Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Goose is Trapped

Attrition, the greatest challenge faced by the software industry. That too in a small or medium sized organization, it is a curse because of the inability or unwillingness to offer an appealing, alluring and authentic package as supposed to be offered by the biggies. Suddenly projects pour in and hope soars high, but when it comes to execution, there pops up the big question! Where is all these years of experience gone?

It is like placing a just born goose in a bottle and ignoring it with such a callousness that, it grows so big that the bottle could no longer contain the goose. The challenge is to get the grown-up goose out of the glass without breaking the glass and without killing the goose.

There are circumstances when attrition is encouraged by the organization to accommodate change, get rid of obsolete resources (assumed by the employer) and to board fresh minds. The Tide and the ebb, up and down, darkness and light, summer and winter, yin and yen, attrition and recruitment has become the two sides of the same coin in this damn industry.

A friend asked me, “How it feels to be managing a big team?

I said, “I feel like a pimp”.

His laughter suggested that he was able to understand the whole analogy.

Recently, I an article on the views of Azim Premji, CEO-Wipro on


Every company faces the problem of people leaving the company for better pay or profile. Early this year, Mark, a senior software designer, got an offer from a prestigious international firm to work in its India operations developing specialized software. He was thrilled by the offer. He had heard a lot about the CEO. The salary was great. The company had all the right systems in place employee-friendly human resources (HR) policies, a spanking new office, and the very best technology, even a canteen that served superb food.

Twice Mark was sent abroad for training. "My learning curve is the sharpest it's ever been," he said soon after he joined.

Last week, less than eight months after he joined, Mark walked out of the job.

Why did this talented employee leave?

Arun quit for the same reason that drives many good people away.

The answer lies in one of the largest studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization. The study surveyed over a million employees and 80,000 managers and was published in a book called "First Break All The Rules". It came up with this surprising finding:

If you're losing good people, look to their immediate boss .Immediate boss is the reason people stay and thrive in an organization. And he’s the reason why people leave. When people leave they take knowledge, experience and contacts with them, straight to the competition. "People leave managers not companies," writes the authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Mostly manager drives people away?

HR experts say that of all the abuses, employees find humiliation the most intolerable. The first time, an employee may not leave, but a thought has been planted. The second time, that thought gets strengthened. The third time, he looks for another job.

When people cannot retort openly in anger, they do so by passive aggression. By digging their heels in and slowing down. By doing only what they are told to do and no more. By omitting to give the boss crucial information. Dev says: "If you work for a jerk, you basically want to get him into trouble. You don’t have your heart and soul in the job."

Different managers can stress out employees in different ways - by being too controlling, too suspicious, too pushy, too critical, but they forget that workers are not fixed assets, they are free agents. When this goes on too long, an employee will quit - often over a trivial issue. Talented men leave. Dead wood doesn't.

Shiva : If talented men leave, how does an organization grow? I believe that everyone is capable of doing anything. The only difference is the willingness to take up responsibility and stick to commitment. I can never accept the myth that someone is less talented or capable than the other. If a dead wood is someone committed to an organization, what do you call a flip flop as? Managers are no longer authoritative, at least not in my experience though. As a manger, I have never been compelling or authoritative, but a little aggressive on projects to bring the resources upto speed in their learning. But there is always a 60% attrition rate and 40% still sticking to me for the past 3 years. Am I a jerk? I am not questioning the authenticity of the forward, but just wondering where I stand? , Why I have lost the 60% of the people? Am I a dead wood? !!!!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Snow Fall

First time when one of my American colleagues warned me of the winter of Chicago, I sarcastically agreed to his comment, thinking at the back of my mind about the cold winters I have endured roaming around the roads of Kodai Hills and a month long NCC Camp in the tents at the oval ground of Sainik School, Nagrota, Jammu during the peak winter.

Today, my preconception about cold was shattered and the winter of Kodaikanal turned warm when the first big wintry storm with a combination of sleet, snow and ice blustered around Illinois, covering everything exposed with a blanket of snow and ice. In spite of the cautious gestures of my colleagues yesterday to stay warm and not to bother attending office today, I got ready to office the usual way, only to be dragged into the Teleconference and Web Conference bridges to attend the flurry of incessant calls pouring in from the managers to ensure the projects stays warm even when everything is freezing in this prickly cold.

The maximum temperature was –3 degree Celsius while the minimum temperature was –10 degree Celsius against a minimum +29 degree Celsius and a maximum of +38 degree Celsius at Chennai.

Deciding to work from home, I stepped out of the house only to see the snow covered streets, roofs, and commuters walked gingerly along slushy road in front of the apartment, people shoveling the snow in their door steps and side walks, digging out their cars buried in snow.

All trees big and small, no longer demanding the sun light for photosynthesis, as their leaves have withered away in the fall, were dressed in the white clad snow in complete submission to the over-powering weather. However, this one plant still with its tender leaves and beautiful flowers is fighting like a warrior, unwilling to give-up, hopes for the sun to appear. A great inspiration!

Though everyone were cold like the weather, only the kids seem to be excited and fancied by the fluffy softy snow, building varied shapes out of it.

This kid pulled his mother out of the home giving her a tough time, jumping into the mounting snow, picking and throwing at his mother, was having a ball.

Though there has been talks of power outages, burying streets and roads, plunging temperature, accidents on the slippery roads, flight and train delays – I enjoyed working from home, occasionally peeping through the window to see the snow turned world outside.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

An Amaravian's South Pole Mission

Nothing makes me proud except for being an Amaravian! Not only me, but every Amaravian will agree to this statement and today we have another reason to be more proud of. Lt Commander KS Balaji - Sainik School Amaravathi Nagar 1989 batchSchool V Captain - Pallava House is the deputy leader of the INDIAN Navy's expedition to the South Pole. Here is the excerpts from his email to the Alumini Group Mail

Mail Starts .......

I am glad to say that I am the deputy leader of the INDIAN Navy's expedition to the South Pole. We are already set to Antarctica and presently we are at Santiago (Chile) undertaking all requisite formalities and approvals to enter the remote continent. Hand in hand, we are preparing hard on our fitness and acclimatising ourselves to face the challenges the weather and terrain are due to pose us.

