Pink Twins

Pink Twins
Gangtok

Yellow Villa

Yellow Villa
Gangtok

Sparkling Rai Saag

Sparkling Rai Saag
Gangtok

Lovely Poppy Flowers

Lovely Poppy Flowers
Gangtok

A Different type of Seasonal Flower

A Different type of Seasonal Flower
Gangtok

Blue Flavour

Blue Flavour
Gangtok

Pink & White Combination

Pink & White Combination

Dark Pink Flavour

Dark Pink Flavour
Gangtok 6th March 16

Purple Charm

Purple Charm
CS Quarter Gangtok

Magnificent Yellow and Red Tulip

Magnificent Yellow and Red Tulip
Conservatory Near Selep Tank

Charm of Red Tulips

Charm of Red Tulips
Conservatory near Selep Tank

Lord Buddha

Lord Buddha
1-D Terminal New Delhi

Attraction of Red Panda

Attraction of Red Panda
Saramsa Garden

Lord Ganesh made of oranges

Lord Ganesh made of oranges
Saramsa Garden

Charm of Seasonal Flower

Charm of Seasonal Flower
Gaurds Ground Gangtok

Unmatched beauty

Unmatched beauty
Sikkim Organic Festival

Green is always soothing

Green is always soothing
Sikkim Organic Festival 2016

Yellow Orchid

Yellow Orchid
Somewhere in Gangtok

White Orchid

White Orchid
Manan Kendra

Purple Orchid

Purple Orchid
Manan Kendra, 31-10-2015

Gift of Nature

Gift of Nature
Near Cherry Building

Majestic View of Sea

Majestic View of Sea
Marina, Chennai, 19-10-15

Typical Sikkim Pillar Carving and painting

Typical Sikkim Pillar Carving and painting
Hotel Nork Hill

Mirror Reflection, Changed Angle

Mirror Reflection, Changed Angle
Nork Hill, 24-11-2015

Mirror Trick

Mirror Trick
Hotel Nork Hill, Gtok, 24-11-2015

Yes we have the power

Yes we have the power
Qtr at Devt Area, 25-11-2015

Majestic View of K.jenga from SLA

Majestic View of K.jenga from SLA
Gangtok dt 20-11-2015

MIRROR IMAGE OR COMPUTER TRICK

MIRROR IMAGE OR COMPUTER TRICK
NEW DELHI 22-10-15

BRILLIANT KATHAK PERFORMANCE

BRILLIANT KATHAK PERFORMANCE
MRS MALI SMU 13-10-2015

SAROD RECITAL

SAROD RECITAL
SMU CONVOCATION 13-10-15

SHOWCASING SIKKIM CULTURE

SHOWCASING SIKKIM CULTURE
ITM GANGTOK 14-10-15

RED BEAUTY

RED BEAUTY
GANGTOK

ARCHITECTURAL MARVEL

ARCHITECTURAL MARVEL
MAYFAIR GANGTOK

OM NAMAH SHIVAY

OM NAMAH SHIVAY
MAYFAIR GANGTOK 02-11-15

Smile and Joy

Smile and Joy
24th September Delhi

Catelia Orchid

Catelia Orchid
Gangtok

Beautiful Chinaware Lampshed

Beautiful Chinaware Lampshed
Gangtok

Catelia Orchid

Catelia Orchid
Gangtok on 7-10-15

Morning Glow

Morning Glow
Denzong Regency- Gangtok on 7-10-15

Pink Orchid

Pink Orchid
Pakyong Area

Green Orchid

Green Orchid
Bojeytar Pakyong 26 Feb 15

Tabla or Log Piece

Tabla or Log Piece
HMI Darjeeling Nov 2014

Hand can do anything

Hand can do anything
Birla Science Museum Kolkata

Legacy and Heritage

Legacy and Heritage
Indian Museum Kolkata

Queen Nephretus of Egypt

Queen Nephretus of Egypt
India Museum Kolkata 4th Mar 15

A Buddhist Stone Art Piece

A Buddhist Stone Art Piece
Tashi Delek June 2014

Foot Print of Bason

Foot Print of Bason
Satpura Forest

Foot Print of Tiger

Foot Print of Tiger
Satpura Forest (MP) March 14

Unique Piece of Pine Wood

Unique Piece of Pine Wood

Lovely Twins

Lovely Twins

Pink,Pink,Pink

Pink,Pink,Pink
Orchid,not only Spl ,It lasts longer Also

Clean Water has a Different Impact

Clean Water has a Different Impact
Rangeet at Jorethang ,24-11-14

What a Ravishing Beauty ?

What a Ravishing Beauty ?
Teesta near Kalijhora, 19-12-14

Pre Dawn Captivating Beauty

Pre Dawn Captivating Beauty
K.JUNGA, 6:20 AM 18 -12-14

Another Dawn View -Different Angle

Another Dawn View -Different Angle
K.JUNGA, 18-12-14

View at Dawn in Biting Cold

View at Dawn in Biting Cold
K.JUNGA 18-12

Dawn Scene-2

Dawn Scene-2
V Awas 18 -12-14

Dawn Scenario

Dawn Scenario
K.JUNGA

Morning Means End of Night

Morning Means End of Night
K. JUNGA,

View at Dawn

View at Dawn
K.JUNGA 2 ,18-12-14

Early Morning Freshness

Early Morning Freshness
K.JUNGA, 18-12-14

What an eye opener early in the day?

What an eye opener early in the day?
View of 17-12-2014 from Terrace of V. Awas

Another view of full snow around Mt Kanchendzonga

Another view of full snow around  Mt Kanchendzonga
17-12-2014

Magnificent view after bone chilling night

Magnificent view after bone chilling night
17-12-2014

Beauty of Kachendzonga after a cold night

Beauty of Kachendzonga after a cold night
Vidhayak Awas Gangtok

Amazing charm of Green Orchid

Amazing charm of Green Orchid
HMI Darjeeling

Green Orchid

Green Orchid
HMI DARJEELING (13-11-14)

Bell Flower in full bloom

Bell Flower in full bloom

Yellow Orchid

Yellow Orchid
Dec 14 Circuit House

View of Kanchendzonga always inspires

View of Kanchendzonga always inspires
Vidhayak Aawas Gangtok

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom
November 14 Ganesh Tok Gangtok

What a view after getting up ?

What a view after getting up ?
B-1 Vidhayak Aawas Gangtok

Chanda Mama looking at Kanchendzonga

Chanda Mama looking at Kanchendzonga
11-11-2014 VIP COLONY

Red Rose

Red Rose
Gangtok

Cranes having Gala Time

Cranes having Gala Time
Tigaon, Faridabad (2nd Oct 14)

Yes I am from Faridabad

Yes I am from Faridabad
Tiny, Beautiful Bird at NTPC, Ballabgarh (29.9.14)

Water Vital for Life

Water Vital for Life
Awesome view of Teesta near Kalijhora

Yes I had a Bath

Yes I had a Bath
Gladiola at 6200 ft.

Soothing Morning View

Soothing Morning View
Mt. Khangchendzonga from C.House (April, 14)

Natural Yellow Fascinates

Natural Yellow Fascinates
Gangtok (April, 2014)

Flowery Bell ?

