Rendezvous with god’s own country: Kerala

Bewitching backwaters, relaxing ayurvedic massage, beautiful foggy mountains, tea gardens, brilliantly coloured birds, beaches, coconut water… Kerala is all this and much, much more. Clicked some 700+ photographs. We (me and my better half) started our trip from Trivandrum to finish in Kochi (August 15 – 21). Here a brief round-up on the same. :)

At Trivandrum Airport, our chauffeur-cum-guide Manikandan (21, an automobile diploma holder) received us. He made sure we visited every place possible in Kerala. :) After some rest at the hotel, we made our way towards Kovalam beach. It was totally awesome. So clean, so fresh… The beach sports a lighthouse, a few shacks, seafood stalls and some art jewellery shops.

The next day we left for sightseeing in Trivandrum. Padmanabhaswamy temple, Zoo, Napier Museum, Poovar Island were all on the list. Loved the Zoo… Got some banana chips for family from a stall near Padmanabhaswamy temple.

Out of all the places, Poovar Island (which is engulfed by the tranquil backwaters opening out into the Arabian Sea) left me speechless. It was an indelible experience of colorful sights and exotic sounds. Poovar Island was not mentioned in our itinerary but Mani said we shouldn’t be missing it! :-)

On the 17th, we drove to our next destination Kumarakom. Did not have much to do here except some bird watching and houseboat cruise. We left that for the next day. Me and better half decided to have a full-body warm oil ayurvedic massage. It was luxuriously relaxing and blissfully comforting. :-) Wow!

Our next destination was Munnar or should I say a paradise? On the way to Munnar, we stopped at the roaring Cheeyappara Waterfalls.

Munnar, the picturesque hill station, was among one of the most extraordinary encounters we had with nature! The foggy mountain tops, tea gardens, spice plantations added up to a breathtaking scenery. Our itinerary had quite a few things on its mind but we managed to skip a few. We ditched Rajamala Hills, Blossom Park & spices garden but did not miss the tea museum, Echo Point and Madupetty Dam… Beautiful is an understatement to describe the Echo Point. It was simply drop-dead gorgeous! In fact, the drive from Munnar town to Echo Point itself gives you a blissful scenic treat! I shopped a little more here… Filled my greedy bag with some special Munnar tea, spices and hand-made chocolates… :-)

We left for Kochi on the 21st. On reaching Kochi, we had our quick south-indian breakfast – idli sambhar, masala dosa & tea or chaaya as they call it ;) Went for a little walk on Marine Drive and left for the airport. With heavy hearts and a lump in our throats we said, “Bye Mani. Thank you for making our trip so special. We will miss you.” Teary-eyed Mani barely managed to say – Thank you Ma’am, thank you Sir… Bye!

Make a Will today

“That is the reason we have deadlines, and deadline extensions. Unfortunately, we think, we have unlimited extensions to plan for the future and safeguard our families’ financial future.”

The following article by me appeared on the website of India Infoline on June 16, 2010.

Creating a Will is one of the most important actions that you can take to secure a comfortable future for your family. Death is inescapable. You should prepare for it! Human beings were born to procrastinate. That is the reason we have deadlines, and deadline extensions. Unfortunately, we think, we have unlimited extensions to plan for the future and safeguard our families’ financial future.

“A Will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for the transfer of his or her property at death,” according to Wikipedia. In simpler terms, by making a will you can determine what happens to your property and possessions after his death.

Before you dismiss a Will as tool only for the rich and famous, consider its implications on your financial plan. An advocate by profession and a close friend of mine Advocate Ashwin L. Advani explains, “The purpose of making a Will is to avoid conflict among the legal heirs of the person who is disposing off the property under the Will.” In absence of a Will, the court will to distribute your property according to law and determine the beneficiaries. Here few terms that will help you understand more about Wills:

> Testator: A person making a Will and executing it.
> Legatee /Beneficiary: A person who inherits the property under a Will.
> Probate: A copy of the Will certified under the seal of a court of a competent jurisdiction.
> Executor: The legal representative for all purposes of a deceased person (testator) and all the property of a testator vests in him.
> Codicil: An instrument made in relation to a Will, explaining, altering or adding to its dispositions and is deemed to be a part of the Will.

In India, the law with regard to execution, attestation, revocation and interpretation of Wills is governed by the provisions of the Indian succession Act, 1925 in case of Wills made by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains or Buddhists. Wills made by Muslims are governed largely by Muslim Personal law. The Indian Succession Act, 1925 defines a Will as the legal declaration of the intention of the testator, with respect to his property which he desires to be carried into effect after his death.

