Friday, August 26, 2011

Urgent - Support for Jan Lokpal Bill

I just recieved this email at work and I have registered myself in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill. I am sharing the same information with a larger crowd. Please support for a better India.

The Government has put condition to get 25 crore people to support JanLokPal. To give your support call 02261550789 (as given by Kiran Bedi) from your mobile no. Your Call will disconnect after 1 ring and your no registered automatically. You will get an SMS confirming this. Do it along to all your friends. Forward to as many people as you know .. verbally, by mails, by messages. Support Anti-corruption campaign lead by Anna Hazare ...Jai Hind.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Anna and Corruption

While I am watching every detail of Anna all the time, here is a fresh experience of corruption.
I take the local bus after work to home since couple of days. The first time I took a ticket, I paid 7/- for the short distance I travel. The next day I took the same bus and handed a 10/- bill to the conductor. I got 5/- change back. I was confused and then thought that the previous day I was cheated to pay 7/- when in fact the fare is 5-/. I was glad I saved two rupees. I waited for couple of minutes while the conductor was taking money from other commuters. I then said twice to him.. “Ticket? You haven’t given me a ticket yet”. He stared at me for a second and said, “Give me 2 rupees!”
I said “No, you haven’t given me a ticket”, in my head I thought he had forgotten that I already paid. He gave me an annoyed look and said “Give me 2 rupees, I tell you!” Very confused, I gave him 2 rupees and he handed me a ticket and moved on to other commuters. The ticket fare said 7/-
It literally took me a minute to realize that, he was cheating by not giving me a ticket. So he could keep 5 bucks with him while I feel like I saved 2 rupees. I was so disgusted and sat in my seat in disbelief!
Here, we have a 74-year old man fighting and standing up against corruption and we have people working in govt jobs looting openly! I could care less for the 2 rupees if they are illegal! I am more than happy paying 7/- and getting a valid ticket!
Unfortunately, I didn’t do anything than just give him dirty looks! When I went home I thought I should have probably raised alarm in the bus about the conductor..may be! The bus was super-crowded (Indian buses) and frankly I also thought of danger this conductor could be for me in future. Being a whistle blower is not easy.
I understand that probably these conductors make very less income and hence try to cheat like this. But that is what Anna is trying to fight for. Tomorrow we can increase the pays of these kinds of jobs by eradicating corruption, using all that black money to employ sincere people.
At the end of it I am only happy about being sincere and true, though I didn’t voice out anything. I am happy I asked for MY TICKET! Corruption affects one and all, why don’t we all realize this and stand up against it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Medieval Times: Hampi – Part 1

Day 2 was visit to Hampi. A small town on the banks of Tungabhadra River with ruins from the past. We started out early around 7am. Quick road side south Indian breakfast of idli, vada, paniyaram and coffee and 15 mins drive from Hospet into Hampi! The drive is beautiful with large boulders formations, green farmlands. Reaching the park outside the ruins, we were surrounded by guides. At start we didn’t opt for it because they cost 800/- ($18); later we came up with a plan of coupling with another group and sharing the priceJ. We eventually settled for 400/-
Virupaksha Temple Gopuram
Again I shall try to remember and share as much information as possible. Hampi belongs to times of 9th century, 13th century invasions! Hampi is the latest modern name; before which it had 4 other names in chronological order – Pampashketra, Kishikinda, Vidyanagara, Vijayanagara and Hampi. The Brits could not say the word Pampa so they re-arranged it to Hampi. Pampadevi is none other than Goddess Parvati. Kishikinda is the mythical place in Indian mythology which belonged to the monkey kingdom of Monkey king Sugriva, younger brother of Vali. Lord Rama had helped Sugriva along with Lord Hanuman to fight the elder brother Vali. It is believed that Lord Hanuman was born in the mountains of Hampi on the Anjaneya Parvat.
Fine carvings inside the temple
Hampi had a series of kings, invasions and wars of different kingdoms and dynasties. The most significant one is the Vijayanagara kingdom which spread to far distances of south to Ceylon and east to Orrisa. It was one of the most successful and golden era of Hampi when the Vijayanagara dynasty ruled. Hampi consists of numerous temples; around 500 temples exist out of which only 5-10 are worshipped today. Reason being, most temples are looted, some have broken statues. And in Hindu traditions, we do not worship a broken/chipped/cracked idol of god.
Paintings on the ceiling colored with vegetable colors in 7-9th century! Display of Draupadi's Swayamvar
The first stop in the tour is to the Virupaksha temple – Virupaksha is the form of Shiva. This temple dates back to 7th century even before the Vijayanagara kingdom ruled here.  The temple is still worshipped today; there is a self-created lingam inside the temple. Many decorative parts around the temple are destroyed by the attackers in the past. There are different areas inside the temple for kitchen, meetings etc. The meeting halls consist of 100’s of pillars. Four pillars together are called a mantapa. Inside the temple there is a mysterious scientific phenomenon -The main gopuram of the temple outside is huge and the art carvings are partly broken.  Inside the main temple there is wall with a 6” long crevice from which the light penetrates in and mysteriously the shadow of the main gopuram out on the street is inverted. There is no lens of any kind. We have been trying to figure it out all through our trip and still haven’t come with a solution!
Inverted shadow of the Virupaksha Gopuram inside the temple
Aperture from where the sunlight falls in to form the above inverted shadow
There is a real elephant inside the temple and we got to see a magnificent show of its worship to the gods. The elephant is so well trained that it stops by each of the temples and bends down to bow to the gods. For the main temple entrance the elephant bent down on both its front knees, then rose up and raised itself up in the air standing on its two rear feet & raised its trunk in the air. I did the “get blessings from the elephant” act for the first time. If you drop a coin in its trunk, it gives it to his master & while you bow to it, it touches its trunk on your head, of course its mild touch is like a THUD in my head..but it was so much fun!

