Friday, October 1, 2010

The new work culture

As offices open up to flexible work hours and remote access to the workplace, our work culture is going through a revolution of sorts. The days when you could switch off the PC at the stroke of 5 and focus on a relaxing evening with family and friends are long gone. And working overtime has taken on a whole new meaning.

It is the age of data cards and plug-and-play internet connections. Smart-phones that let you check e-mail, Video Conference (VC) ,schedule appointments, even create presentations. Time and location have become virtually irrelevant as everything is now at our fingertips.

All these changes might be convenient, yes. But are they really working in our favour? Do we forget to switch off from work even when we are home, or on vacation thanks to technology and a work culture that demands we respond to business needs ASAP? 

Has the change in work culture affected your professional and personal life? Have the leaps in technology helped you strike a balance between work and home? Or is the boundary between your work-life and personal-life blurred?

Tell us how you are coping with the new work culture. Why you love it and why you don't. How you manage to draw the line between work and home.

Write comments!!..

Jaigarh Fort - Jaipur (Rajasthan ,India)

Whenever Man Singh I (late 16th century) or his successors warred and won gold, silver, jewels and other booty, they hoarded it in the Jaigarh Fort. and they had the loyal Minas to fiercely guard their haul. (In fact, legends tell us that the Minas were such strict guards that they let each new Kachhawaha king to enter only once and pick one single piece for himself from the dazzling pile!) Anyway, all this treasure paid first for building Amber, then Jaipur and for centuries of lavish living. Indian Government officials tried to retrieve whatever was left; they dug the place in 1976 but found nothing. In fact they even drained the three arched water tanks (in a courtyard on the way to the northern end of the fort) in the hope of finding the fortune there. Some say that everything was used up in building Jaipur while others claim that it is still there somewhere. 
The dictum of the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Puranas, 'a fort is the strength of a king', must have loomed large in the minds of the Rajputs while building the Jaigarh Fort. The ambitious Jai Singh II then expanded, remodelled and renamed it in 1726. and since this fort never fell in the hands of enemies, it stands almost intact to this day.

The Location of The Fort 
Jaigarh or the 'Fort of Victory' is perched on Chilh ka Tola (Hill of Eagles), 400 feet above the Amber Fort. The walls of the fort are spread over three kilometers. Once you enter through the massive south facing Doongar Darwaza, you'll instantly get a tangible feel of Rajput romanticism. and if you're lucky, Thakur Pratap Singh, a handsome Rajput with a fine moustache will be around to tell you stories of Jaigarh's illustrious past. The other entrance to the fort is through the Awani Darwaza in the east. 

Main Attractions of The Fort 

The Huge Cannon
Jaigarh Fort is a remarkable feat of military architecture. After you enter, head straight for the gigantic cannon Jaivan perched on top of a tower. Weighing 50 tons with an 8m barrel and a trajectory of about 20km, it is said to be the world's largest cannon on wheels. Such was its might that it took four elephants to swivel it around on its axis. But surprisingly (and thankfully!) it was never used. Despite its awesome firepower, it has a delicate scrollwork of birds, foliage and a roaring elephant at its mouth. Jaivan was test-fired once by Jai Singh in 1720 when the cannon ball landed at Chaksu about 38km away! and the impact of it was so enormous that a lake formed at the spot and many houses collapsed in Jaipur. The cannoneer died immediately after the firing, before he could even jump into water. (It is mandatory for the cannoneer to jump into water to avoid the massive impact, and so there's always a water tank beside the cannon.) No wonder enemies didn't ever set their eyes on Jaigarh. There's even a notice here which proudly says, "because of the strong defence system, management and the foresightedness of the rulers, the enemy never dared to enter the fort." 

Vijay Garh 
Walk through a great arch into the courtyard, Jaleb Chowk. But the most important part of the fort is perhaps Vijay Garh, the fort's armoury. Apart from the huge collection of swords and small arms including time bombs, there's an interesting treasury lock with five keys and big wine and oil jars. The 1681 map of Amber kept here is worth a look. If the show of so much armoury awakens the fighter in you, try your hands at the mini cannon which makes a pretty big bang. 

