Friday, May 11, 2007

Fragile

I'm touching documents made in 1948. These were written a lifetime ago. Even my father wasn't born until one year later. Somehow they make the 22-1/2 years of my life seem insignificant. Even irrelevant!

I thought I exhibited the most care and gentleness when I was tending to my Jimmy's wounds. But now I realize I am capable of even more tenderness.

Today I got my first taste of what it feels to hold and touch something old and valuable. Wonder how the Google guys felt when they were working on digitizing all those really ancient books.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

It Happened in India

That's the name of Kishore Biyani's autobiography.

Kishore who? For the ignorant ones (like me, previously) he's the guy behind Pantaloon, Big Bazaar, Future Bazaar and the Future Group. Impressive portfolio once you look him up. So as not to deprive him of his due credit, Dipayan Baishya is the co-author.

How did I stumble upon this? I got a promotional offer announcement by email from FutureBazaar, since I had bought something online from them a long time ago. It said that the first 100 buyers of the book would get a personally autographed copy. So I decided to look the guy up. And then I found out that he's the guy behind Pantaloon and Big Bazaar.

Ok... I've read books about American entrepreneurs -- The Google Story, Warren Buffett - The Making of an American Capitalist. I really enjoyed reading both these books and they left me inspired and dying to do something myself for the sheer joy of doing it. Now a book about an indigenous Indian entrepreneur!? This is something I gotta see. Plus... I liked the idea of owning a personally autographed autobiography! Plus dirt cheap price - 99 bucks. I had to make this purchase.

I'm done reading over half way through the book. Gotta admit it's not as big in scale as the story of the Google guys or Warren Buffett - my heroes, whom I look upon as demi-gods. But this is something that's happened close to home and something that I can witness first hand too. Exactly why I liked The Google Story and Warren Buffet - I could verify and actually experience the things that were being written about. I hate shopping and detest going out to buy anything. Prefer to be done with it online on the occasions where I have no choice. But now I'm tempted to pay a visit to a local Big Bazaar, only to live the things the author writes about.

One particular aspect of the book that I truly appreciated, is that the story is not a monotonous monologue. It is interspersed with several articles and letters / testimonies of the people with whom Kishore Biyani has worked with. And these pieces aren't made to stand out - seeming like appendages - but actually contribute to the narration of the tale. Immaterial of whether they have been printed with the original words of their respective authors, or edited to suit the book, these letters / testimonies / clippings of newspaper articles blend seamlessly and contribute to the flow of the story. KB picks up at exactly the point where the quotation leaves you. This concept has appealed to me very much.

The Google Story and Buffett's biography, too, did quote things that people close to the subject(s) said, but they were usually limited to a one-liner or two-liners and didn't represent that person's complete perspective. But the format in this book paints a more complete picture and represents the views of KB's associates in a better manner. Of course all the testimonials are from supporters, or former non-believers who've now turned believers, and has none from existing critics. However, KB frequently reminds the reader of the obstacles he faced and the mistakes he committed and learnt from. Therefore it's not all rosy, but it's not too negative either.

Overall, so far, it's made for good reading.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

U.G.

While browsing in our club library, I picked up a book because it bore the name of Mahesh Bhatt - the famed film director. I found it surprizing that the man had sufficient skills to write a book. Little did I know then that he regularly publishes in many a newspaper. My presumptuous self was suitably put back in place.

Another reason I found for self-amusement was the sudden and increasing appearance of the name U.G. in the most (un)likely places.

1) There's an old book about conversations with U.G. which I have placed upright in my bureau - I'm not sure whether it belongs to my dad or his grandad or anyone else, but for all practical purposes I call it my dad's . I once picked it up and made an attempt to read it. I didn't know who U.G. was. I asked mom. She said he's one of India's greatest contemporary thinkers. Even then I didn't find enough motivation to carry on. I replaced it in the place I'd created for it.

