Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pope apologized, is that enough?

Pope Francis apologized for sexual abuses committed by priests.
“'I feel compelled to take personal responsibility for all the evil that some priests, many - many in number, (although) not in comparison with the totality - to assume personal responsibility and to ask forgiveness for the damage caused by the sexual abuse of the children,' he said.
'The church is aware of this damage,' he continued. 'We don't want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed.” – Daily Mail UK
Is that enough for the kids who were victims of child sexual abuse? Will that be enough to satisfy anger and humiliation still burning in their mind? Issuing apology is a good start, but should not be an end in itself. Church should take firm action against all those individuals and institutions who either abused the kids or protected the culprits.




Pakistani Police serving the nation by slapping attempt to murder case against a 9 month old

Older people often say, "one day your bad deeds will catch up with you". Many victims, who don’t have the financial muscle to fight in courts, may find consolation in God's court.

One of the main characteristics of a civilized society is its commitment towards justice and rule of the law. Pakistan too is not different in this case. Even though they failed to find(really?) and prosecute Bin Ladan; Hafiz Saeed; and numerous terror groups who explodes bombs on Pakistani cities etc, people should not believe that Police is not doing their job.

Recently, "Slum residents threw stones at gas company workers who had tried to disconnect households that failed to pay their bills, leading the police to charge an entire family with attempted murder".

By the way, they also slapped an ‘attempt to murder’ charge on a 9 month old boy as well :)



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Vanga to Magadha: Part V - Pawapuri, the Sinless Town

Jal Mandir
By the time we reached hotel it was almost morning. Ankit was going to home; Antony and I were going to Pawapuri. So at first we went to railway station to drop Ankit and then to bus stand. We were on time, bus to Nawada already turned on her engines. Unfortunately we got the last seat. The one located just below the music system. Sound waves coming from it were bombarding in our ears. Soon we figured out that, it would become very difficult after a while. Hence we got down from that bus.

Next bus to Nawada would take around 30 minutes to come. Plenty of time to have breakfast. After breakfast we boarded the bus and slowly left the capital. Earlier Ankit told us not to calculate time to reach a place by looking at the number of kilometers we need to cover. Situation is quite different on ground. Bus route Nawada pass through Bihar Shariff and Pawapuri. In Google Maps distance between Patna and Pawapuri is just 85kms (bus charge was 70 INR), probably a two hour journey. Let’s see how much time it would take to reach Pawapuri.  I think we started around '9AM'; after spending a lot of time we finally left the city limits. However fate was against us, we reach another traffic jam very fast and stuck there.

Only thing moving in that traffic jam was second’s dial in my watch. Dust from the road was coming inside the bus like hurricane. Then came narrow roads and short cuts. At some point of time, we started moving across a dried paddy field there was hardly any road there. I think we even crossed a dried canal bed too, bridge was some 30 meters awayJ. Finally we reach Bihar Shariff. After travelling for some more time, we finally reached at the gates of Pawapuri (holy city for Jains) - 85kms took more than 5 hours!!!


In a horse pulled Rikshaw, we covered the deserted roads to reach various temples in Pawapuri. At first we went to the temple located farthest from road. It was empty, by the time we reached there it was almost afternoon.

Another temple is located just opposite to that. Drinking water was kept in an earthen pot near to the entrance. For us, tired after a long a journey, it was like nectar from heaven. Camera was prohibited inside the temple, you can’t take it inside even if you switch it off. I was quite reluctant to the idea of leaving camera outside. Probably after seeing my problem, people sitting there said “whatever you leave here will be here, even if you come after a week”. I did left the camera there and went inside.

Then to the next temple; in this was we covered two more temples and reached Jal Mandir.

Jal Mandir

Jalmandir, as name indicates is a beautiful temple made of white marble located in the middle of a pond. It is believed that Lord Mahavir was cremated here.

Main temples in this area are – Samoharshan, Gaon Mandir, Jal Mandir, Dadabari and Kundalpur. Out of this pilgrims can stay at darmashala.

By the way, if you want to visit Pawapuri keep enough money in hand. I saw only one ATM there; that too was closed. After having a late lunch we left Pawapuri in a crowded auto. This auto dropped us at junction from where a road is going to Rajgir. From here we got another shared auto going to Rajgir. This one was more crowded than the earlier one. Needless to say our journey was not at all comfortable. Outside sun moved away and darkness started Creeping in. After crossing the long walls of Ordinance factory and spending some more time we finally reached Rajgir.


Vanga to Magadha: Part IV – The Marriage

Antony, Me, Vivek and Ankit
First time I was witnessing a north Indian marriage. Time to verify whether all those lengthy rituals shown in movies and described by many friends were indeed such long and colourful. Venue was located beside a narrow road. When we reached there, both bride and groom were there. We spent some time talking to Vivek, walking here and there. Then it was time for Baaraath. In older days, probably now also, in villages groom’s party will go to bride’s home for marriage as a group, known as baaraath. Now-a-days when marriage ceremonies shifted from home to auditoriums rituals also shifted accordingly.

