Trip to Heaven - Day Two

There's somethin' in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothin' short of dyin' that's half as lonesome

As the sound of the sleepin' city sidewalks and Sunday mornin' comin' down.

Johnny Cash was walking through the city then and fortunately we were far away from the city. I woke up to an argument next morning at about five.. it was Latheesh arguing against Siril who wanted to go out to attend another of nature's call. He needed some company to get out there in a cold frosty morning and do it.. I cant blame him for that.. the pleasure of a PPT is altogether a different feeling. But I was in no mood to spoil a sunday morning by getting up so early and slowly retracted my head into the comfort of the blanket. Bijeesh was sleeping like a child, unaware of all that's happening around.

After couple more hours of sleep we finally got up at eight when the pujari came inside to clean up the temple. It was still windy outside and freezing cold too. I could see an uneasy Siril pacing here and there, murmuring something to himself. I thought he was doing his morning prayers while actually he was cursing the misfortune that awaited him. The evening before onwards Siril had one troubling thought with him.. where to download all that stuff inside his stomach. The pujari had categorically told him that he can go out to the grasslands on the otherside of the temple and get rid of it and he was not at all comfortable with the idea. All our philosophical talks on 'enjoying nature while donloading' fell into deaf ears. So I understood the desparation on his face..!!

Having no choice infront of him he finally joined us all for a date with nature.. and oh boy, it was one hell of an experience..!! We had to park our ass in front of the fire for the next 30 minutes or so. People had started to come visiting the temple in the morning and the pujari was well into his morning rituals. We packed our bags, changed into the day before's damp clothes and got ready to start the day's journey. Breakfast ws ready by then... tasty 'pulihora' and coffee.

Bijeesh & Siril were incharge of communication throughout the journey - Siril could read and Bijeesh could speak some decent Kannada. Together they became the spokespersons for the group. Our plan for the day was to trek to Babbudangiri,another hill in the same mountain range. There was a trek route from the temple which takes you through the mountain ridges to Bababudangiri and Bijeesh collected information on the route from a local help at the temple. Though we started on this way initially, we had to abandon this attempt due to heavy winds and poor visibility. It looked impossible to fight the raging winds with the bags on our back and a slippery trail ahead.

So we decided to climb towards the other side of the hill taking the flight of steps and then proceed towards Bababudangiri. But something happened then, that changed our plans for the day.. the mist started revealing the beautiful valleys and hills covered in lush green vegetation. We could not resist the tempatation and decided to climb another hill opposite to Mullayanagiri and as we did, it opened up new possibilities to us.

We abandoned our plan to go to Bababudangiri and decided to spend some time climbing the adjacent hillocks, finding our way back to Chikmagalur. There were a bunch of cows grazing on the pastures there and some of us started showing our real selves. New age incarnations of Lord Krishna were seen roaming around amidst the cows for the next 30 minutes or so. The cows also seemed to enjoy the game, especially when we opened our bread packets and Siril handed out some to them. We soon discovered Dr. Siril Dolittle, who could effectively communicate to the herd.. calling them aside and shooing them away at will... all the while talking to them in some strange language. Latheesh and Bijeesh claimed that they even heard the cows talking back. (Latheesh later clarified that it was actually a bull who talked back and that it sounded more like a warning..!! When asked about this, all we got was a frown from Dr. Dolittle.) We spent a good amount of time there enjoying the good weather and the scenery... ofcourse some had more fun with the cows.

We climbed down the hill and took the jeep route towards Chikmagalur. Every possible occasion we took the shortcuts that cut across the zig-zag road and this lead us through some interesting locales. After climbing two more hills and crossing a dried out stream, we reached Sitayanagiri and had a brief stop. There was a temple there overlooking the mountains and we took another short cut through the woods to rejoin the road sometime later. The next shortcuts we took were through coffee plantations and were realy adventurous. The first one was too slippery and we ended up about 20 feets above the road and no options but to slide down to it. All of us ended up with painted buttocks at the end of this exercise.. the rain and mud did a decent job painting our asses in all shades of red..!! The second route was right through the middle of a coffee estate.. a long narrow trail which seemed to go on and on without an end. There was nobody around to ask whether we are heading in the right direction, still we walked on. After about 20 minutes we could hear sound of vehicles and it was such a relief..!!

Rest of the walk was pretty much through the road.. the milestone read "10 kilometers to Chikmagalur". We reachd 'Kaimara' by evening and all of us were feeling damn hungry. We walked into a restaurant nearby who served us some hot idlis and tasty chutney. We had some 10 idlis each and Siril suddenly stood up.. his stomach had started troubling him once again. The tea shop had an attached toilet and the guy was kind enough to open it up for Siril. He wouldn't have done that if he knew whats gonna hit him. Siril came out of the bathroom after 35 minutes and he looked like he just invented electricity.. his face was glowing like a 500 W bulb. It was Mission Accomplished for him.. kudos to him for controlling it all for two days. Who said you need to do Yoga to achieve control over your body..?

When we reached Chikmagalur bus station finally, we still had three hours to relax and do a rerun of the significant moments of the trip. After dinner at the hotel in the bus station, we finally boarded our bus to Bangalore.. end of another satisfying trip. Tired and happy, we soon slipped into deep sleep and dreams started flowing in..!!

Some pictures here.

Trip to Heaven - Day One

The Bee Gees sang "Nobody gets too much heaven above, its much harder to come by, I am waiting in line.." Now I understand what they meant... 'coz my turn to experience heaven came up last weekend.... after a long wait. Another trip planned the day before, one that exceeded expectations, a 'closer-to-heaven' experience... all these are only apt adjectives to describe my last week trek to Mullayanagiri. This beautiful mountain, the tallest between the Himalayas and the Nilgiris has been haunting my dreams for sometime now. As monsoon was already in town, I was eager to make the trip asap before the rain lashes out. And last weekend looked like the D-Day when Bijeesh, Latheesh and Siril were enticed by some pictures of the place available on the net.

