Friday, July 02, 2021

When dreams burn to ashes!

Absolutely saddened to hear of the tragic, untimely demise of one of our apartment neighbours...a young lad in his early 20s! He was Project Coordinator / Guest Lecturer at the prestigious IIT-M. Was here for a short break and had just returned to his campus yesterday morning, we learnt after. By evening around 7-8 pm the same day, a few students and coach found him lying dead, partially burnt, on the hockey field!

The police initially ruled it could be a case of suicide or murder; found nothing suspicious! His body was sent to the Govt. hospital for autopsy. Family was notified. Some of our flatmates saw the father in tears late last night, but by the time they could enquire, the family left for Chennai. It was the father's sister who had come to their flat when they had to leave abruptly, who told us that the son, the young man was no more.

By this morning we received news that the police had recovered a 11-page suicide note from his room purportedly written by him and they've registered the case as suicide in the FIR. As per reports, the police said that the suicide note mentioned mental depression and stress as the main reason for this drastic step that tragically ended his life before it even really began; also that no one was responsible for his death!

Was it a momentary decision that snuffed out his will to live or a nagging, persistent feeling that he couldn't take the stress anymore? No one knows! And as always happens, people who knew him or those that hardly knew him and even those who never knew him, contributed generously with their two bits to what could have been the reason for this act. 

His life ended... but the tongue wagging has only begun. They say he was unnecessarily pressurised by his folks to always keep performing; that his parents kept comparing him with the top achievers and wanted him to do better; that he behaved quite strange, sad and stressed in the last few months; that his father was quite strict and compelled him to continue on the campus despite him pleading to quit; that he was quiet and aloof; that perhaps we as a community should have stepped in, reached out and stopped this from happening, if only we knew!

Was it HIS dreams or his family's that have been burnt to cinders? There is so much more to life than the pride of taking pride in your children's achievements. Only wish, we as parents take time to listen to our children. Understand what they really want from life, rather than impose our dreams and desires on them. It's their life and we are merely their caretakers. All we ought to do is provide them with the right environment to grow, learn, live and blossom to the best that they can be. Help them to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life; the extraordinary will take care of itself!

With all due respect to the family of the young man who lost his life, I'm neither judging them nor saying they didn't give their best to the boy. I'm merely drawing an important lesson out of this unfortunate incident and reminding myself what I as a parent should be focusing on...

Give them the right foundation; imbibe good values; show them kindness, compassion and care; tell them it's okay to fail; Let them fall, not once or twice, but many times...and teach them to pick themselves up and move on; don't judge or blame them; don't lecture or advise them, instead have open discussions and conversations with them; be their listening post; give them a shoulder to cry on; show them you are there for them anytime they need you... 

My heart is still heavy, even as I end this note... May his soul rest in peace. And may the Lord give strength to the family to bear this terrible loss.


Monday, February 11, 2019

A call from school, means a skip of the heartbeat!

07/02/2019: It was a day that started like any other. But was not to be. By around 11.30 am, I get a call from a teacher at my younger one's school that she had a small fall during break time at class, is vomiting and hence will take her to a hospital, which hospital, and so on....

Heart racing, almost feeling a blackout myself, I gather myself, tell them a hospital, call my hubby and dash out. Seconds grow into eternity, while we wait impatiently for her to be brought to the hospital from school. The prayers fly thick and fast, heavenward. Wishing upon wish, that nothing untoward has happened!

Hubby has his heart in his mouth all along. We don't look at each other. I just mumble, she'll be alright, nothing can happen to her. Finally, the teachers arrive. She looks pale, a bit dazed, but okay. A sigh of relief. They wheel her into the emergency room, and we follow suit.

Teacher says, she had a fall in the classroom, not sure how exactly and no outward injury, but vomited a couple of times and also on the way to the hospital. Doc asks my daughter, and she says she slipped, the top of her head hit the ground, not too hard, no giddiness or headache, just this vomiting. So they decide to keep her under observation, a precaution for any head injury. They place a strip on the tongue to avoid the vomiting, but she vomits soon after. Heart begins to race again! Then they place another strip…she vomits again. Doc & nurse worried. I check with my daughter, she says it’s because the strip tastes weird, and then they gave a pill, instead of the strip.

She’s tired with all the vomiting and the fuss, and manages to get some sleep. Then she heard some sounds, of a nurse discussing her vomiting episode, woke up and vomited again! Now I was praying fervently that the vomiting would end, because she didn’t seem to have any other problem because of the fall…but if it continued, the next thing they would do is go for a CT Scan to rule out possibilities.

