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Some cities and their identities come under a cloud! Going beyond physical identities!

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Some people live a life that goes beyond their own lifespan and extend to generations. Paul Revere’s was one such. Imagine a life story from the 17th century that still captures attention laced with reverence. Paul Revere was a successful silversmith who played a defining role in the American Independence struggle. A role that centred around devising a system that alerted and kept a watch on the British army. His heroics mounted a fame horse and rode away to glory, when Henry Longfellow wrote a poem called “Paul Revere’s ride”. He wrote “Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five; Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year” I stood along with a set of curious folks who had got to the Granary Burial Ground in Boston. To look him up after reading his exploits the previous day. For a gent who was born in 1734, that is some recognition, isnt it? (at Granary Burial Grounds- Boston, Ma)

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Every campus has a striking image. The Sather Tower in the University Of California, Berkeley hogs the sky and the eye. It’s the third tallest Clock Tower in the World. But it stands for far more than just its function. Shaping the identity of scores of bright people who have walked or have aspired to, walk the ground below, gives it far more heft. By the way, the tower houses more history than circa 1914, when it became functional. . Did you know that the Department Of Biology stores it’s fossils inside the tower. (at University Of Berkeley, California)

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The couple appeared with a sudden burst of laughter and gaiety. It was a bright, beautiful San Francisco morning. They were headed in the direction of he ferry building. The couple went past me on two legs : His. Filling the road with their laughter and love. He carried her for a long distance. After a while, she alighted from his arms and walked. Hand in hand they ambled along. People nodded. Smiled. Shook their heads . Some in disbelief and others in sarcasm. Yet others in some sort of joy. The moment, the action and reactions seemed to be so uniquely ‘San Francisco’. What do you think? (at San Francisco, California)

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Mountains. The mountains have a way of helping you understand ‘expanse’ . When the clouds kiss the peaks and the ground beneath seems to quiver with just a bit of excitement, you want to take your eyes away. And look into the horizon. Where another set of clouds are engaged in the same romance. With another set of waves of mountains. You smile. You learn expanse!

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Cities are defined by the character of the infrastructure and the twinkle in the eyes of its citizens. Washington DC stands tall. With lots going for it. Including a very effective metro service. (at Dupont Circle station)

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It’s often not about how heavy the weight is as how we carry the weight. Finding another shoulder and just another plank to distribute the weight works wonders. So, this week, who are you lending a shoulder to? It could make a telling difference. Who knows whats weighing someone down. (at Juhu Beach)

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You don’t go forward looking only at the rear view mirror. But the rear view mirror sometimes can show you pieces that make you, you. This random pink bicycle on the rear view mirror of my parked car lead me to a zillion memories. Of friends. Family. Childhood. Relationships. Life in itself. Memories of the roads we have taken to get to where we are put energy in our feet and add new meaning to a mundane day. (at Nariman Point Marine Drive)

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To watch a lotus leaf on water is a treat. For any droplet of water on it, becomes a pearl. The droplet floats on the leaf and runs around like a kid in a toy shop. In what they offer, the leaf and the droplet teach a lesson or two. To be unaffected and yet remaining so close is one amongst them. Quick, what do you see? (at Mumbai, India)

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When the boats are at shore, they seem so out of place. The right place for this timber is when it rides the harsh waves of the sea with ease. It is quite a sight to look at the boats that are raring to go. Ready, girding their loins, just besides the sea. But do you realise, the long voyages that are made at sea are actually longer voyages. For they are made in the minds of the voyagers first. Then at land, where the boats are built. When the boats aren’t built well and the mind doesn’t imagine broad enough, voyages don’t happen as well as they could have. What voyages are you on? How far have you traveled in your mind? And by the way, how strong is your boat? (at Thiruvananthapuram - Trivandrum City)

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Its always about the frame. How you frame the problem changes the problem. Here I was talking to people and then began a trudge down the rolling hills. After about 30 minutes of a happy downward trudge on a rolling hill, which is more than pleasant for a happy walk. I turned around to find that the people who I was speaking to were but small objects in the distance. The hill in itself a mere hump in horizon and the light ( or the lack of it) made them look like mannequins in a store! Try changing the frame. What we see changes depending on where we see it from! (at Vagamon, Kerala)

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What seems to come in the way can enhance what is sought as the end outcome! After much effort found an angle that held the building together. Only to find a thorny shrub come in the way. Letting it be, added character. At least that’s what I think. What do you think? That sure is the mode for life. What doesn’t destroy you makes you stronger. Your obstacles add character to the results you seek. (at Bangkok, Thailand)

