Dehradun

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I travelled to Dehradun last summer to meet my childhood friends whose parents are staying there and they all come together in the parents’ home every summer. We are family friends with uncle and aunty being very close to my parents, especially aunty and my mom. 

When I thought of Dehradun, I was expecting a very scenic and pretty place. But it’s even dirtier, crowded and dustier than our big cities, hotter than Mumbai and Delhi, which was a shock for me. Just before my vacation, I had caught a terrible viral fever with fever ranging between 102-103. I had thought I would have to cancel the trip. But my fever went down and I took the trip though weak. The heat was unbearable to bear with my weakness, but I took the trip. i was meeting my childhood friends after 20 years, not something I wanted to miss out on. Some places I visited on this trip:

Tapkeshwar Mahadev Mandir

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Tapkeshwar Mahadev Mandir is situated on the bank of the river. It has a cave with one of the oldest natural Shivalings where the river enters and the water from the river naturally falls in drops on the Shivalinga.

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The small cave also has another history behind it. It is said to be once resided by Dronacharya – the teacher of Pandavas and Kauravas. The cave is named Drona cave after him. There is a statue of Dronacharya here, the only one I have seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There is also a Vaishno Devi Gupha Mandir which is an exact replica of the original. It’s very beautiful but a very cramped and tiny cave. Go inside only if closed places don’t scare you and you don’t suffer from claustrophobia.

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Robbers Cave

Robbers Cave, Dehradun has a legend behind it that a long time back, robbers would come down from the mountains and hide in this cave from the police. It added the sense of adventure of the place for me. It is a beautiful cave with a stream and waterfall inside it. It should not be missed at all.

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Forest Research Institute(FRI)

Forest Research Institute is an institute which researches on the preservation of trees and plants in that region. The entire complex has European style buildings and beautiful gardens in the french style. It is also the institute that served as the college in  Student of the Year.

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Buddha Monastery

The only other place where I saw such beautiful Buddha Monasteries were in Bangkok. Dehradun has a lot of Tibetan influence in Dehradun. You must try the Tibetan cuisine if you go there, especially if you eat Non-Vegeterian food. The Wok and The Orchard have awesome food there. The Orchard also is located at a very beautiful spot. Go there in the daytime preferably, it has beautiful scenery around.

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#ToiletForBabli – An Initiative to support the health, hygiene and dignity of a female

For four year old Hiya, it was just another regular day in her life. She lived in Khadakpada on the outskirts of Aarey Milk Colony, an area that lies on the periphery of Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the suburbs of Mumbai. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, she stepped out of her house to answer nature’s call. A leopard was possibly lurking in the foliage there and attacked her. Hearing her screams, her father chased the leopard and tried to snatch Hiya from the leopard’s jaws. The leopard retreated, however little Hiya was declared dead at the hospital.

In another incident, seven year old Sanjana Thorat accompanied by her mother and grandmother, stepped out to answer nature’s call in Shankar Tekdi, Mulund Colony, another suburb of Mumbai. A leopard pounced on her, caught her by the neck and dragged her towards the jungle while her mother and grandmother screamed for help. But it was too late for Sanjana.

We are in the 21st Century and 597 million people are still defecating in the open. They have no access to proper sanitation facilities. I live in Mumbai and everyday when we are traveling by local trains, you will see a line of men sitting, defecating in the open on the train tracks with cans of water next to them. Women have to do the same, but they come really early in the morning when there are fewer people around. Mumbai is a very crowded city and there is no such thing as fewer people around. So, a woman loses her dignity everyday.

The case in our villages is even worse. A female, whatever her age(even if she is just a child), will step out to defecate and will most probably be raped and killed, sometimes even gang-raped. This is only because she doesn’t have access to proper sanitation and hygiene. Most of us want to help, but don’t know where to start in a country with such a huge population. We turn away our faces and try to ignore the situation because we feel like a tiny drop in a mighty ocean who doesn’t know how to make a difference even though we feel desperate and helpless seeing their plight and hearing of such incidents everyday. Now, here is your chance.

