Archive for August, 2005

Things to do..and the monsoon….

August 29, 2005

Leaving on a 7 week trip is stressful…first I have to get the thousands of things…then I have to fit them into 2 suitcases!

It is pouring with rain outside as I write. Bangalore is so lush and green and dustless (if not dirtless or mudless) at this time. I am so reluctant to leave for much warmer and possibly more humid, climes….I just LOVE Bangalore in the monsoon. Having been brought up in Kolkata, where Bengali literature is preoccupied with the monsoon…it’s one of my favourite seasons. It is the season where the ever-present ferocity of the sun is held at bay..it is the season for fecundity and fresh new growth and greenery everywhere, even in the nooks and crannies of old walls….for many years, living in Chennai, I missed the summer monsoon so much…I think the love of the monsoon is deeply ingrained in my psyche.

Preparations…

August 25, 2005

Going away for 7 weeks is tough. The amount of stuff I want to take is staggering. Some of it (the main part) is stuff for others, but things like medication are what I don’t want to run short of. Also, I am unsure what sort of weather to pack for, and so have to include warm clothes that take up both volume and weight. I do remember from the last trip that the majority of my Indian clothes were unworn, so this time I am going to cut down on that….But still one tends to overpack as one does not want to do without.

Sigghhhh….moral of the story, don’t travel to too many places. Huh. Place moral in dustbin…and carry on with packing!

How pilgrimmages have changed…

August 23, 2005

Went on a package tour to Tirupati..can’t help noticing how pilgrimmages have changed. It cost us 1025 for the allegedly a/c bus and accomodation, all courtesy of A P Touris Corpn (AP Tourism, Happy Tourism, according to the incredibly punny message on the back of our bus.) Allegedly a/c, because on the way out, the weather was cool and we didn’t feel it…on Monday morning we realized that only the fan was on and certainly not the compressor; the bus felt stuffy and uncomfortable though bearable, though the driver swore blind the a/c was on.

But the seats on the coach were very comfortable and we reached Puttur, where there was an APTourism motel where we had dinner and we reached Tirupati at 11 pm, where we paid 350 rupees extra to get an a/c room instead of the clean, comfortable, but mosquito-ridden non a/c room, which we got at about 12.30 am.

At 2 am we woke and found hot water in the taps; and at 2.30, bathed and looking suitably devout, we were in the bus which took us the base of the Tirumala hills. Here we transferred to an ordinary bus, after locking and handing over our luggage. This drove us up the winding road to the temple, and the group was ushered in, after we had deposited our cellphones, with no waiting (cf. recent newspaper reports that after waiting more than 90 hours, the darshan of many devotees were cancelled last week,due to the extreme rush.) and were taken in right to the sanctum sanctorum. We got a good view of Sri Balaji for all of 2.5 seconds or so before the workers pushed us physically along the line (they seem to DELIGHT in physically pushing the queue along. They don’t wait for you to move…they take hold and push.) The darshan was at about 6 am. We came out and were taken back to the waiting Volvo bus, where we were reunited with our luggage, and taken after breakfast at yet another Punnami (Telugu for full moon) hotel/restaurant, to the Padmavathi temple at Thirunallar. Then onwards to Kalahasthi, where the ancient temple really captivated both of us, and then lunch back at the Puttur motel, and we returned to Chennai at about 5.30 pm instead of the scheduled 4.30 pm.

The food cost was about Rs.400 all told. We couldn’t get extra laddus, but got two as part of the package deal.

Considering how much “influence” one has to exert to get good darshan at Tirupati, I think this is a good way of going there. But if I don’t go to Tirupati again, I won’t mind….when was the last time anyone strolled in a leisurely way around the Tirupati temple, admiring the sculptures? That’s what I like to do when I visit a temple.I don’t like crowds and I don’t like visiting on auspicious days when temples are the most crowded.

Technology…

August 20, 2005

Was thinking how amazing technology is, that it allows me almost daily, instant contact with a child on the other side of the world….this constant touch prevents me from feeling out of touch.

I wonder how previous generations of Indians, whose children went off abroad and could communicate only through expensive, infrequent phone calls, and delayed, 1 month-old news-bearing aerogrammes, managed…the children too would have felt isolated in the new county, and disoriented in the old when they visited after a few years…the Internet has changed all that.

Amazing technology that is applied to everyday life…difficult to imagine that the same human brain which has thought of this can also contemplate murder and child rape and worse.

