Gujarat Tour Diary 4 – The bad Apples.

Through the previous three blogs we experienced a shining, wild and wonderful Gujarat that is standing tall.

“Hey, hang on ! Don’t tell me that everything is honky dory. You should have had bad experiences too”. 

I can hear loud and clear your murmur. For sure there were two experiences to forget during the ten day trip.

1. The first experience was scary. It was scarier than the roller coaster ride in Disneyland where at the least, I was confident that I will return 
back after the ride after a thorough shakeup.

2. The second one, left me wonder-stuck in disbelief with questions “How can it be like this? Is this not in His (you know whom I mean by ‘His’ !) Radar ? After all it is “His” own State !”

Let us get an idea of the two bad apples in my basket of experiences.

Okha-Beyt Dwaraka-Okha Ferry Ride – Disaster in Waiting

Gujarat Tourism (https://www.gujarattourism.com/saurashtra/devbhoomi-dwarka/bet-dwarka.html) gives a clear warning that boat connectivity could be sporadic and delayed to the Beyt Dwaraka otherwise called as Bet Dwaraka.

Bet Dwarka, also known as Shankhodhar, is said to have been the residence of Lord Krishna during his ruling years at Dwarka. It derived its name from the word ‘bet’ which translates to ‘gift’ and is believed that Lord Krishna received it from his friend Sudama. In the ancient epic, Mahabharata, Bet Dwarka is known by the name of ‘Antardvipa’ to which people of the Yadava clan needed to travel by boat.

In this modern era of technology and science, we were taken back to ancient times by the authorities responsible for the ferry.

This is nothing but a DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN ANYTIME. (Of course, it is based on the assumption that anything that cut shorts a human life is a disaster).

Here is a video of my ferry ride.

AMD – Ahmedabad Airport – Thriving on Chaos

The Domestic Terminal in Ahmedabad Airport, from where I commenced my return journey home, left me wondering with a few questions.

The Airport at the Capital of the State from where the Prime Minister of the fastest growing economy comes (Varanasi may be his adopted home) presented a feeling of a modern day chaotic mofussil bus stand.
Over crowded waiting area, jam packed lounges with huge queue to gain access to, noisy and vociferous crowd eager to form queues and rush even as the incoming aircraft is sighted, anxious and worried Senior Citizens on wheel chairs….. Ahmedabad Airport gives Chennai Airport a run for its money when it comes to chaos. No doubts about this.

This concludes the Tour Diary – Gujarat. Barring these two, the travel and tour was extremely comfortable and an amazing experience. Will see you soon from the other side of Atlantic .

Au revoir; à bientôt

Gujarat Tour Diary 3 – Standing Tall

This is the penultimate blog on our recent tour to Gujarat. I don’t intend to present the notes and photographs covering the  traditional tourist spots like the Step Wells, the Sun Temple, Somnath, Dwaraka, Masjids etc etc. 
I will rather present a few photographs that I took at three important places viz., Porbandar, Diu and Ekta Nagar.

These photographs bring out a clear message for me.

“ Freedom, Valor and Unity “.

No doubt in my mind that Gujarat stands tall when it comes to Nation building.

Porbandar & Sabarmati – Freedom through non-violence.

Diu – INS Khukri Memorial – Valor & Courage

Ekta Nagar – Unity in Diversity

Gujarat Travel Diary 2 – Wild and Wonderful Gujarat

Let us start this blog with a question.

When we say “wild and wonderful” where does our mind jump to immediately?

“Hakuna Matata. kusafiri” is the answer.

Confused with the answer? In the East African language of Swahili, it simply means “no worries”, “take it easy”. The answer is “Safari”.

Safari -An introduction

In Swahili, the word safari means “journey”, originally from the Arabic noun سفر, safar, meaning “journey”, “travel”, “trip”, or “tour”; the verb for “to travel” in Swahili is kusafiri. These words are used for any type of journey.

Safari entered the English language at the end of the 1850s thanks to the British explorer Richard Francis Burton. In 1836, British Army Engineer,

William Cornwall Harris led an expedition purely to observe and record wildlife and landscapes. Harris established the safari style of journey, starting with a not too strenuous rising at first light, an energetic day walking, an afternoon rest then concluding with a formal dinner and telling stories in the evening over drinks and tobacco.

The hunting aspect traditionally associated with the safari is said to have its origins where villagers got together to hunt wild boars and reclaim land for farming. However it was the British who used Safaris for hunting for personal pleasure and popularized it.

