Thursday Hops #15

This week I went to visit my in-laws. Their house is located in a small colony in East Delhi, and they have been staying there for the last 45 years or so.

This locality was originally an unauthorized colony, which basically means there was vacant land lying around and someone came along and put up his house and when no one objected, other people came up and built their houses alongside and before the government could sit up and take notice, a whole colony had sprung up.

At this point, the government has two choices – it can either raze down the houses or it can go ahead and regularize the colony. Which of these two choices they actually act upon depends on the vote bank associated with the colony. If a huge number of potential voters are living there, most governments find it easier and beneficial to regularize the colony. I guess other factors also play a role in the decision, but I’m sure this is the main one.

My in-laws had bought a piece of land in this colony when it had just become regularized, so they still got it fairly cheap. Once a colony gets regularized, the expectation is that the government provides the necessary infrastructure in the area, such as roads, parks, water supply, and a drainage system. Unfortunately, since the colony is fairly well established by the time regularization happens, there may or may not be enough space left over to make wide roads and sufficient parks and so on.

Most of the original single-storied houses in the colony have now been replaced with three- or four-storied houses. However, this colony still caries some of the identifying factors of an unauthorized-turned-regularized locality — narrow lanes, no planned parking spaces, a jumble of electric wires dangling dangerously close to houses, and few open spaces (one of the key reasons why we moved out of the area; I had to take my young son to play in a park in a neighboring colony)

On the plus side, most of the people here have been staying here for decades and know each other and their extended families quite well. Neighbors rush in to help whenever there is a need, small or big. Overall, there is a warmth here that you don’t find in the high rises in planned localities with much better facilities.

And that is why my in-laws refuse to move out of the area.

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Drawing Challenge #Day 11

Well, I’m officially halfway through the 21 day challenge. Day 11’s challenge was to draw a monster! Not something you have ever seen on TV or comics, but a monster straight out of your imagination.

I started thinking about the kind of beings scare me the most and the thing that kept coming to my mind was roaches. Just like Ron Weasly thought Giant Spiders were the scariest things in the world, Giant Roaches are the stuff of my nightmares.

Sure enough, my monster came out as a mix of Cockroaches, Lizards, and other creepy crawlies.

The monster has just crept out from under my bed.

SCRUNCHHHHHHHHH SCRUNCHHHHHHHHHHHH SCRUNCHHHHHHHH

Oh no! It has started chewing up my toes. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Thursday Hops #14

This week, I stepped out to buy an outfit for a family function next month. I was quite excited, as I was visiting a shopping mall after a gap of nearly eight months. I enjoy a shopping expedition even normally, but due to this long, Corona-induced abstinence, I was determined to savor every moment of it.

The good news is that maintaining social distancing was not an issue. At all. The mall was practically deserted. This pic is of Sunday afternoon.

Shipra Mall in Ghaziabad (Delhi NCR)

In normal times, you sometimes have to queue up to enter the mall on a Sunday. Considering that the festive season has begun with Dushehra just around the corner, the mall would have been teeming with people in a normal year. Shops in the mall would have been vying with each other to offer bigger, better sales. In some of the busiest showrooms, you would have been elbowing your way through the crowd to get at the dress you had your eyes on.

In contrast, no one entered the mall at least till ten minutes after I entered. I could see some visitors scattered here or there, all masked and sanitized. But I had a feeling that if you would line up all the mall employees and the customers, the employees would far outnumber the customers. This, even though the malls have been open for over two months now.

How are these businesses even managing? They must be facing huge losses just to keep the showrooms open.

I glanced into the food court, and only two or three tables were occupied. After I had made my purchase, I went to the Ladies’ restroom on the top floor and found it locked. Only the restrooms on the lower floors were kept functional, possibly to minimize on operational costs.

The corridor leading to the multiplex was empty, only the personnel who check tickets were around. This was still expected, as cinemas had opened only two days earlier.

Deserted entry to the multiplex within the mall

It was all quite sad and depressing.

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Drawing Challenge #Day 10

Day 10’s challenge is pretty simple – I just needed to fill up a page with doodles. Wikipedia defines a doodle as “a drawing made while a person’s attention is otherwise occupied.”

I was a doodler throughout my school and college days. Now, I doodle in office meetings. Although some people think equate doodling to day dreaming, this is not really the case. Doodling actually helps me focus and pay more attention to what I’m hearing. If I wasn’t doodling, my mind would probably slip off out of the classroom/conference room and explore more interesting corners of the world.

