I live in a part of Mumbai (Dadar) which is nothing but concrete jungle. Hence, the mere sight of a mountain or any sort of nature makes me happy. So much so, that even a visit to the nearby hill station, Lonavala gets me excited. Therefore, one can only imagine my feeling when I landed in the picturesque Himalayan region of Dalhousie.
‘Delightful’ is the word. Well, you can add ‘healer’ too. The place delights and heals you, both at the same time. Delights with its amazing view of mountains and valleys. This coupled with the weather heals you externally and internally; the latter is more important for people from urban areas caught in a fast city life.
Have a look at the pictures:
People running the Dalhousie Public School have installed plants on both sides of the roads and that too with such beautiful, colourful stands. The bigger achievement is that there are no miscreants to damage it. This is one thing that comes to the mind of someone from Mumbai, where even a dust bin isn't safe!
Dainkund is a place with beautiful mountains, situation around 13 kilometers from Dalhousie. It has an army cantonment and a Kali Mata Temple, for which one requires to climb 1 kilometers up on a hill.
This steep road leads to Punchpula waterfall, which is close to Dalhousie. The route up the hill is dangerous. Precautionary measures are advised. After climbing up, I felt as if I achieved something. However, the real challenge was going down these huge steps. By the way, the waterfall was just a little stream.
Khajjiar is around an hour's drive away from Dalhousie. The place is known as Mini Switzerland. Going by the scenic beauty of it, the title looks justified. However, a couple of friends who visited the place few months ago witnessed much more greenery than what it was when we visited.
Caught this sight while we were on our way from Amritsar to Dalhousie.
Our vehicle stopped to fill petrol at this place just outside Dalhousie while we were on our way to Macleodganj. The sight instantly brought to my mind the first verse from 'Yun Hi Chala Chal' song from Swades - Dekhun jidhar bhi in rahon mein, Rang pighalte hai nigahon mein, Thandi hawa hai thandi chhaavn hai, Door woh jaane kiska gaon hai...
- By: Keyur Seta
By: Keyur Seta
For a Mumbai resident, visiting Lonavala is no big deal as the hill station is close by. But I had never visited the place in monsoon, although I have heard plenty of times about the magic the place creates during that time of the year. It's just that it never happened, until a couple of days ago when our office took us to that place for a picnic.
As soon as we even reached the outskirts of Lonavala, I was amazed by the scenic beauty of the place which went few notches higher due to the monsoons. Thankfully it was raining throughout our stay of two days. Despite visiting the place quite a few times in my life, it appeared different this time due to the rains. The scenes of fog on mountain peaks is something I can't stop thinking.
Do see the pictures yourself (Click to enlarge the pictures).
By: Keyur Seta
In a conservative society like ours, questioning rituals has always been a strict no-no, leave alone speaking against them. Like some of us, I too found some rituals quite weird, especially the ones related to Hindu marriages. But I never used to speak against them or question them, until recent years.
One such ritual is Kanyadan, wherein the bride is presented to the groom by the girl’s parents. There are mainly three reasons why I find this practice quite weird as well as insulting to the girl.
There are as follows:-
- The bride is not a commodity or a non-living thing to be ‘presented’ to the groom.
- She is supposed to marry, and subsequently stay with her husband, out of her own will and not because she is being ‘presented’ to someone.
- Most importantly, the meaning of dan is ‘donate’. Donations are done as acts of charities. How can you ‘donate’ a human being to someone through an act of charity?
- You do charity to the poor and needy. Is this how you describe a groom? Poor and needy?
Recently, my views on this issue were reinforced by a learned person.
I never show interest in attending those lethargic marriage rituals for two reasons 1) I find them boring and 2) The patriarchal angle. But I was keenly interested in attending the wedding rituals of my cousin Hardik Naik simply because they were supposed to be carried out in Arya Samaj by the aforementioned priest through Vedic practice.
