Monday, November 4, 2013

An open letter..

Dear ‘I-am-against-INTERFAITH-marriages’ parents

I hope you are happy. I hope you got what you wanted. Through whatever’s left of your life, you've managed to put at least me in a state of despair. I hope you can justify my loss as your gain.
All I wanted was to marry your daughter. I come from a respectable background; have a comfortable source of income and a lifestyle that compliments your daughter’s. I have almost everything your daughter needs to be comfortable and for whatever I don’t have; I am capable of making up. I love your daughter and my feelings are reciprocated by her as well. I believe you’ll find me less credible when I profess my love but I hope you have faith in your daughter and her choices. I assure you and I think you also know that you have nothing that can be a reason for an ulterior motive for me, so let’s get that out of the picture right now.
You might be smirking when I say that I love your daughter. You think that’s not good enough a reason to give your daughter away to someone. There are other things to be accounted for. Like religion and community. According to you, it’s the pillar that supports the entire institution of marriage and being together. You've been a part of it. You've done the same thing and you are happy right now. If a man and a woman worship different gods, they are forbidden to be together by divine laws. God doesn't want this.
Well, let me shatter your miserable tenets for you. If you think religion is the pillar for a good and successful marriage, I am sorry to say that you have spent your entire life living on a belief that doesn't amount to anything. I can say, with certainty, that you haven’t understood what religion is. You treat Gods as kings and start fights over it, fights where no one wins. You rejected me as a prospect for your daughter just because I am not from your community. It’s actually validating that you see other communities as inferior to yours and you cry ‘muddling’ when someone like me falls for someone like your daughter. Who gave you the right to treat me like a second fiddle to the human existence?
I find it ridiculous that, in this day and age, you consider religion and community to be a dividing factor. I find it absolutely hypocritical on your part to take the Indian National Pledge where you say “India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.” as you don’t believe in any of it.
I urge you to come forward and tell me what exactly my community is lacking, which makes you go vehemently in opposition of us being together. In fact, please tell me on what grounds am I not suitable for your daughter? Compare me with men from your community and tell me if they possess something extra.
- Men in your community have pure genes.
I request you to take a few bio lessons to know how your intra-community mingling is taking a toll on your community’s genetics and how imperfect it has become.
- There’s a vast cultural difference.
Let me inform you that all the cultures eventually practice the same thing. You have different customs and festivals but you are the only one who brings in a gap between them and me. Let me tell you that I've been learning about your culture and customs ever since I met your daughter. That’s my effort to make her feel at home and be involved. If that’s not what you do for your loved ones then I’d really like to hear more on it from you.
- Marrying your daughter to my community will make her have to adjust and compromise everywhere.
I believe you’d expect that in our pseudo-male society, a woman has to adjust and compromise. But because you never tried to get to know me, you don’t know that I don’t agree with the concept. I am a believer of social equality of men and women in each and every aspect of life. My wife, irrespective of her religion, community or lifestyle, will not be the only one to compromise or adjust. To marry someone and spend a lifetime together means a series of compromises and lessons taken together. You make efforts to make the other comfortable and happy. ( P.S. If you have been expecting your wife to make extra efforts then I pity you.) This is not a patriarchal society and women do not have to sacrifice.
- In every religion interfaith marriages are prohibited.
What does religion have to do with marriage? If you say its prohibited to marry someone who doesn't worship your god, you are practically defying the concept of one god, the concept of “God is the One Eternal Being”. I’d love to see you try and come up with a justification for the concept that the god you follow is only a god for you and is not just another variation of what we have perceived god to be. This leads to the very religious version of “My dad can kick your dad’s ass”.
- Suffering of women when inter-faith marriages fail.
Did you ever think about suffering of women in general? Are you saying women, in general, don’t suffer? Who suffers when a same faith marriage fails? You can’t be suggesting that same faith marriages do not fail. You can pull up the stats for failed marriages for your community. Faith has nothing to do with women suffering and failed marriages.
- Lack of religious instructions or education on what marriage means in your community/religion?
