The Hampi Dream

There are some places that you keep dreaming of visiting some day in your life. Hampi – the erstwhile glorious Vijayanagara empire – has always been that dream destination for me. It all started with the song, ‘Theendai’ from the Tamizh movie, ‘En Swaasa kaatre’ way back in 2000 when I first saw it. It was the pre-Google days when not every info was available at the touch of a mobile. So it took me some time to find out where the song was shot. I wanted to see the temple ruins and that beautiful stepped tank!

In the years that followed, my interest in temples developed beyond visiting them for religious reasons or generally admiring the beauty. I started learning more about the architectural details and the history. Then came the lectures on temple architecture by historian, Dr. Chithra Madhavan. The passion with which she spoke about temples and their history and architecture and the series of lectures on Hampi and Vijayanagara architecture that I attended at Musiri Chamber and Tattvaloka increased my fascination for Hampi. Hampi was that place where the temple architecture that we see today in most of the temples of Tamil Nadu developed. I really very badly wanted to visit that beautiful place filled with marvels in stone from where it all started!

Then there were all those travel blogs, especially that of Arun of travel.paintedstork.com. His photographs of the place and other travelogues continued to make me wish that I could go there.

All these passion for Hampi and travelling suddenly had to take a backseat after I moved to Singapore and I got completely caught up in my crazed routine as a stay-at-home mom.

Post the visit to Cambodia in September this year, my interest in temple architecture was rekindled in full fervour. Now, all that was remaining was Hampi.

When you come to Madras/ India for just a few weeks during school holidays and have to accommodate several to-dos and consider several other factors, you get only a few days to plan for a trip within India. We had just three days to spare and immediately booked the train tickets lest any other programme comes up.

While our initial plan was to visit just Hampi for three days at a leisurely pace just like how we did at Angkor, Cambodia, in the end, our plan completely went in for a toss and we ended up doing Aihole – Pattadakkal – Mahakoota – Badami – Banashankari on day 1, complete relaxation and rejuvenation at Hotel Shivavilas Palace and Sri Kumaraswamy Temple and Chakrateerta at Sandur on day 2 and almost the entire Hampi (!) on day 3!

Barring a few places at Hampi, we did manage to see all that we saw as fully as possible, though not as thoroughly as we might have, had we had a few more extra hours.

Day 1 was also another dream-come-true for me as Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Mahakoota have always been second in my list of dream destinations to visit.

To say that I am so happy is an understatement to how I am feeling now after visiting Hampi! It is the fulfillment of little dreams like these that make some moments of your life very special!

The Angkor Trail

For the last 18 years or so, Hampi in Karanataka, India, had been that dream destination of my life which I wanted to visit to explore the ruined remains of Vijayanagara empire.

This year we indulged in our first vacation in the last few years – a trip to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat, the dream destination of my husband. Unlike Hampi or any other heritage site in India, I wasn’t completely aware of the magnificence of Angkor Wat and the other temples. All I knew was it was the largest temple complex and the photos of it looked stunning. In the weeks leading up to the trip and even weeks after it, we started reading on Khmer temples and its architecture and are still reading more and more books on it.

The trip to Angkor Wat/ Siem Reap/ Cambodia turned out to be a trip of a lifetime! We spent 4 full days in leisure taking in as many temples in the Angkor region as possible. With seeing sunrise at Angkor Wat to sequentially visiting temples in each route, we did a comprehensive coverage of the entire place leaving just a few temples. The trip turned out to be exactly how I had always wanted to explore Hampi.

Suddenly, my interest in temple architecture was rekindled in full fervour. Now, all that was remaining was Hampi.

The Rain Rant

I wake up to the sounds of raindrops falling. I wish the rain would stop soon. But till now it hasn’t. Yet another rainy morning which will mean taking umbrellas and watching our step carefully during the morning drop to school. Rains in Madras were/are a rarity and any heavy rainy day meant a school holiday. Rain in Singapore is almost an everyday occurrence and there is no way any routine activity will be stopped because of rain. Singapore, nowadays, is surprisingly pleasant too in the early mornings and during rains.

There was a time when I might have enjoyed this kind of a pleasant weather, but, nowadays, I don’t really seem to be enjoying it most of the time. Especially not when a full load of clothes are waiting to be washed in the washing machine! Rain translates to managing children with their umbrellas when outdoors, walking on wet floor which in some places turn out to be slippery, clothes hanging out to be dried ending up with musty smell and not feeling fully dry, children locked up indoors and missing their outdoor play time which automatically translates to extra screen time and so on.

There was a time when any rant of this sort eventually ended up with me tracing it all back to missing Madras. Today, while I still continue to root for my life back in Madras, I have come to terms with reality. You just can’t have it ALL in life, can you?

Cooking, Cleaning, Clutter Clearing, Celebrating

Fourth Saturday after today, I’ll land in Madras. Yes, it’s school vacation time and I can’t tell you how excitedly we are already doing the countdown!

Before that, Deepavali is the one thing that has all of us excited about. From the ‘fireworks’ (Do sparklers and other fire-less party poppers count as fireworks?) sessions with different sets of friends to the yummy sweets and snacks preparation to the family having holidays during Deepavali, it is going to be lots of fun. And lots of work too.

The house is at its clutter-max what with the kitchen sink overflowing with vessels to be washed, the ever-present colourful mess of toy cars and all sorts of vehicles strewn all around the house and the washing machine waiting with the full load of clothes to be washed!

I woke up in the morning thinking that I’ll not start Deepavali sweets/snacks preparation today, yet I suddenly felt that I shouldn’t let myself end up with too much to be done in the end. So I made lunch and dinner in the morning itself and started off the preparation for making Badam Katli.

