Sunday, December 31, 2006


I had the opportunity to pay a visit to this lovely town, early this month. My trip was a very hurried one, I was there for just one day. Pondicherry needs no introduction. It is a must inclusion in any itinerary for travelers to the south of the country. The city is very well connected with Chennai by the East Coast Road. This makes for a very pleasant drive along the sea for a good long stretch that usually takes upto 3 hours. Government and private busses ply frequently between the two destinations. Transport is quite hassle free.

I was staying in the premises of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. A part of the Ashram is built along the coast. The sea looks a heavenly blue against the rocky beach. The locals recount that the time the Tsunami struck the other coastal areas along this line, Pondicherry witnessed only a few rocks from the beach landing on the road. I had just about enough time to walk around on the graveled paths in the Ashram, catch a glimpse of the dispensary, the embroidery unit, check out the old French houses but from outside, listen to some wonderful stories about Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, breathe the cool clear air, take a quick drive around a small part of Auroville and the quiet beach along the Ashram. Living in the Ashram gave a divine feeling. I must mention here that one needs to make advance bookings for stay at the Ashram in either of their four guest houses as there are many visitors who keep coming throughout the year and Ashram accommodation is usually not available within short notice.

There are many places that we go to that seem to invite us for another time promising us many treasures to explore. I felt Pondicherry is one such place. I get the feeling that I have to go back again. I am sure that being in a place that is home to many seekers and simply breathing in it and trying to understand the visions of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, the architects of this wonderful Ashram and Auroville would be a gift that I can give to myself and I would like to recommend it to everybody.

Unfortunately, I could not manage enough pictures as I was really pressed for time and the ones I took were those shot from inside the car. Here is one picture of the beach along the Ashram.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Life After Life – Raymond A. Moody

Life After Life, first published in 1975 is a classic bestseller written by parapsychologist, Raymond A. Moody. The book is based on Dr. Moody’s research on Near Death Experiences popularly known as NDEs. It has given a new direction to the understanding of “death” and inspired the first generation of researchers in the field to create a new science of near-death studies. What happens when we “die”, Is “death” the end of what we call life, What to make of it when our loved ones “pass away”… or do they just “pass on”, What is the basis of the “grief” we feel for our loved ones when they “die” are some of the questions hovering in our minds that find ample scope for an address through Dr. Moody’s path breaking research contained in this book.

The research is based on interviews of more than a 100 people who have been resuscitated after being pronounced clinically dead by their doctors, people who as a result of severe injury or illness have come close to physical death and people who have recounted their experiences as they “died”, to others. These recountings show that something very spiritual happens to us when we “die”. Unfortunately, there is collective denial about the spiritual basis of our existence. Those of us who have experienced NDEs fear being mocked at or dismissed as “mentally ill”. Many a times we do not believe our own selves. The book also mentions “scientific” grounding and the position of “science” on the phenomenon of NDEs which I leave to you to explore from the book. But what I would like to make a passing mention of is The International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS) a body with many chapters worldwide, that was formed after Dr. Moody’s research and is dedicated to building global understanding on NDEs.

The narrations made by Dr. Moody’s subjects have among others, one thing in common and that is the awareness of the unique essence of life arising out of their NDEs and I would like to quote from the book, “When we die, our own lives are evaluated and interpreted not according to how much money we made or our statues and prestige but according to the love we shared with others throughout our life.” The other commonality between all is an emphatic positive shift in their lives marked by self-esteem, empathy for others, peace and wholeness. I quote a few more lines, “Our society suffers from our lack of connection to each other and our collective lack of meaning in our lives. Homelessness, depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, road rage and gun violence all have at their roots a lack of spiritual wisdom.” Life After Life has been described as having “reconnected us with a timeless wisdom about death”.

Do we really “die” is a question that has always intrigued me. I have never been able to contain thinking that everything about a person ends when the heart stops beating. What about the memories and the impressions the person leaves behind? Many of us make a conscious attempt to “forget” them; this motivated forgetting really has a lot to do with the way we look at life and “death”. This book has a therapeutic effect – for many its poses a challenge by laying open a subject that has been an explosive topic of debate and for others it gives new directions.

The book has a foreword by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, renowned psychiatrist who has worked extensively with terminally ill people and is the author of the landmark book, On Death and Dying. The preface contains an account of the interesting shifts over time towards looking at “death”. It is a must-read for anyone questing for an understanding, a book review hardly does any justice to what the complete research has to convey!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Farewell, by Kahlil Gibran

Farewell to you and the youth I have
spent with you.

It was but yesterday we met in a dream.

You have sung to me in my aloneness,
and I of your longings have built a tower
in the sky.

But now our sleep has fled and our dream
is over, and it is no longer dawn.

The noontide is upon us and our half
waking has turned to fuller day, and we
must part.

If in the twilight of memory we should
meet once more, we shall speak again to-
gether and you shall sing to me a deeper

And if our hands should meet in another
dream we shall build another tower in the

Sunday, October 29, 2006

WOW, tagged!!

Ambrosia has been tagged by Sigma! This was the first news that greeted me on Sunday morning. I said – what’s new, Sigma tagged Ambrosia months ago. Little did I realise that I was about to learn the precise meaning of “being tagged” in blog culture. I had vaguely known until today that tagging was about linking another blog with your own on your right hand side panel………… ha ha!! Anyone in the same boat as me?! Let’s find out. I can’t describe what tagging is, but the process below will make it clear I am sure!
Rules of this tag:
1. Name the person who tagged you.
2. 8 things about you.
3. Tag 6 people.
Action Item 1: Name the person who tagged you

