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Category: People & Places (page 1 of 2)

Being a grandpa..

Being a grandpa is pure, distilled joy. I recently experienced grand-fatherhood.

Here  is what I wrote for the baby boy ‘Shlok’…..

Shlok
(a welcome song)

it’s a cold night in New York,
bleak brick and window facades,
lifeless buildings
endless roads
that criss-cross like an argument without purpose
time stands frozen in expectation

and then a whiff of warmth
a small muffled cry
of a life just begun

like a silent arrow shot into future
of life’s intent
to keep moving, keep going

i am a whiff of warm joy
when i see frozen wait and expectation
i curl up, warming every lap with love

central park sleeps
amid its barren trees, waiting
for the snow to melt
for the snow to melt and life to thaw
for the crushed roots to grow again
trees to wear twigs,flowers, birds, music, magic;

love will make it all happen
i am here to make it all happen
i am life’s longing for itself

life will go on with its intent
now that i am here

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Shimla in the rains

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When it rains in Shimla it is grey, dull grey. When the rain stops and the clouds lift, hesitatingly, a thousand shades of green explode. And then the journey back in time. A bit of nostalgia, a sepia memory, a lingering smell, myriad shades of green, rain and more rain. The cold seeps into the bones. Fluffy clouds drift into windows, rubbing on the roads, holding the whole town to its in its claws, not wanting to give up. Chilly wind and slush…the long walk home.

And then the break of the sun, thousand shades of red and orange, life is great, we are happy….let us go out, to the lovely crisp evening, to the mall road. Toss a new discussion around coffee cups. Gaze a million stars. The merry go round of faces, pretty faces…Years have passed and I remember Shimla, a piece of heaven as it were.

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Is ‘Anna’ phenomenon over?

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Like a match stick which fails to ignite first time, it so appears, Anna movement missed its mark. But he was up against an adversary of gigantic proportions. Who is this adversary? Why did it turn out to be a mountain of resistance when Congress, the party in power looked so clueless, helpless, isolated and ‘pinned on the wall’ against what seemed like a tornado of people’s aspirations. Herein lies the master stroke of deception.

The adversary, blocking Anna’s movement, as also aspirations of a billion people, was not congress party. It was a monolith, a mountain comprising of all political parties, entire polity, the bureaucracy, the law enforcement machinery, the press and the business.

How they maneuvered, plotted, executed and destroyed Anna movement is an unparalleled piece of India’s modern history. And why? More on this soon.

But did they manage to kill the movement?………not quite.

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Must (also) visit places in India

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Clockwise: Spiti, Coorg, Lakshwadeep, Pachmarhi, Mandu, Coorg

India offers a number of places to visit and unwind amidst picture perfect, stunning nature. There are also places and monuments made famous by history and time.

There are the famous spots, beaten to death by visitors. Overexposed but still timeless in appeal.

Then there are the ‘other’ places, not so touristy, not so cataloged, but equally beautiful. I will give out lists of such places, with a shorthand description. Should anyone want to know more, or better still, want to visit these places, please mail me. I promise to be of some help.

Pachmarhi: Quaint hill station, frozen in time. In Madhya Pradesh, the heart of India. You can walk/trek to pools and waterfalls in perfect harmony with pristine nature and hear your own heartbeat.

Coorg: Seclusion amongst coffee plantations, great people and spice trails. You are in the lap of solitude and lush forests. In Karnataka, south India.

Lakshadweep: Islands, reefs and atolls in the sea off Kerala coast. Reef diving, secluded holidays at fraction of price of similar better known places.

Lahaul & Spiti:  Himalayan desert land, cousin to Ladakh, spectacular views and ‘another’ world experience.   Different culture, Buddhist monasteries and sheer bliss.

Mandu: Fairy tale city in spectacular ruins. Immortal love story of talented Queen Roopmati, married to Muslim ruler Baaz Bahadur. Rich history.

There are many more. It will be my endeavour to keep sending out lists. Try and visit these places if you can.

