#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (8)

Trips On Bonneville- Naukuchiatal

A motorcycle Ride is essentially about the journey and the pleasing comfort of being in the company of fellow riders. However, I have found it to be equally good even when not in a group, riding in meditative solitude as rest of the world goes past my helmet’s visor. The process of journey is at its best when it is not rushed, but savored at each stage. The routes chosen ask to be enjoyed, while feeling the motorcycle engine’s response as you wrist the throttle with a childlike glee and a smile on your face.  The views that go by beckon to be soaked in & captured by a camera if possible, but without fussing too much. The ride needs to be paced in such a manner that the planned breaks for having coffee, food, sugarcane juice or perhaps plain water…can be enjoyed at leisure. For this, it is important to either start early or be easy about the arrival time at destination. So, with all this gyaan…I planned our first father-son ‘Trips On Bonneville’ to Naukuchiatal in Uttrakhand.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (7)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (7)

Rider Musings

An avid rider (someone like me!) wants a motorcycle that is ‘ikkees’ of me and my riding capabilities.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (25)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (25)

Once you have a good bike, then comes the very important aspect of finding desirable riding conditions. A good ‘Ride’ should have, in no particular order: – a sensible destination (should be purposeful), there should be good roads i.e. smooth tarmac, scenic vistas, twisties (for thrills) etc. Most of all the weather should be kind to you; excessive heat, torrential rains & gusty winds upset the Chi of your riding ‘avataar’.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (15)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (15)

Full riding gear (specially-Triumph’s Navigator) is very unforgiving in hot conditions. Anything north of 300C gets uncomfortable, ideal temperature would be a mild 200C; as it is easy on big and powerful litre plus/minus engines of superbikes also.

Ride Season

The month of Oct is a festive time in North India. We have Pujo, Dussherah, Diwali …and the evenings / mornings become cool & pleasant. So most of my riding buddies & I call it the beginning of biking season…wherein one can choose any destination, without worrying much about getting drenched in rains, baked in heat or getting adversely affected by cold. Most of the monsoon induced greenery is still around; lakes are full and rivers abundant with rainfall’s bounty.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (21)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (21)

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (19)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (19)

If one is riding in the hills then a waterfall spouting chilled water will delight the rider at almost every corner as the low flying clouds cover your visor with mist.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (11)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (11)

In plains too the winter smog of Dec-Jan is still some weeks away and the clear blue skies and cotton ball clouds teasingly await you to tail them!

Choosing the Destination

As is natural, one finds/seeks like-minded riders, so about two years back a small group was formed with three other keen rider colleagues to visit Naukuchia Taal in Uttrakhand, where some of us have a small piece of land; we aimed for “ek panth do kaaj” i.e. to visit the plot to check its upkeep & have a good ride in the process,however the ride never happened. The ‘destination’, now it seems, was waiting for the right time & opportunity. Which finally happened when I sensed that my Son is keen to do a Ride (he is an abinitio). I could have chosen to take him on the ride to Lucknow as well, via the new expressway (other riding buddies were doing that highly desirable Ride at the same time). But it would not have suited us Father-Son as there seemed little scope of imparting lessons to an abinitio rider with that group of fast riders. At this point I must share my view that my generation learnt to ride two wheelers in a relatively forgiving environment. The scooters/bikes of the 1980s were forgiving & catered for awkwardness of a newcomer; and the traffic density too was lesser back then, as were the speeds.

With all this on my mind, I decided to plan a trip to provide an exposure of a relatively longer trip of 300 km on Triumph Bonneville T100 a superbike, and a mix of driving conditions. Thus this #TripsOnBonnieville was planned; this Ride mandated that I was in communication with my Son at all times while he was on controls or even when he was pillion. So I set up a Bluetooth Intercom system in our helmets and got familiar with its operating procedures to be able use it on the go.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (30)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (30)

The aim of doing this was to have the ability to talk & guide him when he was riding and while he was pillion I could think aloud & explain the decision making process with examples while riding in hills, on highways etc…and it definitely helped us to discuss the menu at a Cafe Coffee Day outlet (Virk Filling Station near Rampur) while I was refueling outside at fuel pump and he was in the restaurant placing the order!

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (31)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (31)

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal

Four Day Weekend Rush!

