Monday, January 29, 2007

T for T

Try this poison, and this little doodad will calculate how much of your favorite substance it will take to kill you. Hehehe.....

I got 176.08 cups of Brewed Tea to go before I kick it.

T (Imperial Red) is always refreshing for me and anytime whatever hour of the day it is the smell of the leaves, which is a bit cocoa-ish is always inviting. The other most noticeable thing about this tea is the color, which certainly lives up to its name - definitely red, as you can hopefully tell from the picture here.

[Pic was at Barista]
This is good for sipping on late nights. Few days back, at around 11PM, I was sitting at Barista over-looking the empty road in front of me. I was there with my friends as we were bidding farewell to Kini who moved to the US. Through the huge mat pane I saw an old aged laborer pestering the make shift food stall owner to give him a plate of fried rice as he wanted to surprise his wife and not let her cook. How fortunate of me sitting there and observing this site of caring which happened to flash in front of me that moment. The shop where I was sitting was about to shut down, but this tea sort of said don’t worry, snuggle down, all is safe and warm with each sip of me which you take.

By the way did you get the two T’s, which one comes first?

Try this trivia, and by the way what was your score. Was it a perfect 10 like Federer clinching his grand slam title in the Australian Open.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Shopping Karne Chale Kya ?

Today many Indian companies are floundering and retail is pitched to be the next in-thing. Big names like Bharati has tied up with Walmart for its initiative and Reliance wants to foray in this domain on its own. The truth is that till date, with a few exceptions the vast majority of Indian retail firms have failed to become truly competitive. Most of them may have a clear blue-print for expansion and growth, have the best of resources (management and infrastructure) but what they lack is delivery. In any form of business or consulting work, the nature of end product or output, either tangible or intangible is what makes the difference.

The right strategy for Indian retail companies is to differentiate themselves by offering unparalleled service. This I say because in the competitive global market, the quality and price of most products have narrowed to the point where it is only service that distinguishes companies. In most of the service oriented business, customers are lost not because of quality or price but because of service. Service builds on the proven capability in any competitive bazaar economy, which will decide the penetration factor of the behemoths.

My personal experience in shopping has proven this point to an extent. We have the best of brands from all over the globe flaunting our malls and shops but we are dull in creating an experience called “shopping”.

shopFirst talking from an Indian perspective, Why do we shop ? If you read the mind of a typical Indian it follows the Maslow’s hierarchical pyramid. One kind of shopping helps us fulfill our basic needs for food, shelter, water, etc. But as soon as you move a few levels up, one comes for ego/esteem shopping. It’s the sort of non-essential shopping that gives one confidence and a little high walking out of a store swinging shopping bag-laden arms. All this is possible because of the ample extra money an average Indian has today, the changing demographic profile, the huge domestic-driven demand and life on a fast-track lane fuelled by plastic cards.

All know the difference between going to the market to buy food to sustain us and going to the mall to buy items to substantiate us. In the second case, the shoppers are looking for a relaxing shopping experience after which they feel soothed and renewed as the malls in India have now become centers for fun and entertainment, a place for some good time. The Indian retailers know this for sure, but then why don’t they act ?

I have been to some of the stores in Europe and UK namely Carrefour, Tesco, Sokos, Salisbury, etc. Shopping for daily needs in these outlets is no different from purchasing in Foodworld, Sunday to Monday or Fabmall. But then when we graduate to a next step in the ladder, the high street international branded shops the situation is grim. Lets start with ambience. You walk into a shop and most likely you are welcomed by repetitive music [ mostly Kenny G or Yanni numbers as if they are the only musicians, this is just an observation to highlight the repetitive behaviour and not questioning the artists credibility ], mumbly and passionless teenagers as salespersons who work there. Then the trial rooms are nothing more than tube-like closets often stacked with boxes and most often someone knocks the door every 2 minutes to vacate soon as another customer is waiting.

And while none of us, would expect anything more than to be well looked after by the attendees of the shop, the reality is that the employees are poorly trained, have little knowledge about the products they are selling and in most cases virtually lack customer interaction skills. The reason for this is pretty simple, these employees are hired on a temporary basis and jump to new places with better offers in a short duration of time.The salespersons range from the prowler variety who loiter few feet behind you [ more if you are a female ] to the ones who are busy on their mobile phones discussing the last night’s movie. Customers are evolving in an era of information demography, therefore, the equation between consumers and marketers needs to evolve into one that’s based more on dialogue than on monologue, symmetry more than asymmetry, and on conversation.

Commitment to a service strategy means that you hire new employees on the basis of their attitude and train them on skills. Most companies do the opposite. To make shopping an experience, one has to deliver a threshold level of quality, price, and service. There being a small difference in the first two parameters for most of the competiting brands in the same business, the third one plays a pivotal role.

Clearly the service, the comfort and the pleasure all seem to be missing. This may be one of the reasons, I feel is responsible for the low sales in the international branded, posh shops. The rates are almost similar to the European or the American ones in these stores, with a small drop here and there. Hence the customers who travel abroad very frequently on business or for leisure trips can get the same stuff from outside if the customer commitment and attention factor is missing.

When will the retailers come to know that the consumers are not there just to buy things, they are buying an experience. Since this has something to do with one’s self-esteem, courtesy, immense interest and making the customers feel like kings and queens does make an impeccable difference. Perhaps today’s retailers need to visit the sari store or road side dhaba to sharpen superior delivery skills and servicing traits. The employee in a typical sari store opens a hundred saris within five minutes in an attempt to sell a single one. Similarly, the waiter in a typical restaurant or dhaba delivers the customer’s order in few minutes and he even comments which item in the menu goes well with which dish. Practically there’s no way an international brand can sell jeans sitting on the floor cross-legged but many things can be learnt. Never rush and give honest advice while the customer is in the midst of his/her experience called "shopping" and be rest assured that the no one will exit empty handed if the former two points are taken care of. Reason : The customer's ego and self esteem is pampered.

Compare this to what you see today, where some grand shops with big names wear a deserted look with lots of window shoppers. The merchants who have occupied these shops complain about low footfalls and poor conversion percentage [ratio of those who buy to the total number of visitors], despite the fact that malls are mushrooming like weeds in Indian towns,cities and metros. The customers have an emerging mindset and are ready to splurge but their purchansing power demands excellence. Is the market ready for this ?

Keep reading and remain connected.

[The views are personal and my points on these are what I see in the daily life these days.]

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Republic Day : The day as I saw it.

No matter how cynical and apathetic I may have become, Republic Day(26th January) always makes me swell with pride.The martial tunes, the sonorous drum beats, the thud of a thousand marching boots, and that crisp salute snapped to the Presidential dais are now like activities, which I am not connected to so much.

Those early wake ups from the bed and rushing to school in the cold but for me it was just another day, which was made special with a feeling of accomplishment when I saw a post stating it as someone's first anniversary. So I went out and took some shots with my camera and this is dedicated to Desicritics and the galaxy of writers who contribute to this forum in their own special way.

[The Governor of Karnataka taking the salute at Maneckshaw Parade Ground in B'lore.]

