No Mr. Editor, you have no right whatsoever to call a martyr stupid

 

It was shocking to see a national daily referring to a martyr stupid; yes, that is the word that is used! Let me reply to you Mr. Editor point by point, to tell you why you were utterly wrong, insensible, callous and ungrateful.

12400907_10208614965680001_2533788790697365900_nLet me first introduce to you Lt Col Niranjan if you do not know him close enough. He was in the Indian Army for about 12 years. His friends remember, he always used to go ‘by the book’ on duty. He was in the NSG for around two years were he has undergone specialized training of the most advanced Bomb disposal techniques available in our country. Further he has completed a course in the same field in the United States with the US Army last year, probably the best one can get in the whole world.

Mr. Editor, you said Lt Col Niranjan ‘during the combing operation to clear the area of explosives, was not wearing a blast shield uniform’. Were you an eyewitness to the operation? Probably no! If yes, what you should have done first is to give your statement to the enquiry team. If not, the least you could have done was to keep shut. But in either case, Mr. Editor, you have no right whatsoever to call a martyr stupid based on your speculations and things without any proof!

You said Lt Col Niranjan ‘fell victim to a simple booby trap planted by the terrorists’. When did booby traps become simple. Have you actually seen one? Probably no! You can tell me whatever number of ways to activate a booby trap; I will tell you equally more number of ways for the same. Probably you do not know that it can be activated by a person’s heartbeat close by, by light, by sound, by shade, by time…. But Mr. Editor, you have no right whatsoever to call a martyr stupid on a subject you have no clue of!

You said, Lt Col Niranjan ‘also chose not to use specialized equipment like remote-controlled robots to move a dead body’. Do you even know how a terrorist attack site looks like. One cannot make out whether a person is a friend or foe, whether a body on ground is dead or alive. But Mr. Editor, you have no right whatsoever to call a martyr stupid for split second decisions taken by a soldier on warfront based on countless variables!

You said, ‘a life was lost and serious injuries took place because of the fact that a lieutenant colonel went into an operation without following the required safeguards’. Do you have any idea of how many lives he have saved in so many operations in his illustrious career of about 12 years, including Bangalore, Kashmir through the length and breadth of this country. Probably no! But Mr. Editor, you have no right whatsoever to call a martyr stupid who fell in line of duty spanning a dozen years were each of his operation was life threatening!

You said, ‘officers (are in) their persistent pursuit of their own interests’. Do you call sacrificing ones life for the nation ‘pursuit of own interest’? If yes, then that is what Indian Army is made of. If no, then you may write one more editorial to explain what is that in this specific case. But Mr. Editor, you have no right whatsoever to call a martyr stupid.

You said, ‘the impression gaining ground is that the entire defence top brass, from the defence minister downwards, is involved in an attempt to cover up the lapses’. That is your ‘impression’; nobody can help if you have such an impression. But Mr. Editor, what ever be it, you have no right whatsoever to call a martyr stupid, because you had a bad impression in your mind.

Now let me give you the advantage of doubt and accept for a while that what you said was right and Lt Col Niranjan made a mistake. Can you say that you have not made a single mistake in your life? Probably no! That is the difference between a soldier and any body else. When you make a mistake in your newspaper you can give a correction the next day (which I am sure you would have done!), but a soldier pays with his own life. In any case, you have no right to call a martyr stupid, even if he made a mistake in his decision.

Last and most important, you said, ‘an officer like Niranjan should be taken to task even after his death, so that an example is set for others not to break discipline and risk lives’.

Let my countrymen decide who should be taken to task, the heartless and ignorant you or the brave soldier who laid down his life for idiots like you who couldn’t wait to pass judgments for an enquiry to happen………

Let my countrymen decide who is stupid, the merciless and ungrateful you or the brave soldier who fell in the line of duty…….

(For anyone interested in reading what this article actually read like, they may do it here at the following link,

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1160107/jsp/opinion/story_62467.jsp#.VpCWKZN96Rs)

And Mr. Editor, if you do not know about him, this article in DC who witnessed him in action in Bangalore a year ago speaks volumes about the valour and bravery of the officer.

Addendum: The least you and your newspaper can do now is to apologize to the departed soul whom you have insensibly insulted, to his family who is still trying to cope with the irrecoverable loss and to this entire nation on whom you have brought disgrace, through your childish article…..

