Archive for November, 2009
I was at this rally today organised in Mysore as a remembrance of 26/11, The day that India will remember for a long time to come. As I write this post If I look back the same time a year back, I remember partying in Pune looking at some scantly clad women without being aware that the world is being shattered for so many at that very moment.
I spent the next 10 days in Vipassana without any communication with the rest of the world. And when I got to Bambay soon after. Everything seemed normal except near the Taj. I wanted to take the Walking Tour in Bombay and the lady running it wasn’t sure if it’ll happen because of the obvious reason. I wondered why cant life still carry on like before? Anyways she finally did the tour for me, which started from the Gateway of India and I could still feel the tension in the air with the whole area still cordoned off. For the records the walk was an absolute disappointment.
I went to the Leopolds Cafe later, I had always wanted to go to that place.. I was sitting by myself sipping beer and all I could see was bullet marks all over the place, from the walls, pillars, ceiling to the table cloth. Nothing seemed to have escaped the fury of that night. They had preserved it all as some kind of memorabilia, which I failed to understand why. I was sitting in a corner and when I turned to the Wall right next to me, I saw a deep bullet mark piercing the mirror. It shook me a bit because who ever was sitting there that unfortunate night would sure have not survived.
I am glad I went to Leopolds and dint avoid (as I had been advised, again for obvious reasons) it because I happened to meet Gregory David Roberts,the Author of the most gripping book I have read so far, Shantaram. The very reason I was at the Leos was because a lot of what is described in the book takes place at Leos. I was thrilled to meet Gregory and get his scribblings on my book. I am glad he too dint avoid this place because of “security reasons”.
I was in Kashmir this July on a biking trip more about it here. I was in Leh when my good friend and Author of Splendours of Royal Mysore, Vikram Sampath called. He asked “Vinay, Is Mysore safe now?” I said “Why?” He said “A friend of mine wants to go there for a musical concert and after the recent communal clashes and deaths due to police firing, I was wondering if it was all fine now” I told him “Well.. I am in Kashmir now and this definitely feels normal !! ”
It is human be paranoid. We are living in the age of fear and we avoid going to a lot of places. doing a lot of things for the exact same reason. And by doing so we are actually helping these terrorists achieve their goal. That is to drive fear into our minds. Dont you think the most fitting reply to these rouges is to live as if we are not affected. Every place is affected by terrorism. Weren’t there blasts in London, New York , Madrid, Bali? Yet we Indians avoid Kashmir like plague. Which I think is the most beautiful place on earth that I have been to and where people with their kindness and helpful nature show you what humanity means. When we Indians regard as Kashmir unsafe I don’t blame the foreigner for his/her attitude towards India.
I am not writing this post claiming that I wear my undies outside my pants and that I am Sooperman !! I am just another individual like so many other who wants to lead his life normally so that terrorists know that their objective will never be fulfilled by creating fear and if we all as a nation do it together, It’ll be loud and clear.
As for the question, Is Mysore Safe ? I think its safe as any another city in the world or probably as unsafe. Ain’t it the same
As I write this post The Uncommon Man is in our city Mysore, The City where he grew up. And I had the opportunity of meeting this creative personality.India’s greatest Cartoonist, Mr RK Laxman. I have always wanted to meet him but more so off late because I’ve been harbouring this thought of starting a Walk on Malgudi Days in Mysore. With help from Mr Vattam and Mr GVK I was able to locate Mr Laxman in Mysore. I called introducing myself and Mrs Kamala Laxman was extremely kind to give me an appointment, She is the author of Children’s Books having authored more than 15 books, her book “Tenali Raman” was serialised by Doordarshan.
As I entered their Hotel room and took a seat I found Mr Laxman in conversation with an elderly man or should I rather say listening to an elderly man as he was doing most of the talking. Then I realized they were childhood buddies and also played cricket together. The elderly man turned to Mrs Laxman and said “Your husband was a great bowler” And she innocently replied “I suppose So” The elderly man kept asking Mr Laxman if he remembered this person or that from their childhood days but I could just see Mr Laxman silently nod in disapproval. Then finally the elderly man asked if Mr Laxman knew who he was talking to for which Mr Laxman very innocently said “No” The elderly man then asked, how can you forget all this , for which Mr Laxman pointed to his head and looked up in despair indicating his old age. I couldn’t help but notice the innocence on Mr Laxman’s face so much like his creation The Common Man. His outstanding ability to just observe and it put in on paper I guess is what makes him stand out.
They talked very fondly of Kunjappa who I then realised was RK Narayan and the other brothers whom they fondly called Srini, Pattabhi etc. I couldnt help but recollect from Mr Laxman’s Auto Bio The Tunnel of Time where he recollects that when he went to the Maharaja’s College, Mysore to study and the last bencher he was he sat on the same bench as his brothers and saw all this 5 brother’s initials craved out on the bench like RKN, RKP, RKS and he says he would go on to complete the genealogy by marking RKL on the same bench. In 2002 when Mr Laxman was at a function at the Maharaja’s College, He and his good friend Mr Satyan the great Photojournalist would go on to search for that particular bench but without luck. As the elderly man was leaving he asked Mr Laxman ”So where do we meet next ” for which Mr Laxman pointing to the sky said “We will meet there again, after death”.
There were also some women who joined in and had embroidered Mr Laxman’s works on a piece of cloth and got him to autograph on them and took some pics together. They wanted to send these pics to The Laxmans, and asked for their email id, for which Mrs Laxman replied “we do have a computer at home but we are far away from that world.We dont have mail ids” So the women decided to get their residential address so that they could post the pics. Mrs Kamala Laxman went on with the address in detail saying, Flat number so and so.. cross.. main.. park area etc etc Pune, for which Mr Laxman sitting next to her remarked “Is so much required ? ” Mrs Laxman admitted “Oh yes, once someone sent a post just mentioning Mr RK Laxman, Pune and it actually reached us but I dont want to take a chance here” Mr Laxman said “We have been there for so long and it helps” Watching all this being told not with air of arrogance but with pure innocence made me realize how they are what they are today for not letting success into your head.
