Monday, December 29, 2008

The Ramparts of 2008!

Time, the cradle of hope.... Wisdom walks before it, opportunity with it, and repentance behind it. He that has made it his friend will have little to fear from his enemies, but he that has made it his enemy will have little to hope from his friends.

Charles Caleb Colton

This year was different, very different, for I felt content in a very long time and attained a state of peace like never before, largely as a result of a very disciplined life I so resolutely lived. The year that was, provided me with many an opportunity to introspect, by throwing up a number of challenging situations that would have put even a hardened soul to the test. Emerge I did quite unscathed and full of lessons which will assist me in shaping my life for a better cause in the future. Although my professional life faced an uphill struggle, I ensured that I kept my personal space free from clutter and resultant pressure. I must say, I lived a very compartmentalized life without much incident.

Having wound up my assignment in Delhi, I moved to Pune which was a welcome change! While Delhi is brash and rowdy, Pune is a city with a great deal of youthful exuberance which appeals to the intellect! It is a confluence of many bearings, old and new, conservative and liberal and yet very rightly poised. To add to the treat, one can enjoy very pleasant weather year round thereby not being subject to the vagaries of the famously agonizing Indian Summer! I cannot quite say the same about the monsoons, for my liking for this season is actually non-existent, and to make things worse, it pours relentlessly during the monsoons in Pune!

While the world at large was at the mercy of the ongoing financial crisis that saw many an enterprise being cast away into history, my industry and organization remained largely unaffected and our guidance figures for the upcoming year were altered by a minuscule percentage, thereby extremely relieving me. A chance meeting with a yesteryear friend added to the cheer.

Most importantly, this blog has served as an avenue for me to give a picture of my views, thoughts and memories which have been greatly appreciated from time to time. I feel greatly privileged for having become part of a family that has in it a great deal of positive spirit, the attitude to be encouraging and unconditionally supportive. Via my space, I have been rewarded the greatest gift of all which is to be able to travel and relish culture and tradition. Virtually, I have been associated with large parts of India, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Russia, Slovenia, Australia, Monte Carlo, Malta, China, Finland, Munich, Turkey and the United States. What more could I possibly ask for?

As this year draws to a close, I pray that the coming year bestows upon us all a great deal of peace, happiness and above all else, a sense of hope to prevail over any adverse incident that may occur! Let us live in pursuit of hope and not once ever lose sight of it.

Wishing you a very happy and truly prosperous new year, one that brings you peace, joy, prosperity and above all else, helps foster a sense of togetherness! May this be the beginning of many good things yet!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Life's greatest lesson

"Why are we embarrassed by silence? What comfort do we find in all the noise?"

Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays with Morrie, 1997

Mitch Albom couldn't have made a better product! This book is based on a true story of a dying mentor and his once-upon-a-time student. What it teaches the reader, in the simplest of words, is life's most valuable lesson that there is nothing more important and deserving than life itself, which needs to be lived to the fullest and enjoyed at all times. It is a very inspirational story of how Morrie, the dying professor narrates anecdotes and views to Mitch, his former student, who visits him during his last days. The strong bond that has been forged between the two is very evident and indirectly suggests to the reader to seek such an association so as to enable one to learn from perspectives and people!

I would certainly not like to elucidate more than whatever I already have about this book and will urge you to read this at least once, for it will certainly prompt one to think about the nuances of life.

What intrigued me among many other instances in this book, is Morrie's question to Mitch, "Why are we embarrassed by silence? What comfort do we find in all the noise?"

Ever wondered why? I wish I had an answer!

I'd like to thank my friend Nandita who recommended this work of art sometime in 2006 and also my good friend Bharath who quite recently, via an email, recommended that I read it. More importantly, I have to thank my good friend Abhijit a.k.a Bandya for being very kind to lend me this masterpiece!

I did learn life's greatest lesson!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A hard teacher

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt!
Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your own affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind, as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something!

The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that pattern that will be your life.

Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If is does, then the particular balance of success and failure is of less account!

John Gardner

During a trek on January 01, 2004, I took this picture of what is a part of the Ketti Valley. It is easy to notice the completeness of nature which has a great sense of meaning. Like I said before, every part of nature makes tremendous meaning despite not being as eloquent as us human beings! We struggle and squirm to find a purpose without realizing that our existence itself is a first level of that purpose. Nature, very unlike us, is complete and isn't burdened by the onus of having to seek a purpose or define a meaning! We, on the contrary, spend time, effort and resources to attain a state of being while not realizing that that state is not a destination to arrive at but a manner of travelling!


