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Friday, December 26, 2008

About people who greatly inspired me: Neale Donald Walsch, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Anthony Robbins

About the writings of Neale Donald Walsch:

A client of mine mentioned about CWG (Conversation with God) book -written by Neale Donald Walsch - sometime in late 1990s. It was not until around 2001 or 2002 that I managed a copy of CWG Part I. He had written three volumes in this series. The book is organized as a series of questions posed to God by Walsch and God answering him. This became his conversation with God. Before he got initiated into his now famous conversation with God, Walsch narrates how he had a difficult time in his life, how many of his efforts did not yield results to him, how his health deteriorated, how he lived in brinks of poverty etc.. etc.. and finally in all his frustration throws away his yellow pad to some corner ... and remains blank looking at the sad...frustrated.... and when suddenly he starts receiving answers from God for his vexing questions ....when he regains his pad and starts writing, even as the answers from God keep flowing to him. The answers reach him clearly and he has no doubt that they come from HIM.

In the first volume he poses several questions to God and the questions relate mostly to problems of our day to day life – why we are not able to maintain good health, why we stay poor and why Lady Luck is not turning our side, why we are unable to succeed, why certain ill-fate keep visiting us repeatedly, why we are unable to maintain our important relationships, is sex and marriage important, why we are unable to love people, why do we have fear, hate, greed, jealousy and other similar emotions, are gods partial and a host of similar issues that keep nagging us everyday and where we don't get a convincing answer from any corner. The answers to these questions run into second part of the book too. In the final volume III, larger issues like education, child rearing and parenting, global conflicts, human consciousness, global communities, extra-terrestrial intelligence, universal energy and force, global villages, incarnations etc are discussed with God.

I may not have correctly chronologized the contents of the three volumes, but broadly they are the topics on which he discusses with God. The answers from God are candid and forthright.

When I initially started reading this book, I couldn't stop comparing notes with what my Bhagavan had taught me and I couldn't help concluding great thinking arrive from the same Source. “Even before you ask me a question, I had answered; but the problem is 'do you take notice?'” is one of God's powerful answers. “I would be powerless god if I had allowed something to exist without my sanction – that includes devil too.” is another powerful declaration from God. “Why, do you think gods cannot be humorous?” an extraordinary view. There are many such forceful and powerful statements and declarations from God.

I now believe that the answers for our various questions are already inpregnated somewhere 'there' and one has to only draw from it. That is how, almost same and similar declarations had been made by Lord Buddha, Jesus The Christ, Prophet Mohamed, Lord Krishna and many other people of Higher Consciousness. Even in scientific world, the same revelations keep happening to more than one scientist simultaneously though they were very little in touch with each other. Wisdom is universal.

I hear and read that in ancient days, several thousand years back, people talked to Nature for their needs and Nature readily obliged them. They could bring rains, cure diseases, protect agriculture and cattle. Stories are abound in all religions, in all societies, in all communities all over the world about such supernatural happenings because people could talk to gods.

In Indian traditions, there are plenty of mythological stories about people who just walked into god's abode, asked boon, demanded things, dared them. Everytime God did respond and they knew it. God cannot but deny when demanded by his 'Bhaktha' as He is 'Bhaktha Paraadheena'. His answer comes in the form of a vision, a voice, a dream, an apparition, an expected chance revelation, an intuition, a message from deep within, a sudden body movement, a sensation, and some people knew that it was His way of answering. Communication need not only be by way of a letter, e-mail, a phone call, personal face to face discussion. Communication between two need not be just spoken or written words. Experts on communication today would agree. Communication is transfer of information from a transferor to a transferee using a medium in which the communicated message is understood by both the sender and receiver.

Only after reading the CWG, I ever realized that such conversations do take place for many, but rarely noticed. It had happened to me too, like it could have happened to anybody else. It keeps happening to me. The only difference is that now I notice that such a conversation is taking place. And I also know that He is responding.

It is my personal belief now that Conversations or dialogues – remember it is not a monologue – can take place three forms. It could be a praise for God; “The more you send your prayers on His blessings, the more He showers on you,” says Joel Osteen, the Spiritual Speaker from Texas. It could take the form of a prayer; “Prayer has to come from your heart and not from your head. One must pray from a state of helplessness. One must have a close bondage with the Lord – may be a father, mother, a friend, a master.” says Sri Amma Bhagavan. Or a conversation may be meditating on HIM. Even silence could be a powerful form of conversation and may be the most effective one. Have we not noticed when someone very close to us, – may be our father, mother, a good friend – when they are silent, we understand what they mean. One can discern what silence means.

God answers very clearly and convincingly various questions from Walsch and through Walsch, He addresses everyone who seek answers for their questions. Exercising your mind, you may not agree with the answers. You don't have to. But they are still answers from God. It is up to us to listen to HIM. How many times, we all know for sure, we had been ignoring the answers from God?

The style, the coherence, the lucidity, the flow, the logic,, the arrangement of questions and the answers, the smooth flow between questions back and forth, the humor, the play and pun with some words and expressions in the Triology are all excellent and provokes a reader to contemplate. When you read these books purposefully, the least it does for you is you become aware. Awareness itself solves many problems. “ To See is to be to be Free.”

Other than Walsch's CWG triology series, his other works on “Friendship with God,” “Communion with God,” “Home with God” deserve equal and every praise. I would like to make particular mention about “Home with God” where God answers his questions on life after death. Almost same time, I was reading another book “Life after Death” by Dr.Deepak Chopra. The treatment in both books are different, but essentially contents - the ideas on life after death - are similar. The idea that “Birth is death and death is birth” struck me and for the first time, I felt comfortable with the idea of my death. Fear of death is the worst of our fears and very sub-conscious. Our reactions to many happenings in our life are based on this fundamental fear of death, though we do not recognize it and we do not accept it. We are scared to death by our fear of death. Both these books give us a reassurance that death is probably the most happy thing that can happen to us. The step by step narration of what happens after death– the soul's journey 'upwards' through a kind of tunnel, getting a life review, meeting our loved ones who are waiting to receive us, getting in touch with the Source, deciding what it desires to do and beginning the whole thing 'life' again – by Walsch is captivating and engrossing. Dr.Chopra coming from Eastern thoughts, takes cue from Upanishad on the basis of the story of Nachiket, a young boy daring Lord Yama (the Lord of Time and Death) to clarify to him the secrets of life after death and describes the process in his usual poetic and philosophic style.

Sri Bhagavan had given me the same message when I happened to attend a few spiritual programs. Now at age sixty, I have already put up a permanent 'Welcome Arch' gladly for Lord Yama to take over me whenever he desires, knowing that He has already agreed on for me 'a-long-time-to-go-yet', to help me fulfil some of my life-time dreams.

If Sri Bhagavan opened up the treasures of spiritual experiences to me, Walsh opened up the path to storing an understanding of the spiritual process that happens to everyone. As someone said, “We are all not just human being having spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having human experience.” I believe very strongly in this statement now. While reading Walsch helps a better understanding, my association with Sri Bhagavan helped me know them as Truth.

The statement by one of the main characters in a Shakespearean play that there are more things on heaven and earth that we do not understand is still true today. We have not come anywhere near the stage where we can proclaim that we have understood everything. “Everything in this creation cannot be understood; an enlightened person knows this.” But science will continue to struggle to know everything. That is the greatness of human spirit.

About the writings of Dr.Deepak Chopra

I came to know about the writings of Dr.Deepak Chopra only sometime in 2001. When I was in USA in late 2002, I had the initial opportunity to borrow his books from the library. The first ever book I read written by Dr.Chopra was 'Quantum Healing' and I was floored reading it. And I went on to read 'Ageless Body and Timeless Mind,' 'Creating Affluence'. I completed reading these books feverishly in a month's time or so. I also listened to his tape on 'Creating Affluence.'

As a devotee of Sri Amma Bhagavan, I was already blessed for spiritual healing and I had seen the miracles of spiritual healing happening in many places. I was already convinced of our mind's role and one's predisposition to becoming sick or getting cured. I was also aware of placebo effects in curing diseases. I have faith in Indian Ayurvedic approach to treatment, where focus on natural elements of which we are all made up of, is an essential element of treatment process. I have heard of stories of people getting relief from alternative medicinal systems including Reiki healing.

