Pages

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sikkim - 3 (Nathula)

I continue from here...Sikkim-2 (Pelling)

Next morning, after a quick breakfast, we left Gangtok. Our driver for the day was O.Bhutia, a very talkative and interesting character. He would scold almost everyone. “kuch teek nahi yaan saab” (Nothing is okay here, sir) he would say and scold the Government officials, police, army and people. He would ask– Kya hoga yis desh ka? (What will happen to this country?) His most favorite target was BRO, Border Road Organizations. “Ek number ka chor hai” (Thief number one, they are) he would say before mentioning anything about BRO. He told how they have been constructing the worst roads that get damaged in no time. He told that the organization is a big fraud. The road construction to Nathula, he said has been going on for years. His description of the issue was rather humorous. He would say that Chinese people, with their binoculars, look at our roads and laugh, while their roads are extremely well maintained. He is not totally wrong either; the roads are in pathetic condition near the border. To make all this more funny, BRO has boards showing their commitments at almost every bend in the mountains. Banners like “East or West BRO is the best”….”BRO never Looks backs”…”BRO serves nation” now gave a much ironic and sarcastic thoughts.

Several jeeps followed one another as the road swiveled around the mountains. We passed through Black cat division army camps and bought some tax free domestic goods. At Shertong, is Indo-China trading center. Chinese traders are allowed to travel till here. Similarly Indian traders are allowed to drive about 6-8kms from the border, into China. This route is also the old Silk route that once was the main silk trading route from China to India.


On our way, a jeep ahead of us stopped working and we had to give the passengers a drive till the border. Four men from Vishakaptnam joined us. They had trekked and traveled for 18 days in Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, Shilong and now Sikkim. They had had a good travel around northeast and told me that Shilong is a must see kind of place. They had worked out a good deal with the travel agent in Sikkim.

Chinese Side And a Mountain of Bhutan in backdrop

We saw some snow at Nathula pass, which is at 14400ft above sea level, almost the same height as of Pikes Peak, Colorado, which I have hiked.


At the border, many Indians were eager to shake hands with the Chinese soldier and click a picture with him. We too got one clicked as though it was a ritual to be followed. :-) The Chinese concrete roads looked fabulous as compared to our roads. On both sides, new conference rooms are being built. Surprisingly, the other side of the border had only three construction workers and few soldiers at the check post. For the Chinese, this was no tourist point. Why it was for us? I thought. Perhaps we take pride in being in other countries or near it, reason for which may be many.



Spoke to few of our soldiers there. They get along well with the Chinese but language becomes a barrier and limits more conversations.

Our next stop was a Baba Mandir. Baba Harbajan singh was a soldier who after death appeared in a friends dream and requested for a temple being built in his name. Wishes made here are believed to be fulfilled. Our driver suggested that we should see the original Baba temple and a place from where the KCD would look great. He convinced us to see this place by saying – Delhi Jake Tajmahal nahi deka tho kya faida? (Going to Delhi and not visiting Taj is no good)
On our way we passed through a small village called Thukla. Here we had delicious hot Maggie at a small hotel. Indeed the view of KCD from here was spectacular.


At Baba Mandir, the army had arranged free lunch to all devotees on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanthi. It was good to see the soldiers, cook, serve and clean the plates. They greeted us; spoke to us, offered food and water. They did not even let us clean the plates. It was a nice atmosphere. We visited the bunker of Baba.


On the way back, we stopped at Tsongo Lake. Here you can find many yaks for ride or just a picture. The drive back was very beautiful with clouds flowing into valley as the sun displayed its usual strokes.



To Be Continued....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sikkim- 2 (Pelling)

I continue from here...Sikkim-1 (Getting There)

Next morning, at 6:00 Am it was a view, I had never witnessed before. From my balcony as I stood enjoying the chilled weather, I could see the sunlight act like a spot light on the Kanch-Chen Dzonga. And the mountain turned yellow, orange and then bright white. My dream to sit in a locale overlooking the mountains, sipping on a cup of tea finally came true. I could not take my eyes off the beautiful sight.


I got on to a chat with Tshering. He named for us, the different peaks of Kanch-Chen-Dzonga range; explained to us about the communities in Sikkim – Lepcha(The original inhabitants), Bhutia’s (Migrated from Tibet) and Sikkimee Nepalis (Migrated from Nepal and are now 70% of Sikkim Population). Several years ago, Bhutia’s and Lepcha’s signed a peace treaty keeping the mountain Kanch-Chen-Dzonga (KCD) as the witness. For Sikkimese, KCD is not simply a mountain; it’s a local guardian deity. I realized how important it is to know the local sentiments before traveling to a place, without which it is meaningless to be in a place. Every year sometime in July or August a festival is celebrated to worship the KCD.

