Hopes Doesn’t Fade with Age

I can’t even imagine how it must feel like when you meet people with beautiful souls, one after the other. Really nice! I had met the beautiful spiritual lady hymning her soft prayers which I had mentioned in The Silent Whispers”. As I left her and came nearer to the Buddhist pagoda, I met another woman.

“My day starts early around 3 AM when I have to fetch firewood and berries for my grandchildren” said the 116 year-old lady. “And then for the rest of the day, I devote myself to the Pagoda”. I waited there for her to complete her prayers as she rotated the Buddhist prayer wheels with one hand, while with the other she counted the beads and softly reverberated the hymns.

I sat there looking at her in awe. She was so dedicated even though her small little steps were shaky. She had hopes. Hopes of a bright, happy future. A dream that her grandchildren will be happy in what they do. Her son had gone far away in search for better work and she hadn’t seen him in 7 years. All she wanted to do was pray. Prayers to protect them from every possible evil.

Two years after I took this photo, this spiritual lady passed away. But whatever it be, her hopes will not fade with age.

‘Hopping Across Cultures’ goes live on Facebook!

When I first made this blog, I had only one mission. To share all my travel stories first-hand, along with pictures and spread the beauty and magic of different cultures by removing the boundaries and stigmas between people, cultures, colour and creed and show how beautiful and amazing the world really is. I tried my best in maintaining all the details, which would make the reader feel as if he/she is experiencing the beauty of those amazing cultures. I don’t know how much I may have succeeded until now.

But, keeping in mind the ‘travel’ theme of this website and to showcase the dynamic diaspora, I started to research more about links and articles, which would help any reader to travel with a more degree of knowledge. But, what I was skeptical about was if the links would really work out, had I posted them here. And, so I decided to make a Facebook page for you all.

Click above to connect to the Facebook page!

Click on the above picture and login with your credentials and ‘Like’ the page to keep yourself updated. Alternatively, you can click here to connect to the Facebook page. I know you all love Hopping Across Cultures very much and would definitely love to get updated with every tidbit pieces of information and also some more pictures and behind-the-scene photos that I’ll post there. Thank you so much once again for the love and affection you have shown. Ebullient cheers to everyone!

See you there!   🙂

Incredible India !!

 

A few days ago I came across an AD made by the guys at India Tourism, and actually loved it. What about you?

I also found a quote by the German philologist, Max Müller which seemed befitting to the above video.

“India, what can it teach us?,

“If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow, in some parts a very paradise on earth, I should point to India.

If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most developed some of it choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life and has found solutions of some of them which will deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India.

And if I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, who have been nurtured most exclusively on the thoughts of the Greeks and Romans and of the Semitic race and the Jewish may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more comprehensive, more universal, in fact a more truly human life, again, I should point to India.”

 

God’s Eye

The World is changing fast and so is the nature. And, looking at the rapid depletion of our natural resources, I wonder if the Mayan’s theory of the Doomsday on the 21st December, 2012 will really hold true. Maybe the nature will show its fury and gulp us all in one go (hehe, like in a fantasy novel , huh 😉 ) Oh but, hey hold on! Why am I even saying all these? Greenpeace has been warning us about the El Nino, climatic changes, melting ice-caps, deforestation etc for years, isn’t it?

Anyway, I digress. Back to what I was saying, today’s post is not about all of those (I hope you’re still reading 😉 or heyyy! You dozed off already??!!  Cmon’ !!) Some days back on the 3rd of July, 2012 I experienced a very unusual phenomenon. It was a full moon night, and here in India there was a small festival called Guru Purnima (Ehh! What did you think? That I was gonna talk about vampires and devils 😀 ) I was just about to go to bed when I thought of going to the verandah and inhaling some fresh air. And, as I looked up, I was stunned !! I quickly ran inside, got hold of my camera and took this picture.

Guru Purnima’ is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Gu’ which means darkness or ignorance, and ‘Ru’ which means remover of the darkness. So one who removes the darkness of our ignorance is a Guru. And on this day, disciples pay respect or homage to their Gurus. Although frankly speaking, I do not see this festival celebrated with much pomp and gaiety in most of the parts, and also the institutions and offices remain open, so it’s more like a normal day.

