Friday, March 27, 2009

Remembering my first election...

That was long time back. But I do still remember it very clearly. Everyday we used to go to school in a bus, not a school bus but the public transport. Me and my sister, I was in third class I think. Things were very different at that time, small town, good busses, less crowded, and we used to have almost the same crowd going in that bus everyday, and most people kind of knew each other, not personally but as a fellow bus mates. 

It was election time then, and there was this guy who used to travel with us, much older, he was in college at that time. And just like that he asked me,

"Whom would you vote for if you have been given a chance to vote?"

"Congress", I said, without sligthest hesitation

"Why would you want to vote for Congress?"

"I will vote for congress because Sarojni Naidu was from Congress", I said,

We had just done one lesson in English about Sarojni Naidu and I was very impressed with her and she was from congress, some first minister or something and I don’t even remember now and that seemed logical enough to vote for Congress because she worked for congress.

But then this guy burst out laughing, and he even told one fellow old passenger who was absorbed in reading the newspaper, that we would vote for congress because Sarojni naidu was from congress. I did not quite realize then that why would he want to laugh at us for this.


"No you should vote for BJP, because they are building temples" he said,

Till then probably I had never heard of BJP, or probably had never paid any attention to it, but this was first time. And at that time all of sudden this awe of BJP was generated, because of course building temples at that time did seem a very noble deed. As kids we used to love going to temples. Whenever we used to go for cycle rides or just play, if we ever passed any temple we would make it a point to go, and try to remember and do all kinds of things in temple that we had seen mom and elders do when they went to temple, and ofcourse taking "prasad" back home. It was also a great thrill for us to discover new temples, small small ones, and then come back and report to mom, as if discovered gold.

 Anyways, but this thing about, BJP as a party who were noble and build temples stayed with me for a long long time, until much later when I grew up and started realizing that how bad and ugly these temple building business is. And I just feel sad for that college guy in the bus and for others who vote just because some party seems to be doing some outwardly noble deed like this. 

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Age of Kali

These days I am reading this book called "The age of Kali" from William Dalrymple.  I have always loved his books, because there is so many things about history that I am not even aware of.  I also like the way he intervenes personal stories with historical facts making it very interesting read.

There are so many things that we lost due to partition of India, and we hardly know anything except that there were roits and thousands of people were killed. But also so much of culture and so many cities were lost and overnight were turned in to refugee camps.  He writes about this particular story about this guy from Lucknow, who owns a haveli in Lucknow, which is right now in ruins and his story in his words goes as follows, 

"We belonged to one of the rich families in Lucknow and at that time it was a very prosperous city. It was full of havelis and magnificent buildings, markets smelled of "scents" and delicious kababs. It was a city of poets, art  and even poor people spoke such good urdu. Lucknow'is were known for their etiquettes and manners. But overnight during the partition everything changed, havelis were burnt down, known faces disappeared, refugees appeared. Nothing remained same as before. 

As far as my personal life goes, it also changed a lot. My father was a close friend, helper and subordinate of people working in Muslim league. But he never visualized what partition could bring about. And after partition he could never forgive himself, and he went off and stayed in London, he did not have the heart of returning to either place because he thought that in some ways he was responsible for bringing suffering in so many people lives. My mother stayed here in lucknow in this haveli, but then during 1965, this haveli was seized by government, because my father no longer being an Indian citizen this haveli was seen as enemy property. This was occupied by various government offices and they plundered and looted it. My mother did not give up, and stayed here outside in the veranda for two years. Finally the haveli was handed over to her in the ruined state and that is how it is right now"

Now when I went to Lucknow during the Jagriti yatra, I could see it as full of cycle rickshaws and dirty and in middle of all this old buildings that perhaps some day were beautiful.

I wonder why wont they put such stories in school books, they give such a nice picture of what happened and probably it would make everyone realize that all this narrow minded ness about religion, languages can take us nowhere and we would end up losing so much. Sometimes I wonder with all this ram sena and shiv sena and all kinds of mujahideens, if we are going forward or going back wards.

PS: Read the book if you can get hold of it. 

