Tag Archives: India

Mawlynnong – A Model Village for “Swachh Bharat” Revolution

It was a pitch-dark night, I could only sense the jungle around me. It was the monsoon of 2014 when I first visited Mawlynnong, a tiny village in Meghalaya. Huts with thatched roofs were the only sign of establishment that could be spotted. I wished there were more street lights.

I was looking for a woman named Carol, whom I contacted on the phone for accommodation which she advertised on the internet with the name of “Bamboo Huts”. I doubted the whole arrangement since she neither noted my name nor demanded an advance, just confirmed the dates. On probing with locals, I was pointed to the Bamboo Huts and saw a man standing, looked like he was waiting for me.

“Hi, I am looking for Carol. I made a booking with her.” I said. I didn’t know if it was a right pitch because I didn’t have any confirmation to show.

“I don’t know any Carol”, he said sternly.

He looked pissed. I was puzzled.

“Do you have any availability?”, I asked sheepishly.

“No.” again a stern reply.

The clock already struck midnight. With the population of only 500, I wasn’t sure if I’ll find a guest house other than this.

“My name is Henry. Carol is my agent. I am angry because she did not communicate with me for this booking”, he said.

“Oh, I see. I called her twice to confirm. That’s very irresponsible on her part.” I said sympathetically.

Soon, he got warm and assured me there is an available hut and offered me dinner, which was music to my ears because I was starving from my 6 hours drive from Guwahati. The night couldn’t have been more eventful than this, and soon, I retired to bed.

Next morning, my eyes opened to another world. At around 7 a.m., it was drizzling and a bit foggy. The local women were already out cleaning the streets of the village. Suddenly, the reality hit me, another reason for me to visit this village was because of its identity of being the cleanest village in Asia. I looked around with the inspecting look, and noticed conical bamboo bins all along the street. The cleaning exercise is repeated on the evening. I was impressed and greatly surprised. Impressed, with the natural beauty of the village and surprised, by the natural consciousness of the people to make it clean.

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Living deep in the jungle, in a world still to be permeated by modern technology, the people of Mawlynnong have naturally come to understand the importance of keeping their surroundings clean and garbage proof. Two years after the trip, when I now reflect as a city dweller, I fail to understand why we despite all that we know haven’t come to the same conclusion? Isn’t it something which should come naturally to us?

What is wrong in Prostitution?

Who doesn’t desire to be rich. But would you prefer it at the cost of your dignity?

This thought is often discussed when a female does something immoral that is refuted by the society. My post is referring to a recent high profile prostitution racket busted in the southern India. This racket involved many established and aspiring film actresses and models and businessmen. The scandal has become the talk of the town not because prostitution is illegal in India or it was appalling for a close minded Indian society to read something like that. In fact, it is not the first time that a scandal of that sort has been exposed. The limelight of the scandal became a National Award Winner actress who showcased her talent on screen brilliantly at a very tender age. The actress, who is still young has admitted that she did it for money since nobody would hire her in the movies, she rather chose a dark alley to reach to her destination.

A lot of people have a different perspective on the whole situation. Most people said that it is sad to see the destiny of a National Award Winner but she could have done something else, why skin business! Sure, this was not the last option on the earth. Agreed.

While others and that includes mostly females, opined that while reading this story, it is repelling how the media is extending only the character of the actress in the malicious gossip and nothing on the high profile businessman found with her. I am sure she wasn’t making out alone! Nor she was forcing herself on him. This one sided limelight is not justified.

I agree with the second opinion, but more than that I want to know what is wrong with prostitution. If a female who tried every righteous act to earn money, but has failed to do so, uses her body to earn money, what is so catastrophically wrong with it? It’s her body anyway. Yes, it may not be morally right for some people, but to hell with them. I would agree with such upright people if they had supported her with monetary help. I am sure no female goes into such repelling business willingly, unless she has an insatiable sexual appetite, but when she is caught, it is only her who is called names. Have you heard people talking about why did the man do such thing. As if they were born with this right of ‘could not be questioned’. If a female chooses her body to be used in an unpleasant fashion, no matter how wrong it is, we must understand it is still her decision. The least you can do is to understand what got her into this and pull her out of this quagmire, rather than pushing her further.

Prostitution is a very sensitive topic. You may have totally contradictory views from me, but come to think of it who are we to decide what is right and wrong. Since, we have not dealt with those desperate times, we will not get what makes wrong things look right. It is not the time to judge when people will always be judged wrongly.

Prayer bells in India

Photo Credits: A. Mittal
Photo Credits: A. Mittal

While browsing through my old pics, I stopped at these bell pics and wondered what was I thinking when I took pictures of these bells.  Sure, the dense clustered bells must have been an intriguing  factor, but the presence of so many bells in a temple not so heavily crowded was a little surprising.  These pictures are from some temple in a small hilly town of Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, India.

Bell sounds can be commonly heard in India.  And when you hear it, it is apparent that there must be a temple nearby.  In India, you will never come across any temple without a bell, it is a ritual here to ring the bell before praying.  After much thought on why it’s a norm for every temple to have at least one bell, I read somewhere that these bells are made of different metals in different ratios that gives them a distinct sound. It is said that when the tongue of the bell is struck against the outer cap it produces the divine sound of ‘Om’.   In Hinduism, ‘Om’ is considered as the holy syllable which encompasses all the sounds of our universe.  So, the theory is  by striking the bell before praying, you are inviting the virtual energy or vibes to engulf your surroundings while diminishing the negative ones at the same time.

