Skip to main content
The Kitchen Sink

Washing Vessels – An Operations Approach

I’ve been washing vessels. This is not news to anyone who has spent time in the lockdown. Like many of my fellow countrymen, I’ve been living the charmed life, with hired help taking care of everyday household tasks. With the coronavirus lockdown, we have been left to fend for ourselves. We are the lucky ones – the most hardship we have to endure is that we have to wash our own clothes and vessels.

However, it is not safe to leave tasks such as vessel washing in the hands of a former operations fellow like me. You see, the trouble with operations folks is that they cannot meet something without wanting to organize it, streamline it, reduce it to a set of processes and sub-processes and then embark on a tweaking journey to increase the efficiency of aforementioned processes and sub-processes. And that is what happened with me and vessel washing. read more

Read More

Kandy Snapshots

Kandy is a delightful little city with an old-world charm. Whether you are wandering around the Dalada Maligawa or pottering about the streets of the town, you can never miss the slower pace and gentler attitudes of the people. Even the busy bustling streets are deserted and quiet after dark, and most exchanges with locals will leave with a feeling of peace and calm. Here are a few snapshots from our time there.

Dalada Maligawa

The most visited attraction in Kandy is also its most shining jewel, and an important religious center for Buddhists from all over Sri Lanka. For a place that is visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists every day, the temple is curiously peaceful. It is a living temple and you will come across people – both monks and lay folk – at prayer or in deep contemplation. The buildings in the complex have been in use for centuries – the first version of the temple was built in 1595 CE. The temple is a masonry structure with a wooden superstructure, and there are elaborate decorations on many parts of it.

From a photography point of view, the temple is a treasure trove. The image of the temple is an enduring one, and has been used to represent Kandy as a travel destination for a long time.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Elephant Herder at Pinnawala
Elephant Herder at Pinnawala

A 90-minute drive away from Kandy is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Located on the banks of the Maha Oya river, it is a favorite destination for both local and foreign visitors. Twice a day, a herd of elephants walk from the orphanage down to the river, where they spend some time in the water before walking back. Visitors from all over line the streets to watch the elephants pass, and them follow them down to the river where they watch the giants frolic in the water.

The Empire Cafe

Situated right by the Dalada Maligawa, the Empire Cafe is an atmospheric place to spend an hour or an afternoon. Brightly colored walls and kitschy interiors make it a visual treat. They make a good tea, and their coconut ice cream is a must-have. The walls are adorned with retro posters from Stick No Bills, a Galle-based poster company – they make great souvenirs, and you can actually buy some of them right there.

Kandy is one of the places in my “keep going back there” list, and I will be back there before long!

Read More

Hampi – History, Mythology, You

Hampi is the modern town that sits by the ruins of the City of Victory, Vijayanagara, capital of the once mighty Vijayanagar Empire. Local tradition also says that it is the site of the Kingdom of Monkeys, Kishkinda, and birthplace of Hanuman, the monkey god. In fact, every guide will tell you that the landscape of broken rocks is nothing but what is left after the terrible battle between brothers Vali and Sugreeva over the kinship of Kishkinda.

This is also typical of the Indian habit of conflating history and mythology, making Hampi the perfect Indian destination where the past lives on.

After the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire in the mid 1600s, the entire city was abandoned and was overgrown by the jungle. It remained hidden and out of human reach for more than 200 years, before being rediscovered in the 1800s.

This means that significant portions of the historic capital city are still undisturbed and can be seen even today. The ruins of Hampi give us a fair idea of the grandeur of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Visiting Hampi today is an extremely relaxed affair. Everything is slow and functions at the speed of the countryside. You make you plans in days, not in hours. You linger over meals, walk the scenic route to different historical sites, spend an afternoon or few in the noisy company of the river, or a troupe of monkeys, or the coconut woman. You sometimes spend the whole day at the breakfast table, reading your book and let them bring chai, lunch, pakodas, evening snacks and dinner to you.

