Thursday, September 22, 2016

Kensington Park and Aimless Roaming

We visited a place called Kensington park last evening. We had planned to be there by six but it was nearing seven in the evening when we reached there. Only after arriving at the entrance I realised that it was a very large park with walking and cycling trails, camping sites, boating facilities etc etc. But by then it was already getting dark. We walked along the shore of the lake for a while, ate the packed dinner and returned home. The website says that the park area is about 4500 acres and the lake makes up about 1500 acres. What we saw was about 1/100th of the park. Since the purpose of the visit seemed to be eating the packed dinner, I should say that we did not miss much! Here are some pictures

Serving the 'purpose' 

In the last one week I have zipped around quite a bit of Novi city by car. Most of the roads are good and there is no traffic congestion - at least not at the time that I went around. Somebody  drives the car and I simply have to sit back and enjoy the ride. But the trouble is, if I spot something at which I want to take a second look, the place is half a mile behind by the time I turn to look at it again. All I get to see at leisure are the parking lots and superstores. So, I decided to go around the place on a bicycle this morning and covered about ten kilometers riding at my own pace. I went into other subdivisions to look at the houses, stopped by the road side to read the sign boards, took time to take pictures of whatever I felt like, liked pushing the buttons to bring the traffic to a halt before crossing the roads, rested in the cool shade of peaceful cemeteries, and returned after two hours. Pictures of today’s ride are here.

Almost all the roads in the subdivisions are usually empty. No need to fight with other road users for space.

Observing the 'Development' that is going on in our cities, I  have come to hate the very word. It was heartening to see the space reserved for "undevelopment". How I wish we earmark some such places back home! 

To the right is the parkland meant to remain 'undeveloped'

A giant mushroom on the roadside

Self explanaory

The creek under protection

'Selfie', my style!
Resting awhile, with the eternally resting!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Week Here and Clarkston.

It's Wednesday today. A week since we arrived here. Just like it was on my first visit, I am blown over by the civic sense, discipline and orderliness that I witness every where. The next thing that catches my imagination is the seemingly endless sidewalks running next to equally endless stretches of green lawns. I spend hours just walking and cycling on the sidewalks. The abscence of boundary walls make the already large spaces appear larger. The vegetation may appear to be too geometric to some eyes but I love the sight.

A crane in the protected Rouge river flowing  near our residence
While being enamoured by the sidewalks I am vary of the sprinklers hidden in the grass at regular intervals. They have preset timings and the one next to you may suddenly jump into life, sprinkling you with a generous spray of cold water on a chilly morning!

Did not do anything much other than trying to know the surroundings and since I took the trouble of procuring an international driving licence this time, I am attempting to drive a car. I have started to drive carefully, within the subdivision. I try my best to strictly follow the road signs and lane markings. I have seen (with disbelief!) motorists coming to  a full stop in front of a ‘stop’ sign board even when they have an entire stretch of a mile for themselves and am forcing my brain, which is trained to ignore all road signs, to follow the example. Similarly it is a task to keep to the right side of the road when a part of my brain keeps screaming “You are on the wrong side”!

 The Sunday evening we visited the city of Clarkston, a small city near Novi, Michigan, where I have put up. It is a charming small city next to a picture post card type lake. The houses along the tree lined streets look like a painting!  People were out strolling leisurely on the main street with their dogs on the leash. Some sat next to the large windows inside cosy restaurants enjoying a snack or a drink while children cycled on the side walks. Some stood in groups in front of the shops chatting and some were out in their boats on the lake. The place seemed calm, comfortable and contented. As I walked around the place eagerly filling my eyes and heart with the beauty of the place, I could fully experience the emotion of Kannada poet Pampa when he said “ಮರಿದುಂಬಿಯಾಗಿ  ಮೇಣ್ ಕೋಗಿಲೆಯಾಗಿ ಪುಟ್ಟುವುದು ನಂದನದೊಳ್ ಬನವಾಸಿದೇಶದೊಳ್ “.     While extolling the beauty of the land of Banavaasi and the virtues of it’s people, Pampa says “one should be born, if not as a human, at least as a bee or a bird in this land!”

It may be the case of grass being greener on the other side, I don’t know. I have written what I felt at that moment and here are some pictures of the city.

Beautiful houses with a lake in their backyard.

A cafetaria on the main street

The evening sun forms a pattern on the lawn

Houses on the main street - what a pretty entrance!

A cafe in the street corner

The lake - part of the backyard of most of the houses

A clear water stream runs through the city, adding to the charm.

