Tribute to the former Finance Minister

I normally do not write on politics but today as the nation mourns the sad demise of former finance , defence, corporate and information and broadcasting minister thought of sharing some thoughts.

During my stint in journalism I got a chance to listen to him at Madhya Pradesh High Court Bar Association. I started working with Hindustan Times and my beat was primarily High Court. I do not remember the exact year must be between 2000-2002, I got a chance to listen to his full speech. He must be in his forties. He was invited by Mr Vivek Tankha, former Advocate General of Madhya Pradesh as the chief guest for the programme.

He started his speech by drawing parallel between the US judiciary and the Indian judiciary . He drew an analogy by citing Bill Clinton’s impeachment. He stated that it just took 45 minutes for the US judiciary to decide the case of the former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The former US president had an affair with a white house intern . He also appreciated the former President as apologised to the nation for his conduct.

Mr Jaitley then in his speech stated that the Indian judiciary took more than a decade to give verdict on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He underlined on the need for having fast track courts.

Thereafter Mr Vivek Tankha, currently a Rajya Sabha member spoke about the magnanimity of Mr Jaitley and he mentioned that Mr Jaitley stood by him when he lost his father. He also encouraged him to face the world.

These two extracts from the speech are etched on my memory and made me realize his deep understanding of the world and his human side.

Arun Jaitley passes away: PM Modi likely to attend funeral at Nigambodh Ghat


Lose yourself in Venice,Pisa Florence

Pisa Baptistery of St. John , Italy

Next day we headed towards Venice and I was reminded of the Shakespearean  play Merchant of Venice. I thought Venice to be a commercial place but it had many islands and we first went to Saint Marx island. The first thing that captured my eyes were the three pillars with three different flags. The first was the European flag, followed by the Venetian and the last was the Italian flag. While admiring the three flags and looking at the European flag, the thought of Brexit came to my mind.

Link to the article to know more about Saint Marx

The place had great value for our group members as  Meher Baba visited the place. We were informed that Meher Baba came here with His two apostles in His previous advent. He also mentioned that it was one of the spiritual centres of Europe.   The place was crowded and our group recited the prayers in the open courtyard  and the whole atmosphere resonated with three different prayers: Parvardigar prayer, Prayer of repentance and Beloved God’s prayer. We strongly felt the presence of our master,   Meher Baba who visited this place in 1932.

Meher Baba with Quentin Todd ( L ) and Herbert Davy ( R )
Meher Baba at Saint Marx Square, Venice

Some of our group members decided to take a Gondola ride I decided to stay back and some other members decided to go inside Saint Marx’s Basilica. The group that took Gondola ride later shared that it was not a very joyful and the group that decided to go inside the Basilica later informed that they gave up the idea as queue was very long. I mostly get confused if I get two options but was satisfied to have made the correct decision by staying where I was and explored the place to my satisfaction.

Entrance to Saint Marx Basilica
Crowd at Saint Marx Island

Next day we stopped by Lido beach I was not enjoying  as it as it was extremely hot and there was immense crowd at the beach.

Lido beach, Venice

However , I enjoyed hanging out near the small restaurants and shops close to the beach.

Our next stop was floating castle  and the halt was for a very short duration.

Floating Castle

Next place of excitement was  Leaning Tower of Pisa and I had no clue about the huge cathedral close to Pisa.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The medieval architecture in Romanesque style looked  very beautiful. The white coloured mystical  structure with semi-circular arches looked majestic.  I marvelled at the beautiful structure which is leaning for  more than 800 years. The tower which remained shut and when opened frequently has always evoked curiosity among tourists.   Also knows as the square of miracles such type of architecture in India would have had many fables. Of all the places and countries I visited, I found this place to be the most alluring place  for selfitis and photographers. I was amused to see people standing on pillars taking the photos.

Pisa Cathedral near Leaning of Tower of Pisa

We then headed to Florence, the cradle of Renaissance. As a student of literature Renaissance was my favourite era when I studied the history of English Literature. However, we explored most of the places related to Renaissance at a faster pace than I had expected.

We hurriedly saw Cathedral square, Republic square and Signoria square. Our tour guide informed us that Catherdral Square was built by the business class  to get influence over the nobles.  I was drawn to Signoria square as it contains the statues of the prominent people from the  Italian Renaissance. I was lured to the beautiful marble  statue  of David by Michael Angelo. 