As per plan we were to start at daybreak, but due to a contingency there was a delay and we could start only by 0730 hrs. The route planned was Noida-Rampur-Rudrapur-Haldwani-Bhimtaal-Naukuchia Taal. This had been done earlier on many occasions by a four wheeler and the poor road condition after Rampur till Haldwani was a dreadful reality. However we ended up getting roasted in sun due to chock-a-block traffic jam! It started right from ‘Dasna Toll’ and continued till beginning of ‘Hapur Bypass’, a good 20 km distance. I was again a casualty of a four day weekend-rush with traffic heading to hometowns, hills etc; June’s Manali Ride & its monstrous three hour traffic jam at Old Manali town was constantly echoing in my head. But that had happened late in the night, in hills where it was cool; while this one was getting us toasted in Ten O Clock sun in our full riding gear. It was a rude initiation for my Son, but he pulled on stoically and I was happy that he was slightly better in heat because he was wearing a mesh-jacket (by RE).

Tea Break

The traffic jam made us to make very poor pace for first few hours, as did many other Bike Groups riding (on clutch!) along with us in the maddening traffic. At least their presence in the traffic jam did not make us the odd ones out, only specimens in riding gear! The Bluetooth intercom was a blessing, as we could chat that whole time and curse the erring drivers together.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (13)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (13)

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (12)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (12)

We made a short tea break at a Dhaba and also hydrated ourselves. As usual, when the bike pulled in to the tea stall / Dhaba, the usual questions came in…cost, mileage etc. This is when the bike is inconspicuous to most (mistaken for an ‘angrezi’ modified Bullet!), I guess they all know why we ride, because no one asked why were we doing it!

Refuelling and Lunch Break

The traffic eased out after we crossed Moradabad, and conditions seemed ideal for handing over the bike to my Son, his first time on this bike. After getting familiar with bike in few minutes he made good progress, and I could discuss and monitor his decisions on the intercom.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (9)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (9)

However the downer turned out to be my inability to sit for long as pillion without any back rest (backpack too), (need to improve my core strength!)  So as we approached traffic of Rampur town I surrendered the pillion seat to the young man.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (2)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (2)

After crossing Rampur I was dreading two things, one was the inevitable traffic jam due the bottleneck at Bilaspur and the extremely poor road conditions on that stretch. The heavy-load traffic and lack of maintenance has turned that stretch of road into a ‘trail’…fit only for Triumph’s Tigers!

For lunch we wanted to stop at a Dhaba where we could park the bike right next to us.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (1)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (1)

And after some scouting we spotted one, there was no customer…but we braved in after attributing the lack of customers to us being early for lunch.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (29)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (29)

After taking our gear off, we spotted a hand pump, a rarity in our big towns, cooled off dousing our heads with water and ordered simple daal roti to fill ours stomachs.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal

As we were cooling off & waiting for our food the Dhaba filled up with other customers, a big relief!

After a good one hour break we set course again, negotiating the badly broken road and worrying if the bike will hold against the punishment it was being subjected to.

That’s when I observed the Pulsars, Hondas & Enfields trudging on and I relaxed, though it was physically very taxing to cover those 20 odd kms in 1.5 hrs. I also noticed this time, my first with a bike on the route, that traffic jam takes different dimension if you are on a two wheeler, we literally squeezed ourselves out of all tight situations where I would have spent a lot of time stuck …had I been in a car!

Evening at Naukuchia Taal

After a quick filter coffee break at Udupiwala at Haldwani we pressed on for our destination.It was quite liberating to be on a two wheeler and riding in hills again, enjoying the brute power of the machine negotiating gradients.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (14)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (14)

We simply flew by the long queues of cars and hit the town at about five in the evening.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal

Since it was only us two with no ladies to fuss around, we just gallivanted around Bhimtaal and Naukuchia Taal, super confident that we WILL find a place for a night stay. After inquiring at more than five places, panic set in and we were then willing to spend the night in a store room also if the situation came to such a pass, and that is what it ended up as! All hotels etc  were making a killing with four days weekend tourist rush adding to their delight. We could only get a makeshift arrangement in the staff quarters of a small five room hotel…with huge spiders for company! It certainly added to the experience.

Dinner at Bhimtaal

After a much needed bath, the father-son duo set out to search for dinner and settled in for the ‘famous’ pizza joint in Bhimtaal. The inquiry to pizza shop address always got us an answer that it was just ‘thoda aagey-slightly ahead’ a statement which in highlander speak can mean anything from 500 m to 5 kms! The pizza was good… we were hungry, but a hungry mind-stomach situation made us order for four instead of two stomachs that we were! We carried a full uneaten pizza with us to feed the monkeys (that area has plenty) the next morning.

