Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to deal with hurt?

How to deal with ‘hurt’?
Now that is not easy! Yes dealing with ‘hurt’ is not easy. You can deal with hurt by decimating the person who has hurt you but very few of us are in that position and then there could be disastrous consequences not only due to law and order machinery but psychologically too.  Some of us are tough and you may feel that ‘hurt’ does not hurt them but that is not true. However here my discussion is primarily regarding sensitive people who get hurt easily and for whom it is a gigantic task to get over ‘hurt’s. I may add here that I am one of them and would also like to add that I am no expert at getting over ‘hurt’s without feeling hurt. Then why am I writing this? It is because I have lately been hurt very had but at the same time have discovered some marvellous ways to get over ‘hurt’. How did I do that? Did I meet someone who gave me a magic wand? Yes that is partially true but mainly it is blessing of God that he gave me ‘nirmal mati’ as my Guru Ji used to say. For those not native speakers of Hindi ‘nirmal mati’ could translate as unblemished intelligence. Unblemished because it is not affected by our biases and experiences of the past. That is what we have to work on but it is not at all easy. Ironically the more intelligent one is the more difficult it is to have ‘nirmal mati’. Well that is a slight digression from the topic but remember ‘nirmal mati’ can solve a lot of your problems.
Coming back to handing ‘hurt’ Well! Handling hurt requires a lot of unlearning basically. Most of what we learn as we grow up is popular learning, it is not the ideal learning but since that is the type of learning we will find everywhere we have come to believe it to be the ‘ideal’ learning. Most of us are destined to die believing that to be the ‘only’ learning unless you are lucky enough to meet great saints. The only true knowledge is enshrined in our religious books; that is the knowledge unlikely to change due to fashion or tradition and that knowledge comes free only problem is that in coming to us that knowledge has been greatly corrupted due to wrong interpretation. Interpreting ancient knowledge is the job of great saints, unfortunately  they are very hard to come by.  So you have to unlearn that ‘hurt’ really hurts you; it does but it shouldn’t.  I am sure you must have heard of that story about Buddha where someone comes and spits on Buddha in public. Obviously Buddha did nothing about it and did not react the way we would do. Christ never called out to people from the cross and tell them to go take vengeance for his death neither did he call up to the heavens and say ‘bring down your fury upon this land and decimate this king and his kingdom’. I am sure very few of us were hurt by ‘hurts’ such big; most of us have to deal with minor ‘hurt’s.
Talking about myself, I was a man ready to kill for the smallest ‘hurt’ as a young man but now I look back and analyse how I blundered, blundered because ‘nirmal mati’ did not come to me.  As I grew up I realized that God had visited the most fearsome vengeance upon those who ‘hurt’ me and my loved ones. I shudder to tell you the details. They were punished in the most awful way and for a couple of them I felt really sorry and moved to tears at the plight of their family. Did God watch me carefully and went out with vengeance to those who had ‘hurt’ me? I do not think so. It was their ways which brought them to the sorry end they had. I remember very well as a kid about the ‘hurt’ my grandfather had to go through. He was the most  respected gentlemen of the locality. When he used to go out strolling almost everyone bowed to him. He had a very big ego which I guess anyone in his place would have. One day a man slapped him in public. My grandfather was deeply hurt and planned all kinds of vengeance against the man but he was not up to the task and nothing happened. It greatly upset my father too who though a very calm man was enraged by the insult to his old father. A few years later the man in his thirties committed suicide. It was not just what he did to my grandfather his ways were bad and he was destined to come the bad end. I can narrate even more ghastly stories but that is not necessary what we have to learn is that those who ‘hurt’ are destined to be punished. It is automatic. It is like four plus four is eight. So we have to stop hurting people ourselves first and then realize that God is there, he is running the show and he has been running it from time immemorial. The most beautiful lines from the Bible which always reassure me are “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
You have to have some faith in a power beyond you that makes things easier, even a cynic  like Dale Carnegie has said that citing the example of his parents whose faith in God kept them going even after their crops were destroyed year after year.
It is not an easy thing to do to cope with hate so I have evolved a method for it. I do not always do it that way but it is pretty much the same flowchart. When I am really hurt by someone against whom I have no power say for example my fathers’ customers I just seal my lips and leave the venue as quickly as possible then I start doing mantra jaap, I may add that for mantras to be effective you need lots and lots of practice though if you are really faithful it could work quickly for you too. After doing ‘mantra jaap’ I start getting normal and ‘nirmal mati’ floods me with its comforting ideas. I start to realize that the man is on the road to cardiac disease perhaps coupled with diabetes and later neurosis if he loses his temper so quickly which is true and any doctor would vouch for that though I have met a couple of villains who do not fit in with this. This realization makes me understand how lucky I have been to fully understand the implications of losing one’s temper, not that I do not lose my temper, I still do but the episodes are decreasing in frequency dramatically.
Finally I pray to my ‘isht dev’ to deal with the person as he deems fit. I have stopped asking him for vengeance because past history shows that his vengeance is terrible. I do not ask him for vengeance anymore because I fear I could be sinning myself that way. That does the trick most of the times but when the ‘hurt’ is really bad it could take almost a couple of days. Previously it used to take months I may add.
Another very important thing is we have a lot of time on our hands to get ‘hurt’ that is the prime culprit. If we have identified ourselves as being too sensitive we have to get really busy. This is not my conclusion but that of a very highly paid and decorated psychologist. He went on to add that being very busy was the panacea to most psychiatric problems and a sure means to prevent them. He was treating my aunt who used to imagine herself having a disease and used to actually have that disease soon. She was a horrific case of neuroses. The psychologist was too expensive for poor people like us so I used to listen carefully to whatever knowledge he would give us gratis.
At the workplace getting ‘hurt’ is going to increase in geometric  proportions because pressure of work will increase as India too is ensnared by corporate culture. Corporations do not want employees to unite and they go out of their way to encourage animosity among the employees so most of the young people have to steel themselves psychologically. My brother could not do that as an employee of one of the world’s most famous corporates and he had to quit. I do not blame him and to be fair he learnt a lot at his workplace and travelled abroad free. He does not regret leaving the job he had an alternative career ready but most of us cannot do that.
Another very easy way to steel yourself psychologically if you are a Hindu is to learn chanting from an expert. You can even search for it online. Once you learn to chant properly you will not need to read any books on steeling yourself against ‘hurt’. The compassion will flow from inside you. You will feel compassion for the one who has ‘hurt’ you and it will not feel like hurt at all because your ‘nirmal mati’ will shower upon you the knowledge that will comfort you. Why the person ‘hurt’ you? Did you unconsciously ‘hurt’ the person first? Your animosity will evaporate in thin air and every creature you meet will appear to you to be the son/daughter of God and thus someone you must be compassionate about. That is sometimes difficult but once the right frequency is found the resonance will cure you.
This is not an article by an expert but by someone who has suffered ‘hurts’ from a family of very sensitive people. I have stumbled upon some solutions that is all. Please feel free to comment or criticize. Finally a word of caution – do not become a punching bag for all people who want to ‘hurt’ you. You must if possible let the person who hurt you know that you will not take insults but it must be devoid of violence, that is the main thing to remember it must be a conscious protest not compulsive. Avoid toxic people, not if you can but you must go out of your way to avoid toxic people at any cost.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lucknow of my childhood!