A will becomes enforceable only after the death of the testator. It gives absolutely no rights to the legatee until the death of the testator. It has no effect during the lifetime of the testator. The testator can change his will, at any time prior to his death, in any manner he deems fit. Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 provides that a Will is liable to be revoked or altered by the maker of it at any time when he is competent to dispose of his property by Will.

After a Will has been properly made in law, the testator may want to make some changes in the Will. He may cancel the entire Will and make a fresh Will incorporating the changes or he may alter only the relevant parts of the Will suitably by way of a Codicil. Such a Codicil forms part and parcel of the existing Will. It is a supplementary document to the Will and cannot be independent by itself. A Will can be registered with the registrar/sub-registrar with a nominal registration fee. The testator must be personally present at the registrar’s office along with witnesses. In India, it is not compulsory to register your Will and non-registration does not affect its validity.

“Although registration is not compulsory, it is very important to register your Will. In today’s world, where every single point needs to be proved before the court of law, it is very easy to challenge the authenticity and accuracy of your Will, after your death. Once a Will is duly registered, it is placed in the safe custody of the Registrar and therefore cannot be tampered with, destroyed, mutilated or stolen,” says Advocate Sana Khan, another friend of mine practicing in the Bombay High Court.

This handy checklist will help you plan ahead and reduce financial stress on family members, in the event of your death.

> Prepare a list of your property and its value
> Choose beneficiaries for your property
> Nominate a guardian for minor children
> Consider whether you wish to leave money to your favorite charity
> Carefully consider the appointment of your executor
> Seek a lawyer to make your Will
> Get your Will registered
> Put the Will in a safe place
> Review your Will periodically

When you don’t make your Will, there are often troubles faced by those left behind. The question of who gets what can lead to tangled legal disputes. By planning ahead you can create the provisions that are right for you and your family. So go ahead, make a Will today!

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram is one book that I never wanted to end; it stirred my mind and soul. Instead of walking you through the plot of the book, I’ve compiled some of my favourite quotes that will give you a glimpse into Shantaram:

  • “Sometimes we love with nothing more then hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that’s all we have to hold on tight until dawn.”
  • “The truth is that there are no good men, or bad men, he said. It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds, and bad deeds. Men are just men it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good and evil. The truth is that an instant of real love, in the heart of anyone the noblest man alive or the wicked has the whole purpose and process and meaning of life within the lotus-folds of its passion. The truth is that we are all, every one of us, every atom, every galaxy, and every particle of matter in the universe, moving toward god.”
  • “Lovers find their way by insights and confidences; they are the stars they use to navigate the ocean of desire. And the brightest of those stars are the heartbreaks and sorrows. The most precious gift you can bring to your lover is your suffering.”
  • “I pressed my lips against the sky, and licked the stars into my mouth. She took my body into hers, and every moment was an incantation. Our breathing was like the whole world chanting prayers. Sweat ran in rivulets to ravines of pleasure. Every moment was a satin skin cascade. Within the velvet cloaks of tenderness, our backs convulsed in quivering heat, pushing heat, pushing muscles to complete what minds begin and bodies always win. I was hers. She was mine. My body was her chariot, and she drove it into the sun. Her body was my river, and I became the sea. And the wailing moan that drove our lips together, at the end, was the world of hope and sorrow that ecstasy wrings from lovers as it floods their souls with bliss. The still and softly breathing silence that suffused and submerged us, afterwards, was emptied of need, and want, and hunger, and pain, and everything else except pure, ineffable exquisiteness of love.”
  • “My heart broke on its shame and sorrow. I suddenly knew how much crying there was in me, and how little love. I knew, at last, how lonely I was. But I couldn’t respond. My culture had taught me all the wrong things well. So I lay completely still, and gave no reaction at all. But the soul has no culture. The soul has no nations. The soul has no colour or accent or way of life. The soul is forever. The soul is one. And when the heart has its moment of truth and sorrow, the soul can’t be stilled.”
  • “I clenched my teeth against the stars. I closed my eyes. I surrendered to sleep. One of the reasons why we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you.”
  • “I was thinking about another kind of river, one that runs through every one of us, no matter where we come from, all over the world. It’s the river of the heart, and the heart’s desire. It’s the pure, essential truth of what each one of us is, and can achieve. Shantaram, which means man of peace, or man of God’s peace. They nailed their stakes into the earth of my life, those farmers. They knew the place in me where the river stopped, and they marked it with a new name. Shantaram Kishan Kharre. I don’t know if they found that name in the heart of the man they believed me to be, or if they planted it there, like a whishing tree, to bloom and grow. Whatever the case, whether they discovered that peace or created it, the truth is that the man I am was born in those moments, as I stood near the flood sticks with my face lifted to the chrismal rain. Shantaram. The better man that, slowly, and much to late, I began to be.”