Who are these people and how did all this happen ? These are people scattered round the globe, who focus on exploring what it means to be South Asian, in every walk of life. These are a bunch of people who actually sit down after a long day at work be it professional or domestic chores, students from under-graduate courses to doctoral fellowship programs, etc. They are doctors , teachers , people who want to make this world a better place , press correspondents , techies , online-talk show producers , writers , multi-skilled individuals , blog-a-holics , coaches, cartoonists, poets , etc to name a few. Check for the entire list here.

These people blog and write about their state of mind, views, reviews or the state of the nation or the latest blockbuster running in the theatre down the street, in short any and every topic one can think of under the sun and the moon provides adrenalin for the posts.

More than time and energy, it's the passion that drives the show. The road is long and we have miles to go and like in a magical journey called 'life', this travel also has its share of problems [spam], issues [comments being taken in an in-correct/personalized perspective] but then we stop, introspect and resolve the subjects of concern and march ahead.

Few people , have nurtured, parented and nourished this forum like their own children and with time, dreams are high to see this child grow into a mature individual. That's the world that the Desicritics live in, and they patted themselves with the first anniversary gift today on this Republic Day.

But the world I live in today celebrates the Republic Day this way.

As India celebrated its Republic Day today, patriotism was the most saleable marketing gimmick across the country as companies pulled at the heartstrings of millions of Indians.

Indians were encouraged to wear patriotism on their sleeves by a special range of clothing churned out by fashion designers and shops. Flip the newspaper and half of it was about the discount offers by stores and malls starting from clothes to food coupon discounts. Malls had theme sales too. A collection of patriotic film songs down the ages packaged in tricolour in VCDs and in audio CDs were placed in the racks of Music World and Planet M music shops across city with enthusiastic parents buying it in the hope of instilling some nationalistic fervor in their children. I found more phirangs purchasing those stuff than did Indians.


Various radio channels also chipped in with their Republic Day message, through special countdowns of number one songs from 1950 to 2007, a non-stop run of patriotic film music. Mobile phone operators also offered their special freedom bonanzas to download ringtones based on patriotic songs.

Very near to my house I found young boys were peeping into windows of other cars and even forcing the riders on two wheelers to buy the plastic national flags and the tri-colour badges.


The national flag come in varied sizes and shapes, small plastic ones for use and throw which will later choke the street pathways and the big ones flutter on the auto's front shield.


Though for many people, even the reminder that we are a 58 year old Republic will not change their lives but then "Arre bhai,jaisa bhi hai, I like India and I like its colors and its vibrancy".

[ My shutter work for DC team, created both the idea and the subject for this photo.]





[ All the pics were taken on 26th Jan'07, incase you need any of these, drop me an email (it's on my profile). It's not for me but you are making the tri-color, aapka aur mera tiranga proud. ]

Keep reading and remain connected.

[ Note: I write for the site Desicritics, and last year when we started the journey, we were focussed on what our goal was. Today with 300+ bloggers in the desi blogosphere covering a wide variety of topics, we hope to get better and better.Desicritics alias DC was adjusted the 5th Best Blogsite in Asia popularly known as "The Weblog Awards", the world's largest blog competition. ]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Bijness Guru.

The movie Guru is running houseful but somehow I managed to get three tickets only for late night 10:00 PM show on 22nd Jan’07. The hype and hoopla in newspaper and blogs triggered my curiosity to go for this movie, rather than my personal interest. The same day some violence had broken out in a locality in Bangalore and because of this the roads were practically deserted when we drove to the cinema hall.

Every Maniratnam movie is anticipated with high expectations as he is one among the Indian movie makers who uses the the right canvas and a well researched story line. But to me this movie was nothing special. Somehow it lacked conviction and failed to impress me. Since I have not seen much of Abhishek Bachchan’s movie so this performance touted as his best so far was beyond my acceptance. Well I overheard, someone during the break in the rest room saying that "Abhishek ish performance ke baad, Bachchan naam ke bena teek sakta hai". [ Abhishek can survive in this industry without the Bachchan tag. ]

Now, the movie. Guru is about Gurukant Desai alias Gurubhai [Abhishek], an ambitious man. He is the kind of man who would plan to conquer the world, given enough time and resources. Born in a middle-class family in rural Gujarat, and since not among the brightest in the class, he discontinues his education to go to Turkey where he works for Shell. Then suddenly dumping an offer in a foreign land, he comes back home where he wants to start something on his own. He marries his friend's sister Sujata[Ash]so that the dowry which he would get would be used as capital to fuel his initiative. Soon he moves to Mumbai, the land of bijness and dreams where he reaches pinnacles of materialism and attains superlative growth. In his race to power, he steadily misleads his shareholders and slips away from the rules, the ethics and the morals.


His friend of previous generation and a well-wisher, Manikdas Gupta[Mithun Da] finds Guru's means of acquiring power and money abominable. Being the editor of a newspaper, he hires a young journalist - Shyam Saxena[Madhavan], to expose Guru. This results in a clash that reflects on the emotional proximity of the two families and then the story just moves on.

"Don't be a dreamer" warns the ambitious Gurubhai is how the movie starts and the first half is fast and the second half appears like intentionally stretched. The reason I say fast is because of the the placement and the picturization of songs. In the first 10 minutes we have luscious Mallika Sherawat belly dancing on "Mayya Mayya" shortly followed by "Barso Re" .

For a director of Maniratnam's stature, can he not do away with item numbers which feature beautiful female forms in meagre clothes. Is that really necessary when you have a strong storyline?

The song "Barso Re" is extremely tasteful with visual meanings. Sujata is introduced to the audience,soaked in rain and enjoying nature to a peppy tune. If you notice with concentration, the director missed it here, as Gujarat that is shown appears more like a fake designer village with a more South Indian touch.

Abhishek’s body language spoke far more than his dialogues and reaches a high when he is about to deliver his monologue before the enquiry commission. The Commission Head says, "But till yesterday you were silent,your voice was nothing more than a whisper". Guru smiles and replies back, "We are banias (merchants). We plan for everything, I was saving my voice for this occasion . He concludes saying that he was given 5 minutes to present himself before the enquiry committee but he wrapped it up in 4.5 minutes,thus saving 30 seconds, that’s profit and bijness".

The monologue justifying Guru's actions was a let down. There was no connection between his breaking of the law and Gandhi’s fight against colonialism,it was something like a regular rhetoric one hears from politicians everyday.

The romantic subplot between Shyam [Madhavan] and Meenu [Vidya Balan] has no roots and these two characters are inadequately developed. Did we need a close-up lip-lock scene between them? [But compared to what we see in Hindi movies ,this moment was aesthetically shot]. On a lighter note, it seems like Mani, took the chord from where Sanju baba had left in the day dreaming kissing car song in Lage Raho Munna Bhai and made sure that Meenu [Vidya Balan] got her kiss in this movie. It seems like another one of those forcibly inserted scenes, just to pull in the first rows for repeated viewing. Also Mani please be prepared, incase you have junta like Shailendra Dwivedi who feel that a kissing scene on-screen is nothing but vulgarity .To me, it seems that Shyam and Meenu were there to look at Guru with different eyes, and give us a sense of the shades of grey. Beyond this I could not think of anything else.


