Sindhudurg – The Sea Fort

I recently visited a small village called Tarkali, situated on the coasts of The Arabian Sea in the State of Maharashtra. Apart from the beautiful beach, this places offers an architectural beauty Sidhudurg Fort which is situated towards the north of Tarkali.

Sindhudurg, literally meaning Fort in the sea was built on a rocky island , just off the coast of Malvan, Maharashtra. This ancient fortress was built by Chattrapati Shivaji during the 16th century and is spread over 48 acres with a 3 km long rampart. The construction of this fortress indicates the strategic brilliance and foresightedness of King Shivaji, who made this to counter the rising influence of foreign colonizers (The English, Dutch, French and Portuguese merchants).

Chandralekha-scariest ferry ride with 20 people

A 15 minute ferry ride from the boat jetty in Malvan to Khurte Island costs Rs.50/- per person. Note of caution: be prepared to rock the waves in an overcrowded ferry with no life jackets, you might skip a beat inbetween. As you approach the fort, the gigantic structure looks like a battleship with waves of the Arabian Sea crashing all over the walls. This imposing citadel was built in 1664 and took 3 years to be completed under the supervision of Hiroji Indulkar.

Some data from the internet along with the stories shared by locals there, brought forth many interesting facts regarding the construction of the fort. The idea of making a fort on an island to keep the enemies at bay and to fortify the defence in the coastal area was in itself was incredible. Then came the engineering part of it … Considering the direction of wind and rain forces, work started but collapsed, after which 181.5 kgs of lead was used in the castings and foundation of the walls. There was usage of lime in layers between each boulder to intensify the toughness of the walls and the heights of the walls were raised depending on the strength of the winds. The walls of the fort are 9.1 m high and 3.7 m thick and the total circumference of the fort is about 4 km.

Entry to the fort

Next in line were the strategies used while planning the construction. The entry to the fort was so inconspicuous that no one would know the entrance from outside making it a difficult task for the enemies.

There were 42 bastions over the towering 30 feet walls and to beat the force of the waves, King Shivaji had constructed 3 mighty defence walls parallel to the foundation of fort. They say there was also a secret tunnel underneath one of the temples which led to a nearby village under the sea, to ensure escape during emergencies.

Despite being surrounded by  the sea there are four sweet water wells in the fort( nature’s miracle). Three of them are known as Dudh Bav (Milk Well), Dahi Bav (Curd Well) & Sakhar Bav (Sugar well). There are several temples inside the complex but one of them is very unique as its has an idol of King Shivaji without beard & moustache. This is one of its type found all over the country and was created by his son King Rajaram. Another prized relic found here is the foot and hand imprints of Chhatrapati Shivaji, preserved in a slab of dry lime on one of the turrets above the entrance.

As I climbed up the steep stairs and stood at the top of the fort viewing the sea, the sense of awe settled in. Examining the turrets which were used to fire cannons and rifles , unfolded the revolutionary mind-set of its engineer. The breeze was so strong that I was getting unstable at times, so imagine the strength of this fort, which stood against such strong winds for the past 351 years?

View atop the fort

Outlets from where soldier fired

The mighty defense walls

how soldiers kept an eye on approaching enemies

Turrets for canons

Steep Stairs

Temple at the entry

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robust structure weathering wind,rain & sea

View of the vastness of the sea from the tiny opening   

Pride

another angle of the fort

Kokum drink- Cooler

I would have spent some more time inside the fort and also on the Island but unfortunately we were allowed only an hour in the island. Despite being winters, it was hot and on our way back we had fresh Kokum juice to quench thirst and returned to the jetty where our boat Chandralekha waited for us. The ride back was equally scary but this time my mind was engrossed with the thoughts about the fort and its architectural beauty.

still standing tall

It saddened me to see such a historic structure in a dilapidated condition. Although it has been declared as a protected monument, yet it is in ruins. This structure from the glorified past owes a little more respect by the Government authorities in maintaining it.

 

 

“Don’t let the mind limit ,what an able heart can do” – ROBERT M.HENSEL

The Butterfly Moment

“Hello Gorgeous!” Someone whispered in the vicinity.

I was so engrossed in my own thoughts that I didn’t even bother to look around. I was staring at the distance which seemed blurred. It wasn’t the distance which caused the haziness but the tears that had welled up in my eyes. I would skip the reasons which made me teary eyed but can confess that  the tears were brought on by some instances from the past, insecurities of the present and ambiguity of the future. I felt like a prisoner to my own self, chained to responsibilities towards family, career and expectations of the society. I wasn’t compelled to follow them, yet I did…. Involuntarily.

“Hello Princess!”  The sweet voice floated into my ears again and this time, with a fluttering sound.

I was taken by surprise. Why would anyone call me by such names? You got to be joking! I was so engulfed in self-doubt that I wasn’t ready to believe the whisper.

From the corner of my eyes, I saw a colorful butterfly perched on my shoulder.

“Were you calling out to me?” I asked her. She spread her wings, took off from my shoulder and settled herself on a flower pot right in front of me.

“Why do you look so astonished my dear?” She questioned me.

With displeasure I replied, “Well, I am not worthy of those names.”

With a rather puzzled look she asked, “Since when did you start believing that?”

By now I was irritated. She had intruded into my reverie and now like many others was mocking me too. How could a gorgeous free spirited creature like her ever empathize with me? She was the epitome of glamour and freedom and I was just the opposite. I could never be like her!

I am not sure whether she had the ability to read my thoughts but after flirting around me for some time she whispered into my ears, “Princess, have you ever heard of the word Metamorphosis?”

Definition of Metamorphosis -The biological process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.

I recollected this definition which I had learnt several years back in school. I even remembered witnessing a pupa converting into a butterfly in my garden. But how was all this related to our conversation?

“Metamorphosis happened only to insects and amphibians, not mammals!” I replied curtly.

She smiled ….“Metamorphosis is not only transformation but also your willingness to change to a new form. Being a caterpillar was not unworthy but evolution was the demand of time. To be able to take off, I needed to undergo a change,”she said.

Now I had a point to counter, my eyes gleamed while I boldly questioned her. “What do you know about change? All you had to do in the name of change was to convert to a pupa from being a caterpillar and after few weeks break open and fly away as a beautiful butterfly. You can never ever understand the pain and struggle we humans have to undergo to change our paths and lifestyles. Even after we decide to remould, the battle continues every day. The pressure to prove ourselves along with the fear of non-acceptance curb us from taking the flight.”

There was silence for some time. I could assess from her grim expression that I had struck a painful chord in her.

“It was neither an easy task nor a comfortable journey for me. As a caterpillar, I dreamt of flying but it seemed too far-fetched. How could someone even dream of transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly? I dared and decided to take the plunge but the struggle commenced only after that. Staying within the cocoon was not as simple as it looked. My body disintegrated, cells dissolved to form new ones. You cannot fathom the pain I endured.”

“Then came the time, when I had to leave the cocoon.. I had my insecurities, I had never flown before. I was expected to break open the chrysalis, pump blood into my newly formed wings and fly away. What if I failed after all my efforts? No one could help me but myself. I mustered up my courage, spread my wings and took off. It was not miraculous but a joyous moment for me. Was that the end of my struggle? No, no my dear, I could fly but then I needed to adapt to new surroundings, new circumstances and of course new attractive competitors and till date the struggle continues.”

As I heard her speak about her journey, many things fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle.

The caterpillar was complete in herself till the day she had an urge to fly. It was time for me to identify my stage in this life-cycle.

If you dream to fly, you need to transform yourself, be willing to leave the safety of your cocoon and necessarily go through all the pain and struggle. There is no liberation without pain. Metamorphosis demands of us to grow, to change into a new state of being, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

As she stretched her wings to take off, I reached out and asked for her name. “I am Pari” she said. “What’s yours?”

“Princess”, I replied with a twinkle in my eyes.

Pari (Fairy in English) was such an apt name for this winged creature, a fairy god mother indeed!

I saw her fly into the blue horizon and this time it wasn’t looking blurred anymore. I visualized the vast sky and felt the wind beneath my wings, all ready to take off , It was my “Butterfly” moment, the moment when I was ready to make that quantum leap and start my metamorphosis 

Since that day, I have done radical changes within me which has elevated my confidence in different ways. I have a new outlook towards life …. Not sure whether it has made me successful in any ways but the journey has definitely boosted my endorphins.

 

AGRASEN KI BAOLI- Haunted or Glorified?

