Thursday, December 30

The final mistake...

At the end of a year, it is only natural for me to sum up the best and the worst of the days that I traversed in 2010.  At 45 years of age and when a year is passing away, it is pragmatic to believe that the best of my youth has been journeyed.  Yet, what is the biggest fear in my life? What do I fear in the coming days and years?

My much loved author, Rev. Henri J Nouwen, writes about a ‘final mistake” that he was much afraid.  He says: I feel deeply moved by the image of a defeated goalkeeper. All his great performance will be forgotten in light of the one mistake that cost his team a cup. Similarly, after a long and fruitful life, one unhappy event, one mistake, one sin, one failure can be enough to create a lasting memory of defeat. For what will we be remembered? For our many acts of kindness, generosity, courage, and love or for the one mistake we made toward the end? “Yes, he was fabulous, but he failed." "Yes, she was a saintly person, but she sinned." "Yes, they were great, but at the end they disappointed us."

Can I keep away from any ‘final mistake” ?

Wednesday, December 29

Good Bye 2010...

"All other creatures look down towards the earth, but man was given a face so that he might turn his eyes towards the stars and gaze upon the sky"  
... Ovid (Metamorphoses) 

"AS I look down on the waters Lord, 
teach me to gaze  the stars, 
the sky and the mountains....
Good Bye 2010... God Bless 2011"


Friday, December 24

.. it is Christmas again!

This is one profound statement about Christmas that I read every Christmas. This statement is from 'A Christmas Carol' (Charles Dickens).  

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. 
“Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come roundapart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from thatas a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. 
And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

(As  spoken by the nephew of uncle Scrooge)   

Thursday, December 23

... it is Christmas again!!

Dear Friends, 
Warmth Love and Joy of a Merry Christmas
... Abby

Poor Jesus! Rich me!!
Finally, Humbugger has come to town. Pizzas and Humbuggers cannot be exclusively kept out of Christmas if I am receiving GMWs and NOKIA-3Gs. 

Ya! I ask that absolute question myself.  
Jesus born in a manger would not be happy to see a world filled up with so much merchandise. 
I always think of all the frustrated youth who has no money to buy these merchandise.
“What am I if I am one of them
A rose bloom by the evening twilight is always a joy in the garden. 
I do not know who painted it, 
but I know that I can relate to God through HIS creation alone.  

Monday, December 13

.... walk they do!

Rains are over. In the morning, I find everyone on the road has a reason to walk. I see the newspaper boy carrying his load of news to every passing home. Then there are the temple walkers and the mosque walkers. One person in particular has caught my attention most: he swings his hands and takes brisk steps. May be he is combining his heavenly intention with his fat-burning efforts. From the opposite direction, another group looks colourful. However, they are definitely overweight... and most of them gossip loudly. I hear them laugh and giggle. Guess who they are? The lady-club members!  Overweight and perfume clad,  they believe that striding through neighbouring roads early hours of the morning will do them good. Nevertheless I respect them.  I wonder if my lady-buddies will ever overtake the food habits they have imbibed and reflect on the gossip they spread. In the pocket road, I always meet my ex-service uncle who hurriedly walks away to the swimming pool. His walking is a warming procedure for the swimming that he is about to undertake...2 preys in a single shot!  To force him stop and have a chat is almost impossible.  His military discipline will not allow him do so! Then there are the doggy-walkers. For them, the morning walk is a side product of making their dog walk! Or, is it that they are combining their health with that of their puppy?  Of course, the local temple priest always avoids me by crossing to the opposite direction of the road. He may be thinking that I might pollute him with my looks and words. I respect him for his beliefs.  

Rains are over and I find that there is a reason for everyone on the road to walk. And walk they do!

Sunday, December 12

The ‘PURI’ confusion

For a philatelist, every rarity and confusion in the field of philately is an opportunity to collect. The latest confusion and the buzzing news among philatelic fraternity in India is over a set of miniature stamps on ‘Rath Yatra Puri’. This simple ‘Golden Border’ miniature has become a bomb that has explored across every philatelic community in this nation.

