Jun 10, 2013

Some Old Poetry

Found these on an old blog. I was quite a fan of free verse!


A sharp knife you hold
Unknowingly, a threat more to the self
Invisible though it seems
solid it is, dangerous as it should be.
As you skip along
taking in the wind, imitating it
trying to lighten all else
blow away all the burdens.

unknowingly, as you went about
A gash in the atmosphere!

The knife has done its job,
made you unwelcome,
carved out a bias!

- Haem Roy. 19th September, 2006. 8:12 pm


Fantasy worlds
Kings have queens
A quest for rescue
Love blooming with the everlasting flowers
Colours splashing away evil
Imaginations running wild
Optimistic ends
I call these ‘happy dreams’.

But akin to a writer’s block
the dream-flow pipe gets clogged
you can sigh, get nostalgic,
remember the dreams that were,
wait for new ones to come
and revel in the joy of the gone;
‘cos though you wish for dreams more
Nightmares you want none
and are happy at the clogging
for you wont get carried away any more.

And such are the times
you look at the real
Distort, manipulate, add on
make smiling dreams
take them for illusion
or create one
from unreachable realities.
Momentary joys, forced excitement,
smiles that come, not linger.

It is the fun of taking joy
in a pseudo-dream,
when there’s nothing else to dream.

- Haem Roy. 23rd September, 2006. 7:34 pm.


A peep, a view
letting in a lot
allowing a lot of free flow.

Something hidden
without the boundaries
whats surrounding, the sight does not know.

An aberration to the walled interiors
a relief some say?
Whetting the desire
yet restricting,
an invitation
to gates that are closed tight
just letting the minds of within take flight.

- Haem Roy. 15th September, 2006. 2:04 am.

Apr 15, 2013

Running across Rajasthan: Part 4 - Udaipur - the last leg

Rajasthan had already mesmerised us with just two destinations, and we were now eager to visit the rest.

A quick recap:
Two girls. One trip to Rajasthan. All self-planned, self-booked, self-struggled. Challenges, learning, experiences right from planning to actually finding our way around and more - I am telling them here on the blog, because I think future travellers can always do with a little more help and information.

I covered some useful websites, our itinerary and Jaipur here: http://haemlet.blogspot.in/2013/02/running-across-rajasthan.html

After that I wrote about Jaisalmer - MY favourite destination in Rajasthan, here: 

Now, I move to the next leg of our trip - Jodhpur and Nathdwara. I am covering both in one post, because we hardly spent any time in these places. That time nonetheless, was well spent.
, and the third was a stay my friend won (yay!) at a five star-hotel, where we spent most of our time eating, jumping on freshly made beds, bathtubs, and generally walking around the hotel.


From Nathdwara, regular buses/cabs go to Udaipur - the city of lakes, which is just an hour away.

Thanks to my friend who won a stay there, we were put up at the lavish Sheraton Udaipur, which is right by the Fateh Sagar Lake. Udaipur is not very large, so no matter where you stay, you will never be too far from the attractions. You can stay near one of the two major lakes - Fateh Sagar Lake, that is calmer and more comfortable if you want to be somewhere relaxing, and Lake Pichola, that is the tourist hub, with the City Palace on its banks and the market close by too.


Honestly, we were in the mood to lounge at the lavish hotel in Udaipur after our tiring trip. But even then, we managed to squeeze in a few attractions. Also the fact that this is not my first time to Udaipur, means I have enough to tell you guys :)

To start off, since we were not very far from Fateh Sagar Lake, we took a share auto (cheap and fun if you are up for it) to the lake. It is quite beautiful, as you stroll down the promenade. The road by the lake is dotted with little stalls selling food and maybe a few camels lounging. You can also do some boating if you like. We just loved walking along watching the sun slowly set.

From Fateh Sagar Lake, do take a boat to the Nehru Park that is on an island in the centre. The park also houses a zoo. A sunset from the  park is much recommended.

Saheliyon ki Bari is a park that is also a popular attraction. The park itself has lost it's former glory and you can see the fading signs of the colourful grandeur that it once was. But despite that, do add a visit here if you have time in your itinerary. The water systems are one interesting aspect with fountains that require no pumps.

We were staying at the Sheraton Udaipur, and as the managers knew my friend from her previous visit, they graciously chauffeured us to the Vintage Car museum. We were very excited to get 'Jumpins' at the entry with our ticket - something I personally associate with my childhood.