2) Months later, I was randomly downloading videos and somehow landed up at a web-site where the author/owner/interviewer has interviewed many a thinker/philosopher of our time. There I ended up reading a transcript of an interview with U.G. At the end of it, when I turned off my computer and turned to my bed, my impression of U.G. was that he was a pompous man begging for attention by indulging in gimmicks such as denying all conventional thoughts and theories.

3) On 18-Mar-2007 I picked up a book only because I recognized the author Mahesh Bhatt and it turned out to be a biography of U.G. One of my first thoughts was "Why would someone as distinguished as Mahesh Bhatt bother writing a biography of someone like U.G.? I've gotta find this one out."

So there I was finally reading about U.G. To say that I approached U.G. with an open mind would be wholly untrue. The intention with which I started out was to discover and evaluate for myself whether this man was worth his salt. However I can say that I started out with clean slate - free from all prior (factual) knowledge, except my own thoughts.

Mahesh Bhatt with his anti-guruMahesh Bhatt with his anti-guru


Through Mahesh Bhatt's writings, I found U.G. to be an intriguing personality. Reading Mahesh Bhatt quoting U.G., I realized that I had slowly, unknowingly fallen into the trap of holding increasingly strengthening views/beliefs which were progressively tending towards inflexibility. Where did my questioning disappear? Why has the current gradually reduced in its intensity? I'm becoming an adult - one with preconceived notions/stands. Stop! Revert to a previous checkpoint - one where you still had immense capacity to question anything and everything. Thanks U.G.! Thanks Mahesh!

Mahesh Bhatt dedicates a whole chapter to U.G.'s "Death experience". I read it with interest. Here for the first time I see documented evidence that people feel electrically charged. You can see that I blogged about a similar recurring experience in my own life here. The observant reader will not fail to note the date of the post. Another amazing coincidence - one of the many that constantly pop their heads at frequent intervals!

You go through a certain experience. You think you're the only one because you've not heard anyone else in your circle mention it. Finally you summon up the will to face and put up with their sniggers and share it with them. They don't disappoint you with their reactions! Towards the end of the 'discussion' you lose your ability to take more of it and laugh saying "Well... What can I say! I'm a freak of nature!", thereby effectively ending it. Then you unexpectedly read a piece where someone has documented a similar experience and you say "Okay... it's something at least. Guess I'm not the only freak." This kinda frees you of the implicit burden that comes with being the sole bearer of a certain title - good or bad, it's your reputation at stake out there... and at all times!

Well... when the above happens and the other person is someone of U.G.'s stature (a great Indian thinker), one should be allowed a little leeway and forgiven if one takes an ever-so-minuscule moment to be the one who sniggers. For it definitely can't last longer than that. The description of the phenomenon/incident is immediately followed by a quote from U.G. where he says he doesn't want to elaborate on the experience, for he fears others who would like to share the limelight of his 'greatness' would cook up similar experiences and stake claim for 'greatness'.

You just can't escape the feeling of having received an unexpected blow in your stomach. But... Hey! It still doesn't negate the occurrence of the phenomenon in my life! I can prove it. But... Dude, what're you trying to prove? To whom? Why? And then... Yeah, I have no need to prove anything to anyone. It's not of much consequence anyways. So... Relapse into your 'conservation of energy' mode. Hmmm... There! The matter's settled.

I read the whole book with interest. It didn't impress anything permanent upon me. It didn't make me start believing in something new - a belief I didn't hold before. It just reinforced in me the thought that there's nothing wrong in my questioning of things. If I sit down for a more detailed examination of what U.G. said and practiced, I'm certain that I can find many a contradiction in his words and deeds. But I have neither the inclination nor the motivation for that now. Maybe at a later date... For now I'm just happy to be reminded that it's ok to question all things high and sundry.

