Thursday, June 26, 2008

Badrinath, Mana And Vasudhara

A mission of a lifetime. It was so for all Hindus. It is so for many many Hindus even today.
A visit to the temple at Badrinath.
As for me it was the beckoning of the eternal Himalayas more than religion.

2 girls. Me and a friend. Packed one morning and left to the Himalayas.

The bus drive from Rishikesh to Joshimath was nine to ten hours long.
Narrow roads. Dangerous curves. Uphill climb. But breathtaking views, as you near Joshimath.

Our first view of snow.

A lot of things can be said about the terrain in this part. The mountains are rocky and therefore you don’t get to see much greenery. I first thought it was deforestation, but realised later that, that was not possible, for the mountains are very steep.

The Alakananda river flows in the valley and you see it throughout your drive up. The water is very muddy and the colour brownish, probably because of the fast currents that erode soil as they charge forwards.

A view from our hotel room in Joshimath. A 360 degree spin on your heels will give you plenty of such views. I need to buy a panoramic camera.

After a night’s halt in Joshimath, we took a jeep to Badrinath. What a ride it was! The driver stopped every time I wanted to take a picture. And I took soooooo many… This is the Dhauli Ganga river... which will soon meet Alakananda...

Aquamarine waters in the valley. Glistening snow on a peak. Which was more beautiful, I don’t know yet.

Reached Badri at last. Visited the temple twice. Once in the afternoon and once in the evening for the Shayan Aarti during which all the jewels and flowers that embellished the idol in the sanctum were removed and we had a chance to see only the idol. I was a bit disappointed to see that the mukha mudra(expression on the face) was not very clear. I had forgotten that it is a 2000 year old temple established by Shankaracharya.

The Badri temple along with the entire town of Badri is closed for six months during winter. I am told the town is entirely covered by snow. During those 6 months, the town shifts to Joshimath. But when the temple is reopened in May, the lamp is found to be burning in the sanctum of the temple. It is not musty like one would expect it to be. It is as if the temple was never closed. I am told that Narada maharshi comes to the temple everyday and lights the lamp. I was astonished.

I learnt from Parag that the idol at the Badri temple is actually a Buddha statue. That is why the idol is in a sitting position. Nowhere else will you find Narayana in that position. He is in a standng posture everywhere. I learnt that the temple was a Budhha temple intitially. But a Muslim ruler, destroyed it with the intention of building a mosque there and threw the idol in some river or lake. It was Shankaracharya who later retrieved the idol and established the present Badri temple and declared it a Narayana temple.

In Tapovan, which is a few kilometers from Gaumukh, an idol of Narayana is emerging from earth. People have been seeing it grow, with the passing of time. At present, one can see the idol from head to waist. The limbs are expected to emerge soon. I believe it will be the future Badri temple.

For those of you who do not know the Mahabharat well, the Pandavas proceeded to the heavens through the Himalayas (after ruling this earth for several years), and as they did, a dog followed them till the end. It was Yamadharmaraja himself in the form of a dog. This episode of the epic is know as swargarohana meaning “ascent to the heavens”. This part of the Himalayas is known today as Swargarohini. It is at a really high altitude of 20000 feet and not many people trek in this area. There is no civilisation there. But even to this day, a dog follows the trekkers as they proceed. Nobody knows where it comes from and no one knows where it goes to.

There are mountains all over the world. But mysticism, only in the Himalayas. God lives here and to the one who has faith, there are enough traces strewn all over the place.

One of the many views from our hotel in Badri…

I was lucky to capture this. Just a few minutes later it was covered by a veil of thick clouds.

Three kilometers from Badri is the village of Mana which is the last village in the Indian territory (in that area of course!).

A place with a lot of history I must say. Others would use the word mythology. I too used to. But I have grown up to believe that it is history. Our history is so old that it is now called mythology for lack of modern records as testimony. Present day intelligence is blind to glaring evidence and depends excessively on textbooks, however unauthentic they may be.

In Mana, you will find Vyas Gufa, Ganapathi Gufa, the Saraswati river and Bhim Pul, among other things.

This is the Vyas Gufa where Vyas recited the Mahabharat to Ganapathi who documented it. Interestingly, they were in different caves.

