Happiness is in moving from XXL To L

Ralph Lazar and Lisa Swerling in their book Happiness is in ……………write most simple but most striking ways of feeling happiness. They believe you don’t need a billion dollar to buy an Antila in Jhuggis infested Mumbai to feel happy. Nor everybody can afford to make Shahrukhs and Katrinas to dance at their daughter’s wedding like Miitals. Author duo highlight that there are simpler and zero expense ways of feeling happy. One can feel happy say by looking at his school days’ group photographs or by jumping into a pile of leaves or by blowing bubbles of soap water or when I publish a blog and get my first like. All these pleasures or happy moments of life are least expensive but most precious. They give you million dollar pleasures every day and if you start counting your gains, you will go to bed smiling more often not.

One of my most recent ways of feeling happiness is when I go for shopping now. Till last year I was close to a Quintal (Yes, I touched the magic figure). I had ignored my health quite badly despite many nudges and politically right warnings from friends and family, I did not mend my weighty ways. Though I did good work and was quite busy, physical fitness and health was not my priority. I was (still am) fond of eating and with many friends and college buddies posted together, we had a hell lot of time together, with whatever we could eat and whatever we could drink. Party today and party tomorrow was the motto. In those days, no party of us ended without fixing the next venue and menu. We were happy and so were our bursting from seams bellies.

This could not have continued for long. During to my visit to Valley of Flowers last August which involves a good trek of almost 5 Km, I realised what a poor sack of weight I was and after the Helicopter ride in which I was weighed in before boarding (the normal practice in hilly areas), I was badly exposed, more than the poor Sandip in Delhi. I was looked at almost disdainfully by the man who allowed me to board the chopper. I survived the valley track somehow, but came back with a resolve to change. With few other factors helping me, gradually I started to lose my flab slowly but steadily. In last one year, I have sweated more than perhaps a good over head water tank of a small colony, but it has paid off. The results are to be seen to be believed. I have lost almost 20 kg in this period.

Now when I go for shopping for cloths and the shop keeper looks at me and asks me to try a L or M size shirt, I feel like I have scaled Mount Everest or as If I have resolved the Kashmir problem for India ( much to the chagrin of separatists; sorry folks). The satisfaction I derive now, while trying for those M and L size shirts is a million dollar one for me. I bask in my new-found glory by trying as many shirts as I can. I am getting bolder now and egged on by my wife, I don’t mind disrobing mannequins (Dushashan is not my favourite character still) wearing my sizes, so as I can try them (I was told in a showroom that almost all mannequins do wear an M Size only!) This was unimaginable till last year as at that time every showroom I went to, used to raise their hands soon, as they did not have those many plus sizes clothes to try. Some of them were blunt enough to suggest me to get a good personal tailor to stitch and some of them suggested me specific brands for plus size people (read hopelessly fat) like me. While earlier my shopping used to be centered around XXL and sometimes XXXL, now there is no X factor in it, it is a simple L and M. This seems to be most mundane, but those who have not ever been XXXL sizes may perhaps not understand this. But believe me, I am zillion dollar happier now when I try M and L sizes. Life is really best in  L & M size!. Happiness is in losing Xs. I don’t think building another Antila could have given me those many smiles.

Happiness is…….. in counting calories

One of the most embarrassing question to anybody heavier than his height minus 100 (formula devised in 1871 by Broca and Devine) may be, “What’s your weight?”. This rather innocuous question in present fast-packaged-food times can put off many otherwise noble and stable souls. I have faced this obvious but uncomfortable question many times over last few years and every time I have been asked this one, after a deep pause, I have re-resolved to reduce my weight and enhance my score as per Broca and Devine formula. Albeit I have failed few times and had false starts but the resolve to get better has still not got fatally fatigued inside me.

Pushed by family and friends (except  by my mother, to whom I were not overweight even at 100 kg), I have been trying all tricks and methods to reduce weight. I started with Baba Ramdev’s very popular Pranayaam  and other acrobatic aerobics, and got some head start too, the benefits however did not last for long. More often than not, I was back to square (round!) one. After many hiccups and false starts, I settled finally for old and reliable bicycle and tread mill exercises and I have been trudging on these machines on most of the mornings, now. While earlier I used to enjoy many cups of tea sitting with my wife along with many reams of neatly folded newspapers, presently I have been finishing the morning newspaper in a jiffy to make way for my exercise machines. Gone are the mornings when sitting on the front porch of my first floor residence I used to get continuous supply of ginger laced tea with Parle G and Brittania biscuits in the mornings. Also gone is the leisure to notice the singing birds perched on trees nearby. All these great and ethereal pleasures have been overtaken by the desire to score high on the dashboard of my exercise machines.

When I started in right earnest few weeks ago, it was tough for me to cross even 200 burnt calories, but now I can swing the scores by swiftly pedaling the cycle and by hitting the deck on treadmill. The scores now have reached to a respectable level. The satisfaction derived from these is no less than from a caffeine or even from a contraband narcotics. The result though comes after you have literally pushed yourself to the last bit of muscle flexing and after you have let your sweat flow like a perennial stream of salty water from top to toe. The result that comes out, is in pictures below.image

The pleasure of burning 412 calories in 54 minutes shown in blue shades really overtakes the pain suffered in making it glow that way and it keeps on egging me to set further and higher goals for my calories burning limits. This dashboard is really the one which brings the widest smile on my face these days, perhaps more than from a morning ginger laced tea!!!

The Food Court and the Hospital

Ice Cream at an Hospital

Ice Cream at an Hospital

Last week I went to a famous hospital in Delhi NCR to visit a patient. This hospital located at Gurgaon on Delhi -Haryana border is one of the latest private hospital to be set up by, India’s leading ‘Bye Pass Surgery Master’. The hospital is a swanky and upscale one and is in a huge campus. This hospital caters to niche patients of entire north India and is in huge demand for it’s pricey but reliable services. In fact you can find patients of multiple nationalities getting treatment here and hospital has separate arrangements to handle them. The boom in medical tourism in India can easily be noticed here.