After Parota’s & sabji for breakfast, we left for sightseeing around Pelling. Our tour plan was such that we had new vehicle and new driver each day. We drove to Rock Garden; Rimbi & Kanch-Chen-Dzonga falls. Kecheopalri Lake is a very sacred lake and a wish made here is considered fulfilled. Another specialty of this lake is that, even though it is surrounded by trees, not a single dry leaf is found on it. It is believed that bird’s pick the leafs away.

Boys Selling Oranges At Rock Garden.
Kecheopalri Lake

We went to Pemayangtse monastery; with its big beautiful prayer bell; painted walls; several flags with written scriptures, tied all over the place fluttered with the wind; young monks practiced some form of martial arts in the front yard, which was interesting to observe. Peaceful Buddha idols added so much beauty to the already serene atmosphere inside the monastery.



As I was interested in knowing more about how people lived there, we dropped rest of the plan from the itinerary and instead asked the driver to take us to some village. Kumar, a small boy joined us for the rest of the drive and he took us to a small village near Pelling by name “Char Gharey”.


We walked into some houses, interacted with villagers. All were very kind to show us around. The houses have a very different construction from ours. Each room is like an independent house; one shelter just for kitchen; another independent shelter as bedroom and so on.


We met a school teacher by name – Premkumar Suba. He travels about 2 hours to school every day. He teaches English and Social science to primary classes. He introduced to us, his 2 year old daughter and told that he had always wanted a daughter and because she was born fulfilling their strong faith to have a daughter, she is named Ni…., which means faith. Happy and surprised, I asked why he had wanted only a girl child. He told that in Sikkim a girl and boy child are equally treated. The main difference he thought was due to dowry system, which was not present in Sikkim and most often it is love marriage. Of course there are few restrictions such as religion etc but even that is minimal, he says. He told us that prayer flags contain mantras which are believed to reach God as it flutters in the wind. He is a Hindu Sikkimee Nepali. When I asked him about Ganapathi painting that I saw in monasteries he told that most of Buddhist epics are close to Hindu epics. (It is now after reading S L Bhyrappa’s novel Sartha, I realize the reason behind similarities)

Next morning (Nov-12th), After Breakfast and thanking Tshering, we left Pelling; kissed good bye to kCD which was today covered with cloud and more snow.


Gangtok is 5 hour drive from Pelling. On the way we stopped at Leping to view a Shiva temple; which is situated at a beautiful locale by Theestha River and overlooking the hills around. We reached Orange Village resort at Ranipool, Gangtok at around 2:00 PM. Took a walk down to a river.

Our tour agent called us to inform that we had to be ready at 7:00 AM next day and briefed us our plan for the day. I was excited to go to Nathula Pass, the coming morning.

To Be Continued….

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sikkim -1 (Getting There)

It is very difficult for a traveler to go on a honeymoonJ; to follow a path that some tour agent has planned for you; to stop the temptation of exploring the place and to keep the hands off the camera; and expect all this in Sikkim? In spite of all those, the traveler in me took over to experience the beauty of North eastern tip of India.

I had planned the entire trip few months ago, through a tour agent in Silliguri by name “Nature Beyond”. My married friends had advised me that, when you go on a trip such as this, everything should be arranged because it’s a time to enjoy each other’s company and not break your head on which hotel to book? Which places to see? And what mode of transportation and they were right. Though not my type of travels, I enjoyed the once in a while luxury of relaxing throughout the trip.

When P gave me the freedom to choose the destination, I was obviously happy to use this opportunity to explore a new place. Sikkim was always in my mind and I reconfirmed it after talking to couple of people who has been there before. One of my friends had been there too after his wedding and I got the details of the tour plans. Lakshmi, Celina & Mridula helped me with information about places I could see while I am there. Finally I presented a customized tour plan based on these tips, to the agents and asked them for a quote.

After that not so nice experience at Kolkata, we reached Bagdogra airport at around 4:30 PM. Mahesh, one of the planner from “Nature beyond” received us at the airport. We quickly drew out of airport, towards Sikkim. Bagdogra is at the northern tip of West Bengal and is the nearest airport to Sikkim (4 hours drive from Gangtok). On our way, Mahesh briefed us about the tour plan. I was a little curious to know more about the place and Mahesh was the best person to furnish us those details.

Siliguri is a nice city. There are few good universities and colleges. The weather is very pleasant.

Mahesh got off before we crossed the city borders and we drove ahead to Pelling, which is 5 hours drive from Siliguri. Our driver was nice enough to guide us through the journey and showed us the army training area, new dams being constructed etc. It was one of the most beautiful drives I have been in. The sky turned grey and then dark almost as soon as we drew out of Silliguri and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness outside, it could not stop admiring the beautiful outline of the mountains, voices from the Theestha River flowing adjacent the road and an almost full size moon showing us the way ahead.

Buses Ply from Silliguri to Gangtok and the fair is Rs140.

On the way we stopped at Unthees mile to have tea. A Bihari lady at the shop asked me to try Veg momo’s; made of steamed Miada, stuffed with vegetables. It tasted good.

