Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Amboli Trip report and snaps

An attempt by a friend - Animish Mandrekar - to put forward what he clicked during his recent 3 day trip to Amboli.

Please click the below link for view his blog:

Do click on the link, there are some beautiful photos of amphibians that are rarely captured or photographed.

Friday, September 07, 2007

An evening in Mumbai

Hindu Business Line

…or a daylong discovery of Chennai — organised must-sees minus the hassles.

By engaging locals, they get invaluable “insider” information as well.

Shaju John

Inside a city: Catamaran at the Marina Beach

Vijaysree Venkatraman

There are tour operators galore cashing in on the travel boom to our photogenic country, but few have taken up the formidable challenge of ensuring clients a tourism-rich experience. Filter Coffee Tours hopes to make a difference with services that help well-heeled international visitors experience the subcontinent’s colour and complexity, minus the customary hiccups.

Back in 2004, Zuleika Nazneen, an HR professional and Deepa Krishnan, a banking consultant, formed a company to offer customised tours for business travellers to Chennai. They realised they had a niche market as overseas clients — with a weekend or evenings to spare — turned to them for advice on local must-sees and places to go gift-shopping for friends and family back home. Soon they began catering to other high-end travellers looking for premium tours in the chaotic metro.

Hardly anyone in the business sees the city as little more than a gateway to the real tourist spots which lie further afield. But Zuleika, who requisitions vehicles from her husband’s travel agency, successfully hunts for new places of interest — as a counterpoint to the not-to-be-missed ancient temples of Chennai. And Deepa recently created Mumbai Magic. Both entrepreneurs are conceptualising creative tours that afford quiet moments of discovery in metros where the frenetic pace of life can unsettle the uninitiated visitor.

Mumbai Magic

An antiques shop in Mumbai.

Mumbai offers a kaleidoscope of experiences for anyone who is willing to venture into the narrow and crowded alleys of the city’s various marketplaces. “But my clients will always get more than an offbeat shopping experience even at places like Chor Bazaar,” says Deepa. This tour of the “thieves market” begins at Mutton Street, which is flanked by antique shops selling cuckoo clocks, gramophones and other bric-a-brac. Further, every side-street has its speciality product — perfumes, kebabs and what have you.

The guides have been specially trained to point out aspects that visitors would otherwise miss out — the neighbourhood mosque with the marzipan colours, the pastel shades the Bohri Muslim women dress in as opposed to black burqas< /em>, and other minutiae that make the place distinctive. Even as they walk away with decent bargains, the visitors get a quick primer on Islam as it is practised in that corner of the city.

Woven into every tour narrative is the story of how Mumbai became this bustling cosmopolitan city from its humble beginnings as a fishing village. The cultural diversity is evident in everyday lives. Besides, the city’s calendar is full of festivals, many of which involve exuberant public celebrations.

And there are other finds. In the winter months, Mumbai is home to half a million birds, a fact which even long-time residents are unaware of. Flamingos, a good quarter-lakh of them, make their colourful appearance in Sewri Bay tucked away amidst tall buildings, slums, and open dumping grounds.

On your feet

Paul Noronha

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations

Tours for smaller groups — less than six people— include bazaar walks, heritage district walks and boat tours, minus car service costs. The Cuisine Tour, a special treat for foodies, is new on the menu. A Cricket Tour is also on the cards in both Mumbai and Chennai.

Deepa and Zuleika pay their multilingual guides — five in Mumbai and three in Chennai — handsomely. They also promote responsible tourism and try to ensure that some of the money generated trickles into the neighbourhood. By engaging locals in their business, they get invaluable “insider” information as well.

On the whole one wonders if it is easier to sell Mumbai, which also gets a greater share of international visitors. Chennai does have a reputation of being a staid city, says the bubbly Zuleika, but visitors delight in everything it has to offer. “For many of them shopping for silks in Usman Road, buying trinkets on the sidewalks in Pondy Bazaar or just crossing the roads becomes an adventure,” she adds.

But there is more. The truly daring can go on a catamaran ride at dawn. These boats are nothing more than logs of wood tied together and used by fishermen all along the Coromandel coast. Filter Coffee Tours also takes groups to watch kol am (flour-based painting) contests in Mylapore, a suburb which is even older than the city it is now a part of.