The Saraswati river. It is also called Guptagamini, meaning, one who moves discreetly. This river is visible only here for some distance and then it disappears. I am told, it resurfaces in Allahabad for its confluence with the Ganga.

The water is so pristine. And it is roaring!

Over this river is the Bhim Pul. A bridge put in place by Bhim. According to legend, Draupadi found it difficult to cross the river and Bhim made this pul for her. It is a gigantic block of stone, a monolith, the size of a 4 story building. There are impressions of his fingers and thumb all over this stone. Don’t miss them in the pics…

Five kilometers from Mana is a waterfall called Vasudhara. That’s where we headed after spending enough time at Mana getting more and more of the Saraswati river.

This was a difficult climb. Just 5 kilometers and it took us more than 4 hours. There were not too many people as most people would be content with seeing Badri and some with Mana. There is not much greenery and therefore I felt a lack of oxygen. It would get cloudy and in a few minutes it would get very sunny.

But the views it offers are splendid. Snow covered mountains in a row as you walk towards the waterfall.

Ah! What colours! Golden grass here, green pasture there, small yellow and purple flowers, a brown mountain like chocolate and milk white snow like vanilla. A blue sky and some grey clouds.

And the waterfall!

It is known to be 500 feet high. It was believed that water from this fall, falls only on those who have not sinned. We crossed a large area covered with snow to reach this place. It was really difficult. Even as we planted our feet carefully and firmly, we slipped and fell. After we had crossed to the other side, we were at the foot of the waterfall, seated on huge rocks.

As the water sprayed on us, we became relieved to know that we were not sinners.

It was getting cold and beginning to get dark. We had to leave.

I made a silent promise to come back.

For more pictures, do visit Badrinath, Mana and Vasudhara

Sangathi Arinhya!

Sangathi Arinhya! (Have you heard!)

This one, I watched in Rangashankara in May 08. This one was by a troupe called Perch from Chennai.

(Have you heard!) Is a mix of seven stories by Basheer, all different, but with a common vein of love, humour and pathos running through them. A connecting link in this heady concoction is the character of Basheer himself, who plays narrator, participant and witness in turn.

Good direction. The play oozes with charm and humour. It is captivating.

A motley of characters who are comical, funny and hilarious.

Village life in South India has been depicted very well through the medium of a western language without loosing the nuances typical to an eastern society.

The characters speak with an accent (Malayali) which seems so natural.

Although there are more than 10 – 12 characters sometimes on stage at once, each one having something to do or say, there are no mistakes. Good synchronization.

The characters all have such hilarious idiosyncrasies and these idiosyncrasies are so very well depicted. The colours, the costumes, music and lighting combined together produce an effect that is a feast to the senses.
And the lovely melody “shamey gham ki kasam…” that lingers throughout the play is enchanting.
Good show.

The stories in Sangathi Arinhya! are:

BHARGAVI NILAYAM: Basheer comes into a rented house ‘Bhargavi Nilayam’ to write his stories in peace, little realising that it is haunted by the spirit of Bhargavi, a young girl who committed suicide by jumping into the well in the garden. Basheer’s conversations with Bhargavi and their developing relationship form the basis for this story.

POOVAM PAZHAM (POOVAN BANANA): Abdul Khader, a trade unionist, who is proud to be a rowdy, falls head-over-heels in love with the pretty and educated Jameela Bibi. His overbearing personality undergoes a sea change after they get married, till he realises that it is time to re-assert his individuality.

MATHILUKAL (WALLS): Basheer, imprisoned for his seditious writings, hears a beautiful voice singing on the other side of the wall, which houses the women’s prison. A beautiful relationship develops…

STHALATHE PRADHANA DIVYAN (THE CHIEF MYSTIC OF THE PLACE): This story features Basheer’s mythical characters Anavari (Elephant Thief) Raman Nair, Ponkurisu (Golden Cross) Thoma, Ettukaali (spider) Mammonhu, Mandan (Nitwit) Muthappa, Ottakkannan (One-eyed) Pokker, and Namboodiri, in a delightful episode full of fights, fantasy and fun.

VISWAVIKHYATAMAYA MOOKKU (THE WORLD RENOWNED NOSE): A phantasmagorical story about a man with a lo-o-o-ng nose.

ORU MANUSHYAN (THE MAN): A strange incident during Basheer’s travels.

SHABDANGAL (VOICES): Basheer’s encounter with a soldier and his story.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Doomsday Conspiracy - Sidney Sheldon

With this, I have completed all of Sidney Sheldon’s books. I started reading this author’s works when I was 17. Found them interesting then. As I grew and graduated to more serious reading, I found them not so mind blowing.
Most of them were mediocre. But some of them were really good. My favourite ones are the following.

If Tomorrow Comes
Master of the Game
Sands of Time
Windmills of Gods
The Other Side of Midnight
Tell me your Dreams

I must admit that the author has traveled and researched extensively. All of his books give you some interesting and authentic information. World famous paintings, museums, multiple personality disorder, weather controlling machines, extra terrestrial beings…and so on…

Doomsday conspiracy is based on extra terrestrial beings.
This book was thoroughly disappointing.
First of all, the first 200 pages are very predictable. There is neither suspense nor any thrill.
Next, it was like watching a movie full of guest appearances, where the protagonists have a small role to play. :-(
Ten witnesses to a flying saucer that crashed in Switzerland are eliminated one by one. This is because the governments of various countries want a blanket of secrecy over UFO’s so that the masses don’t panic.
What good is it to eliminate innocent witnesses to a crash when hundreds of incidents of UFO sightings are reported by people all over the world day in and day out??? There is no credibility to the plot…
And then the killings take up a good 150 to 200 pages of the book (the guest appearances) one witness after another dying in some accident or another… Boring! 2 to 3 pages have been dedicated for each of the witnesses, for the purpose of giving some background information about the mundane, uninteresting lives they have lead. Totally wasted!

If I remember correctly, all of Sidney Sheldon’s protagonists are female. This one is different because the protagonist is a male. Robert Bellamy, a commander.

For a change this one has much less titillation compared to other works of his. And I am happy about it because as far as this author is concerned, the physical relationship between men and women in most of his works is devoid of any art or deep rooted sentiment. It is plain lust. The descriptions are gory with raw titillation; there is a complete absence of art or erotica; just plain pornography on paper to sell the book better…commercializing love or sex has never appealed to me…something I abhor…

As for the language, there were a lot of new words that I had to refer the dictionary for, but no one liner or quotation worth mentioning.
I liked this one: When the commander meets the professor for the first time; a tall thin man with untidy white hair wearing a tattered sweater, he thinks to himself.
“I wonder if he had created the image (of an archetypal professor) or the image had created him.”

There is an interesting mention of a notion that plants can feel just like humans. I call it a notion, not because I don’t believe it is a fact but because the idea is yet to gain total acceptability. To substantiate, the authors refers to experiments conducted by scientists and the results that prove plants can think and feel.
I now want to study this subject more seriously.

Life Is A Stage

Ismat Apa Ke Naam
The Blue Mug
Dancing on Glass
Kahlil Gibran's Prophet - Play By Soham
When The Pythons Followed The Actor
A Funny Thing Called Life by Tahatto
Waiting For Godot
Five Point Someone by Evam
Jagatjyothi Basaveshwara
Dara Shikoh
Doubles, triples and Quadruples
Kab Tak Rahein Kunware
Silence! The Court is in Session
Sangathi Arinhya!
Mouse and Positions

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Oh Please! Its More Than Just A Medium Of Communication

My father, my uncle, my eldest cousin all of whom studied in Kannada medium up to 10th standard, speak fluent English. Their vocabulary is impressive and grammar is correct. Most importantly, their language is clean and of a high standard.

Having said that, I am flabbergasted at the hopeless English spoken by a majority of the present generation. These fellows claim to be modern, study in English medium schools throughout, wear designer clothes, watch MTV, Channel V, listen to Michael Jackson and Madonna, drive fancy cars, go to discotheques and party every night. They feel embarrassed by parents and relatives who are old fashioned. You should hear them talk once. They have no sense of grammar… Wrong usage of prepositions... Vocabulary infested with American slang… Four lettered words in almost every sentence. Yuck!

I, for one was always passionate about language.
I was and I am good at every language that I studied. Be it English, Kannada, Hindi or Sanskrit. I would argue with my English teacher when I got 19 in a class test and believed that I deserved 19 and a half. I had the opportunity to study in good schools and colleges that had good English teachers. But even when this was not true, I tried hard to keep my sense of right and wrong and did not let my surroundings contaminate my tongue.
I studied the Wren and Martin English grammar book as early as seventh standard. Whenever other students would speak in local languages, I would remind them that they were in an English medium school. While all others ignored language and focused on core subjects to realize their ambition, I took English as seriously as any other core subject.