What I might be like in the future…

August 15, 2005

I was thinking what it’s going to be like when I am old…not so much old, as old and dependent on someone else, if mentally or physically, I became unable to care for myself.

The first thing that struck me was, how my physical appearance would change. Various parts of me– starting with my eyebrows– that I keep pruned/trimmed/depilated, would revert to their normal hairy states. Then, I would not be able to use the few cosmetics I use right now; I would not be able to cut my own finger- and toe-nails, or exercise regularly the way I have been used to for many years now. All this would certainly change my appearance from a reasonably well-groomed woman, to that sad entity, an unkempt pity-evoking “patient”. I would even have to wear clothes that other people selected for me; I could not, or would not, be able to have a say in these things. My usual maintainance routine–moisturising, depilating, pumice-stoning…would no longer be possible,indeed, no care-giver would know exactly what to do, or do it half as well as I could do it myself.

There would be the daily indignity of having no personal privacy for all my daily ablutions, and daily bodily functions. There would be the shame of having to have someone else clean up my messes.

In the event of a mental impairment, I might change as a person too. In the worst-case scenario that I envisioned, I would become a querulous, demanding, child-without-the-loveablity-of-a-child. I would be a burden on my caregivers. I might no longer the peson that I was, just an organism requiring a lot of care.

Just a physical impairment might also make me contentious and irascible, as my mind would chafe at being bound in an unco-operative body. It would be a daily grind for me,as well as those who care for me. In this context alone, I feel that mental impairment of a complete kind might be better for me…I would not be aware of my deterioration at least. Others might pity me but I would not know it..I might even be happy in a vegetable sort of way if my physical needs were met.

I was thinking whether all the regular exercise that I do would somehow prevent a breakdown of health in old age..the answer is a resounding NO. There is no way to ensure that I live with the full use of my faculties and die quickly, without dependency or suffering. In fact, a friend of mine and I were discussing our respective fathers in law…they both suffered strokes and required 24/7 care, but due to their lifestyles, the physical body was very strong and we saw them living as uncaring vegetables for some time. Her father in law, indeed, would cry like a wounded animal (which was what he was) when his festering bed-sores were touched and cleaned.

If there was any way to avoid this….I would most certainly take it. If I knew that I had a progressive or incurable condition, I might take an overdose of sleeping pills…if I had enough by me! But a sudden stroke might reduce me to a vegetable level before I could take any intelligent decisions about my life-span. I might not have dedicated care-givers even if I could afford them.

The Sanksrit sloka that my grandmother used to constantly say goes like this:

Anaayaasena Maranam, Vinaa Dainyena Jeevanam
Kripaya Paahi Mam Shambho Sharanaagatha Vathsala

(Oh, Shiva, who loves those who take shelter with Him…Please grant me an effortless death and a life devoid of dependency.)

Will saying this prayer whenever I think of it better my chances of attaining this? I hope so!

Dandeli and related thoughts…

August 11, 2005

Did a sudden sneak to the Dandeli Wildlife Resort, run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts….. a mid-week, 2-day break in the “off” season. Well, we realized that Nature has no “off-season”….just a different kind of beauty revealed in different seasons!

The naturalist at Dandeli, Mr Shashi Dhar, is extremely knowledgeable. He answered all my questions, not just on birds (the star of the Dandeli resort are the 4 types of Hornbills), but on butterflies, rock formations, the dams and the work related to them, wild orchid names (there are several growing in the area)…and we were very impressed.

Apart from the hornbills (we even saw the rare Great Indian Hornbill, which apparently is not as common as the Indian Pied and the Malabar Grey, which literally come to the resort terrace to feed off the ashoka tree fruits)we spotted the Racket-Tailed Drongo,the Brahminy Kite, the Crested Serpent Eagle (which Kalyan first showed us at B R Hills), varieties of kingfishers and woodpeckers, sunbirds, and some rainbow-hued bee-eaters, and the nest of a thrush…and also managed to spot gaur, langurs, spotted and barking deer, and wild boar, and saw the webs of many wolf spiders…not bad for the “off-season”, eh? When my spouse joked about not seeing a black panther, Mr Shashi Dhar pointed to a black cat at the side of the road and said, “Just scale that up a little!” His sense of humour made the 2 days even more memorable.

The forest was so GREEN….and lush…the roaring waters of the Kali and the Kaneri (its tributary) were raw with the power that is harvested by the Karnataka Power Corporation (that is an awesome tale by itself…the entire river has been diverted to underground tunnels which pour into the Surge Tank and then is let down in 3 stages, generating about 1400 MW of power….incredible engineering feat!). We enjoyed the sign at Kaneri River-side sign which said, “Swimming is Fatal…no. of people dead till date;- “!! (Er…no figure was visible..)

