2009 - One Last Word..

How do you evaluate how well you fared the last year, one that has only a few hours left before fading into the past? Do you look at where you stand today, and see how the scales are tipped? Or do you take a weighted average of all the ups and downs, all the twists and turns that brought you to this point and then decide? You can argue both ways... for each his own. After all, good and bad are different shadows of the same reality created by perception and purpose.

Past is often a mixture of triumphs and failures, content and dissatisfaction, regrets and fond memories. The sad thing is that, it is the disappointments and dejection that get more weightage once you look back at life. Probably we are wired to retain more vivid memories of pain than pleasure. When you talk about past, there are two ways of describing it. One is to pretend that it never happened really, and talk about it like fiction. It will help not to put too much 'you' into the story. But then it might also take away with you, the true emotions associated with the events. The second way is to accept the past with all its triumphs and disappointments and talk about it as genuinely as you felt about it then. You can expect some booing and tomatoes from the crowd as you glow in the stupidity and silliness of your actions and judgments. If you can make a lot of people happy by proclaiming yourself 'idiot of the year', then that is what you should do; a small sacrifice for the 'greater common good'.

How would I like to remember 2009, as the year that ushered in 2010? That's it?

This year I had the misfortune of dealing with my worst fears. To love someone is a fortune, but to live with someone is quite another. Softened by the forced reflection brought about by loss, I now think a life was saved from a crazy future and a crazier me. The only trouble is, when you retract a step you had taken forward, you never get back to your original position. You are left to linger on in some kind of limbo, and it sucks. As a society we do not have a ritual that acknowledges the loss of a person unless he or she is dead. We can handle physical pain or death but when it comes to emotional pain, we find it difficult to cope with. In the words of Floyd, 'the flames are all gone, but the pain lingers on'. Somebody suggested the other day that I go see a shrink.. I'd rather paint my hair pink!

I am a prisoner of my dreams and will always be. I learned my biggest lesson about dreams the hard way. The most important thing about dreams is to hang on to them patiently, long enough for them to materialize. We all tend to search for alternatives if dreams don't come true immediately. Every dream has a gestation period of its own, and if you care to keep it alive that long, it will sure manifest in all its glory. I know patience doesn't come cheap, but without it you are gonna stumble one day or other. Dreams will give you everything, and it will take from you everything. It will cost you your life and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it.

Often grief is the greatest aphrodisiac.. the creator of new life and new realities. With the odds of all that shit happening in the last one year, statistically next year should turn around. Happy 2010!

Raising crazy kids..

I got this habit of making fun of existing practices and ridiculing the wisdom of the world, at times. Evey time I do that, I try to come up with my twisted version of alternatives as well. My life revolves around a series of these problem-solution episodes. The other day I wrote something about the attitude of parents and schools towards raising kids. But then I realized that questioning without suggesting solutions is pretty lame. At least for my peace of mind, I need to have a clear plan to tackle the issue in hand. So I decided to put on record my ideas on raising kids, things that are of critical importance according to me.. something like my personal guide to child care. There are just a couple of lines in it.

Give kids the company of siblings, pets and books: Each of these has a purpose of its own. Siblings are important to tone down the me-centric world view, that most of the kids from nuclear families seem to develop. It is always good to learn at home the essential concepts of sharing, accommodating and mutual respect. Pets can provide a different angle to the same set of values, with a lot of discipline thrown into it. Adjusting your schedule and activities to accommodate the needs of another living, non-human being, can do wonders in bringing some structure to everyday life. Trying to understand and react to a pet, which does not speak your language, so to speak, can also help develop the kid's ability to communicate. Books are man's true friends, providing him perspectives and insights, based on which everyone can 'find out' the truth about things, than being told about it. Reading can be a really liberating experience, which opens up the world beyond the 'planned' curricula they offer in schools.

