Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The morning dew....

Early morning the dew settles down on the leaves

Just like the tears roll down my eyes

The dew adorns the green leaves

Just like tears do my cheerless face

I walk in the garden to get some fresh air

Wipe out the tears on my face

Just when the sun comes and washes the dew away

I watch, astonished

In the evening the cricket’s noise fills the air

Just like the noise of your memories

Some soothing but mostly infuriating

That shattered the glass of my dreams

I go down the garden to find

That the noise has faded in the dimness of the dawn

Just like your presence in my life

From a gentle dawn to a serrated dusk

I look at the horizon far away

Where you have gone with the luggage called my dreams

I wait for you to come back…

And suddenly, the sky becomes cloudy…

And it rains and mixes my tears with the raindrops

I struggle to separate them from each other

And find out, it is difficult to separate you

From all my memories….

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Art for a cause

The artworks exhibited at Rukhsana W's debut art show were painted during her year-long battle against cancer

"Life is too beautiful to give it up so easily," says Rukhsana W, painter and homemaker. Rukhsana is a cancer survivor, and through her upcoming exhibition titled Hope, she wants to spread the message of faith and hope to the people affected by cancer.

"I was detected with breast cancer a year ago. I didn't lose hope and whenever I felt depressed or down, I took up to painting. All the paintings to be exhibited at the show have been painted during this one year of my battle against cancer," says Rukhsana, who also lost her husband to cancer. Rukhsana, who is a fine arts graduate from the Stella Maris College in Chennai, made Pune her home two years ago.

Rukhsana has spun all the positive elements such as autumn, spring, light at the end of a tunnel in her paintings. "In one of the paintings, I have shown two hands praying and a God's eye. It is titled Faith," she says. She drew this painting when she lost faith in God after being detected with cancer. "This painting helped me get my faith back," she says. She plans to donate a part of the sales to a cancer foundation called Prashanti Cancer Care Mission. "This will help people who can not afford treatment for cancer."

This is Rukhsana's first-ever exhibition. "After graduating in fine arts, I got married and started my family. I got so busy with life, that I didn't really take up painting seriously. After being detected with cancer, I rediscovered my passion for it."

Rukhsana says that she got breast cancer at an early age of 48. "I feel women are still not aware of this disease and need to get a check-up done regularly." Through the exhibition, Rukhsana plans to put this point across to all women and advise them to take care of themselves.

'Kalpana and I were avid readers'

On a recent visit to Pune, astronaut Joan Higginbotham shares her experiences of working at NASA, being in space for hours, and exchanging books with the late Indian astronaut

"As a child, I never aspired to become an astronaut," says Joan Higginbotham, the third Afro-American woman to travel into space. Higginbotham visited Pune as a part of her India tour to promote astronomy studies. She has worked closely with the iconic Indian-origin astronaut, Sunita Williams and has also trained with the late Kalpana Chawla.

For Higginbotham, becoming an astronaut wasn't a dream. It was fate that made her one. "I am an engineer and started my career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a shuttle launcher in 1987," says Higginbotham, who actively participated in 53 space shuttle launches during her nine-year tenure at the Kennedy Space Centre. She recalls that her boss was the one who suggested that she should become an astronaut. "I got selected as an astronaut in 1996 in my second attempt," she says.

Higginbotham logged over 308 hours in space during her mission with the crew of STS-116, which included Sunita Williams. "I was also selected for the STS-126 mission in the year 2008, but I didn't become a part as I retired in 2007," says Higginbotham, who now works as a manager-CSR with the USA-based Marathon Oil Corporation.

Recalling one of her experiences at her 11-year career as an astronaut, she says, "Once I was told to fly a jet plane and I had no prior experience of doing the same. I ended up riding it like a roller coaster. I did learn to fly a jet plane, but in a hard way!"

Higginbotham has also closely worked with Indian astronaut the late Kalpana Chawla. "Kalpana and I trained together several times. We both were avid readers and Kalpana gave me some books to read." She adds that her favourite book so far tilted Red Tent, was suggested by Chawla to her.

