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Who am I?

Does my public display name seem very unusual? nonsensical? After raking through my grey cells for a nice name for my WordPress website, I thought, why not create a name which will represent my identity or in other words explains who I am? And so the name Malelhi (Malayali + Delhite).

So the first blog is going to be kind of my introduction and the topic is my struggle to figure out my identity while growing up in the capital city in a traditional yet not conservative Malayali family by which I mean we went to Church without fail on every Sunday and received sex education at home. In case you don’t know who is a Malayali and wondering what the heck is she talking about then let me tell you, Malayali is the term used for the natives of the South Indian state – Kerala ( yes, there are South Indian states other than the much popularised and stereotyped city of Chennai portrayed by Bollywood).

My parents came to Delhi because of their jobs, fell in love and got married and a year later, had me and this is where the story of my bi-cultural or dual culture upbringing begins and also my identity crisis. My mother tongue is Malayalam but the preferred language is Hindi since that is the language spoken by the majority in Delhi and the language I have grown up in. I prefer to abuse either in Hindi or English. Any given day, I will choose Kadhai Paneer (cottage cheese and one of the famous North Indian dishes) over the good ol’ ‘sadya’ (literally means ‘feast’). I rarely watched Malayalam movies, clueless about the Malayali actors and singers except few superstars and before you make another stereotypical comment – the list does not include Rajnikanth since I do not like him (hate me if you want). I do not share a typical cousin bond which you can usually see in exaggerated comical videos with my extended family back in Kerala so now comes the million-dollar question (at least for me) – where do I belong?

In Delhi, I have been shoved into the stereotyped category of ‘madarasi’ a slang used for those who belong to the state erstwhile city of Madras now known as Chennai but unfortunately used as a term to address the entire South Indian population by the Northerners and back in Kerala, I felt distant and to some extent alienated since I cannot accept the restrictive Malayali culture (before you bash me, let me clarify that I am not talking about uber chic cities such as Kochi or Thiruvananthapuram). I was confused and reluctant to accept the Malayali DNA present in my body and the language which I can read, write and speak but not very comfortable to talk in.

So let’s cut the long story short, it took me time to accept the Malayali side of me and now if you ask me to introduce myself, I will say, “I am a Malayali, raised in Delhi!”. So the DNA is that of a Malayali but the heart is that of a Delhite.

Let me know if you ever faced the dual cultural background crisis or your thoughts on the article or any positive criticism.

“I speak three languages,write and dream in one”

  • My own version of the verse by Kamala Das
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Why do male Indian bike riders wear helmets on their elbow?

This question has me intrigued for quite a long time. Every time a bike rider passes me with his helmet on his elbow – this question pops in my mind. What special capability does an Indian man’s elbow possess that he needs a helmet to safeguard it? Is it more important than the head? because when I was learning to drive, the first thing my mother told me was to never drive without a helmet.

One possible answer to this question was given to me by an uncle who was really concerned about my thick, long, voluminous hair. According to him, I should take off the helmet because it can result in hair loss because of the heat captured within the helmet. Since I am more concerned about keeping my brain and skull safe, I chose to give him my special grin reserved for stupid questions asked by nosy people who are of my parents’ age and kept the helmet strapped to my chin.

However, I am intrigued by the men, Indian men to be specific. Do you guys have some kind of special kind of or layer of protection that can withstand an accident? Or are your elbows extremely weak that needs the special protection of a helmet? Let me know through comments.

PS: Please don’t tell me that not all Indian motorcycle riders wear helmets on their elbows. I know it just like I know not all men are sexual harassers or rapists or serial killers 🙂

The Bazaars of Hyderabad: Koti Sultan Bazaar

So where were we? Oh yes, the Charminar market.

Our pitstop was the Irani tea shop and after refreshing cups of Irani chai, we went ittar shopping. Once we were done with testing all possible fragrance combinations, we smelled like the ancient Mughal gardens. After buying several bottles, out next stop was Mecca Masjid.

Irani chai.JPG

The striking feature of this masjid is the space. It instantly took me back to the Jama Masjid – the largest in India. Right in the middle of a crowded space, one can feel the calm and peace, away from all noise. Sounds impossible but you need to visit the place to experience it. As long as you cover your body, you are free to go inside.

The next shoppers’ stop was The Sultan Bazaar at Koti. We took an auto from there which is certainly not an easy task and the place is 20-25 minutes away. There is no comparison to the Sarojini Nagar Market of Delhi but this one is a miniature version of it. Both sides of the street are lined with small dainty and at times big shops that have various products starting from shoes to pillow covers.

