One month into 2016!

Hiya,

Hope this year is off to a flying start for you. (Belated happy 2016 ‚Äď eleven months are still ahead of us!:)) It’s been a while since I communicated through this platform. It was quite a colourful 2015 I must say, with all its hues. How was yours? ūüôā

Felt gratified that I was awarded my PhD degree at the 65th annual convocation of Karnatak University, Dharwad, by Mr N R Narayana Murthy of Infosys. I was later¬†felicitated by our Dakshina Kannada organisation in my hometown for the PhD. After the felicitation, I was given an opportunity to address a huge gathering of all ages – many of whom I had seen and spoken to at social gatherings. It was an overwhelming experience, to say the least. (These were¬†the five key points of my speech, delivered in Tulu: a) be goal oriented b) give due importance to extracurricular activities, alongside studies c) pursue your dream career (without getting influenced by others) d) ‚ÄúIn the race to be better or best, do not forget to enjoy the journey‚ÄĚ e) do not forget your roots (society and culture) however high you may rise in your life.)

I was told that the speech received a very positive feedback. My husband and parents who were witness to the event were proud of me. I owe them my gratitude as they stood like pillars of support during that phase of my research work.

P and I enjoyed a trip to Coorg mid-year with friends. I went¬†into a hiatus during the latter part of the year due to a health reason. But that hasn’t deterred my spirits thanks to my overall positive attitude. I love my family all the more whilst I am slowly getting back to my routine. Btw, my good-old interest in sketching is rekindled.¬†I will share some sketches with you over a period of time. Let me first start with the New Year greetings. ūüôā

NewYearGreetings

Celebrate life!

Cheers,

RV

The show must go on

Theatre is an art form that showcases freedom of speech and expression. It is made to suit the entertainment needs of the young and old alike through its content, narration and style. Themes for a theatre performance in India are usually borrowed from the epics such as Ramayana and Mahabaratha.

Yakshagana (Courtesy: Google Images)

Yakshagana (Courtesy: Google Images)

What is the status of theatre in urban India today? The scene is not so encouraging. As of now, theatre is seen as an alternative form of entertainment enjoyed largely by theatre aficionados. And, mostly contemporary theatre it is. Although traditional theatre forms such as yakshagana, dollu kunitha, bailata and so on originated here, they are on the brink of extinction while they are gaining popularity in the West. Movies, cable television, computer games and gizmos are seen to satisfy the penchant for entertainment.

The need of the hour is to keep theatre and its forms alive in India. One of the best ways to introduce theatre to the younger generation is by including it in the school curriculum ‚Äď be in the private schools or the government schools. Exclusive time¬†needs to be devoted to nurture theatre talents among individuals. Students who are not keen on pursuing academics may wish to pursue acting as a career and take up some training. Young minds when nourished with appropriate training and exposed to such theatre forms will help in upholding theatre ‚Äď a dominant facet of Indian culture. Amateur theatre clubs should be given the required support. The government on its part should continue to acknowledge theatre artists by way of instituting various awards and offering promotional platforms. Any financial assistance will be greatly appreciated as well.

Theatre, after all, brings out myriad facets of human personality to the fore and it draws attention to certain subtle aspects of life. Qualities such as humour, wit, revolt, anger, sorrow, fear, surprise and so on are depicted in an artistic manner. Relationships are given new dimensions and life is looked upon through different lenses. Those colourful clothes and props, dialogues and stories ‚Äď all are woven together to give a performance that magical aura and effect.¬† In fact, theatre brings out the best in individuals. It acts a stressbuster to both the actors and the audiences. Thus, the show must go on.

PS: Yours truly had written this piece for a recent edition of a college journal ‚Äď The Write Angle. Your comments/views are welcome.

Welcome MMXV!

Here’s wishing you all a happy and prosperous New Year 2015. May this year be a lovely year for all of us!