Every city has its own set of haunted places. Some genuine and some fabricated by tales which have being carried forward through generations. I have always been attracted to haunted stories and this makes me wonder how I missed out on this place despite being a Delhi dweller for so long. In my mission to know Delhi better, I set out to explore this location and check its vibes on my ‘eerie-o-meter’.

Agrasen ki Baoli-View from top of the stairs

Meaning of Baoli

Baoli or Bawdi, is also referred as Baori , Bavadi in Rajasthani; Vav in Gujrati; Kalyani, Pushkarani in Kannada. All these names refer to ‘stepwells’ which may have originated for water preservation to cope with droughts or seasonal water supply fluctuations. They are artificially constructed reservoirs made of blocks of stone (without mortar) with stairs which lead down to the water. These multi-level open pavilions have chambers and galleries around them with elaborate ornamentation which, in those early days served as places for social / religious gatherings as it gave respite from heat at the base. The earliest form dates back to Dholavira and Mohenjo-daro sites of Indus Valley civilization.

History of Agrasen Ki Baoli

Agrasen ki Baoli also called Ugrasen ki Baoli is the oldest existing ‘step-well’ in Delhi. Although there are no historical records but it is believed to be built by King Agrasen or Ugrasen during Mahabharata times. It was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Agarwal community who were said to be descendants of King Agrasen and reconstructed during the Tuglaq dynasty.

In search of ghosts

Board at the entrance

I consciously avoided investigating this place on the internet prior to the visit. With an intent to get the feel of the place without any pre conceived notions, I fed the destination on my GPS and drove down. It lead me to the busy Connaught Place area in central Delhi, which is a hub for many private and government organizations. My desired location was inside a narrow lane of Hailey’s road, so had to park outside and walk down to the premises. A board by The Archaeological Survey of India stating that it was a protected monument welcomed me. Ah! So the ghosts were protected!

 

Way to the Baoli

Admission was free and I entered through the iron gate of the arched entrance expecting to step into a place with a sinister appearance but was pleasantly surprised. The view inside was stunning

 

 

A 60m long and 15m wide rectangular structure constructed of uneven red sandstone units in 3 levels, each lined with arched niches on both sides and a flight of 108 steps. Did I miss telling … it was swarming with people, ‘love birds’ to be precise. I am not sure whether the approaching Valentine Day was the reason but nevertheless Who romances in a haunted place?

I would say my first vibe after entering was far from being ominous. Haunted places are supposed to be cold, dark, deserted and spooky and this place was none. There were happy people in every nook and corner and it was a difficult task to even click pictures without intruding their privacy.

Flight of stairs leading to the Baoli

I smiled to myself and descended the stairs to explore further. As I stepped under the roof, the darkness and the stench of the pigeon droppings distracted me. Not only the birds (pigeons and love birds) flocked here but it was a favorite abode for bats too. They clattered and squeaked all around creating the ambiance of a haunted place. At the bottom of the stairs, was the circular well 8m in diameter covered by iron grills at the top and connected to the Baoli through a shaft. The bed of the reservoir was clearly visible as there was no water in it. It’s said that in the past when water rose in the well, it used to fill the Baoli from the bottom to the top level.

 

Iron gate to enter the reservoir-view from the first floor

Floor of the reservoir

Shaft of the Baoli(reservoir)with the opening on the top to collect water

Roof full of bat nests inside the Baoli

After taking a few droppings on the head, I decided to move out and walk up to the side alleys in the upper floors. The top 2 levels each had two layers of recessed arches. The upper arches were ornamental while the lower ones were with deeper recesses which must have been sitting areas in the past where people would relax and enjoy during gatherings. As I walked past them, I again bumped into couples instead of ghosts. At each level I found closed gates with few visible stairs behind them. These must have led to rooms and passageways inside the Baoli.

View upwards from the bottom of the Baoli

Ornamental and recessed arches

Arches on both sides on each floor

Closed gates with stairs behind them on each floor

Ornamentation and architecture

I seated myself at the top of the stairs, waited for the crowd to thin down in order to capture a good image of the entire structure. This seemed like a long wait, so I finally decided to browse the internet in look out for the haunted stories of this place. Legends said that the Baoli always had dark waters and people heard voices from the water luring them to dive and give up their life. There was one accounted suicide death in this location and beyond that I could not find anything worth a logical explanation. This place might be frightening when vacant or during the night, but don’t all desolate locations transmit the same feel? There is no way I can validate this as the monument door closes at 6pm.

Read more about history and mythological stories of Pushkar in Rajsthan. http://www.fizznfuzz.com/pushkar-rajasthan/

No ghosts ,only love birds visible all around

View showing all the floors

Being a dry place, the possibilities of suicides by jumping into the water are ruled out in the current times. The only deaths that could occur would be due to the recent trends of selfie photography. I found the guard at the site constantly on his toes, yelling at people who were at the edge of alleys in the upper levels, trying to take a selfie with God knows what 🙂

I guess this location had gained popularity after being glorified in many of our Bollywood movies, the latest being PK released in 2014.The once abandoned monument had suddenly converted to a tourist spot.

Still from Hindi movie PK

Still from Hindi movie Subh Mangal Saavdhan

Still from Hindi movie Jhoom Barabar Jhoom

It seemed like a time lapsed sequence as I sat and watched the Baoli with the multi storied buildings in the backdrop. A structure that stood the test of time from the Mahabharata days, witnessed the changing world around it; from the bow and arrow to the era of artificial intelligence. Located amidst modernity, it had several untold stories echoing within it.

Contrasting views of history and high rise office buildings in the backdrop

On my way out, I found a mosque which most people were not keen in seeing. A triple arched structure, one of which had collapsed along with the portions of the ‘whale back’ roof and a closed gate which led to the inside of the mosque. It’s a piece of architecture which clearly depicted the influence of Mughal Sultanate on this monument.

Remains of the mosque

View from inside the mosque

Agrasen ki baoli , failed on my ‘eerie-o-meter’ but it certainly is a place to be visited if not for the love of history or it’s architecture but just to know Delhi a little better.

“We need ghost stories because we, in fact, are the ghosts”– Stephen King

Location: Hailey Road, Near Diwanchand Imaging Centre, K G Marg, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Timings: Open 7 days a week from 7am to 6pm

Nearest Metro Station: Barakhambha Road and Janpath

Jim Corbett- Craziness in wilderness

Cousin:  Child of one’s uncle or aunt, a person in one’s extended family, to whom one is not closely related.

Extended family to whom one is not closely related ….Are you kidding me? 🙂 We are a bunch who are mysteriously bonded by some crazy genes. When such a bunch of wild people decide to explore the wilderness, adventure is a foregone conclusion. This write up is to extend that experience of a jungle, the adrenaline rush during the search for the elusive Bengal Tiger, along with a sneak peek into the joyous moments of 12 passionate souls ( my cousins and families) which will leave you craving your childhood again.

History of Jim Corbett

Jim Corbett National Park is situated in the Nainital district of an enchantingly beautiful state, Uttarakhand. Spread over 520 sq km at the foothills of the Himalayas, it was established in 1936 and is the oldest tiger reserve in the country. It was initially called the Hailey National Park, then named as Ramganga National Park in 1954-55 and finally renamed to Jim Corbett National Park, as an honour to Jim Corbett who played a key role in the creation of this reserve. The park boasts of more than 586 species of resident and migratory birds ,33 species of reptiles, 7 species of amphibians, 7 species of fish and 36 species of dragonflies( source: Wikipedia). It’s popular for the Bengal Tigers which are plenty in numbers but a rare sight due to the thick foliage and camouflage.

The Journey

Our trip to the famous Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve was planned way in advance to avoid any last moment hiccups. Hotel rooms were booked, 14 seater bus booked, jungle safari booked, music playlists prepared, cameras charged, ice box arranged, wafers/biscuits stocked, music speakers packed and Maggie inventory (a story which I will share some other time) topped up. In a nutshell we were all prepared, excited and eagerly awaited the departure. We scheduled to flag off from Delhi at 4.30 am to avoid traffic on the highway, which was expected to be heavy owing to the extended weekend Christmas break.

At the break of dawn, as we all geared up for the journey, our spirits took a deep dive. The bus we pre-booked failed to show up and our incessant attempts to contact the driver failed. We were stressed even before we commenced but my brothers managed another bus within an hour during the wee hours of the morning. Although I am still clueless on how they found an alternative but they say crazy people always find a way out in difficult times.