The ideal way to visit Hampi is to spend at least a week there. Not doing anything specific and let the time just have its way with you. I am a slave to my photographic desires, and spent my time there trying to get some angle or the other. I’m sure you will find your Muse, or she will find you!

Read More

Florence – The Renaissance and Dante

Dan Brown can hardly be called the most inspired or the most inspiring of authors. However, his books are my guilty pleasure (Angels and Demons are in my top ten list. Yes. I am not ashamed to admit it.), and Inferno’s Florence parts were so well written, Vidya and I knew we had to go and see it for ourselves. Our time in Florence, therefore, was for all intents and purposes, in the amazing Dante Alighieri’s footsteps, inspired by Dan Brown’s Inferno.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

We stayed in the historic town centre of Florence in a b&b that was within shouting distance of the Florence Cathedral, ordinarily called Il Duomo, the sprawling medieval building that dominates the town. The historic centre of Florence itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and represents the best of Renaissance architecture. The Duomo sits, huge and sprawling and beautiful and majestic and dominating, in the centre of Florence. There is no escaping it – wherever you go, there is some part of the Duomo you see. Even when you are facing completely away from it, the reflections of the Duomo look back at you mockingly. So you don’t try to escape it, Instead you learn, very quickly, to accept it and revel in its massive benign presence. You make a game of it – trying to spot it from wherever you are.

Right up close, the Duomo is really massive, and completely decorated with sculpture. Before I saw European cathedrals, I had no idea they could sculpturally rival the ancient temples of India. One look at the Duomo will convince you otherwise – in both quantity and quality, its sculptural adornments will give any Indian temple a run for its money.

The sheer size of the Duomo, combined with the closely built town centre makes it impossible to get a single picture of the whole building, let alone one with it and the monumental Giotto’s Campanile – the cathedral’s freestanding bell tower. We spent a considerable amount of time just walking around the Duomo – rather impossible to avoid since we were staying right next to it, and to get anywhere, we had to pass it.

Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia

One of the highlights of our time at Florence was checking out Michelangelo’s David. This sculpture is monumental, standing 14 feet tall, and it is impossible to capture in words the sheer achievement of the sculptor. The Galleria dell’Accademia houses the statue, and there is always a crowd of people admiring it. What is mindblowing is that the statue was completed in 1504, and stood in the open for 369 years before finally being moved indoors in 1873. The sheer artistic ability of Michelangelo hits you with full force as you approach the sculpture. As you walk around it, it is overwhelming to think he was merely 29 years old when he completed it. When you have seen the David and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, you cannot but agree that Michelangelo’s genius is of the kind that is seen rarely.

On the Trail of Dante

Another fascinating character, the one who had originally lured us to Florence, was Dante Alighieri, better known to us as the man who gave us many of the images we have of a Christian hell. This literary giant was a Florentine, and the story of his love for Beatrice Portinari is legendary. Having read about this, we had to go and find the Chiesa di Santa Margherita de’ Cerchithe, the 13th century church where she is buried, and write a note to her and put it in her basket. We then went to the site of the Alighieri family home, where there is a museum dedicated to the man himself, which has a copy of his death mask. We also visited his funerary monument – a grand statue of the man himself, at the Basilica di Santa Croce.

Galleria degli Uffizi

Florence is the capital of the Renaissance, and holds some of the most precious treasures of the art world. Opened to the public in 1765, the Uffizi is a treasure house of Renaissance art, and is a definite must-visit when in Florence. Even if you have no interest in art, this museum is bound to hold your interest. Where else would you find Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings from his time as an apprentice in Verrocchio’s workshop, or a parade shield painted by Caravaggio? We wandered open-jawed through the corridors of this museum, and would have just sat before one of the masterpieces and not seen anything else if not for our energetic tour guide, who kept us going by promising one more wonder! You could spend a lifetime at the Uffizi, and yet not see it to your heart’s content!

The short time we spent at Florence was hardly justified, but we had to make do with the time we had. Given a choice, I would have happily spent all my time in Italy in Florence and Tuscany!

Read More