The Perfect Road Trip

The Perfect Road Trip
Runners Up Award- Ambipur Contest

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Clean India


No matter where we live in India, it is not unusual to find garbage littered in streets and piled up at every corner. The misery is alleviated with dogs and scavengers hovering over the piles of refuse to make their own select ion.  In smaller villages and towns the overflowing drains and refuse attract, pigs and stray animals which mar the beauty of the place.  The problem gets compounded as there are no toilets and people deface in the open which leaves the place filled with stench. Khushwant Singh the eminent writer, once on return from a trip abroad wrote in his column’ With malice towards one and all’ that the moment his taxi moved out of the Mumbai International Airport, he was greeted with the familiar sight of scores of people defacing in open. He remarked’ at last I am home’!
“Civilisation is the distance that man has placed between himself and his own excreta.”

Cleanliness not only improves the quality of surroundings and makes them more pleasant, but helps in attaining efficiencies also. The rising private airlines’ Indigo’ is known for its ‘on time flights’ and insists all passengers to pass on the trash to the onboard flight attendants , before they disembark to ensure no time is lost in the cleaning the aircraft when it lands at next destination.
Our rivers like Ganga and Yamuna have become so polluted that the water in plains is considered unfit to drink or take bath in! The constant inlet of streams of polluting industrial wastes, city garbage and other pollutants have deprived them of existence of marine life. This is a stark contrast to cities like Stockholm, Paris and most other places where one can see fishing enthusiasts looking for trout or salmon right in the city center by the riverbed!

While most of us who live in decent dwellings, do our utmost to keep the house and the garden clean but when it comes to maintaining the same level of cleanliness at public roads and parks we often forget this! It is not uncommon to see people throwing the used cans or wrappers straight out of the window of a car or carelessly tossing it on the roadside! The manners we learnt at home and school to keep the environment clean are easily forgotten! How can a handful of sweepers keep the big city clean if we do not throw the garbage in the assigned bins! This results in choking the drains during the monsoon months, and overflowing roads resulting in traffic jams!
In the Singapore Night Safari the otters have been trained to demonstrate how to put the trash in the right bins so that people can learn from animals an important message of how to recycle the trash(Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tLBD69N3UQ)

In early 1970’s the ‘Chipko Andolan’( Hugging the trees) was set into motion in the Garwahl hills to protect the trees from felling! Today we can see the disastrous results of rampant deforestation in form of repetitive landslides in Uttrakhand and floods in J& K leading to huge loss of life and property. Only if we had not been greedy to cut trees indiscriminately and littered the hills with plastics , we could have avoided these tragedies!

Time is running out and the new leadership has once again brought the need to keep the keep our surroundings clean in the initiative of ‘Swach Bharat’ to keep our surroundings clean! We should help in this endeavor as ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ and it is our duty to leave the mother earth intact for the future generations to see its beauty forever! We can do our bit by not littering the streets and request others if we see them doing so to make a ‘Clean and Green India’

PS:1.  This post is my contribution to Clean India Campaign of IndianTopBlogs.                (http://www.indiantopblogs.com/2014/10/diwali-and-clean-india.html )
2. Image and link kind courtesy Google and You Tube

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Healthy Child Makes a Happy Home

The house was always noisy with three musketeers around! There was never a dull moment with siblings up to something to keep the parents busy! Either someone had fallen, or one was hungry or the homework was not complete and the vacation was coming to an end! You guessed it right it was none other than yours truly and the younger brothers who raised the din from morn till night! Also, the name ‘The Three Musketeers ‘was given by one of the maternal uncles who were a frequent visitor to our home! I now look back and admire the patience and painstaking efforts of our parents who raised us to do well in our lives!
It was monsoon time and there were mosquitoes especially in the evening those days! One day the youngest brother fell prey and  was knocked out leaving us wondering what we could do to help! Formulations of Allopathic medicine were administered but with little relief except bringing down the body temperature during the day time and return of high fever by late night.  Our team had fallen short by one player and thus there was little that could give us joy. We missed his presence in the game of Cricket which was played in verandah of the house often knocking down utensils in the kitchen. Parents took time off to attend to him and we would do our bit after returning home! Since he fell ill, there was a kind of hush and unfortunately this continued for almost a month as we too fell prey to Malaria one after another! It was a dreadful time as the entire house had fallen silent, and the constant activity that one noticed went missing! There were no cricket matches, no school to attend, very little entertainment and a general lull all around.


