Tuesday, August 29, 2017

survival

mumbai's having epic rain. it's been pouring for the last 48 hours or so, and the commute home was hellish for most people. i took a calculated risk and decided to ride home, and luckily for me, it paid off. there were a few things i did to mitigate the risk before i set off:

  • double checked the fuel level of my bike. i had at least 60 km worth of fuel for the 13 km ride home.
  • charged my phone fully, made sure the power bank i carry with me also had a fair bit of charge
  • carried a small water bottle of water
  • had a quick snack before i left off
  • wrapped and double wrapped everything valuable + electronic in a waterproof pouch inside my bag, which is supposed to be water resistant to begin with
  • called home before leaving
  • kept some spare change on hand outside the bag, for emergencies
  • weighed my options for the route to take home. chose to stick to broad roads, which i know are not low-lying, even though they would probably have more traffic than the alternatives

luckily for me, it worked out better than expected. i reached home in barely 45 minutes more than my usual time, despite a chai break on the way when the worst of the traffic was past me. most of my office colleagues weren't as lucky though - some of them took twice as long, mainly due to them traveling by car.

once i got home, i dried off and was treated to a mug of hot chocolate, courtesy the wife.

while i settled in and started thinking about dinner, my wife asked me if my phone was fully charged - a message she recieved reminded people that the electric supply might fail if there is too much flooding - and some low lying parts near home were already over a foot deep in water when i was getting home.

that's when i remembered an old thought, regarding survival (it was another rainy day, and I was traveling home by office bus, with a snack and some water to save myself). not sure if i blogged it back then (i can't find the post now - but i guess i didn't search much).

so anyway, i started thinking about what i'd have to do if the rain continued, and shruti and i were stuck at home under various circumstances.

we have the basics covered: about 800 litres of water in the overhead tank, which should last us comfortably for a week if we had to stretch it. plenty of batteries for our torches. and one puny hand crank torch, for an absolute last resort. about 3 days of ready-to-eat stuff. enough food supplies to last us two weeks, i'd say. but that's where i figured the problem lies: we have a piped gas supply, which runs underground. which means that if the gas AND electricity supply is lost, we'd have no way to cook.

now i do have my bike downstairs, and it does have a fair bit of fuel that i could get my hands on quite easily. but i have no safe way to burn it.

the only things i guess i could use to cook would be the 3 litres of cooking oil we have in store. and i don't have an efficient way to burn the oil. i guess i could make a makeshift stove out of utensils, but it's something i've never done before, and i'm not sure if i'd get it right.

also, i'm under prepared from a communication point of view, as i only have enough juice in the powerbank to keep my phone going for a couple of days. i could switch to a backup phone that has longer battery life, but i'd lose access to the internet. i'm guessing our adsl connection and wired phone would pop before (or maybe about the same time as) the electric supply does. but i guess we'd survive being holed up indoors, quite literally between these 4 walls, for about a week.

oh, and we have books. i wonder if there's anything else we'd need. hmmmm.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

the hunter and the grazer

long ago, someone told me that one big differentiating factor between hinting and grazing animals are that grazers have eyesight that's tuned to observing their surroundings (to look for predators), while hunters have a sort of tunnel vision: once they focus on something, they shut everything else out, leaving their senses fully concentrated on their target. i'm not sure how true this is, but it does make some sort of sense.

recently, i was having a conversation with someone and i realized that humans also operate in the same two modes. there are the grazers, who look around, worried about threats. they are the people who feel the need to conform to society. they are the people who always consider "what will everyone else think?" before they do something. they guess and second guess the world.

and they live in fear.

on the other hand, the people who behave like hunters do not care. they don't need to conform to society, as long as their target is in sight. they spring forth bravely, maybe not always successfully, but missing the target is not failure for them. the laughter or comments of society do not matter, unless possibly if they're constructive.

the grazers are safe. they have nothing to fear but society and humiliation, which are self-created fears. and they have safety in numbers. on the other hand, hunters have real things to worry about. few hunters would come to the aid of others. and the grazers would probably shy away.

but the hunter does what no grazer can.

and that's why, i feel, that's what we should aspire to be. hunters.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

34

I turned 34 a couple of days ago. my birthday was super fun, celebrated with friends, family and a bit of debauchery. but when everything settled down and I was alone at home that evening with my wife, things began to settle down. I started thinking back about the year gone by. and after a few minutes of thought, I had to actually read my blog to figure what mental condition I was in a year ago.

yes, things have changed that much.