The set of printing marks popularly called ‘Traffic Lights’ have become the main culprits of the story. The different formations of these ‘Traffic Lights’ on the postal-released miniatures has thrown the collection into confusion. Various India Post philatelic bureaus stared to distribute Rath Yatra Puri miniatures that carried ‘Traffic Lights’ at varying locations on miniature sheets. Then, adding to the above confusion, the most ‘notorious’ of them appeared: two types of miniatures with a blank space either on the left or on the right. Hence, it became necessary for a collector to collect all the six combinations together with the common ‘Golden Border’ miniature to get to a full set. As far as the postal authorities are concerned, it is still debatable if they themselves thought of this complex formation of a set through these variations in printing and guillotining.

Nearly early a month ago, I had the opportunity to visit a stamp exhibition. To my surprise, I noted a stamp dealer offering two full sets of ‘Rath Yatra Puri’ miniatures for sale. At that time, the issue of these sets had not matured and their rarity was still not so popular. There was voice that prompted me to stay with this dealer and close the purchase. Together with a friend of mine, I closed the purchase of these miniatures. Little did I realise then that I was buying a collectable item that would explode in value and style all across India.      

The ‘PURI’ confusion still rages on. One thing for sure is that, two types of ‘blank space’ miniatures in this collection has become extremely rare... almost impossible to collect. 1000s of stamp collectors are waiting to complete their collection with this miniature. By the way, I got a phone call from the dealer who had sold his two full sets of collections to me. He requested if it was possible to sell them back to him. He is willing to pay me five times the price he had charged. 


Saturday, December 11

... courtesy to Mother

If the earth does grow inhospitable toward human presence, it is primarily because WE have lost our sense of courtesy towards the earth and its inhabitants... Thomas Berry  

Photo locations: Hampta Pass, Himalayas

Friday, December 3

... spirit of mountain and the mule!

... to celebrate her destiny !
Each time I come across carcass on a mountain, I am awfully reminded of mortality. True, I need not climb a mountain to realize that earth is a transient and life glimpses away in the flicker of time. But then, as any of my treks proceeds in a jubilant mood, striking a skeleton  makes me think of death.

... the mountain is stoic and silent !

I think it is glorious for a mule to pass away on a mountain. It is her ‘karma boomi’ and it is a rightful place for her as the final resting place. (To celebrate her destiny, I got a ‘click’ done with her).

... the mule!
I think, mountain, man and the mule is a theme that cannot be separated. Mules are silent and obedient to their masters. They are tough and yet has simple living. Mountains too are muted and are silent. It takes a wind for mountain to whistle. Unmoved by joy or grief, mountains are stoic.  Man is the only creature that contains a different spirit. Moreover, it is we alone who contemplates on life and is we alone who gossip and make war to make peace.  Muffled by our cacophony living, sometimes it is difficult to see the spirit of the mountain and the mule in any human!

... the man!

Some of the photos were done by my friend 'UC'
Location: Hampta trek

Tuesday, November 30

... space between us.

I was meditating on a little poem that from a book 
To Bless the Space Between Us’

The poem runs like this: 

' May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart.
May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.
May the sanctuary of soul never become haunted.
May you know the eternal longing that lives at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world gather you, 
mind you and embrace you in belongings' 

Some days I just know that I am blessed...and it gives me awareness that God has been good to me without any of my own efforts or merits. Often I wonder why that happens. There is a guilty feeling about my blessings especially in the areas where I haven’t done anything of merit to be blessed. Yet, I am blessed. So I keep on thinking as to why, why and why to all these blessings. “But why should I ask God such questions?” is a quick reply that comes to my heart. Nevertheless, I have a duty to reciprocate to God’s blessing by being good to others around me and myself.  This is the little challenge that I have today...

Photo from files. 
Location: Kappadu  Beach

Saturday, November 27 with bread

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

~John Muir

At lower heights of Himalayas, 
there was a lonely temple with 
stone ‘diyas’ spread at her premises.

I saw these prayer flags intensely fluttering in the cool Himalayan breeze, 
setting afloat a million prayers to heaven! 

