a spiritual quest


Ginyur and Irshada were two waterfalls flowing down from the either corners of a huge Shiva temple located at the edge of a river. I really wanted to see the waterfalls but they were quite a distance away and obviously you had to reach before dark. I was a single father with a baby to take care of and my elder sister was visiting me at home. She had her own tales of distress so i really couldn’t leave my baby at home with her and go out for raw adventure. It just wouldn’t look right. I had to find a solution. The first day i hired a rickshaw so that we can all take a ride to the temple. I didn’t tell didi about the waterfall else she would have been really angry. I just told we were going to a temple and since it was a very long ride she could tell me all what’s happening with her on the way. But going with her had her own perils – numerous bathroom and food stops. Also, while the temple showed on Google maps, i was to go there for the first time and there wasn’t much information about the waterfalls on internet. Not many people seemed to be enthused about it so it would really be a eureka moment for me figuring out what is where.

Finally, at dusk, we reached a narrow lane lined with shops on both sides and i knew we were near the temple. I got very excited and rushed towards the gate. I could see the river. I could see pilgrims taking bath there. I could see a lot of movement but it was about to be dark. I was pretty clueless on how to proceed. I asked a few people about the waterfalls and they had no idea. Sadly, i had little time to do my own exploration. Didi would nudge me from behind saying it’s late already. So we offered our prayers at the main Shiva temple and hit home. I couldn’t really tell her my real motive of coming here.

The next day, i thought i would take my bicycle instead. That ways, i would have the liberty of driving and not catering to the whims of my elder sister. I drove like a maniac ignoring the incessant nudging of my sister. We reached the temple pretty much on time – when the sun was still high. I was so full of enthusiasm. We entered the temple and before i could start waterfall hunting i had to do yet another round bowing down to each deity. At the Hanuman temple inside the complex, the pandit there had a small deity of Hanuman and he would press it against the skin of every pilgrim and it would cause some swelling. He would then rub it with some powder thing and “heal” it. He was selling it as some sort of miracle powder. My didi was a very religious person but she was a student of science – and one of the finest. She wouldn’t take all that crap so she started explaining the pandit about how the swelling really happens and that it would “heal” anyways – without the magical powder blessed with Hanuman. She then started off with a different subject of how commercialization of faith and making fool out of people was not in the best interest of Hinduism. I was getting incensed. I mean all the talk was fine but that was not what i signed for.

I was like ok, let’s move on myself. I told didi to do her temple tour alone because i had to look for something. I told her about the waterfalls but shockingly she was fine with it. I felt like an idiot. I could have told her earlier and not have to sit through the “debate” on commercialization of faith. I took out my phone and tried to figure out the location of the waterfalls. Ginyur was the larger of the two so i went there first. My baby was tied to me. At the left corner of the temple complex, i could see the river taking a leap but it wasn’t quite a waterfall. A wandering pandit told me the waterfall was actually under the river and one has to take a holy dip to see it. I thought ok. I went inside the water – with my baby, and dipped my head inside and i could only see a part of the waterfall so i went back some more. For a better way i kept getting back – dipping my head each time for the view, and suddenly i slipped and fell down. There were no more stairs and it was really deep. I kept going down along with my baby. I panicked. I was learning how to swim but i wasn’t an expert. I set my baby free because i remember a friend told me babies can swim. I saw my baby rising up and that was a solace. Even in those moments, i could see the beauty of the whole waterfall. It looked surreal and otherworldly. It was beautiful. It was a spiritual feeling – a feeling of accomplishment, a feeling of beauty. While i struggled to rise from deep inside – for a moment, i thought even if i die, it wouldn’t be for waste. Didi would take care of Ida – my baby, anyways. I was with what i have loved and longed and looked for all my life.

And Shiva was here too. It was like Ganga descending on earth in the locks of Shiva but he had the power to control her. I was a mere mortal dying under the influence of the power of a waterfall. The beauty of it transcended everything. Death is powerful all right but in those fleeting moments, i realized, i had become one of those maniacs who the world will judge because i left an Ida all alone in the world and for what? Sadly, i would never see Irshada. Or Ida. Or didi.

