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If you want an escort for a tour of Varanasi or for research or media production, then please check out my tour site – GroovyTours.com.

If you want to stay at my home with my family, then please check out the site for Groovy Ganges Guesthouse – GroovyGanges.com

I work with a lot of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profit organizations, social movements, government organizations, and other groups relating to community organization. Check out the About me page or my portfolio on this site if you want to reach any of them.

Email me, Raghvendra “Nandan” Upadhyay at nandan@groovyganges.org if you need help finding something. Thank you.

Plastic Kills

Baba

Baba

We have always been hearing about how plastic is a serious threat for our planet but not many people seem serious about the issue. Especially in India where there is plastic just everywhere, even the blessings at temples are packed in plastic. Government does all the propaganda by making laws that plastic should be prohibited but nothing is implemented. Just like anyone else living in this country I am also affected by plastic but something happened a few days ago which just blew my mind. Actually I met with someone new in my life a few weeks ago and we became really good friends. A few weeks ago I was sitting at Assi crossing and suddenly a bullock came to me.

Baba with Rahul

Baba with Rahul

He was very cute, just came to me like we had known each other for long time and put his face over my lap. I started stroking him and he seemed very relaxed by me doing it. Suddenly a few of my other friends also came and the bullock behaved very friendly with them as well. We offered him some food but he didn’t seem to be very excited about eating it. Anyways, we named him the same evening and his name was Baba. Baba was with us for almost an hour and then we went back home. We saw Baba the next day at the same place where we met yesterday.

Now we noticed something strange in Baba’s body. His stomach looked kind of bigger than his size. We tried to touch it and it seemed very tight. We decided to ask someone who does dairy business if Baba’s stomach looked strange to him as well. Luckily there is a dairy businessman right at Assi crossing. We called him and asked about what he thought about Baba’s stomach. Based on his experience he said that Baba has eaten a lot of plastic and that’s why his growth has stopped, he doesn’t feel like eating, he is not happy and something is not done soon then he might die as well.

We had also noticed some problems that Baba seemed hungry but he could not eat. His seemed bigger in age than his physical growth. All of my friends were very sad to hear it and we decided to contact some doctor. A friend of mine who owns a cow contacted the doctor and doctor said if the plastic is in Baba’s body for long time then the only possible way to take it out is an operation. Baba’s was not in good shape at all, we noticed that he was becoming more and more skinny everyday. We were still discussing what to do with Baba and suddenly we saw his dead body by the corner of the street where we used to meet.

It was very sad to see him dead and I don’t really think that we will forget him ever. But by looking at what happened with Baba, we can easily imagine what is the condition of our animals in India, the country where each and every form of life is worshiped. Talking about Varanasi, this city had a tradition of setting up big containers at every corner of the alleys which would be filled with water and food by the locals of Varanasi so that street animals could stay happy and healthy but now the situation has become really worse that our street animals are dying by eating garbage which is mixed with plastic.

I have no hope from the government and I think the only way to solve this problem would be some initiative from the people themselves. But it also seems very complicated because whatever we get is always packed in plastic and it has to go somewhere. Usually people put their garbage on the street from where it should be collected by municipality. We also don’t have any system of separating the garbage and everything is mixed. I think the best thing would be use as less plastic as possible. I don’t know when things will change but I will try my best to change myself for sure. RIP Baba.

Baba Dead

Baba Dead

Police in Varanasi

Corruption is a very big issue in India nowadays and everyone is talking about it. Even we saw the result in Delhi state assembly elections how Aam Aadmi Party changed the government only on the issue of corruption. I was also very  excited after seeing the result of Delhi elections but sometimes such things happen which make me feel like there is just no way to kill corruption in this country. It was a friend’s wedding last week in Varanasi and I went to attend it. After the wedding was finished, all of my friends returned back home but one of them parked his motorbike right in front of his home on the main street which is very usual thing for a city like Varanasi where there is no parking space available anywhere.

It was 2.30 AM and I got a call on my mobile from the same friend saying that his bike was missing. He had called me seeking help to find that bike. We went together on the street asking people if someone saw our bike and a person told us that he had seen two policemen taking our bike. We went to the nearest police station and the police officer present there said that the bike was found unattended hence it is sent to big police station which was about a kilometer away from my place. Now we went to the big police station and found everyone asleep other than one person who was standing by the entrance.

We asked him about our bike and he confirmed that our bike was there but we needed to talk with the officer. We went to the officer and found him sleeping on his chair. We were trying to wake him up but he was in super sound sleep. Finally he woke up after our several attempts. We explained him our situation and he said that we would have to go to the court the next day, pay a fine of Rs. 10,000 and only then we will get our bike. We knew it very well that he was telling a lie. We requested him so much to give us our bike back and he finally agreed on doing so after talking with the policemen who had brought our bike from the street. He asked us to go on the street looking for those policemen.