However, we can’t avoid all the rituals. Hence groom will go out from venue in car (not on top of a horseJ), take a long circle and come back to the auditorium. So we walked along with Vivek, took a long round and came back to the venue. Baaraath was interesting, band group was playing romantic Bollywood songs – both old and new. Ankit and Antony was dancing along with other friends and relatives. I escaped from dancing and moved along with the baraath.

Suddenly, for a brief moment atmosphere was filled with sound and multi-coloured lights emitted by firecrackers. We came back to the venue and marriage ceremony started. Both exchanged garlands and marriage was solemnized. Then came versatile dinner.

In fact rituals started after that dinner only. One by one it was going on, for some time only groom was in the seat and then for some time it was bride only. One young priest was going through his set of rituals one by one. All of a sudden, one person sitting along with viewers started asking questions about some of the rituals. Needless to say, their arguments took considerable period of time and the rituals extended that much. Number of coffee cups were increasing rapidly in the dustbin.

We turned towards Antony, he was in sleeping mode. Next it was our turn, Ankit first and me next. When we reached inside a nearby room two middle aged people were already sleeping there. All of a sudden Antony woke up and started observing the ceremonies with such a keenness as if next is his turn. I think he was awake for rest of the night.

In the morning around 5.00, Antony woke us up and we came out. Ceremonies associated with marriage were going on. We said bye to Vivek - through sign language - and left for hotel room. It was very much dark outside. On the way we got a rickshaw; by the time we reached hotel room, sun rays were slowly tearing away the darkness.

One the way to hotel, I was thinking about the marriages in Kerala. Formalities hardly lasted 15 or 30 minutes. In Hindu marriages, an astrologer will find a good day for marriage (if and only if he is satisfied with both horoscopes). Now-a-days, there are a lot of constraints imposed on astrologer. For e.g. astrologer has to find a good day, but that day should be a Sunday :) Then there is something called muhooortham, most often it will be in between 10AM and 11.30AM. Couple can marry in this interval. At designated time bride, groom and their close friends and relatives will go to a temple (in case marriage is in a temple).

By the way there is something called Rahu kalam (Rahu time). One has to leave home for marriage before Rahu time starts or after Ruhu time ends.

In temple priest will give them garlands made of Tulsi, which the bride and groom will exchange later. Then they will exchange a bigger garland made of Jasmine. For completing the process they have to enter their names in marriage register as well.

After praying for a couple of minutes, newlywed couple will go to the auditorium. Depends on the amount of money spent by girl’s family, these auditoriums can accommodate 200 - 2000 people or more. Here, at the venue both bride and groom will exchange garlands once again to entertain the wider audience. Let me tell you that, by this time luncheon hall will be opened for guests.

Next item in the list is photo session and giving presents to bride and groom. Most often people sitting in the auditorium will see the backside of photographers only :) Then there will be a glass of milk (mixed with banana and sugar) which relatives and friends will ‘push’ inside their mouth. Milk and banana is a king of an old fashon arrangement, hence the so called v, x, and y generations hardly do these things. By this time, clock may stuck 12 :) and guests who had lunch in the first round may already reached home.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vanga to Magadha: Part III – Patna, City of Ajatasatru and Mauryas

Patna Museum
When I woke up in the morning, train was approximately one hour away from Patna. I looked outside; there was nothing special, normal countryside slowly opening her eyes to day-to-day realities. After a while we reached Rajendra Terminals – a big station; after some 5 minutes or so continued our journey towards the capital of Bihar. By the way let me remind you that, Bihar and West Bengal occupied New Delhi’s Rail Bhavan for a considerable number of years.

Vivek already booked one room for us. Hence after getting down at Patna Jn we walked straight towards the hotel, ignoring a numerous offers for hotel rooms. It was indeed a nice hotel, and we got a room at a corner with numerous windows to bring the air inside. After taking bath we started with our iteneries.

Padri Ki Haveli

Padri Ki Haveli – first in our list - is the oldest church in Bihar. With the help of GPS supported ‘Nokia Here Maps’, we started walking in church's direction. There were hardly any eateries opened in that early morning. After walking for another 15 minutes we finally saw an open hotel – hot poori and sabji with some sweets.

drrrrr... I looked around to check from where the sound is coming. Antony and Ankit was looking towards the sky. Up in the air a plane was slowly descending to land in Patna airport. I never saw planes travelling that much close to ground. After having a (burned :) ) tea from a nearby stall we started looking for an auto. First one said 150. Searching for a better offer, we walked towards the next one only to hear a higher quote - 250. We moved further and Finally, we agreed with the third one and fixed the charge at 150.

It was interesting to see Ankit’s position while talking to auto drivers. His body formed a bended ‘I’ shape, as if to offer some shade to auto and her driver :)

Driver took us in a different way; different from the one showed by GPS, this new one looked longer in maps. Crowded with people, vehicle and tonnes of dust travelling through that way didn’t look so much promising in the morning. There were hardly any traffic rules followed on the ground; drivers were honking as if their life is completely dependent on that tiny equipment. After a while vehicles started coming in from opposite direction, then from the right and then from the left - complete jam. We had to stop there for some 30 minutes. Antony was sitting in the middle; he was in a calm and quiet sleep.