Every quest which becomes a madness is spiritual – a manifestation of life itself. Our struggles of priorities. Our struggles of who or what we love more. Our struggles of unfinished businesses. And then we die. The deeper i went inside the water, the more i became one with it.

underwater

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the american dream turns sour


My parents had come to USA and I still didn’t have my driving license. I had my permit though and wanted to take them out for some shopping. The mall was nearby so I didn’t really ask a permanent license holder to sit beside me. While returning from the mall, I parked my car in a no-parking zone thinking I would deliver a few items in a jiffy to a friend who had asked for them from the mall. When I returned to my car I saw a cop there. My heart skipped a beat or two. Thankfully, the cop didn’t check my license and didn’t want to issue a fine as well. He just asked us to follow him to the police station following which we would be released. I smelled fish but who would argue with a seemingly rather generous cop.

The police station looked eerie. The building reminded me of those colonial buildings from India painted in red. We went inside and saw some cops drying silk yarn. I was shocked. Were these really cops? The one who had asked us to come to the police station told us to leave but said a police car will escort us till the main street. We were though told to drive through a tunnel like structure. I was afraid but I had no option except doing as being directed.

The tunnel was long and appeared never ending. Who were these people and where were they taking us? Finally, the tunnel opened to a market – the kind we have in India, with unorganised shops peppered with temples and mosques. The cop in the police car which we were following told us to enter a mosque and offer prayers before we could leave. We had to do that. The mosque’s entrance had a huge maze like structure which we had to cross before we could enter the prayer hall. No matter what we did we remained stuck in the maze. We came out to seek the help of the cop who had escorted us till here but he was nowhere to be found.

market

We heaved a sigh of relief and thought finally we were on our own. There was another shocker waiting. I couldn’t see my car. I took out my phone to locate my car and I could see it moving at a high speed crossing a reservoir we have near our home. That speed looked unreal. A thousand unanswered questions hovered in my mind right now. Were those cops car thieves? Was I conned into this? I was thankful we all were safe at least.

We all got together and decided to cross the market and take a cab to home. We didn’t even know where we were. Was it a movie set? This didn’t look like America. The insurance would take care of the car theft I thought. We kept on walking amidst the labyrinth like market and after a couple of hours came back to the same place. What was happening? We couldn’t be this lost surely. Google map was showing the way to our home and we took that but ultimately landed at the same place. How was that possible?

We all sat disappointed with our hearts beating abnormally. Everything else escaped me. I thought to myself, “Will I never be able to leave America now?”

mr india – a history


Male beauty pageants aren’t much talked about the world over and India is no exception. While the craze of beauty pageants has ebbed in India, for the sake of documentation, below is the list of all those who won Mr India since Grasim Industries sponsored the first contest in 1995.

Year: 1995
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Bikram Saluja
Sent to: Mr World 1996
Placement: Semifinalist

Year: 1996
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Sachin Khurana
Sent to: Mr World 1998
Placement: Unplaced

Year: 1997
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Deepinder Gill
Sent to: N/A
Placement: N/A

Year: 1998
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Diwakar Pundir
Sent to: Mr International 1998
Placement: Semifinalist

Year: 1999
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Abhijit Sanyal
Sent to: Mr International 1999
Placement: 3rd

abhijit

abhijit

Year: 2000
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Aryan Vaid
Sent to: Mr International 2000
Placement: WINNER

aryan

aryan (center)

Year: 2001
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Vivan Bhatena
Sent to: Mr International 2001
Placement: Semifinalist

vivan.png

vivan

Year: 2002
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Raghu Mukherjee
Sent to: Mr International 2002
Placement: WINNER

raghu.jpg

raghu (center)

Year: 2003
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Rajneesh Duggal
Sent to: Mr International 2003
Placement: 2nd

rajneesh.jpg

rajneesh (center)

Year: 2004
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Sunil Mann
Sent to: N/A
Placement: N/A

sunil.jpg

sunil (center)

Year: 2005
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Viraf Patel
Sent to: N/A
Placement: N/A

viraf.png

viraf (center)

