Sunday, 4 December 2016

Teatime Tales.............the Third Tale.

Try telling your wife that the best cup of tea you ever had in your life was prepared not by her but by somebody else. Most likely, thereafter, you would end up brewing your own daily tea. But there are moments in everyone's life when one has a cup of tea, outside home, whose taste lingers on forever. I'm the fortunate one to have had such tea, not once but on three occasions and at three different places, separated by hundreds of miles. Their taste is still so fresh in my mind, in my heart. And I wish to share this with you.

Third Tea

      The prospect of a visit to the second largest glacier, the Siachen, could bring delight on a climber’s face; curiosity on a geologist’s face and excitement on an explorer’s face, but it brought a simple interest on mine for two reasons. One, I wasn’t a great enthusiast as far as the glaciers are concerned. Two, my stay there was going to be a prolonged one. Thought of living under sub-zero temperatures could send chill down the spines of the bravest soldiers. So the posting for a soldier at the Base Camp, located at the snout of the glacier wasn’t a cherished one.
       As luck could have, my stay at the Base Camp turned out to be quite short, just over four months. I was delighted at the thought of returning to Kathua, my regiment’s permanent location in the plains. Fortunately, the relieving unit had arrived in time and we were busy in handing over the stores, equipment and other responsibilities to it. Somehow, new unit’s attitude was far from being positive. At times, I was worried that if things got unduly delayed then we would be forced to stay there for the whole winter because the bridge at the Khardungla Pass, 14200 feet, the highest in the world, would break like chalk due to extreme cold.
       It was September and I had started getting hallucinations. A month was at our disposal to complete the formality and move out of that place. Only I know what all tricks I used to hand over and with great difficulty started back. When I stepped on the Khardungla Pass I felt the bridge would collapse anytime. A day later it did cave in.
      Two days later with dozens of vehicles, carrying tons of load, we halted at Dras, a small hamlet in Ladakh, the second coldest inhabited place in the world after Siberia. In the transit camp I spent a sleepless night because in the evening the news came that Zozi La (Pass) was closed due to heavy snowfall. Some optimists told us the GREF people were trying to clear the snow and hopefully the Pass could reopen by mid-day and the convoys would be allowed to cross through then. No new convoy was being permitted to enter Dras as the place was overcrowded.
       After breakfast I roamed around in the camp to get any good news but in vain. At noon I heard the movement of vehicles on the road to Zozi La. I almost wept in joy and had a quick lunch. I ordered the drivers to line up and after reporting to the military police we moved ahead. The men couldn’t control their emotions and began shouting ‘Durga Mata ki Jai, Bajrangbali ki Jai, etc. They kept shouting until they left the camp. The columns, expecting a smooth passage, pressed on. The hot water and food awaited them at the transit camp in Srinagar. Every halt stopped my breath, every move increased my delight. Hope and despair visited my heart in turns. And every heart on that road went through the similar emotion.
        At about four in the evening the convoy ahead stopped for longer than usual. I got down and moved ahead to inquire. Wherever my eyes went I saw snow and more snow. I felt as if I was in the North Pole. Minutes later the news filtered in that the Zozi La had closed down due to landslides. Though soldiers were clearing it, there was little hope that they would succeed before the nightfall.
      The thought of spending the night in sub-zero temperatures in that desolate place, surrounded by tons of cold ice all around, brought gloom on every face. My heart sank. I returned to the jeep. The men began to prepare for a long night ahead. Without food, water and proper bedding it would be tough to face an icy cold wintry night; no one had a doubt about that. For dinner we all had biscuits and then improvised beds to sleep on.
       In the front seat of the Jeep, whose doors were too weak to protect me from icy winds, I shoved my legs into a sleeping bag and pulled it over my ahead. It fell a few inches short forcing me to crouch inside it. When legs started to ache I unzipped the bag for the briefest possible time within which waiting icy winds crept in and made the bag colder. It took me hours to warm it again. After a while the aching limbs forced me to unzip the bag again. And this exercise went on. Each time the cold seeped into the bag, it sent me into the depths of despair. The temperature dropped with every passing hour. During that horrendous night many times it occurred to me that I wouldn’t survive the ordeal. And I know several soldiers would have thought the same. In that several-kilometre long convoy there wouldn’t have been a single soul who wouldn’t have remembered his God that night. It was a Diwali night and brief dreams of lights, good food and sweets added to our agony.
      The wait for dawn in my life had never been so long, I guess it would never be. Suddenly I heard someone knock at the door. Initially I thought it was wind but then heard a voice say, “Sahib, open the door.” And when I opened it I saw a hand with a steel glass before me, “Sahib, chai.”
       After the night of despair that piping hot tea in a steel glass brought me hope. Thanks came straight from the heart and a dumbest question from the mind, “Why are you offering me tea?”
       The soldier, wrapped in coat parka and balaclava, replied shivering, “Sahib, the truck in which we are traveling is parked behind you. In the morning when I saw a jeep, I thought there must be some officer in it and so I brought you tea.”
        I thanked him once again. As soon as the first hot sip trickled down my esophagus, I felt life returning into me. In the morning quiet, I relished every sip. After a while I requested my driver to return the glass.
        It was a life-giving tea whose taste is still so fresh in my mind. In the moments of despair, rare in my life, I do crave for such a tea.

