25 March 2015

The Iconic Sufi shrine of Mumbai, Haji Ali Dargah!!!

Haji Ali Dargah, was yet another place from my bucket list in Mumbai for quite some time. We had driven many a times on the Lala Lajpatrai Marg and got the view of the dargah, but never had I visited it. Most of our visits are to Haji Ali juice center, which is at the entrance of the pathway to the Dargah, one of the finest juice centers of Mumbai, and my favourite is their Kiwi Cream bowl. On my solo wandering on a Saturday afternoon, after Aegon Religare bloggers meet, I knew where to go after Mahalaxmi temple. It was drizzling and the weather looked perfect for the walk through the pathway to the Dargah.
Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, Travel
The Dargah as seen from Lala Lajpatrai Marg
Said to be built in 1431 in memory of wealthy muslim merchant Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Bukhari, the Dargah is on an island off the coast of Worli, a suburb of Mumbai. There is a pathway to reach the Dargah which doesn't have any barricades and open on either sides. The Dargah is closed for public entry during high-tides, when the water level reaches as high as to submerge the pathway. At the entrance of the path way are shops selling chadar(piece of cloth offered at Dargah) and flower garlands for offerings. The shopkeepers keep chasing you. They even offered me, a scarf for free if I bought chadar, as you need to enter the Dargah with your head covered. I had a scarf in my bag and just kept going, not reacting to them. There are other stalls too selling souvenirs. But the drizzle restricted me from opening my cam.
Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, Travel
The White marble main gate
You enter the Dargah complex through a white marble gate. As soon as you enter, you find the main Dargah. There is separate hall for ladies and gents. You need to leave your footwear out and cover your head to enter the Dargah.
Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, Travel
Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, Travel
The Main Dargah
The complex has other prayer halls and a Qawwal Khana, a place for performing Qawwali(muslim devotional song). There is platform to sit and enjoy the Qawwali, once you are done with Dargah. I spent some time there and enjoyed my walk back in srizzles. 
Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, Travel
Qawwali being performed at Qawwal Khana
Travel Info:
Haji Ali Dargah is on the island off Worli.
Timings: 5:30AM to 10PM, entry restricted during high tide.
Entry Fee: Free
Photographing not allowed inside the Dargah.
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21 March 2015

Happy Ugadi!! #Together with family, down the memory lane!!!

The farther you go from your family and motherland, the more closer you get to their hearts and culture. The value of anything is felt as you go away from it. Festivals are the times when I miss my family and that makes me celebrate every festival ritually, trying to make my daughter aware of our tradition and culture.
What is Ugadi??
Today is Ugadi(Yugada Aadi) meaning beginning of the new era, the Hindu New Year. The festival marks the start of the spring, bidding goodbye to winter. The time when even trees bid their old leaves and bloom with fresh, new leaves and flowers. Thats the time of the year, when you hear the sounds of cuckoo and get mangoes, the king of all fruits.
That is the festive decoration at home, a plate of Jaggery and Neem leaves in Pooja place and main door decorated with mango leaves and neem leaves,
The Celebration!!!
As kids, our day would start with the first glimpse of god as soon as we used to wake up, mom would remind us not to open our eyes on bed and she would take us to the pooja room with our eyes closed and we used to open our eyes in front of the god, getting his first glimpse of the year. We used to take bath with the water boiled with neem leaves(bitter leaves), visit the temple. We would have neem leave and jaggery, which remarks joy and sorrow in the life and praying to god, the coming year to be a balance of both. The house used to be decorated with mango leaves, neem leaves and flowers. The festive feast was mostly of mangoes, raw mango rice, mango pickle and the must have sweet dish obbattu(puranpoli) made of jaggery and flour. It was also believed that mango has to be had only after offering it to god on Ugadi. The whole day used to be spent at the temple. The rathotsav(the chariot ride of the god) and at night the ceremony would end with Varsha Bhavishya. Where a priest in the temple would predict the coming year. Profit-loss, joy-sorrow, health-sickness, activities-laziness, success-failure which used to be graded in numbers for the coming year. That was the most interesting part, which as kids we used to sit and listen so curiously, especially success-failure, which we believed directed effected our studies.
South Indian Festive Feast, raw mango rice, mango pickle, mango sauce and on..
Why Celebrate??
When we try to understand the reason behind all the rituals we Indians follow, we really get astonished. As per Ayurveda, everything in the Universe is a combination of Pancha mahabhuta(five basic elements, Earth, Sky, Fire, Water and Air). The combination of which are doshas, Kapha(which is heavy, cold and moist, combination of earth and water),  Pitta(which is hot, moist and light, that is combination of Fire and water), Vata(which is light, dry and cold, combination of  sky and air). Doshas, can be related to any life, where Kapha represents the beginning, Pitta represents the middle or persistance and Vata, the end or dissolution, the imbalance of which leads to health issues. The seasons too, can be related to the doshas. So Ugadi is the transition from Vata to Kapha, a bath with Neem water makes your body warmer which combats your bodies Vata dosha. And mangoes are used to balance all three doshas, so to start the year with good health. Also when I found today, everybody in my society plucking the mango and neem leaves from the trees to decorate their houses, I felt, was this ritual started with an intention to trim the tree to make it ready for the fresh new ones(I may be completely wrong with my assumption).

