Shah Family

Saturday, March 18, 2006

March 10, 2006, and here I go….!


Hinglaj Mataji has helped again. I went to the Pakistan Consulate ton Wednesady March 8th in New Your City at 12 E. 65th Street. There was no line to speak of. I just gave my papers, they checked and asked me to take them to next window juts like one would expect in a bureaucratic organization. Those who remember the banking in old days in India (before the Multi National Banks) came in; you can visualize the scenario (san taking a token)! But they were courteous and asked me come back at 4 PM.

Weather was relatively nice – sun was out and the temperature was ~40F. I spent few hours strolling enjoying watching variety of people. Reminded of the story, I think, by the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore called “The Road” that we studied in middle school. It was what the road “saw” as all the people walking and described what it “saw” and “read” about their life in their face, voice, smile, gait of walk and so on. It is a very interesting reading. As they say – If only walls can talk!

I enjoyed a Falafel on 39th street and spend few hours in New York Public Library at the Bryant Park (41st street and 5th Avenue). This is something I have wanted to do for almost 30 years! Not only it is a majestic and imposing building, it has equally impressive collection of books and other material too.

Went back to the Consulate around 4 AM and as promised the Visa was properly affixed in the passport. American efficiency was clearly seen. But, ah..h it lasted only few minutes. As President Ronald Reagan had said about Russians for Nuclear Warheads – “Trust but Verify”; I checked the visa carefully and I was surprised that it showed that it was valid for only ONE entry in Pakistan valid through June 6, 2006. How can I come back from Bombay via Karachi on the Pakistan International Airlines!

So I went back to the window and the Desi way (as Khalidbhai points out) was in works. I was told that that is the way it is. To get back I will have to request at the Karachi airport for the re-entry visa and if I do not get it then I would have to go to New Delhi and get new visa (and pay another $120 plus travel from Mumbai to New Delhi – not the same as traveling from Smithtown in Long Island to NYC on train in 1.5 hrs)! I left the consulate thinking it should not be a problem, I will just ask the visa at the airport.

But then I “heard” little voice of Reagan and went back to the consulate and gently but firmly explained that this would not work. I had attached clearly my confirmed travel plan from the Pakistan International Airlines that I was coming back via Karachi and I can not if I do not have more than one entry in the country. First response was a mild “we do not care about your ticket; that is the way it is.” On a second gentle push the passport was taken back and in 10 minutes it came back with a the word “One” removed with a white out and it was replaced with “Two.” Relief! I thanked them and left.

So now I have official Pakistan visa to visit the country twice between March and June of 2006 and that means I am more than half way to Hinglaj already!

In the meantime I got a mail from Chinar that she is finishing her 5 years of Bharat Natyam dance learning and her graduation (Arangetyra) is on May 31st and would want me to be present for the occasion. It will be difficult. Because that will add another week to 10 days to my coming back because Pujya Akkaji has told me to make Bijapur as the last stop in India before I go back to USA Which means I have to go to Bijapur from Ahmedabad and then to Mumbai. With the train taking 1.5 days to reach Bijapur I would be back in Mumbai. Pakistan visa is valid till June 3. I called Tushar today and explained the dilemma to him and Chinar. I have to book the ticket asap and I don’t think this will work. Tushar said he will check to see if the graduation can be moved up earlier date.

Even then

On the Home Front:

We..ll, the painting of the whole house is completed along with cleaning of the tiles and the wood floors. Yes, it does look nice. Thursday we also got new carpet and on March 14 we will get the Granite countertop and all the inside renovation work is almost completed. Cleaning of the clutter is still an on-going activity!

As the painting was going on Mike Carline (the painter) pointed out that all the black marks on the walls and ceilings were surely due to mal-function of the furnace and technically it is called “puff-back.” He advised to talk to the Home insurance company.

The adjuster Mr. Len came over and took the notes and pictures. We also called Hirsh and they checked out the furnace for any safety and efficiency issues. We showed the retaining wall also to Mr. Len and he advised to file a second claim. Will see what happens. Either way we have to get the retaining wall fixed and the pool and the ponds started before we get the agents to bid for the listing. I have wrap up everything by March 22nd!

But…Long live Murphy! 3 weeks ago I got new oil filter pads for the GE Profile microhood Oven in the kitchen and today….looks like it has seen the nest of its 10 years! Lots of fumes came out while I was in Puja and Anu was warming up coffee for the carpet installers. Looks like the big fat high voltage Capacitor is shot. Anu went to the Smithtown appliance and we need to spend $1,200 for new oven and cooktop. Problem is the coordination with the installation of the Granite countertop on March 14th!