Sleeping with Tube light On

Such was the scare of creepy crawlies in that dilapidated room that we decided against putting the lights off for sleeping and slept soundly right through the night; lights were not even noticed. The establishment’s manager was very keen that we buy a ‘sortie’ of Paragliding from his facilities, but I backed off after few queries about qualifications of paragliding pilots ! and also cribbed to no end about the room he gave us.

The Next Morning

We decided to skip the breakfast offer made to us by the hotel and headed towards our plot on the outskirts of town. The approach to the plot had always seemed daunting earlier while on a SUV or even a smaller car, as the roads/tracks tend to be narrow and gradients steep. This time, on a torquey-powerful bike the steep gradients were a cakewalk (the fear of scrapping the underside-sump was already taken care of by the two protective guards that have been installed on my Bonnieville T100) and the same roads/tracks seemed like a four lane!

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (11)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (11)

May be it was the magic of the morning freshness or lush greens with which the monsoons bless our countryside each year, the area looked resplendent and the happiness was in realizing  that I owned a piece of land right there!

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (5)#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (5)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (5)

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (4)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (4)

Right next to my plot a resort/homestay has come up; we approached the property to scout and have some breakfast, but were turned away by the restaurant staff as it was only meant for resident guests. However, the owner was kind enough to entertain us (we are neighbors after all) and we gorged on yummy ‘andaa-bread’ with coffee- my comfort food!

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (6)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (6)

The Return Ride

The resort owner told us about an alternate route after I narrated the harrowing time we had on the broken road we had taken the previous day. He advised that we take Naukuchia Taal-Nainitaal-Kaladhhungi-Bazpur-Doraha-Daowd-Rampur-NH24-Noida. I had not done this route before, but I did recall about One Triumph’s Jim Corbett ride, which had no cribs about the roads whatsoever, and this route was same. So despite knowing that we would encounter the holiday crowd while crossing Nainitaal, we set course.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal

We did encounter huge traffic jam on Mall Road, but wasn’t a bother at all, being on the Mall Road!

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (10)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (10)

The Twisties

The stretch between Khurpataal and Kaladhungi is a biker’s delight.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (15)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (15)

The road is fantastic, there wasn’t much traffic and the twisties and hairpins bends were good for a, I dare say, mid level rider like me.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal

It was also a good opportunity to impart some demonstrative maneuvers for the benefit of my Son.

It was almost as if I was in an aircraft, imparting lessons on Intercom. Priceless.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal

The Lunch

The stopover for lunch was a premeditated effort.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal

We wanted to stop a place where I could stretch out on a ‘manjee’, and we spotted the ‘manjee’ under a tree placed by Gill Brothers Dhaba (it has four star Google rating!).

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (26)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (26)

The food ordered was Daal, Roti & Curd (since it was homemade by the dhaaba) and I mentioned to my Son about the importance of avoiding heavy proteins / paneer etc while on a Ride.

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal (20)

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal (20)

Tazia Procession

I have stayed near Aligarh for 11 years and another two years in the town itself, but I had never seen a Tazia procession till date, had only read about them in newspapers and Hindi literature. That day we saw three big processions on state highway 49W as we approached Rampur. The religious fervor was palpable and the processions grand.

We were categorically told to follow this route by my friend from cottages @ estates, though it was longer but it made us skirt Moradabad city and we intercepted NH 24 near Rampur town avoiding its traffic congestion.

Coffee Break at MacDonald’s

#TripsOnBonneville - Naukuchiatal

#TripsOnBonneville – Naukuchiatal

The Mac’s outlet falls on the wrong side of the road while on the way back to Noida and a large number of cars were using wrong way to reach MacDonald’s. But demonstrating patience, I went past the MacDonald’s outlet, located a break in the road and circled back to the outlet. We had our coffee etc and once again did that extra kilometer to get back on the road to Noida. The things you do for a coffee!

Night Drive to Noida

Sitting at MacDonald’s we cleaned our helmet’s visors, bracing for the onslaught of insects and the dusty stretch due to ongoing construction work between Pilakhua and Masuri. The ride was easier than anticipated with much lesser traffic than usual, perhaps it was middle of a festival-holiday and those who had to reach somewhere were already there and would be traveling back the next day, it also being a holiday.

