Sunday, July 31, 2016

In the Memory of a Great Writer: Happy Birthday, Munshi Premchand!

“Why a widow, even if Mani were untouchable, or something worse,
she is still a gem of a woman for me.
We look for experienced people,
but when it comes to choosing life partner,
we don’t consider experience a good thing.
I am not one who would strangle justice.
No school can impart experience as adversity does.
The person who has a degree from this school
can easily be trusted with the reins of your life.
In my eyes, being a widow is not a sin for a woman…”

~ Munshi Premchand.
Born: July 31, 1880, Lamhi
Died: October 8, 1936, Varanasi


Hindi Writer Munshi Premchand's Google Doodle on his birthday
Munshi Premchand's Google Doodle celebrating his 136th birthday.

As I logged into Google today morning, I noticed this beautiful doodle on Munshi Premchand, the Hindi Upanyas Samrat, the king of Hindi literature, celebrating his 136th birthday. Soon enough, I was busy scanning my Varanasi pictures folder to look for the 'Munshi Ghat' -  named after the incredibly renowned writer, a native of Benares or Varanasi whose ancestral house lies in Lamhi village on Azamgarh Road.

Munshi Premchand was one of the greatest writers in Hindi and Urdu literature; his thoughts were way ahead of the times and the era that he lived in. Simple, sensitive and poignant in style, his stories often challenged the traditional patterns of thinking and living of the society highlighting the bitter truth not traditionally spoken about or accepted. Through classics like Suhag ka Shav, Miss Padma, Swarg Ki Devi, Thakur ka kuan, Godaan, Ghar Jamai, Nirmala, Bade Bhaisaab, Sava Ser Gehu, Poos ki raat, Boodi Kaki and many many more he touched on many subjects like dowry, untouchability, casteism, remarriage of widows, mismatched marriages, the oppressive plight of women and other deprived weaker sections of the society, or simply dared the many hollow shackles of religious beliefs that accommodated blind acceptance and obedience – as opposed to humane progress by originality or innovation.

For the protagonist – he went for the common man and life was his plot, everything else revolved around them. Through his pen, he dived deep into the depths of the human psyche not with a rational mind but with a sensitive heart that made his voice eternal through time.

Have you read any of the stories by Munshi Premchand?

I consider my admiration for Munshi Premchand as a gift from my father - I never read him in school or college or any time during my growing up years until my father began speaking very highly about this man eventually bringing his special love home – a big fat spirally binded book of Munshi Premchand’s stories that he joyfully savoured in his office with his afternoon tea. Seeing his enthusiastic appreciation, I was encouraged and did give the book a try.

Thanks to my lazy reading instincts though, I have missed out on so many gems by this wonderful man but from the few that I have read is Idgaah – one of my absolute favourites, this story depicting the innocent pure love and affection of a young boy for his grandmother never fails to move my heart from the core.

This google doodle today served a perfect excuse for me to get my hands moving. It was just a matter of seconds that I retrieved this picture of ‘Munshi Premchand Ghat’ from my Varanasi pictures folder. And got working on this post. Everything else after that has been an inspiration - how his love for art rose from the depths of his heart and how his creations have left far reaching echoes in the hearts of many till date.

Soak a few moments in the memory of Munshi Premchand...
at the Munshi Ghat in Varanasi.

Munshi Premchand Ghat, Varanasi
Munshi Ghat in Varanasi dedicated to the Hindi Upanyas Samrat.

Couldn't resist ending this post without a few quotes by him. All of them are in Hindi as he wrote it. For all my friends who don't understand the language, I tried translating but soon gave up realising my pathetic translation skills would take away the soul of the words... please excuse me for the same.

- आशा तो बड़ी चीज़ है, और फिर बच्चों की आशा! उनकी कल्पना तो राई का पर्वत बना लेती है।

- कविता सच्ची भावनाओं का चित्र है, और सच्ची भावनाएं चाहे सुख़ की हो या दुःख की, उसी समय संपन्न होती है जब हम सुख या दुःख का अनुभव करते हैं।

- डरपोक प्राणियों में सत्य भी गूंगा हो जाता है |.

