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Journey Down Under

Let me start with clarifying any confusion that might arise after reading the title. I had a journey to Tamil Nadu and not Australia or NZ. The article is titled so taking India as a Universal Set.

This trip was to the place which was always on the top of my “NEVER VISIT” places. As I am happily writing about it, it certainly turned out to be one full of pleasant surprises.

We (Shreyas, Varun and I) had to go for visa stamping and as luck would have it (……or as we had planned it 😉 …….), we all had the stamping scheduled on the same date and time. And guess what; we detoured through Pondicherry along the way. It certainly turned out to be (Pondi)cherry on the cake.

Thanks to my vast knowledge and keen interest in History; I was never aware that Pondi had French people and has French as its first language :-P. The 1 day stay there made us taste some of the French and Italian delicacies.We were just trying to follow “When in Rome…………..” funda. Another startling fact we came to know about the place was that BEER is pretty cheap ‘HEER’E. Unfortunately we all are teetotallers.

The Pondi beach road was the highlight of the trip. Similar to Mumbai’s Marine Drive, it was a picturesque scene with road, followed by footpath, sand and then banking by stones finally giving way into the ever so vast Bay of Bengal waters. The other side of the road had everything one could imagine; from restaurants to hotels, to monuments of historical significance, to ALL the government institutions. Everything important in Pondi was on that road.

Another place of considerable significance was Auroville. We had hired bikes and roamed in and around the city finally reaching Auroville. It’s certainly one of it’s kind place in the world. Never knew that such a place existed on earth. It’s a place for people who come for introspection/ salvation/ spirituality. For me it was a beautiful beautiful resort covering 2000 sq kms having all the luxuries one could imagine. The whole place is so calm and serene built in natural surroundings, politely boasting of sites of great architecture with greenery all over.

Said “Au Revoir”(good bye in french) to Pondi and moved towards Chennai.

The journey from Pondi to Chennai made us view another spectacle; I still cannot digest it was India. Though it was only a road but the beauty on and off the road was exemplary. It was a flat racing track, a glittering road straight out of the NFS-II night mode, with sea on one side and cocunut trees on the other. By the way it’s called EAST COAST ROAD(or ECR) and has an accident rate of 8-9 per day. Beauty is always dangerous 😉 .

And finally we reached Chennai, the forbidden land because of the heat and many other prejudices I had. Here again it turned out to be contrary to what i had thought and heard about. Reached there at night and the biggest surprise was the dinner. We had Authentic Punjabi food at the Punjabi Dhaba located adjoining to the hotel we were put in.

Saw “Bourne Ultimatum” at Satyam; the theatre’s ambience and movie complementing each other pretty well. Also visited Snake farm, children’s park :-P, City Center and Spencer. Spencer was easily the biggest mall I have ever visited. Central was truly a MAAL decorated with amazing architecture, filled with exclusive showrooms of the top brands symbolizing the Moolah power of Chennai people.

Then came the D-day, the core reason behind the trip; the Visa stamping. Had a harrowing time standing for around 4.5 hours though it all paid in the end with all of us getting the visa confirmed. Given a chance to control the Indian consulate, I bet I would make Americans stand for 5-6 hours and ask them to come next day :@.

On the whole the trip turned out to be another good example of mixing business with pleasure.

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Fen-iTunes

Finally…it happened, yes we had a trip to Goa. It’s been 2.5 years in Mangalore for me and Goa being 7-8 hours journey away, there was always that urge to visit. But somehow every time the plan used to get scrapped. But this time it wasn’t to be; and what a trip it turned out to be. Went with our project team, we were 14 in all.

Keeping our tradition of Ctrl-C Ctrl-V alive, I will start with borrowing the first line from one of our frens story telling ways.

Once upon a time we went to GOA………


Beach DAY
It was a 2-day trip. We had started on Friday night. Spent the Saturday on Calangute beach. A laid back fun filled day. Experienced some water sports too; bike riding on the waves, though missed para sailing because of off-season. Enjoyed the beach by playing in water, drowning the ones who were scared of it, some of us got ourselves tatooed, we discovered a mermaid too (in pic). A truly GOAn (there’s no better word to describe it) experience.


The SATURDAY NIGHT 😉
If the day was laid back experience the night wasn’t to be. No, we didn’t go into any club/pub/disco etc. But instead watched INDIA-AUSTRALIA T-20 World cup semi-final match in our hotel room. Everybody fitted into one room to watch the match. Each ball was commented upon, every shot was cheered and emotions/advice were flowing from each one of us with some of us overdoing it the SREESANTH way. ( 8-| Specky smiley). It all paid in the end when India won the match. I bet nobody in the world would have enjoyed the match and celebrated the win as we did. We had a little Sreesanth ishstyle celebration too.

