The unfathomable Grand Canyon.

Let me be frank. I don’t get it when people say what’s in Grand Canyon except for the rock. Personally, I get very philosophical every time I visit it or think about it. May be it’s just me, as it is said ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder‘. So, here is my little ode to this magnificent natural wonder that awe-inspires me every single time I visit it.

Standing royal, the Grand Canyon reiterates the power of nature to us. Every glance at its dimensions takes our breath away and each attempt to peruse it reminds us how tiny we are in this Universe. It inspires us to be undeterred by the trivial problems of life and to stand sentinel to protect ourselves and those who trust in us. Here is my Grand Salute, to The Grand Canyon!

This photograph was taken by me a few years ago when we visited the Canyon during winter time. Isn’t it more stunning to see it dotted with snow, and don’t you agree that no camera can beat the naked eye’s view! 🙂

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Do share links of your blogs on Grand Canyon, I would love to read!

 

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My tryst with Madhubani!

Let me begin with this quote, Art takes nature as its model – Aristotle.

I have been longing for a while to get my creative self explore the surreal yet very real Madhubani/Mithila Art. Like they say some days Motivation finds you, today I let my monochromatic black and white imagination flow and take the shape of a Katchni style Madhubani Painting. Before I brief you about this art form, here is the small painting that I finished today…and I thoroughly enjoyed doing every detail, and especially since I chose my favourite Sun God as the subject.

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Mithila or Madhubani Art is a very old art form originating from the Mithila region of India and Nepal, the majority of which falls within modern day Indian state of Bihar. This fascinating folk art which was traditionally done on freshly plastered mud walls and floors of huts is characterized by the use of geometric shapes and patterns to depict nature and mythology. The themes represent scenes of courtship, wedding and other folklore, and revolve around illustrating devotion, love, prosperity, fertility, valor, good luck etc in the form of specific symbols like fish, the Sun God, peacocks etc each of which has a specially associated meaning. The modern day Madhubani Paintings are being done on paper and cloth also, using colors that are plant derived and paper that is hand made. If you are an avid reader and an art enthusiast and want to know more about this specific art form, this book ‘Madhubani Painting by Upendra Thakur’ is quite a good read.

What captivated me about this art form was the remarkable usage of elements in nature to depict life events stating that nature and man are inseperable. The striking and distinctive style involving geometric patterns for detailing makes it easy to read these paintings. Be it the monochromatic black and white line work called the Katchni style or the Bharni style where subjects are filled with vibrant solid colors or the less detailed Godhna style where figures appear in symmetry and concentric, Madhubani paintings are sure to leave you in awe-inspiration, and like Leonardo da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

And, I end my small write-up on Madhubani Paintings leaving it all to your art hungry soul to research more about this fascinating art form and if possible encourage. Have a wonderful day readers, and painters. 🙂

A happy day with the Arts People!

Last weekend, as the sun shone bright, I reached the venue where I was supposed to volunteer as a Vendor Relief, and was so looking forward to it. With not many expectations in mind, I checked in to the Phoenix Festival of the Arts and took my badge and t-shirt.

Spotting this mom-dotty duo who were volunteering at the entrance welcoming guests and just began to have their lunch, I took a quick chance to approach them and ask for their company as I was already starving. So, that’s how my day began, with very pleasant and welcoming lunch partners. Is this how life feels in a strange land, with strange people? Yeah, I think being in the company of total strangers is one of the nicest feelings in this world. No prejudices, no barriers, no opinions, no distances and no strings attached. We enjoyed lunch together while we spoke about what and why the volunteering, etc. Also, I got to see this Christmas Parade by some pretty  children in the Fair Grounds.

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My next stop was the beginning of my volunteering. So, this event was an Art Festival held by the Phoenix center for the Arts every year.

As a Vendor Relief, my job was to go around booths asking if they needed some break and I could watch the booth for them. “When you help others, you actually help yourself”, said Swami Vivekananda. And yes, how true is that! Every time I volunteer, or help someone, or do good, it comes back to me. And what is it? The positivity, the goodness and the satisfaction. And also I get a good exposure of the world, the people in it, their stories, their joys and their sorrows. It opens up my mind to wider arenas and my heart to acceptance. This time also, I am so thankful to the Universe that I had a fantastic experience and I got to learn many new things from all these artists. So, why don’t do you join me and share my experience? 🙂

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First things first. Dressing up to the occasion. Well, it is definitely a choice, if you don’t want to. But, dressing appropriately to an occasion connects you to the event, puts you in the right mood and also changes the way people look at you which is important if you want to ‘connect’.