Finally we left that auto and started walking, again with the help of ‘Nokia Here Maps’. Interestingly, roads showed in the map were hardly 8 feet wide in the ground. From there if you moved some feet to the left or right, you will land inside some home.

After a while we reached a T junction, from here onwards roads are considerable wide. Here also driver’s hand hardly left that noise generating machine. After walking for another one kilometer, we finally saw the gates of Padri Ki Haveli. We opened the gate and went inside.

In a room – looked like an office room - we found a nun from Sisters of Charity. She asked us to meet the Father to get inside the church building. Father opened the doors and detailed church’s history and current situation. After talking to him for a while, and a couple of minutes silence we left the church and jumped inside a shared auto - towards Ghai Ghat. Tis Ghat was not in our list, but added in last minute to see and touch the holiest of rivers in India – Ganga (aka ‘The Ganges’).

Ganga and Mahatma Gandhi Setu

After getting down from auto we walked towards India’s holiest river – Ganga (The Ganges). Ghai Ghat is located a little bit away from the main road. Close to the ghat, under the shade of the bridge, there were a group of camels eating their daily breakfast.

With a length of 5.574km, MG Setu is the lengthiest River Bridge in India. Only ‘PV Narasimha Rao Elevated Express High way’, ‘Hosur Road Elevated Highway’ and ‘Bandra-Kurla Sealink’ (all three are not river bridges) are lengthier than this bridge in India. By the way, width of Ganges here is hardly 40% of the length of the bridge.

In front of me, waters of Ganga flowed calmly. I slowly walked towards water and touched her. Needless to say, water was very much dirty. After seeing the amount of dirt she was forced to carry, I wonder what ‘Ganga Action Plan (GAP)’ really achieved? Just like many other government plans, this also ended up creating big holes in exchequer than creating any meaningful output.

The colour of water or dirt she carries hardly created any effect in people’s mind. For millions of Indians, Ganga is mother and purifier. It is believed that taking a dip in Ganga will wipe out all the sins one committed enable him/her to achieve moksha. Unfortunately this belief didn’t stop people living in banks, industries, municipal authorities etc in dumping waste in the river. More than 50 people were taking bath at the ghat.

Close to ghat, a span of the bridge was tilted downwards. This particular span was supported by additional iron beams and associated structure from the ground and repair work was going on. By the seeing the progress of the work, one can easily assume that it will take another decade to finish. God help the people of Patna and Hajipur located on both sides of the bridge to cross the river fast.

Hajipur – Crossing Mahatma Gandhi Setu

This part of the journey was slow and painful. Because of the problems in a span, traffic was highly regulated; in some places it was one-way. In short it will take hours to cross the bridge and reach Hajipur. Girls sitting in opposite seat informed us that, it would take 3-5 hours to cross the bridge. Fortunately we reached the other side faster than that. More than going slow, my problem was the music player. Volume was so high and quality was so low that, it hardly resembled to anything called music.

Finally we reached Hajipur – a crowded marketplace. Here people are travelling on top of the buses as well. Was the conductor able to collect money from them? I don’t know.

From a nearby store we had Patna's traditional sweet ''. Some seedless grapes and pomegranate was enough to postpone our lunch for a couple of hours. Time to go back, we got into another auto and started our return journey to Patna. Ankit and Antony turned on their sleep switch. After struggling through that bridge for one more time, auto driver dropped us in Patna Jn.

Before going further let me state a point here - it is absolutely useless to talk about development when state authorities couldn’t even fix infrastructure bottlenecks, at least in the capital. What Bihar government what to showcase to investors? Half dead Mahatma Gandhi Setu where a round trip will cost you a day?

Patna Museum

After having some rest we restarted our journey to see the museum. It was better to take an auto to reach there. However, brain won't always work in an optimal way :) Walking consumed an alarming amount of time in our portfolio. By the time we reached there it was already 4 in the evening. After buying the pass we went in.

They started closing the museum from 4.30pm itself (from ground to top). Hence we ran from one galley to another one. In case you are in Patna and planning to visit museum, don’t forget to take a look at the building itself, I liked it.


From museum we walked towards Golghar.

"located to the west of the Gandhi Maidan in Patna... After the devastating famine of 1770, which killed nearly 10 million people in regions of Bengal, Bihar and modern day Bangladesh, Warren Hastings, then Governor-General of India, ordered the construction of this beehive shaped structure for the purpose of storing grains for the British Army. It was conceived and built by Captain John Garstin, an engineer with the East India Company, and has a storage capacity of 140000 tons, it construction was completed on 20 July 1786." - Wikipedia

By the time we reached there, the gates for going to the top of the building was closed for the day (Entry fees was 2 INR). One guy sitting at the counter told that, they would open again around 7.00 or 7.30PM for laser show (entry fees for Laser show - 30 INR).

At night we had to attend Vivek's marriage, hence we ruled out laser show and walked back to the room. Darkness was slowly creeping in.

At night, we - me, Ankit, Antony and three other friends of Vivek – left the hotel for marriage. Me and Ankit was in a manually pulled rickshaw – my second ever journey in such a vehicle.


(Quality of photos are considerably reduced for loading this page faster)