Into the wilderness

It so happened that I have a friend who is a bird and nature lover living on the outskirts of the city in Sehore and he invited me to visit his farms to capture a glimpse of the beautiful birds living around the farm. One particular bird I wanted to see was the owl as I had never seen any closely. And my friend is an expert in the identification of various types of owls.

The first sight we saw was of a beautiful golden backed woodpecker,which has a distinctive red crown and crest. It’s widely distributed throughout the country.

This adorable barn owl was sleeping peacefully on a palm tree, a pale colored medium sized bird it’s the most widely distributed species of owl in the world.

A beautiful pair of spotted dove were perched on a branch.

a pair of spotted doves perched on the tree

Pied starling

Chilly mushroom and baby corn

The chilly mushroom and baby corn is an absolutely delicious delicacy and can be cooked with little efforts at home. It can be made using the following ingredients:

MUSHROOM, BABY CORN, CAPSICUM , ONION, CHILLY SAUCE, VINEGAR, SOYA SAUCE, CORN FLOUR, SALT

METHOD

To begin, heat some oil in a non stick pan and shallow fry the baby corns until golden brown.

When the corns are a little soft, add some chopped mushrooms at this point.Put them separately after cooking both of them properly.In the same pan, add some oil and some chopped onion and capsicum pieces and then saute them keeping the flame high. The capsicum is left somewhat under cooked and crispy.

For the gravy, take one cup water and add one tablespoon cornflour for thick consistency.Mix well and add to the pan. At this stage we need to put the sauces and vinegar according to taste. The level of spiciness can vary. Wait for the gravy to boil and after that, the cooked mushrooms and baby corns kept aside are added along with salt according to taste.

Serve the dish and enjoy

Covid biodiversity conservation

We humans have been ignoring the importance of nature for so long and when we cause destruction in a large scale, we face the hard consequences. At a time when the world is suffering with economic, social and health devastation due to coronavirus it is important to think how our actions are giving rise to such animal related pandemics. Due to population explosion nearly half of the worldโ€™s land has been converted into agriculture. Mostly, the tropical forests have suffered in the last few decades. In Africa, continuous loss of forests has brought the wild primates and humans closer and sharing the same space. When people venture into forests for resources it increases the chances of zoonotic diseases transmission.

The lockdown imposed in various countries around the world has seen closure of industries, reduced air traffic and no movement of vehicles. The nature has begun reviving and thriving in the absence of humans.There has been an unprecedented reduction in air pollution in major cities of the world. According to the World Health Organization air pollution kills 7 million people every year. Wild animals have begun to reclaim their lost spaces and Odisha coast has seen mass hatching of the endangered Olive Ridley Sea turtle due to lockdown. For many years, scientists have been demanding that climate crisis should be taken seriously. However, closing factories banning cars and putting a stop to economic activity is not a sustainable way to tackle climate change and conserve biodiversity.

Coronavirus has shown that to prevent the climate, the countries need to make changes which includes encouraging green technology, switching to clean energy instead of fossil fuel and creating new way of working from home so as to reduce vehicular pollution. Renewable energy adoption is the most important tool we can use to curb rising temperatures. Solar, hydroelectric and wind energies donโ€™t emit greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. Humans have been heavily dependent on coal, oil and other fossil fuels due to which greenhouse gases have reached high levels.

In our oceans due to the climate change, roughly half of the coral reefs have been lost in the last thirty years. The Amazon, the planetโ€™s largest rainforest lost at least seventeen percent of its forest cover in the last half century due to human activity. About one million species are facing the risk of extinction. The biodiversity loss is threatening this mass extinction of animals. Many scientists believe that we are at the beginning of a sixth mass extinction because animal species around the world are declining at a significantly higher rate due to habitat degradation.

The forest fire in Australia is a resut of global warming which has now made thousands of Australian species endangered. The pandemics that keep arising are a result of gobal illegal trade in wildlife which has threatened many species.
In order to ensure the prevention of future pandemics and to conserve animal species around the world, it is necessary to educate people about the inherent dangers of human to wildlife contact to limit consumer demand for wildlife and wildlife products. If there is demand in the market wildlife trade will continue.

The government should be strict towards encroachment of humans into the forests; tourism should be restricted in sensitive regions which are home to endangered species of wildlife and the involvement of the local communities living close to the protected areas is crucial for the protection of species. Youth and students need to be educated in schools and colleges about biodiversity conservation. The efforts of a handful people are in vain unless there is mass awareness amongst common people about the integral role our biodiversity plays in survival of all species and humans. It is important to understand that forests provide vast array of resources to all of us. Without the trees, the ecosystem that supports the human population can fall apart. It is wise to act now before itโ€™s too late.