- नमस्कार करने वाला व्यक्ति विनम्रता को ग्रहण करता है
और समाज में सभी के प्रेम का पात्र बन जाता है |

- आत्म सम्मान की रक्षा, हमारा सबसे पहला धर्म है |

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Legend Lives On in The House of Kalam, Rameshwaram.

DAY 1: How to reach, where to stay in Rameshwaram | DAY 2: Ramnathaswamy Temple DarshanAgni TeerthamSunset boat ride | DAY 3: Places to see / Teerthas of Rameshwaram: Gandhamadana Parvatham (Rama Padam)Ghost Town: DhanushkodiRama TeerthamPanchmukhi Hanuman Temple, Lakhshman Teertham. EXTRAS: Rameshwaram Food GuideSweeping Healers of Rameshwaram Sea.

Kalam's caricature outside the House of Kalam Mission of Life Gallery, Rameshwaram

For great men, religion is a way of making friends;
small people make religion a fighting tool.
~ APJ Abdul Kalam.

I navigated the narrow bend of the swamp street, walking past peeling walls and jumping through a few puddles, to arrive at my next destination in a cloudy gloomy Rameshwaram. What stood before me was a two storey structure, modest and unassuming in built - red, white and blue in color. There was nothing in the building that could be described as eye catching but in the grace for which it stood for – it was far from ordinary and deeply meaningful. The stairs were steep, just about enough for one person to pass comfortably to get to the first floor of the iconic House No. 2 at Mosque street.

House of Kalam Mission of Life Gallery, Rameshwaram
House of Kalam - Mission of Life Gallery.

I was on my way to the Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam’s house, more popularly known as APJ Abdul Kalam, Mission of Life gallery – a contemporary treasure chest on the first floor in an illustrious yet simple bungalow of a simpler man.

Born on 15th October 1931 in Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu, APJ Abdul Kalam had humble beginnings as a young boy as a newspaper delivery boy. With dreams in his eyes and sheer will, hard work and unflinching determination in his spirit, He rose to great heights as he manoeuvred his way through the mezzanine of life. An aeronautical engineer, a notable scientist, an inspirational professor, the chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) and the 11th President of India - He left an indelible impressionable mark wherever he put his heart in, in ways that were unique not only to him but to the entire world.

Gate entrance to the House of Kalam
There's a treasure trove behind these gates!

Today, the beloved People’s President is no more amongst us. APJ Abdul Kalam left for his eternal abode from an apparent cardiac arrest on 27 July 2015, aged 83 while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, leaving a void in the hearts of millions who loved him. But it’s here, in the House of Kalam, that we literally see his unconquerable spirit lingering on ... reflecting within the frames of the house, sketched through the brushstrokes of time, revealing his entire life portrait from his Rameshwaram to his Rashtrapati Bhavan days and beyond, on the canvas of the walls.

Outside the House of Kalam Mission of Life Gallery entrance, Rameshwaram


The house had several framed sections displaying huge placards consisting of several pictures of one of the finest human beings to have walked on earth, coupled with his thoughtful anecdotes and quotes that shows how multi faceted he truly was.

You see glimpses of his college and childhood days – the locality where he grew and studied; a group photo with friends in the Madras Institute of Technology along with His teen photo on one placard. You see the ‘Missile Man’ shaking hands with Vikram Sarabhai and other stalwart scientists, in moments of pride during the nuclear missile tests and his gigantic contribution to the defence research and developments including ISRO feats, nuclear tests and the launch of the Agni missile, named after the five elements of nature. You see him addressing the youth as passionately as he walks with eminent international personalities; such rare pictorial gems recreating priceless moments from his lifetime – all find a place in the gallery.

A section of letters written to him by young children is interesting where children express their love, adoration and admiration in heartfelt touching ways. It was a special bond he shared with the young minds of the country, we know he loved children and they loved him too. The museum is full of memorabilia: ISRO Uniform, world’s first war rocket, number of trophies and awards and achievements including the three most significant ones - the Bharat Ratna (India’s highest civilian honor), The Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan, and several other prestigious international recognitions, etc.

