Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Roma in 2 days!

It was the last leg of our trip and the emotions were all mixed, rightly so! The train journey from Florence to Rome was scenic. The weather was just perfect. It is one of those typical European routes where one can get excited about the Italian landscape.

Our early retirement the previous day did a lot of good! We were wide awake, enjoying the beauty. We were at our B&B at 2.00 and knew we had to just run out to cover Roma!!

We stayed close to the Vatican, at Bibi & Romeo. I had recommend this place, Romeo is a perfect host. He is so helpful and everything about the B&B was just so right. Even though he is not available at the B&B, he has ensured everything is set right that you will never need him, and if you do, he is just a call away! Romeo pulled out a Roma map and gave a good brief about what best can be done in 2 days. We had our itinerary, inputs from the people on ground our always helpful. We did a quick re-grouping of our plan and off we went to start our tour.

We visited the capuchin crypt where the ossuary is decorated with bones. It was first of its kind, for us in the entire trip. We began our walk for the evening from there. Our next stop was the Pantheon,(Admission free)where Raphel's tomb is placed. I found Rome to be very busy that evening with loads of people walking down the aisle. There was a demonstration in front of the pantheon, making it appear very busy and crowded.

The evening was themed, "Roma for Free" for us, we next spent some time near the Trevi fountain! Bought some Pizzas and stood by the fountain. I am not sure which part of the day, the fountain would be free of tourists but an evening is definitely not the time! We stopped by at the Spanish steps, these are places where you can just sit and observe the scores of tourists around!!

The piazzas in Roma are indeed beautiful with sculptures and fountains! Piazza Popello, Piazza Navona and Campo de' Fiori were are next stops. The Pyramid at Piazza Popello is the one that features in the movie Angels and Demons. The fountain of four rivers is found in Piazza Navona. The Piazzas are the ideal place to slow down, grab a cafe, take a few bites and experience Roma.

We headed back to our B&B after our walking tour for the evening! We spotted a Pizza house near our B&B, a small one with white board placed outside that read - 'Honest Pizzas for Honest Prices". We were extremely happy to find this place - the man in the kicthen is an awesome human and his pizzas tasted great! He made our Pizza in 2 mins - yes 2mins. Customized vegetarian pizza not in his menu! We then had our next 2 meals in Roma with him :-)

Our penultimate day of the trip was planned on exploring the ancient Roma. Where else would one start but the Roman Colosseum. We spent a good 2 hours in the Colosseum!! To even stand in silence and imagine being in the days of Nero as a spectator at the Gladiatorial arena is a truly nerve wrenching experience!

A walking tour through the remains of ancient Rome, at the Palatine hill and Roman Forum. Excavations are still on and many are still being studied. If you are truly interested a good guide book will be of great use.

Capitol hill museum was our next destination, slowly by now, museums were becoming were becoming a bit of an overdose. 2 weeks of walking around every city was getting to us as well but here again we were in for a surprise. Every museum has something new to offer. The temporary exhibition here had put the works of Michaelangelo and Leonardo. When i say works, i mean the original study and paper works of these geniuses. A treat! Mouth of truth was our next destination for the day - a belief that the fingers will be cut off if you lie here! We ended our day with a visit to the Trastevere area, another side of Roma. I found it quieter, and more worn down as compare to Piazza Navona.

We wanted to either visit the catacombs or baths of caracalla, but we couldn't as most attractions in Roma during this season is closed by 16.30-17.00

We had a flight to catch at 8.30 the next day and our plan was Vatican and if possible may be squeeze one of it in but as luck would have it, there was a strike in Rome.

We walked to the Vatican, first the St.peter's basilica, it appears non-impressive from the outside but very impressive as you get in - truly rich! The vatican musuem has over 1200 rooms and it is impossible to do justice - it houses Raphello's major works as well. We did our best!
We had to create more buffer time as the strike was on. We headed to our man for our last mean in Italy - ate to heart's content and walked back to pick our bags to the airport!

* Roma pass priced at 25 Euros is worth. The first thing we did when we landed at the train station was to pick them.
* Roma pass entitles you to - travel in Metro, Buses
* First 2 attractions are absolutely free and discounts then on(Let the colosseum be one of your first priced at 12 Euros)
* Roma Metro does not connect you well - be ready to use the bus and walk.
* Gelatos in Florence are much better than in Rome.
* Staying close to the vatican is a good choice - Cheaper & safe - you are still close to one destination
* If you are close to the vatican, try the pizzas @ 10, via andrea doria - best for the prices!
* A good 3 day would be enough to cover the top attractions in Rome.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Italy Travel Guide

Traveling through Italy, one can expect to be blown over by artistic history, food, and landscape. Even if you aren't inclined to art, you still will be amazed by most cathedrals and monuments!

The popular circuit for traveling in Italy would be Milan-Venice-Florence-Rome-Naples-Sicily especially if you are traveling extensively in Italy.

The abridged version generally is Venice-Rome-Vatican city!

I personally believe it is better to take some time and relish the country than be hurried. Yes, the Roman Colosseum, Vatican church and Venetian Islands are a must see and would give you the glimpse of Italy but wouldn't you wanna relax on the beaches, and lose your taste buds to sensational seafood?

The northern and southern Italy are remarkably different - People, Culture, Food, Landscape - its good to experience both!

Season: Visiting Italy in winter and summer are two different experiences too!
Summer being the season, is filled with tourist. It is when the sun shines, perfect climate for traveling! Costs are high. Ideal time to explore the beaches and unwind in idyllic lush green surrounding.

The biggest plus in visiting during winter is cost! you will pay half the price for most things, as its off-season. But also be prepared to see most places wear a pale look as many wind up their business.

If you are going to spend many days in Italy then, i would suggest these quiescent hidden treasures : Lake como region - bordering Alps, be ready to witness some splendid landscape; Cinque Terre - enchanting rugged coast with cliffs, Verona - famous for its Arena, City walls and Juliet's love story; Lake Garda - scenic landscapes for rejuvenation; Islands in venice - Lido, Murano ; Coasts of Tuscany, Naples, Sicily - white sandy beaches.

They are not really hidden but relatively retain their cultural charm and beauty!!

Must See:

Last Supper Painting, Milan - Make your reservations online, gets booked a month in advance. You get to see this marvel for 15 mins exclusively! You can read the history of this painting. Expensive but still worth it, if you love and can appreciate art!

Venice - Just cause there is no place like it! Try to get away from the crowd and sail through the narrow alleys to get a real experience of being in venice.

Piazza Michaelangelo, Florence - a charming small city! experience the beauty of walking through this place. Go up to the Piazzale Michaelangelo - the view of florence from here is a real beauty!

David, Accademia Gallery, Florence - Entry on the expensive side but again worth the fee to see this sculpture of Michaelangelo

Leaning Tower of Pisa - The bell tower of Pisa cathedral that leans! 15 euros to climb up, if you think its expensive, you can skip it! The tower isn't very tall to give you great views. Walking up the tower in itself a experience, as you can feel the slant as you go up!

Roman Colosseum and Forum - Just to think you are standing in a place where gladiatorial games were held is a creepy feeling! Walking through the excavations of Roma makes you wonder! Read up Roman history to enhance your experience.

St.Peter's Square/Vatican Museum - Being in the world's smallest country! The vatican church is marvelous - take your time to stop by and be stunned. The museum is mammoth! It houses Raphel's work.

The Trio - When in Italy, make sure you see the works of Leonardo, MichaelAngelo and Raphel.

Apart from the historical monuments that will leave you astonished, spend enough time in scenic areas- Lakes, Beaches, and Hills. Learn to speak a few words of Italian, interact with the people, have a croissant and a cappuchino - truly Italian!

Travel and Food - the awesome combo! and in Italy, it is just gonna add up!!

Just let yourself shamelessly gobble those yummy Pizzas & Gelatos!!

Allora ;-) Godetevi il vostro viaggio gastronomo!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Paris Travel Guide - Less on cost, More on experience

There is plenty of information available online that will help you plan your travel to Paris. Here, i would be trying to put together my experiences that will help you explore Paris like a true traveler! Traveling in Paris, i realized if exploring the city is your interest then there are various means to cut cost and still experience the city's charm.

