Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The World is Not Enough

A young boy aged about five craned out his little neck from the window of a moving train of a third class compartment as the steam engine bellowed out smoke and chugged ahead. After a while, he suddenly withdrew his head inside as fly ash and soot from the burnt charcoal particles entered his eyes and he cried in pain. The mother who was sitting beside cleaned the eye with the handkerchief after washing with some cold water. Within minutes the child was once again busy looking out of the window, unconcerned about the eye, gazing at the passing fields, a cluster of houses and the electricity poles as they flashed past! The kid has not changed much despite the passage of few decades the enthusiasm to peep out of the window either in a bus, train, boat, ship or a flight still unchanged! You guessed it right! The kid was none other than me.

In the initial years whilst still, at school and college, the holidays were to nearby towns of Delhi and a couple of cities scattered across the country. The changing countryside, dialects and languages, the way people dress, aromas of different foods were the first impressions that left an indelible impact in the coming years. Different cultures and languages witnessed while travelling helped in understanding the history and geography of places.

Then came the momentous day when I finished the college to take a 2-night train journey to Kochi to join the Naval Academy!  It was a defining moment for someone who had never seen the sea in life, to seek a profession full of thrill and adventure on the high seas. The stories of Captain Ahab in ' Moby Dick' and ' Fifteen Men on the Dead Man's chest.... Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum' in the legendary 'Treasure Island' by Robert Louis Stevenson were a literary confluence that shaped in pursuit of a sailor's life.The love for the sea, to see the dolphins pursuing the aircraft carrier in which I sailed, to a date with seagulls in the evening were something I miss even now!A journey to new port meant meeting the new people and learning new customs! For someone used to eating food with hands for a good twenty years, everything changed to eating by fork and spoon for every meal in the Naval Mess! There were opportunities to take a dive in the submarine and also fly onboard a helicopter that took off from the flight deck, strengthening the resolve to conquer all possible frontiers. During the vacations, I would pack my bags to head to places like Leh in the North to Shillong in the East to see how the arid mountains and the tea plantations look like! I had my wife as a willing partner in crime to travel! Just after our marriage, we headed to Kashmir and also undertook treks to Chandanwadi from Pahalgam followed with an arduous journey to Leh by road in an Army bus with a night stopover at Kargil! The Commanding Officer of the Transit Camp at Leh welcomed us informing me that I was the first officer to visit Leh after the Chief of the Naval Staff! The blazing deserts in Jaisalmer with fiery hot winds and temperatures of 47 deg C to the sultry weather of Chennai and Madurai were equally lovable. The chimes of bells in Varanasi and Dwarka, Azan from the Dargah of Chisti in Ajmer to exploring the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa paved the way for a truly secular outlook that our lovely land offers!
At Burj Khalifa in Dubai

As the life took another turn a plunge in the corporate world paved the way for a journey to the lands I had only dreamt of. Journeys to the mystical land of Jesus in Israel and Bethlem, floating on the Dead Sea, climbing the World Trade Centre( prior to 9/11), Burj Khalifa, and the Petronas Towers gave a real power of enjoying the spectacular distant vision. Skiing down the slopes in Jungfrau on the Swiss Alps, appreciating the beauty of Mona Lisa in Louvre, David by Michelangelo at Florence, a Papal audience in the Vatican are some of the memorable events among many that opened the mind to make every journey unique.
Antibes in the French Riviera

The beauty of the French and Italian Riviera on the coasts of Mediterranean with the deep blue sea kissing the coastline, watching the whales in action at Kaikoura and dolphins in Akaroa in New Zealand, tasting the pizzas by going all the way to Naples, bring back the childlike curiosity to keep exploring this beautiful world forever!
At Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps

The inspiration for travel keeps the urge to know and learn more with every passing year.It only keeps getting stronger with the passage of time as no matter how much you travel, ' The World is Not Enough' to see, learn and conquer.

