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Saturday, 30 January 2010

Picture Portrait

I have this huge picture of my spiritual Master, Maharaji Charan Singh, nailed up on the wall, in the foyer. It is very old picture of Maharaji in white kurta and white turban with the backdrop of blue and it has been there as far as I can remember. The picture has different expressions at different hours of the day and they change according to my moods. On the days when I am happy, I see the smile and on the days when I am angry, I see the grin. My friends, who don’t know him, ask me if this is the picture of my father and I always say ‘Yes’ cause he is the only father that I have known, having lost my biological father at the age of three. This picture gives me inner strength.

Maharaji was very photogenic and I think he used to love to pose. Whenever I had visited my paternal aunt (who was a very close friend of Maharaji), I used to see the beautiful poses in her house of her trips with Maharaji. There would be picture of his trips abroad; there would be party pictures and many more in my aunt’s personal album. There was one picture that I had liked which was actually a painting. It was a huge painting of Maharaji sitting on an easy chair,outdoors, cross legged, in churidhar-kurta and a shawl, looking out into the fields, his gaze fixed at hundreds of sevadhars doing manual labor of lifting/sifting sand, transporting it on their heads. I used to love that painting and I would always stop for one moment longer, whenever I passed by that painting.

My aunt is no more and so have Maharaji Charan Singh too, but what happened to those pictures and that painting, I have never asked.

But I am thinking what happens to those pictures when the person is not there no more? How long do the people preserve the photographs before they decide that they don’t need it anymore? And how do they dispose it?

With the digital camera, now we click too many pictures and then dispose off those which we don’t care, but in the days gone by, each picture had a story to tell. Whenever we visited our family, and if ran out of conversation, family albums were taken out to discuss the pictorial stories. Portrait pictures were clicked in the photo studio and blown up to life-size to decorate the foyers and the bedrooms and the halls.

I, for one, don’t buy pictures nor calendars of Gods or of any spiritual Masters because I worry about the storage. I would not like to insult the photograph and throw them away in the garbage when I don’t need them anymore. Why must we buy so many pictures and put them up in every room? We just need one picture to remember and admire the person. Some people like to keep it in their wallet, visible only to themselves, and to admire it secretly. But having too many pictures, all over the house, is quite scary to the non-believer.

When I inherited my family house, first thing that I did was to bring down all those life-size pictures that ruled every wall of my house. I have packed them up and stuffed them into the drawers, out of sight. There are too many albums sitting in the cupboard and I really do not know what to do about them. The photograph which don’t have me, don’t interest me and I am sure that even if they become antique, they will still not get me any copyrights.

Only this picture of Maharaji, which I had loved it even then, is still hanging up in my house, but that’s because it speaks to me.

I don’t store nor develop any more memories, I would never want the abuse of my pictures, even after I am here in this world, no more……..and I am certain that nobody else would want it too….

Friday, 29 January 2010

Muse over FB message 'Acceptance'

With twitter and facebook becoming a strong board for exchanging ideas and thoughts in this social media network, not all status messages are funny and light hearted, some are thought provoking too and force us to re-think on issues which could be just a passing phrase. One such message, that I copied on my page and then was pleased to see it on my friends’ page too was:

"My wish for 2010 is that people will understand that children with disabilities do not have a disease; children with disabilities are not looking for a cure but ACCEPTANCE........93% of people won't copy and paste this, WILL YOU be one of the 7% that does and make this your status for at least a hour?”

I saw this message on many of my friends’ pages and someone even argued saying that “Just by copying and pasting are people going to change the attitude? No offence to your friends who have already copied and pasted it, they may have done it because they are among those few people who understand that children with disabilities do not have a disease......”

My reply to that comment was: “yes! Attitudes do change with the wind. .specially by those who believe in the message and pass it on....and unfurl those soft pebbles off the hard rock...

But the page that really caught my attention was when someone commented:

“Wait a minute... I'm pretty sure that people with disabilities ARE looking for a cure... No one willingly accepts that they are disabled when there is a readily available cure out there that can make them "not disabled."

He found it difficult to accept the fact that handicap people can be accepted in this society as productive member of the society if they are allowed to perform the task to their best of their ability.

