Conversation with God… an uncommon dialogue. Book Review

 

An astounding book with out of the box ideas and improbable possibilities…..

Last month was a time of uncanny paradoxes, while I took ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to bed with me, I woke up with Conversation with God, an uncommon dialogue. Anyone who has read both these books will agree they cannot be more paradoxical or unlike each other. One filled with dark carnal fantasies and the other with overwhelming spiritual awakening. In a way it was good that it happened that way… I could understand and appreciate each in respect to the other.

Having elaborately penned my views of ‘Fifty Shades… ‘, I thought I’d make it habit to chronicle what I am reading or learning in this blog. So here goes with ‘Conversation with God, an uncommon dialogue’…. Or CWG as the author lovingly likes to call it…

CWG, an uncommon dialogue by Neale Donald Walsh…

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The book is a dialogue between a man who has an immense emotional baggage that has worn him down much in life and an inner voice that identifies itself as god… no, really, God, yes.. its Him, the big man Himself.. …

Now, God has an important message to pass on to the human kind and is awaiting a listening ear. HE is disheartened at what they have brought down upon themselves in terms of their relationships with each other and with the environment and feels a prerogative to intervene through any soul that will abide. For better or worse, HE has chosen the author. The dialogue is that of a FAQ session. He asks and HE answers. The questions vary from what is death, to what is a soul, do alien’s exist, where in the universe is God, who is God, who are we, where are we and what are deja vus? The exchange is intense, exciting and embroiling. It is as difficult for the author to grasp what he proposes as it is for the readers, but then what he presents or rather God proposes is quite a fantastic motion. Implausible but nonetheless compelling and beautiful…

Here is what God aspires you to learn ;

  1. There is just one Being : That One Being is the supreme soul of which each of us is but a nib. Once upon a time, where there was no time, nor space, all there was, was the One Being who having been for a very long while needed to experience himself as all that HE is and all that HE can be. HE needed to feel the up from the down, the here from the there, the now from the then but there was no one to be all that with. So, HE disintegrated into a million little attributes. While some became here, some there, some up, some down, some big, some small, some good, some bad, some beautiful, some ugly, some matter, some energy…. And this way one attribute could experience himself completely in relation and comparision to another. This seems a bit incredulous but holds water, only having experienced hunger does one appreciate what a hearty meal does to your insides.
  2. cwg8Thought, Action and Being is the driving energy of the universe. Well, that’s not really original. With a number of theories floating around Law of Attraction, this one can fit in quite well. The author says that just as the universe was brought forth through only a Thought first so is everything else in the universe since. Even your own actions or future will begin with the Thought, hence he encourages you to control your thoughts and lead it to your destiny. One can do this by deciding ‘Who is he’ and ‘What does he choose to be’ in relation to the external catalyst. Before every thought or action, decide Who are you an choose a path accordingly. It’s amazing how well this works, I have started working on it and feel so much in charge of my emotions.
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3. It seems there is no divine plan for anyone here on earth. We have not come down here to live out a predestined story. We are only here to remember ‘Who we are’ and that is ‘a part of a divine whole’. We may choose to return here to remember just that again and again, to enjoy the journey of remembering and rejoicing in All that there is or we may return to the Whole and stay until we wish to experience a feeling of separateness or distinction by choosing an attribute to live out. Again, a very novel and wondrous idea. Explains a lot of paranormal and out of body experiences.

4. The author further extrapolates that there is life on other planets, some highly evolved in their observation of ‘What is’ and ‘What works’. These alien forms understand the Oneness of all the souls including the inanimate ones and acts only toward the betterment of the whole rather than the individual part. They will easily lay down their body if it is for the larger good. The theory seems to issue forth from traditional societies here itself on Earth, nonetheless, a noble thought.

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The book offers a number of unconventional tenets in respect to the workings of all things from the universe, to nature of societies, to relations, to the future of human kind. It is all very convincing and to the indoctrinated zealot may appear like a new way of life. It has the potential to become religiously and spiritually important in the awakening of the human spirit to metaphysical realities. It is thought provoking, profound, insightful and completely gratifying.

