Tall poppy syndrome

TALL POPPY SYNDROME ( a social phenomenon where those with more merit or success are disparaged and pulled down).  Some criticism is not bad, but when the habit of condemnation and fault-finding becomes a national pastime, we need to sound the danger bells.
A strange culture of criticism pervades life these days, where everyone is  a critic —— setting sights on errors and indiscretions, more than on achievements and triumphs.  Time was when you waited for that one movie or restaurant review from an established media reviewer.  Today, thanks to social media, self-appointed critics deluge you with opinions and ratings.
Everyone has a view on where PM Narendra Modi is going wrong and what his next step should be.  With eyes trained on indiscretions, we ignore achievements and recognition.
We have become a nation that loves having an opinion —– preferably negative —— and likes nothing better than sharing it.  And so, slowly the limelight has shifted from achievements and proud moments to the downfall and public disgrace of others.  In a terrible about-turn of the phrase ‘no news is good news’, today, we have come to a stage when ‘good news is no-news’.  The Media leads the charge, each TV channel watching out for “Breaking News” moments —— mostly censoring or condemning a perceived wrong move, a misdirected word or action or a wardrobe malfunction.  People invariably tweet negative stuff, easily adopting moral grandstands, because that is what attracts attention.
tall_poppy_syndromeEgged on by a trigger-happy audio-visual media, which shoots down and ridicules public figures for the slightest gaffe, we are stepping into a well-established culture of the TALL POPPY SYNDROME.  It is all very well for children to pull each other down under the keen pressure of performance, dismissing achievers as ‘nerds’ and ‘losers’.  It is even understandable when professionals do so in a dog-eats-dog world, where pulling down one may spell success for another.  —— Children today tune into news channel not for information, but to guffaw at people pulling each other down.  This is a veritable street fight delivered to you through television, and worse, viewers love it.  The more vitriolic the content, the higher the TRPs a programme delivers.
We have become a people waiting to pounce and denounce on social media.  Each one is a potential journalist or sleuth, waiting to be propelled to fame with the latest muck to hit the ceiling, hoping for a post to go viral.  And this attitude then spills over into real life.  A critical eye knows no limits.  Forgetting to praise the good work done, bosses pounce on little mistakes.  Spouses and friends don’t hold back judgement, parents lay it on thick.
Experience tells that positive strokes work far better than ridicule, especially public ridicule.  Today, we have the power to make or break people through exposes and sting operations.  But we also still retain the power to motivate and galvanise the good amongst us.  And in order to indulge one, we must not give up the other.
When we criticise, let us also stay attuned to the good in those we deride.  Everyone has some good in them.
——-vinitadawra.nangia@timesgroup.com. 

Seychelles

Seychelles2

It is not just a quiet beach destination.  From the ‘smallest’ to the ‘biggest’, ‘oldest’ to the ‘rarest’, Seychelles adds a lot of superlatives to your travel journal.

Think of turquoise water.  Put a million corals as underwater baubles.  Sprinkle silver dust as sand on the shore.  Imagine the swaying palms and a heavy seed, the COCO de MER, as an appetizer.  This seed is a coconut giant, an endemic coconut that takes 6-7yrs to mature and its seed weighs about 18 kg (the world’s largest).  You cannot hold it in your hand —— the largest recorded Coco de Mer weighed 42kg.  Its only natural habitat is the Vallee De Mai palm forest  in Praslin Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It costs roughly 50,000 Indian Rupees, so one would rather chew gold than drink from this nut.

Whale-shark-Seychelles


Seychelles is a county comprising 115 coralline islands that are considered one of the oldest on earth. ——— There is also a big, fat, brown Aldabra tortoise, the world’s largest land tortoise.  Their home : Aldabra Island, the world’s largest “raised coral atoll” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The biggest and fattest among them all is Esmeralda (it weighs 304kg).


Victoria-Streetscape


It might seem like an “oxymoron”, but all these large, big things live and grow in a small country.  A really small country.  At the last count, Seychelles has 90,000 inhabitants of which 90% live in Mahe —– the largest island.


seychelles_islands_africa_142841


However, nothing beats the “tininess of Victoria”, the capital.  Walk into the world’s smallest capital and before you know where to start sightseeing —— it ends.  You could walk it in 10mins and been-there-seen-it-all in another 15.  An old Church stands like a relic of the colonial age.  A Hindu Temple shimmers in vibrant colours by the arcade.  A cinema resembles a refurbished pigeon-hole.  The monotony broken by Victoria market, where the air is redolent with the whiff of fresh soursop, cassava, mangoes, vegetables, cinnamon, vanilla and a green leaf that carries the aroma of four spices in one.


