Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Yin and Yang of it.

I do not know what will be the Ayodhya verdict. I am not even sure how the country will react? But I do know that it cruelly cut short my idyllic visit.

There were two school of thoughts. Some friends said that I was too inconsequential for anyone to harm me. I agreed. But others said that the frenzy of a mob doesn’t discriminate. So don’t take a chance. I agreed to that too.

But it isn’t a pleasant feeling to come back leaving your work half done. I left Manipal praying that things are good and I can return soon.

Manipal is a remarkable city built around the dreams and vision of one single man. I cant think of any other city with so many class educational institutions built with the vision of one single man. Its reputation brings an amazingly diverse student population from across the world. Old Mr. Pai can rest in peace. He did a good job.

There is something very endearing about Karnataka. The people are very charming and hospitable. I remember the last time I had stayed in Karnataka. It was another lovely town, Mysore. The year was perhaps 2008.Onal was doing her MBA and she wanted me to visit it once before she graduated.

Bengalaru is notorious as far as the traffic goes. It took me more than an hour to simply move out of the airport. Onal warned me not to take a taxi to mysore but board the bus as it would move faster. Smart advise. But I reached around midnight tired and hungry.

As I was checking in the hotel, the kind receptionist enquired if I had eaten anything. I told him that I was so tired that I wouldn’t mind a drink even if I had to go hungry. He apologized and said that their restaurant and bar was closed. My bad luck. I just grinned and said. He asked me to wait. He talked to the kitchen, I guess ,and told him that he had a guest from north and requested him to help. The man on the other side too was a thorough gentleman. He cheerfully obliged. I slept happily well fed. That is Karnataka for you. They would go the extra mile to help. I found the same hospitality here.

Coming to Manipal, it is a modern town yet uncorrupted by traffic and pollution. The eclectic crowd gives it a very cosmopolitan look. Yet it doesn’t have the ugliness of a large city.

The students are an active lot. I learnt it the hard way. A localite advised that ‘ The Blue water’ was the best bar in town. I decided to unwind there. Imagine my surprise when I found that the whole bar was reserved by some student’s community! That night all the bars had the same story. Finally I was banished to the annexe of the bar. A small room but very elegantly done. The good thing was that I had it whole to myself! The Yin and the Yang. The Chinese philosophy. The good and bad are two aspects of a single reality. How true!

I missed out the beach because it was raining. There is an added attraction to Manipal. Goa is hardly six hours from there. We have our roots in Goa. Its been a while since I have visited the Mangeshi temple, our Kul Devata ( the guardian God of our clan!). Perhaps I would be lucky enough to visit the next time.

Lata Mangeshkar, the melody queen is 81. She was everywhere on the television giving interviews. I was totally charmed. So much achieved and yet so modest. She has an aura which is hard to explain. There are so many octogenarians who look so graceful even now. I am sure they will bury us before they die.

Its all about Yin and Yang. They have more of Yang and less of Yin. I have more of Yin and less of Yang. Or is it the other way?

( Probably I must stop eating Chinese food! )

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Then and Now.

How time flies! For me it flew faster than the plane I shall be boarding soon!

A very loyal reader has complained that I did not write anything on the Ganesh Puja this time. My sincere apology lady. But you will agree that unlike a cat, I do not have nine lives. I had squeezed out every ounce of experience about the various Ganesh Pujas in my life in one previous post and I doubt if there was anything new to add. But your wish is my command. So I am uploading a picture I took from the gallery of our apartment.

I looked at the merry dancers and marveled at their high energy. God is omnipresent and omniscient. He wouldn’t mind my not being in the procession. So I seek my blessings from the comfort of my home. Farewell, Lord. We eagerly await you next year.

The immersion or the Ganesh Visarjan as we call, has always been my favorite because I had got the chance to hold the hand of my first crush when I was lost in the crowd when I was a ten year old and this girl,accompanied by her parents, too was following the procession. She spotted me and held my hand! How I had prayed that the procession never ended and I was never spotted by my parents! The procession ended but the memory stayed.

Today the only hands I get to hold is maybe an old lady needing help to cross the road.

Development need not always be good. At least for a maverick like me. I find this whole air travel an affront to the joy of travel. Give me the old fashioned train travel any day. Train was so much fun. The joy of planning, the eager wait, the avalanche of human beings when the train arrived and then the long laidback travel. Reading novels and magazines, munching snacks and listening to music till sleep took over. Mumbai was where my business took me the most.