The state of matrimony has always been regarded as the most important part of life by all. It is clearly stated that god is better pleased with a married man than with an unmarried one, and that She/He is better pleased with a man having progeny than with one who has none. It has always been regarded as the bounden duty of an individual to marry and to bring up a family.
How does that differ among different religions? You may add the clause to marry within the faith to continue race and religion. To continue race is logical but eventually it’s going to fail. I don’t think that you see the bigger picture. To continue religion, is a feeble attempt to induce faith forcefully. If one has faith one has religion.
- If your daughter believes in her religion, she shouldn't marry a man from other faith?
That is so sexist. Why does a woman get questioned about her faith if she marries a man from other faith? How do you grade the religious belief and inclination towards God? For all you know the man from your religion/community, your daughter is to marry, doesn't believe in religion at all. Does that qualify the marriage as successful? As far as I see it, culture can’t be married to. Religion is no grounds to marry someone. Race continues if you stop making people social outcasts. Rigidity will eat up the community, as it is doing right now.
- Men in your community are better than I or at least of the same capability.
Please. You didn't even take an effort to get to know me. You started beating your age old drum of race and community and religion and rejected the idea. For all you know I can be way better than what you want for your daughter.
I am not even sure if you are a wee bit concerned about your daughter’s life and happiness. Or you are living in denial. Thinking you can make all the choices for her and she’ll be happy with each and all of them is your biggest mistake. All you are doing is clutching her tighter and suffocating her. You make her a prisoner in her own house. You kill her free will and spirit. You fail to see how hurt she is because you are blinded by your self-righteous faith, religion and fanaticism. What did you ever get out of hurting your own daughter like that? Killed her emotions and burned them on the pyre of logic and reason. Do you believe you can save your community by sacrificing your daughter’s or for that matter my happiness? Well you are terribly wrong.
You have made a decision which doesn't impact you directly. Just to follow some tenets laid by some weirdo, who injected your brains with the notion that inter-faith ties are not right, you have effortlessly killed two people’s hopes, shattered their dreams and put them through the helplessness of no choice. You suddenly felt commanding and strong when you ruled against our love and threatened your daughter of abandonment. Let me tell that you have done the most cowardly thing you ever could have done.
You should understand that you don’t have to blindly force us into things. You had your own reasons for doing things the way you did.  The world is changing very rapidly. Change can be good. Embrace good change and chances will come your way.  Also see that the world’s axis of power is moving from the OLD to the NEW. Understand this. Stop making religion/community as your ultimate goal. You will pay dearly for this mistake. I have spoken to so many people and it is shocking to see that their thinking hasn't aged from the 50′s! But it is not the 50's. You should realize that you have only one daughter. Instead of the love for community, give preference to the love for your daughter. Understand where her happiness lies and not the society’s. You make the society and community, don’t let it make you.
But alas…! You have taken a decision and warned your daughter of dire consequences. You force her to meet men from your community. She does. Have you even realized how pathetic the situation that is. If she had found anyone remotely good, she’d have given it a chance. But you are happy in your dream-world where you think you have chosen the best path for your young and they are happy. Wake up. You are forcing things down our throats. You have forced us to accept things which we don’t agree with. You still believe that we are naive and you have seen the world and that’s how you know better. You don’t. Parents, you take yourself too seriously. You cross the limits when you try to balance happiness against religion. You didn't do very well. In fact you failed terribly.
I wish you feel the pain I am going through. I wish you’d wake up in the middle of the night with a headache and then never go back to sleep. I wish you’d get lost in the middle of a conversation as all you could think about is how you've lost the best thing that has ever happened to you because you have god issues. I wish you break down in the middle of a party just because someone with a screwed up view of religion and community, stuck in the head, has ruled against love. I hope you realize that your daughter is not happy and is terribly hurt. I wish you suffocate the way she is suffocating in the tight grip of your patriarchal beliefs and your senseless tenets. I wish you to be troubled knowing that there’s at least one person, suffering because of you and you were wrong.
I wish you pain. Remember… There is no GOD for PAIN.
Take care,
A really pissed off guy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Existential crisis...

