The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near, let it roll

A 250 miles planned road trip on a torrentially rainy day, some musings and pointless observations!

Reading Time: 10 minutes

The wipers kept oscillating at the speed of an inverted runaway pendulum, while the water kept pouring in abundant glory from the bulging clouds. It was raining torrentially, but I was scheduled to move some 250 miles south on that day, and driving in this vast country is always a pleasure and one of my favorite activity. So, there was no looking back, and not a remote chance of canceling the rare and unexpected, one way car rental deal. After exchanging the customary pleasantries with the rental clerk, and obviously falling prey for the extra collision and liability insurance coverage which they insist, in spite of the credit card seemingly covering such rare accidents, I find myself with minimal luggage, a backpack with laptop and the faithful and extremely useful yoga mat, facing a shiny green vehicle, fondly named Kia Soul. Its a small 4 cylinder, 200 hp engine, involuntarily massaging my head with its cheap upholstery but gives a good mileage. Not all statistics about the car are vital or preferred by me, but seems like it will do the job well. I load the vehicle with the luggage, start the push button engine, check the wipers for any residual water marks while rolling, check the headlights, push the driver’s seat all the way back for a semi-comfortable feeling, as my legs easily reach the pedals without the knee getting the required relief. But, you get what you pay for, and I am relieved that I don’t have to spend a lot, and still can drive and reach my destination, instead of schlepping the luggage in any other formal modes of public transport, cramped in an equally tight seat along with my stereotypically pompous fellow brethren.

The ride was quite fascinating, as I squeezed out of the airport facility, and rolled onto the magnificent interstate freeway, along with the fast moving traffic. It was a Sunday, and I wasn’t in a particular rush to reach, although I wanted to maintain a constant speed.

I’ve always admired the tortoise, in the famous “Hare and the Tortoise” story, not necessarily for winning the race, but more for his doggedness in sticking to a process or strategy without allowing boredom or impatience to creep in, and although on many occasions, as required, I’ve enacted the hare too, but the tortoise-like temperament suits my non-gregarious and observant personality.
I traveled through the Appalachian hills, amongst the vast ocean of greenery of trees and grass to the sides of the freeway, and passing by few minor cities and many more inconsequential small towns, which might have had a consequential role to play in the past presidential elections. The freeways are adorned with signage which lures one to take pitstops for leaks, purchases and more often some terrible tasting coffee breaks, unless of course, you’re lucky to hit “Starbucks”, without having to go to the centre of the town a few miles away. Starbucks brand is my personal favorite, not only because of the taste, but because it has a nice range of sugary sides to go along with the dark roasted pike, without cream or sugar. It is also my favorite brand because we’re invested in the company’s growth story for a few years now, and in spite of Howard Schultz announcing his departure from the firm after a long run, possibly to run a bigger political race per rumors, I consider it to still have substantial growth potential remaining, especially in foreign shores, where they’re just about beginning to cast their footprint.

SB

Having said all this, I would jump on to the opportunity of investing 7% of the equity portion of my portfolio into Starbucks, if it ever falls down in the 42 to 45 range, augmenting the yield substantially, and not to forget that the coffee, pastries and the overall experience at the store is never inexpensive yet always fabulous.

I was tempted to pull out of the freeway, and indulge with a Starbucks experience, but the ride was smooth, traffic scarce, and scenery superb, and I decided to let go of the pulling out, stopping to get dehydrated and pulling in again business. Instead, I continued the journey, immersed in being with the roads, its bends, dents and meandered the journey with my own singing, chanting and silence, instead of blasting some advertisements on the FM radio interspersed with some fast paced hip-hop or reggae. Admittedly, this was the first time I chose to drive like this, the entire 250 miles, as usually, the radio or a personal selection of songs on the phone, is what fills the car with various sounds and noises. It was indeed a sweet transition from listening to someone else’s music, to composing your own personal and random playlist, based on the moods and fancy of the driver.

It was all worthwhile and flowing, until the much needed bio break was in order, and I pulled over at one of the the well-designed and massive “Rest Area” of the famous “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”, which to its credit was designed during President Eisenhower’s time, way back in the 50’s and covers roughly 50,000 miles of pothole free roads by now, is expertly maintained, and connects this huge nation from one end to another, with a matrix of interstate freeways, enhancing commerce, transport, communication and many ill fated accidents.
The average driving speed of the vehicles on these highways is 65 mph, and I was in no mood to accelerate over the limit more than 5 mph, firstly, to avoid getting any expensive tickets, because that would defeat the entire purpose of keeping this trip a low cost journey, also making the penalty on the ticket more than the rental car cost, and secondly, because I was absolutely enjoying this rainy drive of 250 miles, heading west for 100 miles and southeast the remaining 150 miles.

Dogs

It was very interesting to notice the love people have for their dogs, especially in such “Rest Areas”, as along with themselves, the dog owners, which there were plenty, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if almost all, at the rest area where I stopped, had various dogs of differing sizes, were ensuring that their dogs managed to get a reasonable stretch and they get to pick their fresh droppings, before hopping onto their respective vehicles again to continue their journey.

It was a bit amusing to see some signs pointing out to “Dog Exercise Area” as I felt many of their owners needed equivalent or certainly more exercise and stretch than their cute puppies, and it was also very obvious that dogs naturally knew when and how much to stretch their bodies, as and when necessary, above and beyond the scheduled Rest Area stops, and that’s why the “Dog Pose” in yoga.

But, of course, I wasn’t judging anyone, I was simply observing and being amused, and my obvious smirks perhaps must have generated some strange frowns from folks around me. Any who, I took off once again to finish the remaining journey, amongst the rains, and after paying a meagre toll, for using the freeway, continued southeast towards my new destination, where I am planning to spend a week, before heading out west to the magnificence of the Rockies. The rest of the trip needed much more alertness and care, especially when changing lanes at 70 mph, in hazy conditions, due to the incessant rains and as such was uneventful, but for me as a driver, it was anyways fascinating to be traveling on the roads at fast speeds, humming to my own tunes, without the iPhone connected to the USB or wondering if the bass, treble or balance could be adjusted any further, for a better surround sound experience.

GA

On the way, I crossed Gettysburg, and some portions of the violent and turmoil filled history of this nation flashed into my mind’s eye. It was here that Abraham Lincoln had delivered his famous “Four score and seven years ago…” Gettysburg Address, at the end of the Civil War in 1863, and is considered one of the best known speeches in American history.
It really were troubled times during the formation of a new nation, to be battling amongst themselves, and eventually having to settle after a terrible war, to create the foundation of a United States. I’ve read plenty on the topic in the past, have a fond admiration for Lincoln and respect his role during those times, but decided against visiting the ceremonial visitor’s center, partially because of the rains, and mainly because I felt like continuing the journey forward.
HH

Now, I was in the final section of my journey, and I had to make a judgment call, as it happens to many of us in life, especially just before arriving at the destination, whether to stop for one more bio break, or hold tightly, literally speaking, and reach the final place. It was no different for me, and I wanted to be the “hare” this time, and go for it.

In many ways, it was an arguable decision, but I did go for it, passing a few cars in a rush, changing lanes with acute care, the rains were still on, and to my utter surprise, it was pouring harder and with some amount of gust, which made the visibility harder and the possibility of skidding a little more certain.
Nonetheless, I had put on my “hare hat”, and I was determined to not stop and reach on time, before any accidents happened, and I don’t mean with the vehicle.

