Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy New Year - 2015

An inspiring occasion
Of new beginnings and association
Reflect and introspect
The year that’s left

Look forward
Towards hope and a new target
A faith of confident toast
And an unswerving spirit

Nothing new to say and hear
That’s not been said year after year
Prayers don’t hurt
To bring renewed confidence – when in doubt

May this year
Make us not old, but mature
Give us another chance to prove
Bless us sense to recall the right
Forgive wrong and forget
Drive to go forward with a resolve
To the unknown task of the year that’s novel!

Wish you a very happy new year!!!

Goodbye 2014

As time transcends
its moment to cross the fence
another year's end
its records marked

Seen many suns descend
And Moons ascend
Tremulous voices of nature
Several souls put to rest

Good-byes are testing
The tears of the wasted year make it easy
With a hope to rise again
And a new trail shall begin

Counting an year’s age
Good-bye to the hoary stage
Nearing the finale of journey
Of the year twenty-fourteen!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Up for a mindless story?

Rekha and Karan were married for 6 months but never took time to go on honey moon. Either he was busy at work or she had to stretch late to meet deadlines. They could finally grab a vacation and started to Ooty by train. The train was unusually less crowded owing to off-season and served just a handful of passengers.  As the train took off, Karan engaged himself with a magazine he had got from a platform stall while Rekha rewound her days with Karan all the way to their first meeting on a crowded lift.
“It was dusk and soon turning dark. Rekha was standing in the lobby waiting for the lift to find her way in. She had been waiting there for the last couple of minutes but wasnt able to make place for herself in the lift. She was on the 10th floor of a 25 storied building. It was one of the few high raised buildings in the city, with poor infrastructure. She wasnt lazy to walk down the stairs but it was raining heavily and the stairs had no crown to hide from rain. She did not want to get drenched and look like a dead cat for there were already enough eyes prying on her.

Finally the lift paused in her floor; there was place for just 2; however 5 guys strapped-in, along with her. She could have stepped aside and waited longer. But it was already getting late. The smells of cigarette, tobacco, chewing gum and sweaty shirts swamped the elevator. As Rekha shrunk inward to avoid being touched by strange men in the pretext of no lift space, there was a tall guy pushing her to a lift corner with his backpack. It looked calculated. Though it maddened her, Rekha did not mind it for she was shielded from being felt by unknown hands inappropriately. As the lift neared 4th floor, a huge lightning stuck and the lift came to a still. When it became nearly inoperable, the tall guy with the backpack raised an alarm and brought notice to the security who helped open the lift. Rekha now had no option but walk down the 4 floors in rain. By the time she crossed one floor, she was almost drenched. The light colored georgette salwar kameez that she had worn wrongly on a rainy day gave way to unwanted fantacies to the guys waiting alongside the stairs seeking shelter from rain. As she tried to wrap herself with the duppatta before getting all muggy, the same tall guy who was walking close behind her offered to share his umbrella.

She had seen him a couple of times in the building but he was far from an acquaintance. She agreed to share his umbrella. He gave a larger share of the small umbrella yet maintained distance from her, letting water dripping off the umbrella corners drench his shirt. With a lowered head, he walked by her side. He was the gentle man Rekha had just read on stories. She had never believed in love at first meet...But was this one? Those 5 minutes were like eternity to her. The rains which had just then put her off now tempted her to go out on a long drive with him, talk to him, get him to talk to her, know him, get him to know her, understand his likes dislikes etc. As she still lay in her reverie, he nodded gently hinting they had reached the basement shelter and that Rekha was on her own. By the time she realized and was brought back in time, he walked away.

The next day morning, again in the lift, as if it was deliberately timed, Rekha met the same guy. All she remembered about him was his tall frame and the blue-black backpack. The lift was relatively empty and there were just 8 people against a full capacity of 15. He neither put the bag on his back this time nor created an illusion of an over-crowded lift by pushing people on the sides - the kind that Rekha had seen of him, day before. She sensed that the guy had intentionally done it all. Rekha started to take a liking for him. He was an average looking guy, had a tall frame, was be-speckled, had broad shoulders sporting a confident personality. Rekha was lost in thoughts and missed to get out of the lift on reaching her floor. When she realized, the lift was already on 13th floor and the tall guy got out. Rekha followed and paused to stop him for a small conversation. She was nervous to start the conversation. The building was filling fast being a mid-weekday. People were busy walking in and out of lift into the office area. Rekha gathered her voice and "Excuse me, thanks for yesterday, I am Reeeekhaa" - said she. His manly voice was mesmerizing as he gently said “oh, you are welcome, I could not catch your name. Did you say Rekha? You are most welcome Rekha. I am Karan". 