The cars here were once owned by the royalty of Rajasthan, who have lent it to the museum. Each car has a description beside it, talking about the who owned the beauty, its make and origin.

 The museum also has a quaint little cafe where you can sit and enjoy some lunch/brunch. 

Next, we were dropped at the City Palace. Now, in this visit we decided we'd had enough of palaces, and so decided not to go inside. The palace is just by the lake, and instead, we sat enjoying the view and the breeze.

But for those visiting for the first time, do go inside. The palace is a maze of intriguing rooms and architecture, with stained glass windows, stone carvings, royal relics right from costumes to weapons and more. Udaipur was once the capital of the Mewar kingdom, and the styles at the palace are a fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal. The winding passages, balconies overlooking the lake, the inlay work in the rooms highlight a flamboyance that is quite charming. The zigzag corridors can tire you, and I remember huffing and puffing my way around. It is said that they are built such to keep enemies at bay. The palace complex has several other structures too, and when you visit, do keep aside at least 3 hours here.


I will later write a separate review for the Sheraton Udaipur, but right now, I cannot resist sharing a few pictures. This is the view from our room (The Gold Suite!)

The hotel was previously a palace and has been turned into a heritage hotel. While the façade and architecture reflects that, the insides have been completely revamped and renovated with modern facilities and rooms.

Shopping and food
Udaipur is known for it's traditional artifacts, textiles like tie and die, jewellery, precious stones and colourful home decor.
The market is near the Pichola Lake, close to the City Palace, and you can stroll by the several shops there.
Do bear in mind that you must bargain aggressively, as Udaipur gets a lot of foreign tourists, and the prices are usually inflated due to that.

As for food, I did not get the chance to try the food at this visit. So I am going to direct you to a few food bloggers who are awesome at food reviews and recommendations:

Reema talks about finding food during Durga Puja in Udaipur here: http://sumthinzcooking.blogspot.in/2012/10/finding-food-udaipur-this-is-hardly.html#.UWwT1aJ-b3A

Shirin gives you her recommendations of Dal-baati-choorma at Shilpgram Dhaba, laal maas at  Ambrai Restauarant and more herehttp://www.foodchants.in/2013/02/eating-in-udaipur-and-around.html

My learning

  • Use local transport like buses, share tempos and ricks. They are a great learning experience.
  • Find the time to just stroll by the lakes, sit, watch the sunset and enjoy the view.
  • The people are lovely. Talk to them, smile and they will be willing to help you.
P.S.: Allow me to state again please, pictures are my copyright. No stealing. No copy pasting. Give credit, link back to my blog, respect my rights. You get it right?

Mar 18, 2013

Running across Rajasthan: Part 3 - Jodhpur-Nathdwara

Rajasthan had already mesmerised us with just two destinations, and we were now eager to visit the rest.

A quick recap:
Two girls. One trip to Rajasthan. All self-planned, self-booked, self-struggled. Challenges, learning, experiences right from planning to actually finding our way around and more - I am telling them here on the blog, because I think future travellers can always do with a little more help and information.

I covered some useful websites, our itinerary and Jaipur here: http://haemlet.blogspot.in/2013/02/running-across-rajasthan.html

After that I wrote about Jaisalmer - MY favourite destination in Rajasthan, here: 


Now, I move to the next leg of our trip - Jodhpur and Nathdwara. I am covering both in one post, because we hardly spent any time in these places. That time nonetheless, was well spent.


The blue city was technically just a stop-over for us, on the way out from Jaisalmer. We were to catch a bus to Nathdwara at 2 pm the day we reached. Hence, we had not booked any hotel, any transport, or anything whatsoever that would help us in the city. Add to that, our train from Jaisalmer that was supposed to reach at 6 am reached EARLY at 5.30 am! (yes, Indian railways, I kid you not!)

This meant that we were pretty much finding our way in the dark, lugging our bags around, trying to find a hotel for the half day we were there. Everything around the station is over-priced, shady and well... bad.

Where to stay
After a lot of running around, I realised I had carried a print of a list of hostels from www.hostelworld.com, just in case. Well, this was the 'in case'. I looked up the name of the area and we landed there. It looked a little dingy in the dark, but we woke up a caretaker at one of the hostels (Shivam Guest House), bargained for a room, got it for half a day at Rs. 250, and were all set to plop!