By 6.30 am, we were loaded on a new bus and got rolling. Our first stop was at Shiva tourist dhaba on the highway where we dug into piping hot aloo and paneer parathas and steaming cup of masala tea. What more do you need on a bright sunny winter morning? As the sun rose high, so did the volume of music inside the bus. Felt like one of those school picnics where all of us would be singing, dancing and laughing at every silly joke being cracked. The countryside was fresh and vibrant with mustard and sugarcane fields (a common sight in the north of India). We invaded a sugarcane field, plucked a few (I am sure the owner would forgive us for this small prank) and devoured it exactly the way it should be eaten, right out of the fields. To avoid delay , we continued without any further halts and reached our destination, Rampur by 2.30pm, just in time to grab lunch at the hotel.

Enroute

The Stay

Hotel -Leela Corbett Vilas

Ours was a lovely hotel with individual cottages and a swimming pool. Although it was not a lavish resort but had the perks of one. The staff was very warm and courteous and I would personally recommend Corbett Leela Vilas for a mid-budget stay in Corbett.  Late evening we decided to venture out to the river bank in the vicinity but was informed by the hotel staff about the risks involved. They warned us of the wild animals who usually strolled by the river during these hours , so we decided to play safe and dropped the idea. I always believe, when in a new place, always pay heed to the locals. Never be too adventurous! We decided to stay back and as evening set in, we had a great karaoke night around the bonfire under clear starlit skies.

Day 2- It started with an early morning exploration. A 10 minutes ride took us to the Jhula Pul, a 150 year old suspension bridge over River Kosi. Breath taking sight it was…. Nestled between the mountain ranges a meandering shallow river with crystal clear water, clean rocky waterbed and dense green surroundings. The walk down the river bed in the cold winter morning with the gurgling sound of the water, birds chirping and basking in the morning glory along with the innocent laughter of my cousins, life seemed to have dropped a few years back. Times when we were kids, times when life was not so fast and times when places we lived in, were not spilling with people. Like a bunch of excited kids, we ran around posing for pictures. As the rest of the group walked up the pathway towards the suspension bridge, I along with my younger brother decided to take a short cut across the river bed, only to find a huge wall at the base of the bridge. It was more like a rock climbing and rappelling experience getting over the vertical wall to reach up to the suspension bridge. The view from atop the suspension bridge was magical. The soft rays of the sun breaking through the mist and glistening over the flowing river, nature waking up and unfolding right in front of your eyes….such moments can only be experienced, no amount of adjectives can describe the feeling.

some birds that we sighted along the river banks

On the other end, situated at a distance on a giant rock amidst the Kosi River was the Garjiya Devi Temple. An ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati, also known as Garjiya Devi, it is one of the most famous temples in Nainital district attracting thousands of devotees during the festivities of Kartik Poornima. We decided to visit it the next morning and headed back to the resort where scrumptious breakfast was waiting.

After satiating our urge of craziness and diving into the chilled water of the swimming pool with the outside temperature at below 10 degrees centigrade, we all got ready for the most awaited jungle safari. Our jeep had arrived at the resort to pick us up and we set forth for the Bijrani zone in the jungle.

The Safari

In an effort to provide a safe zone to wildlife with tourism activities, the Corbett Tiger Reserve has been divided into four divisions, Dhikala Safari Zone, Bijrani Zone, Jhirna Zone, Durgadevi Zone. The cost for the Jim Corbett safari depends on the zone and starts from approximately INR 3500 for Indian nationals. The safari timings depend on the zones and can be either in the morning or evening. Mostly the morning ones are at 5:45 am, 6:00 am or 6:30 am. Whereas the afternoon, ones are at 1:00 pm, 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm. At any point of time, 30 jeeps are allowed inside the jungle for which permits are required and the duration of safari is three hours. It’s mandatory for every safari jeep to have a guide/naturist along with the driver. Maximum of six adults and two children (below 12 years) are allowed in one safari jeep apart from the driver and a guide.

Entrance of the Bijrani zone

Into the jungle

Our safari guy had already done the formalities of the permit, so without wasting time, we entered the land where animals ruled. The topography of this zone is primarily of dense Sal forest, large grassland (Chaur) known as the Laldhang Chaur, deciduous vegetation, narrow valley and various channels of the Ramganga river. The Ramganga River is considered as the lifeline of the forest which enriches the rustic beauty of the wild and nourishes the flora and fauna of the Corbett. Our driver told us it was the same place where the Bollywood movie “Kaal” was shot. A small drive and we reached the forest watch tower, which provided an amazing opportunity to sight animals grazing in the grasslands or roaming near the Ramganga river banks. Not to miss this glimpse, I started climbing the stairs which were steep and broken, but was stopped midway by the locals. They warned us its precarious condition and broken stairs since an elephant crashed into the base of the tower a few day earlier.

Panoramic shot from half way up the watch tower

We drove deeper into the jungle along the dusty trails, crossing streams and enjoying the silence in the atmosphere. On our way we saw giant ant hills, Spotted deer, Sambar deer, Crested hawk eagle, Red jungle fowls, Rhesus monkey, Elephant and quite a few Langurs. Watching the animals up close was a different experience. The thought that we were the visitors in their land, their kingdom and completely at their mercy gave us an adrenalin rush. Our guide was very informative and shared stories of the famous tigress Sharmilee , the current Queen of the Bijrani zone. She was so called because of her shy nature and now aged she was unable to hunt with broken teeth and is often challenged by another tigress. Laws of nature “Survival of the Fittest” is universal 🙂

Our driver and guide were trying to follow bird alarm calls which could ascertain the presence and position of the predator but even after 2 hours we weren’t lucky. He showed us the pug marks on the muddy trail, which proved that Her/His Highness had crossed that path a short while ago. We stopped in that area, switched off the engine and waited. Silence…the only sounds we could hear were the leaves rustling, birds chirping, and our own breath. Once we absorbed the silence, the eerie feeling settled in .We were in the middle of a dense forest in an open jeep, waiting to have a coffee with a tiger, rather scary than funny !

Pug marks of the tiger

They say, you have to be patient while you are in this jungle. It’s not that you would meet a nonchalant tiger around every other turn, but if you even caught a small glimpse you would be considered extremely lucky. Amongst all the other Tiger Reserves in the country, Jim Corbett residents are the least friendly. We were running out of time, so with a heavy heart, we headed back towards the entrance. As we retraced, the same jungle looked like a painting, it was the golden hour. The mighty sun was retiring for the day, lending a golden hue to the grasslands and a glimmer to the water in streams which made our drive further scenic and memorable. Back in the hotel the day ended with another bonfire, music, cheer, laughter and fun.

Day 3-We had decided to visit the Garjiya Devi Temple in the morning before we started back for Delhi, but most of us woke up late. So, we instead visited the suspension bridge again. Being city dwellers, we had fallen in love with this serene river side.

Check out a small glimpse of the early morning at River Kosi

Come afternoon and our bus engine growled as we settled in it for our journey towards Delhi .We ensured not to have any dull moments, although most of us were a bit worn out due to the hectic trip. We stopped by the mustard fields this time and reminiscent the scenes of an iconic Bollywood movie “Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jayege“, ensuring not to spoil the fields. Despite trying hard to miss peak traffic, we had to battle our way back and finally reached our respective dens for a good night sleep.

Next morning, it was the same mundane schedule- kid’s school, office, traffic, smog , corporate hazards, bills to pay , groceries to buy , food to cook ,in-between a minuscule time for ourselves but no time for the child in us. This trip helped rejuvenate and rediscover ourselves in many ways. We realized that shedding inhibitions is relaxing, letting your crazy side show up occasionally instills courage and confidence. It was a reassurance that in “Craziness” you let go of fear, fear of being judged or of failure. In the lap of nature the animals accentuated the meaning of freedom, taught us the lesson of living life at your own will but at the same time, reiterated the laws of nature. My coffee with the tiger is pending….maybe next time but till then I am happy that they have a safe haven in the Tiger Reserve.

“If the greatest happiness one can experience is the sudden cessation of great pain, then the second greatest happiness is undoubtedly the sudden cessation of great fear”Jim Corbett in his book  “Man-eaters of Kumaon”

Read about rediscovering and rebooting yourself in Hit the Pause

P.S – A warm hug to the crazy team of bros/sis and their families for this wonderful experience. Let’s remain this way ♥♥♥♥ bonded by our crazy genes !

 

 

 

A date with Mr.Skeleton

Skeletons smile, Pumpkins leer

Ghosts clap, Witches cheer

– Rusty Fischer

Here I was, waiting for my physiotherapy session for an ailment which was both profession and lifestyle induced. Located in the basement, the clinic which had limited internet connectivity, restricted my access to emails and social media. There were no other patients in waiting with whom I could strike up a conversation so the only way to while away time was to browse through magazines lying on the table.