Rekha felt a buzz passing through her spine as he took her name. To her surprise, he did not drag the dialogue. Instead wished her a good day and parted. His indifference further impressed Rekha unlike the other men who went crazy just with her looks. 

Rekha traced down the stairs, reached her bay and sat unwillingly booting her laptop with a tea mug in one hand! She thought he was someone you can’t but like. He was the long awaited friend she had dreamt of. Rekha, by now was tired of the constant stream of suitors at home, onlookers on road and attention-mongers at work. She wished to be free of the perverse obligations, befriend the right guy, know him and ask for his hand. She saw him in Karan.

Rekha was indeed a girl of worth. Her dependence on cosmetics was minimal, she was a natural beauty. She looked immortally beautiful with fair supple skin and sharp features adorning a round face. Dark long hair reached below her shoulders. Her dimple was hard to miss. She was the Miss perfect everywhere she went. But such perfections always caused trouble to the owner. Rekha was as beautiful from inside as she was on the outside. She was a tough girl with a soft heart. She normally chose to be silent and never made the first move on anything. She chose to be amongst the crowd. She was the shy girl and liked to remain silent until she knew her acquaintance well. But now, she felt a need to voice out her emotional shrieks and befriend the man of her charm! She felt queasy.

Destiny favored her and she happened to meet Karan more frequently in the building. They surely had struck a chord that in no time exchanged numbers, started texting and frequented in calling. Her initial judgment of him only got better with her knowing more of him. Inspite of his family’s frequent absences on the pretext of business, Karan was a well-behaved and serious man. His family had affluence, yet he chose to chase his dream of mastering the law. Rekha had not much liking for the legal field for people there seemed to spare little time for the family. But her admiration for Karan changed her opinion. Karan seemed to have varied interests. He had a deep love for music and dreamed of it as a part-time career. He could talk for hours on books, films, people, and society. He was an excellent orator and expressed himself precisely.

It’s impossible to estimate how quickly they became friends. It honestly scared Rekha, but admiration and love took over.
Rekha and Karan, by now knew without expressing though, they had fallen in love with each other. They wished to wait for some more time to take things ahead.
2 months passed by, and their relation was like never before yet they hadn’t named it. Only two of them knew what it meant to each other. 

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, in a cafĂ©, Karan with his handsome smile and penetrating looks proposed her with a platinum ring and a bunch of 5 roses, the 5th–an artificial one. He said I will be yours till the last of the 5 flowers dried. Her heart was almost beating in her throat. She could not contain her happiness. Her silence spoke louder. Her eyes conveyed the warmth and she gave an admiring look with acceptance. He went on his knees right there, extended his hand and said – be mine, forever! He then took her hand in his and positioned comfortably next to her. He slipped his palm over hers intimately. She blinked at him with a mix of emotions. His calm gaze soothed her. She was yet again taken by his effortless charm and chivalry.

Thus, began the story of a loving couple who eventually get married. They move to an apartment close to their office building. Love grew deeply with time. They enjoyed their routine.
Everyday before starting to office, Rekha would ask Karan, "Do I look pretty?" And Karan, with a cunning smile, would say - "No you don’t look pretty. You are beautiful". She enjoyed the innumerable compliments and constant flattering. She, on her part often appreciated Karan's sense of humor, his warmth and revered his presence in her life.

Taking their office lift often reminded them of their first meeting and they cherished it.
Her dream gets abruptly disturbed by a co-passenger's raised voice with Karan. She briefly learns that Karan had dozed off with his magazine in hand and his snoring disturbed the passenger in the nearby berth.

Though snoring was genetic, factors like smoking increased the likelihood and added to the decibels. Karan was adamant to give up on smoking; neither was he diligent with the exercises that he knew could be of help. 

