Namma Bengaluru – the Red Garden.

kgtower-1-4If you visit Lalbagh on a winter evening, and you come across a tall, well-built, ruggedly handsome man laden with photographic gear, assiduously clicking pictures, that ruggedly handsome man would be Yours Truly.

Although it has deteriorated over the years, due to encroachment, poor management and unrelenting abuse by the visiting public, Lalbagh remains my go-to place for photography, birds, fresh air and a good walk.

lalbagh-1-26So named because of its red roses that bloom through the year, Lalbagh Botanical Garden was first established about 250 years ago by Hyder Ali and completed by his son Tipu Sultan in 1760. After Tipu’s death in 1799, the British took over the garden. Lalbagh’s centerpiece, the Glass House was built by the British, on the lines of the Crystal Palace in London. The original Crystal Palace burnt down in 1936, but the Glass House at Lalbagh remains.

In a literal sense, Labagh is redolent with history. Tipu Sultan and the British imported hundreds of rare flowers and trees from all over the world. If you’re an aspiring botanist or a lover of flora as I am, Lalbagh is the one place you must be in.

And, if you’re a birder as I am, Lalbagh will not disappoint you. Once, there were about a hundred species of birds, but those days are gone. It’s still worth your visit.

Spot-billed pelican at the lake.

Spot-billed pelican at the lake.

What’s good about Lalbagh: Fresh air and greenery. Rare species of trees and flowers, Several species of birds, especially in and around the lake.

The lake.

The lake.

What’s bad about Lalbagh: Too many hawkers, feral dogs, loafers, pesky photographers (the ones who charge money, not Yours Truly!), illegal fishing and worst of all, lovey-dovey couples in various stages of foreplay and vulgar displays of public affection.

I’ve had my share of youthful tomfoolery with various girlfriends in my younger days – but what is vulgar is vulgar.

That said, Lalbagh definitely merits your visit, at least once.lalbaghhorse-1-2

Make it a point to see:

The Glass House, the lake, the Kempegowda Tower and the 3 billion year old rock on which it is built, the bonsai garden, the floral clock, the fossilised tree trunk and the 200-year old silk cotton tree.

Make it a point to avoid: The pesky photographers at the Glass House, the feral dogs all over the place (don’t you dare feed them!), and the hawkers.

Disregard: Above-mentioned lovey-dovey couples in various stages of foreplay. Or if you are so inclined and if you are built like Schwarzenegger, glare at them pointedly.

Fossilised tree trunk. 20 million years old.

Fossilised tree trunk. 20 million years old.

How to get there: Easy. Every bus route towards south Bangalore will pass through Lalbagh. There are three separate gates of entry to Lalbagh, and there will be a bus to reach any one of them. Check out BMTC’s helpful website.

You can take an autorickshaw to the place. But avoid taking an autorickshaw at the gate when you leave. They will rip you off, the traffic constables notwithstanding. Walk a few yards away from the gate, and hail a passing autorickshaw. That’s a better option.

There is car parking inside Lalbagh, but best avoided, especially during weekends. Public transport is better. You will save yourself a lot of time and the enormous hassle of looking for parking space. That time can be better spent inside Lalbagh.

Purple moorhen.

Purple moorhen.

Lalbagh is open on all days, including Sundays, from 6.00 am to 7.00 pm.

There is a nominal entry fee. However, entry is free from 6.00 to 9.00 am, and 6.00 pm to 7.00 pm, for walkers only.

If you have a camera, fork out an additional Rs.50/- (Grrr!).

Bottom-line: A must-see place if you’re visiting Bangalore. And a must-save place if you’re a Bangalorean.

Cheers … Srini.

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Deva o deva, Ganapati deva, tumse badhkar kaun?

ganpati110What is it about the son of Shiva and Parvati that makes him so lovable? All across India, and in many parts of the world with sizable Indian populations, Ganesha is perhaps the most popular deity in the Hindu pantheon.

Cutting across caste and creed, all sections of Indian society celebrate this cute, pot-bellied God’s birthday – with the possible exception of Ram Gopal Verma!