Flowery Bell ?
Circuit House (May 14)

Riot of Colour in Monsoon

Riot of Colour in Monsoon
Circuit House, Gangtok(May 14)

Blushing orange

Blushing orange
Circuit House Gangtok (May 14)

Magnificent Taj

Magnificent Taj
Sept 2013

I can lift Taj Mahal

I can lift Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal,Sept end 2013

Natural fan to beat the heat

Natural fan to beat the heat
India Gate (24.08.14)

Engineering Marvel

Engineering Marvel
Coronation Bridge (22.08.2014)

Cascading water, soothing to eyes

Cascading water, soothing to eyes
Scene near Teesta Baazar (22.8.14)

Teesta attracts at every bend

Teesta attracts at every bend
16.7.2014

Monkey jump

Monkey jump
Teesta River, Birik(22.8.14)

Onset of Night

Onset of Night
Qutub,Sept.13

Qutub,Dusk Scene

Qutub,Dusk Scene
Sept.13

Together we take a Plunge

Together we take a Plunge
Clean Calicut Beach, Feb-2013

Setting Sun, always soothing

Setting Sun, always soothing
Dusk at a Gaya village(15.5.13)

Green Paradise in Concrete Jungle

Green Paradise in Concrete Jungle
Lake surrounding Purana Quila(20.10.13)

Monday, December 24, 2012

SOCIOLOGY MATTERS





Neither I have the ability nor authority to write about CSSS, but a visit to the Centre on the occasion of 40 years of its ‘birth’ was truly an exercise in walking down the memory lane. Expected curiosity, camaraderie and bonhomie were all pervading. It was a pleasure to see the teachers, scholars, grand old teachers on the one hand and the contemporaries, competitors, seniors, young boys and girls, on the other.  A few of the employees were seen wearing the mantle of photographers, while most of the members of staff, library attendants & chowkidars of 80s were reported superannuated.

Although one did not get a chance to peep into the present brick structure of School of Social Sciences (SSS), its older and much more stable cousin had everything to offer when it came to the old world charm. Not so welcome change was the concrete work in once green courtyard. Flowers were conspicuous by their absence. Toilets for a change, were clean.  The walls, as usual, were full of large and imaginative posters showing the inkling of the students more in international affairs. The alumni hobnobbed in full swing in the corridors of this wing of SSS,prior to being exposed to the introspection of the era gone by. The books and literary works of Jawahar Book Depot of ‘Down Campus’ were not to be missed on such a memorable occasion.


While the adjoining reverse pyramid style building of School of Life Sciences, for a change wore a deserted look, the criss-cross walks all around were humming with activity. The trees, bushes and shrubs planted years ago had become matured. They were giving a green and dense look to the whole scenario. The 11 storied Central Library building over looked the scores of new School buildings like a presiding deity. It was supposed to do so keeping in view the attention it received and the utility it provided in the eighties and nineties. One presumes, it continues to be important for the present generation also rather than inculcating and facilitating Valentine intentions.
 


The Social Sciences Auditorium looked isolated to begin with. It soon got packed to capacity. In true JNU style, things were a bit casual and expected punctuality was amiss.  The programme began with an impressive welcome speech in flawless English by the youngest woman Faculty Member, followed by a very light and informal discourse by Prof. Soproy, VC, JNU, equally frank talk by Prof. Sudha Pai, Rector and not so impressive address by the Dean, Prof. M. Mukherjee. The gist and references made to a couple of old teachers of CSSS were on positive side. It could not be ascertained whether they were genuine or something was being said befitting the occasion. The person who actually left an impression was Prof. Moitrayee Chaudhury, Chairperson, who, I can proudly say, belonged to our tumultuous era (1978-84).


When the main discourse began, the first speaker, Prof. Yogendra Singh was reported to be away to his village and that he had desired to be excused. However, when he appeared through a video clip, he was as usual, very extempore, articulate and pleasing. The journey from Vigyan Bhawan Annexe to the ICWA  and thereafter to the N.A.A. campus (down campus) was very well narrated and the constrains of man power & resources and the challenges involved in designing the course structure were explained eloquently. Among the three Faculty members, only Prof. Oommen (other being Prof. C. Venugopal) the Emeritus Professor of the CSSS, was present in the hall to support, nod and applause. One also learnt that the relatively young discipline of Sociology made slow but certain stride with the addition of three more Faculty members in the year 1973. Further discourse of Prof. Singh tossed around his pioneering work on modernization of Indian tradition and the mix of theory and substance in the curriculum that was subsequently taught to the successive bunch of students.  Professor T.K. Oommen, famous for many of his path breaking works and his recent theorization of national movement, made his points very clear in his usual and candid articulation style. 



Felicitation of the Professors Y. Singh, Oommen, Nirmal Singh, R.K. Jain, K.L. Sharma, C. N. Venugopal and Panini was a touching moment. Most of them were present.  I not only had the privilege of being taught by them but was doubly fortunate to have a word with them. All except Prof. Nirmal Singh could recognize many of us. Prof. Anand Kumar, the towering student leader of the ‘ancient times’ showed true colours with a sense of reverence to all those who deserved.


 While the Cultural Evening on 20th December left much to be desired despite efforts of the youngsters, the Alumini Dinner provided immense opportunities for emotional connect and rediscovery.  Some friends and new faculty members who could not be contacted earlier were present in full smile and spirits.  Prior to the dinner, it was quite an experience to go through the green as well as upcoming concrete jungle in search of the elusive Faculty Lounge.  The food served in some what swanky room was very delicious but what was more important was being reminded of the old events and sharing of experiences of the present family & vocational responsibilities. From ‘mainliners to marginals’,‘ occupationals to professionals’, D.M.W.(Durkheim, Marx, Weber) to Talcott Parsons to R.K.Merton, Karl Polanyi to Margaret Mead, M.N.Srinivas to Dipankar Gupta, all figured between the bytes of roasted and fried items : Paneer & Chiken Tikka, Mushroom Pakoras, and Finger Chips. The tinned juices were clearly outclassed by the juicy stories and anectodes of the ‘Medieval Times’. 


Prof. Panini, George Mathew, Prof. Paul, Prof. Geeta, Prof. Moitrayee, Babu, Prof. Kiran Grewal, Savita Bhakhry, Maurya, P.K.Biswas, Bhaskar Khaund, S.K. Palit, R.K. Meher and many more dined together and rejoiced as if it was akin to having a grub during the special dinners in Kaveri, Godavari, Periyar or for that matter, Sutlej, Ganga, Jhelum or Brahamputra (Kashiram and Gopal Dhabas not to be forgotten). The predicament, perplexity and perseverance (PPP) on the part of D.T. could be, nevertheless, well understood in such ‘recall’ situations. These may have become monotonous for her after a while. But she has learnt to manage over the years.


All good things come to an end. This dinner was no exception. It got over at 9.30 P.M.  By this time, the campus dazzled like a necklace under the yellow sodium vapour lights (what a contrast from the old era!).The famous night life was gathering momentum. I came close to the main gate, expressing my eternal gratitude to the Centre and the then prevailing atmosphere for what I am today.

‘Sociology Matters’ could be an apt selling proposition for the Centre. It really mattered and still matters for me. It ensured my present bread and butter, apart from being a motivating, guiding and confidence boosting force. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Surya Namashkar at Mukteshwar



Following an enjoyable roller coaster late afternoon ride from Nainital, it was a welcome wind of change to come across isolated setting of Krishna Resort on the outskirts of the non-descript township of Mukteshwar. Very few families throng the dwelling units situated on either side of approach. Arrival at the beautifully designed porch overlooking a well kept garden is a soothing experience. Upon settling down, one is encouraged to shoot at setting sun in the back drop of fading snowline. A few attempts and one gives up, for quality is the casualty. Clouds too become stumbling blocks. Similar attempt by the youngest officer from Chhattisgarh too results into an exercise in futility. Nevertheless, idea was to maintain enthusiasm. A brisk walk around the complex is the next logical choice.


