Friday, December 30, 2011

2011, as it was…....

Now coming to the end of the year, and after a gap of nearly three months I have come back with another post. I am not sure if I will post another article here in this blog.

When I turn back at 2011, there are two good things that happened. The first was getting to see my best friend Sushma after a very long time. It was very surprising when I heard my husband say that her husband had contacted him. That evening Sushama and myself spoke over the phone for a very long time forgetting it was an ISD call. I met her in August for her daughter’s reception. It was indeed a wonderful experience!!!

Second, I got in touch with many of my classmates through face book. It is a heavenly feeling to know that there are people who still remember you after a gap of 30 years!!!!!!

If I look at 2011, I think the bad things outweigh the good ones. My health has deteriorated. By the end of March I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. I was having constant fever and chest infection. It was at that time one of my husband’s uncles was diagnosed with TB in the secondary stage. I told the doctor that and I underwent the mantoux test. I was tested positive. I couldn’t control my tears and cried shamelessly in front of the doctor. The doctor pacified me and told me it was okay and I could be alright. I wasn’t given the BCG vaccination when I was small. I was born abroad and the doctor said children abroad (in certain countries) are not given BCG. I couldn’t accept it. There were two diseases that I never wanted to acquire – one was leprosy and the other tuberculosis. I know tuberculosis is curable but the stigma attached to it is scary. Even now I am running a temperature and chest infection. I am not sure if it is anything to do with tuberculosis.

Since then my health has been deteriorating. Initially it was just diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol but now it is all that plus other related problems. I was a person who could sit for hours in front of the computer. But now I hardly ever come to the system. I have to go through the physical pain when I am typing something. So I am avoiding the system as far as possible. Every little thing I do hurts my joints. I realized that even ringing the calling bell could hurt me.

I really don’t know if I’ll ever come back here to post another article. I may read your posts. If health permits me I’ll come back with more posts.

Happy New Year to all of you here!!!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who cares about other people’s feelings??????

On the 26th September 2011, we people heard about the accident that occurred in Channankara. Again a school bus that fell into the Parvathi Puthanar canal in less than 8 months, killing four students of Jyothi Nilayam HSS... I was glued to the television watching the news.

At first, the media informed that it was the driver who was at fault. In less than an hour, there was flash news – “The conductor of the bus was driving at the time of the accident.” Various news was flashed at different points of time. The news was so …. The driver lost control while a dog jumped across the vehicle, the cleaner was driving the bus, he was talking over his mobile phone while driving and so went the news. The reporters were interviewing witnesses and they said that the driver was not over speeding. I was not sure whether to believe the news or not.

The next day’s newspapers said that the driver was the first accused. Everywhere I heard people blaming the driver for the tragedy. Personally I do have an aversion for these drivers (all public carrier drivers) as they pay the slightest respect for traffic rules. But in this case, I somehow felt the driver was not wrong. What was the mistake that the driver did???? Was he careless in his driving???

The news that I heard was that the dog jumped from a high wall. It is quite natural for a driver to lose control in such a situation. Can you blame the driver for this???? If I were in that driver’s seat I could have killed everyone including me in that bus, in such a situation.

All of us sympathize with the parents of the dead students. It is indeed very sad. How many of us will sympathize with the driver????? Have we ever thought of the mental agony that he is going through????? He is being scorned as a killer of four students. The driver will have to live the rest of his life in shame and guilt. He may have to choose another job to earn his living. Who knows if he will ever do that????

The media was celebrating on the tragedy. They got news to fill their prime time. It is the second time that I am coming across wrong information being telecast on television. I think the media has lost its ethics. All that they need are sensational or tragic news to get viewers. They don’t care about human feelings. Who cares about other people’s feelings as long they are sensational news, right?????!!!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Nammal ariyathe nammude kuttikal"

A couple of weeks back, the ‘leading’ Malayalam daily – Malayala Manorama had published a series of articles about the degeneration of moral values of the present generation. In one of the issues the reporters had asked parents and teachers to contribute their opinions and suggestions about this article.

I was shocked to read the articles but is not sure whether to believe it or not as I have lost faith in the mass media. They will publish any news without looking into facts. When I went through the article I felt sorry that the society has degenerated to the extent that even babies were not spared from sexual assault.

My opinion about the students and youngsters of the present day generation are:

1.) Their family: Family plays an important role in the character formation of the children. A couple of decades ago mothers were housewives and they could take care of their children. They had time to listen to their children’s stories. These days, majority of the women work. They don’t have time for their children. By the time they get back from work they are tired. Evenings are serial times and all mothers (majority of them) are glued in front of the idiot box. Even food is served in front of the TV. They get very little time to interact with their children.

2.) The faulty education system: The present education system is faulty and there is no doubt about that. Students are not allowed to be punished. They grow up in an atmosphere where his misbehavior has to be tolerated by the teachers. Even if they disobey the school rules, he can go scot free.

3.) Consumerism: Kerala is a consumer state and everything is valued in terms of money. Nobody cares any longer about family background, education or values. It all depends on the type of house you have, the cars you have (the bigger the car, the more privileged you are!!!), your bank balance, the acres of land you own, the gold and diamonds in your locker. This is injected in the minds of children. [I personally know a mother who tells her sons that they should wash their hands soon after food. It seems if their hands dry up before washing they won’t get dowry!!!!!!] What can you expect from a society like this???????

4.) Demonstration effect: Demonstration effect is another major problem seen among the lower classes. They try to imitate their rich friends. If they don’t have the source to buy ostentatious articles, they try to get it by hook or crook. Parents too are scared to deny the unwanted needs of children. Parents buy expensive mobile phones and bikes for their sons even when they cannot afford to buy it. They are forced to borrow money to meet the needs of their children.

5.) The newspapers and television channels: The newspapers and television channels play an important role in misleading children with their advertisements. Haven’t we seen ads about contraceptives???? A mother is advising her daughter to use i-pills to prevent pregnancy!!!!! Doesn’t this encourage girls to have pre-marital sex???????