I have been tagged by Sigma. I know her through her blogs Idle Thougts and Travel Memoirs. Of course I have never met her in person but my intuition tells me that she is a warm and generous person. I thank her for the unique manner in which she has got me to write on my blog after more than two months of inactivity. Merci.
Action Item 2: 8 things about you
This is interesting, ok here let me try :-)
1) I love giving surprises. Adore it when I get one myself too. Giving and receiving both have a remarkable impact on me, I get charged up creatively and emotionally. Sigma’s tag was a complete surprise! Can I thank you once more……
2) I love visitors, I love being the host. I dream of a house in which the kitchen is the largest room, filled forever with many nice fragrances (I love the smell of baking cake and the aroma of tea) and many, many nice people adding to the energies there. I love to be around with people with open hearts.
3) I love to be in “circulation” and like to communicate with people. I do it in my own way, my own quiet way. I am fundamentally a “shy” person by nature, I am not “loud” enough :-)
4) I like minimal talk and maximum action. I am a compulsive dreamer and I like to test out my dreams in the physical realm.
5) Most people I know feel that I am a difficult, unpredictable being; they are of the opinion that they don’t understand me. Perhaps I can elaborate on that here. There are certain things that leave me cold – they leave a strange impression on my emotions, psyche and senses – crudeness (I try to find aesthetics even in an abuse), meanness (I get an instant impulse to pack up wherever I detect it!), manipulation (I don’t like getting tricked). I am essentially large-hearted but recoil when I feel that I am being taken for a ride. At the same time, I too do manipulate sometimes, but I like to state my intentions.
6) There was a time when I used to spend many neurotic moments worrying and bothering about what people might think about me. Since sometime I feel a markedly stable and a strong energy from within that has made me completely believe that, one, I am a teeny weenie part of a very large scheme of things – that there is much, much more to what we “think” there is; and two, that I would get affected by the standards set by any particular society to the extent I myself believe that they are some kind of “standards”. I don’t care for judgments anymore; it is such a big relief!
7) Following this, I must state that this energy has taught me to not expect anything from anyone in return for any benefit I might have caused them. Because, the acknowledgement may come from elsewhere, and in time – not necessarily from the same person.
8) I have figured out that I have two major callings in life: establish a wellness centre for the upkeep of the emotional/mental health of people and to travel extensively on earth and write about it. For both, I need partner/s in crime. Preferably lifelong.
Action Item 3: Tag 6 people
Oh, my pleasure –
1) Meera – She wrote me a comment within minutes of opening my blog early this year. So she has a very special place in my blogger heart. Also I am in awe of the way she conjures up stories from ordinary day to day life experiences. She too has not written on her blog for over two months now. I wonder about her, I hope she can come back soon. Meera, have you returned from Karachi?
2) Cool Cat – I just went to Cool Cat’s blog to tag her and found that she has also not written for over two months! I love reading her exceedingly well-crafted posts. The last I remember, she had promised a piece on her lovely pet cats. Hmm, coming?
3) Queen B – A few months back, she gave me a pleasant surprise by dropping by at my blog. It is my pleasure to tag her blog, Taraville. This blog is dedicated to her new born daughter, Tara. It has cute pictures and very well written notes about Tara’s explorations and experiences and the joys of motherhood. I hope Queen B can “bottle” more of it in cyberspace :-)
4) Living Tree – She has lots of interesting things to write about, and I am sure if she blogged full time, she would produce a well thought out body of reference material.
5) Pragya – I know her in person and I enjoy reading poetry; so I like reading her poems.
6) Thinking Thinker – Very recently, I discovered that he had put a link to my blog through his. I thank him for this sweet gesture by tagging him.
How nice, I am done! By the end of it all, I learnt one more thing about tagging – that the subject of Action Item 2 varies – in this case it is writing eight things about yourself, in another it may be something else. One can actually trace the origin of this particular tag. It seems that one may also choose to start one’s own thread. Btw, all of you who have been tagged here, please feel free to give it a miss, in case you do not feel upto the mark to pass on the tag and if you do, it, of course, would be great fun :-)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Assam - Concluding post

I want to make the concluding post on my trip to Assam today, it is a long overdue post. I wanted to write much earlier but ran out of inspiration (to write, to blog)! What I say is true, right now I feel a burst of energy. The mind is interesting, I like the way it lacks consistency, and perhaps because it does, we are predisposed to move to newer terrains..... I am digressing now, what I wanted to say in my last post on Assam is a comment on its captivating countryside.

We understand that it is not often that people go on a holiday to Assam, neither did I, it is on a work trip that I went there for and luckily for me, discovered the treasures of Nature on a land so tarred by separatist movements. The basis of these movements has largely been economic – after Independence, a prosperous State had its economic indexes fall rapidly which gave reasons for the formation of militant groups along ethnic lines. The ULFA (United Liberation front of Assam) and the NDFB (National Democratic Front of Bodoland) are two of the most prominent insurgent groups in Assam. The former, whose primary demand is the separate State of Assam, has been classified as a “terrorist” organization by the Government of India and presently, a military offensive is on against it. NDFB, on the other hand has been spearheading a movement for autonomy for the Bodo people by pressing for a separate state for them, called Bodoland. The Bodos are the largest ethnic group in Assam, concentrated mostly in the north-western parts of the State, which includes Kokrajhar and Bongaingaon districts. With a ceasefire declared since 2001 and with the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council, an autonomous administrative body, there is peace in the area.
This is what my local host, a Bodo lady, was very keen to communicate: that there is peace now, after nearly two-decades of fear and bloodshed. Perhaps it is difficult to believe it without visiting; but there is no way one can deny that to oneself when one is in the arms of Nature – the pure country breeze gently caressing the skin, the miles after miles of the richest hues of greens and blues, the coconut palms, the betel nut trees, the mighty Brahmaputra river, the fantastic pineapples, the smiling faces of the Bodo women clad in traditional dokhonas and the soft-spoken Bodo men. Driving on the highway between Guwahati to Kokrajhar is a soulful experience – the highway is an outright pleasure (admittedly, I hadn’t imagined that the road would be this good); the bridge over the Brahmapurta river left me spellbound: it seemed to me at that time to be the most harmonious confluence of modern technology and Nature. So taken aback was I that I forgot to stop to click some shots. I will regret that, till I can go back there again. The eateries on the highway is a haven of sorts for fish eaters, especially. I haven’t eaten more delicious fish than this in recent times.

There are no “places to see” as such and even if there is, I could not find out about them in that short period; what leaves me with a delightful aftertaste is the 6-hour drive through Bodoland. Coming to think of it I don’t think any “place to see” if it is there, can stand upto the captivating countryside of this region.

I am fond of maps, so I am pasting one here. I also have the last lot of pictures to share.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Assam – In search of Assam tea

Assam tea..... I don’t know about you but I made one great discovery about it: that Assam tea is granular tea and not tea leaves. I had orders to get "Assam tea" :) and that led me to do a market search on it in the little time that I had. It felt somewhat strange that most local people could not give me satisfactory information about where to get samples of “Assam tea" from. I found myself at the State emporiums but the packaging looked stale and made me feel doubtful about the quality of the contents inside. Anyway, I was finally in a huge wholesale market called the “Fancy bazaar” market in Guwahati where there were several wholesale tea dealers. I zeroed down on one dealer with pleasant salesmen who had a world of time to explain and clear my doubts :), I appreciate that. So it turned out in short that it is the granular tea of Assam that is mostly used to prepare tea and for those who like it to have “leaf” flavor - Darjeeling leaf tea is mixed with it in the popular proportion of 80:20 (granular:leaf). I decided that I wanted more flavor than what is “popular” and so made my purchase in the proportion of 70:30. Not that there is no “leaf” tea in Assam, only that it has no particular flavor and the liquor is very weak - I was told.

