Hamaam – Improvisation of Turkish Bath in Kashmir to beat the Chill

Come 21st December, and the harsh winters of Kashmir get started. With snow at every nook and corner, Kashmir do looks beautiful. But the life of locals gets really tough especially with regards to warming the houses. They have found some unique methods to keep themselves warm. There’s Kangri that they use. It’s a basket with an earthen pot inside carrying burning coal/wood. It keeps an individual warm. But they also have ways to keep the rooms warm especially those which have been constructed of concrete.

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Kangri

With each passing day, we move forward leaving the old behind. Newer ways of life have affected even the architecture of our houses; many old architecture practices suited to weather have given way to newer fancy architectures. But somehow in Kashmir, age old hamaam seem to have made its entry in households, more because of the scarcity of electricity during winters. In a place like Kashmir, where round the clock electricity is a distant dream, this is reason enough to make Hamaam popular. The common man of the old times could only enjoy the benefits of the community Hamaams, and till recently only in the mosques, it was a unique aspect of the Kashmiri mosque-going culture. People, most of them poor, would wait outside mosque bathrooms at dawn since this was the only place that offered affordable hot-water baths. It still is where community members gather to discuss politics and local mohalla issues. Continue reading

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Nostalgic journey down Shimla lanes!

Shimla always evokes a special feeling. Though, Shimla town itself was not where we lived, but all our activities were connected to this British era winter capital. On my last visit to this town, popularly called as Queen of Hills, I decided to take a nostalgic journey to all the points, mainly food joints, which were our favourite ones. Shimla now has all the new joints like Sol, CCD, but the old ones they are still busy ones. We all old “Shimlaites” still swear by those shops. They used to be affordable, fitting perfectly our pockets.

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When I was a toddler my Baba used to take me to Indian Coffee House whenever we would visit the town. While others would sit on those old chairs, I was made to sit on the table. And then Baba would let me drink coffee with a spoon.

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Mehar Chand sweet shop, popularly called as Mehru’s in Lower Bazaar. This is one of the oldest sweet shops in India, established in 1902. This was our favourite spot to have chhole bhature and Jalebi with lassi. Continue reading

A Kullad of Chai Please!!

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A cup of tea makes everything better but a kullad of chai makes everything the best.

tea stall chai TeeKullad Chai is what keeps you going in this cold, helps you hopping around, doing your chores outdoor and adds to the fun too. Tea in those plastic cups or even the glasses never tastes the same as one in kullad. Chai from a clay cup; that taste and smell of earth, mixed with sweet milky tea, yes that is the taste of India!! And not to mention the gratifying, childlike pleasure that comes with tossing the single-use clay cup and hearing it crack as it hits the ground and break into bits. In Uttar Pradesh, the common fun name for them in many of the station is, Pee-Ke-Phut. Pee Ke meaning drinking the tea and Phut meaning, the sound it makes when broken.

 

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When the leaf falls, you know Maa is coming….

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I was sitting on the banks of Ganga at Belur Math. Far off I could hear the bells and conch. Bringing back many memories of many such evenings spent here. I was just back from Israel posting. A company which followed no human work hours, a boss who knew only to talk about codes, no holidays even to come home and top of it family & friends who felt I was deliberately ignoring them; all this had taken a toll mentally. And in this, for the second time my IPR was stolen by a colleague with blessings from top! There was numbness, memories flashing in slow motion. Boats passing by, crossing the Ganges ferrying people to Dakhineshwar but my thoughts were somewhere else. Continue reading

Art on Varanasi Ghats

Unsanctioned arts on streets have been condemned too many times. But for me they are always piece of art. Something we need to appreciate. I had earlier posted about same in Israel. Israel Graffiti. Now for another place!

The ghats of Varanasi have always been an attraction to visitors. You always find it buzzing with people busy in different activities. The boat rides along the colourful and lively ghats, funeral pyres by the river’s edge, twisting lanes full of people, cows, bicycles and hole-in-the-wall shops selling tea, local sweets, spices and devotional bling, that’s what you see here. And in all this you invariably fail to notice many wall arts on the ghats.

Though many like me might like these arts/paintings but they might get removed from the ghats soon. Varanasi is considered as the heritage city of India. There are many heritage buildings on the ghats. The ghats itself are considered to be part of heritage status of this city. Defacing century’s old stone walls of the ghats along the Ganga by random graffiti, paintings and designs made of harmful chemicals is causing harm to the structures. Removal of these paintings has already been initiated with ASI, BHU and few other organization joining hands. Continue reading

To live like a Flower!

Do you find that people in the world around us have lost the true meaning of what it means to be beautiful? At times advertisements, television, movies and magazines leave us feeling that if we don’t wear a particular piece of clothing, jewelry, make-up or hair style that we are to be listed as unfit to walk about the “in” crowd of people on the Earth. These false views of beauty have people searching in all the wrong places what it means to be beautiful.

Take flowers for instance. They don’t go to the store to buy their colors, and appearance. It comes naturally and they don’t seek to alter how they look, or complain that need a different shade than what they are to do the job they were created to do. Even if some of the petals fall off their stems, they still feel beautifully gifted and sway in happiness. I don’t think in principle even bees are particular about which flower they will visit, because it is what the flower has “inside” (pollen) that attracts the bees. Even as they stand alone in the fields, without the aid of advertisement, television, etc., we enjoy their beauty and the bees and other insects enjoy the benefits also. Continue reading

Life takes a new turn.