Karan politely apologizes to the co-passenger and turns towards Rekha.

Rekha takes a deep breath and says, "Karan, you often ignore my words when I suggest you to quit smoking and take to habits like exercising and meditation. You don’t have to apologize to a stranger for your snoring, but for your smoking you have to feel sorry for yourself. Don’t you literally feel like jumping out of your own skin to do anything to get this out?"

Karan calmly responds "Sweetie, I will soon start an exercise regime and quit smoking once we are back from our vacation. We still haven’t settled after marriage. Please give it time."
Rekha retorts "Don’t sweetie me. I hate your persuasive qualities when it’s to seek an excuse". She then turns to the window to continue gazing. The train halts at a station and Karan steps out for a break.

After a brief 5 mins stop at an important junction, the train picks up speed. Karan wouldn’t have returned. Rekha would think - After all her advice he had possibly gone on a smoke break. Habits stay! He is probably giving time for the odor to fade before getting back to berth. Rekha decides to give a good 15 mins. But Karan wouldn’t be back yet. She hastily runs to the 2 doors on either sides of the compartment to find Karan nowhere. Rekha panics. She wouldn’t know to gauge her next move. She could have called him on the mobile but Karan pursed his mobile with her a while back since these days mobile phones fight to cram into small jeans pockets.

The next station was away by an hour and half. Rekha sits perplexed. All her co-passengers were deep asleep. Unentertained thoughts disturb her.

Did he get down and miss the train? Or did he slip while standing at the door-way?
Did Karan bring her all the way to ditch? She was in a relationship with him - mentally and physically - she was totally into the marriage. Was she taken for a ride? 

Her salty tears rain her imaginations and thoughts. Her kohl leaves its place; the eyeliner smears across; lip shade shadows.

She could do nothing but wait for the next station to get down, inform the station cops and gather Karan's where-about. The gloomy dark minutes feel everlasting. Breathing hard against the gushing air through the window, she looks into the darkness. The train seemed to be travelling in a narrow deserted area as was her life at the moment.

She looks at the watch. She could see distant lights from the nearby station platform. She gathers her bags to step out. Her final thoughts - Was she deceived? Did Karan like her at all?

Even before the station approaches, she sees Karan hurrying towards her from the compartment entrance. With his usual wit, he asks Rekha - "You thought I don’t like you?" - as if her thoughts were heard. He adds soon - "Yes, I don’t like you, I love you". "The last few mins of tacit separation was unbearable. I had stepped out in the previous station, as you guessed, for a smoke. But I changed my mind and went to buy bananas instead, not to turn down your advice. By the time I could reach back the platform, the train sped. I tried calling your mobile, but was out of coverage. Instead of wasting time, I ran out to hire a taxi and reached the next station to come back to you at the earliest. Sorry for leaving you under fright, Sweetie."

Rekha could not hide her tears. She feels the gleam of warm sun though it was still mid-night. Saying “Don’t sweetie me, she hugs him passionately. After a while of cuddling, they retire to their berths. Rekha could not catch sleep. She was still not out of shock. She could see few flickering lights from a distant corner from across the window. Other than the sound from the tracks, it is eerily silent. Soon a slight snore fills the atmosphere. Rekha is comforted by the familiar noise and retires to sleep peacefully!!!!

All stories have an ending, but this one does not! For this is not a story, just LOVE all the way!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy NewYear

Another year, new and bright
Another chance to get things right
Yet another opening to become what you want

We are, in the end as in the start
Lot of hopes  but more guilt
Apologetic reprobates, a nation that cannot be built

Let the new sunshine bring “corrected” sense
Lead better tomorrows with removed fence
Open windows to a fairer world hence

Let the resolution be to dream good
They do come true when fed
-With love that sees no end 

Special memories be cherished
Wonderful things appreciated
Serenity and happiness bestowed!
Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Get lost in Himachal!

After reading this post, do not blame me for using the word "Himachal" to cover just the two places - Kullu and Manali - that we visited. You will realize too,  towards the end - that Himachal blooms its best at these two praised and prized tourist destinations. 

