Saturday 30 november 2013
Siwa Oasis grabs the imagination. A secluded settlement in the depth of the Sahara
Desert known only to camel caravans that connect lonely cities of the sandy vastness of northern Africa. It is located north of the Great Sand Sea in Egypt.
A settlement made from mud-bricks and coated with salt from the nearby lake in the
undying belief that the desert would continue to be bereft of rain for the coming centuries. The lake is so saline that swimmers can float in it as in the Dead Sea of the Middle East.
Siwa Oasis is a historical wonder hidden in the Sahara Desert on the western border
of Egypt with Libya. It is five hundred kilometers from Cairo in the south west of Egypt. The mud brick structures make Siwa look like the set of an Indiana Jones movie or an older, eroded and
straighter version of Mos Espa of Star Wars fame in Tunisia. Siwa is an oasis in the middle of a vast desert. A boon of nature causes fresh water to come up from thousands of years old
underground rivers to form life giving pools. The water also contributes to the growth of green forests of palm and olive trees around this ancient caravan city.
Siwa has been an isolated oasis for thousands of years known only to travelers on
the caravan trails. It was famous three thousands years ago for the Oracle of Amun. Alexander the Great came to the Oracle at Siwa Oasis and was declared a god on earth by the famous oracle thus
legitimatizing his conquests.
The isolated location of the oasis amidst the vast Sahara Desert gives it an
insular and unique identity and a language which is called Siwi. The residents are descendants of Berbers the indigenous people who roamed the north coast of Africa from Morocco to
An attractive tourist spot is the mud fort of Shali around which the present city
of the same name is located. The architecture of Shali the fort is unique in that it uses only mud bricks. That is the reason that the fort of Shali virtually melted first in a rain storm in 1926
and then had to be permanently abandoned after another devastating shower in 1982. This is when the fort became the centerpiece for the new city of Shali which came up around it.
The mountain of death is a mound made up of desecrated tombs littered with bones of
the dead. It was a popular burial spot because of the proximity of the famous Oracle. People as far away as in Cairo would send their dead to be buried here. Unfortunately the mountain had
limited burial space. Thus the grave diggers would pull out an old coffin and throw away the bones outside the crypt. Over the centuries the bones and mud have combined to make a mountain of
There are hot springs and cool springs to swim in for the intrepid wayfarer. While
taking a dip in the waters it is best for women to remain covered in clothes because of local sensibilities. A ride on a popular mode of transport—a donkey cart—is a must. Siwa Oasis is so unique
that even the muezzin’s call has a mellow dreamlike tone to it.
There are hotels in Shali where you can spend a day for as little as twenty
dollars. Make sure to take an experienced guide who is equipped with GPS systems and compasses. The desert road becomes inundated with sand and disappears. Famously an army of invaders
disappeared in the massive dunes of the surrounding Sahara.
Courage and common sense are needed to unveil the erstwhile Dark Continent.
It is revealing its bright features to inquisitive travelers of the world.
Posted in: World
Tuesday 12 november 2013
Repetition is not Boring;
It is the Purpose
A constant complaint about
our modern lives is that it is boring. Remember our birth is a divine accident. There is no allotted purpose to our existence. It is our will and determination to become someone worthwhile that
brings forth the great human traits we aspire for.
Sun and the Moon have
their allotted duties since and for millions of years. We admire both these stars. They are not complaining about the repetitiveness of their duties. It is their daily appearance that brings joy to
It is an order of nature that we have to sustain ourselves with food. When we were hunters thousands of years ago we went out into the forest and the green grasses to search for a kill.
Modern life has deprived us of that daily thrill. Still sustenance is our goal. Survival is embedded in each pore of our body. That is why we work to earn our food and our comforts.
We have to look at nature to see how necessarily repetitive life is. Look at the birds making nests especially the weaver
birds. They keep flying to and fro for days to build a perfect nest for their future family.
That is exactly our purpose. To build a nest for our family we have to take up a repetitive job. It is as necessary as taking a daily walk or going to the gym. Our job allows us to enjoy our free
hours with our family and hobbies.
Even hunters brought back a big wild animal so that they could store and eat with their children and families for some quality time. Take boredom as sportingly as you take eight hours of
sleep. It is a part of life. Practice makes perfect. Great artists keep painting and
painting and painting till they come up with that perfect masterpiece. Remember every morning is a perfect morning because of the repetitive sound of the birds chirping outside.
Your family and your friends are your masterpieces. Do not get bored in sustaining your good life. Be happy that you have a job and you can take care of your family.
Posted in: Life
Sunday 10 november 2013
Rukmani was an avatar of Lakshmi and
was married to Krishna.
