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[100 strangers project] Strangers #4 and #5

Stranger #4

The ever-smiling nurse from Italy

I was entering our home-stay after a blissful walk along the Pangong lake when a loud and cheerful voice greeted me saying she knew who I was and that she was happy to meet me! I was taken aback. I’d neither seen this smiling stranger before, nor was I a world-famous personality! Perplexed as I was, I greeted her back and tried not to sound thoroughly surprised and asked her how she knew me. For a while she kept me waiting and then she revealed that it was VJ who had met her earlier and told her about me! She knew that I was a doctor. And for the next couple of hours we chatted endlessly. She told me of the health-care system back at her place in Italy and that she was a nurse in a psychiatric care unit. It’s indeed a challenging job!
She was traveling across India with her husband.
What surprised me even more was the facts she revealed about her husband. He was an avid cyclist and had cycled across north India extensively. He was actually cycling from Manali to Leh right then and was expected to join her soon!
The following morning we bid adieu to her and the beautiful Pangong!

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Franca from Italy.

Meet Franca, the cheerful and bold nurse from Italy.

Stranger #5

The horseman from Beas nala

It was our first pit stop en route Manali to Leh. We got out of our cab and were mesmerised by the beautiful landscape around us. Beas (Read as Byas) nala is the place before Rohtang pass where the river Beas flows in the form of a stream and forms a gorge. We were busy having a yummy bread omlette by the river when this man approached us with a hesitant but innocent smile and a horse bridle in his hand. He asked us if we wanted a horse ride around the place. I’m generally not an animal friendly person and wasn’t keen on the ride. He lingered around us for sometime and I started making a conversation with him.
He was born and raised in the same place(Beas nala) and has never stepped out of it all his life! I was astonished to realize that some people end up never leaving their home all their life and grow up to being more and more comfortable and losing the sense of exploration. But again it’s the circumstances which dictate these things most often. And of course, people are different. During the conversation I realised that he was a contented and simple man who earns his living by offering joyful horse-rides to tourists in Beas nala.

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Life here is simple and quiet….but very tough!
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Kabal Ram

Meet Kabal Ram whom we met during that epic journey of Manali-Leh!

Find more posts on 100 strangers project here.

Lake hopping in Bangalore

Are you exhausted after a hectic week but running out of things to do in Bangalore? Don’t have enough time to get out of the city but want to have a relaxing time? Want to do something different? Read on…

It was the last day of 2013 and my feet were itching (as usual :P) to go somewhere! I started pestering VJ. His twin brother AJ came to his aid and suggested something interesting out of the blue! Without a seconds thought he said, “Why don’t we go on a lake hunt?”. Yeah, now that’s what I call a ‘cool’ idea! The days were getting hotter in Bangalore and some cool breeze and a lazy walk along a lake was such a refreshing idea.

So, I quickly did some googling and short-listed few of the lakes we could visit. I knew that almost each area in Bangalore has its own lake.

Lakes in Bangalore
Lakes in Bangalore

But I was thoroughly surprised going through the history of lakes in Bangalore. The 262 wetlands that existed in Bangalore in 1962 had declined by a whopping 58 percent by 2007. And that many of them have vanished in the past few years!
We made a rough plan and set off!

1. Ulsoor lake:

Our first stop had to be the most famous lake of Bangalore. It happens to be the nearest one to our home as well. For me Ulsoor lake is like an oasis in the middle of the hustle-bustle of the city! Though it needs more care and maintenance it is still a beautiful lake in the city-centre.

Ulsoor lake - an oasis in the city-centre.
Ulsoor lake – an oasis in the city-centre.

The park adjacent to it lacks maintenance. But the jogging track is good. In the morning you can see army personnel doing kayaking which looks good. There is a boat club which operates in the evening hours. Part of the lake is covered with sea-weeds. Avoid going there during the Ganesh visarjan period to save yourself from the unsightly look.

Ulsoor lake - A beautiful lake which needs more care!
Ulsoor lake – A beautiful lake which needs more care!

Make sure you go there early to catch the sunrise! You can also make it a day trip by combining it with a visit to the nearby Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, have yummy breakfast at either MTR (Indiranagar) or the Egg factory, Ulsoor. For lunch make sure you go to Bobby da dhaba for some lip-smacking parathas!

2. Sankey Tank:

Our next stop was one of the most popular and well-maintained lakes in Bangalore and a walkers’ delight! It’s one of those few lakes which has resisted the time and damage caused by human settlement. Calm, serene and well-maintained.

Sankey tank - Calm, serene and well-maintained lake.
Sankey tank – Calm, serene and well-maintained lake.

Best time to go would be before 8.00 am and after 6.00 pm as it gets too sunny during the day. The lake is huge and the jogging track round its circumference is more than 1.5 kms which is well laid and fully connected.

Sankey Tank - A walkers' delight!
Sankey Tank – A walkers’ delight!

Take a walk, breathe easy, hear the chirping of the birds and go home completely relaxed.
It goes without saying that Malleshwaram and Sadashivanagar are some of the most charming localities of old Bangalore. And if you are a foodie (like me!) do not miss having breakfast at Veena stores (they have the crispiest vadas I’ve ever had!) or Halli mane (some nice dosas and Mangalore buns). We did both! 😉

3. Madiwala lake:

Our third lake for the day took me by surprise as I had no expectations from this one. In fact I was skeptical if we would even locate the lake easily. Little did I know that it was one of the biggest lakes in Bangalore. It’s also called as the BTM lake garden which is at one end of this huge lake. There is a well-maintained garden with children’s play area.

Madiwala lake - beautiful and pristine.
Madiwala lake – beautiful and pristine.