A dig into history
The Sunday was going to be even more eventful. We started off with a visit to a famous church in GOA and then to the Archaeological Museum just in front of the church. Both the monuments are reminiscent of GOAn culture and architecture.


JOSHiley
Then while going for lunch we saw the church shown in the movie JOSH. We were “joshed” up too :-); stopped there. And took some shots(took pics only :P). It was nice little fun with Habeeb standing posing in the middle of the road to take a pic of rest of us who had formed a V on the footsteps of the church. The passers-by were gazing and were amused to see what we were up to.


It’s F1 Season Dear
After lunch, we went for GO-CARTING. Another 3-4 hours of fultoo fun highlighted by Beena and Jitha’s S………………………………..L…………………….O…………………………….W driving, Habeebs crash with Amit and Ruby, exhibition of great driving skills by Shweta by not allowing Fahad and Avin to overtake her. The most exciting phase came when it started raining whilst some of us were giving the race track a second try. The cars started skidding; I crashed twice. It was like a godsend rain which made our experience much more fun than we would have imagined. It was pure luck which made us experience both dry and wet driving F1 😉 conditions.


Pirates on the Ship
It was evening by now and the rain wasn’t showing any signs of stopping. We were a bit apprehensive about our final target; the CRUISE might get spoiled. But it wasn’t to be as God was planning things well. The rain stopped right in time for us to board the CRUISE. We all were pumped up by now because of the excitement and the fun we had till then and that extra energy was spilled to the hilt on the CRUISE. Our group was the center of attraction on the Cruise, first because of Habeeb’s antics(ok dance) on the stage, then the wonderful dance display by Avin,Shweta,Habeeb and Beena and finally some energetic and to some extent wild dance by rest of us. This iTunes team was making people dance to their tunes. We were certainly CRUISING…


The last supper
It was a fitting end to a wonderful wonderful dream like trip. Had our last supper (of the trip) and moved back towards Mangy. But those 2 days will always be part of our happier memories.

 

For more pics and a glimpse of the fun we had click here

Love

I have had long discussions with frens on what love is. Rarely found anybody agreeing to my thinking that love is universal. May be I wasn’t stating my point clearly. But while going through one of the letters of Shaheed Bhagat Singh to Shaheed Sukhdev, I realized that my thoughts have found a voice.

Here is an extract from a letter Bhagat wrote to Sukhdev on April 5, 1929.

“While discussing anybody’s character you asked me one thing, whether love ever proved helpful to any man. Yes, I answer that question today. To Mazzini it was. You must have read that after the utter failure and crushing defeat of his first rising he could no bear the misery and haunting ideas of his dead comrades. He would have gone mad or committed suicide but for one letter of a girl he loved. He would as strong as any one, nay stronger than all. As regards the moral status of love I may say that it in itself is nothing BUT PASSION, not an animal passion but a human one, and very sweet too. Love in itself can never be an animal passion.
Love always elevates the character of man. It never lowers him, provided love be love. You can’t call these girls – mad people, as we generally see in films – lovers. They always play in the hands of animals passions. The true love cannot be created. It comes of its own accord, nobody can say when. It is but natural. And I may tell you that a young man and a young girl can love each other, and with the aid of their love they can overcome the passions themselves and can maintain their purity. I may clear one thing here; when I said that love has human weakness, I did not say it for an ordinary human being at this stage, where the people generally are. But that is most idealistic stage when man would overcome all these sentiments, the love, the hatred, and so on. When man will take reason as the sole basis of his activity. But at present it is not bad, rather good and useful to man. And moreover while rebuking the love. I rebuked the love of one individual for one, and that too in idealistic stage. And even then, man must have the strongest feelings of love which he may not confine to one individual and may make it universal. Now I think I have cleared my position.”

For the complete letter please refer the following link:
http://shahidbhagatsingh.org/index.asp?link=april5

Many may still not agree to these views as such love may seem impossible to find in today’s world, but so is God. And it’s not for nothing that love has been given the status equal to God by saints.

Lahore

Though not into much of reading business, I bought and read my first book in years. Yes, you read it right :-). I have read a book and it doesn’t stop here ; I wrote a review for it too. The title was something, which was moving and got me interested. The book is “Lahore” by Pran Neville. I read it because it reminded me of the Lahore which my grandpa used to tell about. It reminded me of the kite flying I used to love passionately, it reminded me of the open culture I had inherited and above all it reminded me of now cherished days with my grandpa. It also reminded me of a Milestone on the Ferozepur road, which I used to notice on the way from home (Ludhiana) to college (Moga), which still says “Lahore 110 miles”(approx). And finally read it because it seemed to be much more than a book.

Below is the review.


