Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chro: Jan 7, 2008

Yesterday, I was busy churning out answers to the most frequently encountered grammatical queries. Like:

What is a gerund?
A gerund is a fancy name for a constipated matronly woman in her late fifties. Not even worth bothering.

Is unconscience a genuine word?
Yes. Contrary to popular myth, it is not an absence of conscience. It explores negative terrain further down from where conscience drops to zero. Use it in situations like “I think he has an unconscience. How else could he pee in the swimming pool?”

How do you differentiate between its and it’s?
Example: The dog wags its tail because it is in its nature. Now, we can rewrite this sentence as “The dog wags its tail because it’s in its nature.” “It is” now becomes it’s while we leave the other two its untouched. Since we sacrificed the “extra space and i” from “it is”, we compensated with an apostrophe. Such sacrifices and compensations are de rigueur in the world of grammar.

Philosopher’s/Mountaineer’s version: The dog wags its tail because it is there.
Bio version: The dog wags its tail because it is one of the few organs that a dog can wag.

Give me an example of a relative clause.
A prenuptial agreement.

Why do we have so many punctuations and new usages?
How do you think revised editions of Wren and Martin were sold years ago? [New edition – covers everything from ellipses and square brackets to tilde and grave accent.]

Could you explain the use of colons and semicolons in modern writing?
Yes of course. The colon is used along with the dash and Shift+0 to get a smiley. When used in conjunction with Shift+9, we get a sad face. Similarly, the semicolon is used with the first combo to get a wink. We don’t use it normally with the second combo, as sad people rarely wink. 

Give me an example of a way in which prepositions are used.
Luckily, Tim was in preposition when the water flow stopped.

What is an adverb? How is it different from a verb?
A verb, to start with, is used to denote action of some kind. An adverb is not that different - it is just any verb used in a marketing context. For example, the word “do” in Nike’s “Just do it!” campaign is a classic example of an adverb.

Please explain the difference between direct and indirect speech.
Wife (Direct Speech): Can we go out tonight?
Wife (Indirect Speech): I wish I was in college.

Is it alright to say things like “my friend and I” or “my friend and me?”
Depends on where you live. In democratic countries, yes. It’s also called the right to free speech. 

How come the comma is called a comma?
It is not a full stop. The sentence may recuperate.

Can you tell the difference between stationary and stationery?
Yes, I can.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The importance of being Harvinder Singh!

This article is a stub.

I googled Harvinder Singh, and the wiki page led me to a cricketer who was a blip in our cricketing radar. Who is Harvinder Singh?

As a friend put it, “The Surd guy is pretty much a national hero...”, the one who slapped Pawar. The guy who brought Anna's true feelings toward politicians to light. Not just Anna, a lot of people might have thought the same way that night.
Sharad Pawar (I’ll call him SP) makes me feel so minuscule. He is the president of the International Cricket Council. Now, that is a super full-time job, considering the UDRS and all that dope stuff. In the meanwhile, our resourceful SP also finds time to be the world’s second largest population’s Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. In his solemn ministerial duty, he presides over one of India’s worst periods of food inflation. His mantra as a minister is this – "wait, it will come down".

And, btw, just because SP can multitask, he is also the president of the Nationalist Congress Party, one of India’s political parties that owes its origins to its opposition to Sonia Gandhi. Well, SP is a minister in a cabinet that is headed by Sonia Gandhi (forget MMS). Did you read that properly? Well, it helps in understanding the quagmire (bullshit, to be politically correct) that the world’s biggest democracy is in. 

Oh, and I forgot to add, SP is also the Minister of Agriculture. Now, either he is the father of multitasking or he is what he is. 

And while we are at it, tell me why Azharuddin was trying to become the President of the Badminton Association of India?Because he was good with the bat? He is not alone - VK Malhotra of the BJP, is heading Indian Archery Association. (May be the bow/arrow Shree Ram connection?)
Leo Tolstoy’s short story ends this way.
Pahom's servant came running up and tried to raise him, but he saw that blood was flowing from his mouth. Pahom was dead! 
The Bashkirs clicked their tongues to show their pity.
His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for
Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.

Tamasha is a form of art. When practiced repeatedly on citizens, someone is bound to get offended and pick up the knives or guns. Why do we like it when we slap our politicians? Because, our politicians are just that - politicians - not statesmen.

Harvinder may end up in an asylum. But the spark of that slap might just reverberate. Who was that fellow again, who threw bombs at the parliament? No – not Afzal Guru. The name started with a B. A Big B.

Btw, we have spent close to 16 crores on Ajmal Kasab in the last three years. That’s close to 10 lakhs for every person dead in 26/11. I have a supari out on this puny blog –  2 lakhs for anyone who kills Ajmal Kasab or pushes him back to the shit-hole from whence he came. Send him back!

Monday, November 28, 2011

First Time

Draw crap and erase it.
Then again, I'm not a cartoonist with a feather.
There's a first time for everything.
Don't just blame it on the weather.
Karma, and so be it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Law of Demand

Saif-al-Islam is Gaddafi's son. He is a PhD from the London School of Economics. Now that's a venerable institution, as venerable as them institutions go. But then again, there's this allegation of funds being funneled to LSE Global Governance. So much for a dodgy thesis.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review - The Adventures of Tintin

They made a movie called The Adventures of Tintin.We watched it. We occasionally laughed. At times, we were entertained by some special effects.

Like some people cribbed in early reviews, changing the characteristics of the characters was a bit uncharitable (Haddock kicking the bottle - not done!). But then again, it's better than killing Saruman in Isengard.

The experience was more comic bookish than movie-ish. Every frame, every good shot, sort of felt like it was made in isolation. The connecting thread was supposed to be the storyline. That kind of failed.

While reading those books years ago, I instinctively knew that there were connections - the story was unfolding with every square/rectangular box of letters and paint. But that was Hergé.

Now, I agree that movie reproductions cannot outclass classics. But, with Spielberg at the helm, there was hope. [Note the past tense, your honor.]

When I walked out, I felt like I was coming out of a cinema hall that our teachers used to take us when we were in school. Hey, wait - may be it is a movie for kids. I forgot to ask Kaira's opinion.

Anyway, going by a colleague's opinion, may be the movie is also good for people who have not followed Tin Tin keenly. May be. For puritans, go fetch some of them old books and read them again this Sunday.

Verdict: A "clean" movie. That's about it.

