Thursday, 27 August 2015

Why Bali is such a popular travel destination?

Come summer and I am always itched to search my next travel destination.  This time I had Philippines on my mind but some how Bali struck me.  The more I searched about it, the more I wanted to visit this beautiful island south of Indonesia.  Malindo Air offers great prices from Mumbai and Delhi to Denpasar, Bali if booked well in advance.  It is a low cost airlines but offers more than many other airlines flying to Bali from India.  Perks like 15-40 kg check-in baggage, spacious leg room, comfortable seats, in-flight entertainment and complimentary light refreshments.  My flight from Mumbai to Bali via Kuala Lumpur and return all flew and landed on right time.  So here are my 2 cents on why Bali for me is one of the highly recommendable holiday/travel destination.

Best time of the year to visit : 

The dry season is between April to September and from November to March it rains.  I traveled in the month of August but I found July to September really a good time, though August becomes one of the most crowded month, but still you can find cheap and good accommodations.

Accommodation :

Bali will give you tons of options for all types of travelers.  Right from the budget to the luxurious ones, everyone can find a decent accommodation at budget prices even though you don't book it in advance.  The most touristic lane is the Jalan Poppies 2 which is filled with hostels and hotels which is where most of the people arrive.  It is actually the backpacker's lane like Khao San in Bangkok.  It's the central place in Kuta with lots of good and small restaurants and convenient stores.  Along the beach in Kuta till Seminyak there are many luxurious resorts.

Down south in Uluwatu and Nusa Dua you can find mid-range hotels as well as luxurious resorts with private villas. In places like Ubud and Denpasar you can even find more traditional and cheaper places for those who want to escape the crowded and party places of Kuta & Seminyak.

Generally most of the hostels and budget hotels do have breakfast included in the prices, so make sure you ask for it.  It's very basic but still helps in the morning.

Food :

There is no shortage of good restaurants that'll serve you traditional Indonesian cuisine which is normally with rice. You can find budget to expensive restaurants serving all different cuisines. Indonesian, Italian, Mediterranean, Indian all types of restaurants are there.  Though there is limited options for vegetarians, but still you will not complain.  Me being a vegetarian and a very picky person and still I didn't had a problem having a proper vegetarian meal.  Most of the dishes are served with steamed rice or on request you can get fried rice.  For vegetarians it can be served along with tofu, soy, beans, peanut sauce, red tomato & chili sauce and stir fried veggies.

If you have rented a scooter during your stay in Bali (which I highly recommend) try roaming in the streets of Kuta, Seminyak and Denpasar just to have a nice vibe of the surroundings.  You will surely find places to have some street food for your breakfast or lunch.  You will also find some not so expensive local restaurants with a nice variety of Indonesian cuisine in the Poppies 2 lane.  So dig in and you shall surely find the place of your taste, suitable to your pocket ;)

Tip : 1) Try the local ARAK vodka
        2) Some of the typical Indonesian dishes are Nasi Goreng, Nasi Campur, Nasi Lemak which                    can be made into a vegetarian dish.

Moving around in Bali :

Moving around in Bali is quiet easy if you know how to ride a scooter / motorbike.  You have a wide range of scooters and motorbikes available on rent with rent starting from as cheap as 3 USD per day and go upwards depending upon what kind of two wheeler you rent and from where.  You have a helmet that's always comes with the scooter.  If you are two people ask for 2 at no extra cost.  Make sure you carry your international license.  If you are found driving without one or not wearing a helmet you'll be fined for sure or might have to bribe the police.

I was caught by the police for not wearing the helmet though I had it.  I was lucky enough that the policemen were nice enough and just asked me to wear it, checked my license, asked from where I was and on saying I was from India, they just let me go with a warning :p  I should just thank my luck for it I guess. ;)

For me it was great fun to move around to Uluwatu, Denpasar, Ubud and Seminyak on my scooter.  It was so much ease and saved a lot on hiring taxis every time.  I got my scooter right at the airport and dropped it back there.  Just this two rides saved me 15 USD.  Petrol in Bali is not at all expensive as it's around 0.5 USD per litre and so driving around makes it more fun ;)

What to do in Bali / Activities :

Bali as a travel destination has a lot to offer for all types of travelers.  It's a great destination to have some laid back and relaxing weeks next to the beautiful sea shores of the Indian ocean.  With lots of water sport activities like surfing, diving, snorkeling, dolphin watching and white water rafting Bali gives a lot of options for the adventurous types.  Besides that the beautiful volcanic countryside also offers some beautiful treks with rice terraces and sunrise treks for the trekking types.  It has lots of sunset points on the beaches, from the cliffs and also just sitting around the rice terraces. 

1)  Beaches

The beaches most of them are clean with perfect waves and tides for surfing.  Most visited beaches are Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Double Six Beach and Sanur.  Though beaches of Uluwatu, Nusa Dua, Lovina and Canggu are also quite popular.  One can find many proper surfing schools and also guys renting out surf boards on the beaches while charging less than the surf schools for a surf lesson.  For a newbie like me, my experience says to definitely go with the surf schools as they have a proper instructor with you for all the time and offer you proper guidance, gear and a proper surf board.  Also places like the Gili Islands are perfect and well known for diving with PADI certified diving schools. You can also find some in Seminyak.  

2)  Places to Party

For the party loving people, Bali doesn't fall short of  their expectations.  You can find some of the best party clubs in Bali in Kuta & Seminyak areas where you can just let yourself loose on the dance floor with some great music. Places like Sky Garden  & Bounty Club in Kuta, Ku De Ta and Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak and many small local party places will keep you awake till the wee hours.  My personal favorite though is Sky Garden with unlimited food & drinks during happy hours (19:00 to 21:00 hours) for 99K Indonesian Rupaih.

3)  Ubud, Tanah Lot, Kintamani Volcano, Mt. Batur Trek, Uluwatu

Bali is not just about beautiful beaches and party places.  It offers many many day trips to the country side such as,

Day trekking trips in Ubud and 
in the East of the Island.
Beautiful sunset evenings in Uluwatu and Tanah Lot

Half day white water rafting trips on the 
Ayung river or the Telaga Waja river

Spending the day in a Sanctuary or a Zoo 
  • Overnight trip to the Gili islands 
  • Very early morning trek to Mount Batur to see the sunrise and many others.  
Generally all this days trips are offered with hotel pick up & drop facilities which I found to be of much convenience. Depending upon your interest you can pick any such full day or half day trips and see the other side of what Bali has to offer.

I would surely recommend the Uluwatu sunset half day trip, Ubud rice terrace plantations with Monkey forest day trip, Mt. Batur sunrise trekking trip and if you like some adventure the white water rafting with a short coffee plantation visit.

For those who like to indulge in some more sporting activities Gili islands are the best place in Bali to do some diving course.  You can choose from the many PADI certified diving schools.  Also there are many places in Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Uluwatu where one can hire surf board and do some surfing or can have a lesson in surfing or a surfing course.