Lucknow of my childhood was a city in transition. It was marching towards  being the focal centre of the India’s most populous state from the Nawabi past. Back then it was a truly tier four city; but the city that the Nawabs created, true to their own personalities, it never wanted ‘to be at the ‘forefront’. The Nawabs were laid back kind of people they had their own parameters of greatness.

As a child I did not realize the importance of the Nawabs but as I left youth behind I realized that they had solved one great problem that still threatens to disrupt peace in India ; they brought about communal harmony. Except for a few isolated instances Lucknow has been the very picture of communal harmony in the last two centuries. So the influence of the Nawabs was heavy in Lucknow of my childhood but it was definitely on the wane. The advent of electronic media in late seventies and finally the corporatisation of media sometime in the early nineties killed Nawabi Lucknow. I suppose in another half a decade that old Nawabi Lucknow would have died completely never to be heard of again.

My earliest memories of Lucknow go back to mid seventies when our maid, whose family lived in our huge house, used to take me out to see a bear dance or a monkey dance by ‘madaris’ who used to visit our area at regular intervals. It was the era of etiquette though the fag end. I distinctly remember two brothers both ‘nau’ technically barbers but rather the messengers attached to privileged families. These can be compared to the proverbial ‘butlers’ that we see in movies and have read about in books. Those brothers were in their 80’s and 90’s. They seemed to have travelled down from the fabled Lucknow of nineteenth century. The elder brother was very tall and stately and wore the very best ‘angarkha’ having priceless ‘chikan’ embroidery. No money can buy that garment now, I know because I have tried. His advice was taken on most matters involving elaborate rituals like marriages or deaths. He used to boast that that he had himself organised the marriage of my great grandfather. I did not see much of him because he died immediately after my grandfather. His brother however lived on to, some people say – a hundred. I may add here that these people never ever appeared in public without a cap. So I saw much of this brother due to his being the sole ‘nau’ after his brother’s death. He announced his arrival by saying loudly ‘ Hum aate hain’ so that the ladies could prepare themselves for the arrival of a ‘stranger’. He waited and came up only after invitation though as you can imagine he was a very very old man.