PS: This is my submission for the Lufthansa( and Indiblogger sponsored blog contest


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Save Every Drop

The heat was unbearable as I sweated profusely looking at my other oarsmen in the boat. I still remember the time vividly as if it was yesterday. I along with five more trainees at the Naval Academy in Cochin was on a 10-day sailing regatta/camp from Kochi to Quilon( Kollam now!), a distance of 138 km one way. Every night we would halt somewhere en route by coming alongside the shore. There were 8 Whaler( boats) with a crew of six trainees in each equipped with oars and sails, maps, compass, a stove and some ration with a bottle of water which could be used for covering the designated route every day. It was a training of endurance and stamina and the test of nerves. Every day, the most scarce commodity was undoubted, the water bottle which had to last the day! How every drop mattered I learned by facing the nature 's adversity, especially rowing the boat for 6 to 8 hours in strong sunshine and opening sails later in the afternoon as the wind picked up!

The importance of water for our existence does not need any elaboration! Over the years as I moved around, I realized that most of us take the availability of water for granted as have seldom faced any real-life situation of the paucity of water. The degradation of nature, pollution of lakes, rivers and wells or for that most of the sources of water has now created an alarming situation.
The next generation will have to suffer if the trend is not reversed.

It is never too late if the charity begins at home. Some very easy things that can help in saving water are :
1. Try to take a bath using a bucket of water or less instead of the shower.
2. Do not fill up a glass of water if the entire amount is not to be consumed. In case, one is not able to use the entire amount either cover the glass for reuse later or else pour it on a plant.
3.The leaky taps, pipes or other sources of water must be repaired to avoid the wastage
4. When using the flush, try not to empty the cistern every time unless it is essential
5. Turn off the tap when shaving or cleaning teeth and use only when required

It is estimated that two third of the world's population will be in a grip of water scarcity by 2025!
Alternative sources of energy have to be available to the populace as in the USA alone, half the fresh water is used by the thermoelectric power plants for generation of electricity. The situation is no different in other parts of the world.
Of the available fresh water around the world, 68% is trapped in glaciers and only 30% is in the ground.

In a country like ours, there is an urgent need to cleanse the rivers which are a major source of water for all purpose. In the northeast and south where the rainfall is higher compared to the rest of the country efficient rainwater harvesting methods can help in a big way to channelise them to water deficit regions. In Israel, when the snow melts in Golan Heights in the north, the streams of water are collected in catchment areas to be used for irrigation by drip technology

As the technology keeps bringing in greater and efficient methods with every passing year, the commercial desalination of the sea water as adopted in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait could provide relief to some extent but in the meanwhile, the need of the hour is to use water with discretion and conserve in all possible manner. A beautiful illustration of this is in the following video, an initiative by  Livpure, #CuttingPani


If you agree to support the initiatives to save water do sign the petition on the link
PS: This is my post for Livepure/ Indiblogger initiative

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Thanking Women

A day most important that matters most
 We need to thank someone who bore us at huge cost
Raised us as kids, had sleepless nights
  Held  our hand never left out of sight
Loved as a sister, a companion and best friends
  Expecting little,sacrificing, and helping at every bend
Let us thank lord each day for he created women
   So that we have some one to take care and listen

PS:1. Image Kind Courtesy Google
2. One cannot convey the gratitude in enough words to thank all the women who make the difference in a man's life

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Awaiting Good Times

The unending loot, and fall of trust
 Raises  graph of crime and insatiable lust
The hapless honest can do little but stare
  While crooks and lumpen continue to blare
They mock at systems that have little worth
   Except harassing poor and needy since birth
We live in times when honest are taxed
  The cheats and crooks are scot free and relaxed
When will we see the good times come?
  When equitable treatment is meted without drums

