Cool Buddies

The Joy of Giving (poem) – by Ratheesh Pisharody

Posted in Uncategorized by Ratheesh & Sharada on November 18, 2015

Will not provide shade, the young tree remarked
Why should I care? The leaves are so mine
And so he proceeds to drop his leaves,
A leaf after another, down to the ground

Do it for yourself, and not for them
Advice he heard, from the grand old tree to the left
He dropped more leaves while the old one slept
Left with nothing but branches and stem

Birds without homes moved to the left
Desperate cries from the plants on the floor
Wake up old one! the young tree said
Nothing has changed, due to my actions alone

The old tree smiled, with birds on his arm
A squirrel that danced looked up from the ground
The one who gave always made friends
The one who gave got more than he had

A day in the life of my cat [by Sharada]

Posted in Animals, Humour, Life by Ratheesh & Sharada on September 4, 2015

(from his point of view, as understood by me)

Oh it is time to wake up already! Alright! Great, the big door opens. Now they want me to come out and speak to them. First things first, ah.. nice stretch; most important thing after waking up… and a nice big yawn! Good morning, human. Yes, I mean you. Ah, you made me happy, thank you. Yes, a little bit more there, yes I love a well meaning scratch. Yay! I am free! I am free!

Wow, everyone is up. What were they doing? Hmmm, some nice smelling stuff coming from the room where they make the maximum noise and from where all my milk comes from. Oh, they are again eating some vegetables. It was smelling good, but on closer observation, I am not interested. You won’t believe how much they eat! And they keep shoving things into their mouth, sometimes it makes sound, sometimes it smells weird and sometimes it is watery. But all I get is some granules, they smell great, does not have much taste. But I eat them anyway.

What’s that? Hmm.. an intruder. Let me hide and pounce on him. Oh no, he is flying. Will climb on the table where they keep all their food. Aww.. why do you keep scolding me? I was only trying to catch the fly which I felt is a threat. Nevermind, he escaped. But only till next time.

Ah, Good morning, this is my favourite human. It gives me what I ask for. I mean, most of the time, atleast. I think it has understood me to some extent. But keeps touching me. Ouch, why are you cuddling me? Am I a baby? Come on, treat me with some respect. I am protecting you. I am an individual and as big as you, in cat years that is! Do you go around carrying your teenage sons? Don’t embarass me!

Hey, what’s that sound. Seems like an enemy, the pigeon. Grrr.. I hate them. I don’t know why. I just can’t stand them. So noisy… Let me go chase them away, stupid creatures. Grrr… hey you! stay away! I mean it! I reserve the worst expression possible for them, the most disgusting one. Let me go out and look at the road. Ah… run! What was that? My, I just ran inside in time. They make terrible, ear splitting noise and some humans seem to ride them. I don’t understand why they cannot pass silently. Scary stuff.

My stomach is rumbling, let me go be nice to my human. I will play with it and be nice to it and maybe it will give me my milk. Aww, so cute. Let me give you a small nibble while I am at it. there, do you like it? Oh you want more? Oh now you want to get into a friendly fight? I am ready, come try me! Oh now why are you screaming at me.. you asked for it! Strange.

Ah, finally I smell milk. It is pouring into my dish. lap… lap.. lick.. there! ah, satisfied. Now the post eating ritual of cleaning my fur. I am feeling itchy from last two days, these damn ticks have got me. Grrr… I will eat you! I never get them, however hard I try.. They are very troublesome. Sometimes I wish a human comes and scratches me, just that it does not know where to scratch. It means well, but scratches at wrong places and I get annoyed. Sigh.

Oh someone is going up the strairs, I can hear it! Let me run and reach there before them. It is my favourite place in the house. The open terrace. I can roll there, chase butterflies without being threatened by enemies. And, yes, I can keep an eye on those darn pigeons too from that height. Ah, why is the door closed now, sad. Oh great, it is opening it. It wants me to go out too. But wait, you can’t go away, leaving me here all alone. Come on, play with me. It went away. Nevermind, let me roll and feel the cool cement ground on my back.

I can sit here all day. There is so much to see and do here, unlike inside. Inside the house, everyone is busy doing something, I don’t exactly understand what. They seem to be eating a lot; a lot more than they should be. But they sleep very less, unlike me. I mean, what else do you need to do other than hunt, eat and sleep. They seem to be having a lot to do. They even talk to each other a lot. Wish I could understand what they say.

Oh my human looks like is abandoning me and going away. I hate it when they do not even notice me and walk away. Hey, I am sitting here, I want to sit here for some more time. Can you not stay with me? Ok, let me go downstairs and meet my other human. Meow… they seem to understand if I make a sound. No, no, thank you. I already ate. I don’t want food. This human is really dumb. It always thinks that I want food. I am not like you. I don’t eat all the time. I was saying a casual hello. You could either play with me or just say a hello. Food!

Ah, finally, I got someone to play with. This one is really good. It puts up a good fight. I would love to do this for some more time, but it gives up very easily. But I know, this one had trained me when I was little. Some of my fighting instincts were triggered due to the fights we used to have back then. If only… if only I can really fight with someone my equal! There is a big guy next door. He just stared at me the other day and I ran like hell for my life. He looks really intimidating. I will have to face him soon.

For now, I am the pampered little kitten. I can do as I please. And, my humans just love me. I love them too. So, I don’t see a need to go out anywhere. But I know, one day, I will become big and have to go out. That is what all cats do; atleast all male cats. Ouch, what is that bright light in my face. Who is this? Hey, it’s a new human. Never seen it before. It is pointing some weapon at me, might hurt me. They keep getting this box and it spits out bright flashes of light that hurts my eye. But it ends soon. Things I have to endure!

I see a spider! Wow, let me chase it down. And, just as I was about to kill the spider, something pulls me away. Ah, it is a human. It doesn’t want me to eat spiders? Is that what it is about? Oh, maybe it doesn’t want me to sit on top of their color box. The box that keeps emitting colors and sounds all the time. Somehow, the humans are able to leave all their work and sit staring at this for hours. I tried looking at it, I see a lot of colors. The spider seems more exciting.