Year: 2006
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Yatin Sonic
Sent to: N/A
Placement: N/A

yatin.jpg

yatin

Year: 2007
Title sponsor: Grasim
Winner: Bharat Kundra
Sent to: N/A
Placement: N/A

bharat.jpg

bharat (center)

Year: 2007
Title sponsor: Haywards 5000
Winner: Kawaljit Anand Singh
Sent to: Mr World 2007
Placement: Semifinalist

kawaljit.jpg

kawaljit (center)

Year: 2008
Title sponsor: Haywards 5000
Winner: Pravesh Rana
Sent to: N/A
Placement: N/A

pravesh.jpg

pravesh (center)

Year: 2009
Title sponsor: N/A
Winner: Imran Khan
Sent to: N/A
Placement: N/A

imran.jpg

imran (left)

Year: 2010
Title sponsor: N/A
Winner: Inder Bajwa
Sent to: Mr World 2010
Placement: Semifinalist

Year: 2012
Title sponsor: N/A
Winner: Taher Ali
Sent to: Mr World 2012
Placement: Unplaced

Year: 2014
Title sponsor: Provogue, MensXP
Winner: Prateik Jain
Sent to: Mr World 2014
Placement: Semifinalist

prateek.jpg

prateik (center)

Year: 2015
Title sponsor: Provogue
Winner: Rohit Khandelwal
Sent to: Mr World 2016
Placement: WINNER

rohit.jpg

rohit (center)

Year: 2016
Title sponsor: Peter England
Winner: Vishnu Raj Menon
Sent to: TBD
Placement: TBD

vishnu.jpg

vishnu (center)

rants of a meat-eater


Ever since my early days i wasn’t an enthusiastic meat eater. I ate mostly because my parents wanted me to saying it’s a good source of protein, it will provide strength and all that. In the early 1990s, the only meat we had at home was eggs, fish, chicken, goat and the occasional shrimps.

While i was in my teenage years and was sane enough to take decisions for myself i stopped eating meat in periodical bouts. The first was after watching the cruel treatment of animals in the Indian TV series Heads and Tails. Once while descending a bunch of stairs i slipped and twisted my ankle. My parents didn’t blame it on my carelessness but the fact that i wasn’t eating meat then. The second bout of abstention was when i was in high school. I had been to the marriage of a cousin where goat meat was to be served during the night feast. I saw the halal slaughtering of at least half a dozen goats and it left an ugly impression on my mind to the extent that i stopped eating meat – particularly goat, for almost half a decade, since that day.

We have meat only occasionally at our home- hardly once in a week and mostly alternating fish and chicken. We have the rare shrimps as well. Egg curry isn’t particularly considered non-vegetarian so excluding that out. When i entered the professional stage of my life i began venturing out and that was when i started experimenting and as of now i have had crab meat, pork, duck meat and beef (the first time accidentally and the second time knowingly trying a pizza bite with beef topping) also. I am actually a fan of bacon strips. The fact though remains that we are sporadic meat eaters and when i say we, i mean my entire family.

As is evident, even though i eat meat i am not a proponent of it. The primary reason being i don’t subscribe to killing of animals for consumption.

dhaka

bloodied dhaka streets after eid al-adha

A few days ago, pictures of bloodied streets in Dhaka during the occasion of Eid al-Adha were getting viral. It was disgusting, unhygienic and horrific. Although this is extreme, i can’t just blame Islamic festivals. Hindus also indulge in sacrificing animals. The largest sacrificial festival was Nepal’s Gadhimai until it was banned. I am a Hindu but i am against animal sacrifice – even using the preferable jhatka method which results in quick death as opposed to halal method. I have seen sacrifice of goats on multiple occasions – at Kolkata’s Kalighat temple and Gorakhpur’s Tarkulha Devi temple, and it disgusted me. I have seen water buffaloes being taken for slaughtering at Guwahati’s Kamakhya temple and it sickened me. Why do humans need to find an excuse to eat meat? Why on God’s name? Trust me; the Gods give a flying fuck!