February 28, 2006



Today is Feb 28th and more progress has been made!

I got great replies from Mr. Salmanbhai Ali and Mr.Khalidbhai Omar (inventor of the 1st Pakistani made car and scooter) of the Offroaders Club. Mr. Omar seems to work or manages Syntech Fibres (Pvt) Ltd. www.syntechfibres.com. May be Bharat Shah of KayTee Industries in Mumbai have something in common with him.

Mr. Halidbahi Mahmood, MD of Getzpharma has been very kind and has promised me to get a good hotel in Karachi and send his car and driver at the airport. He is suffering with a slip-disc. I wish him a speedy recovery. He also pointed out that there is no problem in the region (no worse than what one can find in NYC or in Mumbai!) and he has gone hiking there with his brothe-in-law. So I am VERY excited!

I got my Passport picture taken today and will be going to the Pakistan consulate in NYC in a week as the weather improves. It has been rather cold and windy here with wind-chill factor it feels like 15 degree F almost -9 Celsius but the Sun has been out which helps!

I was able to talk to the Vice Consul Mr. Sher after I gave up trying to talk through proper channel since no one answers calls or calls back on messages. He said that there will be no problem - just come over and will expedite the visa to get the same day. Though I have been warned by others that the reality may be different! Khalidbhai had a good joke - the reason I am not getting anyone to answer the call is because the staff is busy getting more parking tickets in NYC - supposedly Pakistan has either 1st or 2nd highest diplomatic/unpaid parking tickets in NYC.

I looked into various airlines and decided to fly to Karachi on Pakistan International Airlines - they have a direct (long) flight from JFK to Karachi every Wednesday. The round trip ticket with taxes would be $1328 and for additional $160 I can have a side trip from Karachi to Dubai as well.

I talked to Pujya Akkaji. She was in good mood and started singing Happy Birthday as soon as she heard my voice. She stayed up all night for the Mahashivratri Puja. I was there last year and have very fond memories of Maha Shivratri Puja and my Shasti Purti. It is also accompanied by sad memory of loss of dear Pannaben with consolation that Pujya Annaji moved me to change the cabs at the last minute and I had almost 2 hrs. with her as we went from Bijapur to Sholapur for the train. She passed away in my hands in the train. Pujya Annaji must have planned that way. I observed dear Mom passing away in my hand some years ago and had to take a painful decision to take dear Ushaben from the life support in 1999. Lost Pujya Annaji also in 1998. SOmehow these people who were dear to me were taken away from me. However seeing Pujya Akkaji I get tremendous strength and happiness. If she can bear the loss of Pujya Annaji and move forward for his disciples’ sake then who am I. She is showing, by leading her life the way she does, the importance of Karma Yog.

On the home remodeling front, just as Pujya Annaji told me not to worry, things are rapidly moving forward. We were able to get the new frame-less shower doors installed in three bathrooms and like them very much. Template has been taken for the Granite Countertop and should get it installed in two weeks at the most. Painting starts tomorrow and will be done in a week and then in one day new carpet will be installed. I still have to get the pond work done but I am not worried. If possible, we will get the pool opened up and the canopy installed before 22nd March. and hopefully the home will be on the market by March 22nd. Not sure, yet, whether we will try to sell it by ourselves or through an agent.

At this point, I will leave JFK on March 22nd - Wednesday at 9:05 PM and arrive in Karachi on 23rd night at 11:10 PM. It will have a layover for 2 hrs (8:30 - 10:30 AM) in Manchester, UK. Total ~ 16 hrs of flight time. Supposedly PIA has acquired new plane that will allow it to fly direct from KFK to Karachi non-stop next year - wow 16 hrs cooped in the plane. PIA has flights also on other days but they go to Lahore or Islamabad before going to Karachi and adding another 3 hrs. Coming back, Tuesdays look like a direct flight from Karachi to New York - JFK. I will get a taste of being cooped up for 14 hrs. in the plane! Though we did, in 1988, similar flight from Seattle to Hong Kong and it was just as long. But I am 18 years older now!

