Thursday, September 15, 2016

use your illusion

yesterday, i was having a conversation with a friend, and she was talking about how she feels bound by the illusion that society judges her for everything. and then conversation turned towards how we generally are bound by illusions.

the conversation ended (or rather, we got distracted by other more important things, and just left it hanging there).

but i was left thinking about my illusions. i tried peeling away the illusions layered on my reality.

and then suddenly, there was a flash.

i saw life, without illusion.

i didn't see anything.

if i had to describe it, i would describe what i "sensed" as a flash of pure energy. i felt transcendent.

but then, as soon as i sensed it, i started layering my illusions over it. the energy turned into a flash of light. a flash that quickly glowed and then faded. the light was white. the light had some physical size. it had a physical location. although i don't recall the moment or the process of separation, the light was no longer me. as the light faded, in that fraction of a moment, the illusion that i call my reality started superimposing itself on what i sensed. it was a strange hallucinogenic vision, that just hinted at its presence and faded into what my eyes told me i saw, before leaving me completely.

i turned to google and searched "can a single photon be detected" for some random reason. i don't remember what was the answer google gave me.

i tried to zone back into that moment. i thought it would be quite easy. but i didn't quite get there.

i saw the white light. but now there were weirder illusions superimposed. the light looked more like an ellipsoidal opaque white glow hanging over the road next to JVLR flyover, of all places. but the light was distinct from me. it wasn't me at all. i was simply an observer.

everything just seemed so random and meaningless.

somewhere in the back of my mind, i made a note to myself: these are my illusions. and i have just proven to myself that i need my illusions, because what i saw without illusion was some sort of abstract thing. if it was me, it was a sort of me that didn't feel like i existed. and suddenly, it felt like i was not ready for the transcendence.

a few hours later, it so happened that another friend was talking about him standing by his convictions instead of illusions. i described my vision, and my observation that i seem to be bound to my illusions. his reply got me thinking:

"that abstract and non linear outburst of energy is called self realization. The key is whether you are able to sustain to that feeling!"

and he's right. but i'm not ready to sustain that feeling, because i still have no idea what to do with it. maybe someday...

Friday, September 09, 2016

alice in wonderland

(guest post by shruti)

Planning and dreaming about our wedding and the life after it, i can't help thinking about how marriage changes life. Although I am not married yet, I am sensing the future in store for me already. With each passing day, I can absorb the vibes of marriage around me. Increasing number of responsibilities, responsibility for marriage preparations - wedding cards, make up artists, DJ etc. Responsibility with money. I have to get used to the feeling that I can no more splurge on self and that I have to contribute towards home expenses. I have to see to it that the spices and grains and other food items are well stocked and that we do not run out of food when guests arrive. I will be the lady of the house and have to be a good host - friendly, soft spoken, charming and warm. I will have to budget my expenses and most importantly stick to my budget and allocation to each expense. I can no more bank on my parents' free hospitality that I so enjoyed for almost 32 years.

I have suddenly realized that FREEDOM (one thing I desperately wished for so many years) comes at a huge price. This price is being RESPONSIBLE. Responsible for your actions, words and choices. I have realized that every choice I make is setting stone in the path to my future. I am no more protected or cocooned.

Luckily for me, I have found a partner who unlike me doesn't shy away from his responsibilities. He is ready to take on the world with whatever it has to offer. Maturity helps you see. I think I was just a small kid at heart who refused to shun that garb under childish behaviour and is now forced to take on the mantle of multiple roles and enter the world of adulthood. Alice in Wonderland has grown up!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

1/3rd century

I turned 33 a couple of days ago.

someone said that age is just a number, every year is more of the same. I'm not sure if they meant it as consolation or as a way to induce depression.

to me, age is neither.

every year is different. new joys, new sorrows, new strength, new fears. planned changes, unplanned changes. planned achievements, unplanned achievements (yes, it's actually possible to have unplanned achievements!)

the world changes the mind and the mind changes the world... if you want to.

some things that used to push me forward don't cut it anymore, and i have now found new things to motivate myself with. some more real, some more abstract, some more grounded, some more crazy.

