Saturday, December 20, 2014

Some memorable moviebytes from PK*

It really requires some creative genius and cinematic guts to touch upon issues that Rajkumar Hirani does in PK while keeping other aspects of bollywood style entertainment and box office intact. More so by mitigating commercial risks and coping with controversies.The Hirani - Abhijat style film-making has evolved over the years with sensitive social messages wrapped up in humour, satire and wit by controlling the urge to be preachy. Like a sequel to Lage Raho Munnabhai (the Saurabh Shukla link as godman in both, the lead actress as an RJ in Lage raho and a TV journalist in this one), this movie makes us think and laugh successfully while meeting the entertainment norms as defined by Indian censor board. Hirani must have had a challenging time, balancing precariously and avoiding in-depth treatment of the subject to deliver something seriously funny yet respecting the sentiments of the people, playing safe. While PK a.k.a Aamir Khan, so admirably lures believers and non-believers into the flow of the movie, he leaves us with some points, moments and questions that will stay with us for long:
  • Why does the alienation caused by religion and faith need an alien or a special character from outer world to raise some quirky and uneasy questions?
  • With 'innocence' (and a suitable dialect to go with it) or inebriated state of mind (drunk / peekay) we can probe a whole lot of things...but with 'experience' (presence of mind, sobriety) we choose to remain silent?
  • Does schooling promote rational thinking, has it ever helped in delinking the institution of blind faith and its monetization
  • The link between ignorance, fear and faith: jo dar gaya woh mandir gaya :)
  • Interesting metaphors like our attire and dressing up, the picture of Mahatma Gandhi, the wrong number, the remote control, cassettes and batteries, and some catch phrases are some cool stuff  that set the right triggers
  • The soliloquy of PK while he talks to the idols and the making of gods
  • The funny sequence of the character of Lord Shiva and all that follows...
  • It was fun to watch Ram Sethi; the comic spark in him is still the same as it was, when he co-starred with Amitabh Bachchan
  • Disappointing thing: Perhaps, the second half of the movie could’ve been better, instead of following the Lage raho Munnabhai template... (here it was TV channel instead of FM radio and the presence of Parikshit Sahni in the role of the emotional father)J  
And the surprise element in the climax? For that, just watch the movie, hurry up! for God's sake!

*This is neither a review of the movie nor a critique.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On a drippy-droppy, drizzly December weekend

Unseasonal drizzles and rains are fun, coming at the most unexpected times. Unlike the typical nip in the air at this time of the year, last few days in Hyderabad have been cloudy, misty and drizzly. Though I made it a point to enjoy the most of it by driving a little early to office, the regret remained! Watching beautiful skies from the huge glass windows in office often gave me a 'miles-to-go-before-I-sleep' feeling! Hence, it left me craving for more!

Such a lucky thing to have the same weather continue over the weekend. That too, on a day when one is determined to stay indoors for some absolute solitary moments confined to the balconies and the sights and sounds of the neighbourhood that are missed during the weekdays. I'm happy I resisted the urge to go out and get around facing the same vehicles, the same roads and the same shops. And some times it's good not to catch up and deliberately delay some things that need your attention, right? Well, that was the spirit of the day. A quick look at the newspaper and Raghuram Rajan in the headlines: "Make for India" , ok, good, he is talking about the repercussion of the make in India slogan...will read it later, I told myself. Then, a
quick web browse and checking FB: the same Shenaz Treasurywala is trending all over media and social media; well, let's hope she got enough audience for her movie thanks to her sudden and suspect opening-up and concern about some disturbing issues concerning women's safety. A quick catch-up with upcoming PK and reading the interview with Raj Kumar Hirani was worth the time. Leaving aside the same-same things that happen everyday I tried to look for the different in the sameness and here are some precious memories from the day:
  • Waking up to the gentle, pleasantly chill breeze and experiencing it all around gave a new twist to the most boring of the daily chores
  • Cloudy, hill-station like climate that created a zen-like feeling, made it even more peaceful
  • Brewing the ginger tea in such a weather filled the space with a freshly energetic aroma that no room freshener could bring
  • Waited for the sun to rise and shine for some dramatic pictures but the reluctant sun was seen for hardly a moment
  • The cloudy sky presented a still backdrop an a perfect canvas where I could imagine and paint the pictures of my fancy
  • The dusty mint leaves in the pot turned fresh and green with a whiff of misty air and fine drizzle
  • The brown patches of newly mowed grass waited early to be watered and cared to turn into a green carpet
As the daylight dims and darkness envelops, the lingering feeling of a day well-spent makes me go back to the book I started reading yesterday; something I need to complete for an important task at work. Now, of course with a fresh outlook with some new ideas and options:)

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Sunrise and sunset on a wintry day

Every sunrise
Is a new beginning
That doesn’t end, with sunset
For, the setting sun rises again
With a new strength regain’d
As the sun journeys
From the east to the west
And never does he rest.
Watching the sunrise is such a fest!

