15
Oct 14

Visit to Amrutha Dairy Farm, a learning experience

I have gone to my friend Santhosh Singh’s farm before, but quite a lot has changed since our visit. First, Santhosh gave it name — Amrutha Dairy Farm. But later decided to not put up signs anywhere. Why? We’ll get to that later.

Amrutha Dairy Farm is located in Haalenahalli, Madhure Hobli, Doddaballapura.

I mean, here’s a map of its location.

Beyond that, all I can say is: good luck finding it on your first try!

Sunrays through clouds-bangalore

The weather seemed nice for this visit

It is a bit of a challenge to find the farm, but if you follow the direction path highlighted on Google Maps, you can get there with relative ease if you use your phone as a GPS device.

Farmhouse Bangalore Karnataka

We parked inside the farm. This is the farmhouse Santhosh and his brothers built.

The dairy farm was set up nearly 4 years ago. The initial plan was to setup a milk processing center, but when Santhosh realized the heavy investment that was required, he realized it would be better just starting off with just producing milk for the time being, and slowly ramp up.

Cows shed dairy farm Bangalore

Santhosh *only* has around 30 cows

Santosh is parallely working on a heifer rearing project (heifer is a young cow before she has had her first calf). This is to contain the operational costs on the business, such as drought in the area for consecutive years. So yeah, like many Indians, even these guys suffer from water and electricity problems. They also have a hydroponics system which can produce very nutritious green fodder (up to 1ton per day) and this was built completely from scratch by them after taking technical help from some guys in Europe and New Zealand.

Growing hydroponics greenhouse

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. They have such a facility in the farm.

Cow shed dairy farm Bangalore

They feed the cows a hybrid napier grass grown at the farm and maize procured from nearby farms along with prescribed nutrients

Cows feeding dairy farm Bangalore

This might look like a lot of cows but only 6 cows are ready to produce milk

Cow staring dairy farm Karnataka

Hello

Farm land Hallenahalli Karnataka

The farm has some extra land which Santhosh and his brothers are contemplating how to best make use of.

When word spread about Amrutha Dairy Farms, a Netherlands-based group came to India and approached Santhosh to join hands with the farm to set up a milk processing plant to produce products like khova, paneer and cheese.

Hay farm shed cow feed Bangalore

This is the shed where they store grains and hay to feed the cows

Peacock on roof

This wild peacock drops by the farm every now and then let’s everybody know of its majestic presence :-)

Farm land granite wall poles

The farm property extends further down…

Farm land agriculture Karnataka

… and they grow vegetables here

Peacock on roof rooster farm

They have all sorts of birds here

Guinea fowl farm bird

A Guinea fowl. They even used to have a turkey.

Santhosh and his family aren’t vegetarians but they don’t eat any bird they raise either. The animals are simple residents of the farm and give Santosh and his brothers company.

Labrador dogs farmhouse

This is an older photo. Santhosh still has three dogs to help him manage the farm’s many residents.

Nowadays though, Santhosh and his brothers are busy tending to visitors — some welcome, and some not. Due to the close proximity of farm from Bangalore city, many dairy enthusiasts or curious bypassers used to frequent the farm. Sometimes the number of visitors went up to around 15-20 groups a week. Santhosh and his brothers started losing productive time and this gave them the idea to introduce commercial dairy workshops. This way, they could help people in understanding the challenges of dairy farming and supplement their income by charging participants a nominal fee. This helped in filtering out people who would visit just to see the place like a weekend getaway. Santhosh and his brother are now firm, and turn away all strangers who just enter the farm and ask questions. That’s why they decided not to put up any signs with the name of the farm.

While his brothers manage the farm and handle the milk side of things, Santhosh leads the effort in helping people setup their dairy project by providing consulting. They have trained over 150 individuals from all over the country, about a 100 bank officers and over 1000 college and school Students at the farm. When we were there, it wasn’t uncommon to hear many seniors calling Santhosh and looking to get into farming — dairy or otherwise — as a post-retirement job.

