Friday, December 09, 2016
Saturday, December 03, 2016
(forgotten in my drafts from mid December - better late than never!)
my bike's been giving trouble lately. she's spent the better part of the month parked at the garage, getting the equivalent of a heart transplant: new crankshaft, connecting rods, bushings, piston, block, timing chain, tensioner, clutch plates, and all variety of minor paraphernalia. so, while I waited it out patiently for fate and my mechanic to give me some relief, I've been living off public transport and the generosity of my friends who have lent me their rides whenever they could.
the last few days were with ajith's avenger. his was the bike I was the most excited about borrowing, as it was one of the options i considered long ago (when I was looking for the next bike after my pulsar, before I decided on the karizma). back then, I rejected it as I was sick of bajaj's quirks: some touches of bad design, and a reputation for bad longevity of the engine.
after a pretty successful run with the karizma, I've been thinking about my next bike. and i decided to approach the avenger with an open mind: it's been 4 years, and bajaj has done intresting things with the pulsar platform, so i figured getting my legs around it should give me the feel of things.
before I mounted it, I was nervous. after all, I had to ride it from powai to bandra in the peak of rush hour traffic, and i had an impatient lady waiting for me at the end of it. and yes, she was already done with her stuff and was killing time until I arrived. my main concern was the position of the foot pegs... would I be able to handle switching to feet on the ground from feet on the pedals quickly enough?
once on the road though, I was quite reassured. it was possible to get my shoe caught on the gear lever or get my ankle on the silencer when switching, but with enough care it wasn't a problem.
the riding position had its pros and cons: it seemed more relaxed, and having mirrors and other cars' headlights at eye level meant that I had a good all round view. the low seat made me almost feel like I was in a go-kart, and that made me feel like I was going a lot faster than I was. the engine was nice and smooth. the gears were so unlike the karizma that it almost felt like my foot was doing its job by itself and I was riding an automatic! the gear lever was too long though, so I ended up using it as a toe shifter only. old habits die hard, I guess. I reached my destination comfortably and without incident, and on the way home, my lady was also happy to ride pillion.
the next morning, riding to work without much traffic, I had a chance to explore the handling better. and that's when I was truly worried. the bike brakes scarily. it skids on light braking on tar roads in a straight line... at 60. on curves, anything less than a perfect surface is scary at best. that would have been a deal breaker, but I got a second opinion from a die hard avenger fan, who said the same thing: the avenger brakes and handles terribly. his "technique" was to ride slowly and use engine braking. lol.
anyway, I still had a couple of days more to go, and one important errand: transporting a rather heavy bit of luggage across town. the avenger handled that perfectly, with my fully loaded rynox (64L) saddle bags, a packed 90L backpack, and a pillion. the seat is roomy, so it doesn't feel cramped even with the huge backpack and the pillion. full points there. but I realized during the 3 hour ride that the seating position actually puts your weight on a weird part of your butt. I didn't have any aches at the end, but it did get rather uncomfortable.
so, in short: comfort, uncheck. safely, uncheck. ergonomics, check. load carrying capabilities, check.
my next bike? uncheck.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
(guest post by Shruti: she has now revived her own blog too: http://shrutidiaries.blogspot.in/)
Life ha a funny way of reminding you where your stand in the whole scheme of things. Thanks to the latest announcement on demonetization, i suddenly feel stifled and restricted. Though most of my big purchases can be done on cards, I feel restricted in terms of daily commute where only cash prevails. Walking to and from home from the railway station to save every penny worth ofchutta,eating only at restaurants that accept cards, disliking people when they shamelessly ask for cash post their services; these are just some of the many daily situations I come across post 8th of November, 2016.
But this post is not about demonetization (even the American version of demonetisation restricts my freedom of self expression). This post is about how life changes in a jiffy. In one moment, you are rich and comfortable with your cash, cards and the works and the next moment you are standing in never ending queues at the ATM for somechuttas.The worst part is the restriction on these cash exchange transactions and withdrawals. Ofcourse it wont be right to say that I feel like how people would have felt during the Great Depression but I seriously do empathize with them much more.
