Monday, September 19, 2022

So long!




Majestic and ceremonial. Dignified and elegant. Calm and solemn.

That's what the nearly 8-hour-long funeral and the last journey of Queen Elizabeth II was.

Something that I didn't want to miss; I saw the whole of it on the YouTube channel of Sky News.

My admiration for the queen grew multi-fold after I watched the Netflix series The Crown.

It's not just about the royal title of Queen. It's also about Elizabeth II as an individual, and as a woman.

There wasn't, and quite unlikely there will be, a monarch like her. 

She was pitchforked to the pinnacle of royalty at the young age of 25 in 1952. 

Look at how the world changed during the 70 years since then. 

While Britain and the world, battled one crisis after another, there she was, as a constant steadying influence and a source of reassurance and comfort for the UK and Commonwealth.

For everyone else, she was an inspiration, someone who personified admirable individual traits like commitment, sincerity, hard work, wisdom, equanimity, grace, poise, dignity, etc.

It's also interesting that in the UK, there was a change of guard within a span of few days, both in the government and the monarchy.

A new head of government. A new head of state. 

I am sure there will be changes in the months and years to come.

(Image courtesy: BBC)

Monday, September 12, 2022

Munnar trip - 3

September 4, Sunday

It was very encouraging to see that the morning was indeed bright and sunny. That gave us hope of doing some trekking as we planned yesterday.

We reached Kallar (about 10 km from Munnar town) by cab. From there, we travelled another 8 km, uphill on a rough stretch of road by a jeep. We were accompanied by a guide.

From around 10 am for about three hours, we climbed rocky hills treading rough paths that had bushes and weeds on either sides. 

Because of rain, the vegetation was thick, and the slopes were slippery. 

Needless to say, the view from atop the hills was breathtakingly beautiful.

View from top of one of the hills

We got back to Kallar, and then back to Munnar town by 2 pm. After lunch, we got back to the hotel by around 3 pm.

As we expected, it began to rain in the afternoon, forcing us to spend the rest of the day in the hotel. 

September 5, Monday

Our last day in Munnar. 

After breakfast, Henry and I walked to the Botanical Garden, which is 5 km from the hotel. 

We could have taken a taxi or an autorickshaw, like everyone else. But our objective was to walk. It took us one hour to cover the 5 km.

The view while we walked to the Botanical Garden.

The garden is not too big. There are many varieties of plants, but what struck us most was the large variety of different cacti. One can buy plant saplings from there.

After spending about 45 minutes, Henry and I walked back to the hotel, in time for the checkout at 12 noon.

The Botanical Garden is known for the collection of cacti.

It was a lovely three-day stay at Munnar. Normally, it's rain-free time at this time of the year. But thanks to the erratic climatic patterns, every day we had drizzle / rains in the afternoon / evening.

At 1.45 pm, we got on to a Kerala State Road Transport Corporation bus to Aluva.

All through our 5-hour bus journey, it was raining. Hats off to the bus driver for navigating the twists and turns of the hilly terrain safely.

Our train from Aluva to Bengaluru was at around 9.30 pm. But it was delayed by around 30 minutes. We reached back our home the next day morning around 10.

September 8, Thursday

Today was Thiruonam - the most popular cultural festival of Keralites. 

According to Hindu mythology, Onam is the time when Mahabali, the benevolent king, comes visiting his former subjects. In Kerala, the festival is marked by various cultural programmes. Thiruonam is the last day of the 10-day Onam.

Making floral designs is a part of Onam celebrations.
This one was at my brother-in-law's house.

We had a good family time at my brother-in-law's home. We were glad to have Henry for the special Onam feast, called Onasadya.

September 9, Friday

Henry left for Delhi by Rajdhani Express train at 8 pm. After a few days there, he will spend nearly a month trekking and mountaineering in the Himalayas, before he returns home in North Shields, northeast England.


Sunday, September 4, 2022

Munnar trip - 2

September 03, Saturday

The morning was bright and sunny. At 8.30 am we left for Eravikulam National Park, which is at an altitude of 7,000 ft or 2,134 metres. 