I remember the Grand Hotel and its large tubs.It used to be so relaxing to soak in the nice warm bath and feel all the muscles loosen. We joked that we should keep the door of the bath open else we could die if we slipped in it with no one to help us get out.

Getting down at the VT station and walk till the hotel was so much welcome after a long travel. A quick shower , break fast at the udipi and off to work. After finishing the work, we would explore the city. Distances were never a problem. We would travel from one end to the other. Signing off at night meant fruit juice at Haji Ali and back even if we were at Nariman point or santa cruz. Didn’t matter.

In the last one year, I went to all the major cities- Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and now Bengalaru. Alas, all my favorite cities. Lots of happy memories attached. But each time it was just going by one flight and returning by another with a lunch thrown in. It really didn’t matter which city you were in since all you saw was the interior of some hotel.

Today was no different. I am sitting in the airport lounge in Bengalaru and thinking wistfully of Brigade road and the popular pubs and the lovely restaurants on MG Road. I have even forgotten the names. Its been so long. Never thought time would be at such a premium.

The boarding announcement has been made and I have to sign off. Tomorrow off to the serene and pretty Manipal, Karnataka, the educational city. This would be my first time and am naturally excited. I have the whole weekend in that idyllic place. No rush rush .I am so happy. Heard so many good things about the scenic beauty there. I cant wait.

Sister warned me to be careful as the Ayodhya verdict is due tomorrow. Does it matter any more? why are we in such a time warp? we are marching towards prosperity. why squabble over petty issues?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A date with Happiness!

What is true happiness? Wallowing in worldly comforts and living in an artificial utopia or minimal existentialism in the lush green nature?

This weekend experience was such that I was led to delve myself into this exaggerated philosophical drivel.

It was a spur of the moment decision. We were sitting and having our customary drink in the evening. Friday was a holiday. Saturday was Ganesh puja and Eid and Sunday was ,well, Sunday. The million dollar question was what do we do.

Suddenly a friend remarked why don’t you guys go to Srisalem. I had only a fleeting idea about it. But the moment I googled it I became hooked. The friend did warn that getting accommodation may not be easy and it would be prudent to book the Tourism guest house. Alas, when we called them, it was booked till Sunday.

But I was now hell bent. The lush jungles had captivated my heart. It is biggest tiger reserve in the country. I was willing to sacrifice anything to be in that natural habitat.

Srisalem is a sleepy little town about 250 kms from Hyderabad. It is famous only for its shiva temple. naturally only vegetarian food is served. The food is delicious but brace your self for some real spicy stuff. I could have done with a little less!

For the nature lovers, this trip is absolutely a resounding yes. Rains bring out the best in the nature. It has a very well fed and rich look. The green is a typical lush which can be seen only in the rainy season.

We were unlucky in that we didn’t spot any tigers. But monkey we did in dozens. There is also a deer sanctuary. You are allowed to feed them leaves which are sold by a young child for Rs.10 a bunch. Tony, our eight year old hero couldn’t feel satisfied. He must have purchased at least ten till the deers got bored. The monkeys got all our bananas apart from the peanuts that we purchased specially for them.

It’s a pleasure to watch the deers stand up lazily and come majestically to pick the leaves as if they are obliging you with a huge favor.

There was a bunch of godmen there. We definitely didn’t want to look racist or discriminating . So gave them a 100 bucks too. They all raised their hands in blessings. It was a picturesque moment. A dozen smiling , weather worn ,saffron robed men with snow white beard and long snowy tresses, their hands raised in unison. Unfortunately I missed it. That is the only picture which is hazy. Maybe they want you all to spend your money to admire it! That is why we call them god men!

The dam may not be very large (We have seen Bhakra Nangal before.) But it is captivating. I can even now close my eyes and feel the soothing gossamer spray of the water vapors against the skin.

The only downside is that there are not many hotels. Apart from the tourism hotel which is good, there are two other ones. But getting a/c room is impossible because of the queue. These run on donations and naturally the donors get priority.

I suggested we go to the forest. There are very pretty cottages in the forest too. But again even they were all booked. Finally we had to do with a very basic room inside the holy city of Srisalem. That too because we were Brahmins! Never knew that my caste would ever come to my rescue! Next time I may even try it in Boston. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase ‘ The Boston Brahmins’.

