Saturday, September 17, 2011

Urban community forests

This is what happens when an urban born-and-bred person suddenly comes up with an idea of how to increase the green cover in the state. He writes up a note like this which will probably not be read by anybody much less be implemented. Knowing it very well, this is still my attempt to pour out my ranting with respect to the afforestation of the state and country in general.

A cold water bath can spur these thoughts!? Well, if Chennai water feels cold, that is a sure sign for me that something is going wrong with the environment. The alternate rains and heat daily seems very unlike Chennai, which is known more of its heat than damp weather.

I suddenly thought how nice it would be if a group of people buy a land and plant trees in it. It is also an investment just like how a group of people buy an apartment complex! It is just that this investment might not yield immediate results, but is probably the best thing we can leave as legacy for our sons & daughters. The term ‘community forest’ came to mind immediately.

As with most netizens, the next logical activity was to lookup the term ‘community forest’ on the internet and find out what it is all about. But I understand it is not entirely similar to what is popularly called as ‘community forestry’ in general media (a concept unknown to me till today).

Proposal (rudimentary):

Ø A group of people (preferably more than 20) together form a trust or foundation

Ø The group of people contribute money as much as possible for them

Ø The foundation then buys a piece of land, preferably in the urban locality with the aim of creating a forest like natural environment

Ø These will be tended to as forests not in the sense of one teeming with wild-life, not at least in the beginning stages.

Constraints and Risks foreseen:

Ø Protection required under law from land grabbers, especially with political influence

Ø Maintenance personnel required for safeguarding the area or at least part-time volunteers looking after the area, watering trees, etc.

Ø Proper and responsible tracking has to be present especially on financial aspects for such foundations

Advantages:

Ø These trees will not be in anyway blocking roads requiring them to be cut when the roads are to be expanded.

Ø They will be in residential areas aiding in increased aesthetic value to localities that go with it.

Ø Once it catches popular imagination, it just becomes a natural extension of a locality. So, when a new area is being setup in an urban or semi-urban condition, such a forest / park will be thought of as a natural component of the area

Ø Climatic conditions in urban areas will certainly improve even with such pockets of small-forests / parks

Ø If sufficiently big areas are used for it, a natural park can even be setup in the areas for children aiding in a big way for their growth

Ø Above all, I feel it is our minimal duty to the country and more importantly for the next generation of people whom we have brought to life!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Moments of madness and fun ...

Just living a crazy life ... had not been coming onto the blogosphere for a long time now. My last decent attempt at a blog had been in May 2011.

In the mean time, a lot of things have happened. India is boiling with controversies and it is this environment I have returned to.

Back to home and handling more chaos than ever but this time, the cushion of Shambhavi had been there to give me some breathing space. Just thought today of remembering some of the unforgettable moments of my SA trip:

> Graskop trip - undoubtedly the top in my memories as a lot of cobwebs of inhibitions and fears cleared from my mind. There was too much fun to be missed.

> Durban trip - for both the good and bad things that happened during the trip

> KungFu Panda 2 @ Sandton mall - had gala fun with folks just before starting back to India

> Prabhu's farewell - how can I forget an event that took 4 GB of Video recording and still reminds all of the roomies of the fun that night!

> My own farewell from onsite - a moving sequence of incidents contributed to by everyone including my manager, the final photo session on rooftop being the capping one.

Over and beyond it all, hospitality of my team is the best thing I will remember for ever about my stay in South Africa. It is not easy to accommodate your manager at your residence, to start with for 2 months, and then ungrudgingly (or so it seemed throughout to me!) for 6 months! And I am not an easy customer, waking up even on weekends before 7 AM and chanting in meditation. All through the stay, they took care of most of my needs, not because I was a manager but treating me as a good friend.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Em'power'ing!

A facebook post by a very good friend sparked a controversy and of course a conversation that triggered my thoughts today on what really is empowerment of women.

I believe, like most of the 'concepts', empowerment would mean so many different things to people at different times. This blog entry is just a rambling of what I feel about it in the Indian context.

If it was as in the early afghan invasion era, where women had to be protected carefully, even a woman freely walking around on her own might have been considered empowerment. Probably in the independence war era, it would have meant the same and more, women getting more or less equal opportunities to fight against the foreign oppression. This was also the time when the seeds of liberation were sprouting in more human pots than in several prior centuries.

What does it really mean now!? I feel it is about freeing women from the centuries of stranglehold on various fronts - cultural, educational, social and spiritual - more than ever.