Any New Year resolutions? Any wish-lists? Well, yours truly made one last year only to find it safe in the system. Lo, when the list surfaced before the eyes just now, felt happy to see some accomplished. ūüôā

We had an amazing 2014 with travel to some exotic locations in Europe. Some countries on my bucket-list such as Switzerland and Spain were covered, much to my delight. Portugal was refreshingly amazing. France was charming as ever. Italy was enigmatic. Felt like donning the mantle of a tourist guide when we got to visit some countries in Europe the third or fourth time. It was a wonderful stint in Belgium. Visited all the major places of interest such as Brussels, Louvain-la-neuve, Waterloo, Ghent, Ypres, Antwerp, Brugges, Liege, etc.

Significantly, in 2014, I managed to submit my PhD thesis. I got an opportunity yet again to lecture in a communications school at Ghent, Belgium. Btw, I have got back to a full-time academic career. Hmm…in the midst of our respective careers, both P and I continue to engage in short travels in India as well. We had been to Dandeli (an exotic locale in North Karnataka) recently where we were close to nature’s bounty thanks to the Jungle Lodges experience.

Time is a precious commodity in extraordinarily busy cities such as Bangalore. It gets reinforced every now and then thanks to the maddening crowd and traffic. It has changed for the worse since the last time I worked here a few years ago. Hope to find some calmness and peace in this otherwise culturally vibrant city.

Catch you soon!

PS: Our niece Saanvi and nephew Kanishk¬†brought us¬†endless¬†joy as they arrived in July and November 2014 respectively. ūüôā

True essence of education

The hallmark of education is to unleash one’s true potential. Education, in this context, simply does not refer to a parochial type of formal training. It is the essence of being aware of oneself in the gamut of a metaphysical environment. Surroundings, upbringing, reading and social contacts add to the understanding of oneself. In all, these factors aid in defining one’s self-concept. 

Self-concept is the realization of one’s worth. When it is achieved, one begins to focus on one’s strengths and work on areas of improvement. This in turn leads to a refined personality where confidence and humility act in equal measure. Thereafter, one’s self-esteem, which is nothing but one’s estimation of oneself in comparison to others, shall be on a higher plane. 

Given this context, it is only apt that a child is made to understand both its strengths and its weaknesses. Of course, the strengths need to be highlighted more. A mentor or a teacher’s role is of paramount importance as the child grows, so that the child is moulded into a deserving rather than a desired shape, as
dictated by society. It is important that a child is made to think for itself, without being forced into acting in a particular fashion.

Fine-tuning and conditioning of the mind at a young age is of utmost importance. This is all the more true in an age where distractions abound, thanks to technology, which acts as a pawn in fulfilling a child’s desires. Materialistic pleasures seem to rule the roost for a child, who easily falls prey to them.

Understanding child psychology and its nuances/dimensions is very relevant. Innovativeness in teaching and learning is the need of the hour. Thus, this calls for sensitizing teachers to awaken young minds in a manner that brings out the best in them. Education, in a formal setup, has to be imparted using appropriate pedagogy. The pedagogy has to bring out the innate self of the child, which should manifest itself in showing appreciation for life and its simple pleasures.

The ultimate aim of education, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‚Äúis the process by which character is formed, strength of the mind is increased, and intellect is sharpened, as a result of which one can stand on one‚Äôs own feet.‚ÄĚ

PS: I had written this editorial piece for a recent edition of a college journal – The Write Angle. Your comments/views are welcome.

Canine attraction

Bow! Bow! Bow! So I heard the sound.
Wow! Wow! Wow! So was I spellbound.

Hop, hop, hop Рso I went to the scene of action.
Romp, romp, romp – so were they tended on with passion.

Lo, a bunch of five cuddly puppies lay in the garden!
They looked up as if to say we were their guardian.

The mother dog was a brownie,
She looked scary and scrawny.

We offered her bread and some solace,
And her puppies, some shoelace!

They began to run and play,
But they were too tiny for a relay.

Ah, they left us bowled over by their mime,
Only to attract from us a gleeful rhyme.

They were sure to guard our home,
while we were away in Rome!

