SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Friday, December 14, 2012

Why does violence happen?



Sandy Hook Elementary School: a 20 year old walks unchecked into the school and opens fire, killing the Principal, Vice Principal, Psychologist and 18 children, and eventually killing himself….
From this statement observe many things

  •  He had guns with him
  •                       Nobody noticed/ stopped him
  •                               There was indiscriminate violence
  •                                     There seemed to be no stopping him once he started
  •                                   He also chose to commit suicide
What evil? How does a guy with no previous records land up committing such a heinous crime?
As Indians we can say: Oh this cannot be found in our schools. These Americans have no value systems…
I have this reply for you my dear Indians, such a scene could become reality, just give yourselves another 10 years.
Why does Violence happen?

I found a great article that analyses the reasons, please read it here

I work with children and I know children are being raised on violence. Yes, raised on violence. Sedentary lives, watching T.V, whiling away time engaged in activities that has no meaning, inadequate and improper relationship with caregivers, easy access to guns/ objects of violence and most importantly in my mind, a desensitisation to seeing violent acts and crime being committed.
You may argue that our elders never spared the rod and we were raised on a healthy dose of beatings. But the generation raised on whacks was not exposed to violence like the present generation is and the future generations will be.
Children are watching too much TV, watching blood and gore, bullets being shot easily and mass death. Then they are expected to seamlessly get up and walk away understanding automatically that all this is some man’s (director, script writer, producers) fantasy. Even if you think your children are only watching Doeremon/ Tom and Jerry, there is still a lot of violence they are watching. Just imagine children who are victims of genocide, well…at the cost of sounding too morbid, our children watching excess TV are falling into that category. They are getting desensitised to crime, aggression and violence.
I have a very disturbing story to tell: I conduct sessions for children, teaching them life skills through stories. There I found 2 girls, obviously having space issues with each. So I had to stop my pre-planned session, to investigate where and what was making them so uncomfortable with each other. The usual complaints of she is not giving me space, slowly unravelled previous fights and maladjustments, and to my horror, one of them shares that she hit the other with a dumbbell, and only a little blood came out from the other’s finger, while the other person had whacked her on the back, and that is a bigger hurt….
This may not look very serious to some, but at a deeper level, it really bothers me that children don’t feel anything when they hurt another, even to the extent of drawing blood. That made me question how desensitised this generation is to acting with violence. This comes in the context of children, being left on their own in the company of the convenient baby sitter TV, watching Mega serials and such nonsense and with adults having no discrimination on what to share or discuss with their children.

What can be done?

AWARENESS: Lets be aware of how Anger and suppressed aggression can cause havoc in life.
We have to actively learn, and teach our children to understand this emotion called Anger. Anger is not bad, but what we do with it is definitely in our hands. That goes for many emotions

LISTEN: We have to listen to our children, hear them with out reacting. Create an atmosphere of trust that enables him/ her to talk with out feeling discriminated, condemned and prejudiced.

TALK: Communicate, talk and create a bond with our children. Trust is an important value, an asset that has to be nurtured, cultivated, and carefully, possessively guarded. Let them talk, help them talk, talk to them.

Simple, very simple...

Even a child raised under difficult circumstances can grow on such a rich foundation.

The bottom line: LOVE. The simplest most effective tool to use with children is to give them an abundance of Love, Show them, tell them, demonstrate to them, share with them. Show loving behaviour and your child will surely emulate you as a default mechanism and will resist resorting to violence/ aggression as a means to solve problems.

It starts from us, every adult taking ownership for him/ herself and their behaviour.

I hope I can shout it out to those many parents, teachers, and people working with children. Show Love, and you will only recieve Love. It may require great patience, but isn't that what we need to practice at all times, for a better future?     

Friday, November 30, 2012

Some Animal Stories

It started with an owl, that we spotted at Chitradurga fort.



He actually had a friend with him. Such a loving pair.




We also spotted some animals that were not alive. This carving dates back to pre-historic times. Prominent outline, but I wonder why it hasn't been preserved better?




Spot this guy. A very agile and quick gecko, I could get only one shot, as he suddenly scuttled under the rock and did not emerge from there again.



The Red headed parrot; a lovely close up. I realise how quick we need to be in order to capture wildlife... 


As this one swiftly walked away from camera focus



This patch of green had many egrets



While I thought this reclining serpent was a nice addition to our menagerie 



This big guy flew from right under my nose and onto a wall






A Hoopoe hopped beautifully before us, as we leisurely captured him to our hearts content! 