Back to the picture. I used a basic kit lens so it didn’t give much of an opportunity to bring the whole moon’s ‘smiling face’ into the picture 😀 so I had to lay on the floor. Oh by the way, I am pretty sure you now know why I named this post ‘God’s Eye’. If you look carefully (by ‘carefully’ I mean go at least 2 feet away from you computer screen 😉 ) you’ll be able to see a BIG EYE (one that’ll poke its nose onto you 😀 ) with the full-moon as its pupil and the rainbow-coloured iris on the outer end. And so, I laid on the floor and took another picture. Ahh! This one came out better 🙂

And as I lay down there to click one or two more pictures, a hostile ant found my ear hole and probably thought it was its resting cave for the night 😉  so I had to dispose off that idea (Thanked God it wasn’t a baby elephant 😀 ) I sat there for some more minutes, and enjoyed the ‘God’s eye’ view and finally it was time for me to retire for the day. A wonderful day, indeed!

The Miracle

Before I start this post, I have some questions for you. When was the last time you think a miracle occurred in your life? Another question that I would like to ask you is, at times when you are highly annoyed by this or that in life, which is that place you go to? In other words, what do you really do to cool off your head? 😉 The terrace-top has always been one of my favourite places that makes me feel comfortable and feel free. Maybe because there’s only the open sky above my head and it reminds me of free thinking and freedom, or maybe because there’s always air blowing there, and the feeling of air hissing on my hair with my eyes closed gives me a Zen feeling about life.

Now, let’s travel back to the summers of 2010 when a small incident took place. I had gone home on one of the semester breaks after Engineering. My grades in one of the subjects hadn’t come out very well. Not that, that I was a topper whole of my life, 😉  but parents have heavy hopes from their children (and I think it’s true all over the World, isn’t it?), and so I got a good scolding from my mom and in the process I had lost my temper and I badly needed to go somewhere away to cool my head off. A cultural cue here: In India, youngsters have deep respect for their parents and so, it’s very unlikely that someone will shout back at his/her parents. As the terrace was the only place I could go and have some free thoughts, I went away. I sat there for about an hour, when suddenly a “Miracle” happened.

Beautiful dragonflies started circling over my head and gradually the terrace was filled with hundreds of them. For all those people who might have read Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist“, will surely understand what I am about to say. All these beautiful, tiny creatures seemed to be good omens to me. I was more surprised because dragonflies, which otherwise are skittish and fly away the moment you try to make a connect, had started playing with me. And in the process, I had forgotten everything about my altercations with my mom. I quickly ran downstairs and brought my sister’s DSLR. These jittery angels were still there, although quite curious about the newbie, the black-bodied instrument on my other hand. I finally managed to make a wonderful connect with one of them and get this shot.

And as they say, patience and timing are two key things you need to get good shots, I tried my best to give my best. You will be quite amazed, or maybe even shocked to know that I was on my toes for a continuous 8 minutes to get the above shot. More-so, I was standing on the top of a stack of shaky bricks, which would at any moment send me to the hospital with a fractured leg. I am sure, I somehow acquired the tenacity of a Yogi or a Yoga champion during those 8 minutes. 😀 But, as they say, some things are worth it !! I just hope my mom doesn’t read this because I am sure, this time it will be her who will want to send me to the hospital, if she gets to know the behind-the-scene story. 😉

For all those still wondering why I named this post, “The Miracle“, I think a day that was so worse and it changing to a day where you felt bright sunshine come into your life, I think that definitely has all the ingredients for it to be called a miracle. Moreover, you must have noticed in all my posts until now, I try to throw-in a cultural cue. Hehe, maybe today I would like to end by saying that most of the Indian moms are very strict (and, you definitely have to score some really good marks to keep them happy all the time) 😀

Projekt Generosity

It’s been a really long time since I wrote the last post. I had kept you all waiting and I must admit, I missed the joys of expressing myself and my stories through pictures. My deepest and heartfelt apologies for that 😦 but some other works had left me no time to think freely, and as you know when I write these stories, I put all my emotions and want to express how it really felt when I took the photo. But you see, when the mind is preoccupied with the daily stress, it is hard to give your best shot. Thankfully, I am a bit settled now. And I think, I will use this opportunity to rise from the ashes and start again 😉 {LOL, was that poetic or did it sound like a scene from a war? 😀} But, today’s post is not going to be like what I write about normally. There’s a thing that has been boggling my mind for the last couple of months. And, that’s exactly what I am gonna write about today. Let’s call it : Projekt Generosity {hehe 🙂 I know the name sounds as if it was taken straight from a Linkin Park album, but naah … it really is very simple !!}