Overall, I’m a careful and prudent driver, and like every other subjective space of my life, I’ve strategies on fast driving too, where uncontrolled passion doesn’t overrule any desperate wish to fulfill particular outcomes, and I know where to cut sharply, allow the other to go ahead, discreetly change lanes on an exceptionally rainy day, not irk any fellow drivers with my need for speed etc. – yet maneuver the vehicle in a systematic way to be ahead of others, covering a fair amount of distance much faster, and in spite of wearing my “hare hat”, remain settled within myself with a tortoise-like composure to maintain consistency and balance, both inside and outside of me.
All this didn’t take any effort, it was achieved silently, with the humming or full fletched singing, it was just that it takes awareness and sensitivity to be fine inside, and prudently aggressive on the outside. Its an application of a trick, to trick the mind, to not be ruled by its own gyrations, but instead, meander with a gentler and centered sense of alertness, which brings the desired outcome, in this case speed, but without allowing the mind to get excited or go berserk. Its certainly a finesse, and I have begun to enjoy it, without sacrificing on the desired experience and still achieving the desired outcome!

RHB

So, here I am, 250 miles south from my previous location, intact, and having finished an exciting trip, looking forward to spending a week amongst the flora, fauna, friendships and waters of a new neighborhood with old friends. The trip was necessary, exciting, and revealing and much to my surprise, I didn’t realize how the four and a half hours went by, traveling through three different states, amongst the jaw dropping torrential rains, enjoying the greenery, amused by the rest area musings, imagining the tough times during a civil war, admiring the foresight with which the interstate system of highways was built, rejuvenating with personalized singing and chanting and above all driving a decently built car, optimizing its potential by appropriately racing its engine, interspersed with deliberately slowing down when necessary, especially when it was obvious that the M4 or Sequoia, driving next to me, is neither going to slow down, nor allow me to pass, even if they wished to, considering their superior engine, but it doesn’t matter, as I’m aligned and in tune with “The Doors”, and humming to their lyrics “The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near, Let it roll, baby, roll, Let it roll, all night long” 🙂

Until next time, Ciao!…

To Binge or Not to Binge

Binging on Schitt’s Creek, a model on incremental productivity and Isaacson’s biography on Einstein.

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Reading Time: 7 minutes.

I finished a very well written and interesting biography on Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson, titled “Einstein: His Life and Universe”, having started the book a few weeks ago, this long weekend. I used to put off biographies for some reason, not knowing why I should be reading about anyone’s life, when I can explore and experience the dynamics of my own life in depth. But, it turns out, like many other realizations, I was wrong in my thinking. Walter Isaacson’s captivating stories of Einstein’s life, was not only mesmerizing, but also has many things one can learn from his life. The book is beautifully structured, and although, a long read, it is engrossing throughout and kept me intrigued. The style is very lucid and I had heard about Isaacson’s penchant for writing beautiful biographies, but it was the first time I had a chance to indulge and enjoy his work. It was quite intriguing how flamboyant Einstein was in one sense, and completely aloof in another, both in his professional and personal life. It seems, he could be very quiet and lost in his scientific work and be equally vocal and gregarious in his expressions, be it politically driven matters or writing a recommendation for his colleague. He did not seem to mind getting involved with media and political dramas or backlashes, if he believed in the cause. He remained equally a wanderer and wonderer, and lived in few countries, was focused and determined to find a unified field theory till the end, attempting to explain the mysteries of the universe, and remained witty, focused, humble and humorous until he passed away at his Princeton residence in 1955. My timing couldn’t have been better in finishing this book, as I am stationed just 10 miles away from his Princeton residence, and am daily walking some trails around his neighborhood.

Walter Isaacson captures few of his final utterances from various sources, few days before his death, quoted below:

To a group of doctors recommending seeing a surgeon for his health condition: “It is tasteless to prolong life artificially, I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.”

To his assistant, when asked: “Is everything alright?” Einstein replied: “Everything is alright, but I am not.”

To his son, Hans Albert, on America: “Everything – even lunacy – is mass produced here. But everything goes out of fashion very quickly.”

To his friend, queen mother of Belgium: “The strange thing about growing old is that the intimate identification with the here and now is slowly lost. One feels transposed into infinity, more or less alone.”

Isaacson ends the book with this observation – He could be serenely self-confident in his lonely course yet also humbly awed by the beauty of nature’s handiwork. And Einstein remarks: “A spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort.”

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It has been such a long time that I haven’t binged a particular activity, and I don’t think I’ll ever binge, per the technical definition of the word. Last fifteen years, I have particularly managed a schedule in such a way that, I get involved with an activity, deliberately for short durations and keep hopping to the next relevant activity, which could also be conscious inactivity. Its an arranged experiment to not get hooked onto anything particular for a long time and instead allocate my energies in a deliberate manner to keep changing activities every few hours, remain involved with the new activity and just when it is settling, move on to the next relevant activity. The reason for such an experiment is simple, I want to accomplish various things, incrementally, which I am choosing to bring into the daily routine, but allocating sufficient yet not extensive amount of time to it, so that I can get sufficiently involved but immediately move on to the next one with equal involvement.

The idea is to train the mind to not get hooked on to any particular activity, and simultaneously get unidentified with the need to have an immediate outcome of that activity.

It also helps in retaining attention since I’m not stretching the activity beyond a certain point, knowing very well my capacity to loose attention if the activity takes longer. It also helps me in bringing multiple activities within the realm of the same day, and thus I get the benefit of incrementally building up on the plans for my activities, which have a long term essence for me. As an example, in a given day, I could be allocating my energies to be doing the following things, with much involvement, knowing very well that I would be hopping to the next activity soon – yoga, walking, reading, work, writing, eating, siesta, chanting, sending personal messages to friends, watching my breath, chatting on phone with a close friend, reading shortlisted articles on the internet. Now, none of these activities individually, per se, has much meaning, or at least, that’s how it is perceived by most of us, if that is the only activity we do in the whole day. But, when you keep on doing this routine, day in and day out, over a matter of few weeks, you feel quite super, probably because it brings about a sense of deeper fulfillment, and more importantly, the brain adapts to a pattern which is less stressful, linearly meaningful, with an easily achievable mode of functioning. At least, that is my experience and hence I stick to such routines.

A good friend suggested watching “Schitt’s Creek”, a pretty much Canadian production, with the lead actors being Canadian too, three of them from the same family. Its kind of a dry humor situational comedy, based on sarcasm and satire. Its been delicately created and to me, who’s kind of on holidays, babysitting the progenitors, it was a perfect time to binge the show. Netflix has bought the rights for three seasons and each season ironically has thirteen episodes and each episode is roughly twenty minutes. So here I am in the land of opportunities, after a superb daily long walk in the woods, close to Einstein’s home place as mentioned earlier, I would come back, have a nice home made meal and binge – not on food though. It was indeed very different from the experiment I mentioned earlier, and it was quite amusing to see the confusion which it created in the brain the first few hours, as routinely, my mind was demanding for me to move on to the next task. It didn’t get any, except an occasional and terrible choice of Doritos chips, just for old times sake. So, I broke the routine of the mind, allowed the binging to happen and finished the three seasons in a matter of three days, leaving my friend behind in the unannounced race for completion. I enjoyed the binge, but the drag which comes along with such acts, was easily felt and thanks to the daily dose of yoga and walking, I managed to keep up some aliveness. Watching TV has become a far off and distant activity, which I usually don’t do, not because I don’t like it, but because we don’t have a TV anymore. So, occasional binging like this is remarkably entertaining but I don’t think I can do it very often. I like the small doses of intense activity or inactivity, as I find it more productive, with major long term benefits, and in which I can retain my attention much better. Of course, this works for me only because I have managed to arrange my life in a manner where such things are possible. But, it is worth experimenting with for anyone wanting to incrementally make their lives more intense and productive over a long haul, in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, until next time, Ciao!

