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Month: May 2016

Was I Living Healthy?

Was I Living Healthy?

Look at you! You don’t need to bother about your diet. You could eat whatever you want. You are so fit…

Hmm isn’t this just what all those who are on the slimmer side almost always get to hear, from family and friends? But how true is this? For often many of us mix up these two things- ones’ body shape and size, with the actual physical health condition. And the mix ups don’t just end here. For many of us “dieting” equals “being healthy”.  “To be healthy” equals “cutting down on food”.

Confused a great deal about these contrasting thoughts, my last few weeks were spent doing immense reading on matters relating to health and health care. I needed to figure out where exactly I stand in terms of leading a healthy life. Was there even an iota of truth in in the notion that my slim figure indicated being in the pink of health. Did it mean my habits to live and eat were healthy?

Well my reading threw some really surprising answers. And I was nowhere near living a healthy life- holistically. I got down then to shortlist 7 key health tips I needed to incorporate in my life to live healthy and breathe healthy. So here they go. My mantras to healthy living and health care.

  • Having a wholesome meal- This basically means including carbohydrates, protein and fat at every meal. Human body requires it all. Here is a thumb rule to ensure you do get a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals into your body. Pick a variety of colors for your meals. Be the artist of your meals and paint a color picture with a variety of yellow, red and green fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
  • Choose healthy fats- the ones found in nuts and oils such as olive oil.
  • Processed food at its minimal, reducing the use of white sugar. No requirement to cut them of totally. A thing I am convinced about is cooking from scratch. It makes it a more healthy way to eat. I do have this habit of picking up pre-packaged, readymade stuff from the stores that require just a bit of boiling. Generally used to make curries. Blame it on the lazy me!  But then pre-packaged or ready-meals are high in fat and salt but very low in nutrients.
  • Choose whole grains over refined.
  • Don’t count calories; count the healthy ingredients in your food instead.
  • Manage that stress- Almost all doctors’ advice that stress is a killer of a thing for the human body.  Be stable; relax your mind as much as you relax your body.
  • Finally choose life- Have fun, exercise more, relax more. Be happy and smile as often as possible. 
When in Delhi, Mehendi the Dilli Way

When in Delhi, Mehendi the Dilli Way

There’s something about these Mehendiwalas in Delhi. With a fabulous imagination of dazzling designs, and dexterity in skills, they are surely unmatched. 

WP_20160526_003Generally migrants from nearby places such as Rajasthan, Varanasi or Agra, all that these guys need to invest in are a couple of cones containing the mehendi mixture, two low lying stools/moda and try to manage a bit of space in a bustling market place. And it would be business time for them. However harsh the weather is- well Delhi could touch 45 degrees centigrade in summer and drop as low as 5 degrees centigrade in winters- these guys could always be spotted, calling out to you to get your hands and legs adorned. Arabic, Bombay, South Indian, pots and peacocks, these form the main feature of ethnico designs. You express your desire and in a matter of minutes mehendi designs would be laid out on your palms or feet.

From the plethora of mehendiwalas across the city, I handpicked a few spots that gave me the best feel of the art on my hands. 

