Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hummanaya Blow Hole

Then we reached the coastal town of Tangalle. Indika mentioned about a rare phenomenon. Though we had trouble communicating to each other since we didn't have a common language I understood he was trying to mention about something spectacular and that we should witness it. It was just 5 kms away in the coastal town of Dikwella.

We took detour; this was our second detour for the day. Trekked for 10 minutes and came to a rocky cliff. There were not many around. Came across a rusted and peeled off small board about blowhole.

Even as we walked we could hear the sound of water. Period of silence and then the rumbles. Waited on the rocky cliff; just waited for it to happen. And then it did. The pressure builds up and after a while the water just spews up like a fountain with a huge 'whooshing' sound. A small fissure among the rocks which was a long narrow crack like a chimney through which the water came shooting up like a tall fountain about 70 feet in height. During high tides; they reach upto 120 feet is what I heard. Seeing it was an exhilarating experience; one must see it to believe it. This is the second time I could not believe when I read water spewing out like a fountain from below the earth (The first time was watching The Old Faithful of California

It happens once in every 15 minutes; I witnessed it twice and as it grew dark; waited and waited. It did not happen the third time. The sun was down and we turned away to go; and then heard it again and I missed the third time which was more taller than previous two. I didnt attempt to capture it on camera because its momentary and then I would miss seeing it live. Those interested can see it on Youtube -

The sun went down. I thought we should have arrived a bit early. Nevertheless the scene was spectacular.

The fissure from where the water spouts out

We walked down  and chose one of the many home cum tea shop to have tea. As we sat in the makeshift shop waiting for tea; we couldn't help notice the damages on the ceilings and walls. We recognized what it was. The coastal areas of Lanka were affected by 2004 Tsunami. All through the 3 days stay in Galle/Hikkaduwa, saw many seaside buildings destroyed and now standing among weeds and shrubs as mute witnesses to nature's fury.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Detours on the way to Galle

The drive from Nuwara Eliya to Hikkaduwa was the most scenic one. We were to cross the hill country side of Nuwara Eliya and Ella, get down to the plains and drive along Tissamaharama, coastal areas of Mathara, Hambantotta, Tangalle, Dondra, Galle and Hikkaduwa.

The plan was to finish the cultural and historic visit first and then go jump in the ocean to relax. Thats what got us to Galle and Hikkaduwa. But we did a lot of detours on the way; explored caves, got access to a lighthouse, visited a turtle hatchery to name a few.

To see the landscape change from chilly tea estates of Nuwara Eliya to dense forest of Yala and a dry rustic corner of Kataragama; more greens as we go and the heat and humidity of the coastal areas...These variations in the landscape in less than 8 hours of your journey was something that surprised me.

After Ravana caves; we continued from Ella as the roads snaked through many small towns and villages. The A roads are the NH like roads in India. We took a detour from a point to visit Kataragama. We had no plans initially but since Kataragama has a famous Hindu temple of Skanda(Lord Muruga) and is a sacred temple for Tamils; we decided to visit. The roads were dusty and it was not tarred; the sun was up; we still bore the heat and bumpy ride only to find the temple closed for the noon. We did not want to spend time waiting and hence walked behind the temple complex to a 1st century Kiri Viharaya.

What was interesting was that the Hindu temple was transformed to a Buddhist temple with Dagobas, prayer flags and the compound decorated with Elephant idols (sacred to Buddhists). Buddhists believe Lord Skanda is the guardian deity of Sinhala Buddhism and hence the influence. It seemed the temple is very sacred to Hindus; Tamils from all over Sri Lanka visit it once a year for the festival; it seems the scenes are gory since devotees indulge in violent ways to offer their prayers to God like piercing and nailing their body.

As we continued; it was amazing to see the road discipline in people except for the public buses (the drivers were harsh). On A roads; after every 5 km there were police watching for speeding and crossing the yellow lines. Another obvious thing was every other initiative (be it new roads, stadiums) was named Mahinda Rajapakse. People seem to prefer him since he ended Prabhakaran's regime.

Lunugamvehera Reservoir across Kirindi Oya on the way to Kataragama. Oya means River and this one provided water to the province of Uva where Kataragama is situated. The trees in the water were a shade of green that was enticing.

A canal fetching the water.

Dusty lanes; saw a huge monitor lizard walking along the road. Monitor lizards were common sight.

