Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daily Inspiration - Robin Sharma

This one was a Christmas gift from Justin.

365 Quotes. One for each day. But I read all the quotes in one month – the last month of 2008. I am sure I would have benefited by reading one quote a day.

After a certain point it seemed very repetitive. The same message in different words; sometimes the same words on different pages.
By the time I had reached the last page, I thought most of the book was made of hackneyed, trite, clich├ęd sayings.

But there were many quotations worth noting down; some for the message they contained, some for the ideas they triggered in my mind, some that I need to start practicing immediately and yet some that served to verify my preconceptions…

Connect to a compelling cause with your heart, not your head. The mind can be a limiter. The emotions are the liberator...

Success cannot be pursued. Success ensues. It flows as the unintended byproduct of efforts concentrated in the direction of a worthy cause…

Adversity tends to make us more philosophical…we wonder if life is ruled by the silent hand of chance or the powerful fist of choice…

Do your best and then let life do the rest. It’s really a delicate balance between making it happen and letting it happen...

True leadership of human beings lies in commending them rather than in condemning them...

Never be a prisoner of your past. Be the architect of your future...

It takes great resolve and power to leave the gravitational forces of the crowd and begin to live more truly. The space shuttles uses more fuel during its first three minutes after take off than it requires during the remainder of its orbit around the entire earth for this very reason: there is a pull exerted by this world that takes great energy to overcome. But overcome it you must, to avoid a life of regret and sadness...

One of the most wonderful things about time is the fact that you cannot waste it in advance. No matter how much time you have squandered in the past, the next hour that comes to your way will be perfect, unspoiled and ready for you to make the very best of it...

I will post many more in future.

Some study on psychology of bloggers I heard says bloggers are losers. Only losers blog. I dismissed it the minute I heard it…but the one below however brings a big smile on my face…

Writing things down is an incredibly important practice for self discovery. The discipline of journaling transforms lives. Just as you get to know another person by having deep conversations with them, by journaling regularly, you will come to know yourself through writing. Writing promotes clarity and clarity precedes mastery. And since your life is worth living, your life is definitely worth recording...

How much time I have spent blogging! Writing articles and refining, pruning and perfecting them! I began to see that my writing had improved over time- matured it in fact. There is more clarity in thoughts and newer perspectives.

Who the #$%@^*& said blogging is for loosers!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Inheritance Of Loss - Kiran Desai

Yet another award winning work. Yet another disappointment. This time, it’s a Booker.

The thing I loved most about this book was the cover page. I thought it was beautiful. But that’s about the only thing I liked about the book.

The title is very apt. All the characters in the story inherit a loss and live with that inheritance.

Judge Jemubhai Patel, from a middle class family married a rich girl so he could pay for his trip to England and his education with the dowry he received. He returned to India and served the British in several posts.
An incompatible wife, racial discrimination etc. are not problems that no one has faced before.
But a weakling full of complexes, he turned a bitter man, withdrew from people and life. Not only did he make his own life sad but also the lives of those around him – parents, wife, daughter, granddaughter, cook, neighbours, guests and so on.

Sai, his daughter’s daughter, a teenager has lost both parents in an accident in Moscow and returns from a convent to the custody of her grandfather who now lives in Kalimpong. Her grandfather’s aloofness, the absence of any other family member and the gloomy weather of the hill station do not help to make her cheerful. Her world is not much; the cook, a few ladies in the neighbourhood whom she befriends and her tutor Gyan whom she falls in love with.

The cook lives in anticipation of letters and news from his son Biju who has crept his way to America in lure of dollars.

Biju, an illegal immigrant in America, lives in constant fear of the police, works in dismal conditions among many other illegal immigrants from several countries, faces humiliation, contempt and finally disillusioned and unable to take it anymore, returns to India only to be robbed of all he has by the Gorkha rebels.

Gyan, Sai’s tutor is in love with her or may be infatuated to her. Both of them are too young and confused to know for sure and the reader does not get to know either. But even before their feelings could develop, Gyan is carried away by the Gorkha rebellion that was gaining momentum at that time. In an uproar of protest marches, slogans, demonstrations, pillaging and killing, the murmur of love dies down and only anger, hurt and indignation remain.