We had no idea where to find him. We requested him to kindly confirm their location by talking with them on phone but the officer just didn’t want to help us. He always felt more interested in his sleep. Anyways, we decided to go back to the same location and luckily found those police guys. We explained them our situation and they were easy. They asked us to go back to the police station and have the officer talk with them. Now we went back to the police station and again found the officer sleeping. It was a serious pain to wake him up but the mission was successful, we were able to wake him up. Now he opened a register, looked at a few pages and found he page where he had written the bike number.

Now he asked for the bike registration paper which we did not have. The papers were with the friend who owned the bike. We tried calling him but he did not respond. We went to his home, woke him up and brought him to the police station with all the papers and asked us to wait. It was crazy to see that right in front of our eyes, he closed the register and again felt asleep asking us to wait. We just did not know what to do now. Now I laughed in anger and we started talking with each other like this is our great India, this is the system…things like that. The awake policemen who was listening to us told us that- now you are laughing too much but imagine what would have happened if a thief had stolen your bike.

I just did not know what to tell him but I told him that we are laughing only because our bike is secured with the police. Anyways, after waiting for 15-20 minutes we asked the awaken police to wake up the sleeping policeman, hahaha. Finally the officer woke up, again looked at the documents and now asked for Rs. 500. We all started looking at each other and asked him why he needed Rs. 500. As we asked this question to him, he got upset, closed the register and again went asleep by asking us to go to the court the next day. We knew it very well that if we go to the court then we will have to bribe to maybe 10 people because everything is super corrupt at the courts also.

It was already 4 AM and we had no hope other than bribing him. We finally gave him Rs. 500 and got our bike back. But when I think about the behavior of that police guy, it makes me feel like our police is formed to torture us and nothing else. The policeman had no interest in helping us, he was always trying to make the situation more complicated. He was very rude, corrupt, fat, lazy, sleepy and a bigger thief than regular thieves. And I have never ever met any policeman who was better than him. I have also not ever met any person who said that he ever found a helping policeman. I think it is definitely a need of the time to dismiss entire police system and bring new fresh people with a different training.

I have also heard that our police is trained in the same way as it was trained during the British Raj time. The police was trained to fight against locals those days and they are trained the same way even today also. Our political system never had any free time to make police system better because they are also involved in looting the country. I am sure that this problem could be solved by bringing new police act and using more technology but I don’t see any hope especially for my state of Uttar Pradesh where governments come in power by doing caste and religion based politics. I have always believed that Indian police is somehow responsible for each and every problem we have in this country and if things do not change soon then I can grantee that the dream of India of becoming super power we stay only a dream forever.

Untouchability/ Impurity

The idea of unaccountability has always been part of Hindu culture but it also changed the way everything changed over time. If we look at real idea of unaccountability then it is completely karma based and anyone can become untouchable or impure by doing certain karma at anytime in their lives but at present certain communities are considered 24 hours untouchable. The best examples in my city are the people who work at cremation sites.There is so huge discrimination against them that the community doesn’t seem to have any hope. Even they don’t consider themselves as someone who can even dream of changing their lives.

I still remember when I worked with CBC a few years ago on a documentary project which was about filming a young Doam (the caste of people who work at the cremation grounds) whose father was still involved in the cremation ground but the son was either studying computers or working at a multinational company and at one moment we thought that it was impossible to find someone in such condition because no family had ever sent their kids to the school. Anyways, something magic happened and we found an amazing person for our episode, in fact it was the best story of the series.

Something really in interesting happened with me last night which made me write this story and really made me think if there is any impact of education on Indian society or not? Are we still stuck with that crazy system of unaccountability/ impurity / discrimination of the basis of somebody’s caste? And the worse thing is that nobody wants to think about the real idea and just want to go with the present system. One of my friend’s father died yesterday and I went to the cremation ground with my two friends who are my age graduate living in so called educated Indian city.

Both of my friends were really concerned about getting touched by anyone at the cremation ground because it would have made them impure or untouchable. The idea of impurity associated with cremation says that whoever participates in the funeral becomes impure until they have taken a bath again. They were planning to keep a distance from all of the family members, even my friend. They warned me also to not get touched by anyone but I did not know how to make it happen. I was going to my friend father’s funeral and I knew that at least I was going to hug him or touch him to show my sorrow and support in this difficult time.

Anyways, I arrived at the cremation ground and saw my friend standing alone and looking at his father’s funeral. That feeling of seeing my friend was so strong to me that I could not stop myself by going close to him. My other friend’s, who were concerned about getting touched, also came with me. I was talking with my friend and suddenly I noticed that two other friends who had come with me were gone now. They were standing kind of 20 meters away from me. Suddenly the friend who father had died started crying and now I could not stop myself by putting my hand over his shoulder. We were standing like this for a while and then I went to my other friends and we returned back home.

