(ഹൈമവതഭൂവിൽ )Haimavathabhoovil: Book review

 This book is a must read for all Indians to just to fathom how great out legacy is. It took me on a pilgrimage through places of mythological and cultural significance. Gliding through several chapters in a single sitting never bored me.

The title essentially means ‘In the place covered with snow’. The author is well read in philosophy, mythology, history and Sanskrit. Gems of knowledge from his vast experience is sprinkled throughout the book. I felt that the right thoughts effortlessly rose in his mind at the right moments, and that the chapters are detailed and provides information of a place from all angles shows the meticulous work MP Veerendra Kumar has put in behind the trip. I wonder how he kept track of all the points from his 40 or so day long sojourn, given that he never mentions about taking notes or making diary entries. At few points, I envy the author’s skill of retrieving from memory, the relevant anecdotes, slokas, pieces of poetry, quotes etc. 

Places like Rudraprayag, karnaprayag, kumaon, nainital, gangothri, yamunothri etc., that I had never paid much attention to before are now in my wish list of places to visit. I must confess that at times, I felt the chill that the author described was in the place. Ironically, the journey seems largely uneventful, without any untoward incedents or difficulties, except that they are reaching places. Author’s thoughts and conversation in the travel group create the ideas that makes the book. I have to mention that the photos taken by author and team, printed in centerfold pages were awful!

Another aspect I liked is the author’s views about environmental protection and our blindly aping the west, which are similar to mine. Knowing that we have members of Parliament who holds these values is heartening. But unlike a man of power, he was just sitting there talking about all damages that we do to nature, mentioning nothing about actions the people and government can take to reduce or control it.

At gangothri, he talks about ganga’s birth, her story, river ganga and it’s significance in Indian culture etc. At karnaprayag, the life story of karna is told. Each place and thing has a story to tell, a glory long lost is hidden everywhere. On finishing the book I took pride in being an Indian.

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Vishu 2018

Vishu doesn’t exactly mark the malayalam new year, but it something to do with the position of sun. All I care is I get to see ‘Vishu Kani’ and I get to eat ‘Vishu Sadya’. Earlier I use to get ‘Vishu Kai Neettam’ as well, but now I am at the giving end, so not much fun there. Still, it reminds of the time when the Kani konna trees and gulmohars bear flower in the scorching heat.

Why is the night sky dark??

This is a question any child can answer: because there is no sun , the sky is dark! But, think: what about the light from billions of stars dotting the sky? They are all bigger and brighter than the sun, but only much farther away. Still enough light must be reaching earth from them, to illuminate our familiar black night sky.

When this question was asked few centuries back, man soon found that he was incapable of providing a satisfactory answer. It was until 20th century when the answer finally arrived. I will not attempt to ruin your curiosity by putting the answer bluntly. Watch this documentary, narrated by Jim-al-Khalili: Everything and Nothing: The amazing science of empty space. I watched it on Amazon Prime Video, but it is available on YouTube too.

വിരുന്ന്‌

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അവനെന്ന്നും അത്ഭുതം ആയിരുന്നു, അവളുടെ മുത്തശ്ശികഥകളോടുള്ള ഇഷ്ടം. അമ്പലവുംനാലുകെട്ടുംപത്തായപ്പുരയുംകാവും കുളവും ഒക്കെതന്നെ ആയിരുന്നു ഭാവനകളില്‍ മുഴുവന്‍. അവന്‍റെ വീട്ടിലെഓടിട്ട മുറിയായിരുന്നു അവളുടെ ഇഷ്ടമുറി. സന്ധ്യ കഴിഞ്ഞു വീട്ടിലേക്കു നടക്കുന്നവഴിക്ക് കാവിലെ യക്ഷിയുടെ കഥയും പറമ്പിലെ തേരോട്ടവും ഒക്കെ വെച്ച് അവളെ പേടിപ്പിക്കാന്‍ അവനു പ്രത്യേക ഇഷ്ടമായിരുന്നു .”ഈ കാലത്തുംഇതൊക്കെ ആരെന്ന്കിലും വിശ്വസിക്കുമോ പെണ്ണേ”, അവന്‍ ചിരിച്ചുകൊണ്ട് ചോദിക്കും , പേടിച്ചു തോളില്‍ മുഖം പൂഴ്ത്തി നില്‍കുന്ന അവളെ വകഞ്ഞു  മാറ്റിക്കൊണ്ട്.