I had gone there to see a patient of major bye-pass-surgery. Before entering the hospital I was feeling sad and gloomy for the turn of the events for the patient and his relatives, whom I was supposed to meet in next few minutes. I was thinking of using the choicest of words in the environment of the hospital in least number of words, so as not to be loud and garish at that time.

I entered the hospital through the emergency services and found a big hall, full of crowd. There were persons moving around and most of them were well dressed and looked healthy and fit. There were hardly any lines of worries on the faces of the men and women I saw there in first few minutes. I was however looking for the gentleman who was supposed to guide me to reach to the patient room. I located that gentleman after some time and moved towards him with a tinge of concern in my voice. I asked him about the patient. He told me that the patient was still in isolation and there were some ups and down in his health. I inquired more and he told me that I might see the patient but only after few hours, as the patient was in sleep.

I decided to wait and looked around me to find a corner, where I could wait. Sensing my discomfort, the gentleman who was there to usher and facilitate meeting the patient asked me to come with him to the coffee shop there. I was little bemused to hear the word coffee shop, as I was in an hospital and was not expecting some good shop there to have a decent coffee. After all this was a place, patients were treated for heart, kidney, brain and bone diseases and coffee was not the forte of the hospital. Then there was this famous south Indian food chain outlet, serving hot Idlis, Vadas and Dosas with piping hot Sambhar. This food court I was told run, 24 hours a day. I was initially hesitant to be there as I had come with the mindset of visiting a patient but eventually decided to spend some time in this Hospital Food Court!

Hospital Food Court

Hospital Food Court

I ordered an Idli-Vada combo. There was a huge rush though and it took some time for my order to be served. I kept on looking at the faces of the persons milling around. They were all busy chatting with each other and looking at menu. The worries of hospitals could hardly be felt in this part of hospital. Everybody seemed busy. I don’t know much about the patients they were attending to, but you could hardly delineate any worries on their faces. They were all sinking their teeth in the tasty and well marketed food. The food was really tasty and at par with offering from any good Delhi Restaurant. The hot filter coffee was even better and I had almost an early lunch at the hospital, otherwise a most unlikely place. I realized that these food court etc are meant to serve the attendants of well healed patients actually, as hardly any patient would be in a state of mind or body to relish the food offered in this food court. If hospital was having a thousand patient, the food court would be serving almost 2000 persons. A huge business opportunity actually. The prices at the food court were also at par with any high-end Delhi mall. A single scoop of sugar free ice-cream was for 100 bucks!

These hospitals perhaps are true representative of a consumer driven market culture, where those who can pay can get food or whatever at any place including an hospital. Thanks to the principles of Adam Smith propounded free market economy, we may perhaps be seeing swanky shops and food mart even besides a crematorium. One should never underestimate the power of a common-consumer!.

If I had Five….Yeh Dil Maange More!

indian-joint-familyI am blessed with two beautiful and healthy kids, a son and a daughter and I can never thank enough, the Almighty for bestowing me with his ultimate blessings in shape of these two bundles of joy. My wife and me have been enjoying the process of raising these two kids. The kids too have enjoyed the attentive patronage as they, being the only son and only daughter, have faced no major challenge to resources or to the attention from us. We have been able to impart good education to them till now and are happy with their progress, physically and in education.

My two

My two

But, off late I have been thinking that why did we (my wife and me) limit our family to just two kids? Why just two? Why? Why should we not learn from ultra glamorous Angelina Jolie and super hunk Brad Pitt,  who are having and raising 6 kids. While having one or two might have been fashion statement of 80s or even 90s, it does not seem to be so ‘happening’ right now. We are not in China either, where state will punish you for having more than one kid and in fact ven they have evolved many relaxation clauses in hitherto strictly enforced two child policy. So why have we stuck up with one or two? Are we out of sync with the reality? What was preventing us from making life more meaningful and happening?

Angelina Jolie and  Brad Pit n family

Angelina Jolie-Brad Pit n family

My parents had five of us, three sons including me and two daughters. Therefore, I grew up with four other siblings in a two room house in a typical unplanned  middle class locality in city of Lucknow. My father being in an ordinary job in central government struggled to raise the family in a decent manner. He was particularly very conscious about the education we got and the targets we set for ourselves. There was a paucity of resources, but his perseverance matched by the lead taken by her daughters in raising the performance bar higher, eventually led to all five of us doing rather well. It has been a great satisfaction to him and ever since his retirement some twenty years ago, he has been living a life of contentment and satisfaction. The satisfaction of five kids doing well and with scores of grandchildren milling around him often, has been enjoying his life. This has in fact given him a moral and confidence boost to stay healthy and fit. He is still in a good position to take good care of us and he is very proud of that.

Now, entering into fifth decade of my life at 43 plus, I sometimes do wonder, if I have taken the right decision to limit my family to two? Was this the best choice I had? Why not ‘five’ like my parents had? What has led me to believe that hum do, hamare do was the only right decision? How the decision could be right if all five of us have got so much success with meager resources? Why my kids should not have the pleasure of being brother to another brother and sister to another sister. Have we not deprived our kids from the pleasure of living in a fuller family? Why did we really deprive them of something of which we cherish most- the pleasure of being five?. I have been pondering over this question for last few years but could not reach a conclusion yet and may be it is getting late every other day to become a father again. Really?