Introduce kids to the wonders of music, nature, travel and the goodness of human kind: Music is probably the best invention of all times. Learning to appreciate music is like earning a good friend, it stays with you through thick and thin. There is always some music that keeps you going in every situation. A day's travel can teach you more than what you learn in the classroom in one whole month. The joy of exploring new places, people and situations is something to be experienced in person, than through the idiot box. Nature is the true inspiration of life and creativity, something which never fails to make you wonder, something you can always be at peace with. In the seemingly pointless life, the only thing worth believing is the goodness of human kind. Without this conviction life becomes an ordeal, where you look at people as competitors or potential threats and spend most of your time developing counter strategies.

Nurture in kids fearlessness, the curiosity to explore and the inquisitiveness to ask questions without inhibition: Don't try to live their life for them or insist that they live your life. If you respect individuality and want them to really 'live' life, and not blindly follow the majority like zombies, teach them to be fearless in their pursuits. If there is only one thing you can pass on to the next generation, I feel it should be curiosity and the sense of wonder. There is a whole different fun and satisfaction in figuring out things for yourself. Teach them to question everything without stooping to stubbornness of opinion, and not accept mediocrity just because somebody 'important' preaches it. Logical and rational approach to anything is not evil, nor is it dangerous, even if its about sensitive issues like morality and religion.

I know it all sounds so romantic and incomplete. What about preparing for competitive exams? What about etiquette and manners? What about spiritual development? I feel, once the basic values of life are in place, rest all will fall in without much effort. The Sines and Cosines can wait a while.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

- Khalil Gibran on Children

Hey, Leave those kids alone !

I never thought attending an exhibition of schools would be such fun. Trust me, it is. All the fifty or so schools there, had 'state of the art infrastructure', providing 'holistic education', 'based on ethics and driven by technology', 'in a homely environment', where your kids grow up to become world dominators. Though the vision is the same, they have vastly varied ideas on the 'How' and 'How much' part of it. Some believe that it is crucial for the child to learn Equestrian in pre-school, while some others feel that a basic course in Object Oriented technology will help kindergarten students appreciate the objects around them better. There are a few who wants to inspire your 5 year old kid with a visit to the NASA or a tour of the Europe. Some of these schools got weekend classes on Aeromodeling and Electronics as well. What are we trying to do ? Making Einsteins out of every kid by the time he or she is ten? What about that ridiculously irrelevant phase of life we fondly used to call 'Childhood'?

I heard a parent saying the other day 'I want to make my kid a Doctor. I don't know whether he is interested, but I will make him a doctor'. There is perhaps nothing wrong with the intend, but there is something terribly wrong with the approach. When we are kids, we are urged to transform all our interests into money making ventures called careers. If you like to stare at the stars as a kid, you should become an Astronomer; if you can paint, you should become a Graphics Designer and so on. When the parents are so concerned about their kids' future and paranoid about their ability to choose their own paths, it is not right to blame the schools alone for this fiasco. They are ready to shell out those extra bucks, to make their kids learn Java and speak five different languages by the time they get out of pre-school.

So you have decided to give your kid the best education. Don't think you can just walk into one of these schools, show some cash and get an admission for your kid. A friend of mine and his wife have already attended six interviews for the pre-nursery admission of their kid. Both the parents were drilled with questions on their reading habits, leisure time activities and political affiliations in addition to inquiries on financial status and career aspirations. They all prefer to teach kids of professionals who play golf and read Kafka & Camus, to the average Joe from the Department store, who has a degree in Sociology and reads Sidney Sheldon. Yes, Pedigree is important. How else do you expect your three year old kid to discuss the fine points of existentialism and the three layered approach towards software design, on the dinner table? Aha.. like me, you thought schools are institutions which take any half-wit, and transform him into Donald Trump!

When my friend's kid took a few seconds to answer the questions posed by the blazer wearing, straight faced moron, sitting in a stuffy room which is Mars for the kid, he commented that the kid is too shy and they expect kids to be a little more smarter by the time they are two years and six months! In the name of holy Isis, I would have punched the tomatoes out of him if he had told this about my kid. But I shouldn't forget the fact that I am raising kids as Gladiators, who can thrill and entertain the world with their superb skill and talent, in exchange for a loud applause and a little space in the history books. He might not get a chance to enjoy the rain or hold his beloved to his heart's content; but then those are issues that really doesn't matter!