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Fifty Shades of…….. OUCH!!.. book review

As collegiate Anastasia Steele stumbles quite by chance into billionaire magnate Christian Grey’s office, we stumble into a heady, heaty and totally unbecoming love story. Wait!.. not really, it isn’t a love story or is it?? I had to know for sure…. I had stumbled upon this book quite by chance. My sister thought I should take a read of it and possibly pep up my rather tame existence. Hushed whispers, secret clubs and notorious reviews had of course almost introduced the book’s theme to everybody at large, one just didn’t want to be caught reading it. Who knows what depths of darkness will be revealed and unleashed on unsuspecting folks. One just didn’t want to appear reveling in THAT kind of a book, you know! However, the curiosity cat was too itchy to be contained and soon everyone, unabashedly, was with a copy in a quiet corner. Those spared by its infectious spread were promptly engulfed in after the movie trailers were released. Now not only did people wanted to know what all the scandal was about but how much of it will be portrayed on the larger screen. After having read just the first book, I found myself soaring, sore-ing with Anastasia Steele in more places than one, including a few between my temples. Here, is what I thought about the story….

  1. Uneven Stakes : It’s just not fair when you make a person so damn hot and so damn cold at the same time. Christian Grey is not only a multi-billionaire earning a hundred thousand dollars an hour, with global interests and a troupe of slick executives who nevertheless ‘Sir’ him all the time but he is also devilishly handsome, kind-hearted and generous i.e outside of his playtime. However, his chest cavity is quite empty, no heart, no emotions, no feelings. No way to show or receive love except through possession and control. Anastasia Steele is a college graduate, naïve, guileless and plain. Moreover, she has barely stepped out of her baby bloomers, with no previous relationship experience to know if what she is getting into is normal or not. From the beginning Mr. Grey astounds, pursues and indulges her with his pecunious charms. Though Ana cannot be completely guilty of falling for him only because of his wealth, they act like a very convincing bonus. There is also his well sculptured lips and jaw, the hang of his PJs and the sway of his walk. No, not love only infatuation….

grey6 2.   The Kinky stuff – One really actually knew that there would be lots of descriptive kinky details and yes that was what had to be the selling point of the book. It was one libidinous moment after another. Far too many times have Anastasia and Christian lurched at each other for a quick one than it was easy to keep track of. Not to mention the really lengthy interludes of Christian’s fantasies which too one had to sit through. It left you both short-winded and aching, for me it was the nape of my neck. Had E.L James, just put the kinky stuff together the book would have sold just as well, it really didn’t need a story backdrop. Maybe it was the guilty pleasure of watching a young bud being nipped fiercely and suddenly that kept the pages turning. No, not love again…. GREY1

  1. The BDSM class – Ok, agreed this was meant to be a love story, but E.L James is grossly guilty of marring the tenderness of a love story with the gruesomeness of BDSM details where only one partner is playing the role (here the dominant) and the other is just playing along. It manifests more like abuse than love. ‘This is what I am.’ ‘This what I can give you’. I am Fifty shades of f***p…. this is what I know… ‘ As Christian pleaded Anastasia to stay and sign the contract, the readers pleaded her desperately not to. So, after an intense introduction into intimacy, Anastasia stood up for what she wanted instead of being the passive giver, but did that not bring the first book to an end. As a reader, one too was taken on this incredulous journey of ‘What is he going to do next?’, ‘How much darker can Grey get’, ‘Maybe there is no grey, just black waiting to happen?’. With edge of seat anticipation we waited for Grey to get darker and darker in his Red Room. The worst he came up with was a thrashing. And that abruptly and suddenly put an end to the love story. Though the readers didn’t seem to have had enough of Grey, Anastasia seemed to. Definitely not love…..

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  1. The emails – Best part of this love story were the clever email repartees that went between Mr. Grey and Ms. Steel. Anastasia who was shy and demure when with Christian turns quite witty and combative on the web. Though Mr. Grey keeps true to his suave yet eccentric self while emailing, Ms. Steel matches it with sassy and clever ripostes. This was one funny section of the book and can be used as an inspiration for further works. Here is where a love story may begin…

GREY The book is no doubt a page turner, more as an education into the lives of BDSM and the obnoxiously rich than the lives of two people on a journey. Flashes of opulence here and there, indulgent installments of bedroom antics played out to full delight of the readers and the unknown future of the leading characters make sure, you are riveted the book for the next three sequels and more. grey5  

Sizzle Sozzle, Sausage on the Pan!!!

When the earth sizzles like a hot pan, the air broils around you in serpentine hisses and every daft of wind feels like a feverous slap around your face, you know you have moved a step closer to the proverbial Gehenna.

Wikipedia says ‘The oldest historical reference to the valley is found in Joshua 15:8, 18:16 which describe tribal boundaries. The Book of Isaiah does not mention Gehenna by name, but the “burning place” 30:33.

