Meera at the Harvard Art Museum

pictures from the Harvard Art Museum Cambridge by Arun Shanbhag

For many years, Harvard’s Fogg Museum showcasing a beautiful collection of 19th century French and American art, was one of my favorite past-times in Boston. Harvard also hosted a unique Degas at Harvard exhibition – Degas: Of Dancers and Bathers. A few years ago, Harvard undertook a major renovation of the Fogg Museum, expanded it, and brought together collections from the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Arthur Sackler Museum and Fogg Museum. This was my first visit to the renovated and renamed Harvard Art Museums with Meera as a curious companion. Thankfully, they did not change the main layout and courtyard, but extended the side wings and added a Louvre-style, roof top glass pyramid.

Meera had a wonderful time reading the layout map and leading me from section to section. She was particularly intrigued and recognized the portraits of American Presidents. Obviously this first grader thought all the renaissance paintings with scantily clad women were “gross”. She was terrified of peering into the courtyard from the upper level verandahs. This is not the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum and I was not expecting a plethora of Indian art – they had a 13th century Chola bronze of Shri Rām, a few pieces of Buddha and other miscellaneous artwork.

We had a wonderful meal at the cafe and ended our visit at the gift shop – Meera’s favorite. She did say she liked the Harvard Museum of Natural History better and I promised her a return trip this week.

This day I loved this work by the 16th century, Italian Baroque painter, Orazio Gentileschi – Virgin and the Sleeping Christ; see how kindly she shields the child with her diaphanous veil.

pictures from the Harvard Art Museum Cambridge by Arun Shanbhag
Orazio Gentileschi – Virgin with Sleeping Christ, 1610


Meera at the Cape

pics photos of beach at the Chatham Bars Inn Cape Cod by Arun Shanbhag
The views were soothing

Meera was thrilled to be visiting the Cape. She looked forward to this all spring and finally it happened. The weather was perfect – warm days and cool nights. She loved the Lighthouse, collecting shells on the beach, playing in the pool, catching up with friends, soccer on the beach, scoping seals lazing on sand bars, riding the boat and toasting marshmallows by the bon fire. As in earlier times, the food was spectacular. Overall, a great time.

The lighthouse is beautiful.

pics photos of Lighthouse at the Chatham Bars Inn Cape Cod by Arun Shanbhag
Lighthouse at Chatham

Roofers in Arlington

Robert Farina Roofers in Arlington pics by Arun Shanbhag

This was a hardworking bunch of six roofers in four trucks, who descended on our house very early on a Saturday. After a busy day of climbing, covering, pulling, scraping, hauling, balancing, brushing, taping, nailing, sliding, edging, sawing, more nailing, venting, cleaning, more cleaning, much more cleaning, vacuuming, they were done. We are ready for more snow-geddon this winter. Continue reading “Roofers in Arlington”

Krishna Muth Udupi, Hanuman Shrine

Photos at Hanuman Shrine at the Shri Krishna Muth, Udupi, Karnataka by

Inside the Krishna Muth, Udupi, there are many shrines to different deities. One of the first along the corridor is the Hanuman Shrine. A small group of devotees were singing bhajans there. The light streaking through the door and tall windows lit the singers in a golden hue. I sat inside for a few minutes enjoying the music. Then bowed at the shrine and went to enjoy the rest of the temple. Continue reading “Krishna Muth Udupi, Hanuman Shrine”

Krishna Muth, Udupi

Photos of Main Gopuram of the Shri Krishna Muth, Udupi, Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag

After a long hiatus, I recently returned to the Shri Krishna Muth in Udupi, Karnataka. What a joyous, uplifting experience it was getting darshan of BālaKrishna (child Krishna). The temple and seminary were founded by Sant Madhavāchārya, in the late 13th century; it has since become the center of Krishna bhakti and Dvaita Philosophy. It is here that Krishna showed us his grace. One night as Kanak Dās sat outside the temple singing the glories of Krishna, the mischievously smiling child Krishna was overcome by the soul-stirring music and turned to listen to his devotee. Thus turned, he stands today. A tiny stone grill is cut in the granite side wall from which we get darshan. Continue reading “Krishna Muth, Udupi”

Mehndi (or Henna) designs

photos of bridal Mehndi designs on hands and feet by Arun ShanbhagHere are a few pics from my niece’s mehndi gathering before her shādi. The lady squeezes out the mehndi paste from a foil cone and uses it to draw intricate designs on hands and feet. As the paste dries, fresh lemon juice is squeezed on it to keep it moisten and intensify the color.

