Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Big Banyan Tree

This is just the beggining of the Big Banyan tree sprawled over 3-4 acres. 400 years old. A full view needs a special camera I guess or an aerial shot.

Today was a tiring but nice day. Had to drive down out of Bangalore towards Mysore, for work. And on the way we decided to drop in an pay our respects to the Big Banyan Tree and its really something - and really big.

Roots fall all over ready to grow into thick trunks. And fun for monkeys.

Spread over 4 acres or so, this Banyan tree is about 400 years and its a maze of roots, full grown trees, young ones and twists and turns. The branches are sometimes thicker than the trunk (or should I call them roots?) and its all spread around like a huge intricate umberella.

The temple inside is serene. The tree is sacred.

The nicest thing about it is that there is a small temple inside. This is what I like about these temples. A temple often does not have to be big. It can just be a small enclosure with an idol inside and thats it. It looks cute and such temples are spotted all over the countryside like milestones.

Anyways, the point was that people consider this Banyan tree holy and when below it, its rather peaceful.

I should have captured more interesting moments, but this is what I got. The young dog was so happy meeting the monkey and the monkey very parent like.

There are a lot of monkeys around and I saw them playing in a friendly manner with the dogs. And that too puppies. And of course playing among themselves too. They did there own thing without an issue - over the temple, in the trees, between humans...

One monkey seemed to have a special relationship with a lady there... always coming back to her and curious about what she was upto. Here she is trying to see what these two ladies are upto.

A man sleeps while monkeys plan their big move.

And as you see above, the man sleeps under the shade of the Big Banyan tree totally unaware of the monkeys planning some big agenda past him. It all just comes together here, without much complication... just as one keeps watching the banyan tree - wondering where it starts and where it ends.

The area just outside the Banyan trees's compound is unfortunately not so well kept, with soft drink packs and plastic littered around, because of the few tuck shops that operate there. Thankfully, when inside the banyan tree compound its all neat and most of all simple...

I like such unexpected visits whenever they come my way - like a distant light which suddenly grows and fills up my mind.

To eat or not? Monkeys here are intellectuals & philosophers!!! While I work in the city, day in and out.

And suddenly I am aware of the unnecesary nonsense in my head & don't want it anymore. And instead yearn to experience more of this world - the wonder & mystery that it is ... just to sit down and unravel it slowly, slowly... with peace & joy.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A One way ticket & the park.

Today started early. I was invited for breakfast at a friend's place and from there on I planned to go and see the progress of my new flat. The flat is almost ready and I already paid for the wood-work now.

But on my way, I ended up into a one-way, the wrong way. ( Quite a co-incidence following my last blog!!) Bangalore has so many one-ways popping up each day, that if you miss driving one day you are lost. To make things worse, the road which is one-way in the morning changes directions in the evening. And the system keeps changing. We are the only city I guess who has a traffic crossing on the top of a fly-over!!

Bangalore has become a one-way street!

Anwyays, the police guy whistled behind me and I decided to heed to his call. I could have carried on like the car ahead of me, but I promised I must play honest...even if everyone watching me must have thought " Oops... what a loser?"

"100 bucks" said the traffic policeman, looking at me curiously. (This was probably the first time his whistle worked... with someone!) .
"Sure, my receipt?", I requested and smiled.
Ok, 50 bucks - he said.
Ok. But I really like to have a receipt.
"Listen 25 bucks or you wait for the sub-inspector. "
"Ok, 25 bucks, but I would have slept better if you had given me a receipt."

And I moved on.

The breakfast at my friend's place was real real filling and delicious. Like always, made my his man-servant who is the sweetest and queenest person I know!! He never speaks. He only hears. And he only giggles in turn like I must have spoken something very scandalous. "Please can I have more" And he goes "hehehehe" LolZ. Its really funny and cute.

Filled up to my hearts delight I feel very sleepy, but my friend's date arrives and I know I must leave now.

So, I say goodbye and reach the door and his man-servant is there to see me off, still giggling... and I just cannot help but giggle myself.... thinking about it. Lolz.

Anyways, I dropped my idea to check my flat and decided to instead check out a flower show at Lalbagh which hold some real horticulture and occupies huge space within Bangalore. (as for my flat, I will check it out next Saturday and bring in some pics.)

The flower show was quite nice ... many, many people and things to photograph. Nice practise for me.

The flower show is full of people. Frankly, I like watching people more than flowers.

I finally returend home by around 4. Slept. Got up and promised myself to blog... and thats what I just finished doing now.

After people, I like animals and birds a lot. This pic from the park.