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  • Central Market, Lajpat Nagar- This is considered a one-stop shop in Delhi. You could practically get anything under the sun here. From home décor to clothes, to appliances to beauty products. Amidst the chaotic atmosphere of this market, you could spot Mehendiwalas or ‘Henna appliers’ seated along the pathways. Most of them offer a number of exquisite designs. I did a bit of haggling here and managed to get a single floral pattern hand mehendi design for Rs. 50. It was a pretty neatly done job I must say, without any overlapping or smudges.
  • Ajmal Khan Road, Karol Bagh Market- This is a popular destination for very-affordable but high quality garments.  I spotted a couple of mehendiwalas near the Karol Bagh Metro station and asked them what their specialty was. He thrust a few laminated photographs into my hand and told me to choose from the Kundan mehendi design and the Zardozi mehendi. I gave it a shot and ended up spending around a 1000 bucks. If you are in Delhi to attend a wedding, these guys could well do the job of adorning your hands with perfection.
  • Dilli Haat- where the class crowd goes to shop. Lined with cottage emporium natured shops, this is a place where you could find handicrafts, handlooms and art from across every state in India. It surely is a visual delight and a cultural epicenter in Delhi. I found the mehendiwalas in Dilli Haat way too expensive though, thanks to the influx of international tourists here. I haggled a bit but could not come bring it down to a reasonable amount. But if you do want to soak in the cultural atmosphere, and don’t mind spending, do stretch your hand out to him.
  • Rajouri Gardens- Probably one of the most expensive mehendiwalas I encountered. He claimed to be a specialist in Bridal Henna and could adorn two hands till the elbow and your legs till the knees in an hour.
  • Paharganj- The earliest of mehendiwalas exist in this area, probably due to the proximity to the station. I found them to be the most cost effective. Charges were nominal from 100 to 1500 as per the design you choose.

So the next time you are in Delhi, take a pick and do try these out.

Pickles- They Sure Do Tickle!!

Pickles- They Sure Do Tickle!!

It was a sweltering hot afternoon when I reached my mom’s home in Chennai. I was exhausted, my throat parched and my clothes soaking in sweat. In the dead of summer, my appetite almost always seems to diminish. But well you know how moms seldom agree to this. “You’ve got to eat something otherwise you would fall sick”, she said. “At least eat some curd rice. I have made fresh lemon pickle”. Ah! The South Indian in me came out totally.

I was already drooling over the tanginess of the pickle. I agreed to eat curd rice, just for the yellow lemon pickle!

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Aren’t we a pickle nation? I mean just look at the variance in the pickles across the country. Some sour, some sweet, some dry and some others a bit gooey! Yet without this pickle on our table, a meal sure does seem incomplete. I have been fortunate enough to do a bit of traveling across the length and breadth of India. And despite a few commonalities in the ingredients, each and every region carries a uniqueness in its taste. Take for instance the all-time favourite mango pickle. The finely cut “mangai curry” from the Palaghat region of Kerala carries a distinct flavor of roasted fenugreek seeds and til oil. On the other hand is the Haryanvi mango pickle cut in a larger size, a lot drier, with carom seeds and mustard oil. And both are finger licking good!!!!!

The process of pickle making may seem to be a bit tedious and time consuming. But trust me, be patient here and what you get would be simply delicious, lasting for the next couple of seasons. Summer though is the best time to make pickles. It is a sort of ritual in many households. From picking the perfect fruit or vegetable, to sun drying them and then letting it soak in the oil and spices. They are then transferred to air tight jars and stacked away in dark corners of the home. Over the years, this grand ritual seems to have disappeared, with plenty of commercially made pickles available in stores. Pickles are available online too with portals such as “Place of Origin.

As I sat down on the couch post lunch, I asked my mom for her lemon pickle recipe. She grinned- it indicated she was happy that I had intentions of making it, rather than picking up a bottle from the store. The store bought ones surely lack the rustic flavors and characteristics of home-made pickles. She quickly rummaged through an old brown box, and came back with a diary dating back to the year 1974. It had faded pages with curled edges and the ink smudged at places. Yet it held the greatest treasures of life. My grandmother’s recipes passed on by mouth to my mother, who meticulously noted down every bit of it. My mom reminisced her childhood days when her mom would make these tangy pickles and stack them away in dark corners of the kitchen. That is why I love these “vintage” recipes. Tucked away in little scrolls of papers, in old diaries, they are a reminder of the love our ancestors have passed on generation after generation.

So next time that pickle tickles your palette, give it a thought. Whose love lies hidden in that jar?

