Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Animal Rights? Who Cares?

I have long been an advocate of animal rights. Probably even to the extent of Menaka Gandhi. When we were young, my sister and I used to take butterflies with broken wings and place them on flowers, childishly hoping that they would drink nectar from them. Now that I am an adult, I do not indulge in such things, but my concern for animals remains.

Yesterday, an eagle got shocked from the live wire near my window at work. A colleague and I called the Animal Rights Fund. We saw good advertisements about it on the web. And boy, was it a mistake! I had to leave early yesterday, and my poor colleague was at our workplace when the guys from ARF came. Apparently, they were rude and horribly uncaring about the bird. The details are too gory for me to go into them again, but the bird finally got scared and fell from the stairs and died.

Are all "non-profit" organizations like this? I am just writing this to get the anger out of my system. Okay, we do not expect them to be perfect gentlemen, but they should at least have a little concern about the creatures they have made their mission to save!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Our Journey Northward and Back - II

Our next visit was to Shani Shinganapur. When I was a child, I had seen a program on TV, about this place. The presiding deity of this place is Shani, whose icon is unsheltered from wind and rain. The beauty of this place is that there are absolutely no doors to any building in the village. And there have never been any thefts or robberies. In fact, the no-door policy has been so scrupulously followed that there are no doors even to the toilets! Swami Vivekananda had once remarked that the life of India was her religion. Nothing moves the average Indian more than religious faith and fervor. The doorless toilets were a testimony to this fact.

From Shani Shinganapur we went to Ellora, stopping briefly at Bibi ka Maqbara. Ellora was something out of a dream. "Unbelievable" and "Magnificent" only begin to describe the temples. We first went to the Jain caves, which are located atop a hill. One could see that the sculptors paid a lot of attention to detail. For instance, Indra and Kubera were always shown being a little on the fatter side. From the size of the temples, it is evident that they were not just used for religious purposes. Near the temple of Kailasanatha, there is a beautiful waterfall. There is a lookout point built in the temple, from where one can have a fine view of the waterfall. There are also stone steps leading to the small lake formed by the waterfall. To me, this was a classic example of understanding Nature, using it to the fullest, but not defiling it. I wondered how this place was, a thousand years ago on the day of a fair, say. It was probably teeming with devotees, noblemen, dancers and shops, the what-have-yous. Will a tourist, thousand years hence, visiting, say Vidhanasaudha, also wonder the same way? Only Time will tell.

From Ellora, we came to Ghrishneshwar, my first Jyotirlinga. The sanctum was crowded, it was hot and we were tired. The temple itself is pretty recent, but the concept of jyotirlingas has been in Indian lore for more than a thousand years. The beauty of jyotirlingas is that they are distributed all over India, like the Shaktipeethas . There are other groups of temples which are located within a few hundred miles of one another, like the navagraha temples and the panchabhUtasthalas in Tamil Nadu, but these places do not inspire the same kind of awe in me.

The next day was reserved for Shirdi. We roamed the whole day in the temple complex (which, IMO, comprised the whole village in Sai Baba's time), Dwarakamai and a couple of other small temples. After the darshan, we went to get some udhi. The procedure is this. You go in a queue, and each person gets one small packet of udhi. As far as my knowledge goes, udhi cannot be bought anywhere. People go in the queue a few times, to get as many udhi packets as they want. Biyadiya saw this and probably thought that it was expected of him, too. He rushed between the railings, and since he is too short to reach the counter, peeped in through the door and asked "udhi ideya?". The good-humored man behind the counter gave him a packet too. We all had a good laugh.

That same day, we left for Tryambakeshwar, the second jyotirlinga in our list. We spent the night at T., and early next morning, we had the darshan. The temple is very beautiful, situated amidst lush green hills, from where the river Godavari takes her birth. Soon after darshan, I had my first batata vada, which was to be my staple diet for the next couple of days.