Lovable puppies

Lovable puppies

Time to ponder

I was reminded of this article¬†against the backdrop of international women’s day observed¬†on March 8th. Well, I had written this article for a college magazine¬†in 2005. How is the situation now?¬†Time to introspect!

Yet another international women’s day was celebrated on March 8th. Some called it as a the day for women to rejoice and celebrate their womanhood. Some resigning to their secondary status compared to their male counterparts only sighed a deep breath, as if to say it made no difference to them. While a few others used it as a forum to ponder, debate and discuss problems/issues confronting women. ¬†What were your thoughts on this day?

Women have been able to carve out a niche for themselves in every sphere of life. They have been able to do justice to their roles as mothers, daughters, sisters and wives. However the principle of gender equality is yet to come to stay in India, or for that matter in many parts of¬†the world. We find only a few crusaders or feminists who uphold women’s rights and equality that are actually well laid down in the constitution.

The National Commission for Women was set up by an Act of the Indian Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution made in 1993 had made provisions for reservation of seats in the local bodies. But the long-pending demand for 33 percent reservation for women in the Indian Parliament is yet to materialize. What are your views on this?

Stories of women being ill-treated by their husbands, especially in rural areas come to light every now and then. Female foeticide is on the rise. The ratio of male to female population is appalling. “Empowerment of women” has almost become a cliche. There are some pundits who say women have entered the erstwhile male-dominated domains and point out where is the need for empowerment. But isn’t this only a minuscule percentage of the female working population? Does it depict the microcosm of the real India?

We are still tied to social systems where “restriction” and “taboo” for girls rule the roost. People, especially ones the conservative bent of mind, rejoice at the birth of a male child and there is a pall of gloom when it is a female child – again mostly in the rural areas. If given the right opportunities with a congenial atmosphere and mental support to boot, she can simply do wonders in any field. Does it need a mention anymore? She is now up flying as a pilot and adept at maneuvering the engine of a train. She is able to balance career and domestic chores with ease. Shouldn’t she be treated on par with the male bastion? In other words, shouldn’t she get her just deserts?

The all-powerful emotions

I am elated…I am disgusted. She is on cloud nine…she is shattered. There were peals of laughter…there was a vale of tears. What are these opposite shades of characteristics? In simple terms, they are emotions one experiences during every second of one’s life. How one reacts to a particular situation depends on one’s mental make-up. Upbringing and surroundings too matter a great deal.

Given a trying situation, A may react in a calm manner, B may turn hyper and C may show lukewarm response. The reaction may result in an unending argument or amicable settlement if it happens to be a dispute. Otherwise too, in the everyday “drama” of life, one may don the mantle of an angel, always helping others, or that of a villain trying to pull others down or stab them in the back. The target group is bound to react in a particular fashion. Action and reaction of human beings are adaptable and change from person to person and one situation to another.¬†The idiosyncrasies of human behaviour have a role to play too!

Love, hate, anger, pride, ego, happiness, passion, rivalry, sadness, etc are all a state of mind. They cannot be measured in specific terms. They say the mind too maketh a man to a great extent. So, if the mind has such a pride of place in shaping the character of a person, why not mould it into in a mass filled with 3Ps – peace, positive energy and progression?

Be level-headed. Observe people. Try to study their body language. The eyes say a lot. Talk to people. Reach out to them. Your life gets a better meaning and becomes all the more interesting. This is not philosophising about life, but rather adopting a pragmatic and positive approach to it. ūüôā

PS: I had written this piece for a college journal years ago!

Uncanny Cotton

She is an epitome of determination,

And she catches our imagination;

“Meawe” is her way of greeting,

And this is a start to an eventful meeting.

We call her “Cotton” endearingly,

For she sports a thick fur elegantly.  

A street feline that she is, she appears rustic.

But her grace is dotted with mystique.

She comes home inspecting, only to bring her litter –

Two cuddly kittens, who, together form the big hitter.

Our home is theirs, and eventually we are to be the foster parents.

This continues year on year and the boundless joys are our patents.

Pouncing and prancing, the kittens leave us mesmerized.

In no time, they grow up, gifting us memories king-sized.

