Canadian siesta!

Friends, before I go to the main subject, I want to inform you that for the next few weeks, there could be a delay in publishing my blogs. I have joined an online course at Oxford University, which has a ten-week duration. I need to study, attend discussions, and so on! The course is an advanced course in creative writing. I have never attended such a course before for obvious reasons, but I thought the course would help me become a better writer, it will help me organise my thoughts better. I have no ambition to become a professional writer, but whatever little I write, I will feel happy if I become more accomplished in what I do in future. Some friends will thank me for writing less! 🙂🙂

You must be wondering why I have used the word siesta! A siesta ([ˈsjesta]) (Spanish, meaning “nap”) is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm. The word is used in the context of Mediterranean countries where the siesta is a part of the culture. But for Jaya and me, the cold weather puts us in Siesta mode whenever there is an opportunity. Cold is how I am defining the weather, but some of the young gang is seen on the road, moving around in shorts and T-shirts! We both manage to sleep deeply at any time of the day; all one needs is a warm blanket. At 5 am the temperature is 8.5 deg! It is only the beginning of September.

I am, of course taking feedback from Nikhil and Priya from their short stay in Montreal of 3 to 9 months. I have visited advanced societies world over, many times, but I am every time amazed the way these societies operate. I am not talking about technical aspects but the human elements. I have written a blog about Indian psyche a few days back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/new-rto-regime-and-indian-psyche/

I always feel that we are in denial mode and are proud of the chaos and lack of self-discipline that we show in the society. Maybe sometimes we are even proud of these things. We feel that basic indiscipline is our birthright. The other day I was in Model Colony for some work. In Deep bungalow Chowk they have put up dividers, some temporary and others permanent to smoothen the traffic flow. Ganapati pandals are supposedly allowed to cover 1/3 of the road during the festival period. The pandal did cover 1/3 of the road, but the organisers are not bothered that the road now has a divider. Simple maths says that currently only two-wheelers and autos can pass through that area of the road. How do other vehicles go? Obviously on the wrong side of the divider!  Is anyone bothered? I don’t think so.

Montreal Marathi Mandal program was held in a church, where there was a decent hall available. The enthusiasm of all was seen to be believed. I met a few people who started this activity in Montreal in the year 1982! Kudos to them for the consistency. Montreal appears to have a smallish Indian community so continuing it for more than 35 years is creditable. More than 100 people were present. A group of young and not so young volunteers did all work including logistics, arrangement and later cleaning etc. Great job, guys!

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Similar programs are done in India but the general confusion, deafening music, and we have unnecessary disagreements with authorities on everything, taking shelter behind religion!  India’s population is so large that a huge crowd is always present, and generally, there is reasonable discipline during programs. Why is the behaviour of the crowd disciplined to chaotic? What reasons could be there for this changeover?

I have seen a large crowd and their behaviour during the Cricket World cup finals (2015) at Melbourne, Australia. A total number of people present were 93000 plus. Right from arrival of spectators at the stadium, to dispersal after the end of the match was very organised. In between people were also disciplined during the usage of food courts and washrooms. There were long queues but there no jostling and pushing.

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Whatever little I have seen in Montreal till now was found very neat and proper. There is a lot of road repair work going on everywhere. On checking,  I found out that during harsh winters due to snow, road repair is not practical. Add to this maximum temperature of 35 deg in summer to -35 deg in winter must be creating road and pipeline issues regularly.

Comparisons of small things always are made in mind. On particular days, the garbage trucks come in to pick up the garbage in Montreal; okay nothing great about it. But In Pune, the vehicles come every day, but in certain areas, they run a song requesting people to come out with garbage bags! Why do people need to be coaxed every day to put away their garbage? Don’t we brush our teeth every day? We don’t put on an alarm to remind us to brush!  In olden days a guy used to work in my office. Those were the days of the pager. He had a field job and would come to my office every day at 9; we would discuss the work, and then he would go on the field. He would fit his pager in the trouser belt. One day, I saw that he had know pager. So, I asked him where his pager was? He lamely said that he had forgotten. I told him that since he had come to the office wearing a trouser and the belt, there was no way he could give the lame excuse of “forgot.”  Some of the things in our lives become our second nature like driving a  car, using a washroom, crossing the road when we have the right signal. But why do people break so many small rules so easily?

One interesting thing I saw in Montreal. People of different age were seen running on the footpath so that they didn’t miss the bus which was arriving. Once I was standing on the bus stop watching people (my favourite past time!). The people had already done their job of getting down and getting inside. Almost for one minute, the bus did not move! Then I observed that the bus driver had seen a lady running to catch the bus; he waited till she reached and climbed in safely! What can we call this? Basic courtesy? The natural thing to do? I have not seen this courtesy in most other cities.

