Scholarships for the Needy: 2010 – 2011

Arun Shanbhag Needy students awarded Scholarships  at Shanbhag High School Kumta

That gift which is given to a worthy person, in the right circumstance, from whom we expect nothing in return, is held to be most pure.
~ Bhagavad Gita, 17:20

Here is the list of students awarded the 2010 Shanbhag Scholarships in Kumta, India. I thank the many donors who made valuable contributions, so needy students could gain a good education. Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy: 2010 – 2011”

Video: Approaching Kumta on the Konkan Railway


Move your mouse out of the video frame to lose the black border.
Music: Mere Desh Ka Salaam, Shobha Gurtu.


Those who have ridden the Konkan Railway can attest, the rural countryside with emerald green fields is mesmerizing. I think of an early retirement in a village, a small house and running a school.

To share the genesis of this madness, I recorded the view. Here is a 67 second snippet, as the train crossed the Aghanashini River and approached the Kumta Train station. I recorded this from the doorway with my flip video, amidst the rain and rumbling of the train. Enjoy and tell me what you think.
Continue reading “Video: Approaching Kumta on the Konkan Railway”

Scholarships for the Needy: 2009 – 2010

kumta needy students

That gift which is given, knowing it to be a duty, in a fit time and place, to a worthy person, from whom we expect nothing in return, is held to be most pure.
~ Bhagavad Gita, 17:20

Several years ago we started these scholarships to support needy girls at the Shanbhag School in Kumta. This year, more friends and family joined in helping us support 48 students (29 girls and 19 boys). We extended beyond our original charter and 40 of 48 students are from other schools in Kumta. With your support we will keep growing and eventually cover ALL needy students in Kumta!
Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy: 2009 – 2010”

Charlie Chaplin in Rural India

Movie directors will go to any ‘height’ to seek publicity. One Hemnath Hegde wants to install a 62-foot statue of Charlie Chaplin as the backdrop for two Kannada movie song sequences. He wants to offer that as a permanent contribution to rural Karnataka and hopefully get into the Guiness Book of World Records.

When locals complain they don’t want this 62-ft statue of someone who they don’t even know in their town, the director stokes fires of Hindu-Christian antagonism. Get real, Mr Movie Director!

Has the director considered disposable materials to make his statue and dismantling it just like he’d any studio set? And really, just because he wants to get in the Guiness Book of World Records, doesn’t mean he can run roughshod over local community sentiments.

Would you want your rural landscape marred by a 62-ft Charlie Chaplin ogling down at you every morning? (Please take poll below.) This is approximately the height of a 5-storey building in an area where the average houses are single storeys. Ooops, he wants to place this statue on a popular beach, near the entrance to a temple! This is about common sense and nothing to do with religion.

The equivalent would be if a movie director wanted to place a 62-ft statue of Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan on Myrtle Beach in South Carolina! Not going to happen!

Mr Movie director, please take your statue somewhere else, and really, we are NOT going to watch your movie either! 🙂



Changing topics.
Wish more Indians will focus on important issues facing our children. A recent article in the NYTimes, reports that child malnutrition rates in India are worse than in some sub-saharan African countries.

“In China, … just 7 percent of its children under 5 are underweight, a critical gauge of malnutrition. In India, by contrast, despite robust growth and good government intentions, the comparable number is 42.5 percent. Malnutrition makes children more prone to illness and stunts physical and intellectual growth for a lifetime.”

Sadly, the elite Indian media and bloggers are silent on this travesty and wasting ink on the statue!

Scholarships for the Needy 2008-2009

Shanbhag High School Lunch Kumta

Hope you all had a wonderful “Makar Sankranti.” Now the Sun rises earlier each day and sets later, bringing light and warmth to all aspects of our lives. This year, I celebrated Sankranti in Mumbai with close family and overate “til-gul” and “til ladoo.” Too lazy to ask why this focus on sesame, I simply devour bags of those diminutive sesame balls held together with dark jaggery.

As we gorge ourselves, let’s turn our minds to the less fortunate amongst us and see how we can bring joy to their lives too.

This started as a desire to support needy girls at the Shanbhag School in Kumta, endowed in the name of my grandfather. Each year more friends and relatives joined in, and this year, Shanbhag Scholarships were awarded to 35 students (23 girls and 12 boys). We also extended scholarships to several other schools in Kumta. We hope to continue this trend within Kumta and one day I dream of supporting ALL needy girls in Kumta!

Years back, my graduate advisor retorted at another of my audacious ideas, “there’s nothing wrong with building castles in the air, as long as you build something below to hold it up there.” With all your goodwill, we will build it! Help me make this a very long list!

Scholarships were granted purely on the basis of need and included full tuition and a daily lunch at the school.

Read more about our Scholarships:



Appended are the names of students who received scholarships. The Saraswati Vidya Kendra and the Shanbhag High School are managed by the Konkan Education Trust, Kumta, India. Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy 2008-2009”

Scholarships for the Needy

I have previously written about the Shanbhag School, an academic beacon in Kumta and surrounding villages.

The Shanbhag High School, managed by the Konkan Education Trust does not receive any governmental aid. But it follows the state determined academic syllabus and guidelines. While we attract many students who can afford fees, our family wanted to make good education particularly accessible to the poor. Thus last year we gave 16 scholarships to very needy students to attend either the Shanbhag High School, or the affiliated primary school, Saraswati Vidya Kendra. At a new site dedicated to our Scholarship activities, (Shikshan.org), you can browse the list of Scholarship Recipients for 2007-2008.

You can also read about my personal challenges in identifying needy girls: Where are all the needy girls?

We did not rest, last December (2007) during my travels to Kumta I visited most of the scholarship recipients in their homes. The visit served two purposes: (a) to meet the families and convince them of our commitment to support their child’s education ~ and in turn expect them to make education a priority; and (b) to ensure that these were indeed needy families, which I could determine from their living conditions.

They lived in simple 1 or 2 room homes, or with relatives, and it was emotionally overwhelming to experience the gratitude of these families. Below, I share with you some of the scholarship recipients in their home settings. Appropriately I have omitted their names.


We supported the boy in the center, flanked by his father and cousin sister. Being poor, the girl was enrolled in the local government run Kannada language school. She wanted to attend our English school, but being in 8th std (grade) it would have been academically disastrous for her to switch the language of instruction a year before the State Board Exams. This was an important reason why we started giving scholarships to students in primary school!

Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy”

Fresh-ground Raagi Flour

Fresh ground Raagi Flour pics by Arun Shanbhag
Raagi Bhakri is a favorite in our home. It’s easy to prepare and very filling. During this past visit to Kumta I replenished our stock of Raagi flour.

A few blocks from our place in Kumta is a little “girNi” (or mill) which grinds various types of flour. It is run by a distant relative ours; apparently everyone in Kumta is related to each other! And fortuitously for me, he was milling raagi flour that day. So here’s a little tour of the making of Raagi Flour.

Above – Shanbhag maam (in Kumta I call all elders by this honorific ~ we are all related, you see) poses with a bag of Raagi flour.
Continue reading “Fresh-ground Raagi Flour”

Uma: Quencher of Thirst

It was a blazing hot summer afternoon in Hampi. As I walked out of the magnificent Vithala Temple, my throat was parched. Even my sweat had dried in this arid North Karnataka summer. The sight of this woman under a bright red umbrella, tending a cooler with drinks was an oasis of bliss to a weary traveler. I ambled over and quickly gulped two bottles of my favorite: Limca! Aaaah! I bought a few more bottles for M and the driver.

She charged me 12 rupees for each. I gave her the money. But ever eager to practice my kannada and engage in conversation, I asked here only jokingly, why it was 12 rupees here, while it was only 10 rupees in the city. She must have been surprised by my heavily accented and rudimentary kannada, and realizing I was joking, she started giggling. I could not keep a straight face and started to laugh too.

I made small talk, asked her name and generally how many drinks she sold in a day. Her name was Uma and she sold about a crate (of 12) each day. I estimated she made 4 rupees profit on each bottle, netting her about 50 rupees a day (slightly more than a dollar)! And for that she had to stand in this heat all day! And some one had to drop her here and pick her up in the evening. And she has not yet eaten! Life is tough! But she had a certain calm about her and I think this pic radiates her inner peace. And her confidence!

As I prepared to leave, I asked her again why it was 12 rupees for each drink: yaakae hutnerdu rupaiya?
Now she really burst out laughing, and I laughed with her. After a few moments she composed herself, then lifted the lid of the cooler, pointed inside and with a twinkle in her eyes mouthed a single word: Ice!

On this blistering hot day, she knew the magic word. For that thirst-quenching ice cold drink, I would gladly have paid twice as much!



I was gifted this small, yet well done bronze of Uma by my cousin brother Ramnath. He has a good eye for art work.

This is Uma (Parvati) as Shivakami – the beloved of Shiva, in a classic tribhanga pose. This is purported to be a late 18th century reproduction of the 11th century piece from the Kulottunga I era. I have had this for several years and I never tire of admiring it. It is small and fits nicely in the palm of my hand. I am drawn to her graceful pose. I am drawn to her exceptional beauty. I am drawn to the inner calm she radiates! And I am drawn to the confidence she exudes!

The craftsmanship is exquisite for so tiny a piece and we have no idea where this statuette resided for the last several centuries. The sharp features suggest she was not used for any puja. Prolly stayed in a noble household.

It is said that the easiest way to reach Shiva is to appease Parvati (or Uma) and have her champion you to Shiva! Perhaps it is that restlessnes in my heart that draws me to her. I certainly thirst for her grace! And every time my eyes fall on Uma, I know my thirst will soon be quenched.

Meeting Aayi of Aayis Recipes

Looking for new recipes, you have likely browsed Aayi’s Recipes the uber popular food blog hosted by Shilpa. This is M’s favorite “go-to” site anytime she needs inspiration for her cooking.

During my travels to India, I look forward to visiting our ancestral town of Kumta – Jewel of the Konkan in coastal Karnataka. And when I read that Shilpa’s Aayi (mother) actually lives in Kodkani, a village near Kumta, I had to make the pilgrimage and take darshan of this Devi – the inspiration behind Aayi’s Recipe. I contacted Shilpa and asked to visit her parents. She readily agreed and gave me their contact details.

And on a beautiful Saturday, I hitched a ride on a school bus dropping kids off to kodkani. Now, that in itself needs a separate post.

As the bus pulled up at the designated place, Shilpa’s father was waiting and brought me to their beautiful home! Wow! A traditional style bungalow, which immediately transported me back to the home of my grandparents in Bhatkal. Terracotta tiled roof; an open ‘jagli’ and a tulsi vrindavan in the front yard. The magnificently blossoming tulsi gave me great vibes of the place (see pic later).

And what a joy it was to finally meet Shilpa’s Aayi! Yes, Aayi of “Aayi’s Recipes.” Hundreds of thousands have salivated at her dishes, as shared by Shilpa. Legions have been inspired to try her creations for their loved ones. And so many look forward each day to new posts to titillate the palate. And I was invited to a beautiful konkani lunch made by her! 😀

Look at the spread. I hurriedly captured it before wolfing everything down. By the time I was through, not a morsel was left. What is more beautiful than all those recipes Shilpa posts on AayisRecipes? Eating dishes lovingly made by her Aayi! … and I got to eat it! nyean, nyean, nyean, nyean!

Continue reading “Meeting Aayi of Aayis Recipes”

Raagi Bhakri

During summers in Bhatkal (Karnataka), every morning we were treated to Raagi-neru. A watery concoction of raagi ground with a bit of coconut and jaggery. My grandmother advised that this would keep our insides cool from the summer heat. We’d hurriedly gulp a few glasses and dash into the orchards, chasing dragon flies!

I recently saw two recipes for Raagi Roti (or Bhakri) and convinced M to give it a try.We followed two similar recipes; one by Latha from Yum Blog! and the other by Asha of Foodies Hope. There are slight variations, so go ahead and check them out.The bhakri had a nice earthy taste and was slightly gritty. The red onions and chillies gave it a nice zing and did not need any chutney to go with it. It did dry my mouth, and I gulped a couple of glasses of water and juice. I quickly chomped down two bhakris and was surprisingly full for the rest of the day. It sits strongly in your stomach. This ability to fill you must be an important reason why raagi is a staple amongst the poor laborers in Northern Karnataka. This would be a great snack to power you on a long hike.

Ingredients (essentially from Latha’s post)

  • Raagi flour – 1 cup; see making Fresh Raagi Flour
  • Cilantro, finely chopped – half bunch
  • Red onion, 1/2 of medium sized, finely chopped
  • Green chilly pepper, 2 finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Method:

  • Mix ingredients in the least amount of water and knead into a smooth soft dough.
  • Set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Spread a few drops of oil on a hot tava (pan), place a ball of dough and pat it to a pancake. Try to get it as thin as possible.
  • It helps to rub oil on your fingers to prevent them sticking to the dough
  • Roast covered over medium heat
  • Flip and roast other side as well.
  • Don’t crisp, but leave soft.

A little background: Raagi is also called African millet or red millet, and was introduced into India four millenia earlier from Ethiopia. In Maharashtra it is called Nachani and in Konkani, we call it Nanchano. The raagi crop grows well in arid lands making it popular amongst farmers in parts of the dry Deccan plateau. The seeds once harvested are also resistant to insects and spoilage and another reason raagi has become a staple of farmers. And it unusually brings vital amino acids to an otherwise starchy diet.Give it a try! Eat Healthy!

Karnataka Cuisine: What a feast it is!

Food blogs are fascinating ways to learn about different cuisines, new dishes, new ways to prepare old dishes, and importantly, gives ides of what to cook up for the simple daily dinner, or even the special feast coming up.

Have to confess, M looks through a few food blogs every day to figure out what new dishes to conjure up every evening to tame her impatient, ravenous husband. Yes, I am well fed! 😛

As I have elaborated before, food blogs have an important advantage, they are not written by celebrity chefs mixing ingredients in designer kitchens for TV fans. These are written by your average householders, who are always time-challenged to cook something delicious yet simple and healthy for their loved ones – their own spouses and kids. Yes and in their cooking you find the most precious spice of ‘love’.

But how do you track the seemingly millions of food blogs out there? Over the last several months I have tracked several Foodies and listed them in my Food to Live For blogroll on ArunShanbhag.com

A useful trend amongst foodies is to organize a ‘Round-up’ based on an ingredient or festival. Contributors post recipes on the theme and an organizer rounds-up and links the recipes in a large post.

Asha of FoodiesHope, recently organized a Round-up of “Regional Cuisines of India: Karnataka.” Foodies from around the globe recreated traditional dishes in modern kitchens and also conjured up new recipes with locally available ingredients.

Asha, received 368 contributions and has painstakingly sorted and summarized it in four posts. If you even remotely like Karnataka Cuisine, this is verily food nirvana:

  1. Appetizers and Snacks
  2. Breakfast and Brunch. (Includes a dazzling variety of dosas!)
  3. Dishes for the Main Course
  4. Spicy Powders, Desserts and Else.

So take a few minutes to visit her posts, identify the recipes you like, click through for the complete recipes. Since some of the contributors were already on my Food to Live For blogroll, we have tried several of these dishes at home. Yumm! No doubt I have not had a chance to post – coz we were busy eating :-))

Cave Temples of Badami – Cave 4 of 4

See my previous posts on the 6th century Cave Temples of Badami, in Northern Karnataka:
Cave One is dedicated to Shiva as the impressive Nataraja; and Devi as Mahisasuramardini.
Cave Two honors Vishnu and his avataars Varaha and Vamana.
Cave Three is also dedicated to Vishnu, and holds some of the most impressive works of art of his avataars Narasimha.

Cave Four is dedicated to Mahavir and the 24 Tirthankaras.

As you step on the front porch, the pride of place on the immediate left is taken by an imposing sculpture of Mahavir.
Jaina Cave 4 of the Cave Temples of Badami

The craftsmanship of his facial features is exquisite and so elegantly portrays the experience of bliss. Gaze at this crop! Continue reading “Cave Temples of Badami – Cave 4 of 4”

Cave Temples of Badami – Cave 3

I previously shared pictures of two cave temples of Badami. These represented the zenith of the Chalukyan cave temple architecture from the 6th century. Cave one was dedicated to Shiva as the impressive Nataraja; and Devi as Mahisasuramardini. Cave two honors Vishnu and his avataars Varaha and Trivikrama (Vamana).

Cave Three is also dedicated to Vishnu and his avataars, and holds some of the most impressive works of art.

As we approach the caves, they appear as narrow slits in the sandstone mountain side. As you walk up and step onto the verandah that the true beauty of the sculptures becomes evident. Note that these caves are ‘open’ and have no doors or other forms of protection from the weather. Yet their grandeur has survived nearly 1,500 years.

Cave 3 of the Cave Temples of Badami

As you walk up the stairs, you step in between a row of beautifully carved pillars and on the right is the larger than life-size carving of Vishnu, as avataar Narasimha (man-lion). And what a majestic Narasimha it is. On the lower left is Prahalad, whose entreaties caused Vishnu to take this form to alleviate suffering of his devotee; and on the right is the cruel king Hiranyakashipu, who Narasimha disembowels on the threshold.
Continue reading “Cave Temples of Badami – Cave 3”

Cave Temples of Badami – 2

Badami in Northern Karnataka, was the capital of the Chalukyan empire. During the 5th to the 8th century, skilled artisans cut caves in the mountainside and decorated the insides with stunning craftsmanship.

The four caves are dated to 578 CE. The first cave is dedicated to Shiva and you saw some impressive high relief figures of Nataraja and Ardhanareshwara in my earlier post. I hope you did not miss the cute Ganapati providing mridangam support for Shiva’s dance! In a prominent niche in this cave, is also housed a beautiful sculpture of Durga Devi in the form of Mahisasuramardini, which I previously used in a Dussehra greeting.

Cave two is dedicated to Vishnu. Near the entrance is an impressive carving of Varaha Murthy representing the avataar of Vishnu. He is accompanied by the king Naga (lower right). He is holding goddess Prithvi, representing the earth, which he rescued from the deluge.
Vishnu as Varaha Murthy, Cave Temples of Badami
Continue reading “Cave Temples of Badami – 2”

Cave Temples of Badami

Cave Temples of Badami

The Cave Temples of Badami in Northern Karnataka are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. They are well maintained, and the sculptures are mind blowingly exquisite. Highly recommended. The above is an image of Shiva as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance. Apparently, his 9 arms on each side create the 81 combinations of Bharatnatyam poses.
Continue reading “Cave Temples of Badami”

Cashew Nuts: To Your Health

Factories play an important role in India's rural economy. They provide jobs for local men and women, which translates into money to buy food, send kids to school, buy medicines if needed, repair and maintain a house and save some money. Villages and towns in India (as elsewhere in the world) don't need an handout, they need a hand-up! People are willing to work hard, but they need jobs with good working conditions and a decent pay. And customers who are willing to pay a fair price for their products. On every visit to rural india my ears are alert for news of well run companies creating jobs for locals.

In the Konkan town of Kumta, I visited the Sahyadri Cashew Processing factory run by Mr Murlidhar Prabhu. He is a relative of a relative. I was particularly impressed that he hired a lot of women in his factory. Of the more than 250 people he employs, only 8 were men and more than 240 were women. WoW!

“But do they like working here,” I asked. “Most of our new workers are younger daughters, sisters, and relatives of those already working here,” he explained, implying that if the pay was not good, or work conditions onerous, workers would not be bringing other family members in to work. Within a few years of working the women are able to save a decent amount of money. They generally leave when they get married and move out of town. Their ability to earn a living also makes them more marriageable, to a better person and gives them the confidence to seek other jobs wherever they move.

We need more such social entrepreneurs in the villages and towns of India. No! We do not need more television sets, or dainty models selling shampoo, or fancy soaps. Certainly not coffee shops or liquor bars or 'menthol' cigarettes or posh grocery stores. So the next time you munch on the nuts, remember all the folks working in the factories in rural india and elsewhere whose job depends on your choices. Did I mention nuts are actually very good for you?

The hard, gray, raw cashew seeds, perched below the fruit are collected and dried. Seeds are first steamed and allowed to cool in large heaps on the factory floor. The quick heating and cooling causes the kernel to separate from the shell. Operating steam boilers and loading /unloading large bags of cashew seeds was the only tasks in this factory performed by men. Women handled all other jobs here.

After cooling, women on tables with rudimentary cutters expertly position each seed in a v-grip using the hand lever. Then a foot operated lever snips the outer shell longitudinally in half. Cut seeds tumble through a hopper to a basket on the floor.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag

… where another woman separates the whole nut kernel from the shell. The gray shell has corrosive agents and women rub oil on their hands to protect from the corrosive effects. The shells are sold off to companies which extract oils, which are apparently an important ingredient in marine paint used on ships and docks. May explain why most ships are painted gray?
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


Collected nuts are dried in an oven, making the skin brittle and easy to remove. While I suffer at this chore, the women fly through at a dizzying speed. They use a tiny knife to scrape and release the skin on the inner surface of the nut. Then the rest of the skin just falls off. Preliminary sorting of the nuts is also performed at this stage.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


On these tables the cashew nuts are sorted depending on their size, colour and if they are chipped. Halfs and pieces of nuts are also sorted by size. This grading determines the ultimate price of the cashew nuts.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


The sorting tables were in a large well-lit area.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


The cashew nuts undergo extensive quality control before packaging. Nuts are placed on a conveyor belt and inspected. Over a sieve, dust and other contaminants are sucked. Over a magnetic table, metallic contaminants are removed. Cashew nuts are then packaged in vacuum in large packs (greater than 10kg). Most of the cashew nuts from this factory are exported through bulk dealers. They do have their own private label that you saw above. Depending upon the needs of the customer, the factory also does some post processing such as roasting cashew nuts with spices.
pics of women working in a cashew nut factory in Kumta Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag


Note on photographs: All factory pics were shot in Sept 2004 using my Olympus C4040, 4MP point and shoot digital camera, confirming you don't need fancy cameras to take good pics. I do have a dSLR which I have been using more recently. The opening cashew fruit pic was from an indian cashew trade association website.

Dhanya in Honavar

My cousin brother is a bhat-maam (priest) in the small konkan town of Honavar, 15 miles south of Kumta. His parents had insisted he get a college degree – so after his BA in Economics he still decided to follow their priestly traditions. They live in spartan accommodations beside the temple. I have fond memories of visiting them during my school summer vacations. Every morning we herded cows to a distant pasture. There we would bathe in a local stream! 🙂 O, what joys for a city brat. Now I only visit during my India trips and don't herd cows. Can't forget my roots, which need constant nourishing!

His daughter, Dhanya is the cutest girl I have seen. Here I had to interrupt her doodling on the kitchen floor. The beam of light is from a makeshift skylight. A couple of terracotta tiles in the roof are replaced with a sheet of glass. Wisps of smoke are from the burning wood embers used for cooking. They have a gas cooking range, but my aunt grew up using a wood fire and rarely uses the range. The old-style door has a sliding latch and the open pantry is lined with steel dabbas.

What do you need to be happy? You'd be right if you guessed – a divine daughter and a row of mithai-filled dabbas! I am currently batting zero for a million!

Precious Kids we met in Karnataka

Kids at the Cave Temples of Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag
A nice part of visiting temples in India is, I get to meet the locals. The hard working laborers with a few days off to visit temples. These you wouldn’t meet in hotel lobbies or in coffee shops. Their kids care less for the soulful art, and are playing around with each other. Them, I look forward to meeting.

And so many I met on this trip to Karnataka. All, despite being poor, were rich of heart, of kindness and grace. Their eyes brimmed with joy. Through them life reminds us – there is a way to live! Through them I asked – what have I done with my life? For what? In the kindness of these, I find my happiest moments. Not in the bars, not in ritzy coffee shops on Colaba Causeway, not with my fancy gadgets. My camera incidentally is the vehicle for reaching out; actually, for them to reach out to me.

It's usually the poorest who will strike a conversation with us. Perhaps they have nothing to fear. Most are kids – certainly fearless! When they see I have a big camera, they come up and ask to take their pic. The common phrase was, “Anna (elder brother) photo!” pointing to themselves. I gladly shoot multiple pics and they scramble away, jumping up and down. With my big camera, they prolly feel like stars in a movie production. And I treat them like stars. Some stay back to ask where I am from. If they hang around long enough, I show them the pics on the LCD screen – then their amazement sees no end.

While I derive joy from this encounter, what's in it for them? Perhaps in approaching and dealing with me, their confidence is boosted. They may hesitate less, the next time they have to stand-up for something. Perhaps. Here I have assembled a few pics from our recent trip to Badami, Pattadakal and Hampi. Other than the actual sites, these interactions I craved the most.

Pic above: As we parked near the Cave temples of Badami, these two came up and he confidently asked me to take their pic. They appeared to be siblings – look at their beautifully intertwined fingers.


At the MahaKuta Temple complex near Badami: The kid selling Goli Soda darted by as I tried to get his attention. The other two noticed, ran after the kid and brought him back to pose with them. The kid was ~ 8-10 years old, selling Goli Soda.
Kids at the MahaKuta Temple complex near Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag


Busily shooting at the Hazara Raam Temple in Hampi, the girl in the center asked to first take a pic of their largish family. Then she wanted a pic with only a couple of her friends.
Kids at the Cave Temples of Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag

These boys did not want to be left out and asked to take their pics.
Kids at the Cave Temples of Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag

Kids at the Cave Temples of Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag
These girls were tending the baby and were thrilled to have their pic taken.