She went back to sleep, and when she got up, she looked better and refreshed, she wanted to go back home. It's when she narrated what really happened. She tried the Chakrasana (Yoga - Wheel Pose) to show off to her friends that she can do it, but unfortunately her hands slipped and she landed on her head. We wanted to laugh, and cry all the same... All for a Chakrasana!

Then the Emergency doc came in, said he spoke to the Neuro Surgeon who was in OT, and he had suggested some injection for oedema if any and to stop the vomiting. So the nurse inserted the canula tube in a vein and started with the injection by drip. Soon after, another Neuro surgeon came on his rounds, checked on her, decided she was fine and didn’t need the injection (Phew! Wish he’d come a little earlier, so she didn’t have to bear the pain of the canula insertion!). He said, just wait for about 2 hours, and if no more vomiting, she can go home. A long sigh of relief!

Now we just waited eagerly for time to run by, so we can get going. By around 5 pm, the first Neuro Surgeon who was consulted came to check, said she was okay to discharge. Our hearts jumped with joy. A smile finally emerged in Hubby’s lips. He was ready to get the moon for her, if she had asked for it! We thanked the Lord, and went back home. Hmmm....All is well, that ends well!

And for the next two days, she was treated like a Queen.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tanzania Travelogue

WARNING: This is an awfully long post. So read it at your own risk!

Tanzania Wildlife Safari [8th to 18th Sept 2018]


I’m just back after an exciting trip to the Wild & Beautiful East Africa – Tanzania to be more precise!  (Well, this was written back then, but got a chance to post it only now!) And the few Swahili words that I managed to pick up, fancifully stayed with me.” Jambo / Hujambo” means “How are you” a popular way to greet each other.

Well, here’s a little long travelogue of my 8 day Safari Trip (a total of 10 days including air travel from my hometown Cochin, India). The whole plan started with my sis & BIL suggesting a combined trip to Tanzania, and throwing in the bait “a fully sponsored trip” (a gift from my sis for my birthday I presumed)! And like happy & eager puppies, my hubby & I lapped it up (obviously!)  J

From Kochi to Kilimanjaro (sis/bil from Kuwait)

We packed our bags leaving our kids behind since they had school, and got my parents over to take care of them in our absence. We flew from Cochin to Mumbai (Air India) and onward to Addis Ababa (Ethiopian Airlines) and met sis & BIL there. And together resumed our air travel by Ethiopian Airlines to Kilimanjaro, the land of the tallest mountain in Africa. A teeny-weeny airport, we cleared the immigration formalities quickly (Visa on entry for Indians;  USD50 per person; Yellow fever vaccination card is mandatory) and after our entry was sealed on the passport, made our way to the entrance, where our Safari guide Cornel (Cornelius) was waiting for us. And there we met our beauty – a neat 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep with a pop-up roof - that was to be our second home throughout our Safari trip!

Arrival at Arusha

We hopped in, and drove straight to Arusha where we were to stay the night at African Tulip Hotel. The sights in between, were a bit of a letdown – dry, hot and barren, we were afraid if this was what we signed up for. But thankfully, closer to Arusha seemed cooler and greener (perched at 1400m above sea level) and a bit of the initial fear of “unknown territory” passed. We drove straight to the Easy Travel Office (our travel agent) to meet Liz Beth for the tour briefing, after which we were introduced to the director Musaddiq (a person of Indian origin incidentally!)...And then headed to our hotel, after more than 24 hours of travel, head throbbing and all! After the check-in formalities, we decided to meet again in an hour’s time after a shower, to take a walk in the neighbourhood.

At the gate however, we were advised not to carry any valuables including mobile phones since there are cases of mugging/theft, so we left them behind at the reception desk and took a short walk around without venturing out too far since we were warned not to! After a refreshing drink, we went to the restaurant for dinner, but with my headache getting worse, all I wanted to do was sink into bed. So we hit the bed almost instantly and zzzzz... coz we were to resume our journey to our next destination Tarangire National Park the next morning.

African Tulip Hotel

To talk about the Hotel, the hotel, restaurants, poolside bar and rooms were well-appointed with a beautiful wildlife theme decor, each room highlighting a different animal (leopard & zebra respectively). Seemed like a building from its colonial past, this quaint-looking yet well-maintained hotel was just what we needed to get set for the safari ahead.

Tarangire National Park – The Elephant Playground!

The drive was ‘Pole-Pole’ (meaning ‘slow’) cause our guide cum driver Cornel was sticking to the traffic rules! A good 2-hour ride later, we entered Tarangiri National Park after our Safari guide made the park entry payments and cleared the formalities. The roof top of the Safari jeep popped open, and out came our hunting gear – Cameras, Mobile Phones, Binoculars, Hats, Sun Glasses, et al. With tsetse flies buzzing, we rubbed in more of the Insect Repellent Cream and with the sun blazing down our skin, dabbed more of sunscreen too.

