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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Spiritual India Handbook - Book Review

Stephen Knapp's Spiritual India Handbook is a must have book not only for pilgrims but for all those who love to travel. It not only covers the pilgrim centres but also those places which are of little religious significance. It covers Hindu sacred spots as well as those reverred by Jains, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians as well.

He has divided the book into five parts viz. Holy places of East and Central India and Nepal, those of South India, temples of Western India, holy places of Northern India and temples of far Northeast India. The book primarily aimed at foreigners also has an appendix on preparing trip to india. It also suggests routes for short pilgrimages. The book has black and white photographs which are unattractive. But the author says that he has chosen to have black and white photographs in order to keep the cost of the book low.

Stephen is a member of Iskon and has travelled India for long durations. No wonders his words are filled with devotion for the Lord. His introduction to the book is an excellent essay on Indian temples. He is more biased while describing the places associated with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

I am not only a voracious reader but a frequent traveller as well. I read descriptions of Stephen and I was amazed at the amount of data he has compiled. Reading the descriptions of the places mentioned in the book definitely serve as a primer before actually visiting that place. I even tallied the places which I have already visited with those mentioned in the book. 

The major drawback of the book is  Stephen's description of the order of spots at a given place. If you are required to go from spot A to E via B, C and D, Stephen will first describe spot A than C, D and again revert to spot A and B. So if you walk with this book as your handbook, you will definitely have to shuttle between two places more than once. 

For example while describing parikrama of Omkareshwar (spelt as Omkeshvara in the book) he first goes to Gauri-Somnath temple and then returns to the Sangam. Actually when you go on the parikrama (which is one way, you do not return by the same route and which can be done only by foot) you first come across the sangam and then after a few miles comes Gauri-Somnath. Further he describes another temple with a large black lingam inside and an outdoor museum of old deities. Now this another temple is nothing but Gauri-Somnath again. 

 Similarly while describing Anegudi near Hampi he says after crossing the river first comes Rangnatha temple, then Pampa Sarovara and then Hanuman temple. Now this comes in  the exactly reverse order. He goes to Vasudhara and Satopanth (without telling how arduous trek it is) and again comes to describe Vyasa's cave in Mana.

Also while describing Hampi he says “A bicycle rented in Hospet may make things easier for most places.” Now Hospet is 13 km apart from Hampi. You get rented bicycles in Hampi and not Hospet. Such mistakes should have been avoided if you claim your book to be a handbook. A traveller is bound to be lost if you follow his order. Also there are grammatical mistakes in the book. Take for instance the line on page 411. “The is paved way from the Badrinatha temple all the way to Mana” It should have been There and not the.

Still I liked the book. Bringing out a voluminous book like this one is no easy feat. I really liked the stories associated with the holy places which are described in the book. Reading the book before visiting any place would ensure that you know about the history of the place. But following the track mentioned in the book would land you in great trouble.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Hugging him

The very phrase hug your dad sounds very odd. The reason is that there is always a distance between a father and a son. It would not have sounded unnatural if it was hug your mom. But dads are not to be hugged. Dads are dads. They will never express their emotions towards you. They are disciplinarians. They are strict and hardly speak. They do their jobs dutifully – both of earning the bread and hiding their emotions. No wonders I ever thought of hugging my dad. I have hugged my mother on numerous occasions. If I go to count them I will not be able to count for the simple reason that I hug her on every given day. But I cannot count a single occasion on which I had hugged my dad. Does that mean that I did not love my dad or viceversa? Absolutely not.

My earliest recollections of my dad are he tying my shoe laces and taking me to school. I remember going on his bike to watch the train from the overhead bridge and the fountain at the water supply office. As I grew up he would polish my shoes and service my bicycle and later my bike. He would teach me mathematics as well. He had a beautiful hand and was a creative person. Many a times he would dismantle the working electronic equipment from our house and thereby earn my irk. He had brought a game called little engineer to foster the creativity within me. He would buy me lot of books as well. Though the little engineer utterly failed to create any liking for the machines in me, the books succeeded in germinating within me the love for the language and most importantly empathy.

 He would pedal to my school in the early mornings with  me on the carrier when I would go on my school trips. Even when I grew up he would come to pick me up at the bus stop or railway stations and drop me when I had to go out at odd hours. He accompanied me when I went to Mumbai for my higher education. He was always there.

I still remember him holding the bicycle handle and waiting for my school picnic party to depart. It was early in the morning. It was still dark outside. There was chill in the air. My father had covered his ears with a handkerchief. That was when my classmate, a son of a doctor had asked me if he was my servant. I simply said no. He pointed out towards another man and told me that he was his servant. I wanted to scream out at him and tell him that he was my father and not my servant. But words simply did not find out the way to my mouth. Shame, insult, hurt I had felt it all. If that incident would have occurred today, it would not have affected me in the way it had in that tender age. Today I would have been proud of my father, irrespective of his conventional failure at gathering money and hugged him for carrying me on the bicycle on that chilly winter morning.

