Tracking Ancient Languages in the Covid Era

Shalom, Namaste and Hello!

This week was hectic in many ways with my apartment complex being declared as a ‘Covid Hotspot’ although restrictions haven’t been applied as yet. My cycling trips have been drastically cut down with regular 100 km. runs now being limited to 50 km. or so. The general advise here is to hunker down and closet oneself to beat the bug.

My new hobby is checking the trail of ancient languages and their evolution, with the focus being on Hebrew and Koine Greek. It was my dream to learn the original language of the Tanakh ( the Jewish Bible, written in Hebrew ) and the New Testament ( NT for short , written in Koine Greek ) and *cough* thanks to Covid, I am on the cusp of achieving it. I would like to emphasize that it will take years of hard learning to become an expert. At this point I am a novice.

As far as Hebrew goes, the script used in the ancient kingdoms of Jewish kings was ketav ivri or Paleo-Hebrew i.e. before 500 B.C., when it was replaced by the Aramaic script. The Pentateuch or Torah was written in this script as was most of the other books in the Old Testament. Paleo Hebrew fonts are available albeit rare. Am also planning to code in the ancient script in to my operating system to use it more liberally.

Amos 5:24 in Ketuv Ivri font
Amos 5:24 in Paleo-Hebrew or Ketuv Ivri

The Book of Psalms ( Tehillim in Hebrew ), one of the many books of the Tanakh , is my all time favourite. There are several online resources available to get one started and running on the ancient languages trail and I am not going to elaborate on these. Tip :- A good way to kick off is to access an online Interlinear Bible. The Tanakh ( Hebrew acronym for Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim ) is almost the same as the Old Testament with the order of the books being different.

Koine Greek has a ton of resources online and I had been dabbling in it for several years now, but decided to get serious only in the Covid era. The original NT was written in an unbroken flow style, with ancient manuscripts using both majuscule and minuscule Greek text. Again, studying Koine Greek is quite technical with a lot of grammar and associated stuff involved. The Gospel of John is my favourite book in the NT and am thrilled with the ancient Greek reading. [Greek — ΤΟ ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ ΑΓΙΟΝ ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ, the Gospel according to Saint John.]

Sanskrit is another ancient language that I have in my sights but learning Sanskrit is like fish taking to the water for me as I had studied it till the 8th standard in school. My scores were almost cent percent in the Sanskrit school tests. Also my mother tongue is Hindi and it is interwoven with Sanskrit. So, I am going easy on Sanskrit right now with the focus being on Hebrew and Koine Greek.

That is it from me then, hope we all beat this era and emerge victorious on the other side. Ciao!

Extended lockdown with some easing

This is a quick update on some of my experiences during the COVID19 pandemic.

My cycling is about to kick off, albeit in a very limited fashion, maybe just in and around my city locality. But, I can’t live without it. So, I will take whatever is on the plate.

We had a close shave after being indirectly exposed to a seriously ill COVID19 patient in a hospital nearby. A family member got very sick and we admitted them to the hospital when a severely ill patient in their Intensive Care Unit on another floor, developed COVID19 symptoms. The young man was immediately shifted to another COVID19 specialty hospital where he, unfortunately, passed away. Thereafter, we went into medical quarantine for 14 days. We are out of it and are OK.

The lockdown here in my city has been extended but they have divided the city into ‘Green, Orange, and Red’ zones. The red zones are under complete lockdown, orange ones have a partial lockdown while green zones are fully open. In any case, people are NOT permitted to loaf or loiter on the streets in any zone. The police stations here are becoming the biggest COVID19 casualties with police people serving in red zones regularly getting infected. This may pose a law and order issue in the future.

The good news is that people here are learning to cope and live with this infection. Is there any other way? Life goes on even in the worst of circumstances. Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst should be the motto.

