Monday, November 25, 2013

Naina’s Wedding

Kats and Naveen invited all of us for their daughter Naina’s wedding with Anuj in an offbeat manner.

So, all of us went for the big event. The wedding was conducted in DSOI Gurgaon. The Sangeet was on the 19th and the wedding on the 20th of October 2013. They had invited a limited number of very close friends and relatives. Their yard stick for the invite was – “Those who know Naina well and matter”. This stringent criterion added a different dimension to the wedding – making it very special and personal. It had some of the trappings of any normal wedding – music, dance, food, people dressed in their finery and so on. What made it special was the bonhomie that prevailed on both the days. Everyone knew everyone else, which made things simpler – no pretences – no small talk – it was one big party.

In sharp contrast, we recently attended an extremely boring wedding in Bangalore. Very large number of invitees gathered together for the reception. Nobody knew anybody. There was an overall sense of disconnect and the motley crowd wandered aimlessly in the lawn. Our entire evening was spent standing in a queue to wish the couple and hand over the gift followed by standing in the second queue to partake of dinner. To add fuel to the fire, it started to rain heavily, rendering the only fitting suit from my wardrobe wet and soggy. We finally stood in the third queue for the car to arrive and returned home uncomfortably wet and bedraggled. It was thereafter left to the healing powers of a snifter of ‘Remy Martin’ to restore my battered soul back into mint condition. As I sat in the patio sipping my RM, I seriously wondered how anyone could conduct a happy event without generating fun and frolic.

Naina On her wedding day
Naina looked divine in her wedding get up. She was radiant, relaxed, and ready to embrace marriage with confidence. She was literally the soul of the ‘Sangeet’- dancing in gay abandon, coaxing people to come on the floor and setting the tone for the evening. Without exception, everyone – old and young alike, joined her to make merry and enjoy. We took serious cognizance of the ‘Kataria Chronicles’ reporting that once the wedding was done everyone would “take Tequila shots and celebrate”.

On the day of Sangeet all the male members were summoned to the first floor for getting the ‘Haryanvi Pagdi’ tied. The local expert who was specially hired by Kats went about systematically tying the Pagdi on all of us. With the majestic headgear in place we proceeded to attend all the functions.

Having fully participated in all the religious ceremonies we were at liberty to proceed to the pond to quench our thirst. The tipple was stored in the Pagdi room. On reaching the site, we were in for a very rude shock. The room was locked and the key safe with Pagdi master. Very precious time was wasted in locating the master. Once inside, we were in for yet another rude shock. The bag purportedly containing the nectar had various unmentionables stored in it. With disappointment written all over our face, we had to approach the ‘father of the bride’ to solve the mystery of the missing urn. FOB was deeply engrossed in the marriage ceremony along with the Pandit. My friend  Nair hesitatingly approached the FOB and very succinctly broke the terrible news and impeached him to save all of us with utmost haste. Kats gave one stern look in the direction of his nephew – which was enough for the young boy to leap ahead to the Pagdi room and produce the correct bag. With our favourite tipple in hand we joined the celebrations in right earnest and danced away into the wee hours of the night.

Both the Sangeet and the wedding were great success. We wished Naina and Anuj a very happy married life and retired for the night.
Bravo Zulu to Naveen and Kats.

You may want to know what is a “normal Indian wedding” – for that you need to visit my earlier blog -

Visit to get a glimpse of another wedding full of fun.

Sangeet - Naina leading the way.Snitch making waves

Self striking a pose with Naina

I will miss you mama

Papa dear is thrilled. The green halo ?????

With my son Vivek - old friends

Anuj striking a pose

Totally pleased with the proceedings

Agni sakshi

Smile of a life time

Sister Tripti and BiL Sameer

Snitch, Nair, Rags, Kats, Self, Ashok - The Pagdi Brigade

Jai, Meera, Sudhi, Girija, Pushpa with the couple and Navin

  Tripti's children - Tanisha and Sharanya 

Finally with us

All Photographs - Courtesy Vivek Prabhakar

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Crack down on Nigerians in Goa – Drugs – Threat of retaliation et all

The death of a Nigerian national and the clash that followed in Goa has thrown open a diplomatic row between India and Nigeria. “Indians living in Nigeria will be thrown out on streets if Nigerians in Goa are targeted”, conveyed a Nigerian diplomat - Jacob Nwadibia, an administrative attaché at the mission on Nov 5th 2013. A Nigerian national was found dead at Mapusa near Panaji last week.