When presented with a scientific approach to 'Mind-Body medicine' by Dr.Chopra my earlier convictions on diseases and cure now got a rational base. I could clearly discern the role of our awareness and consciousness, faith and beliefs, meditative practices, even our relationship with objects and people having substantive role in the healing process.

Subsequently, I heard about Sylva Jose techniques in 'mind control' and alpha states of mind and using these techniques for fulfilment of our desires, curing diseases and a gourmet of issues. Having read and understood Sylva Jose techniques, I became a practitioner myself with great success.

Later on, I read Dr.Chopra's books, 'How to Know God?' ' Seven Spiritual Laws for Success,' 'Life After Death,' 'Peace is the Way' and one or two other titles. In all his books I found the underlying theme: 'Finding our connectivity to the Source'. As I read his books, I became more and more aware of myself, watching diligently what goes on in my head. And, such an awareness is slowly helping me in my day to day dealing with others, the way I can choose to respond to situations and people, help myself heal and create an understanding of this 'Field of All Possibilities.'

The writings of Neale Donald Walsh and Dr.Deepak Chopra impacted me so much; I own a copy of most of their books and do not hesitate to read them again and again. Each time I read, my clarity expands and I feel closer to the Source.

About the writings of Anthony Robbins

If the writings of Walsch and Dr.Chopra gave me a spiritual understanding of several issues, “Unlimited Power” and “Awaken the Giants Within” written by Anthony Robbins gave me enough practical lessons to learn to be successful when I was distressed most.

We all have immense potential inside; we have to only know it. We live in a field of all possibilities and infinite potential; we have to only harness it.

Our desires are our driving force. Our belief that we will reach our goals will sustain us in the process. And, our expectations – the image of the outcome of our efforts – will take us closer to our goals. They are the main ingredients of our faith.

And, there are many more people, who influenced and shaped my thinking and actions, in my life and I owe them a lot; I must make a special mention about my manager when I was working in a Middle East company as a consultant. He is a great motivational speaker, guide and pragmatist and for the first time, I learnt from him how fulfilment of my materialistic aspirations can help me in my spiritual goals. He will say 'Whether you are happy or not today depend on what you did yesterday and what you do now will decide whether you are destined to be happy or not tomorrw.' 'Do not simply pity people, empathise with them.' 'If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.' They are some of the very forceful and hard-hitting statements I learnt from him. I used to enjoy his periodical workshops and practical guidance in selling and their spiritual content.

In retrospect, I now realize how almost everyone whom I had come across at various stages of my life had directly or indirectly helped me in knowing myself, knowing what I am and who I am and the greatest challenge I had always felt was to rise above myself and all that I was and I am.

Do you like this blog post? If so, you might be interested in the following blog post too, published subsequently in 2014.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

About Sri Amma Bhagavan

I became a devotee of Sri Amma Bhagavan sometime in 1998 when I was working in Middle East. In fact, even my becoming His devotee happened by accident. Or, was it part of His grand design? To me it appears it must be the latter. I happened to be with a relative of mine when a financial consultant met him at his office to discuss some investment proposals. Strangely, much to our surprise, the person who came to my relative's place, started talking about Sri Bhagavan at length as though that was the agenda of his meeting with my relative. He talked with great conviction about Sri Bhagavan and the miracles that were happening in people's life when they were around Bhagavan. I did not tend to believe all those stories and vehemently questioned him, albeit, my relative was quieter and in a listening mode. Subsequently when I happened to join the same financial consultancy firm in the next three months, I was in closer contact with this gentleman who talked to me about Sri Bhagavan from time to time and used to invite me for the regular spiritual gatherings he was organizing every week end.

Initially, I started attending these gatherings usually known as 'Satsang' conducted by him purely out of my interest in devotional singing. However, gradually I got drawn into Bhagavan. And that was the beginning of major changes in my life that continue even today.

I attended a number of spiritual programs - conducted by Sri Bhagavan's direct disciples - that started giving me better clarity to life and its various aspects. As many changes occured wtihin me, I began experiencing changes outside too. To name only a few:

  1. I learnt the importance of relationship and of how rectifying our relationship paves way for prosperity and peace for people. Bhagavan emphasized that the least one can do is to keep the relationship with parents, wife and children in order. I learnt the importance of forgiving people and seeking genuine forgiving from others.

  2. I learnt that my problems are related to how I perceive my situation and they have nothing to do with the situation per se. Our perceptions make all the difference. When this lesson became a part of my truth – there is no such thing as absolute truth; everything is relative – things changed for good for me with very little effort on my part. Everything dependently arise and dependently cease.

  3. “You see, you become free.” We all want to be something and we are sad that we are something else and not what we want to be. The conflict begins from here. As we grow more and more in our awareness of what is inside us, our very act of seeing and becoming aware of what we are, set us free. I started feeling less constricted in my approach to life.

  4. Our consciousness is responsible for the way we feel about things in life. Higher the consciousness, greater is the feeling of freedom and joy.

I can list many more. Suffice is to say that as many internal changes started happening to me ever since I came into association with Sri Bhagavan, my external world changed spontaneously. I started attracting business and wealth and I became very prosperous in material terms. Becoming successful looked to be quite natural and the only limiting factor was myself and what I had in my mind. He blessed us with auspecious happenings in our life even while our awareness was getting the right shift gradually. We started living more in the present moment rather than being controlled by eternal fear, anxiety and concern for things based on memories of past experiences and expectations about future. We seemed to attract all sacred and prosperous things naturally. We realized that talking to God and His responding to us are natural phenomenon happening to everyone though only very few notice it. Mystical experiences and miracles kept happening from time to time and we felt secured in His presence and blessings.

Sri Bhagavan is focusing on bringing about a shift in man's awareness and consciousness to bring in peace and prosperity in the world.

'Enlightenment is something man cannot achieve on his own; he has to be given,' says Sri Bhagavan. His is a movement in awareness and consciousness aiming to achieve 'causeless love and limitless joy' among one and everybody.

In Sri Bhagavan's Oneness Univercity campus at Varadhaiyapalam, Chittor Dt, Andhra Pradesh (about 75 kms from Chennai, the capital of the State of Tamilnadu in India), the Spiritual Guides, commonly addressed as 'Dasaji' with reverence) conduct programs that help participants identify and remove any childhood traumas and illogical decisions, limiting beliefs and problems relating to our ego that subconsciously control life drama. Sri Amma Bhagavan's temple in Nemam, another campus at about 25 kms from Chennai hold rituals like poojas, homas (fire rituals), prayers to help people solve their chronic ailments, problems and sufferings and bring people closer to God. With the recent consecration of the Enlightenment Temple or what is popularly called 'The Golden City' by Bhagavan's devotees, at Batlavallam again close to Varadhaiyapalam, Andhra , people now have a means to experiencing divine energy and higher consciousness as a blessing from Sri Amma Bhagavan. This is done by a unique ritual called 'Deeksha' which means blessing. These Deekshas have brought great relief to many suffering people.

Besides, people who attend certain levels of the programs conducted by them are shown and taught the inner power of giving and receiving Deeksha and thus there are thousands of Deeksha Givers or Divine Blessers who become an instrument or a medium for bringing happiness in the lives of others. This is a great benediction of Sri Amma Bhagavan.

Sri Amma Bhagavan's followers are spread all over the world and the numbers are ever increasing exponentially. Miracles are a way of life in many devotees' homes.

With Sri Bhagavan's efforts, setting his goals towards enlightenment of the entire humanity for alleviating human suffering, the time is not very far when every human being will be prosperous and happy – happy by themselves and not requiring an external stimulation to find happiness, knowing that man is Happiness by himself.

One has to only experience Sri Amma Bhagavan to know the Truth. My gratitudes to Them for all the good that I enjoy.

There are a few websites that give more information on Sri Amma Bhagavan and about the power of Deekshas. I am a Deeksha giver and practice spiritual healing. I keep visiting USA from time to time.