6.) The media is forever in the forefront to attack teachers. For every little thing that a teacher does, the media is out to attack them. A fortnight back, a leading Malayalam newspaper published a piece of news – a teacher cut a students hair because he kept it long. Why should such news be published????? When a student is in a school he is bound to follow the dress code. No teacher will like to teach a student who is dressed in an immodest way. I know many boys who keep ‘pigtails’. It is sick!!!! There are also boys who wear low waist pants and cholie like shirts. Their inner wear is exposed to the rest of the class!!!! Do you think this is acceptable in a co-educational institution??????? As long as there is a dress code in any institution, one has to follow it. If not, they will be punished. The media don’t have to publish such trivial things. Another instance where the media created a lot of unwanted controversy was the incident at a school in Trivandrum where teachers checked for mobile phones. The media went to exaggerate that the teachers stripped students to see if they had mobile phones and a girl attempted suicide. Did the media ever make an enquiry into the antecedents of the girl?????? Did they enquire if students were trying to vent out their anger or were there others who were behind this issue???? Nothing was done and so easily the teachers were crucified for trying to correct the students. The very same media comes out with their ‘findings’ that mobile phones play a very important role in sex rackets!!!!! Teachers do get information about students’ behaviour, if they are bringing mobile phones to school or if they are going out with others. It is on these bases that raids are conducted. The students are too clever that they remove their SIM cards and keep the phones hidden. They go to toilets to make phone calls. After that incident, we teachers are very careful not to even touch a student. If we are out to correct them on moral issues, it will be hazardous to our own health.

I think parents and teachers have to give importance to the character formation of students. If a child is found to be going astray the parents should keep a watchful eye on them. They should inform the teachers about it so that even they can be careful. Teachers too can inform parents about it. Many a time, parents support their children if teachers tell them about their ward. They will not accept that their child is wrong until they completely go out of control and are in deep trouble. If a teacher is involved in a sexual offence he/she should be dismissed from service.

The media should stop giving undue importance to school issues. They should not publish baseless news. Remember that students were punished even before but never did parents question the teachers nor did the media interfere unnecessarily.

The government should make amendments in the constitution so that the culprits are given the highest punishment. There should be no party interference in letting the wrong doers go free. Tainted ministers and party workers should be banned for life in contesting in elections and they should also be punished just like any citizen of the country. The police should also be efficient with no criminal history. There are many a time when I have longed for efficient police officers [like Suresh Gopi’s roles] with no political affiliations.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Teachers - Are we sculptors or destroyers??????

I was chatting with my best friend a few days back. As we were chatting one of her statement struck me. She told me that it was a teacher who could motivate a student or de-motivate a student. Then she added that we should have reached great heights if it were not for our teachers. I was thinking of that the whole night and I felt that it was very true.

At the time we studied there were just four schools that followed the ICSE curriculum, here in Trivandrum. We studied in one of these schools – an ancient convent school. I hate to think of those days. The snobbish mentality of nuns, the arrogant teachers and most of all, the partiality of nuns and teachers made life miserable in that school. The only good memory of school was the good friends – with whom I lost touch in course of time.

There were many occasions that I have prayed fervently. The only thing I used to ask God was to take Sr. Brida’s life so that we students could be left at peace. She was a nasty nun….. She scorned all Malayalees. I’m not sure from where she hailed – was it Goa or was she an East Indian????? She would cringe in front of Anglo – Indians and foreigners. She was good at remembering our surnames. We were addressed as, “u Nair girl, u Gomez girl, u Pereira girl, u Menon girl” and so on.

She was indeed a devil’s disciple. The only good thing in our school was that we were spared the rod – the main reason was that a little boy in a Jesuit school in Trivandrum had lost his eye sight due to a teacher’s whacking. But Sr. Brida could leash out her tongue in a manner that could directly stab one’s individuality and one’s morale.

In one of my earlier posts,“Deshadaanakikkal Karayarilla”
I had mentioned how this nun harassed me. It was indeed a terrible phase of my life.

One of my uncles bought me two pendent – one of Buddha’s and the other of Nataraja from Madras [present Chennai]. It was made of cast iron and it was normally worn around the neck with a black thread. It was indeed two beautiful pendants. As I was never a religious person I did not mind wearing a Buddha or Nataraja around my neck. Sr. Brida seeing the Buddha’s pendant around my neck screamed, “Sisterrrr, this Catholic girl is wearing all Hindu things around her neck.” She came to the most absurd conclusion that I was having a Hindu boyfriend!!!!!! In a secular country like India, didn’t one have the freedom to do what ever he/she wanted??????
One bad thing about our school was all importance was given only to the brilliant students. The mediocre students were ignored. The Principal and teachers had the false notion that only the brilliant students were good in everything while the others were good for nothing. This notion continues even today in that school!!!!!
There is an instance in that school that has hurt me very much. It was at the time of our ICSE model examination. On that day we had Biology practical. That incident is still vivid in my mind. The question was to cut a tomato horizontally and draw the inside of a tomato. In my nervousness I cut thee tomato vertically and started drawing the picture. Immediately, my Biology teacher came to me and asked me if I read the question. I just looked up at her and then to the board. I realized my mistake. I stopped drawing the picture and went on to do the next experiment. A teacher from the UP section started ‘barking’ (she was literally doing that.) saying that I was good at disobeying the teachers and she was very generous in showering abuses at me. I felt humiliated and I felt I didn’t have to tolerate the humiliation of an UP teacher who didn’t teach me. I just threw down the test-tube holder in my hand which landed on the floor and walked out of the lab much before the exams got over. I could hear teachers saying, “Bold girl, arrogant girl,” and a whole lot of adjectives with that ‘girl’. I went back to my class and cried uncontrollably. The next day the teachers gave us a sent off party. I boycotted it. I failed for all subjects – thanks to their vengeances. What hurt me most were the remarks that were written on my model exam answer scripts. I will not forget what my Biology teacher wrote on my answer script – “continue to be proud, haughty and disobedient, you will do much better!” Every one wrote rude remarks. It definitely demoralized me.
The only person who gave me constant encouragement was our Principal. She used to call me to her office and say, “Xina , you are very intelligent. Why are you not putting in an effort?” Then she could go to say, “You know, Gracy and Rachel are duffers, but they are hardworking, whereas you are intelligent but very lazy.” She was behind me and finally I managed to score decent marks for my ICSE examination. Probably she was the only person who encouraged me in my school days and I am thankful to her for that.
It is very easy for teachers to demoralize students with their words and deeds. Teachers are like sculptors who can mould students in good human beings or they can destroy the lives of students.
This Biology teacher and I worked together after a decade!!!! She was also my daughter’s teacher in the kindergarten!!!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"“Nere chowe veetil valarthathu konda ingane azhinjadi nadakunathu.”

