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Friday, April 28, 2006






As the Bolero inched ahead gingerly on the narrow road the huge boulders loomed above, threatening to reduce us to a puff of dust if dislodged.
The view was surreal and breathtaking, it was nature in its raw without any frills, the mountains were huge and intimidating closing in on the road, black granite melded into white at their peaks, icy winds and powdery snow made patterns in our windshield, our Assamese driver wrinkled his forehead in concentration as he used his skills to perfection . We silently blew a thanks to the Border Road Organization who maintained the road excellently and kept it cleared in the event of the frequent landslides, they were indeed the country's pride and neighbors envy, their proud proclamation read " Builders will die but Road will survive " .
We wheezed up behind a convoy of army trucks carrying men and horses,there were four horses and two or three men in each truck, the horses were tethered inside and their heads peeped out on the left side, contently chewing their cud unmindful of the cold or the scenery .
Chatting up the jawans during one of the several stops due to road blocks we learnt that they were the supply convoy going to Tawang and then till the road ended and further by horse back till it was possible to and finally the men themselves had to carry the loads to reach the farthest heights and the border of our country with China . Humans and animals would then begin their arduous journey down to the plains .
The rigors of our army can only be understood if we visit such places. When we decided to holiday in far flung Arunachal Pradesh this summer all we got were strange looks, but it turned out to be one of the most exiting and exhilarating trips ever.
The land of the rising sun so called because it receives the first ray of sunshine before any other part of the country is virgin land not yet touched by the podgy fingers of tourism, earlier called as NEFA or north east frontier agency this was where the incursion from the Chinese took place in 1962, precisely to put it in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, and it wasn't an easy place to reach.
We began our journey from Guwahati the boisterous capital city of Assam and the gateway to the northeast ,Gawa means arecanut and Hati is market ,the name thus derived from its activity ,the mighty river Bramhaputra caresses Guwahati and is vast and flowing. At places the river is huge .One of the bridges leaving Guwahati towards Kaziranga spans to a length of some 4 km ! In a small hill overlooking the city is the ancient Kamyakya temple said to have originated in the spot where a piece of goddess Sati fell after she was dismembered by an angry husband! The temple was ancient and gave a great view of the city and the river.
At 4 am the sun was up and Paltan bazaar where we stayed was all bustle and din with buses raring to be on their way to the hills. We too left the confusion and speeded on the NH 52 , Assam has to be praised for its straight well kept roads, it was green and neat and the small towns were an eyeful, in many ways it resembled Kerala, even the women were petite in their white national dress. we passed places like Mangaldeo, the Nameri wildlife sanctuary , and finally reached the border town of Balukpong where the inner permit required by every Indian citizen to visit Arunachal Pradesh is checked . This can be obtained from Guwahati.
Balukpong by itself is a quaint little picnic spot with a flowing river and stone strewn rocky bank; our driver cleaned his vehicle as we sauntered in the cool stream before we began our journey. The moment we entered the Himalayan state the topography turned dramatically, the plains just disappeared and we started climbing up and slowly, it became cooler and more pleasant, after some time we reached a haven of flowers the famed orchid sanctuary of Tipti, the bewildering array of colors flooded our senses with wonder for the fruits of nature, Soon we were climbing again and rapidly reaching heights, the valley below was lost in a haze and the shimmering plains were slowly moving away. Huge pine trees bordered the roads, waterfalls were of different kinds, tiny brooks that playfully entered the road so that vehicles splashed their way through, massive falls cascading with a thunderous spray of mist, gushing rivers foaming at their surface, in winter many of them would be frozen some even in action as icicle droplets, which would be a photographers dream . The temptation to stop and gaze at these natures delights was difficult to restrain but the need to reach our far destination made us avoid that .We had to reach Bomdila at 8500 ft our halt for the night by dusk as fog would get us in trouble .
At Sessa the army command was named "Ball of fire ." We passed the 238 Transit camp of the army at Dahung ,one of the posters in the roadside read " it is better to bleed now than die later "We stopped for chai at Munna ,the friendly shopkeepers and their red cheeked children were as hearty as their tea and piping mommos ( steamed dumplings with several fillings vegetable or nonvegetarian as you like it .one had to be wary of the fillings as once yak mommo surfaced in front of us ,the other possibilities too were immense ).