I was also part of the Indian Navy Mountaineering Team that climbed Mt Everest from the dreaded North face in May 2004. After this stupendous success, we are now ready to take on another extreme challenge as the next major adventure sport activity - Ski traverse to the South Pole during Nov 06 - Jan 07(termed Mission Dakshin Dhruv 2006). It would indeed be a daunting expedition and may well achieve records heralding India ,the Indian Navy and Sainik School Amaravathi Nagar into the forefronts of the adventure world and personally, I will also end up reaching two poles of the three in the world (North Pole, South Pole and Mt Everest which is considered the Third Pole).

It is a landmark venture for the country, the Navy and our school. Representing a microcosm of India the expedition will carry the hopes and aspirations of our countrymen and reflect the qualities of team spiritand indomitable will that our fine Service embodies.This expedition would unfurl the flags of India, the Navy and our school at the final frontier of adventure activity that challenges the human spirit of courageand survival. We have launched a website http://www.nausenaadventu which has a fair amount of details and snaps of this venture which will be updated regularly even whilst onour expedition. Although no publicity campaign or media coverage have been provided for this expedition exposing the great feat attempted by the Naval stalwarts to the Indian as well as the world community, we have put up a post card page for your views and good wishes to boost the morale of these brave men and encourage them to achieve success intheir attempt.

It becomes our responsibility as proud citizens of India and Amaravians, to recognize such daring missions and project India favourably in the World of Sports and Adventure. Please pass on this messageacross the board and allow it to reach the masses -far, farther and beyond. I am sure you would be earnest to join hands and promote the mission throughall available means and make all Indians feel proud of this team. May I request you to kindly give your good wishes and blessings to the team on this mail id. Your goodwishes and message would mean a lot to the team!

...... Mail Ends

I take this opportunity to wish the team a great success in their mission and request the visitors to shower their wishes and blessings to the team. I am amazed about the tone of patriotism and sincerity in his mail - equally ashamed of being in an industry where people have forgotten the significance of August 15.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

An evening in Chicago

It has been exactly 2 months since I landed in US. All these days have been too hectic that, I have not been able to visit any place other than Walmart, which is just a furlong from my apartment and a couple of other joints like Apple Bees, Buffalo Wings and of course the Palatine library that houses a huge collection of books.

Though, the Thanks Giving long weekend would give enough window for going around, Thursday was spent in aloneness. However, Thurday night kept me in telecon with the off-shore folks till 3:00 AM Friday. At 4:00 AM went along with a friend to grab a few items in the Black Friday sale. I was amused to see a long queue waiting for the shops to open. Most of the shops open at 5:00AM and the Early Bird price is applicable till 11:00 AM. We visited Circuit City, Best Buy and ULTA. Thanks to my friend - got some good deals in every shop - I have saved a couple of hundred dollars. Exhausted at 11:30 AM, we went to India House, Bufallo Grove for a hearty Indian buffet. Friday ended with a sound sleep till evening and telecon in the night followed by a disturbed sleep.

Saturday started with guilt for having chased a flock of birds and scaring a kid watching the birds, while attempting to shoot the birds with the camera after collecting it from my friend's car. After browsing through a site on Chicago to motivate myself to go around, I started with Madhan, a room mate to Chicago. We boarded the train at the Arlington Park station which is located with in the Arligton Race Course. The train went via Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Jefferson Park and reached Chicago Ogilvie station in an hour. With neither a plan in mind or a map in hand, we were not sure where to head. Just started walking on the street that appeared to be a more than a street, grabbed a tall cup of hot brewed coffee from Starbucks and after a mile we reached what looked like a park.

Ultimately, it turned out to be the Millenium Park of Chicago with its unprecedented combination of architecture, monumental sculpture and landscape design, the 24.5 acre is adorned by morden masterpieces like Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, BP Bridge and a Ice Ring. Architecture and landscaping was at its peak. The park was bustling with people of all types, kids, grandies, joggers, lovers, spectators, and most people from suburban areas have come to spend their evening at the Millenium Park.

A strode on the BP Bridge took us to the Chicago Yatch Club and then to the road that runs parallel to Lake Michigan. The panoramic view of the city from the lake assured that it is apt to call it the city of sky scrapers, though I didn't get a chance during this trip to see the Sears Tower. My be I will make it in my next trip to the downtown.

We went along the lake and crossed a bridge to reach the Navy Pier which houses a children's museum, theaters, gardens, an assortment of shops, the Joe's Be-Bop Jazz bar, restaurants and a variety of entertainment for kids. This is the best place to be with your kids.

In the Navy Pier shopping area, there were two painters painting of two kids and mother. The medium was cardboard paper and water colur. They were specilised in caricature. It was so lively and funny that, I got interested and I decided that I should have on such painting of myself and wanted to know how funny Andy, the painter would draw out of me. We walked back to the station and took the train back to Arlington Park at 8:30 PM and the day turned out to be a memorable one.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Chopping Wood; Fetching Water

I love haikus, especially when remembered in my aloneness.

Sitting Alone

- Room mates vacationing the Thanks Giving long weekend

- Declined the offers to join them

- Declined couple of invitation from friends and relatives to visit their place

- Unusually favourable weather - replica of the summer of Kodiakanal

- Neither interested nor motivated even to take a walk

- Wondering on my reluctance to go around, in spite of being the most out-going person at home!

- Attempting to unwillingly finish the tasks willingly unfinished and ignored at work

- Peeping into Kamzpuff and Kavimusings when work becomes work

- Wading through a few pages of Passions of the Mind whenever laptop turns disgusting

- Van Gogh or Michaelangelo or Freud, Stone is amazing!

- Imbued in the divine creation of Ilayaraja when Freud is not at his best

- Occassional cooking of the aromatic sambar, learnt from my room mate Satish

- A double Jack Daniell's or Black Label on the rocks, when everything around sucks

- Finally, remembered the haiku .........

Chopping Wood; Fetching Water;

Before enlightenment.

Chopping Wood; Fetching Water;

After enlightenment.

Monday, October 23, 2006

My House is Red

After such a long gap, I was able to find the other Lost Poem " My House is Red through Lognathan (Logunix). I am hoping to return home soon and rhyme the entire poem to Pranav. Have another 2 months of waiting................Day and Night I'm missing him and it's been really hard to push each and very moment, though I am occupied with more than 16 hours of workday. Anyway, let me post the poem for everyone to cherish.

My House is Red

My house is red—a little house,
A happy child am I;
I laugh and play the livelong day,
1 hardly ever cry.

I have a tree, a green, green tree,
To shade me from the sun;.
And under it I often sit,
When all my work is done.