And the priest’s method of performing rituals more than lived up to my expectations and eagerness. Being from the Arya Samaj tradition, the pandit ji was against patriarchal beliefs and rituals, which was truly heartening. He was especially against the practice of Kanyadan for more or less the same reasons mentioned before.
He was also not those typical marriage priests who simply recite mantras, make the couple perform rituals and leave. He believed in explaining his stand and views.
- “The girl is not a thing to be presented to someone.”
- “If I donate (dan) this glass to someone, I won’t have any right over it. So, do the parents of the girl lose all rights over her after marriage?”
- “In India, women are considered backward as compared to men. But this was never the case during vedic age.”
- He asked the bride and the groom to welcome each other as wife and husband; something I have never heard before.
But despite my clear views on this issue, I used to avoid speaking on it. However, after listening to this practical and sensible person, I won’t.
There is nothing wrong in being traditional, but not at the expense of embracing patriarchy and objectifying women.
By: Keyur Seta
The Republic Day marks the celebration of the Constitution of India. The Constitution grants equal rights to each and every citizen of the country. Ironically, on the very day, when the country was celebrating its constitutional rights, a group of women were not only meted out unconstitutional treatment but were also treated like criminals, when all they wanted was to enter a temple.
Women weren’t allowed anywhere inside the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra until 2011 when a number of rationalists like the Late Narendra Dabholkar made valiant efforts and protests. However, they still haven’t been granted access to the core shrine till today. Only men are allowed to enter the shrine and as women are considered ‘impure’.
Circa January 2016. A group of few hundred women, led by Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, decide to challenge regressive sexist practices by trying to enter the inner sanctorum. What happened was utterly shameful. They were forcefully stopped and, at times, beaten by the police. A large group of women from a so-called Hindu organizations also turned up to stop them. The protestors were not even allowed anywhere near the vicinity of the temple. In fact, they were stopped 70 kilometers away!
The behavior of fringe elements is expected because this is what they are actually. But one doesn't expect our authorities to be on the side of those indulging in unconstitutional and unlawful activities. Mind you, there is no law that prohibits women or any human being from entering any place of worship.
Therefore, although it was quite heartening to see Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis visiting the site, it was disappointing that he only gave assurances and didn’t do anything to open the gates for women. As mentioned above, no law supports this practice. So, where is the issue? Why didn’t he use the police force in protecting the women from the misogynistic bigots who aren’t letting them enter?
But thankfully, these women haven’t given up, which has ensured that the movement is spreading slowly but steadily. Now, groups of women have also started protesting outside Sabarimala Temple and Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah. For those who aren’t aware, women aren’t allowed inside the inner sanctorums at these two places too.
The fact that women have united across religious lines is a strong message to the thekedars of religion. These evil forces should be told that no religious book has ever spoken about stopping women from entering any place of worship and that no God has appointed them as thekedars of any religion. But in case such theories are found in some ‘religious’ books, they should still be discarded. India follows the Constitution, not any regressive ‘religious’ book.
But for the movement to succeed, it is absolutely vital for people across gender, religious and class lines to extend support. This has to become something as big as the 2011 Anna Hazare Movement. However, practically speaking, for a majority of us, including me, it is next to impossible to physically be present at the sites of protest due to our work commitments.
But this is where the power of blogging and social media comes into place. In today’s day and age, governments and authorities have become aware about the voices on the internet. Message them, tag them, email them and use various other options on the internet, but make sure you put across your message. Use the hashtag #RightToPray
The issue is not just limited to these few places of worship. It’s a fight against patriarchy and sexism in the name of religion, which have ruled our society for thousands of years. This is a major opportunity to kick such ideas and kick them hard. Don’t let the movement go wasted. It’s 2016, for God’s sake!
The flag scene in director Raja Krishna Menon and actor Akshay Kumar's Airlift is having a profoundly heartwarming effect on the audience. It is a non-verbal sequence that speaks more than a thousand years. Here is a poem based on the scene on the occasion of India's Republic Day.