(This is part of my series on 'My Interests in Spiritualism' and on 'People who brought about great changes in me' that I propose to be publishing in my

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On Creation - Once again

God reveals again to me. He never reveals everything all at once and that seems to be His promise.

Today, I woke up to a dream. Though unconnected, I also got an apparition.

The message: You can create your success consciously. But, alas, you are creating your failures unconsciously. Let me explain how you can consciously create your success and then describe how your failures are getting created unconsciously.

And then the message flows:

First let us look at how you can create your success consciously. You see or look at something. Or, hear something and you think of wishing to possess something. It may be a several bedroom bungalow, a nice leather jacket, a trip to an exotic corner of earth or anything else. You suddenly develop a liking for it or the desire gradually grows . The more you think about it, your liking for it strengthens. It becomes a desire. As you surround yourself with anything that is directly or indirectly connected to your desire, and when your every nerve cries out that you want it, your desire turns into your intention. At some point, you become your intention and you become obsessed. That is when your intention potentially can become a reality at the first stage of materialization of desires. Remember, you only create the potential for some reality and it becoming a reality depends on a few other factors too.

For anything to become reality in your external world, it has to become a reality in your inner world. You must see your desire happening without any iota of doubt, in your mind and you enjoy your desire being fulfilled in your inner world.

Good or bad, when your intention is so strong, somehow, you somehow release the organising potential to create your reality. The Universe somehow obliges you. Thus you create your own reality and your own future. You create your future. You have the inner power to create your future and fulfiling your dream.

Carefully analyze how many of your desires got fulfilled, you will understand the truth behind this process. Though sometimes, unexpectedly a few good things too happen to you and there may be a reason for this too.

But, look what really happens.

You are generally so overwhelmed by your previous experiences of your failures and its haunting memories. Your self-doubt applies brakes. It is a kind of vicious cycle. Your doubts creates the potential for failures whose memories creates further self-doubt. But this does not happen by your conscious decision. You do not consciouosly decide to doubt certain outcome. It happens sub-consciously. Most times, whenever you wish for something, the first thing that pops out is your doubt: Am I eligible for this? Can I do this? Will this be too tough for me? Do I deserve this? Can this happen to me?

And you end up in endlesss self-fulfilling prophecy. Your doubts are reinforced by the eventual failure and your failure reinforces your earlier self-predictions: 'Did I not say I won't succeed? Did I not anticipate this?'

So, one has to break this conditioning of self-doubt and making self-fulfilling prophecy to succeed.

After all, life is not all about certainties, but more about uncertainties. And, in this uncertain world, we talk about the probability – probability of certain things happening or not happening.

This is a fundamental truth. Findings of Quantum Physics confirm this. One can only think about the probability of something being over there. But anything is possible. We are in a field of all possibilities.

By practice and conscious learning, we can focus more and more on the possibility of certain things happening to us the way we desire and gradually strengthen the probability of those events happening to us. One can never be so sure. However, everything is possible provided conditions are met.

Happiness lies in the process of life and not in certain outcomes. Success or failure is only in our mind and in our expectations of certain outcome. Can we be happy regardles of outcome? Yes, when we understand that there is some Absolute somewhere witnessing all happening and everything emerges forth from him as His blessings. And when we stay in our Gratitude for all blessings.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

About my interests- Part II - Reading

22nd November 2008

I seem to have developed my interests in reading almost from my 7th or 8th class. I was born in Tamilnadu and I studied in Tamil medium, and naturally my early readings were in Tamil only.

Probably, I initially started off with weekly Tamil magazines and Ananda Vikatan, a Tamil Weekly was my favorite. My paternal uncle and his wife were voracious readers. His wife became paralyzed almost immediately after marriage and she became invalid below her waist. She made her levitating movements from place to place within their house using her two hands. She was a very kind lady. To help her pass time, my uncle subscribed to almost every magazine. He spent a major portion of his meagre income on magazines. After they read them, they collected all serial stories by cutting them from the magazines and binding them neatly into books. They had great such collection of stories, novels, dramas and preserved them like a treasure. They stayed about a mile from our place. We used to visit their place quite often and borrowed some of these collections to read. They were a great couple.They had a special place in my life and I would like to write about them elaborately on another occasion.

I had particular interest in one detective serial called “ Thuppariyum Sambhu” (The Detective Shambu) by Devan. Mr.Shambu was a detective and went about investigating and unravelling many crimes and mysteries in the town. These stories were humorous, very simple and straight and used common sense approach to solve mysteries. The second serial that absorbed me was 'Veera Vijayan' (The Bold and Mighty Vijayan) – a serial about a personality who was extrordinarily tall and his adventures(and ironically, the inconveniences he had being very tall). The other serial that took Tamilnadu by storm and would dwarf today's 'Bold and Beautiful' serial in terms of length was 'Kanni Theevu' (An Island known as Kanni). This was getting published in the daily Tamil newspaper 'Dina Thanthi' (an equivalent of Daily Telegraph) and was a daily attraction in the paper. There was a large reader group for these comics serials those days.

In Southern Tamilnadu, Saiva Siddhaantha Kazhagam (an organization that promoted Shaiva philosophy) established libraries in several towns including ours. There was a municipal library in addition in our town. While the municipal library had collections of both English and Tamil books, Saiva Siddhanta Kazhagam library offered only Tamil books – both fiction and non-fiction. They also published several books on ancient Tamil literature, theology, spiritualism, and philosophy.

However, those days I had no interest in non-fiction and I focused on Tamil novels There were many popular writers. Historical novels were particularly popular. Family stories were popular especially among household women. Detective novels lured youngsters.

The detective novels written by the late Tamil Vaanan appealed to me a lot. The Detective Sankarlal was the hero in most of these novels. Saiva Siddhantha Kazhagam library did not allow readers to take books home and so, as soon as I returned from the school, I would rush to the library. Usually a novel would be finished within a week or so and many times, I went to the library only to be disappointed as my chosen book would be in the hands of someone else. I read almost all his novels. Besides writing novels, Tamilvanan also ran a weekly magazine called ' Kalkandu' (The Sweet Candy). It was a kind of tit-bits magazine. I wondered how he collected volumes of information on wide ranging topics for publishing in Kalkandu as tit bits. In addition, there was a question-answer section, where he answered a variety of questions from readers– from history to modern science, biology to psychiatry, current affairs to Neanderthal man. His style was simple and straight forward so that ordinary folks could easily understand them. The tit-bits were very informative, inspiring inquisitiveness and curiosity. They were a kind of ' Tell me Why?', ' What you want to know?', 'How they work?' collections. It baffles me even today that he could do this in 1950s. Compared to that, what do we find in most magazines today? Most pages in today's magazines in Tamilnadu are filled up with films and film related stories or news, the remaining part consumed by advertisements to create revenue.

Most of the very popular and versatile writers contributed their stories to weekly magazines – the most famous among them were Ananda Vikatan, Kalki and Kumudam. I enjoyed the writings of eternal names of those days in Ananda Vikatan: Jayakanthan, Seval Kodiyon, Saa Vi, Kothamangalm Subbu, Bilahari, Sivasankari, Indumathi just to name a few. Of particular interest were the serial novels like: Thillana Mohanambal (about the dancer Mohanambal), Un Kannil Neer Vazhinthal (a family drama), Washingtonil Thirumanm (a hilarious story about a South Indian Brahmin marriage at Washington D.C). S.S.Vasan, the Tamil film legend and the then owner of a large film studio 'Gemini' in the heart of Chennai city was also the publisher and owner of Anand Vikatan. He maintained very high standards about the contents of his magazine. Their cover page along with the satire joke captured many and was a Tamil parallel of acclaimed R.K.Laxman cartoons.

'Kalki' that comes out even today had somehow lost much of its earlier sheen. The then editor and owner Kalki wrote some of the most ever talked about tamil novels titled: Ponniyin Selvan, Parthiban Kanavu, Alai Osai to name only a few. Many of these serial novels were written with historical perspectives and had tremendous readership. The name Vandhiya Thevan, the hero of his most popular novel Ponniyin Selvan roars in my ears even today.