We filled up gas at Dhirrang one of the high altitude petrol bunks ,one could play a game of carom there as a convenient board was kept near the office shed ,carom in the cold was something unique indeed . The National Yak research center was also in Dhirrang By 3 pm we were in our room at Shipiyang pong the only decent hotel in>Bomdila, just opposite was a huge stadium with an arch as in a monastery,it was windswept and a drizzle had left the place wet and cold, descendingdown> we explored the bustling little market full of woolens and other sundry articles, the tiny shops were lit with glittering lamps which shimmered in the cold evening, walking back proved to be a Herculean task to our obese selves and by the time we reached shipyang lobby we were panting like werewolves . The next day dawned pretty early and it was bright when we started, the whole place was freshly washed by the drizzle of the previous night and was picture postcard like, we went to the local monastery and turned the prayer wheels for a safe journey to the pass. The second highest motor able pass at 13750 ft was no easy task to reach, after interminable turns and twists which reminding us of our driving test eights, and churning our early breakfasts in our tummies, flitting past shimmering peaks and deep culverts which were dizzyingly steep our roller coaster ride touched several landslides on the way, snow had slowly taken over the landscape and white was the predominant background with a sprinkling of brown or black, it had become quite cold and we were feeling a bit breathless because of the rarefied air at that height ,the Bolero took a sudden turn and whoosh there was the elusive Sela pass labeled so by an oriental arch with a BSNL board just below ,strangely our mobile with BSNL had full range even at that remote corner ,their pride justified indeed !
We plodded down to the snow and dutifully threw snowballs at each other,our actions recorded by the camera for posterity, there was one small chaishop> we went in after closing the door and snow behind us, the room was warm and huddling in it were several army jawans crouched over their cup of warmth's .we joined them for sometime and then went on our way down to Tawang. We touched the Jaswant Garh Margh in memory of Jaswant singh of the 16 Garhwal Rifles who bravely fought back the invading Chinese with nothing but his bare hands and kept them in bay till reinforcements came from below in the famed battle of Nuranang , he was instrumental in changing the battle, all soldiers stop at this point to pray at his memorial. TheTawang valley is at 11500 feet, was made famous by Mere lama a Buddhist monk who lived 500 years back. In those days even monks had to fight for their clans, probably they were experts in martial arts, Mere lama fed up of constantly being on the chase took to remote Tawang to build his fort and a formidable one at that now known as the Tawang monastery. The misty silhouette of this artistic building against the backdrop of Blue Mountains can be seen from all parts of Tawang when the fog clears, in many ways it resembled the famed Potola of Lhasa. The monastery had an old building which was said to have been destroyed in a fire and reconstructed, this was ancient, smaller and shaky with the newer and bigger version inaugurated by none other than his holiness the Dalai Lama. The dominant colour was red, festoons hang from the high roof of the hushed hall, prayer seats and wheels were everywhere, a huge Buddha presided over it all gazing benignly at the handiwork of his devotees. Tanga paintings depicting Buddhist way of life and after life adorned the walls, the soft carpets shushed our footsteps to a serene silence, and the ambience was spiritual and satisfying. We came out into the light, the feeble sun could barely beat the chill of the morning and we huddled around an adolescent monk who was directed to show us the museum and the library, books made of clothes painstakingly bound together were neatly lined and the museum had so many artifacts including some weapons used by the ancient monks for the protection of their clan, we asked the youngster how long they studied and he replied all through life. With that comforting reply that all was well when such monks lived in our world we bid farewell to Tawang monastery.
Tawang town was just a frontier shanty with a small market, we wisely avoided the hotel which had looked promising in the net and listened to the advice of a locals and headed for the Tawang Tourist lodge run by the Arunachal Pradesh tourist Dept and bagged the prized suite where celebrity star Sharukh Khan had stayed for the shooting of the movie Koyla ,(a nice opportunity for name dropping). The lodge was well maintained and tariff was reasonable, a resident cook came over and asked us our menu for dinner,our hunger pangs made him rush to the market for buying essentials likechicken to feed the southern gluttons who had descended on his turf, it looked so promising,and we wetted our lips in anticipation though the actual dinner was a tepid affair because the cooking skills of our cook didn't meet his shopping skills. Next morning saw us climbing the road to Madhuri lake as this was where the shoot of the movie had said to have taken place, 40 km above the town near the Chinese border ,this required special permission from the Army which we obtained, we soon encountered army camouflage sheds by the dozen theirsnow covered roofs rising above the ground, many lakes some half frozen lay on the sides of the snow bordered road, there were also small concretebunkers which were nothing but cubbyholes, these were the places our ill equipped jawans fought the Chinese . We almost reached 20km; by then we were clearly uncomfortable with the cold, height and the stark whiteness. The vehicle turned around to return, we got out to savor the cold and crunch in the knee-deep snow, this being the summer month of May we couldn't fathom what it would be in December! We rode into the War Memorial in Tawang a fitting tribute to our brave soldiers, the names of all those who gave up their lives are inscribed in black granite, each and every name carried so much of pride for this nation they are our real heroes, A burly sardar jawan briefed us on the details,he was there for a short march past to welcome a senior officer who would arrive in a helicopter in the evening, we were lucky to see a rehearsal of the event, it was mesmerizing indeed. The night was uncomfortably cold and the heater hardly helped our slumber but fatigue took over and in no time the sun was streaming into our rooms with our unskilled cook waking us by bellowing chai saab. The next day we descended 12 hours to Tezpur in Assam and thus back to the plains after our trip to heaven, well almost !
Dr N.Harimohan. MBBS DMRT.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

