigrant groups, majority being Pakistanis and Indians (the streets are named as Jinnah street and Gandhi street). All the walking was exhausting, but was worth it (and was really fun). Chicago is a huge city and has it’s own life going (like any other big city of the world). I had missed the crowd and all the hurry staying in SL for a week, so it was a good change. Missed out on a couple of other attractions like the John Hancock center, etc, but it’s not like the last time that I’ll be visiting the place in my life – that’s for sure! Plus, just the view of the city lights at night makes it totally worth it.

There is so much more to say and show about my experience, but I am running out of time with a jam-packed schedule. I other news, this week’s going to be my ‘Monsanto week’. Also, I have finally started to transfer the photographs and upload them on my photoblog slowly here.

3 States of India

List three countries states you’d like to visit, and why you want to go.

1. Rajasthan – For the palaces, sands, silhouettes, culture, food, colors and everything I’ve watched on television and web. If it’s anything like what I’ve seen, if it’s everything that made me gasp, I’ll be a happy person. Definitely one of the must visit states of India for me.

2. Kerala – So close yet so far. The backwaters, boat houses, vast seas, old traditions, rich temples and authentic meals! I’ll visit soon.

3. Uttarakhand – Though I’ve seen many places of Uttarakhand already, I’d like to visit them all once again, and experience it completely. The next time I go on a wild life safari at Corbett, I wish to spot tiger(s). I want to watch the Himalayas past the clouds from my window. River rafting, camping, and a whole lot of new set of adventures.

Other places in India that I really want to visit are Darjeeling, Andaman, Ladakh, Agra, Pondicherry, Coorg.

I see hundreds of beautiful pictures on flickr everyday (considering the amount of time I spend on browsing images), esp. pictures taken by people from other countries. And every time I wish I stayed in such a place too. I wish I had access to a forest or a river flowing in my backyard. I wish I could watch a million bokeh lights from the terrace. But to be honest, we have much more than that, don’t we? I mean, India is beautiful and has much more to offer. We may not live in a scarce place or in the cleanest of places, but if we travel and explore whats next to our towns and cities, maybe we’ll end up finding something more than what those digital images ever had. Maybe our images will actually mean something more than just a barren portrait of a young teenager standing by the sea watching the city lights far away. I don’t know. I want to travel the world and make beautiful memorable pictures too. It seems so silly and dumb writing all of this considering I’m not even 1% close to achieving what I want to. I don’t know.

Goa!

I’d always thought I’d visit Goa with a huge bunch of friends and explore the little state on bike and relax on an empty beach for hours. This trip was the entire opposite. But not disappointing at all! After an emotional blackmail by my sister, I readily agreed to bunk 2 days of college to experience the much hyped place. The thing is, one should NEVER miss an opportunity to travel and see new places. That too in our own country.

To express everything in words, my Goa trip = 12 hours Airavat (bus) journey + Panjim by foot + Miramar Beach + Dessert at Marriott + Para sailing at Calangute Beach! + Sunset at Chapora Fort + Cashew, Spices and Cake shopping! + Exploring Old Goa = St. Augustine tower + Basilica of Bom Jesus + Ferry Ride to island nearby + Exploring Chorao island + Paitona Backwaters + NH-17 food + Lotus pond + Sunset at Candolim Beach + Aguada Fort + Ride to Vasco da Gama Railway Station + 16 hours in Vasco – Yeshwantpur Express.

Some personal observations = Goa may seem too hyped. But thats just for non drinkers & non party people, etc. It is REALLY green. Lot of cake & sweet shops everywhere. Beautifully built houses and structures! Humidity. Even when it rains. Bridges. City lights in the night. 2 days is not enough to explore the whole of Goa. As Dakshath said, exploring a state/ city is all about discovering the non cliched places and the stories behind them. Its not about spending all the time by the beach and eating at fancy restaurants.  Or something like that. So given an opportunity, will I want to visit again? Definitely!

Best Vacation Ever.

Alert: Long post ahead.

One day for college to begin. 2nd year of Engineering. I am still surprised how one year just passed by so soon. I know its cliched, but really. A lot of things have happened since then. Things about which I’ve already talked about here.