The Indian festivals celebrated with family and friends with rituals and tradition, rejuvenates your body, mind and soul and gives you the strength and motivation to go optimistic in life and makes you ready to face the challenges of life.

This post is a part of the campaign #Together by https://housing.com/

17 March 2015

When I started a new life, of a Blogger #StartANewLife

Traveling had always been a passion for me, be it in a group of 15, roaming the streets of Varanasi during a family trip or roaming alone on the streets of Bangalore. 
I always wanted to be independent and wanted to join a hostel, right at a very young age to lead an independent life. But being from an orthodox family brought up amidst grand parents, I was never allowed to leave the house alone till I finished my Engineering. Then on started my nomadic life. I worked in Bangalore for a year, I felt I was a free bird then and took every chance to explore and roam around in Bangalore alone, to live my life on my own. Be it visiting my cousins during weekend or walking back home from bus stop with a cup of sweet corn in hand and getting into any of the stores with sales board on, looking for quirky stuff. I enjoyed every minute of it. 
My nomadic life became twosome, when I married an equally travel enthusiast husband and shifted to Dubai. Not even a single weekend was spent at home. Our group of 10 was always there to plan one or the other stuff for weekends. Walking back home in group at 2 in the night, after the midnight movie show or long weekend drive to neighbouring Oman, life was awesome and went as I wanted, traveling and exploring new places. 
Life took a turn when I had to shift back to India for my baby's birth. Three years of life with my new born went in taking care and bringing her up as she really needed some special care being a preterm baby. She soon started her schooling and we were back to our roaming mood of exploring the world. But being engaged with my studies and job through out my life, spending time lone at home was the challenge which I had to face and that is when I started this blog of mine. My life took a new turn with the start of this blog. Got in touch with so many people sharing similar interest. My way of traveling had changed, till now when I clicked pictures of mine at the travel destinations had changed, now it was for the world I started clicking, it was not me but the places I clicked. Till now when I was all running behind not to miss a single chance to visit a new country had changed, I wanted to explore my country first. I was interested more in the architectural beauty of India than the beaches of the neighbouring countries. Blogging had changed my thoughts and my perception towards travel. Blogging had changed me and I started a new life through blogging.
This post is part of a campaign #StartANewLife by https://housing.com/.