Mullayanagiri is near Chikmagalur, which is about 250 kilometers from Bangalore. 'Mullayan' is another name of 'Lord Shiva' and 'Mullayanagiri' means 'Lord Shiva's mountain', who has got a temple on the top of the hill dedicated to him. You have two options to reach the temple - drive from Chikmagalur to the base of the hill and then climb about 1000 steps or you can climb from a place called 'Sarpadari' which is more like a trek. Our plan was to follow the Sarpadari route, camp on top of the hill for the night and then hike to the adjacent Bababudangiri the next day. The whole setup is much like Kodachadri, where the devotees got an option of climbing the hill through a difficult but interesting route through the forest or drive down most of the way and climb the final one or two kilometers... for each his own.!!

The gang met at KBS platform number 23 to catch our 11PM 'Rajahamsa' to Chikmagalur. It was time for some last minute purchases. Latheesh did make sure that he bought everything in pairs or multiples thereof - 2 packets of bread, 4 bottles of water and so on.. reminded me of Noah's Ark. Though Siril started making fun of it initially, he soon became silent as he realized the significance of this profound analogy..!! We boarded the Ark in pairs.. ready for the smooth ride of five and a half hours... away from earth.. to a safer and much beautiful place closer to the heavens. Till we reached Chikmagalur there were no rains, no storm.. looked like the Rain God deferred his plans to unleash his wrath on earth, and Noah was not informed about the change in plans. So we sailed on and reached the promised land of Ckikmagalur by five in the morning. The KSRTC bus station was already buzzing with activity and we walked into the nearby hotel for a cup of hot coffee. We realized that the first bus towards 'Sarpadari' is at 8 which left us with about three hours to fresh up.

By 7:30, we reached the private bus stand, which is adjacent to the KSRTC stand. After about 30 minutes journey in the packed bus, we reached Sarpadari, the place with the unmistakable iron arch marking the start of the trail. By this time it had started raining.. finally the Gods honoring the prophecies..!! The atmosphere was exciting with slow breeze, lingering mist and the slight drizzle. We did not waste anytime and started our climb. The first few steps itself offered us a great view of the valley with few settlements and a beautiful lake. The initial excitement got us into action.. cameras and mobiles were out in an attempt to capture the beauty in pixels. The mist and mountains were playing hide and seek with the wind playing spoilsport.. exposing the misty cover every now and then. The drizzle subsided by then, the climate was perfect and we marched on. The trek trail was quite clear and for a change there were not many diversions, which made the climb easy in spite of poor visibility. At times we got so tightly hugged by the mist and nothing beyond ten feet was visible.

It was then that Latheesh & Siril were initiated into the 'Global Order of Spooners'. Both of them quickly embraced Spoonerism as a way of life and stared taking lessons on the fine art. This continued to be the favorite pass time throughout the trip and did play a part in bringing that BIG smile ON.. I can proudly say that the trip gave the world two spoonerism enthusiasts who may go lengths to further their knowledge in the domain and spread the word..!!

We passed the lone tree - one of the landmarks to make sure that we are in the right track - which was overlooking his kingdom of grasslands and the valley below. We did not want to disturb his privacy and decided to take our 'breakfast break' a little ahead. As we sat down on the rocks having some tasty vadas we heard a bird calling out in the wild. It was so melodic that we decided to keep quite for 5 minutes and just listen to the newfound musical talent. This bird followed us all the way till the top (or probably a kin of his), we could listen to the call every time we stopped to take a breath. As we resumed climb after breakfast, we came across this rock formation ahead of us which was almost at 110 degrees to the ground, literally blocking the way. We had to go round this mighty guy towards the top and this part was a little scary. Rains had made the ground slippery and the path we had to take had very few rocks or grass to hang on to. We made it without much difficulty and were on easy grounds pretty soon.

We reached the second milestone of the trek in a little while. There was this big tree with a statue of Nandi underneath it. By this time the rain had become heavy and the wind a lot faster. We got the first glimpse of the temple on top from here... we were about 5 minutes from the top. As we climbed on, we came across two caves.. big enough to house some 25 people. One of them had two tombs inside. After exploring the caves we started for our final destination and were quite excited as we reached there. It was misty all around which gave us the feeling that we are walking amongst the clouds. It took us about 5 hours to climb up, at a very very leisurely pace. We dropped our footwear outside and went inside to meet the Pujari of the temple. We had informed him as we started the climb and he had agreed to serve us lunch. The prospect of some hot food made us happy as he ushered us into the small temple. We unloaded our stuff in a small room outside the Sanctum Sanctorum and rushed to his house for lunch.

Rice and daal never tasted so good as it did then. The meal was simple yet refreshing and supra-tasty and awesome...!! We decided to explore the surroundings after lunch, but the expedition was short lived.. thanks to the winds and the rain. We were all shivering our guts out in no time and had to rush back to the comfort of the temple. So by 5:30 in the evening, we had taken out our blankets and were huddled around some peanuts, inside the temple, eagerly awaiting the pujari's call for tea. The tea arrived after which we moved further inside the temple close to the Sanctum Sanctorum, to escape from the cold. Sitting there next to the walls all covered in blankets, we looked like some sages in prayer. We were joking that devotees might even throw us some money thinking that we are beggars waiting for alms..!!

The temple had lot of bells hanging from the ceiling and every time we stood up we had to take care not to hit them... the darkness inside made it all the more impossible. It was puja time there and the pujari started performing his duties while we sat there observing everything from close quarters. It was a great experience to be inside the temple, sleep there the whole night and witness the pujari doing his customary pujas in the night and early morning. I am not sure whether we will get a second chance to experience this anytime in life.

Then came the much anticipated dinner time.. had some hot rice, sambar and mango pickle this time. Though we felt warm while having it, the moment we got out we were shivering like hell. Somehow we got inside the temple, all ready to sleep away to glory. But the wind and cold had other plans who hatched a plot to keep us awake the whole night. They had even taken taken the mist into confidence. As the doors of the temple were not airtight, wind kept on gushing in, bringing in the cold mist along with it. We found that our blankets were no good to defend this kind of an onslaught. But then, like every other difficult situation, there came a hero... in the form of the pujari who handed over to us the 'Brahmastra' - a really heavy, thick and long blanket - good enough to keep the four of us warm.