 *      *    *

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Two Icons Together

*   Two of Latin America’s greatest icons of the present century together. It’s a great pic indeed. This is what Marquez wrote about Castro on the latter’s 80th birthday. Their mutual admiration is no secret.

      "Fidel Castro is there to win. His attitude in the face of 
      defeat, even in the most minimal actions of everyday
      life, would seem to obey a private logic: he does 
      not even admit it, and does not have a minute's peace 
      until he succeeds in inverting the terms and converting 
      it into victory."
*    And what an irony? while the West admires the Nobel Laureate and the writer par excellence; it abhors the very mention of the revolutionary leader who overthrew the Cuban dictator, Batista in 1959 and became dictator himself, forcing hundreds of Cubans to go into exile.  

Sunday, 27 November 2016

My latest painting.

*     It's quite frustrating not be able to pursue your hobby due to the  job. I  learned acrylic painting in Mar 2012 and painted about a dozen for a year, but thereafter I'd to put it aside due to the work pressures. 

*    After a break of about three years I could paint a replica of Brazilian Landscape painted by a famous artist. It's like learning all over again, struggling with brushes and paints, and color mixing. I guess it will take a while before I find the rhythm again.

Sunday, 25 September 2016


The story of Saranga is so fascinating that as a writer I’m intrigued by so many versions of it. Below are two more versions:-

Fifth Version

*    The swan pair reappeares, this time rewarded by Lord Shiva and Parvati for unselfish love. In the burning heat of summer a pair of swans comes to a small hollow which holds only a little water. Neither will drink before the other. Both beg each other to drink. As time goes by they become desperate with thirst. But they love each other so much that neither wants to drink before the other. This way they wait and eventually die. When Lord Shiva awakes, Parvati tells him the whole story and insists, “Maharaj, give both birds the boon of life so that their love can be restored.”

 *     Lord Shiva reasons with her a great deal, but Parvati remains stubborn. Finally the matter is decided on one condition. Lord Shiva says, “I will give these swans this boon, that in every birth they will be born in one caste and one city, and their loving relationship will always continue. Even if by fate they are not born in one city and one caste, even then the story of their love will always remain fruitful.”

Sixth Version

*    This is the most popular version. In this several significant events happen before Saranga’s marriage. There is the episode of the necklace. It occurs when the lovers meet by chance at a pool where they had gone to bathe. There a kite seizes Saranga’s necklace and leaves it in a tree. When she sees this, she starts to cry. Seeing her tears Sadavrij quickly climbs the tree, brings down the necklace, and puts it around her neck. Thereafter they go back home. After sometime Sadavrij’s father sends him and his friend away so that Saranga can be married to another man. But Sadavrij and his friend join the wedding procession. When the procession reaches the bride’s door, fireworks began to be released. In this confusion Sadavrij reined his horse in at the merchant’s door, and behind him the minister’s son did likewise. Having seen thousands of men standing around in groups, the merchant was deceived. He gives Tika to Prince Sadavrij. The bride’s father thus applies the ceremonial dot to Sadavrij’s forehead instead of the bridegroom’s. Thus Saranga is united with Sadavrij.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Turkey.............the Unique Bridge

(photo credit:

*       Since the existence of life on earth and emergence of various civilizations, Turkey has acted as the bridge between not only two continents, Asia and Europe; but also between two religions and two ways of life. If the West defines democracy and human values, most of the countries in the East are governed by authoritarian regimes.