What is happening in Goa is nothing new or surprising. Drug running on the coastal tourist belt has always been there; the menace itself and the enormity of the problem may not have been publicly acknowledged hitherto. Collusion with the locals, lax policing and big moolaha, have all joined hands in bringing about the present impasse. Few Russian and Israeli tourists are also hand in glove in this racket.

What is of utmost concern is the threat conveyed by ‘Jacob Nwadibia’. Whether he is a loose cannon, acting on his own or the entire threat package was stage managed by the mission remains to be seen. Unwittingly Nwadibia has released a totally new and potent weapon into the diplomatic arena. It has all the elements of ‘Jungle Justice’ – Tit for tat. This new development is a cause for concern to all Indians living abroad. By 2050 every 5th person will be an Indian.

Even though separated by two oceans and 5000 miles, India and Nigeria have been friends from a very long time. We were both under the British rule and part of the Common Wealth. It is very interesting to note that India developed a relationship with Nigeria in spite of the distance.

The Indian High Commission web site reports “. India is currently Nigeria’s second largest trading partner. With a population of 168 million and considerable revenue from oil exports, Nigeria is the largest trading partner of India in Africa. Nigeria is also the largest market in Africa for Indian exports.  A large number of Indian companies have footprints in Nigeria, which have made substantial investments in Nigeria. Bilateral annual trade turnover was over US$ 17.3 billion in 2011-12 registering the growth of over 34%. During 2012-13, our exports further grew by 1.33% even though the bilateral trade slightly declined to $ 16.8 billion.

The above economic angle has attracted as many as 40,000 Indians to live and work in Nigeria. The Indian traders play a large role in the relationship between the two countries. The Indian Defence forces have also played a very significant role in strengthening the bilateral relationship. A number of Nigerian Army, Air Force and Naval officers were trained in India at the National Defence Academy Khadakvasla Pune.  Presidents - Buhari, Babangida and Obasanjo were trained in India. The list is endless. Their National Defence Academy at Kaduna, Naval Academy at Onura Port Harcourt, B and D school at Lagos were set up with Indian help.

An incident which happened way back in 1987 is of interest to all of us. Los Angeles Times reported - October 23, 1987 - India announced it will pay $32 million to Nigeria in a negotiated settlement of a drug-smuggling case involving charges against three crew members of the Indian national airline. The announcement, by India's diplomatic mission in Lagos, was followed by departure from Lagos of an Air-India A-310 Airbus that had been impounded for two months under threat of confiscation. Charges of cocaine smuggling against the crew members were dropped, and the three accused were aboard the Airbus when it left. An Indian Army officer, who knew President Babangida personally, is reported to have flown to Lagos to help resolve the issue.

There is an urgent need for people who matter in Goa, New Delhi and Abuja to sit and talk to break the deadlock.

In the mean time mandarins in the Ministry of External Affairs need to take cognizance of ‘Nwadibia Bomb’ and devise methods to defuse. In years to come Indian Expats will be targeted for follies of their brethren at home.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Indians Going Abroad.

Very shortly every 4th person in the world will be an Indian. In the earlier days Indians went to England, USA, Canada and to a few places in Africa such as Kenya, Nigeria. Today we see Indians everywhere and no country is spared. One thing good about Indians is our sense of fair play – why should any single country suffer Indians – let the whole world suffer us. We specialize in sticking to ourselves and make no effort to mingle with the local population or to understand the nuances of their culture, way of life, customs and traditions. The moment we set foot on foreign shores, we form an Indian Association and as the numbers swell, the association fragments and  gives birth to – as in USA – Malayalee, Gujarati, Telugu ,Goan, Tamil, Kannada, Punjabi, Marathi and Bengali Associations among others. One may be surprised to find that there are more than 25 different Malayalee associations including the ‘Palm Beach Malayalees’ in the US. Kannada associations are not far behind with 20 or so. When we were posted in Port Harcourt, Nigeria we used to be invited to attend a ‘once a month Beer and Biryani’ party at the Indian Cultural Association. Six mallus got together and opened a separate association of their own.

If we do not socialize with the host, how and when will we get an insight into their culture, values and way of life? TOI report dated 04 Dec 2012- OSLO, The Indian couple facing criminal charges of child abuse were convicted today by a district court here with the father getting an 18-month jail term and mother being sentenced to 15 months. If we decide to go and work in Norway kindly see to it that you are well versed with their way of life. BBC News India May 2011-Norway's Child Welfare Agency (CWA) said it took three-year-old Abhigyan and one-year-old Aishwariya Bhattacharya into custody last May alleging their parents did not adequately look after them. India Today 05 Dec 2012- Another Indian mother Annie 'Kumar' Johansson is crying out to get her 11-year-old boy back. The child is allegedly being held by the Swedish authorities.