But, before I even begin talking about this so called Projekt Generosity, I have some subtle questions for you. What comes to your mind when you think of the word Freedom? What comes to your mind when suppose, you are sitting somewhere far away from the madness of the world and you close your eyes and feel the gentle breeze hissing through your hair and think you are free? I know, different people will have different stories of how they think and feel when they are free. Now, as I write I just can’t help but chuckle at one of my sweet-toothed friend who once told me, he thought he was free every time he had an ice-cream 😀 That’s quite funny, isn’t it? But I digress. To get back to what I was saying, what do you think can Projekt Generosity be all about? Well, to keep it straight and simple, its about being generous. Its about being free and seeing more people enjoy and smile from your work. But how do I achieve that? I definitely don’t know if there’s a hard and fast formula to make people happy. But as I earlier said, what boggled me from quite a time was if I should really be using watermarks on photos. For all these years, I had been watermarking my images whenever I uploaded them online. But now as I think of the past, I admit that watermarking is a way of living in fear that someone would steal your picture. Just before making a decision, I asked some of my Photographer friends what their view was about using watermarks. To my surprise, each one of them still insisted on using watermarks. When I asked them, “But why?“. They said, ” someone will steal your pictures and say that to be theirs’ .” Maybe they still lived in a fear, or maybe I didn’t care. Whatever it was, I am happy to be making this decision. I have a small story to tell you, which further made me think how a photo could really connect with someone.

Some days ago, my internet connection wasn’t working. And since I had some emergency work that really needed an internet connection, I had to go to an Internet cafe outside. {Internet Cafes, as they are called here in India, are shops where you can access the internet for a valid time by paying an amount of money. I think they exist everywhere, maybe with a different name.} As I was almost done with my work, I remembered that I had to download some of my pictures from my gallery. Just when I was about to be finished, I browsed through those pictures one last time. It was then that the young kid, the owner of the internet cafe stood beside me and glanced at the pictures from a safe distance. On one instance, he asked me to stop. I wondered what happened to him. It was a picture of a dog that I had taken on one of my trips to Shimla. I asked him what happened. He then told me his story. He had lost his parents in an accident when he was mere 3-years old. And he told me that he didn’t have many friends, but he had a best friend, a faithful dog that strikingly resembled to the one in the pic. From a 5-year kid to an almost 17-year old young lad, he had that dog as his only friend, and it was only recently, a year ago that the dog passed away. I could sense the happiness in his eyes as he looked at the picture on the monitor. His eyes glistened with the small tears that had rolled up his eyes. I just wondered how one could connect to a picture so well. Photographs surely had the power to move and thread hearts together. He hesitatingly asked if he could have the picture without the watermark. He would want to treasure the pic forever. It was then for the first time, that I thought about the wall that a watermark could create between these tender connects. As I didn’t have the non-watermark picture with me at that time, I had to apologise. I asked if he wanted the one that I had at that very moment, and he happily agreed. As a goodwill gesture, I got the non-watermarked image printed on a A4 sized photographic paper and went to the same cafe the next day to gift him. This time it was my turn to wet my eyes when I found all the 14 computers had the wallpapers of the image I gave him the day before. Wow !! It really meant so much to him. I gifted him the photograph and even till today, he probably treasures the picture.