Friday, November 26

... what are we missing?

'Every ant knows the formula of its ant-hill,
every bee knows the formula of its beehive.
They know it in their own way, not in our way.
Only humankind does not know its formula.'

Fyodor Dostoyevsky   

Photo :  Himalayas' Spiti Valley

Sunday, November 21

...true scent of Himalayas.

'And the last puff of the day-wind brought from the unseen villages, 
the sent of damp wood-smoke, 
hot cakes,  dripping undergrowth, 
and rotting pine-cones. 
This is the true smell of Himalayas, 
and if once it creeps into the blood of man, 
that man will at last, forgetting all else, 
return to the hills to die.' 

Rudyard Kipling

Photos from personal files.

Friday, November 19

... reborn

Dear Friend,

"When old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost,
new country is revealed with its wonders."

    Photo: Himalaya's glorious Indrasan Peak (as seen from Hampta)

Tuesday, November 16

... few of my favourite things

Every one has their share of favourite things.

 It is raining here most days. This kind of rain has missed its course and duration. Some say it is a Monsoon failure. When rains linger too long, people complain. For me, rain makes me lazy by not allowing me to water my plants. Each time I miss watering the plants, I miss a favorite thing in my life. Each watering section is a small break that opens a window to my kind of spirituality: Watering plants is a moment when I can talk to myself and speak to plants all about myself. They listen! ...  I can listen to the plants too and feel their total dependence on me for their sustenance. That is a great feeling. Watering my garden is more than a ritual... it is a sacrament !!   

Walking barefoot over dew-drenched grass or on round pebbles, strolling across lonely sun-baked beaches ... 
those are little joys I love.  Do you? 

Listening to the cooing of doves and pigeons is a great pleasure in my life. My office would have been a quit place but for the cooing of a dozen or more pigeons. “What are they talking about?” I wonder. I think cooing is all about family matters. There are the aggressive males who are interested only in their girl friends and building a family with them...and there are the softer girls that fly away from these advancing males. Like humans, isn’t it?

Browsing  my old books and the stamp collection can easily absorb hours from me. I would open some of my old favorite tittles and recognize the familiar ageing scent on those pages. The scent on the pages only adds to the vivid memories of reading those books and the growing ups I have made with it. It is a sheer coincidence that these days there are scented stamps too. Browsing some of those stamps, I cannot escape the fragrance of the roses and the sandalwood.  

My life would have been a lot lot more poorer if I hadn't climbed Himalayas over and over again.
How great is the Mighty Himalayas !
What is India without Himalayas !!
I can never forget when I wept  kneeling on that snow and rock of that great mountain.
It is truly one of God's greatest of creation !

By the way....I wonder how many love to peel an orange. I want to do more than peeling: I want to squeeze an orange-peel and feel the fragrance of the fresh orange all around!  I think my tryst with ‘orange fantasy’ rooted with my job in Coke's bottling plants. Those days, lots and lots of ‘Fanta’ production kept me deep in orange fragrance.  Today I continue the orange legacy by enjoying the act of peeling it! (Some say that those fruity scents are feminine. I do not agree with them.)    

Today I miss fountain pens and inks a lot. Last time I purchased traditional writing pens was from a mall. I have kept them as a showpiece. I miss those names like ‘Swan’ and ‘Waterman’ to an inexpensive ‘Hero’.... so is my old ‘Raleigh’ cycle to a another modern ‘Hero’.  

All photos are from my personal file. They show my much loved Himalayas and the Calicut Beach. 

Saturday, November 6

"Yes" to life...

" The unfathomable mystery of God is that God is a Lover who wants to be loved. 
The one who created us is waiting for our response to the love that gave us our being. 
God not only says: “You are my Beloved.” 
God also asks: “Do you love me?” and offers us countless chances to say “Yes.” 
That is the spiritual life: the chance to say “Yes” to our inner truth."

The spiritual life, thus understood, radically changes everything. 
Being born and growing up, leaving home and finding a career, being praised and being rejected, walking and resting, 
praying and playing, 
becoming ill and being healed –
yes, living and dying – 
they all become expressions of that divine question: “Do you love me?”