As I finished flipping through few of them, I had a weird feeling … that I was not alone, that someone was staring at me intensely. I looked around and was surprised that I had company. A fragile looking guy at the corner of the room, smiling and trying hard to grab my attention. My first impression…”Naah ! Not my type”. He was neither impressive in appearance nor charming enough, for me to give him the attention he was seeking. With due respect to skinny people, I felt intimidated at the sight of his bony anatomy.

Despite my disinterest, he made another attempt to speak before turning away murmuring,  “One day you will realize and repent for not giving me the importance ”  

“O Really! You must be joking!” I glared at his sunken eyes as I walked briskly across the room towards the doctor’s cabin. As if to tease me, he then flashed a smile at me which further irritated me. With an intention to lodge a complaint against him, I glanced at his name badge… freak with a bizarre name, Mr. Skeleton.

My meeting with the doctor was not very pleasant. He confirmed some serious issues in the bones due to which the nerves travelling to my hands were getting effected. This resulted in the lack of strength and mobility in my right hand. He asked me to get a few X-rays and tests done and wait in the lobby for the test reports. I was nervous at the thought of any dysfunction in my right hand and while I waited wondering about the course of action, our eyes met again.

Flashback- Old acquaintance

Travelling back to my Biology classes in school, I recollected reading a lot about Mr Skeleton. He was a multi-talented guy with a framework of 206 pieces of bones, small, big, round, thin, thick all types along with a network of tendons, ligaments and cartilage that connected them. He performed vital functions like support, movement, protection, blood cell production, calcium storage and endocrine regulation — that enabled us to survive.

No, I am not writing an in-depth study of the Skeleton System but even these few lines highlight the quantum of work he did for me.

My thoughts paused, when the doctor called for me to discuss the reports. Along with the diagnosis, he also told that the problem was more to do with lifestyle and lack of exercise. He said  …”You guys are so busy with your professional career and social commitments that you neglect your very personal self. You ignore the problems at the initial stage although your body gives you enough indications. You forget that your bones require more importance than your looks.” After having a short chat with him about the remedial process, I walked out of the clinic with a vexed feeling. I was annoyed at my callous approach and that’s when we cross paths again.

He was still hanging around ? (Of course we would be ! He was a wall poster hung in the clinic lobby)

One hour had changed my outlook towards this guy. With regret and humility, I apologized to him for my past behavior. He flashed the same smile again (with the dentures showing up) and whispered, “I have always been your friend since the day you were born. We have grown up together and despite your efforts to ignore me I will always be there to prompt you when you go wrong. Don’t judge me by my looks “

Ha Ha Ha ! I had befriended a guy with the worst look, a huge attitude and a pool of talent. An uncalled date in a clinic and definitely a memorable evening ♥

Driving back I remembered a joke …

Q: Why didn’t the skeleton go to see the scary movie?

A: Because he did not have the guts!!

But my friend today surely did have the guts . LOL!!!!!

Was this a fizz moment? Not really … It was a fuzz moment converted into a fizz moment. Try and make every moment a fizz one 🙂

Poovar-The tale of friendship

Here I am …in Kerala again, this time in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of the state.

My connection with Kerala dates back in 1994, when I had traveled across the country to the south of India (Chennai) for my higher studies. Away from home for the first time and encountering a language barrier I was extremely apprehensive if I could sustain and complete the tenure of studies. I was pleasantly surprised by the way my Malayali classmates welcomed me to their group. Being different both socially and culturally we vibed well. The warmth that they extended to me still lasts as valued friendships. Possibly this is the reason why I get pulled back time and again to this state.

Mine is a cherished companionship but this narrative is about a different level of friendship . It’s about 3 distinct identities with a completely different set of characteristics, bonded till eternity. Frivolous, Sombre and Wild ….. They don’t match, do they? Yet they have been friends since ages and nothing seems to be able to break this bond.

Foreground

Historians say that Kerala gets its name from Keralam, “Kera” (coconut) and “Alma” (Land) in Malayalam meaning The Land of Coconut. Popularly known as God’s own country, this name was coined during the 1980’s by Mr. Walter Mendez, Creative Director of a reputed Ad agency in India on request of Kerala tourism department with an intention to give the state, global recognition as a tourist destination.

The Journey

Despite being there on work, I squeezed out time and with the help of my friends, set forth to explore a new destination. It was a picturesque coastal village in the Southern tip of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) called Poovar

A quick surf through Google and I gathered that it was named by The Maharaja of Travancore ,Raja Marthanda Varma who was fascinated by the sight of red flowers, blooming along the Neyyar River. The flowers fell into the river making it look so attractive that he ended up naming the river as “POO-AAR” (meaning a stream of flowers) which later became “POOVAR”

The journey from Trivandrum along with my friend took me 40mins during which we covered a 30 km stretch through the rustic village roads. On reaching the boat jetty, we hired a motor boat for one and half hours and set sail  along the Neyyar river towards the estuary. As the boat cruised, the boatman (Cheta as I called him, meaning big brother in Malayalam) took a diversion and steered into the narrow canals. A regular looking ride suddenly looked enigmatic. Dense mangroves, wild trees, shrubs and coconut groves, it was a fascinating world. !! I was told that some scenes of the famous Hollywood movie Anaconda were shot here.

Engulfed in mystery

Cruising into unknown territories

The interplay of light and shade through the thick foliage, the reflection of trees over the clear water and the tranquility of the surroundings made the journey mysteriously attractive. The only sounds I could hear were of rustling leaves and occasional chirp of birds. To add to the plot, Cheta showed us green mangoes and juicy pineapples, which to any onlooker would look like normal fruits but were apparently poisonous. Poisonous? Looks could be so deceptive, you see!

Poisonous pineapple plants

Poisonous mangoes hanging low

Poovar is a haven for migratory shore birds and I sighted a few like the Cormorants, Snake Bird, Strokes, Brahminy Eagle and Kingfisher. Cheta was very patient and positioned the boat closest to the birds for better view and photography but silly me hadn’t carried the DSLR, so had to satisfy myself with average pictures taken on my phone.

Birdie Time

Reflections on clear water

Narrow canal with trees arching and forming a canopy over the water leading on to coconut trees stretching out and kissing the waters… it felt a different world unfolding with every turn. I had never witnessed something so alluring like this.

You don’t know whats ahead ..could be a Anaconda 🙂

Tranquility

The river widened to form a lake before it merged with the Arabian Sea. On the lake were few floating restaurants and Cheta took us to one of them for lunch (guess he had a “setting” here as we were not allowed a choice of restaurants). We were told that food would be made ready by the time we reached back from the beach, which was a great way to optimize time.

King perched on its throne…king of water or sky?

horizons separated by the sandy strip

The Golden Beach as it’s called, beckoned me. Without wasting much time, we sailed towards the sandbar, a thin sandy strip of land separating the calm lake and the restless sea. An interesting sight indeed! At one end of the water channel (estuary), I could see the waves crashing (the boat was not allowed to go till that point due to high tide). On the other side there was a beach overlooking the sea which was clean and quaint.

Waves crashing at the end of the estuary

A quaint Golden Beach Island

Pineapples on the beach..Hope they are not Poisonous 🙂

Golden beach view from one end

We strolled for some time admiring nature’s creation all around us before heading back towards the restaurant where piping hot lunch was waiting. On the way back, I had a view of the huge statue  of a Mother Mary and Elephant rock. We were running late and had to finish the meal in haste before we set sail again but this time on a different route.

Statue of Mother Mary

Elephant Rock

Luxurious floating cottages

Instead of going through the canals, the boat took us straight on the wide river passing the floating cottages. The return journey was much faster and without any halts. In no time, we returned to the boat jetty and  bid good bye to Cheta and set forth for the city.

With Chetta

  Musings

I relaxed in the car reflecting about the day and smiled, I had discovered a new place and a new story. The tale of 3 friends bonded by a quirky relationship in a magical land.

A fun loving and mischievous Neyyar River originating from the Agastya Mala hills in the Western Ghats; a relatively serious and calm Poovar Lake and the boisterous, wild Laccadive Sea (of Arabian Sea).It was the story of Neyyar who left her mountain home in order to explore life. Full of energy she meandered through valleys and forests till she reached the southernmost point of Kerala. There she found herself in a different land, a land she was not accustomed to but was warmly greeted by Poovar and Laccadive who accepted her into their midst. Both were of a different nature, one cool headed and the other was riotous, but there was something that bonded them all together. Was it destined? Maybe!!

They met, they clicked and they still continue this friendship …. Seems like my story which played out decades ago when I traveled across the country to the south of India.