Mani’s attention to period details such as safari suits, aviator eyeglass frames and even the Bombay Baroda and Central India train line is worth appreciation. Mani shows us Gurubhai’s increasing wealth not with the usual massive, marble-floored home but rather through the Merc that the Desais drive, Sujata dressed in shades of plum, saffron and maroon cotton saris, jewelry, etc.

Ash’s performance was OK and her real life chemistry with Abhi was vibrant on screen too. Ash proved that she could also pull through a powerful role apart from her positive traits such as dancing and so-called-angelic looks. But I feel if the roles of Vidya Balan and Ash were swapped then it would have been much better, Balan’s performance in Parineeta can be benchmarked for my decision.


Mithun Da was in form after a long, long time. And it's a pleasure to see the veteran deliver a natural performance from start to end.


A.R Rahman, the musical genius comes out with sedate "rags to riches" concept with the virtuoso of biopic touch. It has its shares of tuneful splendor but is restricted to honey coated melodies. Gulzar's meticulously relevant lyrics are inspiring. My favourite picks from the list are "Ay Hairathe" rendered delicately by Hariharan and Alka Yagnik and "Barso Re" for the broken sound effects interlaced by a synthesized eastern amalgamation, flawlessly sung by Shreya Ghoshal with a nicely felt repetitive line 'na na na re'.

Some comments from IMDB here .
I do not differentiate between Mani Ratnam and Karan Johar if what they do at the end of the day - is the same old time tested 'safe bet' 'multi star' formula. Good cinema is dying in the hands of stars and entertainment value.

The end however is abrupt and leaves one a bit confused regarding the actual message of the film , as it is shown that despite doing corruption in order to flourish in his bijness Gurubhai is let off by the court as only 2 of the 29 charges against him are proven.It makes one wonder if the film is justifying the use of corrupt practices in order to flourish and make one’s dreams come true. Infact that’s true in a way, even the bellwethers in business bend the laws in their own interest.

I feel if only Maniratnam had decided to make a real bio pic instead of a hagiography, this would have been better. I would give it a 5/10 and its just watchable.

[ Note : Gurubhai rhymes with Dhirubhai, right? If you can correct me, was Sujata = Kokilaben , Manik Das Gupta = Ramnath Goenka , Arzaan Contractor = Nusli Wadia , Shyam Saxena = Arun Shourie . This was a figment of my imagination as in the intro of the movie it was mentioned that, all the characters are fictious and any resemblance living or dead is co-incidental. Hehehehe, this was a nugget of information to those who have followed the brief history and rise of Ambani business !!!! Crack this, Why do you think that there is always intense war between these two business houses: Reliance and Bombay Dyeing ? ]

This was Guru but have you seen The Guru .

Keep reading and remain connected. [ Pics are from and ]

[These are my views on the movie, my interpretation may vary with someone else’s , so don’t make a decision whether to watch this movie or not based on my views. I have absolutely no prejudices against Hindi movies nor is my grasp of the Hindi language very minimal, just that I am not a regular Hindi film fanatic.]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Do it the way you want it

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." - Gen. George S. Patton, Jr .

This is indeed true and I have experienced this in various walks of life. This never ending real life tale is not a flick from a fable. It is common to You and Me and we all experience it, few express and practise it and others repress and abnegate it.

Well choice is yours but this never ending real life tale is for those who are kids-at-heart [I don't care if someone feels that was a kiddish way of thinking].It is a choose-your-own-path adventure story and the way you do it, no-one should dictate you how. You can add to the tale from your daily life and you don't need to look else where.

In Fountain Head [movie],the final courtroom speech is the focal point and it highlights Roark's independence which is constant and complete, at one stage psychological and on the other it's ideological. It is an independence not just of actions and opinions but of the soul and the soul's "one thought".

Keep reading and remain connected.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Do you like my Balls?

Well what did you think seeing the topic of my blog, something raced through your mischievous mind. Did I get you wrong (hehehe)? Or did you think has this fellow gone crazy?

Just scroll down and tell me did you like my balls, huh don’t question me again.

Tanay Pics 004

Tanay Pics 003
[I had collected this barrel of four balls when I attended a French Open match at Roland Garros, Bois de Boulogne on the western edge of Paris back in 2005.]

Now wonder, how a ball can stir up creativity and that becomes a successful business plan. Pelon one day was watching a reality show where poor suckers were strapped into a giant inflatable ball and pushed down a hill. Intrigued, Pelon wanted to try it for himself, only to find that there was no place in North America where you could do that, although it's very popular in Australia, the UK and New Zealand, where it originated in the late '90s via a company called Zorb.

Since US didn’t have a market for this adventure, Pelon didn’t loose heart and continued with his efforts thorough research and analysis. Finally he bought all North American rights to the UK company SphereMania , a competitor of Zorb. And thus, Sphere USA was opened at the Mt. Brighton ski resort.

What is this sport about?
It is an adventure sport with a big inflatable difference. Housed inside a giant plastic ball, human beings accelerate down a hill at speeds of up to 30 mph .To an adventure freak, the blood-curdling scream and panic-stricken dissonance emanating from the rolling beast gives an additional kick to try it once.

Breathless and exhilarating, wasn’t it real fun? Read more here about the thrill ride inside the plastic ball.

Well that was in Videsh, (a phoren land) "America" now lets come to Swadesh "India". Here we too have people for whom science is magic. For them there is passion and excitement in its pursuit, sometimes to transform the lives of ordinary people but mostly just for the way it fires their innate curiosities. These unsung heroes using simple things are bringing closer to the people some of the puzzling questions of science in the most elementary way. One such person is Arvind Gupta, a distinguished alumnus of IIT Kanpur. He has authored many books on science experiments and these have sold over a million copies in a dozen Indian languages.

Few of his creations include, an aeroplane model created from an old Coke Can, Fevibond Acrobat made from used tubes of Fevicol, etc. Also he has mentioned how using bits of cycle valve tube (won’t cost you more than Rs.10) and matchsticks, children can make an array of two and three dimensional models and explore the world of structures. A standard torch battery, some enameled copper wire and some adhesive tape, all these are sufficient to make a simple but real functional DC motor for kids.

More about his creations here. Simple applications of basic science and physics,a goldmine of ideas.

Don’t you think a man like Arvind Gupta should be interviewed on all national channels and given wider coverage for the pioneering work that he is doing. Well I feel YES. But my impression doesn’t make a difference. This is because the present day media is busy covering the glitzy, glamoured and sensationalism tinged news apart from its regular reporting of politics, business, discussions, interviews, weather forecast, etc. Coverage of Wardrobe malfunction in a fashion week , Ash Abhishek marriage engagement , Mandira 'noodle strap' Bedi’s gimmicks , Mika and Rakhi Sawant kissing episode , etc to list a few can shot up the TRP ratings over night. So with all this beekar fulltu time pass ki showbazi, where do media have time for men like Arvind Gupta.

Today's audiences, unfortunately, live increasingly of borrowed emotions and more and more out of touch with their own humanity. It is for these tasteless and gullible automatons that the media makes crispy tales and serves them hot straight from the oven. It is at the mob and viewers feet more than anywhere else that blame for the debacle should be placed.