Ganesha Chathurthi, the ten-day festival in his honor, is celebrated during the month of Bhadrapad, which corresponds to end-August/early September in the Gregorian calendar.

Some sects celebrate his birthday separately on Ganesha Jayanti that falls in the month of Maagha (Jan/Feb). But Ganesha Chathurthi is the more widespread and popular of the two festivals.

Starting on the fourth day (or Chathurthi) of the bright half (or shukla paksha) of Bhaadrapad, the festival ends ten days later on Anant Chathurdashi, the day before the full moon.ganpati111

Across the land, people bring home an idol of Ganesha and worship him for ten days. The festival is also celebrated by various institutions, by setting up public stalls with large idols. This year, the government has restricted the height of Ganesha idols, but they are still imposing all the same.

The worship of Ganesha goes back several centuries, to the Gupta period, during 300AD to 500 AD. The Ganapatya sect, devoted almost exclusively to the worship of Ganesha, emerged during this period and reached its peak in the 10th century. During the 16th century, the sect grew in Maharashtra and is still strong, which is why Ganesha Chathurthi is celebrated with special fervor in that part of India.

ganesha-1Ganesha is a deity of several forms and names. In fact, the scriptures describe thirty-two different forms of the deity. But two attributes are always common – his elephant head and his pot belly. He is also fond of sweets, especially modakas, sweet dumplings stuffed with jaggery and grated coconut. And he likes red, which is why he is generally clad in red and yellow, and is worshipped with red flowers and red sandalwood paste or raktachandana.

With so many forms to choose from, Ganesha idols are made in innumerable styles and poses. ganesha-1-2

On the last day, all idols of Ganesha are immersed in a local water-body. This creates a major environmental problem and huge traffic jams in cities. Traditionally, idols were made of unfired clay painted in natural colors and immersed in a pond. Unfortunately, modern day idols are made in plaster-of-paris and decorated with all kinds of toxic stuff. Local authorities and eco-institutions have been trying to drum some sense into people, with little effect.

The festival does have its dark side – there are some people who do extort money in Ganesha’s name and intimidate those who don’t pay up. There is considerable noise pollution caused by loudspeakers blaring all night, traffic issues and public inconvenience – especially on immersion day.ganpati103

I’ve been stuck in traffic twice, on Ganesha immersion day, and believe me, the experience is traumatic in the extreme.

But overall, Ganesha Chathurthi is a time of piety and devotion, and also a time for fun and entertainment for kids of all ages.

So, have a great Chathurthi. Be safe. Be nice to the environment. And be nice to your neighbors!

Ganapati Bappa Moraya!


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Krishna … the eternal conundrum.



Krishna … who is He?

He is Balakrishna, the chubby infant, He is Gopala, the humble cowherd, He is Nandlala, the delightfully naughty son of Nanda who steals butter on one day and the clothes of bathing gopikas on the next, He is Murlidhar, the divine flautist who mesmerises women, He is Vithala, the god who stands on a brick and patiently waits for His devotees, He is Parthasarathy, the charioteer of Partha and the sage-philosopher who reveals the Bhagavad Gita to mankind.

As Keshava and Murari, He is the ruthless destructor of evil.  Yet, he is also Ranchodrai, the peace-loving king who eschewed war. He is Sudama’s loyal friend and Meerabai’s sakha.

He is Vishwaroopa, the terrifying cosmic being that embodies all of creation.

Prankster, lover, friend, sage, warrior, avatar – no other deity in India is worshipped in so many forms.

And it’s His birthday this week. According to the scriptures, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu was born in the Yadu race, to Devaki and Vasudeva, on the midnight of the eighth day (asthami) of the second half of Shraavan. Hence, it is called Krishnasthami. The second half of Shraavan, i.e. Krishnapaksha, is the fortnight after Shraavan Purnima. This year, we had Raksha Bandhan on Shraavan Purnima (Aug 29). Krishnasthami is eight days after that full moon, i.e. on Sept 5.

