Saturday, December 13, 2008

beautiful

... This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

....
This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.
This is my Father's world by Maltbie D. Bab­cock,1901

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Terrorist attack on Mumbai: a survivor's tale

http://www.forbes.com/2008/12/01/mumbai-terror-taj-oped-cx_
mp_1201pollack.html


Heroes At The Taj - Michael Pollack, 12.01.08, 07:40 PM EST
After a terrifying day, one eyewitness thanks his saviors


My story begins innocuously, with a dinner reservation in a world-class hotel. It ends 12 hours later after the Indian army freed us.


My point is not to sensationalize events. It is to express my gratitude and pay tribute to the staff of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, who sacrificed their lives so that we could survive. They, along with the Indian army, are the true heroes that emerged from this tragedy.

My wife, Anjali, and I were married in the Taj's Crystal Ballroom. Her parents were married there, too, and so were Shiv and Reshma, the couple with whom we had dinner plans. In fact, my wife and Reshma, both Bombay girls, grew up hanging out and partying the night away there and at the Oberoi Hotel, another terrorist target.

The four of us arrived at the Taj around 9:30 p.m. for dinner at the Golden Dragon, one of the better Chinese restaurants in Mumbai. We were a little early, and our table wasn't ready. So we walked next door to the Harbour Bar and had barely begun to enjoy our beers when the host told us our table was ready. We decided to stay and finish our drinks.

Thirty seconds later, we heard what sounded like a heavy tray smashing to the ground. This was followed by 20 or 30 similar sounds and then absolute silence. We crouched behind a table just feet away from what we now knew were gunmen. Terrorists had stormed the lobby and were firing indiscriminately.
We tried to break the glass window in front of us with a chair, but it wouldn't budge. The Harbour Bar's hostess, who had remained at her post, motioned to us that it was safe to make a run for the stairwell. She mentioned, in passing, that there was a dead body right outside in the corridor. We believe this courageous woman was murdered after we ran away.

(We later learned that minutes after we climbed the stairs, terrorists came into the Harbour Bar, shot everyone who was there and executed those next door at the Golden Dragon. The staff there was equally brave, locking their patrons into a basement wine cellar to protect them. But the terrorists managed to break through and lob in grenades that killed everyone in the basement.)
We took refuge in the small office of the kitchen of another restaurant, Wasabi, on the second floor. Its chef and staff served the four of us food and drink and even apologized for the inconvenience we were suffering.

Through text messaging, e-mail on BlackBerrys and a small TV in the office, we realized the full extent of the terrorist attack on Mumbai. We figured we were in a secure place for the moment. There was also no way out.

At around 11:30 p.m., the kitchen went silent. We took a massive wooden table and pushed it up against the door, turned off all the lights and hid. All of the kitchen workers remained outside; not one staff member had run.

The terrorists repeatedly slammed against our door. We heard them ask the chef in Hindi if anyone was inside the office. He responded calmly: "No one is in there. It's empty." That is the second time the Taj staff saved our lives.
After about 20 minutes, other staff members escorted us down a corridor to an area called The Chambers, a members-only area of the hotel. There were about 250 people in six rooms. Inside, the staff was serving sandwiches and alcohol. People were nervous, but cautiously optimistic. We were told The Chambers was the safest place we could be because the army was now guarding its two entrances and the streets were still dangerous. There had been attacks at a major railway station and a hospital.

But then, a member of parliament phoned into a live newscast and let the world know that hundreds of people--including CEOs, foreigners and members of parliament--were "secure and safe in The Chambers together." Adding to the escalating tension and chaos was the fact that, via text and cellphone, we knew that the dome of the Taj was on fire and that it could move downward.

At around 2 a.m., the staff attempted an evacuation. We all lined up to head down a dark fire escape exit. But after five minutes, grenade blasts and automatic weapon fire pierced the air. A mad stampede ensued to get out of the stairwell and take cover back inside The Chambers.