Believed to be founded between 6th and 16th century B.C, the city of Lahore is amongst one of the oldest cities in the human civilization. Pran Neville’s book on Lahore talks about the times when Lahore was called the Paris of East. Though the history de-scribes British Raj in India as one of plunder and destruction, the book talks about British era as Lahore’s days of glory. The book is a memoir and an emotional tribute by the author to the city of his birth.

It starts with an introduction giving glimpses of the glorious past of Lahore. Then it moves into the life and streets of the walled city. It adores bazaars, educational institutions, kothas, and marvels of British and Mughal architecture that decorated the city. The sections on daily lives of Lahoris (as Lahore’s inhabitants lovingly called themselves), anecdotes on romances, affairs, games, singers, wrestlers etc provides the reader a look into rich and open culture of Lahore. The book also focuses on social dilemmas and exceptions to them that existed in those days. There’s a separate section devoted to the Lahoris’ famous penchant for good food and good clothing. It also focuses on the secular nature of the city in which Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims lived together in harmony. There is a full chapter devoted to Kite flying, the passion that still binds Lahoris and brings back reminiscences of grandeur of old days. The writings are full of nostalgia. It is a treat for those with a taste for history and can bring tears to those who have been uprooted from their homelands.

It is laden with the famous anecdotes, idioms and songs in Punjabi and Urdu (also explained in English) of the bygone era. The journey into the heart of Lahore through author’s words makes one realize the truth of the famous saying “One who hasn’t seen Lahore hasn’t been born yet”. Towards the end of book, the author writes about the visit to his Mecca after 5 decades of wait.

His emotional journey into the past, throws open many implicit questions, the biggest being “Was partition a required sacrifice to give for our Independence?”. The author’s memoir echoes the pain and longing to see their roots by displaced millions on both sides of border and the agony of being called “Refugees” in the land, which they chose to be their country. A poet has rightly summed up this pain in the following words:

Koi Ajmer Sharif nu tarse,
Koi tarse Nankaane nu.

(The lines mean, “Some long for their Ajmer Sharif and some for their Nankana”. Ajmer Sharif is a holy place for Muslims located in India and Nanakana Sahib is holy place for Sikhs located in Pakistan.).

The only weakness for the book might be its overly simplistic language throughout, which can also be its strong point for many.

It was Saturday. But had to go to a doc; somehow managed to get up on a beautiful rainy day and drove through to the doc’s clinic. Reached there in an hour, though clinic was at 5 mins bike ride from home. Had to wait on the way as it started raining heavily. And by the time I reached, I could see around 20 people lined up waiting for the doctor. And to top it all, I hadn’t booked an appointment. The receptionist asked me to visit on Monday. Had to apply a jack, I have become used to. This time it was another doc’s reference. And as always it worked. The receptionist asked me to wait, as she would try to adjust me with one of the patients.

The entire environment in the lobby was gloomy. Everybody looked damn dumb and serious there. There were people from different backgrounds. A lady with a bob cut was looking down upon the others as if she had seen some dirty aliens while the traditional people sitting there seemed to be cursing her for tarnishing their culture.

Amidst this gloomy lobby, out a sudden a lady came there with her child. The child was a beautiful baby boy with a smile as rare and as true as you can get. His eyes conveyed his happiness to be in this world. The curiosity in his eyes seemed to be wondering at the expressions of the patients sitting there, what they had lost that he isn’t aware of. He was so lively and sweet that, everyone was attracted towards him. Suddenly everybody was interested in the child’s movements and expressions. The other children sitting there too came to play with him. One child had suddenly livened up a dull place. Seemed like a situation out of a book, but this was happening in front of my eyes. Reminded me of a coke ad “Dikhte hain hum alag alag par andar se hain hum same same….”.

As the child left, the situation was back to normal or should I say back to abnormal. But one strange child had touched everybody’s life and given them a moment of joy.

These days some of the burden of work seems to have been taken off and we can be seen roaming/racing around Mangalore. Since 2 of our roomies are leaving we planned to visit whatever places are left unexplored in and around Mangalore. Planned to rest this weekend, so taking time to write about our experiences in the past 2 months.
For the past 2 months, we have been visiting a lot of places. Can call it a trip spree. Have been to Hassan, Bekal Fort, Pilikula and Manipal.
Hassan
Had a plan for a bike ride to Goa, but it started raining when we got up in the morning. As 3-4 hrs were wasted decided to go to Hassan for a coffee (though had tea and some snacks too). It’s around 180 kms from here ☺. But journey nowadays seems to be more important than the destinations. The journey was awesome, tiresome; but in the end the feeling was like “tripti” for the soul.

