Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Google Play, where is my Nexus after 19 days?

Let’s play this out in the classic infatuation style. I get smitten by the Nexus 5 and so pick a flower and begin pulling petals…The Nexus will come, the Nexus won’t come. Repeat 12 times.
Onto more serious stuff. Seeing the 32 GB Nexus 5 in stock on the Google Play Store on 21-Nov-13, I decide to go for it and place an order on 22-Nov-13. The status at the time showed “Leaves warehouse by November 29, 2013”. But nothing happened on 29-Nov-13.
29-Nov-13 – No change in status on site
30-Nov-13 -– No change in status on site
01-Dec-13 – Hearbreak begins. No change in status on site
02-Dec-13 – Heartbreak in progress but…..No change in status on site
03-Dec-13 – I check if the status on site is carved in stone but….No change in status on site
04-Dec-13 – I make the first desperate call to Google Support. I am greeted warmly by a customer service representative who tells me that my phone is just getting boxed and ready for shipment within 48 hours. Alright! My phone’s coming!
05-Dec-13 – I receive an enigmatic mail about how to track the shipment. But…. you guessed it. No change in status on site

11-Dec-13 – No change in status on site – Still shows pending

Awesome company (no sarcasm). But should maybe leave the hardware sales to more seasoned giants. Its a different ballgame.
PS – No change in status on site after 13 days.

Edit: The phone was received on 16-Jan-14 after a customer service representative called me to confirm that it will be delivered. The phone is fantastic for its range. That is a whole different story.

Moral of the story: Very happy to have a Nexus 5.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Photography made simple

Attached is a presentation I made to demystify the jargon and terminology used in photography. It keeps things simple and to the point

A pdf of the same presentation is also available at

Any feedback from viewers is most welcome. It is a learning process for me too.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Till the Last Breath – Durjoy Datta


I received this book as a gift from a dear friend. It is a good steady paced read and the author touches upon so many emotions experienced by people who are faced with certain death. The approach towards life and the will to give one’s best contrasted with a feeling of pure negativity gives a see-saw type of mood changes.

The author has nicely captured many angles of suffering and the fragile nature of the human body even in the presence of a strong soul. Anger, sorrow, joy, rage, indifference, love, attachment, giving up, forgiveness and surprise have been weaved together beautifully. Definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bird Photography with a Manual Focus Lens

There were times when I wondered why wildlife and bird photographers were so excited about shooting. Having a greater preference for portrait photography, I wanted to see for myself the cause for this excitement. I mean, they were birds after all. Having only one manual focus lens with a maximum focal length of 100mm, it would have to suffice.

The SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm was the lens of choice as it possessed nearly the quality of a prime along with a medium telephoto focal length to start with. Below is a full crop image taken from a distance of 10 feet at 105mm. The lens is fast at f3.5 with great color rendition and saturation. Sharpness too is excellent for a 1980s lens. Having an auto aperture mode, the camera would handle the exposure and shutter speed. My only work was to get the focus right and I thought I was there. The other issue was that since I was going to have to use manual focus lenses, I could not use the continuous AF mode.

So how hard could it be? The challenges became evident when I actually got down to shooting those pesky wondrous creations of nature. In order of necessity, they were:


This can be really hard especially when the birds are in trees. Birds evolved to be camouflaged against the backdrop of nature. A green parrot in a tree just blends in. It took some amount of patience to learn to tune in to a birds sound and then practice spotting them in trees. I had to stay calm to focus my ears on the sound and then learn to look for subtle movements in the leaves before spotting them to get ready to shoot. If I couldn’t spot, I had no attempt at a photo.

No Poses

Birds do not pose. They don’t care to. They run away. It is upto the photographer to be constantly alert to capture a moment. Capturing an absolute still photo of a bird is average photography. Capturing one in the midst of an action is good photography. Capturing one in fast action is great photography. It is a rare moment. Knowing that the environment doesn’t really care for my photo meant I had to adjust myself to everything.

