How Green ! …… but, for how long? 

An Urban Dilemma. 

How Green IS My Valley ! No, there is no error or grammatical mistake. It is very much a present day situation. However, in the near future it indeed may turn into past tense. 

These images are the views from our balcony and window.

This is not some far-off, out of the city, place. It is right in Mumbai city, within walking distance from a huge mall. Difficult to believe? But it is true.

Whenever people call Mumbai a concrete jungle, I beg to differ. I wish they could visit our little corner in the city. Yes, I do fully agree that what they say is true for most part of this metropolis. I guess I have been lucky — to have always been surrounded by greenery.

Even during my childhood, we used to live in a quiet Mumbai suburb (which is no more quiet, nor green) surrounded by coconut, mango, neem, jack-fruit, moringa (drum-sticks) trees. It wasn’t much different from village life – with city amenities.
We could boast of things like throwing stones to get raw mangoes or tying long rope swings to the neem tree …. in the same way as people talk about their native place memories. The things did change over the years and the big trees were cut down one by one.

The area where I live now, had a rule that each housing complex had to leave open space of certain area proportionate to their built-up area. So this ensured sufficient play area for the children, space for garden etc. Most of the housing societies planted big shadowy trees around and over the years they have grown to spread their green umbrella all around.

Ayurveda emphasises the importance of Neem tree. It is well-incorporated even in our gastronomical culture. In most of the Indian states, the Hindu new year (Gudi Padwa or Ugadi) commences with juice of Neem leaves. The breeze flowing through the Neem is considered as the purest possible air. So isn’t it great that the gently undulating, soft green Neem leaves are within a hand’s reach from the balcony?
Next to that is an equally huge Almond tree, resplendent with its wide leaves. These two trees, along with some smaller ones like guava etc., completely fill the front view.

It is not only the greenery, these trees attract such varied types of birds, butterflies, even squirrels. (More so around the Almond tree, but this badam tree deserves a separate post by itself). The usual fauna of sparrows, crows and pigeons is of course a-plenty, but here even parrots reside in equal number. Then there are bulbuls, mynahs, egrets, tiny thrush …. and many more which I cannot recognise …… need Dr. Salim Ali’s help here.

On the other side, rows of Gulmohur trees along the boundary wall spread their green, yellow and red magic, according to the season. The green compound leaves move in gentle waves with the breeze; in fall when it is time to shed the leaves, the trees sprinkle their gold treasure, just like a golden carpet, on the earth below. And during summer, the Gulmohur looses all its green and yellow, and blazes up in a magnificent red fire!
Look how the soft leaf is reaching out, as if to say Hello!

But don’t they say, all the good things have to come to an end?
This locality and all its buildings are growing old. A new solution has come forth in the form of Re-development of the buildings.

Ask anyone, they’ll say it is a boon in today’s time. A brand new house, new construction with all state-of-art amenities. Not only that, bonus of an additional FSI.
In this age of inflation, a bigger, better and new house — at no extra cost! Who wouldn’t want it?

    Another angle from the same balcony – new construction towering over the coconut and       betel-nut fronds.

Already the surrounding old housing societies are being converted into high-rise towers. However, nothing comes free and everything has a price. So the bigger, better houses come at the cost of the greenery, the chirping …..the Nature!

But if people are going to get so many benefits (without spending a dime), then who would bother about some silly trees and their greenery? In today’s age, material things rank high, much higher than something called Nature!

It may sound like, having your cake and eating it too. But couldn’t there be a possible via-media, where a new construction could be developed without destroying the nature around?

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How I wish that my ‘Wish’ wasn’t this!

Weird? But true!
I am sure this must be the uppermost thought in everyone’s mind – Women’s safety! No one would disagree with this wish. And in spite of this, one has to wish for it!.

Much has been written about the topic. ( I admit, I too am doing just the same) But does it make any difference to the intensity of the issue? Does it lessen the tightness of the tense knot a girl feels every time she steps out of her institute/office at a late hour? Does it diminish the gnawing worry of a mother as she stands by her window, staring out with unblinking eyes at the dark, deserted road ahead?

