Of Blackbucks, Langoors and Peacocks in Blackbuck Resort, Bidar

blackbuck

Finally temperatures are cooling here. Saturday was in lower 30’s which is a big relief after the month of mid 40’s in May. June and early monsoon showers are very welcome.

To make most of the lovely weather, we made an impromptu trip to Blackbuck resort in Bidar. Technically in Karnataka, Bidar is a 3 hour drive from Hyderabad and a popular weekend destination from Hyderabad. The resort is set on banks of Vilaspur lake about 25 kms from Bidar. Most people start early on Saturday morning, have breakfast en-route and spend the morning exploring Bidar fort and tombs before heading to Blackbuck resort for lunch.Rest of the day can be spent at the resort with variety of activities.

Path in the jungle

 Nested on banks of lake, the blackbuck resort is home to langoors and peacocks. It is clean, spacious and offers package deals including meals at a reasonable rate. The staff is very helpful. While the resort is not very luxurious, it is a great place to unwind after a hectic week. A lovely place amidst nature a short drive from hustle and bustle of Hyderabad!

Monkey

Peacocks

Emu Farm

To keep visitors engaged, the resort offers a lot of activities. Nature walk to see Emu farm is offered in the evening. Lots of different varieties of birds are seen en-route and come visit the lake at sunset. There were these yellow flowers in bloom all along the path along with fiery red Gulmohar. And so were these unique fruits that the birds love to feast on. When the lake is full post monsoon season the resort also offers coracle rides on the lake.

Yellow flowers

Trees with fruits

The sunset  over the lake was brought to life by the chirping of birds, playfulness of monkeys and the beautiful red-yellow afterglow. After sunset we enjoyed a wild life documentary along with a round of beer and snacks. Telescope was setup to star gaze and post dinner a campfire was setup.

After glow sunset

The best part of staying at the resort is the safari at sunrise to see the blackbucks. Even Varun was thrilled to get up early to go out in the jeep and see deers in their natural habitat. We not only saw deers but a wild boar, countless peacocks and many langoors. While we were driving back, a dog chased a herd of blackbucks around and it was surreal to see them galloping away.

Herd of deers

Adult black buck

We also saw a whole bunch of colorful birds whose name I don’t recall anymore.

Birds

We came back from the safari to breakfast and then sat on the private gallery off the cottage to watch more birds and animals come to the lake below. We saw lizards and a huge reptile cross across the brush below amongst other scary animals like tadpoles, frogs and squirrels.

We left after taking a short nap as we were tired after carrying Varun on the long nature walk and waking up early to for the Safari. Our initial plan was to leave after lunch and shop for the Bidri artwork that Bidar is so famous for. But the mid day heat got to us. It was back in 40’s again. Varun slept as soon as we started driving back. We plan to visit again after the monsoon season when the weather will be cooler, the lake full and the deers back in larger numbers.

The Contemporary Paan

The display

Dimmy -the paan palace has been a unique experience for me in Hyderabad. Having paan as a dessert in an ice-cream parlor like setup. Clean, hygienic with sit in option and no dubious folks giving you the looks!

A typical pan shop

Paan , usually eaten after a meal is both a digestive and a mouth-freshener. Its available at nearly every street corner in paan shops. It has traditionally been ‘frowned’ upon in my family. Kids from ‘good’ families don’t eat paan – that’s what grandma used to say. It was mainly to do with the ‘not-up-to-any-good’ people who hang out at ‘paan-shops‘ than to do with its ill-health effects. She used to give us a home-made version with coconut, gulkaand and tuti-frootis. So, as grown up I love paan. I don’t like the ones with tobacco or areca nut but the sweet kinds.

Ice Pan in Making

This paan palace in Jubilee Hills hence is the perfect contemporary version. We stepped in without hesitation. Chocolate paan, Meenakshi paan, Date- paan, kulfi-paan tempted us from within the glass display. Colorful, ready and inviting. There was a counter with assorted toppings (desiccated coconut, flavoured supari, nuts etc to make a custom paan). We asked for an ice – paan ( a Gurgaon – Delhi area speciality) and it was freshly made for us. Shaved ice filled in paan with typical paan toppings of gulkand, sweet supari and coconut. On a summer evening the generous helping of rose petals, coconut and ice are perfect end to a meal.

Ready to eat in silver foil

The shop is set up like a typical roadside paan- bedi shop with cigars, cigarettes and even chocolates. They also have shaved ice in classic kachi kairi and kala khatta flavors – which we will probably try next time.

