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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Search review

I just finished reading this excellent novel by Maureen Myant
The times of the second world war is one of the dark chapters of human history when men maimed fellow men ,when love was a discount and mindless inhumanities were committed on  fellow humans because they differed in beliefs race philosophies and political thoughts .
when the human race denigrated to lesser than animal thoughts where cruelty sadism and violence took a front seat it was the times when decency civility and mercy were at loss and people were decimated to the likes of cattle .
The story of a young boy in Czechoslovakia born in the turbulent second world war times when the German mindless automatons led by their satanic leader the greatest evil born amongst humans a non decript artist short in stature and mind could make men mindless robots to abide to  his perverted will
This ten year old boy sees his father shot dead while he hides high in a tree and his mother and two sisters bundled into different trucks to different concentration camps
how this tiny soul faces the odds gets imprisoned escapes joins the partisans and does acts that an adult would squinge at never losing his humanity and his goal of reuniting his family
on the other side it shows that there are decent German families who in spite of the danger harbors poor souls who were spirited away from their homes and hearths to murder and mayhem
the meeting of the boy to one such family who go through a personal disaster of losing their only son a German soldier who deserts his army in order to avoid the mindless violence which he is forced upon and finally dies
at the end the coming together of the family seems to be an anticlimax as the boy meets a wizened old lady whom he hardly recognizes as his mother  with whom he returns with his little sister while aching for his new found German home to  thread back a life .
Brilliantly written novel
how lucky we are  

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Pride of the Pendikars

The river Saraswati was one of the great rivers of India, though many call it a myth sure evidence is being unearthed today that it was and it still does exist.
 During the Vedic times thousands of years back along the banks of this great river lived a group of Brahmans called Gowda Saraswat Brahmins 
they were  so called because they lived along the banks of the Saraswati river or because they followed their saint sage Saraswat. With time Saraswati river dried up or disappeared into the bowels of the earth and the Gowda Sarsawats migrated to the west coast some went up to Punjab some to Kashmir some to to Dwaraka in Gujarat but those who went to the west coast reached Gomantak today's Goa and settled there as a vibrant community not limited to priesthood but into enterprise and trade, Exodus started during Aladin Khiljis rule in 1294 and later in 1506 during Portuguese reign due to religious persecution. 
They migrated down the west coast some settling in south kanara some going by boat to Cochin and even down south up to Trivandrum, 
wherever they went and settled down they adapted to the place but at same time preserved their individuality in their customs and traditions their skills and vibrancy contributed to the region and soon they became dominant players in the region.

I give this introduction of GSB before I write about Dr Ramesh Shenoy of Cochin a radiologist by profession, a multitasker by skills to give an idea of his antecedent history no wonder he is doing what he is!

Born in 1963 to Sri. Sreenivasa Shenoy and Smt. Priyamvadha of the GSB community in Cochin the family was well  known as the Pendikars. 
Pendi (Konkani) or pindi (Malayalam) is the waste bit left after pressing out oil from an oil cake and as the family was initially involved in oil business they came to be called as the Pendikars, 
The business was started by Sri. Yogya shenoy  son of Sri. Janardana Shenoy Sr at Broadway Ernakulam in a site taken on lease from TD temple, 
Sri Janardana shenoy had migrated from Vypeen a nearby island to Ernakulam in the 17th century .
 The family still holds religious icons and heirlooms for the past two centuries in great reverence .
The Sankarasserri madom is the ancestral house or Tharavadu of the family in the Chitoor Road. 
His grandfather, father and his paternal uncle were all Ernakulam Thirumala Devaswom temple Adikharis

yearsin Over the years St Alberts School in Ernakulam has produced many worthies of the city it was here that Ramesh too did his school studies. He went on to do his MBBS and later Diploma in Medical radiology from Kasturba medical college
 Manipal  Karnataka

A radiologist is trained to look at screens and decipher and is a vital part of diagnostics in Modern Medicine,but Ramesh did not stop looking at his computer monitors when he was doing an Ultrasonagram & Xray , the computer attracted Ramesh like a magnet and he used to twiddle with it even in the days of the proverbial floppies which many youngsters wouldn't even have seen leave alone to have worked with them but to Ramesh the 1.2 MB plastic covered floppies were an irresistible attraction, he learned by experimenting with them.

