Tuesday, 11 October 2016

A trip to Hampi

Our Dussera holiday agenda this year included Hampi. Finally!

A place that we had been talking about visiting for several years. All it took was a train reservation on the aptly named Hampi express and a call to the Jungle Lodges resort.
And that was it. Plain and simple.

Soon the day, rather evening, dawned and we were off to see Hampi.
Our driver from the resort was there waiting for us first thing next day morning at Hospet train station. Our ride to the resort was a rickety Bolero. The reception desk did a great job of getting us to breakfast and into our rooms quickly, quietly and efficiently. I immediately took a liking to the whole place with its a rough unfinished, in-the-middle-of-nowhere appearance, not too dissimilar to the afore-mentioned Bolero.

We were met at brekker by the Manager who immediately helped us feel at home. The food was great, the quality of the food was fantastic throughout our stay. The chef checked in on us time and again during meal times and it felt like we were eating homemade cooking!
Soon it was time to plan the day's events. As it turned out, lots to do once we got there besides the remnants of the palaces and temples from the Vijayanagar kingdom!

Soon we were off to the Anjanadri hills, the birthplace of Lord Hanuman.
This entire area is said to be Kishkindha from the Ramayana era and a visit to Lord Hanuman's place of birth sounded like a great way to get going.

The 'road' to Anjanadri took us through Anegundi village. Our driver, who doubled as our guide, told us a bit of history about Anegundi, the original capital of the Vijaynagar empire as we learned, before the kings moved the capital to Hampi. He pointed out the Gagan Mahal, which obviously not in great shape anymore, used to be the palace of the Vijaynagar kings. Getting to Anjanadri meant rides on a boat and an auto rickshaw since our Bolero could not get across the river. The climb up Anjanadri hill, courtesy the 570 steps, (the kids did the counting, I didn't) was a great way of getting the old juices flowing. Once the summit was reached, with some great views of the surrounding areas and the river Tungabhadra to keep us company, it was time for clambering up some rocks after the visit to the Hanuman temple. Some time for the kids and their dad to act like little Vanaras for a little bit :)

View from the top of Anjanadri hills
Pampa Sarovar was the next destination. Lots of legends related to Parvati and Shiva are associated with this place. In addition to the lovely pushkarani, the other interesting place here was Sabari's cave. Yes, the same Sabari from the Ramayana, who lovingly offered Lord Rama fruits when he visited. Many illustrious, venerated souls and visitors had trodden these trails before us for sure.

Next was a visit to the Nava Brindavan, an island with the tombs of the Madhwa saints. This made for a very nice boat ride across the Tungabhadra. Beautiful lush greenery all around and we got to spot a few blue herons as well!

View from the banks of the Tungabhadra, Krishnadeva Raya Samadhi

View from the boat coming back from Nava Brindavan

Hearing names of places like Rishyamuka mountains, Matanga Rishi, Pampa etc brought back memories of tales from the old Amar Chitra comics. One can imagine how this rough-and-tough afforested place would have made a great place for a great Vanara kingdom from many eons ago!

All in all, a fantastic start to our trip!

After a great lunch and a bit of stretching out, off we were to see Sloth bears at the Daroji Bear Sanctuary. Yes, as I mentioned previously, Hampi is not just about temples and palaces! A rough ride it was through the park, as our driver took us on roads that weren't really 'roads'. Saw quite a few peacocks along the route. Soon we reached the lookout point after a bit of, yes, some more climbing. Our driver/guide provided us with binoculars. After what seemed like an eternity, we spotted 2 of the bears on the hillside. They seemed to have come for the treats put out for their 'afternoon snack' by forest rangers. We of course, were watching sitting securely across from them on another hill. Soon there were 3 more bears. And more peacocks and a couple of wild boars. None of us had expected this veritable bounty!