Interface with the staff over a cup of tasty tea reveals that we are in an extremely nice setting as far as witnessing an early morning glow was concerned. It was but natural that fellow participants indulge more in nature and adventure related issues rather than the scheduled official visits to two nearby villages: Sunkya and Sunderkhal.

Since scenario at dawn was to be observed, experienced and captured, one was up sooner than expected to come across dark night situation around 4.15 a.m. Hope, I was not sleepwalking. Even at this unearthly hour, the beauty of spacious rooms was irresistible. Despite sincere attempts, one could not catch up with sleep. Perhaps, old age had begun knocking.

Suddenly around 5.14 a.m., one hears a voice or two. One feels as if somebody is up and moving towards large terrace to get the first view. To confirm the same, I leave the princely bed at 5.18 a.m., to eventually find that no one except me is at the sprawling terrace. After a quick recee, Shetty is woken up in view of his request prior to dinner. Punetha almost refuses to be disturbed in spite of showing adequate interest on arrival. Deshmukhs and their Maharashtrian brethren sporting thermal ware, jackets and woolen skull caps, however, are ready to have a pleasant date with nature. Dr. Kanan despite his advancing age, too makes his presence felt with his ever smiling life partner.

Within a few moments, some more people join us, a few with spouses in tow, others, all alone. Most of them are armed with latest cameras, while a handful decide to shoot with cell phones. In sum and substance, all are interested, involved and eager. Before the actual ‘ball’ emerges over the horizon, we take shots of pinkish glow over sky, close to China border. The border is not visible as such but one believes so, based on inputs of Dinesh and Himanshu, active and friendly Faculty Members of Nainital Academy. While I concentrate on the point from which sun was to rise, Shetty meticulously captures a peak resembling a Shivling.

The wait finally gets over at 6.02 a.m. The all pervading and powerful, source of all energies, Sun decides to rise. Initially it is a small reddish ball, soon to transform into reddish orange colour. The tip of the ball becomes slightly bigger in no time and the simultaneous light over the four peaks- Trishul, Bandarpoonch, Nanda Devi, and Panchachuli is simply awe inspiring and mesmerizing. While one group captures sun rise in the front, other one concentrates on the range to our left. We are more than convinced about the nomenclature of the snow covered peaks based on reflection of sun at this time of morning. Each one was blessed on relishing a truly glorious and spectacular sight. Who will not flash a winning smile on seeing such colours of joy?

While the sun is rising and moving steadily, its sparkle and redness multiply. Being lost, no one takes attention of hot cups of teas faithfully brought by the bearers, even though one has to brave rather cold conditions at a height of 7,000 feet. I, nevertheless, do not forget to put an empty cup over a low pole and use the same as a shield or front to attempt an unusual shot. The momentary pleasure surely was going to have a good impact and make our day more fruitful and interesting, than expected. This is why, even when the whole complex is bathed in sun shine, some of us are still capturing the Sun God from behind the bushes and trees. A few also trek on the right side hill to get a different and more commanding view. Attractive flowers of various shades and sizes get relegated to the background owing to the photographic spree focused on sun.

While returning to room, one is rightly reminded of similar clear and remarkable sun rise witnessed in November, 1999 at Tiger Hill, close to Darjeeling in the green and more fragile Eastern Himalayas. Two are comparable to some extent only, as latter had a much wider reach and canvass, including rare views of Mt.Everest, Mt.Khangchendzonga and several snow capped peaks located above 22,000 feet.

Before performing the usual morning rituals prior to a village visit, I do not forget to relate one more memorable brush with the rising sun to DT and CB. One did not have the normal camera but I suppose the one in cell had captured the essence of candid photography. In addition, snaps taken from other cameras were also going to serve the desired purpose. Thus I console myself and get ready for the day upon feeling more energetic and relaxed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

BEE ONE, LUMSEY


It’s a relaxing September Sunday morning at AIS Colony, Lumsey, Tadong (5th Mile). There is a bit of chill accompanied by occasional drizzle. While I reluctantly agree to scribble the fantasies of my never say die hubby, old faithfuls Tommy & Baily and our friendly neighbor walk into the eco friendly and green sit out having two attractive yellow benches. Upon settling on a parapet, Tommy looks straight into the green valley downhill. RPG, on the contrary, is all set to flaunt his new haircut. What a pleasure it is to see a ‘young man’ of 65 years with semi jet black crowning glory. No doubt, it is not a match with the black colour of the office diary kept on the bench or for that matter, black Samsung held tightly by him or the black Bolero of one and only Y factor.
RPG, incidentally, on 9th of September, 2012 made up his mind to see the brighter side of life by resorting to have a close look at the fast flowing Rani Khola, almost at dusk. Accompanied by Als, two of them had a leisurely walk down the road under construction for 20 to 25 minutes. It was a welcome wind of change. Apart from exploring a new area, it also meant breaking the monotony. There was no question of any strain. Six or seven layers of road were taken care of without much difficulty. Once a green area, signs of rapid  denudation were visible all over.
Very close to the destination, they saw a rivulet, mistaken initially to be the main Rani Khola. However, the sight of a large flat field rightly occupied by the teen agers playing football, changed the whole perception. ‘Shoot at sight’ followed instantaneously. Within a few minutes, it was a soothing walk to the meandering river. It was a mesmerizing sight to behold in all the directions. A bamboo bridge, precariously hung in the middle of river, perhaps, was the only link between two hamlets located on the either side. A piece of tiny drift brick was dutifully collected from the ‘beach’ to be carried as a memento. Though it was getting dark, the spirit of adventure was nowhere to wane.
During the retreat, the teen aged footballers were missing from the scene. Villagers in the nearby huts had, in the meanwhile, begun hectic preparations for their dinner. Subsequent to a gradual climb of 800 feet, a bunch of footballers were spotted. True to their generation habits, a few were fiddling with cell phones, others were glued to listening to music while the remainder spoke about the anticipated anxiety on the part of their parents (supposedly connected to their return). In no time, taking recourse to a short cut, they vanished into darkness.
Though Als kept walking up without any break, he would ask RPG every now and then, if latter needed any rest. While former had trekked along this stretch several times in the past during morning hours, including one round, this very day, for latter, it was a maiden opportunity. Though he avoided any halt or break for first 20 minutes, by the time it was 6.15 pm, he felt exhausted. For a moment, while wiping sweat off his face, it appeared as if he would not be in a position to proceed further. There was, however, a lot of spirit left in him. Sitting close to a miniature waterfall, for a moment, a foolish thought came which prompted him to believe as if the world was going to end. However, he was determined not to exhibit an element of abject surrender before his 54 years old friend.
Patience and silence together with slow and gradual breathing came as a welcome wind of change. Though it grew darker than before, the stamina supposedly lost could be regained in about 8 to 10 minutes. The climb to next 500 feet to the Mechanical Garage was  a measured one. Since nothing was visible on the adjacent pitch road, old faithful and handy mobile came to rescue. Passing slowly by the side of a few dimly-lit huts and on encountering the errant dogs here and there, the duo slowly made it to their abode, located further up 500 feet.
Sipping leisurely his late evening peg, RPG was not in a gloomy mood, per se. He was, however, caught in a syndrome of decision/indecision. All the isolated evenings, often resulting into contemplation in isolation, were at the back of his mind. Looking at Joseph, his Man Friday (who had recently discovered his love for a chick apart from drinks), he decided to break the story of the evening, back home. All listened patiently but they also expressed concern. While everyone advised to exercise due precaution in the allegedly hostile hilly hinterland of Sikkim, no one, surprisingly boosted his morale.
With due credence to the relaxing talk and counseling on the part of Usha, Dudul and Dimpy (both share the same birthday), RPG, somehow, felt deep within his heart that his spirit of adventure in the evening may have sounded alarming to his near and dear ones, it, nonetheless, gave him the indomitable bout of courage and confidence. Such a state of mind will see him through during the weeks that follow. Perhaps the moral that emanates is - hard work, positivism and optimism have to be inculcated, shared and adored. Age should not and must not be a hindering factor.

