Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Some pics from Kodagu

Do these people know that these are examples of what is called as 'henotheism' in the west? Wall paintings from the Omkareshwara temple in Madikeri, the capital city of Kodagu (the actual name of the anglicised 'Coorg') District.

Look at the busy traffic waiting for green light at a traffic signal in Madikeri.

One cold winter morning in the kitchen of 'Ambika Tiffanies' in Madikeri.
--pic by Karthik

Karthik (black shirt, lots of hair on the face) overseeing the stepney change. Notice his stylish pose of sitting. How far behind is the West in fashion!Incidentally, wikipedia article on stepney says that the word is used only in India in that sense.
--pic by Pavan

Lots of Urea!
--pic by Karthik

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Osmania Biscuit XIV--Battle of Wits


When Lingam performed the maneuver of facing Obul and cleverly running away past him, he did more than a maneuver-- he had won a great battle of wits, which thankfully, neither he knew nor Obul knew. In fact, chroniclers (who seem to be ubiquitous, which should make us think what is in it for them? but then we will not, for now!) think that this technique easily outweighs the last battle of wits (yes! It is a 'battle of wits', literally!) in the famous 'battle of BEML gate'.

What we are missing here is the history behind these battles of wits. Long long ago, there used to be two huge kingdoms-- one was militantly Vaishnavaite, and another was militantly Shaivaite, and they used to battle their guts out for supremacy. It was rumoured that they frequently obained favours from Gods for their militaristic endeavours.

The whole Vaishnavaite kingdom was one very posh, properly planned city called Narayanopolis. It had a beautiful central palace with Golden Spires and sprawling meadows for the King. The people were extremely polite and their taste was exceeded only by their hatred towards their Shaivaite counterparts. The people were highly sentient and hard-working beings and thrived on agriculture and trade. They had a vast, powerful and organised army divided into many regiments. The vaishnavite city also had another Satellite city (literally 'satellite', as you shall see!) named Garudopolis that was susupended in mid-air, and could be used as a huge warship. They also had a powerful air-force named the 'Garudawaffe'.

On the contrary, the Shaivaite kingdom was a large mass of barren waste-land --a paradox with colums of smoke and ash spewing out from one part and snow and grinding ice in another part. It was a rocky and a moutainous region and people mostly lived on hunting and most people, when not hunting were seen meditating on Shiva. Some never stopped meditating and after their death, they added a kind of unseen armour to the Shaiva kingdom that needed many magic weapons to break through. The Shaivas had their own answer to the Garudawaffe-- they had Marutsena.

While Garudawaffe depended on sophistication, efficiency, and precision, Maruts depended only numbers and raw heroics. No wonder, they were much feared. It was partly to thwart any further attacks from Maruts that Vaishnavaites built the Garudopolis. Shaivaites frequently employed women in the army and they had their own regiment called the Bhairavi regiment, and they were notorious for their unrelenting bravery. On the other hand, the Vaishnavaites had a powerful nursing and reconnaisance brigade called the Mohini-Brigade. It was famed to never fail.

Till now, Obul (a name of God Vishnu's Avatara Narasimha) did not know that he was the direct descendant of the lengendary General Oppiliappan-IX (Oppiliappan also means Narasimha. It could be that Oppiliappan is the actual Tamizh form of 'Obulayya'), who single-handedly, with his band of highly motivated fighters, routed an invasion of a huge Shaivaite army consisting of 44th KAla-Bhairava Regiment and the 16th Light-infantry Bhringi Regiment and 24th Rudra Rifles Regiment.

And Lingam, obvioustly as well, did not know that he was a direct descendant of VallinAyagam-III, the prefect of Chidambaram-- who successfully thwarted an attack of 4th, 5th, and 11th VarAha-regiments and even withstood, though at great loss, highly sophisticated and dangerous Sudarshana weapons dropped from Garudopolis. The whole of 6th Marut-Brigade was felled from the skies. The Shaivaites, from then on, never have had a 6th Marut-Brigade in honour of those who found martyrdom on that day. Now, it seems that to save from the onslaught of the Vaishnavaites, some of the Shaivaites in a neutral area got mixed with pastoral and peace minded Yadavs and began calling themselves Yadavs. Same was the case with Vaishnavaites and they mingled themselves with other tribes to find peace.

