Wanderlust – Amritsar

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the city of Amrtisar. Having only read about it in text books in a historical context (read the Jallinawallah Baug Massacre) and otherwise in movies, I was quite excited about the trip to this town-city. And sure enough I was not disappointed with my short trip. Although I was there to attend a wedding (of two of my dearest friends), I did manage to experience the major sights and sounds of the city. Here’s my account of the said trip.

With no direct flight out of the domestic airport, the best way to get to this city by flight is to take a connecting one from the nation’s capital. Flights out of Delhi to Amritsar are quite frequent and take only around 50 minutes of flying time.
Once you land at the airport, a taxi ride to the main city takes less than thirty minutes. The city itself isn’t very huge, so getting from one end to the other would ideally not take a lot of time. But then, traffic is an element you need to factor into your travel plans in any city with a bustling automobile traffic, especially one with loads of two and three wheelers.
Since I was on a tight schedule (set forth by the groom and bride *wink*), the number of sights I could visit were limited. But the wedding couple were kind enough to arrange visits to the following prominent ones – 

The Golden Temple
Perhaps the most fabled and famous landmark in the city of Amritsar is the Golden Temple. Suffice to say, that a trip to this spot was on my checklist. Apart from the spiritual significance that the temple holds, the opportunity to capture the brilliance of this structure through my DSLR and brand new HTC One X was hard to pass up on.
The temple compound is colosal and houses multiple facilities apart from the main temple. These include free filtered drinking water, a library of Sikh religious texts and a free kitchen for all devotees. The main tempe building  I have to admit for someone who isn’t too easily impressed with temples, the Golden temple did offer something unique. 

A Panoramic view of the temple complex

The Wagah Border

GuardianThe other major tourist attraction that tops the charts is the India-Pakistan Wagah Border. More specifically, the border ceremony that takes place every evening at 5:30 pm. The entire objective of the ceremony, in my view, was to one up the Pakistanis with louder and more vehement patriotic chants. I’ll admit, i quite enjoyed the whole mexican wavesque manner in which we kept chanting and raising our hands in pride to shout out Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Praise the motherland).

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One of the most memorable aspects of the ceremony is the manner in which the leader of the squad (pardon my lack of knowledge of official army terms in these matters) shouted out the orders to his troops. Its a testament to the lung power that these men posses.
Here’s a sample –  

But all the cacophony and histrionics and patriotic chants take a backseat when the ceremony comes to a close with the ceremonial flag de-hoisting. It is a sombre moment where both nations  show a sense of camaraderie with a simple salute. 
The flags of the two bordering nations – India and Pakistan as seen from the Indian side of the Wagah Border.

The Food Joints

Of course no trip to the heartland of Punjab can be complete without a visit to one of the many famous dhabas. 

The first stop was at a place aptly called Kulcha Land. The location is very unassuming and so is the ambience. But don’t let the simplicity of this place fool you. The food was absolutely delish! I am not joking when I say that there was more butter on the kulcha than there was chole next to it! The Punjabis sure do LOVE their food. But I must admit, the extra fat gives the food that delicious flavor.

Our second (and most delicious) stop was at the famous Kesar Da Dhaba renowned for preparing its food in pure desi ghee (clarified butter). Although our stomachs weren’t trained for the pure richness and heaviness of the food, the authentic taste and tantalizing flavors ensured that we gorged on the food till our belts needed unbuckling! I am quite sure we gained a good five pounds after the meal.

The city of Amritsar is an absolutely delightful place to visit and should be on every shutterbug’s list of places to visit (Not to mention on every foodie’s list as well!) Apart from the various photog opportunities, the small town charm of the city will leave you with a very warm feeling that you will cherish for years to come. 

You can check out these other shots I was able to capture during my short stay in the city  of Amritsar,

Picasa Album

Flickr stream

The Ring

It had been over a year since Abhishek saw his girl friend, Divya. They were college sweethearts. They’s been together for over seven years now. But neither had told their families about the other.

He was away from home on account of work. He had left their hometown of Bombay to secure a better paying job in Singapore. The decision was one that they both accepted grudgingly. But it was one that would secure their financial futures, they thought.