PS: If you forget to get popcorns during the interval, feel free to do so in the second half when Captain Haddock and the villain start fighting after manning two cranes. Tell me again, what was all that about?
And what happened to the eagle? (Waiting for guest appearance in part 2?)
And to that waterflow that was supposed to wreck havoc after Haddock used a bazooka on the dam?
And don't get me started about Tin Tin's tuft.
And I hate those goggles. They give me a headache.
And, unless you have closed the browser, why do I still feel like I have watched a sad version of the Pirates of the Caribbean?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Finding Meeno - Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.

The previous night's gala dinner was a truly fishy affair. Trust me on this one - the taste of all the fish that you normally buy from the market pales in comparison to freshly caught Nemos. I had heard this multiple times before, but this was the first time that taste hit me. It affected all the five senses - smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing. (Hearing? Yes, ever heard fish being fried in bulk in coconut oil? It's music.) It also affected another sense - my sense of balance.

Next morning, we decided to go crab hunting. My wife started wondering if I had any intention of meeting other relatives. After all, we had gone to Kannur to meet her relatives and visit some temples. I categorically denied having discussed any plans like that, and went along with her cousin Jith, another uncle, and my father in law. Hey - they are also relatives.

First, we went and got some basic devices to catch crabs. Then we managed to get some chicken waste [Chicken waste for us - but these are essential parts from a chicken's point of view - legs, beaks, "flower" etc.] from a meat shop.Crab hunting was going to happen in the same stretch that we had gone to the previous night - to the estuary of Valapattanam river.
The walk to the fishing point was pretty slushy. We had walked this stretch with the aid of torches and lanterns the previous night.

Water level started rising as we reached the end of marsh lands.
Our cousin Jith, tying chicken parts to the trap. The device is simple and can be made at home.

This is the trap. A simple net is tied around a steel frame. Ropes are attached to the frame to lower them into the water. The chicken "nugget" for the crab is placed in the middle. Unsuspecting crabs sense the meat, sits comfortably on the net, starts munching on the bait, and we comfortably pull them up.  No crab has ever lived to warn the others, so this technique has been in vogue for a long time.

 Throwing another trap into the water.
We just sat there idling on the banks of the river. Occasionally one of us would go and lift the traps to see if we had visitors. We were lucky a good  number of times. The beauty of the trap is it can be reused without even changing the bait. A catch can be seen in the pic below.
The weather was rather gloomy that day, but scores of mud crabs made up for it. Here's a fisherman on the river.
We kept putting the crabs in a sack, till we thought we had enough for lunch. Two or three times, we found two crabs huddled around the bait inside one trap. Guess they were having some quality time! Mud crabs don't look pretty, but they taste better than their seagoing cousins.

After the lunch, we relaxed for some time. Some more relatives had come to meet our family. But we had just not had enough fun and went for round 3 of fishing. We had covered the small neck of the river with a fishing net while we waited for the crabs. The catch was good.

I didn't bother to take pics, but after coming back home, had to photograph this beauty. To think that it was trying to get out of my hands an hour back!

During the day, my wife had gone with some relatives to visit the temples and some other families. Generally speaking, there was peace all around. By the time we finished dinner that night, a consensus had emerged. It was official by then for my wife's family members - their precious had married a fisherman. One of these days, I'm gonna go there again. The river was in the news for some political reasons recently. I don't care as long as my  crabs and fishes are left untouched.

Monday, October 31, 2011

DIY* Silly - A Bane Called Outsourcing

One of my colleagues asked me today if we could outsource coordination of office events to an event management company. It sounded like an efficient solution compared to the pain that we undertake every time some event is being organized. Event management is definitely not one of our core competencies, and the argument looked like a case-closed one in favor of an external vendor. But, it also set me thinking. 3 or 4 events that we coordinated for our team was a resounding success. Be it a party, an annual competition, or a Himalayan trip. A team of 4 or 5 of us did the groundwork, another bunch did the running around, and a select few did the final coordination. And thanks to the teamwork, we could give each other high-fives at the end of each event. There was so much learning, a fair degree of control over what's happening, and most importantly the development of a sense of camaraderie. Something that would rarely occur if we used a third party vendor.

Which brings me to the fundamental premise of outsourcing - efficiency gains by weeding out non-core functions. To use another example, my parents organized a party of sorts for 30-35 close relatives when we took my little kid home back to my native place for the first time. My dad outsourced the lunch part to professional caterers. The food was good, judging by the burps, and the solution was efficient, as no one had to toil preparing meals for the crowd. But there was one thing missing - the warmth. If this party had happened when I was a kid,  I can visualize 10 of my relatives at least coming in a day before, helping with the cooking and all the associated tasks. I can see my uncles sitting in the veranda talking about their latest problems, real estate, kids' education, some cousin who refuses to get married etc. I can see my aunts gossiping, discussing movies-fish/vegetable prices, kids' education, some cousin who refuses to get married etc.I can see myself running around with my cousins till I dropped dead. Next day morning we would wear new clothes and stand out welcoming those who preferred to show up for the party, all the while eying the gifts that they had  with them. Once the party is over, people would just sit around, and some might even stay for the night. All that's compromised in favor of an "event" which is perfunctory at best. The event is successful, but the spirit/idea is lost.

One of my best childhood memories is the wedding ceremony of a relative. I stayed at their home for 7 days. I remember lending a hand almost every other hour to eat the laddus and jilebis that were being prepared in-house. It was non-stop boisterous fun for us kids. Our kids, unfortunately, will never have such memories. To add to it, when I came home last night after attending the Metallica concert, my boots and jeans were muddy, thanks to rain on Palace Grounds, BLR.  My family was upset at all the dirt, and I had a hard time explaining to them it's just "MUD", something that I grew up playing with.

Nobody needed to have worried though, because we have outsourced everything. We will send the jeans to the cleaners, and then ask the ironing professional (yeah, the people who live in shacks and make a living out of using the good ol' iron box to make time-scarce executives look spic and span. Iron box had a true metallic ring to it back then, unlike the spray/plastic variety which sits unused in our households.) to come and pick it up, iron it, and drop it back home. And I will wear it on Fridays, and pretend nothing happened.

Something's happened, to the extend that we outsource certain functions (at a minuscule level compared to the total population) to old age homes. Taking care of an old grand dad is not a core competency anymore.

In all of this, we do not possibly realize that warmth is a core competency which cannot be outsourced. The sooner corporations and managers realize it, the better for them. Managers cannot live in isolation thinking that "employee motivation and well-being" is a function to be outsourced to Human Resources. Similarly, office events are not playgrounds for event management companies. Irrespective of the strength of the labor market, successful companies will be built when they realize that true warmth in office relationships is a core competency. It's not a paradigm shift, it was always meant to be that way.