While Ananda Vikatan and Kalki appealed to the asthetic sense of intelligent and educated Tamilians, Kumudam appeared to be more commercial appealing to masses by focusing on current affairs, films, and juicy tit-bits and probably set a radically new trend in magazine media that rules the state even today. Unarguably, Kumudam continues to enjoy the maximum readership. The stories written by Jawar Seetharaman, Sandilyan, Raa Ki Rangarajan, S.A.P and the likes were very popular. Historical novels written by Sandilyan were great hits. These well-researched novels cleverly forged history and creativity ending in a suspense week after week; one couldn't wait till the next issue to know how the story progressed further. Jawar Seetharaman used to write on mystical topics and his 'Udal Porul Anandhi' was a spine chilling novel. Some of his novels used subjects like mesmerism, and meta-physical topics to induce reader anxiety.

There were other great authors too like Akilan, Naa Paarthasarathy, Ki Vaa Jagannathan, Manian, in whom I took particular interest.

In Tamil story writing, two people made significant impact and changed the way the magazines looked. One was none other than the author Sujatha and the other was the artist Jey (raj). Suffice is to say they are a class by themselves. Tamil media lost Sujatha recently in mid 2008 and he will be ever remembered for his variety and novelty in writings.

Somehow, I did not show much interest in other popular magazines lilke Kalaimagal. Mangayar Malar, another popular monthly magazine published even today, is popular especially among brahmin ladies.

Another aspect of these Tamil magazines was the pictorial depiction of characters or incidents in a novel or story, by artists. Those days Gopulu was a notable cartoonist and also a painter. Though one should not draw comparison, he was a tamil parallel for R.K.Laxman. Every artist was unique in some way or other. Besides the vivid and stunning images of Vandhiya Thevan (of Ponniyin Selvan) drawn by Sinha in Kalki are still lingering in my mind. Maya was another paint artist who deftly drew ordinary people like you and me and he drew pictures for many family stories.

The coming of Jey (Jeyaraj) as a paint artist changed the face of many Tamil magazines. He was an expert in human anatomy and he drew captivating pictures of the characters particularly the women characters who adorned the modern looks.

I must mention about another magazine 'Thuglak', that is popular with its political satire. The Editor Cho Ramaswamy is a political commentator, a former comedian in Tamil films and dramatist. His plays on stage were great hits those days during a time when there was so much anti-establishment feelings among people. He echoes people's concerns, worries, criticisms in his usual inimitable humorous and satirical manner. Though very controversial, I enjoy Thuglak today also.

As I entered High School, my interests slowly got shifted to English books. Strangely, I was one who took to learning English seriously. I always adopted my free-style answering in English language tests and exams and chose not to use the ones usually dictated by the teacher. I made lot of mistakes and scored only average marks in English language, but the teachers always appreciated and lauded my independent style of writing and encouraged me to continue the way I used to write regardless of the not-so-good performances in class tests. Remember, I studied in Tamil medium school.

My initial reading interests went towards Perry Mason detective novels written by Earl Stanley Gardener. I visited the local municipal library and read every Perry Mason novel. I relished the court scene arguments, Perry Mason's summary on how he solved the mystery from bits of information and the final twist in every novel. Somehow, my comfort levels with the writings of Agatha Christie and later on James Hadley Chase who were near contemporaries, was quite low and I did not read many much.

During my high school day, I particularly liked the non-detailed text books for their story values. Many stories written by famous authors like Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas and the likes were prescribed for study and they were mostly in an abridged form.

As I progressed, I started taking interest in the novels of Arthur Conon Doyle – his novel ' Hound of the Baskervilles' and a few others where Sherlock Homes detective was the chief character used to be my favorite.

During the time I was in in my high school, they used to show films in the school auditorium. I specifically remember enjoying movies like 'Twenty thousand leagues under the sea' and 'Around the world in 80 days' (besides a few Charlie Chaplin movies). These films motivated me to search for the story books from the library.

As I was just completing my tenth standard, one of my seniors, whom we usually called RV – he later joined IPS and became a successful police officer – encouraged me to learn better and better English and suggested that I must buy a book '30 days for a more powerful vocabulary' written by Wilfred Funk. I couldn't afford to buy that book then, though eventually I bought it much later. Though I lost of the copy of this book in course of time, I bought it – the original publication- once again recently at Bangalore.

Entering college, I continued to take profound interest in English language studies, especially, the classics. The college I studied had a big library and they had good collection of books. I borrowed books from library from time to time and read some of the great authors like Winston Churchill on World War, Aldous Huxley, H.G.Wells, J.B.Priestly, Victor Hugo, Somerset Maugham and the likes. I used to enjoy Milton's ' Paradise Lost', John Ruskin's 'Sesame and Lilies', Jane Austin's 'Pride and Prejudice' to name only a few.

Though I was majoring in Chemistry during my graduation, we had one paper in English language and we had one Shakesperean drama as part of the English language paper. As part of my studies, I read 'Hamlet', 'As you like it', ' Twelfth Night', 'Mid Summer Night's Dream' – the ones that I remember now. I was greatly drawn by Shakesperean English and became obsessed with his writing that I read on my own the original plays: Othello, Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing and so on. At that time, I could not understand the texts fully without a help from an English Professor, but still I read them with great enthusiasm. The soliloquy from Hamlet ' To die or not to die' , the speech ' Romans and country men' in Julius Caesar, ' You too Brutus' were all my favorites.

I used to like John Ruskin's style. Many of his sentences used to be very long, sometimes running for pages before they got completed. At times, I tried to imitate him in my English language paper and that did not go well with my professors.

Then,we had the drama 'Pygmalion' from George Bernard Shah and I enjoyed every page of it. Later on, when the movie 'My Fair Lady' was released in our town, though I saw the movie, I could not follow the accent -this difficulty of following western accent continues even today, much to my discomfort. Some serious psychology seem to be at work with me about accents.

I never knew how and why I took so much interest in reading English Classics during those days. Many said I would end up as an English Professor who was least sought after those days. However, destiny had made other decisions for me.

When I was doing my Post Graduation and also during the initial years of my employment during late 1960s and early 1970s, the reading habit came to a virtual stand still. Notwithstanding that, on my first ever employment in May 1970, I bought an Oxford Dictionary for thirty rupees from my first salary and on the front page, I wrote that this was for improvement of my English. I used several meticulous methods to create and build up my own vocabulary that I preserved for almost three decades.

Things changed again when I was posted to Delhi in my early career path during 1972. I stayed in Karol Bagh a popular residential area and asylum for migrating South Indians. Famous for its South Indian Restaurants and their idli-sambar, it also attracted people from other parts of Delhi regularly for its road-side Monday markets, textiles shops at Ajmal Khan Road and pavement book shops. On the pavements of Arya Samaj Road near the Ajmal Khan Road junction there used to be few old- books sellers and you could buy many books for throw away prices – mostly five rupees. My reading interest got kindled again and this time it was novels of later authors.

I feasted myself with books of Arthur Hailey and Irving Wallace my two favorite authors those days. I had read almost all the novels written by them. Particularly I liked 'The Hotel', 'Airport', 'In High Places' by Arthur Hailey from the old sections and 'The Prize', 'The Man' by Irving Wallace. The novel 'The Man' was a kind of clairvoyance and it took nearly forty years to become a reality – an African American has just been elected the President of United States of America in late 2008. The writings of Leon Uris, Nevil Shute, Alistair MacLean, Frederick Forsyth too were enjoyable. I would like to make a special mention about 'The Exodus,' 'Armageddon,' 'QB VII' by Leon Uris; “Ice Station Zebra,' 'Where Eagles Dare,' 'Guns of Navron' by Alistair MacLean are also worth mentioning here. Among the books of Frederick Forsyth, 'The Day of the Jackal' was a master piece.

During my stay in Northern India, I collected a number of English novels that I painstakingly brought to Madras when I was transferred. However, much to my compunction, I had to carry them in gunny bags and dispose them off for a paltry sum to old-book sellers at Moore Market as I realized that I had no serious arrangement with me to preserve those books. The humid weather at Madras spoiled books and they were exposed to the risk of being eaten away by white-ants. I had some of my saddest moments of life when I disposed them off. Besides, I was also concerned about the huge cost of carrying the books along with me whenever and wherever I was transferred to.