Domex, HUL’s flagship sanitation brand, has started a campaign to make hygienic facilities accessible to all villages across India. Their campaign is called #ToiletForBabli. You can bring about the change in the lives of millions of kids, thereby showing your support for the Domex Initiative. All you need to do is follow the simple steps below:

“Click” on the “Contribute Tab” on www.domex.in and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Babli live a dignified life.

Let us all come together to join Domex in their latest initiative to help make villages open-defecation free.

Everest

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I absolutely hate watching hindi T.V channels nowadays because all you get to see boring and unreal soaps where the women are not seen without a Pallu on their head, sleep with make-up, heavy Sarees and jewellery. All they do is plan and plot against the other women in the show. It was irritating beyond and belief. I have completely stopped watching T.V nowadays.

A few months back, I saw the promos of Everest, a T.V show produced by Ashutosh Gowariker. The promos showed the story of a girl(Anjali) who spent her life longing for her father’s love who wanted a son. Her father is an army officer and he wanted a son who could follow in his footsteps. His dreams are shattered and he has a daughter and spends his life ignoring her.

Anjali has two dreams – She wants is to win her father’s love and do something great in life that will make him proud of her. Her father just wants to be done with her responsibility by getting her married off after her graduation. But, Anjali is determined to do something in life and joins the Mountaineering Course at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering.

She is a strong, brave girl who believes in the equality of the sexes and her leadership skills come to the fore at the mountaineering course. So far, the TV show has reached till this point.

I have been watching the show regularly and am enjoying the refreshing story with no stupid Saas-Bahu Sagas and shows a normal girl with dreams, ambitions and a warm and caring heart.

Five Point Nothing


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Today, Indian authors are gradually on the rise and some of them are really talented and some just rise on hype. Chetan Bhagat belongs to the second category. He can’t even be called ordinary, he is just a mediocre writer. Be it One Night at the Call Centre, Five Point Someone or Revolution 2020, I haven’t read any books that could be more dull.

The only book that is slightly appealing is 2 States and that could be only because it is a true story. I didn’t even try reading Half Girlfriend. There are so many Indian authors who are extremely talented, but don’t get their just due. And we unnecessarily hype someone who has no appeal as an author.

I am an avid reader since childhood. I have read all types of genres of books and authors. According to me, a good writer is someone who touches a chord in your heart, whether through humour or tragedy. An author should write in a way that it is difficult to keep the book down.

Things have changed a lot in India and it is becoming a lot easier for authors to gain popularity, but we need to be careful whom we put up on a pedestal. Chetan Bhagat is surely not someone who deserves that ranking. Five Point Someone is a very dull story and it is only because Aamir Khan made a masterpiece out of it with 3 Idiots that people made an effort to read the story. Instead of being grateful, Chetan Bhagat gets into a war against Aamir Khan about not getting just dues, inspite of his name being in the credits.

His books are getting worse and worse day by day and I am only wondering how much more boring can he get.

My trip to South India – Dhanushkodi

 

I visited South India in 2012. i have already shared my experience of the Kumarakom Backwaters Cruise. Now, I am going to share the other experiences in a series of blogs.

Pamban Bridge

The Pamban bridge connects the town of Rameshwaram on Pamban Island to the rest of India. It opened in 1914, it was India’s first sea bridge and was the longest sea bridge in India till 2010. The bridge and the view from it is absolutely breathtaking and not something you can forget easily. Take a look.

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Dhanushkodi

Dhanushkodi is a ghost town at the southern end of Pamban Island in Tamil Nadu.

According to Ramayana, it was from here that Rama built a bridge to cross the sea to Sri Lanka. It is said that you can still see the submerged bridge under the sea. You can see it from Sri Lanka side, hence you need a Visa to get there. After Rama destroyedRavana, he appointed a new king of Lanka, Vibhishana, who requested him to destroy the bridge. Rama broke the bridge with one end of his bow – hence this town was named Dhanushkodi(end of the bow).