Across India and through the year, people celebrate several festivals that commemorate the events of Krishna’s life. The one event the entire country collectively celebrates is His birthday. Traditionally, Janmashtami is celebrated over two days. Since Krishna loved milk products, people make special dishes like pedha, shrikhand and kalakand. It is believed that fasting till midnight on the first day will cleanse all sins.

There is little doubt that Krishna actually existed, although there is considerable debate about the actual date. Depictions of a deity that strongly resembles Krishna have been found in Indus valley sites, that date back to about 3300 BC.

According to some historians and astrological data, Krishna was born during July 3200 BC and left the world during 3138 BC. The accepted period for the 14-day Kurukshetra War is the month of July 3102 BC. Krishna’s departure marked the beginning of Kaliyuga, the age of Darkness.

The actual dates are not important to us. And equally unimportant are vehement arguments about the divinity of Krishna. Let us leave such pedantic debates to the “learned scholars” and the “rationalists”.51NofUD6LFL._SX366_BO1,204,203,200_

What is important is what Krishna left behind for us – the Bhagavad Gita. Profoundly spiritual, yet practical and simple, the Bhagavad Gita has something for everyone.

To those who believe, the Gita shows the path to divinity. For those who choose not to believe, the Gita offers practical wisdom for daily living.

It doesn’t matter, Krishna says, if you choose not to worship Him with rituals and mantras, or not worship Him at all.  Worship your work and your duty, with all your devotion. And that is more than enough.

“As they approach me, so I receive them. All paths, Arjuna, lead to Me”.

That is Krishna.

Cheers … Srini.

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Six utterly brainless but eternal Bollywood plots … or Picture abhi baaki hai.

Trishul-19781Before watching a Bollywood movie, leave your brains at home. Bollywood’s plots do not challenge your intelligence, and they have remained unchanged since the days of Dadasaheb Phalke. Here are six such undying plots. With minor variations, you will see these eternal classics in almost any Bolly movie.

1) The Incredibly Accurate Tactile Pregnancy Test, or, ‘Mubarak ho …’

Right in the middle of her marriage ceremony, the heroine swoons. A doctor is readily available on the spot complete with stethoscope and medical kit. He lightly touches swooned heroine on her wrist and loudly announces, “Mubarak ho. Yeh maa banne waali hai”.

Pandemonium breaks out, the groom and his father are livid, the bride’s father gets a fatal heart attack, the bride’s boyfriend is revealed as the impregnator and is beaten to a pulp and dumped into river. Impregnated heroine raises out-of-wedlock child by washing vessels, swabbing floors or building massive buildings with bare hands. Out-of-wedlock child becomes grim loner and plots deadly revenge. After two decades, pulped boyfriend returns as an internationally famous multi-billionaire, sees the girlfriend he impregnated begging outside a temple (but who still looks ultra-hot in spite of dire poverty and age). Tearful reunion follows. Unfortunately, hero is already married and has several legitimate children. Hero tries to keep his two families separate, but violent clashes occur, leading to the aged hero’s grievous injury or heart attack. Pending issues are hastily resolved between warring families and a hasty reconciliation follows, just as hero breathes his last.

2) The Fantastic Total Eye Transplant, or, ‘Ab dheere dheere ankhen kholiye’.anuraag_1326889403

Hero has sister/mother/helpless friend who is totally blind. The eye specialist demands an astronomical sum to restore eyesight. Hero goes on a looting spree, but takes care to steal only from the rich and corrupt, gets caught by the cops, and is shot or hanged. Before he dies, he ensures that his eyes are donated to blind sister/mother/friend. In a simple one-minute operation, the eye doctor performs the world’s first double total eye transplant.

After healing within twenty four hours, and opening eyes slowly, slowly as ordered by doctor, the fortunate recipient demands to see the hero first, only to be shown a large photo of late hero with a garland around it. Recipient bursts into tears, and is promptly shown a letter by late hero stating that he did not donate eyes for the purpose of crying. Recipient then smiles bravely and goes on to become a major success in life.

hqdefault3) The Vein to Vein Direct Blood Transfusion, or, ‘Khoon khoon hota hai, paani nahi’.