The first question that arises on people's mind is whether to take the Paris pass or not.

Paris pass provides you free admission to most of Paris's Museums and Monuments.

Don't take it!
Traveling within Paris - Metro is the best! The Paris metro connects the city very well, you will never feel the need for another transport.

Again with the metro you have several options - Paris Metro Pass, Daily Pass and Carnet(10 Tickets)

Paris metro pass allows you unlimited travel for a day,two,three, etc. You can choose the number of days.

Daily pass - unlimited travel for a day

Carnet is the best bet - you get 1 tickets for 12.5 Euros as compared to 1 ticket for 1.50 Euro.

Take a metro to your first place and then walk to the nearby attractions. Most attractions are close by and walking helps you experience the city better. If you had to take the metro everywhere you will miss the city.

You will use 3-4 tickets a day. Taking the daily pass at 6.5 Euros is not worth. Buy a carnet and use it! It saves money and time.

If you are traveling more than 2 countries in the Europe, the next question is ,"Do i get the Euro Rail Pass or not?"

The Euro rail pass may come handy if you traveling in through many countries and countries where rail is expensive. We did Italy without a rail pass and it worked out cheaper. So, don't jump and get the Euro rail pass, make a quick calculation and compare. The trains in Italy are said to cheaper than rest of Europe.

What to see?

With over 70 museums and monuments in Paris, what to see and how many days to spend in Paris?

The number of days depends on your time and interest in exploring the city! 3 days in Paris would be ideal, if you are traveling across many places. If you have the time anywhere between 5-7 days would be just perfect!

What is worth seeing in 3 days?

Museums - Pick 2-3 (Don't miss the Louvre)
Eiffel tower - book early to skip the lines. Go there around sunset so that you can see it both in daylight and night lights!
Arc De Trimoph and Champs Elysees - Walking up the Arc is worth it. You have Elevators too. At champs Elysees, spend time to try out the food.
Cathedrals Notre-Dame and Sacre Cour

Visit the Pantheon and Invalides. Luxemborg is close to Pantheon. Take a cruise on the River Siene.

Other main attractions: Moulin Rouge, Catacombs, more cathedrals, Palace of Versailles(Away from main Paris), La Defense(Modern buildings), Opera

Get a good map of Paris and spend some time to mark the place you are interested in and grouping them together! Keep both map of paris and metro map handy always!

All these attractions come at a price! The Museums are Free on the First Sunday of every month. Plan accordingly and save good money!

Experiencing the french culinary is definitely a part of your travel! Often, the small neat restro serves the most tasty and authentic food. Rue Mouteffard is a place where you should have one dining experience for the price and taste. You will get a 3 course meal for anywhere between 9 to 13 euros. All the restaurants display their menu outside, so it is easy to choose your place! Drink Parisian wine - you can buy some from Rue Mouteffard.

Dining in Paris is relatively expensive as compared to Italy. Find those quaint little shops for your money's worth. Montmarte is another area where you can eat cheaper.

Try the croissants - awesome!

Accommodation - If you are traveling alone, backpackers accommodation would be ideal and inexpensive. Please read the reviews on TripAdvisor before you make a booking, otherwise you might land in a shabby place.

Couples can also get into backpackers/hostel, if you aren't keen on luxury. They offer the basic necessities and are essentially clean.

You can get a room for anywhere between 60-80 Euros!

you still want to stay in a hotel and not ready to spend - try hotels little away from the main city! but then be ready to spend extra on commuting!

You may find cheaper accommodations near Gare du Nord, but it is better to avoid that area-mugging and pick pocketing is a possibility!

Montmarte is close to Gare du Nord, but is safer! You can find an accommodation here too.

Like in any new city, be completely aware of your surroundings, don't flaunt, carry only a day's cash and travel safe!

People of Paris - Language remains a barrier but humanity thrives beyond languages!
If you are focused to comprehend what the other person is saying, you will definitely understand irrespective of the fact that you know nothing of that language. Humans communicate your their body and mind.

We found the people of Paris to be warm and friendly. Everyone tried their best to help and greet even though they didn't speak English! Don't hesitate to ask. It is better to ask and be sure than be lost!

Paris is beautiful, just immerse yourself in her beauty and enjoy!

Need more info, ASK :-)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Paris - the charming city!

Just back from a lovely 2-week trip in France and Italy! Well, what do i say, words would fail to capture a travel experience. Traveling definitely rejuvenates the soul and leaves you asking for more! Only wish, i could travel someday aimlessly. Paris was an inclusion to our Italian trip and ended up being one of my favourite places in the itinerary.

Paris is charming! A city that is modernized yet retains its historic-artistic-rustic touch. The first thing that impresses you about Paris is its connectivity! Paris is so well connected by its Metro(14 lines) and RER(3 lines). It is quite maze on paper but once you complete your first onward journey, it is out-rightly simple. Paris is a city that needs to be relished by walks. Yes, walk through those quaint little lanes winding around the corners with numerous cafes and ristorante - quite an experience.

It is best to group your sites of interest together, get off at one metro and walk through the rest and board the metro at the end. Most metros are underground, by traveling completely in a metro you will miss the sights of this beautiful city!

Paris has the right mix of monuments and museums that doesn't bore you! I understand for most people scanning through museums can be utterly boring but don't worry Paris is not entirely about museums. Yes, it has over 70 museums if i am not mistaken. So, it is better to choose the top 2 or 3 for your visit. Unanimously the top 2 picks would be Louvre Museum and Musee de Orsay!

Louvre, besides housing the famous Mona Lisa of Leonardo Di Vinci, has some of the best collections of paintings and sculptures. It is massive and if you are inclined towards art and want to spend time - a day wouldn't be enough! Louvre was a palace that is now a museum and hence even if you are not interested in the paintings, the sheer brilliance of the architecture will leave you agape.

Musee de orsay is another museum with fantastic collection, earlier a railway station, now houses some magnificent art collection - Van Gogh,Paul Gauguin and many more. You can witness many art enthusiasts sketching in there, totally unmindful of the other tourists.

Apart from this, we visited the Centre Pomipdu, a modern art gallery. It gives perspectives from two different worlds of art. At the end of the trip, i began to respect and hold great admiration for the art from Renaissance period. Modern art banks on individual perspective's while in the art of the ages, you bring out one perspective that everyone can appreciate alike!

Take time off from monuments and museums during your travel to spend leisure hours in the old streets of Paris. It provides you rich Parisian experience. Rue Mouteffard is one such area, be there and immerse yourself! The numerous eat-outs can give you a true Parisian culinary experience. It is cheap and yummy! It is a nice place to window shop as well. You can shop for the Parisian Wine here, if you drink wine - don't shy away from wine tasting - lots and cheap!

Then the famous monuments, who will fail to see the Eiffel tower when in Paris. You can spot this tower from most places in Paris! Standing tall against the mighty wind - truly a wonder! Spend some time near the Eiffel tower, in the day light and night time - it is worth it! The view from the Eiffel tower is breathtaking as well - be there during sunset and just get lost! You get better views of the Paris city from the Arc De triomphe - honors the soldiers who fought the french revolution. You can spot other attractions from the Arc whereas from the Eiffel Tower you will get a Panaromic view. Both are definitely worth it.

Walk along the Champs-Elysees, a different experience from the old streets of Paris. It is thriving and vibrant with many business houses and small street stalls selling food, jewelery and clothing etc! There is plenty of food all over, stop by and continue picking what you would like to experiment - there is lots of variety!

There are several other attractions, choose what you may enjoy! If you are interested in French history, a visit to the Musee de l Armee - a brilliant digital portrayal of French history - is a must! It is within the Les Invalides that houses Napolean's Tomb.

There are many Cathedrals that is worth a visit - Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre Cour is a must! Sacre Coure is less written about but it is eloquently stunning! The Montmarte area in which Sacre coure is situated is another place worth taking a walk that will help you explore Paris.

Finally, don't forget the cruise on the River Siene. It is beautiful and appealing. The live commentary gives you a lovely summary of the city! You may consider doing this on your first day as it gives you very nice perspective about the city and attractions. Most important attractions are along the River Siene and hence you can get a bird's eye view of them!