Life has changed overnight for many people. People whose business depended solely on cash have seen atleast a 50% drop. People have stopped going out often. Patients have suffered, waiters have suffered without their tiny tips and people like me are such feeling the heat of things when someone argues in a local train either supporting or defaming this move. There is blatant restlessness palpitating among the crowd. I am worried now. Worried for humanity, for justice and most of all I think we are going to relive the era of "The Silent Generation." The happy Millennials and iGeneration will need to re-read their history books to learn a lesson or two from their ancestors.
I suddenly feel a profound sense of helplessness. I am worried for my future. Just plain worried. I cannot trust anything anymore. In one moment, a government move changes my life, in one day my aunt falls critically ill and her world turns upside down. What do we humans gloat about so much? We are helpless on so many fronts. I have cash in bank but I can hardly use it. My aunt has the power and money to get her way out of things but today she is helpless in front of what sits inside her body. We are helpless if tomorrow an airstrike (just like the one in Syria and other war stricken countries) hits Mumbai. We will be homeless and poor in the tiny speck of a moment if our house collapses or our banks go bust. Banks do not guarantee our entire money. I know I read cynical here but what can this "Pale Blue Dot" do when an asteroid welcomes its way in?
Humans are a complex mix of vulnerabilities and strengths. Spirituality teaches us that the power of the Universe is also the power within us. Science teaches us the heavy realization of how seriously we take ourselves even though we are such a tiny speck on the face of this vast Universe.
All these years growing up, I had a sense of relief that let me take care of myself and things will fall in place. I also believed that life is full of choices and it is largely our choices thatmaketh thee.But I blindly ignored the possibilities of life changing experiences through fate. Some will not agree with me on this as they believe that it is solely their deeds and words that made them who they are today. But you cannot ignore the factors of getting a good foundation as a child, living in a conflict-free positive environment. That is where fate comes in. Maybe it is theill-fateof Syrians or Palestinians or even Kashmiris to suffer in an induced poverty and see their life savings burnt down due to a choice made by few men.
I hope my bubbly optimism surfaces soon and takes over this induced cynicism. I am amazed at how deeply things affect me these days. My sensitivity is to its fore. A good outcome of this though is that I am writing much more and I feel free in doing so.
Monday, November 14, 2016
I pity the plight of drivers of 4-and-more vehicles in India. being a biker myself, I'm constantly thinking about what the drivers around me see and sense before attempting a maneuvere. small things like flashing my headlight when I'm behind a car while I move to whichever side I'm overtaking from, and anticipating if they intend to give way based on the way they brake (it's not that difficult, the human mind is quite amazing in its ability to judge velocity and acceleration!), treating drivers on the phone with extra caution to and checking their blind spots instead of assuming I can always be seen.
yesterday, I had to ride pillion with someone for a fair distance (12 km). at first I was simply unnerved by his refusal to signal turns and his tendency to not brake early when an opportunity to overtake is closed... and i was gonna politely give him a bit of advice.
but eventually I realized the problem ran deeper: he simply wasn't thinking about the other drivers and vehicles on the road. about the fact that the average rickshaw brakes can't be trusted enough for you to to cut in between and halve its braking distance without warning, or that a car driver taking a turn can't see you in the rear view while turning, so if you weren't visible before he started turning, he'd have to emergency brake when you cut in halfway through the turn. or that if a bus does an emergency brake, there's some sort of obstacle in front of it that you better not make any assumptions about.
the sort of things you can't politely advise someone to start doing.
seriously, I wonder what was occupying the part of his mind which a safe rider would use to analyze the road.
how do you politely advise someone to ride defensively?
Monday, November 07, 2016
yesterday, in church, the priest happened to narrate a story that reminded me of grandma.
there was a sculptor, who was working on a bronze statue. he toiled at it, day and night, and even when it looked like the sculpture was ready, he continued to polish and apply finishing touches to it. a curious passerby once asked: your sculpture looks complete, how much longer do you plan to work on it for?
the sculptor replied: I will work until my sculpture is taken from me
I remembered grandma. weeks ago, we thought she was on her deathbed. she has stopped opening her eyes, she has long since lost her sense of hearing. she just lies in bed all day, with her laboured breathing and occasional restless movement of her head and hands to remind us that she is still there. she even stopped swallowing food and drinking water for some time, but has resumed again.
she is like that sculptor.
she will not give up until her life is taken away.
such is the human spirit. to fight until the final breath. to never give up even when the end is in sight.