Elderly woman is in critical condition, following horrific road accident. Victim has a rare blood type, that is unheard of in medical history and is to be found only in the victim’s offspring, all of whom have been missing since decades. Turns out however, that the doctor’s chaiwallah has the same blood group. And chaiwallah in turn knows a friend with the same blood group. And that friend in turn has a neighbor with that very blood group, and so on. All blood donors are rushed to hospital and doctor saves victim’s life by directly transferring blood from donors to victim with some plastic tubes. After elderly woman sucks up enough blood, she stages a full recovery. It occurs to no one that donors and recipient might be related, and they go their separate ways. They all stumble on the truth at the very end of the movie. On the way, the long-lost offspring demolish the villains who were responsible for offspring becoming long-lost, and pick up brides/grooms, to save the elderly mother the trouble of getting them married off.

4) The Mind-boggling Divine Restoration, or, ‘Patient ko dava nahin, dua ki zaroorat hai’.Deewar

Impoverished hero has a parent with a terrifying incurable disease like cancer/weak heart/renal failure/paralysis/all of these. Hero decides to become deadly criminal to make enough money to save loved one. Impoverished hero turned deadly criminal meets decent girl who teaches him the error of his ways with one or two inspirational songs. Reformed hero takes decent girl home to seek dying parent’s blessings for marriage, and finds that parent is struggling for life in hospital. Reformed hero has no money in hand, since he gave back all that he stole, thanks to his decent girl friend. Penniless hero cannot afford pharmaceutical products, and so he rushes to nearest religious shrine, where he delivers a stirring tirade against the resident deity or performs a very vigorous devotional dance number that culminates in bells clanging, thunder and lightning, earth shaking, and complete recovery of dying parent. Marriage between hero and decent girl then ensues.

With appropriate modifications, the same plot applies in case of impoverished heroine with dying parent. Except that, instead of becoming a deadly criminal, the impoverished heroine decides to sell herself to leering, pot-bellied businessmen.

5) The Even more Mind-boggling Divine Reunion, or, ‘Bhagwan tera laakh laakh shukar hai’.yaadon-ki-baarat-wallpaper

Law-abiding parents with multiple offspring lead a blissful life in a cute cottage. One fine day, parents teach offspring their family’s signature song, just in case they get separated in the near future. Alternatively, they give each child one piece of a precious heirloom that must be worn around the neck at all times. Parents’ foresight proves sensible. One day later, they are slain by intruders. Children get dispersed across the nation, each is conveniently found and raised by nice couples who are conveniently childless themselves. Children grow up, all move to Bombay, and take up residences within walking distance of each other. So happens that all the villains who dispersed the children are also in Bombay, also within walking distance of each other. Eventually, villains and dispersed children wind up in the same room, children exchange verses of their signature song or join up their pieces of the family heirloom, and then proceed to slaughter villains, following which they saunter off into the sunset, without worrying about minor issues like the police and the law.

madhumati-climax-th6) The Justice-seeking Relentless Reincarnation, or, “Janam janam ka saath hai”.

My personal favorite this. Nasty, greedy zamindar or lustful king casts his evil eyes on hapless hero’s real estate or his curvaceous girlfriend’s curves. Curvy girlfriend is molested or jumps off a cliff to prevent molestation, while hero is beaten, burnt, buried under rubble or meets a similar agonising death. An instant before agonising death, hero and/or girlfriend snarl at the villain and promise to return in the next life and keep returning in subsequent lives until justice is done.

A few years later, hero and curvy girlfriend reincarnate, and live in different parts of the country.

The reincarnated protagonists do not remember who they are, and lead normal lives. Until one day, due to a knock on the head, or a similar traumatising mechanism, they suddenly recollect intimate details about their past life. Then they both revisit the place of their death and proceed to search for the villain, who is now an aged man but still a lecher and a creep nevertheless. A ferocious showdown occurs and the villain is usually killed off by a chandelier or something equally heavy falling on his head or by impaling himself on a sharp object, so that the hero has no legal consequences.

Reincarnated hero and heroine then proceed to consummate their undying relationship and, presumably, stop reincarnating themselves henceforth.

