Thursday, March 24, 2005

Home, sweet and HOT, home

It feels nice to be back in the room in which i've spent a major part of my life, errr... have I ?

Lemme see.. I stayed in this room until moving to Pune on November 26th 2002. During that span, my average time spent at home per day varied between 6 hours to 6.5 hours. If I take a summation of that over the many years I've been in Allahabad and then adjust for the NAV (since most of that 6 to 6.5 hrs was spent in sleeping and hence cant be called as productive as the remaining hours. Lets be fair, yaar.) it turns out i've spent less than 15% of my life in Allahabad in this room. I just shared this bit of wisdom with Mom and she says she thinks the 15% is a bit optimistic and 10% is more like it. Dad refuses to quote a figure, stating the time in question is statistically insignificant ! Damn, why does he have to be an engineer ?

With almost no friends left here, all are in diverse corners of the world, I am left to appreciate the impact of sunshine on -

- flowers (they wither away)

- wet clothes (they becoming crackly dry and then I have to fetch them, Ouch)

- the water in the Tank (it gets hot and then I have to take a bath with hot water when the temperature outside is a simmering 39 degrees)

- Mom's mood (She gets chuffed, and that means my constant crys for
refreshments, both liquid and solid, are mostly ignored)

- myself ( I sweat, I stink, I feel like having a bath, I do so,
ergo, I get worse)

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my house

Monday, March 14, 2005

Yet another end term scam

This is getting to be a pain now. End term exams pop up at the most inappropriate moments when you simply can not take a single moment out of your busy MBA schedule to think about even writing the exams, forget studying for them.

This dangerous tendency on the part of the exams causes untold grief to all and sundry and causes a major disruption in otherwise productive schedules. I wonder if we could not get rid of them altogether with a system of peer review or, even better - I am a genious, self review to take care of the grades.

Ok, enough of dreaming, need to get back to packing all my stuff stuff, since I have to vacate this room, I'll miss G hostel, and also go home, better go now than in the stifling June heat and that too without electricity for 8 hours everyday.

End terms hain bhai, bahut kaam hai ! Bye.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Coorg Boating Club & Tibet

As everyone, except Ravi, woke up to get ready for what was to be a simple jungle walk and which turned out to be a full fledged mountain trek, I could feel that something was amiss. And I was proved right. I do not claim to be a veteran trekker like our dear Vikhyat but having had my fair share of treks, I didn't feel that the terrain we were about to traverse was something that is usually what trekkers go for. The forests and shrubbery that I was seeing in the area was more of thick, thorny, dry (verrrry dry) shrubs, bushes, trees and what not obstructing your way and not the usual typical trek vegetation that you would find in say Wayanad (Kerala), Lakhaniya ki Dari (UP) or even Tawang (Arunachal).

The fun of actually pushing through dense vegetation to push your way through and looking for firm footholds to register progress was totally missing here. It felt as if we were a really stubborn lot trying to create a trek where none was suitable. Anyway, ab pachhtaye hot ka, jab chidiya chug gayi khet.

Anyway, immediately after fortifying ourselves with the gratis Coffee, we set out, only slightly delayed by Surabhi and Madhu's insistence on picking a few ripe tomatoes in case someone felt hungry on the trip.

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Surabhi and Mad-who with their prize pickings

It was hard going with a lot of falling for most people as we struggled towards the top. Vikhyat, the expert led from the front and I brought up the rear for the most part though I did occasionally move ahead to take snaps of people.

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Surabhi on the trek with an expression which I dont have words to describe

We reached the top without any major mishap and spent about 15 minutes contemplating on the extent of canvassing by political parties which had adorned a tree with their flags. Another pleasant surprise was the fact that Nitai's cellfone was able to recieve a full strength signal. Kudos to BSNL's prepaid mobile service Excel.

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All at the top

The twist in the tale was brought by a call that I got on Nitai's cell that caused great mirth later and cause to Dheeraj for ribbing me about my capabilities of walking on air, water etc since I managed to speak on the mobile and hold the digicam in the other hand while walking calmly (sic) downhill while the others were finding it difficult to even take a step without using both hands to grap supports and quite a few (read members of Coorg Boating Club) were mostly reduced to sliding down almost all the way.

The trek down was many degrees worse than the one up as our incomparable guide decided to take us back by another way which he thought was better. Alas, it wasn't anything of the sort and suffice to say that most of us came close to losing life or limb or both on various occassions. That we made it with nothing to show for our exertions but minor scratches and drag marks on jeans (apart from a very myseriously inexplicable tear on Baba's jeans) is a testament to the resilience shown by the people and the manner in which everyone helped each other in negotiating the trickier patches. It was quite unlike the experience I had in Wayanad on a trek in the 1st term with Vikhyat and myself being the members common to both.

I must add, however, that Ms. Madhu did, at one point, assumed murderous intentions and kicked a rock into action that, had I not shouted out loud to warn the others, would have taken out Baba, Dheeraj, Qaynat and Surabhi for sure. I believe Vikhyat being far ahead as the advance scout was out of harm's way I believe but I may be wrong.

