Posted in Political

Ural country.

No, I have not been to Ukraine but I think it borders Georgia, of the erstwhile Soviet Union. From the Ural, we were shown the other side that was Ukraine. Vast, vast vestiges ran up to the distant horizons. Not many footfalls in this part of the world. Untouched mostly and unmarred by too much of human presence: this is what came to my mind as we made our way through the mountains to Gudauri ski resort. Normally you may expect the former soviets to be stiff and upright. But in total contrast, I met on the way rural Georgians who kept bees, gathering honey from floriculture and watched old row houses growing grapevines zip past in the countryside. My visits to Georgia and Azerbaijan gave me an idea of what the mighty Soviet Union must have been in some ways but disproved many other myths. One one side there were the so-called rundown block of flats but on the other were these snaking highways and gas pipelines as easily. Russian technology is different, not obsolete – at least in my opinion. I have not been to UK, but have visited the US although have covered only a fraction of the entire landmass, and I have been to a few European countries as tourist. So unlike others and in spite of all that I read in media, i have come to love the serene and calm environs of the former states of the USSR that are now republics on their own right. The engineering and technology are another level. Highway standards and automobiles are another standard but then I know that the first shuttle that flew into space was the Sputnik from the USSR. So I do have enormous respect for Russia even now. I don’t deny that communist regimes breed corruption as history has shown. More than corruption the autocratic rule is what can be truly oppressing. In Azer I even got a feeling that the public preferred being with Russia! Georgia however was different and was keen on joining the European Union at a future date. Georgians saw themselves as Europeans – a recent outlook only, even as the European governments have started flirting with George trying to establish business links. Azers felt closer to Turks and Iranis probably dictated by shared cultural ethos. Azer and Armenia have been historically at loggerheads. This is one more sensitive geographical spot so far as I can see that can blow up anytime, infused with hate and aggression. Mafia in Azer I understood was run by Russian thugs. Mafia in that entire region was under Russian control. Azers were of opinion they need Russian help to scoff at Armenia, the christian country that had tacit European backing.

In this scenario, I recall a visit from Kiev university of a professor of Economics (whose name I am unable to recall) to University of Madras. My major (in masters) was Econometrics and the year was 1990-91. He was a visiting prof who was on in the last leg of his lecture tour when he was in our campus. I guess I have blogged on this earlier but I will anyway do it again. The hindi picture ‘Brashtachaar’ was released starring Rajnikanth whose billboard he said, he happened to notice in every big city of India where he went for giving lecture. He said, when he understood that the meaning of the title was ‘corruption’ he was flabbergasted, because no way in the Russian dictionary this word existed! It was illegal and it could mean trouble. The professor was astonished at the range of merchandise and veggies and fruits that were sold across India. He said, he was taught that India was poor but the bountiful India came as a surprise to him. He felt, India was a very rich country, definitely better than USSR where the locals had to queue up even for buying bread. It was just before the soviet union came apart. Gorbachev was the president. He said, the USSR was breaking up anytime time and that he looked forward to it. I neither remember his face nor his name but the way he compared India with Russia – the gist, stays with me. He was all admiration for India. The visit was an eye opener to him. I did think of him Georgia and Azerbaijan. I realize the historic significance of his visit only in last few years. It was just the crux of time.

Since we have all read the book 1984 by George Orwell and we feed on the books fiction or nonfiction authored by writers from west steeped in capitalistic values, we also tend to underestimate the communists at the same time. To me Georgia and Azerbaijan came across as unspoilt countries, natural beauties not marred by greed and crass commercialization that plague Europe and the US. I wish both remain original to eternity. Life is tough no doubt, but it is tough for everyone, in every corner of the globe. Georgians happened to think that they have been held back from progress (read westernization), but they must know that they must count themselves lucky to have missed the bus. I hope Georgia doesn’t join the bandwagon of EU but rather stay different and outside the loop. But I agree the EU entry would open so many doors for Georgia.

Although the Russian technology is strange to us, being basically engineering men, my husband (civil & structures) and a family friend of ours (mechanical) could somewhat evaluate and compare their standards of engineering with others. They were very impressed with what they saw. Even the wine breweries and cheese I found to be the best in Georgia. Local cuisine was exotic and unlike anything continental. The entire experience for us was a novelty. Yet I was charmed by the old world laidback lifestyle of both Georgians and Azers. They could be poorer cousins of Swiss or Germany, but the peace and richness I found in these two countries was very reassuring. Churches and mosques were opened after the balkonization of the soviet union. Pristine environment. Tourists are already flocking to this part of the world as both the countries along with Ukraine, also opened their doors to the medical and engineering universities that are rated the best and could be at par with those in the US or UK. In another 10-20 years I have to admit sadly, that even these heavens will become regular thoroughfare losing their quiet magic. The precious gift they hold their citizens are not aware of. Instead they yearn for anything branded or imported from America.

I hope the professor is well and safe in Kiev. I have interest in Ukraine for this reason. All said, may peace prevail. We were only guests but the day we were leaving, our Georgian cab driver got us a bottle of red wine his wife had brewed with her owns hands and stocked in their cellar. It was well aged. That really moved me to tears. In Azer too, shook hands with very many kind rural folks. Human beings are the same everywhere.

Posted in Books

Dear Jeffrey Archer.

Dear Jeffrey Archer,

You are one of my hot favourites. But I am disappointed this time in you for having included a cheap Bollywood episode in your work ‘Cometh the hour.’ I have not yet finished the book. I have enjoyed all the sequels so far. I love your simple language. I guess I have read all your fictions and even nonfictions and short stories to date. Only thing I can’t help observing is that, I sense you are a bit nostalgic about what we may call the British Raj days when there went a saying, ‘the sun never sets in the British empire’ – from the way you glorify that age which is rightly befitting too. Well, the Great Britain you so vividly write about is now a spent force as you know. I haven’t so far toured UK but I would like to once the covid surges run low. The adventurous and analyzing spirit of the English is still something I admire. How the British surveyed and mapped every square inch of Indian geography and drew up our census cataloguing every single of the diverse Hindu community is a stupendous task undoable today. I don’t want to go into British conquests in India or wherever. They may have hunted down our wildlife, with some exotic species driven to even extinction, yet their contribution to identifying our flora and fauna is another area that is unparalleled. They even dug up our oldest manuscripts for us and scriptures and archeological sites. To some of us like me, the British were godsent unlike the Moguls who ravaged India. But even the moguls I view these days as the necessary antidote to wring the sting of the communal poison that was fed upon some unfortunate classes of Hindus. Finally everything will balance itself and social justice will prevail. There is a lot for you to write about India. I would suggest you begin with the Mullai Periyar dam history in the south. I missed you Sir when you visited Chennai as part of book tour. I was aware and I was in the city, and I was thinking of you as well imagining you answering questions and signing books in Landmark some years back. I don’t want to review your fictions (and in any case who am I) (but whether i matter or not I review some authors hahaha). Just wanted to address this note to you. Now India and UK share a very polite and good relationship. For decades now the Indian grads were going to the US for masters. Of late however I see interest again in the UK. India steel magnet is a billionaire in your country and Indians have been faring extremely well there as we all are aware. Indian industrialists have carved a niche for themselves in your country. Indian medicos serve in NHS in droves. Hundred years back who would have imagined this scenario. Before I close I want to comment on the Bollywood chapter in your book. It sounds fake. Did you just lift it out of some Hindi picture. It is unlike you to script anything like this. I am just continuing reading from Priya’s death in Bombay airport. Yes, this is quite probable even today in India but I must say this is like some 0.1% possible today in my country. We have come a long, long way. Now Indian boys and girls especially Hindu young men and women look like hotcakes in international stage. I have an American bahu myself. I am Hindu. Loved all your books that set a kind of standard. I am not a voracious reader, but I like your prose and your dignified elegant characters. This is old world goodness. I have never noticed disrespect in your characterization. Even the perverts and the cunning are not portrayed cheap but treated well by you. I guess, this is because you belong in my parents generation. I also like your ‘all is well that ends well’ kind of finish: the final fairytale ending. Looking forward to more from you, Sir. Take care.

