Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Small Is Beautiful - E F Schumacher


A study of economics as if people mattered.


First printed in 1973. This is one of those gems I picked up at Select bookshop. After I read the blurb on the back cover, I knew I should read it. It seemed like yet another preconception was going to be soon verified.

It is a very well written book. In the first few chapters, the author explains in detail the premises of his argument to the readers. And then, the argument itself is built brick by brick. The argument is made adequate with facts, examples and statements by other authors.

A very broad view with an eye for various other areas of life. A truly holistic approach to problem solving.

The argument is built on really strong premises which include some of the existential basics which found all of man’s kingdom.

One whole chapter is dedicated to education which the author says is the most important resource. All branches of science, must be accorded a proper place in education and metaphysical awareness should be the center of all learning, he says. Today’s product of thinking is tomorrow’s instrument of thinking. With the progressive change in instruments of thinking with time, metaphysical awareness which should be at the centre is almost always lost. It is this lack of metaphysical awareness that causes man to spend his lifetime chasing wealth which he has no time to enjoy since all the good time was spent in earning this wealth!

The author emphasizes the proper use of land. Study how a society uses its land and you can come to pretty reliable conclusions as to what its future will be. The destinies of man’s empires and civilizations were determined largely by the way they used their land. Specifically, the author expresses concern about the disregard governments have for agriculture and the chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) that farmers poison their lands with. He also expresses deep concern about the pollution of land being caused by large scale industrialization whose necessity economists justify by the quantity of goods and profits they produce without assigning any price or value to the pollution being caused. The author illustrates with many such examples how uneconomical most of mankind’s endeavours are when you take such factors into consideration.

The road to peace it is argued is to follow the road to riches. The author illustrates with the example of patterns of fuel consumption by various nations, by the rich and the poor, that this is a serious misconception.
My take – abject poverty and misery do lead to frustration and violence. But the inverse is not true. Wealth and material abundance certainly do not lead to peace.

Automation, another product of scientific research in the wrong direction, the author says is propelled by and serving to encourage a wrong attitude (of people) towards work. Work is seen as an inescapable liability, not as an activity that helps to develop one’s character and nurture one’s creativity.
Automation is alright to an extent. But when the human part of the work is automated, it reduces men to slaves of machines that simply need humans to turn them on or off. Automation reduces work – something decreed by Providence for the good of man’s body and soul – to an inhuman chore.

The chapter on Buddhist economics is very insightful. The opening para of the chapter goes – “The New Burma sees no conflict between religious values and economic progress. Spiritual health and material well being are not enemies.” Such is the Buddhist economy, that it does not hinder their spiritual well being! Read on.
There are two types of mechanization that must be clearly distinguished: one that enhances a man’s skill and power and one that turns the work of man over to a mechanical slave, leaving man in a position of having to serve the slave. How to tell one from the other?
The author quotes an example by Ananda Coomaraswamy. “The craftsman himself can draw the delicate distinction between the machine and the tool. The carpet loom is a tool, a contrivance for holding warp threads at a stretch for the pile to be woven round them by the craftsman’s fingers; but the power loom is a machine, and its significance as a destroyer of culture lies in the fact that it does the essentially human part of the work”.

Having made the premises clear, the author presents his argument.
There is a fundamental flaw in the very foundation of modern economics upon which are built the methodology, the definitions and the yardstick of modern economics. The flaw is that, the definitions, parameters, measures used by economists to analyse, estimate, calculate or assess a scenario are purely quantitative; parameters like cost, benefit, capital, income etc.
Qualitative distinctions like damage done to the environment, satisfaction of men at work, expenditure of non renewable resources, general satisfaction among the people are all together left out.

The result is, these quantitative measures when applied by economists to assess the economic well being of a nation, population, region etc produce results that are empty, hollow, meaningless and even untrue.

This is a very grave problem since economy dictates the direction or course of all other sciences, studies and human civilization itself.

The author counters the popular economic belief of “the more the growth in GDP, or the more consumption increases, the better the economy” with plain common sense as follows. An attitude to life which seeks fulfillment in the single minded pursuit of wealth – in short, materialism – does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.

Economics of permanence – nothing makes economic sense unless its continuance for a long time can be projected. Permanence is incompatible with a predatory attitude which rejoices in the fact that “what were luxuries for our fathers have become necessities for us”. This is because this attitude has no limiting principle while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.
The cultivation and expansion of needs is therefore the antithesis of permanence and hence uneconomical. Is this not the opposite of what the modern economists base their theories on - “The more the consumption, the better the economy”?