Refreshing summer drinks

Summers are scorching and unrelenting in India and to beat the heat, a wide variety of delicious and healthy home made Indian drinks come to the rescue. These rejuvenating drinks can be made very easily at home.

PINEAPPLE JUICE

The delicious pineapple can be used to make this refreshing juice which provides respite from the hot weather. A pinch of black salt can be added for extra flavor.

COLD COFFEE

Cold coffee is a universal drink and is loved by people all over the world. Enjoy your favourite coffee with chilled milk and lots of chocolate sauce to enhance the taste.

AAM PANA (RAW MANGO DRINK)

The king of fruits, mango is the pride of India.Summers are incomplete without the beloved aam pana made from the pulp of raw mangoes. Crushed cumin seeds, black salt and fresh mint leaves are added and it is consumed as a tasty and healthy beverage to beat the intense Indian summer heat.

SWEET LIME JUICE

Sweet lime is a sweet and mild flavored fruit resembling oranges and apart from its refreshing taste is an immunity booster with loads of vitamin C.

SALTY BUTTERMILK

This amazingly delicious drink is made with mixing curd and water and churning it to attain a fine consistency. Some crushed cumin seeds along with garnished mint leaves bring out it’s wonderful taste. It is one of my favorite and also gives instant energy during dehydration.

Pachmarhi the queen of Satpura

Nestled in the verdant hills of Satpura in Central India, Pachmarhi offers nature lovers an exhilarating experience.Pachmarhi is 191 km away from Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh the nearest station being Pipariya and nearest airport Bhopal. The name is derived from two hindi words Panch (five) and Marhi (Caves).
It is believed that these caves were built by five Pandava brothers of Mahabharat during their period of exile.

When thinking of Pachmarhi,what comes to mind are the popular tourist destinations.However,I am always interested to go to the unexplored peaceful destinations with lots of birds.The beauty of Pachmarhi was beyond my expectations.The greenery and tranquility of the place makes it an ideal place for a cycling trip,with narrow, empty roads stretching between vast grasslands and trees.the best part of the visit was the Cantonment park situated beside the chhota talab.It was just the place for a bird lover like me.There were birds everywhere! Different kinds of birds at one place and what a peaceful place it was,I wish I could live in such a place I would not have to go anywhere else for bird watching!

                                                                   As it was beside the lake,there were pied and small blue kingfishers catching fish and lots of other water birds.Another main attraction is the Pandav caves, due to which Pachmarhi has derived it’s name, which provides an excellent vantage point of the small town.

Pandav Caves
Cantonment park

One evening of ours was spent having dinner at Rock End Manor, a beautiful resort of MP tourism, situated on a hill top, 2 km from the main market. It has excellent view of the town with a nice open verandah where one can spend early mornings having a nice cup of tea and listening to the chirping of birds! This place is definitely the perfect staying option…

Rock end Manor

There is an old abandoned Catholic church on Mahadeo road with beautiful English architecture and marvelous stained glass windows

The old British Church
Glass windows inside the church

The place is pleasant to during monsoon and winters with lots of MP tourism hotels as staying options at different prices for people with both low and high budgets. Its a nice, peaceful place for a weekend getaway…..

Mandav, the ancient city of joy

I am blessed to call Madhya Pradesh my home as the state has so many hidden gems which are not in the list of typical tourists. Located in the Dhar district of western Madhya Pradesh, Central India, Mandav is a ruined city which is celebrated for its fine architecture built by the muslim rulers of Delhi during the Malwa period.The cultural heritage of Mandav makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Madhya Pradesh. The place with its unique culture, history and verdant greenery is sure to create an unforgettable experience.

PLACES TO VISIT

JAHAZ MAHAL

Made in the 14th century , the famous and magnificent Jahaz mahal surrounded by artificial lakes is a palace with beautiful architecture and verdant sprawling gardens which was meant for the relaxation of the Kings and Queens. It is spread over a vast area with timeless ruins revealing the glorious tales of a bygone era.

Ruins in front of Jahaz Mahal

HINDOLA MAHAL (PALACE)

The Hindola Mahal (Swinging palace) was a large meeting hall with beautiful architecture and arches built by the Mughal emperors. Also its most striking features are the brightly lit roofs carved in beautiful shapes to allow sunlight to lit up the inside.

Hindola Mahal
The beautiful arches of Hindola Mahal
A window of Jahaz Mahal
The Back portion of Jahaz Mahal
The roof of the dome inside Hindola Mahal
Garden of Jahaz Mahal

BAZ BAHADUR PALACE

Named after the ruler of Mandav the Baz Bahaur palace was built in the 16th century around large hills and green landscape. A palace built for his beloved Rani Roopmati can also be seen from this place.

The view of the verdant greenery of Mandav from Baz Bahadur palace
Baz Bahadur Palace
Rani Roopmati Mahal view

JAAMI MOSUE

The Jaami mosque built by the Mughals is the finest example of Afghani architecture.

