Trip to Tonto National Monument, AZ

Tonto National Monument is located in the Superstition mountain in Arizona. It comprises of two well preserved cliff dwellings of the Salado culture who resided here back in the 13th- 15th century. The Salt River was the important and perennial source of water for these people who used it for farming.

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The Lower Cliff Dwelling can be accessed by paying a nominal fee of $5 at the visitor center. The path is paved and it is an easy 15-20 minutes hike upto the dwellings. One can admire the surrounding scenery of towering saguaros growing almost out of the tall brooding mountains. The access to Lower Cliff Dwelling closes by 4PM.

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As were unaware of the guided tour to the Upper Cliff Dwelling, we signed up for it in the visitor center for date later in the month of December. This was a strenuous but rejuvenating hike which lasted for little less than 3 hours. A park ranger from the NPS guided our team of seven people. The path is unpaved, with loose rocks and pebbles on the route.

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We had to step over a small stream which we were told turns into a gushing water source during the rains. The ranger was well informed and stopped to explain about the native plants and how the Salado people utilized them back in their days. Once we reached the top the ranger explained to us how the excavation team worked in the site. There were few broken pots and dried grains to show evidence of the flourishing life of the Salado.

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The hike down was relatively easier. It was almost 1 PM when we reached the visitor center. In total we had spent about 3 hours hiking 4.8 km with an elevation of 600 ft and were ready to head back home for lunch.

Statistics:

Total distance covered: 96.6 miles

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Netflix Diaries: Foyle’s War

History is written by the victorious. It is evident in the numerous movies and documentaries that the Allies gave the Axis powers a tough fight before rubbing their faces into dust. Most often the story on the silver screen is of a nation ravaged by the ambitions of a deranged man.

Foyle’s War is a glimpse into the lives of people in a nation whose young men are away at war defending their borders and country against the Axis powers. It is a British ITV drama set in the period of World War II. The protagonist is Christopher Foyle who is a Detective Chief Superintendent stationed at Hastings. His job requires him to keep a check on local crimes and illegal activities, maintain a state of peace as anything otherwise would adversely affect the army and the security of the British nation. The character of Foyle played by veteran actor Michael Kitchen stands out as a man of principle who often faces a moral dilemma between acting as a human and as a policeman.

The situation in England in the WW2 period was volatile, with frequent news of bombings and air raids. Fear and anxiety tightly gripped the minds those at home. Now since the young men had left their homes and farms to take up arms, women took charge of the house and the business. They were employed in industries like artillery, carpentry or as mechanics in garage, which were always a male profession. They worked alongside the few men who had been found unfit for duty and were left behind. Not only they clocked the same hours working the the same shift, they got paid in half, saving the business a lot money which they considered a fair bargain. Some businessmen even engaged in the black marketing of grains, liquor and tobacco. They catered to the whims of the rich who found it impossible to give up their caviar and champagne because a country is at war. A few of them moved to exotic resorts or country side guest houses which promised “state of tranquility in a war stricken country”.

The starving mouths were of the poor who survived on the limited rations provided by the government. Plenty of houses got bombed during the air raids at night; they attracted scavengers and thieves looking for valuables or anything useful to trade for money or importantly food. Food was scarce and soldiers lost lives guarding the government supplied rations. The need of the hour was to have a strict law and order in place to combat the perils of war which had permeated through the battleground.

Off late I had begun to find the gore depicted in the current crime drama series not only repetitive but also distasteful. For a history buff this British drama was a welcome change.

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2016: A Recap

With barely two days left in this year I feel this would be the best time to share my end-of-year review. This is the time when I imagine myself as a nervous school student terrified and living at the mercy of the teacher armed with my report card. There is that judgement day and then there are the other days.

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Travelling has been a major part of my itinerary this year. After I returned to the U.S. in August from the trip to India, the husband and I have managed to visit close to nine national parks including a few national monuments. I have a terrible fear of heights and the fact that I was able to complete few of the moderate level hike trails was a personal milestone. We plan to wrap up the year by driving down the iconic Highway 1 in California, from Monterey to San Diego.

My cooking skills are modest at best but with a partner who is foodie I am pushed to experiment and explore with spices and ingredients. It has been little more than two years since I ventured into cooking all the homemade meals. The best food items made in my kitchen are the final result of numerous hit and trial run of recipes across the internet. That Dal Makhni served for dinner our second anniversary, was cooked at least four different occasions before the final recipe was found, adjusted, perfected and saved for future meals. Patience is rewarding and cooking has made me a better person in countless ways. I intend to discuss its merits in detail in a separate post.