fine thoughts

Working as I do in an oncology department makes me introspect the finer details of existence at times . !You may wonder how that happens ?
The intricacies of cell dynamics ,their unfettered growth ,uncontrolled masses which are the star attractions of oncology , and their treatment by modalities like chemotheraphy can hardly be expected to lead one to philosophical rhapsodies, they aren’t at all the fertile ground one would wish for such spiritual ramblings.
A hospital ward is in no way similar to an Ashram or in no way resemble the cool and icy Himalayan caves which generally attracts such noble ruminations .
So these thoughts had no reason to come from where they did ,
Misplaced indeed but one couldn’t wish them away as persistence was their hallmark !
So I thought on
Illnesses reduces people to their bare shells , their pre illness status becomes a distant memory .
looking into their occupations written in their case sheets I know that there are professors ,doctors ,politicians ,conductors welders and housewives and so on and so forth among them but they all attain the uniformity of being a patient in the hospital
nothing less and nothing more
Many with advanced disease are reduced to pitiful states by horrifying pain ,emaciation,and tiredness .
They probably remember their old selves as their previous birth if they do believe in that concept .
Their past is clouded in a fog of their present .
Their futility and helplessness triggers questions as to why such things happen to people who have not harmed others much and have led fairly good lives to suffer such ignominy ?
what or who is this power that doles out such punishments and on what basis does he go about doing this unpleasant job .?
Atheists argue that there is no such person and it all happens by chance but strangely I have noticed this chance on which they speak of heavily favours the good among men !
The villains usually get away with out much ado ,
All of us can add to this list
The queen of destiny isn’t impartial for sure
Many would agree with me in this observation .

One day as these thoughts continued to confound me and anger welled on this hypothetical power or vacuum or whatever and about its supposed injustice I happened to chance upon Swami Vivekandas writings in a small booklet on precisely this topic .
He goes on to say that miseries of men and women are brought forth by their own actions and not by any supreme power, the doings of every human being creates waves in their soul which moulds soft imprints in thier consciousness .
Deep in the hearth of their inner self their actions leave indelible marks
These are carried on into thier next births and consequent happenings are reactions to these actions .
Every single desire and thought leave their programmes in our hard discs which are carried forwards into our future .
The machinations of Karma offers justice though delayed by a few births like nothing else.
Fair and lovely indeed.
This reasoning does to a certain extent answer the question why good people suffer and bad ones escape ?
No other philosophy explains this catch 22 situation so fully .
So the soul goes on , birth after birth in human, animal or plant forms till it negates all its bad sticking to it to emerge as a pure entity and finally merges into the godhead,
Fine , great,
Immediately the next question comes and no we don’t have three choices and computerjee has no answers for it .
what is the big idea of suffering for something one doesn’t know about ?
the whole fun is lost isn’t it both for the sufferer and the observer
just imagine we find a mafia king with several contract killings and extortions s in his kitty or a bihari goonda with a record number of kidnappings or a friendly neighbourhood politician who has cheated many with his cunning smile intact suffering from excruciating pains and mind wracking sickness what would be our reaction?
Yas guy you asked for it !
We would be gratified by true justice done at the right time while the sufferer would also know what he is suffering for ,
nice and fitting indeed .
fair game
But this doesn’t happen in this karma business.
Maybe God in all his wisdom made some miscalculation.
He made us forget all about our past births and unholy deeds and just gave the punishments without fail .
But where are we and this power we call as God
How can we relate to each other ?
For an answer let us go in another direction ,
Let us take an U turn

