Friday, March 27, 2009

There Is An Alternative!

If you think of the political scene in our country, over and above despair, the query ITNA (Is There No Alternative) invariably brings up the cliché 'TINA'. Perhaps we can now look forward to an immensely possible alternative.
You'll find Hasan Suroor's explanation on exactly such an idea
A Gandhian idea gets a British makeover extremely heartening - a change for the better is after all quite possible. In the UK there is a "high-profile campaign to reduce the dominance of organised political parties and provide a platform for citizens to contest elections as independent candidates".
Captain Gopinath of Air Deccan seems to have precisely these ideals when he decided to enter the election fray.
One would like to think there's still time now for someone to put together the Indian equivalent of The Jury Team - Politics without Parties (started by Sir Paul Judge)

(I realize I may have gone around in circles around this very same idea in these two posts - 'Leadership in short supply and Fittest minds in Needy Places.)

Update:
1. The Professionals' Party of India (PPI) is fielding candidates who want to make a difference.
2. Mallika Sarabhai, Meera Sanyal are candidates with intentions of making difference, independently of any party.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

And now, Tipu's throne finial under the hammer

Here's an opportunity for India's diplomatic corps to do something worthwhile for the country. Time to launch a diplomatic offensive and retrieve our treasures from the plunderers. Either that, or ensure that they remain in museums for public display. If one were to give in to emotions, news of auction of (plundered) colonial takeaways gives a rather sick feeling.
Is there no one in the Empire who has a sense of right and wrong? Can't the Queen order the return of all things that were taken away for personal gain from one of her erstwhile colonies? They may have been intended as a victor's mementoes, but they should belong to the state, and remain as historical memorabilia, and not objects of personal greed, vanity or profit.
One of probably eight gem-studded gold finials (a decorative attachment to a larger structure) from Tipu Sultan's throne is scheduled to be auctioned on the 2nd of April. A search leads one to a project called The Tiger and the Thistle that 'focusses on Tipu Sultan and the Scots in India, 1760-1800', and makes interesting reading about items from Tipu's Srirangapatna.
These are images of finials from Tipu's throne from that Scottish exhibition.
Hope the diplomats put together their act soon, lest we continue to read about blatant misuse, typified by the phrase from a popular Tamil lyric 'kada thEngAyO vazhipuLLayArO' - meaning rob Peter, sell to Paul, pocket the loot...

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Mughal Gardens

The Mughal gardens at India's Presidential residence are open to the public for a few weeks in Feb-March every year. We were able to log a visit on Sunday, just a couple of days before Gate No 35 is closed. And now I attempt to describe the visual delights on offer without the right kind of pictures.

That's right - being a VVIP enclosure, you are not allowed to carry the camera / mobile / handbag / car keys. (Good ideas of course for a proper, unencumbered stroll). Even my son's small notepad had to be deposited at entry.

How to get there - Reach North Avenue in the Presidential Estates, then you'll find ample parking. Sufficient arrangements are available for visitors - lockers, lounge areas, waterholes (only water), first aid, a horticultural info stall.

Herbal Garden - India's rich daily-use herbs basil, mint, fenugreek, ginger, garlic, asparagus and so many more, are well marked out. [If I had blindfolded my life-partner, he would have easily scored full marks in a 'find the herb' contest using just his nose - honest! We got to know of the herb in the next patch before we turned to see it or read the placard. Me - I am not very proud of my olfactory senses].
Musical fountain - You can sit in a lounge and enjoy watching the water dancing to popular numbers, and the very huge hybrid dahlias.
Bio-diversity park with 10 species of local fauna.
Main Mughal garden - If we had been the lone visitors, I would have felt like a queen (or Madame President!) having a private stroll amidst millions of flowers. As it was, this is about as close as you can get to the Indian President.
Rose Garden (also called purdah garden) A straight stroll under pretty creepers, with patches of rose varieties on either side.
Circular Garden - This is a set of stepped, annular riots of flowers, with a central fountain. If you ever wish to go round in circles, there is no better place!(picture courtesy http://presidentofindia.nic.in/)
Spiritual garden - A special enclosure for herbs and trees mentioned in India's ancient religious texts (tulsi, henna, kadamba, hibiscus, amla, olives, bamboo, to name some of the well-known species).
My takeaway (apart from pleasant memories of a family stroll in haloed precincts) - these flowers - the silk cotton flower and the flame of the forest.A welcome change from the concrete jungle I live in! I'll now look forward to a Nature Trail at the Presidential Estates.See more visions from around the world in My World Tuesday