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To splash around is great fun. To splash around doesn’t get you a great distance. But its good fun nevertheless. There are those for whom life is a series of splashes. And there are the others who cover a long distance with minimal splash. A stroke here. A stroke there. A dive now. A glide underwater. A few bubbles that show progress. And then the head shows up on the other side of the pool. The little miss isn’t interested. She wants to splash. There is a time and place for everything. A time to splash. And another to swim. In a kids world, the fun is in the splash. Yes, in a kid’s world. (at Bangkok, Thailand)

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As a talented pair of hands whipped up a new flavour at the roadside cocktail bar my eyes wandered to the camper van with bright lights that served as the base. Now, the Volkswagen Camper van stands for something beyond an automobile. First introduced in 1950 it went out of production in 2013! Having had spectacular reincarnations and simple, astute deployments. It morphed from a carrier of people to transporter of parcels. From tourist support to ambulance. From everything commonly possible to everything conceivable. To age as gracefully as the Volkswagen Camper requires staying relevant to changing times and needs. That means disrupting oneself constantly. On a daily basis. To look beyond what we see and to constantly redraw the finish line. It isn’t easy. But it’s possible. Just ask the VW Camper. (at Pattaya, Thailand)

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Heights. There is something about heights that fascinates. And teaches. From up in the sky, the mighty river against the massive Sun is but a thread under a bulb. The massive cliff, a half eaten cookie. Giant houses morph into tiny squares. Boundaries don’t exist! The map is not the territory. There is no end to the sky and Earth doesnt ‘start’ anywhere. They just merge. Everything is one! Perhaps that is a good perspective to have as we grapple with our lives and work. To view everything as just a part of a large ‘oneness’. To view ourselves too. As connected beings. Suddenly everything becomes easy. Kindness. Love. Compassion. Brotherhood. Affection. It is a a lovely emotion to hold tight to. Take to the skies. Perhaps, in your mind. Go on. Close your eyes. Fly.

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If you cant showcase your ware, you cant sell. It is as simple as that. The days of building a better mousetrap and the world beating a path to your door is gone. Perhaps never existed. Right at the middle of a busy road this balloon vendor used his bike to set up his store. As Madurai erupted in joyous splendour at the Chithirai Festival, this guy struck an ingenious bargain with the cops. He will lend his bike to act as a barricade against traffic movement. Having secured the real estate, he put out a mega display of all that he had to sell during the day. Lo and behold he sold them all. There are ways of showcasing your work. Subtle, functional, ingenious and authentic. It makes a difference. Its possible with a little bit of imagination. The balloon seller taught me that.

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He appeared with a tap on my shoulder. Amidst all the jostle that the crowd indulged in, he appeared calm. The surprise of the riot of colour on his face caught my eye. He smiled and showed me the vessel he held.  Ah money, I thought. It paints the town red. In this case, a deep devilish pink and adorned with trinkets in their glory. The crowd continued to swirl and sweat in the middle of Madurai’s Chithirai Festival. I pulled out the wallet with great care and thrust a few notes into his vessel. It was his turn to be surprised. Perhaps it was the quantum of money. Perhaps it was the fact that I gave at all. Maybe it was the minor gymnastics I had to perform to pull out the wallet and extract a few notes. His surprise gave way to a smile and lead to a pat on my head with a peacock feather that he seemed to pull out from nowhere. Could he smile for a picture, I ask? He stands, smiles and then in a minute dances to a new tune and melts into the crowd. Long after he is gone, the azure blue stays with me.  Have you wondered if you wear a paint to earn a living? His devilish pink, trinket trodden face, with that warm smile did that to me. (at Madurai, India)

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“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. Lao Tzu”

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It is illegal to go to San Fransisco and not post a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. At least it would appear so, just going by the number of questions that you get when you dont post one. :) The bridge is beautiful and its been standing since 1937. The bridge took more than a decade of overcoming opposition for it to get built. People opposed the very building of it for a number of reasons. Today those reasons seem submerged in its practical and symbolic value. The awesome doesnt get built overnight! And the awesome doesn’t appear awesome when it is still in the mind! (at Golden Gate Bridge)