Surfing is very popular in Bali as the costs are quite cheap.  You can get a surf lesson for 2 hours with the guys on the beach for as low as 20 USD. But of course it's not of the best quality.  The best months for surfing in Bali for beginners are from April to August.

4) Yoga in Bali

I'm not much into Yoga but for yoga lovers again Bali is a paradise.  There are many yoga schools where you can take up yoga courses.  Even you'll find yoga retreats where you can stay and learn yoga for as many days you are there in Bali.  Ubud in Bali is quiet famous for it.  The beautiful natural landscapes, traditional art scene, tranquil surroundings around the many eco yoga resorts just make Bali a paradise for yoga lovers to spend some days or weeks here.

Even if you have some few days or a week of holidays and can manage to grab a cheap flight to Bali, I highly recommend it to just go there and relax on the beaches or in the lap of nature's lush green surroundings.  My 10 days in Bali just went off in a flash.  I still felt I wanted more of Bali.  It's just so inviting with wonderful balinese people welcoming you and the variety of things that Bali has to offer to you as a tourist or even as a traveler.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Short / Weekend Trips from Ahmedabad

It's very sad that I've explored Gujarat in a more extensive way only in the last few years.  Living in Ahmedabad since almost more than 2 decades why I never explored Gujarat earlier still annoys me. Anyways better late than never.  So I thought why not share the so many beautiful and unique places to visit in Gujarat / Rajasthan from Ahmedabad on a long / short weekend or a day trip.  Here's the list.

*  Weekend trips in Gujarat

3)  Beautiful Jain Temples - Palitana
4)  Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary - Rajpipla
5)  Diu
6)  Hills of Saputara
7)  Okha & Dwarka
8)  Ship breaking yard of Alang & Gopnath

*  Day trips from Ahmedabad

1)  Little Rann of Kutch
2)  Nal Sarovar bird Sanctuary
3)  Thol lake
4)  Jambughoda
5)  Pavagadh
6)  Velvadar black buck Sanctuary
7)  Zaanzari waterfalls
8)  Idar & Polo forest 

* Weekend trips to Rajasthan 

1)  Mount Abu - Called the Switzerland of Gujarati people
2)  Jodhpur - Jaisalmer
3)  Udaipur
4)  Pink city - Jaipur

Monday, 12 May 2014

Bike trip to 'Kutch - The Last Frontier'

I have been to Kutch many many times in the last 10 years.  But apparently it's always been a work trip. Never did I consider exploring this vast district in the north of Gujarat sharing border with Pakistan.  So last Diwali i.e. of 2013 along with Palak we both decided to do a motorbike trip to the Rann of Kutch.  It is almost near best time of the year to visit the Rann of Kutch. The best time to visit the salt desert is from November to March with January being the best month since the water completely dries up making the land covered with salt hard enough to ride into the desert.

Kutch basically means something that alternatively becomes wet and dry.  A big portion of the land here is comprised of flat land that becomes shallow wet land as the monsoon progresses.  Once the rains go away the water seeps in, dries out and the land gets covered in snow white salt.  The Rann of Kutch also called 'The White Desert' had become a major tourist attraction of Gujarat after the very famous promotional ad. campaign of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan for Gujarat tourism.  Kutch surprisingly has an extremely diverse land. The Arabian sea on one side and the Rann of Kutch on the other.  From marshy lands to totally arid stretches of land.  Grassland reserves to wetland reserves where many migratory birds like greater flamingos flock during winter months.

The machines
We decided to leave for Kutch the next day of New Year. Early morning at around 7.30 am after having chai at our regular hangout place near Shivranjani cross roads, we hit the S.G. highway on our bikes.  Palak on his Bajaj Avenger & me on my Bajaj Pulsar.  We had already got our machines oiled & serviced before the Diwali holidays had set in.  Around 8.00 am we crossed the Sanand circle and headed for Bhuj via Sanand - Viramgam - Dhangadhra - Halvad - Malia & Bhachau driving on NH 947 & NH8A. Bhuj is 334 kms from Ahmedabad.  

The roads were almost empty as most of the showrooms, industries, warehouses that line the Sanand highway were closed due to holidays. Weather was just perfectly warm & pleasant for such long distance driving.  After crossing Sanand we had well warmed up driving at around 80 kmh which slowly increased to  the range of 100 - 110 kmh.  Our initial enthusiasm helped us reach Dhangadhra covering a distance of 120 kms at a stretch in about 90 mins. where we had our first break for breakfast. 

Salt pans
The next stop was at Halvad after driving for around 35 kms.  Yes 2nd stop was in a very short time.  A quick chai break and we hit the road once again.  The 3rd stop happened to be just outside Samkhiyali. This part of the highway outside Samkhiyali village is lined with hundreds of wind mills and one can see long stretches of salt pans on either side of the road.  Some quick pics & we headed for Bhachau.  By now the weather had warmed up but luckily no sign of sweat as the cool breeze was still helping.  A quick chai break in Bhachau, a stop at the gas station and off to our main destination Bhuj.  The final stretch of 80m kms from Bhachau to Bhuj was under expansion from 2 lanes to 4 lanes which slowed us down considerably.  Finally after being on the road for around 5 hrs & 30 min. we entered Bhuj and soon checked into 'The City Guest House'

It's the only famous place in Bhuj for backpackers having its mention in lonely planet & trip advisor.  A very budget guest house but friendly and clean. Don't look for it on any travel website for booking the rooms. If you are going to Bhuj, straight away go there and check in. Bhuj also has some very cheap guest houses near the main bus station and some not so very cheap hotels - one of them is Shiv Hotel in Chatti ni Bari around half km from the bus station.  I often used to stay here during my work trips and found it really good but a bit pricey.

A short nap and we headed out for a late lunch. The most common thing to eat in Bhuj is double roti (popularly known as dabeli) and Pav-bhaji.  There is a good South Indian restaurant at a nearby corner from the bus station which also serves a Gujarati Thali but closes by 3.00 pm. Not many options to eat though. We had some few hours of sleep and late evening decided to take a stroll in the market.  Before that we visited one of my client in Bhuj to ask about accommodation near the salt desert but it was in vain. They were quiet surprised and just couldn't believe that we had come all the way from Ahmedabad on bikes to explore Kutch.

The old market in Bhuj is called Waniyawad and has all different kinds of shops.  The old vegetable market though got completely destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 2001.  Lots of buildings are newly constructed after this earthquake and kind of gives a mis-matched feeling about the constructions.  The famous Prag Mahal (palace) lost it's grandeur in the earthquake but the Aina Mahal is still worth visiting. It's worth taking a stroll in the market lanes and just getting a nice vibe of the locals and the cultural.  Right in the center there is Hamirsar lake but apart from monsoon, it mostly has a dry bed.  The native Kutchi people are very friendly, honest and helpful people. Very hospitable and caring.  The local language is Kutchi though most of the people can speak Gujarati too.  An early dinner and we were off to bed.

