Category Archives: Rubrics

Just a thought that popped up in a flash.. A few based on my personal experiences and a few others by watching the others.. My views and rules on how a society has to be built…….

What has the spiritual capital taught me at Banaras?

Kashi for the pilgrims, Banaras for the historians and Varanasi for the modern… How it is religiously important, culturally vital, historically notable… There is enough said and done about this city through literature that is available as early as mythology, history and the modern contemporary. If I had to write about the same stuffs here, then this post would be just another summary with my perspective in it. However, I still use this one sentence to re-iterate the common belief: ‘No time is long enough to be at Banaras’. The immovable faith of the people, the ever crowded streets, delectable street food, the elusive power of the Naga Babas, the hippie culture of the westerners, the rich history, the mythological importance, the intriguing cultural heritage that is impossible to fade, dance, music, poetry, handloom, education, art, architecture- The list goes on endlessly that holds so much significance. Hence, keeping it all aside, I wish to make a list of what this city offered to teach me-

1. Work is Worship: This old man agreed to pedal us around for a rickshaw tour of the heritage campus of Banaras Hindu University. The humility in his speech, the five-o’clock shadow in grey on his weather beaten face and the sinewy legs spoke volumes of his wisdom and hard work for this 60+ someone. He has seen those innumerous people come and go to this sacred land. At the end of the tour, he stopped at the Bharat Kala Bhavan museum complex on the university premises. We told him that we wouldn’t need much time there and would be back in half-an-hour. We failed with our words, and the quickest we could come out is after one-and-half hours. There was no sight of this old man for as long as we could stretch our vision. The man did not carry a cellphone and we didn’t know his name to even ask the people around. We had waited for another 30minutes now. We were uncertain whether to wait for some more time or leave without paying his fees. In just then, we heard the tinkle of his cycle bell as it screeched to a halt in front of us with a little girl in the rear seat. He explained, “I was getting late to go pick up the kids from school and drop them home, they would panic or else”. This man did not worry if he lost the money that we owed him, there was something else he considered more important. As we sat on the rear with the little girl on my lap, I was reminded how for this man ‘Work was Worship’. One has to stay committed to what has been assigned.

2. Solo travel helps in self-discovery but having a travel mate provides security: While we finished the Ganga Aarti, savoured some delectable street food and returned to the hostel at around 10.00.p.m. we found that 3 of our roommates were fallen motionless. We checked with them to know what had happened. While one held on to her stomach and started to cry of pain, the other 2 ran to the restrooms… Having barely any strength to talk or stand, one of them managed to say that they had food poisoning. On being requested for help, the men running the hostel conveniently pushed the responsibility of nursing the girls on us. Since, 2 of them were burning with high fever, we rushed them to the hospital (supposedly the best in town) for medication. On arrival, the hospital authorities refused to provide first aid without submitting their passport and paying an advance of Rs.30000. Forget being able to talk, these girls barely had any conscious to tell us where they had kept their belongings. And we ourselves being strangers in the place, it wasn’t going to be easy helping those girls. It was well past 12.00.a.m. while we were running around the dark, rainy streets of Varanasi for the required documentations so that the girls could get their first aid ASAP. With the physical condition they were in, with a no-electricity night, cocky/horny street hawkers who hovering around and adamant auto-rickshaw drivers trying to make quick bucks out of the helpless situation, it would have been rather impossible for the expats hadn’t they found us! While the attitude of the guys running the hostel, the hospital and one of the girls among the patients itself is a story to write about, this whole episode taught me one thing- The importance of having company while travelling or at least having an acquaintance in the place you wish to travel.

