Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Manipal I've come to love...

Bali Kunja raises its head proudly over the valley wreathed in mist

It's not the worst of times, but it's not the best of times either... (With apologies to Charles Dickens!)

Just that the past few days I've been seriously harboring thoughts of leaving Manipal. I don't want this blog to be in serious danger of abounding in cribbing posts, so I'll spare you the petty details. I have many a grouse against this place, but when I think of leaving, the proverbial lump rises in the throat... I don't think I'll miss MIT much, may not even miss teaching should I decide to bid goodbye to teaching forever. But I will miss the Manipal I have come to know and love in these years I have spent here. A few shots of these reasons for the lump in my throat follow (not in any particular order).

Beautiful Swarna...

Sunrise over the hills

My weather station...

I'll miss the cricket a lot...

Amme Mookambike! Kollur has been a very good retreat away from Manipal

I've never tired of trekking to Kodachadri

Malpe and St. Mary's island

A storm brews off Kaup

Hanging bridge near Kallianpur

The magic of Koodlu...

A dash of local culture: the recent kambala at Manipal

Matanga Lila - an interlude at Ernakulam!

It's utsavam time at the Ernakulam Siva Kshetram

The 5 days I spent at Ernakulam recently were among some of the heavyweights (literally!) of the pachyderm scene in Kerala. The occasion was the annual festival of the Ernakulam Siva Temple - which had been an integral and exciting part of my childhood, and which I had not attended for the last 10 years. I have been increasingly realizing that all the efforts I have been putting into teaching here at Manipal for more than a decade is nothing but a jalarekha - a line drawn on water. Indifferent students and an indifferent system are not exactly chicken soup (or even kaadi vellam!) for a teacher's soul...

Cheriya Chandrasekharan takes a quick shower

Cherplasserri Sekharan, however, gets a thorough going over..!

It is indeed high time that I took my mind off unrewarding activities and concentrate on all those that give me joy! So there I was, all worries about design reviews and recalcitrant students thrown to the winds (of change!), taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the fairground at the Ernakulam Siva Temple. Spending hours beside each of the elephants tied up at the Ernakulathappan grounds, re-living those early childhood aspirations of one day becoming a mahout; watching the elephants have their daily bath; then the decking up with Nettipattam and the rest of the works; and of course, the kazhcha shiveli every day culminating in the grand ezhunnellippu of 11 elephants on the day of the pakalpooram. This time the pakalpooram featured elephantine stars like Tiruvambady Sivasundar, Guruvayoor Valiya Kesavan, Tiruvambady Cheriya Chandrasekharan, apart from the other elephants that were on duty throughout the festival - Cherplasserri Sekharan, Puthuppally Kesavan, Devaswom Gireesan, Madhurappuram Kannan, Shenoy Chandrasekharan, Tirumala Devaswom Gajendran, Ganesan and Babu.

Gireesan daydreaming at the Ernakulathappan grounds

Shenoy Chandrasekharan (in foreground) and Sekharan get decked up

The caparisoned elephants go in through the western gate of the temple

Devaswom Gireesan and Cherplasserri Sekharan with their mahouts Venu Chettan and Unni Chettan

The elephants await the arrival of the "big three"

The colourful umbrellas for the kudamaattom

The aalavattomThe big three arrive: Tiruvambady Sivasundar maneuvers into position

The big three! (Valiya Kesavan, Sivasundar and Cheriya Chandrasekharan)

The lamp that is lit in front of the elephants during ezhunnellippu


Let's heed their plight too...

I was sorry as hell when it all came to an end and I had to head back...

After the festival: the fairground on the morning after the pakalpooram

Friday, January 15, 2010

An oasis of calm... in this world of storm...

Oasis of Calm: Relaxing by the Ganges at Gangotri

Another semester has begun and already feeling a bit low... I mean the mundane rituals of class committee meetings and course plans and the rest; maybe ten years of teaching is a bit too much."We all need oases of calm in a world of storm," said Paul Brunton in his classic book A hermit in the Himalayas. I find my oasis of calm in the memories and photographs of last two summers among the Himalayan giants. Especially, last year at Tapovan - the quiet and peace of that lovely meadow above the Gangotri Glacier, with herds of bharal that graze close by and mighty Mount Shivling looming benevolently above us all the time.

First Glimpse of Mount Shivling from Gaumukh

A bharal silhouetted against the skyline at Tapovan

I remember the trek to the Advance Base Camp of Shivling with Shivraj - the walk on the ridge of the lateral moraine separating Tapovan from the Meru Glacier, the patch of crystalline snow that was our furthest point from camp, Point Shiv-Kumar - my very own (!) little summit on Baby Shivling (the rocky summit near Mt. Shivling). I remember the effects of altitude too - the nausea, the exhaustion, how I refused to attempt another minor summit that needed 45 minutes more of climbing in spite of Shivraj's urging...

Mount Shivling with Point Shiv-Kumar in the foreground (centre of pic)

Shivraj on the ridge between Tapovan and the Meru Glacier

Meru Glacier with Mount Meru as the backdrop

Sudhakara feels that we should return to Tapovan this coming summer and attempt to summit Baby Shivling. Perfectly fine, I guess... At least for the moment. We have been going over maps of the region and every week it's been a different plan - Rudragaira; Satopanth; Kedar Tal; across Kalindi Khal from Tapovan and Nandanvan to Badrinath...

Mount Shivling and Baby Shivling - future destination..?

One thing is for sure - as far as possible, we want to do one more Himalayan trek this coming summer... And whichever trek we might end up going on, it doesn't really matter.

In a thousand ages of the gods I could not tell thee of the glories of Himachal...

What a minuscule portion of these glories can we hope to cover in a few years???

In a thousand ages of the Gods, I could not tell thee...