Well, I don’t speak Odissi!

Read again, Odissi. Yes, I hope one gets the point I wish to make. After several encounters in the past and a recent one that triggered this emotion again I thought let me clear this air with Odissi, Odiya and Odisha. Complicated? …..nah not really.

Just like any other individual, I have always been asked during social interactions about my hometown. Being from a lesser known state and living in Pune, I did have a standard answer, “I am from Puri, Orissa (Read Odisha now)”…“Orissa? You know besides West Bengal”, I quickly add. What was interesting to hear were the conversations afterward ranging from asking its exact location, to its similarities to Bengal but the most unforgiving & amusing one saying, “You speak your mother tongues, Odissi then?” Now, that till date never digests in.

I don’t speak Odissi! It’s the dance of my state. I don’t speak Bengali, it is similar but belongs to the state beside me. It may sound alike but they are not the same! The language I speak is Odiya and well no, my state is not always associated with a cyclone, we have an own identity. Period.

Who am I? Practically a non-resident Odiya, brought up in Pune since childhood and calling it home now for twenty something years. To read and write Odiya has not been my forte nor do I even consider myself well versed with the culture. However, when people associate your hometown where your strong roots lie with half-baked facts in full confidence, it irks and charges you up.

Situated in East India along the Bay of Bengal, there is a lot more to Odisha than that meets the eye. So say my fond memories. Limited to the long, lazy summer holidays but those that I always looked forward to.

From reaching my ancestral home in cycle rickshaws crossing the tiny vibrant lanes with decorated verandahs with chita (read rangoli) to making the first visit of the trip to the Jagannath temple just walking distance from our house. My memories with Odisha drive to that place called Pipli where we stopped by to pick beautiful handicrafts or applique work that its known for and getting its recognition finally in most exhibit stores I see today and alike. My memories extend to my visits to the magnificent Konark Sun temple and deep inside the Chilka Lake, that’s home to several migratory birds and dolphins. Yes, magnificeint Dolphins! Let me slip in the lip smacking food as well be it simple vegetarian like chaats, pani-puris, singadas (read samsosa) or sea food picks such as fried lobsters, prawns from my village lake or fish. Yet, Odisha over the years to me will be synonymous for none other than the beaches, along the shoreline of Puri in particular. Where these empty pristine beaches close to my granny’s house felt were entirely for me.  Where I could laze with crabs for company scurrying into their tiny holes in sand. Where I saw the fishermen community scan through their daily catch.

Meanwhile at other times, days here felt just like a day out of kid’s story from one the many timeless Tinkle short stories I have been influenced by during childhood. From spending time at both my set of grandparents taking turns at each’s house to frolicking with cousins and extended family assembled for the summer days. When the only thing on mind was to listen to bed time stories besides my grandfathers, accompany them to market on Grand Trunk road Puri, eat delicious food prepared at home or absolutely laze around keeping track of only stories to complete. These memories more than as expressed are a life’s treasure.

Far away from this place it’s interesting how attached you feel to a place home, but away from home.  My connection to this place, its culture, the language has been kept well alive back here. Modern as much as I am and calling Pune my first home always, Odisha attracts me to the unharnessed potential it holds. The people, its simplicity quite similar to here. A state that is growing at large ready to unfurl. However wherever life takes me, if I do get questioned with half-baked facts, I will yet again have a witty reply for sure!

Odisha Images for Blog2-COLLAGE

(Pic credits: Google. From top Left to bottom right – Konark Sun Temple, Jagannath Temple, Puri, Fisherwoman at beach, Flamingoes at Chilka Lake, Evening at Puri Beach, Applique Work at Pipli)

The sea side stories-from Alibaug to Puri through Bombay

The sea has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.” ~Robert Henri

My fixation for the sea goes a long way back, first owing to my innate summer memories travelling to our native beach town Puri, Odisha and second and more exuberant, to the first time absorbing in person the angst of this sea. The sight of high tides gorging towards me and the low tides receding slowly away. This tranquilizing effect struck at Kihim beach, Alibaug in 2007 and dented a feeling deep enough to linger on.