Shādi or not, my sisters love mehndi for any occasion. Continue reading “Mehndi (or Henna) designs”

After the Snow – Walking down Washington St

With all the snow in the Boston area, the simple task of getting to and from work is a serious chore, taking at time 2-3 hours one way. After much of the snow, the buses would not come up the hill, so I would walk down to the cross street, or the bike path and hiked to another bus or T-station. Its a long, cold walk in the snow and the winter wonderland feel is exceptionally beautiful; but you have to be cautious of slipping on the narrowed streets in the path of oncoming traffic.

See Meera walking to school that morning.

Do you feel younger or older than your age?

In the comments, please tell me why you feel that way: Is it due to your diet, work, active lifestyle, cultural heritage, your mother, or something else? How does this affect your life view and ambition? Your relationship with others? Continue reading “Do you feel younger or older than your age?”

Fujifilm X100T Film Simulation – Quick Examples

Fujifilm X100T is ❤

Just received my X100T over the holidays and it’s a beauty. A few thoughts:

Small: It’s tiny (compared to my D600). I have small hands and can barely get my hand on the grip and not smudge the LCD. If you have bigger hands, I’d advise you handle this camera before you rush to order. It easily fits in my jacket pocket – in Boston we wear jackets 8 months in the year, so a big plus. Also fits in the city bag I sling across my shoulders and includes a water bottle, reading glasses, small notebook and pencils. Continue reading “Fujifilm X100T Film Simulation – Quick Examples”

Peigutso Lake towards Saga

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, Day 6: Peigutso Lake (4,400 m; 14,436 ft) on the Tibetan Plateau


photos of Peigutso Lake in Tibet by Arun Shanbhag
After lunch and pics of local kids, we headed west along a ravine and climbed a pass. There before us was the serenely beautiful Peigutso Lake. Overcast skies quickly gave way to more dazzling azure skies with bright cumulus clouds and turquoise blue water. The scene hushed us all and we simply stared in silence at the magnificence spread before us.
photos of Peigutso Lake in Tibet by Arun Shanbhag


There at that time, my mind was preoccupied by physical discomfort and I did not appreciate the view as much. It had been a few days without bathroom facilities or showers. It was biting cold and the wind was relentless. In the rarefied air I developed the characteristic high altitude-induced dry cough. While the medication (Diamox) ameliorated some of the effects, the cough and headaches persisted. Despite our sherpas’ best efforts at cooking, I was nauseous and could not get anything down. For most of the trip I survived on honey spread over thick rotis and warm yak milk. And ladoos and mithai I had carried from Mumbai.

photos of Peigutso Lake in Tibet by Arun Shanbhag

This is a yatra

And so on I complained about material wellbeing. It would have been excusable if I was on an exotic vacation and expected to be pampered. But I was on the most difficult and sacred of all yatras – where it should have been about the “inner journey.” The physical discomfort is essential to force us to divorce ourselves from the comfortable mundane of our lives and turn our minds inwards to pose the trickier questions: What am I doing here on this planet? What is my purpose? Who is breathing? We don’t need to arrive at the answers, but we certainly need to start asking these questions; wallowing in the discomfort of reflection is the entire purpose of a yatra. Many revel in such an opportunity and such a yatra prepares us to reflect more deeply on our inner journey.

Personally, this yatra was a beginning, transition to a new level, turning a key to unlocking more mysteries and ecstasy. I didn’t know it then, but the mental and emotional manifestations of this yatra will continue to unravel over the rest of my life.