The other day my daughter told me that a ‘famous’ Malayalam poet had visited her college and her remark was, “I somehow did not like him. He is a hypocrite.”
I told her that he was indeed a hypocrite as I knew him since my college days.

I studied in Mar Ivanios College nearly 25 years ago. This poet was teaching there at that time. To be truthful, I had never heard of this poet (or was he a novelist????). My second language was French and since I had no touch with Malayalam I was not aware of the existence of a literary figure in college.

It was at that time that I contested in the college union elections. It was a regular practice for candidates to go to classes and ask for votes. Along with my friends and party workers I went from class to class asking for votes. I went to a class and one Sir did not allow me to enter his class. As I walked out, he passed a comment. He said, “Mudi yum vetti, kutti udupum ittu kure society ladiesnte makkal ivide padikundu. Nere chowe veetil valarthathu konda ingane azhinjadi nadakunathu” (“There are some society ladies’ children who comes with short dress and hair. It is because they are not properly brought up that they are going around like this.”)

I felt terribly bad. It was a big crime to call a woman a “society lady” in those days. Society ladies were ones who went to clubs, stayed late nights in clubs and had loose morals. That idiot had called my mother a “society lady” when she hated clubs and parties. I was really angry. I would have really shot him if I were not a student of that college.

My friends told me that he was a great figure and that a book of his was made into a movie. I was not the least bit bothered of what his position in the society was. I felt that he was a creep. His words kept haunting me.

The next year his daughter joined our college as our junior. She was a huge girl who wore short skirts and kept her hair short. I was shocked when one of my friends told me that it was his daughter. How could he use that sort of a language on me when he had a daughter who was worse than me??????!!!!! She looked vulgar in those short clothes as she was overweight. I understood why he passed that remark on me. Probably his wife was a society lady who had no time for his children. He must have been a frustrated man and showed his frustration on a student of that college assuming that all who wore frocks were children of society ladies.

The best thing that happened to him was that his daughter eloped with a classmate of mine. I have deep sympathies for my friend for getting a father-in-law like him. When I heard that news the first thing that came to my mind was the same words he told me, “nere chowe veetil valarthathu konda ingane azhinjadi nadakunathu.”

[I know it is wrong to put a post like this. The wound that he inflicted on me hasn’t healed till date.]

Friday, July 15, 2011

Whom are you trying to convince????????

I was forced to write this because of an article by a blogger in Jalakam Aggregator.

The blogger has claimed “വിദ്യാലയങ്ങളില് നിന്ന് മറ്റ് വിദ്യാലയങ്ങളിലേക്ക് കുട്ടികളെ കൊണ്ടുപോകുന്നതടക്കമുള്ള കൃത്രിമം തടയാന് ഏകദിന വെരിഫിക്കേഷന് കൊണ്ട് കഴിയുമെന്നാണ് അധികൃതരുടെ വിശ്വാസം.”

I wonder if this blogger is living in a fool’s paradise or is he feigning to be ignorant of the fact that cheating takes place in many schools. All the small built boys and girls from the higher secondary section are sent to the school section. They are given uniforms by the school authorities (Headmaster/ headmistress). The higher secondary students sit in high school classes for the day. I saw teachers bringing students from one class, made them jump through the windows and asked them to sit in certain classes. Here, this blogger claims that no cheating takes place!!!!!! A classic example of hypocritism!!!!!

Teachers who are supposed to set an example for students teach them to cheat. The reason behind it is to protect their teaching post. It is because of the helplessness of the teachers that they are forced to do it. What irritates me is that certain bloggers sings praise for the prevailing system of education and claims that everything done in a fair way!!!!!! How long can you people throw dust into people’s eyes???????

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What a selfish breed!!!!!!

I was transferred to a distant school at the beginning of this academic year. The school is around 30kms away from my house and it is a typical coastal village with no much development. I was shocked when I heard about my transfer and was even more shocked when I heard that 99% of the teachers were transferred to distant schools and the aim of the manager unknown. All that we could analyze was that the management derived some sort of a sadistic pleasure in creating inconvenience to majority of the teachers.

I joined school on the re-opening day itself. The Principal was a very selfish lady who had been into a lot of controversial issues and she was the last person I wanted to work with. She is a person of beauty but not of any quality. I cursed my stars and started working.

The second day was terribly disappointing. I went to class. I introduced myself. First I spoke to them in English. Fifty pairs of eyes were blinking at me. I repeated what I had said in Malyalam and then was response from the class. I decided not to teach them that day.

“Take out a piece of paper, please,”

Again there was no response and everyone was gaping at me. Once again I had to repeat it in Malayalam. I think my tone had changed. Immediately students took out a piece of paper. I asked them to write down their name, address and other personal details. I got to know the students.

I spent a sleepless night. I was going to teach a class who did not know even the simplest English sentences. I decided that I would teach them in ‘Manglish’.

The next morning I went to school. The first hour was mine. I started teaching them the basic concepts of my subject. Students looked at each other and became restless as I started teaching them. One girl had the courage to stand up and say,

“Njangalku English ariyilla. Malayalathil padipikanam.” [We don’t know English. You have to teach us in Malayalam]. I thought she had a Tamil accent in her Malayalam.

“Ningale kazhinja varsham teacher eganeya padipiche????? English l alle????” [“How did the teacher teach you last year????? Wasn’t it in English????”] I asked

“Teacher Malayalam text vayichu padipikumayirunu” [“The teacher used to read out from the Malayalam text and then teach], the girl replied.

My face flushed with anger. I sternly told her that the medium of instruction is English and so I would use English as well as Malayalam. I told them that there was no question of me reading out a Malayalam text to teach them. I had my own way to teach them. I told them if they had any complaints they could complain about me to the Principal or to the Manager.

I saw the frustration on the students’ faces. I decided that I was not going to give in. I knew it could be difficult but I was adamant. This particular school had the best result for the Higher Secondary Examination March 2011and the students here claim that none of them wrote their examinations in English and they were taught completely in Malayalam!!!!! I was angry with the teachers. Did they not have the responsibility to teach these students in English??????? When NCERT text was prescribed for all subjects, how come they buy Malayalam texts for students?????? How come they read out what is in the text instead of teaching?????? And finally they achieve the best results when their quality was miserable. What an irony?????!!!!!!