Posted in Women & Family

Sajda for the sweetest souls.

I just want to add a small late night post before i hit the bed. Watched yet again the ‘sajda’ song from MNIK picture. I think SRK has done a fab job enacting the ADHD character. Those of us who get to see kids on the autistic spectrum – even in the rock bottom level of 1 out of 10 or what we call ‘borderline cases’ may know what to expect. Or we can easily identify with SRK’s role that he has performed to perfection. May god bless these special kids and may god gift their parents with enormous patience. I would like to expand more on this one but reserve it right now for a future post. I did a lengthy one quite a few years back but for reasons that I cannot disclose, trashed it. Let me try to do a fresh one, so until then.

Posted in Women & Family

The take on Aspirin.

Its an ongoing debate for decades: whether or not take Aspirin, one a day. The first time someone suggested aspirin to me was in the year 1998 in Malaysia. In the south east Asian country, I was surprised to discover that the locals irrespective of their race or sex and physical attributes, took a minimum dose pill every single day of the week once he/she crossed into thirties. By thirty-five or forty, an overwhelming majority of adults healthy or otherwise were on aspirin already. Aspirin was like the sleeping pill. I put it down to heavy consumption of red meat even if the Indian (read Hindu) community mostly restricted themselves to staple non vegetarian fare of chicken-mutton-fish-prawn. Aspirin was after all touted to be the best and cheapest blood thinner. It mattered most to the south east Asians who vied for a place with south Asians when it came to coronary heart diseases. Because whether Malay or Indian or Chinese, the population had major cardiac issues owing to genetic dispositions. Lifestyle conditions such as elevated blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol also ran rampant cutting across races. Since Aspirin was sold over the counter, it was not difficult to procure it in an otherwise stringent nation that Malaysia was when it came to medication and pharmaceuticals. Medicines were not in general procurable without a medical prescription and medication was always the responsibility of the physician who also doubled up as pharmacist. I never came across a single pharmaceutical that did not sell anything over generic medicine in our four year residence in Malaysia. Whereas, our India is free for all! Antibiotics to anti-venom serum for snake bite, anything can be procurable without a medical prescription from competent physician top of the counter in India! This now can be a blessing as well as curse to which I shall come to later in an other post.

So for years doubts persisted in me about Aspirin. I got it cleared from my brother-in-law who is a general practitioner with his own private practice. He advised a strict NO saying, there were also associated stroke statistics when it came to long term usage of aspirin. He asked me not to go for it even very recently when I expressed my concern as I have a mild lifestyle condition. Our family physician also ruled out aspirin for those who drive long distances like for instance, to work. For any medical emergencies, he said, for someone who took aspirin, the medicos needed to wait for 36 hours minimum for the aspirin to be completely washed out of the system. Too much blood dilution thus could prove to be counter productive. Aspirin was basically blood thinner and therefore, even if it prevented arterial clogs, it also made sometimes bleeding unstoppable during surgeries or on injuries which made it a potential life risk. Hence the waiting time, that could cost one his/her dear life in critical emergencies. Aspirin was also claimed to cause intestinal bleeding on prolonged use. When you drove a lot, faced physically challenging situations, traveled frequently, said my doc, it is better to avoid aspirin. For him, the low dose must be reserved for septuagenarians and octogenarians who may have coronary issues. His prescription to unclog blocks in middle age was by way of physical fitness regimen such as workouts and healthy dietary habits.

I am just learning about baby aspirin which comes across as the least minimum dosage prescribed for adults which is supposedly safe intake on regular basis which is about 81 mg per day. Whether it can prevent vascular diseases remains a big question mark yet, but baby aspirin could be harmless dose that can be taken without a doctor’s prescription – provided the concerned individual is not under medical treatment for any health issues. Anyone on other prescribed drugs would simply have to consult his/her physician before deciding on aspirin.

Personally, into my early fifties, I do feel like I have reached the stage when I must start popping a baby aspirin at least once a week even if i am a lifelong vegetarian. We simply have to read up much more on the topic before we arrive at a decision. The call i guess, is ours to make entirely. By world standards, we Indians are pretty late when it comes to aspirin intake. We reserve it mostly to our retirement or for post coronary bypass surgery. To my knowledge, Europeans, Americans and South East Asians start taking low dosage aspirin by their late thirties or early forties. May be many middle age heart attacks are preventable with lives saved with early start of aspirin who knows. Divided on that.

Posted in Food For Soul

தமிழ் தமிழ்ன்னு சொல்றாங்களே…

தமிழர் பண்பாடு சரசரக்கும் பட்டு புடவைலையோ, நெத்தியில வெச்சுக்கற குங்குமத்துலயோ,தலைல சூடுற ஜாதி மல்லி பூச்சரத்திலேயோ, போட்டு மினுக்கர வைர அட்டிகைலையோ வைர கம்மல்லையோ இல்ல. இட்லி தோசை பொங்கல் வடைல இல்ல. சத்தியமா பில்டர் காபில இல்ல. படிக்கற சங்க இலக்கியத்துலயும் இல்ல. மேடை நாடகத்தில இல்ல. பாக்கற சினிமா படத்தில இல்ல. சுஜாதா பாலகுமாரன்லையும் இல்ல. வைரமுத்துவுலயும் இல்ல தாமரைலயும் இல்ல எப்படி கண்ணதாசன்ல இல்லையோ வாலில இல்லையோ அப்படி . பட்டி மன்றத்திலே இல்ல. விவாத மேடைல இல்ல. திராவிடத்திலேயே இல்ல அப்போ சீர்திருத்த கல்யாணத்துல இருக்குமா என்ன. பட்டபடிப்புல இல்ல. எந்த புத்தகத்திலயும் இல்ல. கீழடில அகழ்வாராய்ச்சில இல்ல. பொங்கல் பானைலயும் காணோம். பனை தென்னை உச்சிக்கும் போகல. திருவள்ளுவர்கிட்டையும் இல்ல, ஒளவையார் கிட்டயும் இல்ல. சேர சோழ பல்லவ பாண்டியன் கிட்ட இல்ல. நக்கீரன் கிட்டையும் இல்ல அப்போ தருமி கிட்ட எப்டி இருக்கும். கண்ணகி எரிச்ச மதுரைலேயும் இல்ல. தஞ்சாவூர் பெரிய கோவில்லயும் இல்ல. கரை புரண்டு ஓடற காவிரியில் இல்ல, காணாமல் போன குமாரி கண்டத்தலையும் இருந்தது இல்ல. அப்போ தமிழ் எங்க தான் இருக்கு.

