Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Trip to Delhi: Representing Team India Inclusion Summit

This was my first non-tourist Delhi visit, means, for the first time, I left out places to visit/things to do from my itinerary and filled it up with meetings/visits. I must admit that it couldn’t have got better. 3 days, completely packed schedule and lovely weather- I had ball of time representing Team India Inclusion Summit at various {a}venues.

To start with, it was at Vigyan Bhavan where I went through mix of emotions sitting in a hall which I always saw on TV. This was the Launch of "Accessible India Campaign" and National Awards for employment of persons with disabilities 2015, by Govt. of India. It was thrilling to watch and listen to Doordarshan anchor, the master of ceremony, and ofcourse, listening to Hon. Minister for Finance, Arun Jaitley, Hon. Minister for Social Justice, Thawaar Chand Gehlot who was accompanied by other ministers and beurocrats. I was amazed by the execution of event agenda and the way govt. event runs- with elegance and protocols! Not to forget, at this award ceremony I am undoubtedly introduced to few incredible IIS 2016 speakers who are the living epitome of humility, humbleness and motivation! This made up for my heartbreak of not seeing PM Modi live, who gave this event a miss as he had flown to Chennai which had drowned due to heavy showers and poor urban planning. I’ll wait for my next date with you, Mr. PM!

People rose up with smiles and tears in their eyes for this “special” national anthem {performed by troupe of people with hearing and speech impairment} at Nipman Foundation award, in India Habitat Center {oh man, I loved the campus- artistic and classy}. I was at this event to meet and greet 2 people- our rockstar IIS 2015 speaker and CEO of Nipman Foundation, Mr. Nipun Malhotra and charismatic politician who presided Nipman Foundation Awards, Mr. Shashi Tharoor. I had the privilege of spending some time with Mr. Shashi Tharoor- briefing him on IIS and getting some of his books signed. I met some interesting people here and I have this task of reconnecting with them looming over me for a long time now! Also, here is where I took a “Zen smile” picture with one of the awardee, host of IIS 2015, Deepa Narasimhan!

I went for a half hour appointment and spent close to 2 hours with an iconic journalist of India, Sandipan Deb, who interestingly happens to be an engineer and management graduate. Prior to Swarajya Magazine {of which I am a subscriber}, Sandipan, IIT and IIM alumnus, was with Open{which I used to read when Sandipan was the editor} and other media houses for close to 25 years. I loved every moment of this meeting, his Calcutta humor, his views on socio-political scenario and his oneliners from his wisdom of vast experience. I’ll look forward for more such opportunities to meet him in person and upskill myself.

I was at 1st International film festival on disabilities, hosted by Govt. of India and at 2nd National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament. I spent some time and clicked pictures with Karnataka Wheelchair Basketball team- most of them were daily wage workers from Yadgir, Davangere and other tier 2/3 cities of Karnataka. Today, Irony is neither govt. nor any firm supports them and they have self-sponsored to come all the way to Delhi ! But that doesn't stop them... They had managed to finish runner's up last year and were super-motivated this year too!

Vigyan Bhavan event and other things which made my Delhi trip memorable was only possible through most respected Mrs. Uma Tuli. I visited Amar Jyoti again and was lucky to spend a day with her. I wrote to her the following once I was back in Bangalore-
Thank you so much for allowing me to shadow you. I am indebted with the learning and I am going to cherish the day for long. I had life time opportunity in piggybacking you to basketball game, film festival and meeting everyone at the lunch in your home. Special thank you for anaar kheer! I felt I am part of your family and I would look forward to host you & your family in Bangalore/Udupi. I am also extremely grateful for arranging me an entry pass for PMO event,. It was as well my first time at a govt. ceremony and dream come true when I entered Vigyan Bhavan.
Last day of my trip I woke up and followed these instructions for an soulful experience-
  1. Reach Saket metro and take shared auto to Tigri stand from gate 3 (Saidullajab exit) 
  2. Come to tigri stand and cross the road (the auto vala can guide u here
  3. Take an auto from there to J block school. Make sure to tell the auto vala that u need to got to J block SCHOOL NEEM CHOWK SE AAGE VALA. Once you have the deal, he'll drop you off at my school.
Geographies changed- from luxury of South Delhi to slumber of underprivileged. I was here to meet my inspirational dear friend, Sanymi, who as part of Teach For India makes us envy of her life as Didi, everyday! These kids taught me knitting in exchange of a 30 min story telling by me. My respects towards TFI and their teachers grew two-folds and I certainly wish that their network expands to keep igniting young minds with best teachers. This experience was indeed fitting end to my incredible 3 day trip to Delhi!