If I had five, then? By now my three sons and two daughters (no biases with number of sons or daughters, it can be three daughters and two sons or all five daughters or sons also) would be studying in the same school, where my two, study right now. They would  have been like in class 9, class 7, class 6, class 5 and class 4. A son in class 4 when his father is 43? So what? I have still 17 more years of my government job and with the seniority and salary increasing every year, the oldest and youngest would have been taken good care, for sure. If 5 of us could get best education in  Lucknow, the same would have been true for my 5. Best education is always not most expensive. We all know that if you have an army of just one less than half a dozen kids, most schools will give you great discounts and you can be availing almost attractive offers like buy(teach) 3 and get(educate) 2 free offer from the same school!.

Raising many children with small age difference only can be lot of fun and convenience too. The clothes of children particularly blazers and jackets can all be used and reused years after years, for the kids. If you decide to shop afresh, you can avail discounts at all shops when you buy a stockpile of dresses. You are most likely to get the thok ( lower prices due to higher volume) prices for any shopping you do, be it of cloths or of books. I still can recall memories of me and my elder brother wearing same print shirt and pants stitched by the same tailor in those days of limited ready-made clothing. When we ventured out and we did this quite often, the people from a distance could recognize that we were brothers. It was such a great sight to be be together and be seen together. The strength and confidence comes from numbers also.brother-sisters-together-9240416

Presuming that education is the big task and consumes a lot many resources, its  equally true that too you can pass on the baton of books from one kid to next with precision and with precious notes. The books of the previous class of a senior student is always in demand and if you have 5 at home, nobody from outside would dare even to ask for the books of the family. You will saving thus, lots of trees too! The bigger families are greener families therefore. For travelling too, one can hire an entirely exclusive van or rickshaw for transporting kids, to and fro from school and avail the pleasure of having a family committed transport, with minimum costs. You can really maximize the benefit of having five. One has to just know the economies of scale therefore.

Recently my niece did her MBBS from Armed Forces Medical College Pune and studying in an army medical college paid no fees in almost 5 year. With army even travelling is free. So money is not the sin qua non for sure. It can be key thing however only when you decide to ‘buy’ rather than merit or ‘earn’ a seat for your son or daughter from some entrepreneurial business or medical college. With guaranteed Right to Education, one need not worry much, nowadays. The government here may not be as resourceful as French or Scandinavian, who encourage officially their citizens to procreate more,  but is still ready to take a good care of us.

The fondest memories of our lives are when we were kids. The popular ghazal rendered beautifully by late Jagjit Singh- Yeh daulat bhi le lo, yeh shohrat bhi le lo, bhale chhin lo mujhase meri jawani, magar mujhko lauta do bachpan ki yaaden……woh kagaz ki kashti woh baarish ka paani celebrates childhood. We as five, fought often had these great memories of togetherness including when we fought too and got bruised even. The fights sometimes got bigger and caused even collateral damages sometimes like a missing tooth. But this also gave us the confidence to face the real world. We had seen all sorts of fights to be scared on streets. We were damn confident.

HOLI_IN_INDIA_-_ENJOYED_BY_ALL

Who would not like to have these Angels

The revelry created in a family by presence of many kids is really awesome. At the time of festivals like Holi, one would really thank God for being with him or her in form of these little angels. When these kids come in front of you with all sorts of colors with their faces and bodies smeared in color, you can’t stop yourself from feeling like heaven. Same revelry and festivity can not be created by single or two children policy.images (10)

I have noticed, unlike us, today’s kids get frightened by the scene of even a pin prick blood. There parents panic even more. The reason may lie in complete lack of exposure to the realities of life. Parents blessed with just one or two can’t think of taking a risk. They become too paranoiac and too possessive and more often than not stunt kids’ natural growth coming from a natural ‘Charles Darwinian world’. And then, suddenly these kids go out in real world and have to share and even fight for best resources, may be like in a hostel, they panic. When you were the only kid in the house and had nobody to challenge your monopoly, you are bound to be culturally shocked to be in the real big world.  The single kids, had no competition say for twenty years and now they face a country of no less than 1200000000! What a great reality check.

One more advantage we in multi-siblings house is that out of many siblings at least one or other at a time can live with parents. In many highly successful families you will find father and mother living comfortably but alone and without the social-familial support of their own kids. Only those with many kids can have the highest probability to enjoy the sunset years of their life with care and dignity in the company of their own kids and their families. Also, kids and subsequently their kids gain in the process and become the repository of accumulated family treasure of knowledge and experience. No Harvard or IIM can impart you, what you learn in the family management school. The accumulated knowledge which parents have and are eager to bequeath is surely one treasure which is not to be missed. Its a high premium asset and is more possible when you were five or may be even more.

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One Big Indian Family

To find more reason, during my government postings, I have been often bemused by one of very frequent sightings of a slogan written on employee Union’s flag- sanghe shakti kaliyuge. It literally means that in Kaliyug it’s the ‘number’ which gives you strength. This slogan used by unions is reflective of reality in a sense that if you have 5 siblings married and procreating dutifully, you are most likely to have a close knit blood related group of 60 to 70 persons. You can chose a successful son in law or a daughter in law as well. In this group, you may have doctors, engineers, lawyers, administrators, police officers, architects, fashion designers, contractors, interior designers and not to be ignored politicians. A baba or yogi is also a big hit. Believe me, you need them all, if you want to navigate through the needs of life, day by day and night by night. But this home made luxury is available only if you have done enough (procreation in your hey days!) to have this. Otherwise be prepared to bear astronomical costs of availing their services. Those who have paid for services of these  very professionals, know by now that it makes more sense to spend on education and upbringing of your own five kids than paying these persons at market cost.

So, why despite these obvious advantages, we are not onto paths of having more in house talents. The hesitation and that what would people think of you and potential lack of resources may be big hurdles. But, interestingly, that very section of the society which can afford the education and upbringing of five or more, is more laggard or shy in having many children, than those who may have financial constraints and still have many. Therefore those who have it (literally) should rise to the occasion and contribute to the society and nation, before its too late.  I need to act fast. Yeh Dil Maange More!

