Monday, July 18, 2011

Have a little Faith....

God is one..

I had a doctor once who was an atheist. This doctor like to jab me and my beliefs. He used to schedule my appointments deliberately on Saturdays, so I would have to call the receptionist and explain why, because of my religion that wouldn't work. Anyhow, one day, I read in the paper that his brother had died. So I make a condolence call.

After the way he treated you?. "In this job," the Reb said,"you don't retaliate."

So I go to his house, and he sees me. I can tell he is upset. I tell him I am sorry for his loss. And he says, with an angry face, "I envy you."

Why do you envy me ?

"Because when you lose someone you love, you can curse God. You can tell. You can blame him. You can demand to know why. But I don't believe in God. I'm a doctor. And I couldn't help my brother."

He was near tears. "Who do I blame?" he kept asking me. " There is no God. I can only blame myself."

That , he said , softly,is a terrible self-indictment."

Worse than an unanswered prayer?

"Oh yes. It is far more comforting to think God listens and said no, than to think that nobody's out there."
Forgive me for writing about "Have a little Faith " by Mitch Albom before talking about "City of Djinns" by William Darymple, which I read first. Its just that I am little lazy and writing about City of Djinns would take more effort :)
Mitch Albom, another of my favorite writer whose novels I simply adore, has come up with yet another thought provoking, soul stirring non fiction book which helps you rekindle your belief, hope that something supreme is there who is guiding you forever.
Ok not being spiritual :) I will just touch the main points that he highlighted which makes it another of his must read books.
Mitch, like in Tuesdays with Morrie, is asked by his ailing 82-year old hometown Rabbi(Jew priest) to deliver his eulogy. Eulogy is the speech that you give at ones funeral , talking about his good character, achievements and how he will be missed.
Mitch is stunned when the person whom he describes as the Man next to God, from whom he used to run away at every instance possible. asks him to do his eulogy. Thus starts a series of close meeting , interviews where they discuss about various aspects of lives.
Parallely he threads the story of his current town's Christian pastor , Henry,who had a dark past. The man was a criminal ,drug peddler and had served jail term for man - slaughter which he incidentally din't do. He narrates how Henry was given numerous chances to be a good person and everytime he faltered until the day came when he was about to be killed and he beg God to save and in return offered his life in his service. Thus on being saved , he devoted rest of his life in service of fellow human beings. He helped the homeless stay in a broken church where he preached them, served what little food he could manage, provide them what meagre facilities he could afford to fight the terrible cold of America. But despite all this he never lost hope and always motivated and helped others irrespective of their caste, creed or background.
When people including Mitch had apprehensions about him because of his terrible past , he said these lines which were so beautiful "You knew me , you knew that person I was but you don't know the person I want to become.", which tells us that sometimes we judge people because of their past when we just need to respect them for their present.
With due respect to Christianity and Judaism, I always had an impression that Christianity and Judaism is all about making communities i.e. belonging to a particular church or temple, following customs of a particular group and thats why I am always apprehensive of visiting a church as once a Pastor on seeing me there starting preaching me and dragging me to join their church. So I always thought with this tendency they can be no good. But in this book the Rabbi mentions certain instances when because if these closely knit communities people are provided the much needed financial and more so over moral support when they needed it the most. They were more of an extended family.
They talk about many topics like rituals. Rabbi says that rituals followed from generation to generation is what keeps one connected. Gives one the feeling of belonging to some thing.
He mentions that being happy is all about being contented and the you die a second death when you are forgotten thats why we all want to do something in our life so that people remember us , years after we have died.
When being asked about why marriage or in other words commitment is necessary, he tells that without being on the other side you cannot experience the beautiful things the other side has to offer.
The best part about the Reb (Mitch's name to the Rabbi) was that he din't try to give false logic or unconvincing motivation. When being asked why bad things happen to good people , without trying to unduly convince the other person ,he simply says he doesn't know.
When his daughter died at the age of 4, he like a normal person cursed God and got angry with him.
He talks about how necessary it is to say the things while you have time even if it is saying sorry to someone.
A man buried his wife, he was standing at her gravesite with the Reb. "I loved her", he whispered. "I mean I really loved her". The man broke down. "And I almost told her that once". Nothing haunts like the things we always don't say.
The best part was when he talks about various faiths and how a faith that teaches that its the only faith thats true is the most wrong faith in the whole world.
The following story , I don't remember if it was from this same book or I read somewhere else at the same time while I was reading this book, but this is one story that truly describes how all faith are true and they are complementary to each other.
Once in a city inhabited by all blind people, a news spread that an elephant is going to pass nearby the city the next day. So the people selected three people to go and find out how does he look like. So next day three blind people reached the spot and soon the elephant arrived . The first one touched his ear and found it to be like a big fan, always swinging, the second one touched his leg and found it like pillar , strong and cylindrical. and the last one touched his trunk and found it like a huge pipe. So each of them went back and reported their version of elephant. Each din't believe others version and were quite adamant that the description they gave was the correct one. Thats true of each religion. Each one of them are true in what they say but neither expect that what they have seen is just a part of it nor they are open to accept what the other person is saying.
Although this book talks of faith and Judaism and Christianity in particular but in no way it is making a statement rather like Mitch's previous work this one too makes you think , makes you question the things happening in your life and help you find answer to those.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