Remember to ring a bell in temples in India. 🙂

Photo Credits: A. Mittal

 

From Snow to Desert

Have you ever experienced landscape changes like this in one trip.? These pictures are from my trip to Hunder in Ladakh through the Khardung La Pass in 2011. To read my venturesome experience during this trip, visit my post Hunder, Ladakh.

Khardung La Pass, Photo Credits: A. Mittal
Hunder, Photo Credits: A. Mittal
Bacterian Camels in Cold Desert, Photo Credits: A. Mittal

Life is not easy

It is so weird that people never let you live the way you want to.  There’ll always be some fault in your lifestyle that may suit you and makes you happy but not them. Sometimes these people are your own parents, siblings and even friends. If you are somebody who keeps the failures on side and knows how to gather back the spirit and live the way which is different from others,  it’s not always welcomed by people. One reason is because they are not used to of this different lifestyle and the other is nobody wants you to forget your failures, how can you live to the fullest when these people are still living in their miseries. And if you don’t pay heed to anybody’s concerns, you are termed as a Rebel.

When I was a kid, I remember, it was always a protective cocoon around me. Hard to break no matter how hard I tried. I waited. As I reached my teens, it was still a cocoon but with slight passage. Still was not enough but couldn’t do much because there was no way to buy an axe to break that cocoon. And when you reach that stage when you can buy an axe, that’s it your time’s over..you gotta marry now.

I don’t know when will I reach the stage when I wouldn’t have to wonder about what people will think of me,  when I wouldn’t have to ask or contemplate on all the things that people think are important but for me are rudimentary. And for God Sake when will the time come when people will understand  Life and that for everybody it has different meaning and dreams.

Benares – The City of Gods

For Benares – If there is Heaven on this earth, it is here. Not because it is beautiful but it is the city of Gods.

Benares, also known as Varanasi, is a small town in Uttar Pradesh state of India. I had been thinking of visiting there from quite some time, and finally I made it last weekend. I decided to go to there on the festival of Holi. It can be reached easily by flight, train or car. Benares as I like to call it is the holy city of Hindus. It is said if a Hindu dies or cremated here goes straight to heaven. Well, my intentions were not fully spiritual. It is a unique city in a lot many ways.  Let me answer some questions about this city.

Why is the city so famous?

The city homes a very famous and important temple of Hindus – Kashi Vishwanath. It is the temple of Shiva who is deemed as the hippie God by foreigners. If you want to read about why is he considered as a hippie, you can refer to http://www.vepachedu.org/linga.htm.

What are the essential things to do in Benares?

Benares is small but has a lot to do. But 3 main things you mustn’t miss are – to roam around the Ghats; to eat Benaras Ka Paan (Betel leaves prepared and used as a stimulant) and to take home Benaresi Sarees (Indian ethnic wear).

What are the things you need to beware of?

The traffic in the city is crazy. Leave your vehicle and travel by cycle or auto rickshaws. Watch out for those pot holes in the road. Second, since the city is full of temples, the so-called priests sometimes squeeze out money in the name of donating to God. So try to be firm.

Where to visit in Benares?

The city can be covered in 2-3 days comfortably. 1. Kashi Vishwanath is one temple you would really want to visit. 2. I highly recommend visiting Ghats which are at walking distance from the temple. You should visit the Ghats both during sunrise and sunset. It is a beautiful site. Also see the evening aarti that happens every evening at 6 pm, it’s a spectacular site.

You can visit other temples out of curiosity.

On second day, you can hire a taxi to visit Sarnath which is about 15-20kms from Benares. Sarnath is the place where Gautam Buddha taught his first sermon. The place now has the ruins of monasteries, Buddhist temples, and a Museum. It’s small town full of monks.

One thing I am really sure you’ll love about this city is its Spirit.

Night view at Ghats

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View of Ghats from Ganga

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Benares is famous for its small lanes. If you are not aware of the ways, you can easily get lost.

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Ruins of Monastaries in Sarnath

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Prayer flags in Sarnath

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Perceptions

In today’s world unexpected kindness from a stranger is often derided.

I have a superb instance to explain this perception.  I was listening to a radio channel while coming back from office that was asking people to call them and narrate any incident happened with them while waiting at the tolls. So a caller narrated that he saw a guy in parallel row who not only paid toll fee for his car but for the car just behind it as a gesture of kindness. By the way the toll fee is just Rs.21 which is not even a dollar. After paying, drivers of both the cars exchanged looks and appreciated the gesture. This caller was really impressed by this and he thought of doing the same. So, when his turn came he did the same, paid the toll fee for the car behind it.  When the caller and the car behind his crossed the barrier, he waited for the rear car and showed thumbs up as a sign of generosity. He saw the the driver of the other car was a woman and she indicated him to pull over to the side of the road. She then removed her goggles and roared at him saying “Do you think you can impress me with Rs.21?” “What do you think you were trying to do”.  This was not enough she even took out Rs.21 that included a coin and threw on this guy’s face leaving him speechless. 

It sounded hilarious when he was narrating it on radio. Though it makes me think whether it was because of unwanted kindness from a stranger or from a male stranger. Had a female paid the toll fee for that woman, would there be any change in her reaction?

A wild weekend

Last weekend I visited Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and spotted everything but a Tiger.

Was able to capture a stag crossing the path before us..

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Some other beautiful moments captured during the trip.

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Who is the most beautiful? me me me …IMG_0924 Photo courtesy: Payal, a friend of mine.

For more pictures look at my other blog entry here.