Part 1: Rajasthan the Land

Rajasthan is the largest Indian state by land area and the seventh largest by population. It is the state of princely kingdoms in the great Thar desert of the Indian subcontinent. Rajasthan is an ancient land dating back to days of the Indus Valley civilization. As time rolled on, the region’s history has interwoven with the colorful history of India. The current shape and dimensions of the state are an effect of the States Re-organisation Act, 1956, but it took a lot, I mean a lot of work to get there. In fact, it is said the unification of Rajasthan happened in 7 stages, and 18 kingdoms together united to form the state as we see now.

The biggest cities that we identify with Rajasthan today are remnants of their respective kingdoms or princely states. Each of these big cities have their own culture, architecture, people and lifestyle – and they are beautiful. Huge forts and palaces, beautiful silent lakes and the all engulfing golden sand of the desert – makes anyone want to see this land once in their life. We were no different. ‘We’ are a group of friends who grew up together – some from preschool and some from college – but the friendship is strong and so is the desire to travel and experience the beauty of this diverse land called India.

Mehrangarh Fort

The plan was simple, – scratch that, there are no simple plans. For starters Rajasthan is a huge place and practically every district has a fort or a palace and a beautiful story to tell. How do we pick and choose in our 5 – day long trip? We broke our heads for hours, weekend poker nights ruined in the name of planning, hotels booked, and then cancelled, native Rajasthan friends and contacts pestered and then negated. All this and finally came up with something that was so tight that there were no time for sleep – at least not for the drivers. Come to think of it, we don’t regret it now – so Ill take you through our plans and other things that you can plan based on your time and convenience.

The Thar Desert

Modern day travel has become a lot easier with the availability of internet and capital. I remember the tours we took as a family, we looked for budget accommodations or religious institutions to stay in, read up on the bus and train facilities and always carried a map. Today we still carry maps, just that we aren’t as worried about finding budget hotels or dependent on public transport. We wanted freedom – freedom to accommodate our lazy ass attitudes – hence we decided the best way forward was hiring rental cars and find our own way using google maps.

Plan A

Plan A

Jaipur is the capital and the biggest city in Rajasthan. Naturally most trips start or end at Jaipur. Since we lived quite far from Rajasthan, travelling by air made most sense. We would fly to Jaipur, hire the rental cars, travel around Rajasthan and fly back from Jaipur – only that it didn’t feel right. This plan meant we would have to pass through both Jaipur and Ajmer twice – and we were not in favor of that. Like all middle class Indians we wanted to maximize our travel. Also this plan didn’t work out well because we had only 4 nights and 5 days.

Tigers at Ranthambore

Before going to the plan that we went with, lets take a look at the places in Rajasthan that are worth the visit.

  1. Jaipur – The Pink city: Palaces, forts, museums and the Hawa Mahal
  2. Jodhpur – The Blue city: Palaces and Forts
  3. Jaisalmer – The Golden city: Dunes of the Desert, Patwa haveli, the living Fort
  4. Ajmer – Darga of Khawaja Gharib Nawaz
  5. Udaipur – The White City: Palaces, Forts, Lakes, zip line, lake palace
  6. Pushkar – Temples, ponds, and other places of religious interest
  7. Chittorgarh – Asia’s largest fort, other palaces and forts
  8. Bhilwara – Forts, palaces and religious places of interest
  9. Mt Abu – Hill station in the desert, lakes, view points and temples
  10. Ranthambore National Park – Tiger reserve, animal safari
  11. Bhangarh – Historical ruins, haunted places

The above list is just a ‘top of the head’ categorical mentioning and each of them have so much more to offer. There are other places like Bikaner, Kota, Barmer, Pali, Baltora etc etc that have their own unique architecture and cultural offering for the enthusiastic traveler, but time and money are generally the determinants of how well the middle class travels.

Money

Its not The most important thing in a trip, but money is money, so we wanted to plan this trip at an affordable rate – that is at a max of 20% of the average monthly salary of the group. This needs to include the food, lodging, travel, fuel, shopping and any maintenance we would come across. It is during this discussion on Money that we found Jaipur may not be the best place to start our tip. Ahmadabad, which is the capital city of the neighboring state of Gujarat is a bigger city and offers lucrative deals on flights and rental cars. As per our calculations, it would cost us 2000 rupees less per person – a grand total of 16,000 lesser than the plan starting from Jaipur. Even with the state toll to pay and recalculated distance, we would save a cool 12,000 rupees. Hard to overlook such a delicious discount – hence we reworked our plan.

