Sunday, December 25, 2011

Rain on the bus

Another arduous bus journey for a good reason. Sigh. It’s been the 5th in this month. I settled down to enjoy the solitude as the seat next to me was empty. The only company I had to myself now was the water bottle and the blanket to keep me warm through the night. Life goes on no matter what we wish for or against.

A drizzle began outside. Part of me wished I would feel the raindrops caress my face. Another part was thankful that I had taken a sealed bus. Sighing again, I rested my face against the window and saw life on the outside. The driver touched a few buttons on his huge cockpit, backed up and rumbled out on the arterial road to join the millions of people seeking their destinations. Some happy to get soaked, some irritated, some cowering under a tree.

I counted the drops as each trickled down the glass. The glare of the oncoming traffic made me squint. Like each breath of life, each light hearkened me to view a reflection of my face on the window. The rain drops fell like tears on my reflection. I squinted and saw the crow’s feet on my eyes. Indeed, the only thing certain in life is life itself, followed by age and ultimately death. We seek the middle path so much that we forget age and experience. We need to remind ourselves to enjoy every moment that we are here.

6.5 billion of us. No two with the same set of experience. We live through our experiences out of little choice. But the choice we do have is whether we embrace the learning out of each experience. For no one else can truly know what each of us go through. It is personal and affects us alone.

For unknown reasons, we always reminisce on our bitter or learning experiences. We dwell on them and some of us reach down to self-pity in the hope that soon all will be well. And it will. Yet others face their pain head-on and emerge stronger. But what we really need to know is that each bitter experience shears away a part of our ego and mind and creates a new facet in us. Nothing tears faster than sorrow. It is abrupt and goes to the heart. The following happy experiences polish the facet and show us the pain was worth it. But happy experiences are accepted as our birth right. We accept it with some vanity.

Throughout life, our interaction with scores of others creates us. Our attachments, detachments and letting go make us aware of who we are; if we look inside. The constant shearing and polishing of our ego gives us an ever-changing face. Most of us do not realize it but embracing our pain, sorrow and joy and learning from it reflects our true self when we look at our soul in the mirror to see the proof of pain before joy. Each one of us becomes what we always are inside……a diamond.

Saturday, December 03, 2011


Asterix and the Normans is a great comic book. It conveys humorously the meaning of the word courage. If you get your hands on this book, be sure to enjoy the thrashing and the message.

The Vikings were a very proud lot. They conquered so many lands violently and their way of celebration was to drink apple cider out of the skulls of their enemies. Such a race was portrayed as “Not knowing the meaning of fear”. But the Normans were actually a very brave lot as they fought for honor. They were more afraid of losing their honor than their lives.

To say the statement “I do not know the meaning of fear” actually means “Only fools rush in where Angels fear to tread”. For courage is always about overcoming your fear. When you stand at the edge of a cliff, you instinctively know you’ll die if you fall off. So not knowing and jumping off is stupidity as the fear never existed in the first place. Facing your fear after the sweat, the adrenaline pumping and then looking at your fear face to face to overcome it is courage.

Ask a rehabilitated drug addict about the meaning of fear. During rehabilitation, the body is made to slowly go through the withdrawal symptoms. The body craves for the drug and goes to a point of insanity after which it begins to slowly recover. This craving is so frightening that the addict feels he/she is going to die out of something horrible. But overcoming this needs willpower. And the fruits of the labor are a drug free individual who is never going to touch drugs for the rest of his/her life.

Giving up smoking is the same. Same for alcohol. People who have never smoked or been drunk or been addicted to any vices do not know the meaning of fear. Abstaining from them does not mean one is free of temptation. But it does imply that the person has perhaps more willpower.

However, true courage comes when one is able to be in the thick of things and still not let it become an addiction or let it affect you. Courage is after all the power of the mind over substance. Once the substance has taken over, the will is lost. Standing up to society for what you believe in is courage. Standing up for your own belief is courage. Accepting your weaknesses is courage. In each case, the fear of either dying or being ostracized is overcome.

Courage is not about reading and imagining the experience. It is about being in the thick of it, the motions, feeling the trepidation and then overcoming it. There is no substitute for the experience.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Look up, Look down

There is the perpetual battle between status and humility in our lives. To succeed in our careers, we need to be brutal at times. We are supposed to command respect and people should look up to us as a successful person. To be humble in a career today is akin to being a pushover. Times are moving fast and people cannot afford to stop and smell the roses for fear of being left behind in the rat race.

Then contrarian view is the purpose of why we are here in the first place. I mean, sure, we’ve done this, done that, made money, accumulated wealth, saved for the succeeding generations, age and finally die. The death part would have come anyway without even trying hard. So all that was done in between birth and death would be irrelevant if the purpose of existence has not been fulfilled.

