Friday, 5 August 2022

In Search of Utopia


All of us would like an Utopian world 

Mostly, our idea  of an utopian world

yet, no one wants the responsibilty to make or build  it. 

who then will bell the cat? 

what if one mans's utopia is another's  dystopia?  

Most people would want their Utopia

to house  only people whom they like 

how about, one in which different views can be heard

where we can agree to disagee without being disagreeable?  

An utopia where everyone  has oppotunities to live, thrive 

where there is no need for anger, worry 

everyone living in an attitude of gratitude, in abundance 

everyone earning their bread honestly, having compassion for all

showing love and respect for every living being...

Now, wouldn't that world be a grand utopian world? 

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Would you rather Visit Moon or Mars?

The Blogchatter prompt for the week invites us to choose between visiting the satellite, moon and the planet Mars. Being a satellite of our planet Earth, it is the moon that has been closer to us humans in many ways. It has fascinated lovers, poets and writers since time immemorial. Lovers have often compared their beloved to the lovely full moon as in the popular Hindi song "Chaudvin ka chand ho". The moon has also been a big hit with children. He is often referred to as 'uncle'.  Mothers feed fuzzy children showing them the fascinating moon in the sky. In fact, we even had a popular childrens' magazine titled "Chandamama". At this time of our discussion, Man has managed to set foot on the moon. There has also been expeditions to Mars including India's own Mars orbiter mission(MOM) inserted into Martian orbit on September 24, 2014. The NASA is under presidential orders to land humans on Mars by 2033. 

Today, the world is witness to private space travel. In July 2021, Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder boarded along with other humans, the first private travel operated by the manufacturing and spaceflight company Blue Origin. Such travels into space is likely to increase in the days to come. Therefore the significance of the weekly prompt of Blogchatter. Yet, even as I was contemplating on the topic, a thought came to me, "Hey,  I am yet to explore the vast areas and beauty of our own blue planet." There are so many countries and geographies that I have never set foot on. Then another thought followed in quick succession. "Why, I have not even visited the length and breadth of my own beautiful country!" After all, there is so much of diverse terrains in India be it the planes, mountains , valleys and in terms of climate from the very cold icy Himalayas to the hot and sultry climate across the country. 

I have not visited many places in my own home state of Kerala referred to as "God's own country". I am  yet to visit the forests of Thekkady, watch the spectacular 'Trissur pooram' , tea gardens of Munnar or the boat races of Alapuzha.  

From Tamilnadu, the grand temples in Trichy, Chidambaram, Madurai, Rameshwaram and many more beckon,  inviting me to explore the great culture of ancient times as also the exciting hill stations like Kodaikanal, Conoor and Kuttalam  (Have mentioned here only  places not yet visited).  

Altough Karnataka is the place of my residence for a long time, there are many beautiful places I am yet to explore like the lovely Coorg tea estates, Chickmagalur (called coffee land of the state), pristine beaches in Karwar North Karnataka,  wild life at Nagarhole and Bandipur National parks . 

In the state of Andhra Pradesh,  I am yet to visit SriKalahasti temple, Talakona water falls, the cultural capital Rajhmundry, heritage sites of  Lepakshi & Gandikota, port city of Vizag and many more lovely places. 

The many unexplored places for me in the state of Maharashtra include the historically enticing Ajanta and Ellora caves, exciting hill stations like Mahabhaleshwar, Lonavala, Panchgani, Lavasa and Khandala,  adventerous wildlife in the form of National parks in Tadoba, Chandoli Gugamal, Sanjay Gandhi  National park (between Mumbai & Thane), Agha Khan palace & Shaniwar Wada in Pune, Raigad fort, Jaigad fort, Elephanta caves and many more. 

From Gujarat, the magnificiant Jain temples atop the Shatrunjaya hills beckon. Similarly, Champaner Pavagadh Archelogical park, Sun temple Modhera, Rani ki Vav (step well of queen) in Patan, architecture brilliance of the colourful Sidhpur, Idar hill fort, Polo forest, Gir National park, Indo-Islamic architecture of Junagadh, Somnath temple, the ancient city of Dwarka and modern attractions like Statue of unity, all look invitingly and seem to say  "come and explore me..."

Further up, in Rajastan, there are the grand palaces that I have never visited in the pink city of Jaipur. I haven't been to  the  city of lakes, Udaipur,  or the Golden city of Jaisalmer with its golden dunes, ornate temples & havelis. The blue city of Jodhpur, Bikaner, the cultural paradise of magnificient architecture, Ranthambore tiger reserve, Puskar temple and Mount Abu, the only hill station of the state are all places that I am yet to visit in my beautiful, diverse country.

