Sunday, January 27, 2019

Ratnagiri Fort

On the 26th of January 2019, exactly a year after that  unpleasant event , we decided to climb Ratnagiri hill again. We had to visit Madakasira police station to sign some documents; appealing the court to release our stolen items. We met Head constable Mr Sriramalu there. He introduced us to his team and CI. We took leave from there and headed to Ratnagiri. Sriramalu has been our true friend who has stood by us during this year. He decided to join us. 

Ratnagiri hill is situated in the small village of Ratnagiri, in Madakasira taluk. It is located 18kms from Madhugiri, Tumkur, Karnataka. It houses one of the forts from the times of Vijayanagara dynasty. The trail is pretty straight forward. 

Climbing the hill again was an interesting experience. It did bring back memories of the day. To be honest, I do not think that I am anymore affected by that event but of course, we cannot forget what has happened. Along the way up, we narrated the incident to Sriramalu. As always, he gave us some insight into criminal psychology and narrated some interesting facts about law and order. We truly are fortunate to have found such a knowledgable and honest person in the system, as our confidant. 

At the crime scene, we took a moment to recollect the incident. I am not sure about the others, but for me, I felt nothing at all. It appeared to me like just another trek. With all six offenders now behind the bars, it felt much better. Had we not taken action, we might have regretted it forever and cried over our own misfortune. I now realise, how justice can empower someone. Moreover, I feel that this whole experience has exposed us to things that we never thought we would experience and in the end, we have emerged much more observant and confident.  

While Sriramalu decided to stay back and rest at the second level of the fort, we three climbed the last stretch to reach the summit. The fort is one of the most beautiful forts I have ever visited. Last time, we had recorded a few videos with all of us speaking in the languages we know. We decided to recreate that moment. We shot a few videos but, of course, we could not recreate the same moment or the feeling. That is when I realised how  much this event has affected me subconsciously. 

Thoughts did not flow as freely as it did last time. Back then, we had felt free and we were totally in the moment. This time, we struggled to gather words and define our feeling. We were noticed repeatedly revisiting the incident in our speech. The affect that such an incident could have on your thinking and your attitude is far more intense and complicated than any physical trauma. However, we had fought this battle bravely and most importantly, legally. That made us all feel good. This chapter now appears to have a logical conclusion. By revisiting the place, we seem to have conquered the remaining traces of fear that might have existed in us. I would like to believe that this experience would superimpose itself on the previous one and minimise its influence on us. 

Trek Video - 

Friday, January 25, 2019


Until my 8th grade, I had no interest in mathematics or in studies. My intention was to read only how much was necessary to pass the exams and score suitably; which was 35 out of 100. I would prepare myself for this target and nothing more. Of course, I scored more than that, though, I never really intended to. After every exam, I had a habit of discussing answers and estimating a score. I always liked to see a number above 45 that could take care of my over optimism. But that continued only till the 8th grade when my mathematics score changed everything for me. I scored 35 out of 100. My father was clearly unhappy about it. I cannot recollect the exact conversation that we might have then had but there is no doubt that it had been an unpleasant one. However, what I remember very evidently is that this day onwards whenever I was to be admonished by him, I became the boy who scored 35 in mathematics. I was always called so when my rebellion had to be silenced. Nevertheless, it gave rise to some good decisions, one of which was to send me to mathematics tuitions starting from 9th grade even though I had to deal with the guilt of breaking a family tradition of taking tuitions only in the 10th grade. Unlike my two elder sisters, I was not eligible for another year of self-study.

However, what happened back then was only for good. Just a few blocks away from my school, a middle aged couple taught mathematics in their house. I do not recollect their names but we all lovingly referred to them as uncle and aunty. I was mostly taught by aunty and she was an exceptional teacher. She was very kind to me and perhaps thus, I gained interest in this subject. After an early morning class, while I and my friends walked past the school quarters, our thick bearded, scary looking mathematics teacher would stare at us with a look that emanated anger. It was not his disapproval towards our act but a possible retaliation that frightened us more. Thankfully, my father taught in the same school, so I was far from being his main target in the class but, my other tuition going friends were not as lucky. Our mathematics teacher was the most feared person in the entire school; a reputation earned purely by his behavior. Knowingly or unknowingly, he used fear as an approach to educate us. There was always a fear of failing the tests, failing his expectations and failing to remember. So anyways, I don’t remember how much I scored in my 9th grade but I scored a good 81 out of 100 in mathematics in my 10th grade. That to me seemed like a significant improvement. Perhaps that was not enough. But I had more opportunities lined up to display my progress. Academic education yet was far from completion.

