Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Loving memories with Naseem…

NB: All photos from our first himalayan trek together at Sandakphu, near Darjeeling in West Bengal.

It was the kind request of prophet Ibrahim (AS) to the ALMIGHTY that “…so fill some hearts among men with love towards them…” (Quran 14:37). Believers are always loved and cared by people; or differently put true believers have such a kind of heart that everyone would like to interact with. I read Kunhiman (Naseem) from this angle. He has done much things in short span and more importantly many things that we all couldn’t do or are not concerned about. I understand that Kunhiman is loved because he has dealt the human relationship part wonderfully and through simply means.

My relationships with him start from childhood and in my initial memories itself (when I was in 3rd std) he is a man behind explorations. We used to do science experiments and he used to collect all kinds of news and special GK notes from all children magazines and papers. I do remember a vast collection of paper cuttings in his custody and it was nicely arranged, this was back in 1992& 1993. During 1997, when I was staying at mother’s house for my high school studies, we used to have daily interactions. By that time his father (my uncle) was died and I, his sister (Kunhimal) and he were under the custody of our Grandma (Ummamma). It was the golden time when we discussed and explored many things. He was regular reader of Hindu daily which he used to crack using 6/8 volume Malayalam – English dictionary. We used to play games with english words and he even used to update me new english names. That time, I used to see paper notes with word meanings. There were lots of discussions on the current affairs, various scientific topics etc. Being attached to reading, he used to store newspapers and magazines for years, which made a big room our home a storage space; and that time he had to face questions from many one for keeping the rooms filled paper stuff. There was a time when he started collecting all old Malayalam songs, and discuss the meaning of the song. During those days, he didn’t had the habit of reading books regularly, rather main concentration was on magazines and weeklies.

With Ghoorkha in Kurseong - people are always craze for him

It was the time when he got strong interest in Islamic dawa activities and started exploring many new things. That was the time when computer and internet were not available, and he used to talk to many eminent people and collect articles, video cassettes etc. We used to have hours of long discussions on various topics on these lines. Personally my interactions with him has helped a lot to shape myself – the vastness we need to keep, the depth, the mentality of exploring things etc.

He has lots of knowledge on comparative religion studies and he has surprising good memory too. His initial collection on books were on religions. I remember, he used to write small articles and letters; and I used to write them as my handwriting was good.

Relatives are always a boon who motivate us always; Kunhiman was one of the important personality among that. Once you meet him, he will ask everything about you, your life and motivate& encourage you in natural way. The way he comprehends and acknowledges things is special – it’s really natural. I remember in many personality development camps, when someone ask for the best friend, I had mentioned his name and the main reason I noted is he will listen to you and give you enough room to talk. But I never got a chance to inform about this to him.

He lead a simple life, he used to have only limited pair of cloths and the money that was given for buying cloths (in eid times and all) was used to buy books. There were many occasions where we went together to buy cloths and he used to give preference to my selection.

After joining government service he spent more time for reading, identifying books& buying them, keeping updated on all current issues, interacting with all kinds of people, motivating young generation for higher studies and niche jobs (including government jobs) etc. His book collection in last 10 years is awesome and surprisingly he has read most of it. The interesting part is, you won’t him reading a book in day time, and rather most of his reading happens at night.

In last 5 years, we used to have very serious interactions. He has suggested many books to read and I had found out some rarer publishers at Bangalore and got the books for him. The longest time I spent with him was when we went for Sandakphu trek to Darjeeling in Dec 2012. I had lots of moments where I knew him closely and revealed his heart feelings to nature and all kinds of good things. Some things I remember is his expressions to Rabeendranath music, the broadness of Brahmaputhra river, his joy when we met Bavul singer in the train, his response to naturality of people of Goorkha land& beauty of himalyas etc.

Last September trek to Hampata pass, where he had the cardiac arrest; he had asked me initially to join with him, but I couldn’t join him because of various reasons. He is a true lover of Himalayas and travel, but you won’t see him travelling a lot in nearby areas. His biggest dream in trekking was going to Sarpass.