Entrance to Kataragama temple. On the background to the left is the sacred Bo tree; its one of the 8 saplings of Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura

The main temple of Lord Skanda. It was closed for the noon.

A huge oil lamp about 5 ft in front of the temple.

The Kiri Viharaya behind the temple. Walk to the dagoba was peaceful, trees lined both the sides and shops selling oil and blue lilies as offering.

The Vel in front of the temple.

A Langoor and her baby. Lotta monkeys around but they were well behaved.

Offerings to God. I liked the way it was organized.

Rain trees on a man made Tissa wewa at Tissamaharama at Hambantota. Seems these trees are like this year around. This town was capital of south during Anuradhapura period during 3rd century BC

After Tissa, we passed through Mathara. Mathara is famous for milk and honey. Its kiri and pheni in Sinhalese. There were roadside shops selling milk and honey in clay pots arranged in rows. Beautiful sight it was; I didnt take a picture.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The girl with a nose stud

Piercings were for wild people. Folks who had body piercings at unusual places, tattered clothes are disorganized and lack sophistication. It was not for a simple girl like me; until one day 6 years ago. I was in California, sitting in a food court in a mall after shopping when a lady walked with her kid of about 4-5 years. They sat beside my table and the kid's curiosity had no end. She asked what was the dot on my forehead(bindi). Her mom explained that it was an accessory like her hair accessory. The girl then commented "Mom! She has a piercing on her nose!"

I never thought it was nose piercing until that moment even though it obviously was. It is a common practice in India and I didnt consider it wild! But hell! it was. So I was wild with a nose piercing and an ornamental stud. That's when I realized my colleagues and peers at work would have had the same opinion. How did they address me behind my back? That Indian girl with a piercing? Ewwww!

So how did it happen? I was in 6th grade and my cousin was getting married. It was mandatory in my community for a girl to have her nose pierced and wear a jewelery; else they would blame it being barren (not a positive sign). So after much persuasion; my family got her to agree and it was done. I somehow found the nose stud cool and I wanted it to! My mom denied but I wouldn't give up.

So finally one Sunday; accompanied by my neighborhood kids (all boys gang); went to a local goldsmith. It was a festivity kind of environment; we were making noise; laughing and looking forward to the event. My mom bought me a tiny stud and there! a sharp copper wire pierced on the left side of my nose. The puncture was like an ant bite; it didn't pain. We went back with the same excitement and joy.

It has stayed on after all these years. Its not common nowadays for a girl to get her nose pierced but that's what puts me apart from others. I still find it cool :) But I wouldn't do it anywhere else on my body. That's wild!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dragon Footprints

A clothing brand will rain you with discounts; a nearest mall will offer you freebies and discounts. You will be enticed by the offer and lap it all in not realizing it left you bleeding. There is no free lunch anywhere, is there? But who thinks about it huh? You would rather throw obscenities to your local store who is honest with you in business but dont offer discounts. Count the pennies you save in the long run.

Anyway, so there are gifts being bestowed by The Dragon to countries in South Asia, Caribbean, Oceanic islands.......Male, Maldives, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Pakistan....either in kind or as infrastructure. Its sudden interest and closeness to Myanmar due to probable resurgence of democracy may have caused it a panic attack of losing a Red foothold. 

Otherwise? Build and gift a new port in Hambantotta in Lanka only to lease it for 100 odd years or so; gain a upper hand in the trade routes in Indian ocean or be friends and offer human  resources to construct modern highways. Influence Nepal and strengthen its hold on Tibet by gifting them a nice complex (I forgot what that complex was for). Forget it; one cannot value the sops provided to Pakistan its close ally. It showed its concern during the recent political turmoil in Male while India kept mum; inviting the wrath of the Male government which considered India as its ally.

The Dragon's economic might has rolled up to America's doorstep now - in the Caribbean. A $35 million cricket stadium in Bahamas to start with. The island of Dominician Republic got a school while Antigua and Barbados got a power plant and a stadium while school is on the way. It just starts. Trinidad & Tobago's PM got a new makeover to her official residence, all thanks to the Dragon.

Loans galore from companies and such lavish gifts from government in the form of roads, stadiums, schools, ports in a region where US has flexed its muscles all the while. Now Uncle Sam should have woken up already. The wings brushed every corner of the world and now at US's footsteps would definitely garner interests. The Chinese have done it right; they are not building any military ties; so no threat to security. Instead they have hit the keg deep; the right keg and the picket fence is tiny but will be strong in terms of securing economic and political support. These countries could not have counted on anyone else apart from US and Canada and maybe Europe. That will change now. They will continue to get billions of dollars of grants and loans; strengthening trade and tourism and new allies.