Ramesh was also an ace organiser quietly doing his work in the background and never eager to be in the limelight but his talents were noticed by keen observers like the ace Nephrologist of the city
 Dr Georgy K Ninan who was a pioneer in Renal transplants in Kerala Dr Georgy requested Ramesh to take up the post of general secretary of SORT Cochin (Society for Organ Retrieval and Transplantation). In 2002  SORT was a fledgling organisation in 2002 with a meagre bank balance of Rs 1000. Ramesh ran helter and skelter he produced greeting cards for the New Year with SORT messages and by selling them slowly increased the balance.

By 2004 the first transplants had begun and then there was no looking back for SORT with its committed committee members and Ramesh putting his weight into the nitty gritty of running an organisations all this for a good cause which he believed in, of course Ramesh never hesitated a second before he pledged his organs to be donated after death as an example for others.

Ramesh is also actively involved in Stem cell donation group in Kerala. Being an Executive member of the Indian Medical Association Cochin since 2001. He was an organizing committee member of the I M A State conference in 2010 & I M A state office bearer since 2014. He was Qualified Private Medical Practitioners Association (QPMPA) Journal Secretary cum Treasurer for over two years. Also was part of the Care and Share organization (USA) Kerala Chapter.

He was also active in the Radiology association (IRIA) being an executive member of the IRIA Kochi Chapter since 2009, was organizing committee member of IRIA State conference in 2012 held at Cochin and recently in 2015 was Treasurer at the IRIA National conference held at Cochin

Ramesh had also played a big part in making the Cochin I.M.A a pioneer in using  newer technologies. He initially started using emails for event announcements later starting an I M A Yahoo group. Colorful brochures gave way to newsletters sent  by email later by using SMS/Whatsapp.
Once social sites started becoming popular he started Facebook and Whatsapp IMA groups
He also made I M A software Applications using  Team App software, any member could download this from the web and it has a lot of I M A links, details of past present and future events, archives of newsletters  and photo gallery .
Ramesh went on to make websites for I M A Cochin and later I M A state branch, SORT,Cochin Clinical Society etc

He introduced public health awareness by SMS associating with Telecom Company. The IMA drug bank was looking for a suitable place to be in and Ramesh with the help of his community and the GSS Sanghamam found a place in central Ernakulam with air conditioned comfort. He created websites for several other social organisations too  and one for his own Pendikar family
Ramesh was instrumental in forming Pendikar Kudumba sangamam and a family tree was created with exhaustive inputs,
I asked Ramesh how he went about doing this the hard way said he, I visited each and every member possible to collect details which I then painstakingly added to the tree  and the site
Which led to family meets over the years

A family meet which got rare media reports a meet where more than 200 members attended! Tracing their lineage back to the 17th century!!

Ramesh family ventures too are into several branches helping the public in many ways .
Also an executive member of Gowda Saraswatha Seva Sangham for last 12 years. 

Ramesh is also part of R.S. Shenoy  school of hockey and is chairman of all health activity

He works as a freelance Radiologist in several hospitals in Cochin and divides his busy schedule with great finesse

Ramesh is happily married to Pathologist Dr  Shankari R Shenoy and has one son Vishwas studying for plus two. Ramesh goes about quietly continuing his profession and at same time contributing to his colleagues his family and the society at large. Once an I M A President described him as a silent killer who though in the back ground does the real work, this silent killer is sure a pride for the Pendikars

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dharamsala a pictorial

There were enough  reasons why we planned a trip to Dharamsala

 One it was early summer and the upper reaches of Himachal Pradesh was a good place to be in as the weather would be pleasant 
Secondly it had the Sterling resorts of which we have been   members for the last two decades so accommodation was assured to be good 
Thirdly there weren't much hill stations in the  north or south of India for us left to be seen and above all we wished for a chance to see the Dalai Lama ,the spiritual head of Buddhism his holiness himself if there was a chance 
So we flew to Chandigarh from Chennai by Jet Airways 
 ,Chennai Domestic Airport was definitely better than its International counterpart with plenty of shopping choices
Jet airways too was pretty comfortable 