Many people blame girls for creating situations by partying out till late hours. But all the females who return home late, are not out there  for clubbing and pubbing purposes. Most of them have to stay back at their desks for studies or work.

In today’s cut-throat competitions, refusal to work for the extra hours could cost them a much-required job. 
A young mother I know, had to wait and work beyond 10 PM to finish the workload. She somehow managed for a few days. But when she realised that it was fast becoming a routine, she spoke to her superiors, explained about her small child at home and requested to be relieved at a reasonable hour.
The young lady was bluntly told that her personal difficulties were her own issues and if she couldn’t work late to complete her tasks then there were many who were more than ready to jump at the opportunity.
With the cost of living soaring sky-high, only a husband’s salary is not sufficient, so how could she let go of a well-paying job? Finally, she called her parents, who lived in other city and the retired parents shifted their base to take care of her baby and her house.
All they can do is, to look after the child and house-chores. But the girl still has to stay out till late and travel back home at very late hours.  
Probably the bosses are helpless, too,  — may be they have their own compulsions and pressures to deliver in time.

For CA students it is a regular thing to work late, especially during their article-ship. Even after completing the degree, their working hours are quite stretchable and strenuous. 

Not only these, in most other fields, too, the lengthy workings hours has become a norm.
 I have mentioned hardly a few things  — the problem is Huge! So my entire wishlist for Santa comprises of only one wish – A safe environ for all women!
[I feel it is a pity that one has to wish for something that is a basic right of human being. And that’s why the title of this post. I really wish that my wish for Santa was something —- anything, different than this.]

But has our dear Santa heard of this issue, living as he does on the remote North Pole? May be he has. And if he hasn’t, then let us make him aware of it.

And then, Ho Ho Ho! 

Cheers! Let us hope that Santa would work his magic and gift us a truly



This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

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City Of Traffic Woes!

Recently I came across a post by a Bangalorean, exasperated with the transport issues of the city. I couldn’t agree more with everything that was written in there.

I am not from Bangalore. Several previous visits to the city, way back in the last century, had left a fond impression of the place. There was a big gap in between. Then two visits in this one year made me wonder, whether this was the same city?

I agree that these recent visits were not to the main/old city, but to the fast developing outskirts area. When new townships are erected, one would expect a better and planned development. I guess the outer ring road was meant to ease off the traffic, instead it ended up creating more bottle necks at the cross roads.

The long drive from the airport is interspersed with halts — that’s natural. But as we almost reach the destination, there are long, unmoving stretches of stranded cars. Isn’t there any signal system, one wonders – because, at the cross roads, cars just rush in from all four sides and no one is ready to back off. And then it is a stand still — for hours!
This happens on a dry, normal day. God alone knows what must be the conditions during rains!

The airport cabbie pointed out how the traffic police was coolly enjoying his tea at a roadside stall — as if the traffic was moving smoothly and there was no need to bother about it! Our destination was within walking distance, but what about luggage?
If this is the plight of the visitors, I wonder what the office-goers must be facing everyday!

Now, doesn’t this resemble some nice, snowy scene – possibly from some foreign land? This is Bangalore traffic – stalled, because of, mind you, foam flying in the air!
I wouldn’t have believed this, had it not been the windshield of our family’s vehicle.

Traffic itself was not bad enough, this terrible pollution adds fuel to fire. Coming from a city (in)famous for its pollution, I thought I had seen every possible type. But foam flying in the air! It seems the effluence from the surrounding chemical factories is drained in the nearby lake (I think the name is Bellandur Lake) and then it rises from the lake like some monster and hinders the traffic. The traffic jams would be comparatively okay, if you consider its other implication — the type of health hazards which these flying chemicals would cause! Somebody mentioned that this foam also catches fire. Now I haven’t seen that, but if the effluence contains inflammable chemicals, then even that is possible.