Hey, a moving object. Could it be a rat? Let me hunt it down. Oh, it is not a living thing. Nevertheless, let me pretend it is a rat and hunt it down. I will hold it between my legs and kick it well and bite it at the same time. I will dig my claws into it. It is boring if it doesn’t even move. Oh, the human is coming towards me. What does it want? It wants to hold the rat, I mean that thing. It is throwing it. Yay, it is moving again. Let me run and hunt it down!

I am tired now. Time for a nap. Hmmm, where do I settle down? This couch smells weird. Not good. Let me jump on the sofa and try it. Hmmm, this is warm, looks good. Let me settle down here. Hey wait a minute. This is my place. Come on. Humans are so insensitive sometimes. I did all the hard work and found the right spot and now it wants it and it doesn’t even ask me. Just takes it away and drives me out. Now, I say, that is rude. Anyway, I will try the chair.

Is anybody going up the stairs? I want to run around in the open area. Hellooo “meeooowww” how do I communicate with these humans? They are so occupied with their own world all the time, what about me? I mean, I am the special person in this house, am I not? Let me go and rub my body against their legs, they seem to always fall for that. Come upstairs, understand? Oh no, not again. I just ate. Don’t keep giving me food, you fat lady. I want you to take me upstairs into the open. Yay, finally!! it is moving towards the stairs, let me run and beat it to the top. Now, come on, open the door. I will ask nicely, once again, please open the door!! Ah, good, it understood pretty well. Wow, the warm floor, let me roll on it and get some mud on my hairs. This is so much fun! Hey human, where are you going? Are you not gonna play with me, now come on, don’t be a spoil sport. Just a little game of chasing and hunting? Yay! it is coming outside, let me chase.. Ha Ha, this is so exciting.

Ok, I need a break now! I am so tired, let me take a breath. That stupid black bird again sounding alarm calls. Yes, one day I will come and eat your eggs from your nest. Aaarrrrgggghhhh I don’t like the sight of you. Go away.

Hey, where are you going, human? Are you tired too? Ok, I will just sit here, while you go and do something else for sometime. I will explore the pathway that will take me even higher today. It seems pretty steep, but I think I am ready for it. Once I get there on the top, I will get a very good view of all my enemies and can defend my territory well. But first, I need to sniff around for hours together every inch of that ladder, just to make sure it is safe.

Human! I am here! Yes, on top. I am sure you cannot smell me, because you only seem to rely on your other senses, mostly eyes. Oh you are calling out for me, ok meeoowwww, here, look up. It looked now, wonder how it sees when it is dark. I mean, it is so much easier to just smell and find out and be quiet. It is a strategy all animals swear by. Anyways, humans seem to be very unlike us. So let it be. Ah, it seems to have got me something to eat! How considerate, I was just getting hungry. Would love to nibble on some food. This makes me so happy… Puuuurrrrr Puuurrrrr Yes, stroke me little to the left please, ah, there, that feels so good. Will you play with me after I eat?

So much fun to lie in shade of a tree in the afternoon, without a care for anything in the world! How I wish I had a sibling to play with, would be so much easier. The human ones don’t seem to enjoy the outdoors, they always lie on soft bedding indoors. Just come out and see how good it feels to be in the sun! Hey! Wait a minute! Was that water? Oh no, rain… what do I do? Run… oh damn, the big metal door is closed! Helloo, anybody there? Come on, open the door!! I am getting wet! Let me try to open it with my claws, oh no, it doesn’t budge. What bad luck! Please, someone come and rescue me! I am all alone in the rain, getting wet. Have you forgotten me? Your cute little kitten?… open the door! open the door! open the door!!!

Ah finally, I hear footsteps, thank you, thank you. Oh God, that was terrible. I thought I will just get wet and sick. Ah, let me run inside to some warm spot. No… Noooooo …. Don’t rub me with that stupid cloth. I am very well capable of licking myself clean. Yuck! How disgusting. I am okay. Yes, I know, I got a bit… scared… I mean, a bit… anxious… I am okay now. I am totally fine. Whew! That was some rain, but now that I am better, I want to go out again. Guess the rain has stopped? Actually, it was fun! But don’t know why they close that metal door? It would be so much easier if they leave all doors as they are! open! Actually, why do you need doors anyways? Just to create blockages? Is it some kind of trap? Why can’t you always leave everything open, free passages?

Did you see the human who is generally kind to me and who understands me? No? Yes, I am asking you, the man with the stick, yes, you. Did you see it? What? Why are you shouting at me? Now, what did I do? Let me go and sit in the bathroom. I am hurt. That is no way to talk to a little kitten. I don’t know what I did? Why did it scold me? I will pee all over the place where you are and then you will have to wipe it. You understand? Let me do that right away! Yes, now, how do you like that?

I am sensing some danger, I hear something downstairs. Oh my! A huge hairy dog! How did he get here? Are they trying to get me killed? Let me quickly hide in a box and be quiet. This is really dangerous. I will be hunted down like a smelly rat in no time. Why would someone get a dog to this house! Don’t they know I live here now? Lie low, lie low. He can’t smell me till here. Ok, he is going. Whew! He left without any mishaps. Now that’s a relief!

Let me step out now and survey the area. And I need to be sure he is gone. Hey! what was that? I am just swept off my feet, completely caught off guard! Oh no, another human, which comes sometimes and all it does it lift me off my feet and cuddle me. Ewww I don’t like that at all. No, human, this is not how you play with us cats. You just come for a friendly fight, you run around and chase me or we will just follow some moving objects. Cuddling makes my fur messy and I will need to sit and clean it all over again. And, it rubs off some undesirable scents on my body, which again I will have to clean. So, let me be clear, don’t do it! Or else, I will.. bite you!!

I have found a new fascination, it is flowing stream in the room from where pleasant aroma keeps coming once in a while. But there is one problem. I will have to wait till the human that understands me comes and does something to turn it on. Rest of the time, I sit and wait in front of that thing all day and not a drop of water comes out. There is some trick which I haven’t yet figured out. Yes, it is here, it will turn the water on now. Yay! I love to drink cool water from this stream. And catch the sparkling bubbles sometimes. It makes a gurgling sound too, that is so fascinating. I didn’t realize I was so thirsty!

