THE VALUE OF POWER

THE VALUE OF POWER

The word power certainly has many dictionary meanings; for some, it means strength, for some, it means authority and for a mathematical erudite, it means exponent. Hence, many of you may have interpreted the title differently. However, what I’m referring to as power is our daily need – electricity.

You must have often realised that one understands the value of an entity only after one misplaces or loses it. The same goes with power – we never realise how important it is when we use our daily gadgets like the television, refrigerator, desktop and most importantly, the wireless router! However, once the power trips, everyone gets tensed and bored – no TV and internet after all!

Sometimes, the power trips on unfortunate occasions – imagine you’ve hosted a party and suddenly the lights go off; how shameful would it be in front of your guests – although you are not at fault, you get labelled as ill-fated.

Everyone understands the value of a fan in the humid summers of Mumbai. Now this is something that had happened in reality with me – when in deep sleep, suddenly the fan switched off on an intense summer night, I woke up only to realise that there was no power – at about 4 am at night! I opened the door to let some air in, but to no avail. I became almost naked (thankfully I sleep alone), yet I was sweating heavily and facing an inability to sleep! After some time, thankfully, I slept, yet the effects of this havoc were unforgettable.

People in Mumbai do not need to face as many power cuts as those in the rural areas and hence, we aren’t accustomed to them. I’ve seen a large amount of load shedding outside Mumbai – in Thane too, in the past when we had to sit idle and sleep in a breathless and dark environment for a whole night. However, I experienced what it feels to have a candlelight dinner that day, though that didn’t impress me a lot.

Until a past few years, almost a quarter of the country’s population had never seen electricity – I’m talking about those staying in the extreme rural areas of the less developed yet populated states. However, the Ministry of energy of the NDA government, led by Mr. Piyush Goyal was remarkable in achieving new heights for providing energy to those deprived. The progress made by his team is fully visible to everyone – one can download the GARV app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.phonegap.kyrovidyut for Android) (available for iOS and Windows too) or visit the website http://garv.gov.in/dashboard to see what amount of work has been done and how much is yet to be done. They have carried electricity through harsh terrain as well, when they had to drop the poles through helicopters as accessing the ground directly was impossible. However, the authenticity of the information has been questioned by many, as an example, I read a Facebook comment which questioned the Ministry of having declared villages as electrified though only 10% of its houses had an access to power. However, we must applaud their efforts for their visionary mission which it is expected to complete soon, before the end of their tenure.

All this was just to make you realize the importance of power, if you haven’t already, and for being thankful for we have an access to it. Hence, power isn’t something that we use unnecessarily; we need to make up our mind and start conserving it slowly. One can undertake small measures like switching off fans and gadgets when not required (I’m not using a fan while typing this), sitting near a window to enjoy natural air and light, making necessary arrangements for letting a good amount of sunlight in, using LED bulbs, etc. Hence, at least, we, in the residential areas wouldn’t have to use lights in the daytime, which would not only reduce the electricity bills but also that all these steps would be significant in curbing the rising energy needs; after all, electricity is also a basic need for man and hence, one may call it the sixth Mahabhuta – along with fire, water, air, earth and sky.

EXPLORING INDIA WITH INDIAN RAILWAYS

EXPLORING INDIA WITH INDIAN RAILWAYS

I am an ardent fan of Indian Railways; I am not praising myself, but I can name various railway stations, railway lines and trains in the country. I’m always of the opinion that India can be explored at its best with the Indian Railways, that’s because a journey with the train isn’t simply a journey between your source and destination. It’s a journey where you dissolve yourself into the different intermediate stations, railway facilities, and the stuffs around the tracks, such as the fields, the trees, the forests, the power plants, the rivers, canals, bridges, fly-overs, subways, railway crossings, villages, cities, people,… this is just an inexhaustible list indescribable in words.

Most of the people reading this article would be having a native place far away from Mumbai, and hence travelling to your native place from Mumbai wouldn’t be a special event for you; however, as I do not have any such, I feel unlucky as well as lucky – unlucky because I do not get to travel by trains to that extent as you all do and lucky because I get to travel to any destination I like. It’s like that I can make any city my destination for 3 to 4 days.

I’ve travelled to different cities in India by rail, including Pune (the most often), Kolhapur, Lonavala, Ahmedabad, Indore, Jaipur, Delhi, Vadodara, Shegaon, Akola, Mussoorie (Dehradun), Nainital (Kathgodam), Bengaluru and Mysuru. I’ve also travelled to some by flights, such as Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Port Blair. Although these rail journeys took a lot of time, I was fascinated by them much more than the flight journeys. The flight journeys in the economy class were uncomfortable and expensive; also, once we take-off, what we see is nothing but clouds. Some airlines do offer videos and music on-board; however whenever I sat in the flight, my mind always wanted the flight to land as soon as possible, just to get rid of that journey and I never genuinely watched or listened to any of those.

Whenever one plans outing, he/she thinks about different places that can be visited. However, in my case, it’s different. I think about different trains that I can get on-board and then visit those places; as an example, I had visited Delhi many times by plane; however, just to get on board the Delhi Mumbai Duronto Express, I visited it again in 2014. Many a times, I am excited about getting on-board a train more than actually visiting the city.