My search in the wholesale market for tea also led me to the wholesale area for vegetables. Here are some snapshots :).

The ubiquitous carrot. Yet I was delighted to see it. This is the carrot I actually grew up with, in the sense I find the red variety of carrot here in the north more often than this orange one. The orange one has an association with Walt Disney and Brer rabbit in my mind..... some fond childhood memories.

Meet the betel nut alias supari. This is not the hardened supari, it is soft and moist and looks like miniature coconuts, the external covering opens like one too. Many Assamese people like to chew this soft variety of betel nut packed inside betel leaves (paan) after every meal or otherwise.
This is a ghoti lau. Ghoti = pot. Lou is nothing but gourd or lauki in Hindi :)

This “vegetable” is called kachra. I had never seen a kachra before. The vendor informed me that it is to be cooked with aloos. I couldn’t contend with just a picture, so I decided to carry a couple and I did. Well, back home when it was split open to be cooked with aloos, a new experience greeted me: the kachra looked exactly like a melon from inside with seeds and all and even tasted like one! I do not doubt the vendor but I couldn’t adjust my taste – but I love the color of the vegetable or fruit whatever it may be.
The rickshaws in all the places that I went to in Assam had an additional feature and I found that quite interesting. As you can see, it is about the cover over the head of the rickshaw puller. It was raining when I was there and when it was not, the daytime sun was very strong.

And finally this!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Assam - Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati

I was told to not leave Guwahati without making a trip to the Kamakhya temple. I am generally not to be found within temple grounds but if recommended by significant others or accompanied by them, I do find myself visiting temples, sometimes. Moreover every net search throws up Kamakhya temple in Guwahati as a place to be visited, so I was curious. The temple is built on the Nilachal hills in the western end of the city. It is a pleasant ride uphill, and looking down from the elevation, the city looks lovely!

The Kamakhya Temple

The temple carries an interesting legend behind its inception. It is basically a Parvati temple built in honor of female energy. I found this interesting article explaining the legend.

It did seem to be a very popular temple. There was a long line of devotees queued up to offer their prayers. I especially liked the pigeons who had made the crevices on the pillars of the temple their home. They were casually roosting and occasionally hopping down whenever somebody offered them grains.

As I was looking around, I accidentally entered a portion in the temple that I should have avoided. A single glance made me realize what it was. The area was splashed with blood with a disturbing number of flies. I literally fled. I have never been able to understand how people can secure anything for themselves by sacrificing another life. I am very sure that the Creator does not approve.

Ending on a positive note, I loved these flowers. I saw joba phool (shoeflower, hibiscus) and these small white flowers in abundance after a very long time. Somehow in the northern belt we don’t see them as much; it is marigolds in the temples this side.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Assam - Ferry Ride on the Brahmaputra in Guwahati

Hi :-) I am just back from a trip to the state of Assam. Although it was a work trip, I did manage to steal in sometime to take pictures and to look around. Here are some pictures and snippets that I would love to share over a few posts. This was my first visit to the state and I was taken in by the beauty of the countryside – there were such beautiful hues of green all around! I also had time to explore a bit of its capital – Guwahati. Here are some pictures of the Brahmaputra river and a ferry ride on it.
The Brahmaputra river flows along the city of Guwahati, in fact, it flows along the entire stretch of Assam state. The river is incredibly vast!

The horizon is dotted with mountains and the sky that day looked absolutely gorgeous.

There are several ghats from where one can take a ferry for a ride in the river. Kachari ghat, Fancy bazzar ghat, Sukreshwar ghat to name a few… I boarded the ferry from Sukreshwar ghat. Adjacent to the ghat is the Sukreshwar park where one can relax while waiting for the ferry.

My ferry was called “Jolporee” (translated “water fairy”). Jolporee took its passengers on an hour ride on the river. The cafeteria on its deck served hot food in the cool refreshing evening. A live band played nice music, they started with “yeh shyam mastani…”

I waited for the sun to set. The sunset promised to be spectacular. I hoped that the clouds would part but that evening the sun never emerged. It set behind the clouds.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Some Odds and Ends

Blogs are opening here now by the normal route. Phew!!

Today I want to record certain things that have been coming to my consciousness and lingering there in the form of questions, observations made, reflections etc. I am not even trying to slot them, hope it does not sound too odd. And what if it does..... I am going to number them -

1) It is nice to re-connect with people we haven’t had any interactions with over a period of time. I am led to believe that these re-connections happen ONLY when the two persons concerned are ready – when they are convinced that a re-connection would be a progression over their last meeting. Re-connections always somehow happen when both persons are in a state to drop any unpleasantness associated with their past association, and at a stage when the fond memories created together are consolidated and most importantly acknowledged.

2) However, it is not possible to re-connect with everyone we have parted ways with at sometime in the past. We may have parted in bitterness with some people in our lives and over time we may forgive them too, BUT may not like to re-connect with them. In such a situation I wonder how would they ever know that you have forgiven them? Question.

3) I reiterate, re-connections cannot happen with everyone you have parted ways with.

4) Have you ever noticed how if you respond only to the positive characteristics in a person, their negative traits (and we all have them) stop to surface?! Have you ever noticed how people you encourage and appreciate are always happy to meet you..... Have you ever noticed how we too look forward to meeting people who appreciate and encourage us.....

5) I watched a film lately that immersed me after a long time. It is called “Before Sunrise”. It is made in two parts but I think it should have ended at Part I. I do not want to see Part II. I am in love with the idea of timelessness that is portrayed in the film. Two people make an instant connection. They have just a few hours to themselves. They make the best of it. It is time to part. They are heavy hearted to let each other go but they decide to not exchange their whereabouts. BUT they decide to..... well that is the suspense. They should have ended at Part I.

6) I also saw the film Dosar (translated The Companion), directed by Rituporno Ghosh with Konkona SenSharma in the lead. She was there at the screening too. Looking very cute. The film is well made. Lots of humor in the seemingly serious topic of the film: extra-marital relationships. I have not been able to, if I may say holistically understand this. Something tells me there is more to this hyped subject. Ok. One day the spouse meets with an accident in which the woman he is involved with - outside his marriage dies and he suffers serious injuries. This becomes public and his lawfully wedded wife grapples with feelings of hurt, dejection, self-pity, at the same time feelings of rejection for her husband. The film did not convince me (tho it is well-made). If not for the humor and Konkona and direction, it wouldn’t have been watch-able.

7) Have you noticed that the more you give, the more you get back. I mean everything – knowledge, know-how, something material, love. Also have you noticed how the more you give them away, the more you know about those things.

8) Have you realized how you carry a part of each person you meet in your lifetime. “We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.” (Tim Mc Graw). I have been using colored pens to write since the past three years, I picked up the habit from a friend of that time, I am no longer in touch but each time I hold one of my pink/green/orange/violet pens to write I am reminded of that person. Except that these days you don’t have much to do with pens, your fingers do it for you, on the keyboard.