One thing you must be good at is the art of haggling. Never settle for the prices they offer. If you are good enough, you will get stuff at a good deal.

So, we came back home laden with bangles, earrings, ittars and memories of an evening well spent.

I would like to know your shopping trysts and adventures. So please drop your comments!

 

The Bazaars of Hyderabad: Charminar Market and Laad Bazaar

Charminar 1.JPG

Pic Credi: Sohini Mandal ( @the.bonedi.girl)

It was a fine day and my roommate who had been sulking for days for being unable to go back home (Kolkata) during the Durga Poojo made a plan of setting off to Charminar. I jumped in, since the random plans result in the best trips. Also, I have never explored the market before despite visiting the monument once with family. My aim was simple – see around, click a few pictures while my roommate shops her heart out and head back home. Buying stuff was not on my list since I was not much of the shopping kind. I know that can be surprising but I am one of those anomalies in the female half of the human species.

I could NEVER have been more WRONG in my life. This time.

For those who have visited Chandni Chowk, let me tell you Charminar market is the wider, cleaner and a bit safer version of Chandni Chowk. If you try, you can actually walk without touching another person and believe me, it is not possible in Chandni Chowk. Within this lies the Laad Bazaar, which is the ultimate stop for those who are into choodi or bangles as they say in English. Just follow the sights and lights and you are good to go.

The highlight is the imitation jewellery. There are shops lining the road on both sides that sell Hyderabadi pearls and other kinds of jewellery but my focus is on the street side vendors with carts full of glittering jewellery. The best part? It is effin’ cheap! I could not believe my luck! I thought Sarojini was the cheapest market out there but then surprises do not cease to exist. There are sets of steel bangles for just 100 bucks  (that’s laad bazaar for you). There are beautiful silver earrings for just 50 and 100. I can bet with you that you won’t get such a good deal in the popular flea markets of Delhi such as Sarojini or Janpath.

Good Lord! Could not keep my hands off them! Therefore, a person who is disinterested in things like shopping ended up splurging like there is no tomorrow.

The story does not end here. Read the next blog to know the next pit stop! So if you are in living in Hyderabad or planning to visit Hyderabad, drop in your queries in the comment section.

Charminar selfie

Picture Credit: Sohini Mandal a.k.a the gorgeous roommate (@the.bonedi.girl)

PS: Its the selfie of the year

 

 

Following the Historical Trails in Hampi [PART 2]

So what happened after the 6 am alarm?

This was our last day in Hampi so we packed our bags, checked and rechecked our belongings and after we clicked our group picture, we set off on the last leg of our adventure.

Group Picture1.JPG

Picture Credit: the security guard and Ali Abbas ( @hobbitindisguise)

This day was completely dedicated to the historical aspects of Hampi but I won’t be discussing the boring historical details since it is easily available on Wikipedia or any other website. Mine is all chatpata masala – the details you would love to know.

Virupaksha Temple 1.jpg

Picture Credit: Ali Abbas ( @hobbitindisguise)

Virupaksha Temple.

I wore light blue shorts. In a temple. In a Kannada Temple. Something I usually do not dare to do but this time I had a fling going on with adventure. But I had prepared myself for the culture talk by tucking in a wrapper skirt inside my backpack for emergency purposes and I was expecting to be told to wear that but to the surprise of the surprises, no one gave two hoots about it! I roamed around the historic Virupaksha Temple in my shirt and shorts and had fun. We were having fun till we got locked in.

It was lunch time and we had clearly lost track of time so the nasty surprise but then we managed to wriggle out of the situation thanks to gentle persuasion. Pleading words do work and also the idiom – strength in numbers.

Did I mention the erotic images of men and women in different sex positions? Well, one had a clear depiction of a woman’s vagina! I could see the folds of her genital organ. These are carved into the roofs of the Temple.

Sunrise/Sunset point:

When we reached here it was neither sunset or sunrise, it was a scorching sun right on top of our heads. I was grateful to those shorts and the cotton shirt. Still, it is one of the important landmarks there so we did click pictures. The view admittedly is beautiful but then to appreciate it you need to stand there and gaze when it is sunrise or sunset. Moving on….

Krishna Temple and the Stairwell:

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Krishna Temple – The one with the bat tour.

Picture Credits: Srinath Poduri ( @srinathpoduri)

Stairwell 2.jpg

Stairwell – Market Place or just a stairwell. Might have to consult the Ouija board to summon the spirits.