Before I travelled to Montreal, I was told that French is the first language, and so on. But for visitors like me, when I start speaking in English, people reply in English. The reason could be, computerisation has made English a global language and secondly I could see people of many nationalities present on the streets. Canada’s liberal policies of immigration and support to refugees are increasing the number of people speaking different languages, making English a common link.

I will share more about culture and traditions as I explore more of Montreal in the coming weeks.

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Cricket World Cup 2015 final!

Today the 2019 cricket world cup has started. The event took me back to 29th March 2015 the day on which the final was played for that world cup. It was played at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia. For the records, Australia beat New Zealand by seven wickets. I had been planning to see the live final for a long time, and we could finally make it to MCG. This is neither a blog nor a travelogue. I am just sharing my memories with you.

It all started in an unplanned way, as usual. It was the end of February 2014, and I had just completed my cancer treatment. Since I had nothing to do, I was surfing on the net. I looked at world cup cricket details and found that the ticket window had just opened. I asked Jaya, “Should I buy tickets for a Cricket match.” She said, “Let us not rush into it. First, you recover from the treatment, and then we will see.” I said, “The match is much later.” She gave a go ahead. I bought the tickets for MCG for the finals. She was surprised but happy. She thought I was talking of an IPL match!

Well, I informed Ranjith, who lives in Melbourne about the tickets. He sent a message to me that one of his bedrooms was booked for us! We decided to take Delhi-Melbourne, Air India flight. At the immigration, when they saw that we were travelling to Melbourne, there were no questions but a great bonhomie. The folks told us to return back with the world cup! Our family friends Dr and Dr Mrs Harshe had also travelled for the match. On our flight, there were about 40 people who were going for the game.

By the time we reached Melbourne, India had lost the semis to Australia. But our spirits did not dampen; the final at MCG was the calling! Many people had travelled from India with the hopes that India will reach the finals, but it was not to be! The D day arrived. We were about 6 km from the stadium. Two of us, along with Ranjith and his family, decided to travel by Trams. People were encouraged to use public transport to avoid traffic jams. We had to change the Tram at Flinders railway station. All the Trams were jam-packed, but the rush was not “felt”, but the atmosphere was created! Weather was sunny, but Ranjith had advised us to carry a jacket because the weather was expected to turn cool during the second session.

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Our walk to the stadium was about half a km after the Tram ride. But never even once we felt the great rush or any chaos. Everything was very orderly. I was wondering how many people were going to attend the match. Each person had to get the barcode on the ticket scanned for the turnstile. There were many entry points, and it did not look crowded at all. I was surprised to know that the attendance was 93103! So many people, but there was hardly any rush, jostling or pushing anywhere, starting with the Trams, the turnstile, the eateries, the washrooms! At the end of the match, the spillage of beer was the only indication that so many people had attended the game; that too, because people carried six beer glasses at a time! People sitting next to us were New Zealanders and chatted with us a lot as we were also backing New Zealand.

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The match started with McCullam getting out in the first over for zero! He was in top form in the tournament, and his failure led to New Zeland scoring a very non-competitive score of 183 which was overhauled by Australia losing only three wickets. (If you remember, in 1983, India had won against West Indies in the finals, after scoring 183) Johnson and Faulkner took three wickets each. Elliot scored a graceful 83 for New Zealand.

Since us desi folks were hoping that India will reach the finals, 20 to 25% people for the match were Indians. They were fully prepared for the game, musical instruments and all. After the game, a few troupes danced a great bhangda outside the stadium.  During prize distribution ceremony many greats and dignitaries were present. Longest clapping and cheers were obviously for Sachin! He is extremely popular in Australia as he has always given them a high competition even in Australia!

What was my take from this match? Humans are all the same where ever we go in the world. But public discipline in Australia was excellent, as expected, the desis also behaved in a disciplined manner, while in Australia. What happens to many of our brethren when they come back to India is difficult to judge. With ninety thousand plus people, the cleanliness in the toilets at the end of the match, and general cleanliness in the stadium was to be seen to be appreciated. Australian backers were throwing expletives towards the New Zealand players while the match was going on. Those who were a little high because of too much beer were a bit too excited but were kept under control by their friends. But overall, the proper play was appreciated, and the Cricket’s four-year jamboree was celebrated by all!

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On the way back to Pune, we had planned to see the 2019 world cup final, but alas, it is not to be! Maybe in 2023?

Mahabaleshwar Jaunt!

