Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Oblivion - The state of being unaware of the surroundings.
With the social media talking about almost everything from politics, sports, business takeovers, celeb gossips and what not, the average internet user is no longer oblivious to his surroundings. Unless you are a Alia Bhatt who manages to be in public spotlight with the 'reel' tag of 'Student of the year' and an 'IIM Graduate'. Well, it is rightly said, "Ignorance is bliss''.

But on a closer look we would find that we have become blind to our own self. Why ? 

We wake up in the morning and the first thing we do is check our 'smartphone' for notifications and Whatsapp messages !! We don't bother how we sleep but we surely make sure our phone is on charging and goes to sleep before we do !! Ours is the generation suffering from hyper-consciousness coupled with acute self-unawareness. The age group 15-45 has become too much tech savvy and internet dependent. 

When was the last time you went for a peaceful jog at the stroke of dawn leaving your 'extended organ' behind? When was the last time you flipped a dictionary for a tricky word instead of just 'Googling it' ? Catching up with your old friends rather than just liking their Facebook statuses !

We have become too much socio-savvy and have lost touch with ourselves. I maybe me called a hypocrite for using the same social media for preaching against its overuse but where else can I spread the message.

Gaining social acceptance has gained greater importance over self-realization and personality development. One feels the need to share his holiday trip pics, coffee hangouts, movie outings and even the daily moods and meals ! The need to be heard. The need for recognition. The need for appraisal. Family time now means all the members sitting together with their heads down scrolling down their notifications after a busy day. We really need to disconnect in order to connect in real sense. Disconnect from these gadgets. Disconnect from the ostentatious virtual profiles of people. Disconnect from the messaging services.

Write a postcard to your distant loved ones. Dump your i-pads and buy an actual book. Give a surprise visit to your college friends. Plan a trip with your family members. Do some social service - Teach some poor kids instead of just pointing fingers at the government. Just break apart from these wireless shackles and take a plunge into the pool of reality. And feel the difference of Being Human than being a texting robot. Break free because the world is yours to explore ! Think about that !!

Friday, 20 June 2014

An Obituary to Spain.

Witnessing a shambolic 5-1 defeat handed by the vendetta seeking Dutch, it appeared as if the Spanish football team had already booked their return tickets. And to the dismay of millions of fans their worst nightmare came true when Chile- The South American Underdogs took out the Defending Champions in the 'Life or Death' group stage match.

Dumped out of the World Cup after just two group games on the same day that King Juan Carlos abdicated his throne and signed it over to Prince Felipe, the nation's footballers have now relinquished the crown they once wore with distinction. 

The winds of change were evident when star players Xavi and Piqué were benched for the match against Chile. An ineffective and lackluster Xabi Alonso was also replaced by his young and rightful successor Koke after half time. But Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aránguiz of Chile had already done the damage.

An era of footballing supremacy coming to an end, La Roja's may well have to reinvent their tiki-taka style of play. The national team comprised of players from the top English and Spanish leagues, but this immiscible admixture of players with contrasting playing styles proved suicidal for the country. Although, being hailed as the best team on paper with 3 players from it in the World XI, the on-field performance was equally embarrassing. The possession based gameplay of Barcelona and the Counter-attacking tactics of Real Madrid put together made a total curry. It was clearly evident that Del Bosque's men were confused, low spirited and had no proper strategy against both Netherlands and Chile. No more so than veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas -- the captain, the man who despite having not featured regularly for club side Real Madrid kept his place in the team.

For the past six years, this Spanish side has thrilled those who marveled at its tiki-taka passing and ability to make the game look so effortless. For so long a perennial failure, its victory at the 2008 European Championship finals ushered in a period of almost flawless football. Victory at the 2010 World Cup was secured courtesy of a win over the Netherlands, while it retained its European crown comfortably two years later. But the signs of weakness have been growing ever since it was swept aside in last year's Confederations Cup in Brazil. The 3-0 defeat by the host nation in the final shocked not only seasoned observers but also those who had believed Spain's domination would surely continue. The loss certainly puts the future of the illustrious Del Bosque's reign into a precarious state.

Gone are days for the likes of Casillas, Alonso, Xavi, Torres and Villa, the ones who ruled the world football for almost 6 years. With more than 100 caps each, I think these veterans need to hang their boots and pass on the baton to the young players who are determined and hungry for glory. As a diehard Spanish football fan myself, I hope that this eclipse marks the heralding of a new dawn with the ushering of fresh talent to carry the legacy forward. And with the U-21 national team winning 2011 and 2013 UEFA European Championships there is no denial that La Rojita's (The Little Red ones) have it in them to take the Spanish flag on top again.

2016 edit: 100+ caps for Iniesta, Ramos, Piqué and Fabregas for nothing. Over dependence on De Gea. Players failed to display their international club level playing ability. Lackluster defending. Euro 2012 scorer, Mata not even in the squad! Time for Del Bosque to part. How the hell is he still there!? Full marks to Buffon - A living legend. Unarguably the safest 8 yards are  the one he guards.

PS: Spain's Home ELEVEN.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Memoirs of Kashmir

"Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast",
wrote by a famous Sufi mystic, poet, composer and musician Amir Khusro, belonging to medieval period which means;
"If there is Paradise on face of the Earth it is this, it is this, it is this (Kashmir)".

