Dec 12, 2011

One Enemy

The king was pacing up and down in his private chamber when the minister came in.

"Your Highness! I disagree with your idea of forging an alliance with the company men", the minister said.

Ours is the best army in the world. We have several lakh skillful infantry who can fight with swords and spears. 

Our cavalry is the best in the world. We have thousands of cavalrymen, each of them an expert at wielding swords when the horses' race at lightning speed. Some of them can also shoot arrows, or throw spears with precision and accuracy that are second to none! 

"We have enough of the army to protect our boundary from all the sides", the minister's voice beamed with pride for his command and their collective abilities.

"My friend, thank you for updating me on the strength of our army. I am sure, we can win all the battles, should we need to face a threat in the future. But then, let's have a long vision, my friend. You will then appreciate that I made my decision in the large interest of our kingdom", the king replied.

Portuguese are marching towards us from the south-west, while French recently captured Pondicherry. We have a constant threat from Mughals in the north. Though the company men (East India Company, or the British) are not interested in politics, they spread all over. 

I do bet that we have the finest army in the world, but should we always have to live with a constant fear of battles?

The question, my friend, is who are our enemies? The entire Bharat has been divided into several kingdoms; each of the rulers is fighting for his own power. While we are busy fighting against each other, the foreigners are coming in large numbers, enslaving us, and forcing us to trade with them.

"I am sure, with our army, we can win the battle for our kingdom. But, what we need is to think of winning the battle for all the kingdoms of Bharat", the king said in a reverberating voice. The minister absorbed the king's message and asked, "What do you see in Robert Clive? Of all the company men, why him?"

The king was happy that his minister understood his point of view. With a smile on his face, he replied, "While the other company men are trying to get our trade rights with them, it is only Clive who appears to have a vision of uniting the whole kingdom under one rule. Giving away the Cuddalore fort to him will help him achieve that goal"

"But what do we get in return, your highness?", the minister asked.

"One enemy! Clive has the potential to lead an army and fight with other foreigners"

"But, the United Bharat will come under a foreign rule. How can we let that happen my lord", the minister asked the king.

"True my friend! We cannot do anything about this. For centuries, we have had a lot of infighting and some of our own rulers are responsible for letting the foreigners come in and involve them in our politics. If we unite our nation under one foreign rule, we can identify that one enemy, who is common to all.

"But the one nation will be the most divisive one, my lord. Am afraid we may fall into a deep pit from which we can never come out again", the minister said in a grieved tone.

"I wish a Mahatma be born who will have the charisma to unite the whole nation and fight against the common enemy. But for now, we need to do this as our duty, irrespective of whether a Mahatma will be born or not", the king said.

"This is how Robert Clive captured the Cuddalore fort, and the rest is history", I finished telling the story to Deepak.

"Those who want to get down at Jipmer or Ashram, please come forward", the conductor was calling out to the passengers. "Should we get down here?", Deepak asked me.

"Let us get down at the Pondicherry bus stand, and roam around the city for a while before we take the connecting bus", I replied.

"I thought the same too", Deepak said. "Let us say "hi" to the French before we go to see the British".

Dec 11, 2011

Troubled Beginnings

Murphy was proving his law one more time while we were waiting for an MTC bus that would take us to the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT), from where we could take a Cuddalore-bound bus

The MTC buses from CMBT were running towards Velachery, while the ones that depart from Velachery were heading towards T.Nagar. After what looked like eternity, an M70 arrived at our bus stop which Deepak and I, along with a small crowd boarded.

The driver stopped the bus a few meters away from the bus stop to allow the conductor to finish distributing the tickets to all on board, or so I thought! It became clear to me soon when the driver tried frantically to start the ignition that the bus was never going to start!

The conductor went to a nearby tea shop, talked about the problem with the shop owner, brought a pot of water and filled the radiator. Some of the passengers were inquiring from the driver to see if pushing the bus would work. But, the driver's facial expression gave me a feeling that he already knew the bus wasn't going to start again.

The passengers got down from the bus and started to push it from behind. But with the collective muscle power, the driver could only manage to steer the vehicle to the edge of the road, thereby not causing a traffic jam.

We waited for ten additional minutes before the conductor flagged a D70, authorized our tickets with his signatures, for us to travel in that bus. We boarded to find that it was already packed to saturation level. After a tiring journey which took about 45 minutes, we reached the CMBT.

We had a cup of coffee each, and were walking towards a bay for the Cuddalore-bound busses when we heard a loud boom followed by shattering of glass from a nearby platform.

"This is my bay. How dare you park your bus here?", the driver of the bus who accidentally crashed his vehicle with the other one, started to yell at a conductor, who was rushing towards the scene to inspect the crash.

When  we reached the platform, an air conditioned bus was about to depart from there. We located the conductor and asked him if we could buy two tickets to Cuddalore. "This one goes only up to Pondicherry. But you will get a connecting bus from Pondicherry to Cuddalore every five minutes", he assured us.

We did not mind boarding the bus and taking the last two seats, since it was an air conditioned volvo model. But soon, we regretted our decision when we found that the ac outlet was spewing hot air instead.

Moments later, we raised this issue to the conductor. He inspected all the other outlets and said "other outlets are working fine. This one alone seems to have some problem. I will ask the mechanic to service it (after the trip)"!

Just like seeing the sun finally come out after gloomy days, a slow and bumpy ride from the terminus to the outskirts of the city with all the troubled starts changed to a pleasant drive the moment our bus hit the East Coast Road (ECR).

At a stretch in ECR where the road narrowed for some distance, an auto was parked in the middle of the road. The driver of the auto was bargaining with his client for some extra money to strike a deal. Though there was enough space between the auto and the median, our driver decided to choose this particular stretch to overtake a tanker lorry.

A sudden brake was followed by an exchange of few angry words between the two drivers. Our driver parked the bus across the road blocking all traffic, turned off the ignition, got down and engaged in physical fight with the auto driver. It took a conductor and a few bike riders to stop the fight and bring them to their senses and steering wheels!

I asked Deepak "What do you think about all this?", referring to the development of situations since morning.

"We have a lot of stories to tell our readers", he said.

A "Gadget free" Trip in Search of Robert Clive's Fort

Today, 10 AM:
I woke up with a yawn and picked up my cell phone. The notifications tab said I had received 12 missed calls, 17 texts, 9 gmails, 7 facebook messages, 1 poke, and a like. A saintly calmness overtook all negative feelings within me. With a great sense of accomplishment, I texted Deepak "We did it :)"

About two week ago:
"I would like to go on a trip to some place we do not know of. We would talk to the local people and find things there, without using our smart phones", Deepak said.