Every country has its own way of life and it is our duty to understand them and follow it. Mail on line, 18 April 2007 - Kisses from Richard Gere plunge Shilpa Shetty into India row.  Crowds burned posters of the Celebrity Big Brother winner and the American actor in protest at their behavior. On 26 April 2007, an Indian court in Rajasthan issued a warrant for Shetty and Gere's arrest. A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of India subsequently dismissed the suit and suspended the arrest warrants.
Whichever way we look, these incidents are best avoided. Coming back to Indians, we need to introspect and adopt ourselves to wherever we choose to go. Diary of a White Indian Housewife by Blogger Sharell on January 15, 2010 - A Tale of an Indian’s Culture Shock Abroad notes “His morning puja (worship) soon had my housemate and me running to our rooms.  He appeared daily in the kitchen, fresh from showering and naked except for a small towel, to collect the oranges. Following his puja, he hunted us down to apply red powder not only on our foreheads but on our throats”. The list is endless. The Hindu 07 May 2012 – “The average Indian traveler is perceived to be loud, aggressive and lacking in civic sense and invites hostility.
We need to change.

ISCON Temple - Nourishment for the soul

Wg Cdr Sankar Narayanan met with a tragic accident and passed away on 10 Apr 1996. All his children, grandchildren, relatives and friends gathered in the ISCON temple to remember him on his 100th birthday on 12.12.12. Krishna Shankar very nostalgically recalled a few events from his father’s long and distinguished life. The children also released a very interesting compilation of their childhood memory of growing up with their father, travel, transfers and such other tidbits. This was followed by a prayer and lecture – amongst many things the priest talked about, one was on ‘Nourishment for the soul’. The priest touched a chord when he said “Modern life has all the ingredients required to nurture the body’ but when it comes to ‘nourishing the soul’ we have very little time or effort. He went on to say”we are very adept at polishing and cleaning the cage – we are so preoccupied with this task we have neither any interest nor the inclination to feed the bird inside. The neglect will certainly decay the bird and eventually there will be no bird left – what is the use of the cage then?”

Come to think of it our daily life revolves around our body. The number of hair oils, shampoos’, gels to make the hair attractive is mind boggling. Not to be left behind there are numerous hats, scarves and other gear to cover the poor head. Lady Gaga takes the lead with outlandish head gears.

Modern technology has given man and woman an unlimited range of cosmetics for the face, perfumes, body lotions,oils, soaps, creams, deodorant etc to enhance beauty - the list is endless. Body worship has reached ridiculous levels. Entire TV adverts revolve around these body enhancers. Plastic surgery to look young and beautiful has opened new vistas for the human kind for body sculpting. Clothes, jewellery, accessories, foot wear complete the list.

Having said that let me now take a look at how to ‘Nourish the Soul’. It’s not easy to find it on the net – no sites telling you ‘nourish the soul in 10 easy steps’ money back guarantee. There are no CD’s VCD, books, classes to educate you. I found an interesting site, which said - Seek out inner beauty, Find a new book that feeds your soul, Turn off your computer and television for an entire day, Do something out of the ordinary, Say NO to something that is draining your energy and distracting you from what is really important, Beautify your home, Write in a journal, Take a hot bath with essential oils.

If you take a closer look at these tips, one will realize that, they are all very inexpensive and very easy to perform. They are asking you to take time off, to reflect and give a chance to your mind to tell you what it wants. An opportunity to do your own things, rather blindly copy others or do something to please others and so on. Mostly, all the advice relate to spending more time with one’s own self and in understanding the self. Nature plays a large role in bringing calm and serenity. Keeping a pet, sleeping in the open and star gazing – letting the mind wander, going for long walks on the beach or forest, watching sunset are some of the tricks to treat your soul. Some find peace in prayers and meditation. An honest day’s work can give you a lot of satisfaction. Doing a good turn each day can be very refreshing to the soul. Take up a hobby and practice it with passion, a healthy sport, cooking, gardening, singing and the list is endless. Holidays with friends and family can be very invigorating.

As far as I am concerned i practice the ‘3G Mantra’ - Grand Children, Golf and God.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Golf in the Mountains Nainital and Ranikhet – 14 to 17 Oct 2013

My dear friend Kataria’s younger daughter Naina decided to tie the knot on 20th Oct 2013 at Delhi. This also coincided with Dussera holidays and we decided to take a break from Bangalore and the routine work. Along with our very dear friends - Freddie and Pushpa, we planned to visit Jaisalmer, Corbette National Park, common friend’s summer get away in Ranikhet and so on. Finally we decided to enjoy the hospitality of the Indian Army at their Nainital ‘Holiday Home’. Indian Army maintains a number of HH in important tourist destinations all over India, to provide boarding and lodging to visiting defense personnel.