There is so much pleasure in capturing animals in nature, the least we can do is appreciate. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Badami- A glimpse




A sense of peace prevailed here. Having driven from Bijapur back to Badami, through a road which is seldom followed by tourists, we gazed with awe at the ethereal beauty of the Badami Caves.

The journey here was an adventure in itself and I whole heartedly thank my husband for pushing himself, taking change in his stride and getting us to this place safely

It was touch and go. 
We left Bijapur late, around 3.30pm. Light fades fast in November and a sense of urgency prevailed as we had to get to see the cave temples before closing time and we had no clue whether it was 5, or later.  

People are extremely nice and helpful here, and as we pressed on, asking for directions to get to Badami, one vehicle driver, decided to take a detour and guide us himself. That saved us an hour! 

We really did not know if we were heading in the right direction...but we reached finally. The town was a hustle-bustle and though we could see rocky crags we could not make out where and how the temples would emerge. Through a narrow road, and then there we were... 
It was really beautiful!!

Calm, Serene, and immensely peaceful. We reached Badami Cave Temples, just in time, with half an hour before closing time (It closes at 6).

The Bhoothnath temple-Badami 



Vishnu, Shiva, and Jain Cave temples built by the Chalukyas during the late 6th or 7th century can be found here. 






I tried my hand at composing..he he...and it looks beautiful!



The Agasthya lake in between and the temples carved into the rock face around were a stark contrast to the monuments at Bijapur.
Children were quite bewitched by the rocky caves and kept taking pictures from every possible angle.
As you can see, the photographs look very hazy, as the sun had set, and we managed a few shots with the natural light available.

I felt sad we could be there only for half an hour, but now Pattadakkal/ Aihole remains to be seen...

But
I have no stories to tell as well, alas, no guide, no time...

Hope we can revisit these places again and this time I hope to have more family with me, as they enjoy history as much as I do. 


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bijapur- domed in dustiness

The initial plan was to head to Badami/ Aihole/ Patadakkal, but I wanted to see the Gol Gumbaz, so we thought we could do a quick trip to Bijapur and then head to Badami..and just hop and skip and jump to the rest.

Not possible in one day, I realised too late. The roads are good, excellent stretch from Hospet to Bijapur, but the city itself is dusty and languishes in gray tones . The entire stretch is filled with patches of lovely sunflower fields, a real treat to see. I actually saw how the sunflower raises itself towards the sky and slowly bends down, at the end of the day.





Bijapur was done on a Tonga. Actually the plan was to just see the Gol Gumbaz and the Ibrahim Roza. But this very enterprising Tonga wallah said he would show us 5 important features, so I fell for the bait. 




We clip -clopped through this dusty city, trying not to fall off the tonga, and also trying not to smile sheepishly as the Tonga criss-crossed, left to right and back again, causing quite a bit of nuisance value to other vehicles. He took us to 2 mosques (the Jod Gumbaz and the Jammi Masjid), not bothered that they were functional shrines of worship, and we were hardly prepared to enter these holy precincts. My son was very bothered with the way he was goading the poor horse, initially with his hands, and then in between he found himself a sturdy piece of stick.

Ibrahim Roza is considered a precursor to the Taj Mahal, and is a tomb/ mosque built for Ibrahim Adil Shah 11, started during his own life time.
Our  guide (tonga wallah) tells us, that before this monument was completed, Ibrahim Adil Shah died, and the entire structure was constructed under the guidance of his wife.  
Also he gave us a bit of history, of how Aurengazeb's tomb in Ahmed Nagar is a copy of this monument. 
More than what he was telling in terms of facts and fiction, I was quite impressed with the earnestness with which he insisted on taking us around the city, stopping and explaining and really sharing his knowledge with us. It is his daily bread and butter, but these storytellers by default/ necessity are so sincere in their efforts to educate us, the visitors, that I am sure many of us don't even bother to verify the veracity of the statements they make!





Here is the Gol Gumbaz, a Tomb with a Dome. It's claim to fame is that it possess the second largest free standing dome in the world, in terms of diameter, just smaller than the St. Peter's at Rome.



Inside of the Tomb




The Whispering Gallery: everyone was shouting and screaming, and combined with my fear of heights, I hated it. But it is an imposing Gallery running right around the dome, where even a slight whisper gets amplified manifold.





We then trotted our way to see a huge Cannon, brought from Ahmed Nagar. it needed 9 elephants to drag it! 