Kyonki idhaar Sensationalism beekta re...and media says Apna Sapna TRP Ratings Aur Money.

I know I started with balls and then digressed to media (well this is the fodder for my next blog,after having read tomes about the Ash Abhi engagement and Shilpa's Channel 4 incident) but take my words you need real balls of grit,guts and gumption to challenge and raise your voice in what you do. Else just sniff it off.

Till I get back on my views on media, Keep reading and remain connected.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Support this Cause by Dream A Dream

We live in a comfort zone, drive in our cars to office. We talk on Skype and blog on MySpace, Blogspot and a wide range of other open canvasses available to us. To the commuter the use of phones as wallets and media screens; from the emergence of intelligent home appliances that make your food in half an hour after coming from work, to passport security personnel who scan your iris at immigration, the world in Indian cities and metros has changed so fast and so much – it has made us versatile, mobile and most of all demanding. With one’s life of ups and downs cocooned in security and thinking about me-myself-I, it helps to look around and see what other people are coping with. You may consider yourself far more blessed than you imagined. When you drive out in the city or walk through a busy street, I am sure that you would have seen kids working in the restaurants, few playing in a mound of sand near a construction project and also few others begging near the traffic junctions.

What is your reaction? For a moment, you are driven by pity and sympathy and occasionally end up paying a few pennies. But does it really serve the purpose or is it your conscious way of delivering to a responsibility. Well I guess NO.

In a society that you and me live in there are a bunch of people who want to make a difference and give back something to the society in their own little way. With this genuine grass root motive in mind, Dream A Dream was started in November 1999 by a group of 11 young people. Today it is a registered not-for-profit trust working with over 500 children coming from vulnerable backgrounds such as children from the streets / slum communities, runaway children, orphans, and HIV+ children among others.

To know more about Dream A Dream visit here.

"Empowering children from vulnerable backgrounds by developing life skills and at the same time sensitizing the community through active volunteering, leading to a non-discriminatory society where unique differences are appreciated", is the vision of Dream A Dream

The team has some really smart people who take time off their busy schedule and contribute in their own way. Few among them are Srikrishna, a BITS Pilani graduate from the class of 2002 and Umesh Malhotra of the Hippocampus (a wonderland for kids to explore) fame. Umesh is an ex- Infosysian, who was later involved with Bangalore Labs, also supports this movement actively. More about the Governing Board here and management team here.

The team tries to achieve its mission by providing sustained life skill development programmes to children through exposure to sports, outdoor camps, creative arts, reading based programmes, computer training programmes, cinema and theatre among others. Moreso it encourages a strong community participation model where in volunteer-based programmes are conducted leading to empowerment and sensitization about children’s issues within a community. Today, this has developed into a full-fledged program including over 500 volunteers mostly from the IT and the Tech sector in Bangalore. Donating cash is one thing but getting involved is another. The latter part is more important, so few people decided to pool in not only their money, but also efforts for the cause of underprivileged children.

Fine how does someone contribute to this program then? Well someone from the IT and Tech industry can be involved with a curriculum which seeks to instill basic computer knowledge among less-fortunate children with the belief that imparting such life-skills will bring them out of marginalization and make them confident to become part of the mainstream society. Well when you do this, what do you get in return, well I can’t assure you any monetary benefits but you can reap in oodles of satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. The enthusiasm of the kids to learn new things, their radically new ideas, their fresh way of looking at things, their impartial and non-judgmental attitude and most of all their dedication and grit to overcome obstacles in spite of limited means is worth admiration. What if they couldn’t make to a school, still they have a dream. A dream to explore the outside world and so please join your hands for Dream A Dream and let a thousand other dreams come true.

On the 21st of January '2007, 40 volunteers and kids from Dream A Dream , will be participating in the "Dream Run (6Km)" category at the Mumbai Marathon (Asia’s largest Marathon) to raise funds for the various projects which are in progress or are yet to be initiated in future. Support this noble activity by making your contributions and pledging your support for the Dream Run. No amount is small or big enough, every rupee will count to make a difference. Indian donors can pledge online here . US donors can pledge online here . All donations will be used for the programs at Dream A Dream and you will be eligible for Tax exemptions on the donated amount. You would also receive detailed reports about fund allocation and usage. Please contact Vikram Rai (email him at for more details. A sincere request to all to follow this pattern in the subject field of your email, mention it as
"Supporting Dream A Dream [your name] from [location, country]". Also you can be in touch with the team here .

Dream A Dream has a number of projects to which you can contribute and lend your support, services and valuable ideas . There are many corporate partners primarily from the IT and Tech sector who support few of the initiatives.

"It's not how much we do...
but how much love we put into doing it!"

None of these initiatives is possible without people like you coming together from all walks of life who believe in the rights of children. It’s time that we start thinking of underprivileged children, not as objects of sympathy, but as citizens with the same rights that we consider our due. We must realize that the policies and the everyday choices we make, must seek to address the root causes of children's problems not just their superficial manifestations.

Finally, we must all - as parents, teachers, businesspersons, lawyers, consumers, students, judges, engineers, writers, administrators and journalists alike - overcome our apathy, pessimism and sheer inertia and reconfigure our priorities to give a better shade to someone’s childhood and make sure that s/he is entitled to the full spectrum of the basic human rights. Go Ahead and support this cause.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Smell of Morning at Lalbagh