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John Harvard sits pretty in the Harvard Yard at Harvard. He is often thronged by visitors who want to rub his left shoe. Theres a story there. But there are bigger stories. The first is that John Harvard is not THE founder of Harvard University but a large donor. The second, this statue is not that of John Harvard but another man, for by the time they decided to put up a statue for John Harvard, no one knew how he looked like. But this, I am told, is the third most photographed statue in the US. After the Lincoln Memorial and the Statue of Liberty. Now, that is some height isnt it? (at Harvard University)

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A city’s character is built by what is sold and what is bought. It is in its streets and in its markets that the city’s soul rests. The many faces of San Francisco define it’s inclusiveness, its pluralism and it’s embrace of change. (at San Francisco, California)

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The searing rush to get to the top! Only complemented by the dark glass facade. When you stand in the street below and strain your neck to get a shot, u you have to admit that it looks beautiful. In a very different sort of way. The interplay between light and shadow always has that effect!

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The stories we tell ourselves, both of ourselves and others get busted when we stand in another land and under another flag! The skies of the world are all blue! :) #choice #frames #peopleoftheworld #life #culture #trade #ordinary #traveller #instatravel #instapassport #blogger #travelblogger #blogging #travelinsights #traveladdict #traveltheworld #wanderlust #destinations #entrepreneur #startup #disrupt #fun #metaphor #love #conversation #story #flag #Boston #USA (at Boston, Massachusetts)

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Our differences come up because the frames we wear are different. We look at the same object and think different things. How we perceive the world affects the world. And as the world hurtles from problem to problem, we ought to see this. Perhaps take the trouble to see this. In moments when hatred abounds our minds, perhaps its worth our time to pause and ponder ‘whats causing me to think about this way’. And asking that question in itself can solve many problems. Problems that existed because of our frames. (at Qutb Minar)

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What do you keep in the background? What do you focus on? These are important lessons for a photographer. Ages ago, as I fiddled with my first camera I got talking to someone to whom the camera was but an extension of his arm. He said, I remember clearly, ‘a good photographer learns what to include in the frame. You get better by learning to keep out EVERYTHING that doesn’t add to the picture’ That lesson, I have learnt. applies to business. And to life as well. (at Isle of Wight)

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The Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai, seen here when the waters recede. Very soon the sea will be back with its restless waves and clamour while the mosque will remain in resplendent silence and peace. To be humble in moments of glory. To be calm when the times are tough. To ride the wave when they threaten and to give in when they offer you no choice. These make us complete. (at Haji Ali Dargah)

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Where you stand depends on where you sit. Where you sit, depends on how much of a toe hold you have on the ground. To make the most of whats available. To carry on hoping for the best at the end of the day and navigate new bridges with borrowed wheels. That is the essence of third world livelihoods. No. This doesnt mean any less of aspirations. No. This doesnt mean any less of dreams for change No. This doesnt mean any less of happiness and smiles. To many lives that know only this life, there is no happiness or sadness with how life is. This just is life!

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There are markets and markets. Then there is Maeklong. Inviting sea food and delectable veggies all arranged and stocked with care. Remarkably clean for the volume of produce! But that’s not the point. As any cursory internet search will tell you. Tourists get here to see the locomotive run through the market. The retractable awnings retract and in a flash they come back again! Entrepreneurial with a smile. Calm. Composed and ready to strike a deal. Those are the people who sell their ware here. For the tourist, the train is a sight. For the local it is routine. And as one of them said, ‘publicity’! (at Maeklong Railway Market - 美功铁路市场)

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Swabs of cotton, clothesline clips and a palette of colours. In the hands of kids, that’s all it took for magic to happen! Engrossed kids. Sans TV. Sans tablets. Sans all digital devices. Such creative play with imagination. All it takes is the belief in kids and some energetic play in their world. It is incredible what happens when we believe in the magic that lies within our kids. Yes. Magic. That’s THE word! (at Bangkok, Thailand)

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The little miss and her imagination gives me new flight. She plants her legs on the airplane window and states with great excitement “Papa my legs are touching the sky”. Her smile and shriek of joy lights up the plane. Or at least parts close to where we are seated. I wonder how many of you will lay claim to the big blue sky. If you ever do so, remember there is a young lady who planted her feet up there first :)

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If you seek to grow, watch your children. In their curiosity, in their seeking, in their sense of play they teach us so much. In seeing them at happy effortless play with kids with different skin colours, I learn that it is human to reach out and relate. It is when I see them jump with joy at the sight of everyday occurrences (‘Yeahhhah, the Sun is back") needles me in the direction of wonder and joy. And when they discard their shoes to walk barefeet, I learn the joys of feeling the earth. It teaches me a thing or two about staying grounded. Watch kids. They can teach you a heap. Try. (at Pattaya, Thailand)