(I edited and reposted these two paragraphs in Dec 2014, more than eight years later)

We continued our drive in the valleys between rolling hills, through ravines and water logged streams. We crossed the wide, peaceful Brahmaputra river and arrived at the chinese military base town of Saga. Here in the middle of the barren desert were all the amenities you’d expect in an army town – pool tables, bars, gambling dens and dancing girls. Girls with garish make-up walked the pavement, reminding us once again of the impermanence of material beauty. It was also the last opportunity to buy warm gloves, hats or other cold weather accessories.


Next on the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra: Brahmaputra and Onwards to Paryang
Start of Kaliash Manasarovar Yatra: Rendevous with Sagarmatha (Everest)


Mumbai’s Terminal T2, more

pics of art and murals at Mumbai's Terminal T2 by Arun Shanbhag

After my earlier passage through Mumbai’s new T2 terminal, I knew what to expect. On arrival, as everyone else darted to Baggage Claim (and staring at flapping slats whizzing by), I strolled through the endlessly curved, glass-lined walkway. I paused at each exhibit and took it in. The breadth of art types on display was stunning. Ubiquitous worker bees hovered nearby and demonstrated practiced busy-ness. Art was not simply a picture or a sculpture, an entire south Indian courtyard (for e.g.) was recreated; Mumbai was mapped with computer mother boards. And despite my earlier reservations, the exhibits were well maintained. Continue reading “Mumbai’s Terminal T2, more”

Lunch & Chanting at Saraswati Vidya Kendra

photos of kindergarten tudents eating lunch at Saraswati Vidya Kendra Kumta by Arun Shanbhag

I have previously written about the mid-day school lunch at the Shanbhag High School and the primary Saraswati Vidya Kendra in Kumta. When I visited Kumta earlier this year, I took a few video snippets of students lining up for lunch and the KG students chanting the blessing.

At the Konkan schools, teachers too have a uniform saree. In the video, you see them helping. Seniors serve the lunch, while teachers help seat the kids and serve seconds. Continue reading “Lunch & Chanting at Saraswati Vidya Kendra”

Kini Hotel, Kumta

pics of chai and breakfast at Kini Hotel Kumta by Arun Shanbhag

This tiny tea shop in Kumta is my main eating and meeting place in Kumta. It’s in the main paent (market) and only a few steps from the Shanteri Kamakshi Devasthan and the Venkatraman Muth/Devasthan. Continue reading “Kini Hotel, Kumta”

Best Way to Treat Achilles Tendonitis: Stretching & Moderation

graphic pic of Achilles tendon anatomyIf you are active in sports, you may have experienced discomfort or soreness in your Achilles (uh-KIL-eez) tendon at one time or another, or you may have heard one of your friends complain about Achilles tendonitis. The Achilles tendon connects the large calf muscles to the back of your heel. If you trace your finger along the back of your leg staring at the heel and moving upward toward the knee, you will appreciate both the Achilles tendon as well as the calf muscles, which pull on it from above.

What causes Achilles tendonitis? Continue reading “Best Way to Treat Achilles Tendonitis: Stretching & Moderation”

Meera at Legoland Boston

photos from Legoland Boston by Arun Shanbhag

What could you do with three million Lego bricks? Build a city of course. At the recently opened Legoland Boston, the highlights are a few of Boston’s iconic buildings, painstakingly assembled with Lego bricks. The attention to detail is amazing and they have captured the main sights including a miniature of Fenway Park filled with mini figures. Pressing a button releases a ball over the mound and with a single pin ball flipper at home plate, you could try and swing for the wall. Very nicely done; apparently took 60,000+ pieces. And Harvard Yard, Widener Library, MIT Dome, Boston Statehouse, Custom House, a road accident with flashing lights and rescue vehicles, and a lot more. Meera was awestruck; we spent an hour peering through the city. Continue reading “Meera at Legoland Boston”

Satyagraha – Resistance by Muslim Women

muslim school girls with veils in Daulatabad Arun ShanbhagRecently I saw this short news article about Muslim women in UK choosing to wear the veil in public.  These are young (presumably educated) Muslim women who choose to declare allegiance to their faith, despite the rising violence against identifiable Muslims. (pic is of school girls in Daulatabad from my earlier trip.)