There is magic in the air which I think can be captured better by the pictures rather than by my slip shod prose. But if even they feel to capture the essence, remember, they were captured by me! it still doesnt take anything away from that paradise.

All I can say is that I plan to go much prepared next time I visit India and spend at least a week in the wilderness. This time I shall be careful to book the Air conditioned cottage.

After all there can be nothing more pleasing to the ears than the hissing of an a/c along with the chirping of the birds and a drink in hand would be better than two in the bar in Hyderabad.

And that drivel about minimal existentialism. Let us let it remain a drivel!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Through the Prism of an eight year old Picasso

I have known this artist for the last eight years. He is my favorite. Though I don’t know much about art but I rate him higher than Picasso. Picasso can never reach the heights this artist can. He can climb to the top of the hillock and leave me panting behind.

He is quirkier than M.F Hussain. While Hussain prefers walking bare feet, this artist prefers running around buff naked after his shower.

He has held no exhibitions so far. His art doesn’t sell for millions. But the happiness he provides is worth a million bucks.

He doesn’t carry any baggage. When I was booking my ticket for going back to USA, he requested me to stay back for the Ganesh Puja. When I shook my head, he bribed me with this wonderful sketch of Lord Ganesh. How could I say no!
It doesn’t matter if the cow is not red or the tortoise is not green. His is. That is final.

His interpretation is what matters. So when Lord Vishnu blesses his disciples, you can actually see the aura.

He has a hundred questions. Why do I need to go to USA? Don’t I have money ? he feels I am lying because he has checked my purse. It has enough to buy his cookies and candies. That is more than enough.

I promised him that when he grows up, we will hold his exhibition. He doesn’t know what is an exhibition. So I explain that lot of people will admire them. But he says he doesn’t keep them. He gifts them to his friends who make paper planes when they are bored with them.

So we buy him a file. He promises to draw many more till I return next year and save them in his file.
I am not sure whether he will sustain his interest next year. He has too many diversions. He loves dancing. Karate, playing organ. He is learning Spanish. Maybe next year there will be something else.

But I have to keep my promise. So Querido Tony ( his friends think that Tanmay is too long. So now he is Dear Tony!) I dont know what the future holds for you. but today let's celebrate your immense talent in a modest way.
With love and un abrazo ,
from your loving Tio ( That’s uncle in Spanish).

Friday, September 3, 2010

They save their Butts, we ours.

What a week!

Poor Salman Butt. He is smart. He is articulate. He is tainted. Only he is born in Pakistan If he was born in India he would now be an MP.

Better still, if he was Italian , he could have been elected unopposed as President of the largest party of India. So much for democracy!

Sonia Gandhi thanked her party men for electing her unopposed. Lady you can have all the party you want, but show me if there are any real ‘ men’ in your party!

The Janmashtmi was celebrated with its gaiety and fervor. There were dahi handi competitions everywhere. There was staggering money to be won.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Jitendra Awhad has announced the highest cash prize of Rs 65 lakh. Awhad's arch-rival, Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik's Sanskruti Yuva Prathishtan will give away Rs 55 lakh, of which Rs 25 lakh will be handed over to govindas forming the 10-tier pyramid. Congress leader Ravi Phatak's Sankalp Prathishthan has also announced a total cash prize of Rs 25 lakh. NCP leader Devram Bhoir has announced a cash prize worth Rs 10 lakh.
I have one suggestion though. Instead of the dahi handi hang the corrupt officials of the CWG. With their coats and pants full of money ,more money would fall even if the Govindas are able to shake them.
I was chatting with a friend yesterday and he asked me why didn’t I comment on either the CWG or the match fixing. There is nothing to comment really.
We take hypocrisy to the level of art and shake our sanctimonious heads at the brazen corrupt Pakistan coolly forgetting our own humongous scams. What will happen?
Nothing much . There would be another edition of IPL.
The CWG will come and go. Lots of money would be pumped in the opening and the closing ceremonies. No one would even bother about the games. The games would be declared successful.
The government would pat its own back. The great scam forgotten.
Pakistan would go in somewhat similar lines. Blame India.reject the proofs. pictures can be morphed. our guys are clean. Pat on our back.
Pakistan would save their own Ejaz Butts and Salman Butts. The Indian Government would save Kalmadi’s Butt.
The channels would have found something more exciting and spicy.
Life would go one as usual. We are Teflon coated. Nothing really sticks.
Not even corruption. However brazen.