Sat and Sunday March 25 & 26 are Ekadsi (Pap Mochani - Elimination of Sins) and I will be in Hinglaj for the Darshan & Blessings of Hinglaj Mata (Nani Mandir). What a wonderful plan of Pujya Annaji! Pujya Akkaji OKed for me to take the photograph of Pujya Annaji and Akkaji and touch the Mataji and bring that photo to Bijapur. I will need to find coconut, Sindoor and Saree for Mataji at the minimum. I have Friday morning in Karachi to shopping. Either will leave for Hinglaj on Saturday AM or leave for Quetta on Friday afternoon and stay in a hotel in Quetta. I will let Salmanbhai and Khalidbhai advice me. If I can manage then I would like to stay overnight at Hinglaj near Mataji. If possible, I would like to visit the world's largest Mud Volcano nearby and also the Markan Beaches. Monday March 27, I would fly to Mumbai around 10:20 AM and reach Mumbai at 12:30 PM on a 747. Monday, March 27th is also the monthly Shivratri and also Panchak meaning I will have to fly from Karachi to Mumbai 5 times. Looks like I will be going to Hinglaj every year for, at least, five years and will get a chance to explore Pakistan also.

DAYS OF OPERATION

Org

Dst

Dep
Time

Arr
Time

Day Change
(Ground)

Day Change
(Air)

Meals

Flight
Time
(Estd.)

Total
Elapsed
Time

Miles

Smoking

M

T

W

T

F

S

S

dot.gif

KHI

JFK

00:05

04:50

0

0

S /S

14.45

14.45

7292

No



DAYS OF OPERATION

Org

Dst

Dep
Time

Arr
Time

Day Change
(Ground)

Day Change
(Air)

Meals

Flight
Time
(Estd.)

Total
Elapsed
Time

Miles

Smoking

M

T

W

T

F

S

S

dot.gif

JFK

MAN

21:05

08:30

0

1

DR/DR

6.25

6.25

3336

No

dot.gif

MAN

KHI

10:30

23:10

0

0

BL/BL

7.40

16.05

4017

No



21:05 23:10 +1

More progress next week!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Well, this February 20 already and I do not have airlines tickets booked, yet. But have made good progress in finding info on how to go to the Darshan and blessings of Shree Laxmi Chandrala Parmeshwari - Hinglaj Mata. You may know that Hinglaj (Hingula) is one of the 52 Shaktipeeths. It is in Baluchistan, about 170 miles North of Karachi, Pakistan - near Quetta.

Little background on Shaktipeeths:
Vedas says that the entire Universe is a creation of Shakti (power). Shakti created Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. She is known by many different names as she took different forms to right the wrongs that were happening on the Earth. She is known as Durga, Kali, Hingula, and Amba and so on.

King Daksha's daughter Sati was married to Lord Shiva. Once when the King went to a function where all the Rishis got up to greet him but Lord Shiva was in meditation and did not notice the King. King Daksha felt insulted. So when King Daksha had a Yagna, he did not invite Lord Shiva. Sati found out about the Yagna and wanted to go. Lord Shiva explained that we did not get an invitation and should not go. Sati insisted that King being her father may have made a mistake and she would go and talk to the King and fix the invitation. Despite Lord Shiva's explanation Sati went and found out that King Daksha did not invite Lord Shiva and it was not a mistake. Recognizing that she did not listen to Lord Shiva and got Shiva another insult; she felt very sad and ashamed and she jumped in the fire of the Yagna.

When Lord Shiva came to know what had happened he came to the Yagna and was angry. He did his Tandav Dance, as Natraj, with Sati's body in his hands. Sati's body parts fell on different parts of the Earth and those places became known as Shaktipeeths (place were Sati or Shakti resides).

Hinglaj Shaktipeeth on the riverbank of river Hingol is where Sati's head fell and the temple is in a cave there. It is considered as one of the very important Shaktipeeth where even Gorakhnath (of Nav Nath) had prayed to Chandrala Parmeshwari. Near this place is, supposedly, world's largest Mud Volcano!

Bhupenbhai’s friend Mr. Khalidbhai who is MD of Getz Pharma has been very kind to me and has helped with information about the travel from Karachi to Hinglaj and has offered to get me a car and a person to accompany me to the Hinglaj. He has kindly sent us pictures taken at the Hinglaj. I also came across on the Internet some pictures taken in September 2005 by a group of Karachi Offroaders track club. I have attached here some of these pictures. I am VERY excited and am eagerly looking for the Darshan and the blessings of Mataji in March 2006.

Please see the attached pictures taken by the Offroaders Club and Khalidbhai's set of pictures.

http://offroadpakistan.com/pictures/hingol_2005/