He argued that “You can’t accept someone who is disabled as a productive member of society when you still have to watch over them and make sure that they don’t fall and/or jump in whatever they need assistance. If that’s the case then there is no full acceptance, only fake acceptance that will make these disabled people feel a false sense of security of their place in society. And to be honest, if I was disabled and wanted people to treat me with respect, the same respect they treat everyone person, and you were patronizing me in this way and treating me as if I was less of a person then I would hate it. Your saying that disabled people want to be treated like everyone else.. well you can’t treat them only half way, because they still aren’t equal, and never will be. It’s all or none. I’m afraid.”

Actually I would hate it too....but that is where my point was, I meant to say that either the people are patronizing the disabled too much or ignoring them completely and both ways it hurts the differently-abled person.

Society just cannot see the talent beyond the handicap at a first glance, a differently-abled person has to prove their capability from time to time, they have to prove that they are capable of performing as perfectly as any normal person , and there is no need to sweat over them if they are able to deliver....independently....every disabled person can also be the productive member of the society, if he is allowed to follow the profession in which he excels and in which he has faith in, but the society never allows him to forget his handicap.

Every individual should be able to decide when they need to be over-protective and patronizing and when they should just accept them and let them perform to their fullest ability and in every case, acceptance in important because they are not freaks.

And he was confused as to where does one draw the line?

What gives anyone the right to tell one person that they fully capable of working on their own and another that they cannot be trusted to be on their own and must be supervised? He argued that when people say that "We wish that society would accept disabled people as being productive members of society, there isn't a special clause that states: " this only applies to people who are able to function independently, with out supervision, everyone else isn't fully accepted as fully functional and must be watched and cared for."

And he wondered as to what happens to those who don’t meet those specific criteria? Are never to be accepted as part of society and considered the useless ones who have no place in the society?

“ I know it seems harsh,’ he continued, “ but if they cannot be accepted as productive members of society then what are they? Or do we reevaluate what that criterion is so they can be accepted? But what about the people left over from that? Who are not accepted after that second evaluation of who is productive and who isn’t?

It’s an endless cycle that will never end.” he concluded

And I am left wondering whether the society will ever wear the cap of acceptance…ever……

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Bus Ride in Mumbai City

India is shining. Or rather, I should say that the things are improving a lot, specially my regular four hours journey (back and forth) to my school which I take every alternate Wednesdays.

The bus ride has become a pleasure for me since the introduction of AC bus no 105 from Bandra to CBD.

No more do I have to sit on the hard seat, reserved specially for the ladies, by the window, because I am afraid to sit on any other seat where I might have a male stranger dozing on my shoulder. No more do I have to worry about over-crowded bus where I would feel guilty when I saw more than thirty standees, all jostling for a seat. No more am I exposed to dirt and pollution, and the bad stench during my bus ride that passes through the route of Dharavi and Chembur.

Many a times, I was subjected to the stench and shit that I would see on the road if I wished to peep out of window. I would see the open toilets on the road, the main doors broken, exposing the people in the act. Reading was impossible because there were too many jerks, and I would have difficulty in focusing my attention on vibrating words. I used to prefer to plug the music to my ears and slept most of the journey, not that I could sleep, but shutting my eyes to the realities of the world, I could snooze off to my own imaginary world.

The only time I was awakened from my slumber was when the tempers ruled the bus and people got aggressive over a slight dispute. That was the time, when I too would be curious to differentiate the victim and the culprit during the commotion. I would then secretly take sides, team up and wish for my team to win an argument. Sometimes the argument would get worse and there would be exchange of blows and slaps and the bus would be abandoned in the middle of the road and we would wait till the cops arrive. Sometimes the cops would take too much time to arrive and all the strangers in the bus would become friends and together they would suggest an alternate punishment and pass the verdict.

Yes, travelling by bus exposed me to the difficulties and problems of a common people. It was the closest I could get to them.

Now, I have graduated to AC 105. The seats are comfortable and the bus fare is three-fold. Most of the seats in the bus are empty. There is music playing at the dash board, which is either radio or CD of old Bollywood songs. There is an electric-socket for people who wish to connect their laptop. Most of the people are busy on their mobile, chit-chatting. Recently, they have introduced in-vehicle retailing service managed by the ticket-conductor and soft drinks are up for sale.

