For The Love of Shillong (Travel Documentary) : Located in undulating pine covered hills, the city has a milder climate than tropical India. The capital city of the sate of Meghlaya, India is home to several waterfalls. It is also known as the Scotland of the East. The British legacy is still visible in the architecture and food habits of the population. The Assam style houses with slanting roofs, large number of windows and wooden floors look like a piece of art (and happen to be a very good idea, considering Shillong lies in an area where rains and earthquakes are very common).
I was in Bangalore for my book promotion event recently. It was my first tour to the city. I had lots of speculation about “The Garden City” . But as they say, it takes only few seconds to change your perception.
One evening I was taking a stroll with my friend in the plush Indiranagar area. I saw a well dressed young man lying on the pavement. I asked my guide friend to ask for help for this man. My good friend informed me that the man in consideration was probably a drunkard who is out after few shots. It was a common sight in Bangalore he said. I agreed with him. But still few questions knocked my neurons.
What if that wasn’t the case? What if the man really needed medical assistance? More I thought more I doubted the Bangaloreans for their meanness. Sooner my perception changed when I came to know of these incidents.
A Father’s Story
In Bangalore, one of my events was with Dignity Foundation, an NGO for the elderly. I invited one of my friend’s father for the event. Nisha and I happen to be classmate in Shillong. We spent good two years together till Nisha’s father was transferred to another city. For all these years we managed to keep our friendship going strong exchanging letters and emails.
Few months back she had called me up and talked at length about her aging parents. They were miserable handling their mentally challenged twin sons. Her twin brothers were now thirty years old and still needed constant supervision and care which her parents were in no position to provide much due to their old age. Yet they had no alternative. In our country, there is hardly any scope for such special people to lead an independent life and even if there was one Nisha and her family had no knowledge of it. My friend desperately wanted help but she lived miles apart in another country. Her family back in Bangalore was straining both mentally and financially with each new day.
I felt it was a great opportunity for the old man to interact with the staff and members of the Dignity Foundation. Sometimes just spending time with a stranger of same age helps you to open up. I told Nisha about it and she persuaded her father to meet me. At last the old man agreed.
Prior to my event I went to meet Sandhya, Head- Bengaluru Chapter, Dignity Foundation. An energetic lady with all smiles and welcoming eyes, Sandhya informed me that Nisha’s father had already spoken to her. I told her about the issues which was bothering the old man and she promised to help.
I met uncle the next day in the event. He was no more what I had always visualized him as, in my memory all these years. His receding hairline and dark circles under the eyes made it difficult for me to recognize him yet his smile never faded his lips. It was one big moment to meet someone after such a long time. I met Ajay, Nisha’s elder twin brother, for the first time. A smart young chap, still holding his father’s hand as the duo entered Sandhya’s office. I was happy to know that Vijay, the other twin, had got a job and hence could not come. I introduced uncle to Sandhya and left them to talk. After a short while I took their leave and left.
Few days later I returned home. One morning I got a call from Nisha. She sounded miserable. She informed me that Ajay was missing. The poor chap was so much troubled due to his twin getting a job that he desperately wanted one for himself. According to him, it somehow proved his worth to the family. Whatever he understood in the conversation between Sandhya and his father in the office the other day made him believe that Sandhya would help him get a job. He fled from home one afternoon. His parents were clueless on his whereabouts apart from the fact that he had been chanting to go to Dignity Foundation since last couple of days.
Uncle went to Dignity Foundation to check upon him but they told him that Ajay hadn’t come. Sandhya promised all sort of help to trace the boy. With her help and counseling uncle was little relieved. A missing complaint was lodged with the concerned police station and the elderly helpline was informed about the missing boy. In matter of hours the news flashed all across Bangalore to trace the boy. The next day was worse still as there was no news of the boy. Sandhya kept in touch with the old man all the while. The family looked for him everywhere and so were the other agencies.
Finally at around 1.00a.m I got a mail from Nisha saying that the boy has returned back home safe and sound. Later in the morning next day she called me up. I could not hide my guilt feeling from her as I held myself responsible for this terrible mishap her family went through. But Nisha gave me a different prospective.
She said all those years she had known her father, it was the first time that he actually shared his feeling with her. Being the man of the house he always took care of everything and never banked upon anyone for help. No matter how hard things were for him he would never express it to anyone let alone his family. It was for the first time that her father emoted to her during the crisis. As if it was o.k for him to share his feelings with his daughter. Nisha noticed this change and believed it was because of the counseling by Sandhya. Her father now knew that he could bank upon somebody during the crisis. All thanks to the support from Dignity Foundation the old man was relaxed.