11 March 2015

Mahalaxmi Temple, Mumbai

I was done with the Aegon Religare event by 2PM and had enough time till hubby would pick me from Mahalaxmi. Got a chance to roam all for myself, I thought of visiting few of the places near by. Very close to the Bombay Bronx is Mahalaxmi temple, though I had traveled near it many times, it was my first visit to the temple.
Saffron flags flaunting, on the way to the temple.
You need to walk through the narrow market lane, with shops selling flowers, pooja samagri, and idols of god and goddess on either side of the lane. The pooja samagri baskets have beautiful lotus, lotus which is said to be auspicious and favorite flower of Mahalaxmi. There is no proper provision to leave your footwear, but most of the shops entertain you to leave in front of their shops, if you shop with them. Finding no other option, I shopped an idol of goddess at one of the stores and left my shoes with them(sigh). It was drizzling and I somehow manged to reach the temple bare foot, then after there is stilt area as you climb up to the temple. The stairs and whole of the temple was very slippery because of rains. Photography is strictly prohibited, you need to deposit your camera at the locker, while you are allowed to carry the mobile phones, with a strict warning of not clicking. The main temple, has the idols of Goddess Mahalaxmi, Mahakali and Mahasaraswati. All the three idols are decorated with gold and pearl jewelries. There are two separate queues for men and women. Usually both the queues are very long, but since I visited in the afternoon, it was quite short. During festivals, especially Navratri and Diwali, the queue reaches as long as few kilometers. If you just want to have a glimpse of the goddess and don't want to get pooja done, there are windows on either side of the main temple, from where the goddess is visible. There are stairs to get down towards the beach at the back of the temple, there are small shrines dedicated to hindu god and goddess and you get a beautiful view of the sea. Unfortunately photographing here too is prohibited.
Image credit Mahalaxmi Temple official page
The history of the temple dates back to 1761AD. As the story goes, the Hindus immersed the three idols of the Goddesses into the sea near Worli creek to avoid destruction of the idols by the Muslim invaders. Subsequently, during British rule, Lord Horneby decided to connect the two islands, Worli-Malbar Hill creek and the work was entrusted to Shri Ramji Shivji Prabhu. They were not in a position to connect two islands by constructing two ways and could not complete the project on account of seawaves. One night Goddess Mahalaxmi instructed him in a dream to take out all the idols which were in creek of Worli and place them on top of the hillock. Accordingly, team took out all the three idols of goddesses from the Worli creek, then only to be able to continue with the construction work. After completion of the work, Engineer obtained ground on the hillock as a gift from the British ruler to construct the temple.
Travel Info:
Mahalaxmi Temple is at Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai. The temple is around 1km from Mahalaxmi railway station.
Timings: 6AM to 10PM

