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Monday, March 23, 2015

Driver Swami

Dusk was slowly settling down as we returned from the middle of the River where the three rivers the Ganga ,the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati was supposed to have melded ,
To be able to go to this point in the middle of a maha kumbh mela was a feat by itself as the once in 12 years Maha kumbh which lasted for more than a month was the biggest congregation of humanity in one place .
Something which could be seen even from space!
On certain special days during the month long Kumbh millions would descend on its banks, though the day we went was not one of the big days .
The crowds still swelled on the banks of the flowing river gaily festooned with glimmering lights ,
we were lucky to get into one of the last boats and surreptiously glided out as the police were preventing any more people from going to the river centre as it was getting dark ,
After our ritual bath we felt clean and privileged to have had a rare opportunity
When we had told our friends before we left that we were off to the Kumbh mela they were aghast
The kumnbh mela, are you people crazy ?
The crowd is just abominable; one could get killed in those frequent stampedes
It was one of India’s enduring nightmares for anyone living in a an ensconced world
How could one  take such a risk ?
The very idea of even reaching the Mela grounds was unthinkable for many but we took the impulsive decision because one of our friends Pramodh Swamji of the Amritha group had invited us and till day we have felt it was one of our greatest blessing to have done so !
read this on my earlier post  
http://hariwrite.blogspot.com/2013/02/maha-kumbh-mela.html
The Kumbh mela was India in a microcosm and happened every four years at four different places in turns and the Maha kumbh was the 12 yearly once  mega bonanza ,
this year it was at Allahabad
 It had all the colour clamour and confusion which was India but it also had its serenity spirituality and surrealistic feel  .
In its teeming millions was the very soul of India .
In its air was the aura of history  .
The rich tapestries of spirituality of Bharath was melded into its sands .
In the wrinkles of its sanyasins lay the heart of India .
The dusts of the past gathered in its fogs.
The din of its footsteps was the music of India.
It is to savour all this that millions gathered here
It is to awaken their indianess from deep inside their souls that they came here in hordes.
We were one amongst the millions caught in the anonymity of its irrelevance.
We   floated as the jetsam in the lashing waves of time itself.
It was this unique experience which would be very difficult to explain here that we encountered this experience .
The exhilaration of dipping into the pure Ganga with its cold fingers embracing us and igniting our souls to bliss
This was something which was beyond all our past experiences
This was uniquely mystic and awe inspiring
For a long time after our boat reached the crowded banks and our feet touched the sandy shores and as we threaded our way through the milling crowds the trance of this awakening was on us
We were out of this world in a different dimension
Swamiji was more used to this and was more practical and realistic he was keeping an eye on us as we jostled through the crowd he knew there were many whose intentions were hardly spiritual and picking pockets were more common than saving souls in Indian Melas
So he shepherded us to safer environs and made us go into a spiritual supermarket of tents of several Akharas
These are pavilions of different orders of spiritual groups from all over India .
 Some were huge almost like tiny towns with massive cut outs of their main Swami
 In some sermons were being made
There were some where ash strewn Aghoras sat still some in grotesque postures while some deeply inhaled bhang and hemp and the smoke mingled with the fog of the early night
White tourists gaped and gawked and clicked their cameras furiously
Finally Swamiji took us inside a tent complex and introduced us to a surprisingly erudite young swamiji who spoke Cambridge English with a distinctly yankee accent
He asked us to sit down and graciously enquired swamiji  and us about our  welfare
Old friends they were swamiji quickly got to the point
The matter was we had to leave that night as we needed to be at luck now by mid-morning  the morrow to catch our flight back and getting our from the kumbh mela was another feat ,
swamiji had a car but no one to to drop us and return back and he could not leave the place too
It was very difficult to get a private car or taxi as they were all booked
The swamiji whispered something to his aide and shortly a very young almost boyish chubby  swami came and joined his palms in greeting to us
He will drive you to Lucknow tonight declared the swamiji and nodded at the boy
We were little apprehensive at the school boy selected by the swami
So it was agreed that we would go fast wasting no more time .
 we quickly got into car and went to collect our belongings
By then we found the car suddenly filled up as three more swamis had  joined for the trip to be dropped at luck now
So it was by now a bit crowded but the winter night was pretty cold hence it provided much needed warmth .
Our driver lad gaily drove us as we waved farewells to our swami Pramodh
It took more than an hour to leave the Mela ( fair ) grounds as it was around 10 pm when we reached the outskirts
The crowds were less but still one had to weave ones way out
The lad was full of smiles and jokes at the idiots who blocked his way and we were all thinking it was all good fun
We then reached the high way
 Uttar Pradesh may be the largest state of India and its rulers were all big politicians including many prime ministers who hailed from this state but it was pretty primitive in infrastructure .
Most of the highway were two laned and had no median barriers .
Most of  the roads were dark and the huge trucks that lumbered along blinded one with their headlights
Our boy was suspiciously straying to the middle of the road a little too much
a couple of times we almost brushed aside the opposite vehicles and we were a bit worried though our boy driver was nonchalant
But the moment he started becoming silent and nodding a bit and  probably dozing off we got real worried and made him stop
Enough was enough
We did not want the Kumbh mela to be our bodily exit from this world the spirit was another matter !
I asked the driver swami to get in the rear seat and the started driving
 He never protested and quiety made himself comfortable and promptly slept off snoring away to glory
I was stressed a bit at the unknown roads but slowly got the hang of things.
around late midnight we reached Rai Bareli the constituency of Ms Indira Gandhi herself who was our legendary prime minister who had passed away
Rae Bareli was just another dusty hick town and showed no signs of it being a pm constituency
 The plan was to get into some hotel and rest for some time and start at dawn but there were no such places
 A few we saw all had their gates locked and the government rest house had two retainers sleeping like the dead
We decided to just continue driving and we did that or rather I did that while the others slept
At around 5 Am we reached lucknow
Our swami boy had a resurrection as he woke up fresh and beamed at us
I gave him the wheel and got out into the luck now airport and luckily we could get a guest room for some hours of much needed sleep
And thus ended our kumbh mela  