I visited grandma recently, again. I held her shriveled hands and stroked her sunken face. her fingers twitched and she struggled to open her eyes. I visited her to make my peace with what I thought was the end. but watching her struggle, I realized that it wasn't the end. what seems like a few days or months to us, must feel very different to her. just like the last 100 steps to everest seems like any other 100 steps to anyone else, but not to the mountaineer making her approach to the summit, drawing on every last ounce of strength.
I have honestly always believed that every moment prepares myself for the rest, but I found it hard to apply that philosophy to situations like these. I realize now, that such moments are what call for the greatest strength.
I have tears in my eyes as I think about what grandma's frail body is going through. but I remind myself that grandma's mind is not frail. she is strong, stronger than even most of us living in the prime of our youth.
and I will never tell myself that it's over. not until the last breath, when her battle is won.
when her sculpture is taken away.
Saturday, November 05, 2016
- get yourself a partner
- make sure it's gonna last forever
- propose! do it however you want, it doesn't have to be crazy, but it has to be you. take plenty of photos, cos you don't want to forget this moment anytime soon ;)
- fix the date - it's hard to fix everything else without a date, at least an approximate one!
- broach the subject with each others' families, if you haven't done it yet - makes life a lot easier.
- tell your friends - nothing like excited, enthusiastic friends to motivate you to get your act together!
- budget - atleast an approximate one. don't overspend, your life after the big day is probably not going to be much fun if you're broke!
- make a to-do list. start off with the list of someone else who recently got married, and preferable in a similar style and budget as you're planning to.
- fix the venue. all up to you, but keep in mind the budget, your convenience and the convenience of your guests. destination weddings are beautiful and awesome, but they don't come cheap (unless your family lives at the destination :D) and can be a pain to coordinate unless you have a wedding planner at the destination.
- get an approximate guest count. you're bound to miss out people on the first count, so don't bother getting it accurate. a ballpark will do.
- fix the exact date, and if it's gonna be a huge affair, the number of days.
- book the venue. a ground/hall/whatever have you. make sure it can accommodate your guests comfortably. work out a deal for photographer(s), catering, decor, and if it's a destination wedding, stay and transport.
- send out a "save the date" (optional) - important if you have people traveling from far away, or it's a destination wedding.
- book your leave at your workplace. factor in your honeymoon, and a few days off before the wedding.
- plan/book your honeymoon
- inform your entourage, let them know if they will be helping out with any of the planning, preparation, etc
- start getting your card, electronic invitations, and website (optional) designed
- start shopping for outfits, accessories, entourage outfits, etc. if you're getting them tailor-made, get your design etc fixed, but get the size finalized no more than two months before the wedding.
- start figuring your stay after marriage. setting up can take a while, and you want your new place to be ready to move in right after the big day!
- send your invites out
- start checking the rest of your to-do! don't underestimate the small things.
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
(guest post by shruti)
Some recent developments have made me think deeper about how we humans spend our lives in pursuit of things we think will make us happy.
My aunt, closest of the seven siblings to my mom, was detected with a deadly disorder. I'll call it disorder because it has led to complete disorder and disarray of life for people around her and for her body within. It is eating her up slowly and crept up sneaking from somewhere in the dark without any warning. I'll be getting married in two months. So between office, wedding preps and arranging our new haven I also spend time with my aunt at the hospital. Here I am excited to step forward towards my new journey and here is a close kin of mine fighting to maintain her status quo.
I never knew such news could deeply affect me or move me but when anyone who hears about her case says chances are subnormal I cannot hold back a flood of melancholic emotions run by my mind. You realise the futility of pursuit in life. Pursuit of material pleasures, pursuit of success, even pursuit of happiness. Everything is so overrated. Life is overrated. No matter what you do, nature will always have the last laugh. God would be laughing at our plans, smiling at our naivety. I love making plans, thinking constantly of the future. But today I realised the futility of this micromanagement of my life. One abrupt turn can change the course of my life.
Today, I also realised the importance of communication. One of the reasons for me writing this post. Communicating your feelings to the people around you. Letting them know that you love them. Communicating the pain you feel for them. Crying alone for someone won't help them ease their pain but crying with them will. Life is but a fleeting moment. And it is true that nothing lasts forever.
Let your loved ones know that you love them. Hug them, praise them and make them smile everyday. Also make some changes in your own homes. Make it warm, livable and de-clutter.
