Apr 30, 2013

Z is for zzzzzz

Caught this little monk sleeping standing up at one of the monasteries in Ladakh. He remained in this position for about 10 minutes after which he woke up to his head nodding off !

He saw me observing him keenly with my camera in hand and he ran off sheepishly :P 

Apr 29, 2013

Y is for Yacht !

I took this snap while sitting on the banks of the Toronto Bay. There were many boats passing by. A few of them were sail boats like the one above, but most of them were speedboats. 

The speedboats were sleek and fast, rushing by with a roar as their owners raced them over the waters. I am sure there is some sort of adrenaline rush and thrill in riding a sped boat, but somehow I preferred these slow and sedate Yachts to them.

I felt very serene and peaceful looking at them ... I believe that they were trying to tell me that life is all about slowing down and savouring every mile of the journey instead of speeding through it !

Apr 27, 2013

X is for that Xtra Mile !

Going the Xtra mile means going a little beyond what you are used to. Moving out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself to do more than you think you are capable of and doing it with a positive attitude. In my opinion, Excellence comes only when you are willing to go the extra mile. 

Going the extra mile helps not only in our work but also in the way we lead our lives and in our attitude towards others.

The A to Z challenge has taught me a lot about going the Xtra mile.I knew I had a hectic schedule in April, I knew I would be travelling but inspite of that I threw myself headlong into the challenge. 
And yet, everyday I pushed myself to write, and I found that I wrote not because I had to but because I truly wanted to!

I think there is one person who gets all the credit for making this challenge the fun filled journey that it has been ! 

First, she motivated all of us to be a part of this challenge and then she went ahead and made a FB page for it so that none of us feel as if we are writing in isolation. Being a part of a group really helped. We all felt a sense of camaraderie and discovered a wonderful support system. The FB page became our haven, we gathered there to brainstorm and share ideas, to laugh and encourage each other with gentle words or with a kick on the butt as required!

Bad internet connection or not she made sure the alphabet of the day thread was pinned early every morning so that we could link our posts to it. She even linked our posts herself when we were travelling or otherwise occupied. Then she quietly went a step ahead and shared and tweeted our posts so that they get a wider audience.

Not only that, in her own gentle manner, she has been pushing, prodding, cajoling each one of us into writing every day, motivating us when ill health or too much work make us falter.

This challenge would not have been the same without the cheer and sunshine she brought to it. And the best part is that no one asked her to do all this. She has been doing it because she wanted to, because she cared and because she is such a wonderful soul!

She in the true sense has been going the Xtra mile!

So on behalf of all the A2Zders I would like to raise a toast to Corinne Rodrigues.

Here is to you Corinne, Thank you for making this month so special for all of us !

Apr 26, 2013

W is for waterfalls !

I saw the Niagra falls from the Canada side. They look even more spectacular from there because you can see the  complete horse shoe formation.

You can also see the Maid of the Mist boat in the above picture. The Maid of the Mist takes you almost till the falls and it is an experience never to be forgotten.

I took the following picture from the boat. The roar of the falls was almost deafening and we were completely drenched with water. 

it did feel that we were in the presence of something much more powerful and immense than us ! 

The view from the top !

By the way, do any of you know what Nirjharini - The name of my blog means :P

Apr 25, 2013

V is for Veiled Views !

The Himalayas hidden beneath the clouds - as seen from the plane before landing at Leh  !

Yes we fought hard for a window seat :P 

Apr 24, 2013

U is for University Days !

I spent five years in Jawaharlal Lal Nehru University or JNU as it is called, doing my graduation and post-graduation in a foreign language. JNU enriched my love for languages and linguistics and I am one of those rare breeds who actually enjoyed my academic years! They were five wonderful years – The best years of my life.

JNU is a green and peaceful heaven amongst the chaos of Delhi. It’s a sprawling campus, only one fourth of it is given to buildings, the rest is all rocks and forest. We once decided to Trek inside JNU and we walked the whole day from morning till night but still couldn't cover the entire forest.

I still remember the occasional nilgai and the deer we would see from our class room windows and the peacocks that invariably came out during the monsoons and danced for our benefit. On sunny winter mornings we would persuade our teachers to take our class out in the lawn and we would study the intricacies of the language and soak up the winter sun at the same time.

