Monday, January 18, 2010

Almora......through the eyes of the Camera !!!

bonfire at midnight....31st Dec'09

full moon at midnight.....pure romance !!!

OM.........what a sight....pure Divine !!!

first rays of sun creating OM!!!!..... see it to believe it!!

Dawn......sun about to come out!!!!....

first rays on light.....sun coming out !!!!

sun coming out on the horizon......breathtaking !!!

what a sunrise....simply awesome!!

watching sunrise at 6.15am & -5 degree celcius.... parched lips, but intent eyes

Om sign, clearly visible..... incredible view !!!

morning sun in full bloom...... 7.25 am

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Almora....New Year's delight......Part 1

This year started for me very very differently. Unlike other New Year bash, this year I had decided to stay with myself. However, on 30th Dec afternoon, I was spurred by my friend Partho to join him & his folks to a trip to Almora. With nothing better to do, it was a quick decision, quick move….I packed my bags quickly, picked up my guitar & was off to the airport, got the first available flight & was soon in air flying to Delhi. The chilly blast of air on the face while stepping out of the aircraft at the Delhi airport, was signs enough for what to expect ahead.
We all started in the afternoon next day after a sumptuous lunch, for Almora in two SUV Safaris. Everyone around on the road, tucked in wollens, looked to be heading for some part or the other, while we were driving towards the hills. The air gradually started to become cooler, as the temperatures started dipping. Around 8.00pm, the road suddenly got engulfed in a thick haze of fog, making driving extremely difficult. The visibility ahead was barely a couple of feet beyond the bonnet & it demanded special skills to maneuver. Inspite of the near freezing wind howling outside, one had to keep the windows down to gauze the road ahead. It was an arduous task, as the driving speed came down to a mere 5km/hr… was as if we were walking instead of driving. It took us more than three hours to cross a mere 40 odd km stretch. We reached Kashipur almost around midnight & decided to halt for the night at a guest house. The drive had cramped us all & we desperately needed some hot food. It was all quiet outside, with temperatures hovering around the zero mark, as we stoked up a bonfire & huddled around to warm ourselves up. Whiskey flowed around for some, while, we chatted & then I played some music with my guitar….Partho was particularly happy, as it was like a family reunion of sorts. For the first time since his marriage, his whole family…..his parents, his younger brother with his wife & son…all were together for the New Year celebrations. Hot khichdi & potato wedges for dinner was just divine. We just hogged & hogged. It was already around 3.00am in the morning, when we decided to climb inside warmth of some really heavy set of quilts, & catch much needed sleep.

I got up early as usual to finish my morning essentials, but the water was too chilly & even the geyser could not provide with the encouragement to take a bath. As slowly everyone else woke up, I went for a quick stroll along with Partho, gazing at the distant green, shrouded in a white sheet of fog……it was an awesome view. Breakfast was tasty paranthas along with hot tea & then we set off for Almora. Partho’s brother & his wife had to leave for Delhi, while the rest of us continued our journey forward. The hilly terrain started soon & from then on it was a slow winding journey upwards. The countryside was a dry green, with large patches of brown, the air chilly & dry. We had brief stops twice, more to attend to the nature’s call than to eat & rest, & finally we reached Almora around 5.30pm in the evening.

The Himalayan range on the far backdrop was simply breathtaking. Snow clad peaks reigning majestically on the Northern skyline seemed to be lazying up to the winter sun….as if enjoying the warm touch. There was Nanda Devi, the highest peak in India, Trishul(a cluster of three peaks resembling the trishul head of Shiva), Panchchouli etc, all one after the other. The hotel we checked in was almost at the end of Almora, with a fantastic view of the mountain range. A quick hot shower relieved us of the cramps of the long journey & then we greeted some hot pakoras along with tea with gusto…… it was really refreshing. The first day of the year had been real special. We had a quick dinner & then I came out to take a stroll. My attention was taken in by a bright light coming through the cluster of the pine trees in the east…..where would this light be coming from?? It looked like a very bright spot light!!! A little walk ahead revealed that it was the full moon… bright & so near, as if I could jump & touch it……It was an unbelievable sight. I called out for others to watch the spectacle………the bright soft light was bathing us all….it was pure magic of the nature on display.