Next post on Itineraries for traveling in Paris, Recommendations for Food, How to take the Metro and Ways to save money !

Stay Tuned..

Friday, September 30, 2011

Die hard love -- 2

There were three days left for Riya to leave the country that showed her the other side of life. In her fast paced life, unconsciously she had missed to live every moment of her life. Riya realized how her busy work schedule had kept her away from life!

Michael had shown her a way. She wanted to take him along.

The day before she had to leave, she sat their wondering how she would propose to him. She was also a bit worried about her family; would they accept a foreigner as their son-in-law?

Michael came to the airport to see her off.
Riya wasn’t sure if this was the moment when Michael walked up to her.
“Riya, you made my days brighter. Thank you!”
“Michael, it is you who showed me life beyond survival. Come to India soon to capture life!”
“Now that I have a splendid host, I will”, and he smiled.

Riya sat in the flight drowned in thoughts.
“Why didn’t I tell him, I love him? Does he love me?”
She knew Michael liked her and that was enough for her. Michael had told her once, it doesn’t really matter in life how others feel for you, all that matters is how you feel for them.
She murmured under her breath, “I love him, and I will let him know.”

Michael and Riya stay connected in the virtual world. After 2 months Michael was sponsored to make a documentary on the lives of Milk-men in Aarey colony, Andheri, Mumbai.

Riya was excited. She was living a renewed life. The trip to the US had changed so much for her, yet nothing.
Michael’s trip to India was very short and he was busy with his shoot. They met for dinner one night at Colaba.

It was a beautiful night. The sky was filled with stars; the moon was hiding behind the clouds. Riya and Michael strolled along the marine drive intensely engaged in a conversation. It was quite chill and the gentle breeze was teasing Riya.
“Isn’t it beautiful Michael?”
“The night?”
“God’s trick on people!”
“I love you! Would you be my man for a lifetime?”

Michael looked up. He held Riya’s hand looked into her eyes.
When Riya first met him, he took her breath away and now her heart. He was piercing through Riya!

“Riya, I love you, but..”

Dawn was breaking-in; Riya sat in her couch looking out through the window.
Michael never spoke to her after that day. Riya couldn’t handle the sudden void in her life. He came like a storm; swept her off her feet and now she lay like the left over debris.

She was agonizing herself by entangling in a chain of thoughts.
“God! How could he keep away from me? Doesn’t he love me? When did I lose myself completely to him? How could I let him do this to me? How could his absence tear me into pieces?”
“He can’t avoid me! He can’t...”
“Am I nobody without him? He brought in a bout of freshness in my life, he led me into beautiful meadow and now he is gone!”
“I love him…and all I wished for is life together. Why did he deny me that?”
She was crying. Riya couldn’t hold her tears back.
“I love him for who he is, even if he is terminally ill.”

She wiped her tears off, washed her face and changed her wet shirt. She closed the facebook page that she had kept open, and searched for tickets to Kansas, USA. She made a few calls and was ready to leave.

The clock in her bedroom showed 10 past 5 in the morning. She called Maya, “Hello Maya! I am sorry to wake you up so early…”
“Riya..Riya, is everything ok?”
“Yes, I have taken off from work and I need to report only on Monday. I am going to Kansas, USA.”
“Not official? “
“What is the emergency?”
“My life! I am going to live my life. I am in love. I will come back and give you details.”
“Riya, I knew it was a man. Good luck!”

Riya rang the door bell.
Michael stood stunned.
“I love you.”
“It doesn’t matter to me if you are diagnosed with cancer. I …”
“Riya, understand…I don’t want to take the moments out of your life.”
“You already are..!”
“Cancer is a killer, the treatment is grueling. I don’t even know if I will survive…”
“Michael, I want to be part of your pain and pleasure.”
“Michael, don’t you trust me? Together we can make every moment count!”
Riya tried hard to hold back her tears, “I am fully aware of the consequences of my decision. You make your life count by making films that will essay life! I want to make my life count by building memories of us together!”
“I want to give you happy memories.”
“You will Michael, let us live every moment, like you always say…Before it is gone!”
Michael held her close; and whispered into her ears, “I love you, together let us leave our legacy behind!”
“I love you, Michael. “

In the face of death, one begins to live!

Die hard love -- 1

Riya stood staring at the mirror, she couldn’t recognize herself. She collected water from the basin and held it in her cupped hands before splashing it hard on her face. Nothing changed. It didn’t even help clear her clouded mind.

“What has he done to me?”
“Why did I let him to do that to me?”
The phone rang.
She knew it wasn’t him and she didn’t want to talk to anyone. It rang again.
She slowly moved closer to the mobile and took a peep at the display.
Maya calling..
She held the phone and said,” Hello!”
“Huff! I finally get to speak to you.”
“How are you?”
“You tell me! Where have you been lately? Not picking up calls! Is everything alright, Riya?”
“Thanks for your concern! I am fine.”
“Your voice doesn’t say that. Can we meet sometime?”
“Not today. I am little busy, I will call you when I am free.”
“Maya, give me some time, I will explain things later. Bye”
“Take care! Bye.”

Maya was Riya’s best friend. She couldn’t believe she was hiding it from her.
It was late in the night. Riya was sitting in the dark still confused. She had to report to work on Monday. Recently she has been very sluggish at work; there were lot of tasks pending from her end. Initially she was distracted by the buzzing events in her life, now by fear.

Last week her boss had summoned her.

“Riya let me get straight to the point. Ever since you are back, I see a decline in your productive output, is there something wrong?”
“No, Sir.”
“Riya, you are smart. We have seen you do tremendous work here and I personally have seen you grow in your career from the day you started here. If there is any ethical issue at work, don’t hesitate to tell me. “
“It’s a personal problem.”
“Oh! Don’t let it affect your work. With appraisals around the corner, this kind of output from you will affect your growth. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“No sir, I will be fine. Just give me some time.”
“Ok! You can take a day or two off, if that will help.”
“Thank you, Sir. I will join back work on Monday.”
Riya has been buying time from everyone in her life, but now she knows her time is up.


It was 5 months back when she had gone to the US on work, she met him.
It was a new country and a bunch of new people; everything around was new. She was sent here to win a project for her company. She had a challenge ahead and she wasn’t comfortable in the new environment.

She had to depend on others for her smallest needs and that wasn’t Riya.

Riya was waiting at the lawn, for her colleague to pick her up to work.
The green pastures, fresh air and white swans in the pond soothed her emotions. Today was a big day! She had an important presentation to make, as she sat their collecting her written notes she noticed him playing Tennis in the background.
He caught her attention for more than a few seconds. She was transfixed; her eyes followed his run-up and her heart missed a few beats.

“Hi Riya! I am Vinod.”
She couldn’t cut back her vision to Vinod.
“Oh. Hi, I am Riya!” She looked lost.
“I know. Can we start?”
“Well! Yes.”

It was a busy day. Riya was introduced to her clients, and every time she shook someone’s hand, she could only envision being introduced to him.

She told herself, this is a significant day in her life and she had to be at it.
Riya’s presentation started, she put him in the background and took a deep breath.
The outcome of the presentation will be the fruit for her hard work.

She did exceedingly well.
“Job well done, Riya.”
“Thank you!”
“Vinod will pick you up at eight; we are having a dinner party tonight!”

The nervousness of the new place suddenly left her. She was inexplicably happy.
Riya sat in her portico, sipping coffee.
He walked up to her.
“Hi! I am Michael.”
It was like a dream coming true.
“I am a film maker. I make short films.”
“Oh! That’s fantastic!” She blurted out.
“I travel around to capture the lives of people in their own nests. It really brings color to life. “
Michael went on to add, “There are several emotions that surround a human life, the tiny things that upset someone brings happiness to another. It is incredible capturing the various moods.”
“I have heard India is land of stories – touching stories. I want to come there one day!”
“Yes! Absolutely. Indian society is widely divided; you have a Dhobiwala surviving on a meal day and a rich business splurging on his dinner at Taj living only miles away. India definitely has many tales up her sleeve.”

“Interesting! India is land of love and hate.”

“Much more!! India is land of laughter, envy, celebration, agony co-existing. “
“..And, a place of the ever evading serenity!”