Elephant blessings

3-headed Nandi
There is a unique 3-headed Nandi (bull) in the temple. The guide says it’s one of a kind in the world and if anybody asked you what you saw in Hampi and if you didn’t mention the 3-headed Nandi then you haven’t seen Hampi yet! Ha ha! Well I saw it, so I have definitely visited Hampi. Yes!!!!
Replacement Nandi's - Nanda, Sunanda and Mahananda are the names :)
One of the bull faces is chipped so it is not worshipped and hence there are 3 individual bulls installed to replace the original statue.

Chitradurga Fort

This long weekend was our first long road trip in India. The 3-day trip was planned to cover the Chitradurga fort in Chitradurga district, Tungabhadhra dam in Hospet, Hampi town of medieval ruins and Halebidu temple in Bidur city of Karnataka. We started off from electronic city at 6.30am and reached Chitradurga around 10.30am. Karnataka, if ever viewed before is unique for its mountains made of countless round boulders in different sizes, mostly huge! And the most mysterious thing is the way they are placed; makes all my science and laws of gravity go for a toss!
Snake carving at entrance
We hired a guide to get a good experience. So I am going to try and remember things the guide shared with us & put it out here. Chitradurga fort is the second largest fort in India, first being Genji fort in Tamilnadu.
Nandi, Shiva, Ganesha
The fort has 7 entrances; first one is “Rangana Bagalu.” through which we actually enter the fort premises. There are small houses and stores now; I believe they must have been the houses of the common people in the old times, like in the movie TROY the entrance to the kingdom start with a large door opening into the houses of the subjects then finally leading to the king’s castle! The second entrance was destroyed in the expansion of the city, govt. stuff. The third entrance Kamana Bagalu is the current entrance to the fort. The entrance wall has a 7-hooded snake carved on the rock. The walls are as high as 15 meters. The opposite side of the wall bears carvings of Ganesh, Shiva and Nandi indicating that they have to be worshiped first before entering the fort. The entrance is so designed that the enemy cannot just barge into the fort, it is serpentine in shape so the enemy horses have to pause and turn every few meters; the corridors are narrow so elephants cannot be used to attack either. The height of the walls gives an advantage to attack the enemy from the top. 
The fourth entrance is called Vishadakatti Bagalu (Poisoned knife door). The fort was designed to kill maximum enemy soldiers from the start. At one of the entrances there used to be water flowing under the stairs to form a pond outside where poisonous snakes and crocodiles would be left to kill the enemy.
Vishdakatti Bagilu
The doors are small in width and thick hence difficult to break down with large columns. The walls were built such that huge squared rock slabs would be supported with mud on the inner side thus when they were hit with canons the mud behind the slabs would provide a shock absorbing effect and still keep the walls in tact! The unique thing about the fort is that there is no cementing material used to stick the huge slabs of rock. They are all just cut, trimmed and placed exactly over each other like a stack.
Gante Bagilu
There are numerous temples inside the fort compound. The fort encompasses large boulders all around. The guide said that the place is older than the times of the kings who made the fort. He showed us a rock with the Stone Age time carving of a deer. As we walked through we saw numerous caves, big carved out holes in the rocks to store oil. The temples have carvings of different gods like Ganesh, Hanuman, Ram-Laxman, dancing ladies etc.

