Winter photo-exhibitions in the Netherlands

For a photography enthusiast like me, one of the big joys of living in the Netherlands, are the many compelling photo-exhibitions held over the course of the year. These exhibitions feature a wide spectrum of image-makers, both past and present; and serve as an inspiration for my own photography and visual storytelling work.

For this piece in the Winter issue of ACCESS magazine, I’ve put together a list of photo-exhibitions in the Netherlands, on display during the next few months. These showcases give us an opportunity to make sense of the world around us, through the eyes (and lenses) of several master photographers.

Hopefully, this article is useful to photography buffs visiting the Netherlands, in winter. Enjoy!

Please click on the image below to read the PDF of the article.

Pg1_ACCESS magazine Winter 2018_Art

Read about places in the Netherlands here – ScheveningenKeukenhof, Delft, Amsterdam, & Leiden.


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The Volkenkunde Museum – Leiden, Netherlands

My first visit to the Volkenkunde Museum (the National Museum of Ethnology) in Leiden, was not to peruse its extensive collection. Rather, I was there in May 2018 for the annual WorldFair, which turned out to be a delightful celebration of world cultures; with music, dance performances, food, and handicrafts from all around the globe. Of course, lots of positive vibes too!

As I walked into the Volkenkunde that day, my attention was drawn to the imposing totem pole in its garden. This led me to dig a little deeper into the story of this North American indigenous icon, and into the history of the museum itself.


The imposing Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw totem pole in the garden of the Volkenkunde Museum

I wrote this article about the Volkenkunde Museum for the Sep-Oct’18 issue of PASSAGE (the bi-monthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore). Please click on the image below to view the PDF of this article.


(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor.)

Read about other places in the Netherlands here – ScheveningenKeukenhof, Delft, & Amsterdam.

To read my PASSAGE article on the Prinsenhof Museum in Delft, please click here.



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On India’s 72nd Independence Day yesterday (15th Aug 2018), I took some time to put together a montage of some of my favourite images from my 2017 travels through the country. During four incredible months there, I traveled to the states of Assam & Nagaland in northeast India, Chattisgarh & Madhya Pradesh in central India, Uttar Pradesh in north India, & of course, was based in my home-state of Maharashtra in western India. Visiting non-profits working in remote parts of the country, under the most difficult of circumstances, was a truly educational (and humbling) experience for me.

My images pay tribute to an India rarely seen, and rarely ever experienced. Each picture has been captioned below to provide you some background.


(r = row, c = column)

r1c1: CM, the senior-most weaver I met in Bodoland, Assam, holds up the last dokhona (a sari-like garment worn by Bodo women) she had woven, about a year prior to our meeting. In her mid-60s now, she no longer weaves because of her poor eyesight but I had an incredibly fascinating discussion with her. The dokhona she’s holding up is more specifically known as a bidon, as it does not have any woven motifs.

r1c2: A procession of camels creates a roadblock on the outskirts of Raipur city, in the state of Chattisgarh in central India

r1c3: The national bird of India, the Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) photographed in Manas National Park, Assam; a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This male peafowl was busy drying itself after a heavy shower.

r1c4: A Naga woman in Chizami village weaves at home using the traditional back-strap loom. She is one of the 600 weavers who are part of the Chizami Weaves initiative of North East Network, a women’s rights organization

r2c1: A common sight in central India – bright yellow mustard flowers against the backdrop of a blue, tribal house. Houses of the Gond and Baiga communities in the region tend to be painted blue as they believe that this colour drives away mosquitoes and insects. This photograph was taken on the outskirts of Kanha National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

r2c2: C, a Koli woman, prepares the ‘Bombay Duck’ fish, to be hung out to dry. Kolis are the original inhabitants of Mumbai city and most members of the community are engaged in fishing or fishing-related occupations.

