Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Incredible India

Best part of writing travelogues- when you look back at it, you relieve those moments and cherish them! I am very fortunate to have got some chances to travel, explore and live the cultures- may be for a day or two. Though I have missed blogging on my trips to Mysore, Dandeli & Goa, here is the best of incredible India for you-


Anandpur Sahib

Mountain of Blessings..

A special day. Yeah, I woke up before my alarm buzzed. Today, I didn't carry my heavy laptop to office. Instead, I had sixteen chart papers, ten crayon boxes and hundred fifty balloons. Blue clear sky, as always, I ran to catch my office shuttle. In this chaos, a stranger managed to stop me on the way, to check if I am an artist, I just ended up saying “I work for SAP”!

As a part of induction here, a day out was planned to Gerizim( means mountain of blessings) Rehabilitations Trust. Forty new hires had a day to spend with eighty charming kids. Small amount of planning went on for fun games and events. This trip was surely expected to teach us more than the month long gyan on technologies. To understand on how we make the world run better!

Mood was set right with rounds of antakshri in the bus. Friday, 27 July 2012, schools had a day off on account of Varamahalakshmi festival. Hence, the owner of the trust took us directly to hostel hall and introduced us to kids. Acchu, youngest of them, took no time to make friends with us. He hadn’t started to speak yet, but just a sight of him would make anyone remember- “We see God in children”!

We made ten teams out of them and set them a challenge to paint as a group. All of us sat with them, helped them, encouraged them, learnt from them and in the end, we had magical sketches. We set the ambience by pasting these charts on the wall. Somebody was up with 3D sketches too! We had got the taste of their talent. Some of us relived our childhood by making paper aeroplanes and paper fans. Their dance and singing skills showed us that these kids are indeed “special”. Lunch packets were served and after that, as planned, we screened “Dumbo” and watched them laugh. Large cartoon elephant printouts that we had got made them happy. Goodies and chocolates were given out regularly to cheer up. Our hearts had all the love for them, and they deserved it, man makes mistakes, but God never does. We were melting inside, and outside, it was raining!

Small steps I take are not leaps today..
I have forgot and foreseen the past..

Outstretched hands are my blessings..
Raining humanity, peace and love..

I belong to the same world as you..
Hold my hand, let’s stroll the walk of life..

End of the day, we were not strangers, warmth of their hands pulled us back. Important lesson learnt- “Don’t count the contributions you make, let the world do it for you!” I would have never mentioned SAP in my blog if this day had never happened; we really impact the world in all sense. As we headed back, roads had dried off; title track of “Taare Zameen Par” playing in my IPod had redefined its meaning!

Photo Courtesy: Rohan Kalra and Jahnavi Reddy.

Agani, I'll visit you Again..

Sakaleshpur, known as Scotland of east, was our weekend target. Six of us, set out on Saturday morning with a hope to dwell in nature for a day. 260kms or 5 hours wasn’t far away, with our car- Innova showing its Ferrari instincts. Great morning, great breakfast, oh yeah, Hotel Mayura near Bellur cross in BM (Bangalore-Mangalore) Road, quality of food here was surely not comprised with its little upward flying rates. We ended visiting the same hotel while returning back for snacks!

Cottages were ready to welcome us when we reached Agani resorts. Refreshing sound of waterfall music was on air. Crickets chirped, amidst lust greenery, we were destined to stay in a wooden-built cottage (hut) for a day. Sun was hiding behind the sky-kissing-huge trees. We had arrived to a place where our civilization had started, digitally unconnected. We pledged to make the most of next 24 hours. Life jackets on, we were trying water rappelling, swimming, pedal boating in a 16-feet deep natural lake. It didn’t take much time before we realized that this place was blessed. We could see mountains romance clouds, thick pastures and greenery all around. Next day trek looked very very promising!

Soon we could hear rats running in our stomach. The owner had told us that they always serve special food. Indeed, it was! Lunch menu contained “kayi kadubu”, tasty side dishes, pulav, raitha and curd. We learnt that the ingredients like masala were homemade here and most of the vegetables, spices were naturally grown. We rested for a while and were soon playing game of cricket before we went in for natural Jacuzzi. Tiny waterfall had in them underwater jets of water for a perfect massage of the body. As I mentioned, it was always dark in this dense forest, and to set the mood, it started to drizzle. We realized that it was dusk and we were off for a camp fire. Speechless experience of fire and the chilly drizzles happening together!