The next day, yes after a fantastic breakfast, we were off to Hampi for a guided tour. We heard about Harihara and Bukka, the brothers who founded the city. Not unlike Romulus and Remus from Rome. No she wolf legend here, but our guide kept us engaged with the story about how a hare turned around on their hounds during a hunting expedition, thereby leading them to think that the place was auspicious for a new city. Our guide took us first to the Mustard (Sasivekalu) Ganesha, apparently built by a trader over 500 years ago. Made out of a single rock, this was a great visual spectacle, notwithstanding the damage to the idol.

Ganesha seated on mother's lap

We were soon climbing up more steps from where the view was terrific. Hard to miss the coarse and broken hilly terrain all around, with man-made fortress walls built to fill in any breaks in the natural formations. Add in the waters of the Tungabhadra river and this must have made it difficult for any invading armies to get through in those days.

Listening to the guide talk about these Hemakuta hills, reminded one about Saint Purandaradasa's Geetam which went '...hemakuta simhasana virupaksha....'. The Purandaradasar mantapam where the Saint musician spent his last days was another highlight of the trip. The overall ambiance, chirping birds, the river Tungabhadra gurgling over slippery rocks, all must have surely inspired several of his divine creations! This trip made it all come to life.

Inside Purandaradasar Mantapam

It was fascinating to see how the ancient builders had made small cylindrical cuts in the boulders to help cut out the massive rocks into more manageable sizes. They must have had quite a bit to do in those days considering the scale of construction efforts undertaken by their suzerains!

5 Lingams
From this vantage point, one could see the Vittala temple complex, Matanga hills, several Jain temples as well as the Virupaksha temple complex. We were told that several structures in this area predated the Vijayanagar empire. The Virupaksha temple was a marvel in itself with its sculptures and paintings. Quite the visual feast! To see an exhibition of the pinhole camera effect, the inverted shadow of the Gopuram, can be seen a few hundred feet away at the other end of the temple, was fascinating.

View from Hemakuta

Apparently, the entire area had been in quite a decrepit condition until a couple of decades ago. The Archaeological Society of India and the Government have done quite a bit of restorative work since then. And there are apparently more places yet to be dug, more restorations to be come.
Who knows what other treasures are waiting to be discovered and restored!

View from Kadalekalu Ganesha temple

Talk about urban planning. There were the religious areas separated from the areas used by the royals.
The visits to these areas brought out in yours truly, reactions ranging from wonder all the way to sadness. The details that went into provisioning water through the aqueducts and canals, stone 'table places' for the hungry, weary travelers, the mantapams for traders and merchants both local and foreign...how much planning and attention to detail must have gone into developing what must have been a bustling city! And how little effort in comparison must it have taken for invaders to destroy this city!

Lasts longer than Corning ware!

We also visited all the main tourist attractions (of course!) including the Kadalekalu Ganesha, Badavalinga, the Narasimha temple, Achutaraya temple, Vittala temple complex, the Hazara Rama temple complex, the elephant stables, the Zenana enclosure, the lotus mahal, the queens bath, noblemens quarters, the underground Shiva temple and the Mahanavami Dibba. And not to forget, the secret enclosure next to the Dibba! We all got a kick climbing down the steep steps to the bottom of the not-so-secret-anymore enclosure.
The Mahanavami Dibba platform was apparently used during Krishnadeva Raya's time by the king and his family to view the Navaratri 9 day celebrations. A precursor to the modern day Mysuru Dussera traditions. The intricate carvings on the granite base, depicting foreign traders, elephants, musicians, scenes from daily lives of those people from those days, just amazing! Unfortunately, only the base of most buildings are left to tell these stories, the wooden structures on top having been burnt down by invaders.

Kadalekalu Ganesha

Lakshmi Narasimhar

Chariot at the Vittala temple complex

A multi-headed bull

An original dance move!
Bazaar Road outside Achyutaraya temple

Remnants of the old bridge near Purandaradasar Mantapam

Story of Shravana Kumar from the Ramayana

Every carving made by some unknown artisan, telling a story, be it from the Ramayana, various puranas or simply real world stories of kings, queens and their nobles, travelers, artists, musicians or businessmen adding to a kingdom's grandeur. Hearing about Sugriva's cave en route to the Purandaradasar mantapam as well as the Kodandarama temple where, it is said and as we were told, Vali was killed and Sugriva was crowned king, certainly made my day!