Now, I am ready to play! Yes, it is almost night and I am totally charged up and ready to hunt! Come on, human, come and face me in combat. Yes! I am waiting here in the dark to suddenly pounce on you. Oh no, now.. what happened? I just got lifted off my feet. no… nooooooo…. it is taking me upstairs. I know what this means. It will leave me in a closed room to sleep. But hey! human! I am all ready and charged up… to play! I don’t want to go to bed now. Please… some more time… I beg you… Don’t take me there! Let me jump off… oh no, I got tricked! I got locked in the room now! Scratch scratch… let me out.. I am not ready to sleep yet! Come on, open the door. No use. It left me and went away. It will not come till morning now. I better settle down on my cozy chair and sleep. Anyways, there is no danger in this room, so I need not stay alert. Yawwwwnnnnn!

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The Searcher’s block [by Sharada]

Posted in Humour, Life, writing by Ratheesh & Sharada on August 31, 2015

From the most eloquent best sellers to the newbie amateurs, from the authors of great epics to weekly columnists, it has impartially crept up on all writers at some point or the other. You might attribute your missed deadlines to it or hide away your procrastination behind this mysterious, dark curtain. But you have to acknowledge the writer’s block.

“Oh, that!” “gosh!” “there is no such thing” “of course, sometimes…” these are some reactions you receive from seasoned writers who can readily give you their theories about it or free advice on how to overcome it.

It is that sudden “abortive” emptiness that you experience when you finally sit down to write something. You start getting nervous and annoyed when you take the pen to a blank sheet of paper or a blinking mouse cursor to the first line in a blank word document.

Being a writer, I can find myself nodding agreeably to these symptoms of writer’s block. But how many of you have experienced the “Searcher’s block”?

You are sitting in front of with some bouncy animation pouncing at you, threatening to distract you while your mouse cursor is blinking on that empty text box which urges you to type anything.. anything! And, you cannot remember what you want to search for.

You may have found answers to the deepest questions, solutions to all your problems right at your fingertips, but you just seem to go blank and develop cold feet or rather, cold fingertips.

It is like God appeared and said “I will grant you any wish you want. Just name it! Anything!” and you just stand there blinking, stammering, biting your lips, stupefied, and not knowing what you really want.

How disdainful! Especially since everyone else seem to be happily finding all they ever wanted on Google, from long lost friends to secret slimming recipes to phone numbers of their favourite celebrities. IT IS ALL THERE. You only need to ask!

Till then, I would have mentally noted all that I need to ask Google, but, why on earth can’t I remember anything meaningful? What makes this worse is the fact that just because I got to the page, just because I made the effort to boot my system and open a browser, I start looking for generic, meaningless terms that Google rewards suitably with irrelevant search results.

This is not the same as knowing what you need but unable to key in the right words that will give you the best results. That is a different problem altogether.

My worst nightmare is when I am in some remote place, where you need to change buses, walk kilometres to reach a place where you get network and it is a rather slow network where the google home page takes a couple of minutes to load and after all the effort, I just can’t remember what was it that I was seeking.

It used to happen to me when I had to go to a cyber center, when I had ten minutes still left after sending my emails, and I wanted to make the best use of the paid time. Then when I start searching for lame, useless stuff, I would feel like kicking myself.

That, my friend, is the “searcher’s block”. Just like all other blocks, it is real; it is right there hiding, like a virus waiting to attack its next unsuspecting victim!

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How to transfer money from India to Nepal?

Posted in Travel, Trekking by Ratheesh & Sharada on June 2, 2015

We have written about our previous experience of trying to send money to Nepal in our book. We spent several days and did several trips to banks, numerous phone calls and finally were unsuccessful. After that, since there was no need, we left it at that. Now, an urgent need again came up. This time, we were prepared mentally. We knew money transfer would not be easy, but we also had to send it urgently due to the Earthquake relief work that needed it badly. So, we started where we left off back in 2010, were careful not to repeat the same mistakes and still it was not easy.

Finally, as a last resort, we had to call up Pasang (our tour operator for EBC trek in 2010 and who is now on a mission to work for earthquake victims in the Everest Area) and request him to setup a bank account in Nepal SBI! And guess what, since we were so persistent, he agreed to do so!

Note: We do not have credit cards, probably that would have made it easier, but not sure.

So, here are the pre-requisites, without which do not even try to go further:

1. Sender from India should have an account in SBI in the same branch from where they want to send money
2. Recepient should have an account in Nepal SBI Bank Ltd.
3. Account number, Cheque book, ID proof, preferably passport (attested photocopy) or DL of Sender
4. Name of account holder, Account number, Branch name, contact no. of the Receipent in Nepal

Once these are ready, a trip to the bank is all it takes. We are now one small step away to send the money. This visit to bank is broken down into smaller steps:

1. Go to SBI bank and speak to NEFT transfer department or Branch Manager and request a transfer. Clearly explain that it is to Nepal SBI and Nepal is another country (it might look stupid or rude, but better to be careful)
2. Fill in an NEFT transfer form (challan) using the details mentioned in pre-requisite
3. Nominal charges for transfer are applicable. Check with the bank personnel the charge applicable for the amount you wish to send. Eg: for Rs.20,000, the charge was Rs.100
4. Write a cheque in name of “YOURSELF” for the amount you wish to send + Charge applicable. Eg. If you are sending Rs.20,000 to the recepient, the cheque should be issued for Rs. 20,100, including charges of Rs.100. Do not cross the cheque
5. Attach a self-attested copy of your Identify proof (passport) to the challan and cheque. In the challan, write the recepient phone no. right on top (there is no field to enter this, but it is required)
6. Wait till they confirm the details and stamp a seal on the acknowledgement
7. Inform the recepient in Nepal, they would need to go and check at the bank. It takes 2-3 days for the money to get transferred.

Kanmani! Want to fall in love with you… [by Sharada]

Posted in Uncategorized by Ratheesh & Sharada on May 12, 2015

Right from the way they meet, unconventionally, in a railway station, and an engaging scene of them trying hard to communicate across people in a church, the movie draws you towards them. You start living with these two young, spirited and carefree people as they start their unexpected, spontaneous romance. We laugh with them, we fear for them, we cheer for them. The young couple, bold and ambitious, both equally passionate about their own career choices and unable to “let go” of their personal goals, decide to settle for a “no strings attached” relationship. The choice of talented, bubbly Nithya Menon and Dulquer Salmaan pair adds the right amount of freshness to the film.