Traffic Peculiarities.

Since it was his first motorcycle ride on highway in night conditions, I could explain to my Son, with examples, the importance of having a clear view of the road ahead while riding and more so at night. The requirement of keeping in mind the longer reaction time that is needed, so that a pot-hole or something fallen etc on road can be spotted early and avoided comfortably. Night driving on a highway is never comfortable. The faster one is riding, the more is the gap required to be maintained with the car/vehicle in front and also because it will have better braking capability. At times this, want-to-have-a-view-ahead-but-will-drive- close-to-the-bumper-ahead caused the entire width of the road getting occupied by a group of 4-5 cars travelling at same speed but at an angle to the one in front! We saw plenty of such examples, much to his amusement…group of cars moving at same speed making a diagonal ! lazy driving essentially, none of them wanted to speed up and overtake. We did! most of the times.

Despite being cautious and having a Cyclops LED bulb illumination, I did manage to go in a few pot-holes! Bonnieville T100 handled them with aplomb, maintaining her composure.

Saddle Sores

We had been on the bike since 1000 hrs and by 1900 or so the only discomfort felt was due to long hours on the seat. I was expecting it, but for my son it was quite a downer. Perhaps seat of a cruiser would have been more comfortable!

Destination Home

We reached home at 2022 after clocking 670 km as per Google map’s message, end of a enjoyable two day trip which shall always be a fond memory for us.

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Deogarh ride- TripsOnBonneville

Deogarh Ride- #TripsOnBonneville

Deogarh Ride was to a beautiful property in Rajasthan at about 540 kms from NCR, perfect distance for a day’s ride on a superbike. At the outset it is unfortunate that Deogargh ride got time stamped with chaos, as the law finally caught up with Gurmeet Singh aka the infamous Ram Rahim Singh of Sirsa. However the dates would be easy to recall in future 🙂

It was as if there were more than one rides happening at the same time, with only the Triumph bikes and stay venue being the common factor.

The earlier one-The Manali Ride was quite different in many aspects, the expected weather being foremost. This time the ride destination was in the Arravali hills, hence we expected heat, dust, humidity etc. Instead what we got was pouring rain, a good 100 plus kms ride in shivering cold as we doggedly pressed on to Deogargh! There was not a single moment when I didn’t regret not carrying rain protection gear and water proofing spray for bags etc.

The preparation for Deogargh ride had started a week before the day of departure. The departure & briefing time was a relaxed 0500 hrs on 25 August, so no drastic adjustment was required to be done in the daily routine. On 18th August there was a preparation ride for all from OT to Jewar Toll and back via Highway Masala, it was followed by breakfast at OT. We had some good time and good food! Good discussion and freezing of plans too, however they stayed fluid as did the names of guys on the ride manifest.

Deogarh ride- TripsOnBonneville

Day1 0430 hrs at DND Toll RV point

Since there was enough warning by Ride Captain Vineet-‘Smilin Hulk’ for all riders to carry luggage on person, so I decided to use a VaTerra mini (I hate spoiling profile of the bike- looks best to me minus any bags, panniers etc). I must acknowledge, it made my trip logistics very easy, it accommodated stuff for a trip of three days, a bottle of Old Monk …and there was still space left for more luggage!

DAY 1 of Deogarh Ride

The first day was about riding in the rains and sumptuous breakfast…NP Singh and self landed up at OT sharp 0500 hrs, we had planned 0430 RV at DND and as we roared off to OT showroom from there, a rider went past us on his Street Triple, we exchanged biker greetings…little did I know then that this lot of three would be enjoying their return from Deogarh, riding in a tight formation right till DND again! The third rider was Bivash Barua… I am sure there were more such small sub groups which formed and bonded as they rode together.
Rahul Roy had announced rain in his 3 am broadcast, but still no one carried rain gear! The three groups, segregated on the basis of riding pace were set off from OT as per schedule, well almost because the last group too was on road before 0600 hrs. They  were followed by the backup vehicle with Simranjit (capturing the moments), Mrs Mahua Barua as passenger with Udit at wheel. The two other couples in the ride who were on their bikes were Akash & Mrs Sirohi on Street Twin and Gautam and Mrs Mahi on their Storm. It was good to see Gautam after some 18-19 years & living life on his own terms. There were families of few riders in an Audi Q7 and another one which trailed group No 2. The lady rider of the group Sonia Jain was also in group No 2.