I strongly feel that results should not the ultimate aim of a teacher. It is the duty of a teacher to bring about an overall development in the students. Is it not selfish on the part of teachers to teach students only in Malayalam with an aim of getting 100% results????? How can these students survive the next year in college??????? It is here that the students realize that they are a big zero.

Students admitted to the Plus one are a class of unbaked students. 95% of them don’t understand English nor do they know how to read in English. It is a laborious task teaching them but by the second year they start following what is said in class. I really don’t understand the logic behind teaching only in Malayalam. 99% of the teachers don’t teach their own children in local schools. They are sent to other streams like ISC, CBSE or to English medium schools. It is very difficult for students from government and aided Malayalam medium schools to fare well in interviews. I feel it is the responsibility of the teachers to teach them English in schools itself. This is not happening in many schools.
When I argued that students should learn how to speak in English, a teacher asked me,

“Alla, evare English padipichu IAS kar aakano????” [Are you planning to make them IAS officers by teaching them English????]

After all they are the children of the poor and they don’t need a foreign language to work as manual labourers, right??????!!!! What a selfish breed!!!!!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Are traffic rules different for different people???????

I received a letter from the Motor Vehicles' Department saying that I violated the traffic rule of jumping the amber light. The letter showed the number plate of my car. I paid a fine of Rs.500 for violating the traffic rule at the Cantonment Police Station.
I saw at least half a dozen of KSRTC buses jumping the red light that day.
My doubt is, will the police ever take action against the erring KSRTC buses?????? I have also seen State cars violating all traffic rules. Will the police department ever fine the ministers and all vehicles with 'Kerala State boards' who gives the scantiest respect for traffic rules????????

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Never let the curse of the poor fall on you!!!!

This is an incident which disturbed me very deeply.

The higher secondary admissions are going on for the past few days. Since Monday I have been seeing a mother coming to school regularly for her son’s admission. The boy had secured very low marks and he did find a place in neither the allotment list nor the community quota. She is a very poor, widowed fishmonger. The first time she came into the office (she literally barged in), there was a whiff of foul odour. It was then I noticed her She was dressed in a lungi and a blouse. She was a dark, oily skinned, muscular woman with scales of fishes here and there on her hair and arms. It looked as though she had come straight from the market even without washing herself.

“Ente mon pathaam class vere ivied padichatha. Avanu seat illa enu” (“My son studied here till class X. It seems he doesn’t have a seat”), she said in a high-pitched irritated voice.

The Principal told her mildly that her son had low grades and it was not possible to admit him as his rank was very low in the community waiting list. This provoked the mother and she started arguing saying that he should be admitted as he did secure admission elsewhere. As she was illiterate and ignorant about the admission procedures we thought it was best to follow the principle - silence is golden, if not it would be ‘injurious to our health’.

One of the teachers pacified her and asked to wait for a few more days. Since then, every afternoon she would come after her work and wait patiently outside the office till 4:00pm. Then she would beg for a seat. I felt sorry for her but there was nothing we would do to help her. She would go back weeping and I would feel very miserable. She said her husband had died and she was the sole earning member of her family. She had a son and a daughter who were students.

Last evening the Principal told her to contact the manager of the school as he was the only person who could help her. Today, she back by noon weeping bitterly. She wanted to borrow money from the Principal. It seems the manager wanted a hefty sum (in five figures for Class XI admission!!!!) as donation for her son’s admission. I was shocked to see the mother begging for the money. She was weeping, wiping her tears and talking and sighing. She said that she would return the money by evening. Our Principal was good enough to lend her the sum.

The mother did keep her promise and came back at 3:15pm and returned the sum she had borrowed. She pawned her daughter’s earrings and borrowed the rest from someone to raise this money. She said that in spite of telling the priest her background, he was adamant that this mother had to pay the sum for her son’s admission. I was irritated when I heard that. Majority of priests in our management are children of the fishermen community and they come from very poor backgrounds. It is sad that they forget their past once they become a priest. They forget that their parents too must have wept in front of others for money and they also forget the vow of poverty that they took.

What is the point of managing church school if it is not for the upliftment of the poor and needy????? We need humane priests and not ‘Shylock s’. I am sure that the tears this mother will definitely be a curse this priest.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Today is the third week of June, and it is being celebrated as the Father’s Day. In the morning as I was going through ‘The Hindu’, I happened to see two articles about the love of fathers. It was only then I remembered that it was a day for fathers. My daughter wished my husband a happy Father’s Day and turned to me and asked, “Did you wish ‘your father’????????

“Ah, no”, I replied casually.

I did not wish my Dad as it was not prevalent in our times and I have never wished him till date. Why should I wish him????? Was I ever close to him?????? I thought about my father for sometime.

My Dad is a self- made man. He has no great lineage to claim of. He went abroad at a very young age and it was from there he made his fortune. He studied abroad for a while before he started working.

He was a man of good looks. He was handsome and used to look like one of the film stars of the yesteryear s. Thanks to his good looks, he never had a dearth for women. He loved good food and strongly believed in the principle, “variety is the spice of life.” Whatever be his vices, we never lacked in anything. He gave us(children) all that we wanted. At some point of time, we were sent to India. It was from then on we started drifting away from him.

When he came back to India to settle down, I had great difficulty in adjusting with him. I was closer to my mum and so were my brother and sister. My Dad used to get irritated with us. He was very particular about our studies. He spent lakhs of rupees on our education. He used to strut around saying that his children were highly qualified. (He had no idea that people in Kerala were highly educated!!!!!)

He was an unsuccessful businessman. He lost most of his money in unwise business. He used to believe every Tom, Dick and Harry. It took sometime for him to realize that he was bankrupt. Now, the once millionaire is in his ripe old age is living at the mercy of his children.

Though I am not very close to my Dad, I quite often think that it was just because of him that I could enjoy the entire good thing in life. At the time when not much people knew about Chanel or Christian Dior or Elizabeth Arden, we had those beauty products and perfumes. He always believed in quality. When I passed my Class IX, my Dad presented me with a Longines watch. I never knew the value of the watch. Though my Dad told me it was an expensive watch and it was made of 18K gold, I never believed him. I only knew about Rolex, Omega, Citizen and Seiko but not a Longines. I behaved like a step mother and treated the watch badly. I took care of my Seiko watch but never did I care about this Longines. It was only a decade ago that I knew about the cost of Longines. It was then I realized that what Dad had said was true.

