Everything but the Bird(s)

My earliest memories of Bharatpur go back to a trip we made in the 80s. The Birla‘s ran a Wagon factory there and my father being in the Railways meant that we were put up at the Birla Guest House. We were well looked after by them and served some excellent vegetarian fare throughout our stay. In the mornings we would venture out to the Bird Sanctuary and spend a couple of hours in a boat gaping in awe at a variety of avians including the much coveted Siberian Crane. Our boatman and guide was not only knowledgeable in the matter but could mimic pretty much every bird he spotted!

We were lucky then to have been guests of the Birlas for the only other boarding option at the time was the horrid ITDC Ashok, which had ‘government undertaking’ written all over it!

More than two decades have passed and a lot has changed in Bharatpur. The lake levels have all but dried up, the Siberian Cranes don’t come there anymore and the boatmen have all left. Meanwhile, like every other Government enterprise worth its salt, the Bird Sanctuary has managed to secure a World Heritage listing! The Birla factory closed in the early 90’s, only to reopen recently, and with the passage of time, the town has grown in leaps and bounds. But most importantly, Bharatpur today has plenty of nice places to stay, including The Bagh..


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Derawal by nature – the third installment!

For the uninitiated, ‘Derawals’ refer to a community of people who originated from the Dera Ghazi Khan and Dera Ismail Khan region of present day Pakistan. During partition in ’47, the Hindu and Sikh Derawals migrated to India while the Muslim Derawals stayed on in Pakistan. Derawals speak a dialect of Seraiki called Derawali, which comes loaded with a healthy complement of choice cuss words. Other than their unique language, they are also revered for their exceptionally good taste in food, their exotic recipes (which are rarely shared with others) and easily the best ‘achaars’ (pickles) anywhere in the world. More than anything else, they know how to have a good time, especially when in large groups – like the one we found ourselves in, at the end of December last year.

Welcome to our 3rd annual Derawal family reunion!!

The Shekhawati region of northeast Rajasthan derives its name from the 15th century Rajput chieftain, Rao Shekha. Today, it comprises the districts of Sikar and the melodious sounding Jhunjhunu. Within Jhunjhunu sits the town of Surajgarh, which was originally the ‘Thikana’ (estate) of Thakur Bhojraj Ji. The Thikana was established in the late 18th century and a fortified palace was built for the good Thakur’s use.

Surajgarh literally means ‘castle of the sun’ and with the Thakur long gone, that very castle has since been transformed into a heritage hotel, where we stayed!


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So long, LIC

December 21, 2007. I was all set to walk out the door and head to JFK for my winter trip home. But the excitement was short lived – my landlord showed up and handed us an eviction notice. Our building was being sold and we had to vacate by the end of January ’08.

On my return to NYC in January, I had little or no time to recover from jet lag. Instead the hunt for a suitable apartment took up all of my waking hours outside of work. After looking at no less than 7 apartments across Upper Manhattan and Queens, we finally found one in Woodside. It was time to pack our bags and say goodbye to LIC. It had been a short 6 month stay for me but a memorable one nevertheless.

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Of Kings & Queens

It’s been sometime since I visited LA – the subject of my last blog. In between I’ve been to Chicago, the UK, made several small trips around New York, graduated, got a job and basically had a wonderful summer so far. Oh and I’ve also moved – from Brooklyn in Kings County to Long Island City in Queens County! About time I thought – if nothing else, at least the ‘move’ deserves to be blogged!


3830 29th St has been home to me for 3 months now. It’s also the 3rd apartment I’ve stayed in while in New York and better still my third borough (of 5) in the city. As always we’ll begin with a little help from friendly google maps.

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Cortelyou on the Q

So it’s been over a month since my last post and this isn’t quite turning out to be your everyday blog. Nor have I undertaken any more travel, journeys on trains or had any real adventure. Not a very exciting life I know! Nevertheless here’s another blog entry and one in which I hope to share with you all aspects of my recent move away from Manhattan.

Yup, I’m now in far and distant Brooklyn or ‘across the river’ as people in Manhattan refer to it. Been living here for a little over 2 months since my return from India in the summer. Brooklyn is a huge borough as you can imagine and I haven’t had the time or inclination to explore most parts of it. So I shall keep this discourse limited to the little neighborhood that I belong to. More specifically Argyle Rd which is just off Cortelyou Rd which is in between Flatbush Ave and Coney Island Ave which is south of Prospect Park and in relation to ‘the city’, southeast of Manhattan !! And if you’ve had it with all those names, this should make it easier for you..

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