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Since it was an Art Festival, I decided to give an Ethnic touch to my ensemble by wearing a Red Cotton high-low kurti with white printed designs on it that I got in India paired with blue jeans. Wearing an Indian Kurti, when you are in an Art Festival on a Foreign land is for sure trendy and classy, and makes it look unique. I paired this attire with big cream colored Stone ear-hangings, and a knitted scarf to beat the cold in case. But, tee hee..once I got the volunteer t-shirt, I had to layer myself up with it that’s a different story though 😉 To perfectly complement the outfit, I carried my favorite Fossil Explorer Straw Cross Body Bag and wore my perfect colorful Mojdis bought in a craft expo in Hyderabad, India, though replaced them later with my comfy Crocs as my walking time increased. Ta da! Didnt I pretty much nail the outfit?

My first stop was this booth where a lady was exhibiting her hand made jewelry. Call it an act of Universe or not, a particular blue resin pendant caught my attention and it had etched on it, Dancing Ganesha with eight arms. I am a Hindu, and all our prayers and Pujas first begin with praying to Lord Ganesh. You can read more about the significance here. Isn’t it interesting that you are alone on a strange land, with complete strangers around you and how the Universe makes you feel that you are still connected and belonged. I asked her if she needed a reliever, to which she said No and then we had a brief conversation about her beautiful jewelry creations. It was a fun start!

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Moving on further, I found this very creative artist Kelly, who is a graphic designer and also creates her own designs and prints. Her designs were beautiful and after discussing about both of our interests and goals in life, what and how etc, I watched her booth for a while and she took a quick break. This meeting is so special to me because of late I was looking for some answers regarding Graphic Design and related fields, and voila I get to meet with this awesome artist specialized in the same field! Visit her website here to know more about her works.

As I kept walking further down the aisles, the talent and creativity of the various artists and artisans enthralled me and the variety of stalls that lined up amazed me. The diversity of arts included Pottery, Canvas Paintings, Glass Art, Hand Made Jewelry, Homemade Bath and Body Products, Arts and crafts made of Recycled metal, Handmade bags, Custom Printed T-shirts, Pashmina Scarves, and what not! There was live music and food trucks served up delicious warm food. Kids played around in merriment. It was a fun-filled warm sunny Saturday.

In another brief meeting, I met this lovely couple from Berrie Creative who were selling their unique and creative vibrant colored lampshades made of glass and wire. And I did not know that a small conversation with them would give me a hope for a life-time! They told me how to never give up on an interest and keep experimenting. Trust me, I have never seen such creative glass art in my life. The lamp shades were mesmerizing.

Later, I relieved a couple of artists so that they have their lunch. They were very kind and appreciated me for helping them out. Isn’t is wonderful when people realize your effort and good intentions and respond back to you positively. Ohh, what would I do without all these beautiful people in my life!

My next stop was Reflections in Metal, a unique art handcrafted out of rolled steel. Their display had amazing pieces of art and in quite large numbers. The vendors were so welcoming and were explaining well about their art to the guests. I couldn’t remember their names, but after talking about their work I took a photograph with them which made them very happy. And when I waved them Goodbye and Merry Christmas, the eldest gentleman of the two stopped me and gifted me a Metal Cross that was among the items being sold! Wow! What was that! Does affection and appreciation has any bounds? I was so elated, particularly when someone fondly gifted me a Cross, and that too during Christmas season…like I always believe, connections don’t happen without a reason. Now, this Cross is in my Puja room along with the other Gods. I am Hindu, and what Hinduism teaches is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It is a Sanskrit phrase found in Hindu texts such as the Maha Upanishad, which means “The world is one family”, and I believe in it. 

My next meeting was with Mr. David Jarvinen of The Mosaic Guys who stunned me with his Mosaic Art work! We exchanged a few pleasantries about India and its vivacious culture, and how David conducts workshops on his art teaching different skills. He has a great knowledge and understanding on art, culture, diversity of India and even Hinduism..so we talked about it for a while. It is very important for an artist to know about different cultures, don’t you think? This awareness widens ones horizons and helps in becoming more creative by drawing inspiration from a multitude of talents. I am so looking forward to meet David in one of his workshops some time in future. I would love to learn various mosaic art techniques 🙂

Taking a stroll asking vendors if they needed a break, I witnessed their passion for art and had many beautiful conversations. Me being an art lover, and a beginner in Acrylic Canvas Art met many Canvas Artists, Muralists and appreciated their work. Some of the muralists were donating the money from their sold murals to a humanitarian cause. It was a therapy to watch the paintings come alive! I made new connections, new friends and drew new inspirations 🙂

A special mention is needed about ‘Paintings by the disabled’ stall. All the paintings were unbelievably lively and excellent! We bought a miniature Canvas Painting of the Prickly Pear Cactus.