"Nice idea! How about a gadget-free trip?", I asked him in reply, with a place to go to in my mind.

"Yes! That is the kind of trip I was looking forward to go to"

A week ago:
I recollected a historical fiction that I read a few years ago titled Raja Perigai written by Sandilyan. The story is based on a political situation that let Robert Clive to form an alliance with the then Maratha ruler of Senji to capture the Cuddalore fort.

"Fort St. David is the first fort to be captured by the British (East India Company) in India. The fort is historically significant since it gave the much needed political base to Robert Clive. Lets take our backpacks, leave all gadgets behind, explore and find more about this fort next weekend" I mailed Deepak.

"Sure!Done!", came the reply.

The day before yesterday:
In order to ensure that ours would be a gadget free trip, we framed the following rules to be strictly adhered to.
  1. No cell phone.
  2. No GPS, GPRS, 2G, 3G, internet, Google maps, etc
  3. No watch.
  4. No bank cards/ID cards etc
  5. No laptops or ipods/mp3 players
We decided to take one camera to record our findings.

We packed our backpacks with some fruits, a change of clothes, my camera and a water bottle. We withdrew Rs.1000/- each, and left the cards behind in our respective rooms. At 5 AM, we met in front of the Cauvery hostel, high five'd "Let's do this", and walked to the MTC bus stop and started our trip.

Dec 9, 2011

The girl in a blue top

The first time I saw her was in the campus restaurant a few days ago when I went to have my regular cup of coffee. She was easy to spot since the restaurant was nearly empty with most of the students gone home for the winter vacation. Contrary to my presumption that good looking girls always come in with a company, she was without any, sitting by herself in a remote corner, with her grub.

I finished my coffee and left the place. While walking towards my laboratory, I felt that the thought of the good looking girl in the blue top, sans company lingered in my mind much longer than the taste of coffee!

"Should I go back and talk to her? Will I ever chance upon her again? Even if I happen to, will she be alone then too?", I asked myself.

"Well, what will you talk to her? You can never talk to a stranger, leave alone talking to a good looking girl", my inner voice said.

Perhaps I will introduce myself to her, I argued.

How do you propose to introduce yourself? That you are a guy who looks at the sky through a satellite instead of directly looking up at it? Come on! Now talk sense. Good looking girls and nerdy boys are like parallel universes!

"Maybe you are right", I agreed with my inner voice conceding my defeat.

The lingering thoughts of the girl in a blue top waned after a few days until I spotted her again in the campus restaurant this evening.

She was alone today too, having her cup of coffee, sitting at the same corner table. I grabbed my cup of coffee, and half determined, I walked towards where she was sitting.

While I was nearing her, I heard a "Hi! How are you?" from a familiar voice. I looked around to find that the voice belonged to my colleague. Before I reply, I heard a sweet voice replying "I am fine! How about you?" to him. It did not require me to solve an integro-differential equation to figure out that it came from the girl in a blue top.

After a brief chat with her, he grabbed a cup of coffee, spotted me, came and sat down at my table.

I let out the question which was bouncing all over my head, "How do you know her?"

"I told her that I am a member of the insti Astro club and that we look at the sky through a telescope instead of looking up at it. Guess what? She was impressed with my intro, and said that no one had ever introduced himself that way to her before!", he said.

Dec 4, 2011

A family trip to heritage temple sites

"Planning a trip. Care to join?" my bro pinged me in Gtalk yesterday. It had been long time since I had spent time with my family, so I jumped at the opportunity and sent "sure" as a reply to him.

I got up at 5 AM (which is usually my time to sleep), freshened up and took a cold shower, boarded a government bus near my hostel gate to reach home in time for breakfast. 

While I was devouring idlis, my brother briefed me about the complete plan, which was to visit three of the ancient temple sites in Kanchipuram, namely Chettipunyam, Uthiramerur and Maduranthagam. He had already booked a Qualis, and by the time we finished breakfast and had our coffees, the Qualis arrived. My brother briefed the plan to the driver while I loaded the luggage into the trunk.

The first place we drove to is Chettipunyam, a small village located a few kilometers down south from Singaperumal koil (an ancient temple of Lord Narasimha). Legend has it that in 17th century, when the enemy captured the Devanathaswamy temple at Thiruvendipuram (located in Cuddalore district), the temple priest, taking help from the faithfuls, displaced the presiding deities Lord Devanatha (Lord Vishnu) and Lord Hayagriva (horse faced God who is worshiped for knowledge) to a safer place in Chettipunyam. After normalcy was restored, the people of Chettipunyam who took great care of the deities by worshipping them in accordance with the scriptures, refused to agree to the idea of shifting them back to where they belonged. This resulted in the presiding deity of Chettipunyam temple having two names, Varadharaja (presiding deity's original name), and Devanatha.

Uthiramerur Perumal temple

Uthiramerur perumal temple's rajagopuram (main entrance)

From Chettipunyam, we drove to Uthiramerur temple. The Uthiramerur  temple was one of the oldest temples built by the Pallava rulers, constructed in 8th century AD. Visit the temple once, and you would surely be awed by its architectural marvel. It is a multi-storeyed construction, with Lord Sundara Varadha (another name for Lord Vishnu) as the presiding deity at the ground level. Climb the stairs to reach the first level, Lord Vaikunta Varadha receives you with a warm smile and thaila kaapu. Moving in a clockwise direction from Lord Vaikunta Varadha's sannidhi, one can receive blessings from Lord Krishna (in a 'preaching Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna' pose), Lord Anantha Varadha and Lord Bhuvaraha. Another stair case located outside the second level takes us to the next level where Lord Ranganatha of Sri Rangam presides.

Vedanthangal Bird Sancturary
By the time we came out of the Uthiramerur temple, it was already 11 AM. We realized that we cannot make it to the Ram temple at Maduranthangam which would be closed for mid-day break at noon. So I pitched in the idea of visiting Vedanthangal bird sanctuary, which was on the way to Maduranthagam, and everybody agreed.

Vedanthangal bird sanctuary

We spent a couple of hours at the bird sanctuary where the season is at its peak now, and so it was more crowded than the last time I visited the place along with my friend.