Emerging from the verdant shades
Like a tiny orange that is ripe n fresh
Then, with the sparkle of a diamond
The skyscape fills with strokes of rays - golden, bright n brilliant
Overpowering and overwhelming
The blues and grays of a winter morning
Through the thick blankets of fog
Gently appearing from a misty veil
Inspiring, invigorating and reassuring
As the sun moves, so does the clock
Today turns into tomorrow
Today becomes yesterday.
With the setting sun
A new life has begun
In another part of the world
As the rays of the blazing sun
Turn the bright gold to soothing amber
As if the flame is doused
And then it gets aroused
Only to cheer up another life in another land
So what if the sun has set
And my goals aren’t yet met
The sun will rise again
And from my goals I never refrain.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hyderabad and Vijayawada* : The tale of two capital cities

Let me put it this way: one capital city has a lake and the other has a river, now which one will fast transform itself into Singaporesque skyline? The fascination of the chief ministers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for vertically developed glitzy cities, bordered by seas and oceans is really astounding.
So, where is the next Singapore-or-Tokyo-like-capital going to be? In Hyderabad or in Vijayawada or both?  And how many districts will get converted to smart cities - a term that is getting interpreted in different ways for different reasons. This is really reaching cutthroat dimensions – the pace at which both the states trying to outdo the other, incredible indeed!

Of late, this seems to be the major concern, cause and a competitive differentiator for establishing the identity of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Besides being a lopsided vision, why this obsession with Singapore or Dubai or Tokyo or even Shanghai? Well, these cities may have set global benchmarks in urban living and architecture but where is the need to copy or replicate them? Don't we have any originality of ours? Why can't our political leaders come up with some innovative ideas to develop the capital cities that can bring a unique identity, keeping in mind the history, culture and environment? So, what if Burj Khalifa was built on sea and sand, why should it be re-built on the sandy soils of the river Krishna? Or, why can’t we beautify Sanjivaiah Park to make it greener rather than dot it with concrete structures all around?  These are difficult questions to explore when the notion of development and growth are already defined and confined to the idea of erecting new concrete structures, be it at the cost of environmental risks and other hazards.

Imagine the world's tallest building on the banks of Hussain Sagar and other skyscrapers crowding the poor old Buddha statue...don’t be surprised if he’s replaced with a merlion-like creature for that complete Singaporesque experience! By the way, the Buddha statue is supposed to be the world's tallest monolithic in granite and quite a landmark that never got it’s due. Turns out that some chief ministers of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh had their own peculiar vision for Hyderabad - particularly the NTR days when the Buddha Purnima project was taking shape. Then, later, the Necklace Road, a la Marine Drive in Mumbai. And now, the world's tallest tower in the same place. Poor old lake! Forget about environmental implications and all that stuff, anyways the lake is already ruined by idol immersions thanks to the good-enough-number of festivals we have. What about the supporting infrastructure for that tallest tower – power, roads, sewerage and so on.

The fascination for tall buildings as a touristic attraction may hold good. But such structures can come up in other parts of the city as well. Why should they be next to Hussain Sagar? I really wonder what these tall buildings will house in them? Already so many office and shopping spaces are lying unoccupied in prime business areas. Anyways, the theory could be: we will build and they will come...the investors, I mean. Or, tourists? Only time can tell.

Doesn’t this de-focus other key and pressing issues that should have been prioritized? What about other districts that need all the attention? I wish there was some thought and action on balanced vision for all the districts in both the states - post bifurcation. Did someone say why such a hurry with all these huge construction projects, particularly in state capitals? Well, for obvious reasons, that’s not within the scope of this blog!

*At the time of writing this blog Vijayawada is designated to be the capital city of Andhra Pradesh.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Traffic chaos, confusion at Raheja's Mindspace Circle

Where's my share of the road? This is the question I'm bogged down with almost every evening as I wait helplessly in my car - tired and frustrated, inching towards Raheja's Mindspace Circle, going towards Gachibowli. This is one of the wide-enough roads, well equipped for heavy traffic, but absolutely mismanaged. But who's to be blamed? Just the traffic police? Definitely not.There are hundreds like me who are caught in the regular snarls and gridlocks at different parts of Hyderabad. But, this circle stands out in terms of the intensity of the problem - both in terms of the number of vehicles and the degree of chaos. Here's an indication of the typical scenario on a weekday evening, courtesy Google Maps. How I wish I could take pictures of the actual scene!
Imagine the harrowing experience one goes through - swarms of vehicles coming out of Raheja's almost bumping into each other, creating a virtual hell near the circle, as they criss cross the traffic moving in the straight direction, making their way towards left, right or straight. And it is the vehicles going right that create the deadlock. Forget about lane discipline, it never existed in our city. Buses, trucks, water tankers, cars, bikes -bumper to bumper, mirror to mirror - all trying to overtake each other on that small stretch - leading to more chaos humanly impossible to be controlled by one traffic police at the circle. Least surprising, since we know how well our roads are planned - mostly as an afterthought, stretched and widened as and when the traffic grows. This wouldn't have been the case if the R&B, GHMC and traffic authorities could have an integrated preview of things.