Today I Stumble-d upon this site which tells me that U.G. died less than a month ago on 22-Mar-2007. I read the news with mixed emotions. Mahesh Bhatt's biography isn't complete. In the narrative on U.G.'s life, Mahesh Bhatt leaves us at the point in U.G.'s life where all the events Mahesh has meticulously documented are in the past. It is also the point where he returns to India, having stayed a month with U.G. for the sole purpose of writing this biography. I knew U.G. had died recently. Maybe within the last year, I had presumed.

I found this obituary which gives a fair account of U.G.'s life, also summarizing everything that Mahesh Bhatt has written in his biography.

To say that I escaped unscathed from all or any influence from U.G.'s thoughts/ideas/'teachings' would be a BIG lie. I do not wholly subscribe to his ideas. I perceive the existence of flaws in his logic, intuitively, even though I cannot substantiate the claim. As I said, I'm not in a mood serious enough to delve into those areas at the moment. If I were a true follower, then I would say there's nothing to be gained by that anyway. Even then I wouldn't be a true follower, for how can one follow a teacher who had NO teaching!

Needless to say, the sense of intrigue that I started out with persists. I shall continue to look up and read about U.G. Another obsession in the making? Maybe. Either way... How does it matter?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tame Elephant Bathing



Date: 25-March-2007

Playful elephant @ NagarhoLe National Park



Date: 24-March-2007

The Experience

Been in a situation wherein your every thought and every action pertains only to the 'now'... where you hear sounds you can identify, but the implications are unknown... where all the knowledge accumulated / driven into your brain tell you to act in a certain way... but your instinct or mind or 'free will' or 'stubborn self' directs you not to rely on that second-hand 'acquired' knowledge... you are forced to take a fresh look, thinking things through, starting over from a clean slate... where your 'knowledge' tells you, you ought to run... your rational brain tells you, you ought to feel fear... your observant self casually notes, there's no adrenaline-rush in my body... your curiosity tempts you to maintain status quo and see what's in store... your senses are so alert, it seems you've suddenly discovered you possess powers far greater than you ever imagined in your whole life this far... where you are free to make any decision you want... you are on your own... where you become aware of your existence?

I have!

It happened somewhere in the middle of NagarhoLe forest on Saturday 24-Mar-2007. It was the most unique and pleasurable sensation I've felt.

Maybe I was in danger. Maybe not. Maybe it was just a play of my wild imagination. Maybe I'm just plain lucky. Or far stupider than I give myself credit for.

But... the experience was worth every moment.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Charged ! %^@$*#`~

I am a Charged individual.

I never knew there were so many connotations of the word 'charged' until I looked it up just before writing this post. For example,

charge (chärj)

v. charged, charg·ing, charg·es

v.tr.

1.

a. To load to capacity; fill: charge a furnace with coal.

b. To saturate; impregnate: The atmosphere was charged with tension.

2. To load (a gun or other firearm) with a quantity of explosive: charged the musket with powder.

3. To instruct or urge authoritatively; command: charged her not to reveal the source of information.

4. To make a claim of wrongdoing against; accuse or blame: The police charged him with car theft. Critics charged the writer with a lack of originality.

5. To put the blame for; attribute or impute: charged the accident to the driver's inexperience.

6. Electricity

a. To cause formation of a net electric charge on or in (a conductor, for example).

b. To energize (a storage battery) by passing current through it in the direction opposite to discharge.

7. To excite; rouse: a speaker who knows how to charge up a crowd.

v.intr.

1. To rush forward in or as if in a violent attack: dogs trained to charge at intruders; children charging through the house.


Synonyms: charge, imbue, impregnate, permeate, pervade, saturate, suffuse
These verbs mean to cause to be filled with a particular mood or tone: an atmosphere charged with excitement; poetry imbued with lyricism; a spirit impregnated with lofty ideals; optimism that permeates a group; letters pervaded with gloom; a play saturated with imagination; a heart suffused with love..

Adj.