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Space is a question of the mind. If you think there is. If you think there isn’t, well, there won’t be! Even if there is! What they call as an ‘abundance mindset’ is a function of the mind. To be open and boundaryless in the mind accomplishes far more than what hierarchy can. To have a seat at the table, doesn’t require a table. Or a seat for that matter. Travel teaches abundance. For when you travel you look at the ‘them’ and 'us’. Only to realise when the chairs are empty, anybody can sit! All of us are in the same ship.

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It was evening. It was a long ride. It seemed like we had left San Fransisco ages ago. It was a comfortable road ride. A boring one at that. If you took away some superlative scenery that lurked beyond the windscreen, it would have been a damp squib. This was quite unlike an Indian highway. Bereft of random breathlessness and excitement. Like there was no bull that shows up in the middle of the road on a whim. Or a tractor that decides to swerve and come face to face with you just as you were wondering if you were faster than then clouds in the sky. You get the picture, don’t you? In any case, we were looking forward to the evening and night ahead. For up ahead was Las Vegas. Stories abounded about what all could happen there. The excitement in us seemed to cause the engine to purr a trifle more. A new tune played out in my mind. It was then that I looked at the traffic that was coming out of Vegas. Headed home. I tried reading into the blank emotion on their faces as the cars whizzed by. Yet, it was easy to recall my favourite line from ‘English, August’ that I read several years ago. “The ecstasy of the arrival never compensates for the emptiness of the departure”. (at Las Vegas, Nevada)

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You cant miss the beats from miles away. A lot of it is happening in the immediate vicinity. But the bridge to the rest of it happens in memory. Folklore adorns the main street as rural Madurai dances in ever so expansive ways. Bare chested with bells and whistles all over. Both in the adornments and in the ease of movement. The Chithirai festival is here. There is a festivity in the air. There is dance & music. Not the choreographed staple that makes its staple on TV, but a rather authentic raw form. The steps don’t match all the time and the beats don’t rhyme. But there is joy in the air. A gay abandon if you will. Of piety. Of culture and a spontaneous overflowing of happy energy. A new warp and weft to an old tradition. It is such a treat to the senses. For it gives you a sense of culture and roots. It soothes the soul and renders a renewal of sorts. In each step and beat, a renewal to old memories and fresh dreams.

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There is something unique when a community moves. Especially when the movement is on bikes. On my drives across the US, there were several groups of bikers. You know they are coming when you heard the roar of the engine from afar. For a few seconds they would be visible and then they would be gone. Perhaps it is in their hugging the road, the sound waves and the eyesight, they evoke a strong memory and serious love. Ah, what it must be to soak in fresh air and let your heart throb to the tune of a revved up engine. (at Mt. Washington,NH)

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Its the anniversary of one of the best speeches made. On the 28th of August 1963, Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream’ speech, standing on these very steps. The speech moved America and the rest of the world too. The Lincoln Memorial has seen several speeches. But the speech by ML King, made to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that freed millions of slaves, is perhaps the most remembered. At least, the most significant to me. Some steps have helped mankind climb higher. This is one such. (at Lincoln Memorial Monument)

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The skyline of a city can seem so much the same. Jagged concrete structures reaching for the sky with varying degrees of ambition. Yet, they are distinct. A level of careful observation will show you a few things. The choreographed exteriors, the conversations that hug the air and the music that is played in the street give the skyline life. The skyline of San Fransisco seems to tease you a bit with its streaming business like stiff upper lip. Beautiful nevertheless, especially when you relish it with some cool breeze from the Pacific. It is when you step into the city and go down the valley you realise how much a facade the skyline put up. (at San Francisco, California)

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There are bridges. And then there are bridges like the Bay Bridge. Standing tall, majestic with two layers of traffic. On since the 1930s. Completed before the much vaulted Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. Its stature coming from its understated value. The Bay Bridge is a bridge to be absorbed by the eye for all it offers beyond what it offers to the eye. at Bay Bridge (San Francisco)

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A runner stands apart from a pack. A runners body is distinctive. You don’t have to look too hard. The muscles show. The arc in the legs stand out and of course, when the open space beckons just watching a runner run, is such joy! And against a setting Sun, it’s a complete sight to behold.

