Summer Memories

The use of neem twig
as our toothbrush

To bathe in the big pond
we used to rush

The scout in the mango grove
for the king of fruits

Also, digging the taro plants
for their roots

The feel of cool breeze
under the hibiscus tree bower

Eyes fixated on many
of its bright red flowers

The bells in the village temple
sway with the wind

Creating soulful jingling sounds
they relax my heart and mind

The great guava tree waves joyfully
its aromatic, shiny leaves

The sleepy cow, under its shade,
chews the cud and heaves

The majestic Chakunda trees
and their leaf-covered branches

Yield a bounty of pods
on the ground in vast tranches

As the evening descends
we climb up to our respective roofs

And sit there till late
chatting, laughing and making spoofs

The memories of summer vacations
spent in my village

Makes me more nostalgic
as I grow by age

The Journey Inwards

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The world is closed,
roads are blocked

Windows are open,
doors are locked

Though the weather is great!
I can’t go out

It’s so quiet here
I want to shout!

I’ve got a book to read,
and a movie to watch

It’s already time to leave
for the bus to catch

I’m not going anywhere
everything is shutdown

Taking a slow deep breath
I sat on the ground

Then I realized I can
retreat to the oasis

The one in my heart, the one in my soul
that gives me peace

Either I can feel like chained
put to house arrest

Or I can use the time
to recover and rest

I’ll have to stay indoors
for some days onwards

Till then I’ll be making
the journey inwards

Watch the video here:

ARS Music Review: On My Way

When a music video crosses 1 million views, it gives fans a reason to celebrate.

The year was 1997, Independence day was just around the corner when the music video of Lucky Ali’s ‘Anjaani Rahon Mein’ touched the hearts of millions of Indians.

On Nov. 10, 2019, something similar happened when a song – ‘On My Way’ – a creation of the legendary musician and Israeli artiste Eliezer Cohen Botzer was launched on YouTube. Within two months, it has garnered 1,050,875 views and counting.

With this, things have come full circle for the musical genius who is hugely admired in the subcontinent and beyond. Can this mark the start of a new journey? If you don’t already know it has – Lucky Ali 2.0.

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Directed by Chinkx Bug and Dvir Keren (also edited by him), the video has montages of scenes shot in an aeroplane, the pristine locations of Himachal, farm, and roads of Bangalore, and several places in Israel.

A traveler’s song, ‘On my way’, starts with the picturesque locations of Israel and India with both musicians singing in their respective languages.

“Aanjaana ek raahi hoon, teri duniya se gujar ta hoon
Bahaaron main magan main, pahaadon mein pawan hoon main
Sab puche mujhe, hai raah kahan hai raah kahan abhi
Maqsad hai raahi, guzarta ja rukna yahaan nahin
It’s calling me it’s calling me home
I’m on my way, I’m on my way home
It’s your world I’m visiting again
I’m a traveller, messenger, visitor, prisoner,
I’m just a human being
Ajeeb duniya ke pareshaani hai gajab
Yahaan pe mile ae the toh ae they kabhie
Everywhere I go, I’m on my way, I’m on my way home
Everywhere I go, I’m on my way, I’m on my way home
It’s calling me it’s calling me home
I’m on my way, I’m on my way home”

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The lines are penned by Eliezer Botzer, Lucky Ali and Tehillim, while the composition is done by the two musicians along with Ori Avni, Idan Shneor, Bharath Kumar. Avni is also the music producer, arranger and programmer. He also plays the keyboards and piano.

Idan Katz, Bharath Kumar, Ori Avni are recording engineers and the song is mixed and mastered by Mikey McCleary.

Annada Prasanna Pattanaik plays the flute; Itamar Doari on percussion; Amit Yitzhak and Idan Shneor are acoustic guitarists; Amit Yitzhak plays the electric guitar; Michael Frost is on bass; Eyal Said Mani plays the Persian tar; and Yochai Bloom plays the piano.

Chorus vocals are given by Ayana Botzer, Eyal Said Mani, Idan Shneor, Idan Katz, Ori Avni. House of the Heart Studio, @home and on the road studio, Pluto studio, Bardo studio, Ori Avni’s studio are the recording studios.

A trip to Kapundi and Bhimakunda: SDRC Retreat

That Saturday morning was particularly chilly. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, and the shuteye of just three hours wasn’t enough for me.