But the most interesting experience for me when I started my motorbike to drive back home. It was the same motorbike I had used to reach at the cremation ground with two other friends but now they did not want to ride it. We were three on one motorbike with me being the driver and my other friends were asking each other to sit on the bike first so that they don’t touch me. Anyways, they also came on my bike and we all drove back together. The next day one of those friends came to me and said that he had to change his clothes and take a bath before entering in home only because I touched someone at the cremation ground and they got touched by me.

I thought about it a lot and was wondering if this idea of impurity is more important than showing your support to a friend who is facing a death of a family member? Anyways, I think I just did not do anything wrong, in fact I did not do anything, it was just my human feeling which made me touch that friend. I also want to respect traditions but definitely can’t compromise with my social duties.

Blogging

I started to blog about six years ago and I have always enjoyed it so much. In fact blogging changed my whole life: it improved my writing, my thinking, increased my social networking and got me a lot of attention. In the beginning I was just writing about anything, even my guests staying at my guesthouse but later I took it more seriously and I started writing about social issues, tourism, corruption, politics etc. But now I have been going through really strange situation ever since my blog has gotten good ranking on google. I never paid any money or put any extra efforts to get good ranking on google, it all happened automatically and I was always so happy and proud of my blog.

But ever since I have been getting good ranking on my blog, I have also started to get threats from different people who are upset with my writings. It was the first time last year when I had to remove one of the posts I wrote about a very famous TV show filming in Varanasi. I just wrote about my views on how they contacted me first, wanted to offer me the assignment but when I asked my salary they said that they did not have a fancy budget to pay my salary. Later I introduced one of my friends to the team and he agreed on working with them. When the crew arrived in Varanasi, I was surprised to see how big budget they had. And finally the producer asked my friend to get him some empty receipts so that he can fill some crazy amount and get money for it.

It was a very strange experience for me because I had already worked with so many TV channels from all over the world and none of them ever asked for such thing. I finally wrote about it and it became a serious problem for me because the producer sitting in Mumbai office found my post way before the show was ever on TV. The crew started calling me several times a day and threatened me by saying that they know so many people in Varanasi, they will go to the court against me etc… Finally under pressure of the crew and my friend who worked with them, I had to remove that post and it was a very upsetting moment for me. It took me more than a few weeks to recover from that incident.

Anyways, something similar again happened with me last week. I wrote a post about a guesthouse in Varanasi based in my person experience about how stupid the guesthouse staff and owner were in dealing with their guests. Actually one of my groups was staying at this guesthouse in the year 2011 and I got a call from the guesthouse owner the same day the group arrived saying that I should tell my group that I can’t provide any services to my group. I was surprised to hear it and I asked him if he was sure what he was talking about and he said that if I provide any boat, taxi or tours to my guests then they would kick the group out of their hotel. The owner also suggested me some stupid excuses like I can tell my guests that I don’t know anything about Varanasi.

Anyways, I informed my group about it and they also talked with the hotel owner, they had a little fight but later everything was fixed. But the guesthouse owner had threatened me by saying that I am new in the industry, I don’t know the rules, I should not try to be so smart and he will see me. I decided to write about it on my blog and same thing happened what had happened with that TV group. They started calling me, sending me emails and such things. Finally I got a call last week from a dude in my neighborhood who asked me to remove that post. I thought a lot about whether I should remove that post or not and decided to ask the group what they thought. I was surprised to see that the same group was going to stay at that same guesthouse in their next trip to India.

They said that it is convenient for them to stay at the same place because it is the closest guesthouse to the building where they have all of their business in Varanasi. I was kind of upset after hearing this but thought what can I do if even the group is not supporting me. So finally I removed that post also. All these removal of my posts and similar incidences all across India have raised a serious question about whether I should still write about corruption or not. Recently a writer was arrested and sent to jail because he made a comment on Facebook about some politician. Where is the freedom of expression and freedom of speech? At a moment I had thought to take help of Police but later realized that Police is definitely more corrupt than any the camera crew or the guesthouse owner.

I don’t know if I will ever write about corruption issues on my city level because I feel threatened by these local mafias. I have a family and I need to think about them as well. And in any case I never feel like having enough time to become part of bullshit politics. Peace.

Ranked # 1 on Tripadvisor

I got my tourist guide license four years ago and I was really confused about how I was going to work. My elder brother works for an Italian tour company, my cousin is also an Italian speaking tourist guide and I have grown up in a city where tourism is very important part of economy. Everyone was giving me different suggestions but most of them recommended me to visit some travel agencies with my CV and ask for work because this is the traditional way of getting work in tourism industry for tour guides. I was already blogging and I had developed a sense of finding right customers online so I was not really if I needed to contact travel agencies and in any case I was upset with usual travel agency’s practices like forced shopping and considering the guest only as a person whom you don’t think about meeting again in future.

I had already met with so many western people way before I got my license so I already had a sense about what western tourists want. And in any case my work as a translator or research assistant gave me the best practical knowledge possible, which a lot of guides miss, about western culture. So I decided to work in the same way I was already doing by promoting my business online. My friend Lane from Seattle helped a lot by putting up a website for my tour business. In the beginning it was not working at all and I realized that only having a website was not enough and I needed some kind of advertisement. In the beginning I used platforms like google business or craigslist but it was not really working well, I was still not getting enough work.