Odyssey_Boy_and_Coco_de_Mer


The crown jewel is the Big Ben.  The Little Big Ben, actually.  A tiny silver replica of London’s Vauxhall Clock Tower that was erected in the central roundabout to mark Seychelles’ new status as the Crown Colony.


Aldabra giant tortoises


PARADISE is the permanent suffix of this island.  The superlatives —– smallest, largest, biggest, rarest and oldest certainly live here.

———Preeti Verma Lal.

Samarth Namaskar

Surya Namaskar


While the country is gearing to celebrate WORLD YOGA DAY, an innovation on the SURYA NAMASKAR ———- christened SAMARTH NAMASKAR by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is sitting at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) awaiting a National Launch.

The new routine, that has added 9 postures to the traditional 12, has been  essentially developed by a Pune-based orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Pavan Kohli, with the blessings of the late yoga guru BKS Iyengar and in collaboration with offshore branches of a yoga institute and the Sports Medicine Association (Singapore), SAMARTH NAMASKAR is an attempt to woo over people.  The PM’s astute selection of the name SAMARTH was to signify capable of benefitting all.
Samarth Namaskar“I faced a lot of resistance within the country to my efforts to innovate on the iconic SURYA NAMASKAR, so I chose to involve foreign institutions in my endeavour,” Dr. Kohli told Mirror.  It took him over a year to develop the routine, during which time BKS passed away.
“BKS was already in a frail state of health when I began.  After him, I have been guided by his son Prashant Iyengar,” Kohli recounted.  However, Prashant Iyengar told Mirror, “It is completely designed by Kohli and all the credit for it should go to him.  We only approved his innovations as they were brought to us.”
Dr. Kohli took up the experiment to address the needs of modern life-styles.  “Most people these days suffer from backaches and neck pain due to long hours of sitting.  The problem has become almost epidemic.  SURYA NAMASKAR lacked the sideways movement and could not relieve these issues.  I have made additions to take on these modern-day physical demands with SAMARTH NAMASKAR.”
Early this year, Dr. Kohli submitted his research report to both ICMR and the Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH).  Vouching for the efficacy of SAMARTH NAMASKAR, Dr. Ravinder Singh, senior scientist at ICMR said, “SAMARTH is definitely more powerful  and energetic.  Its back and neck postures are helpful.  PMO was to launch it on the eve of International Yoga Day, but the plan was held back due to various reasons.  Now, at ICMR, we will do a controlled study of SAMARTH on different subjects to establish stronger evidence of its efficacy.”

94th birthday Celebration of B.K.S. Iyengar


Confirming that SAMARTH NAMASKAR has found acceptance with the Modi government, Union Ministry for AYUSH Shripad Naik, added, “The file is pending with us and a date for the launch of this “innovative routine” will be set on Sunday after the celebrations of International Yoga Day wind up.”  Director of the finance department of PMO also told Mirror, “PM will soon be launching SAMARTH NAMASKAR through AYUSH.”

Given that the research had BKS Iyengar’s backing, not many yoga experts are contesting the efficacy of SAMARTH.  “There are several SURYA NAMASKAR variations some with more than 12 poses.  SAMARTH NAMASKAR has 21, of which 10 are from the classic sun salute.  I think the additional poses, which seem to “have a beautiful flow”, will make SAMARTH NAMASKAR more intense and involving,” opined Mumbai-based  yoga guru and author Shameem Akhtar.

Trikonasana6


“SAMARTH NAMASKAR seems to have incorporated certain movements of the body that were missing in the traditional SURYA NAMASKAR like the Trikonasana, Marjariasana and the Virbhadrasana kriya.  Since, it has been developed by medical experts, it must have been done keeping in mind the musculoskeletal system.  And if there is an easy flow from one posture to another —— that is the most crucial aspect —– it should work fine,” certified Asheet Ambekar, yoga teacher who has trained under Iyengar.

———with inputs from PM Features team.

Rainbow Bridge National monument

 rainbow_bridge national monument


The Rainbow Bridge National Monument is the world’s largest “natural bridge”, formed by a meandering watercourse.
It is administered by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, southern Utah, USA.  It is often described as the world’s “highest natural bridge.  The span of Rainbow Bridge  was reported, in 1974, by the Bureau of Reclamation to be 234ft.  At the top it is 42ft thick and 33ft wide.
Two other natural arches, KOLOB ARCH and LANDSCAPE ARCH, both also in southern Utah, have confirmed spans several metres longer than Rainbow Bridge, but by most definitions of the terms, they are considered to be “arches” rather than “bridges”.  With a height of 20ft, Rainbow Bridge does indeed stand taller than either of its longer competitors, but it is outdone by ALOBA ARCH, in Chad, at 394ft.