When Ajay left home he was very sure that like his brother, he too would make his parents proud. He knew precisely what he had to do for that. The little conversation he had had with Sandhya that day at Dignity Foundation had raised his hopes even more. For the last couple of weeks he was expecting a call from her regarding his job. He had no doubts that Sandhya would fetch him a job which the other HR had denied. It never crossed his mind that he was not medically fit for any kind of job. All that mattered to him was his twin had a job and he too must have one.
He didn’t think twice that day as he left home without telling anyone. He was confident that he would reach Dignity Foundation, although he had been there only once. He had never traveled alone that far before. But that didn’t stop him. He boarded a wrong bus that landed him in the outskirts of Bangalore. The ticket checker didn’t ask as he showed his bus pass. He got down in the last stop. It was already evening. He sat down on the bench at the bus stop thinking. He was sleepy, hungry and very tired. And on top he had not taken any of his medicines that day that usually counts to around 25 in a day to keep him standing.
Drowsiness overpowered him shortly and he lay down on the bench. In few minutes he was asleep. He had convulsion in his sleep. Unfortunately the people around didn’t bother. Luckily it passed off smoothly. When he finally woke up it was morning and he was damn hungry. He went to eat dosa in the nearby food stall but they denied as he had no money to pay.
He sat down on the footpath and started crying. For the first time he realized that he was lost. He had lost his way home. There wasn’t anybody to help him. His feet and hands went cold with the thought that he could never see his family again. He wept bitterly. For his age, a smart looking properly dressed, other than the messy shirt, thirty years old, weeping bitterly sitting on the footpath was unusual. A passerby took notice of it and asked him.
In between his sobs Ajay told him the story and showed him the medical card that he always carried with him. The god sent angel not only fed him but also helped him board the right bus and instructed the bus conductor about Ajay’s situation. Ajay finally reached home safe and sound.
A Cow’s Story
While in flight from Bangalore one of the news in “Bangalore Mirror” caught my attention. It spoke at length how a pregnant cow was saved by the pedestrians.
It was 8.45pm and the mosque road with a cemetery on the other side wore a deserted look. Apart from the people returning after their evening prayers in the mosque there wasn’t much crowd. It so happened that a highly pregnant cow, while crossing the road, was hit upon by a speeding car that left her severely wounded and bleeding on the roadside. The passersby took notice of the wounded cow and called the police. Meanwhile a veterinary surgeon, Dr. Abbas, happened to pass by to attend an ailing pet in the neighborhood. Seeing the crowd he stopped and got down from his vehicle to see the injured animal.
His initial investigation revealed that the animal needed first aid immediately. The wound was deeper than expected and the animal had lost lots of blood. Dr. Abbas, being a surgeon himself in a govt hospital for the last 8 to 10 years, swung into action. He knew that he would need assistance. He called up one of his friends, Dr. Vijay Kumar who arrived on the spot immediately. With the help of the local onlookers and three B.D.S students the doctors operated upon the injured animal. The doctor was not carrying his medical kit, the B.D.S students brought the necessary surgical instruments for him to operate. With no street lights the onlookers helped the doctors conduct the surgery with light from their mobile phones. Someone brought a piece of cloth from the cemetery to tie the wounded animal. It took around three hours of team effort to accomplish the work. The wound was stitched and the injured animal put in the rescue van carefully.
Meanwhile one of the onlookers who happened to be there at the time of the accident had nabbed the culprit and handed him over to the police. The accused was sorry for his deed and took the responsibility of all medical expenses for the injured cow. The story touched my heart. I salute the spirit of these unselfish people whose efforts saved the animal’s life.
In fact my presumption changed and now I believe Bangaloreans are very compassionate and passionate.
In fact when it comes to the term passionate, I cannot forget to mention Atta Galatta . I had my book promotion event there. A peppy book cafe at Koramangala, Bangalore that carters to the need of an experience of book through story telling, dance, workshop and much more. The courtesy goes to Lakshmi Sankar and Subodh Sankar. Together they have grown their little cafe to be the most sought after book reading platform in Bangalore. If you are a book lover then it is a must visit place for you where you can enjoy your read over a cup of awesome filter coffee. And don’t forget to browse through their endless collection of books from all genre.
Today I want to share my feelings after reading a blog here. It was photo album of a tourist who had recently visited India. His blog title caught my attention (wrongly captioned) and his uploaded pictures annoyed me. So here I am to share few things to remember while visiting India.
India is captioned as a mysterious country for generations. Of course land of snake charmers, cow worshipers, naked sadhus from the Himalayas, self proclaimed babas, land of gods and what not. Even when you are reading this your neurons must be showing a different image at the back of your mind. Sure you are surprised that I could read your thoughts. Lols.