Talking about Photography and how it connects us, I was watching a video on TED by David Griffin , the photo Director for National Geographic. The video moved me. It showed how photographs can really make a connect with people, and also how unique a story can be which otherwise can never be explained. I would recommend you watch this video. On a closing note, here are just a few things that crossed my mind when I think of not watermarking my images. There maybe people who may like an image so much that rather than asking me for a print, they may print it themselves. I say, “Go ahead !! ” Maybe they have very little money to ask for a large sized print. Or maybe, they are just fans who appreciate the work so much. On a personal note, I had even earlier stated that I take Photography as an art. And every artist would want his/her work to be shared and enjoyed. So go ahead and feel free to share and/or use my images as wallpapers, on your blogs or wherever you want. You can download them in high-resolution from my DeviantArt Gallery. Its just a small wish that you link to Hopping Across Cultures . I believe the world is full of people who will respect the time, effort and finances to produce an image. I would just like to state that all images that were taken prior to 2012 may contain the watermarks (although, I will try to find and upload the original non-watermarked images.) Once again, thank you so much for supporting me with your wonderful messages and comments. Enjoy and make the world a better place. Peace!

Hanuman : The Monkey God

 

Its the weekend, you haven’t planned out anything and all you’re doing is idly sitting in your crib … bored and uninterested  … what would you do ?? I walk. Yeah, you heard me 😉 I walk. But hey, you don’t go just anyyyy-where. You at least plan out before you go somewhere, right ? Nope, I just keep walking !! 😉 I like to walk, and I like to travel to new directions and explore new places. By the way fellas, what do you do ?? I am sure, you don’t just WALK !! { like I do, or maybe like a cow does 😀 }

So last weekend, I started in the direction of the main road hoping to find an interesting place. Everyday I come through this same road, but due to the hustle-bustle of the daily life, its quite humane to miss out on interesting things along the way. So after walking for about half an hour, I saw this really beautiful and colourful temple. I knew, it was my day to explore this place of beauty. By the way, I had also added this picture in my very first post.

When I reached the gates of the temple, I found some ice-cream wallahs sitting beside a big banyan tree sheltering from the heat of the late afternoon. For all my non-Indian readers, let me tell you ‘ice-cream wallahs’ is the Indian derivative of the coloured Popsicle vendors. I was dismayed to hear from them that the temple gates opened only at 1900 hrs in the early evening, and that meant I had to wait for about two and half hours [which obviously I wouldn’t do 😉 ]. I found another small gate, which probably was meant for only staff members of the temple. I found no one to object me, and so I took my chance and sneaked in. Wow !! It was beautiful. It was a Hanuman temple. Hanuman is the Indian monkey God. I took a close picture of Lord Hanuman.

Many of you might be wondering who are those two people in his chest. Well, they aren’t people, they are Gods too – Lord Ram and Sita. Sounds funny, ehh ?? Gods inside Gods !! Kinda like the Hollywood movie Inception, huh ?? 😀 Yeah man !! India is full of these beautiful stories, and I personally believe it has tremendous potential of inspiring Hollywood with many of its legends 😉 Jokes apart, let me tell you this wonderful story. But, before I quote the story, I am certain it would be quintessential to also tell you who Ram and Sita are, isn’t it ? So look, Ram or Rama is this Indian Superstar, the equivalent to Chuck Norris 😀  … whoa … whoa … whoa … are you kiddin’ me ??  … Cmon’ !! Are you serious, you think I will be able to explain you whole of the Indian legends ?? No way !! Ahh anyway, for the records Ram is the avatar of the Indian God Vishnu {Dude !! don’t complain, I already warned you there are thousands of Indian Gods 😉 } and Sita is his wife. Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen …. please welcome another God … Hanuman !! 😀 And, so Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Ram. Below I exactly quote the story of Hanuman tearing his chest.

 

Once Sita gave Hanuman a necklace of pearls. After a while, the residents of the city observed him breaking the necklace and inspecting each pearl minutely. Intrigued, they asked him the reason. “I am looking for Rama and Sita”, replied Hanuman. Laughing at his apparent naivety the spectators pointed out to him that the royal couple was at the moment seated on the imperial throne. “But Rama and Sita are everywhere, including my heart” wondered aloud the true bhakta. Not understanding the depth of his devotion, they further teased him : “So Sita and Rama live in your heart, can you show them to us ?” Unhesitatingly, Hanuman stood up and with his sharp talons tore upon his chest. There, within his throbbing heart, the astonished audience were taken aback to find enshrined an image of Rama and Sita. Never again did anyone make fun of Hanuman’s devotion.”