Friday, October 07, 2016
warning: long post ahead. summary at the end.
recently, I received a call from HDFC bank, from someone who claimed to be my "personal banker". I was wondering why, because I used to have a personal banker long ago, but he suddenly disappeared off the scene, and I honestly didn't miss him one bit, because there's nothing I need a personal banker for.
in fact, that guy prompted me to once tweet that "a personal banker is a salesman you're forced (or was it obliged? I don't remember) to be nice to 😁"
so this well spoken lady claiming to be my personal banker introduced herself and asked me to save her number and whatnot. and then she said that she could see I was eligible for a credit limit enhancement on my credit card. I have no idea why anyone would offer me that, as I don't even use that card. but apparently your credit limit contributes to your credit score, and it's always good to have a good credit score. or maybe I was simply in a good mood and wasn't too occupied with work that day. either way, I agreed. she said that I would receive a OTP on my mobile, which I would have to key into the IVR. sounded legit.
the IVR switched on, it asked me to enter my card number. when done, it asked me to enter my OTP. since the OTP was on my phone, and I was on the call, it took a few seconds to switch apps and read the number, memorize it, switch back and dial it. and HDFC somehow expected me to be super quick, so the IVR exited before I could dial it in. the lady was back on the line. she said I took too long, so I would have to try again. she launched the IVR again. I entered my card number. it then asked me to enter my OTP. and then I heard my "personal banker"'s voice, asking me to hurry.
I was too shocked to respond.
she was on the line with the IVR, had already heard my card number, and was about to hear my OTP!
I was literally shell shocked. I thought I was this close to being scammed. if she hadn't spoken, I'd have been a goner (metaphorically speaking).
the IVR exited, I regained my composure, and asked her why she was on the line. I told her that I was extremely uncomfortable with this and did not want to go ahead with it. she was polite, but it was clear that she didn't understand my concern. I tried explaining as well, but she was like "I can only hear beeps, not the actual number"
she obviously didn't know how tone dialing (or indeed, IVR systems) work.
I gave up and made an excuse and hung up.
I didn't really need the limit upgrade, but she had set my mind working. is there any way to verify that this is or is not some sort of scam? I thought hard, and the only thing I could come up with was the HDFC official call center. so I dialed in, and of course I had to enter my authentication details on the IVR, something I have done scores of times before, but which got me thinking this time. anyway, I guess the number listed on my card and the website had to be trusted, I hoped.
I finally got someone on the line. I asked her if I was eligible for a credit limit upgrade. she affirmed. I asked her to confirm my current and new limit. it matched what I was told earlier. she told me I would be sent an OTP and would then be put on the IVR. so far, the story matched. I had just one last point to confirm. I asked her if she would be on the line while I entered my details.
she said she would.
this time, I didn't bother arguing. I had called HDFC on their listed number, so unless an extremely well engineered scam was in place, I should be safe.
the transaction went through, I got a message from HDFC confirming that my request was accepted to etc.
I called my "personal banker" to let her know that I had done the upgrade by calling phone banking, as I was not comfortable entering my OTP on an inbound call. she still didn't understand, but I didn't care.
I haven't heard from her ever since. but I did get a call the other day from a guy who also claimed to be my personal banker. I told him I already have one, and he insisted that he was my real personal banker from the head office, while the other person must have called from some branch.
I'm pretty sure he's not from the head office, because he wants to meet me in person now. I'm just bracing myself for more insecure bullshit and another attempt to sell me something I don't need.
do not enter personal details on IVR. especially on an inbound call. if it's an inbound call, selling you something you want, find a way to get to the same offer from an outbound call to a verified number. do all due diligence to verify the outbound number. and never accept an outbound number that's given to you by the caller. they are bound to make excuses to avoid this, but be firm.
do not assume any IVR is secure. those "beeps" are the keys of your keypad being transmitted across. anyone listening will know what you have entered. so be wary.
and whenever you come across a bank legitimately forcing or inducing you to do these things, give them feedback that this is not acceptable.
(ps: have you come across any other such suspicious things? let me know in the comments, I'll be happy to vet and write up about them!)
Thursday, September 15, 2016
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
(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
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
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
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...
Tuesday, July 05, 2016
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Monday, June 20, 2016
one day, i was philosophizing to myself about the nature of failure. later, when explaining it to a friend, i managed to put is succinctly enough to merit putting it down for posterity.
and so, here are my "levels of failure", in ascending order of degree:
- failure to execute your plan
- failure to plan to maximize the chances of achieving your selected goal
- failure to select the most important goal
- failure to prioritize your goals before planning
- there were days when it was quite possible to go to gym, but i just didn't go. usually because i wanted to go home and sleep instead. and in most cases, i didn't end up sleeping, thus pushing the vicious cycle to the next day.
- i didn't think about and address the various reasons i may have to not go to gym. the only thing i concentrated on was on having the time. but, as it turns out, there are plenty of other things you need. and even if you have the time, you won't end up going if those things are missing. that's what happened in that one month.
- i did not think about what was more important. should i be focusing on going to gym or getting fit? i could have done other things like walking, cycling, and a lot of other things i simply dismissed because i thought my goal was to go to gym.
- this was a tough one. in all likelihood, getting fit would be my priority number one. but the fact remains, that i didn't consider the rest. and without knowing my priorities, there is a big chance you're chasing something irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
i have an obsession with old music. not just any old music, but specifically stuff i grew up listening to, and now can't, either because my turntable isn't working, i don't have an audio cassette player, the cassettes weren't labeled properly (yeah, pirated cassettes, lol), or some other randomness. and then of course, there's stuff i can identify but can't find, either because it's not online, or because there's new and popular stuff with the same name, and i get tired after clicking through 10 pages of youtube results (especially since there's also a chance i may have been mistaken to begin with).
i still keep searching randomly though, and as google gets better, more media gets uploaded, and maybe i get lucky enough through dogged determination, i sometimes meet with success.
it's hard to describe the feeling when i finally find what i've been looking for.
it's hard to explain why i'm such a memory junkie.
i think i've mentioned before, that my present somehow revolves in a loop of past music.
i don't know why i don't really care for new music any more.
someone told me recently, that you only get old when you stop looking for new things.
maybe, in the musical sense, i'm already old.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
a little under three months ago, I decided I'm gonna put all procrastination behind me and join a gym. the office gym seemed the most likely candidate, as I've already tried gyms near home, and that didn't work out well for me. in fact, today is the last day of my 3 year membership of a local gym, which I used (cumulatively) for about a month.
at first, it seemed all circumstances were conspiring against me. I took my gym bag and shoes to office, filled the online sign up form, and after a few days of procrastination, actually went to the gym on a monday evening... only to be turned away by the person in charge, as the gym was shutting for two weeks for renovation, starting Wednesday. and i was going for a week long vacation the very day the gym reopened. so, that day, I made a public announcement that I was going to join gym on April 1st.
finally, the appointed day arrived. I took my change of clothes and shoes, which had been lying in office for a month, and signed up. the evaluation took too long and I was going to push it for the next day as I was about to miss the office bus, but i decided I had to be tough with myself about this. and so, I finished my evaluation and a short jog on the treadmill, and reached home super late, but happy. I had finally started.
I went to gym for all of April. I went in the evening, I went in the morning. I started carrying a second tiffin for my post workout meal. I even started cooking my second tiffin myself, as it was super boring to eat the same thing twice a day.
I started following my diet faithfully.
and despite the burden on my schedule (i didn't have time for anything else at all), I was enjoying it. gym was fun, I could see very obvious improvement to my strength, stamina and overall well being. people even complimented me on my improved looks, and although I'm not convinced there was any noticeable change, I accepted the compliments graciously and happily.
I thought I was falling into a rhythm of sorts, even though I was somewhat sleep deprived and very short on personal time. I started figuring solutions to the various things that were causing friction in this new found lifestyle. couple of my friends joined too, seeing my enthusiasm.
for the first time in my life, it seemed to be working out. and it did, for precisely a month.
someone told me that if you do something for 21 days, it becomes a habit for life.
that person was wrong.
precisely one month later, one Monday (may 2), i missed gym, as I had to come late to work and leave late, and i gave my bike to the mechanic on the way.
the next day, I had to leave early to pick up the bike from the mechanic before he shut.
I don't even remember what happened the day after that.
but I do know that I have a change of clothes that have been lying untouched in my desk in office for precisely a month.
there have been days when I've even cooked my second tiffin and taken it to work, but taken it back home (or worse, ate it before leaving office).
I just don't know how i managed to miss gym for a whole month. and most of those days I even set off from home will all intent to go.
and i don't care either.