Cotton with Brownie & Blackie

Cotton with Brownie & Blackie

PS: Hope you’ve had a great start to 2014. May all your dreams come true!

An alien and an ally

Cool and silent was the night as I kept wandering around my granny’s backyard. Humming a lilting song, I was dreaming of an idealistic future one could have. Amidst the croaking of frogs and faint sounds of insects, there was I simply enjoying the bliss of human solitude.

Suddenly as my thoughts soared high, I looked up the sky. Lo! Something came flashing just above my eyes. For a moment, it did give me quite a turn. Ah, here was a strange creature with multiple legs and a tail…its body covered with radium-like sparkling stripes.¬†With its zombie-like eyes staring at me and its two purple-coloured wings briskly flapping around me, it was – needless to say – quite a horrifying sight. Braving my fear, I asked, “Who are you?” The poor creature quivered and answered in a plaintive voice: “I belong to planet Zonca. I had come to planet Earth with my bosom friend. Leaving her alone in our spacecraft, I went in search of a surprise Christmas gift for her. Now I find myself here. I have lost my signal wristband and I have no means of contacting her. I feel so helpless.”

Looking at my fixed gaze, the creature went on to say: “Don’t worry, I’m as harmless as you are. You can take my word for it.” ¬†A wave of sympathy ran through me. On an impulse, I collected some logs of woods and made a bonfire. The flames were so powerful that they licked the sky.¬†Sure enough they attracted the spacecraft – a flying saucer – which was heading back to its native planet. With flaming signals reaching it, the flying saucer came down swiftly. The alien happily climbed on to it. Reuniting with its friend, it waved a gleeful “thank you” at me. ūüôā

PS: This is an abridged version of a sci-fi story I’d written for a college journal few years ago.

Lights of hope, prosperity

A new festival arrives and this time it is one of lights;

These lights stand as a beacon of hope to perish the evil sprites.

The surroundings look welcoming and brightened;

It is about time to recharge and feel enlightened.

Earthen lamps and lanterns are the cynosure of all eyes;

Fireworks are avoided or kept to a minimum by the wise.

Ecofriendly alternatives are the best for celebrations;

It is just to contain pollution and its ramifications.

The festival is a delight to the connoisseurs of food,

The menu is elaborate and extremely good.

Deepavali heralds a renewed phase of prosperity;

It is celebrated with vivacity and it enjoys popularity.

May the festive aura greet you with rapture!

I sign off by wishing you a bright future.

Festive lights

A striped attraction

Stripes of white, black and yellow hues caught my attention;

The bearers of these stripes lived in an open mansion.

Oh, they were walking up and down majestically,

And I dreamt of joining the bandwagon magically.

One of them came so near, brushing against our vehicle.

And this was the closest sight ever I could chronicle.

Indeed it was the Bengal tiger that left me in raptures.

I kept gaping at it and made some friendly overtures;

It responded with a loud purr that left me enchanted.

It went on the prowl, leaving its footprints implanted.

I was left pondering why the big cats are so magnetic;

It’s just that their wild-but-innocent ways are enigmatic.

How I wish their tribe is protected from poaching,

And we could preserve our ecology from spoiling!

Big cat

PS: This big cat was so lovable. It earned the nickname Shule from yours truly. ūüôā

A trail to remember

Tweet…tweet…tweet …so I heard the beeps;

The beeps suddenly turned into shrieks and then into peeps;

And this goaded me to jump from my comfy seat.

As I walked up to the next room and looked up, I sighted something very sweet;

They were birds…the red-vented bulbul variety!

I grabbed my lens to capture the homely rarity.

There were two bulbuls perched on the chandelier in the drawing room.

They were chattering away to glory and I was tempted to join the chorus with a boom.

Oh, what joy they brought as they kept playing, letting themselves loose.

Ah, they were so chirpy in the concrete abode, in a way appearing recluse.

They inspected every corner under the skylight as if to build a nest;

And it seemed like they were putting all their skills to test!

Lo, by then, a third bulbul came calling out and the trio bid a goodbye, leaving a trail.

