Feast for Thought

Not pontificating. Only trying to bat on the side of the environment. And ethics. And simple living. And slowing down. (And trying to learn and practise before preaching or teaching...)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tolpava koothu

Among the many folk arts of Kerala, tOlpAvakoothu (leather puppet play / ancient shadow puppetry) is a ritualistic art form performed in specially made theatre (koothu madam) in front of temples. (see Tol paava koothu - The shadow puppet theatre of Kerala)
Under the aegis of Kerala Folklore Akademi and Soorya Festival, we were fortunate to attend one such show. Watch this space for more!
Kamba Ramayanam recital about to commence
The master artiste KK Ramachandra Pulaver with the characters and props

Seen behind the scenes
Shadow play above the scenes :)

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Monday, November 19, 2012

"India Is", Incredible, and Unforgettable, and Much More

Complete the following:
India is .............................
a: Incredible.
b: Unforgettable, it stays with you
c: Wherever you are
d: all of the above.

Right, here are a dozen pats on the back for choosing option 'd' as the answer. To me and to you, India is all this and much more; India is also a paradox. If you were to ask me, all I'd like to say is: these people knew what they were talking about when they wrote or spoke about India - see Quotes on India and In Praise of India

However if you want something more than just several pats on the back, all you need to do is submit images for the India Is Global Photography Challenge

If your image conveys the essence of any of the above themes exceptionally well, your submission can get you -
India is"All-expense paid trips to India
  • Weekend Getaways all across India at Taj Hotels
  • Digital Cameras
  • Exposure in travel magazines such as Conde Nast Traveller India
  • Special photography Workshop Passes
  • Exclusive 'India Is' Goodies and much more!"

Tip: Be ready for rejections of your submissions. Go through the rules before you submit your entries. Last date: 30 November 2012.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Festival's Aftermath

Yesterday was the festival of lights. 
Perhaps the festival of noise, smoke, wasted paper and wasted energy too. Deepavali. 
Through my window, I heard enough the whole day. 
Through the same window, I hear the "music" of brooms cleaning up after yesterday's excesses. 
The sound of that music has just moved on, and yesterday's leftovers are out again, to create further leftovers. 
This in a city where there is no place to dispose of solid waste intelligently. 
They bought. They came. They celebrated. They bought more, They celebrated further. They left, but didn't pack up.
Then they came. They swept. They did their bit. All I can do is spare a thought for her and her colleagues, and hope for better attitudes and understanding next Diwali.

God bless them...
There is a lot to be said for "Moderation in everything. Everything in moderation", isn't there? 

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Sunday, November 11, 2012


With a TEDx edition happening in town, it was not difficult to get oneself a ticket (₹750 per session) to attend the event at the Trivandrum Technopark campus.

The newbie organizers did a great job though they must have faced several hiccups. One cannot but like the  convenient and attendee-friendly format (18 minutes per speaker) that TED events follow.

Have a look at the list of visionaries / thinkers / speakers:
Sabriye Tenberken of kanthari
Mathew Jose of Paperman
The one and only Sashi Kumar
T.P. Sreenivasan, a former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations
Bina Paul of India Foundation for the Arts
G.Vijayaraghavan, a former CEO of Technopark.

The bonus at TEDxTrivandrum, on 10 November, 2012, was a video featuring Mallika Sarabhai's Nov 2009 TED talk  (see Mallika Sarabhai: Dance to change the world), and a brief rendition of instrumental music by a local amateur group.

Here's what the group of passionate TED enthusiasts have to say about their offering -
"In the spirit of “ideas worth spreading”, TEDxTrivandrum brings the unique TEDx experience to the city, with a view to host some of its most fascinating thinkers, doers and teachers to inspire attendees to create great impact with their ideas. In its maiden edition, it aspires to stimulate thought and conversation that would result in real problem solving in our community and lives. It aims to bring together, people who are conscious of our society’s evolution, and want to be a part of the change. The event hopes to provide its attendees some quality time to explore new ideas, get inspired by visionary thinkers and gain exposure to concepts and innovations they may not have ever seen before. So check-out from the day-to-day routine this November and enter an afternoon of intellectual adventure, captivating demonstrations and mind-blowing interactive experiences at Park Centre, Technopark"

After listening to TED talks, let me say - don't miss a TED event if it's happening in your town!

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Did You Sense Gandhiji's Tears?

