To do that ... I happen to write!

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Ghost of Mission Impossible

Mind Blowing Awesomeness. But this bit, really is the only bit

I wanted to kick myself black and blue on seeing their embedded systems work at level of perfection comparable to that of a ballet dance in some London theater, or thousand violins playing a Mozart symphony in a concert, or maybe how millions of rupees smoothly disappear in our unHazare system. I couldn't help thinking where they recruit their embedded engineers from (and wishing if one of them could have helped with my BTP!)

Hence the part where his glove didn't work on the amazing glass of that really tall hotel in Dubai when that really massive sandstorm of which everyone was happily ignorant about was coming, was pretty unsettling. Maybe, I thought it was a subtle attempt to keep the flimsy fiber of reality running through the movie. Embedded systems, after all at the end of the day, are, umm... embedded systems. But maybe glove had more to do with material engineering.

At any rate, it didn't work. He anyways climbed up, unseen through the glass for so many floors and reached the server room, did whatever simple technical stuff he was told to do and found himself at a loss on how to get down. Held a cable and even before I could have thought what the heck was he thinking - he acted on his hunch, his gut - no he hadn't planned out what was going to happen, but he thought it should be alright, he knew it, he felt it - took the chord and was through the window running on the glass pane vertically downwards with the strap around his waist safely hinged god knows where, only to come to a sudden bone-crushing halt. The chord length was insufficient - and again before I could even grasp the situation or began considering possible options he ran back, swirled around in a large loop, "what the heck" (even his co-agents were thinking the same!), and left the strap in middle of his swing to continue on his trajectory towards the open window ...

That moment - of letting go, of taking the leap of faith, of acting on the hunch, of doing something which you don't know the outcome to - but in a split second before letting go you come to an understanding with yourself and say: "this will work" - that moment struck a chord. It was, discounting the risk and thrill by a million times, like the moment when I was almost on my toes - stretching between the rocks I was gripping from hands and those where my feet supported me from below, and leaned my entire weight on one hand as I threw the other one up to a higher point which looked like a prospective hinge, simultaneously as I pushed my legs to the next grip. If my flying hand misses the grip - I could slip, get bruised. But I in any case throw up my hand and legs one after the other. My hunch says I can do it ...

Sadly, that was the only thing that struck a chord. The background score was disappointing - where was that famous loud thumping MI tune which I grew up to! And let's not even get started about speeding in Mumbai, automatic multi level parking with left hand drive cars, and wait: no Marathi on doors: Tamil was it? Or Telgu? Point being: Shiv Sena - where art thou! And "No Anil Kapoor. We're not happy. Don't you know you need to dance on a song in some random non-related location while being seduced. Do a better role next time, or none at all."

Sunday, 11 December 2011

On your face, Moon!

Was wondering what Earth and Moon must have been talking yesterday!

Earth to Moon:

Moon Moon
O full Moon

Why are you setting
today so soon

What are you hiding behind
You loon

Why are you not lit today
we had our noon

Did Sun get angry on you
You foolish baboon

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Story of 21km: Delhi Half Marathon 2011

By the time I crossed 5KM mark, I had already taken up around 40 minutes. Though happy about the fact that my usual right ankle pain hadn't seared up so far, and I was settling into my rhythm - I felt a little anxious: For next 16KM, I just had 100 odd minutes left to complete the race within the time I had in mind: 2 hours and 30 minutes. And running in half marathon is anything but linear. Especially if you have never run beyond 12 km in your life...

Breaking into a run at 17km Mark!

Last time I ran The Great Delhi Run and felt it was a joke. People stopped en route to playing bands and started dancing, and the podium with celebrities created a human traffic jam etc. ! Clearly it was more of an entertainment-run than anything else. So I thought of giving 21km a try this year around.

However, I was not sure if I could run that distance. Moreover, I wasn't in a mood to practice a great deal for the event. Still unsure with final registration date drawing to a close, a text by N asking if I have made up my mind yet acted as a great push and I registered for event on 5th Nov.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Twenty Three and not counting!

I wonder
as I look yonder 
Where have I reached
Where am I headed

I ask 
Is life a lovely journey
or just a mechanical churnery
I would rather it an experiment by mice
Douglas Adams, obviously was wise

I remember
So many days gone past
So many lessons learned
So many days that I enjoyed
and some when I got burned

I hope 
Life is an absolute continuous integration function
What I am learning and experiencing
Keeps getting accumulated under my curve
And I am not just talking about fat

In the end
Life's sheer pure gobberlygoo awesomeness
It's the best story ever told
The only part that I hate about telling it is
first you've to grow old... 