Rainbow bridge national monument_


The world’s tallest (though less easily accessible) arch is TOSHUK TAGH, better known as SHIPTON’S ARCH, in China at an estimated 1,200ft.  Finally, XIANREN BRIDGE (also known as FAIRY BRIDGE) in Guangxi Province in China, with a span of about 295ft and a height of the opening of 210ft, appears to be the natural bridge with the largest span in the world.

Kolob arch


Rainbow Bridge is one of the most accessible of the large arches of the world, as it can be reached by a two-hour boat ride on Lake Powell from either of 2 marinas near Page, Arizona, followed by a short mile-walk from the National Park wharf in Bridge Canyon or by hiking, several days, overland from a trailhead on the south side of Lake Powell (obtain a permit from the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona. Rainbow Bridge is made from sandstone, formed during the end of the TRIASSIC and the JURASSIC periods.  Extreme fluctuations in climate, during these periods ———– the region was alternately a “sea” and a “desert” on par with the Sahara Desert ——- produced layers of sandstone with different levels of hardness.  By the end of the Jurassic period, the sea returned to cover these layers of sandstone and compressed them so tightly that they persist until the present day.  As Bridge Creek flowed toward the growing Colorado River, during the last Ice Age, it carved first through softer rocks and veered away from the harder TRIASSIC & JURASSIC sandstones, eventually creating a wide “hairpin bend” that flowed around a “fin of sandstone” that would become Rainbow Bridge.

landscape arch Utah


The previous course of the creek is still visible above the bridge.  Water flows back on itself at bends and wide spots, creating “swirling eddies” along the banks.  As the creek flowed around Rainbow Bridge “fin”, these abrasive eddies formed on both upstream and downstream sides, and cut “circular alcoves” in the rock wall.  The sediment in the creek eventually scoured the softer layers of sandstone away, leaving the harder layers behind.

Located in the rugged, isolated canyons at the feet of Navajo Mountains, Rainbow Bridge was known for centuries by the Native Americans, who have long held the bridge “sacred”.  Ancient Pueblo Peoples were followed much later by Navajo groups who named the bridge NONNEZOSHE or “rainbow turned to stone”.  Several Native American families still reside nearby. By the 1800s, Rainbow Bridge was probably seen by wandering trappers, prospectors and cowboys.  Not until 1909, though, was its existence publicized to the outside world.  Two separate exploration parties ——– one headed by the University of Utah Dean Byron Cummings and another government surveyor, W. B. Douglass, ———— began searching for the “legendary span”.  Eventually, they combined  efforts.  Guides Nasja Begay and Jim Mike led the way, along with the trader and explorer John Wetherill.  Late in the afternoon of August 15, coming down, what is now Bridge Canyon, the party saw Rainbow Bridge for the first time.

aloba_arch chad


The next year, on May 11, 1910, US President William Howard Taft used Presidential Proclamation to designate Rainbow Bridge National Monument.  Rainbow Bridge became more accessible  with the popularity of a river running in Glen Canyon after World War –2, although the trip still required several days floating the Colorado River plus a 7-mile hike up-canyon.  By the early 1950s, people could travel upstream by jet boat from Lee’s ferry.

Glen Canyon Dam was authorized in 1956.  By 1963, the gates of the dam closed and rising Lake Powell began to engulf the river and its side canyons.  Higher water level made motorboat access to Rainbow Bridge much easier, bringing 1000s of visitors.

God’s way is best

The polyps which construct the coral reefs, work away under water, never dreaming that they are building the foundation of a new island on which, by-and-by, plants and animals will live and children be born and fitted for eternal glory.
If your place in God’s ranks is a hidden and secluded one, do not murmur, do not complain, do not seek to get out of God’s will, if He has placed you there, for without the polyps, the coral reefs would never be built, and God needs some who are willing to be spiritual polyps, and work away out of sight of men, but in full view of Heaven.

Gods way


The day will come when God will give the rewards, and He makes no mistakes, although some people may wonder how you came to merit such a reward, as they had never heard of you before.