After that near-miss, my wife and I decided we should hide in different rooms. While we hoped to be together at the end, our primary obligation was to our children. We wanted to keep one parent alive. Because I am American and my wife is Indian, and news reports said the terrorists were targeting U.S. and U.K. nationals, I believed I would further endanger her life if we were together in a hostage situation.

So when we ran back to The Chambers I hid in a toilet stall with a floor-to-ceiling door and my wife stayed with our friends, who fled to a large room across the hall.

For the next seven hours, I lay in the fetal position, keeping in touch with Anjali via BlackBerry. I was joined in the stall by Joe, a Nigerian national with a U.S. green card. I managed to get in touch with the FBI, and several agents gave me status updates throughout the night.

I cannot even begin to explain the level of adrenaline running through my system at this point. It was this hyper-aware state where every sound, every smell, every piece of information was ultra-acute, analyzed and processed so that we could make the best decisions and maximize the odds of survival.

Was the fire above us life-threatening? What floor was it on? Were the commandos near us, or were they terrorists? Why is it so quiet? Did the commandos survive? If the terrorists come into the bathroom and to the door, when they fire in, how can I make my body as small as possible? If Joe gets killed before me in this situation, how can I throw his body on mine to barricade the door? If the Indian commandos liberate the rest in the other room, how will they know where I am? Do the terrorists have suicide vests? Will the roof stand? How can I make sure the FBI knows where Anjali and I are? When is it safe to stand up and attempt to urinate?

Meanwhile, Anjali and the others were across the corridor in a mass of people lying on the floor and clinging to each other. People barely moved for seven hours, and for the last three hours they felt it was too unsafe to even text. While I was tucked behind a couple walls of marble and granite in my toilet stall, she was feet from bullets flying back and forth. After our failed evacuation, most of the people in the fire escape stairwell and many staff members who attempted to protect the guests were shot and killed.

The 10 minutes around 2:30 a.m. were the most frightening. Rather than the back-and-forth of gunfire, we just heard single, punctuated shots. We later learned that the terrorists went along a different corridor of The Chambers, room by room, and systematically executed everyone: women, elderly, Muslims, Hindus, foreigners. A group huddled next to Anjali was devout Bori Muslims who would have been slaughtered just like everyone else, had the terrorists gone into their room. Everyone was in deep prayer and most, Anjali included, had accepted that their lives were likely over. It was terrorism in its purest form. No one was spared.

The next five hours were filled with the sounds of an intense grenade/gun battle between the Indian commandos and the terrorists. It was fought in darkness; each side was trying to outflank the other.

By the time dawn broke, the commandos had successfully secured our corridor. A young commando led out the people packed into Anjali's room. When one woman asked whether it was safe to leave, the commando replied: "Don't worry, you have nothing to fear. The first bullets have to go through me."

The corridor was laced with broken glass and bullet casings. Every table was turned over or destroyed. The ceilings and walls were littered with hundreds of bullet holes. Blood stains were everywhere, though, fortunately, there were no dead bodies to be seen.

A few minutes after Anjali had vacated, Joe and I peeked out of our stall. We saw multiple commandos and smiled widely. I had lost my right shoe while sprinting to the toilet so I grabbed a sheet from the floor, wrapped it around my foot and proceeded to walk over the debris to the hotel lobby.

Anjali and I embraced for the first time in seven hours in the Taj's ground floor entrance. I didn't know whether she was dead or injured because we hadn't been able to text for the past three hours.

I wanted to take a picture of us on my BlackBerry, but Anjali wanted us to get out of there before doing anything.

She was right--our ordeal wasn't completely over. A large bus pulled up in front of the Taj to collect us and, just about as it was fully loaded, gunfire erupted again. The terrorists were still alive and firing automatic weapons at the bus. Anjali was the last to get on the bus, and she eventually escaped in our friend's car. I ducked under some concrete barriers for cover and wound up the subject of photos that were later splashed across the media. Shortly thereafter, an ambulance came and drove a few of us to safety. An hour later, Anjali and I were again reunited at her parents' home. Our Thanksgiving had just gained a lot more meaning.