It was nearing 3.30 PM by the time we reached Maduranthagam. We still had about half an hour (or more, depending on the mood of the temple priest) to go before the temple would be opened for the evening darshan. Since there were no hotels near Vedanthangal to have our lunch at, we hunted for one at Maduranthagam. After making enquiries at a couple of restaurants nearby, we realized that we were either late for lunch or too early for evening tiffin. From the locals, we heard about the Highway Inn, which is located on the National Highways NH-45.

By the time we finished our lunch and drove to the Ram temple, it was 4 o'clock. The temple's sanctum sanctorum was not yet opened. We went around the temple to read the history about the temple and the ruler who built it. The interesting story I read about the temple is the legendary story of Lord Ram appearing before the British collector in late 17th century to protect the lake from flooding.
Rajagopuram of Maduranthagam temple

 history of the temple

legend depicted in an art form

art form depicting Saint Ramanuja's samasrayanam

The magizha tree under which Sri Ramanuja was given the Pancha Samskaram (Samasrayanam) by his Acharya Periya Nambigal

The legend holds that Lord Ram along with Lord Lakshman appeared before the then British collector, Lionel Place Durai, helped him bring the flood of Maduranthagam lake under control. This action earned the title "Eri Katha Rama" (the Lord who saved the lake from flood) to the presiding deity. As a token of gratitude, the collector funded the restoration of the temple which was in a dilapidated state then. The lord Ram in this temple strikes a unique pose by holding hands with Sita as in Swayamwara (marriage), which adds to the beauty. The temple priest added a couple of "special" facts about the temple while performing the deepa aradhana (lighting of lamp).

The main idol named Eri Katha Rama or simply Ramaswamy is taken out during temple procession only twice a year, once during Lord Ram's birthday, and the other time, on the seventh day of Utsavam. For the  remaining days, the other idol named Karunakaran is taken out for temple procession.

A tunnel passage connecting the lake with the temple tank via the temple premises can be found in front of the sanctum sanctorum of Eri Katha Rama.

While much of the stories are mythical (popularised on purpose, to attract people to visit the shrine), I liked those stories and the temple visit because they gave me a wonderful opportunity to witness the marvels of our ancients who ruled this part of the world about a millennium ago, when there was not even a trace of what we call "the modern technology"! The trip ended on a happy note after we returned where we started from: "Home! Sweet home!"

Nov 24, 2011

Niveditha - final part

Please read part 1 and part 2 before reading this.

The time was 4.25 AM. Santhosh pushed himself off his pillow, got the attention of a passenger who was walking towards the entrance with his luggage and asked, "Excuse me! Sir, which station is this?"

"Cantonment", the passenger replied hastily.

"Oh! I should get down here!". He got off his berth, hurried to pull out his luggage when he heard Niveditha asking him the same question he had asked the man only a moment ago.

Hearing his reply, she hastened to pull out her luggage when he said, "I think the train is about to depart. Why don't you get down? I will get your luggage and join you in a while"

"Thank you so much", she replied, pointed at her luggage and rushed towards the entrance.

Santhosh pulled their baggage out and was about to run towards the entrance when he stepped over a cell phone. "I think she dropped it in a hurry!". He picked up her cell phone, with a mischievous smile gave a missed call to his number, put it in the side zip of her suitcase and rushed to the entrance. The train had started moving already when he dropped the bags and jumped on to the platform.

"Thanks again", she said, collecting her luggage from him. "My father has come to pick me up", she said pointing towards a man who was moving towards them.

"See you later", he said, bidding adieu. He waited there for a while seeing Niveditha being received by her dad with a warm hug. Her dad collected her luggage and they moved towards the exit.

"I think you are getting a call", Niveditha's father said to her. She took her cell phone out of her purse and found that no one was calling her. "No, dad. Maybe mom is trying to reach you!"

"But I never put my cell phone in vibrating mode!"

She was about to say "Neither do I" when she saw that her father had sensed the location of the vibration alert. He opened the side zip of her bag, picked up the cell phone that was vibrating with a flash text "Wake up alarm", with an option to Snooze or Dismiss.

"It's not my cell phone!", she cried in surprise.

"Oh! Well, don't worry my child. Wait here. I will be back soon", saying thus, he started walking towards the station master room.

Inside the train, Arjun was still sleeping, waiting to be woken up by the fifth alert.

Nov 23, 2011

Niveditha - part 2

Continued from Part 1.

The train continued to gain momentum and with each passing moment, Arjun felt a part of him is moving away from himself. "Why do I care so much about a random girl whom I have never met in my life? I don't even know how she looks! What are her likes, or if she has a boyfriend already!"

A gentle breeze flowed through the door caressing his face, played with his hair for a while and parted with him as he heard the mellifluous voice "Is this S4?"

Arjun turned towards where the voice came from and found a girl clad in jeans and t-shirt, rolling her luggage through the vestibule.

"Yes it is", he replied with a pleasant smile. "God, please let her be Niveditha!", he made a silent prayer.

She smiled back with thanks, rolled her luggage to find her seat. Unable to stand the curiosity, he walked back to his seat to find her again pushing her luggage beneath her berth. "God! A billion thanks to you!", he cried out of joy.

Changing to an expressionless face, he mumbled a hello to her, removed his slippers and was getting ready to settle down on his berth. "Hi!, nice to see you again", she replied with the same smile. Arjun vowed in silence to all the Gods that he would do anything to see that smile on her face forever.

He glanced at seats numbered 45 and 46 which were now occupied by a couple, the husband on the upper berth and the wife occupying the middle one.

The train had crossed the Basin Bridge junction and was running at full speed, just like Arjun's thoughts. A number of call-outs and plenty of questions did rounds in his head when he heard her voice again.

"Will you do me a favor?"

"Anything under this sky!", he wanted to say.

"Sure, what is it?"

He observed that the lights were turned off already, and the fans were moving at their maximum speed. What else could she want me to do?

"Will you please wake me up at 4.30 AM? I have to get down at Cantonment".

"But haven't you booked till the city junction?"

"How did you know?", she looked into his eyes trying to gauge his thoughts.

He let out a sheepish grin.

"While looking for my name in the reservation chart I took a note of my co-passengers as well", he replied.

"Hmmm. I asked my friend to book the ticket. He didn't know that my parents live near cantonment, so he booked it till the city junction", she said.

"Oh! Well, sure! I will wake you up at 4.30. Good night then"

"To you too", she replied with a smile.

He retired to his berth, took his cell phone and set five alarms starting from 2.30 onwards at every half an hour in vibration mode and went to sleep.