But am still alive to tell this tale !


















Tuesday, March 17, 2015

LABUAN

Labuan is an island off Brunei in East Malaysia in the State of Sabah ,its located in the south china sea and has one big island and six small islands as part of it.
Labohan in Malay meant  anchorage
It is known as the Pearl of Borneo
The main town was  called Victoria in the colonial era and now is called Bandar Labuan .
Labuan was historically part of Majapahit empire in the 14th century and then part of Brunei Sultanate but taken over by the British ( source Wikipedia ) in 1846 and later became its colony ,during second world war the Japanese conquered it and changed its name to Maida island it was liberated by the Allied forces in 1945 and when Malaysia attained independence it became part of East Malaysia .

Its an international offshore financial center since 1990 and has steel mills offshore banking,floor mills ,methanol plant and offshore supplies
close to Brunei Labuan today is a tourist spot for holidaying Bruneians as its a tax free haven and also a pleasant beach resort .
Ferries and speedboats connect the two and it takes approximately 1.5 hours of travel to reach Labuan .
We had planned to leave by MV Hope the ferry which could carry vehicles too though we had parked our car in the paid parking area near Maura Ferry station ( 10 Bruneian dollars for one day )
Indians need a Malaysian Visa for going to Labuan and a multiple entry Brunei visa to return back .
We reached Maura ferry point by 8.30 am and parked our car .
We stood in line to buy the ticket which was 13 Bruneian dollars each approximately 700 INR
After buying tickets we had to go to immigration and customs before we alighted the ferry .
MV Hope had space to accommodate lot of cars motorcycles and some big containers too .
Passengers could either sit on the deck but would have to face the sun or relax in the AC hall .
the huge ship glided away from Maura and into the open sea ,the sea was smooth as the ferry sallied forth .
the safety instructions were shown as a video film  and later a movie started playing ,I moved into the deck for the photo ops
within an hour and half we could see land again as we reached Labuan island ,we could see the famous Financial center looming ahead of us a lot of ships were berthed there and we too moved into the jetty ,completing immigration we sauntered into the jetty building
the first impression was of a small town full of colorful shops overflowing with chocolates and liquor bottles
Rightly called the Chocolate island the duty free haven was famous for these two items .
there are small malls like the one stop shopping center laden with liqour ,tobacco and ,chocolates
there were several restaurants and a sprinkling of KFC and other eateries.
We went through customs formalities quickly and bought our return ticket for the next day ferry and in time as we found out the tickets would have been exhausted shortly !
Our hotel the Labauan Beach resort was 17 km away from the ferry point and had shuttle facility from the ferry point ,we put our luggage in the small aircon van and as the driver was waiting for some more customers quickly did some chocholate purchases and i clicked away furiously anything in sight ,it was quite warm and the sun was pretty strong .
soon we were moving along the main road crossing the island and passed a church a mosque saw a board for the famous second world war cemetery with more than 3900 graves which was a tourist destination though we did not visit it .
on Remembrance day many family members from different countries would visit the grave
the Allied landing point when they reconquered the island was also well known
the surrender point was where the Japanese surrendered in 1945 and the famous chimney which existed from the coal mining era but no one knew its purpose .
Soon we were at the resort itself which was picturesque and stately with a colonial touch ,the high ceiling-ed hall was cool of course Ac was on but the place was less hot as there were lit of trees
the swimming pool was shimmering in the back and was an infinite pool bordering the sea and private beach




