Tourists relaxing at Signoria square Florence, Italy

I felt that Italy offered the most stunning architecture but the country also gave me an opportunity to explore the cave at Assisi. I will discuss about the places of spiritual significance in Italy in my next blog. I was enjoying but at times became homesick with a longing to go back to India.

Italy surpasses my imagination!

Italy was our last destination during  the 22 days trip to Europe. Before arriving to the country I had heard a lot about the amazing architecture and the pick -pockets. Even before leaving from India and before arriving to Italy I was constantly reminded about the pick- pockets in Italy. Hence I remained overtly cautious during my stay in Italy hanging my purse around my neck.

Before leaving from Switzerland one lady from our group joked that  the Italian architecture might give as cervical as it  is on a high altitude. True to her words I found that Italy had  high –altitude architecture of immense variety at many places.  However our first joyful experience to Italy was not the architecture  but a boat ride in lake Como.

Our short stay at Como was just for the boat ride however there is more to the beautiful lake. Link to an article on Lake Como

Then my first exposure to Italian architecture was Sforzo castle which was constructed during the time of Renaissance by the Dukes. The structure encompasses a huge area. The baked brick structure looked old and sturdy.

The castle had living room for the Dukes and a big courtyard where the army would exercise and was also used as a stable. The  tall and simple structure was exuding the  glory of the by-gone era. 

The next stop was Duomo Di Milano next to Victor Emmanuel Mall. As our stop was for a very short duration  we took shots of the statues of Leonardo installed on a high altitude at the entrance. However next day when our halt was for a longer duration we enjoyed the amazingly beautiful architecture of Duomo De Milano.   I was stunned see the  most refined architecture dazzling in white marble.

The iconic Duomo De Milano
Entrance to Duomo De Milano

I could not forgo the opportunity to go inside the church by paying three Euros. Some tourists decided to shop rather than explore the church.  Despite standing in the hot sun in the summer  I looked fixedly at the finery of the most eye capturing monument.

Our wait was for more than half an hour and I was eagerly waiting to step inside the beautiful structure. The exterior looked at a story from the ancient times.

As soon as I entered inside the church I was mesmerised to see the grandeur of the place. High altitude with  luminous arches, windows and the  refined architectural designs of the statues was a blissful experience. 

Luminous windows of Duomo De Milano
Radiant glasses with paintings

Having enjoyed the stunning architecture, shopping at Milan, the fashion capital of the world lost its charm.

Arched pathway Victor Emmanuel , Milan

Our trip was primarily conducted to explore places which Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master visited in Europe. We were thrilled to know that He visited Italy four times.

Meher Baba in Italy

The last day in Switzerland

Lake Lugano, Switzerland

Before heading to Lake Lugano we were told that the place is known for its scenic beauty typical of Switzerland but also has an Italian atmosphere. On reaching the place I realized that the place was no different in terms of exquisite landscape as was described to us but we failed to capture the Italian atmosphere as out halt was for a very short duration. The link below contains an article on Lake Lugano

The lake in the middle of the hills with gentle ripples in the water looked calm as if inviting people to tread on its bed. I could not ask for more in Switzerland as I absorbed abundance of natural beauty in a short duration of three days. Last but not the least our last stop in Switzerland was a beautiful church Madona Del Sasso.

We reached this place of pilgrimage in funicular and the serenity of the place made me peaceful. Before entering inside the church I came across many statues of holy men in different parts of the church  but the view that made me extremely happy was the scene from the last supper. All the idols were placed inside one of the rooms  in a semi circular manner with Jesus sitting regally at the centre.

I grew up in a Hindu family but visiting the churches in Europe made me realize that oneness of God is beyond religion.

 The Baroque style of architecture with painted arches and decorative pieces on the pillars looked radiant. When we entered inside the church the sermon was being read out by the priests so we sat inside the church for sometime as a mark of respect to the clergymen and then came out.

As stated in my previous blogs this trip to Europe was primarily undertaken to visit places visited by Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master.

While looking at the figures depicted at the Last Supper, Meher Baba had commented in the year 1932.

I loved John intensely. I remember John and Judas [more] often, though I had great love for Peter too. There are many things about Jesus and his circle that are not yet known to people, as in books such as the Bible so many changes have been made. I will explain later on.

When I break my silence, clothed in the simple sadra which I wear in India, people will see me as Jesus. I am the selfsame Christ who was nailed on the cross. For the welfare of others, I undergo terrible suffering, and I suffer infinitely. I am daily being crucified as I suffer for the whole world. I am being crucified every moment, even now!