Why are you here?
Ever wondered about the purpose of your existence?
Ever tried to look beyond the regular banal life that you live?
Instead of claiming to know who created you, did you ever think about why you were created?

Or you are just the kind to do what you have been told.
The kind who can't find an identity of your own.
The kind who can't fight the hands that mold you in whatever way they want to.
You must be the one without any structure.

Are you the one who goes to work and comes back home and thinks about the next day at work?
Did you ever gaze into the sky and wonder?
Did you ever think, for a moment, that you are not a puppet of the people?
Have you accepted things into your life because you are too afraid to ask questions and seek explanations?

Do you believe in God?
Do you have blind faith?
Are you superstitious?
Do you have the power of logical thought or are you just a tape recorder?

You are the one who laughs at the beliefs of all the other people and gets boiling mad when someone makes fun of yours. The ones that aren't even yours.
You never had any problems with others telling you who you are. You live by what you've been told.
You have closed eyes and you are a slave. They bred you to be a follower, so you follow.
You are the sheep. A black one because you can't think.
You are the scum on the face of the earth.
You are the one who fights for things inconsequential and backs out and hides when it matters.

You have their words in your mouth and their motives for your actions.
Even the voices in your head aren't yours.
You never asked yourself who you are.
You just seek approval and never try to walk your own path.
You are the reason for the stagnation.

Why do you not wonder?
When did evolution fail you?
You act condescending in front of the cattle but are you any better?
What did you want to be, a sheep or a lion?
Were you ever human or just an organ of their ways?
Why did you let them decide your fate and strangle you in their worldly ties?
Who are they to take away your individuality and how can you let them?

If you are just a medium of their actions, you should stop burdening the earth.
If you can't contribute, you should stop consuming.
If you can't lead, you should stop preaching.
If you can't find your own way, you should stop guiding.

You are gutless, spineless blob of life on which life itself is wasted.

Why did you go to school when all you learned is to have a closed mind?
Why do you make friends when you can't survive outside your family?
Why do you want to travel when you are afraid of the new?
Why do you dream when you have sold your desire?

Can you choose to fight your own battles?
Can you stop and wonder why there are Gods uncountable and if different religion could be different versions of each other?
Can you fathom the fact that you may have no invisible man in the sky to guide you and the voices you hear in your head are pure bullshit or paranoia?
Can you be logical and rational and take someone else's view into consideration without throwing fits of angry hyperbole?
Can you think for yourself, analyze, calculate and take a decision unadulterated by external influences?
Can you be human and and not be cattle?
Can you gather courage and break free?
Can you stop following and start living?

Or do I have to continue looking at you live a pathetic existence, with no ambition, you hoping that you are really important to someone, when all you are is a big failure in the name of humans and free will?

For your sake I hope all your fairy tales come true and you meet with a God that does exist, and when you meet her/him, she/he will look down upon you and will sob on her/his own failure as a creator.

I wish,
if you are a believer in a patriarchal society/religion, your god be a woman, a feminist.
if you have worshiped a white god, your god be pitch dark.
if you think your religion doesn't allow people from other religion into yours, your god be a mixed race.
if you hate homosexuals, your god be a gay.
if you hate technology, your god be a scientist.
if you believe in constraining yourself and others to rigid tenets and unwritten illogical views and senseless practices, your god be free will and pure logic.
if you like to kill, your god be life.
if you are an atheist, there be a god.
if you are a theist, your god be another human with captivating orating skills, strong convincing power and lot of morons like you to follow.

I hope you suffer for having a closed mind.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Anger Issues

Back in school we had an interesting book called "Toorida Chintanegalu", (roughly, Entered Thoughts). This book had an extremely interesting portion which dealt with the sins, among which were Anger, Lust, Attachment and others. Why i remember this now, i cannot tell with certainty, but i suppose it should be there.

Anyway, I think there is something about the nature of Anger which makes us angry. Anger is a response to an undesirable occurrence or event. Like when a bird craps on your head. That makes us angry. You know what else makes me angry, angry people. Angry people make me want to grab their throats, twist it, shout at them "LOOK!! LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!!" all the while spraying them with spit and curses. I just made my point redundant. Practice what you preach you know, but screw that for now anyway.

Thing is, you can get as angry as you want for mundane things (Stuff like, My toast is burnt and now i have to eat cardboard). But it makes absolutely no sense to get angry about things you have no cause to be angry about. Like religion for instance. And politics. Especially religious politics. Or a political religion.You get the hang of it.

The Buddha, among other people who practiced and preached an unnatural amount of calmness and did away with the red face and compulsive swearing advocated you clear your mind and be open. To remember that something that is happening is all a part of karma(I am pretty sure he never called it a bitch). I tried. No, really, i tried. I made my mind blank, concentrated on a little bird in a peaceful place and promptly got irritated with the little bird which refused to shut up or go away and hurled the choicest curses at it, shooed it away, stared blankly at the peaceful place(In this case a forest in which everything tasted miraculously like chocolate and bacon) and fell asleep, mind blank and all. I woke up an hour later cursing the mind and it's blank state( State? Slate?).