some plans are set in action, others are discarded.

time elapsed increases, and the time left decreases. but not proportionately. every year makes me wish for more. more of more. one lifetime used to seem enough, when my ideas were few and fuzzy enough. not any more. I wonder if it's cyclical, and i will start reducing my appetite for the future at some point, to reach zero at the moment I gracefully slip into oblivion... but i don't see how that could happen. maybe that'll be one of those surprise achievements. or maybe my greed for the future will turn into an all consuming madness that will turn me into some sort of monster. but i would probably burn out well before that. or maybe my mathematical mind doesn't fully grasp that life is a river, and i'm meandering into an ocean that I don't, and possibly never will see... until my final breath.

but either way, one thing is for sure.

it will never be more of the same.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

logistical issues

ever since I realized that gym isn't gonna work too well for me during the monsoons, i've been looking for alternatives to squeeze a decent amount of activity into my daily schedule. one prime candidate has been the folding cycle I purchased almost two years ago, for this exact purpose.

sadly for me, it's almost never in running condition, as I usually get it oiled and readied, and then forget about it for months. and so, last night, I got home with some time to spare, and decided I had to prepare to start using it regularly, as part of my commute to work: basically, cycle to the point where my office bus starts, pack it into the bus, and then park it in office... and do the reverse on my way home.

the first minor hiccup was that I was unable to find the keys to the bicycle lock. I even tried getting keys made, but the local locksmith wasn't at his shop. that wasn't too big a deal though, as office parking is (i assume) safe enough to park without a lock.

so then, I switched to preliminary testing mode: checking how long it took me to fold and unfold the cycle, and how best to carry it.

that's when i hit the actual problem: I've kept the cycle in the unfolded state for so long that I don't know how to perfectly fold the cycle!

I did fold it somehow (it certainly didn't seem optimal), and then moved to the next problem: how to carry it in the folded state. but before that, I hit another unexpected problem: how to make the folded cycle stand upright. I still haven't solved that one satisfactorily.

anyway, I somehow managed to awkwardly carry it up the two flights of stairs home, and then realized I've gotten grease on my shorts. and my hands.

I decided to give it a shot today anyway, but while getting ready, I realized I won't be able to get the cycle through the door without someone to open or shut it for me. and nobody else is awake at home in the morning.

and finally, while entering the office bus, i realized the doorway is too small and the steps too tight for me to get the cycle in.

and so: the devil is in the details. the plan has to be re-evaluated. folding cycles aren't as convenient as they look. I'm now wondering if I should make some sort of strap holder that I can use to carry as well as attach to a backpack.

ps: my cycle is the btwin hoptown. anyone with any knowledge or ideas that can help me?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

missing the point: garbett point

a few weeks ago, the rains had started in earnest, and since nobody else was taking the initiative to plan a trek, i decided to do the honours. I wanted to do something fun, and yet accessible to people working on Saturday (sadly, none of whom turned up). so i decided on garbett point, matheran. and decided to do it at night. I had done this trek once a couple of years ago, and once over a decade ago. the route has changed completely from since the first time, as a dam had been built since. the dam and lake was there the last time we went, a couple of years ago... so i was reasonably confident of doing it at night. also, the route does not involve going through any sort of jungle, so it's less scary for first timers. there's a big plateau just before the point (and by big I mean huge: bigger than a football ground, for sure!), so it's perfect to camp. I was initially considering taking a train, but all the train people canceled while the bikers stuck to the plan... so bike it was.

and i guess that was the clinching factor: there were heavy showers for the preceding day, and traffic was jammed all through bbay despite it being Saturday afternoon. it took me 3 hours to reach panvel from borivali, two hours more than my friends from mulund and vashi took.

and so, we met at panvel circle at 7pm, two hours behind schedule. we then fueled up, ate vada pav and dosa, gulped chai, strapped on my tents (i was carrying two tents, and they had almost come off the bike by the time i reached panvel - the last 100m were with the tarp I had wrapped them in, literally touching the road!)