Some may say our survival was due to random luck, others might credit divine intervention. But 72 hours removed from these events, I can assure you only one thing: Far fewer people would have survived if it weren't for the extreme selflessness shown by the Taj staff, who organized us, catered to us and then, in the end, literally died for us.

They complemented the extreme bravery and courage of the Indian commandos, who, in a pitch-black setting and unfamiliar, tightly packed terrain, valiantly held the terrorists at bay.

It is also amazing that, out of our entire group, not one person screamed or panicked. There was an eerie but quiet calm that pervaded--one more thing that got us all out alive. Even people in adjacent rooms, who were being executed, kept silent.

It is much easier to destroy than to build, yet somehow humanity has managed to build far more than it has ever destroyed. Likewise, in a period of crisis, it is much easier to find faults and failings rather than to celebrate the good deeds. It is now time to commemorate our heroes.

Michael Pollack is a general partner of Glenhill Capital, a firm he co-founded in 2001.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kudala Sangama

KudalaSangama is my family deity's place... and mandates a yearly pilgrimage to the same. "sangama" is a confluence, rivers krishna and ghataprabha merge here and flow towards srisailam, another revered place in the neighbouring andhra pradesh. KudalaSangameshwara was also the personal deity of basavanna, a prominent kannada preacher and reformer who wrote "vachanas", short passages/poetry, teaching rightful conduct. the vachanas were a revolution at his time, because they were the first religious text to be written in kannada and not in sanskrit, as was the custom. these vachanas, much like kabir's dohe, form an integral and important chunk of kannada literature and feature in the state syllabus for schools


though i am not a big fan of temples/temple-towns, the note-worthy place here is the "aikya linga" of basavanna, placed at the point of confluence of the two rivers. old-time saints, when they died, left their souls in a linga. so, the linga, is actually at the bottom of the river, with a cylindrical structure built around it till the ground level. so you climb down a circular stairway to reach this place.

this is the 'ratha', the chariot, used during the annual festivities around shiv-ratri.



a few years back, the main temple and the rivers and the "aikya linga" mantap was all there was to kudalasangama. now, the temple has been given a facelift, with the courtyard done beautifully and flowering plants everywhere... and guesthouses and libraries and a museum and a bunch of other nice places to see.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

princesses of our times

"And then?" chimed the little girl with wondrous green eyes.
Her skin was as white as snow and the winter had turned her tiny nose red. She cupped her pale cheeks with her palms and looked up at the old man.

".. And then, the frog insisted that the princess let the frog eat out of her tiny golden plate. the princess got soooo disgusted. 'cheee cheee' said the princess"... and he motioned with his hands and wrinkled his long nose.
The little girl's eyes widened some more before she burst into a fit of laughter. The old man's wrinkled face was a canvas of animated expressions and the little girl was absolutely delighted.

"And then?" she asked again.

The story continued - slowly and surely and tirelessly - till the wondrous green eyes began drooping and her and-then's began fading.

The old man beckoned the girl's mother to carry the girl to her bed. He was too weak and bent with age to carry the little girl himself - the little girl who had lost both her legs, both her brothers, all her friends and her hearing to the incessant warfare that continued to ravage their village by the countryside. One of the few things she could now say was "And then?" whenever her grandpa, and now her only playmate, regaled her with his animated stories.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big banyan tree and Manchinbele

Yet another get-away on the Bangalore-Mysore road, the Dodda(Big) Aalada mara (Banyan tree) is kinda unique-sy place to visit. It's one huge, very old banyan tree that has grown sideways over a lot of land. As you walk around the park darting around the aerial roots of the banyan, it's difficult to believe it's one single tree. After you leave the highway and take a right to go to Ramohalli to see this wonder, the roadside is full of flower-nurseries growing mostly marigolds.