On way to Narayan Sarovar
Next day morning after breakfast at the guest house we took off towards 'Mata-mo-madh' located some 80 kms from Bhuj. It's the temple of Ashapura mata (mother) - the deity of Kutch and the community Goddess of rulers of Jadeja dynasty. Due to diwali there was a huge queue for worship.  We had our free lunch there which is sponsored by the temple to all those who go there to worship.  

It was noon now and as we still had the whole half day, we decided to visit 'Narayan Sarovar - Koteshwar Temple' which is 135 kms from
Arabian sea at Koteshwar
Mata-no-madh and 215 kms from Bhuj.  I must say the entire stretch of road is really well maintained and one can easily drive around 110 - 120 kms with some caution for the occasional straying of a random dog or cow or goat on the road. It's the last piece of construction on the western side of India and than the Arabian sea starts. We took a chai break, walked around, enjoyed the sea breeze, some pictures and it was time to head back to Bhuj. The evening drive was a wonderful experience with cool breeze, the sight of villagers returning back to their homes after grazing there cattle.  We reached Bhuj around 8.30 at night and met this two guys from France & Italy in our guest house who too were traveling in Kutch and the next day like us were visiting The White Desert.  A good & long enough convo with them and we called it a day with the excitement to ride next morning to the salt desert.
The locals on way from Narayan Sarovar

DAY 3 and 4
We woke up with great enthusiasm to soon leave for the salt desert.  At breakfast we met couple of other travelers and I always like to strike up conversations over food.  As we wanted to spend a night near to the desert we tried to know from the French & Italian guys about their night stay but that didn't helped much. Anyhow we just took off and left the accommodation thing to be explored later. We hit the highway around 9.00 am to 'Dhordo' - the entry point to 'The White Desert'

Perfect weather, almost no traffic and smooth highway, what else one could expect for a perfect ride to the extreme west of India.  Unfortunately a small error in taking the right route made us ride around 30 extra kms but soon we were back on the right route.  Soon we were on the road which had absolutely nothing doting the entire highway.  Just barren semi-arid land till the horizon.  We passed the Tropic of Cancer en-route to Dhordo.  Around 11.00 we reached the permit stop.

All those who want to go into the salt desert has to take a permit from this stop.  I don't remember how much we paid for the permit but for 2 persons and a motorbike we paid around 200 rupees.  One needs to carry a copy of Photo ID, if not be ready to stand in a queue to get it xeroxed.  Fill the form and you get the permit.  Since it was diwali holidays we had to stand for nearly 2 hours in a totally chaotic queue.  There is just one setup for issuing this permit, so be ready to line up in a long queue if you happen to visit there in Diwali.  The permit can be taken for 2 places.  'The White Desert' and 'Kalo Dungar' (The Black Hill).  Visit The Black Hill first and than proceed to The White Desert.  After managing the queue and getting the permit, we straight away headed to Dhordo.  From here till Dhordo there were no eateries or even small shacks where we could have a lunch, so we straight away went to Gujarat Tourism's resort looking for some accommodation, but it was packed.  Instead we hurriedly went to their restaurant which allowed us after few requests as the last customers for lunch.  A bit expensive but a simple and delicious lunch.

'The White Desert'
Around 3.30 pm we reached the BSF (Border Security Force) outpost where one has to submit the permit and register their names to go inside the desert.  It was almost one km drive in the desert and soon we were riding on the land covered with white salt.  Our excitement didn't let us stop and we actually drove a bit inside where our bikes started to get stick in the soft land.  Unfortunately for us, the entire region had recd. heavy unseasonal rains for once in October and hence the land had not completely dried up.  We even saw couple of cars getting stuck.  And it's such a tricky land that the more forcefully you try to bring out your vehicle it goes deeper and deeper.  Luckily for us we just got the rear tyre lifted and we were out of the sludge. There were quite a number of tourists and the excitement was absolutely visible on their face.

The White Desert is a breath taking view.  The entire land till the horizon was covered in white salt.  The only dark spots visible were the trails of footsteps left by people on the still soft land.  We had great fun taking pictures of us with the salt desert in the back ground.  The only disappointment was that we couldn't drove our bikes a bit deep in the desert as the land was still soft.  But the view was just breath taking.  The sun soon was setting down and the twilight indicated we had to return as we still didn't had any accommodation fixed.  If we didn't find one we'll have to go all the way back 80 kms to Bhuj.
Night stay in Hudko village

A quick sign off at the BSF out post and we headed to 'Hudko'.  It's a village 15 kms from Dhordo towards Bhuj where we knew there is a small resort.  Most of the resorts here are run by the local village people who have grabbed the rising tourist inflow to earn some handsome money. They comprise of 'Bhungas' (traditional mud huts of the region) with electricity & running water.  Some even have AC. The rates are quite high around 3500 rupees per night including meals. We asked for a night stay but all rooms were packed.  But the owner offered us a stay in his house in the village for around 1000 rupees per night per person plus the food. For us it was even a better option as we really wanted to stay in the village with the locals.  We agreed and finally we had our night stay fixed.   I remembered what my client had told me the other day.  In Kutch you will never get stuck up. People are extremely helpful anywhere in Kutch if you are in a fix.  We asked the the family if we can have the same dinner as they cook for themselves and they readily agreed.  Soon the dinner was served.  A simple dinner having roti made from bajra (millet), potato & onion vegetable, buttermilk and khichdi (steamed rice with lentils)  But it was spicy as people from this region love their spicy food.  Next we again went to the resort for a light entertainment of folk music.  The local musicians narrated the folk stories from the land singing in Kutchi language and explaining it in Gujarati.

Morning breakfast
What a perfect day it was with a great ride, breath taking view of the salt desert, a delicious local dinner, cold winter night and folk music.  It was just amazing and we returned to our Bhunga for a peaceful sleep. Next day we woke up to fresh air of a beautiful morning sleeping through a very quite night.  Had chai and roti for breakfast.  Took some pictures of the place and finally were heading back to Ahmedabad.  We had to cover around 425 kms and had the whole day.  A brief stop in Bhuj for breakfast and again hit the highway. We had 4 stops including one long lunch break and some small breaks on the highway for clicking pictures. Finally after covering almost 1200 kms in 4 days we got back to Ahmedabad at 7.30 pm.  A truly exhilarating experience.