This week, we had a quick family jaunt to Mahabaleshwar. We are in mid-April, and we were there on weekdays. The “season” apparently had not started. We had all the Mahabaleshwar to ourselves. There was no rush, no crowd, the atmosphere was peaceful, everywhere. I went to Mahabaleshwar after about three years. One thing I noticed was cleanliness. Where ever I went, to main market road, the “points” there was hardly any sign of Kachara. The hotels and restaurants where I went also were spick and span in this respect. I hope that this is a sign of things to come in future.

We visited the Kshetra Mahabaleshwar where there is a Mandir. The place is the source of five rivers Krishna/Koyana and others. Let me say this in advance that I am a little away from Mandir circuit and I may or may not enter all the Mandirs where I go. I do not want to say something to disturb anyone’s feelings, but I write about my observations. Outside this Mandir, on the left side, there is dry gutter with a sloping wall of a house. Every time we go to Kshetra Mahabaleshwar, I rest there while others visit the Mandir. It is an enjoyable place, and it has almost become a tradition for me to lie down while others go to the Mandir. This time I treated myself to a selfie!

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It was quite warm yet peaceful because there was no crowd. Though I was pleased personally, it must have been tough for shopkeepers, restaurants and business people in general. The place is generally choc a block with people. While I was lying down, I saw someone coming with two plastic bags full of small plastic empty bottles used for serving water. (especially on flights) These were delivered to a shop. Priya gave me an update that these are used by shopkeepers to sell “holy water” from the source of the river! I smiled. Priya did not buy.

I had “my time” for two consecutive days for slightly more than an hour. I left the hotel room at around six am. I had my cell phone with me on both occasions but only as a habit. On the first day, I walked to Kate’s point. The path was covered with tree arches with my friends chirping away to glory. On the second day, it was a lawn in the hotel, with a prominent raised platform where I could sit; no one else had woken up at that time when I sat in that place for an hour, I could distinguish at least 15 different bird species chirping. There may have been more, but my hearing capacity may not have been adequate to distinguish. There were trees around with a lot of flower plants. I went and checked each flower for details. Was I meditating? No, I had my eyes and ears open, and all I could hear was nature. The rustling of tree leaves, faint scents of flowers, beautiful mix in colour Kaleidoscope created by nature showing a vast range of colours. But HIS capability of producing so many shades of green was what impressed me the most. While taking my walk on the first day, the different varieties of trees with unique shapes, some had a lot of leaves and others were bare. Some trees had thick branches which had become horizontal due to nature’s forces. I wished at that time that I was at least ten years younger biologically. I would have surely climbed up to take a nap on them with a cool morning breeze around. Surprisingly, even our ancestors, the monkeys, were also sleeping.  One more selfie!

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We decided to visit the Pratapgad area, without the climb as we had Rhea with us and the temperature was against us. It was noon. We were in for a pleasant surprise. A village depicting times of Shivaji Maharaj was created. They charged a fee which was peanuts compared to what we saw. It was neat, the show was impressive. It seems that they have a small theatre where they show some films about Shivaji’s times. The statues they had created and the atmosphere were very impressive. The guide they had provided was enthusiastic, but she could have been trained better. The washrooms needed improvement according to Rhea’s report. I will suggest all my friends to visit this place. I have seen such a show for the first time in India; we have a lot of cultures and should create similar ways of letting others know about our history.

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On the spur of the moment, we decided to drive down to Kolhapur to go and take darshan of Devi Ambabai, before coming back to Pune. Our driver suggested that being a Friday, there could be a bit of rush, but it was manageable. I went to pay obeisance to Ambabai after a few years. Apparently, with the security situation prevailing, there are some changes made. Why all the visitors were told to remove footwear outside the premises, was not understood by me. It was around 3 pm; there was a scorching sun. There were some mats thrown in to walk on, but they were not adequate. Walking with no footwear appeared to be compulsory penance. What about very old and young? Even I had difficulty walking, but nobody seemed to mind. It is a practice to sit inside Mandir premises for 5 to 10 minutes. I feel that it is the correct practice. When you come to any Mandir, you should keep some time for HIM! It is not like you go to a restaurant, take a quick bite and go away. Unfortunately, there was no place to sit. Some people were sitting on the bare floor, luckily covered with a Shamiana to shield people from the Sun.