 In Madhya Pradesh, I am yet to visit the UNESCO World heritage site of Khajuraho with its stunning carvings on temple walls, the hill top fort of Gwalior, grand palaces and intricately carved temples of Orchha, the National parks like Kanha, Pench & Bandhavgarh, the holy city Omkareshwar & Ujjain, the Buddhist monuments of Sanchi and many more. 

In the state of Uttar Pradesh, I have visited the iconic monument,Taj Mahal. But there are so many other wonderful places that I have not visited like the world's oldest living city Varanasi, ancient cities of Mathura and Vrindavan on the banks of river Yamuna, the triveni sangam at Alahabad (now, Prayagraj), city of Fathepur Sikhri (predominantly made of red sand stone), other sacred cities/places like Ayodhya, Chitrakoot and Vindhyachal. I have not seen the National Chambal wild life sanctuary, Bara Imambara, Dashashwamedh ghat, Buddhist pilgrimage site of Kushinagar and many more attractive places in the state. 

Similarly, I have never been to the state of Punjab meaning I have not visited the first planned city of the country Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab and Haryana, with its wide roads and clean environment, the golden temple in Amritsar, or other major cities like Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Bhatinda, Pathankot, Kapurtala etc. with a lot of cultural heritage These cities are well known for their forts, Gurudwaras, temples, lakes, Zoos and parks. 

In Haryana, the historical cities of Kurukshetra, Panipet, Ambala and Hisar are yet to be visited by me. The Pinjore gardens, Morni hills (only hill station in the state), monuements in Sonipat, the lakes and Raja Nahar Singh palace of Faridabad are all major attractions of the state.  

There are many places in the East that I am yet to see. In Bihar, I am yet to vist the capital, the ancient city of Pataliputra (Patna) with its glorious past or the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya, Nalanda the place of academic excellence in ancient times or Vaishali,the revered Hindu, Buddhist and Jain worshiping site. I have not visted Madhubani the art & cultural center famous for the renowned Madhubani paintings, Navlakha palace, Tomb of Sher Shah Suri, Jal Mandir, Mundeshwari temple and many more exciting places in Bihar. 

Although I have visited the capital city of Kolkotta in Bengal, I am yet to visit many lovely and exciting places like the hill station Darjeeling, Sundarbans National Park (boasts of biggest mangrove forest in the world, home of royal Bengal tigers), Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketan, Terrkota temples in Bishnipur, natural beauty of Purulia/ Malda/Kurseong and many more enchanting places and pilgrimage spots.    

I have never been to the state of Odisha meaning I haven't visited the capital city of Bhubaneswar, known for its architechture and grand temples. The other important places I would love to visit are the Jaggannath temple in the beach city of Puri, the sun temple at Konark (a UNESCO world heritage site), Cuttack (the cultural capital of state), the coastlines like Chandipur & Gopalpur, lush green forests & rich wild life of Sambalpur, silk city Berhampur, Tikarpada wild life sanctuary, Chilika lake and many more exotic places.

There is so much to be seen in the  the north eastern states like the Kaziranga National Park & other national parks, Kamakya temple, Panimoor falls etc. in Assam, Tsomgo lake in Gangtok, Sikkim, Naga heritage village & Kohima war cemetry in Nagaland, Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, Nohkalikal falls in Meghalaya, Lokhatak lake in Manipur, Tripura Sundari Temple and Ujjayanta palace in Tripura, Vantawng water falls & Phawngpui National park in Mizoram, the lovely waterfalls and elegant Jain temples in Jharkhand. 

The hill states lure us with exotic destinations like Kullu and Simla in Himachal pradesh and Nainital & Mussorie in Utharakhand.  Finally I would like to mention the place often refered to as "Paradise on Earth" that I have never visited- Jammu and the Kasmir valley. In the movies of the sixties, we have seen the striking beauty of Kashmir with beautiful lakes, gardens and Shikaras (Life boats). Dal lake, Tulip garden, Shalimar Bhag, Nigeen lake, Chashma Shahi garden are some of the many attractions of the state, amply blessed by nature.     

Now to come back to our Blogchatter prompt- "Would you rather Visit Moon or Mars?".  It is indeed exciting and adventerous to engage in space travel to unknown, mysterious places. However, I would first savour the beauty in my own backyard firstly my exotic and beautiful country and then our own blue planet before undertaking journey elsewhere. Would I ever go on a visit to the moon? Yes, perhaps in another lifetime. But for now, I have plenty on my plate! 