My vacation began from June 1st. I was initially very apprehensive about how I’d spend 2.5 months of time doing nothing. I wanted to make the most of it. I wanted to make it special. It went by very well, wayyyyyyyyy well than I’d imaged! This wouldn’t have been possible without certain people. All very kind and extremely supportive. I sometimes am amused by the help I’ve got from the people in my life. All strangers to me at some point!

~ I finally got a chance to buy my very own DSLR. One word: overwhelming.

~ Got to watch the whole of discovery Plant Earth series, Helvetica(!), Objectified, etc and read about Typefaces, Design and Photography. All thanks to Suyog. There is always something new and uplifting after every discussion and meeting. I am not even kidding, THE most inspiring person I have ever met in my life.

~ PESIT Photography Club. I started a college photog club. Got in touch with the director and he responded positively. A lot of things to be planned and executed. The facebook page has 100+ fans. I’m hoping this will go well for the next 3 years of my college life. Photography seems to be everyone’s new found passion all of a sudden!

~ IISc visit.

~ Yoga. After a lot of pestering from my mom, sister and music teacher, I had to sign up for a month long crash course in yoga. I had to wake up at 5:30 every morning. I don’t know. I just wasn’t comfortable listening to stereotypical discussions at that place. I know it would do me good and even help me with my wheezing problems, etc. But I wouldn’t do anything if I didn’t believe in it. At least as of now, no. I fell ill after returning form Mysore and gave up on it. I have an option of continuing the course now which I won’t be. I can’t handle another major time consuming thing in my life right now. 5:30 mornings are reserved for assignments and record writings.

~ Learning Light Painting and Stop Motion.

Work experience. I mostly did stuff at home but visiting them every week and having long random and non-random discussions was fun. I got to learn a LOT of things from them and be more open minded. Sandeep and PeeVee are two great people and really supportive. I can’t thank them enough. Sometimes, other people are more confident about you than you are about yourself. Its very strange.

Lepakshi Photo Walk. I have already written about this. This walk will be special for more than 3 reasons.

Mysore Trip. One word: Awesome!

~ Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk. I had an option of choosing between 2 places. One, Malleswaram, where all of my photography friends were going to. The walk was lead by Suyog and PeeVee, the location choice was excellent. Second, was BTM Layout. I chose the 2nd option. It was a challenge to be shooting in a metro highway area, with a lot of limitations. We did manage to explore the little cross roads and talk to a couple of workers there. I got an opportunity to shoot alone [even though in a group] and learn by myself. It was basically about going out there and doing things differently and seeing things on my own.

~ Shopping with mom. Not half as bad as I’d imagined it to be. Its actually fun. I’ve always ALWAYS shopped with my sister. This was my first time experience of shopping alone with mom [yes, after 19 freakin' years!] I think since we both are straight to the point, I find it easy. We don’t spend too much time contemplating. Its simply like: “Like it? Buy it!”

~ Audible India. Nice and fun. Not just the podcasts but the whole process of making each episode. The long aimless skype conferences with the team and especially with this kid, who makes me feel old already. But yes, behind the scenes is always fun. Its like a whole team effort.

START Magazine Issue 1 release. What an experience! Again, I can’t thank my sister enough for this. She gave up on sleep for many days just so that we could go through the layout and design again and again. Her suggestions always work out. The issue has crossed 800+ hits now.

I know I have missed out on many things. I can’t write about them all here. This has gotten long already [ignore the typographical and grammatical mistakes, too long to proofread!]. So just for the record, BEST VACATION EVER!

Lepakshi Photo Walk

I woke in the morning with a lot of excitement. Met Prashant at Vijaynagar at 7 [he was already there, waiting, surprisingly!]. We reached the station in 20 minutes and met others. As we walked towards platform No.2, a lot of folks joined in. We were 14 of us on our way to our first photo walk outside Bangalore city.

The train journey was fun. Arvind and Akshay discussed all Geeky stuff. People pulled their legs. I got ‘enlightened’ with all the talk. I learnt how to create HDR images. On the way, Zeeshan reminded us that it was exactly one year back that we’d been on our first photo walk to Lalbagh! [I can't believe a whole year passed by! I remember making a post about our first photo walk!] We reached Hindupur at around 10:45. Hindupur is a small town in Andra Pradesh, around 120 kms from Bangalore. We walked till the main road to find some place where we could have breakfast. After some walking and searching, we fond this little joint sort of a place run by a couple who could speak Kannada and were happy to serve us Dosas, Idlis and Pulav.

Lepakshi is ~15 kms from Hindupur. We were waiting for a bus on the main road when someone randomly mentioned how much fun it would be if we climbed on top of the bus. Just then, an open matador passed by and Natesh with his amazing whistling skill stopped it. We climbed on it and had one of the most memorable, best rides of our lives. We passed by lakes [where we spotted many rare birds] and villages [where we merrily waved at the villagers].

We reached the famous Veerabhadra temple in a while. It was HUGE! And photography is allowed inside the temple premises so everyone shot happily. I personally loved the architecture and design of the place. It is spread out on a large area and there is ample space around. The ancient paintings on the roof are beautiful. We marveled the famous hanging pillars for a while. Arvind, the film maker, created stop motion and time lapse. He even showed it to us on spot on his Mac :D Everyone were impressed. We stayed in the temple premises for till around 3, shooting and talking. We came out and hogged on cucumbers and ice creams. We then walked towards the huge Nandi bull, made of a single granite stone.

We walked back to the main road [well, somewhat of a road] to get back to Hindupur. We wanted to catch the 3:30/ 3:45 train back to Bangalore. We took 2 open auto ricks. It was a bumpy ride, but fun. Everyone seemed high :-|

We reached the station in some time only to realize that we’d just missed the train to Bangalore. The next train was scheduled at 6:30 pm. We immediately took the same autos to the main bus stand and boarded a KSTRC. Everybody almost immediately fell asleep in the bus. Woke up after 2 hours and hogged on some junk. The awesome music on my phone entertained everyone on the way back :P

It was ~7 when we reached the Majestic bus stand. Everybody bid adieu to each other. Nishanth and I took a pre-paid auto and spoke about photo processing, lightroom, etc etc on the way back. I reached home within 40 minutes with a contented heart and mind.

Stay tuned to my flickr for more photographs from the trip & everybody’s pictures on our group pool.

City Market Experience

“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.”

I understood what that means when I visited the Bangalore City Market today.

I left house at 9 in the morning and headed towards K.R. Market [the Bangalore City Market]. There are lots of direct buses to the place and it was not at all difficult in terms of travelling. I had to meet Joel there by 9.40 for a TOI project [yeah..whatever, chuck]. I reached there before him and was waiting, while lots of freaky things happened around me. One advice to you- if you are coming to Bangalore, don’t ever visit this place just for the ‘heck of it’. Unless you are haunting for some good deep Indian portraits [or if you want to buy 10 gerberas for just 2 bucks]. We walked towards the flower market and shot everything on the way. I realized that street photography is not my thing AT ALL. Out of 84 shots that I took, I think not even 2 of them came close to me liking it..

The inside of the city market is hell lot of spooky. But people [mostly traders] there are real friendly and will show you around. There were a group of kids who were so excited when they saw us with cameras. They made us shoot them with their mom, dad, aunts and uncles and everyone :-\ There was SO much activity inside the place that we were just lost. There were pots, vegetables, fruits, bags, spices, flowers, coconuts, seeds, etc. They sell all this in whole sale and this is the main place from where the other shop keepers from all over the city buy stuff from. So you-get-the-idea.

We wanted to go to the “rose market” from there but found out that it closes before 9 am. So we walked all the way on the fly over [it was exhausting] and took city shots from the high view. Ofcourse, I ended up with only lamp posts on the fly over [I find them really fascinating even now..]. We walked around 4 kms only on the fly over. What kind of a sane person does that?? But twas fun, I admit! We could see a lot of activity happening in the market from the fly over.

I’ve started to understand what some things in life mean. My father is right- “the more you travel, the more you learn”. And its not just about us. Its about the place we live in, the kind of people there are, the kind of lives they live, the activity that happens around the city, the conditions that you get exposed to… The “rush of life” that you experience when you visit such places is really something. You realize that its not just about the malls and the multiplexes. There is something more to it all.

