Monday, July 19, 2010

Magical Masinagudi trip

We started from Chennai at 4.15p.m on a Friday evening excited that are weekend plan was on. In a few minutes the Rain gods blessed us with mild spells setting a jubilant mood for the drive. We halted at Bangalore for the night and hit the roads again at 5.30a.m in the morning, before the city could get into action. The plan was to take the State Highway (SH-17) to reach Mysore and then proceed further towards Bandipur Wildlife sanctuary. We stopped over at Kamat Laukri, just after Ramnagaram for breakfast – nice place that serves traditional south Indian breakfast. The weather was mild, the drive was refreshing. We reached Mysore and the stretch from here till Nanjangud doesn’t offer an effortless drive. After carefully maneuvering the many pot holes, the road to Gundlupet was uniform. As the road way was inching towards Bandipur, a renewed silence engulfed the atmosphere with serenity hanging around the vicinity. We turned off our music and began listening to the birds chirp. We were getting accustomed to the environment and slowly drifted into the clatters from the wildlife in the forest. As the gentle breeze kissed our cheeks, we transcended into another space. We spotted Deers right at the entrance way to Bandipur and few Elephants as we crossed the forest. We were glad that our wildlife spotting began early.

We crossed the Karnataka State Border, entered into the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve area. We continued to blend with the acoustics of the nature and finally saw some civilian activity as we approached Masinagudi Town. We had clear directions and maps from the web and hence we could proceed without any stop over’s to Bokkapuram where most of the resorts are located. We had our bookings in ‘Jungle Hut’ – a lovely property to unwind. As we drove in, the landscape of the property was welcoming us with a broad smile; little did we know that the people who run the place would wear a broader smile. It is run by a family who live in the property – there is a home touch in everything. It felt like holidaying in a place where travelers were welcomed to join them, share their joy of being with nature. The hosts are very courteous and hospitable. We dumped our baggage in the cottage and walked around the property, immersing in its beauty. Absorbed in its tranquility I rested myself on the hammock to continue reading my book – ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’, didn’t need a better book. The pulchritude of nature allured me to establish a connection with ‘thy’. I rested my book and closed my eyes, slipping towards a quieter inner space. I went into a deep state of relaxation, being comforted by the chirping birds, buzzing insects and hissing branches. Mild breeze gently gliding past my ears, the chillness piercing through my skin, I was deep in my own space. Ecstatic. I didn’t want to get back to the real world but this is my abode now. I quietly returned to the serene surroundings.

We wandered around and settled down in the lounge – again a nicely done place. We spent time talking about nothings over a drink. The resort guide briefed about the variant Safaris and Treks that we can engage in. We quickly decided to do both the safari and the trek. The guide was very amicable. I didn’t want to do the Safari as we don’t get to sight any animals in the Safaris; at least the ones I have done so far and heard of. The guide was sweet talking and I thought why not give it a chance, after all animal sighting is a Chance. We had to start for the Safari at 3p.m; it was to be 2-3 Hr Safari deep into the Bandipur reserve. We went refreshed ourselves and dived into food. The resort has a Buffet system; all their dishes are tasty, Home style. The food is not exotic but is variant, cooked subtly to smack our lips and fill our stomachs. The desserts are very yummy. We finished lunch, unwound a bit as the deer sprawled around our cottages. It was time for the Safari. We drove in our vehicle into the Bandipur national park. Mr.JP, the naturalist who accompanied us for the Safari was educated in forestry. Wildlife and forest is his way of living. Both the guide and JP shared lot of information about wildlife with us that made the Safari interesting. For the first hour we really didn’t spot any animal, nevertheless the ride through the forest was enriching. We spotted Sambha Deer (Female) first; they were licking from the Salt pits made by the forest department. I have never seen a Sambha Deer before. It has reddish gall that seems like an open wound but isn’t. Sambha Deers are Tigers favourite hunt. Little further we sighted Bisons(Female) drinking water from a pond. All our animal sightings were close encounters – really worth it. It was the experience of Mr.JP that came in; he would spot the animal far away, turn off the engine and wait. He would then take us closer to the animals. We saw Monkeys, Deer, Peacock, Mongoose, Sambha deer (Male) and Serpent Eagle. It began to drizzle enhancing the experience. We saw a herd of elephants against the misty backdrop of the rain, dozen elephants inclusive of three baby elephants lead by the matriarch. Awesome. Our Safari came to an end. A chance well taken. We had to drive back to the resort in the dark. We spotted Male Bisons on the way and our guide was close to spotting a Leopard. We either missed it in the dark or he mistook it for a leopard.

