Thursday, December 26, 2013

Season's Greetings!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Doon town and passionate people

The best thing happened to me in the past few months is my visit to Dehradun. Everything about the trip was so positive and absolutely great. Thanks to my official work, I got to do a bit of personal work as well. There was nothing on my agenda till I mentioned to my friends saying I'm going to Dehradun for a couple of days. Instantly they came back with suggestions to visit a few bookstores/publishers in Dehradun. And I got a list of books to be bought from Dehradun in no time. I got very excited about the activity and tried to plan my visit in such a way that I do this small piece of work without disturbing my official schedule. Of course there were some more activities that got added to my to-do list in Dehradun including my mom's request for Ganga-water-in-a-metallic-tumbler-from-Haridwar.

We landed in Dehradun and my colleagues who traveled with me agreed to accompany me for a short visit to Dehradun town before checking into our hotel at Haridwar. So, four of us reached the lovely town of Dehradun in the Doon valley on the foothills of Himalayas. It did not take too long for us to search for the book store I was desperately looking for; I saw the old (perhaps 50 year old) sign board of Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Sing Publishers (BSMPS) through the car window and asked the driver to drop us off. I requested my colleagues to go around the place and do anything they want to for a few hours; but they all chose to come with me to the bookstore. 

I was very frightened by looking at the building with a doubtful mind that the bookstore is either closed or got shifted to some other place. To my surprise I was wrong. I entered through the old wooden door and saw a functioning printing press; the people at the press assured me that I was at the right place. It was a huge old building which was getting ready for renovation and we started searching for the bookstore across all the 3 floors.. We took almost 15 minutes before we spoke to a person who came out of a small room full of books. And he assured me that whatever I was seeing is a 'bookstore'. And that's how I met the owner/Managing Director of BSMPS, Mr Abhimanyu Gahlot and his father Mr. Gajendra Gahlot; the two passionate people who publish only botany related books. It was quite interesting and inspiring to know that they publish botany related books because they are very passionate about botany. Some of the well known botanists have published a lot of books through them. It was a great feeling for me to be there and hear stories from them and witness their passion. After going through their catalog of books, our tiny books list grew bigger and pockets much steeper of course! 

Mr. Gajendra and his son Mr. Abhimanyu at BSMPS bookstore, Dehradun
After that brief visit with a promise to return back in a couple of days to collect all the books, we left from Dehradun and reached Haridwar for dinner. It was a fun time to be at IIT Roorkee for our annual campus recruitment event and perform the interviews throughout the night. Well, how many occasions do you think you will get to interact some bright students until you announce the results at 4 am in the chilly weather of 3 or 4 degrees C? During our free time, we did visit Haridwar and witnessed the beautiful Ganga in her pure form and walked around the holy town with a tourist tag on our forehead.

As promised I had to go back to my new friends to close our books order before I took my flight back to Bangalore. So, instead of staying back at the hotel in Haridwar, I decided to stay at Dehradun. I got a few hours to visit the Forest Research Institute and its amazing tree museums. It was worth every minute of sleep I saved to rush back from Haridwar to Dehradun post our recruitment event.

I was so moved by Abhimanyu and his father Gajendra's passion and on top of that,  it was a bit too much for me to receive their kind hospitality as well. Every minute I spent with them, I was absolutely overwhelmed by their kind gesture. They are truly amazing people I've met. And the whole experience of me visiting Dehradun grew richer because of them. And because they thought we are also passionate about botany, orchids and such stuff, they were  kind enough to give us some discounts and ship the books to Bangalore free of cost.

Uploading here are some photographs I could click during my short visit to these places. (click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Forest Research Institute Museum , Dehradun

Forest Research Institute established in 1905

FRI Campus

                 (Orchids on the trees at FRI)

Ropeway overlooking the magnificient gangetic plains ferrying passengers to the Mansi Devi temple at Haridwar

The valley on the way to the Chandi Devi temple

Haridwar town seen from the Mansi Devi temple

 (Some flora around the valleys of Chandi Devi temple)

