Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Above The Clouds

When was the last time you slept with a broad smile on your face and clouds in your eyes.
For me it was the day I jumped off the cliff!

Just have a look at the picture below and it will all make sense...

This amazing sport is "paragliding" and the paradise like place is  Bir Billing(Kangra -India)

Bir Billing was in news last year for hosting India's first AAI Paragliding World Cup in Oct 2015.Yes,there actually exists something called Paragliding World Cup.

AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015 @ Bir Billing  Image Source

Bir and Billing are two separate places. Bir is the lower base where you land as a para glider and billing is the upper base from where you take off.

Bir is a beautiful flat land surrounded by majestic mountains and dotted with multi colored step farming beds.

This place gives a sense of peace and calm:



Private vehicles and taxi are not allowed beyond this point.From Bir to Billing is a 45 minute up hill journey.Paragliding agents/pilots take care of your journey beyond this point in their own vehicle.

The cab climbs through the turns and steep slopes and so does one's heart beat.On looking at the gliders above I was full of excitement at Bir (the lower base) but as the up hill journey progressed my excitement gave way to fear and by the time we reached the highest point of the mountain-Billing, fear was the only emotion I was left with.

Billing is one of the most beautiful places to be.It is one thing to appreciate the beauty of nature,clouds, flying birds from the top of a snow covered mountain and another to jump off the cliff tied to a glider with thin strings!

Flying among the birds

I was paranoid and totally refused to jump or fly or whatever they call it.

It took me one hour to prepare myself mentally. Once the pilot strapped the gear around me I just stood there with my eyes closed and bam! within a second I was flying!

(Pilot- The guy who takes the glider flight along with you)

It wasn't scary at all! What I could see in front of me was boundless beauty. Pristine Dhauladhar mountain range on one side and step farming fields on the other side.

Flying at the height of 2400ft above the birds,above the mountains, over the monasteries it was the best experience of my life so far.

It was around 45 min ride and then we landed smoothly on the clearing in Bir.
I was happy and hungry so decided to treat myself with Kangra special "Tikki Burger" and tea.

In Bir there is a cozy cafe-Garden Cafe.It is the perfect place to relax post gliding and share your experience with co-gliders while munching on delicious  pancakes. Sandwiches here are worth a try.


 The gorgeous Garden Cafe

The final destination for the day was this ancient Shiva temple of  Baijnath.This temple is worth a visit for its architecture and splendid views of mountain range behind it.

Baijnath Shiva temple

It was the best day ever.And then the whole evening I had a broad smile on my face and clouds in my eyes :)


PLACE: Bir Billing

HOW TO REACH:Overnight Volvo bus from ISBT delhi to Baijnath  "Himsuta" Bus booking

COST: INR 3000 per person per ride.

Trainer/Pilot: I would recommend Mr.Jyoti Thakur, an experienced paraglider(  9816525205 and 9418112392

IMPORTANT TIP: 1)Wear leg warmers and keep your nose covered as it gets really chilly at the height of 2400ft.
2)Leave your belongings (including big cameras) in your vehicle at Bir.

WHERE TO STAY: There are a plenty of hotels and homestays in Baijnath and Bir.

WHAT TO DO NEXT:You can explore the village Bir, it has a few monasteries.The next day you can head to Mcleodganj and Dharamshala.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

An artist's Deja vu

I have already seen this! this has happened before! but where? when?

My mind constantly played these memory games with me on my recent trip to the Himalyas.

Flowing stream through a beautiful valley overlooked by majestic snow covered mountains..I have been here before,I have been here at this very place.I have stared at these mountains , I stood in front of this particular tree ! I was overwhelmed by these thoughts and then like a flash it came.. the realization , that I have painted this all long before I  even decided to take this trip.

It was as if my paintings have come alive.

These are some of the paintings I made a few months ago.I am amazed by  striking similarities between my paintings and the landscapes I saw on my trip:

                                             Painting 1: Totally fictitious Jungle scene

Woods in Kufri

Painting 2: Misty forest

Tea plantation on the way from Baijnath to Dharmshala

Painting 3: Imaginary Lake

Dal Lake @ Mcleod Ganj

Painting 4: Tree on a hillside

On the way form Baijnath to Simla

Painting 5: Sunset

Sunset @ Simla

Painting 6: Valley View (work in progress)

Misty Mountains

Painting 7: Cottage in Valley


This experience has left me feeling empowered in a strange way.Now I will paint whatever I wish and wait for it to come true :)  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My best friend is visiting Udaipur..

If you are going to Udaipur..

You have chosen the perfect destination, It is one of my favorites and if you look carefully, you might find a piece of my heart that I left behind there.

If art brings you happiness this is the place to be! It will leave you feeling beautiful inside.

Where to stay:

Look for no place other than lake Pichola. Book a hotel that is on the banks of the lake and you MUST take the lake facing room.

There are many options for every range and each has its unique charm.Most of them are old houses or havelis  turned into hotels.

I stayed at Jheel Guest house.Here are some pictures:

Stained glass windows in abundance

Reason why I insist  on taking a lake facing room

Art in every corner
Antique furniture

Must do:

1.Stare outside the window with a cup of tea and relax.

2.Early morning, take a walk along lake Pichola (Gangaur ghat) and observe people doing their daily chores - washing clothes ,taking a dip in the lake, offering prayers to Sun.

3.Visit Jagdeesh temple and try to attend morning Arti. If you are lucky you might get a chance to attend bhajans sung by the locals.They have got some very talented singers(even kids).
Jagdeesh temple (it is 100 times more beautiful than this picture)

4.Even if you had breakfast at your hotel (though many in Udaipur don’t serve complimentary breakfast) you MUST NOT miss ‘garma garam’ kachauri and poha of JAGDEESH SHREE RESTAURANT.
It is just in front of the main entrance of Jagdeesh temple. You need to cross the ‘chauraha’ .


5.Once you are full , head towards the city palace.You can spend good 2-3 hours drooling over the beauty and opulence of this place.For the best results don't forget to believe that you are the owner of this place.

6. By this time you must be hungry! If you are looking for some home made food for lunch, head to this place –“Shree Vinayak Restaurant”. It is on the way from Jagdeesh temple to hathi pol. On right hand side.’Thali’ here beats all the roof top ones.
Must have- Gatte ki sabzi

7. Explore the local market and buy jewelry-souvenir for me .You can courier it
later to my Bangalore address. 

8. Cross lake Pichola through the bridge in photo below and visit Hanuman ghat - sit under peepal tree and get lost in your thoughts
On right there is “Jasmine restaurant” the parathas and honey tea here are worth a try!

Don’t miss this temple on Hanuman ghat..

9. Climb stairs up "Bagore ki haveli " and enjoy view of pichola (gangaur ghat) - be careful not to be seen by the guard.
You see the top can actually go there!!

10. MUST attend a folk dance performance at Bagore ki Haveli  in the evening (enquire about the tickets in advance)

11.While going from Jagdeesh temple to palace take left into a gully and check out this shop.

12.From laal ghat take a boat ride in the evening so that you can see the sunset while on the boat ,check out the birds and some abandoned buildings

9.Sunset/sunrise from "Monsoon Palace" -you can take a taxi from Gangaur ghat /or inquire if you are allowed your own vehicle.

Other attractions:
Saheliyo ki Badi
Fate Sagar lake
Ropeway to Karni mata temple from Deen Dayal Park at Doodh Talai for good views(check if it is kid friendly)

Outside Udaipur-
The Saas bahu temple
Mount Abu-dilwadha temple

 Enjoy...Have fun!