If all this was not sufficient, then the auto guys are out to fleece you. For a distance of 1.5 to 2 km, they demand no less than 70 Rs. and when a currency of 100 is handed over, they return only a ten or so, and coolly drive off, saying ‘No more change’.
Two of our family members, who were visiting Bangalore, travelled some place nearby by auto. On reaching the destination, they gave a 100 to the autowala. Just as they turned around — whoosh! within a blink of an eye, the note disappeared and the auto guy insisted that they had never given him any money. One person can make a mistake or forget, but both the ladies clearly remembered  giving him money. He was insistent and started creating a scene, finally succeeded in extracting more money.
Such blatant cheating! Never seen in the bad, bad (considered so by others, not me definitely) city of Mumbai.

On the whole, commuting in the city of Bangalore —— wouldn’t wish it even on the enemy!

Here is hoping for a change for better and hoping that the city would regain its lost aura and its lost title — City of Gardens!

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Relatively a new entrant to this world, I am still wandering around wide eyed through the highways and by-lanes of this enchanting space! So many varied topics and such a vast, wide field stretched upto the horizon — and beyond! I keep hopping and jumping from post of one blogger to the next — totally forgetting about everything else.

Each one of the post that I read, I get impressed either with the entire post or at least some part of it and wish to mention it in the comments. An entire day (week, month….) may pass in reading, but the tremendous treasure of posts would only go on increasing.

That’s why I feel as if the blogosphere is like a huge iceberg . So far I have read only some of the Indian Bloggers, and not even touched the foreign shores. So I feel I have not explored even the tip of this iceberg — can’t imagine how vast the entire iceberg would be!

The more one reads, the more is the realisation that many skills are required here. If you have an expertise in one field, it can give a base to move forward. Only a passion for writing is not sufficient, a talent for writing , a way with words is very essential.

Recently I came across an article by a Marathi poetess/writer late Ms. Shanta shelke. It was about ‘Conversation’. In that two page write-up she had so interestingly put forth various types of conversation, how it can make or break a relationship, how – and why one opens up so easily with strangers during travels so on and so forth. She created something so beautiful from just one word – ‘conversation’, — like a magician puling a miracle out of nothing! Now that is some talent!

Some blogs that I came across, did reflect that expertise of smooth flow of words. Reading these blogs is a real joy — without using any bombastic words things are put in such a simple yet catchy manner!

Apart from a good write up, an attractive picture display truly makes a post go places. I stumbled upon some blogs which have such stunning visuals that I was totally dumbstruck! It was really a humbling experience.

And along with all this, a technical know-how of how to manage a blog! Well, so many varied skills required — Phew!

So, the only question left is, how to manoeuvre the ship (read it as – blog) around this iceberg without crashing against it 🙂

Rain Splashed Diwali —–

This is how the sky appeared on the eve of Diwali. Unbelievable? At least for me it was a bit difficult to believe that it could pour so hard during Diwali …. It truly was a novel experience.

The festival of lights is celebrated at home every year. There would be visits to relatives and friends, but basically we would be stationed in our home-town. This year we were in another city – Bengaluru, during the festivities.

Right from the day we reached the city, the skies were perpetually clouded and gloomy. Everyone was hopeful that it would clear up by the festival time, but instead, the rains kept increasing from Dhan Teras right through Diwali.

An occasional shower during Deepavali is not absolutely unheard of, but such incessant rain? It was more like the month of July than November.

Along with the heavy rains came all its paraphernalia, too – disrupted electricity supply, mud and slush, pot-holes filled with rain water, traffic jams ……everything in minutest details.

The local newspapers ran pictures of bumper to bumper rows of cars, with all their tail-lights uniformly blazing red, on the jammed roads. It was as if the cars were rejoicing the festival of lights with only the tail-lights glowing brightly in the dark of the night.

On the Lakshmi Pooja day, the rains started receding by late afternoon – it did return the next day, but at the time of Pooja it was all clear and immediately everybody came out to celebrate and burn crackers. Within minutes the darkening skies sparkled with splendid fireworks.