Picture Credits: Srinath Poduri ( @srinathpoduri)

So after a hasty lunch, our next destination was Krishna Temple. Want to know the best part? the creepy, awful smelling and shit scary bat tour. Yes, we walked inside a tunnel, bent, with minimum light and then I understood the depth of the idiom – Daylight at the end of the tunnel. I was relieved but then, I will admit, it was also the best part of the temple. Tiny bats outlining the curves and lines of the deities and the building.

Is it stairwell? Was it a marketplace? I do not know. But it was a good place to get amazing snaps and my roommate is gifted when it comes to clicking pictures so now I will fast forward to the best or the worst (your call) but certainly the most adventurous moments of my life.

We walked a lot. We walked through Banana groves, nature-made butterfly tunnel, crossed a stream and trekked to reach Matunga Hills. Surprisingly, the ascent was not as difficult as I had expected because I think my body got used to the torture I was inflicting on it and then we reached the summit. What I saw just took my breath away. Literally.

Natural Cave 1.jpg

Natural Cave: It had beautiful butterflies!

Picture Credit: Srinath Poduri (@srinathpoduri)

I could witness the entire expanse of Hampi in all its crowning glory and I was speechless. I just sat there and let my thoughts wander and let nature work its magic on me. Imagine all the cheesy romantic songs you have heard till today and were filmed on such exquisite locations, the scenery presented was that sans all the ill-clad heroes and heroines.

Matunga Hills 1.JPG

Matunga Hills: This is burned into my memory.

Picture Credit: Ali Abbas ( @hobbitindisguise)

Matunga Hills 2.JPG

Matunga Hills: Isn’t it breathtaking?

Picture Credits: Ali Abbas ( @hobbitindisguise)

Hours passed and after clicking innumerable pictures, all of us noticed that the dark clouds had started covering us and rain was quite imminent. Now let me tell you that this was a highly undesirable situation since we were high up in the hills, the rocks were extra smooth and we had no raincoats which meant the descent is going to be highly dangerous, one small slip and it is a freefall into the beautiful but a fatal abyss. We began the descent and after few minutes our worst fears came true. The nature decided to take a piss and we were caught in that heavy flow of piss.

We were drenched to the bone, to say the least, were shivering in the cold and had taken off our shoes because we had unearthed this surprising fact that nothing beats the God-gifted natural grip of the soles. I remember taking names of all possible saints and Mother Mary and the prayer to reach the ground in one piece hopefully. Some of us were remembering their mothers. We were shit scared. The descent was long and arduous and not to mention, highly slippery. But I must say that the men of our group were really supportive. They put our safety first before theirs and helped us to keep the sanity safe. I will be eternally grateful for that.

I glided, crawled and walked on the rocks and stepped into probably goat and horse shit but I did not effin’ care because my sole goal was to reach the base camp in one whole piece and will take care of the bacteria once I reach home (hostel) and take a really long hot shower.

After what seemed like hours, all of us reached the base camp by 7:30 and I had never been this thankful to touch the simple plain ground but then our woes had not ended.  Our bus to Hyderabad is at scheduled at 8:30 pm and we had to collect our belongings from Virupaksha Temple. I think in my entire life, I never walked on a road or ran for that matter barefoot but that I discovered there were going to be many firsts in my life. We, at least I did and ran to Virupaksha Temple barefoot, collected our belongings and mind you, we were still in our drenched clothes.

We took the bus to the main bus stand where our bus was parked and all this while I had to hold in my urine clearly because of the lack of time. I could not talk, smile or laugh because of the tension coursing through me. If we miss this bus, I don’t know how we will go back. Another prayer began and this time to catch the bus.

Finally, after another barefooted sprint, we managed to locate the bus and pleaded the driver to give us five minutes to pee. I was so wound up that I did not even mind the god-awful state of the toilets.

So here we come to the end of my adventure in Hampi and that treacherous descent was the most adventurous thing I have ever done in my life. We changed clothes in the bus since it was a sleeper so finally after a long tiring journey I could sleep for a while.

I am sure 10 or 15 years down the line if I am blessed with kids, then this is going to be the fondest and most thrilling memory I would narrate to them.

Hampi Aug 2018 (659).JPG

Picture Credit: Nipun Mathur ( @Nipun_mathur)

PS: Post the trip, all of three of us suffered from fever. Getting drenched was really a bad idea and my roommate got a second-degree burn. Took a lot of time to heal but she is left with a huge scar. Also, there are places I have skipped since I was in a hurry to get to the most exciting and thrilling part of the journey.