A side road leads to the lake.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

My Second Visit To The US

I did not expect the fellow manning the Lufthansa check- in counter at Bengaluru airport to be so mean. We were travelling to Detroit via Frankfurt and he offered a free upgrade to business class for both of us for the cost of one. I declined his offer, told him that we were fine with our cattle class but requested him to put both of us together, with one aisle seat if possible. He said that all the aisle seats were full. “That’s why I offered you the upgrade sir,” he added grudgingly and handed our boarding passes. We had got the middle two of the four seats which form the middle row of the Boeing 747. The flight was full and I can understand the situation. Stingy people who do not want to pay extra for the seats of their choice should accept whatever they get.

Anyway, as it happened, the passenger occupying the seat next to us on the Bengaluru - Frankfurt flight was a German working in Bengaluru and since he spent most of the journey chatting with the steward at the back of the aircraft, we could travel in reasonable comfort in spite of the inconvenient seat allotment.

This was my second international travel and this time also I started to feel the jet lag even before the flight took off! You need to report at the airport at twelve midnight and the deprivation of sleep along with the unusual activity in the night makes me hungry much before we board the aircraft. Fortunately some snack is served soon after the take off and I greedily devour whatever is offered at that ungodly hour thereby beginning the messing up of my biological clock. What was served during my present flight was some heavily spiced vegetable mix rolled in a very tough 'Chapaati' along with a slice of cake, but a somewhat decent and edible package was served later in the flight.

I had experienced my first international flight about six years back and had forgotten most of the experience except for the fact that my elbows were in the butter and jam of the breakfast tray of my co passengers when I was eating. After that I had only travelled on the domestic flights where butters and jams do not exist and I had trained myself not to ask for anything other than water. A few hours into the flight I realised that it was not the case here and that I could move around the cabin and get any refreshments as and when required. The food provided was not bad. In fact the fruits, were actually sweet! Moreover there was this ‘Belavita’ cereal and fruit bar which was very good, and there was an unlimited supply. So, the rest of the journey was quite comfortable.

The flight from Frankfurt to Detroit was little more than half full and there were rows of seats vacant. While my wife made herself comfortable by flipping the hand rests of a row of three seats up and converting it into a cosy bed, I could get the free use of a row of two seats and had a comfortable time reading and listening to music. In spite of half the aircraft being empty the fellow at Bengaluru check in counter had allotted us seats 19K and 42H. I think I am justified in calling him mean. We arrived at Detroit right on time and in spite of  about half a ton of food and gifts which we were carrying, the officials waved us through and we were home in no time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Karnataka - Bundh, Rioting and Water dispute - My take.

I saw these news items in yesterday’s Navhind Times. I was at Bengaluru on Monday the twelfth of September and was scheduled to board the flight to US at 3 am on 13th. We planned to start around ten at night and were busy with the preparations when we heard about the disturbances in various parts of the city. I was anxious but thought that things would settle down by night.I got worried when the taxi driver who arrived at eight in the night said that the roads were still blocked at many places and I found him hesitant to start to the airport. But the good fellow could not bring himself to leave me hanging there and we did start. He drove gingerly the first few kilometers, avoiding smoking debris of wood and tyres and there were no difficulties once we reached the major roads.We arrived at the airport well in time. I am happy that we made it ultimately.

Now, what bothers me is not that such disturbances have become commonplace, but the reaction that I got from some of my relatives and friends, the so called educated class. I am of the opinion that whatever be the provocation, an act of rioting or causing public disturbance of any kind, is unpardonable. Which is what most of the bundhs are. But I did not find such a feeling in many of the so called educated or civilised class. Many of them expressed the feeling that “You see this is what happens if the supreme court gives in to the greediness of tamil nadu”  meaning they deprived us of our drinking water and let them face it now. They did not overtly express that it was very much justified. They were blaming the supreme court and they felt that burning TN buses, destroying property of Tamils and causing public disturbance as a mark of retaliation was OK. This temperament is what frightens me.