We reached resort Pachu resort at Pelling at about 10:30PM. While nearing the resort, we had the first view of Kanch-Chen-Dzonga; with its snow headed crown, still bright enough to be seen in the middle of the night. We were mesmerized by the view.




At the resort we were welcomed by the proprietor Mr.Tshering Bhutia by honoring us with a white silk shawl which is called Khatag; Tibetan way of showing respect and wishing good. A cup of brandy was offered as welcome drink, which we politely declined.

The cook had prepared good food for us and he proudly told us that all the vegetables used is grown at the resort.

To Be Continued….

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Brief Encounter With Kolkata!


On our way to Sikkim, we had stopped at Kolkata. This post gives a brief but horrible experience we had in the city.

On November 10th, at 4:00 AM, P & I left to Bangalore International Airport. Impressed by the infrastructure and facility at the airport, we boarded our Air India flight at 6:15 AM to Kolkata. Our Kingfisher flight to Bagdogra got re-scheduled to 3:15 PM from 11:40 AM. While wondering what to do, P suggested that we take a tour around the city of Kolkata. We set off on a taxi, first to a Kali temple.

The temple is situated in a very congested area; several shops and countless people; and yes, agents who offer Darshans and poojas to us. As we got down the car, a bunch of agents came running to us asking for a package for the Darshan; if we denied their help or commission, they did not allow us to park the vehicle. Disgusted, we finally agreed to one agent for Rs51. He took us into the temple premises; here we saw goats being sacrificed. At main shrine, there were more agents, who appeared to be me as though hanging from walls and pillars of the temple. Few even blocked the view of God and only let some to climb up a step for better view. I was lucky to be pulled up in that crowd and get a glimpse of majestic idol of goddess Kali with her intense eyes.

The agent asked me to offer a dakshina of Rs101 to God. I refused and offered only Rs10. He warned me that the price had to be as he had mentioned; I replied that God would not fix prices for Dakshina. Tired from the crowd we wanted to escape, but our agent took us to some pandit even after we refused. On the way, few people asked us to wear a red thread around our neck, when refused; they forcibly put it around our neck and told that they did not expect any money. Everything was happening so fast in that crowd that we failed to rebel. The pandit started chanting some mantra; well they were not Vedic chants, but just words in Hindi asking God to bless us. He said to us that he needed no Dakshina from us and handed over a packet of Prasad and after a while asked us for Rs101 as dakshina to God. When I refused to give, he asked back the Prasad. By now we were extremely angry by the behavior of people at the temple and headed back. While returning back, the people who had offered the red-thread, started asking us for some money or to return the thread back; we returned that too.

My angry and irritated mind failed to understand if God even existed in such Chaos, created by these people. When I could not feel Bakthi in the shrine, I realized that to me God did not exist here. God’s presence according to me is felt through Bakthi; to my south Indian/ Mangalorean mentality bakthi originates in peaceful temple shrines as I watch, from a distance, the beautiful glowing idol of God which is illuminated by the light from a lamp; where Brahmins who perform pooja, strictly maintain Maddi (Purity) and respect the Vedic chants.

As we drove out of the horrible place, the fat boss of our agent shouted – "Agli Baar Panch hazar karch karvavonga." (Next time I will make you spend Rs5000) To which I replied – "Agli baar Avunga hi nahi." (I will never return again here)

We scolded the taxi driver for bringing us here and out of anger, even mentioned that this is the worst city we have been to. The driver then explained to us that the people at the temple were Bihari’s and not Bengali’s; the agents were all Bihari people who had migrated here.

This disgusting experience had spoiled our mood to see anything more in the city. We drove to the Second Bridge; a suspension bridge, from where we could see the famous Howrah bridge and drove around the majestic Victoria memorial. I asked our driver to take us to a KC Das outlet and then directly to the airport. We went to a KC Das outlet near airport. Rasagulla and Rasmalai tasted like heaven.

P & I discussed the horrible experience we had at the temple. It was clear that this temple was a source of income for so many people, who wanted to make easy money out of nothing. Population & unemployment, we thought were the major cause to such behaviors from people. In spite of all that reasons and answers, I was extremely hurt by the way; these people were representing our Dharma and bringing ill fame to it.

Perhaps, this experience became a reason for us to fall in love with the beauty of Sikkim and its wonderful people, even more than what we would have felt otherwise. It was literally as though running out of city life; out of chaos, to some place more serene and quite.

Monday, November 24, 2008

100th Post...!!!?!!!

Before writing this post, I kept wondering what my 100th post should be about, and still as I write this post, I am not sure of the same. Why is 100th post important at all? Was the first question I asked myself; to me as a writer, even the 99th or a 43rd posts are also equally important. But then I realized that celebrating 100th post does not mean we neglect the rest, but the celebration includes every single of them which has constituted for achieving this milestone. It is time to stop for a moment and recollect and cherish the journey so far. These thoughts may be obvious but we never pay attention to them.

