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Friday, January 6, 2017

#EE - Curtains Down

Its been quite some time since I have written about electrical engineering. I graduated in the summer of 2015 (after the Kheerganga trek). The final year project didn't turn out to be the showstopper that we had aspired to create, it couldn't even be called a show for that matter. However, all things done, bruised and battered, I was able to graduate with a respectable score.

The convocation was held in the December of 2016 where the dates tied with my civil services mains exam making me skip the entire celebration. My friends and batchmates were gracious enough to flood Facebook with their photos adding to my misery. I collected my degree a month later - on the 4th of January completing the process of me officially becoming an Engineer! (Three cheers!)

The Degree!

I parted ways with electrical engineering when I began preparation for the civil services. A lot of water has flown in the Ganges since then. I may have become a stranger to the details of the subject, yet am a follower of the same path. Moreover, its an Electrical Engineer that writes now not just another undergraduate.

This concludes the chapter on electrical engineering in my life. I look forward to a more exciting phase in the near future.

Till then, a toast to the subject, electrical engineering!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Fountain of Love

“A fountain of joy, hidden in the woods!”
Proclaimed the one-eyed old man.
Seven and ninety years I have made merry,
And lived as God in paradise can.

“For me”, goes the southerner all clad in blue.
“‘Twas the fountain of youth
In caves, I searched a century ago.
Today, I strut around an un-ripened fruit.”

"Ha! My lads, I know the secret of wealth
Deep in the jungles lies a fountain
I will say no more," a third sniggered
"Save that it rests on a golden mountain."

The innkeeper smiles at the boasting men
He remarks at their playful volley
"Gentlemen", he protests, "What about love?
Be there a fountain for such a sweet folly?"

Silence reigns, and a strain is heard
As silhouettes frame the window beside
A couple in the moonlight caught in a dance
Clinging, unaware of the viewers inside.

Hold me tight, don’t let me go
I’ll be yours forever my dear
No fountain shall hold such water
Like the love you sprinkle right here

This valentine's. Happy Valentine's Day. May all of you find love and happiness with each waking moment! :)

Here's a beautiful song for the moment:

La Vie En Rose (Cover) 

Note: All rights for the video rest with the musician. You can contact them on their Youtube channel: Daniela Andrade

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Blinded for Simian Reasons: The Challenge of Seeing God

A Happy New year to Everybody!

I hope that everyone had a great start to this new year. I know that I did and so did Arsenal FC as they defeated Newcastle on January 2. Football rantings apart, the year has been good so far (4 days and counting) and I hope the next 362 are just as good.

Rewinding by a few days (or shall I say to last year), I had the opportunity to visit one of the holiest places for Hindus - the land that is renowned for Krishna leela - Vrindavan.

Our first stop - The ISCKON Temple

A nice and neatly built marble structure, this temple is a refuge for all those who seek calm from the deafening din outside in the bylanes of Vrindavan and the world in general. It has a calming effect on the mind and one can sit for long listening to the melodious devotional hymns of the bhakts. We spent some time seated listening to these wonderful tunes.
At ISCKON Temple (I have my spectacles here)

The second stop - The Bankey Bihari Temple

The area takes you back a few centuries as you traverse through narrow zig-zag lanes to reach the Bankey Bihari Temple. It seems caught between the ancient and the modern with sadhus quietly lounging on one side and e-rickshaws trying to navigate the squeeze through on the other. The throngs of devotees are scary and only a brave heart can hope to navigate the crowd to get to the statue of the deity. We were not so fortunate and had to rely on long distance worship as the crowd at that particular hour was an impregnable wall of bodies and so we paid our respects from our own particular vantage point.

The third leg - NidhiVan

This van i.e. forest holds 16,000 pairs of Vanatulsi trees, wherein each member of the pair is intertwined with the other. Legend holds that Lord Krishna appears  along with Radha and gopis after sundown and the forest witnesses Krishna Leelas each night. No mortal being - human or animal remains on the premises after the evening aarti and those who have are either driven mad by the divine proceedings that they see or die. The priest also places two items each of daily use after evening aarti before leaving and these are found as if used in the morning. We even danced for a bit here by holding hands and going in circles and yes laughed a lot during the entire walk(you are supposed to laugh here). This was probably the best leg of the entire trip complete with a legend that coaxed one's curiosity. I would definitely dare to spend a night here.
At Nidhi van (No glasses!)

The final stop- Nandgaon Temple

This temple is adjacent to a tree on which Lord Krishna is said to have played his flute on (I should have taken my flute to Vrindavan!) . What struck me as being relatively off was the 'donation scheme' for the temple. Donations though subject to the wishes of the devotee, in technical terms, were quite different here (subject to subtle coercion). The priest only accepted denominations of 365, 665 and higher! Moreover, when 400 were given, the person taking donations refused to return the 35. So much for worship and service.

Thus, ended half a day long stay at Vrindavan, the place where Lord Krishna is said to have spent his childhood. The naughty Krishna that is identified as being the makhan-chor is the one identified with this place and so is the Krishna who fought the huge multi-headed serpent in the depths of the Yamuna. 