*    No Muslim nation can claim to be a true democracy which respects human rights and provides equal opportunities to all its citizens. In recent times Muslim countries are seeing an upsurge in fundamentalism and radicalism. The rise of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Turkey and other nations is a case in point. Sane voices in these countries are becoming in minority. During general elections the hard line majority elects a leader who adopts a dictatorial approach. The civilised world keeps its national interest uppermost in mind and looks the other way when minorities are persecuted and secular folks are framed in false charges and put behind the bars.

*     The same radicalized population on every conceivable occasion derides the western way of living and elects its leaders amid lot of rabble rousing and chest thumping. But these very people when civil war breaks out in their countries run towards the secular, modern and humane West and not towards any Muslim country. 

*     Most Turkish leaders forget they have a historical role to play in the politics of the world. They with their leadership have to educate and motivate their citizens to be progressive and kind-hearted. Turkey has to imbibe the best of the West and pass it on to the East, and similarly pass on the best of the East to the western world. She has to permit smooth flow of new and progressive ideas through it. 

*    And this bridge at the moment doesn't seem to be strong enough to fulfill its historical role.

Saturday, 23 July 2016


*     While researching my latest fiction novel, I stumbled upon the most fascinating folklore about Saranga and her lover Sadavrij. Not much has been written about this fabulous story. About thirty to forty years ago this story was regularly played by every 'Nautanki' group across the Hindi heartland of India. With the death of 'Nautanki' this story along with others too got buried.

*      Saranga and Sadavrij were lovers, and their story goes back in the folk tradition. There are 35 different versions of this story. (No other folktale in India has so many versions). But almost all versions agree that Saranga was the daughter of a merchant, and Sadavrij the son of a king. And Saranga was married to someone else, while Sadavrij had many wives. Yet the lovers live only for each other, and finally are united apparently forever. Their passion and suffering end not in death but in union, blessed with worldly happiness, power and societal acceptance.

First Version

*  A popular version of the story begins when Guru Gorakhnath, a powerful yogi in North India, encounters a pair of swans, and gives them a boon. In the ancient times Guru Gorakhnath, lost in meditation of God, came to the shore of the lake Manasarovar. In that lake a pair of swans played in the water. When their gaze fell upon him, the female said to her mate, “Let me go now, as Guru Gorakhnath has come here. His attention might be drawn towards us. He is a virtuous holy man, who is easily pleased and displeased.” 

*     When Guru Gorakhnath heard this, he was pleased and gave a boon to both: “You are virtuous and modest. Therefore, after leaving this body, you will take on a human body and enjoy the worldly happiness.” Having said this, he threw a fruit. The male flew away but the female remained there, unhappy. Seeing her sad, the saint said, “If you are sad at the boon, then go, leave this body and take on a beautiful form. Your mate will take on human form at the proper time. You search for him.” Gorakhnath then went away.

*     The female swan became a beautiful woman. Seeing her own naked body, she got embarrassed and sat down in the lake. At that time a King, out on hunting, came there. When his glance fell on that pool, he saw her and became enchanted. The king took her to his palace to marry her. She sent out bird catchers who eventually bring her mate. But the male swan dies of grief over her changed form, and she dies of grief at his death. The king dies of grief at her death. The three are then reborn as Sadavrij, Saranga and her future husband Rupa.

Second Version

*    The second version is the story of the Pari Rambha, who smuggles her mortal lover into the world of Lord Indra. She turns her lover into a bee and conceals him in her bosom. But his presence makes her dancing less skillful than usual, and Indra becomes suspicious. He sprinkles the magic water over the bee. The moment water falls on that bee, it appears in its true form. An infuriated Indra shouts at Surajbhan, “Oh Man, who are you?” Surajbhan, with folded hands and head bowed, humbly replies, “Oh King! I'm the son of the merchant Lakshminarayan. With Rambha’s aid, I have come here to see you.” 