When I was really young there was no television. Our only entertainment was going out to a park or occasionally to a circus or very seldom to cinema. Cinema was not considered fit for children so it was in rarest of the rare cases that we were allowed to watch movies. Television entered our house with my aunt. She brought it as dowry. My grandfather, my biological grandfather that is because my father was adopted by my father’s uncle, fell in love with the idiot box. It was financially a very bad period for us but since we were landowners we were not supposed to do any work and my grandfather used to watch the television the whole day. Being poor was no impediment anymore to our getting entertained. I used to join him in watching television too and we got along very well.

As I grew older I discovered ‘Ganjing’. Now that is a word with unknown origin but every Lucknowite back then knew what it meant. It really means taking a stroll in Hazratganj the most posh area of Lucknow during my childhood. Genuine Lucknowites to the best of my knowledge do not do Ganjing anymore because ‘poshness’ has moved to the malls in Lucknow. In our times though it was different when Hazratganj was the place with all the action in it. The place was dominated by aristocrats and the rich people of Lucknow who either watched a movie in the cute little Mayfair theatre or had coffee with celestial sandwiches in Kwality restaurant in the same building. My childhood was dominated by poverty since our lands were shrinking due to distress sales and our tenants were refusing to raise rents; ironically my desires were many and expensive ones. Sometimes I did manage to watch movies in that fabled cute little theatre – Mayfair. These were the best movies of their times or should I say all times. In this theatre inter alia I watched Guns of Navarone, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, McKenna’s Gold, Ten Commandments and many others.

This was not all the building had to offer, it also housed the British Council Library, where like many other Lucknowites of those times I learnt most of what I know. I read virtually the whole of classical English literature. We were so enamoured by everything British back then; it was only in the university that I began to realize that most of the ‘culture’ of the British was copied from the French and sometimes the Italians.

One casualty of ‘the tyranny of masses’ has been the cuisine of Lucknow. Do not be fooled by people who advertise their trash as ‘cuisine of Awadh’. Let me say it emphatically the cuisine of Lucknow is dead! Or at any rate it has disappeared from Lucknow. It may be living in a posh hotel in Mumbai or overseas but the real Awadhi cuisine is dead! I have seen it dying with a lot of pain. Being vegetarians we have had little exposure to the non-veg delicacies but being in constant touch with connoisseurs of non-veg Awadhi cuisine I think we can safely say that the golden era is gone. This happened because of two reasons first Awadhi cuisine is very very complicated and time consuming and the second – it is very very expensive. One cannot mass produce good cooked food that too is a bit of problem for food vendors. People today want food quickly and do not want to pay much for it too. In my childhood, Hazratganj again was more or less the place to be in for good vegetarian food.
I mentioned Kwality restaurant before and that was specially famous for English breakfast items and ice cream. I simply loved their tea and sandwiches specially the egg sandwich. Due to our limited means I can count on my fingers the number of times we visited the fabled restaurant. Further eastwards were other fabled restaurants of Lucknow – the original Royal Cafe and opposite it Ranjana restaurant.  There were one or two bakeries but I do not remember their exact locations now all I can remember is that we could not afford their stuff! There was another pure vegetarian restaurant in the heart of the city in perhaps the most congested area called Aminabad this was the restaurant of our dreams it was called – Gyan Vaishnav restaurant. This may sound rather dramatic and too sweeping a comment but I can say with certainty that no restaurant in India could have matched their ‘rajma’ or ‘baigan bharta’ both these dishes were celestial. The restaurant changed many hands and deteriorated in quality and has finally closed down. The secret of course lies in the complexity of the cuisine. It was too long and time consuming a process cooking the vegetables very slowly over coal and maintaining the right temperature. The trick was also in the spices. The spices of those times are just not available these days simply because they were too expensive and no one buys them anymore.

Back then marriages were very elaborate and the cuisine in marriages of privileged families had to be impeccable and no expense or pain was spared to make the parties the very best. My most distinct memory from those times is the taste of the ‘sherbets’ though. The ‘khus’ sherbet of those times has simply disappeared from the market. No amount of money can bring back that taste. I am told it was mixed by hand back then and not brought in ready made in glass bottles like we have today. The other ‘sherbet’ was the ‘gulab’ or rose ‘sherbet’ which I did not like much but it was a hundred times better than what we have today.

It was not all a rosy picture though in my childhood in Lucknow. There were very few opportunities to progress financially. Those who had money seemed to be getting richer but we who had lost a fortune had no hopes; it was much later that our financial condition improved due to father’s entrepreneurship. But thankfully people respected us and admired our family. Many of them fooled my grandfather and extracted from him whatever little he had left. I believe cheating and cheating one’s own relatives was something very common back then. It has decreased a bit these days but it could be due to minimal interaction between relatives and more opportunities to earn money honestly. We have more money sometimes more than we need but we have fewer friends and little time. Lucknow of today has more opportunities but soon it will cease to be the Lucknow that we all have read about in books and seen in old movies and which I have experienced firsthand. For all its flaws and shortcomings and erosion of culture Lucknow is still a hundred times better than any other place I have visited. My brother went so far as to say ‘Lucknow is better than Paris – simply because it is so expensive out there in Paris!’