Below is an example of an average photograph. The pigeon is just sitting on the railing. It does not inspire as a great shot.


So the next was to try a slow moving bird. I tried a bird that was about to stop. This gave me a little more time to focus and try. The below shot was taken as 5 shots and the best one posted. It is a little more active. It was set at an aperture of f3.5 with a shutter speed of 1/250 at 50mm and ISO 200.



Lastly, I tried taking a fast moving set of birds. There was more activity but the focusing got a lot more harder. The best I could get was the below where only the tail came into focus. This was at an aperture of f3.5 with a shutter speed of 1/250 at 50mm with ISO 200.



Birds are scared. Always. Period. The slightest rustle from me and they would go away. I had to learn to be absolutely still. Ideally, a body movement is seen more easily. Head movements are noticed less and eye movements the least. I got into a comfortable position where I had to sit for minutes at a time and kept the camera closer to my face with the settings all done. If your camera has an auto shut off set for 1-2 minutes, you may want to turn that off as you need the camera on at any time to shoot.


Ample light is needed to shoot birds. I found it best to shoot birds in the early mornings or late evenings when the sun’s rays are slant. This gave a better effect, more ambient but indirect light on the lens. Afternoon photography is great too but I had to have the sun behind me at all times. Direct sunlight from above makes it tricky as the flare appears in the photos.

This photo was taken during sunset. There were no direct sun rays falling anywhere on the lens to cause a flare. Due to decent lighting available, I had a reasonable depth of field at f4.5 with a shutter speed of 1/180 and ISO 200



Aperture and Shutter Speed

Bird photography is quick. I needed a high shutter speed to avoid blurs. This meant I needed a wide open aperture. In good light, an f5.6 and lower is desirable. An aperture of f2.8 to f3.5 would be great to have. The problem is with lower apertures, the depth of field greatly reduces. I needed to have excellent focusing skills to capture the image. Having shutter speeds of 1/60s or above is desirable to avoid motion blur.

This photo of the parrot in the tree presented a low light situation during sunset. Fortunately I could achieve this with with f3.5 and shutter speed at 1/125 but had to bump the ISO to 400 to get some brightness. It still gave a presentable result.



The below photo was a challenge as the bird was directly above me and I had to contend with the light behind the bird. To achieve good focus, I set the aperture to f9.5, kept the centre focus on the bird and used a lower shutter speed of 1/60 at ISO 400. This gave an average photo but with the right expression after about 4 shots.



Once the subject is found, then focus as quickly as possible and shoot as many photos as possible while moving the focus from less than ideal focus to focus to over the focus range. I had to take as many as 6 photos at times to get one good focused shot. Distant shots are harder and as there is no hard copy printing of the photos involved, I could afford to try multiple shots.

The below shot was the best out of 8 that I could manage. Both birds were moving constantly and I had to keep shooting by keeping one in focus. But having a bright background caused it to get tricky. As a result, I could manage with an f4.5 which allowed for reasonable depth of field with a shutter speed of 1/180 and ISO 200. But as you can see, there is purple fringing in the photo. Nevertheless, it was a success as both birds were in focus though they came out dark.


As you can see, it is possible to achieve some results using MF lenses on a resonable camera. The satisfaction I have is having had to work hard to get the right focus with the available ambient settings. It is hard to do and the opposite of this is to have a nice 300mm AF lens on an AP.C sensor where all I have to do is keep the lens pointed at the subject, let the camera do the focusing and then shoot. But for a budget set of gear, the 6 year old $150 camera and 30 year old $100 lens sure do a nice job.

Make no mistake, bird photography is exciting because it presents a challenge of different sorts. It demands patience, being still and working with the elements. The satisfaction is more for oneself.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Learning to detach


This is so hard to understand that I clutched at straws learning to let go. Learning to detach is also a practised approach. When I say detach, I do not mean giving up everything and becoming a sage. There are people who you adore and love which gives you the urge to be around them always. While one part of the love is love for what it is, the other part is attachment which grows like a weed. The irony is that love and attachment are mutually exclusive. Attachment while good to wallow becomes an vice that leads to envy. Attachment stems from fear of losing that exclusivity, the desire to be in the other’s life is so strong that it chokes everything.