So having cleared that doubt, I next wondered what should be written; should I recollect all the special posts so far? That might not be very interesting for the reader. So I decide to tell a story, a story about my blogging experience so far. I think this would be ideal for a 100th post and a reason for celebration.

Until August 2005, I had no clue of what the word – Blog meant. While speaking to a colleague from the US, who was then in China, she told me about her online journal recording the China experience. I went through her blog and was all excited about the concept. I had then just returned from America after having lived there for a year and I was filled with fresh and green memories from my stay; I had maintained a special journal to record my experiences in the US, apart from the diary, but that was abandoned in few months. But my diary kept recording every new thing I saw and did there and this world of blog, I thought was the best platform to express those thoughts. So I began writing a blog on my USA experience. As most of these writings are directly from my diary, I decided to pre-date the posts by a year.

Somewhere in May 2006, I became greedy and wanted to express more; more than just my US experiences. I had so many stories to say about my life; I started enjoying the beauty of having an online journal as some of my close friends started reading them and discussing my thoughts. This is when I decided to write this blog – The Hours. (Why I choose this name is my first post.)

I kept writing and expressing myself. The post I wrote on my grandmother – Ajji , has received the most admiration than any other. Even today some of my friends and relatives remind me of that post and tell me how touching it is.

In these 2.5 years, I went through several moods, several ups and downs and every one of them is recorded in this blog; some straight forward to be noticed; some entangled in complicated words, but they have all been revealed.

After having written for a long time, I realized that writing is nothing but an opinion and every individual has one of his own, hence there has to be healthy discussion. The solution was to invite like minded people to my blog and interact with them. Discussions and debates allow us to know different perspectives rather than just ours own. This is when I started visiting blogs similar to mine and read their thoughts on similar topics. Slowly my connectivity increased and I started making several friends, whom I have never seen but are so much part of my daily life today. With many I exchanged ideas, opinions, even had debates which I think helped me grow as an individual. It is interesting to notice that these friendships are without any expectations and hence even with out having met in person, I share a wonderful friendship with some bloggers.

Over this long period, I have lost some friends who stopped blogging, but some have stayed along with me for so long now. I thank you all for being such a big support to me and my writing.

Apart from the admirations I have also had some strange sarcastic questions from people…

When do you get time to blog?

I have never understood this question fully, but I prefer to answer thus– I dedicate some time every week for my posts.

Why do you write blog? Who reads them? What exactly should we blog about?

I think that to do something, one has to have interest in it. I do not write so that someone else can read. It is a way I choose to express myself and like minded people will always be attracted towards it. I have not stuck to one topic for my blog…it has always been vastly versatile depending upon my mood.

This blog has been my best companion so far and I owe thanks to my blog, which has been my friend during happy and bad times; with it I have expressed many moments and emotions; some that I have not shared with anyone else; such closer is our friendship.

So this post is dedicated to my Blog itself…..I am celebrating our friendship today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Away!

Will be away from Blog for about 4 weeks…Will return with my hundredth post! When?, is a question I will not be able to answer....but I will, for sure, as keeping away from writing is unbearable for me.

Hope to meet some of you in Mangalore at the wedding!

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Journey

Last weekend, I was in Mangalore for four long days. Long because in these four days I covered the length and breadth of Dakshina Kannada district (Udupi and Mangalore). As we drove from one relatives home to another to invite them for my wedding and to meet them all made me feel good and several emotions were experienced.

We traveled from Chokkobettu to Kundapura and drove back to Saligrama, Manipal and Udupi one day; Kulshekara, Padu and Pollali on next; Mangalpadi, Vitla, Ujjirey and Mangalore on other; Panambur and Krishnapura on the last day to see my close relatives.

I visited few homes to where I go often, few whom I rarely visit and some where I have never been to before. I traveled to remote villages, towns and even old age homes.

Where ever they were, they all greeted me with joy and shared some of their experiences, especially the old who want and need to be listened. My aunts cooked special foods for me; others made sure I drank at least a small cup of milk and some sweets. Even though I had a hard time, I had to smilingly consume that bit of custom because the intention of it was good.

Some interesting things I noticed or experienced during this journey –

- Visiting my ancestral home and my elder brothers there; admiring the collection of beautiful paintings they had, created by my Guru (Who is our relative also).

- Meeting my cousin’s son, who is my childhood friend and wondering how growing up years distance us and make us look like strangers when met after a gap of more than 10 years.

- Family bonding between siblings looking after their old mother touched me.

- A mother eager for us to taste the Gudbud ice-cream prepared by her son at home and describing the intention of setting up ice cream factory for him. She said that parents need to either provide good education or support the son to setup a medium to earn.

- Observed my mother turn kid while jokingly fighting with her cousin brother, who is elder to her by only 2 days. They still argue upon the superiority of being elder by that amount of time.