I wrote prose, poems and essays during my student life and made my teachers proud.

All this for what joy?

All this for the joy of having to say “yes boss” to a series of managers and leads with broken English that came one after the other in the last four years of my tryst with the software industry.

Oh! What a pain it is! They don’t understand what I am trying to say. I don’t understand what they are trying to convey! So much time and energy is wasted in having to repeat myself over and over.
I run the risk of eventually loosing whatever command I have over English or worse, picking up some of their vocabulary and grammar!
They misinterpret the tone of my emails.

In response to an email that was sent to me asking if unit testing was complete and system testing could begin, I replied thus. “You may start system testing”.
My lead came to me at once looking a bit concerned and said, “Why no canfidence(confidence) in yuwer(your) vaice (voice)? Why you say “You “may” proceed? Why nat (not) you “should” proceed? any prablam(problem)?”

His cause of concern was the word “may”. He thought the word “may” was always used to express doubt or uncertainty as in “It may or may not happen. It may rain today.”

I had to tell him that there was no doubt or problem whatsoever and that my sentence was as good as a command as in “You may leave the room now” or “You may proceed” which means “permission granted”. He was still not convinced.

I almost embarked on a discourse about “moods” of sentences in English Grammar. I wanted to educate him about the Imperative mood and explain that the word “May” could be used to express doubt, uncertainty or it could be used to issue a command or an order (as in “You may leave now”).

And this guy talks to an American client almost every day to gather requirements. GOD SAVE THE CLIENT!

Some of the emails that are sent to the US folks are so pathetic that you could showcase them in a museum. Not only are they poor in conveying the intent, they also dangerously convey the opposite of what is intended sometimes! No jokes!

If I were the client, I would not trust my million dollar project with a bunch of clowns like these.

The appraisal system is not helping much either. While you get ratings for technical skills, team work, attitude, leadership skills and hard work, there is no process in place to reward those who excel in communication skills and penalize or train people with pathetic communication skills.

I tried to correct some team members as they spoke to me and in no time earned myself the title, “School Teacher”. A senior colleague pronounced the name of a car as TCHEV–RO-LETT. The T and R were pronounced with stress. I decided to correct her in order to save her from humiliation in public. I said “it’s Sheve(r)leigh, the ‘r’ is silent and so is ‘t’”. She narrowed her eyes and gave me an angry look.
So much for trying to do a favour!
Since then I have decided to educate only the chosen ones: some of my lucky friends and acquaintances who are happy to be corrected.

Coming back to the scene in office, all these fellows with their hopeless English get away scot-free and go on to becoming leads and managers to the misfortune of people like me. The latest promotion to be announced this year was that of my lead who had a concern about the tone of my email. He is an assistant manager now! I HAD to applaud as everyone else in the gathering did when the announcement was made. I hope no one noticed the expression on my face.

(And I often hear leads and managers discussing over coffee that they speak to their children in English at home! The next generation will not only NOT know their mother tongue, but will be proud to speak broken English! Talk about the importance of foundation!)

Good English is something managers owe to their subordinates. Instead of taking shelter in lame defenses such as “Language is a just medium of communication” and “English words can be pronounced any way, there is no rule” (as if their grandfather laid the rules for the language) they should pick up a copy of Wren and Martin English grammar book and study it seriously.

Just like we owe good behaviour to people around us, just like we owe public awareness to our surroundings, just like we owe good programming skills to our projects, we owe good communication skills to everybody we communicate to.
We all have a right to understand and a right to be understood.
All the same, we have a responsibility to understand a responsibility to be understood.

It’s high time we understood that communication is central to the evolution of civilisation, central to the functioning of human society.
I assert that it’s my fundamental right to expect quality communication from peers, bosses and anybody and everybody I interact with; for, it’s more than just a medium of communication.
I assert that it’s my fundamental duty to provide quality communication to my peers, bosses and anybody and everybody I interact with; for, it’s more than just a medium of communication.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Devdas - Sharat Chandra Chatterjee

This one is a hopeless Sharat Chandra tragedy. The almost entirely concocted movie by Bhansali is a much better experience. I could not get the book cover(read from an omnibus volume) so here is the picture(painting :-)) of the author himself.