Roads, buildings and traffic policing
Call it myopic planning, mismanagement or whatever it's high time we had someone looking into the issues emerging from ever-increasing traffic choking our roads. To some extent the problem at Raheja's could be solved if the Entry gate is limited to entering the IT park and the exit could be planned from other gate. But, apparently, this doesn't seem to be a viable solution as per the Cyberabad Traffic Police, as mentioned in a response to my complaint on their website. This leaves me with some more pertinent questions:

What comes first? the buildings or the roads? 
From what we experience everyday it's obvious that there was no systematic plan to anticipate the traffic volume after the buildings are occupied. With hardly any improvement in public transport the number of private vehicles is bound to multiply in the coming years and one wonders how this would be tackled!

Is it like leave it to traffic police...but how will they take care?
Just look at the traffic police...aren't we expecting too much from them for the follies and faults of the builders and so-called planners. Policing can only control things to some extent, how do we go to the roots of the problem and avoid similar things in future?

What about traffic jams on the flyovers?
Instead of easing the traffic flow, the flyover, especially at the Hitech city railway station is normally jammed in peak hours. How can this problem be solved? Seems like flyover will only 'delay'a traffic jam and create it elsewhere.

'Free lefts' are free for whom? 
At almost every crossroad the so-called 'free lefts' are invariably blocked by all those who wish to overtake the rest by taking advantage of the left. And funny thing is even the large buses try to squeeze into that space! And the poor commuters who were really supposed to take the free left are left to fend for themselves, waiting for the signal to turn green.

How many U-turns can one have on a road that is hardly a kilometre long? 
U-turns at gaps in the median have come as easy solutions to manage traffic, leaving the commuters literally at their own risk. With no control of speed from the other side, one can only pray that the speedsters are in full control of their vehicles, at least if they cannot slow down as they are supposed to.

Why are traffic problems solved in piecemeal way without any longterm view?
Most solutions crop up overnight in the form of new U-turns at the medians, one-ways and other diversions. This will only postpone the actual issues; what we need is a holistic view by looking at all the interdependencies and intricacies of the way our roads are used.

One can go on listing the problems we face everyday and don’t even think twice about how we've learnt to take them in our stride. Complaining to the authorities can only bring it to their notice, for all we know, they are already aware of it and have remained unresponsive. As we've seen, temporary solutions are worse than the problems themselves. Till then, it's left to us, how we take it - either we ignore it and be a part of the clutter or voice it and try to find a solution that drives at least, some traffic sense.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

To colour or not to colour: some midlife dilemmas, doubts and decisions

Nothing can be more feel-good and flattering than compliments on how we look, especially from friends we meet after a long time. "Oh, you haven't changed a bit." “You look the same...age hasn't touched you" etc. And believe me, it really brings a smile on your face to hear such mutually admiring talk. Our obsession with looking younger and what it has got to do with feeling younger is difficult to discuss in the scope of this writeup. However, of late, I seem to have been thinking about this intriguing phase in life and how it becomes a subject of most of our discussions and the opportunities it brings while are in transition. And I don't wish to intellectualize by questioning or talking about the billion rupee industry that promises our share of elixir from the fountain of everyouth and all that blah blah...doesn't make sense when we unwittingly subscribe to the common notion of youngness across India.

Well, the truth is, naturally, we are all ageing. How gracefully is left to us. By the way, we never discuss or divulge age, it's socially inappropriate to ask or reveal how old one is! Let me put it this way: siblings, cousins and friends -some of us are fast approaching the forties, some have entered the fiery forties, some are midway and some are about to hit their fifties. Yes, my generation is into midlife! But why is this phase often called a crisis, I wondered? To me it depends on how we take it - the visible and invisible signs of ageing. I've always seen them as opportunities to try new things, to learn something new and to change and adapt and grow. Of course, there may have been some frustrating moments when I couldn't dismiss age simply as a number, occasionally reminded by my general physician.

Colour colour, what colour...
Hair and skin have generally been the most visible targets in all talks about aging. If LÓreals and Olays of the world can help us look and feel good and confident why not try them. The decision to colour our hair can be a tough one though. But once decided, it's no big deal. Not sure, if others agree with me on this topic. Some may prefer the greying-pepper-and-salt look for whatever reason.  And receding hairlines and hairloss? That’s a different topic altogether.