- Briefly discussing the book “Parva” with one of my favorite aunts, which she had suggested I read.

- My uncle speaking about one of Yeats poem where he debates on art being superior to nature (though not) with example of flower, kids and some art form. The thought was provoked when my mother compared the superiority of plastic bukey over bukeys made of natural flowers that cannot be preserved.

- Visiting my painting Guru and requesting him for a special painting especially for me. I asked him to summarize Mahabharata with few events from it. He willingly accepted.

- Walking through paddy fields to reach AmmaAmma (Mother’s Mother) maternal home and temple.

- Visiting one of my favorite temples – Rajarajeshwari Temple at Pollai and the priest after hearing my name said – “Ajeya”, always victory, one must be born lucky to have such name. At this moment I recollected how everyone wrongly pronounces it as “Ajay”.

- Driving to a remote part near Pollali temple to a priest’s house and impressed by the sight; with huge Mangalore tiled house in midst an areca nut farm; a vast front yard where they perform Yagas and Homas. Here we where offered water and Jaggery, which is a traditional way of greeting any guest in Dakshina Kannada (now only limited to rural parts). A piece of jaggery and water will drive away the thirst in minutes, so said my Ajji always.

- Visited the house of our Kulla Purohit (Priest dedicated to our lineage) He had no son’s to continue the family occupation, hence directed us to another priest at his old age. His God is now with his daughter and son in law who perform daily abhisheka and pooja with equal devotion.

- Visiting most of my Ajji’s (Father’s Mother) relatives in Mangalpadi, now in Kasargod district of Kerala. We walked to about 4 to 5 houses all around the family temple. My father recollected his childhood memories. A dog in one of the houses kept staring at me and reminded me of my dog Tomy, whose death is a tragedy that I shall never forgive myself for. (I will write about Tomy some day) This look of the dog disturbed me as it so closely resembled to my only favorite dog.

- Visited village home which might not look like the city concrete houses, but interiors of them are very modern and well furnished but still preserving the traditional elements; they stock cold drinks in their refrigerators which is a treat for anyone in humid South canara.

- Strange faces at an old age home in Vitla, where several old men and women kept blankly staring at us, as though all their expressions have now faded away. My aunt though having lived alone for several years now, had strange thoughts about this old age home that she has been shifted to recently for the type of people around and the deaths happening there. She had strange doubts like; they burn the bodies but no final rites are performed. Several things disturbed me there and as a human, I wanted to hide. She doubted her presence in the wedding and hence asked me to come along with my wife after the wedding to which I obviously agreed.

- Next we drove to Ujjirey via Puttur and Upinaangadi to visit my Father’s Cousin Brother and the eldest of our family, presently. Every family has their own share of happiness and joy; every one had their complaints from life, small or big.

- My aunt prepared special dinner for me and I chatted with my college going cousin brother and got myself updated with the present trend among teenagers.

- One of my aunts kept us laughing and entertained with her humors description about almost everything. She had cooked special snacks expecting my visit.

- At another aunt’s place, I chatted with my cousin who is now studying Sanskrit, Vedas and Shastras at a college in Udupi. My uncle also happens to be our family priest now.

- Visited a good college friend and her parents, where they still remember me for a funny incident that happened several years back. My friend had invited me for her brother’s birthday and over the call, I heard it as mother’s birthday (Amma instead of Thamma) so after a struggle of several hours and consulting many friends, I finally decided upon gifting her, idol of Laughing Buddha. I go there and her little brother comes running towards me. I ignore him and instead wish Aunty – Happy birthday! Every one recalled this event and laughed. My friend is now married and has a 5 year old kid and we still share a very good friendship. We cherished some of the college day funs as we were meeting after 7 years.

- I visited another best friend’s house. I felt nostalgic remembering all those fun time spent in his house when we were in college. His mother discussed with me some of their present family conflicts and worries and wished me all the success for the future.

- Visited the Muslim neighbors and got to meet all the daughters too as they had come home during vacation. We all cherished the childhood memories and the best time of my life spent there.

- Almost in every village I visited, the women kept them updated with the happenings in the country and world through newspapers and magazines, perhaps more than an urbanite. This explained me how important media is to our people. I also recalled Girish Kasarvalli’s latest award wining movie – Gulabi Talkies which describes the effect of media on people and forces us to think whether the media is doing its job honestly or is it just forcing opinions? (Kasarvalli had this doubt while watching Saddam Hussein’s sentencing.)

With these variety of experiences I returned to Bangalore. I think this time of inviting people brings back many good memories of the people who have watched you grow or whom you have grown up with and they have interesting stories to share about you. I have more people to meet soon and I look forward for it, with all the enthusiasm.

P.S – I will be personally inviting my Blog friends, who have been a special support to me and my writings.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Busy!

Have been terribly busy with lot of activities in my life, hence there was no much time for me to be on the blog world. Most of the previous month went in hunting for a new house, shifting and some major shopping’s. In between I did attend some excellent performances - Flute by Pandit Vekatesh Godkhindi, his son Pravin godkhindi and grandson Shadaj; Two Yakshagana's.