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Towards the end, my family joined me in the festival. They enjoyed live music and chilled out on the lawn watching Muralists painting murals under the warm winter sun. The whole environment was fun and frolic lifting up spirits.

And then while finishing up my shift, I met Amelie. With a calm face and a gorgeous smile, she invited me to her booth. Her paintings were so full of life, spirituality and love. I am so glad I got to know her and could make friends with her. Visit her website here to see more of her brilliant and life-changing artwork.

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Finally, I wrapped up my evening at the festival by taking my family around. My son goofed around all the while and really enjoyed each and every aspect of it. There were these folks from circus entertaining kids and adults alike, walking around the place.

We came back home after purchasing a lamp shade and a face balm from Flower Song Soaps.The lampshade now lights up our Puja/Meditation room. Every time I see the lamp, I remember that lovely couple, their smiles and the encouragement they gave me. I am using the face balm daily post scrubbing my face, and it gives me the perfect moisturizing for Arizonan winters along with an exquisite fragrance.

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So whenever I say I believe in Fairy tales, I mean it. Look what all this love gave me in the middle of an ordinary life – in deed a Fairy tale!

Thank you Phoenix Festival of the Arts for having me and thank you for everything. These moments will be cherished forever.

Thanks readers for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed sharing my experience. Do you have any such fairy tales in your life? Did you ever experience such happy moments. Please don’t forget to leave it in the comments 🙂

On a final note, I would like to appeal to you, please encourage and appreciate handcrafts and local made.

Dochu La & Chele La – Bhutan’s sacred mountain passes!

Hello! Welcome to the third and final post on my Bhutan tour experiences. If you haven’t already read the previous two posts, please read them here at

Bhutan’s Thimpu and Bhutan’s Paro.

In this post, I am going to brief about our trip to Bhutan’s sacred mountain passes, Dochu La and Chele La.

When mountains call you, there are no excuses. There is a reason behind it, a purpose behind it. And what do the mountains tell us? To stand still and strong against the blustering winds. Mountains are unyielding protectors, they show us the righteous way of life. They inspire us with their patience and perseverance. They are unconquerable, but they leave the passes for us, humans to go closer to them, and reach them for the fillip. I witnessed the same kind of spirit going closer to the holy Himalayas during our Bhutan trip! We visited Dochu La and Chele La, the two mountains passes in the Himalayas of Bhutan.

Dochu La Pass

Located at an elevation of 3,100 metres, Dochu La is located on the road from Thimpu to Punakha. To the east of the pass, the snow clad mountain peaks of the Himalayas are seen prominently and among them is the Mt. Masanggang at 7,158 metres (23,484 ft) which is the highest peak in Bhutan, known in local language as the Mt. Gangkar Puensum. The road further runs into the scenic Punakha valley.

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Druk Wangyal Lhakhang
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Druk Wangyal Chortens

The environment is calm and religious, with 108 memorial chortens called the Druk Wangyal Chortens built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. There is a monastery called the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple), built in honor of the fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Also, there is the country’s first Royal Botanical Park located adjacent to the chortens. While this whole scene on the pass is a colorful feast to the eyes, the backdrop is often claded with a moving blanket of fog obscuring and revealing the Himalayas along with the near-by verdant greens leaving your mind and soul in tranquility.

It is an indelible experience for me to meditate inside and outside the Lhakhang overlooking the Himalayas.

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Chele La Pass

Chele La Pass is one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. It is the highest point with an altitude of 3988 metres. The road to Chele La is flanked by dense forests, and the trip to reach the pass takes you on a non-stop jaunt. Chele La, unlike Dochu La is very jagged and is surrounded by hilly terrains covered with vegetation that changes colors with seasons. The pass roughened by the cold gusts signifies a different side of Mother nature. Colorful prayer flags can be seen fluttering on the rough slopes making the view bright and pleasant. On a clear day, there are spectacular views of Mt. Jumolhari, Jichu Drake and adjoining peaks to the North West, as well as the view of the beautiful Haa and Paro valley.