Here’s my doodle for this exercise.

I’ve noticed that I often end up repeating objects/patterns in my doodles. For instance, I frequently doodle a human eye. I’m also fond of doodling the branches of a tree.

What’s your favorite doodle?

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Thursday Hops #13

So it’s Thursday, and time for the 13th hop!

Like the previous hop about Mukteshwar, this one is also from my hubby’s recent trip to Uttarakhand. More specifically, it is about a local jharna (mountain spring) in a place called Sat Tal, or Seven Lakes.

This is a perennial spring, though its volume does vary depending on the season. The spring is off the regular tracks and is slightly hidden. The path leading to it is rocky and not easily accessible.

I don’t remember the first time I visited this place (it must have been in early 2000s), but at the time only the locals knew about the spring. As tourism, especially camping, picked up in Sat Tal, tourist guides started leading tourists to the spring as a sort of trek in the mountains. In fact, the last time we had headed for the spring, we had to turn back as the place was too crowded. We had our dog with us and didn’t want to create a ruckus.

Here are some pics of our visit to the spring about a decade ago with some friends and family.

In rainy season, the path to the spring is full of leeches. You can’t escape them. I can guarantee that at least one of them will stick to you while you are there, even if you have on hard boots 🙂

But the visit is still worth it!

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Drawing Challenge #Day 9

Day 9’s challenge was to look at images of some man-made, mechanical objects that were provided as reference and then draw out one of them as precisely as possible. No tracing was allowed, and we were free to apply some amount of creative license in our approach. The objective is to be realistic, but not photo-realistic.

I procrastinated over this challenge for several days because I knew it would require a lot of effort. Even after I finally started, I spread the task over several days. I’d chosen to draw a pair of headphones.

This is my final drawing.

It may not look like it, but it took me a couple of hours just to get the basic sketch right. I don’t have a particularly steady hand so drawing ovals and circles are a problem. Even if I got the pencil version right, I messed up at a few spots while inking it in. Also, I don’t I got the angles right at some places.

But I’m happy to say that I seem to have made some progress in drawing shadows and highlights.

What do you think? Do you see some improvement in my shading?

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Thursday Hops #12

My husband got a 15-day break at office and he immediately rushed to his first love…the hills in his hometown. Although we came back from there only about a month back (and after spending five months of lockdown there), he was already missing Kumaon hills terribly.

Kumaon is now fully open for travel, so although he is mostly staying at our home there, he is also doing a bit of day traveling. Yesterday, he went to Mukteshwar and sent me this pic.

Mukteshwar Viewpoint (View of the Himalayas)

This pic was taken from the viewpoint in the garden in front of the Public Works Dept (PWD) guesthouse. The majestic Himalayas are visible in the background. I’ve been to Mukteshwar several times and on a clear day, the view of snow-clad peaks from this point is spectacular.

In all states I’ve been to, the government-owned property has the best possible location. This is good in a way because any private player would have build high walls and limited the experience (and view) to those who were staying at their hotel. The PWD guesthouse, in contrast, has no such restrictions. Whether or not you are staying there, you can sit or stroll in the PWD garden for as long as you like.

Unfortunately, staying the night at the PWD guesthouse is a bit trickier. On all our trips to Muktheshwar, I have wanted to stay at the PWD guesthouse, but booking rooms in the guesthouse is not straightforward. There is no online booking system, and you either have to know someone who works in PWD or follow some long-winded process. So we have always stayed at the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) hotel here instead.

The PWD Guesthouse (with the KMVN hotel in the background)

As you can see, although KMVN has the same view as PWD, it’s view is partially obstructed by the PWD guesthouse on the lower floors. Even from the top floors, the view appears much more distant than from the PWD garden.

Mukteshwar is the only place I know where KMVN (or its equivalent in other states) does not have the prime location. I guess as the PWD was also state-owned and was probably there earlier, KMVN was unable to get the best location.

The good news is that apparently KMVN has now taken over the PWD guesthouse in Mukteshwar. That’s what my husband’s heard from the locals. This means we will now be able to book rooms in the guesthouse from the KMVN Web site. Yay! I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Mukteshwar!

