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NOW IT IS SARISKA...

It seems to be happening for some time now; I am revisiting my favourite cities lately. First it was Dharan in Nepal, then Chandigarh, and now we recently visited Sariska. Sariska, as you know, is a wild life reserve in Rajasthan which has been lately making to the headlines for all wrong reasons. This forest could boast of a tiger population a few years ago; however, all the tigers have vanished, falling prey to the greedy poachers who supply tiger hides and bones to the weird taste of rich and famous who would adorn their drawing rooms with a dead tiger rather than see a handsome live specimen roaming and roaring freely in the wild. Rajiv Gandhi provided Sariska forest and Sariska Palace some moment of hype and glory when he organized an official meeting there soon after his assuming prime-ministership. However, I visited Sariska more than 30 years ago with Chitra, Chitra’s parents and Girish. That being my first ever visit to a wildlife sanctuary, I was excited and had an intense d…

VOICES AGAINST 377

While the mental health professional bodies have shied away in taking up the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality, a team of Delhi’s bright young lawyers has committed its time and legal acumen to challenge the archaic provisions of Section 377 in the Delhi High Court. Indian Express profiled these lawyers in its print and electronic editions at:

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/377-arguments-4-voices/389330/0

Some excerpts:

It makes no sense. Corporate lawyers in India are paid upward of Rs 12 lakh a year. Why, then, should India’s brightest young lawyers - the world at their feet - be working at minimum wage, even free, arguing for the decriminalization of homosexuality in India? It just makes no sense.
Section 377 of the Indian Panel Code, drafted in Victorian India, criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. This has been interpreted to include sodomy, effectively criminalizing homosexuality. A century and a half later, the law is being challenged in the Delh…

THREE CUPS OF TEA

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time



Let me be honest. I must confess: when I picked up this book, I wanted to read it to improve on my knowledge of topography and geography of Karakoram region and the people living there. I also wanted to know a little more about K2, the savage mountain, which has no other name. Though K2 is the second highest mountain (8611 meters or 28251 ft) after Mount Everest, I knew very little about it. Having lived in Nepal for some time, and with my fascination for Himalayas, I managed to read a little about Mt Everest, and like most people, I equated Himalayas with Mt Everest only. It is also a fact that much less is written about K2 since it is believed to be the world’s most treacherous and dangerous mountain, and technically most difficult climb. Far less number of mountaineers have attempted and succeeded on K2. I have personally heard Everesters who admit that Mt Everest is more about physical fi…

MUMBAI BOMBED AGAIN...

The terror strike in Mumbai has not only been painful but shameful too. With immediate loss of life of innocent civilians, the forces too lost their valiant officers. Watching it live on the television was tragic; one felt so vulnerable and impotent at the same time. Ten people had held the whole country to ransom where life had gone still. The Taj, the pride of India, Oberai Trident, the place to enjoy and relax, Nariman House, the place of peace and safe abode had all become war zones and fields of destruction. While the whole drama was unfolding on TV channels right in the drawing room, one did not think of past or future. But after it is all over for rest of the country, the pain and grief continue for the bereaved families. Drama unfolding in the newspapers now is getting more shameful everyday. Within 24 hours, all agencies have put together the route, mode of conveyance used, terrorists’ training etc for our consumption. All this did not come from the captured survivor; intelli…

CHANDRAYAAN 1 - India on Moon

The MIP crashed at a place called the Shackleton crater in the south polar region of the Moon and put the Tricolour on the Moon. The crater also is possible site for future human missions to the moon.

The Shackleton crater has an undulating terrain with hills and valleys. Since the valleys are in the moon’s permanently shadowed regions, it could harbour water and ice.

What was extraordinary about the historic event of Chandrayaan -1’s probe landing on the moon on Friday night was that the spacecraft was built in India, it was put into orbit by the Indian rocket, PSLV-C11, and the launch took place from Indian soil.