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‘The best dreams happen when you are awake’! And yes, my dream to feel closer to the Himalayas came true this way. I will await to witness this heavenly experience once again in my lifetime.

So, did the mountains ever call you? If yes, please leave a comment and tell me all about it. I would love to connect with like-minds. 

Thank you for reading. More on our interactions and conversations with folks in Bhutan, and why I think Bhutan qualifies for a happy country in the upcoming posts. Stay tuned, and stay connected. See you later!

Bhutan – The Kingdom of Happiness. (Part 2) In and around Paro!

Welcome back!

I hope you have read about our Bhutan travel experiences in my previous blog here. Now, I am going to share with you more details of our itinerary.

After spending in and around the charming Capital city of Bhutan, Thimpu, we moved to Paro for a two day tour. Along with being a picturesque city, Paro is a historic town with structures with traditional architecture. It is also home for Bhutan’s only international airport, Paro Airport.

The main attractions in the city tour of Paro are Rinpung Dzong, Paro Taktsang, Kyichu Lhakhang, National Museum of Bhutan, Paro Airport bird’s eye view and the shopping streets of Paro.

Rinpung Dzong

With history beginning in the 15th century, Rinpung Dzong is a large Buddhist Monastery and a fortress that now has various administrative offices of Paro within it. Outside of the Dzong is the Deyangkha Temple and inside are fourteen shrines and chapels. It is quite interesting to go around the Dzong and to soak in all the historical and cultural significance. Below are a few photographs taken in the Dzong.

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Paro Taktsang/Tiger’s Nest

Paro Taktsang, the very famous Himalayan sacred monastery is perched on the cliffs of upper Paro Valley. It can be reached either through a trek, or a horseback ride. Guru Padmasambhava who brought Buddhism to Bhutan is believed to have meditated there for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. The monastery has a rich and very significant history related to Bhutan and Buddhism. Read more about the world famous heritage site here.

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Kyichu Lhakhang

The Jowo Temple of Kyichu is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, originally built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor Songtsän Gampo. Read more about it on wiki here.

National Museum of Bhutan

The museum of Bhutan documents the cultural dances, flora and fauna, and other historical facts of Bhutan. There is a video played in the museum showcasing the different Bhutanese dances and festivals and their significance. It is quite fascinating to go round the museum. Aerial view of Paro valley from the museum offers breath-taking vistas. Photograph below.

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Paro Airport bird’s eye view

Paro Airport is undoubtedly one of the world’s very scenic airports. Nestled in a gorgeous panorama and in a deep valley is the airport adjacent to the banks of River Paro Chhu. The whole scene is fabulous and it stays with you forever.

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Last but not the least, shopping! What fun is it when you do world travel and not collect souvenirs? Here is my Bhutan travel haul. I bought most of these things on the street bazaar of Paro. They are going to keep all the memories alive to me.

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So far, I have covered Thimpu and Paro cities in my blogs. They are two fascinating places with a blend of cultural significance and nature’s heavenly beauty, thus making travel experience ethereal and memorable. I will be continuing on the sacred mountain passes of Chele La and Dochu La in my last and third blog. I hope you will await it. See you later! 🙂

Bhutan – The Kingdom of Happiness (Part 1). In and around Thimpu!

A few years ago, the topics during a tea-time confab were Gross Happiness Index, Bhutan, Himalayas and Taktsang Monastery. Like a seed planted grows into a tree, this discussion intrigued me a lot and my fascination to witness the Bhutanese way of living increased by the day. All the enthralling aspects of Bhutan and my all time obsession with nature, and mountains in particular, I added Bhutan travel to my bucket list.

Come 2016, life showed a direction towards pursuing my travel dream. And yes, I visited Bhutan, the Kingdom of Happiness.

Pristine landscapes, spectacular views, amicable people and their spiritual way of life, rich heritage, comforting food, and everything else so heavenly qualify Bhutan for a Utopia. Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is full of never-ending range of hills, verdant plains, meandering perennial rivers, meditative sounds of the Buddhist chants and colorful prayer flags tied everywhere reminding us that nature and spirituality are inseparable.

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Though the pictures don’t do justice to the real beauty of this paradise, and my words can’t describe the magical experience, I shall try my best to give a brief of how and what it was. Our tour was of four days covering the two major cities of Bhutan, Thimpu and Paro. A further long stay will give you much time and opportunity to explore the country better.

