18 April 2009

Spiritual Travel continues : Vaishno Devi

Vaishno Devi Tour

There is a saying that you can never undertake the Vaishno Devi Tour unless the goddess of the temple has summoned you. Some people want to visit the temple for years on end before they can finally make it. Others who have absolutely no plans to visit the temple suddenly find themselves swept up in plans to go there. While some might dismiss it as mere superstition, others firmly believe that the summons is vital to making the trip to the temple. Perhaps the location of the temple has something to do with this belief.

Located in the mountains with a treacherous and long climb up to the temple, it is easy to see why people believe that you can only undertake the Vaishno Devi Tour with the blessings of the deity. The only way up was to walk. If you could not walk you were carried up in a “Palaki” which was a seat that two men carried on their shoulders. Some more adventurous souls even chose to ride up on mules. Reaching the summit with aching backsides. If you were to make the trip even two decades ago, it would have seemed a miracle. However now that the road has been made and the steps up to the temple have been well set, it is not as difficult a trip as it used to be.

Sure it is quite a climb, but it is not as bad as it once used to be. In fact there is even a helicopter service being operated from Jammu which allows you to skip most of the arduous climb, dropping you but a mile away from the temple. This is the ideal way for the elderly who are keen to visit the temple to make the trip. The younger ones are able to make the journey up by foot quite comfortable. You still have the mules and the “Palaki”s running so that’s an option you can exercise should you get too tired. The difficult climb is supposed to add to your merits in the eyes of the goddess, so many people prefer to climb even when tired. Then after they have visited the temple and obtained her blessings they take a mule ride back down.

It is also the belief that as you feel that you can not climb any more, the goddess comes to your rescue and you get a second wind. When you do reach the top, you must now get through a hole in the mountain which will take you to the holy cave inside. This sanctuary of the goddess “Sherawali” or the “one who rides a tiger” is the destination of millions of people worldwide. People from across the borders come to thank this goddess for boons that she has granted. In fact many miracles are given to her credit. It is also believed that once a person has obtained her blessing, he will no longer suffer hardships on earth.

The red cloth with golden border which is called her “Chunri” is carried back with people along with the “Prasad”. These are then tied to vehicles such as cars and scooters to get her constant protection. It is also a way for the driver of the vehicle to proclaim that he has made the difficult journey to the temple and back with the blessings of the goddess. While taking the helicopter in and out is the easiest way to do this tour, if you are more religious try and climb at least part of the path to feel good about journey. If she has sent you the summons you will go and visit her for sure.

Spiritual Travel : Amarnath Yatra

Amarnath Yatra

The Amarnath Yatra is an annual pilgrimage taken to the Himalayas by the devotees of Lord Shiva. In the Amarnath cave every year the drops of water form a stalagmite in the shape of the Shiv Ling. That is the symbol of Shiva that all devotees worship. The natural occurrence of this shape of stalagmite is supposed to be considered highly auspicious and many devotees undertake the strenuous journey each year to see it. Some people trek for miles even before they can reach the mountains. Others come in vehicles till Pehelgam and make camp at the base of the mountain range that they must now climb.

The cave in question is myth logically supposed to be the place where Shiva told Parvati, his wife, the secret of immortality. Since he wanted to ensure that no mortal being heard the secret, he took her to this distant and inaccessible cave. After they reached here, he divulged the secret to her. Only trouble is that after the long climb she was so tired that she fell asleep half way through the narration. Yet as he continued to talk some one keep saying “hmmm” and he continued the narration. It later transpired that a white bird had heard it all. When Shiva realized this he told the bird that it would be immortal, but would never be able to leave the cave for too long. This was to ensure that the bird did not pass on the secret to any human being.

No matter how fit you are, this is one demanding hike. The religious faith and zeal are what keep most of the people going. There are huge community kitchens set up at regular distances to feed the people. Some tents are also provided to offer shelter from the elements as you break for the night. The climb is difficult but it is not uncommon to see entire families making the journey together. You will have grand parents, parents and children all climbing up the slippery and treacherous slopes together. Falling, recovering, and supporting each another with physical help and encouraging words.

The journey is perhaps better than the actual destination. As the actual amount of time that you get to spend in the cave is severely limited. The security personnel are told to ensure that the line keeps moving, so you will barely get a feel of the cave before you have to move out again. The sight takes some getting used to, plus the stalagmite is cordoned off so you really wonder about just what you got to see as you get ushered out of the cave. Sure you will be given the “Prasad” and you will have a great sense of achievement at completing the trek up, but the actual site seeing can be over rather fast.

