Re-visiting Carbery Acres


The high point of our visit was the meeting with the last survivors of truly illustrious Anglo Indian families of the zamindari era. We met with Dr. Jimmy Skinner, at 91, the last male survivor of Col James (Sikander Sahib) Skinner’s family and Jennifer Mann, now 76, who along with her sister Maureen are the survivors of the Carbery family, inheritors of the Powell estates.

Greg tells us of the days when Jennifer shot a leopard with a .22 hunting rifle the one she is displaying to us in the photo. The only addition to the rifle is an infrared sight. Jimmy  was excited as a school boy as he recollected shooting a deer in the days when hunting was an open sport .

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Jimmy Skinner taking us through albums of treasured memories. The ones he liked best where those with catches of huge fish measuring several feet long.

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Jennifer and son Gregory Mann. Gregory has followed in the footsteps of his mother and is an educationist and social worker. He is likely to be the representative of the Anglo Indian community in the Uttarakhand Assembly.

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Jennifer lives in the farm house at Carbery Acres, a hunting lodge built by the Carberys over a century ago.The old hunting lodge has been left largely untouched and still has heritage furniture.The walls are splattered with the Carbery and Mann family photos.

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An old smithy located on the Carbery Acres resort is still run by  Shyamlal, a third generation employee with the Carberys.

Carbery Acres continues to be a beautiful location for a week end getaway. It’s early April and the mango season is around the corner. The trees are in full bloom and a bumper crop of mangoes  expected this year.

Bright pink bougainvillea flowers over look the splash pool where we spent over an hour before leisurely drinking glasses of hot tea and eating delicious pakodas.

A view of the tree house and the cottages at the resort.

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With my wife Deepa

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With Pat Kerr, JVR, Saraswati, Col. Raj Sehgal and Deepa.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay once again due largely to our gracious host Pat Kerr.

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Velankanni – the Walk


It was around noon on the 28th August 2016, that the Pallavaram based Velankanni Walkers, which included Errol and I, entered the church of Our Lady of Good Health. The group of 90 followed the redoubtable flag bearer Gregory West as we marched into the church two by two singing, “Vazhga Vazhga, Vazhga Mariye; Vazhga Vazhga, Vazhga Mariye.” As we reached the alter it was time for silent contemplation and prayers for our families and friends and thanks giving for the good fortune that has been showered on us this far. As we filed out of the church the members of the group hugged and kissed each other. It was a time to be grateful, joyful and triumphant after ten arduous days of walking the distance of approx 350 kms from Chennai to Velankanni.

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The Basilica of Mother Mary at Velankanni

We started the walk from St. Xavier’s church in Pallavaram after a special Mass for the walkers and the recitation of the Rosary at the Grotto of Mother Mary. This is a walk of faith and consequently on several of the ten days journey the walk would start  with the assembly of the group and the Rosary would be recited and hymns song as the group set off for the walk well before dawn at around 3,00am. Shrill whistles by the coordinators would get us up by 2.30 am and everybody would spring up to get ready. As the column of pilgrims trudged along the road saying prayers and singing hymns I often thought of them as the Crusaders on the move.

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The group trudging along after the flag bearer

ll through the journey particularly as we crossed Pondicherry when the number of pilgrims on the road increased manifold, several people greeted us on the way with water, biscuits and tea/coffee. Just outside Pondicherry, a kindly soul served us exquisite cardamum tea. He told us he does this every year and generally serves 300 cups of tea. At Chitambur enroute from Maduranthakum, a family offered us lunch. They perform this service every year and started 15 years ago when there was no good restaurant nearby. Pilgrims generally pass this area on either side of noon on the 21st August when the sun beats down on them relentlessly. The family started with just 20 to 25 lunch way back then but now serve up to 1500 lunches all cooked at home and served by extended members of the family.

On a detour from Chunambedu to Koonimedu across the defunct prawn cultivation farms we stopped along the road to have a bath at a pumping station that was pumping water into the nearby fields. The owner of the pump house and fields invited us into his house for a hot cup of coffee made from fresh cow’s milk. At Cuddalore the group stopped for lunch as they traditionally do at the home of the local MLA, a Brahmin Sampath Kumar, who allows the group to sprawl out on the floors of the rooms of his house to beat the scorching heat. His family members serve chilled lime juice and later in the afternoon lunch of kitchidi and curd bath sponsored by Ananda Bhawan. In a display of multi cultural support for the pilgrims, a Muslim, Rahim Khan invited us into the compound of his house as we were walking between Erukkur and Srikazhi. He spread out a polythene mat for us to rest a while and served cool and tasty water.

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The home of Rahim Khan

The heat and humidity took its toll as one of the members of our group collapsed with heat stroke on the way to Marakanam. We saw at least one little child also suffer a heat stroke that caused panic among his parents and a desperate dash for help on a motorcycle passing by. Four years ago our group suffered a fatal accident as a bus driver lost control of his vehicle and ran into the group. One of our friends died on the spot and two others suffered critical injuries. Even on this walk a motorcyclist hit a pilgrim necessitating medical attention to the unfortunate man. The heat and humidity makes most walkers start the day at 2.30 am or so and walk during the cooler times of the day. Our toughest day was day eight ( 26th August) when we had to walk 48 kilometres from Chidambaram to Thirukkadiur. It was necessary to walk through most of the day. Most of the walkers struggled on this day and reached the night halt late at night. Many tend to sleep or just relax at a shady spot along the road to take frequent respites from the blazing heat of the day.