The coach vibrated more intensely than his cell phone so that he missed the first two alerts! He jumped up in his seat when he got the third one only to find that he still had an hour more to go. Arjun turned around in his berth, peeped over to look at her. The brilliant moon from outside the window was casting its light on her hair making her appear like an angel.

"Why is it that when cupid strikes, everything about her looks beautiful and romantic?", he wondered.

Amused by his poetic thoughts, he went back to sleep again and woke up when he sensed the next vibration alert. "Is this fourth or fifth alert? Wait a minute! I did not sense the vibration from my cell phone!"

"Sir, city junction has arrived", the TTR was waking up the sleeping passengers.

"What the hell?" He looked at his watch which showed the time as 4.55 AM. "The train arrived fifteen minutes early momma", he heard a passenger talking over the phone to his mom.

"Oh! Am sorry Niveditha! I overslept and couldn't keep my promise!", he wanted to apologize. He quickly got down from his berth only to find the lower berth that was occupied by his dream girl vacant!

will be concluded in the next part...

Nov 22, 2011


The Bangalore Mail was boarding the passengers and was getting ready to depart at its scheduled time from platform number 3. Arjun got onto the train, located his partition, shoved his luggage beneath the lower berth and occupied his seat. Noting that the other seats were empty, he got down from his coach to find out about his co-passengers from the reservation chart.

From the important columns, he read out the names of those who would be sharing his partition.
Krishnan M54 MAS SBC 41
Arjun M24 MAS SBC 42
Santhosh M25 MAS SBC 43
Niveditha F21 MAS SBC 44

His mind started weaving a web of thoughts about Niveditha, which stopped him from reading further down the reservation list.

"Niveditha! What a nice name! Does she look good as well? Who is Santhosh? Is he her boyfriend? Or is she a daughter of Mr. Krishnan?" With lots of questions in his mind, but no answers, he walked back to his seat which was now occupied.

"Hi! I am Santhosh", he introduced himself. "Arjun". They both shook their hands when an elderly man crashed in. "Son, will you help me with the luggage?", he asked in general.

"Sure Sir", they both walked towards the entrance. "By the way, are you traveling alone?" Arjun asked Santhosh, wanting to know if Niveditha was traveling with him. "Ya! I am going to my friend's place. We have planned a trip to Agumbe this weekend", he said excitedly.

Arjun checked his watch for one last time. It was two minutes past 11.15 PM. S4 is now almost filled with passengers, some of whom had already started sleeping in their berths. But Arjun's eyes were fixed on one seat that was left unoccupied!

There was still no sign of Niveditha when the engine started pulling the train outside the station, coinciding with the announcement "Your attention, please. Train no. 12657, Chennai to Bengaluru City Junction, Bangalore Mail will leave shortly from platform number 3".

Stop the train! Should I pull the chain? Where is Niveditha? She is nowhere to be seen! Did she cancel her ticket and the trip? Arjun stood near the entrance with his eyes scanning the crowd at Chennai Central railway station looking for a girl in her early twenties, the only girl whom destiny had chosen to travel with him in a train, ever!

to be continued...

Nov 8, 2011

Day2: To Chalakudy and South

"Take a sleeper class ticket at the ticket counter and get into any compartment", my friend who hails from Ernakulam advised me before we started our trip.

Remembering his advice, I demanded "two sleeper tickets to Mavelikkara please" at the Chalakudy station counter. A lady, about 50 years old, peered through her glasses and said "I can only issue general tickets to you. You may board in any compartment you want".

I understood what she meant only after I boarded the Venad express [*].

Meanwhile, Prasanna had called Venu, our common friend to fix a rendezvous at Mavelikkara. Having nothing much to do, I started to look at motion pictures outside the window.
An adamant kid refuse to give the rolling suitcase to her grandfather

and she won her way :)

picturesque scene outside the window

Day 2 of our trip ended here at Mavelikkara, with Prasanna and myself re-united with Venu. We took an auto to Venu's house, planned for more actions on Day 3 over dinner, and called it a day.

[*] If you are still wondering what the old lady at the ticket counter meant, Venad express is a day train!

Oct 31, 2011

Dinner at Athai Veedu

"Are you in insti?", Deepak texted me. I checked my watch to see if it's already time for dinner.

"Yes", I texted back to him waiting to see if he has an alternate plan instead of having in the insti mess. Ever since my insti had signed a contract with a new private caterer, I have been dining at the restaurants nearby the insti most of the times!

"Sub in Ascendas?", I asked him. That is the only place we haven't been to in recent past.

"Sub is fine", he replied. I rang Prasanna to find if he would like to join us. We fixed a rendezvous in front of Gurunath departmental stores and I told him that I would meet him there in ten minutes.

I shut down my work computer, picked up my cell phone, locked the lab, and started walking towards the parking lot when I saw Manoj, my colleague who was working on his thesis at the research scholar's room. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him about his dinner plan to see if he could join us. 

"I am planning to have my dinner at Adyar", he said. Thinking he might have made plans with his friends, I asked him the place where he was planning to dine at.

"I will have it in Athai Veedu", he said. "Athai Veedu? Sounds like a new place. Where is it?", I asked him.

It took me some time before I realized that he was going to have his dinner at his Athai's (Aunt) house!

Oct 30, 2011

Day2: Athirapalli falls

"You have just enough time to see the falls and race to Chalakudi station to catch the Venad express", Jijo was saying to me.

We were having our lunch at Hotel Saravana Bhavan near the Kalady shrine. "If you choose not to go to the falls, you have to kill about 2 hours in the station", he continued.

"What if we get caught in a traffic on the way to the station?", I asked him not wanting to take a risk of missing the train. "I would rather spend the remaining time in the station", I thought.

"Why are you hell-bent on catching the train?", my friend asked me. "Should we miss the train, we can catch a bus to Mavelikkara", he suggested. Jijo did a quick calculation in mind and said, "Don't worry. You wont miss the train". Saying this, he asked us to get into the cab in a jiffy and started to drive towards the falls.

He drove us through the shortest possible route, reaching the falls in 40 minutes! "Try to make it quick. I will be waiting near the entrance", he said.

We paid money at the counter near entrance, bought the entry tickets for our camera and ourselves, and excused our way through to the falls.

pathway leading to the falls

We reached one of the view points from the top and had a good view of the water flowing towards the falls.

on its way to the falls

 Athirapally falls

"Move in this direction to get a better view of the falls" a sign board said. Not satisfied with the current view point, we started to walk towards the indicated direction, only to find that the other view point is at the bottom of the falls!