An aerial view of the city


Personally I was very disappointed to see how badly these monuments are being maintained. Though we see some beautifully landscaped garden in front of the Gumbaz, there is a sense of neglect and despair around these monuments.

Where is the story?
History says, bloody feuds were a norm here(obviously), and Ibrahim Adil Shah built the Gumbaz. But the dome kept falling off and would remain stable. A famous Pir, visiting Bijapur then suggested he change the angle of the Gumbaz such that its shadow does not fall on the Jammi Masjid. Once the restructuring was done, the Gumbaz stabilised, and did not fall off.
But
There came a time when Ibrahim's son started building a monument, his own Mausoleum (very morbid) but somehow these monarchs seemed to be quite resigned to their inevitable demise, and even glorified it I guess.It was to be 12 stories high and was to overshadow even the Gumbaz.
Hearing this blasphemous ambition of his son Ibrahim Adil Shah, had him executed, to uphold the promise he had made to retain the Masjid as the tallest standing structure, on which no shadow should fall. 

-----------------------------------------------------
I wish we had sped on to Badami and Pattadakkal.








Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Some Pics From Hampi and Some Thoughts

Hampi is a photographer's delight, but I won't bore you with them all. Each of these pictures though, have a story to share, so come with me and see them through my eyes...


Here is my Son, cleaning sand off a carving of two people prostrating in front of the King's Balance. We teased him, saying that he is either going to become a great archaeologist or a great sweeper 





Here is another picture of a fighter. I totally loved this carving. Look at the posture, the gentle curve of the torso, and the slight weight placed on the right foot. The keen expression and fisted hand. I can feel the spirit of the fighter, his intent and focus. To think it is a carving on stone, by a nameless man, who has left behind a bit of his vision, perspective, and creativity for posterity, it  is truly a work of art. I get goose pimple to think that a stone from the 14 th century is being admired by a modern woman and her family in the 21st century, isn"t this what science fiction stories are made of? 




The Sule Bazaar was meant for Horse Trading and images of visitors bringing in prize horses have been frozen in time, in the VittalRaya Temple walls. Portuguese and Chinese Noble Men can be seen here, their distinct head dresses and attire...photographs on stone.   



Rain water drips through the small circular protrusions on top, into a channel below, and then flows down through the inlets and out. Framed between images of dancers doing the Koll Attam(Stick Dance). Among Folk Dances of South India, the KollAttam is very famous in TamilNadu, and Andhra Pradesh.
In Tamil Nadu, it is danced by young girls during festivals, and they usually go round and round hitting the sticks of their partners, following a rhythm set by the mridangam or some Thala Vadyam. Similar to the Dandia Raas, but different in style as the steps are more structured and not as free flowing as in Dandiya.

Nowadays Kollattam is practiced by men, who have made it a more stylised, introducing many more tough and intricate movements

Apparently it originates from the 7th century, so when these sculptures were made, Kollattam dance form had existed for more than 4 centuries. Very Interesting. 

 I think as Krishna Deva Raya married a dancer himself (Nagalamba-Chinna Devi), there are many aspects of the sculptures on the Vittal Raya Temple walls ( a temple commissioned by KRD to be constructed, as against the much older Virupaksha Temple that existed from before), show their common and mutual interest  in various art forms and styles, including such carvings, and the famous Musical Pillars.  
  




Here is where the Monarch used to sit to give audience to the common man. It overlooks a thousand pillared platform. But alas, none of the pillars stand there, and we get to see only holes and spaces that once bore the weight of these pillars.
  Here you  can also see one tired son and a very resigned husband who took the journey alone, up the flight of steps to view the world from a perspective that belongs to another century!




I had to share this pic. This courtyard, just outside the Haza Rama Temple was where my dear Jackie Chan posed and flipped and fought some scene from Myth. Behold the sacred space!!!  





This is so gigantic! A single stone carved into a water basin for ...Elephants. Yes during festivities, the Kings elephants (11 in all) could all be tethered here and this was the space provided for them to have are refreshing sip of water!




I found this tree to be a poser of sorts. Standing here in all its contortions and facets, waiting to be photographed. So I did the honors! A very gnarled and twisted trunk, branches out into this solitary occupant within the Vittal Raya temple compound 




I finally leave you to admire this woman, her nubile, proportionate body a testimony to the fact that beauty in the eyes of a man (I assume it is carved by a man), is the perfect 36-24-36! 
Her coy down turned eyes, and casual placing of her arm around some hanging plant maybe, brings to my mind the many movie directors who have shamelessly used such sculptors to fashion their Heroines into poses such as these. 
Don't miss the amazing headdress. Fashion never dies, it just gets recycled... 