അവരുടെ വിവാഹംകഴിഞ്ഞ് ആദ്യത്തെ വിരുന്നു പോയത്അവളുടെ തറവാട്ടിലേക്കായിരുന്നു. പഴയ ഒരുനാലുകെട്ട് വീട്. അവളുടെ കഥകളിലെ കാവും കുളവും അമ്പലവും പ്രതിഷ്ടയും ഒക്കെ തന്‍റെ കണ്മുന്നിലെക്കിറങ്ങിവന്നപോലെ തോന്നി അവന്. ഉത്സവതിനുപോക്കും അമ്പസാറ്റ് കളിയും ഒക്കെ അവളുടെ മണിക്കൂറുകള്‍ നീളുന്ന വര്‍ത്തമാനങ്ങള്‍ ആയി. ഈ കളിമുറ്റത്ത് ഓടിക്കളിച്ച ആര്‍ക്കും യക്ഷിക്കഥകള്‍  അന്യമാവാന്‍ വഴിയില്ല . പ്രകൃതിശക്തികളെ ഭയക്കാന്നും ബഹുമാനിക്കാനും പഠിപ്പിച്ച സംസ്കാരതോട് അവന് എന്തെന്നില്ലാത്ത ബഹുമാനം തോന്നി. വളര്‍ന്നു വരുന്ന ഓരോ കുട്ടിക്കും ഇതുപോലൊരു മുണ്ടോലിക്കോട്ടുകാവില്‍ ഒരു അവധിക്കാലമെങ്കിലും വേണം. വെട്ടാനും മാന്തി പൊളിക്കാനും നികത്താനും പറയുന്നവരോട് “ഒന്ന് ചിന്തിക്കൂ” എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞുകൊടുക്കാന്‍ ഉള്ള മനസ്സുണ്ടാക്കാന്‍.

That’s one year reduced from the rower’s life

“With the kind of extreme exertion they put into rowing the boat for the unforgiving 1.4KM, one can easily expect an year to be reduced from the rower’s lifespan. Their hand’s simply refuse to lift after reaching the ‘kurishadi’ (church cross) which is 200M to the finishing line”, says my friend Aneesh who works in a houseboat. “Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru jumped into winning boat ‘nadubhagom chundan’ to celebrated with them, and when he went back to Delhi, he wrote a letter to the organizing committee congratulating them, and donating a rolling trophy of a boat made in silver. The nadubhagom chundan still has a foot carved in the boat to commemorate this”, adds Aneesh.

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Being a native of Kuttanad, I witnessed people’s interest towards snake boat race right from childhood. But I couldn’t involve much in their passion since I was part of a rat-race called CBSE schooling and engineering.  Even-though the things are no better now,  I was looking forward very much to this year’s Nehru Trophy Boat race. It came in the long weekend, and I wanted to wield my new camera at the carnival.

In the previous years I tried the conventional way of purchasing tickets and going to the stands at the finishing point only to find a place in the last row. This time I found the contact of Aneesh, who works in a houseboat, and owns a small boat. He plans to park the boat opposite the finishing point and next to the VIP stand.  The perks that only the native who knows the place like the back of his hand can get!

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For cheering we had ‘UBC Kainakari’ flag, few horns for blowing, kappa and fish curry, and toddy 🙂

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our vantage point: straight ahead is the starting point and behind us is the finishing point

The air was supercharged with enthusiasm: the running commentary by veterans explaining the history of the event, the boats and clubs taking part, the ‘vanchippattu'(songs sung by the rowers to synchronize their throwing the oars), blow-horns of the cheering crowd, and the cool lake wind to dispel the weariness. Tourists from both within and outside the country have secured spots atop and on the balconies of houseboats. I am told that the organizing committee issues passes costing 40 to 50 thousand rupees to the houseboats wishing to park opposite the finishing point stands, adjacent to the VIP stands. Many boats were parked tightly packed. I was jumping from boat to boat to try to get a good shot of the boats. Never did I get a feeling that I was not standing on the land, but a floating Island made of several boats tied together!

People take a day off from work on the day of the race, which falls on second Saturday of August every year, and will literally be ‘off’ in the evening.

The heats of snake boats began at around 2:30. The boats appear as a tiny spot in the distance first, the tiny oars moving up and down look like the limbs of a centipede, the water splash creates a mist around the boats creating the illusion of the boat emerging scything through the fog. And when they reach near, the mystery gives way to veneration at the scale, exertion, synchronization, music, and the crescendo of the running commentary. And in the midst of such energy, I realize that nobody born human can withstand the euphoria and the shouting out in joy.