During the tour guide training program, we were taught that as per a survey organized by some International travel agency if a tourist is happy with the services of the travel agent then he is likely to tell about his experience to around 5 people but if he is upset then he is likely to share his experience with around 13 people which means there is no margin for error in this tourism business. I started working keeping this idea in my mind that I don’t have any rights to do anything which my guest doesn’t feel comfortable with. I was meeting with a lot of people through different online travel forums and just tried to perform my best. During this time so many people wrote about my services on online travel forums like Lonely Planet Thorn Tree and Indiamike.

Indiamike got me a lot of business and I was really happy with it. A few months ago Tripadvisor contacted me and they provided me a space on their website. Most probably some of my guests had asked Tripadvisor to list me on their website. I had heard about Tripadvisor so many times and everyone said that it was very big and so many people use it. I was really excited to be listed on Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor asked me to ask my guests to share their reviews about my services. It took me only four months and now I am ranked 1 on Varanasi page. I don’t know how it will change my business but I have noticed one thing that so many people contact me. It is a very big responsibility for me to carry on the same quality but I try my best.

I am also considering training other people so that we can work together with more than one group a day. In fact I tried it during last tourist season and it worked very well. I know that this coming tourist season will be much more busier than the last one and I need to be more prepared to handle the traffic. And keeping this idea in my mind I have already made contacts with other government approved tourist guides, have given them a sense about my style of work and they all have agreed on working with me. The biggest worry for me about hiring other guides was if they would ask my guests to go shopping with them as they usually do with their guests. I told them that I don’t do it in my business : I ask for more rather than stealing or cheating my guests.

All of the guides whom I met they also believed in me and said that if they get good salary then why they would take their guests for shopping. I have promised them extra money and just by getting this extra money they were all happy to take my guests without shopping. Everything is working very well so far and I am really excited for next tourist season. My tripadvisor page is here.

Rapes and women rights in India

Woman rights have always been a very issue in India ever since it was affected by invaders. And now the situation has become worse. If we look at India before invaders came, we see that India was a very liberal society with woman and men both having equal rights. But as soon as invaders came, they changed Indian society completely. They implemented so many rules to keep women behind curtain which kind of separated them from the society and caused serious discrimination against them and now these practices have become part of life in India. I travel a lot across India and as a person interested in human behavior, I try never to miss any opportunity of talking with people, doesn’t matter what subject.
Every once in a while I encounter in such conversations where people are talking about girls and just listening to them gives me a sense about how do they see woman, even who are their family. People react in seriously strange way when talking about woman. Three of my friends have daughters and I still remember that when I spoke to them first time after their baby was born, all of them told me somehow the same thing that were happy EVEN if the baby was a girl. I mean if someone becomes a parent then naturally they are happy and there is no need of mentioning whether they got a girl or boy. I could easily see that they were so happy, just as any new parent, but at the same time they were depressed also. There was definitely something missing out of their happiness.

The compliments of others who came to visit the baby at the hospitals were also very strange. They would come and ask if it was a male or female baby and as soon as they heard that it was a female baby, they would go like : Oh, but its not a problem, now the world has changed and girls are also doing so many nice things. These kind of compliments easily showed that the people already had an idea in their mind that the parents were not so happy. Noticing such behavior raise serious question of gender issues in India. We heard about Damini rape case in December last year and I noticed how big news it had become. Everyone was talking about it, people were protesting on the streets, media had nothing else to talk about other than this rape case, our politicians got a news subject to talk about : the party in power was promising some serious step and the opposition party also got an issue to make the other party look down.

I was wondering why everyone was so serious about this particular case when such things have been happening and will happen, because I don’t have any hope from the government at all and police is cent-percent corrupt, in future as well??? What about other Daminis who were also raped and murdered in the past? There has not been a single day ever since Damini was raped when some other girl was not raped in such or worse condition somewhere in India, including several in Delhi itself. It is my daily routine to read newspaper as soon as I wake up and I never find my newspaper not talking about some rape case somewhere in India. Reports are same more or less everyday that a girl was raped and thrown somewhere in either half naked or fully nude condition:  when family went to the police asking them to register a complaint police did not register the complaint: but when media got involved, police registered the complaint: ministers also promised something etc.

I have read several articles saying police itself raped someone inside the police station. I also read an article about a 40 years old woman who was raped by 3 men. When she went to the police station, the Police did not register her complain. When media heard about the issue and contacted to the SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police), the SSP himself said on camera that this woman was lying. She was too old get raped. In fact he asked media why someone would rape her if she is already over 40??? I was like what the hell is this? We all know it very well that it is very complicated for a person to get their complain registered and police does it all the time because once they register the complain they have to solve it also and Police never have time to solve any problem, they are always busy either relaxing, making fake reports, taking bribe or planning to torture someone without any reason but having such kind of excuse from a very responsible and senior police officer??? Later the SSP was suspended but I know that he will be back soon.