Following the Historical Trails in Hampi (PART 1)

Is it a big deal to go on a trip with one’s friends? Not for most of the people but for a 22-year-old-female who has never travelled to any place without the family in tow like me, it was a huge leap of faith to travel not only with my close female friends but also with a bunch of absolute strangers who belonged to different backgrounds and most importantly were male. So now you know the source of my doubts and apprehensions but since fortune favours the brave, we took the risk and I have to admit it paid off very well. So ready to hitch a ride with me to Hampi?

TOUR CREDITS: Hyderabad Trails with a special thanks to Gopal who was our tour guide/motivator.

DAY 1

After a journey of approximately 7 hours in a surprisingly comfortable semi sleeper bus, we deboarded to take an auto which took us to our campsite. After a walk of about 25 minutes through the paddy fields and a muddy trail and a tea break of 10 minutes, we were finally there and the site took our breath away, literally and metaphorically. We were informed that we were standing on the private property of the king of Hampi (Hampi was the capital of Vijayanagara kingdom) with due permission of course and the campsite was nestled cosily amidst huge boulders and vegetation and being the city girl, I knew the value of the toxic free air I was filling my lungs with. After dumping our backpacks in the campsite, we kick started out adventure!

The camp site

Picture Credits: Ali Abbas

The best way to explore Hampi is exploring the place on a rented bike or a scooter but there was a shock waiting for me – the brakes worked only when I used my legs as additional brakes. But then I am a Delhi girl and Delhites can deal with anything so I rode the bike through slush, weeds, rocky paths ( there was a moment when I prayed to God to keep me in one piece), tarred roads, uphills and downhill etc. So, yes, I got dirty and wet. Quite Literally.

Anjanadri – The mythological birthplace of Hanuman

Picture Credits: Ali Abbas

Let me admit, all dosas I had shoved down my throat were burnt up by the time we reached the summit. But the fascinating view with which I was rewarded with was worth the 425 steps + innumerable scratches + blood loss due to mosquito bites I had endured during the trek. The view gave the complete view of Hampi and no picture can ever do justice to the scenery my eyes had witnessed.

Now let me tell you the story since all of us love a good story. The name of the hill is derived from Anjana – mother of Hanuman. It is believed that this is the hill where the revered Monkey God was born and all the cracks that are seen are the results of Hanuman prancing around. There is also a small temple at the top. We had taken the road not taken, so reached earlier than the others who took the usual roads.

Chintamani Temple

Picture Credits: Srinath Poduri

Picture Credits: Srinath Poduri

This is actually a cave built because of the specific alignment of the rocks along with temples as I have shown in the above pictures where it is believed that Lord Ram rested along with Sugriva and his friends when Sugriva was in exile or the first meeting point of Lord Ram and Sugriva. I suggest you brush up your knowledge of Ramayana since all the characters mentioned here are from Ramayana.

It was cool and I just sat there basking in the coolness of the earth and enjoying a few peaceful moments. The best part was splashing around in the stream that originated from the Tunga Bhadra river. I would have loved to go for a dip but then I had no plan of falling sick during my adventure not to mention the fact that I had only one set of spare clean and dry clothes.

Picture Credits: Srinath Poduri

By this time, we were ravenous and that clearly showed the way we devoured our Tamil vegetarian lunches something I would not have since my taste buds are more inclined towards the hot and spicy North Indian dishes.

Once the tummy was full, I was ready for the next challenge and that was climbing Ma Durga Hills. Again we followed the unconventional path but most importantly I was feeling bad for the torture inflicted on my Activa or the scooter since the path was either filled with pebbles and rough or simply filled with twists and turns. Thankfully, it was not as arduous as Anjanaadri but still for someone like me, it was huffing and puffing my way through the rocks. The view I was rewarded with was definitely worth all that huffing and puffing and the calories I had burnt. The best part of this trip till now for me was the stunning views from the Hilltops. As the cliche says, time flies by when you just stand on the summit and let your mind wander and be at peace with yourself.

Picture Credits: Ali Abbas

Our next stop was the prehistoric Caves which are unfortunately not protected considering the fact that it has been checked and verified by the Archaeological department and famous around the globe. There were paintings of animals such as deer, bulls and snakes etc but one picture that caught our attention was that of something which looked something similar to what we called alien spaceship or a UFO. If you want you can check youtube videos on it.

Now we were done at least I was since there was a limit to what my city-bred body can take. We went back to our cosy little campsite and built a bonfire which is a must for a campsite and had ice-breaking sessions to know each other since all of us came from different backgrounds. After a decent meal vegetarian meal, I crashed on my bed thanks to the exertion I had put my body through and the next thing I know is waking up to 6 am alarm.

Read PART 2 if you want to know my Hampi adventures after 6 am alarm.

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