Have you realized what a heart-to-heart talk in which you are in a position to share your deepest thoughts of that time with the other can do to you..... I have just done it..... on my blog.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blogging Blocked in India

Hi everyone! There is upheaval in the blogging world in India!! along with many other sites has been blocked by the Indian Government. This has been done fearing anti-State activities, especially in the wake of the Mumbai blasts. BUT the repercussion has been quite unacceptable as it has extended to blocking out bloggers. The debate has shifted to curtailing of freedom of speech in a democratic land.

I have not been able to access your blogs since the past few days. It is only sometime back that I learnt one could access blogs through a proxy server which is what I am doing now.

A lot has been written about this matter already by the media and fellow bloggers as well. I would like to paste some links for you here for reference.

Some of the many news reports

Govt cracks down on websites, blogs

Indian bloggers fight government censorship

Press Coverage of Internet blocking in India

Blogs blocked; is Emergency coming?

Some of the many bloggers who have written about the matter


Friday, July 14, 2006

A warm hello

Hello! I feel good writing on my blog again. It’s been such a long time. Thank you all for your comments and I am sorry I could not write back immediately. The last few weeks were characterized by a flurry of activity. Both inside my mind and external as well. I enjoyed every moment I lived. It has been one of those times where you feel a whole lot but you don’t process your feelings because you don’t feel the need to. You don’t even see what lies ahead of you. Not that you don’t want to, but simply because there is no need. You just allow each moment to unfold itself. The revelations are insightful and that makes you happy. At the back of your mind you know that you have a destiny to fulfill and you just add to the present moment without a thought as to what your actions would fetch you. Quite a blissful state to be in.

This has been a time when I made wonderful new connections, shared joyous moments of re-connecting with old friends, traveled a bit and drew a lot of strength from it, worked a bit, as in for a living :-), read about Osho and Sufism (for the very first time), and now I am reading Life After Life which is Dr. Raymond Moody’s work on the subject (life after life) supported by his research study on NDEs (near death experiences). I am also reading Heinrich Harrer’s, Seven Years in Tibet. I hope to be able to write about each after I am done.

I am also looking forward to reading your blogs, I realize I have missed so much! I have been blog hopping mainly. What has changed you may ask, what has made me come back. Nothing I guess, the feeling of grandeur continues except I guess I am a bit grounded to hold my pen to paper. See you on your blogs soon too!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Unplayed Piano - Damien Rice

In 2005, Damien Rice, an Irish musician wrote the song “Unplayed Piano” in support of the campaign to free the exiled Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. It was her 60th birthday and the 10th year of her house arrest.

"Come and see me
Sing me to sleep
Come and free me
Hold me if I need to weep
Maybe it's not the season
Maybe it's not the year...."

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991 for her non-violent, pro-democracy struggles in Burma. She was placed under house arrest by the military dictatorship of the country without any charges or trial. Her crime: leading a people’s movement for democracy and human rights. Aung San Suu Kyi put the prize money in a trust to improve the health and education levels of the people of Burma.

"Maybe there's no good reason
Why I'm locked up inside
Just cause they wanna hide me
The moon goes bright
The darker they make my night"

She was put under house arrest first in 1989 but was given the offer for freedom if she left the country. She declined. The following year elections were held in Burma and her party won, but the military dictatorship nullified the process. The rest of the world protested but the military held their ground.

"Unplayed pianos
Are often by a window
In a room where nobody loved goes
She sits alone with her silent song
Somebody bring her home"

The period between 1995-2005 saw many ups and downs with her getting released, put on house arrest again and one time she was even imprisoned. She was detained each time for carrying out political activities for freedom which she was barred from. She never left the country for if she did, she would hot have been permitted to return. During this period her husband died in Britain, she could not meet him, he was not allowed entry into Burma and she decided not to leave her country.

"Unplayed piano
Still holds a tune
Lock on the lid
In a stale, stale room
Maybe it's not that easy
Or maybe it's not that hard
Maybe they could release me
Let the people decide
I've got nothing to hide
I've done nothing wrong
So why have I been here so long?"

I make this post today because since the past few days, hopes were building up
in favor of her release as her confinement ordered had expired recently. International pressure, urging the military government to review it in her favour went into deaf ears - the dictatorship has extended her confinement term, which is what the news says.

"Unplayed piano
Still holds a tune
Years pass by
In the changing of the moon"

I don’t know what more I can add to this, I really don’t know what more to say. Except that my sleepy brain at nearly 2.30 am in the morning is thinking about how in one part of the world a nation of people continue to struggle for their human rights while here in my own - in one of the largest democracies, politicians prepare grounds to divide people on the basis of caste lines.

I want to thank my friend Amin for bringing to me this wonderful song – unplayed piano. The quoted portions are parts of the song. It has been sung by Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

At the beginning of this month something peculiar happened. The internet service provider ran away with his entourage leaving behind woeful customers, I being one of them. On my part I tried to track him down and make him answerable but after a few unsuccessful attempts I gave up and decided to put my energies else where – what else, but at finding a new service provider. At first I felt really sorry to have lost my internet world but soon pulled myself together and decided that this was a fine chance to try and rake up another world. So I read. I finished reading The Kite Runner. It is easily the best book that I have read in the recent past.

Authored by Khaled Hosseini, the narrative is set in Afghanistan
and the US. It is a story about the relationship between two "friends" belonging to two different ethnic communities of Afghanistan - one dominant, the other, marginalised. Their relationship becomes yet more complex because one is the master, the other his “servant”. Not only that, the political milieu adds some more complexities to the relationship. The master is the "hero" of the story because his character simply fulfills what it takes to be a “hero” in a narrative. The character who captures the heart of the reader is undoubtedly Hassan, the Hazara boy, the “servant”. The essence of his being is carried throughout the story. The character of Hassan is immensely moving and it is very easy to respect him and be totally fond of him. I found that I developed a love-hate relationship with the hero of the story! One can’t hate him for too long because of his honesty. Also because of other things, let me elaborate a little later.

It is also a story about the relationship between a father and a son – a father who had rather not want a son the way he (son) was and a son who wanted to win his father’s appreciation, yet not be like him. How and in what direction the relationship changes over time has also been brought forth remarkably well.

At the backdrop of the story, the political situation of Afghanistan moves, chronicling over 30 years till about 2002 - from the last few years of the (40-year old stable) reign of Zahir Shah (that began in 1933) to the internal coup that overthrew him to the Communists and then to the dark period brought about by The Taliban. Some of the story is also based in the US where the father and son had to take political asylum in 1980 following the “Roussi” invasion. A part of the story is also told in retrospect.

