Memory lane – Ooty

During this pandemic I have no other option than just to joggle my memory regarding the places I visited. The old snaps instantly rekindled my memories.

Yeah I am talking about my Ooty visit. Though I was born and brought up in Tamil Nadu, I somewhat missed to visit Ooty whileI was in my home town. After moving to Delhi only I realised that I should visit Ooty during my next visit to Tamil Nadu.

While planning for the trip, I came to know that they were two modes of travel to reach Ooty. One from Coimbatore by road and it will take me to Ooty in one hour and the other is from Mettupalayam by train, which will take four and half hours. I decided to take train journey despite its long running hours.

The very appearance of the mini train enthralled me. When the train started, I got excited eventhough the speed of the train was very slow. But after one hour travel, I realized that it must be the best way to reach Ooty. Yes if you want to explore the Nilgiri Hills, you must travel by this train. It crossed through 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. View from the train was really breathtaking.

A British couple, who are also traveling with me in the same compartment and were enjoying every moment and often got excited, I engaged a conversation with them. They told me that though they have visited some of the best places, it is really a unique experience for us and it will be etched in our memory for a long. They also told me that it is really a technological marvel and you have to thank British for this. After hearing this comment I was shocked as I felt that they had hurt my national pride, but after few seconds I realized that the truth in their statement. Yes, we have to be thankful to the British for the entire railway network in India.

The train stopped for a while at Coonoor. I alighted from the train to enjoy its coolness. The ambience, climate and its greenery refreshed my soul and mind.

When I got down from the train at Ooty, I immediately felt the purity of the air. It was invigorating. I was completely enchanted by the scenic beauty. Spending my time in botanical garden was the best way to commune with the nature. A stroll on the roads of Ooty while drizzling will stimulate you. The view of tea gardens is a real feast to your eyes. You would never want to come back if you visit the Rose Garden. Doddabeta will certainly give you a chance to touch the clouds.

After spending three days in Ooty, I realized that I got a much needed reprieve from dust and pollution. Though I visited few hill stations, undoubtedly Ooty is the best I have ever seen. I wish to spend my rest of my life by exploring this blue mountain.

If we don’t change our attitude, the virus will win

We are in the midst of pandemic. It started four months back, still we are not sure when it is going to end. No experts able to predict its behaviour.

Our only hope is vaccine, we are not sure when it will come and also its efficacy. So wearing the mask, keeping social distance and washing your hands frequently are the only tool we have to contain the spread.

Initially we were all well disciplined and fearful to the virus. So every one strictly followed the guidelines issued by WHO and it helped the world in containing the virus spread drastically.

In course of time, we started throwing up the guidelines in the wind out of frustration. In India people started to behave as if they are living in a corona free world. Nobody wear the masks properly. Many people never cover their nose. Some people wear the masks by covering only their jaw. Few people wear in their neck.

Most of them don’t know what is called social distancing. So social distancing become social disgusting in many places. They also think that washing hands really an irritation.

Due to this kind of behaviour, Corona having a last laugh as it able to infect large number of people with ease.

It is not a time for frustration or getting bored. If we don’t change our attitude, it would become fatal for the entire humanity. It is high time we continue to follow all the guidelines till we get the vaccine.

India struggles to fight the pandemic

My previous article about India’s fight against Corona was written during Apr 2020, at the time India was doing extremely well by way of early lock-down with strict guidelines by the Government.

People of India also supported the Government with their disciplined attitude and stayed at home to contain the spread of virus.

The virus started spreading fast when India opening up the economy. Now India is at a place where no country would like to. Yeah India took 5th position among the worst hit countries by beating Italy and Spain.

The only consolation is India’s mortality rate is still lowest among the worst hit countries.

What happened to India? There are lot of aspects that contributed its present condition.

After lock down, suddenly the migrant workers started to migrate to their home town due to loss of their livelihood. Government did not anticipate this. They started moving in large groups to their home state without bothering about social distancing.

Government’s decision to open liquor shops also triggered the spread as crowd gathered in large numbers to buy liquor.

Evacuation of Indians who got stuck in various countries also one of the reason for the spread.

In some states people flouted lock down guidelines that resulted in fast spread of the virus. People think that just wearing mask they can live a normal life that existed before Covid19. This is absolutely wrong. Keeping social distance also as important as wearing a mask

It is really pathetic that India opened its economy when the virus spread at its peak.