After his death, I came to know more about his local activities for the future of next generations with tracking, monitoring, following up, motivating and financially helping many students to grab a job and his focus for helping to target for PSC exam was different. I had written a PSC exam in 2007 and that was through motivation from him and one of the last message he sent to me was about a PSC exam.

I am sure, he has utilised his life to the maximum; but I and sad that I am not satisfied with the time I spent with him, there were many things to discuss more with him. He is rare of that kind, who can come up with new topics for the live discussions. He is a real loss from every angle – a different person with interests in multiple things, most kind hearted, loving, encouraging always etc.

Reached the last camping station - Rimbik

May ALLAH forgive all sins, create continuity for things he dealt with, accept everything as sadaqathun jariyya and bless him and all of us with jannathul firdouse in the here after… Aameen
I know this records are incomplete, but I wanted to note down some things that I remember about him and that are not mentioned in notes written by others.

The capability and capacity of people are understood once they disappear; I strongly feel we should correct this culture in society, in the context of sad demise of my loving cousin. That is why prophet told to develop human relationships deep and showed us examples of acknowledging the joy of relationships through saying “I love you my friend…”

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Poems out of jet lag

Jet lag
Stretching arms
Aching knees
Slowing sighs

Calm eyes
With no pinch of sleep
Lots of thoughts
That controlled breath

Longing loneliness
Identity of the nothing
It's beauty I realize
Through this piece of note.

Value Stone
Dreaming to be a value stone
On the chain of history
That is one billion years long
And has minimum age of earth...

Civilizations, kings and prophets
Ages, dynasties and emperors
Looking back on to them
Many are big and charm...

From one to another
From here to there
Of only five thousand years
That data too is only vaguely clear...

Voyages, explorations and attacks
Are only to name a few
That created the log of history
Is still a wonderful mystery!

Concerns and boastings
Though I realize my life is nothing
And my value stone too might be absent
On that age old string...

Oh! my Lord!
You, the only Planner
Bless me on this planet
To lay my value stone...

Over the Pacific ocean
Through the open lands
Feeling fragrance
Of the flowing tunes.

Though distant
That built a wall
Consciousness can break
Across the toughest dark.

Natter and sharing
Through the unknown means
I truly wonder
What a magic these.

Making vibrant
And blowing reflections
Silly mind has
Dazzling musings on...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Amazing Andaman – flashes of unique experiences!

[NB: Photos by Riyas (Nikon D5200) and Niyaz (Sony Cybershot)]

It was a long time desire to visit Andamans - discussion were on with my friend Riyas Kottayam for more than 6 years as his sister is settled there. The planning became live when we shared the travel plan with Safir, Siraj, Raheem bai and later with Navaska. Finally we decided to have a family trip of 6 families (12 adults& 10 kids under the leadership of Riyas bai) to Andamans in Octobar 2015 and booked the flight tickets in early May. The most fantastic part of the trip was the team.

Andaman and Nicobar islands (ANI) near to the east coast of India and capital Port Blair is connected from Chennai, Vizag and Culcutta through air ways and ship services. Statistics saw that, percentage wise, internationals tourists prefer to visit ANI 2 times than the Indian tourist for holidays. So, many Indians who might have done explorations outside India, might not reach this union territory region in our country. There are two main reasons for this. (1) It still considered as a forest land or land of uncivilized people (2) comparatively high travel expense. Reality is, these two reasons are merely hiding us from this blissful region in the tourist map.

