Smiling Faces

Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives

Most of us have seen at least one woman in our lives who has struggled, or is still struggling, to achieve balance juggling between her job and her family. She was a superwoman – cooked, cleaned, fed, washed at home, after working 9 to 5 and performing pretty well at her job! Though we have a long way to go, we do see things changing, with more support pouring in from our families, spouses and colleagues.

When we started to take road trips across India, we came to see a very different side in rural sections of India. When we speak of equality for women – sharing the workload at home, equal pay at work, better job opportunities – we often forget about the rural parts of India. Women from certain sections of the society are expected to work on the fields and help provide for the family, and then return home and do the cooking, cleaning, washing with no help from the men of the family.

This International Women’s Day, we are sharing pictures of some such inspirational women from our travel diaries, who represent all those women who never get appreciated for their overwhelming efforts all their lives.

An old woman selling hats during a sunny day at Dona Paula
An old woman selling hats during a sunny day at Dona Paula

We can debate a lot on women should fight for equality, education, healthcare etc etc. Yes we definitely need all that, especially for the economically less privileged. But for now we are in complete awe of these women! These ordinary women who are showing extraordinary strength to provide for themselves and their families are an inspiration. The very fact that they do not let any adversity let them down in life is an inspiration.

Cheers to all these women and their unsung heroic lives!



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Ravana Phadi Nataraj

Photo feature : Aihole cave temple

Ravana Phadi cave temple at Aihole is a great example of Chalukyan temple architecture. During the 6th century, the early Chalukyans experimented with cave temples. The Ravana Phadi cave temple is primarily is a Shiva temple.

Cave temple exterior
Cave temple exterior

Every Shiva temple has a Nandi positioned right opposite the Shiva linga.

Nandi
Nandi
Shiva Linga
Shiva Linga

There are brilliant carvings of various gods and goddesses on the interior walls of the cave temple. There is one of the Nataraja (Dancing Shiva) with Gauri and Ganesha by his side.

Ravana Phadi Nataraj
Ravana Phadi Nataraj

There is one of a rather scary meditating sage. At first it looks like a skeleton, but when you look closely you see that the representation seems of a sage who has been doing Tapasya (meditation) since ages, going by the lean skeletal figure and the strange pose he is standing in.

Meditating Saint
Meditating Saint

There is a figure of a Goddess, who looks like one of the forms of Durga.

Ravana Phadi Goddess

Although the Ravana Phadi is a Shiva temple, there is a figure of the Varaha avatar of Vishnu. Chalukyas encouraged worship of both Shiva and Vishnu. Varaha appears on their royal seal as well.

Varaha
Varaha

There are other celestial figures as well sculpted on the walls in intricate detail.

Ravana Phadi figures

Learn more about Aihole here.



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Shaan-e-Bhopal

“Shaan-e-Bhopal” : Rail dining in the heart of India

I have been married to a Bhopali for four years but I am still unraveling little treasures in the city. Madhya Pradesh loves its food. If you know anyone from Madhya Pradesh, you will certainly hear them praising the food from Indore and Bhopal. Every time I visit Bhopal, I instantly hit the fast-food places there. They are small but neat and extremely cheap for a person traveling from Mumbai.

Every time I am in Bhopal, my in-laws make it a point to take me some place new, so that I can explore the city one place at a time. This time when they suggested “Shaan-e-Bhopal” I did not know what to expect. The only input that I got was that its a unique restaurant. I had never thought that in the heart of India lies the World’s first Broad Gauge Rail Coach converted restaurant! Sheldon Cooper from TBBT would have had a blast here 😛

Bhopal Express
Bhopal Express

As we parked outside, and I saw the first glimpse of the station platform, I could not contain my excitement. The whole premise has been converted to give you the feel that you have actually reached an Indian railway platform, albeit spic and span.

Platform
Platform

The waiters were dressed up like railway porters (or Coolies). There were tables on the platform, for people who prefer to sit overlooking the green lawn and listen to the live singer outside.

Waiter dressed as a railway porter
Waiter dressed as a railway porter

The platform sign and the train signal completed the authentic look of an Indian railway station.

Railway Signal
Railway Signal

As I entered inside the single railway coach, my smile got even wider. Although they have done away with the traditional India interiors and replaced them with sofas and chairs for comfortable dining, the red “chain” (that you can pull to stop the train) has been retained.

The most interesting thing is that the windows are screens running a video. The video is of moving landscapes, probably shot from a moving train, and so you get the feeling that you are having dinner inside a moving train.

Train Interior
Train Interior

On top of that, an audio is played every few minutes with sounds you are familiar with from an Indian railway station – sounds of people moving rushing to catch their train and confirming if this is the right platform, of vendors selling tea and pakoda, of other trains passing by. It all adds up to a genuine train dining experience.

The menu opens with the story of how the creator had earlier planned to build this concept-restaurant in another Indian cities, but had to scrap his idea twice before finally getting help from Madhya Pradesh tourism. The restaurant is actually called “Bhopal Express” as you see in the menu, but Bhopalis love to call it “Shaan-e-Bhopal” because this was the name of the train (Bhopal to Delhi) from which the coach has been taken.

Menu
Menu

I have been inside European rail dining coaches, and yes they are a delight. They provide a unique experience of traveling through fabulous country-side, enjoying good food at the same time. But for most Indians, gaining such an experience is something they cannot ever think of. We do have the Palace on Wheels, but not everyone can afford traveling on it.

Shaan-e-Bhopal’s Bhopal Express provides an opportunity for the common man to enjoy the ‘virtual‘ railway dining experience.

Note:

The food was pretty good. That’s all that I remember as I was too mesmerized soaking in all details of the “Indian rail dining experience”.

I was not prepared for such an experience and hence all pictures have been captured by my mobile camera. As it was night, the pictures are pixelated.



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