Saturday, September 13, 2008

Letter to Indian Mujahideen and Co

IM & Co,
I am angry and tearful and helpless, cannot make sense of this. I have lost no one I know so far in the second series of bomb blasts that I have lived to see in this city of Delhi- my home of ten years. Yet today I feel I have lost something. Tears well up in my eyes and my heart when I thing of the 20 minutes I spent in my car on a jam packed road between Lajpat Nagar and Dilli Haat desperately trying to hear my brother's voice at my phone's end. My brother's exams ended Saturday and he had told me he would go out in the evening and as news poured of the six bomb blasts in Delhi I was nervous, calling him up continously but with no luck as millions of Delhiites did the same for their loved ones and phone lines jammed. While I heard my brother's voice after the 20 minute ordeal, there were many others who did not and no one can imagine the hell they have been through.

I am sick of all this. I look at dustbins suspiciously, skull capped youngsters watching while I get into my car at the office parking lot at night make me nervous and I hate myself for this and I am angry with all those who are making me feel and think like this. Why, why why and how will anything be achieved by killing college students, weekend shoppers, parents, random people...what is this mission. I have read those crazed Indian Mujahideen mails and the irony of it. All I have to say to them from among the lines with which they open their vengeful mails- Whomever Allah has Guided will not be misled and whomever he misled will not be guided. There is a far deeper meaning in these lines than they seem to have figured.

Meanwhile Indian authorities will keep holding rounds of meetings while the likes of IM plans bombings in other cities and towns targeting innocent people of all hues. While we need tougher laws, strong deterrence effects and a pressing need to keep building bridges between communities, terrorism has to be renounced in one voice and louder than any blasts. There is no place for terrorism and for hidden wars. Nothing ever will be achieved with it except creating distrust, suspicion, communalism, riots and more mails ad blast- its a vicious circle IM, grow up.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Its Jodhpur

Jodhpur's Mehrangarh fort is maginificent and so alive. The shenai and tablas played by locals at the entry, the grand museum, the Sheesh Mahal like dancing rooms, winding stair cases and the intriguing 'jharokhas' for the women of the Rajputana to view the happenings in their mahal- its just so waiting to spring to life. Imagine being a woman within such forts with jharokhas, sheesh mahals, watching the King watch women dancing. Strange. And the hand prints of all those countless women who dived into the fire filled 'jauhars' to salvage their honour. Phew.
Outside you can see the stamp of the new age royalty. The Umaid Bhawan royal residence cum museum cum five star hotel is modern, real, tangible. I prefer Mehrangarh though- its so damn riven with character.
80 kms off is Osian- great place to catch some fun in a sms version of sorts of the great Thar desert. A couple of sand dunes to get the desert feel, the touch of smooth sand slipping under naked feet as one climbs up and then slides down the golden flowy mountains of the desert. Next time, I will see the real thing at Jaisalmer. Goodbye to a vacation I shall always remember fondly.