And the birds! Not much of a bird watcher myself per se, besides having the ability to identify the common Indian crow consistently. But by the end of the trip, words like francolins, quails, doves, bulbuls, babblers, sunbirds, crocodile birds rolled off our tongues as if we had been speaking 'bird' forever. The single lasting memory for all us is is that of an Indian eagle owl that seemed to pose for us for what seemed like an eternity.

Our friend the owl, shot through the viewfinder of a pair of binoculars

Hampi had something for all of us.

A great lesson in history, this trip took us back to our childhood days of great empires, kings and queens, mythological stories and legends as well as a chance to see a bit of nature at its best. A great example of trying to 'restore' our history. Makes one stop and reflect as to how even great empires, great ideas, even the really, really good ones, can be ephemeral in the physical sense. Banana groves, many still-functional aqueducts, ruins and boulders paying silent testimony to what was.....

Soon, it was time to head back home. All aboard the Hampi express! We were beginning to miss the Bangalore traffic you see :)

River Tungabhadra

---- Srivatsan Krishnan

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Modern Day Cholas of Bangalore

With due apologies to the Chola greats from many moons ago.

"We made it!" said the King. His Man Friday behind him nodded in agreement.

The Chola king stood at the top of the hill, taking in the view below. The satisfaction in the achievement apparent by the way he twirled his mustache like a King, like the King that he was. The stream below, like a tentacle of the river Kaveri, babbled making the sounds that one associates with brooks, the kind that babble when they come across  pebbles. The kind that caught Lord Tennyson's attention.

He had ridden many a stone-strewn kilometer, climbed many a rock, crossed many a pristine lake, to get to where he had. His crown proudly perched on his dome. He had conquered many a rival along the way using his strength of arm, fist and finger. He had crossed many a gathering in his quest to get to where he was, his preordained destiny, forcing them to give way by the sound of his trumpet. Many an abandoned village left in his wake. All too many to count.

The back hurt, so did the knee, the forehead throbbing marking the beginning of a stress-induced headache. But our King was contented. Yet another day, yet another conquest, yet another view atop yet another hill.
Enought to keep a King proud and contended indeed!

Fast forward....or slow down depending on what the dear reader's commute situation is...

Our IT engineer from Bangalore, a kindred spirit for sure, rubbed the sweat off his forehead.

A smile on his face as he reached the office, 5 minutes before office hours began. No issues with HR today about shortfall of hours for the month, no emails to the boss requesting her to "do the needful".

He had ridden many a pothole-filled kilometer on his trusted Honda 100 cc motorcycle.Helmet under his armpit. Many a rival two-wheeler that he had overtaken. Many a four-wheeler driver's ire that he had drawn, many a finger that he had raised at packed intersections, like a smoking gun after a fight on the corral. Many a honk that he had had to make driving away men, women, chickens and children from his preordained path. Many a street dog, many a stray cow. Many a dying, shrinking, stinking lake along the way, most of them having yielded to towering, unoccupied complexes.  All too many, many to count.

His back hurt from all the speed bumps on his route. The knee, a painful reminder from the previous evening's run on the pothole filled streets of Bangalore. The drum beats in his head, a sinus headache surely on its way with all the smoke and dust he had inhaled.
But, yet another triumph over the roads of Bangalore. Like a Chola King.
Enough to keep an IT team leader happy indeed!
Enough to keep a King proud and contended indeed!

Any resemblance to people real or imaginary is coincidental. Any bruised backs or egos of the battered, daily Bangalore commuter, all real.

Note: Could not decide whether Tennyson's 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' or 'The Brook' would have been appropriate to make a point here. Maybe a typical stress-filled weekday would have resulted in 'The Charge...' as opposed to a relaxed weekend resulting in the choice of 'The Brook'. The modern day protagonist will surely agree that 'The Charge..' is more appropriate! On this matter he would brook no opposition, one can be sure!