I always feel a bit out of place in any Mandir. I bow to God, I do Namaskar to God; people follow many different rituals. Whether they do it knowingly or unknowingly, I am not sure. While I was sitting in the Mandir, there was some chanting going on in another part of the Mandir. I asked a few people around to understand what was going on, but nobody seemed to know. Then I asked a lady running a shop about the chanting. She said that on every Friday, a Pujari chants one thousand names of goddess Ambabai. At least two hundred ladies were attending the chanting. They had a plate in front of them. I was told that they have a Yantra, a holy replica of Chakra in the dish. With each chant, the ladies were applying a small portion of Kumkum or Vermillion to the Yantra. I asked the lady what, what is the purpose of doing it, she smiled.

In India, we have a fascinating combination of modern way of life and traditions. I feel that whatever one’s belief’s, one must visit different parts of India to understand and see this great spectacle. Yes, in Ambabai Mandir too cleanliness was excellent but for a few pieces of plastic bags etc. I will share with you my experience of a visit to the Golden Temple many years back. Outside the Mandir, there is a vast empty area which was very clean. While we were waiting for our car to arrive, I saw someone drop some paper on the ground. Nobody said anything to that person. The moment that person was away, a volunteer came and picked up the trash. They did not argue with the person nor did they humiliate him. They call it “Kar Seva”! In Hindu temples also we should start the culture of Kar Seva. Let us spread the culture. For those who do not know about Kar Seva, the volunteer services are offered by poor people as well as wealthy people on their own. God brings everyone to an equal level!

Back to Nature!

My friend Anjali made a beautiful comment when she shared her observations about nature. On a WA group, there was some discussion about the bird Swallow. She said, “You may not see them much in Mumbai as we rarely watch open sky in Mumbai. But I have observed them in Pune and Vadodara. Swallows nests are art by itself, the way they create them. There are many birds which I have seen sitting on the parapet which reminds me of my childhood.” 

Thanks, Anjali for taking me back to my childhood in Mumbai and Pune. Even Mumbai in those times was leafy, and Pune is still quite green. Over a period, some trees were required to be uprooted in Pune for redevelopment, but many new ones have been planted. We humans tend to forget the nature in our rush to live! What does nature do to your persona, your mind, your stresses? I go for my daily walks. My preferred time is 5.30 in the morning. In winter, I do not hear any activity of birds as Sunrise is away. But now with the onset of summer, one hears a lot of chirping going on. Probably Moms are waking up the kids to get ready for school! I walk a treelined path, and by the time I end my walk, my body is fresh due to exercise. In my mind, I feel as if I am in heaven as I see the different shades of greens, summer flowers and listen to the songs of birds. All this is accompanied by a cool breeze Modern young fellow humans walk with the earbuds and are busy listening to music or talking to someone on the phone. Once I had the opportunity to speak to a young lady when she stopped to check what was wrong with her music system. I asked her why does she not listen to God’s music in the form of birds chirping? She gave me a look which meant, these oldies …. 

When you are nearer to nature what is the effect? The research tells us that when people are exposed to the natural environment and natural features, they tend to have a reduced stress response. When you are out in nature you have lower blood pressure, better heart rate variability, better mood. 

Research also says that the significant change that happens in our mind is in the first five minutes. Later changes are incremental. Working people have higher levels of concentration and lower strain in the afternoon if these people take a walk in the gardens during their lunch break. It may help employees in replenishing the resources needed to perform well on the job during the remaining working day. 

The idea that nature is good for us has been gaining ground since the 1980s. First came the biophilia hypothesis, the theory that humans have an innate desire to connect with nature, followed by shinrin-yoku, the Japanese concept that absorbing the atmosphere in forests can benefit your health. Researchers of shinrin-yoku have since identified plenty of physiological and psychological benefits, while globally studies suggest time in nature can restore our ability to focus, increase creativity, lower the risk of depression and even help us live longer.     

Then are we waiting for some enticement? Why don’t we at least try to spend some time with nature regularly? One can always argue that it is impossible to do it when you live in cities. But I don’t agree with this at all. This interaction with nature does not cost us anything. I can understand that people are busy with work and do not find time for such activities. To me, it is about setting priorities. Try and find out huge banyan trees that are there in your city, go just see them. I am sure there will be at least one water body like a lake or a river where you live. Just go and sit there. You need not do anything. It is exceptionally soothing to your mind, to your ears to listen to the flow of water. If you try to make it one day picnic on the weekends then you may not get much time, there are other things to do weekends. But make a quick trip to gardens, lakes or walk on leafy roads. Make before the traffic starts.  