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Favourite book of 2022

The latest weekly prompt for the " Blogchatter Blog Hop" series was to write on the "favourite book of 2022". I felt it appropriate to use this opportunity to discuss my favourite book of all time and NewYork Times best seller  "Dying to be Me" written by Anita Moorjani which is slated to be relaunched and released in 2022 with minor updates. In the book the author writes about her battle with cancer leading to her "Near death experience" (NDE). During the NDE, she left her body, went to the other world met her deceased father and best friend who had also succumbed to cancer. She subsequently returned to her body after being told that she still had a lot of things to do on earth and being assured that she would quickly recover if she chose to return to the life on earth. 

The most valuable  benefit of reading the book is that Anita has shared the wisdom, post her NDE experience as to how we could all live more fruitful and satisfying lives. We operate from a place of fear in respect of most of our decisions in life. As for example while choosing a job, we take up  something  not because we love that work but because we fear that we may remain unemployed. Similarly a life partner is chosen compromising on love and compatibilty  as you grow older for fear of remaining unmarried for life. The important teaching is to embrace 'love' as the trigger for all one's actions instead of 'fear'.  After her NDE, Anita Moorjani has been sharing her learning from the other side through her books and videos.

Another key teaching that the author picked up from the NDE was to love "one self"  or in other words practice "Self love". Anita says she was a "people pleaser" all her life, always putting the interests of others before her own. This was one of the reasons she had to get cancer. She had to 'die' to realize  the importance of  loving and being 'herself'.  As for instance, when she came to know that her best friend had cancer, she visited her at the hospital  everyday and took upon herself the responsibility to take care of her. So much so , she did not find time to take care of her own needs. As and when she had to miss visiting hospital on a day or two, she felt guilty about it. Contrast this to the advice given to passengers during  air travel that in an emergency to first take care of self  by  putting on the oxygen mask before  assisting  a child/ copassenger. 

Anita Moorjani says all the feelings of separation in terms of rich-poor, beautiful-ugly, high - low , right-wrong  are all associated  with life here on earth. In the other world, being freed from time and space you have compassion for everyone. She relates her experience of having a strained relationship  with her father when he was alive as she backed out of an arranged marriage he had fixed. However, when she met her father on the other side he was all loving and all the trivial misunderstandings during the life on earth did not matter to him. 

To me, that was the most imporatant revealation in the book. We waste a lifetime having petty differences and hating others, Yet, it is 'love' that is the driving force of life. It has to start with 'self love' and flow to others. The book traces in detail the life and times of the author Anita Moorjani prior to her NDE and how operating from a place of fear (she feared getting cancer after her friend was diagnosed with cancer and was experimenting with all kinds of diet and life styles to avoid getting it) actually caused her to die. Today, her message is to love yourself first, to be able to love others. 

It is recommended that readers check out the insightful book "Dying to be me" for a detailed account by the author for leading a happy, positive and fulfilling life. 

Monday, 18 July 2022

If you had Grown up during your Gandparents' Time


As I sit down to write on the latest prompt of the " Blogchatter Blog Hop", I ask myself what can I write about "Grandparents' time". How do I start? Perhaps it is necessary to attend to first things first; like fixing the time line. My grand parents may have been born in the first decade of the twentieth century or thereabouts. What would be my life like had I been born in 1909 in the Kingdom of Cochin, part of present day Kerala? I would be a 13 year old (Teenager) in 1922, a 25 year old (youth)  in 1934 , a 35 year (prime of youth) old in 1944  , and 45 year old in 1955 ((middle aged) and a 60 year old in 1969 (senior citizen). 

As a teenager, we attended school on and off. We had to walk around 15 miles and cross some difficult terrains to reach school. On the one side we were facing the indignity of being ruled by foreigners while on the other side, the tyranny of the caste system was being faced by most people. Frequently, groups representing the freedom fighters came and pulled us out of the class rooms to go on a procession. We were arrested and let off with a warning most of the time. 

Unlike the present times of nuclear families, we lived in joint families with each brother having 7 to 8 children of their own. My father had six children and I was the fourth in line. The limited resources had to feed many. Therefore, some of the young family members ran away in search of a job/ a means of living.

 One of my cousins, Raghavan managed to get access to a ship that was going to the middle east. It would take days facing a lot of hardships on the way to reach the destination. Yet, he went as it was the only hope for a better life. We never heard from him again. I myself dropped out of school and was not happy doing agriculture jointly on the limited tract of a land that we owned jointly as a family. 