Just where you stand in the conflict
There is your place
Just where you think you are useless
Hide not your face
God placed you there for a purpose
Whatever it be
Think He has chosen you for it
Work loyally.
Gird on your armour ! Be faithful
At toil or rest
Whatever it e, never doubting
GOD’s WAY IS BEST
Out in the fight or on picket
Stand firm and true
This is the work which your Master
Gives you to do.
Safely we may leave the crowded meeting, the inspiring mountain top, the helpful fellowship of men and betake ourselves to our dim homely Emmaus, or to our dread public Colossae, or even to our far Macedonia, quietly confident that just where He has placed us, in the usual round  of life, He ordains that the borderland may be possessed, the victory won.
—————Northcote Deck. 

From skyscraper to plyscraper

plyscraper_

If the 20th century was the century of the Skyscraper, then the 21st century is shaping up as the century of the PLYSCRAPER —– a tower block made entirely from wood.
A PLYSCRAPER is a skyscraper made out of engineered-lumber such as cross-laminated-timber (CLT), which is composed of dried lumber which is stacked in a 90degree “L” shape, and fully glued over.  It makes for a strong, flexible green building.  By the end of 2015, an estimated 40-48% of new non-residential constructions, by value, will be green.  The Obama Administration, in co-operation with lumber industry groups, is currently offering a  $2million prize for the most innovative PLYSCRAPER design.  With green buildings on the rise and stimulating the economy, the timing of this contest should come as no surprise.

plyscraper in vogue


Despite the historical reputation of wood for great  city fires —— London in 1666, the Great Chicago fire of 1871 and San Francisco in 1960 ——- WOOD is making a comeback as “construction material” and how.  Vancouver-based architects MGA recently completed a 97ft wooden building.  Next year, in Vienna, construction will begin on a 275ft PLYSCRAPER, and Stockholm may build a 34-storey wooden apartment by 2023.  Others in the pipeline are from Canada to Australia to Europe.  Vancouver-based architect Michael Green, says the momentum is gaining as new engineered-woods allow for greater strength and heights in buildings.  Moreover, faster construction times and a softer environmental impact, could the building material of the past be the future of construction ? But, he said, news of taller wooden structures is sprouting up all the time.  “There seems to be a new announcement every 2 or 3 weeks.  We’ve got one in Vancouver for 18 storeys, and in Vienna there’s one for more than 20 storeys.  We’ve done research in high earthquake zones, that show 30 storeys is FEASIBLE.  We certainly think we can go up to 40 and higher.”


Plyscraper


Michael Green said that new developments in engineered-woods —— small wood components that are glued together to make large panels for a building —— are  a “game-changer” for construction.  Mass timber panels, in particular, cross-laminated-timber (CLT) are becoming established as a quicker, greener and, eventually, cheaper alternative to concrete and steel.  One great bonus of the material is the “speed of construction” —— panels can be made to measure, in the factory, with openings, windows and doors. While the main advantage of working in wood are manifold —— it is flexible, robust and easily worked, Green says that wood may be the only material to address the growing problems of urbanization.  Wood has not been looked as “urban material”, so we looked at how it could be the contributor to urban environments.  There are a whole host of advantages.  Steel and Concrete have huge “carbon footprints”.  Concrete accounts for about 6-8% of man’s greenhouse gas emissions, whereas Wood “sequesters” carbon dioxide and gives us a vehicle to create “carbon-neutral buildings.

The energy used to harvest Wood is much less than the enormous amount required to produce Concrete and Steel.  Green says, “There is no other building material that is grown by the Sun.  We’ve calculated that the North American forests grow enough wood for a 20-storey PLYSCRAPER every 8-10mins.  Ultimately, building in wood, creates an economic incentive to plant more forests.  The climate story is really happening at both ends of the argument ——– by using more wood we encourage countries, around the world, to plant more trees.  About 20% of man’s carbon footprint comes from “de-forestation” and this creates an important incentive for “re-forestation”.

plyscraper (1)


In terms of “carbon footprints”, a 20-storey PLYSCRAPER put against its counterpart in Concrete and Steel, is equivalent to taking 900 cars off the road for a year.  But the established nature of concrete and steel means that CLT will not replace urban building materials overnight.  Concerns over fire and inherent problems with its acoustic qualities (apartments need additional acoustic measures to keep noise from travelling) have meant that the construction establishment has been slow to come to the party.  In Vienna, for example, the Austrian Fire Services are working with architects to test their plans. —– “The main factor is that everyone wants to build higher and higher buildings  An 84-metre-high building, in Europe,  is not usual and there are a lot of necessities that have to be realized,” fire service spokesman Christian Wegner told The Guardian newspaper, “a few of us were upset because it was crazy to present an idea like this that has not been discussed with everyone yet.  They have to carry special tests on the correct combination of concrete and wood.  We also want to develop a more “fail-safe” sprinkler system.  I expect they will pass the tests, but if they develop the buildings, as they say they will, it will be a serious project.”