Love on the other hand knows no boundaries; it is selfless, pure and distilled in the eithers. It can never possess. It can only welcome always and anyone is welcome. Love attracts, it cannot coerce. It is this reason why attachment and love stay apart. Love grants your wings, peace, serenity. Suddenly it falls together. Suddenly it is indescribable. Suddenly I realize that all is quiet within. The silence always beckoned. I just never heard it then.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dropping Bogies


The 6.00 am rumble of the train woke me up. Another hour to go. Standing outside looking at the endless track with the cool breeze hitting the face served as a reminder of what life bestowed. The oncoming train signalled another’s life process.

We all bundle up our emotions, thoughts, feelings at each phase of our life and compartmentalize them. We go back to that bogie when we want to. We never really need to go back to it. But we thrive on living in that bogie of thoughts for a while as it comforts us.

Along the way, we gather many bogies till a time comes when we start wondering why life is a drag. Rarely do we realize that our additional forgotten bogies are weighing us down. Many bogies mean richer experience but the strength required to pull them may lack. We need to drop many a bogie along the way. The experience has happened. It is done. Now we need to move on with renewed gusto.

Drop a bogie, one at a time. Say goodbye to it happily for it was necessary at the time, but not now. Keep adding bogies too, the new, strong, shining, useful ones.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t


Nature provides us the answer when we look silently. The decision making conundrum is always between logic and instinct.

Financial markets go up and down. We still refer to it as market sentiment. And sentiment follows not from logic

Our happiest choices in life almost always stem from last minute decisions. We do our painstaking research before venturing out to accomplish something. And more often than not, the rules change in the last minute. When faced with uncertainty, all logic goes out the window. We’re mentally stripped bare of all reasoning and decide based on our gut.

Great people, striking people are all those followed their instinct. Mozart, Beethoven, Van Gogh, Lincoln etc. Their conviction came from knowing and the knowing came from something deep within.

Naturally, following one’s instinct is a dangerous game too. Many a time, we go wrong and the repercussions can be disastrous. But picking oneself up and moving on to the next decision is all that keeps us going.

Logic keeps us on the boring middle path. Secure, predictable, average.

Instinct keeps us alert, shows us great successes and great failures. Its all about extremes. Like the delicate flower whose stamens stand exposed to the elements. There is great risk of death, of being crushed by even a mouse. But the choice to remain open gives the greatest gift. New Life.

Damned to more probable failures than successes if you follow only instinct. Damned to mediocrity if you follow only logic.

Which payoff would you choose?

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Delhi Factor

I received not one but two surprising exact responses. I was discussing career choices with two different married friends of mine at different times of the week. Both had openings in more than one city in India. The best job offers on paper came from Delhi. So I asked them whether they were relocating or not. And both gave me the same answer “Hey, its Delhi. I’m married. I don’t need the stress about my wife’s safety”. And the topic moved on from there.

What struck me later was the matter-of-fact way in which the answers came. It was fluid, accepted and unsurprising that Delhi is the rape capital. The way it was mentioned so casually is disturbing. We have mentally accepted that Delhi is not a place for women. And men find it harder to live there being in constant worry over their spouses and daughters. It is indeed quite shameful that we live in a country where the national capital has such a reputation.

Business Insider has named the 8 most unsafe countries for women tourists as:


The list above gives a glaring comparison on where India stands. While we claim to be a developed nation of nearly 1.1 billion, the remaining in the list are either underdeveloped, non-secular or very poor countries. To be in this list is a shame.

35% of women tourists have cancelled their visits to India which may be the right thing to do right now. After all, when a country cannot keep its own women safe, how are they going to safeguard outsiders. We are a country who take false pride in respecting our women, disallowing skimpy clothes in public and going around beating up couples on valentine’s day. On the other hand, we welcome item numbers by women who wear transparent clothes treating them like commodities.