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First Sight at Kihim beach in 2006

The feeling regurgitated, once again. This time a few years later, at an upscale apartment at Nariman Point, Bombay with a sea-side view. Coming from Pune where you expect only greenery as balcony view, this visual my heart could not accept. Window to window, eight in all, all pointed to the roaring sea. Waves splashed against the compound wall of the apartment by the night just feets away from my first floor view. Wide eyed, my thoughts scrambled for space, “The residents of this side had a view like this for an entire lifetime, thrilling!” With the beginner’s memory of the tide waves at Kihim beach still crystal clear in mind and this photographic image of the white windows bordering around the sea, I confirmed my fascination for this blue glory.

For years I knew the sea as a gigantic beautiful thing. This pull of nature where I could go and wet my feet and wait to see the sand slither away from beneath my feet. Where beach time was about making sand castles and mischievously bury your kin’s shoes in sand. That’s what my memories from Puri tell me, and it was the exciting part of visiting it from Pune for most summer holidays. Also come aligned with those memories by default was my introduction to juicy sumptuous egg rolls priced then at a whopping Rs 12. It formed the highlight for a trip to the ‘sea beach’ (as fondly called in Puri). Sold at this ‘chhatta’ (read umbrella in Odiya) by this guy who I thought was the best multi-tasker frying 10 rolls and breaking 10 eggs all in the same time frame. I as a child gaped at this guy and eagerly waited for my turn to be handed my treat. Sadly, the place has perished now but memories stayed back.

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Dry Fish sellers en route Murud beach

 

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Now these are footprints of the bird that flew away on seeing humans coming

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Hooves- signs that yes I did take a horse ride 🙂

From meek thoughts about loving the sea for its roaring waves age did twist my perspective to keep up with time, here comes philosophy! Watching the waves today is as if they are whispering to you. Telling you things that that opens your mind and lays bare all the emotions inside. Smile, laugh or go still. From riding kilometers once looking for the end of the sea to gazing today towards the horizon where the sky meets the sea and wondering where does it all begin.

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Picture Perfect view at Murud beach

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Bats in hundreds decorating the afternoon sky. In the daytime? Found it weird

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Geese loving the bucket of water placed in front of them

But why am I being nostalgic today? For here I was once again, watching the high tides and low at Murud beach near Alibaug with the same excite. Sitting in a resort by a pristine private beach like none other. With the geese for company chattering in the gardens, with bats hanging in numbers on tree- top and a green canvass all around, the picture felt complete with a horse ride along these shores.

Now with such an apt setting could I blame my thoughts for triggering my mind?

Seas Side Stories Blog Collage

 

Do you hear my cause?

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In conversation: Dr. Neelam Vaid, Brett Lee & Debashree Lokhande

If asking my mind to catalog small things around me is called observing, then my commutes around make sure I get my daily quench.

That one day, it was rush hour and my mind compelled my fingers to speed and zigzag past all the roads. Just then, my eyes meet a man on a scooter making quick sign actions to his pillion rider like in conversation. The response by the lady was even quicker. It was a sight of overwhelm to watch them laugh in glory and crackle along in conversation. On a closer glance, I soon realized they were hearing and speech impaired. For a few seconds, the noise around me seized to exist and I watched their happiness in silence.

That day in time, created a strong memory reason enough to write in context today. Last week, I felt glad to attend a connect program by Cochlear™ India to raise awareness on hearing loss and be enlightened to the staggering statistics of it globally. Cochlear™ is a global company that, for over 30 years has provided Cochlear™ Implant systems to about 2,60,000 recipients. Speaking in action was Bret Lee, their Global Hearing Ambassador who shared his association with this cause through the campaign ‘Sounds Of Cricket’. His words resonated on saying that cricket is a sport that binds 3 billion people and through exactly this language of cricket he wishes to expose more people to implantable hearing technologies.

Did I know that 32 million children under the age of 15 years suffer from disabling hearing loss? Did I know that a hearing aid can be put on a child as early as 6 months old? I sat intrigued listening to these and many other facts shared by speaker Dr. Neelam Vaid MS (ENT), the Associate Professor and Consultant at ENT Department KEM Hospital. She spoke of how it as an extremely invisible disability and that spread genetically. “It is important to spread the word to every parent and ask for their child to be tested for hearing loss as early as birth”, she put forth.