When I was in school in late sixties, one of the favourite topics for English essay writing and science project was ‘visit to the Moon’. I remember making visits with my friends to USIS (United States Information Service, earlier version of American Centre) and the Russian Centre to collect printed material on these countries’ space programmes. We were so enamoured with thos…

The Ship Pirates

Having spent two months on the ship this year, and passing through some risky area of the Indian Ocean while sailing from the Antarctic Ocean via Cape Town and Indian Ocean, news such as ship piracy in such area of course attracts my attention. While on the ship, I was quite surprised to learn that ship piracy is a regular risk with the ships and its crew especially cruising in the Gulf of Aden. During my daily visits to the Radio Room at M.V. Emerald Sea for making/receiving phone calls from home, or collecting/delivering emails, I would see printer regularly printing alerts from the maritime bureau. If you ever thought that the ship pirates in current times existed only in the Hollywood, then improve on your information and general knowledge. They are every where in different oceans with high speed boats and modern weaponry. Fortunately, we were safe in Antarctic Ocean; so far no incident of ship piracy has ever been reported from this continent. In fact the menace of the ship pirac…

Chandigarh....the city beautiful

Ever since I left Chandigarh way back in 1982, I have looked for opportunities to visit Chandigarh again and again. There are so many pleasant memories and experiences associated with the city. It has not yet disappointed me in my so many visits in last 25 years. Though these visits are now never for a longer period, not more than 2 nights usually, but the visits and meeting with old buddies always refreshes me. Chandigarh has changed in so many ways, and yet it has remained the same in its character. It has expanded in all directions. Like NCT region of Delhi which now encompasses Noida, Gurgaon, and may be Sonepat also, Chandigarh’s unofficial boundaries now engulf Mohali, Panchkula, and may be Raipur Rani. It is not uncommon to find letters for Panchkula also mentioning Chandigarh in the address. The traffic has multiplied manifold; the ubiquitous cycle, the most common mode of transportation earlier, has rapidly been replaced by motorcycles and small cars. Traffic jams, unheard ea…

The Scent of Fruits and Vegetables

You read any health column; invariably, you will be told umpteen number of times the value of fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet to ward off modern life illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, or heart attack. You can also ward off pernicious illnesses like prostrate cancer, colon cancers, or even Alzheimer’s disease. We all take the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in India almost for granted. I now know from my personal experience how much one can miss even the mere sight of fresh fruits and vegetables. I have now known what the sight or scent of fresh fruits or vegetables can do to boost up your morale and improve your mood. We were returning from Larsemann Hills (69° 25´ South, 76° 15´ East), Antarctica on M.V. Emerald Sea and by the time we reached Cape Town, we were already on board for nearly six weeks. We had exhausted all our supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables and were getting slowly sick of frozen stuff. Only potatoes and onio…

HALDI - THE WONDER INDIAN SPICE

Turmeric or haldi has been used in my family for many purposes besides culinary. I am sure it must be true for most of the homes in India. I was introduced to turmeric powder (haldi) during my own childhood when my mother and grandmother prevailed upon us to take it for frequent bouts of cough during winter season. We took it in powder form with hot milk just before going to bed. We were also advised to take it when having general aches and pains all over the body after a particularly grueling day in the sports field. The powder of haldi was also sprinkled over open wounds to speed up healing. Now we know that it works as an antiseptic and prevents infection of the open wound. I started taking haldi regularly only a few years ago to overcome my frequent bouts of sinusitis. I think it has benefited me somewhat. It has reduced my frequent use of antibiotics. However, it has not set right my proneness for easy and recurrent rhinitis and sinusitis. Recently I discovered that Bikash, a ver…

FIRE ACCIDENT AT PROGRESS, THE RUSSIAN ANTARCTIC STATION

Fire is a major risk in Antarctica with grave consequences. When we, the members of 27th Indian Antarctic Expedition, were being trained and briefed at Auli, our team leader, Mr Arun Chaturvedi, veteran of many Antarctic expeditions, had very explicitly told us the risk of fire in Antarctica due to closed spaces, wooden structures, high wind, dry air and plenty of oxygen.
Unfortunately, inspite of it being a real danger and all the precautions, such accidents do happen in Antarctica with tragic results. Besides the loss of life, loss of scientific and communication equipments, medical and other supplies can also become major hindrance in the successful completion of expedition. Sadly, such an accident has happened last week at Russian station, Progress, situated at Larsemann Hills (its rough coordinates are: 69S and 76E).
I had visited this station in March, 2008 when I visited Larsemann Hills where India is also coming up with its third station. The Russian leader, Lukin, had greeted…

Dharan Revisited...

