Heavy rush today at Baghdad airport

Today I am going to India by 12:30 pm Etihad flight from Baghdad via Abu Dhabi. I asked for the car to arrive at 9:30 am. The car arrived at 9:15 am and so I started earlier. Thank God, I started earlier as there was huge rush at the airport checkpoint. The drives used to get in flashing their badge. That system is not working today causing such a huge traffic snarl near the check point. The dog sniffing was also done at the end of the traffic jam.

There’s one good change that they have replaced the system of opening the luggage for physical checking. They have put X-ray scanners and also metal detectors for the people. It saved the time and the trouble of opening the bags and then again locking them.

I ultimately arrived at the airport gate at 11:00 am. Again there was a long queue for second dog sniffing. Thank God there wasn’t any rush at Etihad counter. When I entered the departure hall after clearing passport control, it was 11:45 am. I just walked into the First Class lounge at the airport to have a small sandwich and a cup of coffee.

A corner of First Class lounge at Baghdad International Airport

As I finished it, the boarding for the flight was announced. This time there wasn’t a single moment at the airport to talk to people before undertaking the journey.

Had dolma in office today

Today, our colleague Ms. Khalida brought dolmas for the Back Office. It was so nice of her to cook and bring the dolmas to the office in good quantity for all of us. The dolmas were very nicely cooked and tasted very good.

Dolma is originally a Turkish food that has many varieties generally stuffed with ground meat. Dolma word has derived from “dolmak”, which is a Turkish word that means “to be filled, be full”. The use of grape leaves to wrap food is believed to date back to the days of Alexander, the Great.

In Bangladesh and Indian state of West Bengal, pointed gourd (patol) is used for stuffing fish, meat, or vegetables and goes by the name of dolma or the local variant – dorma. A mixture of poppy seeds, grated coconut, raisins and/or shrimp is commonly used for stuffing. During the times of the Nawabs of Bengal, this dish came to the region with its Turkish name, with the only noticeable change being the vegetable used for stuffing.

Thanks to Ms. Khalida for cooking and bringing dolmas for us.

Dinner at Akhtar’s house

Yesterday, Akhtar called me on phone. He arrived Baghdad last Sunday. He invited me for dinner at his home. He also invited Mr. DV Singh, HOC, Indian Embassy, Baghdad.

I went to his home around 7.30 p.m. walking as he stays very nearby. He stays just opposite to our old house. Mr. Singh also reached his house as I reached there along with Himangshu Pant, PA to Ambassador and Tarun Tyagi.

Akhtar served us drinks. The embassy people preferred coke while Akhtar and I had whisky. It was followed by huge dinner arranged by Akhtar. He served fish fry, aloo dum, paneer curry and chicken curry along with rice and qubooz. After that he served us fruit ice cream. It was a nice, heavy dinner. All the items were well cooked.

Mr Singh informed us that the new Ambassador is expected to join by the end of this month. He is coming from Indian embassy in Tehran, Iran.

They left after 10:00 p.m. I also then walked back to my house. I enjoyed the evening and the dinner. Thanks, Akhtar.

Bring Back Our Girls

Almost a month has passed since the mass abduction of about 276 young schoolgirls on April 14 in Nigeria. They were just aged 12-15 years! The militant Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. In a video message, a leader of the group threatened to sell the schoolgirls and force them to marry.

Boko Haram means ‘Western Education is a Sin’. But is this not a sin? Which religion on this earth sanctions kidnapping of young girls and forcing them into slavery? By any definition, this is a sheer act of cowardice. These militants are terrorising the society by snatching away their innocent daughters  and children, whose only mistake is that they want to be educated to lead a good life. Every child in this world has the right to education and the girls have an inalienable right to be girls.

The world is slowly getting united under the campaign that began with a hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on Twitter to put a pressure on the Nigerian government and world leaders to rescue those innocent young schoolgirls from the clutches of Boko Haram.

When so many cradles of mothers are empty and their eyes are missing their lovely daughters, it cannot be a “Happy Mother’s Day” today. I support #BringBackOurGirls! I am waiting for the day when these girls are rescued. May the God be with them!

Image courtesy: Hindustan Times

Words of Ratan Tata

Yesterday, I read these words of Ratan Tata, the world-famous Indian industrialist. I liked them so much that I am putting them on my blog. These are so nice and true.

“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together.”

How strange it is:

We wish to wear high brands, but we feel comfortable in our pyjamas. We wish to sit in Taj or Marriott with elite people, but we enjoy roadside tea with friends and with people we love. We wish to own big cars and go on long drives, yet we talk our heart out while walking down a long road. We have 64GB iPods filled with songs but sometimes a song on the radio brings a smile that can’t be compared.

Fasten your seat belt and stay blessed

The Seatbelt Crew has come out with a novel idea for spreading basic protections while driving. Through a group of beautiful, purple sari clad transgenders, dressed as air crew members broadcasting important message in their unique unforgettable fashion they are spreading the message to the motorists for fastening their seat belts while driving.

The video has become viral and the message is well spread. But the purpose will be served when the car drivers start fastening their seat belts while behind the steering wheels. The idea is well appreciated.