Thanks you folks, friends, family for your wishes and phone calls spread over the 4 days 6 days. They have died down a bit and I am missing them. Thanks you people for your lovely pastries (which I couldn't taste), card and letter, e-mails and thoughtful winter-wear, your texts and FB comments and for just being there. I celebrated this one is the best possible way: by going on a trip! Hell yeah.

p.s. My colleague in office pointed out that he can see greying which I vehemently denied, but I take that as a metaphor that I am growing wiser ;)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


On a lazy, cozy, cold winter morning in Delhi - what do you do if you get up at 6AM? 
You run. From your home to er...where? you think, realizing: Obviously: IIT Delhi
That's 6 KM. One way.

I ran across the BRT corridor, through the service lanes of "crores ke bangle" in Panchsheel, past the thick crowd at Hauz Khas metro station, over the IITD flyover, through the insti main gate, to the MS. Turn around and run back - feeling awesome!
1.5 hours. 12 km including a break at IIT to sip a few drops of water and check out MS123. It was in shambles, just like always, and I ignored it, just like always!

And had to make up for the lost calories by paying a visit to the American Diners at India Habitat Center, Lodhi Road - sounds like beginning of a perfect Sunday morning, huh? ;)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

New found Jibber Jabber

I am traveling a lot in the Delhi Metro these days, and every journey takes my respect for the amazing rail system a notch higher. When everything around on roads is so chaotic, it's great to see something that functions so well. When you see that there's hardly anyone breaking the queue for security check, despite it being so long, you feel that the Delhi Metro governs its own culture. More on this later..

The new found jibber-jabber is to usually board the 2nd coach of the metro, get down wherever I am supposed to get down, and walk almost to the engine. By this time the train is ready to pull out of the station.

And precisely then, to turn around and start walking in the opposite direction, theethering on the yellow line. As the metro zooms past me, it feels almost like being in a shooting of a movie (remember the DCH song?). 

Or sometimes quite philosophical, especially when the last coach of train goes past at a with great speed and clitter-clatter and suddenly there is an empty space and a deafening-lull...

Give it a try next time you get a chance (and then tell your experiences!) :-)

Monday, 31 October 2011

Johnny be Good tonight!

I always used to think that this sort of meant ‘Johnny be a good boy’, in it’s general sense, as sometimes kids are told at home: “Johnny – don’t be troublesome, be a good sincere boy.” 
    But after having listened to it several times, I suddenly realized that this in fact means: “Johnny, be awesome. Irrespective of your background, and your knowledge of the world – you can be awesome. So go, become!” Since that sudden realization, it has become almost an inspirational song to me!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Knock Knock - Who's There

Frankly, I have never understood these jokes. But this is a good starting point (hilarious to be precise!)

A few those which I was able to understand:

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Doctor Who
Wow. How did you know?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Leh Laddakh: Heaven truly is a little high! Part 2

"The core of a man's spirit comes from new experiences"
- Into the Wild, Christopher McCandless

"Be gentle on my curves"
- One of several funny road-signs laid out by Himank, Border Road Organization, India
        We all were sitting inside the car; combined heat of 6 people working with the car blower to keep us protected from the thick cover of snow on the outside. A mild dizziness was spreading in our heads - the 5300m high Himalayan pass - Tanglang la making its presence felt. We were going around foggy turns, when suddenly the car stopped with a jerk. As we lowered our windows, grizzling sound of several trucks came for the outside. We were stuck in a deadlock - the path was not wide enough for even one vehicle to pass by, and the queue of trucks was long at the other end. Left with no other choice, our driver drove us desperately into the thick cover of snow to make way. The trucks slowly went past, their engine grumbling like a cocky old man...
    ...As their voice faded into distance, we tried to hit the road again which was when our fate slapped us. The tires obstinately refused to grip on the thick ice, beginning to endlessly skid, while the soot from the exhaust pipe started to gather on the snow. Four of us got out. We first pushed from back. Nothing. Then from front. Nothing: the car just wouldn't budge. And here's the thing about being at a height of 5300m (Delhi is at 300m, Mumbai at 0 m) - air density goes for a toss, literally, and thus pushing a car out of snow might leave your lungs screaming in madness that they are not spartan. Eventually, we picked up a few large stones to dig and clear the snow around the tyres - one final push and the car jolted forward.
         "It was awesome man", we said to each other getting in the car. After a while meek muffled sounds came about, all resonating:  "May I have a Disprin please?"

Friday, 9 September 2011

Leh Laddakh: Heaven truly is a little high! Part 1

"People who fly to Laddakh are morons!!!"
        - a conversation on Manali Leh highway

Juley Laddakh!