One Man's Fight Conserving the Endangered Dolphins

One Man's Fight Conserving the Endangered Dolphins

This post was featured in “The Better India”. You could also read it here How a Padma Shri Awardee is Fighting to Save the Gangetic Dolphins from Extinction

The Ganges river dolphin is a fresh water dolphin that is found in the Gangetic Basin in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Essentially blind they hunt by emitting ultrasonic sounds, bouncing off preys, making them visualize an image in their minds. On the brink of extinction, their current   number stands at a mere two thousand.

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For someone who has grown up seeing these dolphins in the river bank in Patna, it is but natural to be concerned about their survival. Meet Prof Ravindra Sinha from the zoology department in Patna University. Known as the “Dolphin Man of India”, he has been waging a war for the last three decades, trying to conserve these dolphins in the Gangetic basin.

The Ganges river dolphins are subject to many threats. From unintentional killing through entanglement in fishing gear, to pollution in the river from industrial wastes, pesticides, municipal sewage discharge and noise from vessel traffic, these threats have drastically reduced their number. They are also hunted down by fisherman for their meat and oil which is considered to have medicinal properties. The oil is used by the fisherman to attract catfish. Prof. Sinha works closely tackling each one of these threats.

Things weren’t all that easy when Prof. Sinha started out in his mission. The concern was less and the awareness of them being on the verge of extinction was low.  There was reluctance in grant of funds to carry out research work on the conservation of dolphins. Taking it all upon himself, with a small team of 6 members, he set up the “Dolphin Foundation”. Through his foundation he conducted extensive surveys, meeting fisherman on the banks of the Ganges, educating them and making them aware of conserving the Gangetic dolphins.

He included the local people calling them ‘dolphin mitra’ and also launched awareness campaigns among students of schools and colleges. Thanks to his sheer persistence, in the year 2009, the central government declared the Ganges River Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal. In Jan 2016, recognizing his efforts and contribution towards conservation of the Gangetic dolphins, the central government honored him with the prestigious Padma Shri. Prof Sinha happens to be the first scientist from Bihar to be awarded the Padma Shri. 

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Prof. Sinha also claims to have come up with a substitute for dolphin oil—for the use of fishermen who use the oil to attract cat fish in net fishery. “What I can do is educate and convince them about the harmful fallout of killing them,” he says

The conservation of the dolphin has become his life’s passion. He has helped in establishing the Vikramshila Dolphin Sanctuary in Bhagalpur, the country’s only such controlled ecosystem. Prof. Sinha has also written scores of research papers and books on dolphins. This exhaustive work of his has earned him the prestigious ‘Order of the Golden Ark’ award of the Netherlands.

Today, Sinha is the member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority in India. He aims to set up Asia’s first Dolphin Research Centre in the Patna with sanctions from the state government necessary funds for this proposed Centre so that intensive research on this aquatic animal could be undertaken.

No wonder he is fondly referred to as the “Dolphin Man of India”.

Aarushi- The Book by Avirook Sen

Aarushi- The Book by Avirook Sen

I don’t want to call this a review. It is my experience, my thoughts on the book. It was no easy read. It was one of my toughest. Not because of the writing, but just the mere events…

They were the murders that gripped the nation. Eight years back Aarushi Talwar was found murdered in her bedroom in Noida. A day later the body of the prime suspect-the family servant Hemraj was discovered.  The case rocked the media, with practically every news channel lapping up every bit of information.  And with a press conference immediately following, that maligned the character of the young girl and the parents; all hell broke loose in the case. Over the next few years, the case went underway, with multiple twists and turns, eventually the Ghaziabad trial court convicting the parents of the crime. But are they really guilty or merely victims? Aarushi- the book is the account of this crime, by journalist turned author Avirook Sen. A sharp and detailed narration of the Noida double murder case.

Excerpt from the book

“When the astronaut Rakesh Sharma went to space in the early 1980s, the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, asked him what India looked like from up there. Rakesh Sharma’s response was memorable: Saare jahan se achha (better than all the world). This book is about what it looks like from the ground.”