Back to the resort, the evening was harmonic. We spent time idling at the lounge, indulged in a game of Pictionary. They have many board games and books stocked. It was an idyllic evening – small talks, a game of Pictionary, dinner and drinks. We woke up the next day early for the trek. It was guided trek in the hills behind the property. We were in a group of 8, it wasn’t very tough trail. A trek into the forest is always exciting. Two days back a couple on trek saw a bear, we weren’t so lucky! I was hoping we could spot more wildlife but we had to be content with the flora. We trekked to two high grounds from where one gets good view of the landscape – Breath taking. Little higher up, there was a stream, drenching one’s feet in a fresh stream of gushing water after a trek is rejuvenating. It was time to take the decent, the clouds were hovering above and we treaded back to our resorts.

We went straight to please our stomach; the trek had acted as a good appetizer. We finished breakfast, had little time before we could check-out. I went back to my hammock, completed my book – content in imagery and words. The book planted many seeds to be watered. We were all set for our journey back home. It was a refreshing break away from the routine. A very short trip that has left a lasting impact. We bid adieu to the hosts and made a silent promise to come back again on another day.

Travel Info

Chennai – Bangalore – Mysore – Nanjangud – Gundlupet – Bandipur – Masinagudi.
[Mysore – Nanjangud stretch is patched with many potholes. Rest of the stretch to Masinagudi is smooth.]

Stay at:
Jungle Hut, Bokkapuram.

The resorts serves buffet. No restaurants can be found in the vicinity.

Food on the roads:
Plenty of Dhabas and Eating outlets can be found along the Mysore-Bangalore highway.

Activities: Safari and Trek. Bird watching, Elephant feeding can also be done.

Best for: Relaxing with family and friends away from the hustle-bustle of the city life.
Making a mystical connection with nature and wildlife.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Non-special Day

Today isn’t a special day in my calendar, yet in the couple of hours I have lived this day, I am feeling light and gay. Not many times one gets to feel delighted on a mundane week day. I do, today. I woke up to a lovely [bound to happen] news that lead to a chirpy small talk at home reminiscing few moments from the past.

The door bell rang. I got the book I had ordered – ‘Many lives, Many worlds’. Books excite me. I was engrossed in it as I traveled to work. A breeze of realization dawned up on me as I was staring out of the window, sinking in those words. Realizations make life meaningful. As I walked to my desk, was pondering over the events that are to occur in near future and the many events that have occurred. The moment was light and ephemeral, wanted to capture the essence before it could evade.

Ctrl+Alt+Del – Unlock my desktop. Open Gmail. One of the first things I do at work ;) In the list of junk mails, I find a mail from Robert Langdon, subject reads ‘The Lost Symbol’. I could have easily given it a miss, but I didn’t. It is a mail from Robert inviting me to join him in unveiling the lost symbol. The rules of the plot neatly laid. It wasn’t hard to guess the man behind the mail with many conspicuous hints to reveal his identity :) Looking forward to the maze that is to unfold! Bowled over by the surprise, let a sigh of exhilaration.

We are driving down to Masinagudi for the weekend. Looking forward to a day filled with lighter moments that cost smiles. Happy ‘Non-special’ Day!!

First step

She was raring to go, but confined by her ability to move. She was getting older, and with every passing month her eagerness was on the rise. The world around her was evolving. She lay amidst the beauty of the universe, her innocence blending into the oneness. She sought comfort in that expanse, plenty to ponder over and relish. Every day brought in a new excitement, comprehending her world was her only challenge.