I'm going back to gym today. without my second tiffin.
and this time, I won't stop.
but the fact remains, i still don't know how.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
you know that thing they say, that "men will be men" and suchlike? i think it's either wrong, or if i'm somehow different from all other men in committed relationships, it doesn't apply to me.
that's right, i can't bring myself to look at another woman lustfully again. and the reason is simple.
first of all, nobody is perfect. so yes, she isn't perfect either. there are things i'd like, that she isn't. there are things i want, that she doesn't (or maybe doesn't want to) give. some of those things i know others can give. but that doesn't tempt me.
because, i've had my chances. and nothing ever worked out. and i've made my peace with that, and my conclusion that nothing else will ever work.
human nature is complex. we don't fully understand the underlying correlations. maybe the combination of what i have and what i want is some sort of inherent contradiction that makes it impossible? or maybe what appeals to me is not what i really want? or maybe what i want is not what i need? or what i need is something that i don't realize yet? or maybe *i* am not compatible with what i want (yeah, i'm not as like-able as i initially appear to be, and that's not too like-able to begin with :D).
and so, i've made my peace with the has-been and could-be. they don't appeal to me anymore.
being in love is a full time occupation. if i start focusing my energy somewhere else, i certainly won't have enough left to complete this one relationship that matters the most to me.
and that is why, i vow to be faithful. because anything else would be a waste of my life.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
I have been riding solo for a while. I spent a weekend camping alone at a beach long ago.
but recent times have been different. I've been sucked into chaos. the turbulence has been overwhelming. the urge to get away from it all has never been this strong.
I sought solitude. or else.
things were reaching breaking point. I was scared by the solutions I was considering.
luckily for me, everything wasn't black and white.
people understood. the ones who mattered, at least.
and so, one weekend, against all odds, headache and protesting bike notwithstanding, I set off.
I was grossly underprepared. water, food, ipod, and little else. but i had to do this, my way.
my way was the highway.
I started walking.
I was surprised by how deficient just one feeble torch and two tired eyes could be.
halfway, I found a resting spot. I didn't really need to rest. but i needed a pause. all the way, I had been considering my alternatives. did I need to do this? the headache is getting worse. the water isn't going to last. have I subconsciously been planning a one way trip?
I stared blankly at the moon above and the lights below. shut out my thoughts.
life is a one way trip.
we return, but we're not the same.
blankly, i resumed walking.
every step seemed easier if I didn't let my mind weigh me down.
and then I reached the top.
breathed a sigh of relief.
there were people there.
said hi to one of them. but he was on his phone and couldn't care less.
I was disappointed.
I wanted to be alone. I wanted company. I had neither.
there was space for everyone. I found my spot, far enough to not be seen, but near enough to hear.
and in that disappointment, I found my space.
I wasn't hungry. I wasn't thirsty. I wasn't sleepy. I was tired.
nature was comforting. the grass and the breeze were familiar territory. I made my bed and tried to sleep.
the headache worsened. there was music and talking in the distance.
I reminded myself I've slept in worse places.
my eyes shut, hesitantly.
they opened a few hours later.
the moon had set. the stars were out. the voices were distant.
the headache had gone.
the world was beautiful again.
I felt like myself again.
I wanted to run around.
I wanted to go home. I felt ready to go home.
the sky mesmerised me. I reminded myself that I am going home tomorrow. but i couldn't contain my joy. I had to share it.
I called her and told her I love her.
I don't know if it sounded like the almost perfunctory three words we say ever so often. but it wasn't.
I wasn't tired any more.
the voices in the distance reminded me of what I hold dear. they sang songs of love and friendship. and my heart joined the chorus. the stars joined the chorus. the breeze joined the chorus.
I didn't want to sleep any more.
I shifted from a shelter to a vantage.
I wasn't hiding from the world any more.
this rock is harder than the grasssy shelter I thought was my spot.
but I'm on top of the world now.
I am myself again.
Simon and Garfunkel chime in.
"When you're weary
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down"
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
until yesterday, I never noticed that I associate all my favorite songs with rain. I guess I have more than my fair share of happy times associated with rain (treks, rides, birthdays, and more). and rain even goes well with blasting loud music at home.
also, since memories are subjective, it's easy to confuse them, and as I realized yesterday, to even make them up.