“You love your country! Don’t you?”
Like India, Michael had a soul rendering history too.

It didn’t feel like she was talking to him for the first time. In the one month she stayed in that country, they spent every single evening together.
Michael helped her cope with her new environment. He told her stories about the community, the economy, the entertainment industry, and a lot more. He made her self-sufficient.

Riya knew where to pick her newspaper! The little things that make our everyday living effortless are best realized in a foreign land. She, now knew directions to the supermarket, she could even suggest a traveler where to dine in the new city.

He made her independent.

Riya and Michael enjoyed each other’s company. On weekends they went to the country side, Riya watched him shoot and aided him in his work.

“Why do you make films?”
“Ah! There is lot of intense moments in life which we fail to live. My lens captures them.”
He continued. “Every moment has a life. In our struggle to survive we miss the pulse of life, by making films I capture them forever.”
“I believe I will live through these films, even after I am gone.”

Riya was perched on a rock by the stream. The stream glittered in the moonlight. She could see the reflection of a cheerful, charismatic and calm Riya in the stream.

A Riya she hadn’t known; introduced by the man sleeping in the tent.

She was captivated more by the film-maker who gave rendition to life than the muscular tennis player she saw first.

She was in love.

Read Part-2 here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Drakensberg – An Adventure seeker's delight!

Drakensberg is the highest mountain range in South Africa, situated in KwaZulu-Natal province. It is a wilderness area known for its trekking trails and Adventure activity. It is about 4 hours drive from Johannesburg that could take you away from the hustle-bustle of the city to the country side, tranquil and picturesque. I got to drive about 150 Kms on way to Drakensberg, one of my firsts on International roads. I found the Highway infrastructure here to be like that of the National highways (our new NHs) in India, rather should I say India’s NHs are as good as the South Africans only that our sign boards could be improved. It is not the infrastructure that gives you a great driving experience it is the lane discipline that everyone follows here which makes driving simple, speedy and safe! In India we got to trust ourselves as a driver, here we need to trust the others on road; one wrong move by anyone could send your vehicle go tossing up! You could speed at 120-140 Km/hr near blind spots, on roads that have no divider between the onwards and upcoming traffic, overtake trucks at curves and be assured that no one will ever come in your way.

Drakensberg is a world heritage center and a National park which has entrances from many sides. The region is divided into Southern, Central and Northern; one can imagine the vastness of this region! We had booked our accommodation in Ikahaya Lodge, near Bell Park dam in central Drakensberg, which means we could do/see things only in this area, as traveling to northern or southern region would take about another 1-2 hours of driving.

Many adventure camps operate out of Drakensberg, one gets to go Quad biking, Zip-lining, Abseiling, water kayaking /tubing (in the summer/after the rains), canopy tours and few more. I did zip-lining; it was fun, not a very long distance, neither was it very high but definitely worth your first experience!

After a day of adventure activities, we retired at our home stay – a beautiful farm tucked away in a serene milieu. As the sun went down and the darkness set in; leaving us at the mercy of the stars to lighten up our trail – one look upwards towards the sky; took our breath away! It was the most beautiful night sky I have ever seen in my life. I have always wanted to sleep under a glittering night sky and there I stood exasperated - Gorgeous! In the bitter cold, it was hard to lose yourself staring at her; we made fire and spent some time engulfed by her radiance!
We were up early for a trek into the National Park; we were at the Monk cowl’s end of the entrance into the Drakensberg heritage center. Trek trails are conspicuously marked, with a map outlining the difficulty of each trail. It is made so easy that no one would need a guide and there are no guides. We did one of the easiest trails to Sterkspruit waterfall and a pool nearby. The water was piercing cold; sat there chit-chatted a bit and headed out. The trek was quite easy, with a small kid in our group of six it was our best bet. The place is quite inviting and we did want to trek further into wilderness, but that would need at least one full day. Some of our friends were waiting for us at the home stay for our next activity - the horse trail, so we had to wind up though we promised ourselves an overnight camp the next time!

Nine horses were saddled up for us to take the trail up the mountain and down the streams. As we mounted the horses and got ourselves into reining the horses, instructions were given out on how we should ride them, take control and maneuver them around – didn't sound easy! We had two guides; one would lead the way and another to look over us, which meant we had to take care of our horses.
The name of my horse was Chief! He was busy grazing all the time before the start; I had a question – what if he wants to graze when we are on the run – the lady told me , “you are on the run, you are in command – hold him back, don’t let him graze”. Fact File: Horses graze 16 hours a day!

Here we go – initially it was fun getting used to the movement of the animal and gaining control of the reins. We were in a line as the horses followed each other in a particular order (we later came to know some horses are not compatible with others and females don’t like to be closely followed by males!) I involved myself in a conversation with Chief – He was listening to my instructions and riding me with grace. Few sections of the trail was exciting – riding up hill, crossing a very small stream and trotting! In South Africa, people can own their own game reserve; the place adjoining our farm was a game area. Interesting isn’t it? You could buy lions, probably cheetahs too and have your own reserve!

We were almost close to completion when Spa – the lead horse wanted to go for a run and went away for a real horse ride! As we stood waiting for our lead, Chief started grazing (He tried grazing on our trail too – I held him back all the while), initially I tried to hold him back and then I saw other horses graze too and let him graze. The grass was too low and he had to bend a bit and in the course I let the reins slip out of my hands!! Uh-Ah, the reins were gone, I tried to catch the attention of our guide who was busy capturing us on camera. As I kept saying “I left my reins, I left my reins” Chief decided to run – Ouch!! There was rush of adrenaline; he shook me up quite literally that I could feel my stomach muscles twitch. My mind said,” I am going to fall any moment” as my lips were saying “I left my reins”! As chief ran forward, his head moved backwards and the reins came up and I held on it – the defining moment. I held him back and said “Hold on Baby! – Stop”. He did and I sighed a breath of relief. It would have lasted only about 10-20 seconds but enough to wobble you up. I regained my composure and we happily trotted back to the stay.

We were towards the end of another exciting, engrossing and entertaining trip. On our way back, I noticed something quirky – all the electrical poles in the countryside were of wood [Picture inserted] isn’t that an economical way? We could save on the metal cost; should propose that back home.

Travel Info:

Drakensberg is a Trekker’s delight. Like I said, there are many trails from several entry points to the National Park, Hence one could go there again and again until one explores it all.

It is ideal for people who enjoy Nature, Serenity (who doesn’t?), Trekking, Hiking and Adventure activities.

I would recommend Ikahaya Lodge for stay – Pleasant. There are many places to stay around.

We missed to see the much acclaimed Bushman cave paintings of Drakensberg due to the fact that none was close by. It is in the norther region.

Best Season to visit – Summer (when after the rains it is all green!), Winter (to see snow clad peaks)

Weather gets unpredictable when trekking to higher regions.

Drakensberg can provide you an absolute experience with nature and wilderness!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jo'burg - An outsider's view

It is exactly a week since i landed here in Jo'burg. It's been slow, stoic and simple!

Johannesburg didn't sweep me off my feet. My first impressions were - a city that is a dream to many!

As one walks off the airport, it is the infrastructure of the place that first catches your attention. Jo'burg appears to be a well planned city that is considerably ready to take on development. Contrary to the perception i held that the city retires early, i saw quite some activity on the streets at around ten in the night. It wasn't desolate as i had expected :) It is true that many places shut their doors latest by eight, but still one can find vehicles. I am still wondering where they go, the days ahead might have the answer.

It was end of day two in a new city, i was staring out of the window pane as we were driving back home after dinner at a friend's place. I felt the city was missing something, i wasn't sure what.

I still haven't been able to connect with the people of Jo'burg, may be the lack of human touch makes me feel empty! I did get to speak to few people, i do not know how to word my experience. There is a mixed ethnicity to the city that would need considerable time to dissect into ;)

People in general are warm and friendly, am talking of the superficial contacts that one gets to make in the public places. I guess it is one of those things you pick up in an era of globalization.

The country's history has many incidents of crime reported. In spite of reduction in the crime rate, everyone exercises caution in their daily activities as there is quite an extent of crime that gets reported even today. As a visitor to the country it definitely puts you on the back foot.