It is called Ghost town because the town was completely destroyed in the 1964 cyclone and a passenger train with over 100 passengers drowned in the sea. Now, only remnants remain of what must have been a very beautiful town.

 

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The floating stones with which Rama built the bridge to Lanka was supposedly blessed by Rama to float on water. You can still see the floating stone in Dhanushkodi which the locals have preserved in a temple. To me, the floating stone floated on water because it was made of limestone. But, what is life without a little bit of magic and fairytale?

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There is a pure water well in Dhanushkodi with water so sweet and pure to taste, it is absolutely wonderful. There is a local there who takes the water out in a bucket and you can taste it.

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Faith and God


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Many people worship God, fear him and are afraid of incurring his wrath, they pray hard to him everyday. They look for God in temples and other places of worship.

My concept of God is very different. I don’t worship God. I talk to God as a friend. Sometimes, I will bargain with him – you give me this and I will do this. Sometimes, he listens to me, sometimes he doesn’t. I bargain with him most fervently when I leave late for work and need a miracle to reach office on time(this happens quite often). To me, God is not someone who is to be worshipped in a particular building known as a temple or in the small mandir at home.

God is a faith that you carry in your heart all the time, a feeling inside your heart that there is someone looking out for you. To me, God is a friend who lets me make mistakes, lets me learn from the lesson and never forsakes or leaves me alone. Try as I might, I can’t find God in temples, mosques, churches etc. I visit these places because I love history and I feel history coming alive there. To me, God is not a stone idol, but a feeling of strength, a guiding force that travels with me everywhere I go.

That’s why I believe in God and when I pray to God sometimes, it is just praying and at those times, the God I pray to doesn’t have a form. I just feel a supreme being who is present in all the things around us. At those times, when I am praying, it is just a prayer. I don’t ask for anything.

(This is not meant to hurt anyone’s religious sentiments or portray those sentiments as false or unreal. It is just my portrayal of my vision of God).

Haider

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A doctor is considered a life saviour. But, what should he do when the person whose life he has to save is a deadly terrorist. That is the crux of the movie Haider.

Dr. Hilal Meer is greatly respected in Srinagar, Kashmir. He is trusted as a doctor and the army officials too look up to him. One night, Dr. Hilal is called to check on a well-known terrorist who has appendicitis. There is a curfew in Srinagar and he can’t be treated at the hospital and is in a critiical condition. Dr. Hilal decides to take him to his house and operate on him there. He knew that the army or the police wouldn’t check his ambulance.

The terrorist is operated upon and Dr. Hilal decides to keep him there till he heals. His wife, Ghazala(enacted by Tabu) is uncomfortable in this situation knowing the tense atmosphere in Srinagar. After the operation, they go to sleep. In the early hours of the morning, Ghazala is waken up by the sound of a loud siren. She wakes Dr. Hilal up, telling him there is a crackdown. All the men and women come out of their homes with their I.D proofs. The men are taken in front of a masked man sitting in an army jeep who tells them to keep going ahead when they are not suspected. With those he suspects, he honks the horn once and they are arrested. When Dr. Hilal comes in front of him, he honks the horn continuously without stopping. All his men come rushing down and surround his house. Dr. Hilal is arrested and taken away. In an ensuing battle, Dr. Hilal’s house is destroyed and the terrorist killed.

Dr. Hilal’s son, Haider(enacted by Shahid Kapoor), returns to find his home destroyed, his father’s whereabouts unknown and his mother in a romantic relationship with his father’s younger brother Khurram(Kay Kay Menon). Haider sets out to find his father and leaves no stone unturned in the efforts. He is helped in his mission by his childhood friend, Arshia(Shraddha Kapoor) who is a journalist.

Now, contrary to what you have heard, this is not a movie of Kasmiri extremists against Kashmiri Pandits. This is simply a story of a young man searching for his father whose whereabouts are not revealed to him. Under the army laws, any civilian found guilty of militant activities is to be handed over to the Indian court within 30 days. This law is flouted in Kashmir.