Gujarat – The wild and wonderful

Our trip to Gujarat contained two segments where we stuck to the spirit of William Cornwall Harris style of Safari as a means to understand the wild and wonderful Gujarat.

Segment 1 – Gir – The kingdom of the “Wild and Wonderful”.

Part A – Jungle Safari

The Gir National Park was established in 1965 in the erstwhile Nawab of Junagarh’s private hunting area, with a total area of 1,412 km2(545 sq mi), of which 258 km2 (100 sq mi) is fully protected as a national park and 1,153 km2 (445 sq mi) as wildlife sanctuary.

Kicking off the day at 0530 Hrs we started our Safari in the jungles of Gir. A four hour drive in an open Gypsy (A jeep) took us the nook and corner of the sprawling Gir Forest. We were lucky to spot a lioness marking her territory right at the start of the Safari. The rest of the Safari covered other animals and birds. Here is an overview.

Sasan Gir – Jungle Safari

This was followed by an exquisite lunch and siesta at the FERN GIR FOREST RESORT.

Part 2 – Devalia Safari

Evening Safari was a bit different; we wanted to present ourselves as “strange moving creatures with two legs” to the wild and wonderful. So we locked ourselves in a cage mounted on a Gypsy and paraded ourselves to the wild animals in the Gir Forest. Needless to say that the Wild and Wonderful didn’t bother about us at all and were busy at their routines.

Gujarat Tourism calls this place as “ Devalia Safari Park ” also known as “Gir Interpretation Zone- Devalia”. Here is our Safari with a dufference:

Devalia Park – Safari with a difference

Experience in this segment summed up – “High” on expectations (with increased Lions population and previous day sightings expectations built up) and “Moderate” on success in sighting.

Segment 2 – The Little Rann of Kutch – A saline sublime

In this segment, we moved away from the Jungle to the vast, dry and extremely hot saline desert.

Covering an area of 4954 Km2, Little Rann of Kutch is one of the most remarkable and unique landscapes of its kind. Wild Ass Sanctuary is located in this Rann which harbours the last population of Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur).

It is a vast desiccated, unbroken bare surface of dark silt, encrusted with salts which transforms into a spectacular coastal wetland after the rains. The present saline desert of the Little Rann (saline desert-cum-seasonal wetland) of Kutch is believed to have been shallow sea.

We checked into the Royal Safari Camp at Bajana and relaxed after a sumptuous meal.

Part A – The Wild Ass Safari

We were ready for the Evening Safari. Temperature soared to 43 deg C (in the last week of March itself) and here we are driving in an open Gypsy towards the saline desert from the village center.

Wild Ass Safari – LRK

Part B – Nature’s Aviary at the Saline Desert

We even got down from the Gypsy and walked around the waterbodies to have an exclusive “darshan” of the birds around there. Wow. What a sight.

Nature’s Aviary

Experience in this segment summed up – “Low” on expectations (what do you expect, except a few Wild Asses and that too in a hot desert) and “High” on success in sighting (not only Wild Asses but also an impressive show by the Birds and Aditya, the Sun while setting).

Lessons learnt – Safari and Vedanta

This is our second Jungle Safari after the one at Kanha Tiger Reserve at Madhya Pradesh in 2018.

Safaris like these drive home several lessons, many of them straight from our Vedanta.

Here are some of my learnings:

1. If you are keeping your expectations (desires) high, you are bound to get disappointed (frustrated). After all you are looking for a few hundred wild animals (which are mostly territory oriented) in an area spanning thousands of square kilometers.

2. What you get to see (or otherwise) need not necessarily be seen (or otherwise) by someone who are either ahead of you or behind you. Your experience is unique to yourselves.

3. Time and Space can decide what you get or loose. In other words your experience is time and space limited.

4. Enjoy what you see, your experience. That moment is precious. The idea of being present and savoring the moment is not a novel idea, but it’s often a forgotten one. David Attenborough’s extraordinary documentaries on Animal Kingdom are awesome; no doubt about that. But nothing will ever have as big an effect as seeing the real beauty of the world and its inhabitants on safari by yourselves.

5. Silence is golden. Feel it and enjoy it. Through the day enjoy that moment where a bird or a monkey or a deer provides an alarm for an approaching animal. In the night at the Camp, listen to the insects’ hum and chirp; the stars in the sky and the sounds of nature.