Just give in...
Many things tempt us and we begin to resist them considering our figure, fitness and form. Resisting, especially in case of food, makes us crave for more! It's good to give in and binge on stuff that we love to eat, at least once in a while. And what about dressing? So what if your size has changed to from 'L' to 'XL',  just try that outfit, not worrying too much about how it looks on you. For all you know, you make be making a new sartorial statement in your new look.

Just do it!
I feel this is the best time to fulfil all those small dreams we nurtured for long. That hobby we longed to pursue or start all over again – biking, writing, theatre, cooking, painting, drawing, singing, gardening, travelling, etc not only give us creative satisfaction, they also make our lives more meaningful at a point when we reflect on our professional achievements and find a huge gap in our personal achievements.  Learning new skills and grooming our talent is always a nice thing to do to beat any kind of stress.

Looking back and forth
Sometimes, wallowing in nostalgia really cheers us up. Occasionally, looking at those old pictures, reliving the growing up years, recollecting the fun and foibles of our friends makes me remain connected with the past. When we look back, often we tend to compare “before”and “after” and judge them – I guess that should not be the way to do it. Just leave the past for what it was and let the present be what it is. I've backed on positive memories to deal with anxious, uncertain moments.

Learning from kids
Never forego an opportunity to learn from your kid, who could be in tweens or teens. Though parenting has been a remotely vicarious experience for me, I've discovered the joy of learning new things from my niece - her choice of books, music, sports, food and movies. It's refreshing to know about their perception of things around them rather than imposing our worldviews most of the time. The joy and happiness they show when we appreciate their taste for things is simply priceless.

Where is the time?
It’s a funny feeling all the time, we mostly seem to complain about the time fleeting away. Weekends are lost in a jiffy leaving us fretting and fuming about the things we could not do. Over a period of time, it makes us guilty about the books we are unable to read, about fitness and gym, about the friends we could not meet or simple chores that get missed. It’s never too late to complete them.

Did I hear someone say forgetfulness? Apparently, that’s another sign that you’ve joined the 40s club

Picture: courtesy:

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Swachh Bharat – beyond the politics of broomsticks

Look at the way the broomstick is held in these two very different campaigns. Do you know what the humble broom said to Arvind Kejriwal?
“Sir, you didn’t know how to hold me in the right position in your election campaigns, otherwise you’d be not only winning with a sweeping majority, but sweeping the corruption away!” However, this was not to be. As we all know, the story took a different turn when the honourable prime minister Mr.Modi launched the broom as a weapon to fight for clean and green India. Are we ready to make small changes to our lives, may not be sweeping though, to be clean?

Perhaps the humble broom never got such media attention as it is doing today. It really has traveled a long journey from the hands of the aam admi to the rich, the famous and the powerful, making it to the national headlines all over the country.

The taste of Hyderabad in Swachh Bharat campaign
Some snippets from conversations in the heart of Hyderabad:
In a wholesale shop in Begum Bazar...a customer looking at the almost empty stack of brooms:
“Arre jhadu poore khatam ho gaye kya... mereku dus hona tha”                     
“Hau bhai jhadu ke achhe din aa gaye ich nahin hai ... itta demand bad jaara roz roz.  Sab logan jhadu leke safai shuru kar diye...apni Sania ko dekho tennis chhod ke jhadu pakad li...”

In an early morning shift, two GHMC women sanitation workers looking at a picture of the film stars wielding broomsticks on the roads of Banjara Hills:
"Chusinava akka, pedda pedda actorlu, ministerlu andaru cheepurlu pattukoni photolu digutunnaru...mana photolu eevaraina teesinara?"
"Aunu nijamee...idi manam roju chese pani kada eevaru pattinchukuntaaru?...ippudu mana udyogala sangatenti?"

In an undergraduate college, the campaign coordinator, preparing the team of volunteers:
"Listen all of you, please come dressed up in your Swachh Bharat T-shirts, the brooms and the cleaning material will be available on the spot. You don’t need to worry about selfies, we have hired a photographer to do the job!"

It is really heartening to see the enthusiasm and involvement from all walks of life in this much needed campaign. It’s nice to see everybody talking about it. But how do we move from ‘talking’ to ‘taking and owning action’? Especially, when we have always considered littering as our birthright! Imagine the humongous challenge that our country faces – with ever increasing consumption patterns, lack of organised waste disposal and an ingrained apathy towards the ownership and maintenance of public spaces. Unlike many other top-down campaigns, Swachh Bharat is as basic and essential as the requirements of food, clothing and shelter. But somewhere down the line, there’s an apprehension that this well-intended initiative may become a symbolic episode if we don’t take some immediate actions, of course, besides the high-profile campaign with top celebrity endorsements.