Jaami Mosque

WHERE TO STAY

There are various budget as well as luxury staying options in Mandav. The Madhya Pradesh tourism has two luxury resorts the Malwa retreat and Malwa resort. The Malwa resort situated near a large lake offers breathtaking views of the lake and is an absolute bliss to stay in during the monsoons.

MP TOURISM Malwa Resort
the views of the Malwa valley

WHEN TO VISIT

Mandav is a heaven for history and nature lovers and becomes a profound beauty adorned with emerald green landscape during the monsoon months.Its strategic location in the hills make the weather cool and breezy. The winters months are also pleasant to visit the place. The nearest city Indore is only 100 km away.

Simple Indian veg recipes to try in quarantine

India has countless vegan food varieties which are famous all over the world. Every cuisine is unparalleled and nothing beats the freshly prepared food at home. Since going outside for dining is not an option, let’s take a look at all the delicious and simple Indian recipes you can try at home.

VEG MANCHOW SOUP

Popular in Indian Chinese cuisine, its preparation is very easy and taste is spicy. Some cooked noodles are also put into it to enhance the taste.

It’s made with veggies cut into small pieces and mixing the required amount of chilli sauce, soya sauce, tomato ketchup and vinegar.

PANI PURI

The most popular, mouth watering and loved street food of India, Pani puri can be enjoyed at home making flavored water with raw mango, mint leaves and spices and can be filled with potatoes.

LEMON RICE AND RASAM

This tasty and healthy South Indian dish takes cooks in less time. The gravy of rasam is made of crushed tomatoes, curry leaves, black pepper and tamarind paste which gives it a lovely aroma. This served with fresh lemon rice is an amazing combination.

ALOO TIKKI (Potato cutlet)

This delicious and highly popular street food of India made with mashed potatoes is liked by almost everyone, served with onions, sev, chutney, chickpea or yoghurt it is filled with multiple flavors and is savoured by food lovers all over the country.

LENTILS AND RICE PANCAKE

This pancake is made from the mix batter of soaked rice and lentils and then spread evenly on a pan. Served with chutney or ketchup, it is an innovative dish to try.

SUJI UTTAPAM ( SEMOLINA PANCAKE)

It’s is absolutely appetizing and delicious cuisine made from vegetables and semolina. The semolina is mixed with yoghurt and water, allowed to sit for some time then mixed with vegetables, curry leaves and cooked in a pan. Tempering it with curry leaves and mustard seeds makes it aromatic.

Served with a peanut or coconut chutney, it is my all time favorite.

SCHEZWAN GARLIC FRIED RICE

This easy to cook recipe is popular in Indo Chinese restaurants and is made with Schezwan chutney, chilly and soya sauces alongside finely chopped vegetables.

SABUDANA KHICHDI ( SAGO)

This is the favorite signature dish of every household and is wonderful recipe made with crushed peanuts and potatoes. Its super easy and effortlessly made and enjoyed with fresh yoghurt.

Bhutan The land of happiness

Pictures fail to portray the beauty of this little country.Nestled in the eastern Himalayas Bhutan is the only country in the world which gives more importance to gross national happiness instead of gross national product. A country which still preserves it’s rich culture and traditions and has not let modernization overshadow it’s heritage. It has also preserved it’s environment and has not allowed any development which compromises with destruction of nature. It’s home to some of the most friendly people and warm hospitality. Because of it’s unspoiled beauty, it has been termed as the last Shangri la.

Looking out from the flight window the views of some of the highest mountain ranges of the world keep you engaged throughout the journey. The grandeur of Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga was such that which cant be expressed in words.

mount Kanchenjunga
The traditional architecture of Bhutan airport

Although it was the off season when we visited, the beauty of the country was no less… The autumn had painted the landscape in various hues of yellow and orange! We stayed 2 nights in Thimphu,  in Punakha and 2 in Paro.

Chillies adorning the windows

On first day in Thimphu, we decided to explore the place a bit and went to The Great Buddha Dordenma.The place situated near Thimphu has a gigantic beautiful gold gilded statue of Buddha and scenic views of the city.

Buddha point Thimphu
Buddha point


Tashichhoedzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the city of Thimphu in Bhutan, on the western bank of the Wang Chu.

And those who know me are aware that foodie I am….so I tried these local Bhutanese cuisines, one was red rice which is native to Bhutan and the delicious Ema Datsi which is made from boiled vegetables and chillies in a gravy of butter and cheese.Chilly is widely used in Bhutanese cuisine.