Monday, March 09, 2009

Of Tree walk and Battle of Plassey

Yesterday I went to this Tree walk which was organized by Bangalore walks, they do it every weekend.  So me, lekha and raghu landed up there 7 am in the morning on a sunday. 


Vijay was going to be our tour guide, you can find his entire series of articles on the Banglaore walks website. And I was expecting more of botanical kind of walk, where he would give information about each and every tree, but then it was much more than that. What was very impressive was that he told us lot of stories about each and every tree, stories related to its origin or how it came about being in lalbaug abd his individual experiences and observations with the trees. 


For example he was explaining us this tree called Palash, I have seen this tree before but never paid much attention to it. It has a tree which has bright orange flowers, and it is also called the flame of the forest. Traditionally Gulal was made from the flowers of this tree (until all the synthetic gulal came into being), and it was used as dye for clothes. 


But well one of another interesting things that he told was that, apparently, battle of Plassey was fought in Palash groove and hence the name battle of Plassey. I googled little bit and found this in one of the NCERT text books.  (I don’t remember studying this, but isnt this good way to teach associated trees with history, it would be so easy to remember) 


From NCERT ,


"Did you know how Plassey got its name? Plassey is an anglicised pronunciation of Palashi and the place derived its name from the palash tree known for its beautiful red flowers that yield gulal, the powder used in the festival of Holi."


Photos of Palash tree,

Flowers of Palash tree

Palash tree in bloom



Like these there were other numerous stories which Vijay told, and it was fun.

 One another thing which I found particularly interesting was about Bamboo flowering.

It seems that Bamboo trees flower once in about 40-50 years, and during that they produce large quantities of seeds. After this bamboo dies and regenerates from these seeds. But this is not the end of story, apparently this large quantities of seeds result in substantial increase in rodent population in that year since rodents thrive on the seeds. And after consuming the seeds rodents move to fields and granaries and which results in large amount of crops getting destroyed. Apparently most of famines of Mizoram (which has substantial Bamboo forests) have been a result of this Bamboo flowering.  Hence Bamboo is also called "Flower of Famine".

From India Today,

 The flowering of Bamboo sends Mizoram into terrifying spiral crop devastation and food shortages. The last time bamboo bloomed 48 years ago, it led to famine and two decades of violent insurgency.

Related Hindu article here,

Researched article on Bamboo Flowering here

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Story of Robert Clive

How Bangalore came in to existence


Monday, March 02, 2009


Recently one of my friends,  anupreet introduced me to this song, Sunscreen,

It does not have a catch tune, or great music in background, but I really love the lyrics of this song,

The song is called Sunscreen, by Baz Luhrmann, YouTube link. Do listen to it if you have not...

Sicne the time I have got this new phone, I listen to music when I am on way to office, and it is a great way to being the day, I love biking and with some of the best music on, it really sets up the day for me.

"Start your day with best music" they say, and it really helps.

Below is the sunscreen lyrics..

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of '99
Wear sunscreen
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by
scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
than my own meandering
experience…I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.
But trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked….You're not as fat as you

Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing
bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm
on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, don't put up with
people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you're ahead, sometimes
you're behind…the race is long, and in the end, it's only with

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you
succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your
life…the most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't, maybe you'll have children,maybe
you won't, maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky
chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don't
congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your
choices are half chance, so are everybody else's. Enjoy your body,
use it every way you can…don't be afraid of it, or what other people
think of it, it's the greatest instrument you'll ever

Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

(Brother and sister together we'll make it through
Someday your spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you've been hurting, and I know I've been waiting to be there
for you. And I'll be there, just tell me now, whenever I can.
Everybody's free.)

Get to know your parents, you never know when they'll be gone for

Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the
people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you
should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and
lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you
knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live
in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will
philander, you too will get old, and when you do you'll fantasize
that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were
noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund,
maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one
might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will
look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who
supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts and recycling it for more than
it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen

(Brother and sister together we'll make it through
Someday your spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you've been hurting, and I know I've been waiting to be there
for you. And I'll be there, just tell me now, whenever I can.
Everybody's free.)