These are tree house and Manali photos. We have taken such breaks with nature in the background and found them very stimulating. Last year we took one week holiday in Manali, and it was serene. Snowcapped mountains, cool breeze and Sun not too bright. It was a blessing. Three years back we went to Brisbane, Australia. One hundred km north of Brisbane was a tree house resort. Jaya and I went there with one of Jaya’s classmates from her school days. We just hung around in the area which was full of tall trees. One day there was torrential rain, and we could not go anywhere. We enjoyed the onslaught of rains, cards, movies and reading! It was accompanied by cups of tea with rain pouring in the background. 

If your work involves sitting in front of a screen all the time, walks on the paths surrounded by the tree are going to be beneficial in two ways. First is the obvious one, walking and second one is the green surroundings cooling down agitation and stress in you. Even though  such a simple solutions are available we tend to ignore them; instead we end up going to doctors for treatment for backache and anxiety or stress.  

There’s also a lot of work done on the psychological benefits of being in nature – on wellbeing and cognitive functioning. In general, people are happier when they are closer to nature. Happiness is a broad concept, and so we measure things like positive and negative emotions, people’s sense of vitality, being energised and also how satisfied they are with life. When people are immersed in nature, even in urban nature, they tend to have more positive emotions and vitality than when they are indoors. 

These are Nainital photos. Being with nature regularly can be compared with sleep or a power nap. When you go for a walk during lunch break in the garden, it is like taking a power nap. Going out on weekends can be considered equivalent of trying to sleep for eight hours a day. Both are equally effective. A holiday in natural surroundings helps you making up for sleep deficit!  

These are some of the photos from the area near my house. I am sure there are such areas in each city. You need to locate them and start using them.

 

 

 

 

How well do we travel?

 

Journey2Travelling is life’s most celebrated Guru! Travelling gives us many lessons, teaches us many things about life; it gives us new experiences, allows us to see new people and places, new cultures, historical places. What you get from travel is what you absorb during the journey. We travel for various reasons like a holiday, pilgrimage, work, visits to relatives; each person’s reason for travel is different.

We have travelled extensively in India and abroad. I am talking mainly about travel for the holidays. While on holiday, you go with a group of friends, or you travel with family. During honeymoon travel, only the newly married couple moves together, and they are in their world.

I am sharing some of my experiences and my observations made during travel. Years back, in the year 1984, we had travelled to Mussoorie, the hill station in Northern India. We went there just before the peak season started and enjoyed Mussoorie as it was not crowded. We did the usual things like walks to different locations, enjoyed the Himalayan fresh air. Our hotel was almost empty; hence, the owner told us to order whatever food we preferred; the only condition was, we had to inform them a couple of hours before our food time. We enjoyed superb North Indian hilly area cuisine. We enjoyed the street food too. We travelled back to Delhi by bus. On the bus stop, we met a family from Maharashtra. We chatted a bit, and I asked them, “How was your stay here?”. He said, “Everything was perfect, but we could not get Maharashtrian food anywhere!” Unfortunately, this family was not open to enjoy the local cuisine. Enjoy the local food when you travel, is my first dictum.

In this experience, I will not share the involved people’s state. I leave it to you to guess. Surprisingly we heard similar comments about this community at three different places. We were taking Delhi-Agra-Bharatpur-Jaipur holiday. When we reached Agra, we went to our hotel. We had booked through a travel agency, the hotel was ok, but we were somehow not happy with it. We decided to forego the reservation. We told our guide to take us to Hilton, which was nearby. As we sat in the car, the guide asked me a question. “Sir, you are from Maharashtra, is it not?” I asked him, “Why are you asking me this question?” He said, “ In the previous hotel people from xxx state live!” I asked him about the meaning of his statement. He said, “You don’t look their type!” I left it at that. It looked like these people don’t travel well.

The second experience was in the Bharatpur bird sanctuary. No vehicles are allowed inside. We hired two cycle rickshaws for three people, as I had a fever. Jaya and Priya were in one rickshaw, and I was in the second. We crossed a group of people from the same xxx state, we could guess from the language. I know a couple of sentences from that language, so does Priya. I called Priya and asked her in the xxx language, “How are you?” When we stopped at a lake to watch some birds, the rickshaw driver asked me the same question. “Are you from the xxx state?” I said, “No, I just know a sentence or two from that language.” He said, “Groups from the xxx state are complicated to handle. Ladies from these groups keep on talking loudly. Birds around fly away when they hear their  cacophony.” He said, “I tried to explain to them that they may not be able to see the rare birds if voice level is not reduced. The ladies shouted at me to mind my own business.” You may draw your conclusions.