Looks like I am terribly under-informed on the subject of raising successful kids. My children would definitely grow up to become retards who know nothing about harpooning a whale or migrating to Jupiter.

I want a state of my own..

If you ask about the finest moments of 2009, I might take a minute or two to come up with my list. But if the question is who is the most unscrupulous and idiotic fellow of the past year, I will answer without the slightest hesitation - K Chandrasekhar Rao, the dumb ass who held the whole country to ransom with his stupid idea of a separate state.

It is such a ridiculous thing even to expect a state to be formed or an existing one to be divided based on one person's whims and fancies. Criminal is the intend to upset the peaceful life of people in a whole state for his political mileage. I don't think he himself or anybody else with some gray matter inside their head would believe that this separate state will ever come into existence. All he wanted after 11 days of fasting was a face saving gesture from the central government's side to end his fast. Even if Sonia Gandhi had worn a pink sari, he would have shown that as positive intend and ended his fast. He might even win the 'Stupidest person of the century' award if nominated, though there will still be tough competition from Paris Hilton.

On the other hand, his buffoonery has in turn spawned a few other initiatives. Irrespective of past differences, people in my apartment have finally decided to come out of the closets, and campaign together to get Union Territory status for our apartment complex. After all, it takes just a few days of fasting. The aunty who used to frown at me for the loud music and late night noise have suddenly started offering breakfast and snacks, thanks to K Chandrasekhar Rao. We have wisely decided to start the campaign only in January; the plum cakes are too good to forgo even if its for a social cause. Canvasing has already started for cabinet minister posts, such is the confidence we have, thanks to the KCR antics.

We are soon floating a new company as well, one which offers 'outsourced fasting solutions' for all those who are involved in the noble profession of indefinite fasting, for their own states or even smaller administrative units. We have tentatively named the company 'Fast Forward', and is planning to offer strategic, operational and tactical help in fasting and related services. The recruitment drive will soon start across the country, for volunteers interested in cooperating with us on this. To make the whole process a lot more appealing to the younger generation, we are planning to tie up with 'VLCC Weight Loss Programs' as well. What if you can kill two elephants with a single stone - be part of the historic effort to create two or more fighting factions out of a peaceful and prosperous state, and also get a toned body in the process. I am afraid we might even get the next Nobel prize for the most ingenious business idea.

'Fast Forward' will have an education wing as well, to sensitivise people on the benefits of having their own states and union territories. A lot of people are still not aware of the simplicity of the whole process as well. We are also trying to propagate the idea of using them as marriage or house warming gifts. Imagine giving your son-in-law a whole state instead of a car or an acre of land. The possibilities are in fact unlimited.

Somebody's stupidity is somebody else's inspiration!

the AVATAR experience..

The last movie I watched in the hall was an 18th century Bond flick called 'Quantum of Solace'. At least that is what I felt about the swanky cars and gadgets that Bond uses in it, after seeing 'AVATAR', the latest offering from the Cameron house. I am not sure whether his great grand-parents knew, by divine intervention of course, that one of their clan members would one day stand behind the camera and hence assumed the surname Cameron. Nevertheless Avatar is quite a masterpiece like some of his earlier movies.

A lot of the credit should go to George Lucas as well, because it seems Lucas' Star Wars is what finally prompted Cameron to come out of his lunch delivering business, rent a video camera and start making movies. Imagine him sticking to his previous avatar as a truck driver, and driving around a truck named 'Titanic'! After watching the trailers on YouTube a few weeks back, I was eagerly waiting to watch this movie in 3D. I liked the whole concept of an avatar- a copy of yourself which you are totally in sync with, in terms of your mental capacities and control, but operational in a different plane, in a different planet or even in a different dimension. Who wouldn't want to volunteer for such a program, even if its short-lived. Probably James Cameron crafted Jake Sully to represent what we all are in our real life - challenged or paralyzed about some aspect of life; always living like avatars in our fantasy worlds where there are no shortcomings.

