Thursday, September 30, 2010

A small mention.... in print

It is always a pleasure to see one's name in print.... even if it is just a quote! Well, yours truly has been quoted in an article in the Times of India, Pune edition, on the 25th of September. I was contacted a while ago by a journalist from the paper, asking for a quote about Morachi Chincholi, and I was happy to oblige.Unfortunately, I heard nothing afterwards, and had no idea it was published. I suddenly remembered about it today and checked... and there it was.... along with one of my pics... Check it out here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

All about Snails

The monsoons are almost over, and since we have spent the last few months searching for and photographing snails, I thought it would be appropriate to write one final, exhaustive post about these creatures which fascinate Samhith. They are indeed fascinating, even though they are the pests here, eating up our garden little by little. They are most visible on the rainy days, and the days after, disappearing once the water dries up, disappearing into holes we have not yet succeeded in discovering. So here’s some of the information we have gathered (from the net of course, where else?).

Snails are called ‘Gastropods’, literally meaning ‘belly footed animal’ (Gastro means stomach and pod means foot). Garden snails are the only molluscs living on land!

The snails’ body is long, moist and slimy, and the shell helps protect it. It withdraws into the shell not only to protect itself from predators, but also to protect itself from dry weather. They are most active in a moist climate, which is why we see them so often in the monsoons. In dry weather, they simply hide and stay within their shells or in holes in the ground. In winter, they hibernate for months!

Snails are of different sizes and have different shaped shells. The shells of a juvenile (young one) are lighter in colour and have different patterns.

This is a young one.....

and so are these....

Can you see the difference in shell patterns?

and look at this one which not just has a different kind of shell, but is also much smaller...

Snails live for about 5 to 10 years.

Garden snails have eyes at the tip of their tentacles. They have two pairs of tentacles on their head – one pair is longer than the other pair. The longer ones have the eyes at their tips, and the shorter ones are used for smelling their way around. You can see all the four tentacles in this pic...

Did you know that snails have teeth? I certainly didn’t, until I read about them! They have a tongue –like structure called ‘radula’ with a row of fine, tiny teeth, which it uses to scrape off leaves and flowers. last year, I managed to photograph a snail eating a flower... Here is a slideshow which I had posted then......

The largest snails are the ‘Giant African Snails’, which can grow to a length of over 30 cm! The longest ones I have seen are around 5-6 cm. 

Snails move by creeping on the muscles underneath their body – a foot like structure, which expands and contracts, creating a movement which pushes the snail forward.  This ‘foot’ also has a special gland which ejects a slimy substance which helps the snail move easily, even over rough areas.

Snails are both male and female – they are called ‘Hermaphrodite’.  While mating, they twist around each other and cover themselves in the slimy substance. Look at this one.... We realized that there was something odd about that tail on the shell... it couldn't possibly be the tail of the same snail, but we couldn't go over to the other side of the wall, and thus couldn't see if there was another one there, but on reading about their mating habits, this seemed quite possible... Don't you think so?

A snail lays as many as 80 eggs at a time into the topsoil on the ground. They can do this almost 6 times in a single year. No wonder there are so many snails around! Baby snails take almost 2 years to become adults!

That was quite a bit of information, wasn’t it? I searched all that so I could explain to Samhith, and it was so interesting that I decided to write about it instead! Hope you all liked it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mahalakshmi Temple,Mumbai

Mahalakshmi Temple, Mumbai (Photo Courtesy: Internet)

I first visited the Mahalakshmi temple  as a kid, sometime in 1980. Since then, I have been lucky enough to visit the temple a number of times, and have not yet ceased to be fascinated about the place, especially its location right on the sea shore. Over the years, I have visited the temple at various times. The temple opens at 6AM and shuts at 10 PM, and I have been to the temple in the mornings, afternoons as well as evenings, but yesterday was the first time I visited at night, just before the temple was to be shut. This gave me the opportunity to gain some more information about the temple, something few people know about.