Gehenna

New Testament

In the synoptic gospels Jesus uses the word Gehenna 11 times to describe the opposite to life in the Kingdom (Mark 9:43-48).[28] It is a place where both soul and body could be destroyed (Matthew 10:28) in “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43).

As a scorching mid-summer heat wave swells through the middle earth (here read South India) people and animals pant with restless apprehension. Mercury levels have been steadily rising every summer making open spaces dreadfully inhospitable and daytime a living hell. Men abandon the outdoors and seek refuge in synthetic mega-structures of shopping centers and high-rise gated communities. Greasy loud diesel generators churning out an in vitro environment. There are no trees, no birds, no herds, no wells, no lakes. Some disappeared, some fast dwindling. What’s left is the hoarse hoot of a tepid, endless wind.

Had Gehenna been of modern times, would this have been how it could be described as??…

There has never been any dearth of crime and sin in Middle Earth (read India), from time immemorial dowry deaths, satis, child marriage, female infanticide, rapes, domestic violence, honor killings, plesbecite hijacking, corruption, nepotism, feudal subordination and some more, flower the ill-famed menu that usually acquaint India to the world. However, there were other better fairer feathers in its cap like the Vedas and their insurmountable wisdom, the yoga and its resurgence as a spiritual healing practice, Ayurveda with its simple earth bound knowledge, the rare Kohinoor diamond, largest in the world, spices that drew white men to its shore and  of course the monsoons.

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Middle EArth ( India), at 47 degree C, may have a close kinship with the proverbial Gehenna. With enough blood, grime, dirt and disease we have established ourselves as a place rife with sin. Here is where the sinners are sent, here is where they thrive and here is where they await atonement. Usually, the men and beast of Middle Earth dance the dirty dance year long in crazy pursuits of pleasure and pain but wait eagerly for the Monsoons to come and wash away the muck. They celebrate and rejoice the giving up of the parched earth to the explosive rains with gay abandonment. They bathe, frolic, immerse, revel and ritualize with such equal euphoria all around that its said that “Rains in India is the best leveler”. At once the mood turns festive.

Yet, today and for some time the monsoons are far from coming, the heat surges on, stray dogs and cows drop by road sides out of fatigue, people caught un-prepared collapse with dehydration, children and seniors come down with serious heat strokes. We continue to cut trees, fill our water bodies with waste and use fossil fuel to run our vehicles.

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Monsoons are very unique to India’s typical topography. Fenced off on its northern boundaries by the Himalayas, Hindukush, Bay of Bengal on east, Arabian Sea on west and the Indian ocean in the south, this rare composition creates a contained climatic phenomenon. When the intense summer heat had ravaged the land enough, a loci of high temperature and low pressure is created inland, somewhere in the epicenter of the rhomboidal shaped subcontinent. The water bodies around it remain at lower temperature and relatively higher pressure (conduction is slower in water hence gain and loss of heat is at a slower pace). A cycle of convection is set up whereby cool sea breezes are generated to fill up the void of air pressure inland. These are the much awaited South Westerleys or the SW monsoons. However, the sub-continent is a large land mass and convection currents alone may not be enough to alleviate its woes. One needs to scaffold it with reimbursing water back into the atmosphere, viz. the water cycle. Trees play an important role is returning water to the air and holding water within the soil.

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Though Middle Earth sizzles now under the blazing sun, the rains show promise, the men arrested their debauchery and the wind is quiet. Its time to step back and deliberate. Through baked lips, lets make a vow to restore a few trees…..

Places of Interest

Fast emerging as ‘The Swiss Alps on a shoe-string”, Ladakh offers many touristic opportunities with a dash of sumptuous otherworldliness. Apart from the regular trekking, camping, nature walks, jeep safaris and mountaineering activities, Ladakh has opened up to a number of winter sports. Frozen lakes are being used for ice-skating and ice-hockey, archery and polo are steadily gaining grounds and regional festivals are getting global recognition. Nearly everyone now is aware of the colorful masks and headdresses that symbolize the Valley.ice hockey-in-ladakhpolo

Out of Tibet, Ladakh is also the largest seat of Tibetan Buddhism. Dalai Lama has a permanent residence here and is often seen addressing local congregations. Therefore, Ladakh also receives a large number of religious tourists.