Art, Commerce and Science of Relentless Traveling

Exploring traveling as an effective tool for self exploration, if applied with the right intention.

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

Traveling is rarely about rest and relaxation, especially if one does not know how to rest and relax, while not traveling. It does give an illusion when we’re in a rut, that traveling to some exotic location, will take off some steam and bring unending pleasantness. And it does, for a short time, which may even end before the first day of holidaying is over, and I’ve been with some people and heard from many, the confirmation to this hypothesis, that they’re unable to stick to the pleasantness they had anticipated by taking up the travels, to a far off place which looked beautiful and serene, and could’ve provided relief to their distress. The mind seeks constant stupor and provides various illusions on how things can be different somewhere else. And the irony of holidaying for most of us is, we end up either stressing more – while leaving, after first few hours or days of reaching the dream location, and definitely after we come back to the rut. I’m sure there are many rational reasons for such behaviors which most of us will avoid digging into.

After all, providing fuel to the mind’s incessant ability to wander and create stupor is a full time activity for all of us, we’re trained and come preprogrammed for such a compulsively engrossing task.
Although, I’ve never had this problem, whether I’m traveling or otherwise, but again, I’ve been with people or heard from them, about how they needlessly wonder about their work while on holidays, and dream about a perfect holiday while at work. Its quite amusing for me as an outsider, but I’m sure, for the people exhibiting such behaviors, it can be heavily taxing on their system, since most of the conserved energy is getting frivolously spent in active hallucinating and thus possibly leaving one exhausted and confused.

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I think, I would have considered myself very fortunate, if I would have ever had the pleasure of meeting Mark Twain, when he was around, either in his hometown, or while he was traveling on the Mississippi, in San Fransisco or the Indian subcontinent. It would be indeterminate whether his experience in meeting me would be equivalent. I obviously like his style of writing, and consider his work solid, witty and revealing. But beyond the general praises, I like the insights I get whenever I read his elaborate work or the numerous quotations which float around on the internet under his name. He was certainly well traveled, and observed the various facets of life and lifestyle very closely, while smoking his favorite cigars. Traveling during his times, definitely was risky, and not returning back to where you started from, was a possible uncertainty. With my current lifestyle, I find myself traveling for about four to five months in a year. It might be due to actual holidaying, visiting friends and family, or sometimes working. My current work requires me to think more than act, when it comes to how I actually use my energies. Having said that, over the years, I’m realizing how it is extremely important to know “How to think” versus knowing only “What to think”. 

Thinking is subtle action and a precursor to visible action, while visible action is a consequence of subtle thinking.
I’m beginning to realize the significance of this correlation, and it would be probably incorrect to assert that the two activities are actually separate or distinct. Analogically, they’re kind of like the beginning and ending rungs of a ladder or beginning and ending frequencies of a light spectrum etc., and it would be certainly unwise to categorically consider thinking and acting as two separate phenomena. They’re not, but in general parlance, we make the mistake of looking at them separately, and finding ourselves helplessly struggling with creating life situations in any elegant manner. The amount of energy which gets wasted, literally, in not knowing or not being alert of this fact, leads to an exhausting and confused life, where we remain clueless as to how things are occurring around us.

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On the current travel schedule, which is part of my 4 month gig for 2018, requiring crossing couple of continents and oceans, I’m traveling without the missus. Traveling with or without one’s significant or insignificant other, has its own repercussions, after having clarified my initial take on traveling, not necessarily being an act for rest and relaxation.

As individual human beings, we are largely in a state of flux, and conceptualizing us within a framework of how we are or should be, is simply an expensive mistake, often done, rarely inspected and one has to pay a hefty price for such uncanny generalizations.
The biggest advantage of traveling together, assuming a relationship where both partners are actively willing to learn about their own idiosyncrasies and limitedness, is you grow as an individual and your affection and love for each other scales up non-linearly, in some form of quantum leaps, perhaps, equivalent to Einstein, Bohr or Bose’s findings about the random quantum leaps of electrons within matter. The key in this kind of processes is the aforementioned observation: “assuming a relationship where both partners are actively willing to learn about their own idiosyncrasies and limitedness”. If this willingness is missing, good luck in traveling with any partner who is close to you, either physically, mentally, emotionally or in business. It doesn’t work well for the simple reason, we as humans are not a concept, we don’t function based on recorded observations from the past, or theological assertions from books, or any forced moral values imposed by society, parents or teachers.

It is my contention that, humans are uniquely organic, they cannot be predicted, just like ‘em electrons, and if one expects traveling with such humans will automatically and always bring the serenity for which you spent the thousand dollar tickets or ten thousand dollars excursions, good luck with that line of thinking. Disappointment will be the least of the worries, and coming back being emotionally wrecked or physically exhausted will probably be a distinct certainty.
But, if the partners consider growth and togetherness as important, not as a derived benefit of the other’s changing attitude, but in wanting to dig within themselves actively, to investigate the nuances and compulsions of our own behaviors and attitudes, traveling can become a phenomenal tool for self exploration – defeating our ignorance and freeing us from regular stupidity. Having said all this, traveling is probably a good thing, regardless of one’s individual or combined goals of growth or compatibility, because it provides the opportunity to come in contact with an exposure to difference on the outside and indifference on the inside. The experience of traveling, on the other hand, will certainly depend upon one’s wanting to mature and that fact cannot be altered, because the core nature of traveling is to be amongst the anomalies of change and variations.

Whenever fate or sponsored tickets brings me to America, after the initial fright at the immigration counter, and pretend exchange of pleasantries with the officer, I like to seek out and immerse with the land and water of this beautiful country. America is known for its consumerism, prolific research in advance technologies, magnificent buildings of prosperous megacities, channelized transportation, flourishing commerce  and extraordinary display and affording of comfort, convenience and luxury.

I don’t have any particular opinion about the economy of this country, or the freedom the constitution is supposed to provide which the denizens are supposed to enjoy, the excessive dependency on market economy to create wellbeing for the individual, the almost mandatory need for insurances of all types to be substituting the individual’s need to be living responsibly, the categorically challenging atmosphere created by wanting to live extravagantly, considering it as a wise choice and only eventually realizing that it takes off 35 to 50 years of adult life to build such a lifestyle, hinging on borrowed resources, while the average life expectancy is still only a tad bit over 75 years.
So, obviously, I don’t have any issues with any of these observations, which I insist is not an opinion, but I think every thought, action, compulsion and concept over which we build our life, has an innate consequence, and it is my general observation, most of us are not familiar, nor are willing to read into the consequence of our actions based on a long term view of a fleeting life, which actually could end abruptly, accidentally or to bring some sense of relief, eventually. Anyways, the point I was trying to make is simple, whenever I visit America, the first thing I want to do over here, is go and walk in the beautiful and underutilized state parks, amongst nature, which still has 50 to 100 years old trees, creeks, flowing rivers etc. It brings me immense joy and a sense of freedom to be doing that, which is unparalleled and usually unavailable in other developing countries. I like to walk the trails, sit by the water body, take photos, write about the experiences, be with the silence of the sky and simply immerse with the elements, which are so present and bountifully wanting to involve.