During 1980s and till middle of 1990s, I continued reading novels by Arthur Hailey, Irwing Wallace, Frederick Forsyth, Leon Uris. The only other addition that I made was Jeffrey Archer. Probably, I can claim that almost every novel written by these authors have been read by me, unless I had missed some. During this period, reading time got greatly compressed due to official pressure of work. I continued buying books from time to time though I never kept track of what I bought. Many friends and relatives used to borrow books from me; some of them never got returned and I too never bothered to follow them up.

Somewhere in the middle of 1990s, I turned my interest to books on finance, stock market, investments and I stayed with them for quite long.

After I took up a job in the Middle East during later part of 1990s, my reading interest once again got revived, but with a difference. This was when I took serious interest in spiritualism after I came into contact with Sri Amma Bhagawan. One of my clients once mentioned about an author Neale Donald Walsch and about his book ' Conversation with God' and knowing my interest in spiritualism, he recommended my reading that book. However, the opportunity to read that book came much later after an year or so. And when I read the first volume of “Conversation with God” I felt blown apart to pieces. That book really shook me. When I compared notes with teachings of my Bhagavan, I found extraordinary similarity in the messages I had. I read all the three volumes of ' Conversation with God' and that gave me an entirely new perspective to life. I became an ardent fan of Neale Donald Walsch.

During 2002, when I visited USA for the second time, I came to know about the writings of Dr.Deepak Chopra, an Indian Born doctor settled in America. He is a disciple of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I happened to read initially three books during that visit: 'Quantum Healing', 'Creating Affluence,' and 'Ageless Body and Timeless Mind.' His books gave me further insight into spiritual aspects of good health, healing, Mind-Body medicines, alternative healing systems, prosperity and affluence. My Bhagavan was already talking about healing and made many of us spiritual healers by his mere blessing. I adored Dr.Chopra and became an ardent fan for his writings too.

These two authors – Neale Donald Walsch and Dr.Deepak Chopra – coupled with the blessings and teachings of my Sri Amma Bhagavan changed my life completely. I know I am not perfect yet and so are many. I may still have my negativities stuck with me. But I know now that I am different now. Things look different to me though they are the same and I now know why have what I have. I continue to read their books even today. I subsequently read 'Communion with God,' ' Friendship with God,' ' Home with God,' by Neale and ' Seven Spiritual Laws for Success,' ' Life After Death,' 'Peace is the Way,' ' Return of the Rishi,' ' How to Know God' by Dr.Chopra. Every book by Walsch and Chopra is a master piece and I return to them from time to time by giving them a second or third reading.

During this time, another author who motivated me and inspired me heavily was Anthony Robbins and his books 'Unlimited Power' and ' Awaken the Giant Within' were extremely useful to me during times of difficulties and challenges. Again, like our Bhagavan, he talks about beliefs and how they control our lives.

During the last about 7 years, I had been reading more books that were spiritualistically oriented, though I had not quite given up novels. I continue to read novels just for time passing and the earlier charm in reading them was lost in me.

During my several visits to USA, one thing I enjoy most about my stay in USA are the libraries and the books. The subjects I read ranged over 'creation', 'big bang', 'evolution', 'science and religion', 'consciousness', 'healing', and so on. The chronicle of books read might look weird and I am not going into them now. Just for a small sample: 'Biography of Albert Einstein', 'Big Bang' (By Dr.Robin Singh), 'Instinctive Healing', 'The last hours of ancient sunlight' 'Train your Mind and change your brain', 'The Language of God', 'Conscious Living', 'J.Krishnamurthy' (By Propul Jaykar).... the list is long.

During the recent periods, I also read Dan Brown, John Grisham, David Baldacci, Clive Cussler, Sydney Sheldon and I must make a special mention about Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown), Camel Club (David Baldacci), Client (John Grisham) that I liked.

In between, I also rediscovered my old interest in reading Tamil books, though this time, my interests were different. I read on Ramakrishna Paramahamsar, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Ramana Maharishi, Alwars and Nayanmars of Tamilnadu, Hindu Relion (by Kannadasan) and so on.

My interest also went into learning Sanskrit slokas, various sukhtams, Rudram, Chamakam and I learnt them even while I tried to understand their meanings. Understanding and Faith both are essential while one uses these slokas for ultimate liberation. I just started reading Bhagavad Gita, the core slokas and their essential meanings.

If the chronicle on my reading interests appears too long, I only wonder how little I have read so far and how much more are there waiting to be read. I found books as great sources of understanding, knowledge and inspiration. They are just not for time-passing alone. They have helped me in my imagination and creativity. I am just 60 now and I split my daily time between my reading, writing, music, exercising and preaching spiritualism to people who look for it – and I have to snatch some time in between for my wife too, while my children don't bother me any more.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fall Colors in USA - Nature Plays Host

We all like colors and we would like to be seen and talked about as colorful personalities. Colors attract many and when nature plays host feasting to our eyes, then there can be no limitations. Look at the sky everyday in the early morning and evening. See the colors at dawns and sunsets. No painter on earth had so far been really able to replicate the color effects produced on the sky everyday and everyday, you have a new color combination.

Season changes are quite distinctively noticed in USA unlike in India, especially Southern India where we generally have only three seasons - popularly joked as ' hot, hotter and hottest'. In northern areas of USA and Canada, when the season changes from Summer to Autumn to Winter and back to Spring and Summer, one must really see to believe nature splashing colors.

I would like to make a special mention of the Fall Colors. When Summer is over, before the onset of Winter the tree leaves turn from green to purple to red and fall from the trees until the tree is eventually barren. Nature works so beautifully and rhythmically. It is as though they become aware of the onset of winter when snow will fall, the trees prepare themselves by shedding all its leaves so that they can receive snowfall gracefully. It is nature's way of responding and communicating with other living organizms.

The Fall usually happens during September – October of each year when one sees beautiful fall colors. Besides Spring, this is a season everyone enjoys,. The summer warmth is gone, it is cool but not unbearably cold. It rains from time to time. The weather alternates between bright sun shine to moody and cloudy days. People can go out for pleasant walk and enjoy the cool breeze. People can spend more time on open green areas on fun and games activities.

Somehow by coincidence, in the last several years, I had been visiting USA during the Fall periods and I have been enjoying Fall colors. My camera is loaded with pictures of Fall Colors everytime I visit USA during the Fall. These colors instil in me energy, vigor and enthusiasm and I feel that I am renewing myself too like Nature.