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12 unique things you probably did not know about Ooty/Nilgiris

As a school child Ooty was our favourite destination and we used to end up there almost every second year. The weather, the location and chocolates used to charm us. But now, when I have decided to climb this hill station on a bicycle I decided to read a bit more about this place and what I found was exciting. There was much more than the chocolates, tea and the botanical gardens that Ooty has to offer. Here is a list of 12 unique facts that you probably didn’t know about Ooty but is worth knowing.

  1. The City was formed as a ‘House of invalids’. After the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799, the Nilgiris was under the British, mainly for military reasons. The colonial power did not want the Nilgiri hills to become a refuge for its opponents or a haven for insurgents. But few dared to explore it until 1819 when the Collector of Coimbatore Mr John Sullivan himself, with a detachment of European and Madras
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    The Stone house in 1905, with a tree called Sullivan’s oak in the foreground

    Sepoys set out to explore the Nilgiris, in which he lost several of his men. After touring the area, he gave a report stating that the location’s “unusually temperate and healthy” climate made it ideal as a “resort of invalids,” primarily soldiers. That was the birth of modern day Ooty. In the years to come, he fell in love with the place, settled here and constructed his residence which is known as the Stone House. A detailed account of his adventurous and arduous journey is narrated in this article published by The Hindu on 17 Mar 2002. (http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mag/2002/03/17/stories/2002031700210800.htm)

  2. Summer capital of Madras Presidency. Ooty was Madras_map_1913the summer capital of the Madras Presidency of the East India Company of the British. The Madras Presidency included the present day Tamil Nadu, Northern Kerala and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. There was a time it even included present Srilanka, then known as the island of Ceylon, also under its domain (1793 to 1798). Well, that is a fact for a city to be proud of. It was common site for British officers to nestle to this place to enjoy the ‘English like climate’ that Ooty had to offer.
  3. The birthplace of Snooker. main-title-IMG-fac-snookerThe game of Snooker was invented over a century ago at the Ootacamund Club. A notice in the billiards room explains that Colonel Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain
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    An old photograph of the Ootacamund Club

    of the British Army shouted “snooker” (the word for a junior cadet at the Officers Academy at Woolwich) when his opponent failed to pot a ball, one rainy afternoon at the Club. Soon he and the other players developed first official set of rules of the game in 1882.

  4. The Ooty Lake is a manmade structure. The Ooty Lake was created between 1823 and 1825 by the then Collector of Coimbatore Mr John Sullivan as a source for irrigation and fishing. It extends over an area of   65 acres.Ooty Lake It was turned to a tourist facility by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation in 1973. But unfortunately today due to the poor up keep and heavy littering by the tourists it is identified as the dirtiest water body in the whole of Tamil Nadu.
  5. The Steepest Railways in Asia. At a gradient of 1 in 12.28
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    Mr Niklaus Riggenback, engineer and locomotive builder. The brain behind the Nilgiri Mountain Railways

    between Conoor and Mettupalayam, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is the steepest in Asia and was officially opened on 11 August 1898 by the Governor of Madras, Sir Arthur Elibank Havelock. Running on rack and pinion arrangement, it has a very close connection with the best Railway system in the world i.e. the Swiss Railway. It was conceptualized by the Swiss Engineer, Mr Niklaus Riggenback
    who constructed the world famous Riggi Mountain Railways in Lucerne, Switzerland. This document (http://nilgiris.nic.in/images/salemdiiv_sr_comm.pdf) of the Indian Railway gives a vivid description of ‘Tracing the Roots of the Nilgiri Railways’NMR

  6. Home to a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Nilgiri Railways is a
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    A 2007 dated Ooty – Coonor Endmondson style ticket

    ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’. It was declared in July 2005 as an extension of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. It covers a distance of 45 kilometres (26 mi) in 4 hours, 50 minutes and has 208 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. To preserve the ‘World Heritage Site’ status of the railway it still issues Edmondson style manual tickets for the Ooty-Mettupalayam journey. It was featured in a historical documentary by the BBC in February 2010.