The third experience I heard during the same journey was while visiting Amer Mahal in Jaipur. The Mahal is exquisite, and its architecture is superb. We had hired a guide here too. He showed us around. There was a Kali Mata Mandir. I generally pass going inside the Mandir. I was sitting outside, the guide and I were chatting. He said people from the xxx state are tough to deal with as they are unpredictable. I asked him, “Why are you saying so”? He said, “I was a guide to a group of about 15 people, and I was explaining to them, historical aspects of the Mahal complex. Suddenly one lady came forward.” She asked him, “Are you our guide? Are we not paying you for services?” With folded hands, the guide said, “Yes, Madam!” She asked him, “Why are you walking in front of us? You go to the backside; we will walk in the front. Then explain whatever you want to say.” He said, “This is the first some group had given me such an instruction. I, of course, followed it.”

Three different locations, three various service providers but all of them had the same opinion about the community. Why is it so? Why people have some peculiar habits? How are such habits formed? Do they behave in the same fashion as all such service providers at home too? Zamindars? Is it a superiority complex?

Taking my Mussoorie experience forward, last year Jaya and I took a holiday in Manali. Now, we are both around seventy years of age. But we continued with our tradition of enjoying the local food, within our medical limitations. Sweet Lassi and Gulab Jamun are now out of bounds for us! But Paranthas, Alu Subji for breakfast was a treat from God’s while enjoying the snow-capped mountains. Foodstuff was followed by piping hot tea!

Low cost, budget travel has its fun. We had travelled during our engineering course days to visiting different manufacturing plants in India. We had hired one full bogie of the train. We moved all over India for twenty-odd days. We would go to various places, visit the cities and come back to sleep in the train bogie! Was it fun? I remember those journeys sitting with the compartment door open and sitting there, chatting with friends!

We had travelled by bus from Dehradun to Mussoorie. We met a person while having tea in a hotel in Dehradun. He offered us a place to live at the princely sum of Rs.5/day per person. There was a single room and had a bath. We grabbed the opportunity as we were on the cost-saving mode all the time. Mussoorie was very cold as we were there at the end of December. We had already planned our battle with the cold, and each one of us had kept a quarter bottle of brandy in our pockets. We would take a swig of the drink when we got bone chilled.

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As I look back, we have enjoyed where ever we went for a holiday and whatever we did. Our budgets have been meagre to moderate to good. Our recent journeys to Europe and an Alaska cruise were expensive. But the common thing in all the trips has been to see and meet different people, eat different local foods, have local wine in Italy!  Last but not least, we will never know how others live their lives unless we travel!

Sometimes some minor things can wrong during travels, but if we learn to take everything in stride, we can really enjoy the journey, the experiences. We realise how different things are the world over. We have also understood that all humans are the same, where ever we go; their language and customs could be different. But don’t forget a couple of things, don’t shout in the bird sanctuaries and let your guide walk ahead of you!  Bon, voyage!

Prakash Nirgudkar, the ever smiling Buddha! Part I

We read many stories in mythology, where someone gets a curse from a sage or a king! Then later the same person is given boon, conditions attached! In today’s world where everything you do is saved somewhere on a computer server, in text or image format! So, probably 2000 years hence there will not be any mythological story about Prakash, all hard facts are known and recorded. When unbelievable things were performed by humans, these turned into stories and such miracles were explained in terms of curses and boons! To me, such boons can be explained as courage shown by Nirgudkar family and by Prakash in particular to overcome impossible odds. The curses to me are destiny!

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I got my Master’s Degree in Metallurgical Engineering from COEP, the famed 150 plus years old institute from Pune. One thing I learned during those two years of Post Graduate studies was to do everything sincerely and keep the commitments. Prakash Nirgudkar urf Pakya was one-year senior to me in the Metallurgy department. We used to live in the dormitory. He is a pleasant person with an ever-smiling face. He is smart and very cooperative. After our first degree, there were very few students in the Master’s course. We were both busy and still had enough time. One thing we had decided was to brush up card playing skills, mainly Rummy. We had one more partner in this endeavour, Naidu urf “Todya”! Why he was given this nick name “Todya” is still a mystery to me. Three of us mostly had our sessions, in the afternoon. We had decided that our course timings were flexible, contrary to college rules. Sometimes we erroneously committed to play cards which clashed with some course. But the commitment was a commitment, nobody ever broke it!  

Prakash had so many good things in him but I had never imagined that he would be a great fighter, a survivor. The main trait that came up during the recent catastrophe in his life, was the indomitable spirit. What a human is capable of only comes out during tough times one faces in life. The old cliché of “When things get tough, tough get going” fits perfectly to Prakash and his family. I had written about Prakash in my blog a couple of weeks back, the link for which is given below. 

https://wordpress.com/post/panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/5910 

Yesterday, I read the book written by Kavita, his wife. The name of the book is “Surviving the toxic frostbite”. Below is the e link for the book for purchase.  

https://www.bookganga.com/R/7VXM8 

It needs downloading of book reader by Book Ganga. It can not be read on other readers.