About long term impacts, one has to wait and watch since there is nothing like a free lunch ;-)
The Dragon will continue flying; while we turn our heads away

Monday, April 9, 2012

Humanity in Religion

The basis for religion is humanity but do we really find the humanity part in our cultural practices?

We know what the answer is; so isn't it ironical that we continue to put 'humanity' as the basis for religion?

I visited a remote village in a neighboring district yesterday. It was the village festival but my interest was not for the festival. I thought I could do some bird watching and capture good photos.

Capture did I some nice snaps and I also spotted beautiful birds - peacocks, cranes, kites, partridge, huge sparrows and larks. I was so glad to see these birds so happy lapping up in nature while we find it so hard to spot a sparrow in Bangalore. Anyway owing to my poor 18-105mm lens, I could not capture any of them on my camera.

I digressed along the way; so I was talking about religious practices and humanity. Treat others with respect and be kind to animals and all that one learnt in your school as part of catechism and moral science? The event was a village festival; so people flocked from nearby villages to a tiny temple to sacrifice animals and appease the goddess.

Sacrificing animals is not something new; in fact sacrificing humans and animals were very much part of world culture right? For me it seemed the Goddess was a violent lady and she liked torture and agony; she wanted to be pleased as apposed to peace and serenity. Now, thats how people seemed to have read it.

Every religion has the same base principles. For eg, Bible talks a lot about sacrifice. What is a sacrifice? Sacrifice is giving up something that we really want; the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac is symbolic. But people do tend to take it literally and dramatically. It involves shedding of blood of a hapless creature to atone the sins of the individual or the group making this sacrifice. Obviously the blood shed is not of the person making the sacrifice; an animal is being made to pay for someone else's sins.

What I witnessed was such unethical treatment of helpless animals; tied and handled with no respect for life whatsoever. They were brutally butchered as they continued to cry. To watch a sight of barbarism as their body shudder and finally they give up that life is ghastly. People cheered as the poor creatures died; they skinned them, cleaned and cut them; in some time they relished the food.

What if the man was meted out with such an end? I saw this nice picture on facebook and it is worth sharing it here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What NOT to write

After writing about array of topics; brushing with fictions and poetry, trying a hand at sarcastic posts and dissecting current affairs, what else is left to write? Its a pretty tough job to keep the readers satisfied you know :-P Yeah, yeah we all tell we write for ourselves, don't we?

I have had my share of controversies and brick-bats in this space and on other's space also. Its sometimes fun to fight after rubbing someone on the wrong side; sometimes wary to be trying to explain what your intention is and sometimes angry for letting someone be your energy sucker.

So I thought I will help my fellow bloggers with my experience on what one must avoid writing and why.

Current affairs - Why do you want to turn into another Arnab? Common! Get a life! As if its not enough to watch those guys on TV, do we need to put up with your tantrums as well?

Scoop - Some people try ways to grab attention; you are also vying for that. Such a cheap tactic!

Fiction - Anybody and everybody wants to become a story teller..No creative juice yet you attempt. And what a bad vocabulary to tolerate!

Travelogue - I don't understand whats the great fuzz in going gaga over mountains and water and grass!! She seems to have spent all her ideas; so she is safety tricking to travel.

Food - I cant get to comment anything beyond "Yumm", "slurp" or "I will try out this recipe this week" :-|

Photography - Aww, he has a good camera; but why do people find interesting to click rocks??

Personal - That's like washing your dirty linen in public isn't it?

Poetry - Most people find it hard to understand your intent, why do you make it more difficult for them by your abstract or personified poetry?

Gossips - Do you want to come across as a motor mouth?

Social issues - Again, its not a safe option. You will always sound complaining and never appreciating about the good things.

Life and philosophy - You might end up being someone frustrated with life and you will get "Is everything ok?", "Everything will be alright" messages flooding your inbox. You will have that extra job of adding a disclaimer to every such post :)

Movies - More often than not its stupidity and sleaze. And only folks with limited worldly knowledge talk about movies, no?

Human behaviors - You are sure to be branded a stereotype, feminist, MCPs and what not! So beware!

So what are we left with? Hmm, give me some options!