The planet Pandora is a treat to watch, with the huge trees, touch sensitive mushrooms, fluorescent creepers, floating mountains, colorful dragons, weirdly evolved animals and the like. The thing I liked the most were the lizards who fly by spinning a membrane of skin above the head, like the rotating blades of a chopper. Watching in 3D made the experience all the more enjoyable. I am really not sure why the planet was named 'Pandora'. The Na'vi, who inhibit Pandora are shown as a race which is much evolved than us in understanding the life and living things around them. Each plant or tree in Pandora is connected to the other through the roots, making it act like a single living organism. The Na'vi could easily connect to this network and communicate or exchange information. I found the dragons (Banshees and Toruks to be precise) a little too colorful to be real, in their red and blue coats; the only complaint I had after watching the movie.

The story probably is a parody on our own real life - the greed, desire to destroy everything that stands in the way, the insensitivity towards anything and everything around, shameless display of our short sightedness and a final predictable ending which we watch like sitting ducks. Like Jake Sully did in the movie, most of the people in the hall also betrayed their own race and had taken sides with the Na'vi. Every time a chopper came crashing down or a Na'vi arrow landed on a gun carrying, yet helpless marine, the crowd burst into thunderous applause. When the Homeree of the Na'vi was brought down by a barrage of missiles, I could hear their heartbeats also, almost as loud as the applause. I am sure a lot of them would have liked to go out to Pandora in their own avatars, and ride a dragon up Colonel Quaritch's ass!

I just can't wait to watch this movie on the IMAX screen!

Random blasphemous thoughts..

When it comes to the God hypothesis, I have difficulty in understanding some of the arguments. They simply don't make sense unless you choose to blindly believe in them, accepting the explanation that 'human beings are too shallow to understand God'. As a child I always wished that one day during the church service or at least in my dreams one of those divine figures manifest in front of me, just the way I wished a UFO fly past the sky during one of those trips to the mountains. I had great difficulty in accepting, forget believing, in a supernatural power that hides behind some clouds and do miracles.

For an average religious follower, all that matters is whether the chopstick or matchstick they believe in, take care of them once they exit this world. They are least bothered whether the arguments for such a chopstick really hold up against scrutiny. The elite in every religion who are proponents of 'theology', have been working overtime in coming up with excuses one after the other, to resurrect God, every time science or reasoning finds a loop hole in their carefully crafted folk stories. Take the case of existence of evil. Why is it that an omnipresent God who can see all evil before it happens, and who got the power to prevent it, is not doing so, if he exists? This argument when clubbed with the fact that 'evil exists', could have broken the back bone of theism. But then came the great idea of 'Free Will'.

It says that a benevolent God created us with the free will software installed by default. So when it comes to decisions and choices, we can go our own way and burn our ass for picking up the wrong choices. So should I believe that God created all of us and then let us loose in the world with the Free-Will app turned on? Theology uses free will to explain the existence of evil, which otherwise is a tricky thing for the theologists to do in the same breath they explain an all powerful and loving god. So, as C S Lewis writes in his book 'The Problem of Pain', If God decide to do preemptive evil management, like what Tom Cruise and gang does in 'Minority Report', and start guiding our thoughts and actions at all junctures, we will end up as mere puppets in his hands. He did not want to do that to his beloved creations. So to give us all a chance to screw up ourselves, he gave us free will. To facilitate this, HE had to allow the existence of other free agents like evil, even though he still swears against it day and night! How cool is that?

But why should free will always be about right and wrong? Why cant it be a choice between two good alternatives, like apple flavor or cherry flavor? Is it that God did not think about such a possibility of providing us the free will to choose between good things, thereby keeping evil out of the equation? Why did he want to see some of us choosing the wrong path? Doesn't look good on the resume of an omnipotent and omniscient being who claims to have created all that is there. Another funny argument is about God creating a distance between him and man with evil thrown into the mix, so that we will strive hard to know him and thus become better in the process. Remember we are all born sinners as our great great grandfather stole an apple!