During the smooth bus ride, I look out of window, no more, because now, I see the life-styles of a common man only in my books.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Yes! I am a Bhaibhand

When I was young I often heard my family boasting that we were Baibhands and they made strange remarks when talking about other sects such as Amils, Sahitis, Larkanas, Shikarpuris, and other such sects. For me, all that mattered was that we were all human and spoke a common language that compartmentalized us into Sindhi group. During my schooling years, my school friends often ridiculed Sindhis, criticizing their etiquettes and habits which were common in certain sect, and embarrassing to me, so much so that I often pretended that I was non-sindhi and was even shy to expose my ability of speaking perfect Sindhi.

To an outsider, it will be difficult to differentiate one Sindhi from another, but when we are in the inner circle, we do notice the difference in food, culture, dialect and sense of dressing. But one thing is common in all the Sindhi’s that they have emerged as winners. Most of the Sindhi families were displaced during the partition of India-Pakisthan war and were forced to give up their wealth and property and migrate as refugees. But hard work and will to survive with dignity has paid off and there are not many Sindhi beggars you might find today. That’s because Sindhis are very generous by nature and are willing to support their not-so-fortunate families.

Even before the partition, when all Sindhis lived in Sind, they had the same quality of camaraderie. Bhaibands never focused on education, and preferred to trade. In the days of the British, they sold some specially embroidered cloth pieces. Coming mainly from Hyderabad, Sindh, Sindhi workers specialized n the supply of local art and craft objects, referred to as ‘Sindhi work’ to the British and other Europeans in their homes. English men called those boys ‘Sindu workers’.

Generally, a boy of seventeen or so, among Bhaibands, went abroad for some time. That was called his first tour. When he finished his tour he came back to Hyderabad and was married. The husband left for foreign lands while the daughter-in-law was at the mercy of her mother-in-law! Daughters-in-law were sometimes not happy with this arrangement but this was compensated with huge stack of money checks that arrived regularly and enhanced their status in the society. (However, after Partition, the wife started leaving with her traveling in order to stay with him).

Bhaiband men went to different lands: Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Saigon, Jawa, Sumatra…even the remote corners of the world and did business. They suffered many difficulties. They had to learn the language of the place and eat food they didn’t like, but they learned the tricks of the trade! Most often, they established their own firm. They shared their knowledge with their own family members and encouraged them. The members of the firm were brothers or cousins only. Each member set up base in one country. The system of demand and supply used to send these members to different countries and lands in order to spread their network far and wide. Perfumes, cloth, almonds, pistachios, and such goods, bought cheap in one land were sold expensively in other lands and all the partners of the firm became rich!

In 1947, when the families were displaced, many of the Sindhi migrated to those places where they had done business initially before the partition. The concept of family life for many Sindhis living abroad underwent a change. Men, who had always worked for few years and then returned home, the idea of ‘returning home’, ceased to exist, more-over the business suffered and they had to start a life anew.

Bhaiband never like the idea of women working outside the home, but many women are normally involved and are encouraged to participate in family business, (if need be) to take care of their hubby’s biz in their absence.

Over the sixty years, life had changed. Bhaibands are more educated now and it is difficult to differentiate them from other sects. Youth of today don’t care much for diamonds and gaudy jewelry (which was the specialty of Bhaibands) and are easily adjusted to every country wherever they choose live in, adopting the culture and language of their adopted country. A Sindhi youth may not know his own Sindhi dialect, but is well versed in the foreign language, trading efficiently in whichever umbrella he chooses to be.

The adults too, foreseeing the erratic working hours and the hardship of the trade and business, encourage their children to take up the professional field, which is more secured and relaxing.

Although more and more Bhaibands are educated now, seeking the best educational degrees that money permits them, and pumps them up to enter the best professional stream.

Surprisingly young, educated Bhaiband still bounce back into the family business!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Here and There

My friend tells me that she wants to go out of Mumbai with me for few days. I am reminded of the last trip that we went out, and am thinking whether I should go for the next one with her, again?

"Where do you want to go?" I ask her wondering why she ever wants to go anywhere. During our last trip, all she wanted to do was eat, shop or sleep. She wasn’t very much interested in looking around. Our taste differs in every way, but she is just content to go out with me and my friends.