My vision is simple:

- A child should not be discriminated against pursuing any sort of education she likes
- A woman should be able to freely go on the streets at midnight, as the Mahatma also wished for
- No woman should be ill-treated or physically abused, irrespective of the place being a house or a school or a bus or a train
- Every person, man or woman, should have the basic freedom of choice without any external pressure

It is said that in the vedic period, a woman could wear the sacred thread just like a man - not based on being born in a caste, but out of her own capability. A woman would dissolve her family at will and pursue a spiritual path because that was considered the ultimate thing everyone aspired.

It is shameful that such a free culture is more or less lost now. But if we can create back or restore a culture even closer to that state, that should be the minimum contribution from our generation to the next.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Deeply, Madly in Love ...

One of the most beautiful lyrics I have heard in recent times ... Nenjil Nenjil song from Engeyum Kadhal. Brilliant composition and brilliantly sung as well!


(male)
nenjil nenjil idho idho,
kaadhal kaadhal pirandhadho
konjum kaatril mayangiyae
konjam maele paranthatho
maalai vaelai velai kaattutho
en moolai vaanam jwalai moottudho

(male repeat)
nenjil nenjil idho idho,
kaadhal kaadhal pirandhadho
konjum kaatril mayangiyae
konjam maele paranthatho
maalai vaelai velai kaattutho
en moolai vaanam jwalai moottudho

(male)
en nilaavil en nilaavil
oru minsaaral thaan thoovudho
en kanaavil en kanaavil
un bimba thugazh inbangal pozhigayil

(female)
nenjil nenjil idho idho,
kaadhal kaadhal pirandhadho
konjum kaatril mayangiyae
konjam maele paranthatho
maalai vaelai velai kaattutho
en moolai vaanam jwalai moottudho

(male)
Oru mounam paravum
siru kaadhal pozhudhil
Kizhiyil vizhaiyum mozhiyil edhuvum kavithaiyadi
Asaiyum imaiyum isaiyil edhuvum inimaiyadi

(female)
ven maarbil padarum
un paarvai thiravam
ithaya putharil, sidhari sidhari, vazhivathaen
oru uthirum thuliyil, uthiram muzhuthum, athirvathu aaen

(male)
urugaathey uyirae, vilagaathey malarae
un kaadhal vaerai kaanavendi
vaanam thaandi unakkul nuzhaindha

(male starts and female takes up)
nenjil nenjil idho idho,
kaadhal kaadhal pirandhadho
konjum kaatril mayangiyae
konjam maele paranthatho
maalai vaelai velai kaattutho
en moolai vaanam jwalai moottudho

(female)
pasi oorum idhazhum,
pasi aerum viralum
viradham mudithu, irayai virayum, naeram idhu
uyirin murayil, mayirin izhayoor nooram adhu

(male)
oru vellai thiraiyaai,
un ullam thirandhaai
siruga siruga, iravai thirudum thaarigayae
vidiyum varayil, viralum ithazhum thoorigaiyae

(female)
vidiyaadhe iravae mudiyaadhe kanavae,
nee innum konjam neelakkori kaadhal kaani thudikka thudikka

(male)
nenjil nenjil idho idho,
kaadhal kaadhal pirandhadho
konjum kaatril mayangiyae
konjam maele paranthatho
maalai vaelai velai kaattutho
en moolai vaanam jwalai moottudho

(female)
en nilaavil en nilaavil
oru minsaaral thaan thoovudho
en kanaavil en kanaavil
un bimba thugazh inbangal pozhigayil

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sweet Breath

With every breath, lies the key
inhale and you are not the body
exhale and you are not the mind

that should make you damned
for without the body and mind
you are forced to ask
who am I here and what is my task

I stay that way for mere minutes
but those few are so sweet
it eggs me on for more

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sabie and Graskop trip - Part 3 - Canyoning

After an eventful first day with water tubing & caving, most of us rested well in the night to get ready for probably the most enjoyed of them all - canyoning or kloofing as it's called in the native tongue. The only glitch is we had to start early at 7 AM and have breakfast as well, which not many of us managed to do.

Kestelle was prompt in arriving but Alagiri was without his shoes. So, Kestelle probably planned it and scared off Karthik from Canyoning thereby securing shoes for Alagiri :)

Oh, and I forgot to tell about our two best players throughout - Barkesh and RedBull. Kestelle was finding it very difficult to pronounce Prakash and Prabhu and somehow started calling them Barkesh and RedBull :-) Those names just stuck to them for rest of our trip.

