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EXPLORING INDIA : From Kaziranga to the Himalayas to the desert of Jaisalmer to the backwaters of Allepey to the sun baked coral beaches of Lakshadweep....A first hand account of exploring this beautiful country.



Friday, May 27, 2005

Renukaji Lake in Himachal Pradesh

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There are few occasions when the weekends get extended by a preceding holiday on Friday or a succeeding holiday on Monday. Dehradun being nicelely located, such weekends presents opportunities to explore new places. We used the last such extended weekend to visit Tehri - the sinking town. This time we had the choice to go to Chakrata or Renukaji. I influenced the decision in favour of Renukaji as I expected less hill driving than going to Chakrata which is located even higher than Mussorie. But it was not to be.

The place :

A search with Google on Renukaji Lake produced 277 results indicating it is a lesser known destination. Renuka is the mother of Lord Parshurama, one of the avatar of Lord Vishnu. Located at 672 meters, the main attraction here is a sprawling lake amidst the sylvan surroundings named after Renukaji. With a circumference of 3214m, Renukaji is the largest natural lake in Himachal. The lake is shaped like the profile of a reclining woman. At the base of the Renuka lake, there is another fairly large water body, called the Parshurama Taal, which is considered to embrace Lord Parshurama, who wished to spend all eternity at his mother's feet. Most of us from Assam know that Parshurama dug the mighty river Brahmaputra to wash the sins of killing his mother and shake off the killer axe that got stuck to his hand. But Renukaji lake symbolises another aspects of our life, the love for our mother.

The journey :

We had started from Dehradun on my Wagon R and proceeded via Harbartpur enroute to Poanta Sahib. My colleague, Mahesh was accompanying us with his wife. Uttaranchal ends at Poanta. You have to cross a bridge across the the river Yamuna to enter Himachal Pradesh. The toll I paid of thirty rupees is the highest ever I had paid for crossing any bridge. I do not understand why we have to pay tolls on bridges on the highway. This is rampant specially in North India. There should be a movement or PIL to stop this menace. Poanta Sahib is 45 km from Dehradun and is a famous revered shrine of the Sikhs. Near the gurudwara, there is a hotel owned by HP Tourism where you can book accomodation at Hotel Renuka, a HP Tourism hotel located on the banks of the Renuka Lake. The hotel being very small, it is hard to get bookings on weekends. But mind you, the best place to stay in Renukaji is Hotel Renuka only. We did not get rooms. Still we proceeded. There are two roads from Poanta to Renukaji, one is a shortcut of about 60 km and the other ivia Nahan is about 80 km. The shortcut being not very motorable, we proceeded via Nahan. Stiff climb upwards starts after driving for about 37 km from Poanta. Climb was really stiff. With 4 people in my Wagon R, it refused to move in 3rd gear for most of the ascend to Nahan. It was 45 km to Nahan from Poanta. A connecting road from Chandigarh meets this road just before entering Nahan town. Chandigarh is about 84 km from here. We did not stop at Nahan, as it just looked like another town in the hills with narrow and stiff slopes where it is difficult to move around. After passing Nahan, we descended a little before start ascending again. After traveling for about 9 km, you need to leave the main road and take a right turn upwards for Renukaji. The main road goes to Shimla, which is about 125 km from this point. Around this point you get a good view of the zig-zag road down below. After driving up for about 2 km, your descend to Renukaji starts. What hit me most in the entire stretch is the lack of road signs, specially warning signs all along the road. You will suddenly face sharp U curves and Z curves without any warning. We reached the town named Dadahu which is the central point for visiting Renukaji. The lake is further 2 km down from the town centre. My tachometer recorded 34 km to Renukaji from Nahan. Overall, it was 124 km from Dehradun.

Five hours at Renukaji :

We reached there at about 3 pm. After having a look at the lake, we came back to the town for making hotel arrangements. Hotel Renuka on the banks of the lake was full and so did the small 3 room guest house on the bank of the Parshuram taal. There are two hotels in the Dadahau town -- Hotel Devicos Plaza and Hotel Himlok. Devicos Plaza, located next to the local bus stand was our choice as it had its own parking area. Rooms were good and well maintained. But rates they display at reception are too exorbitant for such a small place which probably receives tourists only on weekends. Though the displayed rate for Executive class rooms was Rs.900/-, we bargained for Rs.500/- a piece. So, folks, bargaining is on and do not feel shy. But still you would always like to stay at Hotel Renuka right on the banks of the lake. Devicos plaza phone nos. are 01702-267231 to 33.