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Uttar Pradesh: decoding the enigma

I must confess at the beginning that the heading is a bit misleading but I liked it so much that I decided to keep it that way. Perhaps no one will ever be credited with fully decoding the enigma that Uttar Pradesh is so I must not have high hopes of being the exception. I have often thought why UP is treated the way it is treated and what exactly makes it so unique and in some cases scary. Why UP and UPites are ‘lawless’ broadly speaking and why they are looked upon with fear in large parts of India.
As a young man I was extremely offended when people talked in unflattering terms about the state as I belong to a family which has been a resident of the state for nearly two centuries. In the last five years when my sudden urge to visit Hindu pilgrim sites took me to remote areas of India as well as the metro cities; I have understood that notoriety of UP and UPites is well earned.
We have to understand that the real pathos of the situation lies in the fact that UP is the land of Rama and Krishna the greatest heroes if not Gods of Hindus. Lord Rama it must be added was ‘Maryada Pushottam’ meaning a person who zealously clung to honour and led an honourable and exemplary life. It would appear logical then that the inhabitants of the state would be more ‘religious’ and gentle then the other states of India but this is clearly not the case. This in itself is very mystifying! Apart from this UP has been the birthplace of some of the greatest saints of modern times like Swami Brahmananda Saraswati who trained some of the most famous saints like Swami Shantananda and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. So clearly religious richness of a state, almost the cradle of Hindu civilization was not lost. The state also gave birth to a lot of Sufi saints and great masters from other religions. What then went wrong or what then was always wrong?
I am yet to meet an intellectual who can fully decode the enigma that is UP. Yes that is one of the biggest enigmas yet unsolved. What is wrong with the land of Gods? Well I guess therein lies the answer – Gods; a part of answer though. Gandhi Ji was a great thinker there can be no doubt about it. Great people sometimes make mistakes but they were great because their thinking was original. They sound ridiculous because their ideas were not in sync with contemporary beliefs or even modern beliefs. I am sure many ideas of Gandhi Ji were too repulsive to people back then. I have a feeling that his stay in foreign countries opened up his mind. He had access to some of the greatest literature of his time and this is what enabled him to look at Hinduism with a near objective viewpoint. He got it right or nearly right when he said that Hindu epics are full of violence, when I first read it some three decades back I thought it was only his obsession with non-violence that made him say it. Like I said in the beginning he got it nearly right. The great Hindu epics though seemingly full of violence are no different from Bible in this regard. I am quoting the example of Bible because I have read major parts of it and many parts of Bible appeal to me very strongly, but if Bible is read by a layman without the help of an expert it could be a big disaster similarly with Ramayana and Mahabharata. My Guru of journalism used to say if Bible is read, specially the Old Testament, without the help of an expert or a good book of commentary one could find parts of it indecent. I may add that he himself was a devout Christian.
Another aspect that one has to remember is that in Hinduism popular belief is that if God is happy with a person He will give him whatever he desires whether the person deserves the things or not. It is my belief that large parts of UP where these epics were actually played out have in their ignorance extracted events and sayings of the epics without expert guidance and in isolation of other events. For e.g. killing of his own relatives by Arjuna, well and it makes me laugh, Arjuna was most averse to doing what he did and then he was guided by the very Lord - Krishna himself. Ordinary people are not supposed to do what Arjuna did; they have no need to do it. But killing is dramatic it is fascinating to most people; it is populist so this particular aspect is extracted and the very intricate sermon by Krishna is discarded.
Every Tom, Dick or Harry in UP wants to play the violent king and people of UP so obsessed by the wrong things in the epics, love to be afraid and rally behind such dons/gangsters. We must be having thousands if not millions of these small time dons in UP. They give assurance that once you come under their benevolent shadow they will give you everything whether you deserve it or not and they will create all the loopholes you need for bypassing all the inconvenient laws. This type of thinking is absolutely at odds with modern institutions and laws. But in UP religion is supreme.
The region tolerated the British for a hundred years, suffering and saying nothing but the moment the British interfered with religion we had the so called ‘Mutiny’ of 1857! The British managed to escape being annihilated by the very skin of their teeth in this one! They were good and quick learners, they never again interfered with the religion of the ‘natives’ in a crude kind of way. They perfected the fine art of divide and rule and our politicians took on from where the British left off.
So belief in fate and too much religion and total lack of respect for laws and modern institutions is what UP is all about. Another thing that may or may not have happened is that the British had a very tough time in UP and of course Bihar, remember Mangal Pandey was from far eastern UP that is one of the most backward areas of UP. Could it be that the British deliberately allowed the recalcitrant areas in the two states to remain backward, without modern education and helpless in the hands of local war lords? Though giving eight prime ministers to the country except for Atal Bihari Vajpayee no one seems to have done anything revolutionary for the state. Did it suit the politicians in general to keep the largest state in India in poverty and poor education so that they could manipulate the voting patterns? This is what I found on the internet, I do not agree with it completely. My belief is that there is a bit of truth in it but the soil of UP was fertile for such mischievous ideas. People in UP never believed that the government is beholden to the populace in a democracy, that the government simply has to perform. They probably believed that according to the epics, it was their fate to suffer in poverty. They had their epics to run to for solace.
One may argue that it is not only the Hindus that live in UP a very large Muslim population lives in the state too. Yes that is there but my belief is that on the core issue Muslims are not much different from Hindus and unconsciously they have learnt the habits of Hindus. Both communities rose up as one when their religion was touched in 1857. A UPite is a UPite first and a Hindu or Muslim later. The belief that all rules will be kept aside in granting riches if one is in good books of God is not an alien concept in any religion so far as I know; only in UP it appears the belief is specially popular.
This does not of course mean that there are no non-violent and progressive people in UP but yes they are not mainstream. What makes matters worse is that mainstream media never shows a mirror to the majority it only shows what the majority wants to see. This was not always so but this has been the greatest tragedy, a global tragedy in the last two decades. It makes it worse for progressive ideas to be spread far and wide.
The worsening of reputation of UP in the last two decades in UP is clearly due to rise of regional parties and fanning of communal and casteist emotions. Even the most suave, educated and polished person in UP has some casteism in him, and yes I have met quite a few. Casteism permeates everything be it academic institutions, business or politics. This has been very unfortunate for UP. The institution of caste has to be shattered with a sledge hammer but with the rise of regional parties bent upon splitting society on casteist lines, we are getting away from an ideal casteless society. This again is in keeping with epics very few of which discourage a casteist society. Once caste comes into play backers of a candidate from a particular caste are ready to condone the most horrible crimes the man in question might commit leave aside the very question of asking him to perform. This is very convenient for professional politicians most of whom are there only for money.
In epics and most religious books characters are in black or white there are no shades of grey, which happens only in Hollywood; Bollywood is yet to get there fully. So likewise in UP you will find either a blood thirsty fiend or a perfect monk like holy person. This reminds me of an incident in Allahabad where the head of an ancient temple gave me his own footwear, the only pair he had and went about barefoot for days as mine had been stolen from outside the temple. I have also had the opportunity as a journalist to meet at least two people who later went on to become dreaded dons. Even policemen were dead scared of them. They were pure evil and in typical UPite don style they promised to do absolutely anything for me I just had to ask them and they would not refuse any request.
This is an ongoing research and as I meet new and more intelligent people both physically and on the internet perhaps I will be able to unravel fully the enigma that is UP.
Please feel free to comment!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Was a ban on Nirbhaya documentary justified?