It was a misty morning and the drive to MacMac falls was very enjoyable, especially with our guys drooling in the trailer when a lady joined us near Kestelle's office - her name was Vanya and she was from Serbia.

Our first exercise upon reaching Mac Mac was for all of us to get into our Superman dress ... with the wet suit & shorts over it. For most of us, this was the touch part - to get our wet suits on, most of them not fitting in size. Gnana had in fact got it reversed and was very uncomfortable with the fit! Over the wet suit, we had to wear a shorts for helping in bum sliding over rocks. The first ordeal over, we started with the trek.

It was a nice walk for a while slowly but steadily getting more and more slippery. So was the 'nicety' of our experience I thought! Kestelle was just walking along with us and suddenly jumped into a pool of water some 15 to 20 feet! I, for one was damned, when one after another people started jumping in ... I was honestly cursing myself under the breath for my twin fears - of water and of heights. But anyway decided to take the plunge after quite some hesitation. The pool of water was amidst a few rocks and so people had to jump right in between. I closed my eyes and just jumped but I guess it was close to the rocks than the pool's center. Anyway, gasping for breath once more and hanging around the people extending their help, I reached shore. The very first feeling after the jump was of disbelief that even I went through something like this :-)

Rest of the trek did not involve more jumps but was more of climbing rocks up and down, sometimes bum sliding. Nantha unfortunately had a couple of bad falls hurting his hands and knees, but that did not show as the man braved on!

We had our first break after an hour near the first waterfall on our kloofing trip with kestelle distributing some biscuits & coke. I am sure if we had any idea of the work that lay ahead, people would grabbed lot more to eat. There was a mini-jump from a 6 feet which people enjoyed. Shaju was our hero of this trip as well. Nanthu was "terrific" helping everybody (more desperately for the ladies in our group) in both the jumps but Shaju was "terrifying" trying to sink Nanthu every time he offered him help with swimming across ;-)

Only people who knew swimming could go closer to the second water fall and Prabhu helped a couple of us to go closer. I stopped mid-way due to the depth, but it seems we could have gone farther! That in itself was still very good and from there, we moved on to the final Mac Mac falls. Everybody was tired by then as we reached our final destination. But the beauty of the fall had us temporarily forget our weariness and the braver souls carried on with another mini-swim to reach the foot-rocks. We had our second snack-meal there but obviously the biscuits & coke was no match to our hunger this time :-)

The return journey was in itself a brilliant adventure! Our tired limbs had to carry us over a rather steep climb of over 60 metres, sometimes walking across trees & vines, sometimes climbing over steep landscape and sometimes literally over 6 feet rocks. There were several breaks taken by all of us given the nature of the climb and there was a palpable relief in everyone just reaching the top. The relief turned into joy for our guys seeing all the bikini clad women who were obviously flustered by the heat :-))

The return journey was without further mishaps and in fact enjoyable with us trying to learn "Chao Cacusi" in Serbian & Vanya trying to learn "Un peyar enna" :-) So famished was our group that the lunch at Wild Fig Tree restaurant comprised of all possible dishes, the exotic ones being Ostrich, Springbok, Fried Fish Trout, Chicken and Milkshakes!

Thus ended the three of our adventures, each different in its own respect and yet with the common thread of letting us overcome our own fears!

Oh well ... and the final part of my writing will need to be about Kestelle, the big swing and our last big adventure - the return journey itself!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sabie and Graskop trip - Part 2 - Caving with candle


The afternoon passed off without any momentous ventures or events. We were all just tired but still excited about what more is to come. Some of us were apprehensive with the water tubing experience though with several cuts across hands and legs. Karthik had a swelling on his leg and thereafter refused to take part in further adventures.


No lunch yet and soon it was time to go for our second venture with Kestelle - Caving with a candle - with 8 of us. It was pouring down and we hadn't got enough dry clothes. So, we just went off with the same wet clothes. To enter the caves, we were taken to Kestelle's office where we wore the ankle boots and our long blue robe tucking into them. Two couples joined us in this adventure at the office.


When we finally reached the cave, it was still pouring badly and we struggled a bit to light our candles. We did not realize how awkward it was to walk with the boots on till we actually started walking towards the cave. All of us managed to reach the cave entrance without our candles getting blown off. Kestelle told us to guard the candles with our palms also helping the eyes from getting blinded by the candle light in that darkness.