தமிழ் எங்க இருக்குன்னா அது நம்ம வாழற, மனசாட்ச்சிக்கு உறுத்தாத கௌரவமான வாழ்க்கைல இருக்கு . ஒழுக்கமே தமிழர் பண்பாடு. காலத்துக்கு ஏத்த மாதிரி கொஞ்சம் மாறலாம் தப்பு இல்ல. நம்ம கலாச்சாரத்தையே தல கீழ புரட்டி போடும் எந்த விதமான பழக்க வழக்கமும் தமிழ் பண்பாடு ஆகாது. குடியும் குடுத்தனமா இருன்னு சொல்றதுக்கு அர்த்தம் பார வீட்ல வெச்சுக்கோ என்பது இல்ல. ‘பெருசுகள் இல்லாத வீடுகள் கடவுள்கள் வாழாத கோவில்கள்’ ன்னு ஒரு சினிமா பாட்டு வரி ஞாபகம் வருது. மேல துப்பட்டா போட்டுட்டு வெளில போன்னு சொல்ற மாமியார் அருமையை இப்போ உணரறேன். படிக்கட்டுல பாத்து ஹலோ சொன்னாகூட பக்கத்து பிளாட் மாமாவை மொறச்சுட்டு பதில் சொல்லாம போக வெக்கறது எவ்வளவு பெரிய சேவைன்னு இப்போ தெரியுது. வெட்டி பேச்சு என்னத்துக்குன்னு முணுமுணுக்கறதுலயே வந்தவங்க விலாசம் இல்லாம ஓடி போய்டுவாங்க. எந்த புது டிரஸ் வாங்கினாலும் எத்தனை டிரஸ் வாங்குவ நிறுத்து போதும், இருக்கறத போடுன்னு சொல்ற சித்தி அருமை விளங்கறது. கொஞ்சமே வீட்ல இருந்தாலும் ஸ்விக்கி இல்லாத நாட்கள்ல கூட இருந்தத விருந்தாளியோட பகிர்ந்து சாப்பிடறது இல்லயா தமிழ் பண்பாடு. பாக்கறவங்க எல்லாம் அண்ணா தம்பி தான். அக்கா தங்கை தான். பக்கத்துவீட்டு பசங்க நம்ம பசங்க. அடுத்தவீட்டு பாட்டி நம்ம பாட்டி. ஒண்ணுன்னா ஓடி வருவாங்க. நல்லதை தான் சொல்லி குடுப்பாங்க வீட்டு பெரியவங்களும் சரி, பிரெண்ட்ஸ் அம்மா அப்பாவும் சரி. தவறான என்கரேஜ்மெண்ட் எப்பவும் எந்த விஷத்திலயும் கிடையாது. தப்பு பண்ணினா பக்கத்துக்கு வீட்டு மாமி தான் மொதல்ல டோஸ் விடுவாங்க. மூடி மறைக்கற விஷயமே கிடையாது. சிவன் கோவில் சொத்து குல நாசம்னு சொல்லி தான் வளத்தாங்க. வில்வ இலையை கூட நாங்க வீட்டுக்கு கொண்டு வந்தது கிடையாது. இந்த மாதிரி அன்பான பொறுப்பான சத்தியமான குடும்ப சூழ்நிலை, சுற்றார் கூட வளர, வாழ குடுத்து வெக்கணும். என்னை பொறுத்தவரைக்கும் இதுவே தமிழ் கலாச்சாரம், பண்பாடு. நாங்களும் இருபத்தி அஞ்சு வருஷம் முன்னவே வேலைக்கு போனவங்க தான். ஜீன்ஸ் போடறவங்க தான். சைட் அடிக்கறவங்க தான். ஸ்கூட்டர் கார் ஓட்டினவங்க தான். அம்பத்தஞ்சு வருஷம் முன்னாடி வேலைக்கு போனவ தான் என் தாய். சுய சம்பாத்தியத்தில் காலூன்றி நின்னவ. இல்லாமையே அவ என்ன வளர்த்தது தான் அபாரம்.

எனக்கு ஒரு சந்தேகம். தமிழ் தமிழ்னு அலப்பறை செய்யறவங்க ஏன் தமிழர்க்கே உரித்தான கற்பு நெறியை பத்தி பேச மாட்டேங்கறாங்க. ரு வில் ஒரு சொல் ஒரு இல்னு சொன்ன கம்ப ராமாயணத்தை எப்படி மறந்தாங்க. மயிர் நீத்தால் உயிர் நீங்கும் கவரி மான் போல மானம் வளர்த்தது தமிழ் இல்லையா. முல்லைக்கு தேர் கொடுத்த பாரியா இருக்க வேணாம். முல்லையா வேரோட புடுங்காம இருந்த போறதா

திரைகடல் ஓடியும் திரவியம் தேடுன்னு சொல்வாங்க தமிழ்ல. அப்டி வெளி நாடு தேடி போய் பொருள் ஈட்டறவங்க கூட பலரும் நம்ம கலாச்சாரத்திலேந்து மாறாம இருக்கறத பாக்கலாம். வீக் எண்டு பார்ட்டி இங்கயும் எப்போவாவது உண்டு தான். காக்டெய்ல் கூட. லேடீஸ் உட்பட. எதுக்கு பொய் சொல்லணும். ஆனா முறை தவறி, அளவு மீறி எல்லை தாண்டி நான் எதையும் என் இருபத்தி அஞ்சு வருஷ ஃபாரின் வாழ்கைல பாத்ததும் இல்ல கேள்வி பட்டதும் இல்ல. மாறாக கோவில் இல்லாத ஊர்ல பூஜையை பாக்கறேன். பாட்டும் பரதமும் பாக்கறேன். கொலு வெச்சு பாக்கறேன். உண்மையான அடக்கத்தை பாக்கறேன். கண்டிப்பா அது உடைல இல்ல. ஆடம்பரத்தில இல்ல. முக்கியமா விளம்பரத்துல இல்லவே இல்ல.தமிழ் நம்ம வாழ்க்கை நெறியில் இருக்கு. குடும்ப நேர்த்தில இருக்கு. கண்ணியத்தில இருக்கு. கட்டுப்பாட்டுல இருக்கு. அமைதில இருக்கு. எளிமைல இருக்கு. இறக்கத்துல இருக்கு. தமிழ்நாட்டுக்கு வெளியில தமிழ் இப்டி நல்லாவே வாழறது. மாட மாளிகைல இருக்கோ இல்லையோ ஏர் ஒட்டி களைத்து போன குடியானவனோட குடிசைலயும் அவன் வேர்வையிலும் இருக்கு. உழைத்து வாழறது. கஷ்டப்பட்டு வாழறது. நாணயமா தலை நிமிர்ந்து வாழறது. பெருமையா வாழறது. கௌரவமா வாழறது. சீரழிஞ்சு போகல. யாரையும் கெடுக்கல. யாரோடதையும் பிடுங்கல. பொய் பித்தலாட்டம் இல்ல. அலட்டல் இல்ல. பொறாமை இல்ல. நாட்ல, தமிழ்நாட்ல, எவன் ஒருவன் இப்டி யோக்கியமா வாழறானோ, அவன் வீட்ல தமிழ் வாழத்தான் செய்யறது. குடும்ப குத்துவிளக்குன்னு ஒன்று கிடையவே கிடையாதுன்னு என் தோழி சொன்னபோது என் மனசு அந்த பாடு பட்டது. காலத்து ஏற்ப கொஞ்சம் வளைஞ்சு கொடுக்கறவ தான் நானும். நான் ரொம்ப யோக்கியம், நான் தான் யோக்கியம்னு சொல்ல வரல. ஆனா இன்னிக்கும் நம்ம முன்னோர் காட்டிய பாதைலேந்து விலகி போற தைர்யம் எனக்கு கிடையாது. அப்டி பட்ட முன்னேற்றம், நவ நாகரீகம் எனக்கு தேவையே இல்ல. எனக்கு தெரிஞ்ச தமிழ் இது தான். நல்லது, ஆயிரம் காலத்து பயிர். கெட்டாலும் மேன்மக்கள் மேன்மக்களே சங்கு சுட்டாலும் வெண்மை தரும். இதுவே தமிழுக்கான அர்த்தம். தமிழ் குடிகொண்டு வாழற இடம் சுயமரியாதை.