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Yeah that's the peak we scaled !

After coming back to our home-base, we found Ravi still slumbering away to glory.

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Some people have all the luck, dammit !

It was at this point that the incomparable Ms. Surabhi was perplexed by the sodden state of her precious jeans pocket only to realise that it was caused by the tomatoes that she had so thoughtfully stuffed in there. Now that was an idea whose efficacy in creating Puree cannot be questioned though why would she want to do that in this particular occasion is a question that remains moot.

A quick bath, with suspiciously dark water, and a sumptous breakfast later we were all set to proceed to our next destination, Abby Falls.

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breakfast spread

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all of us, ready to depart

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Abby falls

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that is Baba up there, contemplating on the ironies of life

After Abby falls we piled into the Qualis with an intention to fit in a trip to a Tibetan monastery that was about 40 kms. away and Nisargadham another idyllic buddhist island, before he headed back to IIMK. We stopped at a roadside Bar & Restaurant where ice was NOT available. Hmm, that's unusual,wotsay ?

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food at the bar without ice

The monastery was stunning, to say the least, from the outside and serene, peaceful and comtemplative from inside.

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The monastery

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the inner sanctum

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the chaitya hall, note the prakrit inscriptions

It was here that me and Baba discussed the extreme similarities between the scriptures, symbols and tenets of Buddhism and Hinduism and went on the exchange views on the role of the state in nurturing a religion which is all but dead in its land of birth. That the very essence of religion, that of providing a very private and personal means of giving a context to man's existence and all his actions is in extreme contrast to the way modern religions tend towards more and more ostentatious manifestations of their ideology with an intent to reducing the sceptics to awe and the believers to pride, is a irony that I have always found hard to come to terms with. It always hits me whenever I find myself in any such place, regardless of the faith espoused.

By this time it was too late to go anywhere else but back to campus and that is where we headed. A few wrong turns (methinks, they were intentional, to earn some more money) and a utterly forgettable dinner at some god forsaken place later, we were back on our resort on the twin hills, IIMK.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Hill stations at sea level and BUZZ

The august assembly that I found myself part of,for this trip, consisted of Nitai, Qaynat, Vikhyat, Dheeraj, Madhu, Surabhi and Ravi (in order of seating) apart from the driver and yours truly. Now, for the benefit of people who have not had the good fortune of having met these dignitaries, I must inform you that atleast four people in this list belong to the category called 'well fed' ;-)

The vehicle that was supposed to be our carrier for this trip was a black Qualis and since Baba assumed that it will have the usual Jeep-style parallel benches in the back, 8 people were lined up, for economies of scale. What he had not bargained for, was a Qualis with the normal seat in the back parallel to the two seats in the front thus restricting the capacity to 7. Fine pickle to start with.

After a lot of head scratching and generous assistance from a certain representative of the student body lovingly called 'Mr. Sharma' by my colleagues on IPMSGR, it was decided that Madhu, Surabhi and Ravi will occupy the back seats (good for nothing back benchers all) and Baba will occupy the pride of place on the front seat. This left us four, supposedly thin people, to manage in the middle seat. Ouch. Suffice to say that had it not been for Qaynat's extremely generous and considerate, and as far as I can recall stubborn, decision to sit in a very awkward position, we would have had a very stuffed-vegetable kind of trip indeed. Thanks Q.

The trip started off on a promising note with Baba in full flow from the onset itself. His 'BUZZ'es,stuff of lore now, and some real sharp commentary from Dheeraj ensured that the laughs never stopped for almost the entire time we were in Kerala.

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Witness him going loco with his antics.

Baba had informed us that it will take about 4-5 hours to reach our destination, the hill station Coorg. He was a bit off the mark, just a bit. After a full 4 hours of continous driving, we were still in Kerala with no possibility of any elevation happening pretty soon. Another hour of driving and crossing the Karnataka border later, we finally realised that we had entered Coorg (the district) and I had begun to wonder if the highest point in this region was lower than A hostel, in my humble opinion the lowest point at IIMK.

All of us were pretty fidgety by now, what with thirst, hunger, boredom and Baba's incessant BUZZing. Finally we reached a small town called Gonikompa where after querying locals (face to face) and prior visitors (using Surabhi's mobile, causing her to go into paroxysms of rage fearing that the charge will be used up thus cutting her off from humanity, methinks she was worried about humanity in Canada in particular;-) we realised that we had to go another 40 odd kms to a place called Madikeri from where we can even begin to ask about tourist-able places in the region.

Enthu totally deflated by now, we decided to enjoy the culinary offerings of Karnataka (proudly trumpeted by Surabhi) and hence after back tracking for about 1.5 kms entered a restaurant which promised vegetarian delights. And delights they were, with an exhaustive menu consisting of Peas Masala and Tomato Fry only, we nevertheless pigged on the same with gusto.
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veg food at its best.