Our next destination was Nasik. There are about nine temples there, but the place that moved me the most was the river Godavari. Till we got to the very edge of the river, I felt like we were going to enter another temple. Then suddenly, there were steps leading to the water, children bathing and throwing water on one another playfully. Little Biyadiya wanted to go and play in the water, too. He stood on the first step that had water and jumped about until his trousers were wet and muddy. Godavari was really dirty, but beautiful in its own way. I got goosebumps at the thought that Sita had, once upon a time, bathed here. I repeated the line "janakatanayA-snAna-puNyOdakeShu" to myself umpteen times while performing a short puja and let a lamp adorned with flowers, float on the water. Who cares what Karunanidhi says? Sita existed, and still exists in the hearts of billions of Indians! My thoughts went on similar lines, until Biyadiya pointed at the diving kids and cried "Takeshi's castle!" and brought me out of my reverie.

I took in as many sights as I could, trying not to miss anything, but eighty percent of my faculties were engaged in keeping Biyadiya from wandering too far from us. (He is perfectly at home with large crowds and he loves anything connected with water - takes after me and not his Dad, in that aspect.) While traveling in Washington, D.C., I had seen a lady who had two kids tethered to her. I had found it a little odd at that moment, but two days into this trip, I was wondering if I could find a tether that would be easy on both our tummies. It is another matter that I could not find one, but brought Biyadiya safely back to Bangalore.

In the next part of this series, I will write about the Ashtavinayaka temples and Bhimashankar and our journey back.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Our journey northward and back - Part I

I am not a great traveler. Though I have my share of devotion towards God and my country and love for other countries, I prefer to sit on my armchair and read about them, rather than taking the trouble of actually visiting them. Shirdi, Nasik , the jyotirlingas, Shivneri fort - I had read about all of these places, but if not for my parents' coaxing, I do not think I would have budged from Bangalore. Finally, after two full months of planning, our trip to Maharashtra happened last week. R, Biyadiya and I, my parents, my brother and grandmother, and my sister's family formed the group of travelers (=pilgrims).

The first leg of our journey was by train. I love traveling by trains. For one and a half years, when I was working in Madras, I travelled by train almost every weekend. However, one big difference from those journeys to this one, was the length. Journey from Bangalore to Chennai takes about 7 hours. This journey took nearly twenty hours. While the Bangalore-Chennai journey does not interfere with one's bath and breakfast timings, this one definitely did. R and I did not want to eat before taking bath, but were forced to eat some food to sustain ourselves.

The closest little Biyadiya had ever been to a train other than Thomas, was when he had once waved at it from a distance of more than one hundred meters. The second we got into our seats, he stated wailing pitifully, asking to get off. I knew that there would be some resistance, as he had shown earlier that he disliked bus-travel also. But half an hour after the train started moving, R, my father and a policeman ("rona nahin!"), were successful in calming him down. He gradually took to the train so much, that he actually did not want to get off the train, when we reached Kopargaon!

I hail from Bellary, as I have said elsewhere. The vegetation in those parts of Karnataka is mainly the 'jaalimuLLu' plants. The fields are usually sown with chili and jowar. Now, I have not visited North Karnataka in quite a while, and it was really nice to see those same things again. My eyes feasted again on the stony hills and the black soil. Shirdi and the surrounding places are also what we can call 'bayaluseeme', unlike Pune and its surroundings, which is more like malenaaDu.

At Shirdi, The cleanliness of the premises and the discipline at the temple and at Bhaktanivas, which is the travelers' lodge, were very impressive. There are a few colorful fountains at the entrance to the temple. Both of us (my little one and I) were quite taken by them and spent a long time in front of them. Since elderly people are let in without adherence to the queue, with an escort, my Mother who was worried about Biyadiya, bade me go with my grandma and finish my darshan. It was a very rewarding experience.