My thoughts come back to the hero. I am quite convinced that his character is influenced to some extent by the author’s own. Khaled Hosseini was born in Afghanistan and his family moved to the US in 1980. The hero is a soft-spoken literary sort, quite unlike the typical repulsive “masculine” male. He likes to read poetry, wins every poetry competition, loves to fly kites, loves to write, detests any Afghan sport that has to do with killing and does not retaliate at the neighborhood bullies. The most beautiful aspect of his personality is that even in his childhood, although he notices he is unlike the rough and tough kinds, he is most unwilling to change, he is just so secure with the way he is. At a point in his adulthood he is faced with situations where he has the option to either accept or reject his lady love when questions of her chastity etc. come up. Without any effort at any kind of debate within himself or otherwise, he promptly chooses to be by her side. In doing so he does not regard himself a martyr of sorts; he simply puts it saying that to judge a woman by patriarchal standards is something he was never socialized into – for he was never exposed to the “double standards” of men in his childhood, neither in his youth. His mother died at childbirth and father never married.

The narrative brings forth the sheer craftsmanship of the writer – the language has an irresistible flow – and conveying such complexities in simple language is an art I think and Khaled Hosseini in his debut novel, is a prototype of this thought. The words and phrases in native language finely blend with the English language – another very attractive element of the narrative.

Once begun, it is difficult to put down the book. In that, it has an element of understated mystery. Also it leaves you for some days with very warm thoughts. The Kite Runner is in my list of favorites and recommended reads :-)

Friday, May 26, 2006

When you go away - Bhartrhari

Am in a poetry mood today. This poem by Bhartrhari is dedicated to all friends.

When you go away

'Do not go' I say; but this is inauspicious.
'All right, go' is a loveless thing to say.
'Stay with me' is imperious. 'Do as you wish' suggests Cold
Indifference. And if I say 'I'll die
when you are gone', you might or might not believe me.
Teach me,
my friend, what I ought to say
When you go away.

(Bhartrhari, a poet from 5th-6th century India)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Trek Pictures

I realise how much pictures can be valuable and supplement a travel story like never before! Sadly I don't have many, in fact very few. I have uploaded some at my travel blog and I thought I would put up three of them from the trek, here. These are courtsy Iddo.

the flock o' sheep we met on the way. there is a small pool of stagnant water on the right, and many of them took a qucik dip before proceeding!!
the landslide over which we walked...

the waterfall pool!

Friday, May 05, 2006

McLeod Ganj

Hi everybody! I am back from a fabulous weekend trip to McLeod Ganj :) and that puts me in great spirits! The muscles of my lower limbs are still a bit agitated it seems but my fingers are raring to make a post… I was at McLo for a very short time, there are many things that I did not get to experience personally, yet, I write about them coz I found them interesting and worth sharing about.

A fulfilling trek

Yup, a large part of my trip consisted of trekking! There are a number of trek routes in McLo with varying levels of difficulty in terms of length of time to cover each, the nature of the path and the altitude. I was on a comparatively simple one that was around 12 kilometers covered in around 6 ½ hours and the highest altitude that we could get to was around 2300 meters.

Trek companions

A large part of my travels consists so much of different kinds of people of which I am so glad and grateful. My post will be grossly incomplete without writing about them. Well, I came over to McLo basically to meet my Estonian friend Kristina who has been, since the past one month, volunteering her time to teach English to adult Tibetan refugees in a Tibetan school there and also spending time in a play school with the children of migrant labor. She will be there for another month. Prior to my arrival, we had already decided to do a trek but didn’t know until a few hours before starting off that we would be joined by serious trekkers and some not as much – but all the same, all very lovely people. All the intros and the decision making happened in a café we were visiting the previous evening! So, at the appointed hour and place, seven of us armed with the required necessities met and we set off. The company consisted of Vim from Holland, Iddo from Israel, Heather from the US, Kripa and Bhanu from Mumbai, Kristina and myself. Most of them are volunteers on various social assignments while a few are there to help them relax and make important decisions in life and I guess, overall, all of us come to these serene locales to draw enrichment from it and add some bit of it into our lives.

Back to trekking

The route that we took, I shall call it the “waterfall” route coz it leads to a waterfall at some point after walking for some 2 ½ hours. This particular trek route consists of a concrete road uptil a small distance after which it becomes a trail on the mountains marked by white arrows on the rocks. Innovations can of course be made in the route but we stuck to the arrows. It was immensely exciting for me coz the trail kept changing its character every now and then… rocks covered with algae (over which I slipped once), rocks arranged like a little flight of stairs, a collection of rocks spread over a few meters, sometimes a little stretch of plain land as tho to give a bit of relief, steep and high rocks over which you needed to find a grip etc. At one point we came upon at least a 5 meter stretch of rocks arranged like a carpet that seemed to have landed up there as a result of a landslide. From time to time, we paused to admire the breathtaking scenery from various altitudes. I have never trekked this long over such terrain before and found myself always lagging behind!! But I am so grateful to my companions for their facilitation and, tolerance, of course. Bhanu, the seasoned trekker in the Western Ghats sure did pass on to me some very useful tips which I think I must summarize a little later.

The waterfall

After 2 hours I found myself longing for the waterfall and although we could hear the delicious gurgle of the water, it still seemed nowhere in sight. At last when I found myself sitting besides it, it felt so much like a reward. The water was freezing cold but there, of course, were people taking a few-second dips from head to toe! The waterfall is just like any other beautiful waterfall that we have seen in pictures and visited perhaps; it is the sheer physical experience of being so close to one of the grandest creations of nature that makes the feeling so special and alluring. It brought to my consciousness that there are such large forces at work and that my own existence is like a speck in the large scheme of things and even though such a small responsibility – at times it gets difficult to handle! It made me feel a trifle ashamed of myself and I felt glad that I was there absorbing some goodies from the bounties of nature – at least I would like to think so.

Back to the waterfall, on either side of the stream made by it, there is enuff room to set up tents and make an overnight halt – done on a full moon – well, aha! The very thought makes me crazy. Another interesting thing was this naturally made “landing” a meter above the stream on which there is a small tea shack. Upon our request, the owner of the stall gladly agreed to serve us “chai” where we had made ourselves comfortable on the rocks along the stream with the waterfall behind. This was pure bliss. Grandiose. The waterfall was like the climax.

Soon it was time for the decent. This was as nice as the first part of the trek except that at McLo, with barely five minutes to go before we could hit a restaurant for food, I got bitten by some leaves on my fingers when I accidentally held them for balance. These are plants on most of either side of the trail which sting like a wasp can do, when touched. The quickest way to get over the sting sensation (which is a pretty nasty one) is to leave that part of the body alone or at the most pour water over it and let it be. Scratching can make it get very bad. Anyways, half an hour later when we were sitting in the restaurant, I found myself using the stung fingers like nothing had happened.