The 97 sq km park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. But the biggest attraction here though is the Nilgiri Tahr, which is categorized as 'endangered' by the International Union of Conservation of Nature.

There are about 700 to 800 of them in the Eravikulam National Park, making it the largest wild population in the world, says a note at the park.

From the high altitude, we get a fabulous view of a wide expanse of greenery.

NEELAKURINJI

This is another attraction of Munnar. It's flowering shrub unique to the Western Ghats. Known by its botonical name, Strobilanthes kunthiana, Neelakurinji, has only chance to reproduce in its life cycle. 

After flowering and seed dispersal happens only once in 12 years. After flowering and seed dispersal, the plants perish. But the seeds germinate and the plant grows for 12 years until it blooms again. When that happens, it's blue carpet of Neelakurinji everywhere in Munnar. 

It bloomed last last year, that's 2021. But because of Covid, Munnar was closed to tourists. We have to now wait for 2033 for the plant to bloom.

TEA MUSEUM

Munnar is synonymous with tea plantations which we find all over the place. After the national park we went to the Tea Museum. It was set up by the Tatas in 2005. It gives you a good idea of the history of tea plantations in Munnar and also of the role played by the Tatas. 

There is a live demonstration factory where we can see how tea leaves are processed and converted into tea powder.

SPICE GARDEN

This was the day's final destination. It's in Kallar. There is a six acre farm where medicinal plants and trees are grown. Visitors are taken around a garden where these plants are grown. There is a guide who will explain the medicinal properties of various plants. There is also a retail outlet where many herbal medicines are sold. They say the formulations are pure and contain no additives.

Tomorrow we are hoping to do some trekking. 



Friday, September 2, 2022

Munnar trip - 1

My friend from New Castle in North East England, Henry, arrived in Bengaluru on August 31, that's day before yesterday. 

It was good to see him again. The last time he was in India was in Sept 2015.

He was my father's colleague teaching chemistry in school from 1967 to 1969. We have been family friends ever since. He keeps coming to India every two or three years. 

Every time he comes to India, he visits us, and we go on a tour to some nearby place. He is a passionate mountaineer, and climbs a peak in the Himalayas as well before returning home.

This time, we decided to go to Munnar in Idukki district of Kerala. Its in the Western Ghats mountain range and is known for its tea plantations and trekking trails.

Yesterday evening 7.45 pm, we left Bengaluru by train and reached Aluva around 5 45 am today. We boarded a bus to Munnar around 6.30 am and reached here around 10.30 am. 

This is not typically a time when it rains. But weather as we all know has been very unpredictable of late. Though it was sunny in the morning when we arrived, it rained rather heavily in the afternoon. 

When the sky cleared, we stepped out for a walk and went up to the Rose Garden just about 650 metres from the hotel where we are staying. It houses a wide variety of flora. One can also buy saplings.

We then went to meet a friend who teaches in a school here. We had a short walkabout, and then we went to the Mattupetty Dam. Because the rains, some shutters had been opened, and both the reservoir as well as the water gushing out were sights to behold.

Hoping to explore other areas of this enormously beautiful place tomorrow. 





Monday, August 15, 2022

India at 75 and looking ahead

Today is the 75th anniversary of India's independence. 

As part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the celebration of freedom, the government announced the Har Khar Tiranga campaign, an exhortation to all Indians to fly the Tricolour at their homes from August 13 to 15.

It generated a lot of enthusiasm and I could see a number of houses, besides government and private buildings flying the Tricolour. Like countless others, we too joined in, got a flag, and put it up on our balcony.

TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITIES

At 75, we can always look at the pitfalls, the cracks, and various other downsides. They journey hasn't been easy; it wouldn't be either.

However, I would look at it from the other side - the achievements we have made in spite of the enormous challenges during this journey of 75 years. 

I really doubt if there is any other nation in this world that is as diverse as India is -- from climate and languages to dress and food; from seemingly infinite local customs based on religion, caste or sub-caste, to a multitude of regional historical legacies. It's just too mindboggling.