Shaktidaai Drishya (title)
By: Keyur Seta
Ummeed na thi manzil paane ki,
Na thi taakat kadam badhane ki,
Namumkin tha shikhar tak pohochna,
Ab toh naseeb ko hi tha kosna,
Khada tha main thaka hua,
Baadhaaon ke saamne hara hua,
Aanthon dishaon se jhele vaar,
Ab tha kewal ant ka intezar,
Par hawa ne ekaek rukh badla,
Shakti ka swar hriday se nikla,
Durbalta ke baadal hue adrishya,
Aisa tha woh shaktidaai drishya,
Kadmo mein nayi jaan aai thi,
Ab toh manzil door nahin thi,
Veerta ki hai woh behti Ganga,
Saadhaaran nahin apna tiranga
In India, the word ‘job’ is generally referred to as ‘service’. But practically speaking, there is a vast difference between the two. Doing a job means carrying the work assigned to you. It doesn’t necessarily include any emotions.
But when we say a person is engaged in a service, it means he is serving someone. The act of serving is born out of compassion and isn’t limited to the material benefit one derives after its completion.
A one bus conductor named Sopan Bhagwan Javane in Mirajgaon, Maharashtra has taken the meaning of ‘serving’ to another level altogether, all by himself.
Working on an MSRTC bus, he takes care of his passengers in a way they could have never imagined from a bus conductor. He indirectly also cheers them up and provides a profound heartwarming feeling. Javane, in all sense, is an unsung hero of India.
Watch him and his special antics in the documentary below titled Ekla Chalo Re, conceived, written and directed by Swapnil Rajshekhar:-
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Publishers: Westland Ltd.
Genre: Theological Thriller
Original Price: Rs. 295 (Reduced rates on Flipkart & Amazon.)
Rating: * * * ½
Review By: Keyur Seta
Even before the halfway stage in The Rozabal Line, you realize that Ashwin Sanghi’s knowledge about various religions, conspiracy theories related to some religions and other global issues is simply outstanding. This coupled with his amazing writing and storytelling skills make The Rozabal Line a roller-coaster theological saga, despite some glaring issues.
The story takes place across continents and time zones. In 2006, Father Vincent Sinclair, an American Priest, starts seeing weird visions after a tragic incident. His aunt Martha helps him decode them through her knowledge of Indian spiritualism and mysticism. Swakilki, a young and beautiful Japanese woman, has been serially killing people across the world. She is following the orders of Alberto Cardinal Valerio, head of Crux Decussata Permuta in Vatican City.
The Lashkar-e-Talatashar, an arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has vowed to create havoc in the world. Ghalib, their leader, and his 12 subordinates have planned something dangerously sinister in the year 2012. Their fate has striking resemblance with Jesus Christ and his 12 Apostles. How these unrelated characters cross paths forms the rest of the story. The book also explores the theory of Jesus’ connection with India.
Like all good thrillers, The Rozabal Line keeps you hooked from the very first page. As the story moves back and forth, from the period of B.C to 2012, it not only increases your excitement but it also gets you in awe of Sanghi’s vision, imagination and knowledge. To narrate your tale in 100 different time zones and various places is a mammoth task for anyone. Plus, Sanghi’s smart mixture of rich and simple language adds to the goodness.
Reincarnation is a major ingredient in the story. But it should be noted how the author has presented that aspect in a practical and mature manner. In fact, after going through the reincarnation process mentioned here, you might laugh at how Bollywood has presented this subject.
But The Rozabal Line is far from being truly superlative. Although the climax provides a spiritually enlightening feeling, you realize that various subplots, characters and incidents were unnecessary. Even the basic aim of the tale appears unclear. There is an overdose of information, which is confusing and difficult to keep track, especially since the focus keeps moving through these many time zones. It makes us feel as if the author wanted to flaunt his terrific knowledge.
Having said this, there are enough reasons to grab The Rozabal Line if you are a lover of thriller novels.