Today when I look back I cannot deny that my father has had a role in shaping my personality as it is today. With all his shortcomings and our different tastes, with all the differences in our personalities, I still owe him one. Today my father is not with me. He passed away two years back. But still I give him a tight hug in the form of his memories which I carry. I love you dad. 

Work is going to end one day

We learn in schools that all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. We quote this sentence in our essays and maiden speeches. But when we grow up, start to work (and earn) we forget everything about it. Work becomes our entire life. We do have family and children. We hardly devote any time towards them. We console ourselves saying that we are slogging for our spouse and children. We burn the midnight oil so that they can enjoy the luxuries of life which only money can buy.

But the truth is as you compromise the family time for your work, you drift away from your family. One fine day the distance between you and your family will become too long to overcome in one life time. Moreover the saddest part will come when you will vocalize your feelings that you were working hard so that your family will enjoy good things of life. The reply you will get is that they never asked you to stay away and earn money for them. They just needed you to be alongside for the most valued moments of their lives.  You were needed for your wife's baby shower, for your child's first open house, when your mother was ill. The list is endless. Your money was always there, but unfortunately you weren't.

Now let us prepare ourselves so that these unhappy situations do not arise in our lives. Firstly start enjoying little things with your family. I know many men and women who like to go for movies, trips and even dinners alone. That makes their spouses and children sulk. It is not the case that they cannot go alone. But they want to enjoy that movie, that picnic, that dinner with you. So carve out time from your busy schedule in order to be with your family when it matters the most.

Don't bring work home. Yes this is better said than done. But a little planning can ensure that you will not bring your work home. Delegate the things which you can to your subordinates. Be the Cinderella who rushes home once the clock strikes the end of office hours and you will be blessed with the family life of your dreams. Even when at home avoid taking up calls relating to work unless it is very urgent. Remember the words very urgent. Otherwise every call will be urgent. Just ponder over a minute if it can wait till next day. If the answer is in the affirmative, wait till the next day.

Remember birthdays of your family members and celebrate them. Decorate the house, cook the meal for your spouse and be with them for at least half of the day. That day will be treasured by your spouse more than any expensive gift that you may offer.

For those who think all about work, work and work alone let me tell you that this game called life is going to come to an end on one day. You will leave this planet and you will leave your work behind. So take out some time to remember your Creator. Meditate. That will make you calmer and give you the insight to enjoy the little joys of life. 

“I am participating in the ‘Ready For Rewards’ activity for Rewardme in association with BlogAdda.” 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

8 ways to a work-life balance

Work life balance is something which everyone is seeking but finding hard to achieve. These days men and women slog for hours in their offices. They are left with little time for their families. Reading that book which they always wanted to read or watching their favourite film obviously becomes out of question. To add to their woes their spouses and children keep complaining that they have become their last priority. I have seen couple of men who even claim their work to be their first wife. Now something is terribly wrong here. Yes work is important but so are relationships particularly your spouse and your child.

That is why I really liked the article 8 ways to a work life balance on It offers lot of insights on how to achieve the holy grail of work life balance. The tips it offers are too simple and not any rocket science. But no one can deny that the simplest things are the hardest to do. Yet even if you implement one or two tips from the article your life is bound to change.

The article asks you to keep aside time for your kids even if it means just thirty minutes. It also says that you should assign a limited time for checking your emails in order to not to mix up your work with your personal life.

Eating together bonds family together. Our elders have been telling that no matter how busy your schedule is, the family should eat at least one meal together. So the article asks us to have dinner with our family. The article also urges us to do some activity together. It doesn't have to be something big. Even small things like taking the dog for a walk together will go a long way in strengthening your bond.

Another thing which really liked about the article was finding me time. Stealing time for yourself, to do something which you really like. Now many women find terribly guilty about this. But this is important for your emotional wellbeing. Do something which you really like. Pursue your hobby. Most of the times while devoting time to our family we make many sacrifices and forget our likings. In the long run it does more harm than the good. So we become sulky and unhappy. Now one unhappy person can not make another happy.

Social media is undoubtedly the demon which is eating up all our time not always for the good. So in order to achieve the work life balance the article asks us to switch off the notifications on your social media accounts so that you will not have any distractions while you are spending that much sought after quality time with the people who matter the most in your lives. So let us all commit to give regular time to our family members. After all it is worth it. What say?
“I am participating in the ‘Ready For Rewards’ activity for Rewardme in association with BlogAdda.”