-- Srivatsan Krishnan

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Physics Behind Organizational Management

This comes with due apologies to Sir Issac Newton and all the other great sages before, during and/or after.

Everyone talks about the Chemistry within organizations and people. This post doesn't. If still not convinced, please read the title of the post again or as many times as required for further proof.

My basic premise here is that if these laws can explain (most) things going on in the Universe, there may still be hope for figuring out why organizations do what they do. Everything else can quite possibly be attributed to some ‘universal constant’ or the other.

All Math equations, laws etc have been provided not just for context, but also with the express, and altruistic I might add, intention of improving the reader's skills with the <page-down> key or equivalent on the keyboard or equivalent.

Coulomb's law

The magnitude of the Electrostatics force of interaction between two point charges is directly proportional to the scalar multiplication of the magnitudes of charges and inversely proportional to the square of the distances between them.

A good rationale for collocation of teams. The further they are apart, the lesser the forces of interaction amongst team members. More parties anyone? 

Even in face-to-face situations, where two team members are engaged in a conversation that appears to be going nowhere, my hypothesis is that the same rule may be in play; they may both think that the other party may be on/from a different universe or at least a different planet, thus contributing to the distance factor...

In the spirit of full disclosure, I may need a 'real' physicist to tell me how stuff works in/on a different universe.

Coulomb's law

If the two charges have the same sign, the electrostatic force between them is repulsive; if they have different sign, the force between them is attractive.

You definitely want a mix of people on your team. (Yet) Another reason for managers to avoid the natural tendency to hire people whose thinking mirrors theirs. Every team needs folks who won’t shy away from a good old brawl…I mean… conflict to get the best out of each other. 

Potential Energy

Potential energy is the energy of an object or a system due to the position of the body or the arrangement of the particles of the system.

Just as a drawn bow (half of the famous bow-and-arrow duo) stores energy, so does a loose cannon in an organization. You never know where or what’s going to come out when released. 

Work and Potential Energy 

OK this one is a tad elaborate for the gnats reading this...read on to the blue lines below if in a rush.
What is the attention span of a gnat? The attention span of a gnat is about .210005 of a second. :)

The work of force acting on a moving body yields a difference in potential energy when the integration of the work is path independent. The scalar product of a force F and the velocity v of its point of application defines the power input to a system at an instant of time. Integration of this power over the trajectory of the point of application, d=x(t), defines the work input to the system by the force.
If the work for an applied force is independent of the path, then the work done by the force is evaluated at the start and end of the trajectory of the point of application. This means that there is a function U (x), called a "potential," that can be evaluated at the two points x(t1) and x(t2) to obtain the work over any trajectory between these two points. It is tradition to define this function with a negative sign so that positive work is a reduction in the potential, that is

In any organization, it takes collective effort to help realize the potential in people. 
People tend to rise as high as their potential allows them to, as long as the effort is made. The higher, one rises, the lesser (reduced potential) room for growth there is at the top.

A (maybe) ‘corollary’, the Peter Principle, says people tend to be promoted to the maximum level of their incompetence. 

The law of conservation of energy

It states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant over time. The total energy is said to be conserved over time. For an isolated system, this law means energy is localized and can change its location within the system, and it can change form within the system, for instance, chemical energy can become kinetic energy but it can be neither created nor destroyed.

This one is a bit easier to put into an organizational context. Your typical organization has an enormous amount of creative energy. Of course some of it is put to productive use, while the rest stays unrealized. This never goes away unless the organization is subjected to catastrophic circumstances. Things like bankruptcy court, when the energy gets diverted toward paying lawyers. In which case the money goes to the lawyer and the law (energy conservation) still prevails 

OK, on to some of Sir Newton’s pearls of wisdom. No not the teeth, never seen a picture of the Great One smiling.

First law: An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a force. An object in motion remains in motion, and at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force. 