Science and its wonderful telescopes have brought us visions of supernovas so far away into space.
Peering into infinity and catching their electromagnetic radiations the timelessness of space and its confounding size has made us speechless.
Years back we were told that we live in an expanding universe which contains millions of solar systems which in turn has its own planets and probably life in many forms,
all these are mind boggling indeed,
This magnificence also reminds us of our infallibility and place in the sun,
no pun intended,
what I meant was where are we earthlings in the scheme of things ?
are we not akin to a grain of sand in all the beaches and the deserts of the world ?.
We are literally negligible ,
Insignificant would be an ideal description
Science continues to surprise us by telling that the universes are no more the end we now know of the Simverses which each has millions of expanding universes in its folds
well that takes some digesting indeed !
This God gives amazing knockout punches all the time ,
Plenty of tricks up his divine sleeve
When we just think we have learnt something he wipes the slate clean and gives us some more homework to do
Hard taskmaster indeed
I for one wouldn’t like to be in his class
From the macro to the microcosm of things we are stupefied again into benumbed silence ,
Star struck we learn that mini solar systems exist in each atom with orbiting electrons happily playing merry go round .
The electron microscope has been an eye we could never have had and has revealed a new miniature world down there .
God should be a great guy indeed to have willed all this and made it work without fail
What made him create all this ? why did he do all this
Stop press
Such questions cannot be asked just like that
there is a lakshman rekha to stop ….dear man
philosophy doesn’t allow such thinking too as it says all this never exist and they are all only projections of the mind !
like holograms they are a trick
like movies on screens they are make believe
God is upto his games
playing a trick on poor us
It seems is all only an illusion played upon by an unfettered soul.
So these souls which are spoken of as sparks of the power or whatever play with themselves by projecting this world,
the macro and microcosm as they exist unconcernedly and finally merge into themselves after exhausting their karma and this goes on and on forever and ever !
A bit boring indeed
So then what happens to the original thought of good, bad, karma, and suffering,
negated by these magnificent theories of non-existence.
They disappear into thin air like the mist in sunshine
Back to square A as Maya reigns supreme even in a hospital .


Friday, April 14, 2006

shilpa special school annual day 2006

From the time of its inception nine years back Shilpa special school had remarkable annual days .
The talents of the children was surprising knowing thier disadvantages .hats off to the staff for honing thier skills and making them no lesser than normal children
the annual days are also famous for its celebrity guests .
this yr we had the Dt Collector of Ernakulam ,Sri Md Haneesh ( the society is deeply indebted to him for his help ),Asst Collector a vertinary doctor IAS from Haryana who even greeted the crowd in malayalam !
Jayasurya an upcoming actor distributed the prices ,he was a natural with the children hugging them making them sing sitting with them and making them laugh with a piece of mimicry .
It was a great day indeed .

Thursday, April 13, 2006



Jammu railway station,platform no 1,wore a festive look that cold and dreary December night .
None can beat Indians for adapting to any situation and making themselves at home anywhere ,so the platform was a second home to the many who waited for the two hour late Pooja Express to steam in .
Colour and cacophony ruled the place .
Whole families were strewn across on spread out carpets and bedsheets in several stages of relaxation .
They talked ,shrieked ,spat ,smoked ,shouted ,ate,drank,cried,guffawed,whimpered,cursed,slept moaned ,and did anything that could be done in a public place within the limits of decency well almost ..
It was an anthropologists delight and a claustrophobics nightmare .Desmond morris could have written a volume or two if he was there.
Even food was being cooked in a gas stove by a kashmiri women with stretched legs who stirred the pot langorusly .
An air of resignation and oriental patience reigned .
We were probably the only beings to be annoyed at the delay and kept looking at our watches officiously exhibiting our southern roots .
We were going back after an exhilarating but exhausting holiday in Kashmir and were raring to get into the train.
The delay was due to security reasons as the coaches had to be checked for bombs and other assorted gifts from terrorists .
Trigger happy military police and CRPF men scanned the multitude for suspicious moves .The cold was biting and the crowd was enveloped in a cocoon of its own warmth .
Announcement were repeated like Goebellian utterances lulling ones senses to stupefaction .