The area was MAKRANA MOHALLA, which we realised after we woke up, was right below the fort, within walking distance. It is a backpacker area, so if you are looking for something a little more comfortable, then you may have to look elsewhere. The rooms are small, and just sufficient.

Sightseeing, shopping, food
Half a day is not much time, but it is just enough to see the Mehrangarh Fort - and that is a sure must-visit! For those who may not have heard yet, this fort was one of the locations in the latest Batman movie - The Dark Knight Rises.

We were in the heart of the 'blue city' and walked up the narrow bylanes, with the blue-painted houses to the fort. The fort is hardly 10 minutes uphill from Makrana Mohalla.

The blue houses in the bylanes on the way to the fort
As you stop to catch your breath on the way up, the panoramic view will hold you there for a little longer. 
The view on the way up
We spot the fort standing tall

The fort itself is, to use a cliched word, magnificent. I loved it the moment I walked past the high walls with the holes that were once made by cannonballs.

The holes made by cannonballs
Local musicians perform in the arches along the way. 

The fort is vast, with relics from the past - weapons that had seen the wars of yore, studded in precious stones and carved to symbolize legends and beliefs. Clothes that adorned the royalty of the time. Palanquins of all kinds and shapes and sizes, for everyone from the king to the baby princess and the elderly of the kingdom.

The architecture of the fort is intricate, with latticework, stonework and cornices adorned in the most elegant manner. The various rooms have intelligent systems that would keep them cool in Jodhpur's hot and humid climate, from 'khus' (poppy seed) curtains, to a water sprinkler systems, stone walls and more.

The fort's grandest room would have to be in the 'Palace of Flowers' (Phool Mahal). It is a chamber built by Maharaja Abhay Singh (1724-49). The ceiling has gold filigree and mirror work and the walls are painted to depict the various moods of Indian classical Ragas, along with mythological scenes. Stained glass windows, delicate filigree work, ornateness reflecting from every surface - I was left in awe. 

The view from the top of the fort is again something that must not be missed. You can see the blue city surrounding the fort area, and the Umaid Bhavan Palace in the distance. Unfortunately, we did not get to visit that, but if you have time, it is surely worth a trip.

View from the top

We were very excited when we spotted a man tying his 'pagdi' (turban). Did you know it takes two people to tie the turban that is draped from a long piece of colourful cloth? The two men even posed for us after they were done!

We had such little time here that shopping was out of the question. But we did spot these pretty artifacts on the way to the fort.

We had lunch at this home-turned-restaurant (it was actually a house, and they put up tables on the terrace). The lady of the house made a fresh meal for us of dal, rice, chapati and a local vegetable, that was scrumptous. The best part, the smile on her face as she was feeding us, and watching us enjoy the food.

Next, we took a bus from Jodhpur to Nathdwara. These are private buses that you can get from the bus stop in the city - any rickshaw driver will know where that is. The buses are decently comfy, and the journey is about 3-4 hours. This is the bus to Udaipur, and we got off on the way. There are no trains on this route, so road travel would be your best option.


Nathdwara is a small temple town close to Udaipur. 

Where to stay?
In the town, there are many small hotels you can stay at. The temple also has an official website, that arranges for accomodation and you can book online about 12 days in advance: http://www.nathdwaratemple.org/

Sightseeing, shopping and food
Shrinathji, the deity of the temple is a 7 year old incarnation of Lord Krishna. The temple was built in the 1700s, and is quite an attraction in itself, with it's large silver doors and the marble courtyards. I grew up with tales of the various aspects of the temple, from the drum-beaters at the large gate who announce the opening of the doors for 'darshan' (this temple has specific timings), to the story of how the idol was brought here, and the tale of how a Mughar Emperor being Muslim wasn't allowed INSIDE the temple, and hence a special window was created for him from the courtyard that allowed him to directly worship the idol.

But I must warn those of you who plan to visit - the temple is known for it's crowds and throngs. As soon as the gates open (about 6 times in a day), the horde rushes in and you will be dragged along. 

The temple is at it's most colourful during festivals like Holi and Janmashtami, as powder colours are strewn about, and flower garlands adorn the temple premises.