As for families and caterers, god help us. Nihilistic at worst, but that's the truth.

*Do It Yourself

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What an old man taught me

There I was, running my own firm in the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century (Thought that would sound a bit ancient and dramatic than 2002).

A few hundred metres from my office there was this man who sold cigarettes, candies (the lemon sweet variety), and little eats. He was blind. I used to make small talk with him occasionally over a smoke. He smoked beedies [pungent Indian substitute for nicotine addicts] all the time, and at no point did I think that was repugnant. One night, at around 8 PM in the night, I asked him where he lived. And he said "Keshavadasapura" a few miles from "Kawdiar" in Trivandrum where my office was located. I asked him how he went back home and he said "I walk back, of course", and I wasn't convinced.

I was surprised, and I asked him how he made the journey of a few miles, despite being blind. He said that he walked back home, with a lantern which he held in front of him. Today, too far removed from the reality of that day, I can almost visualize him doing that - an old blind man, finding his familiar way back, with a lantern dangling in front of him.

But I was surprised again by a thought. What use is a lantern to a blind man? I asked him that question, partly fueled by curiosity, and partly because political correctness was never my strength. And his answer was this - "The lantern is not for me. It is an announcement for those coming against me. I'm just hoping they can see me."

That man taught me a lesson. The lantern that I often hold dear is not for me. It is for those who come against me. I just hope (for all of our sake) they see the flame.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I'm a dad, and a stress-free one at that, blessed with a kid who doesn't create much fuss, sleeps peacefully ever since the day he was born, and travels without irritating people around him. The stress started as soon as I sent my kid to a play school. Oh - we just sent him there so that he can interact with kids. Basically, to get him out of our apartment and meet people of his age.

And one of these days when my wife went to pick him up, he was standing there in a corner along with another offender. They were not allowed to join the games and action that were going on. Apparently he got into a tiff with another kid. And their idea of punishing him was by depriving him of the only reason to go to playschool - play. All of 2 years and 10 months, it was his first brush with punishment. He came home and just lay down there on the bed for hours with his eyes fixed at the ceiling.

Anyway, my point is our education system. It's not the Hello Kids, Smart Kids, or Junior Kids that I'm talking about. It's about the biotech/microbiology courses that leaves students with no jobs. It's about the MBAs with amazing CGPA scores who have no clue except that they wear blazers, have a laptop given by the college, and have been on a free trip to Europe as part of the course. It's about the MAs in English who cannot write a sentence correctly. It's about the Engineers who would do anything other than engineering. As part of my job, I interview quite a good number of them and come out of it with the feeling, "they have no idea why they were studying something." Which is a familiar feeling of course, because I had no idea why, when I was doing my studies.

What is the purpose of education? Why should I study what I'm studying? It's high time we started asking such questions.  The broader answer to that would be to study or do what you really enjoy. Can we imagine Tendulkar as a statistician or Harsha Bhogle as a batsman? Satyajit Ray as an economist or Amartya Sen as a film director. The really successful people were able to practice what they liked. Or they fought against all odds to find a way to do it. Or they were plain lucky to be noticed early on. They are, in most instances, people who became what they are despite the system.

Once in school, we were given this assignment to write a complete story based on the outline given. I wrote it and gave it the title "Washed Out". The story is the familiar one about -Con artist____a puppy painted with spots and sold___when it rains later____the spots get washed away___con revealed. The teacher told me that the title "Washed Out" was inappropriate and that it should have been "The Painted Puppy" or "The Spotted Puppy" or something like that. I know the title I gave was sad, but I was shocked at the instruction from my teacher, that I remember that feedback about a quarter of a century later.

No wonder I liked Pink Floyd the first time I heard it!

The video below gives some answers. It's 20 minutes long, but if you're a concerned citizen, a frustrated student, an academic, or a parent just bothered about your kid, you may just watch all of it.  [Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?:]

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The + of my life

Lot of people ask me how I'm able to go for one or two week long treks and stuff like that. Their biggest question actually is this - how does your wife let you go like that? Which brings me to the love of my life. Ladies and Gentlemen - for one last time, the answer is this - she let's me go wherever, whenever. Well, there are some strings attached, but let's just say I can work around those [wink]. And she happens to be amazingly creative. I tell her often that  if I had half her talent, I would have forced Maqbool Fida Husain and the likes into retirement. But as is often the case with people gifted with numerous talents (art, crafts, cooking and much more in this case), she does not do full justice to them. Of late, she is picking up some steam. The blog link below showcases some of her artwork. Just started. If you even came to my blog by mistake, I recommend you go to her's. Unlike mine, it might make your day.

[Used with permission.]

Monday, September 26, 2011

III. The Seers of Ayda

I. The pain of Ayda.
II. How Ayda came to be.

On the higher foothills of the Kshitidarr, there is a small mountain pass above the snow line from where it is easy to see leagues ahead. But most times the view from there was spoiled by clouds. Not that it meant much, because the men who dwelt there were never interested in watching over worldly affairs. They prayed for an existence that Ayda could not offer. They wanted heaven - not for the lure of its pleasures but for a union with the souls that ever left Ayda - the brave, the wise, and the beautiful.

Summers when the rays of Vetar would meet the snows was a short period here. And when a summer happened, you could see them all out on the slopes with their arms raised skywards in a gesture of submission. And when it got dreadfully cold in the long winter, they crept into the caves and crouched inside in their dirty blankets, still mumbling the chants held sacred. Five of them were considered to be the elders. Riders going to meet the King always found the elders in the open. The elders braved the winters and stayed outside in the same posture till they were buried in snow. It was as if they never moved. Food was a forgotten memory-they drew their nourishment from the elements.

The young ones in Ayda were told that the prayers of elders and the other pious men were the reason for all that was good in their kingdom. It was rare for a kid to not know the story of how these men could transfer their souls to any thing that moved.

One had to get across this high pass to get to the cairn of the Great King.

On that day, Garde stopped in the distance and hovered over the pass, and Aniveh and his dispatch riders wondered why. Given the nature of the assignment, Garde should have gone straight to the cairn to give the King the message of great grief.

Their horses struggled up the mountain pass and it was some time before Aniveh and his party reached the top point of the pass. The sight that awaited them brought an old curse loud to their lips, almost in unison. Out there on the snow patches, thick blood was frozen on what was four ice statues. Aniveh knew instantly that four of the elders had crossed over to the other side. A hole existed on all four ice structures at about the height of a man's heart, from which the blood had poured out. When exactly, no one could tell.