This last weekend we did something we never did before (Also continuing with my trysts with the photgraphy weekends ). Me and my parents went to Meerut on a day trip for some personal work and on finding Haridwar only 135 Km far from there, we decided to go there for weekend. And apart from our car, wallets and my beloved camera, we din't have anything else with us.  But still we went there and decided we will buy everything including toothbrush over there.

Luckily I carried my camera with me , although I din't carry the charger so I had to use it judiciously, but still it was quite a memorable trip.
Nevertheless...Before proceeding to share the pictures and some stories let me first share the significance of Haridwar.

River Ganga at Haridwar

Haridwar or Hardwar is city in Uttarakhand state of India. Its one of the most religious place in India and is the first city in plains where river Ganga or Ganges touches on its descent from its birth place of Gangotri, till it travels the breadth of India and enters the Bay of Bengal.
It is around 205 Kms from New Delhi and there are numerous trains that connect it with the Capital of India. Apart from that there are many bus services that ply too but honestly the roads are quite narrow for the last 80 odd Kms.
Haridwar and Hardwar, both name has different significance. Hari means Vishnu and Dwar means gate, so Haridwar stands for Gateway to Lord Vishnu and thus also considered to be the point from where one starts the ascent to Badrinath, one of the Char Dhams,which has a temple of Lord Vishnu. Similarly Har means Shiva, so Hardwar stands for the Gateway of Lord Shiva, as similar to Badrinath, the ascent to Kedarnath, one of the Chota Char Dhams which contains a temple of Lord Shiva ,also starts from this place.

River Ganga

Haridwar is one of the four places in India where according to Hindu Mythology , the drops of Amrit or Immortal Nectar were dropped while being transferred by celestial bird Garuda , who is also the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. The other three places are Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain.

Bathing Ghat on the bank of River Ganga @ Haridwar

So at one of these four places Khumb Mela is celebrated after every three years thus after every 12 years at Haridwar. According to Hindu beliefs, taking a bath in river Ganges , relieves you of all the sins that you have done. Thus almost every day you can find people visiting here to take bath in the holy Ganges. At the time of Khumb , millions of people come to Haridwar to have a bath in Ganges and that spectacle is one of the biggest cultural festival celebrated anywhere in this world.

We reached Haridwar by evening and most of the evening was spent sitting at river bank followed by shopping for one day's stay.

Next day when we got up it was raining, so we had to wait for a while in the hotel room and then we proceeded to one of the Bathing ghats near the hotel. After bath ,we had breakfast at one of the Bengali restaurant. Apart from the holiness , another thing that attracts my parents to this place is the herd of Bengali restaurants which serve authetic Bengali cuisine at quite a nominal price.

After breakfast, since it had stopped raining, the weather was remarkably pleasant. So we three started walking on the river bank and it provided me with ample opportunities to click.
Kids asking to be clicked
While my folks found a tea shop on the bank and sat there , I started exploring the area , all the time clicking. So while I was busy clicking around, two beggar kids , most probably brother and sister approached me. Initially I thought they were just like numerous other beggars, who were pestering me for alms, but they just asked me to take one pic, to which I very happily obliged.
Mansa Devi at the hill top.

Apart from holy river Ganges, Haridwar also has two temples situated on the surrounding hilltops, one on the west side named Mansa Devi and other on the east side named Chandi Devi. Both are accessed through ropeways and apart from the holy temples they provide a bird's eye view of Haridwar city and river Ganga. Since I have been there many times we decided to give it a skip.
Wandering Sadhu

The place where the Amrit drops fell is called Har ki Pauri and every evening a wonderful Aarti is conducted on bank of river. More than thousands reach that place in the evening so we had to start quite early so that we can get good place to sit and watch the Aarti. Since the aarti was on the top of my list of moments to click, I was saving my camera battery for the same throughout the day.
Har Ki Pauri

At Har Ki Pauri apart from many other temples , of course there is the temple of Goddess Ganga.