Ganga in its purest form enters the civilization at Haridwar

The ghats all along the Ganga. Fortunately its not as filthy as Varanasi

Sunday, December 15, 2013

first happy blooms

Well, it has been a fascinating journey so far since the time I developed my interest in Orchids. It all started because I loved photographing them in the wild. They are the most beautiful flowers I've seen. I wondered and was very curious to know more about them and since then, it has been a very interesting journey for sure. These days I don't just photograph them, I also try to know more details on every species I come across and read a bit as well. I am also lucky enough to run into good people who are passionate about orchids and I am glad to have my association with them. I also became a member of The Orchid Society of Karnataka and it has been a very good learning experience for me to interact with many orchid lovers. Somehow, I never had the courage to grow orchids at home, perhaps I was worried I would kill them. But then I thought growing orchids at home will be the only way to learn more about them technically, so I decided to grow them and got a few hybrid plants home and potted them a year ago. Initially I did a lot of mistakes (not that I am not doing mistakes now) and saw many leaves drying/burning up; and never had any hopes of good blooms from them at all. Monsoon arrived sooner than I expected and I just left the plants to get treated by nature in its own way. Slowly I saw many new spikes/leaves coming out and one fine day I was ecstatic to see a bud as well. Perhaps, I learnt how to water them better after that and I was happy to see more buds in all the plants. Even now, I do not think I have understood them better, but I am trying my best to save them at least. Being a novice in growing orchids, I was absolutely delighted when I saw these blooms at home. Hopefully, one day I will be confident enough to tell myself ~ 'go ahead and buy those lovely plants' and take care of them as well. These blooms are the first happy blooms at home.

Phalaenopsis hybrid

Loved the velvety texture and the color

Equitant Oncidium ~ Lava burst (Dancing lady)

Equitant Oncidium (Dancing lady)
Dendrobium hybrid

Dendrobium hybrid about to open up in full


Friday, December 13, 2013

Govindanahalli-Kikkeri-Hosaholalu Day Trip

In our usual way of celebrating our Canadia Trust's foundation day on 2013 December 08, we visited the following heritage sites with some great food, education and much laughter. As always it was a great one day trip and only few of our team members could made it. We took the less traveled roads that went through rolling hills, valleys, villages, small towns and indeed it was a very relaxing drive. Presenting here are some of the panoramic photographs of these heritage sites that are currently under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) maintenance.

(Click on the photographs to enlarge them)

Panchalingeshwara Temple at Govindanahalli

The unique Panchakuta design at Panchalingeshwara Temple, Govindanahalli (Rear view)

Panchalingeshwara Temple with 5 gopuras (one being restored currently) 

Brahmeshwara Temple at Kikkeri (looking east)

Brahmeshwara Temple at Kikkeri (looking north-east)

Lakshminarayana Temple at Hosaholalu (looking east)

Wall carvings at the Lakshminarayana Temple, Hosaholalu

Lakshminarayana Temple, Hosaholalu (Rear view looking South)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gangadwara and the Doon Valley

This winter has been a great experience for me when it comes to travels. That I was missing my visit to himalayas this year, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to visit the Doon valley on the foothills of himalayas. And compared to the filthy ganga I witnessed during my trip to Varanasi, the same ganga that enters the Indo-Gangetic plains of North India for the first time at Haridwar is fantastically beautiful and much cleaner for sure. I was also lucky enough to get some time to visit the amazing Forest Research Institute (FRI) at Dehradun. It is one of the oldest institutions of its kind. Presenting here some of the panoramic shots from my short visit to these places.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Haridwar town on the banks of river Ganga seen from Mansi Devi Temple - looking East

Valleys on the way to the Chandi Devi Temple at Haridwar

Haridwar Town seen from Chandi Devi Temple- looking West

Haridwar town and River Ganges looking South

River Ganges at Har-Ki-Podi in Haridwar

South-East corner of Forest Research Institute at Dehradun

Southern face of the Forest Research Institute of Dehradun

Forest Research Institute established in 1938

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

saga of notes

Excerpt from the book An appetite for wonder by Richard Dawkins

Theoretically the idea was to use your lecture notes in revision, but I never looked at mine ever again and I suspect that most of my colleagues didn't either. The purpose of a lecture should not be to impart information. There are books, libraries, nowadays the internet, for that. A lecture should inspire and provoke thought. You watch a good lecturer thinking aloud in front of you, reaching for a thought, sometimes grabbing it out in the air. A good lecturer thinking aloud, reflecting, musing, rephrasing for clarity, hesitating and then grasping, varying the pace, pausing for thought, can be a role model in how to think about a subject and how to transmit a passion for it. If a lecturer drones information as though reading it, the audience might as well read it - possibly in the lecturer's own book. 