Frankly, what do you want me to do - Inspire you to go to Laddakh! Oh, come-on - if you're such blinded morons to be in want for any proof about its beauty, need inspiration, cajoling, push, or things like motivation to go there - scram - you're beyond help and you have earned my ire :P

You're spared if you're not an Indian, have never visited India, have never read keenly about it and are not planning to visit it sometime in near future. In that case - let me first introduce Laddakh to you:

Laddakh is a far flung cold desert on the northern most territories of India and is a part of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), often referred to as 'paradise on earth' in befitting description to its breathtaking beauty. J&K's past, after the independence of India in 1947, marred with long history of terrorist activities by Pakistani insurgents has never effected Laddakh. However, there is a heavy presence of Indian Army in entire Laddakh region primarily because it shares its border with Tibet on the east and Pakistan on the west.
     In fact, it is the presence of Indian Army has led to creation and maintenance of strategically important and the only 2 roads leading to this region and metalling of several dizzily high passes to help us travel around. This has led to opening up of this enchanting part of the country for tourism. However, the altitude and terrain is so difficult, as you will see, that Laddakh continues to be entirely secluded except for the major touristy places. That too has below 20-30 people at any given time. Travel months are only from July to around October; and the entire region goes for hibernation during winter months with temperatures plummeting below -35 degrees C. My next aim, in fact, is to go there in winters and hopefully tread on the then frozen Zanskar river! But that's for later...

So now that you know of Laddakh, let me do my bit to encourage you:

"Go to Laddakh!"; or a tardy bit more pompous

"The lowest there (some 3500m) might be the highest you've ever been to"

That's the best I can say. Try asking me for any more reasons, and I'll answer with 19th century British air, "No, sir, no! Spare me the dishonor."

But let me tell you what I am going to do...I am going to show-off. Yes, as outraged as you might be right now, you've heard me right. And never mind your outrage on me, for soon you might be outraged on yourself for not having gone there thus far!

Here I begin:

Part 2 - here

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Trains and Poetry

Traveling in Train is so much fun. The long journey which winds across several rivers, villages, fields and often mountainous structures is somehow inspiring - especially if you're traveling alone and decide to go and stand on the gate of the train in the night when everyone else has peacefully snuggled into the comfort of their seats and the weather has turned relatively cooler.

The gay winds hits your face, as you cut across the vast emptiness at a breathtaking pace, with Da-Dhinak Na-Dhinak racketing noise screaming at all the passing huts; huts from which only a thin veil of light gleam, as if it is afraid to come out and see the loud monster pass by...shining blindingly bright from its nose, and belching black clouds from the top of its head! 

And then when it starts to drizzle in such condition - you well might very well be damned if you don't try to compose poetry. Howsoever badly words might fail you, even rugged four lines look as if Mirza Galib himself has paid a visit in your head, and when you whisper those lines to yourself - you can't help notice a proud blush pass your face. Here's such a preposterous collection (i.e. you're allowed to laugh at it)

जिंदगी है यह कश्ती कैसी
की मांझी जाने सब
नौका पार लगाए वो
और पूजे ऊपर वाले को सब

चल तो दिया ज़िन्दगी की रह पर
और रोक कर आसुओं को कर रहा हूँ सामना
की पता नहीं बह जाऊंगा उनमें कब

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Writing Talent (Not the real, but resume one)

If you're serious about making resume, well, don't be. In case you've done something in your last four years, your pages would be overflowing, if you haven't, well start getting creative.

Core companies would look at your academics, Finance companies would look at your CG along with your aptitude test full of MAL250 questions (probability) - so that primarily leaves consults and other such analytic firms who will actually do justice by investing time in reading through your creative writing paper.

For making your CV, I don't think you need to know anything beyond this blog post by Sohil Bhagat:

In case you're still unsatiated by his direct methods try the little roundabout post by Abhimanyu Kothari to get a hang of essentially the same thing:

Part 2 and Part 3 of the same can be found on his blog, once you're there.

Now, if you are still scratching your head, stamping your feet, and picking your nose in sheer indignation of the simplicity of it all - allow me to do my bit to increase the mayhem a notch further - here's my creative writing class (*applaud*) but only after an essentially obvious disclaimer -

"Each person has his own way of being creative. Divergent views are accepted as comments"

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Delhi Series: An Introduction

Delhi Through Ages
Delhi, the capital of India, is a bustling town with over 16 million inhabitants. Delhi hence is the power center of India - scams, corruption and what not - follows

The current extended Delhi, also known as NCR region (mainly comprising of Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad), is a land where ‘might is right’, where road rage is the talk of the day, where safety in general, and especially for the fairer gender, is a joke. But today's nouveau-riche Delhi hasn't always been like this, here’s a brief history:

Even though Delhi hasn’t always been a capital town – it has been continuously inhabited since ages. Several bloody battles have been fought on its grounds, several times the entire city has been burned down – entire population massacred or enslaved – but Delhi has always been resurrected.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Of Airlines, Aeroplanes and Flying in India

Everything I say here is for the ‘cattle class’ (I hope I can safely jibe myself without having to resign from any post). Flying, it seems, has become such an everyday affair for everyone – flights are no longer empty, airports no matter how large always have a queue, and lounges, no matter what precious metal stage you reach in your loyalty, are always full!