Made of grassland, swamps & floodplains, the vast majority of the terrain resembled a dry yellow savannah desert with occasional trees to add the touch of greenery. Tarangire is famous for its Baobab trees calling for picture perfect photos with animals against this beautiful backdrop of Baobab, Sausage & Umbrella Acacia trees. We first came upon a herd of Wildebeest (/ˈwɪldəbiːst/) and Elephants, and along the way got to see many more animals – Zebras, Impalas, Giraffes, Ostriches, Gazelles, Lions and Wart Hogs, and also sighted some birds. There was a water body in the middle were we saw herds of Wildebeest and Zebras coming to quench their thirst. We even spotted the Oryx, which according to our guide is not a common sighting!  

We had a lunch break in between with our food packed in picnic boxes which had bun, chicken, veggies, apple & banana, some dry fruits, fruit juice and water. A dry lunch, but can’t complain! We also got to see a sort of mini migration with a long line of Widebeest & Zebras crossing our path.
So far so good, and this was only the start of our game drive experience! We then headed towards our place of stay – Maramboi Tented Lodge which was located outside the Tarangire National Park and sort of on our way to our next destination - Lake Manyara National Park.

Maramboi Tented Lodge – A view to behold!

This place is absolutely spectacular - the location, reception & dining area, souvenir shop and above all the tented lodges which looked more like beautiful cottages on stilts! Being located between National Parks, this was like a conservation area where animals walked about freely without interruption / harm from people staying in the region. After the checking-in and welcome/briefing formalities, we were taken to our respective lodges which were in the far end, but next to each other. And the views were breathtaking from both our lodges. Looking straight out to the horizon we could see Lake Manyara, in the beautiful backdrop of the mountains yonder. The space in between -  an expansive grassland with occasional acacia trees here and there, and animals like the wildebeest, zebra, warthogs, impalas, jackals etc roaming around freely.

The bed was nice and cosy with mosquito net veiling. There was a nice big mirror, writing desk, clothes stand, bedside tables, lantern shaped table lamps, and a nice sit-out with comfortable furniture to enjoy the scenic views. The wash area had separate shower & toilet areas, and anytime hot water supply which was convenient.

A quick shower later, the four of us assembled at our lodge for some quick shots and long tales, dancing to some random dance songs. My BIL also eventually joined the crazy sisters, to shake a leg or two, and join the fun. Dinner time calling, we pulled out our flashlights and walked to the restaurant, which was set on an open platform looking out to the brilliant star studded skies and sights of animals walking around harmlessly. We had a choice of fancy noodles, salads and meats to pick from. We brought our portable music speaker along and listened to some old evergreen songs as we dined.

The team at Maramboi came out of the kitchen singing to the Hakuna Matata (Jambo bwana) song with utensils as music accompaniment. We clapped and sang along, finished dinner, sat by the campfire, listened to some more music as we gazed at the skies, and then finally wound up for the night. After a good night’s sleep, thankfully my headache was gone, we had our shower, packed up, and headed for breakfast.

What was different about this lodge was, instead of the standard 2 bottles & kettle provision in each room, they had a water dispenser with hot/cold/regular water taps and a choice of coffee/tea/green or herbal tea to choose from. The only reservation with our stay here was the limited Wi-Fi of only 200MB per day, per person!

A breakfast of coffee, bread toast, ham & sausages, vegetables and fruit juice later, we were given the choice to pack our own picnic lunch boxes. We made our own sandwiches and packed bananas, vegetables and fruit juice along. We clicked plenty of pictures, with herds of animals like Zebras & Widebeest coming closer to us. And then we checked-out, carrying our bags and happy memories, to our next destination.

Lake Manyara National Park – If pictures could tell the story!

A good 1.5 hours later, passing by scenic fields and mountains in the rift valley, plenty of monkeys along the way, and small villages, we finally entered the Lake Manyara Park, after the usual park fees payment & other procedures. Lake Manyara’s ground water forests, bush plains, and algae-streaked hot springs offer incredible ecological variety in a small area. Poet Ernest Hemingway is said to have called Lake Manyara as the "loveliest (lake) ... in Africa" (*Source: Wikipedia], with the lake against the backdrop of a scenic Rift Valley escarpment.

The rooftop popped open, and we were ready for our game drive, yet again, ready to shoot. A large troop of Baboons, Blue Monkeys, Big Elephant Herds, Wildebeest, Buffalos, Hippos, Zebras, Flamingos, Hornbills, Herons, Pelicans, Kingfisher, Giraffes and even the Hyrax (Tree Rodent ) and Dik-Dik (Small Antelope) were spotted. But the highlight of the game drive of course was the famed yet elusive tree-climbing Lions of Lake Manyara which we finally managed to spot!