The movie Khalnayak set a new precedent. I remember seeing hordes of gentlemen leaving the theatre after the song “Choli ke peeche” was over. People bought tickets just to see that song and then leave. I’m pretty sure they weren’t looking for spiritual enlightenment from Madhuri Dixit.

It is a known fact that no nation has prospered economically by ill treating either gender. And a simple survey of the developed nations show that the workforce has as many women as men working in jobs. The glass ceiling for women in top executive positions is another matter for discussion. The basic point is all about enforcing safety. And nations which respect their women do well.

Inspite of the above, change is happening in India. Women are taking to the streets, the media is keeping up the pressure and social networking is turning out to be a huge weapon for the masses. It is getting more and more difficult to push cases under the rug as it is on display for the world to see as it happens. This will be the best source of change for ensuring women’s safety in India. The initial set of protesters in Delhi following the Nirbhaya incident were arrested by the police who were trying to nip the problem in the bud before the gathering achieved a critical mass. But one of the arrested students quickly tweeted from the police van asking for help. By the time they were taken to lockup, another huge gathering had amassed at the police station. The police had to let them go.

Things will improve. But it will be painstakingly slow as the mindset needs to change first.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Zoom Lens vs the 50mm Prime Lens

Note: All photos on this post were taken with the Pentax K100DS and the Vivitar 50mm 1.7 Prime lens (made by Cosina from the late 80s or early 90s). Click on the photos to view them full size



There’s always that excitement when you’ve purchased your first DSLR that came with the kit lens of 18-55mm. The photos are much better right out of the box than the standard point and shoot cameras. Photos are clearer and sharper and offer more realistic colour rendering.

But after a while, there’s that creeping need for even better photos. After all, a well composed photo tells a story. And photography is all about composing a theme in two dimensions to tell your story. Based on you interests, you could opt for a specialized lens. But specialized lenses cost way more. Action photography, bird watching, nature shoots need a good telephoto lens which are expensive. But for the regular daily walkaround photography, there is much simpler option.

This is where the 50mm prime scores. How many times have you accidentally taken a stunning photo where everything just came together in perfection? I know I always go back to looking at those photos with pride. A prime lens makes this consistently possible. It has only one focal length which seems to be a limitation as one cannot close in on the subject or expand the area of focus. But the important thing to note here is that 50mm offers a field of vision that is very close to the human eye’s range. The prime ends up capturing almost exactly what we see with our visual range in a setting. This makes it more pleasing and natural.

The next logical argument would be that the kit lens offers a setting at the same 50mm. All that one needs to do is to set the focal length at 50mm and shoot. The crucial difference is that the quality of the image takes a beating with the kit lens. To make a zoom lens, there are many components required to work in tandem. As the cost of the lens has to be viable, there is a compromise made. Otherwise all lenses should take equally good photos. The complexity added in zoom lenses means the glass or plastic used in the lenses is of a slightly lesser optical grade. Those who wear spectacles know what I am talking about when I say optical grade.

Some of the major advantages of a prime are:

Forced Learning

A prime lens usually offers the ability to manually change the aperture over a wider range than kit lenses. And if the lens is a manual focus lens (as most of the older ones are), then there is a learning curve involved. Patience is required to get that right shot. It took me around a month to understand the various combinations of aperture, shutter speed and ISO for needs based on ambient parameters. For example, I learnt through trial and error that fast moving objects need a higher shutter speed (1/180 or more) and higher aperture (f2.8 or f2) to allow more light for a shorter span of time. The results were satisfying!




There are so many older prime lenses available that are very very economical. The lens used to capture all the photos in this post was purchased for  INR2,800 ($52). Though it is just an above average lens, the sharpness and clarity trumps more expensive kit lenses. Sure, one can always achieve the same output quality with a much more expensive lens. But what’s the point of that when you can pick up an old good one for a fraction of the rate. Once I learnt to focus properly, I got good photos that were near perfect at even 100% enlarged.



No Zoom, Better Composition

The lack of zoom is actually a motivation to workout better. If you need a close up of the subject, you have to move closer physically. I had to walk for a while and finally get down on my knees, bend forward and backward to get this little tribal girl’s photo. It would have been so much easier if I had a zoom lens. I could have sat in one place and just zoomed in and out till I got the portrait. But what I saw was that I had to intimately understand my subject if I wanted a good photo. This got me working in tandem with her to finally get the right expression.



Aperture Range

This is perhaps one of the most important advantages a prime lens has over kit lenses. Natural looking photos require no flash to be used. And low ambient light poses a challenge. Kit lenses have a maximum useable range of F3.5-5.6. This means photos in low light need to be taken with very low shutter speeds or a combination of low shutter speed and high ISO sensitivity. Low shutter speeds demand the need for a very steady hand. Below 1/10 it becomes harder to obtain a steady image. The other resort is to use a tripod or use the flash. Using a flash removes the attraction of a dim lighted scene.

A prime lens on the other hand can have a maximum aperture of f1.4. This allows the lens to allow in much more light and obtain sharper images with higher shutter speeds. This photo below was taken in a restaurant with very low yellow lighting. Achieving a reasonably sharp image of the glass became easy by setting the aperture at 1.7 and using a speed of 1/15; which would have been impossible with a kit lens with the camera being hand held.



Planar Depth of Field

At the widest aperture, the prime lens has the least depth. This means the lens only focuses on a very narrow plane of view. One can use this to keep only the subject in focus and blur the remaining foreground or background or both.  The narrow DOF allows for more creativity without the use of flash. There is much more to learn and training the camera to “see” what we see. It also forces us to learn to focus properly. The right photo makes is a wonderful result to see. There is more time to use natural light for those warm sunset sceneries.



Prime lenses made for film cameras were made to work with the 35mm rolls. The sensors of the new age digital SLRs have a cropped sensor usually with a 1.5 ratio. That means an old 50mm prime used on a digital SLR is actually similar to a cropped telephoto. For example on the K100DS, the multiplier is 1.5 which means an SLR 50mm works like a 50 x 1.5 = 75 mm. This does not pose any problems as a focal length of 75 mm makes for great portraits as seen above. All other functionality remains the same.

So have fun shooting and if possible, experiment with primes. I do use my kit lens for most occasions. The manual focus prime is harder to manage but boy does it give me some satisfaction. Auto focus primes are a must have if one can afford it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kasauli Castle Resort - Review

Kasauli, here we come! was the first statement we yelled when we woke up at 4.00 am to catch the flight to Delhi. The previous evening was all about packing and we were wondering if we should take the sweaters out of the attic. My false bravado led to me leaving the sweaters back in Hyderabad while my logically thinking better half and daughter decided to keep theirs in the suitcase inspite of showing the Kasauli temperature to be a sane 11 degrees Celsius. I learnt a valuable lesson - always trust the women. They go bonkers less often than males in their decision making.

The flight to Delhi was uneventful and boring. Indigo was as usual predictably on time. We were fidgeting all the way through and were thankful when the pilot landed the plane without the unnecessary bounce. Stepping out into Delhi for the first time, we realized the temperature was a little below 10. Felt great to feel the chill factor after so many years. Hyderabad just isn’t that cold anymore.

The taxi driver spotted us after many calls over the phone. We also realized our Hindi versions were a tad different. Hyderabadi Hindi and Delhi Hindi are more like Rajputs. Both are from the same breed but don’t accept one another. It took us about 10 minutes to understand that we were speaking the same language and the minor phonetic aberrations were forgiven.


We had our first taste of the Capital city. Big roads, enormous space occupied and a long drive to get out onto the highway. A dense fog had settled bringing visibility to a few tens of metres. Traffic crawled and we were photographing the fog only to realize all the photos looked the same. Cloudy. Didn’t make sense. We kept the cameras back in the bag and enjoyed the lack of view outside.