 

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Kashmir Tales – 2

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Flower of hope…

It was an unusually harsh winter. Old man Bab and young child Baccha passed most of the winter huddled together. Old man held the child close to his heart. They survived  because of the warmth that only human touch can produce.

Bab had seen many winters before, only to welcome the spring sun as it kisses the wet earth and see a  hundred flowers bloom and hear the air fill with distant rhythm of a ‘Chhakri’

But this winter is different, he thought. It is a particularly severe winter. It does not seem to end. 

“Baba, Where do flowers go when the ground is covered with snow?” asked Bachha as he cuddled closer to Grandpa.

“They wait, they pray, their roots huddle together…just like us” Bab whispered.

“Have you seen this happen before?”

“For hundreds of years. Our winter never ends. Our God has forgotten us.” tears formed in his old, arid eyes.

“But why does this happen to us?” innocent quiver of the eyebrow.

“Because we are full of hatred. We are wretched people, we hate our kin.”

“Is hate like this winter? Will it never end?” asked Baccha

“Yes. It can. You can make it happen. You can let all flowers bloom, red and yellow and golden…” said Bab. Both fell asleep under that pleasant shadow of a hundred flowers.

Baccha got up in the morning and peeped through the window. Golden rays touched the ground. He saw the snow melting away. He saw tiny blades of grass sprouting from the ground…and he saw this most magnificent of flowers. Grandpa is wrong, he smiled, God has not forgotten us.

 

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Anna Hazare – Advantage ‘Anna’!

Anna-21-150x150Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come! In India’s current context it is not even an idea. There is a dire and desperate need to cleanse our system of corruption.  Lock, stock and barrel.

Prior to April 2011, an overwhelming majority of Indians were despondent, devoid of hope. Anna (colloquial for elder brother) was a local hero in Ralegan Siddhi, Maharashtra, having fought relentlessly against political wrong doers for over 25 years. He is a cult figure in that area, a dedicated leader who transformed his languishing village into a self reliant, progressive, flourishing community. No mean task that, however, still an obscure and localized achievement on a national scale.

Till Anna Hazare exploded on the national scene in April 2011, with an overwhelming pan national support, cutting across age, caste, religion and regions.  He touched hearts, stirred and mobilized public sentiment against corruption, like no one before, much like Mahatma Gandhi had done in the ’30s and 40’s.

From a local hero to a symbol of national hope. Why?

Anna is simple. He walks his talk. A Gandhi like minimalistic lifestyle, brutally frank opinions expressed in a rustic, hard hitting style of communication.

He is tough as nails. No dichotomy of word and action. A proven non-negotiable approach.

He is ‘Indian’. India rediscovered ‘Nationalism’ through Anna’s simplicity. There is a sudden respect for the Gandhi cap. There is a melody of nationalism in the air.

He mistrusts politicians. He shares a deep mistrust for the ‘politicians’ with 1.2 Billion people of this country. He understands the sly and unprincipled ways of Indian politics. The whole nation is loving him for that.

He is a ‘young’ old man. Energetic, full of stamina, optimism and die-hard approach, he is a role model for the young. He connects with youth who constitute half of India. His sway over youth helps him to keep the movement peaceful. They listen to him with respect. Never before have we seen a  connect so strong and a sentiment so clear.  All at a scale that can detonate political equations in the country with blinding intensity.

He is strategic. He plays his pieces carefully, with professional élan, starting with simple notes and then weaving complex symphonies. He is unpretentious yet totally in command. He leverages his strengths to the T.

India can now dream of a life without corruption. Suddenly hope has touched our shores, like a whiff of a long forgotten fragrance.

It is now or never, if the political class lets him survive that is. Till then it is advantage Anna!

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10 minutes of heaven!

I felt a very proud Indian as I stepped into Bangalore’s ‘Namma Metro’ coach at Baiyappanhalli (starting point for East to west line).

Third Metro in the country after Kolkata and Delhi and the only one with WiFi…It took off, as if on air a good 50 feet above road level, brushing lush green canopies formed by ‘namma’ trees, punctuated annoyingly by grotesque concrete houses and rooftops. Check out this video clip, Bangalore Metro.