This will be evident to anyone who travels the length and breadth of India -- from south to central to west to north to east of the nation. It's a maze of not just complexities but sometimes even contradictions. 

In this context, look at human endeavour in any segment of life -- be it science and technology, sociology, economics, politics, civil services, armed forces, sports or games -- there are countless stories of triumph over adversities.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in every strata -- be they of any state, gender, religion, caste, creed -- making use of the opportunities that our nation provides them. These opportunities have been stepping stones to better livelihood and lifestyle.

It's this progress that gives me the hope that we will continue to do well; the journey will only get better and better in the years to come.

THE ASSETS TO CHERISH

As we look ahead, in this land of extreme diversity, there are a few features that stand out, and bind us together as one nation: democracy, freedom, unity, constitution, legislature, executive, judiciary, and media.

We have them all in robust health. We need to cherish them, nurture them, because they are the assets on which a nation is built.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Avinash Sable: the star of Birmingham Commonwealth Games

Thoroughly enjoyed five hours of sports -- from around 1 pm to 6 pm -- today. 

Indians figured in six events, on the last day of the 22nd Commonwealth Games at Birmingham. We picked up 4 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze today.

The final tally -- 22 gold, 16 silver and 23 bronze; ranked fourth among 72 participating nations, behind Australia, England and Canada.

Not the best show by any means. We had done a lot better during the 2010 Games which was held in New Delhi, coming 2nd with a total medals tally of 101.

This time, out of India's 61 medals, 12 were in wrestling, 10 in weightlifting, 8 in athletics, 7 in boxing and table tennis, 6 in badminton, 3 in judo, 2 in lawn bowls, hockey and squash, 1 in para powerlifting and hockey.

There were plenty stellar performances during the 11-day games. 

From the India point of view, my choice of the best performance was the silver medal won by Avinash Sable in the 3,000 metre steeplechase event. 

Kenyans had always dominated this. And they were hoping to get gold, silver and bronze medals this time too. 

Sable's win was the first time since 1994 when someone outside Kenya won a medal in this event.

27-year-old Sable was born into a poor farmer's family in Mandwa village of Maharashtra's Beed district. 

After competing the 12th grade, he joined the Indian Army. Today, he is a Junior Commissioned Officer with the Mahar Regiment of the Indian Army.

This 10-minute clip is worth watching:


If the above video is not available, here's a shorter, 2-minute, version of it:
Wating for the closing ceremony of the Games to start.

Monday, August 1, 2022

When I forgot my phone in the cab

Once upon a time, mobile phone numbers could be saved only either on the phone or on the SIM. 

If the phone was lost or damaged all the numbers would be lost. Then, there would be frantic attempts to contact everyone who matters to us, in order to get their numbers.

If we were just replacing an existing phone, then the entire lot of numbers had to be transferred on to the new phone.

Then came the new feature of saving these numbers in the cloud -- either on iCloud/iTunes or on Google.

This was a huge relief. No phone number is ever lost, unless one lost access to the cloud account.

I always had an Android phone. So, I am not familiar with how easy or efficient it's to have the contact details backed up on iCloud / iTunes.

In Android it's pretty simple. Whenever a new contact has to be added, the default option is to save it to the Google account. If other accounts have been added, they too show up, besides an option to save it to the phone in the good old way.

The big advantage is that when I get a new phone, I just don't have to worry about the contacts. They are all there when I log into my Google account.

But recently it helped me on another occasion. 

I left my phone in the office cab that dropped me home after work.

I realised it when I entered home. 

There was a colleague of mine in the cab. I could call him or even the driver or the cab manager from my wife's phone. But I didn't know any of their numbers.

Google came to my rescue. 

All that I had to do was open my laptop, and go to my Gmail contacts. I took my colleague's number from there, and called him from my wife's phone.

After dropping my colleague home (luckily not too far from where I stay), the driver took the trouble to come back to my place, and handed over my phone.

(Image by Firmbee from Pixabay)