If watching Jonathan Rhys Meyers essay the role Henry VIII can be counted as inspiring, in a way I could say that I have a renewed interest in the English History. Yes I am reading history books for pleasure! The Tudors was a sensational dramatic narration of the English king’s life and his six wives. On the other hand,  Wolf Hall focused more on the religious and political scene during the reign of Henry VIII with special focus on Thomas Cromwell’s role in establishing the first ever known bureaucracy in England. While waiting for the second season of this Emmy nominated series I have made an attempt to learn more about this monarch and his times. I bet my History teacher from Seventh Grade will be surprised if ever he comes to know of my extra reading.

In the beginning of the year, a bitter personal experience left me nursing a broken bruised confidence. For a very long time I had denied the existence of certain questions and remained quiet taking comfort in the knowledge of its absence. This experience tattled me into action and pushed me to seek answers to the questions. I learnt an important lesson of self-love.

To accept my identity and to promise to keep working on making myself the best version of me.

As I begun to understand and accept this, there are less moments of doubt and uncertainty. I intend to work to preserve and protect this reassured self. Self-love is important.

Namastey!

Retrospective – Discover Challenge by WordPress

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

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Female Friendship in Indian Cinema

Women friendship as a central theme has been barely seen in the silver screen. Before Aisha, Angry Indian Goddesses and Parched happened, when was the last time Bollywood actually depicted women and their relationship in the centerfold? I sat thinking but failed to come up with a convincing response. Does Bollywood celebrate female friendship enough? Women can drive a motorized vehicle as well as any man, so why are there not any roadtrip movies about women?

In Dil Chahta Hai the boys from Bombay went on a roadtrip to Goa. They celebrated bro-hood, rode bikes, sang songs, played beach volleyball, went fishing, and not to forget poor Saif’s character who get conned by his girlfriend. In Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara the roadtrip went international and the boys drove down the country roads of Spain. Here also bro-hood is in full display.  We have a Jai and Veeru (Sholay), Vijay and Ravi (Dostana), Sameer and Kunal (Dostana), but not anything to showcase the female bond. Is it because women are too jealous of each other to remain friends? Why do I feel that this concept was the invention of a male mind bent on stereotyping the behavior rather than understand its method of function.

Contrary to the prevalent popular belief girl talk is much more than exchange of juicy bits of neighborhood news. It is a highly functional emotional support system in those moments of life when the family fails to understand. That manager who turned down your request for leave, the case of the missing help after Diwali celebrations, the cute intern in HR department, the creepy man who stood too close behind you in the MTC bus, the PG lady who insists on behaving like Mrs. Havisham – all these stories would go untold and would have undone our minds if not for our reliable friend.

Now that Bollywood has just started acknowledging women as independent assertive righteous beings who are fine with being just friends with men and don’t quite enjoy gossip as much as they would like believe, isn’t it about time we get our own Thelma and Louise?

Edit: This post was selected by BlogAdda for their Tangy Tuesday 20 December 2016 edition.

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Netflix Diaries: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell

Off late I have been watching quite a lot of British dramas. Maybe it is the post effect of watching Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones, but its certainly a spell I am enjoying every bit of. In my quest for a fantasy British drama I stumbled upon Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – a BBC One mini-series production. It is an adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s popular book which has been identifies as a fantasy novel set in an alternative history in the Napoleanic wars.blog The drama opens in a war torn Great Britain where magic was shunned and magicians looked at with suspicion. The drama begins on a slow note with the introduction of a gentleman from Yorkshire, Mr. Norrell who has taught himself magic spells by studying ancient books and nurses a strong desire to keep the knowledge of everything magical to himself, buying off books of the magic subject in the kingdom. Half knowledge is dangerous thing and he meets his fate when he summons a faerie without respecting the proper rules. The story progresses as he takes up a political role in the country’s effort in the war against Napolean and how he meets his future student and nemesis Jonathan Strange as they fight the Raven King and his old magic.