[Thanks to Core IIS team for giving me the honor of representing you! Special thanks to IIS volunteers for building World's biggest community led event- IIS! ]

Trip to Hampi: Magically sail to those Times of Glory

I am sure that many have written their travelogues on Hampi from time immemorial, err, I mean from times of Lord Ram and Hanuman till today, from times of Kishkinda of Dandakaranya with most sacred Pampa sarovara to Vijayanagara to modern day Hampi. I see this as never ending fable in praise of limitless and His love for this place. They say, you would return dejected as you would seep in the sorrow of seeing Hampi ruins, but I, have made up my mind to revisit since I am caught speechless by the imagination and infinite stories, by that of irrigation systems and structural engineering, by that of the glory and intelligence of our forefathers. Hampi- for sure is a place for those who love history, architecture and stories. It is limitless and of limitless!

I spent first 3 hours at Virupaksha temple. It is believed that this temple has been functioning uninterruptedly ever since its inception in the 7th century AD. Most of the temples here in Hampi have been damaged some way or other and not fit for Puja. If I am not wrong, there are only two functional temples in Hampi- Virupaksha and Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple, only place where Lord Ram is in sitting posture. Post Virupaksha temple, we walked the bazaar lane to reach monolithic Nandi. Another 15 min walk we were at Cave temples of Ram {kondandarama temple} and Yantroddaraka Anjaneya temple, Chakratheertha, established by Vysasatheerta in 15th century. Vyasatheerta used to often sight Anjaneya and wanted to capture him in “yantra” so that he could worship him. This is a very holy and sacred place of worship for saints {Udupi Pejavara Swamiji was initiated to Sanyasa here}. We took a coracle boat ride to Purandara Dasa mantapa, where renowned saint and poet, who gave up his wealth worth 9 crores and turned philosopher, Purandara Dasa meditated. This place is really magical. From there we walked to what is popular known as Hampi group of monuments, which consists of the Vitthala Temple with the Stone Chariot, and the musical Mandapas, and the King’s balance.

That evening I got lucky- it was last day of auspicious Karthika month of Hindu calendar and at Virupaksha temple, villagers had come over to spend their night. They lit up entire premises beautifully with diyas and there was a pallakki utsava of Shiv and Parvathi, led by elephant, Lakshmi. I was transported back in time! A Russian lady walked up to me, understood more on what was happening and left me with a sentence- “I have never experienced anything beautiful before!

Next day, we started series of temple visits with Mustard & Groundnut Ganesha, followed by Sri Krishna Temple, Ugra Narasimha Vigraha and the Badavalinga, Veerabadra temple, Lotus Mahal, Elephant’ stable, underground Shiva temple, Queen’s bath, Hazara Rama Temple, Fort area, remains of official chambers, Mahanavami Dibba {modern day parliament}, Kamalapura museum, Pattabirama temple and Malyavanta Ragunatha temple, where Ram spent 4 months, chaturmasya. I would probably end up writing books if I start writing on each one of them. Every place is for sure treat to be and I suggest you don’t pack this in a day like I did!

Last day at Hampi, we crossed over Tungabhadra River on a 10rs ticket boat to reach the other side, Virupapur Gadde. Here we started off with visiting Pampa Sarovara {purana’s say this is one among 4 sacred sarovara’s of India- includes Manasa Sarovara as well} and Sabari Caves, where Sabari waited for Lord Ram. From there, we visited some cave sites to check out 14th century unexplored paintings. Next stop was at Anegundhi Gagan Mahal palace and Ranganthaswamy temple, on the way to Vaali Parvata which has Durga temple. Post this we visited Chintamani, from where Ram shot his arrow towards Vaali who was fighting Sugreeva in neighboring hill. You’ll be reassured of Ram’s archery skills here! We climbed up Anjanadri hill, the birthplace of the Monkey god, Hanuman and ended the day with visiting mesmerizing Sanapur lake reservoir. Magical end to my journey in the Times backtracked, unexpected and unexplored!

We took the overnight Hampi Express from Bangalore and reached Hospet. Hampi is 14kms aways from Hospet- accessible by bus and auto{don’t forget to bargain!}. I came back to catch overnight bus to Bangalore at the same place. Eating at Hampi is a delight. Every restaurant has similar menu. Must tries- oats, pastas, pizza, all sort of lassies, parota’s, paddu at Brahmin’s vatara and sunset at Hemakoota hills! I spent 3 days there. Got out from the shack by 8.30am and returned at sunset. Enjoyed every meal with those trance music and drank gallons of water. Hired guides {very senior Mallikarjuna and very junior Maruthi} and did innumerous attempts to capture the mesmerizing sights in my camera. I would revisit. This is my Hampi. You, discover your Hampi- your own ruined sandalwood castle, inverted gopura on your palms and meditating Hanuman in your hearts!

A photo posted by Jaideep Rao (@jaideeprao) on
A photo posted by Jaideep Rao (@jaideeprao) on  
[Special thanks to Vikas, Archi and Adyasha for making this trip memorable]