Coming to the title, before I end, while the land boasts of being the home of Lord Krishna, the trees and buildings are definitely the abode of monkeys. These sly creatures are a pain for tourists and we were warned to take off our spectacles before proceeding with the journey. I did and spent the best part of my time trying to figure out what I was actually seeing in the distance relying mostly on the inner eye (for divine sight). Throwing all courtesy out the window, I frequently nudged the person beside me to tell me what we were actually seeing or whom were we worshipping! It was only when I got into the car towards the end that I was able to put on my spectacles. So yes, seeing God definitely proved to be a challenge for me at Vrindavan!

What we missed: Prem Mandir, Govardhan Parvat and 1-2 more places scattered in and around Vrindavan. I hope I complete them during my next visit with glasses or at the very least contact lenses on.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Qualification: Post Graduate, Designation: Labourer

"People who dwell in  glittering cities are rarely aware of the hardships and humiliation that their brethren undergo in the darkness."

It was midnight on December 7, 2014. We had just had the good luck of darshan at the Bhawan in Vaishno Devi. The next 1.5 kilometres to Bhairon Baba Mandir looked quite daunting. My 7-year old cousin had fallen asleep. The poor child had walked all the way from Banganga to the Bhawan! We decided to hire a man to carry him on his back, locally called as the "Piththoo". This local set off at a brisk pace on the relatively steeper slope and I followed close behind. We covered the distance in no time. Obviously, by the end of the climb I was huffing and puffing like a steam train, while he hadn't broken a sweat yet.

While the elders were yet to appear in view, the local and I got chatting. He wasn't old, may be 27 or 28. He said that he hailed from Udhampur, a town situated not far away. We talked about the general benefits of living in the hills and other things. As time progressed, he spoke more about himself. He is a Post-Graduate! A Master of Arts (M.A.) from a state university! And here he was lugging children and luggage!

Why don't you have a job ? I asked stupefied by the revelation.

He had wanted to join the Army but his family had intervened and forced him to go for graduation. After having completed his P.G. he applied for government jobs but to no avail. Apparently, there is a nexus that has pushed down several of such deserving candidates. So, he is waiting, trying to get into a job. Meanwhile, one has to feed oneself, he says, so he works. About a thousand boys and men like him had come from Udhampur, with varying levels of education and are currently employed as menial workers in Katra and on the way up to the Bhawan. The old people working the route are mostly Kashmiris, he said. The younger ones are from the local region, desperate to find some work to sustain themselves as they seek employment.

I became uncomfortable. Here was a person, more qualified than me (I just have a Bachelor's degree) who was working day and night (It was past one a.m. by now) essentially as a labourer. I could not say anything more and was glad that the others arrived by then. The man disappeared into the crowds but left me pondering over a lot of questions.

The issue of unemployment and un-employability is one that has not seen significant improvement. Will the Skill India mission add anything? Where will the jobs come from? What about unemployed post-graduates? Where do they fit in the scheme of things? How does one contribute if possible to reverse this trend?

There are a plethora of questions that are yet to be answered and I am looking for answers beyond policies on paper, and in the areas of execution. It remains to be seen whether it turns out to be a demographic dividend that we reap or a demographic disaster that we suffer in the near future.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Making the pilgrimage!

Its only been 10 days since my latest pilgrimage to the Vaishno Devi shrine in J&K and I am yearning to step out again and go on another such journey. I love going to holy shrines. Don't worry I am not a radicalised Hindu bigot (certification still needed!) but there are plenty of reasons I enjoy going to such places. For now, I'll keep my focus to Vaishno Devi

First, its the journey that makes it worthwhile. Climbing 12 kilometres to the Bhawan (from Banganga) and then 1.5 additional kilometres to the Bhairon Baba Mandir is an experience in itself. You go on driven by 'the call' of Jai Mata Di . Even the normal Namaste and Hellos are transformed into salutations of the Goddess. The atmosphere is electric as one passes devotees whether on foot, on horseback or in palkis. Moreover, it gives one ample time for solitary contemplation. The mind is at peace and one can probe the matters that trouble or cause irritation within. The feeling of tranquillity is unparalleled. A good occasion to trigger an epiphany perhaps!

Next, is the location. Nestled in the Himalayas, you are treated to the relatively clean atmosphere of the area (barring the constant smell of horse dung). Add to this the beauty of the mountains and you have definitely hit jackpot.

Finally, its the experience as one sees the representation of the Goddess in the Bhawan. My favourite though, is the crawl through the Garbhjoon at Adhkuwari , which lies midway between the Bhawan and Banganga. The width of the passage can easily scare off even the bravest as transit through it seems impossible at first look. But people are able to slide through the 24 foot passage with relative ease and with the image of the Goddess in our minds. The feeling of completion as one reaches the 'summit' of the pilgrimage at the Bhairon Baba Mandir makes you feel pretty good about the accomplishment. Well of course, the journey back to the base remains!
After Darshan at Adhkuwari

A little rest after Darshan at the Bhawan

Waiting for the others to catch up with us at the Bhairon Mandir @ 1 am in the night!
The return journey is a 12 km walk down relatively steeper slopes to Adhkuwari (via Saanjhi Chatt) and then onward to Banganga. It is this journey that takes a toll on one's joints.But, you carry through. Its better to walk on foot than use a horse. The walk finally ends at the gates in Banganga and the pilgrimage at the gates of your home.