Not that I mind, actually I do like it, I do like to spend time with my friends, I like to talk of thing here and there, share some jokes and learn something from each other’s experiences, but what I like the most is the adventure of trying something new. When we go to a new place, I want to visit the museums, see the new culture, taste the local food, and meet the natives to talk about their common issues. There is certain kind of energy that creeps into my body during the trips out of station. I am able to adjust to all the unavoidable discomfort, but not she.

And, my main problem is the time factor. I am not an early bird. When I wake up, she has already finished her morning walk, had her bath and breakfast, is dressed tip-top from head to toe and is walking impatiently in the room, left, right, left, right, waiting for me to rise. Can’t blame her if she is tired by the time I am done with bath. I always skip the breakfast and we go out for lunch. I don’t like shopping and walking aimlessly, but she does.

What we do together is sit and chat till late nights, play some board games or other creative games, and laugh a lot. In the group of eight, if all are not same, we are not annoyed.

But is that the reason enough to plan the next trip???

Friday, 22 January 2010

What does 'Seva' mean to you?

When you get opportunity to do seva, are you proud? Does your ego get accelerated?

During my recent satsang meeting in January 2009 in Mumbai, this year, I saw many sevadars get frustrated when people asked for chairs? I heard one of the sevadhar shouting rudely at the devotee that she had no more chairs left and if the lady did not have ability to sit on the ground then she can very well stand in one corner for one full hour! And suddenly after ten minutes, I saw appearance of more chairs arriving when somebody known of better stature appear. Why was she lying?? Were there really no chair available (or ignorant?) or was she really frustrated with the crowd??

One of the finest qualities that one expects from a sevadar is the humility and patience.

Babaji gives special darshan to sevadhar and they are blessed, wouldn’t it be nice if they could reflect their blessings and services on more people who surround them and ask their help??

I agree, it is a tough job, arguing with the pushy ones, who want some comfort along with the discourse, but aren’t sevadhars aware of this?? How do they get so frustrated and yet are able to make things easy for people of their acquaintance?

Seva is unselfish service, full of devotion and care and if they are not able to show some empathy towards the devotees, they might as well do the seva which is easier and does not involve their emotions

Some people feel good by just donating the money, and not opt for physical seva. But I have noticed that they too worry about the benefits of their money-seva.

Once, a satsangi lady told Maharaj Ji that as she had no income of her own, she always asked her husband to give her some money for offering in seva. "Will this sewa ever benefit me? Does it have any value?"

Maharaji must have known the purpose of her seva then, He understood that people want benefits here too but, Maharaj Ji replied, "Yes if both of you are happy in giving this seva".

Maharaj Ji further explained this by giving an example of a satsangi with one leg who used to come during the bhandaras. "He used to come from the hills of Himachal, and was very poor. Just to save money to give in seva, he used to walk from his village in the hills to Dera, with the help of his crutches, covering a distance of over 75 miles.

"Once he was brought to me during 'money seva' by Mr Bolokani. He offered one rupee in seva.

"How can you value this seva? Is it not worth much more than the hundreds and thousands that the rich give?

"The value of seva is not in how much one offers, but in the feelings and love with which it is offered."

What Maharaji meant was that You do the seva (if you must) but without any selfish motives. Don’t think about the benefits, there is only one way to benefit from His grace, by obeying him and doing your bit of meditation to find Him.

Rest are all the choices that you make, if you feel that you have tolerance and patience to understand the needs of a devotee, then please continue to serve, we need you too…….

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Shopper's Agony

She told me to meet her at Bandra, Hill road, the big shopping area of Mumbai. One month from now is her marriage and she has not yet purchased her wedding gown. We go to this boutique at Hill road. The sales girl switches on the shop lights and AC as we enter the store. In the times like these, salesgirls are instructed by their boss to sit in heat and dark unless the client enters the store. She is quite pleased with our entry, happy that she will have somebody to chat and enjoy few moments of light and cool air.

There are bright-colored-stone-sequined- clothes on the rack for display. There are brocade saris, salvar-suits, ghagra- cholis. I assure her that this store has reasonable rates and that other well-known designers with branded labels have crazy rates. She believes me and follows me as I sift through the clothes on the rack, one by one.