Some locals said that rains during Diwali time are a usual thing in Bengaluru, while others felt that it was because of the sudden atmospheric changes. Whatever may be the reason, it was a different experience and an enjoyable one.

Another – and the true reason for the merriment was ….after almost a decade the family was enjoying the festival together.

Long time back, it was an era of joint family, then came the nuclear families. And now is the time of ‘dispersed families’. Either for education or job or for some such factor, nowadays the members of most of the families are spread over in different corners of country/world. It is not always possible to spend time together or celebrate occasions together due to some reason or the other. So, it is ‘Sone pe suhaga’ when the family is together and the occasion is the grand festival of the year.

Weighty issue …….

Come festive season and the daily newspapers get packed with innumerable advertisements. You name it and it is there — jewellery, food products, clothes brands, home appliances – electronics, eateries, home décor, malls and supermarts, bridal trousseau ….. the list is endless. And not to forget the full page glossies of the builders and their ‘irresistible’ festive offers!

So many advertisements, that someone can easily do a Ph.D. on it and there wouldn’t be any dearth of research material — reams and reams of papers are utilized just for this one purpose. Pick up any daily with its supplements and you can get sufficient data to accomplish the research in one newspaper.

So many varieties and innovations! You keep turning pages after pages in hope of finding some article and all you get is ads and more ads. Even the articles could be anything but that; many eateries and malls go for paid articles — so once again it is nothing but an ad. You find some celebrity posing with various brands and products and gushing how it is so convenient to find everything under one roof!

Of course, in this age of stiff competition, every trick in the book is essential for running — and winning — the game of business.

But one gets to hear that the reading habit in general is on the wane because of the boom in the audio-visual media. So I wonder whether people really do refer to these ‘n’ number of ads in the print media?

This is an era of on-line shopping — and it is catching up really fast, mainly because of its convenience. So, with the numerous established and sprouting on-line shopping portals, is there any relevance of the ads in print media? ….. Or, may be because of the onslaught of this new-age shopping, it has become a must for the businesses to take their products to the common person via print media.

I am not much of a shopper, so I may not understand the value of these advertisements. But my neighbour  does often borrow the thick supplement (the thicker the supplement, the happier she is) to search for latest sales in nearby malls. So I guess there is a market for these ads.   

Whatever may be the reason or the result of the advertisements in the newspapers, it ends up bulking up the volume of the daily paper. 

Believe it or not, this was the stack of newspapers and its supplements that we received this morning.

If this is the thickness of the material to be delivered at one doorstep, imagine how much bulk the paper boy must be carrying to deliver the dailies to all the apartments on his route! How much weight would he be lugging from one apartment to another!

It is also more time consuming for the paper boy, as the stack doesn’t get easily tucked in the door grill or door handle. As it fell off outside the door, he said apologetically, “It is so thick, no! It doesn’t stay in place and falls off due to the weight….”
Apologising for something that is not his fault. And does he get any Diwali bonus for his extra efforts?

Everybody from A to Zee marks their presence at the doorstep during Diwali. Even the people who hardly do any service (for which they get paid) also linger around for ‘Bakshish’ or tip. But in so many years of paper-reading, I’ve never seen a paper boy approaching for a tip during Diwali. 

And to think that they deliver our daily dose of news, scandals, entertainment, ads, all 365 days of the year — be it rain or sunshine. When we browse through pages and pages to spot a ‘Sale’ that is most suitable for us, do we spare a small thought to the boy who delivered those reams in our  hands?

Looking at the volume of a daily newspaper, I guess the paper boy does deserve a consideration this Diwali.  

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Vijaya Dashami And The Tradition Of Exchanging ‘Gold’

Vijaya Dashami – the one festival that is celebrated all over India. Each region of India has different ways of celebrating it, different customs and traditions to follow.

There is a particular custom which is observed by the people of Manarashtra – exchanging leaves of a specific tree, which the Maharashtrians call as ‘Aptyachi pane’ or leaves of Apta tree. The botanical name of the tree being – Bauhinia hookerii. But these leaves are not exchanged as mere leaves but as a token of Gold.  