In fact, I felt safe to go out when lock down was there. But now I am really afraid to step down when everything is opened up.

I wish people of India continue to observe the lock down guidelines strictly even after opening up that will certainly help to slow down the spread.

NOT PANICKED OVER PANDEMIC

When the news started coming from Whuan during Dec 2019 regarding a new virus, it was a third page news item for us. At the time nobody would have imagined that the new virus, it was named as COVID 19, would shatter the entire world. In fact, there were lot of memes and funny jokes in the social media spread faster than the virus itself.

When the virus started spreading its wings to Europe the whole world turned their focus on this. Every country realized that the virus endanger the very existence of the human beings. The way it devastated few European countries and later the USA, the experts feared that if it spread to developing countries, it would be a worst nightmare for them.

India became alert and started screening international passengers when the virus spread was not even happened. When India decided to go for the full lock-down for 21 days at the early stage that helped to contain the virus drastically. WHO appreciated India’s efforts in containing virus spread as it knows that it was a arduous task to discipline 1.3 mn people and get their support for Government’s directions. Yeah it was really heartening to see the people of India who rendered their full support to the Government. It resulted in India’s performance in fighting COVID19 is far better than any other country in the world.

There are lot of people who contributed to this success and it is time to thank all of them. First I thank the Indian Prime Minister for the quick and timely actions. I thank all the health workers who ignored their own risk and attended the COVID19 patients and helped them to recover from it. I thank all the sanitation workers for their selfless service. I thank all the workers who involved in maintaining essential services. I thank all persons who contributed generously to this cause. I also thank good Samaritans who provided food and shelter to the migrant workers who lost their job due to lock-down.

I feel sense of pride over the way our country reacted and showed our solidarity in fighting the invisible enemy. The fight is not over, yet I am sure that India is going to win the fight soon.

Finally the city of skyscrapers

After our visit to Niagara falls and Washington, we proceeded to the final leg of our tour, the dream city, the commercial capital of USA, New York.

When we traveled from New Jersey to New York, we were stunned to see the beautiful sky line of New York city. Though I have seen this in so many Hollywood movies, yet to see in person is really awesome.

New York City is the densely populated city in US. The icon synonymous with New York is none other than The Statue of Liberty. It was a gift from France to USA marking the completion of a hundred years of the American Declaration of independence.

We were excited to see the Liberty Island where the iconic Statue of Liberty stands with majesty. She stands 305 feet tall including her pedestal and foundation, and the flame of her extended torch is coated in gold leaf as a constant, shining welcome to all visitors, immigrants, and to Americans returning home.

The boat ride to Liberty Island is so picturesque and we enjoyed the view of Liberty Statue in different angles. When we were close to the Statue, it appeared so huge .

After visiting Liberty Island, we proceeded for sightseeing with a local guide who took us to the important areas of New York. First we touched the famous Wall Street, The city is the host of the New York Stock Exchange, which happens to be the biggest stock exchange of the world. As a result many major multinationals have their offices and centers in the city, contributing immensely to its economy. The Charging Bull is a bronze sculpture by artist Arturo Di Modica, which stands in front of the Stock exchange is the main attraction for the tourists.

After the Wall street, we came to the Fifth Avenue, which is a major  thoroughfare in Manhattan. It is considered one of the most expensive and elegant streets in the world. Our tour guide informed that people who live here are billionaires and people who come to New York also become billionaires !

We have also seen Central Park, Rockfeller Tower, China Town, UN Headquarters, Freedom tower, Ground Zero, Trump Tower, NBCC Building, Apple store, Newark Airport & JFK Airport.

We got an opportunity to have an aerial view of New York city through one world observatory. It has 104 storeys and we were taken to its 102  floor through lift. We amazed that it took only few seconds for us to reach its 102 floor. While going in the lift they project scenery of City’s sky line on the walls of the lift and it make us believe that we are in a lift with glass walls ! Our breath stopped for a second to see the city from the top. What an experience !

Our guide took us to the beautiful Brooklyn bridge. The Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge. It connects the  Manhattan and Brooklyn.  It is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States and was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge.

In the evening we were at Times Square. Times Square is a major commercial intersection, tourist destination, entertainment center and neighborhood in the Midtown Manhattan section of New York City at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue.  This spot was so vibrant with lot of activities. You never get bored when you are in Times square. The city glitters in the night with huge electronic bill boards almost in every building.

