Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Places I Visited so far in my life





A website is taking opinion poll across the world to decide on
Seven wonders of of the world. I became curious to check if how many of these nomnated sites, I have been to. To my surprise, I am still far from seeing all that in the list. Italy and Petra are still eluding me .

Austria Vienna
Bahrain Bahrain
Belgium Brussels
China Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing
Combodia Phenm- Penh, Siem Prep
Cyprus Limmasol
France Paris, Nice
Egypt Cairo, Alexandria
France Paris Nice
Germany Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Frieberg, Lubeck
Greece Athens
Iran Tehran
India Mumbai, Pune, Nasik, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Sangli, Miraj Kolhapur,Alibag, Khandala, Lonavala, Goa, Chennnai, Pondicherry, Cochin, Kolkatta, Rourkela, Puri, Bhuvaneshwar, Hyderabad, Tirupati, Bangalore, Mysore, Uti, Hubli, Belgaum, Jabalpur, Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Bhilai, Durg, Raipur, Jamshedpur, Mount Abu, Baroda, Surat, Ahmedabad, Nadiad, Gandhi Nagar, Jaipur, Agra, Lucknow, New Delhi, Udaipur, Shimla, Manali, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Gangtok, Darjeeling,
Japan Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Odate, Nara, Yokohama,
Jordan Amman, Dead Sea
Kuwait Kuwait
Lebanon Beirut, Saidah,
Malaysia Kuala Lampur, Penang
Monaco Monaco city
Myanmar Yangoon
Kenya Nairobi, Mombasa, Masai Mara
Netherlands Amsterdam
Oman Muscat, Sohar, Nizwa, Salalah
Syria Damascus
Saudi Arabia Riyadh, Damam
South Africa Johannesburg, Cape Town
Sudan Khartoum,Gezira
Singapore Singapore
Switzerland Zurich, Kruezlingen
Thailand Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayuthaya
Turkey Istanbul
UAE Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujirah, Ajman, Ras El Khaimah, Al Ain
USA New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Buffalo, Lafayette, New Orleans, Phoenix, Houston, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Akron,
U.K London, Glasgow, Edinburgh
Vietnam Ho Chi Minh
Uganda Kampala, Entebbe
Yemen Saana

Few more places that I want to see before i close my eyes are Rome, Florence, Coral Reefs, Rio De Janiro, Naigara Lake, Jerusalem, Srinagar, Antartica, Ladakh, Bhutan, Tanjaore, Kanyakumari and Tibet and I am sure the list will go on to add more as I live longer. How greedy traveler I am !!

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

But Why Mommy ?

When I grew up, I was never given a choice or permission to ask Why. The word ‘why’ was considered as an act of impudence, challenge to the authority. This practise continued from home, school and slowly it has imbued in my system to accept whatever has been told by elders and teachers to be the absolute fact and the truth. Now the world has changed, George Bush policy of advocating democraracy and freedom of speech may or may not reach Arab world, but it is seeping through young generation of Indians and they have started asking ‘ But why mommy’ without any inhibition. I am sure today's parents and teachers must be grappling with answers that can satiate childrens curiosity of ‘why’.

Indians living out of India, carried the essence of Indian spirit, culture and tradition and ensure that this has transcended through generations. http://hindumommy.wordpress.com/ is one such blog that neatly compiles answers to many ‘why’ for some of questions pertaining to Hindu rituals. Here are some neat ones :

Why do we ring the bell in a temple?

Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell?

The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness. Even while doing the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace.

Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)?

We cannot draw a circle without a center point. The Lord is the center, source and essence of our lives. Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of pradakshina.

Also every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center. This means that wherever or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality.

Why is pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner?

The reason is not, as a person said, to avoid a traffic jam! As we do pradakshina,the Lord is always on our right. In India the right side symbolizes auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide - the “right hand”.
Indian scriptures enjoin - matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava.
May you consider your parents and teachers as you would the Lord. With this in mind we also do pradakshina around our parents and divine personages.