We skipped dessert one evening and instead had  2- 3 types of sweet and dessert like paan.

Suparis on the counter

That’s going to be our new routine -at least till the novelty wears off!

Royal Elegance: Chowmahalla Palace

A beautiful chowmahalla backdrop for a wedding

Its been more than a week since we are in Mumbai and strangely I am missing my home in Hyderabad. I never thought that I would miss Hyderabad over Mumbai, ever. Yet, here I am flicking though pictures of us together playing in the garden, in the tent and going through routine day-to-day tasks such as reading books at night.

I came across these pictures of recent trip to Chowmahalla palace  with my cousins and realized that I have not blogged about it. A complex of four Nizam palaces, central courtyards, surrounding corridors and gardens; it depicts the elegance of those days through carvings on the walls, rich tapestries and huge vintage chandeliers. Very similar to Falaknuma Palace in general layout ( which is more ornate), Chowmahalla is an unexpected oasis of calm amidst the bustling Old Hyderabad. Open to public (unlike Falaknuma which you can only visit if you dine or stay at the Taj property), this is on my ‘don’t miss’ list for Hyderabad.

Map of Chowmahalla Palace

Corridors flanking central courtyard at Chowmahalla

The fountains in courtyard have a couple of ducks gently wading by.  One of the mahal’s acts as museum of heritage clothes, furniture , arts and crockery. A stones throw from Charminar, it has vintage cars and buggies. Swords, daggers, arrows , shields are displayed in a very modern classical manner. Trees with century old canopies and pigeons add to the old world charm of this palace. This place has something for everyone. Kids, art lovers, architecture buffs, lovers, romantics at heart, vintage car lovers, textile designers, landscape designers, photographers…I am sure you will be inspired and will love this place just as much as I did.

Central courtyards with fountains

It easily takes a couple of hours to wander through its corridors and wings. The furniture and crockery are reminiscent of Salar Jung museum. There is also a vintage clock which chimes every hour (similar to the cuckoo clock in Salar Jung). In fact if you are strapped for time or not into museums, skip Salar Jung museum and visit this palace to get a taste of arts and lifestyle in that era.

Intricately carved window at Chowmahalla

Elegance at Chowmahalla

Royal durbar

Royal durbar with its massive chandeliers

Chandelier at Chowmahalla Palace closeup

As you exit the royal durbar palace, you will find arrangements for some function or the other. The grounds are rented for ceremonies and corporate functions. Wouldn’t it be lovely to exchange vows or get engaged against this gorgeous backdrop?

Chowmahalla Palace

The lawns beyond lead to the vintage clothes, cars , buggies and the royal living room where the royal guests used to be entertained.

Living room at chowmahalla palace

Arms collection at Chowmahalla Palace

Vintage buggies at Chowmahalla Palace

Vintage clothes at Chowmahalla Palace

Varun loved running around in the corridors and looking out through the large windows. He identified elephants, horses and tigers in the paintings and carvings. But he was most fascinated by the huge canons with carved dragons kept in the courtyard. One of us was constantly chasing him – such is travelling with a toddler.

Cannons

Turret Tower

Sunset and closing time loomed on us. Pigeons swarmed together in the fading sun light. We walked by giant clock tower which is still maintained admiring the architecture, lemon and orange trees on the grounds; with a promise to come again – this time with more time to spare.

Clock Tower at Chowmahalla Palace

The school search begins…

Its November, that time of the year where schools in Hyderabad give out admission forms for the next school year starting June.

All parents around me have warned me to get started with the school research. Apparently, you should enroll your kid into the school of your choice in nursery. I have been told that its harder to get enrolled in kindergarten or in first grade.

Varun is still a baby and I can’t think about school and him in the same sentence, but for the past week or so, school is what I have on my mind. At ~3 years, kids begin going to a nursery school for 3 1/2 hours.

As we both work, we also need to figure our after school day care and transportation from the school to daycare.

And also, we need to look at which curriculum we want to enroll Varun ( International Board IGCSE or CBSE), commute ( send him by school bus or drop him and pick him up), smaller school or an established larger organization etc. Too many factors to think about.

