English Gaffes found during trip to Kashmir

These are pictures I took during the trip to Kashmir in Summer, 2014.

The first one was taken on the drive from Katra to Srinagar. While Ladies is fine, what is Jinds? Some 4th sex?? Supreme court should regularise this one too.

The second picture was taken in Pahalgam market. Pastre??? Paties??? I sincerely hope they don’t botch up spellings on the Birthday cake like this.

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Uncertainties of Life

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASorry if the visual is disturbing but the mind keeps wavering to what happened suddenly. Yesterday at 1845 I got a call from my wifey who had spoken to me barely ten minutes ago. As is typical of me, I blew up at her as I was just wrapping up the last few things at the office. She then conveyed to me the news that left me numb. Her aunt, Tejalkaki had passed away as short while ago at 1825 following a massive attack. To say that I was shocked would have been an understatement. She was barely 52 or 53! And we had met only last Friday ie 5 days ago when she had invited us for an upcoming celebration in the family and now you hear she is no more. Gosh how uncertain is this life. Just can’t get over this. May God rest her soul in peace.

Rains in Mumbai but I am not complaining

People wade through waterlogged streets of Mumbai after heavy rains in Mumbai on July 2, 2014. (Photo: Sandeep Mahankal/IANS)
After an acute dry spell all of June not to mention the scorching heat, Mumbai finally received rains yesterday. And the rains Gods well and truly opened their hearts out. No it wasn’t like the July 26, some 8 or 9 years ago but it did bring respite from the sweltering heat.

People went ballistic on social media (yours truly included) talking about the rains. Everyone was either posting pictures or discussing rains. Hot topic of the day it was.

As expected, life was out of control with flooding, traffic jams, potholes, you name it and you had that…

But I for one was surely not in a mood to rant. It brought the much-needed respite from the heat. The sun went into hiding for almost the entire day as the grey clouds took over the skies. Just that the clouds opened up so temperatures dropped from the 35 degrees + that we were living in to under 30. May not mean much to all but it meant the world to Mumbaikars.

Air, road and rail traffic was all thrown out of gear. The first rains always do that in Mumbai but we are used to it so the typical “chalta hai” Mumbaikar braved it all. As usual it debunked the usual claims of the municipal authorities that they had done their work and there would be no flooding etc. But still “chalta hai”

As I write at 0630 on Thursday it is raining outside. I could not go cycling as it was pouring hard but I am surely not complaining. Just a hot cup of coffee with R D Burman music would do the trick for me.

Rain Gods, please continue to pour. Mumbai (and the whole of India) very badly needs rains. And also please pour in the catchment areas so that the lakes get filled up. Mumbai’s annual water supply is at stake already.

A blog anniversary, giveaways and YOU

Manish Kamdar:

A very nice thought. Maybe time for me to conjure up something like this? But no following I guess:-) Loved the post on Matunga. Sion Fort is something that I have never been too despite being right in my backyard.

Originally posted on My Favourite Things:

Earlier this week, this blog of mine celebrated its 4th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, I decided to have a special and exciting event on the blog, something that has never been attempted before here.

And that something, dear reader, is the First. Ever. Giveaway. on My Favourite Things. Did I say Giveaway? Correction. It should be Giveaways as there are two of them. Details with regard to what they are, how you can participate and win them, and the Terms & Conditions are given below.

GIVEAWAY 1

Giveaway 1 is a bundle of 4 books: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz;  Land of Seven Rivers; A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal; Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair; and Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction by Geraldine A. Johnson (see photograph below). The books are not new, but are in excellent condition.