Plan B

With the new Plan, we had to drive a little longer, but we cut lose a few places on the Plan A. We voted for the following:

  1. Jaisalmer – obvious choice because its the only place that’s right in the middle of the desert and offers camel rides and dune safaris.
  2. Jodhpur – the place has the most famous fort – the Mehrangarh, other associated architecture and a famous Umaid bhawan Palace and a minor point that my cousin served at the Airforce Station in Jodhpur.
  3. Ajmer – the famous Khwaja Garib Nawaz darga that we really wanted to visit
  4. Jaipur – because, well its the capital of Rajasthan and has some of the most famous forts and palaces, including the Hawa mahal
  5. Udaipur – the coolest of all the desert kingdoms, the land of the lakes and palaces, and its just a 5 hour drive to Ahmedabad.
  6. Since we were flying to and from Ahmedabad we also wanted to see a few places in the city – this didn’t happen.

We saved a lot of money by changing the Start and End point from Jaipur to Ahmedabad. We could’ve saved a bit more if the rentals could be hired at Ahmedabad and signed off at Jaipur. Maybe it wasn’t available in 2018 and the times have changed now.

Below is a short video of the trip. We plan to cover all of this on the blog. Enjoy!


Next up:
Part 2: Jaisalmer – The Desert

Negative Affirmations

Affirmations are positive thoughts and self confidence boosting coping mechanisms. In the second half of the 20th century many a motivational speaker made his buck using this technique. Spiritual gurus and wellness practitioners also preached about affirmations.

I am a good blogger

People want to read my blog

I will motivate people

Sorry for the tasteless examples, but this is how positive affirmations look like. If you were a pre teen in the 90s you would remember the episode of the power puff girls where Buttercup starts to think she’s a good crime fighter because of her green blanket which she uses to practice her affirmations – end of the episode showed she was a good crime fighter with or without the affirmations.

Now let’s not get into a debate on whether affirmations are real or have any real effect on us. This post is about something grey called Negative Affirmations. What does it mean?

Negative affirmation isn’t really a word – atleast not yet. We haven’t recognized and labelled it as we so love to do these days, but all of us have seen, experienced and practiced this. The simplest and most common example of this is I told you so.

I told you so

What is this sadistic line that we love so much? Most of us are waiting for our turn to say I told you so. We relish it, the feel of rubbing it in. Why do we do this?

Let’s take a simple example to visualize it. When I got back from the hospital after I was sick for a couple of days, I wanted to go straight up to my room. But my aunt wanted me sit in the living room for a while and then go up. I didn’t listen to her and went up. Naturally I was a little exhausted and started coughing vigorously. Her first reaction – I told you so. I couldn’t react, I knew I was wrong but I couldn’t say anything. I just lay on the bed breathing deeply.

Would she leave it at that? Noooo. She kept saying it again and again you should’ve stayed down, I told you you should’ve. See what happened.

I didn’t know what to say. Actually I didn’t say anything. Did she want me to say sorry? Did she just want to hear me say yes you were right?

It happens many times in our lives, when someone makes a mistake, we hold no restraint in letting them know they’ve made a mistake. In cases like our example the mistake cannot be undone, I couldn’t go down and sit in the living room to please her could I?

Her constant harping of my mistake doesn’t help make the situation any better, the only thing it does is make me feel worse. Is that what she wanted?

Many times when people do this – pull the I told you so for too long, I ask them, what are you trying to do? Make me feel worse for longer? Their response is: no but if I don’t say it you will repeat the mistakes. It’s more of a rationalization on their part – they have no way of knowing I will repeat the mistake.

Long back I had read in a Paulo Coelho book that our words are generally meant to convince ourselves more than it is to convince others. So in I told you so perhaps the Negative Affirm-er is trying to convince himself that he has it in him to know or do the right thing?