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The stories we tell ourselves, both of ourselves and others get busted when we stand in another land and under another flag! The skies of the world are all blue! :) (at Boston, Massachusetts)

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Do you just take off and land or do you really fly? Do you just see flowers by the road or have you noticed them in full bloom? Do you notice the things that you notice and the things that you don’t? Do you see that they are not about the things themselves, but about the thing inside you. Called life.

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This man sat painting red stripes on a nondescript side step of a giant temple. His diligence enveloped the air around him. Much of our work is like that. We are not always working on an orbit altering project or seeking to put a dent on the universe. We must remember that the trick is not in ‘What’ we are working on, but rather ‘how’ we work on whatever we are working on. Actually, its not a trick. (at Madurai Meenakshi Temple)

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To do nothing! How tough is that? Well it sounds simple. Actually a lot tougher to pull off. For somehow we seem to give ‘action’ a whale of credit. Not without reason. The problem starts when action overrides the space for quiet times and thoughtful moments. It hurts. The bigger wound will arise in the not knowing how of much damage all ‘action’ can cause. Take time out. Stand. Stare. Live. (at Delhi, India)

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Looking at the sea can be soothing. The waves compete with each other and seem to be in a perpetual rush to the shore. To beat the other wave, to rise above all else. At the shore, they seem to dissipate into nothingness. Spent energy, and spent drive dominates the air. Perhaps thats why we go to the shore. Perhaps thats what we need to remind ourselves looking at the shore. The pointlessness of daily frenzy. To hold ourselves lightly but tighly. (at Pattaya, Thailand)

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When you change tracks, there is always a bit of an emotion. A bit of a hop skip and jump. Changing tracks is important. The one track pony is a ‘could have been’ story. What tracks are you changing? How long have you been thinking about it? Richness comes from diversity. Stay rich! (at Maeklong Railway Market - 美功铁路市场)

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It’s never about the weight. It’s always about the way we carry it. It’s never about the work. It’s always about the ‘why’ of the work. It’s never about the grand sights. It’s always about the story behind the sight It’s never about grand things. It’s about discovering grand meaning in simple joys. That’s where real happiness and real joy is. Ensconced and precious. To find it means to see it and let it be. (at Pattaya, Thailand)

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He is a slender man. All bone and muscle. A pronounced jaw, a tanned skin and a stubble for the head. But he packs a punch with his smile. A smile that gives his broken uneven teeth even more mileage. He helps us with the water scooter on the beaches of Pattaya. He negotiates the waves and the machine with an alacrity that would expose his experience. The waves seem to be no match for him. The water scooter seems to do to his bidding. He keeps waving at us from the shore. He asks us to take more time in the sea. ‘Have fun. You have time’. He says. As one more wave rushes to the shore and the scooter bobs up and down in a helpless rush, he settles on the the shore. ‘You had fun?’, he asks. When we nod in enthusiastic affirmation, he puts on display his uneven tooth and the big gap in between them. 'Enjoy it while you have the time’, he says. He perhaps doesn’t know how profound his statement is. Perhaps he does. There is wisdom in the ordinary man beyond what we give credit for. In their leading of life (at Pattaya, Thailand)

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They come in all shapes and sizes. Boxes. Some going far. Some just next door. They all sit shoulder to shoulder as the postmen gather and sort them at a train station. Perhaps with little idea of what’s in them. The boxes themselves sit pretty. They have their own story to tell. A former Indian Prime Minister wrote a poem titles “Envelope” which went something like this “The letter inside is yours The address on the cover is his Between the two of you I get ripped open” What’s inside us is far precious. When we keep ripping ourselves apart and let newer versions of us emerge, the address on the boxes keeps changing. We see many new lands. We go places, as they say. Rip yourself apart. Let the new you emerge from the boxes! (at Jamshedpur, Jharkhand)

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Nyes

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So, how do you welcome a new day? When the Sun sends the first hints of his shimmering rays, it is but a small hint of the opportunity ahead. To continue the work from yesterday. To begin anew. To press reset. To walk the long road. To course correct. To sit down and reflect. Whatever works for you. That the Sun shows up in the east can lull us to think of it as a matter of routine. But to look at it as something else can alter how we treat the rest of the day. So, wherever you are, sing in celebration when the Sun shows up. Dance. Run. Play. Read. The majestic Sun teaches us about changes & transitions like none else. (at Udaipur City, Rajasthan, India)

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