The picnic lunch spot was located at a scenic lake-facing location. Soon after lunch, we were asked to take a boardwalk on the lake. The scorching heat drove BIL back to the shade, while the 3 of us dared the sun and walked bare and exposed to the searing rays of the sun, but I tell you, it was absolutely worth it. The boardwalk was on a 325m long wooden bridge-like structure about 1.5 m above the swampy Maji moto kubwa hot springs that starts at the lower edges of the rift valley wall and ends as an observation platform over the lake. It’s a must-do, for its picturesque views and panoramic photo opportunities. It also offered views of hippos and pelicans in the lake.

We continued on the game drive after lunch, got to see a Lioness, apart from Giraffes, Zebras and Buffalos enroute to our stay at the Tortilis Tented Camp (named after Tortilis / the acacia tree commonly found in the region).

Tortilis Tented Camp, Lake Manyara – Up close and personal!

What awaited us was a warm welcome by the team at Lake Manyara Tortillis Camp, with a refreshingly cool wet towel and hibiscus juice. The manager introduced himself and briefed us about the facilities and services at the camp, followed by the “shy” chef who informed us on the spread for dinner & breakfast and made note of my food allergies (egg & pineapple). Free Wi-Fi was available (though not seamless or fast as we would like, considering that the property was in the middle of the jungle). Hot water was available on demand (hot water would be poured into the respective overhead storage tanks of the respective tents at the time requested), electricity was run on solar energy, and flashlights & wireless radio were provided in each room. The best part, we could see the lake from our camp.

The tented accommodation (each tent was named after birds in Swahili – we got Kasuku meaning ‘parrot’ & my sis & BIL got Njiwa meaning ‘pigeon’) was a luxurious version of a tent, because though on the outside it looked like a normal canvas tent, on the inside it was like a suite room of a hotel with a comfortable sitting area, a spacious bedroom with a king-size bed, a large chest and a writing table, a small single bed between the bedroom & wash area (for extra guests if any), and then a dressing and wash area replete with separate areas for wash, toilet & shower. We were asked to use drinking water for brushing teeth, since tap water was not considered suitable for consumption.
The cosy quilted bed was veiled with mosquito net and had 2 bedside tables with lamps. The entrance of the tent had a zip up mosquito net which was expected to be closed at all times to keep the insects away. There were insect repellent sprays and room fresheners provided in each tent. After dark, we were expected to call for a guard to move from tent to the common areas like the lounge / restaurant / watering hole / campfire, since wild animals roam freely in the area.

We took a quick shower and after some quick shots headed to the campfire area, flashlight in one hand and portable music speaker in the other. We could see the beady eyes of Impalas & Topis reflecting the light of our flashlights in the growing dark night, on our short walk to the campfire. Drink in hand, song on the lips (including the Swahili song ‘Malaika’) and eyes at the starry skies, we enjoyed the warming up session before heading to the restaurant. We were the only guests for the night, so we had everyone’s attention, and were waited upon as if “Kings & Queens”. Cornel joined us for Dinner, and he briefed us on the schedule & plan for the next day.

Food was good, and so was our mood. The team at Lake Manyara Tortillis surprised us by coming in, singing, beating drums and dancing around our table.  We joined the parade, singing Swahili songs with them and dancing. At the end, they sang ‘Malaika’ as a tribute to us, and were surprised how we knew the song (thanks to Boney M of course)! Dinner & gala time done, we snugly tucked ourselves in bed.

We got up early next morning to catch the sunrise on the horizon, over the lake. It made such a pretty picture. After coffee & breakfast, we bid our farewells and again the team surprised us with their parting song of the Tanzania anthem. We then headed out to our next destination – Serengiti

A small detour enroute - The Maasai Village

It was in a desert like terrain, dry, hot and sandy, with hardly any vegetation or habitation in sight. We kept driving and then came upon clusters of huts, and stopped by at one of those. The village chief’s son, Immanuel was there to welcome us. He was studying to be a vet at Arusha, and spoke fluent English. He was to be our guide to brief and show us around his village, their lifestyle, customs etc.
He took us into a Masai hut, called ‘enkaji’ in the local language. Since they are nomadic, their houses are built to be temporary. The Maasai man must get married to have a house, because it is his wife who builds the house. They are helped by other women in the village, and take a few days up to three weeks to build a house. The huts are very small, and are circular or oval shaped. Timber poles are fixed to the ground to make the frame, which are interlaced with a lattice of smaller branches which are then plastered with a mixture of water, mud, cow dung and even human urine (eek!). The roof, which is also plastered with cow dung, is covered with grass that is collected in the bush. It is pitch dark inside, as there are no windows apart from a few tiny round holes in the walls. We switched on our flashlights on our mobile, but Immanuel asked us to turn it off, because he said the eye would adjust to the darkness and soon we would be able to see – he was right! There was a small space in the centre around the fireplace (which they use to cook food), and he offered uss some tins to sit around. There were 2 beds – which were basically raised platforms covered with cow hides and sheets. There was a tiny shelf in the corner to keep a handful of utensils and meagre possessions they had. It was hard to even imagine that families cooked, slept, ate, stored reserves, fuel and even small livestock in there! And seated uncomfortably there, in the dark, we listened to the Maasai way of life, fascinated and repulsed all the same time.