One observation I immediately found to be “my own” was that “Market is the institutionalisation of individualism and non responsibility”. This simply means that the buyer is concerned about his individual profit or interest while buying goods in the market and does not assume any sort of responsibility towards the society or anyone else while buying. All he cares about is value for his money.

He does not make a distinction between a product that was made using renewable resource and another product of the same category made using non renewable resource.
He does not bother to ask “Were the working conditions for labourers in the factory (that produced this commodity) good or bad?”, “Was the technology employed environment friendly or not?” He will not care to buy an indigenous product – which is essential to encourage indigenous industries – if the same product can be imported for a cheaper price.

The author uses several examples – the number of nations needed (large or small), the size of a city (big or small) and the scale of operations (large or small), to illustrate the duality of human requirement when it comes to the question of size. His answer is “many small within the large”.
Large scale industrialization creates large cities. Easy transportation – thanks to technology – makes people footloose, who desert towns and migrate to cities that are already filled to capacity. This has resulted in a collapse of structure and the country is like a big cargo ship in which the load is in no way secured. It tilts and all the load slips to one side and the ship founders.
Large scale industrialization produces a process of mutual poisoning whereby successful industrial development in the cities destroys economic structure of villages and villagers take revenge by mass migration into the cities, poisoning them and making them utterly unmanageable.
Taking the case of developing and under developed countries, the author says what we need is intermediate technology that is less capital intensive and more labour intensive as these countries have a surplus of labour and a shortage of capital.

Small scale operations no matter how numerous are always less likely to be harmful to the environment than large scale ones simple because their individual force of damage is small in relation to the recuperative forces of nature.

To the progressive man’s incorrigible optimism of “science will find a way out”, he responds thus – This could be right only if there is a conscious and fundamental change in the direction of scientific effort – towards non violent, eco friendly, people centric (as opposed to product centric) technology. As we all know scientific effort needs funding in astronomical proportions. This funding is approved by governments of nations that are dictated by economists. Therefore a change in direction of scientific effort calls for radical changes in popular economic beliefs.

As I read this book, I was taken back to a few other authors for various reasons.

The first was Tagore.
Schumacher observes the attitude of modern man, in particular the western man towards nature. In the age of industry, man does not experience himself as a part of nature but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it. This can be clearly seen in the way he expends all natural resources like air, water, coal, natural gas and oil, taking them for granted.
Here he fails to make a distinction between capital and income. He fails to understand that all natural resources are his capital which he must spend very judiciously and with conservation and instead takes them for granted, thus wasting them away as if they were an income (to be expended).

Did not Tagore express the same sentiment in his essay when he said, “man and nature should co exist in harmony as in the east and not in conflict as in the west”?

Schumacher says “science should orient itself towards the organic, gentle, non violent, elegant and beautiful” as he disapproves of the giant, powerful machines committing violence against nature. He also says, “Anything we do just for the sake of doing it does not lend itself to utilitarian calculation”, meaning everything in this world need not justify its existence by proving that it has a utilitarian value. I am reminded of Tagore who says “The fragmentariness of utility should never forget its subordinate position to the wholesomeness of beauty in the affairs of the world.”

Another author I could not help comparing Schumacher with was Erich Von Daniken who wrote Chariots of Gods.
Both authors are revolutionary in their ideas and unconventional. But what a difference in the way they present them. Erich is so bitter and sarcastic, whereas Schumacher’s sarcasm is subtle. While Erich mixed up his arguments, Schumacher has organized his matter perfectly well.

The author, Schumacher, I believe is influenced by Gandhi and his economy which is a socialist one. This is evident from the many pages in which the author has quoted Gandhi.

Here are certain lines from the book that I deem noteworthy.

Why should a rich man go to war? He has nothing to gain. Are not the poor, the exploited, the oppressed, most likely to do so as they have nothing to loose but their chains?

The amount of real leisure a society enjoys tends to be in inverse proportion to the amount to the labour saving machinery it employs. Very True.

A lot of people today talk about the importance of change (as opposed to constancy). They should also not forget the elementary truism that a change which is not an unquestionable improvement is a doubtful blessing. :-)

Confucius said, “when you know a thing to recognize that you know it, and when you do not, to know that you do not know – that is knowledge.”