And then there are the neighbours, visitors and a dog among others.

The story is sad – because of all its characters being so aloof. But it does not move you or touch you. It’s just sad. In fact, the story makes no impact at all. Doesn’t touch you, move you, excite you, sadden you, please you…

The story is not at all gripping. The book is very much putdownable. It could have been a 100 pages lesser.

The shift in focus from Kalimpong in Hiamalayas to a restaurant in the US and back is something you don’t look forward to, something you are not excited about as you read; the shift is too often and too soon.

I don’t know if this modern style of writing (this has crept into movie making too) – no proper beginning, no proper ending, no chronological ordering of events whatsoever, narration oscillating unpredictably between past and present …. all loose threads – serve a good purpose at all times.

Although I did refer the dictionary to get the meanings of certain words,( there were many words, I had to refer the dictionary for), they have not served to bring out the beauty of the language. Therefore the language might as well have been more simple and straightforward.

And then there are words I could not find in the dictionary. Mine is an old edition. So I think, these words must be slang that have been in vogue for so long that those fellows who write the dictionary had no other option but to include these words in the later editions and legitimize them.

And then there are words that I believe one should not use either in conversation or in writing; “kamikaze”, for instance.
You may have by chance picked up a fancy word from the dictionary and are eager to show off, but there is a good chance that you are the only one in this world who knows it!

No praiseworthy effort has been made by the author at imagery but the occasional mention itself of Kunchenjunga, Mt Everest, Darjeeling, pine tree and the hillside brings certain beautiful images to your mind’s eye.
The teesta valley renowned for butterflies…
From Darjeeling you can see Kunchenjunga and Mt Everest as a small triangle…
(Hmm… will have to plan a trip :-))

I must admit that there are a few insightful and interesting observations towards the end but they are fleeting. They come in the form of a few passing comments or sentences. But they will not succeed in causing you to pause or dwell upon these lines because the writer herself does not dwell upon them.

Could fulfillment ever be felt as deeply as loss? Love must surely reside in the gap between desire and fulfillment, in the lack, not the contentment. Love is the ache, the anticipation, the retreat, everything around it but the emotion itself...

Old hatreds are endlessly retrievable...

When the grief of the past is gone, just the fury remains, pure, distilled…

A sad romance is better than bovine happiness...

…perpetual gnawing urgency and intensity of waiting, of hope living on without sustenance. It must feed on itself, it would drive her mad.….

- the greatest luxury of not noticing oneself at all.

The scene of the story, namely the mountainside, the ever present Kunchenjunga and the time of the story marked by political(if not historical) disturbance such as the separatist movements by Gorkhas offer ample opportunity to salvage an otherwise bland writing. But unfortunately (for the reader), the author has not taken advantage of such an opportunity.

The narrator of the story is not one among the characters unlike in Kanthapura. I will have to digress a bit here.
I was not able to see the work of Kanthapura in the right perspective until I read “The Inheritance of Loss”.
One thing common to both works is the absence of imagery in spite of there being an opportunity to create vivid images for the reader. The difference however, is this.
In “Kanthapura”, the narrator is an old village grandmother who is one among the characters of the story. The story through her eyes had to be the way it appeared and appealed to her. One who is a part of a scene is always oblivious to the fine details of their surroundings and often take their surroundings for granted. So had there been any imagery in the work, it would ring as insincere to an observant reader.
But in “The Inheritance of Loss”, the narrator is not one among the characters of the story but an observer. So she could have filled pages describing the beauty of Kunchenjunga and some more pages with background of the Gorkha movement. History, after all is so interesting.
But as I said, the author has not taken advantage of such an opportunity.

But do read this book as it is an award winning one. With two award winning books now and the resulting disappointment, I wonder if I really know how to read a book. Am I missing something?

I am most curious to know other people’s experience with this.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dara Shikoh

I watched this play in Rangashankara.
I went to this play with a lot of anticipation. There were two reasons.
This was directed by MS Sathyu, a really popular theatre personality. And it was a historic play.