In her twinkling eyes, she held the rapt attention of the angels above. She conquered the hearts of her guarding souls with her mischievous smile.

She was building an elephant’s strength to take on the steady influx of novelty in her life; energized by the power of thousand suns to explore the unexposed. She was waiting for the world to unfold itself, before she could tread along to etch her path.

One day, she was determined to take the plunge. In her quest to extend her territory, she shunned her inhibition to experiment. She let go of her supporting walls, for a split second she held her balance and fell back to her supporting wall for assurance. Her face convoluted a multitude of expression, those emotions explicable only to her. She looked around for her guardian souls at the corner of her eye and shared a sly smile with glee. She wanted to beat her timing and her adrenaline was pumping harder. She wasn’t ready to call it day. She tried, tried and tried. With every try she was gaining expertise in the balancing act. Her guardian souls were perched closer to hold her support when she needed. With assuring smiles, wooing calls, nothing could stop her.

With all the encouragement she wanted to break from the shackles of confinement and be on her own in her tryst with destiny. She showed resolute to take the first step forward. Perched were we again around her to cheer her as she took on her mission. She took her hands of her support, balancing with care, hesitantly staring at us for directions. We egged her to reach out to us, but she couldn’t hold her balance, rested herself on those reliable walls. She didn’t let it go. She had to attempt. She did it again, we were anxiously waiting, her knees buckled under and she lost her balance. Five pairs of hands reached out to hold her from falling. She restored her balance. We saw fright in her eyes, a reflection of our involuntary surge of emotion. As we broke into a smile, she held on smiling. She never gave up. We were more adept to guide her now. As she stood balanced, we extended our hands to encourage her to put the first foot forward. She only took a finger to reinforce the confidence. As she held on to the finger, she took the mighty big step forward. She did it amongst the thunderous applause from her guiding souls. She didn’t retire.

She continued to take the tiny steps by holding our fingers but wasn’t enough to satisfy her. She went back to her reliable supporting wall, stood balanced looking at us with a mixed sense of ecstasy and pride. She was ready to take her first step all by her own. Her single point of focus was her guardian soul with arms stretched out, seated a meter away. With all her effort she put her best foot forward followed by the other to synchronize her movement - termed ‘walk ‘, to reach her destination, the comforting arms of her angel. As we looked up on with pride, she was immersed in joy, the joy of exploring the unknown. I am sure she would tread upon her life relishing in its beauty with the same resolute she showed in taking her first step.

Today is her birthday. She is turning two. She is celebrating her birthday on board with her mom and dad. Missing you my cute little sweetie pie!!

Here is wishing you a life filled with peace and harmony. There are many more First steps to take in life. Don’t fret; they would be as beautiful as your First.

Happy Birthday Yahavi!!

Hugs & Kisses - Mama & Aththai.

I am not sure why I had to write about your first step on your second birthday, I believe this is my celebration on your birthday. I hope it would be a good read for you when you grow up baby.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The guardian angel

Once upon a time there lived a wise old lady in a bustling village along the course of River Cauvery. Rajammal clad in her traditional six yard sari sporting a bright red bindi centered like a fire ball, was the mascot for the village. The dingles from her ear drops dangling down her earlobes were the harbinger for the children waiting to hound her with love. She could be found under the huge banyan tree near her house, vividly narrating moral stories to the young children of the village every evening.

The villagers looked up to her for wise decisions, she happened to have quick solutions for all their woes carefully wrapped under the secret folds of her sari. As she walked along the green paddy fields in the early mornings, she brought in an aura of an intellect. Under her guidance the villagers lived as one unit in harmony despite their cultural diversity. Her charm was magical. The villagers had immense respect for her and sought her blessings before the commencement of any critical tasks.

Rajammal grew up in the small village, it was her world. Her grandsons were working in a distant town, she refused to move with them, she made the village her home, the villagers her relations. She enjoyed living in the serenity of the village. The houses were small, the lanes were narrow but their hearts were big. In those quiet lanes there was chirping happiness all round the year. There wasn’t a better sight to behold than the rays of the golden sun evading through the fields and reflecting off the river in the early hours of the day.