Though we explored only some portions of this vast & diverse region, the variety in the ecosystem is amazing and to be experienced in person to believe it.  I still wish to explore Mandvi - the beach town and Dholavira - The Harappan city, a part of Indus valley civilization and another ride into The White Desert.  May be another bike trip? ;)

Evening on our way back

So truly has Tejinder Singh Randhawa - the IAS officer in his book about this region has quoted as

'Kutch' - The last frontier of a fading way of life. 
It's a mystery land, not easy to comprehend.  
Its vast length and breadth cannot easily be covered, and it is greater in area than some states of India and even many countries of the world.  
It is a land that time has forgotten.  
Its diverse ecosystems, dazzling Great Rann of Kutch and quaint harbors are worth visiting and only to be believed when seen through own eyes.  
The history, myths and people from this land is something to fall in love with.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Should Mr. Modi be the next PM of India or not ? --- My two cents

The biggest democratic game in the world's biggest democratic and diverse country has begun.  I'm not a big political analyst to judge to decide why or why not, who can and who shouldn't become the next Prime Minister of India.  As most of the people who'll vote for what they feel is the right party and right candidate, I'm going to do the same no matter what. 

Towards the running to this election and still, there has been a lot of sayings about BJP's prime ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi and not wanting him to be the next PM of India.  The main reason for many people rejecting his candidature for the post of PM is the 2002 Gujarat riots.  Since 2002 the only thing these people opposing Mr. Modi have done is to accuse him of being the only man responsible for the riots. I am not trying to justify here that what happened in 2002 is right.  People being killed in the name of religion, caste or sect is totally unjust, uncivilized and the culprits should be punished.  No where killing of innocent people can be justified, after all we are all humans first.

I just want to draw the attention of all these people towards the numerous 'communal' riots that have happened in independent India. The 1984 Sikh riots, the latest Muzaffarnagar riots, Mumbai riots and many more.  Many central governments and state governments should be held responsible for all these riots and the PM's and CM's during these riots should be banned from contesting just like these people wanting to ban Mr. Modi.  But this hasn't happened and still is not happening.  And we all know why?

People have labelled Mr. Modi as a communally polarizing political figure who if elected to be the next PM might create havoc in a religiously diverse India.  But that's a thing of the future and only time will decide it. 

What I'm looking at today when I go to caste my vote is the development and governance track record of the parties and it's PM candidate.  If I go and look at the current ruling alliance of UPA led by Congress, no way would I want to give them the chance to mis-rule India once again.  In the last ten years of their governance they have broken all the records of scams, corruption, indecisiveness and policy paralysis on economic reforms.  And yet they are arrogant enough to defend themselves for running a good government and portraying themselves as the only option available.

Another option is the new party of AAP under Arvind Kejriwal which for me really is like a big joke.  They really should have had the patience of first giving good governance in Delhi and than prove it at the national front.  Today AAP will just divide the Congress or BJP votes and take the parliament towards a more hung parliament, again very detrimental for the country.  And than lastly comes the so called Third front with the outside support of Congress.  The Third front is the worst option that India can have.  It will take India further deep in its economic crisis and each regional party in the third front would pull for favors towards each region and after few months or years ultimately it'll fall.

So what's the best option that we have got at hand?

1)  BJP led NDA with Mr. Modi as the Prime Minister

2)  Congress led UPA (PM candidate yet not declared)

3)  AAP with Arvind Kejriwal

4) Third front govt. formed of regional parties (who call themselves secular) supported from outside by Congress.

Out of the above as of today my common sense and logic would definitely go for Mr. Modi and why not?

Yes I know most who believe that it was Mr. Modi behind the 2002 riots will say how can we vote for such a person responsible for these acts of cruelty? The facts behind his involvement that are out in public domain has not found him guilty.  But till now many facts must have been erased or hidden and might never be made available to the public. So largely it remains to an individual whether to accept Mr. Modi as a person responsible for the riots or not. As such India as a country have never been religiously a tolerant nation.  Still today many or I should say most parts of the country are not tolerant when it comes to religion, caste, or economic and social status.  Be it urban or rural areas.  Shouldn't we blame ourselves for still being in this mess or should we blame the past governments?

As we stand today at the cross roads of electing the best possible government and the best possible person for the most important government post I found it very difficult to elect the right person.  When I say right, most candidates from all the political parties would not fit in the definition of the right person to the post of PM.  And those who fit are not in the foray for being the PM or are not given the chance.  But still we the people of India shall have to vote and elect the best possible person out of the choices available.  

As I mentioned earlier, I don't want a to see a fractured mandate.  I don't want a corrupt, hopeless, scam ridden govt. and so I don't want the current ruling alliance forming the next government.  Hence I'm left with the only choice of NDA led by BJP and Mr. Modi as the PM.  And for me why not?  

*  12 years of total peace in Gujarat.
* Rapid development in agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, industrial growth.  
*  24 x 7 electricity in even the remotest villages of Gujarat which no other state in India has.
*  Good highways connecting urban and rural regions.

And many more such economic development that Gujarat has seen under his 12 years of governance.  I don't say there aren't any social & economic problems in Gujarat and that it's the best place to live in India, but at least it's a much much better place than most of the cities in India and Gujarat is among the top 3 if not on top when it comes to economic development. 

I very strongly believe that a country will get a government just like the population it has.  Politicians don't descend from heaven or from some alien planet.  They come from among us.  The kind of government we get is a reflection of the mentality of majority of the population.  

And as the nation votes for the next government we hope that this time we get a government and PM which actually leaves behind governance on religion and communal lines, leaves behind governance on social and economic lines, but governs India on the basis of equality.  Equality on religion, equality on gender, equality on economic basis.  

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

One day with 'The legend - Amitabh Bachchan'

How will you react when suddenly out of the blue, you realize that in the next 24 hours there is a high possibility of you getting a chance to be with the great and legendary Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan? For majority of the Indians it will be a dream come true.  I would say even to dream of standing next to him, saying few lines to him and shaking hands with him twice can't be in a dream.

As many would agree, if I call him 'The God' of Bollywood, it would not be inappropriate at all.  To get a chance to spend almost 6 - 7 hours around him while shooting is simply unbelievable for me.  So how did it this happen?  Well honestly speaking it was really very sudden.  And the very first moment when Punit called me and talked about the shoot taking place in Ahmedabad for Gujarat Tourism's advertisement - 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki' it didn't excite me much.  The shooting unit were in need of some foreign people for the shoot. So I shared this idea with few of my friends and they agreed to be a part of the shoot for Sunday.

It was actually by Saturday that the excitement really started to crawl into me.  And it was just to have one picture with Mr. Big B that excited me immensely.  So Sunday 26th of January, on the Republic Day of India, Palak, Daniel, Aida, Christin, Daniela, Anette, Miguel and his wife and myself we started together and reached the first location of the shoot.  It was the Vintage Car Museum at Kathwada  Igor, Lucie and Florencia also came a while after we reached. We all had come as instructed with different outfits and some props, as we had to look like tourists.  Palak and myself were actually not called for the shooting but we thought why not take a chance ;) Just in case if we can sneak in for few shots in the background.  We came to know that the locations after the Vintage Car Museum will be Law Garden market and Sarkhej Roza. All three are kind of a must visit locations for any tourist visiting Ahmedabad.  