It is only because of my Dad that I’m enjoying all good things in life. Though I like him at heart, it is very difficult for me to show him my love and concern. At times I feel that I should come out of this mental block, but some how it doesn’t work for me. I am not sure how long he may live. I hope I can be my natural self with Dad. Though Father's Day is a creation of card companies, I think it is a good idea. At least once in a way we can think about our fathers fondly.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Finally back home!!!

It was a very long journey from Amritsar to Kurukshetra. We reached Kurukshetra around 3 pm. Before getting out of the bus, the guide gave us a strict instruction that everyone were to return by 4:30pm. The reason he cited was that our flight was at 2am and so we had to reach Delhi in time. All of us went dispersed and moved in different groups. Jenny and I were together.

I felt insecure in Kurukshetra. We had to walk through a long hall (or was it a waiting shed???) where there were both men and female sanyasis. They were a filthy lot. (I am sorry if I hurt any one’s sentiments.) I felt Captain Jack Sparrow in ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ was far cleaner than the sanyasis here. We could find hundreds of Purohits and Pandas sleeping on the floor. There were many women priests too. Many were awake and some sort of fright seized me. I did not go around much. There was a bronze statue of Krishna and Arjuna on a chariot where Krishna is giving upadeshas (advices) to Arjuna.

The Brahma Sarover is the biggest tank in India. It is 1.2 kms long and 640 meters in breadth. The tank looked very clean and I wonder why these sanaysis did not even bother to wash themselves there.

There is an island in the Brahmo Sarover where there is a temple of Sarveshwar Mahadev

The photograph shows the mandir at Kurukshetra. I went there, clicked a few photographs and left the place. We came out and had tea from an eatery. We bought some souvenirs from Kurukshetra. I wanted to buy rudraksham but the Brahmins in our group discouraged that saying they were not original ones. We came back to or bus around 4pm. None of the others had come back after the darshan.

It was very hot. The driver switched on the air conditioner for us. Our driver did not know any other language other than Hindi. Even after 5pm nobody had come. The driver told us that we were the only two people who were always punctual. The guide was getting irritated while I was getting tensed. Around 5:15 everyone arrived and the bus set off to Delhi.

We reached Delhi around 9:30pm. They dropped Jenny and me at their hotel in Delhi. As our flight was delayed, we decided to leave the hotel at 2 am. They gave us a room in the ground floor. After a short nap, we left for the airport. Our flight was delayed again. We had to wait for another two hours before we could check in.

I was still wearing the kara. My luggage showed excess weight of 9 kilos. The man at the counter was a Sikh. He looked and gave me a sweet smile. He did not charge me of any excess luggage. Jenny was teasing me saying that he must have mistaken me for a Sikh. From Delhi Jenny and I were taking different flights. I took the Cochin flight. I boarded the flight and went off to sleep. When the flight touched the runway at Nedumbassery I woke up. I was happy to get back to Kerala after the adventurous trip to Kashmir. Even today, people raise their eyebrows when they hear that we went alone to Kashmir.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

At the Golden Temple

Amritsar is a big city. There are shops, big and small, on either side of the road. Our bus stopped at a hotel which was clean and looked like a three star hotel. We were provided clean rooms and that was indeed a relief. After a wash, I jumped into my bed and fell asleep in no time.

The next morning we woke up early as we had to go to the Golden temple. Our guide asked us to dress up early and that we had to leave by 6:30 am. We left after a cup of coffee from the restaurant.

The bus stopped at the parking place. A number of horse carriages could be seen. We had to take the carriage to go to the Golden Temple.

The carriage stopped around a junction and we had to walk it down to the Golden Temple. There were shops on either side of the road. The road leading to the temple is narrow. In spite of narrow roads there were shops on either side of that narrow road. We entered the temple and we had to leave our footwear in a counter. The guide then told us that we had to keep our heads covered inside the shrine. At the entrance, there was a small place where we had to wash our feet before entering the shrine.

As I entered the shrine a loud voice stopped me. The man was a huge sized Sikh who said something in Hindi looking at me. The guide asked me to cover my head with my dupatta. Though I had covered my head, the dupatta had slipped off. As my hair is very short and silky, the dupatta couldn’t stay intact. After that I was very cautious to see that my dupatta was in place.

The causeway to Hari Mandir is of marble. There is a big tank called Sarovar which is said to be fed by an underground spring. The causeway encircles the Harimandir and the tank. Hundreds of pilgrims come here every day. There were Sikhs at regular intervals holding a long javelin sort of thing. They are supposed to keep watch of the temple. It was very colourful to see Sikhs wearing colourful turbans. It was a long walk from the clock tower to Hari Mandir. The entire region is clean and the atmosphere serene and pious. Photography is prohibited at the shrine.

The temple is made of gold. There were Sikhs inside the temple with their holy book, the Granth Sahib on a raised platform. There is a canopy above this. They wave a fan like thing called the ‘chaur’. It is treated with very much respect. I did not enter the gurudwara. I stood outside the shrine and watched it. It is a three storied building. I went around the other places.

Food was served at places. I heard a man saying that anyone could go to their dining hall for food. Jenny and I found a place where they were serving a kind of burfi rich in ghee. I had a pinch of what Jenny took from him. It was tasty.

We came out of the shrine and staright went for shopping. I bought the three K’s of the Sikhs. Though there are five K’s I could only buy three. The five K’s are

1. Kesh – The uncut hair of the Sikhs. (I always keep my hair very short)
2. Kanga – A wooden comb. I bought it though I don’t wear it.
3. Kara - An iron bangle. I bought it and wore it.
4. Kachera – It was an innerwear for men. It is worn by the Sikh soldiers. I didn’t buy it,coz it was of no use to me.
5. Kripan – A small dagger worn by Sikhs. I bought the original kripan. There were Kripans imported from China which was relatively cheaper.

The Sikhs also had a kind of bangle with beads. They said it was used for prayers. I bought it too. We came out of the building and walked straight to Jallianwalah Bagh. We had to walk in between two buildings which was a very narrow lane.

Very frankly, there was nothing much to see here except for the martyr’s well where many people fell when Gen. Dyre opened fire on 20,000 people on 1919 and a memorial built in memory of the massacred people.

The main street is a typical Indian town with lots of people and unhygienic surroundings. I saw big pots of curd outside many shops. They sold lassi which was a sweetened curd.

