March 31, 2013


And Shiva, Harish, the carpenter, Amma, Shivanna ji, Vijay, Basuvanna ji, Hosa halli, Naga, Baalu, ravi, Chandru, Anil, Afsar, Venu ji, Madhu, Sohaib, all the gardeners, all the workman labours, Shanker, Sillai and Mahesh, man everybody.......

March 29, 2013

Of the beggar who saw beyond

Sitting alone, he rarely felt dejected. He had the advantage of having the best seat in the platform, right next to the police chowki. And it was close to the reasonably clean toilet as well. Such a location had its advantages, as people would invariably and slyly turn their glance while walking past the chowki, staring wide eyed at the young smart polici recruits. They would end up seeing him and often out of pity hand over some change if they had. As the public toilet was nearby, he could garner more change, often dirty change, as people coming out would invariably set their eyes on the recruits and then on the beggar - feel exhilarated and disgusted in the same breath and throw away whatever change that might have been in their closed palms.

What the beggar was witness to is a long story - something I might take years to recollect but he did see a lot of death. Death and very very rarely, life as well. Well, it happens in India. He recounts seeing atleast eight babies being born right in front of his eyes on this very platform. But that one death was special for it spoke of the times we live in. Times where death is cheap and forgotten as one takes a couple of steps away from the scene.

That death was special. 8 boys standing in front of a just stopped train, six-seven recruits reporting for duty, the toilet cleaner relaxed as the next few hours was to have elaborate maintenance, even him - the beggar - knowing that in this heat no curios lovers will walk his way. In short, everyone was preparing for what would happen next, everyone was on their own.

And then the train started. The man slipped. He heard the recruits shout, the eight men stumped, no one moving, everyone in a state of shock, the man about to die had this look on his face wherein he could not believe that this could happen to him, the scene unfolding, he going under the train very very very slowly, the recruits slumbering out of their shock, preparing to run, they tumbling over the foreman's box, the eight chattering, giggling, laughing-at-girls-all-the-time men still in shock and then the beggar, perhaps realising that things were going beyond the written script jumping towards the train.

The recruits had a mighty fall, several of them on top of each other, the eight men perhaps taking notes and registering their memories so that they could recall this incident all through their lives and the beggar running. The beggar was the only human form that was running, the other form was currently going deep underground, the beggar managed to reach the train. He actually hit the train at full speed and could manage to grasp the hand of the falling one. But that was not enough, his or perhaps the soon to be dead fellow's hand slipped and he went under the now pacing train. Somebody pulled the chain. The beggar recoiling after lying next to the now stopping chain suddenly realised that he ran with just a leg, with one leg. He couldn't get up now.

He tried hard and managed to return to his seat, the body was being brought up, totally mangled, one leg severed from the body, it struck the beggar's mind - that leg could fit him perfectly in a different time perhaps. He got up and changed his seat forever. That special death broke him a bit further that day, the beggar was a destitute after all.

Feeling extremely lonely, usually it is rarely like this. Lonely, alone and off my equilibrium

March 28, 2013

Temples in Our Forests - Waste Management of ourselves.

Temples of doom they are. Located inside deep forests, these temples may have existed theoretically for millenia, but the boom of travel over the past century threatens to destroy the small amount of forests that we are left with.

A case in point is a temple in Bhimashankar in Maharasthra - supposedly a holy one - and plastic announes that the temple is about to be reached almost 2 kilometres away.

Inside Rajaji National Park - I forget the name of that temple but everyday with elephants grazing nearby, hundreds of our species wander in and out nonchalantly.

Mahadeo hills in the Satpura National Park - Inside deep pristine forests and in highly remote areas, what we see is plastic and flies (more flies than in a comparable city dump)

Is it about us hindu piligrims or is it an universal phenomenon that we completely gloss over the filth all around while we are conducting our faith based devotion to the lords. In one of these forests, I noticed that though the temple was on a hill, the entire escarpment around it was laden with filth making it difficult to walk through. Yet everyone walked on chanting the lord's name and just ignored the stench.

Then we have the public utilities next to even massive temples which were designed to provide facilities to guests who may come for a fair or stay overnight. These toilets, if you can muster the strength to enter one, are hell holes - they announce their presence from miles away and we know that our preferred temple is near. Who designed these toilets, why are they not clean, was it a one time grant, what about cleaning, why do we as a race not make efforts to clean up after we use one of these well intention-ed toilets.

Then we have what we call nature's accidents. Small ponds or a natural cave where water trickles merrily or maybe a slow flowing stream. These are located usually far away from the main temples and would involve a difficult trek to the lord which is a basically a summit climb and rarely easy. These small water bodies in our great wisdom that we have have been basically provided by the gods for our consumptive use. And how we use them... Stench all around, we pollute the very water source which might incidentally also provide pristine drinking water. These sites inside forests possibly remmind us of our induced demise of water bodies in cities and towns. Now that they are all gone, lets kill the remaining ones inside pristine forests.