3. Serving food is divine, do it from your heart: There are eateries in every nook and corner of Varanasi that serve authentic cuisines from almost all parts of the world catering to the international tourists who throng in large numbers. Any food that is offered with a true heart gets its added flavours… We had found our favourite hangout at the Phulwari restaurant, conveniently sharing the premises of the Godowlia Kaali mata temple. With a traditional ornate welcome gate opening into a casual shack like place with basic cushions and bamboo chairs and a mud-smeared kiln for making their wood fried pizzas, it offered a very warm ambience. And having personal attention from the waiter was overwhelming. He made sure we got precisely what we wanted while we were confused running through the long menu. He even went to the extent of getting some herbal drink from the next street to help me with my headache. He offered us with the best thandai of Varanasi, chilled to perfection and served in clay bowls to retain its authentic flavour; delivered at our hostel on the last day of our visit! There is so much more about providing customer service and hospitality- this man was his best!

4. Do not question the untold: The Ganges is a powerhouse of inspiration. She’s holy, pure, sacred and selfless. While we took a ride along the shores of the holy river, the veteran boat man patiently answered all our questions about the holy city. While umpteen things can be discussed in lines of communalism, history and science, Not to be debated about: the Ganga at Banaras is a lifeline. It’s a way of life. Irrespective of religion, caste and creed, faith is the only thing that has kept the people going here… Every baby born in this land imbibes it in the genes… It’s at times important to understand the significance and let things be. Do not be overwhelmed to exhibit your education by venturing into a zone to only be littled by the magnificence of the faith.

5. There is no escape from the cycle of life and death: While we were sitting on the steps of the Manikarnika Ghat and watching the flames engulf the body of the deceased on the banks of the holy river, a volunteer sat next to us to proffer the knowledge about the significance of every ritual in Hinduism starting from the birth of a person until he bites the dust. He goes on to explain why Hindu culture does not encourage women from performing the last rites. Women being emotionally weak, tend to cry at funerals. This makes it difficult for the soul to break the attachment and leave the body. With soot from the fumes rising from the burning ghat had settling all over us, it was a good long 2 hours of narration of the rituals associated with life and afterwards. At the end of which, I was left wondering with a continuously running stream of questions about life and finding its worth. They were thousands of unanswered questions which I hope to come back to the ghats someday, to find all my answers!

Giving a new perspective to my travels- a biking expedition in the Himalayas

When my name was included in the list, I had a bag of mixed feelings. I was glad to have got an all sponsored trip to one of the least explored parts of the country. But at the same time, I had my apprehensions about being a part of an organized trip. I was excited to travel on one of the deadliest roads in the world and then the fear of being a misfit as a pillion among what was supposed to be a biking event with professional riders from across the country kept flashing frequent thoughts of pulling-out of the event! And finally the evening arrived, where we had to start our journey towards Jammu Tawi- The start-point of all the action filled seven-memorable days of my life!!!

No one knew the other fellow rider at the start, but during the course of time- each one ensured they stopped, waited and helped the next one in times of need. Reaching the destination on time did not matter to anyone; they would halt and wait when the rider behind went out of sight in the rear view mirrors. Whether it was running to lift up a rider who slipped on the slush pool or to push one up the steep valley roads when the machine refused to move… whether it was picking up a fallen silencer of a rider who has gone way ahead without noticing or going back to get tools from the back-up vehicle to fix a broken bike.. Whether it was escorting a rider whose headlamps and brakes had given way while riding at night on the treacherous Paddar Valley or towing a halted biker all the way on a militant infested highway… And then, on the last day when I had a miraculous escape from death while trying to avoid overriding on a biker who slipped off-his-course, the entire battalion of riders had stopped by to check on my sprained leg! No fights, no misunderstandings, no quarrels- It ain’t a common thing while you are traveling with a group of over 80 riders from across India who were all strangers. But, they were all united and stood by each other at every turn (literally!!) of life during these 7 days…

Doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers were all just educational qualifications. While some made it after a nasty tiff with their bosses, yet a few had quit jobs to do this trip. While some rode to satiate their hunger for travel, some rode to earn livelihood for their towns through promotion of tourism. While some came to make few quick bucks with their photos and videos, yet a few came to love the mountains… Yet, a few rode to spread the good word of beautiful landscapes, safety to travelers and cultural wealth of their hometown which otherwise is perceived with horror and poverty. Every rider had a purpose to travel and a story to tell that’s associated with this trip. Irrespective of the geographical, cultural and educational differences- Travelling was the common religion and riding was the only God… No one big, no one small. No one to judge who you are… For a person that I am who otherwise likes to go slow, walk and take in things and places at my own pace- riding only meant whizzing past things with speed… What I realized during these 7 days is that there lies a whole new perspective to life out there- Biking binds people like brothers… Cheers to all the wonderful friends I made here, who helped me to create truck loads of wonderful memories that I can cherish for several years to come…

The route we covered over the week was Jammu-Mansar-Basholi-Sarthal-Baderwah-Kishtwar-Gulabgarh-Sansari-Gulabgarh-Patnitop-Udhampur-Jammu. It was a complete package with picturesque landscapes accompanied with art, history, culture, religion, natural resources, adventure, offbeat traveling. It had something for every kind of traveler. I strongly recommend this trip for every person who wants to travel but do not like going to the commercialized and overly crowded places that are so done and dusted. This stretch is a must-do once in a lifetime thing!

I will be posting details of each day and each place that I visited in separate posts in days to come. Do subscribe and get updates 🙂

This trip was sponsored by Jammu tourism and We thank you @lovenature_rahul and trippin_on_life for giving us this wonderful opportunity.

 

The journey through Uttar Pradesh State Elections- 2017

I’m not a political person and I don’t prefer blogging about something that can spark a political row with my writings.. But, this one goes here because I want to narrate the election campaign as seen through my eyes as a traveler traversing through a state where the election fever had hit hard! One of the most awaited elections of the country and an important one for the current ruling party of the state to prove their influence.. Uttar Pradesh State elections!

Firstly, we were roaming the streets of the state capital- Lucknow. One fellow told us, “There were elephants standing at all corners and across all streets, then the cycle lanes were laid. Neither the elephants nor the cycles did any good to the city. Unemployment is an evil left over by the previous governments. Ours kids are struggling in the slush. Let us give a chance for the lotus to bloom.”

Moving ahead, we were temple hopping at Ayodhya. A local boy offered to be our guide. We were amused with the stringent security checks and the big political drama directed by man in the name of God. Just as we were talking among ourselves, our guide blatantly told- “Don’t worry, you will not have to go through all this when you are here next time. ModiJi aayenge tho sab theek hojayega! (ModiJi will resolve everything)”

The following day we were at Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Modiji himself! It was election day when we arrived there. The security was tight and with very less traffic, the spiritual city was a sight. That said, we went for a boat ride along the Ghats of the Ganges.. Explaining the history and significance of each ghat, our boatman rowed the vessel forward. In between he said- “Do you see that structure up there? Modiji aayenge tho uss Masjid ka samasya ka hal mil jayega (The issue around that mosque will be solved if Modiji wins), pointing at a mosque that is a subject of historical controversy.

It was 11th March: The D-day.. We were travelling to our next destination- Allahabad. The counting of votes was in progress and the poll trend was being aired by all news channels.. The customers in shops and hotels were glued to their TV screens.. Our fellow passengers were lost with news updates on their smartphones.. The driver and conductor of our bus caught up every now and then to get updates on the running poll trend.. Clearly, curiosity and anxiety were the only things in the air.. Everybody was discussing about who or which party would win the elections. We caught up with a conversation with our oarsman while being rowed to the confluence. He was casually talking about how he had left home to find a better job but later returned back to his family with the grace of mother Ganges et all.. And in the event, he told us that, “Mother Ganges gets more polluted on her journey forward through Banaras. But, Let us give a chance to Modiji, Ganga Zaroor Saaf hojaayegi! (Ganga will definitely become clean)”.