Read about another friendship story on a beach setting Post Cards from KRABI

The Shell Story

Chhai chhap chhai chhapak chhai
Paaniyo pe chhinte udaati hui ladaki,
Dekhi hai hamne, aati hui
Laharon pe jaati hui ladaki

*song from a Hindi movie

I was humming and frolicking on the beach, enjoying the romantic setting that nature had created. With the smooth sand slipping past beneath my soles, cool breeze rustling my hair and the sun preparing to take a dive at the horizon, I was in love with every passing moment. The cool water and sand were both tingling and tickling my tired feet, a sensation I find comforting only at the shores. (The feeling of the ground shifting from underneath my feet is not pleasant in deep waters).

An evening date with the sea shells at Benaulim Beach, Goa

It was high tide and each wave brought with itself a collection of sea shells to the shore. Since my childhood days, I was always fond of collecting them and today was no different. The shapes, designs, textures and the fact that they held a living form within, made them thoroughly fascinating.

Although all this were a natural phenomenon but I would like to believe that they were coming together to pay a visit and say hello to me on this romantic evening. They came, caressed my feet, invited me for a conversation with no expectation of reciprocity and then bid goodbye . Suddenly as they left, I realized my mistake. I waited for the same magic to return but the ones that came back weren’t the ones I so wished for. I sighed on the missed opportunity to collect those beautiful shells and decided to return next morning, though in the heart of hearts I knew the ones which I did let go would never come back.

Shells on soft sands of Benaulim Beach Goa

It was my favorite place Goa, a destination I never get bored of but this time I was there on work. I was invited for a seminar along with 60 other people. An interesting conclave where we would get an opportunity to learn as well as network with people across various domains. For a entrepreneur like me, it was a wonderful platform where I could meet, discuss and crystallize business propositions (guess that was the agenda of the meet). Amongst the 60, I was acquainted only with 2 , whom I had known professionally. They had always been my well-wishers, but the lesson they imparted that day was gratifying.

Mona calls me aside fuming, at the end of the two day conference and says “why don’t you grasp the opportunities that come by you? Why are you not aggressive in marketing your idea?” Rahul seconds her and says “you will never get a second chance to meet these people and collaborate with them”. For the next 10 mins, they cited instances and rebuked me for my foolishness.

Their words were harsh but true. Two days were served to me on a platter and I didn’t use them wisely. I am not sure whether I will meet these people again and revive what I lost. I repented and sighed, exactly the same way I had done at the beach two days back, the evening when I had a date with the sea shells and missed the opportunity of treasuring them.

Read about opportunities and priorities and the tussle between them in “Trust your Instincts” http://www.fizznfuzz.com/trust-your-instincts/

A lovely creation on the beach of Goa

∗My sincere apologies to the shells whom I let go hoping they will reach out to me again the next time.

Opportunity knocks once! Nature has its own way to explain simple things but we tend to overlook most of the times. Thank God we have friends for that, who do the balance 

Thank you Monalisa Sagar and Rahul Narvekar for the strong and powerful dose, it was an important lesson at the right time.

 

“We have an infinite amount to learn both from nature and from each other” –John Glenn

 

 

 

 

 

Ladakh Road Trip-Lessons Learnt

It had been on my bucket list for the past few years but job, family responsibilities and circumstances had kept me away from it. They say “If something’s bound to happen, it will happen at the right time and for the right reason.”

I had to quit my job to pursue my entrepreneurial dream.It was certainly not a cake walk, required a lot of diligence, patience and mental strength to make this radical shift from being an employee to an entrepreneur. More than a lifestyle change, it was the fear of failure and apprehension on sustainability. The road ahead seemed foggy and self-doubt was par for the course. During this time came an opportunity to undertake a road trip to Ladakh. This had been on my list for long, so on the rebound I decided to tick it off.

In the end you will only regret the chances you didn’t take.

2 weeks of bike trip with a group of friends and a bunch of strangers to this picturesque and magical land sounded very exciting but as the rubber hit the road, so did the reality. Staying in metro cities, we took a lot of the luxuries for granted but the journey compelled us to confront our fears and challenge ourselves. Treacherous terrain, extreme weather conditions, low oxygen, altitude sickness, the sheer demand of physical endurance coupled with the absence of basics like hot running water forced to dig into the reserves within us which we never knew existed.

The awe of the mystical land gave me the courage to take up this challenging yet fulfilling task just the way I had embarked on my entrepreneurial career. But little did I know that I would return with experiences which would not only enhance my personality but also provide me with lasting tips for my entrepreneurial journey.

Lesson 1- The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek !

Despite being aware of the risks and the fears accompanied with it, I had decided to step out of my comfort zone, let go of my fears and undertake this trip. The driving force- my passion and eagerness to explore the unexplored.

It requires a lot of determination to renounce the luxury of a fixed salary and venture on your own. But in this era of unpredictability, does your job hold a lifetime guarantee? The answer is no. Then why are you scared to take the risk? If you are passionate about your idea, if you trust your instinct…..just set sail. As Albert Einstein rightly said “A ship is always safe at shore, but that is not what it is built for.”

Lesson 2- Success is a series of small wins !

With all apprehensions, I started the journey and soon realized that the difficulty levels increased with every mile. My body hadn’t gotten accustom to the climatic change and long hours of riding and this was dampening my spirits. The low morale reflected across the entire group. The enthusiasm with which we commenced the journey was dropping fast and we started questioning our ability to reach the final destination. To our surprise, our team leader who would have sensed this began cheering us on crossing every milestone. He made us feel like heroes and winners and we later realized that with each celebration, we were regaining our confidence to ride the next mile.

It’s good to have a road map with a finish line, but in the course of an entrepreneurial journey, you need to be proud of even the smallest achievements. Break down goals into smaller ones and creatively celebrate every success .You are worthy of every step ahead and each of them will take you closer to your destination.

Lesson 3- Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. Keep going and don’t give up !

We had climbed to 18000 ft and it was higher than what any of us had ever ventured before. What kept us going was our determination and our sheer quest to explore. Personally for me, with the first glance of the Pangong lake, I had tears in my eyes … the feeling was worth every adversity I had endured during the journey.

Entrepreneurship is full of challenges and hardships. You need to prove to yourself, to your family and to the society that you are not a failure. Being emotionally and mentally strong is not easy but if you surrender midway you will never be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Stay strong, stay consistent!

Read how persistence & determination can redefine life in http://www.fizznfuzz.com/barefoot-college-a-back-to-basics-journey/

Lesson 4- When you hit a road block, take a detour! You still will reach your destination.

Riding the treacherous terrain is challenging as you never know what lies beyond the next bend. We started early morning for a long day and found a road block after a small distance. There was a landslide and on inquiring with local people, it was confirmed that help would reach only in 2 days. Mountains unfortunately have no by-lanes, its either the road ahead or the steep slope down the sides. We had to choose between the two and our leader decided to go down the slope. With hearts beating fast, we followed him and reached the bottom where we were needed to cross the river. A river bedded with huge stones and gushing icy cold water made most bikers lose balance and take a dunk in the cold water. Yet we all dared, crossed it and finally  reached our destination, cold and bruised but glowing with the satisfaction of beating the odds.

Although you chart out a plan right at the beginning , many a times you tend to fail in the implementations. These could be due to several reasons like your limitation of product knowledge, economic situations or lack of understanding of the market situations. You struggle and your graph nose dives. During this phase you need to analyse the pros and cons, search for an alternate path to reach your goal. Don’t waste time, accept the reality and take a detour. Different routes can lead to the same castle.

Lesson 5- Don’t try to rush things that need time to grow. Be patient !

Its mid-afternoon. We crossed the river all drenched and still had a good 8-9 hours of riding left to reach our next stop. The heat was subsiding and the chill in the air was taking a toll on us. Our leader took a big decision, he proceeded to a nearby village to take shelter overnight. Our riding days were timed, so any change affected our entire trip itinerary. He explained that hastiness would be dangerous for our health we needed to recover before we set forth.

“Set your goals and focus on them”, this has been instilled in us since childhood but real life teaches us that you need to be patient and compromise too.  It’s good to be ambitious but don’t be obsessed with race. In all possibility you will start gasping for air which will lead to burn-out midway. Focus doesn’t mean you should be a slave to time schedules or you shouldn’t enjoy your journey. Striking a balance is the trick.

Lesson 6- Trust is an exchange of faith, be it your road trip or your business. Trust your co-traveler!