Carving names and messages and dates and initials on the tree trunk is quite popular with the vandals:


Further down the same road is Manchinbele. Bad roads lead you to the dam that is anyway inaccessible due to 'permission denied' issues. You can however go to the waterbody behind the dam, this time darting among massive potholes and watching your back. Since the roadside is full of shrub, kingfishers and sparrows  make their presence felt. The lake-side is a pleasant place to spend hours, and is visible from the winding roads leading to it:
 

lalbagh and it's lovely occupants

Lalbagh is more of a botanical garden, but had enough fauna to keep folks coming back for more. an important lungspace of bangalore, it also doubles up to host folk culture - music, dance, plays et al.



 apart from the glass house and a wide array of flowering plants, there's a small lake with a bit of marsh. and here you will find the pretty purple moorehen. and lazing pelicans and ducks... and close to a thousand crows

 

squirrels you will find by the hundreds.... the lakeside is a melee of bird-tweet and squirrel squeaks. of course, you got to get there early morn. remember, the gates open at 6am. 




and parrots... them too.. by the hundreds.... nesting in the high crevices of trees and wary of approaching humans

Sunday, September 28, 2008

bunny life...


GL's had a frustrating day, and wants to talk about it. Makes her way to the bunny-den. The bunnies are having a gala time trying to out-hop each other.

GL(softly): ahemmmm..
The bunnies are beyond caring...
GL(loud enough): gawwwd, just how could you guys ignore me so!
The bunnies hear her now... and line up at the mesh.

Spokesbunny(- the spokesperson bunny): hello GL!
GL(relieved to have gotten attention): hey guys, how have you been? What have you been...
Spokesbunny(... cutting GL off): aahhh GL, you got something in your hand?
GL(remembers): oh yes.. yes... I got some carrots for you.
There's a collective squeak of delight... GL's looks at the carrots she's carrying.
Spokesbunny(stamping his foot impatiently): well?

The other bunnies are all staring at the carrots in GL's hand.
Good lord, these monsters! here i am trying to strike a conversation.. and all they ever care for is food.. GL thinks.

GL extends the carrots through the mesh.. and before she could let go, they sink their teeth in and pull them out of GL's hand with unbelievable bunny-strength... and get down to business.. nibble..nibble... more squeaks... nibble..nibble.. GL gives up, saddened by their inhuman gluttony... its a relief they are vegetarian!

but GL's mad at them now...
GL: aren't you ashamed of yourselves? all you do the whole day long is eat and ...
Can't get herself to say it... she meant to tell them how the innumerable bunny babies that appeared every now and then were sending her grocery bills soaring.. Spokesbunny raises a nasty brow... GL raises her chin..the others don't care and continue nibbling..

Spokesbunny: and?
GL(undaunted, but corrects her statement): All you guys ever do the whole day long is to eat and laze around. Aren't you ashamed?

The other bunnies stop eating... and flank the Spokesbunny.. offended, they all look at GL now... it's their way of showing(-off) their solidarity.

Spokesbunny: and you, GL, aren't you ashamed? All you ever do is complain.
The other bunnies nod in agreement... that's another thing they always do - wear a collective thought... talk about individuality!

GL(straightening up): Well, I live in a real world ( unlike you)... and I have real world problems.
Four pairs of bloodshot eyes roll heavenwards...
Spokesbunny(watching GL closely): well, in that case, why don't we exchange lives?

GL's horrified... a bunny's life?! non-stop eating and those innumerable bunny babies... gosh! nooooooo
GL(recovering quickly): ahem well.. I gotto go now.. see you guys later.

Hastens to leave.... and hears giggles and hoots behind her back...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

rofl on a sunday noon

Alice in wonderland can be a real treat to the senses.. some excerpt

...
'And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'
'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptously. 'Of course you don't - till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!" '
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a knock-down argument" ', Alice objected.
'When I use a word', Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less'.
'The question is', said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them - particularly verbs, they're the proudest - adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs - however I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'
'Would you tell me, please', said Alice, 'what that means?'.
'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'
'That's a great deal to make one word mean', Alice said in a thoughful tone.
'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'
.......

some more Carroll

from the Complete Works of Lewis Carroll.


how doth the little crocodile
improve his shining tail,
and pour the waters of the nile
on every golden scale!

how cheerfully he seems to grin,
how neaty spread his claws,
and welcome little fishes in,
with gently smiling jaws!