I read a lot on the news about how someone is always angry at someone or the other. "That man is a foreign son of a what not!" screamed one person who had recently come back from a junket abroad. "Their brand of terrorism is deep rooted and blah hemm haww blah!" screamed the foreign Indian who had come under fire, completely forgetting that terrorism is not underwear to have a brand or color. I then thought of what made men, wolves or the other way round. No reason for these men to be angry at each other at all, but i suppose they do it to make the people angry and basically keep everyone red faced and spewing venom and pelting stones at each other.

Not to mention the "My god is great" brigade. It's like a gladiatorial contest i believe, where the god(s) bet money on the least number of people killed who are shouting a particular slogan or something. Screw you!, the people in warring factions tell each other. My god created all of us, and you besmirch his good name with your wailing and flailing and unwholesome jokes. Their gods, it seems have the worst sense of humor ever had among gods and humans and whatever other beings are caught in perennial conflict. Science, i am happy to say, might be eating popcorn in a self righteous and wholly pretentious(read douche and deplorable) way being proved right all the time. Every right to get angry these people have ,with science. Murder science i say, and regress to barbarism. Lot less things to worry about.

Meanwhile, my attention is wandering as is bound to happen with my generation with its's endless distractions and i refuse to get continue writing about anger and other things now because i can see out of my window a cat which for reasons known to itself, wants to get into a house loudly playing a soap where the daughter-in-law no doubt, buys tears and puts them in tanks to empty on a daily basis in front of the family which seems to be in the throes of the most impossible and endless crisis most of the time. That makes me angry.

The Orator

I mean to put a lot in here metaphorically speaking. You can take this at face value, dig a little deeper, peel off another layer. For me, i see it in three ways.

Nowhere in any corner of the world was to be found,
an orator as great as he.
Him with his speeches and fiery words,
the gift of speech, the power to wield.

Great aplomb it was said he had,
in full measure too, no less.
People flocked in large numbers,
to hear his speech, the masses of sheep.

With that golden tongue he rent asunder,
many an ego, reputations he plundered.
Quaking and quailing before one such as he,
reduced to jelly, even in one's dream.

All was not well with the orator of fame,
alone was he, on his throne of flame.
For naught was his words, his speech, his guile,
so hard he sought the love of his life.

One day he did come by, this girl
he thought that could ruin his life.
He wanted to go some place it seemed,
he asked her so, as if in a dream.

She nodded her head and pointed straight,
with just her hand she told him the way.
'Can you not speak now? Come!' said he.
She shook her head and went, he saw until he could see.

Curious he found this meet with her,
him with his fire and passion untethered.
That one who could speak not but a word,
could make him mute, how absurd!

That day it was said the flame was out,
a pity sprang where there was none.
He yearned for naught, but a simple glance,
from that mute girl he met by chance.

Gone were his words, his cause, his speech,
Gone where the crowds who bayed tat his feet!
Utter ruin it was said, invite did he,
But none knew what went wrong, with his spiteful speak.

He knew then what he wanted to do,
leave rabble rousing, that was empty too.
Turned to ashes were his conviction,him with the mastery of speech,
In the end the comfort he sought, solace in silence did he seek.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My furry friends.

I was having this conversation with a friend earlier today about how I want a pet giraffe. Animals and me have an underwhelming connection. 

I remember the first one that I got close to was Johhny the dog. Incidentally, he wasn't ours. He was my neighbour's dog. A stray, but very docile. For a long time I used to be terrified of him, but one day when he sneaked into our garden, dad fed him biscuits. Then I did too, and we became friends. Everyday after school when my auto dropped me off he would be waiting near the gate for me to let him in. My school auto ran on a partial mix of kerosene so when I got back home I would be stinking of sweat, motor oil, kerosene and lord knows what other substance fueled the auto. But he was the only one who dint seem to mind. 

One fine day the neighbours (not very friendly ones) dint let him out, I still dont know why. Johnny jumped the compound and got in. Nobody believed me though. They thought I freed him. After a couple of days they put him in their car and drove away. Johnny never came back after that.