Last Sunday, i.e. 14th Jan’07 was a bit foggy in Bangalore; the early morning hours were refreshing because of the cold and low visibility. I drove down to Lalbagh during the early hours at around 6AM and wanted to see and capture in my camera the fascinating stories this quintessential bouquet had to offer, both natural beauty and the life at play.
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If you go to visit Paris, London, Amsterdam, Singapore, Edinburgh or for that matter any American city, you feel there's so much to do with so little time on hand. But when it comes to Bangalore, people are generally of the view that its all about ITES/Tech offices, buildings, grand campuses, malls, match-box apartments and like-wise. Now take a walk through the hallowed green space at Lalbagh and it would offer you a tryst with the local history, which you cannot bypass. Its like a delightful time re-exploring oneself amidst life history, environment, botany, culture, landscape architecture, gardening and food, all thrown on a single platter interpreting an unknown Bangalore.
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History has it that Hyder Ali of Mysore happened to see a beautiful garden in Pondicherry, the memory of which reverberated in his mind. In his quest to replicate his experience, Haider created a garden in a 40-acre plot in Bangalore.Haider’s son Tipu Sultan who shared a passion for the garden invited the Tigala community from Tamil Nadu well known for their gardening skills to concentrate their expertise on it. The garden is known as Lalbagh (Lal meaning red and Bagh meaning garden) because of the abundance of red roses when it was a royal retreat. After Tipu, it was under the supervision of the British rulers and a slew of Kew-trained superintendents that the garden that might have lapsed into a wilderness was transformed into a heaven of greenery. During his tenure, the Prince of Wales commissioned the Glass House, a small replica of the London’s Crystal Palace.This Glass House is a major attraction during the Republic Day and the Independence Day when the special flower show is put up here.
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During the morning hours, one can find regular morning walkers, people doing yoga and exercise, etc. Also one can find kids running around here and there looking for a space to start a game of cricket and pregnant woman enjoying a morning walk along with their caring husbands. It’s a unique lung space in the heart of the bustling city. People find great joy reading the newspaper amidst nature, sitting on the benches (wooden planks/stone/metallic) which can be found at all vantage points with the chirping of birds as the background music.
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Watching the squirrels dallying, with old couples sharing a conversation over domestic matters shows how the nature-propelled spell sparks camaraderie. As the morning freshness subsides, the whispered talk within the grooves is taken over by the dissonance of traffic and routine life outside. A Carnatic music concert in the open fresh air of early morning is also common. Very near to the Rose Garden, in one desolate corner is a small temple (Panchamukeshwara), where people visit early morning to offer their prayers and is a must go place for garden staff members, before they start their work.
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Lalbagh, which began as a pleasure garden, became a botanical garden, a western-style horticulture garden and now a public park. Within the park, one can find the impressions of some of the leading and rarest specimen in botany. There are trees and plants from temperate, coastal and tropical regions, the equatorial belt and even from the Himalayas. There are 1800 plus species of plants housed here under the aegis of Horticulture Department.One can find the Chilean Araucaria here, the Cannonball tree from Guyana, the Panamanian Candle tree, and the beautiful Amherstia Nobilis from Myanmar and lots more, infact the list is endless and I could spot only a few. Bangalore's Lalbagh is credited to have one of the most diverse man made collection of flora.
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The Lalbagh is also home to a wide range of birds, though the number is not as high as it’s collection of flora. The Lalbagh Tank with its sky blue serene waterscape, with ducks swimming leisurely is a reminder to mortals that "It’s Ok take is easy". On one side of the tank, I saw myself how the aquatic life is negatively affected by untreated sewage effluents coming from the layouts situated near the Southern Gate. The silt trap has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the place stinks because of the dirty water accumulated there but inspite of this, I saw some fishes surviving in this hapless habitat. With every breath they take, Bangaloreans hope that is not an indicator of the bad state certain parts of Lalbagh is in.
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Today Lalbagh conceals other claims to fame. It rests on a 3,000-year-old gneiss formation, perhaps once part of the legendary Gondwanaland before the continental drift. It is also a pointer to the city’s growth, for the mandapam by its east gate marks a significant rite of passage. It was one of the towers set up by Kempe Gowda at key locations to mark the future boundaries of the city in the making. To reach the mandapam, one needs to climb a small hillock and it was here that I met "Gayatri", a cute kid. "Gayatri" was selling groundnuts (both fried and boiled) and she was setting up her make shift shop to sell jasmine and floral garlands.
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For the benefit of joggers, tourists and fitness freaks, the gates are open from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., when entry is free. For the rest part of the day, entry is possible on purchase of tickets at the entrance gates. Entry for school children and the disabled is free all day. An excellent way to familiarise oneself with Lalbagh is to take a walk on a Saturday or Sunday morning with Bangalore Walks. The fun filled and eye-opening walk starts near LalBagh Rock at 7A.M. and lasts for 3 hours to conclude with a breakfast to discuss the rediscovery of an awe-inspiring world. The entire area is neatly maintained, except for a few islands of litters and garbage here and there. I also found security personnel early morning policing at entry points.

Just listing out the places of interest inside Lalbagh:
Bandstand, Lecture Hall, Lalbagh House, Pigeon House, Statue of Sri Chamaraja Wodeyar, the Directorate Building, Lalbagh West Gate Guard Room, the Museum and Cottage which now house some of the department offices, main gate of Lalbagh (Camerongate), Deer Paddock, Aquarium building, Aviary and Kempegowda Tower.
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I always thought Bangalore was a mix of a city and semi-metro, though changing at an alarming rate now. To me its, history was a little hazy. The morning visit added newer dimensions to my understanding. I fell in love with this city’s smell of the morning all over again. So what are you waiting for, put on your sweatshirt and sneakers and unravel the charm of the morning freshness.
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Check for the pics here. Shutter bugs if you have any places in mind,in and around Bangalore drop me an email(email id is in my profile).But the condition is I prefer places very early in the morning or late night and there should not be too much of a crowd. Also weekends are preferable. Too many conditions Huh !!!

Keep reading and remain connected.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Nostalgia, What is it ?

Memory does not belong in the past. There is no expanse, in which the past resides, able to be traveled to on demand. Recollecting the past is not a return, but an opening in which traces stretch into the present. Particular objects, symbolic and sensuous, encounter us, superimposing a history upon the dormant present. We derive simple delight, in experiencing ourselves as subjects to the autonomy of our own history. Does the diminished past survive irrespective of its apparent ending? A synthesis is born: the distant reverberations of memory gain a resonance through the present body, which experiences it as difference.

The word nostalgia has an interesting origin. Read here. Though it had a medical connotation to it, in today’s world it’s more a yearning and languishing feeling/attitude for the past. Is nostalgia good? A dicey question. But as per Sanchapanzo ,'nostalgia' provides a fake self-esteem.

Why would someone want to visit 'nostalgia'?
I guess 'Nostalgia' is like an easy virtual-meal.
You might be hungry and you might want to eat something
Now, what is it you can do ? :
i. Do some work or sweat and then earn your meal
ii. Or visit nostalgia. In 'nostalgia' one has the luxury of gaining a good dosage of ego-boost by just visualising the amount of hard-work you
might have done 'once upon a time' and the way you relished the fruits you got through that sweat.

Is 'nostalgia' good ?
Sadly no. What nostalgia provides is a fake self-esteem.

Nostalgia, in fact, may depend precisely on the irrecoverable nature of the past for its emotional impact and appeal. It is the very pastness of the past, its inaccessibility that account for a large part of nostalgia's power. This is rarely the past as actually experienced, of course; it is the past as imagined, as idealized through memory and desire. In this sense, however, nostalgia is less about the past than about the present. It is "memorialized" as past, crystallized into precious moments selected by memory in small dosages. Even an old collection of books and a dusty library can make one walk down the memory lane. Hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.Deepti tells it with passion and lovingness here.

The collection was as old as Aaman himself, ranging from
kindergarten books with his names scribbled in a childish
handwriting to Playboy magazines to Classics to all kinds
of books on music, quiz, you name it and it was there. It
was such a wonderful collection of books that I was easily
dissuaded of my original intentions.

I found myself telling the helpers to dust the books and
put them in clean piles. I began to put his books in the
right order, in categories and found myself enjoying the
activity that started off as a chore but then became a
pleasurable deed.

The simple, pure, ordered, easy, beautiful, or harmonious past is constructed (and then experienced emotionally) in conjunction with the present, which in turn, is constructed as complicated, perplexed, anarchic, difficult, and confrontational. Nostalgic distancing sanitizes as it selects, making the past feel complete, stable, coherent, safe from the unexpected and the untoward, making it so very unlike the present. The aesthetics of nostalgia might, therefore, be less a matter of simple memory than of complex projection. The invocation of a partial, idealized history merges with dissatisfaction with the present. Rashmi mentions how for her 10’clock at night was the cut-off deadline to go to bed while the kids of today remain awake till 11 pm in many Indian homes. More here as she ruminates about her bun omlets during her days at IIMA.