...


the sun was shining on the sea,
shining with all his might:
he did his very best to make
the billows smooth and bright --
and this was odd, because it was
the middle of the night

the moon was shining sulkily,
because she thought the sun
had got no business to be there
after the day was done --
"it's very rude of him", she said,
"to come and spoil the fun!"

...

in winter when the fields are white
i sing this song for your delight --

in spring, when the woods are getting green,
i'll try and tell you what i mean.

in summer, when the days are long,
perhaps you'll understan the song:

in autumn, when the leaves are brown,
take pen and ink, and write it down.

perfect!

i have a fairy by my side
which says i must not sleep,
when once in pain i loudly cried
it said "you must not weep".

it, full of mirth, i smile and grin,
it says "you must not laugh";
when once i wished to drink some gin
it said "you must not quaff".

when once a meal i wished to taste
it said "you must not bite";
when to the wars i went in haste
it said "you must not fight".

"what may i do?" at length i cried
tired of the painful task.
the fairy quietly replied
and said "you must not ask"

- Lewis Carroll's My Fairy.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Some lunch this...

Lunch time one day...GL's team at workplace trudges to MTR on Lalbagh road(Lalbagh West Gate), Bangalore. Coupons are bought and a nice-ish table chosen to settle down. All other tables host peace-loving folks.

GL gets out of her stupor in stages, and looks around. The place is neat and clean and small, the floor is old-times granite. The folks there are dressed in red-striped half-sleeved shirts and white lungis and bare foot and very polite. Plates are laid out, and glasses of water, and then a small glass of grape juice appears.

after a longish wait, the clockwork arrival of food begins... carrot kosumbari... and cabbage sabzi... chickpeas veggie... and a scalding hot puri that kinda takes up the entire left-over space in the plate... and a curd vada... and a ras-malai... and piping hot rice payasa....and papad.. and multi-veggie pickle.. and a second helping of hot puris... by now, one has already had enough of a lunch... but then, the piece de resistance arrives - veg.pulao with a terrific raita... followed by plain rice and pumpkin sambar.. plain rice and rasam... .. and curd rice... and fruit-salad with a scoop of vanilla icecream... arrival of a paan announces the end of this multi-course meal... thankfully!

back at work.. a bunch of drowsy folks take turns at the coffee vending machine...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

muthatti and mekedaatu

muthatti is a small village, about 90+ kms from bangalore. and further down, is the confluence of rivers kaveri and arkavarthy, known as the kaveri sangama and then a little distance away is mekedaatu.

painted stork:

the waters at Sangam that you walk across and take a bus-ride to Mekedaatu...
at mekedaatu:



the drive to muthatthi and mekedaatu is a pleasant one.. around muthatti, the road runs alongside the river making it all the more nicer. the waters at this point is murky, being used by the village folks for their daily chores(that's one bad thing about villages by the water bodies). also there are boards warning people of crocs in the waters. there's a small patch of sand in between the river and coracles ply people to and fro. since it's very crowded and the water bad, we go on to the kaveri sangama. lotsa greenery on either side of the road, popular for sighting the malabar squirrel. what we found instead were kingfishers and painted storks and a peacock that flew down a tree and quickly hopped away. there are parking spots and a shallow place where we could walk across the waters.. on the other side, hire a jeep to take you to mekedaatu... the bumpiest ride ever and there was elephant poop by the roadside. could not find the spot pallavi had shown me in her pictures. the rocks by the river are as smooth as smooth can be, dead slippery and had weird formations.
A very pleasant outing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

why GL prefers home to outdoors...

GL's neck-deep and splashing around with her friends, in the cool waters of a river...having a gala time... when she suddenly remembers something.

GL(turning around to everyone) Hey I saw a sign-board saying there were crocs around...
Sb(matter-of-factly): aplenty.
GL: you mean the crocs?
Ht(happiest of the lot): of course the crocs, you stupid!
GL(shocked): and...err... aren't you scared?
Sb(surfaces): Isn't that why i carry this rope.
... shows the rope tied around his waist and goes back plop! into deeper water

GL(relieved): So you gonna save us with that rope should a croc grab any of us.
Sb(annoyed): this rope I carry is to save MYSELF should a croc grab ME.
Vg(to Sb, before GL could react): and I heard there are fresh-water crabs too.
Sb: aplenty.
Ht(brightening up a few shades): I love eating crabs! Did you know, when a crab bites you, all you do is bite it back.
GL(disgusted): You mean, bite it off?
Vg(overly excited): Yup, bite it's head off. I have done it before.
GLs getting blurry-eyed with shock and fear... makes for the river-bank.