Every time I read such stuff, it rages me to the roof. We never had any such lecturers who would put us into thinking or think themselves for that matter. All we did was to copy notes from one book to another book. I remember our lecturer telling us that he had a tough time collecting good notes from a student who used to go to a good college/school. And the notes from those students (most of the times girls because of their good handwriting) used to be our bible at the class. The teacher used to copy whatever written in the notes (including a Math problem) on the black board and all of us used to write it down in our notes. We used to mug up the notes before the exams. I never used to like writing down notes or even copying from someone else. But I had no other option. If you do not have notes, you are bound to fail in the examination. That used to be our state in places I studied (till my graduation). I will be surprised if there is any improvement in those institutions even today. It makes me feel sad to look back and think the way we got educated.

But on the other hand, I remember a positive story about notes. During my graduation, we had no lecturer for Statistics subject and all 17 of us failed during the first year. It is one of my greatest failures in life. For the first time I had failed in a subject I liked the most. We used to fight with the college management asking for a lecturer. They had a tough time getting one considering their budgets. We used to see some faces for a maximum of few months and they used to come in different colors and languages. I remember one lecturer who came to teach us Statistics from Tirupathi. He used to teach us in Telugu language and we had no other option but to listen. So some of us  (most of the time three of us) decided to visit a few institutes in Bangalore and beg-borrow-steal Statistics notes from the lecturers there. And we happened to visit Vijaya college, St Joseph's college and a few others. Some of them were very kind to us and asked us to copy the notes. Some of them even taught us important chapters and also helped us with some tricks to solve bigger statistical problems. Most of the time we copied the notes sitting in the library or if we had access to a near by xerox shop, we used to get it photocopied. And we did that for a few months till we got enough notes to pass in the exam. While returning back from Bangalore with the notes in our hand, we used to feel a sense of achievement for sure. We shared the notes with all our classmates and some how passed our exams. So the notes from a-good-college-in-Bangalore saved us in the end.

I think we have a long way to go. Only in some institutes in major towns one can get good access to teachers and resources; while the other major parts of the state (mostly rural areas) will continue to face challenges.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

holy land and holy colors

I used to read about it a lot; I used to see them in photographs; I used to hear from people about it and finally I made it to the place. Its the holy land of Varanasi or Banaras or Kashi that attracts perhaps most number of tourists in India to make sure they watch the best of the worst in the history of mankind. Its a very unique tourism that projects both Indian filth and Indian wealth. I still wonder why people from all over the world visit this place full of filth and dreadful activities happening all the time. At least I wanted to witness for sure all that I had read and was curious to know about.

I took a boat ride for 30 minutes across the ghats and saw all the drama of spirited people working hard enough to make sure the dead people reach heaven. Its the act of cleaning up bodies in the river Ganga and burning them till the ashes mix up with the river. And at the same time people take bath in the river and drink up the holy water to make sure their lives are cleansed off the sins they've committed (or will be committing). I feel sad for gorgeous Ganga having consumed most number of dead bodies in the history of any river and being a carrier of dead bodies till where ever it flows ~ A river so lively with the dead.

Talking about people, Varanasi is full of people, a random look with both the eyes anywhere on the streets of Varanasi can capture a minimum of 1000 people in the frame I guess. Its people everywhere; people walking in the holy costumes; people riding bicycle rickshaws with 2 foreigners sitting and watching the whole drama around; people trying to imitate priests on the street to make sure the visitor drops a penny or two in their pocket before entering the temple; people who are busy making money by selling everything and anything on the streets; people who are urinating right across the streets not noticing others who are trying to ignore the sight; people with long beards who are spirited enough so that they can sit on the banks of river in the holy costumes and smoke the holy drugs to get high; people who carry dead bodies to the river bank and make sure the dead gets a good place on the ghats-of-their-choice till their spirits gets washed away in the holy river; people who can row a boat and convince a foreigner or a tourist to pay 1000 bucks to see the ghats burning dead bodies; and people who are living in the town from ages who doesn't care a damn about what is happening around; holy cow! I can go on and on. Varanasi is absolutely jam packed and is a live river of people.

Here are some photographs from my trip:

Reserved for the dead

Flower vendor waiting for the bodies to arrive so that he can decorate them with flowers

Tourists taking a pleasure boat ride watching the ghats burning dead bodies

Boat men working hard to make sure tourists like the ghats. They ensure they take you to the ghat where you can see bodies burning. 

The smoke and the river - a very symbiotic relationship

The ghats on the banks of the Ganges

A submerged temple

For some reason the place was full of sky-baskets

The one who posed at the right time

They smile at every tourist and make a living

Crowded streets of Varanasi

Sunrise over the Triveni Sangam where Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet

Yamuna river so serene in the morning

Sunrise over the holy sangam

The new Yamuna bridge at Allahabad

Boats returning from Sangam early in the morning

Where you see the congregation of boats, that's the Sangam point