For two full months, we had debated on whether we could take little Biyadiya for the trip. Finally, the Great Man at Shirdi made us take him. And we never regretted it once. The only problem for him was food. He is as picky an eater as I am, and sourcing food for us was R's biggest worry throughout. I did not find the idlis and dosas of Maharashtra palatable. Biyadiya agreed with me and went on a hunger strike. I had to then buy Cerelac for him, to keep his energy levels (and mine) up. However, Maharashtrians make Vada pav and Batata vada, which are tasty even when eaten at roadside stalls. I succumbed to those, and hunger pangs did not bother me a lot, afterwards. An interesting thing about the hotels there, was the 'upvaas' menu. I did not try it out at all, but was impressed to see that there was somebody paying enough attention to their upvaas, even while traveling.

This trip was the longest one we have undertaken in at least five years. Since I wish to do it justice, I will continue the travelogue in the next one or two installments.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

ಸರ್ವೇಷಾಂ ರೋದನಂ ಬಲಂ!

ಕರ್ಣಾಟಕದಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆಯುತ್ತಿರುವ ರಾಜಕೀಯ-ನಾಟಕ ಎಲ್ಲರಿಗೂ ಗೊತ್ತಿರುವಂಥದ್ದು. ಅಧಿಕಾರ ತಮ್ಮೊಬ್ಬರದ್ದೇ ಸ್ವತ್ತು ಎಂದು ಅಂದುಕೊಂಡವರಿಂದ ಇನ್ನೇನು ತಾನೇ ನಿರೀಕ್ಷಿಸಬಹುದು?

ಇಷ್ಟೆಲ್ಲದರಲ್ಲಿ, ನನ್ನ ಗಮನ ಸೆಳೆದಿದ್ದು ದೇವೇಗೌಡರ ಹೆಂಡತಿಯ ಅಳಲು. ದಟ್ಸ್ ಕನ್ನಡದ ಒಂದು ವರದಿಯ ಪ್ರಕಾರ, ಎ ದೇವೇಗೌಡರ ಪತ್ನಿ ಚೆನ್ನಮ್ಮನವರು ಜೆಡಿಎಸ್ ನ ಶಾಸಕರಲ್ಲಿ "ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ಸೇರಬೇಡಿ. ನೀವು ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ಸೇರಿದರೆ ನನ್ನ ಪತಿ ಉಳಿಯುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ನನ್ನ ಮಾಂಗಲ್ಯ ಉಳಿಸುವ ಶಕ್ತಿ ನಿಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿದೆ" ಎಂದು ಅಂಗಲಾಚಿದರಂತೆ. ಇನ್ನೊಂದೆಡೆ ಕುಮಾರಸ್ವಾಮಿಯವರ ಪತ್ನಿ "ನಮ್ಮ ಮಾವನವರ ಮಾತು ಕೇಳಿ ನನ್ನ ಗಂಡ ಹಾಳಾಗಿಹೋದರು" ಎಂದು ಬಿಕ್ಕುತ್ತಿದ್ದಾರಂತೆ. ಇದೇ ವಿಷಯವಾಗಿ ಇದ್ದ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಸುದ್ದಿ ಏನೆಂದರೆ ಗೌಡರು "ಅಧಿಕಾರ-ಹಸ್ತಾಂತರವಾದರೆ ನೇಣು ಹಾಕಿಕೊಂಡು ಸಾಯುತ್ತೇನೆ" ಎಂದಿದ್ದು, ಹಾಗೂ ರೇವಣ್ಣ "ತಂದೆಯ ಸಾವಿಗೆ ನೀನೇ ಕಾರಣನಾಗುತ್ತೀಯೆ" ಎಂದು ಕುಮಾರಸ್ವಾಮಿಯವರನ್ನು ಹೆದರಿಸಿದ್ದು.

ಬಹುಶಃ ಭಾರತದ ಸಿನಿಮಾಗಳಂತೆಯೇ ಭಾರತೀಯರಾಜಕೀಯದಲ್ಲಿಯೂ emotional blackmail ಕೆಲಸ ಮಾಡುತ್ತದೆಯೋ ಏನೋ!