Vg(turning to Ht and Sb): and did you see how bold GL was when we crossed the shallow waterway this morning?
GL(turns back and confused): Why do you say so? You were with me when we crossed it.

Ht(offering an explanation on Vg's behalf): Stupid, you were walking almost over a keelback's ridge.
Sb(before GL could ask her stupid question): A keelback is a water-snake and travels just below the sandbed of the river and leaves a ridge in the sand when it passes by.
GL(can't believe a word she's hearing): And I was walking beside THE ridge?!
Ht(matter-of-factly): Right over it.
GL's dizzy now.

Vg: But why are you going away?
GL: I want get out of these grabbing-biting-poisoning waters.
Ht(more to herself): crocs are found more at the banks than in deep waters.
Vg: Crabs too.
Sb: Keelbacks prefer shallow riverbanks than the deeper waters.
GL has no memory of what happened next... she's grateful for the same and for being safe and sound and intact and back home... and of course, she keeps a safe distance from the fearless bunch

another day in the life of GL...

A conversation at the Venkateshwara temple... between a middle-aged Rajasthani couple and the temple priest, after the pooja is over and when most people begin to leave.

Couple(with folded hands): Namaste swamiji... hum chalte hain.
Priest(folds his hands too, smiling warmly): Namaskaara. Naale banni.

GL's closeby and knows that the priest does not understand a hint of Hindi. Wonders if she should volunteer to translate between the conversing parties.

The couple somehow realise their swamiji hasn't understood them.


Couple(motioning with their hand): Nahin nahin swamiji. Hum gaon jaa rahein hain.

Their (en)acting out is perfect. Swamiji's eyebrows shoot up in understanding.

Priest(motions back with his hands): Ohh... oorige horatra? Matte yaavaga barodu?

Perfect again.

Couple(enacting the talk once more): Pata nahin swamiji. Jab Venkateshwara-ji bulaenge...
And touch the priest's feet together.

Priest(blessing them with both hands) Hogbittu banni. Devru valledu maadli.
Another round of heart-warming 'namaste' and the folks go their respective ways.

..... and GL thought they needed a translator?!!!

Monday, June 02, 2008

GL's favourite poem...

Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high
Shall molder to dust and together shall lie.

... The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne;
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depth of the grave.

The saint who enjoyed the communion of heaven;
The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven;
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes, like the flowers or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.

... Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain;
And the smiles and the tears, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud,--
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

When a growing-up GL needed a hero to dote upon, GL chose Abraham Lincoln and borrowed Lincoln-based books from the tiny(and very smelly) government library housed in a medical college, a walking distance from GL's home. This poem became GL's fav since it was Abe Lincoln's fav too.

"I would give all I am worth, and go into debt, to be able to write so fine a piece as I think that is. Neither do I know who is the author. I met it in a straggling form in a newspaper last summer, and I remember to have seen it once before, about fifteen years ago, and this is all I know about it." Abraham Lincoln wrote those lines in a letter to a friend, Andrew Johnston (a lawyer in Quincy, Illinois), on April 18, 1846.

The authorship of this poem has been made known since this publication in the Evening Post. It was written by William Knox, a young Scotchman, a contemporary of Sir Walter Scott. He died in Edinburgh, in 1825, at the age of 36.

Lincoln memorized the entire poem and recited it so often that some folks mistakenly thought he was the author.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

bloopers...