Huh, guess what sort of a trail?! They were the ‘droppings’ that looked like a rail‚Ķ!¬†

Red-vented bulbul

Friendly Volda

After our trip to the fjords, we travelled to Volda on the west coast of Norway. Mountains, seas and pretty villas form a dramatic backdrop to this little town. Volda University College (VUC) here is popular for higher education.

I was going there the second time. Here’s an extract from my travelogue in 2009:¬†They say parting is a sweet sorrow, and now I get the meaning of it completely. Everyday at¬†Volda¬†was a wonderful experience worth remembering a lifetime. I will miss people here for their kindness, friendship and hospitality. I hope to return to this beautiful place and country sometime in the future!¬†

How's the landscape?

How’s the landscape?

Yay! And, my dream did come true. (Yeah, do believe in the beauty of your dreams.) It was more of a social visit this time in Volda. My first visit rewarded me with genial friends, who also made it to my wedding in India. The same friends invited us couple over to their place for a stay. Hmm…it’s hard to describe in words the fondness I have for this place and people. Anyway, let me try. Volda is like a fairyland – it’s so far away, yet so close to my heart that it can light up my spirits anytime! Its kindhearted and friendly people and scenic beauty conjure up images of a divine land.

Our friend T picked us from the bus station and drove us to his home in Volda. Well, it was a great feeling to be going there the second time and that too with P! T’s chirpy wife A greeted us with so much warmth. She had taken a couple of days off from her work. It was a lovely big home and the surroundings were awe-inspiring. We were escorted to a neatly made room, which was going to be ours the next three days. Here’s a recollection of our memorable stay there.

Our breakfast

Our breakfast

Pongal and raitha

Pongal and raitha

Day 1 Р A filling continental breakfast was waiting for us after we refreshed ourselves. We had a long chat with A & T and then we headed to VUC where we got to meet another friend J Y who had also made it to our wedding with his three children. Later that evening, we offered to cook some rice and sambar for dinner.

Yummy cheesecake

Yummy cheesecake

A, T & their son √ė¬†enjoyed it, although it was a bit spicy for them. Any guesses as to where we had our dessert?¬†At ¬†their summer house (hytte in Norwegian), which was at a distance from their regular home! They had built it themselves and we were in awe of their hard work. Yummy eggless cheesecake made by A specially for us adorned the table along with some redcurrants fresh from their garden, soya milk and orange juice. We simply binged on all of it. Later,¬†P & I got an opportunity to meet their first daughter S. Mia, their cat, did say a meow to us. It was tough catching hold of her though.

Mia

Mia

Day 2 – ¬†After a sumptuous breakfast, we had been to a late friend E’s place where we met his wife and son. E had shown me around in Volda,¬†√ėrsta¬†and √Ölesund¬†the last time.¬†He’d taken me to his home too where both he and his wife let me pick up apples from their orchard. (I’d felt like a child.)¬†Namaste¬†was his way of greeting me. ¬†E was extremely passionate about India. He’d lived in India for many years and it was like his second home country. He knew about the country much more than native Indians themselves do! So many artefacts from India beautified their home. As fate willed it, my dear senior friend died of an ailment a year before our visit. I’d mourned for him and I’d realized how friendship transcends age and nationality. ¬†We then went to A’s mother’s home (a beautiful one again!) where we picnicked before heading to a historical √Ölesund, about which I shall write later.

Great entertainers!

Great entertainers!

Day 3 –¬†J & S who were the owner-couple of my abode during my last visit came visiting us at our hosts’ home. They were a family of four then, now five. It was such a joy to see the children (all of whom were under five years of age) rambling and prancing. Ah, children make great entertainers especially when they’re in high spirits! We also went walking down the town with them and we happened to visit their home (a new one) later. Btw, in the morning, P and I were invited to¬†VUC to interact with a group of students who were going to India a couple of months later on a study trip. The students had few questions regarding travel within India as also regarding Indian culture. We went around the campus visiting the library, media labs and the international office, and pleasant memories flashed to me from the last visit. C from the international office welcomed us in her usual sprightly ways. We met a couple of faculty members over coffee and a couple of others in their offices.¬†We also managed to say a hello to SL, Dean of the department.