In the meantime all efforts were being made by our parents to bring relief by way of trying some trusted Ayurvedic formulations from Dabur like ‘Chyawanprash’ for regaining strength! While we were suffering from Malaria some home remedies like cinnamon, black pepper , basil leaves and honey were crushed and mixed in hot water and were given to us at least three times a day! Gradually we recovered and were back to our old noisy ways! It was a time when everyone reverently wished that we recover and bring the house down with cacophony and shrieks!


Lessons learnt early in life paved way to adopt a natural way of life like always eating fresh food, taking enough exercise and supplements like trusted  Dabur   Chyawanprash,  to make the immune system strong, improve the overall digestion, and providing a shield from the cough and cold and general ailments! It has now become a companion for life!


PS: This post has been written for Dabur / Indiblogger for ‘A Healthy Child Makes a Happy Home’ contest( www.liveveda.com/daburchyawanprash/)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More Indian Than You Think






Apple's advertisment - Think Different

The chimes of bells woke me up with a start in the wee hours of the morning! After the long flight I had slept like a log! I could hear the distant chants clearly! The melodious sounds came through the stillness from the ISKON, Hare Krishna temple located in Brooklyn! It was as if I woke up in Mathura,the birth place of Lord Krishna and not in New York! The previous evening my host had treated me to samosas at a plush Indian restaurant on the 6th Street! I never really felt that I am so far from home! To my surprise the number of people who were non-Indians far exceed at the restaurant and the temple that I visited later in the day! This was my first brush of taste of India on a foreign soil way back in early 1981!
 
ISKON Temple at Brooklyn- New York

Right from the time Buddha attained enlightenment at the age of 35years around 4 BC, his followers traveled with the message and Buddhism continues to flourish far beyond India, to South East Asia, Sri Lanka, Korea, Japan and many other countries!

Many years later Mahatma Gandhi set his foot on the soil of South Africa to rebel against apartheid. He held the world in awe with his determined nonviolent struggle to liberate India from the British dominance in 1947. ’ The half naked fakir’ as he was referred to by Churchill once, garnered many diverse followers in the different parts of the world ranging from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Barack Obama to Steve Jobs. Martin Luther once said’ Christ gave us goals and Mahatma Gandhi tactics’. Steve Jobs featured Mahatma Gandhi in his ‘Think Different’ series of advertisements for Apple Computers! Barack Obama was once was asked by a student,’ with whom (living or dead) would he like to have dinner with’? He replied’ Gandhi’.

Swami Vivekananda went to attend the Parliament of World’s Religions at Chicago in 1893. After reaching Chicago Vivekananda learned no one could attend the Parliament as delegate without credential or bonafide. When professor Wright of Harvard University learned that Vivekananda was not officially accredited and did not have any credential to join the Parliament, he told Vivekananda– "To ask for your credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine in the heavens”
Yoga Training Center at Wolfsburg, Germany
Whether it is food, music, Bollywood movies, Cricket, Information Technology, Yoga and Meditation or making global CEOs or eminent doctors, India has lead on the world stage! If Ravi Shankar and Zubin Mehta, kept the audience spellbound in the concerts world over, Raj Kapoor created a bond with Russians and Amitabh Bachhan and Shah Rukh Khan have become household names ! Every Indian that traveled abroad would have a story to narrate about meeting a foreigner who is a fan of Indian movies and music. Reknowned doctor and advocate of alternative medicine cum 'new age guru', Dr Deepak Chopra have had likes of Elizabeth Taylor as the celebrity patients besides many others. While in Tel Aviv once, I was amazed when the group of Israeli professionals I was working with broke into the song’ Ichak Dana Beechak Dana , dane upper dana’ a famous song of yesteryears , post a dinner party! I later learnt that the theme of this song had been chosen by the
largest Israeli national telecom carrier- Bezeq’ in their advertisement campaign.
Gaggan -A top Indian restaurant in Bangkok
The biggest ambassador of India for the rest of the world is the Indian food that is considered to be among the top five choices besides Chinese, Mexican, Italian and Japanese! There is hardly any place in the world that would not boast of an Indian restaurant that is equally popular with the locals! In most places in the world people begin the day with a sip of tea which may have originated from India being the second largest producer !