The first shot at the Vintage Car Museum started after breakfast.  Everyone and everything was ready for the shot and soon Mr. Bachchan arrived from his vanity van. His personality and aura around him was too gripping.  I was awestruck on the very first glimpse of him.  It was for the first time I was seeing him so close. After the shot he was made to sit in the garden area of the museum and soon the owners of the place came to greet him.  He was presented with a gift and some pictures were clicked as always.  Palak and myself were really getting impatient now to get ourselves clicked with him.  All our other friends (yes foreign friends) had already got the chance to get clicked with Big B right after the shot.  Lucie had the best picture clicked with Mr. Bachchan.  I'm so jealous of her... ;)

Mr. Bachchan pointing towards the gift that he
wanted to show us
So finally we asked our friends to lead us to Mr. Big B for at least one picture with him and they very willingly agreed.  Thank you guys.  So together we all went up to him ignoring all those stopping us and requested Mr. Bachchan for some more pictures. It was just so very nice of Mr. Bachchan that with a smile he stood up and was standing among us for more pictures. What simplicity and humbleness.  His greatness can be experienced just by standing next to him.  After a series of clicking pictures, he suddenly turned to the gift he was presented with and very eagerly wanted to show it to all of us. 
Mr. Bachchan showing the album that he
was gifted
Very fondly he was showing the first part of the album which was filled with 5 and 10 rupee notes whose numbers were exactly the same as his birthday and the date of release of his pictures.  Now that's some gift.  

We all had our questions to ask him and he very gently, happily and politely replied to all what we asked.  Standing next to him one can easily feel the aura of his greatness as a human being. As for me I was just waiting to just tell him that "Sir, it's a honor to meet you in person" and to that one line of mine he smiling extended his hand to shake mine and I willingly took his hand for a warm handshake.  Wow, it was just wow.  I couldn't have asked for more.  It was almost 10 min. of uninterrupted time with him clicking pictures, sharing a nice conversation and some jokes particularly from Christin & Daniel.
Mr. Bachchan with all of us. One life long memory

The next location of the shoot was Law Garden market.  A short shoot at the traditional dress market and soon we left for the last location of the day, Sarkhej Roza.  But before leaving the legend didn't disappoint the huge crowd that had gathered at Law Garden to have just one glimpse of their superstar.  He waved to every part of the crowd and the response was a huge instant roar from the crowd.  

By late afternoon we had reached Sarkhej Roza and a huge crowd had already gathered to see their superstar. While the shot was getting ready, Mr. Bachchan was welcomed by a huge roar from the crowd. Soon he changed for the shoot and was ready.  It is here at Sarkhej Roza while shooting Palak and myself noticed what a perfectionist he is.  Two instances one when he asked for more smoke around the frame to give that spiritual effect and another one was during the next frame when even after the director had got his perfect shot, twice Mr. Bachchan requested to take another shot as he was not satisfied with the shot he gave.  And not to forget that the director was none another than Shoojit Sircar who has directed Vicky Donor and Madras Cafe.

Here also after the shoot Mr. Bachchan didn't miss to oblige his fans by waving at the crowd who had gathered just to have a glimpse of him from as close as possible.  Even the policemen who were around didn't miss a chance to capture his picture on their mobile phones.  I am totally thrilled to be around him on this shoot.  To experience the aura around a great personality, to see his humbleness, politeness, work perfection has been simply amazing.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Exploring BARCELONA - Day 1

My first morning in Barcelona, Friday the 5th of Sept.  I got ready with my host Silvia to visit the place which for an Indian can be nothing short of a shocker.  Just as a westerner getting a cultural shock when landing in any Indian metro city, this place in Barcelona too surely would give anyone from the Indian sub-continent a cultural shock.  "Marbella" beach in Barcelona is quiet famous as the nude beach.  And being nude at this beach is not at all uncommon here.  My host and friend Silvia had this thing in her mind since the time I told her that I'll be visiting Barcelona.  The thing was to take me to the nude beach where she has been quite a regular visitor.

The thought of visiting a nude beach with your host friend is not at all something that ignites the sexual part of yours.  For me it was something very overwhelming and I didn't think of it much before landing in Barcelona. Surely I had my set of anxious queries which were I must say, very well handled by Silvia.  We left in the morning so as to return by noon before it became too hot under the sun.  Silvia was really enjoying the part to know how an Indian would handle being on the nude beach.

We got down at the bus stop and after a 5 minute walk we reached the beach.  Silvia had explained me some basic rules when you are at a nude beach which were quite obvious.  The beach was starting to get crowded by the time we had reached.  People of all different ages, men, women, couples, singles were seen. Also there were some asian and african guys selling Cerveza (beer) on the beach.  Silvia had told me about them and to sell beer like this was illegal in Barcelona. The sight of Marbella beach was really really overwhelming for me.  And as I earlier mentioned there is nothing sexual about being at a nude beach. Rather it's a self liberating experience.  Of course one can't imagine in the wildest of dream to have such a place in India ;) or for that matter in most of the beaches in the world.  We left after a spending some nice few hours at the beach and by the time it got really crowded we left for home.

Tapas & Cerveza 
When we reached home we both were quiet hungry.  And as I had heard of 'Tapas' the very local and common stuff, I was quiet eager to try it. So we went to a nice restaurant nearby and not at all expensive.  Had my first Tapas (Bread with potatoes, cheese and mayonnaise) and Cerveza.

The dance troupe

Also I had received one invitation  to a flamenco dance show from a flamenco dancer (who also was a couch surfer and it was on that evening itself in a bar called 'Gracia Latina' in the area called 'Garcia'. How could I have missed a flamenco concert and that too when it was having free entry? ;)  No way.

The dancer
Silvia told me that Gracia was one area where the streets are so narrow that no buses go.  So we had to walk quite a bit which was ok. ;)  Wow I had never ever been to a flamenco concert and I was pretty eager to see it.  We were the first guests and so we had our seats right in front.  The troupe had 2 singers, 1 dancer and 1 anchor.  By the time the one hour concert which was fantastic, got over the bar was packed.  The flamenco dancer as for me       was extremely gracious and fabulous. The music was fantastic and I could say so as the crowd really cheered them and appreciated the dance a lot. The anchor was quite comic and he knew perfectly how to keep a grip on the audience. 

Day 1 was pretty exciting and in my next few days I was really getting more eager to explore more of Barcelona.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The evening I landed in Barcelona.

Oh Barcelona. My 2nd trip to Europe and I landed in Barcelona on 4th September.  My connection with Barcelona started even before I had landed.  I had met this lovely and vibrant person Gemma in Ahmedabad who belongs to Barcelona and she had already told me that I'm going to love it.  Also during my layover in Istanbul I met these 2 ladies from Barcelona, Rachel and her friend who were returning after their travels in India.  I had some very interesting conversations with them at the airport waiting for my flight to Barcelona.  I reached Barcelona in the evening and as my CouchSurfing friend and host Silvia's instructions, I boarded the airport transfer bus to another terminal and from there reached the metro station.  It was the cheapest option.