All of Haider’s efforts to find his father are in vain when he is contacted by a mysterious character, Roohdaar(Irrfan Khan) through Arshia. He claims to know about his father and asks him to meet him.

When Haider meets him, he comes to know his father is dead. He refuses to believe it but accepts it eventually. Then, he comes to know of a story of betrayal and treachery. His father had been betrayed by his own brother and wife. Haider has a very complex relationship with his mother. He had always idolised her and adored her. Now, this betrayal has left him shocked. He sets out to reveal the facts. His father’s tomb has been found and they have a prayer ceremony for him. Immediately, after the prayer ceremony, Ghazala and Khurram get married. At some point during the story, Ghazala reveals to Haider that she has informed Khurram that they were giving refuge to a terrorist in their house as he was Dr. Hilal’s brother. She was unaware that he was an informer for the Indian army. Urged by his love for Ghazala, Khurram betrays Dr. Hilal.

From here, Haider is a story of vendetta and a son’s pain at his mother’s betrayal. Even though Dr. Hilal was treating a terrorist in his home, never once do you feel that he is a traitor. Now, this is a very thin line. As a doctor, he feels that his job is to treat a patient who comes to him and not to let him die, even if he is a terrorist. Shahid Kapoor gives an emotionally rending performance. During the song Bismil, there was pin-drop silence in the movie hall, people were so emotionally moved.

The only shortcoming in the movie is that it is a bit too long. If it had been a crisp two hours movie, it would have had more impact. Apart from that, the movie is totally worth watching inspite of the extreme violence. Please don’t take your young kids for the movie as I have seen people doing. It’s not a movie that kids should watch. The movie is too violent for them.

A Few Days Without Gadgets


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We wake up in the morning to the sound of the alarm, not from the clock, but from our mobile phones. As soon as wake up, even before getting out of bed – we check our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp, E-mail( for me in this order). Then, we get up and say a good morning to our family. While eating breakfast, we are back on the phone or the laptop this time. I am completely hooked to my phone and am continuously on the Internet on my phone. So, it is a bit difficult for me to try and stay away from it.

But, there are times when I will completely switch off from the cyberworld. One such time is when I am sick and the other time is when I am on a vacation. I will still do my check-ins to the interesting places. Other than that, I will enjoy the peace and beautiful scenery around and just keep my phone inside my bag and forget about it. I never carry my laptop on vacations.

The one time that I completely forgot about my smartphone was on the Kerala Backwaters cruise. We spent the night on the cruise. It was so peaceful, serene and lovely all around that I was completely immersed in that moment. Even in the night, my phone was kept somewhere and I fell asleep to the sound of water lapping against our boat with no noisy TV, no internet connectivity.

Apart from that, I am trying to have even one whole day when I don’t look at my phone, don’t use my laptop and stay away from the Internet. So far, I have been unsuccessful. I hope that I succeed sometime in the not very far future.

A healthy child makes a happy home

It all started 7 years back when a little angel entered our lives. We named her Mihika, which means dewdrop. Just like a dewdrop, she brings a feeling of freshness, happiness and rejuvenation to our lives. When she was born, incidentally I had taken a break in my career and my sister-in-law was working full-time. So, little by little, I started taking up some responsibilities related to her along with my mom. I spent the maximum time with my niece, playing with her, reading books to her and teaching her children’s songs. Sometimes, I would get a little impatient with her, especially if she wanted to play and was completely chirpy and I wanted to rest. But this time that I have spent with her has almost created a mother-daughter like bond between us. So when she falls sick, I go through the same anxiety like a real mother. The first four years of her life, she would fall sick quite frequently and would be very quiet and low when she fell sick.

At such times, I would start missing her chirpiness and playful ways and would make all efforts to have her well and running about again. Apart from medicines, kids also need a lot of love and care at such times.