*   These words further enraged Indra. And he rebuked Rambha: “Oh Rambha, you, a Pari of Indra’s throne, have gone to the mortal world and taken your pleasure with a man. Therefore, you are no longer worthy of living in the world of Indra. I hereby curse you that you both go in the mortal world and take on the bodies of jackals because you both have tricked me. For seven births you will not be able to enjoy each other, and even it you try your efforts will be in vain and fruitless. For seven births you will wander, longing for union.”

*    Rambha's mortal birth story is often found as a sequel to one of the other stories, thus motivating the pair’s desperate love. 

Third Version

*   Once upon a time in the city of Ambavati lived a Brahman named Sadasukhlal. His wife Sukhmana was very delicate, as dear as life, as valuable as nine cities, brilliant in form, abode of all virtues, and devoted to her husband. Sadasukhlal loved her so much that he could hardly live even a moment without her, and leaving his work spent time with her twenty four hours. She too was devoted to her husband. Their love became known in the whole city. Everyone felt it improper to put any obstacle in the path of their love and began to help them. People gave them food and water. Thus they passed their youth in worldly enjoyment and reached old age. After some time, death tormented them but neither could die without the other. At that time Gorakhnath came, and having seen their love, gave them a boon: “Go, you will receive this human body again.” Then, having heard these words of Gorakhnath, these two gave up their bodies.

Fourth Version

*   On the outskirts of a city lived a potter. When poor Augharnath called out at his door, he came and prostrated himself before him and said, “Please come in, Maharaj, and sit down. Please take whatever you need, and have your meal.” Augharnath said, “Oh child, be happy. Through your grace, there has been peace. Abandon this city, and go settle in some other city. The moment you leave, a fire will start in this city and destroy everything. When you go out, don’t look back; otherwise, you’ll turn into a monkey.” Having heard Augharnth’s words, the potter and his wife went out of the city. The moment they left, fire started in the city, resulting in commotion everywhere. Hearing the noise, the potter and his wife stood still, and watched the spectacle. Immediately the potter became a male monkey and his wife a female monkey. They spent the night in a banyan tree on the banks of the river Narbada.

*      In that tree lived a pair of swans. The female swan said to her mate, “Look, these poor creatures, stricken by misfortune, have settled here. Tell some qissa that will help them pass the night, and as soon as it is morning they will move on.” The male swan said, “Look, these two poor things are sleeping, tired from travel. Leave them alone. But there is an omen that whoever, at this moment and conjunction of stars, bathes in the Narbada, will leave his body and become a youth of twelve years. By now only a little time is left.” The moment she heard this, the female monkey lept into the Narbada; the male monkey was left staring at her. The female monkey became a twelve-year old girl. Eventually she too is found by a king who took her as his queen. The male monkey dies of grief; she stabs herself to death; the king stabs himself at her death. Thus follow Saranga, Sadavrij, with the king returning as Saranga’s husband Rupa. 

*     There are so many other interesting versions of this folktale, which has sadly got buried under the sands of time.   

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Simon Bolivar........The Great Liberator.


*     Hundreds of readers like me are indebted to the Great Marquez for introducing us to Simon Bolivar, arguably one of the greatest liberators of the world. I’m quite surprised that the great general is not so well known outside the two Americas and Europe. Until I read, ‘The General in His Labyrinth’ did I know about this great man, who took on the might of the Spanish Army and liberated and created Gran Colombia. Here's a brief about Simon Bolivar.

 Simon Bolivar (1783-1830)

*      Bolivar’s ancestors came from a small village in the Basque Country of Spain and settled in Venezuela in the 16th century. His first South American ancestor was Simon de Bolivar. Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas, Venezuela on 24 July 1783. He was baptized as Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios. His mother was María de la Concepción Palacios y Blanco, and his father was Colonel Don Juan Vicente Bolívar y Ponte. He had two older sisters and a brother. 