Last year an IAS officer tried to rape a 16 year old girl on a running train. Under pressure of other people traveling on the train, police had to register a complain but the very next day media reported that several ministers and other big officers either went to the police station or made a phone call asking police to take the complain back. But since the issue had already been noticed by media, police could not do anything and case was still going on. Finally last week I read another article in the news paper saying that the District Magistrate case was closed in the lack of evidence. The District Magistrate never spent a night in the prison and the case was also finalized only within a few months otherwise India has got most number of legal cases pending in the whole world and usually it takes years for a case to get finalized.

Another horrible case, I would say the worse one is of Sonali Mukharjee, a girl from Dhanbad, Jharkhand (Previously was part of Bihar state). Three boys from her neighborhood attacked her with acid while she was sleeping on her roof top in 2003 and the boys who attacked her are out of prison having fun or planning to attack another Sonali and no one talks about her. The only mistake Sonali did that she refused love proposal of a boy and that’s all. He attacked her with his two other friends and threw acid on her face. Sonali’s story is that she belonged to a poor family. Her father was a security guard at some residential building which means not more than Rs. 5-6000 of income per month. Her mother was a house wife and she had a younger sister as well.

Sonali was so smart in studies that her school had given her life-long scholarship, she was so popular in her school and her parents were so proud their daughter. She was also a National Cadet Corps cadet. In 2003, almost one and half months prior to the incident, three alleged assailants – Tapas Mitra, and his two friends Sanjay Paswan and Bhrahmadev Hajra – told her that she was a Ghamandi (arrogant) person and they would teach her a lesson. Her father later complained to the families of the three men. On 22 April, when she was asleep on the roof of her house, she was attacked with acid and left with a burnt face and other severe injuries. Her sister was also injured in the incident. She was studying sociology honours in a Dhanbad women’s college and also juggling a job with a private firm when the horrific incident occurred.

Miss Mukherjee and her family were then forced to abandon their home in Dhanbad, and her mother slipped into depression. Her father Chandi Das Mukherjee said, ‘We appealed in the high court… Nothing happened. They were sent to jail but were released soon after… Now they are busy enjoying their lives.”The law against acid attackers needs to be made tougher. Otherwise we will have many more Sonalis. Police sources said that the victim and her family members are afraid since two of her attackers, Tapas Mitra and Sanjay Paswan, were released on bail six years ago. The third accused Brahmadev Hajra was let off as he was a juvenile at the time of crime. She also pleaded with the Indian authorities to help her find justice, or else allow her to die.

A report about Sonali asking for either justice or mercy killing:

Sonali appealing people to help her by signing a petition

After all these things Sonali never got justice and the criminals are enjoying their lives, maybe planning to attack another Sonali. I just don’t understand all these craziness and in fact it is increasing. More and more girls are raped everyday and different people have different opinion about it. I have talked with several people on this issue and most of them, over 90%, blame girl’s dressing and modern life style. Many people also blame poverty, illiteracy and even Internet. Neither of these sound genuine cause to me. If its girls dressing or modern life style which motivates people to rape them then what about that 5 years old girl who was raped brutally in Delhi and so many like her are raped every day in our society. We heard about her only because media paid attention otherwise I can guarantee that so many other kids are raped everyday but we never hear about them.

I have also heard of so many cases which took place in rich and highly educated families which clearly shows that this problem is not limited amongst poor or illiterate class. I went through a very interesting conversation about Damini rape case in January when I was traveling on a train from Pune to Varanasi. I was in non AC sleeper class which is mostly used by lower middle class families. All of the people around me where from Bihar who were working in Pune and now going back home on vacations. I heard them talking about how do they find people living in Pune so different than the people living in Bihar. They were saying that all of the young people of Pune waste their whole time with their partners because the parents have got a lot of money and kids don’t care about their future at all.

They were also saying that they see young couples kissing in public spaces or showing other form of PDAs which cause frustration amongst the people like themselves who come from other cities or states where they never see such thing happening. They said that Damini was also raped because of such reason. The people who raped her came from Bihar, and as per the people sitting on the train, it was not their fault that they raped Damini but it was Damini’s fault that she was out with her friends in midnight watching a movie. They were saying that the people who move to big cities to work always leave their wives back at home. And if they see such activities like kissing or something else then they also feel like having sex and since their wives are home, either they have quit their job to go back home or find someone in city where they are at that moment.

And definitely nobody would quit the job, instead rape someone in the city. It was a horrible communication but at the same time it showed the mind set of such people. PDAs is serious issue in India. I know that everyone wants to do it but they don’t because of the local culture. But its becoming more and more common which means more and more people are upset with it. I have heard several incidents when a couple was beaten only because they were found kissing. There is a park very close to my place and it has become kind of love nest amongst young people of my city. I know so many people living around the park area who say that every evening they hide somewhere behind the trees trying to find a couple kissing or doing something else and if anyone is found then they either throw stones at them or just jump in between and say that they also want to kiss the girl or just chase them away and later disturb the girl.