A few bats passed me so close that I felt the whiff of air :) Our descent into the cave was through a narrow rock canyon first followed by our first bending & crawling on four limbs. Not everyone liked this and especially Nanthu seemed to dislike all this squeezing through rocks & crawling. It became more apparent when we had our next crawl in the cave, this time completely like a worm slithering through the mud and Nanthu was going mad. He was shouting "I hate caving"!


Whenever we managed to walk though, our guide was charming enough to guide us about the rock formations and types of rocks inside, especially to the German couple in our group :)


Gnana was crawling ahead of us and suddenly at a turn, Kestelle tried to scare us. He did the same to me too once in our subsequent journey when he went ahead of us. Once we reached the deepest part of the cave, we were asked to blow off all our lights. No matter how we tried, we could not see anything even after few more minutes because there was no light, even a minimal one there.


After some more descent and more crawls later, we were near the entrance out. One final dare ensued - to crawl out through the narrowest of the gorges, only the south african & german couple tried it and made it finally to the outside.


Soon, we were out and on our way back to the backpackers. This time, there was more fun in the truck where Alagiri was trying to blow the German lady's candle. Shahjahan was however persistent about holding his mobile light on all through the way. It was still raining heavily when we had started back to Kestelle's office to derobe.


We were all so dirty and wet, but since we did not have any more dry clothes, we chose to head to the Woodsman in our 'adventure' dress itself. Famished is an understatement of our condition then and we gobbled down anything that seemed palatable. The waitress was apparently furious at us for coming in so late to the restaurant (and due to our appearance as well!?) that she refused a finger bowl for Nanda! We were all making fun of him for this snubbing :)


Shaju and Karthik though wisely bought some noodles and bread for the breakfast next morning. We were all to begin the final planned adventure at 7:30 AM next morning - canyoning. But for then, we were extremely tired and went to sleep early. Thankfully, I had kept Shambhavi and breath watching going at the night - otherwise, I don't think I would have made it through the next day at all!


What happened on our Kloofing trip is reading material for another day :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sabie & Graskop - Part 1 - Water Tubing

This is the first of a series of blogs I want to write about our recent adventure trip. It is mostly in first person narrative as I have experienced it.

For this trip, I did not do anything initially apart from giving the money to Alagiri. Hats off to Gnana and Alagiri for their entire trip organization. If not for them, it would not have been this great!

9 of us went to Graskop during the last long weekend and we hired 2 cars for our drive. Our stay was to be at Sabie, about 30 to 40 Kms before Graskop as we were to do some adventures in Sabie before heading to Graskop.

We planned for a early morning start at 4 AM on Saturday, but as usual managed to start by 5 AM only. The first seeming setback was when our car boot door got jammed. Luckily from the last Durban experience, we knew the boot space could also be accessed from within the car which did prove handy overall.

Alagiri and I were the only drivers for the two cars and we took our first break after 250 Kms of a scenic drive. The breakfast was a bit disappointing but everyone had a nice time watching the trout in the lake behind our restaurant. The other car had a GPS device whereas we were using Shajahan's AGPS from his mobile. Once we started from the Caltex break point, we took a left turn to Sabie through Lydenburg and Alagiri had sped off towards Nelspruit. So, two different routes for two cars but we knew both routes anyway converge near Sabie and just proceeded in our own ways.

Just after Lydenburg, it got so misty around 10:30 AM in the morning through the sinuous route that visibility was less than even 20 feet! It was absolutely tiring to focus so hard and drive only 40 kms in the next 1 hour. But strangely, everyone enjoyed this drive and we finally managed to reach Sabie at noon time.

I have to tell about Billy bongo Backpackers here where we stayed. It is so overwhelmingly better than the previous backpackers we have seen in our Durban trip - 1000 times better than the one from Durban! A very comfortable stay and I would recommend it on any day to everyone. We settled into our dorm rooms comfortably but still did not have our lunch yet. Kestelle, our adventure trip guide, arrived shortly and we had to start for our first venture (i.e.) water tubing, at 1 PM.

We had no idea what it was about until we underwent the whole thing! Basically, one gets to raft using water tubes (very good ones at that) on a flowing river. Kestelle did give us instructions on how to guide the raft, how to avoid rocks, how to use the trees & rocks in the flow, etc. But am not sure how many of us got the hang of it because it was too much information to digest frankly.