In cafeteria...
colleague1: did you vote this year?
GL(oops!): no.
Elections and politics are such an achilles-heel with GL...
colleague1: did you have to vote in Bangalore or your native town?
GL(lying through her nose): my native town.
colleague1: were the elections in your native town on the same day as here?
GL(oops!): ummm...no idea.
GL's still hunting for the word that could describe the look on colleague1's face


GL works on databases.
colleague2: can you help my friend restore sleepycat?
GL(amused): sleepycat? of course.. who else can restore a sleepy cat better than lady garfield...
colleague2(ignoring the talk): it's crashed and he's looking for someone to restore it.
GL(now confused): what's sleepycat?
colleague2(surprised): don't you know? it's a popular lightweight database. Oracle bought it in 2006!
GL(tired of being embarrassed): well, no. thanks anyway.
colleague2(matter-of-factly): no problem. i will find someone else.
GL's putting a retirement plan in place.... should have done it long ago.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

bannerghatta national park

and it's sleepy inmates...

a beautiful sambar rests by the fence of the safari enclosure... almost the only person.. errr... animal that was awake in the whole wide national park...


in the final stage of falling into a slumber....
per prerna singh bindra's "the king and i", all the current white tigers(pink paws, pink nose, blue eyes et al) in india have one single ancestor. reckless hunting of tigers by the indian royal families of yore, ensured that their numbers dwindled rapidly. and one such royal murderer let go of one of the white tigers which later spawned others.

don't even bother to find out if this iguana is up or not.. it's been immobile for hours now..

'em too... beautiful skin and all.


zzzz...

pretty Hobbes.. no doubts about what's he upto..


big and small... snore away all

the park houses bengal tigers, white tigers, lions, sambars, spotted deer and bears(mostly rescued ones and quite tame). these animals are a delight to watch while on a safari. the enclosures section has most birds(peacocks, white peafowls, waterfowls, pheasants, hornbills, parakeets and others) and monkeys and a few elephants and reptiles(a good collection of snakes, few iguanas, crocs, alligators), hippos, malabar squirrels etc. there's a small kid's play area and a very attractive butterfly park. the butterfly park has an impressive museum and a video show. the park is good fun and you can spend an entire day just looking around.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

the awe-inspiring belur

Belur and Halebidu are small towns, about 230+ kms from Bangalore. (sourced from the internet: )The Chennakeshava temple at Belur was built by the Hoysala rulers to commemorate their victory over the Chola rulers. The Hoysalas built their temples high above the ground, on a star-shaped platform, and sculptured them exquisitely with friezes of elephants/horses/lions/maidens/birds/warriors(mythical and real)/scenes from the Hindu epics/gods and goddesses.

History apart, this place is amazing by all means. The temple has a courtyard that has other smaller temples and the stepped well a.k.a pushkarni. The well is out-of-bounds for visitors. Every inch of the temple wall is carved/sculpted like someone's life depended on it. Even the roof is beautifully sculpted, with interwined rings made of stone. Now can you beat that! Extremely beautiful and awe-inspiring, especially the vents made into solid stone. The insides of the temple is cool and dark. The temple is a functional one, i.e, the regular worship is an everyday affair. This centuries-old structure of stone is up and functioning and is likely to see many coming decades.







The following pic is the sculpted roof inside the temple. Since the insides of the temple is dark, there's a huge light pointing upwards, so you can take a picture.



This piece of a youth slaying a tiger was the royal symbol of the Hoysala dynasty, and two of these flank the temple entrance:

A miniscule ganesha made in brass... you will find a handful of these and old coins and trinkets being sold by the locals, outside the temple:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Uttaranchal - Munsiyaari












to everybody who've (willingly)been a part of GL's life so far.
to C who helped put the plan together... and who was sadly lost to a fatal slip in vajrapoha a year later.

p.s: some of the above pictures were taken by Sb, a good friend GL made this trip with. after GL's batteries conked in a snowfall, GL and Sb took turns at  taking a lot of pictures en route with Sb's Canon 350d and we have no idea which picture belongs to whom. Nevertheless, all photos have been posted here with Sb's permission...  
talk about 'the benefit of doubt' making you doubt the benefits ;)

Uttaranchal: Karnaprayag, Rishikesh, Haridwar



the following pictures were taken by Sb, posted here with his permission: