Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rembrandt's Night Watch at Rijksmuseum Netherlands by Arun Shanbhag
For as long as I can remember, a visit to the Rijksmuseum was on my short list. For nearly a decade, it was closed for renovations. When it reopened a few years ago we started planning a long trip. We planned an entire day for the Rijksmuseum. Nothing else would do it justice.
Continue reading “Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam”

Keukenhof Gardens: Tulips Overdose

pic of tulips at Keukenhof Gardens Lisse Netherlands by Arun Shanbhag
When we were planning a trip to The Netherlands, I was thinking of immersing myself at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, while M was dreaming of the tulips, i.e. the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, a quick bus ride from Schiphol Airport. Of course we did both, and much more.

It was a bright, cool day in early May. Apparently they have more than 7 million tulips over ~80 acres of well maintained grounds, and they were all in bloom! The colors and fragrances were simply overwhelming. I was close to getting a “Tulip induced migraine!” For a break, we stepped into the gift shop(s) and of course, more tulips.
Continue reading “Keukenhof Gardens: Tulips Overdose”

Thanksgiving In Boston

pictures of M & Meera at the Seaport Hotel Boston Thanksgiving Brunch by Arun Shanbhag
This year we chose to spend a quiet Thanksgiving enjoying a sumptuous and beautiful brunch at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. We started with the breakfast menu of warm croissants and smoked salmon, then crazed on argula salad and gigantic shrimp cocktail; delicious clam chowder, home made mashed potatoes, the bestest dry roasted brussel sprouts and salmon grilled in olive oil, lemon and capers (wow!). We did not venture near the traditional meats. Continue reading “Thanksgiving In Boston”

Meera goes to the Mall

Meera trying out an outfit at Pantaloon in Phoenix Mall by Arun Shanbhag
Meera loves visiting the Phoenix Mall in Parel, Mumbai, particularly one of their stores which has a huge toy section. The Pantaloon store has a small but nice collection of Indian outfits for little girls. Reasonably priced too. Here Meera is trying one on before we bought it. Continue reading “Meera goes to the Mall”

Meera with Amma

picture of Meera
Thank you M for the best years of my life! Happy Anniversary!

If you are in the mood for a Meera-thon:

Meera Sleeping

meera shanbhag

This tiny girl amazes me! She’s got me completely wrapped around her little finger – twice over. She only has to coo and I start babbling baby talk like a blithering blidiot. I love it! When she is a sleep, I gaze at her. What is she dreaming? Is she happy? I wonder at this miracle and our good fortune to be enslaved by her.

Here, she is napping after her bath, which as you have all witnessed is a chaotic experience. She smells of Mysore sandalwood soap which has bathed scores of the Shanbhag clan. I cannot help but breath deeply. I had to memorialize this. As I reach for the camera, M berates me not to use the flash – it might awaken Meera!

I agreed and proceeded to compose the pic. M, ever suspicious of my acquiescence, waits and watches, hands on her hip; ready to pounce and tear me to smithereens. What do I do? Of course, I don’t use the flash! My survival instincts are definitely honed!

I am glad, the natural light diffusing in the room cast Meera in a soft glow. M was right, but don’t tell her that!

Previous Posts on Meera:

Mother’s Day

Mothers Day
Sculpture at the start of the Western Express Highway, Mumbai

Somewhere in our Sanatan Dharma (Hindu) scriptures I had read that the birth of a child awakens “matrudharma” – or motherhood in a woman. Then, they were only words in a book. Now, how amazingly and beautifully I see the transformation in M. It is a pleasure to see M coo-ing and chasing Meera getting her to eat; cleaning each toe during her bath, patiently convincing Meera to take the vitamins; how lovingly she cleans and dresses Meera, and a 1000 other things.

And how unsurprisingly, innocent Meera recognizes her mother’s love and whole heartedly seeks her. Meera may have fallen and in real pain, but once she is in her mother’s arms, she’ll always stop crying. We fathers can just see, and deep down can’t help but feel a little jealous.