r2c3: Phoolkali (in front) & Maya are two of the several elephants rescued by Wildlife SOS to date. Phoolkali is about 60 years old and used be a begging elephant while Maya, once a circus elephant, is about 42 years old. They are photographed here out for their daily evening walk at the Elephant Conservation & Care Centre, in Mathura, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

r2c4: Performers from the Yimchungru tribe gather outside their ‘morung’ (young men’s dormitory) at the Naga Heritage Village, in Kisama, Nagaland, during the 2017 Hornbill Festival.

r3c1: Nilesh Kushram, a talented young artist from the Gond tribe, seen here with one of his paintings. Gond paintings are extremely detailed and intricate, and they reflect the close connection the Gonds share with the forests they live in. Photographed at Shergarh at Kanha, a beautiful tented wildlife camp, located on the outskirts of Kanha National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India.

r3c2: The badly damaged muzzle of a former ‘dancing bear’, photographed at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, one of four Wildlife SOS bear centres across India. Under the watchful care of the Wildlife SOS team, the muzzle has healed but the disfigurement remains. Wildlife SOS rescued over 620 dancing bears from the streets of India, thus ending the barbaric 400-year old ‘dancing bear’ practice in the country, in 2009.

r3c3: Paddy fields till the eye can see in Dehene village in Maharashtra state, western India. The village lies a mere 120kms on the outskirts of Mumbai city. This rural experience was organised by Grassroutes, a Mumbai-based social enterprise and responsible travel company.

r3c4: PS, a Bodo woman, catches fish in a rivulet, in Bodoland, Assam. She is using a traditional, conical-shaped basket known as ‘jakhoi’ to scoop-up fish from the water, and a gourd-shaped vessel known as ‘khaloi’ (tied to the waist), to store the freshly-caught fish. Both items are made by intricately weaving together thin strips of bamboo.

r4c1: Jute fibres hung out to dry in Bodoland, Assam. The state is one of the largest jute producing state in India, contributing to the country’s position as the top jute producer in the world.

r4c2: SB, a Bodo woman weaves at the ant centre in Bodoland, Assam. Weaving is a traditional skill in this part of the world, passed on from mother to daughter. The loom used is a pedal loom. Read more about the weavers of Assam here.

r4c3: A split-second sighting of a tigress known as ‘Choti Mada’ (meaning small female) at Kanha National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. The tiger is the national animal of India and the focus of global conservation programs. Safari organized by Shergarh at Kanha

r4c4: The ancient Indo-Arabic artform of mehendi, wherein a person’s body is decorated with intricate designs, using a paste made from dried, powdered henna leaves

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Portraits from Nagaland, India

Located in the distant northeastern corner of India, the enigmatic state of Nagaland is home to 17 major tribes and several sub-tribes. The major tribes gather every year from 1st to 10th December at the Hornbill Festival, held at the Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, on the outskirts of the state capital Kohima. This festival, billed as the ‘Festival of Festivals’ is where all the tribes can be seen dressed in their traditional best.

A few days ago, when I looked through my pictures from the 2017 Hornbill Festival, I was delighted to find many portraits. So I put together this montage to represent 16 (of 17) major Naga tribes. I’ve captioned each picture to provide some basic information about the tribe.


(r = row, c = column)

r1c1: A woman from the Rengma tribe

r1c2: A Yimchungrü tribesman takes a break between rehearsals

r1c3: A Chang elder keeps guard as other tribe members play the log drum behind him

r1c4: A Kuki tribeswoman performing at the Hornbill Festival

r2c1: A Pochury warrior poses with his weapons

r2c2: A woman from the Phom tribe

r2c3: A Sumi man officiates the indigenous game of Apukhu Akikiti (leg fighting)

r2c4: A Sangtam tribeswoman performing at the Hornbill Festival

r3c1: A performer from the Angami tribe

r3c2: A warrior from the Ao tribe performing the Arpu Tsungang (war dance)

r3c3: A performer from the Zeliang tribe, a tribe created by the amalgamation of 3 different tribes

r3c4: A Chakesang tribesman. This tribe was formerly known as the Eastern Angami.

r4c1: A performer from the Garo tribe, one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world

r4c2: A woman from the royal household of the Konyak tribe

r4c3: A Khiamniungan tribesman in the depiction of a Liamkie (peace treaty)

r4c4: A woman from the Dimasa Kachari tribe, one of the oldest group of people to settle in the region

I’m missing a portrait from the Lotha tribe, which I should hopefully be able to make during my next visit to Nagaland.