That was all about my passion about railways in general. I would now describe the journeys in the Udyan, Shatabdi and Sharavathi expresses I was recently into. Although I usually do not like clicking pics while travelling, this time I clicked snaps of various intermediate stations where the trains halted as well as passed by, the forests, the farms around and interesting picturesque locations. With a DSLR in hand, who wouldn’t want to make such use of it?

En route from Bengaluru to Mysuru and Hassan to Ranibennur, you’ll find countless commercial plantations of coconut, betel nut and banana. You’ll also find a number of wind power plants across the entire Karnataka. Hence, using such raw data, one gets to know the ecology, geology and the economy of a region. I’ve posted a few images of the interesting sites I saw.

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Coconut plantations seen between Bengaluru and Mysuru
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Betel nut plantations between Hassan and Arsikere in southern Karnataka
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Banana plantations between Arsikere and Hubli in central Karnataka
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Wind power plants – don’t miss out these while travelling from Mysuru to Mumbai! They’re seen on the hills across the entire Karnataka.
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Have you seen this before? A car parked on the platform of Chikjajur station, Karnataka
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Rocks in the Kaveri river bed (downstream river beyond Krishnarajasagara dam)
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A perfectly timed photograph as the train cruised through Srirangapattana – the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore during the reign of Tipu Sultan
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The motorman’s cabin of a DMU standing in a yard in Bengaluru
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A bird resting on the station board of Gangapur Road, Karnataka
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The CST bound Chennai Mail passes by as we watch sitting in the CST – KSR Bengaluru Udyan Express 
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The forests of northern Karnataka

 

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Rocky mountains, somewhere between Hassan and Hubli
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Farmers tirelessly working in northern Karnataka

Who gets to see all this in a plane?

You would definitely need to carry all the luggage along with you unlike a flight where you check in some baggage and carry the rest along with you. However, we four persons carried a total of 11 bags from Mysuru to Mumbai, carrying them in hand along the various foot-over bridges, platforms and trains; and hence, you actually do not need any coolie if you’re capable enough.

This was not intended to provoke a railways v/s airways war; it was just to share my personal experiences about travelling by trains. I also like to track my train using GPS on my I-Pad and measure its speed using a speed tracker app. With this, I get to know how far is the train from the next station and what’s its speed so that I can keep the camera ready!

If you are an non-Indian planning to visit India, Indian Railways also offers you luxury trains, designated as one of the best in the world, taking a tour of different destinations. Additionally, IRCTC itself organises various packaged tours by trains; although I’ve never been to any of them. Special trains are also commissioned to different destinations in the rush hours. The railways has built special lines to hill stations and it runs narrow gauge services on them. Hence, the Indian Railways has played a huge role in enhancing tourism in the country!

THE OLD CAPITAL WITH A NEW TOUCH

THE OLD CAPITAL WITH A NEW TOUCH

This is the continuation of my earlier post describing the attractions of Bengaluru. Now, as we move from Bengaluru south westward, we reach the headquarters of one of the southernmost districts of Karnataka, the former capital of the state and the capital of the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore – the city of Mysuru. The city is quite old and the earliest references date it to some point in the 14th century. It has been the seat of the Wodeyar family for long, till date; with a short period being ruled by Haider Ali Khan and Tipu Sultan.

Our entry into this city wasn’t that memorable, we had to search for our hotel relentlessly because of a blunder by Cleartrip, OYO Rooms and the hotel. However, the hotel we booked (Hotel Pai Vista, near KSRTC Suburban bus depot) is one of the finest hotels in the city and we booked it at a discounted rate from Cleartrip and indirectly from OYO Rooms. If you ever visit Mysuru, I would surely recommend a stay there. It has all the amenities that a modern hotel of an international standard must possess. The hotel is named as ‘OYO Premium Mysore Suburban Bus Stand’ on Cleartrip and OYO  Rooms.

Although Mysuru is famous for its huge Mysore Palace and Brindavan gardens, there are a few lesser known attractions that I would like to mention first. The city hosts a sand museum which hosts various sand sculptures of animals, Gods, zodiac signs, a vintage car, a scene of the epic Mahabharata, etc. It is the first sand museum in India and all the figures have been sculpted by sand artist Miss M. N. Gowry. You’ll also find a wax museum which consists of two parts – a horror world (which is actually not that scary if you’re courageous enough) and a museum of musical performances, with all the performers crafted with wax. It shows still models of various kinds of musical performances such as Kannada, Punjabi Bhangra, African, Australian aborigine, Hawaiian, Jazz, etc. The figures have been sculpted by wax artist Shreeji Bhaskaran.

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A sand sculpture of a monkey and her baby in the sand museum
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One of the wax models performing in a Western orchestra

The Chamundi hill – one of the most sacred hills in South India is also located near Mysore and a road leads to this hill with these museums en route. There are many temples on this hill, with the most important being that of goddess Chamundeshwari. As there was a long queue for getting in, we managed to offer our prayers standing outside, facing the idol. There’s a temple of Shri Mahabaleshwara (Shiva) outside the Chamundeshwari temple, which is a protected ancient monument.