*      His father died before Bolívar's third birthday and his mother died when he was almost nine. After his mother's death, Bolívar was placed in the custody of an instructor, Miguel José Sanz, but this relationship didn’t work out and he was sent back home. He went on to receive private lessons from various renowned professors. Don Simón Rodriguez became Bolívar's friend and mentor who instilled in him the ideas of liberty, enlightenment and freedom.

*    Through years of military training, he developed a passion for the armaments and military strategy, which he later would put to use in the wars of independence. A few years later in Paris he witnessed the coronation of Napolean, an event that left a profound impression on him. From that moment, he wanted to bring similar glory to the people of his native land. 

*      After returning to Venezuela, Bolivar joined the group of patriots that seized Caracas in 1810 and proclaimed independence from Spain. He went to Great Britain in search of aid, but could get only a promise of British neutrality. When he returned to Venezuela and took command of a patriots’ army. He recaptured Caracas in 1813 from the Spaniards, but the Spaniards forced him to retreat from Venezuela to New Granada (now Colombia), also at war with Spain. He took command of a Colombian force and captured Bogota in 1814. 

*     The patriots, however, lacked men and supplies, and new defeats led Bolivar to flee to Jamaica. In Haiti he gathered a force that landed in Venezuela in 1816, and took Angostura and became dictator there. He marched into New Granada in 1819 and defeated the Spaniards in Boyar in 1819, thus liberating Colombia. He then returned to Angostura and led the congress that organized the original republic of Colombia (now Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela). Bolivar became its first president on December 17, 1819.

*    Bolivar crushed the Spanish army at Carabobo in Venezuela on June 24, 1821. Next, he marched into Ecuador and added that territory to the new Colombian republic. After a meeting in 1822 with another great liberator, Bolivar became dictator of Peru. His army won a victory over the Spaniards at Auacucho in 1824, which needed Spanish power in South America. Upper Peru became a separate state, named Bolivia in Bolivar's honour, in 1825. The constitution, which he drew up for Bolivia, is one of his most important political pronouncements.

*     He had great difficulty in maintaining control over the vast Gran Colombia. In 1826, internal divisions sparked dissent throughout the nation, and regional uprisings erupted in Venezuela. Gran Colombia had become fragile and was on the verge of collapse. To preserve the union, an amnesty was declared for the Venezuelan rebels, but this increased the political dissent in the neighbouring regions. In an attempt to keep the nation together as a single entity, he called for a constitutional convention in March 1828. 

*      His dream was freedom for all races in the Americas, and for this reason and to prevent a break-up, he sought to implement a more centralist model of government in Gran Colombia, which included a lifetime presidency with ability to select a successor. This move was considered controversial in New Granada and thus failed. 

*   Two months after the failure to write a new constitution, Bolívar was declared president-liberator in Colombia. He considered this as a temporary measure, as a means to re-establish his authority and save the republic, although it increased dissatisfaction and anger among his political opponents. An assassination attempt on 25 September 1828 failed, thanks to the help of his lover, Manuela Saenz. Dissent continued, and uprisings occurred in New Granada, Venezuela, and Ecuador during the next two years. 

*    Bolívar finally resigned the presidency on 27 April 1830, intending to leave the country for exile in Europe. He had already sent several crates containing his belongings and writings ahead of him to Europe, but he died before setting sail from Cartagena.

*    On 17 December 1830, at the age of 47, Simón Bolívar died of tuberculosis in Santa Marta, Gran Colombia (now Colombia). On his deathbed, Bolívar asked his aide-de-camp, General Daniel F. O'Leary, to burn remaining, extensive archive of his writings, letters, and speeches. O'Leary disobeyed the order and his writings survived, providing historians with a wealth of information about Bolívar's liberal philosophy and thought, as well as details of his personal life, such as his long love affair with Manuela Saenz. 

*     Simon Bolivar was one of South America's greatest generals. His victories over the Spaniards won independence for Bolivia, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. He is called El Liberator (The Liberator) and the "George Washington of South America."

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Where is Iran headed to......!!!

*   Minoo Khaleghi, an Iranian woman parliamentarian has been blocked from taking her seat in the Majlis by the Guardian Council because her photos without headscarf have appeared in some newspapers. She was one of 18 women to win seats in the recent general election. She has been accused of uncovering her hair while in China and Europe. 