At the outset I must confess I have not watched the documentary because I could not find it anywhere but I have read a lot about it and have a very good idea about the contents. I think it was unwise to ban it simply because these days millions of people can upload banned stuff on millions of sites and have the authorities looking for them in vain. Anonymous netizens will upload important parts of documentary even now after youtube removed it.  A ban therefore is not practical.

Things are not hunky dory in any big European city including London from what I have heard my brother say who is a regular visitor to Europe due to his job. No Indian documentary producer has however made any documentary on violence against women  or abuse of children by clergymen in the west. An Indian film maker just cannot imagine doing it because he looks up to the west for inspiration and accolades. That said one will simply have to accept the fact that not only Delhi but a lot of Indian cities are unsafe for women and banning a documentary cannot change that. The change has to come from within the system which is rotten to the core. Every entity has played a part in rotting of the system, the government alone is not to blame. Electronic media airs news basically centred around cricket, Bollywood and TV soap operas. Is that the ideal content for news in a country where people do not know from where their next meal is going to come? If media focuses more on injustice that a common man has to put up with everyday in India, the authorities are bound to sit up and take notice. Now this documentary did just that, it showed the raw horror of what happens to a helpless victim when half a dozen delinquents totally devoid of fear of law, decide to shatter a family’s dreams.
What happened in the aftermath of Nirbhaya case was witnessed by the whole world on their TV screens. It horrified some of my friends overseas so much that they actually emailed me and asked whether it was safe for ladies in my home to stir outside the house. Banning the movie on the pretext that it shows interviews of under trials is simply not correct our very own Kiran Bedi as per a BBC journalist allowed interviews of several under trials when she was jailor of Tihar jail. Afzal Guru was interviewed while in jail too. Interview of one the rape accused Mukesh Singh is thus nothing new and if anything his very fearlessness should shake the law and order machinery out of its complacency. I have often observed that it is the innocent who is afraid of the law and order machinery and the delinquent elements think of it only as a bit of machinery that can easily be manipulated. In many ways the documentary holds a mirror to Indian society which has to bring about a sea change in its outlook where rape victims are not treated with sympathy but as people who themselves have committed a crime. That said the government must also pursue relentlessly anyone who might have broken laws to facilitate making of this documentary for monetary consideration or otherwise since the law of the land is supreme and greater than any individual. Vital changes have to be made in justice dispensation system so that unscrupulous lawyers who have no fear of law think a thousand times before making statements like the defence lawyer made on camera. We do not need vigilante justice like the recent unfortunate incidents in Dimapur in Nagaland where a mob lynched a rape accused in public about whom later people doubted whether he actually did commit the crime or not. Justice has to come from designated bodies like in any civilized society but justice must be swift and just. Banning the documentary is like sweeping the trash beneath the carpet, it just will not work.