And at every point of the journey, 
there is the choice for each one of us to say “Yes” 
and the choice to say “No”

Quotations by Henri Nouwen from his classic work 'Life of the Beloved'  
Photos from Hempta Trek, Himalayas. 

Friday, November 5

... a bridge to cross.

Looking down far away on Chatru Bridge 

Chatru is an important stopover in the descent from Hampta. Located at just 3400 meters, it is a nodal point for all the travellers to Lahul – Spiti region. This is the northern most frontier of India. The beauty of this location is the presence of an old bridge that everyone has to crossover. The actual crossing over of Chatru Bridge is symbolic of completing 90% of the Hampta trek. Hence, reaching the bridge itself gives us a feeling of joy and accomplishment. It is the first sight of civilization since the commencement of the trek. It is a great relief to step on the bridge and make the crossing.

This bridge is also a place where travellers halt to pray and give thanks for the safe journey they have made from distant lands. I watched the prayer flags fluttering in the chill breeze. I stopped for a while on the bridge to take a closer look at them. Written on these flags are the Buddhists’ mantras.  Are the breezes carrying the mantras far away? Looking across from the bridge, I had some thoughts to ponder. “God, how can I go away from your presence?...” I asked.

As I crossed the Chatru Bridge, I thought of some of the wonderful people who were bridges in my life...I thought of the wonderful ‘bridges’ that God helped me with.... Without those ‘bridges’, I would not be what I am. Over the troubled waters in my life, those bridges stood firm, offering me a crossover with love and care. After me crossing over, some of those ‘bridges’ have passed away to eternity.

When something good ends, it is always sad. Nevertheless, every good thing in life has to end. Treks teach me that. As a child every time my father takes me to beach, I remember me crying in the beach, refusing to return home. On Chatru Bridge too, I had the same emotion. Hence I went around the place, trying to delay the crossing. Then I  met an unexpected shaggy friend: a beautiful and camouflaged Spaniel, looking at me! 

My friends and fellow trekkers were already in an unwinding mood. Across the bridge, they had positioned themselves in the only roadside eatery. Steaming Vegetarian noodles and plenty of hot cups of tea were awaiting on their tables. I too reached to take my seat and my share of the noodles and tea.  Ya, every trek have its share of ligher moments.


Thursday, November 4

Goodbye Summer...Welcome winter

Earth is synonymous with life. Seasons ensure that every living things knows the transient value of life... time rolls away, and we ‘roll’ with time. 

In the rocky plains of Himalayas, the ‘dance of the death’ is the harbinger of winter and it is about to arrive.  The grass and the meadows seem to understand it better. . They turn blue and then brown. The winter will bring the snow cover... the green will totally disappear ... and the pasture will sleep for a while. They ‘sleep a while’ as snow sets in...  

A whistling wind brought dancing
on its twirling toes
the light yet pregnant autumn chill;
and dead leaves a dance of death
did make o’er fallow ground.
Some were tricked to see the image
of infertility . . .
But in the autumn dust,
under the leaves and the whistling wind,
all the seeds, all the seeds were waiting.
Nothing ever is fallow except, at times,
the human mind which cannot grasp fertility.
And there are no pauses ever
in the lithe and joyful dance of life.


Winter nights on the mountains are different from the summer nights. As twilight creeps in, the temperature drops significantly (-4 to -6°C). 
The trekkers struggle through snow to reach the camp.  

The babbling brooks keep quiet at night. I hear the silence of the brooks for the first time. I don't hear them at Kerala.  Brooks are frozen... they cannot ‘babble’. They are sleeping like the winter meadows for a while. The howling winds alone break the silence... 

The falling water fails to fall. They stand like elongated needles, frozen from cliffs and rocks.

I believe seasons are one of the most mystical elements in creation. 
It is a cycle of change... 
a cycle of birth and death... 
a cycle of dormancy and rejuvenation... 
and a cycle of falling in sin and awakening in grace.
Poem 'Fallow Fields' by  William Melnyk    
Photo location: On the way to Hampta Pass