Living traditions

S.R. Raghunathan

Kolam festival in Chennai

Many aspects of our culture that we consider commonplace could be fascinating for the visitor if the significance behind these living traditions is researched and presented well, says Deepa. Nor does she believe in confining her operations to familiar cities — the ones she grew up or worked in. So the capital New Delhi — with the Taj Mahal as a day trip — has been added on.

Drawing up imaginative tours involves researching facts and asking people the right questions. “That is how you find the legends and stories,” says Deepa. A three-generation-blog — — which she maintains together with her mother and her teenaged daughter, is a fount of information on various communities, cuisines and locales in Mumbai. “I can’t wait to come to India, and try all this,” says a visitor to the blog.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

14 Sep : Music Concert_ SIGNUM QUARTETT

Not sure of the Location details. Please call your local Max Mueller Bhavan / Goethe Institut

Max Mueller Bhavan/ Goethe-Institut

an collaboration with



Signum Quartett

String quartets covering three centuries: from Joseph Haydn to Jörg Widmann

Saturday, 8 September 2007
6.30 p.m.
The Seminar Hall
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)

New Delhi

** Passes available at Max Mueller Bhavan reception on first-come-first-serve

Signum Quartett
Kerstin Dill (violin)
Annette Walther (violin)
Simon Tandree (viola)
Thomas Schmitz (cello)

Following successful performances in Chennai and Puducherry in 2006, the internationally renowned Signum Quartett now embarks on an extensive tour of South Asia at the invitation of the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan. The programme for the concert in Delhi will include pieces by Schumann and Haydn and will feature the first violin quartet by the young German composer Jörg Widman.

The Signum Quartett received its first lessons from Konrad Grahe. Shortly after its founding, the quartet was awarded 1st prize in Germany's 1994 nationwide youth competition Jugend musiziert and a prize at the Charles Hennen Concours in 1997. They continued their studies with the Melos and Alban Berg quartets. Masterclasses with György Kurtàg, Tabea Zimmermann, the Artemis quartet as well as with members of the Amadeus, Smetana, Cherubini, and the LaSalle Quartets were further inspirations.

In the framework of the summer academy Prague-Vienna-Budapest in 1999, the Signum Quartett received the Thomastik Infeld prize which enabled the four musicians to record a live CD in Vienna. The ensemble was awarded scholarships from the chamber music foundation Villa Musica and the Werner Richard- Dr. Carl Dörken foundation, the "Freunde junger Musiker Düsseldorf/Meerbusch" and the Bruno-Frey-Stiftung. In 2004, the Signum Quartett won the nationwide German Musikwettbewerb and the special award of Zonta International. At the previous Musikwettbewerb competition in 2000, they received a scholarship and the special prize of the Rheingau music festival.

The Signum Quartett performed extensively in Barcelona and Madrid, at the Schubertiada a Vilbertran in Spain, at the Ludwigsburger Festspiele festival, the Oberstdorfer Musiksommer, the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the Salon of the Arts in Sofia, and at the Rheingau music festival. Their concerts were broadcast nationally and internationally, by the WDR, NDR, SWR, BR, Deutschlandfunk, DRS, and ORF radios. Following an initiative by the Villa Musica foundation, the four musicians were invited to record a CD with the SWR radio. The programme juxtaposes works by Schumann and Haydn with the world premiere recording of Jörg Widmann's first string quartet.

Concert programme
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): String Quartet in D major, op.76, No.5 (1797)
Jörg Widmann (born in 1973): String Quartet No.1 (1997)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856): String Quartet in A major, op. 41/3 (1842)

Tourplan South Asia

                03.09. 2007 Karachi
                05.09. 2007 Lahore
                07.09. 2007 Jaipur
                08.09. 2007 New Delhi
                10.09. 2007 Dhaka
                12.09. 2007 Kolkata
                14.09. 2007 Mumbai
                17.09. 2007 Hyderabad
                19.09. 2007 Bangalore
                21.09. 2007 Chennai
                23.09. 2007 Colombo