Monday, February 26, 2007


I was in Bhubaneshwar for some meetings, and was trying to gauge if the state would actually grow faster than it has in the past. Even though conspicuous consumption in the market, billboards displaying new projects, and construction activity gave soft evidence of growth, what REALLY convinced me was an article on the main page of the local newspaper.

The article essentially said that the morals of the youth in Bhubaneswar were on a rapid decline, these irresponsible people spent money on parties and pubs and (horror of horrors!!) on playing pool!! What was more, you could also see girls in restaurants with male friends!! The import of the article was essentially that humanity had been denigrated to the lowest levels because of these crimes of the youth :-)

I knew then that I was on to a good thing!!

The embarrassing truth...

Last week I was in Bhubaneshwar. Quite a happening town - right from proximity to the Konark Temple and the beautiful beach town on Puri - to great fish - to a town which is beginning to boom. But that is not why I will remember Bhubaneshwar!

The truth - and it must prevail :-) - is that I had a huge adventure while in Bhubaneshwar. In my hurried and addle-minded condition while leaving home for the airport, I forgot to take along my carelessly packed suitcase for the trip!! I realized this just as I reached the airport, and since there was not enough time to go back and get it, I decided to display a maddening lack of any sense and a philosopher's sense of equanimity, and went right ahead with a smile and a song.

Judicious scheduling of laundry, a few purchases to increase GDP of the city, the state, and the country and an attitude of derring-do enabled me to spend my three days in Bhubaneshwar without incident. However, more challenge was on the horizon.

I had to go from Bhub to Bombay via Calcutta, and attend an official meeting there. The travel schedules would create havoc with my careful rationing of clothes!! That is when my business suit came in handy - I now have empirical evidence to state that in a business suit, no one notices the shirt :-)

So it was a case of all's well that ends well. Here's to more such adventures (with clothes this time, hopefully!!)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

... and Ajmer

In continuing with my last post, Ajmer is a small, quaint and noisy town in Rajasthan. It is famous for the dargah (mausoleum) of Garib Nawaz (Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti). Legend has it that whatever one asks for at this dargah, is granted by the gods. Akbar apparently visited this place each year on foot, all the way from Agra, asking for a son till Salim was born. My buddy Alam also informs me that he was wished for by his mother here many years ago.

The dargah is surrounded by many ancient buildings. Most notable among them are a mosque built by Shah Jahan, the Akbari mosque built by Akbar and a huge iron vessel, also donated by Akbar, which can cook 100 tons of rice at a time.

Although the Garib Nawaz was a famous Sufi saint who learnt at the feet of great Islamic teachers in Samarkand and Bukhara, the taxi driver who was driving me back from Pushkar had an interesting local spin on the legend. Apparently, the saint used to serve water to travellers out of a goatskin bag, and would hang his bag above an old Shiva lingam. Water would fall on the shivling drop by drop, and this greatly pleased Shiva. So the God appeared to the saint in a dream, and granted him a wish. The Sufi saint asked for fame as a servant of the poor, and that is how he acquired a substantial following in the whole world.

Now even though I am inclined to disbelieve this story, I find it interesting to see how closely Islam and Hinduism intermingled to create this uniquely Indian amalgam that is pervasive in our country today.

Ajmer also has a Jain temple with a solid 50kg statue of pure gold, which depicts the Jain view of the universe - of 13 concentric galaxies circling mount Sumeru, and the birth of Rishabhdev, the first tirthankar at Ayodhya.

I could also go on and on about the beautiful and soothing (and extremely dirty from close quarters!) Ana Sagar, but more on that sometime later...

All in all, quite an interesting visit.


This weekend I went with my family to Ajmer and Pushkar - twin cities in Rajasthan, about 450 kms from Delhi. The trip was short, hectic and fun.
Pushkar, a hilly town located about 12 kms away from Ajmer, is famous for two things – one is the only Brahma temple in the world, and the other is large numbers of foreign backpackers looking for a fix of grass, coke or ganja. The story behind the Brahma temple is quite interesting, and I suspect it also has a bearing on the availability of dope.

Legend has it that Brahma underwent a penance for 1000 years after he created the universe (with the Pushkar lake, a confluence of the waters of the Ganga, Yamuna and the Saraswati as its center). This penance was to have a huge yagna (a religious ceremony to invoke the blessings of the Gods) as its culmination. When the time for the yagna came, Brahma sent his son Narad (a nosey-parker kind of fellow, with a penchant for creating fights between gods) to fetch his wife (and Narad’s mother) Savitri from a nearby hill. Now Narad thought that his reputation as a creator of conflicts would be under threat if he did not create some misunderstanding between his own parents. So he went to Savitri and told her that she should come down for the yagna, but because there were multiple gods to be present, she should take her time to dress up really well. He then came down to tell his dad that mom would take some time as she wanted to really dress up.

The time for starting the yagna was non-negotiable since it was an auspicious period that would come only once in a thousand years. So Brahma sent out Indra, the king of the devas, to get someone to take Savitri’s place for the yagna. Indra found a cow-girl some distance away and got her to the venue, promising her that she could sell lots of ghee and milk to the assembled dignitaries. Brahma purified the girl by passing her thrice through the mouth of a cow (and hence the name Gayatri), seated her on his wife’s seat and began the event.
When Savitri eventually came down to the venue and saw someone else in her place, she was furious. She cast a curse on Brahma, saying that from now on, no married person will ever worship you because you have placed some other woman in your wife’s place. Brahma was quite crestfallen, and asked for some kind of mitigation from this harsh curse. So she relented and said that though no married person will worship you, they can worship this lake.

And that is why there is no other temple of Brahma in the whole world. The interesting thing about the temple is that only Naga sadhus perform the worship of Brahma. And where there are Naga sadhus, there is dope. And this brings on the backpackers (esp. Israeli nationals – the place is full of Hebrew restaurants and shops with Hebrew speaking locals)

Another bit of interesting trivia about Pushkar is that it is situated on Nag parbat (i.e. Cobra hill) cos the rocks are all jutting out on the top - very much like hooded cobras. This actually makes for quite a fascinating drive up the hill from Ajmer to Pushkar.

I've been trying to upload some photos but cant seem to succeed. Anyhow, I guess there is enough dope for one post.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Well of the sun

Every year, the first fortnight of February is witness to a massive congregation of humanity (and their vehicles!!) in the idyllic hamlet of Surajkund (literally the well or pool of the sun) in Faridabad. The Surajkund crafts fair is a congregation of small artisans and craftsmen from all over the country, who come to this fair ground to sell their wares.
This year too was no exception. To experience this phenomenon first hand, armed with a lot of time, an empty stomach and a not-so-great mobile phone camera, I landed up at the grounds. It was perfect weather for a day out, with the sun bright and cheerful, a cool nip in the air, and Delhiites of all hues proved this by turning up in massive numbers!!
The colorful mass of humanity seemed to be having a great time, entertained by various groups of people dancing, singing and making people laugh! Shoppers could be found bargaining vigourously, and replenishing energies with the exotic and delicious hot food on offer. Here are some pictures (not so good unfortunately)...