Pushkar Tales

We reached Pushkar at 10 pm and the small town was like under curfew. But then there was some bhajan and shayari that wafted with the breeze along the mellowed Aravallis. The only place we found open at that hour was the Sunset Point and it was love at first sight. So boho with its colour heavy decor, cane furniture, arty lamps and an enviable menu. Whatta line up right from a chocolate pan cake, pastas to desi paranthas. Sitting pretty with its translucent drapes and oh-so-bohemian feel, Sunset Point is right on one of the ghats across the holy Pushkar lake. After a great dinner and some stretching out of sore limbs, the best thing to do is to just sit quietly near the lake side and let the pleasant and breezy silence of the welcome darkness wash you over and over till you feel there is something that's just so peaceful about the place. During off-seasons ofcourse.
The Panditji at Pushkar lake next morning related a mythological tale I had never heard before. Here goes the story of Pushkar and the genesis of Ved Mata Gayatri who gave the power packed gayatri mantra to scores of Indians. Lord Brahma was to perform a major yagya and when he was all set, the priests reminded that he must be accompanied by hsi wife for the ritual. His son Narad was asked to get his mother Mata Savitri to the spot as soon as possible. However, Narad being Narad decided that it would be against his true nature to not cause a tiff between his parents now as he did with everyone he meane. Accordingly as he told his mother of the yagya, in teh same breath he suggested that the occasion demanded she dress well and arrive with due pomp and show. Savitriji concurs and takes her time while the priests are ruing that the 'muhurt' will pass with further delay. So they come up with a bright one- a local Gurjar girl is 'purified' and wedded to Lord Brahma as Gayatri devi and the yagya is completed. Savitri arrives just to see the end of the story and flying into a rage diminishes Brahma's holy status casting a curse that he would never be worshipped anywhere else except here where the flowers from his palms fell- at Pushkar where the flowers fell to form a lake. The holy lake by the way is not as inviting to take a dip in. Really big fish can be seen swimming at the shores, gulping down every flower in sight- that, say the pandits here, keeps the lake clean and rather green. BTW the lake is said to change colours according to seasons. In mid July it looked a bright mossy green. Nice place.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Delhi to Jaipur in an Innova packed with 8

The road's alright and the toll is high. But the destination can bowl you over. And I am not talking about the oft visited Jaipur. There is so much more to Rajasthan. Jaipur is just the gateway and does not prepare you for the countless havelis and forts you will find staring at you out of nowhere. Once again I hit the road to one of my ever favourite destination- Rajasthan- a place I ancestrally hail from and a land I feel a soul-strong connection with. Here starts the whirlwind journey I plan to stretch out longer over the years.

Jaipur has never been my favourite Rajasthani city but since it fell on our way to the picturesque Jodhpur, we decided we might as well troop our way through the Amber Fort. Everything at the Pink City’s fort is under renovation and appears quite in disarray as of now. Though no heritage conservation expert myself I quite did not like the paint shades being brushed up on the entry areas of the fort and it just did not look authentic enough. The ‘Sheesh Mahal’ is decidedly looking better though and they plan to charge people exorbitantly for a peek into the mirrored walls of the famed royal boudoir after the renovation is completed, the informed guide at Amber told us.
Highly recommended a look into the Rajput style air conditioning system of those days and the existence of a palace for every season- winter palace which got enough sun, the summer palace with smartly crafted stone tunnel based air cooling systems and ‘jaalidaar; windows drawing in the saffron laced cooling aroma wafting from the Kesar Garden beneath and a monsoon palace with ‘Sawan ka jhoolas’ and a mirror on top so the queen could catch herself in the mirror as she enjoyed the swings. Do take a photograph of the woman’s only section with small ‘jharokhas’ for the ladies to watch their husbands got to war. And then there are the queen size bed like ‘Kadhais’/vessels to cook for the army. Don’t miss the huge canon visible near the fort walls- reminds me of W B Yeats poetic fascination with the Tower.

I quite like Jal Mahal just along the road down from Amber. The romantic sunken palace. Untouchably scenic.

Then there is Chowki Dhani- an ethnic Rajasthani village created by artifice some 15 kms off Jaipur. Verdict- great for NRIs and not bad for Indians also. With Jaadugar and Kathputli shows its back to childhood capers along the streets. Then there are some good folk dancers as well who have a keen eye for foreign visitors and. Camel rides, elephant rides are all there besides the beloved Jyotishi ji (Astrologer). But what’s the best is the food. The Rajasthani thali served in just the right ambience, seating on mats, pattals or dried leaf plates, bajre ki khichdi, daal, besan ki sabzi and pyaz ki subzi, makke/jau/wheat rotis and jalebis- quite a mouthful. I missed bajre ki rotis thoughL. Overall quite a likeable experience.

P.S.- Nice stop over on the Delhi-Jaipur route- Moti Mahal somewhere along NH 8. Fresh food. Great pakoras