Blog Giveaway

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Holidaying in Kashmir – Some thoughts

2014-06-05 10.54.44June 7, 2014 8.12 PM

Just returning from a week-long holiday in Kashmir. Honestly it is a beautiful location, truly blessed by nature. Tourism can really boom here but…

1. Inclusion – People are still aloof I felt. I don’t care about the political aspects of it but honestly the locals lack opportunities for employment. Education is predominantly in Urdu no complaints but post completion of graduation – what? We had a guide by the name Sanaollah in Gulmarg. His son was soon going to complete his bachelors in commerce from Srinagar university and his question was hard-hitting – what next for him? Tourism is the major business in Kashmir and employment was scarce for graduates. We should definitely include them in the growth story. Another incident that struck me was in Sonmarg where we had a teenager helping us climb up the snow. He was studying in his class 10 and after school at 2 pm he would do odd jobs to earn some money. Yet another child who came with a horse in Pahalgam for the kids. He just be 12 or 14 years old. Wants to study and earns money that way. Maybe just feeding the family? A common grouse is that the tourist season is on for 5 months in a year and that is when they earn money. Balance 7 months?? Idle mind is a devil’s workshop. I won’t elaborate on that anymore.

2. Infrastructure – roads are terrible. I know it is a hilly terrain so The Border Roads Organisation are doing a fabulous job but we need to improve this and at a much faster pace if we have to bring in tourists. Electricity goes off at any time but this is a malaise affecting the whole of India so won’t like to say more. The Dal lake is full of weeds and muck. Why not make it a pleasure to live in the houseboats?

3. Fleecing – the locals simply believe in fleecing tourists. I know this is everywhere in the world but we just need to draw a line somewhere. Everywhere you see them ganging up talking in their local language and then asking for a bomb despite rates being published by the government everywhere. And mind you the rates are more than handsome so why fleece further? Luckily we found someone in Sonmarg and in Gulmarg too who helped us but found a lot of tourists fleeced. Even foreigners weren’t spared. Our tourism policy must bring about a change honestly.

4. Food – challenging honestly. We found just ONE Smokin’ Joes outlet in Srinagar! We should have quality restaurants too. I am not asking for the fine dining types but basic hygiene should be maintained. My nephew is picky and shrieked at the sight of a cockroach in the restaurant (rather dhaba). Why can’t we have some standards? This is not just applicable to Kashmir but to the whole of India.

All in all a great place to visit and had a great time too but then we need to do something to bring more people to this glorious place too. Maybe the new government will bring about some change.

Vaishnodevi – My first trip

Vaishno-DeviMay 31, 2014 1914 hours

This is going to be some religious journey or so it may seem:-) Here I am in Vaishnodevi writing this post without electricity at 2230. A unique trip of firsts. My first ride in a helicopter as we had a brief 3 minute ride from Katra to Sanjha Chatta. From there we walked the 2.5 or more odd kilometres. Kavya and my nephews were surely excited at the prospect of the helicopter ride and so walking up wasn’t a challenge to begin with but towards the end they were cranky for sure.

Once you get into the vicinity of the temple the complete lack of infrastructure and facilities begins to show up. You are hurled from one gate to another to get in and the usual stuff not allowed list. Must give it to the Americans. They would have sold it as a dream destination for pilgrims and would have people eating out of their hands complete with payments. We have never-ending queues and pathetic crowd management systems. God forbid if there were a stampede ever!!!

You wait for an hour or whatever in the queue for a second or two glimpse of The Lord!!! Strange are the ways of nature. But everyone was gripped by the fervour of The Goddess as chants of Jai Mata Di fill the air. People have red bands on their foreheads with these words written. Red is supposed to be the colour of the Goddess and so you see different hues of red everywhere.

Some tips for travellers – helicopter makes it easy but bookings are hard to get. Open at 10 AM 30 days before and by 1005 all full. Only 5 people can be booked at one go using an IP address so best would be to create multiple login ids and use different connections. Must take the credit card used for booking in original and also the photo IDs in original. While same day return is possible technically, I think it would get quite hectic. Accommodation there if you must stay overnight – select something that is near the main temple area. Where we goofed up is that the location was 6 kms away from the main temple area and it was raining too so walking was ruled out. Considering how light I am, I refused to burden a horse so had to settle for something near by.