Philosophy, as the Greeks conceived it, is one single effort of the human mind to interpret the system of signs and so to relate man to the world as a comprehensive order within which a place is assigned to him.

All predictions are unreliable, especially those about the future. :-)

New problems are not the consequences of incidental failure but of technological success- Prof. Barry Commoner.

War is a judgment that overtakes societies when they have been living upon ideas that conflict too violently with the laws governing the universe….never think wars are irrational catastrophes – Dorothy L Sayers.

Socialist economy is not a new subject, but all of a sudden it makes sooooo much sense and any other choice deviating from this even slightly seems absurd beyond argument. Surely it’s a very well written book in which every argument is very well expounded.

This book is a must read.

However, it’s relieving to see that a good 30 years after the author’s time and in spite of turning a deaf ear to the author’s serious concerns about the functioning and well being of the world post 1980 (that’s as far as he projected), the world is doing fairly well and there is no major existential crisis! His mercy!


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Clarity. The Absence Of It


I pride myself in knowing my mind well. No matter what the subject, I usually have opinions. Sometimes, they are based on facts. Even when I know no facts, I still manage to have an opinion based on a gut feeling! It has always been like this, even when I was too young and knew too little to have opinions.

But there are some areas, where there is a clear absence of clarity!

When someone asks “Are you spiritual?” or “Are you religious?” or “Are you orthodox?” there is that long pause in place of the usual quick reply. It becomes very difficult for me to answer. Actually I am not sure.

Having been born in a traditional family where most people know Sanskrit, most people read good, rich literature, most people listen to classical music and some, including yours truly, can even identify a few ragas, I know for sure I am culturally inclined. I have studied (am studying) Sanskrit, read the great Indian epics and learnt classical music. I read a lot of essay type writings and I think a lot. But spiritual (am I)? Not sure…

I have never been perturbed by question like “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”, “What is my purpose in this world?”…etc…

After having traveled all over the country (thanks to my father’s zeal and of course his transferable job) and thereby having visited every important temple in India I must admit that I loved these temples for their architectural splendour more than a love for God. I never particularly felt any divine calling. Even my favourite God, Krishna is dear to me more because of the character he represents than because of his reputation for being supernatural.

Being a not so well read person and being not so spiritually inclined, I don’t really need to and am not capable of making a clear distinction between the subjects of philosophy, religion, spiritualism, mythology, theology, theosophy and culture etc…

To me they intersect too very often, overlap with one another and are therefore just one subject or at least, they all come under the same umbrella.
Only when you delve deeper, you would need to make a distinction.

My Himalaya trip, everyone exclaimed must have been a truly spiritual experience!
I was inspired enough to have written four poems, two of which are better than the other two. A bell of solemnity resounded within me as I stood alone in the valley surrounded by vast spaces and towering mountains. But I do not know if that is what they call a spiritual experience!

Perhaps I am not too keen to find out. Also there is an uneasy feeling inside at the thought or mention of spiritualism. Read on.

I am an emotional personal – to the extreme, as in all other respects :-)
I am attached to people. There are a few chosen ones, but I am attached to them. I still have old chocolate papers, greeting cards and letters from friends, carefully preserved.
I am attached to myself. I am actually smitten by an excess of self love – which is obvious from the title of my blog. I am possessive of my material belongings. I don’t lend books to anyone. I safeguard my belongings like no one else does. Even if it is a sheet of paper I have lost or misplaced, I am miserable.

Now the pursuit of spiritual success calls for detachment. They also call for denunciation and self denial but that doesn’t disturb me so much. But detachment! The word has such a dry, arid sound to it.

Firstly, I am not capable of detachment.
I am a firm believer – no – an advocate of the principle – no a custodian of the theory, that true happiness in life can be realized only through people and relationships. That being the case, where is the room for detachment?
Was it not attachment that brought out the poetry in me?
Disappointment brought out some more poetry. Was not disappointment a consequence of attachment?

Secondly, if there is some gain, some merit, some benefit in this world or beyond, that entails detachment, then I don’t want that merit, that benefit. I want to be attached. I want to love and be loved immensely.
There has always been a dearth of love and consequently a search for love in life. There has been no other search really.