So many incredible stories from this magical land of festivals! 💖



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‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ – World Environment Day 2018

Hello folks!

Today (June 5th) is World Environment Day. This year’s theme is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’, a much-needed message in view of the fact that plastic is choking our oceans, and wreaking havoc on wildlife, both on land and in the waters.

So here’s how you and I can make a difference. Here are 100 great suggestions to reduce our plastic footprint. Courtesy the amazing My Plastic Free Life 🙌

This is what environment champion Dr. Jane Goodall has to say……

We all need to think about the consequences of the life choices we make each day. What do we buy, what do we wear, what do we eat, how is it made, is it from the environment, is there cruelty to animals or cruelty to children? And make choices thinking not only about how is this good for me now, but also how will this affect future generations. In other words, we need to do our part in the decisions we make, in our hearts and in our heads.


Dr. Jane Goodall at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam event (24th May 2018)


The time to act is NOW! Every little bit counts! 🙏🙏🙏

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Avian wonders of Curaçao

The last time I had a absolutely ‘WOW’ birdwatching experience was in Sulawesi, Indonesia. That was almost 2 years ago. So when we decided to head to the island of Curaçao in the Caribbean, I knew I wanted to spend my time birdwatching while hubby got his Advanced Open Water certification. (More about why we chose to visit Curaçao, in an upcoming post.)


The colourful waterfront of the capital, Willemstad

Curaçao is separated from mainland South America by a deep ocean trench and is only about 40 miles north of the nearest point in Venezuela. The island has an interesting mix of subtropical and semiarid vegetation, which provides refuge to over 200 birds species.  Of these species, a few are endemic to the Caribbean region, while several are common to South and/or North America. Curaçao has no endemic bird species, but a few sub-species are known to be local to the island, like the Brown-throated Parakeet (Aratinga pertinax pertinax) and the Yellow Oriole (Icterus nigrogularis curasoensis).

Before I get to my birdwatching experiences on the island, I must mention Sombré di Kabana, the cozy B&B we stayed at in the capital Willemstad. The tropical garden there, lovingly cared for by hosts Jolanda Schoeber and Walter Roesink, attracts a wide variety of birds. On our first morning at Sombré di Kabana (and every subsequent morning), we had ‘breakfast with the hummingbirds’ that visited the garden outside our casa. My very first sighting of a hummingbird! Such magical, fascinating creatures!

With that great start to my birdwatching on Curaçao, I was excited to connect with Bird Watching Curaçao and plan my trips with Michelle Pors-da Costa Gomez, Curaçao bird expert and co-founder of Bird Watching Curaçao. She, along with her enthusiastic colleague Rob Wellens, ensured that I got to see several bird species in the week that I was there. It also turned out to be a great way to see parts of the island that are completely off the tourist trail, like the stunning coastal cliffs, erstwhile plantations, the salinas (salt pans), even the grounds of a couple of golf resorts.

This being my first time birdwatching in the Caribbean region, every little rustling in the bush, held the promise of a ‘lifer’! I saw over 70 different bird species, all for the very first time! Here are a few of my favourites:

And what better way to wrap-up the birdwatching session than a meal at local restaurant Jaanchie’s. The bird feeders in the restaurant’s outdoor area attract a host of birds, keeping diners entertained throughout their meals. The owner Jaanchie is a jolly, bespectacled gentleman, who will come to your table and take your order. He’d also like to have you believe that iguana soup is vegetarian 😂 (the iguana is vegetarian, the soup is not!) But he was more than happy to customise my meal. The homestyle krioyo (Creole) food is hearty and delicious, even my vegetarian version!