People always say walk with your head held high. Supposedly, people who look up and walk are high on self esteem. They are independent, can take decisions and unafraid to face the world. They are proud of themselves and in short, what we term successful. This is the psychologists’ point of view after detailed analysis had been done on thousands of people studying their behavior.

People who walk looking down are deemed not confident. They are afraid to look anyone in the eye because they may have a complex about themselves. They are low on self esteem and just want to get to their destination without being noticed. Again, this was arrived at after a detailed study. Let’s agree that a trend analysis using theorems does bring out patterns and helps us profile people.

But what about the concern for our fellow creatures? How many insects and other creatures have we killed or harmed by walking over them because we refuse to look down? It could be unintentional but it happened anyway. Benevolence in life extends to all of God’s creations. It is always about doing the right thing, even if it seems wrong at the time. It is also about looking at Mother Earth as she supports every footstep you take. She holds you up and helps you along.

All habits we create are out of practice or upbringing. We can practice being proud and ultimately it becomes us. We can practice being humble to a point where it becomes us again. If life is only about succeeding in the material world, it is easy because we are all doing it to a level by striving for it.

But practicing humility is harder. Because you have to be aware of everything you do and ensure that you do not hurt anyone or anything. It also means understanding the egoistic side of you. It is hard because it needs patience during anger, during upheavals. It needs awareness of one’s emotions all the time. We quietly brush the virtue of humility to the side because it is easy or because we do not have to face ourselves.

So do you look up or look down when you walk? And is it for the right reason? Confusion in perpetuity.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Female Infanticide

11.11.11 is a hallmark day for womanhood in India. The high court in Punjab has given the death penalty to a father who killed his 3 day old girl baby. While many a citizen would be happy with this judgement, there is finally justice served for atleast one life.

How a parent can look into the eyes of his/her own flesh and blood, a 2.5 kilo squealing bundle of joy, only to kill her after that is beyond me. I mean, there are still human rights issues regarding abortions in the first trimester but the argument can be made that there is no foetus formed yet. But to steel the heart, look at the helpless, new born, trusting child and then snuff it out is possible only when premeditated and well into the cruelty domain.

Hopefully, this judgment should act as a strong deterrent for those planning the same act. But as the country is too large and many births go unregistered, more girls will be killed after birth without anyone’s knowledge. And many of these are done by the elderly ladies themselves. The very same gender that brought forth the family carries out the act or dumps babies in dustbins without dignity.

But nature always has her ways to maintain balance. Grooms in Punjab find it difficult to obtain local brides as there aren’t too many left. Over time, the law of demand and supply will prevail. Too many men and too few women will tip the favor on the side of the women who will get to choose their partners at will and hopefully reduce the burden of dowry. The law will have to get stricter to save the few existing women or else face the danger of a gene pool getting wiped out. But on the flip side, rapes and sexual harassment incidents will increase and more safety nets will be required for women.

A fact needs to be mentioned here. The British government examined the statistics of the abortions being done within the UK. They were surprised to find that the trends clearly shows the direct proportion of abortions on the rise once the Indian families found out the foetus was a female. There is no PNDT in the UK and the sex of the foetus is openly shared as they do not discriminate between the sexes. The native British did not abort on the basis of gender.  This adds to the complexity of bringing in a new law which cannot be applicable to only Indians living in the UK.

What can be done? In cities, the process of change is already underway with more girls getting educated than before. Treating either gender with equality will go a long way. Enforcement of dowry reduction will also help. Most importantly, the laws need to be enforced quickly. Its only when the government shows its seriousness that people start changing, atleast out of fear. Another change should be to empower women and bring them up as independent thinkers, to be unafraid of their decisions and stand by them as family when they need support.

That said, the judgment passed is hopefully the first step on the long road to eradicating female infanticide. I wonder what Durga Mata or the Virgin Mary has to say about this.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Olympus PEN EE2 in Cochin

If you’re interested in the camera’s history, read on. Otherwise, skip to the photos below. These are rescanned photos from hard copies taken in 1993.

My father bought this camera in 1977 when I was 3. He gave it to me when I was 10. It has served me well till now for 28 years and continues to generate outstanding photos albeit the good old analog way.

The PEN series was a breakthrough from Olympus. These were the first half frame cameras produced which became such a rage that they were copied later by all other manufacturers. A half frame camera utilizes only half the space on the film roll. As a result, a 36 frame roll will generate 72 snaps from these little devils. During their day, they were great value for money and their miniature size was a revolution as it fitted into anyone’s pocket.