A couple of years later during school lunch break, me and some of my classmates went exploring in the wilderness. Yes there was a sort of wilderness in our school grounds, proper forest sort, with bamboo and teakwook trees. In one trench we found a dead dog and some of her just born puppies. Immediately I fell in love with a particular black one. It was an epic week, every break 5 of us running to that spot with food to feed the litter. One day I took one pup home, concealed in my lunch basket.

Mom had a fit. 

At that time, I dint understand the fact that a purely vegetarian family of 3, living in a first floor house, with all of us absent in the house for most of the day was not an ideal place for a dog. Dad gave an option. Either I had to stay in the house, or the dog. I, being the selfish ass that I am, chose me. So I saw as the puppy was given away to a friend of dad who had a farm. 

(If you said ee-aah-ee-aah-oh in your head, here is a highest of Fives for you)

The next year, my school played host to a flock of strange white birds. Me and my friend Harsha spent that year during breaks trying to chase and capture one of them. We called it, very intelligently, the kakaokakkkak-KAkk birds. 

In 9th standard, my friend Abhijith got me a fighter fish. Unlike other fishes, this one required no maintainence at all. I remember emptying a Bournvita Jar (yes, kids.. bornvita used to come in Glass jars then) and put him in it. His primary diet was mosquitoes. My dad named him Solle-Kyatha. (My kannada friends will get it)

Abhijith said that the fighter was expected to live for about 3 to 4 weeks. Kyatha survived for 2 and a half years. I remember when we shifted to our present house, I sat in the truck with his pearl-pet mansion in my lap.

I dint mention that after Johnny, I was terrified of dogs again. The constant reports of how some strays mauled some kids did not help. It was until when I was reading The Alchemist, I think. Paulo Coehlo makes a very interesting point about animal's intelligence and how they assess you. It's in the eye contact, he says.

After that, I used to feed some strays near my house. one dog got a little friendly and set up territory near my house. I used to sit out on the cement in the evening, and she used to come sit with me. I used to talk to her and she seemed to understand.

One night I came home late (perfectly sober) and she barked at me and chased me till the end of my road. ME, who fed her and gave her company. Now cat lovers will be smirking, and the dog camp will come up with the theory that she was somehow protecting my house. I take no stand. 

After then I haven't had any pets. Just some animals that I'm friends with here and there. There is a nice ginger cat at Lemon Tree who I named venktesha, and his black friend ChintamaNi. 

That brings me back to how I was telling my friend I'm going to have a pet Giraffe and how I'm going to name him Jeff. You know, to accompany the more Imaginary MuraLi The Silly Crocodile.

She suggested I write a Note about it, so here it is. This one is for you, you know who you are ;)

Stationery troubles

I lost my pen in office today. Probably borrowed by a colleague or rolled behind the CPU and the forest of wires that I suspect is actually the portal to a secret universe.
I have lost pens before, that sent me crashing back through memory lane, to when I was in 3rd standard or so. I had the reputation of losing a lot of pencils in school. I swear, I have no idea how I managed. I had a nice pencil box. It was green, with two layers i still remember. But everyday by the time I got home, I remember never having my pencils.

I remember one particular time when my dad, tired of the constant irresponsiblity refused to buy me new pencils. He said I wouldnt be going bak to school tomorrow and suggested I work at the cycle shop and earn money the hard way. (Yes, we had cycle shops back then, hand operated pumps, 50ps per tyre)
I remember losing it completely and I remember my aged neighbour consoled me, and secretly gave me an old pencil that used to belong to her daughter. She had kept it for memory's sake. She made me promise that I would take good care of it and show my parents how responsible I was.

I lost it the next day.

The next year, If i remember correctly, brought a new miracle to my life. The blessed new Micro-Tip pencil. I remember I was the first one in my class to start using it. My otherwise atrocious handwriting suddenly seemed a lot more bearable when I sarted writing with it. The catch was that I was NEVER allowed to take it to school with me. My teachers were all praise for my marked improvement, and one of them suggested I use that pencil to answer an upcoming unit test.

My mother was really hesitant to let me take the pencil to school, but again, i promised I wouldn't lose it no matter what. They finally relented and I was full of joy. I remember I dint put it in my pencil case, but in the shirt pocket. Come on, I was grown up, and I carry my pencil like a grown up would.

While walking down to the assembly that morning I had the irresistable urge to look over the first floor guard rail to see how many people would admire my pencil today.

Let's just say I dint write the test very well.