Meditation walk

I must write about this wonderful principle because I tried it out in this trek. Meditation walk is derived from the greater spiritual traditions of “meditation” which simply means to be in a state of awareness by cutting down on the noise and chatter in the brain. By that measure, in easy terms, it means to not think about things and people and elements of life that you are not with at that moment and be able to appreciate your “present” surroundings and its constituents. This means that I am to put my entire concentration on my path, take every step in awareness and look around me and be in an attitude of gratitude. It also means that the only voices I let myself hear and react to is that of nature and those of my immediate companions. Looking at it from the other end, it also means that now that I am back to a completely different world, I should be able to take in that what is beneficial for me from it and sieve out the rest without any ado. In other words, not “miss” anything but find the balance between dichotomous worlds, thoughts and feelings – that is the way to spiritual empowerment, I think.

Some tips!

I thought it would be useful to put down some useful tips for trekking that I gathered and remember now!
1) To make walking less strenuous, always walk with a straight spine so as to distribute the weight of the body on either side.
2) To avoid scratches, blisters and plant bites, wearing covered walking shoes and full length pants helps.
3) Keeping water and instant energy givers like hard boiled toffees, chocolate bars, glucose biscuits etc. is extremely useful.
4) In order to avoid painful nails, clip them before a trek – long ones dig into the fabric of the shoes due to the continuous walk and can get very uncomfortable.
5) In order to climb steep and high rocks, use your hands to make a grip wherever there is a possibility on the rock to hold it at any place (I do not know what to do about the smooth ones :(

Well, the trek makes me want to go on more similar ones and challenging ones in the near future! I enjoyed it thoroughly.

McLeod Ganj in two days

This section will pretty much be a gist of my short visit. I arrived at McLo one afternoon and was especially happy to see Kristina at the bus stop waiting at the appointed hour. Soon we were sitting on a terrace café at a Tibetan restaurant surrounded on all sides by mountains, sipping chai, eating huge portions of noodles and chatting away. So, many of the things that I write has been simply gathered from conversations.

McLeod Ganj, in terms of geography, is in the state of Himachal Pradesh in North India. Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, it used to be a garrison of the British before independence. A large section of its present population consists of refugees from Tibet, many of who are monks and they have helped to develop this small settlement into a spiritually advanced place. McLo also houses the secretariat of the Tibetan government in exile (politics a little later) and is the home of The Dalai Lama. The prevalence of a Buddhist way of life makes McLo a very spiritual place and makes many people from all over the globe come to visit it in search of peace.

There does not seem to be any dearth of accommodation as hotels are in plentiful. In addition to that, single room sets are available on rent for long-staying travelers who choose to have an independent unit. The only time that McLo gets really crowded and jampacked as I gathered from the Rough Guide, is during Feb./Mar. at the time of the Tibetan New Year.

The cultural life of the little settlement is quite enviable. Some of the cafes and restaurants have a programme of songs, spontaneous performances, discussions etc. on a weekly basis. It was in a restaurant called “Khana Nirvana” that we enlarged our trekking troupe over a live performance of flute, violin and vocals. There are two lines of one song sung that night by an Israeli performer that lingers in my mind. It goes:

“Mama I’m off to India,
don’t worry I won’t catch bacteria”.

On Jogibara Road, there are at least four “cinemas” that hold fours screenings each day of different films and documentaries – which from the list seemed to be issue-based documentaries, critically acclaimed films and bestseller entertainers. Among the Indian movies, Water and Raang De Basanti are very popular at this time. We watched a documentary called, “Escape from Tibet”. The “cinemas” are pretty interesting in the way they have been assembled – the screen is usually a flat home theatre system or a projector screen. At least 20 people can watch at a time. The “cinemas” are attached to restaurants, so one can have meals served right there watching a movie! Everything is great except that they never start and therefore never end the screenings on time. But given that one is not in a mad metro, the time lag only gives you the scope to catch another glass of chai over another interesting conversation and nothing is really lost.

At the lovely Buddhist temple in the little settlement is “staged” a discussion of the readings from Buddhist texts, every afternoon (except Sundays) for an hour. In addition to the verbal discussions in their language, the monks act it out theatretically. I am sure that would be interesting but I never managed to see it. Besides, McLo seemed to be always pasted with posters containing information on courses on acupressure, massage therapy, Hindi speaking, English speaking, Tibetan cooking, Buddhist studies, music, reiki etc. etc. etc. There is a public library, several book and video stores, lots of internet cafes and a museum as well.

With respect to food, McLo has no dearth of variety. While Tibetan food dominates and feels quite light and nice, I also saw French, Japanese and Israeli joints as well. The Tibetan bakery products are scrumptious and Kristina highly recommends the carrot cake, the apple pie in custard and the brownies (the brownies in chocolate sauce are “awesome” ;-) They were indeed yummy and full of calories – I am safely assuming that the spirituality of the place converts the calories into positive body food.

The Tibetan refugees

As most are aware, since China annexed Tibet in 1950 in a one-sided aggression, the country and its people have seen very bad times. Many countries in the world still do not recognize Tibet as an independent nation under foreign rule. International pressure is not too strong enough to get the Chinese government to withdraw from Tibet soil. About 3000 refugees cross over to India every year walking for 12 days over very difficult terrain. Many lose their lives, yet they come. The documentary that we saw had been made in 1994 and according to it, it used to take at least 30 days to make the journey more than a decade ago. But now-a-days there are guides. The refugees first halt at Nepal for a registration which is done by the UNHCR office set up in Katmandu. Nepal does not recognize Tibet as a separate nation, India does and refugees with the papers made in Katmandu are allowed to enter India. They find their way to New Delhi and most come up to McLo where they spend some time before figuring out what they want to do with their lives. Upon their arrival at McLo, they are addressed by The Dalai Lama who in an inspiring speech congratulates them at having made the arduous journey possible and welcomes them to Indian soil. Further, he tells them that they are among the lucky few to have got this opportunity and they must use their time in India to educate themselves and/but always be in a state of readiness to go back to their homeland as Tibet needs an educated mass of citizens to put fuel in its struggle for independence. Many have gone back too, the Tibetan population in McLo has come down considerably from several thousands over the years to about 2500 as of now. On this score, I felt really proud of my country that it has be able to provide this space and succor to a community of people made helpless by mindless violence and greed.

Many who come when they were children are adults now, they haven’t seen their parents and family for over decades, they are not sure if they would. Letters sent do not reach. Parents who send their little children every year with the guides do not send them with the hope of meeting them again. They are always prepared for the worst.