PS: Image Kind Courtesy Google

Friday, February 16, 2018

Raising Boys

There is so much talk about ' Raising the Girl Child',' Giving her Wings to Fly' and ' Educating the Girl Child' but one seldom hears about' Raising the Boys'! In a male-dominated society and the fixation of treating the boys as special is still the bane of our society.The untold rejoicing on the birth of a male child still prevails almost everywhere. At the same time, the birth of a girl in the family is often seen as a burden for which parents have to work for a dowry for her marriage right from the word 'go'.
I consider myself as one of the most fortunate to be born with other siblings( younger brothers) in a family where it did not matter to be a boy in every sense. Right from the early childhood, mother gave us lessons in the clean ship of the house, assistance in cooking and everything which is generally considered to be a domain of a girl. Every evening we would help her in cleaning the vegetables, peeling them and even chopping for the meal. The thrill of peeling the peas in winter and chopping the sticky ladyfingers were thrills we awaited almost every day. As she was a teacher and would return from school much later than me, I warmed the food and sometimes added a side dish to satiate my craving to experiment with cooking! Not only this, very early we learnt to wash our own clothes, ironing them and ensuring that all buttons were intact. The lessons in handling the needle and thread helped a long way when I lived alone especially during the summer training in a different city when in college. Luckily, after joining the Navy, most of the things I learnt helped in managing things but fortunately, all odd chores were handled by the orderly and food was managed in the mess. 

The idea of sharing all this stems from the fact that most children I come across these days are only playing on mobiles, and not even indulging in the outdoor sports. Most families are nuclear and both parents are working. From an early age, children are left at the 'creche' where the maids take care of the children and in the evening the kids join their parents. No wonder as they grow up most of them have not learnt much apart from bookish knowledge and are hardly of help in assisting their spouse when they get married. A few advertisements in the media showing the husband in handling the washing machine to assist the wife are a rare exception even today, in most homes

In the fast-changing world where women are rubbing shoulders with men in every walk of life, it would be grossly unfair to expect them to run the house the way boys have seen their mothers do for them in their growing years. Even for the young mothers, rather than being too indulgent with boys, it would be better they taught them the domestic chores and learn to respect the opposite sex to make their lives easier as they grow up.More freedom to women implies that the males share in almost every activity to make a happier home.Also, the cases of domestic violence, sex-related crimes have a direct correlation to the upbringing of boys and will surely bring in a much-needed change.

Read the lovely poem that I came across:

PS: Images Kind courtesy Google

Friday, February 9, 2018

Guru Ka Langar @ The Golden Temple

The Golden Temple Illuminated at Night
As one steps into the huge complex of the sanctum sanctorum, The Golden Temple in Amritsar the never-ending crowds is something that remains a constant. Notwithstanding the rush, the pious air of reverence greets each visitor alike. It is no surprise that people of all faiths, religions, regardless of caste and creed flock to this shrine every day. The cleanliness of the place is to be seen to believe!
Volunteers cleaning the vegetables
The temple opens the gates at 3 am for the 'Prabhat Vela' to have a glimpse of the bringing in of the Guru Granth Sahib from the adjacent Akal Takht at around 5 am every day. A small ceremony follows in which the first 'Hukumnama' ( Order of the Day) is read. Throughout the day, the hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib is read, and the crowds continue to flock to pay the respect and make offerings. Around 10 pm the Guru Granth Sahib is taken back to the Akal Takht in a palki. The devotees are served piping hot 'Kada Prasad'( Halwa made in pure ghee). A few startling facts about the world's largest community kitchen called the Guru Ka Langar where all the food including the ' Kada Prasad' is prepared, follow.
The Wheat Dough preparation machine
The ' Langar' can serve from 75000 to 100000 people every day for 24 hours of hot meals with utmost cleanliness. The entire operation is managed by volunteers and the mechanised kitchen. Almost 2500 kg of  Dal(Lentils),12000Kg of flour(atta) to prepare 200000 bread(rotis),5000 litres of milk,1000 kg of rice, 1000kg of sugar, 500kg pure ghee, 100 LPG gas cylinders, 5000 kg firewood are used every day to prepare the food by hundreds of volunteers. The Automated Roti Maker can churn out almost 25000 perfectly circular bread(rotis) per hour. The entire process of kneading the dough, rolling of bread(roti), cooking over heat on Tawas is done without a human touch of hands! There are special huge cauldrons that can prepare hundreds of kilos of Dal, Vegetable, and Kheer. The aroma of the cooking of onions, preparation of Dal fills the air. Earlier, the raw vegetables are cleaned, peeled, and chopped by volunteers before the preparation of the vegetable.
The Bread( Roti) Preparation in progress
Once the food is ready, an ongoing process, up to 5000 devotees in each of the two halls are ushered in with clean plates, spoons and a cup for water. The volunteers serve the food to the devotees, in a very brisk operation within minutes. The bread( roti) has to be taken by spreading hands to accept in humility while the dal, vegetable and kheer are served on the plate. After the meal, the devotee makes the place for other people to come while they handover the used plates to the volunteer for cleaning. Each plate is cleaned 5 times to ensure the highest standard of hygiene is maintained.
Those who wish to have tea can collect separate cups and fill them on their own just outside the 'Langar Hall'.
Vegetable under preparation
The food is vegetarian and prepared with highest standards of cleanliness.Everyone is welcome to share the 'Langar'and no one is ever turned away.No pilgrim will ever miss a meal at any time of the day when visiting the Golden Temple. Sharing a common meal sitting in a Pangat(line) is for a Sikh an act of piety. So is the act of preparation of food and cleaning the used dishes.On return from the 'Langar', the pilgrim can collect the shoes deposited earlier before entering the temple. The shoes are cleaned by volunteers before returning to the owner.
The Sikhs consider the service to humanity as the highest form of service and those 'well to do' share a part off wealth by way of charities to alleviate the suffering of poor.Maharaja Ranjit Singh gave jagirs to maintenance of gurudwaras and the tradition is being carried on to date in every gurudwara around the world.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Life beyond Google