Right at the outset, Avirook maintains his stand. He didn’t know the Talwars. But after going through the case, having attended every trial session in the lower court, and covering the proceedings with due diligence, he is convinced that there has been a mis-carriage of justice. He considers them to be victims of a system- with premier investigating agencies in the country having botched up investigations. From the day the crime was discovered -16 May 2008, till the conviction in 2013, Avirook traces the important events and milestones, that leaves almost all intrigued.

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The Investigation, The Trial and The Dasna Diaries

The book is divided into these three parts that constructs the case sequentially. The writing is simple and keeps you hooked. As a reader you do conjure up images of the entire crime scene and I did get a sense of witnessing it all first hand. Yes- that’s Avirook’s impeccable writing skill. He digs further and deep inside, bringing out minute details- the way our investigative agencies work, the forensic teams and the larger Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Lines from the book: The CBI conducted a “scientific” test in Aarushi’s bedroom using Shalimar Superlac paint as blood, and when a judge asked if the paint had the same consistency as blood, a forensic ‘expert’ said, “Woh khoon jaisa tha” (“it was like blood”). 

Apparently Shalimar paint has none of the properties of blood, except probably the colour. Avirook uses court documents, eyewitness accounts, and in-depth insight into how exactly the Indian Judicial system works.

Key questions left unanswered?

Yes, Avirook does believe in the parents’ innocence and he brings this out with great conviction. As a reader when you do look at the case with an open mind, you cannot but agree that there have been shortcomings in the judgment, the investigations that have been botched up, prejudices/pre-judgment strewn in the trial process and justice has probably not been served. We hardly have a forensic team that is efficient. The competence of our premier investigation agencies is questionable and the media’s increasing propensity to play judge and jury.

  • Why did the key witnesses change their stance at court?
  • How could a verdict be written well before the defence could conclude its argument, a month prior to announcement of the sentence?
  • The crucial evidence of the pillow cover- tampering of the seal and was there really a typographical error?
  • And it left me with an unsettling question – “What if it had been my child?”

Aarushi- The book has been impeccably written is well researched and perfectly constructed with diligence. The book is a must read for those who follow the case, and for those who don’t too. It gives you a grim picture of our State, our Judicial System and the thought processes which are strongly prevalent in society. Avirook Sen has done a brilliant job trying to fit in the missing pieces of a greatly jumbled murder puzzle.

 

Adrenaline Rush at Rishikesh

Adrenaline Rush at Rishikesh

For those who seek a bit of adventure in their lives, here is a perfect holiday destination. Take a break from that hectic life of yours and experience white water rafting in the pristine surroundings of Rishikesh. And trust me it would leave you asking for more! Fear not, ‘cause the best part of river rafting is that you don’t have to be an experienced swimmer. Just follow a few safety instructions and you could have the best time of your life.

So wash your fears away and be ready to jump into the strong currents of the Ganges.

Trial 2

The best time to be there is from February to May (yes even though the mercury may soar to 45 deg centigrade in May), and from September to November. It could be done during the months of December to Jan too, but remember you may just freeze in the icy cold water. Rafting is prohibited during monsoons when the general level of water increases in the river.

Getting there

For those in Delhi, at a distance of 229 kilometers by road, heading to Rishikesh could well be your answer to a last-minute holiday. For others, Haridwar is the closest railway station to Rishikesh, from where you could either hire a cab or take a bus to the main town of Rishikesh. The airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport and various Airlines connect to corners of the country. Check the Flight Schedule that suits you best.

Staying- Camp sites and hotels

Campsites are the best option to enjoy Rishikesh and the calmness of the river Ganga. However, recently a slew of measures to control pollution in the river Ganga have been passed by the National Green Tribunal, which bans camping activity from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh. Rafting has however been permitted by the panel.

I guess I was lucky enough to get to stay in a camping site. Loved the rustic feel. But not to worry. There are a range of hotels and resorts available to suit any budget.