Belief can do wonders irrespective of whether you believe in a dick shaped rock or a smooth talker who could supposedly perform magic tricks. I know the so called miracles can happen if you have strong belief. It is the extend of belief that makes it happen, and not whether you believe in the chopstick or the matchstick. Also all these miracles will always have sensible and verifiable explanations. I always hear about 'inner healing' but have never heard about an arm regrowing or a midget growing into a 6 feet tall person. Why? The standard religious explanation is lack of faith. But I have heard of a twisted arm getting better, from a 60 degree twist to a 30 degree twist! Should I assume that the person with the twisted arm had just enough faith to get it corrected by 30 degrees? Good that cartoonists and caricaturists not so often target religion for their strips. But to be frank, I just don't get it.

I am not sure whether HE will hold me responsible for all these blasphemous statements. I am sure I will get a solid smack if my Mom happens to read this, but not quite sure about Jesus. If I make it to the pearly gates, and HE ask me why did I not believe in him like rest of the herd, I will have to answer like Bertrand Russel - 'Sorry boss, not enough evidence'.

If you prefer some irreverence to go with the blasphemy, check out this video titled 'Foobie Jesus'. It tells the story of a woman who thinks her cat is Jesus. Make sue you don't miss the last scene.

The year that was..

Another year is on its way out, like the many that have gone before and the many that might follow. Ending an year is like closing a book. You dont throw it away just because you have finished reading it. You keep it stacked beside the others on the shelf. You don't forget the stories or the plots you read, and will most certainly pick it up from time to time in the future.

It is that time of the year again, when you look at the table and see the 'resolutions' list neatly folded and unopened for the last 350 odd days. I never had a problem with that irrelevant piece of paper so far, but suddenly it has developed a face with a sarcastic smile and an expression which says 'I told you so'. I argued back saying that it was kept unopened only because I know exactly what is written inside. I have been writing the same set of resolutions over and over for the last few years. But then the smile grew wider, the expression more gruesome, and I heard the piece of paper talking 'Even better.. so what happened?'. I knew that I was hallucinating and the paper wasn't talking, but I replied 'I am working on it'. Just like I have been working on it last year and the one before that. Glad that I managed to be consistent about something in life!

Like every other year, 2009 also brought with it moments of joy and despair. When some facets of life attained new heights some others crumbled down equally bad. For me 2009 was truly remarkable. I almost tripped on the turn of events during this year. This was the year which proved me wrong and stupid on multiple counts. This was the year when I had to thoroughly re-evaluate my understanding of trust and love. This year almost convinced me to relinquish my view of an ideal world and turn ruthless and selfish. This year made me think about future, the way I never did or ever wanted to do. There were moments when the only relationship I had going on, was with the wine bottle. My belief system had to withstand some serious breakdowns, which at times did test the limits of my sanity and strength. I am happy that in spite of all the sham and drudgery, I still firmly believe that this is a beautiful world.

The year had its high times as well. I could cross out a few things from my bucket list to start with. I did get a chance to spend few memorable days in the Himalayas and visit the Valley of flowers. I also got to see through few people who were dearer in life, and now know exactly where to put them in my relationship matrix. The conflicts and setbacks have made me a stronger person and future looks a little less ambiguous from where I stand now. If I say I have moved a tad higher in the responsibility Index, I know its no exaggeration. I have learned not to lean on others for confidence and comfort, and instead develop them in-house. I am more committed to my ideals and ambitions than ever before.. when you decide to walk a new path, you got to prove that it isn't just a fluke. Now that the clouds have rained off, I can see things more clearly and I am happy about it. I might have a bigger baggage to carry, but I think I will be just fine with it. I always lived my life the way I wanted to and I am intending to do so in future as well.

After all, is there something called a 'good year' or a 'bad year'? I don't think so, 365 days is too long a time to fill with any one of it. Most of the time you get an equal share of the two. Some of the so called good or bad moments might even turn out the other way, once you take a second look at it from another point in time. Who knows?

You are good when you walk to your goal firmly with bold steps.
Yet you are not evil when you go thither limping.