Friday, November 23, 2012

JNU Beckons


Lot many unusual things happen at the drop of hat in our revered country. Some are not place specific. Can one imagine flights taking off fifteen to twenty minutes ahead of schedule? Yes, it happens at Aizawal, Agartala , Guwahati and now Bagdogra. In good old days, it used to be the domain of the private carriers so that they could outshine each other and log in more hours of experience to qualify swiftly for international circuits. Slowly and gradually, the national carrier is also catching up the trend.

Having been a beneficiary or victim or sufferer of one such development at Bagdogra, I landed up half an hour ahead of schedule at the swanky T-3 terminal at New Delhi. It had a cascading impact on my evening engagements - ‘late’ arrival of taxi, guided by otherwise reliable if not punctual Dips, delayed LcM and unwarranted recasting of meetings.

To partially take care of the last named activity, I land up, willingly in the familiar surroundings of JNU, its 24x7 crowded dhaba, being one of the prominent and star attractions. I have an inherent intention to refresh, if not to chill out. Passing below room no. 144, Sutlej Hostel, Jhelum lawns, Ganga Dhaba, Kamals, Periyar Hostel, Central School, and recently added Tapti Hostel, all are not only good experiences but these also enable one to cheerfully walk down the memory lane. I miss no time in consuming a large glass of Lassi (Rs. 12/-) in the august company of giggling Dips. We play a prank with CB and CM in telling the latter on cell that I was ‘missing’ from the arrival area of T-3. Moments of fun at the cost of tension on the other end follow.

Before we finish, a desperate call from DT comes. She desires to know our location and whether we had a meal. While our response is in affirmative, she is made to smile in exclamation when informed of 50% to less than that rates of ironing of cloths as also eatables and other essentials as compared to Gangtok.
 
Next, I try to locate an isolated place close to 24x7, wherein I had spotted a Nilgai, one summer evening in the company of now late Ankoor. He dominates my thoughts while we have a close look at the newly constructed Chandrabhaga and other attractive hostels.
 
Everywhere it is clean and green experience. The famous and enchanting birds of JNU appear every now and then, though they look subdued at this hour. A walk of half an hour entitles us to have a snack of Samosa, Idly and Barra at the Central Library canteen (next to a 12 storey edifice). When the owner shows some hesitation, disclosure of I belonging to 1978 batch of MA, Sociology in the Centre for the Study of Social Systems works. The old man is too eager to interact, oblige and help. We have another privilege of absolutely quiet setting on the Aravali rocks, surrounded by green, arid and thick vegetation. While sipping piping hot coffee, I notice that the Qutub Minar is no longer visible but peacocks and several other flying and walking birds, much more in number, makeup for the loss. They provide a bountiful experience by the dazzling sunset.

One had visited this marvelous eco-friendly place last in September, 2011 with CB in toe. True to his unique nature, he showed more interest in eating rather than seeing the catalogue having entry of my first M.Phil. Dissertation and two books of mine- Surajkund: The Sikkim Story and Sikkim: Small and Beautiful, donated to the JNU Library in 2002 and 2006 respectively. One does remember Ankoor vividly while getting into the main reading room (now centrally air-conditioned).

He came reluctantly with two of us in one warm evening of April 2011, took measured steps inside, had a look around to ultimately sit down to scribble a few lines in perfect English. Despite our persuasion he could not concentrate on any book or magazine. Later, however, he had a frank chat with a student of SSS, struggling as a non- permitted third partner in one of the beautiful brick hostels of the campus. I touch the table, remember and relive that very day.
 
Sitting in an isolated corner of the Research Scholar section, I attempt a piece on Meghalaya. As Dips was not very comfortable in this serious zone, he is advised to move to the Journal floor to flick through the magazines and newspapers. Prior to writing, bouts of discussion, more on global issues, clubbing of pairs, innovative and attractive posters featuring the Leftists of Latin America, our own Safdar Hashmi, a clarion call for joining a ‘national’ march by AISA on 9/8/12, etc. appear before my eyes.
 
Nothing has changed in the last three decades or so, except the size and pattern of cloths worn by the fair sex (shorter than before), majority having bikes or vehicles and almost all the boys and girls having better appearance (no guarantee for high intellectual faculties). While the greenery and the water table are on upswing, the unusual presence of a SIS security man in every nook and corner gives a different pointer. It is certainly not encouraging. The show has to go on. It must, in the changing circumstances but the basic focus of intellectual attainment by ensuring and sustaining character should not be lost.

Magic of Broadway


Theatre as compared to cinema is not very popular or sought after in India. Naturally, I was drawn to the world of listening to music and occasionally watching the same, more by accident than by design. Listening to songs or being part of any instrumental concert during the childhood was only possible during ‘off ‘ hours through the vintage Bush radio (an exceptionally polished wooden beauty) kept on the top self in our common bed room. We did not have the privilege of a record player or a tape recorder.

From class VIIth to B.A., mostly we would watch a semi-classical musical concert at Durga Puja “Pandals”. Afterall, Ranchi being influenced by rich and vibrant Bengali culture will have full four days of festivities, duly facilitated by traffic free roads.

In addition, once in a blue moon, one would witness a play in Hindi or English at St. Xaviers’ College, my alma mater. O yes, I did act in one satire during the annual Vishwakarma Puja celebrations. All said & done, it was either a play or a musical concert which mattered and both were seen once or twice a year. Mother of all the acts was, nonetheless, the ten day long religious concert of Ramlila, with its myriad, memorable and irresistible characters. Post-dinner, same was warm, fun-filled and delightful.

It was fairly long break from the Durga Puja and Ramlila days when in October, 2012, I was exposed to the amazing charm and glamour of Broadway at the Winter Garden theatre, one of the 30 theatres of New York, the financial and cultural capital of USA, that never sleeps.

Thanks to Vicky, my nephew, I managed to get the coveted paid entry ($76) into a packed Broadway show subsequent to an awfully expensive Indian meal. It was perhaps, a true grand finale to a five day tight official visit to the most populous and famous city of USA. One had heard a lot about it but had never availed of an opportunity. Most noteworthy were- light, sound, acting, setting, melodramatic effects or the speed and proficiency at which the artists would perform. Perform & leave an indelible impact. And ultimately bind & mesmerize the audience.

Inspired by the musical super hit ABBA of yesteryears, Mama Mia (Director, Phyllida Lloyd) is one of the longest running shows on the Broadway. Among the fifty odd dedicated and professional cast, it was pleasing to find Monica Kapoor, an Indian in the ensemble/understudy category even though it was not possible to notice her presence instantly.

My reading of the Playbill and interactions revealed that there were 22 musical numbers in the play. Some of the superhits included: Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, Honey, Honey, I have a dream, Mama Mia, and Money, Money, Money. The play, per se, was divided into 3 parts: Prologue (3 months prior to wedding), Act one (the day before the wedding) and Act two (the day of the wedding).