Against my expectations, the weather was quiet hot and trust me on this coz I was literally sweating as if I was in Ahmedabad.  Next to me was this spanish guy who had arrived from Denmark.  He too was feeling the heat.  I asked him for some directions and came to know that we both were headed to Passage de Gracia station.  He even helped me to get the metro ticket.  Choosing the best ticket while traveling in European cities is always a tricky thing, since you don't know how many trips you shall be making by the public transport and also when you are on an extremely tight budget.  Also when your country's currency gets depreciated by almost 20% just when your traveling days are near. Damn, it's always frustrating.

So I got down at 'Passeig de Gr├ácia' and as explained by my friend started looking for the street that would lead me to Plaza Catalunya.  I was going round and round looking for directions, asking people and finally I got the directions.  But than another problem, which bus stop I should go? Silvia had told me to look for a building named Bankia.  I just couldn't find it.  I called Silvia and she told me the same, to find the building Bankia. So now I asked a woman at a street side stall, where to catch bus no.68? The lady didn't speak English and I didn't understand her Spanish. :p Ooops. But she asked me with finger signs and I confirmed. She gave me the directions in Spanish and showed me the directions using her hands which I think I understood some 60% ? Well I followed what I understood and voila I was at the bus stop where bus no.68 stopped.  I waited for few minutes and bus no.67 arrived.  In few minutes bus no.68 also arrived.  I greeted the bus driver and asked him I want to go to 'Santal├│ 11'.  Surprisingly the the drivers of both the bus started discussing and what I understood from their conversation was they were discussing in which bus this foreigner should be made to sit.  Interesting, and I got little bit anxious now.  Finally they put me in bus no.67, which made me nervous as I was not following Silvia's advice, but still I was like I'm sure I'll make it.

As the bus started in few min. I got a SMS from Silvia, 'Where are you? Did you board the bus coz bus no.68 just passed from Santalo? Finally I got that I won't be getting down close to where Silvia had told me. After almost 30 min. the bus driver signaled me from his rear view mirror to get down at the stop called Fransesc Marcia.  Now I was kind of completely lost.  So I called Silvia and told her my location and she immediately understood where I was.  In 10 min. she was there to receive me and wow it was great to meet her after almost 8 months when she first surfed my couch in Ahmedabad just after the Kite Flying festival.  

She was renting a big house in a nice quiet neighborhood.  After dinner, the evening was spend chit-chatting about how we both have been doing all these months and to my big surprise the book she had just completed, got an award even before it was published.  I felt like wooow.  This is what meeting new people gives you in life.  Big surprises and the opportunity to meet amazing people like Silvia.  While she was in Ahmedabad we had very little time to know about each other.  But now here I was having like almost 5 days to know more about this wonderful lady.

Friday, 18 October 2013

'God' has announced his retirement.

Sounds very unusual or filmy, isn't it?  But its true.  Yes 'God' recently announced his retirement.  If you still haven't got any clue, let me clear the air.  The 'God' of cricket - Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar announced his retirement from all forms of cricket on 10th Oct. 2013. He still has 2 test matches to play against the West Indies. First one in Kolkatta and the second one in his home Mumbai which will be his 200th test match. A great achievement in itself and which shows the level of fitness he still has.  Starting to play international cricket at the age of 16 and than never look back.  He has remained the backbone of Team India's batting line up whether it's a one-day team of a test team.

Sachin when he made his debut
Wonder why he is referred as 'The God of Cricket'?  Well playing international cricket for almost a quarter of a century, carrying the pressure of a cricket crazy nation with more than a billion people, breaking most of the batting records, playing the game with utmost honesty & cricketing spirit, getting the respect of people across the entire cricketing world and still being one of the most humble sportsperson is definitely something that makes him the messiah of the game. 

I think I was just in primary school when Sachin made his debut in test and one-day international cricket against Pakistan in Karachi & Gujranwala.  The way he played in that series made even the best of the Pakistani fast bowlers to recognize his courage and commitment as a teenager to play them.  It was very soon known that the little prodigy is going to make big waves in world cricket. And here he is after 24 years of playing international cricket, just the thought that he won't be around with Team India anymore is just unbelievable.

He has played with and against 2 generations of cricketers from world over including some of the best fast bowlers, best batsmen and all-rounders like Waqar Yunis, Wasim Akram, Glenn Mcgrath, Courtney Walsh, Allan Donald, Kapil Dev, Craig Mcdermott, Steve Waugh, Gary Kirsten, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Shaun Pollock, Saurav Ganguly, Jacque Kallis and few others. But ask anyone and they'll be all praise for him and his ability.  I still remember the year when India and Australia test series and the triangular series in Sharjah were played and how Shane Warne the best leg spinner till date was plundered for runs all over the grounds.

The hammering Sachin gave to Shane Warne
Still remember Shane's statement how he had nightmare's of Sachin hammering him for runs.  None batsmen in the world has hammered Warne like Sachin did, which shows his class and why he is and probably will remain the best.

Growing up as a teenager I still remember how Team India's batting revolved all around Sachin. The moment Sachin got out I used to switch off my television in despair almost as if no other batsmen are going to play well.  If anyone did it was just a miracle.  The moment when Sachin used to walk up to the pitch and take his guard, spectators would expect miracles from him.  To score nothing less than a century was always expected from him.  And statistics say when he scored a century most of the time India had won the match.  Not only he shattered records with batting but in the prime of his career he even bowled and has combined test and one day tally of 199 wickets which is not a small number.

Carrying the huge expectations of a cricket frenzy nation of more than a billion people and playing in front of a home crowd whose cheering can almost make you go deaf and than shattering most of the batting records and creating some which I don't think no one in the near future might break it, definitely puts him in the league of the greatest of greats of all time in cricketing world.

The respect he has garnered from some of the greatest bowlers like Allan Donald, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram and few others just shows how desperately they wanted to get his wicket while he was at the crease. And getting his priced wicket was something they would cherish for the entire series.  The 'Little Master' as he is called is a perfect example of all round technique and stroke play.  His hunger to better himself every time he goes out there to bat and to score runs is still seen on his face.
Sachin being carried all over the ground
after India won the 2011 WC

As every player goes through his ups and downs Sachin too went through them, only to come back more and more stronger.  The talks of his retirement time and again were always proved wrong by the master blaster and he showed his critics that only he and no one else will decide when he shall hang his boots.  He made his bat do the talking and that too in an emphatic way which every time silenced his critics.  Over the span of his career he was part of Team India that rose to No. 1 position in test match cricket and even won the world cup cricket.  His dream of winning the world cup for India was fulfilled in 2011 and in which he played a pivotal role at the top.  His greatness can be just imagined when his fellow team mates just with his presence in the dressing room were inspired to play to their full potential.