The funny thing was there were at least 5 of us who did not know swimming. Only Prabhu, Nanthu & Gnana knew swimming. Nanda could also manage, but barely. The rest of us were so noobish when it comes to swimming that the very notion of us tubing is laughable. But the brave (and naive) souls we were, we happily posed for some pictures and got onto it! Luckily for us, the river was flowing much faster than usual with more water apparently.

After the first fall into water, I was completely breathless and was probably even shouting for help :) Somehow, got onto the raft again and managed to fall again. This whole falling, rolling in water, bumping into rocks, getting tangled into thorny bushes continued for the next 2 hours. We were progressively getting better and I am sure many of us would probably like the tubing venture next time. But at that moment, I was so scared that I just wanted it to end at some point of time.

During the whole time, we could not help wonder how Kestelle was managing it so effortlessly and in fact, sometimes he was just coolly going upstream to save some of our friends who lagged behind or got tangled between bushes. Thankfully there were no crocodiles in the flowing water and I managed always to be either in the beginning of group tumbling & rolling in water (sometimes under my raft as well) or to be helped by others in our group.

Shaju and Karthik were our tubing heroes because they were mostly only rolling in water and into bushes :) In fact, Karthik was so hurt physically bumping against the rocks and shaken up with the whole thing that he had to drop off at about 3/4th distance. Once Kestelle talked about the final three rapids, even shaju and I wanted to quit - but Kestelle wouldn't let us drop! "Oh heck, I have to undergo this" was the only thing going on in my mind and suddenly there was Bhairavi with an unknown courage flowing in me!

The first rapid was the toughest of all. 3 people went through the first rapid successfully and then I decide to take the plunge. But my first step into the water itself was a setback as the raft toppled. Thankfully, Gnana was there to help me out immediately and I set upon it again. The first 2 twists of the rapid went on OK and on the third twist my raft toppled again flinging me into the water. I watched many others also follow my route - Alagiri lost one of his shoes in that rapid.

The other 2 rapids were relatively smoothly crossed and we reached the final frontier after over 3 hours, dropping anchor near a house on the shore. Karthik was already drying himself when we got our rafts to the shore and we took some snaps with Kestelle near our trailer.

Everyone in the group was drenched to the core and had several cuts on hands / legs. But most of us were extremely happy too that even we could do something like this!! I still remember my desperate attempts to stay afloat & alive, grapple with clutching at bushes and clawing at the river bed to stop rolling in the flowing water :-)

At the end of it all, I can claim to have lost a lot of my fear about drowning in water and am really thankful to Kestelle for forcing me through this. There started our admiration for this extremely fit person not only effortlessly did it all, but also helped us go through it.

More about rest of the trip in subsequent blogs ...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spread the Word ... please!

After a long time, again, my blogging silence is broken now. Nope, it is not because I saw an awesome movie or read a wonderful book. I just am letting out a bit of pain.

This is probably the first time am writing something about Him - usually I consider him too great to fit into my silly expressions. What I am today is completely, 100% attributable to Isha and Sadhguru. Life has taken a complete turn towards happiness since 2003 when I attended my first few programs with Isha.

So, quite naturally when I heard a few days ago that Sadhguru himself is conducting an intensive Inner Engineering class in Chennai (March 25th I think), it was pretty exciting to me! I just wished this is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to feel & realize what I have. And when it is from the Man Himself, what a great thing it is!!

But today I had a chat with my wife today and she said something that completely stirred something inside. There are about 15000 slots for this program and still some of them are open. I was shocked to know that ... for me it is unthinkable because anything by Sadhguru would & should get over-filled in a matter of days.

And it seems Sadhguru told something on the lines of 'If I have to go and invite people on streets, I would do it'!

The closest I have known something in my life to God is my Guru and if he had to say something like this, I can just understand what sort of a pain it is, not just for him but for the whole Isha foundation. There were tears welling up in my eyes, after a long time, due to pain. Usually, if it is, it will be out of joy - yes, that is what Isha had given me. But this made me sad indeed.

It is the least responsibility of every living being who has been influenced by Isha, meditator or not, to at least spread the word in whichever way possible and see to it that everyone they know get a chance at experiencing bliss!

Well, my dad and my brother are making it this time. I dearly wish my aunt also attends the program. I will do what I can for making this program a success by spreading the word, after all I am just an extension of Him operating at a different location.

Shambho ...