First two days in Thimpu

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The Memorial Chorten

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The Memorial Chorten or Memorial Stupa was built in the honor of the third King of Bhutan Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It does not contain human remains, but just a photograph of the King. It is circumambulated in clockwise direction like other religious structures. We spent about an hour in the Chorten witnessing the annual recitation of ‘Seven Line Prayer’ to Guru Rinpochhe. The whole milieu was sacred and ingenuous.

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Buddhists chanting peace mantras. Prayer wheels with “Om Mani Padme Hum” written on them

We later visited the Great Buddha Dordenma, a 169ft gigantic Buddha statue and the Takin Preserve. Takin is the national animal of Bhutan.

Rest of city tour had viewing gorgeous vistas and visiting the important places of interest like Changlimithing multi-purpose national stadium, National Institute for Zorig Chusum (Arts and Crafts school), Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar, National Library of Bhutan etc.

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National Institute for Zorig Chusum trains the Bhutanese youth in 13 native and traditional Bhutanese arts like wood carving, statue-making, painting, weaving, tailoring, embroidery etc. Some of the finished products are also sold for good prices.

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Authentic Bhutanese Arts and Crafts Bazaar, Thimpu

The shops had a unique collection of handcrafted house decors, clothes, book marks, key chains, Bhutanese masks, Bhutanese musical instruments, hand bags, jewelry and many more. The place was a kaleidoscope of colors.

Tashichho Dzong

Tashichhoedzong build by the first Dharma Raja, is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the banks of Wang Chu River. There are thirty temples, chapels and shrines within it. It is the office of Bhutan’s civil government and Kingship together. A few kms near the Dzong is the King’s palace, the Dechencholing Palace. The photograph below is an aerial view of the Dzong and its surroundings.

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Bhutanese Cuisine

Coming to cuisine, red rice and buckwheat are Bhutan’s two main foods. Red rice in Bhutan has an earthy flavor. The Bhutanese make soups and stews out of various vegetables and meats (yak meat being a specialty).  Ema datshi, which is their national dish, is spicy made with large, green chili peppers in a cheesy sauce. It is one of their major comforting and widely made dishes. Momos (dumplings) are also quite famous. Butter Tea (also called Suja) is made of the Bhutanese Tea Leaves, Water, Butter and salt. The Bhutanese also include various spices like ginger, garlic, turmeric, caraway etc in their cooking.

Dha/Archery and Traditional Dresses Gho & Kira

The National game of Bhutan is Dha or Archery. We made sure we wore the traditional dresses of Bhutan (Gho for men and Kira for women) and played archery amidst the serene hilly terrains.

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The Kira
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Playing Dha or Archery wearing a Gho
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Making of the arrows

Bhutanese Architecture

Traditional Architecture remains prevalent in Bhutan. Throughout its history, Bhutan has mainly followed the Tibetan tradition of Buddhist architecture. Any new structure construction is supposed to abide the rules. Read more on the Architecture of Bhutan in wiki here.

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Touring Bhutan is not only a way to escape in the tranquility of nature, but also a fun trip getting to know their unique culture and tradition. It opens your heart to simplicity, variety and spirituality.

Revive your body and awaken your soul, go visit this magical Kingdom.

More on the remaining itinerary in next blogs. I will take through our Paro city tour and the sacred mountainous passes.

So..have you ever been to Bhutan? Please share your experiences, and blog links. Thanks for reading. 🙂

What rain brings.

Monsoons remind me of Visakhaptnam aka Vizag, my home town. I have lived all my childhood waking up to a kaleidoscope of greens, thanks to my dad, an ardent nature lover who thought we should live as close to nature as possible.

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I am being a little biased by mentioning only the rosy things here, else I should also go on about the rainy season woes 🙂

Monsoons in Vizag bring a burst of vibrancy and a splash of lush green to an already verdant view. Our home being at foot hill of the Eastern Ghats and a bit sloped, we experience lovely and fresh water streams gushing on a heavy rainfall day. The sight of monsoon clouds hovering over the majestic hills shrouding and revealing them is in deed salubrious.

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And oh, not to forget the tiny pools of water collected on our terrace top, I remember jumping into them and splashing water all over myself. All those little birdies singing at the top of their voice and, freshest flowers and leaves with rain droplets raise your spirits high and make you live in the moment.

Over time I have captured these scenes in my camera and though they don’t do justice to the beauty of this rainy paradise, they keep these special memories alive. So well, I have a lot of rainy tales to tell, but for now please enjoy viewing these photographs.

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So, will you tell me what you love about rains, apart from petrichor? 🙂