Avatar Meher Baba

The church also offered a beautiful view of the lake and the mountains. The eye soothing beauty both inside and outside the church made me tranquil.

 I can sum up my visit to Switzerland as an experience which superseded my imagination in terms of scenic beauty and ignited curiosity for the magnificent architecture. 


Bewitching Switzerland meets my expectation

I always had a desire to explore Switzerland for its scenic beauty and the moment I landed the country I realized that it was one of the  cleanest country I visited in Europe.  I could not take my eyes off the beautiful landscape. The transparent lakes and clear skies seemed to have entered into a tacit  agreement to reflect each others’ colours. Light blue hues on the sky combined with bluish lakes looked like a sight from the imagination

Switzerland is termed as the dream destination for honey moon couples from India and no wonder the country had everything to offer to stupefy the mind. The fascination for Switzerland as a holiday destination blossomed after the movie Bollywood  Dil Wale Duhaniya Le Jayenge where Shahrukh and Kajol fall in love with each other in Zurich.

I travelled  to Europe in summer so  at times I felt the heat while going out but  before our arrival to Switzerland it  had rained and the pleasant weather added to the beauty of the most fascinating country. Our boat ride to Rein fall was an exhilarating experience and our group members started dancing spontaneously. Out boat driver looked amused looking at the excitement of senior citizens dancing without music.

Spontaneous dancing during the boat ride while heading towards Rein fall
Please find below link to the video of the tourists dancing.

The moment the huge  waterfall  came closer people freaked in excitement  unable to control their happiness.   I looked at milky water in awe and could not for a moment  remove  my eyes  from the splendid sight. I  wanted  time to become still so that we could enjoy  and store the amazing sight till eternity. The incredibly huge waterfall splashing down with  great  force and the rising vapours  touching the cliffs looked extra ordinarily majestic.

Shot from a boat before reaching Rein Fall

After the boat ride we headed towards Zurich. The commercial capital looked out of the world and the serenity of Zurich lake made me fall in love with the city with the desire to stay there permanently

The air was cool and the still beauty of the lake looked fascinating.  I walked by the side of the lake and then sat on top of  the boat watching the sublime lake.

The enchanting Zurich lake

Cool breeze swept  over the lake in the partially clouded sky and gently wafted my hair. I felt my skin glistened with the purest air. Sitting on top of one of the boats I could see the ships, the ducks and the people lazing by the serene  lake.

Still water of the Zurich Lake

I felt that Switzerland is matchless in terms of the scenic beauty and there was more in store for me as I came to Fallenflue. Before reaching the place we stopped by Schwyz town and came across a beautiful church painted with colourful images of valour . All the tourists got down from the bus and took shots of the amazing view.

A church in the Schwyz town

We then  drove to the foothill of Fallenflue, the surrounding looked like a painting with mountains, clear sky, green grass, trees  and a hut shaped house nearby. The clear sky displayed  the thin contours of  light emanating from the sun.

Tourists posing for the camera at the foothill of Fallen Flue

The pleasant sunny weather made us very energetic and we all geared up to start walking towards the summit of the mountain. We were offered a ride by some of our friends from Switzerland to view the mountain from the top and as a result we barely walked for one kilometre to reach the summit.  I was in a state of euphoria to see the horizon in front of me. Different shaped mountains in front, lake cutting the trees  on the left and the houses at the foothill looked very beautiful.   The apex of the mountains was flat surface in some places and  pointed surface in some other places.

View from Fallen Flue

It was not just the mountains that arrested my eyes but the clear skies that had small  mountain like structure.  

As mentioned in my previous blogs that this trip was primarily undertaken to visit places visited by Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master and I would like to conclude my article by sharing a picture of the master.

Frolicking near the UNO!

Lake Geneva

From Marseilles we went to Geneva. We came across a well maintained garden, pond and the Swiss wheel. I really enjoyed dipping my legs in the clean water and then basked in the sunlight enjoying the beautiful view. But the biggest eye catcher was Jat’ d Eau fountain. I was ecstatic to see such a big fountain.

On my way to Geneva, the child in me became very active as I did everything as a small child would do. We stopped at a place to enjoy the view and I tried touching the soap bubbles.

Link to the video catching bubble

We reached the UNO building and took shots of the building by placing cameras inside the closed gate. Admiring the beautiful flag of so many different nations, a thought just popped my mind whether the organization has been successful in resolving world disputes.