Day 1:

I can cover the journey till Kullu in a wink, however the travel wasn’t that undersized. Reached Delhi from Bangalore by flight, a 2 hr 25 mins air-fly. From Delhi one can choose to reach Kullu-Manali by car, bus or any other convenient commute. Delhi to Kullu is around 520 kms and takes nothing less than 13-14 hrs by road. Ambala, Chandigarh, Bilaspur and Mandi are the main stations on the way. 

Of interest is the Aout(Aut?) Tunnel which comes around 40-50 kms from Mandi. It is a 3 km tunnel, considered the longest ROAD tunnel in India(am not sure though). The tunnel is well lit, nicely maintained and the road is beautifully laid. Its indeed an experience to travel through it. 

We measured the distance in a decent AC Indica car and reached Manali (via Kullu) in close to 14 hrs. Night stay – at Hotel SunPark in Manali.

Good: Driver – very patient, extremely talented to wade through the narrow crowded Himachal roads
Best: Vyas(Beas) river flowing right with you all along the journey throughout Himachal
Not so good: Time of the year(June). Very hot. Makes the travel uncomfortable
Suggestion: Choose to fly to Kullu airport(you need to work-out on the flights as their frequency and capacity are meager)

Day 2:
The next morning, we took off to Kullu after night stay at Manali.

The path ports forests, smiling rivulets, apple grooves richly laden, fair handsome men and the white beautiful women who inhabit the place.  

First stop was at Vaishno Devi temple. A small cave umbrellas an idol of goddess Vaishno Devi as is in the Jammu-Katra Vaishno Devi Mandir. This isn’t a single shrine, but a temple complex. Graceful idols of Goddesses in various avatars, Lord Shiva make the complex adorable.

Vyas river flows along the road housing the temple, adding to its explicable beauty.

The next pit stop was at  Kullu Shawl Factory. There are a number of shops, factories making and selling woolen goods in Kullu. One can take a few minutes off at these places to shell-out thousands on woolen garments and blankets. People do claim that the prices are reasonable.

Then came the most awaited part. River rafting.
River Vyas(Beas – as it is more famously known) has a rocky bed. Looks quite shallow as if one can walk through, cross across and reach the other end. That is deceptive though. We opted for a 9 km rafting. We were accompanied by 2 oarsmen who mostly maneuvered the raft, gave us the control occasionally on persisting request, only on calm waters. Wow! One splash – we were all drenched. More than the disturbances on the water, it was its freezing temperature that kicked us with shock. The raft wobbled, but did not tumble down or throw any of us into water. 

Though a worthy experience, rafting here in June isn’t much dangerous(read it as adventurous) than in high current waters at other places. It was pleasurable though.

Evening went at Hadimba temple, Vanvihar and the monastery on mall road - all in Manali.

The temple of Hadimba Goddess(wife of Bhima) has a wooden four-tiered roof and an intricate doorway with attractive carvings. The temple complex is huge and pleasing. It has a small entry-way that keeps visitors queued for long.

Vanvihar is a nature park. Few steeps and glides here and there, an artificial pond with boating facility and a lot of attractive playthings for kids – this park is a pure entertainment. Felt quite commercial amidst the serene woods of Manali. The park on one of its ends  is rushed by Vyas where amusing activities like river crossing and dipping are engaged. An interesting part here is that of locals who rent out their traditional tribal outfits to tourists, to pose in colorful angles and capture memories in and as pictures.

Close to Vanvihar is a colorful Tibetan monastery which can steal few minutes from you.

Good: Pleasant evening weather
Best: Rafting
Not so good: food. One can eat to survive, specially South Indian foodies need to have a control on their tongue.
Suggestion: -

Day 3:
We set out to the majestic Rohthang pass early morning, or should I say mid-night :) (3.00 am).

We planned our trip in early hours to avoid traffic and reach the snow point before the rest of tourists arrive. Enroute the pass are many shops renting out heavy clothing against snow. The splendid snow capped mountains and glaciers on the way to the pass will paint any heart light. The drive to Rohthang takes you through the snow haven. We reached the pass by 5 am. We enjoyed climbing the little snow hills with our freezing fingers in the pockets. Spending as much time as we could in snow we descended down to Solang Valley, enjoyed Rahalla falls on the path. Stopped by for few photos. 

