Monday, October 20, 2014

Jayalalithaa The Goddess

As expected ‘Puratchi talaivi’ J Jayalalithaa  has been released on bail and as expected AIADMK supporters are dancing. The fact that The Supreme Court has been quite stern in its remarks about their leader and that it has asked the High court to dispose the case in three months has not marred the celebrations. People lined the road from the jail to the Airport in Bengaluru to see their leader free once again. I heard that the roads in Chennai were lined by ladies holding ‘Aarathis’. My sister who told this said that she would not have believed it had she not witnessed the sight herself and ended by saying ‘stupid people and a shameless creature’.

I wondered what makes these people (Not just Jayalalitha’s supporters. Laalu yadav’s people do the same in Bihar and Yedyurappa’s men do it in Bengaluru) overlook the misdeeds of their leader and stick to them in spite of the overwhelming evidence against them.

We have had a centuries old tradition of being ruled by Kings and queens. A king is expected to be wealthy and exhibit his wealth. He is expected to live in a palace. Wearing a crown studded with diamonds and a dress embroidered with gold threads is normal for him. Nobody asks the king where and how he got his money. He may indulge in all sorts of excesses but he is still just next to god. “Raja pratyaksha devata”. We carry that sentiment in our genes and now we have ‘devathas’ in the form of our ‘Netas’.  Tamilnadu, with its temples of MGR and Jayalalitha, is the best place to witness this sentiment.

Jayalalithaa is not just the queen but a goddess. It is nothing for a goddess to have 10000 sarees and 30 kilos of gold. Nobody grudges that.  In fact, we rejoice over that fact and wish to see her in all her bejewelled glory.  Now, on top of that this goddess is a very generous goddess. Her ‘prasadam’ in the form of a plate of Idli sambhar costs just one rupee and a ‘thali’ of ‘Mahaprasad’ is just three rupees or five. She showers mixer grinders, TV sets, bicycles, clothes and what not ‘chappar phadke’. She is actually everything that we expect a goddess to be. If some ignorant people call her corrupt and put our goddess in a jail it enrages us but we swallow it. This is ‘Kaliyuga’. People tend to do such things. But when our goddess is back amongst us, nobody can prevent us receiving her with ‘aarathis’.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Going Crazy

But for a very few flowers of ‘Nandi battalu’ or the ‘Ananta’ , which flower through the year, my flower bowl has been empty for the last three months. I think rainy season is the time for the plants to rest and relax. It has not rained for a week now and there is bright sunlight. The plants are back in action. My bowl was full today. It is a sight which ‘makes my day’ as we say. The pleasure is twofold when there are a lot of ‘parijata’ (some call it the ‘night flowering jasmine’) flowers. I get to enjoy the sight as well as the fragrance. It sort of fills my soul (assuming that there is one in my body).  

The flowers are for the daily worship. My worship is the shortened version - lighting a lamp and placing the flowers on the idols. We offer the fruits and flowers to the lord and take them back as ‘prasada’. But in my case the lord gets the flowers only after I have enjoyed the sight and fragrance. I enjoy the fragrance when the ‘parijaata’ buds start flowering at night and then enjoy the sight of the flowers on the plant in the morning. I enjoy picking them and also enjoy the sight and smell of flowers collected for worship. Only then the lord gets them. I hope he does not mind.

He shouldn’t actually. He was the one who told Arjuna “Pick up your bow and kill. It is my will. Actually you are not killing and they are not dying. I am the one who is killing and I am also the one who is dying. I play this game and all of you are just pawns.”

If and when I get to talking terms with him he is sure to say “You fool, you are not enjoying the fragrance. I am. I made the flower fragrant and I gave you the senses to enjoy it. In fact, I am the very essence of that fragrance also” or some such thing. Incidentally the parijaata is supposed to be his favourite. 

(My wife usually does not read what I write, which explains how I have my limbs intact till now. She was attracted by the picture of the flowers and read this post. She has an explanation - Every flower is first touched by the wind, that is, 'Vayudevaru' or 'PraNadevaru' as wind is known in dwaita philosophy. PraNadevaru is supposed to be in a constant worship mode. 24*7 if you understand that better. So, the moment a flower is touched by 'Vayudevaru' it is said to have been offered to the god. What we get is always the seconds and we offer it to the lord again just  for our satisfaction.) 