The night before, I was drenched in the rain and wasn’t sure if I could travel all the distance. But, somehow, I made up my mind to go on our office retreat to Keonjhar.

I took an auto and reached the office building at around 7:40 am. There were 40 of us. Things got packed and some more people arrived a little later. At around 8:30am we boarded the bus and our journey began. A few more joined us near Vani Vihar.

The bus made a quick stopover at a gas station near Decathlon to fuel up for the journey of almost six hundred kilometers. At around 9:15am, we crossed Cuttack and picked up one of our colleagues – Ms. Mama Panda.

And that’s when all the fun started. Peppy dance numbers started blaring from a Bluetooth speaker, in no time the aisle became the dance floor, with my colleagues swaying to the beats. The spectacular moves were taken up several notches higher when little Sai, son of my colleague Ms. Monika Mohapatra, danced to ‘Bala’ and ‘Jai Jai Shivshankar’.

After an hour, antakshari program started and the passengers sitting on the right formed one team and the people sitting on the left formed another. We were treated to beautiful vocals of Ranjana ma’am, the director of SDRC, as well as Anagha, Sarita di, Sasmita di, among others.

The journey progressed, so did the fun and at 2:30pm we reached CYSD’s rural livelihood center at Kapundi. A beautiful campus spread across an expanse area of 13 acres, it is used to provide capacity building training programs.

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We jumped out of our bus and walked to our dorms. After choosing our bed and keeping luggage, we went to the dining hall to have our lunch – rice, dal, ouu khatta (elephant apple chutney) and potato cauliflower curry. Post lunch we assembled at the training center for a group activity.

Except for Ranjana ma’am, Ms. Mama, and Ms. Monika, the rest of us were divided into three groups. I was in group three, and with me were Ratnakar sir, Manas sir, Sid, Anagha, and Laxman.

The task of each group was to build a pyramid structure using 10 cups. The catch, however, was that participants can’t build the structure with their hands but blowing a balloon and keeping it between their lips to carry the cups and place them on top of each other. The entire activity was supposed to be completed in 30 minutes.

Our team coordinated well and managed to create the structure in 20 minutes. We howled with excitement but, much to our dismay, the structure fell like a house of cards the next minute.

The team one accomplished their task in style, with few minutes remaining. When the outcome was discussed, Ratnakar sir took the microphone and said that three ‘P’ – Purpose, Planning and Patience – played an important role behind team one’s success. The team was determined to win, and they had the clarity of their purpose. They had planned well, and they distributed their tasks among their members according to their strengths. The victor team displayed immense patience and persisted with their tasks while our team made the mistake of celebrating prematurely.

After that, we were told to assemble on the ground and the next activity began. We were divided into four teams, eight people in each. This time also, I was in team three with Pintu bhai, Sarita di, Asutosh, Simanchal, Trilochan. Each team was given a bedsheet and the members held it together. The task was to hurl a volleyball on the bedsheet, which was to be caught by the other team. One drop means one point.

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The first two teams were pitted against each other. Despite putting up a tough fight, we lost the match to team one as well.

After the match was over, Ratnakar sir said a few lines on the activity and its purpose. He emphasized that the winning team bagged the victory because of three Cs – Control, Coordination and Confidence.

The team members had the control to figure out the trajectory of the ball to catch and hurl it efficiently. They had perfect coordination when it came to hold the bedsheet together and work as a close-knit team. They had the confidence to win the game.

After that, it was the time for one more activity – a game of Chinese whispers. All of us were divided into two lines and told to stand at least one arm’s distance apart from each other. Sid and Rishi (Ripon sir’s son) were at one end and Ranjana ma’am took them aside and told them a story. They returned to their respective lines and told the same story to the person standing next. Sid told the story to Manas sir and he told the story to me.

The story was of a bird that was perched atop a tree on a chilly winter night. Due to the freezing temperature, it collapsed on the ground. Then a cow came by and dunged on it. It warmed it up and the bird whistled happily. Hearing the sound, a cat came to the dung heap, took out the bird and ate it.

After the game was over, the persons standing at the extreme end were called upon – Pratyush and Tushar. When asked about the story, Pratush said “One cat had piclic (sic)” and Tushar said something akin, “A crow pooped on a baby. The baby fell into a well.”

Ratnakar sir explained the importance of communication in our lives, even more so in an organizational setting. He then explained the hidden meaning behind the story. Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy. Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend. And when you’re in deep shit, it’s best to keep your mouth shut!