Is your dil (heart) too, demanding more?

Beauties With Backless Cholis in Dilli Ki Sardi

Is this possible in Winters?

Is this possible in Winters? Yes.

In recent winter chill engulfing entire north India, if you have been to a marriage ceremony, you would not have failed to notice the Indian beauties at their best, bedecked in jewelry, head to toe. What you would have shocked to note however would be girls and women right from the ages of 12 to 42, walking around in their pricey lehengas with backless cholis without even a shawl in that extreme bone-chilling cold-wave winters. Although there are no snow blizzards in India, on lines of Boston U.S.A., nobody can challenge the chill of North India at its peak in January every year, not at least men in the same ceremonies covered from top to toe in maximum in their Band-galaas and in Jackets, long shawls and pullovers. Kejariwal is no fool actually, to drape a muffler in his dehati (rural) style. But our ladies are different and perhaps made from weather proof, sourced from ISRO, material. Recently a joke has been circulated on social media that, ” What is the only mammal besides polar beer that can withstand the cold-wave of north India without a cloth? Girls in backless cholis in Delhi!!!! Brrr.

Is that possible actually? I don’t think so. Homo sapiens are warm blooded and have to maintain the body temperature around 37 degree Celsius. The temperatures in chilly winters drop up to 3 degrees many a times and particularly during the nights. Majority of Shaadis too take place at night and there you find bold and beautiful at their charming best and without any shawl, sweater, cardigan or jacket. Though, they would have though spent n number of hours to buy those, frustrating even the most patient shopkeeper and husband in equal proportion. From which source then, comes up the energy to recover remaining 34 degrees of heat to avoid hypothermia in winters? Ladies don’t hibernate either.

The physics has hardly any answer to it. Chemistry too can’t explain either. The science fails you. The explanation perhaps can come from sociology, psychology and humanities. The females of human species, unlike the females of any other species, want to look attractive (in other species male has to be attractive and dashing) and the social gatherings like marriages are the place to watch for. But is that reason enough? Human beings have reasoning power too. How that does not come in between woolen less beauties and any desire to look beautiful and presentable? I find myself least qualified to answer this. There has to be some transcendental science behind this, yet to be understood properly. And, if we could ever understand and deconstruct the genetic coding (need perhaps another genius like Alan Turing!) of Indian ladies while attending these functions, we could be finding actually the wonder solution to meet the needs of our troops at Siachen!

I have read about Yogis living in Himalayas and exposing themselves to snow without any cloth and still surviving year after years. I have also read about a mountaineer trying to scale Mount Everest without a shoe. Really? But, then these ladies are no less than great yogis or yoginis in true Indian tradition. I am also not sure, if there are longer and more beautiful queue outside the clinics of successful doctors during intersection of cold wave and marriage season. In fact, I have even noticed lady doctors attending these functions without any woolens and with as minimum as presentable clothes. Who would then, tell a doctor attending a marriage to avoid hypothermia?

I can only say that when it comes to death defying stunts, our ladies are no less. We have been impressed by super elastic Nadia Commence of Romania, but we are no less proud of our ladies now. They can defy the physics and chemistry both, year after year and function after function. Hail Indian beauties. Long live Indian beauties!

The Imagica and I-thrill at 43

final_imagica_compositeThe adrenalin pumping thrill rides of a theme park are not for faint-heart and for a 43+ years old like me. I learned this only recently, but only after screaming from the deepest depths of my throat during my maiden visit to the Adlabs Imagica theme park situated at Khalapar, along the scenic Mumbai-Pune Expressway. The theme park spread over 300 acres of rugged terrain was inaugurated in 2013 and boasts of the top of the class international standard rides available in India. On a recent trip to Pune, I was literally, duped into visiting this park. I was told by my kids, that this park, was only like few other adventure parks, I had been to, and that I was young enough to enjoy the fun rides. I had been to one such theme park; Esselword, near Mumbai, but that was 12 years ago, in 2003. I thought or I should admit, that I overestimated myself. The hubris in me, that I had the zing thing in me to enjoy rides at Imagica, caught me at the wrong foot. So, one fine morning I traveled all the way up to this place from Pune.

At Imagica

At Imagica

The first ride I drove into was, Nitro. It is a roller coaster ride on patterns of big amusement parks worldwide. It carries 24 pax at a time. I too sat in it. It started by trudging up the trolley slowly to a good height to gain momentum, but hell was let loose after that. It was running almost at the escape velocity. The pressure on my tummy and shoulders was unbearable, as the upside turning and twirling ride hangs you in air like anything, literally. I started to scream, to move away my mind from a sinking heart. While every body else, and kids in particular would have thought that I was enjoying, I was cursing myself for that self inflicted punishment. I did not want to learn Physics this way for sure. Don’t trust me? Just see the picture below.

Nitro Ride

Nitro Ride

I took a deep breath, after emerging alive out of this. I decided not to come any near, this ride in the remaining part of the day and cajoled my kids to other rides, which I thought, might be gentler. I reached out for ‘Dare To Drop’ ride after seeing few children doing it. It was again a big mistake. In this ride using big hydraulic machines they create pressure and then shoot you up and down like a half volley in a tennis match. I prayed God from that exalted height, believing God was closer to me at that great height and some how managed to land back safely. I was facing one unique problem in all these rides that, the safety gear and locking handles in all these rides were not for a wide-tummied mammal like me and I was almost pressing the locking handle too close to my body, to prevent slippage from those thrill spewing  machines. I had to still hold it tight close to me.