Although they didn’t realize it, the separation took its toll on their relationship. At first they kept in touch via frequent phone calls and web chats. But time differences and work caused their daily interactions to reduce to weekly ones until finally it became a monthly affair. It had been over two months since they last spoke to each other.

But all that wasn’t going to matter today. Today Abhishek was going to give a fantastic surprise to the love of his life. He had flown in from Singapore to Bombay to be with Divya to celebrate the anniversary of the day he gave her an engagement ring, professing his undying love to her. It wasn’t a very extravagant one. He was a lowly engineer. He couldnt’t afford anything more than a single diamond ring. It had cost him two months salary, but it was a modest wedding band.

His plan was simple, walk up to her apartment with a bouquet of red roses and see the look on Divya’s face as she saw him at the doorway. It was a simple plan. But he knew it would be one that would sweep her off her feet.

He rang the door bell and waited with baited breath. He was anxious as well. The door opened and he saw Divya. She was even more beautiful than he last remembered. Divya seemed distressed on seeing him. Abhishek hadn’t expected this look but was delighted to see her anyway. He extended his arms to give her the bouquet. She extended her’s to accept it grudgingly.

That’s when Abhishek noticed it. Her ring finger sported a Solitaire ring. A bright and shiny single piece diamond sat atop a pure platinum band. That wasn’t the ring he had given her. It was another. Divya’s parents had gotten her engaged to be married to another.

All About Eve

The Book of Genesis of The Bible, states that the first man and woman created by God, were Adam & Eve. Blessed were these immortal creations and they led a happy and free life in the garden of Eden. Their only restriction, never to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But the couple succumbed to temptation.

The temptation came first to Eve, the woman, who managed to persuade her male companion. For their sin, the two were banished from the Heavens and cursed with hard labor and pain. Some believe, that the punishment for this Original Sin should be borne by all of Eve’s daughters and her daughter’s daughters and so on. Meaning, the woman is to be given no importance and should be subjected to all kinds of hardships.

Ask any woman and you’re bound to get a long list of the various physical traumas they endure throughout their mortal lives. But the sons of Adam, i.e. the men decided that was not enough punishment for the women folk. So it came to be that the woman in almost every civilization was to be given no post of any importance and be subjected to humiliation and inferiority complex time and again. Thus began the mental trauma that every daughter of Eve has been enduring since times immemorial.

Some of you may argue that this is all in the past. After all, today’s woman walks shoulder to shoulder with her fellow man, excels in almost every profession, industry, endeavor as much as any man and has thus come a long way since the days of the Bible. Are you certain?

Take something as trivial as arranged marriages in the Indian society. Although now a crime, the groom’s family still insists on some form of ‘dowry’ from the bride to be and her family. Why? Well after all, the groom is a man, the bread-winner, the king of the castle. This despite the fact that the bride in question is as educated, well-read and probably has the same salary as the groom in question. But still, her gender has already decided her importance in her in-laws house-hold.

India and many other nations in this part of the hemisphere consider the birth of a girl-child a liability. To the extent that until recently female infanticide was an epidemic and governments were forced to take drastic actions to curb this practice. And if you’re thinking this is a belief in rural parts, you’d be surprised! Most urban families staunchly believe that a male child is a must to carry on the family name.

For the longest time, the Catholic churches shunned the very idea of a woman priest. The same is true for the temples, mosques, synagogues of other religions. Although today women priests are becoming more common. But even with all the progress and acceptance I doubt I’ll ever see a female pope in my lifetime.

Even the entertainment industry is no exception to this practice. Compare the price tags of male and female actors and a stark difference is obvious. The same is true for the life of either gender of actors. You won’t find too many forty something female actors romancing young hunks, but the opposite is almost always common! As recent as last week, when the Oscars were announced, in the 82 year history of the Academy awards, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman director to win the coveted award!

Closer home, a battle is raging to pass a bill that would guarantee the reservation of seats in the Parliament and State legislatures for women. Opponents of this have valid justifications but the fact remain that of the 539 seats in the Lok Sabha, a paltry 44 are occupied by the fairer sex. Obviously somewhere we aren’t taking the steps to ensure equal opportunity.