To me, traveling is another tool to come closer to myself. It exposes me to the different cultures and milieu of the human species. It also exposes me to my inherent biases and reluctance to accept diversity. It shows me the compulsive need to be constantly forming opinions about other people and places, compare them with my own ideas about how life should be, and most importantly, traveling offers me an unique opportunity to scale myself up as a human being, who is profoundly waiting to evolve, wanting to seek dimensions beyond his own opinions and beliefs.
Traveling is a simple tool for all this. But, so is silence and sitting quietly without moving much, and allowing the madness of the mind to settle on its own accord, by not reacting for its need to move. Obviously, these are two very different methods for self exploration and I personally like to apply both of them simultaneously, since I’m only married to the missus, not any methods, and hence I see no particular issue with applying both styles, in trying to figure out some existential answers to the elusive manners of the mind wanting to create constant stupor, while the obvious manners of the body, takes me straight to the grave in a matter of time.

In my opinion, and this is an opinion, because it pertains to my own outlook of life, these are not small or insignificant matters, which can be avoided in pursuit of happiness, as written in the US constitution. These are significant matters, which requires one to question the incessant stupor of the mind and movement of the body, in perennially wanting to create a world of our own liking, while simultaneously with time, both the faculties of mind and body, take upon a diminishing curve of efficacy, leading to their eventual collapse into oblivion, upon the arrival of death. I personally attach significant importance, to such quests and inquiries, and find that because of this attitude, the engaging travels or the still silence, which I partake, has a beauty of its own, as for most part, I disallow – stress, aggressiveness or compulsive rushing – to dilute my experience of them.

Thanks for reading, until next time, Ciao!

Roads, Parks, Cars

Blabbering on the magical mundane!

 

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Reading Time: 7 minutes

I love driving cars on nice roads and walking in fine parks, particularly stateside. The roads, parks and cars there are outstanding, in comparison to most other nations. Needless to say, their initial investment in creating a flawless infrastructure, as a core objective of nation building, has brought some outstanding results, in terms of booming commerce, unparalleled connectivity, effortless travels etc. and its a pleasure to use all three – roads, parks and cars – here with comfort and pride. Organizing my planning and activities, in conjunction with the anticipated effects of jet lag due to long distance traveling, I had planned this weekend – with adequate resting and hydration by drinking lemon and ginger water, followed by lightly roasted cumin and coriander seeds tea, followed by some deep work of capital allocation analysis, on a gyrating portfolio due to volatile markets, having to recently bid adieu to a strong and reliable fixed-income instrument disappearing suddenly to vagaries, continuing reading the current book by Isaacson on Einstein’s life, driving nearby locales to get acclimatized with the right side driving and going for an hour walk in the nearby park. All this was planned a few weeks ago, since I already know how the body and mind will react to jet lag and how to organize their affairs, to bring them to more robustness, as I’ve done several of this kind of travels in the past. I prefer not to be too pushy and rush into any important business in the first few days of crossing oceans, as the outcomes are invariably unpredictable, given the sluggishness of the body and mind, and my inability to be sharp and alert in any constructive decision making.

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As expected, I reversed the supersize car in a supersize country, out of the garage and started driving on the local roads, which were quite empty, as most people were celebrating Mother’s Day and probably were inside their homes. It turned out to be a boon, as I drove around the beautiful roads in the suburban neighborhood where I’m parked for a few days, and felt quite bloated, in a non-gaseous manner, which the joy of driving a nice car on a fine road can bring. Perhaps, its a guy thing, but it surely exists and there is no particular reason to deny or defend it. I personally do not prefer driving in other congested countries nor consider having a car in highly populated countries to be a joyful thing and many times, people close to me get confused, because I exhibit joy of driving a car stateside, but do not wish to have or drive one in other countries.

To me, the experience of the drive matters the most, firstly, the fine quality of the machine, the smoothness of the ride, delicate contact of the tyre on a finely banked road, the voluptuous curves and bends the car manages, the breeze I feel when the air gushes in from the window, then secondly, the fineness of sound system in the car, the quality leather of the seats, the frictionless maneuvering of the power steering, the automatic adjustments to the light of the rear and side mirrors, proper design of the seat to ergonomically support the body to feel cozy etc.
Having described all this in details, it is not easy to find all the combination right all the time, and I’m obviously fine with that too. The practical part of using a car for transportation, to reach from one point to another, is also a matter of significance, and I do acknowledge that, but do not necessarily succumb to it.

04

So, here I was, driving on pretty empty roads, and the spring is just about getting ready to spring here, although admittedly it is still quite cold and cloudy, but most trees have come out of their winter hibernation, have lush green leaves dressing their nakedness all over again, and the nicely mowed lawns add to the  charm of the scenery, while the Dogwoods and the Cherry Blossoms just keeps me mesmerized and wanting to stop and take a selfless photo. I resist the temptation and continue the ride with much amusement and listening to a deeply lyrical and fantastic tune, composed and sung by Nasrat Fateh Ali Khan, titled “Mere Rashk-e-Qamar”, which apparently means “one who makes the moon envious”. I swirl around, windows rolled down, unworried about any polluting clouds, fumigating the leathery interiors of the car or the delicate bronchioles of the lungs, and suddenly to my utter surprise, I come across this 150 acre of greenery, lined with many more then 100 year old trees, in this beautiful park of the neighborhood, which I’m used to walking, whenever I visit this suburb. The only reason, I expressed surprise, is because I was driving without the help of Aunt Sandra’s nagging on the Google Map app of the borrowed iPhone X, which by the way, is another fine piece of technology and delight, perhaps a topic to discuss for another time.

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The park has a well defined 3 mile round trip trail, nothing rigorous, with many curves and turns, mostly flat and open, nestled amongst the tall trees and manicured lawns. Its a beautiful sight to behold and there is a stillness in the air, which is quiet and intoxicating. I’ve walked this trail so many times that I do not need directions and I can guess quite accurately when I’ll be reaching the pond, most affectionately named as “Walden Pond”, where there are plenty of geese dirtying the trail with expected droppings, and lacking the availability of tissue papers, washing their behind with a dip in the semi-freezing Walden Pond. In amusement, a thought did occur to my usually devilish mind, especially while walking in nature, if Thoreau would have run behind them or considered them a nuisance? Regardless of the mannerism, the wild geese and squirrels, domesticated and designer-outfit wearing dogs, and the variety of colorful birds, formed an outstanding ensemble of beauty and serenity.

Unlike the picture perfect shots, there was something wild and brazen in the air, which was hard to comprehend, and the trail seemed to simply offer an opening into oblivion.
It was cold, not brutally, but I was ill prepared for the weather without any jumper, and I actually found myself feeling cold and yet a bit sweaty due to my habit of getting excited with anything green and walking fast. I could feel the muscles getting used to the terrain, and rhythmically enjoying the coming out from the sluggishness, from a long jet journey across a few oceans.