It is a very tough deal to commit for something as big as this, given the various religious, cultural and sentimental dimensions linked to everything that requires a change. These were not just hopes, It was an assurance given by the BJP.. It made me realize how just one man has changed the way common man looks at politics.. At any situation, we must stick to the basic morals of being an Indian- Secularism is the beauty of India! Exhibit ‘Unity in Diversity’ because the nation needs us.

And in between all the frenzy, we were waiting at Faizabad junction for our night train to Varanasi.. A train with no display board thugged slowly on Platform no.1. In the next few minutes, we were amused by looking at the platform. It was crowded with the men in uniform till as far as our eyes could reach on both ends. We saw arms and ammunitions being stacked up on the pavement and dedicated men with rifles guarding them. In a time where the entire nation was celebrating Holi, it was a strange but an overwhelming event to watch so many personnel from the armed forces who were there on duty. I hold very high regard for the defence personnel who guard us regardless of time and place. I had goose-bumps for having been in the midst of all this action. I couldn’t contain my anxiety and spoke to one of the men, while a couple of others joined in. We were told that they were from the Border Security Force (BSF) and had travelled down from Srinagar for security reasons during the state elections. That gave us an idea of how massive and sensitive the event of elections in UP is for whom, things are a lot peaceful and easy back in our home state- Karnataka.

Coming back to politics, declaring the party leader / Ministerial candidate before elections is a normal way to attract votes from the public based on various other parameters. In contrary to this style, having fielded no chief ministerial candidate; the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has managed to win the great battle with just the name of one man- ModiJi! A sweeping victory of 325 /403 votes that has pushed the entire nation into amazement. Now, that the lotus has bloomed, whether the fragrance of the flower or the stench of the drainage would spread is left for the citizen to watch..

My hotel nightmares in India.

The long list of places I’ve travelled to and stayed at have given me a new insight to life and a new outlook at seeing life through.. The journeys have been enriching and the stays have added a new dimension to the travel. From five-star luxury to shoe-string budget hostels- I’ve stayed there all. While the pleasant ones were many, there is its own share of hopelessly aweful places. So here are a few ghastly and horrendous stays I have opted for during the course of my Indian discovery.

1. It being a pleasant season in the holy town of Rameshwaram, we had checked into a decent non-AC lodge at noon. After freshening up, we went out for sightseeing and returned to our room post dinner. We unpacked all our girly goods and let most of our wet lingerie strewn out for drying. It was around mid-night and I was just about to fall asleep and my friend Madhu screamed out loud. HECK! I jumped out asking what had happened. She switched the light on and started to pick up 1,2,3.. Bedbugs! She was allergic to them and the rashes had spread across her body. We spoke to the hotel manager and he arranged for an alternate room which he claimed would be good due to A/C facility. While we moved in our luggage and shut the doors, my friend lifted the bed to just reconfirm that everything was alright. Alas! More bedbugs were partying around the hemline.. We ran to the reception and asked them to give a permanent solution. They somehow managed to arrange a room in a nearby hotel after having themselves confirmed the room quality. So the next thing we were found doing was- Two girls walking the empty streets of Rameshwaram at well past midnight with half zipped backpacks, untied shoes in our feet, wet lingerie hanging out of the luggage, random plastic bags on both hands and anxious faces searching for a place to spend the night.. It was almost dawn by the time we settled down in the alternate accommodation provided.

2. We can’t blame anyone for this one- there was nothing else for us to expect while being stranded in the middle of a winter trek and the night temperature at 25 below zero!! We were at Leh town in Ladakh. No plumbing would work in that part of the world in that season for obvious reasons. We found ourselves in a homestay where we had to fetch water to do our daily chores. We had to break through the frozen layer of ice just so, that we could get half a bucket of hot (warm) water from the bottom of the same drum placed on fire. The bathroom waste was collected in containers which would overflow now and then making us want to throw-up very often.