தமிழர் என்றொரு இனம் உண்டு… தனியே அவற்கொரு குணம் உண்டு…!

Posted in Political

Hyundai India Controversy.

How can Hyundai India be held accountable or responsible for Hyundai Pakistan?

Following the outrage in India after Hyundai Pakistan tweeted in support of Kashmir Day, Hyundai India has issued two apologies to the nation distancing itself from the controversy. Indeed like rest of my countrymen I got carried away by the Hyundai insensitivity. But then my engineering boss (my hubby) explained to me how any two (or more) franchisees of the same multinational company based in two (or more) different countries, may have nothing to do with in common and how they are far detached, and function as two (or more) entirely different entities having been incorporated as per the local laws of the host countries. The only connection between the two different arms in India and Pakistan in this case could be the parent company who may pass on to them technology or the assembly line. In India’s case, production is undertaken in Hyundai plants and Hyundai India also has captured an export market. Hyundai India has nothing to do with Hyundai Pakistan therefore. Moreover, social media may be handled by independent agencies for the companies. Hyundai factory is in Tamil Nadu, located very close to Chennai, at Sriperumbudur. For over 25 years, Hyundai has had a quiet and steady growth in India. They procure their spare parts from small scale Indian industrialists, and they provide employment to locals. I have friends who worked for the company. They are pretty decent. Never have the south Korean expats or the company voiced an opinion on Indian politics or economics or culture as our Indian govt and media may note. Fellow Indian citizens also must take note of this crucial fact which is vital to arrive at any judgment. Hyundai Pakistan may have deliberately incited the disturbance. We Indians come out with typical kneejerk reaction for everything. Pakistan is still a banana republic whose annual GDP falls short of one day trading volume at BSE in India. Hyundai Pakistan sells a reported 8000 assembled cars a year as against 800,000 plus Hyundai sedans sold in India mostly entirely manufactured locally. This must speak about the capacity of both the companies and the economies. Hyundai HQ in Seoul must have been unaware of the developments. In truth, they may not even be aware of ground reality or political equations in the subcontinent. Hyundai India has still come out with two back-to-back apologies and that must do. In fact as I see, there is no reason for them to apologize at all. Lever India, Nestle India, Pepsi India etc., have similarly no connection to their counterparts be it in Pakistan or in another country in the world. MNCs or Companies incorporated in India are mostly public listed companies with stakes even held by retail investors. Some like Hyundai, Honda etc., may be privately held. The scene we have in India is completely different from what they have in Pakistan. However, the backlash Hyundai has received in India must be an eyeopener for global companies that want to do business with India. This is why Narendra Modi matters!

And how the floodgates opened!

Why this apology may be important: Hyundai India, KFC, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Honda know of the ease of doing business in India as against a lawless country like Pakistan. Who is lining their pockets. Most of us NRIs do comprehend the dynamics of running-managing an MNC in different parts of the world. It is just next to impossible to do business without conflict of interests. The treading ground is treacherous. So sometimes, mistakes happen. In this case, what originated from Pakistan seems to be a well planned and coordinated INTELLIGENCE exercise, coercing the MNCs to issue statements in unison, not keeping with their policies. Very cheap stunt. Well, that has bombed in their own backyard now, so fellow Indians relax! What Pak would not have factored in must be this spontaneous Indian solidarity that made the MNCs in India buck down and issue apologies. Yet, admittedly it is a recurring practice that only Indian/Hindu sentiments are most disregarded. India is taken for granted by the MNCs who will never dare to repeat the chapter with China or Pakistan.

I opt to give the benefit of doubt to Hyundai India. I trust and keep my faith in them. Let us not judge them with one incident or rather one motor accident! They have a proven track record in India which is good. The Indian market for them is too precious to lose. It has been built for a quarter century with the goodwill of both the nations.

Once the dust settles on Hyundai matter, hopefully our PM Shri Narendra Modi ji will turn his govt attention to Netflix and Amazon Prime, the OTT platforms that India can do without.

Posted in Socio-Cultural

The Nightingale Calls It A Day

My school days went with the Vividh Bharathi timings. 7.30 in the morning meant ‘Sangeeth Saritha’ by which time my mother would already have left for Mylapore tank to board the PTC bus to her school. In fact walking her up, my father would have returned home by the time the olden goldies based on Hindustani raags would start blaring from All India Radio. A half an hour of Rang Birangi or something would follow, essentially Hindi oldies but tuned to Hindustani mostly. 8.30 would be the time I would leave for school, and when my father would leave for his office.

Afternoons on holidays would always be with ‘Man chahe geet’ between 1 and 2. Would never miss that precious one hour for anything. Evenings there was ‘Chaya geet’ between 5 and 6 that I would miss mostly. However there were times I would take the transistor to my terrace and let it play my fave hindi songs. Bed time or dinner, if I would have finished studying and if awake, ‘Aap ki farmaish’ between 8.30 and 9.30 would be allowed. Rest of the hours, our radio would be mostly tuned into Sri Lankan Tamil broadcast.

I have to say, my parents and grandparents shared my love for hindi oldies. Or probably I acquired my taste for Hindi from my family. My mother loved Rafi and Lata as much as she loved Tamil filmi. In fact she was one step ahead of her peers, being a huge fan of Runa Leila and Nazia and Zohen Hasan towards her last days. May be the year was 1981.

Memories of watching hindi flicks with my family stay afresh in my memory. From Bobby and Sholay to Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin, we left nothing screened in good old Madras. Sholay I and my sister watched with my mother and chithi before my cousins were born, at old Satyam theatre.

Although in India we get exposed to a variety of music including authentic ‘agmark’ classical to Bollywood and regional to folksy, I have always felt that the Hindi music is by far exceptional. Or at least it used to be. It had a soothing effect on our soul. Tamil typical classical and Sangam, i have found to be not that very relaxing. You need to be alert to listen to Tamil. Not so with Hindi which is much more mellow and soft on your ears. Aesthetically probably Hindi language has an edge as it’s kind of culmination of cultures.

Rafi s’ab, Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar were the quintessential trio who brought in so much of popular hindi music and happiness to our lives among others. It may be only filmi ghana yet it mattered. Even today their romances remain timeless classics. I am listening to them some 50-60 years later. Lata in particular has sung some desh-bhakth songs as well. There have been criticisms against her for blocking younger talent and those from the south like Vani Jayaram, but after listening to her voice in ‘Valaiyosai’ in Tamil, a duet with SPB, I concluded that Lata was indeed the uncrowned queen of playback singing in India. Others were leagues behind her. I don’t deny today we have Alka Yagniks to Shreya Ghoshals who are good and special in their own ways. Yet Lataji is a legend, a saga. I wouldn’t say we would miss Mangeshkar as we already have the younger lot trying to fit in in her shoes. What I would say is, it feels like a grand old tree uprooting and giving away, that’s all. The shade where we rested and had taken for granted, will be there no more.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Is it time to unsubscribe Netflix.

Can we have a Netflix free India again please?