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The Twelve Apostles of Australia

Previous – Apollo Bay | Next – Loch Ard Gorge

Although the Great Ocean Road in Australia stretches from the city of Torquay to Allansford in Victoria, most bus tours starting from Melbourne only go up till the Twelve Apostles before returning to Melbourne via an inland route. I guess no more is possible in a single day tour.

The Twelve Apostles are a group of magnificent limestone stacks, located off the shore of the Port Campbell national park. Eight of these limestone stacks were located quite close to each other and became a major tourist attraction on the Great Ocean Road tours.

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The Twelve Apostles

Originally known as the Pinnacles (and sometimes as the Sow and Piglets!), their name was officially changed to Twelve Apostles, probably for marketing purposes. This, even though the formation only had eight stacks at the time. In 2005, a 160-foot stack called ‘Judas’ collapsed and now there are only seven stacks left standing at the Twelve Apostles view point. A picture of the pre-collapse view can be seen here.

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Pre-collapse view of the Twelve Apostles (Img Src: Wikipedia)

On reaching the Twelve Apostles, we first make our way to the Twelve Apostles’ Visitors’ Center. The Center has washrooms, a coffee shop, and souvenirs for sale.

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Information boards near the Twelve Apostles Visitor’s Center tell us that the Twelve Apostles are actually small islands that turned into stacks due to constant erosion over millions of years.

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An Information Board at the Twelve Apostles

The extreme weather conditions of the Southern Ocean with its tempestuous winds and powerful surf gradually erode the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs. These caves then become arches, which eventually collapse to form standalone rock stacks up to 160 feet high. Isolated from the shore, these stacks become even more susceptible to erosion from waves. It is believed that due to waves eroding the cliffs, the existing headlands will also turn into limestone stacks or apostles in the future.

From the Visitors’ Center, you can follow the walking tracks to the Twelve Apostles lookout, Castle Rock, and the Gibson’s Steps lookout.

The walking track to the Twelve Apostles lookout is broad, even, and accessible to wheelchair users. The shrubbery on the sides is quite distinctive and dramatic. The track ends in a boardwalk leading to the lookout, which gets quite crowded by the time we reach there.

Once you reach the lookout, it is clear why nobody is ready to leave. The view is spellbinding and magnificent. You can walk around and see them from different angles and try to count all the stacks still standing.

We too linger till the last possible moment before returning to our bus.

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Drawing Challenge #Day 8

Day 8’s challenge was to add shading to a given image based on the defined light source. The same image was repeated multiple time in the reference sheet, with the light coming in at different angles in each variation.

We were supposed to print out the reference sheet and add in shadows in each image after studying the light source in the image. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I decided to replicate the image on paper and then add shadows.

Here’s my drawing before adding the shading:

While adding shading, I decided to define the nose a bit more than in the sample image as the nose is what sticks out in an face and likely to cast shadows. I also defined the eyes a bit more. I also had to darken the hair a bit more so that I could differentiate it from the shading.

Here’s one of my shading samples. I’ve indicated the light direction by arrows.

I’m not sure about the accuracy of my shading. I guess I’ll know when I look at the solutions tomorrow. Any tips/references for improving my understanding of light and shadows with respect to sketching is welcome.

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Drawing Challenge #Day 7

Day 7’s challenge had simple instructions – draw any subject you are passionate about. However, the challenge was not that easy to complete,

I thought about it a little and decided to draw my pet dog, Cheeku. As of now, although I’m fairly decent at drawing after looking at an existing drawing or photo (in other words copying), I’m not that good at creating an original drawing by looking at a live subject.

One problem is that my proportions go for a toss. In inanimate subjects, I can still measure and determine a suitable scale to draw. But when drawing live subjects, especially drawing someone who can maintain a pose only in Sleep mode, determining proportions is tough.

Another problem is I am yet to learn about lighting, so I don’t have much of an idea about what to highlight, what to shade, and so on.

Luckily for me, I found a great step-by-step tutorial on drawing a dog’s face and one of the dog faces they were teaching to draw resembled Cheeku a lot. The tutorial gave me a good idea about the proportion of a dog’s face, and how to proceed after starting with a simple oval and rectangle. It was quite easy to follow and I came up with this:

Almost Cheeku

This is quite like Cheeku, except for the ears. Cheeku’s ears stick out most of the time…when he folds them, he folds them backwards not downwards. But other than that, most of my friends who saw this agreed that it looked quite like Cheeku.

I’ll make another attempt soon to correct the ears.

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