School ended and soon I found myself climbing the stairs of a college for my pre-university education. That did not dwindle my newly found fascination for the subject of mathematics. I saw myself sitting in the classroom of S S Bosco, a very popular mathematics teacher in the state of Karnataka. His knowledge of the subject and teaching skills were his ambassadors. It was a coincidence that he too had a thick beard. He would identify students by their roll numbers. I was called number 90. He was extremely detailed in his approach to a mathematical problem. There were times when he would start from the top left corner of the black board and then reach the bottom right corner and return back to erase the beginning, while dealing with a single problem. Though he was not severe, he made sure that the pranksters received their learning. Once he had spotted a mischief-maker, he would approach him and repeatedly scan him from head to foot as though first, being startled by the bravery displayed and then, contemplating an appropriate redemption plan. Twisting of the ears and pronouncement of an atonement plan would follow that stare. I had my share of learning too.

One day, he had caught me drawing a monkey in my notebook. He repeatedly switched his gaze between the sketch and me. I was not sure if I had to be humiliated of being judged for a poor artistic ability or be embarrassed of an underlying metaphor. But he chose to remain secretive about his analysis and demanded a note signed by my dad in which I would have pledged not to repeat such an act. Additionally, his tests were always well timed and planned to prevent cheating and the question papers were filled with tricky questions; both difficult and interesting. That same year, he also published his textbooks.

His First year pre-university College textbook was very small containing a few examples and several questions. It was heavily criticized for being an abridged version. So, he got back the following year, with an extra descriptive textbook of 1000 odd pages containing not only numerous problems but also various ways to approach the same problem. For subject lovers like me that book was a treat as it broke a conventional approach towards teaching one problem with one solution. Every problem had a descriptive approach and a short-cut approach. In short, he made learning interesting. But my most motivating experience with him was yet to happen.

My grandmother’s house was about a kilometer and a half away from my college. During my lunch break, I would walk for about 15 minutes to reach there and relish over the tasty food prepared by my aunt. One day, during that walk, I saw Bosco sir follow me. I tried to fool myself by assuming that he was just heading in the same direction and not necessarily following me. That did not work for long though. In some time, I was certain that my mathematics teacher was following me. I hurried towards the house and got inside quickly. He approached the gate and then returned. I was terrified but glad that he had not followed me all the way into the house. It was only later that I learnt his intentions. My uncle had also been his student. He had great regards for Bosco sir. That following weekend, Bosco sir visited my uncle to have a word with him; during which, my uncle was informed about my performance. Bosco sir had noticed that I was a consistent performer, which was good, but the downside of that was, it meant that I was not exploring my limits. He thought I had great potential and with additional self-motivation I could excel. I was very happy to receive this feedback from him. As a teenager it meant a lot and that feedback changed me. I sure did not top Bosco sir’s tests but I scored 96 in my second year of pre-university exams. When I met him on the day of the result, he looked at me and smiled while saying –“You have hit a jackpot”. More than his appreciation what touched me the most was that he had taken interest in checking my results.

In four years, I had taken an emotional journey from being a boy who scored 35 in mathematics to the one who scored 96 in the same subject. But I am afraid that this journey was noticed and acknowledged only by me. I remain considerate in sharing this victory of a kind, with my great teachers who being within the system tried something different and motivated me to discover my strengths. After 14 years of learning mathematics, I sadly bid farewell to my favorite subject during my second year of Engineering.

On the contrary, I went for painting sessions for only two years. Post my 10th grade, during the holidays; I developed a keen interest in art. My mother noticing this talent in me recommended that I study from my uncle, a very respected artist in my hometown. But apparently, he had stopped taking new students due to his old age. After several requests from my mother, he finally accepted to have me as his student. My uncle taught every student of his for free. He believed that his knowledge was not for sale. My first visit to his house remains imprinted in my memory. 