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When planning day tours it is practical to remember the cardinal geographic directions of the places. Many locales fall on the way to each other and may be many kms away, so to save valuable time, its useful to squish in as many in one direction as possible. Therefore, I have tried listing the key tourist places according to their cardinal directions. Details of these are elaborated in many websites, can be easily googled. A good point of reference , refer or

http://www.lehladakhindia.com/attractions/


East of Leh

  • Shey Palace and Monastery –
  • Thiksey Monastery
  • Stok monastery

These being further east and larger distance can be done on a separate day:

  • Karu Village- for stopover or refreshments
  • Sakti village – for stopover or refreshments
  • Chang-La, second highest motorable pass in the world at 17,826ft.
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  • Tangste Monastery
  • Pangong Lake – highest salt water lake in the world
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  West of Leh

  • Spituk Monastery
  • Alchi Monastery – of high faith value amongst the local buddhists
  • Likir Monastery
  • Lamayuru Monastery
  • Shanti Stupa

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  • Magnetic Hill
  • Gurudwara Pather Saheb

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North of Leh

  • Khardung la pass – highest motorable pass in the world
  • Deskit Monastery
  • Nubra Valley
  • Hunder – Bactrian double hump camel safari

ladakh-himalayas-camel-safari_thumbphoto credit alwaysoutbound.com

  • Panmik hot water spring
  • Siachen glacier

South of Leh

  • Tsomoriri Lake –
  • Stakna Monastery
  • Hemis Monastery – largest monastery of Leh

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Religious symbolism:

Since much of Ladakh travel will entail monastery hopping, some terms may prove useful :

  • Chorten is a small stupa built to give homage to departed ancestors or to invoke blessings from good angels.

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  • Gompa is the local name given to a place of prayer. A monastery, prayer halls, museums, indigenous handicraft stalls and probably a canteen may  make up a Gompa.
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  • Mani walls – all down the countryside, what may appear as mysterious stone assemblage are actually religiously important mani walls. Nearly waist high running for kilometers, joining chortens or trailing a Gompa, inscribed with Buddhist prayers but always well maintained.

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  • Mani or Prayer wheels – at every Gompa, one comes across many little cylindrical drums, sometimes  a single very large one, that easily rotate on its spindle. They are inscribed in large fonts with the Buddhist prayer “Om Mani Padme Hum” meaning ‘The jewel is in the Lotus’. Its a peace offering to the world. If you are going to travel all the way up the Karakorams and then further up the hundred odd monastic steps, then might as well chant this mantra while turning the mani wheels, just like a devotee would do.DSC_2932DSC_2880
  • Prayer flags – Perched on top of houses, chortens, Gompas, outside houses, along the streets or in the middle of nowhere, are visible little inscribed flags tied on a string fluttering carelessly in the wind. They have prayers and mantras written on them again invoking the Almighty’s hand in an earthly matter.
  • Prayer stones – stacked in threes or fours gently balancing on mani walls or around chortens and gompas, are little stone arrays often by themselves but sometimes with a secret prayer folded into a little paper.
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Know your Buddha : Buddhism is nearly 3000 years old and survived a few dark ages, hence it is only acceptable that it has been influenced marginally. Once you start the monastery hopping, a number of Buddha  avatars will be unleashed on you. Best learn a few names now.

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  • Shakayamuni Buddha – Gautam Buddha
  • Maitreye Buddha – Buddha of the future
  • Kalachakra Buddha – wheels of time
  • Avalokiteshwara – Buddha with a thousand hands and eleven heads
  • Amitabha – eternal Buddha
  • Vajrapani – Buddha of power
  • Manjushri – Buddha of wisdom
  • White Tara – consort to Buddha
  • Vajrayogini – the female form
  • Padmasambhava – The Lotus born


Visiting Ladakh

Of jagged gorges, stripped inclines, snow clad summits and empty expanses… of paradoxical climate, mystical people, inaccessible extents and enduring traditions, Ladakh is one of the last places on earth to open up for tourism.

Fast emerging as an increasingly attractive traveler’s  destination, Ladakh appeases many of one’s appetite of the senses – rawness of nature, spiritual awakening and  thrilling adventures.

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Best time to visit Ladakh – June to mid-October; even though early May maybe preferred by snow-lovers… like us.