Apart from the temple, this little town is also very well known for the art of 'pichwai paintings'. These are  paintings on cloth of scenes from the life of Lord Krishna, usually used as wall hangings. Often, pure gold colour is used in some of the paintings, but these days, it is tough to gauge. 

Pichwai paintings (courtesy Google images)

Nathdwara also is known for its textiles. You can buy tie and die from here, for a reasonable price.

As for food, the town has a 'khau galli'. A MUST TRY are fried purple yams that are a speciality in this region. Laced with cumin and other powdered spices, these yams will tingle your taste buds. You can try the ' unlimited thali' at one of the local restaurants. This will give you an assortment of Gujarati food items, to your fill, and tall glasses of buttermilk to wash it all down.

My learning
  • Try the local food, chat up the locals, ask them for suggestions.
  • Carry a camera, and every once in a while, stop and enjoy the view.
  • Find out about the routes and accessibility before you travel, so that you know your options even if you are going unplanned.
  • If you have not booked a hotel, just carry a print out of possibilities as a back up. That saved us!
Coming up - our last stop - Udaipur, The City of Lakes, that is just an hour away, and easily accessible through frequent buses or even cabs. Hop on!

P.S.: A reminder that these pictures are my copyright. No stealing. No copy pasting. Give credit, link back to my blog, respect my rights. Capiche?

Feb 24, 2013

Running across Rajasthan: Part 2 - Jaisalmer

Ram Ram Sa!

A friend and I backpacked across Rajasthan last year, planning pretty much the entire trip on our own, right from travel, bookings, hotel, itinerary, etc. And I decided to share the experiences with you. Since writing about all the cities in one post would be looonnnggg, I am writing one city at a time.

Some useful websites, our itinerary and all about our first destination - Jaipur can be found in this post: http://haemlet.blogspot.in/2013/02/running-across-rajasthan.html

I move on to our second destination.
Please allow me to proclaim right at the outset that Jaisalmer was my favourite destination on this trip. So anything I say will reflect my awe of the place.

Jaisalmer is a small desert town, located in Western Rajasthan. The main attraction there is a live fort (that means, people still live inside it) called The Golden Fort. But it is not just the fort, the entire city seems to be basking in this golden glow with the houses surrounding the fort all the same colour. Jaisalmer is also a culture   haven, with a delightful local flavour. You will love just walking down the streets taking in the atmosphere. Another attraction here are the sand dunes, that are situated on the outskirts. You can visit these dunes, even stay the night there in tents, or simply take a camel ride and return.

Reaching there
Unlike Jaipur, Jaisalmer is not easily accessible from anywhere in the country. The train we took to Jaisalmer starts from Delhi, and we boarded the same at Jaipur. If you are coming in from any other city, the best way to reach here would be via Jodhpur. Jodhpur is relatively well-connected to other parts of the country, and you can find regular buses/trains from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer.

How many days
We were in Jaisalmer for two whole days and one night. It is quite comfortable, unless you plan to stay at the dunes. Then you could add a night in a tent at the dunes.

Where to stay
I loved the little hotel we stayed at in Jaisalmer. Called the Artist Hotel, it is not something that everyone may like, because it completely no-frills and quite small. A friend recommended it highly, and after staying there, we couldn't agree more. The hotel had clean, simple rooms starting Rs. 400 (you read right!) and a rooftop with a few tables where you could have your meals (and maybe a beer). I was going to direct you to their site (http://www.artisthotel.info/) and highly recommend them, but then I just read that the management has changed. Aladin, who was everyone's go-to man there, has started his own little hotel though, and his hospitality is definitely memorable.                
Artist Hotel

If you prefer luxury though, Jaisalmer also has heritage hotels that are well-known. As the locals told us, many havelis (houses of wealthy merchants) are turned into a hotel, and since all havelis have the flourish, the stone carvings et al, they are dubbed as heritage hotels.

You can also live in the hotels INSIDE the fort, but personally, I found them over-priced. Everything is within walking distance of the fort anyway, so distance is not something you need to worry about. 

