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From Malabar To Madurai

February 20, 2009

This trip was long and due. After many hiccups followed by umpteen revision of our plans [thanks to the serial blasts in july].We were just waiting for the ideal time. Diwali holidays  followed by the intra-college fest  and coupled with the “internal” blues  was  enough to trigger our crazy minds to go on a touring spree!!After much thought, we finally embarked on a tour to the all mystifying ,all conquering state of the Indian Peninsula-Kerala, which would go on to become one of my most  memorable trip.

Nov 5th 2008 ,5.00 PM– Four of us [Ajay,Srikar, Abhishek and me!!] assembled at the Bengaluru City  Railway station  to board the Kochuveli express due to depart at 5.15 PM.We took our seats and as always , the train took off at 5.15 PM Railway Standard Time, lagging behind the IST by 15 mins. The train chugged slowly through the plateau . The terrain gradually changed and we were in the Ghats-An extension of the Western Ghats. The darkness took away all the breathless beauty  of the ghats.  And in no time we were in Salem-a small township in TN. In order to beat the boredom blues we took to cards.Since none of us actually knew to play, we eventually  gave up  and hooked onto our music players. Yipee!!! It was dinner time , home made chapathis(courtesy:srikar) satisfied our palate. Meanwhile , the train chugged along  the Coimbatore junction and finally into Palakkad-the first smell of the Keralite soil was pure and innocent and the delicious thought of what would be in store for us in  Kerala was truly exhilrating, as we slowly retired for the day!

We were’nt sure about our alightment. All that we knew was that we had to alight at Cochin,we  did not even have clue as to when it would reach. I feared we might give the station a skip!!An elderly neighbour came to our help and with my limited Malayalam i managed to gather from him whatever was possible. We alighted at the Cochin junction with little idea as to what we are going to do there. With inputs from the neighbour, we decided to give Cochin a miss and straight away boarded the bus to Munnar. Hardly an hour after we boarded, the bus broke down much to our dismay! We took another bus and it was from here the Kerala countryside began. All u needed was a seat by the window and u would be awestruck by Kerala’s breathtaking sceneries.  What with high mountains, plantain fields, coconut trees ,thatched houses, narrow  river stream, gushing white waters- truly made for a sumptuous visual treat!!

PhotopointPhotopoint, Munnar

In the afternoon we landed in Munnar-land of scented spices and plantations. Turn around 360 degrees and all u could find was green.  After much negotiation with the broker, we manged to hire a room with the least possible rent in Munnar- thanks to Srikar’s negotiating skills! Soon , we set out to explore Munnar. We were dumbstruck by its sheer beauty. It was jaw-dropping, something i had never seen in my life. The guide took us to the famous Photopoint,Elephant arrival spot,Kundaly lake and dam -all in the Mattupatty direction,followed by spice plantations and Munnar lake in the Cochin direction.We managed some shopping in the evening before we retired for the day. Next morning we left for the Anaimudi hills in the Coimbatore  direction[supposedly the highest peak in South India]. All along the  hills, we found a rare species of goat- found in Australia also and the beautiful Kurinji shrub which blossoms once in 12 years. Without much fanfare, we quietly slipped out of Munnar only to land in Thekkady on 7th night. If Munnar was jaw-dropping, Thekkady was magnificient!!. We once again found a room with the minimum rent- thanks to Srikar again.Phew!!!

Nov 8th 2008,Thekkady. We set out early morning in our open top jeep to the Gavi Forest Reserve . First, we were greeted by the Forest Officer at the Forest Guest house. He then introduced us to our guides and were addressed about the dangers that lurked in trekking through a forest and the impending threats posed by wild life. We were given sack-like cloth to save the bite of  the treacherous leeches .Much to our surprise, we found the guide with hardly any  protection. All he had was a bag of salt to escape the sucker-leeches. What astonished us was the fact that he was only 3 months into this job, and yet he went through the jungle like Mowgli .He walked callously through the woods with an air of carelessness and disdain!. He seemed to know the forest thick and thin.  The tall decidous trees formed a thick canopy perventing any chance of sunlight from entering it. To our disappointment we could not sight much wild life except for some Samba  deers,  black monkeys and wild  buffaloes. Elephants and tigers–the rulers of the jungle never really turned up. By noon we were back at the Forest Guest house. After lunch, we set out for boating on the lake nearby. It was evening as the sun faded beyond the horizon as we left for Trivandrum-The capital city of kerala, some 200 kms down south of Thekkady.