The book is captivating, it is about the journey of Prakash when he went for a Himalayan trek; the second part is the horrendous event that happened in his life. He was a victim of severe frostbite; along with that he caught an extremely rare infection called necrotizing-fasciitis or in common language flesh eating bacteria attacked his right hand. The link about the infection is given below. 

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/necrotizing-fasciitis-flesh-eating-bacteria#2 

Even though I knew sketchy details of what Prakash went through, while reading the book I felt very tense in the second half. One suggestion! The photos of necrotizing-fasciitis shared in the book are not for weak hearted persons; I am not really sure if even many doctors have ever handled such severe infection. Obviously, the details of the treatment are all there in the book by Kavita. Hence I will not write about the details; but I am writing about human reactions, their behaviour, families and goodness of people under such tyring situations. Such good stories about humans help and support, bring back confidence in us that all is well with this world! Terrorists, accidents, economic crises are aberrations in real life!  

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Kavita, their daughter Nandita and son Prasanna have handled the major crisis in the Nirgudkar family bravely! Kavita is the person around whom the whole saga was revolving, she was the General. She was pushed into a battle which we will never hope or  want even our enemies to fight! Prakash in the initial period was as good as in trance! Even later he was so weak that Kavita was the one who held the fort! Kavita Salute! I can also understand the predicament of Prasanna who lives in the USA. He could rush for  sometime a couple of times but worrying long distance is a tough call. Nandita has handled everything with aplomb at a very young age!  

Human touch in the saga started right in the Himalayas. The team had gone twenty thousand feet above sea level, in an extremely difficult weather and terrain. At that height, Prakash had started feeling weak and his stomach problems started. Stomach issue had started draining his reserve energy really fast. As it is, at the height of 20000 feet, the body functions on reserve energy. The porters and his colleagues physically lifted him and brought Prakash down to the manageable heights. From there he was brought him into civilization in trucks and jeeps provided by ITBP. His colleagues were equally tired but had no illnesses, luckily. They rushed him to Delhi airport. During the journey, he had become so weak that his soiled clothing was required to be changed by his colleagues.  

His right hand showed a rash and had started swelling, and its colour had become ominously dark. All airlines refused to give him the boarding card. The airport doctor gave him a fitness certificate but still, he was denied boarding, looking at his hand. It was a blessing a disguise because when Delhi doctors diagnosed him for necrotizing-fasciitis, they said that air travel under these circumstances would have proved fatal. The doctors in casualty area at the hospital, where Prakash was taken were following routine procedures. The doctor from the airport came behind the ambulance on his own and told the doctors to treat the case as a serious emergency. Prakash was then put on the fast track and without even entering his name anywhere he was wheeled into Operation Theater for emergency surgery. Had this surgery got delayed, Prakash was already having a dialogue with Chitragupt; anything could have happened. This was Prakash’s first close shave with death, with many more to follow later. Airport doctor was the first of many souls who went out of their way to help Prakash. 

At this juncture, Kavita was unaware of the seriousness of the situation. She and Nandita rushed to Delhi from Pune, expecting to come back in a few days. They could never have budgeted what they had to go through even in their dreams! In terms of human goodness, the trek coordinator from Delhi, who was just an acquaintance but he went out of the way to help Kavita to get a base close to the hospital. Initially, he put them up for a few days with a lady; it was a god sent gift for them in the unknown territory of Delhi, that too under really trying circumstances.   

Delhi doctors managed to bring Prakash to the level of taking a journey to Pune. Flying was out of the question for medical reasons. They took a twenty-hour journey to Pune by train. Prakash was allowed to travel by Delhi doctors under two conditions. First was that a male nurse must accompany and second was Prakash was to be taken from Pune railway station to a major hospital! Luckily no events took place during this journey made arduous because of Prakash’s health.

I follow a rule of limiting my blogs to a certain number of words for it to remain readable. But this human saga that my friend Prakash and his family had to go through is making it difficult for me stick to my rules. I will share the concluding part of this event with you in two parts!  Tomorrow, I will publish the second part!

In the second part, I will write about Prakash getting back from the brink (his condition was still very delicate) and rehabilitation which was another journey for one plus year. 

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 Link for Part II is below!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-ii/

 

         

The Final Journey!