Trial 1

What you would pay

You pay for what you get. Packages range anywhere between Rs.400 to Rs.1300 per person.  There are various rafting stretches with varied grades of difficulty. And what you pay greatly depends on the rafting stretch and the level of adventure you choose.

Here is a tip, going in a group helps. You get an entire raft for yourself and could strike a good bargain with the raft operator. Besides it is a great deal of fun splashing away with friends.

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Stretch 1- Brahmapuri- Costs around Rs. 400 per person for 9 Kms

Stretch 2- Shivpuri –Costs around Rs. 500 per person for a stretch of 16kms

Stretch 3- Marine Drive- Costs around Rs. 750 per person for 25kms

Stretch 4- The most exciting one in the river Kaudiyala- Costs Rs. 1300 for a stretch of 36 kms

Rafting

The gurgling and splashes of the Ganges make rafting in the rapids a great experience.

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The rapids in the Ganges are graded on the basis of difficulty from grade 1 to grade 5. Grade 1 being for beginners and grade 5 is only recommended for those rafters who are well acquainted with swimming, as this rapid could be accompanied by large whirlpools.

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Activities Galore at Rishikesh

Rishikesh offers various other avenues for adventure such as Body Surfing, Rappelling, Kayaking, and Trekking.

I preferred some quiet time for Yoga and meditation.

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Rishikesh is strewn with such centres. Loved the Ganga Ghat and the calmness it brought within. No wonder it is considered the Gateway to the sacred ‘Char Dham’ destinations- Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.

Bear in mind:

  • Abide by all the rules and regulations of the tour operator. They are experienced and know the waters inside out.
  • Before you join a rafting expedition, ensure you are fit. It requires a certain bit of stamina.
  • Paddle with your team in harmony. It is important to prevent a capsize.
  • Never remove your life jacket. Even if you know swimming. Rapids could through surprises and even experienced rafters may sometimes have a tough time tackling them.
  • Wear appropriate clothing.

#Eurovision2016- Through My Black Box

#Eurovision2016- Through My Black Box

Sdownloado it is that time of the year again– the time of the Eurovision Contest 2016. The Eurovision Song Contest or often shortened to ESC or Eurovision, is the longest-running annual international TV song competition, among European nations. The competition has been in existence since 1956. Each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television and radio and then casts votes for the other countries’ songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. The contest is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. 

Way back in the eighties, with just a little black and white television set and a handheld radio in homes for entertainment, information about contests such as this, was minimal. My father had a strange fascination for the Eurovision contest from his younger days, and would somehow manage to keep a track of it. I distinctly remember him tuning into a black hand held radio, that had this really long antenna. Every night, it would be pulled out, and placed against the parapet wall of the balcony in Bangalore. He had demarcated spots where the signal would be at its best. And lying on straw mats next to it, we would listen to the contest, as we gazed at the stars in the sky. I distinctly remember one his favourites. It was the West German entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1979, performed in German by Dschinghis Khan- a 6 member group.

Over the years, as I got entangled in the process of growing up and living life on my own, this small pleasure of listening to the international shows and music, disappeared from my life. My dad left this world a couple of years back and one of the things he left behind for me was the black hand held radio. I sat last weekend tuning in wondering if it would be of any use, when all of a sudden, the signals came back, all loud and clear. It was Eurovision time again!!!! And was I glad.

Despite social media having come up in many ways, despite online telecasts on You Tube, the joy of listening to the songs from that black box was immense. The radio had a magical mood enhancing effect!

imagesEurovision 2016 will be hosted in Sweden. The country clinched the top spot in 2015 thanks to Mans Zelmerlow and the song Heroes. This year’s competition is set to be a banner year with a revamped voting system , the return of some nations that were absent from recent years, and a special guest country making another appearance. The first semi-final for Eurovision 2016 was on Tuesday May 10 with the second following on Thursday May 12. The 20 successful countries will join the Big Five and the reigning champions Sweden for the grand final on Saturday May 14.