Also there’s a boating club which offers pedal boats in the evening hours. Entry tickets are nominal at Rs. 5 with no extra charges for cameras. Surprisingly many different types of water birds can be seen in the lake making it a popular spot for photo-walks. We thoroughly enjoyed the discovery of this beautiful lake!

Madiwala lake
Madiwala lake

How to reach this lake? It’s located in BTM Layout 2nd stage and can be easily reached if you know BTM area well. If you are new to South Bangalore, just reach BTM 2nd stage and look for 29th main road. This road connects the BTM main road and Bannerghatta Road. Keep going towards Bannerghatta Road via 29th main and you will reach BTM lake garden.

4. Agara lake:

This lake was once a serene nestling spot of migratory birds but eventually became a dump site of garbage and a hub for nefarious activities. Sometime last year in an attempt to restore the lake’s lost glory, about 400 volunteers responded to the call of Save Agara Lake Group to clean up the lake and its surroundings. So during our visit the lake was relatively clean with a walking track along its length.

The rejuvenating Agara lake.
The rejuvenating Agara lake.

The lake is under strict vigilance by the authorities who do not allow anybody between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Agara lake
Agara lake

One can find the iconic Calm, serene and well-maintained statue beside the lake facing the road.

Children-Globe-Rooster statue in front of Agara lake
Children-Globe-Rooster statue in front of Agara lake

Agara Lake is one of the rare natural lakes of Bangalore which hopefully will get back its charm!

5. Kaikondrahalli lake:

This small and pristine lake which is located off Sarjapur road is another example of a lake which was on the verge of extinction, but was revived due to the efforts of the people in the neighbourhood. Once a dumpyard, it is now the darling of the neighbourhood! There is a well-made walk-way around the lake.

The recently revived Kaikondrahalli lake
The recently revived Kaikondrahalli lake

Something about this lake was very impressive and when we came back home I searched for more info. about the lake and was thoroughly surprised to read about the community involvement in rejuvenating the Kaikondarahalli lake. To showcase this, the Stockholm Resilience centre has recently produced a short film titled ‘Kaikondarahalli Lake-The Uncommon Story of an Urban Commons’. It shows the story of how a group of engaged citizens in Bangalore transforms a polluted urban lake into a co-managed, healthy ecosystem with rich biodiversity, to the benefit of all in the neighborhood.

Kaikondrahalli lake serves as a model feat
Kaikondrahalli lake serves as a model feat

It was mid-noon by the time we decided to call it a day. We were tired but happy at discovering such peaceful and refreshing places in Bangalore.

Apart from these there are many more lakes in Bangalore like the lake in Lal Bagh garden, Nagawara lake(with Lumbini garden), Hebbal lake, Hesaraghatta lake(which received water last year after nearly six years!), Varthur lake(which totally lacks maintenance), etc.

Healthy lakes are not only the sources of recreation but are also important ecosystems that should be respected and cared for. Let us be responsible citizens and save these ecological clinics.

After all, sometimes it is that simple and quiet walk along a lake in the neighbourhood is all that we need to unwind!

Which is your favourite lake in Bangalore? Any recommendations for me? I would love to explore!

[100 strangers project] Strangers #2 and #3

Stranger #2

The hard-working farmer

It is truly said that once in your life you need a lawyer, a doctor, a policeman or a priest but everyday, three times a day, you need a farmer.

VJ was speeding up, trying to reach home to catch some guests. We were scurrying through the countryside wishing we had more time to soak up the beauty of nature. We came to a stretch of road on either sides of which were lush green farms. We just couldn’t resist anymore! All of us started pleading VJ to stop and he eventually gave up. We finally got out of the car and began to walk into the green paddy fields. I remembered reading somewhere that green, which is nature’s colour, is restful, soothing, cheerful, and health-giving. And a simple walk in and around the farm made us realize the true meaning of it.

I noticed some women working in the field, picking the paddy stalks and giggling to themselves looking at us city-dwellers make such a big deal of their daily work place! The chatter-box that I am, I slowly began talking to one of the women. She was thrilled at this impromptu interview! Being made to work in the fields right from her childhood she has never known any other life. She has married off her daughters to farmers as well and is now actually helping the daughter in her farm.

I was full of admiration for her and all other farmers who are the real heroes in our society. Being a farmer is not an easy task. At the end of the day what is left is a tired and painful body but a high spirit that keeps them going. After all, our food on the table comes from them!

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Meet Kanakamma from Noolukunta village near Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. A cheerful and talkative farmer I met during my visit to VJ’s hometown.

Stranger #3
The host with never say die spirit

It was one hell of a journey from Leh to Pangong! We thanked our lucky stars to have made it in one piece! All credit goes to VJ whose confidence made us embark on that epic bike ride from Leh to Pangong. We reached the long, narrow, enchanted lake (Tibetan meaning for Pangong Tso) by early evening. We were totally exhausted, shivering with cold and were badly in need of a place to rest our weary heads. A quick search of the available options made us choose a small dingy home-stay run by a Ladakhi woman right in front of the lake.

She looked old and weary but had a spark of determination in her eyes. It is well-known that only the toughest survive in the harsh & testing climate of Ladakh. She was a living example of this fact. Single-handedly she arranged for our bed and blankets, made piping hot chai and egg maggi which we devoured in no time.

Dinner consisted of freshly made rotis, rice and black dal which we all ate in her tiny kitchen trying to understand her routine from whatever little Hindi she knew. After all the hospitality and warmth all that she charged us was Rs. 200 per person including food! It was impossible not to admire her sweet and simple nature and her never say die attitude.

Our friendly Ladakhi host Sonam with our co-traveller Yash.
Our friendly Ladakhi host Sonam with our co-traveller Yash.

Meet Sonam from Spangmik village near Pangong Tso who shared her simple abode with us and made our trip more memorable.

Find more posts on 100 strangers project on my blog here.