ANI Map -- Highlighted are the places we visited
There are many tempting facts& factors about ANI which will surely prompt to visit ANI again and again. I would like to describe some of them.
  1. In a sense it is a special region in the geographical map of india. It has 572 islands and out of which about 34 are permanently inhabited. There are indigenous people living in these Islands. Some of the Islands in ANI need special permission to enter, that too not permitted for tourist purpose.
  2. There are five indigenous Andamanese groups in these Islands – Jarwas, Onge, Sentinelese, Grate Andamanese and Shompren. Some of them are forager (hunters) groups. All of them are very specific to this region and all of them differ each other in their culture and way of life. At large the interactions and attempt to stream line these groups to the main stream have affected their existence itself.
  3. Considering the decent cleanliness maintained all throughout the city and other villages, it is very different from other part of India.
  4. It is a land of offspring of freedom fighters who exiled for life from their mother land. Central Jail at Port Blair is an evidence for this historical fact.
  5. Indian subcontinent has 4 major sea coral sites (ANI, Lakswadeep, Gulf of Mannar,Rann of Kutch). As per scientific survey results, ANI boasts of having more than 177+ verities of coral species out of the identified 793 species in the world. Scientists say that, we can find more if we do further explorations in this area.
  6. Once you wander in ANI, you will become a fan of sea shells, fishes, diving, corals etc. There are many species that we can see without eyes, the diversity of creation by the Great Creator, All Praise to Him!
  7. Beaches in Andaman are excellent, what I felt is all beach that we visited were different. All of them are clean and lovely. The vastness, beauty, pinch of loneliness, serene view, water clarity with bluish touch etc will always keep these beaches in our minds. Many beaches are shallow and takes distance to go deeper, which helps to play around safely. Your entire family can peacefully enjoy playing in the waves. In low tides, playing beach football was also possible as the sea bed is uniform and horizontal.
  8. It is a land of nice people. In the modern era, people have reached this Islands from Tamilnadu, Karala, Bengal, Malaysia etc and so it is a mixed community but yet living in harmony.
  9. As we visited ANI in Octobar and end of Octobar being start of tourist season, we had a mixed feeling on the climate. There were heavy rain on the day we reached at Port Blair, but climate was pleasant after that day. Most of the day sky was clear and climate was hot. Islanders say that, normally Andaman climate is unpredictable. But thank God, none of our plans were influenced by bad weather.
  10. Planning a visit to ANI need two main things to take care. Proper stays and commutations plans across Islands. In tourist seasons (Oct to March), it is very tough to find tickets and overall cost will be high. So preferably better to go just before starting of tourist season like we did (Actually it was not planned intentionally, we realized by chance that we came there at the proper slot)
  11. We will love the lunch here. Simple and ‘fishy’. Food was satisfactory through out.
In our case, Riyas bai’s brother in law (Habeeb Sir/Machan) helped us locally. He was with us in the trip planning phase itself and once on the field he was one among us. There are many others who helped, directed and arranged many things for us, like Andaman Rasheed Sahib, Muhammedali Sahib, Brother Hussain, Brother Shameem, Brother Zaid etc. During travel to an unknown place, directions and even small helps are felt to be of great relief; which eases our movement in the unknown land. The pleasant interactions and responsibility all of them taken their own were noteworthy and many times helped us to learn lessons from them too. That part was a different experience in this trip.

I had earlier contacts with Rasheed Sahib, couple of years ago and he was teacher of Navas bai’s wife, which resulted to have more interactions with him. He received us at Vir Savarkar Airport- Port Blair (take off from Chennai) and headed towards IGC were we took rest and waited for the second batch to land. Machan also reached there to escort us to his home at Wimberly Gunj.

Wandering in Andamanas:
Day One: Landing at Port Blair. After the first day’s experience of travelling in ferryboat (means Jangar) and visiting the small dam in Wimberly Gunj, we stayed at Wimberly Gunj. Our group size (22 members) was so huge that we stayed at different houses that night, but Machan could do it with the help of his friends around Wimberly Gunj.

Day Two: We started to Havelock Island from Pheonix Jetty at 8.30AM. Considering the risk in grabbing 20+ tickets in Government ferry, we had booked the Makruzz (catamaran passenger ferry built by Damen Shipyard, Singapore - http://www.makruzz.com/ ) tickets 10 days before the travel date. It is a nice journey of one and half hours from Port Blair. We had opted AC Deluxe class and the seating was on the upper deck. At sea we will surely enjoy the vastness and the wilderness of bluish water around and the long stripes of small islands on the way.