Wondering whether it is time for me to unsubscribe from Netflix. Watching pictures butchered that are not to my taste. Pride & Prejudice crudely cut short in many places and this is just one of the many classics to be scissored by the OTT platform. Why ‘Delhi crime’ when there was far gruesome Austria. Netflix, you have to be sick to be airing this and you have to be racial. Why are there no documentaries on US school shootings or on the western drug mafia. Why not ones on arms deals and colonization. Not even on corona or on who is suspected to be behind it? The selection of pictures seems to be anti-Hindu in my opinion. Anti Indian. Because when they have the ‘Wild wild country’ running even now on Osho, there has never been one on sex scandals in Vatican. Or on European pedophiles preying on Asian kids. Instead their tv shows seem to be subtly selling Christianity door to door. Nothing on terror either. Not a word. Just what kind of image are these guys trying to create about societies. May Indian subscribers start taking stock from now on at least. Discerning viewers may have figured it out like me already. Whether we need Netflix at all in India? I guess we have enough satellite channels to cater to all our tastes. I don’t want to encourage this urge in me to be there for the first day first show. Its ok i will be missing out on latest releases. Seriously weighing options. If the quality of Indian films will not improve, I will unsubscribe. I am also asking my friends to unsubscribe from Netflix. Netflix is consuming my afternoons which is making me feel guilty. All the classics I am watching now I have originally watched in HBO etc., in full length without this chopping of reels here and there. Commercials are far better than trying to undercut a nation’s image, something not even the Star group has done. Why should we pay for this substandard and deliberate misinformation. India has every right to throw out Netflix. Should we have Netflix and Amazon for the sake of our entertainment industry? Not fair. Let Amazon Prime and Netflix be kicked out of India. May our PM Modi note. Its this typical brainless stuff. I am wasting hours on Netflix. I can wait and watch all this in our television channels. Or in You tube. The OTT platforms may be already killing Indian entertainment than benefiting the industry. The cruel joke is that, when the OTT platforms cut reels from classics, they do not edit steamy scenes from their content. Total and partial nude scenes, sex, rapes, violence and bloody murders all run in full length. There is absolutely NO CENSORSHIP in Netflix or Amazon Prime even in Arab countries which is a grave concern. Netflix and Amazon Prime are unhealthy for growing school children in India. It is time our government looks into this matter and ask them to reform or get out. I will give it a week or two to think over this. Yes we can live without Netflix and Amazon Prime, many do even now. This is one case when going retro will do us good. Our children remote-learning in information age from laptops and mobiles is something we cannot do without given the Covid circumstances. But we don’t have any reason to have Netflix. This is something that can be suspended outright. Waiting for return of old days.

Posted in Interests

Whitewater Rafting In River Ayung, Bali

After River runner, I would like to sheepishly record here the one and only white water rafting experience of mine in Bali, Indonesia on my 50th year. River rafting is considered rather naive unlike kayaking, its boistrous and adrenaline pumping cousin. Once in a lifetime adventure, I think I bettered my long held records in all areas with rafting. I don’t think I shall ever be able to repeat the feat as I age. With my team leader denouncing me for lacking stamina and vigor on learning that I was vegetarian (information helpfully supplied by my spouse), I became ever more determined to do the whitewater rafting against all odds, even if I was deeply aware of the fact that I was the weakest link in the group who could let them down. I swore I wouldn’t do that to them. I had the responsibility in my shoulders and I knew I had to play the role that was expected of me.

My brother-in-law’s family toured Bali before us and they asked us never to miss river rafting because Bali rivers were tame unlike the Ganga in India, viable for amateurs like us. I mean, they were ideal length and width with just the right rapids safe enough to negotiate. Bountiful monsoons ensured you got a good paddling season. Weather after monsoons is favourable from Oct-Feb. However when my husband googled it, the top items to catch our attention were the casualty in almost every single river in Bali. There were harrowing accounts of victims’ kin who blamed poor planning, control and management and lack of timely medical help and logistics. There seemed to be no mechanism in place to handle emergencies. Yet the unregulated adventure sport was on and proved to be a huge draw mostly with younger people. There were a handful of rafting companies to choose from. I picked the Ayung river after a little research.

Our son called us from the US the morning we were planning river rafting. ‘Are you guys crazy?’ he asked shellshocked that his 50 year mom and 53 year old dad were planning to paddle across a throbbing equatorial river just after the monsoons. Then I heard my husband tell him, ‘or else i shall sit it out in the river bank and wait, let your mom go rafting!’ He quickly turned to me and said, at least one parent needed to stay alive for our son and it is better it is him because he was the earning member!!! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! But then I remembered, my man was scared of elephants as well. I had to literally drag him against his will shouting and screaming to touch and caress a tusker, let alone ride one! Also mentally we women are stronger I guess! All the male machismo is blown to smithereens when you ask your guy to do real man things such as river rafting! The elephantine problem also surfaces every time I would like to go for the giant wheel or for a swishing joyride in theme park. Succeeded in convincing my hubby to get into the float with me for the water ride in Dubai’s Wild Wadi but no such luck in Orlando, so enjoyed the virtual reality crazy ride zigzagging up and down with just my son. The level of excitement omg! It always amazes me how our so called brave men chicken out when it comes to trivial things.

And so I took the lead in our Bali hotel, calling up the tour operator and asking him to drive us to white river rafting in Ayung. My confidence was also partly due to the trek I managed downhill and upstream with my school friends just the previous year to the base of Athirappalli falls in Kerala. Not many brave that in our age and we girls took our time to go down to the bottom of the gorge where the glorious falls fell in. Once again it was right after monsoons and the waterfalls had swelled. The volume of water discharged from the top made us girls speechless. Mostly younger people had made it to the bottom of the falls apart from us. With a huge momentum, the falls fell down the gorge in such a splashing splendour. The climb down on foot was tricky as the steps were crudely shaped out of the rocky earth. At some points, there was handrail kind of support with twigs and barks and pieces of wood put in by fellow trekkers but not all along. Not for a minute could we avert our eyes from the footsteps carved out of the mountain slope taking us to the base of the falls. But finally it was all worth it. Uphill was daunting but not unexpected! Anyway we made it in our own sweet time, and that’s it!

up the sanddunes in Messaieed, Qatar a decade earlier towards the summit. the middle figure is me 😀 the view from the top is chanceless: the other side lies the Arabian sea and right in front spread the desert.

I can say the same of climbing atop a sand dune. No child’s play this is, not to be underestimated. You have to be real surefooted as the mounds of desert sands could prove to be as tricky as quicksand to say the least pulling you into a vortex, freeing oneself from which can sap all your energy. Soon you could find yourself buried knee high in the rising and falling mounds heaping like wave upon wave. Nature’s wonders! One foot forward up the sand dunes, you slide down two feet sinking yet again. It is like you are moving against gravity. And then you have the crisscrossing dune buggies racing past you as if on collision course as the young and the brash behind their wheels may have this devil-may-care attitude! You got to watch out for these daredevils most of who are addicted to such adventure sports in this part of the world!

Needs no reminder that with every passing year, we get older. Plus both of us husband and wife have a bit of lifestyle conditions (not contagious diseases) but manageable. We get along on low dose pills. So this was a situation. I also had to factor in my arthritic knees especially apart from other bones and joints! Quick calculation and I still voted YES! to rafting 😀

So off we went one morning to the white water rafting company on the shores of the Ayung river in Bali, supposedly their longest and best suited for paddling. It supposedly had 32 or so rapids among which a handful were deep jumps. Neither of us could swim. We were asked to fill forms stating our health parameters. Heart issues were a serious no-no. We were then debriefed on the sojourn. I could tell from the start that our tour guide who was like our team leader had problems with me. He foresaw that I was unfit in every possible way – with my age, food habits, poor stamina etc. He was worried that I wouldn’t paddle, would give up half way. He warned me that there was just NO TURNING BACK once we started. I looked at our crew. Our boss who was the rafting guide, my husband and me and three Malaysian chinese girls of 22 years or so who were taking a break from their term at an Australian university. The girls asked our age and gushed that we were same age almost as their parents and vouched that never would their parents attempt anything wild as river rafting like we did!