  7. The Slowest Train in India. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway also has the20sld-nilgiri-mountain-railway-6 record of being the slowest train in India averaging 10 kmph. That means you can literally walk out from the train, have a sip of the famous Nilgiri tea and get back in the train without much difficulty. You could even try a race with this train on your bicycle. Quite exciting isn’t it.
  8. Highest Mountain Peak in Tamil Nadu. 2.1280171383.at-doddabetta-peakDodaBetta Peak, located 9 km from Ooty, on the Ooty-Kotagiri Road, is the highest Peak in Tamil Nadu and probably the fourth highest in South India at a height of 2,637 metres (8,650 feet), the highest in South India being Anamudi in Kerala, 2,695 metres (8,842 ft). No wonder it is said, “you reach Ooty, you can see the rest of TamilNadu!”.
  9. Birth place of Michael Colin Cowdrey. 79648666Thanks to the British rule and the Britishers’ love to this place and cricket, the legendary English batsman Michael Colin Cowdrey, was born in Ooty on 24 December 1932. He is known as the prodigy in cricket who learned to bat as soon as he could walk. He played for England from 1954 to 1975. He is the first cricketer in the history to play 100 test matches.
  10. Home to the Oldest Military Institution in India. The Defence Service Staff College, Wellington,123_big founded in 1905 is one of the oldest military institutions in India. It was relocated to Wellington from Quetta, Pakistan due to partition. It offers training to the three services, paramilitary forces and even to some Civil Service officers including officers from friendly foreign countries. No wonder most of the movies related to Army has some scenes shot at this place.
  11. One of the most filmed location in India. The natural beauty of this hill station is any photographers delight.tumblr_mby98kUTEk1r5na0fo1_500 Ooty has featured in a staggering 250+ movies from Bollywood, Hollywood and regional languages. The first Bollywood movie filmed here was Karz released in the 80’s. Who can forget the grooves of Sharukh Khan to Chaiyya Chaiyya over the mountain trains and the sleepy Conoor station featuring in the 1984 Hollywood flick, ‘A Passage to India’ by David Lean. All my Mallu friends will remember the same station in the film ‘Summer in Bethlehem’.
  12. Ooty is a premium education hub. Taking advantage of the cool climate, many premium educational institutions is  located here which provide some of the best educational facilities in India. Just considering the elite institutions, there would be more than 60 boarding schools in and around Ooty. The Lawrence, Good Shepherd, Hebron just a few international schools located here.0d93b2_29fe64e9e6b3ee3f8d0a468ba49e80f0.jpg

 

Unfortunately the rising tourism has taken its toll on this beautiful city. Presently it is reeling under pollution, traffic jam, sewage disposal issues, deforestation and increasing temperature. The Ooty lake is the best example of this, earning the title as the most polluted water body in Tamil Nadu.

I appeal to you all to visit this place at the same time preserve it, as you would do at your own home. Let this beautiful place continue to be so for the generation to come…..

Guindy National Park, The Hidden Beauty of Chennai.

Introduction

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The endangered species of black buck, the main attraction of the park.

A Google search for Guindy National Park would throw up a few results including the one hosted by Tamil Nadu Forest Department. But none of them, even Wikipedia, gives a description of the beauty and rich biodiversity that one can find inside. Many of them in fact confused it with the Children’s Park or Snake Park, both of which are just a small part of it.

The ignorance is probably due to the very strict entry rules and too little information available on how to avail the permission for entry. It was this lack of information and the confusing details given by many, that has inspired me to write about this place. Here I hope to give you a glimpse of the process of obtaining permission and what to exactly expect inside.


 

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A keen observer will find a plethora of nature’s magic here.

 

Some Basic Facts

Guindy National Park is one of the smallest National Parks in India, situated completely inside the bustling metropolitan city of Chennai. Being the habitat of the endangered black bucks and a few other animals, it is the pristine fresh air and the feel of the untouched nature right inside a metro that makes the place special. Located adjacent to the entrance of IIT Madras it is easily accessible from any where in Chennai; less than an hour from the Railway Station or Airport. Any one wishing for a pleasant morning walk to observe nature from close quarters would definitely love the time they spend here.


History

The history and geographical details of Guindy National Park can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guindy_National_Park. Nevertheless, to sum it up, it was a forest located on the outskirts of the British Indian Chennai city, in which the Governor William Langhorne (1672–1678) constructed a residence for recreation and sport. In the course of time the area was divided with various institutions including the Indian Institute of Technology Madras which presently shares a very long boundary with the park. The place was taken over by the Tamil Nadu forest department and declared a national park in 1977. Presently it has a walled compound that prevents encroachment and restricts unauthorised entry.