1.

charged - of a particle or body or system; having a net amount of positive or negative electric charge; "charged particles"; "a charged battery"

2.

charged - fraught with great emotion; "an atmosphere charged with excitement"; "an emotionally charged speech"

4.

charged - capable of producing violent emotion or arousing controversy; "the highly charged issue of abortion"

You will find the complete list of connotations of 'charged' at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dict.asp?Word=charged.

‘Complete list’? Is there more? Of course! J Anyways… the meaning I’d like to dwell on just now is Definition 6a. (Yeah… I can’t escape the influence of my professional life!) (Oh, btw… using parenthesis is a bad idea, I read somewhere, since it denotes that the writer is unable to bring about a logical connection / flow between ideas. Seriously… does anybody care?!)

So… now that you know what I’m talking about… I can see that big grin beginning to light your face (didn’t I just mention electricity? :D) But… hold your horses! I speaketh the truth; the whole and naked truth; and nothing but the truth: so goD save you… that is, if HE Exists!

(Ellipsis, Parenthesis, Smilies, Bangs, Old English words, wrong CaPiTaLiZatiOn, bare (un)truths, wild and atheist claims… all in the same para. Wow! Broken ever so many rules of Grammar... and some more! Ain’t that simply LOVE-LY?)

Cutting a long story short… Coming straight down to the point… To hammer the nail bang! on its head… I’m electrically charged.

Now, don’t you scoff at me! I have witnesses – people who at first scoffed just like you, but are now Believers. ‘Who are these people?!’ you say? They are the ones who’ve seen and felt "The Spark". I’m not kidding! Many a time have I seen a spark jump right across the tiny space between my skin and some surface or the other person’s skin. And, it always occurs at the most unexpected of times.

My team-mate (& friend, & colleague, & companion, & fellow-sufferer – I can’t find ONE word that wholly and aptly describes these individuals) and I are working together at one desk. I suddenly put out my hand to grab the mouse before he gets to it and lo! There’s a spark jumping from one end of a strand of hair standing at attention on some part of my hand and one placid strand of hair on his. I pretend I saw nothing, felt nothing and try to carry on. But he recoils instantly and ‘Ouch! Did you feel that?’

‘What?’ I fix him with the most innocent look that I can manage. (Actually I believe I’m a good actor. Or is it actress? whatever!)

‘I got a shock! From you!’ He can’t believe it: he won’t believe it; he doesn’t want to believe it; but he HAS to believe it.

As I watch the struggle unfolding on his face I’m tempted to say, ‘See… NOW do you believe me?’ Instead, I say ‘Oh! Okay...’ averting my eyes, trying to convey an impression that the conversation’s ended. ‘Anyways… as I was saying… shouldn’t we be doing it like…’ I continue.

But he’s not listening to me. I know that. He’s staring at me stupidly, unable to believe that, for once (maybe, just this once), I wasn’t speaking ‘off the cuff’ when I first told him about this. He’s grudgingly turning into a Believer.

If I show the slightest interest to discuss the topic with him now, I’d have broken the Magic of the Moment. I let his innumerable questions hang in the air (a “charged” atmosphere… if you will). He’ll hit me with them some day, when he feels he has the right audience. I better watch out and be prepared so as not to appear a moron in front of those morons. But, at least, for now… I have one more Believer!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A simple hobby

I've found myself a new hobby.

It's really simple and hardly costs you anything. But instant gratification and satisfaction's guaranteed!



Pre-requisites:

1) A sim-card with a great (read CHEAP) SMS-offer

2) a pesky, neurotic, slightly-psychopathic brother

No doubt, except for the few unfortunate, all of us are blessed with these.



Method:

1) Wait until your brother uses up all his free messages for the day.
Note - You could help speed up this step by egging him on.

2) Then, you gloat thusly -- "Haha! See... I told you I have a better offer on my sim! :D"

3) Next, you offer your sim-card in an act of great sibling-affection - but only for a short while.
Attention- The duration of sim-loan must be large enough to allow him time to get into mischief, but short enough to not let him complete.

