Friday, February 26, 2010

Look within- Part 2

Even before the train came to a stop we could always hear the coolies (I am sorry, I don’t mean to offend the workers, but the people who help us carry our bags are referred to as Coolies). Now that I have use this word again, I am wondering if we should (don’t laugh) refer them as baggage handlers, you know to be politically correct?

Since we were 3 ladies (mom, sis and I) and Dad alone, he used to have tough time following the coolie (who is walking too fast for us) and still keep track of us so that we don’t get lost. Ah! Who ever thought of a cell phone in those days…

If we are walking up the hill’s (7 hills) we need to start a little early in the morning. So we used to send our bags up the hills with the help of some cloak room. Ascending the hills is another experience which, according to me, every one should undergo at least once in life time. The greenery, even in summers is something you will across only in Tirumala Hills; And not to forget the waterfalls every where. But it’s been a while since we went up the hills by foot, I wonder if there are still as many as we had over a decade ago. Usually if we start early in the morning, we used to reach by noon or just after noon.

And then again another long line to get accommodation. While mom, sis and I used to sit outside (literally on the road), Dad used to get us room to stay for 2-3 days. Would you believe if I said that sometimes he has to stay as long as 3 hours in line? But you would notice that the accommodation provided by TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam) is far cleaner than the private accommodation and at a much lower price.

As part of our family tradition created by ourselves, we used to shower and go and sit opposite the main temple. There used to be steps, not anymore. And as a rule we had to have some raw mango’s seasoned with salt and red chilli powder. Soon after dinner (usually in Woodside or Annapurna) we used to retire to bed early.

And for some reason my mom used to book the Suprabhata Seva darshan, the first Darshan of the day. It used to start as early as 3:00 AM, which means we have to make sure that we get up at least at 2:00 AM to make sure we shower, wear new cloths and go and stand in line. And sure enough Tirumala is as active at that time as it would be at noon.

Explaining the line it-self perhaps deserves another thread. Sometimes I wonder, why do we have to pay to get Darshan? Lacks of rupees are donated to TTD every day, why can’t they make it free? In free Darshan line people usually take 2 days before they get a chance to get a glimpse of Lord Balaji. When have we become so arrogant that we are forcing ourselves on Lord while some people are struggling in free-line just because they can’t afford.

And if you are stuck in queue, you will always have people singing Govinda Gooovinda…Yedu Kondala Vaada Venkata Ramana Govinda Gooovinda…Not exactly sure what it means. But I know that as soon as I hear Govinda…I know its Lord’s name we are taking….

And thus, the spirit of Tirumala Balaji drapes Itself on us, as naturally as the fragrance from the incense, as we prepare ourselves for His Darshan…

Sorry…to be continued….didn’t realize it would run in to pages.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Look within…

Look within; sounds like such a cliché isn’t it. I have been doing some introspection lately and I started wondering about…about many things, about life in general. Pardon me for the long post…I will try to break it down to 2 part’s; I don’t want to bore you all with one big post.
On this note, I want to share with you all a journey, a very private journey I had undertaken a few weeks ago. I wouldn’t call it a spiritual journey but remarkable nevertheless, where I realized something I had been missing all my life. That something is what you will find out soon…

Until I was in late teens, every year my parents used to take us to one of the most holy places (according to Hindu’s), Tirumala (Andhra Pradesh). This is where Lord Balaji dwells, His temple is, and His generousness flows like water from a fountain.

I remember we used to take the train from Hyderabad to Tirupati (over night journey always in Narayanadri express). We used to travel in second class, sleeper coach compartments…I can still hear the voices of my parents and my sis’s laughter, like it happened a few minutes ago. Mom diligently packs puri’s and kheema (meat) and yogurt rice with pickles every year. Perhaps it’s the Indian-ness in me or it could be the faith that my mom knows best, it never occurred to me to ask her why we carry the same menu every year we go in those days.

After dinner my mom used to insist that we stay awake at least for 30 minutes, apparently it helps in digestion. But after the yummy dinner (puri’s some how never tasted that good when we ate at home) and the gentle rocking of the train, I hardly had any patience but to hit the bed…err, berth. As a rule I had to go to the washroom before I can sleep and trust me, you don’t wanna be full-tummy when going into to a second-class sleeper coach washroom.

Apart from the stink, I used to freak out that I am going to fall down through that tiny opening/outlet from the train. I think only a young kid would be able to understand how creepy that running train and a second-class-washroom combination can be. Even though I used to take a long time in the washroom (more out of fear) my sister never shouted at me to come out quick. And when I was out (knowing very well that I had been in there for at least 10 mins) and ask her if I kept her waiting for long, she used to shake her head and say, no. For this I am eternally grateful.