The train finally trundled into the platform creating a flurry of events like a lit dynamite fuse .confusion now metamorphed to chaos as the flotsam lying horizontally changed to vertical mode and flung towards the train .
The ensuing melee saw thrown suitcases and caught children .
Seats were grabbed on muscle power and the law of the jungle prevailed even in reserved coaches .We came to know that this wasnt unusual in north India.
We were lucky when we got our berths intact though the aisles filled up quickly with huge trunks and huger sardars.
The train reluctantly leftJammu like a parting lover and we stretched our tired bones on the berth and was fast asleep in no time lullabied by the movement of the train .
Around midnight reality bit me as a bushy hand of a burly sardar railway police rudely shook me awake ,he had a menacing rifle and a lathi that meant business .
I was ordered down for a search and I readily obeyed .
He patted me all over ,asked me to unbutton my jerkin,he then dug into its pockets searching for some evidence to nail poor me ,ha he said as he felt something deep in a pocket ,I had no idea of what it could be till it came out ,it was a black woolen gloves which I had thought was lost and a slow grin surfaced on my face full of relief which didn’t go well with the sardar .He was annoyed that nothing more incriminatory could be detectd from his search .He the took out the contents of my wallet and studied the ATM and CREDIT cards in detail .Finally he stumbled on my IMA life membership card which substantiated my statement that I was a doctor from down south .
He apologized sheepishly “sorry saaab ,aap sogay good nite”
I climbed into my berth in my jerkin and lost myself to sleep in cold oblivion .
Fate revisited shortly as I could hear voices and on peeping under the hood I could see the sardar now with an officer in tow who kept pointing at me and said search him.
I wondered what made me resemble terrorists ? because whenever I stared in the mirror all I saw was a spectacled timid scholar with no qualification for a man of violence but these policemen didn’t agree with me obviously .
Luckily for me the sardar policeman told his officer” nai saab oh madrasi ductur hoon searh hogaya “
“Well” muttered the officer “seeing his jerkin and hood I was about to shoot him”,and left the place .
My heart did a somersault ,one never knew that the jerkin I bought in Janpath Delhi for a bargain would land me almost in the obituary columns .
Thank god for small mercies !
After this the rest of the journey was a pleasure .

Sunday, April 09, 2006

yelagiri the exotic hill station

When we decided Yelagiri as our Christmas holiday ( 2005 ) we had to explain to many where that was ,making us a trifle apprehensive of its suitability as a hill station ,but all our doubts vanished as we quickly climbed up the fourteen hairpin bends from dusty jolarpettai which had to its fame the famous railway junction and nothing more .
The short uphill journey was smooth and exhilarating with the heat of the plains metamorphosing into the cool of the hills .
In no time we were in the top and the small town was unlike kodai or Ooty though titled the poor mans Ooty ,it had some shops ,a lot of trees and plain roads ,soon we reached the Sterling resorts and to creature comforts .
The small town had surprisingly great eating choice and is a treat for gastronomics ,food was hot ,spicy and yummy ,with great globs of cool ice creams for the finale s.
Nothing much to see but curl up with a good novel in a hammock and drift away to a half eyed nap ,evenings spent in the camp fire with anthaksharis ,housies and tummy builders for company .the lake an artifical one was surprisingly neat with pedal boats for the asking as the crowd was practically not there .
Morning saw us starting on a trek from Mangalam village three kilometers away, up Swamimalai led by an aging local, it was a good tonic for our lazy muscles as we crossed fields full of ragi ,mustard ,corns and reached the foothill with stone steps .The climb slowly turned tougher but we persisted with well deserved rests at perky stones .the view was fabulous ,birds twittering gave us encouragement and the cool breeze invigorated us .we could see the telephone pole way up which was our destination and it required some rigorous climb through bushes and steep rocks .finally we did reach up in one piece to get into the cave temple ,our guide morphed into the priest lighting lamps and prodding us to drop huge offerings for the lord ,we disappointed him by doing nothing of the kind .
After some time in the top savouring the view and far away Jolarpeta and its toy houses we climbed down with trepidation as we knew it would be a difficult task not to topple down the steep stretches .Reaching down in one piece we brought a smile into our guide by tipping him well for a beautiful day spent in nature .The walk had made us ravenous and we devoured Hotel Hills offerings to our aching stomachs .A good nights sleep and we were speeding down and back home .
Poor mens holidays seems to be better than the real ones indeed .