Taking a cue from brother Raghavan, I ran away to Madras, the city of dreams in Southern part of India at that time. It was hard work during the period from 1934 to 1944. With the small amount of money that I had taken with me I had started a small tea stall in 1925. I built and grew the business brick by brick. During the period of the second world war from 1939- 1945, there was a lot of movement of army troops and Madras was an important place of transit meaning we got some good business. I had become a fairly successful entreprenuer. 

In the meantime, I went back to my native (kingdom of Cochin) to marry. I brought my bride to Madras for a few years but had to take her back to her place, consequent to the commencement of the war. Madras was a  vulnerable place that was more likely to be targeted during the war. Moreover, my life was hectic those days as I was focusing on attending to the many customers. I would visit Cochin now and then . 

All my seven children grew up in Cochin.  My wife was reluctant to return to Madras as the children who had already started their studies in Malayalam would have to start all over again from the scratch, if they switched to Tamil schools in Madras. 

Although, I had my struggles during my younger days, we had more bonding between siblings in those days, We learnt to share whatever was available. In spite of harsh circumstances, suicides were few and far between as we were toughned by circumstances and could not afford to be too sensitive. Elders did not have the time or resources to pamper children. Between my elder children, before I began making money, they had to decide as to who could go for higher studies. The one who got the higher marks went to college and the others had to join me in the grind of building the business.

As I spend a lot of my life in Madras,  I had exposure to Tamil cinema. I did not see any Malayalam movies as they were not released in Madras those days. In spite of my busy schedule I found time to watch the movies of  singing star M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar with 'Haridas' being my favourite. In the later years, I lost interest in cinema as playback singing had started and could not be compared to the singing sensation of my time who sang his songs himself!   

My elder son who had gone to college got a job as lecturer in Maharaja's college in Cochin. However, for most people getting a job was a problem in those days. You needed to get recommendatory letters to land a job as most companies and firms had "No Vacancy"  boards before their office complex. Many of my friends' children were struggling in this regard. I remember one of them drafting an application letter for a job where the highlights were about the number of people who were depending on the 'eldest' son getting a job and how he came from a very reputable and respected family. It was not so much about the personal competency of the applicant.  

When you look at the prosperity that the middle class have managed to achieve today, particularly in the sectors like IT , our life was a struggle. There was lot more uncertainty. Yet, we had better bonding between siblings, neighbours and the community at large. People would rush to help each other in times of emergency. When someone in the village succeeded, it was a matter of pride for not just the immediate family but for the entire village.

So there it is. You now know how it was to have grown up in my grandparent's time. As I see it, you win some; you lose some. Each period has its pluses and challenges. The same is true for my grandparent's time as well,  

Saturday, 16 July 2022

When it could be too late...

Sri Lanka is once again in the news for the wrong reasons. Politicians with an intention to gain power and knock off the country's resources, create enmity amongst its own citizens on racial and other grounds. The ethnic differences fueled by the politicians simmered in SriLanka for many years causing great hardships to ordinary citizens. The problem is when one's attention is diverted in such matters, the politicians use the opportunity to loot the nation. By the time the people realize it,  grave economic crisis would have overtaken the country as has happened at present in SriLanka.Today, all ethnic groups of the country are on the same side fighting the politicians for the grave financial mismanagement leading to miseries of citizens. The question is, is it too little too late?   

The plight of the citizens particularly the Tamils in SriLanka for a very long time is the highlight of the poetry anthology in English titled "SriLankan Tamil Poetry- An Anthology", edited by distinguished writer and critic S. Padmanathan.

This would perhaps be an appropriate time to revisit my review of the book that provides readers insights about the SriLankan misadventure as seen by the poets through their eyes.  Readers can access the review at the link given below:  

Thursday, 14 July 2022

From Tender Age ...

The little child learning to walk 

knocks against a table, hurts himself

we don't teach him to have more control

instead, we beat the table- " Bad table, you hurt baby" 

we teach shifting responsibility from an age tender 

yet expect him to be responsible adult in later years!

Teach basics from day one!

Monday, 11 July 2022

Review of the Book "26 Verses and 26 Prose Notes on 26 Lofty topics by Manali Desai

I am happy to present here in this video the gist of review of my book " 26 Verses and 26 Prose Notes on 26 Lofty Topics"  written by writer and critic Manali Desai in the Blogchatter. The book can be downloaded for free at the following link:  

Readers can read another well written and comprehensive review of the above book by Ms  Seethalakshmi in this link: