Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Rohith Vemula

(A disclaimer - I don't know the full background of the case but this post is not about that case itself. I also support reservations and feel that they must continue for a few decades more!!)

Rohith Vemula - God bless his soul!!

I write this post with all due regards to the departed soul.  

It is reported that about 1.35 lakh people commit suicide in our country every year which is about one in every 4 seconds and while you are reading this post 4-6 people would have committed suicide. That is an astonishing number and we need to see as to what makes people so weak that they want to take their lives.

Is it a fault in our education system? or is it lack of character building in our schools/colleges? or is it the ideology of Ahimsa  that altered our minds over generations!!!

Whatever be the reason, most of them are driven to suicide by drastic situations, but we must change the mental make up that suicide is  the only solution.  The people who die leave behind a suicide note listing out all the evils that forced them to take this drastic step.  They may not have been able to get the law enforcement agencies to take cognizance of their complaint (due to whatever reasons) while alive but once they pass away, the same agencies take note of the suicide note (as it is considered ultimate) and initiate legal proceedings against the alleged accused.  

Therefore, people are ready to die as a last resort to achieve their objective.  This can change if the law enforcement agencies take note of complaints before anyone has to commit suicide and address their issues and more importantly (very debatable though) not take any cognizance of a complaint post suicide.  This will surely stop people from committing suicide to get justice and will also dispel the idea that you can "Achieve justice by dying".  After all, what use is justice when the person is no more!!

Whatever may be the circumstances of the case, if a PhD scholar has to commit suicide, there is something very wrong with our educational system.  We are probably not imbibing enough mental strength to our children in their curriculum.  Also fighting one man or institution need not be a fight to the finish.  And one man should not be allowed to disturb you so much that he drives you to lose your life which is so precious to your family and the Nation.  A few lessons of "Art of living" or the like on student campuses may be in order to bring in a positive air and happiness.

I read Rohith's post about Che Guevara where he offered his salutations to the great man who helped Fidel castro liberate Cuba.  During his life time Che faced many Up's and Down's but remained focussed on his aim regardless. Che fought the oppressive regimes valiantly till he was killed in Bolivia.  I wish Rohith could have taken more inspiration from his idol Che and fought on his authorities as valiantly till he received what was due to him.  Then we would not have lost a precious soul and his family - a near & dear person.  But circumstances might have been very difficult for him to take that extreme step and our full sympathies are with him for that.

Lastly, couple of points  - the first is - i heard that there are separate hostels for bc, sc/st students in some university campuses.  The need for such separate hostels could be reconsidered because if we officially draw up such caste lines within the campus, they are bound to stay in all day to day dealings on campus.  The second - if Rohith's family was so desperately in need of  scholarship money which drove him to suicide - he could have taken up a job part/full time outside to support his family and continue his fight against the authorities rather then end his life.  That's where the student counseling centres on campus could help.   They can counsel the students in distress and lead them in the right direction.

There are some difficult questions to answer in this case but all universities must initiate action to promote equality of all students and endorse measures to creating a positive and transparent atmosphere on campus devoid of any politics. 


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Shirdi darshan - updated facilities

Shirdi Sai Baba
Sadguru Sainadh Maharaj Ki Jai
I wanted to start the new year 2016 with a visit to Shirdi temple and now consider myself blessed to have been able to make the trip.  The darshan of Lord Sai Baba was mesmerising as usual and i could get three darshans in my short stay there.
While browsing the net prior to my visit, I found that there are not many blogs/websites giving detailed instructions to a pilgrim about Shirdi.
I thought i will do my bit and make a few issues clear to the first time pilgrim as to what to see and expect at Shirdi in a simple 10 point form. Before that, forthosewhohave read this post before - a quick look at the new facilities at shirdi - Senior citizens, parents with babies in arms (less than one year) can get entry from gate no 3. the pass counter is also next to gate no 3. the wheel chair bound personnel can get direct access to the sanctum sanctorum from the exit side entrance which the sss security staff would guide. Now everyone has to go to the booking counter and get a timeslot allotted for darshan (like in the case of tirupati)ans enter the queue asper the time slot

Shirdi is located in the North Eastern part of Maharashtra. Road distances are as follows (all kms rounded off):-
       (a)   Pune             - 185 kms
       (b)   Mumbai         - 235 kms
       (c)   Nashik           -   85 kms
       (d)   Aurangabad  -   90 kms
       (e)   Ahmednagar -   85 kms

(a)   There are four gates for entry to the walled section of the temple (1,2,3,&4).  Wherever you are coming from and by whatever conveyance, you will always arrive at Gate No 1 which is on the NH 60 (also called NH 160 in some places).  As you reach the proximity of the Gate No 1 plenty of people will approach you to guide you to a car parking.  Cars may be parked on the side on NH 60 as shown in diagram or these guys may take you on the road alongside Gate no 2 to the parking lots on that side.  There is no glitch in this and you can safely follow them to parking.  In case you have a hotel booking you can park at your hotel itself.
(b)  There are plenty of hotels from 700-2000 rupees close to the temple.  There are hotels that offer double room from 300 rupees itself but then they don't have attached toilets.  I am not dwelling on hotel booking at this juncture as there are plenty of travel portals offering the same, though i recommend booking through Shirdi Sai Sansthan (covered in point no 10).
(c)   If you have a hotel booking leave all your stuff in the hotel (if not leave them in your vehicle) including mobile and camera as nothing is permitted.  However, if you are a large group i suggest the group coordinator should carry a mobile (which can be deposited at the cloak room) in case someone gets lost and tries to get in touch.  There are cloak rooms for shoes and mobiles as shown above.  The cloak room procedure is swift and hassle free costing only rs 2/-.  Then you can proceed to enter the temple.


There are various entry gates as follows:-
(a) Normal darshan - The Queue starts anywhere in the green boxes depending on the rush.  The exact entry point will be indicated either by the security staff or by any of the many vendors selling roses, malas and the like.  Incidentally roses cost rs 10/- for a small set and malas cost between 30-50 rupees.

(b)  VVIP/VIP/Senior citizens/Defence/GOI staff etc (See points 9&10 as to how to get this darshan) - Enter through Gate No 2 as indicated by the red arrows and thereafter  proceed to Shani Gate.  VVIP's may be escorted directly.  This Queue merges with the normal Queue as shown in the diagram.

(c)  Wheel chair bound people - Entry is provided directly to the main temple from the gate shown.  It is not exactly a gate - it is just an opening in the exit passage for other pilgrims from the main temple - but it would take them straight inside without any waiting.

(a)    Whichever type of darshan you undertake, everyone finally reaches inside the main temple (samadhi mandir) in four lines, two to the left and two to the right.

(b)     Each of the lines offer a different view of the Lord (if you have time you can go for four darshans - one in each line).  The people in lines 1 & 2 turn into the well of the main temple after darshan, so they get to stay inside the temple for a longer time.  The disadvantage is that their time at the closest proximity of the Lord is limited as you are not allowed to stand for more than a few seconds there.  

(c)    The people in lines 3&4 can stand in proximity of the Lord for a longer time and they may also get a chance to touch his marble feet impressions (whenever they are kept uncovered).  The disadvantage is that the overall stay inside the main temple is much lesser. 

(d)     Further, Bhagwan Sai baba's idol has a natural tilt to the right (as you face it) so it appears that he is looking towards lines 1&3.  Therefore lines 1&3 are preferred by majority of people.

(e)     A simple measure to end up in lines 1&3 would be to just stick to to the right most wall of the temple in the queue.  It may also happen that 1&2 become overcrowded and the security staff may forcibly send people in lines 3&4.  You may request the security staff to be sent only in 1&2 which they may or may not agree, again depending on the rush.  If they agree, they may ask you to stand aside and wait for a short while after which they may permit you in 1&2.  If they agree, it is definitely worth the wait as by that point you are already in the main temple anyway. 

After Darshan in the main temple (samadhi mandir) all pilgrims in lines 1&2 exit from the pathway shown in red and reach Gurusthan. Pilgrims in lines 3&4 reach Gurusthan directly from the main temple (samadhi mandir) exits.

(a) Gurusthan - The Neem tree under whose shade baba spent a lot of time
(b)  Mukh Darshan - There is a Mukh darshan point from where one can see baba in a side pose.
(c)  3 temples - 3 temples of lord Ganesha, Shani bhagwan and Lord shiva
(d)  Museum - Personal items of Baba including the clothes that he had worn and many other items are on display
(e)  Udi counter - udi(vibhuti) is given in small packets strictly one per person.  So if you want more, either you have to queue up multiple times or have more people stand in the queue.


(a)   Souvenir shop - where you can buy calendars, diaries. photos etc
(b)   Prasad cloth shop - where you can buy various clothes that have been draped on Baba
(c)  Book stall - where you can buy many books on Baba including Sai sat charitra in different languages
(d)    Parayanam room - for those wanting to read parayanam
(e)    Baby feeding room


(a)  Mukh Darshan point - As you exit from Gate No 3 the Mukh darshan point comes on the right side.  You can see Baba's face from a distance.  The advantage is that the line for this is very small and you can get a quick Mukh darshan to satiate your anxiety & excitement before getting into the darshan Q or while leaving shiridi (if you dont have time for normal darshan).

(b)  Dwarakamai  - This is the place where Baba spent most of his time and it is invigorating to sit in that house for some time.

(c)  Chavadi - this is the place where Baba used to sit in the evenings and sleep at nights towards the later part of his life. It is also said people started worshipping Baba formally in this place.

(d) Hanuman Mandir


(a)   Hotels/Parking lots - There are plenty of them which you can book online or just walk in.  Rates have become very reasonable after the Shiridi sai sansthan also started offering accommodation online.

(b)   ATM - ATM of union bank is available just outside Gate no 4.

(c)  PRO office.   If you are a VIP/senior citizen/Defence person/GOI official, you can get a VIP pass issued here for you and your family members.  Passes are issued for forenoon in the forenoon and afternoon in the afternoon only, that too for same day only.  Counter opens at 7 am everyday and at present they are charging 100/- per person for the VIP pass.  The online fee per person is also the same.  In case you have booked online for darshan and have a printout, you can directly walk in through Gate No 2.  In case you don't have a printout and have the pass only on your cell phone/Tab, the PRO office will give a printout with no extra charge after checking your e-receipt.

(d) Restaurants - good south indian and north indian restaurants are available close to the temple at points marked by in the diagram above.

10. BOOKING OF DARSHAN AND ACCOMMODATION.  Shiridi Sai Sanshtan had commenced online booking of Darshan and accommodation.  You can also book aarti darshan on their website.  Their accommodation is very comfortable and neat and may be taken as the first choice if available.  Their link is given below. You have to first register wit your mail id and thereafter you can do the booking.

(Lastly a disclaimer: I am not an authority on Bhagwan Sai Baba. This post was made only to help out devotees in their visit. Everything given above is factually correct to the best of my knowledge but incase there is any inaccuracy kindly intimate me of the same at thecommonman2@gmail.com)