Following is the list of schools that we have in mind:

1. Oakridge International School

2. Chirec Public School

3. Indus

4. Manthan

5. Delhi Pubic School

6. Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan

Based on early feedback from friends and colleagues, last two are hard to get in and are very academics heavy. If you want your kid to win Olympiads and get into IIT these are the schools to go to. Oakridge and Chirec are both very popular with Indians returning back. Both have variety of  extra curricular activities, strong faculty though parents mentioned Chirec is more focussed on academics than Oakridge. But Oakridge have air-conditioned  classrooms –  a luxury by Indian standards but a necessity while enduring Hyderabad summers.

Indus seems to be perfect bet with the balance of academics and others activities but is too far from Kondapur area (where we live) and is also the most expensive. Manthan is one of the smaller schools not quiet as established as Oakridge and Chirec but loved by the parents who send their kids there.

Anyways, we also have the option of taking a chance and not sending him to these big banner schools and keep him in a smaller school for nursery. The class size will be around 15 – 20 and he will not be lost in sea of faces. And hopefully he will get to have some fun as well.

7. Oi Playschool School

8. Blueblocks

Well, this is just the beginning. Over the next couple of weeks we plan to visit a few of these schools, collect forms, get more information, talk to more parents and possibly be inetreviewed (parent interviews 🙁 ) as we begin the next phase of parenting journey.

If you have recommendations, resources and feedback that will help us narrow this down, please leave a comment below.

Navratri in Srisailam

Post Ganesh chathurthi, as a kid, I used to wait for Navratri – the nine day long festival to worship Goddess Durga – to begin. Not for the worship part as much as the garba and sweets that mom used to make for prasad.

This is the time of the year where the goddess is treated as a daughter returning home and pampered with food, entertainment and joy before she returns to her husband’s house on the tenth day of Dusshera.Mom being very religious used to visit temple and offer ‘auti’ – a combination of rice, turmeric, kumkum, coconut and a new blouse piece to the goddess. Occasionally we used to travel to my native place near Akola and Amravati for Navratri festival.

This year, mom and dad are visiting for Navratri and we planned to visit Srisailam – a temple town for Shiva and Goddess Parvati devotees. Mom especially was thrilled about visiting a temple during Navratri. We were thrilled for the scenic drive through Nallamalla forest.

We started around 9:30 am after breakfast. After leaving the rocky terrain around Hyderabad, we drove through scruffy brush before ending up in beautiful countryside of mainly cotton and bajra farms, cow and goat herds and finally the lush vegetation and misty forest around Srisailam. We saw waterfalls, monkeys, ant hills and even wild hyena!

Around Munnanaur we took a chai and restroom break. The ginger tea in the cold drizzling morning was perfect. Varun was fascinated by the large pot of milk being boiled over wood fire and people sitting around the wood stove to stay warm. He squatted on the floor right next to them for a couple of mins before he was distracted by the monkeys.

The last 50 kms or so as we climbed up the ghats, temperatures dropped, the road twisted and turned and finally crossed over the Krishna river bridge to reach the APTDC Haritha resort.

The resort is strictly basic, with no room service and a onsite restaurant that serves buffet style meals. We had lunch at the restaurant before going up to the rooms for an afternoon nap. around 4:30 ish, we drove about 1/2 km to Rope Way that took us down to the banks of Krishna river.

We then took a half a hour boat ride on the reservoir and up to the dam and back.

It was a peaceful evening with pilgrims taking a bath in the river before visiting the temple.

Fishermen in round boats waited around to give joy rides or make a catch.

Later we drove to the temple which was beautifully lit.

Like most temples, there is a special VIP darshan line with a ticket of INR 100. It saved us time waiting in the line for the darshan. After darshan we strolled around in the main market area outside the temple. Then we went to Sahasra Bhojanalaya for dinner – a clean-ish place with fairly decent food.

After dinner, we walked back to our resort and slept.

Next morning, after breakfast, which was complimentary, we drove back home.  En-route we stopped at various vista points to take in the dam and the river views, the bathing ghats, the gorge that leads back up from the river and the rocky terrain.

It rained earlier in the morning and the ‘mitti ki kshuboo’ with jungle scent was refreshing.

We had planned to go to Akkamahadevi caves 10 kms upstream on river Krishna – but were told that the boat route was stopped due to a Supreme Court ban. The other plan was to go to Mallela Theertham falls but the road didn’t look too good. Also mom was not up to the challenge of climbing 350 odd steps down to the falls and backup.

We reached home around 2:30 pm after buying sackful of custard apples.

It was a lovely trip through beautiful scenery. It could easily be planned as a day trip- but the un-hurried pace made up appreciate the scenery, herds, farms etc even more.