We plucked oranges, musambis and figs, all directly from plants, really, for the first time in life! Wild elephants strolling in the surroundings were big news around. Fear of encountering them was always there. Midst, we had dinner, which had “Kori Rotti” and other tasty offerings. I could see the fireflies creating magic, lying down from my bed. This was the testimony for the day well spent!
Early morning, nature at its best, we were on our way for a trek. Splendid way through the forests, valleys, pastures and clouds. Leeches were plenty in numbers and gave us memories on which we can laugh on. The tiredness made us have a heavy breakfast. A shuttle badminton game was refreshing which made food digest fast so that we could have a quick swim in the lake before we checked out from resort. On the way back, we visited Belur- Chennakeshava temple, and Halebeedu- Hoysaleshwara temple, built 900 years ago by Hoysala dynasty, both UNESCO heritage sites, were incredibly magnificent. Drizzles, forests, long lane roads, 550kms, yes it was, a weekend to remember!   

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Delhi Trip: Capital of Dreams

I have been to Delhi couple of times now & every time I visit, it just amazes me and always has something special in store. This time it was no less, thanks to amazing weather, meeting Delhi’s Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung with my author boss Ferose, GIFTED sessions with Kiran Bedi ma’m,
Kingdom of Dreams
Sundeep Rao & happy hours that followed, and of course, ticking off some places that I had missed visiting last time- Here is my travelogue on extended Delhi for you-

#Kingdom of Dreams (KoD) and Cultural Gully is the place I love the most and I have promised myself to get back here for another show. Since it was close to my office’s guest house and was a Saturday when I had pretty much nothing to do, I visited KoD with no idea or expectations at around 12pm. Luckily there was a show called- Zangoora at 2.30pm & was filling fast. I bought the tickets,hoping for some entertainment. I explored the Cultural Gully to kill time & it turned out to be marvelous- artificial sky, buildings representing cultures of Indian states- to put it in a phrase- it was “the melting pot” of incredible India we love. Zangoora started right on time. Performance was mind blowing- all thanks to amazing production, music, artists, acting, lights & all the breath-taking acrobatics. It’s an experience; do visit when you are in Delhi next time!
Lodhi Gardens

#Lotus Temple & Chhatarpur Temple, covered them in half a day, while Lotus temple symbolizes harmony among Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam, Chhatarpur temple is built by a sant from Karnataka! Best part in both of them- notable architecture & beautiful walkway from metro station where you can enjoy good street food. Sometimes, journey is more beautiful from destination, right?!

#Amar Jyoti School was covered in Satyameva Jayate by Aamir Khan recently and I personally wanted to visit this 1981 estb. inclusive school to understand their style of imparting education. When I stepped in, I saw kids on wheelchair playing
Amar Jyoti School
& what a game it was! This set the tone for my tour of an amazing school where children with disabilities sit alongside any normal kid and attend classes. School premises are completely accessible with ramps & mobility for visually impaired. Kids are trained with life skills & they can opt for vocational trainings those are available. I met the principal of school, Seema ma’m & was taken aback by her vision & strength to lead by example. The high moment of this tour came when I met Uma Tuliji, Padmashree awardee, founder of the school, young at her 70s. Positivity oozes out from her, and as my eye-opener educative tour came to an end, I sought her blessings!
Navjyoti Foundation Nayagaon

#Navjyoti foundation, run by Kiran Bedi ma’m, operates in multiple places. To get the first-hand experience, I visited their Nayagaon campus, set up in small village which was nightmare to find & I was already convinced that they are doing marvelous job by setting up in the real India, a far-away village! As I reached there at 4pm, kids were coming in after their regular school & settling in classes, where teachers were waiting. This was like a mini school that operates from 4pm-6pm for village children. In addition, it had vocational training classes, self-help groups of villagers, computer lab, leadership classes to youth of village{I was blown away with this idea} and Vivaan Music School {set-up by Ferose to mark his son’s birthday!}, that taught kids-instrumentals & vocals. 3 ladies whom I met here- Chandini, Ujala & Fatima- are inspiration in themselves. No doubt, Navjyoti is definitely on a mission to transform villages, like Nayagaon… the real India…

#Lodhi gardens is amazing place to be in the evenings with beautiful well maintained gardens &
With GIFTED Sundeep & Ferose
couple of tombs with breath-taking architecture built in 1500s. Do visit Lodhi restaurant which is adjacent to garden for a quick byte & chai. Five stars for the marvelous ambience!