Strangely enough, it was the beginning of summer, but the other men who usually would be seen outside immersed in their prayers were not to be seen.Anxiously, Aniveh surveyed the fifth statue, the one that was always positioned at the highest reach on the pass. That was the point for the Eldest among the elders, so to speak. The Eldest showed no signs of blood, and Aniveh heaved a sigh of relief. He dismounted and motioned to half of his men to check the elders, and walked up to the Eldest with the remaining company.

With bare hands, they removed the snow and ice packed on the body. It took them some time, as the winter was just over, and the snow-covering on the body was yet to melt away. Finally they cleaned off the icicles and the visage of the Eldest came to view.

Aniveh sprang back in shock as he looked at the face of the holiest man in the kingdom. The face of the Eldest was blue - the darkest shade of the color possible. Visions of his sister, the princess, came floating in, and his grief was beyond measure.

He did not even feel the hand of his deputy on his shoulders trying to reassure him that things may not be as bad as it seemed. Then something happened that jolted him back to reality.

The shriek of Garde, who took to flight in the direction of the cairn of the Great King. Shouting commands to two of his soldiers to search for the missing men on the hills, Aniveh mounted his horse and galloped away through the pass at a pace never witnessed in those reaches. His company tried in vain to keep up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chro: Jan 3, 2008

Steven did not come that day, he was off on a hunting vacation. They send a junior doc who looked intelligent.

Jr Doc: Jim, Good day?

Yes. Good day, except Steve is out hunting, which does not sit well with me.

Jr Doc: I wonder why it does not sit well with you!

Well, it brings back old memories that I do not like. Forget about it.

Jr Doc: No, tell me. Steve has told me you're a good conversationalist.

That's charitable of him. Personally, I really like to forget the 1930s. It was like I was doing God's work, helping the villagers stay safe. I was in Kumaon, in British India, and the region I was in was infested with tigers.

Jr Doc: Wait a minute. You said 1930s?

You asked for it and a good conversation you shall get. If you will not interrupt, the villagers called me Corbett the Savior, and I used to go alone to hunt down the tigers that cost them their livelihoods and in some cases their lives. It was an enriching experience. I wanted to write a book about the man eaters of Kumaon, but before I could write that, I ended up here. [Sigh]

Jr Doc: Oh Really! What happened that brought you here?

I know you don't believe what I'm saying. You think I'm cookin up stuff. Not that I care what you believe, so here's what happened. I was hunting these terrible animals down with the zest of an evangelist who wasn't afraid to take the gun. Then one fine day, I was sitting there in my pajamas, planning my offensive, smoking a bidi, when a little kid called Biddu came up and told me in Hindi "Saheb, you have started looking like a tiger." I thwacked his head jovially, and walked into the forest to hunt the menace which was the bloodiest I've ever encountered. This tiger had killed 3 people in the last 2 weeks.

Jr Doc: Ok...

Truth be told, I emerged victorious in a jiffy. The tiger was distracted or idle after a fine man-meal, and I shot it dead easily. Then I stopped to drink water from a light current flowing nearby and I saw my reflection in the water - my face was furry. My moustache was longer than usual with the strands separated in a sweet polished feline fashion. I blinked at the reflection and my eyes looked bloodshot.  My mouth went dry and I used my tongue to wet it and my tongue came up to my eyes. I then remembered what Biddu mentioned, and I ripped my fatigues apart and I saw - I had them stripes on my chest - of the tiger. In anguish, I cried aloud, but it sounded more like a fierce roar in the forest. I had become the very animal that I wanted to hunt.Grotesque!
Or so, I made myself believe that day.

Jr Doc: Why couldn't you shake yourself off that thought and get back to life?

I did get out of that, but before I could do it, the villagers heard my roar and came running. I bit Biddu's dad's head off  before I knew it. The next thing I know, I'm in your facility.

Jr Doc: Hmm - Too bad. [Injection] This should help you sleep for a while - Mr. Jim la la Corbett.

The drug that is flowing through my veins seems to help, after a long gap of about seventy five years. Hey Doc, look..

Jr Doc: What?

Look at my sharp claws.[Sink]

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wikileaks Kerala

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2018
REF: DIA REPORT AUG. 30 2007 S-119 883-07/CNT
Classified By: Political Officer Parnell Steward for reasons best known to him.

1. (S) SUMMARY: Kerala is a south Indian state that is vital to our ilmenite interests. However, the state is a communist/socialist outpost and 50% of people refuse to believe in the capitalist model. The problem is not the people, but urban legends. END SUMMARY.

2. On May 5, 2009, 6 poloffs (political officers) met with the Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr. VSAP, who expressed dismay at the cultural misunderstanding between East and West. Our officers were taken aback by his frank gestures and communications [He reminded Officer 2 of a Noh dancer, but we’re not allowed Japanese jokes here - FYEO].

3. Our attache was there, and he asked how communism thrives in Kerala. Mr. VSAP kept saying “revolutionary democracy”, “Poland”,and more frequently a word called “Onam”.

4. During this time, Officer 3 googled and found that Onam was some sort of Thanksgiving in this part of the world. Apparently, there was a bad [terrorist/asura] king by the name Mahabali aka Maveli who ruled this land a long time ago -thousands of years before Amerigo Vespucci was born. And he was ambushed by the good folk [Vamana/Vishhu], for the good of the people. There was a peculiar problem though, because the asura/terrorist king was pretty good with his ways and people adored him. He was a suave dude who made sure everyone got the cut. Everyone in Kerala was equal in wealth and status under his rule. Before banishing Mahabali to the netherworld, the powers that be granted him a wish - to return to see his folks in Kerala once a year. That homecoming festival is celebrated as Onam.

5. Our attaché, after receiving this input, and firmly digesting it [the indigestion it caused him is still the butt of jokes in the White House], asked Mr. VSAP how the f, he managed to retain a pseudo socialist government against all odds, especially from his own comrades who wanted to ditch him. And he laughed the laugh of a Prajapati. He admitted that that the legend of Onam was a socialist creation. [He belched.] Mr. VSAP said that it was an urban legend, so that the people of Keairlaa [sic], believed that they have a socialist past. They were all illustrious once-in ancient times-all were equal and thriving, till the capitalist Devas led by Vamana took it all away. The story of that day is just that. Vamana and Mahabali were all creations of an emancipated [EMS] mind. But the people believe, and that matters. Mr. VSAP went on to harvest some more crops of the ideology that was fertilized with the thoughts of a German atheist.