 

PS:- Dated 9 May 2020

Post-COVID19 Era

This ‘thing’ — the global virus wave, struck my town out of the blue and it came in when I was planning and preparing to take off for a long bike tour. I am sure this is what most of us feel around the globe, like being punched in the belly. It helps little being cooped up in a 21-day lockdown, which may extend up to 90 days. Today is Day 4 of the 21-day lockdown here in my city of Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India.

I can still tinker with my bikes and make small rounds in our housing complex campus. But, that is about it. Going out is risky and I intend to stay put unless it is absolutely necessary.

To tell you the truth most experts think that this virus is here to stay and will keep hitting us in waves. I feel it’s going to change our lifestyle in many ways, some for the good. The noise, air, and water pollution levels are almost normal here, down from the very unhealthy peaks. Nature is also reclaiming spaces slowly but surely. I truly think we had botched up this planet in a bad way with our selfish materialistic pollution-spewing lifestyle. It all came back to us with a vengeance. Do we deserve this? Hard to say.

About this virus ….. Its highly infectious, even more than the flu. Some claim that the infection rate is explosive. It has a name — SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it spawns is called as COVID-19. It started off in a city in China called Wuhan. It is NOT the flu. The virus belongs to a different family. Symptoms are flu-like, but they can be quite severe. There are no clear patterns as to whom it strikes the hardest, but people in the 70+ age group seem to be the worst off. Fatality rates are highest in the elderly having multiple underlying issues. It’s likely to infect a lot of people around the globe, the virus vaccine will take about 18 months to be in the market, could be earlier. Till then, it’s going to be like being in the middle of a hurricane.

For cyclists like me, it’s hard. But, I have so many fond memories of my previous bike tours that I think I can bank on these through the tough times. It was the best time of my life, those tours. To tell you the truth many of those around me thought I was a bit cranky and off-world. ‘Why bike when you can drive?’  ‘This is a “foreigner” thing to do, why are you doing it?’ ‘It’s a waste unless you are getting some money for it.’ These were the usual remarks and queries. They didn’t think that soaking in the beauty of forests/villages, mountain streams and talking to people in far off remote places was worth it. I hope people change their minds if we make it out through this.

I will write a lot while trying to cope with this lockdown here. I do think that when we do emerge out of this maelstrom our planet will be more beautiful and lovely than the trash can that we had turned it into.

Pics and Videos from Panna-Khajuraho Tour

This section is a detailed pic and video part of the tour, also my rave/rant section. The tour was enjoyable and scenic with isolated forest sections being the best.

One of my favorite stopovers en route from Kanpur to Banda, near Bindki town is a small shack selling snacks. It has a tree nearby that houses dozens of owls. The old-timer farmer who runs it is an affable old man who appreciates the rigors of long haul cycling.

IMG_8577One of my favorite haunts about 5km. from Bindki and about 55 km. from Kanpur with the owl nest tree in the background

The above pic was taken on my scouting trips to check out the Banda route.

IMG_8589Rajpoot Dhaba (roadside food shack) 5 km. away from Ajaigarh en route to Panna

IMG_8591Hill climb route to Panna, the climb is lung sapping and the road is not good in some stretches

Panna hill road runs through dense forests having abundant wildlife, its advisable to negotiate it before sunset. There were signboards warning local villagers against killing leopards and deer. Tip to cyclists negotiating big cat infested forests: look for cattle, human tracks, if you find none try not to stop in those stretches.

IMG_8617Beniasagar Lake, Panna city

IMG_8619On the way to Khajuraho a few km. out of Panna

IMG_8620Bike battering road construction dirt diversion on the way to Khajuraho — often means bouncing on rocks and pebbles eating dust from passing vehicles. If you find a couple of these it could mean your freewheel and transmission lose a considerable portion of their life.