Let me begin with THE GOLDEN FORT. Jaisalmer is built around this fort, that stands tall forming a golden backdrop. The fort itself is one of the few remaining living forts in the world. As you walk in, you will be greeted by people selling colourful wares, from puppets to wall hangings, artifacts, idols and more.
A tightrope walker at the fort entrance

The entrance to the fort
Within the fort, there is the main palace turned museum. It shuts by 5 pm, and takes about 2-3 hours inside. The best part about this when we visited was the Audio Guide System. The Rajasthan government has started this in almost all tourist destinations, where you can avail this audio guide in various languages. They have numbered boards and arrows directing you around. Reach a board, press a number on the guide, and hear all about it, with special sound effects mind you! Since we were just two, they were nice enough to give us one guide, and two earphones.
Audio guide systems
The palace is beautiful. It has several sections, and I could not stop admiring the lattice work on the windows, the carvings and the intricate detailing. The way they kept the rooms cool with khus curtains or how they ensured water supply with brilliant engineering are astounding. 
The palace has a lovely view from the top, where you can also spot the windmills in the distance.
View from the palace roof
After the palace, we sat outside at a local tea stall, chatting up the locals. I think that is the best way to know about a place. The locals told us about the past, the current situation, how the fort manages to survive wear and tear over the years and more. A helpful shopkeeper directed us to a cannon inside the fort, and then to a rooftop where we could watch the sun set. Usually the rooftop place is a hotel/restaurant during peak season, but we got a free tour *grins*.
A rooftop restaurant inside the fort
Inside the fort are also a few havelis and temples. We visited the LAXMI-NARAYAN TEMPLE that had some admirable stonework. It was also a cricket field for local kids.
Laxmi Narayan Temple stone-work
We strolled back to the hotel, chatting up locals on the way. That evening was spent  on the hotel roof, where they had local musicians performing. The musicians, brilliant nonetheless, refused to stop! We also met some lovely people here for dinner, from different parts of the world.

The next day, we started off with a visit to the two major havelis. There is the PATWON KI HAVELI (which is pretty big), and NATHMAL KI HAVELI.
Patwon ki Haveli

Nathmal ki Haveli

We had booked a visit to the dunes, and left by 3 pm. The most popular dunes are the SAM SAND DUNES. There are also the KHURI DUNES and some smaller ones. We were taken to the Khuri dunes, but I would suggest travellers to pick Sam Dunes instead. Khuri is hardly frequented, and as a result we were the only two people there, plus the camels.

The experience itself was pretty nice, with a two hour jeep ride to the Khuri Dunes first, that was dotted with windmills along the way.

From the main area where the tents are pitched is an hour long camel ride to the dunes (ouch!), where you can watch the sun set. While we waited for the sun to set, we also decided to roll down the dunes, which was a lot of fun, and a lot of sand inside all your clothes! 

After sunset, we returned to the main area for dinner and performances. The dancer and a little boy who was singing were spectacular!
The performers for the night
Besides these, there is also GADSISER LAKE, which is picturesque and should not take a lot of your time. You can time your visit around the Camel Festival (we went just before it started), but if you do so, plan months ahead, book months ahead, and prepare for a large amount of crowd.

We took the night train to Jodhpur. Jaisalmer, even though it has very little in terms of sightseeing, was a town that I absolutely loved.

Shopping and food
As you walk down the narrow lanes to the fort, the shopkeepers here have found the most innovative way to attract tourists - hilarious signs like these.
Jaisalmer does not have much to offer for shopaholics. You can find all of it and more at cheaper rates in Jaipur and Udaipur. Tip: The silver and stone jewellery at shops here, though stunning, is very overpriced. If you really like something, be sure to bargain your best.

The food is ordinary fare. You will not find a variety of cuisines, and even if you do, I am not sure how much you can trust them to make an 'Au gratin'. I would say stick to the normal dal-rice-chapati-vegetable fare unless the hotel you are staying at offers something more.

My learning
  • Chat up the locals, but politely refuse if they try to sell you anything. They do not take offense and are still eager to help tourists as long as you are polite.
  • Ask the locals about the history and background of the town.
  • Do not experiment with meals. Stick to normal fare.
  • You can book tours from your hotel guide, but be sure to check around for prices first.
  • Don't fall for the 'it is less touristy' speech. Less touristy can also mean no one except you, which is, quite frankly very boring. In a small place like Jaisalmer, rest assured that even touristy will not mean crowded.
  • Take the audio tours!
The next post shall be about Jodhpur and Udaipur. See you around!

P.S.: A reminder that these pictures are my copyright. No stealing. No copy pasting. Give credit, link back to my blog, respect my rights. Capiche?