 

So that was the brilliant story of devotion of Lord Hanuman. I wonder, what would happen if I did the same. Certainly a liver and a heart, I can guarantee that. 😀 So that was the story of Lord Hanuman. In case, you are interested to read more amazing stories about Hanuman, you can click here. And for all those of you very religiously-hearted, you know I was kiddin’ all along. So just in case, you’re offended, I whole-heartedly apologise for that !!

And finally, I had my day and after sitting in the beautiful garden beside the temple for some time, I strolled back to home hoping that Lord Hanuman didn’t come and punish me at night !! 😀

 

 

The Alchemist

 

When was the last time you read a story or watched a movie, and after some time you experienced something exactly like that ?? In other words, when was the last time you had a feeling of Déjà vu ?

 

And so it happened, that I was travelling from Shimla to Manali in the winters of 2010. Shimla is a beautiful hill-station in India, similar to Manali. In fact, it is the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh. And hence, it attracts a lot of tourists, and you can find the hustle-bustle of the city almost throughout the year. Also, the Englishmen who ruled India during the British rule, made Shimla their summer capital. That’s a reason you will find many ancient cottages and houses of British architecture. But, let’s not talk about Shimla now, because if I start expressing the beauty and colours of this pristine land, am pretty sure the Sun would already be shining again, and Neil Armstrong would have made his second attempt on the Moon 😀

 

In order to reach Manali, we had to take the Indian National Highway – 21 {NH ~ 21}. It is my personal preference to normally travel by road or rail because, you get to meet a lot of people in your journey, and that gives you some good opportunities to know the culture better and also to see a lot many things of the locals. True to that, that an air travel is much faster, but that is what it is. You get nothing extra apart from a cup of coffee, and a glimpse of the beautiful air-hostess, every now and then 😀 Moreover, its costlier too, man !! My suggestion to you if you are travelling in India will be to either travel by train or the road (for short distances.) Am pretty sure, you would love to see so many new things. Also, cultures in India change around every 500 kilometers, so it will be that you won’t even have had the time to soak-in a new culture, that another will await you the next 5 minutes 😉 So, while on my road journey, which was about 273 kilometers (170 miles approx.), I came across so many different cultures. It was really hard to soak in all at one time. Somewhere, the women would have these big-big nose-rings, with a heavily coloured cloth on their head, and then only after a 5-minute drive, the rings would exchange places to the ears 😀 I was lucky enough that the car driver kept reiterating all the stories of these locales. Suddenly, after about half an hour of round and round travel through  those narrow mountainous roads, I came across this BIG flock of sheep.

The Sun was sinking, there was a bit of dust in the air, and guess what …. the car was surrounded by a huge flock of sheep. All that I could hear was the “Baaaa…..baaaa…baaa” ….sheeps bleating all around the car. We were covered all around. Seemed to me that probably the sheeps were telling the car-driver to get out, so that they could drive and give Michael Schumacher a run for his money 😀 Hehe, finally I spotted the shepherd a few metres away, and he helped the sheep move back away from the car. As our car stopped, I turned around. Wow !! What a view !! The World stopped in front of me !!

 

 

The Sun shone high, once again. All that I could think at that moment was of Santiago. All of you who must have read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist  will surely know what I am talking about !! I went towards the shepherd, smiled and said a soft hello. We conversed. About 5 minutes. I asked him, where his home was. Everything of what he said, seemed exactly as what I had read in the book. The feeling of Déjà vu, He had no home. He had only one purpose in his life. Travel. Travelling was all that he knew, and these sheeps were all that he had. Maybe he was following his dream. Or, maybe seeking an unearthly treasure. He didn’t talk much, but occasionally smiled. Finally, it was time for me to leave. I waved and said good bye. ” Wow !! That surely was an amazing feeling“, I thought to myself. I had met the alchemist. While returning to the car, I saw this wild dog and clicked a few shots.

 

 

Back in the car, the driver told me that these wild dogs are even meaner than wolves. They know only their masters and their only purpose, to protect the sheep and not let them get away. And that they didn’t like strangers near them. “Thank God, I am in one-piece”, I thought 😀 I had gone way too close to take a shot. But anyway, c’mon it doesn’t look like a Tiger, ehh ?? 😀 Finally, as the dusk was falling, we sped fast to reach Manali, and in all that time thinking only about one thing — I had met The Alchemist.