After the completion of traditional worship (pooja), we customarily do pradakshina around ourselves. In this way we recognize and remember the supreme divinity within us, which alone is idolized in the form of the Lord that we worship outside.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Johannesburg : Ugly side of HIV and Gun culture

I never thought that the subjects of higher learning would be taught so early in the life. I remember my 7th standard science class – when students eagerly awaited the last chapter of the book that had ‘reproductive organs’. Lady teacher, despite doing this exercise year after year gingerly escaped her predicament by leaving that chapter almost till the end, only to go through it cursory manner. For me, that chapter was the most well read chapter in that year and yet I always wondered why Kidney’s – bean shaped organs - are located at the back when mine are between the legs. I mistook testicles for Kidney!!!

So with the advent of HIV in South Africa, imparting sex education at early age didn’t surprise me. But what jolted me was they do at pre –primary level. Are south Africans sexually active at the age of 4 – 5 yrs? When I realized that this was to protect innocent cherubs from sexual abuse, it made sense. With incidents of Nithari and others in India, uncovering sordid and ugly face of child abuse, it makes sense to do so at early age.

This and few other incidents gave me a deeper insight to South African’s way of life. Driving through Alexandra township- slum by J’burg standard but fairly organized from Mumbai standard. I could see the economic progress from tin supported, plastic sheet covered huts becoming brick mounted houses – only because young hands of the family contributing – by right or wrong means- to the exchequer of family support. I was amused to see shops owned by Indians, Pakistanis and Bangla-deshis selling all types of china made trinkets.

It’s not uncommon to have a woman who come for interview claiming that she is unmarried but have a child from relationship. Some do look like school going kids despite them being in their 30’s. My colleague mentioned that these women are most likely being suffering from AIDS. Sandton commercial district in J’burg and Rosebank in Pretoria is far cry from Alexandria Township. They are two different worlds juxtaposed to ecahother by birth of destiny. Mumbai too faces the similar economic differences but mercifully both sides of Mumbaikar are insulated from threat, insecurity to their life either by Gun or HIV. HIV is lurching at every corner of the South Africa lifestyle. This combined with the gun culture is the only threat South Africa faces in becoming America on African continent.

We haven’t set up our office, in fact – we haven’t even signed the lease agreement but office had break in attempt. 440 voltage barbed wire, 24 hour security at the gate didn’t prevent robbers to smash windows and enter the office. Seeing nothing much to gain, they climbed to the first floor and stole computer servers before alarm system beaconed armed guards. All such robbery attempts happen in flash of minutes, and in those minutes – if anyone happens to be at the scene – he is clinging to his life at the mercy of robber’s finger on the trigger. Most South African drivers when at robot (they call these for traffic lights) are alert with foot on accelerator peddle, not because of his eagerness to see signal turn green but for any pedestrian who could be seen as approaching or passing by his car. One shouldn’t keep mobile on dashboard or have purse at the back side of the car. It’s a sure invitation for changing windows of your car. I am sure car mfrs in South Africa must be working in making cheaper bullet proof car windows.

This one week stay in J’burg brought back lot of such memories despite visiting expensive private hospitals in Pretoria , sipping castle beer at finest restaurants in Sandton and Rosebank and interacting with highly educated , cultured and well mannered working men and woman .

I was happy of seeing Nelson Mandela’s house in Houghton. Security guard at the gate and cameras around his house didn’t go with the simplicity of this great man but after hearing that even this house wasn’t spared for break-in made me tacitly acknowledge the daring skills of South Africa robbers. It’s still a joke that South Africa police station is guarded by online armed support of private security agencies but it may not be far away from making this joke into a reality.
This is not a review on the city of Johannesberg which is one of the best city I have visited in terms of superb weather, expansive landscapes, excellent motorways, great people, fine dining places and sporty culture. This is just one aspect of this city that is ugly blot to this fine city. I must write about beautiful facets of this city to portray more balanced approach of this great city.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Laghu Rudra Pooja

Today, my mother is doing Laghu Rudra Pooja. Ignorant as I am with significance of Hindu philosophy and its rituals, I decided to read about this and stumbled upon the website of http://www.celextel.org/ . Here is excerpt from this site

Introduction

Vedas are believed to be birth less and the term originates from the word “vid” meaning knowledge. Initially, the Vedas were not written down and the composers simply taught them to their disciples along with pronunciation. This was necessary because the language in which it was composed relied upon compound words, which, if pronounced or split differently gave rise to different meanings.