My little basket I will take,
And trip into the town;
When next I am there I’ll buy- some cake,
And spend my bright half-crown.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Annaprasanam at Guruvayur

Pranav is turning six months old and it is time for him to take solid food. Though, we can start feeding him, we have the age-old custom of conducting the feeding ceremony at a sacred place when the baby is fed with external food. Guruvayur is the preferred place as Krishna manifests as a kid and thousands of parents conduct the Annaprasanam, the food feeding ceremony of their kids here.

We boarded the Nilgiri Express on 12-Aug and reached Coimbatore the next morning. Much to our surprise, Pranav enjoyed the train journey, as it was much like a simulation of the rocking cradle. After the wash and change, we visited the Saradhambal Temple at Race Course, to which I am closely tied up because of the regular visits and some spiritual course that I had undergone a couple of years ago. Coimbatore is my favourite destination, not only because of the pleasant climate, peaceful atmosphere, but also for the brotherly affection shown by my friend Karthi and his family. Siddharth has grown into a boy and has bagged many proficiency certificates at Stanes. As expected, it was a heavy breakfast with Poori, Dosa, Potato Masala, Coconut chutney and of course my favourite Brinjal Chutney.

After making a visit to his mother’s place to get her blessings for Pranav, we started for Pollachi, yet another destination that I have loved, for its plush green coconut groves, paddy fields, friendly people and the caring big brother Kandan Karunai and his lovely family. After a pleasant walk, talk and a hearty lunch, we started to Guruvayur, which is 2-hours drive from Pollachi via Kollangode and Thrichur.

This is a view of the Paddy Fields and Coconut Groves at Jamin Oothukuli.

The stretch of Wester Ghats seen from Govindapuram, just near the Tamil Nadu - Kerala border.

We took nearly 3 hours to reach Guruvayur, stopping in many places to catch the irresistible scenic beauty of the God’s Own country. It was showering in many stretches and by the time we reached Guruvayur at 6:30pm, it was raining heavily. We checked in at Krishna Inn, which is about a furlong from the Temple and after a bath rushed to the temple for a darshan. It was too cold and hence, Pranav had some difficulty in sleeping. However, he managed to sleep after we got a cradle from the hotel and packed it with pillows and blankets.

This is the majestic statue of Garuda (Eagle) that welcomes the visitors, when they enter Guruvayur.The security was very tight due to the Independence Day threats and hence, the cameras were not allowed. The only snap I could capture was the roof of the passage that leads to the temple.

Though Annaprasanam starts at 5:00 AM, we went to the temple only at 7:00 AM. 10 Years before when I went for the Annaprasanam of my nephew Nitin, it was held just in front of the Garpagraham. Now that, they have allocated a separate hall in the first floor of a building to tackle the multitude of devotees performing this ritual. We were not allowed to be in the hall for a very long time and hence, it was a very brief ceremony, which lasted only for 5 minutes. All the items including cooked rice, payasam (sweet preparation of rice, sugar & milk) plantain etc. were placed on a banana leaf and we were asked to feed Pranav. Everyone attempted their turn and obviously, he spit every bit of what was fed. The best part was, the entire hall was filled with chubby kids with their exaggerated eyebrows and eyelashes drawn with long black stripes like the Kathakali Mohini. With their small gold striped mundus and chains, they were all prosperity, personified!

Next, though unwilling, we had to perform another offering called Tulabaram, in which the devotee is weighed against a commodity of his choice-banana, sugar, water, gold, in fact anything that is permitted inside the temple. Pranav was weighed against blocks of Sugar Candy (Kalkandu).

Then we visited the Mural Painting Institute, which is situated in the Devaswom Complex. We met the Principal and the Chief Instractor Mr.Krishnakumar and a Visiting Professor Mr. Vijaykumar from Baroda University. Had some good education on Mural Painting Tradition of India. The history of Mural Painting of India is traced back to the Ajantha Cave paintings considered to have been executed between 200 B.C and 600 A.D. In South India mural painting flourished in places such as Sittannavasal, Badami, Tanjavur, Vijaynagar and Kerala. Though the tradition of Mural painting is forgotten in most of the states, Rajasthan and Kerala are only states that are guarding it from extinction.

In Kerala, the walls and the gopurams of the temples are the mediums in which the mural paintings are executed. Apart from Hindu temples, a number of churches also have mural paintings with Christian iconographic features. The traditional Kerala mural painting is done only in five colours (Panchavarna) such as Yellow, Green, Red, Black and White. White is the wall or the medium and all other colours are prepared from leaves and stones.The first mural painting depicts multi-headed Ganesh sitting on a Lion, while the theme for the second one is the Dance of Shiva.

The above mural painting portrays Narasimhamoorthy. The subject or the theme for most of the mural painting is usually different incarnations of Vishnu, different manifestations of Shiva, Rasa Leela, Ganesh and the goddess Devi in different forms. The first painting in the above picture depicts the Aphrodite of Hindu Mythology, while the second one is dedicated to Krishna and Balram.

In 1970, due to a fire accident in the Guruvayur Temple, the mural painting adorning the walls of the sanctum sanctorum was destroyed. When attempting to renovate and redecorate the walls, it was found that there were only a very few artists like Mammiyur Krishnakutty Nair, M.K.Sreenivasan and K.K. Varier who were able to undertake this work. Though, they could complete it successfully, the need to preserve the endangered art of mural painting became a serious thought and hence, the Guruvayur Devaswom established the Institue of Mural Painting in July 1989.

As a mark of admiration and acknowledgement to this ageless tradition of Mural Painting, we ordered a beautiful painting of Krishna and Radha that will be newly painted and then shipped across to Chennai. With Pranav around it was not pragmatic to visit places around Guruvayur. The elephant sanctuary at Punnathur Kotta about 3 kms north of Guruvayur temple and the Mammiyur Shiva Temple are a must see places when you visit Guruvayur. Hoping to make another trip, may be after a couple of years, we boarded the Allepey - Chennai Express at Trichur and reached Chennai on the next day, 15 Aug.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

SSA - Official Website Launched

Finally, our school has launched its official website. This has relieved us of the pain of juggling through the various unofficial wesites hosted by the Amaravians. The website is really impressive with the raising curtain similar to the Avvai Auditorium curtain raising for the opening scene of the culturals. Though there are some obvious bugs, it's a decent beginning.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Trot Trot the Baby Goes

Finally, it was Vallimanavalan who found one of the lost poems. Though, it is already in a comment on my previous posting The Lost Poems, I'm posting it, in order for everyone to read and enjoy this sweet poem. I understand this as a poem written by Mary F Butts [1890-1937]. Her poetry seems to be of immediate access to the sacred, and the masks of the sacred. She goes directly to the subject , she wastes no time. The body of the poem becomes filled with things, with boxes, with screens, with feathers, with balls, with cups, the details of the personal highly charged and engaged, every word seems to be a translation of reality.