How this tradition came into practice? There is a legend behind it – 

A Brahman named Devdatta had a young son, Kautsa. He went to Rishi Varatantu for earning knowledge. After completing his education, Kautsa requested his teacher or Guru to ask for his Guru dakshina. Rishi Varatantu was not very keen on this, but Kautsa insisted that the Rishi should ask for his Guru dakshina. Then Rishi Varatantu said, give me fourteen crore gold coins, one crore each for the fourteen sciences that I taught you. 

At that time the kingdom of Ayodhya was ruled by King Raghu, an ancestor of Shree Ram, who was well-known for his generosity. Kautsa went to King Raghu and requested for fourteen crore gold coins. King Raghu was unable to fulfil his demand as he had just then accomplished the Vishvajit Yagnya or sacrifice and had donated all his wealth to the Brahmins. 

So the King went to Indra, King of the Gods and requested for the gold coins. Indra summoned Kuber, the treasurer of the Gods and asked him to shower gold coins on all the Apta trees in and around Ayodhya. Kuber did the needful and all the Apta trees were showered with gold coins. King Raghu gave all the coins to Kautsa, who in turn gave those coins to his Guru as Guru dakshina.

Rishi Varatantu accepted only fourteen crore coins. Kautsa took the remaining coins back to King Raghu. But the King refused to take those coins, saying that he had given those as ‘Daan’ or donation and so he could not take them back. 

Kautsa then distributed all the remaining gold coins among the people of Ayodhya Nagari. 

Since then it became a custom to exchange the leaves of that particular tree as a symbol of gold. 

Image courtesy: Flickr.

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Sarbojanin Durga Puja

A mini-Kolkata in our humble neighbourhood.

Our area doesn’t boast of any overwhelming Bengali population. So it is a bit surprising yet very nice that a few years ago Kallol Kali Mandir was built here. A very neat and nice place of worship.

The locals are always regular at this place, but apart from them celebrities also often visit the temple. Our locality is flanked on both sides by stretches of areas with housing complexes where people from TV and music industry, character artists from movie industry reside. One can often see the show-biz people visiting the Kali temple. But that is beside the point.

It is Durga Puja time and like each year Kallol is celebrating the festival in all its grandeur.
The Pandal is decorated to the T. The main deity, Mahishasur Mardini shines in all her splendour, along with Ganapati and other deities.

Starting from Panchami the Puja festival goes upto Vijaya Dashami and even beyond that – Bodhon, Kalparambha Puja, the Saptami Puja on the third day and Dhanuchi dance in the evening. Maha Ashtami Puja, Kumari Pujan on Navami – all the traditions are followed witt reverence. Kojagari Lakshmi Puja is held four days after Dashami.

                                                 The Entrance of Puja Pandal

                                          Beautifully decorated Pandal

                                         Mahishasur Mardini and other deities

Everyday Bhog or Prashad is distribute and people wait in long queues to enjoy the steaming rice and vegetable preparation served in big leaf bowls.

Quite a number of stalls are erected around the temple and the Puja Pandal.  A long row of stalls is especially reserved only for food specialties from Kolkata.  An article in a leading daily gave the food specialty of each famous Pandal around Mumbai. The famed Kolkata Roll was mentioned as the specialty of this particular Puja Pandal.

                                             Food stalls serving Kolkata specialties 

Mention of food brings to mind: Many people fast during Navaratri, eat one meal or only milk and fruit; the Durga Puja devotees do have their days of fast, of course, but they also relish mutton rolls, maangsho baat, cutlets etc. – such is the beauty of India’s cultural diversity.
The other stalls display traditional Bengali things like Sindoor, the conch bangle Shakha and pola, Alta etc. But of course, most of the crowd – especially women –  throng the stalls of exquisite Kolkata Sarees.

                                               The irresistible Kolkata Sarees

As I said, a mini-Kolkata is created in a quaint corner of Mumbai.

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Colour Coded ….. Navrang!