I am, for sure aware of my heart. My heart rules my mind and my life. It is the cause of (any) suffering in my life but I feel gifted to have such a heart. I am aware of the existence of “my heart” apart from “my mind”. I am aware of its depths. I am aware of its stimuli. I am aware of its language. It speaks to me. I am in touch with it. When I am suffering, I can tell without any doubt if it’s my mind or my heart that’s causing the suffering.
But I am not (yet) aware of a separate existence of a “soul” in me apart from my mind and my heart. Sometimes, I feel that heart and soul are one and the same thing.

To all my spiritually inclined friends, this post perhaps communicates an immaturity on my part as far as my understanding of spiritualism goes. But so be it.

For all you know, may be I am spiritual, may be religious, may be both… it’s just that I have not discovered yet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Darva Top


From Dodital, Darva Top was 5 kilometers. Since Dayara Bugyal (Bugyal means grassland) was 12 kilometers from Dodital, and we were really exhausted after the 22 kilometer trek the previous day, we decided to go to Darva Top. From there we would return to Dodital and then walk back 22 kilometers to Uttarkashi.

Darva Top, everyone said offered breathtaking views. You could get a 360 degree view as you reached the top. You could see Bandarpoonch, Yamunotri and other peaks. The grassland itself was beautiful they said.

So we started.
Although we had planned to start by 7:30, we started only at 10. The climb was difficult as it was quite steep. We had to ford many small, narrow streams. The challenge was to put your feet on a few bigger stones which were well above the surface of water, without getting your shoes and socks wet.

Did I tell you the chadi (a metal shod wooden stick for support) – (I did not want to use the phrase walking stick!) helps when you trek? Oh it makes so much difference! I bought a chadi at Kedarnath. From then on, it was with me everywhere I went. I wanted to bring it back to Bangalore and showcase it, but forgot it while returning from Uttarkashi to Rishikesh. Remember to buy a chadi if you plan to trek.

Although there had been a clear sky in the morning, clouds started appearing towards noon. We trudged on hoping that it would be clear when we reached the top.




This too is Buras. But a poisonous one!



There are flower bearing shrubs all around. This I think is a characteristic feature of a bugyal.



It was raining and then there were hails falling lightly. It was cold.

We saw Gujjars on the way. This is a nomadic community in this region. They graze their buffaloes in the grasslands. And they are mainly responsible for ruining all the hiking trails throughout the hills.

As we rested on one of the rocks, we saw a few Gujjar women resting behind a big boulder that was shielding them somewhat from the cold wind. One of the women asked us if we had some medicine to induce pain. One of the women was giving birth to a child! Right there in the mountains in the midst of cold winds and a hostile weather! I thought all women (these days) gave birth in hospitals! I felt really sorry for the poor woman. We did not have such a medicine. We moved on hoping nature would take care.

As we climbed on we saw boys and girls in groups returning from the top. They had been wiser to start early in the morning.

As we reached a certain point, we looked back and these were some of the views we got.









And then we had almost reached the top when there was fog all around us. The path was slippery because of the drizzle and the hails. And then a hailstorm began. We were in our raincoats but they were of no use. The winds grew strong and cold. The hails fell upon us not vertically but horizontally. We stood with our backs to the storm. My hands went numb in a matter of minutes. I put on my gloves but it made no difference. My whole body froze. Well, almost! I could move only with great difficulty. My hands felt as if a hundred needles were poking them from inside. It hurt. Yogesh and Naresh took my hands and rubbed them, but it did not help. We were caught in a snowstorm. The 360 degree view that we had hoped to get eluded us. We knew we were standing on top and there were peaks and spaces all around but we could see nothing. The weather had betrayed us. I felt a sense of indignation.
What a disappointment it was! For now, I shall be a proverbial fox and declare that the trip was still worth it, for I got to see a snowstorm which I had never seen before!

Right before our eyes a brown – green hill turned white!

Look!




As we trekked down we saw that the Gujjar woman who was to give birth had been bundled on horseback and the rest of the Gujjars climbed behind. They would climb further, right into the snow storm and go beyond, to where they lived! What a marvel human body is! What a capacity it has to adapt!

The climb down was painful. It was raining. The several small streams that we had crossed our way up had swelled with all the rainwater. With great difficulty, we forded -what may be called without too much exaggeration – rivulets, and walked towards the temple in Dodital. The surface of the river was pockmarked with raindrops. It was a different sight but a beautiful one. We were soaked to the skin.