As the other guests left I had a few old photographs of Mysore for Mr Laxman which seemed to get his attention and he talked a bit about how he loved skteching in the Deveraja Market and how he and his cricket team Rough,Tough and Jolly played cricket in the Middle School Grounds. It was time for dinner and I dint want to keep the couple waiting. I got his book Laxman Rekhas autographed. As i left I said “I have grown up reading your cartoons and thanks Sir for making our lives so colorful ” He wished me Good luck. The simplicity of Mr RK Laxman and the sweetness of Mrs Kamala Laxman was profound.
As I was getting back home, I couldnt help but notice that it was Childrens Day today and what better way to celebrate than by meeting the man whose sketches always grabbed your attention as kid when the news dint make sense and even as an adult when the sketches made more sense. From the child in me “Thank you Mr Laxman for your Laxman Rekhas. You are a Genius !!! “
TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) was in Mysore. Its debut in India and it was being held in the sprawling Infosys Campus in Mysore. You had the attendees from all over the world descending in Mysore and I happened to lead one of the groups to the NGO tour in Saragur,
Saragur is about 70 kms and from Mysore towards the forests in Kabini. It was a group of around 25, for most of them it was their first time in India, And driving by the Indian country side definitely throws up a lot of interesting sights. Shared a few Mysore stories, Be the Tipu’s connection with NASA or the Spy Princess Noor Inayat Khan’s roots in the city but what ends up being your favorite sight would be the numerous cows on Indian roods. Why the holy cow is so revered in this country and the multifarious uses of its products. One can probably spend all day understanding the Cow and still not be done with it.
The NGO that we were visiting was Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM). Started in 1984 by a group of Doctors from Mysore Medical College, who after being inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s teaching went on to move to the tribal area in this region to serve them. It highly inspiring how they have been successful in transforming the community there. Over the 25 years of SVYM’s existence they have set up specialty hospital there and also schools for tribal children. As they put it “Good health is just the entry point into the Society, Then education was required and later self sustenance ” Something which they have wonderfully demonstrated by also setting up community driven initiatives for self sustenance.
The doctors took the teams around on a guided tour first of the Hospital built mostly with money from donations. They explained how small changes had been made to suit the local conditions. Once done with the hospital we were nexttaken to what I call “The Toilet showroom”. It was place where they had different basic models of the Indian style of lavatory so that they could demostrate to the tribals the inportance of sanitation and hygene. Since most infection are caused by the lack of it. Since most of the local still defecate in the open, the focus was on getting these people to use these lavatories at home . There was also a board having the split up of costs to set up a lavatory, like raw materials, labor etc. If the person could supply any of this on his own then the cost of it was struck down. It was a classic example of how to get an idea working and also how well the doctors learnt from their experiences and kept evolving.
Later visited the school, where kids seemed really happy being there. Use of computers was stressed with the school have a full fledge computer lab with internet connection which was very impressive. We also did a tour for their organic farm, It was to see how small changes farming practice can make so much of difference. There were fresh oranges, sweet strawberries all waiting to be tasted. The smell of freshness that one gets in the middle of a farm can be intoxicating.
It was great to see doctors from a premier medical college in India who could have made millions in any corner of the world but chose to made a difference to people. Great show to their hard work, dedication and service. Recognized by numerous awards. Like TED says, It was definitely a tour of Ideas worth spreading !!
The person who has single handedly made twitter popular in India , Mr Shashi Tharoor A tweetup in Bangalore on the 4th of Nov was a great way of meeting this person up close. And if you have been tracking his columns, reading his books and following him on twitter you would even travel from Mysore like how I did to be a part of the action. Thats the Tharoor power over the younger generation.
Once at the venue Mr Tharoor took off seamlessly over how he joined politics and what got him to twitter. Mr Tharoor’s unassuming self, his amazing sense of humor with his brilliant timing at it and his positive attitude would grab anybody attention. I found him appealing because he was normal, more for the sense in what he spoke rather than how he spoke and more of the Aam Aadmi around him rather than security guards. so unlike our other netas, here was a leader I could connect to. A refreshing difference in our political class.
Mr Thaoor got to fielding questions varying from Politics and Cricket to Social Causes, It was great watching him at ease and how well he tackled the question around his twitter controversy. Sample some of these..
Audience : You should suggest that twitter should make manditory for all minister ?
ST: “I’m not the right person for the job”
Audience : How do you manage to stay so positive in spite of being in the Indian Political arena?
ST: “If you want to make things better you have to believe that things can get better and stay positive”
Audience : How would you want the younger generation in India to change
ST: “I’m not the sort of person who would want to change people”
Audience : Describe yourself in 140 chars ?
ST: “Lets not even get there”
Now with the time for Questions over and he was getting ready to leave to Mysore for the TED Conference, I asked the minister “Can i hitch a ride back with you to Mysore ?” And genetly came the reply with smile “Sorry, Its a official car..so I wont be allowed” So there I missed my ride to Mysore with the Mr Tharoor. But what a tweetup it had been. And I managed to get his book The Elephant, The Tiger and The Cellphone (Which i bought the day I quit my job to start Royal Mysore Walks .. and have been using much of its stories to keep my guests entertained on India Autographed, another reason I was at the tweetup.
It was a great effort by dhempe, tinucherian and santoshp to bring together the tweetup. A lovely choice of venue at TERI, Domlur. It left me thinkning, we need more minister like Mr Tharoor because being normal is a rarity these days !!