And if you are still craving for some more avian action, you can visit the home of bird guide Rob Wellens and spend hours watching the antics of birds that visit the feeders in his backyard. Rob’s passion for birdwatching is rivalled only by his love of dogs (he has 5!). Rob is Curaçao’s very own ‘Birdman’! 😉

Beyond the all birdwatching, it was such an absolute joy to meet Michelle and her film-maker husband Leon Pors, who have dedicated themselves to the cause of conservation and environmental education on the island. It is always heartening to meet people who care so deeply about the world around them!

Most of my days on the island ended with watching the glorious sunset by the beach, blue cocktail in hand (made from the world-famous Curaçao liqueur), talking with hubby about his underwater adventures and the birds I had seen that day. Sometimes, an iguana would join us to watch the sunset! What more can this girl ask for!


A Green Iguana poses against the Curaçao waters

Truly Dushi Kòrsou! 💖 (Truly beautiful Curaçao!)


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Meet the empowered women of rural Assam, India

As some of you may already know, in Sep-Oct 2017, I spent a month with a remarkable non-profit called ‘the ant’ and its weaving offshoot, Aagor Dagra Afad. 

Both these organisations are based in the Indian state of Assam, in the enigmatic northeast corner of the country. In addition to several other rural development projects, the founders of ‘the ant’, have been able to tap into the traditional weaving knowledge of the local Bodo women, and create livelihood opportunities for them via the weaving entity Aagor Dagra Afad.

I’m extremely grateful to everyone (from ‘the ant’ founders to the weavers) who opened their hearts and homes to me during my month-long stint at the non-profit, and welcomed me into their world. These women are real life super-women, coping with unimaginable challenges, both personal and systemic, despite the lack of education, and with very limited financial resources. And they do this with a smile on their faces and generous hearts 💖

The women are commissioned to weave fabrics, which are then fashioned into garments and sold in a few stores in India. A small quantity of fabrics are exported internationally as well. These handwoven fabrics have intricate motifs inspired by nature, including representations of plants, birds and animals. Aagor Dagra Afad also serves to keep the tradition of Bodo weaving alive, which is at risk of dying out, as much of the younger generation has moved on to office jobs.

These exquisite Bodo weaves have even made an appearance at the prestigious Lakme Fashion Week (2016), held in Mumbai.

The month that I spent in Assam was a hugely educational experience for me. Life-changing too! And I’m happy to have been able to share the story of ‘the ant’ and the weavers in some more detail via this piece written for The Better India, a website that features positive stories from all across India.

To read the article, please click on the image below.


I’m hoping the story of ‘the ant’, its founders, and the weavers, will inspire you in different ways – either to promote local artisans or buy handmade products or choose a rural destination for your next trip or help a social enterprise or simply spread the word – whatever works for you personally.

You can find out more about ‘the ant’ and Aagor Dagra Afad via the following links:

‘the ant’ website

‘the ant’ FB page

‘The Ant Craft’ stores in Bangalore

Aagor Dagra Afad FB page

Thank you for reading and hope you will spread the word! 🙏🙏🙏


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Hornbill Festival ’17 – Nagaland, India

My introduction to the enigmatic northeast corner of India came via the state of Assam. The second state I visited in that region was Nagaland, home to 16 major tribes and several sub-tribes. The 16 major tribes gather every year at the Hornbill Festival, held from December 1st to 10th at the Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, on the outskirts of the state capital Kohima. Possibly the best introduction one can get to the rich tribal culture of Nagaland!

During my time in Nagaland, I constantly had flashbacks to other tribal cultures I’ve experienced, or read about, or researched in the past – the Maoris of New Zealand, the Asmat of Papua New Guinea, the Iban, Dayak and other tribes of Southeast Asia. Each of these tribes, while unique in their own ways, have (or had) several traditions and practices in common – headhunting, hand-tapped face and body tattoos, the architecture of their houses, the slash and burn farming technique, the young men’s dormitory, the single-log drum, the list goes on. It would be FASCINATING to dig further into these commonalities someday!