This act of peaceful resistance by the Muslim women is a beautiful example of satyagraha, which Gandhi exemplified as he forced the British to leave India. This is not very different than the protests that have gripped the predominantly minority town of Ferguson, MO facing a violently racist, civil & police administration. But notice how subtly the young women in UK are making their stand.

It is definitely easier to bow to societal norms and subdue their (our) faith, but these young women show true courage by standing up to society and going about their lives.

Particularly those of us living away from ourr homeland, there is a constant tussle to retain your identify and yet conform. Can you give me examples of how people show such resistance? We don’t have to have our heads bashed in by British troops to make a point, but can stand up to our beliefs in our own peaceful way.

Despite eating most meats when I was in India, I chose to be predominantly vegetarian in the US. I admire the women who chose to wear the bindi in the US.

Give me more examples from your life.

Kumta Street Vegetables

In the Kumta market, these women set up shop early in the morning before the crowds got there. Those vegetables look so delicious! It was March, so the variations of brinjals/eggplants were in season. You will also find konkani classics padwal, ghosalae, muLi (radish), tambdi bhaji (red leaves), vaaLi (green creeper leaves), muggae, karate, maskaa sang, jaam and others. If you notice others, let me know.
photos of fresh vegetable vendors on Kumta Street by Arun Shanbhag Continue reading “Kumta Street Vegetables”

Pālki at the Rāmnāthi Devasthān

photos of Ramnath and Kamakshi in Palki at Ramnathi Devasthan by Arun Shanbhag
Hindus believe that all things animate and in-animate (manifest or unmanifest) are part of the universal divine consciousness. We generally refer to this divine consciousness as “That”, because any attribute you give it is limiting (see Sant Tulsidas’ beautiful verse describing “That” divine consciousness; also this post on Dwija). In common parlance, we refer to “That” as Paramātmā or eternal soul (1). It thus follows that all humans are part of this eternal soul or Paramātmā. The corollary then is that Paramātmā too includes human qualities, strengths and frailties, and expresses human emotions. Purān and itihās (history) are filled with their anthropomorphed lore. In our temples, we adore our divine just like we would our valued guests. In the common Hindu puja, we pamper our divine guest with 16 services (shodasho upchār) like if she was a valued friend, like cleaning her feet, helping her brush, bathe, providing new clothes, jewelry, sumptuous feasts, etc.

Completing this anthropomorphization our temple bound deities like to go out on the town and have fun. Wouldn’t you if you were couped up in a tiny garbha-griha? Thus in many communities, devotees take their temple deities out for a ride in a specially designed pālki (palanquin) (2).

Every Monday evening at the Rāmnāthi Devasthān, Rāmnāth Dev sits in a pālki and is carried around the grounds. It’s a festive occasion with a small band playing and devotees chanting bhajans. Following tradition, the pālki has designated stops where aarti is performed and verses of the Mangalāshtak are chanted. Pālki is followed by a sumptuous prasād (yaay).

On special occasions, Rāmnāth Dev is accompanied by Kāmākshi Devi on his jaunt around the temple grounds. These pictures are from the recent Mahā Shivrātri when Rāmnāth and Kāmākshi went around the temple in their respective pālki (3) . While Rāmnāth sits in his simple pālki, Kāmākshi, verily the Goddess of Desire and Sensuality, tours in style, high on an elephant pālki. How cool is she?


Notes:
1. The word God doesn’t exist in Hindu vocabulary and is a Western construct.
2. In Mumbai you commonly see Muslims take their sacred deity out on the town; recently in Kumta, I noticed the local christians in a procession with their deity in a pālki.
3. Plural of pālki remains pālki and not the anglicized pālkis.

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