Not to mention that we slept peacefully the whole night till about 5 in the morning. It was then that Siril got a call from the wild... an uncontrollable urge to get out there and experience how nature looks like, at 5 in the morning. But that's another story which needs a post or two of its own.

I dont remember what I dreamt that night.. probably dreams for once had nothing special to show... the day's trip was full of stuff that the dreams are made of..!!

Trip to Heaven - Day Two.

Casino Royale & Kurt Cobain..

Been reading little on Nirvana and Kurt Cobain last week. Mind you, it was as part of my job and not just browsing to kill time. (Did I ever tell you that I love my job..?) I came across two things during the process which somehow seemed to have a feeble connection between them - Kurt's suicide note (supposedly) and then a character analysis of him based on his name. Here are few lines from his suicide note..

"Im too sensitive. I need to be slightly numb in order to regain enthusiasm I once had as a child..... There's good in all of us and I think I simply love people too much. So much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad, little, sensitive, Unappreciative, Pisces-jesus man. Why don't you just enjoy it? I don't know..... "

And now, here is an anlysis of the name 'Kurt'based on the Kabalarian philosophy. Though the description sounds too generic and seems fitting for any Tom, Dick & y.. I found it interesting. It says -

"The name does not allow the stability required--emotionally or mentally .... The name creates much aloneness and misunderstanding, and does not allow happiness and fulfilment in life.... The extreme sensitivity causes you to suffer with thoughts that come into your mind unbidden- -unusual types of thoughts which could result in fear and premonitions of the future."

What's in a name? If you are as under-informed as me on this, there is in fact so much to it. Ask yourself: "If I did not have a name, how could I identify myself? If I had no name, who would I be?" and then check out Interesting place.. you might find that you are an elephant caught up in a wrong name..!!

On a different note, I saw something interesting on my way to ofiice today. There was this small crowd near the footpath and I could not help peeping in. There was the oldest version of a casino in action - a man with a small board and a pair of dices. The board has three columns with symbols on each.. you choose one and put some money on it.. he puts the dice into a tin, shakes it and drops it on the board. If the sign on the dice matches the column where you put the money, you get double the money, else it goes to the 'casino'.. nice and effective.. right..? It was not dificult to figure out that the casino makes money most of the times. I have seen this many a times back in my home town, but first time in Bangalore.. Casino Royale' perhaps..!!

A nice little bumper sticker on a car "Old pilots never die... they just move to a new plane..!!"

Now playing: The Moldy Peaches - Lazy Confessions
via FoxyTunes


Sensuality is one good selling point and I have been reading recently on various possibilities in this direction. The only difficulty is in keeping it on leash without crossing into the realms of sexuality, which can often result in rejection from the main stream society. But how much ever you try, there is always those who synonymies sensuality with darkness and sin. It is interesting that the dictionaries define the term Sensualism as the theory that sensation is the only source of knowledge and therefore, the only criterion of good.

Came across something called 'Cimmerian Sensualism' recently. It is an artistic and literary conceptual movement created in the 21st century by Julian Ikeda. The term 'Cimmerian' stands for "dark and gloomy" but darkness is not something that is seen as negative, but rather seen as a prerequisite to lightness. It is neither positive nor negative. It is a perception revealing our deeper, darker senses, sensualities, feelings, emotions, thoughts, and desires, in order to display the innermost secrets of beauty that are often suppressed by social expectations and reputation. According to Julian Ikeda, "People often hide their most beautiful, precious jewels in the deepest, darkest corner of their chests." Interesting..!!!

Probably not a conventional thought to start the day with.

Now playing: Michael Rose - What is Life
via FoxyTunes

Its raining ..!!

"Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.." But I think what The Carpenters really wanted to say in the song was "Rainy days when Mondays, always get me down"...!! Otherwise how can the rain let you down..?

Its monsoon time again...little early this time it seems. Either way rains are always welcome. I do agree that it gets violent at times.. but ... but .. i don't know... "Too much of something is always bad". Rain is the most beautiful natural phenomenon according to me.. Ya there's rainbow, but its so out of impersonal..!!

How can you translate into words, the feeling you get when you walk around in the rain ..? Nothing matches the thrill when those first drops fall all over you. I always feel like walking in the rain till it returns home to come back another day. Walking on the roads is no more my idea of fun.. you can't be yourself then. I remember my earlier attempts at this.. people around did not report to the mental hospital only because I had the company of a good friend..!! Again you cant splash around in the puddles when you are on the road.. though you get many of them there. You can't lie down and "see" the rain falling... you cant lift up your hands and cry out at the skies...and you have to keep walking. Such a drag...!!

Rain brings back so many memories ...Bruno my dog, who wouldn't otherwise take a bath... the mushrooms you get after the rains.... the fun of standing under a tree ... the thunderbolts that make you little nervous at times.. the slippery ground... what not..!! For my Mom, the first indication of me being sick was me sitting inside when its raining outside..!! Those were days I was "supposed" to grow up ... and believe me, better were days before that. The trip back from school when its raining...with the whole gang of friends... umbrella safely tucked inside the bag.

mmmm... looks like its gonna rain here as well. Lemme try whether i can catch the rain while walking back home..!!

PS: By the way, do you know what rain is and how does it happen...? (forget the evaporation theory.. we are talking more sense here...) .If not, listen to the song "Holes in the floor of Heaven".

One day, shy and 8 years old
When grandma passed away
I was a broken hearted little boy
Blowing out that birthday cake
How i cried when the sky let go
With a cold lonesome rain
My mom smiled, said "Don't be sad child.
Grandma's watching you today."

Cause there are holes in the floor of Heaven
And her tears are pouring down
That's how you know she's watching
Wishing she could be here now..!!