I guess I wasn't really thinking ahead last year. I wasn't thinking about how marriage would change everything. how spending every single day of my life with this adorable doll of a wife would change everything. how having a cosy home of our own, despite it being mostly filled with stuff hoarded from our single lives, would change everything. i knew that my diversions and hobbies would change, but I had no idea that cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and dishes, could be so fulfilling. I knew that I'd be riding less, trekking less, reading less... but I had absolutely no idea that I'd end up riding in two countries outside India, both of which not many Indians end up riding to. i had no idea that I'd be so detached from my friends and even my parents, and yet so attached to my wife.

I thought I was a loner. but it turns out my definition of alone has changed to mean alone with her ☺

the amount of changes have been so overwhelming, that when I think back, I can barely remember my single life. my life from last year is almost as much of a blur as when I turned 13, started riding my bicycle to school and started using my first computer.

and the coming year promises to be even crazier. unbelievable.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

distance

the normal reaction to being "hurt" is, quite simply, to react. but in that case, it no longer remains "hurt". it becomes retaliation. and retaliation inevitably escalates. the end result is that we have a situation where both are to blame.

sadly, trying not to react externally doesn't entirely resolve the issue. internal reactions are natural, and they produce external effects. suppression of internal reactions are not normal or natural.

and so, I'm left wondering, is there any way to respond to externally inflicted hurt, which is both natural and right. I always assumed that the path would be forgiveness, but I have realized that the aggressor learns to take forgiveness for granted, and when forgiveness happens too frequently to be accompanied by forgetting, there remains a residual effect, which negates the expected ideal outcome of forgiveness.

I am beginning to feel that when forgiveness is ineffectual, circumstances demand that I distance myself from the situation until it is complete.

the only question is, how?

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

sold out

so, i've finally "sold out" and started a FB page of my own. and blindly invited the first 100 or so friends FB suggested. i still hate pages and will probably not even look at my page unless facebook forces me to. it's just there so that as long as the free app i'm using to cross-post my blog posts works, it can fight it out with all the other trash on facebook these days.

please don't feel obliged to like/share/comment/whatever. i couldn't care less if you do, lol.

seeya!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

half a year

it's been exactly half a year since shruti and I took the biggest step of our lives. the memories are still as fresh as ever.
but scratch the surface, and things have changed over these months. we have gotten attached to our home. to each other. to our way of life. it's a sort of passive-aggressive attachment, where we welcome time apart (after 5 months of literally no time apart), because our time apart reminds us of how inextricably attached we've become.
we have grown on each other. I have fallen in love with her dal khichadi (with the occasional addition of bacon), and she has started adding schezuan sauce to pretty much everything. I can't sleep without her embrace, and she has gotten used to my perspiration. fart jokes have lost their charm. we haven't perfected our tea recipe to the point where we both enjoy the result, but we're getting there.
we're rediscovering each other, peeling off the layers, and changing things as we go along.
it's surprising how much can change in just half a year.
it's fascinating to imagine what lies ahead.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

wag the dog

it was a lazy afternoon. we were in this spacious house/apartment, and everyone was taking a nap or lazing around in bed. Clive and I were in the lower half of a king size double bed, the sort made of ancient, heavy wood.

we were watching a movie on his laptop. the movie was titled "wag the dog". the movie was about a struggling musician who inspired another guy to learn to play the guitar. the inspired guy became a famous musician, and one fine day, the guy who inspired him (let's call him *x*) turned up anonymously to watch one of his performances. after the performance, he went up to the now famous musician (let's call him *y*) and reintroduced himself. *y* remembered him and thanked him for the inspiration. *x* was very curious about his unique playing style and asked him to play a solo piece for him. as soon as *y* started playing the role *x* realized that he was only pretending to play the guitar, but was actually using a touch sensitive sensor on the back panel of his iPhone. this agitated *x* and he considered it an affront to his musical legacy. there was a tiff, which ended with *x* smashing the guitar on *y*'s head, to assess from the sound whether it was a real guitar or not. the guitar was real, and the movie ended.