On the way down, one needs to be more careful than on the way up. Coming down moss laden paths is difficult at any time. So when it comes at the end of a couple of days of climbing up, you need to be alert and careful. At the end of the Amarnath Yatra the people who went along with you would have started out as strangers and wound up as best friends. It can be one of the best experiences of your life, as long as you prepare yourself for the trek well. Make sure that you carry adequate woolens and any medication that you will need. There is literally nothing available in the wilderness. There are no shops from where you can buy things. You will be dependent on what you carry or what others are willing to share with you.

07 April 2009

Life Goes On

I just noticed that I barely wrote on this blog last month. Guess with all the traveling and visits to hospitals there was little time left to devote to this blog.
Plus since work related blogs took up what ever free time I had, there was no time spare to get creative here.

Now that things are settling down somewhat and I am getting set for this month I should be more active here. I am currently drawing up a proposal for some training programmes to be conducted at school and college levels in Loni. Should that work out I will have lots to report.

As of now, am just catching up with all the work that was left over. Am coping quite well and in a day or two should be up to speed. Then lets get busy with the new company logo. A friend of mine has designed some stuff and I am really keen to see that. Its an exciting thing to start off with any new venture.

Bye for now, more news as it is generated.

25 February 2009

25 Things that you might not know about me

While I love to talk and you might know a lot about me already, here is a list of things that you might not know.

1. I was born in Nagpur
2. I had my first tank ride at 3 years of age in Jammu.
3. I drove my first tank at 15 years of age in Babina.
4. I love dogs, but am hesitating to keep a pet till Rehaan is grown up. (One kid to clean up after is quite enough.)
5. I don’t like cats.
6. I have studied in 11 different schools for 12 years of schooling.
7. I am currently living in my 30th home.
8. I have visited every mountain range in India.
9. I have had lunch on the Tibetan Plateau.
10. I am a qualified Travel Agent.
11. I am a qualified HR Trainer.
12. I am a published Author.
13. I am a freelance writer.
14. I am a Reiki medium.
15. I am a Tarot Card reader.
16. I believe in God and his angels on earth and in heaven.
17. I believe in rebirth and the cycle of Karma.
18. I enjoy books more than TV.
19. I love music and enjoy both singing and dancing.
20. I can survive on soup and toast for dinner for a month.
21. My favourite chocolate is hazelnut flavoured, ferrero rocher.
22. I have no favourite colour.
23. I have no favourite flower.
24. My favourite city in the world is Venice. Would love to revisit it one day.
25. My favourite city in India is Pune. Have not been there in the last 3 years.

11 February 2009

Discovery of India

My latest project has me writing web content for a travel to India portal. Despite being an Indian and a fairly well traveled Indian at that, I have learnt so much more about my country after getting involved in this project. Which is saying quite a bit as I have lived in more than 11 different Indian towns over the years.

Each part of the country has its own unique heritage to offer. The history is different, the culture is different, the food is different and the dress is different. All that I knew, what I did learn is the exact differences that exist. The smaller details that despite having lived through them, I had never bothered to pick up on.

From the Metros of Delhi and Mumbai there were no surprises. I have been visiting them almost every year of my life, passing through or on a holiday. Goa is great fun for all who visit, and in my case its become extended family home after marriage, so it was easy to write about.

The South was where I had my real challenge. Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi to be precise. My longing to visit Kerala has now intensified and am very soon going to plan a trip here. Chennai I have visited and don't think there is more to see, but despite my hubby knowing Bangalore inside out, I have not yet visited. Another trip to be made.

All in all the whole experience has been fun. It has been my personal discovery of India, a bit incomplete as they did not cover Rajasthan. In any case I have lived there for three years so I don't need to plan a trip there. Next holiday will be in gay Maharasthra.

29 January 2009

Impossible Credit!

Why is it so difficult for a credit card company like Citibank to give a woman a credit card? Sure if the husband of the same woman asks for an add on card he will get it. If she tries to get one for herself, they won't give it. If this can happen to a self employed woman, namely myself, my sympathies to the mere "Housewife".

The male mentality is to consider a woman a credit risk. The media pushes that image by showing women to have no financial acumen. The movies paint pictures of women totally dependent on their men. In general if a woman wants to look after herself the society as a whole stands up and says "No, let your husband do it for you."

It is impossible to reason with society and after three abortive attempts with Citibank, I have finally given in to the pressure. My husband has mailed them for an add on credit card for me. We expect to get it withing ten working days. The bitter sweet taste of defeat lingers.

24 January 2009

I believe in Angels

Of late Doreen Virtue and her Angel Therapy Workshops are playing on my mind. I first heard of them about a month or two ago from my Aunt who has attended them. She had with her an Angel Daily Guidance Pack which she used to give me guidance in that time. I was not too happy with the way my life was going at that stage and was looking for a change. The card I drew was the Ocean. At that point of time I was not conversant at all with Tarot or Angel cards and don’t remember too much of the reading details.