The body and mind in general started rejuvenating from the freshness and purposeless existence of this beautiful park, and I could not help but shed a few tears to be immersing amongst such relentless beauty and quiet, which was overwhelming and caressing at the same time.
I finished my enduring walk, avoiding the possible stare by the onlooking comrades on the benches, perhaps having mixed opinions about my flowing, rather long and beyond safety limits of neatly groomed facial hair, took back to the beautiful suburban roads and went back home with a combination of content, gratefulness and aliveness – an unique cocktail which distinctly gives a natural high without the baggage of an annoying hangover.

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Lately, I’ve been distancing from the doughy delicacies and adjusting towards easily digestible alternatives including fruits and veggies, softer grains like some millets and quinoa, cooked lentils and pulses etc., in preparation of the aging onslaught. Overall, sometimes it is hard to follow the concept of a healthier diet, due to old habits and compulsions, or because of unavailability of simpler foods during travels, but have also been able to slowly move over to this concept, with small doses of alertness and awareness, and in general, the food eating habits are getting better than what it used to be just a few years ago. I usually don’t waste time with deep feelings of regret or guilt, as it is a serious waste of energy and indicates a severe lack of intelligence, and hence on occasions, like the one I’m expressing in this blog, I had planned, thanks to my wonderful hosts, to indulge in a home-made pizza where the dough and sauce were freshly prepared, the toppings – mushrooms, peppers, olives, jalapeños, basil leaves – were procured organically and the mozzarella cheese was obtained from a fine Italian grocer. I’m off any sodas, mainly for the overuse of sugar in it, not for the taste, and indulged in one can, with the fantastic pizza, served warm and subjected to personal care and attention. The entire day turned out to be uneventful, simple, serene, and I feel ready to face the rest of the music, for the purpose I’ve crossed two huge oceans, offering the body and mind newer possibilities and perhaps disguised challenges.

Thanks for reading, until next time, Ciao!…

Dhulikhel

Immersing with the material and mystic at beautiful Dhulikhel!

 

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

I am not sure if I like traveling as much, as much as I end up traveling. Having said that, I think I must explain. I like traveling after I reach the destination, and consider the transit in between, quite a bit of hassle. We visited a quaint little mountain town, in the Himalayan kingdom over the weekend, called Dhulikhel, located at 1500 meters above sea level. The hills here are not majestic, but they roll and have terrace farming to their display and charm. It was very quiet and the place we stayed was superbly done, subtly allowing to experience the mystic without making any noise about it. It was crafted by removing very few trees and thus keeping the density of the forest intact, perhaps adding many more trees, which is a rare sight nowadays. All the cottages were nestled within the beautiful and aging trees and had the feeling of merging with the ecosystem. The room within the cottage looked out to the beautiful rolling hills at far, and the valley downhill gave the necessary contrast on how things in nature keep balance with what we usually understand as opposites.

In a sense, the valley and the hills were a single unit, but could be very easily differentiated as separate entities. Only when we view things from far and are at ease, can we see things properly. This is an observation, not an opinion.

Coming back to the traveling bit, I usually feel settled where I already am, or upon arrival where I intend to be, and have a certain inertia towards “unnecessary” movement. The keyword is “unnecessary”, because I am beginning to realize that, most of us confuse ourselves between what is necessary and what is not. The portion where I need to transit is what I resist, and would prefer faster methods of transport and am thus saying “I am not sure if I like traveling as much”. The transit and the normally glorified anticipation of travels, which many get excited with, is unexciting for me. Not that anyone should agree with it, I’m just expressing an opinion now. I am perfectly fine not getting to see the sights in between the source and destination, not being jammed in a train or a flight with fellow human species and the transit does not thrill me either. I am not denying that I might be missing many things on the way with this attitude, all I am saying is, I am fine with it. I get jittery in between, and perhaps am not the best company during those times. But, once I reach the destination, and am sitting with the knowing that I have a week or five to spend at the same location, a different beast brews out of this mug. I suddenly could be charming, jocular, impatient, imbalanced, ludicrous and many more things, and its hard to predict. But, I do assure the fellow companions, if any, usually its the affected missus, that upon arrival, they’ll not have many things to complain about me. This is how I am structured and unlike the whole movement of everyone should change themselves for the better, I don’t care to change myself in this department, and I’m perfectly fine being a bit grouchy and nervous, in transit. The missus has suggested many a times to carry some Benadryl, and I’ve always wondered to what might she be hinting?

 

 

Coming back to Dhulikhel. The entire weekend was quite relaxing, as we put sincere effort to being at ease. The cottages and the various facilities for meditation, yoga, pranayama, spa, pool, restaurants etc. were dispersed amongst the various terraces of the hill. So, it meant, going up and down from the pool to the Himalayan Salt room, to crystal room, to the yoga room, followed by the Chakra room and finally the Pranayama room. The restaurants and the lone shop were all the way at the bottom, and we reckoned that we were walking at least 500 steps everyday, going up and down. At the top level, there was a quiet and serene road which brought us to the most amazing sight of vegetable gardening at 1500 meters, on one of the terraces, facing the beautiful Himalayan hills. It was a magnificent sight to behold (play above video), and we were in awe at the various cabbages, zucchinis, chillies, chards, kales, lettuces, bananas, rosemary, and many variety of flowers, which were being organically grown there in a systematic way and being taken care of with drip irrigation system, and lots of love and affection.

The whole place was charged sensuously, and was emanating a sense of inclusiveness which doesn’t come by very easily.

 

It was a wonderful weekend of working without rushing, getting the caretakers of the place initiated into Isha Kriya and many other Isha Yoga practices, reading, sauntering and indulging with an unique 100% vegetarian Japanese food. Its a great location to unwind, and to be in an ecosystem where the experience of the material and the mystic are intertwined nicely, and many avenues for being meditative and learning clay pottery,  painting, yoga etc. are easily accessible. We would recommend this place to anyone visiting this Himalayan Kingdom!

 

Until next time, Ciao!

 

Udagamandalam

An impromptu trip to the nearby beautiful Nilgiri hills of Ooty.

 

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It is 15°C and feels really nice. We are about 7000 feet above sea level, and it took us 100 kms to get here in about 4 hours. The roads were windy, making us giddy, also because we had chosen to start early, at around 4:30 AM, to beat the Sunday traffic, see the magnificence of the sun rise, and perhaps catch some mountain mist and bisons during the ascend. It was indeed nice upon arrival, the pleasant breeze, the radiance of the tea plantations over the rolling hills, bunch of houses stacked next to each other in cozy patterns of amoebic forms, and the unusually gentle intensity of the sun at that height, making it a memorable ensemble in this present moment, to experience the elemental nature of existence. It does get crowded at this “hill station”, a word perhaps borrowed from the British during their forced occupation, but nonetheless, the cooler climate makes it all worthwhile, considering the plains where we live has already started blazing at 36°C, and its only early April, the sun having just crossed the equator in its rhythmic ascend towards the Tropic of Cancer. The Northern hemisphere is going to receive a lot of sun in the next three months, and the temperatures have been soaring, particularly over the past decade, and it probably will reach the early 40’s°C by late May, where we stay. The one day impromptu trip to the hill station turned out to be a benediction worth noting for a long time to come. Just escaping to a 20°C drop in temperature, can put perspectives in order, and today was one of those significant days.