Nothing great, I guess. But its been a treat this weekend. No calls from office. No lingering work. Just me and my rest. After 4 weeks of non-stop activities.

And then after people, birds and animals, I like to see nice sceneries like in this park.

Of course, sadly the park is got litter in parts, spoiling the show. I display this coke can, because it makes a more contoversial story about waste than mere un-branded plastic lying in the park.

But good things stand out always. Like these lotus flowers, which always grow in dirty water but are clean and beautiful in themselves. Always.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cost of 'living on the fast lane'.

  • 1USD = Rupees (rs.) 44
  • One thai red curry with steamed rice in the top thai place in Bangalore & coke = Rs. 600
  • Hearty meal in a road-side Dhaba = Rs. 55-00
  • Survival meal road-side = Rs. 15-00

What's the cost of traffic violations in your city? Would you know? Not many of my friends do. And why should they? For they never violate... or maybe, they never get caught. I know, if you belong to a city, you almost always know where the police like to stand for their checks and when. Which turn, behind which big tree, when do they stagger and so forth. Its typically the out-of-state kids often with their out-of-state number plate bikes who get ensnared. And in Bangalore there are enough of them to fill the police coffers. Or maybe the fines in general are rather low?

I don't support traffic violations... but will be a liar if I said I have not committed them. Today, I feel pride in following the rules. Or is it because I got a car and enough money to do things the right way... unlike when we are kids... always running low on fuel & savings?

I have been caught once for drunken driving. That was just after I had bought my motorcycle... and that was many years ago in Bangalore. Of course now with a car, the chances of being stopped is far less... so it is. When I was stopped, the traffic policemen asked me if I had drunk any alcohol. And I proudly & ignorantly confirmed, " yes... one beer". And he gladly directed me to take position on the pavement, alongwith the rest of the sulking young guys - some really drunk ... some just confused. One couple, who were in the 'ring', told me that they had only one glass of wine each, and never thought that meant drinking... And we all, some 10 of us, waited there together for the next one hour so that the police could collect enough of us criminals to take to the station. Soon, we were telling each other how we were quite nice people otherwise or why we were not qualified to be booked. And as we managed to slowly rationalise and become a group with a common cause our self esteem managed to adjust itself somewhat back to acceptable levels. It was around 11:30 in the night.

In this period they stopped a van from within which came out these two paunchy and absolutely pissed drunk men. They were surely rich and the ugly kind of rich. The police asked them if they had drank? And they vehemently claimed that they had not...!! And they seemed rather angry that they should even be doubted on that account... It was quite a sight. The man almost falling with each step and shouting at the police men for thinking he drank. LOLz. The man promptly drew out his almight mobile and began calling. And it seemed to me the policemen were getting more and more unsure about their judgement... much to our frustration. For with them around, all of us seemed as sober as kids after their glass of milk. Not surprisingly, somehow these two would dissapear in the next 20 minutes... while we lesser mortals kept waiting for the next step.

We were all taken over to the government hospital and tucked into a small room where a lady doctor sat. We stood in a queue and were to report to the lady one by one. Everyone was booked for a fine on a the standard amount : Rs. 1000/- (or therabout... if I remember correct). Suddenly one guy started arguing. He had only had a few sips to drink, not enough to be considered drunk... and he must be fined lesser....and demanded an alchohol test to be taken. Of course there was no such complicated gadget existing. And the irritated lady doctor shouted back, " Do you guys think I care if you guys are drunk or not. I do not give a damn. Drunk or mildly drunk you all pay the full amount. There are not enough doctors in this hospital, and we have serious patients out there and I am not going to spend more than 20 minutes analysing you all and then you & the police go wherever you want to - home or jail. This is a stupid exercise the police carry out here. We have no time. Wish the police could go out and catch some real criminals and leave us doctors out of this all!!!"

Everyone accepted their fine and walked off. Sorry, not walked off... but picked our bikes and drove off.

For records I never got caught again... not because I know where the police stand... but because I always pool into someone else's car when going out partying!! Which sadly I cannot find much time for these days...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

On Display - Fast cars & slow traffic.

I have been travelling the last few days. And frankly every city is full of congestion. And fair amount of it in the capital city where there is an Auto Expo going on. Ironic, considering that while we hate the congestion & traffic, we love to see and hope to buy the cars on display. So, is life and modern times! Cant stop the race.
I happened to visit the Auto Expo on my visit. It took me 30 min in standing still traffic to reach there from my hotel & the return was worse - I spent almost 1 hour trying to find a taxi back. Rather cold there right now... but the huge crowds must have helped to raise the temperature or was it all the walking one has to do in the exhibition ground...? Well, I am happy to be back in Bangalore now. The congestion here is more familiar.
And I am rather fatigued, especially with the thought that I have destroyed my weekend travelling - once again. The 3rd one in a series. Urrrgh.. So, I simply put in pics, what I saw at the Expo.
First, the Jantar Mantar, the astronomical observatory built in 1700s. Quite a big watch to have! Well, it does more than that though. I found a site where you can read more about Jantar Mantar.