6. Mr. VSAP then spoke ill about the parents of a dead NSG commando, all his political opponents, and an erstwhile ruler of Travancore. He was getting worked up, so we offered him what we were carrying. He was skeptical about our offering, but then he saw that it was ice cream that was made in the US, tasted it, and praised it saying nothing available in Kerala was in its League. And then Mr. VSAP danced on his way to the rest room. After coming back he laughed....and hummed "Manushar ellarum onnu pole". Our translators say that it means "people are all equal". [Potentially explosive socialist thought] While we were leaving, he called us from behind and shouted "Happy Onam".

7. Apparently, someone named O.V Vijayan called up our attache to say he is turning in his grave.


This is fabrication.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Once upon a time in March (Deoria Tal, Tungnath, Rishikesh Rafting) - 3

Part 3: Whitewater Rafting in Rishikesh

[Part 1 can be found here: Deoria Tal.]
[Part 2 can be found here: Tungnath.]

When we woke up the next morning the sun was shining down brightly on Syalsaur GMVN. The cottages here are pretty good, and the views are breathtaking. Syalsaur is becoming a popular destination for honeymoon couples.

We started our journey to Rishikesh by around 10. We lunched again at Cozy Restaurant in Shrinagar. 
Starting from Rudraprayag, we could see the occasional beaches and camps on them by the side of the Ganges. The road traces the path of the river, and we spotted a good number of rafts navigating the river.

By around 3 or 4 in the evening we reached the signpost which said “Camp River Wilds”. We could see dense vegetation for a long distance ahead and a steep trail down, but no human presence, save us. [Smacks head, for expecting a receptionist in the wilderness.] We called up Sanjay, who runs the operation who was on his way from Dehra Dun to meet us at the camp. He told me that we were supposed to yell “Virender” at the top of our voice and the blow the bus horn three times! It worked better than Morse code, as Virender yelled from somewhere inside the vegetation “Coming Sir”. "Virender" apparently was no "Abra cadabra", but the guy in charge of things.

Virender came up and we dragged the luggage down for a couple of hundred metres. The worry of hauling our luggage up while going back did cross all our minds. But, that worry had still two days left to fester. Anyway, soon we were greeted by the sight of our camp and the vast expanse of our private beach on the Ganges!

Though we had seen pictures on the Internet, I was a bit concerned whether the beach would be as good as was being claimed. This was more than what we expected. 

There were close to 12 camps, out of which we took 8 on a twin sharing basis. After dropping the luggage, some of us played volleyball, some just sat around chatting, while a few ended up just gazing at the place. 

The mound in the picture below buries the volleyball.

Sanjay joined us for the camp fire and he briefed us about the camp, its facilities, and the flora and fauna surrounding it. He warned us against venturing into the water without lifejackets. Many a people have learnt that lesson in the past, without living to tell the story. He explained the story of the evolution of rafting in India, especially in the Ganges. 

A few notes about the camp:
Makeshift restrooms are called “Thunder-boxes” here. :-)
They keep lanterns in front of each tent. Trust me it’s too romantic an atmosphere.
Food is really yummy. If the camp fire is going on, they keep serving you starters. 

The camp fire lasted a long time and it started with jokes, stories, and songs, and ended up with the bane of most Indian gatherings – the Anthakshari. It was fun in the end as some of us managed to cook up songs (the dreaded Laksmikant-Pyarelal combination) without the others not even noticing. 

Our rafting would start by 10 in the morning the next day. The day’s session was going to be long, as we would raft the complete stretch from our camp to Rishikesh. I think whitewater rafting is an undersold or misunderstood adventure sport in India. The excitement it gives and the relative safety of the sport should be enough to keep all rafts in the country occupied. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I remember watching “World of Sports” in Doordarshan years back, and wondering “Are these guys crazy, what’s the fun in the that?” All of that attitude changed when we rafted in the Kali River in Dandeli (Karnataka) during our office outing in 2010. It was electrifying and at the end of that session which was about an hour or so long, all of us ended up asking for more. Tomorrow we’re going to heed that request.

By the way, we call it whitewater rafting because white is the color of the water in the rapids, because of the turbulence, bubbles, and foam. 

The third person from the left in the picture below is Kruthi, the fastest currency counter in the world.
Another currency counter.
Water level was good the next morning, and we started after a briefing by our two captains – Sudheer and Virender. The raft manned by Sudheer had two huge paddles, which meant relatively less rafting effort on the occupants. I ended up in the other normal raft where we had to work our ass off, thanks to my immediate show of hands when they asked “how many of you have rafted before?”

All good rapids have names, and a story behind those names. In today’s stretch, we would cover rapids like Three blind mice (there are three rapids in this - one after the other, and you wouldn’t see the next one till the current one is over – hence the “blind” analogy), Golfcourse, Money Maker (an innocuous rapid named so because early rafters made a good amount of money with it.), Black Money (an industrialist has a huge property by its side. Duh - Don’t ask me why the name?). We started off with a Level 1 rapid, called Sweet Sixteen. It's a mild rapid, and I don't know if it's named so because nonrafters lose their rafting virginity here.

Hours went by, as we rafted like crazy, jumped into the water occasionally in placid stretches, splashed water at each other, (what is it about splashing water at others that people love so much?). Splashing also led to Sudheer’s famous quip – if I use my long paddle, you are going to be in trouble.

We negotiated one rapid by standing on the raft. It felt almost like standing in a BMTC bus going through a heavily potholed road. In another rapid, we entered the water and caught hold of the ropes on the side of the raft – something called body surfing.
This was the eureka moment. People tend to weigh less in water. Pulling them up is a breeze.

Golf course turned out to be the toughest, and Saurav actually fell into the water by mistake. We somehow got back to rafting, and he somehow came back into the raft. Those were anxious moments, but one good thing about rafting is the safety jacket and helmet. Unless you get stuck somewhere, you wouldn’t drown, even if you don’t know how to swim. Presence of mind is however the key - and we found that he has oodles of it.

We stopped by the wayside for some snacks and some of us went cliff-jumping – jumping off the top of a 30 ft(?) rock into the river. Yes, unless you have guessed it by now, our team does have some serious thrill issues.
By around 2 or so the rafting for the day was over. The hard part was getting the rafts on to our vehicle. We helped (most of us I think pretended to help, by putting a few fingers on the raft already up in the air.) 
That's Kumar, playing javelin with the paddles.

The basic lunch tasted pretty good, thanks to the exertion of the past few hours.