The Maasai, are one of the best known tribes in Tanzania. Primarily nomadic herders who keep moving in search of green pastures & water for their cattle, the Maasai tribe keep away from civilization in an attempt to preserve their tradition and culture. They speak a Nilo-Saharan language called ‘Maa’. Cows play a vital role in their lives and their wealth is measured in their cattle. Being Polygynous by nature, the maasai man can have as many wives as he pleases, or rather as many as he can afford – the more the cattle, the merrier! He has to ensure that all his wives are happy, and they all have separate huts but live in close proximity as one big happy family. And here’s their idea of sharing...If a man has sex with another man’s wife, he leaves his spear outside the hut, so if the husband returns and finds the spear, he does not enter the house, and leaves them in peace!
All huts in a village together made up a ‘boma’ that includes a large thorn fence built in the midst of the huts where the livestock can safely rest at night. And yes, the women do all the hard work – building their house, collecting water from as far as 15 kms away, looking after children, cooking and cleaning, and such else. The Maasai people have only 2 meals a day, at morning and night, and the women cook in their little huts that have no windows or chimneys! They believe the smoke will help keep the pesky insects & pests away. The men wander all day long, cattle grazing, and gossiping under the few thorny trees, for respite from the hot scorching sun, and return late in the evening. The Maasai drink cow blood and milk. They worship their ancestors. They follow practices like circumcision for young boys, strictly, and without anaesthetics or modern medicines. They have a strong hierarchy in place and each individual has his or her place within the community.
Their song & dance is fascinating, creating harmony with their voices and following a rhythmic pattern, dancing in a semi circle. The chief dressed us in their traditional robe called the 'Shuka' which is a bright-coloured blanket style cloth, men in red and women in purple or green. He also gave us their colourful beaded necklace to wear and participate in their singing & dancing. The men indulged in jumping high with stick in hand. He showed us how fire was made by rubbing sticks and lighting hay. They showcased their beautiful beaded jewellery, which we could buy. Since we were already getting late, we quickly wrapped up with a few photo-ops, bid our farewells and rushed to our Jeep, where Cornel was waiting for us.

Drive to Serengiti via Ngorongoro

A good 4.5 hours drive to Serengeti National Park, via the beautiful high lying farmland of Karatu and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, it was a long haul through the dusty roads in the wilderness, leaving the highlands behind and entering the endless plains rolling into the distance as far as the eye can see - the heart of wild Africa. We had to stop by at the Balloon Safari office to confirm our registration for our trip the following day. We did a short game drive, checking out the herds of buffalo, topi, hartebeest, impala, dik dik, zebra etc. on our way to our camp site. And since our camp site ‘Serengeti Tortilis Camp’ was located inside the park, we checked in early.

Tortilis Tented Camp, Serengeti – Our home for 3 Nights

We got the same warm welcome of the Tortillis camps, with wet towel, hibiscus juice and briefing by the camp manager & chef. There were more guests at the camp, so the manager just went about the task as a routine and then we were shown to our tents (each tent was named after animals in Swahili – we got Nyani meaning ‘Monkey’ and sis & BIL got Mamba meaning ‘Crocodile’). It was exactly in the same standard and setting as the Lake Manyara camp, so we felt already at home. It was to be our home for 3 nights! We took a quick shower, met for quick shots and had early dinner, ‘coz we had to be up by 4 am the next morning, since we had Balloon Safari on our agenda.