Monsoon trip to Goa - Part 2

Panjim is a great place to spend time irrespective of how you like to do it. There is enough for everyone there - shopping avenues for the spendaholics, cheap booze for the bachanalians, beautiful buildings, structures and streets for the walk-n-admiraholics. It was raining heavily when we touched down at Panaji aboard a ferry, across mighty river Mandovi. Heavy rains soon gave way to a mild a drizzle and we set out exploring the streets of Panjim.

Rain is a little dampening initially, but once you give it some time, walk with it and let it pour down all over you with such grace, you suddenly realize how relaxing an experience it is. Rain is much like a beautiful woman.. comes and thrills you when you least expect. It is easy to pass a judgment on her sitting under the comfort of a roof but difficult to rate her once you get to know her from closer quarters.

We drove towards Calangute from Panjim and decided to take a little detour to Aguada fort. The winding road towards the lighthouse was looking exceptionally beautiful in the company of rain and lush greenery. We spent about an hour around the lighthouse and finally decided to touch base when hunger slowly started killing the excitement. We stopped by one of the dozens of Goan makeshift restaurants for some rice and prawn Zacuti. Though the prices were cheap, so was the quality of the food. But quality doesn't always matter when you are almost blind with hunger. (Guess the restaurant guy also realized the same!!) Without wasting more time we started searching for a place to stay and found 'Villae Theresa', a decent place close to the beach where double bedrooms were available for Rs. 500 a night. With all our baggage safely locked inside, it was time to hit the beach and fortunately the rains stayed away for the rest of the evening.

As we strolled along the white sands from Calangute to Baga, came a guy from a nearby shack, inviting us for dinner. Meet Sandy, who later introduced us to some fabulous Goan cuisine. He works for a beach side restaurant called 'Goan Waves' where 'Yang' the Great Dane also lives. Yang is a two year old black canine who loves to laze around the tables, nuzzling against the legs of the diners in return for generous tips of chicken, fish and French fries. The best decision we took during the whole trip was to trust Sandy and dine at the 'Goan Waves'. As we eased down onto the cane chairs facing the sea, Sandy started explaining the possibilities in front of us for dinner - Crabs, Prawns, fish, chicken, beef, Vindaloos, Xacutis.. blah blah. We decided on some crabs and some fish and some prawns and some beef and some chicken and some liquor..!!!

As the coconut Feni started to ease the tension out, I started noticing the people around us - of all makes and types. There was this young lady sitting all alone in a corner with a bottle of white wine and a radio. Sandy later told us that she is from France and is on her vacation here. There was this lovely couple on a couch beside us who were evidently spending a lovely and romantic evening. They were holding each other affectionately, occasionally planting a kiss on each others' face and sipping alcohol from the same glass. There was another couple towards the far end of the shack but the story was little different there. The guy was already drunk and the lady was trying to control him from shouting and dancing around (Did I say this was an Indian couple?). Yang seemed to develop some pity on the guy and was hanging around his table for most of the evening.. or was it the chicken pieces that were falling down from his unsteady hands? Before I could develop theories on Yang's behavior and the motive behind it, Sandy announced the starters.

There were three crabs on the table, nicely garnished with some salad and French fries. From the size and color they looked like members of the same family, but from three generations - son, pop and the grandpa perhaps..!! I stopped sneaking into the parallel universes around me and latched on to one of the crabbies. My universe was made up of just one thing for the next 15 - 20 minutes - cracking shells and juicy crab meat. The feni had started working inside and I slowly got enlightened on the reasons behind the goan way of living... what else will you do than singing and dancing when you have feni in one hand and tasty sea food in the other? The more the merrier..!! I thought of sharing my discoveries and newfound knowledge with peole around me, but Sandy came to their rescue.. this time with a BIG fried Red Snapper. Sandy seemed to have this special gift of timing.. he knew when to break conversations with crabs and prawns and when to force-divert your attention from the cute cuddling couple with a refill..!! I will have to tell this to him next time I visit Goan Waves.

It was midnight and the shacks were closing down. Sandy offered us chairs and we sat there close to the waves playing antakshari for an hour or so. Alcohol can at times make great singers out of fools like me. It was time to take another stroll and we soon joined a crowd around a huge fire. The sea was roaring, the skies were clear, the fire was warm and we were in full mood to enjoy. Soon we started burying each other in the sand.. just the heads sticking out of the sand, much like an over sized crab peeping out of its burrow. Finally in the early hours of the next day we decided to retire to the comfort of Villae Theresa.

The morning saw us sitting in front of Sandy's shack, waiting for the ham and Bacon Sandy had promised the night before. Sandy was nowhere to be seen an for few minutes we thought the previous night's hungama was just a dream..!! Soon Sandy emerged and our wait was over. We had bacon, beans and Ham for breakfast and washed it down with some beer. The combination worked well even early in the morning with the sea adding its own magic to the moments. Then as usual it was time to say goodbye to Goa and return to Bangalore.. we had a long road ahead of us. We bid adieu to Goa by afternoon... the rains were back in town by then flooding the streets of Panaji and almost blocking our way. I think the rains and Goa enjoyed our company... we did their for sure..!!!

Monsoon trip to Goa - Part 1

I remember reading about this book 'Chasing the Monsoon' sometime back. This is the story of a person (Alexander Frater) who followed the monsoon across India, right from the coasts of Kerala -where the spectacle begins- to Chirapunjee -the rain capital of the world were the grand finale unravels. There was a passage in the book which goes something like this... "Heaving a door open I stepped outside. Soaked to the skin within seconds I felt a wonderful sense of flooding warmth and invigoration; it was, indubitably, a little bit like being born again." A reviewer had the following comment on the book "...If all travel books were this good, everyone would just stay home and read..".I am now in a better position to understand the madness and fun behind such an endeavor.. after my monsoon trip to Goa through the coastal route two weeks back. I also feel that you should get out and get wet to really understand what he actually describes in the book.. words can never do justice to this phenomenon.

This was a trip which got postponed a number of times, thanks to some funniest and lamest of excuses you ever hear. But finally five of us set out on a four day trip. After a lacklusture drive of about 8 hours we reached the coastal town of Mangalore. Rain stayed away from us most of the day but came pouring down in the night.. right when we were driving down the ghat roads from Sakhleshpur. The night drive amidst the rain and the mist was really dangerous but the hot tea and fried fish for dinner almost made it up...!! We stayed in a dirty small motel that night... we just wanted a place to lie down for a few hours. Sleep conquered us in no time, much before the stink of the mattresses could get into our heads.