The idea of whitewater rafting in Bali was to give a tourist a wholesome feel of their rich geography and lifestyle. Indonesia is a rice growing country. We were to walk through picturesque countryside in the first segment of our rafting tour. We made our way through what we may call in Tamil ‘othai adi paadhai’ winding through paddy fields. Cultivated lands flanked us on either sides as we went in a file in our lifeguard gear and helmet, each carrying our paddle which by itself weighed a ton. At least I was outfitted right. When in water, I always go for waterproof clothing: i had pulled on a pair of waterproof knee length swimming shorts over a sports teeshirt. My shoes were Sketchers slip-ons but no way waterproof. I decided to carry a light handbag with change of clothes and no valuables.

We ate very light breakfast at our hotel Ramada Encore that morning. We went light on liquid intake as well. In the rafting company, we were asked to gear up on filling out obligatory forms. We were allotted a locker to safekeep our things. We left behind our digicam etc., having realized that we would be better off carrying ourselves light. Which meant, we left our cell phones behind as well. We were handed over a waterproof pouch to strap to our body wherein we could keep safe our wallets or phones just in case. My husband chose to wrap it around his torso. Most of our cash etc., we left behind in the lockers along with change of clothes, etc., but basic credit card and a single phone we decided to carry on our body. Our passports were in safe custody of our hotel lockers. We were dressed minimal as the occasion demanded. We spoke to our son before we embarked on the trip on foot following instructions from our tour guide who was a young Balinese guy fit as a fiddle. It was a routine for him and my confidence grew in leaps and bounds as I saw how energetic and focused he was. He piled us on to a waiting truck to be transported to the paddy fields wherefrom our rafting journey would begin.

I jumped out of the truck that had made its way through typical Indonesian rice fields. The views were breathtaking but alas, no phone to shoot pictures! It was better this way considering what lay ahead for us!

Next three kilometers or so, six of us fell in line walking on the farm lands that were in various stages of cultivation such as sowing, resting, harvesting etc. Square plots intersected in neat angles as rural Balinese men and women were seen bent over their agricultural activities sporting the typical south east Asian coned hat. By the end of the trek through the farm lands, I was already catching my breath that my husband and the guide were concerned about. We both were falling behind by a few steps. I was slowing down my husband as well.

Not over one or two minutes behind, we reached the top of the gorge from where we had to descend by foot to the river that flowed at a few hundred feet below. Any last chance for turning back ended here. The brisk walk through the agricultural lands had taken over an hour for all of us and we were perspiring already in pleasantly chill Bali weather. Downhill sounded like cake walk first but I wasn’t to be fooled after my Athirappalli experience. And Athirappali seemed like kg kid compared to post graduate Bali river rafting!

One glance at the route revealed that the downhill to the river level went winding through heavily forested woods where ancient trees grew. Home to a variety of flora and fauna, the equatorial jungles wore a canopy of treetops that saved us from the glare of the sun mercifully. The landscape was surreal, green and moist from monsoons that had drenched the soil for past many days. Everywhere around was green. So that made for slippery paved slopes. And once again, none of us carried a cam fearing an ounce of extra weight that could stall us. I looked in dismay at dozens of steep rocky carved steps that vanished into the oblivion. The roughly hewn mountain steps had no hand railings in the sides for grasp obviously and were almost a meter high. It meant we had to stay extra vigilant to avert a fall or breaking an ankle. On either sides lay the wild forests wherefrom butterflies danced from one exotic flowering creeper to another. Ferns were like a tapestry gracing every available space. A sweet mixed fragrance floated past us carried over from the fruits and flowers that bloomed all around us. The orchids were a riot of colours. Trees rose right upto the skies. Birds of every feather, nameless to us, sang from branch to branch. However our guide kept calling to us to not pause as he led from the forefront. It was not the straight way down. The three chinese girls followed after him. I and my husband brought up the rear, thanks to me! The steps wound around the hill slopes taking us far from the point where we started that I realized we were crisscrossing mountains and at the same time descending. I knew my husband could manage a pace as good as our young man steering us, even better than the girls. Over their shoulders the girls kept chatting us delighted to learn that we had a son of about their age studying in the US. They were even impressed to learn that we lived in their home country Malaysia for four years. We seemed to have closed the distance between us in one move and our guide was flabbergasted that we did just that! The girls from then on started looking at us as if we were their parents. They kept cheering us to do it. At one point our guide stayed back behind to lead us as the girls overtook him.

I have to give it to my reluctant husband who finally was enjoying the trek, supporting my every move extending a hand, leading me with confidence and egging me to give it my one hundred percent. Not a word of discouragement. He stayed completely by my side and took me in places by hand, warned me in advance about big leapy stony steps, alerted me to wild creatures around us that were coming alive by the minute. I didn’t know where to look: at our trail or at the beauty that surrounded us from all sides, so pristine. Nature was at her best element. Just then our guide fractured our dreamy spell stating that we hadn’t even descended hundred steps out of 1500!!! Not an easy task, we took a good two hours going down to the river level.

When we touched down on the river banks where the sloped steps ended, we saw the group hunched over a small rafting boat. It was an inflated red one bobbing in the jetty with not much room, that deflated my confidence in a minute. The guide beckoned to us just then impatiently. I asked the girls how much did we delay them. ‘Not more than 5 whole minutes’ parroted the bright youngsters but in that serene quiet atmosphere, each minute could drag like an hour. The group of us amateur rafters stood in circle around our guide who began teaching us basics of rafting without wasting another single moment. He taught us the hand signals as well as verbal commands that we had to strictly follow in the swirling waters. He said that our tasks were multipronged. We had to paddle according to his guiding and at the same time keep ourselves safe from slipping from the raft, with our eyes glued to the river. He showed us different motions that he urged us to have by heart. He shoved his paddle forward and showed us a hand signal for the same, jumping on to the raft. He then showed us how to stall, how to edge back the raft and how to remain still. He virtually demonstrated to us how to circumvent rock cleavages that sprouted out from nowhere in the midst of the river but those that were no rapids. He most importantly taught us how to maneuver our way through the gushing river whose level was raised to the season’s high thanks to very recent monsoon spells that had preceded our arrival. It meant, we had an interesting rafting ride ahead of us and at the same time a throbbing river at full force. It carried risks. He then gave me a worried look but I forgot to mention how the four of them clapped as I had made my way to the raft minutes after them not squandering their precious energies and time. Now my guide’s fresh predicament was whether I would paddle at all. I was a middleaged housewife. Did I have it in me to paddle for two hours thirty minutes downstream over two dozen rapids. Most of the sailing would be smooth, he assured us. Bali rivers were not Amazon and not even the Ganga. The width of the river Ayung itself came as a surprise to me. It would be manageable, I told myself. I had overcome one third of it already. I looked forward to the first and only ever river rafting experience of my life.