I had the unique opportunity of riding with two groups as I got separated from my group (No 3)! With a low battery phone (no Google map) I  pressed on to Deogarh in pouring rain, after sending a message to the group about my intent before the phone battery died. The solo ride was refreshing, amidst the beautiful Arravalis freshly turned green by the rains and gently winding rain washed roads reminded me of- The Scotland Ride I did in September 2016.  About 70 km short of Deogarh I was overtaken by group No 1, the fastest lot ! As it turned out I had overtaken every one…landing up ahead of group No 1 also  !!!! (it was because I did not stop for a solo lunch etc and made good speed). Rahul Roy spotted me and boy… was I happy to see The Rocket!!! So, from then on I got to ride with group No 1 comprising of Rajiv Thakur, Ishann, Rohit Kapoor, Prashant Khari and Rahul Roy . I got to do some good disciplined riding with them, the group (which was on Sena I Com system) started using hand signals to accommodate me as I was without any I Com System…appreciated.

DAY 2

9. The second day was a lazy one, as was expected also after the revelry of the previous evening. Some did wake up early enough to enjoy the sunrise while some surfaced at 1000 hrs!

Deogarh ride- TripsOnBonneville

Deogarh ride- TripsOnBonneville

Deogarh ride- TripsOnBonneville

Water fall pic from other group’s ride destination on Day 2

There were two plans that were to be executed, first was for a ride going to see a water fall/lake with Raja of Deogarh and trail riding and in second plan the rest were to use their discretion to either stay back or go to Kumbhalgarh. All had fun.

The plan was to have an early dinner to cater for the early ride out on Day 3; but boys will be boys!

Deogarh ride- TripsOnBonneville

Tiger on prowl !
Day 2 pic

Despite the late hours when we returned from Deogarh, the planned party itinerary was still followed! Some enthusiasts took a dip in the splash pool, some sat by the poolside enjoying their drinks and snacks (after some serious threats by NP Singh we managed two plates for 10-12 of us)…and it kept drizzling all this while 🙂

DAY 3

The day three started off well, we refuelled from a pump next to hotel and set course to our first halt-Highway King. The quad of Chand Uppal, Bivash Barua ,self and NP Singh in lead did some tight formation riding all the way to first point where we stopped on time (2 hrs) as Highway King was proving to be elusive.

Barring a scare from a truck which cut through our path suddenly and an occasional cow which decided to appear from the divider-shrubs, it was well controlled, disciplined and super enjoyable ride. That truck driver had a lucky escape! The other sub group was not as kind to a jeep driver which did a similar stunt. Highway King part II was again not traceable for lunch and we caught up with the other rider sub groups who were ahead of us as they took  a break at one roadside restaurant; they too had given up on finding the lunch RV point. After a lunch of ‘daal chawal’ we set course for a final RV at Mannat Dhaba – 70 km short of Delhi, where we had final group photograph and the ride broke off with fond goodbyes and auf weidersehns!

FOOTNOTE
As you cruise on the highway safely ensconced in the company of your riding buddies (knowledge of a backup vehicle also perhaps) but ‘alone’ inside your helmet, you are set up for getting into a transcendental state of meditation…very easy to get addicted to. Even though in the physical act of riding, you would be as relaxed mentally as if you were chilling out in a steam room/sauna (no pun intended). You might even get some clarity on subjects which appeared complex till just before you had thumbed that starter. I for one look forward to being in that ‘zone’. Earlier I could experience it often while doing long boring repetitive legs of flying…not that I enjoyed those monotonous flying-legs, but loved the mental ‘jugaali’ I got to indulge in!

So until the next ride…ride safe!

A post by- @sportpilot68

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Indian Laburnum

Indian Laburnum

For most part of the year the Indian Laburnum tree (known as Amaltas in hindi) would go unnoticed, almost nondescript with its scanty foliage and an unimpressive stature for a tree. Come summers, May and June to be specific, the tree bursts into cascading pendulums of incandescent yellow (I find it to be the most glorious/fascinating shade of yellow) with effortless beauty, perhaps it’s from here it derives its other names …of the ‘Golden Shower’ or the ‘Golden Rain’ tree.



Every time I see this tree, laden with golden cascading bunches of delicate flowers, it brings a smile on my face, no matter what state of mood/mind I am in…it happens every time without fail. The sight of this tree is akin to seeing a fantasy becoming real if not viewing a magical show live. And I am so sure in my mind that this must be the clearest way to see a piece of heaven…trying to imagine what it must be like. A Laburnum tree in full bloom… it makes my heart skip a beat, quite literally and I could surrender a treasure to hold on to this glorious sight.