Clive shut his laptop, and I got out of bed and walked to the other room. sunil and a lady were in one bed, shruti was in another, and suraj was in the third bed. they were discussing something when I walked in, and I told them I just watched "wag the dog". they asked me if I liked it, and I told them it was brilliant. they all chimed in with their own appreciation of the movie as well.

shruti suggested we go for a ride. we stepped out and got on the bike. we were riding to CST railway station, which was a straight ride down a highway, which looked more like marine drive than any other highway. only differences were that there was some sort of construction work (metro work?) underway along the median of the highway, and the opposite (i. e northbound) side had a broad, landscaped garden between the road and the sea face.

somewhere on the way, a cyclist darted across the highway from behind a rickshaw, and nearly missed colliding with us. I chided the cyclist, and we resumed our ride. we reached CST railway station.

the road ended at a grassy quadrangle which was bordered by a single lane tar road on all 4 sides. on the right of this road was the railway station and tracks, while on the left, there was the ticket booking counter. straight ahead, was a stone building which had the entrance to the station. I parked the bike, and we stood in line for a platform ticket. there was a guy in front of us in the line, who had a huge backpack on his back. he walked away from the counter, and I was about to buy our platform ticket, when the person at the counter started calling out to him as he had forgotten to collect his ticket. I called out to him as well, and he turned around just then. the person at the counter said that in addition to the platform ticket, he also had a special permit to carry a fossil across the bridge. he handed me the ticket and permit to give to the guy. the permit was a piece of paper, with a t-rex hand drawn in blue ballpoint pen.

I handed him the ticket and permit, and got back to the counter to get my own ticket, only to find that someone else had gotten ahead of me. the person ahead happened to be another friend, Elizabeth, and she was buying a monthly pass for the platform. she nodded at me without saying anything while the person at the counter prepared her pass.

for some reason, I changed my mind about the ticket, and decided to return home. but strangely, I was looking for my folding cycle instead of my motorbike. and I couldn't remember where I had parked it. I thought I had chained it to a tree, but there was no tree in sight.

and that's when I woke up.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

the malshej ghat dream

married life and domestic chores have sadly taken their toll on my travel and riding schedule, and I've actually been city-bound for an unprecedented 7 weeks! I decided that enough is enough, and it's time for a ride and a bit of camping. solo, if it came to that.

and then, two nights ago, I had this dream.

in the dream, I rode to malshej, solo. I reached late in the afternoon, and the lake where I usually camp at had risen significantly due to the recent rains. while my usual spot was above water, the two paths to approach it were submerged. I was inexplicably dogged about camping at my usual spot, despite the risks involved in getting there (and more importantly, getting back out). I attempted to get to the spot by both paths, but had to give up as the water got too deep and I got nervous about missing the path and taking a dive with the bike into the lake. back out of water and on the path (the paved one), I parked my bike and lay on the tarmac for a quick nap. it wasn't sunset yet. I hadn't even pitched my tent.

turns out, I slept so soundly that I awoke the next morning! it hadn't rained, and I was still in the open, my bike next to me. I checked my phone.

it was monday morning. i was supposed to be at work!

next thing I knew (yes, there's a missing segment of my dream), I was in a state transport bus, on the front jumpseat, next to the driver. we were descending malshej ghat. and i suddenly remembered that I had ridden to malshej!

after another missing segment of my dream, I was back home in Mumbai, getting ready for work.

the only weird thing was that, this house was quite different from the one I live in! still, my wife was there, and I started telling her while she was getting ready for work, about how I forgot it's Monday and how I forgot I had gone by bike. I packed my lunch, showered, dressed, and was getting ready to leave (my wife had already left for work by then). that's when my mom in law turned up. I was alone at home, and i couldn't refuse, so I sat her down (yes, for some reason we sat on the floor in the kitchen) and we made small talk. that's when I mentioned that it's 10am, and I'm already late for work and had to go. she didn't believe me though, and said that I'm trying to wriggle out of talking to her.

... and that's when my dream ended and I woke up.

