One day at an archery match


When I reach the archery stadium, the group of men in traditional ghos are peering across the range, looks of intense concentration on their faces. It is a sunny morning in Thimphu and the match has been on for a couple of hours already. Spectators are drifting in and out; ardent team supporters who hoot with languid Bhutanese grace, local youth who are also possibly champion archers, and the quintessential monks who cover their heads against the sun with their bright red robes.




Thwack! The arrow flies in from across the field – all of 140 metres (at 476 feet, twice the official Olympic length) – and hits the bullseye. And suddenly the men on the field whoop and whistle, and break into dance. It is a simple simple foot up and foot down shuffle but it is performed with the earnestness the ritual deserves. When a player misses his mark, taunts fly thick and fast across the field, like the arrows themselves. There is a lot of laughter, and a lot of hand wringing. And, I am told, a lot of money riding on the match.





Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, and the Bhutanese take it very seriously indeed. Matches are held regularly in villages and towns across the country. On the eve of major competitions, players – 13 to a team – stay together in order to bond better for the big event.

Like everything else in Bhutan, modernity has nudged itself into archery. Compound fibre-glass bows imported from the US have taken over traditional bamboo ones. There are advertisements fluttering in the breeze and sponsorship signs everywhere. Alcohol flows freely on the sides, spirits are correspondingly high and it is a miracle there are no mishaps that morning.





Comics city Brussels

Although Brussels is not the most charming city in Belgium – there are far prettier towns in the northern region of Flanders – it won me over with its stunning wall art scattered carelessly through its heart. Brussels takes it comics very seriously – comic book shops in plenty, a comics cafe (more on it soon), even a comics museum. Georges Prosper Remi, pen name Hergé, was born in Brussels and wrote /illustrated his 23 Tintin books there. Fittingly, there is also a museum dedicated to the life and works of Hergé.

In the short time I spent exploring the city on foot, I came across these comic wall murals of exceptional quality. Here, take a walk with me in the comics city…







I had a tough time choosing my favourite, but I think this one wins. Each time I look at it, I find something new and amusing…


A morning at Dhobi Ghat

“Dhobi Ghat is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mumbai,” say several websites I look into. Really? Ok, so I did land up there one morning, camera in hand, so I realize I have no right to be snarky but “tourist attraction?” There was even this major makeover proposed a couple of years ago but when I went last April, I saw no signs of anything having been made over, or even made cleaner. The dhobis are clearly tired of having camera thrust on their faces but a crisp 100 rupee note into the hands of the man who calls himself the supervisor gets me a hasty guided tour.

Anyway. Here are a few images from my morning at Dhobi Ghat.

Greens and whites

Morning sunlight

Rin ki safedi?

No doubt who this belongs to

You're taking my photo?

Press on

Don't argue with me

Clothes and chaos

More photographs from Dhobi Ghat on my flickr set here

Here is a short documentary on BBC – more than a 100,000 items of clothing are washed here every single day. And here is an interesting blog post by Meena Kadri on the almost error-free marking system used by the dhobis and the dabbawalas of Mumbai.

Also read: my story in the Singapore Airlines’ inflight magazine on Mumbai’s dabbawalas – I had great fun following them around South Mumbai for two days – Clockwork Couriers.

KR market: Bangalore markets series

Welcome to KR market, locally known also as city market… Named after the king Krishnarajendra Wodeyar, this is one of Bangalore’s oldest markets.

Going nuts

The highlight of the city market (for me, definitely) are the flower vendors – lording over the pinks and oranges and yellows, jasmine, marigold and kanakambaram, coils and coils of pure white. Activity in this part of the market starts well before dawn, and the area bustles with shoppers, both wholesale and retail. And by the time the sun rises and the day gets hot, these vendors are ready to wind up their day’s work.

Coils of pink

In the flower market, this lady is a rock star… everyone I know who visits city market with a camera comes away with her picture. Except that I am told I got lucky – she actually favoured me with a smile!


Just along the flower sellers are the vegetable vendors, usually with creative small piles of their specialty vegetables…

Who will bell these peppers?

tic tac toe

Walk inside the market to see another side of trading – more nut and dried fruit vendors, sellers of fresh peas and broad beans, vendors of lemons by the dozens – and a row of shops with wholesale pooja items – intricate flower umbrellas, framed pictures and mountains of kumkum in brilliant colours…

Kumkum colours

And just down the road, on the other side are the flower sellers from whom the city florists buy their stuff – the daisies and roses and all the other pretty flowers that sell at five times they cost here…

If life were a bed of roses...

Door delivery

Then there are the other professionals – like the parrot-card-fortune reader (kili josiyam in Tamil) and the knife sharpener. Not to mention the odd music band.

What's in the cards for you today?

Band Baaja

Head there early in the morning – read before 6 a.m to get the best experience of City Market.

View more photographs from City Market here

Earlier in the market series: Gandhi Bazaar

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