6. See the positives. Even dirty roads and bushy terrain offers great views.

7. The Sun always provides spectacular views both in the morning and evening. Enjoy it and pray Aditya for keeping us alive.

8. Be patient. You have no choice. Sometimes what you want and expect doesn’t happen right away; sometimes what you want takes much longer than you thought it would.

9. Ears are better than mouth. Listening is Often Better Than Talking. Listen to the safari guide or just listen to the sounds of the bush. The point is that when we listen, our bodies are much more attuned to everything that’s happening around us. You also learn what you may not have known.

10. Life is not a rat race. Reconnect with the beauty of little things and enjoy.

Gujarat Travel Diary continues…..

Vantage View – A photographic Pranaam 🙏

Today is Thai Pongal. They say தை பிறந்தால் வழி பிறக்கும். The dawn of the Tamil Month of Thai is expected to bring in solutions to all our issues. Happy Pongal to all.

The day is also called Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan or Maghi or simply Sankranti (also known in Bangladesh as Poush Sankranti), It is a harvest festival day in the Hindu Calendar, dedicated to the nourisher Aditya or Surya (Sun). It is observed each year the day Sun enters the Capricorn zodiac which corresponds with the month of January as per the Gregoriyan Calendar. It marks the first day of the sun’s transit into Makara rashi (Capricorn). A very special day indeed for us.

On this auspicious day, here is my photographic Pranaam to Aditya.

Everyday during my walks in the early morning and in the evening, I was always under the impression that I had the best views of our nourisher “Aditya” the Sun and receive his Golden Blessings.

Somedays I get young guests joining me to share the gallery.

But never did I realize that there are always some “special beings” who had the vantage view, negating my “superior view” about myself. Here are these special ones.

No wonder we say “आदित्यहृदयं पुण्यं”. The Sun has a noble heart indeed.

Have a great day. God Bless. இறை அருள் பெருக. வளமுடன் வாழ்க !

Arunodaya

Looking at the Sunrise with awe and reciting Aditya Hrudayam during my early morning walks has been my most enjoyable moment for the day for several years.

Nothing can be more invigorating than this particularly in this era of pandemic and lock down. The one hour that I spend in the early morning is worth the gold. That is what Aditya (Sun) seems to be telling me today morning.

Watch Him talk to me today, Sunday the 16th Morning between 0545 and 0645 Hrs in Bangalore

https://www.dropbox.com/s/782xv6yj94n67mq/Arunodaya%20.MOV?dl=0

Music Courtesy – Music Today Album Arunodayam – Bowli Raga

Lock Down ! Look Up !

After 15 months stay at the East Coast of USA, we are back at the base in Namma Bengaluru. Within two weeks of arrival, here we are ! under “Total Lock Down for 14 days” due to the second wave of the epidemic.

Heart goes out to the people suffering and affected by the virus. Lucky & fortunate elders like me should have no issues at all to stay at home in an apartment complex.

It is no big deal. Simple formula – Just lock down and look up. You will see what you want to see and not the barrage of negativity around. When you lock down negativity and look up for positives, you will see HOPE.

Here are some images of what I saw:

These iPhone images taken by me, reinforce my belief that Nature can present its best side even under stressful living.

I sincerely pray that this good side of Nature soon help us overcome its other side and presents a smile on us, the suffering Indians.

World ! Please Pray for Indians. This also will pass.

Spring in the Park

Pandemic may come and hopefully go; but there is no doubt that if it is early April, you will see the Central Park at the Newyork city springing up to life, providing happiness, cheer and hope.

Time to sign off from the USA for the year 2021.

Sankey Tank at Malleswaram, Bangalore is ready for me.

au revoir; abiento.

Central Park, NYC

The Fairy “I” can’t fathom – She, the Big M

“It is an oft-quoted saying that philosophy begins in wonder. The mystery of the world with all its changes strikes the reflective temper. The Vedic philosophy grew out of a demand for the explanation of actual experience. Philosophy bade men seek beneath all change, which is the law of life, unity and persistency. All things are passing; what remains? Anything or nothing? The Vedic age raised the problem of philosophy and offered a solution. It was then that attempts to reflect upon the world of experience were made for the first time. When we reflect upon the world of experience, the word illusion (“Maya”) comes to the foreground.