Even those who limp go not backward.

The Prophet - Khalil Gibran

Why we do what we do

'Why do you want to travel 300 kilometers from the city only to walk another 20-30 kilometers? You could as well walk from the place you live, to the city center and back, if you really want is to walk', a friend of mine asked me as I got back from another trek. I just smiled without answering the question. The way I limped as I walked away, made him believe that he in fact did pose a logical question. My calf and thigh muscles were really aching from the rigorous workout they got over the weekend. I wanted to tell him it wasn't about the kilometers you walk. The pain wasn't a misery, but a sweet remembrance of the great time I had in the wild, much like the hangover in the morning is a reminder of the good times you had the evening before. There are a few things which cannot be explained using words and expressions.

But then, why do I do the things I do? Why do I run away to the woods or the mountains at the slightest opportunity? Behavioral psychology might relate this to childishness or the inability in facing the realities of the 'real' world. This habit might even be labeled 'leftover-animal-behavior' like phantom limbs in amputees. I am no one to argue the grandeur or fallacy of these arguments, but I know there are much more evident and worthwhile explanations. I for one don't subscribe to the 'life is guided by purpose' philosophy, which forces you to follow set patterns, and follow the herd through the optimal path to Nirvana. I would rather take life as a by product of curiosity and wonder, and let it slowly unravel, even though this might not go well in a world where religion and elders have already explained all that is there to know, by the time you are ten years old. If you restrict your sense of excitement to discount sales at the mall and free parking spaces, you are no better than a dead man walking the last mile.

When we were discussing this topic during our last trek, Rob said that the pictures we take during these trips should be good enough answers to this question. The best we can do is to squeeze this multidimensional experience into a two dimensional matrix of colours. I always felt music and travel are things that everybody can enjoy. If somebody is not able to, the real issue is that he or she was never exposed to it. Everything in life is not to be 'understood', some things are to be 'appreciated'. While understanding is a function of the intellect, appreciation is more of an art. But how would you make somebody feel the excitement, the adrenaline rush, the tension, the awe and the wonder we experience during these get-aways?

Imagine sleeping under the open sky where the city lights don't over-shine the stars. Imagine seeing an endless array of mountains and hills bathed in the moonlight like the sand dunes in the desert, at 5 in the morning. Imagine waking up above the mountains and watching the golden rays of sun shine through a sea of clouds. Imagine the snow clad peaks of the Himalayas turning orange as the first light of the day falls on them. Imagine drinking the ice cold water from a stream formed from melting glaciers. Imagine seeing a carpet of flowers along the river banks or seeing the fishes that swim around unaware of the human eyes watching them. Imagine sitting on a lonesome rock surrounded by mountains, sipping a glass of fine rum, staring at the clear blue sky.

Imagine walking along a pathway in the forest and see a bunch of Bisons blocking the road ahead, only to find a Bear walking towards you as you take a U-turn. Imagine the adrenaline rush as you sit at a distance of 200 meters from a herd of elephants, sipping hot tea. Imagine sleeping in a tree house and see wild boars roaming around and monkeys stealing food from your bags. Imagine leaning on to a rock at 1200 meters and find yourself surrounded by a colony of honey bees as some bird disturbed a beehive on the other side of the rock. Imagine losing your way to the top of the peak during a moonlight trek, stranded in the middle of nowhere, getting wet in torrential rains, and then taking out your harmonica and singing songs till daybreak. Every time it is an awe inspiring and humbling experience, which at some level reminds you that life is more than just pay cheques and iPhones.

At times it is good to walk out of the reality created by the TFT screens at office and home and get a taste of the real deal!

Kumara Parvatha Trek

“One idiot, 3,800 miles, & an electric motorcycle with a 42-mile range. What could possibly go wrong?”, Nathan Abbott wrote on his blog just before he started his cross country adventure on wheels across the US. Just before Rob and myself embarked on our Kumara Parvatha trek I also thought on similar lines "Two idiots, 26 kilometers on foot over an altitude of 1700 meters in two days. What could possibly go wrong?". Nathan met with an accident - no fault of his own - and we made few blunders out of our own stupidity! Emboldened by the Himalayan experience we considered this trek a walk in the park, even after reading in numerous blogs that KP is one of the most difficult treks in Karnataka. Nature has its own way of humbling bloated egos and we got a good taste of it.