Behind this mask there is an enduring human value.

I believe this country has a long history and an intense culture which would be absolutely interesting and engaging to learn. Before i embark on this quest, i need to find my grounding which for now seems little hard to catch sight of.

At the moment i will need to watch my back as i try to tear off the mask this city seems to be wearing!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dissecting India's democractic victory over corruption

In the history of independent India, 16th August 2011 and subsequently 27th August 2011 will be ear-marked as significant days that propelled our democratic rights.

Any movement in the world has people both for and against the issue, if there is something physically tangible in this world, then definitely it has two sides to it, if not more. I would like to go back a little in time and see why the people of India were forced to come on to the streets?

Few members of the civil society led by Anna Hazare wanted to fight corruption. There are many groups in India who have constantly been trying to fight corruption, but what made this group stand out? Direction! India against corruption and its members had done enough groundwork and were aware of the Lokpal bill that has been pending in the parliament for 46 years. To address any problem, one needs a solution, it just not enough to voice out. In my opinion we have had many voices against corruption earlier, but this group had a solution in the name of Jan Lokpal bill. The solution can always be debated.

They had a possible solution that could control corruption and made sure they went to the people of the country and educated them on the proposed solution. They finally had to take the suggestions to their elected representatives. They had to emphasis the effectiveness of the proposed bill as opposed to the bill waiting for resolution. The elected representatives were not interested. The civil society group went from one door to another knocking even at the doors of the Prime Minister, but to no avail.

In Indian democracy though we elect our leaders, both the citizens and leaders forget each other for the next 5 years. It was quite unusual for the elected representatives to see a group of civilians advising them on the bill to be passed. If democracy is by the people, for the people and of the people, then weren't we undermining our own powers?

Well, now that none of the elected representatives across the political class by majority were interested to encourage the civil society in drafting the bill, the members of the civil society had to resort to desperate measures to call for attention and so they did.

It was March-April when Anna threatened to Fast for the bill, that the political class turn around. Even back then, many of the civilians had no idea about the Lokpal bill. With the elections due in some of the states, the Govt in its desperate measure agreed to allow the civil society to sit for a Joint drafting of the bill. The government in my opinion had been acting in haste, in handling the civil society without any forthrightness or direction.

The Government or its patrons tried to tarnish the image of the civil society members, they tried to employ the divide and rule policy of the British, but they fail to realize times have indeed changed.

Both the members of the civil society and the representatives of the Government never got along. They held a very distorted perception of each other that couldn't change over days. The outcome of the joint drafting committee fell short of everyone's expectation. The Government tried to display high handedness and never made it appear like a collective effort, the govt bill remained and the suggestions from the civil society was never even looked at.

Of course, this angered the civil society and they began to threaten the Government again by setting deadlines.

The most absurd reactions from the Indian Government was trying to curb the peaceful protest by the people of India. I still don't understand how the Indian Govt thought it could get away with such an act. First imposing unreasonable conditions for the peace protest and fast and later arresting Anna Hazare before he began the fast.The Government still not sure of itself, continued to act in haste. They released Anna Hazare and allowed him to Fast. The Govt creates High drama only to give in later.

The Indian Government fueled the people of India.

It is after this act of the Government that many started showing interest in the Lokpal movement. More awareness was created. For the general public, it was not about Lokpal, it was about Corruption, the fight against corruption strengthened.

The thousands of people who came on the streets, came to show their dissent to the Government, their dissent not just towards the Govt Lokpal bill, but also towards the Governments inaction to curb corruption, their arrogance and stupidity in handling the sentiments of the people.

I had been to the field to support the movement and i can only say people knew why they were there. In contrary to the views people who stayed at home and work held, the people on the streets knew their purpose, else achieving what they have today would have been impossible. People were mature and responsible in their demands, and actions. They exercised their freedom with utmost responsibility!

Anna Hazare and the common man have the right to protest for their rights, similarly the Government has the right to say No, and we have a method to do both. Civil society knew its method well, the Government was clueless. If the Government had the will to fight corruption it would have found its way and wouldn't need to follow the civil society, sadly the Government lacks the intention.

The Indian Governments inadequate response to the widespread agitation irked many. Anna Hazare in his address to the people began to sound aggressive and came under the scanner of few. He had already become a Hero to millions that even if he was wrong with few words, he was forgiven.

Many questions were raised on the effectiveness of the Jan Lokpal bill, cynics were all around. There were others who said, change begins with you. Corruption is a mammoth issue, there has to be a beginning somewhere, let JanLokpal be the start.

In my opinion any solution can be made effective/ineffective by the people who are administrating the system. To start with we need to have strongly laid ground rules, and then the system needs to take care of the nuances. If we start by assuming, people will misuse, abuse and overuse their rights then we can never make a beginning. This applies to any system that comes in place, So do we have no constitutional bodies then ?

Finally the Government agreed to the demands of Anna Hazare and passed a resolution in the parliament. People's might won over the might of the Government.

The battle is only half won. I am not trying to be skeptical, but given the history of the Government in handling the entire issue, i still feel it has given into the pressure of the people, opposition and the media.

A sincere Government, with the welfare of the people in mind should have fought its stand. Few months back the same Government felt constitution needs to be amended, certain elements of Jan Lokpal would set dangerous precedent, it would be a parallel Governance can't just agree to it simply today. Our all the genuine concerns of the Government today vanished?

Some questions still remain unanswered:

1) If the Govt never had any intention to include any of the suggestions from the civil society, then why hold a joint draft?
2) If the Govt felt most of the suggestions provided by the civil society were in creating a parallel Governance and would threaten our democracy, then why did they agree now?
3) If the Govt had reasonable concerns over the issues, they why couldn't it come up with better solutions?
4) When almost everyone, both people against and for Anna's movement agreed that the Govt bill is a weak bill, why did the Govt try hard to push it?
5) Why isn't the Govt not being sincere in tackling corruption?
6) Why did the Government take such an hard stance?
7) How could the Govt stop someone from protesting peacefully for their cause?
8) Is this Govt sure of its actions? They seem to retract on their words and actions, how would the common man place faith in them?
9) How would the Government handle the implementation and maintenance of the Lokpal body?
10) Do we have to continue protesting at every stage for the Government to take effective actions?

There is some respite for now! This whole Lokpal movement has questioned the credibility of the Government and people have lost faith in their elected members. It has also brought the civil society together, made them more aware of their rights and power.

India is turning a vigilant society and it is only the beginning.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy B'day Yahavi !!

Dear Yahavi,

Another year, and yet again we aren’t celebrating your birthday together. Happy Birthday Dear!! Miles apart, yet you fill our minds with your charismatic smile :-) Most of this year, we have been away from each other and I missed watching you grow. Nevertheless we have spent some precious time together and you never fail to impress me. Your mere presence at home energizes the entire space. I have enjoyed every bit of you; the mellowness I see when you stay occupied all by yourself, the restlessness I sense when your dear ones are not around, the casualness you try to flaunt immediately after you have been disapproved – and you are all of three years dear. You have indeed been born with innate qualities.

I would like to recall few special incidents that would stay engraved in memory. It was Diwali, raining and wet outside, I tried cajoling you to wear your footwear so you could stay on your own. You vehemently refused, a girl who loves to wear her footwear so that she can stay out refused. I was confused. I tried explaining to you many things and even tried to put a bolder face – you didn’t budge. Finally I left on the floor near home, stating, “You either go out with your footwear or stay here”. I quietly vividly remember how you wanted to run, yet looked at me from the corner of your eye and stayed there.

One night, when everyone at home tried to keep a stern face to let you know that we disapprove what you did, for about nearly an hour you didn’t mind us and were on your own trying to show us that you didn’t have a problem with our disapproval by being chirpy and happy, completely absorbed with your toys and your playmate – Dada. Quite a resolve lady. It was heart wrenching, when you finally came stood and looked at us expectantly, wishing we would just talk. It was indeed moving to watch you stand with tears brimming from your eyes and half willingly say ‘Sorry’. Oh dear you are the sweetest!