Every airport is reflective of the city, or so do I believe: Take for example the Mumbai airport where you can see houses sharing wall with the airport boundaries, or the Bangalore one where the first thing to greet you (apart from touts) is the Yahoo! board, or the Chennai one, where they have stripped all the frills and have made the airport as basic as a train station; or probably even lesser, and of course the ‘all shine and gleam’ Delhi one!

But there’s hardly anything you can do about the airports, except probably pushing your way to put your luggage on the checking machine first, even when you know you’re probably the last in the queue.
What you can however do is choose your airline. But I doubt even this statement. Because if you’re a right minded Indian you’ll always fly the airline which is offering the lowest cost, unless your company is paying for the flight. Therefore I am not sure about the point of this post, but I believe it would be helpful to someone in this world who might chance upon this.

p.s. I used to read the in-flight magazines, but have stopped doing so now, so low recollection as to which were good ones, however as a general rule - it is always better to start reading it from the back!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

I, The Same Mortal I

In Moments of high inspiration

I am Batman, Spiderman and Hector
Achilles, Nagraj and Logan

I am Capt. Vijyant Thapar, Carl Brashear and Hellen Keller
George Mallory, Wright and Wheeler

I am Tatas, Birlas and Binny Bansal
Ford, Hershey and Toyoda

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

[Guest Post] To Rameshwaram and Beyond!

In the first ever guest post to this blog, here's Jatin Pasrija , an ardent traveler, recounting his first ever SOLO trip to the end of India: Dhanushkodi - a place where sea on either side is only 100 m away, and Sri Lanka only 12 miles! Yes, this is the place of the mythical Ramsetu. Enough of yada-yada-ing about it, let's go and see it, and here's an account of what adventures await you, if you decide to go there!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Italian Diaries - Hello World!

Bella far niente
As I was checking in the hostel at Venezia (Venice), right ahead were 2 girls also checking in, who I bet looked very-pretty-much Indian, and of my age! Shy they, Shy I, none of us spoke...and silently they I moved forward in the queue.

That night I slept at around 4 after having walked endlessly in the city, so beautiful, that you just don't know how to absorb it all but to keep walking and staring! Next morning, I promptly got up again at 7:30 AM. Everyone else in my dorm was still fast asleep, completely unruffled by the fact that one doesn't get to see the view of grand canal from the window beside one's bed, EVERYDAY! Anywho, I left the bed and settled myself on the window to get a better view of the canal and to observe people sitting in front of the hostel (some of who I recognized must have sat there all night!). While browsing through all those people, I saw them again - those girls from the last day! I leaned further out of the window to see that they were fast headed towards the Voporetto (Waterbus) stop...

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Snowsome Tales 4: The Final Leap

Till now:

8 brave people go on an arduous trek. Battling Himalayan might they reach the Valley, The Valley of God, only to be blown away by its beauty. As they make merry in their rest house during the night, a storm gathers. The next morning they abandon their plans of going further up and instead run downwards in heavy snowfall, with any signs of habitation a day's trek away. By the time they reach the Osla village the weather is all well again. The simple village life and beautiful village girls leave them mesmerized. As the night gathers, they prepare to sleep hoping for a relaxed and uneventful trek the next day. But does that ever happen in the Himalayas?

Part 1: Har Ki Dun

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Crash and Burn

What's swimming...

without holding yourself underwater
long after your breath's gone
and your consciousness undone

until you see the world above
die in slow motion

What's life
I ask,
without heartaches and heartburns!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Black Swan


"Nina, what did you do?"
"I felt it. Perfect. It was perfect."

The entire theme stuck a chord within me. Romancing your artiste so much that you become the one you photograph/ dance/ paint/write about...

But it was more that that. It was about perfection. It was about doing one thing long and hard for so long that you're that and that is you. With a looming fear of losing sanity in the process.
But then, it feels perfect.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

What is management consulting?