the rest of the ride was a breeze, as the rain had let up to a drizzle and i didn't have to keep an eye on the tent in my rearview... until we were nearing bhivpuri, when ajith had a spill due to a patch of potholes surrounded by gravel. luckily he survived with just some scratches on his palm. first aid done, we reached diksal village outside bhivpuri station. I was fully stocked, but the rest of the guys hadn't carried water or munchies. also, we were all running low on cash, so santosh stood in line and did the honours on behalf of the rest of us.

google maps had the route mapped out, so i loaded it before we lost network, started navigation, and we rode through the village in search of a hospitable parking spot. we parked at a dead end in the lane parallel to the start of the trek, asked the villagers to keep our helmets and watch out for the bikes, and made some chitchat while we hitched on our tents to our backpacks. one villager started to mention something cautionary about the Dam, but another villager shushed her. I ignored it, and nobody else seemed to notice.

at about 10:30pm, we finally switched on our torches and started walking. the first part of the trek was very familiar, we had to go around the lake, cross the stream that was feeding it, and then start climbing. Google maps was showing us a route that was submerged, so we circled the lake from slightly higher. the terrain was reasonably flat, so it wasn't a problem. we then reached the point where we had to cross the stream. as we were nearing the stream, a group of three or four guys passed us on their way back to the village, looking at us quite suspiciously. dipesh nudged me and mentioned one of them was carrying a sword. scary. we hurried ahead, making sure the only girl in the group, liselle, was in the middle. scarier still, those guys turned around a few hundred metres later and started following us!

the map showed that we had to cross the stream, but it said we had to go about half a kilometer upriver, cross, and return down on the other side. I took a call and decided to attempt wading across the fast moving stream instead. I managed to pick the shallow parts, and made it across without going more than thigh deep. the rest followed, and we made it across safely before those guys caught up.

we crested the next hillock by the time they reached the stream, and i noticed them watching us from across the steam, but luckily they made no attempt to follow.

it was then a quick climb to a ridge, the first real climb of the trek, and by the time we reached the ridge we were all in dire need of our first break.

dipesh took out theplas and chunda (how stereotypically gujju, lol), which we relished to the very end. it was a little past midnight, and we were pretty hungry, so we also had some masala groundnuts, and observed the horizon stretching all the way to the highway and railway tracks on three sides of our vantage point. well rested and refreshed, we decided it's time to move on.

we now had to walk along a narrow ridge, with steep Valley on either side. it was somewhat scary due to the wind, but that was more psychological than anything else. we also passed an old man walking downhill, and that guy said it'd take us two hours to reach garbett point. Google maps said it was just one hour (about 3.5 km, 1/3rd of the total trek distance), but two hours seemed more realistic even though we were on track with Google's predictions so far.

the ridge took us to this huge mango tree, which had concrete encircling it. I remembered this tree from last time, and was wishing we had taken the break here instead of 20 minutes earlier. the walk on the ridge had been quite uphill and i was trying to pick up the pace on the way, so people were huffing and puffing and needed another quick break.

after the huge tree, there was a bit more of ridge, before we reached the plateau of the last village. we then had to trudge through freshly ploughed farms. tricky and mushy though it was, it was also reassuring as we were nearing the final ascent, and the lights of the village were beckoning.

we entered the village, and dogs started barking their lungs out from all directions. I guess that scared some of us, but i knew it's just their way of warning the villagers that intruders had arrived. strangely though, not a single person emerged from their houses. I had hoped we could speak to a villager to get some help regarding the final route, as I was wary of relying on Google maps completely. not a soul stirred though, and so we bore the barking dogs and exited the village, in the direction google maps indicated. it said we were slightly off the path, but in the right direction. crossing fields made it even more difficult to stick to the route, and we were drifting further off, though I was doing my best to stick to course. after the fields, we had to circle the foothills until we found the exact point to ascend the plateau. this is the only part I remembered jungle from the first time (14 years ago!)

while we were circling, we found a mud path leading somewhat uphill, and another leading somewhat downhill. we unanimously picked the uphill one. it was fine, until it suddenly disappeared into rocks which was leading to a waterfall and stream. it was easy to cross that one, and we could see a path on the other side of the stream. we continued on the mud path, until the next waterfall, and the next, and the next, until we lost count. liselle's torch, which was the brightest of them all, ran out of charge. I could see the nervousness on her face, but she didn't say anything. I had a spare torch, and she used that from now on.