There are many more to the list dear. I believe you were disappointed when you returned from NewZealand and didn’t find Mama at home. I still don’t know why you refused to talk to Mama over phone in spite of me requesting you do so many times. I am not sure if it was just child pranks or you do hold an emotion associated to it. Either way, you know we love you where ever we are.
We wouldn’t be around in the coming days too; I only wish to see you and personally bid good-bye before I leave home. Let’s keep faith and believing the distance wouldn’t curb the exchange of love.

The world is an awesome place to be in, enjoy every moment of your life. Happy B’day! Wishing you abundance of Strength and resolve to explore your life, they way you intend to. Our prayers of peace and joy will linger in your space.

I only hope, writing letters to you on your Birthday doesn’t become a tradition ;) Wishing to be with you on your Fourth Birthday!


Hugs, kisses and fond B’day wishes from Aththai, Mama, Dada and all of us back home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Does science define reality?

Can Science explain it all? Science attempts to validate certain claims by verification. Science is limited by its discoveries, and so is the process of verification. Can one dispose the idea since we haven’t yet developed a process of verification? If existing equipment cannot help gauge what is to be observed, can we say the observable doesn’t exist?

Science is indeed maturing and in the past we have been able to derive empirical equations from already established scientific theories to prove a conceptual idea which becomes a fact. A fact remains indisputable until new findings emerge. The empirical findings themselves are subject to scrutiny, they remain proven unless disproved. Does existence vacillate around Science?

Science definitely makes life easy. A basic set of facts have been established, over which we can make new discoveries, and with every discovery the base principal is reinforced. It is a good reference point, but that cannot enforce us into believing it is the ultimatum.

If anything is observable in nature, then it needs to be investigated. Nothing should be repudiated before its verification. If something cannot be proven that does not mean it does not exist, it also needs to be disproved before hailing its non-existence. It is as important to disprove something as much as it is to prove.

Would you believe the presence of certain fact only if proven by Scientists substantiated by research papers that you never get to read or would you go by the personal experience of the fact? If one could experience gravity, you don’t need scientific proof of it? Do you? Similarly what is use of scientific finding that you can never experience? In my opinion anything observable in nature can be validated by Science one day, till then Science has to wait, not the occurrence of these observable trends.

Science can only govern reality, it can't define.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Learning never ends..

What directs human beings to behave the way we do, be it the way we dress or the reason why we are passionate to attend a Toastmasters meeting? Psychologists would say much of human behavior is learned while the rest of it innate. Learning can be defined as relatively permanent change in behavior that has risen from practice or experience. Every positive experience in life makes our learning process joyful, that we tend to imbibe them in us, making it our way of life. Personally, attending the first Toastmasters meeting was such an enriching experience, that I consciously altered my behavior to attend toastmasters meeting regularly.

We are all born with few innate behaviors and only our existence in this world has thought us most of what we do today, behaviors as simple as walking or speaking. Every lesson in life comes after struggle; the first step you took wasn’t easy. As life goes on, as the essential and most necessitate behaviors required for human survival is learned, our learning declines or rather virtually comes to halt. When was the last time you learned an invaluable lesson? In the mad race to sustain our living, we forget to relish our experiences and fail to understand the lessons. Finally, when life throws up the test, we tend to complain as we had already missed the cue to learn. As the cliché goes, learning is a continuous process. Breathing and learning should never cease, if they do, then we are extinct.

Toastmasters, is one such a platform that provided me with an opportunity to learn and learn with passion. I saw another world, a world of confident individuals who were raring to go; making a difference to their worlds with their speeches. Toastmasters helped me rediscover the speaker in me. I began to realize how I had seized to learn and look for avenues to hone my skills. Toastmasters opened doors to an alternative space, shaping my possessed traits and acquiring new skills. The ignition this spark provided gave me the go ahead to venture into other areas of my interests. I began my exploration into the world of unknown; I began to enjoy every experience that life had to offer. Not only did I garner new skills and enhanced my behavior, it gave me the courage to experiment. Learning has become a way of life for me today. The known is limited; the unknown is unlimited.

We tread through different phases in our lives, stand at the cross roads time and again, yet learning never ceases. It is in Toastmasters, I found the trigger for my learning process in more ways than one.

It is through the process of learning, we evolve.

An article written for the Toastmasters International District 82 Annual conference -Ovations 2010

The immortal soul

Gopaul, the canny young boy of 7 years was dribbling his ball in his backyard, when he heard a loud noise from the Kitchen. “Ttaaanngg”. He rushed into the kitchen and hugged around his mother’s leg. She had let a pot of boiling water slip from her hand crashing on the floor. Gopaul was in awe of his mother, who worked arduously in the kitchen, preparing meal for a family of eight and served them with unflinching love. He was eager to run errands for his mother whom he dearly admired. He adored his mother and respected his father.

Gopaul was a quick-witted, bright and intelligent boy who was the teacher’s eye candy. The family lived in the erstwhile Madras of the 19th Century and his father was a furniture merchant. The children in the neighborhood would gather in the evening to play in the narrow by-lanes of Saidapet. They were excited to spot an infrequent Horse-cart interrupt their play once in a while.

Gopaul would always ensure he completed his school work before joining play. He was very meticulous in handling on his chores. Gopaul’s father was one of the few who rode a Horse cart in his neighborhood and the sound of the hoofs of his Horse cart would send his siblings run Helter-Skelter, for the fear of the strict disciplinarian they saw in their Father, but Gopaul would continue playing Hockey, his favourite game. His father would stop by and teach him few tricks much to the dismay of the other children. Gopaul, was academically proficient and Mathematics was his forte, his father could never find a folly with his young boy and naturally encouraged his innate talents.

In 1926, when Gopaul was only 12 years old, he witnessed many communal fights in the hands of the British rule. As a young boy the sights of men running amok clad in blood soaked shirts and swords did not deter him. He aspired to be an Officer in High ranks and diligently worked in School. He was confident that India’s freedom wasn’t farfetched and he would be able to walk free on his Motherland. All the political vilification and the tense atmosphere in the country fueled Gopaul’s urge to remain transparent and uphold his integrity as he reached higher echelons. Gopaul’s father was equally understanding and wanted to give his Children Education which was hard to render in an era of Political calamity, but for a bright student that Gopaul was it wasn’t a hard feat.

He graduated in the year 1935 and was offered a job in the Southern Railways. A British Official once remarked at his senior officer, “You Indians cannot rule a country! You are poor, ignorant and dumb”. Gopaul had just completed his first year in the railways; he walked in to submit his financial report. The British official went through the report and looked up at Gopaul gave him a stern look and uttered, “You are an exception!”

His sincerity and commitment earned him respect from the Britisher’s. He never hesitated to highlight mistakes done by the British officials at work which required immense courage and was never biased towards his Indian counterparts. He always called a Spade a Spade!

He rose in ranks from a clerk to the ranks of Deputy Chief Personal Officer of the Southern Railways. He was indeed testing times for Indians working under the British Raj, but all through Gopaul was poignant, fastidious, and upright. He believed his most valuable asset would be the Personality he makes out of the Person he was. As an officer he was known for his tenacity and as a person he was the most affable man with immense love for everyone. He wouldn’t hurt even his enemy. He gave his family a strong foundation of love and preached peace. In 1939, he married a pretty young lady of 15 years.

As Gopaul rose in ranks officially, his family also grew in number, affection, joy and love. The Britishers were ousted from India, another difficult transitionary phase in India. A time when accountability went missing from our constitution and people reveled in their new found freedom.

Once when his children were playing in his home, a vendor to the Railways had come home to visit gopaul. In few minutes what transpired at their home was shocking to his children. He kicked a basket of fruits out and commanded, “Get out of my house, Next time I see any of you coming to my home seeking for favors, I would lodge a legal complaint”. The chirping, joyous home fell silent. He never sought favours nor used his position to favor anyone.

In 1975, when his youngest son was unemployed, many associated with ulterior motives offered his son a job, he refused to mortgage his integrity and let his son fend for himself with the Education he had given him. Mr. Gopaul retired in the year in 1968 from service but he couldn’t rest. He was ready for his second stint; he joined the Dinamalar Daily as the Manager of operations. It is here; he was able to explore his oratory skills and continued his exemplary work.