We started our journey to Goa next day morning. We reached Udipi in time for an early breakfast and it started raining immediately. It was great driving through the torrential rains this time as the roads were good. We stopped by the silver sands and ocean at a couple of places before taking the left turn to Gokharna. This impulsive decision to visit the Om beach proved to be worthwhile. The road towards the beach offers some great views and the serene beach devoid of crowd was breathtaking. We had our lunch there and spent a couple of hours lazing around. You cant do justice to the beaches in Gokharna with a couple of hours in hand. So we left Gokharna only to come back another time.. possibly for a beach trek in September. We passed through Karwar and touched down at Goa by evening. Our destination for the night was the Mayem Lake Resort, a small economic place ran by the state tourism department. The Mayem lake is not something that features in the itinery of normal Goa travelers... a small lake, far away from the beaches. We had a tough time finding this place in the night.. but that gave us an opportunity to travel across Goa in the rain, getting a glimpse of the villages of Ponda, Sanquelim and Bicholim.

The next morning showed us the real beauty of Mayem.. with its clean and vast stretch of waters and walkways all around it.. a perfect place to take a sabbatical to. It was raining heavily in the morning and the lake looked beautiful with the raindrops creating all sorts of patterns in the water. It was great to take a walk along the lake, amidst the cashew plantations, with the sweet sound of rain in your ears..!!! We decided to take the ferry across Mandovi river to Panaji and drove down to Chorao. Goa's only bird sanctuary - Salim Ali bird sanctuary- is in Chorao, near the ferry wharf. The ferry trip was interesting in the heavy downpour and Mandovi was flowing in all her glory and might..!! We reached Panaji and started searching for the one and only auto gas station in Goa - East Coast -and it took us a while to find this place. From Panaji, you have to go towards Margoa and after the church of St. Xavier(Bom Jesus) & Se Cathedral, you have to take a U-turn and join the one way back to Panaji.. about 2-3 kilometers ahead is the gas station, a little away from the road, but visible from the highway.

After filling the tank with enough gas to take us back to Bangalore, we set out to explore Panaji before moving to the beaches....

A Rocking weekend..!!!

What goes well with winter nights? Nothing better than Rock 'n' Roll and beer i feel. That almost sums up the last one week here at Bangalore. The city has been rocking hard the past weekend to the tune of all the musical heavyweights who descended for the Bangalore Habba, the yearly cultural festival of Bangalore. Music and dance events were happening at venues across the city and the best ones were obviously being staged at the palace grounds which literally became my home for about a week.

The Bangalore band 'Slain' was the star attraction of day one. The lead singer of the band had a pretty amazing voice and about 100 people who turned out for the show were treated to some of their own compositions. Some friend of the band were distributing business cards amongst the crowd while they performed. To my amazement, the card had no contact details, but the URL to their Myspace profile. I was impressed to see that social networking has reached all together new planes these days. I was but disappointed the next day to see that they had just one friend on their shabbily done profile page. Well begun is not always half done..!!

The second day saw Synapse, Lounge Piranha and Karma-6 performing one after the other. Synapse had a pretty tight set and did deliver the goods. Lounge Piranha stuck to their usual set of songs and they seemed to be a little less excited than usual about the gig. I could not watch Karma-6 but was eager to get back for the next day. Friday evening we had L Subramaniam and his son with their awesome carnatic classical performance. Then came the much awaited event of the day - Parikrama. They showed the crowd why they are still the best rock band in the country. The crowd was ecstatic when they belted out songs of Iron Maiden, Korn along with their own compositions. The violinist 'Imran Khan' soon became the crowd's favorite with his swift violin solos, especially 'Open Skies'. The temperature had dropped to 14-15 degree C, but the crowd warmed up to the music pretty quick. Kingfisher, one of the event sponsors had set up beer parlors in the ground which also fueled the enthusiasm.

Saturday started with Toufiq Quereshi and his band, followed by a performance by 'Bandish' - the hindi rock band from Mumbai. But the real attraction of the day was 'Pentagram'. If Parikrama rocked the day before, Pentagram stepped up the tempo yet another notch. This was the liveliest show I've ever been to. The band interacted with the crowd pretty well and soon everyone was jumping up and down to the beats, and the night ended with the powerful rendering of their popular composition 'Voices'. This song has become the theme song for the 'Anti-reservation' movement and the band made it a point to voice their opinion against reservations in this country. Good to see somebody using their mass influence for a good cause.

Sunday was 'THE' day, with 'America' playing live at the Palace Grounds. I was all thrilled from the moment I heard that they will be here. They are one of my favorite soft Rock bands of all time. Listen to 'Definitive America' and you will understand what I am talking about. Kadri Gopinath and Ronu Majumdar were having a Flute-Sax jugalbandi at one end of the ground the same time, but I chose to go with 'America'. Trust me they rocked...!!! The crowd turnout was poor but the band belted out many of their hit singles, to the delight of those were around. They also sang couple of songs from their upcoming album - their 21st release in fact...!!

Its not all over yet.. 'Scorpions' are playing here next sunday evening. I hope I will be able to stand the excitement..!!

The Scorpions in concert....

I am not quite sure why I did not write about the Scorpions concert so far. Anyway, better late than never. The Gods of rock(no offense to the other divine bands out there) visited Bangalore during the third week of December, the last stop of their 'Humanity' world tour. I am so glad that I did not miss the chance to watch them in concert, it was worth many times the money I spent on tickets..!!

The turnout was not great.. at least not as much as I expected in a music-aware city like Bangalore. Irrespective of the numbers, the atmosphere was electric at Palace grounds.. the excitement quite visible. The sound system was creating enough noise with those advertisements from sponsors of the event. Every time the opening tabs of 'Winds of Change' came up as filler between the ads, the crowd went crazy whistling and howling. As I reached the place pretty early, I had enough time to look around and watch people. It was good to see so many crazy metalheads at one place. Quite a few things caught my attention (apart from the beautiful babes around).