World pressure on China to free Tibet is rather mild despite the atrocities committed. According to the documentary, as per 1994 figures, the Chinese soldiers had already killed 80,000 monks and destroyed age old monasteries (reminds us of the Taliban and their destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha). Many have been taken as prisoners of conscience and as political prisoners. The monks come under the former category. The Panchen Lama and his family have been kidnapped and hidden and it is now eleven years since the kidnapping. His 17th birthday was celebrated recently. One of the monks who smuggled into India samples of the torture weapons used by the Chinese on the prisoners, speaks volumes about the cruelty and meanness of the human race. It is so outrageously shameful that actually anyone can use those weapons on another made so helpless, that the assault goes unchallenged. Grossly unfair and barbaric.

The Buddhist temples and Tibetan homes are decorated with colorful prayer flags. These are like A4 size pieces of cloth on which is printed their prayers and these are clipped to a string and tied all over. It is believed that the wind will carry the prayers far and wide. The prayer wheel has the same philosophy. They are cylindrical in shape with the prayers written on them and they can be rotated. Some of Kristina’s students are learning English so that they are able to translate these prayers and make them available to a much larger extent. When The Dalai Lama is not attending political meetings outside McLeod Ganj, he holds prayer meetings and discussions which are very popular and anybody can attend. I did not get lucky on that score.

Charitable and development activities

A little way off on the outskirts of McLo is a jhuggi (slum) cluster of about 300 people. They are migrants from the state of Maharashtra and Rajasthan. They have camped there in search of livelihood despite unfamiliar mountainous weather that gets particularly harsh during the monsoons and the winters. They live in tents and in most unhygienic conditions. A Scottish organization has just begun working with them. A demographic profiling is on, at the same time the children are being provided education and a medical facility has been organized to provide free medical care. Besides, there is the Dogga School which from time to time requires volunteers.

An Israeli village

On the outskirts of little McLeod Ganj is a village called Dharmkot. It is a small village consisting of a young population from Israel. I would have loved to have gone to the village but from what I gathered, this is a place used as a retreat by young Israelis before them moving on. There is no particular reason why they go there, except that they go to many other places and this being a nice one – someone must have come and others may have followed. At least that is what I understood of the situation as of now!

Getting to McLeod Ganj

Either one can take a train from Delhi upto Pathankot and from there a bus till McLo or a direct overnight bus from Delhi till McLo. I did the former as I am not comfortable traveling overnight in a bus when I am alone. It took me around 16 hours. If this option is taken, it would be useful to look around for trains that start from Delhi, this way one can be sure that the train would arrive and leave on time. Usually such trains leave the Old Delhi railway station by 9:30 pm and reach Pathankot by 8:30 am the following day. Alighting at Pathankot, one has the option of freshening up at the waiting rooms on platform no. 1 and catch a hot breakfast at the railway restaurant down the same platform. The Himachal Pradesh bus station is just outside platform no. 1 and busses are available at frequent intervals. It is a 4 ½ hours journey by bus to McLo with one halt for refreshments.

Straight busses from Delhi are available from ISBT and one has the choice of the Volvo, a super comfortable bus and the ordinary. The travel time is a bit shorter.

Wrapping up…

I am definitely inspired by life at McLeod Ganj. There is this one and only chowk there – always a place of activity, where the busses stop, you can sit there and over any length of time you would know how many people have come to McLo and who they are and how many are leaving and who they are. Being in a place like India, yet, you can smile back at strangers who smile at you without any apprehensions, you can walk on the streets without any unwanted attention, you can have chai at low ceiling tea shacks with the words “Best Tea in Asia” written on the benches, these chai shacks recreate your college and university days, you don’t have to be in your best clothes or look prim and proper, no one is in a hurry to want you to leave the café, you can start appreciating and understanding the spiritual approach to politics, you can bask in the glory of nature all around you, gaze at the mountains that change color at least twenty times in the day… a wholesome life packed into a few kilometers of space – that is what is my impression of McLeod Ganj.

Ps: I am awaiting pictures from Iddo and Kristina, will put up some here when I receive them.
I now have another blog solely for travel experiences at I am inaugurating it with this experience – the account is pretty much the same. The address is

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Staying Connected

Staying Connected

It is interesting to note how so many people are unsatisfied and unhappy in their lives despite having taken the “right” steps and “right” decisions in the “right” directions. “Interesting” is probably not the right word to use, but honestly it does inspire an interest in me.

“Something is missing”, a friend informed me the other day. The friend is a “successful” professional and has made considerable material gains in life. Besides, I get calls from time to time – “something is missing”, they all say, 9 out of 10 are “doing well”.

I feel sorry and sad that so many people are caught in a rigmarole and take a lot of stress trying to live upto role expectations. The tendency is always to conform to some dominant principle. Who made these hideously inadequate principles of social, personal and professional conduct? Are not the parameters for being “successful” and “doing well” killing our spirits and making us similar to programmed gadgets? Are we even enjoying the limitless bounties that the Universe has to offer to us? Often, at corporate trainings I have heard managers speaking on motivation modules inspiring the workers to “think out of the box”. I think it is a wonderful way to operate, how about applying the principle to life in general?

There is a definite clash between the heart and the intellect. In an ideal situation, they must complement each other. But the problem arises when the intellect denies the heart and either contradicts or refuses to listen to its rhythm. I am convinced that all of us have the answers within ourselves. We use so little of our power as human beings!

I have decided that I need to go for a recharge.... think it is time to seek some inspiration.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Kamini Banga

I have just finished a large chunk of some work that I had set myself to do and I am feeling glad about it. So after a week, I am feeling psychologically free to make a new post.

Well, in the meantime, I also finished reading a book which is a collection of poems and I so much want to write about it and more so of my feelings about the person who has composed the poems. All the poems in the collection have been written by Kamini Banga. I quote the last poem in the collection on page 97 –

You promised to love me
And look after me.

Promises broken
Bodies punished.

You could have given me
Another chance.

Was this invasion
My second chance?

Thank you,
I promise
To be a good girl, God.

The collection is entitled, “I Promise To Be A Good Girl, God.”

Kamini Banga is someone who has fought and won a battle with cancer which carried on for 10 years. Her immensely moving fight is reflected in these poems which she had been writing during the course of those years. Kamini feels that writing helped her to grieve as well as to heal. It put things in perspective thereby helping her to "realize what must stay" and what she could "leave behind".

What I like about her poems is her simple and very direct style – with each line so well crafted. At any juncture in her therapy, the import of her thoughts and feelings – be it that of defiance or jubilation or distress or despair or surrender or reflection or fear or fight or healing or protest or hope and many a times interspersed with humor – has been brought forth remarkably well in a way that touches the heart.