First a pic from the stall of a company called TVS (collaboration with Suzuki). Sorry, you cannot see much of the bike here.. But I like TVS because they have a nice quality image.

This bike the manufacturers (Yamaha) say costs 90000000 rupees. Its the one driven by Rossi. But guess the price tag is merely a publicity stunt. Would they really sell it if I went with an advance?

The mustang at the Ford stall. Ford seems to try a lot to remind people they 'started it all'. The congestions...? LolZ. But they had one of the good stalls around with good communication. And they did excite people with some good outdoor rock band performances and shows.

Honda's formula car. Very Nice displays and stall.

This is the indigenously built Scorpio by Mahindras, standing up strong against global competition and a real good result from a local company. And is quite a nice car/jeep. This pic however looks like a 'before' and 'after' story. LOLz again. But no, this is a nice vehicle.

Tatas the Goliaths in the Indian automobile industry, have more reasons to say they 'started it all in India', as against Ford- the highway congestions? LOLz...they are everywhere. Well, they are getting stronger & stronger as an organisation, with a singular ability and effort of building an Indian car.. And now, they have tied up with Fiat! Don't know the details though. Fiat has had a terrible patch in India. Probably they will use the Tata network to sell and other joint activities.

Skoda had simply the best looking and finished stall in the Expo. Supposedly, not up-market in Europe, this company has a strong reputation built in India over the past few years. Very cute ads.

Another bike, called the Isotope from TVS.

The Volvo City Bus. With so many cars and the resulting congestion, a good public bus could not be far behind? Available for those who cannot own a car or hate the traffic? The best thingis these are coming to my city - Bangalore.

The performances continues.... as I sleep at home. Upto 17th of this month.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Periyar Calling

This story is backed by someone's real life, but events are absolute fiction.

The periyar river in Kerala, at the location I write about, is fast moving, gurgling. Unlike this pic. Just out of the hills/dam. And its rather hilly and cold about the place I write..

They were 5 brothers, two sisters, one father and a mother. And as was the case here, they were very different people each. But the difference was only for me and you to see. For, when there father was away burning himself and his wealth into liquor the entire family slept together, cuddled away as one. And then when their father passed away they slept even closer.

The family that sleeps together sticks together?

Of course the place they resided was rather cold in winters, in the high ranges of Kerala lined up with winding hills and rivers flowing through them. And below them, below their house, rolled the mighty Periyar river – though at this point it was more a powerful stream which would grow into a deep river as you went past the hills. The make-shift home in which the brothers lived in, was not always able to protect them from the cold, neither could it stop the gurgling sound of the river beating about the rocks while it sought a passage on its long journey ahead – all night, all day. The river soon would become their sweet lullaby and the cold – the reason for the family to come together.

Now, even though they slept together they grew different. The very eldest, born of the first mother, was an independent one – tough, ready and hardworking. The eldest would turn out a healthy, fair man with very good social skills. The youngest, and the darkest, was rather emancipated and fragile, but still the one who had the sweetest face, that all wanted to keep protected. The middle one was equally fragile looking, but with bones that seem they could crack any skull with just one hit. The 4th one from top, the one whose story we will hear, was the one, who tapped a little from all the rest. Strong, bold, hardworking, sweet looking. The only difference for him lay in the fact that he was restless and his heart melted just as quick as it became hard. He was Tomy. And he would have 2 sisters one elder, one younger.

Of course the toughest of them all, was his mother.

Tomy was a restless soul.

As is often the result among children of some families who ‘once were doing well’, this son of theirs could but not help but continuously try to understand what is that drives the world up there – where its rich, seemingly comfortable, & down here - where some families he met had never seen or considered life beyond there little patch of land. As for his family, as described by his mothers, they belonged to some other place, in some other time. Sometimes, when he would think of his father he would feel a sense of raging anger and at the same time a deep sense of loss and loneliness and sometimes when he looked at his reflection in the Periyar river, he knew he must be going somewhere soon… and it must happen fast. Just like these waters, they are always rushing somewhere… but where?

