December 14, 2009

Whats Brewing

Thinking of doing Bangalore to Delhi , by road, in 10 days. Solo.
Pit Stops : Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nashik, Daman, Udaipur, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Pokhran, Bikaner, Jaipur, New Delhi.
Budget : 10,000 INR (includes Delhi-Blr flight)
Mode of Transport : Mainly buses; Hitchhike wherever possible.

Possible changes to the plan :
1. Stop at Ahmadabad and instead go exploring Gujarat
2. Explore Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh.
3. Get wasted in some virgin beaches along the Western Coast

December 11, 2009

Read and To-Be Read

2009 was the year when i read the maximum number of books in a year - probably, more than when i was in college. Books coupled with a hectic schedule at work, loads of movies and some occasional travels/treks kept me occupied for bulk of the time. The worst hit was my feed reader, which has tonnes to be read.

#1. "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami
2. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time" by Mark Haddon
#3. "Hard-boiled Wonderloand and the End of the World" by Haruki Murakami
#4. "Blind Willow , Sleeping Woman" by Haruki Murakami
#5. "Dance Dance Dance" by Haruki Murakami
*6. "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad
#7. "The Calculus Wars - Newton,Leibniz & the Greatest Mathematical clash of All Time" by Jason Bardi
8. "The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self & Soul" by Douglas R. Hofstadter, Daniel C. Dennett, and Daniel C. Dennett
*9. "My Uncle Oswald" by Roald Dahl
*10. "The Stranger" by Albert Camus
#11. "The Eye of the Needle" by Ken Follet
*12. "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness" by William Styron
13. "Watchmen" by Alan Moore
14. "Surely You're Joking Mr.Feynman!" by Richard P.Feynman.
#15. "The Fermata" by Nicholson Baker
#16. "Disney War" by James B. Stewart
#17. "McMafia - A Journey through the Global Underworld" by Misha Glenny
#18. "Warlock" by Wilbur Smith
19. "How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space" by Janna Levin
#20. "Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book" by Gerard Jones
#21. "The Swiss Account" by Paul Erdman.
#22. "Den of Thieves" by James B.Stewart

My wish list for the year 2010(below) is more ambitious and i hope that i would be able to complete them. Bulk of them are not available in the Indian markets and if available are priced exhorbitantly. So, if you happen to be in Chennai/Bangalore , then I would like to swap some books.

And also, by the way, i whole heartedly accept gifts :)

1. "Vurt" by Jeff Noon
* 2. "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami
* 3. "Sputnik Sweetheart" by Haruki Murakami
* 4. "Kafka On the Shore" by Haruki Murakami
* 5. "After Dark" by Haruki Murakami
* 6. "Pinball 1973" by Haruki Murakami
7. "Blue Octavo Notebooks" by Franz Kafka
8. "The Trial" by Franz Kafka
9. "Collected Stories" by Franz Kafka
#10. "Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara" by Deborah Shapley
#11. "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World" by Alan Greenspan
*12. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl
*13. "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" by Roald Dahl
#14. "The Fourth Protocol" BY Fredrick Forsyth
*15. "In Search of the Miraculous" by P.D.Ouspensky
*16. "Darkness at Noon" by Arthur Koestler
17. "Invitation to a Beheading" by Vladimir Nabokov
18. "Man and His Symbols" by Carl Gustav Jung
19. "Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" by Oliver Sacks
20. "Satan Burger" by Carlton Mellick III
21. "The Sack of Rome: How a Beautiful European Country with a Fabled History and a Storied Culture Was Taken Over by a Man Named Silvio Berlusconi" by Alexander Stille
22. "Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naple's Organized Crime System" by Roberto Saviano
23. "The Pursemonger of Fugu: A Bathroom Mystery" by Greg Kramer
24. "The Brothers Karamazov" by Feodor Dostoevsky
#25. "On wings of Eagles" by Ken Follet
#26. "Man from St.Petersburg" by Ken Follet
#27. "Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life" by Steve Fraser
28. "Night" by A. Alvarez
#29. "Gates to Alamo" by Stephen Harrigan
*30. "The Gulag Archipelago - An Experiment in Literary Investigation" by Solzhenitsyn
#31. "Cryptominicon" by Neal Stephenson
#32. "How the Mind Works" by Steven Pinker
*33. "Food of the Gods" by Terence McKenna
34. "Microserfs" by Douglas Coupland
*36. "Fateful Triangle - The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians" by Noam Chomsky

The starred ones(*) above are eBooks. Though i hate to read books in my computer, but given the unavailability of the books in the Indian markets and also the high prices, reading it online is not a bad proposition.
The hashed(#) books are the ones that i already have as hard copies.