P1100599

Redcurrants

Back home that night, we cooked pongal¬†and¬†raitha¬†for all of us. (We’d purchased the requisite ingredients from an Asian shop the previous day.) There was some yummy dessert waiting for us: fresh strawberries and redcurrant juice. J Y too joined us. After a lively get-together over dinner, it was time for us to leave. They dropped us to the bus station. J Y’s son too arrived at the bus station to greet us. Wow, what great hospitality was shown towards us both by all our friends there and we were touched to the core. The bonding and bonhomie among us were exceptional. My trip to the fairyland came to an end with a lot of sweet memories to cherish. We’re now waiting to meet our Norwegian friends again and host them in our country.

PS: This post is dedicated to my friends in Volda and I decided to publish it today as it happens to be International Friendship Day! ūüôā

It’s life…

In the company of rich and lovely flora at an institute of higher learning and amid all the calmness surrounding it, I sit to contemplate on what’s life…

Life is a humdrum affair for some while an exciting affair for others, with striking alterations and altercations in the way it’s dealt with…

Life is meaningful when it’s lived well, meaningless when lived less…

Life is a challenge with all its ups and downs – to be accepted and responded to with measured calmness…

Life is mostly what we feed into it Рas we sow, so we reap…

Life is a game of probability where winning and losing have an equal chance…

Life is a cellular miracle where each cell needs to be nourished with good care until it wears out…

Life needs dignified handling with the passing of years, as it assumes different roles and forms…

Life needs to be respected – its reputation to be guarded…

Life is more beautiful when it’s wrapped with meaningful doings where we go the extra mile to touch another life (be it in any form) or simply reflect on the simple pleasures of living…

Well, it‚Äôs life ‚Äď live it, love it, enjoy it! ¬†Never say die!

Cheers!

PS: If you have any thoughts to share on life, feel free to post them here.

Globetrotting in a different style

It’s been a month-long sojourn for yours truly in different avatars – as an inquisitive traveller, as an alert travel guide and at times as a cooperative co-guide too. This time the travelling treat is being enjoyed mostly with dear parents who arrived in Belgium almost a month ago. It’s been a wonderful experience. Gosh! They have infectious energy and¬†enthusiasm¬†levels.

During the week they arrived, we did some sightseeing in a few places in Belgium: Leuven, Antwerp, Louvain-la-Neuve. We then left for a week-long trip to the UK where we visited England (London, Bristol) and Wales (Cardiff). It was time for France (Rennes, Paris) next. We were back in Belgium and then after a day’s break, we went on a week-long trip to Italy (Pisa, Florence, Rome, Venice) and Vatican city. It was Cologne in Germany and Septon in Belgium the last weekend. There wasn’t even a single dull moment while revisiting some of these places, thanks to the fact that I viewed these places from a new perspective this time. ūüôā¬†

The weather has been okay. It feels like winter at times. We plan to go to Brussels tomorrow.¬†Well, looking forward to enjoying a few more trips/outings in Europe with them. They seem to be liking it here too. The planning of the trips with my dearest P has been paying off and the feeling is great.¬†Btw,¬†I was missing blogging. Hence this short blog. ūüėČ I shall be back with my signature blogs soon.

Oh, Oslo

We were heading to one of the costliest cities in the world. It’s the capital city of one of the Scandinavian countries. Guess which city?

Yes, it’s Oslo in Norway. Norway is also amongst the top countries with a high human development index, which is calculated based on the life expectancy, education and income. We’d set foot in this expansive and expensive country on a ten-day sojourn. For me, it was a second visit in less than three years. Yes, I loved to go back for it’s a traveller’s paradise thanks to its blaze of exquisite natural beauty.

Ski Jump

Ski Jump

We were excited as the plane made its descent into Oslo that morning. After exiting from the airport, we headed straight to¬†the tourist information centre where we picked up a local map that came along with an official guide to Oslo. There was a separate booklet for bus routes. Surprisingly, these were for free. We then travelled to the room we’d rented out. We dropped our luggage,¬†freshened¬†up and set out. On our Lonely Planet guide, we’d marked a few places we wanted to visit. We used a metro to reach the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, which was opened as recently as 2010 and it could be seen from many vantage points in Oslo. ¬†We walked uphill and we were offered a¬†panoramic¬†view of the city. We then saw the gigantic ski jump structure that was made up of thick steel. Skiing competitions are held on this steep slope. From a distance, the shape of the ski jump area somewhat resembled a dinosaur to me.

Ski simulator

Ski simulator

Well, skiing as a sporting culture is believed to have started in Norway and Sweden thanks to the climatic conditions where winters are snowy and severe. Norwegians are known to be born with skis on their feet! Every household would have a wide collection of skis and boots for various types of skiing. To experience at least some virtual¬†skiing, I¬†hopped on to a ski simulator by paying 60 NOK. (The Norwegian currency is Krone.) I felt like a skier as I descended into a snowy, steep surface at 130 km/hr in a virtual skiing avatar. I quite enjoyed it. ūüôā

We then went to the city centre taking a metro. Hungry that we were, we went looking for a restaurant for some good veg grub. It so happened that we chanced upon an Indian restaurant that was recommended by Trip Advisor. We  decided to have a full-course North Indian meals, vegetarian of course. It felt quite homely there. Surprisingly, we saw cycle rickshaws (three-wheeled cycles that enable ferrying passengers) near the city centre! We also got a view of the ancient Oslo Cathedral from a distance.

A section of the Nobel Peace Center

A section of the Nobel Peace Center

The next day we visited the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo. Every year, Norway recognizes people who have promoted world peace in various ways and honours them with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. ¬†The “Nobel Field” section was visually appealling with a display of long strands of blue fibre optics and on top of which digital portraits and biography of the prize winners starting 1901 were planted.

The sheroes

The “sheroes”

A section on women activists called “sheroes” was quite nice with sketches about their achievements. The “sheroes” were none other than the Nobel Peace Prize winners for 2011, and here goes their names: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakel Karman.

Digital display of handprints

Digital display of handprints

We “gave peace a hand” as we left our handprints on a digital screen.¬†Within the Peace Center, an exhibition with Afghan women in focus was also quite absorbing. Yours truly ended up buying a magnetic bookmark (with Mother Teresa’s photo on it) as a souvenir.

Parliament building, Oslo

Parliament building, Oslo

Oslo City Hall

Oslo City Hall

As we stepped out and started walking, we got to see some popular buildings like the City Hall,¬†Parliament, National Theater, etc.¬†We had planned to meet our friends R & S in Oslo.¬†They lived in J√łvik, 120 km away from Oslo.¬†We had some refreshments at a cafe and then the two couples (R & S, P & me) headed to the huge Vigeland Sculpture Park¬†where we spent time walking around and chatting up.

The sculptures all along the park (left, right and in the centre of the park) were modelled single-handedly by artist Gustav Vigeland. There was one 14-metre high sculpture in the centre that was particularly eye-catching. It was called the Monolith and built using one single stone and it was supposed to consist of 121 human figures. During my earlier visit, my host-friend T had taken me to the Viking Ship Museum where huge ships from the viking times were on display.

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Vigeland Sculpture Park

We bid goodbye to our friends, picked up our luggage from our lodging, had wholesome veg dinner at another Indian restaurant and left for Trondheim (500 km north of Oslo) by a night train. Wow, the train was super cool, fast and clean! You know what place I shall cover in my next blog. ūüôā

E-treat and retreat

It was a bright sunny morning. I received an e-mail from my sister inviting me to her housewarming ceremony in California, US, that day itself. Well, I live in Belgium and how could have travelled that far in a few hours?! Welcome to the world of technology! She’d arranged for an e-housewarming. She’d e-invited her close family members to this auspicious event. She’d opted for services of an e-vendor who streamed the event for the select invitees. The buying and setting up of the dream home happened at a hectic pace thanks to the fact that she and her hubby are a working couple. Their way of saying “we care for our families and their wishes” was through live streaming of the event.