And who are these people who say I told you so? The ones that can’t actually get their word out in the first place and hence wait to say I told you so? OK maybe that’s a little harsh but the point is, Negative Affirmations – saying I told you so, or harping about the mistakes that can’t be undone are completely unnecessary and the people who do that you are actually trying to prove to themselves that their worth something and doesn’t really have to do much with you.

There’s no need to harbor any prejudice, they are not sadists who want to point out your mistakes. They’re just trying to get better, strangely using Negative Affirmations on you.

Its sad, talk to them about this.

~*~

Tour de North East

A comprehensive guide to my tour in the beautiful North East of India in the the December of 2018.

Part 1 – The shortlist
A brief about how to plan your North East trip. The NE has 8 states and many many beautiful places. How to pick and choose, and what we did

Planning be Legendary

Part 2 – The Big Cities
Write up on Guwahati and Shillong. The weather, public amenities, transport facilities available, economy, business, brands, tourism, people and culture.

Kamakhya Temple

Part 3 – Khasi hills of Meghalaya
Khasi is one of the three major tribes in Meghalaya. The Khasi hills are a geographic distinction in Meghalaya and is famous for the many tourist attractions including Cheerapunji and the many root bridges.

Tawang – Not in the trip

Part 4 – Dawki and Jaintia
Asia’s cleanest village, followed by a kayak ride on the river Dawki, Bangladesh border and stories of a 14 year old boat man by the sunset.

Part 5 – Nagaland
First visit to Nagaland, how to get there, legal requirements, history, tourism, transportation, people, language and culture.

The Hornbill Festival

Part 6 – The Naga Conversations
Myth busting conversations up close with the Nagas, demystifying pop culture beliefs and dogma about the Nagas. People, Language, culture and Food.

Bonus – Getting to Cheerapunji
Travel options from Shillong to Cheerapunji. Embarrassing true stories, Cab fares, Accommodation options and Deals.

Dialysis Tomorrow

There was no easy way to break the news. The doctor gave it straight and I tried to do the same. He said I think we’ll start the Dialysis on Monday. The first day we’ll do it in the ICU because it’s a high risk business the first time, but the second and third day you can stay in the ward and we’ll take you to the dialysis unit for the process. I tried to do the same to my friends and family that I wanted to keep in the know, but they were literary blown by the news. Those who had other family members on dialysis or had some medical history took it better but the rest were really finding it hard to find a footing.

The biggest problem being a patient is not the bad kidney or the ordealing dialysis or the sudden rush of emotions and reminiscences of life, but the questions of the not so close friends and acquaintances who want to know everything – including what are the options for transplant. They don’t mean bad, it’s just that they don’t realise that it’s already too much to take in and pointless questions around the same things will do more harm to the mental state of the patient than help cope with the situation.

I made a few phone calls to close family and left text messages to a few close friends who deserved to know the situation incase things went sideways. The biggest challenge with your first sitting of dialysis is going to be your fear and apprehension towards the whole process. Although the first dialysis can have unexpected changes in the chemical composition on the body, it is the fear and anxiety that makes it worse. So this post is about my anxieties and what happened because of that.

The first day, I was a victim of misinformation. I believed that the two dialysis needles would be pricked into a vein and an artery. Hence I was scared, as arteries are high pressure pipes and deeply placed. So I thought this was a huge challenge and was anxious about it. I was wrong – the pricks are made on the single vein created by the AV Fistula.

Since I didn’t know this, I was scared, and once the dialysis was complete and the technician removed the arterial cannula, I so thought my artery was bleeding and went into hypotension. It felt like a medical TV show where everyone surrounded my bed and we’re shouting things like BP is falling! there’s no pulse! 3 cc of dopamine! The doctor yelled at me to cough as I started going out – I coughed – once, twice, thrice and a 4th time when I could see my eyes brighten – the BP suddenly rose and I was coming out of the hypotensive shock. All this could’ve happened either way – but if I wasn’t scared the chances of it happening was very less.

So remember this:

They are not poking your artery, arteries are deep and are high pressure tubes. Poking it would send blood 2 floors above ground. The high pressure bleeding is due to the Fistula and it stops if a piece of gauze is help up tight at the point of the prick.