This work has been translated by Sreejata Guha. It is nothing but 90 pages of pointless sacrifice, fruitless loving and wastefulness.

Devdas is a son of a rich zamindar. He always took Parvati, his neighbour and childhood friend for granted. When she offered her love to him he turned her away. But soon after he had lost her to someone else in marriage, he realized that he had lost a part of his body. And then he simply wasted away till the end. There is Chandramukhi, the courtesan who loves him but is despised by him. Once again Devdas realizes very late that Chandramukhi is a good woman. By this time he has contacted diseases due to incessant drinking. Parvati on the other hand seems to have chosen to continue living as an alternative to ending her life. None of the three protagonists are happy.

Devdas meets his end like an orphan on a cold night under a tree outside Paro’s house. His half cremated body is dragged away by dogs. Parvati’s last wish of nursing Devdas once before his death goes unfulfilled. The story could not get more tragic than this.

The movie “Devdas” has many sequences not present in the original work. Read on…

Devdas never went to England. He merely went to Calcutta because he was thrown out of his village school.
Paro and Devdas never confess their feelings to one another as grown ups. (No love talk between the two)
There is no animosity between the two families. The marriage proposal from Parvati’s mother is politely refused. They continue to be friends.
Paro and Chandramukhi never meet.
Paro’s husband's family has no clue about her liaison with Devdas.
Nobody finds out that Paro went to Deva in the dead of the night to discuss her predicament with him. (The harsh words that Deva’s father said to Paro having seen them together is a complete fabrication)

But as I said, the movie is more dramatic, more interesting and less exasperating than the book. :-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


8/15 Friday 18th April - Vedike Foundation, Bangalore
Venue - Rangashankara

One of those attempts to give clarifications about Islam. (I have no objection!)

The play is about a cultural event on the eve of Independence Day where representatives from several countries have been invited. The ones highlighted of course are the folks from Pakistan; the performers and the distinguished guests. There is much talk about Sufi, Sufi music, Sufi culture…some songs and dance sequences. And then a group of terrorists attack the place to disrupt the efforts being made to improve the relationship between India and Pak.… the rest you know… crying, pleading, fighting on the part of the organisers (especially the dignitaries from Pakistan). Threatening, mocking, and demanding on the part of terrorists. The defense of Islam in the midst of all these…

And then the terrorists die or surrender before the military forces of India.

I would call the show mediocre for several reasons.

It is not clear as to how the terrorists were defeated. Not a single stratagem. They are just defeated. Happy ending like Bollywood movies. The climax is not quite a climax.

There is some force-feeding of humour in rather serious situations making it seem out of place and time…a kind of misfit…like the terrorist wishing a girl happy birthday… the girl telling a friend on her cell phone that it is all very thrilling…etc.

Some terrorists have second thoughts at the 11th hour…a sudden awakening of conscience of sorts… totally unheard of…

CR Simha’s dialogue delivery is obviously bad. Don’t know if it’s aging or lack of practice…

If you have nothing else to do with your evening, you may go watch it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

What's In A Face?

Wrote this a few months ago... Not my best work, but not too bad either...

They say “what’s in a face?”
It’s the heart or the head.
There is no debate.
No there is.
It’s not just a face
It’s an expression of what you are.

The rising, falling eyebrows
The closing, opening, narrowing
Widening eyes
Are betraying your emotions
The curving, pursing, tautened lips,
The head tilting sideways,
Or held straight and firm
The chin now raised, now lowered
Are telling a tale about you.

Intelligence. Your eyes give it away
Pride. Your brows give it away
Humility. It shows in your smile
If you are timid it shows in your glance

Spiritually inclined, are you?
Ah! The radiance on your face!
The faraway look in your eyes…
What are you contemplating?

Face is not just a still photograph
It is a motion picture
With all the dynamics behind

Keep the face but change the heart
And the face will change
Keep the face but change the head
And the face will change

I love his face
But it’s not the face that I love
It’s the person in him,
It’s his head and his heart
That present themselves
To the world and to me
Through that face of his

Who said it’s just a face?
It’s a story of what you are,
An expression of who you are...