 

 

She Cracked the UPSC Exam Not Once But Twice!

She Cracked the UPSC Exam Not Once But Twice!

In 2013, Dr. Ruveda Salam, from the remote Farkin village in the border district of Kupwara, made history by becoming the first woman from the Kashmir valley to crack the UPSC exams. After serving as the Assistant Commissioner of Police in Chennai for a year, in 2015 she yet again cracked the UPSC exam to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming an IAS officer.

Living in the Kashmir valley poses its own set of challenges. Political disturbances, strikes, curfews and local stone pelting episodes are many and frequent. Twenty seven year old Ruveda Salam had to face these challenges on a day to day basis. Despite lack of professional coaching classes, limited access to newspapers and study material, Ruveda strived hard and has successfully cleared the UPSC exams, not once, but twice, paving her way to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming an IAS officer.

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It was Ruveda’s father who inspired her, giving the confidence to work towards becoming an IAS officer.  Her mother on the other hand fended of all suggestions of an early marriage, letting Ruveda focus on fulfilling her childhood dream. She has come a long way since.

Ruveda began her career in 2009 when she got a medical degree from the Government Medical College in Srinagar. At the time of internship, she applied for the J&K Public Service Commission examination. There were 398 posts advertised and Ruveda with her state rank of 25 secured a post. She quit medicine and joined the state civil services, working for two years.

In 2013, she sat for the UPSC exams. She cracked this coveted exam to become the first women from the Kashmir valley to do so. Her initial posting was in the Indian Police Services. She trained at Hyderabad and on completion served as the Assistant Commissioner of Police in Chennai.

But this wasn’t the real success she sought. She still had to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming an IAS officer. Yet again, in 2015, she cleared the UPSC exam for the second time, and this time with a higher rank which enabled her to join the IAS.

Apart from these career successes, Ruveda works towards inspiring many youngsters, particularly girls. She has given motivational speeches on many platforms, where she discusses matters such as IPS training, her love for her work and preparation for the Civil Services examinations. She wishes to see more girls from Kashmir scale new heights of success, and encourages them to come forward to appear for these exams.

“Being a Kashmiri when you venture outside your state, some people feel we are anti-India. We can change that perception with our attitude. Others feel that we cannot compete; we can change that by proving our mettle. As a Kashmiri girl it is more difficult as people think we don’t venture out. With the right attitude this can also be overcome.”

What can we say! We wish more such inspiring people would come ahead to change the outlook in our society that forms many prejudices against women. For Ruveda, it was the dream instilled in her mind since childhood. She made it possible through sheer hard work and perseverance.

This post was featured in “The Better India”. A day after the #UPSC results are out, this story holds a lot of relevance. It had to be retold. You could also read it here Meet The First Woman IAS Officer From Kashmir. She Cracked the UPSC Exams Twice!

Road Rage at its Worst? Senseless Killing of Aditya Sachdeva

Road Rage at its Worst? Senseless Killing of Aditya Sachdeva

young teen overtakes a SUV that belongs to a political member of Bihar’s Legislative Council. Her son who was behind the wheels is irked. He fires a couple of shots from his licensed revolver in the air forcing the teen to stop his vehicle. A scuffle, a fight and the young teen is shot dead.

Road rage at its worst?

What is it with the roads in our country? It just seems to have the capability to increase many a people’s blood pressure. And the latest victim of this rage is a 19 year old boy from Gaya in Bihar. On Saturday night when he overtook a SUV, little did he know that behind the wheels was the son of a Janata Dal United leader. Nor did he know the fate he was destined to. Aditya Sachdeva had just cleared his class 12 exams and along with his friend was out in his father’s Maruti Swift. And there in front of him was a Range Rover driven by Rocky Yadav, the son of Legislative Council member Manorama Devi.