Let us hope that with the new government at the helm there will be no need for another Nirbhaya documentary ever.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My visit to Lord Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu

Embarked on a journey for Darshan of Lord Pashupatinath in Nepal recently. Below is the hurried travelogue of the holy journey. I will add pics and maybe videos to it soon.
23 Oct 11:05 pm – Boarded train no. 15008/LJN MUV express from Lucknow Junction station.
24 Oct 6:30 am reached Gorakhpur station on scheduled time
Got out of station and without waiting left for Sunauli the last stoppage before Indo-Nepal border on Indian side. Gorakhpur is not exactly famous for courteousness or honesty so I was expecting neither but the driver was a rather nice guy and we reached Sunauli in nearly two hours. The driver charged me Rs. 1500/-.  I was carrying my pass port as an id proof but neither the Indian immigration people nor Nepalese immigration people were interested in me since I was an Indian. I went to both the offices to make sure I did not miss any paperwork. Paperwork is required only if you are carrying a vehicle with Indian license plate into Nepal. That could be tricky I was told.
I had no prefixed plans for onward journey into Nepal. Once you cross into Nepal you land into Bhairahwaha or Siddharthnagar. It is a much undeveloped town with very little facilities. From my knowledge gathered from internet and bits of info from travel agents I could make out that there was an airport at Bhairahwa and that I could get a ticket at one of the several airline counters.
I quickly changed money from a bearded Muslim guy who used his waistcoat pockets as his bank lockers. He quickly gave me Nepalese rupees at the rate of 1.6 Nepalese rupees per Indian Rupee. In Nepal Indian rupee is popularly referred to as IC and at least in Kathmandu IC is accepted as freely as Nepalese rupee but the catch is that they do not like big notes like 500 and 1000 rupee notes so I had taken along lots of 100 rupee notes though that proved to be quite cumbersome.
At Bhairahawa parking I again met the driver who had brought me in from Gorakhpur. He offered to take me to Bhairahwaha airport for another Rs.250/- so I agreed. Bhairahwa airport is really a joke of an airport but the Nepalese staff is extremely polite and helpful both the airline staff as well as the police. I went to the first airline I could spot which was Yeti Airlines. The man said the flights are full and my heart sank but then he asked for an id proof and I presented my passport to him and he said there was one last seat for Rs.3900 approximately. I told him to give me the ticket right away which he did along with a pack of biscuits. The security check was hilarious but the man was extremely courteous. There was no X-ray scan just frisking. After the security check I was ushered into a medium sized hall full of Indians and tourists from, as far as I could make out, France, Japan and USA.
In a few minutes a really tiny cute little plane from Yeti Airlines showed up. The ladder was so hilariously small I almost laughed. I looked more like a plane from World War II movies though it was, as I later found out, a rather newish production a Jet stream.
The airhostess was very very polite and in a few minutes we were airborne. I took the liberty of taking out my camera and photographing the Himalayan mountain range though my vision was blocked by the turbofan engine of the plane to a great deal. The pilot was a lady but she flew the plane most smoothly and with no jerks or pressure changes.
Soon it was announced that the plane was about to land. I was flummoxed because there seemed to me no open space for a runway. We were right on top of densely crammed together houses but a landing strip soon appeared and the plane landed smoothly.
I was anxious all the time for my checked in baggage but I soon spotted it in the cargo cage and requested the airline bus driver whether I could pick it up out of turn, he allowed me and soon I had my precious baggage in my hands. The bus driver was all praise for India and said “I love India!” to which I answered “I love Nepal!” so this was a good beginning!
The departures terminal was even shabbier then the Bhairahawah airport but the people again were very friendly. I took a prepaid taxi for Nepali rupee 500 to Pashupatinath temple. I wanted to have darshan as soon as possible but felt extremely tired. I was told the aarti would be 6 pm.
Now was the turn to find a hotel. I located a neat looking hotel belonging to Indians after seeing a couple of other hotels. This hotel was Hotel Maharaja Palace right on Tilganga road and what sealed the decision was that the Shikhar of Pashupatinath temple was visible from my room window.
I checked in and ate a hearty meal in the hotel’s restaurant which served vegetarian meals freshly cooked. I wanted to take a small nap but dozed off and slept for nearly an hour and a half. Then I quickly woke up bathed and wore a new dress and after wearing my slippers and leaving behind my mobile and camera set out for darshan. The taxis in Kathmandu charge rather exorbitantly though they are really the discarded Maruti 800 mini cars from India and very poorly upholstered. The minimum that I could negotiate with them was Rs.100 in Nepali currency for the shortest distance. I took one such taxi and he took me from a roundabout way to the entrance of Pashupatinath temple. It was early yet only about 4:30 pm so I spent a lot of time sitting in front of temple gate and counting beads. At about 5 pm I decided to enter the temple. The temple gates were open but the gate of Garbha Griha or sanctum sanctorum were closed yet. It may be mentioned here that non-Hindus are strictly not permitted inside the temple according to temple rules.