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Inner Kora - Just a FYI

The Inner Kora of Mt Kailash parikrama involves trekking for about 28 km. Not all the K-M yAtris attempt this parikrama.
(This is simply a digital attempt, courtesy Google Earth)
Closer view of Mt Kailash
Schematic of the KM routes (Source: National Geographic Adventure magazine)
Inner kora 
Here's a description of the Inner Kora (Source Update: not available as of Jun 2014)

"Inner Kora - Ganesh Ling / Atma Ling ... the last day of our yatra we go back to Astapad. We will next visit the base of Mt Kailash and touch the Lords feet. We will also visit a place called Saptarishi caves inside Kailash and later complete a parikrama of Nandi parvat. This segment of the yatra is also referred to as Inner Kora. We have to do this trek only on foot.
This journey s extremely special. We get a changing darshan of the lord as we get closer and closer to him. Just the feeling that we are nearing the Lord generates a great energy in us.
The experience of this approach to Kailash is indescribable. At close quarters we once again admire the majesty and magnificence of Mt Kailash. At one stage we can no more see either the Top or Base of Mt Kailash. We continue to proceed to the feet of the Lord.
This place is called Ganesh Ling. It is formed by ice particles sliding down from Mt Kailash and collecting here. At times, pieces of rock which were originally part of Kailash also get dragged alongwith the ice. These small rock pieces are referred to Atma ling and considered extremely divine. We complete our 11th abisheka puja for the Lord in this place. ..........
Inner Kora - Saptarishi Caves
Next we visit Saptharishi caves which is almost like a balcony on the face of Kailash at a height of 70 – 80 metres from the base. The Tribetans have constructed small structures here for their deities.
On reaching Saptharishi caves we are inside kailasha and have merged with the Lord. Whereever we touch is Kailash. Words fail us at the extreme grace that the Lord has showered on ordinary people like us. Goddess Parvathi is praised as one who is kind even to the undeserving. We break into tears of gratitude at the lord for this gift for which even devas and rishis long for in many births.
We next attempt a prayer to the lord with the little knowledge he has given us. This is also a suitable spot to recite the Soundaryalahiri. It is on these very walls that Lord Shiva had composed 100 poems in praise of Goddess parvathi. When Adi Shankara visited Kailash he had colleced these poems from the walls of Kailash. However Nandi deva took away his notes as these are secrets of Kailash. However with his great memory Adi Shankara recollected 41 of these slokas as Ananda Lahiri and composed the next 59 verses as Soundarya lahiri, all describing the beauty and worship methods of Goddess Parvathi.
With a most reluctant heart we bid adieu to this place and proceed for our parikrama of Nandi Parvat. We arrive at a point between Kailash and Nandi called Serdung Chuksum. At 19,400 ft this is the highest point of our yatra. We soak in the atmosphere of this place and as we look up we see the merciful eyes of the lord bestowing his grave on us. This darshan is really hypnotic and we lose all sense of our identity. Tears roll down our face and we repeatedly prostrate to the Lord.
We climb down the steep slope of Nandi from the right side and complete the Nandi Parikrama. We get excellent views of the pedestal of Lord Shiva. We also get a side view of the beautiful face of Goddess Parvathi.
We take a short deviation from our route to Astapad and visit two small ponds namely Tso Kapala and Tso Kavali. From here we collect the Kapala teerth and the alluvial soil as the Vibhuti Prasad of this area. We then reach Astapad by evening."

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Kailash Mansarovar yAtra - Nepal Route

During the 14-day long trip from Kathmandu to Kailash and back, we (a group of 18 women, ranging in age from 21 to 60) crossed magnificent mountains, sacred lakes, deep gorges, virgin waterfalls and lush green canyons. We climbed to over 18500 ft height. This trek is one of the more difficult in Asia and physically challenging due to dry, cold Tibetan terrain and difficulties faced at high altitude. Many of us felt unwell often.

There were many uncertainties on the way – Our chinese guide didn’t reach border on time, sudden landslides or boulders on the roads, the tyres of the bus got mired on the banks of Brahmaputra. Neither horses nor porters were available during the days of the parikrama.

Accommodation and food are very basic, one is far away from (conventional notions of) civilization. At every step many wished to abandon the trip and return home, yet decide to keep going, determined to complete the trek solely because of team mates, accompanying Sherpas and the sight of other yAtris.

The Nepal route to Kailash-Mansarovar (10 days)

Kathmandu-Kodari-(Friendship Bridge)-Zhang Mu (altitude 2225 m) (border town of Tibet) - Nyalam (altitude 3750 m) - Zhongba (Dongba / Drongba) (altitude 4610m) - Tong-La (Pass at altitude 5200 m) - Lake Peiku-Tso - Saga (4600 m) - Mansarovar Lake (4590 m, perimeter 88 km).

The circumambulation of the lake is done by vehicle, and the waypoints are the camps Hor Quo and Chui Gompa.