strangely enough, Google maps, which said 40 minutes/2.5km when we were in the village, wasn't reducing its time or distance remaining estimate. we were still moving parallel but in the right direction. that's when i realized Google maps doesn't show the distance from the path, or indeed provide any indication of scale of the map.

still, we were following what looked like well trod mud paths, and were ascending consistently, so we assumed we were on the right track. we could also see the top of the hill, and it seemed surprisingly close. we trudged on, and through countless waterfalls and streams, and it was now nearing 3am. moisture got into my phone's waterproof pouch, and the touchscreen stopped responding. while taking it out, the back button got pressed. navigation exited. with no network, we were unable to resume navigation.

we were now officially lost.

the path was still there, and nobody stopped to consider how we mysteriously kept finding the path after every rocky patch and stream. we continued.

at one point, we reached a hillock that was sloping upwards at a gentle 45 degrees, with a zigzag mud path up, and the top quite clearly visible.

ajith and dipesh decided to make a break for the top. they started uphill, almost in a sprint. liselle, santosh and i brought up the rear.

the slope kept getting steeper, and the top didn't seem to be getting any nearer. at one point, probably a 60 degree slope, we spotted a tree, and decided to take a break. it was well past 3am, and we were extremely hungry. there was a rock outcrop, barely few inches wide and a few feet long. four of us squeezed into it, to prevent ourselves from sliding downhill when we sat. santosh sat against the tree, and we took in the beauty of the spot we were at. the horizon stretched into the distance, and we saw the last train to karjat passing, at least 10 km away. nobody wanted to have the chicken rolls I had carried, so we had liselle's cold pizza instead. it was heavenly.

we saw the last train return from karjat. dipesh and ajith thought they'll try climbing a bit more to check if the terrain improved. they called out from uphill, saying that it didn't, but they found a tree to sit against, so they weren't coming back down.

I propped my bag behind myself, ensured my butt had a good grip on the outcrop, and shut my eyes.

all our chitchat and eating and whatnot had only taken half an hour. we had over 3 hours until sunrise. it was going to be a long, cold night.

I dozed off before I knew it, and it seemed like it was bright in barely a blink of an eye. dipesh and ajith woke me up, and i was still groggy from my deep, dreamless sleep. the sun wasn't out, but there was light.

I looked down. the village was right below us.

I saw the well outside the village and remembered.

that was the pointer to the route we were supposed to take.

we had spent all night, climbing random hills around the village.

and those mud paths? every single hill was covered from top to bottom with them. some sort of natural formation.

we had been completely lost all along, and we didn't know it.

anyway, the way was pretty clear now. straight down to the village. we were going to go there, breakfast, and plan our next steps... but i guess everyone had already mentally decided that we were heading back home.

I washed my face and hands, drank some water, and we were at the village in 15 minutes, flat. we stopped at a house we had passed yesterday, and asked them if they will make breakfast for us. half an hour later, we were sipping black tea (they don't use milk at all, as they believe it's meant for the cows only) and pigging on rice bhakri and bhurji.

we asked an old man (probably the head of that family) how far was garbett point. he said it'd take us 45 minutes. heartened, i asked him how far was diksal village (our start point). he said it'd take us half an hour.

something was obviously wrong with his sense of timing.

we unanimously decided to head back. I was sad, as I really wanted to complete the trek, it was barely 7am, and we had all day. but i realized that we were tired and sleepy, and had a rather rough night.

also, though we didn't reach garbett point, we did have a pretty darn good trek. it was beautiful, enriching, and fun, with more than its quota of madness.

it was time to head back home.

the villagers told us the dam had flooded that night, and we should return by an alternative route, one that went all the way along a plateau, and descended only at the end. it was so broad and flat, that we could have even biked it till the village, i think. maybe next time.

when I reached home, my brother asked me about the trek. I told him the story. he said that he will come next time, and we will conquer it. at night. without getting lost.

and so, until next time...