At the age of 80, with the second retirement, Mr.Gopaul had a family of 25 members, children and Grandchildren nestling with love and his integrity in-tact. He was fascinated by the rapid transformation that India was under, socially, and scientifically. He was amused at the burgeoning field of Computer Science and often questioned his Grandchildren to explain the technology behind sending an E-mail. Even in his 80’s he could recall Laplace transforms, Bernoulli’s Equation and the benzene ring structure from memory. The grand children were left dumbfounded when he easily bet them at mental mathematics and quickly solved complex equations. Mr.Gopaul’s Knowledge trove and his thirst for learning never ceased to exist.
We have heard of many stories of fierce battles fought and brave warriors of the Pre-Independence movement, but the story of Gopaul is the story of a common man, who battled the hassles of everyday life in the backdrop of Pre-Independence era combating the political misfortunes. This is the story of an ordinary citizen who grew in stature. He reflects a persona that every individual would like to set as his standard of living but fail miserably to acquire. A man who lived his life simple and died grandiose with impeccable virtues.

The people whom we brush shoulders with influence ours lives. The life of this gentleman and his resolve to live undeterred and live by values has left an enormous impact on my personality. Mr. C.V, Gopaul the man of love and integrity is my inspiration. Most of my personality that I am proud of today has been borrowed from his genes. I take pride in saying; he is my beloved Grandfather who reached Heaven’s abode in 2009 and lives in our memories.

This story was written for meeting the objectives of Project 5 "Bringing history to life" - Story telling manual, Toastmasters International

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jan Lokpal - is the Government listening?

It is heartening to see that this government is actually seeking for suggestions from the common man. Every Indian wants a Strong Lokpal bill to control the menace of corruption in our country. Corruption has become an epidemic in our country which has stalled the growth of our Nation, Please pass a bill that is strong and effective.

The Jan Lokpal proposed by the civil society is more effective and has taken many parameters into account to devise a fool proof system against corruption, yes there might be few areas that are hard to bring into effect from the Jan Lokpal bill, but that does not mean we replace it with a weak Lokpal.

Let us try and find some balance and not compromise on fighting corruption.

The reason why the common man is angry and frustrated is because till date this Government has not really been proactive in fighting corruption and hence the widespread fear that the Government is not serious about enforcing a strong bill. Please show the Nation you are as interested as the common man in fighting corruption.

The legacy of the UPA -II Government in fighting corruption has been very soft, there has many scams that have been found in this governance by cabinet ministers and yet no action was initiated when it was brought to the Government initially. All the progress and action that we see today has happened much after the Supreme Court intervened and directed the Government. With said state of affairs, it is natural for the Indians not to believe in their elected Government.
It is time to re-gain the faith of the people of India by enforcing a strong bill, any ulterior motive in passing the bill cannot be hidden from the people as today the citizens are educated and vigilant. The media and judiciary has been functioning at their optimal best and so trying to employ any kind of divisive politics would only backfire on the Government.

We need a strong Lokpal Bill and we wouldn’t accept anything less. We do not have to tell you what a Strong Lokpal means, I am sure our elected representative know it much better than us. You know the game of governance better than us. It is only the intention to implement a strong lokpal that is missing and not the ability to implement a strong bill.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Transcendental Three years of Oneness..!

Another year, Another anniversary..! Three years went like a breeze, a gentle breeze kissing the lovely compatibles, stirring the uneasy differences and spotting the exciting new future..

We haven't really been together through most of this year, yet it has been as special as our first day! A year we grew in strength together, complimenting our needs. I have certainly matured in this relation..To grow in a relationship is the most rewarding experience..!

There is a long way to go and am sure we will not cease to discover each other..we will bring many new experiences and traverse life with same zeal..

Each day has brought in a new lease of energy, accelerating our eagerness to an unexplored future that lies ahead...A journey that would enrich our lives..! Wishing us abundant peace & strength as we cruise through :)

Dated: 18th May 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Run up to the biggest ever moment in Indian Cricket

Cricket is indeed a religion in our country and there is no better moment to affirm the sentiments of the countrymen than a semi-final clash between India and Pakistan. Three days to the big day, the anxiety had already set in. I went about my daily chores but with a difference, with my heart fixated on India’s victory!

I have been following cricket since my early days, thanks to my dad and brother for instilling the spirit of cricket. Even today I can recall the 4 off last ball needed for India against Australia in the 1992 world cup; I was about 10 years old then. Over the years, I have seen moments of sheer ecstasy, hurting losses, gallant fights and faint-hearted surrenders. In all these moments, I saw India surge, lifting their standards of the game steadily and progressively. A phase in the Indian cricket that I have personally relished is under the reins of Sourav, in my heart he holds a special place. It remains inexplicable, what makes Cricket tick above other sports in India, whatever the reasons may be the cricket frenzy would never die for an ordinary Indian.

Along with the transformation of Indian cricket, I have grown too as Indian cricket fan, from being fool hardy to sensible. I cried my heart out when India lost the first test match to Pakistan in 1999 at Chepauk. It wasn’t easy to accept defeats especially when victory slips out of your own hands. Being an Indian fan, I have been through many such moments, the class of the greatest ever cricketer Sachin Tendulkar would be shadowed by abysmal performances from the team, hard to take for a country with players who produce the best cricketing shots on field! I have had my share of cursing the players for their follies on field; it’s quite instinctive when you give your matches away. As Indian fans, our expectations are always set to one way and that’s victory, we can’t take a good performance as a substitute. Our nerves take over the way we extend support and their nerves take over them on field – inevitable reactions to Cricket in India!

With the cast of match fixing falling over Cricket, I almost gave up watching cricket, almost but a good game of cricket is like a magnet that pulls you back and I am stuck to it like never before. My memories would always trace down to the Trios of Indian cricket Sachin, Rahul and Sourav, it is impossible to be doing something when they are stroking the balls being a lover of the game. The men in blue through their resurgence era have had the mightiest opponents in Australia and comparative cricket played over in the world. Experience has taught us to hold our nerves and to get under the skin of our opponents and today we are bringing that experience out to the fore.

The world cup is one of the most revered tournaments in the world of cricket. Today, India has its best chance to live their dreams of lifting the world cup once again after 1983. India has come long way in redefining their cricket, it is rightly so the stage is set for the revived Indian team of the new cricketing era to make most of their golden opportunity by matching it up with their acumen cricketing skills and for the world’s best cricketer of the current era Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar to bask in the glory of the achievement leaving no stone unturned in his era of cricket!

As an ardent cricket fan, I am backing the team with all I can give asking for nothing in turn. We have asked you enough, we have set you high expectations all the way, we have criticized you unreasonably, and we have done everything an ordinary cricket fan can but not anymore. You would be cheered for every run scored, not just for your four’s and six’s; for every good ball bowled, not just for your wicket taking balls; for every run saved, not just for the run-outs! You will be backed for every decision you take and for every fumble you make. We believe you will give your best! A good game of cricket is what we expect from you; victory or defeat is only a consequence. We are with you; Go lift the world cup with all your might!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Are you a vigilant citizen?

The news on recent scams and discussions on Indian political framework and Governance brings me to ask, “What can WE do as the citizen of the country?” I am sure all of us have concerns, and wouldn’t miss an opportunity to point fingers at the Government but can we do anything at all beyond this? I am looking forward to a collective discussion that could lead to productive solutions. Yes, my hopes are always high :)

I believe essentially, we are not vigilant citizens; we fail to keep a close watch on Government policies and functionaries. The 2G scam has come into public purview after the PIL (Public Interest Litigation) filed in the court. PIL can be filed by common citizens. How many of us take the head ache to question the Government? I agree, you will be gone missing if you try any such heroic act! Let us remember unity is strength and if we all come together to file a PIL, then we might just be better placed. The bottom line is we should be aware of such laws, and threaten to exercise them that the Government thinks twice before looting. Today, they know we don’t keep a check on them and they prowl freely. RTI is another powerful act that enables the citizen to acquire information; unfortunately citizens excising it have met misfortunes and it is sad that Government has failed to curb such interferences.

