The Tour of Nilgiris - an opportunity to accompany bikers through some wonderful country and write about the experience would be something of a dream come true for a person like me. An architect by calling, my first job was to help design an observatory for an astronomy research institute at Pune, which involved trekking up potential observatory sites and reconnoitering several hillsides. After a few years of architectural practice at Bangalore, I chose to settle in this quaint little university town of Manipal in a teaching job so that I could follow my passions in travel, ecology, astronomy and history.
So in this decade that I have spent here, I have founded The Astronomy Club, Manipal, kept wickets for my college team, studied peafowl and hornbills in the area, trekked extensively in the Western Ghats and a bit in the Himalaya, got fascinated with the prehistoric landscape of the subcontinent (I have been awarded the Prof. Achyutha Rao Memorial History Research Fellowship to study the Iron Age megalithic monuments of Karnataka) and even flirted a bit with the ocean... And taught architecture to rather unwilling pupils, of course! While taking up only the few architectural projects that appealed to me like designing cottages for researchers at Rom Whitaker's Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) at Agumbe, or facilities for the Kollur Mookambika Temple located near the Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary, and a few other projects that enabled me to "build green".
It is the study of megaliths that has given me some of the most memorable moments of my life. I have been to some really off-beat locations in Karnataka and Kerala to search out stones that were erected maybe 3500 years ago by our ancestors in rituals that we can scarcely guess about today. Some of these sites are in magnificent settings and it is difficult to express in words the awe one felt when beholding two menhirs framing the setting sun on midwinter day at Nilaskal.
Overall, it has been one big adventure wandering through all these places and trying to piece together the ecological and the cultural landscape of these regions so that one might glimpse a close approximation of the big picture. And it is this background that excites me about a possible opportunity to blog for TFN and makes me, confident about my abilities to do so. And living in a campus where motorised vehicles are discouraged and students and faculty alike are supplied with bicycles free of charge to encourage cycling, biking through mountainous country is something that holds appeal for me!
My flickr site can be accessed here.