We went back to the lake and took the zoo safari first. There is a mini zoo built around the lake and there is a driveway along the lake through which you can drive and enjoy the caged animals. The zoo officially closes at 5 pm and is also closed on Monday. They charged 30 rupees as entrance for my car. Do not get excited about the zoo too much. First we met some Nilgais, then two small deers. Thereafter, there was a cage for 3 Himalayan black bears. Next it was lion enclosures. There were 3 female lioness in a closed area and one male lion which was kept in a large open enclosure. As I had read in the brochures, long ago there probably was Nandan Kakan type jeep safari inside the lion cages. But it is no more and also the lions have became old and sick. They may not survive long enough if you visit next year. In one more cage, there were two leopards. That’s all in the ZOO. But only fun was that it was a drive in zoo. Do not even think of taking a walk across the entire zoo. It is almost 4 km in perimeter.

Then we waited for our turn at boating. Maximum 5 boats are allowed in the lake at a time. They charge Rs.120/- for a 4 seater boat and Rs160/- for a six seater boat. But the boat ride is for one hour. One Hour!! Your legs will cry to stop after half an hour. You will like to stay afloat without pedaling and enjoy the surroundings. The water is cast green because of the greenery all around. The water was shallow and there were plenty of fishes as an added attraction. You can see those big fishes jumping around in the lake. Fishing is not allowed here. After, the boating ended, we sat on the walks around the lakes with other tourist to enjoy some real peaceful moments. In the evening we went to watch the aarti at the main temple.

Epilougue :

Hotels were full, but the place was not crowded. You do not get those clumsy Delhiwala guys there to spoil your mood. There were tourists from Delhi and Chandigarh, but good crowd who have come here for peace. More tan the beauty, it is the tranquility of the place that will stuck you most. We bed goodbye to the place at about 8 pm to come back to the hotel. We will probably never go back there because it is too far in the hills. But the memories will always remain with us. I will try to get some photos up as soon as they are ready for your eyes to believe.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Natun Guwahati

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Guwahati landscape has changed drastically over the last few years. First there were three flyovers and now a expressway. On my last visit to my home sweet home, I proceeded on the pilgrimage of Doul Govinda in the new Maruti 800 my mother had purchased for such trips when we visit home once a year. From Beltola - Survey, I took the newly built 4 lane National Highway from Basistha Chariali. Applied pressure on the accelerator got increased with every passing second and the vehicle zoomed as much its engine permitted. Soon it reached 80 plus kmph. I missed the power and the fifth gear of my Wagon R. Did you ever thought of getting a road in Guwahati where you can drive at 80 plus? It is true that we have one now in our city. Only irritant were the rickshaws which keeps coming to you on your side. Unable or not willing to cross the road where it is possible, they just turn on the side they ply. There is no police to stop them. I felt like crushing these buggers who ply violating riles of the road with a bulldozer. Other danger was that many Guwahatians are still not aware of lane driving. They will come close to you and honk at you for side rather than overtaking you by changing lane.

City is expanding to this side because of this expressway. Earlier the area beyond Lakhara had only the Balaji Temple. Now there are few schools including the DPS which has come up. The ISBT will also be ready soon. Real Estate prices have also soared. We had purchased a plot for about 25K a katha around 1998. Prices have gone to anything above 1.5 lakh a katha here.

Moving ahead on the road, I had reached the Jalukbari chariali. Jalukbari chariali ? Where has it gone -- the old Jalukbari chariali ? The place has changed totally. A big traffic round-about has replaced the old charilai -- a place we frequented during our university days. It now actually says --Welcome to Guwahati!