To a great mother, M
and all you Mothers out there!
A Happy Mothers Day!


Meera’s Bath

Meera’s day starts with a tael malish (oil massage) by Suvarna maushi. We routinely use Dabur’s Lal Tael, for the massage, but have also made our own by infusing a red bark (ratanjyot) in coconut oil.

For about an hour, while Suvarna maushi cleans the rest of the house, Meera waddles around, impervious to her body slick with oil.

Bath is usually a long drawn out process with Meera sitting nicely on a traditional wooden paTh (a low wooden seat) while Suvarna maushi pours scorching water and takes turns soaping. Meera is understandably not in good spirits and bawls her head off. I disappear to an inner room.

M couldn’t stand it and has now taken over bathing Meera. Using merely hot water, Meera enjoys the experience. She plays with the soap and rubber duckies while M painstakingly cleans every toe and sq inch of her body.

Here, Meera bawling as she is bathed by Suvarna maushi.
pics of Meera's bath by Arun Shanbhag

Meeras Posts:

Meera in Red!


Wishes you all,
A Beautiful Valentine’s Day!

Dress stitched by one of our aunts! The banner was made by one of Meera’s cousins.
Here, she’s checking; she can actually reach and play with the banner and, … no one is screaming for her to stop!
meera in red
Continue reading “Meera in Red!”

Meera turns One

Meera turned ONE in her new home. We had a small gathering with cousins, nephews and nieces. Gorged on South Indian delicacies and helped welcome Meera. Here are a few pics.

One of our friends casually asked the other day. “Do you have any pics of Meera?” Then added as an after thought, “of course she is going to be the most photographed girl on this planet.” I was shocked.

The birthday girl; one of her aunts got this tiny dress stitched for Meera.
Here’s looking at you, kid. pssss! pssss! *anti-nazar spray*
pics of Meera's first birthday by Arun Shanbhag
Continue reading “Meera turns One”

New Year Greetings 2009

Arun Manashi Boston Public Gardenfrom the Boston Public Garden

Happy New Year!
Wishing you all,
A Blessedly Beautiful New Year!

Peace, Health and Prosperity!
(what else do we really want? … ok, good food!)


Our Other New Year greetings:

One more from the Boston Public Garden:

New Year Greetings 2008 – Alaska Glaciers

(click on image for a larger version)

Wishing You,
Your families, and
Future Generations

the Magnificent Joy of Nature’s Bounty
Enjoy it to the Fullest!
Leave it behind for the others!

Have a Wonderful New Year
Take care of the environment!


Continue reading “New Year Greetings 2008 – Alaska Glaciers”

Shanbhag Fastfood

During one of our trips through Karnataka, we visited Hampi to see the ancient city of Vijayanagar. What a fascinating city! Under a UNESCO mandate, extensive restorations are ongoing. The temples are awe inspiring! But for M, the best part of the trip was our stay in the nearby town of Hospet. A busy, dusty town at the crossroads of the Manganese ore trade. Here we made camp at the “Shanbhag International.” There was nothing international about this place. Even by Indian standards, it was an average “Hotel,” but importantly it had a few air-conditioned rooms. Continue reading “Shanbhag Fastfood”

Oh Alaska!

I sure do like to keep folks guessing. When I posted my Innsbruck pics from an earlier holiday, we were already leaving for our vacation to Alaska. And what a holiday! BTW, Alaska is far! Even from here in Boston, it took us a whole day to get there and another to get back! But what a land!

We both wanted to see glaciers calving into the bay. With the furious pace of global warming, we were not sure how much longer these would be around. We certainly saw glaciers to our hearts content. The rest of Alaska was a bonus; what a bonus it was.

On the waters, we gazed at bald eagles as they surveyed the terrain and took flight; were enamored by dozens of fabulous bird species, and seduced by the endearingly clumsy puffins attempting to take flight. Humpback whales performed graciously on their ocean stage and sea otters lolled lazily on the waves of the deep.