The exotic spectacle, of the yellow blossoms decorating this tree along the roads, in the bright summer sunlight, in Delhi would be hard to miss. The resplendent yellow bursts of colour would surely make you forget the harsh 40+ degree temperatures.

Hubby took me on a whimsical drive last Sunday, on a Laburnum trail, knowing it would make my day 🙂 despite the heat. It was at Amrita Shergill Marg that I decided I had to pay my tribute to it…I had to write about it!

I wish I could compose a song or a poem… for the one sight which effortlessly invigorates my senses and brings immense joy and peace…as I mentioned earlier I find a densely laden Laburnum in its full glory therapeutic…meditative.

The beauty of this tree in full bloom against the clear blue summer skies, gives an instant rush of visual high which is beyond words.

It is one of the most vivid ways in which the nature reminds us that there is a life beyond our hectic schedules, the daily grind, the routine drills… and all you have to do is see the fantasy world around you… or perhaps borrow my eyes ( ! ) to see it that way…I am in love… with Laburnum!

Since its roots do not grow very deep, the tree is not harmful to foundations of buildings, if planted in rows along a driveway or in your garden, it would add an ornamental riot of colour to your home or neighbourhood. This deciduous, low maintenance native tree combines the beauty of ornamental flowers with the size of a small tree, to create a splendid addition to your garden/patio/curb or walkways. This is summer I added one to my garden… 🙂

Read about its medicinal uses here and here, whatever its benefits may be, its visual impact provides enough pleasant feelings to invigorate your senses…

Checkout some beautiful trees around the world here and here

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Happy 2016!

Happy 2016!

Call it a tradition, a ritual, a practice or just an idea romanticizing the act of making New Year’s Resolutions… an idea that wants you to believe in yet another chance to dream with open eyes… mind and heart…an idea that drives you to make these Resolutions; I can bet my life, no one reading this can deny having made some in their lifetime 😉

One changes with time, so does the aspirations. For me, a resolution is an opportunity to gauge my goals and my priorities any time of the year. And yet around the New Year I get adventurous and make some new resolutions…I guess I am a die-hard optimist who is wowed by life in general. Does that sound crazy? Silly perhaps… but I don’t think I want to grow out of it. I like penning down my thoughts, musings, my resolutions in my hand written journal…the old fashion-way. I like to romanticize that my grand children would someday discover my journal and will be excited to read it…I am sure they would be amused to see my hand writing… in an ink pen on an old yellowy faded paper. For the sake of posterity (so, I’d like to believe) and to keep up with the times I have maintained an online journal as well.

I take this time of the year (whether we are travelling or are at home) especially the last couple of days, before I bid adieu to the year, as my time to reflect on the changes that the year brought in, the changes that I want to make in the coming year and my resolutions to follow through. So, am I running with the crowd and going with the usual practice of making and breaking my New Year’s Resolutions? I think not. For the year 2016 I am taking a cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson, my 2016’s #1 Resolution would be:

Happy 2016!

Happy 2016!

Easier said than done but it would be worth the try…practicing this everyday.

If there is anything to take away from 2015, it would be be- The focus should not be on the bigger picture, the idea is to embrace the smaller ones, to begin with, taking one day at a time or better yet one moment at a time…to appreciate all things around me. When I say all the things that makes me happy, I mean- it’s when the people I am surrounded with are happy…And happiness is born from gratitude one feels for loving what you have and for being loved in return. An inspiring feeling… in slowing down, in looking at where am I going… and above all- being grateful.
Anything worthwhile is difficult even if it is as simple as it may seem to keep up with the New Year’s Resolutions…here are my top three Resolutions for the year 2016 (rest in my journal 😉 :

1) Write thrice a week
2) Finish 12 non-fiction by the year-end (no capping on fiction 🙂
3) Stay organised, no matter what.

Cheers to a Happy and a Healthy New Year! Happy 2016!

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pottery

Pottery- A date with the Wheel!

Pottery, more often than not is an expression of the subconscious mind and of one’s life experiences, it is something to be perceived by the senses and later to be relayed in the physical form…that’s what I have come to understand of this art-form since the time I have been an ‘assistant’ to my daughter for her Pottery Classes. And I am enjoying every bit about these classes.