Is it because a smaller car overtook him? Or is there something more? Well, we shall never know what really played in Rocky’s mind when he decided to use his gun to fire shots in the air to stop them. Here is the version given by Aditya’s friend who was seated beside. “When we stopped, they forced us to get out of the car and then punched us. When we tried to leave the spot, someone fired from behind the car and a bullet hit my friend,” he said and added that other than the guard, a person sitting in the front seat of the car also had a gun in his hand.

So is this killing an instance of road rage gone too far or is there more to it than that?

In India, the powerful get a sense of satisfaction in imposing their status on others. Whether it is the caste, or being close to power. (In this case being a son of a politician). Rocky Yadav’ father Bindi Yadav is no ordinary man either. He is known as the uncrowned king of the underworld with unfettered access to arms and ammunition.

What about road rage

We could list out a multiple number of reasons,. High stress levels, the extremes in weather in our country where summers touch close to 48 degree centigrade in many states. An ever increasing number of motorists hurrying to reach their destinations, and the constant honking all around are bound to create havoc in our minds. Probably that’s why we all are becoming less tolerant individuals. And the worst part is no one seems to really care.

Golden Temple…Golden Moments

Golden Temple…Golden Moments

Lucky was I to get an opportunity to spend a few hours inside the Golden Temple at Amritsar. The most sacred place of worship for the Sikhs, the “Harmandir Sahib or the Darbar Sahib”- as it is otherwise known, taught me some golden lessons of life.  As I walked in through the main entrance of the Golden Temple, I stood mesmerized- by its sheer beauty, the sereneness despite the sea of humans (the Golden Temple receives over a lakh visitors on a daily basis), and the faith that lay in abundance all around me.

There were rules and it was followed without any one having to remind

Head covered… As you step into the courtyard of the sprawling temple campus, you can’t but notice the extent to which rules are followed, with ease. You wouldn’t spot a single soul without a cloth on their head. The long line to enter the main sanctum moves in unison. There aren’t any VIP queues or special “darshan” queues.  It’s a single line irrespective of who you are (except for women with small babies).

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The Gold and the White- Source flickr

Keeping your place of worship clean

As I walked along the holy tank or the Amrut Sarovar, I noticed a young couple in crisp cotton clothes stooping down with a broom and mop, scrubbing the marble white floor off the black dust and mud that lay strewn. When inside the complex of the Golden Temple, don’t be surprised to find several people volunteering to keep the complex clean. People volunteer to sweep, swab, dust, serve water to the millions of devotees who throng to pray.  It doesn’t matter whether they are the wealthy or the poor. It is their temple, their abode of God; hence it is their responsibility to keep it clean. 

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Golden Temple As it Shimmers- Source: Flickr

You would never go back hungry

Langar– or another word for the common kitchen in a Gurudwara. So here is the fact- The kitchen at the Golden Temple feeds up to 100,000 people a day for free- making it the largest community kitchen in the world.  It is said that even the Mughal King Akbar came and sat among the ordinary people to share Langar.

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Sit with all.. eat with all..Source: Flickr

It is here that everyone eats together, seated on the floor, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender. Everyone is welcome to eat the delicious meal of roti, dal/sabzi and a nice rice kheer. 

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More than a lakh rotis… Source Natgeo

Each week a family or several families volunteer to provide and prepare the Langar.  All the preparation, the cooking and the washing-up is done by volunteers and or by voluntary helpers (Sewadars). People peel garlic, cook, and make roti, serve, wash dishes, mop floors, and help pass out new dishes. This is done seamlessly.

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As the sun sets Source Flickr

As the sun sets in the evening, the Golden Temple shimmers. The magical reflection of the temple in the Amrut Sarovar soothes the mind, as the soulful sounds of the Kirtans that are being sung by the Sikhs waft through the air. I close my eyes, soaking in as much as I can, unable to move away, unable to walk out of a complex that radiates and resonates so much positivity.