We rushed through the path taking short cuts to reach the bottom in shortest possible time, took a few snaps, ran up again and went back to where Jijo had parked the cab, panting heavily.

a view of the falls

"We saw the falls from both the view points in twenty minutes! I think its a record!", I said to my friend. As soon as we got into the cab, Jijo started to race towards Chalakudi railway station. Sitting on the passenger seat, I checked the running status of Venad express using the Indian rail android application. I could finally catch my breath when the Indian rail said "Venad express is delayed by twenty minutes".

Oct 29, 2011

Day2: Kaladi - Crocodile Ghat

A view of Periyar river from the Crocodile Ghat

"This is the place where Sankara's leg was bitten by a crocodile about a millennium ago, forcing Aryambal to permit Sankara to adopt sannyasa", explained a display board at the Kalady shrine. Since then, this place is named as the crocodile ghat. The ghat section is located on the banks of Periyar river flowing in front of the main shrine.

"A lamp post made of black stone near a place where Aryambal attained samadhi helped us to locate this spot with precision", explained another board in the shrine. The display boards are an effort by the Sringeri mutt to popularize the legends of the shrine.

I walked up to the sanctum sanctorum of the main deity, Goddess Saradamba, stood in front, closed my eyes and prayed for peace. After accepting the prasad, I reached Aryambal's samadhi, stood in awe looking at the black stone installed ages ago, believed to be by Sankara himself! Standing in front of Aryambal's samadhi, my mind went on contemplating 'enna thavam seidanai' song, written about the motherhood of Krishna.

After paying my due respect, I moved on to Sankara's deity. The age of this holy man is perhaps one of the most debated topics by the scholars from religious schools across India. Googling for "the age of sankara" says the best guess is about 1223 years (as of Oct 2011).

A sense of achievement overwhelmed me when I stood in front of Sankara's deity, for I had come to see the man who existed in flesh and blood centuries ago, whose name is pronounced by everyone's lips at least once praying for a better afterlife. For some inexplicable reason, I moved away from him, without making a prayer.

Oct 21, 2011

Day2: Kaladi - footprints (of Lord Krishna)

"Mother, I have prepared this herbal soup for you. It will make you feel much better", Sankara said, handing over the cup of soup to his mother Aryambal.

Aryambal looked at her son, smiled warmly and took the cup of soup. Sankara touched her forehead to note that her temperature had dropped and she would be out of fever in a couple of days.

"Would you like to go for a walk Mother?" Sankara asked her politely, recollecting his younger days when she would take him for a walk along the banks of river Periyar, and would tell him spiritual stories one after another till they reached a small temple shrine of Lord Shiva. As he grew up, her old age caught up with her and confined her indoors.

Sankara helped his mother to her feet, supported her arm around his shoulder and took her for a short walk outside their hut. Slowly they reached the banks of river Periyar which flowed close by. Sankara assisted his mother to sit on the banks of the river on an elevated platform, and sat next to her on the muddy ground.

A view of Periyar river flowing through Kalady

"My son, I have grown older and have become a burden on you" Aryambal said to her son in a regretful voice. "Mother, please! Do not say anything like that. Is it not my duty to serve you?", he asked.

"With each passing day, my end is getting near, my son. I am afraid of my death. I am worried about the fact that I still have not found the purpose of my life", she said. Sankara observed that his mother was struggling to talk continuously, and she panted after every few words.

The conversation with his mother put Sankara  in  a meditative mood, contemplating on the purpose of life. His eyes fixed gazing at the flow of Periyar river.

"Mother, look at this river!", Sankara pointed towards the flow of water, to distract her from disturbing thoughts about her end.

"We do not know where the water originates from, nor do we know where it ends up. But have a look at the water mother! Doesn't it look so happy to be a  part of the big thing called the 'journey of a river'?", he asked.

Reciting a sloka from Bhagavad Gita, Sankara continued, "my mother, Sri Krishna says the true purpose of one's life is to enjoy the journey called 'life' without worrying much about our destination. My mother, is it not true that, to attain salvation one should follow the footprints of Sri Krishna?".
Legend is that Aryambal was growing old, and found it difficult to go to the banks of the river for her daily chores. Seeing his mother's difficulty, Sankara prayed to Sri Krishna. Krishna appeared before Sankara and promised him a solution.

Krishna asked Sankara to lead him to his place. As both of them started walking, the river took a new course. Following their footprints, it flowed through Sankara's garden, and went on to join the mainstream ahead after a distance. 

Oct 15, 2011

Sunrise at Bessie Beach

"Chennai has three seasons, hot, hotter and hottest", says some of the reviews about the capital city of Tamilnadu on the web. I cannot agree more with the reviewers, for in the past 29 years of my life, I had never seen the mercury dropping below 20 degree Celsius!

Chennai's typical sunny days characterized by the hot and humid weather is a turn off to most people. Even so, there are times when we feel to sit back, relax and wonder "what a beautiful sun!". Today, I had that moment!

 people enjoying the sun rise at Elliot's beach

 how i wished to travel in that boat!

 Silhouette of a fishing boat at sunrise

Sun peeking out of the clouds

If you happen to be in Chennai, set your alarm to wake you at 5 AM (stay near Besant nagar or Santhome) to enjoy your moment of wonder!

Oct 10, 2011

Day 2: Kodanad Elephant Kraal

"Did you go to Thekkady?", a guy from Kollam whom I friended yesterday at Indiblogger meet, asked me when I said to him that I visited Kerala about a couple of weeks ago.

"No", I replied.



I could almost hear him asking "where the hell did you go then?", when I told him the places we (Winnie and myself) visited. He gave a surprised grin, of the same kind which Jijo, the cab driver, expressed when we said "take us to some interesting place nearby" after coming out of Kallil Bhagawati temple.

The best part about going on a trip without having any plans ahead is that you get to talk to local people and find about many places that are interesting, but usually do not find any mention on the web, or through word of mouth. After all, for both of us, since journey is more important than the destination, we were enjoying every moment we spent in and around Ernakulam, with no intention to boast "I too went there"!

It must have been a different kind of an experience for Jijo as well, because he was always called to drive a cab, and (I think) never before was he called to guide a trip! "Have you been to Elephant Kraal?", he asked with an enthusiasm reflecting the feeling you are my guest now and its my duty to show you around!