The next day I walked to the helipad with my sister-in-law while the others were on horseback or palanquins. Reached well in time but due to the gusty winds and cloudy conditions, the service didn’t start. There was a delay of 2 hours already and chaos reigned. Luckily we got in. Gods ways are different so she decided we must get back in the helicopter and so we did. Of course the delay cost us in terms of delayed departure from Katra and reaching Srinagar at well past 11 pm!!

All in all, good Darshan and the first helicopter ride too for all of us. Jai Mata Di!!!

Chaos at the helipad

Mathura – A holy trip!

I definitely am not the religious types but my better half makes up for more than that. She is devout Vaishnav whereas I am the black sheep so to say. The closest I can get to is walk to Siddhivinayak Temple that too on a Sunday morning. I pray from outside on the TV screens as I hate to take off my shoes and walk barefoot! I know it isn’t right but then aisa hi hoon main:-) And with cycling, the walks have vanished and I just remember the lord as I pedal past.

I landed up in Mathura on May 28, 2014 which is one of the holiest of places for us as it is the birth place of Lord Krishna. There is Nathdwara (Srinathji) too but spare me the technicalities. Too detailed honestly.

An extremely hot 40+ degrees of dry heat greeted us as we reached Jatipura where we stayed the night at Binani dharamshala (yes the same “sadiyon ke liye”) a nice place, proper Airconditioning and more importantly with DG Sets which is a boon in this part of the country. The lunch was simple yet homely. I had those grandiose plans of taking Kavya and my nephews to Agra to see the Taj Mahal but dropped them considering the heat.

In the evening, my co brother Premal, another devout person asked me to come along as he wanted to feed the monkeys. Kids in tow we went. A few of them to start with, grabbing the bread slices. Like children, they would eat the centre of the bread and not the crust. When I remarked, Kavya retorted why not? Man has evolved from the monkey! Beat that. After about 10 minutes they arrived in hoardes with babies clinging to their mothers. Funny thing was that the mother monkey would grab the slices and eat herself. Baby is left to fend for itself maybe? Mothers normally ensure the child is fed first but this was a different experience. As the numbers increased it was getting out of hand as they would try and get closer to grab slices but we had a stick and the waving stick kept them at bay. Once we ran out of slices we moved away and they were merrily fighting over the slices amongst themselves.

We then went to feed the cows. There are gaushalas (cow sheds) and we went to one which had maybe 60 cows. My late grandmother, Ba, would make it a point to feed cows so it was in her memory that I decide to feed cows and calves. You had bags full of fodder that you inverted over and cows would rush in and gobble up. We had a cow and calf that relished the same too.

We then went for Darshan of The Lord. Straight out of the movie Oh my God. They had a milk bath in which litres of milk was poured and it was all washed down the drain. A colossal waste honestly. Then they applied perfumed oils and then sweets loaded with ghee and sugar were offered. Gosh people thronging for this? For me, the only reason for the visit was that my late grandmother wanted the three of us to go worship together. Task completed.

At night, wifey along with her sister and Premal went for Parikrama which is like a 10 or 15 km walk. To add to it they walked barefoot. Found the whole concept of bare feet ridiculous but then I wasn’t party to it so why bother? Worse they walk any time of the day or night. Rain or shine! I was safely with the kids in the room and we were busy playing Uno.

The next morning, we fed the needy. Kachoris and gravy vegetables is their staple breakfast. Deep fried stuff galore and added to that sweets loaded with sugar – I am sure cardiologists and diabetologists would be thriving here. In Rome do as the Romans, so we fed needy children and adults, kachoris and sweet lassi. Instead of offering sweets to the idol or then cash, I have always felt feeding the needy was a far better solution.

One thing I noted was that the lassi we had at the local shops was served in an earthen glass called Batera. Helped keep the lassi cool. I actually got a picture of the heaps of bateras. The salted lassi was awesome.

Apart from the weather, it was a learning experience and it was good to feed humans as well as animals.

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