During one of my visit to Malleshwaram 8th cross, I got to capture these emotions among the crowd. Few attached below are some of my favorite.







Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Life.....? :-)

Some clarifications before you read the post -

I do not get influenced by news or opinions, I purely rely upon my experiences, so what ever you read here is what has happened in and around me and that I have witnessed. Nothing here is assumed.

The attack on Catholic churches was an identity mistake- Agrees Bajrang Dal


Bishops from the Catholic Church clarify that they are against forced conversion and have no relation to the new life churches.
I have lived in Mangalore for 21 years. My immediate neighbors are a Muslim family and a Christian family. It is true that I have spent more time in the Muslim house than my own. I broke the fast every evening with them, during the holy month of Ramadan. Of course, I was not fasting but I could not resist the feast. :-) And they happily considered me as one among them. We distribute home made sweets during Astami & Ganehsa chaturthi to both the houses and we celebrated Christmas by cutting the plum cake given to us by our catholic neighbors. While in US, one of my roommate was a catholic and I accompanied him to Church on Christmas eve and he joined me at the temple on Deepavali.To me, this is the meaning of secularism; where one respects the other and one celebrates others happiness. And with this beautiful thought I have grown up.

When this balance is altered, communal riots originate. Mangalore is no exception. It has seen few horrible communal riots in the past but the outcome has always been to find a balance between different religious sentiments.

My first encounter with conversion came as a shock, when it appeared within the family, with someone I grew up with, with whom I share some of the best childhood memories and then lost somewhere in between. This was when I was introduced to the term - New life church.

Few years later during a walk he revealed to me, his experiences. Few insecurities and a disturbed mind had led him to this place. Who does not seek a goal, an aim in life during disturbed times? Every young mind goes through this phase and the direction he/she receives then, shapes their career, their life. He entered that room and a lady said something that he had come to light etc. (I do not recall the exact details now) and she placed a hand on his forehead; he almost fainted. She said, they saw Jesus beside him and several other words influenced him to this change. He was told that all Hindu gods are satanic. They are actually evil forces being worshipped and will eventually only do bad. He was asked not to visit temples, see idols or even take the sacred water and Prasada at temples. This was the reason he never attended any poojas or functions in our family. Slowly his faith in Hinduism deteriorated. This created a big turmoil within the family. His parents requested the elders from the family to speak to him, which did not seem very effective. Elders tried to explain that every religion is same, none is superior and none is inferior. I did my part to help him out of his dilemma, explained to him that every religion is the same, only difference being the approach and if one does not exist, the other too does not. I recommended concentration on career rather than these influences. He had stupid goal to convert his parents and sister towards Christianity and then slowly even me and the others, to which I aggressively recall replying that he will never succeed in converting my thoughts, because I am very clear and not weak minded like he and I understood secularism and religion in much broader sense than him.

As I see him today, the new life church has left him so confused that he now wishes to re shift his concentration on his career. He is slowly shifting his focus out of such thoughts; out of criticisms and allegations on religions. And I hope the best for him.

In Colorado, US, my roommate visited the new life church (Year 2005), for one of their preaching. On that day, the pastor described his visit to India (Chennai). The Pastor started with his explanation of India with its road condition and named our country as a “country of chaos." He said, in India people throw kids in garbage; people are poor; the traffic is so bad; there are people everywhere on the streets. And he praised America and their forefathers who have planned the country so well. (I guess, he is yet to read how his forefathers built the country on the blood of Native Americans). And he then went on to investigate why India was so…And he found an interesting answer – Hinduism. According to him Hinduism is a religion of chaos with millions of Gods and each one considers different God to be superior. And he then praises his own religion to be perfect for he believes in only one God. My disturbed friend took me for a walk and explained how embarrassed he was sitting there in between that huge crowd of thousands that laughed and joked about our country and religion.

I saw a TV program on God TV were a gentle man was expressing his concern by showing a world map with middle east and some portions of Asia covered in dark. And he said – We need to enlighten them and bring them to light. :-)
But what I do not understand in the concept of new life church is that, If Hindu God does not exist, how can any other? If miracles on Hindu epics are fake, then how can Benny hinn, a pastor cure people with cancer and paralysis in his staged acts by just placing his hand on their forehead?

I am no fanatic, I do not encourage violence and I do not say that we should demolish others prayer halls, convert religions or kill people through terrorism. But I have been growing up in my part of the world silently, loving my Ganesha idol, seeing God in it, listening to epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata which is not just a story for me, but an example to lead life; worshipping God through poojas is my style of seeing and appreciating his presences and creation. My eyes fill with tears to hear baseless allegations that my adorable Ganesha idol is satanic and representation of evil forces.
Hinduism is not a religion; it’s a Dharma; a way to lead life; a duty to perform from birth to death based on what community we belong in the varanashrama dharma... It was British who named the different beliefs put together as Hinduism. We have no Guru’s, no strict rules and regulations. May be our ancestors never thought of this as a possible weakness in future invasions. Because God is a universal term, He cannot be bounded to a territory or community or be called old or new.