This picture, taken from Wikipedia has nothing to do with the post

I don't have a complete and clear idea yet, but so far I've been able to understand that the main value add of high end management-consulting
are as such 3 things:

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Snowsome Tales 3: Life on Himalayas

Part 1: Har ki Dun
FYI - Route to HKD goes as follows: Delhi - Dehradun - Mussorie - Naugaon - Purola - Mori - Sankhri - Taluka (trekking begins) - Gangaur - Osla/Seema - HKD

The Village of Osla


“Sir, here we don’t roam around with girls for fun; we do so only if we truly love and want to marry her. You tell a girl that you've got money she wouldn't come, but if you tell her that you love her – she will definitely come!”

Rajendar Singh was our porter. Actually a farmer by profession and a student by age; porter - for that extra income. His view of world stretched up to Delhi, uncommon for most of his folks who had been farthest to only Dehradun, the capital of Uttrakhand, 250 odd km from their village. Delhi by comparison was around 500km.

Rajendar, 17 years old, studied in class 9th. Even though his proficiency in studies would fall short of a regular 9th class Delhi student, a couple of days spent with him were enough for one to appreciate his wit, and the good work that has been done by the government in opening up school in such far flung villages. In fact his village, Osla, is the last inhabited village on that stretch of Himalayas.

As an example; he starts dictating me his address as follows - "Name: Surendar Singh, Village: Osla..." but stops short on seeing my amused expressions (borne out of seeing him use English words so jauntily). He thinks that I didn't quite catch the meaning of the word village, fumbles a little trying to explain "Village, sir Village", and then nails it, "Countryside, Sir", leaving us stunned!

"There's a school upto class 8th here in Osla", he mentioned while sitting with us by the fireside in our HKD rest house, "Sankhri has a school upto class 10th and for further education there is a high school upto class 12th in Mori".

"Do all of the kids in your village go to the school?", I asked expecting the answer which I had often heard in Rajasthan...

"Yes they do, in fact most of them start going to the school in Sankhri after class 8th"

"But Sankhri is a day's trek from Osla!", I asked a little befuddled.

"Yes, but for you Sir!", Rajendar mentioned smilingly.

Ah, I thought. His comment made me suddenly snap out of education-in-India to mountain-people-walk-superfast-on-mountains. I had seen children, as small as 5-6 years carrying large bundle of firewood tied on their hunched back with jute strings. Moreover, the grip of their shoes was usually smudged - however, all the same they kept pace with their mothers on the steep downs or gasping ups. These humble creatures make any trekker melt with shame.



On 29th December 2010, an hour after noon we reached Seema: the resting place for travelers located on the other side of the village Osla. Afterwards we shared a light lunch of Khicdi - our ingenious potpourri of crumpled bread, sandwich spread and namkeen.

Inspired from our conversation with Rajendar over last day coupled with my curiosity to get a glimpse of mountain life I, along with Gj, decided to head out to Osla. A few others also joined but gave up after 100 mt or so - abhorred by the idea of walking on a steep climb again.

While going up we crossed several women and children, each heaving a heavy bundle of firewood. Most of the women were neatly dressed, their hairs tucked away inside a tight cloth that covered their head, their face clear and washed, cheeks rosy, eyes with a hint of mascara, ears sometimes adorned with tingling golden earrings, and lips often sporting lipstick. On the other hand children were not so neat: their hair ruffled, clothes often shabby, cheek skin parched and red and face smudged with dirt often as a result of running nose. However, there was one common thing between them - their disarmingly enchanting smile. And with smile many a times children innocently asked, "Sir, Cap?" We did not give them cap, warned by our guide as a precaution to avoid spoiling children. However, I regret for not emptying our medical kit with their village elder or head. That way we could have helped without spoiling anyone. I will make sure I do that the next time I go trekking.

As the sound of Supin became distant, the village came nearer. The first sign to greet us was a small hut made of 4 plastered brick walls and a flat roof structure. The interesting thing were the NREGA directives painted on the hut. As I read through them it suddenly hit me what managing a country like India would entail - one of the thousand complications being the sheer difference in size: at one end are the bulging metropolis like Mumbai and Delhi - each home to over 15,000,000 people to areas as remote as Osla - home to not more than 500 people.

Still pondering over such thoughts, we took a few more steps while continuing to breathe heavy, and there - we reached the boundary of the village: Built at one of the most beautiful places in the world to live, Osla village has around 100 houses and 500 inhabitants.

From where we stood we could see the entire village. The houses were built of wood, their sloping terraces covered with heavy rectangular stones and decorated with pumpkins. Standing at any house you could feel the slight though continuous vibrations caused by Supin flowing far below, and turn about anywhere to find staring into mountain slopes.

Gj and I looked at each other, briefly uncertain and a little scared. We were not sure how we would be welcomed in the village. I scuffled looking backwards hoping that Surendar would turn up as he had promised. But apparently the people who had stopped short of the climb and had settled themselves on the rocks besides the Supin had lured him for a photoshoot session. We were on our own...shrugging our doubts we decided to prod on.