Green counters that CLT is as fire-resistant as other new-builds made by traditional means and likens its ability to burn to trying to set a redwood on fire with a lit match, with any charring creating an “insulation layer” that protects the wood underneath.  Even so, the  industry remains largely sceptical of a process that —- while having obvious advantages in terms of speed —- is still on par with steel and concrete constructions in terms of cost.  Green said, “It will become cheaper, but it’s too new to be significantly less expensive, and the difficulty lies in competing with a “well-honed” and “century-old” system of designing buildings and budgeting for concrete and steel.  The culture of building and the culture of developing buildings is very “conservative”, Green said, “The hardest part of my job, is not the engineering and the design or the innovation, it’s really about changing the public’s perception of what is possible.”
Ultimately, buildings of the future are likely to be a mixture of wooden components and concrete and steel, thus combining the “stability of concrete” with the “flexibility and speed of wood.”  Leading timber specialist at ARUP, Andrew Lawrence, said that, “Clients are missing a trick with wood.  Dollar-for-dollar as a pure construction material, wood can still struggle to be cheaper than concrete.  What you need to do, if you want an economic solution, is to think about all the aspects from the outset.  You will save on the program, because it’s all dry and is quick to erect and potentially, if you are making an office building, you can leave a lot of the wood “exposed” saving on the cost and time of installing finishes.  Moreover   , clients will gain a building that looks good too.  Studies show that people are happier inside wooden structures.”
PLYSCRAPERS could be the future of flat-pack-cities around the world.  In Christchurch —- The Merritt Building welcomed its 1st multi-storeyed timber structure this year, there are plans for Vancouver, and, the talk is China could follow.  Just as the world’s 1st Skyscraper, built by William Le Baron Jenney in Chicago in 1884 (called a spindly steel skeleton) solved the issue of the dense, stunted buildings in the 19th century, architects and engineers are seeking new ways of building faster and taller without having a drastic impact on the environment.  And, that has seen them revisit the most basic building material of them all : WOOD.
Super firm SOM —– the architects behind the One World Trade Centre and the Burj Khalifa —- are considering using wood for high-rise constructions.  Wooden Skyscrapers, or should we say PLYSCRAPERS  are “smoking hot.”  —COULD YOU, WOOD YOU ????????

Roopkund lake

Roopkund_Lake

Locally known as MYSTERY LAKE, it is a high altitude “glacial lake” in Uttarakhand State of India, and lies in the lap of TRISHUL massif and is famous due to hundreds of “human skeletons” found at the edge of the lake.  The place, located at an altitude of 16,499ft, is uninhabited.  The lake is surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad mountains, making it a good trekking destination.

A shallow lake, having a depth of about 2metres, ROOPKUND LAKE has attracted attention by having human skeletal remains easily visible at its bottom when snow melts.  There are many theories and opinions, from purely spiritual to purely scientific ones, which explain the existence of the skeletal remains that date back to the 9th century CE.  Because of these skeletons, the lake is also sometimes called SKELETON LAKE.

Roopkund Lake


The human skeletons were rediscovered in 1942 by a Nanda Devi game reserve ranger —— H. K. Madhwal, although there are reports about these bones from late 19th century.  The remains are visible in the clear water during a one-month period when the ice melts.  Along with the skeletons, objects like wooden artefacts, iron spearheads, leather slippers, rings were also found.  Later studies found the time of mass death around the9th century.

The local legend says that the King of Kanauj, Raja Jasdhaval, with his pregnant wife —– Rani Balampa, servants, dance troupe an others went on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi’s shrine and the group faced a hailstorm and the entire party perished near ROOPKUND LAKE.  Though the numbers were not ascertained what was not determined was where the group was headed. There is no historical evidence of any trade routes to Tibet in the area, but ROOPKUND is located on an important pilgrimage route of the Nanda Devi cult, with Nanda Devi Raj Jat festivities taking place approximately once every 12 years.