In Denali, we were treated to several mother grizzlies teaching their cubs the finer art of hunting; herds of caribou grazed the tundra; a mother and two fox cubs played peek-a-boo with us; and other wildlife.

But before all that, we met the wonderfully introspective, Deepti and her welcoming family. They graciously showed us around the neighborhoods and introduced us to the terrain and local lifestyles. And along the way, we seem to have cured Deepti of her lj block!

The wonderful Om and mom Deepti

We were treated to glaciers even before we landed in Alaska. Our plane approached Anchorage along Prince William Sound. My eyes were glued to the scenery unfolding outside the window and it was only a bit later I thought of capturing the views with my camera.

See a couple of the views outside the window; and M preparing to fend off a Grizzly attack!
Caution, may cause an intense yearning to travel!
Continue reading “Oh Alaska!”

Yoga and Vaastu Workshop

Over the weekend I attended a fabulously enriching workshop on Yoga and Vaastu at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA. It was taught by Sashikala Ananth a noted Vaastu practitioner from Chennai, India. She is also a yoga instructor trained under the legendary Krishnamacharya.

Going into this workshop, I knew zilch about both, but by the end of the weekend I was thoroughly enlightened. I have always done Pilates to help with my running and I find that it is nothing but yoga with the Hindu aspects of breathing and saying AUM erased. 😦

Shashikala Ananth is a wonderful teacher, very patient, full of energy and imminently qualified in all aspects of practical yoga and its integration within our lifestyle. Here is a little blurp from her website:

In the ordinary every day existence of the householder amidst his (and her) commonplace concerns there must be a quality of transcendence and an inner unfolding. Dharma must be discovered and lived in the family and the market place in the midst of a community, in the here and now.

and, she continues:
In a recent interaction with some Feng Shui experts, I was asked this question ‘why do Indians let go of all their traditions without adequate study?’ I was forced to accept this about us – that we do not respect our own past without assurances and encouragement from our colonial masters. Perhaps this is a necessary residue of being a conquered people, or a lacuna in our own psychical makeup.

I was disappointed that I came to learn of this so late in life. Well, its never too late. So, we are planning a two week personalized course with Sashikala Ananth in Chennai, India. In addition to yoga, she will also take us on a tour of the Tamil Nadu temples. With her grounding in Vaastu and general architecture, she will be the perfect guide. We are planning this for early December, in Chennai, India.

And here: M walking leisurely during our hike from Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps (2006). A blissfully wonderful time!

Ugadi: A Hindu New Year

picture of M&A at the Massachusetts State House Rotunda 2006 Arun Shanbhag
M&A at the Massachusetts State house

Celebrating Ugadi & Gudi Padva
Wishing You All
A Wonderful New Year

Peace, Good Health and Success in the New Year!
Meera, M & A

Other Gudi Padva Greetings:

New Year Greetings 2007

Patscherkofel, Innsbruck, Austria

Wishing You All
A Peaceful and Enlightening New Year!


The Complete Travelogue from Austria:

Stefansdom, Vienna

Stefansdom (St Stephen's Cathedral), Vienna, Austria

After many trips to Switzerland, this year we added Austria to our travel plans. Glad we did. The mountains are spectacular, though they don't sit as majestically as in Switzerland; their coffee and pastries were equally delectable and even a tiny village bakery offered the widest variety of healthy breads. Verily, M was in bread heaven.

Despite our urban upbringing, or perhaps because of it, we love rural travel. Be it India, US or Europe, we both enjoy the joys of small villages; simpler beautiful people and less complicated lifestyles. Just give me a comfy bed and a good cup of coffee for breakfast, and I promise not to be cranky.