Any impromptu trip, which does not involve a planned assortment of “masala chai”, sandwiches lapped with pesto and tomatoes, and alternated with peanut butter, is probably going to face many challenges in its successful outcome, and neither of us four were known for such dorky mistakes. It meant getting up really early, to get things rolling, and it was not like we were trying to get up early to do yoga, in the auspicious “brahmamurath” (3:45 AM till sunrise, when the human system is in sync with the solar system), it was an impromptu day off, and it seemed quite easy to get up, shower, get the sandwiches rolling, bottle filled with filtered drinking water, thermos filled with masala chai, get the dishes cleaned, relevant oil lamps lit, decent clothes ironed, watermelon packed, bed cover spread appropriately, and get out of the cottage, at the appointed hour. It seemed ridiculous to be hitting the snooze button of the alarm, considering we woke up three minutes prior to the usually annoying buzzing of the alarm clock.

Impromptu holidays have a charm on the human mechanism, which can even awaken the nocturnal amongst us, to be pleasantly awake at the unearthliest hours of the morning.

We drove through the town, ensuring the pizzeria we wanted to have lunch at, still existed, and the owners and staff had the equal pleasure of our company, as we would have of their pizza and services, only after ensuring that the sandwiches and masala chai were savored affectionately, much before reaching the center of the town. It was only 9 AM and the town seemed buzzing with tourists from all over the country, attempting to escape the heat, and we were left feeling silly, that we weren’t the only clever folks who used such escape strategies. But, we had the territorial advantage of being from a nearby region, and knew the places which would be less crowded for our next move – a relaxed picnic in a meadow like setup, nearby the eucalyptus trees. We intended to relax, and we were not stressed about it by any means. It took another half an hour of driving up and down the windy streets, a few stops to take several selfies with the lavender-colored flowering trees along the rolling hills, and finally found a secluded spot, undisturbed by fellow brethren, surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees and pretty clean patch of decently and naturally mowed grass – our private meadow. It was the nearest resemblance to a meadow and we were not going to pass it by. We quickly cleared the trunk, picked up the nonalcoholic liquids, remaining sandwiches before the afternoon lunch, spread the cover, and before we could count ‘em ten sheep, I in particular was told to have disappeared in a dreamy state, with my favorite afternoon siesta, which lately I’ve been referring to as a “power nap” – some strange lingo I must have picked up, perhaps, during my corporate “hamstering” days.

It turned out to be an absolutely pleasant siesta, followed by significantly insignificant blabbers, random doses of laughter and giggles, sharing of stories, taking some selfies and some selfless photos, and simply being with friends for no particular reason, at this lovely  spot, on a rolling hill, somewhere in the western ghats of southern India.

It was not like we spent a lot of time together, or drove the distance only to gobble some pizza, with any serious planning for spending a day out away from routine work and blistering heat. It was a simple and impromptu holiday, mostly unplanned and giggly, going with the flow, keeping it light and fun, amongst friends, with some deliberately greasy and delicious choices of platter. We also managed to reach the pizzeria on time, ordered the sumptuous pizza, along with some pasta, gobbled them down along with continual laughs, and the pleasure to be amongst friends on a holiday, away from the 36°C plains weather, and submerging ourselves to the rosy 15°C weather for one day. Cheers to more impromptu holidays, time well spent with friends, relaxed and leisure moments in nature, and remembering that the softer and subtler moments in life, provides an immediate opportunity to experience the profoundness of life, which in itself is a fleeting and ending experience! 🙂

Sauntering Hues

Who knew sauntering amongst the spring hues could be so enriching! 🙂

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I am naturally nocturnal, born around 2300 hours, with a flair for being creative, attentive and tolerable, only in the wee hours. Other times, I have to exert effort to invoke socially acceptable doses of creativity, attentiveness and tolerability, and pretend my normalcy. Except, when the first rays of the sun starts hitting, in the early weeks of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when there is a slightly higher moisture content in the air, and the fragrance of the blossoming flowers & fruits gets mixed with the moist air particles, along with the aroma of the soil, which awakens upon receiving concentrated doses of consistent sunlight. There is something about this concoction of moist air, fragrant flowers & fruits and aromatic soil (AFFS – Air, Flower, Fruits, Soil) which wants me to get out in the morning for sauntering, although, admittedly, before it gets really warm. Living in a tropical belt of the planet, augments the early spring experience like no where else, just because of the sheer number of buds which start blooming, and the AFFS factor dripping serendipity unabashedly.

The trick I realized is to get out early, perhaps, 20 minutes before the sun is visible at the horizon, to soak in the cool darkness of the night, and experience the transition into the morning, as the orange fiery ball starts glowing from far, distinctly polarizing the planet into light and darkness.
Its a phenomena worth soaking in, and I have often found, I fall for it in the early weeks of spring, defying any nocturnal qualities.

Last week has been a series of such morning and evening walks, interspersed by a completely random afternoon downpour, of the cloudburst kind, figuratively speaking. Sauntering around in the 10 km radius, with nearby hills as witness, and soaking the sunrise and sunset has been a devout and revealing experience. This will all end soon, as I pull myself out of here for a few months, traversing countries for specific purposes, hopefully returning by the fall equinox, entering the calmness and inertia of autumn. The summer is avoidable where I’m based out of, and this seems like a decent plan, except, I’ll miss the morning and evening hues of the sky, and the incomparable beauty of the rolling hills which embrace me every time I step out, away from the useful world of computers, phones, tablets and books.

I have also found that sauntering the body and mind near sunrise or sunset, by making it available to the natural elements, has an undeniable impact of awakening them to experience the profoundness of life. The phenomena is unexplainable, and I’ve learnt over time, to stop analyzing it, and instead reap the benefits, with some nice walks whenever possible. Even the experience of drinking water and eating a nice healthy breakfast or meal, after such sauntering, has some special significance, which I’ve not been able to understand and prefer keeping it an existential mystery.

It just seems more delightful, as if the body and mind came back from a cosmic shower, released the collective cellular stress, embraced some natural enzymes from the atmosphere, and managed to sit humbly upon the throne of ease, to accept the rigmaroles of life with an embracing quality.
Well, I might simply be hallucinating all this for all I know, but it doesn’t bother me, since this is how I would like to feel anyways, with all the other striving I subject myself to.

Amongst all this blabbering, I have also realized that, such sauntering, at specific times, invokes an important dimension of being able to simply “wait”, and be available to the present forces of reality. As with other things, this too is unexplainable, but the feeling of being not scattered, not rushing, not forcing, willingly waiting, without a purpose or goal, becomes a welcoming tune within myself.

Its hard to express in words, but it perhaps is the closest experience of death, in a manner of speaking, where an undirected and purposeless silence and stillness dawns within, which naturally brings calmness, and slides me into an unique state of quietness and alertness, almost as if everything merged, and there is no where to go and nothing to get.
Its not eerie or debilitating in any way, instead, it is empowering and enabling in many ways.

Who knew, such sauntering hues could be so enriching, but its best not to believe these probable hallucinations, and instead wander out and get a whiff of the serendipitous dawn and dusk around spring time. Do drop me a line if you find the “wait” to be real, while I pack up soon and move on to the next phase of activities.

Hometown

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-26 at 12.26.55 PM

#Hometown #Nostalgia #Perspective #Seeking
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It is nice to feel nostalgic and have a romantic bias towards one’s hometown, as long as it remains confined to our memories, and does not obstruct our perception of present realities. Even a dense metropolis looks serene, when we’re not caught up in its own maze, from a far distance above. Distance matters, especially, the direction from which it is observed. A linear distance within a metropolis rarely screams serenity, since it can only scream of horns and hawkers, while a distance from above, can scream of beauty and beatitude. Perspective Matters, Opinions Don’t!
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When 20 million people live so close by, there’s bound to be minimal agreement amongst them, and restraining their cacophony is the last thing in their minds, to showcase a pseudo idea of civilized behavior under the guise of etiquette and social mannerism.