Every evening Baby goes

Trot, trot, to town,

Across the river, through the fields,

Up hill and down.

Trot, trot, the Baby goes,

Up hill and down,

To buy a feather for her hat,

To buy a woolen gown.

Trot, trot, the Baby goes;

The birds fly down, alack!

"You cannot have our feathers, dear,"

They say, "so please trot back."

Trot, trot, the Baby goes;

The lambs come bleating near.

"You cannot have our wool," they say,

"But we are sorry, dear."

Trot, trot, the Baby goes,

Trot, trot, to town;

She buys a red rose for her hat,

She buys a cotton gown.

I am still searching for "My House is Red".

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The lost poems

Unable to assimilate the growing hatred in the name of religion, I prefer to remain in my own understanding of religiousness and spirituality appreciating the beatitude of life, with open eyes without any prejudices hidden behind the eyes and looking with clarity at a small flower or grass or butterfly or a sunset or watching a moving cloud that gives more blissfulness than any other religion would have offered. The pre-requisite to be initiated into this religion is childlikeness, innocence and ignorance. Let innocenceness be the only religiousness and all it requires is the readiness to be a clean mirror that reflects nothing, utter silence and purity. The whole existence will be transformed for you; each moment becomes ecstatic and even sipping a cup of tea becomes more prayerful as any other prayer prescribed by any religion.

Apprehensive of the world to which I have brought my son Pranav, I wish he would remain in this childlikeness, innocence and the ignorance as long as he could. The moment he starts knowing things, he will no longer be a child. He will become a part of the adult world and will be initiated to the civilization loosing his essential nature. The old say, it is not easy to be a son; I say that it is more difficult to be a parent in this world and Sujathaa would agree with me too. In an effort to be a good father, I am getting transformed into the childlikeness. I have started recollecting all that were beautiful in my life and one such thing of beauty are the poems I had cherished during my childhood.

Pranav not only gets excited, but also attempts to imitate, when I rhyme the poems that I have treasured from my school days. The first time when I tried it, he stopped his cry and hence, it has become a habit of mine to rhyme these beautiful verses whenever he cries. I could recollect with ease, the bits and pieces of the lines as they were learnt with the child-like innocence. Though, I was unable to appreciate the grandeur of innocence at that point of time because of the ignorance, the remnants of my childhood has endured to this day and have started flowering through Pranav. I am sure this is case with most of the parents.

Here are the two beautiful poems that were taught by Mr.George Joseph (GJ), one of the English Teachers, when I was in my sixth class. Though, I am able to remember a couple of stanzas, my memory fails every time I try to complete these poems. I would greatly appreciate if any one could complete the missing stanzas, so that I need not repeat the bits and pieces of these poems.

FYI – The name of the poems are – “My House is red” and “Trot Trot the baby goes”. I couldn’t find then in the web. The poems were present in the sixth class English book in CBSE syllabus in 1987 and were later lifted owing to their childlikeness, when the syllabus was changed in 1990. The NCERT has failed to realize that the most extraordinary things in life are the most ordinary ones. Any Amaravian? JP, JK, Batcha, KNR, Murghki?

My House is red

My house is red,
A little house,
A happy child am I.

I laugh and play,
I live long day,
I hardly ever cry.

I have a tree,
A green green tree,
To shade me from the sun.

And under it,
I often sit,
When all my works are done.

My little basket,
I will take,
To trip into the town.

4 stanzas missing...........

Trot Trot the baby goes

Trot Trot the baby goes,
Trot trot to town,
Across the river,
Through the hills,
Up hill and down.

Trot Trot the baby goes,
Trot trot to town,
3 stanzas missing

Monday, July 17, 2006

Eaters of the dead

The morning sleep snuggling in side the warmth of the blanket to counter the cold winter of Kodaikanal was an ecstasy by itself. That too when you are back from the hostel to spend your vacation, no one would bother to wake you up until 10’o clock when you are woken by the aroma of the coffee cup held by you mom. But that day was an exception. To my surprise, my mom woke me up at 6’0 clock. Though unwilling to peep out of the blanket, I had to force myself out of the blanket as my mom informed me that my dad wants me at the backyard. I jumped out of the blanket and threw a shawl around my head to cover the ears from the prickly cold of the backyard, which is an extension of the field.

My dad and a group of his friends were laughing in a joyful mood and on seeing me the laughter faded away. I could see a creature lying encircled by the group. My sister was already there with her panic stricken face. Anand one of my dad’s friends told me that, my sister and me would be the fortunate people to get the lion’s share today. Still half a sleep, I was wondering at the creature that resembled a monkey with a black fur on its body, golden brown fur on its head and had a long black tail. On seeing our terrified face, my dad told that he shot this Mandhi (Nilgiri Langur) during the last night’s hunting trip in the mathi kettan shola forest. He told me that, Mandhi lives in the shola forests that are rich in medicinal and aromatic vegetation and lives on herbs, nuts and fruits that have high medicinal value. Hence, its flesh, blood and the cud are known to be the panacea for many diseases. Now, Rajaiah took a knife and a container cut the Mandhi’s throat and filled the container with the oozing blood. We were offered a glass of blood that was fresh and warm. I gulped it and extended the tumbler to be refilled, while my sister was satisfied with one tumbler. Everyone laughed and said one tumbler is more than enough. We were instructed to jog till the golf course in order for the blood to get digested. When we came home after an hour of jogging, the group was gone and my dad was getting ready for the day. My mom was engaged in preparing meat to be cooked, while my granny was treating a big portion of the meat with salt and turmeric paste. We helped her to dry them in the sunlight and then hang them on the cross cabled strings inside the chimney for uppu kandam (salt-cured meat). On seeing my enthusiasm, my dad promised to take me along with him during the next hunting trip.