The film, through its combination of crisp dialogues, a well blended background music and brilliant cinematography achieves what every film aspires to do – provide an experience. When you forget that you are watching a film, when you forget the names of the actors, and that they are acting, when you forget to notice camera angles, you move into a zone where you are completely involved. Your heart races in anticipation, you unknowingly shed a tear and you smile when something nice is said. You start connecting your life with those of the characters, you start believing you are them. This is when a film becomes brilliant; when it touches you. Mani Ratnam, known for his strong hold on relationships, strikes a chord with this film. He is able to give you the experience of falling in love. The film will make you want to fall in love all over again.

If it would have been just this, it probably would have given you an one-sided view of love. He goes deeper when we are introduced to an older couple, equally lovable. The silent, gentle husband played brilliantly by Prakash Rai, who captures you without imposing his overpowering presence, yet manages to hold your attention with his simple, gentle gestures. The extremely lovable, forgetful wife, played by Leela Samson, provides the well-timed comic relief, giving us a lighter side view of the agonizing, heart wrenching disease, Alzheimer’s. The mature love between them, as viewed by the young couple and how it changes their relationship is what keeps the film moving forward. The scenes of carefree life of the young couple, their adventures in love are juxtaposed against the committed and grounded relationship of the older ones. The young couple slowly start realizing what they would probably look like when they grow older. When the romance fades away, what is left is pure love, an invisible bond that makes you love your spouse unconditionally.

Where the film wins is in the way it captures the right situations, emotions and behaviour of all its characters. You can connect to almost all the characters including the strict brother and the very talkative and suspicious sister in law. You know these people. Seeing them on screen immediately makes you smile. It retains the humour till the end and manages to create emotions without being melodramatic.

One aspect where I might differ from most others was in the way the second half looks forced. Although it takes a very long time to reach the point, there is a certain hurriedness to get to a closure. You start feeling let down as the story loses its spontaneity, boldness and tries hard to become clichéd. I felt it would have been much better to have left it as it was, without having to force a logical ending, giving a feeling that it is the only way. For someone whose dreams would have taken flight imagining the possibilities of a “live-in” relationship, the eventual, conventional end would leave them cheated. The film could have ended the way it was, and in fact, would have made it shorter and crisper. Yet, the film wins because of its smaller moments that are like precious gems strung together to make a beautiful necklace.

Mani Ratnam has definitely tried to bring in some elements of contemporary youth, the “live-in” relationship goes down smoothly, but some others like the ultra glorious life of a software professional, the “forced” video gaming theme that appears in the beginning as well as in between, some of the songs, which can be called experimental, create the unnecessary distractions to the beautiful canvas. It breaks the flow, unintentionally and you start thinking about that instead. The film would have been complete even without these, in fact, probably, would have been better.

For someone like Mani Ratnam, who has already delivered his best with Roja, Bombay long ago, it is unfair to compare his latest work with his earlier ones. This film does not in any way stand up to the high standards he has set himself by his earlier work. Yet, to be fair, it is a sparkling love story, just like its title “Kanmani”, made with a pure heart and has the right elements to touch you; Although, it might not stay with you for as long as you would expect it to.

A dream called Badanavalu [by Sharada]

Posted in Uncategorized by Ratheesh & Sharada on May 7, 2015

Badanavalu is a small village tucked away between the boundaries of Mysore and Chamarajanagar districts of Karnataka. We can see this as an obscure station in the railway route that runs between Mysore and Chamarajanagar. One might miss it because the express trains do not stop here and the passenger trains stop for a few brief seconds. What may be easily forgotten as a small dot in a magnified view of a map, at closer look, has an astounding history behind its existence. The villagers, especially the elders, are full of stories from a bygone era.

In the last century, Gandhiji had visited this village. And the most interesting part is not the fact that he visited, but the reason behind his visit. Because, this was no ordinary village. Back in those days, when Gandhiji was advocating “Swaraj” and “Self-sufficient” villages, Badanavalu was a living example of one such model village. The Khadi and cottage industries Centre started by Shri. Tagadoor Ramachandra Rao was a flourishing enterprise, providing employment to the villagers and helping them produce some commodities, mostly hand-made. It played a major role in women empowerment as a majority of its employees were women, who could come and work at their convenience. DSC_0085

And not just the Khadi centre, Badanavalu was a leading supplier of milk, curds and other dairy products to all the nearby villages. Legend has it that, a dynamic woman named Parvathamma used to take this train everyday with her supplies of milk and curd for sale. And the train wouldn’t leave the station until she boarded! Such was the glory of this place and the people of this village. And this is what drew Gandhiji’s attention to this village. He came to experience this beautiful setup and see his dream of a self-sustained village come true.

DSC_0168The vast nine acre campus of the Khadi Centre would come alive every morning with the tinkling sound of women’s bangles and anklets, as they walked towards their spinning wheels. The tranquil atmosphere was broken by the welcome sound of the women’s laughter. The day would start with a daily prayer in front of the Gandhi Mantap. The various neatly constructed structures housed each unit like Khadi spinning, weaving, paper making.

Each building was decorated with its own garden with various flowering plants. The entire setup resplendent with brick walls, tiled roofs and well-trimmed garden gave a homely feel to the Centre. The hand spun yarn would go the weaving unit and any waste generated would feed the paper making unit. The paper making unit housed large machines that would process the pulp. Three living row houses served as quarters for any visiting officials and guests. The water needs were taken care by a well in the premises.


But now, this place is desolate. The once flourishing industries are all shut down, barring a handful of looms that are still managing to exist. There is a deathly silence as you enter the campus. The tree roots are reclaiming the building and towering over them.The buildings are in various stages of ruin – some which are missing tiles, some whose walls have fallen down, some that just exist as a rubble heap, each of them speaking of neglect.

DSC_0179The quarters look like bombed homes, with the kitchen walls still covered in soot and the door frames decorated with vestiges of dried up mango leaves; a chilling reminder of life that was lived between these walls. The campus resembles an excavation site, a chapter from a history book.