But, the opportunity to have a better survival then anywhere else, lures us to build up the steam in an already heated up city, and yet the menace created by the city life seems worthwhile after all. Taking infrequent nature holidays becomes the fad, at the expense of filling the bronchioles with some form of carbon on a daily basis.
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I grew up in this city, my hometown, some long time ago. This is the finer section on the map, affectionately called the “Queen’s Necklace” at the southern tip of the town, and it is a matter of wonder, if like the elusive necklace, the name was also robbed by the invaders during their brutal reign of over 200+ years. But, the spirit of the hometown does not get diluted by the violent strokes of history and its devastating recordings. Growing up, playing on the streets, running barefoot, drenched by monsoons, fascinated by real games like marbles and tipcat, hide and seek, board games when bored like Monopoly and Ludo, attending school while awaiting the 2 month summer holidays, the unfailing care from parents, the involved attempts by teachers to get us ready for the real world, the suburban train and bus commutes, and so many other things make up for many lovely and harsh memories, all clubbed together in a collage of impressions which stay with us, until we die.
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I may claim I’ve grown up, but I’ve a distinct feeling, I’ve only grown older, and growing up must be something else.

A friend send this photo from an aircraft, and as it usually happens with memories and photographs, an array of feelings and thoughts, interspersed with a collage of vivid dialogues, events and hopes from the past, flared up and a few unrealized tears must have escaped, in this bewildering attempt at figuring out the game of being born, taken care of, living amongst the herd, getting older, seeing elders die, and ending the game with an abrupt death.
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Nostalgia can be overwhelming and a much needed trigger for seeking existential truth, which we carefully avoid, knowing well, that without questioning and striving for some answers, its only going to bring confusion and paranoia as we age towards a finish, unless of course, some friend sends you an aerial photo of one’s own hometown of that elusive necklace.
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Rama Nayak Udipi

A delectable experience of a South Indian cuisine in Central Mumbai.

Rama Nayak Udipi
#RamaNayak #SouthIndianCuisine #Matunga #Mumbai
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For an eatery to exist for over seven decades, be celebrating their platinum jubilee, and still be appreciated for its simple food & ambiance, staff & owner courtesy, inexpensive billing and be frequented by the locals, is a feat beyond compare, in today’s fast pace world where everyone wants to go everywhere and try everything new, and the plethora of net-based companies providing delivery services for cheap & greasy food in a heartbeat.
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Rama Nayak’s, is an exception worth exploring, with a simple ambiance, located right off Matunga (C.R.) station in the bustling Mumbai city, it offers meals, which are close to some homemade meals & far better than many other homemade meals. It offers a remarkably clean facility, with an opportunity to visit the kitchen at defined times, with a smiley, meditative & extremely efficient staff, simple & healthy vegetarian food, while the original owner’s kin sit happily at the cash counter welcoming & guiding the patrons and pocketing the cash (no plastic, just like their plates) in exchange of a metal token which we’re supposed to put in front of our plates. The peach colored walls give a soothing feeling of ease, the sitting is mandatory in pairs of two & as we consume the much anticipated food for its simplicity and taste, it suddenly occurs to the palate, that not all meals be finished with a laxative. Interestingly, the first item served is a pinch of salt and they’ve traditional desserts to be decided upon arrival too, a  blessing for the sweet-toothed. Do drop in at this delightful joint on your next trip to Mumbai for an enjoyable surprise!
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Oh, did I forget to mention that they provide the services for “dabba” (“tiffin”, “carry-out”, “to go”) for us to take it with us for lunch before work or pick up after work for dinner, and this service by itself, is a benediction for anyone in the neighborhood, considering the fattening, unhealthy & unhygienic choices to consider otherwise, unless one still cooks at home.
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Please don’t mind the drag of this note, but the brag is all worth it & kudos to the Nayak’s for managing, maintaining & sustaining such an establishment with vigor & hoping to be around in 2042 to celebrate their first century! 🙂
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Nelliyampathy

 

#Nelliyampathy #Diwali2017
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Diwali is the festival of lights, on the darkest night of the year! The darker the night, the closer the possibility of light. While the country tweeted & trolled over whether fire crackers should be banned, firing nonsecular trolls via the latest platforms of communication, the social media, we decided to skip the noise about crackers, with a Diwali getaway to the Nelliyampathy Hill Station, part of the Nelliyampathy Forest Reserve (Western Ghats) in Kerela.
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At an average height of 900 meters, cultivated during the British Raj, there’s abundance of tea & coffee plantations, with few resorts, and we were delighted to be encountering the Nilgiri Langurs, a Barking Deer, Malabar Giant Squirrels, leeches, parakeets, a snake, on a 2-day nature visit, in an otherwise serene locale. Needless to say, the temperatures were pleasant, the meals delicious, stay cozy, company enchanting, drive curvy, as the entire green forest, compassionately spread its vast embrace, in anticipation of a few sapiens, escaping the 2017 Diwali fervor.
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We inadvertently started a few kilometers walk at dusk, and it turned out to be the most beautiful experience on the darkest night, without torch lights, the eyes gradually adapting to the darkness, while the earth rotates away from the sun to bring forth the Diwali night, suddenly exposing the hidden screen of the mind where our drama endlessly projects, on a pleasantly cool Amavasya night! It is quite fascinating, once the fear subsides, mind calms down, senses predominate, how the eyes start attuning to the light of the darkness and one suddenly becomes attuned to the oneness of nature, calmness of the being, moistness of the elements, caress of the breeze, drumming of the heartbeat, smoothness of the breath, only to find a few bloody leech bites after reaching the lighted rental home.
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Nature teaches in prolific ways, if we call upon it for learning. Fear can keep lingering in our life, to become the darkest experience & darkness can keep freeing us to our life, to become an enlightening experience!
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Amaize-ing Maize

 

Married to the maze of life, we walk into this natural, organic, amazing maize, aka corn, which was unsweet, un-soft, unmodified for yield or profits, untouched by the illusion of corporate progress, right on the streets of Kupondole, at about 4600 ft, charcoal broiled on an ancient cast iron grill, without any exhaust fan, fanned by a roughly rectangular cardboard, by a sweet & short Nepali women, perhaps descendant of an ancient Mongolian clan. This episode, took us 35 years back in nostalgia, once upon a time in Mumbai, when we used to savor such organic delicacies, during monsoon rains from the Arabian sea, from the local street vendor in his four-wheeled wooden cart. Its a-maize-ing how nostalgia dipped in present, can be so delightful, chewy & sumptuous!!! Experience: Priceless, Gratitude: Deep, Cost: 25 cents.