We sat for hours before the fire in the kitchen and my hands that had gone numb, stopped hurting. A Gujjar had given to the priest a big jar of fresh buffalo milk with the instruction that kheer was to be prepared from it and we were to be served with a feast. Everywhere we went, we were treated like VIP’s. This was because Yogesh was a forest officer and it was with his permission that the Dhaba was allowed to be set up, the Gujjars were allowed to graze their buffaloes and so on… :)

That night was colder than the previous night. The next morning, we said goodbye to Dodital. In my mind I decided to come back to this place. Being a stubborn girl, I would go to Darva Top again and get that 360 degree view which had betrayed me this time.

For more pictures see Darva Top



Saturday, September 20, 2008

Nugget Of Philosophy


Here’s an interesting nugget having philosophical implications that I found in a place I least expected to find – a book on economics by Schumacher.

When lord created the world and people to live in it, He reasoned with Himself as follows: ‘If I make everything predictable, these human beings whom I have endowed with pretty good brains, will undoubtedly learn to predict everything, and they will thereupon have no motive to do anything at all, because they will recognize that the future is totally determined and cannot be influenced by any human action. On the other hand, if I make everything unpredictable, they will gradually discover that there is no rational basis for any decision whatsoever and, as in the first case, they will thereupon have no motive to do anything at all. Neither scheme would make sense. I must therefore create a mixture of the two. Let some things be predictable and let others be unpredictable. They will then, amongst many other things, have the very important task of finding out which is which’.

:-) To all those, who have been swimming in a mire of eternal dichotomy, sometimes towards the shore of free will and sometimes towards the shore of destiny, the above elucidation is ‘The Middle Way’ that may help to keep you afloat.

As in the case of all divergent problems of life, the solution lies in reconciling the two extremes.

Keep floating!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gopal Krishna Gokhale - Turnbull




Did I tell you about Select bookshop? It is an antique bookshop in Bangalore, perhaps the only one of its kind. The proprietor Mr. Murthy, is a columnist in Times Of India. If you want a book that you could not find in any of the other book stores in India, because it was printed in 1916 and is out of print now, there is still hope for you because just one last copy with its yellowed pages may be resting safely in Select bookshop that is hidden from the eyes of the multitude in the busiest part of Bangalore.
Careful! Touch the book as if it were a delicate flower!

This is one of the books I picked up at Select bookshop.
Printed in 1935. 130 pages. Price – 14 annas. :-)
A book by Lucia Turnbull, H.G.D. Turnbull.
Foreword by Rt. Hon. V. S. Srinivasa Sastry.

I was attracted to this book because of the last name, Right Honourable Srinivasa Sastry, whose English according to my father and his sources was of the highest standard in India.

As I read this one, I revisited not only a part of Indian history, but an Indian society that was so different and Indian people who were made of a superior soil. Indeed, with time, as soil looses its fertility, so people loose their vitality.

The following is what I would like to remember of all that I read.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale (GKG) was born on the 9th of May, 1866.

- He was not a freedom fighter but a statesman.
- He was a disciple of Ranade.
- He was very balanced in his endeavour to help India.
- He was a moderate, not an extremist. He did not show any signs of non co-operation with the British, but criticized only what he believed was not in the interest of the nation.
- He was a greater orator. His speeches were marked by qualities such as knowledge, lucidity, reasonable ness, restraint and calm, as opposed to aggressiveness, blind passion etc…
- Evolution, not revolution was his watchword.
- The wider employment of Indians in the higher posts of services, the reduction of military expenditure, the reduction or even abolition of the salt tax, more money for irrigation and for technical education and free and compulsory primary education were the recurring themes of his speeches.
- He was an example of the golden mean between the idealist and the realist. The idealist and the realist who works for great moral and spiritual ends the realist who has learnt from history and experience that they can be attained only by patient and steady effort and that we must build stone by stone. On the foundation that is at hand.
- In his speech of 1911 on the council regulations, he said that when the Mohammadan community was agitating for special electorates, he supported their claim and thereby incurred to some extent, the displeasure of his Hindu brethren.
- When a proposal by him related to compulsory mass education was not received well, he said, “I have always felt and have often said that we of the present generation in India can only hope to serve our country by our failures. The men and women who will be privileged to serve her by their successes will come later.”
- He fought against indentured labour in South Africa.
- Gokhale was much before Gandhi. In fact, Gandhi was starting his all India tour after his return from South Africa when Gokhale was reaching the end of his life.
- His speeches helped to diffuse what Mr. Gandhi called the “Gokhale atmosphere”. That, one should have a character so pronounced that a new phrase be coined after their name is great.
- On Feb 19th, 1915 his heart, which had been overtaxed, gave up forever.