I have noticed if people find a couple kissing then they thinking that the girl wants to be kissed, just by anyone and hence they also deserve a kiss. I used to go sit behind the park every night with my friends, have some beer and enjoy the quietness. I noticed certain people who would come every day with a flash light and try to look everyone sitting here and there. It was a very strange thing to see same people every day and once I asked my friends from that neighborhood about those people and they said that these people basically try to find couples kissing or having sex. And if any couple is found doing anything other than talking then problem for them. These people threaten the couples and in some cases beat the boy, kick him out and then have sex with the girl. I have talked with so many people about what do they think about a couple kissing in a park or just at any other public space and most of them have really strange ideas.

I was once talking with one of my friends, who is my age and is a software engineer and he said that if a couple is beaten because they were found kissing in public then there is nothing wrong with it. He thinks that public places are open for all aged people and kissing is something very very sexual and private. In fact he  asked me how would I react if I see a couple kissing in a park where I am present with my family. I don’t know what would I do, most probably just not pay attention to them and let them enjoy their private moment. I have no idea what is the reason behind all these problems but rapes have made the situation worse and it seems like its not going to change soon. But if I have to make a guess about my society, I would say it’s the Police, government of India, late and corrupt judiciary, some cultural problems and regular sick mind which is causing all these problems.

Police is 100% corrupt and they never want to register complaints because if they register a case then it becomes their responsibility to clear it and in any case any Indian police officer can be bought by offering some money. Corruption in police has caused serious problems in India. I feel like Police is somehow responsible for all of the problems we have in India. Late judiciary is also a very big problem in India which basically somehow motivates people to do crime. People know that if the go to a court then it will take 30-40 years for so called judgment to come. And in any case there is always a way : after district court, its high court : after high court, its supreme court : after supreme court, it’s the parliament and after parliament it’s the president where one can appeal. I know several people who were able to get the hearing delayed just by offering a few hundred rupees as a bribe.

Government also makes so many promises but never does anything. All of the political parties do politics in the name of caste, religion and region. They have nothing to do with development, education or any other issue that we are facing. I think that governments can do anything if they are committed to make a change but they don’t have any interest in such issues. Nature is dying, crime has increased, poverty is increasing, inflation is on top, scams are the biggest in the world…but government has no time to think about these serious issues. They are always busy in talking bullshit and doing scams.  India has so many problems coming from its culture. For an example, the problem of hierarchy on the basis of somebody’s caste or wealth. People evaluate themselves by their caste and literally talk about it in their regular conversations.

I know many people who belong to Kshatriya caste and they always say that they have politics in their blood, they are always the best fighters because they belong to Kashtriya caste…although they are really stupid. The male dominant culture in India is also causing such problem like discrimination and violence against women. I find present India really weird because woman power is worshiped by worshiping Goddesses when they are dead statues but real woman are raped so brutally that it becomes an International news. India, particularly Hindus, have a great concept of respecting woman. In fact the term used for women is Shakti which means power but I don’t know where all these concepts are lost? Female infanticide, depressed woman, violence and discrimination… after looking at the present condition of woman in India, it doesn’t seem like there is any concept of worshiping Goddesses or respecting Goddess power at all.

I am upset, India is upset, Mother India is crying and we need to change the situation. Lets pray that India gets its glory again and we become a really great nation where there is no discrimination against anyone….

A painting at Assi ghat

A painting at Assi ghat

Juna Akhada Peshwani

In Hinduism, Akhara (also akhada) is an association of the different sects of Yogis, also known as Sadhus (Hindu Renunciates). Its history dates back to the eighth century when Adi Shankaracharya established seven Akharas. Some yogis revere Gorakhnath as the founder rather than Shankaracharya. The 7 ancient Akharas are Mahanirvani, Niranjani, Atal, Avahan, Agni and Anand Akhara. Today there are 3 major Akharas (Juna, Mahanirvani and Niranjani) and 3 minor Akharas (Atal affiliated with Mahanirvani, Anand affiliated with Niranjan). Traditionally during the Kumbh Mela, the Naga Sadhus, and the ‘Akharas’, lead and initiate the bathing rituals, before the general population steps in.

