Tag Archives: India

Unravel the Travel!

As promised (to no one in general), here’s a continued set of anecdotes from my trip to Gujarat!

Let’s begin right from the beginning of the trip, like is the norm unless I choose to write in reverse chronology. That’s a good idea but for another day!

Anyone who’s spent even a day on Bangalore roads would know how terrible a nightmare they can be, especially if you have a flight to catch. So  for my own mental peace and for all practical purposes, I left from home, four hours before my flight was to take off! And lo behold, I reached in just about an hour and a half, much to my annoyance and my cabbie’s surprise at my annoyance. The good people at the flight customer support counter however sent me off on an early flight as reward for my unacceptable promptness.

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That’s a long way to go! At Ahmedabad Airport.
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That’s a lot of lights! And white. At Mumbai Airport.

We came across not one or two but three locations where there were rubber band sellers – and when I say rubber band sellers, they were only selling rubber bands! A handcart full of crimson, kale, azure, gold, grey, fuchsia, violet, saffron, striped, polka dotted rubber bands! Out of curiosity, I asked one of those vendors what the price of the bands were and he said 1 rupee! Yes, you read it right – freaking 100 paise! 1 rupee! My first thought was how are they even surviving! My second thought was to buy a dozen or so of the bands. My third thought was exactly how much is the production cost of these bands if people are managing to sell these at such a nominal price!

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You get transported to the era of mutinies and sepoys with your first step in. At Diu Fort.

At one of the beaches, my sister was polite enough to do the human thing of clicking a picture for a couple of guys who requested her to. One of them started making small talk with her asking her if she was a resident of the town, did she know any good places to eat, et al. Having answered in monosyllables, we started walking away when one of them called out to her asking her, “I’m from the States. Would you want a picture with me?” Surprised, she refused. He insisted again asking, “Are you sure you don’t want  a picture with me?” While I was wondering if I could place his face to any of the Indian Americans I’d seen on the USA shows, my sister was muttering, “He’s freaking flirting with a 20 year old! He is almost double my age!”

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That’s vandalism, in modern times! At least something is changing with times. At Diu Fort.

We had visited a set of caves, to which there’s dispute about whether it was a geological formation or dug by the Portuguese for formation of the Diu Fort. Either ways, it was a beautiful maze of earth cut out in a variety of eerie and curiously un-human ways. There were stairs ending into nowhere, rocks hanging out precariously, cuts in the ceiling which didn’t seem to explain the purpose or history of its creation! And because it was so huge and devoid of many tourists, there were spaces where you couldn’t see another person as far as your sight and the maze allowed. The silence was harsh enough for you to hear your own breathing and each step you took creaked the twigs and dry grass below. I was thankful to have gone there during the day! In the midst of this little nowhere, was a bunch of DSLR equipped photographers capturing a to-be married couple’s shots. The pictures will turn out to be pretty, I tell you!

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Photoshoot, in progress. At Naida Caves.

When I recounted the saga of being stuck on the highway in a three hour traffic jam in the early hours of a new day, I did not mention a first I encountered! I managed to locate and confirm my first constellation sighting in the skies! It was the Big Dipper constellation, as confirmed by the StarTracker app I use, when I was very sure that it was Big Dipper! I wish I could have captured the night sky as pristine as I saw it, but technology has its limits and sometimes, what you see is too beautiful to be captured as is on camera. The camera just cannot do justice.

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Grainy, but memorable. At a resort in Gir.

Graciously Yours!

Life Notes #11.

Once in a while the Life Notes series of posts should be revived. They are so easy to title! 😉
***

I went on a tour to the Indian state of Gujarat with family recently. It was fun filled, exciting, adventurous, reminiscent of the two decades we have spent together. Sure we had our tough moments too but very well overshadowed by the good moments!

The driver we’d hired was peculiar though. He had a fascination with keeping the car clean! Within an hour of starting the drive, when food was mentioned he immediately requested us to not eat in the car. As the trip progressed, his fancies for taking care of the car started to become nightmarish for us. We couldn’t use the pouches at the back of the seats because they’d become shapeless then. We couldn’t put up our cramped feet on the seat. We had to check the soles of our footwear before getting into the car. We had to try and dust every grain of the beach sand from our clothing lest we carry it into the car – even if it meant waiting in the noon Sun for an extra half hour drying ourselves, our clothes and the stuck sand! There was a moment when a couple of us were sitting in the car waiting for the others to join and there at the side of the road, as our car stood, replete with dust (because well, Indian roads are dusty, especially when travelling between cities) our driver was dusting the car’s body with a cloth. Why on earth would someone do that in the middle of a 50 km drive? It would all just come back!