It happened the next month, when my dad planned for an over-night stay at a work site 40 KMs from Kodaikanal. We stayed in the jeep till 11:00 PM and then sneaked into the thick pine forest. After walking a while, we enter a shola forest and the site supervisor made a bed out of the dried leaves and spreads blanket for us to rest. We remained there for a very long time without uttering a single word. I was instructed even to keep the breathing very low. I was growing impatient as the time grew and it was already dawn. I was almost fainting with sleep when a thundering noise shook my senses to life. I saw my dad and his smile told me that he had shot something. Slowly we moved towards the direction where the shot was fired and near a stream we found a spotted dear lying motionless. It was a great moment of delight after waiting in the fierce cold throughout the night. We took the head and the skin for making stuffed deer (taxidermy) or a trophy and the shoulders for meat. This was the first and the last time I went on a hunting trip. However, every vacation was marked with relishing some new animal. The list grew like Nilgiri Langur, Spotted Deer, Wild Rabbits, Ibex, Kelai Aadu (Wild Goat), Royal Pigeon, Flying Squirrel etc.

In the following years, I rarely visited home during vacations. During one visit, dad told me that hunting as a game has died out and it is considered a crime as the animals dwelling in Palani hills are being declared as endangered species. The double barrel gun that was presented to my grandfather by the Rajah of Sivaganga for having shot a tiger rested in the attic, only to be taken out for license renewal and over-hauling. When my father died, it was surrendered at the collectorate. I was not eligible to hold a gun license as I was a minor at that time and my uncle was not interested anything else but his business. Later, in an effort to recover the gun, I discovered that the gun was auctioned to an arms dealer named Veeramani of Dindigul, as there was no one to claim it.

As a mark of remembrance, I capitalize every opportunity to shoot animals with my camera and have caught many that my dad has failed to catch with his gun. Shooting them in the camera seems to be more pleasurable as the snaps become valued possessions. All the game, big and small continues; but the guns have been replaced by the cameras.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Visiting Grandma

I made a quick trip to Kodaikanal last friday to see my granny and to visit our family temple. Spent some time chatting with my granny and performed a pooja at the temple. I couldn't visit the KMU as it was open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Mark has moved to his Farm House and hence would require more time to meet him. I missed an hour of rowing which I usually do whenever I visit Kodai as I had to rush to catch the train. Though it was only a few hours I could spend in Kodaikanal, it was a rejuvenating and a fulfilling trip. Here are some snaps I captured during the trip.

Manjalaar Dam view from Dum Dum rock which is at KM 12 of Kodai-Ghat Road

The dried up Rat Tail Falls view from Dum Dum rock which is at KM 12 of Kodai-Ghat Road

My Grandma - manifestation of strength, hardwork, love and compassion.

View of our temple- Shree Bathra Kaliamman Temple at Pambarpuram, Kodaikanal

A group of devotees celebrating a festival in a village on the foot hills of Kodaikanal

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Work without Objective

There are moments when we are not sure about the path we have taken and all the efforts invested and the future envisioned becomes questionable. Such a situation is more frequent when you have the willingness to risk for a challenging path whose destination is unsubstantial. This has been the way of men from time immemorial. But the recent objective oriented management theories have stripped us of our capability to be natural. Recently, my cousin Arun completed his engineering and sent his resume to be floated across the industry. He has written **** Who Knows**** against Objective. I called him to find the reason and he said that he has written the truth. How many of us are courageous enough to float a resume like this?

When I first prepared my resume, I had to remove the Objective for the difficulty it caused in defining it. If at all, I am able to define one, it is not really going to be in the orbit of the profession I would be applying for. My short term objective would be to complete whatever I am doing now and the long term objective would be to have sound sleep tonight. I don’t call this a myopic attitude and I have been successful by being here and now without having to stick on to a life long goal or vision. Building an objective castle in the air and envisioning a farsighted future has always left me in the company of disappointment and despondency. Initially, I was also fascinated by the fantasies of the objective, vision and goal theories. After gaining some experience in life, I was delivered from this disillusionment by the following verses from Bhagwat Gita and it has remained as my favorite quote since then.

“You have right in respect of action alone;
Not is respect of its fruits.
Let not the fruit of action be your motive;
And, let there be not attachment to inaction either.”

Even if we read through the entire text of Gita, the essence of the books is the above-mentioned verse. Like, love for love sake, you have to work for work sake. I had to meditate over this for a couple of years to comprehend the intricacy of its meaning and the essence of its message. When our actions are driven by the objective, we work more like a slave entangled in the hope of achieving it. Freedom is lost and all our actions and thoughts are imbued in the objective that might be a distant future. We fail to explore new avenues and take up innovative responsibilities as they may not be in sync with our objective – there is always a limitation. We are blind to the present and the beatitude of life that is surrounding us because of our indulgence to the fruit that might be borne. More often, we are more focused on the objective that, we fail to even act now to achieve the same.

Just by walking step by step, we can cover ten thousand miles easily. But, if we start thinking from the very beginning about crossing ten thousand miles, our legs may start trembling; our heart may start wavering. The only way is to walk step by step. No body can even walk two steps at the same time. Why should we think of crossing ten thousand miles now? Just do what is required now and the future will take you to a destination that might be better than what you had envisioned.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mark Antrobus

First meeting

Though it was a hills station, the summer of Kodaikanal in the recent past has been as hot as Madurai. I was standing under the shade of the a lone wattle tree watching the giant road-roller giving its final touch on the newly laid road surface on the Kodai – Ghat road KM 48/6. A green ambassador, must be a 1960 model, slowed down the near the parapet across the road and a lean foreigner unmounted the driver’s seat and I was surprise to see him walking towards me. He must be at least 40 years of age, but the thing that caught my eyes most was the three stripes of vibhuti (lines of ashes) and vermilion mark on his forehead. With his blond hair shining in the simmering sun, his mustache and beard flowing through his face, his eyes settled in a state of serenity, he looked much like a sage. He introduced him self as Mark Antrobus, an active member of CPCK (Consumer Protection Council of Kodaikanal) and the PHCC (Palani Hills Conservation Council). He appreciated me for having delivered a quality work in laying this road and a couple of other stretches on the Lake Round Road I had executed recently. I was elated, as no one, even the local people have never cared to really motivate me for providing quality roads in spite of the corrupt system.

At the KMU

The next time I met him was at the Kodai Missionary Union (KMU) Library that I visited on Saturdays to browse through the huge collection of books and to pick a book that would be my companion during my travel in the following week. The library was meant for people with missionary connections and I am grateful to Mr. Watson, a former librarian of the Kodai International School who introduced me to the library. Coming back to Mark, we made our coffee and Mark was asking me suggestions on the initiatives to be taken through the CPCK and PHCC to ensure quality roads in Kodaikanal. I was least interested, as these are the few hours I snatch to get rid of the road rollers, heat masters, mini-mix plants and the other road stuffs. However, I gave him a few suggestions, just to be courteous and ended the conversation. He invited me to his house as wanted to introduce me to his mom.

