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Showing posts from March, 2017

Befriending the King Cobra at Agumbe

I love snakes. They fascinate me. Having watched countless of documentaries on reptiles on National Geographic, Animal Planet and the Discovery channel, I have always wanted to meet Romulus Whitaker; the legendary snake rescuer. That too in Agumbe; India's largest home to the King Cobra. But I couldn't find his base and if I could go and spend some time with him there, possibly chasing the King. But his chase led me to P. Gowri Shankar who runs the Kalinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology (KCRE). Gowri was trained under Whitaker and has featured with him in television documentaries too. And much to my joy, KCRE had planned a King Cobra workshop in March. It all fell in place then and I soon boarded a Jet Airways flight to Mangalore and hopped in the cab that took me 70 kms deep in the western ghats, onto the mountains of Agumbe.

(The western ghats as seen from Agumbe ghats)

Located about five kilometres from a small village called Guddekere, which itself is about 9 kms from Agumb…

A walk in Chor Bazaar, Mumbai

Many big urban cities around the world have real markets where you get cheap stuff, replicas and some genuine treasures. Mumbai too has its own such flea market; the Chor Bazaar. It is off Sardar Vallabhai Patel Marg, which itself starts from Opera House, south Mumbai, runs past Harkisondas Hospital (now Reliance Foundation Hospital) and then goes on to meet the J.J. Flyover. The SVP Marg was earlier known as Sandhurst Road. If you go down straight this road, past the JJ Flyover, right down this road till the end and then turn left, you will reach Sandhurst Road railway station; India's first- and possibly the world's- split level railway station. This means that few platforms (No.1 and 2, in this case) are at ground level and the remaining (platforms No.3 and 4) are at an elevated level or a bridge.

Coming back to SVP Patel road, go to Gol Deval (round temple). This was earlier a temple as a roundabout but over time the authorities added the extension and made it look like a…

Book Review - Halt Station India by Rajendra B. Aklekar

Just finished reading ‘Halt Station India’ by Rajendra B. Aklekar. It’s a book on the nation’s first railway lines. Much of the book devotes on how the Great India Peninsula Railway (GIPR; now Central Railway or CR) was built, but the book also delves on Bombay, Baroda & Central India railway (BB&CI; now Western Railway or WR) and a bit on the many tramways that once dotted Bombay's (now Mumbai) streets. The book is a fascinating read for those us who love Indian railways and trains. Halt Station India starts- in a manner of speaking- at the Camberwell Old Cemetery London where James John Berkley’s grave is there and then going back in time to trace his journey from London to Bombay where he was sent to build Asia’s first railway line. He was appointed as the Chief Resident Engineer of the GIPR. Berkley passed away in England in 1862. His bust lies on the walls of the massive CST Terminus on the fa├žade that faces Bazaar Gate and the bus depot at CST.
But our journey has ju…

My dream of Mumbai's Metro and Monorail

It has been quite a while since the first phase of Monorail (Wadala-Chembur) in Mumbai was inaugurated. The second phase (Wadala-Mahalaxmi) is still under construction. Meanwhile, the first Mumbai Metro route is running to packed capacity between Versova - Ghatkopar.

While the Versova - Ghatkopar metro route has brought about a lot of relief to the east-west city commute on and around this route, the rest of the city continues to reel under increasing traffic that promises to get insane by the day. Offices have shifted to new suburban commercial areas like Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) and Kalina Santacruz.  But public transport is so pathetic there that during peak hours, especially evenings, it's almost impossible to catch a rickshaw, much less get into crowded buses that ferry thousands of people to nearby suburban railway stations. It's inhuman; looks like a sea of people on the streets after what appears to be just a dozen rickshaws.

Once after finishing a meeting in Santac…