Bharath Natraj and Vivek Venkataraman were very kind to give me the Lovely Blogger and Kreativ Blogger awards respectively! I am thrilled at their gesture and wish to sincerely thank them for recognizing my blog and the ideology it coveys!

I will now roll-over these awards to the following fellow-bloggers in recognition of their blogs and more importantly for the message they convey to the world at-large!

They are;

Usha Pisharody
Kat; and

Wishing You a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The long road to Eden

Until a few years ago, the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary was more famous for the notorious bandit and sandalwood smuggler Veerappan than its Tigers and a multitude of fauna! The Special Task Force (STF) brought down the curtain on him sometime in 2004 and the National Park has since then been steadily attracting many visitors.

On December 12, 2004, during a biking expedition along with friends, I decided to take this picture while we were at the edge of the National Park. Stopping for a while, I noticed the eerie silence that engulfed us suddenly. Although I wanted to spend a few minutes more at the location, I was advised against it and was constantly reminded that I was now 'on foot' in Tiger country!

It is not unusual for one to spot a Leopard or for that matter a Tiger itself. Spotted Deer, Elephants, Peacocks, Langurs and Macaques are a common sight. An early morning or a dusk-time drive through the park can reward one with many an interesting sight. As part of Project Tiger, which was initiated by then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, the National Park holds immense significance and is one of the last vestiges of the great Indian Tiger. Although conversation efforts are underway to highlight the need for preservation of the species, which amounts to a mere 1400 in number, a great deal more needs to be done if we are to ensure that our children be able to catch a glimpse of this magnificent creation.


A dream comes true

Friday, December 12, 2008

A small measure of peace

One of the many perquisites of staying in Ooty is that one can enjoy the magnificence of nature to the fullest. There are many quick getaways that offer very spectacular views of the panoramic landscape. During one such expedition to Pykara, on November 11, 2004, I snapped these pictures of the small lake and the adjoining waterfall.

Much like still waters, life is sometimes calm and quiet without incident. But things change with time, quite like how the excruciating summer dries up even the deepest waterhole or how incessant rains cause a deluge leading to untold misery!

But, neither famines nor floods last long and the spirit of life comes alive with the passing season. We too, like the water, face many an obstacle! These impediments are meant to refine life and help us ascend continuously. In the end, life triumphs by being progressive, determined and consistent.

Consistency and determination are known to bring the best out of human beings. Despite these menacingly fixated rocks, the water gushes forward without a thought or apprehension! Nature is an ongoing process with a great deal of consistency, one that moves ahead with time irrespective of what comes to be! Shouldn't that be the way of life too?

Nature is a fantastic craftsman, for there is always a very high level of equilibrium in every part of it. A healthy balance is very essential for a conducive lifestyle. There is not a natural creation that you could attribute asymmetry to. Why, then, is there a great deal of incongruity in our lives? Are we not natural? Or is it that we choose not to be part of nature?


Vimal Vijayan a.k.a Vimmuuu gave me these awards and cited a distinction with some of the most kind words. I wish to thank him very sincerely for giving me these accolades, which make me feel truly honoured!

This award is given to a blog that invests and believes in PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

As is custom, I will roll out these awards to eight fellow bloggers who have been significant motivators and a matter of pride to be associated with. They are;

Jim of The Hunt for Paradise

Aria of Terminal Moraine

Polona Oblak of Fish Eye

TV Satheesh of Thoughtful Oblivion

Babooshka of Ramsey Daily Photo

Tr3nta of Madrid Daily Photo & Tr3nta

Rakesh Avin of Thoughts Unleashed; and

Glenn Standish of Toruń Daily Photo

Monday, December 08, 2008

Praying Hands

I learnt of Albrecht Dürer sometime last week, via an email that was sent to me by a colleague. Not having heard the name before, I decided that the email could wait until the evening, which is when I usually engage myself in some 'non-business' reading.
When I did read the story that was part of the mail, I was shaken and hence decided to do a post. Read on, to know the story behind the Praying Hands.

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! To merely keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of the children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.

They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Dürer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Dürer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you."

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No."

Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look.,look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother, for me it is too late."