But I thought the script was very inadequate.
The story of the four sons of Shah Jahan and the succession of Aurangzeb to the throne is a very interesting one and hence provides ample scope for a spectacular rendition. But this play has not taken advantage of that scope.

This play claims to be about a historic betrayal.

The opening scene seemed promising – the sets, the soft music and lights, the song and dance, the four narrators articulating in eloquent Urdu – was all very charming. But as the play unfolded, I began to see that it was not going to be all that I thought it would be.

First of all, one needs to know history really well to appreciate such a play. There is much story and only so much of it can be told in 2 hours. The songs and dances steal away some of the time. Therefore such a play assumes that the viewers know the background and follow the piece that’s being enacted. And so it was with this play.

Since I had read this segment of history and that too, only a few months ago, I was able to follow the play to quite an extent.

According to history this is the story.
Shah Jahan had four sons. Dara Shikoh, Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad. (He had 14 children, 7 survived to reach adulthood of which 3 were daughters)
Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, was friendly with the Rajputs and other Hindus unlike his contemporary fellow Muslims and that was why he was deemed unfit for the throne by the family.
He was especially resented by Aurangzeb who had absolute hatred for all the infidels (Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs etc.) Aurangzeb killed all brothers and became the emperor of Hindustan. I have read an account of the matter written by Aurangzeb himself which gives you his point of view but I will talk about that later……

Dara Shikoh was believed to have been friendly with the Hindus alright but I am not sure if he read the Vedas as depicted in this play!!!
As it has been the nature of people and a practice in this country to glamourize every savage from Central Asia who burnt down our people and places (don’t even get me started on it!), I am skeptical about Dara Shikoh reading the Vedas! Too much!

The abundant use of Urdu posed some difficulty. My Hindi is really good and I understand Urdu to some extent but a profusion of rich Urdu dialogues delivered one after the other made it difficult to appreciate their full meaning and purport.

There is nobody playing the character of Aurangzeb, the antagonist. It would have helped if someone had played Aurangzeb.
The cause of enmity/hostility between brothers and the events that lead to the final betrayal are not depicted either. The play is incomplete. They could have done away with all those songs and dances and shown more story instead.

Most of the play was narrated and not enacted, especially the climax.
The climax is the war scene and difficult to enact I agree but they could have used props such as the frequently changing background picture, as I have seen in some other plays. There are so many techniques available to modern theatre.

On the whole, the play was mediocre.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

After Himalayas...

I posted my last post on Himalayas but after having written about the Himalayas for so long (since June 2008), I feel like writing a little more. Just a little more.

So what happened after Khirganga?

I collected my baggage from Kasol, took a bus to a nearby town, from there – took the night bus to Delhi, checked into a cheap hotel in Carol Bagh, met Rajan, an old friend from Toastmasters, ate in a Chinese place and dined at a resort. The next day, did some shopping in Janpath alone, went to India Gate, had lunch at Piccadelhi Circus in Cannaught place with Rajan (again), saw Charlie Chaplin there(not a poster or statue, but a short thin man with his face painted and all, walking aroung around with a stick), visited a mall and boarded the night flight to Bangalore.

My heart almost burst when inside the airport, I read a notice that said no more than 200 ml of liquid would be allowed on the plane – I was carrying one liter of Gangajal from the Gaumukh glacier and half a liter of Buras juice from Uttarkashi. When I mentioned Gangajal, the man in uniform nodded in approval and I breathed again. :-)
Truly, in this country, when it is the Ganges that people find themselves standing before, the act of surrendering is universal and unanimous!

I landed, to see for the first time, the Bangalore International Airport! I thought I liked it.
Life continued…

The people, the traffic, the noise did not shock me so much, for weeks and months that followed were spent walking through the banalities of life with a half presence. I was in a trance.
My condition was no different from that of a person suffering love sickness. I was burning in separation. One month had passed so soon. It was over.

The Ganges in the valley at Rishikesh haunted my waking hours and my sleep alike.
Many a day, I woke up dreaming of the Ganges at Rishikesh. I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep so I could dream some more.