I also got the rare chance to be amidst one of the rowing teams and could see the emotions and apprehensions. People keenly observe the rival teams rowing performance and bet on their teams victory. Elation and sorrows here come deep from the heart. I was touched by a supporter who was weeping like a kid who lost his toy, and his friend who was comforting him. DSC_0705.JPG

The finals got delayed than usual because of the new automatic starting system that was introduced. The sun set and it was dark when the final heats started. Everyone in the stands switched on their mobile flashes and started waving. It looked as if a thousand lamps were lit along the shores of Punnamada lake.  Gabriel chundan rowed by the Thuruthipuram boat club lifted the trophy this time.

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flashlights become lamps

While returning, it was already dark and there were too many passenger boats and houseboats criss-crossing the lake. We switched on our mobile flashlights to let us be seen in the dark. It was a play of diesel power on the water stretch, with the house-boats engines roaring and the passenger-boat engines tweeting like the old Yamaha two-stroke. Seen from distance, the finishing point was bathed in light from the numerous boats moored there and the brilliantly lit ‘Ramada’ resort. What was a cool breeze in the evening, now started feeling freezing. I wondered about the need for A/C in the houseboats, as the lake has the best weather in Alappuzha. Ah yes, luxury: asking for even more when you have more then enough.

I found a few answers as well, in the pursuit: about why I was not particularly interested about popular sports or TV series about which everyone was crazy. My place has a sport which is a lasting tradition, and there is no void in my heart for the extravagance to come and fill.

 

Trying my hand at photography

Right from after I got my Desktop PC back qhen I was a fresher in college, I was interested in image editing, manipulation and related stuff. Photoshop was a natural skill to learn, and the interest lasted even after I started working. I used to take up poster works, digital paintings, website content creation etc. But all along the way, the thing missing was that I never was the complete owner of my works, because I relied on stock photos, free fonts etc from the net. And most of the times I want to be the producer, rather than being the passive consumer. With this intent of contributing back to the community, and a little more,  I decided to purchase this guy two months back: 

My boy:Nikon D5300

I am enjoying using it. I am taking it everywhere I go, even if casually going out for dinner! I have started to set out on trips during the weekends. And  I also started waking up early to photograph the calm mornings of my city. And I can also see that I am gradually improving at photography. Initially I struggled to take pictures that were in focus and correctly exposed, because of the unfamiliarity with the camera controls. But now I can focus on the subject and composition of the frame. I think I am starting to get an eye for what would be interesting to photograph! Some of my observations so far:

  • The learning curve is pretty steep for photography, which is the reason why many people (myself included!) jump into this field. You learn about Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO, and a few camera controls, and you can take reasonably acceptable images in the second or third day after you have started. Compare that with drawing or music, where you may not produce anything presentable maybe even after 6 months into it.
  • They say that Street magicians are the real geniuses who manage to do their tricks even with people watching from all sides. The old analog camera (film-camera) photographers were the street magicians. The had only a single chance to get the shot right. And not much of film to waste on unworthy shots. Darkroom was just developing the film into print. Digital photographers are just the magicians performing under there veil of stage, lighting, dresses with infinite hidden pockets and paid volunteers. Shots can be corrected, cropped and what not. And you can go on clicking till your battery goes dead.
  • Photography is a expensive hobby. The camera, lenses, tripods, filters etc can be heavy on your pocket. But most complex gadgetry may not be needed to produce aesthetically pleasing images, even mobile cameras can take stunning pictures these days. The brain behind the camera matters more.
  • The tragedy that happens with most novice photographers is that once the initial excitement is over, most people keep the camera aside until the next outing or trip. It takes patience to continue even after seeing all your shots that seemed great on the camera display turn out to be disappointments when transferred to the computer.
  • Audacity of the foolish and the doubtfulness of the talented, as in all fields, can be observed among photographers also.
  • Do I have the passion to take it as my profession? No, I am doubtful. For time being let it remain my hobby.

In two months I have clicked 42GB worth of photos (obviously, in RAW format amounting close to 20MB per image) and I consider only 10-20 of them worth sharing. Here are a few of them:

Law college, Chennai

Patthar kosh-Beef steak on stone pan

Russel Market, Bangalore

Commercial Street, Bangalore​

MG road, Bangalore

I am getting constructive criticism and encouragement from my friends about my photos, which is helping me a lot. I will be sharing more on my Instagram account: @aju_kris . Hoping to keep clicking past the 1 million obsoletes mark 😀.