4) Now, go and DEMAND All That Rightfully Belongs to YOU.
Note- The objective can be achieved with just your sim-card in this case. This will also ensure that you don't spend too much time on this activity.

5) Return to your sanctuary; replace the sim in your phone

6) Wait for a few minutes to receive the Residual Messages (from your brother's conversations).
Note- Obviously you don't recognize the sender's number, nor they yours.... 'coz if they're his friends, they'd know he's signed off and not bother messaging his older sibling. So, rest assured that he's reliably delivered his goods.

6) You reply thusly -- "Who're you?"
Note- In 9 out of 10 cases, you'll get a reply saying "Who's this?"

7) Aha! Now you're FREE to express yourself in whatever way you want.
You don't know the person at the other end, nor does s/he know you.
So have a BALL!
Remember- At no cost, and at no point, will you reveal your true identity.

Note- For an enhanced dose of self-satisfaction and pride, you could be as witty or as nasty or as good-ly as you have always never wanted to be in your real life.

8) When you've had enough, sign off with a polite 'good day!' or 'gn'.
Note- Ignore all pleas; reply no more.

9) Sit back and enjoy.
You've done a great deed today - you've got someone THINKING.



Simple, ain't it?



P.S. Drop me a line about your results.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sued for $1 billion

Have been reading articles about the $1 billion suit. Brings back a question that's been repeatedly playing in my mind...

Is it legal for any entity to profit by showcasing another’s work, when the entity from whom the material originates gains nothing from it?

In what scenarios is it perfectly legal? When's it sketchy? When's it a definite no-no?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Omniscient Google - Part 2

Google is one of my obsessions.

Anything about Google interests me - be it good or bad. In one of my earlier posts, Omniscient Google - Doesn't it bother you?, I expressed some of my concerns.

Of late, I'm reading 'The Search - How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture'. J.Battelle lends words to my thoughts when he writes thus...



"In essence, we have taken much of our once-ephemeral and quotidian lives - our daily habits of whom we talk to, what we look for, what we buy - and made those actions eternal. It is as if each of us, every day, is tracing a picture of Joycean complexity - recording the mundane and extraordinary course of our lives - via our interactions with the Internet, be they through our personal computers, our telephones, or our music players, and our interactions with businesses, either online or in the store ...
...
... Through companies likes Google and the results they serve, an individual's digital identity is immortalized and can be retrieved upon demand. ...
...
As we move our data to the servers at Amazon.com, Hotmail.com, Yahoo.com, and Gmail.com, we are making an implicit bargain, one that the public at large is either entirely content with, or, more likely, one that most have not taken much to heart.

That bargain is this: we trust you to not do evil things with our information. We trust that you will keep it secure, free from unlawful government or private search and seizure, and under our control at all times. We understand that you might use our data in aggregate to provide us better and more useful services, but we trust that you will not identify individuals personally through our data, not use our personal data in a manner that would violate our own sense of privacy and freedom.

That's a pretty large helping of trust
we're asking companies to ladle onto their corporate plate. And I'm not sure either we or they are entirely sure what to do with the implication of such a transfer."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

River Tern Lodge -- Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

Over the weekend, six of us college friends had been to Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and stayed overnight at the River Tern Jungle Lodge, which is about 4 kms away from the sanctuary. The lodge pampers your senses with both man-made luxury and the scenic beauty of the Bhadra river on whose banks it is built. Each cottage (named after a bird species) overlooks the river and offers a soothing view of the river which lulls you with the sound it makes as it constantly cleanses the rocks that line its banks. In the pitch dark and deathly silence of the night - when the moon is nowhere to be seen and all the tiny noisome creatures seem asleep - the sound of River Bhadra's gentle waves lapping the surface of the smooth-worn rocks seems no less than that of angry sea-waves crashing and tearing into the rocks that dare to offer the slightest resistance in their paths. At once it is both serene and disturbing, depending on your thoughts and moods.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Omniscient Google - Doesn't it bother you?