So what is that I wish to say. Well in a nutshell, women are still treated a second-class citizens in our society. Whether or not that is correct and should anything be done is a choice I leave to you, the reader.
But just remember this the next time you try to snub a woman – the individual who carried you nine months in her womb, gave birth to you, fed you, let her personal life take a back-seat and treated you as if you were the most important person in the world, was a woman. Would you like it if she was treated as a nobody? Answer this truthfully and you’ll have made your choice!

Wishing all the Eves around the world, a Happy Woman’s Day!

The Statue of Poverty!

The world has been reeling under severe economic depression for the past few months. Our nation has also felt the gloom and experienced several financial setbacks. To make matters worse, the delayed monsoon has further complicated the plight of our agrarian economy. The state of Maharsahtra, the worst hit due to the irregular monsoons, apart from many other issues is also insanely cash strapped. So what is the solution for the drought hit Maratha-land? According to the state’s ingenious government, a Rs. 350 crore (3.5 billion).

The statue, an election promise by the congress-NCP alliance, way back in 2004, will be green-lit pretty soon as the state has already sanctioned the funding for the same and only awaits a nod from the environmental lobby. The reason for undertaking this project? A tribute to the greatest Maratha, who shaped the destiny of this state. Having studied about this Maratha legend in school, I am well aware of his valor, brilliance and sacrifice. There is no doubt that his contribution commands greater respect than many others and so rightly deserves some form of momument dedicated in his memory. However, a gigantic statue in the middle of the sea is not what I would deem appropriate.

At a time when agriculture is taking a severe beating due to seasonal and geo-political reasons, this project seems frivolous. The previous year, the nation was shocked to learn about the suicides of hundreds of debt-ridden farmers from our state. Perhaps the funding allotted to this “prestigious” project could find its way into the houses of the families of these sons of the soil. The money could be used to pay-off the financial institutions and give the other agri-men a fresh start.

There is a parallel argument being made by proponents of the statue that the cost of the statue is a fraction of the cost which was borne for the recent MSRDC mega-project, the Bandra-Wroli Sea-Link. Although they hold some merit in their line of thought, comparing the sea-link to the statue is akin to comparing apples and oranges! the sea-link, albeit without the high toll, is a great addition to the heavily clogged asphalt arteries of the metropolis.

One could argue that the proposed 371 ft. monument (the statue of Liberty in New York towers at a mere 305 ft.!) could serve as a major tourist destination and rake in some serious phoren and desi moolah. Hmmm…somehow, I don’t see a tourist from Denver, Colorado (or for that matter from Vikhroli, Mumbai) travelling all the way to Mumbai, struggling through the city’s ill- maintained roads, making his way through a crowded Virar local, walking amidst piles of open garbage, dealing with incourteous authorities to come and take a fleeting glance at a statue.

Now I’m no economist, but as an employed bloke, I know simple household budgeting and money management 101 clearly states that when you are broke, you don’t squander on lavish purchases. Considering the cost that would be borne for a monument of this magnitude and the alternate outlets for the money, the state government should seriously rethink their “patriotic” decision.

The Big Layoff!

A few weeks ago, when Satyam found a new owner in Tech Mahindra, this blogger had mentioned that despite all the brouhaha, testing times were certain for the fateful employees of the Hyderabad based beleaguered software firm. With this latest piece of official news that fear has been confirmed!

The new management has identified 10,000 Satyam employees, deemed ‘surplus’, who will be in the line of fire in the weeks to come as “Right-Sizing” is the order of the day.
It seems the defamed founder, B Ramalinga Raju hired employees with the intention of driving up the revenue and profits. Obviously that will no longer help the scandal hit firm, so the Tech Mahindra executives have decided to start trimming the excess fat.

Targeting mostly middle and junior level employees, Tech M hopes to provide soft options in the guise of sabbaticals and inter-company recruitment via job fairs.Already variable pay has been cut across the organization since April and further pay-cuts would not be surprising.
To make matters worse, Satyam has already witnessed exits from many prominent clients and is in deep crisis as many more are to follow suit. Bottomlines have already become a major concern and further lay-offs seem not just imminent but inevitable.

With 10K employees about to hit the recruitment scene, this exodus is bound to have ripple effects extending across the industry.