3. The overly broken plumbing of the Chidambaram lodge is something that tops the list. It was a place that changed my mind to cutting-short my week long trip on just the 2nd day and making me want to go back home ASAP.. As if the stench from the nearby gutter, the smell of alcohol from the adjacent rooms and the super dirty bed covers weren’t enough, the washroom was moss covered and the faucet rusted as if it would break if operated… And to top it all, We stepped on someone’s barf that was spewed up on the stairs.. YUCK!! This has really given me strong reasons to have apprehensions towards online hotel booking based on guest reviews..

4. This one was a highly recommended budget stay option at Panchgani. It used to be a school hostel until being converted to a hotel which has hosted several movie shoots in the past. After hearing positive reviews, we two girls were surprised to find that the property seemed rather deserted when we arrived there. We were the only guests and that too on a weekend.. Although the room seemed decent for the tariff quoted, we still had some apprehensions for being the only people and our safety.. Just when we were in the process of decision making, both our eyes were caught by some strange thing just a little outside our hostel room.. Some white fur like stuff hung out of a large boiler sort of an equipment. We kind of panicked and asked the warden what that was. He told us it was a water boiler and the hard water had deposited along with some insulating material on the top. It definitely looked strange and scary. We did feel that it was a dog inside the boiler and it was their long furry tail hanging out of the barrel.. If it was our imagination, it is so not possible that both of us had the same thought.. We stared at each other and rushed out of the place without any further discussion..

5. So after a nightmare-ish pursuit of an accommodation, we finally checked into a hotel that evening at Panchgani. Everything was fine until my friend came out running from the bathroom. When asked what happened, she anxiously pointed out at the bucket placed under a running tap with a blood red liquid! The bucket was half full already with what seemed like blood.. I ran down to the reception and they came upstairs to check for facts from our bathroom :p They realized that it was rust particles from the overhead metal tank and pipes due to hardwater being constantly heated. We were somehow convinced with the explanation given, but I had no courage to continue to bathe in that water. However, to our rescue the water from other taps seemed to have a normal colour and we completed our basic chores…!!

Summary:

Do not suggest hotels, places and dishes/food to anybody. The choices and preferences vary from each person based on their character, mood, budget etc. Avoid being blamed later!

The Malaysian Bucket List

The Malaysian travel has been in my mind for quite some time now, However it is not materialising, all thanks to the lack of the right organiser… While most of my friends and acquaintances have visited this small yet beautiful country, I’m not quite convinced with the places they have visited in their bland agent made itinerary covering the usual and the expected spots of Malaysia. Come on..!! This place has LOT MORE to offer.. lot more to explore.. So here goes the top 5 must do things I choose which wants me to go there…

1. A day out exploring the rainforests of Sabah with the endangered Orangutans at the Sepilok Sanctuary: – The orangutans are the two exclusively Asian species of extant great apes. These primates are only found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

2. Cave exploring at the Mulu Caves National Park: This place is home to world’s largest cave chamber and one of the longest networks of caves in the world which is capable of accommodating forty Boeing 747 airplanes. The world’s longest canopy walk and seeing the cave swiftlets swarming out into the jungle in great clouds every evening would surely be an experience of a lifetime.

3. Scuba diving the World war II shipwreck sites at Pulau Redang Island: This place is home to about 31 finest dive sites including 2 ship wreck sites and a black coral garden..

4. Waving a ‘Hai’ to the toothless 130-year-old croc at the Teluk Sengat Crocodile farm: This place is a home to over 1000 salt water crocodiles and a nice place to study the habitat of these reptiles.

5. The colourful Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon fiesta: Over 21 countries participating in this event makes it even more special and the name hot air balloon itself gives me goosebumps in excitement….

So now, for the adventure traveller… go there and explore… there is much more that this little island country has to offer.. I choose to re-quote from the contest website: Celebrate, Explore, get Inspired and Escape into a Truly Asian Paradise! 

Malaysia Tourism
Malaysia Tourism

I am participating in the MalaysiaJao Blogathon Contest in association with BlogAdda.com.