Someone who has been on these roads can validate the danger that lurks at every curve. Trust your team and that’s the only way you can survive. I stood there stranded along with my co traveler and a flat tyre, unfortunately separated from the rest of the team. It was getting dark and cold and the integrity of my co traveler wouldn’t leave me alone in the deserted wilderness. I realized that day ,in a world where we are connected by technology, nothing is stronger than your soul connectivity. We received help after an hour but in those 60 minutes, we never doubted that our team would retrace to rescue us. This incident taught me that we need to have confidence on our team, believe that they always watch our back in periods of adversities.

You might have had bad experiences with people in the past but never let those affect your faith-o-meter. When you are setting forth on an expedition you can never reach the destination alone. Your team fuels your growth and also holds the rope when you are about to fall. Never lower your faith! As the saying goes.“If you have to travel fast, do it alone…If you have to travel long do it with your tribe.”

Lesson 7- Success is relative. More success more relatives!

We traveled for 2 weeks and reached back safely without any major causalities. Was our trip rated the best by any organization or travel magazine? Did we get highlighted in the media? Did we set any records? NO ! But what we achieved cannot be measured because for each one of us it was our personal achievement, something which we will carry as a badge of honor throughout our lives.

On the onset of my entrepreneur project, I have been asked this question many a times. What is so different in your idea? How will you succeed when there are others working on the same idea? My take on it …You can traverse the same path but how you manage your journey will define your achievement at the end. You can be a successful venture in 2 years but shut shop in the 3rd . Or you could take 10 years to settle but still be profitable with positive growth prospects. Which one would you rate as successful? You don’t need to have an extra-ordinary idea to create a successful business, Ordinary with extra-ordinary results will do the same for you. So, never let anyone define success for you.

It took us 2 weeks to complete the trip but the lessons learnt during those 14 days will serve me lifetime. I had my share of good experiences,my fizz moments and a few bad ones, the fuzz moments🙁 which hurt me immensely.

The sour ones have made me stronger emotionally and more resilient. The good ones have taught me to respect time, show gratitude towards people, be patient, accept mistakes, keep myself motivated and above all be my own cheer leader.

“The road may be beautiful or ugly, it may be easy or hard, smooth or rough, it doesn’t matter; what matters most is where the road will take you!” – Mehmet Murat Ildan

Post Cards from KRABI

Don’t mistake this to be a traveler’s guide to Krabi and PhiPhi islands but you can definitely read through to explore the stunning beauty of these places and my story behind it. I had visited many places in Thailand but Krabi, till date, was unexplored.

It was late evening when I landed at Krabi after a 90 minutes flight from Bangkok with a bunch of my kindergarten friends for our annual reunion pilgrimage. Another 45 minutes of drive took us to our hotel on Ao Nang Beach. It’s a reunion, but I am skipping all that happens during such trips and strictly focusing on the visual appeal of the place.

Ao Nang is Krabi’s vibrant tourist center boasting a humble 1 km long beach which can be reached by stairs along the promenade. It has the relaxed atmosphere of a small town and the beauty of a beach. The sand here is a bit rough and the water not really clear but it’s still good for a swim. All long tail boats, ferry and speed boats start from here for the island tours.

Serenity of Ao Nang Beach, Krabi

Ao Nang Beach on a pleasant morning

Understanding Krabi Islands: Krabi is the main town in the province of Krabi on the west coast of southern Thailand at the mouth of the Krabi River where it empties in Phang Nga Bay.

There are around 200 islands and islets around the Krabi coastline. Some are small rocky outcrops which rise precipitously out of the sea and have no landing access, others are larger and uninhabited ones with gorgeous coastlines, tiny white sand beaches, coral reefs, and intricate cave systems. An ideal place for a relaxed holiday where visitors can swim, snorkel or simply bask in the sun.

Our voyage: A group of 7 friends, we set sail for a day trip to few of these islands. As we sped past rocky islands, the intensity of the turquoise waters kept on increasing .It seemed as if we had drifted to some mystical, magical emerald land. The color splash on the clear waters made us realize that the images that we see on our computer screen are not photo-shopped.

Intensity of the turquoise waters

Our first stop, Monkey Beach offered a glimpse of the incredibly warm turquoise water, towering limestone cliffs and colorful fish darting below, not to forget the mischievous monkeys. It looked so surreal that we went berserk upon arrival on the island. We lost track of the hours while we dived into the exquisite emerald water for a swim and then kicked back to sunbathe and relax on the bone-white sands of the pristine beach. Indeed a picturesque post card image that got etched in our minds for a lifetime.

Pristine beach and layers of teal water at Monkey Beach-PC- Suman Thakur

The Viking Cave was no longer open for tourists but our tour boat operator stopped close by for us to take pictures. The cave is located on the eastern coast of Phi Phi Leh. The cave was so named, due to the prehistoric drawings that were found on the cave walls that resemble ancient Viking ships. It is believed that these drawings of Viking ships were drawn by sea gypsies or pirates who stopped here to shelter from the monsoon storms.

Crossing by Viking Caves

Viking Caves

We stopped by Ko Phi Phi Don for lunch to refuel ourselves. It’s the only island with permanent inhabitants and its remarkable how it had recovered from that catastrophic devastation of the 2004 tsunami. A scrumptious meal at a local restaurant overlooking the teal waters, chilled beer and my school friends for company….. PRICELESS!

Hearty meal with chilled beer at Ko Phi Phi Don

Refueling at Ko Phi Phi Don

We were running late and into high tide. Our boat operator was not too keen to venture further into the deep waters. We skipped the Maya Bay and the snorkeling (I will surely revisit to experience the underwater fantasy world). We stopped near Pi Leh Bay which is an uninhabited island that lies 1.5 km off the southernmost tip of Phi Phi Don. The vertical cliffs capped with green foliage and the tropical coral seas was an ideal place for most of our personal photo shoots. A bite into fresh and juicy pineapple and watermelon that our boat man had arranged for us, seemed like a fitting end to a day full of excitement.

Dreamland at Pi Leh Bay. PC-Suman Thakur

Emerald color splash at Pi Leh Bay

But, the story book still had few pages to go……

Our speed boat was speeding to reach back to the main shore and we were totally oblivious of the reasons. We asked him to take us around few other islands but he pointed to the right and said,” High tide madam and raining there”. We realized that the sky had changed colors and dark clouds were looming at the far corner. As we retraced our path, it was a dramatic change. The same sea which looked so attractive and inviting in the morning, began to look inscrutably threatening and scary. Our boat was crashing over the rough waves and the clouds got darker. We could see lighting strike at a distance…a bolt of light connecting the sky and the water (just the way I had seen in various travel series). I was unable to capture any of those in my lenses due to the vigorous rocking of the boat. It was exciting and adventurous but frightening at the same time. I still remember the moment when we saw the coastline at a distance, it was a sigh of relief, a silent prayer that we could make it back. It was not even a storm, yet it drove us nuts, so I can imagine how people feel when they are caught amidst a real storm.

Dark clouds looming on way back to Krabi

Changing moods of the ocean-Turquoise to D.Grey

Just as we started celebrating our homecoming it started to pour, but now we were in a mood to enjoy the rains, the sea and the sand. It was a perfect end to a Dreamland Trip.

The glum Ao Nang Beach with the overcast and rains.PC-Suman Thakur

Rains lashing at Ao Nang Beach. PC-Suman Thakur

Special thanks to my 6 buddies without whom this would never have been so exciting and so memorable. Love you gals to moon and back …. Rina, Sanjana, Swarachita, Monidipa, Suman and Sakhi

The GANG

Barefoot College – A back to basics journey

A lot has been written about Barefoot College, Tilonia across various fora on the internet but today I will be sharing the experience and learnings from my recent visit to their campus which was an eye opener. I learnt from the inmates that one can literally reach out to the stars with their feet on the ground and it left me awestruck.

I had read about the college prior to my visit and was expecting to meet few happy villagers who lived a self-sustained life, but little did I know that I will return with emotions so profound, that it would compel me to pause and ask myself some questions…

Is formal education so important in life?

Should we complain about every small thing?

Should we stop trying after few setbacks?

I started my journey from Delhi by a double decker train (something I had not done before) and after 4.5 hours of travel, reached Jaipur where I spent the night. Next morning at 7.30am, I met my co-travellers at a tea shop near Ganpati Plaza. The inspirational journey commenced right from Gulab ji Chai wala, where we met this amazing gentleman, aged 90. He had started this tea stall 70 years back and it was his sheer passion that even at this age, he was sitting there, dressed in a crisp white dhoti and kurta, greeting people. More than the tea, it was my few minutes spent with Gulab ji, that left me super charged.

