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Of temples and travel bugs

MY UNDERSTANDING WAS that the oldest article that THE WEEK carried about the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha was what Senior Correspondent Maria Abraham wrote in the issue dated December 6, 1992. It was commissioned to mark the 34-day-long centenary celebration of Yogiji Maharaj, and was published within a month of the inauguration of the Gandhinagar Akshardham. But I might be wrong.


When Senior Subeditor Anirudha Karindalam met Brahmavihari Swami, who heads the Swaminarayan Sanstha’s international operations, the monk asked him about T.V.R. Shenoy, former editor of THE WEEK. Brahmavihari Swami said that Shenoy had interviewed him after his initiation on April 12, 1981, by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. I did a quick check before writing this letter, but could not place it. Considering that THE WEEK was born only in December 1982, the interview could have appeared in the Malayala Manorama newspaper.


So, this cover is a continuation of our coverage of the very committed Swaminarayan Sanstha and its latest milestone in the Middle East, the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi. Karindalam travelled to the UAE in October as the finishing touches to the temple were being put. Our article is comprehensive, with guest articles by Mahant Swami Maharaj, Ambassador to the UAE Sunjay Sudhir and scientist-author Arun Tiwari. In addition to the interview with Brahmavihari Swami, we were granted an interview with Minister of State Ahmed Bin Ali Al Sayegh. My thanks to the minister and the swami for speaking to us.


We also have voices from the UAE: Entrepreneurs Vinay Varma, Adeeb Ahamed and Alisha Moopen, doctor Zulekha Daud and pilot Ramandeep Oberoi.


In @leisure we have the new Indian restaurant rankings devised by journalist Vir Sanghvi and entrepreneur Sameer Sain. In keeping with what many media houses overseas do, the duo has kept the names of food hunters and the jury confidential. Special Correspondent Anjuly Mathai has looked at the top three restaurants on the list—Farmlore from Bengaluru, Indian Accent in Delhi, and Avartana in Chennai.


Another interesting read is about T.N. Suresh Kumar, a former flight director with ISRO who is a globetrotter, literally. He is ticking off country after country from his bucket list and has even been to the edge of space. Considering that I, too, have been infected by the travel bug, I can fully appreciate Kumar’s energy that comes through in the article written by Principal Correspondent Abhinav Singh.


Long ago, I shared on this page how I set off to Malaysia immediately after my school days. During those days, travellers on the lowest class of ticket did not need the Reserve Bank of India’s ‘P form’. So, I booked the cheapest passage available on a steamer and set out. Naturally, we got the worst berths. The roll had to be felt to be believed. Very few people could keep any food down. I lived on orange juice and Marie biscuits for five days. By the time I landed in Penang, I could barely stand. But hey, I was in Malaysia!


The travel bug makes one do these things and more.