IMG_8625A signboard which will set the pulse rate of solo cyclists pacing, seen on isolated stretches of Panna Tiger Reserve

The Youtube video link below shows a steep downhill road section through Panna Tiger Reserve forests:

Panna to Khajuraho downhill Video Clip

IMG_8631Entry Gate to Pandav Water Fall

IMG_8638Narrow bridges spanning water streams with occasional heavy traffic, through Panna Tiger Reserve

Something that has always bugged me is the lack of traffic discipline on our state highways. Heavy trucks, SUV’s and fast cars try to overtake each other in single lane/double lane stretches often hogging the entire opposite side of the highways. This means that cyclists and two-wheeler riders are often at great risk. There are no speed restrictions even though speed limit signboards are there on the highways. What’s the point of putting up speed limit signboards if no one even notices them?

The entire Panna Tiger Reserve road stretch had speed limit signs of 20 or 30 kmph., but cars and trucks were zipping by at 60-80 kmph., oblivious of the dangers to wildlife. I did spot deer next to the road.

IMG_8640The Ken river boundary of Panna Tiger Reserve, beyond this are abundant human settlements

IMG_8642The ONLY cycle mechanic who can service/install gears and handle modern bike mechs in Khajuraho city, just ask around for Bindra and you will be guided to his shack. Khajuraho is a small place

IMG_8657The hidden jewel of Khajuraho — Jain temples, the pillars, and sculptures are ancient but the superstructure is modern

IMG_8661Speed kills — this is an old wreck which I have seen on my past several biking visits, about 11 km. from Mahoba; carcasses of broken up vehicles, broken glass line up our highways as people are intent on not observing safety while driving; according to locals an entire family was wiped out in this accident

IMG_8671Bridge on Betwa river, one enters Hamirpur town via this bridge, the bridge is narrow and has occasional traffic snarls

Youtube video link below of the Betwa river bridge entrance:

Betwa River Bridge Entrance Video Clip

 

IMG_8668Cold and foggy morning on the way to Kanpur, starting from Bharua Sumerpur, I had put on my safety lights and reflective jacket for the same

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Panna-Khajuraho tour

I had been planning a trip into interior Bundelkhand for some time. Bundelkhand is a rural, hilly forest region that encompasses the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The region is dry and there is the issue of water scarcity. However, it has mesmerizing ancient forts and temples including scenic forests and hills. The region had a dicey reputation till a few years back with dacoits and armed robbers ruling the roost, but all this has changed now.

My plan was to kick off the tour from Kanpur, on to Banda — Ajaigarh — Panna and Khajuraho, then back from the same route. The load was about 25 Kg., including winter wear and clothing, bicycle spares and water. It gets cold in Bundelkhand around this time with temperatures hovering around 5 degrees Celcius. I had already done some previous scouting on my MTB up till Bindki which is almost midway between Banda and Kanpur. However, I had to change the return plan due to a bad road stretch between Naraini and Panna. The total tour distance was about 600 km.

Route Map Kanpur-Panna-Kanpur

The tour started on 19th December 2019, around 6:30 am from Kanpur and it was only by 7:30 pm that I could manage to reach Banda. The reason was a constant play in my left pedal arm which I discovered was due to the screw fastening the pedal arm to the Bottom Bracket turning loose. I had to constantly dismount and tighten it. Due to this, I decided to stay in Banda for one more day and work on the issue, also tuning my rear derailleur in the process. Banda is quite similar to dusty, congested towns in North India with poor traffic management. I would like to point out that traffic in my own city of Kanpur is quite bad too. Gear assembly/tuning bicycle mechanics are not available in Banda so make sure that you carry your own spares and stuff.

IMG_8580                            On the way to Banda, after crossing Bindki town

IMG_8581                                The Yamuna bridge on the way to Banda

Beyond the Yamuna river lies the ‘real’ Bundelkhand and one gets that feel while cycling towards Banda as green vegetation gives way to thorny bushes and brambles. Cyclists need to be careful not to stray too close to the road edges as dry twigs with big thorns lie scattered around the edges. Another disconcerting thing that I did notice in interior Bundelkhand was dead cattle lying by the roadside, this is often due to severe cold and the lack of fodder in the dry belt.