It was all about a remote Greek Island, wherein a wedding is about to take place in the Sheridan family. The opening scene itself featuring the prospective bride and her two friends is not only superb in terms of song, dance and light effects, it leaves a positive impression in terms of make up, choice of colour and period costumes. The backdrop was simple, yet marvelous. The swiftness with which it was changed every now and then spoke volumes of the Director and his team.

Enthusiasm on the part of bride ( Christy Altomare) sets the ball rolling from the very first scene. Though her hero looked tall and handsome, she outclassed him both in singing and acting. Judy Mclane, who played the character of the mother rather brilliantly, had a clear and inimitable voice. Her singing and acting both were splendid.

Audience behaviour, if in terms of watching & listening was praise worthy, it was simply outstanding when it came to singing with the cast towards the end and ultimately giving them a standing ovation. In the dying or closing moments, at least three-four times it appeared as if the show was reaching its pinnacle. But pleasantly it swung back to emerge again.

Long live the show! Long live the actress who played the bride or the lady with a true golden, melodious and loud voice, who was compelled to become a bride. It was providence if not an act in the genre of predestination.

The Victorian style lavish hall, having close to 2000 seats was packed to capacity. Rather, one was feeling suffocated and claustrophobic initially. I was witnessing something in a theatre, sandwiched between women of all sizes, mostly obese after a long time.

May the magic of Broadway linger on to perpetuate and preserve the spirit of theatre. It was a truly once in a life time experience.

Postscript-once the show ends, exit doors are flung open on the side of 7th Avenue. Rickshaw pullers, all lined up with hand bells ringing evokes the sweet memories of a bygone era.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Long Live London Olympics

“I haven’t   contributed anything. Credit goes to my Guru, Federation Officials and Chief Coach”. Thus spoke Super Sushil,  a simple and unassuming Haryanwi hailing from Najafgarh, Delhi upon winning a silver medal in 66 kg weight category of  men’s  freestyle wrestling.
He created history at 18.30 hrs (IST) on the last day of London Olympics by winning his second successive individual medal despite being a victim of unfortunate dehydration.
With his win, India wound up its campaign on a highly satisfying note. Rather, it was the best ever performance by an 81 member strong contingent. The tally of three medals (one silver & two bronze )at Beizing was convincingly  doubled to six (two silver & four bronze ).
It was a fitting and memorable tribute to emerging professionalism coupled with liberal and assured expenditure on training aids by a handful of public and private outfits.
It is time to assess, look back and introspect to move ahead with a positive bent of mind. Shall we begin with the biggest disappointment- below par performance by a much fancied Hockey team?  They lost six matches in a row without any worthwhile resistance. The characteristic   feature of the tale of sorrow was against Belgium, when no goal could be scored by a team whose predecessors had eight Olympic  Gold in their kitty starting from 1928 and ending with 1980 Moscow Olympics. In the process, the team had to be satisfied with 12th position as compared to 8th rank in the last World Cup Hockey at New Delhi in 2010.
The shooters too disappointed, in a way, the eager, expectant   and conscious   spectators  at home.  They didn’t fall exactly like pack of cards in the reverse rhythm of highly rated Tennis superstars. Many of them like Archers were right on top in some of the world events. One silver and one bronze by Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang , however, keeps the hopes and expectations alive and kicking for posterity. It goes on to also prove that the fire ignited by the gold winning  superlative  performance of  Abhinav Bindra in 2008 Beizing Olympics hasn’t been extinguished.
Saina Nehwal played exceedingly well till she took part in her last bronze medal deciding match. Her Chinese opponent simply collapsed due to acute knee pain. Thus luck favoured decisively the little star from Hyderabad, improving her world ranking to four.
Only grit, sustained practice and stamina are not the deciding factors. You also improve your chances sometimes for a medal, owing to the kind of draw you face and widely believed luck factor. Perhaps due to this extra  force , Amit Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt got rare chances to enter the repepage round.
 While the former wrestled valiantly to be defeated despite coming back in second round and  winning  the last round,  Dutt went on winning spree after crushing his opponents, one after another. In the words of Michael Fereira, the former World Billiards Champion, “Dutt having got a solid hold over his North Korean opponent twisted him like a Sphagetti”. No wonder, on being certain about his bronze medal, he gymnasted and somersaulted like a butterfly in true Mohammed Ali style. This was his third Olympics. He had to show his might and determination.
Mary Kom , five times world champion, despite winning bronze medal in a category she resisted to be promoted, was, however, devoid of luck, in a way. She reportedly could not give her best due to ‘period’ factor, which might have restricted her overall strength and confidence. Nonetheless, medal winning performance by two Indian women has not only bolstered further the prospects of other compatriots from the fair sex but the day is not far when they will simply outperform the men.
In retrospect, India has three more medals as compared to Beizing but does it go on to justify for a nation having many world champions or world level winners in several games or events at present? Don’t we need to further improve?
A “country” called Phelps [of USA] has won 22 medals individually so far in two Olympics as compared to same number  by a much bigger country called India that has also the same number of medals in its bag since 1900. Will it be comparable?
The public authority needs to check malpractices and spend more on motivation, training, tapping talents from states like Manipur, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Chhattisgarh etc, infrastructure within and fine tuning spotted talents outside the country.
The number of officials may also need drastic reduction apart from freeing sports associations from the clutches of public servants. In the ultimate analysis, the contestants will gain supreme confidence to face the large crowd and thereby register a medal ensuring win. For want of such an accelerated and augmented mental make- up, Karmakar  and Devendro missed bronze medals by a whisker and Punia and Gowda figured at top, registering 7th and 8th rank in their respective events.

There is, therefore, a bright hope for future. There should be no reason NOT to grab it.

Pleasure of rafting in Ganga (28/10/12)


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rajesh Khanna: End of an ERA

                                            ·     Marriages are made in heaven, but performed on Earth. Perhaps very few understand that and certainly the only superstar of Hindi films, Rajesh Khanna (RK) did not fall in this category. Failed marital bliss with an equally talented person soon gave birth to heavy alcoholism, ultimately leading to his nemesis at 13:40 hrs on 18thJuly 2012.

·     RK, also lovingly called Kaka was an Icon, a craze, an enigma and a phenomenon not only for a collectivity called fair sex (many of them would splatter wind screen of his swanky cars with lipsticks) but he was also a tremendous source of inspiration and style for the young men in the 70s and early 80s. Who can ignore or forget his unique hair style, distinct buttons, dog collars, large goggles and off course, the khadi kurta, which simply swept the nation?

·     The first and only superstar of Hindi Cinema had delivered 15 consecutive hits between1971 to 1980 as a solo hero, a record unbroken till date. Jatin Khanna, the adopted son of a big shot named Chunnilal Khanna, was famous for visiting studios in expensive cars in search of a role. Though he began his innings in 1966 from Aakhri Khat, directed by the talented Chetan Anand, followed by Raj, directed by GP Sippy, it was only through Khamosi (Director Ashit Sen), Safar and Anand (1969, Director, H. Mukherjee) that he was recognized and made an indelible mark.  He catapulated into instant stardom with Aradhana. A star was born, not to fade or set, it was to blink and blink for a long time. Once a clear winner out of 10,000 Filmfare contestants, he was determined to establish his credentials.

·     To my knowledge, Rup Tera Mastana and Ye Jo Mohabbat Hai were one of the most powerful and memorable picturisations ever. Neither the novice in RK nor immense experience and calmness in Sharmila Tagore uttered or did any ‘lip service’, they simply expressed and performed through their eyes. No ‘Munni Badnam Hui’, ‘Shiela ki Jawani’ or ‘Chikni Chameli’ type of formula was needed or called for.  There are many tales and sub-tales surrounding the life and times of RK, but in the fierce competitive world of celluloid when no new and fresh face was seen on the horizon, he saw and grabbed the opportunity. Soon he proved popular, flamboyant, charming and magical. A time came when he began out living the script and the prescribed frame.