Few other roads have also undergone drastic changes. Beltola road from Last gate to Basistha Chariali is now 100 feet wide. Many shops and buildings close to the main road had to undergo alterations. I do not know whether they got any compensation. Similarly, the narrow Hatigaon road behind the MLA Hostel at Dispur, which used to be totally covered by rickshaws, is now a four lane road with dividers. A traffic roundabout has been put in place at the point where this road starts behind the MLA hostel. There was a daily market near the ASEB office which is no more. But there still is the GNB Road, the same old narrow GNB Road where you will invariably meet traffic jam anytime of the day. It can not take the ever burgeoning traffic of Guwahati. I heard that this time concrete steps have been taken to widen this road.

Traffic in Guwahati is increasing furiously fast. Increase in disposable income had resulted in almost everyone getting a vehicle. When I purchased my Wagon R in end Dec,2002, it got one of the last 100 numbers of AS-01-N series. The new car we had purchased in first week of April, 2005 got a 2000 series number in As-01-V. That is more than 62K vehicle have been added to Guwahati in less than two and half years time.

There were almost nil power cuts during my entire stay during the bihu. Weather was nice. But bihu this time was thandaa. But the picture halls were playing outdated movies. I was told that after the ULFA dictat on banning screening of hindi movies, they carried out a blast in Vandana cinema hall. As such, people are scared to go for movies at cinema halls. Suffering losses, they are forced to run outdated movies.

Overall, I felt nice going home after a year. Hope, facilities in Guwahati improves further.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Filters in Color Photography

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Your film roll can be of either Daylight type or Tungsten type. These are designed to accurately reproduce a scene as seen in a brightly lighted sunny day or at night. But with one of the roll loaded, say daylight type, you may face photographic scenes in both daylight and artificial light. If you take a photo in a tungsten illuminated scene with your daylight type roll, it will appear radish thus making the photo unattractive. Your film roll can not differentiate between these two lighting scenes. This is where you need a filter. Filters are used in colour photography to correct the shift towards a particular hue, say the radish hue of tungsten light or the bluish hue of densely clouded scene. In addition to this there are filters available to add special effect to your photograph. Neutral-density, color-graduated, color-compensating, enhancing, polarizer, soft-focus and specialty filters are used in color photography. You need to experiment and play with various filters to be able to master its use. Filters are generally screwed in front of your lens. So, you need to have an SLR to be able to use filters.

i) Study the scene you wish to photograph. Look for any extreme contrast in light. In a sunset or sunrise, the foreground is darker than the sky.

ii) Use a graduated filter to compensate for these differences in contrast. A graduated filter is half clear glass and half neutral or a color. It allows the foreground to absorb more light and make the contrast between the sky and foreground less extreme.

iii) Use a polarizer to prevent glare from the surface of water or from bright sunlight. A polarizer will deepen the blue of your sky.

iv) Create richer colors or a mood with an enhancing filter. Fall colors such as red, orange and yellow will really snap with color when you use an enhancing filter.


v) Try a blue or cooling filter such as the 80A or a FL-D to counter the greenish hue your photograph may have when shooting under tungsten or fluorescent lights. A good place to try this filter is in basketball gymnasiums, where photos can take on a green tint.

vi) Use a warming filter such as 81B when taking pictures on an overcast day or in open shade. It will add a golden glow such as the late afternoon sun emits to your photograph.

vii) Play with some of the specialty filters such as the soft focus for portraits or a filter to give the lights of a city a "star" effect.

viii) Choose the filter to fit the lens you wish to use or use an adapter ring to fit filters to various lenses.


Useful Tips

You can stack your filters to create different effects.

Colored filters are classed by a number and a letter. The number represents the color and the letter is the density, with A being the least dense. Say 81A will be little less yellow then 81B.

Check the filter factor and adjust the aperture to compensate for the light blocked by the filter. If you are using the camera in auto mode, it will do the compensation automatically.

Must Haves

Filters are not that expensive. You probably use a UV filter or a Skylight 1A filter to protect your lenses from dust etc. Skylight filters also help filter some of the blue cast from a cloudy day. In addition to these, you should have at least a Blue Filter and a Yellow Filter. You can start with 81A which is a yellow filter and 82A which is a blue filter. If you are to take photographs in a situation lighted by florescent tubes, consider adding a FLD filter to counter the greenish cast.

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