November 29, 2009

Hair Raising Love Story

Prelude
Myself and Shree Kumar went on the search for a trail a few weeks back in the Western Ghats. The idea was to find out a trail which connects Kukke to Madikeri(also called Mercara, in the Coorg district) - a straight line distance of around 35Kms through some mountains, jungles and villages .Buses do a round trip of 100kms instead. Our idea was to cut across these and reach Madikeri. Though i can go on and on about what happened, and how we abandoned this trail and went on in search of a 97m waterfall and the gory details of the leech attack etc etc, but i will reserve that for latter.
Instead ...read on.

Chapter - 1

We were cutting across a dense jungle, with some thorny bushes and creepers. We were lost and were trying to get back to a trail that we had used before so that we could get back on track and pursue things from thereon. It was then that something screeched my arm and caused an intense pain. I thought that it was some thorny bush that managed to scrape through my skin and hence the pain. I removed the creeper from my skin and also removed the small fern like thorns that were stuck on my jacket. 2 mins later, backside of my palm started itching intensely. The skin had turned pink; i tried not to itch it but it was so intense that i could not stop rubbing it. Shree was a few steps in front of me. I told him that something was itching and he better be careful with the bushes. He suspected a 'kamblipoochi' (millipede with the carpet cover which causes itch - it is found on drumstick trees).

It was then that i saw something really wierd happen. The miniscule hair on my fingers froze and stood erect, as if, it was inserted in liquid nitrogen; i also saw it increase in length.Am not sure whether it actually increased in length or was it an optical illusion caused due to the hair being erect. Well,how many times have we taken cognizance of the hair on the fingers. When i rubbed them, they just fell off. It was exactly like a banana breaking after it was inserted in Liquid Nitrogen! I just kept looking at it; am not sure whether i was looking at another optical illusion but i saw the hair grow from those areas again quickly. It was like those small samplings grow in a fast forwarded film which captures the birth and growth of a plant from a seed. I got terrified (and excited) and was yelling at Shree about this. I connected this with 'My Uncle Oswald' and the correlation with the dried Sudanese blister beetle ; and how ESI erectile dysfunction syndrome and baldness were two multi billion markets. In a matter of seconds, i had pictured myself sitting on top of a mountain of currency notes and be the empire in a market that was driven by hoax pills and unwanted surgeries. A fresh piece of life to all those bald heads and how they could now be irrigated and made into lush new fields. All those women who were bored with bald heads could not get a respite (not to mention that some women 'still' preferred bald heads :P ).

All excited, I screamed, called Shree to show him what was happening and offered him a proverbial 'partner' position in my new-yet-to-launch business empire. Shree came over and inspected. He didnt believe me first. I did not want to give him a demo for i was afraid that i might not follow the 'right procedures'. But i took my chances and decided that I will do a demo and lure him into this business proposition.

A standing ground amongst the bushes was chosen and i showed the backside of my palm to him. I asked him to look at those fingers and concentrate on the hair there. The skin was pale red. I told him that the redness was probably some side effect of the 'growth'. The hair was erect. As a deft demo'er i told him the sequence of steps that i would be doing and what he can expect out of it. I brushed my right arm quickly against my jeans to remove any unsolicted germs which could effect the 'area'; brought it over and reiterated the steps to him. I was all excited and so was he, though he did not still believe it.

I rubbed my right arm over the hair so that they could fall. They didnt. It stoood steadfast. Probably i did not apply the requisite pressure. I again rubbed it hard. The hairs were all standing as if they were the last survivig poles in an armageddon movie. Shree mocked and kept on walking. I stood there. I could not believe it. I took a few steps and again stopped. I again called Shree and told him that i would pluck the hair. I did. Now they came off. I asked him to wait and watch. We waitied for 15seconds. Nothing happened. I waited. I was counting one to ten at the back of my head. The thoughts of being the next Reliance or the next IBM was still hanging around. Shree kept on walking. I told him that probably we could wait for a few minutes more and see what happens. I again inspected the fingers at five minute regular intervals. Nothing was happening. And thus it all got over. All my thoughts/ideas of a new business empire lasted only for a few minutes. It all got washed down the toilet with a gentle press of the flush. And i soon forgot about all this hair raising incident.