What also disgusts me is the unhygienic and unethical method of selling meat in India and probably many other countries. Many roadside shops slaughter in the open – right in front of kids, which is something i don’t approve of.

meat1

selling meat out in the open

Although i have eaten pork and beef, i am particularly against the consumption of these because it involves slaughtering huge animals that undergo immense pain during the process. In advance countries like USA, i am sure these animals are slaughtered keeping quick death in mind but i am not sure of less advanced countries. I have seen countless videos on the cruel methods of slaughtering these big animals. Chicken, fish and crustaceans meet quick death but not a cattle or a pig.

There is also the environmental angle. Raising meat – particularly beef, takes a heavy toll on the environment for the sheer amount of resources it needs. There is also the spiritual aspect of avoiding meat and i have seen a few videos. This one by Sadhguru is a must watch https://goo.gl/hjN1KJ. Also, considering how meat is a staple for both casual and fine dining, it has led to much unhealthy practices of rearing meat.

As an adult who has eaten meat most of his life i think skipping meat for good would be pretty difficult – if not impossible, but to sum it up, i would say, even if you eat meat, keep it to a minimum or at least avoid eating meats that require butchering of huge animals. Even if you have to, ensure they haven’t been tortured to death. I have seen some very gory videos of how animals are slaughtered and trust me it’s very unappetizing. Also, please don’t eat meat on the name of God. Eat it on your name.

cattle

i prefer this any day

indian sprinting at olympics


When it comes to sprinting, most Indians only know about Milkha Singh and Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha. Ignoring the winning performances of Norman Pritchard at the 1900 Summer Olympics where he won 2 silver medals representing India, the sprinting performances of Singh and Usha are the best in Olympics for Indian sprinters. Milkha Singh finished 4th in the 400 m finals at the 1960 Summer Olympics and Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha finished 4th in the 400 m hurdles at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Both of them missed a bronze in their respective categories by 1/100th of a second.

What most Indians don’t know is that there are several other Indians who have qualified for sprinting events and quite a few have reached the semi finals and finals too. Below is the list of all who have represented India at Olympics in sprinting events for both men and women with mentions of their semi final or final finishes. If i have missed any name(s), kindly bring it to my attention in the comments section. Sprinting consists of 100 m, 80/100/110 m hurdles, 4×100 m relay, 200 m, 400 m, 400 m hurdles and 4×400 m relay.

Men’s 100 m

  • Norman Pritchard – 1900 – SF
  • Purma Banerjee – 1920
  • Wilfred Hildreth – 1924
  • James Hall – 1924
  • Terence Pitt – 1924
  • R Burns – 1928
  • Bunoo Sutton – 1932
  • Ronald Vernieux – 1932
  • Eric Whiteside – 1936
  • Eric Prabhakar – 1948
  • Lavy Pinto – 1952 – SF
  • Raj Joshi Tilak – 1960
  • Kenneth Lawrence Powell – 1964
  • Adille Sumariwalla – 1980

Women’s 100 m

  • Nilima Ghose – 1952
  • Mary D’Souza – 1952
  • Mary Rao – 1956
  • Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha – 1980
  • Dutee Chand – 2016

Men’s 110 m hurdles

  • Norman Pritchard – 1900 – Final – Did Not Finish
  • Cheruvari Kottieth Lakshmanan – 1924
  • Abdul Hamid – 1928
  • Bunoo Sutton – 1932 – SF
  • Jim Vickers – 1948 – SF
  • Chand Ram – 1956
  • Jagmohan Singh – 1960
  • Gurbachan Singh Randhawa – 1964 – Final – 5th
randhawa

Gurbachan Singh Randhawa finishing 5th in the finals behind Hayes Jones (USA), Blaine Lindgren (USA), Anatoly Mikhailov (USSR) and Eddy Ottoz (Italy)

Women’s 80/100 m hurdles

  • Nilima Ghose – 1952

Men’s 4×100 m relay

  • Bunnoo Sutton, Ronald Vernieux, Mehar Chand Dhawan, Dickie Carr – 1932
  • Anthony Francis Coutinho, Makhan Singh, Kenneth Lawrence Powell, Rajasekaran Pichaya – 1964 – SF
  • Anna Durai, Rajeev Balakrishnan, Ajay Raj Singh, Anil Kumar Prakash – 2000