Designed by Maitani Yoshihisa, the PEN was introduced in 1959 and was the smallest camera made then to utilize regular 35 mm film rolls. The name PEN was given as it was supposed to be as portable as a pen.

The PEN EE2 was made from 1968 to 1977 and was a real point and shoot with manual adjustable settings and had a 28mm f/3.5 lens. No batteries required. The EE series is easily recognizable by the selenium meter around the lens. The camera did not come with a built in flash but could still take photos in low light situations by adjusting the aperture settings.

This camera has traveled with me across India and the Gulf in some of the worst weather conditions from the 50+ degrees in the Rajasthan summers to the soggy humidity of Pondicherry and Kerala down to Kanyakumari. Below are a few precious photos taken in 1993 in Cochin giving me great memories to last this lifetime.

The scanner that was used to scan these hard copy photographs had an old lamp giving it the jaded retro look. The hard copies are otherwise very good.

Sunset at Kanyakumari – This was a heart warming photo that didn’t need any words. Standing at the tip of India, we could see the waters of the Arabian sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal all coming in from 3 sides and merging together at the tip. The sun was setting and this glorious once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was not to be missed. My roommate and I made a pact then that we would each bring our soulmates to this location again. He hasn’t kept his pact and I don’t think I will be able to either. So this photo goes out to the soulmates who can view this on their desktops.

Adirampalli Falls, Kerala

Malampuzha Park – This photo was taken from atop the dam


Suruli Falls – My roommate and I (tiny blobs) took a little while to get up there for the grand photo.

Cochin Harbour – A catamaran lazily drifts over the water. The fee to the island was Rs. 1 on a boat!

Malampuzha Dam and Park – Half an hour from Palghat, the picture captured a good scene. Cable cars, boat rides, clear water. This photo was taken from a rope bridge and for the life of me, I struggled to keep the camera steady and I was bobbing up and down. Behind me was the Malampuzha dam.

Sunset at Cochin – A clear sky and a warm breeze greeted us at Cochin. This photo was taken along the Marine Drive. I missed the sun but captured the streaks of orange.

Thekkadi, Kerala – I can’t believe how quiet the place was back then. I’ve heard is so commercial now that this photo is a forgotten reminder of how beautifully pristine the place was

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Why Cycle in India?

Because it’s the only form of cardio that does not mess with our daily routine. We have to go to work everyday. We have to transport ourselves. With petrol prices reaching the stratosphere and the government making its usual false claims that “The prices are the same here as everywhere else”, we all know that the salaries are not the same here as everywhere else to purchase precious fuel. And petrol prices in India as on today are the most expensive in the world.

Of course, there are other forms of cardio. Walking, swimming, tennis, squash, jogging, gym, treadmill etc. But all of these need you to take precious time out of your already stretched lives. And it becomes the least priority with the first thought being “I’m busy today. No time. Have a major delivery. Have to go to office quick. I’ll surely start tomorrow”.

To go to work, one has to step out of the house. And what better way to achieve this than the cycle?

So think about this:

  • A bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation invented by man. The humility with which it works in unison with our bodies to transport us is to be respected. It transmits power with negligible loss from our thigh muscles to the crank, then the chain and then the rear cartridge and finally the wheel. All other mechanical engines that run on organic fuels have significant losses along the combustion process in the form of heat, piston ring leakage, poor valve seals (wear and tear)
  • The fuel used in cycling is our burger, pizza, bajji and samosa laden calories which are put to good use for a change. This is the ONLY vehicle that makes us healthy in the process of transportation.
  • A bicycle is actually faster than other modes of transport in city traffic.
  • A bicycle strengthens us in the process instead of the opposite wear and tear in other mechanical engines.
  • Least of all, we’re doing mother Earth a favour. Less carbon di oxide, less air pollution, less weight on the roads. If you believe in Karma, you’re contributing here, even if it is miniscule
My office is 5 kms from home. Sounds small. And it is. I take a lengthier 10 km route to have fun and exercise. So I did an experiment. I walked, rode, biked and drove to the office to see how it would be. And following are the results:

Walk: It took me close to 40 minutes. Not much sweat. But a lot of time wasted. I could have jogged which would have made it in about 30 minutes but still a waste of time getting overly sweaty.

Cycling: It took around 15 minutes from door to door which was good.

Bike: Around 10 minutes from door to door. And spent about Rs. 12 worth fuel one way.

Car: Over 30 minutes. But oh boy! It was so comfortable. Air conditioning, music on, tapping on the wheel etc. And about Rs. 40 worth fuel one way through traffic and lights.