Bang at the point where village starts there is a very weirdly beautiful temple, almost surreal in its architecture with some nonsensical figure carved of wood standing in the middle of its roof against nothingness in immediate background...Ha, things made some sense when we later got to know that it was dedicated to Duryodhan!

As we moved further we saw several people outdoors. Most of them were either breaking stones, collecting water or weaving clothes. What more, all of them were females. In fact nearly 80% of the people I met in the village were females (what luck!!!).

Soon the word got around “Sehar ke log aae hain” ["City people are here!"] and we had a huge trail of children following us causing a mixed feeling of immense joy and mild despair on our part. However, they were soon dispersed by their mothers before they could mob us (they wouldn't have - as they tend to me very shy). When the trail got together again - we clicked and showed them several pictures. They were so bloody excited!!!

We were at the center of the village when a weird looking guy came to us. He had no boots, his clothes were torn and over and above that he had an unusually large rectangular face. He came to us and said something which neither of us understood. Gj thought that he is asking for a picture which he then clicked and showed him. However, it failed to change the curious smile on his face. He said something to us and took a little forward to the path where he stopped and asked us to follow him. We did, and through some twists and turn he took us to the highest house on the hill on deserted us. Oh, it was just beautiful from up there. He just knew that we should be up there to get super-mesmerized in the beauty of his village...

On our way down we also found a solar power operated satellite phone (Only Rs 5/- per min STD!!!) After calling our mothers and clicking a few more pictures we headed back to our campsite, negotiating several herds of sheep and goats returning back home as the sun disappeared and the cold fastened its clutches…



Osla was nothing short than a fancyland: The view from each square inch of the place was as breathtaking, natural and genuine as the smiles of people of that place. The warmth they showed even without speaking much gladdened our heart, and even though we were intruders in their daily lives we were more than welcome. I wish to stay much longer the next time I visit any such tiny secluded village to deepen my first brush with their lives.



"Wooooooooooooooooooooooo ha - ha - ha - ha" "Wooooooooooooooooooooooo ha - ha - ha - ha" a long shrill hoot ending in what looks like laughter "That's how girls whistle here, Sir. Amidst the continuous crashing sound of river, this is the only way", quipped Rajendar.

I remembered hearing this when Gj and I reached Gangaur a few minutes ahead of our pack. We were alone in the open and the sound kept coming. We looked around to understand that the source of the sound was a pack of mountain girls on the other side of the mountains. And we blushed.

The Temple of Duryodhana

Story Continued:

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Snowsome Tales 2: The Journey Back

Apparently it had snowed at 4 in the morning while we all were asleep.

A thin veil of snow had covered whatever our eyes could see, ofcourse except the river: lightly growling then like a lion whimpering in its sleep. All surrounding mountains were shrouded in a mystic drapery of clouds and blowing snow, which parted towards their base, to reveal them shyb-lushing in their new polka dots avatar!

I was still tired from the inadequacy of the space on the bed last night. It was so stupid - what was a rat doing in our room in such icy cold weather. Wasn't he supposed to be in his burrow hibernating! Ok, I know they don't hibernate, but whatever - aren't they suppose to go down to a rat hole at some lower altitude just like humans! In totality, I mean - what the ... was he doing at 3365! Wretched creatures they are...that one rat drove Gj, sleeping contentedly on the floor, to get terrified to his bones despite all that layers of clothing and jump on the bed with already suffocating other 3.

The night had passed, and the grey-white morning was no time to soothe cramped muscles, except o'course for Twigman who had popped in a Crocin before he slept, and then had dedicated almost the entire tube of Volini to his back as soon he got up in the morning! However, on a more generic note - it was the time to drink tea, gulp down maggie, ignore the call of nature to stay back for some more time, and to run!

Even before we started it had resumed snowing mildly. The dense dark grey cloud cover lined our entire downward path causing a morbid worry to surface over our guide,Ramlal Ji's, face as he asked us to make haste. And then, we ran! When we left at 8:45 AM, no one even turned back to heave a sigh; every warm breath was important, more so because the entire trek for the day was uninhabited and our ration supplies had already hit the red.

Soon, flakes of snow started falling thick and fast. Every 10 minutes or so we had to wildly shake ourselves to get rid of the snow piled on our backpacks and boots, shoulder and hoods. As I half walked half ran - the snow lightly crunched under my feet, fell on my lips and eyes and blew in my nose causing a seismic wake of tanginess to run through my body, ending in my belly causing me to suddenly vibrate - it looked as if I was dancing. Well, the truth is, I was! Wouldn't you if you were running in the wild in the first snowfall of your life?