There are two dresses that she likes a lot. One is the Gagra choli and other is chooridar set. I ask her to try it onto know the fitting. She wants to know the price, its forty-two grand in INR. She is hesitant. She finds the futility of spending too much money for one-day wear. She prefers to save the cash for a rainy day instead. Maybe for a trip abroad? I tell her that she will be somebody special on that day and its one-day affair of her lifetime and she must look her best. She relents and picks up both the sets and enters the trial room.

She has well shaped body with just the right curves. Both the dresses suit her and do justice, the color and the style, both are perfect. But she finds the price is too expensive. I inform the salesgirl that we are undecided and would like to visit some more stores before we can narrow our search. The salesgirl understands our plight. She quotes her last price lowered by three more grand to guarantee our return. We exit.

We visit few more stores, still confused.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Facebook's colorful drama

Friday morning, while brushing teeth, I checked the mail on my facebook, and the chain mail from three of my friends, with a subject line ‘Cause’, caught my attention, it read:

‘We're playing a little game where every woman on Facebook will type the colour of the bra she is wearing today, (on your status) just the actual colour, nothing else. Forward this to women ONLY and let's see if the men can work out what our game is. Its also to raise the awareness of breast cancer’.

The mail was from my three dear friends and I couldn't ignore it (neva). I was hesitant at first, not wanting to disclose something in an open forum such as FB, but pretending to be on a beach made thing easier and my FB status flashed ‘Sky blue’ while warbling 'Girls just wanna have funn'....

Not sure whether it spread the breast cancer awareness, but it was very, very entertaining. Some of the colors flashed on my friend’s status were hard to believe. Dark purple? Deep red? Hawaian green? Electric blue? Leopard skin, nude? (were they all at the beach???) Teasers!! Interesting though!!. I started making a list of the colors to look for on my next shopping trip.

What was entertaining was the curiosity of men who were perplexed. Reading the updated message on color by one woman would not have bothered them but reading the same message on all the women made them uncomfortable. They squirmed and wriggled, longing to know the secret behind the colors. While they tried to decode the colors, women were having a field day, amused by their innocent comments. The status message such as “What a colorful day”,’ What’s with a women in black, white, yellow’ We cross-posted on our friend’s status teasing each other, with 'smiley', 'grin', 'ha-ha' as comments which made them curious even more, till some spy peeped into his spouse’s inbox to know the secret.

We knew that somebody has finally cracked the code when we read, “All plans to keep Facebook safe for the whole family are going bust” followed by ” Police in Iran are cracking down on Facebook activism today. Once their true colours are revealed, the guilty will not be let off the hook.” hmmn!

As the day progressed, more and more men discovered the secret and they played along, posting wittier messages and counter messages that only few understood, till some clumsy spoiler spilled the beans.

FB got flooded with drool…..

Men went back to the messages to get the drift. They fantasized, Googled for bra-images to match the colors, tweeted, how do they get excited by just the color of a garment?? come on, it's just a garment of support for 'do bichare, bina sahare...'

Then started the series of messages that spelled their fantasies, and I lost interest when jokes went too far and the messages started to get uglier and embarrassing…….ekdum nonsenshence.....

Ye kya ho raha hai??????

Friday, 8 January 2010

Babaji’s Visit to Mumbai in January 2010

Babaji – The Master, Gurinder Singh Dhillon - was in Mumbai this week. The satsang is held very far from the city, at Bhayander, and of million people attending the discourse, 75% of the people come to the venue in their own private transport. The place is well organized, with sufficient space to park the cars; there are separate lanes for cars, for buses and for trucks.

In the past, I have always gone by private transport, (in comfort, arriving just one hour before the satsang and occupying the most comfortable seat) but this year, I want to experience the common person’s way. I opted to travel by public transport and it was very inconvenient. Traveling by train in Mumbai is like being packed in a sausage can. There is not enough room for two feet; you get pushed back and forth at every station as the stream of crowd rushes in and out of the train. From Mira station to the bus stop, there was a long, slow walk of 15 minutes, people who had no patience to wait for the bus, walked for next 30 minutes through swamps and fields on a muddy road to reach the venue.