All day long, the idols of Parvati (Durga), Mahalakshmi and Saraswati are covered with beautiful golden masks. Indeed, they are beautiful, and it is how we know the Devi to be. However, what is less known is that the Devi is a 'swayambhu' - one who has not been carved, but has appeared on stone by herself - and we rarely get to see the original idol. The only way we can get a glimpse of her is to visit the temple around 9:30 PM. At that time, the masks are removed, and the original idols are open for darshan for about 15 to 20 minutes before the temple closes. The temple opens at 6AM directly with the Abhishek (bathing of the idol), after which the idols are covered as usual before darshan opens with the first Aarti.The original idol, being a 'swayambhu', is not carved, but just an imprint on stone, and is covered with sindoor, as is common in Maharashtra. 

Incidentally, as I was trying to get more information about the temple, I stumbled on some more interesting information about the temple and its origin. Apparently, British engineers were engaged in connecting Worli and Malabar Hill - the area we know today as Breach Candy - and all their efforts were laid waste. Then, one of the lead engineers, an Indian, had a dream in which Goddess Mahalakshmi appeared, and directed him to a site on the beach, where she said he would find an idol of her. He followed her instructions and found the idol, which was installed in a temple on the location. Soon after, the engineers' efforts were successful, and they were able to make all the constructions as required. 

This also reminded me of the story of the temple I grew up hearing. According to legend, Mumbai was then just a tiny island, home to none but fishermen, simple folk who ate what they managed to catch and were satisfied with their simple lifestyle. One day, Goddess Mahalakshmi was wandering around during her menses, and due to the restrictions, no one asked her to enter their home. She arrived at the island, where she was warmly welcomed by the fisherwomen, who weren't the least bothered about her impure condition at the time. She stayed overnight in simple comfort, and the next day, revealed her true self to the fisherfolk, and blessed them, and their land with prosperity and good fortune. She is considered to be the reason for the prosperity of this city, which is why crowds flock to the temple at all times of the day!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


This caterpillar held our attention for three whole days before it disappeared. I wonder if it has now wound itself into a cocoon or simply left the plant..... I tried to find out which species of butterfly or moth it would turn into, but was unsuccessful. Any ideas?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Some new additions to our colony

Samhith says he is not afraid of anything...... Anything, except cats and dogs, especially when they enter our building, taking advantage of the grilled door carelessly left open. The frequency of such uninvited visits recently increased, to the extent that a cat tried to gain entry inside one of the houses, leading to a lot of amusement (and of course a lot of shouting and shooing and all kinds of activities). Finally, each visitor to our building was sternly told to make sure that they closed the door and didn't allow the cat to enter. The cat however, was one resourceful female (like all females!) and she gained entry somehow into one of the unoccupied houses on the ground floor, and hid in the cupboard to bring forth a litter of kittens. Now, Samhith is certainly not scared of them. On the contrary, he wants to pay them a visit everyday! I had my camera with me (incidentally, to take pics of our Ganesha leaving) and he insisted that I take pics of the new family.... So, here they are... the resourceful mom and her kittens.....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eurasian Golden Oriole

There is a new bird in my garden........ actually a pair, but I just about managed to get a pic of one!

According to Salim Ali's Book of Indian birds, this is the Eurasian Golden Oriole..

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Farewell to Ganesha...

After 10 days of celebrations, its time to bid farewell to the Lord, for this year.... All around us, we can hear the shouts of "Ganpati Bappa Morya! Pudchya Varshi Laukar Yaa!" (Long Live Ganesha! Come early next year!) It is indeed a fond farewell, as crowds gather to see Him off. When I was a kid, I remember going to see the immersion at the lake in Thane, where we could see the big Ganeshas coming from all over the city. Today, the TV has taken over, and we are busy seeing the huge idols on their way to either Girgaum or Dadar Chaowpatty, or Juhu Beach! Much easier and more comfortable in all ways, especially on the ears. 