Roopkund lake winter


ROOPKUND is a picturesque and beautiful tourist destination, and one of the important places for trekking in GARHWAL District, located near the base of two Himalayan peaks :  TRISHUL (7,120m) and NANDA GHUNTI (6,310m).  A religious festival is held at the alpine meadow of BEDNI UGYAL every autumn, with nearby villages participating.  A larger celebration, the Nanda Devi Raj Jat, takes place once every 12 years at ROOPKUND, during which Goddess Nanda is worshipped.  Roopkund Lake is covered with ice for most of the time during the yea.  However, the journey to Roopkund is an enjoyable experience.  All along the way, one is surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides.

There are different routes for a trek to Roopkund.  Generally, trekkers and adventurers travel to LOHAJUNG or WAN by road.  From there, they climb a hillock at WAN and reach RAN KI DHAR.  There is some flat area where trekkers can camp for the night.  If the sky is clear, one can see TRISHUL PARBAT from Bedni Bugyal.  The next camping spot is at Bedni Bugyal, which s 12-13km from Wan.  There is a huge grazing ground for mules, horses and sheep.  There are two Temples and a small lake that add to the beauty of this place.  One can see many Himalayan peaks from Bedin Bugyal bridge.  Trekkers then go up to BHAGWABHASA, which is 10-11km from Bedni Bugyal.   The climate here is hostile for most of the year. One gets a closer view of Trishul and other peaks higher than 5,000mts.  Many waterfalls are visible on the extreme slopes of the surrounding mountains.

Roopkund winter sunshine


From Bhagwabhasa, trekkers either go to Roopknd and come back, or they go SHILA SAMUNDAR (Sea of Stones) via JUNARGALLI Col Pass, which is just above the lake, and then proceed with the trek up to HOMKUND.

ROOPKUND’S skeletons were featured in a National Geographic documentary “RIDDLES OF THE DEAD : SKELETON LAKE”.

Mystery of desire

krishnabhagwatgita


There are several clichés about desires, action and results.  In the Bhagwad Gita (7:11), Krishna tells Arjuna, “I (the Lord) am in the form of desire which is unopposed to Dharma, universal ethical values.”  The Gita in keeping with the philosophical tradition of India, looks upon desire as a privilege given to us, and not something that one has to eliminate.  We are endowed with the capacity of desire, to know and to do.  In fact, the final human end as envisaged in the Gita and Vedas is MOKSHA (freedom).  The person who desires Moksha is called MUMUKSU.  The one who desires to know the reality of ATMAN (Self), is called JIGNASU.


Lord-Caitanya-Dances-Ecstaticly-at-Gundica-Temple


If so, why is desire presented as a problem in some spiritual teachings ?  The problem lies in the fact that often desires have a great force.  They impel a person to go against universal values, such as not lying, cheating or hurting others, which come under Dharma.  That means, even though we cannot label desire as an unwelcoming thing, the challenge is in managing these desires ——- this is where ones discretion comes into play.  One has to learn to use the privilege of desire wisely.  Growth lies in ensuring that we don’t act on those desires which go against Dharma.

Therefore, desires can be pursued and one can be free to have one more desire, provided desires don’t create pressure in us.  Spirituality is all about gaining mastery over ones desires, so that they don’t take us on a tangent and make us do inappropriate things.  With mastery, we can utilise the privilege to desire to do useful things for society and also evolve spiritually.

stones-inspiration


Often, spiritual teachings talk about “unconditional compassion and love”.  As we become more objective and mature, we naturally become a contributor to society.  We define our role in this world more broadly and reach out to others.  Krishna says that those who are self-centred are creating paap (sin).  This is because in this inter-connected world, we depend upon many people for our life.  If we just take and don’t give back enough, we are like thieves.

But these spontaneous acts of care and compassion, out of understanding of our connection with the whole world, cannot be idealised to the point that one loses discretion in choosing actions that are called for in a given situation.  Different situations call for unique responses, depending upon what is the need of the hour.
The advice that one should be detached and not expect results also requires careful examination.  Krishna says you have a choice over your actions, but never over the results of those actions.  If we could choose our results, there wouldn’t be any failures.  The question is, if the result is not in our hand, then who determines it ?  Is it random ?  If things were random, there would not be any predictability.  There would be no relationship between our actions and results.
Here Krishna says, results are determined by the laws of cause-effect, which connect our present cause with past causes to produce an effect.  Because of the presence of this order that connects various past and present causes to produce an effect, things are predictable.  Predictability implies that we can influence outcomes through our actions, but don’t totally control the results.
A wise person lives one day at a time.  Of course, we can plan, but focus on a day and make the most of it.  Nothing is too big for one to manage for one day.  A lot of our anxieties, worries and fears about what results are going to come to us through future events of life can be handled if we live one day at a time, with awareness that results are taken care of by the infallible order of God.
———– Neema Majumdar

Cinque terre

cinque_terre

Along a beautifully isolated six-mile-stretch of the most seductive corner of the Italian Riviera, lie the CINQUE TERRE small, traffic-free villages gently and steadily carving a good life out of a difficult terrain.  Each fills a ravine with a lazy hive of human activity ——– calloused locals and sunburned travellers enjoying the area’s unique mix of Italian culture and nature.