Leave them behind. India has traveled much beyond that. We are not just a land of poverty stricken illiterate people who come begging at every crossing or love to paint the walls just anywhere pissing or make pavements our home or spit on road or throw garbage as if it was made for this purpose or relief ourselves just about anywhere without worrying about hygiene. Yes India is nasty if you read this but then we are the second most populated country in the world after China and area wise much smaller. So the density is bound to be more. However we are surely not proud of this statistics and we are taking the necessary measures. We have come a long way from being the most documented street children series or chaos and crowd in our local trains and buses.
I rather wish that you visit India by learning more about its culture and people who under all the circumstances have succeeded in preserving their values. We are the country that still believes in miracles of god and look for all opportunity to worship him. Therefore every time we greet someone we fold our hands and touch our heart to say “Namste”(Namah: Aste – Sanskrit term). We still love to celebrate every occasion with color and lights to show the positivity and energy we believe in. To face the struggle of the day each morning we draw strength by touching our elder’s feet. The monument of love – Taj Mahal is a living example of how far a man can go for his love in India. And the same is with the women folk here. Amid all the strife in life she would celebrate “Karvachauth or Savitri Brath ” for her husband. It is just in India that a female deity is worshiped and some tribes in North East India have matrilineal society.
Few years back news hit the headlines that an Indian couple residing in Norway had lost the custody of their two toddlers because they fed the children with their own hands rather than using a spoon and slept them in the same bed which the couple shared rather than slept them independently. Well this was shocking as in India we eat our meals with our own hands and feed the children the same way. Our affection does not allow us to let a young child sleep independently in other room. By practicing this we make a lifelong bond with our child and the role reverses as we grow old. At the peak of our age it is our children who play the role of our parents and care for us rather than leave us independently. Such is the beauty of our relationship and values.
And without understanding these values and customs if you visit India all you will capture in your lens is begging street children, poverty, chaos, maddening crowd and everything that we are ashamed of ourselves. But if you really open your heart while you see India it will be different experience.
We believe “Atithi Devo Bhavo ” means (guest is god). So we greet you like god and give our best to make your stay pleasant. Yes I know you did face problem with one of us but that does not mean India as a whole is bad. While you are ready to share your woes on your blog then why not also share what really touched your heart during your India trip.
Nestled in the Dhaludhar Mountain ranges of The Himalayas, Mcleodganj is home to the Buddhist spiritual leader H.M Dalai Lama. This small town situated in Dhamashala,Himachal Pradesh in India is the spiritual destination for practicing Buddhism. Monasteries, stupas and the monks make most of the town. This small town is also home to Tibetan refugees who for generations have succeeded in conserving their culture and tradition. Amazingly Mcleodganj is also known as “Little Lahsa ” for its Tibetan ambiance.
Mcleodganj is unlike any other Himalayan retreat in the country. The restaurants, cafes, lounges, shopping centers are more westernized than Indian. However, there are fewer Kashmiri stores too. North Indian food is also served in some of the restaurants here. Mcleodganj gets most of the Indian tourists from North Indian states like Punjab, Delhi, Himalchal Pradesh and others. Because of H.M Dalai Lama it has established itself in the world map too with tourists from all over the world visiting here throughout the year. Most of these international tourists reside here for longer duration. Practicing Buddhism, yoga, meditation, learning or just enjoying the spectacular view of the Mountains and the Kangra Valley. You can learn more from Mcleodganj sightseeing.
The main town of Mcleodganj has lots of hotels and guests houses for the tourists accommodation. The nearby restaurants and market place makes the main town a hip hop place. It is advisable to make hotel bookings in advance here to avoid any problems. Naddi, Banshu and Dharmkot villages also have numerous hotels and guests houses which are cheaper compared to the main town. However these locations are few kilometers away from the main Mcleodganj and mostly preferred by those loving peaceful atmosphere to hustle and bustle of the crowd. Dharmkot needs special mention here as this place is dedicated to meditation centers and monasteries. A brief idea can be sought from Mcleodganj hotel search.
Reaching Mcleodganj is very easy with good connectivity by air, road and train. Nearest airport is Gaggal Airport in Dharmshala which carters to domestic airlines. Nearest railway station is Kangra from Pathankot. From Delhi, Himachal Roadways Volvo bus services operate overnight journey to Mcleodganj everyday. Volvo tickets can be purchased from ISBT Kashmere Gate (HRTC) and Himachal Bhavan, Chandralok Building, C.P.