Eleven  people died in the land slide when pilgrims going to Kedarnath got trapped. Two people died and about 1000 are trapped but now most are rescued! This happened in Pashupati nath and Manasarovar yatra. This was due to inclement weather. A friend of mine went for Char Dham yatra sometime back. Before starting the journey when they were already near Himalayas, he had fever. He decided to brave it out. He really had a tough time for a long time, after coming back. I am aware that all these pilgrimages, are about religious belief and individual choice. When people take informed decisions, it is for them to decide where to go when to go! At the end of the journey, there is proverbial rainbow of achieving Nirvana!  

Travel is one of the biggest teachers that teaches us about many things about life. But what is the reason for taking up any journey? Above journeys are for religious reasons and there are journeys for enjoyment, rest, and some are adventure journeys. For adventure journeys, people normally prepare in advance and such journeys are taken at an early age when the mind and body are both alert and strong. My observation is that above mentioned pilgrimages are in Himalayas, taken much later in life, to achieve peace of mind by following traditional religious practices. This is risky because of the age factor as well weather and young age of Himalayas.  Himalayas are very unstable.

I did a bit of research to find out the significance of these journeys in Himalayas. Things appear pretty vague and nowhere is any mention made that these journeys are a must as per mythology! The Mahaprasthanika Parva of Pandavas, started when they took the final journey, is consistently mentioned in various discussions! At the end of Mausala Parva, Vyasa advises Arjuna and his brothers to retire and renounce their kingdom as the purpose of their life has been served. Arjuna informs Yudhishthira of Vyasa’s advice. Draupadi and the brothers agree. So, it was about renouncing everything and taking the final journey.  

In fact, the story from Mahabharat of the Mahaprasthanika Parva should be used by people to understand life and follow the path shown in the Parva. When Pandvas started their final journey, Draupadi fell and died first! (Depicted in first picture below) Every one of them died because of their frailties. Draupadi died because she was partial towards Arjun. Yudhisthira said that all should be treated the same way. Next to die was Sahadeva; he died because of his pride and vanity. He felt that none of them was equal to him in wisdom. After that was Nakula’s turn; he also died because of pride and vanity. He always thought that he was the most handsome man in the world. Next was Arjuna; he too died because of his pride and vanity. He always used to boast that he was the best warrior in the world. He once told Yudhisthira that if needed, he could kill all his enemies in one day. Next was Bhima; he had the vice of gluttony, he never used to bother if others needed food! This story explains us about life’s frailties and their effect on us!

I must share one very important aspect from this story. Pandavas befriended a dog on their last journey. (Depicted in picture on the right side)  After all of them die except Yudhishthira, Lord Indra in his chariot arrives to pick him up to take him to heaven. Yudhishthira refuses to climb into the chariot without the dog! Finally the dog transforms and appears as deity Dharma. He told Yudhishthira, that his job was to check if Yudhishthira kept his virtues under all circumstances! When we live our life, the deity Dharma is hovering around us too,  in the form of  a virtual dog! It always keeps on tracking if we keep our moral standards high all the time. But we humans don’t learn these important teachings and try to follow blindly the so called traditions without understanding the thought process behind them.

When people take this arduous journey in the Himalayas in today’s times, do they take it as a final journey? What would be purpose of this journey otherwise? Is it adventure? Is it a trek? Is it pilgrimage? There are major weather-related issues on these journeys in Himalayas; besides that for Kedarnath yatra there is always a terrorist threat. Weather even in summer is always inclement. At least, I don’t see any logical reason to take up these journeys! The mythology clearly mentions that it was the final journey of Pandvas as Vyas Muni had suggested to them that their purpose of life was served.  

I feel that people should not follow rituals of going on these journeys blindly, without understanding the real meaning of these stories; in today’s time, it is never intended to be the last journey. Instead people must make sure they have no vanity, no vices. They should be considerate to others. They should treat everybody equally.  They should be humble though, all can not reach Yudhishthira’s virtues. 

Himalayan sojourn is taken up without giving a thought whether it is right thing to do. From the family’s perspective, is it correct to take such risky journeys? What did the people who died, achieve? To my knowledge, after talking to many people who have taken this journey, they are not sure if it was worth the risk, though they may have achieved “Nirvana”! But none of them had taken such a journey following philosophy of Pandvas. For one of my recent blogs, the title was “Was it worth”? But the journey I had mentioned in that blog was a hectic journey but not an arduous and risky. Are these Himalayan pilgrimages worth it?

Similarly, I want to ask the same question if it is worth it, when the journey is very tough, where deaths occur regularly? To me correct thing will be to learn from the teachings given in mythological stories instead of blindly following the rituals! People mainly forget that Pandvas had started their “Final Journey” so risks did not really matter!