CINQUE TERRE which means FIVE LANDS, comprise of 5 small coastal villages of RIOMAGGIORE, MANAROLA, CORNIGLIA, VERNAZZA & MONTEROSSO, located in the Italian region of Liguria.  They are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Cinque_Terre01


All the villages slope down to sea-level, except for CORNIGLIA, which is perched on top of a tall cliff.  All of them possess an old-world-charm (from north to south : Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore).  The northernmost one ——- Monterosso is completely different.  It is beach resort type, with not much to see beyond the boardwalk, apart from modern apartment blocks and hotels ———— nothing like the narrow, crooked streets of the other four villages, lined with colourful old houses stacked haphazardly on top of each other.


49411_1600x1200-wallpaper-cb1330957507


RIOMAGGIORE is the southernmost of the Cinque Terre.  During the , you can hear the bell towers chiming and at night the frogs are in frenetic chatter as small boats go night-fishing for anchovies and other fish using lights to attract the fish.  There is also an ancient stone CASTELLO about which little has been written.  An information sign, outside, explains that first mention of the CASTELLO appeared in a document from the mid 500s, which already described it as “ancient.”  Its quadrangular walls with two circular towers were built to protect the citizens, in case of an attack from the sea.  In 800, the CASTELLO became a cemetery and parts were destroyed to adapt it to its new function.  Now, there is an assortment of cafes, bars, restaurants and, of course, GELATERIE.  There are also shops selling the typical yummy Italian fair: fresh fruit (strawberries, cherries and nespole), an assortment of SALUMI (salami and mortadella), cheeses and olives.  These are good places to stock up for the hikes into the hills, although all of them are not very far away.

MANAROLA is a place filled with boats —- covered boats of all kinds line the main street.  There are many lovely places to eat and drink.  There is also a nice little swimming area —- a little cement pier next to some big rocks that you can wade out from into the blue, blue waters.

Streets-of-Monterosso-Cinque-Terre-Liguria-Italy


CORNIGLIA : At the station, the path gains height to reach the town.  The road passes lemon trees, vines, lilies and vegetation of all kinds and, in May, the air is full of the perfume of flowers.  Corniglia feels smaller and quieter, but it is just as “quaint” as the other four.  As Corniglia is atop a large hill, it is only reachable from the train station by either climbing 365 steps up the hill (one step for each day of the year), or there is a bus, run by the Cinque Terre National Park, that takes people up to Corniglia and back down again.

VERNAZZA :  The Blue Trail from Corniglia to Vernazza is a dirt path that starts off in an olive grove.  It keeps climbing and things get a bit sweaty and steep in some places with many stone steps and a few switchbacks.  The place, itself, has a maze of tiny streets that eventually lead down to the main street.  Vernazza is lively and boisterous and has a great scene ——- two clock towers, a beach, boats and a large public space with umbrellas and tables, where you can spend the evenings having wine and watching the mountainous coastline zigzag in and out, hiding Monterosso.

riomaggioreNew


MONTEROSSO is built to accommodate many tourists in large modern apartments and hotels.  Walking is very popular.  In order to walk along the trails between the villages, one must purchase a pass from information offices near the train stations at any of the 5 villages.  It costs 5 euros for an adult or 10 euros to get unlimited travel on trains between the villages.  The pass also allows you to use buses within Cinque Terre.