Six points that can make Swachh Bharat a reality
Inculcating a sense of ownership of public spaces and natural resources– the roads, the common amenities, places of tourist interest and historic value, the lakes, the rivers, forests, the buses, the trains,  the railways...the list can go on. The problem is that our notion of cleanliness has long been confined to the walls of our homes and this will take a long time to change!

Imbibing, sharing and spreading “I-care-for-you" attitude – Most apathy and negligence comes from the fact that we are self-centered that we literally ignore what is next to us. When we start caring for something or someone other than us, automatically we will make a positive difference in the public domain.

Recognizing efforts at grassroots level – Sure, there are plenty of stories of how people have taken exceptional steps in making their villages, towns and cities clean. An award or incentive or some form of public recognition for the cleanest town or a part of a large city, based on some parameters could make it more participatory and competitive.

Dealing with culture and mindsets – For ages, we've been producing tonnes of waste and garbage in the name of religious festivals. It’s time people are educated about the impact of such practices in protecting the environmental disasters, besides creating a nightmare for the sanitation workers.

Including formal learning and training – Nothing like catching them young – if children can pester their parents to buy the choicest brands of TVs and cars, why not use their pester power to keep our surroundings clean. I’m sure schools are already trying their best to tell the children that if they wish to earn their right to a clean and green India, it is their responsibility to teach their elders.

Introducing fines and penalties – Bitter pills work like miracles on most maladies. It’s high time people are fined if they litter, spit or urinate in public spaces, however harsh it may sound. But then, it really needs some political faith to impose such things without hurting the public sentiment.

Public campaigns have their limitations. They can inspire and incite. But, the duty and responsibility remains with us at the grassroots to do our best. It's as simple as owning something (materialistic or non-materialistic) and flaunting it proudly and caring and sharing and taking responsibility for it. Isn't this what communities and societies are built around? 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Happy New Year Birthday Shahrukh Khan

First, many happy returns of the day, Shahrukh. This may be a special birthday for you as you are coming close to the half-century mark. And this may also be a challenging phase professionally, for a star of your stature to keep reinventing yourself at the box office. Unlike the life and times of superstars like Amitabh Bachchan who had several ups and downs during their mid-life roles, you are lucky to have directors who create roles for you to suit or beat your age, often defying logic and belief - Rab ne bana di jodi, Jab tak hai jaan and so on. And fans like me don't like to hear when someone says that you should stop acting or taking up roles of the kind you do now. For, I'm still hopeful that you'll, some day, make some movies where we get to see you in sensible and realistic roles that suit your age and experience.

It's been a week since I watched Happy New Year. And believe me, it has left me thinking not so much about the movie itself but about the way Hindi movies are shaping up, the rat race for the fastest 100+ crores at the box office and glitzy promos, performances etc to woo the global audience. And what about Happy New Year? It’s better to leave it at the theatre for I don’t remember anything from it other than achche din spoof on Mr. Modi and the song Nonsense ki night that had some funny lyrics. In fact, as long as the movie played I could only hear some kids giggling at your antics and some laughter here and there. Nothing could bring a smile for me, neither your whatever-number-of-packs nor your jokes that tried hard to benchmark with Kapil Sharma and his team of cross dressers.

Shakrukh and the cinema of the absurd
With every movie of yours in the last few years, your roles are getting more and more absurd, at this rate, your Om Shanti Om will soon get the status of a classic. Trying to find a method to madness depicted in Ra.One, Chennai Express and Happy New Year, it seems like you have created your own definition of the theatre of the absurd for popular Hindi entertainment a.k.a Bollywood. Remember the plays belonging to this genre and absence of logic, weird comedy, and a voluntary dismissal of meaning and purpose of all our actions. (Readers, please excuse me for borrowing this term from French literature, sorry if I hurt the sensibilities of literary pundits). Today, the absurdity in Hindi cinema shows up in meaningless escapism, absolutely unoriginal comedy, wafer thin plots, rehashes and remakes, sequels, senseless spoofs – all elements of a new formula entertainment that is flimsy, momentary and lasts as long as the popcorn in your cone or bucket. As you know, with the multiplex culture taking roots, we spend more on popcorn and other snacks than for the movie tickets!

Sad but true Shahrukh, you need to do some soul-searching, especially for fans of yours who love your performances in Veer ZaraSwades and Chak de India. How about some roles where you are a normal middle-aged Indian? I know it sounds completely de-glam, but it will reinstate some faith in your loyal fans who are waiting for some serious stuff that satisfies a thinking individual. Like many movie lovers, I have my list of idols and favorites: Gurudutt, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan. I like them for different reasons - musical, intellectual, sensual, artistic, cinematic etc. My reasons for liking each one of them differ like chalk and cheese.