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The dome (कळस) of the Chamundeshwari temple

The Shri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens (Mysore zoo) is one of the largest zoos I’ve ever been too. You’ll have to walk almost a distance of 3.5 kms in order to view all the animals. It encloses abundant mammals, birds, reptiles and plants, from different parts of the world. Most importantly, none of these animals were captured from the wild; most of them are cured injured animals and one can even adopt them, i.e. pay all their expenses. Several personalities like Miss Jayalalitha (the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) and Mr. Anil Kumble (former cricket player) and companies like LIC of India have adopted different animals from the zoo.

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One of the rhinoceros at the zoo

Mysuru is famous worldwide for its century old Mysore Palace built when the old wooden palace was damaged due to an accidental fire. The new palace, whose construction started in 1897, encompasses a wide area clearly visible on Google Maps satellite view, as it takes a significant area of the city. The visitors aren’t allowed to visit everything in the palace; however, they’re allowed to see the old artifacts, statues, silver thrones, gifts, etc. used by the Maharajas of Mysore. Nevertheless, the palace is a chaotic place as there is a lot of rush inside and one has to proceed inside by removing his/her shoes in a shoe stand, which resembles a fish market. Also, the shoe-stand service isn’t free of cost either, it charges INR 2 per pair, in spite of the INR 40 entry fee . The palace looks much more beautiful at night, when it’s lightened with yellow bulbs.

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A panoramic view of the Mysore Palace

Christianity is also an important religion in Mysuru, and hence, churches and cathedrals were an important part of its culture. The St. Philomena’s church (St. Joseph’s Cathedral) is one of the most famous churches, established by the Maharaja in 1933. Its towers are one of the tallest in the entire city.

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A panoramic view of the St. Philomena Church

In the evening, one must visit the Brindavan gardens located adjacent to the Krishnarajasagara dam on the Kaveri river. The water for the fountains of the garden comes from this dam. In the evening, the garden looks amusing with fountains lightened and a musical fountain located on an opposite island.

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Me, with my mother and younger brother sitting before a fountain; the temple behind the fountain is dedicated for Goddess Kaveri; the dam seen behind is the Krishnarajasagara on the Kaveri river

In the month of May, the Indian subcontinent reaches extreme temperatures, especially in the inner parts like Delhi and Nagpur. However, as the southern part already starts receiving rainfall, we found Bengaluru and Mysuru to be much cooler than our home city, Mumbai and felt sweaty and too hot once we got back here; although we ourselves did not encounter a major rainfall. Hence, this summer vacation period isn’t bad for visiting these places if you find the rest of India too hot.

As Karnataka is famous for its sericulture (silk industry) and sandalwood forests, I would recommend visitors to buy silk clothes such as sarees and tops for women and kurta-pajamas for men. One can also buy sandalwood handicrafts such as showpieces, pure sandal soaps, face-packs, incense sticks (agarbatthis), etc. One can buy these products at government shops, such as the Kauvery (कावेरी) emporiums in Mysuru, which sell products without taxes (VAT exempted). However, these products are more or less expensive; as an example, a pure silk saree ranges at prices starting from a minimum of INR 2000, a sandalwood soap costing INR 60, a sandalwood face-pack costing INR 500, a sandalwood stick costing about INR 1000, etc.; yet sandalwood has a lot of health benefits such as a glowing and a healthy skin; hence, they’re worth of such prices.

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This Ashoka pillar (national emblem of India) souvenir costed us INR 2900. It is made from outer sandalwood.

Travelling internally in the city isn’t a big problem either; I saw a new concept of prepaid auto-rickshaws here. You must have come across prepaid taxis at airports and railway stations; but prepaid auto-rickshaws was something new for me. It took just INR 25 + INR 2 service charge for a distance of 4 km, i.e. from my hotel to the railway station. Also, they were readily available at about 5 am in the morning. For those who don’t believe me, I’ve uploaded a photo of the receipt.

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The prepaid auto service receipt

I personally liked Bengaluru and Mysuru honestly, more than any megacity I’ve visited so far; and I would rank Bengaluru above Delhi and Mumbai in all the metropolitan urban aspects. Mysuru is also known to be the cleanest city in India, though I didn’t feel that much. Traditionally, Mysuru was known only for its palaces, forts and as a capital of the erstwhile Princely State. However, today as many tech-giants like Infosys have established their training centres here; I call it ‘The old capital with a new touch’. Though Bengaluru and Mysuru are far from Mumbai, I would surely recommend visiting them, at least once, as I feel that I should visit Mysuru once more. It’s also a good destination for honeymooners, if you are unwilling to visit a hill station or a beach destination. If you’re a non-Indian and plan to visit India, you’ll like visiting these cities. This was my first visit to Karnataka and I journeyed there by rail, as I always prefer to. My passion for Indian Railways and travelling across the country by rail has been described in the next post.