These wars continued for centuries together, with innumerable battles and skirmishes. As times changed, because of a lot of external factors, the funds for war decreased on Vaishnavaites' side, and not many Shaivaites were intent on ghOra-tapasya, so their shields weakened. So there emerged a new form of tactical warfare called 'Battle of Wits'. The entire warfare consisted of confusing the enemy. The more you end up confusing the enemy, the more crushing is the defeat inflicted upon him. And war-chroniclers, who write down everything, decide who wins. (more often, they are seen taking money from a side and pronounce it victorious!). So, you see, the profession is not without its plus points.

So when Lingam turned around and faced Obul at Janglee ViThoba Temple in Hyderabad, the whole world was watching him, and war-chroniclers were busy scripting each and every minute detail of the incident. By the time Lingam ran away into the galli with a perplexed Obul staring with his gaping mouth, Lingam was already a Shaivaite hero. Chants of 'Hara hara Mahadeva' echoed in the sub-terranean hideouts of the Shaivaite extremist organisations throughout the world. Lingam, without knowing the reason, kept getting many gifts and 'well-done', 'bravo', and 'salute to thou' letters for months. Thankfully, he didnt bother about them one single-bit because they were addressed to a guy named 'VallinAyagam-VII', and he had no idea it was his real name.

And Obul.. poor Obul got busted by the vaishnavaite powers that be. He was hunted by an inexplicable misfortune. He lost money everywhere, his friends deseted him. he was kicked out of his master Erra Satyam's service (in fact, some theorise that the murder of Erra Satyam was an attack to inflict pain on Obul) and was treated as a disgrace. But the powers calmed down eventually and were set to offer Obul a new life and a chance to redeem his honour.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

parivartanAvartanam -- Life, Transformation, and back to Life- III

Back to Life:

Priya was only remotely fascinated by her actual name before-- her parents sometimes used to make fun of her, saying that it would have been better if she had been named 'vakuLa', with a tint of sarcasm. Neither she understood what they meant, not did she understand what was wrong with the name 'vakuLa'. They always said that her grandmother didnt like staying with them even though they tried bringing her over because her way of life was too strict and out-of-date, and that she stayed in a remote village away from them.

It was only later when she met her grandmother incidentally on a trip did she realise what her parents meant. But right in the first meeting, she found her grandmother far more likeable than her parents. She developed a soft corner for her grandmother, who still called her VakuLa, and started visiting her often. Gradually, she began to prefer the name 'VakuLa' over 'Priya'. Though she enjoyed battling with semaphores and forks in work, she found this far more gratifying. In a short while, she had learnt so much that she felt she came a long way. Now, because of the same qualities that made her an excellent team lead in that software testing form, she had become the life of the town because of her commitment and hardwork, and she had become a role model for other young women.

At one point, she understood that more than devotion to the Godhead, it was the commitment to lead a way of life that preserved riches of life that kept her going--an honest attempt at leading a much more organic, natural, intuitive, and richer way of life where she can always learn something about the nature, the people around her, and finally herself.

And so, every weekend, she became VakuLa, and every Monday, she returned to work as Priya. Her grandmother did not coax her into any kind of decision. She knew that her granddaugher had come on her own, and she had to make her own decision-- and the decision had to be made soon.

It is the end of my narration, for I do not know what the future has in store for the central character. Will she become VakuLa in the end or will she stay Priya... I do not want to take it any further, because I do not want to think for the readers of this story. If you have come till here, you have already an opinion about Priya/VakuLa, and about yourself. Her story ends here and yours begins here. What you want to become and where you want to go is your business.

P.S.: Yes, the narration is sloppy, the character development is incomplete, and some characters are too stereotyped and banal. But if you still manage to look through this nebulous fog and find something to ponder over, then I have done my job.

parivartanAvartanam -- Life, Transformation, and back to Life- II


When Priya got home, her grandmother was not at home but she found all the arrangements made. An olive coloured silk saree and blouse set were lying on a stool, and some water, cold as a rule, was present in the bathroom. She quickly cast away all of her 'city' clothes, took bath, and wore her saree, braided her hair and made it into a bun, applied a short vertical tilakam on her forehead, wore some green and a couple of golden bangles, a small nose-gem (not a nose-ring), a set of small golde ear-rings set with pearl, and finally set a small lenth of flower strip into her bun.

The process which had come to seem so natural to her now, was not so a while ago. It began only as a small and gentle curiosity about year and a half ago. By and by, her grandmother sensed the flow of her granddaughter's feelings as the curiosity grew into general interest, then into a fully-grown hobby, and then avid enthusaism and finally maturing into realisation of she had been missing all this time as her mentor-grandmother, feeling happy at the progress made by her protege, taught her all she knew-- to cook, dress up, and behave in the trational manner.