Gavi Forest Reserve-Thekkady

Gavi Forest Reserve ,Thekkady

We took a bus to Kottayam which reached in the night,followed by  a connecting train to Trivandrum-The Malabar Express. Believe it or not, we took the 2 AM train to Trivandrum [never stayed up that late even during exams]and my Goodness! I had never seen such a crowd at a railway station at 2 AM in the morning. It was upto the brim and unfortunately all of them boarded the  lone train which we took to Trivandrum. All for a 3 hr journey to Trivandrum!!.

We reached Trivandrum on the 9th morning and instantly went to sleep in our room freshly exhausted by the travel and more so the Kottayam crowd!! That afternoon we made a short trip  to the exotic Kovalam beach. The sand was fine and waters much clearer than what i had witnessesd in the other beaches i had visited earlier-especially The Marina Beach in Chennai. We were unaware of the imminent threat by the remnant poison in the dead jelly fishes that still lingered around the beach!!! Yes, any contact with a jelly fish[even a dead one] left blemishes on the skin.!!  After some photography and “stall-eating” , we decided to visit the famous Padmanabhaswamy temple . This is where Kerala gets its uniqueness. Men are not allowed inside the temple  without dhotis and women- saris. After a graceful darshan of Lord Padmanabhaswamy, we came back to our rooms, refreshed ourselves and decided to leave for our next destination.

Kovalam BeachKovalam Beach,Trivandrum

Kanyakumari was just 80 kms from Trivandrum -a place which i desperately wanted to visit. Due to time and logistical constraints[remember internals were coming up!!], we skipped KK and  headed directly to Madurai-The temple town.

Nov 10th 2008,Madurai – Madurai also known as the Athens of the East, a town ship known for the renowned Madurai Meenakshi Temple built by the erstwhile King  Raja Raja Chola of the Chola dynasty. Its a magnificient piece of architecture with four Gopuras [ North, South,East, West] with the main Rajagopura at the East coupled with countless sculptures, each one of them both meticulously and marvellously carved out. The Aayiram Kaal Mandapam(The Thousand Pillar Hall] is the stand out feature apart from the main deity Goddess Meenakshi who appears graceful and ever charming. Legend has it that it was here in Madurai that Lord Shiva wooed Goddess Meenakshi- a  reincarnation of Goddess Parvati  and married her. The sacred Kulam(Pool) was where Lord Indra took a dip to wash off all his sins.

Madurai Meenakshi TempleMadurai Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

After a grand darshan of Madurai Meenakshi, we managed  some window shopping. Late in the noon, the other attractions  of the city , like the Gandhi Museum-a collection of Gandhi antiques, Madurai Palace,  Pazhamudircholai and Thirupparankundram  two of the six temples devoted to Lord Subramanya,were given a flash visit.

As the night unfolded, it was time for us to return. Yes, we were coming back to Bangalore- leaving behind 4 enthralling days of absolute joy which gave us a piece and a peace of our mind, away from the hustle-bustle of the Bangalore streets and   the crowd which breathed down your neck. It was a total stress buster.I wish we stayed there for a few more days.But Bangalore was calling!!A memorable experience truly. My heart still lies in the realms of Kerala.!!!


Tuning To ‘FM’

November 22, 2008

What does the current economic slowdown mean to the aam aadmi?

Lets first introspect the kind of impact it has on INDIA and its industries.

p_chidambaram

INDIA is basically a farmer’s nation with more than 70% of people relying on agriculture. The statistics show that the rabi crops like cereals and pulses, which were sown this year is significantly higher as compared to previous years. Since this agriculture sector is totally insulated from the global crisis, we can safely say its hardly been hit. Similarly other domestic sectors like small scale and medium scale enterprises are saved from this fall.