Sometimes I worry about Google. It knows close to everything about me ever since I've switched to Gmail exclusively for all my emails and also use Orkut, Blogger, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. I don't know how useful one individual's information is to Google. If I had just as much information about any one person - friend / foe / stranger - I can't estimate it's worth and don't know how I would use it either. Yet, the fact remains that Google still has a major portion of the dope on my life. And that's quite unsettling!

--
------------------------------------
It is the mark of an educated mind
to be able to entertain a thought
without accepting it.

-- Aristotle
------------------------------------

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Picture Perfect


Road @ View Point, Dharamshala, originally uploaded by dogz_mn.

This picture has it all - snow capped mountains, clear blue sky, winding mountain road, nature's brilliant display of colours in the vegetation and man's small stature in comparison.

I'm proud to say that it was me behind the camera and I managed to capture this slice of the great scheme of events unwinding all around us.

Friday, January 26, 2007

NICE lake

Directions to reach Agara Lake

Agara lake, near BMIC NICE road connecting Kanakpura road and Mysore road.

Agara Lake - a silent, serene place

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dalhousie Winter Trekking Expedition - Group DW_10

This blog is an excerpt from a letter to a favourite aunt.

Hi N,

Sorry for the late reply. Yeah.. it's back to the routine now.

... ...

The trip was one Biiiiiiiig story. So stop and take a break now if you want :)

Someone first told me about such a trek when I was still in Cisco. First thing I did after joining EMC was to look it up and enrol into YHAI. Then I convinced Sh and she readily accepted. We set out on 27th Dec and returned on 7th Jan (early morn).


Nothing was ready until 26th night and we had a huge list of things that we had to buy. Thankfully S aunty lent me all her gear - thermals, gloves, hunter shoes etc. So I just came home and dumped everything into a backpack and a large bag. Next morn I realized the backpack didn't have any straps and went to get that fixed early in the morn, coz flight was at noon. But meanwhile SpiceJet called and said the flight's PREPONED (ever heard of that??) by 1.5 hrs. Damn! We somehow still reached in time - only to find that we had to wait 2.5 hrs before we left. Then too we almost missed boarding the flight 'coz I was too engrossed in solving that day's Sudoku :)

Uneventful flight. Reached Delhi. Auto / Taxi guys quoted exorbitant rates. Took a cab to some place and got off so we could take the Metro. Loved that ride - but it was over in just 2 mins and we had reached our destination (Old Delhi station). Thanks to SpiceJet we were starving. So we ate at some local hotel and food tasted like heaven.

We were almost 2 hours early and waiting for our train at the platform. Then on a hunch we called Bangalore and had our friend check the train timings and station. He called back in 15 min and said we were supposed to be at New Delhi station. We barely had enough time. But thanks to Metro we got to the station just in time. Train took off on time and we slept peacefully through the night. But Delhi's suffering from smog due to cold weather. So our train reached Pathankot 5 hrs late and it was noon.

There we took a taxi to Dalhousie. Ak, An, Nil & Nit, who had traveled with us in the train, carpooled with us. We had a 4 hr journey and reached Youth Hostel base camp. But these guys were to start their trek a day before us. So we got our batch changed and preponed everything by a day.

Next day (day 3) they took us for an acclimatization walk and made us carry dummy load in our backpacks. This gave us time to get to know our group. They have a packed scheduled and are very particular about maintaining it. They feed you decent food (not good) and liquids from time to time.

Day 4 we set out on the actual trek. We were given a ceremonial sendoff by the next group. This is also part of the schedule and every group gives the sendoff to the previous team (each day about 50 ppl leave from base camp).

Flag-off Ceremony @ Base Camp, Dalhousie

We covered 8 kms and ascended 4000 ft and reached the highest point called Kalatop (10000 ft). The movie 1942 A Love Story is said to have been shot here. On the way I saw snow for the first time. This was the only place where there was snow. Although we reached before 5, the sun had begun to set. It was great to see the snow changing colours in the mountains in the distance. It was close to freezing. Nobody knew the exact temp but the localites said it reached 2 degree Centigrade. That's the coldest weather that I've ever been in. It was great there! I was enjoying it. But Sh was freezing and struggled through the night. Everyone was forced to sleep by 8pm that day. Though hyper, I somehow managed to sleep that early.