How the world around has changed!In our own life so many changes have transformed our lives so quickly is beyond imagination. In every walk of life, the things have changed mostly for better. I remember when I was in the school, I would tune to the All India Radio’s ‘Forces Request’ and Date With You’ programmes every Monday and Friday to listen to the choicest hits of the Western Music. While in the college, the love continued and the new programmes on the ‘Yuva Vani’ channel continued to satiate my love for the music. As time passed a new music system came to the house and the collection of LP records added to the pleasure. In the meantime, the cassette recorders hit the market and were soon a rage. My cousin returning from Dubai, presented one such cassette recorder and it remained a prized possession for many years to come.The only hassle was with the passage of time the sticking of tape to the recorder head created a mess which was not only irritating but sometimes resulted in the loss of the tapes!As the digital technology evolved, a better quality, high fidelity, low noise music became the norm. CD players,  MP3 players, and memory sticks got popular. By that time, I had started to travel and on a trip to Amsterdam, I picked a  CD player which became a companion for the lean hours playing a soothing music. A ’Blu Ray’ player soon took the place of the CD player and the high-resolution optical disc changed the audio and video experience to a new high. Gone are the times when the speakers were physically connected with wires with the devices like players/mobile phones. Easy connectivity with wifi and blue tooth enabled easy connection with the player.
Things changed forever with the coming in of Google!It would not be incorrect to term the present day world as Before Google( BG) and After Google(AG) era! Google has touched almost every aspect of the human life be it, travel, maps, navigation, all kinds of data and even the world of music.A new storm is currently building up around the VPA( Virtual Private Assistant) for which a huge credit goes to Google. In the present context, it is like a dream come true for a music lover like me!
Bose, the world leader in the music has launched innovative earphones that are future ready. The Google Assistant is built into the headphones that can connect with Android or IOS platforms seamlessly.The best part is while travelling, one need not know the routes of places as the Google Maps can bring you to the doorstep of any place while you are hooked to the pure unadulterated music from the Bose speakers. While the music is streaming in, the built-in features of Google Assistant allow answering the messages, text messages and much more without looking at the screen of the mobile.Also, one is spoilt for choices and options when it comes to excellent features of Noise Cancelling, volume control and utmost comfort that come with the aptly named Quiet Comfort 35(QC-35) headphones!

PS: This is my submission for the Bose, Indiblogger sponsored contest 'Future Ready with Bose'(