Seat belt pehno aur duaa lelo!

Happy birthday, Jaya!

Today is Jaya’s birthday. I sent her flowers and cake to her as I am in Baghdad now through Ferns N Petals.

It was delivered by afternoon. Jaya called me immediately as she got the bouquet and the cake. She was very happy as she was missing me and our son, Babai. She cut the cake in the afternoon and posted her pictures to me.

With as much love, as I can share, I wanted to let you know I care enough to send some love your way, Happy Birthday, sweetheart! I am missing you.

An evening at Savannah Bar

I am traveling back to Baghdad early in the morning after spending more than a month in India with my family. My flight from Delhi airport is at 4:20 a.m. to Baghdad via Abu Dhabi by Etihad Airways. I reached Delhi today from Ranchi at around 6:00 p.m. by Air India flight.

My old school friend Aranjit messaged me to meet and so we contacted each other on reaching Delhi after checking in at Hotel Radission Blu Plaza. It’s just across the airport and very close by. It’s convenient to catch flight from this hotel as I could save the traveling time to airport from hotel.

I invited Aranjit to my hotel. He came to the hotel. We then went to Savannah Bar to have some drinks and chat. Savannah Bar is a nice bar with good quality stuff.

We decided in favor of Ballantine’s scotch whisky with some chicken tikkas and crispy fish chillies. Aranjit preferred his whisky with soda while I preferred it on the rocks. We had a cool three round of whisky and nice chats about our lives and politics. It was an excellent evening spent with an old school time friend. It was damn relaxing talking to him. He left for his home after 10:30 p.m.

Thanks to my friend Aranjit I had a wonderful evening.

Chhinnamasta temple

Jaya and I decided to go on pilgrimage to Chhinnamasta temple during this auspicious period of Navaratri. This is after many years that I am at home during the Vasanta Navratri period this year. Vasanta Navaratri started from March 31 this year. We therefore visited the Chhinnamasta temple on the Tuesday, April 1, 2014.

Navaratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. Vasanta Navaratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Chaitra (March–April) and is observed during the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon) of Chaitra. The beginning of this Navratri also marks the start of the new year as per the Hindu mythological lunar calendar (Vikrami Samvat).

The word Navaratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit – nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or “Dussehra”. The beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn are considered to be important junctions of climatic and solar influences. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother Durga. Navaratri or Navadurga Parva happens to be the most auspicious and unique period of devotional sadhanas and worship of Shakti (the sublime, ultimate, absolute creative energy) of the Divine conceptualized as the Mother Goddess-Durga, whose worship dates back to prehistoric times before the dawn of the Vedic age.

Chhinnamasta Temple dedicated to Goddess Chinnamasta is a hindu pilgrimage. The temple is located at Rajrappa, 28 km away from Ramgarh Cantonment along NH-23 in the Ramgarh district of the State of Jharkhand, India. It is situated on a hillock at the confluence of rivers Damodar and Bhairavi popularly known as Bhera. Rajrappa is around 80 km from Ranchi.

The Bhera River joins the Damodar River from a height of 20 feet creating a waterfall.

Chhinnamasta (She whose head is severed), also called Chhinnamastika and Prachanda Chandika, is one of the Mahavidyas, ten Tantric goddesses and a ferocious aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother. The headless statue of Goddess Chhinamastika stands upon the bodies of Kamdeo and Rati in a lotus bed.

The temple is very old and the place Rajrappa finds mention in the Vedas, Puranas and Hindu scriptures as a “Shakti Peeth” which is flocked by devotees from Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and Nepal for worship of Goddess Chinnamastika.

Vedic book Durga Saptashati also mentions the temple.

The art and architectural design resembles the design of temples of Tantrik importance. The temple is considered as notable as the tantrik site of Kamakhya Temple of Assam which has a similar architecture.

The ancient temple of Goddess was destroyed and later a new temple was constructed and the original idol of Goddess was placed in it. Animal sacrifice is still practiced in the temple.

We performed our pujas, prayed at the temple and sat there for some time. Then we left for our home in Ranchi in the afternoon after praying at other Dakshina-Kali and Mahavidya temples nearby.

The place attracts devotees from all parts of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Pilgrims come here throughout the year. The place also attracts many foreign tourists due to its natural and religious importance.

Jai Maa Chhinnamasta!

Yo Yo Honey Singh in Ranchi

On March 30, Yo Yo Honey Singh performed live in Ranchi. We booked our tickets online a couple of days before. His concert was at JSCA stadium at Dhurwa in Ranchi.

We reached the stadium at 7:30 p.m. as the concert was to begin from 7:30 p.m.

There was a huge crowd for the live concert. A DJ was playing music to entertain the crowd. A few local dance groups gave their stage performance before Honey Singh took the stage. He came on the stage at around 9:00 p.m.

He enthused the audience with his lively, popular songs.

Suddenly after finishing his famous “Sunny Sunny…” song he left the stage saying that he would come again next year. The public was not ready for such early and abrupt end of the show. It was just 10:00 p.m. then and it’s too early. He sang a few songs only. I felt cheated and so do many others, too.