When we asked him to tell us more about the Kraal, we quickly recognized that that was where we wanted to go. We drove out of the Pulavazhi Kallil Road to reach the elephant kraal in less than 15 minutes. "The Kraal is the only place in Kerala where they rescue and train adult and baby elephants, captured from forest", he said while driving.

a cute baby elephant taking its mid-day nap

The elephant kraal is also famous for the elephant safari, which we could not go to since we did not get any elephant to take us on a ride. There is a mini zoo just outside the kraal, maintained by the Department of Forest, perhaps not to disappoint you if you are not able to see any elephants.

 caged beauty

deers lunching

meditating crocodile (can you see a small 'human' face in its neck?)

the lone adult elephant that we spotted at Kraal

exterior of the mini zoo at Kodanad

Oct 6, 2011

A man in his early fifties

The red TVS Scooty came to a halt in front of the vacant space near the security desk of Krishna hostel. On the wall next to the security desk was written "No Parking".

Apparently oblivious to the signboard, he parked his scooty, turned off the ignition, picked up his plastic bag and walked towards the Krishna mess.

His wrinkled face, silvery mustache and near bald head showed that he must be a man in his early fifties. His blue shirt with stripes told me that he works for the Hostel management. The wall clock stroke 7 times when he entered the mess hall, the time at which the breakfast begins.

The mess hall was mostly empty, only a few early birds were waiting for the mess cook to serve idly with sambhar. The sleepless night spent on putting a fight with my work was slowly taking its toll, making me feel sleepy. Not wanting to sleep on an empty stomach, I was waiting in the queue to have my breakfast before hitting the bed.

The man in his early fifties went inside the mess kitchen when one of his juniors came out with a plate full of idlis to be served. I waited in the queue until my turn came, picked up two idlis and vadas. "Sambhar will be served at your table," the junior said.

While I was waiting for the sambhar to be served, the man in his early fifties emerged from the kitchen with a plate full of steamed idlis, enough for a family to feast. He kept the plate on one of the dining tables, took the tiffin carrier from his plastic bag, started filling idlis in each of the boxes. He filled the topmost box with freshly prepared aromatic sambhar.

After filling up the boxes with idlis and sambhar, he kept the carrier inside the plastic bag, took another one out and filled it with the remaining idlis and vadas. He took the water bottles out, filled them with ozonized drinking water from the mess, and collected hot tea in a flask. Content with the quantity, he carefully placed the flask inside his bag avoiding spilling, took the bag and went out.

"Is he going to eat all the idlis himself?" I doubted. "Maybe he is taking breakfast for his colleagues as well", I reasoned to myself.

I finished my breakfast, dropped my plate at the wash counter, picked up a glass to drink some tea. It was about 7.30 now, and there was movement in the mess. The counter was getting busy serving idlis and vadas to the students where more people in the blue shirt with stripes were spotted, standing in the queue.

"Why are they standing in the queue? Didn't the man in his fifties take breakfast for them in two big carriers?. If his colleagues have come to mess to have their breakfast, for whom did he take the food then?", I asked myself.

"Does he run a shop of his own outside the campus? Is he taking the food to his shop to sell and earn some extra money?", my thoughts started to build conspiracies.

Had it been true, it would not have come as a surprise for I had read enough about corruption in government institutes/organizations, thanks to the print and online media. But do the mess manager and the student secretary know about this?

It suddenly dawned on me that he was not stopped by the mess officials when he went into the kitchen, came out with the plate, filled his carriers and left the mess! Is it a network of organized corruption at mess level, at the expense of student's mess bill?

A sudden rage enveloped my thoughts wanting me to take an action to put a full stop to the corrupt practice I just witnessed. I was about to head towards my room to write a mail to the mess secretary asking him to take appropriate action when my phone rang. It was a call from my friend who works in the same lab as me.

"Hi! I have high fever suddenly. I got myself admitted to institute hospital", he said. His voice was too low as if he got drained of all his energy.

It must be a viral infection, I guessed, for a number of students were getting admitted to insti hospital due to sudden fever in the past couple of days. "I will come to see you in a few minutes", I said.

I cycled to the insti hospital, enquired the way to reach the ward where my friend was admitted. The hospital nurse was leaving the ward noting down the temperature and collecting my friend's blood sample to test for viral infection when I entered.

"Did you take your breakfast? Shall I get something for you to eat?", I asked him, not sure if he had had his breakfast before getting admitted.

"I just had it before the nurse took my blood sample for the test. A man came and served breakfast to all the ward mates about ten minutes ago", he said. 

Being a residential institute, the students of IIT are first tended by his friends or the faculty, before their relatives come to take care of. In most cases when its minor health issues such as common cold or fever, the relatives do not even know about it! "Our insti hospital has made a wonderful arrangement to ensure proper food for the patients", I told my friend.

"Would you like to have some tea?" a voice from behind me asked my friend. At the entrance was standing the man in his early fifties, with the flask in his hand, plastic bag at his feet.

Oct 1, 2011

Day 2: Kallil Bhagawati temple

"Will you show us around Ernakulam tomorrow?", I asked the cab driver while returning from the Marine Drive.

"Where do you want to go Sir?", he asked in reply to know if I have made any specific plans.

"Take us to Kallil Baghawati temple, Kaladi and Chalakudi", I answered. Kallil temple?, he gave us a surprised look, perhaps because its not a popular spot. "Ok Sir. But first, you please talk to our cab owner to book the cab for tomorrow", he said handing out his business card.

We returned to our guest house, had dinner (thanks to the groom's mom), placed the call to the cab owner and fixed the car to pick us up at 8.00AM next day, and retired to bed.

We got up at 6.30AM, took bath, packed and got ready by 7.30AM. While depositing the key at the reception, we enquired to find that breakfast is ready. We went to the restaurant and placed orders for aappam with kadalai curry and a cup of tea, for each.
Me and Winnie with the YMCA guest house manager.

By the time we finished having our breakfast, Jijo, the cab driver arrived with the cab that we booked the previous night. We thanked the guest house manager for his kind hospitality, kept our bags in the luggage compartment and got in to the car ready to head towards our first place, Kallil Baghawati temple.

Winnie, myself and Jijo (cab driver cum guide)

Kallil koil in local language means the temple made of rock. As the name implies, the Bhagawati (Devi) temple was carved in rocks during 8th or 9th century by Jain monks. In the perimeter, one can find a number of rocks in which our ancestors had tried their hand in giving shape to the rocks, some of them has written inscription too.