As the world moves to the new era of technology, India has made its presence felt by being the only country to have launched the first satellite in Mars orbit in a maiden attempt. Indians like Satya Nadella( CEO- Microsoft), Indra Nooyi( CEO- PepsiCo) and Ajay Banga( CEO- MasterCard) continue to dominate the global corporate world ,while  the Indian beauties like Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra have become the cynosure of the global fashion world. Bangalore ranks  among the top IT hubs  in the world and caters to the growing appetite of ever increasing software industry for the global companies. In the field of medicine too Indian doctors are in demand across the globe.

The German giant Daimler Chrysler has setup the Mercedes Benz car production facility in India is a testimony of the growing technical prowess. India has truly arrived and the best experience of this was on a recent trip to Wellington in New Zealand when I turned on the FM radio, to be greeted in Hindi, ‘Namaskar, hum aaj  ka bhakti sangeet ab arambh karte hain( translated, Good Morning! We commence our day with the devotional Hindi songs)!

PS: This post is my entry for  'More Indian Than You Think' Contest sponsored by Lufthansa and Indiblogger.(http://bit.ly/MITYTIndiblogger)


 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Shopping Mania



 


Last week was a watershed in the history of E Commerce in India! A few things happened that are set to change the rules of the game when it comes to shopping! Companies like Flipkart and Snapdeal, created a sensation by literally taking the retail market by storm on a scale that was hitherto unknown. The ongoing ‘Diwali Dhamaka ‘sale by the biggie Amazon has set the markets ablaze. Imagine both Flipkart and Snapdeal managed to rake in Rs 600 crores in just a day! We have seen the business being transacted by the retailers by giving discounts to the public with attractive schemes from time to time and retaining the loyalty by traditional methods like discounts, accumulation of points on the loyalty cards which can be redeemed at a later date!

The beauty of this way of shopping lies in the fact that without physically moving out of the house or office one can see ‘virtual store’ with a complete catalog and details of items available including 3-D views . All data between the transactions and exchange with individuals or with other business partners happens electronically including the buying and selling by using totally secure systems.

This concept has brought about efficiencies in the supply chain management, delivery logistics, warehousing and home delivery of products in a time bound manner. Virtually every type of shopping starting from retail goods, booking holidays ,air/rail / bus tickets, insurance policies, complete banking, payment of all kinds of bills for utilities is now possible thus eliminating the need to travel for completing these activities!

Just imagine all this has happened  barely in last 40 years (in 1971-72) with the advent of ARPANET in sale of cannabis  between students of Stanford and MIT( Massachusetts Institute of Technology ) laying the foundation of first ‘e commerce’. The formal ‘Online Shopping ‘was initiated in 1979 by Michael Aldrich. From these humble beginning Tim Berners Lee wrote the first browser of World Wide Web in 1990, thereby opening the flood gate for rapid developments to see more browsers like Netscape, Mozilla and many more. The volume of business grew at a staggering pace seeing an exponential growth in the next few years. India’s business in this domain has seen a rise of 30% in 2014 compared to the year 2013.

Currently the reach of internet in India is limited thus the volume of this business is  just the ‘tip of the iceberg’! Imagine with the connected world this can bring about a sea change in the way we live! Already in advanced countries and in big cities in India one can get even the groceries and organically grown vegetables and fruits at the doorstep at the click of the mouse.

The conventional business and small retailers are crying foul and have approached the government to lay down the norms to protect their business and even existence.  At least in India which has a very diverse milieu of population spread from villages to small and big cities the fears are unfounded, as there is ample space for all to coexist. However, the harsh reality is that in the Darwinian world only the fittest will survive!