The paper making workshop looks like a ghostly hall, with huge machines now standing silently, covered in cobwebs. The place is now house for bats that rest here during the day. A small black board with production log still adoring the wall, a reminder of work left incomplete. Although the pathways to these buildings are still visible, the gardens lining them are long dried and vanished. The entire setup looks like a miniature of how the planet would looks like without its people.

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The few women who still come here to work do so with their own determination and grit; driven by poverty, with nothing left to enthral or motivate them. They sit all day and spin yarn, rotating the wheel in an endless loop; their eyes glazed and looking away into a far off past. Some of these women are almost a hundred year old and have been working here for the past forty years. They have witnessed the grandeur and downfall of this place and yet, they continue to sit at their wheel, stoically, day in and day out, unmoved.DSC_0024

It is heartening to see their excitement when someone visits the centre and spends a few moments with them. They greet you with toothless smiles and gestures signalling “did you have lunch” and then nodding their heads when you ask them the same question. Their voices are drowned by the constant sound produced by the spinning wheels.

With the industry unable to provide work for the villages any longer, they are faced with a new challenge – of men migrating to nearby cities in search of daily labour. The women see their husbands and sons board the train each morning with the hope of securing some work, and returning late each night, often inebriated and abusive, from despair. The railway line which was their lifeline has suddenly turned into a curse. There is no milk or curd produced now, it is bought in packets from nearby towns. Severe water shortage has left them helpless. They are now depending on the fast depleting ground water for their needs, with bore-wells drilled as deep as a hundred feet. The place is scattered with structures that look meaningless and ridiculous, even – like a huge water tank with no water, a well that is completely dry, serving as home for pigeons, electricity poles and lines that run everywhere but with nothing to carry.

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But, all this is about to change. A few spirited people made this their home for the past twenty days and started a Satyagraha movement here for Sustainability of Villages. The Khadi campus was host to a large congregation of five thousand like-minded people from across the country, from various walks of life, who came here to stand for our villages; to stand for a dream called Badanavalu. Important issues were discussed and brainstormed. One could witness an atmosphere of high energy and positivity, with everyone resolving to do their bit towards sustainability of our villages. Even the tamarind tree at the entrance sprouted fresh green leaves, as though expressing its support.

DSC_0080Sustainability of villages, people losing their life because of migrating to cities, villages unable to provide basic facilities for them to live comfortably, Govt. policies, or the lack of it were some of the issues discussed on that day. Eminent scholars, experts in their fields, celebrities who care, activists from various sectors were part of the discussion panel. The Badanawal Declaration, blessed by Elders, senior Gandhians, proclaimed that GDP is an inadequate measure of growth, as it completely ignores human happiness; and that traditional practices like cattle herding, hand spinning and cooking should also be considered as wealth generators.

Our country, unlike western nations, has a rich tradition that boasted of villages that were self-sustained. The villagers had enough work, good food to eat and led respectable lives. But, a few industries and the lifestyle that goes with it, imported from the west, has lured people to move to cities and leave the villages and villagers ignored. We have trampled upon our traditional knowledge, shunned the grandmothers who told us these stories and burnt the land that gives us food. If we need to come out of this mess, we have to first recognize and respect our villages. We need to build a society that treats villages with respect and stop promoting the false notion we have created that “cities are rich; villages are poor”. The Badanavalu Convention was an effort to understand these and create a paradigm shift.

The people of Badanavalu had never experienced such warmth in years, they reciprocated with open doors. People came here to search for something within themselves – a true “Satyagraha” (Search for Truth) and left with a fresh mind filled with enthusiasm and new ideas. This movement gave a new hope to a lost cause; like a battered army receiving enforcements when they are at the verge of surrender. The people have something to look forward to and talk about in the days to come. And, the cycle continues.

Help Khumbu Sherpas: A heart wrenching letter from a Sherpa

Posted in Uncategorized by Ratheesh & Sharada on May 6, 2015

We got this plea from Pasang Sherpa, who was our trek organizer for our Everest Base Camp Trek back in 2010. Having seen the devastation first hand, he considers it his mission to reach out to the remotest villages of Khumbu region to help the earthquake victims of the Nepal Earthquake.

Read this post to see how to transfer money from India to Nepal through SBI:

———- Forwarded message ———- From: Mountain Sherpa Trekking & Expeditions <> Date: Fri, May 1, 2015 at 8:39 AM Subject: CHARITY FUND RAISING PROGRAM To: “” <>


MISSION: Nepal Earthquake and Everest Avalanche Victim Fund in order to directly help village families survive.

Dear Friends,

Tashi Delek and Namaste from Nepal.

Nepal is in major crisis and suffered a huge loss of life and property due to the massive earthquake on April 25th 2015, including a series of aftershocks that followed the main jolt. This catastrophic earthquake also caused a tragic avalanche on Mount Everest and many Sherpa guides, cooks and climbers’ lives were lost.

The Earthquake’s direct effect on the closest districts of Nepal including the capital city, Kathmandu is tragic. At the moment Nepal is crying, each and every Nepalese eye is covered by saddened tears.

The whole Nepalese community has suffered from the devastating loss of its people and properties.

Solukhumbu district is a remote district of Nepal where Mount Everest (the highest peak of world) is located. According to the recorded district headquarters of Solukhumbu a total of 21 people including Sherpa guides and porters (as per recorded date of 29th April) have lost their lives due to this horrific earthquake. Everest Base Camp has also been afflicted as a result of avalanche activity.

As a village born Sherpa from the Solukhumbu district where I grew up, who became a porter, later trekking guide and now secretary of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) who operates a professional trekking company in Kathmandu since 2002, I must take immediate direct action.

My heart and mind is calling me back to my homeland and its needy poor families who lost their lives due to this deadliest natural calamity ever to have hit my homeland.

Solukhumbu is remote, very beautiful and suffering however the Government of Nepal’s aid funds are not yet reaching those in need.  No one is trying to reach to give sympathy and prayers to the families of the 21 deceased as a result of this disaster.