The Jaigarh Cannon Foundry 
The Jaigarh cannon foundry, built by Bhagwan Das in the 16th century, is one of the few surviving medieval foundries in the world. It has a furnace, lathe, tools and a collection of cannons. It was Bhagwan's adopted son, Man Singh I, who brought the secret of gunpowder from Kabul in 1584 where the latter was the commander-in-chief of Akbar's army. Soon cannons began to be made in Jaigarh, much to the displeasure of the Mughals who kept the secret to themselves ever since they used it to fight the Lodis and Rajputs in 1526 (check History of Delhi for more). There's a point called Damdama (meaning 'continuous firing'), where there used to be a battery of ten cannons positioned to check any approaching army. This faces the Delhi Road. This led some to believe that Man Singh was secretly preparing for a showdown with his Mughal allies. 

Seven Storeyed- Diya Burj 
The highest point in Jaigarh is the seven-storeyed Diya Burj, the turret of lamps from where you get a panoramic view of the city of Jaipur. Also interesting is the water supply and storage system of the fort, a real marvel of planning. Sagar Talav, with octagonal bastions and huge dams, is one of the fort's grand reservoirs. The scarcity of water has always exercised the ingenuity of the Rajasthanis, also accounting for the existence of the several baoris or baolis (stepwells) in the state. There are some temples within the fort. The 10th century Shri Ram Hari Har Temple houses images of three gods – Rama, Vishnu and Shiva. It has an interesting doorway. Nearby is the 12th century Kal Bhairava Temple

The museum of artefacts tells the story of the Jaigarh Fort and its vast well-protected treasury. There is an interesting collection of paintings, photographs and coins, and other things like a balance for measuring explosives and several containers including a 16th century coin container. Don't miss the royal kitchen and dining hall; after all food and hospitality were also very much a part of Rajput agenda. 

The Palace Complex 
The palace complex, built by various kings over a period of two centuries, has the usual structure beginning with the Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience). But it goes a step ahead of the Amber Fort in terms of defense; it has a Khilbat Niwas (Commanders' Meeting Hall) in place of the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience). There's also the open pillared hall, Subhat Niwas. But these are insignificant structures as compare to the ones in Amber Fort. This part of the fort is full of secret back passages for royal escape in times of emergency. The luxury suites are very much there – the breezy Aram Mandir (Rest House) and the 16th century Vilas Mandir (Pleasure House). The former has a lovely garden attached to it. It was in the charming courtyard of the latter that the royal ladies had their little parties, janani majlis. The pavilions surrounding the courtyard, with a maze of passages, offer excellent views of Amber. 

The Lakshmi Vilas Palace 
The Lakshmi Vilas Palace is a beautiful experience, with some lovely frescoes in blue and the remains of an old Mughal garden. It also has a little 'theater' hall where the rajas had their share of entertainment – dance, music recitals and puppet shows. Do stop by at this Puppet Theatre which has been revived by some locals who hold charming shows. This old tradition of puppetry continues to be a popular folk entertainment in Rajasthan today, and tourists take a huge delight in watching such shows. 

Visiting Hours : 0930-1645 
Entry Fee : Rs 15, for students Rs 10

Rajasthan Shopping Attractions Complex
There's a lot to see and do in this handicraft centre on Jagat Shiromani Temple Road. You can see demonstrations of the famous Rajasthan block printing, textiles which so many people, especially foreign tourists, are crazy about. Craftspersons churn up some exotic designs with wooden blocks and natural colours. The other centres of block printing in Rajasthan are Barmer, Sanganer, Bagru and others. See Arts & Crafts of Rajasthan for more on block printing. Shops at the complex also sell gems, jewellery, textiles, antiques and other handicrafts. By antiques one means artefacts upto 90 years old. So take home a piece of Rajasthan, though the prices may be slightly high. 

Excursion To Amber Fort
For an excursion to Amber, take a bus from the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur. There's one leaving every half an hour (Rs 3). Auto-rickshaws charge Rs 50. There are buses from the Jaipur Railway Station too.

Festival of Colors - Holi

Color and variety are synonymous with Indian culture, beliefs, and way of life. A country steeped in traditions, India charms and bedazzles all her visitors with a kaliedoscopic rendezvous.