We drove back to our camp and relaxed for a while. Most of us found relaxation a painful task and took to playing games again. 
An idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Want proof?

In all this, there was one nagging question. Did our captains judge us good to scale The Wall? The Wall is a level 4 rapid (the biggest that we did was level 3, but the rapid scale is kind of exponential.), and easily the mother of all rapids in accessible India. One of the office posters was in fact centered on the Wall. 

We checked with them and both Sudheer and Virender said that our level of rafting was not fit to scale The Wall tomorrow. We went by their recommendation that “The Wall is no joke” and would do a smaller stretch tomorrow.

That night was a repeat telecast of the previous night’s proceedings. Next day morning, we bid goodbye to Camp River Wilds and took our oars again. The imagined agony of hauling our luggage up turned out to be a non-issue, as the camp folks took care of it. Our luggage would meet us downstream at the end of our rafting session.

There’s no point in discussing the day’s rafting, as it was only part of the previous days stretch. It was more enjoyable though because we got into the water more often and took it at a relaxed pace. We also visited the Agustya Gupha (cave).
Walking back to the raft.

I joined the paddle boat so we could shoot some videos. Unfortunately, we couldn’t shoot the Level 2+ rapids, because we might lose the camera too.

The rafting that day ended in a free massage in a rivulet that feeds the Ganges. The water here massages you in a way no masseur (or masseuse for that matter) can.
Gossip session, in the middle of all this.Can you believe it?

This video captures 30% of what we did.

In the evening, we reached Haridwar, and watched the Ganga Aarti.

 Waiting for the Aarti to begin, boredom not showing in Nirmal's and Sudhir's fcaes.
We did some shopping, and while doing that, realized that the original plan of playing Holi in Hardwar the next day was shot. Holi is supposed to be India’s festival of colors – a happy event. I don’t know if this is true of entire North India, but Holi (as we saw it) was just an excuse to ched (is there an English equivalent of that word?) girls. We found guys in bikes telling small kids, which girls to target with colors. Obviously you wouldn’t hit a kid, would you? We found color packets raining down from the upper floors of the dense crossways of Haridwar. Thankfully, none of us got drenched or anything, and we made it back to the comfort of our hotel, but it was disturbing. 

We went with the hotel owner’s recommendation and just relaxed in the hotel the next day. Which turned out to be a good thing after all, after all the efforts of the past one week. Zipped to Delhi (on the the way we had our dinner at Sher-e-Punjab in Rudrapur) and flew to Bangalore. Case closed (for now).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Hazare in Delhi

I was doing monthly grocery shopping in Star Bazaar today. Star Bazaar is a Tata-Tesco JV. Malls like this and all other symbols of modern-day capitalism came up thanks to the vision of a group led by our current PM in the early nineties. [May be more out of necessity, than vision.] Out of the blue, the audio system in the mall suddenly started playing Vande Matharam. I was stunned. Why now, why here? Was it a sad attempt to cash in on the nationalistic fervor? Has the long-forgotten symbols of Indian statehood, the national flag, the anthem, and the song, suddenly become powerful enough? May be yes, but we do not know if it is something along the lines of a fad, quick to vanish. 

Driving back through the Bangalore outer ring road, I saw the speed gun of the traffic cops in the distance. I saw a traffic cop trying to get a motorcyclist to stop, but he veered around and sped –and the cop actually tried to hit him from behind. The fellow could have fallen to the ground, or in the worst-case even died, but the cop was unmindful of such consequences in his law enforcement jingoism. Thankfully, the biker sped away and the cop started looking for other cash cows.

In Delhi, 4 hours before this minor event happened, Kizan Baburao Hazare a.k.a Anna Hazare, broke his fast, after giving teeth to the people to fight corruption. The media reported that two Dalit [inclusive hint] girls provided him with the ammo to break his 13 day crusade against lawmakers insisting on doing their version of corruption control.

In the last 12 days, India saw mayhem (by India’s standards) as Anna inspired hundreds of thousands of otherwise office-going men and women and college-going youth to come out on streets and protest against the corruption endemic in our system. TV crews went berserk covering these protests, TV anchors looked overworked discussing the issue. There is no instance in my 34 year life that have I seen the national flag being flown in such quantities and with such gusto. A staunch nationalist that I am, I should have been overwhelmingly proud. Thoroughly disenchanted with the corrupt political and administrative mechanism, I should have felt powerful finally. I should have been in every rally that was taken out in my neighborhood. But I did not lift a finger. Well may be yes I did once, but that was to click the photo of a rally in CMH Road. I kept asking myself, why I was not in it.

There are a few answers. 

One, it reminded me of the message from ex-US President Bush in his war against terror. If you’re not with us, you’re with them. I dislike the tenor, but that was what I got from the self-styled second Indian independence struggle. The tone of the messages changed to authoritarian over the days, possibly emboldened by the lakhs of people who showed up in support.

Two, who is Anna Hazare? I know Arundhati Roy asked this question in an uncharitable manner a few days back, but then again, uncharitable could have been her middle name. I have been following the national print media for the last two and a half decades, but his name never registered, except in the last one year. Sundar lal Bahuguna, Medha Patkar, Kiran Bedi, Irom Sharmila, yes! But the name Anna didn’t ring a bell. I could discount my knowledge of him previously, as long as his message is valid, but it didn’t quite sit well. Additionally, Anna has this huge image of Gandhi behind him, but he differs from Gandhi because he supports violence for a just cause. There is no problem with putting Gandhi up there, but the problem is who defines this just cause. As per Anna, drinking alcohol or smoking is a reason enough for flogging. And I’m sure he can find millions of women in rural India to support him. But, I just don’t like it. Not because I smoke and drink, but because it reminds me of Taliban. What if Anna wakes up one day and thinks girls can’t wear denims? He will find support for that too in you-know-who.

Three, who drives this well-orchestrated India Against Corruption campaign, and who makes decisions, like the final deal with the government? The Kejrivals, the Bhushans, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh, and Anna? Firstly, the mobilization and the clockwork of the operation is too astounding. Second, in the words of Swami Agnivesh who was part of the core group, “Even decisions emanate without discussions. We don’t know which are the decisions of the core group and which are independent decisions.” Agnivesh was practically shunted out of the core group with aspersions cast on his integrity – suspected of being an agent of the administration. He added, "Collective decision making was not there. When it comes to taking a crucial decision the members say ‘we leave it to Anna.’ And Anna has already been told what his decision should be.” Very dangerous indeed if his allegations are true – how do we know who makes these decisions? Even if we assume it is Anna, how do we trust one man to make these?