Chennai Again

3 days back I told myself that I’m never going to log into wordpress again. Here I am thinking what all to say (there are so many things). Since I’ve been listening to this again and again from the past 2 hours, reading people’s tweets (thats the lamest thing one can do), viewing some awesome images on flickr and eating little pieces of cream and onion lays, I’ve decided to post this! Yay?

I recently came to know that people ‘actually’ read my priceless junk. Sheesh.

Adam Lambert lost. Can you believe that?! Kris is so lame. His guitar playing on round 2 was dumb. Whats up with the Americans. Lol. Anyway, lot of other things happening too. I really feel like bashing up the people who’re making this show called “Paris Hilton’s BFF” or whatever on VH1. How sick is that? A reality show to find a best friend (for life)? Yuck.

Had been to Chennai for 3 days. Twas fun, yes. But the heat!! Its so freakin humid out there. And its been raining forever in Bnagalore! So yes, Prarthana’s grandmom is like really sweet. She let me stay at her place and all. Pratty and I went shopping, went to the beach, met this guy (he made a fool out of himself btw =P), shopped again, and again, and hogged a lot. The bus rates are so cheap there! My jaw dropped when I heard I could travel 5 kms for just 2 bucks. Anyway, it was a wonderful experience. I learnt a lot of things. I’m thankful to everything and everyone.

Meeting Dad

I had never imagined that meeting dad this summer would be so exciting and fun!  Seeing him after so many months was very strange. Well, this time I felt like this all grown up daughter and he thought I’d changed and stuff ( It’s a father-daughter thing you know..)

Uttaranchal (now Uttarakhand) is one of India’s most beautiful states. Stunning scenery, mighty rivers, huge gorges, impressive rapids and wild white water, in areas of wilderness and stunning natural beauty! From where dad stays, one can see the whole Himalayan range! It’s like living on the green mountains right under the clouds!

We visited many places. Haridwar and Rhishikesh were filled with temples ( obviously ). Sucha holy place! There is the “maha aarti” that happens everyday. That was good to watch. So many lights everywhere! The whole of Ganga was filled with diyas!

I cannot stop myself from talking about the sadhus there! I went mad seeing so many of them. Everywhere on the streets there were these men dressed in orange clothes! Later I learnt that all  most of them fag, booze and even do drugs ( like big time! ) I even saw some of them doping and looking half dead!

I just love this pic which I took. The green grass, the flowing water and an (orange) sadhu meditating; experiencing peace and harmony.

River rafting on the Ganga river ( in Rhishikesh ) was one of the unforgettable experiences! We were 6 of us on one raft. It was a 15 km journey. We experienced 6-7 rapids ( or the “roller coasters” as they calll it ). On the way, when the water was flat and calm, we were allowed to dive in ( this is called as “body surfing” ). At one place, we could dive from a 10-15 feet rock from top into the river and then swim to the raft. I was amazed to see how confidently my dad jumped into the water! It took me 5 minutes to make my decision and jump down without getting scared!

During rafting, we saw some of the foreigners in their extremely small outfits and sun bathing on the banks of Ganga! One of our co-rafters commented “yeh kya Rhishikesh ko Goa bana rahe hai!” ( what! they’re turning Rhishikesh into Goa! ).

I forced my dad to take me to The Jim Corbett Park. We had to take a gipsy and follow some 101 procedures before actually entering the forest. Our gipsy even broke down 3 times inside the forest! ( that was scary! ) We saw all possible animals there except the tiger(s)! Aaargh! It’s all a matter of chance. The whole thing about entering the forest and wittnessing the wild life so closely was amazing. Atleast we saw the tiger pug marks! Its like there is a whole big different world out there; away from the rest of the life.

On a personal note, it was a good break for me away from Bangalore. Spending time with dad this time was very exciting and I’d never imagined he would be so adventurous! When he dropped me at the Delhi airport, I had a wired feeling. I wanted to say so many things to him before leaving, but just ended up with  “thanks” and “bye”.

Then I turned back while he stood there and watched me walk away…