The welcome board

way to reach the shrine by walk

drive way to reach the shrine

Final steps to reach the shrine

View from behind the temple

Picture of an Elephant cut on the rock prior to carving

inscriptions in old Tamil

carving of the conch

view of pristine beauty of the mountains on the west

 small passage cut through the rock

a Jain deity

original path to reach the shrine

The idol of Brahma is carved at the top of the shrine within the perimeter where photography as well as wearing a shirt is prohibited.

P.S: The header image of this blog is shot in panoramic view at this location, partly covering the walking way and the drive way to reach the shrine.

Sep 28, 2011

Day 1: Vypin and Marine Drive

"Could you please arrange for a cab?", I asked the reception manager at the YMCA guest house lobby.

"Where for, Sir?", he asked me back, wanting to know if it will be a local or a distant trip. So many places came to my mind then, suggested by my IIT friends, some of whom are from Ernakulam or from nearby places. "Visit Synagogue, Vasco Da Gama church, Chinese fishing nets; do not forget to take the ferry from Vypin; there is a walkway at Marine Drive, you can also go for private boating from there if time permits" are some of the ideas suggested by them.

"I want to go to Vypin", said I to the manager asking him to book the cab at the earliest. The time was already 15 minutes past 4. We occupied the room that was booked for us by our friend who got married, refreshed and came out in fifteen minutes to get into the cab at 4.30pm.

A view of Fort Kochi through backwaters from Vypin

We first went to Vypin crossing Vembanad bridge, the longest railway bridge in India that passes through 3 small islands. We roamed around Vypin clicking some shots of backwaters and Fort Kochi from the other side of the bank, observing Chinese fishing nets with a cup of Chai.

A view of Fort Kochi island from Vypin

Chinese fishing nets

"Could you take us to the starting place of boating? We would like to explore Fort Kochi", I asked the cab driver.

"There is no boating at Vypin Sir. Boating point is at Marine Drive. If you want, I will take you there", he said, apparently referring to the private boating service. "Its already past 5, and so churches and synagogue will be closed", he continued, "there is no point in crossing the backwater across to reach Fort Kochi as you would not be able to see anything".

Taking his word, we asked him to return via the Vallarpadam bridge to reach Marine Drive.

We reached the boating point at Marine Drive where we asked our cab driver to park the car in waiting. We got into one of the boats which was getting ready for a tour around the islands.

Indian Coast Guard, Cochin

We first sailed through the eastern edge of Willingdon island, a base of the Indian Navy in Cochin, where we saw some of the international ships either getting serviced or being loaded/unloaded with cargo. The boat took a 180 degree turn after reaching the southern tip of the Willingdon island, and continued to sail through Fort Kochi island.

Private boating at Marine Drive

A fare of Rs. 50 per person is charged for the boating trip which lasts for about an hour. We came back to the Marine Drive boating point, got into our cab and returned to YMCA guest house.

Sep 26, 2011

Day Zero - Chennai Central to Marriage Hall

A trip to God's own country to attend a friend's marriage on the days after Onam, but before the monsoon begins, will someone in his own senses say 'No'?

Well, but there was a time, few days before the trip, when I said to my friends "It can't be Yes" for there was a deadline I'm working on. But then, the unpredictable ups and downs of research gave me a much wanted up at the right hour that I could finally say 'Yes' on the previous day.

They sell Southern Railway along with Emergency Medicines here. Wanna buy?

The day when the fateful accident at Arakkonam junction happened, canceling most of the trains leaving or arriving at the Chennai Central railway station. "Are we not destined to continue with the trip?", I questioned myself. "Well, if that's how it sounds, let us persist with the idea", I said to myself.

"So we are going for the trip, no matter what happens", I said to my friend, Winnie. In fact, the Kerala trip was Winnie's plan as soon as he heard about the marriage, while I was interning at TIFR this summer.

Does Indian Railways have train from Andaman to Jammu?

The next day, we packed with minimal luggage, had early dinner and took the MRTS train to Chennai Central half an hour after the train is scheduled to depart, thanks to one of my friends who notified me about the delay in the departure of Trivandrum Mail online. But the delay does not end there.

Winnie and I roamed around the station observing people and trains when the next announcement about the delay came. The train will now depart with a delay of 3 hours and 45 minutes! With nothing much to do and no where to go at that hour, we walked on each of the platform, observed different trains and more people who are coming from all parts of India. The final announcement came 30 minutes after the 3 hours and 45 minutes delay saying the train will be further delayed due to a delay in the return of Trivandrum Mail from Trivandrum.

At last, the much waited announcement came that the train will leave from Chennai Central at 2.00AM, after about 7 hours delay. The problem in such late departure is that once the journey is set, preference will be given to those trains which are running "on time" in order to avoid propagation of delay, and so the train that departed late has to give way to every other train before it gets the clearance at each junction.

The mail that is earlier scheduled to reach Ernakulam at 6.30AM reached the North junction at 2 PM and by that time, my friend had already got married! We were in fact got just lucky to catch up for lunch with the bride and the groom, after being directly transported to the marriage venue from the railway station.

A view outside YMCA guesthouse

After exchanging pleasantries and having 'special' lunch, we went to the YMCA International Hostel at Palarivattom, about 2km drive from the marriage venue.

Aug 28, 2011

To Hold or Not to Hold

"Any bus that goes via Vadapalani will stop at Liberty theatre", the May I Help You official informed me at the T.Nagar bus stand.

I looked around and spotted two buses, M27 and 27C, whose name boards say they go via Vadapalani. Seeing the driver seat to be empty in both the buses, I boarded 27C in which the conductor had just started issuing tickets.

"A ticket to Liberty stop please", I asked the conductor showing ten rupees note.

"One ticket to Liberty? Give 5 rupees. No change", he replied, issuing me the ticket taking the ten rupees note in advance!

An irate customer was successful in distracting the conductor from giving me the change by asking when the bus would depart.

Meanwhile, a conductor boarded M27 while the driver hopped into his seat and was roaring the engine. "Should I hold on to 27C, or jump to M27", I asked myself. Though the final destinations are different for the two bus services, they both go via Liberty, and so I can opt for the one which will take me there early.

Reasoning myself to leave the bus, I searched for the 27C conductor to get back my ten rupees so that I can board M27. "He had got down to search for the driver", said a concerned passenger assuming that I was actually looking for him to collect the change.

Through the window, I could see that M27 had started and vroomed past our bus towards the exit, only to be stopped by the signal. "I still stand a chance to board M27", I said to myself. Making a decision in split second, I got down from 27C, ran towards the signal where M27 was halting. When I was about ten feet behind, the signal turned green, and the M27 driver did not hesitate to press the accelerator to the floor!