Friday, May 26, 2017

breakdown

as part of being self-aware, i've generally been conscious of the decisions i make, and their influence on my living sustainably. but i think the automatic self-awareness has been gradually overridden by a daily (or actually, frequent) flight-or-fight syndrome in the last few months. my life may have the outward appearances of being perfectly on track, even to myself, but it seems like something is fundamentally wrong. i'm ticking most of the boxes: sleep, eating right (most of the time, at least), and a healthy entertainment quota. but something isn't quite adding up. and so, it seems like i need to structure my attention. and somehow, it seems like the sort of thing that can't be done incrementally.

the worst part about being off-balance is, firefighting takes up precious time that should be spent getting back on track. and it's easy to say that i have the luxury of time (i don't have any deadlines, at least!), but i know things aren't getting better.

and so, it's time for a reboot. hopefully, no data will be lost!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

the leh packing list

one thing that i left out from my earlier blog posts that's pretty important for a leh trip is the packing list. no matter what itinerary you choose, what you pack makes a big difference to how you enjoy your trip. obviously packing light means packing smart, and adverse terrain/sparse civilization means you have to be prepared for emergencies. my first leh trip (by car) only needed warm clothing, and I had a whole haversack to fill with it. and my first bike trip, I skipped important stuff like first aid, spares, etc... but was lucky. and i had a whole pair of saddle bags to myself as well. the 3rd time around, I had to share the saddle bags with my pillion! so for that trip, we figured the best possible packing list. by popular demand, here goes:

personal items:
1 tight fitting warm sweater (to be worn under t-shirt)
1 sweat shirt
2 pairs woolen socks
1 pair warm gloves (pillions only) OR biking gloves (compulsory for riders) + thermal gloves
4 pairs disposable surgical gloves OR 1 pair chemical hazard gloves - chemical hazard gloves seem to be better as surgical gloves get sweaty!
balaclava 
polarized sunglasses 
transparent riding glasses
boots
gumbooots OR galoshes (I personally was very uncomfortable in gum boots, but haven't got my hands on galoshes. ended up riding with wet feet. galoshes would have been a lifesaver!)
hand warmers (optional, pillions only) - we didn't end up using these though.
raincoat or windcheater that can be worn over biking jacket - we didn't end up using these.
1 - 2 jeans + (optional) Thermal Pants - I only used 1 pair of jeans and no thermals, it served me just fine.
4 - 6 cotton tees 
6 - 8 sets underwear 
1 helmet
1 biking jacket OR armor + canvas/denim jacket
1 set knee guards
1 - 2 shorts/light casual wear
1 - 2 sets of clothes to sleep in
1 towel (carry a thin, light towel - it should dry fast and pack small) - I used the travel towel from decathlon, smallest size. we only showered thrice on the entire trip, lol
1 pair slippers/sandals
toiletry kit (brush + paste + bath soap + soap strips + hand sanitizer, toilet paper, the absolute essentials only!) - I shared the paste and sanitizer with my pillion
personal medicines, nasal spray or vicks inhaler
emergency blanket - didn't use this
water bottle/hydration pack
torch + batteries 
mobile + charger
camera, charger + cable + spare memory card
portable battery pack
10 passport size photo 
photo id (pan or aadhar card) + 10 copies (split among other riders)
ziploc bags for all electronics, cash, documents 
plastic bags for all clothes that will be packed (not for riding gear etc)
small folding bag for carrying stuff around (leh is a plastic free zone)
debit cards, cash (20k - everything operates on cash here!), 1 credit card
train tickets printed copy
paper with emergency contact details, and contact details + bike numbers of everyone in the group

for the riders:
driving license, bike papers (check validity of puc+insurance) + 10 copies (split copies among other riders)
spares: 2 chain links, 3 fuses (high current rating), front brake pads, 1 spark plug, front and rear tube (unless tubeless), accelerator and clutch wire
3 - 4 bungee cords
nylon rope + nylon cord
rags for wiping/cleaning stuff
tarp
Jerry can

common stuff (coordinate and get only one):
toolkit with sizes that work on all the bikes
duct tape
electrical wire 
5 X wire stoppers ("makkhi")
scissors, wire cutter, pliers 
siphon tube
wd40
4 X fevikwik/fevibond 
first aid kit (band aid, disinfectant, soframycin, sticky bandage, gauze, crepe bandage, muscle relaxant, splint, diamox, aspirin, paracetamol, imodium, antacid, ORS) 
multiplug/extension box
thick needle + nylon thread
sunscreen, insect repellant
WAI- WAI packets (two meals food supplies for emergency), dry fruits, cheese, chocolates
paraffin stove + pot + spoon + knife
2 swiss army knives
Rum (pack in pepsi bottle to save weight)