We were pleased when one of my nephew, who is the resident of the great city New York visited us along with his family.

Next day we left USA with beautiful memories to take back home. After spending almost 12 days in USA, it is unfair if I don’t convey my feeling about Americans. The first quality that inspired me was that whenever you happened to come across them, no matter whether you known to them or not but never failed to say ‘Hello’ with a pleasing smile. Next one is that their discipline. Wherever they go they form a queue and stand patiently till their turn comes. The next best quality is even if anybody breach the rules, they never get disturbed and say coolly ‘its OK’. These qualities I wish to embrace in my life.

Mesmerized by Niagara Falls!

After our Las Vegas visit we proceeded to Baffalo. Since there is no direct flight between Las Vegas to Buffalo, we took a flight to Charlotte and from there we took another flight to Baffalo. From Baffalo we proceeded to Niagara by road and reached Niagra around 3.30 pm.

Our hotel was very near to the falls. It was drizzling and climate was so pleasant and we thought that it is the right time to see the falls. Our jaws dropped at the very sight of the falls. Wow it was absolutely stunning. I was not exactly sure what to expect but the falls are amazing.

The speed of the water while falling down and the sound, the atmosphere mesmerized us and we thought that Nature is at its best here. Maid of the Mist ride was the most thrilling ride we have ever undertaken. When the boat reached very close to the falls, the view was absolutely breathtaking. We were happy to see the Canada border on the other side and also Canadian tourists while we are on the boat. We also visited the falls during night and it was so spectacular and a feast for our eyes.

After that we proceeded to our next destination Washington DC. On the way to Washington we had the opportunity to see Hershey’s chocolate factory in Philadelphia. It’s a simulated tour of a chocolate factory that explained the entire process of making chocolates. It’s a huge complex and our tour guide informed that Americans used to come here during the weekend and spend the entire day along with their families.

We never thought that one day we will be in front of the world famous White House, where President of USA resides.

The U.S. Capitol, is a magnificent building the home of  United States Congress. It is a beautiful structure with nice dome.

Washington memorial which is located nearby US Capitol, built to honor George Washington, the United States’ first president. It is a beautiful structure with a huge tower.

Lincoln Memorial  is a national American memorial built to honour the 16th President of  the United States Abraham Lincoin. It situated near the reflecting pool.

World War II Memorial is a memorial of national significance dedicated Americans who served in the armed forces and as civilians during the World War II.

We also visited The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum maintains the world’s largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts, including all aspects of human flight, as well as related works of art and archival materials. Here we were thrilled to see the space suit worn by Neil Armstrong, the first man who walked on the moon.

The greatest thing about Washington DC is there are so many things to do and see for free in the city. Most of the memorials cost nothing. But due to lack of time we could not go to few museums.

Lost ourselves in Los Angels and Las Vegas

We undertook a road journey from Sanfrancisco to Hollywood capital Los Angels. This journey helped us to see USA’s amazing infrastructure. While on the bus, I felt that as if I am riding on rails. The journey was so smooth, we did not even got tired after seven hours of travel.

We reached Los Angels in the evening. Spent few hours at Santa Monica beach before going to our hotel. The beach is located along Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica. I came to know that many hollywood movies were shot here on this beach. We enjoyed our time here. We walked around the beach leisurely and saw lot of interesting things including few dance performances and a magic show. On seeing the cheering faces of the people at the beach I realised that beach brings spontaneous happiness to the humanity no matter wherever they are !

Next day we proceeded for Universal Studio tour. This was the first time in our life to enter into a film studio. We were thrilled to see a big rotating globe bearing the name of Universal studios at the entrance.

The tour was so exciting . We were going around the beautiful movie sets and amazed to see a replica of big ravaged air craft. It looked so real and we felt that as if we are seeing a real plane accident. They also showed us how artificial rains and floods have been created for the movies.

Ride along with the all-star cast from the hit movies on an exhilarating high-speed chase that exceeds 120 miles per hour and catapults you into the high-stakes underworld of fast cars and international crime cartels. They have plenty of such a movie based rides.

You’ll be engulfed in a world of cutting-edge, hyper-realistic special effects, including 3D-HD imagery projected onto the world’s most expansive 360-degree screens!