After breakfast we left Amritsar for Kurukshetra

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Women are indeed a weaker sex!!!

Since we had reached early that evening, Jenny and I decided to go to exploring the Dal Lake region. There were shops all around the lake. We went to a Punjabi restaurant for dinner. We met the same family from Pondicherry at the restaurant. We had dinner together. We decided to go shopping. There was a shop attached to this restaurant. As it was a Punjabi shop I decided to try my luck to find ready made kurtas for my size. The salesman happily showed me good embroidered kurtas. He was particular that I had to try it out and he showed me the trial room and kept on pestering me to try it on. I have the habit of looking around before entering any room. The main reason is that I am scared of cockroaches and spiders. This was a small room under the staircase. There were a number of steel cupboards with mirrors. Since it was night I scanned the place. I entered the room and as I started to change, I noticed there was a small hole on the wall. I looked closely and realized there was a lens of the camera. I jumped out of the room and told Jenny that I didn’t want the kurta. She looked at me puzzled and asked,

“Xina, what is wrong?”

I am not sure if my face showed the fright.

“Come, we’ll go,” I turned and walked off and she followed me.

The salesman was talking to me in Hindi and I in my broken Hindi told him that I didn’t want it. Jenny was all confused. She kept on asking me why I was not buying the kurta. As I got out of the shop, I told her that there was a camera in the changing room. We were not in a position to create a scene as it was an alien land with an alien language. Above that, anything could happen to us if we were to create a problem.

I thanked my stars for protecting me from the biggest danger. I cannot imagine what would have happened if I didn’t notice it. My pictures or video would have been in the internet. Imagine students seeing their teacher's video or photograph!!! I was terribly disturbed and Jenny tried consoling me. This was one bad experience I had to undergo in that beautiful valley.

Next morning we were leaving Srinagar. So we had to pack up our bags and get ready. We left for Pahalgam. As it was not cold in the mornings I went out as usual. The journey to Pahalgam was very scenic. There was a river flowing on the one side of the road. Tourists could be seen on the sides of the road stopping by the river. It is from here that Hindu devotees went for Amarnath Yatras.

As we got out of the bus, there was a slight drizzle and the chilly wind made me shiver. I knew I could not withstand the cold without a sweater or a shawl. I pulled out a shawl from my suitcase and covered myself. Still I was shivering and could feel my jaws grinding against each other. We straight away got into a restaurant and ordered for hot tea. We also had our breakfast from there. By then I was feeling quite okay and could move. We walked down the valley. The lush grassland was beautiful. We went around shopping for the typical Kashmiri stuff. I bought a few chains and Kashmiri handicrafts for my daughter and myself.

We then went around the town. We wanted to have quaha before we left Kashmir valley. We asked a shopkeeper, from whom we bought almonds about quaha. He said he would make for us. Though we refused, he said we were his guests and rang up his wife and gave her instructions. Though we were feeling bad, he kept on talking to us and was very happy to learn that we were from Kerala. Finally our quaha arrived and he was very happy to see us enjoy the quaha.

The Kashmiris are nice people. There may be terrorism but the majority of them are good and very hospitable unlike us. They are sad that the media has always been rude to them by giving unwanted importance to the trivial problems there. One can see the army and police all around the place. Though initially I was a bit scared, I got used to it in course of time.

The Border Road Organisation (BRO) maintains the roads all over the Kashmir Valley. The signboards are indeed humorous and thought provoking. There were many signboards but a few that I managed to take down was

“Simplicity is the peak of civilization”

“Be gentle on my curves”…..This was a classic signboard by the BRO.

From Pahalgam we left for Kud. On the way the bus stopped at Patnitop. Willows were seen in plenty. We reached Kud in the evening. It was a great disappointment to find our hotel room. It was not at all clean. The door was not safe. The lamps did not work. Bed sheets were dirty. We complained that we wanted the bed sheets changed and the receptionist said he could send a boy.

Jenny and I went out for dinner. The place was not at all clean. The roads were narrow and big trucks moved up and down. The people there were mainly the labour class and so their behaviour was unrefined. We went to an over crowded restaurant for dinner. There they were frying fresh jellebies. I bought some to give my family members. The soan papadi was excellent. It was crisp and it melted into my mouth. It was indeed yummy!!!

By the time we got back, it was time to go to bed. I changed into my night wear. It was a deep pink knee length one piece night dress. Jenny wanted the sheets changed. I called for the boy. When he came with the sheets I opened the door for him. He raped me with his looks. He came in and on purpose he rubbed against me. While going out again he did the same. He came back knocking saying he wanted to replace the bulb. I asked Jenny to deal with that man and I went into the blanket. I realized that women were indeed a weaker sex when compared to men. In many places even if you wanted to react to sexual violence it was not possible. In a strange land with strange people and an alien language, a woman is totally helpless. I spent a sleepless night. I wanted to get back to my family.

Next morning, after breakfast we left to Wagah Border. It was a long journey from Kud.

The bus stopped near a shop and the guide told us we could buy cricket bats from the shop. He said the cricket bats were made in J&K state and it was very cheap. The children jumped out and their parents followed them. They came back as proud owners of the big bats and tiny bats.

The NH 1A highway was indeed excellent. When we reached Lakhanpur, the guide told us we were out of J&K state.

I got hold of my mobile phone. For nearly a week I was depending on the public call office to keep in touch with my family. Once we reached the town, both my dead phones became active. I immediately called home. Then I sent sms to my friends. I started feeling good. Jenny was telling me that my face was beaming with joy.

There were vast stretches of agricultural land on either sides of the highway. In the middle of the road laburnum was in full bloom. The NH 47 in Kerala is not even one-fourth the size of the Punjab- Haryana’s NH 1A. There were neither pot holes nor any traffic blocks. The journey was a very smooth one. The best thing about this highway was there were petrol bunks at regular intervals and toilet facilities were available at all these filling stations.

We reached Wagah Border around 3 pm. We had a cup of coffee from one of the eateries. We walked up to the border. It is a long walk from the parking area to the border.

Some problem had occurred to my camera and I had to take photographs with my mobile phones. As we walked we saw Pakistan territory. It was a nice feeling to see their territory. It was very hot and there was no much crowd at the time we arrived.

We sat on one the steps of the gallery. It was very hot that I felt that my bottom was getting baked. We did not have an umbrella. All of a sudden there was a surge of people and the place became crowded.

