Monday, December 27, 2010

Go lush green…Go Mahabaleshwar

Go Mahabaleshwar
 
I’m just back after my short trip to lush green Mahabaleshwar and all that I want to do right now is to share the stuff I did while I was on this vast green plateau (of about 150 sq. kms) on which you can guarantee yourself bouts of clean and non-polluted oxygen 24x7, 365 days a year. This was not the first time I visited Mahabaleshwar…but perhaps I made merrier this time because the timing seemed just right. I must say, that visiting this heavenly hill station in the winters is more rewarding that any other season of the year. 

Feels like heaven
Our tour from Mumbai towards Mahabaleshwar enroute Pune started on a dark cold Wednesday night via road. The journey was smooth but the cold hilly dark weather almost sent shivers down my spine leaving my set of 32 teeth trembling. It was chill chill really chill with temperatures touching 3-4C in the night and about 8-10 C in daylight. We almost fell in love with the hot sun during those cold days in Mahabaleshwar, so much so that we constantly remained on the lookout to sunbathe.

Mahabaleshwar which is rightly nicknamed the "Queen of the hills" is situated in Satara district in Maharashtra (India) which is about 220kms from Mumbai. Ghats, dense forests, forts, and lush green valleys are some of the main highlights of this place. Driving down the long winding narrow roads of Mahabaleshwar while listening to some Sufi and soulful music can give anyone an eternal blissful feeling.

Strawberry garden
“And there goes another strawberry garden”
It is just impossible to drive and walk around Mahabaleshwar without noticing a strawberry garden after every 1km stretch. They say that ‘all good things come in small packages’…How true! Must say that the small dwarf-like strawberry plant which presents the most expensive and deliciously irresistible fruit simply reinforces on this point. Nonetheless, the most tempting thing to notice while strolling in the markets are walking and talking men carrying mushy red strawberries in two baskets balanced across their shoulders (see picture). Besides strawberries…fruits like raspberries, goose berries, mulberries and vegetables like red potatoes, french beans, beets, salad, carrots, radishes are found in large numbers.

More places that you can't resist
Another spot that just shouldn't go amiss is 'Pratapgad', which is a strong hill fort built by Maratha King Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1656-1658 AD. I remember studying about this hill fort and the battles that our royal king (Shivaji Maharaj) won not by the strength of his troop or muscle power but more by his cut throat mind games and guerilla tactics.

At Pratapgad, I met this fierce, brilliant and stanch Shivaji Maharaj follower Mr. Chandrakanth Patil, our guide who ran through the historical events of the fort for our group of 7 persons who relived their school days of 4th grade. In grade four, when I studied about this fort, I must confess that I never really understood anything. Only wish I had Mr. Patil as my history teacher then, I would have never claimed history to be my weak subject today.
  
Our guide at Pratapgad (2nd from right)
 Besides the Pratapgad fort, boating in Koyna lake (in Mini Kashmir) and the N-number of sunset and sunrise points are a few sites you just can’t miss. Even the five table tops in Panchgani, which are suppose to be the largest table hill tops in whole of Asia, is something that is worth taking a look at.

 
Pratapgad
“Aye Khuda Mujhko bata, Tu Rehta Kahan Kya Tera pata, Hum to yahan pe Musafir hai, Jo Dhundhe Apni Manzil ka Pata,” is the song we played umpteen number of times whilst driving down those long winding uphill and downhill roads of Mahabaleshwar. I think God lived there!

With this beautiful Sufi song track, let me thank you for visiting my blog. Do write to me with your reactions, opinions or critical comments at simplymearl@live.com or leave your inputs in the comments tab below.

Before I sign out, as I always say take very good care of yourself and God Bless.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

At the blow of a whistle

Many things happen at the blow of a whistle. The policeman brings traffic at a halt, military personnel are warned of infiltration, motormen are able to communicate with each other, and boys signal their girlfriends...all this achieved at a simple blow of this small piece of instrument which produces sound from a stream of forced air, which we famously call a 'Whistle'.