Parijata flowers, I feel are the embodiment of the word ‘delicate’. They start flowering late in the evening. They remain on the plant till early morning and then fall to the ground. Try to pluck them before they are ready to part from the plant and the delicate petals get torn. When they fall to the ground, even if there is as much as a drop of water/dew on the ground, they get wet / soggy and are spoilt. The same happens even if there is a light shower after the buds flower. If you want them in good condition, you have to gently separate them from the branches just before they get detached (Hoovu 'biDisodu' as we say in kannaDa. Not 'keeLodu') or pick them up as soon as they fall to the ground. Very difficult to time it. 

I remember one of my neighbours who had a parijata plant in her compound. She would spread a bed spread under the paarijata plant every night to make sure that the flowers did not fall on the mud. She would come down early in the morning, shake the plant gently to bring down the flowers stuck between the leaves and gather all of them. I used to think her crazy going to such lengths to get a few flowers.  Now, I understand her and in fact, that is what exactly I do. I am getting crazy!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Maruti gad

I have passed in front of this hillock known as ‘Maruti gad’, situated close to the famous Shantadurga Temple at Kavale, Ponda, hundreds of times. Every time I have passed in front of the hill, I have strongly felt that I should go there and climb the hill once. It is not something daunting. May be, just about 200 steps. And it is not more than 5-6 kilometers from my house. I could have made it any day. But I had not done it - during the past thirty years.

Last night after a birthday party, someone in our swimming group (probably in a state when the brain did not know what the tongue was saying) suggested that we go for an early morning walk up to the Shantadurga temple. Nothing big, just a walk of about six kilometers. Still, a surprising suggestion to come after a party at twelve in the night.  Bigger surprise - Five hands went up and the biggest surprise - four of them turned up at the designated spot this morning!

In less than ten minutes we had reached the new road leading to the Shantadurga temple. This is a beautiful stretch of road of about two kilometres, with lot of vegetation on both sides, no ‘development’ along the road yet and hence no traffic. Rains have just ended, mornings are getting foggy and it was very pleasant early in the morning. We reached the end of the road chatting and enjoying the walk and were about to turn back when we noticed the steps leading to Maruti gad. They looked inviting and we decided to go up. It was a cool climb of 237 steps (as one of us counted) and a feast for the eyes. I had carried my camera expecting a Kingfisher or a crane near the swamp next to the road and managed to get some pictures in spite of the early morning fog. Here they are.

The road to Shantadurga

The inviting steps leading to the top of Maruti gad. A bit slippery but beautiful. 
The Shantadurga temple as seen from the top of Maruti gad - with the dew covered hills in the background. 

The chapel of St Roque on top of another hillock near Maruti gad - just before it got fully engulfed by fog. 

A flock of cranes flying in formation over the swampy area next to the road.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Tribute to Our Elders

Sri A S Narayana Rao, we called him Narayana mava,  also known as ‘aNNaNNa’, passed away recently at the age of ninety six. He was my mother’s first cousin. There was a connection from my father’s side also. He was a classmate and close friend of my paternal uncle, my father’s elder brother, Late Sri M S Ramachandra Rao. His younger brother Late Sri Krishnamurthy (KiTTaNNa) and my father, Late Sri M S Srikantiah were classmates and good friends.  My mother has very fond memories of a childhood spent in association of Narayana mava.

Almost all of our relatives, belonging to this generation, have struggled in life, have had very firm beliefs, morals and values and had retained these qualities throughout their life. We, in comparison, have had an easy life but (at least me - let me not speak about others) have also gone easy on values and morals.

I have felt a sense of losing something very valuable every time one of our elders have passed away, starting with Sri Venkatesha das  (H/O Indira, known in family circles as ‘Inna’.) followed by, in the chronological order, My father, my uncles Sri Venkataramiah (H/O Smt lakshmi - popular as ‘Buchchakka’)  my maternal uncle Sri Vijendra rao  and Sri Anandatheertha rao (H/O Smt Savitri  - known as ‘Saatha’). All the ladies mentioned in the brackets are my mother’s sisters. I am unfortunate not to have known one of the couples Smt Satyabhama (Satyakka) and her husband Sri Venkoba rao, closely  (Sri Venkoba rao actually passed away long time back even before Sri Venkatesha das) and have missed another couple, my mother’s eldest sister and her husband (I do not even know their names) entirely.

The ladies of the family, mentioned above, had their own unique characters and each one of them, endearing in their own way. 

All of the family were highly dignified. It is a pleasure to recollect the way in which they always dressed, spoke and in general, conducted themselves.

I miss every one of them and feel a great sense of loss with each one of this generation passing away. This feeling which had remained dormant surfaced yet again when I received the message for Narayanamava’s vaikuntha samaradhane. A patient missed the appointment providing enough time to try putting my feelings to words. My vocabulary is not sufficient  to put down the feelings exactly and effectively but this will have to do as a tribute to all our elders. 