There were people from various strata and their patriotism could be seen.

The other side of the gate is Pakistan and even there people came to watch the ceremony

The soldiers warned the people not to shout slogans against Pakistan. They asked the mob to behave decently. I could see soldiers with a head dress similar to the ones worn by the waiters at the Indian Coffee House.

The Wagah Border ceremony began just before sunset. The Border Security Force organizes the ceremony. It is called the ‘lowering of the flag’ ceremony. I had never seen soldiers parade. The orderly and stately parade was a sight indeed!!! Even on the other side Pakistani soldiers have the same ceremony. Both sides have rigorous marching. At sunset the gates are opened and the flags lowered and folded. The soldiers of both sides shake hands and finally the gate is locked. This parade is a routine everyday.

After the parade we walked to the parking area where our bus was parked. It was already getting late. The bus set off to Amritsar.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I was thoroughly disappointed

The next morning I woke up early, dressed up and was ready to go downstairs. We were told to have breakfast and go to the bus which was parked on the main road. We went to the same restaurant where we went for dinner. To be on the safer side, we had toast for breakfast. The tea was excellent. I don’t like tea, but since I was in Kashmir I decided to have tea. Different flavours of tea were available. I decided to drink tea till I left Srinagar. I liked the tea that was served in Kashmir.

We had to walk through a lane to reach the bus that was parked on the side of the Dal Lake. The lane leading to the Dal Lake was filthy. There was a big dustbin, like the ones we have in Kerala, and we had to cover our nose while passing that way. There was waste strewn all over the road. For the first time I saw the houseboats on the Dal Lake. There were a number of house boats on the lake. Though according to the itinerary we were to go to Gulmarg it was rescheduled. Our guide told us that the army men took their families to Gulmarg on Sunday and so the place would be crowded.
Our guide, Mr.Jain told us that we could visit the Shalimar and Nishath Gardens and in the afternoon we could go for a shikara ride at the Dal Lake.

Our guide told us that there was a temple called Sankaracharya Temple and it was a place where he mediated. The Guide told us that we had to pay an extra amount to see that place. As it was a Sunday, my friend Jenny did not want to go to a temple, instead she wanted to go to a church. Our group members went to the temple. Our guide hired an autorikshaw for us to go to a near by church. The auto driver was a handsome young guy who happily spoke to us in Hindi. He kept telling us it was a beautiful place and he would take us around Srinagar. Since we were to reach with an hour to join our group, we politely refused his offer.

The church a small one and there were people scattered here and there. I prayed for some time and got out. It had a lovely garden in front and flowers were really big and nice. We came out of the church and took some photographs. Our rickshaw driver happily posed for us for a photograph. He told us that his engagement was over. He wanted to take us to his house for a cup of tea. We politely told him that we had to get back in time and we were happy that he offered us the cup of tea. He then took us to J&K Handloom shop. He told us that clothes were cheaper here. We bought a few Kashmir Silk saris and embroidered churidhars.

We reached near Dal Lake and our group was waiting for us. There were armed soliders and we asked them if they could pose for us and they did. We soon left for Nishat Gardens.
Nishat and Shalimar Gardens are also known as the Mughal Gardens. The Mughal rulers developed Kashmir as their summer resort to enjoy the salubrious climate. One can see the Himalyan range just behind the garden. The gardens were in full bloom and the roses were really big. I have never seen such big roses. There were flowers of various hues and varieties.

After visiting the gardens we went out shopping. There were almonds and walnuts in plenty. I bought a few kilos of each to gift relatives. Saffron was also available but it was very expensive. I bought a few grams of saffron too. We had lunch and then we went for the shikar ride. This is a part of the shikars on the Dal Lake.

The trip to the Dal Lake was a memorable one. There were four of us in a shikar. The family from Pondicherry joined us. The shikar wallah was a friendly person. He kept explaining to us about each thing on the lake. He showed us the floating garden on the lake. The most interesting thing was that there were floating shops. The shops were in boats and we could buy things from these boats. They followed the shikars to sell their wares. They had the unique Kashmiri trinkets. I bought a few trinkets for my daughter.
There was also a floating restaurant at the Dal Lake in Char Chinar It was a houseboat and here is the picture of it.

There was a big silver kettle at the restaurant

This restaurant is parked next to the Char Chinar. Char Chinar is an island in the Dal Lake. There are four chinar tree here and people relax under these chinar trees. I took a leaf from the chinar tree to keep it as a memoir of our trip to Kashmir.

The shikarwallah also showed us the Hazratbal Shrine on the western shore of The Dal Lake. After our shikar ride we thanked our shikarwallah and came out. Our day’s sight seeing was over. We did a bit of shopping.

The next morning we set off to Gulmarg. Though we had enough woolen clothing, the Guide said it was not enough and we could get woolen clothing and shoes on rent. It was a 55 kms ride by bus. We could see snow clad mountains. I cannot tell you how happy I felt. Never in my life have I experienced snow.

The very feeling of going to the snow was like a dream come true. The roads were curvy with wonderful scenery.

We reached a small little village were there was a array of shops. It was here that we had to borrow jackets and gum boots. Very truthfully saying I was against the idea of borrowing coats and shoes. I felt it was an unhygienic thing to do. The guide told me that the climate in Gulmarg was unpredictable. It would sometimes be too cold that we may not be able to withstand the low temperature. Finally I gave in and borrowed the woolen jacket and gum boots with socks. I was feeling very uncomfortable.

When we reached Gulmarg, a whole lot of people (Khodawallah according to our guide) crowded our bus asking if we wanted a pony ride. Before alighting he told us that we had to be very careful about our handbags and our belongings as there were chances of pick pocketing. It was a very long walk from the bus stop to the cable car. The cable car was called the Gulmarg Gondola. Gulmarg is in Kongdoor Mountain.

There was a long queue to enter the cable car. It was more than half an hour wait. Finally we got into the cable car and started our way on top of the Kongdoor Mountain. We passed through a small settlement. The houses (huts) were quite different here. All huts had flat roof and it was plastered with clay

I guess it was constructed this way to protect them from the extreme cold. Probably it acted as insulation for the people.