Dare To Drop Ride

Dare To Drop Ride

I decided to beat a hasty retreat from this ride too and landed now at Gold Rush Ride. This ride on the lines of Indiana Jones rides of Disneyland at Paris, was no less thrilling, and for me, no less threatening. I somehow managed to come out of this too, alive once more. I gulped few ounces of water and decided to go for kinder rides only. I reached out to queue for a very gentle looking ‘Tubby Takes Off’. It was appearing the smoothest, but kids preempting this kiddish ride broke away from the queue midway and galloped towards other riskier ones. I had to follow them.We now landed at ‘Rajasaurus Ride’.rajasaurus-river-adventure-is-a-clone-of-universals-jurassic-park-ride-big

The notice outside the ride was that, it was not for weak hearts and for persons with medical conditions. My problem was that, I could not say, no to my kids, or that I was a weak heart. Therefore, against my instincts, decided to follow my kids to the ride. This ride is about a journey in a boat, through the ancient inundated world when Dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes roamed the planet. The highlight of the ride was the final fall of the boat from a big height into water below. As, the boat got readied for fall, I inhaled as much Oxygen, as I could and closed my eyes too. The boat slided into the water with ferocity and I landed with a thud sound of the boat into the water.Adlabs Imagica - Rajasaurus River Adventure (1)

I was alive, still. I just thought of running away from the park, but my kids would not allow me that even. I was feeling hungry and exhausted, but the kids were not interested in any food. They wanted to make a kill with the rides alone. I was having a bad time really and a prisoner of circumstances really.

The Hostage Me

The Hostage Me

The next destination was the ‘Wild West Mine Ride’. The ride is combination of high quality video game plus edge of the seat movement through a motorized platform. The ride was a good fun and was the most gentle ride till now. I came out smiling from the ride, for the first time.IMG_5064

The smile on my face lasted only till I entered the ‘Deep Space Ride’. This ride gets you through the dark secrets of space in a darkened environment. To much of my horror, my son forced me to sit in the front row. I closed my eyes and once gain inhaled the maximum oxygen, I could. Once the ride started, I knew that it was my biggest mistake. This ride twisted my body and paunch in all possible ways and that I am still alive and sharing with you my ordeal, is a miracle only.

Picture1

Deep Space Ride

The next in line was the ‘Mr India’, or we should say, ‘Mr Mogambo’-the eponymous villain of Bollywood movie, Mr India. This ride was a smooth one as it was an interactive video gaming with a moving platform, on which we were seated. It created illusion of navigating through the Imagica park, during struggle  to save the children from the clutches of a sickening Mogambo.

Mr India Ride

Mr India Ride

I, then moved on to a well deserved lunch break. While usually it’s the children who would demand food in the parks, here I was one who was demanding food. They were enjoying for sure and wanted nothing to come in between. I smiled at their enthusiasm and at the amount of energy they had to run across all corners of the park, to enjoy one ride after another. A few rides were repeated and I had to be literally dragged in to few, by the kids. I refused point blank, though on one ride-Scream. This was the real scary ride and later I heard stories about too many persons vomiting on this ride every time it flew past to extreme.

The Scariest, Scream

The Scariest, Scream

While I was scared for myself, I was nonetheless happy at the exuberance of the kids, in reaching out to all rides. They were having a great time of their life. I had lost my hubris but was still smiling,  just for the one great day in the life of three noble souls. Coming out of the park, I did not let go the opportunity to be clicked in front of the alphabet logo of the Imagica. I smiled finally and came out of the park, in one piece.

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The Dudhwa Tiger and the Mian ji

The White  Tiger and the Man

The White Tiger  at Delhi Zoo and the Man

Looking back at 2014 in last week of December, one picture that haunts me still is that of a man squatting with folded hands in front of a white tiger at a Delhi zoo. This over inquisitive man had fallen accidentally in the tiger’s enclosure or moat and in last few minutes of his life was begging literally for his life. The face off ended in with the death of the man. It reminds me of few stories of tigers vs man confrontations at Dudhwa, during the course of my tenure as SDM in Palia sub division, though not all of them ended as pathetically as that at the Delhi zoo.

The king of the jungle-Tiger (Panthera Tigris Tigris), is at its dreaded most at the sal tree forested, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve on Indo-Nepal Border in state of Uttar Pradesh. The tigers at Dudhwa are so ferocious that they don’t think twice even before charging at elephants and rhinoceros. The otherwise shy jungle king of many forest reserves of India, has therefore given birth to many stories at Dudhwa, centering around the hapless tourists who were outsmarted and frightened to their last bone by the charging tigers.

Royal Bengal Tiger

Royal Bengal Tiger

This story, in continuation of my earlier blog on Dudhwa tigers titled-The Tiger and Sardar, is about one agnostic Mianji, who had come to Dudhwa to see a tiger with his wife. The Mian ji too, was frustrated after his many sojourns to jungle ended without even a faint glimpse of the tiger in its natural surroundings. He expressed his doubts about tiger ‘actually being’ at Dudhwa, the difference being only in expressing it in a subtle manner in chaste Urdu rather than in sarcastic manner of Sardar ji. The forest officials at Dudhwa though actually peeved at comparisons with other forest reserves, somehow kept their calm.

One fine morning, in course of safari in jungle atop an elephant, Mian ji was sitting nonchalantly to witness the end of the safari. His wife dressed in traditional attire was also sitting besides him. Mian ji had teased mahout about the live tigers in Dudhwa jungles but he was doing his best to facilitate the sighting of a tiger. Trudging slowly from the start up point, they reached the high grass-lands of forest around Sonaripur, where rhinoceros are bred and nurtured in a quarantined area. This area though marked by electrified wires is part of the jungle and is huge. The tigers too are there and attack even young calves of the rhino. Mahout was optimistic about sighting a tiger there. Mian ji was not so optimistic though.