My onward leg from Banda started on the 21st of December, 5:00 am and I rode my MTB in pitch darkness with occasional heavy truck traffic towards Naraini. I deliberately chose not to use my bike safety lights, since this was a backwater rural road segment and I did not want to stick out like a sore thumb. This is also the reason that I do not use a helmet. The entire 35 km. stretch does not have street lighting. The ride was uneventful except for a lonely stretch where I was chased on the roadside by a skulk of foxes. That event was surreal, I never knew that foxes could be so aggressive. It was sunlight by about 6:00 am and I took it easy from thereon.

IMG_8585                              Tea break at about 7:00 am., 20 km. from Naraini

Proceeding from Naraini to Ajaigarh on the way to Panna, my bike’s left pedal arm gave away entirely, and I had to spend some time fixing it back. This and the fact that the road to Ajaigarh was single lane and rough, cut down my speed considerably. I took frequent stops and was seriously contemplating ditching the entire tour by loading my bike on a bus back to Banda. The pedal arm held on but I had issues with my front derailleur while tacking the steep and strenuous climb to Panna, gaining an elevation of almost 1500 feet in 30 km., the hill road was very bad in certain segments and I had to dismount to negotiate these.

IMG_8587                                           On the way to Ajaigarh

Arriving in Panna by about 5 pm. I went straight to Ashish Lodge next to the Panna bus stand and was given a cozy room to stretch out in.

IMG_8615                                            Room in Ashish Lodge, Panna

Panna is a nice hilltop town with Panna Tiger Reserve being the main attraction. The road to Khajuraho leads through the Reserve area. Panna does have a decent bicycle repair shop where I bought a new Bottom Bracket set in case mine gave away.

Extending my stay in Panna, I worked on my front derailleur and cleaned up the clogged transmission, moving out on the 23rd morning by about 7 am towards Khajuraho, 46 km. away. The trip was mostly downhill and I was constantly braking negotiating the hairpin turns, passing Pandava falls and Mandla gate of the Tiger Reserve. The entire stretch has warning signboards about big cats and wildlife. The road is an absolute no go after 8:30 pm till 4:30 am.

IMG_8627            Through the Tiger Reserve with a Tiger Signboard about 50 feet away

IMG_8633Feeding wild monkeys is a punishable offense but the monkeys do line up roadsides implying that people have been doing otherwise.

I did stop to enquire about booking a seat on a jeep safari into Panna Tiger Reserve and was pleasantly surprised to find a fellow biker from Kanpur on a family car tour to Panna. We had a nice chat before parting ways, I reached Khajuraho about 4 pm, this being my second bike trip to the city. The next day I took off to Pandava Falls about 35 km. from Panna again in the Reserve area. The falls are scenic and have a heavy tourist footfall. But, it was more about the bike trip through the Reserve that appealed to me. The 24th morning was cold and rainy.

IMG_8643                  Cold and rainy starting off from Khajuraho to Pandava Falls

IMG_8645                                               On the way to the Falls

 

IMG_8648                                                 Pandava Falls, Panna

Extending my stay in Khajuraho, I took up lodging on the outskirts of Khajuraho just to soak in the village air. As luck would have it, I did manage to sort out all my bike front and rear derailleur issues and front disc alignment taking off on the 26th December early morning at 6:00 am. for Mahoba. Unfortunately, it was a solar eclipse and a dense fog shrouded the whole region with the mist so thick that my gear and myself were soaking in it.

IMG_8660                       On the way to Mahoba via Chhatarpur, visibility about 50 feet

Lodging up in Mahoba for the night, I took off for Bharua Sumerpur early morning and lodged up there for the night, reaching my residence in Kanpur on the 28th December 2019, by about 6 pm.

More pics and video about this tour in another post as I feel it would have unnecessarily lengthened this post. DO visit the detailed pic/video section of this tour too. Happy riding !!