It is Navratri – nine nights of Garba – Dandiya Ras. And also nine days of Mahalakshmi festival. Each region has a special way of celebrating this festival. Kolkata is famous for its Durga Puja.

Mumbai also has a unique, a very distinct way of celebrating this festival of the Goddess….. Mumbai Navrang. The nine colours of the nine days.
The ancient Mahalakshmi Temple of Mumbai, which is frequented by the worshippers all around the year, truly comes alive during this time. Apart from the long serpentine queue of the devotees and the grand fair, there is one more special feature.

Each of these nine days, the Goddess Mahalakshmi is prettily decked up in rich sarees of nine different colours. The temple issues a release in advance, giving the colours of these nine sarees for the nine days. The local newspapers publish these ‘Colour of the day’ …. and also the colour of the next day.

………. And then the entire city is flooded with that particular ‘Colour of the day’. Now since last so many years, almost all the female population of the city very earnestly follows this tradition. Wherever you go, whether it is a vegetable market, a transport bus or the railway station — everywhere it will be only one colour.

It is not as if only the traditional, old-fashioned orthodox women observe this trend, even the youngsters, college-going girls also are particular about matching the colour of their salwar-kameez or shirts or stoles with the colour of that day. And why only girls or women, one can see that even some boys co-ordinate their attire with the day’s colour. Of course the male brigade may not do it for all nine days, but they do try to wear the same colour at least on one or two days.

The colour for Thursday was yellow. And this is how a local railway platform looked like on that day — 

                                               Picture courtesy: Triveni

If you enter an office – any office, the entire female staff would be in same coloured dresses. Get inside a ladies compartment of local railway, only one colour would meet your eyes. There is so much of enthusiasm that the ladies discuss and plan their choice of attire well in advance. Some, of course, pick up a matching one from their daily wear. But most of the women don’t miss this chance to  air their fineries……a silk or brocade saree of the colour of the day, matching accessories like bangles, earrings, hand bags….they really go all the way.

One whole page of the local newspapers is dedicated to the photographs of groups of women in that day’s colour. Office colleagues, bank employees, school teachers, even ladies clubs of housing societies click themselves in groups and send it to the newspaper in a hope to shine on the colour coded page.

This entire exercise may not have any great significance, but it definitely brings some novelty, some welcome change in the mundane routine of the fast, busy metro life.
And indeed, it is a great sight to witness these — Navrang.


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World Animal Day 

So it is World Animal Day today. What is the point in glorifying the animals for one day when, for the rest of the 364 days we treat them inhumanly, cruelly. Something  strange — humans treat animals inhumanly, but the animals don’t behave ‘inhumanly’. Here, one shouldn’t point fingers at the attacks by the wild animals, there isn’t any pre-planned motive behind the attacks; it is only instinct, sheer basic instinct – food and hunger. What can they do when their food, their habitat is taken over – without a provision of an alternative.

Mostly the animal day is celebrated as Pet day – as if apart from our own animals, no other animal exists or they do not matter, they are not worth the bother. But majority of the animal world lives out there – out of the boundaries of our abode.

Most of them we look down upon as ‘strays’ or ‘wild’. But aren’t they a ‘life’ like us and our pets? 
Is it his fault that he is a stray or wild? Was he given an option to select the circumstances or surroundings of his birth? How can we brand a life as an outcast? (But if a human can outcast another human, then what is a mere animal?)

And they are capable of returning love in immense measures. All that they need is a wee bit of attention, a speck of love. Ever tried making a soft, cooing sound while passing a stray on the road? His ears would immediately perk up, he would look alertly at you and if you say a word or two, he would follow you like a slave. Next time whenever you pass that path, he is sure to remember you and indicate that he has recognized you.

People may argue that they create a lot of nuisance, then we have to take measures to minimize the trouble, but without eliminating the lives.