There was this guy with a broken leg, on crutches, barely able to walk but hanging on to a true friend's shoulders. He definitely deserves a 101 on Passion & enthusiasm..!! Then there was the 'Powerhorse' advertisement playing on one of the giant screens. It showed an empty glass with a bent straw in it. As some 'powerhorse' is poured into the glass, the straw slowly straightens.. good for an energy drink advertisement...right? To pass time, I decided to check out the food stalls inside the ground. Most of the stuff were heavily priced and I ended up buying just a coffee. While I was standing there, a boy and a girl came to pick up some snacks. The girl asked the price of some hot samosas and I could see the boy almost licking his lips in anticipation of the treat. The Samosas were priced at Rs. 25 for two. After hearing the price, the girl just turned around and left the place. The boy intercepted her and said 'Lets buy one plate, didi'. She gave him a stare and said "Are you mad? Two samosas for 25..? You will get 10 for that price outside". Better sense Girls always seem to have a firm grip on common sense.. unlike some guys like me and that boy..!!

About 30 minutes from the announced time, Klaus Meine finally came on stage with his band and said 'Namaste'. I cannot explain how I felt when I saw those guys up close personal on stage... not anymore just a voice I recognize. Without wasting much time the band started off with the classic 'Holiday'...."Let me take you far away.. you'd like a holiday..." You bet we all did...!!Reminded me of something that I read recently - "What do we need music to do? Take us to that wonderful land in our head and the place in our heart?" - A round-trip ticket is what the Scorpions offered.

For an hour and half the band enthralled all with their energetic performance. The playlist for the night was a mixture of old hits like 'Still Loving You', 'Under the same sun', 'The Zoo' and songs from their latest 'Humanity' album. The new numbers '123' and 'humanity' were standard scorpion stuff - beautiful melodic ballads with a heavy metal twist. The song delivery was so perfect that the live performance was as good as the studio recordings. Klaus Mein was busy throwing drum sticks & guitar picks into the crowd and would have thrown at least a hundred sticks during the night's show. Everyone frantically tried to grab one of them... a memorabilia from the concert..!!

But we were shocked when the band abruptly said 'Goodnight' and left the stage about an hour into the concert. But the despair soon turned into delight as James Kottak and Pawel took the stage for some solo performances. James unleashed the beast inside him onto the drums accompanied by some funny expressions and antics. Soon the rest of the band joined them to sing some of the crowd favorites - Winds of Change, Rock you like a Hurricane and Send me and Angel. And finally when they stopped everybody wanted a little more of it. But great things in life wont last long and it was time to carry the memories home.

Night Trek to Skandagiri..!!

Morals are usually stuff that stories precipitate.. the chaff that they spit out after chewing on all the meat. Stories are used as baits to lure you to the bitterness of these so called 'universal truths'. This need not be the case always... for example, in the story that I am going to tell now, morals are the baits.. love it or leave it..!!

This is yet another story which starts with "Once upon a time in the land of plenty, there lived a dumbo..." and ends with something like "..and he somehow saved his ass and lived happily ever after (well.. almost)...." But as I already mentioned, there are quite a few morals attached to this one.. like....

- Monsoon treks without tents can be a bad idea
- Monsoon treks without tents, during night is even worse
- Monsoon treks without tents, on a moonless night, when nobody knows the route.... is stupid
- And its suicidal when you cant sing enough songs to last an hour of Antakshari.

I am still feeling too tired and sleepy to write a detailed account of our weekend night trek to Skandagiri aka Kalavarbetta. Crazy is probably too inadequate a word to describe the series of events that happened during the trek. As a result of some last minute planning and goof ups, the group of five (Siril, Anoop, Gopan, Santhosh & myself) started from platform #10 of KBS by 5:00 on that overcast Saturday evening. We reached Chikaballapur after an hour's journey, from where we had to travel another five kilometers to reach 'Omkar Jyothi Ashram' at the foothills of Skandagiri. There are two Omkarjyothi ashrams in Chikaballpur and this created some confusion initially. But by 7 o' clock we were all set to start the climb.. with the rain clouds hovering overhead quite menacingly.

The climb looked quite an easy one initially with a clear trail ahead of us. But soon this changed as the path started branching out in all possible directions. One good thing about Skandagiri is that it is impossible to get lost even if you take a detour for a while .. as long as you keep climbing uphill. Soon the torches were out and we could smell the initial drops of rain... we thought it might drizzle soon. Oh boy, we were so wrong..and in no time it started pouring cats and dogs. Rain Gods showed no mercy on us as they unleashed the beast... accompanied by its crooked aide - heavy wind. The jackets or wind-cheaters were of little use and we gave up the fight in the very first round. But the rain was in no mood to leave us alone... it kept on lashing at us asif its gone mad. We could hardly find our way and decided to take the dinner break after about two hours of climbing. We had to hold the food packets in hand, bend over it to prevent the rain from falling directly into it and then eat. But trust me.. the food tasted great...!!

We resumed the climb after dinner for another 30 minutes when we spotted a fort wall blocking our way up. Skandagiri has a fort on top of the mountain with walls built around it at different levels. You see one wall at a time and the moment you climb over that, another one will appear. This teasing continues till you cross six walls to finally reach 'The Top'. The winds were blowing at very high speeds by then and all of us were shivering like hell. We found a rock which could shield us from the winds but not the rain. So we sat there, drenched in the rain, huddled on one side of the rock, disparately trying to keep our body warm. I could hear Audioslave singing inside my head.. "I've been chased by a rain cloud .... I was lost and nearly drowned and kicked around.."...wished I could sing along.. the guitar riffs were echoing all round me and then I realised its nothing but the rain..!!