I can’t tolerate it by just watching the trouble from Kathmandu. I am a Sherpa from same district of Mount Everest, son of Himalaya and have direct association with the village people of Solukhumbu. I am feeling deep sorrow and profoundly saddened by the ultimate demise of those brave people of Solukhumbu.

Thus keeping humanity in mind, I decided to personally visit Solukhumbu during the month of May  and going to meet relatives of the deceased people and help those needy families who lost their loved ones in the tragic natural disaster last week.

During my visit, I am going to provide donated money to the village people so they can buy their choice of foods, pay education fees or buy any goods they really need to survive and begin a new life.

If we can help them by cash rupees, they can use that cash for any purpose; especially their children’s education at the nearest school so the future of the children can be bright.

How transparent is my victim aids?

I am a professional business man running a trekking company; I am also one of the victims of the earthquake. My office is damaged, my house in Kathmandu and Solukhumbu is cracked but the biggest thing of my life is my family is all safe.

If you don’t have health, food and shelter life is not possible. In order to make a good life for the remaining family of the deceased people of Solukhumbu, I will:

  • Visit the victims’ families myself
  • I will take photos of each and every victims family I meet
  • I will distribute the donated funds you provide to me
  • Each family will receive equal donated funds
  • I am going to thank each individual on Facebook but if you do not want to be acknowledged via social media please let me know as I respect your wishes
  • I will provide a bank receipt to all fund contributors and send to them via personal email
  • I will post photos of the destitute people of Nepal my Facebook to show the fund in action.

Please add me in your face book friend:  Pasang Sherpa Pinasha  and you can see my daily social activities regarding earthquake victims charity since earthquake happen. You also can send me questions at: or my company e-mail.

This is not a social organisation’s fund raising campaign and no any other administrative cost involve, that means whatever the cash you can donate, that help goes directly to those desperately needy people of Nepal. It does not involve any political parties or brokers or human workers to pay, it is direct, immediate help to the people in need.

I guarantee that your every dollar will reach those people those are real victims of the deadly earthquake and avalanche.

If you have any questions about my charity fund raising program please do not hesitate to contact me via email or social media.

How you can donate/help?


Western Union money transfer is fast, reliable and free of charge to send money to Nepal for earthquake victims. Please use my name and address below when you transfer donated funds via Western Union.

  1. a)      Name: Pasang Sherpa
  2. b)      Address: Kapan- 1, Kathmandu, Nepal
  3. c)      Subject: Nepal Earthquake and Everest Avalanche Victim Fund
  4. d)      (+977) 9851060947: my cell phone if you require

In regards to the core help for the victims of the April 25th 2015 earthquake and avalanche, every donation of your help will be truly useful and I would like to humbly request for your generous support to make a new life for the Nepalese people.

From the poverty-stricken people of Nepal, I am very thankful to you in advance and sincerely appreciate your kind help and much needed support.

Kind regards,

Pasang Sherpa

Solukhumbu District

Now – Kathmandu, Nepal

SHERPA, Pasang Managing Director
MOUNTAIN SHERPA TREKKING & EXPEDITIONS( MSTE) P.LTD GPO BOX No: 14444, Thamel, Kathmandu,Nepal Phone: +977-1-4435828 Fax : +977-1-4435828 Cell: +977-98510 60947 / + 977-97510 55600( 24 Hrs) E-mail: / Website :

A fortnight in Khumbu: how the trip changed me [by Sharada]

Posted in Uncategorized by Ratheesh & Sharada on November 10, 2014

“So have you trekked in Himalayas before?” asked our guide when I met him for the first time in Kathmandu. “No not in Himalayas, but have done some two day treks in the south of India” I replied sheepishly. “Good good. So nothing in very cold, very long?” he further pursued to my dismay. “No. No. Nothing like here” I said, my voice barely audible. “It’s okay. It’s okay” he said smilingly. Now, I wondered, was it really okay?

When I was excitedly making our list of “must see” places, Everest Base Camp (EBC), Nepal figured as one of the places in Asia. At that time, I had not given much thought about the logistics or the difficulty level of this trek. Little did I know that it was a 15-17 day trek with medium-hard difficulty level. When we (me and my bestfriend / husband) realized we have limited time and budget on our hands, the EBC trek slowly made it to the top of our wish list.

As though to validate our decision, we got a gift – “guide to trekking in Nepal” – a book by Stephen Bezruchka. This is when I started framing a mental picture of the places in Nepal, which was till then so obscure and inaccessible, only represented by words like Mt. Everest, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary that was so firmly etched in my memory by ever-persistent geography teachers.

It was my long cherished dream to witness the tallest peak in the world. Mt. Everest stood there amongst several other peaks vying for the first place, lifting its head majestically above them all. Initially, the first human instinct, ‘It must be conquered’ did cross my mind. But the little voice inside was urging me not to. A King deserves respect; we should be going there to show our respect by spreading our arms, kneeling down and prostrating before Him. According to both of us, climbing mountains to demonstrate strength, to show we are better than them was not our way of experiencing the Himalayas. It was important for us to feel a sense of gratitude towards these magnificent creations of nature, for they have been forgiving.

Initially, the trek was only a means to reach my goal of seeing the Himalayan Emperor up close. Only after we embarked on this journey did I realize that it had nothing to do with the visuals, it stirred something more; deep within.

Lukla was to be the starting point of our trek to the Everest Base Camp. It is a small town situated in the Khumbu region of the Himalayas. The Khumbu region lies within the Solukhumbu district in Nepal towards the Northeast. Some of the world’s tallest peaks are situated in this region, including the Mt. Everest. We decided to fly to Lukla from Kathmandu in a small dornier aircraft.

It was one crazy decision to fly on this plane due to its notorious landing strip situated at the edge of a cliff; we had contemplated it numerous times and finally decided to go for it. If we landed safely, we could be one of the few privileged ones to have taken this up and would have a very interesting story to tell. If we did not make it, we would become part of the statistics. We took our seats and held our breath, the take off was smooth. Soon we were flying over lush green valleys, flowing rivers and after a while, at a distance we could spot the snow capped mountains.

“There is the landing strip!” someone shouted. I squinted my eyes to see a thin strip of asphalt the size of a little finger precariously hanging at the edge of the cliff and before I could think how the aircraft would land, we started descending. Would the aircraft align itself exactly to the thin strip? I held my breath in anticipation, it was almost unbelievable. But the pilot managed a perfect landing and everyone in the plane gave out a loud cheer.