Silver Palki of Goddess Ganga

The above silver palki was gifted by a businessman from Mumbai who was childless for years and soon after praying at Haridwar he was blessed by child.

One of the best things is the numerous Diya surrounded by flowers , which are floated by various devotees as an offering to Goddess Ganga.

Har Ki Pauri

While we were waiting for 2 hours for Aarti to start, it started raining and since we din't have any arrangements to counter the rain , we had enjoy getting drenched :). The rain pouring on the ghat provided a beautiful picture. I clicked some rainbows to but they are not worth sharing :(.

On the right side of the temple there was a crowd of people who were taking bath and the way they were enjoying, it looked more like Goa than a Holy place of worship .

Then came the moment which I wanted to click i.e. the Aarti but may be because of my camera's focal capability I couldn't get a better close up of the Aartis. But I liked what I clicked.

After having bath on Sunday Morning, we started on the trip back to our home.

The return trip was quite frustrating as first the car broke down and we had to wait 4 hours for it to be repaired , then a truck backed into our car with us almost getting hurt badly but luckily nothing happened and then we had a tyre puncture.

Despite of everything the trip was one of the best I ever had and more so because of the numerous photos that I could click. Although most of them were OK but still I enjoyed clicking them and hope some day when I will be better photographer I will revisit Hardwar and click some good pictures :)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Birdwatching Saturday....

Sun in my fist..

Out of all the ways that I have planned my weekends , I never ever thought I will spend it like this. This Saturday for close to 4 hours from late afternoon to late evening, was spent watching birds from the balcony of my flat.

Although it also involved futile efforts to capture them on camera but at the end of it I could only manage some handful images.

The plot in front of my flat is empty and recent rains has created an artificial pond in it. So one fine morning I got up and started clicking it. Soon I went to get ready for office but then my dad called me saying look at the beautiful white birds that have come to that pond . Unfortunately I couldn't come as I was taking bath but yes I noticed there were many . So ever since I thought I will shoot them (with camera :) ) someday, hoping that the pond will remain for at least few weeks as monsoons have arrived but to our hard luck it has not rained yet here after that one heavy downpour.

So yesterday since it started getting little cloudy I sat at the balcony with cameras intact but neither it rained nor I could capture any. And it even became hotter at times with sun blazing in full glory.

But one thing I noticed which may or may not be because of that pond, my locality has variety of birds. I could spot birds of different size and color. In fact I did spot a white stoke like bird which even flew in front of my balcony and I did click my Analog SLR when it flew past but I will know the results only when I will develop the roll.

It was so much fun to see them glide, take of , perch and flutter their wings so rapidly while landing.
It was so difficult to click them when they glide or fly past you as they are so fast. I really need to learn how to do that as it really looks quite beautiful.

Sharing the few I could click. Incidentally these are of the birds who came and sat on my balcony rather the one which flew past which I intended to click.

The first up is crow which perched on the tree in front of my house. It sat there so lazily that it made me wish I was crow :) . He even noticed that I was clicking him but with full attitude he lazily ignored.

This Sparrow came and sat on my balcony. According to facts about sparrows, Male sparrows have reddish back and black bib while female sparrows have brown back with eye stripes. So since it had brown back so it must be female.

Next came a Mynah which had a leave caught in her beaks. Common Myna or Mynah is an insect eating bird which was introduced into Australia, New Zealand etc from its native place India for controlling the pests which were destroying the crops over there.

As the evening set, the sun became less bright and hence a beautiful subject for photography.
As it was little cloudy so the sun was playing hide n seek and thus presented various different situations for capturing.

The topmost pick "Sun in my fist" was a silhouette , i.e. a picture where the bright background darkens the subject in front.

When the sun went behind the clouds , the rays presented a beautiful background illuminations for the clouds.

One interesting thing about capturing sun which I experimented with is that you have to underexpose the picture otherwise the sun is so bright that all you will get is big bright patch of yellow and the circular outline of sun will never be captured. 

Another interesting thing that happened this Saturday was after a long time I slept at 10:30 in the night. Ever since college , Saturday always used to be staying up till late night and dozing off only when you felt like sleeping but this Saturday I just felt sleepy while reading and just fell asleep.