Santosh explaining school children milk production

Here is Santhosh educating school students about dairy farming

Santosh Singh with school children

Santhosh and his brothers have become quite popular in the area and villagers often invite him felicitate special occasions. This was on Independence Day when Santhosh and his friends pooled in money to give books and stationary to children in the village.

Me and my friends are proud to know Santhosh. We don’t know of many of people who gave up their cushy, air-conditioned office jobs to get their hand dirty and face adversities India’s farmers constantly face. Water supply, erratic power supply, poor road connectivity… when you see it first hand, you realize just how hard things can be for farmers in India. Of course, Santhosh and his brothers being well educated, know how to get by and worked on solutions to counter these challenges. It brought a smile to our faces when a neighbouring villager came all the way to Santhosh to get a letter typed because: a) Santhosh knows English b) Santhosh is probably the only man in the village who owns a laptop!

As the sun was setting, my friend and I decided to unpack a tent I had brought. The purpose was to compare my tent to the 2-second tent from Quechua (available at Decathlon). Santhosh had one of the 2-second tents. First, we set up our tent… which was some ‘Made in China’ tent I picked up from Carrefour (supermarket) in Dubai. It was cheap, and thus came with limited instructions. We figured it out, but it took us nearly half-an-hour to set up my tent.

Then my friend opened up the Quechua 2-second tent.

Quechua 2 second tents comparison

My friend Ramesh is posing beside the Quechua 2 second tent. I think the smile on his face will tell you which tent we liked more! It was super convenient!

Anyway, we were planning to spend the evening at Santhosh’s farm. Santhosh and his brothers spend much of the week at the farm, so they try and be as self-sufficient as possible. To that extent, they even made a wood fire oven to bake stuff in :-)

Making pizza cheese

So we made some pizzas that night

Baking pizza wood fire oven

It was hot!

Home made mushroom pizza

But it came out great!

We didn’t stay too late as Santhosh had another group visiting the farm for a workshop the following day. If anybody is interested in the workshop, you may call Santhosh at +98451 90600. It costs Rs. 2500 per adult, and that includes food. The food will be prepared at the farm as per your requirement (veg or non-veg). No group discounts. For schools and colleges, just call Santhosh and he shall let you know about the price.

P.S: DO NOT show up uninvited or without prior information. And please, only genuinely interested parties need call Santhosh and drop by his farm. Just because a few of his friends drop by and make pizzas doesn’t mean you can show up at the farm and expect a party to be thrown in your favour. We ourselves only visit Santhosh once or twice a year.


23
Jul 14

Feasting on Ramadan food treats at Mosque Road, Bangalore

Every year, during the holy month of Ramadan, Mosque Road in Frazer Town converts into a major hub for food lovers. Several stalls are set up selling a variety of Iftar treats by the road side, and every year, the number of stalls just keep getting bigger and bigger.

Now, you don’t have to go to Frazer Town for Iftar treats as stalls are set up outside every major mosque in Bangalore during the holy month of Ramadan. But Mosque Road being what it is attracts are a larger number of people. I have been Mosque Road with friends in previous years, but this year I wanted to capture some photos for my blog.

After meeting up with a friend, we rode down to Frazer Town, parked my bike near Savoury Restaurant and walked up to Mosque Road.

Ramzan food stall Frazer Town Bangalore

Stalls were set up away from Mosque Road too

Heritage hotel Ramadhan stall Bangalore

Heads up: a lot of meat in this blog post

Mutton kheema egg fry Ramadan food India

Mutton kheema and stir fried egg next to it

Free Quran distribution Bangalore India

This was an organization handing out free copies of the Quran (in English). I asked for a copy as I have always wanted to read for myself what was myth and what is actually quoted in the Holy Book.

Sheek kebabs Ramadan Frazer town

I moved to Mosque Road where sheek kebabs were being cooked over charcoal. Beef, chicken, and of course mutton were on offer.

Brazil beef kebabs Bangalore India

This stall was selling Brazilian beef. When I asked the guy why he wasn’t selling Indian beef, the owner just shrugged and said this “tastes better”. Oh well, I know why. None the less, I packed some.

Fried beef chicken kebabs Bangalore

Beef and colourful chicken kebabs beside it. Really put off by the use of food colour in meat.