Since these group of Sadhus reside in different parts of India, they all have to gather together and then they follow the festival or whatever the reason could be. There is also something very important process of participating in the festival which is called Peshwani. Basically Peshwani is a procession organized to show the official arrival of a group of Sadhus in a city. The same Peshwani was organized by Juna Akhada in Varanasi during Kumbh Mela 2013. I had heard a lot of Peshwanis but had never seen one but luckily this year I got an opportunity to see it. I made a video also which Peshwani of Juna Akhada in Varanasi on 2nd of March 2013 :

Tourist guide license renewal

My tourist guide license was issued in January 2010 and it was valid up to 29th of January, 2013. My license said that I needed to surrender my license 45 days before the date of expiry in order to get it renewed. I started contacting Ministry of Tourism office in New Delhi and it seemed like they did not have any information. Every time I contacted them they said that I should contact my local tourist guide association. It was a very big problem for me because I never took any membership of any guide association in Varanasi. Finally I got some information from one of my friends in Delhi. He had the proforma of the form I need to fill up.

He also told me that I needed to go to Delhi personally to deposit my license with tourism office. My friend suggested me to talk with the Delhi office before leaving for Delhi. I contacted the Delhi office and they told me a really strange rule that they would accept renewal application only on Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays in the second and third week of January. I was already booked for the second week hence I had to cancel a couple of bookings from the first week and flew to Delhi. I reached at the tourism office in Delhi around 11 AM and they asked me come after 4 PM. I thought that they asked me to come later because maybe the concerned office was not present there.

I was just wandering around here and there for 5 hours and finally when I reached there again by 4, the same officer whom I met in the morning took my application, made me sign on a few papers and issued me a temporary license which said that my license was under renewal process hence I am allowed to work as a regional level tourist guide till 31st of April. I have no idea why they called me to Delhi if they only wanted me to sign a few papers or made me wait for 5 hours if the same person from the morning was responsible for issuing my license. If it was all about signing a few papers then they should have better organized it by post or online. I don’t know when we will start using our IT knowledge for ourselves. Anyways, everything went well but I didn’t like going to Delhi.

Why dogs stuck together after mating???

There are street dogs everywhere in India and seeing them mating is not uncommon at all. And seeing them being stuck together after mating is also as usual as seeing a dog on the street. I had always thought why it happened to them because it looks really painful but I never tried to find the answer for whatever reason. A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me a really interesting Hindu explanation of why dogs stuck together after mating. He said the reason comes from the epic Mahabharta. As per Mahabharata it is said that Pandavas shared a common wife named Draupadi.

The reason why they shared common wife is because Arjun, one of the brothers, married  Draupadi in a swayamvar and when he returned home with his wife and other brothers they went straight to their mother Kunti. Kunti often advised her sons that they share everything they have (or obtain through Bhiksha, i.e. alms) equally amongst themselves. Upon returning home with Draupadi, on purpose, Yudhisthira addresses his mother first “Look mother, what we have brought “. Kunti, unmindful of what Yudhisthira was referring to, unassumingly asked her son to share whatever it is with his brothers. Thus, in order to obey their mother’s order all five accepted Draupadi as their wife.

Now the story begins about why dogs stuck together after mating. As per my friend in order to organize the sex, Pandavas decided that whenever somebody would enter in the room of Draupadi they would leave their sandals on the door so that other brothers know whats going on inside the room. Once one of the brothers was having sex with Draupadi and left his sandals on the door. Later a dog came and stole the sandals and went playing with it in jungle. Bheem, one of the brothers, also wanted to have sex and he approached towards Draupadi’s room and as usual he looked at the door first to see if somebody was inside and had left the sandals outside.

But since the sandals were stolen by a dog he did not see the sandals and entered in the room and found Draupadi having sex with one of his brothers. The brother who was having sex was seriously upset on Bheem and asked him why didn’t he check the sandals before entering in the room. Bheem was also upset and he was asking why didn’t he leave the sandals at the door before entering in Draupadi’s room for sex. Bheem said that he did not see any sandal on the door and they went out together but did not find the sandals. They were seriously angry on the person who did it and decided to find him.

They went to close by places looking for the sandals and the person who had stolen it and found a dog playing with it. They were so angry on the dog that they cursed him. The brother who was having sex said ” Oh dog, the reason why a person was able to see me having sex, which is a very very personal moment of somebody’s life, is only because you hence I curse you today that the whole world will see your private moment every time you have sex and since then all the dogs stuck together after mating and can’t separate until so many people have already seen them.

As per my friend, the curse is the reason why the dogs stuck. I did not believe my friend at all but since then I asked several people if they knew the reason and all of them told me the same thing. I asked them where did they read this story and none of them remembered. For whatever reason I don’t really believe that this story comes from Mahabharata but at the same time I have read so many other stories which are similar to the dog’s story. Anyways, I found the story very funny and interesting. Hindus have answer to every question and maybe this story is also the answer of dog’s pain:)

I have no intention of hurting someone’s belief or disrespecting the religion but I just shared this story because I found it really funny. I hope you enjoyed it:)

Exorcism at Harsu Baramh, Bihar

I grew up in the society where talking about ghosts, demons, spirits… is part of life. There were places where I asked not to go during certain time of the day and nights because it was believed that there were ghosts around those areas and I literally followed it. There were minimum of 10 such places only around my home. Anyways, I have became more interested in ghosts within past 10 years but my interest is in finding why people believe in ghosts and how it affects their life. I never want to miss visiting a place which is supposed to have some power of dealing with ghosts or just talk with someone who says that he is affected by ghosts or can deal with ghosts.