While ascending HKD (Har Ki Dun), I was of the opinion that it was one of the most beautiful winter treks that I've seen, but oh I square that it was doubly so when we descended. I had so far believed that my favorite color was blue, though I really don't think I have a favorite color but just in case had you asked me mine - I would have said blue. But damn, I am saying the color of snow the next time you ask me, and no kidding this time.

And it was not just snow - at halfway, the path down from HKD suddenly bends at a right angle around a ridge to completely tumble the world before your eyes - from bleary huge snowy mountains lurking in your face, the view after the turn suddenly opens up to the far horizon with Supin river joining you back - flowing down several hundred feet between yours and the parallel mountains...

After having walked for a little over 2 hours: through steep downs and large white flats, from over freezing streams to over already frozen falls, the snow finally started receding. The urgency in us too receded with it and a sense of peace set forth in our gait. We started to notice how huge boulders tumbling from mountains had blown off huge bridges and the teetering makeshift wooden bridges in places, how the occasional green patch of land was indeed a wheat field, how effortlessly our porters walked, and how with every step downwards our knees said 'Ouch'! The last part is important - descending on mountains is never easy on knees which are accustomed to not even descend a single floor on well laid stairs. However, it generally helps if you don't climb down mountains like stairs but instead put your legs horizontally across - as you might have seen in military movies in 1-2 1-2 steps. Moreover, try to keep your legs on some stable boulders instead on the ground while climbing down a slope or walking on a flat - as once your leg is on a boulder it is much more stable then when it's on ground where it keeps on hitting the scattered boulders lying around.

Caution: don't run! Walk fast if you have faith in your shoes and judgement, but don't run! Last time around, Tobebabu risked the most important parameter in his equation of being a babu: being alive! When we were descending from a height of 4200m to 3200m around curving slopes, he decided to run directly downwards assuming that...

Probability {his legs finding a boulder to step on/he keeps his foot forward} = 1

...this was flawed, and even otherwise so! He stopped when we all saw him and shrieked on the top of our voice, only to look up with an expression of - "Just trying!"

However, no major heart-stoppers occurred on our downward journey this time, except for when Twigman leading our pack in the drafting snow stepped over ice, which was slyly covered under snow, and fell headlong. It was momentarily scary and then funny to see him trying to axe his nails in the ice to get a grip, slipping a little every second toward the small stream which we were crossing, before he was given a hand by Gj. However, no joking about the fact that being drenched when it's snowing might have been a direct ticket to heaven (I guess he's a good man!).

By and by we reached the bridge over Supin river which would take us back to comfort of rest houses. But crossing bridge was no easy thing - the pull of dashing white river was too strong and one by one everyone slumped on the bridge; lost in their own special thoughts. When we looked at our watches - it was just half hour past noon! Everyone in the group had made down amazingly fast; and some of us were again in enthusiasm to go further and reach our starting point, Taluka, the same day; however, we did not - and for good, as otherwise I would have missed something which mesmerized me more than anything I had seen thus far on our journey...[to be contd.]

The bridge over Supin

Story Continued:

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Snowsome Tales 1: Har Ki Dun

Har Ki Dun: The valley of God

It was fairly cold outside. What else do you expect when the valley you stand upon looks on three quarters of an arc to the mighty snow clad mountains of the Bandarpunch range of the Himalayas.


Swargarohini peak, the 6300m high ladder to heaven, the mythical place from where Pandavas and Draupadi ascended to heaven, stood at a stone throws distance. It is one thing to look at high mountains in pictures, another thing to see them rising above the surrounding mountain ranges, and a completely another thing to see them - right there, in your face, and checking them out all up: from base to peak!

By the time last of our men arrived, the light had melted into darkness and the even though the moon was faint, the white mountains became blue, and green trees dispersed enough of the available light to leave nothing for us to see but black patches. And my thoughts were such:
I don't know why, but I can feel sadness creep
from behind the imposing you, and flowing thy
Out and out, engulfing me by
Sadness, nhy
Jealous, am I!

There were two places where we could sleep in the night - rest house, or camp!

I wanted to camp under the starry chilly night. And I had a reason for wanting to keep away from the comfort of the rest house: we had reached our destination - Har Ki Dun, 3 days after starting from Dehradun. However, the ascend had been fairly easy presenting no real challenge or sense of adventure, but only blindingly beautiful views. I thus wanted to bear the chill of night in pretext of testing my capabilities. And here's the thing - trekking in mountains is not just about admiring nature, but more so about finding yourself, physically and mentally. When you push hard for long in thin cold air, the pain and numbness reach to the extent that they drown all other thoughts from your mind: worry, guilt, pride, stories of past, present and future and leave you free!


