Hogenakal Falls & 2010

Though just after the monsoons is the best time to visit Hogenakal, the place did not disappoint when I visited it in November. Hogenakal is a waterfall across river Kaveri, some 180 kilometers from Bangalore. The coracle ride there is quite an experience.

This picture sums up the place and perhaps the passing year as well.

2010 will be remembered for the laughs, the tears, the travels, the wonder, the good friends, sunshine and all the beer HE blessed us with to quench our thirst; not just as an year that ushered in 2011. And as usual a new year comes with a lot of new hopes and opportunities, hidden beneath the riddles and mysteries of life. We set about conquering the world with renewed vigor and raised expectations, telling ourselves this year belongs to us.

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" asked Alice
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where..." said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"...so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

A wonderful 2011 to you, me and Pluto!

Lost in Transit !

Its official now. I have lost one of my senses. Which one is the only question. As I am able to read as I write this, and listen to the cling-clang from the neighbor's kitchen as they make chicken, I assume my eyes, ears and nose are pretty much in working condition. I can also feel the chill in the December air and can still talk to animals. So that pretty much covers most of my senses and super powers, except for the most important one. I now have a strong feeling that I have lost my common sense, probably it finally gave up the will to live with me. This abrupt realization is the result of another eventful travel.

I was under the impression that my tough luck with travel has finally run out. I had an almost incident-free trip to Badami couple of weeks back, barring the cockroach-crawling-into-mouth-during-sleep bit. So I was looking forward to this weekend's travel. It did start on a good note - the seats were comfortable than I expected, the bus started moving just 45 minutes after the scheduled time, the driver announced that we will not stop for dinner to compensate the lost time and so on. With the air conditioner in action on an already cool December night, I prayed to Hermes and called on sleep to tide over hunger and cold. But my peaceful sleep was pretty short lived as I woke up to some loud noises.

While I was asleep, it so happened that some gentleman had asked the driver to turn off the AC as he was suffering from severe cold (so much so that his co-passengers did complain a few times about his non-stop sneezing). This in turn irritated a bunch of others seated towards the rear of the bus. As I slowly got hold of the situation, the guy sitting next to me stood up and shouted "Please switch on the AC, people are dying here!". I looked around and not seeing any dead people, finally at this soon-to-be-late gentleman with horror. He was quite a conglomerate of flesh (Visualize Mike Tyson with an ugly face); who can easily survive at least a couple of months without breathing. He claimed that he was feeling claustrophobic and breathless as the AC is switched off. Soon he earned a few supporters who shouted 'aye aye' from the back and I even heard a whistle.

The two foreigners sitting across got up from hibernation and looked at each other, not knowing what the commotion is all about. As the hue and cry for bringing back the air conditioner gained momentum, the gentleman with the cold made an entry with a powerful sneeze. He tried to explain how the AC vent which is directly above his head made him sneeze every other second. As if waiting for a gap, Tyson shrieked "How can 50 people sit inside the bus without any air circulation? If you have issues with the seat, come and sit somewhere in the back". But soon the driver interfered and agreed to adjust the AC to the comfort of both sides. This was the third time my sleep was disturbed - the other two times Tyson wanted to go pee and pull out his Pink iPod from the bag. I had almost made up my mind to punch him on his face.

To be honest, I never felt any suffocation, except when disturbed in sleep. I never even thought till that minute that I am perhaps inhaling the air that was exhaled by some of my co-passengers. I wasn't terrified by the thought that all the Oxygen in the air will soon be used up by the passengers and we all then die of Carbon Dioxide poisoning. There should be something wrong with me.. right? It has to be the common sense, the sense that I lost in transit.

The fun is that people got carried away with their arguments thinking they all reach their destinations before daybreak and can escape without seeing each others' faces in the light. But by a strange stroke of luck, the bus got delayed by 6 hours and the warring parties had to sit across the same table for breakfast and lunch! Not to mention, we all parted as good friends. Tyson even called and wished me on X'mas day!

The Great Indian inter-faith marriage !

My sister got married recently. An otherwise happy and benign occasion unfortunately got branded an 'evil affair' by some folks, as she chose to marry someone from another faith. The situation necessitated me taking the official spokesperson's role on behalf of the immediate family. Though my job started on a scary note, it became increasingly interesting a role, as I learned not to reason or argue but listen and nod instead. The ones who called me to offer condolences though did get a sermon for free.

As the drama slowly unfolded, everyone including the neighbor's cow had an opinion. A lot of relatives whom I had classified as hardliners turned out to be moderates while those who were considered liberals turned out to be Ayatollah Khomenis. Though no fatwas were declared, each one of these funny characters did try their best to influence the situation and elicit a favorable outcome out of it. I know I cannot point fingers at the septuagenarians and sexagenarians of the lot; it is difficult to change your convictions and beliefs after walking the earth for more than half a century. But I was taken by surprise with the reaction of some of the more-educated, younger folks... many of which I completely understood later on further scrutiny!

The priests and nuns in the family (yes, we too have our share of them) were the most upset of the lot; understandably so. For them it is important to hold on, proclaim and protect the faith; else how can they justify all the sacrifices they have made in the name of it. For someone who has submitted their entire life for religion, any attempt to rock the boat is a threat to their very existence. So when they advised the parents to renounce their daughter as she walk away from THE God and THE Path, I could only smile. Some of them had clever ways of putting across the point. One of the nun-aunts called my sister, congratulated her on the marriage and appreciated her on the choice as well. While my sister was trying to come in terms with the unexpected compliments, my aunt quietly threw in a Trojan - 'This is an opportunity for you to get an entire family to know Jesus Christ'. Hallelujah!

Another acquaintance came home to 'educate' my parents on how their decision to let my sister marry an 'outsider' is against THE book. She had also brought with her a propaganda pamphlet on the evils of inter-faith marriage, written by some self proclaimed spiritual leader of the church. This book had excerpts from the Bible, occasions when it talk about the consequences of marrying from outside the Israel community. The gentleman who wrote this booklet had quoted from the Bible without explaining the context and had carefully omitted passages that go against his argument. I enjoyed telling this acquaintance, the story of God supporting the decision of Moses in marrying a non-Israelite woman (Numbers, Chapter 12). That kind of settled the issue at least for then. I wrote a letter to the priest who wrote the booklet about his work, but haven't received a reply yet; not that I expected one.

There were a few others who stayed away for another interesting reason. They didn't want their kids to think that the resistance from family is just a matter of few days, and things will be alright after that. What if the kids pick up a cue and follow suit? So they wanted the family to disown my sister, so that 'other kids in the family' don't make an example of this and choose their life partners outside the faith. Nice try..eh..?

In a generation where people are already fighting each other in the name of religion, I don't think this mentality helps. We create a divide among kids when they are young, by preaching they are a superior race, God's chosen people etc. Then how do we expect them to coexist and co-operate later in life, with the so called lesser mortals? We don't realize that these kind of fanatic teachings at a young age have lasting effect on their impressionable minds, often critically affecting their future decision making.
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