Architecturally, JNU is very beautifully built. The aesthetic red -brick academic buildings and the hostels that randomly dot the campus add a charm to the greenery around.
The JNU library has the best collection of books I have seen till date and off course is equally well known because of the ghost that lives there!

But it’s not only beautiful buildings that give a place its character. What I loved the most about JNU was whole intellectual and cultural ambiance of the place. It was JNU that introduced me to the“ Jhola culture” and I took to it like a fish takes to water. The ethnic khadi kurtas over jeans, the juttis or kolhapuri chappals, the embroidered cloth bags from janpath– these form a trademark of those five years I have spent there and frankly my dress sense still has a lot of JNU in it ! It was at JNU that I first learnt the true meaning of “adda – baazi”. The socio-political debates and discussions that took place in its various cafes or on the lawns that could stretch for hours and hours. I enjoyed every bit of them! I loved the street plays you could simply sit on the grass to watch, and I loved the posters that are an ever present part of JNU walls – so much so that it is said that it is the posters that keep the walls up! JNU is like a huge watering hole for all intellectuals and wanna be intellectuals who congregate there to discuss anything from the starving millions in Africa to the role of Marxism in West Bengal.

Eating at any college cafeteria tends to be fun but imagine eating perched on rocks outside the café while looking out on a sprawling maze of green with the huge Parathasarthy rocks looming ahead. Imagine having Chai – Pakoras sitting on the steps of the school of languages as you watch the rain fall gently over the beautiful campus.
You will find eating joints serving everything from thupkas to chilli chicken to paranthas in JNU – and all of it will be finger licking good! And there is no JNU-ite worth his salt who hasn't had Francis’s mango shake and proclaimed it to be the best in the world!

JNU also meant cut throat competition, frantic cramming before exams, desperate last minute hunt for notes for the optional political science classes we never bothered to attend. It meant Language labs, viva and interpretation classes that admittedly made us into the language experts we are today but something we hated passionately then. 
JNU meant going to the ganga dhabha for a simple cup of chai and then getting entangled in a debate and spending the whole evening discussing politics. JNU meant day scholars stealing into hostels and spending the night there, of hitching rides because we could never be bothered to wait for the bus. 

JNU was those carefree sunlit days of fun and laughter and of friendships forged for life !

Du-ites might spent a life time praising their colleges to high heaven but I tell you, there is nothing like JNU !

Apr 23, 2013

T is for Translation !

Since childhood I've had two passions, Languages and Creative Writing. I love learning languages, love to understand their mysterious intricacies and how to use them. I have been learning languages since childhood and it was my love for them that made me do my masters in Japanese.

Like almost all language professionals do, I started off by doing translations. When I started learning the language, I had visions of myself wearing ethnic clothes from Fab India, doing literary translations and discussing Japanese art and literature over coffee. But then I found myself in the IT Industry, a non techie sticking out like a sore thumb amongst all those technically savvy people.

The only thing that has come true is that I wear ethnic clothes. Instead of doing literary translations I translated technical specifications and instead of discussing literature over coffee I now spend my time with the so called techie nerds who think Yasunari Kawabata is not worth knowing because he didn't write an idiots guide to Java programming !

But inspite of spending years doing technical translations and then later handling Japanese clients and projects, my Love for literary translations still remains. Technical translations are not easy, to do a good job you need a thorough knowledge of the subject matter along with the language, but then a technical or business translation lacks the charm a literary translation has!

A lot of people think translation is simply replacing the words in the sentence with a similar word from the other language. Translation is not as easy as that! That is how a machine translates and a machine translation in my opinion lacks soul !

The art of translation, especially translating literature is a difficult one. You need to take care of both the lingual and cultural nuances in such a way that the reader feels he is reading the original and not a translation.

I love the challenge of finding the exact words that would convey not the dictionary meaning but the real essence and spirit behind what the writer wants to say. To be able to translate well you need to have not only a flair for words but also a creative bent of mind.

I love translation for I do believe that it is a great art. I love to translate simply for the love of the language, because I love to dabble with words, to play with them and use their magic the way I want!

Apr 22, 2013

S is for Solitude – The journey within

Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul
- Marcus Aurelius

A colleague recently took off on a solitary vacation to the hills. He says he really enjoyed being by himself. But what most people found intriguing was that he went all alone. How can you go alone and still have fun? was the question he faced from almost everybody at work.