But we couldn't really visit Austria and not tour the spectacularly beautiful cities of Vienna or Salzburg. In Vienna particularly we were overwhelmed by the imperial architecture. We couldn’t walk anywhere and not come across a palace, a noble residence or imposing government offices. All buildings were immaculately maintained, from the elaborate copper cornices to the tiny flags on sides, and flower arrangements in surrounding gardens. I took ample pics of beautiful buildings, but alas, on reviewing them they all looked similar and I couldn't tell which building was whose palace! In my mind too, nothing stuck.

Except, the imposingly Gothic “Stefansdom”. While the palaces were certainly more opulent, this 12th century cathedral is the cultural heart of Vienna. All roads lead to it! Situated at the cross-roads of an intricate maze of streets with curio shops, book stores, cafes, bakeries (think pastries) and delicious ice creams.

Despite the gray, water marked exterior, the interior was massive and carefully maintained. Even my widest lens could not capture the interior in one frame. This pic with my 17-55 lens kinda gives you the idea! The place was packed with tourists and certainly not conducive to communing with the divine. Worshipers must come at other times.
Photos from Stefansdom Vienna by Arun Shanbhag

An example of the exquisite workmanship in niches. There must have been nearly a dozen such niches and chapels, throughout the church. One could easily spend a week observing the details of the pillars and the ceiling.
Photos from Stefansdom Vienna by Arun Shanbhag

The blessed “M”!
Photos from Stefansdom Vienna by Arun Shanbhag

The most beloved and imposing landmark in Vienna – the Gothic masterpiece Stefansdom sitting in Stefansplatz. Note the intricate chevroned artwork on the roof made with glazed tiles.
Photos from Stefansdom Vienna by Arun Shanbhag

M at the feet of Johann Strauss. The angelic figures around him suggests that listening to his music would elevate you to heaven. Apparently, Austrians have not heard Pandit Jasraj.
Photos from Johann Strauss sculpture in Vienna by Arun Shanbhag

Heldenplatz in the Hofburg, part of the cluster of Imperial Palaces and Residences. From here for more than 600 years, the Hapsburgs ruled the Austrian-Hungarian empire. In March of 1938, after the German army entered Austria, Adolph Hitler rallied the Viennese from this balcony. Thus began the Third Reich!

The Complete Travelogue from Austria:

Mesmerized by the Master, Pandit Jasraj

Pandit Jasraj in Cambridge
A few weeks ago, we attended a concert by the maestro Padma Vibhushan Pandit Jasraj! And what an evening! He started with a beautiful raga. Then, for the rest of the evening he mesmerized us with Krishna bhajans! In a live concert, he would take a four line bhajan and make variations to it for 30 minutes. I was on the edge of my seat! And this went on for more than three hours, and we were still not ready for it to end. When it did end, we hung around him, got his autograph and chatted with him (more like he chatted and we listened).

What a stellar performance. His command and control of his vocal chords was phenomenal. Panditji was accompanied by Sougata Banerjee, an accomplished vocalist in his own regard. But supporting Panditji, he came across as a tongue tied novice. Panditji would lead him through variations of a phrase, and in only a few cases Sougata could keep up. Many a times, Panditji would shake his head and repeat the phrase; and repeat again and again!

Anuradha Pal provided tabla support and was one amazing player. She was billed as the only female professional tabla player. Certainly the first I had even seen. And, she was super talented. She read, no sensed, Panditji's mood and development of the bhajan and changed the beats accordingly. And every time she read him correctly, he would turn to her andnod his appreciation. He nodded at her a lot, that evening.

This collage will give you a gist of Panditji's incredible repertoire! Can anyone tell what instrument the Panditji is playing?

You can tell M was enraptured by the maestro. Not only for the wonderful evening, but for the unique autograph he signed for her!

Panditji signed for everyone. Then, when M nudged forward the back of the announcement poster, he paused and his pen hovered over the paper. Then he started to scribble. As the words were imprinted, M's eyes grew wide, and a chorus from the others rose, “Panditji, please write like that for us too?” Panditji replied, “No more autographs.”

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