And then one day, when he was around 14 and when returned after spending a whole day playing at a neighbour’s house, he found an angry mother & brother waiting for him at the door. ‘You do not mix with that ‘wood-cutting’ family!’ she shouted. He knew already. Gentle suggestions were provided to him often. He had seen this statement in the sweet smile his mother gave to the neighbour’s wife – a smile, which said ‘ here is some food for us to share with you, but here, see, is also the line of my door step which you may never cross’. He knew, just as his brothers & sisters knew.

But while sometimes he hated the neighbour’s life of simplicity, he also was not able to resist the ease and freedom he saw in them – to live just as they were, to learn skills early, to know who they were and of course the ladies who seem to call you from every direction of their bodies.

His mother admonishing him, built his first sense of anger towards his own family. But of course not enough to shake any foundation. Not until the next week when he was found playing with the elder relatives of his neighbour family in a Toddy shop, among some very heavy bottom ladies.

He had ended up there while playing with friends in the river and after deciding that they must venture onto the other side of the bank, into the thick forest where some mysterious Toddy shop existed, serving the almighty coconut liquor – Toddy. Where tribal ladies and men also visited and where women happily mixed with men. Walking through the thick coconut plantations, climbing a hill laced with cocoa plants and a host of other spices, was really exciting. He loved his homeland. Especially, when it offers so much mystery to fuel his restless heart.

And that’s when while walking with his fiends, he met Prasad, the star in the village who was known for not only his strength and skills but the ability to attract anyone. No one knew how and where his earnings came from. The world was watching him as to where he would settle down – with whom and how. For centuries, people like him would create drama, pain, pleasure and sometimes big success stories. I am talking of the world that spanned a few square kms.

Prasad was quick to watch these boys and immediately felt that its time for him to express his abilities. “ Hey Tomy. What are you doing here?.” he giggled. “You know your mother will burn this forest if she saw you around here, at this hour?”

Tomy, our 4th son, bowed his head shyly, while his other friends went jumping around Prasad. Anyways, he knew he would be guided further now. This person ruled this place

“ Come, let me help you meet some life here! Will you have Toddy? No… your brothers will kill me. Maybe I can serve you some fresh, non-toxic stuff. No? “ Prasad picked Tomy’s hand an guided him into the Toddy shop resting at the top of the hill overlooking the Periyar river…

Toddy is a soft liquor made out of coconut. There are ways to make it harder! Anyways its very tasty and fun.

It was all wood - the construction. Inside there were long wooden benches and tables. Drums lay around. The smell of fermented coconut, pickles and fried fish hanging strong. It was hard to find who was the owner as everyone seem to own the place. The tables were wet with spilt toddy, sometimes dried out by a lady who was serving. Men were sitting with their Mundus drawn tight, chatting away in a non-stop chatter, gulping their toddy mugs, pickling their fish and frequently thumping their hands hard on each other whenever something extremely profound or dirty was spoken.

Once in a while an old man and old woman who did not have much to speak (having learnt life by now and so nothing more to say or hear) would pass by, enter the restaurant, fill a huge jug and gulp it down in one go and off they were one their way to their homes.

And then sometimes, a group of young and old ladies would settle down and there would be some really dirty jokes exchanged with the men.

Toddy tapper

So they were seated when Tomy entered with his friends and guided by Prasad. Very quickly Tomy was adopted by the old lady and pushed between the younger womens, who did nothing but tease him. Tomy was excited and at the same time humiliated. He must go the men;s corner and live up to his image and not be cajoled by these fickle though sexy ladies. And that’s when one of his friend’s made a big mistake by joining in the teasing – giving Tomy the chance to establish his manhood.

Tomy did not even know when it happened. All he remembers was flying over the table and landing squarely on the neck of his friend, throwing him down to the floor and then flying a flurry of punches. Its only when he saw the bloody face that he stopped, not able to fully understand what really happened. The elder men were rather amused by this young duel, but the old woman not.

People from Kerala are tough and cultured. The best thing is that they are rarely aware of it.

“Go back home now” she exclaimed. And blasted Prasad for bringing the kids here. But one of the young ladies were rather pleased with this young man’s strength and gave him a brief giggling look. “You cannot wait to become a man. No?”

Prasad came and held the two boys. “You guys are going to put me into real trouble. I don’t want your brother’s hounding me ok? Just keep quiet about all this and return home.”

Suddenly, fear ran through Tomy’s vein, thinking of what it would mean to his mother and brothers if they found about where he has been or what he has been upto. More blood seemed to evaporate from his head, than he could see running down his friend’s nose. And he quickly clasped the hand of his victim and pleaded “ Let’s go please” and they ran.