As the warm water splashes over his head and face,
washing down all the colours of Holi,
he thinks of his close ones, who has been gone.
Some for many days, some recent.

They are still so close to his heart.

Water cascades down his body washing it clean,
tingling his senses as memories flash before him.

Those smile,
Those voices,
Those words….. Continue reading

Nothing can erase mother-child eternal bond…

Sachimaata-MahaprabhuMorning read something and it left me very disturbed. I got too restless and even long walk did not help me. So I picked up a book by Iskcon on Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s life. There were some nice incidents mentioned as short stories in the book. And suddenly in one page I came across this picture of Mahaprabhu and his mother Sachimata. It’s a picture showing Mahaprabhu meeting Sachimata for the first time after renouncing all worldly ties. He left home and took sanyaas, renouncing everything including his family. Scriptures say moment they came face to face, both embraced each other with tears in their eyes. And they stayed like this for hours while tears flowing down their eyes. Continue reading

Few random thoughts…..

Occasional solitude trip to the wild is something I always love going to. They give me time to contemplate upon and every such journey into my mind help me getting answers, also get more questions. To be alone, to be in solitude does not mean being lonely. It means to give mind the space, to not allow getting influenced or contaminated by ills of society. On leave from office I have been going out on such vacations. Let me share few random thoughts which I have been pondering a lot lately.

Silences in solitude are really not silence. Even if you feel nature is quiet, your mind with different thoughts is always chattering. Silence in normal circumstances doesn’t exist. It’s that moment when everything goes quiet, even your thought process. Continue reading

Let’s stop cribbing and promise to be more responsible.

independence-day-28Today on our Independence Day I have few simple questions to ask myself and also my fellow Indians.

Are we really responsible towards our country? Are we really working towards making it a better place? Or is it that we are spending more time in cribbing rather than doing something to make this place worth living?

Our government or bureaucracy might be unholy, but our own spirit and soul is free and sacred. We all were born free. It is through our attachments and desires that today the state of affairs have reached the point where freedom more means the freedom to be corrupt, freedom to be inhuman, freedom to create food scarcity for a section, freedom to hoard. Continue reading

Even after four months, nothing changes!!!

Last week we celebrated the festival of Navratri. It’s a festival where we all worship and invoke the Shakti, Goddess Durga, the universal mother. This worship of the supreme power as Mother and considering her to be the embodiment of “Shakti”, the manifestation of divine energy is something unique. If we go through our Puranas, we find that women in Hinduism have been considered to be manifestation of this divine mother and given a very dignified position. Continue reading

The Crossroads

“You seldom sit at a crossroads and know it’s a crossroads…” by Alex Raffe. It’s very true. You usually only see them in the rear view mirror.

But there do come a point in life when you know you are at a crossroad. You have no clear clues which path to take. Today I feel like being in such a place, sitting, contemplating, which path would take me to that gate. The answers are not apparent. It’s a point in life now where all my basic necessities are taken care of, but, something is missing and that’s making me restless. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Didi.

Sometime back we had our dear Amby on hot seat here. Today I have another special person – Didi (Minnie Gupta) on the hot seat on her very special day, her Birthday. She runs a blog of her own – The Lady 8 Home and today she’ll tell us about her secrets behind her success. (Hopefully) (P:S: The interview is just a fiction not real)

Me: So we start with the interview Mam.

D: Well, a BIG No. Mam sounds so alien; moreover I am not your school teacher.

Me: Then maybe I can call you Minnie ji? Continue reading

How is this a sign of weakness???

Just now I am sitting here at the Western wall or as it’s called wailing wall in Jerusalem. I had that one slip of paper to write wish and give the Gods. And today I had something very important message to pass the Gods so am here.

It feels surreal here at night. You can see hardly anyone around. I am going to spend the night here, there’s lot to talk to ones living in the walls here and then morning my friend would pick me up to leave for Tel Aviv. Sitting alone at one end of the wall, too many thoughts run through my mind. I end up feeling so overwhelmed that I started crying. Continue reading

Nirbal se ladaai balwaan ki.

Today morning I heard this song, posted by a music lover in a music group. (Posted at the end of the article). Its after ages that I heard this song. I had almost like forgotten its existence itself. I was listening and suddenly the lyrics of the song jolted me. I could relate myself so much to the song and my thought went back to last few years.

The general gist of the song is very simple but has a deep meaning. Its telling a story about a Lamp and Storm. The night was dark and everything around was in darkness. And this small lamp decided to light up and eliminate this darkness. Somewhere else a storm was also getting ready to destroy everything. It was far greater in strength than the small Lamp. It attacked the lamp but the Lamp decided to stand and face it, fight it out. Everything around this Lamp, all its near and dear ones left him alone. It was under deep sadness. And a time came when it decides to give up, but then got help and was again back to its do or die spirit. It again starts fighting with the storm. The storm tried its best, the lamp also got tired, but it never stopped flashing. The storm tried its best to attack the lamp but could never make the lamp submit. And finally it left the Lamp alone to glow. Continue reading