We glimpse Rakshas Tal, the forbidden lake adjacent to Mansarovar. Beyond the holy lake lies Darchen (4663 m), the base camp for Mt Kailash. The parikrama of the holy abode involves trekking about 40 km commencing at the Yama Dwar. Part of this distance can be covered on horseback, and the trek is usually completed in 3 days. The two waypoints for night halt are Deraphuk (altitude 4880m) and Zutulphuk (altitude 4760m). On the second day of the Mt Kailash parikrama, we reach Dolma La, altitude 5670 m.
Kathmandu to Kodari 123 km
Kodari to Zhangmu to Nyalam 33 km
Nyalam to Saga 250 km
Saga to Mansarovar 450 km
Lake Mansarovar Parikrama 72 km
Lake Mansarovar to Darchen 53 km
Darchen to Yama Dwar and Tarboche 8km (45 minutes drive)
Tarboche (starting point for Mt Kailash parikrama) to Deraphuk Gompa 10 km (Day 6, 5 hours walk / horseback)
Deraphuk Gompa to Zutulphuk Gompa: 22 km (Day 7, 10 hours consisting of a 4 hour climb, 2 hour descent on foot and 4-5 hours walk / horseback near-flat terrain)
Zutulphuk to Darchen pick up point 6 km (Day 8, 3 hours, near-flat terrain)

The return journey commences by vehicle from Darchen, to reach Kodari after a couple of night halts.

Note: You are likely to find some of the place names only in tour logs, not on online maps.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Kailash Mansarovar yAtra - more images

Source: SB, a co-yAtri from Bangalore Source: Su Re, another co-yAtri from Bangalore


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra: Some images

Source: my camera that packed up on Day 4! Source: Su Reddy, a co-yAtri from Bangalore


Monday, June 25, 2012

Off to Kailash!

For those of you interested in spending a few days among majestic mountains, look up KMY-2012 and Amarnath yatra opportunities.
This blogger did, and that's how the backpack is ready to go on the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra from 27 June to 11 July.

All thanks to WOWSumitra. Looking forward to meeting a group of (hopefully) like-minded yatris.
Also looking forward to sharing moments from the 2-week trip with each reader...

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

"Two Visionaries"

Captioned 'Beyond Words', have a look at this rare picture of two greats from opposite ends of the world, taken 82 years ago.
"In this rare photograph from The Hindu’s archives, Helen Keller, the blind American author and labour rights activist, greets Rabindranath Tagore at a meeting in New York in 1930."

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A Not-So-Golden Paradox

One is always surprised at the preoccupation with gold, the infatuation, craze and passion for the yellow metal in India, and elsewhere. The WGC (goldDOTorg. Ha Ha.) happily encourages any and all kinds of marketing gimmicks, including the kind about which Raji ranted in blessed-if-you-buy-jewellery-day.
Staying in Kerala, you simply cannot avoid lengthy TV commercials and full-page newspaper ads by gold 'supermarkets' (how vulgar that sounds!). Nor can you miss seeing driver-distracting, really loud hoardings and flex boards. Since women model the trinkets, it seems as though the model, the ad agency and the advertiser are happy to cover much more of the skin with metal than with cloth. You will end up wondering if metal looks best without other wear around hindering the view.
So there is demand. And there are sales. Implies that people have money to acquire that metal.
The number of gold loan sources is also up. Both banks and NBFC's. One implication is that gold loan is a lucrative business, with people pledging gold and more gold. One NBFC in this business of lending on mortgaged gold, claims - "Financial services and packages were always only for a privileged lot, but....wished it the other way and made it its mission to reach financial services and packages to the common man in the most simplified and beneficial manner, so that they also are part of the main stream."
The theft of gold is up too. In small and large amounts. From houses as well as - directly - from jewellery outlets.
Is there a nexus? God forbid!
And is Greed the common factor that drives all the three "businesses"?
PS: If you have been attending weddings frequently in this Indian state, this might have occurred to you too -
  • A bedecked bride is a walking ad for the local wedding centre.
  • If you have seen one such b.b., you have seen them all! (Not joking. A standard red brocade sari, several neckpieces that hang in increasing arcs, metres of stringed jasmine flowers arranged over an artificially lengthened plait). 
  • The groom of the day completes the picture in an off-white shirt and a dhoti.
  • The photographers are the day's designated film directors.

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Internet Haves and Have-Nots