I lingered around the sanctum sanctorum and started counting my beads there and to my amazement I found the temple to be extremely beautiful. It is built in Pagoda style with gilded top and all the doors covered with solid silver sheets. Outside the sanctum sanctorum are two figures of kings of Nepal prostrating themselves before Lord Pashupathinath. The decoration all over the temple, which is mainly made of wood, is extremely intricate with great attention being paid to detail. Not a square inch of space is left undecorated. It is not advisable to carry eatables inside the temple as an army of monkeys is always on the lookout for exotic delicacies though they are well fed otherwise. The temple staff is extremely friendly unlike most temples in India. One is not allowed to go and touch the shivalingam and has to watch from a distance while aarti is performed. I stayed for a long time in the temple as I could not take my eyes off Lord Shiva and left only with a heavy heart but having a sense of being blessed by Lord Pashupatinath himself.
The darshan done and my job over I suddenly became very homesick and wanted to return back home the very next day. I tried my luck at Yeti Airlines which has an office on Tilganga Road but the lady told me that the morning flight at 9AM for Bhairahwa was full so I rushed off to Buddha Airline office half a km ahead. The guy was closing down the office but as a special favour he again checked his system and said there was one ticket left for next day’s flight but it was held by an agent. I again ran to Yeti Air’s office and pleaded with the lady for a ticket for next day’s flight but she said everything was booked out. I returned crestfallen to the hotel but mentioned the fact of my not finding the ticket to the hotel owner. He immediately arranged for a ticket for me and there I was booked back to India the next day!
25th October 2014 – I could hardly sleep and walked down to the temple in the morning. It was so peaceful and serene. I did not enter the temple though just bowed before Lord Pashupatinath. Then I walked down to shops selling Prasad and flowers. What I actually wanted were pictures of Lord Pashupatinath.
I went back to the hotel and had some breakfast with owner of the hotel.
Soon I checked out. The waiter brought me a taxi which charged me Rs. 500 Nepali.
Reached domestic airport. By mistake I had brought along a Swiss knife key ring so the security guy plucked off the Swiss knife and handed over the keys though very politely.
It was ok with me! Rules are rules!
I waited and then went for security check which was better than the one at Bhairahawah complete with and X-ray machine. After security check I found myself in a large hall crammed full with people but the vibes were good all around, not something one experiences generally in India. After about fifteen minutes we were ushered into the airline bus.
Buddha air ATR was in an excellent shape and the two airhostesses were extremely polite and helpful.
Soon we took off.
Flight took only 35 minutes!
At Bhairahwaha luggage collection was easy. Most passengers left for Lumbini. The Nepali drivers and rickshaw pullers started asking for insane amount of money to take me to Sunauli the Indian border. I decided not to co-operate with them. I waited for an Indian taxi but none turned up. Soon I saw an educated Nepali gentleman turn up in a battered jeep. I requested him to drop me to the border he agreed but the Nepali taxi drivers started a verbal duel with him too. He scolded them severely and said to them that they were standing on the land where Buddha was born and they had the bad manners to misbehave with guests from abroad who had come on pilgrimage. This cooled them down a bit but I do not think this is going to change anyone. Perhaps they had very strong reasons to do what they were doing. The gentleman had mentioned at the outset that he would not be able to go all the way to Sunauli but would drop me at a place where I could get a bus. It did not work out though since all buses were crammed full and I ended up paying a taxi guy just about the same amount the guys at the airport were asking.
I managed to reach Bhairahawa border taxi stand. A taxi guy approached me for drop to Gorakhpur for only Rs.1100 it was a large air conditioned taxi so I agreed. The guy was very nice and dropped me at Gorakhpur railway station. After making inquiries I understood I was not going to get an inch of space in any train so I decided to drive down to Lucknow in a taxi. It was tough almost 300 km and more than half the day gone.  Finally I found a taxi at the station itself which agreed to take me to Lucknow for Rs.6000 including toll tax expenses with I later realized were almost Rs.450.
The taxi driver drove like a man possessed and we were in Lucknow in almost five hours which was excellent for the areas we drove through!