Though I am yet to read the book which promises to be a thriller, the drama had me captivated with its tight story-line, rich scenes, compelling characters and dramatic climaxes. As I reached the end of this seven episode series I mostly rued the end of an entertaining series. Thinking about it I was drawn by the passion and commitment of the protagonists to pursue their interests even in turbulent times. As a human living in the twenty first century with access to internet and technology, I have stopped reaching out to books, libraries, or dictionary for my queries. Google seems to be the help at hand. This attitude of dependency fills me with dread. Of all the points the drama depicted, the part about the importance of books and the expanse of knowledge they hold which has the power to influence thousands of minds of a generation or the next one – affected me deeply. The books are here to stay and I on my part try to reconnect with them.

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Trip to Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend – AZ

Lower Antelope Canyon is one of the two parts of the Antelope Canyon located in Page, Arizona. The main canyon is a slot canyon type which are more deep than wide. From the numerous Yelp and Tripadvisor review that we scoured through while planning the trip suggested that the ideal hour to visit the canyon is about 11 am. The sunlight shines down on the canyon, its light reflecting off the yellow sandstone reflecting off a warm, golden hue.

The entrance fee for accessing the Navajo National Tribal Park is $8 per person. Its best to carry the exact change as they often run out of small cash. We booked our guide services with Ken’s Tours and were charged a nominal $20 fee which seemed significantly less compared to the $40 fee for touring the Upper Antelope Canyon. All bookings were made online and we paid in cash only after arriving at their tour offices in Navajo Nation, Page.

As per our itinerary we intended to stop for breakfast at Flagstaff which by I10 is 2 hours away from Scottsdale. Our breakfast stop, The Northern Pines is located next to the Days Inn. They open early for breakfast and had been highly recommended by reviewers on Yelp. The restaurant was buzzing with people and we were quickly shown to our seats. While reading their extensive menu to decide on the order, we recharged ourselves with some hot coffee. Husband opted for the Chicken Mixer breakfast meal with a side of fresh fruits and cranberry juice while I settled for a Fried Chicken Steak breakfast meal. The meal was warm, delicious with huge portions and we left carrying boxes with the leftover food.

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Next stop – Lower Antelope Canyon. We got the tickets from the counter at Ken’s Tours and were asked to wait for our turn in the rooms attached to the office. Soon after our guide arrived to take us down for the canyon tour. He explained that these formations were the result of water erosion over millions of years. Wikipedia tells me that:

Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding and secondarily due to other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic ‘flowing’ shapes in the rock. [Source: Wikipedia]

There are staircases fixed to the canyon wall. The descent was a sharp down, so we were instructed to put away our cameras and focus on the steps and be careful. There were quite a few points which involved climbing up and down the steep stairs making this hike not quite suitable for children. In all times the guide was very patient with the group.img_1607

Down in the canyon the sunlight filtered through the narrow gap between the rocks and light up the walls. We could see a strip of the sky through the gap. The play of shadow and light resulted in some surreal images which had all of us mesmerized at the first sight.

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A short 12 minute drive away on I89 is Horseshoe Bend a meander like formation for Colorado river. Since it is a short hike to the overlook point, it is advised to carry a bottle of water and cap as there are not many rest points on the way. The overlook offers a striking wide view of the rock walls that contain a variety of precious minerals like hematite, platinum and garnet.

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Statistics

Total distance traveled: 750 miles                              Total duration of travel: 12 hours

 

 

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My Outer Layer

 

The place where I come from is known for its hot humid climate. Its situated in the south western coast of India. The temperatures reach a high of 42°C during the summers. Cotton – the fabric that allows the skin to breathe even in extreme temperatures is my choice of material. So even when I covered in a layer of perspiration, a warm breeze will cool the sweat, the bus stand will transform into an cool covered shelter for that second. The illusion of pleasure is good while it lasts.

Relaxed. But reserved. That’s how I would describe my personal style. My mind refuses to work in order if I am not dressed comfortably. On a regular day, my uniform is a pair of loose harem pants and a cotton blouse. But there are the special days. As a country which has its roots in the ancient culture and beliefs, we continue to believe in co-existence and celebrate all religious festivities with equal enthusiasm. I also take pride in wearing the saree. It is a seven yard piece of clothing that is draped across the body over a cotton crop top. Young girls are encouraged to wear the saree during religious and cultural festivals. And we have so many of them in India! As a garment the saree appears intimidating, but once draped it is a picture of grace and poise. It is worn by women across the country from all economic sections.

I grew up seeing my mother, grandmother, the next door auntie, teachers at school draped in this wonderful garment. This has been their preferred choice of dress for decades and so it is mine. I have become one of them. I belong.

Outer Layers – Daily Prompt by WordPress

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