That’s when R refused to go with his dad and S for the swimming class. While he cried and asked me to come with him, I knew S was rejoicing that he was doing a good job of it and I’ll definitely go with them. I am sure the husband too would have been happy to have some me-time at home.

Thus, the family succeeded and now, here I am, sitting by the swimming pool thinking of all that I could have completed at home had I had these two hours to myself. Then, it strikes me that I do have this one hour just for myself. But can I truly relax when I know that I have a long day ahead of me?

Did I tell you how I always find these swimming and water play sessions for the kids very tiring? I hate the wet and smelly changing rooms and toilets at these places and the wet and slippery floor around the pool too. From the moment we leave the pool it’s a lot of work till the children are given a nice, long bath and fed well. Not to forget the work later on when S’ long hair has to be dried and plaited.

Even as I write about all these routine chores which every Sita, Gita and Rita (how about a change from Tom, Dick and Harry since they, anyway, won’t be doing most of these chores?) do, I also realize how a major chunk or almost the entire day goes off in doing all these. Now, can someone tell me how does a SAHM find some quality me-time for herself?

Phnom Kulen 1000 Lingas River & Waterfalls

We reached Siem Reap from Phnom Penh on our second evening in Cambodia. Siem Reap, as you will read everywhere, is the gateway to the temples of Angkor. Till then, we were yet to get a glimpse of any temple belonging to the times of Angkor Wat. So, the next morning, we started from Siem Reap to Phnom Kulen mountain with all eagerness and thus, began our exploration of the Khmer Architectural marvels.

Visitor Info:

There is an entry fee of $20 (USD) for going to Kulen Mountain / Phnom Kulen (Phnom means Mountain in Khmer) and this is different from the Angkor temple ticket/pass. Phnom Kulen is accessible by a single road which is used for ascent till 12 noon and descent after that.

Situated at a distance of 48 km from Siem Reap, Phnom Kulen has a beautiful waterfalls, 1000 lingas river, Preah Ang Thom featuring a huge, reclining Buddha and some ancient Khmer temples which are inaccessible by car. So, we didn’t visit those temples.
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On tantrums and crying spells

Murphy always strikes everytime I take a resolution of any sort. Here I was hoping to revive the mindfulness routine when Murphy’s law struck in full force within a few hours. S had a full-blown tantrum that evening right after coming back from school. At the end of a crying spell of any sort, which while happening will always look like it will never end, the child looks calm and, in fact, looks refreshed. But what about the parent?

From breaking one’s head at that time to think of anything to stop the tantrum and calm the child or finding it tough to maintain inner calm while the crying and yelling continue to blow out of control or pondering it all over once again trying to figure out on when and where I went wrong, it is exhaustion of sorts that I always feel. Imagine hitting a hat trick with this happening for three days in succession with the third day featuring an epic meltdown of sorts right in the play area in front of all friends, acquaintances and people whom you meet every single day! Embarrassment, helplessness, anger directed towards self at how, even after so many years, I am still not able to handle it ALL – you name it and I was feeling it all! Later that evening, S was completely calm and relaxed. She had finally let out all the tiredness of the last couple of weeks arising from all the excitement.

Just when I thought that I was done with all the crying from S, along came the icing on the cake from R. Now, he is one boy who is crazy about cars, or rather, all sorts of vehicles, robots and superheroes. And he always is choosy, going in only for specific toys which he will continue to cherish long after buying it. I was looking forward to being in the relaxing company of a good friend after all the exhaustion of the previous few days and took little R with the friend and her child to a fair/carnival. Fairs in Singapore are all about fun and interesting activities for kids and freebies. FREEBIES – that is where it all started. He really wanted a superhero soft toy at a stall, but he didn’t get it.

By now, considering the number of fairs that I have taken him to, one must have expected him to get used to luck, disappointment, winning, losing and all that. But, when the toy in question is a superhero, is it even fair to expect understanding from a 3-year old?! He really was in a big disappointment that he couldn’t get that toy! R had what is akin to an epic meltdown of sorts for his level, crying for an hour just for that superhero toy! While he is no match for his sister when it comes to tantrums, of late, his crying skill seems to be improving.

The last one week in itself has been similar to hitting a jackpot of sorts when it came to the children’s moods. Yesterday, by the time it was evening, I felt completely drained. In a miracle of sorts, both the children slept earlier than usual. That was how tired they were.

As for me, I ended up with a splitting headache and just couldn’t sleep. At 4 am, with a cup of hot coffee in hand, I sat down in front of the computer, reading random news. Then I decided to write this here to track my progress on maintaining patience. PATIENCE – just what is that??!

Reviving Mindfulness

Last year, I did a revival of sorts to this blog when I had a restriction imposed on my talking. Though I am giving this update here 10 months late, my voice did get back to normal and I revived my singing, albeit slowly from a few minutes at a stretch and bid adieu to the restrictions on talking too. But I continued to be mindful of how I was using my voice as much as possible, till a few weeks back.
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Post Navaratri Musings

Written last Sunday….

As I walk down to the play area from my home, I realize that it has been ages since the kids had what I presume their we-playtime in the play area without their friends for company. The sweltering morning sun has suddenly hidden behind the clouds and we now have a low rumbling thunder for company even as a pleasant breeze blows.

My thoughts wander to how fast the last one month has swung by. The Cambodia trip, the start of a new school term for my daughter S after a short break, Navaratri preparation and then Navaratri itself. It has been a busy month, albeit a nice one.
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Chekka Chivantha Vaanam

Spoiler Alert

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is indeed painted red all through, what with ruthless bullet shots and gruesome murders. As Varadan (Arvind Swami) says in the movie, we are all nothing but a big cipher when death strikes. The internal family war, which we find out in the end is brilliantly planned by Rasool, is fought in this movie till everyone in the gangster family is turned to nothing but a big cipher.
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