There was a newfound concern for environment… every passing vehicle, every whirl of smoke in the air, every machine that operated, every consumer item that was bought – in fact, every human activity pointed to the glacier that was melting away. The economic recession is making me happy – as it means a considerable decline in human activity!

In the midst of sorting some 1300 pictures, I would pause to look at a mountain, a valley, a river, a Devdar… and wake up not knowing how much time had passed.

And hey! I thought the coconut tree was the most beautiful or photogenic of all trees... Until I saw the Devdar.

As I started writing about my tour, a new excitement began.
I relived my experience with each picture I uploaded and each article I was a time for reckoning…… of all that I had gained…

Covered 180 kilometers on foot in 30 days…collected a can of Ganges from the glacier… fragments of the fragrant Ganga Tulasi…sang a Bhajan with a mendicant in a warm tent in Bhojbasa… the mendicant’s malleable voice lingers with me still… Radhe Radhe Bol… Radhe Radhe Bol …Keshava Madhava Hari Hari Bol… saw life in it’s new meaning… a meaning given by the mountains…
Discovered new friendships and rediscovered an old.

I met many people on my way … some of them still clasp my hand long after the journey is over.

Abhishek Dimri calls me very often – sometimes from Bhopal, sometimes from Bhutan, where he has gone to fly balloons – hot air balloons :-) This is what army majors do when they are not fighting in the battlefield. What fun!
His plan to come to Bangalore has not materialized yet.

Yogesh sounds exhilarated when I call him, his happiness is child like. He has acquired some knowledge about the ways of the cities and its people from the grapevine, but at heart he is an innocent pahadi... a mountain boy!
His mother asks me when I will visit them again. So does one of his sisters who has only heard about me from others in the family as she had gone to her aunt during my visit.

Anu Thakur of Manali asks me the same question. “Phir kab Aogi?”… “Get married and come here for honeymoon…says he”
“Amen”... what else can I say?

As for Arun Babaji, he is on the move all the time… Sikkim, Gawana(where he has his Ashram), Europe… Once over the phone, I read out one of my poems to him and he in turn read out a poem written on the Ganges, by Guru Ramteerth. He has been inviting me to spend some time with him in his ashram. He wishes me to carry from the South, Dosa mix, Sambhar powder etc. “When you come to stay here, you can make Dosa for me” he says. I really hope that day comes soon.
And then …… some jokes. Our conversations do not end until Babaji has told me a few jokes.

It was in Jan 2008 that I read Robin Sharma’s “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”. The book inspired me in a way that the author had not intended when he wrote it.
A rich and famous lawyer from the US throws away everything one day and goes to the Himalayas in pursuit of peace, calm and content… Throughout the narrative, the lawyer describes how the great mountains of India brought about a transformation in him…he attributes his newfound content and realization to the sages whom he met and their ancient wisdom ... his frequent description of the mountains and his spiritual experience filled me with a longing to visit the Himalayas.

I had seen the grandeur of the Himalayas twice before, thanks to my father’s love for travelling.
As I read the book, I dreamt of going there again…it was not easy… but I continued to dream anyway…

In less than 5 months I was in the grand Himalayas.


It’s February now. May is just 3 months away.
I have to visit Srilanka in May- for a few days. I am thinking when to go to Rishikesh... Before the Lanka trip? Or after…? Hmmmm…..
Ways will unfold… I shall start dreaming anyway… :-)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gaganachukki Bharachukki Water Falls

This place is known by several names: Bluff, Shivanasamudra, Shimsha falls, Gaganachukki and Bharachukki Water Falls… enough to confuse those who do not know the place…

This trip was with family. Mom, Dad, Bro and yours truly.

There is so much scenic beauty in Karnataka around Bangalore and Mysore.

I enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

On both sides of the road one can see acres and acres of sprawling green fields. On those countless bus journeys between Bangalore and Mysore in the last few years, I have wished I could stop the driver, get down and stand before the fields, take in all the beauty around me and take some pictures too…

Our wishes are granted often …

This time the driver was none other than my brother and I took full advantage of it…

Didn’t I tell you coconut tree is the most photogenic of all trees?
Like a fountain of fronds held together by a tall slender stem….
Like fireworks in the sky…
Like the pillars of a temple…

This is Gaganachukki falls.