As I sat there listening to the facts and figures, my curiosity was met by a real life recipient of an implant system, Debashree Lokhande an architect by profession and a bilateral Cochlear™ Nucleus® 6 implantee. Not often do we hear such brave stories where she lost her hearing due to TB in 2014 and now after a Cochlear™ implant surgery, proudly enjoys her life again. With Dr Neelam Vaid, it was interesting to know her journey from silence to the first magical sound after 2 years.

Cochlear™ implants have been implanted in children for almost 15 years now with fabulous outcomes. What’s important is to make sure this message reaches the rural India too, where many cases go unnoticed. Brett Lee with the campaign Sounds of Cricket wishes to do just that. “Cricket is one game that has a mass appeal – urban and rural. With this in mind I wish to spread this word far and wide”, he signs off.

My white escapade to Jammu

Disclaimer:  My excitement expressed will be a tad overwhelming for a seasoned traveller! This three minute read is best approached with a naïve mind 🙂

If you have been a witness to the magnificence of Kashmir, then Jammu’s splendour will come as a tiny speck. But if you are home to one of the urban, concrete cities of India and gasp at the sight of stunning snowcapped Himalayas, gigantic conifer trees and mountains everywhere, then Jammu is beauty in galore. Yes, I was in India’s disputed border state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) for a trip that couldn’t get shorter. I warn you of making the most here. It’s a visual delight!

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Snowcapped Himalayas glistening white enroute Srinagar

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You know you are in the most combative states of India, J&K where the Army is omnipresent. They try not to miss a frame with you till the very end. Normally, on the streets, seeing uniformed men atop a few houses with guns and prying eyes would call for raised eyebrows, but here it ensures a condescending ring of safety, a way of life.

“Fulka khaane jaa raha hun, aap ke naam ka kha lunga, ye dus rupaye ka amrut kharid lo”. Talk about being witty in sales! As I paved my way into the city, I find such conversations around me come alive. The sheer grace with which they talk defines the essence of the people here. Uff, I was smitten! You are bound to revel in the purity of this language, Hindi and drift away from the uber English speaking urban youth that we have become. Infused with the Kashmiri dialect, this Hindi refuses to be associated with any of the UP-Bihari or Delhiwalla Hindi. No matter how polished your language is, the politeness with which they talk makes you feel embarrassed even to bargain with the vendor, lest you lower your speaking standards.  

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Watch carefully and one can discern beauty openly roaming the streets here;  at times in nature but most times in the gorgeous people. There was a rhyme in kindergarten that spoke daintily about ‘Chubby Cheeks, rosy lips and blue eyes’, and here I subconsciously & amusingly found the rhyme come alive. Dressed in traditional Dogri kurta and suthan, men and women demand a second glance. Oh yes, they age too with beauty intact 🙂 

Let me not forget the food! Beware, gorging on rajma chawal, chole bhatura, alu paranthas only, can make one forget their hard core non veggie side for a while! Alas, this is all the variety I had in food on this trip.

A trip to Jammu is incomplete without a visit (my first) to Vaishno Devi. This place truly has a power of its own. The sanctity & calm felt here can engulf even a non-believer of the Supreme Being. The moment after paying a visit to the shrine, sitting beside a cave at an altitude of 5,200 ft with a chill breeze blowing, the cold marble flooring beneath making your feet numb, the touch of water sending a chill within you; your mind transgresses to a different level of thought. The background fades into animation and you can’t escape the peace that envelops you. Is it the winter month doing the trick or sheer power of the shrine? Another 2 km up and the view of Bhairon Nath temple at an altitude of 6619 ft is mesmerizing. It’s heavenly as a blanket of clouds appears below you.  It’s celestial  as if nothing else can look more hypnotizing! Advices, if you are hale and hearty walk the 16 km up and back the visit.