Well, this loud-mouthed whistle has varied and pretty interesting roles to play…Isn’t it! Even more, when recently whistleblowers have come out to blow the whistle upon the diplomatic world to expose the not-so-good deeds of dishonestly and unfair practices by global governance.

Changing the course of diplomacy
Yes, you are right; I am precisely referring to the leaks from the secret Wikileaks website that has been making headlines since the past two weeks. Fearlessly exposing the vicious policies made by diplomats, the 39yr old Dean of Wikileaks, Mr. Julian Assange is causing a stir across the globe. Personally, I like the style in which Julian kicks off leaked confidential documents on this secret Wikileaks website. Even this time, before he published some serious internal diplomatic cables, he gave his website customers a teaser by releasing information about how US nicknames global leaders, like the Iranian President is referred as "Hitler"; French President Nikolas Sarkozy as “an emperor without clothes”; Afghani President called a "weak personality" who was "driven by paranoia". I’m sure this guy must be wittingly humorous!

Subsequently, Wikileaks published some explosive secret diplomatic documents that not only left the common man speculating, but has also left the global governance shaken and stirred.

Being politically right always
It is well received and accepted when diplomats are being diplomatic! But then today, most from the corporate world, the fourth estate, and a layman like you and me are also learning and implementing the art of being diplomatic in our day-to-day living. We are busy being tactful, discreet, cautious, and selfish in all our dealings with the world, whether it is with our colleagues, our managers, media, or for that matter even our family and friends.

So then, why do we do, what we do? Why do we keep quiet and act ignorant, when we observe and witness swindles and unethical behavior & practices happening in front of our eyes. Why do we snub people at less powerful positions and exploit them to the fullest to accomplish our personal goals. Is it because we want to become Mr. Popular in our circles or is it to simply earn quick promotions to the top.

Like my good old friend always said that “to increase your knowledge, you got to share it”. Well said…isn’t it! But then, does that really happen in today’s world? Commonly, we see the so called Mr. Popular bragging about his essentially ‘bankrupt knowledge and expertise’, skyrocketing his way to the top. While the ‘humble but intelligent’ Mr. Unpopular scores no points because he can’t yap and sing his own praises like Mr. Popular. So you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours seems to be the new way of life!

Whistleblower rights
Every time a whistleblower speaks out…he is murdered or falsely put behind bars or sacked from his job for being vocal and upfront. For instance, if the diplomatic and corporate world believes and is convinced that Wikileaks is publishing inaccurate and forged documents on its secret website, there is no need for anyone to break out in a sweat. This kind of fiery situation can simply be seized by discussing with the whistleblower face-to-face…at the same time bringing in global transparency as the dialogue is unfolded.

A plumber is certainly required to fix this leaking tap from which secret information about dishonest diplomatic agendas is made public. But then, in this case, it is not the whistleblower who should face the wrought of the spanner…but it is the diplomatic world that should face it and take corrective and preventive actions to live in harmony.

Global corporations have a full-fledge highly competitive and resourceful customer care centre to handle customer feedbacks and concerns. So why not also encourage incorporation of a ‘whistleblower hotline’ and ‘protection of whistleblower policy’ as part of the corporate and governing strategy. One such unique Japanese company called ‘OMRAN’ has built-in the hotline and the whistleblower protection policy encouraging its employees, its customers, and the public to be honest and upfront. Take a look at this company’s fantastic and elaborate CSR report at (see page 215 for whistleblower rights) http://www.omron.com/corporate/csr/pdf_inquiry/pdf/omron_csr_report_e.pdf..

Indeed, it is time for global corporations and diplomats to accept whistleblowers as disgruntled stakeholders who in their little way want to make this world a better place to live in for you, for me and for the entire human race. And, we need to stop considering whistleblowers as activists who are determined to spoil relationships and peace…because there is more to what actually meets the eye.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Do write to me with your reactions, opinions or critical comments at simplymearl@live.com or leave your inputs in the comments tab below.

Before I sign out, as I always say take very good care of yourself and God Bless!