After that, we relished pakoras and Ranjana ma’am mesmerized us with her rendition of ‘Do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahaani” from the movie The Great Gambler and a few more.

After that, we went to the bonfire and Ranjana ma’am started an activity where one person will say one, the person standing next to him/her will say two, and the person standing next to will clap instead of saying three. It will go on and the participant will clap instead of calling out three or its multiples. One is out if they say three or its multiple, or if they clap when saying a number other than three or its multiple. The activity went on for about 30 minutes.

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After that, a game of passing the ball was played followed by dance and merriment.

When it was nine, the dinner bell rang, and we went to have our supper. It was rice, roti, dal, paneer for vegetarians), chicken curry (for non-vegetarians).

After that, we went to the bonfire to discuss the plans for the following day. It was decided that whoever wants to go for a morning walk on the farm to see the fishpond and poultry will have to get up by 6am.

I slept at around 1 am and got up at 5 am. At around 6:15am, I accompanied Ratnakar sir on his morning walk and saw pumpkin, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, tomato, chili plants growing in the lush and beautiful farm. At the fishpond, we met Ranjana ma’am and others. We took photographs and went to see the poultry pen.

After having tea and breakfast we started our journey for Bhimkund at about 9:30am. After reaching there, we immediately started preparations for the lunch – rice, boondi raita, vegetable Manchurian and paneer for vegetarians and mutton for non-vegetarians. After the cooking was done, we ate to our hearts’ content and went for sight-seeing and group photographs.

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At around 5:15pm, we boarded the bus to Bhubaneswar.

Sublime Messages

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Let’s love each other more

For our Father is the same

 

They could’ve been us

We could’ve been them

 

Let’s put humanity first

Before caste, creed and name

 

Let’s learn to be in the path of our Creator

Instead of chasing money and fame

 

Let’s play with honor

If life is a game

 

Let’s hold our heads high

Even if haters try to put us to shame

My longest bus ride

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“Guys, we have a holiday on 18th because of elections,” said our team leader on 14th April.

I was immediately excited and exasperated all at the same time.

Excited because we now have a long weekend. Exasperated because I have had already booked a ticket to BBS and now will have to cancel it and make arrangements for the previous day.

It’s easy to cancel a ticket but hard to get one. Especially in such a short time.

Bearing price tags upwards of Rs 11000, flight tickets were off limits. I checked for flight prices to Vishakapatnam. Rs 6999/-!

Flight to Vishakapatnam … not worth it. How about a bus to the port city?

I checked the departure times. It ranged between 2 pm to 7 pm. Not possible for me to leave on 17th evening. And too late to leave on 18th. I decided to check the current booking status in Yeshwantpur-Howrah Humsafar Express or Duronto Express on 18th.

I returned to my room on 17th minutes before midnight and resolved to check the current booking status on the following morning. I woke up a bit late and hurried my steps to the metro station. BMTC buses were not to be seen that day. So I decided to take the long walk. I reached the Indiranagar metro station after 20 minutes.

Took the ticket and went to the platform 2. A train towards Mysuru road arrived immediately and I asked a couple of fellow passengers if the train was going to Majestic, just to be sure.

To my shock, they told that it isn’t. I immediately jumped off the train before the doors could close.

I went to the security personnel and asked her where to catch the train to Majestic.

She told me the same platform I was standing on. “Good Lord!” I thought I was unnecessarily misguided by some ignoramus or conniving passengers. The pleasant lady security guard told me not to fret as another train will arrive in less than 4 minutes. The metro train did indeed arrived in 3 minutes and some seconds, correct to the time displayed on the board. And I boarded it. After 20 minutes it reached Majestic and I went to the ticket counter to get a ticket to Yeswantpur. There I got to know that we can get tickets for any metro station, irrespective of lines, from our originating station.

The train to Yeshwantpur arrived and I boarded it. Reaching Yeshwantpur took 25 minutes. I immediately went to the inquiry counter and asked for the current reservation for Humsafar express. There wasn’t any I was told. I asked if there is any possibility in Duronto. “None” I was told, “the entire train is full”.

Dejected, I decided to make an alternate arrangement. I somehow knew the chance of getting a current reservation will be negligible though. Particularly on the beginning day of a long weekend.

I went to Majestic and went to APSRTC bus station. Inquired for a bus to VSHK and was told they don’t have direct buses to the city. The max distance one can board is till Vijayawada or Kakinada. I asked where can I get a bus to the steel city, they told me to approach the travel agents on the main road.