Fifth standard, and we were allowed to use Pens. HERO Fountain pens were all the rage, and I'm sure every one of you has gone to class one fine morning, opened the pencil box (now with pens) opened your pens and found it leaked. I always used my necktie to wipe it off. Quite a few times, the tie has transferred the ink to my white shirt.

In sixth standard, the world changed again with the arrival of the "Gel" pen. Coming to school with ADD Gel was equivalent to driving a Ferrari to school. Dot pens were for sissies. Needless to say, I pleaded and pleaded and got an ADD Gel.

I never lost the pen, but the bitch ran out of ink in 4 days.

Things have worked out better for me after those years, I managed not to piss off my parents anymore with my stationery troubles. Though I will admit i have never been able to keep a scale and eraser with me for more than a week. I always used a protractor or set squares or anything with a straight edge to make up for it. Admit it, you've done it too.

I still think of what happened to all my pencils and other stuff and I hope whoever found it made good use of it and will in the future build a lightsaber or something. Or rot in hell, you know. Either.

A hair raising experience..

Well, i've just finished college. Yes finished for good. Mysore University has churned out yet another (temporarily) unemployed graduate. This means that I get to be home a lot more. That also means I get to watch TV!

For people who do not know me very well, I don't really like TV very much. I never bothered for a very long time. Until dad went and procured a huge-ass flat screen Bravia.

Our comically dysfunctional family means that we all eat at different times, and that means I get to eat alone often.

In these dreadful times, I turn to the TV for solace. To help me sail through solitary meals. The DTH system means that I can group my favorite channels in a clump. So I've set Discovery, NGC, Fox Traveler, Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo in one series. This usually gives me the half hour fix of things that I'm really interested in.

But every average half hour that I sit down to watch TV also includes the almost 15 minutes of commercials. They wreck my brain.

Seriously, ten minutes into these commercials and any non earth inhabitor (i dint want to say aliens) can be convinced that all of life's problems include being too dark, having bad hair and incredibly, more hair related problems.

Earlier, it was only women who would scream and faint on-screen if they ever so much as had a pimple. Now we have to endure John Abraham in a spandex running outdoors and teaching you how to be fair.

Then there is the supposed tennis pro, Anu, who refused to wear "tennis dress" in a match BECAUSE HER FRICKIN SKIN TONE DID NOT MATCH HER FACE. Hang on a minute, lets deconstruct this. So common knowledge says that the parts of the body always covered tend to be slightly fairer. But aha, this woman's face, being ravaged by creams for so many years manages to turn whiter than them places where the sun dont shine. Oh and the solution propounded is not to just stop bleaching her face. Surprise, there is a new "revolutionary" product that combines everything of everything that makes her shed her inhibitions to wear "tennis dress". I will dare vaseline body lotion my eternal servitude if they get Multiple grand slam winner Venus or Serena Williams to promote this same tennis wala package.

Super mutant Hair that is used to pull an ambulance out of a ditch? Why do they think that we all think our scalps are a war zone that need "repairing"?

A sunscreen combined with whitening lotion? WTF is whitening anyway. WHY on earth would you want to look like you've just seen a Ghost?

The absolute last straw - sometime ago during breakfast I saw an ad for a deo. Not the supposed attracting and spontaneous sex-inducing types.(that's not true, btw, i've tried) No no, this one is far more pointless. This one whitens your armpits apparently.

I dont want to live on this planet anymore.

Hall of Fame..

Located about seven kilometres out of Leh on the Kargil-Leh highway is the nondescript “hall of fame”. Well, you might think that it’s a place where they glorified the famous people of this region and garlanded statues of them, politicians and the like. I thought it was like that too as I got on my boss’s Royal Enfield headed out to this place.
The first sign that I was wrong was that it is located between a transit camp of the 127 KAR rifles regiment of the Indian army and the airforce base of Leh. Also flanking the entrance are two Howitzer cannons, in army livery. The ticket issue clerk was in full army fatigues.

It’s a war memorial.

The entrance is unassuming but one visit to this little building and it will change your life forever. A nominal charge of ten bucks per person gets you in and you see a plaster of paris terrain recreation of the entire trans Himalayan ranges- the lower, zanskar and everything else up to karakoram and then you begin to appreciate the forces of the tectonic plates when they collided and resulted in this crazy landscape. The nubra, zanskar and Indus rivers hop along as rapids and provide life to this otherwise desert surroundings.