·     Romance prospered always. It lingered on in this era when multi-starrers came knocking the doors, presumably taking a cue from a few Hollywood block- busters. Ultimately, it was anger and aggression that flourished starting with Namak Haram, Zanjeer, Deewar and Sholay. And the saga of love, hatred, melancholy, compassion, submission, annihilation and what not continues.

·     Apart from Sharmila Tagore, Asha Parekh, Mumtaz (exemplified excellent on screen chemistry) a few encouraging, experimenting and pulsating directors and script-writers, contribution of one and only Kishore Kumar cannot be undermined in the epic success story of Kaka. If Kaka was the body, Kishore Kumar was the soul, everyone would state.

·     He died rather, loved to die or made to die several times in films such as Anand, before he actually breathed his last at Ashirvad, now rechristened Dimple.

·     Not only he embodied the innocence and struggles of common man, he had tremendous ability to connect with the audience. Having figured in and behind haunting and melodious inimitable songs, at the end of the day, he was a lonely man. He gained in name and fame tremendously but was decisively vanquished on conjugal front. Like the highly pampered prince of Premnagar he would search for his Mehbooba, ostensibly with the help of ‘Lal Rang’, evening after evening. He would resort to contemplation in isolation, with no company from his erstwhile fans, foes or friends.

·     He had an unusual and powerful image. The unique movement of his right hand, twist of neck and gestures conveyed through eyes made him a legendary figure. Though he acted in over 150 films and was a big source for living for lakhs of people, he received only three Filmfare awards as best actor.

·     In 1992 he delved into the un-reliable and mysterious world of politics from New Delhi constituency with former or separated wife Dimple and two lovely daughters in toe. The ‘connection’ and ‘disconnection’ or purported romance with the teenage sensation of 1973 continued to be part of his multifarious or fractured personality till the time he actually called it a day. 

·     Like any ‘dying’ actor or an artist of bygone era, he was conferred with a life time achievement award in 2005 by none other than Amitabh Bachchan, his Babu Mosai or ‘foe’ of yesteryears. Despite his obsession for liquid, which he publicly pretended to detest, he made an unsuccessful comeback in a TV serial and a B grade film as also an unimpressive and non-descript advertisement for a ceiling fan.

·     It may be appropriate to sum up in the words of AB or Big B ‘Rajesh Khanna entered into the hearts and minds of every Indian’. But should we also quote Raj Kapoor ‘the show must go on, because it has to go on’?

·     An illustrious career has come to a standstill. With moist eyes, let us sing ‘ Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli, Kabhi to Hasaye, Kabhi to Rulaye’.


Saturday, March 24, 2012













Chambal Crocodile Sanctuary

Chambal Crocodile Sanctuary (7.3.11)
Decision to visit this prime biodiversity spot was a delayed one. Every one swung into action in limited time after relishing a relaxed lunch. Though weather was pleasant on reaching Sason Bridge around 4.45 pm, there was no clue to get down. Ajay Singh, PSO, in the meanwhile did mention about frequent assembly of large sized fish and crocodiles right below one temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. One km downstream, it was on the other side of the river. One lost no time in taking good shots of the clean and wide river in the fading sunlight. A bird akin to Owl but smaller than Eagle frequently and very romantically flew here and there, without giving any chance to shoot. A cousin of his was spotted very close to our dwelling place in Etawah a fortnight ago.

Immediate contact with the Circle Officer of Chakar Nagar through local police and Sri Manish, SDO, Bharthana(otherwise preoccupied with the sudden appendicitis operation of his son) ensured arrival of Sri M.S. Beg, SI, Chakar Nagar PS and his five armed policemen within 25 minutes. Not only they were familiar with the terrain but they had also summoned Sri Jaikishan, the Forest Dept. Motor boatman. Interaction with them revealed that they were more than eager to take us for a ride to the crocodile country at Jagtauli (8 kms away). A previous exposure of this kind to some other friends three weeks ago was going to be handy.

After a drive of half a km on a bumpy forest road through the mazes of ravines, we reach very close to the Chambal River. A wait of 15 or 20 minutes follows, still there is no trace of Jaikishan. We utilise the occasion to take a short walk on the green meadow on the bank and in appreciating sand formations below the crystal clear water. A few birds are spotted doing some exercise. Beg and his associates inform that sand as well as water of this place is very sought after, so much so, that one of the former S.P.’s used to have jerkins of water collected from mid-stream regularly for the sake of his stomach ailment.

Suddenly, we get the rare opportunity of seeing an adult crocodile below the pillar no. 4. Neither he was close by nor far off, but he was oblivious to our presence. Due to distance, although it was difficult to photograph, ripples caused by his graceful movement could be seen for some time. It was a rare sight to behold. We never knew that it was going to be the only ‘sight’ in broad day light.

At last around 5.25 pm, when sun started descending, Jaikishan, our Man Friday appears in his sarkari boat, having got delayed due to non-availability of required 10 ltrs .of diesel. From the word go, we begin questioning him: How many crocodiles are there in the sanctuary? , How far is the sanctuary?, Are we going to see any of the creatures since it was becoming dark?, How are protected species kept?, Was there any difference between the Crocodiles and the Gharials? etc.

On being prompted by Aditya Tiwari, one learns that the crocodiles had to wear a Kara (round bangle of iron) around their mouth, which enables them to attack and gulp only the small fish and that, supposedly, human beings were spared from their possible attacks. While crocodiles are a large long tailed reptile with powerful tapering jaws, the Gharial have very long slender muzzles. JK adds that we were going to see some Dolphins as well after a ride of 5 to 6 kms.

Luck seems to favour us around 5.35 pm when I was aiming at the sparkle created by the setting sun- one by one three crocodiles were spotted on the other bank of the river. At the first sight, we decided to ‘shoot’ at them with whatever photographic apparatus we had, though visibility was not very clear. Next option of taking the boat close to the bank was also exercised. Inevitable, however, happened and the crocodiles in question hid themselves below the water, sooner than expected. We had to be satisfied with what was in store.

One also saw a group of white cranes, multi-coloured cranes, snake birds, peacocks, Surkhav, a red coloured bird and a bird with a prominent cap. The last named gave ample ‘opportunity’ to be shot but somehow, we had a miss. It was interesting to hear, however, from Amit at this juncture that Charwa, a hefty animal of the size of a lion frequented this area and that the widely prevalent jackal was not lagging behind in destroying the crops.

As it was getting dark, we pass very close to Mithali village. Everyone was relishing the sunset so much so that stillness of the deep water did not attract till one of us decided to taste it. JK added to our information bank by whispering that depth of the river over here was 5.55 metres.

What a wonderful sight we saw next once again on the left bank. It was soothing mustard field against the brown and green background of the ravines, thus creating a brilliant reflection. Very close by was the Shyam Baba ka temple, once again dedicated to Lord Shiva. The depth of river had increased to 10 metres, by now, as per JK.

As if the sight of soothing mustard field was not enough, we were blessed with a marvellous view of one peacock walking leisurely on the bank. Oh yes, it was not alone, there was one more slightly away, may be its pair. They seemed to be in romantic mood. Fresh photography was resorted to when we saw green fields once again on the bank. Reflection was more mesmerizing than the actual object.