Looking at the above, the most value for money and the healthiest option is the good ol’ cycle. No nonsense and unstoppable.

A little update on our bodies now. As long as we’re below the age of 30, the body heals faster and recuperation happens. Above the age of 30, the body loses about half a pound of muscle each year and if they have not been exercised, then the loss is permanent. It is imperative that the heart and muscles are constantly exercised even if it is only 15 minutes a day of intensity.

Cycling is a stable and steady form of cardio which gently accelerates the BPM and promotes constant metabolism of fats and cholesterol. It is easy on the knees and for women, it is a fantastic way to delay arthritis post menopause.

Any form of cardio reduces the risk of lifestyle diseases by over 50%.

Just imagine for a minute, that a heart attack attacks a main bread winner at the age of 40. This is the age where there is a spouse, 2 children and ailing parents. The chart below will give a snapshot

Monthly status before heart attack
Monthly status for 2 months during and after heart attack
Groceries, Edibles, Rent
School Fees
Maid, Elec, Gas, Water, Utilities, Incidentals
Hospital Expenses



As you can see, the most dangerous aspect here is that the monthly income is reduced to zero (unless insurance is available) and the expenses go through the roof with the entire lifestyle thrown into jeopardy. Many a middle class family need to make permanent changes to their lifestyle if the bread winner succumbs to a debilitating disease.

Having good health is the first and foremost priority for anyone. When this is easily achieved by making one good change in our daily lifestyle then why not?

Yes, yes, the first thought will be “What will people think when they see me riding a cycle to work?”. Well, damn them. You’re not cycling to keep them happy. You’re cycling to keep yourself and your family happy. You’re doing this to keep fit and live a long healthy life without seeing the insides of a corporate hospital.

The advantages I am experiencing are:

  • My stamina has really improved. I am doing well with 6 hours of sleep.
  • I am able to run with children for a longer time as they’re upto it.
  • My blood cholesterol and lipids are well in control.
  • My heart is healthy. My lungs are taking deeper breaths.
  • My energy levels are fairly constant throughout the day.
  • I’m saving money on fuel.
  • I am NEVER stuck in a traffic jam. Haven’t been for 3 years now.
  • No bandhs, petrol strikes, etc affect me.
  • Vehicle maintenance requirement is at an all time low.
  • My neighbourhood kids have started calling me “bro” instead of “uncle”. This could interest you if you’re really age conscious. Me, I’d rather age gracefully.
  • My family is proud of me.
  • My BMI is at a perfect 21.9
  • I can break traffic rules and get away to some extent. I would NOT advise this though
  • I can run for a kilometer without panting. The BPM returns to normal in about 7 minutes.

Cycling helps release hormones called endorphins which release stress and make you feel good. It also releases adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. These together help the body feel happy, reduce the effects of pain and very importantly, recover from mild depression.

Cycling like any other cardio/athletic activity increases the sex drive as it promotes blood circulation to every nook and corner of the body. Skin sensation is heightened and the overall increase in stamina helps in the act. I write this here because there have been numerous studies done to see whether cycling causes impotence or injuries in men due to the possibility of injuries on the genital areas because of the hard seat. Such statements are unfounded till date.

Cycling helps people stop smoking. The endorphins which are naturally secreted by the body act against the impulse to pick up the tobacco stick. For those who give up smoking, cycling helps them increase their lung capacity and overall intake of oxygen.

So get out there, get a cycle if you have a sedentary work atmosphere and get that heart pumping. You’ll never go back, I promise.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Unconditional Love and The Gilded Cage

A financial planner asked one of his clients while he was doing up their portfolio “What is your retirement plan?” The man answered without any hesitation, “My son”. It gives a whole new meaning to the word unconditional love. The son has to “earn” the love of his parents and the baby boy’s little shoulders at birth have already been burdened with the future of taking care of his parents. To further drive the point home, daughters are also loved but with a feeling that one day, she will leave home. So there is no need to spend too much on her education or invest on her. Let her future husband do it. Times are changing but this is prevalent in many families. Loving a child with a future expected reaction is akin to building a gilded cage, beautifully decorated and keeping the child within its boundaries. The cage looks good and the child is mentally programmed to do as per the parents’ wishes after adulthood.

We do not have children to be our safety cushion. We have children to experience the joy of parenthood, to give our very best to them and to see them fly away ultimately as they seek their own futures. But since the children are attached from birth to the family, it is the sole responsibility of the parents to show them freedom and allow them to make the right choices, even if it means going far, far away. Upbringing has its ways of moulding the child to “earn” the love of his/her parents. The decision to look after the parents during old age is more weighted on the freewill of the children than the demands of the parents.