View @ Kalatop - 1


View @ Kalatop - 2

Next morn (day 5), we set out to this plain called Khajjiar (12 kms). First we descend through the forested mountains and then reach a stream. There the localites would have reached before you and have steaming tea and Maggi noodles ready for your lunch. From then on you climb quite a bit. It's almost a 60 degree slope most of the time.

Enroute to Khajjiar

This was the toughest part of the trek, although the whole trek is actually quite an easy one. And then you reach this plain (Khajjiar). We went horse riding around that plain. It's about 1.5 kms and I loved that part. We got photographed with Kashmiri dress. I wanted to send those pics too - coz we looked so funny - but I'm yet to get them. It was 31st and we persuaded our camp leader to organize something and let us stay up for New Year. He was a damn nice chap and borrowed a music system from the neighbouring hotel for Rs. 300. we were 38 in our group (including 11 females) and each contributed 10 bucks for New Year celeb :) Someone figured out how to connect an i-pod to those speakers and then there was music and dancing till midnight. It was fun - seemed like we were on cloud # 9 literally, coz there was fog as well.

Night-out or not, schedule is schedule. So we're off next morning (day 6), according to schedule. It was just a downward slope throughout. But the track here is not so firm, but full of loose stones. I had taken my regular shoes and struggled at these spots (75% of the way) 'coz I kept slipping. However the forest and the scenery was breathtaking.

Broken bridge over stream, enroute to Chamba

For lunch we reached the base of the mountain range, next to another stream.Then it was a 4km walk along winding mountain roads. Thoroughly enjoyed that as well, since it was easy and you could just keep looking around. Was amazed that on those remote mountains the quality of the roads is far better than most in Bangalore. Finally we reached the camp at Chamba.

Map of Himachal Pradesh

Chamba is a major district in Himachal. Basically it's a set of closely located villages, which seem quite far if you use the roads only, but there are innumerable shortcuts and connecting steps along the mountain. Apparently Chamba is famous for its leather footwear. But the market has very few leather shoes shops.

The market was 4 kms away, but using the shortcut it was supposed to be 2 kms. So we went and kept asking for the shortcut and following the directions. Finally after 4 kms we reached the market place, and it was already dark and much colder than we had expected. We had hot jilebis in some arbit shop - by this time we had lost all care for cleanliness. It was good so we ordered more to carry back to camp, but finished it on the way only. Came back to camp half an hour after the time limit the camp leader had set, expecting some scene. Nothing! Dinner and the usual routine. Everyone was preparing to go to bed at 10. Then this Chennai group of 4 guys came after feasting on chicken (YHAI gives only veg) in some local restaurant. The camp leader (also the co-director of the trek) created a racket. All the guys were ready to pack up and leave with those 4, if he threw them out. Disappointment again! :(

Next morning (day 7), a bus came to the camp and we boarded it and left for Dalhousie. The trekking was over and only after boarding the bus did I realize it. It stops mid-way at a very scenic spot where everybody got off and took pics. One man whom the entire group had mockingly nicknamed "Sweety uncle" (the only other person from Blore), climbed up a hill to take pics and many of us climbed onto the bus's roof (he considered himself to be an ace photographer, whereas I had taught him how to use a digicam at base camp in Dalhousie). He took a few snaps of us as well. Then the bus left and I got in, expecting the others to follow 'coz the group leader was throwing his weight around. They didn't turn up and I couldn't bear the fact that I wasn't on top. Then I realized that Sweety uncle wasn't around and told some ppl. Everyone too happy to do anything about it :) The next time the bus halted for a few seconds, I was back on top. Then I realized he wasn't there either and we had a good laugh. We sat up there singing songs and I stood on top of a moving bus, with a deep valley on one side. It was an exhilarating experience, but the others worried too much and forced me to sit down. 10 min later the bus stopped and we started stopping every bus and asking if they had picked him up. This was the best part of the trip! Everyone was laughing so hard. Finally after 15 min, Sweety uncle caught up with us and went in. At the next halt, he climbed up and joined us :( The guys relentlessly mocked him and sang songs with words replaced with "Sweety". Poor fellow - he still didn't get it :D