Delhi is very uniquely placed for an extended weekend getaway. There are a number of tourist places to visit within 8 to 10 hours drive.  

Figure 1 – Early morning Delhi

We set sail from Delhi at 0630 in the comfort of Honda Civic and were able to beat the dreaded morning office traffic. We stopped at Bikanerwala for breakfast. I was very impressed with the restaurant and they are true to what they profess in their web site --“Bikanervala’s concept always has been to innovate and yet maintain the original flavour of traditional Indian food with primary focus on quality, hygiene and affordability”. The place is very clean and well managed. The food is very tasty and reasonably priced. To see their staff serving food with FSPG (Food Service Polyethene Gloves) was a very welcome sight. The toilets are clean.

The roads are in good order except for 7Km stretch between Suar and Bajpur, where it is nonexistent - 20 minutes of jolting and dust. The recommended route is Delhi – Rampur – Suar – Bajpur – Kaladungi – Nainital. The climb to the hills starts 35 Kms short of Nainital. After a brief stop for lunch at one of the many road side restaurants, we reached HH Nainital around 3PM. The restaurant displayed a very interesting menu card – Hot and Shower Soup, Chess Baryani, Veg Barger, Veg Chopasi amongst other items.

Figure 2 – Short of Nainital

Uttarkhand is a state located in the Northern part of India which is well known for its natural beauty, it was carved out of Himalayan and adjoining districts of Uttar-Pradesh (UP) on 09 November 2000, becoming the 27th state of the Republic of India. It’s sometimes called "Land of the Gods" (Dev Bhoomi) because of the presence of a multitude of Hindu pilgrimage spots. Uttarkhand is the combined region of Kedarkhand (present day Garhwal) and Manaskhand (present day Kumaon). Nainital and Ranikhet are integral part of Kumaon. Ranikhet is home to Kumaon Regimental Centre – KRC. The Kumaon Regiment is one of the most decorated regiment of the Indian Army. It has produced many heroes – prominent among them being  Major Somnath Sharma (Posthumous), 4 Kumaon, Badgam, Kashmir, Indo-Pakistan War of 1947 and Major Shaitan Singh, (Posthumous), 13 Kumaon, Chushul, Ladakh, Sino-Indian War of 1962 both recipient of the Param Vir Chakra (Posthumous). Gen. KS Thimayya , General S M Shrinagesh and Gen. TN Raina of Kumaon Regiment occupy pride of place in the Indian Army.Their photographs welcome one and all to the Kumaon hills.

Nainital is a pleasant hill station located at an altitude of 6450ft.The town gets its name from a beautiful lake situated in the valley “Nani Lake”. The temperature hovered around 18 deg C during the day and 10 at night - an ideal setting for picnics, stroll and the like. The city is clean in spite of large number of tourist visiting during the Puja holidays. The conservancy staff is out early in the morning to sweep and tidy the place. During the peak hours the traffic does become messy due to narrow roads. The lake has been maintained well and the water is clear. The local administration should seriously consider banning ‘Horn’ in the mall area. Nainital is also home to few reputed schools – prominent among them being ‘Sherwood’ where my course mates John Siga and Kulbir Singh Aulakh learnt their nursery rhymes. I did not see any beggars –good.

Figure 3 – Holiday Home Nainital

Figure 4 – Push and Jai very thrilled

The HH is located on the mall overlooking the lake and the surrounding hills. The overall stay in HH was excellent – accommodation and food was top class.

Figure 5 – Naini Lake

Figure 6 – Another view of HH

Figure 7 – Typical Naini sky

The girls spent their time going for long walks on the mall and window shopping. Self and Ashok had some very serious business to attend – Golf. Early next morning we teed off from the ‘Raj Bhavan Golf Course’. The course winds its way like a Python amidst thick forest full of Kaphal, Sal, Oak, Pine, and Weeping Willow trees. It is a short par 61 course with the regulation 18 holes covering a distance of about 3.2 kms. It has combination of Greens and Browns. The course is extremely challenging – the fairways are narrow with trees on either side and located on the slope of the hill face. Tee off has to be very accurate and precise. It was a real boon to be playing with a pro like Ashok Dewan, who with decades of experience was able to guide a novice like me. In most cases you cannot see the pin, which is further complicated by layers of cloud masking the entire area. Holes 1 to 5 are down slope and 6 to 10 is located on the limited level area of the valley flat. The caddy politely and discretely cautioned us that 11 to 18 require more of stamina than golfing technique. The last 7 holes are uphill and one ends up panting and gasping for breath. Later on we were told that it’s not uncommon to find leopards on the course after dark. A unique and wonderful experience.