 

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View from Bhairon Nath temple at an altitude of 6619 ft

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Vaishno devi resides in a Holy cave in the folds of the three-peaked mountain named Trikuta

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Feeling gleeful amongst these colourful mules

Kashmir & Jammu – never the same thing. Oh yes, comes from my own experience of tagging everyone coming from this state as, “You belong to Kashmir?” “No, I am from Jammu”.  “Isn’t that the same thing? And a politely stern reply as no! For as my Uncle, a retired Army officer, recollects his Jammu postings with gleaming eyes, “The moment you cross over the Jawahar tunnel in the Pir Panjal Range, the entire map changes- the religion, the soil, the climate, the people, and the mood”. You enter the valley of Kashmir and this is where paradise resides. This is where beauty and bloodshed are spoken of in the same breath.

Till another time I chance upon visit Kashmir, they say the better half of J&K, I satiate myself with the endless snowcapped Himalayas I see at Srinagar, white and surreal.

White escapade to Jammu_02Feb2016

 

 

Here in my city with love

Where do I begin to write about this favorite city of mine? Do I talk about it being one of the oldest surviving heritage places with a rich tradition or do I talk about its proximity to just so many forts, beaches and other weekend getaways? Soaked in a rich culture of its own, known often as the sister city of Mumbai and my home abode for a lifetime, Pune will always grab that first place in my travel diary, second to none.

Pune, I had entered this city as a one year tiny tot cradled in the arms of my father when he got transferred here. Today as a twenty something independent woman there hardly comes a street I have not walked or driven down. Yet this city unfurls every day to surprise me more, its expanding across all its horizons to accommodate people even more, but still stands up to its repute of being counted as one of the two cities to settle. Its competitor is for you to guessJ.

How does it leave a staggering 300 urban cities behind in this quest for being a favorite settlement to several Indians from all states? Here’s how – Drive, Design and Connect.

Design – Pune can be identified as an amalgam of heritage from the Maratha period and drifting to modern architecture during the British rule. Forts, museums, palaces & sky scrapers you have it all. Within the heart of Pune in densely populated peths with meandering lanes are situated traditional residential forms of Maratha architecture called ‘wadas’. Go visit the most famous one Shaniwar Wada- the fortress built during the reign of Bajirao Peshwa and you know what I am talking about. Want to go for a quick morning trek and Sinhagad fort located atop a hill is your answer. Museums like the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum and palaces like the Aga Khan Palace bring alive the embedded historical past. Pune also has several educational institutes beautifully designed in British architecture. Fergusson College, Deccan College and several convent schools are far away from the concrete standalone building premises of today.

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Drive – All these places of visit can be well reached by driving down in car, bike or any other public transport. It is not only reachable within its territory but also lauded for its proximity to many other prominent cities around like Mumbai, Goa, Banaglore, Hyderabad etc. Pune has a mix of flyovers, highways and roads. Now with its expanding horizons it is all set to welcome the metro line to connect all its commuters.

Connect – There is not a better city that connects well with its people. Punekars houses people of all kinds. Where you will find an extremely opinionated Punekar taking a dig everything sitting in of the many kattas, at the same time there is the carefree youngster who will be enjoying the city life hopping from one eatery to partying in another disc. Owing to being called the culture capital of Maharasthra, Pune connects with theatre, drama audience and recently artistes across the world. The international connect is located in the upscale Koregaon Park which houses in the Osho Park – a spiritual getaway.

I am irrevocably in love with this city. It is designed to welcome the modern settlers but at the same time is well connected to its roots and tradition. Come down to my city and experience its vibe.

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Aarushi Talwar Case files: once again

Is justice is swaying from side to side? An open-ended view written in dismay!

I usually don the hat of a movie critic when one of the Friday releases swings my mood to an extreme; most often the pleased side, at rarity in disdain. But this week’s release ‘Talvar’ cast such a lasting impression that it left me with fewer words to critique and largely baffled at this reel cum real life story, unravel once again. Much discussed since May 16 2008, but curiosity got me to revisit the Aarushi Talwar case files for details that I may have missed.