Certainly, the importance of good communication was well understood by people those days. Also, since many of them sailed to England for higher education, their language was of a higher standard.

Unlike the movies that show the Englishman in complete bad light, the book gives views that are apparently unbiased.- it’s enlightening to read about the good that the Englishmen did and to read that people were actually happy to receive the English after the Mughal rule and the chaos.
The English brought to India, railways, post and telegraph etc. Gokhale openly acknowledged their superior loyalty and superior administration.

I don’t know how unbiased the author is because of 2 reasons.
First reason : The mention of Partition of Bengal as an effort to increase efficiency sounds biased. (It was lord Curzon’s initiative) given the popular belief that it was a ‘divide and rule’ trick to separate the Hindus and the Muslims.

That’s the problem with most of the authors. Some are pro Hindu, some pro Muslim etc.., It’s very difficult to find a book on History written by someone unbiased. Our history was written mostly by foreign authors and not natives and this continues even today.

Second reason : The book shows extremists in really bad light..Tilak and others…almost as if they were terrorists.

One line I particular liked was “Time has the last laugh.”

The book evokes patriotism in you as you read it. It awakens you to all the hardships people had to go through those days and the sacrifices they willingly made for their motherland.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Flower Show At Lalbagh And Living In Bangalore


16th and 17th August 2008

For the first time after many years of living in Bangalore, I went to see the flower show at Lalbagh.

The evening of 16th, it rained after I reached there and it was too crowded. I managed to take a few pictures, which is why I went again on the morning of the 17th to get a better appreciation.
Lalbagh is one place which gives every Bangalore lover some assurance and respite in the midst of the fast depleting greenery. It is one of those places that has not changed in years and mercifully so.

I managed to get there by 11 and it was not as crowded as it had been the previous evening.
A lot of hard work I must say; a cornucopia of plants, flowers and leaves not only collected but also assembled together to make a very pretty picture indeed!














Bamboo is sooooo photogenic...

For quite some time now, the pubs and discos in Bangalore have had to endure the effect of their unfavourable planetary positions.
The regular party goers, the “happening” lot of the city seem to have lost all purpose of living. Almost everyone is declaring Bangalore a “dead city”. No night life. No parties. No DJ’s. Nothing is happening man! It’s a dead city!

What a sad definition of life these people have.

As far as I am concerned Bangalore is a very happening city, a city full of life.

Theatre is happening here more than anywhere else. Rangashankara shows a play everyday. Alliance Francaise and Chowdiah Memorial Hall are not far behind. Well, almost.
Classical concerts are happening. Sonu Nigam and other singers are performing. Jagjit Singh ghazal concerts are happening. Art exhibitions are there. The climate is the best you can get.
Lalbagh flower show is happening! This city has more lakes than any other city.
Does anyone even know of the Basavana Parise or Kadalekai Parise? No, because that happens in South Bangalore. To most of them, Bangalore is just MG and Brigade road.

So what do you mean by “Nothing is happening”?

I mean, what more can a city be expected to offer to its inhabitants?

The only thing that’s not been happening for some time is the pub that is a synonym of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex and some nudity (well, almost! You should go to the pubs of Bangalore; over half the people are more than half naked.)

And yes, there is illicit sex. These lounge bars, pubs and discos are the epicenters of flesh trade in the city. Mingling with the normal crowd, there are prostitutes glancing here and there, hoping to find some guy letching at them.
These prostitutes would not stand behind a tree in Cubbon park and get bitten by mosquitoes all night, like those rustic ones. You see, they are English speaking prostitutes! They have some standard. So they operate out of air conditioned lounge bars and cater to English speaking rascals!

The men, all drunk, falling all over the place, lean on these women sometimes, sliding their hands under the clothes of these women, sometimes kissing them on the dance floor and what not. Quite a sight it is!

Men and women smoke in style and smoke to glory. The smoke I am sure, reaches high heaven.

If you call Bangalore a dead city because all of the above are not happening, then I pity you for your definition of life.