To put it in your own words: I know you will never underestimate the power of a common fan. I don't know what your next movie is about, however, I hope you will surprise me with at least some of the following: the sensitivity of Gurudutt, the romance of Rajesh Khanna, the angst of Amitabh Bachchan and of course, Shahrukh Khan, the sauve, smart and savvy! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A short and sweet trip to Gujarat

Short, because of the duration of my trip and sweet, because most Gujarati food tastes sweet:) 

Hyderabad - Ahmedabad - Sasan Gir
The ultimate delight is when the journey is as exciting as the destination.  This is about my recent 4-day trip to Gujarat, partly inspired by my niece Shreya's school trip to the same place. The anxietment of solo travel to one of my favorite places was making me even more curious to see how the next four days unfold. It began with the announcement of the 'last and final boarding call' and me rushing to gate number 25, thanks to the early morning rush at the Hyderabad airport.

I was filled with thoughts about my long cherished dream to visit the land of lovely textiles and dresses (sold at Garvi-Gurjari, and some at Fabindia) and and a place full of history - ancient, medieval and modern.In fact; this quick and though-not-so-well-planned trip did me wonders - it gave me the much needed break and helped me learn a lot of new things while recharging my levels of enthusiasm and confidence in everything I do.

Soon after embarking on the long drive from the Ahmedabad airport, I visited the Adalaj step well; this needed a short diversion from the highway. The intricate carvings on the walls and the pillars of the well left me spellbound about the sculptures chiseled on this five-storied step well . In fact,you could spend a whole day admiring the artistic well!

The 7 hour drive from the Ahmedabad airport to Sasan Gir was mostly a smooth one, as we hit the Rajkot-Junagadh highway, enjoying the newness around me, the dusty long stretches dotted with temples with typical architecture, chain of eateries selling farsaan, small villages, the chakda carrying dozens of people and things on the highways.

After a short break for lunch at Rajkot, we proceeded to Gir. After Junagadh the roads get narrow and winding but the change in the landscape is really welcoming and you don’t really mind if you are not able to move fast. The Girnar mountain ranges completely transformed the panoramic view from the dry and dusty roads to a beautifully green hillscape that continues till we enter the Gir forests. The driver narrated interesting stories about the forest and about the 10,000 steps one can climb to visit several Hindu and Jain temples on top of the mountain ranges. After an hour's drive through the forest I reached the Club Mahindra Gir resort which is actually at the end of the forest. Though I had planned to visit the Somnath temple in the evening, I had to change my plan as I was beginning to feel tired after the long drive and of course, the resort and my tent was so inviting that I decided to spend my evening exploring the resort, watching the cultural program (a performance by the Siddi tribals of Gujarat) followed by a sumptuous dinner.

I was back to the tent and had the most peaceful and uninterrupted sleep only to be woken up by the alarm at 6.00 in the morning. It was lovely to wake up to the chirping of different birds and the Sun slowly making his presence felt through the verdant surroundings.

Gir forest - Somnath - Gir-Devaliya Interpretation zone
My next destination was the Somnathtemple, not very far from Sasan Gir. It was about 90 minutes drive and there you are! The history of the temple seemed to have something to say to all of us: that every fall has an implied rise in it just like the temple that was reconstructed several times after
it was invaded, plundered and destroyed.

I guess the magnificent temple would have been more idyllic in the evening, as the morning Sun was harsh and scorching for a walk along the sea wall. The problem with solo travel is that you need to depend on strangers to take your pictures. I couldn't have missed myself being clicked in the background of the ancient and historical temple and the sea, probably signifying the western most point of India. 

Later in the day, I visited the Gir forest at the Devaliya Interpretation zone. It was a short safari that took us around the forest: we got to see the lions, neelgai and deers. The thrill of watching the  asiatic lions at a stone's throw was unique!

Junagadh - Rajkot - Ahmedabad
The next day, on the way back to Ahmedabad, I visited the Uparkot fort at Junagadh. This fort (mostly dilapidated remains of the fort) is believed to be built by Chandragupta Maurya in 312 BC. My guide made the fort experience very memorable by narrating the long history mixed with interesting anecdotes.

However, it was sad to see that the fort was in a state of neglect and it needed immediate attention at least by cleaning the careless litter all around.  It was noon and the Sun was hitting hard; I didn’t mind the heat and went around the fort and enjoyed the picturesque view of the Girnar mountains from the fort.

It look around five hours to reach Ahmedabad from Junagadh. The evening at the hotel was time to relax and prepare myself for another hot day in the city with several things lined before I take my flight back to Hyderabad.