The open doors and windows of his small abode seemed to allow continuous interaction with nature. As soon as I entered, he asked me to paint whatever I wished to. Though initially surprised by that request, slowly, I began painting and with his inputs, I improved my knowledge of art. For the first time, I felt free to explore and learn on my own. There were no restrictions, no expectations or no boundaries. When I went there, I did not feel like I was going to study, but I was there to paint and that process itself became an experience; a learning. Most of all, I felt free. The time I spent there was not limited to art but we discussed literature, history and mythology too without fearing to write an exam about it. As a result, I developed keen interest in these other subjects. My interest and my freedom of consciousness became my biggest motivators.

About 20 years have passed now since these events have occurred and nobody remembers or cares whether I scored 35 or 96 in mathematics. Besides, nothing of it matters now, to others or for me. Currently, in my day-to-day activities, I barely use a math that was taught beyond secondary school. I fail to come to a logical conclusion for those 14 years of studying. On the other hand, even today, as I paint, I easily slip into what I believe is a transcendent state. I feel contented. 

However, it is important to note that the satisfaction does not come from the creation but from the process of creating, the process of learning. And for such an experience, a conducive environment is a must. Hence, today, the more I paint, the more liberated I feel and the more I feel liberated, the more I wish to explore!

(Publishing an article I wrote a few years ago)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Bhoota Kola

Bhoota Kola is a ritual folk dance from South Canara. Literal translation of the word Bhoota would be ghost. Mostly in Mangalore, it means a holy spirit, often of common men who have elevated themselves to this position through a heroic act and are believed to have gained Godly powers after death. Some holy spirits also draw references to animals and others are believed to be Ishwara Ganas (Representatives of lord Shiva). 

There are three types of holy spirits - The one at home, for the welfare of the family. The one that safeguards the land and the one that protects a village (Grama). Bhoota Kola is a way of offering food to the holy spirits which involves a Pambada (One who dresses as the holy spirit) becoming possessed and acts as an oracle for the deity being channelised. 

These days, it has gained lot of prominence and is celebrated grandly. It is now also seen as an occasion for family reunions or for social gatherings. In the temple near my house, on the day of Makara Sankramana, a Bhoota kola takes place every year. We decided to witness it this time. I am always attracted to the art involved in this tradition- The makeup, the costumes (Made of coconut leaves), the music and the dance. Generally, it is an all night event. We stayed up only until 2 AM though. The somersaults with that heavy costume was a major attraction of this particular evening. 

Sirimane Falls, Kigga and Sringeri

I visited my hometown Surathkal recently. My sister and family joined us there as well. On a free day, we decided to go on a day trip to Sringeri. It was a pleasurable drive along the Kudremukh forest range. Sringeri was decently crowded and hence we got an easy Darshan

We had tasty lunch offered at the temple and then headed to Kigga, a town about 30 mins drive from Sringeri. At Sri Rishya Shringeshwara temple, a priest explained to us the history involving the temple and the town. Tasty pongal was served on this auspicious day of Makara Sankramana.

We continued our journey to Sirimane falls. What a delight this was. We had a great time at the waterfall and enjoyed a generous natural shower. I often equate this feeling to an act of cleansing. For a while, it releases you from all your thoughts. 

Apart from this trip, we also enjoyed going to the river festival at Mangalore. It was very well arranged. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Amruteshvara Temple, Amruthapura

At 35kms from Shimoga, this temple is a Hoysala treasure. It is well maintained. It was a delight to spend almost an hour there, observing these details. 

As I entered the temple, the priest requested me to walk to the dining hall after my darshan to have the food offered to the devotees. 

I shall leave you with some more images of this wonder called Amrutesvara temple. The sculptures around the temple narrate stories of lord Krishna and depicts other events from Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Nageshvara & Chennakeshava Temple, Mosale

While driving to Surathkal this time, I decided to take a deviation to visit a few places along the way. 

Mosale (10km from Hassan) - The twin temples of Nageshvara and Chennakeshava is an elegant example of Hoysala architecture of 12th Century.  Most of the structure is intact except for the idols on the outside which are worn out. It is currently being well maintained. The villagers came to the temple and explained to me and the only other visitor, the details about the temples. I could spend hours viewing these intricately designed sculptors. 

Shettihali Rosary Church - A church (Gothic Architecture) built by French missionaries in the 1860s is now now submerged in the Hemavathi dam backwaters. I often visit this place during different seasons. Here are the links to the posts from my previous visits -
May 2011 Here  & August 2011 Here 

I took an interior route from Shettihalli to Sakleshpura. I could have taken the Bisale ghat to reach South Canara but since it takes slightly longer, I chose to take the usual Shiradi ghat.