About to board Makrooz
The first thing that we notice after landing at Havelock Island was the clear water and every one were thrilled to get in to water as we couldn’t do it on first day and the sun was hot. Mr.Hussain who is a forest officer helped us to hire a Tempo traveler and we went directly to our hotel. Our immediate destination was Kalapathar beach, which is 5Km away. Beach was calm and quiet, most of us went in to water in the first chance. Even young kids really enjoyed their first experience. The view of the soft sanded shore touching the placid sea with the wonderful rainy clouds at the sky was an overwhelming scene, frankly the overall caricature was first in life time. You can’t see it at the normal beaches in the mainland.

After spending around one and half hours, we headed towards Radha Nagar beach (Beach number 7, in the western coast). On the way all of us had a nice fish curry meals. Radha Nagar beach was a long time waiting surprise in the Andaman trip. In 2004, Time magazine named this beach the as the best beach in Asia. We spend around two hours in water and it was a wonderful time jumping with the wave’s movements, trying various tricks etc. Beach is shallow for a long distance which helps even toddlers to engage in their small activities in water. Coast guards are active in this beach and by the time of sunset they ensure everyone come out of water.

Day Three: We had scheduled to stay for two days at Havelock, but hadn’t planned much for second day. We were discussing about going for Scuba diving or snorkeling, but cost of this activity was a repelling factor. Discussions with Mr.Hussain helped to identify one diving spot where we could it for 2500 per person. From us; 6 men, 5 women and 1 teenager went for diving! It was another distinct experience in life.

Training ourselves to breathe through the regulated mouth cup was the most interesting and initial scary part of this activity. But all of us managed to do the scuba diving finally. By the time we all completed diving in three batches, it was evening and so we couldn’t go to Elephanta beach.

There was no difference of opinion that we all decided to go once again to Radha Nagar beach. There is a small forest area near the beach, we all wandered through and then went on to beach. Walking on the vast sandy beach watching the tides and longing for a dip; it was awesome. The pattern made by Sand bubbler crabs is a surprise which occupied the whole beach. Frankly, it is a fabulous experience at the Radhanagar beach and the only worry was is it going to have sunset soon. The design at the sky for the sun set is magical and unique.

Sand patterns

We played a decent football match at the beach before leaving. Mr.Hussain had arranged dinner at Forest guest house which is near to the Forest beach. It is on the way to Kalapathar beach. This beach is also decent and good for a visit. We had some group games while waiting for the dinner.

Day Four: Our next destination is Neil Island. Breakfast was arranged at the same Forest guest house and we all spend some meaningful photo sessions in the lawns and walkways in the guest house. As this area is facing the sea, it was a good time. We boarded Makruz and headed towards Neil Island. Saying farewell to Mr.Hussain and Havelock was nostalgic.

At Forest beach
Comparatively less people reach Neil Island, but it is a small and beautiful one. The view itself as we approach the jetty from Makruz is amazing. The blue color sea water, the stranded leaf less trees near the sea shore and the 180 degree view of sea shore added to the beauty. This is one of the main coral site of Andaman and the peculiarity here is you can see the coral with your eyes and feel them with your eyes. The stay at Hotel Tango was nice and it is very near to sea shore.

Just reached Neil Island - Way to Hotel
We first went to Bharathpur beach, where water is shallow. As I time goes with low tide, we can see sea exposing the corals! The areas near to the sea shore are not that crowded with corals that we can walk along and play in water. We took a chance and walk along to see and feel them. Clams and other corals are plenty here. Just before leaving the beach we played football.

Next we went to the visit Natural Bridge. This was another surprise for us. It is a beach side with special rocks. The initial part was small specially formed monolithic rock structure, but on the ground and walkable. This is vast and home to so many species of creatures. Moving to the left side there were small natural ponds and through their side we can walk along. We observed many special sea creatures live (clams, anchovies, sea horse, crocodile needle fish, mud spiny lobster, mud crab etc). Many other types, we couldn’t identify. The ambience of the place was special and the natural bridge in the Howra bridge shape was extraordinary.