Stone age carving of a deer
Then we headed through the rocky yet paved landscape. In the surrounding rocks there are rocks that look like animals in the jungle. The reason behind the name of the place is the scenery around - “Chitradurga” means picturesque; chitra = picture and durga = fort. There are rocks that look like a rabbit, elephants, frog and a boat. They all look like a picture hence the name. I managed to find a rock that looks like the lion king J 
Rabbit shapped Rock on the center left side
Frog shapped rock in the center
Sitting Elephant rock
(Left) Lion King face rock that I found :)
As we moved ahead we saw the commercial area of the king, a place where all the business took place like minting money as in gold silver coins, his ministry setting up business meetings etc. All of it is broken and look like ruins now. In the old times temples were made by loading up expensive gold gems under the ground and then the statue of the gods would be placed on the money. When the Mughals and Britishers attacked the fort, they uprooted all the idols to look for hidden treasures! Hence most temples now don’t have any idols. On the way we see two reservoirs. The fort has amazing rain harvesting and filtering setup. The two reservoirs are called Akka Tangi  (Elder sister-younger sister). Story goes as the king had two wives he had a reservoirs for each. When the king died, in those times Sati tradition being followed (where the widowed wife has to sacrifice her life after the husband’s death by jumping into fire pyre); each of the queens jumped in their reservoirs sacrificing their lives.
Pool for the king to play Holi festival
From the mythology there are two temples at the center of the area. It is believed that the mythical demon characters Hidimba and sister Hidimbi lived here. Bheema from Mahabharata epic married the demon Hidimbi. There is a Hidimbeshwar temple, very picturesque as it is elevated; it gives a great view of the whole place. There is a stepped pool built for the king and people to play Holi, the festival of colors and water!
Hidimbeshwara Temple
Obawa's cave on the left besides the steps
At the extreme top of the rocks we see huge cylinders. These would contain ghee (clarified butter) to store weapons and prevent them from rusting. Also men who could climb the smooth, greasy boulders to the top would be selected as the best soldiers!
Secret passage where Obawa killed invaders
Finally there is a famous story of a brave woman called Obawa. She was a wife to a simple watch guard in the kingdom. The fort has one secret entry from the back from where exactly one person can crawl in each time. When her husband was having lunch one day, Obawa was away to bring water for him, when she heard the whispers of the enemy creeping in. She with her presence of mind single –handedly killed many of the soldiers with a thick wooden rod called Onake in Kannada, used for beating paddy to break the rice corns. When her husband saw the bloody scene he came to help her and she asked him to go and alarm the army with his bugle while she manages the secret hole. She was rewarded for her bravery with the title of “Onake Obawa”.
Mighty walls of Chitradurga Fort
 The fort is built with so much intelligence and highest degree of architecture in those times, it is said that the Mughal ruler Hyder Ali attacked it 7 times to fail. He was successful only when one of the ministers betrayed the king and shared the secret entrances to the fort. Amazing day spent at the fort.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

64th Independence day

Found this piece on the Times of India page. Pretty cool and makes us proud, but looking at the current political situation of the country all these quotes become meaningless.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ethics lost? Or they never existed!

We are in the 21st century; women are not matching level with men, instead women are already ahead in the gender race. Frankly, I don’t see it as a race. It is an individual choice to grow and prosper. Every woman has the equal right to have ambitions and aim to achieve them, just like any common MAN! A man’s insecurity due to a woman’s success is failure of his moral principles!
In today’s world, for a man to say- I “gave” the job to Ms. ABC only because she needed a job urgently and because she is a “woman”- I can’t digest the statement. Not only does it bring out the feminist in me (which I am not), it is an insult to every woman, every man’s woman!
The statement doesn’t make sense to me at all. Why does anybody have to do a FAVOR to a very well qualified, experienced woman? Who does favors in the IT world? It is not a govt. job to get in with acquaintance or bribe. So what does it really mean? In my opinion, it is the insecurity of the man, his conscience saying to him how incompetent he really is, and his jealousy and his male ego making him blind to a woman’s ability and intelligence that she can perform better than him!
I wonder what it takes for a man to get a job, if women get a job because they are women. Oh wait it would mean every woman would be employed! What a screwed up logic!
I pity his woman and daughter who have to bear with him. I pity his shallow mind that will take him nowhere close to success and satisfaction and he will beg for peace of mind. When I come across such cheap, egoistic and dumb men, I truly feel lucky to have a husband who is more than happy to see me succeed! He enjoys my success as his success and encourages me to excel even more. I wish we had more men like my husband who think of a woman as an individual – who have their own dreams, ambitions, goals!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wanna eat Banna Bage?