Next time the boss says, ‘Get going!’ you know Newton had the original Intellectual Property rights on this bright idea. 

Second law: The acceleration of a body is directly proportional to, and in the same direction as, the net force acting on the body, and inversely proportional to its mass. Thus, F = ma, where F is the net force acting on the object, m is the mass of the object and a is the acceleration of the object.

Organizational acceleration tends to be in the direction where Leaders want to take them.  Agreed. Also makes a case for ‘lean’ for organizations in a hurry to get somewhere. Next time the company announces reductions, you know where this came from!

Third law: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.

Clearly explains that there can be no such thing as unilateral or unidirectional forces in an organization. Even a rock exerts force in the opposite direction when pressed. Throw a verbal barb at a subordinate and be ready for a reaction. Something for every Manager to remember! 

My apologies in advance, if this has done little or nothing to help enhance the reader's understanding of organizational management. There may be fuzzy logic or neural network theories in play, requiring further analysis.

References: Wikipedia for some of this material

-- Srivatsan Krishnan 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

A Tale of Two Civilizations - Part I

During this year's summer holidays, we made two trips -  one to Belur/Halebid in Karnataka and the other to Siem Reap in Cambodia. The experiences, more similar than I had expected in many ways. Both involved visits to temples and ruins, about a thousand years old. Talk about building something sustainable!

We went to Belur/Halebid in April as part of a Karnataka trip, covering Chikmagalur, Kemmangundi, Mulliyanagiri, Sringeri, Agumbe, Udupi, Marudeswarar, Dharmasthala, Sakleshpur and Belur/Halibed in 6 days. An unforgettable road trip and one that I highly recommend.

As far as the kids were concerned, they would probably say that four things stood out. First the home-stay in Chikmagalur, trysts outside by themselves, mountains and hills, lakes, picking fallen coffee beans, pepper and oranges. Second, running around unrestrained in Malpe Beach near Udupi. Third, eating ice cream and pizza for lunch at the beach site restaurant in Marudeswarar.  And fourth, taking an ad hoc break between Agumbe and Udupi and playing in one of the little streams near the road on a really hot afternoon! Can't argue with any of those now can we ?! I personally remember something called Mangalore bun that we had for lunch at a road side eatery on the road down from Agumbe.

As far as I was concerned, while Chikmagalur was very relaxing, Sringeri was awe-inspiring in its own way with the ambience of reverence, Agumbe an eye-opener in terms of what the Western Ghats must have looked like many years ago, Udupi was even more than what I had expected. One knew what the Amar Chitra Katha had told the unitiated 10 year old many moons ago about the Lord Krishna idol at Udupi turning around to give Sri Kanakadasa a view when the priests wouldn't let him have one. Then of course, the story about how Sri Madavacharya found the Sri Krishna and Balarama idols in a cargo of sandalwood from a merchant vessel that he rescued on the stormy seas. The temple was more than appealing enough to warrant a couple of visits, very distinctive with its temple tank, layout and of course the deity himself. We also heard about a temple dedicated to Lord Balarama in the Malpe area. Other than the priest, there was one other devotee in the temple. Talk about two siblings, one getting all the attention with the other out-of-sight and away from the main scene of action!

I'll mention a few things about my Belur-Halibed experience. Both being significant symbols of temple architecture from the Hoysala empire period. As much as one has seen temple art, sculpture and architecture - I had described my Melkote/Sravanabelagola experiences previously on this blog - this one was special considering the size and scale of things involved. All within a 20 mile radius. Almost like a modern-day Special Economic Zone for artisans a thousand years ago developed by the Hoysala kings ! Simply incredible to see so much beauty and life created out of stone, by so many anonymous.