Yashaana’a first date with the ‘Wheel’ was not only a momentous occasion for her but also for her Instructor and me. Needless to say she was mighty excited, a few days before her pottery class she made sure that she read everything that she could get her hands on, to do her homework before sitting at the ‘Wheel’. But it wasn’t to happen so mechanically of course, knowing Meena, I knew there would be an experience waiting for us. And sure enough she had more than just a Pottery class (to give) for Yashaana. Before the formal ‘clay throwing’ her instructor, Meena Vohra, made sure that she understood why it is important to ‘centre’ the shapeless lump of clay…for it to be turned into a worthy piece of usage or an art form. As a passive onlooker I could gather how important it was for Yashaana to gain a deeper understanding of this art form.
‘Clay when not centered doesn’t yield the desired result (or no result at all)’…and I just loved the analogy that Meena draws with Clay and Life… She says, ‘When our thoughts aren’t centered on our priorities then do not expect your life to be in balance/harmony… it will be imbalanced…in other words- it will not yield the desired result.’ Bringing about a balance in your life by ‘centering’ your thoughts based on your priorities is what one ought to practice, to achieve the desired result.
Attending the Pottery Classes with my daughter is like attending Life Skills classes…the insights, the sharing of experiences that Meena shares with her students doesn’t end at learning just about the clay or the Pottery.
Here’s Yashaana (ecstatic writ large on her face that her smile goes lopsided!)and her instructor after her first ‘Wheel’ experience.

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Pottery

After years of working as an educator when she threw it all away only to follow her heart, little did Meena Vohra know that her connection with the clay would be so profound and deep that it would inspire others, irrespective of their age and profession, to follow suit.

Potter at 50? YES! Learning has no boundaries, no age; that’s when she found the perfect medium to fuse her deep creativity with spirituality and appreciation for the natural world with her vibrant imagination and strong dramatic clay creations. Her home is a testimony to her multi-hued glazed pottery with a touch of whimsy. I will share her lovely home and garden (and cooking) with you all soon.
Meena Vohra’s expressive style has inspired a new generation of young potters who believe in living a meaningful and joyous life. Through her classes, she teaches them life’s lesson and not just customized studio pottery. Her pottery is a celebration of her other joys and inspiration—gardening and cooking. The shapes and patterns she finds among the leaves, flowers, fruits and vegetables, find their way into her clay creations. She has made a special niche in ceramics and glazed pottery. Sipping green tea, as we waited for Yashaana’s first ‘hand-pinched/hollow ball’ clay pot to dry a little…
Pottery

Pottery @ Hooked on Homes!

she shared her thoughts on life, I especially latched onto one such thought of hers- “Everything is made up of five elements of nature- bhūmi (earth), jal (water), agni (fire), vayu (air), akash (void), so is our body…to feel this connection, one needs to be a potter; it connects you to all the five elements of life not just in physical domain but in spiritual domain as well.”
I could connect so very well to what she meant…pottery indeed is a medium of dual realities. For one, is the clay’s obvious physical use in terms of the creations that are churned out. And the second, the abstract use, the spiritual realms of connection with the five elements of life itself. All this may seem intricate and complicated but is actually so clear and simple…just as the soil (or the clay). It is there all around us…all you have to do is see it, feel it and express via it.
As I sat there watching my daughter, Yashaana, take her first pottery lesson, it was heartwarming to see her with such a passionate instructor at work, they bonded as if they have known each other forever… It was indeed a pleasant feeling and a knowing that it is not just pottery class…it is a beginning of a journey…of a lasting relationship…creative, spiritual and soulful.
Yashaana has always been a keen learner…always in pursuit of learning new art forms to push her creative boundaries; pottery seemed a natural step in that direction.
Looking forward to our next class with Meena Vohra, an artist who defies not only the conventional learning norms but age as well!

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Mango Smoothie

Mango Smoothie

Is there any best way to enjoy mangoes? That’s the question I asked my friends the other day (there were 12 of us, meeting after days) and there was not a single unanimous answer to my question. I received a dozen odd responses to my question. Silly question, I must admit, as I realised that there isn’t any best way to enjoy this ‘king of fruits’… I should have known that! I wonder why did I ask that question in the first place. Anyhow, after that conversation and after all those responses, I thought to myself…why not prolong the mango season this year… I decided to make/try as many recipes with mangoes as my friends suggested,  atleast twelve in number if not more! So, here I am sharing one of my tried and tested favourites and a family staple in the mango season…Mango Smoothie aka Mango Lassi

Considering that mango is an all time family favourite, this is a hassle proof, no fuss recipe. We all have become a pro at it! A rich and creamy drink, good as a breakfast substitute or even for evening hunger pangs.