I then scouted for a travel agency looking trustworthy enough to get me a ticket. I thought I found one and told my request, but the person manning it handed over the task to another agent. He told me that the price of the seat is Rs 1800 and he took an additional Rs 100 citing handling charges. I got a message that the boarding point will be near Anand Rao circle, Racecourse circle at 2pm. I had about 3 hours to kill so I decided to explore the market area. Majestic has a sprawling market area and it is said that whatever cannot be found in the rest of Bangalore can be found there. Although I could not see any such thing that was a novelty in the city but exclusive to that place, strolling on the commodities-rich lanes was an experience in itself.

After I was done with ‘sight shopping’ I decided to have some food and reach the boarding point.

The boarding point was the office of Morning Star Travels. With an area of a mid-sized hall and several parcels strewn on the floor, it resembled a packer and mover business. At the entrance was the desk of the clerk and a five-seater steel bench was there for waiting passengers. The manager was ensconced in his cabin.

One of my co-passengers was already waiting there. After waiting for 10 minutes, the bus arrived and we boarded it. What struck me was the length of the bus. It was by far the longest bus I’ve traveled in and it claimed to be the longest one in India. (I’ve no point of reference whatsoever to corroborate or contradict the claim).

The bus then went around the city, taking in passengers. It took 2 hours to cruise in the city and take in all the passengers. All the seats were filled up.

To keep the passengers entertained it switched on its entertainment system (one screen at the front and another crystal clear LCD in the middle with music system at the overhead panels) and played Kannada blockbuster KGF.

Then at 5:30 pm it set off for AP. At around 7 (the movie was over by then) the bus stopped at a highway hotel so that passengers can use restrooms and order themselves food. After 30-40 minutes it left the hotel.

It then went on, crossed Chittoor district.

After KGF, a recent movie of NTR Jr. was played and it kept passengers hooked till 9 pm.

It was a well-made movie and I watched till the middle of it. However, I was getting tired and decided to take rest. Ignoring the sound and the visuals, I tried to sleep.

It made the next stop at around 12 am for people to use toilets.

I woke up at around 5 am and looked at the window to know where were we. I was barely able to read the address on the display board. At around 7 am, the bus stopped in front of a highway-side dhabha and we were asked to brush our teeth, “use toilets” (there was none), and eat our breakfast if hungry. After we were done, we were asked to board the bus.

The bus then propelled on towards its destination. After three hours, we reached the Gurudwara road in Visakhapatnam.

From there I and a co-passenger took an auto to the railway station by paying Rs 20 each.

As soon as we got our tickets to Bhubaneswar, a train Chennai to Dibrugarh arrived. Upon going to the train we realized that it was packed till the doors and the TTE was demanding Rs 370 just to let us stand in any one of the jam-packed carriages. I backed out and decided to take the VSKP-BBS intercity at 3 pm. I had always wanted to do some sightseeing in the city and that was the chance to do it.

I had almost three hours to kill and I decided to visit the famed beach. I went to the railway bus-stop and asked about the bus to the beach. I was told the bus number K10 and the destination Ramakrishna (RK) beach. I waited for 20 minutes the K10 bus arrived and I hopped into it.

The roads and infrastructure were far more sophisticated than I had imagined. A beautiful city indeed, like an interesting mix of Puri and Mysore.

We traversed through rail guest house, railway hospital, various malls, a grand park, and several other landmarks. Then came the road we were waiting for – the marine drive. After covering a distance of about one mile, the bus stopped at R K beach stop.

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The beach was more beautiful than I had expected it to be. It was different from the sandy seashores with gentle waves in Odisha. Here, rocky formations filled with seaweeds, green crabs, and people were greeted by the occasional rough tides. I spent around two hours on the beach, watching the tides, some smooth some wild. There were people of all kind – pilgrims, vacationers, honeymooners, photographers, selfie-enthusiasts, hawkers – and the beach had something to offer for every one of them. That’s the magnanimity of the sea, that’s the magnanimity of the shore. With that thought in my heart, I walked to the bus stop.

The universe wants us to heed …

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The universe wants us to heed

there’s so much love to give

 

so many mouths to feed

a life of honor and dignity to live

 

so many miles to tread

so many emotions to feel

 

so much happiness to spread

so many wounds to heal

 

so much truth to seek

so many hands to hold

 

to reach our potentials’ peak

to find our inner gold