Reaching Chandigarh we booked a pre paid cab from airport to take us to Dharamsala a distance of 237 km .
Volvo luxury buses also plied between Chandigarh and Dharamsala the most economic was the HP Transport bus but it would be a rickety ride .
Chandigarh is a planned city designed by the great architect La Courbaisier and is divided neatly into sectors ,
we left the city and its broad roads and moved on to Punjab state and later into HP ,
the climb started by dusk and it started becoming darker and colder as we climbed up
Dharamsala itself is around 4500 feet ASL and is a crowded town ,
we reached there by going through quaint junctions like Sheela Chowk etc ,
Sterling resorts was a little way beyond the town and googling helped us find it ,
we checked in tired and it was only the next morning we knew that we were just behind a flowing stream and snow covered mountains .
After a short morning walk when we found out that there were local buses which could take us to Dharamsala town and later to upper Dharamsala or McLeod Ganj 

We had a quick egg bread breakfast in a Dhaba and in no time was in a bus with the locals going about their morning schedules to reach Chamundi temple as an auspicious start ,
The Chamundi temple  was one of the   Shaktipeeths 
there are 51 shaktipeeths totally 
Legend describes Sati who married Shiva immolates herself because Dakshan her father insulted her and her husband .An infuriated Shiva dances his angry Tandava holding her corpse 
As this dance of destruction of Shiva could destroy every world in the universe Lord Vishnu on being appealed by Devas uses his chakra to cut Satis corpse into pieces in order to calm Shiva who was dancing with it 
The parts of Sati fall in several parts of  India Nepal Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and these sites are called Shatipeeths so goes legend and faith .
There are 5 in HP 
Chamundi Temple ,Chindapurni, temple Jwalamukhi Temple ,Vijreshwar temple and Naina Devi temple
we would visit all except for Naina devi temple as the road to it was in repair .
The Banganga lake was by the side of Chamundi temple which was reached descending down  some steps 
Drummers sat on the steps and  reverently kept drumming 
the sound  would merge with the cymbals and bells ringing from inside the temple ,
devotees surged ahead to get a glimpse of the Devi and the priest was intoning his mantras .after partaking a simple prasad of puffed rice and dry fruits and getting a scarlet red mark on the forehead adorned by the priest himself we moved to the banks of Banganga with moneys loitering about ,
a slight drizzle was on and we quickly took photographs of the lovely river lake and the mountains in the background it was the Feet of Sati that was said to have fallen here .
we walked back to the small town and caught a bus to Dharamsala again and later to Mc Leod Ganj 

It was cold and drizzling as we walked along the crowded narrow streets which went up and down .
The snowy peaks towered high above us winking in their brilliance while a feeble sun attempted to give us some warmth .
We were at Mcleod Ganj up in the foothills of the Himalayas in HP 
During British rule Mcleod was the local Governor and he discovered this hill station also called upper Dharamsala 10 km above lower Dharamsala .
Later in 1959 His Holiness the Dalai Lama was given sanctuary by India here and it is now a Tibetan settlement and Govt in exile .
His escape from China was written by me as a post

This place is thus  called Little Lhasa 
the Dalai Lamas home .in the Tsughalakang complex 
His holiness was in Japan when we went 
We were disappointed we had no chance to meet him or attend his prayer meets 
the center itself was perched on a mountain slope with lovely views it was spacious adorned with fluttering prayer flags and rolling prayer wheels ,red robed monks were in plenty several of them were in broad balconies playing some sort of meditation game where one would make noise while others gazed benignly some older monks walked with consternation some were meditating with a faraway look in their peaceful eyes .heavy tomes of  books lined the library and the huge worship hall was filled with Buddhas with a unfathomable but divine countenance 
 The town itself was filled with pizza eateries German bakeries and British pastry shops as plenty of foreigners were seen there with thier big cameras and tote bags 
trinkets statuettes bells Tibetan antiques were all on sale in small shops and the place was colorful 
we bought some hot Momos from a middle aged lady selling in the streets and ducked into an empty workshop as the rains became heavy to dip into the fiery sauce and eat our Momos under the shadow of an old car it was cool and romantic and we were reminded of our younger courting days 
the momos were delicious and melted in our mouths though we did try momos later in fancy restaurants it was never as tasty as this was 

We took a short trip in a hired car to interesting places around the town
We first saw a scenic lake later a view point to see the Dhauladhar ranges ,we also saw a trekking track which according to our driver who also would turn as trekking scout if needed was a bit strenous taking about 12 hours of hard climb ,we went o one to see the St Johns episcopal cathedral called st Johsn church inthe wilderness ,this was a qauint little church made of stones reached by a rock hewn path admidst Deodar trees ,lord Elgin once viceroy lay buried here as he died here in 1863 and the lovely stained glass windows are donated by his wife Lady Elgin ,probably one of the oldest cathedrals in India it still had regular sunday masses