I might have missed or misspelt some and if so, request my kins to add/correct.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Confused thoughts - Inspired by a Spider.

I was intending to wash the portico this morning and went towards the garden tap to turn it on. A delicately woven spider web covering the space between the Hibiscus and the ‘Paarijaata’ blocked my path. I noticed it just in time to avoid my face getting entangled in the web. If it had, we (me and the spider) would have ended up cursing each other and I do not know which way this cursing duel would have taken my thoughts. The light reflecting from the droplets of water festooning the web enabled me to notice it in time and retract. It was not there when I operated the tap last evening and the spider must have been busy through the night braving the pouring rain. A great job for such a small creature. (It is just below the leaf which is projecting out at the center of the frame - difficult to notice. You will have to click on the picture to enlarge it and see). I did not want to disturb the spider’s luncheon plans and managed to crawl under the net to turn on the tap.

The monsoon, which had taken its job easy this season, suddenly seems to have become duty conscious and has been trying to make up for the lapse. It has been pouring for a week now and has been a dampener, literally, during this Ganesha Chaturthi time. I had to go out in the pouring rain, squelching through the dirty market, a bag in one hand and the umbrella in the other, to buy coconuts, betel leaves, five types of fruits and five types of flowers, as also a number of other items required for the festival. Even with both the hands occupied, one with the bag and the other with the umbrella, I could get the things into the bag as the vendors obligingly put the things in, but had difficulty taking out my wallet and paying them. I managed somehow by shifting the umbrella to my arm pit and freeing a hand but after buying the coconuts the bag became very heavy and this exercise was not possible.  I had to turn around and offer my butt to the betel leaf vendor to take out the wallet from my hip pocket and extract his money. Fortunately the vendor was a male. If it were a female, my wise act might have made me spend the festival in the lock up of the local police station.

My religion demands that I go through these difficulties, worship the gods to please them, in general be ‘good’ and follow my ‘Dharma’ (set of duties, laws, conduct and virtues  - or the right way of living) so that I will be able to be born as a better individual in my next life. Follow the same principle, be better in the next life and be born again as an even better individual. If I manage to repeat this again and again, maintaining my standards all the time, for god knows how many cycles, I will be able to be out of this “punarapi jananam, punarapi maraNam, punarapi janani jathare shayanam” loop (being born and dead again and again) and ultimately attain ‘Moksha’. (be a liberated Soul)

I envy the spider. It has no such worries. It seems to be oblivious to the necessity of aspiring for ‘Moksha’ in the future, or the festival, the pouring rain, its conduct and everything else in its present life. It has been capable of weaving a net in pouring rain, has done it and is now staying serenely suspended at the center and waiting for the breakfast/lunch to be served. (Assuming that the web is not damaged by fools passing through it). No shopping, no cooking, no pooja, nothing. Just a bit of hard work. No other distractions and compulsions like me. Just gulp whatever gets into the net and stay calm till some other creature is stupid enough to fall in. In case, before something else falls into the web, you fall in the sight of a bird, you go in one gulp and there is no more need even to weave a web!

I was rushing through these thoughts on perceiving the spider sitting like a saint at the center of its web when my mind suddenly said “hey, wait”. When I waited and slowed down I realized that according to my religion I probably was a spider myself once!  I had been good spider and had followed my spidery ‘Dharma’ to the letter and so was born as a higher being. May be a fish or a frog. After being a good fish or frog I was promoted possibly as a bird. Then maybe I was a cat, rabbit, deer or most likely a donkey. I must have remained a good donkey - not kicking any one, not rolling in the garbage, not braying loud and probably must have carried my load without a grudge - and so have now ended up as Raghunandan. The human donkey. Now, instead of going up the ladder, if I feel that a spider’s life is better and want to be a spider again, I will have to undo whatever I have done till now and be ‘bad’ for many lives so that I can be born as a spider once more.  

Not a bad idea actually. But there is some difficulty. I have finished almost three fourths of my present life and have been living life like a good human donkey - not kicking any one, not shouting at any one, not rolling in the garbage (or doing whatever is equivalent of rolling in the garbage - for a human) and carrying my load without grudge. Now, this behavior has got impregnated in my being. The time left is too short to learn to kick and roll in garbage and go down the ladder. I can only hope to start my journey back to being a spider from my next life. But then I will have to come back to being Raghunandan once again, be bad and then continue going backwards. It may still be worth it. But science puts a spanner into the works. It says that behaving good or bad is not in my hands but in my genes. If I am born again with good behavior genes in me,  I may never be able to get back to the spider stage at all. This life, at least I am capable of having bad thoughts. God knows what happens in the next life. I am confused. I do not know what to aspire for. I hope I am not confusing you.