Ever since I spent time in Dharan, I have looked forward to visiting it again and again, and fortunately there have been a number of opportunities to go there and relive the time once again. To the uninitiated: I spent more than two years between 1997 and 1999 at the B. P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Dharan. Dharan was then a sleeping town in the foothills of Eastern province of Nepal. It is 150 km from Siliguri (airport: Bagdogra) or 5-hour drive from Darjeeling. Bihar border is only 50 km at Jogbani adjacent to Birat Nagar. Dharan had been the centre for the British Army to recruit soldiers for its Gorkha Regiment. The Ghopa Camp, established by them on a 700-acre estate, offered them to live there in style with an 18-hole golf course, swimming pools, sports facilities, and a vast jungle. They had established a 150-bedded hospital too there for people living there, ‘goras’ as well as ‘civilians’. There was a clear dividing line between ‘gora lines’ and ‘civil lines’ with c…

Eid Celebrations in Antarctica

Eid Mubarak at Maitri, Antarctica

I am so full of my Antarctica days. Any event, even remotely connected, fills me with nostalgia. But the Eid that I celebrated last year while at Antarctica will always remain a cherished memory in my mind for ever. Let me tell you about it.

Last year Eid was celebrated in the Maitri on 21st December, 2007. I had gone for a long walk at about 4 pm after talking to Chitra. I returned just before 7 pm (and it was bright day light) and headed for Annapurna lounge for having tea. I was surprised not to find anyone there. I was just wondering what happened when I found all the spoons missing. I guessed immediately that some party was going on in the summer camp. I went to the recreation lounge of the summer camp, Dooda Beta, looking for the group but was more surprised finding that it too was totally deserted. I was now certain that Eid party was in full swing somewhere, and just when I was scratching my head I noticed a bucket outside the igloo hut. And tha…

HARISH, THE FRUITWALLAH

In a paper written and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry many years ago on Eating Disorders in India, we had argued that the need to do well in education is a stress for young students and their families, and in some vulnerable young girls and boys, it may lead to some psychopathology. The point we wanted to make was that education remains a very important means for upward mobility in Independent India.

For nearly two decades now, I have patronized Harish, a fruitwallah, in Kotla. Kotla is a versatile market for all household necessities in South Delhi known for its wholesale prices. It is not in the league of nearby up-scale markets of South Delhi like South Ex or Defense Colony. Harish has a ramshackle kiosk and specializes in some select fruits and sells full boxes only. I like to go there because he stocks fruits like mango, apple, grapes, oranges etc that I like to buy in bulk for our use and share with friends. When I went to him yesterday, he asked me if I could ma…

HIKING ON THE GREAT WALL

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
While in Beijing, it is almost customary to visit the Great Wall of China. Though China is known for many things, the Great Wall, one of the seven man-made wonders of the world, remains an attraction for all the visitors. So when we were planning to visit Beijing, I had made sufficient enquiries before hand if it was possible to make a day-long trip to the Great Wall from Beijing. After all the name ‘Great wall’ has been etched in my memory ever since I knew there was another country by the name of China in my primay classes many decades ago.



There are two or three areas of the Great Wall, within 100 km from Beijing, which have been well developed for tourists’ visits. The visit is also combined with other attractions enroute. We chose a package which combined it with Ming’s tomb. Also thrown in the package were visits to Jade factory, enamel factory, Tibetan herbal medicine house and tea house. All such factories had packaged these visits as an educational touri…

GAME OF SKILLS, JUST OUTSIDE LAS VEGAS

Hiking and Rock Climbing

The moment Las Vegas comes to mind, one thinks of the casinos, gambling, spectacular shows and all the adult entertainment that the city has to offer. The city thrives on the pleasure principles and has been nicknamed as the ‘Sin City’. It has some of the grandest hotels and fanciest malls in the world. Though Macau has fast grown in gambling opportunities, however, it is not at the cost of Las Vegas, which still remains as popular as ever. Undoubtedly Las Vegas is known more for its casinos and gambling, yet it has many other activities and recreations to offer. The state of Nevada boasts of two very popular recreation areas just outside Las Vegas: the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area and the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Park. The austere wilderness of both the areas is home to several plant and animal species that are unique to these areas; however, what attracts the adventure sports enthusiasts is the unique and varied climbing environment. Mountain…

Flight of the Condor

2nd August, 2008

While at the Grand Canyon, I was lucky to spot a condor soaring high above in the sky and shoot it, of course, with the camera. I had read and heard so much about the ‘flight of a condor’. We also attended the educational programme on the condor and its successful conservation which has brought it back from the brink of extinction.