Suddenly, mahout felt some movement behind the huge elephant grass. The grass in the month of  February had grown beyond 12 feet or so and could hide even an elephant. Reaching at a sensitive point, the mahout asked Mia ji to be alert. But that had happened few times earlier too and was taken lightly by Mia ji. He had seen his hopes dashed too many times in this trip, after some very clear jungle calls and pug mark trails. So, he kept on sitting carelessly and was reclining on one side of makeshift sitting area at the elephant back. The mahout going by his huge experience in trailing the tigers was serious about the hints of his senses  and asked the Mian ji again to be alert, as the opportunity to see a tiger may be too precious to be missed.

Mian ji continuing with his experience backed agnosticism in seeing an actual tiger just straightened his posture and glanced through the surrounding, perhaps to only satisfy the mahout who was really alert and was looking around with his penetrating eyes. Suddenly the mahout raised his hand and pointed his index figure nervously towards a thick grassed corner. He did not speak a word and nodded Mian ji and his wife to see closely. Mian ji did not believe that he was so close to a tiger, but still straightened his neck a little more and stretched himself upwards to have a better look at the grass area. The elephant by now had moved little more closer to the grass. There was something which had made even the elephant cautious in his moves. Mia ji too now got anxious, and almost stood atop the elephant to get a top shot view of the surrounding. The elephant inched even closer and negotiated its way deeper into the elephant grass. The tiger was just there.  But before anything could settle, the roar of the tiger unsettled everything. The tiger got disturbed in his territory, and that too while taking rest. The tiger, true to the pedigree of Dudhwa, charged towards the elephant and its occupants with ferocity. Mian ji who was almost standing by now on his knees and was leaning towards the hauda ( a makeshift sitting arrangement atop an elephant). He was least prepared for this. He saw the tiger charging towards him and panicked. He virtually saw the death in front of him. The tiger was too close to elephant and Mian ji in panic lost his body control and fell on the ground! A loud sound of thud reverberated through the silent jungle. The way Mia ji fell on the ground was unexpected for everyone. His wife almost froze and gaped in disbelief. Mahout too screamed at the ultimate horror. The sight and the sound created by an 80 to 90 odd kg man falling from a height of 10 feet or more had shocked everybody out there. The inevitable was only few seconds away. But the tiger too was not prepared for this turn of event and the sound created by screams and by the fall of a healthy Mian ji was too unexpected. The tiger in his entire life would not have seen such a sceen, where a disbelieving tourist had fallen from the elephant, right in front of him. The tiger really got flummoxed, and from his perspective, saw this fallen man as a challenger to him or worse, a trained wily hunter!.  Mian ji had closed his eyes and almost fainted but tiger was not knowing this and after freezing for a second decided to beat a hasty retreat. He ran away to the other side of the grassland.images (7)

The Mian ji was lying shocked and unconscious and was not knowing that the poor tiger had actually ran away. The mahout after scourging the forest with his experienced eyes for any other potential danger, nudged the elephant to place his trunk as a ladder to step down. Mian ji was still unconscious and mahout used water from the water bottle carried by tourists to sprinkle some on Mian ji and he opened his eyes after some efforts. He was still shaking with fear. While the tiger ran away to its safety after failing to face the impact of a huge fall, Mian ji could not believe that he was still alive!. The folly of him to see it closely and clearly had almost cost his life, but the situations as turned out to be, saved the day for everybody, practically and peacefully. The ferocious tiger too learned a new lesson of his life that it may be too counterproductive to frighten a 80 kg man like this!

Retreating Tiger!

Retreating Tiger!

I only wish if that man at Delhi zoo could have been as lucky and the white tiger could have been as flummoxed as the one at Dudhwa!.

To Be or Not To Be: To Brush or Not To Brush

brushing-teeth-animationI was bemused to know that noted author Robert Fisk, in his book ‘The Great War For Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East’ has written that even while hiding in mountains and caves in Sudan and Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden used to brush his teeth with the twigs of Miswak, a product of Salvadora Persica tree called as Arak in Arabic. Going through his routine, I flashed back to my memories of Neem twigs used for brushing my teeth whenever I visited my native village in Farrukhabad. Time has passed by since then and in now hyper consumerist culture, the tooth brush and toothpaste are sold aplenty even at village corner shops. One daily routine of every body in the modern world revolves around finding a tooth brush and tooth paste as soon as one wakes up. While a tooth brush may be a twig of Miswak, Neem or Babool or a modern handle with bristles, the supporting substance may be a paste or a powder.

This daily routine at that morning hour when you were just out of your bed and your eyes were half open is no pleasant experience though. I can say with four decades of brushing-my-teeth-daily-experience, that it’s not an enjoyable act. That it is good for health and hygiene is indisputable, but it’s an activity which is done as a sort of personal duty and not something to be cheery about. If you add to this morning duty, the need and the rigmarole of brushing your teeth before going to bed, it becomes a real tortuous task.

When I was a kid, I remember brushing my teeth in morning only. The wash basins were not at that time and I used to squat down besides a whole in the wall in bathroom. I used to quickly brush my teeth and come down to see my Amma. I would then use pallu of her cotton saaree, to wipe of the water from my face. She always offered me that even before I could extend my hand. It was such a motherly affection which drenched both of us. This routine is not there and I have grown older to use her pallu, though she would not mind for sure her pallu being used to wipe the face of her son, still.Brushing-Teeth_o_21227

The habit of morning tooth brush gradually got enshrined in the psyche, the bigger challenge came in the shape of very essential but very detestable need to brush the teeth, before going to bed. Its utility is again indisputable and is more than the morning brush. But to brush your teeth night by night just before going to bed is really one task, I hate most. This habit forced by scientific facts and boosted by bombardment of toothpaste and tooth brush commercials is with me for last 30 years. In fact I have become hostage to this habit. Now If I don’t brush, I curse myself the next morning and if I do brush, I curse myself for doing that in night itself. But every night for last 30 years I have gone through the Hamletian dilemma of prince of Denmark; to be or not to be or simply to brush or not to brush the teeth.