Serengeti Day 1 - Hot Air Balloon Safari

Waking up in Serengiti is a life-changing experience. The sounds, sights and smells of wildlife are eerily close. Too close for comfort? Yet felt totally safe! We decided to skip shower as it was a bit too cold and no hot water before 6 am. We got ready and headed to the lounge where our ride to the Balloon Safari launch pad was waiting for us. As we drove to the site, we caught sight of many animals and birds that included the civet, lion, zebra, giraffe, gazelle, hippo, maribou stork, gabar hawk chanting, lilac breasted roller, vulture, buffalo, pride of lions, wart hog, catfish, crocodile, water buck & jackal (including those on our ride back to the picnic site). Four other tourists from another open camp site were picked up on the way, and together we headed to the launch site. We were not really dressed up for the cold morning. The winds bit through my skin and I thought I would freeze in the open. I was furious with my hubby who got me to ditch my warm shawl at the tent, saying it wouldn’t get too cold. After a briefing from our Hot Air Balloon Pilot who was a Canadian, they started filling the balloon with hot air, the flames thankfully keeping us warm. The basket had 4 slots to accommodate 4 people each – a total of 16 per balloon. We were asked to slide into position, lay horizontally and hold on tight, even as the air was filling up the balloon. Slowly and steadily, the balloon rose off the ground, making the basket stand upright and soon we took off, right in time to catch the beautiful sunrise. It was a view to die for. The Pilot manoeuvred the balloon high and low and showed us some animals from above, which included the antelopes, giraffes, zebras, cheetah, hippos and more.

The winds were favourable, so we got a full 1 hour ride, and landed safely. After landing, as per custom, the champagne bottle was popped open to celebrate the successful flight. We got to meet a Malayali couple from Brisbane... not many Indians seem to travel in this circuit (maybe because it’s a bit more pricey and also Tanzania was considered to be more for an evolved wildlife buff!). We were then taken to an open area where a breakfast banquet was set for all those who completed the balloon ride. It was a great experience, eating a lavish English breakfast in the savannahs, in the middle of the wilderness, with people attired as royal butlers waiting on us and serving as. There was also a loo with a view, with 3 sides covered and 1 side open to nature.

A hearty breakfast with champagne done, we rode back to the Balloon Safari office site, where Cornel was waiting for us, to take us on a game drive in Serengeti. Home of what is perhaps world’s greatest gathering of wildlife, set in the grasslands / savannahs, the Seronera Valley has resident herds of buffalo, topi, hartebeest and impala, waterbuck, reedbuck and dik dik, giraffe, warthog, and birdlife of all colours and sizes. It is famous for its abundant lions and leopards. We returned to the safari office site, which was also our lunch picnic site. The picnic lunch was packed more elaborately in containers and we had proper plates and cutlery, unlike the packed boxes that we had in the last couple of days. However, the food was all the same. Just that we had a choice of sauces, jams, canned tuna etc in addition. And then proceeded again with our game drive on the other side, for more wildlife encounter, which included the male lion, cheetah, hartbeest, gazelle, leopard, 18kg bird (can’t recall the name!), ostrich, secretary - snake eater, hyena, vulture, topi, hippo, hyrax & buffalo. We wrapped up by about 4.30 pm to return to our campsite before dark.

We had a quick shower and decided to wear the traditional maasai blanket to dinner, as the Manager had promised entertainment. We carried our portable speaker for music, and hmmm... there was no entertainment, some change of plans we were told later! So after dinner, we headed back to our tents and crashed out. We did hear the roar of a lion very close to our tent, and we dared not to move, rather pretended to sleep.

Serengeti Day 2
Morning, we were up to catch the sunrise and walk around and click pictures. We had tea and breakfast, Cornel got our picnic basket packed, and off we headed out to another part of Serengeti on our game drive. We caught sight of the cheetah, hyena, vulture, zebra, impala, buffalo, giraffe, elephant, guinea fowl, hartbeest, topi, ostrich, warthog, 2 male lions, a family of 4 lions, leopard etc. The highlight of the day was watching a large pride of 25 lions on a failed hunting mission, many of them looking starved! And that’s when we actually realized, that every hunt was a matter of survival for both the hunter and the hunted! A fulfilling game drive done, though not witness to a kill in the wild, we returned to our campsite. Dinner time, we had the camp manager and his team performing their traditional songs to the rhythmic drum beat. The camp manager’s brother’s fiancée’s birthday also was being celebrated with a surprise cake and more singing and dancing, with all of us joining in the end.

Serengeti Day 3
Our last day at the Serengeti. We got packed and checked out of the Tortillis Serengeti. We drove to the other end of to see more zebras, water bucks, buffalo, impala, topi, giraffe, Elephant herds, 2 cheetas, vulture, hippo walking, a male lion with cub on a rock while 3 lionesses attempt a hunt but fail. Then we came upon a lioness crouching in the grass and inching forward, landing just a few feet away from its target – a hartebeest, waiting for the right time to make the killer move (which lasted for over 2 hours), yet patiently waiting (we were soon running out of patience), but finally the hartebeest got a whiff of the calm and darted away (so much for patience!).  We also caught sight of a leopard resting on a tree and a cheetah on a mound.

Serengeti done and dusted, we made our way to the famed Ngorongoro Crater.