For now, a small photo-feature on the Hornbill Festival 2017, which appears in the Mar-Apr’18 issue of PASSAGE (the bi-monthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore).

Please click on the image below to view the PDF of this article.


(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor.)


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A few glimpses of rural Assam, India

For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to experience the country of my birth – India, through the eyes of organisations that are doing remarkable grassroot level work. And in doing so, I hope to be able to bring their stories of these organisations to light.

That is was what prompted my journey to the state of Assam in the northeast corner of the country. I was based with an absolutely remarkable non-profit called the ant, which among several other rural development projects, has been able to tap into the traditional knowledge of weaving among Bodo women, to create livelihood opportunities for them. (The Bodos are the indigenous people of the state and weaving is one of their prized traditional skills.) The women are commissioned to weave fabrics, which are then fashioned into garments and sold in India, and exported internationally as well.

A larger piece about ‘the ant’ is ready, but before that, I’m pleased to share with you a few glimpses of rural Assam via this article which appears in the Mar-Apr’18 issue of PASSAGE (the bi-monthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore). This article has been written to suit the theme of the issue, which is ‘travel’.

Please click on the image below to view the PDF of this article.2018_Mar-Apr_Assam

(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor.)

For my article on the birds of Assam, please click here. 🙏

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Ushering in the ‘Year of the Dog’ – He Hua temple, Amsterdam

In the six years that we lived in Singapore, the Hubs and I really looked forward to Chinese New Year. It was an opportunity to learn more about a culture we knew little about, and of course, to celebrate with our wonderful Singaporean friends. Bright red lanterns and street decorations everywhere, lion and dragon dances, yusheng (the salad toss to invoke prosperity), mandarin oranges in fancy gift packs, stacks of containers with CNY goodies, and so many more enduring images of CNY in Singapore.

In 2016, I even got to welcome the ‘Year of the Monkey’ in Mumbai. This year, as we approach our one-year milestone in Amsterdam, I wondered if there would be a chance to usher in the ‘Year of the Dog’ with some sort of authentic commemoration.

And then, I found out about the Chinese temple in Amsterdam! Who knew???!!! So we paid a visit on the second day of CNY (Feb 17th / Sat).


The He Hua temple, designed in the traditional Chinese palace style

The Buddhist He Hua temple is located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Chinatown. He hua is Mandarin for ‘lotus’, a flower of great significance in both Chinese and Buddhist symbolism. Inaugurated in the year 2000, the temple was founded by the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, which is based out of Taiwan.

The temple can be easily reached by foot from Central Station. Just type in its postcode (1012BB) in Google Maps and keep walking till you spot the traditional roof of a Chinese temple. The temple is sandwiched between typical Dutch buildings, which makes for quite an interesting sight!

The He Hua temple is the first (and the largest) temple in Europe to be built in the traditional Chinese palace style. The main shrine is dedicated to Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy).


Temple staff place fruit offerings before Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy

The statue of Guan Yin is flanked on one side by Qie-Lan and on the other by Wei Tuo, both revered as guardians of Buddhist monasteries and teachings.

Given that it was the second day of CNY, the temple was pretty crowded. We managed to pay our respects quickly, take a couple of pictures and head out. But I’m glad, that in some small way, we could join a fifth of humanity, in welcoming the Lunar New Year.

I can’t wait to come back at a quieter time, to learn more about the temple. Free guided tours (lasting about 30 mins) are offered on Saturdays at 2:00, 3:00, & 4:00pm.

You can read more about the temple and its activities, on their website. The temple is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon till 5:00pm, and on Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm. It is closed every Monday and on January 1st.

For now I wish you a dazzling ‘Year of the Dog’!

🍊🍊 Gong Xi Fa Cai! Huat Ah! 🍊🍊

(Happy New Year! Be prosperous!)

Read about other places in the Netherlands here – ScheveningenKeukenhof, Delft, & Leiden.





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