I noticed half a dozen water bottles in our raft as our guide weighed pairing us to balance the raft. In the front went one of the girls small size. I and my husband were paired in the next row. Behind us the other two girls took their places. The rear was brought up by our team leader himself. He quickly revised with us the basic rafting lessons he had taught us only moments before. Satisfied, he untethered the raft that was fully inflated to float comfortably. Frankly I took in the tarpaulin material and wondered how many punctures it could take! Just then the young man announced, we had to raft, look for his hand signals for the entire two and a half hours of rafting without missing a beat, and at the same time enjoy nature all at once! He then blew his whistle signaling the start of our expedition!

And thus began my incredulous whitewater rafting that I never thought until that moment, possible. Ayung was breathing life, so infused with fresh seasonal rains. Lush and green reflecting the enveloping environment, the river brought an instant peace to my mind in turmoil, with its steadiness and timelessness. Ayung that had stood witness to civilization for centuries, humbled me instantly. Greenery on either sides of the river bank emerged like fresh frescos retaining a little dampness. Mosses and lichens covered the rock faces and river beds as well as the overhanging cliffs and gorges and ledges and secretive alcoves wherever there was a gap in the line of scraggy bushes and towering trees with their gnarled roots webbing and clutching to whatever foothold was manageable in gradient slopes. The green carpeting shrouded the river and the banks, with the sky peeping out here and there from the foliage up above to allow mellow light for us to paddle on. Cool gentle breeze had set in by the mid morning. The banks were rising steep as our raft floated downstream paddled by six of us in unison in smooth strokes under the aegis of our rafting guru. First few minutes we had it easy as our leader tested us on the hand signals. All five of us passed his practical exams in flying colours. Slowly our raft wove its way around to the middle of the river where we were told the depth of the river was maximum. I had uttered a small prayer before setting foot on the raft earlier.

Our raft maintained a steady momentum as we tugged and heaved, steered partly by the mild wind. The weight of the lifejacket and the paddle were still making me sweat profusely. The air was thick at times like in Malaysia. It was after all equatorial country whose musty nature I was familiar with. My helmet was a nuisance but considered a must. In case I must slide down, my guide assured me that at least my head would not pop open like a melon! He could still jump out and save my life, so the helmet had to stay. In fact it was checked and rechecked by him for its tightness before we embarked on the river, so I understood our leader meant business. He had checked on all our gear as to whether we wore them tight, strapped tight. The raft was an open one and so I realized i had no hand support on the right but then my right hand was to hold the paddle. Mostly we had to use both our hands to paddle. There was a hold for my left hand to be secured if i wanted to steady myself that was shared with my husband who was my roving partner to my left. His fist closed over mine giving me quiet assurance that all would be well. Gradually our raft had moved out to mainstream river where it widened and the banks grew apart. I looked up to see that our descent point was no more visible and we had drifted over several more hundred feet by then.

The river rafting was proving to be exciting and experience like none other. Adrenaline rushed through my veins and I put all my doubts to rest to enjoy the moment for what it was. I was with a young and able group mostly and my husband was fit as any of them. I felt better. I began relaxing and savouring all that nature revealed to me right then. In the rocky banks I found Ramayana etched by Hindu Bali ancestors. It was an ethereal sight where reality and mirage hung suspended in one plane of time – or it so seemed to me. We jumped one or two rapids and our boss taught us then what to expect about the rapids and how to stay prepared spotting one. We had no time really as one after one the rapids kept coming in the course of our rafting journey. After a couple of rapids. our raft leveled into still calm waters for a change where the river was its broadest and in full flow. Depth here was safe for swimming said our guide and asked us to duck in if we wanted as we drew right below a waterfalls. Unbelievable omg! I can’t relate here those 10 minutes under the falls over the river clinging to the raft but resting my paddles. My hubby encouraged me to step out. Our guide said, I wouldn’t have to swim. He asked me to shower under the falls and I would dry out by the time I went back to their office. But courage failed me at this point. I had had so much, and I was satisfied. My husband was a little disappointed I knew but I didn’t want to stretch my luck as I saw the 3 girls have a whale of a time swimming under the falls stripped to their bikinis that they probably had worn in the insides. All the same I was wet thoroughly drenched by the falls.

We navigated our way out of the falls and next began our ride through literally testy waters. Forward paddling and back peddling alternated as we skirted some rock formations that raised their ugly heads out of river taking us by surprise. There were quite a few bends in the river and at some spots the turns came back to back like hairpin bends. In some points, the rapids and bends were together that we had to carefully maneuver through with skill and patience. More than a dozen times my heart was in my mouth as we wove our raft through some anxious moments. In jumping over rapids and negotiating river bends, I realized that the raft tilted to one side and I had to hang on for my dear life! In one particular spot that was like a whirlpool, our raft got stuck hitting a boulder that had sprung out in the midst of the river course. Our guide stepped out and manually steered the raft in a different direction. He had to carry out this exercise a couple of more times and the waters were frothing. He had even warned us about the raft capsizing in worst circumstances but asked us never to panic. Whatever the situation, we would not drown and our life jacket and helmet would see to that we lived. Thankfully, ours did not capsize that day but from the way he said it, and later admitted, I understood there had been quite a few incidents when the raft turned turtle.

We jumped over wide rapids, narrow rapids, back to back rapids, high rapids. low level rapids – dozens of them. I later looked up their gradings and discovered that some were riskiest. I knew we were doing some 30 plus rapids in total. Somewhere out of the jungle peeked a coffee point where a camera crew were conveniently poised to shoot our pictures that I have posted here. The four of them climbed out of the raft as we both opted to stay put. Our raft was tethered loosely to the jetty and I did worry about the knot getting undone and our raft drifting downstream. It was just a 5 to 10 minute break and we were on our way again on the Ayung river as our guide announced that we were past the halfway mark and would be turning back. He warned us of the trickiest rapid that awaited us yet before we paddled our raft to a different jetty where we had to alight. This rapid as we had been warned got us rocking side to side as I tightened my grip over my left hand hold in the raft as did my husband. I stilled my paddle and waited it out as we finally overcame the monstrous rapid and our guide declared that we had successfully rafted along the river without an incident. We cheered as after some 2.5 hours we disembarked from our raft with no heart to go back to the normal boring world!

But then came the next insurmountable task of climbing uphill. We had some 1000 earthen steps that were steep and half to one meter in height like it was in our descent, winding through the jungles again. The ascent and descent were two entirely different paths with no intersection. Two thirds of our white water rafting experience was over by now. We had started earlier that day on light stomach. Drive to the company was one hour in thick Bali traffic. One hour of waiting it out. 3 hours of walking through the farmlands and trekking downhill. 2.5 hours of rafting in gurgling river that was fresh and alive and kept coming at us. Now another 2 hours of ascent back to the company remained. Our guide did not wait for us this time, taking leave from us assuring us that we would find our way. He had after all the next batch of tourists waiting to raft.

The girls left after him saying their goodbyes. We the oldies took our good time climbing up, heaving and catching our breath wherever and whenever we felt like. Not a word of complaint from my hubby who bore with my slow pace. My knees were hurting from sitting crosslegged somewhat cramped in the raft. I had been traveling in the cab since arriving in Bali, for hours a day. I had had a long flight. He was aware that every bone and joint of my arthritic body literally shrieked. I had mild BP that was manageable, like his. He had mild diabetes as well but within bounds! Together we made some pair!

Finally when we climbed and walked back to the company office, we were greeted cheerfully by the staff and especially by our guide and the three chinese girls who were already planning their night out with our young guide and his male friends. I heard something like campfire in Ubut. We weren’t late by more than 10 minutes. The lunch was on the rafting company. We quickly thanked them and went to our lockers to retrieve our clothes and belongings. We took a hot shower and changed and walked to the open air restaurant to claim our promised Bali lunch. By this time, we had come to love Balinese food which was basically flavoured rice or noodles with dumplings of soya chunks, spinach etc. There was vegetarian fare waiting for me and meat for my husband. We shared a filling lunch seated in wooden benches overlooking paddy fields.