Having said that, after all that adventure at reaching the venue, listening to Babaji was a treat. Babaji spoke for just fifteen minutes in English and I was enthralled. He conveyed the message that mystics come with a purpose and it is very important for us to understand the difference between knowledge and comprehension. Knowledge is all around us and we can get it by every means. We can read a book, watch TV, and read newspaper and we get that knowledge. But what use is that knowledge to us if we cannot comprehend and put it to use? Just getting initiated is getting knowledge but we have to experience it, without experiencing it we cannot define it. If somebody is eating sugar and he tells you that sugar is sweet, how will you know what is sweet if you have never tasted it. To know the real taste, you have to taste it and experience it.

On this theme of knowledge and comprehension, I am reminded by one extract of Bhagwant Gita where it is mentioned - “Arjuna asks Krsna to reveal His splendour. Krsna gives him divine eyes with which he sees the universal Form. Arjuna is awestruck by this magnificent display. He bows down with folded hands and describes this spectacular vision.

Krsna then displays His raw power, all-devouring and fearful. Overcome with fear Arjuna asks Krsna to go back to His gentle form. Krsna shows His four-armed form, His gentle and gorgeous nature.

Krsna underscores the rare privilege earned by Arjuna. Even the gods long to see this form which cannot be seen by mere spiritual practices. But one who acts for Me, is devoted to Me and regards Me as supreme obtains Me.”

It is very important to reflect on the things that we learn, give it a thought and try to understand the true meaning of the concept, just attending endless satsangs on Sant Mat without our attention focused on the theme, will lead us to our own imaginary world.

Day accomplished, the browny point was the reward of darshan we received after the satsang when Babaji drove in his little golf car, passing through the lanes of seated devotees.

The sea of devotees headed towards canteen after satsang, which was very well organized by sevadhars, who served tasty batata-peas bhaji with bread and tea. I saw many people buy loads of bananas and biscuits to take home.

Returning back home was another nightmare, equally inconvenient. I promised myself that I would never take such trip again. I have a choice.

But what about the common person who has no choice

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Uncrowned Glory

If I count the hair on my scalp, it will be exactly 25 feathers. This has been a topic of discussion with most of my friends and relatives. When they should be asking me about my well being, all they notice is my naked scalp. I wish I could hide it. I envy Muslim ladies who are able to cover their scalp with burqas…yeah it helps to save from embarrassment, also those 1950’s women, who wore beautiful hats to cover their scalps, ,but for me, there is no relief…I cannot wear burqa nor wear any hats (this might attract more traffic of stares on me) I have tried perms, adding curls to disguise my tresses but they have lost their luster over time and are even more straw’ey than ever before.

My recent visit to a hair salon brings me some hope. I like the oil massage and so very glad that such services are available now. (when my niece was a kid, she would regularly massage my hair, oiling it liberally and playing with my hair. I would enjoy her tiny finger in my hair) but, now that she is grown up, she would rather concentrate on her own hair. I have been regularly trying different salon to seek the best masseur. I think I have found it at last.

I went to this hair salon, on recommendation of my friend, who is concerned about my vanishing tresses. She fixed the appointment for me; therefore I am no stranger to them. The best of the clan volunteers to massage my scalp. Gently squeezing the cotton soaked in oil over my scalp, she covers my head with dripping oil. Massage is actually pressing of points, gently with her fingers, followed by gentle hammering with closed palms. I drifted off to sleep enjoying the pampering, awaken only when she moves away.

“Maam, I see you have very scanty hair” says the superintendent of the salon. (as if I don’t know)

“So, what do you suggest?” I say, hoping against hope that there is some remedy.

“We have solution if you are ready to take up the treatment” she says

“Really? And what that be?”

“First, you must come regularly, at least twice a week” (she is looking for steady clients, I am sure)

“I have come for hair massage, just need to oil my hair, get a good massage and leave it overnight. I shall wash it next day.”

“Oh no, no, you should never leave your hair oily and walk on the street. There is too much dust on the road that will harm your roots. Have you seen foreigners with oily hair?”

(As if foreigners oil their hair. I am not sure. Plan to enquire this quest on my next trip abroad.)

“We will give you hair pack of ‘curd with secret ingredients” (I have heard of face-pack, now what is this hair-pack? Who is this introducing new gimmick every time?)