Permission – The Fussier Part

This is the harder part than actually visiting the park, because the number of visitors is strictly limited to 25 a day to reduce the damage to the place. The permission to visit the place is granted by the Forest Warden who is an IFS officer, whose office is located behind the Guindy Children’s Park. You can walk across the Children’s Park or alternately there is an access road passing adjacent to the forest guest house which directly take you to this office. The security might stop you on these road but telling them you want to visit the wildlife warden office should be enough to let you in. You can also call up the office (+91 44 2235 1471) to get some additional first hand information. Here, give a written application which should include the number of persons intending to visit and the proposed date and time. Do take a confirmation from the Superintend or the Range Officer to ensure that the slot you intend to go is suitable and free for the staff. You need to do this because a staff of the park will accompany you through out your journey for your safety who also acts as a guide. Normally they would agree to any day including weekends.

Once your application is accepted you will get a confirmation call from the concerned authorities regarding the same. So remember to enter your contact number in the application and take personal numbers of the concerned persons to tie up any loose ends. We did have some issues of where to report and whom to contact when we arrived but that was sorted out immediately on phone. The authorities and staff were all helpful throughout the process.

Once you get the confirmation just wait for the day you fixed and you are all set to go……..


The Nature Walk : Bliss

Guindy National Park is best

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One of the scenic nature trails.

seen on foot. It gives you the time and the setting to observe the finer details about the plants, animals, butterflies and much more. But be aware that the distance can easily add up to 10 kilometres if you decide to criss cross all the available walking trails inside. At times the guide wouldn’t be that patient to take you all the distance. Thus one should plan around 3 to 4 hours for the entire walk and to return to the start point.

 

It is recommended that you reach this place early morning, just after sunrise and enjoy it as morning walk. You can cover maximum area before it becomes too hot. Mind you, temperatures in Chennai can go up dreadfully high by noon even on days with pleasant and cool mornings. This also will let you watch swarms of butterflies, birds and wild bugs which are active in the morning. Alternately for the late risers, you can arrive late afternoon and plan to be out before sunset.

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Children will definitely enjoy chasing the wildlife here.

The most important site is that of the black buck and the spotted deer. They will be in plenty and in their natural habitat. You will find jackals also without much difficulty. You will have to be lucky to spot the rest of the reptiles. Another sure spot would be the different kind of butterflies of varied and vivid colours.

You can explore the lake, which is presently a mud pool but quite long. The park also will surprise you with the rear entry to the Raj Bhawan where the Governor of the state resides.

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A spectacular bug found in the park

For the plant lovers it would be a treat to their eyes. Species which you would have just seen in books and television can be seen and felt. The authorities take great care to protect the sandalwood by making concrete rings around it. We also found rosewood, wild lemon and a host of tasty wild fruits. We celebrated our walk picking up the ripe Jambul fruits scattered throughout our path.

I wish the authorities could create a circular trail so that one would not feel the repetition of walking back same stretches of the route. On return if you have the time and energy you can spend more time at the Children’s park. Your return as such would be through it. At the end what you take back home would be wonderful memories; a day where you experienced jungle right in the heart of a metropolitan city, where you could breathe fresh air and enjoy the music of the dancing trees!

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Do match your steps with the foot marks of jackals and deers…!!


Some Practical Tips

  1. Remember once you enter the gate, barring very few wildlife staff, it will only be you and the guide in the visible horizon. So be self-sufficient for the time inside and ensure your security.
  2. If you decide to walk the whole park it will take anything more than 3 hours to return.
  3. Do carry adequate amount of drinking water depending on the number of people in your group.
  4. It is advised to carry some snacks which you can enjoy inside.
  5. Do not litter or dump plastic or waste inside this beautiful place. Do save the place for the future generations also.
  6. There are a lot of edible fruits scattered all around the trails but do confirm with the guide.
  7. Last but not the least, ensure to empty your bowel before you start, unless you are comfortable relieving yourselves in the open.

Enjoy your trip and have a great time and do get back in case I can be of any further help.