At the Vithala temple in Hampi, this young girl Gouthami asked me to take a pic of her family. About 10, she directed her mother and older relatives to pose. Then she wanted one with her mother (above). While I was surprised at her english, my jaws dropped when her mother spoke flawless english and explained. They were from a village in AndhraPradesh and were leaving for Tirupati on the night train. Gouthami wanted more pics and her mother wrote out their address; and I mailed the pics.

Gouthami at the Temples of Hampi pics by Arun Shanbhag

Gouthami at the Temples of Hampi pics by Arun Shanbhag


Kids at the Tungabhadra Dam near Hospet, Karnataka pics by Arun Shanbhag
I saved the best for last!
While visiting the Tungabhadra Dam, the adjacent gardens had a light and water show. We found seats in front of the fountains, which was to “dance” to the music. This group of kids were hovering along the perimeter of the fountain. They kept staring at us. To break the ice, I took a pic. They ran away. This happened a few times and finally one of the boys, boldly stood in front of me and posed a body-builder's pose. I took his pic and showed it to him on the LCD. He and his friends stared in amazement. Then they all wanted pics. Finally I got this pic of the 12 boys and girls in the group.

By now they were very friendly with us and all over our bench, squeezing themselves between M and me. I found some packs of Wrigleys chewing gum and offered it to them. They were thrilled! They spoke Telugu and I only knew a spattering of Kannada. I did understand “uuru” (town) in one of their queries and I replied, “Mumbai.” Sighs of approval spread through the group. They asked many more questions, but I could not understand what they were saying. But they just kept talking, and we listened intently and nodded. There was an older gentlemen with them, and he too only spoke Telugu. We could not figure out if the kids were from one family, or neighborhood kids out for a picnic.

As the show ended, our driver came to fetch us, and I asked him to inquire with the older gentlemen. We found that these kids were from an Orphanage in Raichur and were on a picnic to see the Dam and the gardens!!! My heart sank like a rock!

We walked back to the car in stunned silence; the kids waved us goodbye.

Here were kids with literally nothing in this world, not even family, and they seemed so content to be merry. M & I talked about how we had been quibbling earlier in the evening – we who have so much; and the kids, with nary a penny to their name were happily enjoying the moment. That was for an important evening, and I hope it changes our lives forever. Even today, whenever M and I have a disagreement, we think of those orphans we met at the Dam, see how happy they were with what little they had! Certainly, we have much more.

As part of our annual charitable givings, I hope to identify an orphanage in rural karnataka and make a huge donation to them. We have also decided not to take any more gifts to our relatives in India, but to instead continue and increase our contributions to the schools and other deserving opportunities. I encourage you to do the same.


Update May 2009: Now many years later, I see this event did have a profound impact on our lives.


Bengaluru City Tour

Kamta's Bugle Rock pics during Bengaluru bangalore tour by Arun ShanbhagAfter an early breakfast, my cousin had arranged for his car and driver to take us around the city. The driver (Linga Raj) was given a detailed list of places to bring us.

We started by visiting a few of the nearby temples: the Ganapati Devasthan, the impressive Nandi (Bull) Devasthan and the Shiva Devasthan. I loved the temples but hated the priests, at the Nandi and Shiva Temples. As we prayed, the priests stood in front of us with the aarti. Even after partaking the aarti's grace, the priests continued to stand in front of us, hoping we will put money on their plate. I intentionally side-stepped and put a tiny donation in the Hundi. NB: Money on the plate goes to the priest as additional tips; money in the Hundi (safe box on the floor) goes to the temple, and is used for all temple activities, including priest's salary.

For a second round of breakfast, we stopped at Kamat's Bugle Rock Cafe. Newly opened, very modern and very posh. This divli was well crafted and stood at the entrance of the restaurant. I wouldn't mind having this in my home.

A list of places we visited, in sequence. The ancient Kote Venkateshwara Swamy Devasthan, and next door, Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace. ISKCON (Hare Krishna) temple; Chitrakala Parikshad; Vidhan Soudha and the High court; We took a lunch break at Kamat's Yatri Nivas in Gandhinagar – read more here) and a short nap. After a refreshing Kapi, we drove around MG Road; Ulsoor (sp?) Lake; window-shopped on Commercial St and bowed our heads in awe at the magnificent Someshwara Temple, Visroor. Our amazement continued at the temple of modern capitalism: The uber-posh Forum Mall with India's first Apple store.
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