There will be omissions and misses as the services and commuters settle down to a symbiotic routine. Not to worry. Not to complain. This is our toe hold into salvation that has eluded Bangalore for a long time.

On this glorious day, we should forget the delay in implementation of the project as also the sloppy handling of roads, construction, traffic, jams and massive public inconvenience for a good four years.

Let us salute all the workers, engineers and team Metro staff for doing a good job. Thank you.

My ten minutes of heaven ended too abruptly having halted at MG Road and with heavy steps I walked down the stairs to the hell that awaits us on every Bangalore road.

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Kashmir Tales -1

 

 

Kashmir-21-300x214Kashmir, our hero in these tales, is an old man. Just an old man, waiting for the day he will die. Wrinkled centuries are etched on his weathered yet handsome face. We will call him Bab, grandpa.

On this crisp November morning, he walks with determined steps, towards nowhere in particular. Close in his wake, walks his grandson. We call him Baccha, very young one. By now having walked for quite a while, Baccha was panting. Cold and tired to the bone.

“Where are you going, Bab?”

Silence.  Deep silence of the long, lonely valleys. Silence of the dead.

“Where are we going, Bab?”

“Nowhere. Just keep walking” answered grandpa after a long silence

“Then why don’t we go home?” asked innocence

“There is no home. Our home is lost. It is only fire and ruins and frozen dead.”

“Who did that to our home?” whispered innocence in a quivering, scared voice.

“Some people came from over the West Mountains and burnt down everything, killed everyone.”

“Why?”

“Because we called them in to drive our own brothers and sisters out of Kashmir. But they killed everyone in Kashmir.”

“Are we the only ones left?” little one was grey with fear

“Yes, Baccha. I have nothing to look forward to but death, and you are too fragile to survive on your own……” sighed Grandpa, his breath freezing in the chill.

He was worried, line of worry etched deep on his brow. Just like the long, lonely valleys of Kashmir.



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Bangalore pays price for progress

Bangalore started getting strangulated in the ’90s. Once a sleepy hamlet, not exactly known for industry or innovation, but surely the finest town in India was known for its picture post card greenery, fresh air and mint cool weather.

Between 1970 and 2000 Bangalore population exploded. From 1.7 Million in 1970 to 5.0 Million in 2000. In 2011, hold your breath, it is almost 10 Million. Add to this human zoo, an astounding 5 Million vehicles of all sizes and shapes, belching poisonous fumes.

Bangalore’s arteries are choking with humans, vehicles, garbage, stray dogs,  ….

  • Bangalore has the highest number of 2-wheelers in the world.
  • Bangalore has the highest number of pubs in India.
  • Bangalore has the highest number of public sectors and government organisations in India.
  • Bangalore has the highest density of traffic in the world.
  • Bangalore has the highest number of Anglo-Indians in India.
  • Bangalore was the first city in India to receive electricity.
  • Bangalore has produced the highest number of professionals in USA – almost 60% of Indian population abroad are from Bangalore.
  • Bangalore was founded in 2nd Century and still has the same infrastructure drainage & sanitary systems – the oldest in the world.
What has left Bangalore (forever) are its big majestic  trees, lazy moments around dosa and coffee, aimless walk in the drizzle, old sprawling bungalows peeping through foliage, leisure and coolcool  breeze. Sad barter for an urban eyesore!
…….
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Shimla in the hills

 

Most visible and the most photographed landmark in Shimla is the Christ Church on the Ridge. It is indeed an awesome monument, almost at the top of Shimla hill (further up is the steep Jakhoo top but not everyone visits that place!). With a tremendous backdrop, the church has imposingly presided over the town for over a century.  Church has a long and interesting history. It is ingrained into the lives of people of Shimla, be it a reference to a direction or a meeting place. Many a face lifts later it still retains its stoic grace and majesty, silently looking over a town, which has been blissfully busy with its own growth.

I have a few pics of The Church. Such a pleasure to see how it changed over the last century. But the surroundings (less described the better), are victims of pathetic, greedy urbanization. Shimla today is stripped of its joyous, peaceful charm.

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