Mix and match these plots in any manner you please, throw in an item number by Katrina Kaif, add a comedy scene by Mallika Sherawat speaking in English, and you can become a famous movie maker yourself. If SRK can, so can you!

Cheers … Srini.

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Bullies, beware!

I know a lot about bullies … thanks to certain outstanding bullies of my childhood in BARC quarters, Chembur, Mumbai 400071, India.

I grew up with those bullies, I lived with them for a significant part of my life – and that includes my married life. And they gave me a lot of their personal attention, and they still do, believe me.

Common myths about bullies:

1) A bully is actually a nice person. He’s just misunderstood. Sure. He’s a nice, misunderstood, poor little lost soul. All he needs is some attention. And that’s why he beats the crap out of you every day.

2) A bully is a victim too. He needs help. Sure he does. From a psychiatrist. Or a cop.

3) Bullies are always male, always physically large. Nothing is further from the truth. The two biggest bullies in my life are both less than five feet tall.  And one of them is a petite woman.

4) Bullying is just a childhood phase. Bullies grow up into nice adults. Sure. And the Moon is made of green cheese. Once a bully, always a bully.

5) Victims of childhood bullying grow up to become brilliant nerds. And star in Big Bang Theory, eh? No they don’t. They grow up to become angry adults -like ME. And there’s no telling how and where that anger will manifest itself.

6) Bullying is physically or verbally abusive in nature. Not true. In fact, the worst forms of bullying are emotional and are generally ‘silent’.

Social ostracism is a form of bullying that I am personally very familiar with and that I am still subjected to  – by the same BARC Chembur bullies that made my childhood miserable.

Bullies form their own cliques of sycophants and hangers-on. They use their cliques to emotionally abuse their victims, by blocking them out of just about every social activity – games, parties, picnics, cultural events, professional events – and of late, social media like Facebook.

7) The biggest myth of all:   Bullying victims invite bullying by their own behavior. That’s like saying that a rape victim invites rape. It’s not really the bully’s fault, we are told. The victim must have done something to be singled out.

It is utter rubbish. But that’s what many bullying victims are led to believe. I should know.

How to know if your child is a victim:  Many children do not tell their parents that they are being bullied. That’s because the bully and his clique convince the victims that it’s their fault and/or threaten your child with dire consequences.

If your child is withdrawn, spends too much time alone, is reluctant to leave the house either to play with friends or go to school, and gets agitated when asked about it, then you can be almost sure there’s a bully in your child’s life.

This is how my own childhood in BARC Quarters was – until we moved out of that bully-infested urban slum to a much better place called Anushaktinagar.

Unfortunately, a couple of years later, some of those bullies also moved to Anushaktinagar. And continued their bullying.

And now, those bullies are back again – on Facebook.

How to deal with bullying:  All bullies are cowards. It’s a cliche, but it is true. As a parent, your response therefore, must be swift, decisive and very assertive.

First of all – do not break the law. Physically intimidating the bully can lead to nasty legal issues. On the other hand, you are within your rights to threaten legal action against the bully – and his parents. It is a good idea to take legal counsel before doing anything.

That said, there is, in my experience, only one effective way to deal with your child’s bully.

And that way is – Direct public confrontation.

Bullies thrive because they think that they can get away with their behavior. Avoiding confrontation, giving the bully a cold shoulder, trying to ignore him, giving him the silent treatment, claiming that you won’t stoop down to his level, will only reinforce the bully’s beliefs and provoke him further.

Direct confrontation is the way. In public. In the presence of his sycophants. If possible, in the presence of his parents and teachers. No need to be abusive, or even raise your voice. Be polite, but tough. If his parents intervene, politely threaten them with criminal action, and tell them to back off. In my experience, a bully usually learns his behavior from his parents, in one way or the other.

Confronting the bully and his parents in public is usually the most effective deterrent. If you can, gather support from your child’s other friends and their parents.

Or best of all, see if you can convince a cop to be there. That would ensure that no one falsely accuses you of anything and will put real fear into the bully and his parents.

Bullying is just another form of rape, wouldn’t you say? And it should be dealt with just as severely.

Don’t be a victim like I was – and still am.

Cheers … Srini.

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