With reignition of the debate on Article 370, the constitutional clause that gives special status to the disputed land of Jammu & Kashmir, the contemplative self prompted me to pen down the childhood memories of a family holiday visit to Kashmir exactly 10 years in the past. This was the time when Shahrukh Khan starrer Main Hoon Naa, featuring Indo-Pakistani conflict gained tremendous box-office success. Considering the relatively amicable Indo-Pak relations and absence of any militant activity for a while, we found it an ideal window to tick off Kashmir from our annual summer vacations checklist.

Getting there

We set off from Indore to Delhi via a train journey with our family friends. To keep a balance between budget and time, we took a flight for Jammu thereafter. (I recall complaining about landing amidst a vast barren land as opposed to the idea of a lush green mountain view. My father tapped me on the head telling we were yet to go to the Kashmir valley.) We were fortunate to get a friendly driver for road trip to Srinagar. I don’t remember his name but frequent parleys regarding tourist footfalls on the controversial and terrorized land revealed that his own elder brother was forcefully taken into a militant training camp. This shocker was a routine affair for the Kashmiri localites. As alleged by the driver a person of the family had to be involved in such groups in order to preserve his family. To our horror we came for a leisure trip to a place where people are unsure of seeing the Sun the next day. My friends and I started playing Antakshari to ease the sudden eerie that gripped our wagon. We witnessed a long convoy of Army vehicles before passing through the Jawahar tunnel. The One and half a mile tunnel pierced through the heart of a mountain isolates you from the world gripping you into its serene darkness. The two-way tunnel facilitating round the year connectivity from Jammu to Srinagar is heavily guarded by military round the clock.

Things to do

On reaching Srinagar, we headed out in Shikaras for the search of House boats at the famous Dal Lake. However, we found them quite unhygienic and over-pricey as opposed to hype created around them. So we settled to lodge in Hotel Zabarvan, a mid-segment lakeside hotel located in the Boulevard area. Taking a good night’s rest we went on to see the Mughal gardens the next day. The ambrosial array of flowers were reminiscent of God’s own platter of colours. One may try the mouth-watering Kashmiri cuisines just outside these gardens. These local delicacies can knockout any connoisseur be it the sizzling kebabs, the exuberantly spiced Rogan josh, meat-loaded rishta-gushtaba and Dum Aloo, Hakh (spinach like leaf) with Zafran (saffron) rice for the green eaters. 

Next day we reached Sonamarg, driving by the spectacular country side facet of Kashmir. Sonamarg, which means 'meadow of gold' has, as its backdrop, snowy mountains against a cerulean sky. Situated on the banks of Nallah Sindh, tributary of Jhelum River, the river snakes amidst the imposing Himalayas. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier but I would recommend a trek to enjoy the view. Gulmarg boasts Asia's highest and longest cable car project, the Gulmarg Gondola, spanning from Gulmarg resort at 8500 ft to Knogdoori Mountains at an altitude of 12000 ft. The mile long serpentine queue for the ride seemed as if the Gondola’s offering a stairway to heaven. Unrehearsed of the weather conditions at the Kongdoori station, we were hit by bone chilling winds and we rushed back for the down-station. Nevertheless, the view from the cable car was absolutely breath-taking as if God himself descended on Earth to paint on a life-size canvas. For those who are still wondering, Gulmarg has been the location of shooting of superhit Bollywood Films like Bobby, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Highway to name a few.

Pahalgam, our next destination offers an unforgettable horse ride up a fairly steep mountainside leading to a magnificent meadow ringed by trees and snow-capped peaks. We also visited Chandanwari which is the starting point of the holy Amarnath Yatra that takes place every year in the month of Sawan (July to August). We stayed there for two days in JKTDC guest houses, popularly known as Pahalgaon Huts. We had a sumptuous lunch of Rajma and Chole at the famous Purnima hotel. Yes, the unfortunate June 12, 2004 grenade blasts that killed 5 and injured 29 people in that dining hall happened just two days after our visit!! Both our evening dinners were at some Chicken and Tea stall in the market place. I fail to recall the exact place but that exquisite Roasted chicken is something I still crave for. For those shopaholics, this market offers a wide range of exclusive Cashmere shawls handcrafted to perfection.

Patnitop, the last chapter to our escapade to the paradise on earth, is perched on a plateau in the Shiwalik belt of the Himalayas across which the Jammu-Srinagar Highway passes. Paragliding at Patnitop offers stunning views of the mountains cape enveloped by thickly wooded Cedar/Deodhar forests in the Chenab basin. Encompassing such beautiful destinations we were rejuvenated yet reluctant for our return journey. We could not go to Ladakh, which is 250 km from Srinagar, but that would be another must-see place if you are an adventure freak and relish the adrenaline pumping high altitude treks. 

Altogether, the journey was truthfully mesmerizing and although we had a lucky escape from the blasts, it’s sad to see such a beautiful place being guarded by army personnel at every point. Let’s pray that Kashmir is peaceful again with the efforts of new central govt. for strengthening the Indo-Pak ties as even the average Kashmiri simply wants peace and freedom.