They took us to the climax scene of the movie Fast and Furious and find ourselves in the middle of the fierce gun battle between hero and gang of villains . When they shoot each other the bullets crossed over our heads and we tried to stoop our head to avoid bullets hitting us. That was the unique feeling that we never forget.

Next they took us to Jurassic Park ride , we were completely bowled over to see the Dinosaurs fighting in front of us and when they turned their face towards us we became scary as it appeared to us that it is going to pounce on us any moment !

In Transformer movie ride where Robots were engaged in a battle and we felt that as if we were virtually at the middle of the two Robots. When the Robot moved towards us we shouted as if it is going to lift our vehicle and throw us away. What an experience ! We were excited over the creativity that brought the real life and the virtual life so close and actually a thin line exists between them. Great salute to the Universal Studio for this once in a life time experience.

After our studio visit, we proceeded for Beverly hills, the land of Hollywood celebrities. We walked down on the streets of Beverly hills and got an opportunity to see few homes of top hollywood stars. I have seen the streets of Beverly hills in so many movies, but never imagined that one day we would walk on the streets of Beverly hills. What a memorable moment !

After the hollywood walk, we also visited the famous Dolby Studio where Oscar award function being held every year. From there we could able to see the Hollywood sign board. Here we got an opportunity to walk on the lobby where hollywood stars walk during the Oscar award function. we have also seen the foot and hand prints of few celebrities on the floor of the hall.

Our next destination was Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world. Awesome city. Two eyes are not enough to see the colourful and vibrant city. We got a nice snap at welcome board of Las Vegas. Vegas is full of theme based hotels with casinos everywhere. It look like a mini world. All the hotels are interconnected and we can just stroll around and enjoy the life as Vagans do !

You can find replicas of Eiffel Tower, Liberty Statute and other important monuments of the world. It is a night city. During night it look like a dream land. After seeing people sitting at the casinos hours together, we wondered at what time the people of Las Vegas go to sleep and what they do in day time !

We also went to Freemont to enjoy the street experience in a pedestrian mall. This is a major attraction here. We were amazed to see a giant canopy at the top. They conduct a show on the canopy after switching off lights on all the buildings including the casinos under the canopy. The venue has become a major tourist attraction for downtown Las Vegas .

A maiden trip to USA

CITY HALL, SANFRANCISCO

We realized our dream of our maiden international trip to USA on 29 Aug 2019. We planned  a 12 days trip to visit to Sanfrancisco, Las Angels, Las Vegas, Buffalo, Washington & New York. Our first step was to go to US embassy at New Delhi for the VISA interview.  We went there with full of anxiety like school kids who face there first test in the school.  But to our surprise we found that the VISA issuing officer was so nice and  friendly, when he informed us that ‘your visa is approved’ we felt that as if we touched the moon ! Naturally we felt excited to board our first international flight to Sanfrancisco via Hong Kong. 

Its lovely to see the Hong Kong airport. First time I got the opportunity to see the runway near the coast. The whole airport looks so beautiful as it lies between sea and mountain.

Bay area of Sanfrancisco is really a feast to the eyes as the Blue sky touch the blue water and the mist envelops the whole bay area, gives an awesome look.

City hall is a beautiful structure and one of the tallest building in Sanfrancisco, where city’s administration is being held. The structure’s dome is taller than that of the United States Capitol (Senate Building) by 42 feet. The present building replaced an earlier City Hall that was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake, which was two blocks from the present one.

After that we visited the Lombard Street which is famous for a steep, one-block section with eight hairpin turns. The famous street claimed to be “the crookedest street in the world”. It is a major tourist attraction, receiving around two million visitors per year and up to 17,000 per day on busy summer weekends.

Twin mountains is the spot from where you can have a birds eye view of Sanfrancisco city. From our tour guide, I learnt that twin mountains are not natural mountains but it formed as a result of a major earth quake that devastated Sanfrancisco during 1906.

On the way to Golden Gate Bridge, we spent few minutes to see Golden Gate park which is full of colourful flowers with beautiful lawns.

Golden Gate bridge is a suspension bridge and become the land mark of the city. It connects Sanfrancisco bay with Marin Country which is in Pacific ocean. The main purpose of the bridge when it was built was to bring water to Sanfrancisco from Marin country. It is a steel bridge carried six lanes. Its international organge colour is so attractive and the bridge is visible from long distance due to this beautiful colour.