On my trip to Yercaud, I found this funny english board. Ofcourse they are selling BANANA Bajji. We know that, thank god! They obviously don't believe in punctuation either, apart from spellings!
Banana Bajji


Yercaud is the place we visited this weekend. A hill station so cool that it was hard for me to believe that you can ACTUALLY feel cold in Tamilnadu! We started off from Electronic city, Bangalore. From Ecity, Tamilnadu is right around the corner. Cross Atibele of Karnataka and you enter Hosur where Tamilnadu starts. We stopped for fuel; fyi – petrol per liter is 67/- in Tamilnadu as compared to 71/- in Bangalore. It’s so good to start a road trip from TamilnaduJ. We couldn’t resist the road side Tamilnadu special Parota breakfast. We actually thought of just quick coffee break..but the pictures below surely display how tempting the authentic food was.
I have always wanted to click pictures of parota making. If you look at them cooking you would not want to eat it, reason being they use so much of oil in the making of the parota. But again they do it so skillfully; the multi-layered bread is one relish to enjoy in Tamilnadu. As I was clicking pictures of the food, the lady making parotas was bold enough, yet shy to say in Tamil – click my photo too. Always welcome my lady! Breakfast was heavy with steaming hot Idlis, parotas, coconut chutneys and sago.
From here we went to Salem and then to Yercaud. Tamilnadu like Maharashtra has mountains all around it. My father in-law said the name was originally Sayilam meaning surrounded by mountains which became Salem in time! Yercaud gets its name from the lake located at its center - in Tamil "Yeri" means "lake" and "Kaadu" means "forest". The roads in Tamilnadu are amazingly good compared to those in Karnataka. We never hit any bad roads throughout our trip from Ecity – Salem-Yercaud-Coimbatore. It proves that the recently sacked Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddurappa did nothing for the state and ate up all the money!
The Yercaud hill area is called the Shevaroy Hills. The drive up to the hill had 20 hair-pin bends. My brother in-law did a superb job driving up the mountain. The mountains are full of coffee plantations and pepper plantations creeping on the tall dense forest trees. There is still another 2 months time for the pepper corns to grow, so I just saw empty strands in the plants. Saw lots of Jackfruit trees. A mighty plant to hold that huge fruit up on the tree! Hundreds of monkeys on the way to the hill. Little monkey babies, big monkeys grooming other monkeys…funny ride. Yet we were careful to have our windows up. Entering the hill station there is huge lake in the center of the town. Lots of boating to do; we didn’t. We instead went to Pagoda point; amazing view point of the greenery and mountains. The weather was very cool.

Monkey families

Yercaud Lake
From here we went to drive to a famous temple of Meru Chakra, yet under construction. I have still not understood the spiritual concept of the Meru Chakra; for now I understand it is worshipping the form of Shakti (energy ). I took snapshots of the description to read later. This temple apparently has the largest chakra in the world. Again photography was prohibited, but this temple has one of the best intricate wooden statues; I was so tempted to break the rules and take a shot! But I didn’t! Too much guilty conscience! L I still regret for not getting snaps of those statues!
But I got to click some beautiful dahlias on my way!
Then we continued our drive to the top-most point on the Servaroyan hill where the Servaroyan Temple is situated. The temple is a narrow and dark cave having the God Servarayan and the Goddess Kaveri inside, which are believed as the deities of the Shevaroy Hills and Cauvery River. The drive is just gorgeous with clouds coming down the green dense mountains. And it is really cold from the breeze and clouds! Every year they have an annual fair worshipping the God Servarayan; hence you see fair rides J

Gorgeous place to trek too. This place had other tourist spots too. But we choose very few to see as per our time constraints. It was a great drive experience on our new car Ritz! And she did really well!