Going once in a way for some music and dance is one thing. But being addicted to such pastimes…. I wouldn’t call it healthy. Forget about morality and propriety. Look at it from the environment point of view. So much of fuel burnt and such poisonous gases released to the air till late night. For what purpose? Drinking beer and dancing all night?

During daytime, traffic is inevitable. People have to go to work, students to school, etc. But after sundown what is the need to continue pollution and global warming? Why shouldn’t the city rest?
Most of the time, no useful work is done, but the flames are not extinguished…

Like Tagore said “As soon as the day of sunlight is over, the day of electric light begins. There is not much work done in it, but there is no rest, for the fire continues, as it were, to smoulder in the charcoal after the blazing wood has burnt itself out…”
I wish more and more people would read Tagore…

For holding such opinions, I have been mocked at and asked if I were a Bajrang Dal or a Shiv Sena or an RSS activist! All I do is heave a sigh. I am sure Tagore is heaving a sigh too……

As for me, although an exception in this sea of party animals and compulsive shoppers, I am simply happy to indulge in a healthy pastime. Trees, flowers, leaves, common people and roasted peanuts in the peaceful, serene garden of Lalbagh……


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where Time Loses All Meaning...


This poem was truly inspired. I am not very happy with the last few lines. Anyway, tell me how you like it.

Where time loses all meaning
And space is all that remains

Where emblems of eternity
Lay strewn like pebbles by an ocean

Where your eyes see more clearly than ever
But your mind becomes devoid of perspective

Where for the first time, as you drink water
You know for sure, your thirst has been quenched

Where, even as you stand engulfed by absolute silence
A bell of solemnity resounds within you

Where you will, at last, find all the answers
And the eternal question will take birth

Where all superlatives become powerless
In their exertion to eulogise

Where worries about the “self”
Become ashamed of their insignificance

Where, you undertake an odyssey
To prostrate before a mother who gave you life

And as you stand before the glacier of Gaumukh
You find yourself witnessing the birth of that mother!

Where the focal length of eyes adjust involuntarily
To view the towering mountains and faraway skies

And all objects small and nearby
Become unworthy of notice

As they take a bow and retreat silently
From your field of view
Wishing not be a barrier
In the great union between you and the faraway mountains

As if they read your mind
And at once understood
The need for your privacy
With the Devdars and the Pines

There your mind will attain freedom
There your heart will find solace

There you’ll experience silence and solitude
There your search will come to an end

For that’s where the Gods live
In each river and each mountain
Each droning hill and each roaring fountain
In the valleys and peaks of the great Himalayas


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dodital


After returning from Gaumukh to Gangotri, I was not very sure of my future course. I wanted to visit Kedar Tal, Dodital and also Yamunotri. After some dilemma and dilly dallying, I called up the forest officer at Uttarkashi who had issued us permit to go to Gaumukh.

He was Yogesh, a friendly boy (a kid, actually) and had shown interest in coming with us to Dodital. It was in his place that I tasted the juice of Buras, a wild flower, for the first time and it tasted so good!

So when I called up Yogesh asking him if he was still interested to come with me, he said yes at once. So I left to Uttarkashi. I spent the night with his family, in his home. I must mention here that the family, especially his mother was very nice to me.
After a hot water bath, tasty home food and good sleep, I was ready for the next destination – Dotital.
We drove to Sangamchatti from where the trek began. We were determined to cover 22 kilometers in one day.

We started by the Assi ganga river towards Agoda village through a thicket.



The five kilometer walk – I mean, climb – was difficult, although scenic.




At Agoda, I realized that I needed a porter to carry my back pack which was not more than 5 kilos in weight. So we took Naresh with us. I had trekked enough during this tour to understand a few things about my capacity for adventure.

I find the first few kilometers really difficult. I pant for breath and halt often. After some distance, I feel no fatigue. I can walk continuously for several kilometers without resting and I can overtake more than half the people who are ahead of me on the trail. I feel like a machine that has been programmed to keep walking.
I am lucky to have strong limbs. I did not feel pain in the joints. My calves ached, but I ignored them.
I don’t drink too much water. If there are springs on the way, I drink from them. I don’t carry a bottle for the weight of it slows me down. So, I can go without water.
I can go without food too. In this tour however, I did carry glucose and dry fruits just in case….
One thing that I find extremely painful is walking in the Sun. Terrible!