The movie will haunt you for a while and make you aware of details not shown before. It will engulf you in shock at the shoddy affairs of the UP Police for compromising and trampling on the crime scene. I was unaware of the ego clashes between the two CBI teams respectively presenting  their two pronged theory. The CBI director’s way of asking to come to a conclusion in a scene is as if like tossing a coin and deciding. You can’t help wonder if justice has really been rightly given? As much as you wish that it can’t be the parents, there seems to be no fool proof against the Nepali servants either.

It’s not about taking about sides, but its uncanny how circumstantial evidences have also weighed themselves equally on the two accused sides. On one side the narco-analysis of the servants fills you with shock and the theory that parents may have turned murderers for trivial reasons holds no water. But the movie does not explain the unjustified points as well. You can’t help but judge them based on their dialogues and actions with their witnesses (here). Nupur’s reaction as justified by the maid on asking her to re-check the latch again, Anmol (Aarushi’s friend)’s call going unreceived on the landline past midnight (here), the out of order landline as claimed by Rajesh Talwar and no first hand urgency in informing the police before neighbor’s intervention (here). Human reactions are different for all, absolutely true but its difficult to not notice the indirect answers to the questions during media interview with no signs defensive approach. (here and here) I wish these all are plain coincidences and not witness to a lot more.

Nonetheless, the movie left me feeling anguished for the parents for the lifetime imprisonment without strong evidence against them. Justice should be rightly served with purpose and not out of influence. Its a mockery at the police and judiciary. It sways in favour of the parents, but the facts are such that I wonder if truth is only what meets the eye?  One line about the movie -a must watch because it’s gripping and keeps you hooked till the end.

Change in Facebook DP magically contributes to the Indian economy!

Modi and Mark in DigitalIndia support

Modi and Mark in DigitalIndia support

This post is an outcome of madness after seeing Mark Zuckerberg changing his DP on facebook in support of Digital India and the entire country and abroad following bandwagon.

By showing ‘support’ and changing the profile picture, just how exactly am I contributing to Digital India? Scores of NRI’s are always doing the ‘support’ bit by showing their love during every showcase of Indian culture. But how far is this ‘support’ going? When it comes to the real ‘contribution’ the daily bread it earns, end up supporting their native economy. Mr. Zuckerberg with this gesture unintentionally just added to his country’s too.

During the recent’ ModiInUS’ visit, the extensive coverage that the Indian media gave these PIO’s (person of Indian origin) settled outside since generations is amazing! They literally thrust the mic on them asking, “What do you think about your country India’s development?” And evidently these ardent Indians would want to contribute to this booming growth, with words! If opportunity to sit on this India Growth wave strikes you on the face then why would you not grab the chance? These PIO’s with heavy accents and show of only culture easily give away that ‘most’ rarely travelled to India and rarely know the real India.  We also sure know several Indians who voluntarily left shore to settle abroad in search of lifelong self-sustenance. Their regular banter, “Who really wants to stay in so much mud sling”? Leave alone in contributing to change. Best, escape to a better life. But once in that nation, they will not leave a single show of Indian-ness with the smallest celebration and largest congregation. (read: the Hardik Patel strike by US community that was to happen – Read here). The problem is not with the lakhs of students who go there for better education. The brain drain happens when only a few return back letting the lakhs of money spent by the govt. on them go in haste.

I am not a fanatic Indian who objects this. It’s their life their better choice, who am I to call debate. It just affects to see the media throw so much light on them when they really dont care. They left India long back. We have far more better success stories in India. As much as I admire Modi and his outstanding initiatives, I yet think he stretches too far in support of PIO’s. Nonetheless I am no intellectual in his capacity.

Supporting Digital India is great. But after a successful Townhall meet, I expected Facebook to come up with a much better campaign with a contribution factor. Thats what we all want to do. We dont want an FB to to show us the way to support. Modi already does enough through his social media tactics. Rather contributing just a 1/- would have been innovative as a thought.

Change in dp is just another change of mind, forgotten after counting the number of likes. In marketing terms it was a smart enagement tool for its second largest user base. And to better its brand image of doing supporting social causes.  As for Mark Zuckerberg he is a businessman after all, tapping on the Indian emotional quotient 🙂