*  Her successful election stands annulled, despite Khalegi’s protests that her photos were fakes. Now her only hope lay in the hand of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the last word in such cases. 

*  Not long ago a woman was punished for watching men’s volleyball. A few days ago some Iranian models have been arrested for posting their photos on the social media and charged with promoting western culture. 

*   In this century it’s unthinkable that citizens in some countries are not able to enjoy the freedom that folks in liberal and progressive democracies in Europe, Asia, Africa and Americas have. The leaders and people in such must realize that regression would push those countries into dark ages.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Rousseff's Impeachment

*     The impeachment of first woman president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff has begun. The sane folks around the world were expecting the Brazilian lawmakers to delay it until the completion of the Summer Olympics, which are being held in the continent for the first time. These are sad times for the great nation, which can ill-afford the negative publicity and the political turmoil. But the politicians the world over are hardly known possess any graceful. They are driven by pure greed for power.

*     The daughter of an upper class Bulgarian immigrant, Dilma became a socialist during her youth and joined left-wing urban guerrilla groups fighting against the military dictatorship. She was captured, tortured and jailed between 1970 and 1972. After her release, she married Carlos Araújo, and together they founded the Democratic Labour Party. In 2002, she joined the committee responsible for energy policy of the Presidential Candidate Lula, who, after winning the election, made her the Minister of Energy. In 2005, she became the Chief of Staff and remained in office until 31 March 2010, when she stepped down in order to run for the President. She was elected President on 31 October 2010.

*    Spiralling inflation and rising unemployment brought thousands on the street against her policies. And her detractors taking advantage of the situation moved to impeach her. It seems the Western powers uncomfortable with the leftist leaders in Latin America are fishing in the troubled waters. Recently, people in Latin America had chosen the leftist leaders through the ballet. This change had infuriated the West because their companies had lost billions in those countries. The West loves the rightist leaders in other countries, but people in those countries choose the leftist leaders. 

*   The leftist, the rightist, the conservatives, the liberals; these jargon are for the educated. The poor folks know only a few things; jobs, education and affordable medical facilities. Sadly, every politician fails to fulfil people’s these basic aspirations. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Grandpa's Bench.

Grandpa’s Bench

I’m on my way to my native village. It’s an overdue journey; my last was two decades ago. This time I’m alone. It’s not just another trip, but a journey into my childhood. As I leave the city, I hit the metalled road, where a dirt track existed earlier. My conscious accuses me of behaving like a gapeseed. On either side, the paddy fields interspersed with a few sugarcane ones pass by in quick succession. Now the paddy has replaced the sugarcane, which within a decade has become an uneconomical crop. The sight of the old mango orchard with bletted fruits delight my heart, and lessen my unease. For the first time in an hour, I feel welcome in my own land.

          Thereafter, my drive up to the village reminds me of the hot afternoons when I, with my friends, rode bicycles and raced with one another. Needless to say, I didn’t always win the race. If I had ever won even once, I can’t recollect. I don’t want to and lose the joy of those carefree childhood memories. In joyous mood, I drive on and enter the village. The mud houses have been bricked, and dirt tracks have been paved with bricks. The sound of a motor vehicle drew out several villagers on the street. It did when I was a child. Some things, I guess, in a village life never change.

(for complete story, please go to short story  section)...............

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Discrimination........When will it end?

* It's absolutely disgusting to read or hear about discrimination in the civilized world, particularly in the 21st century. Two news items have disturbed me immensely. One, in the world's oldest democracy, and another in the world's biggest democracy.  

*    In the U.S. a famous actress has decided to boycott this year's Oscars because the awards are heavily loaded in favour of the white actors, ignoring the rightful claims of black actors. Imagine, this is happening in the most advanced nation in the world, and not in some banana republic.

*    The second news is from India where in one temple the women are not allowed to perform the puja. This is as strange as stupid, because God, if He existswouldn't discriminate between the men and the women. Remember, the women after God are the only being who are blessed with the power to create a life. And what an irony? the mortal creator is being prevented by the conceited man to perform the puja of the immortal creator.

*    Like million others, sometimes I wonder whether we have really evolved as a human being?
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