"Sunita and I flew together on the STS-116 mission. When you are in space, there is no gender discrimination. We all work as a team and there is no question of being a man or a woman," she says, advising all aspiring astronauts to study maths, science and technology well in school. "There is no shortcut to hard work and if you want to be an astronaut, you have to like maths and science," she reveals.

When asked about her decision to retire from the NASA in 2007, she says, "I had a wonderful 20-year long career with the NASA. Now, I want to try something different, that's why I have ventured in the private sector. Out of the 53 space shuttles that I launched, I had the privilege to fly on a few too. My only regret is that I couldn't do a space walk."

Soaked in nature's beauty

If you are a nature lover, you have more than one reason to visit Bhimashankar this monsoon. The place is not only known for its jyotirlinga--which is one of the 12 jyotirlingas in the country--but also for its picturesque points and dense forests.

Bhimashankar is 110 km away from Pune situated in the ghat region of the Sahyadris. The forest of here is known for its giant squirrel --Shekru--which is endemic to this region and is also the state animal of Maharashtra. Apart from this, there are many plant and animal species that will interest you. The Malabar whistling thrush is a metallic blue bird, which hides itself in the dense canopy of the forest. It makes a unique and sweet whistling sound which instantly captures your attention.

Another interesting found here is the insect called Cicada, which makes a loud noise by brushing its wings together. The male makes the sound to call the female insect during the mating season.

The Nagphani point is situated near the Bhimashankar temple and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding villages. The Kalavantin fort can be seen clearly from this point. Some other forts such as Rajmachi, Tung and Tikona can be seen from here. From this point, birds of prey such as the Crested Serpent Eagle and the Kestrel can be seen gliding through the valley in search of its prey.

During monsoon, a thick layer of fog and cloud engulf the Nagphani point, making it a beautiful sight. When you climb down this point, it leads you to a Hanuman temple, where many Bonnet Macaques can be seen. Small streams adorn the way back to the Bhimashankar temple. Another place that is a must-see is the Gupt Bhimashankar, where the river Bhima originates. The way towards the Gupt Bhimashankar is a simple one passing through the forest. Nature lovers can spot the Shekru, Malabar Whistling Thrush, various types of lichens and mushrooms in this forest. It leads you to a small temple of the Gupt Bhimashankar. There are small streams which make the location even more picturesque.

The Bhimashankar temple is located in the village of Bhorgiri, which is 50km from Rajgurunagar. You can reach the place from Pune via Manchar.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wari time!

Tumhari adaon pe mein wari wari… a friend cracked a stupid joke when I told him that I am supposed to cover some wari stories. For the uninitiated, a wari or a procession is an annual thing in Maharashtra, Pune to be precise. It is carried out in the Hindu month of Ashadha. Two palkhis- one of Saint Tukaram comes from Dehu and other of Saint Dnyaneshwar which comes from Alandi and they both together head to the holy town of Pandharpur.

Yesterday I (for the first time) was a part of the wari for 2 odd-kilometres (from Shivajinagar to FC Road). It was nice seeing pilgrims dressed in colourful clothes and all in a festive fervour dancing and swaying to the beat of the dholaks. The palkhi-rath was decorated beautifully and adorned with flowers and there was a mad rush to take the darshan.

Also being a bandh-day, the FC road was almost traffic free and a pleasant one to walk on. We were on a photo taking spree. The pilgrims posed for us in enthusiasm. Little children dressed in dhoti kurta and navvari sari were amongst some of the eye-catchers. The walk was surprisingly refreshing even in the crowd. Me and some of my mad friends ganged up and watched the procession sitting on a bank’s katta. We bought some funny toys and started honking some toy pipes (pipani). Some people stared at us with disgust but then, we were lost in our childhood, teasing and taunting each other.

We then headed to a newly opened plush coffee shop after soaking in the rain and watching the palkhi pass-by. (What an irony!) The only thing being that the owner of the cafĂ© won’t allow us in anymore!

We really did have a wari-ffic time! ;)