When attention was being taken away from the crocodiles, it was the turn of Dolphins to enter the fray. Around 6.05 pm before we pass by Kela village, JK shows three of them pursuing their playful antics in water while coming out to have a breath of fresh air. Though we could not figure out their appearance and size, ripples caused by them in otherwise stagnant water were sufficient to mark their dominating presence in close vicinity.

By 6.10 pm we enter the sanctuary area at Jagtauli. As water was stagnant here, depth was reported to be 10-12 metres. Despite our prayers, no crocodile could be seen on the vast beach. Ideal time was reported to be between 12 noon and 4 pm. The isolation of the place, together with the depth of the river had made it a perfect setting for the breeding and nursing of the crocodiles.

To satisfy our urge, therefore, we looked for them on the small green islands. They were not there as well. When we finally left the boat to walk on the green right bank, all of a sudden, JK pointed towards ripple in the water, very close by. The crocodile over there did not appear to be in a hurry as compared to his previous ‘friend’. The view was better and closer but darkness was a hindrance. Within five minutes we were lucky to see another one. We did not leave the place immediately, though there was no hope to have another ‘sight’. By breaking ourselves into sub groups, we began exploring the area. This crocodile centre having a population of over 200 crocodiles and 1600 gharials was only of its kind in the country. The rare Ganges river Dolphin, the sole member of the Cetaceans group was reported to be one of its most prominent attractions. In addition, 150 species of birds are also sighted here.

The stories of Phoolan Devi, Seema Parihar, Kusuma Nain, Rajjan, Lovely, Salim, Nirbhay Gujjar etc. all dacoits, who used to throng the place once upon a time during their transit, keep us occupied after we were free from the natural wonders of the sanctuary. One has to hear their tales, as primarily due to their presence till the seventies, this wonderful habitat was not exposed to the outside world.

Before it gets really dark, a glorious moon rise over the east bank, in a way, gives us a befitting farewell. It was a pleasure to photograph it from the colony of crocodiles as also the boat when our retreat to Etawah begins. No longer, it is a hurried affair. All the boat occupants begin to enjoy biscuits and cold drinks to beat the monotony. We do not forget to express our profound gratitude to J.K and M.S. Beg for having exposed us to the pristine river ecosystem of Chambal. In a nutshell, it was quality versus quantity. And quality won, in the ultimate analysis.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Taj, You cannot have enough of it

It was an impressive Sunday crowd at the Taj in the pre-noon period of early March. Weather was congenial. Riot of colour was, therefore, stunning. There was plenty of love and bonhomie in the air while having an initial glimpse or gaze with a feeling of awe. And finally you see the monument of love in toto.

Cameras begin clicking almost immediately, so much so that the first few shots have to be ultimately reviewed and deleted altogether. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of rapid digitization? The touch pose by raising one’s arm and ‘placing’ the same on top of Taj was the most prominent one, followed instantly and religiously, almost by everyone.

A foreign couple (forty plus lady sporting a backless halter gown) and their jeans clad Indian counterpart were frequently spotted. They made no mistakes in getting noticed and leaving an indelible mark. Expectedly, young couples from the length & breadth of the country were there to grace the occasion. Children & tiny tots did not lag behind in posing for the camera. The group (100 odd), however, which convincingly stole the slow comprised of fresh tall recruits of the BSF. It appears, they were feeling liberated from long and tiring election duty recently. High spirit, therefore, was all pervading.

At the traditional posing marble bench, there was a complete jam, so much so that one had to wait for one’s turn for nearly 15-20 minutes. It was worth it as you do not visit Taj every day. And the sun light was picture perfect. It was festive spirit that dominated.
While Indians by and large would begin shooting at the drop of hat, the foreigners in general would look, stare, admire and thereafter aim and shoot. Most of them if part of a group, would listen attentively to the live commentary (in the language they understood) delivered by the professional guides. Latter, invariably would come out with a yanky accent, while reiterating the grand old tale of the Emperor Shahjehan and the Queen Mumtaj Mahal.

An interesting snap session of a South Indian daughter & son-in-law, meticulously “conducted” by a father with photographic bent of mind reflected the overall change in the attitude in respect of portrayal of love in public places. Father was excited no doubt, but the mother could not suppress her traditional outlook even when affection and exhilaration had their way.
The monument built in 1653, per se, is so grand, imposing and massive that it is almost a two kms walk to cover its 42 acres. And one does not feel tired. Rather, one relishes it. It looks the same from three sides- East, West and South. The north view, one cannot see because of partly polluted Yamuna at the rear.

Carvings, inlay work and calligraphy on all sides are not only gorgeous. They are outstanding masterpieces. The beauty of minars can be admired only when you get closer. There were no architects, no civil engineers, no aesthetic consultants nor steel was used six hundred years ago, yet, such a fine specimen of architectural rationality saw the light of the day after a labour of love of twenty thousand workers for twenty two years.

Traditional reflecting pool view of 81 feet high Taj is definitely admirable but the view from inside the main gate or from one of the jumbo gates on the bank of Yamuna, simply defies description. Not only you are spellbound but you feel like meditating. You do not think of anything except Taj. The experience acts like a true stress buster.

All the talk about change in the colour of Taj from white to yellowish cream is hogwash. After two hours of close look, it can be safely concluded that the marble marvel is still not only sparkling, but it leaves you simply flavorgasted.

Surroundings of Taj and the main courtyard are spotlessly clean. Scene around the ticket windows, however, needs face lift and decongestion. The approach road is much better than what it was a few years ago. However, the city police have to do its home work to regulate traffic properly. Coming to conveyance, apart from the cycle rickshaws, introduction of camel carts and battery vans operated by the A.D.A. from the parking lot is eco-friendly and sustainable addition. Besides taking care of environment, these also act as great levelers.

Taj can earn more money for the country if it is more aggressively sold and the touts, agents and the transporters are systematically regulated, if not eliminated. Only upkeep and non-penetrable security won’t do. The access to the Taj also has to be clean, presentable and non-cumbersome.

My fourth visit was not exactly “satisfactory” as you cannot have enough of Taj. At the end of each visit, one vows to come again.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012



ETAWAH KA BULAWAH

Relatively unknown District of Etawah appears non-descript till you actually plan a foot fall. Surrounded by Agra, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Kannauj, Auraiya, Jalaun and Bhind (MP) Districts, it is not far off from the ultimate tourism destination of Agra (120 kms), princely state of Gwalior (110 kms), epicenter of bangle industry, Firozabad (50 kms) and Shan-e-Awadh, Lucknow (250 kms).

Infinite patience helps when journey is long even if one has access to the latest Japanese SUV, moving at a dumbfounding speed of 90 kms per hour. The first break after three and a half hours enables one to avail of public convenience in addition to a quick bite of two varieties of parathas (potato and paneer) and curd. Before the belly is filled up, a walk at a leisurely pace looking at road side villages cannot be resisted.

Famous for Rabri, Peda and its gun loving populace, of late, the vibrant Sub-division of Saifai has added fresh feathers to Etawah’s cap by making possible super speciality medical care, world class sports centres, plethora of educational institutions and a 2700 metre long ‘uncontrolled’ aerodrome. Other notable townships-Jaswant Nagar and Bharthana, surprisingly, are lagging behind. The overall prosperity reflected from the upgraded infrastructure, however, does not seem to have made any dent on the sanitary standards and attitude towards the fair sex.