We now have (further!) official confirmation of the Digital Divide in India.
Hardly 6% of households in urban India households have an Internet connection.
This figure reads as 0.4% for rural India.
Does this indicate infrastructure falling short or inability to afford the minimum (by today's standards) technology? Or a dismal combination of both?
Any talk of inclusive growth is at best laughable. You and I have the luxury of exploring 4G, e-social networking, shopping and seeking entertainment online when other 93% of our city and country cousins are nowhere near this kind of digital empowerment.
Read Internet revolution bypasses rural India: Survey.
To the average Internet-empowered home, the connection has become somewhat of a necessity. But among all the gigabytes that we devour daily, let us spare a thought for others for whom the Net is still a distant dream or a last priority.
And also hope that the Government's policies for empowering citizens digitally works in logical proportion with positive and meaningful efforts at ushering along national necessities like green and white revolutions.
In India, a second green revolution must be the precursor to Internet revolution, isn't that common sense?
Way back in 1996, a book titled Disconnected: Haves and Have-Nots in the Information Age was published. 16 years later, and well into the next century, the Net-Haves are all contributing to widening the gap from the Gross Have-Nots. The author William Wresch states this better - “We have met the enemy, and they are us.”
An excerpt from the book -
"If we are in a new age, this is an age that is still connected to the old age and still has many of its flaws. Yes, technology is producing some benefits and some freedoms. We know that the threat of satellite dishes was enough to scare South Africa into 54 creating a television network. Unfortunately, we also know the threat of satellite dishes has been enough to cause governments across the Middle East to ban their use. We know libraries across the world are now accessible electronically. We also know books around the world are still being burned.
We know that at this moment hundreds of gigabytes of information are being bounced from satellite to satellite across the sky. We also know that many of those gigabytes are lies. We know that some children can learn about the world by linking their classroom to thousands across the world. Other children wait for their classrooms to get a roof, a light bulb, a qualified teacher."

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Life after the Civil Services Exam?

Every year, we read stories about young, successful civil service aspirants with professional degrees and how they cracked their exams and interview. What happens to them later? Say a year down the line, after their training at the elite Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration and when they reach their coveted assignments and postings.  
Does their zeal last? On reading the success stories, it is easy to think of a future where the bureaucrat does his job well and sincerely, without fear or favour....
IAS 2012 Toppers Shena Aggarwal and Prince Dhawan want to work for society
IAS TOPPER Rukmani Riar : fired by desire to do social service

Sincere wishes to the soon-to-be national administrators. Will they redefine 'Babus' and 'Babudom' to better emulate Bapu and his ideals for the sake of the nation?

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More from the Coconut Tree

The entire coconut tree and its constituents are usable during their lifetime and indeed in their afterlife.
Here are a few products originating from the coconut tree. (bark, as well as coconut shell). You'll get to see plenty at craft shows and handicraft outlets. These pictures were taken at the Shantigiri Fest 2012. One only wishes that they were even more ubiquitous, and replace plastic to any extent possible...
You should be able to make out rolling pins, all kinds of ladles, candle-stands, pen holders, fruit forks, chiratta puttu maker, incense stick holders, key rings...

candle stand (coconut wood)

Chiratta Puttu maker (coconut shell)
More products from the coconut tree

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Let's celebrate coir

At the Santhigiri Festival 2012, there is plenty of stuff to browse and spend a useful few hours. One pavilion showcases everything about coir, including the rugged machines needed to process the raw material, the wheels and looms that make and weave the stands into sturdy cordage, and the attractive end products from winter wear jackets to carpets, and from foldable umbrellas to rugged furniture, and geo-textiles (download brochure about coir geo-textiles)

 The machine that processes coconut husk 

Coir ropes being woven in a loom

Furniture made of coir

Gandhiji's portrait made of coir

a very efficient planter

Coir jacket
If you are interested to find out more about coir, visit

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Eco-friendly Vs Enviro-friendly - Some forced re-definitions

P Sainath writes in the article The Iron Laws of the Earth Sciences - "He also became the Minister for Earth Sciences (which, as often pointed out, is seen in his home State as jargon for real estate expertise). Jealous detractors say it is his raising this sector to the level of a science that makes him priceless to the Congress."

Just as (Ministry of) Earth Sciences means more about ministering to the real estate expertise, one can come up with more re-definitions.
Here's one - for those in the Indian (media) elite circles, 
eco-friendly = (neo-liberal) ECOnomy-favouring policies.
Further, the words 'climate change' probably refer more to vagaries in the economic weather of the country than the Inconvenient Truth that humankind faces!

For those who bat for the environment - let's talk about being enviro-friendly, shall we?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"After You Sir"

The Sainik School at Kazhakoottam, Trivandrum which happens to be the Alma Mater of so many of my friends, is observing the Golden Jubilee of its existence this academic year, and the grand finale is scheduled for 21 Jan 2012.

One of the SSKZM alumni has brought out a collection of school stories titled "After You Sir", with a noble intention that reads "All the royalty accrued from the sales of the book is donated to Sainik School to support economically disadvantaged students."

What's special about these stories? They are written or recounted by alumni
- who were once upon a time raw rural lads who left home at the tender age of 10.
- who faced the physical vastness of a rather unsophisticated residential school so different from carefree village bylanes.
- whose EQ is phenomenal, with their hearts - and minds - in the right place.
- who are ever ready to give their all to the Alma Mater.

Read plaudits about this love offering - for that's what the book is - here.

(This blogger is happy to be associated with the book-reading session later this week)