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

cold sweat

Cold sweat

Capt Ratnavel Thanikachalam fastened the last button of his heavy vest , the thick mittens scratched into his palm,and the woolen scarf covering his dark neck almost strangulated him,he felt and looked like an astronaut in his spacesuit,he was worried about how he would manage the strenuous trek ahead
The icy terrain that wound tortuously up into the smog was a not very encouraging sight .
The torrid cold was biting into his southern bones ,the wind chased it into every corner of his lithe body
Dr Thanikachalam hailing down south from a small village called Sivaganga near Tirunelveli was now preparing to climb the Siachen ,
Sivaganga to siachen rhymed well ,it would be a great story to be retold to his grandchildren later in his life. the rigours of an army doctor had to be borne with the pleasures ,he reminded himself .
He could still picture the shiny tears rolling down his mothers face on his selection into the Army Medical Corps two years back , the boot camp and the several transfers all flashed through his mind like a movie,it wasn’t that bad not bad at all and the uniform was something to die for ,but today he had his doubts .
His commanding officer had called him to his cosy and warm office the evening before and told him that he was to leave for Siachen immediately and he would be joining the Maratha regiment for the journey
The treks were well planned, down to meticulous details and the briefing gave him an idea of what he would be facing, they would leave by 8pm with a guide who would come from point B to take them unto there and the relay would be taken up by the guide from point C whose duty was to guide them to point C and not an inch more, each guide was an expert in his terrain and could find his way through the treacherous glacier blindfolded.
Walking through glaciers was no fun, they were shifty and each crack could be a deep crevasse and a fall would lead to oblivion, the angry rumble below reminded one of the energy of the glacier, it would be suicidal to venture in moonlight as glaciers lit up like a Christmas tree offering easy target practice for Pakistani sharpshooters .so it had to be only on a black moon
Each step should be measured and soft with no sudden movements, no skidding utter concentration, no experimentation and implicit obedience to the leader were the scary instructions ringing in his ears from the briefing
That day Mittulal his man Friday had called him for dinner at 3 pm in the afternoon
!! “Saab ithar se rat bahut jaldi aajayegi”he murmured to his questioning , he was then told to get a quick nap and when woken up at 7 pm, felt fresh and was game to anything .
The cold darkness was pierced by the whooping war rumble rising from the rusty throats of the Maratha jawans as they began the trek ,being the descendants of Chatrapathi Sivaji war cries were in their genes
They fell into an easy rhythm as they jaunted ahead carried on by the fervour of the group never feeling tired .
The effort made sweat trickle down Tanikachalams back giving him a shiver even in the icy cold .Tiredness enveloped them gradually after hours of shifting gaits in the glacier, conversations had died down and occasional whispers could be heard coupled with wheezy exertions ,the silence was deep and even in the darkness one could feel nature in all its magnificience ,the vastness of the glacier ,made them pygmies in the midst of giants .
They were surprised when point B came upon so unexpectedly and ahead of schedule ,the tearing pace had its reward but some were yet to pay its price .
The scout from point C had not reached point B, the C.O radioed the message to his counterpart and made it known that they had reached point B,”why did you reach ahead of schedule? Now you have to wait for the guide for at least two hours “came back the answer.
Inactivity brought cold with it and the troops started trotting on their foots and whipping their hands as fires were prohibited, a soldier was brought to the doctor with a peeled and bleeding nose tip, he had plucked the frozen droplet of sweat on his nose tip and it had come off with his skin, one had to be careful in such freezing climates, even passing urine could land one in trouble when it froze midway.
Thanikachalam also started feeling the cold ,he felt a sharp sting in his fingers like a scorpion bite, he knew what was happening , the sweat was getting frozen in his mittens it gave him the fright of his life,frost bites were quick and devastating ,
he became confused , worried and agitated , the altitude too was getting on to him he wasn’t remembering things well and he was shocked to know that he had started talking to himself about the stupidity of joining the army when all his classmates earned money in cosy warm hospitals in Chennai ,a few jawans were watching him strangely .
He pulled off his mittens and saw a red and angry finger staring at him ,his medical training made him do the rest involuntarily ,he yelled for mittulal his man Friday ,and demanded hot water in a thermos, he then dipped his fingers into the scalding water almost burning his skin ,within moments he could feel the pain subside and a slow tingle gave him the joy of life ,then on he was into a frenzy of dipping and getting his thermos filled from the powerful stove carried by the jawans to make tea being an officer helped in such situations as he could get things done .
It seemed like aeons before the scout turned up ,the doctor trudged ahead whimpering at times with a finger in the thermos and mittulal dutifully carrying his bags till they reached point C.
He fell into the camp bed exhausted and drained but in the back of his mind he was laughing yes he had made it and with all his fingers intact ,soon a wide grin lighted his dark face !
Sivaganga made it to Siachen but it was a cold sweat indeed !