Coming to the water disputes, as a layman depending on newspapers for the news, I see that right now karnataka has two river water disputes. One with Goa regarding Madei river and the other with TN regarding Kaveri. Last month the water tribunal gave an interim verdict against karnataka in the Madei river dispute. So Karnataka has approached the supreme court asking for relief from the tribunal’s verdict. The same supreme court, which Karnataka feels is the saviour in the Madei dispute, has asked Karnataka to release water to TN and Karnataka is claiming that the supreme court is wrong! And to express this sentiment strongly, the people of Karnataka with the tacit support from the government are destroying their own resources and reputation! God save my home state and home town.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Last Days Of My Mother

It is a month since my mother passed away. I can still visualise her sitting on her ‘custom made’ chair in the room with a book in her hand. She did not move around much, nor did she lie down. She always sat. Sometimes she took a nap, sitting, but was almost always reading. Her presence was like that of the family deity sitting in its place in a corner. Does not do much but provides a feeling that you have someone who cares for you, with you. I don’t notice her absence much but I do feel an emptiness somewhere within me, now and then.

She took care of us when we were young. We took care of her when she was old. But we are not quits. Can children take care of their parents with as much love and concern as their parents did for them? I don’t think it is ever possible. We did to the best of our abilities. She had a mind of her own and we always did what she wanted.  But it was Ok if we couldn’t. She was a very good example of being flexible while remaining firm.  Don’t ask me how that is possible. If you had spent some time with her you would know.  She maintained the trend till the end.

The end was unexpected but was in fact expected. She expected it. Longed for it, rather. But it was unexpected for us. That, in spite of her stating in no uncertain terms, that she was leaving. The trouble was we did not believe that she meant what she was saying. Her end is still puzzling me and feels surreal.

I will try to go back and put down the facts of the last week of her life, in the chronological order. We were climbing down the stairs and the taxi was waiting to take us to the airport. I was to drop her at Chennai and return. She never travelled alone, even by flight. One of her children or grand children had to be there with her.  While climbing down the stairs she missed the last step and fell. Her thigh bone had fractured. She needed an operation and was admitted to the hospital. As she was on blood thinners the surgery was scheduled after three days.  By the end of second day there was a small bed sore and a bit of urinary infection. I was worried that the surgery may have to be postponed but it wasn’t. Considering her age - 88 years, the surgery went very well. As per the operating surgeon’s prognosis, she was expected to be able to sit the next day, stand after three days, and be home on the fifth. Very optimistic.

She was operated in the morning and was under sedation till night. All her medical parameters were fine. Since my sister had arrived to be at her side, I went home hoping to make up for the previous three sleepless nights. The first indication that she was not her normal self, came about half past eleven when my sister called. “Amma is behaving weird” she said. “Says that people have come to take her and she has been chanting Naraayana, Naraayana (Name of the Lord).  The staff are unable to control her and it is disturbing others in the ICU. I think you better come here.” I went there and tried to calm her down. “Calm down?”she retorted, “can’t you see? They have come to take me. If I stop chanting they will carry me with them immediately. I am ready to go but am asking them to wait for two days. Just two more days. I want to see my son and I want to go home.  After that they can take me with them.” 

I had to call for all the mental resources at my disposal, which again, is not much, but managed to quieten her a bit. Made her swallow a tablet to induce sleep but it was of no use. She continued chanting ‘Hari Narayana’ through the night, but in a low tone so that it did not disturb others. After sometime she called me closer and said “You think this is funny? You are not getting what I am trying to say”.

I discussed the matter with my brother in the morning and we decided that it is some sort of psychosis and that she will get over it. He had some pressing work and said that he would finish his work and reach Goa after a few days. I agreed with him. In fact I said that there is no hurry and mother is fine.

Amma did not get over her ‘psychosis’. She kept insisting that she will be gone after a day or two and reluctantly took the medicines and underwent the physiotherapy. She very clearly mentioned that none of those things are of any use and that she is trying to do what she is told, just to humour us.

She kept seeing things and chanting the lord’s name for the next forty eight hours, without break. She did not sleep. In between she spent few minutes recollecting her past and requested forgiveness from people if she has hurt them inadvertently. When I insisted that she get some sleep, she said “I am going to close my eyes one last time. If I close them now, I will not open them again.”

All this when we thought and when in fact, she was, perfectly normal medically. There were no complications and the surgeon felt that she can go home in another three or four days based on her progress with physiotherapy. Whenever her grand children called on the phone, or when there were visitors, she took a break from her chanting and talked to them as usual recollecting all relevant facts about them.

The third night a small dose of an anti psychotic drug was given and I found her a bit drowsy with her eyes closed when I returned to the hospital after dinner. She had stopped chanting at last and may have been sleeping. My son was holding fort that day and was by her side. I went to sleep with much relief.

