Thursday, June 30, 2011

Uttarakhand Tourism welcomes you to Pithoragarh

Of the famed Kashmir beauty, I had only heard… One visit to Pithoragarh (PTH) and I’m already thinking, if this place, often touted as the miniature Kashmir because of its geographical features, is so beautiful, what would the real thing be. Small villages scattered in an extremely green Soar Valley, ice-capped peaks in the distance, clouds floating above houses and hotels, beautiful soft-spoken Kumaoni people – all set to leave you wondering why on earth has this place not been on the tourist radar so far…

It is then that you also realize the answer to the question you posed to yourself... It is then that you remember the scary hairpin bends and steep landslide-struck roads that you negotiated to reach this place from the more famous Almora! Almora is around 4 hrs from Kathgodam (the nearest rail head - KGM). Then you travel for another two hrs before you reach Daniya. The road gets adventurous after that – and the last hour of journey after Ghat – it is surely not for the faint hearted!

But if you braved those roads and reached here, its time for some bliss... terraced fields all along the hill will be the first thing that catches your attention...
Complete hills have been carved into concentric circles of farms (apparently if want to purchase farmland, you need to purchase a complete circle). The town is not really blessed with the best of hotels but then, for an outdoor person like me, it didn’t really matter. In the distance, on a clear morning, you can see the Panchachuli peak from very close outside the main town. The church at the Chandak pass gives a panoramic view which is sure to leave you flabbergasted for not having come here earlier...

I had to travel further the next day and so retired early the next day. Nothing is as refreshing as waking up to the early morning sun. Leaving at 6, I set out for Dharchula – a small town around 4 hours away – on the Indo-Nepal border. From Jajar Deval (just outside the main town of PTH) to Kanalichina, the roads were pretty good. If Ghat-PTH road was tough, the road there on is perilous! Of course, the extremely cautious and experienced driver (Bhuvan) made it more of a joyride. A few miles before Joljibi, you meet the river and then on, its a journey with the cascading river as your companion. The Gori and the Kali rivers meet under a hanging rope bridge which connects India and Nepal. It is where you realise what absolute BS it is for man to create borders – exactly similar terrain and people (in fact even the currency) on both sides of the ‘border’! Leave alone everything, the chai in the same small glass tumbler tastes exactly the same!

Here on its pretty much a nice ride in the river-valley – on the Mansarovar Yatra Route - till you reach the NHPC colony and the military area of Dharchula. Dharchula is a warm place (a comfortable t-shirt would be ‘good’ attire) situated in the valley along the same Kali river. Oh btw, from Joljibi to Dharchula, the Kali river acts as an international boundary between India and Nepal! You can cross over without Visa and can carry personal daily goods but nothing tradable. You buy a Pepsi bottle woth Rs.25 – give a Rs.50 note – and get Rs.40 back (exchange rate is 60paise to a Nepali rupee) :D The hotels leave much room improvement. Rains are frequent and heavy at this time of the year (pretty much through Apr-Sep). No phone connections work except Nepal Telecom (the STD Booths charge Rs.10 per min to call India).

The return was tiring - one that even gave me a sun-burn because of the harsh mountain sun! I travelled to Haldwani in 12 hours - battered and tattered but extremely satisfied and pleased :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rest In Peace

The city ringed with fire, police bell
The city was picturesque, a living hell
Amidst this a drunkard lingered on
Life was long, endless night without a dawn…
Out of the shops, buildings was thrown he
Silent as the idol, looked on Thee
Laden with heavy armour, masked
Finally a policeman stopped, asked
“Don’t u want to return to house,
Seeking u are ur children, spouse?”

The drunkard put his hands in pocket
Tears rolled down his deep eye-socket
Out of his shirt, he took out some ash
Just then there was another splash
“This is my house”, he said, “my wife.”
“Burnt as you can see is my life.”
“Out of these my children call out.”
“Can’t u hear, feel them shout?”
I die. Do me a favour, will you?
Please cremate me, O please do!

O god! Please take me to them
Take me away from this mayhem.
This was one or many, no one knows
To tell the exact number, none too close
O leaders of religion, please wake
Life you know, is not a piece of cake
Some years of life we have on lease
Let us live, at least “REST IN PEACE”
Let us live, at least “REST IN PEACE”

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Analysis of Baba Ramdev's Demands

My Analysis of Baba Ramdev's Demands

Disclaimer: I'm not for corruption. Completely against it. I accept I might (surely would) have indulged in some form of corruption over my life and thus claim no moral right against corruption. But yes, I consider blackmail to be the biggest form of corruption - and 'fast-unto-death' is blackmail.