Every act has a root cause. Lets all work together to eliminate the root cause for the effects or failures in our society. Say no to forced conversion and allegations on other religions…let every one live happily with their beliefs. Let’s not sow a seed of suspicion in others to ruin their age old belief.

:-) New life…? or is it like - Hey you have an old, orthodox & satanic wife, replace her with this young new wife….it is as stupid as that, or perhaps even more.

Here is what happened in Mangalore - Link-1

Here is God’s message found in new life church website describing their agenda - Link-2

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Musical Concerts!


Last week was special; full of art; full of music; full of concerts. Vidyaranya Yuvaka Sangha conducted several musical concerts for 10 days on the occasion of Ganesh habba in APS college grounds, Basvangudi which is at a walk able distance from my house. To an art lover like me, it was a treat which I could not effort to miss at any cost.

Memorable moments at the concerts –

A beautiful fusion of different instruments – Ghatam by Giridhar udupa, Flute by Ravichandra Kullur, Mouth organ, Tabla and mrudanga gave a perfect start to the festival.

Giridhar Udupa At Ghatam
M D Pallavi (My favorite singer) on demand sang a mesmerizing song – Neenu illade during the climax of the second day show. This was only one from the long list of beautiful songs she sang that evening, including Arabic and latin. Her husband Arun complimanted her on the drums.

Santoor at its best, in the hands of Maestro Shivkumar sharma and his son Rahul sharma.


Hariharan’s semi classical movie songs and of course – Krishan Nee begane baro, attracted the highest crowd.

The compatibility and coordination between Ganesh & Kumuresh’s violins was truly appreciable. The music acted like medicine to my tiring mind.

Shiva mani’s music through his band set, suitcase, plates and every other folk instruments used in villages which collaborated to provide excellent music and blended with the music from Ghatam by Giridhar udupa and mandolin by Rajesh.

A new perspective of Ramayana, from Ravana’s point of view; a dance drama by actress Shobhana called Maya Ravana. The expressions that her eyes communicated as Kaike, Surpankai and Ravana were truly amazing and impressive.



Legendary carnatic music vocalist Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna garlanded the final event of the habba with few of his own created raga's.


All pictures taken from the internet... not mine. :-)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ganesha!



Since several years, I have wanted to capture the images of Ganesha idols sold at RV road and during this Ganesh Chaturthi, I got that opportunity. It was a beautiful sight to watch various forms of the elephant headed God and the excitement in the people and kids to select one for their home. I have a hobby of collecting different types of Ganesha idols. The count is now 20.

Several nostalgic moments appeared; thinking of the childhood days when my mother would prepare around 6 varieties of Ladoo, Chakuli, Modka, Yellow coloured dosa and several other dishes.



Unlike in Bangalore, In Mangalore Ganesha is not placed in every house, since it is believed that doing so needs a very proper ritual to be followed. Only few families who have been doing this since generations follow it and are not supposed to stop it. At my cousin’s house, which is at a walk able distance from ours, they place Ganesha idol every year and we would go there for the pooja. My main excitement as a kid was to meet my two cousins Anp and Krish. Sitting by the road we would invent new games. Each person would choose a type of vehicle and while it passes by gets a point. With money received as dakshina during lunch, we would buy ice candy or chocolates. After lunch my cousins would come to our house or we would go to the beach.



This Ganesha festival, I was lucky to attend the pooja at one of my cousin’s house in Bangalore.

Every festival has a memory attached that makes it even more special....It is now I realize how much the festivals are part of we Indians; they are not just another ritual we perform but a pool of emotions, special, joyous moments we have lived and will continue living; it is a celebration of life.

No matter how much ever western we get, the festivals will bind us to our roots; our identity.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Kemmangundi

I am bored of the usual travelogue style I always write in. So I thought of experimenting this time, by writing the whole experience backwards… :-)

The bus was driving back to Bangalore and for the first time in a trip, while returning home, I wasn’t sitting by the window and sleeping. The bus was racing towards the city and I cursed the driver – what is the hurry? The music played – Bachna Ae haseeno, Singh is King, Geela Geela…and more. I danced to the tunes with my friends as one of my friends waved the flash light to create disco effect. Our Boss’s 13 year old son jumped at us to match the spirit. It was the most fun filled climax for another wonderful trip. This trip had been special for its wonderful group and more for the fun we had as a team rather than the place itself.