So needless to say, in our seven day trip I was dreading spending the 40 hours or so in the car travelling, with that guy at the wheel!

The last night of our trip was planned such that we’d be travelling overnight to our final destination. It was also our first night travel while he was at the wheel. Around 1:30 AM, we got stuck in a traffic mess on the highway. And we’d just crossed a scene of an accident ten minutes ago. In the pitch darkness of the roads, the night only lit by star shine and vehicle headlights, even overturned stones may seem like human skulls. If that wasn’t enough to spook me out, we found out that there was another mix up that had happened ahead and we would be stuck in the car for a while ~ too cold to step out, too stuffy to stay in. We switched off our car lights and music to save fuel. And good we did, because the jam finally cleared three hours later! About 25 kms from there, we again crossed an accident spot. By now, I had tremendous respect for the driver because not only did he have a steady hand but he was very careful while overtaking other vehicles or maintaining the speed limits! Though I had noticed this over the week, that thought never got a chance to come to the foreground, because of his affinity to keep the car clean.

His sole job was to ensure that we travelled safely and on time. And he did that brilliantly, not failing us even once. Yes, he wasn’t the most charming talker or accommodative enough when it came to his car but that is not what was earning him his bread and butter. His driving skills were, and they were top notch.

Note to self : It is so easy to judge people, make fun of their personality if it differs from ours, without thinking or asking why they do what they do, without bothering to know what makes them them. Where’s the fun in being empathetic and sensible all the while? But would you rather live easy or live right? 

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Stop those attacks of judgment on people. #BeBetterThanTrump #HadToMentionHim.

In the background is a 15th century well cut out of hard rock to preserve water. It has 162 steps of descent and is located in the Uperkot Fort in Junagadh, Gujarat, India.

Graciously Yours!

FanGirl-ing over Daniel.

I generally don’t do mid week posts. And certainly not early morning mid week posts! But here’s one thanks to Daniel Fernandes; and my roommate who rushed around the house waking up probably every soul in the building while she tried to not miss her morning flight from the airport 72 kms away!

Why I hate Fawad Khan – Daniel Fernandes Stand-Up Comedy

So Daniel Fernandes hates Fawad Khan. Quick update for all those who are lost. Well, Daniel Fernandes is a stand up comedian I admire because his genre of comedy does not necessarily involve literal below the belt material or undertones and overtones so harsh and vile that they need to categorised as adult material. Fawad Khan is a Pakistani actor who is the latest but not the last butt of Pakistan hatemongers residing in India. So why does this deserve a post, you ask?

Because :
1. I was surprised to read the title of the video. I didn’t think Daniel would actually say this. Considering it is a pretty baseless thing to say. Because Fawad is an actor by profession who acts to earn his livelihood and is nowhere involved in the policies and decision making of Pakistan and India not coming to a peaceful resolution to the 69 year old enmity.
2. I was too sleepy to remember that Daniel has a classy sense of humour that has enough sarcasm to make my day! Every day.

Now that we are at the point where we are being smart rather than liberal, I have a confession to make! Remember the chai wala who became famous and then landed a modeling contract? The same one Daniel is talking about.

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I didn’t like the pictures from his modelling assignment. The first picture was rustic, reflected what he is and showed such an honesty in his eyes. The one from the modeling assignment? Well, it just looks so made up, which it actually is. I am not saying he doesn’t deserve a modeling assignment, but is that all we can give him? Is the equation forever going to be so simple? Every good looking person should be handed a modeling or film assignment. Will their looks always overpower the values that define them, the stories they’ve lived through, the love they spread, the depth of their thoughts, the reason for their existence?

There are so many arguments Daniel has sarcastically and directly slipped in to his act, that I could write half a dozen blog posts on them! And maybe I will. But that’s for another morning. Not this.

I’ll leave you to do your thinking. You have a brain. Be smart, not liberal.
I think. Therefore, I am.

Graciously Yours!

Thought Flash #6

If marriages are indeed made in heaven, are you telling me God actually went about match making on the basis of caste? Or religion? Or even for that matter on the basis of gender?

Souls, as per last understanding, were gender-less. Caste-less. And religion-less. So how can my soulmate be from the same religion or caste as me?

Shouldn’t arranged marriages and ‘matches are made in heaven’ be mutually exclusive?

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Graciously Yours!

P.S. : This post is by no means an attack on your personal beliefs. I’m rather questioning mine.

The Ideal?

Her eyes teared up as she wrote another long, lying letter to her mother. A letter which would give away nothing of what was happening to her, which killed her bit by bit from guilt every time she thought of her mother.