How to get there

  1.  By road –       one of the most popular routes to go to Ladakh is driving up by car, bike or cycle from Manali or Srinagar. The adventure starts as soon as you hit the highway. Routes opens up between June – September.
  •  Srinagar to Leh – 434 kms via Zozila Pass, Drass, Kargil and Lamayuru. Preferred by locals and is open during winters for army convoys and traders.srinagar leh2
  • Manali to Leh –  475 kms via Rohtang Pass, Keylong, Baralacha La, Sarchu, Pang, Tanglang La and Karu. Preferred by motor tourists for its scenic vistas.manali leh

Buses take two days from either Srinagar to Leh or Manali to Leh. From Manali, deluxe coaches are available that may halt overnight at Kargil. Night halt on the lesser comfortable buses from Manali is at Sarchu or Keylong.

Bike rides may take 5-10 days depending on the number of stops one takes. There are many notable tourist places worth a stop along the way, more so on the Manali-Leh highway.

2.    By Air    –  Daily flights of Jet Airways, Air India, Go Air and Kingfishers from Delhi to Leh and weekly once flight of Air India from Jammu and Srinagar to Leh, both take not more than an hour. This route may take more time for acclimatization off your travel schedule, but the Karakoram from the sky is spell binding.

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Acclimatization :

Before planning a visit to Leh – Ladakh, one must be aware of AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness, a unique conditions specific to higher altitudes :

  • Leh – Ladakh is at a vertical height of 11,500 ft is the 8th highest city in the world after Lhasa, Tibet and the highest in India at Korzok.
  • The most common ailment at this altitude is AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness. It occurs due to low atmospheric pressure, low oxygen concentration, increased altitude to sea level and high radiation to sun exposure.
  • Extreme temperature variation in the diurnal and seasonal temperatures. During winters temperatures may be between -30 degrees to 2 degrees, in summer between 15 degrees to 35 degrees. Day time temperatures can drop suddenly from a warm 21 degrees to a chilling 2 degrees. Sometimes during the same day one may get frost bitten and sun burned. Therefore, ample covering at all times is warranted. Temperatures may also vary significantly between open and shaded or covered areas.DSC_2963
  • Oxygen concentration is lower at higher altitudes and so is atmospheric pressure. Both these conditions is what affects a new visitor toLadakh. Symptoms may vary from restlessness, nausea, dizziness, headaches, wheezing to blackouts. Deprivation of oxygen or Hypoxia is the basis of all AMS. If you are coming from lower altitudes, its better to break journey periodically along the way and gradually get accustomed to the decreasing oxygen levels. Or else, take first 2-3 days to stay indoors and acclimatize completely.
  • Sun exposure and radiation is a real threat and must not be taken lightly, even though it may appear the slightest in comparison to the above. Though the most imperceptible, exposure to increased solar radiation may have a graver outcome. People have been known to come away from mountain tops scalded over exposed hands and faces while being in snow all the time….. yours truly, ME … included…. Hence, frequent applications of sun tan lotion and fully covered clothing is a must.
  • Dry arid conditions rob the body of moisture faster than it would appear so hydrate frequently even at sub-zero.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_sickness

How to overcome AMS : Though AMS does not effect everybody, it does effect a majority of people, even those ethnic to high mountain conditions but are returning from lower altitudes.  If AMS does not subside in the first two days, it may develop into HAPE or HACE, quite fatal and requires immediate descent. Ladakh’s main hospital Sonam Norbu Memorial (SNM) – 0198-252799 is the best apart from the army hospitals but civilians are rarely entertained there. Other than AMS, diarrhea, respiratory infections and accidental falls are the other heath threats in this region. Away from Leh city, medical treatment is nearly non-existent.  It is best to try avoiding any unfortunate occurences.

  •  keep to clean, hygienic conditions when travelling.
  • eat only in known clean places, nearly all guest houses and hotels have their own restaurants. If you are travelling the day, best to take packed lunches from your lodgings.
  • Keep in touch with your hotel staff about your health and let them know how you feel everyday. Most often they have indigenous recipes or ways to help you overcome AMS, colds or diarrhea. Many upscale lodgings also have oxygen cylinders to help you overcome hypoxia or hypobaria.

Although all this may seem a bit daunting, do not forget that “the best fruit grows on the outer branches”. Its a lifetime experience.