Friday, March 06, 2009

On Gandhiji's tangible / intangible legacy

Is all well that ends well?
Look at the cast - James Otis, a NY auction house, Sant Singh Chatwal, Vijay Mallya, the Indian Govt, and the vulture-like media. The drama played out over two weeks, on several stages - busy Manhattan, consul's chambers, editors' desks, and newsrooms.
Quoting from the article "High drama at NY Gandhi auction" - "Were the items really worth $1.8m"? and "...it might have been easier had there not been so much media interest".
This is where I like to sort the priceless from the valueless. On a certain level - the items may be valueless, on an altogether different plane they are priceless.
So you decide who are the heroes (anti-heroes?) / villians / props.
I agree on the media irresponsibility - of late, more media (un)professionals in more media groups in more countries are trying to catch and hang on to invisible threads and substance-less matter for their own minute-to-hour pleasure. This has sadly become their means to survival.
Let's all get down to the sensibility of simplicity, peace and non-violence. I am beginning to think it will be possible in a media-less (at least less media) world!
For after all the hullabaloo, this may give the right picture - Gandhi memorabilia “automatically come under the ownership of Navjivan Trust” In that case of course, it's been much ado about nothing!
(Keshav's Cartoon from The Hindu)
Here's a gist of the acts and scenes:
Ghandi's (Few) Possessions Go Up For Auction in New York
Indian govt wants to prevent Gandhi auction: source
Anger at Gandhi sale (video)
Government mulls action on Gandhi auction
Gandhians unhappy with auction of Gandhi's artefacts
Pressure mounts on government to stop Gandhi artefacts auction
India launches Gandhi sale move
Our own law may cost India Gandhi items
Netas want Gandhi items back in India
Owner says ready to donate Gandhi's belongings to India
Gandhi items auction on, govt will have to bid too
India to rope in NRIs to get Gandhi's items back
India's attempt to stop Gandhi auction rejected
Indian-American hotelier plans Gandhi bid, (Video)
India will not negotiate on Gandhi artefacts: Minister
Gandhi Items Sold for $1.8 Million
Gandhi relics should be a medium to spread the message: Gandhi Museum director
Eye for an eye: whatever it takes
Many Indians feel the revered Gandhi would not have approved of ...
and the flogging continues unabated -
Young India and Gandhi's legacy
All links compiled from Gandhitopia

Monday, March 02, 2009

Seeing is believing - hot springs of Manali

Hot water springs of Manali - - When I first heard about them, I thought - no, I can't believe it till I see it. In several spots in and around Manali in Himachal Pradesh, there are hot water springs notably at and near the temple for Sage Vasisht, and at Manikaran that is located about 70 km from Manali.
These are actually sulphur springs that are the result of Himalayan plate tectonic activity. The sprouts near the temple for Sage Vasisht - nice hot water to wash clothes by hand - nil power consumption of the eco-unfriendly kind, and exellent exercise for the arms!
(There are separated bathing areas within the temple premises, where cameras are forbidden)In Manikaran, the sprouts that supply public baths

Views from inside the Shiva temple in Manikaran, and the public bath near the Manikaran Gurdwara
After seeing them though - I am bemused. In my school history and geography lessons, I have been taught about the 'hot springs of New Zealand' and 'lumbering in Canada' but none of our social studies books ever seem to have written about similar spots in my own country. Perhaps the education received by the author of the social sciences textbook was also rich with other world details, and the delights of one's own country was best discovered by oneself...
And I will agree that our local administration can do a lot more for the maintenance of those spots that have probably the richest socio-scientific-cultural heritage associated with them.

Visit for more leisurely world tour here
More posts on Manali
Interesting local items
Yak's hair
Manali snow in February

Shade - and shades!

Shade - and shades!

Lest we forget

Lest we forget

Think about it -

WISH YOU A RESOLUTION-FREE, CLUTTER-FREE, INWARD-LOOKING, LESS MATERIALISTIC, LESS POLLUTED, MORE EMPATHETIC, CONTENTED NEW YEAR