Walking such long distances invariably brings the risk of blisters and every one suffers to a lesser or greater extent. Those of us who took early action at the onset of blisters to apply band aids and bandages got away with it relatively lightly. The others had to content with a painful walk as they stumbled and limped along the way. It was amazing to see people of all ages and some with serious disabilities make the walk. In our group, we had an 83 year old man, Mr. Varghese who walked on unmindful of an implanted pace maker. He trudged along alone most of the time and successfully completed the walk. Our prayer leader, Rex Jacob is 75 years old and this was his 43 straight walk to Velankanni. He now flies down from Melbourne to Chennai along with a group of the faithful to join in the walk each year.

We could see amputees moving along on wheel chairs or hand driven vehicles and parents carrying their children or pushing them in prams. It was an enormous show of faith. Many groups had build floats in honour of Mother Mary and several pulled them along the way with ropes. The driving force was prayer and a plea to Mother Mary to protect them and lead them to her shrine.

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Mothers pushing a pram along

Food along the walk was reasonable for our group thanks to sponsors. Most of the time we eat kitchidi or curd rice and idlies but on some occasions we were treated to chicken biryani.  On the first day we had to sleep on the road side at a spot between Tambaram and Chenglepet We just spread out on the pavement with lorries and heavy vehicular traffic screeching by. It was the mosquitoes that were the biggest problem though. On other days we spent the night sprawled on the floor of halls at churches and schools and on the odd occasions at a modest lodge. There wasn’t much creature comfort on this pilgrimage and it was never going to be so. Comparatively our group was a lot better off than other pilgrims.

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I do my share of carry the flag

he walk as I said earlier was interspersed with religious events. Special Masses were conducted at St. Joseph’s church, Chenglepet, St. Joseph’s school hall at Nugambal, at the Villianur church, a convent at Bahur besides the Mass at Velankanni. There are several activities that are heartwarming to witness and now a part of the regular programme of our group from year to year. At Villianur, which was not on the path to Velankanni but on a detour taken by the group, we spent time with the school children some of whom are supported by the group and also provided them a sumptuous dinner. At Behur the breakfast was provided for us by the Principal and staff of the catholic school. Further down on the journey at B. Mutlur a group of us stopped by a small juice bar along the road to have a cool drink of nannari sharbat.

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Nannari  sharbat at a juice bar at B.Mutlur

We witnessed the flag hoisting signifying the commencement of the celebrations of Novena Masses leading on to the birthday of Mother Mary on 8th September. Velankanni is a sea of humanity on the 29thAugust and is best avoided. There was far too much of pushing and tugging and hours of jam packed waiting for my liking.Image 5

Luckily Errol and I spent an extra day at Velankanni when the crowds had subsided and we could spend quality time at the church, submit our Mass intentions and pick up the candles holy water, pictures of Mother Mary and the little things that our family and friends had asked us to pick up. Later that evening we took a bus to Nagapittanam and caught the night train to Chennai. That brought to a close a fabulous spiritual experience.

In anticipation of the pilgrimage to Velankanni


History of Velankanni

In a few days my good friend Errol Edmonds and I will set off on a pilgrimage to Velankanni. For Errol this will be his seventh straight walk from Chennai to Velankanni, a distance of 350 kms which is covered over a period of ten days. For me it will be an all new experience.

I have been preparing for this event quite earnestly over the last few months. I hope to witness first hand the fervour and devotion of the thousands of  pilgrims who make this journey of faith each year. There are reports of over twenty thousand who make this walk each year.

Some photos available on the internet that gives a glimpse of the pilgrimage.

And a few photos of the sea of humanity at the Basilica at Velankanni.

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A magnificent view of the Basilica

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While these photos are a representative set taken from the internet, my own experience and the images I capture will be the substance of the next blog post after I complete the arduous walk.

Playing with leading lines and curves


The deserts of Rajasthan offered great settings for playing with leading lines and curves as I explored the nuances of photography courtesy the Developing your eyes exercises by WordPress.

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The railway track at Munabao station pulls us away into the distance.

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I thought this snap was interesting as the sand swept road curves away drawing attention from the cycle in the foreground.

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The strong winds create beautiful sand structures like this one .

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As you cycle through the desert you see the road ahead stretching for miles on end. I took this photo on the road to Jaisalmer in a bid to capture the grit of the riders as they plod along.

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I was captivated by the strong lines of this archway and tried to create an interesting view by tilting the picture.

 

The swirl of dancers and the blur of motion


We were treated to an enchanting display by flamenco dancers during an awards nite at a sales conference at Barcelona.

The swirling dancers and the lighting at the event resulted in some unusual photos.

 

This one looks like a veil over the dancers face.

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Here’s a sequential set of photos of a dancer.

Here’s a blur of movement and splashes of colour.

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My Golden Hour moments


A memorable family get together at the Andaman Islands for my mother in law’s 80th birthday proved to be a wonderful setting for golden hour photography.

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This was taken early morning as some of us took a walk along the coast.

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Here’s a photo at the same time  but from a different direction.

These were taken late evening as the urge to move into the water proved irresistible.

And here are a few more of photos of Havelock Island.

And this is a view as we approach Havelock Island in the Andamans

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Playing with light


Some years ago we went on a family outing to the Jungle Brook Resort at the Corbett National Park.

Of the many photos I took I liked these because of the play of  the lighting .

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Here is a silhouette of my wife. An interesting study.

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This one is of my niece in a pensive mood. The splice of light is from the sunlight peeping  into the tent.

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I like this glimmer of sunlight on the the bamboo plant.

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This unusual photo is of the ceiling of the dinning hall.