Women’s 4×100 m realy

  • Valdivel Jayalakshmi, Vinta Tripathi, Saraswati Dey, Rachita Mistry – 2000

Men’s 200 m

  • Norman Pritchard – 1900 – Final – Silver
  • James Hall – 1924
  • Terence Pitt – 1924
  • Wilfred Hildreth – 1924
  • R Burns – 1928
  • James Hall – 1928
  • Ronald Vernieux – 1932
  • Eric Whiteside – 1936
  • Lavy Pinto – 1952 – SF
  • Milkha Singh – 1956
  • Milkha Singh – 1960
  • Kenneth Lawrence Powell – 1964
  • Subramanian Perumal – 1980
  • Dharambir Singh – 2016 (DISQUALIFIED FOR DOPING)

Women’s 200 m

  • Mary D’Souza – 1952
  • Saraswati Saha – 2004
  • Srabani Nanda – 2016

Men’s 400 m

  • Purma Banerjee – 1920
  • Terence Pitt – 1924
  • James Hall – 1928
  • Gyan Bhalla – 1936
  • Ivan Jacob – 1952
  • Milkha Singh – 1956
  • Milkha Singh – 1960 – Final – 4th
  • Paramjit Singh – 2000
  • Kalayathumkuzhi Mathews Binu – 2004 – SF
  • Muhammad Anas – 2016

Women’s 400 m

  • Stephie D’Souza – 1964
  • Kamaljit Sandhu – 1972
  • Mercy Kuttan – 1988
  • Kalayathumkuzhi Mathews Beenamol – 2000 – SF
  • Mandeep Kaur – 2008
  • Nirmala Sheoran – 2016

Men’s 400 m hurdles

  • Abdul Hamid – 1928
  • Jagdev Singh – 1956
  • Amrit Pal – 1964

Women’s 400 m hurdles

  • Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha – 1984 – Final – 4th
  • Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha – 1988

Men’s 4×400 m relay

  • Makhan Singh, Amrit Pal, Ajmer Singh, Milkha Singh – 1964
  • Lijo David Thottan, Jata Shankar, Purukottam Ramachandran, Paramjit Singh – 2000
  • Mohammad Anas, Ayyasamy Dharun, Kunhu Muhammed , Arokia Rajiv, Mohan Kumar, Sumit Kumar- 2016

Women’s 4×400 m relay

  • Vandana Rao , Shiny Abraham , Manathoor Devasia Valsamma, Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha – 1984 – Final – 7th
  • Vandana Rao, Mercy Kuttan, Vandana Pandurang Shanbagh, Shin Kurisingal Abraham – 1988
  • Kalayathumkuzhi Mathews Beenamol, Rosakutty Kunnath Chacko, Shiny Abraham, Jyotirmoyee Sikdar – 1996
  • Kalayathumkuzhi Mathews Beenamol, Rosakutty Kunnath Chacko, Paramjeet Kaur, Jincy Philip – 2000
  • Kalayathumkuzhi Mathews Beenamol , Sathi Geetha, Manjeet Kaur, Rajwinder Kaur, Chitra Kulathummuriyil Soman– 2004 – Final – 7th
  • Tintu Luka, Nirmala Sheoran, Anilda Thomas, Machettira Raju Poovamma, Ashwini Akkunji, Debashree Majumdar, Jisna Mathews – 2016

tallest flagpoles of india


One can say a lower middle-income country like India should invest more in pulling out its teeming millions from poverty but not denying the importance of it, it’s also important to instill a sense of pride, unity and patriotism amongst the countrymen. It can count for little for many but the emblems of sovereignty have their own importance. I am not sure how proper comparison with the USA would be considering it’s a high-income country but nationalism and per capita GNI are two different things and can continue simultaneously in even differing worlds. The first time I saw a tall flagpole with the Indian tricolour was at Delhi’s Connaught Place in May, 2014 and it was a wonderful feeling. Ever since moving to the USA in June, 2014, seeing so many tall flagpoles with huge fluttering stars and stripes, I always thought why can’t we have the same back in India. Apparently, the trend of having tall flagpoles in India was started by Naveen Jindal. He is also the pioneer in initiating amendments – both constitutional and judicial, for enabling private citizens to display the Indian tricolor on all days besides Republic and Independence day. The Indian parliament approved it in 2002 and the Supreme Court of India followed in 2004. Thereof, Naveen Jindal’s Flag Foundation of India (FFI) has been instrumental in the construction of 12 flagpoles across the country each standing 207 ft tall. There are a few others which are taller and have been described below including a few of FFI.