Dinner was a quiet affair & then all of us retired for the night……it had been a long day. However, sleep was miles away from me & I again came out for a stroll……the night seemed to be so inviting…..very romantic…..I kept singing some numbers all by myself, thinking of my lady love, who was elsewhere, busy with her own work!!!! How I wish she was with me right then to share the beautiful moon & the starry sky, the quiet & cosy night, all the makings of a romantic setting…….

Next day morning was early at around 5.15am……getting up quickly, I managed to finish up the morning essentials in the near freezing water & quickly got ready to come out for the sunrise. Partho was also up, setting up his camera to capture the nature’s spectacle. A little later, Sweta also joined us & we three watched in awe at the brilliance of nature. It was quite dark otherwise & only the north & the ast skyline was gradually becoming a crimson red. As the first rays fell on theTrishul, amazingly it took the shape of Om, as written in Sanskrit……as if God Himself was announcing the first letter of the Universe with the first rays of the Sun. It was a breathtaking sight….as we kept on gaping at the spectacle. I was told that this phenomena occurs only at sunrise & sunset. Throughout the day, the peak looks like a Trisul. I guess, words are always inadequate to describe such experiences. Partho kept clicking with his camera, as I stood still watching the inexplicable beauty unfolding. It was one of the best thing I had witnessed in my life. Simply majestic & outstanding. The only sound breaking the silence was that of a single truck painfully rumbling up the winding roads at a distance. The air was so fresh & chilly, the skyline slowly breaking into a clear blue, with shades of orange. We had forgotten the biting cold & the chilly air that kept brushing us through all this. We three then walked down for some time to catch the sunrise from a speck to a spectacular ball of fire……how beautiful is the dawn….how beautiful is out Country……we all were left simply speechless. The hills & the valley ahead was shrouded in a thick sheet of fog, as the first chatter of the birds, & the distant cuckoo sounded… was coming along !!!! A hot cup of coffee at a roadside stall was the best recipe that we could think of, as we rested & sipped the brewing drink.

The beginning of this Year had been truly spectacular & most unplanned, but it was worth all the efforts & duress.
Wish you all a very happy new 2010………

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Original FAKES.......... all around !!!!

The other day, I was with a friend, who wanted to buy a Solitaire ring for his girlfriend. We both went shopping & to our utter surprise, we realized that the imitation jewelry looked more dazzling, more chic & more presentable. To the common man, it would be extremely difficult to separate an original from a fake !!!! As usual, I was intrigued & got speaking to a few people on this & realized that, almost everyone is experiencing the same in various spheres of life.

Maybe that’s what today’s life is heading towards. Almost everything that we see around is FAKE. Infact, it has now become a roaring industry of its own…its has probably become the reality.
In the fashion world, there are designer handbags which are fake; there are designer leather items which are fake; there are designer dresses which are fake; there are designer watches that are fake; there are paintings that are fake; there are publications that are imitations; the famous glamour world of bollywood continues to fight an ongoing battle with piracy, in other words….fake. Anything & everything you see around, has something fake about itself. In fact everything from cotton to condoms, from clip to computers, from clones to currency………….we just seem to be living in a fake world…..a make belief world indeed. A world, where the fake, the false, the unreal is larger than life. in fact, even the human relations, we get to see around & experience, seem to be mired in falsity. Its all fake !!!!

Remember the movie, “Matrix” & its sequels???? The story line had left a lot of people amused & confused, but, I thought it was a genius of a movie. The conflict between the real & the unreal, the struggle of a handful few to hold on to the real against the even threatening insurgency of the unreal, the quest to withhold & save the real from being demolished by the unreal. Probably the conflict of life.

Interestingly, today, as we are increasingly tilting towards spirituality to find solace & answers, one needs to be aware that there are a lot of fake characters, giving impressions of being real. There are people, who put on pure whites or saffron robes, long hair & flowing beard, enjoy a huge fan following, are nothing but plain fakes. I personally have had quite a few encounters with such characters. Some of them display quite a captivating personality & presence. They are gifted with a rich voice & are good orators also. However, I have found these characters to be extremely keen to keep a 'Mr Clean' image, even at the expense of damaging people around them. They are mere sychophants, only keen to portray a larger than life image for themselves. Fortunately for them, depending upon whom they are associated with, they have also been bestowed with an Upadhi (a surname) of a Rishi or a Swami or a Maulvi or a Father. If we examine them closely, we can see that they are extremely egoistic, supported with a short temper. They believe, they are God’s gift to Mankind & in their endeavor to establish their claims, they end up taking people around for granted. In their own lives, they would be making a mockery of relationships, but would give flowing lectures on how to maintain a happy home. They would keep audiences waiting for hours & never be on time, (because they are privately watching a cricket match!!!), but would articulate on the necessity of time management!!!! They would personally have a host of vices, but, without even attempting to correct them, they would give directions to the mass on corrections!!!!