I have already visited so many such places and have talked with so many such people. I have been hearing about a place called Harsu Baramh for really long time which is only 70-80 KMs from Varanasi and is supposed to be the place where one can get rid of any kind of ghosts and demons. The word Harsu Baramh is made of two words- Harsu Baramah. Harsu was a bramhin guy and Baramah is a particular kind of spirit which has access to limited number of people in certain area. Baramahs don’t fly or take a train to affect the people away from their locality.

Another belief about Baramh is that it is unsatisfied or disappointed soul of a Bramhin who wants to be worshiped. The story of Harsu is that he lived in a village called Chainpur, in modern day Bihar, with his family and worked as a Bramhin. He was donated a huge house which was located right in front of the King’s palace. His home had two minarets which were in fact taller than the minarets of King’s palace which made the queen upset. She saw it as her disrespect and asked the king to do something so that minarets at her palace looks taller than the minarets at Harsu’s home.

The king also did not like that Harsu home’s minarets were taller than the minarets of his palace and he ordered his army to knock down the minarets at Harsu’s home and burn the whole house. His solders knocked down the whole building and burnt it. Harsu was on work when his house was being burnt but when he heard about it, he ran towards his home. When he reached home, he saw his family dying by being burnt alive and building completely destroyed. Harsu got so angry that he cursed the king that he would become a Baramh by killing himself and would then take the revenge.

Harsu Baramh also jumped in the same fire and killed himself. Harsu was back later in the form of Baramh and killed the king. This idea is so strong amongst the community that they recognize Harsu as the king of Baramh and now there is a shrine located in the same village where Harsu came from. People believe that if a person is affected by ghost and no one is able to help him getting rid of the ghosts then he should come to Harsu Baramh. I also decided to visit Harsu Baramh in order to learn more about the idea of ghosts and exorcism. It was a Sunday the day I visited Harsu Baramh and I was expecting to see a lot of people but shockingly there were not many people.

When I visit any regular temples or holy shrines then I try to be respectful to the people and their beliefs but don’t follow all the rules. I don’t feel comfortable making any kind of offering, whether in form of cash or food or sweets or anything, at the temples because I know that as per real religious rules these things are not important. But when I reached to Harsu Baramh, I was so nervous that I decided to go with all the rules of that particular place. I was nervous because I knew that it was not a regular temple and the people who were there believed in the ghosts more than the God himself.

Anyways, I bought some sweets to offer at the shrine in order to be completely normal visitor. I don’t know how to explain what I was feeling when approaching to the shrine but I was not feeling the way I usually am but at the same time I was so excited. I arrived at the shrine but found it black, smoky and really strange place. There was nothing going on, that place had a really empty feeling. There were a few people working as a priest and maybe 20-30 people behaving strangely. The regional idea in my locality is that when somebody is affected by ghosts they move their head in circle, women open their hair, hit their head on the ground and try to hurt themselves and we call this process in Hindi- the person is playing.

And another idea is that when someone affected by ghosts arrive at such places like Harsu Baramh then they immediately start to play. So I saw those 20-30 people playing. One of them was really funny. I saw him arriving inside the shrine premises. He looked completely normal when he arrived. He was holding a towel and went at a corner and sat their quietly. He looked at the shrine for a few minutes, folded his towel, kept it right in front of himself on the ground and started hitting his head on the ground which means he started playing.

He used the towel so that he doesn’t hurt himself. I saw another lady who was playing. She would play by shaking her head, rolling her body on the ground, making some strange noises and then look at others around her and then sit quietly. Anyways, it was very interesting to see those people but I felt so sorry for them. I was like how come someone could really hurt themselves only in the name of ghosts who are never ever been seen by any person in the whole world. I understand it very well that we get to see what we want to see and if there are people who believe in ghosts then they get to see them.

Its sad for me to see that there are people who are more concerned about invisible pain than the visible pain. Its impossible for me to imagine the mindset of such people who believe in the ghosts and kill their time, money and themselves by going to such places where they can get rid of their ghosts. The shrine at Harsu Baramh was so strange that I did not even think about taking a picture. Every place has a unique feeling but Harsu Baramh had no feeling at all. When I go to temples or other religious places I feel something there because there are a lot of people doing the same thing.

Especially when I go to any Hindu place then I find it very energetic because Hindu religion is a very loud religion and people sing chantings loudly, play drums, recite mantras together which makes the place very energetic but Harsu Baramh was a sad and strange place with complete empty feeling. Later I learnt that it was my mistake that I went to Harsu Baramh on Sunday because Thrusday is the important day for the shrine when hundreds of people come. Anyways, it was good that I got some entertainment and went on a long drive which I always enjoy. I think this journey of finding a ghost will continue for me as I have not been successful so far!!!