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Other tips unique to Ladakh;

  • Ladakh is a land of monasteries, much of the touristic agendas would circle around Buddhist worship places which are built on higher altitudes to the surroundings. Every visit to a monastery calls for a climb of at best 60- 100 rather steep steps. So as not to get washed-out by the mere climb and enjoy the calm stillness of monastic life, one needs to be at least averagely fit. A daily walk of 2-3 kms before visiting Ladakh can make your trip more than a run on a threadmill.
  • Carry woolen clothing all the time with you for the temperatures may suddenly fall quite low. Keep ears well covered for even though dry, the winds can be quite chilling.
  • Carry a wide angled lens camera or DSLR, to capture the essence of the landscape.
  • If you are trekking or camping overnight out of the city, plan to be close to your lodging before sundown. Lighting is low and towns far apart should you be stranded somewhere. Avalanches and wild animals are a real threat.
  • Internet in the city may be erratic, some good hotels do have reasonable service though. Mobile connectivity at remote places, high passes, defence areas and border regions is at best lost. Do not expect to stay connected once you leave the city premises.
  • Nearly all the local people can speak in Hindi, some in Urdu or English but you can do well to learn a few ladakhi words. ‘Julay’ which means ‘Hello!!’ and said both at meeting or departing with a slight bow and touch of the forehead with slightly closed right fist, is an immediate ice-breaker.

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DSC_2312Amongst your jaunting about to catch all the extravagance of its scenic locales, try not to overlook the humble Ladakhi. He will open up to you with the most astonishing stories of this splendorous land…  all with a simple “Julay!”……

Leh – Ladakh city

The Leh-Ladakh city

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Nestled against a mountainous splendour, Ladakh is an enchanting land, which despite the stealthy approach of modernisation, seem to hold on precariously to its time-honoured past. The magnificence of the soaring mountain ranges and pristine valleys, the exuberance of its traditional festivals and the uncanny chutzpa with which its people dare the extreme conditions, earns Ladak the title of ‘The Land touched by God’s finger’. It’s a place of many discoveries, of thrilling adventures, chilling experiences and throbbing senses. One may come away from it with an euphoric delight of being touched by That Finger.

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Ladakh has had stragtegic historic importance being placed firmly on the ancient Silk route for the trade convoys of China, Yarkhund, Central Asia, Persia, Constantinople and India. It served as a place where camels and caravans could descend from the high passes and respite. It paid homage to many transient settlements such as Aryans, Tibetans, Chinese and Arabs, but finally consolidated as a simple empire under Senegal Namgyal who also buit the looming 9 storey Leh Palace in 16th centuary.

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The Leh city capital of Ladakh nestles between the Zanskar and the Ladakh Ranges. Even though called a city, it is an extended town with settlements sprinkled all down the countryside. Towns such as Spitok, Basgo, Kuru, Changspa, Saspol, Shey, Thiksey etc, though have 20 – 50 kms between them, come under the district capital, though Leh itself is not more than a kilometer in any direction. Washed by the Indus and Shyok river systems, the towns thrive by the water banks through seasonal agriculture, animal husbandry and the now thriving tourism industry. Every house has apricot, apple, walnut trees and atleast a cow. Many inhabitants are immigrants from neighboring Kargil, Dras, Padum and Zanskar regions entering as tourist guides and drivers. The city centre consist of mainly the Main Bazaar, the Leh Palace, the KBR airport, Shanti Stupa, hotels and restaurants and little establishments catering to these.

Ladakh district is divided into 9 CD Blocks namely Leh, Khaltsi, Nyoma, Durbuk, Kharu, Nubra, Saspol, Panamic and Chuchot.

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 Politically, Ladakh has two seats, one from Nubra Valley and one from Leh City in the J & K assembly and one Member of Parliament, a representative of Kargil.

Strategic location :To understand the Ladakh of today, one must consider its strategic location on the Indian frontier. What you might see, hear and feel may appear more foreign than Indian to you.

The state of J & K including the districts of Ladakh is bounded by Tibet in North East, Xinjian province, China in North, Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan in North West, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in East and South-East with Pakistani Punjab, ofcourse South to all these is Himachal Pradesh of India.

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This geographic location is strategically important for two reasons:

  1. The local culture is richly ethnic and heavily influenced by atleast one of the above regions i.e disctricts closer to China are more Chinese, those close to Tibet are highly Tibetan, those towards the west have greater Islamic domination. Though the population move smoothly within each other, traditions and rituals are fiercely guarded.
  2. Since 1972 when we lost part of the north-western sector like Gilgit – Baltistan, and Azaad Kashmir to Pakistan and Aksai Chin to China in 1962 and our subsequent win in 1999, the Indian Defence Forces play an important role in the smooth running of the remaining state. So, you might see uniformed personnel clearing up snow in the high altitudes, tarring roads, cleaning up rubble, managing traffic, supplying drinking water, air dropping supplies during winters, assisting with medical help at key places, keeping a look out for wild animals or helping you cross the road. Ofcourse, that’s not all they do – keeping watch in high towers of Siachen Glacier, LOC, LAC and DBO.