So it was back to Lucknow safe and sound...God willing will go to Lord Pashupatinath once more!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review of Lunchbox starring Irrfan

This is my first movie review and a series of awesome movies from a few talented and courageous directors like Tigmanshu Dhulia, Anurag Kashyap and Ram Gopal Varma absolutely forced me to take up movie review writing.
Coming back to the movie in question Lunchbox, watched it a couple of days back in Lucknow. I could guess the plot from stuff on the movie that one can find on social media. But my guess work was not altogether correct second half of the movie has its surprises. The character of Saajan Fernandes has many layers and his innate goodness shines through in moments that would have had even the most virtuous fall. I think this was the high point of the movie for me at least. But this is most subtly portrayed in the movie and the credit for this goes to not only Irrfan but the screenplay writer too. The Lunchbox offers a release from the drab and uninteresting lives of the two main characters but the force of habit and limitations of a middle class life are too strong as shackles to break. Watch the movie to see how it turns out between the two main characters. Any words used to describe the talent of Irrfan are words wasted because it appears as if Irrfan was created by God only to act. He has successfully put life in otherwise dead movies by his very presence. In this he resembles Marlon Brando and Rajesh Khanna who could carry the weight of dead movies on their soldiers. What happens when such an actor is supported by good direction and a very engaging story – sheer magic happens.  Nimrat Kaur plays the part like a veteran of many movies though this is her first movie. Much credit must go to the makeup man who changes Irrfan’s makeup subtly with each new turn in the plot. Direction is near flawless though I personally never liked open endings. As a middle class and middle aged person myself I can relate very much to this masterpiece by Ritesh Batra. Bravo!
Hope inspired by such movies, Bollywood takes a new road lately travelled by Tigmanshu Dhulia, Anurag Kashyap and which was created perhaps by Ram Gopal Varma.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

First Lucknow Tweetup in 2010

Around August 2009 I came onto twitter and after that there was no looking back! I have loved twitter in all this while and found it an awesome source of knowledge. What differentiates twitter from other social networking sites is that there is so little element of anonymity and in general people who are active on twitter are highly educated and discerning individuals, there may be exceptions but in general the active ones are the very serious ones.

I had been thinking of a tweetup in Lucknow which is actually a 'meetup' of people active on twitter. Now Lucknow, to be honest is really not one of those cites where social networking sites are used by a large part of the population no it is not that way at all. I was not able to convince many people to come to a tweetup and had almost given up but then came this guy Gaurav Srivastava a software engineer, he had kind of dug his heels in and so this first tweetup happened. He named this 'when Nawabs meet' so I instantly thought of the fitting venue for Nawabs and that could only be Falaknuma roof top restaurant in Hotel Clarks Awadh the best restaurant in all Uttar Pradesh at least to my thinking.

Finally we met on 30th Jan 2010 and the tweetup started at 1pm and was scheduled to last till 2 pm but actually finished at about 3:30 pm. It was a blast. Falaknuma made everyone happy and I do not think any other venue could quite have brought about the desired effect. It was attended by me twitter username anuragkumarlko; Gaurav Srivastava twitter id sangfroid; Surendra Gupta twitter id SurendraGLKO; Raza Hasnain Naqvi twitter id RazaLucknow and Ashish Chandra twitter id AshishChandra.It was also attended by Mr. Manish Chandra Pandey Principal Correspondent Hindustan Times Lucknow who very kindly agreed to join us along with his colleague Mr. Dheeraj Dhawan who photographed the tweetup.

We had some really awesome food which included two types of veg kebabs - Surendra Gupta just loved the Hariyali Kebabs; two types of veg biryani with raita and one special pulao. You must be wondering why I never talked about what we discussed well I did not because our talks would have powered a battle tank we talked so much and we talked such innovative ideas. I can never put all that down in words it was so fascinating, those people had awesome ideas.

Hope others will take up the baton from us and organise many more tweetups in Lucknow. We made history in a way and well we did our bit for Lucknow! That was my primary concern - Lucknow - as far as I can help it I will never allow Lucknow to lag behind.

Now enjoy the pics!