Krishna is alleged to have more than 16000 wives but
Rukmani was his favorite. A close rival for Krishna’s attention was Satyabhama who
was another wife.
Rukmani is the perfect wife full of devotion for Krishna. Satyabhama
is full of pride about herself, her great position and her love for Krishna. Narad Muni looking always to make Pride have a fall one day inveigles Satyabhama into a wager.
He hints that Krishna’s favorite really was Rukmani and not
Satyabhama. Weaving a web of words he soon makes Satyabhama agree to a Tulabharam, a weighing of a person against coins, gold and jewellery.
The person to be weighed is Krishna. Narad convinces Satyabhama that if she could equal Krishna’s weight in wealth, Krishna’s love for Satyabhama would certainly increase a thousand fold and make
her the heartthrob of Krishna.
The catch was that first Satyabhama had to give Krishna away in
charity to Narad and then later reclaim him with a Tulabharam. If she could not equal Krishna’s weight in gold then Krishna would become Narad’s slave.
Krishna’s wives are horrified and object to this wager. Krishna being
an Avatar ofGod understands
Narad’s intention to deflate Satyabhama’s pride and goes along with the wager. He sits down on one side of the scale and Satyabhama begins to load the other side with her jewels and gold. The
scale remains unmoved and tilted towards Krishna.
Swallowing her pride she asks other wives of Krishna to help and they
do so by donating their personal jewellery. Still the scale remains unmoved. Satyabhama panics and asks Narad to give her some hint as to how to accomplish the task. Narad hints that she should
ask for help from Rukmani. Unwilling to see Krishna a slave of Narad she reluctantly goes to Rukmani. Rukmani reassures her and saying a prayer plucks a leaf of Tulasi and places it next to all
the gold and silver. Suddenly the scale moves downwards and lifts Krishna into the air, thus giving Satyabhama victory.
Hindu religion always being symbolic thus lauds the gift of a simple offering to God. It also illustrates the benefits of holy basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum or as we know
Posted in: Religion
Saturday 9 november 2013
are but a Long Goodbye. I am slowly preparing to meet my maker. These paragraphs are nothing but paper buntings around a Tibetan settlement. My prayer wheel twirling words. Little prayers to
It reminds me
of a prayer my mother often quoted in order to show her prowess in the English language. She was of the unlucky generation of women of the early twentieth century who were taken out of school by
parents as a precaution against devilish modernity. The place of a woman after a few school classes was at home learning to run a household and the kitchen. This was in pre-partition Lahore. She
had a very sharp mind and was a very gentle soul. Her prayer was always—
thee, Lord for quiet rest,
And for thy
care of me;
Oh! Let me
through this day be blest,
And kept from
harm by thee.’
regret, now did I never ask her where she learned that hymn and who taught her. Which school did she go to? She did explain that her father was a very strict man and expected all the girls to
cover their heads with their long chunnis or scarves.
through the internet I discover that this hymn is almost two hundred years old written by Mary Lundie Duncan for her children in a book of rhymes. She was born on April 26 at Kelso, Scotland in
1814 and died young in 1840. After her death her mother got her hymns published and later they became famous as Rhymes for My Children.
It is so
ironic that a legacy from Scotland landed in my mother’s lap and then in mine. The evangelical side of the Raj thus touched me after Independence.
blogs are but the last rev before letting the engine to die down and to listen quietly to the tiks, clicks and pings of the cooling machine. It is time to look through the windscreen and see the
looming night. The tiny lamps of hope and fear that turn on at dusk. Watch the weary travelers going home. I am at peace and home with my words.
Posted in: Religion
Friday 8 november 2013
Saints and life Gurus are conquerors too. They want to conquer the
minds of millions of people using modern communications tools and techniques.
A self abnegation which is nothing but a war cry. Look I am above you.
Become like me or I will condemn you. I wear a widow white sari; I wear a saffron robe and I roam around in a loin cloth. Look at me. I cannot be ignored, I am the new Alexander.
I kill you with my softness. I kill you with my carefully modulated
soft voice. I am like a spoilt child who knows how to manipulate mom with a sweet voice. I live in an ivory tower, in denial of the real world. I make money off you and you gladly unburden your
wallets. I am the ultimate con person.
I am the new Genghis Khan. I do not loot wealth, I pick at your minds.
I fine tune you till you are my clone. You think like me then, eat like me and talk like me. I preach unknown herbs. I popularize bitter gourds and green calabash till the poor man can no longer
afford these gifts of nature. I promote apple gourd and lentil soup. I am a despot of diet and exercise.
I became a cult leader because of my glib talking and my gobble de
gook chanting. I am the ultimate Sophist. Follow me or live in a world that I will call hell.
Posted in: Life