Today when he is just 2 test matches away from saying good bye to playing cricket, it seems as if an era of cricket for Team India will be closed.  Of course a new one has already begun.  But to see the dressing room without the 'God' will be very strange.  I'm sure he would want to stay attached with cricket in some way or the other, but only he knows what's coming next for him.

Sachin with one of the Great's
Sir Donald Bradman
To see him bat in the last 2 matches is going to be simply awesome.  His 200th test match and than the farewell that he is going to get is simply unimaginable. Of course when the 'God' retires, the farewell shall be even more glorious than the welcomes he used to get when he used to walk out in the middle as an opening batsmen or when he was batting at no. 4 in test matches.  The whole nation is going to miss him when Team India shall go out to play any test matches after he retires.  For one last time when the 'God' will be out there in front of his home crowd, Wankhede stadium, Mumbai is going to erupt shouting Sachinnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Sachinnnnnnnnn.

100 facts about Sachin Tendulkar

Friday, 16 August 2013

'Europe' - Here I come again

Last year on 22nd September, 2012 the MF's re-union was planned which eventually was decided to start exactly after year. Yes the 3rd weekend of September, 2013.  It was just a random facebook chat between Asta and myself.  Initially it was just floated as an idea that we all friends could just see if we could have this possibility of meeting once again all together in the middle of the world somewhere. (Though not exactly in the middle ;) )  So it was going to be Istanbul.  The invites were send and it seemed like an idea might just turn into reality.  But it was still a full year to go.  

From the beginning of Feb. till June 2013, I got damn busy with my work, that I had put all my short travel plans aside and just wanted to have a good 6 months of work which would satisfy myself and would allow me to travel for this wonderful re-union.  And along with that I thought, why not have another round of Euro-trip ? Come on as we all know "Yeh Dil Maange More" ;) As my work season came towards an end, the my thought of this trip grew more and more strong.  But I was extremely confused of where to start and which places to visit.  England and Scandinavia OR East Europe again ? Western Europe OR just the re-union in Turkey ?  It wasn't that easy as I have always wanted to travel to those places where I can meet my friends again.  You see I'm more of a people's person.  No matter what kind of place I visit, if I'm there in the good company of my friends, that place is the best for me. :)

With the idea from Asta to travel in Turkey for about a week, I finally got my itinerary right.  And finally I decided to start from Barcelona.  Than Madrid, Paris, Berlin, Prague and finish it it Turkey and return back.  But as they say when life gives you lemons, you better make lemonade from them for yourself. ;)  And I did just that. Luckily Croatia joined EU on the 1st July, 2013 and Spain granted me 45 days multiple entry visa ,on the basis of which I can visit Croatia too, which was on my travel list since long.  So with some changes here and there and finding the cheapest possible flight, and believe me I really got a cheap one, it was Barcelona - Paris - Berlin - Croatia - Turkey - Prague and back. From 4th September till 8th October.  Though this time I didn't had the chance to go unplanned and make plans when I reach Europe.  I booked all my flights as that was the cheapest I could get.  But that's OK.

Its 16th August today and with just a couple of days more than 2 weeks, I'll be heading for my another dream Europe trip and the best part of it shall be that I'll be meeting so many of my friends whom I met in the last couple of years in Ahmedabad.  It's been fun planning this trip and now its even more fun preparing for it too.  Though the depreciation of Rupee is going to make this trip of mine the most expensive and might shoot way over my budget, but its going to be great fun. :)  

So my friends, see you sooooooooooooon :)

Friday, 19 July 2013

10 major reasons why we "HONK" so much in Ahmedabad ?

Honking. A word heard very much if you are walking, standing or driving on the streets of Ahmedabad.  Its something very annoying that we all who drive a vehicle do. Something that disturbs the morning peace, that can make you irritated, can give you severe headaches and make driving on the roads horrible.  If one day the horn of my car or my bike goes off, I feel like a sort of handicap.  How am I suppose to drive now ? That was the first question that hit me.  Once even while on the highway the horn of my car suddenly went off and I was so nervous that I got a new one installed right at the first garage on the highway.

So why is honking so important for us while we are driving ? Well of course not everyone honks, but majority of the people who drive they do so.  Even I do that some times. :p 

So once again why do we honk ? Why why why ?  I was wondering on it and this is what I've observed over the last 2 decades of driving on the streets of Ahmedabad.

1)  First and foremost, we drive recklessly.  Most of us never follow the traffic rules and hence while we are driving recklessly others honk for that 'Being Safe' aspect.

2)  We never drive in a lane.  And if we do, we most of the time drive in the wrong lane ;)  So the person driving in the correct lane for that particular moment honks to yell "Hey you get off the fast lane.  You are way to slow and I'm in a hurry"

3)  We love driving on the wrong side.  And since the BRTS has come up, we became more lazy to go around and take a turn from the right junction.  So since the people driving on the wrong side feel its their birth right to drive on the wrong side, the people driving on their correct side have to honk at them.

4)  I've seen many many of the girls and women (don't take it personally and make it a gender issue) who drive their 2 wheeler and car never give a side while turning to the right. Never ever.  They simply turn when and where they want to as if there is no one behind them or as if the one driving behind them is going to have a dream that you are now going to take a right turn.

5)  We abruptly stop if we suddenly met some old friend or a relative on the road and start chatting as if the world is going to end, never giving a thought that there are vehicles coming from behind.

6)  We are so impatient.  We want to reach our destination earlier than the other person driving on the road. So to cross the road first at a cross road, we honk at others telling them, "Hey idiot wait.  I'm in a hurry".  And the same is done by the other person. ;)  So the war of horns begins till both the drivers come at a point in the middle of the cross road, where both brake just 2 inches away from each other and start a fight. First dialogue of the quarrel ? You got it right.  "Dekhatu nathi, andhalo che ?"  (Can't you see.  Are you blind ?)  Surprisingly both can see very well and that's why they stopped so close as if they want to kiss each other :p  

And so the vehicles behind them have to stop which makes them to honk too telling both the idiots to move aside and than carry on their quarrel, so that others can get on with their honking.  Ooops I meant driving ;)

7)  The ever so popular rickshaw drivers.  Can we ever ignore them while driving on the roads in Ahmedabad ? Never :)  They drive as if the rules don't exist for them. They break all the possible rules that exist in the traffic rule book.  They park where they want to creating big obstructions on narrow roads and on major cross roads. Never give a signal while taking a turn.  Most of them will drive in the middle of the road, so if you wish to over take again you have to honk at them.

8)  Teenagers on motor bikes.  One of the biggest menace on the roads.  When the adrenaline flows through their blood, they get a kick to drive fast and just to tell others that hey we are arriving, they start to honk and that too pretty loud and continuous.  Its so horrible that many times new drivers or senior citizens driving on the roads can get a scare and that might even cause accidents.