When you are lost and cant find the way in the dark, with the fort wall between you and the top (read as 'really nothing at all to do') and pounded by mad rain and strong winds (translates to 'no mosquitoes to kill') that pretty much leaves you with two options - play Anthakshari or discuss Communism. We chose to do both, one after the other. Soon we realised how easy it is to sing in the rain, especially classical music.. you don't have to put in much effort, the shivering will make sure you sing the ragas well. So the Kishore Kumars and Mohammed Rafis sang to glory for the next couple of hours. The mist played hide and seek with the city lights visible in the valleys.. giving the songs perfect visual effects. It is truly an experience to sit on top of the mountain in the dark and sing to the mist and the rain.. patient audience who did not really mind a wrong pitch or rhythm here and there. As time passed by we started to get stuck with the 'Laa' s and the 'dhaa's... we did not have enough fire power to stand two hours of anthakshari... an essential and necessary skill to master before attempting the next crazy trek. We moved on to our next option.. discuss Communism, Socialism and the new world order it can bring about. Trust me, under these circumstances, even this looked a meaty and sensible topic. The most significant benefit of the discussion was that the rain got bored with it and left us alone with the winds...!!

By 1 O'clock in the morning, we decided to explore our options to climb up.. we did not want to miss out the sunrise early in the morning. After unsuccessfully trying to climb the fort wall, we retraced the path we climbed up and took a deviation to the left of the wall. Soon we were climbing a flight of steps through the thick thorny shrubs and reached the clearing just above the wall. There were two small rooms on either side of this path made of stone slabs and they looked decent shelters for us to spend time till the morning. Anoop and Santhosh managed to catch some sleep and the rest of us started our round table on 'The Gandhi & Nehru families', Indo-China war, rise and fall of Russia and what not...!! Arguments and counter arguments heated up the air around us, providing a cozy environment to be and before we realised it was five in the morning - time to resume climb and witness the sunrise. But as soon as we stepped out of our palatial bunglows we realised that its toooo misty outside to see anything around, forget the sunrise.

The only visible thing was the fort wall ahead of us and we started towards it. Once we climbed around it what waited us was yet another a distance. Finally after three more of these stony structures, we reached the top. The surprising fact is that there is nothing much built on top that deserves the protection of six huge walls.. a dilapidated one room temple is all what it holds..!! We were all surrounded by mist which occasionally danced around to give us a glimpse of the glorious views on all sides. In spite of missing the sunrise it was worth the climb. We hanged around the top for a while before deciding to start our return journey. On the way down we had a look at the route we took the previous night and were more than surprised. We had taken some dangerous routes which were definite No-Nos if it was during the day.. the darkness had infact helped us to climb up without realising the depths beneath. Instead of climbing around some steep and slippery rocks, we had in fact scaled them right across.. fortunately without any causalities...!!!

Soon the mist disappeared and we were treated to some more enchanting views of the surrouning mountains, valleys and some spectacular rock formations. It was such a relief to feel the sunshine.. the heat.. the light and the dryness. Soon hunger started its attack and we quickened the pace. Fortunately there was one person selling 'pulihora' right near the strating point of the trek and all of us had our stomach full. Then there was this long road leading to Chikaballapur town and in no time we were on it. We got a bus halfway through and what happened after that is just a blur in my memory.. All I remember is getting on a bus to bangalore and darkness forcing itself into my eyes... when I opened them again we were back in Bangalore. I know one thing .. this trip will remain in my memory for ever.. not just for the craziness of it... but also for the place that Skandagiri is...!!

Going Goa Gone...

To be edited

Mad Thoughts.....

Been talking to a dear friend of mine the other day on God and religion... my pet topic to bitch about. She was angry at God for consistently neglecting her requests and prayers. She has declared moratorium on God and religious rituals for some time now. Her complaint is that even when she is asking for very small and minutes things in life, God seems to pay little attention to them. Thats definitely frustrating, when your concept of God is about an all powerful being who takes care of you and can alter things in life once you ask. After all prayers are not just a time killing activity..rite..? They are based on the understanding that HE will carefully listen to them and take positive action as long as they are benevolent in nature. Makes sense...!!

I was wondering what could be the logic behind these prayer-answer sessions. This is the explanation that I came up with, which wasn't enough to answer her questions but good enough to explain to myself the phenomenon of 'delayed-delivery of blessings' by Him. When there are so many stupid excuses for everything in life these days, I don't think one more really hurt. The crazy theory goes something like this - Whenever you ask for things that are not existing in the 'present', you are unknowingly requesting a deliberate collapse or expansion of 'time'. Time being something that is common to everyone and everything, you can just imagine the repercussions of such a time-altering activity on the world at large. Its like the Chaos theory situation of 'a butterfly fluttering its wings at one corner of the world, creating a cyclone at another corner'. The whole world and its beings are connected by such delicate linkages that the action at one point will inevitably result in a reaction at some other. Probably God himself is very much aware of these things and make sure that his actions do not cause unnecessary imbalances..!!

Realizing that I am at my maddest-best, she decided not to contest the theory and we moved on to different topics. Religion has become such a nasty cancer on society these days that you cannot talk for 5 minutes on any subject without mentioning the 'R' word at least once. So it came up again. This time it was some Hindu religious rituals that became victims of our discussion. Hinduism, which was a 'way of living' till recent times, has got some beautiful and meaningful rituals. That is why you find most of the Hindu religious ceremonies so natural and nature-oriented like many of the 'so called pagan' religions. They were all intended to develop a healthy relationship with the surroundings we live in and the things we live with. This way of living was based on the realization that we share the world with others, that even the meek has a unique role to play here, that you need to respect everything - living & non-living - and so on. The basic intention of life was peaceful coexistence. Accepting and respecting things around will automatically take care of the "God' factor... Who was perceived as nothing but the collective conscience of all that we see around.

Only when Hinduism had to transform itself into a religion - perhaps to resist annihilation by more aggressive faiths - that these rituals lost their meaning and people started understanding them literally. This is in stark contrast to the artificial, person-oriented ceremonies in modern religious faiths. They care a damn for the world we live in, the only focus being keeping the all powerful HIM happy and contented.. ya he is watching you..!!! Makes me think of God as somebody like the character Robert De Niro plays in 'Meet the Parents'. A retired agent from the CIA
[CLIA - Central Lack of Intelligence Agency, according to Dustin Hoffman], he thinks that everybody else is a crook and keeps watch on everyone.