Every street, every city and every corner has a story to tell -- all you have to do is listen. But it is tradition, culture, and celebrations that truly bring this country together. One of the most symbolic festivals in the country is called "Holi."

Holi is the festival of color -- a festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil and a celebration of the arrival of spring and harvests to come. It’s the festival of colors, emotions, and happiness. And what better way to express yourself than with the vibrant colors of the rainbow?

The central ritual of Holi is the throwing and applying of colored water and powders on friends and family, which gives the holiday its common name "Festival of Colors.” Come Holi, and the country is painted in mesmerizing hues of blues, yellows, magentas, greens, violets, and more. Clouds of colors dancing in the wind carry the message of love and happiness across walls, neighbors, and hearts.

Brightly colored powders are the mainstay of Holi, during which men, women, and children carry powders and liquid colors to throw and smear on the clothes and faces of neighbors and relatives. While dry powder colors are called "gulal," colors mixed with water are called "rang." Tables with bags of colors are lined up as neighbors and family await the others to enter the grounds. It's a day to celebrate and let go -- loud music, local brews, and fun-filled chatter are all essential elements of the celebrations.

But most importantly, Holi is the day when you will see the streets and homes of India doused in almost every color imaginable. Each color has significance, religious or otherwise. And there is a color for almost every occasion, moment, or celebration. Each color symbolizes a force in life, and thus color and life are inseparable.

While the most popular colors are the brightest -- blue, yellow, red, purple, pink, and green -- there are colors that are conspicuously absent, traditionally. These include black and white.

Though white symbolizes a sense of purity, it is also a color of mourning. Widows in India, unlike in their western counterparts, retire to a white-only dress code. And while black is considered ugly, evil, and undesirable, it is relied upon heavily to ward off evil, as is evident in the ceremony of putting a black dot on a new-born baby’s face to ward off the evil eye.

During the early days, the "gulal" colors of Holi were made at home using flowers of the tree, otherwise called the "Flame of the Forest." The flowers, once plucked, were dried in the sun and then ground to a fine dust. The powdered dust, once mixed in water, gave way to the most brilliant hue of saffron-red. The saffron-red pigment and colored powdered talc called "aabir" were the mainstay at Holi celebrations, long before the chemical colors of today.

Squirting colored water, throwing colored water balloons, and throwing fistfuls of powdered colors at friends, family, and even strangers is not considered out of place or offensive, and is in fact a part of the festival. Children and teenagers line up at strategic vantage points, armed with buckets of colored water and little water balloons, waiting to attack unassuming passers-by.

Every color means something special in the Indian psyche. Red, for instance, is a mark of matrimony; brides in India wear red most often at their wedding since it symbolizes fertility, love, beauty, and, most importantly, is a sign of a married woman. It is considered custom in the ways of Hinduism to wear red powder-Kumkum on the peak of their forehead. Most often considered the prerogative of a married woman, a red dot is worn between the eyebrows to symbolize blissful matrimony.

Yellow is yet another important color in the Indian psyche. Yellow is almost synonymous with turmeric, an ingredient of great importance at auspicious functions across religions. It is perhaps revered more so because of its medicinal use right from the ancient times. Turmeric is used even today for the treatment of inflammatory and digestive disorders.

Other colors that tease the skies on Holi include blue, the color of the revered god in Hinduism, Lord Krishna. Green symbolizes new beginnings, harvest, and fertility, and is also the sacred color of the Muslim community in India. Saffron is often associated with Hinduism, piety, and strength.

Today, keeping pace with technological advance, the primary colors used initially have been supplemented by metallic colors and various unimaginable shades and mixtures. But the spirit of the festival remains the same. It cuts across all classes, castes, and religions and brings people together. Together, they celebrate the onset of spring by filling their day and life with the colors of joy, prosperity, happiness, and peace.

The colors of India, though diverse, speak the language of its people, from the red and ochre walls of village huts to the pristine white of the Taj Mahal. Color, art, and culture in the subcontinent have surpassed all odds and continue to hold the country together in a spell binding tryst of hues. Holi is a festival celebrated in great revelry and belief, where citizens of the country paint the skies and their surroundings in the magnificent colors of joy