Lord of ALL Pashus

 

With original year of creation argued to be 400 B.C., this hugely vibrant Pashupatinath temple, stands intact post-2015 earthquake,  after being re-erected in the 15th century A.D., with the highly ornamented “Pagoda” style architecture, and is considered to be the head of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India, which are considered to be the body. Encompassing a vast complex on a hillock, with many small temples & huge trees, the four-face Mukhalinga in the main temple, is only one meter in height, can be attended by only 4 Bhatta scholars from Karnataka & helped by the local Bhandaris, but its presence can be felt all around the complex. The Bagmati river flows right by the Pashupatinath (Lord of ALL Pashus) & the nearby ghats provide a reverential escape for the deceased. Had a delightful 2 hour stroll around this amazingly charged up space, feeling the waters of Bagmati, monkeying with our ancestors, imbibing the energies of Pashupatinath & various other temples, and ending the stroll by getting a glimpse of a simple yet forgetting truth – of how everything ends & what really remains – at the ghat, where a 81-year old lady was cremated. Pashupatinath temple, although a bit of poor ambiance, has a major spiritual significance, intricate architecture with amazingly carved wooden rafters, use of all 3 base metals – copper, silver, gold – being very evident, and can be a deep meditative experience, for the ones who come prepared with an eased attitude, and can look beyond the nuisance of haphazard commerce, ignored trash & systemic pushing by the masses, ironically asking fulfillment of their petty wishes to a sophisticated Jyotirlinga, who’s energies are purposely designed to push us towards ultimate liberation – Go Figure!…

The Himalayan Kingdom

Its hard to miss the plight of this once beautiful & fertile valley at 1400 meters. A sniffing glimpse indicates a violent history of invasions & reign upthrows, political uprisings & royal massacre in once what could have been the serene kingdom of the Himalayas. Its easy to see the ensemble of organized religions providing relief to the populace. Kathmandu, with its 1.5 million people amongst the 30 million Nepalis, is a conglomeration of mixed cultures, turbulent past, chaotic present, western influence, unsympathetic government, docile populace, missing infrastructure, enchanting wooden carvings, eerie neighbors, but glorious hills & far-off snow-capped mountains of the Himalayan range, which somewhat eradicate the dearth of stability. Its a tough life, but people are seeped in devotion & exhibit an organic restrain, much to their chagrin. The valley demonstrates lack of O2 without a need to trek the Base Camp, & every1 visiting KTM should wear a decent mask & merge into the Himalayas right away…

Of Stillness & MO v e Me n T

 

The thing about staying put at one place is, you get an opportunity to integrate amongst the values of the land, beyond one’s conforming opinions, judgements and prejudices on how things should be. Nepal has an aura of stillness which ain’t eerie, bolted to the logistic madness which ain’t spooky. People know how to “wait” with an adapted or inherited air of dignity, and are generally not indignant in their actions, towards the lack of basic amenities. In stark comparison, it seems better to raise children where intangible qualities of stillness, idleness, silence are juxtaposed with their tangible desires, ambitions, wishes, lest we let them loose on an endless chase for serenity, without providing a way to remain grounded in the existential value of acceptance. Had an opportunity to be a spectator at the cross country cycling competition held amongst the Army jawans and was fascinated at the grace with which the participants competed & cherished their victory, the blessed silent stillness in the air, continually enveloping the fast moving mountain bikes, as the bikers hopped over the dirt pathways & flew past the occasional dips. Hats off to the organic serenity of this Himalayan kingdom, which is bound to rise back, to regain its faded glory, exhibiting an innocuous balance between stillness & movement!

Borivali National Park

#BorivaliNationalPark
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As someone wise could’ve said: “To be free, one should not be very busy. Life passes by fast, one should not miss it slowly.” A metropolitan city like Mumbai, has lots of thrills, frills & shrills, but to our absolute surprise & excitement, excluding the extensions of Thane and Navi Mumbai, it also has a 100 km2 protected forest, nestled within the city, in the northern suburb, called Borivali. The inappropriately renamed National Park is a beauty, which remains mostly unexplored, in stark contrast to all the jazzy offerings by this vibrant city, which never sleeps. The park, roughly occupies 17% of Mumbai’s 600  km2 acreage and is an absolute treat to visit for a hike. Admittedly, the periphery of the park is stormed by frequent visitors in this overly populated city for casual, un-nature like activities, but with the help of a forest ranger, called a naturalist, one can actually go deeper inside the park for a 6 hour, 12 km hike, to view the highest point of the city at 483 m & an aerial view of 3 of the 5 man-made lakes, which serves as the water reservoir for the city, and to be pleasantly awed by the flora & fauna of this gem, right within city limits.
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It is one thing to hesitatingly breathe the air of the city, nestled within a maze of train tracks & roads, which is unreasonably filled with masses overflowing the bogey’s and occupying the seamless pool of vehicles, trying to reach somewhere, in a purposeful & hurried manner, avoiding and disliking any diversions to their daily plans. Most people find themselves commuting a significant portion of their daily life on these roads & tracks and consuming the compromised air, one way or another.

In stark comparison, the National Park provides a hue, scenery & oxygen, once inside the fabulous density of the park, which is natural, freshening, a bit moist and tickles the nostrils.
The park is a necessary reminder of the possibility of visiting Nature, to understand our own nature, at such close proximity and expectedly, is infrequently visited.
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We cherish our misunderstanding of freedom as an act of being free from our necessary duties. Freedom from an act, which is necessary for survival, is an essential responsibility, while a sense of immediate freedom, is the process of having a really long term vision of our life, which includes our death, and prioritizing the blocks of activities and experiences we intend to have, with a sense of joy, knowing well that death can happen to us at anytime.
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Kiyosaki strikingly points out in his 26 million sold, famous book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad: “Busy people are often the most lazy… If they aren’t busy at work or with the kids, they’re often busy watching TV, fishing, playing golf or shopping. Yet, deep down they know they are avoiding something important. That’s the most common form of laziness. Laziness by staying busy.
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We like the original name Borivali National Park and would suggest to hike there and merge among the wonder, oxygen, fungi, large spiders crawling in their home waiting for a prey, anonymous & majestic bird-calls resounding a prayer, lizards, 360° breath taking views of the city, possibility of sighting one of the 35 leopards still prowling, long-tailed monkeys, archaic caves showing signs of intelligent water harvesting and a vibrant & dense natural ecosystem in action, inviting and belittling the hectic and maddening man-made ecosystem just outside the main gates.
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French Riviera

 

While the folks fume their fag to flames on the Riviera, forcing the rest of us to passive smoking, a 30 km bicycle ride from Cagnes to Nice, some ‘dipping to be skinny’ in the sea, an electrifying concert by Danakil at the Antibes coast, a soft surrendering attempt on Guru Purnima while gazing the full moon from the rocky beach & gastronomic delights of crêpes, croissants, cafés, poisson etc. makes a week love affair with the French Riviera and Alps worthwhile & a strong beginning for the 2017 summer. In the meantime, the Mediterranean Sea waves endlessly and yawns at our fleeting passions…

The Big Apple

 

NYC has always been intriguing since listening to Billy Joel’s NY State of Mind in the 80’s. The raw vibrancy of the city with the well-planned charades, makes it so enjoyable for walking, shopping, theatre, dining, trading, bicycling. The walk by the Hudson River at the Nyack State Beach Park made it all worthwhile. Apple Inc. may have a 500B market cap but NYC caps all the markets & will always remain the Big Apple 😉…

Mumbai

 

Mumbai is a sparingly enchanting megacity, with its vast ocean on the west protecting against any further development, few rare pockets of uncut reverential trees, maddened infrastructural advancements, an unique melting pot of varying cultures and a milieu full of possibilities for crowded activities, unexpected silent spaces, gastronomic delight, in spite of serious challenges due to excessive population, pollution & poverty, which is heart wrenching.