Finally we reached base camp. The field director was waiting for us and welcomed us back. We immediately picked up our luggage, returned the borrowed stuff. There was a small ceremony in which everyone was awarded a certificate. Then we had a massive photo session and dispersed.

Group DW_10 @ Base Camp, Dalhousie

Meanwhile Nil and Nit (2 of the 4 who were with us from the train) had halted a bus going to Dharamshala. The bus waited for us for 15 min totally :) Another 60-yr-old man from Chennai, R uncle, the oldest member in our trek was also with us. So the 5 of us went to Dharamshala. the journey was 5 hrs and we reached at sunset. So we just checked into a hotel and went and had good food for the first time after reaching Dalhousie.

Next day (day 8) we went site-seeing together in a Qualis. Dharamshala is where the Dalai Lama lives. So there is a big temple and his residence, which is the main attraction.

McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala


View Point, Dharamshala


View from Kangra Fort, Dharamshala

There are a couple of view points, a fort, an army memorial and a Jwalamukhi temple (about 20 kms away) and the Dalai Lama's summer palace. Jwalamukhi temple is so called because it is said to have this fire which was burning naturally for years together but is now sustained by the priests. I had expected something big, but this was disappointment. There is a small flame which you can hardly see, but many other flames which appear blue - I'm sure they're all gas flames. We couldn't see the summer palace coz it was too late and it had closed.

Next morn(day 8), Nil and Nit left for home. Sh, myself & R uncle took a bus by noon to Pathankot. We reached in the evening and killed time till our train arrived. Then the 2 of us got in and I fell asleep immediately. Uncle stayed on in Pathankot for the night and had plans to visit many more places, and would return to Chennai on Jan 31 (he's still not come back).

We reached Delhi in the morning (day 9) and immediately went to the Delhi YHAI. We reached at 9 and the guy there said a bus that would take us on a Delhi tour arrives at 9.30. We completed all the formalities, checked in with all our luggage, freshened up, had breakfast and were ready to leave. I can't believe we managed all that in 30 min :) I guess that's the fastest we've ever been. The bus picked us up from the gate. We visited Qutub Minar, some permanent Rajasthan fair, Lotus Temple, Akshardham, Raj Ghat, India Gate, had lunch in AP Bhavan, then Indira Gandhi memorial and lastly Nehru memorial. We reached YHAI at 7 and checked out asap. We went to Nizamuddin after asking around a million times and ensuring it was the right station :) Rajdhani was delayed by 45 min. But we got on and again I slept peacefully thru the night.

Next day (day 10) I realized how boring a train journey can be. I had picked up a terrible cough which wouldn't let me sleep for long and when I finally managed to sleep the kids in my bay would start screaming. I could have banged their heads with something real hard - it was so irritating. Plus Sh was completely out with initial jaundice symptoms (we got to know after returning) and I had absolutely nothing to do. Rajdhani gives you a lot of food and I ate both mine and Sh's share, 'coz she couldn't have anything anyway and I had nothing else to do.

Next morn (day 11), I woke quite early and was so thrilled as we neared Bangalore. I wasn't homesick or anything but I was so happy that now I dont have to call every Tom, Dick & Harry as "bhaiyya" :) Took an auto, dropped Sh and came home at 9.

And that's the jist of it! :)


Admire your patience if you've read all the way through till here. He he... anyways... was fun writing it.

:-)
Madhavi.