When I was in school, I remember 10 o'clock was standard bedtime.
11 o'clock was considered LATE. There was an alarm clock-cum-radio
next to my bed and sometimes I'd lie awake till 11.30 - till
Vividh Bharati's last transmission - and feel quite cool.

Today, kids are routinely awake till 11 pm in many Indian homes.
Parents come home late from work, for one. If you leave at 8 am
and return at 9 pm - when will your child see you at all, if he
sleeps by old English timings?

Often tastes, smells, sounds, and sights conjure up an idealized past. If you are like me (that is, if you are capable of nostalgia), you can think of your own experience. Nearly everyone has experienced a moment when a faint fragrance brings a memory of a long-lost moment in time crashing back to the forefront of his or her mind. It may be the perfume worn by a long-forgotten friend, the stench of petrol from a youth spent worshipping motorcycles or the smell of home-made cookies or cakes freshly taken from the baking oven. It is amazing that a few simple airborne molecules can trigger such vivid recollections as it did in the case of Sujatha.She mentions how the leaves of a book spoke of an exotic past, prized as shadows are divested of the iconographic meanings they once embodied.

The petals had eaten into at least five pages on either side.
So we've now lost portions of Europe, England, Russia and Africa.

Childhood memories, for example, represent times when we were free from the responsibilities and anxieties of adulthood, so we may redefine them in an idealised way, even though many of the experiences we went through were difficult at that time. There are, of course, many ways to look backward. You can look and reject but I guess everyone treasures the childhood moments. Or you can look and linger longingly. In it’s looking backward in this yearning way; nostalgia may be more of an attempt to just feel-good, to evade a life of ends and purposes. Now if we sit back and think, we feel that those days were far better than the present life of speed and schedule. Basab felt like walking down memory lane when he visited his primary Campus School at Hisar after more than 20 years. Read here more for his spontaneous straight from the heart expression.

Within hours of our arrival in Hisar, we went to see our
old school. I didn’t know what to expect, but nothing
could have prepared me for what I saw. The school was
in ruins. Every spot that held a cherished memory of my
childhood was now overgrown with weeds or in complete
disrepair. It looked like something that was at the end
of its natural life and should be put out of its misery.
But in reality, the school had more than five times the
number of students it had when I was there!

Few days back, I had been home and it was really nice to see my old room still bearing my books. The minute I entered my room, which is maintained as it was since I left it 8 years ago by my maa for my graduation studies. There were certain spaces that reminded me of how simple and humble my yesteryears were. The bookrack still holds in stacks my entire collection of Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Amar Chitra Katha,Chacha Chaudhury series, Tinkle and Tintin comic series. My TELL ME WHY, National Geography Magazine series and Britannia Encyclopedia set still adorn the old bookshelf apart from my entire accumulation of novels and technical books. The darling of my room, an old gramophone sits there, though covered with a thin layer of dust. I even found my old Periodic Table of chemical elements and that reminded me of the All India Engineering Entrance Test preparation days, the years when my books from Brilliant Tutorials and FIIT JEE were worshipped like Bible and Gita. Also cleaned all my paintings and arranged those neatly, the oil-paintings were bathed with turpentine to get back the freshness, the water color ones were left just like that.

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This was my first portrait (oil-painting) on canvas.

These were my attempt in watercolors of the landscapes. I still remember on weekends, how I used to bi-cycle and go to some nearby places and try to make an attempt to capture the scenery.
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I was not very good initially but used to try my hand at it, never give up attitude but in the end something used to come out,though not that great.I have a huge bank of my paintings and someday, if I manage to do something with those, will definitely render them their due respect. Now I have lost complete touch with my little bit of painting and drawing skills, though end up doing some caricatures in my note-book during the training sessions if I find them boring.

In fact, a number of industries and services depend on their customers feelings of nostalgia and longing. Toy companies routinely bring back favorite childhood toys, while television production companies’ re-issue older titles to tap into the viewers' sense of nostalgia. The popularity of collectibles stores also points to the commercial value of nostalgia. I know about this site for quite sometime and have ordered few items from here through by elder brother settled in the US. It is known as the Nostalgia Ventures , a must site to add to your Archie Cartoons collection.

Nostalgia begets innovative way of doing business, isn’t it? Amazingly simple yet profit churning business plan.The concept of online business for antique paintings and goods is showing positive growth in India and I feel it has a good future.

To cite a simple example of how media and entertainment industry uses nostalgia as a popular recipe for business. While reading the daily newspaper, a few days back there was a front-page pic of Kareena and Helen.

What was that for?

In the recently held, Hero Honda Star Screen Awards, while actress Kareena Kapoor swung to Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s version of "Yeh mera dil" from Don,the original bomb Helen joined her on stage to show how things were done in her time. Now you decide whose performance was more glitzy, glamoured and groovy.

Some people are so moved by longing that it becomes the driving force of their expression. I often feel in a way, longing is what makes art possible. By "longing" I mean the emotional response to deprivation, loss, and mourning, though in optimal dosages. Nostalgia has, in this way, been deemed the necessary inspirational "creative sorrow" for artists and writers. My best friend in college, Kutti conveys his message here. Also I read a nice poem on nostalgia, complete version here.

Those were the good old days,
Which were cute and rare always.
Lost forever in memories,
With its ashes borne close to my heart.

I feel nostalgia in reasonable doses can provide a sense of comfort but too much nostalgia can have a negative effect. It is very common to believe that an earlier decade was preferable to present day conditions, but that viewpoint can be misleading. Every decade has its positive and negative aspects, so an unrealistic sense of nostalgia may create an unhealthy distortion of reality. As an example, this time when I was home, my father gave me his Omega watch, which he had purchased in Germany when he was there for long, way back in 1980’s with the steel makers Krupp and Demag. He wanted me to get the same repaired, which he has been using for the last 26+ years now (myself and the watch share a similarity: age, so I can see my past-life thorough it aren’t I?) if possible in Bangalore or during my trips to Europe. Repeated instructions from friends and family members to discard that watch have not influenced him ever as he is of the opinion that only Omega manufactures classy watches. It’s not that he is not aware of the other global brands in wristwatches, it’s that he doesn’t want to chuck out his old piece. But to be frank as much as he is passionate about it, so am I.

Even the sights of cities, generally while seeing the black and white photographs, reminds one of the good old days of the yore. See here how some one feels about Bangalore as it was six decades ago, literally the pensioner's paradise, and the garden city. The city where you did not require switching on the ceiling fan even in peak summer. My friend, Ra gets emotional about his connection with Chennai.More here.

The life is so cute there, people get up early in the morning,
start watering the pavement in front of their house and do
a small rangoli (out of rice flour) at 5AM. We can hear some
religious songs, "Suprabathams!!, Mahishasuramardhini!!
" out of small 2-in-1 players in the houses !!!! .

Even when it comes to cities, towns and roads however shabby or chic they may be, we love it the way we have seen it for ages. My blogroll friend Gaurav was not happy with the changes he saw on returning to his city, Pune after a short duration of 4 months. That’s the power of nostalgia.