Why is it important to know this bit of history – because when you talk with local tour guides or townspeople, these events feature much in their casual chitchat. The people of Ladakh are ingratiated to the Indian Armed Forces.

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And like a pink elephant in the room, one just cannot miss the Stok Kangri, a snow capped mountain peak looming heavily in the backdrop to everything.

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For centuries after the initial settlements, Ladakh has more than been forgotten. Except for being used as a frontier outpost by later Mughal rulers and British, there was no real interaction between the region and the rest of the world. As such Ladakh has remained in a time wrap of age old traditions. Its only just catching up. In 1829, when a French traveler interacted with the locals, she found them to be the most contend and pride people ever. They had no idea what ‘poor’ meant. They were hardworking, happy, full of song and dance and had a strong community sense. That has since changed. Nonetheless, you will still find the Ladakhi quick to smile and converse when you offer the salutatory ‘Julay!

The Karakoram Mountains

Pegged as the new ‘Roof of the World’, Ladakh is the largest district of Jammu & Kashmir and second largest in India. It sits on a strategically important location between politically locker-horned countries of Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and India. Said in one breath as ‘Leh-Ladakh’, it can mean the entire district or the capital ‘Leh’ in Ladakh. Many a traveller has been bewitched by its raw, barren beauty enough to return again and again daring steep inclines and unpredictable weather conditions. To understand Ladakh one must know its regional topography. One of the biggest misconception is that Ladakh sits on the Himalayan Mountain Range, whereas it is actually stranded on the Karakoram Mountains. The Great Himalayas start as Pir Panjal mountains lower, near Jammu district, where one may visit Vaishnodevi Temple and runs just south of Zanskar Mountains. This is why, the mountains around Leh-Ladakh have no resemblance to the ones seen in Himachal, Uttarakhand, Nepal or Aruchanal Pradesh. Unlike the Himalayas, Karakoram has desert like conditions with little or no rainfall during the year. Its extent is felt all the way down the north of Afghanistan and Pakistan where it disappears into the Pamirs and Hindukush and China where it merges with the Tibetan desert. To the south, it descends into the basins of Shyok and Indus rivers which separate the range from The Greater Himalayas. Due to this geographic location, straddled between the many ranges and especially shielded by the Himalayas, from indian monsoons, Karakoram has been left high and dry. Its climate resembles those of artic and desert conditions. Therefore Ladakh is often called “COLD DESERT”. Temperature varies from –40°C in winter and +35°C in summer. Precipitation is very low at 10cm mainly as snow. Air is very dry with low relative humidity, and source of irrigation are only the melting glaciers. The district is under snow for nearly 6-8months.   karakoram mountains Karakoram as the highest mountain ranges in the world, 482km long, 5000 – 28000ft high, home to the most non-polar glaciers and thereby also called ‘The Third Pole’. There are more feathers in its cap;

  • K2 – is the second highest mountain peak, 28,251ft, after Mount Everest
  • Earth’s fourteen more than 8000+m peaks are nested here, including Gasherburn I and II and Broad Peak
  • The Siachen glacier at 44kms is the second largest glacier out of the artic/antartic circle
  • The Biafo glacier at 39kms is the third largest glacier out of artic/antartic circle.
  • About 40% of these mountains are glaciated, much more than the Himalayas at 20%
  • Pangong Tso is the highest saltwater or brackish lake in the world
  • Khardungla Pass , elevation disputed, is the highest motorable highway in the world
  • Changla Pass at 17,590ft is the second highest motorable pass.

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Millet Magic

Sometime back I was asked to compose a brief write up about traditional grains that are re-entering our daily intake in various forms of fads. To begin, I met with a very amiable nutritionist at a notable gym who soon became quite friendly. We talked about many things including the rising levels of type 2 diabetes, increasing numbers of biryani points, local spas, Wednesday farmer’s market, vegetable juicing and finally millets. She profusely advocated the substitution of rice and wheat with millets as a staple and invited me to give it a go. Before leaving she handed me a little cookbook of easy millet recipes. A few web searches later the write up was finished and submitted. That all done and over with and the cookbook found its way at the bottom of a donation box.