At his Cottage

His house was situated on a hill 2 furlongs from the load road leading to Prakasapuram and the grass path leading from the road to his house had a fencing of Hydrangea (known among locals as Idly poo, for it is shaped like the south indian dish Idly) on the valley side and a retaining wall adorned with the trailing creepers and climbers on the hill-side. It was a beautiful cottage and the calling bell was answered by Mark himself. He offered a warm welcome in the Tamil way (Vanakkam) and ushered me into the living room where he introduced me to his mom Mrs.Grace, who is turning 92 the following week. He excused himself to complete his morning prayers leaving me with his mom. I could hear him reciting Maniye Maniyin oliye, Olirum ani punaindha …… verses from Abirami Anthadhi. His Tamil pronunciation was as perfect as MNSK, our Tamil pundit in Sainik. Mrs. Grace playing with the cat on her lap, was very happy to have found a companion to talk and started sharing her experiences as a war correspondent with Reuters during the WW II. While she was me telling that she had named her cat as Pompon, a submarine she had seen in the WW II, Mark arrived with a towel around his bare body. He took me around the house and finally we landed in the Kitchen. He asked, if I would like to have a tea and I nodded yes with a big smile thinking that he would be procuring fresh tea leaves from Darjeeling or Munnar through his missionary contacts.

Herbal Tea

He lighted the stove and placed a vessel with 2 glasses of water in it. He opened the windows and plucked a couple of Hibiscus and Chrysanthemum flowers, a bunches of Mint, Coriander and Tulsi leaves from the pots on the Window sill. Then took a tray of containers and added dried Lime-grass, Fennel, Vettiver and Rosemary. Then he added 2 teaspoons of Palm-sugar, Honey and finally squeezed a few drops of lime juice on the decoction. Though I sipped it with apprehension, the aroma of the drink rushed through my senses and I felt a refreshed breath. In a week’s time, I stopped drinking Coffee and Tea and switched to Mark’s herbal drink after collecting all the ingredients from various sources. In a few months my frequent nose block was gone completely and I also my weight reduced significantly.

The Farm House

My visits continued and on a Thursday, he called and invited me to his house on the following Sunday, to accompany him on a picnic to the farm house he is constructing, where would be spending the later part of his life. On the scheduled Sunday, along with Mark and Mrs. Grace, I started the trip. Near the Bonded Labor shed on the Kodai Palani Ghat road, he took a left turn and headed on the Ganaesapuram Road. After 8 KMs, he parked the car near a group of locals with a palanquin made of a bamboo chair tied on a reaper on its two sides. The men carried his Mom on the palanquin while Mark and I followed them through the foot-path. It would have been at least 6 KMs when we reached a grove of lemon trees (Got reminded of the beautiful Lemon Tree song by Fool’s Garden).

The scent of the ripe lemon mixed with the strong smell of mud was rejuvenating. Through the grove, I saw a two storey house built in random rubble masonry. As we reached the cottage, the group led Mrs.Grace into the house, while we sat on the verandah that ran along the walls with its heavy stone pillars. Except for the occasional cooing of the birds and humming of the rolling stream, there was only silence. I felt more relaxed than ever after the 6 KM walk through the jungle and I wanted to remain there forever.

I noticed that there was something unique with the mortar binding the walls. Mark told me that he started building this house a year ago and would take another year to complete. The house was built with granite rubble stones collected from the vicinity and the mortar used for binding the stones is a mixture of red gravel, lime stones, sand and jaggery. He has not used cement or any of a artificial material in building this house. The windows and doors were made by reusing the old windows and doors as he is strongly against felling of trees in the name of development. The floor was laid with terracotta tiles and the roof was a simple truss like structure covered by Mangalore Tiles. The wide bath room was tiled beautifully with small pieces of broken tiles of varying colors that he collected from the debris of the bath rooms of his shenbaganur house and he personally laid it creating a piece of art. There was a solar heater and an array of solar panels to supply electricity to the house and the water got collected in a tank on the roof by through gravity from the water fall at the back yard. I busied myself engrossed in every minute details of the house and Mark went to the kitchen to prepare our lunch.

The lunch was a salad of Knol-Khol, Turnip and leeks, red rice porridge, boiled legumes and a salad of peach dipped in honey as dessert. After the lunch, I stretched on a slanting rock below the water fall with my legs hanging through the streaming water. It was almost 4’0 clock when Mark announced that we should leave else, it would be too dark to locate the foot path.

The disconnect

The last time I visited Mark was to wish Mrs.Grace on her 94th birthday and after I left Kodai, I rarely thought about them. Few years before, when I was going through Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, a book presented by Mark, I got reminded of Mark and I called him. Mark was happy to hear from me and his mom appreciated me on my thoughtfulness. I invited him to our home if he happens to visit Chennai and he told me there was no reason for him to leave Kodai. Moreover, he told that his farm house is in the verge of completion he is making arrangements for settling there very soon and wished I should come there for a stay. I thanked him and when I hung the phone, I felt a sense of heaviness growing on my heart for having left such a beautiful people and place. But I know, life should go on as is. Last year, I called to wish Mrs.Grace on her birthday, only to hear the voice on the other side saying “The number you have dialed no longer exists”. I realized that he would have settled in his farm house far from any form of communication. Probably, I will visit his farm house during my next visit to Kodaikanal and till then, my mind has enough stupidities to be occupied with.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Trip to Amaravathi

If it was not for Muruganand’s marriage, I wouldn’t have dreamt of this break. It was a long and a wonderful weekend that started after I switched off my cell phone when the train started rolling from Egmore at 10:00 PM on 27-May. After a brief discussion with Shakthi on the prospects of IT in Coimbatore, we fell asleep. The train took a longer route via Trichy ->Karur --> Erode -->Thirupur --> Coimbatore, 4 hours more than Nilgiris or Cheran Express and I preferred this, as it is way to be cut-off from the contacts for more time. I snatched the additional pillow from the lower berth and thanks to the passenger who didn’t turn-up and also to the TTR who couldn’t find a replacement till Thirupur, where we got down at 8:30 AM on 28-May. Sivaraj was there to receive us and we started to Udumalpet after a long argument with Kandan Karunai who wanted us to come to Pollachi and Karthi who insisted that we should come to Coimbatore. The priority is always Udumalpet because of its proximity to Amaravathi, were we spent all our formative years in a little-bit of education and a lot of pranks (Extra-Curricular and Co-Curricular Activities!).