My take,life main thoda nostalgia mangta re:

The emotional appeal of happy memories does not depend on disparagement of the present, the hallmark of the nostalgic attitude. Nostalgia appeals to the feeling that the past offered delights no longer obtainable. Nostalgic representations of the past evoke a time irretrievably lost and for that reason timeless and unchanging. Strictly speaking, nostalgia does not entail the exercise of memory at all, since the past it idealizes stands outside time, frozen in perfection. It draws hope and comfort from the past in order to enrich the present and to face what comes with good cheer. It sees past, present, and future as continuous. Like I was this person as in the name (from my old painting,my designer signature then,hehehehe) below, and with time grew up (handwriting changed) and still life goes on (now it’s more of fingers on the laptop keyboard).
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So I guess a dollop of nostalgia adds a bit of spice to the scheduled life. Do you agree with me? But the ghazal maestro, Jagjit Singh is in incongruous with my viewpoint rendered through his ethereal voice in a song.

ye daulat bhii le lo, ye shoharat bhii le lo
bhale chhiin lo mujhase merii javaanii
magar mujhako lautaa do bachapan kaa saavan
vo kaagaz kii kashtii, vo baarish kaa paanii

To walk down the memory lane,watch this video.Don't miss it.

Guess where was/is this? Also will edit a video of my college life and that will come soon, watch out for the same. Patience!!!

Happy Pongal Wishes to all.Keep reading and remain connected.

(This blog is a simple dedication to all my blog roll mates and junta from Desicritics , whose blogs I follow. It was also interesting to learn that every human being loves to cuddle and nestle him/her self in the serene and pure nostalgic moments in their own way. Most of the links are from the bloggers, whose write-ups I follow.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kuch Yadaain....

The music in Koi Baat Chale has a particular texture and is expressive of deep, intense emotions rendered by the celebrated singer Jagjit Singh. The ghazals are sprinkled with recitations by Gulzar.Koi Baat Chale is a new experiment in the Urdu poetry. A new poetic way, Triveni a three-lined form, is sung for the first time in this album. The precursor phrase by Gulzar in few songs is what sets in the right pitch and mood for the song.

There is one song before which Gulzar renders his rich reflection,which goes something like this.

"yaad hai woh deen
jaab tumne cigarette ke
deebe pe
ek sketch banaya tha
aakar deekho usme
phool aa gaye hain


translates to

"remember those days
when you drew a sketch
on the cover of
the cigarette pack.
come and see
the plant has

Keep reading and remain connected.

(This pic was taken from a mobile camera yesterday night when we were having a B’day party treat of one of my friends, Ha d’Boss. Thanks Ha d’Boss for using your mobile phone for clicking this.)

Visiting The Sun Temple at Konark.

After a brief stay at Bhubaneshwar, I decided to travel to Konark Sun Temple which is 65 kms from Bhubaneshwar on Jan 2nd’07.I avoided going there on the New Year’s eve considering the multitude of tourists who would pour to visit, this World Heritage monument.

It was around 10 AM that I started my journey in a Maruti Alto, with my friend driving the car .It was a genuinely refreshing drive. In spite of the overindulgence on flight travels salving our national ‘every one no matter what gotta fly’ consumer cravings, the joys of the open road always beckoned me. I had made up my mind to throw off the demands of scheduling and speed, remain unplugged for two days completely and traverse the two-lane cheeky smooth Indian highways. It was a pleasant and relatively traffic-free ride along quiet tree-shaded lanes, only a little arduous towards the end because of the potholes and drive through the village amidst cattle.

Not many people were in sight on the route except, when nearing the village (near Konark), a boy tending a small herd of scraggy cows. The day was bright and sunny and we stood beside a well to drink some water, though dubiously colored liquid. The fifty or sixty huts and cottages that made up the village’s single straggling street, with their unevenly thatched grass roofs, low irregular mud walls and rough bamboo uprights, depressed me a little with their squalid appearance. A few inhabitants squat in the shade infront of their unattractive dwellings decorated on the exterior walls with cow dung cakes (used as fuel). A dark brown, sad woman with half-hidden shriveled breasts approached the well, stared at us and filled her earthen pitcher with water. When she was about to leave, I approached her for a pic and she acknowledged it.
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I find I have contracted the disease that infects most travelers and shutter bugs; life without a camera is like life sans breathes. And so have my camera wherever I go.

What immediately struck me on arriving at the site was the dramatic nature of the setting: the massive structure sitting in solitary grandeur surrounded by luxuriant gardens. A magnificent and imposing bulk of carefully carved black granite. The temple is dedicated to Sun God. Konark is also known as Konaditya. The name Konark is derived form the words Kona - Corner and Arka – Sun. Konark is also known as Arkakshetra.

I just couldn’t imagine the skills of the craftsmen at the time of building the temple. The temple is a magnificent piece of art and architecture. Different types of stone embroidery can be seen on the temple walls. Fantastic sculptures emerge out of the temple and make their mark. Beautiful figures are drawn and carved on whole of the temple top. The temple is also referred to as Black Pagoda (black since it is carved from black granite) and is also one of the sets of grand Indian temples.
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More history here and here.

The Konark Sun Temple is widely known for its architecture and artwork. It depicts the Orissian architectural art. Stretched across almost 2 kms of beach the temple makes it mark as the gigantic figure of art. The entire temple has been designed so as to look like a chariot of the sun god driven by Ganga and King Narasimha Deva. There are 24 wheels, which are each about 5 feet in radius. It also has a set of spokes and mesmerizing carvings. The temple is been dragged by seven horses. At the entrance there are two lions, which are like guards. There are also these crushing elephants, which are seen there.
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Steps lead to the main entrance of the temple. There are numerous complex carvings on the temple. There are beautiful animals carved on the temple. There are different types of warriors carved. The most attractive part of carvings is that of the Sun God. Mythological deities, beautiful flowers, battles, etc are some more types of carvings seen here. There are also some erotic style carvings done on the temple. Small carvings are also done with utmost care and intricate art.
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Some of the main parts of the temple are ruined. Wherever you go the beauty and art is different and unique. In front of the Jagmohana there is a Natya Mandir, which is also carefully carved with excellence. The best thing about the Konark Sun Temple is that most of its part has not been destroyed due to its age but because of the nature. It is now maintained by the Archeological Survey of India and it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although they are doing a creditable job but nature is taking its toll, the hot moist air of the sea is constantly eroding the Temple at an alarming rate. Today the temple seems to be surrounded by a metallic cage. Metallic structure support parts of the temple, which are on the verge of collapsing.
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Very near to Konark is Pipili , known for its wall hangings, sunshades, lampshades and lot many other types of handicrafts. These handiworks are a must buy when one goes there, and with a little bit of bargaining you can really get the items for attractive prices.
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The entire structure is surrounded by lush green gardens and these are neatly maintained. With loads of tourists, many tourist hotels have come up and few of these are also managed by Orissa Tourism Department. There are tourists from all over India and also there are many foreign tourists too. The tour guides wait to pounce on a white-skinned person to make a few extra bucks. Since, I was there with my friend, later joined by a white skinned Swedish friend who was working on a project with UN, we had a tough time declining the flurry of requests from these tour guides. The ice broke when I started speaking in the local language "Oriya". Tender coconut, cucumber and local food in the series of small shops is a must try for the taste buds.
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Few minutes before we left, we three (me, my Indian friend and my Swedish friend) were accosted by a family from Kolkata who wanted us to pose with them for a photo and then another with a family from the US. Soon after, it was a family from UP who seemed to be more interested in the presence of a foreigner at the site rather than in the site itself.

