Author Archives: Cutting Loose

Delhi to Tirthan Valley: Rain in the Hills

In the 1972 travelogue Kulu: The End of the Habitable World, Penelope Chetwode recounts her mule trek from Shimla to Rohtang (13,050 feet) over the Jalori Pass (10,300 feet), a detour to Khir Ganga in the Parvati Valley, and eventual return to Shimla across Bashleo Pass (10,800 feet). This chronicle of an arduous albeit adventurous journey, undertaken in 1963, unveiled for curious travellers the less explored regions of the Inner and Outer Seraj Valley. Today, the valley’s Great Himalayan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a huge draw.

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Chandigarh to Palampur: Colours of Kangra

Andretta Pottery Studio

Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh is no stranger to art. In fact, it even lends its name to a mid-18th century school of miniature painting. In the mid-1800s, the British added to the charms of the valley by cultivating Chinese tea. In 1924, Irishwoman Norah Richards made Andretta, 12km from Palampur, her home, and urged other Lahore luminaries to follow suit. An actor and playwright, she was indulgently referred to as the “Nani of Punjabi Theatre”.

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Muziris, is it?

The Sea of Pain is Raul Zurita’s poignant ode to Galip Kurdi. The five year old who drowned alongside his mother and younger brother Alan–immortalised by a heart-rending image evocative of the Syrian refugee crisis–with nary a mention. Not even a fleeting one.  The Chilean poet’s installation at Aspinwall House, for the ongoing Kochi Muziris Biennale, invites visitors to wade through knee-deep water in a cavernous warehouse to read, literally, the writing on the wall.

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Where It Oil Began

“Dig, boy, dig!” urged 19th century prospectors, it is said, on getting whiff of what lay beneath. Whether Digboi came by its moniker as a result of wordplay, as is popularly believed, has passed into the realm of amused conjecture. Historians will have you know that Di is a prefix meaning stream in Singpho, and the prevailing reference–Diboi Nallah, minus the ’g’–may have somewhat encouraged it. What wasn’t mere inference though were the tell-tale signs of crude oil reported from the rainforest of Upper Assam as early as 1825. A Lt R Wilcox of the 46th Regiment Native Infantry, while on a survey of the Namchik River (roughly 40kms east of Digboi) had observed ‘great bubbles of gas and green petroleum’ rising to the surface at Supkhong. And that ‘the jungles are full of an odour of petroleum’. Tea-explorer Charles Alexander Bruce also spotted ‘many oil seepages upstream of Makum’ in 1828.

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Performing Heritage. No guide-speak, this.

Book Cover - PHThough long in the know of her scholarship, I was served an opportunity to participate in a heritage walk led by academician, performing artist, and cultural activist Dr Navina Jafa only last year. She had graciously acquiesced to curate a Ramazan Walk exclusively for members of the Travel Correspondents & Bloggers Group, which proved to be one of exceptional strolls undertaken through Shajahanabad in recent memory. It coincided with the roza iftar being observed in the expansive courtyard of the old city’s most evocative landmark, Jama Masjid, silhouetted against a persimmon sky.  Milling families hungrily awaited the muezzin’s sunset call to break their fast with the customary dates, bestowing upon its colossal proportions an all-encompassing vivacity hitherto un-experienced.  The trademark megaphone slung across her shoulder notwithstanding, only one feature surpassed our generally atmospheric and lively surrounds and that was Navina’s animated passion for parampara–her definition of choice for all manner of heritage.

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Feasts and Fasts – A History of Food in India

book-coverFeasts and Fasts – A History of Food in India is Chicago-based food historian Colleen Taylor Sen’s most recent culinary outing. An ambitious effort at exploring the history of Indian gastronomy, the fascinating journey of which, this richly illustrated single volume traces from the Indus Valley Civilization to its present incarnation. It is served as a detailed introduction to the dietary evolution of a diverse sub continental people since prehistoric times, with generous dollops of myriad influences that have accorded it the status of a much-preferred world cuisine today. The author peels away, chapter by chapter, how faith, climate, geography, foreign rule, among others, shaped our culinary heritage and modern day food habits.

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The road to Narayan (aka god)…

img_20161027_141638_hdr…is never easy, I’m told, by many a seeker. Less so to the one I sought, as I discovered for myself only ten days ago. A tad off-piste for most visitors to Himachal Pradesh, Narayan Devta Temple–ancient shrine in honour of the local deity–is located in the Nawar valley of Rohru district.  I had made the acquaintance of this little-known nugget through a photograph and was raring for a closer encounter.  The opportunity presented itself soon enough during my stay at a farm near Kotkhai.

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