PS- Images Kind Courtesy Google

Monday, October 6, 2014

Some Unforgettable Road Journeys


The festive time starts as the month of September ends and schools and colleges close for an autumn break. This was always a perfect time to head for the long road journeys as the heat is not too intense and most of the destinations had lesser crowd than one sees during the peak summer months and around Christmas. During my years in the Navy, I would take a short break from work and plan out journeys into the unknown and look forward to the day when our journey would commence!

The road trips always had the element of uncertainty as in India the buses rarely keep to the schedule. So the first thing that always was borne in mind was to start early for every place to avoid feeling cheated for having lost a few precious hours in just waiting for the bus to arrive. I have some of the most exciting memories of these road trips and each being unique!  I vividly remember having planned for journey to Badrinath by a bus from Rishikesh many years ago. The journey provided fascinating views with stoppages en route. The bus engine huffed and puffed as the arduous climb began. We were just about 10 km short of the destination when the smell of burning rubber gave me a feeling of unease! A huge spark came from under the bonnet and the cable was burning! The driver switched off the engine but the cable kept burning till the fire was doused.  After some help, the driver managed to pull out some extra cable. After the engine cooled down we commenced the remaining part of the journey. 

One can never travel without good company of fellow passenger especially the monkey cap clad Bengalis during Puja vacations! During one trip from Pithoragarh to Lohaghat, the bus was relatively empty! In came a shepherd with the flock of the sheep and the bus conductor who was more than generous accommodated the four legged guests!

We were once traveling from Rishikesh to Chakrata a military cantonment with some of the most magnificent views of the Himalayas! Even to this date the foreigners need a permit to visit the place. The bus started form Rishikesh and after about two hours reached Vikas Nagar from where the gradient is very steep. It had rained the previous night so the roads were slushy. After traversing about 2 km the bus stopped abruptly. I was stunned to see that the road beyond that had vanished and its place we could see a huge crater. We were asked to disembark. The driver realized that it was impossible to go beyond so after about an hour the bus returned to Vikas Nagar. We were forced to stay overnight at a small hotel and next afternoon we learnt that the Army had restored the route so we commenced our journey yet again. At the spot of landslide, some makeshift repair had been done, but we had to alight the bus and the driver took the bus over the treacherous road to the other side, while we climbed through the rocks over the landfill and boarded the bus on the other side! The Army Major had canceled our reservation at the guest house as we had not shown up!

There was a time when the bus was running a few hours late from Pathankot to Dalhousie and to make up for the time the bus driver drove at a breakneck speed and we felt having a live experience of the movie ‘Speed’ starring Sandra Bullock !

The beauty of the Teesta river can best be admired on the road trip from Siliguri to Gangtok. While traveling from Darjeeling to Kalimpong once, the driver decided to take a shorter route and the rest of the journey for a distance of almost 20 km was a roller coaster ride, with bus perched atop the hill at one instant and disappearing into the cloud the next moment leaving us wet! I am not sure whether it was the sweat that trickled in cold mountains or the moisture of the nimbus clouds! The experience was repeated yet again while going from Shillong to Cheerapunji when the clouds kept following us!

I am fortunate that  having gone through these experiences I  survived them and am able to narrate these!  The smell of raw earth after the fresh rainfall, and the glimpse of sleeting flakes of snow in wilderness continue to pull me towards such destinations even today!

PS: 1.Some of the fellow bloggers who have written about their recent journeys catalyzed my dormant mind to write this post!
      2. Images kind courtesy Google

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Moment of Pride


It was a long journey with perils n thrills

  One final command and scientists stood still

There were anxious moments n hearts beat

  Then it was sighted to a thunderous treat

Long hours and perseverance was behind this story

  The result was grand n brought immense glory

‘Knock, Knock, who is there’ Maven gazed

  ‘It is Mangalayaan ‘ came reply from haze

 PS: Maven is the first spacecraft launched by NASA to explore the upper atmosphere of Mars. It was placed in the Mars orbit on 21 Sep 14 and Mangalayaan entered the orbit on 24 Sep 14.This poem is a dedication to the scientists of our country who realized the near impossible dream at a fraction of cost!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Retail Therapy

 



Shopping is rejuvenating, therapeutic as well as fun! Even if one is not inclined to spend much, just window shopping can give one some kicks, besides, the rush of adrenalin to be accosted by the very sight of adorable niceties! With the festive season about to commence, the traders are getting geared up for a long spell of sales, discounts to push their sales graphs!