The trek itself took us through some of the most beautiful landscapes; we were days away from our destination but we had already realized the magnanimity of the landscape. The mountains were so large that it would take us days to go around and cross over into another. We would often realize that at the end of a day’s walk (about 4-5 hours of trek) we would have gone around half a hill. We were aware of only Mt. Everest, but we realized there were several mountains that were nearly as high and equally beautiful and intimidating at the same time. On the second day of our trek, we reached a place called Topdhara where we got a picture perfect view of Mt. Everest. This image I saw will remain etched crisp in my mind; it was the first time I was seeing Mt. Everest, so far had only seen pictures of the tallest peak in the world, had heard only statistics. It looked intimidating, with its menacing peak towering high over all other mountains in the vicinity, guarded fiercely by Nuptse and Lhotse, whose edges cover most of Mt. Everest. I had expected it to stand alone, in the middle of a plain, suddenly rising towards the sky. But there were several others surrounding, it was like an entire army dressed in white, standing guard. And there can only be one King, and he was well protected by an impenetrable fort.

The trekking got progressively tougher and it started taking a toll on my body. The physical effects were noticed at first – heavy breathing, difficulty in climbing, slower pace, tireness, need to rest more often. The psychological effects were more dramatic and took time for me to identify.

We were warned about the symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) which is commonly noticed among trekkers in this region. The tolerance levels of individuals could vary, so some might be hit at a lower altitude whereas others might be hit at a higher altitude. People living in higher altitudes might be better at handling AMS than people from the plains. For me, it started with extreme tiredness, thirst and a splitting headache while we were on the fourth day of our trek on the way to Dole from Phortse Tanga. The headache got worse and I had to take tablets, but it wouldn’t go away. I lost my apetite, so could not eat much. Since I had not experienced AMS before, it was from theoretical knowledge from my reading that I could gather that I had been hit by AMS. We decided to change our plans and stay an extra day at Dole to see if the symptoms subsided. The next day, without much improvement, our guide suggested that we descend to Phortse Tanga and change our route. Our plans to climb further up to see the beautiful lakes of Gokyo just vaporized in a moment. It was hard for me to believe at first that we would not reach Gokyo, I had read so much about these lakes and had been keen on squeezing this in our itinerary. We had limited time and budged and the greed to see more in the given time drove us to have a grand itinerary. When I sat here in Dole, far away from home, with extreme cold winds gnawing at my fingertips and with a heavy head, it did not seem very hard to make the decision to descend. At that point, all I wanted was to feel a little better and the effect of the descent was almost dramatic. As soon as we descended, I started feeling better, my headache was gone and I even felt hungry.

This whole episode had taught me one great lesson – never to underestimate the power of nature’s forces. All my ambitions, ego came crumbling down and I became even more submissive towards the sublime force. I could right now look at myself in a mirror and laugh; laugh at the greed I had in packing as many places as possible into our three-week vacation without considering our mortal capacities; laugh at the way I got carried away by the impressive and tempting itinerary that our tour guides presented according to my wishes; laugh at myself drinking garlic soup religiously thinking it would help me overcome the symptoms of AMS!

We decided to let go of all our plans, throw away the itinerary and lose control of our lives. Here started the spiritual part of our journey that would change us as people and would empower us to trivialize the urge to reach our destination. This change in us would just let us enjoy every moment of our existence in this beautiful place and thank nature for letting us be amidst her most precious creations.

The headaches stayed with me for the next few days. But now the psychological effects were more pronounced. A deep sorrow, hallucinations of grasslands and home started haunting me often, a strong feeling of being homesick and a sense of indifference or aversion to most activities. By the time we reached Gorakshep, which is the older base camp (we had already crossed the 5000m mark with this), both of us could only manage to ingest a couple of spoonfuls of soup. The views got more and more breathtaking, the landscape changing dramatically from a dull brown to an icy white. We saw the Khumbu Ice fall, a large glacier that runs all the way separating the base camp from the rest of the path to the summit. This Ice fall is one of the most difficult stages in the Mt. Everest expedition, with many people failing to cross it successfully. It looked fascinating, from a distance, of course. But people who crossed and hence would have seen the deep crevices up close would have a different view altogether. But our journey would end here at the base camp; for people who would go all the way to the summit, it would be but a small milestone in their much larger and more arduous expedition.

Ironically, the base camp, although would bring us close to Everest, it would cut us away from the beautiful views of the peak that we had so eagerly sought. The peak gets completely covered by the strong and protective twins Nuptse and Lhotse. We know that it is there somewhere beyond, but we could not see it! It was an awkward moment for our guide-porter duo (Lakhpa and Dorje) as well. They just threw their bags and sat down on a rock, not saying anything, just looking away. And we looked at eachother and smiled; this was where our trip ended. No exhiliration, no hi-fives, no taking photos against the peak in the background. It was a poignant moment, we just sat there in silence for a few minutes, till our condition forced us to turnaround and start our return journey. But I was far from being disappointed, my mind was completely at peace. I was overcome by a sense of humility and respect towards these mountains. I just sat there and thanked them for allowing us amidst their territory and letting us step into their magical world, atleast for a few days.

There are several blessings in our life that we take for granted. We tend to complain about trival discomforts like a bus coming late, traffic jams, power cuts and inadequate TV channels! But we conveniently assume that we have a fundamental right over creature comforts and so easily take for granted what is made available to us mostly due to the fact that we were born in a certain place at a certain time. In the mountains, we saw people smilingly endure such harsh conditions of living – extreme cold, freezing water to wash clothes, no electricity, firewood stoves that take time to light up, unavailability of fresh vegetables, unavailability of a variety of food stuff. I was humbled to see the womenfolk working tirelessly from early morning and resting only after sundown with a hot water bath, the only luxury that they allow themselves in a day. One of the cheerful ladies, Sonam, we met a lodge in Namche Bazar was excited to know we were from India; she loved the Indian cinema. On the outside she looked like an effervescent lady who sits and watches TV, with no worries, but as we spoke to her, she opened up and told about the cold that she has to endure here as she fondly remembers her childhood that was spent in the plains in much warmer and comfortable surroundings. Another lady Dhona we met at Khumjung was keen to speak to me and know about life of women in the cities, how we lived, where we worked. She had accepted her life and did not feel she had to change anything, she was just curious to know how the world outside the mountains was.
It was so cold that it took great effort even to have a shower, which we so often forego in the city due to laziness, even with hot water readily flowing from the taps. Back in the mountains, getting a bath ready was a two hour project and even the thought of slipping out of the comfort of the thermals was intimidating. After I came back, I made it a point to never say no to a nice hot bath!