I was woken by some noise. Mother was coughing and there seemed to be some gurgling sound from deep inside her throat. My son had already informed the doctor on duty and they were using a nebuliser to make her breath better. When it did not help much, she was shifted to the ICU again. She was put on Oxygen, a suction machine was put into use and her throat cleared. The attending physician and the anaesthetist examined her, felt that it was some congestion of the lung caused by inactivity, assured me that she was fine and told me that she could be taken back to the ward in the morning. It was decided that the physiotherapy be stepped up from the next day so that her lungs got back to normal fast.

I was falling asleep whenever there was no action and within fifteen minutes I was sleeping again. An attended woke me up around 1 am and said that I was required in the ICU.

The physician was there again and she escorted to me a room next to the ICU, made me sit and said “I am very sorry. Your mother vomited about half an hour back, aspirated it (swallowed and got it into the lungs) and had a cardiac arrest. I am afraid nothing much can be done.” Some exercises were being carried out to bring her back to life which only worked partially and I knew that she would be alive just as long as the ventilator kept breathing for her. By the next afternoon it was not needed anymore.

It was then that I realised that my mother meant every word that she was speaking during the last forty eight hours of her life and we were foolish enough to conclude that it was psychosis. From the first indication that something may be wrong with her, to her being no more - was just about an hour and a half.

This is precisely the happenings, post surgery, as I recollect. Now, the questions that are not answered are

Assuming whatever she said about people having come to take her away was just imagination - Was it just co-incidental that she said those things when she was normal medically and that she really happened to die forty eight hours later?

Did she will herself to die? (She had made it abundantly clear that she would not like to be on the bed, needing assistance for every small thing)

Did she really see that her end was very near?

Is it possible that a human being decides to end his/her life and the body obliges in some way or the other?

Going by what I have written above, I am forced to answer “Yes” to all the questions except the first,in spite of a part of my brain insisting that it is not possible. And my biggest regret at this moment is not asking my brother to rush and come over - in spite of her repeated pleading. She did not plead to me to call him, she was pleading with the lord to wait till she saw her son. My brother. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rain walk - Anant temple Savoiverem 

After I had noticed some pain in my right knee joint, I had almost stopped walking. I went swimming every day and walked only a kilometer or two once in a way.  The orthopaedists whom I consulted, said “reduce walking and climbing but you may continue the Yoga exercises.”  But then, I noticed that even though there was no pain while doing my 'Yoga' exercises, the knees twisted considerably during 'Padmaasana' and as a trial, stopped Padmaasana for a few days. The pain in the knees reduced considerably. I stopped Padmaasana altogether and the pain almost disappeared. I started walking more and more. No trouble. I went back to my 3-4 km walking routine and then increased to five. No difficulties. 

Since the last two months I had been gradually increasing the distance and reached ten kilometers. Last Sunday we decided to walk to the Sri Anant temple at Savoiverem near Ponda and we walked the distance of 11.5 kilometers in two hours. It was pouring and we were soaked. But whenever the rain reduced a bit and allowed taking the camera out, I took some pictures. I will never tire of watching, clicking  and posting the abundant greenery of the Goan countryside during rains. Sorry if you are tired. And sorry for the story of my knee. it was a preamble for my walk report.

The Ponda- Savoiverem road, clean and green. The only traffic, three pairs of legs! For a short while there were another four pairs which belonged to the two foxes which jumped onto the road from the wooded area next to it. But as soon as they saw us they disappeared into the shrubs not waiting to pose for my camera.

The wooded area mentioned above

Occasionally the roadside shrubs gave a break exposing the hilly area beyond and the clouds hanging over it.

Another part of the road. A gentle climb taking you to the green plateau shown below. 

This is where you hear peacocks screaming their head off. If you go deeper and if you are lucky, may see them.
The temple of Sri Anant.  My favourite temple. What you see here is the back. the front is facing the river about a hundred meter away. The Temple is almost always empty. Rarely you find one or two others in the temple, having come there to seek the god's, opinion on some important matter. You may see the priest if you go there late in the evening. The worship starts late evening and goes on till mid night or beyond. It takes hours to make the elaborate coloured sandal paste decoration and it is promptly removed soon after and the temple is closed!

My friends Shivdeep and Pramod who joined me for the walk.

The forecourt - clean, silent and picturesque.  Wonderful place for meditation if one is inclined

The temple premises

The interior, the pillar to the right is the sacred pillar through which God's opinion is elicited.
Wet flowers are stuck on to the pillar and based on the pattern in which they fall down, the priest interprets the verdict.

Greenfields around the temple. Soothing to the eyes.