That got me thinking. Why do most people equate solitude with loneliness? Although solitude means to be alone it does not necessarily mean to be lonely. 

Solitude is simply some quality time that we spend away from other people and the distractions in our life to be alone with ourselves and our thoughts. I think solitude is very important, especially in today’s stressful times. It helps to quieten the mind, refreshes and rejuvenates us.

Solitude could be in the form of a holiday taken alone, a solitary walk, or simply sitting quietly and spending a few minutes with oneself. The “Alone –Time” can be used to connect with oneself, for introspection, reflection or to simply enjoy a good book, music or nature.

 A lot of people prefer to think and work in solitude as they feel that it increases productivity and efficiency.

I really cherish and enjoy my solitude. I carve out some quiet time for myself everyday. I go for my morning walks alone as mornings are when my mind is the most relaxed and peaceful. It gives me a wonderful opportunity to think and contemplate undisturbed. Even during a busy work day I try to snatch a few minutes to be by myself. I find that it calms my mind and bring a clarity of thought.

My holidays are usually to serene and scenic places, preferably the mountains. Even when I travel with friends or family I take out some time to enjoy nature alone. I honestly believe that good creative work needs solitude, so does true appreciation of nature.

Somebody who enjoys solitude may not necessarily be a loner. I may enjoy my moments of solitude but then I also go out and seek company. But solitude is essential to maintain our inner peace and tranquility. It is as essential for our soul as food is for our bodies.

How about you – Do you enjoy Solitude ? and How do you spend your Alone-Time?

(Note - Some of you might have read this post before. I have cheated a bit today ! I had written this post about two years back and decided to use it for "S"since I am down with flu and my brain is as clogged as my nose - And I am unable to pen down the thoughts for the topic I had originally thought to write for "S")

Apr 20, 2013

R is for Reflection !

Leaving you with two of my Favorite quotes today. One from one of the greatest Philosophers of our time and another from an animation character!

Your mind is like water, when it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see, but if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.

                                                      Master oogway in Kung Fu Panda

The still waters of a lake reflect the beauty around it. When the mind is
still, the  beauty of the Self is seen reflected in it."                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                       B.K.S Iyengar 

Pangon Lake - Ladakh 

Apr 19, 2013

Q is for Qawwali !

My initial impressions of a Qawwali was of gaudily dressed people sitting across each other, clapping their hands and singing love songs aka hindi movie style. 

Then I was introduced to Sufism and the actual concept of Qawwali as devotional music.

Qawwali especially in India and Pakistan is the most widely known type of Sufi Music. Amir Khusrow, an eminent scholar, musician and follower of Sufism  is regarded the father of Qawwali in the Indian Subcontinent.

My best experiences of Qawwali have been at the Nizammuddin Dargah and Ajmer Sharif. They are the final resting places of two of the greatest Sufi Saints India has ever seen; Hazarat Nizamuddin Auliya and Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. 

Both these places have an extremely high spiritual aura and listening to a Qawwali in these ethereal surroundings is an experience one can not forget easily.

Qawwali at Nizammudin Dargah 
When you hear a Sufi Qawwali for the first time you will get an impression that they are all love songs. They are love songs but the love in not directed towards an earthly person but towards the divine !

Qawwalis are songs of devotion and love towards God and speak of a soul’s longing for a union with the divine. For a mystic soul, a good Qawwali will have the same influence as a Hymn or a bhajan. Then it becomes a form of prayer, a way to lose yourself in the divine.

Some of the most famous Qawwali singers of our time and my favorite are the Wadali Brothers, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abeeda Parveen.

I leave you with a few of my favorite Qawwalis.

Chaap Tilak sab cheeni By Abeeda Parveen:

Maula Mere Maula and khwaja mere Khwaja sung by A. R Rahman 

Apr 18, 2013

P is for Pangong Lake !

Lets go back to Ladakh today, to Pangong lake, that is more famously known as the lake where the movie three idiots was shot. 
The lake is mesmerizing and its beauty simply takes your breath away. I really have no words to describe it. So I will just leave you with a few pictures.
Frankly I don't think they do justice to the beauty of the lake but I have tried ! 

 The Lake is supposed to change color almost every hour depending on how the rays of the sun fall on it. 
Can you see the different shades of Blue and green in these pics ! 

I also loved the play of shadow and reflections caused by the sun.

A single cloud in an untarnished bright blue sky ! 