Amidst the nuggets of history are poems like Oceans Meet  and Green Tree in my Home - beautiful thoughts that mirror the love that he had for his motherland, native place, nature, culture and religious harmony.


There was a lot to see and savour in the house, much of which I don't honestly remember today, but what I do remember is the face of this man - APJ Abdul Kalam beaming everywhere my eyes could see. Fire in his eyes, sincerity oozed out off his demeanour. Like if he could, he would talk to every youth walking in the hall right now, his fist fiercely moving through the jets of air.

Actually, he does.

Through the various pictures, poems, and quotes adorning the walls everywhere the eyes can see, he does. He speaks, his life as an example has something for everyone for all those who choose to listen.

In the House of Kalam is the soul of APJ Abdul Kalam... his vision immortal in the endless echoes that reverberate through the walls of time, pulling subtle strings of will in the heart of every youth, leading him to the land of his dreams and motivating him to believe in them, to live a meaningful life, one that is graced by the Almighty on us, and to look only upwards towards the infinitely stretching horizon of the sky. Photography is prohibited inside and somewhere it fits because perhaps what you capture in your heart, you cherish for eternity. I think APJ Abdul Kalam would have loved to have it no other way.

My Mother ~ By APJ Abdul Kalam.

Embodiment of Love

Dedicated to my mother who lived ninety three years, a woman of love, a woman of kindness and above all a woman of divine nature. My mother performed Namaz five times everyday. During Namaz, my mother always looked angelic. Every time I saw her during Namaz I was inspired and moved.

I still remember the day when I was ten,
Sleeping on your lap to the envy of my elder brothers and sisters.
It was full moon night, my world only you knew Mother!, My Mother!
When at midnight, I woke with tears falling on my knee
You knew the pain of your child, My Mother.
Your caring hands, tenderly removing the pain
Your love, your care, your faith gave me strength,
To face the world without fear and with His strength.
We will meet again on the great Judgment Day. My Mother!

Traveller Tips and Information:

1. Address: House No. 2 at Mosque Street. It's epic, so if you have any trouble locating, you can ask the locals and they will guide you happily.
2. Souvenir shop: on the second floor sells a variety of locally made souvenirs of sea shells and is managed by his brother.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Local's Secret Guide to Traveling Jodhpur

Blue City - Jodhpur

To the Rajasthan travelers, Jodhpur is a familiar name. It is the second largest city in Rajasthan. It is called Sun City because Jodhpur city enjoys sunny weather all the year. Being near Thar Desert the average temperature is always around 30-40 degree Celsius.

It is called Blue City because the houses here are mostly painted blue. Blue is a calm color, it brings coolness.The coolness is required in the warm days.

Here, I’m writing about my city, describing what I think about Jodhpur. You will see many secrets that are usually not talked about in Travel guides. Let’s start:

Why do I Love my city? (And why should you visit it!)

Let’s start with basics. I love my city because of these reasons:

  • People: Jodhpur people are very humble, live together and grow together. Every street and society lives like a bigger family. People go out of their zones to help each other.
  • Food: Dal-Bati is the first thing that comes in my mind when I think about Desi Jodhpur food. Many dishes originates from Jodhpur and Rajasthani food is very spicy.
  • Culture: People here still live in joint families. There are no customs written in books, but we learn from our elders. Being Hindu, there are many cultural festivals that we enjoy.
  • Places: Apart from famous Jodhpur tourist places, there are many hills, wells and private Bawadis (privately owned kunds). Farms and lakes makes perfect combination.
  • Weather: All the year, the days are sunny days. Being near Thar Desert, it is not surprising. Nights are cold though. During May and June it sometimes seem that the heat is never going to end.
Well, there are many other reasons I love my city. Right now I could only come up with these ;)

What are the 5 must see places in my city?