Her mother had always been her best friend. She still was. But this time she couldn’t share her happiness with her mother. Or her pain. She looked at herself in the mirror across the bed. She saw her blurred self lying on the bed, papers piled up neatly on a hard bound dictionary. She covered her bosom with her saree. The red marks around her neck didn’t need a mirror as a reminder.

She was in love. With a man not her husband. She was in pain. With a man her husband.

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To be contd…

Graciously Yours!

Picture Courtesy : Pinterest.

The Pixel Way.

Four days ago, I was awkward, silent and judgmentally observant. Four days later, I am lively, chirpy and still observant but not judgmentally! Oh and 104% tired!

What happened in these four days, you ask? PIXELS ~ the photography club at the company I work in. They organised a three day trip to Kodaikanal, Madurai and Rameshwaram and those three days have by far been the best in the last couple of months! Except the family reunion, of course! Jeez Mom, don’t doubt my love for you fellas! 😉

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#EarlyRisingPerks! P.C. : Ajit Singh

Waking up to such scenes may be difficult but when you have friends to capture them for you, there’s nothing better! 😉 Kodaikanal at 13 degrees Celsius in the morning is the best way to wake up to! Until you realize that the geyser in the bathrooms doesn’t necessarily spout hot water.

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VIBGYOR and beyond! P.C.: Nishant Aggarwal
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Clicking the clickers. P.C.: Deepanshu Tiwari.

Sightseeing had never been this interesting! With so many cameras clicking around me, for once I didn’t have to bother about capturing places. I only had to live through moments in the best way possible.

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Making Memories ~ One Day At A Time!

Sometimes you meet the most unexpected people in the most unexpected places. Period.

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Wanna go for dinner, Darling!
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Note the logo. Says the Professional, captures the Amateur. (Hint – Baskin Robbins!)

The names of the restaurants, schools, colleges we came across were hilarious! Apart from these, a few that stood out were Booty’s. And the *drum roll begins* ‘American University of India’.

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Yeah, visiting date and time at the temple noted. #VandalismMuch

From temples to beaches, parks to caves, waterfalls to forests – we covered it all. And the one most obvious thing which I couldn’t manage to squeeze in? Shopping! Such a relief, I tell you 😉

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The Flowing Light. P.C. : Janakiraman G.

And that right there is how each of these talented photographers’ create magic! The Pamban bridge connecting Rameshwaram island to the Indian mainland is one of those marvelous pieces of architecture that we’re forgetting about.

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Nothing tires us ever. Except office!

Three days of fun has never been called long and short in the same sentence! Until now. To each of those who came together for this trip ~ thank you for making the heat, the hunger, the pain, the sleeplessness and the wait at the temples all bearable! 😉

Graciously Yours!

 

To Be Or Not To Be Human.

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I have fallen into the habit of keeping a Google News tab open on my laptop every day, choosing to read the daily news update as I get to the mails for the day. This morning, however, turned out to be quite depressing!

The top news trending on Google News was about the death of a HUMAN who was left on the roads to bleed to death after being hit by another HUMAN. If that wasn’t enough, a rotten, stinking, lousy mushed tomato of a man actually stole the victim’s phone and made off.

Accident Victim Bleeds To Death On Road In Delhi, Gets His Phone Stolen But No Help

If that wasn’t enough, video grabs showed that the hit-and-run driver did stop his vehicle and alight from it; but only to check the stupid, God-damned vehicle which is totally valueless in comparison to a human life.

And that is not how you want to start your day.

But how I end it is still my choice (well, almost, always. Unless you have some other blighted idiot choosing to trend on the world news). So I choose #Mission500K.

ThinkQuisitive  has collaborated with the Robin Hood Army this Independence Day to feed over 5 million people from India and Pakistan (In your face you country-splitters)!  They require your time and also your money (Let’s be practical, they will require contributions).

For a country hitting global news for leaving men to die alone on the roads, let’s get out on to the roads to feed people living there. And though #RHAKolkata does it every day, for one day let’s be a part of their team and make a difference to our own lives.

I will leave you to choose if you want to end your day better than I started mine. #TQThoughts coming up :

Event Page https://www.facebook.com/events/1257273490950810/

Music Video Link : https://www.facebook.com/robinhoodarmy/videos/1812778005621205

Newspaper article : http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/vishal-dadlani-farhan-akhtar-uday-benegal-robin-hood-army-india-pakistan/1/735843.html

Graciously Yours!

 

The Past Week.

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Considering I am writing this post half-asleep, ignore any errors that creep through, deliberately or not.