Now when it comes to unconditional love among couples, this is what is also termed True Love. This kind of an emotional reaching out is said to be one of the most implicit feelings felt toward the significant other. A feeling of always wanting to be around or be there with the other. The feeling is also stronger as the “other” is hitherto unknown and yet has struck something within the heart to make it rise in song. But developing an attachment could be only a one way affair. Having a desire or expectation in this case is again creating a gilded cage and hoping the significant other will fly in all by himself/herself. But what if the other does not share the same feeling? Then the empty cage of expectation still sits on the shoulders and weighs us down. Instead, throw off that cage and feel the buoying of the soul as it reaches the ethers. Feel because you want to feel. Love is again all about freewill of the soul.

Just as a true friend cannot be possessed, a true love can never be possessed. It brings more joy to love and acknowledge that the other has opened up compassion and a brighter view of life. Give thanks to the other for instilling this new view and let him/her go. No expectation brings no sorrow. Internalize this feeling of love and make it unconditional. Nothing is expected from the other. If reciprocation happens, be grateful. Otherwise, watch the other find happiness and know that nothing was lost.

Live and let live. Love and let go. Everyone’s a winner.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


There lived a great Master deep in the jungle on a mountain. Common knowledge was that it was very hard to reach him and only the most devout could make the journey.

 A short tempered man who wished to see the light decided to become the Master’s disciple. He sought peace with himself and embarked on the arduous journey. He battled the weather and the forest. Insects and other parasites made a meal of him on the way. But all through, the man saw only the final goal of being the disciple of this great Master.

After climbing the final cliff, the man reached the abode of the Master. The calluses on his hand and the grazes on his body seemed to fade away as he approached the door. With trepidation, he opened the huge door. It creaked after years of being closed. The sight of the Master humbled the man as he approached him. The man had finally reached his goal.

Falling at his feet, he asked him in all earnestness, “I have traveled long and hard to reach you to be your faithful disciple. Please show me the path to enlightenment”

The Master opened his eyes and asked “On which side of the door did you leave your slippers when you entered my abode?” The man looked at the Master in disbelief and asked in anger “What sort of a question is that? I’ve crossed the most difficult barriers to be your disciple and you ask me a question about my slippers?!”

The Master replied “Seeking to be on the path requires great awareness of oneself in each and every action undertaken. If you do not know where you left your slippers, you are unaware of any action you make. Without this very first step, I cannot teach you anything. You may return.”

This seemingly ridiculous statement has so much latent meaning in it. Everything we do in our daily lives is more out of routine. We mindlessly follow the grind so much that creativity is lost. Awareness of our every step keeps us rooted to the purpose of our existence. Like sweeping a floor, cooking, walking or playing with a child.

When we are aware of exactly what we are doing, there is no ego at the fore challenging our hearts. We hear the soft voice of our instinct showing us the path.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Trek 4300 review – 3 years on

This is what I do as often as possible on a daily basis to reach office. Tiny hops over Himalayan speed breakers and kerb hopping on foot-high pavements. I’ve been cycling to work almost everyday for the last three years barring the horrible Hyderabad summers where the effort on the cycle is just not worth the time taken to cool down after reaching office.

The 4300 has held strong on every count. I ride hard. For me, the game is to reach office without putting my foot down anytime except for the red lights. And the apathy of the municipal authorities is a fantastic boon to an MTB owner. Potholes and stones won’t break my bones. The roads are made with tar mixed with salt and sugar. One little drizzle and the tar dissolves away leaving dangerous craters in the form of potholes. And when the rain fills them, one has no idea where the potholes are.

Now imagine riding at speeds of above 25 km/hr and ramming your 12 kg cycle into one of these potholes holding your weight of 65+ kilos. Its enough to bend a wheel. But not on the dinky little 4300. This VFM cycle has handled most everyday abuse that I’ve thrown at it till now without a single issue.

Frame: Very suited and balanced for speed on trails. The composure it maintains on bad roads and trails has to be ridden to be believed. The compact nature of this bike gives it great maneuvering in traffic and on sharp bends. 2 feet drops are a cinch.

Suspension: Absorbs all the thrashing very well. Any hopping off kerbs is first done on the front wheel as this is a hardtail. The Gila forks have managed well till now and continue to take a beating.