I can go on and on, but I have to move on, now as I share the next leg of our trip, upto Bijapur and then Badami...
Come back and See More... 



Monday, November 19, 2012

Hampi in a Day- November 13th 2012



To see Hampi in a day...was the plan.

So having reached Hospet from Chitradurga, we checked into this hotel called Malligi, a must stay for those on a comfortable budget. Very clean and comfortable, friendly and honest folks.
My only crib was with the food...available in plenty, but was a little too oily and spicy for my taste...but hey manageable. 

Having read about the Hampi Kingdom, and its glory under KrishnaDeva Raya, my daughter was keeno-queen to see everything especially the Chariot (one of 5 in India) at the VittalaRaya Temple.
But we had to do a lot of getting in and out of the car while our guide took us from one monument to another. Though I had seen all of this before, it still fascinates me when I realise that no number of visits can get me any where near to exploring this immensely huge city that existed in the 14th century. It's like a time traveler from the 29th century who decides to explore Delhi...or Mumbai...or even Chennai.
Wow, what a thought!

The guide had many facts to share, and some stories, most interesting for me at that point was seeing all the spots where my darling Jackie Chan ( am a great fan of his, though I prefer his older movies to the more recent ones) shot the movie Myth.
Apparently they did not have permission to shoot at some spots, but they did it anyway, flying in and out by Helicopter.  The guide did see get to see JC by the way and showed us the place right outside the Hazara Rama Temple where they shot a fight scene.

It starts here: The Ganesha who is actually sitting on his mother's lap. So if you go to the back side of this statue, you will see a woman's back and hair. A super imposed carving, showing the Divine Mother, with Ganesha seated on her lap.    




My husband insisted this is a very important structure, the Hemakunth Watch Tower, that was used as an observing point




The most photographed Sule Bazaar, stands just outside the Krishna Temple. I commented that such markets near temples exist even today in Mylapore, Chennai: that's when we realised, that having a market place adjacent to the temple must have originated from this era....14th century...wow, and to think it still exists...wow again...India is like the endless Ocean, tides (civilizations) ebb and flow within  it's boundaries, yet the basic composition seems to remain the same, carried effortlessly from one century to another...  
  



The Krishna Temple, huge facade. The Dravidian style of Temple architecture owes it's root to this empire. 




THE Narasimha; the eyes popping out look so real...but sadly it is a patched up monument, holding up through repeated efforts at conservation 




This was so much fun, gigantic plates of stone, meant for prisoners/ soldiers, with a chanel of water running beside it. Eat and wash up...what an idea Sir Ji!  



 I took loads and loads of pictures, of monuments and ourselves and anything that took my fancy, but of course cannot share everything here.

It was a tiring first day, and by lunch time we were one pooped party of impatient tourists. But I liked what the guide said: 
If you have good money go to Tirumala
If you have good eyes go to Belur-Halebid    
but If you have good legs, then only come to Hampi!!

Because you have to walk, walk and walk!  
----------------------------------
Of course I have to leave you with a story. 
( All those lovely monuments beg me to recount a romantic story...very popular, but worth recounting)

 King ViraNarasimha of the Saluva dynasty lay on his death bed, but he desperately wanted his infant son to be crowned as his successor.  So he calls his trusted minister Appaji, aka Saluva Timanna and urges him to assassinate the only other eligible contender to the throne: Tuluva Krishna Deva Raya, his step brother. With foresight born from wisdom, Appaji assures the dying king that the deed would be done. But quietly counsels Krishnadeva Raya to leave the palace incognito and remain in hiding till the time was right.

This wandering noble man reaches the precincts of  the Virupaksha Temple, where he sees and is instantly captivated by the nubile and gifted dancer Nagalamba. She finds his attention amusing, but soon this turns to love, as she and her mother provide a space for the wandering nobleman, who refuses to divulge anything about himself. 

Very soon, a messenger arrives, the King is no more and there were imminent attack threats from enemies who were keeping watch over the leaderless empire. 
Nagalamba is astonished and bereft with grief. She would rather have her nameless stranger than the future King of Vijayanagara, as her lover. She beseeches him, asking him whether he must leave...
"I must, but God willing I will see you again", he says prophetically.