I liked the way the sun lit up these mountains ! 

Pangong Lake is huge, only 25% of it is in India and the rest is in China. 
we walked along the lake for over 2 hours, mostly in silence, lost for words and totally in awe of the incomparable beauty around us. 

Pangong is a remote area.The only way to communicate with the outside world is through a satellite phone at the army camp nearby. Not many people want to spend the night there, But we did and it turned out to be one unforgettable night!

We were far far away from humanity and we could almost hear the silence.
At night the stars seemed so bright and so close to us that we felt we could almost touch them.

In the morning we were rewarded with one of the most glorious sunrises I have ever seen ! 

Apr 17, 2013

O is for Orchha !

And today, from the mountain passes of Ladakh, I take you to Orchha - In the heartland of India !

Orchha is a small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It was established by the Bundela king Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh in 1501.

Orchha is near the better known Khajuraho and most people end up bypassing it on their way there. But luckily, thanks to the insistence of a friend we didn't. She suggested we stop over at Orchha and stay the Sheesh Mahal – A palace that has now been converted into a hotel. And what an excellent decision that turned out to be !

The Palace is on top of a hill, surrounded by an almost forest like area. The ambiance was beautiful and incredibly peaceful.

Our hotel rooms were in the actual Palace and although it was not as grand as the palaces in Rajasthan, we did feel like royalty. 

We had a whole floor to ourselves. With a courtyard, a sitting area and a beautifully furnished room ! 

This is actually the view we had from our .. err .. loo :P

The best thing about staying at Sheesh Mahal was that we were actually staying in the vicinity of all the palaces. So to visit them, all we had to do was come down from our room !

We visited the Jehangir Mahal that was built to commemorate the Mughal emperor Jhenagir's visit to Orchha. It is stunning with its intricately carved network of columns, lattice windows and hanging balconies.

Orchha is also famous for the Chaturbhuj Temple, dedicated to lord Vishnu.It was built over a period of 20 years in the late 16th century. 

But the one thing Orchha is most famous for is its magnificent Chattris or Cenotaphs. There are about fifteen cenotaphs of the Bundela rulers and members of their family on the bank of the Betwa river. 

The best time to visit the Chatris is at Sunrise or sunset. The rays of the sun falling on the stone structures make them look really beautiful.

We went there a little before sunset.

After visiting the Chatris, we walked down to the River. Most of the tourists had left by then and we had the place to ourselves. We sat on the bank and watchedthe sun set over the Betwa River.

Apr 16, 2013

N is for Nubra Valley !

During my Ladakh trip, I was really excited about seeing the Nubra Valley. It is a high altitude cold Dessert and was once a part of the ancient Silk route.
Nubra valley was undoubtedly beautiful, but what I had not accounted for was the sheer climatic and geographical diversity that I would see there.

To reach Nubra Valley from Leh, One has to cross Khardung La - The highest Motorable road in the world. 

When we left Leh, the snow was still far away.

Then the snow came closer 

And closer. Till the road was like a black snake slithering  through masses of snow.

And then our car was bumping over snow ... 

With so much snow around us Siachen didn't seem too far away ! 

Finally we were at Khardung La ! 

The snow was there knee deep ... 

And then we left Khardungla behind 

 As we drove downwards towards the Nubra Valley, the snow that we had played in only an hour back, started receding again ... 

And within a matter of 2 hours we were driving through sheer stone and barren land. 

At Khardungla we were wearing every piece of woolen clothing we possessed and were still freezing. Now as we neared Nubra, the temperature rose steadily and were stripped off all our woolens till were just in our jeans and thin T shirts. 

When we saw the Nubra Valley, we were in for another surprise! It was an oasis of Greenery in an otherwise dry and barren land. 
The valley is fed by the Shyok river and that is the reason why it is so green.

We wanted to see the sand dunes the valley is famous for, and for that we had to drive till the Hundur village. 

Driving over this long flat road surrounded by mountain ranges was an amazing experience.  

Sand Dunes at the Nubra Valley ! 

Nubra valley is also famous for the two humped Bactrian camels – One of the two places in the world where these camels are found.

I have never ever seen such Climatic and Geographical diversity in my life.We had driven down from the highest motorable road in the world and in a matter of 3 Hours we had actually reached a place with camels and sand dunes - All behind a back drop of snow clad mountains. 

It was Incredible !


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