Cursing myself under the breath, I was brought to my senses by the loud horn from an enraged driver from behind, who wanted to go past the signal before it turns to red again. Sensing that I was in the middle of the traffic, I crossed to reach for safety at the edge of the road, only to find that I had just cleared the way for 27C to go past me!

"Did not you take one of those two 27 services left just now?", asked the official who had come out of his seat to have his cup of coffee.

"No Sir! I am waiting for my friend to come and join me", I replied, not wanting my ego to accept the humiliating defeat, and walked towards the signal.

Aug 17, 2011

Review of I have a Dream

John Kennedy, in one of his famous speeches, said "...ask not what your country can do for you, (instead) ask what you can do for your country". This quote is not only inspirational, but also explains the difference between a monarchy and a democratic form of Government.

In a democratic country, Government is constituted both by the people and their elected representatives. In other words, the general public is but a part of the Government. So, it is a collective responsibility for the public to work hand-on-hand with the elected representatives for the country to  develop and prosper.

In I have a Dream, Rashmi Bansal had personally interviewed twenty idealists, also called as social entrepreneurs, who believe in democracy, contributes their time and skills for the betterment of their fellow men, and had presented their experiences in the form of twenty short stories.

Though many of us have the feeling that we should contribute our part to our society towards development, most of the times we restrict our contribution towards paying our taxes, or writing a letter to concerned authorities and waiting for them to take an action. At the most, we pay a visit to the local municipal/corporation/panchayat office to remind the concerned authorities about our plea. But there it ends!

When the concerned authorities do not take an action (for whatever reason), we keep ranting about it and learn to adjust ourselves to live with difficulties. We wait till the next election, elect new representatives only to start the vicious cycle all over again! The problem can be as easy as installing street lights, or construction of a public toilet, building new class rooms or improving infrastructure of the school/college laboratories.

So what do we do here? Should we just keep ranting and accept the difficulty as part of our life? Should we just sit quite and curse the authorities/government till next election dates are announced? Or is there something which we can do ourselves for the betterment of our lives? Were the elected representatives finding it difficult to execute each and every plans on their own? If such is the case, can it be changed by lending a hand for a social cause?

Twenty idealists have asked this question, at various stages, at different times in their lives, and in different difficult situations. And they all got one answer in common! That in democracy, it is our responsibility as a general public to work hand in hand with the elected officials in order to make progress and move our country towards development.

But how do we help the government? Where to begin? After all, we are not philanthropists to render help without thinking about "what do I get in return". Most of us, who have a social calling, belong to the salaried middle class, where there is a necessity to earn our livings. Is there a way to couple our earnings with an added social value? Yes, says Rashmi Bansal in twenty different voices. In fact, the concept of coupling our earnings with an added social value lies at the heart of what is called as social enterprises.

I have a dream explains this concept in twenty different voices. If you have a social calling in you, feel that it is your duty to lay a helping hand with the elected representatives, want to have a different perspective of the enterprisal word "profit", but do not know where to begin or how to execute, this book is the best place to start with.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books! 

Aug 10, 2011

The Change

"Please give me an exact change of Rs.7 Sir. I do not have coins in my cash drawer", pleaded the restaurant manager when I produced Rs. 10 note to settle down my coffee bill.

Being a regular visitor, I knew the manager personally, and so I told him, "No problem sir, I will collect the change later on when I come for another cup of coffee". I did not want to wait for the change then as I had to catch Navjeevan Express which would leave in another 2 hours.

I had a sleepless night earlier for I was afraid of sleeping off and missing the train. I badly needed cups (mugs!) of coffee to keep me awake till I boarded the train. So, it wasn't a surprise when I stopped again at another restaurant as soon as I cycled to the main gate, to grab another cup of coffee.

"Sir, please give me Rs.8 change. I am just now opening the shop", the manager pleaded even before I placed the order.

Desperate to have the cup of coffee, I said, "It is ok Sir, I do not mind the change. Please produce the bill so that I can collect my cup of coffee from the counter". Saying this, I produced a ten rupees note, collected the bill, and produced it at the coffee counter to grab my cup of hot coffee, all the while wondering where do the coins produced by the Government of India go to!

Chennai sleeps early (around 9.30PM) and wakes up early. The beggars wake up along with Chennai, in the wee hours, get ready in their shabby, torn clothes with old aluminum plates to collect their alms in.

"Beggars deals with coins! Maybe I will give a ten rupee note, and collect 8 or 9 rupees as coins in return. After all, he must be happy to give me the change for he is getting alms in return", so I thought.

"Sir, I do not have change with me. Please give alms so that I can have a bun and tea", he begged.

As if God heard my distress alarm then, a bus that will take me to Chennai Central stopped in front of the shop, and I boarded immediately to avoid myself from donating a ten rupees note to the beggar!

"Please tender exact change", shouted the conductor from his seat looking at me as I boarded the bus. Well, do I have an option? The conductor must have been happy to have me on the bus for I ended up paying Rs. 10 to buy a 4 rupees ticket!

Where the hell does all the coins produced by the Indian government go? I asked myself the same question again.

The Monday morning weather of Chennai was cold and sultry, and the early morning breeze blew on my face through the window, making me feel sleepy, temporarily relieving my mind of thinking about the change.

After about 30 minutes, the bus crawled into the Chennai Central stop. I got down from the bus, collected my baggage, walked to the station, went past the security check at the entrance, noted down my platform number from inquiry, and reached the platform. I still have about half an hour to go!

It was then when I was thinking about having another cup of coffee I heard the familiar voice "hey Jam!", calling me. I looked back to find that it was from my aunt, who was returning from Bangalore after spending her summer with her daughter and son-in-law.

"Hello, aunt! How are you? Its been long time since we met!", I asked her with courteous regard.

"I am good, my son. Where are you leaving to? You do not have time to keep in touch with old people nowadays huh?", she asked. I shied away with a smile.

"I am going to Ahmedabad by Navjeevan express, on an official visit aunt", I said. When I was about to explain more about the official trip, she cut me in and said "Son, do you know why it is called as Navjeevan?"

I tried to think of some answer, but before I replied with a yes or no, she continued, "it passes through nav (nine) jeevan (life) rivers.

While I was about to ask her to name the nine rivers for me, she took all the coins she had in her purse and said "here, take these coins. Sit next to a window seat, and whenever the train crosses the rivers, throw some of these coins, thinking about our family!"