Four, what will come out of this? Another piece of legislation and a huge Lok Pal/Ayukta army to settle corruption cases, again at the taxpayer’s expense. They will punish the wrong-doers. Now wait a minute, isn’t that what the judiciary was supposed to do? Oh, ok, I forgot, the judiciary is partly corrupt and remember the unheard cases piled up in the courts. This new and amazing mechanism will be different. Instead of cleaning up the judiciary and making it more efficient with fast-track measures, we will set up this army of individuals who will settle corruption cases ranging from a few thousands to crores of Rupees. They presumably will never be corrupt. Hahaha. Talk about one more layer of corruption.

Sorry to sound so negative, but that’s the bottom line. The administrative mechanism will swell with these new people, and they will feed on our taxes. A good number of corruption concerns may get settled, but for the major part, you know how India runs.

We were having this discussion about Lokpal one of these days and one of the participants strongly supported Hazare’s movement. Then the conversation somehow turned to real estate, and the same staunch supporter mentioned buying a plot of land recently at a bargain. But then I asked him about the registration because property registrations have been stopped in Bangalore. And his response was classic “push some money here, some there, you know how it works, Sajish”. Yes I know how it works, which is why I’m skeptical.

Sarjapur in Bangalore saw a lot of rallies these days. It is a relatively up-market area, and the residents of these apartments came out quite frequently in support. Dads with their kids, youth, women - pregnant and otherwise, armed with wristbands and flags showed that the urbane can get on the streets, if the calling is right. Great! But wait a minute to check the records. You will find that almost all of them would have shown Rs. 10-20 lakh as apartment value for registration, while shelling out 40-60 lakhs to the builder.  The lower value shown on the records help save a small fortune in registration taxes. You can blame the system as the problem, but the problem is also you, and you feel guilty. It’s possibly the guilt which feeds this mobilization, which makes you come down from the high rises. And India found a release for this collective guilt in the last few days. 

As far as the system goes, Dhananjay’s words ring out loud. Dhananjay works in my office and this was his definition of Jan Lokpal. “If you have to stand in a queue for a day and get something done, stand in the queue. Do not pay someone to get it done.” I disagree with him. I do not understand why I should stand in a queue for a day to get something inane done. I may rather pay up and live with that guilt.

The traffic cop on the outer ring road should have merely marked the details of the biker and send a notice. Or put a red mark against his license. The need to lash out at him ripping at 80 kmph is not law enforcement - it’s greed. As a society, I guess we became too Wall Street for our own good. 

I have supported Hazare in a previous post, I have talked about corrupt cops in Sudan (Kaggadasapura), I have spoken about voting in Sudan(Guntur, AP), but this time I disagree. The real need is not more policing, but a more efficient system. Till then, I will be guilty. I would wait for a day when the chant of Vande Matharam is more heartfelt.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Once upon a time in March (Deoria Tal, Tungnath, Rishikesh Rafting) - 2

Part 2: Tungnath
[Part 1 can be found here: Deoria Tal.]

After freshening up at the guest house in Saari Village, we idled around for a bit, sipping in the tea along with the village scenery. By 11, we were in our bus for the 20 odd kilometer trip to Duggalbitta. Duggalbitta is a few kilometers away from Chopta, Chopta being the usual starting point for the trek to Tungnath. The road between Duggalbitta and Chopta was still snow covered for the most part, which explained our decision to camp in Duggalbitta. 


Energy levels were high during the short trip, with people dancing and singing inside the bus.
Here's us waiting for the camp to be set up.

Sathya and Reuben -attempted smilies. [Most photos in the post are courtesy Sathya, unless stated otherwise.]

We went for a short stroll to be greeted by snow.
  Post lunch, most of us just plonked on the grass to relax. The sun was pleasant and helped nullify the chill factor to a considerable degree. MTV was turned on with Saurav and Reuben taking turns in entertaining everyone with a good mix of rock and Bollywood. Those couple of hours was the most relaxing moments of the entire trip.  
Here's a snippet:

The panorama in front, the best weather one could have bargained for, the occasional leg pulling laughter, the feel of nothing TO-DO today, the sound of wind and guitar strains. And then there was this steady thumping of Royal Enfields, not one, not two, but close to 20 Bullets. We turned around to see those Enfields steadily streaming in, with their machines shattering our reverie. Those men stopped at Duggalbitta with the idea to camp there. They were the crew of INS Viraat, India’s flagship aircraft career. The sea men were on a mountain travel spree, with their military truck in tow, with all the camping gear and necessary gigs. 
The Viraat men did some scouting and decided to return the next day, as it was next to impossible to continue the mechanized journey, with the snow conditions further ahead. They camped on the other side of the meadow. The world is in fact a small place, as I managed to find that I had a common friend with their communications specialist. (Yes. I like to show off.)
Toward evening, all of us walked up a bit, and decided to conduct a snowman making competition -and it had to be men versus women. 

Here's the Happy New Year fellow from the previous post.
Nirmal, Syed, and Sudheer, with what men can do.

Marj and Shriti with what women can.Though it is not evident in this photograph, their's was the better creation and they won the day.

This is our video log of the event.This should be conclusive proof that women were better.

And while returning, we saw a bus that was stuck in snow. We decided to play the rescue crew.
Two campfires were lit on the meadow that night. One by our Navy men and one by us. 
ANSR split into two teams and played games like Rock, Paper, Scissors and some other stuff. The prize was a buffalo head [sans the flesh] that Nirmal had foraged from the neighborhood. A pity, we forgot to bring it to Bangalore. Ni-et won the sing-a-song-but-not-in-your-native-tongue competition by singing an old Malayalam classic. It’s an unbelievable feeling to listen to a South Indian song coming from someone with definitive chiseled North-East Indian looks. [That's a wrong stereotype at so many levels, because South India is so different, as is the North-Eastern part of India, but I hope you get the drift.]

We decided to start early for Tungnath and crashed for the night. It was a good day, marred only by reports from Lakhpath about disappearing flaura and fauna. The famous musk deer that used to walk these hills are no more. The last one died a year back or so. I hate to think what would be left of this place in another 20 years.

The next day, we woke up and got ready by around 7. Our Navy men were leaving. We were sipping tea, while they said their goodbyes, and started their bikes. And before revving up, they let out one of the loudest war-cries I have ever heard – Bolo Bharath Mata ki Jai - bone chilling and hair raising. Hats off to them supermen. Even in these "peaceful" times, they are involved in combat at some level with their anti-pirate operations.