One fine morning, the village woke up to the news of a theft. The people were crestfallen and the children were sullen at the lack of buzzing activity and cheerfulness amongst the elders. Rajammal infused faith and courage to move on. Few weeks later, their temple was stolen of 20 sovereigns of jewellery and the pundit was beaten up. The Entire village fell in a state of shock. The villagers considered this is bad omen and the old lady’s advice was sought. They decided to lodge a complaint in the police station and awaited the news of nabbing the criminals. Days passed by, the village sprung back to normalcy but the thieves weren’t caught.

The thieves continued their mayhem. There was another theft in the neighboring village and the thieves were getting notorious. Rajammal called for a discussion and devised a plan to nab the thieves. The village was gearing up for their annual festival. With all the arrangements being made for the festivities they announced the Shrine would be adorned with new jewels and special invocation would be done to wade off the evil spirits in the village. This news spread wide and far.

The festival pulled in people from neighboring villages. On the night before the festival day, the idol was adorned with the jewels and was taken around the village to be witnessed by the public. They expected the thieves to return and many villagers patrolled the temple to safeguard the jewels.

Rajammal ordered the men to return home and leave the temple unguarded. Some villagers were anxious, but they humbly obeyed her orders. The pundit who came to offer early morning prayers found the lock broken and raised an alarm. When the villagers gathered to barge into the temple, they found the thieves trapped in a pit at the entrance to the temple. Rajammal with the help of few villagers had dug pits around the temple compound to trap the thieves when they attempted to strike. She had dug pits, laid netted traps and camouflaged the pits with dried leaves. The thieves, who came to rob, fell into these pits and the netted traps pull them down, tightening the noose.

The villagers turned the thieves to the village panchayat. Thousands thronged the banyan tree to witness a deserving punishment being handed out to them before the onset of the festivities. The villagers celebrated and rejoiced their annual festival with jubilance. This incident augmented their respect for their wise old lady.

Next day when the children gathered around the banyan tree, Rajammal had a story to narrate that evening.

[This story was presented at Toastmasters club as a Folk tale classified under the Story Telling manual]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Divine Mail

She was stretching her hands to let go off the weariness struggling to open her eyes as the rays of the morning sun struck through the holes of her cemented window. In the distance, against the glowing amber Sun, her mom was harvesting paddy acutely bent over the fields, her father was ploughing the fields guiding the ox. “Tung..Ting..Tung”, the noise of the vessels brought her attention to her elder sister perched over the stove intensely cooking their meal. She knew it was about few months away by when she would assist her sister in cooking.

Drowned in her thoughts, she got ready to leave for school. She neatly plaited her hair tying the loose ends with bright red ribbon, sheepishly pinning up the torn end of her uniform, excited to attend school. She left home on bare feet with a bag hanging down her shoulder; waving bye to her parents to walk to her school about 3 kms from her home.

Rekha was studying in class five, next year she would be promoted to the higher secondary class, but her village did not accommodate a Higher Secondary school. She would have to travel 20 odd kms through narrow trenches navigating two canals to pursue her dream of studying further. Her dad would never let her go thus far for Education. She enjoyed studying and wanted to become a doctor who could protect their village from deadly diseases.

On her way back from school, she saw a post box. An idea hit upon her. She ran back home, flung her bag aside, picked her pencil to write, “Dear God! I want to become a doctor and help the poor. Give me a big school in my village”. She was very happy and content when she went to sleep that night. She was staring at the glittering stars as she fell asleep, assured her wish would be granted by the god.
Next morning, she rose early, gleefully ran to school. On her way she posted this letter to God. She turned around to head to school with a broad smile.

Months flew by, nothing happened. Rekha was writing her final exams. She went and asked her teacher if her school would turn big. Her teacher felt sorry for this little girl but couldn’t help her. With every passing day her fear grew. One night as the family sat for dinner, Rekha asked her parents, “Can I go to the big school?” Father said, “No, it is very far off dear” Her mother understood her daughter’s heart but only could take her into her lap.