Chapter 2
Shree and me were trekking together for the first time. We had known each other for a few years now and used to chat a lot online, but this was the second time that we met.Treks and travels are the best times when one discovers a person's true identity/character. Also, one gets to hear many stories and incidents which are nice to hear. Experiences are shared and some forgotten memories retold.

I have never been fascinated by love stories. The only love story that truly inspires me is the Story of the Taj Mahal. I think most teens get into this 'love' mode not exactly understanding the nuances of it. I would not generalize it by calling 'all love stories are farce'. But from what i understand, i think it takes some level of maturity to understand the larger aspects of life and how the spouse is important in the journey; infatuation is transitory. Without getting into rhetoric, i would summarize it by saying that 'One needs a reason to live and if the spouse is that reason, then there is no greater joy'.

Shree's pal was in the Indian Army and was in the Kargil War. His truck exploded due to an IED(Improvised Explosive Device) ; he flew into the air 200mts away and his truck blown into pieces. Luckily he survived, but he was immobile and lost sensation in the lower half of the body. His spine was badly injured. He was treated in the hospital for a few years wherein he was in coma. When Shree went to visit him , he saw that his pal's arm was badly atrophied. What used to be the arm of a armyman was now meek, slender and barely a few centimeters thick. Shree could not believe his eyes.

I asked him whether his pal was married. Shree replied that 'now he is'. I did not understand it. He was not married before the war, but apparently he is now. He married a nurse in the hospital wherein he was treated.

If a lady decides to 'commit' her life for someone who is not-functional for the rest of his life, and is not repentant about it, is a lady of true virtue and wisdom.

My eyes were wet. My mind numbed.

Good Bye
Shree was snoring next to me in the bus back to Bangalore. I was thinking about these two incidents, looked at the backside of my palm and smiling at the sequence of events.

Simple things in life are the most joyful, always. Life is beautiful.

July 23, 2009

The Andhra Land

Andhra Pradesh is the rice bowl of India. The eastern parts of the state are filled with paddy fields and the western regions are mostly dry. As a kid, when i was in Orissa/Assam , we used to travel by trains(the usual Coromandel/Howrah express or the Trivandram-Guwahati Express), almost ONE complete day used to pass by this HUGE state. Not to forget the steaming masala dosas, vadas and idlis at the Rajamundri railway station and nice mangoes at Vizag and Vijayawada.

I have not heard of many who have traveled much in A.P or have visited A.P for leisure; and those have visited have gone only to Tirupathi or Ahobilam. And that led me to check out this bland but yet interesting state.

Did 2 excursions of the state (all in 'dabba' bus) :

Tour 1 (Feb'07) :
Kurnool was the base and roamed around. Budget : 3k INR
Day 1 : Bangalore - Hindupur - Lepakshi - Hindupur - Anantpur - Kurnool
---- Ruins and paintings at the beautiful Lepakshi temple, and the big nandi.
Day 2 : Kurnool - Banganapalli - Belum Caves - Nandyal - Mahanandi - Nandyal - Kurnool
---- Belum Caves is the second largest underground cave system
---- Mahanandi boasts of a temple which has a pool wherein water is so clear that you can spot a pin at its bottom
Day 3 : Kurnool - Yemmiganur - Mantralayam - Kurnool - Alampura Chowraste - Alampura - Kurnool - Bangalore
---- Raghavendra Temple at Mantralayam
---- Alampura ruins

Tour 2 (Jan'08) :
Budget : 2k INR
Day 1 : Vijayawada (KanakaDurga temple, Undavalli and Mogalarajapuram caves, Kondapalli)
Day 2 : Vishakapatnam (Simhachalam temple) et al.
Day 3 : Araku - Borra Caves
Day 4 : Bhadrachalam (Ram temple) - Warangal(Temple and Fort ruins)

Other place of obvious interest are : Hyderabad, Ahobilam, Srisailam (the latter 2 being important temples)

Couple of pointers w.r.t travel in A.P:
# Very Dry and HOT - STRICTLY avoid summer months.
# Temples and ruins are more than greenery
# Good connectivity by buses (no worries on this front)
# Not frequented by many tourists
# Cheap

My personal faves in A.P would be :
# Lepakshi
# Belum Caves
# Alampura ruins
# Spine numbing ride to Belum caves via the dry Cuddapah fields (take the small 'dabba' bus and enjoy with the locals)
# Early morning sunrise from KanakaDurga temple overlooking the Krishna river.