By the time my major hurdle (washroom) has passed, my mom invariably would have made bed on the berth. I think only mom’s touch can make even a train compartment home. After goodnights and sleep tights, I used to slip into comfortable rocking and deep slumber…well most time at least. I remember at least two instances where the fans were not working and the light just wouldn’t switch off.

The next morning, I always woke up to the, “ah…chai, coffee, horlicks”…”Ah…vedi vedi (hot hot) idli, vada, masala dosa…”….”Ah mango jelly mango jelly, aam papad mango jelly”….” Aaha ponnu mudi ruhmbo alaha iriki, malli puvvu yedu maa (little girls hair is pretty, buy some jasmines dear)”…”Ah chai lelo saaar/madamji”.
This was the only time I was allowed to have coffee, even when I was really young. And I think that’s when I really fell in love with coffee. Anyway…after a quick wash-up, we are all ready to embark on one of my favorite places on Earth, Tirupati. The journey had already begun…in Hyderabad. It’s now time for Tirupati…where Lord Venkateshwara (Balaji) dwells.

P.S: I doubt if anything changed even after so many years in the trains. It’s been at least 8 years since we had all been to Tirupati together in a train. If anything changed at all, it must be me.

To be continued…

(pictures taken from

Monday, February 22, 2010

Kerala- in news again for good reasons!

What comes to your mind when you hear the name Kerala? To me it’s always the mesmerizing and elaborate Kathakali, amazing backwaters, abundant coconut trees followed by Ayurvedic massages. But of course there are many more interesting and impressive facts about Kerala which one doesn’t often think about.

I knew that Kerala is the most literate state of India with 90.86% of its

population literate (2007).

But what I didn’t know was that,Ernakulam district in Kerala has 100% literacy rate! What an achievement! Do you know of any other district anywhere else which has 100% literacy rate? I wouldn’t be surprised if Mizoram has any district this way but how about any other state?

Now… did you know that Palakkhad district in Kerala is now fully lit district? Isn’t that amazing? When I was very little, my dad used to take me to the bank to

withdraw/deposit money. When I was 12, I couldn’t believe that there is something called ATM which can dispense money.

I was awed and so was my dad (I still remember).

But I always took electricity for granted. Until I went for an overnight tour through the backwaters in Kerala interiors (around Trivandrum area in early 20

06) I didn’t realize the importance of electricity. Complete black out every single day after sunset sounds like something un-real. But it isn’t for a

few people.

I can visualize people being as awed as I was about ATM about electricity in few rural areas.

No matter how much we hate our politicians (especially all those people who call various political parties as sick-ular); there still is hope for people. I strongly believe in this. And I seriously hope that this initiative to bring light stays put for all the districts around the country.

Well, I can hear people saying that perhaps this is another Congress’s plot to wipe out darkness in its party with this light (Palakkad is Congress MP Tharoors home)…but hey, as long as it’s the people who are the beneficiaries, it’s still good. (Even though the current CM of Kerala is from Communist party, these kinds of long term goals can be achieved by continuous efforts for a long time).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Zubi dubi zubi dubi…

I was trying to make a play list of the latest songs for my mom and I am totally stuck. Recently I had seen three good movies (good according to me); 3 idiots, Paa and My Name is Khan. I am stuck in the first movie itself, 3 Idiots!

As soon as someone says, ‘can you suggest a few melodious, meaningful songs’; I tend to look for songs by Kishore Kumar and Burmans. Even today…even after so many decades. Why? I will tell you why…what exactly is the meaning for the below song?

Zubi dubi zubi dubi pum pa ra zubi dubi para rum
zubi dubi zubi dubi naache kyon paagal stupid mum…

I can’t even get this tongue twister right let alone the meaning of it! And these days at least one song in a movie must have a song like this, no exceptions at all.

An acquaintance (an elderly person) of mine recently told me something which totally sounds naughty but in the good sense. He said, “While growing up ... in my day dreams ... all my girl friends had eyes of Sadhna, nose of Asha Parekh, body of Nutan, boobs of Simi (Mera Nam Joker scene), soft pale skin and smooth complexion of Wahida Rehman, butt of Nanda, and nazakat of Meena Kumari.”
Right now, if you really wash any actress face, all you will get is a ton of makeup!

Ok…I am still stuck with the first song in my movie list!