Idiyappam Mosque Road Iftar Bangalore

Idiyappams and chicken kebabs?

Beef sukka Frazer town Banglaore

Beef sukka. Sampled some and it tasted okay.

Biriyani Palace Eid stall Bangalore

We then crossed over to the other side where much of the big stalls on Mosque Road were

Pathar gosht stone mutton Bangalore

That’s mutton being cooked on a huge slab or stone over a charcoal fire :-) They call it pathar gosht (pathar = stone; gosht = mutton)

Ramazan tent Iftar Mosque Road Bangalore

There were many of these food tents set up beside Mosque Road

Ramadan food tent Bangalore India

It was crowded!

Mutton haleem Bangalore India

Mutton haleem. Haleem, for the uninitiated, is a thick gravy like dish made using wheat, barley, lentils and meat (plus spices).

Ramazan food tent Mosque road Bangalore

I don’t think I could have even stood here and ate something. Too stuffy and way too many people passing through.

Iftar sweets Bangalore India

Lots of sweets on offer!

Fish chicken kadi Eid food

There wasn’t a whole lot of sea food available and given the ‘Bangalore premium’ for seafood, whatever that was on offer was kinda expensive.

Mosque road Ramadan stalls Bangalore

There were many more stalls alongside Mosque Road

Ramzan tent Frazer town Bangalore

We went in here next

Chicken samosas Eid food Bangalore

Chicken samosas, chicken fry, chicken kebabs, chicken this, chicken that…

Pathar gosht beef Frazer town

More beef and mutton grilled on stone

Dry fruit firny Shahi tukda dessert

Packed up some firny (sweet)

Chocolate cupcakes Karachi haleem

And picked up some chocolate cupcakes

Pudding gulab jamun sweets Iftar

I had some pudding next, which was yum!

Mosque road Ramadan night Bangalore

Even though much of the activity was on the right side, I crossed the road to check out what was on offer on the other lane on Mosque Road

Muslims sheek kebabs Bangalore India

Much of the same, albeit far less glamourous that’s all

Iftar sweets Frazer town Bangalore

There weren’t too many different varieties of food on offer this side

After packing up some more food, I left Mosque Road. It’s obvious the annual Ramadan treats have grown into a big business opportunity for vendors over these past few years. It wasn’t this crowded when I visited 2 years ago. People of all faiths turn up to try out the food. Of course there were a few ignorant people. One guy was silly enough to ask if pork was available! :P

Also, the prices this year weren’t low by any street food means. A plate of pathar gosht was sold for Rs. 200, and the quantity was only good enough for just one person. A stick of just three chicken-cheese balls cost Rs. 50. Don’t even ask about the sea food prices.

Still, if you have an opportunity to check out the fare on Mosque Road, do so if you have never visited the stretch during Ramzan before. And do it before Eid. Happy feasting!


03
May 14

Day trip to Pyramid Valley meditation center

Date: 21 April 2014

On a Monday morning, I joined my cousin brother and his family on short day-trip to a place called Pyramid Valley International, just off Kanakapura Road.

Kanakapura road Bangalore drive

Pyramid Valley is around 27 kms from the METRO Cash & Carry store on Kanakapura Road.

Mithun Jithin family GoPro

Even though I was primarily using my phone to shoot photographs, I carried my GoPro with me to take some photos too

Way to Pyramid Valley Kanakpura road

The drive barely took an hour

You have to get off Kanakapura Road when you see the sign pointing left to where Pyramid Valley International is located. Once you get on to the small road, it’s pretty bad. You pass through a village with poor roads before you reach the gates at Pyramid Valley.

There is an open ground for parking and there is no fee for the same. We parked under a big tree as it was quite sunny.

Pyramid Valley map Bangalore

Like many spiritual centers in India, they are spread across many acres

Pyramid Valley International claims to be a “new age meditation” and “spiritual science” center (if there ever is such a thing as spiritual science).

Mahatma Gandhi statue Pyramid valley

Much of the space inside looks like there is still a lot of work to be done

But why is it called Pyramid Valley? Continue reading “Day trip to Pyramid Valley meditation center” »

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