Ride: Plush. The difference between the MTB and a road bike is like a Hummer and a Nissan GTR. The Hummer loves it when the going gets rougher. The GTR burns tarmac. Pretty much the same here. The 4300 is NOT for racing. It is the bad boy only on the trails and a laggard on the road behind roadies. But it is possible to achieve 40 km/hr in traffic. The paradox is that the shorter straight handlebars actually help maneuver well between cars. But on a trail, on a kerb, on sand, this bike shows off its ability. I have ridden on a thin layer of sand many a time with so much construction happening these days. This bike did not skid even once. On a trail, it exhibits so much control with the tyre pressure set to 40 psi. On the road, I set it to 60 psi and it works great. This bike works well on all surfaces. It has and continues to serve my commuting purpose to office since day one very well. It is perfectly suited to commuting. The extra effort needed to pedal actually helps lose more calories. If you’re a long distance rider, a hybrid would be better. But for an all round purpose, this is just great.

Quality: I love the sealed bottom bracket. During the rains, it is a common story in India to see sewage overflowing on the roads. The flowing water on the roads could be set to a biohazard level. Through all these 2 feet high levels, the 4300 just wades through as if nothing ever happened. I have changed gears while they were completely submerged under water. Both derailleurs worked fine each time. I go home and pour a little clean water to rinse off the muck. And the 4300 is waiting the next day without as much as a creak to ride all over again. No component has worn out till now. I have had to only change the brake pads twice during the 5000 kms mileage. Every other component is holding up just great. The forks, drivetrain, wheels, tyres, handlebar, frame, brakes and even the grips are all in great condition.

Brakes: I ride hard and fast only because I trust the V-brakes. I love doing brake turns and the V’s stop the wheels almost instantly. Skidding rubber is something I like on turns and these brakes do not fail me. The pads get worn out but that’s how it should be. The brakes are the single component subjected to the most violent frictional forces in any vehicle. If I can go fast, it is only because of the trust I have on the brakes to stop me in time. And they work great even in the rain.

Issues: None till now.

The 4300 is a very very dependable bike. It has taken abuse on a regular basis and still sings along happily. I have no regrets whatsoever and am more than happy to suggest this to anyone looking to buy a bike in India to consider the 4300 as an entry level serious performer for daily use. I thank Rohan Kini of for his invaluable suggestion to get this bike.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

God’s Gender

I’m an agnostic. Yet, I cannot help but wonder the trail of thought in the human mind. Time and again, across all religions I know, people refer to God as HIM. Whether God exists inside each one of us or outside is in our perception. The interesting thing still being that both genders refer to God as HIM.

This must make me a maverick. I find God to be more of a HER, if a gender must to be assigned. I would’ve ideally just left it at something of a higher power without a gender but let’s just stick with this.

The masculine energy denotes aggression, power, and offense. But it is the feminine energy which is receptive, loving, caring and understanding. Every one of us has both attributes within. When we choose to balance the two, we are at peace with ourselves. While the masculine vibes are testosterone driven, the feminine soothes and keeps everyone rooted to their purpose. The feminine receptivity also teaches us to accept everything around for what they are and give everyone a chance to see themselves deep within.

Great wars have been fought over such fragility. These wars have been accepted and best sellers written. The marauders have always been men and hordes of innocent lives have been lost all to make a woman part of a harem. The thrill of the hunt seems to drive the male more than the actual spoil itself. These numerous glorified stories always have the same ending. Deaths and sacrifice romanticized to justify man’s killing.

We associate God with compassion. Pure love irrespective of any deed committed. Compassion is at the highest level of love where one feels grateful and wishes well for all others. This is one of the most powerful feminine traits for keeping peace and moving on the path of spirituality. Compassion alleviates suffering. It causes us to empathize with our fellow organisms. It is a natural feminine instinct and the virtue that we see in ourselves when we seek God and wish that God treats us the same way.

So perhaps God could be a SHE more often that not. Or is it just a reminder for us?

Monday, October 03, 2011

Deccan Trails – A versatile getaway

This is a gear headed post written by a hapless romantic. Read on to be confused.
The leviathan roared. As a grin spread across my face from ear to ear, I felt this white beast getting ready to chomp the 68 km meandering stretch to Deccan Trails. Jaggu was kind enough to loan me his Safari for the day’s trip that we had planned.

I pushed in the key and gleefully felt the engine rumbling to life. Having stocked enough food and water to last a small war, the 8 of us were ready to make the little trip. My better half sat next to me in the front and vanished inside the huge bucket seat. The rest were bundled behind. A nudge of the throttle and the beast grunted slowly out onto the main roads unwillingly. The traffic was stifling and city roads were clearly not for the Safari. Autos shifted chaotically like blobs of cholesterol blocking other traffic and RTC buses regurgitated venom from their horns to dissipate everything out of the way. I was getting irritated and my calves were cursing me for working them dry on the clutch.