3 March 2015

A Light Hearted Take on Life Insurance with Atul Khatri

No one likes to speak about death. Though everyone is uncertain about the next moment, we just try to show-off a fake confident look, #NothingWillHappen. While in reality, our innermost sense does know, the next moment might hit you with any unexpected. Hold on, why am I getting so philosophical and speaking like a Life Insurance agent, whom you think scares you speaking of all the uncertainties of life just to get a policy done or like those Nazar Utharo yantra ads on TV, who promise of keeping you away from all mishaps of life.
And when the event is with a stand-up comedian like Atul Khatri, isn't "Serious Baatein Karna Mana Hai(serious talks not allowed)"? And what does a stand-up comedian has to do at a Life Insurance event? This is what I thought when I received an invite for the blogger's event by Aegon Religare Life Insurance Company.
Read on to get an answer for all the questions.
The event was at Bombay Bronx last Saturday. I was quite on time and was welcomed by Manjusha Chandrababu, Social Media Lead, ARLI who made we comfortable at the event, and Suman Purohit, AVP Branding and Communications, ARLI, we spoke a lot about our travels and she introduced me to the famous Bharawan da Dabha in Amritsar, and asked me not to give a miss, when I am there this weekend.
Atul Khatri, Stand-up Comedian
The event started off with Atul Khatri's stand up comedy. I have attended very few stand up comedy shows and Atul really kept everyone engrossed. The show was followed by the special premiere of ARLI's new ad series "Immortals of India". Yateesh Srivastava, Chief Operating Officer ARLI shared, at present Insurance market, where companies are busy trying to sustain their presence by competitive Premiums and Benefits, Aegon Religare has made an attempt to hit the population who are way behind, and don't even have a basic cover of their life and still in the belief #NothingWillHappen to them. Through this series, the company is trying to spread the message of how the belief #NothingWillHappen still conquers few of our Indian minds.
Yateesh Srivastava, COO, ARLI
It was a perfect afternoon gathering, the ambiance, the fellow blogger friends, the team ARLI and of-course Atul's comedy which kept all smiles and laughs. One of their ads of "Immortals of India" series was officially launched today. And yes, the message of the most deadliest uncertainty of life has been showcased simply.
About Aegon Religare Life Insurance Company:
ARLI launched its pan-India operations in July, 2008 following a multi-channel distribution strategy with a vision to help people plan their life better. The fulfillment of this vision is based upon having a complete product suite, providing customised advice and enhancing the overall customer experience.
ARLI has launched a suite of products that are focused on providing the customer with the means to meeting their long-term financial goals. At the same time, product development has been founded on the tenet of providing the customer with great value. In 2014, the Indian Insurance Awards, honoured ARLI as the ‘E-Business Leader’, for the second year in a row, under the category of Overall Insurance Industry Awards.

PS: The post will be updated with the remaining ads, as and when they are launched. 
Updated: Here are rest of the ads, which have been officially launched now,

Image credit Aegon Religare Facebook Page
Do take care of yourself.

2 March 2015

"Making the Cut Before Red Carpet", A Discussion with Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF

AVID Learning, is an Essar initiative, who foster creative learning across the fields of Culture & Heritage, Literature and Art – including Visual, Performing & Applied Arts – through workshops, panel discussions and other programs. I got associated with AVID at their Travel Writing Workshop, with Dilip D'Souza at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
Last week I was invited by AVID for their event "Making the Cut Before Red Carpet", A Discussion with Cameron Bailey. Cameron Bailey is the Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival and Board member of Tourism Toronto, on the Advisory Council for Western University's school for Arts and Humanities and for Haiti's Cine Institute Film School. He has been a writer and broadcaster. He reviewed for Toronto's NOW Magazine, CBC Radio One and CTV’s Canada AM. The discussion was hosted by Nasreen Munni Kabir, a Television producer, director and author best known for producing an annual season of Indian films for the British television's Channel 4. She won the 1999 Women of Achievement Awardig Arts and Culture and was a governor on the board of the board of the British Film Institute serving a 6 years term.
Cameron Bailey and Nasreen Munni Kabir
The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the world's most influential and prestigious film event. Cameron talked about the secrets of creating a great festival, how TIFF shapes the film industry, the future of film festivals and how audience shape independent cinema. Cameron shared how their expert work on selecting the best Films to be screened at the TIFF. Also TIFF is a great platform to network for Film Makers, where distributors from different countries gather, to purchase the films. He also shared, though cinema has reached small screens, even the cellphones, watching the film on a big screen at film festival still holds its significance. He also remembered the screening of the Bollywood movie Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, when the fan went crazy to get a glimpse of their favorite actors and director, Karan Johar, Amitabh Bachchan and ShahRukh Khan. The event ended with reception. You can visit TIFF webpage here, to know more about the festival and submission procedure.
Too Young To Wed:
AVID Learning, Consulate General of Canada and ICIA celebrate Women's Day with a week of Artistic Introspection around a Photo-Exhibition on Child Brides by Photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair. 
The exhibition is from March 20th to 28th 2015, at ICIA Gallery, ICIA House, Rampart Row, Kalaghod, Mumbai. Interested ones can have a tour of the exhibition.