The main attraction of Cinque Terre is the landscape.  Mediterranean herbs and trees grow spontaneously from the top of the hills down to the water level.  It has been estimated to have taken about 200yrs to build the entire “stone-wall-network”.
Depending on the time of the year, there are some specific things to see :  ** The Lighted Nativity in Manarola (Dec. 8 till late Jan).  It is the world’s biggest Lighted Nativity.  ** The Patron Festivity of the five villages : (all between late May & August), a mix of religious ceremony and popular parties.  ** The Pirates Attack in Vernazza (mid summer), a celebration of the successful defence from a Saracen attack which occurred during the middle ages.  ** The Harvest (early / mid September) and Wine Making, when men’s shoulders and women’s heads are still used as they were 100s of years ago.  ** The Sea Storms (frequent in winter), a great show of Nature’s power.

corniglia_san_pietro


Cinque Terre is famous for the dry white wine ——– simply called CINQUE TERRE and the SCIACCHETRA ( a prized dessert wine, made from prime grapes dried to the point of holding only a few drops of sweet juice).  A colourful addition to the Cinque Terre products is LIMONCINO (a dessert wine made from steeping lemon peels in pure alcohol and then adding sugar and water to make a fragrant and fresh liquor.  The lemons, another famous product of Cinque Terre, are prominently on display in many LIMONETI (lemon groves) and at the annual Lemon Festival held each year in Monterosso during the season of Pentacost.  The “grape-routes” are still as they once were with fig trees planted in strategic positions to give shade during breaks from work, agaves planted to mark boundaries, to line the footpaths along steep, stony steps and to indicate the rail terminals of the recently installed memorials which are the only vertical structures emerging from this seemingly completely horizontal landscape.  The large wicker baskets of grapes (CORBE) are arranged along the POSE (little walls as wide as tables, built solely for this purpose).  The Cinque Terre grape tracks reach down to the sea.  In the past, small fishing boats, called GOZZI, stood immediately below the terraced vineyards.  Baskets, laden with grapes, were then lowered from above into these small boats which then sailed around to the otherwise inaccessible villages.  Nowadays, this method is nothing but a distant memory, but, by visiting Cinque Terre you are still able to sample some of the prized wines of the world that have been created by centuries of backbreaking experience.

Rick Steve says, “There’s not a Fiat in sight ——- just sun, sea, sand (well pebbles), wine and “pure, unadulterated Italy.”  Enjoy the villages, swimming and hiking and the evening romance of one of God’s great gifts to Tourism.  While the Cinque Terre is now discovered (and can be unpleasantly crowded at midday, when tourist boats and cruise ship excursions drop by), I’ve never seen happier, more relaxed tourists.”

Healthy substitutes

With Maggi under the scanner, here are a few HEALTHY SUBSTITUTES to instant noodles.


670px-Make-Noodles-from-Wheat-Flour-Step-8


HOMEMADE ATTA NOODLES :  The same kneaded flour that is used to make chappatis on a daily basis can be put into a sieve and pressed into the shape of noodles.  You can also add soya chunks and spinach paste to flavour these noodles and add to its nutritive value. Boil them with a few drops of olive oil to get a non-sticky texture.  They are extremely simple to make, and are a healthy option.  Home masalas like dry coconut, onion paste, tomato puree or leftover vegetables can spice these ATTA NOODLES up.

HOW TO MAKE AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE TASTEMAKER : Mix some turmeric, chilly powder, coriander powder, amchur (dried mango powder), ginger-garlic paste and onion paste.  Add these to your healthy noodles to make it tastier.
SEMOLINA VERMICELLI :  Most people think that vermicelli is best used to make desserts, but this rice variant can be had for breakfast or as an evening snack.  Simply add a few vegetables like carrots, beans, green peas and sauté it with ghee.  You can also add a dash of sauce to give it a Chinese flavour.  If you want to savour it the Indian way, you can also add some freshly grated coconut to the cooked vermicelli.

spaghetti+with+meat+sauce11


SPAGHETTI : Made of milled wheat and water, this long, thin, cylindrical pasta is any day a healthy alternative.  A simple preparation with boiled veggies and scrambled egg is a perfect quick dish after a long day at work.  You can always add some homemade masalas to enrich the taste.

WHOLE WHEAT/SEMOLINA PASTA : Another healthy alternative, this pasts can be had for breakfast, lunch or snacks.  Just boil it for 5-7mins and toss it with any kind of sauce (preferably a creamy sauce that will enrich the taste of pasta).  There’s a variety of healthy sauces like pesto (basil-based), coconut cream and tomato that are easily available or can be easily made and stocked.  A few veggies are all you need to make up a sumptuous snack.

IdiyappamM


NOOL PUTTU / IDIYAPPAM :  Popular in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it’s a desi homemade version of rice noodles.  Known as Iddiyappam or Nool Puttu, these string-like noodles are prepared by kneading a mixture of rice flour with hot water, ghee and salt.  They are then pressed out of a sieve (or an iddiyappam press) and steamed.  They are usually served with a dash of grated coconut and eaten with a spicy coconut-based curry (potato, gourd, egg, fish or chicken).