But once we reached Langar House, the traffic thinned out and I had all my freedom to ride as I pleased. The grin reappeared on my face and I stepped on the gas. The double CAMS and 16 valves synched to pull the 2 ton monster away. A second later, the turbo charger kicked in and the needle touched a 100. I was reliving the Fast and the Furious. Sweaty palms and brows, mind and body is perfect unison as I veered past the other lowly 4 wheeled contraptions. The kids were overjoyed at flying so low over potholes but alas! It was not to be

A chatter that started slowly grew louder by the minute. It turned out to be frightened Uncle’s teeth who was also white knuckled as he held on tight for dear life and saw the roads and some of his life go by. My better half’s hot glare bore a hole in my temple and the message was clear. Decelerate or suffer the consequences. I looked mournfully at the beast who grunted his approval and settled down to a more sedate purr. Sigh.

The route was beautiful as greenery presented itself on both sides of the road. Pattering drizzles lent a warm, romantic welcome to our presence. We slowed down on the way to admire a small trough full of fields with the clouds and sun above showing off their preserved beauty. Even the beast quietened down in the face of nature and enjoyed the ride.

As we entered the Deccan Trails gate, the mood swung from boisterous to mellow. The canopy of trees welcomed us and the sunlight through the brush tickled our eyes. Our breathing slowed down as we looked forward to the next 24 hours in the hope of something magical happening. And it did for me.

I hugged and thanked the beast (when no one was looking) for getting us safe and turned the engine off. With a sigh, the pistons burped to sleep and all was quiet.

We embarked slowly and made our way to the swings to settle down. The children began playing and as my thoughts drew me within, the voices seemed far away as nostalgia kicked in. Smiling within, I knew this experience was going to be different. The staff then served their famous hot pakodas and tea. Not wanting to stuff ourselves, my better half and I ate for the sake of tasting and a little while later, we made our way to the tents. Dusk was falling and I did not want to miss mother nature’s life reminders for anything.

On the little hill, the maidan welcomed us to enjoy nature. Settling into our tents took only 5 minutes as we could not miss the setting sun. We were soon out for a walk and later sat on the maidan to greet nature. The grandeur of all that was around warmed our hearts. The gentle breeze caressing our faces, the green carpet of flora all around, the chirping of birds as they went home made for a melancholy feel.

The clouds ambled along like pachyderms on the serengeti and the skies opened up for one last time before the sun went down. They say the sun is the brightest just before sunset. The sun and the sky complemented each other with beautiful shades of slate grey and orange as only nature can to show off the last collage of the evening. The setting sun here could fill a heart sensitive to the daily mysteries of life. If sunsets make you cry, this atmosphere is a perfect setting.

As we watched the sky turn from grey to black, the night came alive as we had long forgotten. The solitary bulb in the maidan came to life and insects attracted by the light kept dancing around with some occasionally burning themselves to death. All that we take for granted or frivolous has so much meaning on this great grid of life. Watching those insects accept their fate for just wanting to see the light pulled me deeper within myself. As if on cue, the rain began falling with a consoling touch. As the drops wandered and fell on our faces, the wind gently spoke and  reminded that all was happening as it should. There was a solitary creeper climbing on the support rod with its leaves swaying and giving in to the power of rain. No offending stance, just giving in to the rain, accepting its form.

I was shaken back to reality by a rumble of thunder. The rain stopped and fireflies roved in the dark as if to offer other life their precious light. Crickets and other insects voiced their love calls till they reached a crescendo which was music to the ears. The fragrance of earth and freshly cleaned leaves gave us the much needed reminder to slow down and search for our purpose in life by taking steps one at a time.

Dinner was served shortly. The staff and services are excellent for a place like this. Food was served in the dhaba style under the thatched huts. Phulkas, ghee, 2 sabzis, curd, a rice dish, papads and a sweet, all very well made and served with pride. The food was very tasty to say the least and in the dim lighting, our thoughts drifted away and we relished what we had in front of us. Dinner was over and we made our way back to the tents to see what nature had to offer us next.

A great secret about this place is the area above the rock climbing section. It is all of 3 stories high and sneaking in during the night to enjoy solitude is something which everyone has to experience. Be it solitude or with your lover in tow, the view from up there in the night gave us the tingles. Looking down, all I saw was the vastness of black and the sounds of the night so beautiful. Looking up, we saw the grandeur of the universe. All the stars winked from above and kept us engrossed for as long as we remembered. No words were needed. Only nature could fill our hearts with white flecks on a black canvas. We enjoyed this solitude of knowing that nature was always with us and returned to our tents hand in hand.