The pictures you see are in Des Plaines City, Chicago, Illinois

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Visit Switzerland

Traveling places is one of my interesting pastimes and I love places of scenic beauty. Almost every year we go to places. During 2007, we visited Badrinath, Kedarnath and Gangothri on Himalayas. Himalayas always thrilled me. We had been planning a Europe trip for quite some time. Any number of tourist packages were available, but we felt that they were so cramped not really affording extensive and exclusive visits to places. The tour packages did not offer leisurely visits to important places. So, we decided to make a trip to Switzerland only on our way to USA during this year to save on flight costs.
My 60th birthday provided the ideal opportunity for us to visit USA and be with our children. So, we started hunting around for tour packages. The brochure that I had received earlier from Exotica Vacations gave us a clear broad picture of the places of interest In Switzerland. We wanted to spend our days in Switzerland at leisure spending time as it pleased us. Eventually, we got in touch with Swiss Tours in Bombay who gave us a package that met our expectations. Having experienced ' tour on your own' to Scotland and London earlier, we preferred a tour, where we were at liberty to spend time as it pleased us rather than being put on a tight schedule moving from place to place. We settled for a 8 days and 7 nights tour package offered by Swiss Tours ( I understand that this is part of Government of Switzerland tourism). This package offered us hotel accommodation for 7 nights (with complimentary breakfast), a swiss (train travel) card that would enable us to make five transfers, three excursions (including the one to Mount Titlis that we asked for) and a complimentary excursions to a place known as Harder Kulm.
The five tranfers planned were:
Land at Zurich by air and take the train to Geneva (2 nights halt at Geneva)
Geneva to Zermatt (one night halt at Zermatt)
Zermaat to Interlaken (two nights halt at Interlaken)
Interlaken to Lucerne (two nights halt at Lucerne)
Lucerne to Zurich and board our flight to USA
We requested them to provide us accommodation as close as possible to the railway stations in respective places. We bought tickets to Zurich and USA on our own thorough our travel agent.
I was assured that language won't be a problem in Switzerland. We made considerable research through websites on Geneva, Zermatt, Interlaken and Lucerne where we were supposed to be staying overnight, the directions from the railway station to the hotel, directions from hotel to all important places to visit, location of Indian restaurants and took print outs for all the information we had found on the net. This booklet of information we made was our main guide when we were actually on the tour. Google Maps that we took from the internet were great tools, though in some places, the directions given were slightly skewed; we discovered much shorter and direct access at some places when we were physically present. We realized that many of the places we were visiting were not very large cities and one could easily navigate by walk. Besides, we came to know that public transportation by bus, train, boats are extremely efficient and economical. Taxis are prohibitively costly.
The weather was supposed to be okay, but rains were a clear possibility during our trip and so we carried umbrellas. If it rained, especially on the days we were planning to visit peaks, it would play spoil sports and no view would be possible. During the first couple of days of our tour, it was predicted to be raining continuously and it rained as predicted. You would see our umbrellas in most photographs during our visit to Geneva. Moreover, we learned that the places like Geneva, Zermatt, Interlaken and Lucerne by themselves were not located at higher altitudes but surrounded by Alpine hills. So, in the plains, it was not supposed to be very cold and it was so.
There were enough Indian Restaurants in all the places we were visiting, but they were all very costly. A dish of cooked vegetables could cost about CHF25 (Swiss Francs) and so a lunch or dinner could cost two persons about CHF50, if you were seriously particular about Indian food. We decided that we might not really go in after only Indian food. We decided to carry with us, a few savories, chutneys, snacks that could be combined with bread or rice, curd etc if they were available.
We did not have much problem with winter dresses as we had sufficient store. But, as we would be passing through five different places and carrying all the baggages everywhere could be a big drag on our energies, we decided to pack our materials in such a way that we could leave some of them in the Zurich Airport with the ' left luggages' facility.
We were told that for getting visa for Switzerland, we might have to visit their consulate at Bombay for a personal interview. However this was not needed and we got the visa without any problem. We also collected sufficient Swiss Francs cash to meet our day to day expenses from the authorized currency dealers.
In order to save some cost we decided to reach Mumbai by train and then fly from there to Zurich.
Our Travel

Day 1: 12th September 2008: Geneva
We reached Mumbai on the early morning of 11th Sep and we flew by Swiss Air to Zurich the same mid night. The flight took nearly 9 and half hours and we landed at Zurich airport on 12th Sep at 6:30 in the morning hours. Immigration and custom procedures were quite simple and efficient. We lodged one of our bags at the airport ' left luggage' facility. They charged us for the first day CHF12 and for subsequent days CHF8 per luggage per day payable when we go back to them to collect our luggage.
We went to the SBB counters (Swiss Rail) at the airport and collected all vouchers for our hotel stay and excursions besides the Swiss Card. They were all kept ready for our arrival and after checking them that they were in order, we went two levels down to the train station within the airport and boarded the next available train to Geneva. Clear directions were marked everywhere at the Airport and we met no difficulties. Besides, the people at the information counters were all very helpful.
We had a direct train from Zurich to Geneva and it took nearly 3 and half hours and we reached Geneva around 12 noon. Hotel Strassbourg Universe that was booked for us for 12th and 13th was just five minutes walking distance from the the Geneva Main Station (Called Cornavin Station). On our arrival, we were also given Transport Card by the hotel and this card entitled free bus travel within the city of Geneva. We had a bath, changed ourselves and left out for oursight seeing

In Front of Palais Des Nations, Geneva
After a little struggle as to which bus will take us to the United Nations Office (this was one thing we could not research in advance as the web sites gave all information in Swiss language), we found the bus. We got down in front of Palais des Nations – the European Head Quarters of UN - and walked down about a mile to get to the visitor entrance that was located at the back. We came to know that Geneva is the headquarters of some 200 international organizations, most of which are located around the Place Des Nations. Built in 1930s, the Palais is situated in a park offering magnificent panoramic views of the city, the lake and the Alps. The guided tour was priced at CHF10 per person and the tour was conducted in different languages including English. We joined the English group that took us to the main 2000 seat Assembly Hall, The Council Chamber decorated with gold murals depicting the human struggle for peace and a host of other meeting halls. There are as many as about 23 halls, small and big inside the UN Building, we were told. The tour took about an hour. The buildings were very impressively constructed. They explained how the UN got to acquire these buildings, how and where many meetings are held, the names of important people concerned, the various artistic paintings gifted to UN office by several countries.
We were not particularly interested in visiting buildings and so we decided not to visit other museums and building where other organizations like International Red Cross were located. After finishing with UN building, we returned back to Cornavin Place, that seemed to be a major central district within Geneva for shopping, eating and whiling away one's time. The river Rhone flowed through the city. We then walked down to the lake side towards the English Garden, the Floral Clock and Jet d'eau, spouting a column of lake water jet as high as 450 feet.