Second day, I learnt this and was much relieved. I had parted ways with my phone, hence was much at peace. But there was yet another apprehension, the first day they pricked using local anaesthesia, will they do that today as well? And what off the swelling? My arm was swollen from the dialysis.

Answer:

If the hospital is good enough, they always give you local anaesthesia for cannulation. Or atleast till the vein increases in size enough to not give you much pain even without the local.

Swelling is ok, the dialysis is not dependent on it, unless it’s a huge swell, the technicians can perform the cannulation vis a vis the swelling.

This done, I was much less apprehensive or scared for my third sitting. But not entirely as there was another problem.

I couldn’t perform a full stretch of my arm as it was sore from the previous dialysis. So I was scared they might make me stretch it and hurt me. But luckily, the technicians are so well trained that they can perform the cannulation with a half streched hand and after the cannulation they even let me fold my hand and place it on my belly for the entire dialysis sessions.

So as we saw, there are lot of apprehensive situations that may arise from time to time. But it’s important to remember to keep your cool. You are in the hands of professionals who know what they are doing.

That said, the most important thing to be able to handle things is to have a support system. It’s essential that you talk to your friends and family about your condition. Because eventually the truth is there are only 2 treatments to this,

1. Dialysis

2. Transplant

Dialysis is a process that people can handle and make a part of their daily lives – in the words of my technicians we become like family members – that said, it’s still an ordeal and ties you down to a place and definitely changes your life to a less flexible and less comfortable situation.

Transplant is hope, if you receive a perfect match kidney then you can get back to your life as it was in less than 18 months. Finding a donor is the key – which is why you need to talk about your condition with people. You may never know when or where you might find your donor.

The downside of talking is most people would be taken completely unawares and wouldn’t be able to react in a stable or mature manner. This is worse if you are a middle aged patient. Hence prepare yourself mentally to be bombarded with questions about your “future” and “long term solution”

The only solution that I’ve seen working for myself is to take one day at a time. As in case of my apprehensions on the different days of my dialysis sittings or about planning for the future. Take one day at a time – it makes it really easy.

What else?

Support system. All of us need a coping mechanism. I’ve been doing better for myself and it’s because I believe I have the following 4 things nailed to perfection and that has made all the difference.

1. God’s grace

2. Family’s unconditional support

3. Well meaning Friends and well wishers

4. Confidence in self to face challenges

These are all you need to cope with CKD and Dialysis for now.

Ofcourse, don’t forget – one day at a time.

~*~

PS : sorry this post doesn’t have a descriptive account of my experience, can make a post for it if anyone wants.

10 Reasons why Pigs are Going Yellow

Let me cut to the chase right at the beginning. The headline is a sham. Pigs are not yellow, and they’ll never turn yellow. Unless they jaundice like humans ( and they don’t) so why the stupid headline? Simple, to hold out a mirror and show that we would give anything a click if it had a title like this.

I’m serious, how many times have we seen headlines like 4 reasons for a healthy mind, or 6 reasons why the Chinese love math, 8 reasons to have children before your first marriage. Yea sorry I went a little overboard with the examples, but these are the kinds of blog posts we as bloggers are putting out there. Why? Well simply because these are the kinds of blog posts that we think and are told that readers like to read.

How to run a successful site? How to write catchy blogs? And how to engage the reader? These are the basic questions every blogger has while starting or running a blog. The most common answer recieved is have empathy; who reads long posts anymore? While it may make sense and actually seem to be common sense, we would all also agree that common sense is generally inadequate.

All of us have long stories to share, all of us are full of theories and concepts but we can’t expect the reader to read every line and every word of our long scripts and monologues. Hence the gurus suggested listing. Make lists, highlight content, categorise, compartmentalize, and then expand. This would do two things:

1. The not so interested reader won’t miss the gist of what you want to say

2. The interested reader – well actually it doesn’t matter to them, they’re interested so they read on.

And let’s be honest, not all bloggers are great and not all blogs are interesting, and most blogs these days are long. So the listed points help. But the lists may not always be accurate. If you notice, most of the listed blogs are not about factual topics. If someone said 5 points in the bill of rights that needs amendment. It makes sense – because it’s factual. 6 reasons why teenagers don’t want to invest in stocks is pure fantasy (unless based on a survey)

Ok did I write this to say the numbered points type blogging is good or bad? I’m sorry dear reader if you expected a black and white post. The world is in black and white only for the ignorant. In reality, while there are good things about the listed writeup, the problem arose because the classic “too much is too bad” situation.