Ahmedabad - local sightseeing
It was the last day of my trip and I felt sad that I couldn’t visit many other places like the Rann of Kutch, Lothal, Modhera and Vadodara. Well, there’s always a next time, I consoled myself.
The Calico textile museum was first on my agenda. My trip wouldn’t have been half as enriching if I hadn’t visited this precious museum. I was lucky to get an appointment at a very short notice and those two hours in the museum took me to an unearthly world where I got to see some exquisitely crafted and embroidered textiles and apparel dating back to almost 200 to 300 years. I cherished every moment of my museum tour, trying to capture as many pictures as my eyes could hold since cameras are not allowed inside the museum. 

The visit to Garvi-Gurjari showroom was like a natural extension of the textile experience. 
This was followed by lunch at Pakwan restaurant , treating myself to an elaborate Gujarati thali.
The visit to Sabarmati Ashram in the afternoon was not a good idea. I wish I had gone there in the morning for a better and less crowded experience. I went around the photo galleries and the museum of Mahatma Gandhi , reading up most of the snippets from historical facts. Of particular interest was the installation depicting the launch of Salt Satyagraha (Dandi march) from the ashram in 1930. 

Gandhiji’s cottage, the Hriday Kunj also displays some of his personal belongings and the room where he received guests and had discussions is maintained very well. 
The ashram also has a book and souvenir store and a library.

The view of Sabarmati river from the ashram adds to the peace and serenity of this place. After spending close to two hours at the ashram, I started for the airport, visting the famous Induben Khakrawala on the way. Looking back, I was thankful to my friends and family who helped me in organizing the trip at a real short notice. 

Four days is too little a time to visit a place filled with varied places of interest like history, culture and eco-tourism. I’m eagerly waiting for my next well-planned sojourn to experience other facets of Gujarat! But, till then I’m re-charged to enjoy my daily chores like cooking and driving before and after my office.

Some impressions and feedback
  • The Ahmedabad international airport needs better housekeeping, especially the soiled seats in the lounges, stinking rest rooms and clogged toilets.
  • Of course, the city of Ahmedabad and the highway are clean and well-maintained, especially the Sabarmati river, but not much seems to have been done in terms of cleaning the badly littered touristic places like the Adalaj step well and the Junagadh fort. (I may be judging on the basis of a very short trip but this may be true of other places as well, in fact, this is a problem with most of the touristic attractions in India)
  • The ''khushboo Gujarat ki'' slogan by none other than Mr. Amitabh Bachchan in the Gujarat tourism campaign  leaves much to be desired especially when one goes around places like the Somnath temple and its environs. I simply could not figure out why there was a peculiar stench (other than the smelly sea water).
  • The Sabarmati ashram could have an audio-visual display like a short movie on the life of Mahatma Gandhi or something of similar kind for a complete experience of the life and times of our national leader. And of course, the toilets need at least some amount of maintenance, offering basic convenience to visitors. Perhaps, it could be improved by making them paid services.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

For my pre-school teacher, who taught me to write right

You held my hand and helped me hold a pencil
Taught me to write the alphabet and the numbers
Thus began my journey into the world of knowledge
As I learned by asking, seeking and questioning
And I discovered by reading, listening and watching
Today, when I'm able to write a thousands of words
I often try to go back to pre-school days
And try to remember your name...
As I grew up, many subjects got added
But what you taught me never got faded
For every subject, writing was the medium
While adding, multiplying, dividing or subtracting
While describing, narrating or answering
If science needed reports to be written
History, civics and geography had their share of write-ups
My writing skills improved of the years
And I was happy to be trying creative, reflective pieces

And when some of them got published, I was elated
To see that I could write something more than the essays
That test your knowledge and comprehension in exams
Then came the phase where I got critical feedback on what I wrote
My writing was reviewed and assessed by fellow professionals
You'd have been happy to see me becoming an author
Today, in my free time when I write
It's my way to connect, express and share
You may have faded into oblivion
But what you taught me had remained as a precious gift
The story that started with a slate and a pencil
May have moved beyond a pen and a paper
To a laptop, a mobile device and a fancy gadget
Whatever be the medium, your teaching will be invaluable!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Simple pleasures of life: bitter gourds in my balcony

You either love it or hate it - there cannot be an in-between thing about  karela or bitter gourds. Oh! how ardently I love this humble and versatile vegetable...I'd certainly like to know if there are many self-confessed karela admirers like me. When the karela creeper started growing and flowering in my balcony it only added to my excitement as I saw myself graduating from growing curry leaves, chillies, dhania and methi to a proper full-fledged vegetable, that too, something that's my eternal favourite.

I should say, I'm lucky to be born in a family of karela lovers though I can't say the same thing about the later entrants to my family and some of my friends. A simple and fulfilling meal for a me would be the deadly combination of vegetable sambar and karela fry with hot rice. Or, on a rainy day, there's nothing like stuffed karelas with hot rice or roti, especially my mother's recipe:) And what about the karela powder that's available in some of the swagruha's simply divine when combined with rice.