In an hour, it was breakfast time and our driver introduced us to the famous Sukhdev Dhaba. My eyes ballooned till they popped and the driver’s horrified look reminded me that I needed to explain my almost naked eyeballs. There were over a 100 cars at this dhaba. Most of them had alloy wheels. Heck, even the 800’s had alloy wheels. And so many of them were mammoth SUVs or sleek German models. The driver then reminded us that we were in Haryana. We had only studied about Punjab and Haryana being rich but seeing it in person was a whole different experience. Money flows in these two states. Apparently, during season, there are over 300 cars parked outside the dhaba. Service is super fast with so much floating population.

The Aloo parathas and the Chole baturas with butter and achaar were the best we had ever eaten till date. Period. The tea could be scooped out with a spoon with all that thick cream in it. The food at this dhaba was simply awesome. Just stick to the items that they are famous for and one will not be disappointed. Aloo parathas were Rs. 25 and dosas were Rs. 40. Naaah, no south Indian dishes to be ordered in Haryana.

The rest of the way showed us the might of agricultural power in these two states. Just acres and acres of green fields for as long as our eyesight permits. Buildings looked rich and the people, richer. On the way, there was a stretch of car showrooms one after the other. Audi, BMW, Merc, Jaguar, Range Rover, Bentley, Maruti, Hyundai, Honda. Yes, I actually counted them. That shows the money present in these states. The highways were all 6 lane till Himachal Pradesh. The final town in Punjab was Zirakpur which was supposed to be just a town. The malls in this “little” town were about the same size as GVK One in Hyderabad. Multiplexes and McDonalds dotted the scenery. Wow, these ARE rich states.

Then came the first view of Himachal. The foothills of the Himalayas. So grand, so strong. The big difference we say immediately is that the Western Ghats are mountains of red mud. The Himalayas are impregnable stone. The vegetation is different, the color of the earth is different. And they are just so grand. Entering Himachal, the road began winding up into Solan. Roads are great here. Very few potholes, smooth and quick to navigate if you have a good vehicle. Our driver was swaying more inside the car than the car actually was. The beauty of Himachal is the glorious view at every turn on the mountains. Rows of undulating mountainous stretches welcome us. Every view is breathtakingly different

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We finally turned left from Solan to see a stretch of very bad narrow roads that led us to Kasauli. Nearing the Kasauli market, we saw that this place still had its old British charm. Kasauli has an Airforce base which is still operational. There are over a 100 resorts here and the advantage for all of them is the God given view. We finally reached the Kasauli Castle Resort, stopped, opened the door and…….

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My word! It was so cold! I cursed the folks at and hoped they would freeze for a minute in their cozy office cabins. I began doing a dance not invented till now. We ran into the reception area, kept dancing and asked what temperature was. The gentleman pointed to the thermometer. It registered all of 1 degree. One degree. I mumbled another curse as my bone marrow began complaining and my toes refused to react. I couldn’t feel my nose and wondered if I was born with ears. All physiological extremities felt unwanted.

But coming back to the resort now. Kasauli Castle Resort is highly rated on tripadvisor which caused us to select it for our stay. And they did not disappoint at all. We took the 4 days/3 night package for a couple which included breakfast, dinner, complimentary tea and a fruit basket. Yes, a fruit basket.

Location: The resort is located at a fairly higher altitude than most other resorts. It comes with a great view and if one walks up the same road for just half a kilometer, there are fantastic views of mountains from there. Kasauli is a place to explore by walking around. There is nothing much to do here. It is a place for relaxing and unwinding.

Rooms: The rooms were neat and clean, well maintained and smelled of sweet tobacco. Not tobacco smoke. But sweet tobacco which is a warm and welcoming smell. The room came with an LED TV, Tata Sky connection, a room heater, a kettle, water jugs, blankets and a cupboard with hangers. The spic and span bathroom had a water heater, towels, soaps, toothpaste all provided by the resort. Complimentary tea, milk and sugar was also present. As they say, a picture speaks louder than a thousand words. There is a nice mini-bar with resonable rates for liquor. So here are the pictures of the room.