All bloggers have started writing – why bloggers, even mainstream media houses and reputed columnists have fallen prey to this novel cause of making it easier for the reader. But the reasons on the list are completely subjective and have been conjured in the mind of the blogger. (Unless it’s a factual post)

So the next time you see a headline like 3 reasons democrats like pork or 6 things you should do before sleeping, just ask yourself: can I guess the items on the list? Or can I think of items to add to the list? If yes, then you know what to do.

The Paradox of Vocab

Cat one: Aren’t you too drunk already?
Cat Two: Bro, do you know what happens when I drink more?
Cat One: What?
Cat Two: My hands shake more; and what happens when my hands shake more?
Cat One: I don’t know
Cat Two: I spill more!
Cat One: Okay?
Cat Two: And the more I spill the less I drink
Cat One: Yes?
Cat Two: And so you see Dear Watson, the more I drink the less I drink, and in order to drink less I need to drink more.
Cat One: uh! I need another drink.

Kitty Party

Cat One: That’s balderdash.
Cat Two: What the hell’s a balderdash??
Cat One: It means nonsense, I meant you don’t make sense.
Cat Two: Oh, why didn’t you say so?
Cat One: I did, and I used less words in doing that, it’s called using your vocabulary.
Cat Two: And how do you earn this vocabulary?
Cat One: By reading – by learning more words
Cat Two: So you mean to say, I have to learn more words so that I can speak in less words?
Cat One: Yes!
Cat Two: Isn’t that just like my drinking paradox, my Watson?
Cat One: Balderdash!

~*~

Turning Evangelist

I was trying hard to stay awake on the night of the Europa League finals game between Chelsea and Arsenal. It was supposed to air at 00:30 India time on 30th May, 2019. I had gotten used to sleeping early and hence it was being a challenge.

The challenge became easier when one of my friends working at Isha Foundation sent a message on my WhatsApp. It was a link to a blog post on a right wing portal. I have no prejudice, they’re a self proclaimed right wing portal. I gave it a click.

The blog was about an insidious event. A man – presumably a Christian evangelist or an evangelist messenger made a walk towards the bust of Aadi Yogi Shiva at the Isha Foundation in Coimbatore and starts shouting at the top of his voice about Jesus being the sole savior and aadi yogi a distraction.

Here’s the link to the video on a tweet that went viral.

The blog post went on to talk about how Indians have been talking about religious intolerance by the hindus while the act of religious evangelism by other religions especially Christianity has always existed and has encroached the fabric of Indian spirituality and religious heritage.

This topic of evangelism and conversions is always a sensitive and a difficult topic to talk or think about. Not because we have not been subject to or exposed to it but because the rationale behind it is a little confusing. Confusing as in unknown. The lack of empathy could be one reason.

Why is a person trying to convert someone else? Why do I want to stray someone from their path and convert and mould them into wanting to walk on my path? That’s the basic question.

Now that we’ve formed the question, we’re half way there. Most of our answers reside in Maslow’s work. After one has reached the pinnacle of the need hierarchy of self actualization, one looks to change other’s lives. It’s called the level of Self Transcendence. Hence evangelism.

That was easy – and a little academic. Let me try again. If I believe in something really hard, like to take a simple example if I’m a diehard fan of Chelsea football club, I would first myself be immersed completely in it, and the joy of being a fan is so elevating that I wouldn’t stop talking about it. I will talk about Chelsea with everyone and try to bring people to games who are not Chelsea fans, not even football fans. Without caring if they need or want to be Chelsea fans. Because I am so convinced that Chelsea is the path to absolute bills and liberation that I will try as hard as possible to make others see what I see.

Religious evangelism is similar to that, a little complex ofcourse as all games of grownups are. Not all conversions or evangelist activities are nobel. Because these are huge organisations with unreal goals – most politically and financially motivated too. So not always do the people trying to convert you want you to see the light or improve your life.

However, a Chelsea fan does want to improve your life so if you see a Blue trying to get you to a Chelsea game, just go!

~*~