However, as the night wore on, along with everyone else, I comfortably settled in the forest hut. I suggested several audacious plans of getting up early and trekking further on to the Jaundar glacier, which immediately got enthused nods from a few group members (Gj, Chahha, and Tobebabu); however each of those were turned down by our guide as infeasible to be done in a day!

With the beauty of Valley of God seeping into us, we became, I became, content of the idea of spending the beautiful morning dancing around sunshining river and guardian mountains of the valley.

Trying to absorb the beauty

Moreover, the room of the rest house was direct from yellow leaves of a British book. The wooden flooring and bed by the fireside took me to to the Colonial times. Soon enough a heap of firewood was lit and the glow enthused my spirit. I couldn't believe it - I was actually sitting by the fireside in the Valley of God, oh a feeling ran through me that is hard to describe! I wrote that it is amazing to write that I am writing by the fireside! Half of us (Twigman, Tobebabu, Dolllover and Mr. McK) had already slipped into cozy beds and quilts and were cracking loud bratty jokes, incorrigible to those sitting by the fireside - lost in a dreamworld while listening to tales of mountain villages from our porter! I wrote:
Har Ki Dun is a pure bliss which can be enjoyed without any sense of adventure – you just sit here and admire the beauty: the rocks and boulders jutting out at places most unthought-of, long straight pine trees growing at the top of otherwise absolutely barren mountains, snow blowing off magnanimous peaks all of which stand nonchalant of the gaping mouths of young travelers feeling dwarfed by the humongous rise of theirs, and the finally the river: it’s water casting different mystical spells when under Sun, Moon, Stars or even a plain dark overcast sky. How do you capture all this in your eye, ear, heart or brain? Only if each of your thousand million pores opens up, you can encompass in some small measure, the beauty which is present here
While I was thinking that they should seriously think about renaming Cloud no. 9 to Being at 3-3-6-5, our guide and porters readied the dinner for us: steaming hot rice with steaming hot curry! I dipped my fingers into them, without caring for spoons and started eating hungrily only to be done in a plateful! All the time when you are climbing during the day you think that you're going to eat so much, but when you actually start eating there's only so much that you can eat!

However, the worst comes after eating - washing your plates! Every single time I did that, it felt like - one more second and my fingers might need an amputation. The innocent looking water turns into a Satan potion the minute it lands on your hand, and ere long you've to rush back to fire! Therefore you can imagine how difficult might it get if you forget to pack a roll of tissue paper for other needs!

After dinner it was time to once again snuggle into quilts, or sit by the fireside and get lost into dreamworld. This time, however, we tried to kindle the fire ourselves, to our utter failure. Porters came to our help, and this time I carefully observed how they kindled a fire. The trick is to form almost a pyramid of wood and put small pieces connecting the larger pieces of wood to transfer the fire. Other trick is to constantly take out ash and put in new pieces of wood. And the trickiest of all - to blow into the fire when it starts to waver. It's poignant to see how quickly the fire starts asphyxiating once ash starts to block the flow of oxygen causing an untimely, fast and leg-kicking death! However, more often than not you blow stupidly enough to either cause the fire to stare back at you saying - dude!, or to cause ash to fill the room. The worst of all is to suck the air after blowing hard, without turning your face. Get ready to cough your way for next 5 minutes until large tears well up in your eye!

Rookie Fire

A rookie's guide: Make a base of T1 with the center filled with small twigs/grass/paper. The larger you want your fire to be, place more of T1s over each other, finally on the top of T1 place T2, with the T2 wood much thicker than T1s. Place T3, or simply long twigs connecting various thicker wood to transfer fire. Blow from the base. Don't suck after you blow! For completion sake: keep distance, extinguish it once done, and google after reading this to find exact info!

The Junior Woodchuck Guide

Anywho, by and by the wood got all burnt up and once again cold started engulfing us. As much as I hate to waste time, I hate to share a double bed with 4 people, 3 of which were worthless engineers, who couldn't apply their nutty brains to suggest until 5 AM that we should sleep with head-feet direction reversed for every alternate men! I hate the experience more so because once asleep the uncaring ones sprawl their legs flat into others territory and shamelessly snore!

After 5 AM, I slept astoundingly well , only to be woken up at 7AM with loud cries of snow! I quickly got out of the bed, with only a few warm clothes on and ran to open the door and join in the celebrations going outside. A cold wind blasted on my face as I opened the door, what else was I thinking, but hey - Dreams do come true, in the Valley of God...the valley had turned white, overnight! [to be cotd.]

The Morning After

Snow White

Story Continued:

Read about last year end trek: Finding Frozenland