Don’t they have any right to live? All they need is a little food. But for that they have to search garbage bins. If some kind souls offer them a little bit of food, they get criticized for their kindness.
There are three or four families in our locality who regularly try to give something to the strays and one should see it to believe the way these strays react as soon as they spot any of these human friends.
Surprisingly, some among these strays are pedigree dogs, probably abandoned by their masters. Their plight is even more pitiable – always used to cozy life and pampering, they cannot even fend for themselves.

Many youngsters who come to this city seeking job opportunities, perhaps feel lonely and homesick and they take in pets as companions. A young girl staying in our housing complex on a live-and-license basis, had a cat at her home. While vacating the place after eleven months, she left the cat behind. May be she had her own reasons or difficulties, but now this poor pretty cat roams around, not knowing from where to get her meals. After leading a protected life, she is so innocent and trusting that she goes after whoever she sees, rubbing her back, pleading for attention and food. It never occurs to her that the opposite person could be a threat to her. Every once in a while she produces a brood of tiny, cute kittens, takes them along from place to place and gets shooed away by one and all. 
What is her fault?

So, I feel we can celebrate World Animal Day when each person on this earth realizes that – 

(Here are a few videos, I know that these are not exactly new or novel ones, but still I can’t get enough of the love of the animals shown here.)
The first one is an adorable apology of a four legged on getting scolded for being a bad boy.

This video is courtesy a beautiful National Geographic article.

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OM  गं गणपतये नमः !

By Asavari Deshpande
So many things have changed over the years, but one thing that did not diminish even by a fraction – my affinity for the ‘Aarati’s sung during the Ganapati festival. Just as some loud speaker in vicinity starts blaring, my lips automatically follow the words.

Don’t remember ever taking efforts to memorize these devotional tunes, don’t know when they got engraved in there. I’m sure, it must be the same with everyone who attended Ganapati celebrations during their childhood. Something like cycling or swimming, once you learn, it is never forgotten.

Now all the housing societies have these festivities – a good custom as everyone gets to meet for a happy occasion. But back then it wasn’t mandatory for the co-op housing societies to celebrate a community Ganapati festival. It was celebrated more as only family tradition.
Two or three families in the neighbourhood observed this custom of bringing the Lord home every year. We all hopped from one house to the next, for the morning and evening pooja. The families, too, were accommodative – one family would wait for the other family to complete the Aaratis, so that the whole group could run from one house to the other. Then once again it would be a competition amongst all, to see who could sing at the highest pitch and who could hold breath the longest during particular stanzas.
I enjoyed the Aaratis to the fullest in one particular household – all because of the dholak that accompanied the singing and clapping. It is a totally different experience to sing in a big group on the rhythm of a dholak. Divine!

Year after year the Aaratis create the same magic and give only more and more of happiness. Ganapati Bappa Moraya! 


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Celebration Time

In this era of Limos and Champagne, writing about trains — not even Metro, mind you, just plain old Mumbai local trains — sounds downright down-market.
However, some things do leave some mark somewhere. The world inside a local compartment has a life of its own — breathing, pulsating, beating every minute of the day.

It need not be always fights and arguments. Sometimes, suddenly amidst the peels of laughter, there are lilting notes of ‘Happy Birthday to you …..may God bless you……’

Groups of females, taking the same local to same destination each day – come rain or sunshine – , form a strong bond during the travel. Each lady belonging to a different age group, coming from different social and educational background, working at different places in different capacities, come together during the daily commute and turn into travel buddies.

Such groups, especially those who take the local from its starting point, usually manage to acquire their particular corner of the compartment every day, and can avail the luxury of comfortable journey. (Lucky females, because, those who get in at later points, have to manage by standing on one foot  😛 )
Usually, the chatter doing rounds is about domestic and professional highs and lows. but if it is a special occasion, then it is properly — as properly as is possible in an overflowing, running train — celebrated. A small cake is magically produced and unveiled, then out come the paper plates and disposable spoons or forks. There are also packets of other munchies. Pre-cooled soft drink bottles are opened with a fizz and disposable glasses are raised in a toast to the birthday girl – Cheers!  

Not everyone can be a part of these celebrations, most of the crowd plays the role of an onlooker. However, just witnessing a happy occasion makes the morning a pleasant one for everyone around.