Dr Harimohan

( this is a true story recounted by my army friend with name changed of course )

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Tiruvanamalai a small town 185 km off Chennai nestling under the 2682 feet Arunachala mountain , known for its magnificient Arunachala temple and for Ramanamaharshi.
The great yogi attained his enlightment in the divine hill where he took abode as 12 year old venkatramanna with an urge to seek the ultimate truth and the quest for divinity in its caves.
The young boy unmindful of material comforts lived in a permanent state of bliss oblivious to his increasing followers who built the Ramanashram at the foot of the mountain .
The incinerating heat of tamilnadu disappears as one enters the serene ashram gates full of tall trees ,
.Even the hot four hour bus ride from Chennai is wiped from memory.
Neat spartan rooms, meditation hall full of spiritual strength ,tasty vegetarian food on green plantain leaves all unwind the visitor .
Colourful peacocks flutter open their ruffling feathers and frisky monkeys are everywhere.
Manicured gardens and green foliage make it an eden
The mountain looms behind the ashram its brown hulk nudgingly close ,known for a strong magnetic field it is described in mythology as being in the centre of the earth.and as mount Meru by Sri Adi Sankara.
A trek up the hill following the path laid out is invigorating as cool winds blow a welcome
.Convenient perches on ledges give rest and wonderful views of the toy town below , , halfway up the mountain one reaches Skandasram ,where Ramanamaharshi lived for a great many years ,Skandan was the worker who discovered water in the place for the swami to move in from a cave below called virupaksha cave and thus the name .
The cave has now been converted by the ashram into a small cottage and is a heritage site , a small hose brings pure water from high up,there are small chambers where one could get lost in meditation in the very place the maharshi did.
The climb up after this is not easy as there is no path and it is steep but many dare the hardy climb to reach the top and get the blessings of a saint living there for the past 14 years meditating scarcely having any food ,
The top another three hours from skandashram was also well known for the karhtika villaku which ,the huge lamp lit every year during karhtika deepam by the temple authorities which could be seen for at least 30 km around ,it is well known as Tiruvanamalai jyothi.
legend goes that once Vishnu and Bramha were arguing on their relative superiority when Siva who wanted to show them that there was yet another superior being appeared as a huge column of fire ,Brahma assumed the form of a swan and flew up to find the top of the column and Vishnu became a boar (varaha) burrowing down the earth to find the base ,both failed and this column of fire turned into Arunachala mountain and the kartika jyothi symbolises this pillar of fire
for the less adventureous the return from Skandasram could be either by the gentle path they went up or by a steeper craggy descent to the Virupaksha cave another abode of Ramamnamaharshi for several years ,here too one could meditate or just laze in the ledge watching the temple below. ,climbing down would get one back to the hot and busy town just behind the temple .
The bustling market and its noises are a stark contrast to the serenity of the hill but also a welcome back to our kind of civilisation .
The age old Arunachaleswar temple itself magfnificient with its stone frescoes brought to life by the skilled craftsmen ,the cavernous hall echoed history in its wondrous depths and divintiy lurking in every corner ,the vast courtyard with the sentinel nine gopuras held hordes of devotees milling around ,some involved in commerce others gazing and lazing many studiously religious , an anthropologists delight to sit back and watch this multitude of human variety in divine precints.Its linga represented jyothir linga the fire incarnation of God
Pradakshina in Hindu religion has great significance and is a form of worship so is the going around the mountain (giriparadakshina) preferably by walk or by vehicle ,it is 14 km and there are well laid roads all around ,for the first seven km it is the main road to Gingee ,which then turns away at a junction with a crumbling historical edifice remnant of a fort and then a quite tree lined mountain road .
A map from the ashram gives the route and details its many temples and lingas ,this is siva land for sure .
Foot weary and tired but happy to finish the trek one would trudge back to the comforts of the ashram for a well earned rest.
Souls sojourn indeed.