One thing we have to keep in mind is that we are living in a highly inter-dependent world. Quite obviously , those sectors which are inter-dependent globally have been badly hit. For example, Investment bank hunchos like JP Morgan,Goldman Sachs,Lehmann Brothers have hit rock bottom and that too with a huge thud! As the profit margins of these banks is dipping at an alarming rate, the companies in order to save their head, they take to layoffs and retrenchments thereby hurting the sentiments of its loyal workers. This is exactly whats happening in the US.

But what has this got to do with INDIA? Yes, the employees working in Indian concerns of such companies are laid off mercilessly! But why does an entirely Indian aviation firm like Deccan Airlines resort to lay offs? When this question was posted by the media to the Deccan CEO Capt Gopinath, he gave the spiralling prices of aviation turbine fuel as the reason. The commerce ministry says that aviation turbine fuel prices are unadministered. When the prices sky rocket in the global market, it reflects in the Indian markets too.

We have been hearing this word “RECESSION” over the past two months.What does it exactly mean?

A slowdown in economy over two consecutive quarters is called Recession.

The global economic meltdown has not jolted INDIA, but it has impacted INDIA indirectly. Thats why inflation is out of control,though it has come down to single digit figures in the recent past.A decrease in inflation does not imply that prices of commodities are reducing,instead,the rate at which the prices are increasing is slower. Consequently ,an economy with an GDP of 9% has become an economy of 7%. In that case jobs are not destroyed. We have to concede to the fact that jobs were created in the past 4 years. Now in a 7% economy,jobs are not destroyed.Its a misconception. Only the rate at which jobs are created has slowed down!However layoffs have become the order of the day for most of the companies because they dont want to compromise on their profit margin. This buck is passed onto the employees who are shown the doorway!

Is there a way out of pink slips ? Yes, we do. The only way for companies to stay in the market is to stimulate demand.Any classic response to stimulate demand would be to cut prices.Any conventional text book on economics would give u this. A company has to temporarily sacrifice its profit margin so that it stays in the market. When the prices are cut, demand grows . Then the company can bounce back . This would save the faces of employees who face the pink slip.

The government feels that prices of real estates, automobiles should be cut. Though some companies are not open to this idea,some others have their revised tariffs in the implementation stages. The other companies would follow suit provided the RBI cuts the interest rates.For eg- The cost of shipping has come down drastically by 80%. There were no layoffs in the shipping industry!We can expect the economy to recover from October 2009. Then there would be good times for all.

Yes, Recession is hurting . But we can see light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully its not that of an incoming train!!

P.S: This is my first attempt at an economics article. This is a brief summary about FM’s stand on recession and its India impact.


My Date with Martial Arts!!!

July 5, 2008

Come, October 8,1995!!! It was a beginning of a new chapter in my life and an exciting one at that…Probably, i would say i was tested physically for the first time in my life!!! It was time to show my brawn and boy ,i did wonderfully well!!! It was the first INTER-SCHOOL TAE-KWON DO competition organised by the Indian Martial Arts Association  at St.Joseph’s High School, Residency road,Bangalore..

I still vividly remember the  sunday   morning of October the  8th, 1995.. i got up lousily from bed and half heartedly got ready for the competition!!! There was absolutely   no preparation from my side.. my coach had trained  me  so  well, that i did not bother to prepare!! I knew that my Kick into the opponents forehead was my greatest trump card and i had to use  it wisely!!!

I reached St.Josephs school at 8 in the morning with my father !! My match was scheduled at 12 against opponent who was a  yellow  belter!!! I was a beginner at that time  and i had earned a white belt !!! In the meanwhile, i was watching   the  other matches being played and picked up a few stunts from them!!! My turn came and i stepped into the arena and so did my opponent!!! The refereee blew the whistle and the match was underway!!! It was a close match tho, he was kicking right into my ribcage and i had fallen twice for that kick!! but then i got up and punched him in his abdomen  which made him bend and i delivered an elbow punch which felled him!!! i must say he was a tough opponent because he kept coming back at me.. i never gave up and this was when i decided to use my trump card–The Forehead kick!! I came  running and delivered that kick right into  his forehead  from which he never recovered!! Time up and the bell rang.. the referee lifted my hand and  man didnt i win in an emphatic way!!! It was an important win for me because i snatched victory from the jaws of defeat!!! I didnt even have breakfast that day!!! I was advised to take egg-beaten milk which i didnt!!! My father fed me with a plate of idlis after the match!!