1) Ranchi flagpole

Height = 293 ft

Flag dimensions = 99 ft x 66 ft (6534 sq ft)

Flag weight = 60 kg

Inauguration = 23rd January, 2016 by Manohar Parrikar

ranchi

2) Hyderabad flagpole

Height = 291 ft

Flag dimensions = 108 ft x 72 ft (7776 sq ft)

Flag weight = 65 kg

Inauguration = 2nd June, 2016 by Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao

hyderabad

3) Raipur flagpole

Height = 269 ft

Flag dimensions = 105 ft x 70 ft (7350 sq ft)

Flag weight = N/A

Inauguration = 30th April, 2016 by Raman Singh

raipur

4) Faridabad flagpole

Height = 250 ft

Flag dimensions = 96 ft x 64 ft (6144 sq ft)

Flag weight = 48 kg

Inauguration = 3rd March, 2015 by Amit Shah, Manohar Lal Khattar and Ranbir Kapoor

faridabad

5) Bhopal flagpole

Height = 235 ft or 228 ft

Flag dimensions = 90 ft x 60 ft (5400 sq ft)

Flag weight = N/A

Inauguration = 27th May, 2015 by Shivraj Singh Chouhan

bhopal

6) Navi Mumbai flagpole

Height = 225 ft or 222 ft

Flag dimensions = N/A

Flag weight = N/A

Inauguration = 19th February, 2014 by Sharad Pawar

navi mumbai

7) Bangalore flagpole

Height =207 ft

Flag dimensions = 72 ft x 48 ft (3456 sq ft)

Flag weight = 31 kg

Inauguration = 23rd January, 2014 by Hansraj Bhardwaj

bangalore

 

8) Delhi flagpole

Height = 207 ft

Flag dimensions = 90 ft x 60 ft (5400 sq ft)

Flag weight = 37 kg

Inauguration = 7th March, 2014 by Naveen Jindal

delhi

Kindly let me know in case one figures out any discrepancies.

india at miss world


The first Miss World was held in 1951 at London, Greater London, UK and India did not send a representative then.

The first time India sent a representative was in 1959 in Fleur Ezekiel who failed to place. Since then India has almost always sent a representative except in the years 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1973 and 1989.

Between 1951 and 2015, there have been 65 Miss World contests and India has sent a total of 51 representatives out of which she has 23 placements – a strike rate of 45%.

Out of the 23 placements, India has 10 finalists – in the years 1966, 1972, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2008, 2012. Out of these 10 finalists, India has 5 winners – in the years 1966, 1994, 1997, 1999 and 2000.

Below is a brief of the 10 Indian finalists (including the 5 winners) at Miss World.

reita faria

reita faria, miss india world 1966, was the winner that year!

malathi

malathi basappa (extreme left), miss india world 1972, finished 5th! the winner was from australia!

Optimized-aishwarya

aishwarya rai, miss india world 1994, was the winner that year!

rani2

rani jeyraj (left), miss india world 1996, finished 4th! the winner was from greece!

diana

diana hayden, miss india world 1997, was the winner that year!

Optimized-yukta1

yukta mookhey, miss india world 1999, was the winner that year!

Optimized-priyanka

priyanka chopra, miss india world 2000, was the winner that year!

Optimized-ami

ami vashi, miss india world 2003, finished 4th! the winner was from ireland!

parvathy

parvathy omanakuttan, miss india world 2009, finished 2nd! the winner was from russia!

vanya.png

vanya mishra, miss india world 2012, finished 7th! the winner was from china!

fleur

fleur ezekiel, miss india world 1959! she was the first indian to participate in miss world contest and did not place!