I will take some time and try to think clearly. As of now, going back to being a spider seems to be a good idea. Have anything helpful to suggest? 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Trek To Virdi Falls

I do not know what made my swimming group, ‘The Early Birds’, decide up on a trek, soon after the white water rafting trip. As I have mentioned earlier they usually need one or two outings somewhere dim and cool to rehydrate and regain energy. But sometimes they are unpredictable. I received a message saying that we have decided to go on a trek to the Virdi falls, near Virdi village, a drive of about an hour and a half from Ponda. From the village the falls is anywhere between one and a half to two and a half hours by walk, depending up on how many times you lose your way.  We lost our way twice, and managed to reach the falls in two and a half hours in spite of our navigator’s best efforts to make us go round and round in the forest crossing and re crossing the stream.

To reach Virdi village (for those interested in doing so) you turn left at Keri just after the Sattari bazaar and go for another 8-10 kilometers, asking directions from whoever you find on the way. You may park your vehicle in front of the temple at the end of the asphalted road and start walking next to the stream. It is advisable to snatch a stout stick from the fire wood stack in front of one of the houses on the way. You may return the stick after the trek. The track actually is the path taken by the excess water when the stream overflows. Assuming that you enjoy walking through clear water, sludge, thorny overgrowth and slippery rocks you will have an enjoyable trek amidst lush greenery. All of us have at least one cut/bruise on the body to prove our treking but, for you, my dear arm chair trekker, I have made it easy. Just follow the pictures and you reach the falls.

Enjoy the lush greenery of the Sahyadri range, dense vegetation and the clear streams without bothering about slipping and breaking a bone, stepping on a snake (king cobras like the place too) or a sudden down pour which may raise the water level in the stream by a foot or two and increase the force manifolds. There are a minimum of three crossings. You may cross it four or five times if the path you expected on the left bank is actually on the right.  After reaching the falls on this post, if you feel like making it on your own feet - I am here to guide you just as our guide guided us. 

Shifting the weight to the legs and getting ready
Marching on the main street - Virdi village
The trek begins through the stream - just ankle deep, easy. 
Out of the stream - on to the jungle path
Enjoy the jungle
Pose for  a picture- smiling - and not knowing what is in store
Reach the stream again. The navigator feels that we have to cross here. But he is not sure. Go ahead anyway and check how 'easy' it is to cross what looks like just knee deep water. 
Crossed the stream. Now duck if you don't like scratches on your face and keep going. And be on the look out for the path.
Where is the damn path? I swear it was here two years ago. Did the stream shift its course? Let us go back and check on the other side.

But the other side seems to be worse. And slippery. But let us keep going. You follow the stream, you have to find the falls. common sense.

Eureka, there is a path here! Not much of a path,
But the falls is visible from here! Forward march!
But watch your step. One wrong step and there may not be any more marching!
A slippery boulder to step on and an even more slippery boulder to support yourself when you slip. This is where I earned my bruises.
The falls at last.

Time to forget the thorny shrubbery, slippery boulders, squishy paths and enjoy the invigorating splash!
The return is simpler. We know where and how to cross and even have time and mood to sit, relax and enjoy the surroundings
Enjoy not just the surroundings but a tasty sandwich in the beautiful surroundings.
And then it is just another hour's walk and you are back in your dirty civilisation!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Large Green Barbet

I was in the middle of my breakfast - 2nd Dosa to be specific - when my wife excitedly pointed out of the kitchen window and said “see, there is a bird there. Barbet, Coppersmith or something, on the guava tree”. I left my plate, ran to the window and found this Large Green Barbet sitting on a branch quite close to us and contemplating on the next move. It sat there for quite some time selecting a fruit, eating it and in the process provided poses which even my shaky (and greasy) hands and obsolete camera could capture. (For those whose eyes are worse than mine - the bird is in the center of the frame)

It looked at the fruit right in front of it, which would have given me a great chance, but decided against it and went for one hidden from my view, even though it had to exert itself to eat it. 
Bending all the way down and eating the fruit.
Halfway through, felt that the day was going well and  paused to give a profile pose - left

Then a profile pose - right 

And looked inquiringly - straight ahead.

Thought that the other side of the fruit may taste better, turned back 
Went all the way down not caring about exposing its underbelly 
 and had flown away by the time I went out for an even better view.