“Okay and then?”

“Then massage and steaming, long procedure, maam, but sure-shot treatment, believe me; you will find the difference within one month”

Since my crowning glory has limited life, I decide to play along. Aar ya paar….

I confirm the treatments, lay back and relax…..

For another hour, there is massage, hair-pack, steaming, hair-wash and blow-dry.

Three hours of my precious time is lost in a salon which promises me a matted crown, but I am feeling good......

Hope it works. I have fixed the appointment for follow-up next week…..

Monday, 4 January 2010

Postcard from Ganpatipule

Just 375 kms away from Mumbai, and it’s a different world, in complete contrast from high-rise, polluted Mumbai, we enter a small village, serene, sedate, unspoiled, the magic land of virgin beaches, with 400 year old land mark- the Swayambhu Ganapati temple.

Being a holiday season, it was flooded with thousands of devotees and tourists. Moi and my group of eight friends added to this burden of population for three full days.......

Night time is the best time to travel by road, since there is less traffic and the ride is smooth, with the curvy roads giving pleasant swings at regular intervals. We started our journey at 10pm after our heavy meal and dozed off to sleep as soon as the bus revved its engine, only to open our eyes at twilight to watch the beautiful sun rise...... the scenery was beautiful, at some places we could touch the clouds as they floated through our windows....blinding our lens.... We drove through the narrow mud-roads, the earth dark red ....glistening in sunshine... and the roofed houses with clean courtyards that added quaint touch to the panorama. We passed the bridge to arrive at our destination of calm village of Ganpatipule....Yes we had arrived......after ten hours of journey by time for hot breakfast and a cup of coffee........

After breakfast we headed towards the 'Swayambhu Ganapati temple' (Swayambhu means 'self-made', this is a temple of the self-originated idol, Ganapati). A long queue winding from the entrance through narrow bamboo barriers, snaked through the curves, three-folds and it took us more than sixty minutes to reach the idol. The temple here is very beautiful and recently it was renovated. Every year in the months of February and November the sunrays fall directly on the Ganpati idol....( I was told)..... one of persons in our group wanted to take a "Pradakshina" around the hill where the temple is located, she explained that 'Pradakshina' is a form of showing obeisance wherein the devotee walks in a circle around the idol of the lord or around the temple, the house of the lord, The pradakshina or the walk of 1 km is interestingly Ganapati Shaped. ..But I was already too tired walking through those paths within bamboos railings in queue,(of one hour) when we reached the temple, we were allowed only 30 seconds of the glimpse of the idol...."Chalo, Chalo, line bahut hai" said the pundit as he ushers us towards the exit....I wanted to look closely at the self-originated, idol of Ganapati, that is made of copper. .but look at him...shooing us away....not fair...

The rest of the evening we spend at the beach, watching the people in colorful (zakaas) clothes clearly surprising the foreigners, who are used to seeing people dressed in bikini and bare skin in their home town.....

Next day, we rented a private transport to tour around. We started our journey (after a heavy breakfast) at 9am to explore the other areas of the village..... I was attracted by the fountain that welcomed us at our first stop at Malgund village...Malgund village is the birthplace of the famous Marathi Poet Keshavsoot. (Have you heard about him??) He was born here in 1866. He is termed as a poet who heralded the dawn of modern Marathi poetry. The "Marathi Sahitya Parishad" (Marathi Literature Society) has constructed a beautiful monument called "Keshavsoot Smarak" in the memory of the great son-of-the soil. There was even an amphitheatre behind the house...He must have performed his poems in front of large crowd (I am sure) There is also a museum where you can find information on most of the modern day poets of Marathi language. The Memorial is a real treat for people who are interested in Marathi literature. Lucky poet, he had such a big house......I am thinking, thinking, thinking .. if I could invest some time on my poems.....maybe...??? On the second thought, it is understable with all these inspirations of plants, birds and trees...(I am sure if I had a house like that, I would be a famous poet too)..Who wouldn't be???