Reaching Rohthang early though has a benefit, it is equally difficult to return as all vehicles going towards the pass block the road from opposite side; the roads are so narrow that one has to wait for minutes and hours to get the way clear.

Solang valley is a feast for the eyes. The place hosts a number of adventure games like the paragliding, cable-car drive and so on. It is indeed a place best for paragliding as the nearby beauty of the surrounding peaks appear enhanced while you are in air.

Since we had started early in the day, we reached back our rooms before noon. After a brief rest, we headed to Delhi the same day. The 14 hr journey took us to the Country capital. 

Good: The sight of snow capped mountains
Best: Paragliding
Not so good: Ice in this time of the year(dirty ice and slippery)
Suggestion: Plan for vacation in the right season. However it’s a waive-off. In the best winter, Rohthang remains closed. Solang valley becomes the ice point. Rohthang is open only in summer; one needs to bear the heat and the dirty old ice there.

Day 4:
We were still left with few hours in hand for our flight. Stopped at QutubMinar, enjoyed the mammoth structure and shot nice photos under the hot Delhi sun. A single flight to Bangalore marked the end of our memorable Himachal vacation.

On the whole, it felt like being in a new world altogether. The rich natural beauty, ever-flowing streams and river-ways, the surroundings - all left us arrested by a twine of nature. The stretching hills and the lush-green valleys are a sight of spiritual calm and solace. A vacation from the routine ought to be one like this!

Suggestion: Do not book for packages online as they may not be planned to your convenience. For instance, we could have landed at Kullu by flight than spend 14 hrs one way from Delhi to Kullu by road. This was a package customized from makemytrip. When you plan your vacation, do go to the agency office, sit with the travel agents, get things clarified and then go ahead with your booking. All the nature sports and adventure trips cost extra from your hand. No amount is sufficient in these hillstations. Note: ATMs are meager, heard there are 8 to 10 in whole of Kummu-Manali of which only 5 cough cash at most times.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What’s life!

What’s life without a little spice
How I wish I don’t blame others for its miss
Life’s just an affordable timeless classic, I realize
Spices - today or tomorrow - mix, match and layer with ease

What’s life without a secret dream
How I wish I understand why I dream what I dream
For I can lead them to my heart
Take my own advice and start on the path

What’s life without hope
How I wish I comprehend, not elope
It’s far too easy to get bogged down in the daily grind
But hope is what gets us from one day to its subsequent

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review : The Silent Raga

Ameen Merchant’s “The Silent Raga” has obsessed me for the last few days. I normally don’t keep a book pending for long. But with this one, I dint want to complete the reading and close the chapter once for all. There was something to look forward to when the book was half-way through. Thoroughly gripping and mesmerizing.

This is yet another woman-centered book like Sudha Murthy’s and other inspirational writers’. But the difference is in the portrayal. Women’s plight, dilemma and obligations in a typical Indian, rather south Indian setting  though dresses the main theme of the novel, the composure and patience that are highlights of an Indian woman are the highlights of the novel too.

The book is loaded with the lives of orthodox families of Tamil Brahmin community layered with details to the extent of prints on a saree, smell of the kitchen, incense of the flowers and everything that’s normally unfelt and unheard. The lady of the story – Janaki’s unhurried posture and self control despite the unhealthy environment around her is the pick of the story. Journey of a Brahmin girl from a teenager to a lady of a Muslim actor is narrated through words – each of it selected with care and appropriate tone. Janaki’s divine passion for music, Zubeida’s(first wife of the muslim actor) determination to live life in spite of her disability, Gayathri chitti’s eczemic characterization, Mallikka’s (Janaki’s younger sister) unrealistic hope of her sister always being there with her to take care, a  father bound by social obligations – a no good moral-support for the family are the attention-grabbers.

Janaki’s muslim husband Asgar is not dealt with as much as his name probes in. The reader never gets a clear sense of Janaki’s emotional relationship with Asgar - the man for whom she embraced all cultural taboos.

It is a worthy goal that the author has achieved – of narrating the often unspoken yet common suffering of Indian women.
My inspiration to pick the book came from the very name. As a raga, the story unfolds slowly, picks up pace and ends leaving behind a mind that’s peace-filled. It’s not the words but the composure of silence that remains even after the story is done-with.