Ngorongoro Crater is referred to as a wonder of the world being the world's largest volcanic caldera full of grassland, forest and swamp; and the permanent water of the crater floor supports a rich wildlife resident population of over 25000 animals. It also has the rarest of rare sight of mankind coexisting with wildlife - with the Maasai tribe grazing their cattle in an area which has been a separate conservation site since 1956, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. We checked in at the Tortillis Camp at Ngorongoro. This again was of the same setting as the other two camps, only it was in a higher terrain and looked more like in the middle of a forest with tall trees and a deep ravine on one end. It was much cooler here. The camp manager and his team seemed an efficient lot. They made sure we were comfortable. That night at dinner, we were again treated to some Swahili songs by their team, and we also got to do our bit at singing and dancing! They had a warmer blanket and a cute thermal animal-shaped huggable pillow on the bed to keep us warm at night.

Next morning, we drove past Masai villages on our game drive in Ngorongoro Crater. The crater view was breathtaking. The open expanse, hot and arid, yet scenic with the clear blue sky meeting the sandy brown earth, with wildlife walking around in gay abandon amidst the grass, was a sight in itself. No wonder, it is referred to as ‘Africa’s Garden of Eden’, with diverse animals present within a small radius, making this a destination not to miss. And boy, did we have some rewarding encounters, making the whole trip more memorable!

There were large herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, hyena, crown stock, impala, elephant herds, hippo, pelican, wolf, 1 male lion in the dry lake... And then, as we drove along the lake, we saw the beautiful sight of wildebeest walking in line by the banks – it was a migration of sorts, the wildebeest walking to the waters to quench their thirst. That’s when we caught sight of 2 lionesses prancing and prowling on the other side, hiding behind a bush, to make an ambush. We didn’t expect much, with all the failed hunting attempts that we witnessed in the last few days. It was like a shot in the dark, and sudden action. We saw the wildebeest a bit confused, some running towards the end where the lions were, and the others running the other way. We saw the source of confusion. The lionesses had made their move. The mighty animals gave a beautiful chase, catching up with the herd. One wildebeest, the nearest, broke line and tried to make a dash across the lake, but tripped in the salty lake and by the time it got up, one of the lionesses jumped over and made the kill. There was a brief struggle, and then the lion finally triumphed, proud of its kill. The other lioness was a tad bit disappointed that it wasn’t the one to make the kill...slowly it moved towards the other and joined her. Soon, from nowhere at all, a herd of hyenas and jackals wanted to join the feast, but the lionesses chased them away. Ah! Finally, we witnessed a live hunt, in the wild, and you bet it wasn’t at all easy!

We wanted to catch sight of the Rhino too, so we drove on. Got to see many hippos, flamingos and pelicans on the lake, on our way to the Rhino patch of forest in Ngorongoro. The Rhinos though, were an elusive lot. They keep away from public sight and we were told that they were becoming increasingly difficult to spot. So no luck there! However, the rest of the Big 5 done, we were a happy lot, and made our way back.

Back to Arusha and it was time to bid our goodbyes

Another successful safari done, our picnic lunch was at a beautiful property on our way back to Arusha, which had arts & artefacts gallery and souvenir shop, incidentally owned & run by Indians. We got to do all our souvenir shopping there at a good deal. Then we check back into Arusha African Tulip Hotel. We got the same rooms as when we had arrived, left our bags, and went for a short walk around. My BIL wanted to buy Tanzanite, so Cornel took us there. It’s a beautiful stone, blue and sparkling, rarer than diamonds so more expensive. We just drooled over some, while BIL bought a precious stone for his friend who is a collector of such rare and precious stones, and then we headed back to the hotel. After a short unwind session, had a shower, dinner and then crashed out. Next morning, we got up to do our packing and then checked-out a few photo-ops later. Liz Beth came to take the feedback, and then we headed our way to the Kilimanjaro International Airport. Cornel was there to see us off. Like all good things, this too must end. But not without the lovely memories that we carried back home, thanks to my sis & BIL!

So...Kwaheri, Tutaonana baadaye! (means, Goodbye, see you later – In Swahili)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

To my mom

Mom, you mean the world to us
Loving, caring and giving so selflessly

Mom, you teach us by your ways 
Living your life so righteously

Mom, you are always there for us
Guiding and chiding in your own way

Mom, you lead us in the right way
Moulding us in faith & spirituality

Mom, you inspire us by your active life
Showing us that nothing can slow you down

Mom, you are perfect just the way you are
Like dad says '99.99%', which is the best any mom can be!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tribute to Dad, on his 70th Birthday

As you reach an important milestone in life
I want to say, that all along, you’ve been a great dad;
From childhood to adulthood to parenthood
You’ve always been there, telling good from bad;