Nowadays, with the level of dust and pollution increasing at an alarming rate, children need really strong immunity to withstand the same. Just healthy food doesn’t help with this. We need to give the children additional nutrition to help them have strong bodies to fight germs and all the viruses floating around. With all the new-fangled cures coming up for all sorts of ailments, nature still is the best source of remedies for most of the ailments. Children are also very delicate and hence medicine doses need to be administered to them very carefully. It’s better to build their immunity so that they don’t fall sick and need strong medicines.
The best source of increasing immunity and strength in India has been Chyawanprash since a long time.
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Now, two spoonfuls of Dabur Chyawanprash will keep your child healthy and happy and in turn make you happy.
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Writing to Change the World

Can writing change the world? Can it bring about social change?

Yes, it definitely can. Throughout history and till today, people who wanted to change the world have written books and articles to bring about change, You must have heard the saying ‘Pen is mightier than the Sword.’ It is truly so. It is when we write about the wrongs in the society around us that people start to notice the same wrongdoings and start speaking out against it, that’s when the change happens.

During the pre-independence era, the freedom fighters and revolutionaries would circulate magazines and newsletters, sometimes anonymously or sometimes openly to encourage people to rise against the British rule.

The advent of Internet has made this even more easier. One powerfully written article can be read all over the world and open people’s eyes. For me, it has been a boon to have the Internet where I can express my thoughts freely about the wrong practices in our society and the system. There are people who think I am too outspoken, too opinionated and think I can change the world. They will come and tell me, you shouldn’t give your views on every wrongdoing in society. And I tell them very politely, i am going to do what I think is right – they can block me, unfriend me on the social media platforms, It makes no difference to me.

I want to make a difference to the world and if I am alone in that effort, so be it. But my writing wil always be honest, powerful and I will always speak up against any wrongdoing through my writings. This is the best way to reach out to people and help them open their eyes. I wish there were more people who would do this and then positive social changes won’t be far away.

Ghost Story


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After a long bout of sickness in the family and then falling sick myself, I am back to my greatest love – writing. Indiblogger’s latest Indispire topic is any ghost experience we have had. This takes me back to my time in Shillong. Shilling is the quintessential hillstation with beautiful bungalows, pine-trees, lakes, mountains, tranquility and peace all around and of course lot of fables and tales surrounding it. We lived in a Bungalow in Pinewalk in Shillong. It had huge gardens all around with a long walkway and a white painted gate at the end.

As in all hillstations, there were a lot of stories of ghosts, supernatural beings and unnatural happenings. One such story really intrigued me as it was close to my home. I was 18 then and still was a child who believed in the magical, the supernatural. In the magical, I still do. So there was this story which my friends and I had heard about a ghost with feet facing backwards standing in front of my house gates everyday at 8 p.m.

Now, since Shillong is in the north-east of India, the sun rises very early there and sets very early. So, in the winters it would be pitch dark at 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon, the way it would be in other places at 11 or 12 p.m. No one would really venture out in Shillong in winters after it grew dark, primarily because it is so cold and also because of safety issues.So this story could be quite true.

All of us friends were rather curious to know if this was true. One day, we decided to find out. We took dad’s army car(an Ambassador with a driver, of course) a little before 8 p.m. and waited outside my house’s gate. We were five people in the car, squeezed in,rarely having ventured out at this hour, petrified as the hour grew nearer, jumping at the slightest sound or at the rustling of pine trees. And then it was 8 p.m. We waited with baited breath.

Suddenly, we see someone approaching and we clasp hands in fear. There was only one streetlight and we waited for that strange spectre to emerge. Suddenly, he appeared in full view under the light. And what do we see! He was only a poor guy with deformed feet. We felt terribly relieved and a little ashamed of ourselves.

We turned the car around and went back inside the warm confines of my home. For sometime, we were very quiet and then burst out laughing together, rolling on my bed and warmed ourselves with hot coffee.

So ended my ghost experience :D