from Bir …


Kandaghat Thereabouts

I spent a week in summer, about six months ago, in Kandaghat. Based there, I visited Shimla, Mashobra, Tattapani and Narkanda. It was a relaxed holiday, I painted through the trip sitting at these sites for several hours while my family and my brother’s family trekked and explored around.

It is important in art journalling to write the impressions soon after a trip. This blog comes six months after I made the trip, experiences fresh and significant at that time, have receded from memory. All that I have to share are these paintings. 

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River Sutlej in Tattapani



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Nectarines and Cherries from Shimla


I went on a sketch trail to Bandipur forest. I stayed in the bungalow located within the reserve forest, for three days. Herds of deer grazed the backyard of the guest house, there were tales of tigers and leopards being spotted. An elephant camp was next door, from where a tusker, a mother elephant with her calf that was only five days old ambled to the watering hole located beyond the bungalow.  

I was out through the day, painting and sketching. I painted most of these at the sites, many of them done as wet on wet style. 

I have been dedicating most of my time to writing, and have not been painting much. Filled with guilt I filled my book with these paintings and sketches. I had a lot of time to be by myself and reflect. I have emerged out of the forest with a resolution that I will remain balanced in 2015, I will paint as much as I write.

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The Retreat

I participated in a three day Retreat led by Samdhong Rinpoche. The Retreat was held in Valley School, a hundred acre spread of property allowed to remain wild. We followed a loose schedule, with large tracks of personal time to remain in quietness with ourselves. The only way I remain in close touch with myself is through writing and painting. The place was too beautiful to spend time indoors writing.  It rained intermittently, and when it stopped the Sun shone unabashedly, pulling dragonflies out of their haunts. Birds called feverishly from the tall trees. The earth bled red and runnels of water flowed across the pathways in the forest. 

On one of my walks I found this beautiful tree in the neighbouring property. I stood in a clearing away from trees and bushes as I painted, just a few minutes ago I saw a long snake slither into a bush beyond. I widened the gap in the barbed fence and explored the neighbour’s property which was overrun with tall grass and thick growth of cacti. Just beyond the fence that you see in the picture is a large banyan tree with its dense arch of aerial roots. I did not have the time to paint the banyan tree, I was already late and  ran just in time for the meditation session.

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I sat on a stone bench that oversaw the cross road between the thickly forested cover.  After a brisk and intense downpour, the cloud cleared and the light was magical.

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Mornings were mesmerising, I followed a path that led me here. Under the tall trees where I stood to paint it was still dark, but the pond and the bridge were suspended in the lucid morning light.

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There is a lake, my friend said, beyond the Art Village. She took me there and asked me to join her in time for the meditation. Again, I just about made it, I mean to the meditation session! The lake kept me pinned to the spot. I finished the painting very fast, but the luminosity of the water as it reflected light was captivating.

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On an afternoon that I could not go out to paint because of the rain, I drew this from my porch. This is the view of the forest from my room.

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Lake and Forest

I have come to Tumkur to participate in a simulated archaeological dig with students. That is work, an exciting one at that. Tumkur offers me so much more excitement than that. 

Just opposite my school is Basti Betta, a hillock that has a Jain temple on stop. My friend and I got up early and climbed the hillock, I witnessed a glorious sun rise. I sat on a rock and sketched the Mydala lake. I finished this painting on the site, and I don’t think there is anything more that I can do to the painting.

In the evening, even after the strenuous archaeological dig, I had enough energy to go to the forests of Devarayana Durga. It was raining, but nothing could bring me and my friend indoors. We walked through the forest, my friend lead me to the Forest Department’s library building. I sat outside the building and painted these two views.




The hills surrounding Kotagiri town in Nilgiri, are covered with acres of tea plantation. It becomes difficult to see a hillside like this, that breathes with species of plants and trees other than tea plantation. Most of Nilgiri has lost its indigenous tree cover of Shola forest, and has been replaced with tea plantations, plantations of eucalyptus and teak trees. The Shola trees have high ecological significance in protecting the waters of rivers by holding up of water received by precipitation, and they are home for several birds, animals and insects. A well pruned hillside is a scar and a threat to ecology.



Avalanche Road, Ooty

The drive from Ooty through Avalanche Road to Avalanche Forest Reserve and Upper Bhavani is picturesque. Rolling mountains stretch on all the sides, they disappear at a distance into blue haze of the sky. Clusters of tile roofed houses are tucked between folds of mountains terraced for farming. 

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St Thomas Church, Ooty

Just a stone’s throw from where I stayed in Ooty, St Thomas Church was located. Built in 1870, this is an imposing structure, breathing history in its presence.

During my morning walks when fog hugged the mountains I stood outside the closed gate of the church, on the road, and made several sketches. I made a few sketches from the side of the graveyard, I made these too from the road. If I had hoisted myself into the church by scaling the wall, I would have got a breathtaking view of the Ooty lake.

The graveyard at the church attracts visitors because a scene from the film adaptation of E M Forster’s ‘A Passage To India’ was shot here.  


Mudhumalai Forest

Mudhumalai which means ‘old hills,’ is on the northwest of the Nilgiri. It is an important corridor for various animals, this forest is a continuum of Bandipur and Nagarhole forests in the north, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary on the west, forests of Silent Valley in the south, to the east is Sigur plateau that leads to Sathyamangalam forest. It is  home for tigers, leopards, elephants, hyenas, bisons, monkeys and various other animals, reptiles, birds and insects.

River Moyar, a tributary of River Bhavani, flows through the forest. The forest is a mix of several vegetation  – the tropical moist deciduous, tropical dry deciduous, thorn forest or scrub jungle patches; this variety in flora gives a rich colour to the forest.