Does he keep his promise? Oh, Yes.  

As soon as is possible, with consent from his mother and as per custom, he marries Tirumala Devi from a royal lineage and subsequently marries Nagalamba, calling her Chinna Devi and forever grants her a position, right beside him, through all his glory.

An image of the trio  

I have referred to some information from Traveling Incognito, but most of my inputs come from reading ACK( Amar Chitra Katha)... a long while back...but where else?!

I will come back with more stories and happenings from Hampi/ Tungabadra/ Badami...till I see you again; I leave you with thoughts of Kings and Queens, of wars and fights, of poetry and dance, of temples and markets...
Hey, not very different from the modern day I feel...!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Stories from Chitradurga


Stories are journeys, and every journey is a story...stored in our memory to be recounted to those who are willing to listen.
A long pending desire to re-visit Hampi along with my children and the first stop was Chitradurga Fort. We were following the same route that we had taken around 12 years back. Back then was a different car, my mother in tow and as for me, the expectant mother of 5 months.
Nothing had changed, a sense of deja-vu prevailed and like a ghost that revisits its haunt, I stood at the exact spot we had taken a picture back then, and here it is for you to see;




I seriously believe the guides here need a crash course in storytelling. They just state facts, though that's impressive, I cannot connect with rocks and boulders and forts and structures if there are no stories.

Of course for all those who have visited Chitradurga, the story of Obavva Kindi will be familiar. It does take our fancy, to hear and see where this brave woman, wife of a soldier, single-handedly bashed the army soldiers of Hyder Ali's troop. 

Story of Onake Obavva Kindi 
Legend says that it happened during the time of Madakari Nayaka 1V, in the late 1700's. Hyder Ali and his army were gunning for an access into the Chitradurga fort and finally with some inside help, discover a small hole in the fort wall (used by the local curd seller to enter and exit the fort without walking all the way to the front; and the information supplied by a minister apparently to Hyder himself.) So a small troop is deployed to enter the fort through this hole.

Most guards were assigned small holes as living spaces and as you can see here below, this cave like space was were Obavva and her husband lived. This space was barely sufficient for the guard's family and the thinking behind this was that a guard had to be alert and vigilant and if he got used to comforts and luxury, he would not discharge his duty well. Not only was the guard required to keep a look out for suspicious activity, his wife and family members by virtue of relatedness were committed to safety and protection of the fort. So this sentry and his wife Obavva lived in a hole, and on that particular day,  when the furtive group of soldiers from Hyder Ali's army were trying to enter through the hole, our Sentry/Bugler had just finished his afternoon duty on top of the hill and had sat down for lunch.

 I imagine this short squat bulky guard sitting down for a meal of ragi mudde and pallya saaru, when hiccups must have broken that moment of prandial bliss. So Obavva who had forgotten to fetch water that morning would have picked up her pot and hurried out with an apologetic look towards husband who would have in all probability thrown a glare at her and continued to fill his pate.

Here is the residence of Mrs.Obavva! A hole is all they were provided.




So just as she walked back, sounds coming from a hole must have alerted Obavva. This resourceful woman, instead of scurrying back to call her husband the sentry on duty (again bound by a custom that a wife cannot disturb her husband when he is eating or sleeping), decides to equip herslef with an onakke (or ollakke as is known in Tamil), a sturdy wooden rod that is used for pounding rice into powder and goes to investigate. 

To her shock and horror a turbaned head pops out of the hole and in a swift reflexive action, she brings the onakke down on his head and the man topples through dead. In this way, she whacks every head that came out of that hole. The legend says she killed 80 soldiers. Her husband finding his wife gone for a long time, comes out to see a massacre in progress. He quickly runs to his spot on the hill to sound the alarm, thinking his wife is in control; but unaware of one enemy soldier, hiding in the bushes. who quickly thrusts a knife through Obavva, finally halting the hand that had single-handedly stopped an invasion.    

Here is where the little stream of water flows:




Here is the hole through which the enemy tried to enter:




So this hole was duly honored by the king and is now called Onakke Obavva Kindi.

A post-it to this story is another story...My daughter acted in a small skit where she played Onakke Obavva , and when we actually walked around seeing where this incident took place, I could feel a connect, as if something had compelled us to visit this place with her and to listen and experience a reality from another time, another space...

Has that happened to you ever? 
Deja-vu, I think people call it...or is it rebirth???

HeHeHe.......