By the time we reached Udumalpet, Kandan, Karthi and Maya arrived. We went to the Lion’s Club Marriage hall for lunch, and then met Muruganand of Tamilnadu, the groom and Roumya of Jarkhand, the bride. It is a Love & Arranged marriage and as per the stats, 80% of Amravians fall into this category because of varied reasons that I would post later. After lunch, we started to Amaravathi with the aroma of nostalgia over-powering our senses. Though all of us have lost interest in alcohol, we bought a couple of beers and whiskeys, sensing that there would be a need while sitting in the steps of the Canal or the Dam. The highlight of the journey was how Kandan narrated the way he promised his mom that he would become a pilot and would pick her-up from their house in Pollachi and drop her back after a round over Pollachi.

On reaching Amaravathi, RS, who was one of our English Teachers, stopped his bike after recognizing us while we were taking a snap of the board in front of the Academic Block.

Then, we went to the Obstacle Court and only Karthi was able to perform most of monkey plays, as he is still a monkey while most of us have turned into elephants.

As it is vacation period, most of the staff members were not there and the campus seemed deserted except for the painters, masons and carpenters who were busy with the maintenance activities that are usually done during the vacation period. The other important thing we noticed was that the name “Boy’s Mess” (as if there are girls in the campus) has been changed to “Sainik School, Cadet’s Mess” (as if, it exists outside the campus).

After seeing all the houses, we went to the canal that runs through the path lined with Eucalyptus trees on either sides, leading to Kallapuram, which used to be our running route for the morning PT. As sensed, we finished the beers and whiskey on the steps of the Canal while Karthi and Shakthi busied themselves in catching a lone fish.

The bottles got empty and it was the right time go to the Dam, so that we will be able enjoy its beauty in a state of ecstasy. As like other dams in Tamilnadu, Amaravathi Dam was constructed during Kamaraj’s reign and it stretches between the two hills that stand like the firm and heavy boobs of river Amaravathi. There is Crocodile form and the Indra Gandhi Wild Life Sanctuary spreads around this river.

We met PC, our physical chemistry teacher, who intentionally talked about the political scenario of Tamilnadu rather than the political scenario of the school in which we would be more interested.

The day ended with more Amravians, Beers and Whiskeys!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Money > Monkey > Monkeys

I have never understood Money and Fast Money is too far from my reason. That’s why, I was not able to understand the share market stuff haunting everyone in the recent time. However, I understand this beautiful story I received from Haroon, the mullah of Sainik. I thought this story would be really an interesting stuff to share, when the market is taking a roller coaster ride.

Once upon a time in a village a man appeared who announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for Rs. 10. The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys went out in the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at 10 and as supply started to diminish and villagers started to stop their effort.

He announced that now he would buy at 20 rupees. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching moneys again. Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer rate increased to 25 and the supply of monkeys became so that it was an effort to even see a monkey let alone catch it.

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at 50! However, since he had to go to the city on some business his assistant would now buy on behalf of the man. In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at 35 and when the man comes back you can sell it to him for 50.

The villagers queued up with all their saving to buy the monkeys. After that nobody found that man and that assistant, only Monkeys and Monkeys and monkeys.....
I understand Shakthi, JK, Haroon, ....... are left with lot of monkeys. They say, patience will turn monkeys to money and it's a long term investment. Who Knows!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thanks to Chennai Cops

I’m very good at loosing cell phones, debit/credit cards, keys (vehicle as well as house) and wallets. It all started in my school days when I was passionate about trying a wide assortment of pens and loosing them. I don’t really remember whether it was the loosing that made me try different pens or it was the multitude of pens that caused this habit of loosing. Though I lost interest in pens (I no longer carry a pen), I couldn’t loose the habit of loosing and it keeps haunting all my personal possessions like cell phones, keys, cards, (sometimes girls!) etc, till they no longer interest me. Today, I have lost my debit card for the second time in two months!

Though very cautious, my wife was also caught by the Loosing Jinn last month when she lost her cell phone while visiting the bank. When she informed me, I blocked the SIM and consoled her saying that the model is obsolete and so it is an opportunity to get the latest one. But she was adamant, as it is a B'day gift I gave her and hence, she resolved to find it at any cost. Finally, she asked me to email the Cyber Crime Department of Chennai Police, requesting them to investigate this. I emailed with the details of the cell phone and to my surprise, I got a response from Letika Saran, IPS, CoP, Greater Chennai, assuring that necessary action will be taken.

Exactly after 10 days, I received a call from the commissioner’s office that the cell phone has been found and recovered. One of my uncles went to collect the cell phone, and I understand from him that Letika Saran herself handed over it. I know that the Chennai cops have a habit of making and breaking world records in investigating complex cases. But I was surprised to see the same level of importance given for a trivial case. When agencies across the country are struggling to file charge sheets within 90 days, narrowing the gap between crime and justice so drastically is no mean task.

Thanks to the efforts of the Chennai Cops.

Don’t hesitate to lodge a complaint through when you loose a cell phone.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Finding Happiness

I don't remember the last time when I had a hearty and genuine laugh. Most of us turn monotnous and sedentary, lost in contemplating on things that would gaurd us in the dead zone of security. The present illusion of the shore of safety, shell of security and the crystal of certainity makes life dead and would at some point makes us realize that we are living someone else's life. Beyond these illusions, we have always been happy living in insecurity and uncertainity and there is always a joy in living dangerously.

Don't call it Uncertainity - call it Wonder

Don't call it Insecurity - call it Freedom

I found the following six tips deviced by Tal Ben-Shahar who teaches Positive Psychology at Harvard University to be really useful in atleast making an attempt to deliver myself of the disillusionment of security and certainity.

Six Tips for Happiness

1. Give yourself permission to be human. When we accept emotions -- such as fear, sadness, or anxiety -- as natural, we are more likely to overcome them. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness.

2. Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. When this is not feasible, make sure you have happiness boosters, moments throughout the week that provide you with both pleasure and meaning.

3. Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?

4. Simplify! We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much.

5. Remember the mind-body connection. What we do -- or don't do -- with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.

6. Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Animal Farm

With the elections round the corner and as I see the desperate election manifestos and the barking of the politicians, I am reminded of the satirical allegory Animal Farm by George Orwell. The book examines totalitarianism and a utopia that turns dystopian. One night, all the animals on Mr. Jones’ Manor Farm gather in a barn to hear the highly regarded old Major, a pig, describe a dream about a world where all animals live free from the tyranny by their human masters. Soon after the meeting the Major dies, but the animals – inspired by his philosophy of Animalism plot a rebellion against Jones. Two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, emerge as important figures and when Jones forgets to feed the animals, Jones and his men are chased off the farm, Manor Farm is renamed the Animal Farm, and the seven commandments of Animalism are engraved on the barn wall.

The pigs, because of their intelligence, become supervisors. Napoleon, however, proves to be power-hungry stacks away the cow’s milk and the apples to feed himself and the other pigs. Squealer the pig, his ardent supporter convinces the other animals that the pigs are always moral and correct in their decisions.

Later, Jones and his men attack the Animal Farm in an attempt to recapture it. Thanks to the heroics of Snowball, the animals defeat Jones in the Battle of Cowshed. Snowball plans for a windmill, which will provide electricity and thereby giving the animals more leisure and time; but Napoleon strongly opposes the plan. When the animals decide to vote on this issue, Napoleon chases Snowball out of the Farm forever, with the help of the ferocious dogs that were sheltered by him. Napoleon announces that there will be no more debates and also orders the windmill to be built, lying that it was his own idea. In the rest of the novel, Napoleon uses Snowball as a scapegoat whom he blames as a scapegoat.

Napoleon becomes a heartless dictator, forcing “confessions” from innocent animals, and the dogs kill them in front of the entire farm. He and the pigs shift into Jones’ house and begin sleeping in beds. The other animals get less and less food while the pigs grow fatter and fatter. As one by one, the seven commandments is revised; for example, after the pigs become drunk, the Commandment, “ No animal shall drink alcohol” is changed to “ No animal shall drink alcohol in excess.”

Boxer, the hyper energetic horse who was a key contributor in building the Windmill was mercilessly sold to a butcher, while Squealer tells the other animals that Boxer was taken to a Vet and there he died a peaceful death – a tale that the animals believed.

Years pass and the Animal Farm expands after Napoleon buys out two fields from the neighboring farmer. Life for the animals (except the pigs) is harsh. Eventually, the pigs begin walking in two legs and imbibe several qualities of their former masters, the human beings. The Seven Commandments are reduces to a single law: “All the animals are equal but some are more equal than others.”

The novel ends with a farmer sharing drinks with the pigs in the Jones’ house and Napoleon changes the name of the farm back to Manor Farm. As the other animals watch the scene through the window, they cannot differentiate the pigs from the humans.

The novel illustrates the essential horror of the human condition – there have been, are, and always will be pigs in every society, and they will always lust for power. Though it is a universal political scenario, there is a strikingly significant allegorical resemblance to the political scenes of Tamilnadu election 2006. It is upto you to relate the characters to our aspiring leaders!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The direction within

In the recent months significant amount of negative force has been building around me and I had to push myself too much to even keep my routine. Repeated resolutions taken on many occasions and festivals had only left depression and insomnia as company. Being occupied with writing and reviewing the Requirements and Design for some applications that would never make sense to my life, I have failed to review myself. I realized that, a self appraisal – not on my profession, but on every cell of my being is required at this juncture. To be engrossed in introspection without getting lost in dreams and hallucination requires direction from within, which I have always found while meditating or traveling or to be precise on pilgrimages which is a combination of both. Hence, I resolved to celebrate the Tamil New Year at Thiru Annamalai. In this sacred place, I have always the felt the vibration that helped me find the direction. Moreover, it has been nearly 2 years since I walked a kilometer at a stretch and the Girivalam (walk on the 14 KMs circumambulation path) definitely motivate me to resume my daily jogging and walking.

Thiru Annamalai, an abode of Shiva in the form of Arunachaleswarar, supposed to bless the devotees with salvation by mere remembrance of the place (Ninaithale Mukthi Tharum Thiruthalam). Thiru Annamalai has the honour of sheltering saints such as Thirugnana Sambandar, Thirunavukkarasar, Sundarar, Manickavasagar, Arunagirinathar and Ramana Maharishi.

According to the puranic legend, the Annamalai Hill was Agni (fire) during Krithayugam, was Manikkam (Emerald) during Threthayugam, was Pon (Gold) during Dwaprayugam and rock during Kaliyugam. On the request of Thirumal and Bramha by their devout prayer, Shiva who was in the form of a fire column took the form of a Shivalingam (Phallus) at the foot of the where the Arunachaleshwarar Temple is located.

The Sanctum of Annamalaiyar in the temple is believed to be more than 2000 years old, while, there are recorded evidence of development works dating from 870 AD, carried out by Chola, Pandya and Vijay Nagara kings. The Raja Gopuram (Main Tower) is 217 feet in height with 11 storeys and is the second tallest temple tower in South India.

I started my journey along with Shiva my cousin, at 12:30 PM on Thursday and reached Thiru Annamalai at 4:00 AM. After a wash and change, we commenced our walk at 5:30 AM and somehow, I was successful in initiating and pulling him into a topic on some metaphysical debates like, Whether Buddha is God or Not? Is there any fact in Metaphysical Concepts? Or something related to Spirituality, to mute him from humming the romantic Tamil film songs and to blind my eyes to the clinging sound of the anklets. On successfully completing the 14 KMs at 8:00 AM, we had our breakfast and slept till 4:00 PM only to be woken by a relative, Veeramani, who is supposed to take us into the sanctum.
After a bath, we went to the temple accompanied by Veeramani, who took us directly into the sanctum of Kalyanasundareshwarar as well as the Unnamulaiyaar temples and were allowed to sit while the Pooja was being performed. The “Om Namashivaya” chanting filled the air and soon I unconsciously joined the chanting and soon was lost into it and was filled by the light of divine grace. We spent almost 3 - 4 Hours in the temple and then headed to the Ramana Ashram, where we spent an Hour in meditation as it was the day on which Ramana Maharishi attained Samadhi. Started at 11:00 PM from Thiru Annamalai and reached Chennai at 2:30 AM.

Now, I feel that my nerves seem to be rejuvenated and the spondylitis that was diagnosed last week seem to be cured by the Acupuncture therapy and the Muscle relaxation treatment rendered by the 14 KM bare-foot walk. The prayer (an expression of gratitude) and meditation (state of being no-mind) has helped me regain my hopes of resuming the daily walk and meditation and freed my mind off the clutter. OM Namashivaya!