Gulabji Chaiwala in Jaipur with the 90 year old owner

The 3.5 hours of drive took us through tracts of semi-arid land with hillocks on both sides, occasionally passing flocks of sheep and groups of women in brightly coloured sarees, till we reached the campus of Barefoot college, located in Tilonia , a small village in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district.

Barefoot college founded by Sanjit Roy (aka Bunker Roy) in 1972, is India’s first and only college built by and for the rural poor working in the fields of education, skill development, health, drinking water, women empowerment and electrification through solar power. The college imparts basic skills to the villagers, skills which help them take control of their lives and requirements without having to depend on outsiders. Strangely this college imparts training but no formal degrees or certificates.

We were welcomed by the administration and given a brief about Rajasthan’s traditional art of puppetry and how this art form is still being utilized by the college to educate villagers about health, education and human rights. After we took a round of their farms, where they grew fruits, vegetable, medicinal plants and even harvested honey , we finally stepped into the Neer jal department and it was the time of the Awakening

It’s a first of its kind of web based water data and information system, at the village level which captures information on drinking water, its source, availability, quality, quantity, ways of preservation and optimum usage.

Zarina Begum in NeerJal Dept

Inside the department, we met a lady working effortlessly on the computer and on speaking to her, she introduced herself as Zarina Begum and told us about her journey since she joined Barefoot College in 2003.She was educated only till the 5th standard,started work at the accounts department and was later shifted to Neer Jal department. It was here when she learnt English for the first time on the computer keyword and today she proficiently works on Tally and Excel. A true example how self-dependence boosts self-confidence.

 

Bhanwari Devi at the Dental dept

Although we geared ourselves for more surprises, but were bowled over again at the next stop. This time at the dental unit, where we met the granny dentist Bhanwari Devi, clad in a bright yellow sari with pallu on her head. Flashing a smile at us, she narrated her story about how, why and when she joined Barefoot, her experiences, and her training under the supervision of an Italian doctor. Once an illiterate, she joined the training at Barefoot in 2009 and today she can fill in cavities, clean plaque, extract rotting teeth and repair broken ones. Till date, she has successfully conducted 1400 tooth extractions.I asked her if she was ever scared of committing mistakes and her response was “I never doubted by competence and was neither scared. You tend to falter the moment you have self-doubt. I was always ready for the challenges.”  A big life lesson ….Never have self-doubt!

We moved ahead visiting the OPD and laboratory and came upon the sanitary napkin mini factory. The unit was run by both men and women and they had absolutely no qualms discussing this topic, which is still considered a taboo topic in the cities. They explained how the napkins were made from paper that came from Coimbatore and packed hygienically under the brand name of “Sathan”. These women went to the villages and educated both women and men on the importance of sanitary napkins and distributed them packets at subsidized rates. Although the manufacturing cost was Rs.10/- per piece , yet they sold a pack of 6 for Rs.10/- so that women were encouraged towards sanitation and hygiene and more girls could attend schools during their periods.

Sanitary napkin manufacturing unit

Amazed?? We were definitely awestruck at the ease in which they were speaking to us (a group of boys & girls) on this topic when we have our Hindi Film industry censor board, clipping off scenes of movies where there was mention about menstrual cycle.

By now, we had got conditioned to the shocks and then we are led to their Barefoot community radio station.

Their own Radio Station!!!??

RJ Gita at radio station 90.4MHz

Set up in 2009, Radio Tilonia( 90.4 MHz)  reaches out to 40,000-60,000 people daily. They discuss about various government programme, socio-economic issues like caste, gender, labor and community issues like sanitation, water, waste  interspersed with the entertainment of music and skits .We met RJ Gita, who handled all the software related issues in the center. She had gone to school for a year or two and now she is trained to handle a radio station. She said, “Nothing is difficult, if you have the passion for learning.”

Towards the end, we are told about the solar engineers at Barefoot. They were mostly illiterate women, who were trained to assemble, install and maintain solar panels. How did they get trained for this complex job? The answer to this is “dedication”, learning the permutation combinations of the wires through color coded charts and after undergoing this training of 6 months, they are skilled to light up their villages. Solar energy offers them immediate health, education and economic benefits, removes the use of the toxic fuel kerosene and allows children to study in the evenings too.

We ended our visit after seeing every part of the campus and were left speechless. In real terms, the community was self-sustained and all this was a combined effort of Bunker Roy backed by the passion, grit and determination of the villagers. These are the people who should be the role models for so called “educated class” like us who complain about every small thing and claim all our misfortune as results of anything and anyone other than ourselves.

The secret of the magic that these villagers have created seems to have come from SELF …. Self-Realization, Self-Confidence, Self-Motivation and Self-Dependence.

“Believe you can and you are half way there” – T.Roosevelt

Pushkar, Rajasthan

Pushkar is a small town located in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan,India. It’s a prominent Hindu pilgrimage town, considered as one of the five sacred dhams (pilgrimage site) for devout Hindus. Surrounded by hillocks on 3 sides, it’s built around the holy lake of Pushkar.

There are 2 stories revolving around the creation of this town. One says, that the lake was built by the tears of Lord Shiva when he cried after the death of his wife Sati. Whereas the other, which is more popular is that the lake was created when Lord Brahma dropped a lotus here which led to the immediate creation of a lake and then he decided to name it after the flower, Pushkar ( blue lotus flower in Sanskrit).

PUSHKAR LAKE

Ghat of the lake

The lake at Pushkar is considered to be a sacred by the Hindus and is described as ‘Tirtha Raj’, the king of all pilgrimage sites. No pilgrimage is considered to be complete without a dip in in the holy lake.

The lake is surrounded by around 500 temples and 52 Ghats with different religious significance. Taking a bath in the Lake during Kartik Poornima (Full Moon Day), in the month of Kartik (October-November) is considered very auspicious. The sacred water of the lake is said to be curative of many skin diseases  and the local belief is that water around each ghat has a special curative power. Taking a dip in the holy water is supposed to cleanse your sins.

Prayer petals drifting,making way for new offerings

None barred on the ghats-humans, animals, birds

A serene look overlooking the lake

BRAHMA TEMPLE

Steps leading upto the Brahma Temple

Pushkar is also home to the world’s only Brahma Temple. Although Wikipedia says there are a few handful Brahma temples in the world, but local people claim this to be the only one. The temple is approached through a number of marble steps leading to an entrance gate archway, decorated with pillared canopies The temple is built with marble and decorated with silver coins. A red spire and the image of a swan (considered sacred to Lord Brahma) being the distinct features. The chaturmukhi (four faced) idol of Lord Brahma is housed in the inner sanctum.

Pillared canopies of the temple

According to Padma Purana, Lord Brahma was cursed by Sati , his wife as he had married a Gurjar girl to complete his yagna . She cursed him saying he would never be worshiped, but then reduced the curse permitting his worship only in Pushkar.

According to Sarawati Purana, Lord Brahma married his own daughter , Sarasvati. He was overpowered by the ethereal beauty of Saraswati as she changed her forms to escape from Brahma’s sexual overtures. Finally she accepted him as a concern for all beings in the universe but cursed him that he would not be worshiped by anyone on Earth. Hence, Brahma is not worshiped in Hinduism in spite of being the Creator.

Another story says that there was an argument between Brahma & Vishnu on who was the most powerful. Shiva intervened, assumed the form of a gigantic lingam and asked them to find the enormity of the fiery lingam. Vishnu gave up, but Brahma requested Ketaki flower to testify before Shiva that he had reached the uppermost part of the lingam and seen the end. Ketaki agreed and falsely testified that Brahma had seen the end. Lord Shiva was angered by the lie and cursed Brahma that he will not be worshiped on earth and cursed the flower of never being used in any Hindu worshiping rituals.

Acts of sheer faith tied to trees

Courtyard inside the Brahma temple

Outside the Brahma temple is a busy street full of tourists and pilgrims. A long bazaar, selling anything to tickle a traveler’s fancy, from hippy-chic tie-dye , silver jewellery , embroidered clothes, leather goods , colorful puppets, miniature painting to rose products. A colorful and vibrant sight it is. The town often hums with chanting, drums, gongs, and devotional songs.

Vibrancy on the streets

Prayer offering baskets

Although, I was early for the Pushkar mela(fair), but it’s worth visiting the town during the 5 day fair. The calm and serene town of Pushkar comes alive during those days and hosts the largest camel and livestock fair. It is the biggest gathering of Rajasthan and tourist from all around the world come in huge numbers to experience its beauty.

If you haven’t been to this town, nestled amidst the Aravalli’s , then let this be your next destination.