It was 2 pm local time. Plop! At the click of a mouse, I expected to witness the entire event, but that was not to be. The Internet cooperated for a couple of minutes only and then the connection disappeared into thin air. Jinxed that I was, I did all that I could to restore the connection, but in vain. Finally I set out on a mission to somehow get a glimpse of the e-event. It was a telephone company right opposite our home that I first went to. They didn’t have any browsing plans to meet my urgent requirement. I then went to a university where I had engaged a few lectures in the recent past. I met a kind-hearted soul who connected me to the Internet using his login credentials. I thanked him, breathed a sigh of relief and began witnessing the live proceedings. It was a neat ceremony over there with a priest performing the rituals. Sister and her hubby (draped in traditional Indian attires) were seen in their pious moods.

All the while I was excited to partake of a family event, physical distance notwithstanding. It also left me on a path of retreat as I began to think how dependent we are on technology -based communication with our dear ones, especially when we live in different parts of the globe. Its very presence has shrunk the world into a global village. Technology enables or disables connections, forms or breaks relationships. Boy, such is its overwhelming power!¬†Still photographs could have summed up the event, but the live streaming (albeit with a few glitches) was like a perfect visual treat. Well, in this era, it’s all about how one taps into the potential of technology and makes best use of it.

 

Adding Light to Twilight Years

Last afternoon, I’d been to an old-age home as a photographer for a volunteering organization called Serve the City in Leuven, Belgium. Glad to share some scenes I witnessed there.

Scene 1: A few high school students had volunteered to make pancakes for the old people of the Home <old people referred to as zestful people in my account below> and also to serve them at the dining table. It was nice to see a bunch of zestful people having their meal Рsome of whom had to be fed. Most of them wore an expression of hope. One of the zestful ladies was really keen on communicating with us youngsters. Unfortunately, she spoke only Dutch. I exchanged a smile with her, took a picture and showed it to her. She seemed happy.

Scene 2: I went around the Home. The common areas like the living room and dining room looked plush. I got an opportunity to take a peek into one of the bedrooms, as the door was wide open. Wow, it looked like a room of a five-star hotel! That room had framed photographs and flowers around, with a cot in the centre.

The Home - exterior look

The Home – exterior look

Scene 3:¬†I met an official from the Home in the living room. I greeted him and asked him a few questions to whet my curiosity. He happened to be R, an occupational therapist, working with the Home since eight years. In all, there were about 75 zestful people living there with their average age being 80 years. There were three divisions (housing 25 each) in the Home, two of which were closed to the outside world and one open. In the “open” division, the zestful people were free to walk in and out of the Home as they pleased. The criterion for admission into the Home? They should have nobody to care for them on a full-time basis. Well, were they all happy in the Home? Can’t say so for all. Some of them missed their loved ones while some of them suffered from physical/mental ailments. Who treated them? An in-house doctor of course. They had visiting physicians,¬†psychologists, physiotherapists, etc.¬†Beauticians¬†too visited them on need basis!!! Well, I did see a zestful woman (perhaps in her mid-80’s) on a wheel-chair neatly decked up with mascara, lipstick and matching accessories. I could see that “never-say-die” attitude in her. (A¬†salute¬†to her!) ¬†How much did one have to pay to live in the Home? Well, it was a mighty sum of money. You needed to add the expenses of the doctors and beauticians to this! Phew!

One portion of the Home's garden

One portion of the Home’s garden

Scene 4:¬†My Polish friend thanked me for the “interview” I conducted with R. ¬†I appreciated the cleanliness of the Home and the friendliness of the staff. I only hoped all those zestful people lived there happily in their twilight years. All they needed was love and care with a personal touch.¬†I then went to the garden to take a glimpse of it before bidding adieu to the Home.

A meaningful afternoon that was! Hope to go there again. I was reminded of my visit to one such Home in my country long ago.