And traveling by roads is an experience by itself. The vast "Konkan" stretch abounds with scenic greenery..... Our next stop was 'Prachin kokan' an open air museum on a hill, showing our old culture, basically old customs of Konkan areas. The museum is spread over an area of 3 acres on a hillside. The museum was constructed by a 27 year old resident of Ganpatipule, (Vaibhav Sardesai). all the statues had great expressions, the path was quite hilly and steep and I needed support to climb those big, huge stone steps...Planners of this museum are quite insensitive...they didn't think of placing some railings on this hilly path...come on, everybody was uncomfortable walking through this hilly path.. having a railing makes life so much easier...I tell you...duh!!

There was a guide with us, who kept rambling (in Marathi) about the history of the statues ( giving me a headache). On the highest peak of this hilly museum, there was a store selling art stuff and my group (always crazy for shopping) give a good business to the store...which later they deposited with me in the sumo, since I was enjoying the privileged, bigger seat in the front, next to driver.... But truly, this open air museum was one of its kind....quite enjoyable......except for railings. .huff! huff!!

We continued our drive through Bhatye beach...that had silver white sand against deep blue waters.... Bhatya is a small village sited at a distance of 1 kms from Ratnagiri. The village is known for flat and straight 1.5 km long beach. The scene along the coastal region was amazing and I could not control clicking shots,( click, click, clicking the boats and the canals on the route..).till we finally reached 'Patit Pawan Mandir' at Pawas.. "Patit Pawan Mandir" is of importance here. It was the first temple built for the non-Brahmins by revolutionary leader, Swatantryaveer Savarkar. ..

Our next stop was the house where the freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was born, and is now declared and maintained as a national monument He was born on 26th July 1856 in this house. It was Lokmanya Tilak who gave the slogan that "Self rule is my birth right and I will achieve it. Lokmanya Tilak stayed in the house till 1866. Although the rooms in the house were quite tiny, but, at the back of the house, there was a big open space, large enough for long walks or jogging...

So close to nature, such scenic rides....such clean streams....(unlike our Mithi river) and so much greenery and open space....there were no slums?? huh?? Why must we have all the slums only in Mumbai??? Why is the population of Maharastra not evenly spread out....??? Jobs can be created here too, tourist industry perhaps?? Hello? Is somebody listening???

Our next destination was the 'Thebaw Palace' Thebaw Palace was constructed in 1910 – 1911 when the king and Queen of Myanmar were dethroned and were exiled. They stayed here in the palace from 1911 till their death in 1916. The palace was built under the King’s supervision. The five years of their stay at the palace have been immortalized on the walls of their tombs. There were lots of carved artifacts What I liked was the design and architecture of this palace and the view behind the windows....built in such a way that sun rays filters through palace evenly... those steep wooden stairs leading to the courtyard....everything was so beautiful.... A constant debate is going between the government and private authorities to convert the palace into a regional museum and a heritage hotel.

Next we passed through the busy market place to stop for lunch.....It was 3pm and tummy was complaining.....and the smell of fresh fish was in the air.... after lunch we headed towards The Balla Fort, that is located on a hill by the sea shore.

The fort is constructed in the shape of half Circle like horseshoe. The fort is built on an area of 120 acres and is surrounded by sea from three sides. There is a light house constructed on the western end of the fort. ..We climb up the fort and visited the temple again, once more...The main part of the fort has a Devi Bhagwati temple. There is also a small tank and a deep well in the fort premises. During the Navratri’s a ten day festival is organized at the fort. ....

Next we reached the aquarium.. and 'The Seafood Processing Centre' at Mirya. ...tiredness was seeping in..... we talked with the fishes, although they had no proper etiquettes to stop and talk to us.... they happily swam behind their glass prison, the sea horses in the aquarium had company and were prohably preparing for some concert.... and my friend wanted a closer look....wanted a new meditate on.. And why not? she told me that you can meditate almost on everything ...just keep your mind blank and shut out the past and the future., just focus on present....I tried, but my mind is too wild and undisciplined...never pauses for a moment....arrgh!!

On our way back, we stopped at top of the hill before descending to Bhandarpule, to watch the sun set.

The next day was reserved for relaxing at the beach, having a note of thanks, getting to know each other, sharing views over the cup of coconut water....and playing some creative games The sun over our hotel 'Sukh Sagar Palace' (where we were staying) reminded us to pack our bags and return back to the rat race of our beloved Mumbai

..... ..till the next long week-end arrives.....and we will head towards a newer destination...once more....

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