 

 

Trust your Instincts

Image shot in London

“I have finally made it!” Says Jonathan, overlooking the cityscape, with tears in his tired eyes. He was consumed with swirls of intense emotions—pride, excitement, fear, and joy. It had been a long journey, traversed over several years and thousands of miles. But now he stood puzzled, unable to fathom the unfolding situation. The city of his dreams beckoned him and he was scared to fly the last mile?

Jonathan was born in a poor family where his parents had to work very hard for sustenance. They were deprived of the basic amenities, so education was far-fetched. But Jonathan being a dreamer, wanted to fly high. He convinced his father to send him to a school which provided free education. There were hardships on the way but he was determined. Time passed and he moved out of home with a scholarship for higher studies. Project submissions, study hours and an evening job kept him so busy, that his visits back home reduced with every passing year. His parents missed him, but never complained. They were proud of their son and wanted him to live his dreams.

They say “Your reality is the reflection of your strongest belief “. A job with a reputed organization was the turning point in his life. Dreams actualized and he yearned to go new places and scale new heights. Bigger the aspirations, greater were the levels of commitment and he never shied away from them. In his quest, he traveled extensively and finally reached the city of his dreams.

During these years of staying away from home, he had lost his mother and his father’s health conditions had deteriorated. If he took this job, he would be away from his father for a very long time. A tricky situation it was! His mind was turbulent with mixed feelings.

Didn’t he work hard to reach this far? Wasn’t it his responsibility to take care of his father in his old age? Was he ready to give this up now? It was decision making time!

Whatever be the decision, he will win and lose at the same time.

Sometimes our intuitive feelings guide us in a particular direction and we need to stay open to recognize them. We need to remember that it’s perfectly fine to change direction if that’s where our intuition is pointing.

It’s was a big move and Jonathan was ready to embark on a new journey. He spread his wings and took off ………. In a direction opposite to the city.

He was travelling back home!

This could be a FIZZ moment for few and a FUZZ moment for others. Totally depends on your priorities.

Which would you choose?

Read about another dilemma that we encounter in Hit the Pause

Image shot near London Eye

Notes

Instinct – inborn pattern of behavior often responsive to specific stimuli.It is something which you don’t need to learn but happens naturally without you thinking about it .We also call it the “gut feeling”

Magic Bubbles

One windy evening in 2017, sitting beside the Thames, I am trying to plan my itinerary for the next day .There is music and laughter all around me. It’s a busy promenade with kids prancing, lovers walking hand in hand and street artists playing music, a pleasant cacophony I must say.

While I am immersed in the city guide book, a small bubble floats towards me and bursts right over my book, distracting me. I notice that a bubble maker had just started his show and the kids were going frenzy, bursting every bubble that came their way.

While I watch them playing, I observe a little girl dressed in yellow skipping down the path. From between her curly hair, blowing all over her face, she winks at me and crosses over to join the other children. They wave at each other and run towards the bubble maker begging for more. The young man dips his ring in a bucket of soap solution, lifts it up meticulously and jiggles it, releasing a series of bubbles and then the mischievous breeze drifts these soapy balls in all directions. It was a sight to watch! Iridescent globules floating in the air, ephemeral, yet magical.

 

Image shot at The Thames, London

Time machine reversed its gears  taking me back to 1980.The sunflower girl in her yellow dress was merrily blowing bubbles through the wire ring that her dad had made. As she blew, her friends went jumping all around to pop them. The joy of pricking those shimmering balls was the same.

The chill in the wind, brings me back to the present day and I realize it is time to head back. The sunflower girl too has to return. As she turns around, the bubble maker walks towards her, smiles and says, “Mam, it would be great if you can drop a pound as a token of appreciation.”

She is taken aback, in her journey from the 1980 to 2017, the bubble moved from being priceless to a being worth a pound.

She drops a pound in his hat lying on the ground and walks back. That’s when I notice her face which seemed strangely familiar. It dawned to me that she looked a lot like me, laughed like me and was even dressed like me. She was the little sunflower kid within me and I am glad I rediscovered her today.

The fragile bubbles, brought back the FIZZ within me. I gather the hemline of my yellow dress, walk towards the road humming a song from my past….” I am forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air….”

 

Notes:

A soap bubble is an extremely thin film of soapy water enclosing air that forms a hollow sphere with an iridescent surface. They usually last for only a few seconds before bursting, either on their own or on contact with another object. Assembling several bubbles results in a foam.

 

A picture is worth a thousand words

It’s one of those days when I convert the café table into my workstation. While I do the final run through of the client presentation, I overhear a kid’s conversation right behind me, Mom, why did he draw a heart over your coffee? Does he love you?”

I take my eyes off the laptop screen, glance at my steaming hot coffee and smile impishly “Guess, he loves me too!”

The heart, tulip, rosette that are etched on our coffee is a skillful art, popularly known as the “Latte Art”. This art form was introduced to ensure that our coffee looked pretty and sumptuous. It’s like drawing on a canvas, wherein the balance between  elements like height, position, flow and control defined the quality of the art. Intention is to make it visually stunning so that it affects our perception of the flavor in the cup, even before we sip it.

Does the same philosophy apply when we meet someone?

Be it your coffee or the person we are meeting, our mind is programmed to function the same way. It tries to categorize the person/ coffee and generate feelings which instantly impact us. Researchers say that, “it takes only 7 seconds for someone to evaluate you”. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s , 7%-38%-55% Rule, 7 percent of our communication is based on what we say, 38 percent on how we sound and whopping 55 percent is visual.

Our mind unconsciously evaluates the person and forms an opinion in the first 7–10 secs and this judgement gets finalized in the following 30 secs. As the well know adage goes, “First impression is the last impression” and now you know how precious those first few seconds are.

You can read how first impressions makes you fall in love in  A Love Affair

Just like the heart crafted over your coffee needs to be perfect to make you fall in love with it, so has to be your appearance. It’s imperative to be conscious about your personal grooming and body language to be able to make that first and possible lasting impression. As Andrew Grant once said,”You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Image shot at The Coffee shop,Saket,New Delhi

As my mind drifted from these thoughts, I heard the mother explain to the kid Beta, he doesn’t love me but he is making sure that I love the coffee and come here every day for one.”

 

Notes:

Latte art, is presumed to be developed initially in Italy, but the credit of popularizing it goes to David Schomer, who owned a coffee shop called Espresso Vivace in Seattle, United States. The heart pattern was established by Schomer’s in 1989 and in 1992 , he created the rosette . Latte art is a mixture of two colloids: the crema, which is an emulsion of coffee oil and brewed coffee; and the micro-foam, which is a foam of air in milk.

First impression in psychology,is the event when one person first encounters another person and forms a mental image of him/her. Its based on a wide range of characteristics like age, race, culture, language, gender, physical appearance, accent, posture & voice . The first impression individuals give to others, could greatly influence how they are treated and viewed in many contexts of everyday life.

 

 

Hit the Pause

It’s late in the day and I am still trying my best to meet deadlines. Typing briskly on the keyboard, I take a sip of my coffee followed with a deep breath. I am not sure whether it was accidental or destined, but I notice a key on the right hand corner of my laptop.

PAUSE/BREAK, A key which caught my attention and compelled me to think.

If a key proclaiming itself as “Pause/Break” had a pride of place in the modern keyboard, why wasn’t it an integral part of our lives too? In our fast paced lives, we are always challenging ourselves and in the process getting consumed.

We are frustrated with our daily mundane responsibilities and lose both energy and excitement to set new goals.

We are so overwhelmed with our career that we tend to disconnect with relationships which are very precious.

We get hyper sensitive about all kinds of stimuli around us.

We are so mentally and physically fatigued that the road ahead looks blurred.

We are so focused on the destination that we miss enjoying the journey.

Those are the times, when we need to look for this key and use it to Rethink, Reboot, Rediscover, Reinforce and Reconnect.

This brings me to the next big question.

Why does a Pause and Break share the same key?? Is there a deeper meaning to this ?

Keep thinking!!

Notes:

The Pause and Break keys were used in DOS and still function in the Command Prompt today.

Pause key is designed to pause a text-mode program’s output – it still works in the Command Prompt window on Windows. When you press Pause, the output scrolling down your screen will stop. Depending on how the program is written, this may also pause the program’s execution. Press another key after pausing and the program will continue. The Pause key can also pause many computers during the BIOS boot-up process until another key is pressed.

Break key can be used to end DOS applications – pressing Ctrl+Break terminates a DOS application. This shortcut functions similarly to Ctrl+C, which is also used to terminate applications in command-line environments.