Karela is not something that is commonly found in the menus of restaurants and star hotels, but you may find them in small eateries that serve home-made type of food, rarely though! Well, it may not as delightful as bhindi/okra or brinjal/aubergine for a chef to innovate and scale the levels of gastronomy. But, it's high time they gave it a try! It may not be as challenging as trying a sweet dish with karela (karela kheer to be more precise) as it is mandatorily expected from the students in hotel management and catering courses.

Devoid of a fancy name like aubergine or okra, karela or kakarakaya or hagalakayi is deep-rooted in our traditional cooking with loads of recipes that appear at the click of Google. I'm sure every region in our country has its own special way of cooking it, be it the karela fry, stuffed karela and gravy varieties like pulusu and gojju. What I don't like is people complaining about its bitterness. Just go back to the basics of ayurveda and refer to the primary tastes of food. Of course, something that tastes bitter takes long to get accepted unlike the sweet and the sour. It's nice to see that the veggie is gaining popularity as a remedy for diabetes - a dose of bitter that balances the excessive sweetness. The best thing about Karela is that it's not seasonal - though the best crop is available during the monsoons.

Monsoon or no monsoon, most of the time, the veggie shops and weekly markets sell karelas... go try it, your life may get more enriched and balanced with a bitter-sweet-sour tastes that lingers on to remind us about the actual experiences in life that are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and sometimes sour!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A survey for die-hard Hyderabadis

Intensive Household Survey’...well, that's the name of the survey that’s proposed to be conducted on the 19th August, already declared as a government holiday. A holiday soon after a long weekend, that too on the second working day of the week can be really frustrating for those who have deadlines and targets at work. But, one has to obey the government orders, right...sarkaar se kyun panga lena type of thinking!

This evening it got me discussing with my colleagues and neighbours, how and why such a survey is being executed. And, what a funny kind of holiday it’d be when one is supposed to wait at home for the survey guys to come and ask you questions. My neighbour, who is from Kottayam simply doesn’t understand what this survey can do other than providing nativity statistics about the residents of Andhra and Telangana. How does it matter if one is from Mumbai or Kolkata, when our constitution gives us the right to work and live in any part of the country! 

We got down to chatting over a whole lot of things and then it was dinner time. We’ve had several surveys so far...census, voter registration, Aadhar card etc etc. Now, this would be different, not because it is for ‘local’ government (unlike the national surveys) but because it’s speculatively going to touch upon sensitive issues like nativity, language, region, caste, economic status and so on.This is supposedly going to help the government in implementing the welfare schemes. Nevertheless, since I'm not eligible for any of such welfare schemes, I imagined the conversation between me and the survey official going somewhat like this:

The official: Hmm...Dubey... so you are from North India?  Are you from Maharashtra? Since how long you have been residing here? What is your mother tongue?
Me: My surname is from North India but I'm not...I’ve been living here since my birth, born and brought up in Hyderabad. I'm a pucca Hyderabadi! My mother tongue is Hindi.

Ok...madam, there is nothing like’s only Telangana State and Andhra Pradesh. So, where was your father working? What about your mother? For how many years they’ve lived here?
More than 60 father was in central government service. I blurted out in Telugu.

Meeku Telugu vachaa? (Do you know Telugu?) . There was an element of surprise when he asked me this question. Of course, I can speak, read and write with almost native like fluency, I told him firmly.

Kaani mee native ekkada? (Which is your native place?)
I had to repeat that I don’t belong to a single place, my relatives are spread in different parts of India...I've multilingual and multicultural roots.
After questions on caste, religion and profession, it was my mother’s turn to answer the questions.
She was very comfortable conversing in Telugu.

Your mother also knows Telugu, but she speaks the Telangana type of Telugu.
I laughed at his comment...It was like a certification for her TeluguJ

You have any relatives in Telangana or Andhra?
No... Some of my relatives are in Hyderabad.
Again, this person got irritated, because I kept inadvertently saying Hyderabad and not Telangana.

Madam, Hyderabad is now in Telangana State. Please remember.
Then, there were questions on monthly income, cooking gas details, ration card etc.

Do you own any land in Telangana or Andhra? Do you own any other property in these places?
Except the flat where I live, I don’t own anything in Hyderabad.

MADAM! Please remember to say Telangana State! Thank you!

The survey guy leaves my home by sticking something like a seal on my main door, thereby officially converting my native status from Hyderabadi to Telanganaite.
I sincerely hoped he didn’t find many die-hard Hyderabadis like me in the next surveys he conducted, I’m sure half his time and effort would have been used to ‘educate’ Hyderabadis that they are now a part of Telangana State.

Sure, Hyderabad is a part of Telangana State, but some Hyderabadis will take long to call themselves Telanganaites.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be fun-stuff and please don't take it seriously.