VakuLa herself was perplexed how she could imbibe all of this so easily. She felt something was not right, and she tried to keep away from the town and cut all contact with her grandmother. But the urge to come back was too swift. She gave up finally. At times, she used to wonder if she was enjoying it because she was so good at it, or was it the other way around, but now, it did not matter much. She knew where she belonged. Every weekend, she had been coming to her grandmother's place. She kept lying to her parents, friends, and people at office about her whereabouts at weekends. She hardly used to go to her home. But whenever she went, there was a feeling of frustration and loss. Her parents were not qualified enough to peep behind her formal smiles to sense the inner volcano of feelings.

She also had come to know many of the traditional Indian chants by heart. She began reading books on Indian philosophy and very soon she was able to convince other scholars in town that she was someone to contend with. She even had started participating in some of the temple ceremonies. A small coterie of orthodox Brahmins tried to bar her progress, but being well versed in the shastras by now, she came over them, yet without hurting their self-respect using her tact. She now looked into the mirror to give final touches to her transformation from Priya to VakuLa-- the name her grandmother had chosen for her when she was born, but rejected by her parents who found it too old-fashioned. She came out and saw the framed photograph of Goddess Laxmi by the wall in the outer room. She took a slow deep breath, and she felt she was now richer, having driven out Alakshmi from her life:

Kshut pipásá-amalám jyesthám alakshmím náshayámyaham
Abhūtimasamriddhim cha sarván nirnuda me grihat.

She wrapped her neck and shoulders with the saree and went to the grocers, who knew her only has the grand-daughter of the old widow Narmada, and ordered the necessary vegetables and condiments. Cooking SODasapakvAnnAs for fifty one people is not an easy task for a beginner. She was used, by now, to cooking for the temple, but the scale was much smaller. A tough task but she had taken it upon her willingly.

She returned home where her grandmother was waiting for her. She had gone over to the neighbours' place. As her grandmother went inside to cook, vakuLa went into the small garden to collect some tulasi-daLams for the puja the next day. It was going to be another long but beautiful day.

parivartanAvartanam -- Life, Transformation, and back to Life- I


Priya was into software testing. In her short 4-year old career after her engineering, she had already become a team lead after just over 2-years of service. A charming smile always adorned her face and she had a knack of getting the most difficult job done by the people working under her. She would push, taunt, or pep up her team mates as the situation demanded. She was extremely committed and hard-working and demanded the same level of commitment from others around her. She took on others' load when they could not bear it any longer. In short, she was the perfect leadership-material. However, not all was okay with her.

Priya had a secret life that began about 8 months before. A part of her that was almost negligible had suddenly begun to assert itself and she felt compelled to satisfy it. She fought it initially-- it was not something well bred girls of upper middle class did without bringing the family into disrepute in the high society. Even she herself took sometime to accept it. But she had finally begun to understand that she was different from others and that her priorities had changed. She knew what had to be done... only, she was afraid of taking the step. Her parents, who were proud of her, would find it opprobrius. They were too worried about their status. Her team-mates would think she has lost it and gone mad. She would be in one of those fringe groups, generally laughed at. She suspended her decision to some other time in future and sat in a bus friday afternoon, as she had been doing every weekend of late.

She got down at a small town in the cold evening after about 5 hours of journey and started walking at a brisk pace. Some people saluted her in namaskaara mudra and walked away with bent heads, some others greeted her as their own child, while some were giving her rather anxious looks. She commanded huge respect in the town. She reached a house, went inside, locked the door and promptly removed all of her clothing. There was a feeling of expectation and excitement-- she had not even dreamt doing something like this before.
Jayati tEdhikam kRshna janmanAvrajAH
Srayata indirA kRshna SaSvad atrahi
dayita dRshyatAm kRshna dikshutAvakA-
stvayi dhRtAsavaH kRshna tvAM vichinvatE.

na khalu gopikA kRshNa nandano bhavAn....

Chants of gOpikA gItam, along with highly appetising culinary scents, were emanating from a small house with a label "VakuLa" early in the morning in a mountain town. The female voice was young and ebullient, but it also echoed deep commitment and was full of devotion. The house had a narow fence made of thickets, and it also had a well and a couple of cows in a shed. The priest of the temple stopped in front of the wooden gate for a while to listen to the young voice, wrapt in the beauty of the sonorous chants with his eyes closed, and then walked away to attend to his chores at the temple. VakuLa had become very dear and respectable to the people, both learned and lay, in town in a short while.