We hit the bed in the room and had a relaxing nap till evening when we woke up groggily to catch the shuttle to the town where we shopped a bit and had some dinner and by 9 pm was back ,the next day we woke up late had a swim in the pool but the chlorine in the water made my eyes smart a lot and i got out quicker than my usual swimming pool sojourns ,the breakfast spread was satisfying and by afternoon we had gone to the ferry point by 4 pm we were in MV Hope back to Brunei and hoping to return to Labaun another day 

Monday, March 09, 2015

Holy cow

Cow slaughter ban an RSS agenda is being projected by the BJP government ,this is absurd for a secular country like India which caters to all sorts of likes and dislikes and many different beliefs and food fads .
If it is really love for animals then let us stop stop all slaughter and turn vegetarian enmasse ,
I would join that happily because slaughter of animals today in
India is so crude and cruel
In what way is a lamb or a poor chicken lesser than a cow ?
All animals suffer pain and sadness when being slaughtered
this has been scientifically known ,
i have seen some pictures of cows and lambs shedding tears before being lopped off the most unhygienic conditions of slaughter houses in the country The sight would put off most from eating non veg food .
The way cows buffaloes lambs and chicken are transported to slaughter houses are by the most cruelest possible way
I have seen trucks filled to capacity with tied buffaloes with their heads locked to each other to prevent them from moving and their big eyes looking sadly at the vehicles coming behind ,they are dragged down by their tails and made to see their fellow animals being beheaded so cruelly
they smell blood and dung and there is fright in the air
their bodys are full of adrenaline as their hearts thud at the horrible way they know they are going to die
The number of illegal slaughterhouses in India is 10 times more than the legal slaughterhouses ,
corrupt and callous health and sanitation officers make even the legal ones torture houses so one can imaging the plight of illegal slaughterhouses in the country ,
Eating meat of such frightened animals has its own harms as the tissues of these poor animals are full of toxins endorphins and adrenaline and will transmit these endotoxins to the person who eats it .







 If there is hell this surely is a part of it .
but this is not only for cows or buffaloes or lambs or chicken or pork its for all animals which are slaughtered by humans 
fish caught in the sea seem to better off without human touch as they gasp to death which also is cruel to a certain extent 
In developed countries strict rules for slaughter exists 