Our tour operator materialized out of nowhere and congratulated me in particular. He confessed he never thought I was capable of completing the rafting and was parked near the office, half expecting me to turn back from the jetty not wanting to go on. From that moment, the duo (the driver of our cab and our regular guide for 6 days) showed me more respect. Next stop was Tanah Loh, they announced. Did I have the energy for it. Do they even needed to ask!

With Tanah Loh hindu temples in the sea, we brought to a beautiful end a beautiful day. For the first time in my life, I went for Balinese massage as well, feather touch, butterfly kissy. I had booked for an earlier appointment. I told them, it was my first ever massage in my life and the girls seemed to be surprised that I hadn’t got one until my 50th year!

Totally relaxing my every single taut nerve and muscle that had been stretched to the maximum that longest day, the Bali girl did a wonderful job like a magic that washed away all my tired lines. I slid into a dreamless bottomless kind of sleep that late night having downed a fruity Balinese beer with our dinner by the poolside. I had preferred to don the Balinese dress for the dinner – a sarong over my t shirt. It was another first for me as I had merely knotted my skirt not buttoning up anywhere risking my honour! Thank god, no mishap once again. Or probably my sari sense saved me. Our Indian sari after all holds world record for serving us women as the longest unstitched garment from time immemorial! Whitewater rafting in Bali remains our best lifetime couple-experience as my husband admits.

What a beautiful dream is Bali. I would like every couple to go here and experience what we did: its magical and like a second or third or fourth or whatever honeymoon to all of us – not to be missed. Its not about just river rafting. Bali is easy on our purse. Its Hindu and so closest to our hearts… And then there is this gift of nature that is getting rarer by the day…

Whitewater rafting proved to me that nothing is impossible. That where there is will, there is a way. Of course, our son extracted from us a promise that we parents would never again subject ourselves to needless risk in future. I became aware how many insecure hours my poor darling had suffered until we messaged him back we were safe on rafting. Rafting may be sport for young men and women, but for middle-aged couples like us, this is still an adventure that can quicken our pulse. A one time life experience, unparalleled. A memory to cherish for the rest of our lives. Couple goal. Bucket list. Etc., etc!

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: River Runner

True life story the River Runner is a breathtaking account of kayaking escapades of one of world’s best kayaker from the US Scott Lindgren who takes us through the nerve wracking drops and paddles down deepest foaming falls and twisting rapids in some of the longest and most turbulent rivers on planet earth. Just as scaling a mountain peak is like a tribute to physical fitness and endurance capacity in humans, so is kayaking which is even riskier than white water rafting. As Lindgren puts it, white water rafting may feel like driving a sedan whereas kayaking may feel like steering a racing car. Designer! You need an extraordinary mental strength and physical capacity to train as a kayaker.

White water rafting as such is risky game. So imagine what kayaking must be like. You have to feel the supreme confidence in you, and you have to be fit one hundred percent and there can be no room even for a fraction of misgivings whatsoever. Your mind races along with the turn of the river and jump over the rapid so you have to make quickfire decisions that can make or break you (or kill you). Team morale plays an overriding role and any weak link in the chain could dishearten the entire kayaking group. Emotional detachment crucial to kayakers who need to shut themselves out of a doubtful world. Insulation from any kind of vulnerability is textbook prescription. Scott seems to fit the bill exactly being young and brash, with his no-nonsense attitude, unwavering attention to details and superb physical fitness. He comes along as the aloof detached kayak leader. His life dream is to paddle the ‘big four’ flowing from the Himalaya in the Tibet: The Karnali (Nepal), The Sutlej (India), The Tsang Po (China) and The Indus (Pakistan). The four rivers are said to go around Mount Kailash and exit via Lord Shiva’s locks, as legends have it. The four rivers are also most sacred to Hindu-Buddhists as is the entire Himalayan range including Mount Kailash.

Scott takes us through this incredible journey across the Asian rivers, diving into deep gorges and taking on the rivers head on. It is lifetime passion of his as he tames the swirls over rapids and makes it to the plains so as his team members. In the process, he loses a couple of friends crushing the team spirit. There are one or two who quit as casualty rises while there are other aspirers who plough on.

Curiously Scott also turns into producer of his kayaking expeditions, the first of its kind to be filmed in the world. The rivers frothing and seething down the Himalayas make for an unbelievable aerial view eliciting lots of interest in the US. Unimaginable camera angles following the brave and bold kayakers in gurgling waters as they meander their way over bedrocks putting their lives hook, line and sinker into the very rivers they are cruising. What a footage! Someone familiar with kayaking following and shooting the daredevil kayakers makes for informative and authentic stories that win Scott accolades. Scott and friends navigate the first three rivers but damming of Sutlej does come as a disappointment to them. The fourth one the mighty Indus is out of bounds for the rafters as Pakistan remains closed to tourists.

Scott’s team now take on African rivers from the White Nile in Uganda infested with crocodiles and hippos. It is at this point that Scott realizes that he has become the weak link in the team as he loses his confidence. He says, what he hoped would be a three month break turned out to be a eight year long leave from kayaking and the outside world. He is diagnosed with tumour for which he goes under the knife. That is when he meets his girlfriend. Along with a young crew he hits off with in Idaho, Scott dreams of completing his mission of conquering the big four of the kayaking world. River Sindhu (as we Hindus in India know it) aka Indus is calling… Scott’s girlfriend sadly breaks up with him unable to deal with the pressure. But a determined Scott makes his way to Pakistan undeterred by the news of his tumour growing. He is all focused and in extremely good shape.

Sindhu/Indus omg what a river! Frothing right from the very origin, gushing through the creeks and valleys, the crevices and the gorges, jumping back to back sheer rapids and steep wall drops in falls, swirling and twirling at high speed over smoothened bedrocks, throttling at full volume, polishing the granite river banks in smooth rich tones, caving and tucking here, awesome fiery and overwhelming there … I felt such a sense of loss looking at Sindhu Mata, who gave India our name. Our Hindu river from Shiva’s locks. Unattainable today for us Hindus. I don’t think I have seen anything like this of Sindhu before this picture. Probably this is because, the footage has been shot by veteran kayakers who knew their job. They knew where to focus on and what to expect and when. The kayakers before taking to Sindhu reconnoiter the banks and go upstream/downstream on test paddling to get a grip on the river and its force. They do their bit of homework before they decide to take the plunge. I felt a disappointment when they leveled it out because I knew the picture was drawing to a close! Out of the world cinematography!

Kudos to the kayakers who are such an inspiration for generations to come. What is not risky business from boarding a plane to driving a sedan in highway. In the present Covid times, we don’t even know when or how we will meet our maker! Since 2020, world has seen a lot of us taken by surprise or perhaps shock. There is such an air of uncertainty everywhere that it feels good to see something like this. Scott Lindgren deserves a pat on his back for not only proving to himself a point but also showing us how nothing is beyond our limits. All it takes is the willpower and dexterity to go after what you want. The dedication and commitment combined with singlemindedness is the formula for success. No dilution of standards. High level of preparedness and meticulous research and planning and timing of it all.

Sindhu seems to have shaved Scott’s tumour as we come to know by the last reel. Hopefully Scott will have a long and happy life. Here is wishing him many more kayaking expeditions through rocky rivers wild and waiting to be tamed! Human spirit always triumphs!