Closely linked quotient is awareness. Forget about being vigilant and standing up, mere ‘Knowing’ would help. Majority of the population care a hoot about what is happening in the country. I understand that the less privileged have limited resources to information, but our own well educated citizens in the city aren’t aware of many ongoing implementations, both commendable and questionable.
Much of these issues do not affect the individual directly, even if it does it comes down many years later, may be a reason for negligence from our end. What about those issues that affect our everyday life? Food inflation, rise in petrol, traffic congestion, real estate booms, so on and so forth. We don’t put our foot down and reject anything that is over-priced. For instance, even if we realize the worth of piece of land 25kms away from Chennai is less than what it is being sold at, we still invest. Real estate is not an essential commodity; we can afford to stay united in not purchasing such lands. When the demand decreases, naturally the price would come to what it is worth. Few of us who can afford actually inflate the price benefiting the Land dealers who are in turn in nexus with politicians and bureaucrat sometimes running a probable scam. In many of such similar cases, we are very unmindful of our actions.

Conservation of petrol is the least we can do, in usage of most of the natural resources we should be looking at it from a larger perspective. I can afford to buy petrol even at 100/- per liter does not mean I am privileged to waste the natural resources. None of us have entitlement to natural resources; money has been enabled as an exchange rate to buy these commodities in the modern setup, period. We need to use them wisely. I am not sure if a system exists that enables common citizen to express his ideas/views on larger issue. A mutually engaging system where even citizens are able to voice out a suggestion to combat an existing widespread issue would be interesting. Forums where individuals can contribute on possible alternative traffic flows in a congestion prone area, such collective engagement might turn out to be productive. Don’t you think so? Today, I have suggestion but I do not know where to voice it out. I am aware of some forums and grievance cells, but are they effectively functioning? We need to have such exchange forums and their existence should be made known and more importantly they should function efficiently, now that is asking for lot ;)

I believe each one of us have to accommodate ourselves in this society as we have come to/agreed to live in such a setup abiding by social norms and have a collective consensus. The need of the hour is, each of us has to think, how our actions impact the society. We need to ask ourselves, what can I do for the society and good governance of the Nation, in our own possible simple ways and do it. A mere thought, “How can I?” would by itself go a long way. A constant thought would generate many simple solutions.

I am believer of free thinking and aspire for a system of free thinkers not bound by social norms, but since we are here in a social system, we need to show our concern and be responsible for the Governance that we elect for ourselves.

Remember it is we who devised this system for our own self and it is important we engage in the process of running the Government. Primary responsibility is to vote, but it doesn’t just stop there. We need to be constantly involved and be vigilant.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Indo-Swiss black money trail

Why has India not been able to crack down on the citizens who have stashed away huge amounts in the Swiss bank? Government of India says there isn’t enough information/evidence to indict the offenders. Point considered but what has the Government done in the last 5-6 years to find evidence? Leads have to be converted to evidence by the investigative authority. Isn’t it?

The latest we hear is that, the Government of India has a list of names who have accounts abroad but won’t reveal the names as it would breach the Treaty under which the names were extracted and beyond that the Government is concerned about the mutual trust that would be broken. Well, you don’t have to reveal the names; the least you could tell the citizens is what action has been taken? Answers come only when probed and those answers aren’t satisfactory. For instance, the concerned department in the Government is working on the papers to levy tax from the offenders. How long? Shouldn’t the Government be proactive in investigating such sensitive cases rather than make answers when quizzed?

Is this only tax evasion? Have these citizens only dodged paying their taxes? If it is only a case of tax evasion then yes the Government of India is bound by the double taxation treaty that doesn’t entitle to disclose the names. In which case, as the Government claims, it can only work on imposing the tax and rightful law for flouting the India Law. Recent media investigation clearly reveals that some of the offenders are not just tax offenders but have gone beyond.

When the media has evidence against certain people and their nexus with arms/gun dealers, cases of money laundering then aren’t these cases beyond tax evasion. Aren’t these potential cases of threat to National security? Is the government conveniently hiding behind the Double Taxation Treaty clauses and not doing enough? Shouldn’t the government be presenting a case of crime to the Swiss Government, when the information is requested beyond the norms of Double Taxation treaty by representing a strong case of International threat, can’t we reveal the names now? Why hasn’t India made such a representation yet? Government claims, ‘No Evidence’ to be placed before the International community, there is no strong case here.

Media says there is evidence, The Enforcement Directorate (ED) of India has done investigation and a report was available in 2009 against Mr.Hasan Ali, who had six-eight billion dollars in his account. Why can’t the Government pursue this one case where we have evidence and why can’t government work on procuring other information and evidence? Won’t one case lead to the other skeletons in the cloak? Isn’t it clear that the Government of India is not showing any will to move forward? If any action/investigation is being done as claimed by Government then it is on a snail’s pace. Shouldn’t the Government be transparent in their investigation? Now, the Government is proud to present a five point strategy to tackle tax evasion. Does it take 6 long years to come out with Strategy? If it takes 6 years for formulating a strategy then you can imagine when justice would be delivered. Why are we so slow?

It is completely understandable that a case of money laundering and stashing money in tax havens aboard is an International issue and involves many stakeholders. There might be many bottlenecks in the investigation process, yet the time period for execution doesn’t seem to be because of other dependencies rather it seems like inefficiency and lethargy of Government to act. One of the senior leaders in the Government on Talk show smirked at us, asking the Indians, “why you believe in the Swiss Government so much, what makes you think they will reveal the names so easily, even other powerful nations are struggling to get information from the Swiss, it is not as easy as you Indians believe.” To put it in his words, He said it is close to impossible to get the money back to India.

It doesn’t matter what the Swiss does, we are concerned about what India does. Have you requested for the information from the Swiss in the first place by presenting a factual true case. First let us do our bit then we can talk about the rest.
How do you expect us to believe you when all that we see is irregularities and corruption in running of the Government? Seeing is believing!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Money money everywhere..not a penny clean

In spite of the high growth rate in India, the report stated that India would continue to remain a low-income country for decades to come but could be a "motor for the world economy" if it fulfills its growth potential – Goldman Sachs 2007.

With corruption so rampant in almost every department of the governance, I guess that is where we are heading to. One Scam, after another, has clouded the Nation, yet the Government is only watching with no remorse from the comforts of their power seats, while the common man is left lurching for his basic needs. India as a Nation has done exceedingly well in the last decade, the growth is evident, along with this growth in Economy; the room for exploitation has also increased. Lenient laws, flexible policies, weak political structure and lack of accountability have paved way for social evils to take shape.

It is really disappointing to see the unwillingness of the Government to take action on the alleged members. It is understandable that Indian Governance is huge and it moves slowly, but lethargy can’t be tolerated. Indian citizen is no more naïve people, along with the Nation’s growth, the individuals have risen; He understands the nuances of governance or at least has the willingness to understand. Does the Government think they can get away with what they do? The men behind the corruption may not be punished (continue enjoy the luxuries earned), law suites may still be pending, and another Government will come into position but what will happen to the Country, Her growth and the people? Plundering the nation of its richness, looting the population of its righteousness, will only weaken the existing delicate system. It is now the right time to restructure, and do away with existing mess and build a stronger Nation where not just the looters can enjoy luxury but every citizen will be entitled to comfort.

What can WE do as a citizen of the country? How can we change the attitude of our politicians and Business honchos?

Share your thoughts!

More to come..

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Time travelled into the new year...

I neither wrote a ‘Bye-Bye 2010’ post nor a ‘Welcome 2011’ post and before I realize we are already into the 19th day of the First month. Anyways I isn’t a person who counts on the number of years to appreciate life ;) Nevertheless, such days give us the opportunity to look back and drown in reminiscence which I love doing! 2010 has been as good as every year before, didn’t I tell you I am not the person to make a special notes of the events in a year..Lol! I have had some lovely experiences this year, lot of understanding and learning – I am growing as a person in character :-)
As I look back on 2010, what comes to me first is the quality time I spent with myself and my dear ones. I got to live and experiment the way I aspired to, this year. I am glad I have begun to focus on things that provide an inner peace – one of which is I got back to sketching!

I am excited about the journey ahead..lots of unraveling, and new horizons on the cards, of the million things I want to be able to do, I wish I am bestowed with the same levels of energy and curiosity always!

Wishing you a peaceful and an eventful time ahead..