We took rides to see the monolithic Syntheri Rock with rock bees and rock swallows nesting in the hollows in the sheer face, and to Sykes Point to see the magnificient views. We took a 10 km trek (the road was unusable, which was a good thing for us!) to the Cavala Caves to see the awesome stalactites, and the huge stalagmite that is revered as a Shiva Linga. The warren of caves was awe-inspiring.

On the trek we saw wild orchids, wild brinjal, wild sweet potato, and were ourselves wild with mosquito bites…everything was somehow more mysterious and wonderful in the dim, misty light of the monsoon, with rain spattering suddenly and stopping just as suddenly. At the resort we saw the wild tomato plants beloved of many river birds.

We had a wonderful time without any television, not even a pack of cards….we just flopped into bed after dinner each day, tired out!

We packed so much into 2 days, without the white-water rafting that is the normal draw of Dandeli. (The river was in spate right then.) In fact, we were very lucky, because as we went back, Mr Shashi Dhar got the info that trekking and jeep rides were no longer permitted in the jungle because of the heavy rains..we had just made it!

JLR is an extremely well-run organization. Always VFM. Kalyan….we missed you every step of the way!

The photography….the first blow was that the CF card for the Canon digital camera had been left behind! But never mind, my spouse made full use of the regular Canon…we hope the pics will turn out well…and when the photo lab develops them, I will post the link where they can be seen for a month.

A great time…what a lame way of describing an incredible sensory overload!

A friend has gone

August 8, 2005

A friend (who is also my daughter’s friend’s mother) passed away late this afternoon, 7th August. I don’t know how Sankalpa must be feeling. Her husband, who is normally totally in control, broke down yesterday morning when he called me, saying that the doctors were not holding up hope.

I liked S a lot. She was my friend much before our children became friends.She was a lady with a good heart, with a great talent and an excellent singing voice…one of her great interests in life was music, particularly Rabindra Sangeet. She used to be tickled pink about my reading and writing Bengali as well as speaking it well. She took me along to her Rabindra Sangeet teacher where I learned a couple of songs.

She loved the good things of life…good food, sarees, jewellery, eating out, and travelling. She enjoyed having a place to go to in Kolkata and always felt that Kolkata was home.

She has struggled with extreme ill-health with real courage and determination and it was not often that I have seen her down…she would be incredibly cheerful given the complications and the pain she faced. She was so happy with her children’s achievements and it was a delight to see her joy when talking about her children. Her grandsons, too, particularly the elder one, gave her a lot of joy. She was so happy about her daughter in law; she was so happy when the married couple moved to Bangalore.

Her husband spared nothing in the quest for a treatment that would somehow make her better. Our last visit was just before she went into the hospital…we were all laughing and joking and there was the ease of an old friendship. I remember her joking even then, about how her doctor was probably planning a European holiday on the strength of the fees he was charging her.

We are going to visit her, they have brought her back home.

I know she was suffering dreadfully. But I wish she hadn’t gone. I can’t write any more.

Ah, the uses of LJ!

August 4, 2005

This should tickle your funny bones….we wanted to book for Jungle Lodges’ Dandeli Resort for the coming week. If we have gone to their resorts within the previous 12 months, we get a 10% discount. So I called them up and Murphy’s Law mandated that there was no record of our January booking, when I, my spouse, shortindiangirl and chaibacca the newlyweds, had gone there…

To dig into musty files looking for the receipt was not a welcoming prospect…so I had a brainwave…

went to kalyan‘s blog, looked up his entries for January, when I knew he had referred to our visit….aha!Got the dates and gave it to Jungle Lodges, and lo and behold, their computer brought up the booking too…

Thanks kalyan, for referring to our visit!

Communication….theatre….

August 2, 2005

When each of us uses a word, we seem to mean something that is different from what another person sees in it….I sometimes wonder how communication is possible at all!

Went to see a Girish Karnad play, Hayavadana. How lovely to see a professionally done play! Great acting, good costumes, sets, lighting, music….Mr N Ravi Kumar is a director to be praised indeed. He is taking the initiative to bring translated Kannada theatre to a non-Kannada audience, and doing it very well.

Hayavadana is a parable about what constitutes a “person”…his head and its contents, or his body and its contents. A most interesting concept, developed with humour.