You may have never sat beside me
Or listened patiently to my joys or woes;
But I know you’ve watched me from a distance
Allowing me to blossom, without standing in the way;

You have taught me to stand up for myself
Do things and go places on my own;
So never have I felt more free and independent
Than under the safety of your wings;

Not one who cared much for outward expressions
You led us by unspoken words and unwritten rules;
You held the unseen reins, that has shaped us
And allowed us to grow, head over our shoulders;

Your actions have always spoken louder than words
Your principles have greatly moulded our character;
And with mom by your side, to fret and fuss over us
You struck the balance, that has made us stronger;

Though you didn’t chase us to chase any wild dreams
You took pride in our every achievement;
And every time you bragged about us to the world
It boosted our confidence, yet kept us grounded;

You’ve never interfered in my choices
But have greatly influenced my decisions;
I am who I am, I’ve become who I chose to be
Because you’ve let me be me, happy and free;

Thank you dad, for such memories are plenty
As I now wish you a happy seventy;
May you stay blessed with prosperity
And remain happy, hale and hearty!

Your loving daughter

Friday, February 10, 2017

Take just a moment

Take just a moment to look around
Appreciate the beauty that does abound;
Why then do you keep that frown
When everything is fine from morn to sun down?

Take just a moment to look inside
With the dearest of family beside;
Why then do you sweat and fret
When you have everything you can get?

Take just a moment to listen
To the rain splash on your window and glisten;
Why then do you in summer cry
Of water, power, all and sundry?

Take just a moment to hear
To your heart and to others’ tear;
Why then do you want to weep
When the going gets just a little steep?

Take just a moment to smell
The fragrance of roses you can tell;
Why then do you crib about a little sneeze
When your blessings never seem to cease?

Take just a moment to breathe
The symbol of life in you indeed;
Why then do you complain of life
When you have just no strife?

Take just a moment to speak
To those who are down and meek;
Why then do you forget to call
When you have not felt a pall?

Take just a moment to talk
With sweet words that can melt a rock;
Why then do you end in yell
And feel like you’ve just been to hell?

Take just a moment to touch
Those who need you much;
Why then do you not understand
When you have above a mighty hand?

Take just a moment to feel
The joy in reaching out to heal;
Why then do you run away
Instead of making it a happy day?

So go on, take just a moment
'Coz life on earth to you is lent;
Dwell in every precious moment
And serve others, for that’s how it is meant!


Friday, October 21, 2016

When briefs become briefer and deadlines sound the death knell

Gone are the days when advertising held a charm for creatives working day and night to crack the big idea. In the instant coffee, instant info and instant everything era, ads also are expected to be delivered instantly.

Most briefs that come our way are adhoc, thought out at the spur of the moment, perhaps when the client came across some fanciful ad in the morning papers, or perhaps when the team got a dressing down for not achieving sales target, or perhaps just to keep the retainer agency busy, ‘coz they would have to pay anyway!

Whatever the reason, the all important brief which was once considered as the foundation of any ad / creative campaign that sparked off great ideas and strategies, has now been trimmed down to a no-frills no-nothing one line telephone / email brief. And this brief sometimes comes with reference to a trail of internal mails, each proving the hierarchy of the people in conversation, with changing offers and objectives, some even suggesting headline and copy with a ‘PS:’ to creatively tweak it as appropriate (but to be read as ‘don’t you dare change a word’). Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get a brief document that looks very professional but is based on a standard brief format, meaning only the product name and deadline changed visibly, but the communication message / objective remained more or less the same.

Coming to the deadline, we’ve always heard of the “yesterday” deadlines, which has perhaps existed since the beginning of advertising, but now our brethren in the client organisations seem to take it to heart. A brief almost always comes only in the evening, and the deadline is almost always ‘A.S.A.P’ (As Soon As Possible) which has graduated to ‘By EoD’ (End of Day), since “as soon as possible” would again give a free hand to the creative agency.

Fact is, such short deadlines don’t really result in ads / creatives being done, approved and released within a short period. It only denies creatives the time and space to think and work creatively. Then there are a million drafts, back & forth iterations and so on, which finally results in substandard work. This eventually takes longer than the deadline, as changes are again arbitrary and at the spur of the moment, which results in more time than the actual time taken for conceptualising, copy, design & artwork.

The produced work is more often a mix and match of options, with client ideas imposing itself on the final creative, and agency a mere bystander or witness to the mayhem and cacophony in between. Why then are agencies held accountable if the ad doesn’t kick up any dust or make any noise (not even a whisper) among the TG (Target Group)?

I hear the death knell, so I got to wind this up. So I leave you with these grave emotions of an adman at the brink of madness with briefer briefs and yesterday deadlines!