On reaching our abode for one month (in two phases), one gets an impression that this was the place where one could relax, unwind and regain one’s peace of mind. While chirping of countless, colorful birds touch your heart, you also have a chance to watch slow and graceful walks of Crocodiles, Peacocks, Barasingha Deers and Nilgais. Existence of natural wet lands and pools of water due to spill-over from the tube wells, has, perhaps, led to proliferation of fauna if not flora. You are privileged to see everything: Parrots, Eagles, Cranes, Wood Peckers, Snake birds, Pigeons, Black & Brown Crows, Crows with long tail, Koels, Mynahs, Neelkanth, Dhaurayyas, Titar, Mahuka, Gulgulia, Chanduls and Swans. Resultantly, one feels as if the whole place resembles an open, unpolluted and undisturbed sanctuary.

The very first outing takes you to a different world. If Mustard fields are stunning, those growing Potato, Garlic and Wheat look enchanting to an urban dweller. The healthy growth of Sugarcane reminds one of one’s childhood, when there would be scramble between the Siblings for the best ‘cut-piece’. In the vast ‘ocean’ of green fields, there are alkaline ‘islands’ (Usar land) as well. Chemical treatment makes such plots worthy of wheat cultivation.

The Sumer Fort area (originally built 1100 years ago) lures you with its unusual beauty and green landscape in the backdrop of often talked about ravines. While Yamuna is right across, Chambal is barely 10 kms away. Former, despite attracting birds is as polluted as in Delhi. Latter looks somewhat clean and calm. A motor boat ride on the river ahead of Hanumantpura takes you to an exhilarating interface with crocodiles looked after in a sanctuary.

In the glaring light of the mid-day sun, gradually you see baby crocodiles basking and relaxing on the beach, while the adults enter blue deep waters in search of some ‘catch’. The Swans, Cranes and Snake birds do appear every now and then. While they enjoy, they enhance the beauty of the surroundings. The best way, however, to have a feel of the place is to leave the motor boat and walk slowly along the bank to relish the moments of solitude.

The Chambal river has been witness to tales of valour and miseries associated with the dacoits, many of whom turned to kidnapping before withering away. Their influence over the ravine villagers has been full and complete, so much so that either the latter would not vote or exercise their franchise according to whims and fancies of the former. During the recently concluded elections, the scenario, however, was positive (60 %) and reverse.

Coming to the look or the effect of Sun, while its rise from the Fort can be awesome with cool breeze blowing from Yamuna, its ‘setting’ behind Chambal river is equally breath taking and mesmerizing. You simply draw incalculable pleasure out of the gradual ‘slide’ of the ‘red ball’. The sight of rise of Moon with a twinkling star in close proximity is also something one can concentrate upon, almost every evening. Such experiences give you comfort and courage to forget your stress and enable you to move ahead with renewed vigor and vitality in your regular work place.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Aah or Oh TAJ ?

India’s marvelous marble mausoleum has instant magnetic effect. One of the Seven Wonders of the World and the country’s number one show piece, it is located 200 kms south of Delhi. It is a long, arduous journey, even though one has the privilege to pass through a national highway having four lanes.

My advance reading reveals that only one out of eleven travellers globally visits TM. Nevertheless, 90% of the domestic tourists do not give it a miss. There is a need, therefore, for tourism campaigners in India to wake up and sell this priceless product. They are in dire need of an overhaul.

One is sure of one thing associated with Taj – its aura, charm, mesmerism, the refreshing and soothing effect it has on you- in the morning, noon, evening or a full moon night.

On 4th Feb.2012, subsequent to facing a bit of warmth and inhaling some dust of subsiding winter, at the first instance, it was refreshing to see the Tomb of Akbar the Great at Sikandra. Leisurely we took photos of a very well kept monument. Presence of a few visitors facilitated access to the elaborate carvings on the minarets & the prominent, attractive calligraphy. On the contrary, it is sad to see an old lady begging and some tussle in a foul language between the local transporters over flimsy grounds.

Within a few minutes we turn right from a ‘chowk’ leading to one and only Tajmahal (TM), India’s best heritage and architectural show piece for the world.

One of the several bridges on the way, it appears, has been added recently. The whole setting is congested. It wasn’t there in Oct ’2003 when I visited TM with D.T. and now late Ankoor. I remember and pray for him before proceeding further.

After two kms we have a breath of fresh air when we come across fairly wide and green four lane road along the Agra Fort. In the changed situation, we pull down window pane to catch the first glimpse of TM. Reaction on the part of ever smiling Dips cannot be described. He was simply overwhelmed and bowled over. We manage to take four to five photos but these turn out to be blurred and gloomy owing to preponderance of fog. On the contrary, the snaps of neighbouring Agra Fort, a pinkish red sand stone marvel come out well. A close up of marble room on the edge is worth mentioning as Emperor Shahjahan was held captive therein by his son Aurangjeb. Legend has it that he begged to be kept in this corner to enable him to see the Mausoleum of his wife Mumtaj Mahal every day.

Due to paucity of time, we take a U-turn from the main parking area of TM. While we retreat, the haze over marble wonder of the world has descended a bit. But it is too late to revive our spirits and desire to see TAJMAHAL in its pristine glory.

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A fresh opportunity to have a brush with the Taj comes on 18th February. I get down to Agra Cantt. at 11.45 Hrs. from 12808 Samta Express. Approach to the station is dirty and full of poly bags. People defecating in the open, without any regret or shame bring in more of embarrassment. When the train had slowed down, urchins and teenagers were also seen jumping to bogies, presumably for a free ride.

Once outside, weather appears congenial. There is nothing noteworthy about the station. Usual fiefdom of taxi, three wheeler drivers and rickshaw pullers is visible. There is no trace or impact of Taj Mahal on the fa├žade of station building unlike the magnificent stations of Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi and Allahabad.

Upon successfully negotiating the congestion in the outskirts, we enter clean parts of Taj city. Good signages but of low height welcome the visitors. I wish uniformity is maintained when it comes to colour scheme or size of hoardings or mile posts. There is a plethora of hotels, restaurants, travel agents and currency exchanges. One can also see riot of colours when bag packer foreigners rub shoulders with local semi-urban populace.

Good sights of the historic city turn out to be a temporary phenomenon. Before sensing a shred of traffic jam, we are lucky to get a glimpse of Taj. The view is better as compared to the earlier one. As a result, six to eight shots are possible. Getting close to the Yamuna was a good decision from photographic point of view but it turned out to be a disaster from the environmental angle. Dedicated and reliable Deepankar accompanying me too nods his head. It seems as if Agra & Delhi are having a cut throat competition to pollute the river. After a drive of almost two kms. one cannot locate any effluent treatment plant.

While being trapped in traffic for more than an hour one notices the following: people lack civic sense, traffic police constables are conspicuous by their absence, noise pollution is extraordinarily high, strong nexus between agents, touts, transporters and hoteliers of different hues results into compromising country’s prestige, people do everything on the road from basking in sun, washing clothes, taking bath to hanging their under garments, etc.

All means of transport, viz, buses, trucks, cars, vans, SUV’s, rickshaws, cycles, scooters, mobikes, tractors and three-wheelers compete with each other for a space on road. Practically every known business is carried out along Jeevani Mandi Road with scant regard to two World Heritage sites.

Before departing, one learns with satisfaction that the magnitude of congestion and pollution in this part is much lower subsequent to some courageous and path-breaking initiatives taken by the District administration and the Supreme Court a few years ago.

ARE THE CONCERNED AUTHORITIES STILL ACTIVE & AGILE?

All said and done, it is believed that second or third visit to a tourist spot or a monument is a friendly encounter. Apart from fine tuning knowledge, it reignites the emotions. I can candidly and confidently surmise that after this visit to Taj, substantial value was added to my cognitive and sensorial responses. At least there was fresh impetus to draw inspiration from one’s heritage and maintain a positive and optimistic approach to move ahead.