And now the question is why am I half-asleep halfway through the day?

Because I have traveled over 1500 kilometers over the past week.

Because I’ve put band aids on hurt toes to continue walking in damned new heels!

Because I have packed, repacked, unpacked at least four times in the last seven days!

Because I have slept in five different beds in those number of days.

Because I spent more awake hours in Bangalore traffic day before than  I slept in the night.

Because my kitchen is packed in boxes and my combs stashed with shoes, clothes buried under toiletries and phone charger all but lost.

Because I was searching for an apartment to sleep in at 2 AM, blankets in hand, friend by side, giggles the only sound and the winds our long time companion!

Because my leg is cramping, hands typing and mind fogging!

Hope to have weirded you out by now,

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : Please don’t ask ‘how are you’!

The unseen face.

PST

 

They could not afford the granduer of the Durga Puja pandals which were stretched across the length and breadth of the city. Their idol had none of the splendor associated with the city’s most festive days. They were five women praying to the strongest woman deity they’d ever known, celebrating her stories, wondering if she still existed somewhere among one of them.

Not many of them prayed anymore. Over the years, the numbers at the Puja had dwindled. She didn’t blame them. After all, how long can you fight against your own destiny and hope that things will change, tides will turn and the unthinkable will happen? But she hadn’t been able to forsake praying. That is the one thing that she had wholeheartedly learnt from her mother – to pray.

They weren’t a part of the privileged – if she could put it lightly. Goddesses and prayers couldn’t be an element of their daily living. Far from it, in fact. They lived in areas, the others called red light areas. She never understood where the name came from. She always wondered if the red light signified danger – and if yes, then were they a danger to society or was the society a danger to them?

She seemed to have lost herself in the sounds of the conch shell and the bells. The fragrance of the incense sticks devoured her into a trance.  Someone banged on the door. Snapping out of her trance, she opened the door. “How much longer will you all be at it? It’s almost sun down. You need to get to work,” the lady at the door, said strictly. The lady was not a bad person, but she wasn’t necessarily good either. She was, unfortunately, just right.

“We’ll be downstairs soon,” she said ruefully.

Closing the small 10 by 10 feet spare room which housed a small idol of the Goddess of the season, the five ladies trooped to their respective rooms downstairs. Taking off her red and white bangles, she kept them carefully in a velvet clothed box. Her mangalsutra* lay beside it. She’d never worn it after her wedding day. Tears welling up in her eyes, she kept the box tucked far inside her wardrobe. She removed her red bindi and stuck it on the top of the box. They were to be used again after a long time. Slowly she took off her red and white sari, an attire which held no significance in the life she was living, an attire that was to be kept hidden away from her ‘customers’, an attire that shouldn’t remind them in any manner of the life that was awaiting them outside the red light area.

She was faceless to them. Nameless to them. They wanted it that way. And she wanted to keep it that way too. She didn’t want to think of what her life meant – either to her or to them. She wanted to keep her dreams locked away in that velvet clothed box.

She was a devotee of  the Durga. But she couldn’t harness the Goddess’ strength in herself. They were devotees of the Durga too. And they didn’t want her to harness Her strength.

Graciously Yours!

Picture Courtesy : Prashant from Just Spoken Thoughts. Thank you for coming up with the beautiful sketch in almost no time! Hoping that this post will allure you into further creative collaborations! ;)

*The black and golden beaded necklace that signifies marital connection and is a part of the married Hindu woman’s attire.

We, the Indians?

A New Zealander’s view on the reasons for corruption in India:

Indians are Hobbesian (a culture of self-interest).

Corruption in India is a cultural aspect. Indians seem to think nothing peculiar about corruption. It is everywhere. 

Indians tolerate corrupt individuals rather than correct them.

No race can be congenitally corrupt.

But can a race be corrupted by its culture? 

To know why Indians are corrupt, look at their patterns and practices.

Firstly:
Religion is transactional in India.

Indians give God cash and anticipate an out-of-turn reward.

Such a plea acknowledges that favours are needed for the undeserving. 

In the world outside the temple walls, such a transaction is named a “bribe”. 

A wealthy Indian gives not just cash to temples, but gold crowns and such baubles.

His gifts cannot feed the poor. His pay-off is for God. He thinks it will be wasted if it goes to a needy man.

In June 2009, The Hindu published a report of Karnataka minister G. Janardhan Reddy gifting a crown of gold and diamonds worth Rs 45 crore to Tirupati.

India’s temples collect so much that they don’t know what to do with it. Billions are gathering dust in temple vaults.