On the wing, the movements of the condor, as it wheels in circles, are remarkably graceful. The birds flap their wings on rising from the ground, but after attaining a moderate elevation they seem to sail majestically on the air.
Wild condors inhabit large territories, often traveling 250 km (150 miles ) a day in search of carrion. They prefer large carcasses such as deer or cattle which they spot by looking for other scavengers. That led to their near extinction, since the caracasses of wild animals shot dead by bullets killed the condors too by lead poisoning. Attempts are being made to induce the hunters to use copper bullets instead of tho…

GRAND CANYON…one of the most spectacular natural wonders

23rd July, 2008

During our recent visit to San Francisco, Kush took us for a visit to the Grand Canyon. It is only when you go there and witness the imposing character of the canyon that you realize that it is for no illegitimate reason that it is called Grand. We all (myself, Chitra, Kush and Vasu) had flown to Los Angeles to visit Atul and Anita and their lovely and lively daughters, Priyanka and Natasha at their home in Orange County. After doing the usual circuit of LA, Hollywood, San Diego and Sea World, and witnessing the fireworks of the 4th of July, we drove to Grand Canyon. After only an hour or two, the landscape had changed into desert with huge dunes on either side. In spite of the day being hot and humid, it was a relaxed drive after bumper to bumper traffic of LA and San Diego. After passing through the magnificent Hoover Dam, we reached the southern rim of Grand Canyon just in time for the sun set. Because of the long weekend on account of US Independence Day, the lodges…

Presentation at Google, San Francisco

18 July, 2008

I was recently in San Francisco where Pranay, my nephew, organized a visit for us to his company, Google. I was asked if I would be willing in making a presentation for the interested staff on my Antarctica experience. The possibility of space flights and extended space missions becoming available to the ordinary citizens has caught people’s imagination and they want to know how such flights and missions would impact them and their health and behaviour. Since there are many common characteristics (for example, stress, isolation, and sensory deprivation) between Antarctic expedition and Space mission, my talk would be helpful to people wishing to be on the Space flights in the future. Google has uploaded this presentation on the youtube :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GLQqsv-m3A
By the way, this blog is also through the service provided by Google.

Polarman, Polarman....

POLARMAN: 3rd July, 2008

Guest column by Dr Abhijeet Bhatia

(Abhijeet is a wintering member of the 27th Indian Antarctic Expedition, and maintains his own blog: www.natureinbliss.blogspot.com)

The big day was finally here. The biggest festival in Antarctica- the Mid-Winter Day! It was the darkest day (or should we call it the darkest night) of the polar night. According to an old tradition, anyone who is in Antarctica on 21st June is called a Polarman. But it does not come so easily. Anyone who is here on this day has to spend almost a whole year here. That is because it is not possible to commute to and fro Antarctica during the winters, that is, from April till beginning of November. The last flight leaves this continent around March and start only in November. The ships also start arriving in only in December after leaving Antarctican shore in March-April. Hence, This privilege of being called ‘Polarman’ is reserved exclusively for the winter teams. So this was a memorable day for all…

Wintering in the White Continent (Guest Blog)

Guest Blog by Dr Abhijeet Bhatia - An ENT surgeon and a wintering member of the 27th Indian Antarctic Expedition. Dr Bhatia has his own blog at http://www.natureinbliss.blogspot.com/

ABANDONED IN THE WHITE DESERT

This is what wintering has been all about till now. The process of our physical isolation from the civilized world has been a very gradual one. But it is now total and absolute. It began when the previous winter team left Maitri on 14 February 2008. The next day the ship, M V Emerald Sea, left with the summer team. That marked the official beginning of our wintering. The last of the ALCI flights left on 12th March which means no more flights of IL-76 till November, 2008.
The next few days were very gloomy for everyone in the station. But soon Life became routine and we carried on with our jobs. The next to desert us were the skuas. They migrated to warmer lands beyond the Antarctic on 17th April. The Russians' ship came to deliver their supplies and pick up their old winter …