We put two chairs outside and began talking for over an hour. The atmosphere screamed with the wind whooshing in our ears and the tents flapping about. As the warm glow of the bulb radiated off my better half’s face, I was reminded of the first time we fell in love. Let me put it this way. If you believe in tickling your heart, this is as good a place as any so close by. I heard a little nightingale sing in my heart as I relived my first days of love. This is a beautiful place for lovers curling up together with a book to read and the wind reminding us of its presence on the flapping tent. Nothing to do, just be present and enjoy the company of your loved one. It was a blissful sleep later.

The glorious morning changed the mood entirely from romantic to energizer. Birds began chirping and it was time to capture the rising sun. Through the clouds, the sun played hide and seek. I managed to get a few snaps as below and it was then time for the easy trek.

The jungle paths chosen were easy and playful. Along the way, blossoms showed off their vibrant colors. Slush and mud hugged our shoes. Thorns grazed us all reminding us that we’re not alone in this world and that timely pokes and pricks are needed from time to time. Few more photos of some beautiful flowers below.

The trek was completed in about 40 minutes and returning triumphant, everyone made their way down to breakfast. The morning sun rays gave everything a nostalgic feel.

Post breakfast which consisted of idlis, poha, chutney, sambar, tea etc, it was time to move a little and get the rusting body parts oiled. There is plenty for the mild adventure enthusiast here to do. From playing cricket or just running to rope climbing, rock climbing, burma bridge etc, there is lots that can be done to relieve the everyday stress.

Monkeying around like children is a beautiful thing to do as you lose sight of your ego and mental barriers. With few people to see us acting like children, it is a joy to let go and do something fun. Climb the ropes, sit on the rope hammock under the trees and feel nature’s blessing.

As they say, every happy story has a sad theme in it somewhere. The huge turkey at Deccan Trails was found to be a tad rude. Although many of the visitors kept their distance, we couldn’t help but feel for it. It turns out that this turkey lost its mate a few years ago. Out of loneliness and sorrow, it turned harsh. The nicest portrayal of humanity is that the staff here have neither killed it nor do they abuse it. The turkey is left alone but gently kept at bay by them. The small expressions of emotions towards any living thing is a great indicator of the service levels of this place.

One point of note here is that in most other places, all the adventure activities are charged extra. But here at Deccan Trails, everything is covered in your day’s rate. Helmets and safety gear are all provided by the staff who are polite, courteous and willing to let us do any activity as many times as we pleased. They are also genuinely concerned for our safety.

The tents are comfortable, down to earth, with a rustic flair. The attached baths are interestingly constructed, again clean. There were no odors in the tents. The best experience is cuddling up at night with the wind whistling in our ears and the canvas flapping wildly. The staff also keep a can of water outside each tent for the occupants.

Yes, one should make a visit to this place during or after the rains. Summer time sees this place turn into a bale of straw, hot and tiring. But the monsoons and the winters make this place glow.
There is something for everyone here. The romantics can wile away their time shedding tears over the sunsets and the greens. The adventure seekers can run, play, climb. The elders can just sit and reminisce their fond memories. The solitude seekers can walk around doing nothing yet just being there.

In the end, Deccan Trails is a must visit for anyone. The great levels of service, quality of food and concern displayed by staff along with the down to earth environment and the overall hygiene are welcoming. The rates are still a steal and we will going there soon.

I wish I was 27 again to feel the rush of first love, the butterflies in the stomach and the outpouring of the heart as the feeling surges up the body. Deccan Trails makes for a good nostalgic reminder. Please note that this is not a hill station or a resort. It is a great getaway at a fantastic price and so close to the city but in pure nature.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Tip & Thank

Who do you tip?
  • I tip the exhausted hotel bike parking attendants. They have a thankless job of arranging bikes in the rain, sun, wind and sewerage
  • I tip the doorman. They have to salute us even though we are not their masters.
  • I tip the sweating courier boys. They run around to give you what you couldn’t have gotten anyway.
  • I tip the dirty street kid selling balloons. My child enjoys the warmth of a car but not this equally darling child who stands in that pollution. 
  • I tip the municipal workers who work in foul smells everyday. They clean up our crap and we don’t even notice them.

Who do you thank?
  • I thank the angry kirana store owner. It brightens up his day.
  • I thank the grumpy bank cashier. His face livens up to wish me back
  • I thank our office maintenance chaps. They work in the background with no air conditioning to give it to us instead
  • I thank customer service representatives. They fix my problems.
  • I thank the security guards and police. They have to keep miscreants at bay for our sake.
  • I thank my colleagues at work. I wouldn’t be here without them.
  • I thank my family for keeping me happy. I wouldn’t be living my life without them.
  • I thank my critics. They act as my mirror
  • I thank the universe for making me, me.