Opponent in the air!!!

Opponent in the air!!!

 The next match was at 2.30. This was a relatively easier match i should i say because i won the match comfortably!! The opponent wasnt that tough unlike the previous one.. so my punches were sufficient to put me in a great position .. i gave one final blow  and he went down like a pack of cards!!! i won it easily!!! I was into the semi-finals and  my joy knew no bounds!!! My father was a happy man and he had more  belief  in me than i had in myself!! He was ecstatic when i got through to the semi-finals!!!

The semi -final match was scheduled at 6 in the evening!!!! And this was the toughest of all the the three matches which i eventually lost!!! The opponent was so powerful that his kicks and blows were hurting me.. all i could do was block, block and only block his punches!!! He delivered one  kick into my ribcage and i went down..i knew i had to do something extavagant to beat this guy!!..i knew he was vulnerable to my kicks because he did not know what to do when i actually kicked him!!   But then he came up with a shot of his own which felled me!!! I never got up from that blow and he was declared winner!!! The jury told me that i played a very good match and i lost it by a whisker!!!The reason for that was my defence was not great !!!! But overall i was satisfied  with  my performance and i was awarded the bronze medal under the white belt category!!! It was the most satisfying day of my life!! I couldn’t have dreamt of anything bigger than this. My parents were too happy for me !!!

My version of Super kick!!!
My version of Super kick!!!

And  the  rest is history!!! I was bed ridden for two months after the tournament  because of a para    typhoid attack. Chucked school and stayed at home !!!My mother told me “You are no longer going for karate classes”!!!  My Martial arts career came to an abrupt end!! I was so disappointed!!! After that my life came back to normal and i was like any other student!!! When ever im down i think about this tournament and it rejuvenates me .. its a confidence booster for me!!! It makes for a very good nostalgia!!!!It was a path breaking journey for me!!


Forgiveness is Divinity

July 5, 2008

 

Cops are in search of one Mr.John ,the prime suspect in the murder of Mr.David D’souza!!! John is knocking at the door!!! Bang! Bang!! Bang!!! An elderly woman opens the door and gives him refuge!!! She fakes the cops who have come in search of him!!!The cops have left now..John looks at the woman with tears trickling down his cheeks..He’s totally moved by her act and goes down on his knees and thanks her!!! The woman consoles him by saying “Good Luck,My Boy!!!May God Bless you!!!”

Now, how many of us would do that??? She was none other than David’s Mother!!! the guy who was brutally murdered by John !!! This leaves  a big question mark on us,and raises doubts about our integrity as a human being!!!

Forgiving is just not merely forgiving the person in words!! Its an act arising out of compassion even if that person is the reason for your misery!! just by telling that person that you have forgiven him/her is not true forgiveness.. because people forgive but they dont forget!! The wrong done to them by the people whom they  have forgiven still lingers in their mind !!!    Forgiveness stems from the bottom of the heart because of the empathy you have for that person!!   Forgiveness is a rare and a divine quality! True forgiveness refines our souls because its the soul that has  life and not the body!! Body is a merely an entity in which the soul resides!!!Forgiveness is a   soul  purifying act and  for this quality of yours you’ll find a place in the heavens!! Its a quality which would relieve us from the cycle of birth and death and  help us attain Moksha!!Forgiveness is a powerful but very under rated force!!!

 So,   lets   all forgive one another by heart and let peace and harmony engulf us thereby making this world a better place to live in and let us become better persons than yesterday!!!After all, we are all embodiments of love from  God himself!!!

This first post is dedicated to all my near and dear ones!!!