People go to the Himalayas seeking a spiritual experience. What is spiritual? Is it spreading a mat in front of the mountain and meditating? Is it visiting an ancient monastery and praying to the lamas? Is it thinking of God in every step of our journey? Is it standing at the foothills of a huge mountain and experiencing humbleness? I was not sure. While we were walking we had to exert our bodies to great limits. We had to push it beyond our normal physical abilities and cajole it to move even at great altitudes. With all my senses concentrated towards trekking, I had little chance for serious, complex thoughts like “what is the meaning of life?” “What is the purpose of our existence?” My mind was clear of any deep thoughts. It had the tranquility of a five year old. This childlike state of mind in which I went about walking, tripping on small stones, astonished at huge boulders, trotting alongside our guide without worrying about the route, the weather, place to stay was what gave me peace of mind. This banished any traces of doubt or fear in my mind and retrenched the mind to way back into my childhood where I was carefree and fearless. And to me, this was spiritual.

This was an inexplicable state of mind that I longed to be in much after we returned from our trek. The feeling that made me leave behind all thoughts of family, work, environment, world behind and pulled me from all the human flavors of envy, jealousy, sorrow and joy to a state of stillness and calm – this was what I missed the most once I was back to civilization.

We leave our footprints, sounds, smell in a place we visit that changes it in a certain way; But what the place leaves us with, the way it touches us can sometimes change us completely, like we have never been before.

Film Review: Haider [by Sharada]

Posted in Film by Ratheesh & Sharada on October 14, 2014

(Disclaimer: may contain spoilers)

Her enchanting eyes rivet you right from the beginning – those deep, brown eyes that drown secrets and sorrow with aplomb. Haider is the untold story of the “disappeared”. Those fathers, husbands, brothers and sons who are arrested by the armed forces in Kashmir and taken away, never to be found again; a few thousands who are methodically erased from their everyday lives.

Ghazala Meer tells her son Haider “we are called half-widows here…”. They wait eternally, initially with hope that their husbands will return; then with indifference that they atleast locate their dead bodies. Poignant scenes of a wife’s praying silently for her husband to return, a son’s search for his lost father haunt us throughout the story.

Haider’s search takes him through some dark secrets of his family and sets him off on his internal journey of self discovery – from a college kid to a mature man to an insane “madman”; his metamorphosis forms the main storyline of the film.

But what towers over all this is Ghazala’s character. She is a demure wife, teaching in a school and the proud mother of their only son – Haider. She has accepted her dispassionate life in exchange for a decent living with all creature comforts. All she wants is what any other wife asks for – a loving husband who provides, a safe environment for her family and a cozy, comfortable home that she can call her own. When she starts feeling these are about to be compromised, a deep fear engulfs her and she panics. She begs him to stay away from danger; but her deepest fears come true as she sees her house bombed and her husband taken away, branded a criminal.

Left to fend for herself with nowhere else to go, she is faced with a difficult choice – to fight alone for her husband’s return or to accept the worst and take refuge in her brother-in-law’s house. She chooses the latter, knowing well that he secretly harbours a desire to marry her. This is made clear by his frequent flirting, his refusal to marry anyone else and his shameless ogling. When confronted by her son on her questionable intentions, she hides away her shame behind her anger and justifies her actions.

Although a helpless half-widow, she is fully aware of her charm and uses it to her benefit; just as she had exercised emotional blackmail with her son in his childhood, as he recollects. Torn between the love for her son and her future hope of becoming Khurram’s bride, she years for the utopia of a perfect life in the blood strewn icy slopes of the valley. Like a lioness who has lost her mate to a younger, more aggressive male, she stands by her new partner, fully aware of the fact that the new male will eventually kill her offspring.

Haider’s girlfriend and constant companion in his pursuits, Arshia is a young journalist. Their deep love for each other and their innocence is beautifully portrayed. This is in sharp contrast to Khurram’s lustful pursuit of Ghazala and their adulterous relationship. Kay Kay Menon’s convincing portrayal of Khurram marks yet another of his illustrious performances. He proves yet again what a fine actor he is. He is just Khurram during the film; there is no Kay Kay Menon. He can be seen as a “villan”, but then again, you will forgive him for just being human. Tabu as Ghazala personifies grace and beauty. Alternating effortlessly between a helpless mother and a cold, distant mistress, she forms the strong strand that sews the film together.

The film does justice to the place it has chosen as the backdrop – the Kashmir valley is shown in its pristine form in peak winter, resplendent with snow flakes, frosty lakes and vast expanses of white. The cinematography befits a large screen viewing. The scenes of blood on ice haunt you long after you have left the theater halls – an agonizing reminder of the conflict. However, the music is disappointing, considering it is a Vishal Bharadwaj movie, the expectations were a bit high.

But where the director wins yet again is in exploiting and exposing human relationships; the layers of a person, the multiple facets of a human being. Supported by brilliant actors, it only falls short in its inability to build towards a better (and less cliched) ending and the brilliant-effort-yet-not-there acting by its younger star cast which fails to evoke the necessary emotions towards the protagonist.

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It is only an animal [by Sharada]

Posted in Uncategorized by Ratheesh & Sharada on September 27, 2014

When the boy killed a lizard for “fun”
you dismissed it as naughtiness

When he tore his sister’s homework
you dismissed it as sibling rivalry

When he poked fun at the girls in his class
you dismissed it as classroom jokes

When he shouted at his mother
you dismissed it as teenage tantrums

When he was caught eve-teasing
you dismissed it as a transitional phase to a man

When he rapes a woman
why is it that you are so shocked?


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