The Indian habit of eating sweet dish after the meals is phenomenal and we want to retain the taste of the food by rolling out tongue in the far corners of mouth and by trying to feel the taste of food from smallest molecules of the food tugged somewhere in the teeth or gums. So, who in the world, would like to brush his or her teeth after eating the  most delicious pudding or hot Gazar Ka Halwa or chocolate ice cream or even Gur(jaggery) on a wintry night. Who would like to supplant that sweet little taste with that of a chemicals laced toothpaste.

pg-06-bad-dental-habits-kids-babies-full (1)While my resistance to brush before bed is not waning any time soon, the real and fierce resistance comes from the two kids who have been forced, to join me in this venture or a misadventure as per them. Those sweet two, after finishing the meal would deliberately escape from me and would try to slip into bed and would take a comforter up to their neck and would pretend to be sleeping. When I will enter the room, I would look at them and would inquire little loudly, if the kids have slept?. They would not budge an inch and would even hold their breath to pretend deep sleep. I would unnerve them by saying loudly that I  had got a gift for the kids while coming back from the office and I forgot to give them.They would listen but still not move. I would then say loudly to myself that, O. K., I will give them to some one else. The kids would finally be trapped and would spring from the bed, asking for gift. Obviously once out, I would ask them to brush their teeth. They would initially get sulking, but my persistence and mild admonition will usually prevail and they would go for the detestable act of brushing their teeth in the bathroom. They would finish it off  though in shortest possible time and would rush to bed. This practice becomes even more challenging in winters and I would feel little awkward to either entice or pressurize them to brush. I would relent sometimes when I put myself in their shoes. I too, would not enjoy to leave my bed midway after warming up the quilt with own body warmth. In contrast, I really find out it amusing that Osama was so particular in brushing his teeth even in those mountains and rocks and perhaps even enjoyed it.  He was surely a different man!.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Kashmir and ‘Kuch Light sa Non Veg ‘!

The Paddy Green Kashmir Valley

The Paddy Green Kashmir Valley

It all happened in the summer of 2011 on a rather spontaneously planned trip with friends to the valley of Kashmir. The plains were simmering under the fierce summer heat of June and the promise of some relief in mother natures lap tempted all of us to hit the deck. Raja, Dabbu and I, had a ‘Dil Chahata Hai’ type trip in mind. Inspired by beautiful descriptions of this paradise on Earth heard over the years, we decided to explore Kashmir in right earnest . We wanted to enjoy everything Kashmir offered particularly its great landscape and the authentic Kashmiri food. Our first halt was at a military base in Udhampur that offered some fine hospitality topped with free flowing scotch. Next morning we left for Srinagar and reached ‘Peera’ by lunch time. It’s a small town on Jammu- Srinagar highway and was suggested to us by our hosts last night to relish mouth watering Razama- Chawal. Laced with dollops of desi ghee, this was really a treat to have. In fact realising that we would not be doing the return journey on this route, we over ate and happily too. The entry into the Kashmir valley after passing through Khooni Darrawas an amazing experience. The Kashmir valley is one of the biggest valley I have seen and one can speed more than 100 Kmph for a considerable stretch before you reach Srinagar ! With paddy green fields on both sides of NH 1A, I can vouch that Jahangir was a true connoisseur of beauty ! Kashmir is unbelievably beautiful. It’s bliss. I can also say that the entire world populace can be broadly classified into two categories, first those who have seen the Kashmir and second, those who have not! Reaching Srinagar by evening, we  were now in the first lucky lot.

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In Raja’s (left) Company

The real action started here in the valley.  One of our friends, Raja, is really fond of non-vegetarian food. He had been on many trips with me and was apparently physically fitter than the most. He loves to play, see places, enjoy life and if time still is there, to teach his students. A ‘Raja’ in true sense of terms. Right from the start of journey, he had fixed his priorities and had stock full of booze as well. The previous night ably led by Raja, we had enjoyed drinks and food at the officers’ mess and now as soon as we checked  into our hotel at Srinagar, Raja started to enjoy the evening in right spirit(read high spirits, pun intended). Though none of us is a saint, he perhaps had a little too much of the sparkling liquids. Once full, Raja decided to lead us from front and we moved out on to Dal facing main road in Srinagar  in search for authentic Kashmiri food. Nestled in the arms of Himalayas, Kashmir is heaven especially during summers and many tourists, besides us, knew this and when Indian tourists decide to see a place en mass, it’s a scene to watch ! At 10:00 pm at night, in insurgency hit Kashmir, there was a queue at a famous restaurant and a mandatory waiting period of more than 30 minutes ! We could not believe this actually. After waiting for some time we decided to get our Kashmiri food packed. Raja agreed to this offer as he could have some more scotch in the room with Gushtaba and Rogan Josh with Kashmiri pulao. We came back to our rooms. The food was soul stirringly delicious, Gustava in particular. We still can’t forget the fragrance of spices used in the food. Raja too had it all and then we retired to bed.

