Tuesday, September 25, 2007

trains, trains and more trains

i've still to come across a kid who's not fascinated with trains. and this is a fascination which doesn't go away even with age. (i remember going berserk when buying a railway set complete with engines and tracks and bridges and the works. i was ostensibly buying this for my 6 year old son!)

there are many people who are passionate about trains and collect all possible information, trivia, photographs, etc that they can lay their hands on.

i think trains have an almost magical quality of making us dream and think of adventure and the unknown. it is also very romantic for many of us with visions of trains chugging into the setting sun! (i think i got a bit carried away there :-) )

i've spent most of my childhood near railway stations and trains tracks, thanks to the fact that my father was a railway employee. and because of this i can boast of having travelled and also driven in all kinds of trains and engines and trolleys.

i've even operated a turn-table which was used to turn steam engines around to point in the opposite direction. i've shovelled coal into the belly of a steam engine. i've pushed a trolley while balancing and running on the track and hopping onto the moving trolley while it is in motion just like the gang-men would do it. i've seen tokens being passed to the assistant fireman by the signal-man using a token-ring at small stations. (here's an image of the tokens and the passing with the ring.)

i consider myself very fortunate that i have been exposed to things which many children today can only dream of. the only steam engines my son knows are 'thomas and friends' which he watches on the computer or on tv. (his grandfather once made his his day when he managed to get him to sit in an electric engine with the driver at panvel station while we were waiting for our train to arrive.)

but i am sure our kids will also be saying the same things when they have had kids and are similarly reminiscing about their childhood. i wonder what memories would they be cherishing?

for those of you who are interested in trains and related pictures, you can view this album - trains & more (http://picasaweb.google.com/ckguruprasad/TrainsAndMore)

another very good resource is - IRFCA - The Indian Railways Fan Club

and if any of you have similar fond memories you would like to share with the rest of us, please send in a mail or post your comment.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

the fascinating body clock

i'm sure all of you, like i, have had this experience in school. we normally would have to be dragged/threatened/thrashed out of bed, but on the day we are going out on a school picnic we are out of our beds in a flash at some unearthly hour; even if we managed to sleep only a couple of hours earlier!

in fact most of the time, if you've noticed, when we want to wake up for something really important or for something really exciting or something we are looking forward to, we manage to wake up just before the alarm goes off. and this is in stark contrast to the umpteen number of times when we sleep through the blaring which has managed to wake up the rest of the household and some neighbors too!

all of us have experienced this fascinating body clock within us at some point of time or the other. its only recently when i started travelling abroad that i realised that our bodies don't strictly follow the time according to the watches on our wrist but has its own internal clock which is ticking away (like a time bomb?). earlier, i could never appreciate 'jet lag' which is just our body clock trying to sync itself with the watch on your wrist.

i recently learnt that there is a technical term for this internal body clock - circadian rhythm.

this only further reinforces the ancient vedantic pronouncement that time exists only in the mind; and the true measure of time is the gap between thoughts. swami chinmayananda used to say that time can be measured only after the 'second' thought and that is possibly why time is measured in seconds and not in 'firsts'!

(click here for an interesting perspective of time from a vedic standpoint - http://www.templenet.com/beliefs/concept_of_time.htm)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

celebrations away from home

festivals are celebrated and rituals are followed with a lot more vigour by people when they are away from their homes/ land.

i noticed this first on campus when the entire student community in the hostel used to celebrate festivals like diwali and holi with a lot more enthusiasm and vigour than they normally would back home.

i recently read an article in the times of india about the onam celebrations in mumbai. the article had various malayalees reminiscing about how they celebrated onam in their villages back in kerala. these fond memories now inspire the malayalees all over the world (except, maybe in kerala itself) to relive the rituals and traditions of this festival.i would daresay that you could enjoy a more traditional onam celebration and meal in mumbai or dubai than in thiruvananthapuram itself!

i would assume this is the case with most other communities too.

i am sure all of us have our quota of cousins, relatives and friends in the us/ london/ australia, etc. who strive to keep their culture alive by attending bharatnatyam, carnatic music, kathak, tabla classes with a lot more vigour than they would if they were in their own home-land. i have noticed that this group also is very particular about performing various traditional rituals including pujas, punyajanam, festivals, etc. which they would not be following if they were back home.

i believe this zeal is born more from the need for the comfort from the sense of identity that they can hold on to than from the concern to keep their 'culture' alive.

and i think this is more true for the first-generation expatriate who has had some prior experience and exposure to some of these traditions before they departed to foreign shores.

distance not only seems to make the heart grow fonder, but also more zealous about our roots!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

losing and finding things!

i am sure this doesn't happen with any one of you, at least not in such a chronic fashion.

i just can't seem to find things when i need them. and this problem seems to run in the family. this includes my wife and the kids. no, i don't mean i can't find them. they too seem to be afflicted with this strange ailment. my wife and i are still not decided which side of the family this problem seems to have originated from!

we lose things on a daily basis. to the extent that i am convinced that there is a group of people in our neighborhood (hopefully women) who seem to be interested in filching my underwear! apart from my towels, pens, papers, cds, etc. (i have many single socks - either the left or the right one!)

i have this knack of losing things i was carrying a minute ago. try beat that!

and then occasionally i get worked up enough to organise things better so that i can trace things better. this usually means that our bedroom looks like a typhoon hit it. and then things are very well-organised for a few days. but that still doesn't help. i still can't find my stuff because i don't seem to remember the logic behind the organisation. so then i decided to try keep things in safe places. i gave that up when i realised that the places i kept things away were so safe i couldn't remember where they were.

and now my kids seem to be carrying on this great family tradition and doing a damn good job of it. my daughter hides her brother's things (and sometimes our stuff too) just to bug him and then promptly forgets where she hid them! and she's cool as cucumber while we are going round the bend and turning the house upside-down trying to guess where she would have hidden the specific object we desperately need at that moment.

but we do find many of the things we lose. we found our car registration papers recently. just as soon as we had organised the duplicates!!!