In fact I remember a conversation with one of such FAKES. We were travelling somewhere in Gujarat, & he suddenly became reflective, " I wish I had a normal & a regular life. I am tired of being extraordinary at every instance". My prompt response was, "Why do you do so? I think you are quite any other regular person. There is nothing about you that is extraordinary!!!" The response had him & others around a bit startled, I reaslised. They had not expected me to be so blunt. Probably, he has been exposed to so much of adulations, that he today just cannot stop being FAKE, & that really is a shame.
Inspite of proper dressing down by their superiors / peers in private, these tearjerking hoodlums just dont seem to correct themselves. Guess, their vices are too deep rooted & far beyond repair. These FAKES have enough scandals & controversies up their larder, which if blown open could have devastating effects. I have known of people who have come close to these FAKES & have had shattering experiences, their lives completely disillusioned beyond imagination!!!!
There are also people, who are living an unreal life, creating a fake world around speak with anyone of them & within minutes realise that almost everything around is FAKE. Thoughtfully, it also reveals that these people are just looking for that elusive LOVE..... a perfect relationship, something they have been missing for ages. A little love shown & they melt. However, they also fall prey to the conmen who are around to take advantage of these lovelorn miserables.

These FAKES & conmen, continue to thrive in the society, due to the ignorance of the common man........due to the simplicity of the common man, who trusts,........who is looking out for a consoling shoulder.....a direction....a support to address the challenges of day to day life.
In this age of complications & multi level illusions at all stages, we need to be extremely vary of such characters, who are doing more damage than good for the mankind. While at some stage I feel they should be brought down from their illusory world, I also feel empathy & concern for them. They must be so unnatural & unreal from within.....its must be really painful.
May they realise & become real.........soon !!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Antarnaad.....a voice within!!!!

Another brilliant presentation from the stables of "The Art of Living". In its endeavor to uplift & showcase the rich heritage of ancient Indian Arts & Culture, on 12th January' 2010, the NGO under the aegis of Sri Sri RaviShankar stitched up together a grand gathering of 2750 classical singers on stage, at the SP College grounds, Pune, singing together in a symphony that left viewers across the globe completely mesmerised. The event is slated to enter the Guiness Books of World records for the largest congregation of vocalists on a single stage ever.

Imagine a platform, which had 2750 vocalists on stage along with supporting musicians, singing in front of a capacity crowd of more than a lakh, aired live to multiple countries through Sanskar Channel on TV. The grandeur, the occasion, the event on the eve of Makar Sankranti, was truly outstanding.

Famous classical singers, Chitra Roy & Gayatri along with Shankar Mahadevan, leading the musical symphony, with their brilliant renditions, it was an evening to remember. Each of them lead exquisite compositions, based on ancient ragas in the Gandharva Vedas. Renowned musicians Pundit Rajan & Sajan Mishra were also on stage to add to the grandeur. As Shankar Mahadevan mentioned, "we hear that the HIndustani classical music is on the decline, but seeing this grand event & looking at the crowd that has gathered, would you ever believe it??" So very true.

As Sri Sri mentioned, that spirituality & music together uplifts people & help them look at life with enthusiasm. He also mentioned that Bhagwat Gita was also narrated in a musical note(therefore getting the word Gita, derived out of Geet), as it was the most appropriate manner to do so. "Gyan ki shurooat Gita se hiu thi, aur woh geet ke roop mein bola gaya tha. Isiliye use Gita kaha jat hai". He encouraged people to work towards bringing spirituality & music together to enhance better quality of life. He also lay emphasis to chemical free farming, save seeds for agriculture, save cows & save girls ( fight female foeticide). Smilingly He said to the crowd, "Arre yaar, ek baar muskurake to dekho, duniya apnata hai ke nahi". Smile & the world would be yours!!!!

The programme ended with everyone joining together to sing "Vande Mataram".....probably the largest ever gathering to sing this National Song on one stage. May this be the beginning of the revival of Indian Classical Music & usher in peace & happiness for us all.

Jai Gurudev............