The Gulmarg Snow Heights, Raja and I

The Gulmarg Snow Heights, Raja and I

Next morning our dear friend Raja was little uncomfortable. He had a little too many visits to the lavatory. Then he emptied few sachets of time tested Eno to tide over this mini crisis linked perhaps to over eating and somewhat over drinking. We still got readied ourselves for our trip to Gulmarg and for the first time on our food-fueled journey, had a ‘light’ breakfast. The 52 kms trip to Gulmarg was characterized by great views along the way. This popular skiing resort at an elevation of around 9000 feet was a favorite of Jahangir too.  But Raja, fatigued by the road journey, had started to feel nausea. The gain in heights was also creating problems for him. We reached at the base of snow covered hills and though there was again a huge queue, we decided to go on board the second highest Gondola rope way in the world. We reached at the top and were mesmerized by the breathtaking views of snow covered hills. It was more beautiful and alluring than shown in recently released movie, Haider. Here while Dabbu, realizing the steep snowy ascent decided not to move up the snowed hills, I moved on to take some pictures. It was a tough trek. Drawing upon all the available oxygen in air, I over pushed myself to reach the top and behold the surreal majesty of the Great Himalayan Range. To my utter surprise I found Raja trailing behind me, as he too wanted to take some pictures with snow in the backdrop. Raja was panting though. We took some pictures. But Raja could not pull it off for long and decided to beat an early retreat. I got some pictures clicked and walked down carefully. When I reached down to the base, Raja was having some bad nausea and an upset stomach. We waited for him to recover a bit and started moving back to Srinagar. We were a little worried by now as we had spent just two nights in J&K and as per original plan had almost a week more for Kashmir and Leh.

Raja in centre and Dabbu on Right.

Raja in centre and Dabbu on Right.

On reaching back to our hotel in Srinagar, Raja immediately dashed to his medicine bag and, in true Indian self medication style, popped in as many medicines as he could. He flung himself into the bed and pulled over a blanket, covering himself up to his head with just a little peep in window to get fresh breath. Dabbu and I too retired for some rest after tea. By late evening, I was ready to roll again and so was Dabbu. He had probably started catching a cold but was still fit enough to see the markets and go out for dinner. Raja however was still asleep. We nudged him. He moved a bit and said he wasn’t feeling well enough take food let alone a walk beside the Dal Lake. We felt a little worried but did not want to miss the evening stroll or the dinner. Raja too had not eaten anything since morning. We knew that his stomach was upset and the rarity of oxygen at these heights was taking a toll on him.

Gulmarg Gondola

Gulmarg Gondola

As a middle path, we asked him what he’d like to have for diner, which could then be brought to the room. He just murmured to us that may be, we could get him some “light food” as he was not feeling well. The next question from us was” which light dishes will you like to have?” The options possible were like Daal- Chawal type or may be some fruits. We also suggested out of our sincerity that he could have some bread so that his stomach may get some rest. Raja listened to us patiently with his blanket still on up to his face. He repeated his suggestion of some “light food” again. He did not disclose any cuisine or specific preferences still. We were little perplexed. Dabbu and I were putting up some conjectures, but none clicked. Now much exasperated, we just asked him to specify. He now murmured something which we could not believe. Shocked, we pushed him to repeat. He repeated, “kuch light sa non veg!”. What ? Light sa non veg for dinner  for on the bed Raja? We were shocked. It was the most unexpected request from a person lying in the bed and who had had more visits to the  loo by now than to the panoramic views of the Dal lake ! This man was down and out for a considerable period of time and was having fever since morning and had gulped sachets altogether of all flavors of Eno and a dozen different medicines with lightning frequency and now “light sa non veg?”  Can Non Vegetarian food be light? We had known our friend for no less than 22 years. But my God, kuch light sa non veg in these conditions and for him! Phew! After few seconds we all started laughing but my friend in bed was not in a position to even laugh freely lest  he might get spasms and the resultant visit  to the lavatory again. He just smiled faintly and closed his eyes. Dabbu and I were aghast and left the room with a sense of piquant bemusement.

The Remedy?

The Remedy?

We strolled in the market and kept on discussing his choices for “light sa non veg!”. After strolling besides Dal Lake for a while, we reached a decent looking restaurant. We asked the man at the counter, to suggest some ‘light’ non veg options they had at the restaurant ?” He saw us top to down and with a smile. He said, “Are you serious?” We realized pretty quickly that we were looking funny with our demands. Now I took charge and decided to call a spade a spade. I asked him to pack up whatever best non veg he had. In no time he packed Gushtaba and  Rogan josh and murg mussallam. We paid the bill and came back to the room. Raja was still there in bed. We announced our arrival and asked him to join at the table for dinner. He nodded but asked if he could be given his light non veg at bed itself. We complied. He checked the recipes and without uttering a word, polished off a decent amount of non veg food but not before washing it all down with a patiala peg of scotch. Dabbu and I were shocked even more. We looked at the whole sequence of affairs with bewilderment and having no clues about what was happening, retired to bed.

The Raja's Choice!

The Raja’s Choice!

Next morning, we had to proceed to Kargil en route to Leh. Raja was in some trouble but he seemed to amble along with slight effort. That was a little unexpected but something that gave us significant relief and a sense of puzzled wonder. Either the medicines or last nights dishes were working some incomprehensible magic. Our wonderment however lasted only so long. As the journey progressed, we realised that Raja had bitten more than he could chew! Our next few days therefore were spent in clinics and hospitals in the remotest Himalyan reaches including the war famous Kargil ! He  was treated by all including some very beautiful Kashmiri lady doctors. Their treatment perhaps alleviated his agony. Though he never complained, in that short period of acute ailing, his bum-injection-count rose exponentially enough to beat his life time tally. He even got hospitalized for high altitude sickness, first in Kargil and then in the tourist ward of Sonum Norbu Memorial Hospital at Leh! We eventually had to plan and execute an entire rescue operation to get Raja’s health back on track but that is a story for another time. This was an unique experience  altogether but was certainly enjoyable in the hindsight! Raja’s die hard love for “kuch light sa non vegetarian food” eventually made our visit more memorable than we could have ever planned ! I would like to know, if you have ever encountered a similar uncontrollable urge to satisfy your palate against all odds and if yes, how has that really turned out for you?

 

Kargil en route to Leh

Kargil en route to Leh