Pictures:
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/NorthernAndhraPradesh
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/Alampura
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/Mahanandi
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/BelumCaves
http://picasaweb.google.com/venkat83/Lepakshi

Hope this was helpful if you are planning a trip to the Andhra land.

July 17, 2009

Road Trip - Jammu to Delhi via Drass, Leh and Manali

[Click on the map for an enlarged view]

So this is what it was :
[Day 1] July 3th, 2009 : Blore to Delhi and then onto Jammu
Started from Bangalore at noon. JetLite flight to Delhi. Hopeless airhostesses. Reach ISBT by 5pm. Board a super 'dabba' bus to Jammu at 7pm. Amazing chat with a jawan who was in Siachen and who had also fought in the Kargil war. Nice chats with other fellow passengers. Didnt sleep much.

[Day 2] July 4th, 2009 : Roam around in Jammu
Reach Jammu at 10am. Hot and dusty Jammu. Took a room and a quick nap. Stroll in the bazaar in the evening.

[Day 3] July 5th, 2009 : Jammu Sight Seeing
Parents arrived early morning by train. Received them in the railway station and then to the hotel. Went sight seeing in the hot sun. Visited some temples and some more temples.

[Day 4] July 6th, 2009 : Visit to Vaishno Devi
Early morning depart for Katra. Reach Sanjheechat by helicopter. Walk for 2 km to the actual cave(bhawan). Back to Sanjheechat from Bhawan by walk and then to Katra by helicopter. Back to Jammu in the evening. Parents happy :)

[Day 5] July 7th, 2009 : Rest Day. Jammu to Srinagar
Damn HOT day. Day spent in the hotel , talking and eating and sleeping. Left parents in the railway station in the evening at 5pm.
I came back to bus stand and then after some hassles got a shared cab to Srinagar. An amazing ride . Nice fellow passengers. They told me a lot about Kashmir - climate, issues, food and water. Who were VERY nice to me. Was thrilled and excited . Night halt in the cab in front of Jawahar Tunnel, as it was closed.

[Day 6] July 8th, 2009 : Kashmir Valley, Sonemarg and Drass
Start from Jawahar Tunnel at around 7:30 am in the same cab and then reach Srinagar at 10am. View as soon as one emerges out of the tunnel was mind numbing. Amazingly beautiful. Came to know that all buses to Drass/Kargil/Leh have departed already in the morning and there was no means now :( Luckily, got informed by a guy there that there was a bus that was going to Sonemarg to pick people back to Srinagar; from Srinagar i can hitchike to Drass/Kargil.
Hopped into this bus; nice landscapes enroute. Reached Sonemarg around 1pm and then got into a truck that was going to Leh. Was stopped at Zoji Pass by the Army. Got stuck. Luckily got a school bus and the army jawan asked me to go to Drass in that. Thanked the jawan. Had the ride of the lifetime with the kids in the school bus. Singing and clicking. Reached Drass at 8pm - sun still to set. Couldnt sleep much in the night.

[Day 7] July 9th, 2009 : Kargil and Leh
Woke up early at 4:30am and went for a stroll. View of Tiger Hills was amazing. Came back to room, packed and kept walking. Took a cab which was going to Kargil. An 'intellectual' ride to Kargil from Drass. The scenary was captivating. Reached Kargil by 9:30am. Walked around 5-6kms till outskirts of Kargil to catch a truck to reach Leh. Got one. Stopped in the middle for break. Got a cab from nowhere and then a beautiful, challenging and dangerous ride to Leh. Reached Leh in the evening. Took a dormitory. Roamed around in the bazaar in the night and then retired for the day.

[Day 8] July 10th, 2009 : Leh to Keylong
Start early from Leh at 6am. Via dusty roads and snow capped mountains and snow fields. Slow and jerky ride in the bus. Reached Keylong at 9am. Night halt in a dormitory.

[Day 9] July 11th, 2009 : To Delhi - Keylong to Manali and then to Chandigarh
Bus ride with school kids singing. Uneventful ride to Manali via Rohtang Pass. Petrol smoke fills the air near Rohtang. Temperature raises after Manali. Gets hot by the evening when we reach Bilaspur then 'really' hot as we reached Chandigarh in the night.