Hindu forest pilgrimages is closely associated with nature and possibly had a forest officer as one of its leading patrons in the earlier part of written history. For that fellow in all his wisdom decided to strategically fix temples in the most awesome spot he could find within a hundred square kilometres. His judgement was good but that must have been two thousand years ago. With the intensity that we have in being the world number one, these remote locations are now in our doorsteps and we care hoots about the forest, if any is left. What else would explain atleast one temple of national importance in each of the national parks that is there in this country. And with each temple comes an annual fair besides the hundreds who visit daily. Bandipur, Mudumalai, Satpura, Melghat, Rajaji, Nandadevi... our forests may just become a giant dump yard of the religiously minded....

March 27, 2013

Fav Travels - Panchmari 2002

I have been to places and places and I have yet so much to see.

Panchmari however in that cold monsoon day however remains a great memory. Clouds had completely enveloped the entire landscape from Hoshangabad to the hill station that is Panchmari. The forests were in a shade of dense green and the air was crystal clean. Clouds had covered everything and we did not get to see any of the famed peaks surrounding the plateau.

However, it was a gorge hopping holiday. With clouds covering most views, all we could get were tantalising views of the ravines and gorges. Every step was steeped in fear of the unknown and of the impact one has upon falling for several hundred feet. We spent two days zipping through the mist laden plateau and interspersed with the army's presence, it was a reassuring thought that Panchmari may never go the standard tourist's way, with garish hotels and fancy picnic spots. The army and the police combined with the biggest landlord of India, the forest department will make sure that this small town remains the way it is.

That memory was back then. Dhoopgarh, the highest point in Central India, offered brief glimpses of the vastness of the Satpura hills wherever the mist opened, Priadarshini offered spectacular views of one of the many gorge that abounds here, we were truly mesmerised by the powerful force of Lord Shiva whose image is the single defining religious presence in the town, the old lady's song, evocative of her love for the lord and forests all around. Panchmari 2002 was an eyeopener tot he forests of the world around us.
It is amazing. I am sitting in one of the several thousands of decent quality housing that has cropped up across various parts of the country. It is 7.25 and not a soul has stirred to play holi. These colonies should promote better social relations but so late in the morning and no one playing holi....

We used to start playing by 6.30 and would be back at home by afternoon....

March 23, 2013

Fav Travels - Off to Shimla 2001

Hot and steamy September mid morning. Had no work, no studies, nothing to do....
A friend came rushing in... He had to meet his girlfriend... Can I come with him to Shimla.... We started by 2, reached by 5 and he dropped me straight to Jaku Hill....

The mist rolled in, no sight was better and I was there all alone till darkness made me realise that perhaps it is time to return. Around 8, landed at his girlfriend's beautiful house, had a great himachli dinner and slept... Walked when I woke up as far as I could when he came and picked me up.. We were back in Chandigarh by lunch... 24 hours of a great trip just got over and has remained etched in my life for so many years thereafter.....

March 17, 2013

Part 1 - The Death Chronicles

Death does not come easy to him. It plays with his senses and cajoles him into believing that his time is near, yet holds him back. Sitting miserably, he pondered whether this was really the right time now. What if death did not really affect him, what if death was just as miserable as he was, having to worry about another sad soul wishing to make his final journey home.

He felt sleepy; thinking about death all the time usually makes him slightly tired. And sleep was anyways preferable as it was the closest feeling he ever had that mimicked death. It made him unaware of the world around him, lulled him into a comfortable disbelief that he is suspended nowhere and most importantly, and made him dream. Crazy, confused, lustful, coloured - dreams of all sorts and varieties.

RS as his few friends called him was a floating soul. Never having being straitjacketed into a type or a personality, he was infact many things to many people. He was friends to several, people who thought him to be their own, yet they would not realise that he would just float out of their lives, the moment he closed the door behind him. They felt he was their brother, a member of the fraternity, yet were surprised to see him chatting away the girls from the neighbouring society without a care. His friends would be confused at his behaviour but put it off by claiming that all of it was temporary and he would be back to his old group again.

RS had this bad habit back then as well. He would launch into his extempore of death almost suddenly and then shock all of his friends into imagining their dead selves, twisted, gnarled, and stone-like. Happy souls sitting on the university wall would instantaneously turn into statues listening to RS's hysterical metaphors on death.

RS was dreaming of the old days and of the fact that most of his friends were now dead, divorced or distant and he was infact the only link to several of his old friends - their only connect as they could not bring themselves to talk to each other - he was their convenient sounding board. Sleeping, he could afford a smile.... sleeping, he almost looked god-like with a smile on his dimpled, youthful face. Sleeping, death usually decided to give him a miss.....

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