Few hours back, before watching – Johnny Gadar & Kung fu panda in bus we were at Badra dam reservoir. Watching the backwaters and speaking to the Muslim shopkeeper women, who travel 3.5 miles to set up the shops. We had admired the Jungle resorts which is very neatly maintained and reminded me of the wood homes they show in Discovery Travel & Living. I strongly considered recommending this place for a quite peaceful environment; watching the Badra dam backwaters and at the same time, view the different bird species that the management boasts about. Before Badra dam, we had been to Kallahati falls. There was a marriage and special pooja happening at a small temple across the waterfall. I disliked the sight of villagers using soap and shampoos to take bath in the waterfall.

Eternal Kannada movie, Ganeshna Maduve, has always been everyone’s favorite. The comedy drew away all the tiredness of the day. The beautiful memories of Kemangundi were still afresh as we carried them back on our way to Kallahati falls.

On my way out of Kemmangundi, I recalled the wonderful sunrise we had watched from Z point; the orange sunrays merged into the hills turning them brighter and green. A dog from the resort had accompanied us till the top. It showed us shortcuts and waited for us. Shanthi falls was beautiful sweet falls on the way and we could not stop from experiencing its coldness.




Our walk to Z point had started at 5:15 Am. Only 7 of 18 had been ready for the mission as they slept tired from the eventful previous day. An hour’s (5Km) rigorous, continuous walk had taken us to the hill top following a road and then a tiny path uphill across a water fall. A silent moment on a hill top cannot be matched with anything, I guess.

But it was tough waking up that early from the eventful campfire we had had the previous night. The resort guys set up a camp fire on demand and we played Antakshari until we got tired and hungry.
We were not much lucky with the sunset though, as we were with the sunrise. Sunday evening, we had been to the Rajbhavan (Sunset point) but unfortunately the cloud hid the sun and set with it. So we walked around the park; watched few boys gamble by betting over tossed coins; clicked several pictures; teased one another and waited till dark to see if the clouds would clear the sky and hoped for a better sunrise.

This was indeed a nice time to relax after that hectic and mind-blowing experience we had just had at the Hebbe falls. Previously we had booked 2 jeeps which take us the Hebbe falls (13Km). The bumpy roads needed lot of skilled driving. The view along the way was amazing. The pictures can explain better.


From the jeep stop, we had to walk another 2.5 Km, through an estate; crossing streams; and escaping from leeches. But all that was more than worth for the magnificent waterfall, which falls from 200 odd ft. I recall as I watched the droplets fall loose from that height, it filled me with several emotions – Happiness, fear and lighteness. The water hit me with force, as I stood near it on a slippery rock and drenched in its freshness. Taking bath in a water fall always gives a cleansed feeling.



The college stories of my friend which only come out when drunk, were a good starter for all this fun that followed. We had enjoyed the back seat in the bus on Saturday night and accompanied the drinkers in their conversations as we made our way to Kemmangundi.

I had expected fewer wildernesses & reserved behavior in this trip due to presence of ladies, but it wasn’t so. The ladies were a sport and joined the group with matching spirit. The kids were energetic and kept the environment lively. Kemmangundi will be a trip memorable for all the fun we had had as a group.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Revisitng Kolar - 2

I continue from here...Revisitng Kolar-1



Next morning we got up at 6:30 AM and went for a walk around the town to see KGF wake. It seemed so much like a Sunday in every possible way. I enquired about the directions to next destination with the localities. Everyone was eager to help me.

After breakfast we left to the Kolar gold fields at 8:30 AM. We walked up the abandoned fields and saw the mines in ruins. I wondered if this place would have been in the US they would have converted into a museum with an entry ticket of $10. Well in a way it’s a good way to save our history and keep the excitement alive of the gone by days.



Abandoned Gold Mine

From here we reached Byatrayanapnabetta which is a left deviation on KGF-Bangarpet road at Neraley Kere gate (10Km). The temple on top of a hill was nothing less than a abode of peace. Cloudy day, cool breeze and empty temple premises made it a peaceful place to relax. We sat below the neem tree absorbing the beauty of the silent village.




"Those hands have disappeared"

Our next stop was Vokrelli; the route from Bangarpet to Vokrelli (20km) was beautiful, passing through farms growing tomato, flowers, cabbage and others. Vokrelli has a temple on top of Markandey hills. The temple was all empty and looked so quite. Markandey temple is built by the Cholas again. We were the only people at the temple except for a bunch of monkeys and the pooja happens only on Mondays. The temple architecture was truly mesmerizing as though taking me back to the olden times.



"We express Too"

From here we rode to Malur and then back to Bangalore. On our way back, we met with a minor accident in Bangalore city. An old man hurriedly tried to cross the busy street. To avoid hitting him my friend had to apply a sudden break, as a result the bike skidded on the sand throwing us out on the road. With a few minor injuries and in that hassle observing the old man escape from the crowd in a hurry, we returned home with slight pain overshadowing the otherwise beautiful trip.

With this I have completed almost entire district of kolar; which happens to be my first district to be completed in Karnataka. Kolar for this reason will always be special apart from the innocent villagers, their eagerness to support and help others and their simplicity.