By: Keyur Seta
The deaths and casualties in the Nepal Earthquake are continuing to go high. According to latest reports, the death toll has now surpassed 4000 with many thousands injured. So, naturally, the help needed should be directly proportional to the magnanimity of the tragedy.
The Indian Army and a whole lot of social groups and independent volunteers are selflessly fighting day in and day out to repair the damage and help out those who are injured and stranded. The Government of India too is taking special care to make sure all the help is provided during Nepal’s hour of crisis.
But when the intensity of the crisis is so high, no help is enough. Hence, it becomes our moral responsibility to make whatever little effort to restore the situation in Nepal. If we can’t visit the affected areas personally, we can surely be there in spirit by donating as much amount as we can.
You can make a contribution to Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund in the following ways:-
The headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission at Belur Math in West Bengal are collecting funds for the Nepal Earthquake.
Phone: (91-33-) 2654-1144/1180/5391/8494/9581/9681
Save The Children, an NGO, is providing help to the many children affected by the earthquake.
Phone: (Toll Free) 1.800.728.3843 (8:00am-5:00pm EST, M-F)
Online Donation: Click HERE
International Association for Human Values (IAHV) is also collecting funds for the tragedy.
Online Donation: http://www.iahv.org/in-en/nepal-earthquake-relief/
Friends Service Council Nepal is an organization situated in Kathmandu, Nepal which is working with respect to the tragedy.
Contact Online: http://www.fscnepal.org/contact-us/
Goonj, an Indian NGO, too is working for the rehabilitation of the victims.
Contact online: http://goonj.org/
Phone: 011 – 41611244 & 9810032527
Facebook is also doing its bit in collection fund for the tragedy.
Visit FB’s Nepal tragedy page here - https://www.facebook.com/nepalearthquakesupport
But what about the long run?
But an ideal way to help in the long run will be by making sure such devastating tragedies never take place ever. This might sound outrageous to some but I feel it is futile to blame Mother Nature for this because such tragedies are an outcome of our own greed. We have destroyed forest after forest and many other aspects of nature in the name of development and progress. Towers after towers are created without paying heed to nature.
Any development at the cost of nature or ecology is not development. It is downright destruction or violence. And since every action has a reaction, incidents like Nepal earthquake, Kashmir and Uttarakhand floods and other such incidents keep happening and, unfortunately, will continue so, if we don’t do anything in this regard.
But, you might ask, what can we do? Well, there is plenty we can do to, at least, make sure the condition of our planet isn’t worsened further.
Here are some ideas:
- Plant trees or saplings anywhere and everywhere you can.
- Avoid Firecrackers as they violently pollute the environment at an enormous level. Parents themselves should sensitize their kids about it.
- Minimize the use of cars. If you are young and fit, use as much of public transport as possible. Many of you might label me crazy but there is no other alternative to reduce traffic and pollution or to, at least, make sure it doesn’t increase further. The traffic and pollution has already crossed insane levels. Use carpooling to the maximum. Metro Rail is a major boon in this regard.
- But the above option is possible only if our government and authorities improve the condition and efficiency of our public transport systems. There should be more local trains with more bogies. Some years ago, a very lengthy B.E.S.T bus used to run on Mumbai roads. But they have stopped it for reasons best known to them. Such buses will prove to be a major boost.
- Ban deforestation or cutting trees completely. We have destroyed forests and trees enough. We should follow the policy of not a single tree being allowed to cut down.
- Make laws to minimize creation of new industries. Preserving nature is more important than making new products and inventions.
- Make sure the industrial waste is properly decomposed and not dumped carelessly into the sea or rivers.
- Ban polluting or littering into rivers even at a micro level.
Only resorting to the above and many other options will help in sustaining Mother Nature. If we ignore these measures, we should be ready for more massive earthquakes, floods, etc. The equation is simple – If we destroy nature, we can’t expect nature to bear it lying down. This is Nature’s Law and not the man-made judicial laws, so it can’t be tweaked as per our whims and fancies.
I recently read on Facebook – Nature doesn’t need us. We need nature.