More than 450 years have passed since. By now, Albrecht Dürer's hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Dürer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Dürer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."

I write this as a tribute for my Father, who turned 60 today.

I salute his remarkable resilience and his patience which has furthered my upbringing in the most positive manner. But for his toil and unconditional dedication, the wonderful side of me would never have been possible!

Thank you God!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Postcard from Heaven

The pristine hills of Ooty are home to many a tea garden, some of which date back to the British times. Being a hill station, the British took no time to discover that their favourite beverage could be grown off the hills of this resort which also served as summer residence to the executive government of those days. Many hills were thus converted to tea gardens with luxurious bungalows amid them, housing group managers of these estates. Tea thus became a commercial enterprise in Ooty and continues to be a source of living for hundreds of planters in and around Ooty, despite repeated calls for diversification by various bodies.

This picture was taken on New Years Day, 2004 when along with a group of friends, I went out on a trek to a nearby town called Lovedale.

We began our trek, walk rather, from the Ooty railway Station and intended to conclude it at Ketti, which is a hamlet situated just outside Ooty. The trek was special because we had decided to walk along the route of the metre gauge railway line that connects Ooty to Mettupalayam. The route is very popular among visiting tourists who often board the Mountain Railway, that snakes its way through some of the most picturesque locales of Ooty.

We had passed Fernhill Station when this marvelous view presented itself. The day was semi-clouded and the winter chill was still in the air despite the mid-day sun which was in and out of the clouds every few minutes, casting huge shadows on the ground below! One can see a cluster of buildings amid the tall eucalyptus trees on the far right hand side of the picture. They are part of the renowned Narayana Gurukula which was founded by Sree Narayana Guru, the famed Social Reformer and Redeemer of Kerala. The Fernhill wing of the Gurukula is currently managed by Swami Tanmaya, who I am associated with for a decade now!

One can envision the lives of the hard-working simple farmer folk who toil for a living. The tea industry is currently in doldrums and revenues are a pittance. Slowly but steadily the call to diversify and engage in crop rotation is being heeded to. Terrace farms are very popular and yield some of the finest crops that one can savour.

The half-rail fencing (two of which can be seen) were laid by the British when the railway line was being built. Both, the line and the fencing, have endured more than a century of wear and tear but have stood still and have not once broken down. I decided to title this post "Postcard from Heaven", after little thought, since this reveals the true picture of the Ooty that was, many many years ago!

Untouched, Unspoiled and Magnificent!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Home Grown

My Mother is a very passionate botanist and devotes a great deal of time and effort in gardening as a hobby. Over the years her efforts have been made visible by the wonderful garden that she maintains at home. Ooty being a hill-station is a very ideal nursery for many an ornamental plant.

A great deal of effort goes into gardening and upkeep of the patch needs be done much like caring for a new-born baby. Manuring, watering, shading and weeding are some of the many activities one needs to incorporate as part of daily routine so as to produce a desired outcome. Being part of a family that did not have a retinue of attendants, my brother and I would often be summoned to be part of many a garden-maintenance exercise, watering being the worst of all!

I took this picture on August 9, 2004. The flowering season was coming to a close with the advent of the monsoons, which can be nasty in Ooty. These last remaining begonias were wilting under their weight. Eventually the flowers would fall off, the leaves would drop and the plant itself would cease to exist leaving behind tubers that would resume the cycle once again at a different point in time.


I was pleasantly surprised to know that I've been awarded! This award, which is the first-ever that I have received while in Blogsphere, was given to me by Usha Pisharody. Her wonderful words of encouragement and the gesture itself has left me elated. I wish to thank her for her gesture which has deeply recognized and appreciated my blogspace and ideologue.

As a gesture on my part to recognize the efforts of fellow bloggers for their remarkable contribution to the world of blogging, for promoting a healthy exchange of culture, for being able to illustrate social and political issues and more importantly for their ability to be themselves at all times, I'd like to roll-over this award to these luminaries of the blog world;

Devika Jyothi
Peter Olson
Man in Painting
Destination Infinity
Gil a.k.a. Blog Trotter
Vibushan Lakshminarayan
Marie Noyale
Barath Natraj a.k.a. The Seeker
Vimmuuu a.k.a Vimal Vijayan
Archana ; and
Rocky Mountain Girl

Many Congratulations! It is a pleasure to be associated with you, always and all ways.