Figure 8 – Hole No 1  downhill – no sight of the pin. – 18th pin on the right

Figure 9 – Freddie teeing off – Hole No 4 – between the gaps of pine – 12th pin in sight

Figure 10 – Tea after the 9th at Governors Pavilion - at the back

Figure 11 – Catching up on breath 13th Hole

Figure 12 – Talking about direction – waiting for the clouds to clear

Figure 13 – A fascinating sight

In the evening we dined at the exclusive ‘Boat House Club’ established 1890.The club is situated on the lake and provides a panoramic view of the lake and the adjoining hills. The drinks and food are reasonably priced and we spent an enjoyable evening gazing at the lake lights. Later, we took a cycle rickshaw home.

Ranikhet  16 Oct 2013

After a scrumptious ‘Puri and Bhagi’ breakfast we set out for Ranikhet. Hot P and B with pickle is the ideal choice for the mountains and cold weather. It has a remarkable ability to revitalize both the body and soul on a wintery morning. In the navy, every Monday morning was P and B. It takes around 2 hours to reach Ranikhet, which is 60 Kms from Nani. The drive is very picturesque and interesting. Basically, a military cantonment Ranikhet is situated at a height of 6200ft   and the seat of “Kumaon Regimental Centre”. R is sparsely populated and more appealing to the eye than Nani.
The agenda was very simple – We play golf and the girls relax and study the nature around ‘R’ in greater detail. Once again the ‘Army Uppat Golf Course’ (9/18 holes) is set amidst green meadows and gentle slopes; together they give the course the required degree of challenge and complexity - rendering the game interesting and unpredictable.

Figure 14 – A tributary of Ganga – rather dry

Figure 15 – On the way to Ranikhet

Figure 16 – Photo op on the course

Figure 17 – Ever gentle slope with 4th and 5th Holes

Figure 18 – Freddie teeing off from the 6th hole – notice the ram rod straight left hand

Figure 19 – A distant view of the Golf Club

We then visited ‘Valley View’ Home stay for lunch. It is located on National Highway (NH) 87-E, between Ranikhet and Almora, near Majkhali and is about 6 km from Ranikhet Golf Course and 12 km from Ranikhet Market. Ashok and Push had visited this place on an earlier trip to R and very duly impressed with the overall ambiance it offered. The rooms and the ‘Café” overlook the amazing ‘Gagas River Valley’ and the Himalayas at a distance. The picture is really breath taking. The place is run by a retired army officer and his wife. A chilled glass of beer, hot pasta with tomato cheese sauce and grilled fish after a round of golf with good friends was the highlight of the day. The place is very elegantly decorated with a number of knick knacks and artifacts. A well maintained garden adds to the classy show the owners have painstakingly developed. The rooms are basic but clean and well appointed. All overlook the fascinating view of the valley and the mountains. Worth a stay and one is assured of ‘value for Money’

Figure 20 – Valley View Resort

Figure 21 – Gagas Valley View

Figure 22 – The Café

Figure 23 – Another view of the café

Figure 24 – Totally at home- cutting nails

Next morning we started very early and did a bit of BF in a ‘Dhaba’ enroute. After a couple of hot and mouth watering Aloo Parathas we reached outskirts of Delhi to be confronted by its swollen traffic.

Figure 25 – Savoring Parathas

 Both Ashok and Pushpa share the task of driving. After a long haul, to chill out was a good idea – especially for A and P. We had a nice lunch at ‘Big Chill Café’ in Khan Market to celebrate Jayanti’s birthday. The walls are adorned with framed posters of yesteryear's classics like Casablanca, Russia with love and Hitchcock's Psycho. The look is retro and different.

Figure 26 – Different posters in the background on the wall

On 18th, Ashok and Push hosted a dinner to all the naval course mates visiting Delhi for the wedding. The evening was full of merriment, fun and frolic. Generous amount of Black Dog, Pushpa’s excellent fare and pleasant weather – all added up to make the evening very memorable.

Figure 27 – Lovely Balcony – Nair, Rags, Sameer, Bill and Keith.

Figure 28 – Good old friends- Rags, Keith and Snitch

Figure 29 – Gir with Jai and Nair

Figure 30 – Jai cutting the cake so lovingly ordered by Push and Freddie