[Day 10] July 12th, 2009 : Delhi
Reached Delhi at 5am. REALLY hot and humid. A much needed bath after 4 days. Day spent sleeping in the hotel. A long stroll and some street food in Paharganj in the evening. Sweat!

[Day 11] July 13th, 2009 : Back to Banglaore
JetLite flight from Delhi to Bangalore early morning. Hopless cabin crew. Fly. Back home.

Expenses:
Commute : 6035
- Flight to-fro Bangalore-Delhi 3740
- Volvo to-fro Blore airport (125*2=) 250
- Delhi to Jammu(Haryana.T.D.C Bus) 325
- Jammu to Srinagar (Shared cab) 350
- Srinagar to Sonemarg (J.K.S.T.D.C bus) 170
- Drass to Kargil (Shared cab) 70
- Somewhere-near-kargil to Leh ( Shared cab) 500
- Leh to Keylong (HPTDC bus) 470
- Keylong to Delhi (HPTDC bus) 485

Stay : 1240
[at Jammu( 3 days)= 550; at Drass(1 night) = 100; at Leh(1 night) = 50; at Keylong (1 night) = 40; at Delhi (1 day) = 600]

Food : 1300

Total Expenses : approx 9000 INR

June 12, 2009

Decaying organic matter

Today, I feel like small chunk of compost in a bigger pile of shite.

Woke up to ASMZ and GYBE still reverberating in my pigeonhole apartment. I was unable to enjoy them today morning. There was something wrong. Nothing wrong with yesterday - Thursdays nice to me. A shave, the cologne, branded clothing...reebok tshirt, shoes, levis trousers -- i was not wearing clothes. I was a walking advertisement. A 'thing' who needed other 'things'.

'The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences.....I walk away quietly into empty spaces, trying to close the gaps of the past.'

I saw 'Into the Wild' again. The masterpiece which has had a profound impact on me, and the protagonist with whom i can easily connect to. Each and every line uttered in the movie is a jewel. Have never seen a better definition of 'love'. Makes me wonder of its existence!

'am going to paraphrase Thoreau here... rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness... give me truth. '

What is TRUTH? Is the quest for TRUTH a dangerous journey? What is danger?
Questions and more Questions ... that are easy to ask, but the answers when deciphered can lead to more thirst and endless journeys.

Yes - I am in the same heap. The same pile of maggots who wants to be different for the heck of it! Unique snowflakes, eh?! The same pile of numb shackling schmucks who show off more than their capabilities. The entire spectrum of social numbnuts who 'try' to appear cool and hep. Sick desperations. Attention deficit disorders.

Why am I in the heap? The answers. I am afraid of the answers.

I shall rise and raise. Disclaimers have become a norm. Sometimes, losing all hope leads to salvation...freedom. As Tylor Durden says 'let the chips fall where they may.'

Lets evolve...but into what?

May 18, 2009

Crimson Red

The darkness in the midst of the white snow,
Lay the Master and his foe,
For once shall they seek the pride,
Dream that they will, before their final ride.

And the skies soared with eternal roar,
Brothers they were, before the war,
Too late, the greed left the nasty scar,

Bugles played their best, before they lay their enemies to rest,
Masqueraders punished, traitors stoned,
Women raped, kids guillotined,
Filth and rats in the streets galore,
Darkness shall play when the dawn bemoan.

For, He has mistaken his identity, serenity is nothing but a rarity,
Origins were doubted and hence the destiny, Not once will it be claimed a victory.

May 05, 2009

Norwegian Blue Parrot

Nope - this blog is not dead yet. Neither did it go to meet its maker.
It is just ruminating about all the things in life.
It shall sprout up with life soon(read 'few days'), for it cannot be idle.

January 11, 2009

Courage is NOT victory

M.J.Akbar is probably one of the best writers(along with the likes of Gurumurthy, Arun Shourie et al) presently in India, whom i admire and appreciate the most. His choice of words and technicality of his articles are a pleasure to read and ponder. He is probably the only prolific Islamic Indian writer of the contemporary times who is insightful, understands his religion and the worlds affairs sincerely.

His latest editorial in today's(Sunday, Jan 11, 2009) Times of India(Chennai Edition) is worth a read. Check him out here.

I loved the way he ended his article : "Men die for two diametrically opposed reasons: when they value what they seek to defend, and when there is nothing worth living for. Israel has created a state worth defending. The Palestinians must be given something to live for. "
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