Afternoon lunch was in a Tibetan restaurant and we had hot and sour soup ,momos rice and pepper chicken i think it was not bad 

India is the land of taste,the variety of food available and the different tastes of different regions is unparalleled any where else I feel 

we had pretty strong guts and were not very squeamish on street food too 

the streets of Dharamsala 

The walks in the mountains
the blue hills 

The Momos 

We slept tired back in the resort 
the next day day two we walked along way almost 5 to 6 km beyond the town and into a place called Shidbari ,we saw an art gallery on the way ,the roads were busy with buses and cars and people going for work children going to schools and we were the lonely walking couple with hats and caps and cameras the arch typical tourists but it was enjoyable as we saw the place better 
It was along walk to reach Chinmaya mission at Shidbari ,we went in and had a look but the place was quiet and not very busy as construction was on and no classes were on at the time 
we then took a car back visiting Gyuto monastery on way back again a few km away in Shidbari 
the Gyuto order was formed in 1475 by Jetsun Kunga Dhndup and is one of the main Tantric colleges of Gelug tradition ,their Vajrayana teaching was famous ,
in 1950 when China invaded Tibet there were around 1000 monks and 60 of them escaped ,they were in several places in India and now in Sidhbari Dharamsala and there were about 500 monks here now ,The monks are well known for their tradition of choral chanting which had been recorded in the west in best selling albums ,the baritone haunting chants is mesmerizing to hear and is supposed to have healing powers 

Gyuto monastery had as its titular head the Karmapa 
His holinesss the 17th Karmapa ogyen trinley dorje is the titular head of the 900 year old karma Kagyu lineage he is now 29 years old he had a dramatic escape from Tibet in 2000 when he was 14 years old 
 it was a lovely place with huge Buddhas and paintings ,there was also a good library and we talked to the bespectacled librarian who himself had made an escape via the mountains from China along with the Karmapa before coming here and settling down 
Gyuto monastery 

Afternoon saw us in the stream behind the resort ,the clear mountain stream flew fast and furious but we could sit on the rocks and dip our legs in the pristine coolness 

The next Morning we walked uphill on the road for more than a km 
Surprisingly we found a Shiv temple amongst the trees 
we walked up into a quiet neat temple 
Panditjee informed us of an older temple down near the rolling stream 
We clambered down the stone steps to find a narrow cave with a tiny opening 
The man who came from temple to guide us said we needed to prostrate ourselves to see the swayambhu or self formed shiv lingha in the place where Arjuna was offered blessings and heavenly arms by Lord Shiva in answer to his penance in Dhwapar yuga goes the legend 
It was really an enthralling walk and we felt blessed

We also visited the Norbulinga monastery and institute  just about a km from sterling resorts .
It has a beautiful monastery library painting sculpture Tangha painting workshops 
It also has a guest house

on our way back to Chandigarh in a cab we had booked from a travel agency in Mcleod ganj we could    see four more shaktipeeths ,
the first one was   Khangra vejeswari temple it was said that the breast of Sati had fallen here ,temple was crowded but there was an orderly line and we could see golden statuettes of lion packs in front of the deity 

most of the temples had huge markets where one could get all puja items and plenty of sweets and almost everything ,temple visits to many villagers around was also a shopping spree it was spiritually and materially fulfilling 

The Jwalamukhi temple was next in our list 
This temple is unique that it has no idols only a bluish natural flame between stones which is natural gas and never quenches ,said to represent the tongue of the godess which had fallen here 
The Kangra king built this  temple
In 1009 Mohammed Ghazni destroyed it 
Later Akbar the great visited the temple and tried to put the flame out by using waterjets but failed to do so he realized his folly and donated a golden umbrella but this turned onto a strange metal as Devi was unhappy with his acts as goes a story 
Guru Ranjit Singh gold plated the domes later 
So goes legend
We did see the dark blue flame burning with luster
Jwalamukhi indeed

After the temple visits we sat back and dozed as our car descended into the plains ,we passed the Anadthpur sahib Gurudwara by dusk and saw plenty of people walking great distances to reach there as a penance 
Ananthpur Sahib Gurudwara 

\By night we had checked in to IMA guest house in Chandigarh and tucked in a Punjabi tandoori chicken for all our troubles and the next day morning Ola cabs brought us to the Airport at a bargain price  lesser than an autorickshaw fare !
and Jet Airways safely put us in chennai 

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