Unfortunately for him, the man who supplied wood to his house was silently present at the shop and it would not be very late before his mother found out the details made more juicy by the hour.

“ You can decide if you want to spend you life cutting wood and fishing with them and drinking your days away?” she shouted like she wanted to blow open the fragile roof of the house.

That day Tomy slept six bodies away from his families. . For a moment this distance seemed like a long rein given to him to fly away into a new land. He slept next to the wall, where the wooden panels had cracked and he could see through at the few distant lights that burnt in the houses that spotted their hill. Once in a while he would hear a few crunching sounds of foot steps as people walked by the trail besides his house, as the climbed up the hill or went down - torches in hand. People chatting distantly, puffing or sometimes chanting so as to avoid the night spirits. And then he looked at the rest of his family sleeping & it seemed that he saw the sad soul of his father resting among them. “ Will we ever do better than this?” he wondered.

For the first time he wondered what would it mean if he left them all for his own world. Maybe life could be different? Better? Maybe he could earn so much that he can bring them back enough, to make them happy and release them from the sad soul of their father? Maybe he could shorten this unknown, winding road they were taking in their lives? He knew young guys who were traveling out of the village often and returning with news of how they have seen the film stars, about the big buildings and vehicles and the big opportunities to make more money in one day than he ever would see in this place. Could he find friends? He would surely come back, because he loved his family very much… but if only he was successful…

As he dreamt all this… he soon went into an irrational world of dreams, where he saw the Toddy shop all lit up, the laughter inside and the young girl inside shining through the bangles on her hand. “Hey Tomy, come in” she shouted out. ‘You are a grown man now… “And as Tomy heard the words he saw the shop become smaller and smaller and his body started getting bigger and bigger… like the giants he saw in the movies in his village theatre…

And that’s when his mother came and placed another layer of sheet on her restless boy’s shaking cold body.

to be continued... I hope...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Have a great Year.

That's the picture from a New Year Greetings I received today from a friend . Cute it is and quite meaningful in a way! The picture has been shot at Cubbon Park in Bangalore. Anyways, today was a day full of greetings, most of them via the mobile... and I spent the whole day clearing the SMS memory, hour after hour, just to get another load of "Happy New Years' ringing in. Most come from colleagues and they go like " Wish you and your family..." and in some case I had to remind them 'Could you please include my friends in your wishes too?". To which one responded.. " Sure. Family includes one and all."

The surprise greeting I got from paknam.web (maybe because I purchase something?), made me really proud. When my landlord's son brought me the envelope he was quite curious that a greeting from Thailand had come my way and he hung around hoping I could remove the card for him to see too (- hoping to find clues why I am not married? I think it is his life-long challenge to find out..why? LOLz). And so I did remove the card, a bit like Mr. Bean, showing around to my neighbours with a smirk on my face (well... not really like that, but I almost felt like doing so in my head).

Of course, there was loads of greetings last night in the party I attended in the city. By the way, terrorists attacked Bangalore on 28th this month, and most people were off roads last night fearing another attack. (The rumors - the low-down terrorists were going to bomb the year at 2230hrs sharp) I decided not to care. We had this nice party in a disc that was hired. Lots of dancing and jumping around. And when it struck midnight, and when everyone was literally dripping with sweat from head to toe, the hugging and love began. Generally, I am quite physical and do not mind other people's bodies... but yesterday was a bit too wet, really. A friend of mine who is rather prim and proper & elderly and who would not let anything change his well ironed and washed attire was in his most clustrophobic period - anxiously stretching out his arm as far as he could suggesting only a handshake... but you no how it is.... everyone ignored his hand and went straight for his cheeks! Yuck... for him! And very funny for all of us...

The party was followed by a visit to someone's sprawling house where I spent all my time playing with his dogs. (Dogs... again... they have suddenly become so much part of my life!). Anyways, soon my eyelids starting carrying more weight than I could handle and I left for home.

Slept at 0430hrs. 0800hrs my parents call me. 0900 my brother calls me and starts discussing about my new house finance calculations and I am busy trying to do mathematics with my head inside the pillow. 1000hrs my father's brother calls me from abroad. 1100hrs an office colleague calls in. Would there be another word for 'Torture on a sleepless Sunday!!

But still its cool. I slept enough. I got some very nice messages which made my day/year. Especially one from an agency of mine telling me that even " though officially you are a client... you area morale boosting person... and your ideas... help us always do a good job... everytime we venture into something with you...." Well, maybe he is flattering me, but why not give him the benefit of doubt? LOLz.

Once again. Have a GREAT YEAR!