We also enjoyed Pier 39 Bay Cruise Adventure: This fully-narrated one-hour cruise sails underneath the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, around mysterious Alcatraz Island along San Francisco’s historic waterfront. Enjoy fantastic photo opportunities and breathtaking views. The cruise takes you under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz Island to see every angle of this mysterious island.

After the exciting cruise, we visited the Fishermen’s wharff, on the northern waterfront, is one of the city’s busiest tourist areas. Souvenir shops and stalls appear at every turn, as do postcard views of the bay, Golden Gate and Alcatraz. There’s also a colony of live sea lions.

While going around the city we were pleased to see the beautiful houses and colourful trams. We just loved the whole city. After finishing our visit to Sanfrancisco we proceeded to Las Angels.

Golden Gate Bridge, Sanfrancisco

The day when India’s dream was shattered

Cricket is a passion for Indians. So undoubtedly I am a passionate cricket fan. When the World Cup schedule announced I got excited. I strongly believed that the present Indian team has the potential to win this edition of World Cup. When the tournament started I delighted over Indian team’s performance as it matched with my belief. They went on to beat three top teams and they finished at the top of the points table. Out of 8 matches they won 7 matches was really an incredible performance in the World Cup.

Battle lines were drawn for the Semi Final with New Zealand and it was scheduled on 14th Jul 2019. Incidentally India did not get the opportunity to play with New Zealand earlier due to rain, but considering India’s batting strength I thought that it would be a cake walk for India to defeat New Zealand and go to the final.

India bowled well to restrict New Zealand to 240. Considering India’s strong batting, I thought that India is certainly going to the final by defeating New Zealand. When rain interrupted the match I felt anxious as I feared that it may effect India’s chance to go to the final. I prayed that the match should resume immediately. But to my sorrow rain played a spoil sport and the officials decided to resume the match the next day.

On 15th Jul 2019 at 3 pm (Indian time) I sat in front of the TV and stared its screen for the match begin. When Rohit Sharma and Rahul were at the pitch, naturally I expected a explosive batting from Rohit as he was at the peak of his form. Suddenly I felt that the earth started shaking when I saw Rohit’s exit and he just scored 1 run. What a disastrous start for India in the semi final! I never imagine India could make such a poor start in the important knockout game. I know cricket is the game of glorious uncertainties. But this time for India it is really uncertain but not glorious.

After few minutes I came to my senses and reconciled myself that since the target is not much India could make it still. Then started Indian procession led by Kohli, Rishab Pant & Rahul. India were 4 down for 26 runs.

At this stage even any ardent fan of India could believe that India could recover from this shock. I was really disappointed as India was performing extremely well to occupy the top slot could do such a blunder in an important game.

When Jadeja and Dhoni was at the crease, Indians hopes were alive. Full credit goes to Jadeja for the valiant knock. Both Jadeja and Dhoni took the match till the penultimate over and kept the New Zelanders at their tow. At this stage I presume that even New Zealanders believed that India could make it. There came a vital blow for India by way Dhoni’s run out. Its all over for India. I appreciate the Indian team for the outstanding performance , yet I could not digest losing four wickets in twenty six runs. This is going to haunt both Indian players as well as fans for long time to come.

National Museum exhibits Hyderabad Nizam’s jewels

Though we visited many times the National Museum in New Delhi, this week we made a special visit only to see Nizam’s Jewels. Priceless royal jewels which once adorned some of the most powerful Hyderabad Nizams, bear testimony to the sheer grandeur of the Asaf Jahi dynasty rulers. Open in Delhi third time now, a public exhibition has displayed 173 dazzling pieces of jewellery, including one of the world’s biggest diamonds — the Jacob Dimond.

“Jewels of India: The Nizam’s Jewellery Collection”, a temporary exhibition at the National Museum, has the Jacob (or Imperial) Diamond as its centerpiece, amid panels of richly-studded crown jewels, headbands, waistbands, necklaces, rings, earrings and other jewellery.

Now temporarily housed in a highly-protected chamber of the Museum, the studded rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls dating back to 18th-20th centuries, glitter in dim light. Such was the splendour of the Nizams that jewellery worn by royal men and women now represent some of the finest jewels and cultural heritage globally.