india the paradox

India the paradox .
A land for the soul and senses.,
where history runs deep in its antiquity ,beauty in its geography ,and variety in its inhabitants .
where matirealism melds into mysticism .
“Tourism to me “is getting under the skin of my India .
It is to gaze at its lofty mountains, to slosh my feet in its wet backwaters ,to hear the rustle of its trees, cooing of its birds and catcall of its wild in its forests , to feel the sand blowing in its hot deserts,to hear the thunder of its waves lashing into its rocks ,to feel the cold of its caves and be embraced by their darkness .
To me it is to watch the subtle but definite changes in its people,their colour ,culture ,costumes and conversations as a passenger in a train a bus ,a truck ,a cart or a cycle as they roll along its length and breadth ,it is to walk its dusty streets ,its tiny villages , its snowy peaks its many cities without the constraints of time, and money and to merge into its sweat and slurry ,
It is to taste its culinary delights ,one of the most developed and exotic in the world , to go on pilgrimages to its thousands of holy spots of all religious hues man has discovered till today ,to listen to its music ,to watch its dances ,puppet shows ,cockfights ,to be a part of its milling crowds in all the greatest melas mankind will ever know ,to dip into the icy cold of its holy rivers ,to watch the bodies burn in its ghats ,the eagles feeding in its tower of silences ,to listen to hymns of the Torah in its synagogues ,sufi music in mausoleums , taste the nectar of its langars in golden Gurudwaras , savour the soulful Sunday sermons of its multitude churches, watch the worship of fire , walk barefoot with its jain saints ,to and to seek the solace of its Rishis with flowing beards .
Tourism to me is to capture its moods in films ,photographs ,paintings and words and into my memory ,it is to savour those moments for eternity ,it is to wonder at the strength of my country that had withstood onslaughts on it for centuries only gaining from them and never losing its essence,it is to imagine myself as part of its ancient history as I move around its landmarks ,its battlefields,its gullies and ghettos .it is to share icy peaks and torrid sands with my jawans as they endure them for my country
Tourism to me is to sing with its children cry with its suffering .trek with its beggars ,trot with its elite ,tremble with its old, shout with its students ,dance with its tribals ,and gorge with its gluttons .
Tourism to me in my country will never end and has never began ,it is part of my life as I discover tiny bits of its vast kaleidoscoe every second of my waking life and my sleeping fantasies , like soap bubbles its myriad multiplicity enervates my senses and fills every part of me with more and more love to
my India .


The Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav has banned colas from trains and stations! He has introduced matkas some time back so one can imagine what our railways will become after a few years of laloorule

All railway staff should only wear pajama kurtas and preferably style their hair after their minister,
Cows could be tethered on platforms and selected yadavs could milk them and sell them directly to the passengers, the dung on the platforms would only make it as smooth as airports so that trolleys can glide over
Special concession for those with more than 7 children after the 8 th child no tickets for the rest of the children ( expect in Bihar and J and K ,because J and K is always exempted from everything and in Bihar nobody buys ticket
All station masters wives should hold the key to the control box and drivers wives should on and off drive trains specially when the husbands are under arrest oops not that I meant in bed rest
Railway canteens would henceforth sell food in mustard oil only
All announcements would be made in Bihari Hindi
TV sets would be banned in platforms instead advertisers can use Tomtomming with drums.
Trains would have top berths which means the aam janta can sit on top of compartments and dance to chayya chayya ,
500 crores would be spent to increase the height of overbridges to prevent decapitation of top berth passengers .
Conscientious railway officials would be rewarded with an all expense paid junket to Pakistan ,all they had to do would be to recite three laloo jokes a day in a laloo drawl
All compartments would carry brass spittoons which would be chained to the seats to prevent theft
Spitting competitions would be held at the discretion of the conductor for passing time in long distance trains
Hookas too would be allowed and be exempted from smoking ban
All trains would stop near big fields so that passengers can run out with lottas and conduct their ablutions in open air ,lottas would be available with the conductor obtained after paying a small fee in places like south India or even throwing him into the field in places like yes you are right Bihar
Chains to stop trains would be made more accessible and easier to handle specially for trains in Bihar and would be covered in velvet so that people can continue chain pulling in comfort
National chain pulling record holders would be rewarded annually by the great ministher he, special coaching centres for efficient chain pulling would be held for the reserved categories
Goondas, kidnappers and boothcapturers would entertain the passengers with mock acts, which at times could become real
The cow would become the mascot of Indian Railways and a committee would be formed of 100 yadavs to think of naming it cow ways
Railway recruitment tests would be based on knowledge of Lalooisms and the Indian Railway Service could be named Indian Laloo Service ( ILS )


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