#Sarvana bhavan, located in Connaught place is an old south-Indian eatery famous for masala dosa, filter coffee & ice creams. I was amazed by the huge demand they have!

#Pure Punjab in Khan market, is a restaurant where we had food in between "missing lunch" & later "missing dinner"! You’ll require three stomachs to finish a thali here, thumbs up for the taste!

[Special Thanks to Ferose for giving me an opportunity to accompany him. Thanks Sundeep for that hilarious & insightful day. Thanks to Archi Garg for showing me right directions]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fanship Days: Learning Lessons for Life

I had ended my previous Fanship Days experience blog with a quote from Socrates- about life/living/worthiness/basically, lot of philosophy. I'll take up from where I had left and will do an honest attempt to put my learnings in this blog- you know like the last emotional note that you write
Gearing Up- Yakshagana
before good things end. As I write this, India Inclusion Summit 2014 is over and my six-month fellowship as well! Post-IIS withdrawal symptoms are evident and we have already started preparing for IIS 2015! Luckily I have found a new internal development team to work with, who have thankfully recruited me… But you know, my fanship days are going to continue…

Why?! I thought of jolting down the lessons I have learnt in past six months and to which, I plan to keep coming back, whenever in the future, to relearn the learnings! Here we go with rainbow lessons:
  1. Always give others Permission to Succeed- give hope to someone, encourage others to succeed!
  2. Desirable Difficulties- face adversities to realize our true potential.
  3. Right intentions can change the world- do with pure heart.
  4. Be thankful & acknowledge- gratitude is always the best virtue.
  5. Leap of Faith, trust & Delegate- can get things done in lightning speed and collective passionate efforts can create magic!
  6. Everyone of us has "Other 8 hours" : 8 hours of work + 8 hours of sleep + "Other 8 hours" to make this world better.
    Volunteers- all of us in IIS 2014 Dias
  7. Humility, being humble- is what people will remember us for, forever!
Above lessons are very frequently used in speeches & for a change, I was fortunate to experience them first-hand. Trust me, these things if put into action, forms an unwaverable energy that will conspire for our success and well-being.

It was such sweet period of time during the fellowship, along with the above lessons, I also got opportunities to get involved in GIFTED, SalesJam 2014, India Inclusion Summit 2014, program office strategies and communication-related activities. I can only be thankful for the opportunities
Lamp Lighting: Open Day IIS 2014
showered at me!

Being part of GIFTED journey itself was so fulfilling that you remember the struggle to deliver a box of books at 2am with smiles! Toiling hard for IIS 2014 with amazingly talented & very hardworking team was priceless when audience walked away with pinch of positivity and heaps of hope. This blogpost won’t do justice to put my experience on what went through those 15 days before IIS 2014. It was beautiful to watch things falling in place, all of us egging each other, stage setting up, brochures being made, deck getting ready, finer aspects taken care and finally speakers & performers showing up with their gusto! I can't rate any speakers/sessions in specific since I had interacted with most of them personally, and I only see their tireless efforts in 
My Team: Thanks Annika for Clicking this!
creating #InclusiveIndia and they giving their 200% to achieve our common dream of inclusive society.

As the IIS drew to close with Rajan Brothers performance, crowd danced with ecstasy, I sat in the corner of stage where I had spent my full day, my legs were aching and my stomach had starved, I watched the stage holding tears in my eyes and heartfelt smile, I knew, I couldn't have asked for better perfect happy ending. To my surprise, Rajan Brothers sang a song of Mohd. Rafi from “Hum Dono” that emotionally strikes all of us strongly, me in very particular, and those lines went something like it stuck beautiful balance between heart & mind- happiness & sorrow, like a journey of heart, that can never end, that can only continue to prosper, like my fanship days…
Gam aur khushi me fark na mahasus ho jahaan
Mai dil ko us muqaam pe laataa chalaa gayaa
Mai zindagi kaa saath nibhaataa chalaa gayaa
Har fikr ko dhune me udaataa chalaa gayaa…