I am just copying the humane slaughter act in the USA below :
The Humane Slaughter Act, or the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, (P.L. 85-765; 7 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) is a United States federal law designed to decrease suffering of livestock during slaughter. 
It was approved on August 27, 1958.[1] 
The most notable of these requirements is the need to have an animal completely sedated and insensible to pain. 
This is to minimize the suffering to the point where the animal feels nothing at all, instead losing a consciousness from which it will never awaken. 
This differs from animal to animal as size increases and decreases. 
Larger animals such as bovine require a stronger method than chickens, for example. 
Bovine require electronarcosis or something equally potent, though electronarcosis remains a standard. The bovine would have a device placed on its head that, once activated, sends an electric charge that efficiently and safely stuns the animal.
Chickens, on the other hand, require much less current to be efficiently sedated and are given a run under electrically charged water. 
To ensure that these guidelines are met, The Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors at slaughtering plants are responsible for overseeing compliance, and have the authority to stop slaughter lines and order plant employees to take corrective actions
this is how developed countries slaughter animals

So instead of instigating the people of this country by unnescary acts and bans the BJP Government should work to make humane slaughter a must in the country ,
even in monotheistic countries the eating needs of their subjects who believe differently are provided so there is no reason how such unilateral decisions can be taken in a country like India with so many beliefs and and likes ,
duty of the Government should be limited to providing them with clean hygienic meat made in clean humane conditions

Sunday, March 01, 2015

CAIRNS

 



Our flight from Sydney to Cairns was in the morning ,
Sydney airport was busy and huge and we were in domestic section which by itself had plenty to offer ,
Quantas airlines was Australia Air India and had like our counterpart senior crews !
Most of hostesses were above thirty but they were suave hospitable and experienced and cared well ,we had a warm breakfast and in around two hours landed in Cairns .

Cairns is a small town in Queensland state and was famous as a tourist destination for one began his tour of tropical rain forest ( rainforest is one which has minimum 250 cm of annual rainfall and green forests ) and The Great barrier reef from here .
we had a pick up in the Airport from The Colonial club where we had been booked ,
Colonial club was a sprawling resort with a swimming pool and cottages around it ,
we refreshed ourselves and walked along the near empty road to a nearby park 
it was quite warm and the sun reminded us of Chennai 
We reached Fletchers Botanical park and walked in its shady paths
 we saw some aborigines who work there sitting around the lake fishing etc






 Next day morning the tour bus came and picked us from the hotel


 we were to visit the Rain forest up in the hills and to a town called kuranda on top .
 There were three ways one could do this ,by cable car ,by train or by road ,
before we ventured up we visited the Aborigine camp called Tjabukai 
There was a show where they exhibited their traditional dances costumes and how to make  fire the primitive way ,they spoke excellent English and posed for snaps with us 
we also went to try boomerangs throwing a spear learnt on traditional medicines and had temporary tattos painted .real great experience 
we could also buy souvenirs 
all well planned and marketed 





 we went up by cable care a distance of 7.5 km over thick forests the Barron waterfall 
stopped on 2 stations on the way up 



 
 

we reached kuranda a tiny tourist town and were taken by a shuttle bus from cable car station to its center just 2 km away some went into the butterfly park some did shopping or just walked along the qaint shops we returned to the railway station 
this was vintage styled and train itself was neat and well kept
The distance to cairns was just 36 km but it would take one and half hours with a couple of stops and a lookout at Barron gorge ,it traversed 15 tunnels 
 there was a gold class where food would be served ,the train left at 3pm and it was a wonderful experience similar to mountain trains in India like Ooty and Darjeeling but the height was lesser ,building the railway was also a feat and involved accidents and deaths we heard 

















the next day we were off to the jetty to board a huge cruise ship with all facilities we chugged for around an hour having refreshments and reached near  an island 
we were off to the great barrier reef


one could snorkel or take a submarine boat or scuba dive if one had the training to do so
we took the submarine boat ,this was a speed boat with a hull having glass windows for viewing as hull was under sea one had a good view of the reef as one sat in the hull  
the great barrier reef is strip of corals more than 3000km long and can be seen even from space it has millions of living corals and several spieces of aquatic life teeming in it great efforts are made to preserve this ecological treasure 




It was one of the kost beutiful sights to see the swaying corals in multicolours and teeming fishes in all sizes gliding close to us nature was astounding and we were all speelbound 
later my wife went snorkellig while i walked around the island 


we returned  back for a sumptuous cruise lunch and chugged back to reach cairns by evening 
Next day we were off to Melbourne and that is a story  for another day 

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