Don't they know the whole concept sounds silly...?

Of Mountains & Myths...!!!

While searching the internet for details of Thadiyandamol and the trek routes there, I remember reading a blog which said many people could not climb the mountain in their first attempt. It was not because it was a difficult place to reach or climb, but something always happen which force people to cut short the trip the first time. I was amused at this notion and never thought this could happen to me. I was never a believer of these so called 'myths'. So when the whole city was busy celebrating Diwali, two of us quietly sneaked out of the noise and mayhem and took the KSRTC bus to Virajpet.

The trip was peaceful and we reached Virajpet bus stop in the wee hours of that Saturday morning.The plan was to climb Thadiyandamol, camp there that night, climb down Sunday morning and reach Bangalore by Monday morning. The bus station was all deserted and we had the rest rooms at our disposal for morning chores. After a quick breakfast, we boarded the first bus towards Napoklu, the starting point of our trek. This is one of the treks where the trail is pretty clear and straight. We took a deviation from the bus route towards 'Nalknad Aramanai'. There is tarred road for quite a distance which gradually gives way to a mud road which goes winding up through the tea estates. There are couple of streams criss crossing the road on the way and they are good sources of drinking water. We could not help empty the mineral water bottles and collect some 'genuine' mineral water.

Nalknad Aramana is a deserted palace now, but was once the last refuge of king Veerarajendra before surrendering to the British. It is too small to be called a 'palace' and looks more like a big ancestral home. But it has some 20 odd rooms and some elaborate artwork on the ceiling and walls. There is also an escape root via an underground tunnel from one of the rooms.
The palace is now closed for renovation. It was sad to see the mural paintings on the walls covered in paint. The caretaker of the palace said that the walls were whitewashed by some authorities and all the murals were thus destroyed. A Bangalore based company was doing chemical treatment to wash away the paint and to their amazement found that parts of the pictures were even covered by cement. Conservation at its best...!!

We resumed our journey after this short stop at the palace and took the road that goes towards the Palace Estate. From this point its a steep climb towards Thadiyandamol. There is a junction on the way where you get a fabulous view of the mountains and the valley below.. the first glimpse of Thadiyandamol too which looked inviting in a carpet of lush green. The steep climb was over and it was level ground for a while from there. There were kurinji plants all over the place with stray flowering here and there. These guys generally flower en-masse only once in twelve years, though there are certain small variants of kurinji which flower every 3/4 years. Ahah.. I forgot to mention about our trek guide Luke. Luke was a black canine with a contrasting white streak along his belly.

He showed us the way, not to mention the fight he picked up with some buffaloes on the way. In spite of his brave stance, the buffaloes managed to drive him away in few minutes. He would walk ahead, stand tall on a rock and wait for us to catch up. Whenever we stop to catch a breath, he would sit upon a rock with that expression in his eyes 'Come on guys, grow up..!!'. He also obliged us by posing for photographs like a trained model every now and then. It was a sunny afternoon and there were quite a few stunning views on the way towards the peak... but we were still half way through.

It was then that my friend developed yelled with pain and sat on a rock. The expression on his face told me that something is not quite right. He had missed his step while climbing a rock and badly twisted his ankle. My worst fears proved right when he said he cannot walk any more and I knew the adventure is over. We had no options but to return rather than risk further injury to his leg by climbing ahead. We slowly started walking back, taking rest every now and then to nurse his injured leg. Somehow he managed to hold to together till we reach Virajpet by evening and catch a bus to Bangalore late night.

When I first read about people not being able to climb Thadiyandamol at first attempt, I dismissed it as another of those stories.. but when it unfolds right in front of you, you gotta believe there is something in it. We had seen other people climbing the hill and a few returning after a day's halt on top, but somehow the mountain did not want us on top.. at least then.

Myths are perhaps not always figments of imagination...!!

Now playing: U2 & Greenday - The Saints Are Coming
via FoxyTunes

Marriage Blooos...!!

There is a time in life when you come face to face with the marriage machinery. I do agree that everyone should get married at least once in life.. after all happiness is not the only thing in life. But somehow marriage always looks like this situation into which the non-initiated are eager to jump in and the veterans are desperate to get out of. All said and done, its an inevitable trap that very few dare to escape. Yaaa... when rape is inevitable its wiser to lie down and enjoy..!! Its surprising that I am talking ill about something thats the very reason behind my existence.. or is it really so?

There are few interesting ways/circumstances under which the thought of marriage manifest upon you... was trying to figure out few interesting ones from what I have heard and seen and experienced.

Situation One - A feeling develops deep inside you one morning, a longing for company in life, a desire to raise a family and have kids, an innate animal instinct to procreate and sustain the species...blah blah. According to me this happens only in theory... at least the first part. In reality, this is just an excuse to share the load of housekeeping, telephone bills and a necessary and sufficient condition to rent an apartment in a decent locality.

Situation Two - you look around and see that people of your age has got family and kid(s), look behind and see your parents standing with that wicked smile and fear in their eyes, look in the mirror and see those beautiful gray hairs forming a congregation on your head and finally decide that its time to get marred (oopss.. missed an 'i' there). The more their ward postpones the decision to get married the more worried parents get.. there should definitely be something wrong with their son/daughter.Now a days, they have to put up with the additional fear of their kid changing into a "monster" who prefers people of the same gender to live with..!!

Situation Three: Your successful pursuits have earned you a girl/boyfriend who is breathing down your neck to get married as soon as possible. I am sure you never had the good fortune to listen to the elders who said "Careful what you wish for.. you might actually end up getting it and regretting it for the rest of your life"...!! All that they say are not necessarily crap.. when they say not to do something they actually would have done those mistakes so many times in their life and learned from it.. so better open up your eyes and listen..[errr... did I say 'eyes'..?]

Do I sound like a jerk..? Be my guest..!!

Now playing: 3 DOORS DOWN - Landing In London
via FoxyTunes
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...