I thought this bit of information was out-of-place in a war memorial, but I was wrong yet again. The sheer magnitude of everything- altitude, tempertures, approach roads and borders are what separates this battlefield from anywhere else in the world.

I entered the room dedicated to operation Vijay. Commonly known to us as the Kargil conflict, this room provides all the details of the exercise. The dates, the timings, the regiments involved and the manner in which it was carried out. Essentially, they mention the folks that they were fighting against as just “the enemy” and the “illegal occupiers”.

Some of you might recall the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, where the US soldiers capture beach heads in Normandy, France. Now imagine a much smaller army unit capturing a much higher post in temperatures 30 degrees below freezing and up against much better and accurate artillery fire.

Yes, the Indian army kicked a lot of ass and the stories of those soldiers who were awarded gallantry awards (some posthumously) are displayed in this hall, under the head “lest we forget…” forget? Not in a million years!

We find the stories of ordinary 24 to 27 year old men from all around the country irrespective of state or caste who fought alongside each other to secure the borders. If these stories don’t make you feel worthless, then you’re the most pompous ass to ever breathe god’s good air.

After a while of going through those accounts and imagining the conditions you’re trying very hard not to cry openly but the slogans and the atmosphere they create there gives you a very formidable challenge. Suddenly you glance at a slogan board that reads –

“Quartered in snow, Silent to remain. When the bugle calls, They shall rise and march again…”

But perhaps what is most likely to get that lump in the throat unbearable is this exhibit, which I will reproduce here. Please do be patient and try and understand the feelings of this 22 year old –

Capt VijayantThapar, 22, died trying to evict Pakistani intruders from a ridge in Kargil on 28 June, 1999. This is the letter he wrote to his parents days before he made the ultimate scrifice:
(in a beautiful jointed writing on a blue inland letter)

Dear Papa Mama Budhi and Gummy,

  1. By the time you get this letter I’ll be observing you all from the sky enjoying the hospitality of Apsaris.
  2. I have no regrets, in fact, even if I become human again I’ll join the army and fight for my nation.
  3. If you can, please come and see where the Indian army fought for your tomorrow.
  4. As far as the unit is concerned, the new chaps should be told about this sacrifice. I hope my photo will be kept in the ‘A’ company mandir with Karni Mata.
  5. Whatever again can be done should be done.
  6. Contribute some money to orphanage and keep on giving 50/- Rs to Ruksana per month and meet Yogi Baba.
  7. Best of luck to Birdie, never forget the sacrifice of these men. Papa you should feel proud. Mama so should you, meet (name deleted) I loved her. Mama ji forgive me for everything wrong I did.
Ok then, its time for me to join my clan of the Dirty dozen, my assault party has 12 chaps.
Best of luck to you all,
Live life King size.

Father’s message:
The brave way you left this world at the age of 22 is a measure of how you lived your short life and what you valued. In meeting the stark challenges of capturing Knoll against all odds, during the battle of Three Pimples with heroic coolness and single minded devotion to duty, you have achieved immortal honour. In death, you hve epitomized the spirit of national pride- an honor which makes every sacrifice worthwhile. Your actions will forever inspire generations of Indians to come. You have left us with pride for being the parents of a worthy son and a lifetime of pain for having lost a child we love.
Col. V.N. Thapar.

With great difficulty, I managed to wipe my eyes and walked out behind to the little park that has the memorial stone and the Indian tricolor flying proudly over the names of those martyred for the country’s cause. The writing on the foot of the memorial –

                                                      ALMIGHTY LORD, IN THY GRACIOUS KEEPING,
                                                                LEAVE WE OUR SOLDIERS SLEEPING

Please take some time off and reflect on the amazing feats carried out everyday by these silent sentinels of the borders. I’m a changed person, are you?

"In loving memory of those that who set out to serve the nation and did not return... Ladakh, 1947".

Of journeys and destinations...

The road is a person. She has many different personalities. She starts out from Manali being very gentle and embracing, very inviting yet promising nothing. She defends her territory and tests the traveler physically and mentally. She must have been particularly cross the day I tried to go over, she put 6 tonnes of rock and gravel between me and my path.

It was probably a good thing because I woke up to the best view ever. Looking at the snow capped mountain ranges through the foggy window first thing in the morning was quite an experience. Human resilience soon prevailed and I was on my way again. Throughout the day she rewarded me with fantastic views of the pass, a stream accompanying the road all the time. Later on during the day , she began to take away my air.