Before we start the Tungnath episode, some background information. The road from Ukhimath to Chopta, connects the two big pilgrimage spots of Kedarnath and Badrinath. [Please see a cartographer’s nightmare image below.]

It’s sort of a short-cut. Most travel (government buses too), however happens through the more circuitous Rudraprayag route. In fact, there was a time, when no buses plied on the Chopta route. The people of this stretch then went on an indefinite fast, before the government obliged and gave them their bus. The bus, even now is quite aptly called the Bhookh Hartal (hunger strike) bus. I travelled in the Bhookh Hartal bus, the first time I came to Uttarakhand in 1998. We passed by Chopta, and I did not get down because my destination was Badrinath. It was rather weird that I did not get down then, because it was the image of a snow clad Tungnath that appeared in the final page of the Indian Express (along with a 100 word write-up) that really prompted me to come to this hill state.

When we started the planning, Tungnath, along with Deoria, fitted neatly into the idea of an office outing. Nothing heavy-duty. Chopta to Tungnath trek is around 3.5 kilometeres. Chandrashila, if we were attempting it, was another kilometer from Tungnath. But, during the planning phase, we had not factored in the Duggalbitta to Chopta hike of around 1.5 kilometers, hoping the roads would be clear in mid-March.

Here's the Duggalbitta to Chopta stretch.
In our team, whoever prayed for lots of snow made it tough for everyone else. (I’m yet to spot the imp  amongst us, but will do so before the next trip. :-)

We were tired when we reached Chopta in an hour or so, but nothing beyond repair. We had tea and snacks, stocked up water and chocolates, and took some pictures.

Lakhpath briefed us about the trek for a short while.

The trek was not going to be easy, as some stretches had too much snow. As a team, we reached an understanding that anyone feeling excessive difficulty would stop, rest for some time, and then turn back. No room for bravado.
The path from Chopta to Tungnath is well laid out with stone steps. That’s the usual image you will get if you Google it out. But this time, right from the start, the stone steps were snowed out.
We did make some mistakes, like splitting up. I think there were three teams in all – I started off with the bunch in front with Lakhpath, Shruthi, Saurav, Kruthi, Ni-et, VJ Sai, and Sucharitha. Soon Lakhpath pointed to a short-cut and I said - no way. Lakhpath went ahead with the sporty Sucharita and VJ Sai.
There is no point detailing walking in 3 feet snow. I was always trying to play catch up, and at one point, I saw Marj walking towards us.

I remember asking her this question – Tell me again, why are we doing this? To which Marj responded – Exactly my question.
The day was not exactly turning out to be a light-medium duty trek. Some of us matched mountain goats and went up, but then not all could manage the toil. Soon, a hoard of trekkers from Chamoli joined the mayhem. There were 30 or 40 of them and they set a scorching pace – men and women. They were extremely courteous, and pulled a couple of us up on a few occasions.

That's Saurav walking on air.

After this stretch, as a team, we made one more mistake - in assuming that a structure that we saw in the distance was Tungnath. For future trekkers, one word of wisdom – Tungnath does not show it’s face until the last few hundred meters or so.
Most of us were tired beyond recognition. But we still discussed the possibility of Chandrashila, but Lakhpath remained noncommittal in his response. He kept on saying, first, let’s do Tungnath. And I’m sure he was thinking “This irritating bunch from Bangalore does not have the mettle to do Tungnath, but has the balls to talk about Chandrashila in these snow conditions.”
Some of us decided to call it a day. One note about this place. I had started off as part of the leading team in the morning, but when I reached here, I was the last, all our teams reached before me.

After this point, it was like damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I’m talking about my jacket. The sun is burning down and you’re sweating like crazy. So you take it off. Then, you’re freezing with the cold winds icifying your sweat. So you put it on again. It’s torture.
To add salt in to injury, I was alone on this stretch. One team turned back, the other was way ahead. I could see them waiting for me, but how long can someone wait? They move on, and with every passing step of theirs I continued to lag behind. I saw them pausing at the structure that we mistook for Tungnath and moving on again. I shouted out and heard Reuben’s response “We reached Tungnath, we’re going for Chandrashila”. And I was like “Great, Let me at least reach Tungnath.”

And then, they passed a corner, and it was me all alone, walking 10 footsteps and resting for a minute or two.
In some time, I reached this structure that we mistook for Tungnath, and realized it wasn’t the one.

Misery continues. To add to the list of woes, my water bottle was getting empty. That’s when I met two good samaritans from the Chamoli team on their way back. They told clearly that Tungnath was a bit away after the bend in the distance. They looked at my pathetic state and said I could walk up to the bend, see the Tungnath temple from a distance, and if Tungnathji (Shiva) wishes, he will drag me up. I thanked them, while thinking “Why did you have to bring faith into the picture? I just want to be there.”
Soon enough I crossed the bend, and I saw Saurav, Sucharitha, and VJ Sai waving from above. Yes ABOVE, the last few hundred metres are no joke.

That's the edifice of Tungnath from a distance.

All said and done, all of us rested for some time, and took these snaps.

The guy on the right side of the picture thought the photographer was on the other side.

Lakhpath was against the idea of pushing Chandrashila, which was another vertical path in snow, close to a kilometer. The snow was deep, and I do not think anyone argued. It was already 1.30 in the afternoon and we were supposed to be going down, reach Duggalbitta, and then on to Syalsaur GMVN. The party in the mountains is over, drudgery of walking down, or so I thought.

That’s when Lakhpath asked us to slide down. Oh the beauty of it. Btw, this video captures all that's been written above.

We were down in Chopta after sliding down all the monstrous elevations in about 90 minutes.

We rested for a bit at Chopta, and then walked down to our camp at Duggalbitta. I remember walking up again to make a call to the office. Mobile connectivity is erratic here. It was 5 in the eveningwhen we all reached camp and was ready to go. There was a problem, because it is not advisable to travel in the night. However, we had made bookings at the picturesque Syalsaur GMVN about 50 kilometers away.
Somehow we convinced the driver, bid adieu to our Duggalbitta camp and Lakhpath, and sat in the bus. The stinky wet shoes were kept on top of the bus to dry.
Problems soon started. One puke after the other – I think 8 out of 16 were holding their mouths close to the window of the bus that day. Our driver was driving real fast, and we thought the bouncing around was adding to the problem, and I told him to slow down, and he went in the other direction – total crawl – that I felt like puking :-).
We reached Syalsaur GMVN by around 8. Perfect place. Dine, wine, switch off.

Part 3 can be found here: Rishikesh Whitewater Rafting.