Not only birthdays, but some other functions, too, are carried out with all the traditional aplomb. Especially Haldi-Kumkum. Its a Maharashtrian custom. At the time of Makar Sankranti (ie Pongal in South India and Lohri in North India), Suvasini  or married women are invited at home. (A tradition to honour the married status of a woman). Their foreheads are adorned with Kumkum and Haldi tilaks. Flowers, Itr, special sweet, Tilgud, ladoos of sesame and jaggery, are offered to the invited women. Then a small token gift – Vaan – , usually some useful household item, is given to the Suvasinis. 

The train ladies don’t let the lack of time or opportunity stop them from enjoying the customs. Haldi-Kumkum with all its essential ingredients is observed in the bogey of the racing train. Some even introduce few innovations – the gifts given are not identical for everyone. Chits for each gift article is placed in a bowl for a lucky draw. So each one enjoys a surprise gift item. Everything ends up in a lot of laughter and merry making. 


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Train Trivia – 2: Spontaneous Patriotism.

Crowd in a local train at peak office hours is nothing new in Mumbai. Many times I feel that ‘Breath – taking’ is a word more apt for the insides of Mumbai’s locals than any beautiful scene etc.
So, where breathing itself is difficult and everyone is carrying their own burden of tensions and frustrations while hurrying to catch the muster; it is no surprise that tempers fly high under such circumstances.
Though each person knows it very well that the one standing next is not pushing or poking on purpose, still, sometimes the discomfort does erupt in the form of a grumbling or complain. One thing leading to another, it doesn’t take long for an argument to ensue.
During one such argument, in a fit of absolute anger, one of the arguing party shouted, “So terrible! Such ridiculous things can happen only in India!”
That did it! Every single female in that crowd forgot her own pressures, tensions — everything. All of them literally pounced on that one female, who, I’m sure, inadvertently uttered the words ‘in India’. But that was sufficient to start a terrible tirade. ‘O Madam, take you words back!’, ‘Don’t stand here if you are not an Indian!’,  ‘Aww, if India is that bad, what are you doing here? Why don’t to go back to YOUR own country …wherever it is!’
That spontaneous patriotism really was a thing to experience!

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Train Trivia – 1

Many memories of train travels. No, not the long distance travels, but the daily commutes –  in the local trains. The local trains of Mumbai are a world in its own right !
It is already infamous for many nefarious things like chain snatching, fatal accidents, too much (where the term ‘too much’ proves absolutely inadequate) crowd, crime against women……. the list is long.
Every single thing is true, and yet — it has its tender, sometimes bitter-sweet moments, too!
So much of a day’s time is spent in those jam-packed cauldrons carrying humanity, that it is a short-time home-on-wheels for many. And they do make the train-travel a significant part of their lives, celebrate some important moments there. 

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Elegance …….

Whenever I close my eyes or try to think of something, anything …….the first image that comes to mind is — the graceful flight of egrets and their slow, perfect landing on the opposite tree.
The skies laden with dark, crowded rainy clouds, about to burst open, and a lone white egret hurrying back to its nest against this thick grey background.

The egret looks especially spectacular against this darkness. And the slow grace with which it touches down on its perch! …..long, white wings gliding, cruising along the wind……

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Moments ……

Often some random thoughts cross our minds – just fleetingly.

They aren’t …… they need not be, any great pearls of wisdom. it could be only a passing moment, or some unknown feeling or a bemused reflection of some odd observation……..
It could be anything. but at that particular moment it may appear important or something you instantly identify with. It need not be even passing or temporary ……may linger in mind for quite some period.
Always positive, good, beautiful, ethereal …. ? No, not necessarily.
So then, exactly what? can’t define. Just random thoughts ………
Image Courtesy: Omkar.

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A Quote I Like ……..

             Here was an old owl who lived in an oak,

             the more he heard, the less he spoke,

             the less he spoke, the more he heard.

             O, if men were all like that wise bird 

Image courtesy: morgueFile.