When we got out of the cable car and went closer to the snow, it was a terrible disappointment. It was not the white snow that I had expected. The snow was a muddy colour, polluted by the people. Moss could be seen in the snow. We had to bargain with the sledge walah. The condition was that he could pull one person up the mountain and bring him/her back. We agreed for a ride for Rs.200 each. We had to sit with folded legs on the sledge and the man pulled us up. It was really a big strain for them to pull us up. I told him that I would walk up the mountain and he just had to bring me down. Coming down the sledge was even for funny. The sledge walah sat in front and I had to sit behind him with my legs over his thighs. We came down the mountain. It was indeed a real disappointment visiting Gulmarg. Over that it was too hot that we pulled out our jackets to find that we were drenched in sweat.

We went to a restaurant to have our lunch. The menu is as follows:

Maybe because we were teachers we noticed mistakes in the menu.

In the evening we went to our bus. Before getting into the bus, Jenny and myself went to a restaurant and had tea. When the owner knew that we had come from Kerala, he told us that we had to taste their special tea called Quaha (I’m not sure about the spelling). It was the yummiest beverage that I have had so far. It had a special flavour. It could have been a loss if I hadn’t heard about it or tasted it. In the evening we came back to our bus and reached our hotel at around 7pm after a hectic day. (To be contd...)

Monday, April 25, 2011

I fell in love with the valley

Katra is a very famous place and one can find many pilgrims bound to Vaishneo Devi Temple here. Though I have heard a lot about Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), it is the first time that I saw and felt their presences. There were small shrines and there were the saffron flags all over the place. There were a large number of shops, both big and small selling the holy things of the Hindus. I wanted to buy rudraksha but did not want to upset the sister who was with us. I decided to try buying it from Kashmir.

It took some time for the driver to find out the hotel where we were to stay. The hotel was called Hotel Siddartha. It was a moderately big one. The receptionist did not know English and we had a very hard time trying to make him understand that we were members the tour group. Finally he handed over the key of our room. It was an ordinary air conditioned room. We spent a sleepless night as we were to find out who our guide was and who the members of our group were.

Next morning we woke up early and dressed up and with our luggage we went to the reception waiting for our guide. At 7 am he came and met us. He was a short, stout middle aged man with a paunch. He had a thick moustache and took a middle parting. He was a typical Hindiwalah who spoke Hinglish. Initially it was very difficult to understand his accent. He told us that our bus was waiting outside the gate. Jenny and I walked out of the gate and we saw the mountain ranges. I was seeing the Himalayan mountain range with my own eyes. It was ecstatic!!!!! I had learnt that Himalyan ranges were divided to the Shiwaliks, the Lesser Himalyas and the Greater Himalayas. I guessed it would be the Lesser Himalayas. I asked the guide and he was ignorant about it.

Around 8:30 am every one got into the bus. The guide introduced us as “two teachers from Kerala.” Immediately, every one wished us a “good morning”. Everyone treated us with very much respect. They had some sort of fear in talking to us. Majority of them were Brahmins and they were traveling in groups. There were two families from Chennai – two brothers and their family, a big family from Andhra Pradesh, a retired couple from Pondicherry and two little boys with their grand parents. The bus was quite full. The guide kept announcing what we were going to do the next ten days. He said we were going to take the NH 1A to reach Srinagar.

The bus stopped at a restaurant which looked alright from out. Here is the photograph of that highway restaurant.

As we got inside an equal amount of houseflies were displaced. That restaurant was covered with houseflies. Not knowing what to do, we decided to go for toast. When breakfast was served, we were waving off the flies with our left hand and eating with our right hand. I literally swallowed the food with water. Somehow it was not going down my throat. I managed to finish eating and got out off the restaurant. The entire place looked very dry.

After breakfast the womenfolk from Andhra Pradesh tried talking to us. They had a number of questions to ask us. Some of the questions are as follows:

1. “Aar you teachers?”
2. “Whaare aar ‘euyver’ husbands?”
3. ‘How many children ‘yeu’ have?”
4. “Are you not scared to travel alone?”
5. “Are you sisters?”
6. “Why yeu join at Katra?”
7. “Yeu went to Vaishaneo Devi for Darshan,ah?”
8. “Why you not go, there?”
It seems that they were told that we were joining them after our darshan at Vaishneo Devi Temple. When we told them that we were Christians, they were shocked. After that the Andhra women kept away from us. Their husbands were friendly to us and the women did not encourage their friendliness.

Again the journey started. As we were going uphill, the scenery was wonderful. We were told that there would be a military convoy to follow our bus once we were nearing the Kashmir Valley. The bus had to stop for over two hours waiting for the military convoy

On the highway there were a number of vehicles of the army and CRPF jawans patrolling. The long winding roads, the mountain terrain, the gorges, the fir and pine trees were breath taking. In fact seeing the Himalyan mountain range was memorable.

I remember my Geography teacher in school telling us that the Himalayas were Fold Mountains. Now, I know what a Fold mountain is. I felt really happy.

The journey was not very pleasant as many started vomiting. The women in front could throw up and soon start eating again. Their men were there to make a big fuss and would ask the driver to switch off the A/C. The stench in the bus made other passengers also throw up. This continued for days together.

We crossed the Jawahar Tunnel or the Banihal Pass. It is a 2.5 kms long tunnel which was dug in 1959 and it connects Kashmir with the rest of the world. It is dug through the Pir Pangal Mountain. As we entered there was a board welcoming us to the Kashmir valley. We had finally entered the Kasmir Valley. Our bus stopped for tea at the Titanic View Point. One can see the snow clad mountains from far and tourists are not allowed at to this region. We took photographs at this place.

We got to see the Kashmiris. The men were handsome and the women beautiful.

We reached Srinagar at 7pm. It was not cold as we had expected. It was only cool. We stayed at an ordinary hotel. I felt insecure at that place. They did not serve food there. We had to go out to other hotels for food. The restaurant near our hotel was a small place and was not clean. We had mulli paratha (radish paratha) with dahi (curd). I found a telephone booth opposite to our hotel. The owner was a typical handsome Kashmiri and asked us how we liked the place. I told him that I had fallen in love with the valley. He told us that it was the media who created the entire problem in Kashmir. Actually there were no many problems in the valley. There are problems like in any other state but the media exaggerated the problems in Kashmir. He was a very friendly man.

After dinner we went back to our rooms. Our Guide told us that we were to be ready by 9am the next morning as we had to go sight seeing. As we were very tired we went off to sleep early.
(To be contd.....)