During the times in school we looked forward to this period with most eagerness knowing that the annual sale at Khadi Bhandar would commence from 2nd Oct and we would rush to buy the shirts, kurtas and other things! Also, the local markets and some upmarket areas in Delhi like NDSE, pitched sales for the jeans costing as low as Rs 15/- each, which may sound as if I belong to the age of dinosaurs! I remember once having saved my pocket money to take my brothers for purchase of cloth for stitching shirts! It would be fun to visit places like Karol Bagh, Connaught Place and Chandni Chowk to return with a feeling of bewilderment!


After landing in the job, I had to travel to destinations within the country and was exposed to see places like Crawford Market, Linking Road, Flora Fountain in Mumbai. There would be no place to walk and one had to jostle to move around in Akbarallys at Flora fountain! While in Pune, Sadashiv Peth, Rani Laxmi Bai Road and Deccan Gymkhana were favorite haunts! It felt great to see these places after having seen only the MG Road and Ghantaghar in small towns of UP !

The love for window and minimal shopping continued while visiting Brigade Road, MG Road and KG Circle in Bangalore, Anna Salai and T Nagar in Chennai, Hazrat Ganj and Aminabad in Lucknow! The locals called it ‘Ganjing’! The smells of local foods and sweet shops would set the hunger pangs on fire! I remember always overeating my share of Idlis and Dosa in South and Chaat in Lucknow, Bhelpuri and Pavbhaji in Mumbai even if I went for a shopping worth just Rs50/-

When I got an opportunity to see the world, Downtown Manhattan, SoHo, Chinatown in New York worked like a magnet, with unbelievable array of goods! Faneuil Hall and Copley Place in Boston were difficult to resist! The unbelievable discounts at Macys would leave my already stretched resources to a rock bottom by the end of the day!

Khan El Khalili is a bigger version of Chandni Chowk in Cairo and the sight of freshly made Khobz( local bread) goes for miles! Bukit Bintag in Kulalumpur , Mustafa in Singapore, and Pratunam and Siam Centre are infectious and best avoided if one does want to feel like a pauper by the end of the day! Exotic tropical fruits in Male in Maldives and Seychelles are feast of eyes and one is tempted to buy even if it is difficult to carry them! Huge piles of dry fruits and sight of fresh preparation of  Falafel compete hard to draw the attention of tourists in busy Caramel Market in TelAviv.
Just for window gazing and having coffee, there is no place better than Galeries Lafaytte and Champs Elysee in Paris! If you are lucky, you may even end up watching a fashion show for free at Galeries Lafayette during promotions of new beauty ranges and dresses! The world is a market and the show goes on forever, can best be experienced at La Boqueria in Barcelona crammed with local foods, Harrods in London for the priciest branded items, Queen Victoria Market( lovingly called Vic market) in Melbourne and Victoria building in Sydney , eye popping crystals in streets of Prague, Luxury brands and watch stores in Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, glittering Gold Souk in Deira in Dubai, fragrance of Tulips in Amsterdam, and many more!

Floating Markets in Bangkok, midnight bazaar, weekend bazaar and unbelievable crowds at the odd hour give a feeling of how much to buy and how little we have in our pocket! Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong, Odel and House of Fashion in Colombo  are places that must be avoided if you are in company of your wife or children else, even the biggest dollar note in the pocket will vanish before you realize what struck you.

There is only one problem during family shopping that the man ends up standing in a corner after a while carrying his wife’s purse and a wailing child while she is busy in selection!

The last word comes from the sex siren Bo Derek who once said’ Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.'