Floral Clock, Geneva

view of Jet Deau, Geneva

The walk around the lake side reminded me of the walk we had earlier a few years back at Chicago with the fabulous sky rise building forming the skyline on one side and the lake and fading sunlight on the other side. The walk on the left side of the lake took about forty five minutes. We were delighted to see beautiful flowerbeds of roses and exotic flora and a wide variety of birds, such as swans, ducks and diving birds, in addition to multi colored sails. We went inside the English Garden and saw the world famous Floral Clock.
We walked back to the hotel and on the way back my wife spotted a small stores very close to our hotel where we bought some fruits, juice, snacks and believe me – samosa. (Even plain rice was available that we bought next day for our dinner)
The hotel room was quite small, but well done. There was a pay-phone and we could use that to call our children and narrate our first day experience.
Day 2: 13th September 2008: Geneva
Today, we were able to quickly find out the bus that will take us to the places we decided to visit. Our first destination was St.Pierre Cathedral (constructed between 1160 and 1232) where we climbed to the top of the tower through about 160 spiraling steps. One has to buy ticket to have a view from the tower. We were wondering how people who lived almost thousand years ago could build such difficult structures even without any of the modern engineering tools and lifts. We had a beautiful view of the entire Geneva from the top.
It was raining that day continuously. Disregarding the rain, we walked back from the cathedral to Place Bourg De Four, Hotel De Ville and to Place De Neuve. The names could sound odd, but bore strong resemblance to English names. Bour De Four was just a junction where four roads met and there was a market place that was called Place Bourg. ('De' means 'of' ) Hotel De Ville is the Mayor's office (Geneva's Parliament) and we climbed the cobbled square shaped ramp to the third floor. The ramp was said to have been used by the earlier rulers to travel up and down on horse-back. Place De Neuve was the artistic centre of Geneva and surrounded by a number of museums, music concert halls, parks.
As the bus ride was free, we returned to Cornavin Station, had lunch and went back to Place De Neuve and by then, the rain has stopped. We walked inside the Parc Des Bastions, a pleasant promenade embellished with monuments, fountains and statues along shady walkways. We walked along the Reformation Wall, erected in 1909, celebrating the great figures of Protestantism. We came out of the garden from the back side and walked around the University of Geneva campus, had coffee at Starbucks and returned back to Cornavin shopping area. We did some shopping. Watches, crystals, jewelery, army knife, cattle bell, and host of momento items were available.
Overall, Geneva, by any international standards was a small city, but beautiful. One can reach many places in Geneva by walk. It is a city of parks and museums and houses the offices of many international organizations. Though it was raining all through the days we stayed with intermittent breaks, was not cold. The city bus service was excellent and punctual. Plenty of eating places for those who like to wine and dine. People are very courteous. There was even a street market for vegetables that disappeared in the evening. We could hardly find any stores. We were wondering whether everyone eats out there and presumably, does no cooking at home. Everywhere, there were small and big eating places. The lake side and its boating facilities added to the attractions of Geneva. The breakfast at the hotel was sumptuous. Swiss chocolates are very famous and there were any number of shops selling chocolates.
We rested for the night to be prepared to vacate the hotel and leave for Zermatt the next day.
Day 3: 14th September 2008: Zermatt
This morning we left Geneva for Zermatt. We had some anxiety about this part of the journey as we had to change over at Visp that would mean getting down at one platform and carrying all our luggage to another. The changeover time was very short and the trains were punctual. However, we could do it sufficiently in time for the next train from Visp to Zermatt. Before leaving Geneva, we had gone to the Railway Tourism information counters and got the exact train timings for two successive trains so that if we missed one, we would know how long to wait for the next one. We noticed that everything in Switzerland – especially the trains, buses – are very punctual and you do not have to look at the clock at all. The journey from Geneva to Zermatt took about three and half hours.
When we arrived at Zermatt, it was raining and the Hotel Butterfly Best Western was located at a five minute walking distance. We took a taxi who charged CHF17 for this one minute drive. Taxis in Switzerland are very expensive and one really needs to be an amir to use a taxi for commuting. After we had checked into our room, we left for the local sight seeing.
There are two important peaks – Gornergrat (3089 meters) and Matterhorn (3883 meters)– that can be visited from Zermatt. However, the day was cloudy, though by afternoon, the rain stopped. We were told by the officials at the information center that it was very unlikely that we would be able to view anything at all after reaching those peaks. Besides, the last leg of the journey to Matterhorn peak – at a height of 3883 meters - was temporarily closed due to fog and weather conditions. Moreover the trips to these peaks were costly and were not included in our tour package. We calculated that anyhow we were going to visit similar places in our remaining part of the tour and so we decided to opt out of Gornergrat and Matterhorn. Matter horn was popular for its glaciers, glacier caves and for its highest sightseeing platform in Europe.We roamed around the small market street, the narrow beautiful roads, shops. There was only one main road Bahnofstrasse (that means, Railway station road – you will find this name in all the towns we visited) where most of the shops were located. We could not locate even a single departmental store as that happened to be a Sunday. We had a good long trek along the market street up to the cable car station where one can get into cable cars to reach Matterhorn. Though the cable cars were running, it was four in the evening and they had closed the counters when we arrived there.
At Zermatt
Zermatt is a beautiful small town with plenty of tourists who were walking up and down for whatever purpose. There was nothing much within the town for one to see. However, being a small attractive town, we felt quiet and serene and did not get bored.
We relied on our bread supply for lunch as well as dinner for the day.
Day 4: 15th September 2008 : Interlaken and Zungfrau
Today, we left Zermatt for Interlaken. On all the days, we got up at around 5 in the morning, had our bath and breakfast (that was generally ready by 6.30) and vacated our hotels around 7.30 and this was our schedule that helped us have sumptuous breakfast and reach our destination before noon so that we will have plenty of time at the destination for the day.
The train journey from Zermatt to Interlaken took about two hours and fifteen minutes including two change overs at Visp and Spiez. At each of these places, we rushed from one platform to another just to be sure that we don't miss the connecting trains. The train journeys were very comfortable and we had to show the Swiss Card to the Ticket Examiner in the train. One another thing - we were told to validate these Swiss Cards by punching them in a small yellow machine located on the platform. We had difficulties in locating these small machines – though I was still not sure whether this validating was really required; one could write out the date by hand on the Swiss Card as we were told when we collected the Card.
All the railway stations were neat and clean; hardly any crowd was there. We felt like privileged people, trains running for just a few of us. We noticed a number of commuters getting in and getting out at several stations in between during our train journey.
At Interlaken, Hotel Citi Oberland that was booked for us was little further away from the Interlaken West station. However, we could make it by walk even with our baggages. Here, as we arrived, we were told that the check-in time was 2.00 in the afternoon and that we would have to wait. Alternatively, we could leave the luggage in the office and go around the city until the room is ready. We checked about the weather at Zungfrau(joch), the 4158 meters high peak, we planned to visit only the next day and we came to know that the weather was extremely good over there. So, we took a quick decision to change our plan and complete our Zungfrau trip on that day itself rather than waiting for the next day Who knew, weather could play spoil sport for Zungfrau trip next day. Jungfrau is Switzerland's most popular and expensive mountain railway excursion and is unmissable.
So, we left our baggages in the hotel reception and started walking towards the Interlaken OST(East) station that was about 15 minutes away by walk. The journey involved our traveling from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen by train and changeover to mountain train that took us to Klein. As we reached Klein, we could feel the cold and we saw snow having fallen here and there. The Klein station was remarkably small and beautiful and it was a scene to watch, from there, the red colored mountain train moving among white snow and ice. The mountain train that takes you from Klein to Zungfrau had just two coaches – small and cute. It also stops at two stations for five minutes for people to get down and enjoy the breath-taking view of Alpine hills and villages. The last pull of our journey from Klein to Zungfrau included a near ten minutes ride completely under tunnel dug between hills only to reach the Top of Europe – the highest at 3454 meters above sea level– railway station that was also built under rocks, just beneath the Jungfrau summit.

A view of the glacier river, Zungfrau

As we got down from the train, there was a visitor area with restaurants, souvenir shops and lift to take one to the Sphinx observation hall and terrace. From here we had the most fascinating and unforgettable view of the round-the-year glacier and the snow clad mountain peaks. Ice here never melts. The Great Aletsch Glacier, a 22 km long – rather the longest – ice-stream in Alps begins on the Jungfrau. The other attractions within Zungfrau included the Ice Palace, Glacier Caves and Top of Europe Glacier Restaurant. The day was extremely bright and I remembered to carry my sun glasses – a very essential matter one should remember to avoid the sun light glare (due to light reflections on the ice). It was extremely cold. One could walk over the glaciers to reach ice play grounds. As we were not very confident that we could bear the cold for long time, we did not venture much into the glacier ice. We made small walks into the glacier for taking photographs.

Overall, Zungfrau afforded one a view and the feel of the “heavens” - to describe my feelings. We returned back to our hotel in the evening after having Chapathi and Dhall in an Indian Restaurant on the way back from Interlaken OST station. The return train took us through Klein and Grindwald to have a round trip view of Alps. One way journey from Interlaken to Zungfrau took a little more than 2 hours.
Day 5: 16th September 2008: Interlaken and Harder Kulm
Interlaken city, by the very name implies that the city is located between lakes. It lies between Lake Breinz on the east and Lake Thun on the west. River Aare flows through the town. The city is small -with a meagre population of about 5000 – and is beautiful though very much bigger than Zermatt. Here too we were provided with the free transport card by the hotel. This day, we decided to explore the lake regions and they were located a bit far from the main city. We reached the bus station near the railway station and boarded a bus that took us to Lake Breinz. We went as far as the free trip allowed on the bus along the lake. The bus was actually traveling beyond into the villages. We got down and walked back noting that the bus will take thirty minutes to return to the same place. The locality surrounding the lake was quiet; we hardly found anyone on the road, though occasionally some vehicles were passing by and a couple of buildings were there overlooking the lake. The lake waters were cool with the mountain ranges on one side and was exquisite to look. We had a quiet walk for thirty minutes and found several overladen with fruits hanging down heavily from its branches. We boarded the bus again and returned back to Interlaken OST station.