9)  Pedestrians.  They cross a major road from any point where they wish to.  Never paying heed that they have to cross it where there is zebra crossing.  So when you are driving on the road and someone just shows up from no where, what you do ? You honk to tell that bugger, get off the road.

10)  The most important one being, the RTO (Regional Traffic Office).  They never train anyone for traffic signs and rules.  They don't care or dare to increase the fines to a level where the public is scared to break traffic rules and pay heavy fines.  They have not tried enough to force the culture of following traffic rules on the public.  Never made enough efforts to collaborate with schools and colleges to impart traffic education to the kids and teenagers.

As a result of above, people selling horns of different sounds and decibels are doing good business ;)  Also doctors like ENT's and to some extent psychologist's might also do good business.  

Now come on Amdavadi's, we need to stop honking and follow traffic rules :)

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Can India really change for the better ?

Its been few months that I remained away from writing in but, all this time I was wondering a lot. About my country and my countrymen and my life in India as an Indian.  A lot and when I say that, it really means a lot have happened in India in the last 6 months.  And all of it that has snatched the limelight has been on the wrong side. In fact on the worst side.  Right from 2G specturm scam, CWG scam, Coal scam, brutal rapes, child molestation, corruption at the highest level in the government, border tensions with neighboring countries, high food inflation, slow growth, Italian marine case and what not.

One evening while talking with a German friend who last year traveled in India for few months, my high hopes and optimism about India as a country changing for the better in this decade and the next one took a deep plunge.  For once I felt that today's India looks like a totally fucked up country with a government that doesn't care a shit except just plundering the people in the most blatant manner.  Over the last few years I've known at least one thing, that the situation that my country is in today is not because of the people in the government, but its we the people of this country.  Our carefree and careless attitude, way of living, lack of willingness to change, extreme greed, religious extremism, gender & caste inequality, dishonesty, racism and ever eroding patriotism to a large extent have brought us where we are today.

India - the most diverse democracy of the world today in fact lives fragmented to a large extent unless it comes to cricket and bollywood.  Each and every corner of this huge country has extreme diversity in itself. You travel just 400 kms and sometimes even less than that and one can see that the language, clothing, food and to an extent the culture too gets changed.  Now in such a diverse scenario is it possible to find a common or a near similar path of thinking ? Is it possible that a hugely diverse nation can keep this diversity behind and come together for a social revolution ? I was quiet hopeful on this till I had this discussion with my friend and now I have my own reservations.

More than half the population of India is living in villages and has huge difference in cultures and the way they think from the population that is living in the cities.  This difference though diluted, can be even seen between the big metro's like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.  Also one can easily notice the diversity in culture, way of living, social thoughts and perspective between the tier I and tier II cities.  As a collective of states, the North, South, West and East regions also are vastly diverse from each other.  The gender inequality, the perspective towards the girl child, the social responsibility for the economically and socially underprivileged, cultural hypocrisy, individual freedom, political apathy, high levels of individual corruption are some of the biggest hurdles that India as a country faces today and which kind of is becoming highly frustrating.

If one travels the length and breath of the country, one can easily notice that people no matter of which age differ a lot on many major social and cultural issues faced by India.  Men and women both from different regions of India and belonging to different social and economic strata differ on their views.  The conservative thinking can be easily seen and no one hardly bothers to think logically about any of the age old customs still being followed in the name of tradition and culture.  It can either be the careless attitude or the fear of the society or lack of education or all together.

Post independence and particularly after the reforms of 1990 the major economic development that India has seen has been limited to the metro's and few other cities. Cities grew bigger and got more populated.  This economic development instead of reaching the villages remained largely in and around the cities leading to huge urban migration resulting into large slums and clashing of 2 different lifestyles.  We lost our way even in educating the kids especially girls.  Still today only one state is 100 % literate and other parts of the country struggling to educate its citizens and even the new generation.  If even basic education is not imparted when are we as a nation going to think about imparting more specialized education throughout the entire country ?

The economic boom instead of creating wealth for every strata of the society created wealth for the rich.  The rich grew more rich and the poor remained poor.  So poor, that today almost 30% of the population doesn't get even 2 times of proper meal, leave aside a proper shelter to live in.  Shockingly while we have one of the highest percentage of poor people, the world's costliest house recently got erected in Mumbai.

Our dishonest and corrupt ways of dealing with things has even led to formation of corrupt governments that actually pocketed the tax payers money that were supposed to be meant to uplift the socially and economically backward people.  And eventually the present scenario is that, the current government has shattered all records of corruption and bad governance.  It is the most corrupt government till now in the history of Indian democracy.  And of course it was elected by us, we the people of India.  The people in the government and the bureaucracy are all our people.  Not some guys who descended from some alien planet just to ruin our country.  And all of them are from among us.  A nation gets a government that is actually the reflection of its society.  Unless the society gets itself clean and honest, its a waste to expect honest and sincere people representing the nation.

Socially also no matter how hard we have tried to get rid of the centuries old superstitions and wrongly practiced caste differentiation which has strangulated this country, still today it requires a herculean effort to get rid of such practices in any particular region.  And we have a huge country to make it free from such evil practices.  Ever wondered how long it would take if we still continue following blindly like the herd of sheep and never use our brains ?

The way we Indians have so far dealt with our major social, economic and cultural issues in the post independence era it has today led to a situation, where desperate measures are needed to overhaul the way we Indians think, deal and live our life. Today the difference in the way people live in the cities, towns and villages has grown so wide apart that unless the developments of the cities reach the villages fast enough and our villages grow, this vast socio-economic difference shall create a major social chaos and social anarchy.  The way the outburst of social crimes against women and children has happened all over the country just shows how lacking socially we as a nation were and still are and God knows for how many more years.

In this current scenario if by any chance a major social change should happen, I don't think its going to happen in the next few years.  May be in the next few decades and that too only the young generation of this country comes together and sheds the inhibitions of challenging the age old rusted malpractices in the name of religion, caste and culture.  Only if the greed for infinite monetary gains can seize and an inclusive development from the cities to the villages happen, India might change for the better. Or else once again this great country shall be bonded and this time in the social shackles of its own.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

What to do ?

What to do ?

Yes, yes .......

What to do when you want to put things right, but you're not allowed ?

What to do when you want to explain the right things, but you're not understood
at all ?

What to do when you want to get out of something, but you can't ?

What to do when the you try to untangle the strings, but they get more and more entangled ?

What to do when you want to be good, but you're forced to be bad ?

What to do when you want to remain calm, but you can't ?

What to do when you are true, but you're made to look like a liar ?

What to do if you are different, but you're forced to be like everyone else ?

What to do when you can't explain compatibility problem to the one with whom you are non-compatible ?

What to do when you care, but  you are labelled as selfish ?

What to do when you don't wanna argue, but you're forced to by putting fingers in your mouth ?

What to do when one has so many What to do's ? :(