What I do remember was that my Aunt told me to get creative. Do something artistic or even write a book. I had always written poetry and prose as a child and some short stories as well, but after marriage and baby had never gone back to it. So I thought it over and decided to combine two big passions of mine cooking and writing to come up with a cook book. That project was barely begun when I got diverted into the world of online freelancing.

I had not even begun to get a hang of that when I got into Tarot reading. My life started changing in small ways as I became more creative. I was laughing more often, feeling more satisfied and happy doing what I was. One simple act of Angel Guidance helped me change my life. It was the final push I needed to do something about what I wanted in life. I still have not attended a workshop, but am happy doing what I love. The time for the workshop will come just when I am ready for it.

I am now a believer in Angels and I also know that they gently nudge me into fields as I get mentally prepared for them. For me that single card of the ocean started a series of events that helped me get to where I am today. I thank my guardian angels for all the work that they do for me.

22 January 2009

Now I’m waiting for a Woman in the Oval Office

All the excitement and furor over the first black president is finally over. Obama is officially in the Oval Office now. People are talking about the high expectations from him in view of the tottering economy and the war on terrorism that he has inherited. If he succeeds they will say it pays to have a change. If he fails they will say that’s why we never trusted a black man with power in this nation before.

Every president has his supporters and distracters, but with Obama each action will be held out and examined in detail. Self proclaimed experts will give their opinion on the hows and whys of his each action. Then grand debates will ensure that no one knows for sure exactly how well he performed. Some positive will be highlighted and lot of negative will get thrown around in the media. The world will wait with baited breath to see what his policies will mean to their country.

The trouble with all this is that - its getting boring. I am fed up with the three ring circus that they offer each time a president gets elected. I am tired of each predictable move and counter move that the opponents put up. I am actually waiting to see a new contest. The one that almost happened this time and whose trailer we saw in the initial stages. I am waiting to see the American people choose between a male and a female candidate.

Its quite funny actually that this so called great democracy has not yet elected a female to its main office of power. So called third world countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have had women Prime Ministers, not to mention both India and Pakistan. Mynamar has a woman leader of considerable note. United Kingdom had Margaret Thatcher, so Europe is not that badly off. Africa I’m not too sure about, so I can’t comment, but America? The glaringly obvious statement is that they don’t believe that a woman is good enough.

So when a woman of Hillary Clinton’s stature has such a tough time becoming a candidate for the election, it makes me wonder just what kind of democracy are they running there? Now since I am a woman, I know just how difficult life can be for one in the male dominated society. I am talking about the patriarchic society rules that most of us blindly follow. Any woman who questions them gets termed a trouble maker. And that is just what I want. A trouble maker woman, sitting in the Oval Office and sorting out men’s views on world peace and economic crisis.

Let’s hope I live to see the day!

15 January 2009

I appologize to the Americans...BUT

This came in on the mail and I had to share it...

Only in America ......do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the

Only in America .......do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke

Only in America ......do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.

Only in America ......do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.

Only in America ......do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.

Only in America ......do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.

Guess its not just Indians who spread the stupidity...

04 January 2009

Reading : a Hobby

For the last decade or so I have always read two books at the same time. The practice began when I was still studying, because it helped me save time when I studied an easy subject like English Literature with a tougher one like Calculus. I would start out with the difficult one and when I could feel the mind closing and refusing to take in any new concepts, I would switch to the easier one.

Helped to keep me mentally agile and able to fill in a lot more stuff in the same time frame. Then exams became a thing of the past and I was free to pick and choose whatever I wanted to read. So I would again pick classics from Milton or Shakespeare and couple them with an Agatha Christie or a Sidney Sheldon. I also liked to read all the books of one author at a trot. The "Complete Works" series must have been made to order for me.

I love reading Omnibuses. Yes, I delight in going through all the stories with the same characters one after the other. Specially if the characters are Jeeves and Bertie. The fact that I sat down and read the full Jeeves series in the week before my tenth class boards, and still managed to score ninety out of hundred in English is one of my favourites.

I speed read and so don't usually get much beyond the basic plot and characterization in the first reading. In fact if I were to pick up a book I just finished reading today in a year's time, chances are that I would only realise that I have read it before after I am half way through, and then I will have to read it again as I most likely have forgotten the end.

The reason I am harping on and on about this reading habit of mine is that it is this one hobby that has helped me develop a great vocabulary. The more I read the better it gets. And given my current line of work, that is what is needed more than any other skill.

02 January 2009

A new year begins and brings hope

As the new year begins I feel it brings with it all the hope that a new life does. As the tiny baby in your arms gives you a sense of joy and anticipation, so too does the date 1st of January. No matter what the year is, it makes no difference.

On this new beginning, I wish all my family, friends, and colleagues the very best that life has to offer. May there be peace and prosperity instead of war and terror. Long may we love and live.