Started towards Hassan through a bad highway road and came back through a worser one. But encountered a dream track, which stretched to around 30-40 kms from Hassan to back home. It looked like a racing track with greenery all around. Looked like scenes out of a fairy tale. But the journey after that stretch was one laden with blind curves, amidst huge mountains with thick vegetation and dark clouds. The nature looked beautiful and dangerous at the same time. The NH-13 highway road stretch looked like a god-forsaken road though the scenes around conveyed the opposite. The most tiresome journey every encountered but the most fulfilling too.

Bekal Fort
The next trip was to the Bekal fort, a place we had been planning to visit for the past 2 years but missed it somehow everytime. This one was another picturesque journey; though this time around, the destination was even more beautiful. Bekal fort seemed to be a place ideal for shooting desktop wallpaper material. The vast blue Arabian sea, a railway track running parallel to it, a fortress guarding the land and out of the world beaches with a backdrop of natural vegetation was a rare sight to watch. Mother Nature seemed to have settled here. We couldn’t stop enjoying. The wallpapers are still gracing my desktop.

Pilikula
The next one was to Pilikula zoo. One of it’s kind; this zoo has it all. Ranging from dangerous snakes to beautiful deer to the ever so ROYAL tiger. It has a variety of snakes, from pythons to cobra to green colored poisonous snakes. Looking at the cobra, one gets to know why is it called the KING. It was huge (around 10 meters long), jet black with graceful yet quick movements providing another example of dangerous beauty. On the other hand, the tiger showed what Royal means. Its royal walk was the one, which made our trip. The tiger is easily one of the natures’ most beautiful creations I have every witnessed. Couldn’t stop looking at it. Unfortunately, couldn’t capture these in the camera as it was raining heavily that day.

Manipal
The following week we marched to Manipal, my second trip there. There’s something about Manipal; it’s a masterstroke by T.M.A Pai. A beautiful city crowded with youngsters (one can find the youngsters from all over India as well as abroad here). Wonderful infrastructures (out of India, if not out of the world infrastructure), hilly mountains, cool climate and youthful energy; this place has it all. We moved towards the end-point. I always used to think of end-point as the seashore, though it turned out to be Manipal’s end point. Another picturesque venue, apart from beautiful gals jogging there, there was ample beauty to get lost into. It has lush green stadiums, felt like sleeping in the middle of the cricket pitch. The river flowing downward was a sight to behold.

The bike
There’s been one thing common in all these recent bike trips, the bike. It’s Thunderbird but it’s not mine ☺. This bike carries that Royal heritage Enfield bikes are famous for. Easily the best cruiser bike the country, it spoils you as you can drive with one gear up or down without any effect on the engine. The power, the balance, the elegance, the beauty and the speed it has all. It’s one of the reasons, journeys seem to better than the destination.

Waiting for the Harley to come to India. Would love to own and compare a Harley against the ever so ROYAL Enfield.

5th Jan, 2006
The day it was (New Year Eve)

What a year this has been! After celebrating Diwali for 2 days, having a fun filled Christmas, now was the turn of the last day of the year. And what a day it turned out to be.

The day was much like the year had been for me, disappointments to start with and rocking in the end. Shreyas’ friend had come here from Bangalore for the new year blast and also he wanted to check whether his car’s 5th gear works or not J. Finally we really had a blast .Plans were made, scrapped and again made throughout the day.

In the morning we went to Malpe beach and had plans to go to St.Mary’s Island. But when we reached there, it turned out to be an anticlimax. There was some festival going on and beach was so crowded and made so dirty that it will take some days to clean it off.

It was around one in afternoon and we were feeling hungry and disappointment added to the hunger. So we went to Manipal (we all wanted to see that place), had food there, roamed around a bit and then decided to go to Hosebettu Beach.

Now the fun part began. Went deep (around 30-40m) into the sea, ran races and also played cricket with local people there. Spent the best part of the day there and it was fun for around 3-4 hrs. Moved back to our house after sunset.

After getting refreshed, went for shopping. Did some quick shopping. Then we went to Café Coffee day, spent some good time there. And then came the plan change (we had earlier decided to spend the new year night at Liquid Lounge). Instead we got pizzas packed from Dominos and headed for “ Sultan battery Beach “ then on the way decided to turn towards “Thaner Baavi Beach” as only 15 mins were left for the new year to start. When we reached there it was pitch dark, although suddenly that day the road to that beach looked very crowded and really a happening place. Moved back, parked the car along the river side. It was a picturesque scene, as we could see fireworks from a within a natural frame formed by branches of 2 tress coming together. Had pizzas there and enjoyed the start of the new year seeing the fireworks from that natural frame on a riverside.

Still excitement wasn’t sinking in. Now went to Sultan battery river side. Sat there for an hour, enjoyed the cool breeze there. Then at around 2 am in the morning we reached home.
It was different, really different. By far my best new year celebration till now.
I’m loving it !