I was listening to a song on loop, and it suddenly turned overcast outside, and I thought to myself: this song and rain, perfect! it reminded me of some generic rainy day.
but then I thought to myself: I've only heard this song two weeks ago, so it can't possibly be connected to rain. if anything, it should be associated with sunny weather (it's positively blazing, these days!) and yet, the association with rain has been created, and is probably going to be reinforced in a month.
and so, that's how it is: all my favourite things are associated with rain.
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
my life was never really lived by the rules, and though organizing and prioritizing has worked well for me whenever i've resorted to it, those occasions have been few and far between, usually marked by desperation. i have always taken pride in my ability to take every day as it comes, without much forethought, and usually, without much afterthought either. things seem to always fall into place, sometimes quite obviously, and at other times by strange quirks of fate.
the last few months have been chaotic. besides some external factors, i've made some choices that i've now gotten so used to, that it's become hard to randomly sift things around. and the result of those choices are that my social and intellectual life has kinda gone for a toss. my blog is pretty much forgotten (not abandoned!). i've stopped reading. and much as i hate it, i'm overly dependent on whatsapp and facebook to keep in touch with the people who matter.
i want to change, but there is only so much room for leverage now. and time is slipping by. the longer i stay in this chaos, the further i get from my previously (relatively) balanced life.
and there are going to be more changes coming up. drastic ones. changes that will literally shake up everything.
if living by the day has brought me here, i wonder if it is no longer as suitable for my life as it was before. but life does not wait for me as i mull, consider and reconsider.
and so, maybe out of desperation, it's time for the biggest philosophical change of my life. i must say, i never imagined this coming.
let's hope this is fun!
Monday, March 14, 2016
last night, I slept shivering under the stars, exhausted from the night trek that ended at peb fort. and i had a dream that didn't even seem like a dream until a few hours after we started our return trek.
so in the dream, the lights we saw (outside the dream, on a neighbouring hill which was at a lower height than we were at), were actually part of a church that was visible in the morning. the church was open to the sky, except for the altar end which had a sloped roof, and the other end which was partly in a 40 - 60 foot high cave which looked like it was cut out from the rock face.
the church itself was immaculately maintained, with pews gleaming in the sunlight, plenty of flowers, and pretty, tiled flooring. the people attending were also elaborately dressed. so elaborately, in fact, that their dress would be appropriate for a bride or groom at a wedding.
the church could be entered from a spiral stone stairway cut into the plateau we were camping on, directly above the cave. the stone stairway turned into a metal one once it got through the plateau.
(this is where I stopped typing - i can still visualize the church perfectly, but can't remember the rest of the dream 😳)
Sunday, January 31, 2016
i deleted my last post, for reasons i'll not get into here. let's just say that certain relationships have apparently asserted themselves to be more important that my freedom of expression. and while some friends have called me everything from pussy-whipped to spineless, others have simply reminded me that they still look to my writing for inspiration.
it's weird. on one hand, my knee-jerk reaction was to shut my blog (yes, that "suicide-note" post is still in my drafts), and on the other hand, people are already judging me for bending my principles. and i'm left wondering if i'll continue to inspire others if i can't be true to myself.
the decision is a difficult one, but i've decided to continue.
and so, my blog has changed.
it's no longer the unfiltered me.
i guess i'm a little spineless after all. i'd rather compromise than give up.
and i'm beginning to make my peace with this decision. and i'm beginning to wonder what else will have to change.
i'm beginning to wonder if, maybe, just like i can be true to myself without profanity (yeah, my blog language has gotten a lot more kindergarten-friendly over the years), i can also be true to myself while keeping certain thoughts off the blog. i realize that i didn't feel any emotional turmoil with my decision to keep ill-feelings towards people off the blog, even when i was seething (or even worse, on the verge of a breakdown) due to those feelings.
i'm beginning to wonder if the filtered me *is* me.
i'm wondering if it's time to admit i've lived behind a mask, and probably always will, because it always felt like the world was not ready to accept me the way i am.
i think it's time to remind myself that everyone lives behind their masks, and the only thing different about this new layer is that it has been externally prompted. maybe it's time to be thankful that i've gotten this far without having to feel this way.
i wonder if it's lucky that i've had so much freedom that i can feel the slightest bit of it being given up.
when i look back, i see that i haven't really changed at all.