I hope to go there again soon!

Jai Mata Di!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review : The Green Room

 Genre: Horror Mystery

"Something terrible had happened in the Green Room the first time around, or at least, that’s what the stories said. And yet, Rohan finds, the old stories turn out to be true. "

If only there were more such tales from this age-old school!

As the title suggests, the story centres on elements in the Theatre and Dramatics of a 160 year old institution. The oft expected tales of horror and mystery that abound in schools of such age are to be found in the annals of this school's history too. A concoction used to spook the juniors turns real for Rohan and the Dramatics team as the unexpected begins to happen during their practice sessions. Things escalate when strange incidents occur with his childhood crush, Chandni Joshi. Rohan seeks answers as he is drawn further into the distinctly paranormal phenomenon that is engulfing his life and is threatening to ruin his final days with Chandni. What he finds, is more than a simple explanation. Skeletons spill out of the closet and the school squirms to hide the darkness of the past. It is a battle between the unknown and the school's prestige that  brings up the finale as Rohan strives to do his duty and answer a million questions. 

The above summary forms the crux of this amazing story. The writer opens with an instance that is sure to spook you and further incidents in the book are definitely not for a quiet midnight read in the dark. A true mark of a horror story is the ability to scare the reader and keep them wanting more, this book scores a perfect 10 here. As the writer steers you cleverly through the mystery, you are definitely left biting your nails with the turn of the page. There are several side-stories too and these form the essential garnish required to portray the entire tale. Moreover, the boarding school narratives sprinkled across the pages rekindle emotions of huge variety among the reminiscing students. While the book carefully builds on the story, there are a few places where it slips and gets a little too sidetracked by other incidents that do not form the core of the story. While this is entertaining, steam is lost to some extent. Thankfully, the writer takes care of this issue and returns to the main narrative with a twist that is sure to get the residents of Ghost-town excited once again. The story wraps up with a heart-wrenching revelation which will bring new meaning to the phrase 'in stunned silence' as this will be the descriptor that the reader will attach to oneself as they turn the last pages of the book.

In my view, this is one of the top Horror and Mystery novels for the year 2015. I'll go so far as to say that if it weren't for the late release it would have definitely been a top contender for the Goodreads People's Choice Awards. It certainly is one of the best ones from an Indian author this year and we can only hope that Nag brings us plenty of tales to read from the corridors of Queen Victoria School. I must not forget to mention that this is Nag Mani's first book! An amazing talent come to light, surely.

My summary in numbers:

  • Plot : 9/10
  • Style of Writing: 7.5/10
  • Flow: 7/10
  • Entertainment Factor: 9/10

VERDICT : A must read entertainer! 

Some details:

  • Pages: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Notion Press; First edition (2015)
  • ISBN-10: 935206383X
  • ISBN-13: 978-9352063833

Here are the links where the book can be purchased:

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Sugarcane Goddess

Each year, I look forward to the festival of lights with the excitement of a child. No, it isn't for the crackers and loud noises, rather its the sweets, decoration and meeting people that make it special. Though Diwali adds a lot of pollution to the air, it does its job on the belly as well in tandem. The guilt of consuming those calories is quickly washed down by the joy of the occasion. This time the day was all the more important as we had recently shifted to our new home and this would be our first Diwali here. So, it was time to clear up our act and go all out in decorations and celebrations.

As if in an annual ritual, we wait till the very end i.e. Choti Diwali to put up the lights. This year we were in a better position as almost half the lights had been put up by Dhanteras (after a very hectic day at the market).  An improvement you might say!

The next day was spent preparing the home for the 'traditional Diwali'. So, the floor decorations were done using geru and ground rice paste. 

The puja sthan

The main entrance

and the image/statue of the Goddess Lakshmi was made using sugarcane

and the Goddess's clothes all shiny and new

The puja sthan was then decked up with the essentials 

and the customary Rangoli

Not to forget the last minute rush to the market at 6 p.m. to buy new kurta pajamas  as we couldn't locate the ones we owned in all the packed cartons. Thankfully, the market was open and we were able to get new clothes.

This time the highlight in the 'fried category' were the 'singal' - a sweet, spongy fried dish that feels too heavy on the stomach!

To top it all, I again tried my hand at having a musical evening (it has turned into a tradition of sorts now!) to no avail. The instrument of choice was the flute. So, I spent the remainder of the time watching the fireworks. 

It was one good beginning to the festivities at the new place. I hope that all of you had a great Diwali. I look forward to adding more elements to the Diwali festivities next year (Especially more music!) 

Diwali Wali selfie!


Smile away , cuz the world is worth it!