Sea cucumber

Our next destination was Laxmipur beach which is near to our hotel. And there is cape where we can watch the sun set. We were just on time to get a glimpse of it. Again here the after sunset scenery here is supernatural. Sand here is good that our kids could spend meaningful time with their sand work trials. We had a get together at night where we could know each other in depth. Here are some stunning sunset views...

Day Five:  Early morning, some of us went for a walk on the sea shore till Bharatpur beach and we bought breakfast from the village hotel. The market and spaces around were calm though significant crowd was moving along. We are going to return to the Port Blair today, as we move along, it is difficult to leave the good time back.

View of Neil Jetty in the morning
We reached Port blair by 1PM and dumped out luggage at hotel room. We didn’t want to waste our time and so we went to visit Cellular Jail. It’s on hill and down there is Marina Park. It is a decent one to keep kids engaged. There is a water complex near to this park. By evening we reached Abadeen Bazar and has dinner there.

Day Six: We started our early morning journey to Baratang Island through Great Andaman Truck Road. The journey through the forest is good experience, but we couldn’t spot any Jarawa, though normally people see. After reaching Middle strait Jetty, we have to take jetty service to move to the Middle Andaman. Baratang the entry to middle Andaman and there is a forest office from where we need to get permission for boat ride to Lime stone cave site. We packed in two boats and the journey in open boat was nice.

Lots of mangroves around and serene water through out. The boat took a peaceful left turn inside the mangroves through the small water ways which lead to a small jetty. Limestone caves are very rare in India. We need to walk some distance to reach Lime stone cave. It is dark inside, but the boat driver had a torch and showed us the patterns and differences in colors because of presence of water in some areas.

Inside Lime stone cave

Mangroves near Limestone caves

On the way back, we went to WimberlyGung once again. Went to see Machan and Rasheed sahib once again. It was second day treat for us at Machan’s home.

Machan's younger kids
At Rasheed Sahib's house
Day Seven: We visited Samidrika Marine Museum (An eye opener for most us, which gave clarity on types fishes, corals and other marine life of Andaman), Anthropological Museum (good portraits of indigenous tribal communities and the Andaman history) and Aquarium near Marina Park. Once you complete these three, we value the exceptionality of Andaman. It’s history, marine life and culture lays down a good feeling for your life. It has only natural stuff to tell you, which soothes your mind. Then we had a dip at Corbyns Cove beach. This is the beach nearest to Port Blair. After that we went to Chidiya Tapu to see sunset there. The journey and location are very nice. On return we visited the planetarium too.

Day Eight: This day was dedicated for Rose Island, a small beautiful Island which saved Port Blair from Tsunami in 2005. The lawn, the old buildings, deers and peacocks and the bottom view beach are specialties of this Island. This is at a 15 minutes distance from the Aberdeen Jetty in Port Blair.

After this we had a surprise lunch from Syndicate Mess. It is a mess by Tamilians near the Syndicate Bank. This was the best meal we had all throughout our trip. We went to Gandhi Park after lunch. It is well maintained beatuful park. Our kids enjoyed much there.

Day Nine: We did some purchase from Sagarika and Aberdeen Bazar before leaving to Main Land (Chennai) by flight.

Left Overs: There are many left overs in this trip. To name a few – Jollyboy Island (wonderful coral visiting side) Barren Island (Has active volcano), Chowra Island (Land of Nicobarese tribs, famous for pig festival), Katchal Island (it is beautiful Island), Little Andaman (10 hour ship journey from Port Blair, this is home to Onge aboriginal tribes. Other settlers also live here), Rutland Island, North Sentinel Island (Around 400 members of Sentinelese tribe live here), Strait Island (Great Andamanese People live here). Many of these places can’t entered for a normal person as it is reserved for indigenous tribal community there.

That 11 day journey was splendid - on time local help and support from Machan and Rasheed sahib, good bonding and understanding among the group mates (thanks to all), amazing experiences throughout, lots of new things and learnings and nature always showed how vast and wide it is. This is one of the rare trips were there was a considerable left over even after spending ten days. Hopefully I will explore those left overs some time in future.

The pack - From Rose Island
Thank God, for an amazing vacation with my amazing friends...