When Europeans came to India, they built schools. When Indians go to Europe & USA, they build temples.

Indians believe that if God accepts money for his favours, then nothing is wrong in doing the same thing. This is why Indians are so easily corruptible.

Indian culture accommodates such transactions morally. There is no real stigma. An utterly corrupt Jayalalitha can make a comeback, just unthinkable in the West.

Secondly:
Indian moral ambiguity towards corruption is visible in its history. Indian history tells of the capture of cities and kingdoms after guards were paid off to open the gates, and commanders paid off to surrender.

This is unique to India.

Indians’ corrupt nature has meant limited warfare on the subcontinent.

It is striking how little Indians have actually fought compared to ancient Greece and modern Europe.

The Turks’ battles with Nadir Shah were vicious and fought to the finish.

In India, fighting wasn’t needed, bribing was enough to see off armies.

Any invader willing to spend cash could brush aside India’s kings, no matter how many tens of thousands soldiers were in their infantry.

Little resistance was given by the Indians at the Battle of Plassey.

Clive paid off Mir Jaffar and all of Bengal folded to an army of 3,000.

There was always a financial exchange to taking Indian forts. Golconda was captured in 1687 after the secret back door was left open.

Mughals vanquished the Marathas and Rajputs with nothing but bribes.

The Raja of Srinagar gave up Dara Shikoh’s son Sulaiman to Aurangzeb after receiving a bribe.

There are many cases where Indians participated on a large scale in treason due to bribery.

The question is: Why do Indians have a transactional culture while other ‘civilized’ nations don’t?

Thirdly:
Indians do not believe in the theory that they can all rise if each of them behaves morally, because that is not the message of their faith.

Their caste system separates them.

They don’t believe that all men are equal.

This resulted in their division and migration to other religions.

Many Hindus started their own faiths like Sikh, Jain, Buddha and many converted to Christianity and Islam.

The result is that Indians don’t trust one another.

There are no Indians in India, there are Hindus, Christians, Muslims and what not.

Indians forget that 400 years ago they all belonged to one faith.

This division evolved an unhealthy culture. The inequality has resulted in a corrupt society in India where everyone is against everyone else, except God ­and even he must be bribed.

Brian from Godzone

NEW ZEALAND

A friend sent this to me a month ago. And all I could say then was, “If I think he’s right, it makes me less Indian. If I think he’s wrong, it makes me untruthful to myself. Undoubtedly, his is a very Western point of view and I’m sure there are cases in non Indian countries where bribes have won them wars and treachery for money wasn’t unfamiliar. But I neither have the information right off the tip of my tongue nor do I intend to look up for it because that would just result in mud slinging and digressing from a thought process which deserves a second thought, at least.”

A month later, I think it’s time we gave it a second thought. What are we doing to ourselves? Are we so afraid of failure that we will keep kneeling before idols? Don’t we want the chance to retrace our steps to find out our mistakes? Or is the ultimate goal always money? Isn’t that what makes us corrupt? Isn’t that what has always led to wars, be it Indian or non-Indian? How does it matter what the other person’s religious beliefs are? How does it matter if they pray five times a day or once a week? How does it matter if I am an Indian or an Irish? After all, country borders are nothing but ‘shadow lines’.

Yes, Brian from Godzone is right in a lot of ways. He’s right when he talks about wealthy men giving more to Gods than to other poor men. He’s right that temples collect so much that they don’t know what to do with it. He’s right that our caste system separates us.

But he’s wrong if he says all Indian men are self-centered! India is a large country. 1.25 billion people out of the Earth’s 7 billion live here. If we were all equally selfish and vain, the world would be far from over by now.

He’s wrong if he thinks only Indians played underhand in wars. “At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War.” (And it took me just 30 seconds to lay hands on this information.)

He’s wrong if he thinks it’s our Hindu religion which makes us worse as humans. No. We are the ones who choose to pay to the Gods. They didn’t ask us to. Let’s not sling mud on Them. I wouldn’t want to point out how many controversies the Churches are embroiled in.

He’s wrong if he thinks only Indians have divisions in their societies. At least we don’t pick people on their skin colour. Oh wait. We do. Fair and lovely. Fair and handsome.

This isn’t about WHO’S RIGHT and WHO’S WRONG. This is about WHAT’S RIGHT and WHAT’S WRONG.

And corruption is wrong. War is wrong. Dealing with religion in money is wrong.

But so is intolerance. And mud slinging. And generalizing!

Let’s just try and make the world a better place to live in. There can be nothing more right than this. Would you want to agree, Brian?

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : Friday post! Because Saturdays were becoming too predictable 😉