The good part is you can manage the consistency of this refreshingly healthy smoothie by adding water or crushed ice to it. If you want it to be filling, just don’t add any water to the mango pulp and yoghurt… and if you want it light and frothy, reduce on the yoghurt and add chilled water or crushed ice.

TIP : Reduce the yoghurt and not the mango pulp to achieve the desired consistency.

Ingredients

2 medium size ripe mangoes peeled and chopped

1 cup thick yogurt

crushed ice or ice cubes as desired to adjust the consistency of the mango smoothie

3 tablespoons sugar (Adjust to taste) or entirely optional if the mangoes are sweet.

a pinch of coarsely ground cardamom powder per glass while blending (when serving, add another pinch as garnishing)

Directions for Mango Smoothie

Blend yoghurt, mango pieces (and sugar) in a blender. Taste before adding more sugar…adjust sugar to your liking. Add cardamom powder and blend again.

 

To adjust the consistency of the mango smoothie, you may add chilled water or crushed ice to it. Once nicely blended pour it into glasses and garnish with a pinch of freshly ground cardamom.

TIP – Serve it super chilled.

Now head for your favourite corner at home to enjoy the deliciousness in every sip… a hammock, and something interesting to read is my way of enjoying this summery bonanza!


Mango Smoothie
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A rich and creamy drink, good for a breakfast substitute or for evening hunger pangs.
:
Recipe type: Drinks/Beverages
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 3 to 4 medium glasses
Ingredients
  • 2 medium size ripe mangoes peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup thick yogurt
  • crushed ice or ice cubes as desired to adjust the consistency of the mango smoothie
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (Adjust to taste) or entirely optional if the mangoes are sweet.
  • add half a teaspoon of coarsely ground cardamom powder per glass while blending (when serving, add another pinch as garnishing)
Instructions
  1. Blend yoghurt, mango pieces (and sugar) in a blender.
  2. Taste before adding more sugar...adjust sugar to your liking.
  3. Add cardamom powder and blend again.
  4. Adjust the consistency of the mango smoothie by adding chilled water or crushed ice.
  5. Once it is nice and smooth, pour it into glasses and garnish with a pinch of freshly ground cardamom.
  6. Serve it super chilled!

To try another of my Mango flavoured summer thirst quencher Click Here.

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How to Dry Roses

How to Dry Roses

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time now but for some reason or the other I couldn’t do so. Today, when I was replacing my year-old homemade potpourri with freshly made one, I decided to dig out old photos of the roses and sat down with my notebook to write about it.

So, here I am sharing one of the simplest DIYs (you can never go wrong with it) on ‘How to Dry Roses’. Every time I bought roses (or was presented with a bunch/bouquet) I make sure that after a couple of days’ of display in the vase, I dry and add a few drops of fragrant oil (essential oils) and use them to adorn various corners of our home…they smell heavenly.

These air dried roses stay very well for many months, sometimes upto a year. The colors stay strong and vivid. Mine start withering only because I end up dusting them too often (because of excessive dust here).

How to dry roses…

Very simple… just hang the stems upside down (roses facing downwards) in a cool and airy corner of your home. The corner next to my dresser is where I dry my roses and other flowers. Best dried are the rose buds which are not fully opened.

Once dried, you may trim the stems and use the dried roses either as a potpourri (display them in a bowl, plate or a dainty basket) or you may use them in crafting a dry flower arrangement, a wreath, a crown, or stick them along a photo frame/mirror or do any other crafting with them…just use hot glue to stick them wherever you want them.

A few days ago, while sorting out an old box, I found a diary (of the year 2002) where I found handwritten notes on ‘How to dry roses and other flowers’. It was quite interesting going through my notes (I seriously do not remember making such exhaustive notes!). Apart from air drying, there are a few more effortless ways to dry flowers. The dreary task, although, is to convert all my ‘Diary Entries’ into a soft copy… I am being lazy I know…maybe I will seek my daughter’s help. As soon as that happens, I shall be sharing it with you…until then try drying the roses, and let me know how it goes for you!

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