In front of the building is a big broken chair and close to the chair are the fountains. The iconic image is a reminder to the nations to remember the condition of landmine victims and to commit themselves to eradicate cluster munitions. This memorial to the people who lost their body parts in landmine is 39 feet high and made of wood.

I got completely drenched trying to touch all the fountains on the left side of the UNO. The mild noise emanating from the fountains had a very soothing effect on me.

Link to the video of fountains near UNO

It was worth taking a risk at the cost of getting ones clothes drenched by touching all the fountains. Seeing my discomfort in wet clothes, the suggestion came from my tour director that I could remove my shirt and let it dry and the people would not mind.

But I refrained from doing so and decided to stay in the wet clothes. Fortunately, my bus driver, Sam came to my rescue. He allowed me to take out my fresh clothes from my suitcase stacked inside the bus with other luggage.

To me, it seemed like an uphill task finding my luggage amidst other luggage but his willingness to go the extra mile in tracing my luggage stole my heart. To allow me to take out my clothes from the parking area could have been frustrating and irritating for other drivers but Sam showed no displeasure. In fact throughout the trip he bore a beautiful smile.

His magnanimity in allowing me to take out my clothes one more time from the bus stacked with luggage without any fuss touched my heart deeply. He made every effort to make people comfortable. I cannot end the article without sharing picture of the driver Sam.

To me, he became an epitome of kindness as he was not only kind to me but to other passengers as well. Because of his lovable demeanor he was endearingly named Shyam (another name for Lord Krishna) by other tourists from our group.

I would like to conclude my article by sharing a photo of Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master who visited Switzerland many times. Our trip to Europe was primarily undertaken to visit places visited by Meher Baba and Switzerland was one of them.

Meher Baba with His disciples in Switzerland in the year 1934

France to Marseille on a train

La Major Cathedral Marseille, France

We reached Gar de Lyon station where we waited for the arrival of our train for Marseille. During that time we immediately connected with some French passengers who were also waiting for their train. Lack of common language acted as a barrier in the beginning as they were not able to speak English and nobody from our group knew French.

The difficulty did not last longer as people tried hard to reach out to one another by communicating through gestures and body language.

Despite the obstacle of not knowing the language I could feel the immense warmth radiating from the French people who tried their utmost to converse.

Our bus driver Sam, a Frenchmen who had joined us from France and stayed with us till Switzerland, was a very lovable person who took care of us as if we were his own family members. In his presence we could leave our belongings in the bus without any afterthought.

Palais Longchamp, Marseille

On reaching Marseille, we soon went to see Palais Langchamp. I was stunned to see the waterfall in the middle of the most exquisite architecture. There are many places in the world where we find waterfall amidst natural beauty but to view the waterfall surrounded by incredible architecture astounded me.

As our trip to Europe was basically to discover places visited by Meher Baba and as soon as we were informed that Baba visited Long Champ in 1934, the members of our group became very excited. In the above picture Meher Baba can be seen standing with the women mandali at Long Champ. Besides visiting the places visited by our spiritual master we were also exploring other tourist places.

I wanted to stay there for a longer duration to satisfy my thirst for beauty but had to quench my desire by just clicking pictures as we had to leave soon.

In the late afternoon we arrived at Versailles Palace. Before entering inside the Palace, our local tour guide informed us that the Palace became the most significant place of administration during the reign of Louis XIV.

On being asked about the style of architecture she mentioned that it is Baroque style. True to her statement the Palace looked ornate with glass embellishments and painted vaults. The splendour of the palace could also be seen in doors and walls gilded with gold.

We then stopped by La Major cathedral near the port. This place was important as Meher Baba, a spiritual Master, met Mahatma Gandhi here on the Rajputana ship.

Then we went to Grand Basicilla of Versailles. The four corners of the Basicilla offered a panoramic view of the city.

Breath taking view from Grand Basicilla of Versailles

After arriving at Notre – Dame de La Garde, we sat inside the church and this was the most blissful experience. One of the travellers from our group later discussed that he was deeply mesmerised by the atmosphere in the church and felt a deep previous life connection to this place.

Notre-Dame de la Garde Marseille, France

I did take some shots of the beautiful church but was inwardly drawn to absorbing the divine atmosphere. Our last destination was Victory arch next to the Mediterranean sea.

There was something magical about Marseille . I was intrigued by the amazing architecture, picturesque harbour and astonishing views.