However, it is time for our colony Ganesha to be on his way, and we can hear the crowds from way off. He tours the entire colony, giving each one of us the chance to bid him goodbye. The whole building gathers at the gates, from kids to their grandparents...... and here He is, at last.....

Here are the flag bearers - heralding His advent......

...and lighting firecrackers to make sure everyone knows He is on His way!

They are followed by the drummers.... whether they are creating a ruckus or making music, is something that depends on your mood... but the beats make you sway, and make you wish to join them!

And finally, the decorated truck bearing Him arrives..... us a final look at Him, a chance to bid goodbye......

...just for the year.... For we know He will be back again, next year!!!

As I return home, back to the TV and my computer, dissociating myself from the crowds, the sounds and the chaos, I wonder... Do I really want to dissociate myself like this? Do I really want to be peaceful within the confines of my home? There is something within me that wants to go out into the crowd, join them.........

I know I will not, the reasons being many, most of them related to the pollution they cause and the mess they leave behind for others to clean, but which no one bothers about..... and of course, the fact that I hate crowds and tend to avoid them whenever possible.... But I wish it was different, and wish I could join the celebration too..without any twinges of conscience.... Will such a time ever come? I wonder.... The Lord is leaving, but he is leaving me with many, many questions.......

This has been an introspective post, not one which I planned to write..... But the words are down, and I didn't wish to change them.... So I have left them as they came... straight from the heart.... However, among all this introspection are some small twinges of satisfaction - firstly, that this year, for the very first time, I tried and managed to make a clay idol by myself.... one small step towards a betterment of the festival for me.... and secondly, I have managed to write one post everyday for the whole period of the festival! The first time I have managed to do this!! So there has been much to celebrate this year...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A cute Ganesha

This one would probably win hands down for title of 'Cutest Ganesha of the Year'! Located at the Raghuleela Mall, Vashi, this cute little Ganesha sleeping on a banyan leaf is probably the last Ganesha I will see this year before he leaves for his abode. It was an unexpected bonus, made even more special by the fact Shankar took me and Samhith to see it... the first time he has ever taken us to see one!!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Handmade Ganeshas - My first entry for Artsy-Craftsy September 2010

I have been following Shruti's Mindful Meanderings for a while now, and enjoyed the wonderful craft works posted by her, as well as the monthly contest and their entries. I have, however, never been able to participate, for various reasons. This time, as it happens, I actually have something to contribute, so here is mine...

These are the Ganeshas we made from clay for our Ganpati Celebration this year... the bigger one made by me and the smaller by Samhith.

Most of you would have already seen this, since I posted the pics earlier, as part of my Ganpati celebrations post. I am posting this again for two reasons - I wanted to add the link to the Mindful Meanderings blog for one, and secondly, I have recieved a lot of emails asking about how I made it...

The answer is that it was actually quite easy, thanks to the net (you arent surprised, are you???) I found the clay when I was searching for something for Samhith to do. Its available at most craft stores.  As to actually making the ganesha, here is what helped me out....

More Ganeshas from Chembur

Here are a few more Ganeshas from Chembur.....

Usha, this one is especially for you, since both Samhith and I remembered you and wished you were with us for the Ganesha tour this year too..... and you will be thrilled to hear that Samhith didn't remember much of any of these ganpatis except that he saw them with you!

First on the list is the Duke's Ganesha....

The decoration was based on the story of a king and his cow herd who find the royal cow giving up all its milk  in an ant hill. The cow herd strikes the anthill with his axe, but is stunned to find blood. On digging further, they discover that the ant hill covers a Shiva Lingam. Usually, this set up is an animated one - kind of like a puppet show with a narrator in the background, and the characters move a little. However, this year, I elected to avoid the rush, which meant that the show wasn't on yet... much to Samhith's chagrin!