    Tough Lokpal Bill; death sentence for the corrupt
Death Penalty in the Indian Constitution is awarded in the rarest of rare cases. And as far as I know, corruption surely not amongst the ‘rarest of rare’. There is not a single instance of a person being corrupt – it’ll always be a huge group of people who are corrupt. Until of course the aim is to reduce the population of India, this demand is surely not viable.
    Return of all black money stashed abroad
How? Are the Swiss Banks liable to Indian laws and ordinances?
    Abolish Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 currency notes
This almost seems like Faking News! Let the government bring the inflation to negative such that the 500 and 1000 rupee notes are not needed. In the current India, can any sound-minded person tell me this demand is valid!!! Reissue of currency - isn't educating people on counterfeit notes a better option?
    Replace the British systems with Indian alternative
Such generalisations never work. British Law is also based on “Natural Law”. If you are so bent of changing the laws, ‘Civil Society’ has two eminent Lawyers on-board. Why don’t they tell the government which laws need to be amended? Many laws have been amended in the past and many more can be – at least point out what needs to be changed! “Change British systems” is a foolish generalisation!! Similarly for education – Run any institution you want – if people believe your system is better – people will join your system.
    Reform in the electoral system; Prime Minister is directly elected by people
There are pros and cons of this. Calls for a big debate. But yes, there is not sure way of saying the direct election will elect any better person than the current system. Might, and might not. So no comments.
    Ensure all citizens declare their incomes
This is more Chidambaram’s demands too...!!! How? When people build wealth in the name of charitable insstitutions and educational institutions, how do you make them disclose their incomes!
    Promote Hindi (almost the expense of English)
Haven’t the Chinese been lesson enough...!!! They are all set to conquer the world – not by inhibiting English but ensuring kids learn English. I really don’t understand what it is that populist leaders have against English. Do anything to develop your language. Why curb the language that is going to propel the Indians into the global league – accept it – it might be bitter – English is now the ‘official’ language of the world – and anyone would do well to be well-versed in the language – even if forcibly.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Never Let Me Go (2010)

There has to be something about dystopia that gets my fingers moving on the keyboard faster than ever... First it was 1984 and now this... Just watched the movie “Never Let Me Go”. It is one movie that you will want to see even if not for Keira Knightley :) No I’m no pessimist who believes dystopia is coming and mankind will one day submit to the dystopian thought depicted but yes, it does get me thinking, “What if...”!!

Warning: Plot Summary discussed here...

In a British school set in almost perfect scenery of grasslands and dotted with trees standing over fences, students are taught to be themselves completely healthy as they are ‘special’. What is so special about them – they are being grown for organ donation!!! It is no science fiction mystery where the dystopia is revealed at the end... It is right there – in your face – watch further at your own peril - types. The idyllic cinematography makes the thought a little less scary than what it would have been had Christopher Nolan handled it with shocks and surprises...

Amongst this unnatural setting is where a love triangle develops between Ruth, Kathy and Tony – though each one of them is ultimately aware of the inevitable – their untimely yet predictable death (known in the film as ‘completion’). There is hope developed through a rumour of a ‘deferral’... Even I thought there might be hope in this dystopian land – but there was none. When Tony thinks art might the route to getting referral, he is very courteously (or curtly) informed, “We didn't have to look into your souls, we had to see if you had souls at all.” Ruth goes first – left to die on the operating table as one of her vital organ is removed and put into a bag (Yes, I told u, its right-in-your-face stuff...). Tony’s eyes look towards Kathy, the ‘carer’, as he goes under the surgeon’s knife – for the last time.

The climax is hauntingly relieving – Kathy receives the date for her first donation – she would soon die too... or should I say, she would complete. And as she says, “We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through, or feel we've had enough time.”

My throat went dry as the credits rolled down the screen... Were my eyes watering – no they weren’t – the shock had left them dry too. The handling of the love and death makes this one must-watch movie though the scary background makes it “not for the faint of heart”. Leave your mind at home and watch it with all your heart – you will enjoy (ok I really dunno if I can call it that) this melodrama no end...