Altitude sickness can affect anyone, and it affects different people differently. How differently did it affect me? Well let me tell you, being sick on a night when the temperature is just touching minus 9 degrees with just a canvas tent and a few rugs to keep the cold out on a day that you haven't eaten much, other than an omelet and few chocolate bars is not the most pleasant experience in the world.

Next morning arrived and suddenly she was as cruel as ever snowing at us and forcing us to slow the descent from the second highest pass on the way. I barely managed to survive Tanglang La and was ever so grateful when the plains were back.

The final hundred kilometers into Leh is the best stretch, where she is a playful dainty lass, partly tamed by the BRO. Signs on the highway read like “be slow on my curves” and “not so fast darling” probably issued by an officer who shares a love-hate relationship with this highway. They toil day in and day out to keep her tantrums at bay and not to put people at risk. She has taken many lives over the years, a sad way to go. The border security force, the Trishul regiment also has a major presence on this stretch. One of their signboards read “when you get home, tell them of us. For their tomorrow we gave our today”. Indeed I will tell anyone who cares, they are doing the most selfless daring and outstanding service and we simply can’t thank them enough.

Finally after testing you and pushing your boundaries to the limit, she gives up her treasure. Leh is one of the last few places on Earth where you can have a relaxing time. Where the air is unpolluted and where attitudes are that of a welcoming open culture. The landscape of this place cannot be described in words and has only to be experienced. I will go so far as to say it is unlike anything else in the world.

These three days I spent on the road has left me rattled and shaken. The time I spent in Pang was the first time I ever wondered if I would make it through the night. But then I find that little memories of the people closest to me all over the world and their daily battles and the way they face it always picked me up and the faith always remained.

They say it’s more about the journey than the destination, but I’ve always felt that the destination must justify the perils and knocking of the journey. That night I wondered to myself if it was worth putting me through this torture, and if it was worth being like this on the very first time that I left home for work. Once I reached here I realized that the journey has changed me. I appreciate better the value of human life and how helpless we are in the face of mommy nature’s will. I have begun to infinitely respect the armed forces and the other people who strive to make this place a better destination. I thank a million times silently the complete stranger who listened to my feelings and gave me some medications to ease the pain. I miss the pampering only-son treatment I got back home, but I have also learnt to establish well in a new place and get to know the attitudes of the people.

I traveled almost 4000 km in getting here. I experienced the terrible nonsense of an attitude from the information counter at Indira Gandhi International Airport and also the legendary Ladakhi hospitality from Ammo and Dawa my adopted parents here in Leh. It has been a very taxing journey and the landscapes have been as different and varied as one can comprehend.

Yet as I sit here on the banks of the river that gives this glorious country its name, I feel a single tear leave my left eye and I cant help but think, my India…India Incredible...


Women's day Ranting :)

I never got the point of “days”. It’s the 8th of March and somehow is also designated International Women’s Day. I used to think why is it that only on that particular day we all get gung ho about whatever it is that we are supposed to be celebrating and then forget it till the next time the “day” came around. You might remember I wrote about it on valentine’s day. That particular note got most people excited about the stuffed lizard thingy, but then there was this one thought by a friend which in turn got me thinking -  and I quote –

well what you say is true,you don't feel more love for someone on certain days, but ever so often we forget to telll the people who make our lives special that we love them(barring a few exceptions of course!) and lets face it, those are words any sane person would love to hear(i know i loved it when i read your note!!=)). Valentines day just gives us the opportunity to do so…”

Think about it, I kept looking at the letter of it, and not in its Spirit.

So this morning, when I realised its “Women’s” day, I took some time out, and thought about all of the women who matter to me. Just thinking of them made my day. Linguist, Biotechnologists, Architects, Engineers, Lawyers, Dentists, Managers, Teachers, Writers, Artists all come to my mind, and how I KNOW they carry responsibilities with the aplomb and grace that only they could have .

Loving mothers, caring sisters and awesome friends you all are, and I realised, blessed am I to have you all in my life.
This one’s for you, for all the special women in my world, who in turn make my world special, by being there. :)

Cheers, and keep the faith.

P.s: today also happens to be this wonderful girl Lavanya Snigdha’s Birthday, so have a good one, dei! :D