Among the oldest books ever composed by Man are the Vedas-the sacred books of Hindus. The word Hindu is the modern term coined by those from foreign land, to denote the followers of Vedas, who preferred to term themselves as those following Sanathana Dharma (literally the birth less and deathless perennial thought process).

The great Veda Vyasa is supposed to have edited this storehouse of inherited knowledge, which was composed by very many rishis in various poetic styles and in prose. He divided it in to four books viz., Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Each Veda is further sub divided in to Samhithas and Brahmanas. The appendices to Brahmanas are Aranyakas and the appendices to Aranyakas are Upanishads. Each of these has several sookthas (loosely translated verses but many of them were written in prose). The Yajur Veda was rewritten once more and there are two Yajur Vedas - Krishna Yajur Veda and Shukla Yajur Veda. Samhitaas are mainly poems written about various Gods, Brahmanas are mainly information about fire sacrifices with stories interspersed. There are about one hundred thousand verses in the four Vedas.

Rig Veda mentions Vishnu and Rudra. The Sri Rudram occurs in Krishna Yajur Veda in the Samhitha . This mellifluous prayer to Rudra has two parts-the Namakam (verses ending with Nama) and the Chamakam (Verses ending with Cha May). While Namakam is a prayer to Rudra to forget about his avenging fierce, fearful and horrendous form and turn himself into a peaceful form and do good to us, Chamakam on the other hand lists out the blessings to be got from a prayer to Rudra and prays Him to regulate and bless our life for a moment forgetting his anger.

“There are Several meanings to the word Rudra.
He destroys the sorrows of the world i.e. (Rudra).
In the form of Speech, brings out the importance of the meaning of words i.e. (Rudra).
In the name of OM, he makes one to realize him.
In the form truth he enters humans.
He is granter of praana (life).
He is even capable of driving away hat Shakti (energy).”*

There are also several stories about the birth of Rudra. Some of them are given below.

1.Brahma created first four rishis called Sanandha, Sanaka, Sanathana and Sanal Kumara with a view to initiate the activities of creation. But all the four preferred to be ascetics and never bothered to reproduce. Then Brahma got so angry that the anger was sufficient to burn all the three worlds. This anger escaped from his eyebrows and took the form of Rudra. Rudra’s form was half woman and half man. Brahma commanded him to divide and disappeared. Rudra divided himself into Rudra the male part as well as Rudhrani the female part. This male part further got divided in to eleven parts. They were Ajan, Ekaath, Ahirbudhnyan, Twashta, Rudra, Hara, Sambhu, Tryambaka, Aparajitha, Easana and Tribhuvana. The female aspect was called Rudrani and she also divided herself into eleven parts and became consort to the eleven Rudras.

2.From Brahma’s anger was born the Rudra, from his lap Narada, from his right Thumb Daksha, from his mind the Sanaka and from his left thumb one daughter called Veeraani.

3.When Brahma was deep in prayer requesting for a son similar to him, a baby deep blue in colour came on to his lap. That son started crying and Brahma told him not to cry-“Maa Ruda”The child wanted a name. Since he was crying (rudha) , he was called Rudra. The child cried another seven times asking for names and another seven Rudras were formed.

“Foremost among the mantras contained in Rudram is the Panchakshari Mantra;
“Om namah Shivaya” possibly the manthra most often chanted by Shaivites,

The great mrutyunjaya mantra;
“Tryambakam yajamahe
Sugandhim pushtivardhanam
Urvarurkamiva bhandhanam
Mrityor mukshiya ma -mrtat.”

We salute and respect,
Him who is naturally scented,
Him who looks after his devotees with mercy,
And him who has three eyes.
And pray and request,
To move us away from the catch of death,
Like the cucumber separated from its stalk,
And firmly put us in the path of salvation.


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