One fine morning Rekha was busy playing with her mates under the tree. She saw her sister running towards her waving a letter calling out for her. Rekha jumped up to snatch the letter. It was the announcement of her results. She stood first in class. Rekha was disappointed; she was awaiting for the news from God.

The new academic year began, she was asked to assist her sister. In her spare time, she read stories; she constructed models of hospitals from clay mud. One day when Rekha was reading her favorite story, there was a buzz in the village. Outsiders from the city had come to village enquiring for Rekha. When she was summoned, she hid behind her mother. The well bred gentleman asked her if she wanted to be a doctor. She was very shy but did not fail to nod her head.

The two men were from an NGO. They worked tirelessly in the cities to bring education to the masses. They have a vision of educated India, an India whose villages are self sustained. They showed Rekha the post card she had written to God. They promised to build a big school for Rekha in her village by co-coordinating with the Government; meanwhile they were ready to sponsor Rekha’s Education in the city.

Rekha was overwhelmed, she was going to school. Her God responded. Her parents were apprehensive to send their daughter. After the volunteers at the NGO counseled her parents, Rekha was allowed to study. It was new beginning.

Rekha was leaving her village to study; the whole village had come to send her off. The children and her play mates were amused. The government had passed an order to build a higher secondary school for the village. As Rekha was getting ready to board the bus, a little present was handed over to her by the village Post master with the words –“All the best” inscribed. He was the god who weaved in the magic for Rekha. He whispered into her ears- “Honest desires from your heart never go unanswered my little lady”.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Why we behave the way we do ?

What drives human behavior? Our belief system. Why do some people engage in philanthropic activities while others indulge in theft? The underlying beliefs that govern their actions are different. Our beliefs are not rooted just to the age old cultural systems prevalent in the society; it is nurtured by our parents, schooling, friends, community and the myriad of experiences that life offers.

Our actions inadvertently reinforce our beliefs. We derive our attitudes from beliefs that are rules governing our lives. All is well when our actions unify with our beliefs, but such is not life. The discords in our lives occur when our behavior conflict with our beliefs, resulting in elevated state of tension such as guilt, anger or frustration.

For instance, someone who believes eating chocolate truffle pastries add calories will try to avoid buying pastries. The belief can get strengthened over time through personal experiences of having put on weight after eating pastries or having observed friends who eat pastries put on weight. Either way the belief is getting stronger, hence this person is sure to avoid pastries even if offered at parties, but she was coaxed into having a pastry at her friend’s party. Now there is a conflict in her behavior. How is she going to feel? Maybe guilty. Her mind is not going to rest the night. This is the most trivial of examples to elucidate the frictions we experience in our daily lives.

How do you think we reduce this state of dissatisfaction? We can either change our behavior, belief or can add reasoning to our behavior. Is it easy to avoid pastries? Or is it easy to change our belief to,’ little bit of pastry eating wouldn’t add calories’? ;) Most often the easiest is to supplement reasoning – I read an article that says eating fried items adds more calorie than pastry. Who are we fooling around here?

In case of Smokers, our social belief system emphasis, “Smoking is injurious to health”. In spite of this widespread belief we have many smokers in the society. The behavior is so hard to alter that we tend to reason our actions. I don’t have to give you sample of those reasoning’s, do I? We have all heard enough of it right! ;)
In certain other situations, we go to the extent of altering our attitudes. Yes, it is easier to alter our beliefs rather than our behavior. As teen-agers we would have been encouraged to form attitudes that late night partying is not appropriate, but with time we change our attitude and stay out all night :)

Our beliefs and attitudes are evolving constantly. Negative connotations aren’t inevitable. People who are frustrated with the conflicts in their actions and beliefs can get into depression. In trying to reduce this conflict some may stray into illegitimate, antisocial and unethical paths. We are negotiating conflicts endlessly; the more aware we are in this mind game, the more adaptable we become as humans in the society.

As promised in this post I have tried to explain the theory behind attitude formation and human behavior. This theory is referred as ‘Cognitive Dissonance ‘in social psychology.


Happy conflict resolving!!