Mehrangarh Fort

Being land of kings, it has many places to visit. The most important of those are:

  • Mehrangarh Fort: One of the largest forts in India, Mehrangarh Fort is the real reason many people visit Jodhpur. They want to experience it and its history. From the Mehrangarh fort you can see the full view of Jodhpur city which is fantastic.
  • Sojti Gate Market: From Sojti gate circle to Sardar market (Clock Tower or Ghanta Ghar) there are a wide variety of shops. There is nothing that you can’t buy here. I think you must explore this market when you are in the city.
  • Kaylana Lake: It supplies most of drinking water in Jodhpur. The water is filtered by Kaylana Filter House. It is an artificial lake. You can enjoy boating and swimming here.
  • Arna Jharna Desert Museum: If you are considering it another boring museum, then I would ask you to re-consider. Instead of being in a closed room, it is open.Here you will learn about various Rajasthani traditions, music, various instruments used and how they came into reality.
  • Siddha Nath Shiv Temple: It is located in hills near Kaylana Lake. You will have to cross hundreds of stairs to reach the temple. Due to its isolation, a handicapped saint Gaurishankar chose to live here.He himself made the temple by cutting stones.

And what’s my top local secret? (Here’s something you won’t find in the guidebooks!)

Here are the 3 temples that you should visit:

  • Baba Ramdev Temple: The temple is located in Masuria Hill. Baba Ramdev has millions of devotees. During the month of August-September, people from all over the India visit this temple.
  • Ratanada Ganesh Mandir: This is a Ganesh Temple located in the hills of Ratanada. On Wednesday, the day of Lord Ganesha, thousands of people worship him here. The view of Jodhpur from here is superb.
  • Pal Balaji: It is one of the most famous temple in Jodhpur. It is temple of Lord Hanuman. Must visit place!

Here are the 3 gardens that you should visit:

Shastri Circle Park

  • Ashok Udhyan: It is one of the largest garden in Jodhpur. Lush green trees and cold air are home to this garden. During rains it is irresistible.
  • Shastri Circle: Almost everyone in Jodhpur know this place. It is a circle garden. Street food stalls here are famous.
  • Nehru Park: Another great garden is Nehru Park. It is a great maintained garden in Jodhpur. On occasions, cultural programs are performed here.

Here are the 3 mountains that you can climb:

  • Mountains near Kaylana lakes
  • Mountains behind Lariya village
  • Mountains near Mehrangarh fort

Here is another secret: No matter what time of year you visit Jodhpur, Ravan ka Chabutara and Town Hall in Jodhpur always have some fairs and performances going on. Right now (June-July 2016) one of the greatest magicians OP Sharma is performing magic shows in Town Hall and a new fair set is being set up in Ravan ka Chabutara.

My top recommendation for eating out? (And the local dishes you must try)

This is my favorite part. Who doesn't love food ;)

Go to Fun n Food Restaurant (Address:11th B Road, Sardarpura, Jodhpur), it has most of the Jodhpur food, street food and famous fast foods.

Vijay Ras Bhandar

Some recommended local dishes are:

  • Dal Bati: Bhawani Dal Bati (Address: 77, 1st Chopasani Road, Opp. IDBI Bank)
  • Gewar: Jodhpur Sweets (C Road, Sardarpura)
  • Mirchibada + Bread: Janta Sweet Home (Sojti Gate)
  • Dahi Vada: Chandra Shahi Samosa (In front of JNVU old Campus, Ratanada)
  • Cake: 15 AD (NeelamBhavan, 9th C Road, Opp. Gypsy Dining Hall, Sardarpura)
  • Juice: Vijay RasBhandar (12, C Road, Sardarpura)

Here’s what to do next…

This is all you need to know while enjoying your Jodhpur tour. If you have not visited Jodhpur yet, bookmark this guide and refer it when you visit Jodhpur.

After Jodhpur, you might want to visit nearby cities in Rajasthan. Jaisalmer, Jaipur and Udaipur are the most famous cities near Jodhpur.

Have a great tour!


Author Details: Pankaj Solanki is a passionate Marwari guy. He enjoys kicking football, dancing in rains and reading fiction novels. You can follow him on Twitter here and Facebook here.