Break out free.. Happy new year 2014

<02-Jan-2014>

It is that time of the year yet again, when everyone wishes good for their near and dear ones.. And for me- it was time for another surprise gift at work with a thought to ponder for the year ahead.. Remember- I received an aquarium from secret Santa in 2013 ? This time, I had a paper crane placed on my table with ‘Happy New Year’ written on it… It looked sweet 🙂

And then the man behind this message, himself spoke. ‘Do you get what it means?’

“Hmm yeah.! Its the paper I had circulated in office for everyone to write the farewell message before Mr.ABC left.. You’ve made an Origami bird out of that and returned it to me.. That’s sweet.. Thank you :)” I said.

“Yeah.. But, this is the one from Prison Break..” he explained.. “Anyways.. Happy new year :)” he said.

The lead character in this TV series sends origami cranes with coded messages on them to his significant other. The cranes signify the fact that everything will eventually be okay. (I think that’s what it means in Japanese culture).

This little thing on my table was trying to communicate to me that it was time for me to start finding a way to break out.. Break free from the monotony of life.. Oh yeah..!! This simple piece of paper craft makes so much sense to me now..!! And it is high time I start considering it.. Thank you sooo much friend… for putting that reminder on my table.. I will now be reminded when I see it every morning until I find my way.. 🙂

The Year that was… 2013

It is the 1st day of the new year.. But, before embracing the new palette of lessons, I would like to sum up the gonebys.. The YEAR 2013- has been so much to me.. Both personally and professionally..

 A brief peek into the professional part of it:

* Jan-13 is when I completed my probation term and earned a designation to call myself..

* 2013 is when my independent address to the top management, heading a supplier audit, handling a dealer audit solely and chairing an affiliate meeting all happened for the first time.

* Two good friends/ Teammates bid farewell to the organisation.

* New job roles, new team, new responsibilities- The year has been quite a roller-coaster ride.

 On the travel front– the year started with a farewell to the lead planner of all our trips..

* A farewell trek up the Madhugiri hill

* The walk along the east coast searching for turtle eggs with torchlight

* Suba diving, snorkelling, sea walk et all in the deep blue waters of Andamans

* A refreshing weekend with mom in Gokak-Belgaum-Dharwad

* A farewell drive down to Avalanche-Ooty-Masinagudi

* A drive to welcome a friend to Sakleshpur-Somwarpet

* Wedding shopping in the streets of Chennai

* The Big-fat-Indian wedding bash at Delhi

* An official trip with lot of time for sightseeing at Trivandrum

* A business trip well spent amidst the traffic chaos of Mumbai

* And the climax- Awesomeness in wilderness: The Tiger census..!!

To sum up: 2013 has made up for every aspect of travel- liesure, adventure, exploration, fun, tradition & profession.

A coin that I hold close to my heart - it represents happiness- double in 2013
A coin that I hold close to my heart – it represents happiness- double in 2013

 And now… the BIG CHUNK- “My personal life”

* The year in which the wedding bells chimed for 2 of my besties as they entered the next phase of their lives 🙂

* The year in which my BESTIE owned his prized possession – his 1st house 🙂

* The year in which my mommy celebrated the peak of her career with her promotion 🙂

* The year goes down in chronicles for all those innumerable overtime working hours with the wonderful memories:)

* The year gave me that special moment for lending a shoulder for a grieving friend 🙂

* The year which bestowed me with all those lovely wednesdays 🙂

* A year for facing the wrath of moral policing – shelling out fine for drunken driving at mid-night 😦

* A year in which I recklessly forgot almost ALL important birthdays..:(

* Time crunch in this year has shrunken my social circle, but thats what I want to thank the year for- time does not give everyone the opportunity so early in life to pick those few friends who will stand by you till the end.

2013 has given me more joy and less grief than any of those gone-by yester-years.. A BIG THANK YOU to the year that blessed me with love & happiness with the most wonderful people on earth until the very last moment of the year 🙂