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Service: This is why the resort has such high ratings. The staff are extremely polite, courteous and responsive. They attended to our every need with a smile. They never hang around for tips and never ask anything other than what is required. Two names to be mentioned here are RK (Rajender Kumar) and JK (Jeetender Kumar). RK was always helpful and went a step ahead to suggest and get anything done for the occupants of the resort. I did make a miserly request which he fulfilled the very next day. There was no point in my buying another sweater in Kasauli for just 2 days only to bring it back and stash in the attic again. So I asked RK if he could spare me a sweater or jacket for the 2 days. He just said “no problem Sir” and got me one of his own the very next day. Now that’s customer service. I returned the jacket on the last day and will keep memories of it in my photos. We did not find any sad or frowning faces here among staff. Service at this resort is indeed great. Room service is very quick and the staff are ready to do whatever they can within their limits to accommodate requests.

Food:  They have a great and exhaustive menu that covers Continental, Chinese, North and South Indian dishes. The resort was flexible enough to a large extent. On the day we arrived, there were only 2 rooms occupied. It did not make much sense to open a buffet counter. Instead, they let us order a-la-carté and did not charge us anything extra for it. It was like having your pick of food free of choice. Coming back to the dishes, let me be frank. The noodles was very Indianized. But then, these guys are mostly Himachali and Bengali. So we decided to stick to the Indian dishes. And they did not disappoint. All Indian dishes were very good and were made exactly how we liked them. We heard some of the other guests say that their sizzlers too were excellent but it was a common opinion that their Indian food tasted the best. The next day, the resort was nearly full and the buffet section was opened. Once again, their Indian items were the best. The Chinese items were just above average. They also make great omelettes and sandwiches for breakfast. So no complaints from us as they are excellent in preparing one set of items.

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Facilities:  The resort has a DJ and dance floor, an XBox Kinect, a foosball table and a snooker table. Many resorts charge on an hourly basis for using these but all were free here (except for the air hockey table) for as long as one wanted. Movies are also screened everyday on the projector for those who wish to sit in the lawns in the evening and feel the breeze. On the first floor is a children’s park with swings, a slide, see-saws and a hammock. Kids would enjoy their time here while adults relax.

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Highlights: I nearly forgot. Even though the resort was not full for the 3 days, we were still treated like royalty. When we booked the hotel, we were informed that children would be charged extra over the package rate as it was only for couples. During checkout, we went to pay the extra and were informed that our child was not charged. When asked why, the staff said that since our child ate so less, there was no point in charging anything extra at all. That was a pleasant surprise for us. The manager then informed us that they observe their guests keenly to satisfy all their needs. But as part of the observation, they are also flexible on the final charges especially if the guests have not consumed much. That is truly great customer service.

This resort is great value for money. Rest assured that we recommend this place whole heartedly. We may not visit Kasauli again but if we do, we know where to stay. By the way, the morning walks up the road by the resort are very enjoyable. The evening walks give a great view of the sun rays coloring the mountain tops.

There are not too many attractions at Kasauli. As mentioned before, this is a place to walk and explore. The most important sight which should not be missed is the Manki Point which is in the Airforce base. As this is a restricted area, no cameras or phones are allowed. But the view from the top at 6430 feet is amazing. On one side is Chandigarh and the other side is Kasauli. And when the clouds form, the view is magnificent. We spent nearly half an hour just sitting and watching the great Himalayas as they kept rising in height. On the second day, the air was clear. The Airforce officials remarked saying that the visibility was well over 200 kms from the top. And we could see the snow capped mountains from so far away. Truly marvellous.

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The sunset point is a very romantic spot. Old English homes are still present and the orange rays change shades as you see the sun setting below the horizon with pine trees in the front. Unforgettable.

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Many memories abound after the trip. The undulating mountains, the cable car ride at Timber Trails, the glorious sunsets, the misty mornings and the superb service of the staff at Kasauli Castle. Definitely recommended.