The other thing that I find wonderful is that the writings, in projecting a vast canvas of emotions suggest a movement as one turns each page and goes to the next. It almost feels like a story – that of a victor. In that, the collection transcends beyond it just being a collection of poetry by a person having survived cancer. I am left with a sense of calm and peace after the reading. It just makes me feel more comfortable with the inevitability of “death” and how useless it is to put any energy that will not add anything positive to the Universe.

I wish Kamini Banga would write more often as she has indicated that she would, in this collection. She looks beautiful with her lovely expressive eyes.

I leave with some notes…

Monday, April 17, 2006

Repetitions Galore

Recently I was at a seminar and one of the speakers there was this young guy speaking on the practice of witch hunting in one of the states in India. No, my post is not about witch hunting today :). Wait a bit! The young researcher was presenting his paper which was well written and researched and all of that but while he spoke, he uttered the word “basically” much too often, say one at the beginning, two in the middle and one more at the end of every sentence...

Well, that is what my post all about. Honestly, I was hunting for his “basically”s more than being able to pursue the content of his presentation. Now, I know that a lot of us repeat certain words and phrases when we speak but I express my grudges here only against those who indulge in public-speaking.

And the only reason that I do it is, that often I find myself having to put in hours and hours of concentration into listening to public speakers. The cells of my brain shriek in revolt but the good girl that I am, I smile and keep a brave face. But now having discovered the power of the blog, I do not hesitate – Repetitions galore! Repetitions (by the speaker), I find can be of two types: one, as I have mentioned above and the second type is repeating ideas, thoughts, viewpoints and factual information that the speaker wants to convey. Such speakers leave you with enough time to doze off and come back in time to catch the next line of thought.

Why must one be under a compulsive habit to repeat when on stage? In the former case I suspect, it is basically (smile) a lack of organization (in deciding the flow and content of the presentation) which manifests into such kinds of compulsive utterances. On the exterior it is interpreted as a lack of sensitivity towards the audience. Among the second type of speakers – the conscientious ones want to make sure that you have not missed the point while the vagrant among them simply love hearing their own voices. For example, one speaker at the same seminar spent at least half an hour explaining to a distinguished veteran group in the audience as to how important the work that they do is. An indisputable fact was harped upon which vexed many, no end.

Also what I find alarming is that most do not take the time limit seriously and where they appear to have any regards for it, be warned, they are only paying lip service. Our young friend mentioned at the beginning of the post, even usurped the role of the chairperson of the session and allotted himself extra minutes with due permission from the audience of course! Wow! Everyone in the audience was like me – good girls! Further, there are some who can be a combo of both types. In that jumble of words doing somersaults in your brain and your face holding back your emotions – you can easily qualify to be one of the most wretched creatures on earth.

Is there anything called the rights of the captive audience... just wondering, if there is, I would like to plead my case under it. Do I qualify as a “captive audience”?

PS: I always like to ensure my place nearest to the door.

This long over due post (nonetheless important to get out from my system) I make, with due regards to all public speakers of this world.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Random Thoughts

Another storey got added to the multi storey building in front of my house today. Little by little the sun is getting hidden behind it and I wonder if my balcony would be as glorious a place to spend the day time in by the next winter season. I saw the huge banyan tree in front of my house get converted to timber to make place for the multi storey. It was an extremely painful thing to see. For a few days I could not look at the tree straight because I was ashamed that I could do nothing to stop the destruction. I see the labors work day and night with cement, mortar, bricks and iron. They live in a slum across the street and in another just besides my house. As I type, I can hear their muffled voices in the field behind – they want to finish answering nature’s calls in the darkness – the flat owners around are annoyed to see them in the daytime. They are all migrant labors – either their land has dried up back home in their villages or they are landless or the market pulls them to this urban squalor.

Not one, there are 20 multi storey apartment blocks being built within a radius of a kilometer. I am concerned – how much of the airplanes will I be able to see in a few months from now...

As you drive up from Delhi to Gurgaon, the landscape is dotted with a large number of clusters of tall buildings. In the night one can tell that the occupancy of these apartment buildings is not much. I was inquisitive, so I asked and I was told that they “do” belong to someone but then that person already has some five apartments in various other places, and when he gets good rent this one would be let out... “Hmm interesting”, I said. Except in reality, I did not find the situation as interesting, it was revolting.

The much touted malls make quite a spectacle with the caked glitter. I mean why do these newspaper supplements go on week after week taking interviews of Gurgaon(ites) about how much the malls mean to them... like they would ask on mother’s day (whenever that is), how much does your mother mean to you... these days they pick young college goers to answer their questions and some lucky ones even get their photos profiled along with their responses. Hmmmmmph, nobody asked me, I have been to the malls thrice (these are "random" thoughts, remember... do not expect symmetry...). All said and done, the supplements don’t interest me anymore :(

Further along, there are these modern buildings scattered here and there, I was helped into understanding that they are “call centers”. Oh now I know I thought to myself where all those daintily clad young women who hop into tata sumos at the dead of the night every(night) finally land up in. Someone who I had met in the passing had told me how she had to learn to speak with an American accent. I had wondered, so it has come to this! She also told me how many young girls and boys have gone part time in college to earn the extra cash. I wonder if they would ever have time to read “To Kill a Mocking Bird” in their lives. I wonder.

Maple Street, Rosewood Towne, Mayfield Garden, Wembley Estate, Beverly Park, Oakwood Estate, Georgian Residency, Olive Apartments...... oh well! These are just a few names of the countless new constructions that have been built in the span of the last 10 years or are in the process of being built. Notice the similarity – everything “Hinglish” and now “Amrican” sells! This takes the cake – the lane behind my house is called Oxford Street... I went to supervise... (I have never been to Oxford by the way)... it was nothing spectacular.

I am not going to do any intellectual theorizing – I am simply not good at it but I know that similar things are happening to many cities in India and elsewhere. And I know it does not make my heart soar. I know that the globalization of this century is slowly burying our souls. I know it is programming our minds with its unique codes, and it has begun by silencing our inner voices...

Anyhow, not entirely. It will never be able to cause a permanent damage. That I have faith in. There is a group I have come across who without making any ado simply believe in the fact that hunger and poverty is not necessary in the world and they follow up their belief by feeding people who have no roof over their heads. They also do it as a means of protest against the unequal distribution of food. They call themselves, “Food not Bombs”. They have a
website, so I won’t write anymore.

Beginning from today we celebrate the regional New Years in India. Pongal is celebrated in the South and South-West India, Baisakhi in the States of Punjab and Haryana and Poila Boishak in Bengal (East). I wish an auspicious beginning to the New Year and much cheer and happiness the entire year through to all my visitors and to my Bong friends – here’s to delicious pulis and pithaes :) :) :)