The doctrine of Maya is consideredby many thinkers,to be an integral part of the Vedanta philosophy. The Vedanta system is supposed to be an acosmic pantheism, holding that the Absolute called Brahman alone is real and the finite manifestations are illusory. There is one absolute undifferentiated reality, the nature of which is constitutedby knowledge. The entire empirical world, with its distinction of finite minds and the objects of their thought,is an illusion. Subjects and objects are like the fleeting images which encompass the dreaming soul and melt away into nothingness at the momentof waking.

The term Maya signifies the illusory character of the finite world.” ( Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Eminent Indian Philosopher)

Wait a minute; does this statement strike a chord in us – in today’s COVID-19 environment?

It looks like it happened “just recently”. A year and a quarter has passed since the virus silently spread across the world. Millions of lives lost. Inter and intra relationships & transactions among and within individuals and society have been completely turned around leaving one to wonder whether it is all a dream and whether we all are waking up to a new state after a deep sleep. Yes, all the three basic states of our Consciousness (awake, dream and deep sleep) have come to play in this crucial time in each one of us thanks to Maya (She, The Big M,I call it).

Well, to me it appears like that; so I woke up after my second vaccination, with a new found determination to explore Maya and her origin, the Vedanta. True to its nature, the Big M treated me like a kid (which I am) and presented me with an exclusive giant Mall with infinite toy stores. No wonder I am lost. Not to disappoint me, the Big M presented me with three books titled Tattva Bodha, Isavasya Upanishad and Dakshinamurthy Stothram.

The last 2 weeks have been fairly severe in terms of the weather; temperatures dropping to single digits (deg F) and snow storms lashing cities forcing kids like me to seek the comfort of our cozy home – that means the Big M has given me an opportunity to deep dive into the books that I got from Her. Each Sloka (Verse) and each word in the three books, is sending me into “space walks” in search of the Self . Holding each Sloka as my life line, I venture into the space of contemplation. Whenever I return back to my home base, I stare through the window at the vast white carpet of snow all around and tried to relate my space walk with the “ground reality”.

In one such “stare” in the early morning after I went on my 18th space walk (corresponding to the 18th Sloka of the Isavasya Upanishad) , the day after the snow storm I did have a direct response from the principal character of that Sloka. Here is that Sloka, its meaning in English and Tamil and the response of the character .

A word of caution here – Millions of pages have been written over centuries by “Subject” – “Matter” – Specialists to provide commentaries for the Slokas in these books. Summing them up into few lines is absolutely immature and childish; yet as a child I have started by scribblings on Vedanta. Pardon me for that.

But Children have the right to enquire and ask questions. The child I am, I am asking questions to myself with the fond hope that someday I will find answers.

The Sloka

अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान्विश्वानि देव वयुनानि विद्वान् ।

युयोध्यस्मज्जुहुराणमेनो भूयिष्ठां ते नम उक्तिं विधेम ॥ १८ ॥

English Transliteration

agne naya supathā rāye asmānviśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān |

yuyodhyasmajjuhurāṇameno bhūyiṣṭhāṃ te nama uktiṃ vidhema || 18 ||

Meaning in Tamil

அழல் தெய்வமே ! புரிவினை யாவுமறிந்திட்டுயாம்

நல்வினைப் பயனை துய்த்திட நல்வழியே நடத்திடு

உள் உறை தீவினை வஞ்சம்தனை விடுத்திடு

அளித்திட்டேன் பக்தியுடன் எம் வணங்குதலை

Meaning in English

O god of fire, lead us by the good path

To eternal joy. You know all our deeds.

Deliver us from evil, we who bow

And pray again and again.

(From The Upanishads by Eknath Easwaran)

The response

Music Courtesy: Jagruthi an awakening by Music India. (No commercial interests for me).

Powder “Non Metallurgy “

I was amazed and wondering at the skill and passion for iPhone photography (in Facebook) of one gentleman Viorel who posted a photo of a snow flake using his iPhone 11 + macro lens ❄️

Snow Flake

Recently we had huge amount of snow shower with gutsy winds. After the snow, I was wondering how such a tiny flake in a Star form can take shapes that one can only see and enjoy. I was reminded of the term “Powder metallurgy”, describing the wide range of ways in which components are made from metal powders. Well, Mother Nature knows this technology very well even for non metallic applications. Here are some shapes that the snow powder “star flake” takes.

Nature is simply beyond and yet within anyone’s understanding like God is. The problem for us is “You only have to see it”.