This is Buras flower of which juice is made. It’s available only in these parts.




Wild roses... very fragrant...


It started raining, but we continued to trek. Our twenty rupee raincoat helped to a certain extent.





Ferns. Beautiful. Aren’t they?




This is the Bandarpoonch peak. I have no idea why it got that name.(Bandarpoonch means monkey’s tail!)

I must mention that it was 7:30 in the evening when we still had five kilometers to cover. We were equipped. We had a torch.
We trekked in the night till 10:30. This was AN EXPERIENCE!

It was twilight when we left the village of Maanjhi where we stopped for a cup of chai, where we also met a lone German woman who would reach Dodital the next day.

On one side of the trail were the mountains. On the other side was the valley full of Devdar trees. The trail itself was narrow; muddy in certain places and stony in other places. It was slippery after the rain. The fallen leaves that were decaying made the trail more slippery. The buffaloes and mules that had treaded the route left not only their foot prints ;-) but their urine and excreta as well. Sometimes, one would find a bear here and there in the vicinity of this area.
On this trail, we set out, with only a torch to guide us in the dark, to the ever elusive lake of Dodital.

If you want to know the meaning of absolute darkness, you should go to this place. Yogesh, who was carrying the torch, reluctantly switched it off now and then just to please the fancy of this stubborn girl and I stood there feeling as if I had gone blind. It was DARK.
I looked up at the sky and I saw what I had never seen before.
A clear sky packed, sprinkled, smeared, sprayed and painted with stars. I haven’t seen so many stars in all my life in one single night sky.
The drone of flowing water in the distance was like a mirage in the desert. Now, we thought we had reached the lake. Now, we thought, we had finally arrived. But we had a long way to go. 2 kilometers in a moonless night through a thicket on a dangerous trail is a long way indeed!

We had to cross many springs on our way! At some places, there were logs of wood across the springs on which we carefully balanced ourselves. In other places, we were ankle deep, knee deep in ice cold water, stepping on rocky beds as we forded the river. Our shoes and socks were soaked in cold water but I felt relieved to be washed like this after all the mule and buffalo shit and urine my feet were immersed in …...

We had almost reached when there appeared an obstacle before us and my heart sank as I believed we would have to return. There was a spring before us and the bridge had been broken down as reconstruction was to begin. We had no choice but to ford the spring on foot. This was difficult and both Naresh and Yogesh helped me.

Another place, the trail itself was broken and suddenly we found ourselves at the edge of a trail that was no more. The trail continued at a certain distance, a few feet away from us but much below. A gorge separated the two trails. We stepped on a few stones that skirted the mountain and somehow descended down. One slip and I would have gone down the valley.

We reached Dodital, sat around a chula(kitchen fire) in a dhaba and dried our socks and shoes. I would have to wait till the next morning to see what I had come all this way for! Dodital!



I was initially disappointed because of two reasons. The water was not blue but green. Something about blue algae and green algae and all that… Next, it was not a massive lake but a small one. I mean you could easily see the other end. It had a circumference of one kilometer. Karanji Lake in namma Mysore I much bigger.

But when I walked to the other side, I thought the lake looked beautiful.



I learnt later that the lake is very deep at a certain point and no one has been able to measure its depth. Once, a boat drowned and the man’s body never floated to the surface!

The place is very serene. There are just two or three pukka buildings in that place. The temple of Annapurna is one among them. Lord Ganesha is believed to have been born here.
There is a small room for the priests behind the temple. The third building is the forest rest house. This place is not very popular unlike the other pilgrim places and there were a very few people. Needless to say, the place was clean. There were students from Doon school who had pitched their tents nearby.


video

When I woke up that morning, I heard the melody of flute. I looked all around to find the source of this melody. A sadhu baba, seated close to the lake was playing the flute. The soft melody filled the entire place which was otherwise still and silent. The effect of a flute is so soothing that a place already tranquil becomes more tranquil when the flute is played.


video

From Dodital, we went to Darva top and returned back. I will cover this in subsequent post.
Here are pictures that I took, as we returned from Dodital to Sangamchatti, after our raelly adventurous trip to Darva Top.



At last, after several trials, I succeeded in capturing the right colour, the right hue.



Back to Agoda village.



Terrace farming at Agoda. This probably is wheat. Looks golden in sunlight. Desh ki dharti sona ugle… how true!

To view more pictures, do visit Dodital