The Chennakesava temple at Belur, dedicated to Lord Vishnu and still functional, left one in a daze. This one was supposed to have been built in the 12th century during the reign of King Vishnuvardhan . The original, not the modern day superstar from Karnataka ... The king was a follower of Jainism originally who converted to Vaishnavism and apparently promoted both in his kingdom. One got to see sculptures of numerous dancers in various Bharatanatyam poses. Queen Shantala Devi was apparently the inspiration for many of these pieces. My head was literally in a spin while I looked left, right, front, behind, at the ceiling and all other kinds of acute and obtuse angles on the protractor, admiring all the creativity. A perfect place for one looking for a shot of the creativity Kool-aid. Really! Not to mention, the film making going on near the entrance, the heroine being a fellow guest at the local hotel we were staying in.

After Belur, we went to Halibed to see the Hoysaleshwara temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, but what the heck, this was yet another awe-inspiring experience. While the inside was impressive enough, the exterior was even more so. Other things that stuck to my mind were the presence of multiple structures in the complex, the use of soapstone, intricate designs depicting scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata and the fact that the temple was built on a platform. Not to mention the use of elephants pretty much everywhere, perfectly lathed pillars and exquisitely carved balustrades. Standardization maybe ?!

Other temples that we visited in the vicinity included temple structures at Belawadi, Holikeri, Jain Basti, Marle and Doddagaddavally. Marle was interesting for the wrong reasons. This was a small temple complex in a little village off the beaten path. When we found it and went in, the only folks inside were a couple of seedy-looking guys playing cards who ran when they saw us. The temples themselves were in quite a decrepit state. Sad. There were a couple of really exquisite elephants holding Lotuses in their trunks. Doddagaddavally, again, not mainstream, still in use for worship of Goddess Lakshmi among other deities, was interesting for the Betala figures that we saw.

We did all of Belur/Halibed and their environs in about a day and a half. Pretty soon, Aneesh's refrain 'I'm never going to a temple again', became more and more frequent!

One of the more nicely planned road trips, I might add, without being too much of a strain on any of us. In spite of the numerous signs of vandalism, the temples seemed to be in decent shape for the most part, with renovation and maintenance by the Arch. society of India. The lack of facilities for tourists, although one saw many non-Indians, was a disappointment.

We took Aneesh's feedback to heart, when we planned our visit to Cambodia. It was just us, without the kids.

A Tale of Two Civilizations - Part II

Angkor Wat, Cambodia is one of those places that has been on my list for quite some time. So we finally decided to make it happen this summer.
Cambodia offers visa-on-arrival. If one chooses to, one can get an e-visa electronically as well, prior to arrival. Our travel agent had booked us hotel accomodation and a tour guide plus car.

And so, off we went, the missus and I, e-visa in hand, via Singapore.

Siem Reap was our port of arrival, near to the Angkor temples. We had decided to skip Phnom Penh the capital. Siem Reap was pretty even from the air, with a view of a reservoir near the airport. The airport had a very welcoming air about it, small in size. About the size of Tiruchy airport for those of us familiar with Tiruchy. The afore-mentioned tour guide plus car stood waiting for us at the airport.

And so, off we went, excited to be in Angkor country!

On first look, the roads from the airport were very nice, no traffic worth mentioning. Made a good first impression on us, who are still not used to the mayhem that passes off for traffic in Bangalore. Our hotel had a nice welcoming feel to it, on a road that I can only describe as 'avenue of the hotels'. Seems there's been quite a bit of hotel/resort building going on, thanks to the tourism boon in that region. Modern day works of art for the weary traveler, there to see their ancient temples.

Once checked in, we were quickly off within the hour, to go to our main item of interest - Angkor Wat temple. Our guide suggested that we eat at a restaurant overlooking the temple. A tempting suggestion that we lapped up quickly. Angkor Cafe had enough veggie fare on the menu. With hunger pangs quickly satiated, off we went.
First agenda item required getting a sunhat for the missus. This was quickly checked off the list, with some deft negotiation with a road side vendor (kid) getting us an 80% discount on the list price. Only kidding! No such thing as list price. There was another business establishment where I asked why they did not list the price of the item for sale. After repeating the question a few times, pat came the response.
'You tell me what you pay and I tell you what it cost!'

And that seemed to be the business model. Crystal clear.