We reached Madikeri where Nitai got to the task of finding out our next destination while Qaynat decided that her best angle for a snap is only possible if she is on the roof of the Qualis and hence up she went after a lot of huffing and puffing from all and sundry.

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Q on her lofty perch.

By this time Baba had managed to convince the owner of a coffee estate to be our host for the night and off we went following him in his Maruti 800. The place was a bit secluded despite being close to a highway of some sort, nestled amongst hills and forests and of course coffee plantations.

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The first view of the cottage, our abode for the night.

The place was pretty nice and spacious and pretty soon all of us were settled comfortably in the terrace shown in the pic above and soaking in the atmosphere while talking about things which almost always mean nothing. With free coffee and not-so-free beer doing the rounds, the philosophical sides of people started rearing their ugly heads.

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yours truly comtemplating on the ironies of life

Our dinner for the night was a buffet spread and I liked it, way better than any veg restaurant in Surabhi's Karnataka had offered till then. With local delicacies and wholesome rice on view, I gorged.

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khana khazana

Food over, it was time for us to head towards the bonfire which had already been lit by our host. With Baba not accompanying us due to a sinus-induced headache, things were pretty dull until Baba was persuaded to join us and the party was on. With a raucous game of Truth and Dare to start off the proceedings followed by an intensely fought bout of Antakshari characterised by both Dheeraj and Vikhyat creating new songs on the spot. That they did not even despite this obvious edge over their opponents was largely due to the amazing repertoire of songs that Surabhi drew from whenever our team was in trouble. Thanks Surabhi, we owe you one!

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Dheeraj on the bottle - Truth and Dare in progress

The bonfire

As the games got over people trudged off to sleep for varying lengths of time in preparation for the trek that was scheduled for the morning while Surabhi and myself remained awake talking about some really wierd matters (there must have been something in the coffee dammit, I dont drink) while the others slept.

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Surabhi besides the remains of the bonfire
to be continued...

Friday, March 04, 2005

of Inter-Sectional co-operation and prescient logic

I woke from my usual 5 hour cat-nap at around 8:30 in the night to see a message floating on my screen, among a hundred odd others from the enlightened junta here at IIMK, stating that a Qualis will be here at 7 AM next morning to take me, and hopefully a few others as well, to Coorg, supposedly a beautiful hill station which has not been commercialised yet, due to some unfathomable reason, and hence is the ideal place to go for a quick break to recharge our cells. I am still wondering about what exactly did we do to discharge our cells but that is an entirely different issue altogether.

Now the twist in the tale comes in the form of this long standing policy of ours, Section A's benevolent junta, to encourage sporting ties with our weaker neighbours, Section B, much like the India - Bangladesh situation. In order to help them face quality opposition so that their standards are hopefully raised, we allow them to play a match or two with us every now & then. Now one such match of cricket, however hopelessly lop-sided it was bound to be, was scheduled on the morrow as well.

But brave and eager hearts that we are, we just shrugged and preponed the match a bit to 5 o clock which was a bit puzzling since no one in the history of IIMK has ever woken at 5 AM to do anything, much less play a match. I am not counting the people who do not sleep till after 5 AM.

Out of the eight people who had probably been hand picked by Nitai, I cannot explain this melange in any other way, 2.5 people were playing the match. Ravi Girdhar was the first one, the wicketkeeper of the team to boot, while Dheeraj Batra was the second, the chief peace-breaker (i repeat peace-breaker in contrast to peace - broker). The exalted 0.5 status belonged to yours truly since I had participated in the rather eventful selection trials held earlier and was later told that the team could not afford me in the final 11.

Not to be disheartened, I nevertheless decided to wake up in time for the match, which was never going to start anytime before 6 any way since we do not have facilities for day-night matches yet, sportscomm be damned, and sunlight has the habit of visiting us at a rather leisurely pace, since I was bound to be called to play about 15 minutes after the match had started since one or the other of the full integer dignitaries would suddenly find it beneath his dignity to play with Section B.

As has happened umpteen times in the past, my prescience proved spot-on and Mr. Sandeep Gopal was on my doorstep with his bike, for the skeptical junta here my room is on the ground floor and faces the valley so he CAN come to my doorstep with his contraption of a bike, asking me to hop on and do it quick since the match had already started, with an expression on his face that suggested I had committed some grave crime by not being on the ground already despite being told, in so many words, that I was not supposed to be there.

Perfect team player that I am, I was ready in 15 seconds, I didn't expect it you see ;-) When I reached the ground, the match was well and truly underway and I was heartened to see that the section B people were really making an effort to give us a semblance of a fight. This charade however could not go on for long due to lack of experience, talent, ability, guts and brains and thankfully the torture got over pretty soon.

Having fulfilled our obligations, we ek-bike-pe-teen-log-ed our way back to the hostels and started to get ready for the trip , whose raison d etre is still quite nebulous, to say the least. A quick shower and breakfast later, we were all set to go.

Detailed coverage in the next post.

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