Friday, March 17, 2017

purpose

our purpose in life is to be what we want to be
- kris, one afternoon, at work

Friday, March 03, 2017

taking over the world

we're in the future, sometime when interplanetary (if not interstellar) travel is commonplace, and humans are settled in multiple land and space based colonies. a leader with a fanatical pseudo-religious bent of mind has been taking over colonies through a propaganda war, promises of prosperity, etc. he is now poised to be the leader of the largest conglomeration of colonies and seems unstoppable. a lot of people hate his propaganda and policies, and feel that his promises are merely a fascist ploy to become the most powerful leader of human civilization. they, myself included, feel helpless and outnumbered. our friends and families are gradually being influenced by the propaganda and are switching sides.

someone on chat tells me that he/she knows a few others who are equally frustrated, and there is a plan on how to combat this leader. for security reasons, identities will be revealed to me strictly on a "need to know" basis, and i will have to shift to a neutral colony. I am given games to play on my pc, which are actually simulators for various combat craft and vehicles.

soon, we are waging an all-out war against the leader and we have to fight against the forces of the very colonies we are from. during the course of our battles, I meet friends from college, all of whom loved to play FPS/combat games back in the day. all of them seem to have the same story, of being contacted and instructed by chat, although each of their "handlers" are different. we even fly a few missions together. our handlers seem to know that we know each other and start grouping us into a team, more often than not.

we realized that other people are also forming teams based on people they know from their past. our teams start getting bigger and bigger, and soon it seems like majority of the people I've known throughout my life are now part of the "force". someone I randomly bump into after years, on one of my breaks, is suddenly on the next sortie with me. and everybody is being recruited and directed on chat, by different users.

somehow, the leader's forces don't seem to fight too well, and there weren't any casualties on either side - everywhere we went, they would retreat after a half hearted battle.

I got to know that although the "force" was in control of over half of human civilization, it had completely fallen out of favour with public opinion due to its use of (for lack of a better word!) force.

one day, everyone was instructed that they would be reassigned, and we're given daily sessions of retraining. I was trained to be a livestock handler. most of my friends were reassigned before we could meet again, and I was back to being with unknown people. the gossip doing the rounds was that all the chat accounts are actually bots, controlled by a single AI, and as it improved its understanding of humans as a race and of each of us, it was tweaking its strategies.

the gossip was that there was a plan to take over the supplies of vital items in colonies which were not yet under control of the force. I grew my first batch of livestock. they were some strange creatures that grew in melon sized eggs. my instructions were that they were designed to be eaten immediately after they hatched, and my job was to make them as tasty as possible.

by the time the first batch hatched, I was alone in the facility in the middle of some planet's desert. scores of them hatched that night, lining the shelves of the facility. they were pink and bulbous creatures that could barely crawl, and squeaked and purred a lot. the next morning, I couldn't bring myself to kill them, let alone cook and eat them.

and that's when I woke up.

ps: this dream had a lot of images from Sci fi movies, a few games, and faces of a lot of college friends. fun times!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

we got married

I know, the announcement is almost two months late. blame that on the awesomeness of the honeymoon and married life.
but yes, it happened. the planning and anticipation that built up over the better part of 2016, culminated in a crazy 36 hour marathon of awesomeness.
and at the end of it, two people emerged as one.
getting married was awesome. to me, it felt like that was the day nothing could go wrong. we were the king and queen of our universe. and when we went home together for the first time, our respective worlds joined into one. we were no longer lovers who met when we could - we were one shared existence, that branched apart only when we had to.
the run-up to the big day was crazy. no matter how carefully I tried to eliminate stress and loose ends, it was inevitable. at one point I found myself wishing I could fast forward to life after marriage. but I'm glad wishes were not horses... because we would have missed one of the most beautiful days of our lives.
and we have realized that the pre-wedding craziness was only a prelude to post-wedding craziness. yes, it only gets crazier and crazier, until you forget what single life was like, and start concentrating on more pressing matters like getting enough sleep, being nutritiously well fed, and basically not flaking out.
and so, here we are, happily married, without even the slightest doubt that despite its unsolved problems, life ahead is better than the life we left behind. looking back fondly at the day that marks our metamorphosis.
we got married. it was beautiful.

survival

mumbai's having epic rain. it's been pouring for the last 48 hours or so, and the commute home was hellish for most people. i took a...