We were not able to get down unlike the previous time. They had blocked the trail with barbed wires. A few of those intrepid but mindless fellows must have fallen and died… too bad…

We spent sometime here and drove towards Bharachukki water falls. Of the two falls, I like this one more. On the way we stopped at this place…

You pass by this place called Madhyaranga before you reach Bharachukki falls. This is a Ranganatha temple.

This is Bharachukki falls.

There are steps all the way down to the falls.

When we reached the bottom…

The brimming river hides a bed made of sharp rocks. Don’t even think about swimming here.

I wanted to float on one those charming boats but my kin would not let me…

All of us sat here for sometime and then returned to our car.

On our way back, we passed by some more beautiful fields.

A field of marigold … I wish this was my garden…

When I stand before a beautiful picture as this, I think green is the most beautiful colour… the colour of prosperity, the colour of nature, the colour of India…but then, when the clouds drift and the blue sky shows, I am not sure…

Monday, February 09, 2009

Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein......

This probably was the first poem that fell into my ears after I came into this world.

My parents were in Agra.
There was no television yet. All they had was a tape recorder and this cassette which had not just the songs of the movie Kabhi Kabhi, but the movie itself.
My parents would play this cassette everyday.

They did, of course, on many days go to the Taj Mahal and spend their evenings there, before the love monument.

I have grown up listening to this poem and the song that follows. Sometimes, it was somebody else’s poem. And sometimes, it was my poem. But every time I heard the verses, the experience was one full of poignance. In the voice of Amitabh Bachhan, the poem moves you. Even the air that carries the song would become still … such is this song.

It is a poem to be loved. But it’s not a poem to be lived.

Every few years, it became my song, my poem. The journey of life took me to this poem now and then…and the poem helped my tears flow freely, but I always thought I would find another poem, another song…eventually.

But this poem has stayed with me.

These lines haunt me now more than ever before.

I wonder if it was not merely incidental that my life should have started with this poem.
I wonder if it was not merely incidental that my life should have started with the love monument. For that’s what my life has been all about. Love, longing and living.

kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hain
ki zindagi teri zulfon ki narm chhaon main guzarne pati
to shadab ho bhi sakti thi

yeh ranj-o-gham ki siyahi jo dil pe chhayi hai
teri nazar ki shuaon mein kho bhi sakti thi

magar yeh ho na saka …

magar yeh ho na saka aur ab ye aalam hai
ki tu nahin, tera gham teri justjoo bhi nahin

guzar rahi hai kuch is tarah zindagi jaise,
ise kisi ke sahare ki aarzoo bhi nahin

na koi raah, na manzil, na roshni ka suraag
bhatak rahi hai andheron mein zindagi meri

inhi andheron mein reh jaoonga kabhi kho kar
main janta hoon meri hum-nafas, magar yunhi
kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Lalbagh Flower Show Jan 09

The flower show at Lalbagh happens twice a year. Mid August (Independence Day) and Late Jan (Republic Day). The show lasts about a week.
I did go to Lalbagh in Aug 08. I think it was towards the end of the show that I visited the place. The flowers did not look fresh and since it was a weekend, the place was crowded.

This time, I went on a weekday, having informed my lead at work that I would come to office by noon. A group from Mysore had organized the show this time. It was indeed different from the arrangement last time. A major part of the arrangement was theme based and the flowers were not packed closely unlike last time but arranged in patterns such that you could see each arrangement distinctly. The theme was Krishna’s story.

I can’t stop being amazed at the infinite capacity of human beings for being creative and original. It’s surprising how, after living in this world for thousands of years and having perpetually created art and beauty of all forms, man has not exhausted his creative capacity!

This has been made out of banana leaves...

This section is based on the theme of Krishna's story. His birth in the prison, the matkas or pots filled with butter...

Govardhana parvatha episode...

This is raas lila...

Kalingamardhana... what an idea!!

Shishupala Samhara...

Sudhama's house...

Thats supposed to be a peacock...


Thats the globe.. Peace...No War..

Ah! What roses... white petals with a tinge of blue...