A view of the lake at Interlaken

A view of snow clad mountain from Interlaken

A view of a Junction at Interlaken

We then decided to visit Harder Kulm, another view point for which we had a free excursion voucher as part of the tourist package. The Valley station from where we had to take the cogwheel funicular train was nearby and we reached there by walk. The steep cogwheel train journey from Valley Station to Harder Kulm (1322 meters) took about ten minutes. As we were seated in the front seat for better view, we could notice that the gradient on the hill was very high – could be as high as 50 percent- however, we never felt any discomfort during the journey on a steep track. I believe it was due to the structure of the red funicular they used to transport people up the hills. At the peak, we had a magnificent view of Interlaken and adjoining areas from the spacious sun terraces. On top, we notived several walking trails including the one to the city. Eventually, we met a couple who have just trekked up from below and they told us that it took them three hours and that the trek was very very steep in several places. On our return back to the hotel, we bought some plain rice from an Indian restaurant (for just CHF6) that was located just opposite to our hotel. We had stock of curd and some chutney, chips and cut vegetables, and enjoyed a great Indian lunch.
After taking some rest, we again stepped out into the city and walked around the market area, a vast open green area where para gliders (from Alpine Center) were flying into, some casinos, the river side, and Metropole Hotel (one of the large multi storied buildings) till it became dark when we returned back to the Hotel for dinner with rice.
Interlaken is often visited by adventure seeking back-packers. We came to know of a couple of other peaks too for great view. Since our stay here in Interlaken was restricted to two days only, we satisfied ourselves with visit to the most important places around.
Bus services in the city was extremely good. We saw frequent buses plying between several locations, though there was hardly any crowd. Probably, we arrived in Switzerland after the season was over. Everything was lush green, neat and clean. Shopping could be very costly in Switzerland, especially for Indians who are used to buying cheap back in India. Watches are great momentos and we did plenty of window shopping. Watches whose prices went up to even CHF23000 were under display.
Day 6: 17th September, 2008: Lucerne and Mount Pilatus
In the early morning hours we left Interlaken and reached Lucerne by a direct train. To reach the Interlaken Ost station from our hotel, we decided to take a bus and the bus was not to be seen at the time mentioned in the schedule board kept at the bus stop. We were becoming nervous because if we missed the 8:04 AM train, the next train was only after an hour. This was one occasion, where for a change, we noticed that the bus did not maintain the schedule displayed at the bus stop. We never knew why. However, the bus came a little late and we reached the station with just enough time to catch the train.
After reaching Lucerne station, (after a 2 hours and fifteen minutes) we walked to our hotel – Hotel Waldstatterhof – that was located at just 5 minutes walking distance. As soon as we unloaded our baggages in our room, we stepped out for our journey to Mount Pilatus. We needed to catch a boat, the jetty was adjacent to the railway station. We boarded the large steam boat that accommodated more than hundred people and the boat journey took 90 minutes to reach the base station at Alpnachstad for Mount Pilatus(elevation 7000 ft). The day was a bit cloudy and we were praying that we should be able to get good view at Mount Pilatus.
The cog-wheeled train that took us to Mount Pilatus went through another steep track, with gradient exceeding 40 or 50. I understand that this was the world's steepest cogwheel railway. This part of the journey took thirty minutes.

We were over the clouds, Mount Pilatus
A view of terrace and the hills at the back, Mount Pilatus

At the top, the mountain terrace afforded beautiful view of the entire snow clad mountain ranges and we were actually standing on top of clouds feeling terrific. We climbed some of the view points through narrow steps. Fortunately for us, it was bright and sunny at the peak though at Lucerne it was cloudy.
We were having a Golden Round Trip ticket to Mount Pilatus. So on our way back we returned to Kriens by aerial cable-ways and took a bus to Lucerne taking only about half an hour from Kriens.
Day 7: 18th September, 2008: Lucerne and Mount Titlis
Today happened to be the day of our great expectations. We had a Golden Round Trip ticket to Mount Titlis that entitled us to ride on the Ice Flyer Chair Lift. Initially we had no idea what a Ice Flyer Chair Lift would look like and how would be the experience. The very idea of traveling in a open car at higher altitudes was churning my stomach. We read that an Ice Flyer Chair Lift is an open-to-the-sky cable chair taking one over the snow clad hills and the glacier valleys and that information scared us. We were not very sure whether to take that trip or not. We set aside our thoughts for sometime and decided to enjoy whatever the trip could provide us and see later when we were actually there about the ice flyer chair lift.
First, we had to travel by train from Lucerne to Engleberg that took about an hour. There was an hourly train from Lucerne station. As we got down at Engelberg, there was a bus waiting just outside the train station to take us to the Cable car station about a kilometer away. During this journey, we met a young Indian couple from Pune and we had good company during our Titlis trip. The cable car initially took us to another station, where we had to change over to another cable car that took us to the second station. From there, we traveled by Rotair, a rotating cable cabin car, that rotates around its own axis. One needed to be standing inside the cabin. We had fabulous view of the mountains and snow as we went higher and higher on the hills.
When we reached Mount Titlis (10000 feet elevation), we had our first ever experience of glacier. Earlier, we had visited Zungfrau where there was glacier, but we did not step into the glacier. The weather at Mount Titlis was extremely good, bright, sunny and extremely cold. The temperature was negative zones as it was in Zungfrau too. However, we decided to walk down on the glacier to reach the Ice Flyer Chair Lift station and my spirits started going up as we were walking on the ice. As I was enjoying the walk on the ice and glacier, I decided to get into this Chair Lift and experience it for myself. On my motivation and assurance, my wife too agreed with me. We got into the Chair lift that went above the sloping hills and glacier. The glacier park at the other end was not open yet for at least another hour or so and we just came back on the same chair lift. The Ice Flyer Chair Lift journey was comfortable and very exhilarating. The view was breathtaking with snow all around.

A view from Ice Flyer Chair Lift, Mount Titlis

Inside the Glacier Cave, Mount Titlis

A number of fun activities were supposed to be there at the glacier park, provided we were willing to be playing in the glacier. We decided not to spend much time on ice for fear of falling sick and we came back to the terrace view station. We went to Glacier Grotto – a glacier cave – a 150 meter tunnel down to 20-meter under the glacier's surface. We were also pleasantly surprised at the number of Indians visiting this place and also by the presence of Indian restaurant at the Glacier station. We spent nearly two hours at Mount Titlis and enjoyed the place thoroughly. We carried some small snacks that we ate and returned back to Engelberg.
At Engelberg, a second surprise awaited us. We saw a Rajasthani restaurant just as we stepped out of the cable car base station, selling idli sambar, bada pav, pav bhaaji, and masala chai. We had some authentic pav bhaaji and masala chai as our lunch. They told us that they worked for six months and went back to India. We waited for the bus to take us to the train station. However, we did not know that it was lunch break for the driver and so the bus did not arrive. As our next train was just a couple of minutes away we decided to walk to the station To our disappointment, we saw the train leaving even as we just entered the station. Our waving hands to the driver was of no avail. We waited for another one hour at the station and reached Lucerne by around 4 in the evening.
Then for about an hour we were roaming around the Lucerne city criss crossing the river and reached back our hotel. We did not notice anything spectacular about the city. The city was quite big and crowded with lot of vehicular traffic, more active than the other cities we saw. Many of the old city buildings were presenting a picturesque skyline across the river.
After reaching the hotel, we started packing ourselves for our next day's return to Zurich to board our flight to Chicago.
Day 8: 19th September 2008
The train journey from Lucerne to Zurich took only one hour and we were there at the airport by around 8.15 AM. We collected our luggage from the left luggage counter and checked in for our flight and waited for boarding the flight. At 12.55 PM, our Swiss Air flight took the sky towards Chicago.
Our trip to Switzerland was enjoyable, comfortable and memorable. I was always attracted by hill stations as they offered beautiful view of greenery, trees, shade, flowers, birds, quietness, and fresh air my spirits go up. Each time I was in a hill station, I always felt my awareness shifts to higher planes with un-explicable feelings. Himalayas are great attraction to me and the scenery is different over there. I don't think anywhere in the world, one sees so much greenery as one finds in Switzerland and no wonder, it is looked upon as ' Heaven on Earth.' Time and finance permitting, I wouldn't mind another trip to Switzerland when I would spend my time exclusively on small villages and hill tops rather than in bigger cities.
My next ambition is to visit Kailash and Manasarover on Himalayas located on the Tibetan side. I am determined to work towards this trip and I trust it will happen in the near time.
I hope I presented a fair and exact picture of our trip to Switzerland and I hope you all enjoyed reading the report.