Ema Datshi
red rice
apple trees at our homestay in Thimphu

If you are in Thimphu,and the weather is pleasant (which will be) I recommend you take a walk all the way from Thimphu main market to Tashichhoedzong. Trust me you will be amazed! The whole path is so beautiful with road surrounded with giant maple trees and in fall season, the whole landscape is a mesmerizing sight with the autumn green and yellow hues ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚ all around

The colors of autumn
Tashichhoedzong or Thimphu fort view at night
Eurasian Tree sparrows
Dochula pass
view of The Himalayas

on the way to Paro

After traveling to Punakha,we went to Paro back for the last part of our journey and the world famous and majestic Tigers Nest monastery. One thing to keep in mind that you need good shoes and lots of fitness as the trek all the way to monastery is long and arduous.
We stayed in this lovely homestay with warm hospitality,The Nivvana Homestay and Lodge which is far away from main market but quite close to the monastery.The host, Karma and the manager are extremely kind and welcoming and serve yummy authentic local cuisines. Highly recommend.

Tiger’s nest monastery
our beautiful homestay the Nirvana lodge
homestay

Gandhi sagar Wildlife Sanctuary

Gandhisagar is very close to my heart as the trip was not just for tourism but for participating in the bird survey organised by MP forest department. This was my first bird survey and was a very enlightening experience with many learned bird experts from around the state and country joining the event.

The Gandhisagar Dam

Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary situated on the northern boundary of Mandsaur and Nimach districts in Madhya Pradesh.The chambal river passes through the sanctuary and as a result the sanctuary is home to a large variety of water birds. But it’s best known as a habitat for vultures as it is one of the few sanctuaries in india where some of the the critically endangered species of vultures can be found.

Group of Indian vultures
indian vultures

The survey lasted 2 days during which were supposed to stay in a home of forest guard deep in the middle of the forest! The feeling of being far away from human habitation and living in the midst of wilderness was surreal. We got wonderful opportunity for spotting plenty of Indian and Egyptian vultures. Once found in abundance throughout India vultures have been listed as critically endangered in the IUCN red List and are now restricted only to few parts of the country. Around 5-6 species of vultures can be found in Gandhisagar including King vulture.

Red crested Pochards

The ponds and water bodies scattered throughout the sanctuary host variety of pochards and storks, with many species of pochards migrating from Europe in winters.

yellow throated sparrow
Indian Cormorant
inside the forest
Chambal river
Our bird survey team

Munnar Kerala

The journey to Kerela was a long and exhausting one that too in not so good weather but the experience was worth it. The beautiful little tea estate never fails to mesmerize anyone visiting this quaint and laid back town.Since I had only four days at hand it was not possible to cover some other parts of Kerela. Nevertheless, here are few interesting things to do while you are in Munnar;

ERAVIKULAM NATIONAL PARK

This national park is situated very close to the city of Munnar and is a must visit place for wildlife lovers. One can enjoy diverse flora and fauna within the park and in the buffer area. However the park remains closed during the months of February and March.

Tea estates
Road towards eravikulam national park

BIRD WATCHING

For bird lovers, Munnar is a paradise with about 200 species. One can constantly hear the calls of the elusive White cheeked barbet and Red whiskered Bulbuls everywhere.

white wagtail
myna
southern hill myna

MATTUPETTY DAM

Situated only a few kms from Munnar, one can visit this place for a long scenic drive along the dam road

KATHAKALI

While in Munnar,don’t forget to immerse yourself in the splendor of Kerala’s traditional dance form Kathakali. The dance form combines devotion, drama, dance,music,costume and convert it into a divine experience for the viewers.

RELAXING AND LOCAL SIGHTSEEING

For tea lovers, there are many tea factories where one can get an insight into the process of tea making and purchase some local manufactured tea. Also, there are delicious mouth watering home made chocolates sold everywhere at Munnar which does not match the taste of chocolates found anywhere in India.

STAYING OPTIONS

One can find many cheap and good staying options in hotels and home stays and if one wants is looking for a peaceful stay then it is better to stay on the outskirts of Munnar town. Ours was a homestay , the Winter Gardens located at a few kilometers from Munnar in Anachal. The home is situated in an idyllic setting on top of a hill and offers breathtaking views of the tea estates. The cute little balcony is the highlight of the place. However, I would suggest this homestay only when you are visiting in good weather because it involves a steep climb up the hill! It is very budget friendly also and the host takes care of everything you need.

Airbnb The winter Garden

GETTING AROUND

Although most tourists use taxi for local sightseeing but these prove expensive and one can easily hire scooter or bike from the old Munnar town which cost around Rs 500- Rs 750 per day. Exploring Munnar on a two wheeler is a wonderful experience and those with excellent driving skills should definitely go for it.

BEST SEASON

Ideal season would be the winter months of December and January when the weather is pleasant and the monsoon months when all the waterfalls are in spate and the town is covered in lush greenery. During the hot summer months, the days become very hot and it becomes difficult to step outside in the afternoon.