Located near the complex is the Konark Museum. It houses some of the sculpture removed from the temple including a reconstructed wheel. As not much can be done to prevent the temple from eroding away, the remaining pieces are being removed to the safe custody of the museum to save them from further damage.

Visiting Konark is like a trip back in time, a journey into the pages of history and an experience no historical book could ever provide. That’s why, the poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote of Konark: "here the language of stone surpasses the language of man". After having visited the site, I now know what he meant. Words could never do it justice. The endless routine of life and ordinariness of driving there for hours was rewarded by the high drama and extraordinariness of what must be one of the best human-made sites the world has to offer.

Don’t miss the pics. Album here.

Visit it once and you can know its grandeur, brilliance and splendor. Its poetry on stone. My tip visit the place between November and February, i.e. (the winter months)

Keep reading and remain connected.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Memorable Experience.

31st Dec’06, I was in the railway station at Rourkela and my parents had come to see me off. I was traveling till Bhubaneshwar and the train was supposed to start at 8:30 PM and reach the destination by early morning 6:00 AM. So, it took me over a year to cross 450 kilometers, boarding the train in the year 2006 and reaching the destination in 2007. Huh!!!

Since, I had a confirmed reservation in the AC 2nd Class, I was interacting with my parents before the train started. I could feel the pulse and the emotions wading through my maa’s mind. Added to this what I like about Indian Railways is that the railway platforms showcases a potpourri of human feelings, vivid, raw and spontaneous expressions. The unadulterated space of the platform with the chaiwala shouting chai chai garam chai filled the air. Two, three suitcases were lofted high onto the heads of wiry porters, balanced by bags dangling from each skinny shoulder. Paid by the piece they tugged luggage from the passenger’s hands, just to earn a few more pennies. In the next few minutes, the red signal was given and the train started pulling away from the station. As the train gathered momentum, the clamour of the platform magically transformed into the chaos of embarkation.

I settled in my seat but the compartment was sort of empty. After about 45 minutes, I made my way towards the door, as mine was the AC compartment, which meant it was an enclosed one with no open windows. Very near to the door are the toilets in Indian trains and each of the compartments is inter-linked through a pathway. The toilets in the trains are something really interesting. In general someone has to hold the trousers up, so they don't drag in the mess on the floor. Trying to hold onto whatever seems the cleanest part of the wall without actually touching it or losing one’s balance as the train rattles and clatters onwards is an art. I was coming out of the toilet, when I saw the TTE (Train Ticket Examiner) in the other compartment, which was a sleeper class talking to bunch of three people on a higher pitch.

The bunch of three comprised two boys and a girl. They were dressed shabbily and what really made me act on the scene was that the innocent girl was sitting right in front of the wash-basin adjacent to the toilet and the TTE was trying to exhibit his dominance and extract a few bucks. Their fault was that they had entered a reserved compartment while the ticket allotment status was still wait-listed. What pissed me off was that the train was almost half empty and to my understanding, if you have a reservation ticket may it be of any status confirmed or wait-listed you can travel in the train. On top of all this, since the train was half empty one can actually comfort him/her self in the available seat. This is plain and simple rule. The TTE probably seeing these naïve people wanted to play his cards but he would be disappointed that I ruined his plan. I didn’t do anything but spoke to him in a polite way and displayed as if I was well informed about the nitty gritties of the reservation rules.

For these three, the idea of having to travel safely to their destination, with little understanding of the rules and regulations of Indian railways, was daunting to say the least. I offered my seat in the AC compartment to the girl. She was around 18 years old and in the cold she had nestled herself in a shawl, though she had put on a sweater. I spoke to the two boys and assured them that I would give them company till we reached the destination and their sister can rest/sleep peacefully in my berth in the AC compartment. Slowly and steadily these two boys started speaking to me and I learnt that they were around 20 years old and worked as laborers in a tile-finishing workshop in Bhubaneshwar. Their sister was working in a missionary hospital and her job involved cleaning, housekeeping and general maintenance. They were returning back to their work place after a short vacation in their village, which is nearby to Rourkela.We shared lot many stories in each others life and the sister joined us for dinner around 12 at mid-night in the sleeper compartment, where the three of us were sitting.

Dinner was delayed because I wanted everything to settle first. My maa had prepared dinner for me and everything was packed neatly in aluminum foil along with two bottles of aerated water. My three new friends had also got their food and it was packed in plantain leaf. All the four of us, shared the food we had and I had no problem eating the food they had got and shared mine with them. My new friends felt a bit conscious and reserved, but I never felt anything awkward. What better to celebrate New Year, than sitting in a moving train and sharing food with new friends?

"Chai, Chai" cried the chaiwala, as he wended his way through the compartments, trying to sell as much as possible before the train started again. Who cared if the water wasn't safe, I needed a cup of tea and all four of us had hot tea served in the "kulhad" (the earthen cup). It was cold and the tea provided the much-needed warmth, infact I already had oodles of it in the company of these three simple people. Wind gushing through our hair, trees and rivers passing by in the pitch dark of the night, welcome cold of deserted stations striking our faces, and the constant ricketing of the railroad tracks to give us company - no matter how long the journey and how cold it was, it was simply Aaah HEAVENLY....

When we were about to get down the train on reaching Bhubaneshwar, the young girl came to me and told, "Bhai this is my gift to you"(though in Oriya) and she gave me her shawl and a hug. When we got down in the station, the two brothers, noted down my address and contact details, also hugged me before we separated.

It was definitely a memorable experience, one I will never forget and it made me realise how lucky I was to have celebrated the New Year, a simple way. Today when I was about to go to the laundry to give my warm clothes for cleaning, I noticed the shawl, which the girl had given me. I folded and preserved the shawl and didn’t give it for dry cleaning as I felt the infinite warmth and the ocean full of caring will get washed away. Indeed even in this present world of underlying malice and malevolence, sudden encounters like these make life, a more colorful painting. Isn’t it?

Today, I even got calls from my cousins who returned from a week’s vacation to Khandala and Goa. They (of the same age as my three new friends) have come all the way from Singapore and the US to enjoy their vacation. Isn’t it case of total disparity, few people who leave home on a New Year’s night, so that the next day morning they can earn their daily bread and also there are others who cross seven seas for some leisure time and holidaying. Well that’s life with its plethora of amazing shades.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year Wishes.

Wishing you a Happy and a Prosperous New Year.I wish you all the best in life and do well in what strikes your heart.Be wild,be frank and candid,act simple and smart,smile and shine on.Few days back,I re-read the book "The Zahir" by Paulo Coelho on a long journey and there was one note in that which I liked a lot.So my New Year message for you is.

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your heart does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at the Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithaca mean.

Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933)

Also I dedicate a song to you on this auspicious day.Check the video,its a song(i.e. Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann.

Don't miss the song and the video.(Incase the internet speed is slow,wait for a blind run to complete and then you can re-play).
Lyrics here.

Keep reading and remain connected.