Next in line is the R K Ganpati (for those of you who do not know, this is the Ganesha at R.K.Studios, a tradition going back years... when Raj Kapoor and his entire family would turn up for the celebrations... To give due credit, part of the family still turn up for the immersion, drawing crowds galore!!)- which was simple, and just as usual. 

Next door to RK is another Ganesha - the pattern is always the same, but the decoration is usually good. However, this year they seem to have been a bit confused - I couldn't understand what Vitthala was doing, set against a backdrop of the Himalayas, with Shiva meditating on one of the peaks!! But then again, maybe they were just trying to re-use some of the stuff they had used last year... I distinctly remember the snow covered peaks and the image of Shiva from last year!!

With this, I am through with all the Ganeshas I can possibly see in my neighborhood. Going further to see some of the popular pandals is out of the question, especially thanks to the crowd! So lets see if I still manage to see any more!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our favourite Ganesha this year

This one certainly has to be the best one we have seen so far... not the Ganesha, the decoration, of course!! I am talking about the Ganpati at Chembur Station.

The Ganesha himself is rather nice....

.... and the decoration is based on Mumbai roads.....

Of course, not the potholed roads of reality, but the smooth and traffic-less roads we dream will be a reality someday....

But the main attraction here is the Monorail.... which is right now making life for us miserable, with all the roads being dug up, but which will hopefully bring some respite for us when it is finally ready in the distant future....
As of now, the model of this monorail runs smoothly to and fro, thrilling each and every visitor to this Pandal...

Samhith insisted on staying put till the Monorail made a couple of journeys to and fro, leaving only when a huge crowd entered, and the attendant politely asked us to leave!!! But at least now he knows what the monorail will look like!!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Royal Ganesha

This Ganpati at Ghatkopar is modeled on a king.... relaxing in his palace... The decoration was simple, but the Ganesha looked  quite beautiful...

Here is the king..

and here is his palace..

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bal Ganesh

Here is another Ganesha from Chedda Nagar - and Samhith's favourite so far....

The idol is a replica of Ganesha as he appears in the animated movie for kids - Bal Ganesh. Not surprisingly, I wasn't able to identify the character, while Samhith did. We had to ask the organisers for confirmation, which resulted in a lot of amusement for all of them, but was worthwhile, since Samhith is thrilled that he was correct!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Chedda Nagar Ganesha

This one is the Ganpati from our colony - The Chedda Nagar Ganpati.

While the decor is usually something quite...well, ...just decorative, this year, the young lot organizing the festival seem to have had some interesting ideas..... not really surprising, considering the kind of issues on at the moment.

The idea is a balance between development and the environment, as depicted by the scales behind the Ganesha

On the left is the typical skyline of Mumbai - with skyscrapers and factories, complete with the roads built over the sea..

On the right is a typical village scene....

All in all, a simple display, one which suggests no solutions, but better than the usual run of the mill decorations... Samhith loved the houses and the roads, and has come up with lots of ideas for Navaratri!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

All That Glitters..... gold. 

One of the richest Ganeshas in Mumbai, this is the GSB Ganpati at Wadala Ram Mandir.

As is common in most traditional Ganesha Pandals all over Mumbai, the Ganesha idol made for this Pandal is made the same way every year. Everything is a constant, from the size and the shape to the gold coverings. Of course, every year there are additions to the gold offered to the deity, which is why you can see necklaces hanging everywhere.Thousands flock to this temple during Ganesh Chaturthi to pray and make offerings. Various havans and pujas are conducted, and thousands are fed. They also perform a lot of social activities from the money collected.

There are two other GSB Ganeshas in Mumbai - one at the SNDT college and one at Kurla. While the SNDT one is as acclaimed as the Wadala one, they did not allow me to take photos this year. However, here is a pic of the Kurla one. This Ganesha is located in the Venkateswara temple in Kurla West, very near the station.


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