Our first view of Angkor Wat brought one word to mind. Big.
The complex had a moat around it. The causeway leading up to the entrance had stone sculptures depicting the story of churning of the ocean of milk by the Devas and Asuras from the Puranas, using Mount Meru as the churning rod and Vasuki the snake God as a rope. Wow! This was a common welcome theme at all the temples we visited.

You can look at the details here about the Angkor area. The Khmers ruled over this area for a long period between the 9th and 15th century, much of it prosperous, with an abundance of rice and water. One kept hearing about all the reservoirs built by so-and-so king. Seemed very similar to all other civilizations that had developed near water bodies. Temples seem to have been a reflection of the ruling class' urge to build heaven on earth, with Kings seeing themselves as Divine. Saw a few instances of multilevel temples symbolic of Mount Meru on earth. The dynasty seems to have been a mix of kings following Hinduism or Buddhism. Much of what we saw seemed more Buddhist than Hindu, but the Hindu influences were pretty clear. So many instances of stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Hindu mythology depicted on these stones. Would be pretty amazing to get on a time machine to see these places in action during those times.. how globalization must have actually happened in the ancient world!

Over a 3 day period, we covered Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom , Bakong, Bapuon, Bayon, Banteay Srei, LoLei, Preah Ko, Preah Khan and Ta Proehm. Quite a bit of walking involved in the hot sun. Most of these were built using soapstone and seem to have been dedicated to Lord Vishnu and/or Lord Shiva. All of them seemed to be built on elevated platforms, quite unlike many temples that I've seen in South India. Read my previous post on this blog about Belur/Halebid and the similarities are spectacular. Elephants, lathed pillars, beautiful balustrades and all! Amazing to think that these were built so long ago and to think how privileged we were to actually be able to visit.

Also an amazing feat of archaeology, engineering etc. considering how forests had pretty much taken over these monuments and how these have slowly been reconstructed over the last 70 plus years with a lot of International help to the Cambodians. Vandalism and theft of such works of art were also very much on display.

Our last leg on the trip was a boat ride on the Tonle Sap, the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia. This lake apparently swells by up to 5 times during the rainy season, relative to levels during the dry season. Quite amazing to see folks living in these floating villages. Imagine the fortitude of the people living in these communities, if one has to literally pack up and leave 3-4 times a year in search of higher ground, when the lake floods the area. Every year!

All in all, a wonderful experience. A poor country no doubt, economically speaking. A rich one, no question, when it comes to its past, culture and traditions. The people we encountered - very warm and friendly. The hotel staff did their best to ensure that we were fed with whatever veggies they could drum up for us. I've never had so much Thai veg curry in my life! I remember this incident when we visited Preah Khan. A couple of kids were trying to sell us post cards. Suddenly one of them said to the wife, 'Indian Lady. Can I get dot from your head?'. She wanted the Bindi (pottu)!

Overall, a pretty unforgettable summer experience for us, visiting such amazing ancient places in Karnataka and Cambodia. Great civilizations. Also left one thinking about how temporal things can be...
I can't but remember the kid during the boat trip, who sidled up to us, with a python wrapped cozily around, asking me 'Picture with snake? 1$ '.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Sad Boy Who Became Happy

These drawings are by Aneesh. The narrative is by Aneesh as well. The (crude!) MS Paint  efforts - are by yours truly.

The Sad Boy Who Became Happy
This is the story of a boy named Aggy who really wanted to meet real and angry aliens from outer space. But that did not happen for some reason. In spite of his calling for them, the aliens never came. This made him very unhappy. So he went to the room where little children go to become happy!

He left his shoes at the door and went inside. When he stepped into the room, he was greeted with a shower of yummy food! This made him happy. The healthy food was a gift from the aliens. Upon eating the food, he became bigger and happy! His hair grew too!

He then got into his fire car – number 723 and 615 human years old – and left to go to his Independence Day party. As the picture shows, these types of cars are very fast and spit out fire from the back! At the party he was met by his brother and they both had a good time eating delicious sweets!

The End