An excerpt from that article

Nuzzling next to the daily bakery essentials, the multi grain bread solicits your better, smarter, urbane sensibilities. Multigrain or multiple grain products are composed of more than one major ingredient from the cereal group. Anything from ragi, barley, oats, corn, soya, millets, sunflower and sesame seeds find their way into the multigrain products. From Aashirwaad and Pilsbury flours becoming multigrained to Maggi introducing a multigrain instant noodle packet, every company is trying to make a buck out a newly health conscious population. There are multigrain pizza bases, cookies, cake powders, candies, granola, muesli, crackers, savory snacks and takeaways. Nestle has even introduced a multigrain baby cereal. 

Dehulled, polished rice and refined wheat, a staple of an urban lifestyle are depleted in fibers, proteins, calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins and micronutrients. Fiber or roughage is especially essential for the health of the digestive system and is most missing in our modern day diets. Inadequacy in any of these lead to deficiency, ill health or malaise. Grains in their coarse and unprocessed forms on the other hand pack in extra nutrition, good fats and proteins .  

 Multigrain products use permutations of whole wheat, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, linseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, onion seeds, spelt, rye, ragi, sorghum, millets, soya, corn or their derivatives.  It was part of local customs to eat with the seasons, always sowing the crop best suited for that part of the year……

and finally….

(to be able to buy it off a shelf) … Many people find it convenient, time saving and a guilt salvaging antidote for a sedentary lifestyle.

Couple of weeks ago among a circle of friends with revolutionary ideas, the millets issue resurfaced. Something that had appeared more like a roving fad a year back was now gushing forth with such vigor. The ladies raved and ranted about its goodness over social media and went into a frenzy of experimentations. Drawn into all this with my own penchant of the exotic, I dove in wanting to finding out more about this thing called millet, which is not grain…

What are millets:

Wiki has it as “small seed grasses grown around the world for animal or human consumption”. It can be  bought in the whole, flour, rice form or as small spaghettis.

http://www.innovateus.net/health/what-millet millets:

History of Millets introduction into Human diet:

Millets were first discovered by hunter and gatherers in China and Sudan during the stone ages around 4500BC, then through Sumer and Persia it found its way to Rome and Greece. The Egyptians were making beer fermented millet bread just like it is today and the Harappans of ancient India make flat pita breads. By 200B.C, the Chinese had a special ceremonial millet wine while the rest of the middle age Europe thrived largely on a millet diet. Up until 1200 A.D, millet was a stable diet in many civilizations totally independent of each other.  Makes you wonder what happened to it since…

The Types :

Finger Millet,

Banyard millet

Proso Millet

Little Millet,

Pearl Millet

Benefits of Millets:

  • high in complex carbohydrates and proteins which is great for energy production and weight loss.
  • Proteins aid the body in tissue repair and production of antibodies to fight sickness or infection.
  • Copper and iron, essential fatty acids, B vitamins and starch enriches its nutritive value.
  • Magnesium helps build strong bones and teeth and in metabolism.
  • Fiber is important in regulating the body and maintaining a healthy colon.

One of my first tries,

Foxtail Millets

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Hello out there!!!

“Hellooo out there”, bellowed the lonely light keeper down the dark tunnel, while waiting for the midnight express to pass, hoping its tracks remain devoid of all human and animal tracks as far as possible…

This excerpt from a bygone decade pops up in my head as I start my blogging journey. It belongs to a short stories English literature text too full of grisly endings for a sixth grader. Yet it pops up now with more meaning than any wise quote or idiom could. So against all other instincts I choose to start my blog with “Hello out there……”

Like this light keeper, warily and vigilantly keeping his lonely watch in the midst of nowhere, so too I stand stranded in a desolate land of many tragedies and triumphs. Like this light keeper I call out from my end of the tunnel to the world out there holding out a beacon if I may… of what I have learnt and still learning everyday…

My name is Minn Malhotra and I wear too many hats than a Lernaean Hydra would care for. I am a mother of two boys wonderful and weird, an Image Consultant – its essence will come to you duly; an adventurer of spirit- a wandering soul; a dreamer – of various wonderful and outlandish things; an aficionado of healthful living and bliss; a wayward traveler – bold and unremorseful ;  and somewhere within this mix is a slightly feministic trait.

Through this blog I hope to journal through all these myriad tendencies and create an experience and a condensation of my own journey and learning. Many of these may resound in your lives as well, if so,  please feel free to write and let me know….

                                                                            ….. ALL ABOARD!!!