Kumara Parvatha(1,712m) is the tallest peak in the Pushpagiri ranges of the Western Ghats. You can climb KP either from Somwarpet or Subramanya. The Subramanya route is longer and is about 13 kilometers from Kukke Subramanya temple, the starting point of the trek. We decided to take the longer route and started from Bangalore on Friday night by Mangalore Express. The first mistake we did was not to book the tickets for our onward journey, and finally ended up sharing the space next to the toilet with a few other people. Imagine two 6 foot, 80 kilo guys squeezed into a four feet wide passage. Eager to get some sleep, we took out some plastic sheets, spread them on the floor and tried not to get disturbed by those who passed over us on their way to the loo. The stink was an issue for some time, but then if you have to sleep, you have to sleep. We reached Subramanya by 6 in the morning and took a shared jeep from the station to Kukke Subramanya for Rs. 20 per head. This temple is dedicated to the snake god; courtesy King Cobras, which are abundant in the dense forests in this part of the Western Ghats.

After performing our morning chores at the KSRTC bus station, we had a quick breakfast, packed some lunch and started our trek by 8:30. A right turn from the temple street, half a kilometer of tarred road, and you reach the deviation to Kumara Parvatha. The first four kilometers is through dense forest and in-spite of the canopy we were sweating profusely in no time. Then we realized another stupid thing we did - we just had two liters of water and the next water source was six kilometers ahead! Adding to the misery, we soon spotted leeches, a lot of them marching towards us from all directions. We took out the tobacco and stuffed our shoes with generous quantities, only to realize later that we are not the only organisms with brains. The leeches simply stopped getting inside the shoes and instead started attacking other parts of the leg. Both of us got a couple of leech bites in the next few hours. Rob even got one behind his knees, which he realized only after seeing the blood, and you can imagine how stealthily and efficiently these guys operate. Fortunately we did not run into their bigger cousins, the Cobras.

We took an hour long break around 12:30 for lunch and a quick nap. Our first destination was Bhattar Mane, the house and orchard of Narayan Bhat, halfway through the climb. The Bhat family provides food and shelter for trekkers at a nominal price. Narayan Bhat migrated to this place from Kasargod about 37 years back, and speaks Kannada, Malayalam and English. He grows Arecanut, Plantain, Lemons and a variety of vegetables. We met another group of three trekkers at Bhat's house. We refilled our water bottles, paid the camping fees -Rs. 115 per head- at the Forest Dept. office near Bhat's house, and resumed our journey. It took about five hours for us to reach Bhatare mane and had another 6 kilometers ahead of us to the peak. Soon we were treated with breathtaking views of the Pushpagiri range of mountains. While climbing from Subramanya side you have to cross two mountains -Battadarashi and Seshaparvatha- before reaching Kumara Parvatha. There is a stone 'Mantapa' near Battadarashi, and there is a stream before that which is a source for drinking water.

We took a short break at the mantapa and decided to try our luck climbing the rest of the peak before night fall. But later we decided to pitch our tent near a small hillock between Battadarashi and Seshaparvatha. It was getting cold, dark and windy already and we had a great view from our tent. It was great sitting under the starry sky and have bacon, ham and bread for dinner! We had some serious discussions on where to keep the leftover food; just in case some animals sniff out the meat and decide instead to feast on some fresh meat that is us. Soon we crept inside the comfort of sleeping bags inside the tent and decided to catch up on sleep. There was no perfect plain land to pitch the tent and we were literally sleeping along a slope. Soon heavy winds started blowing and it was the weight of us inside the tent that prevented it from being flown off the hill. A couple of times during the night I woke up as Rob shouted 'who's out there'. The tent flaps fluttering in the wind made us think that someone/something is walking outside.

We woke up by 5 in the morning and the moon was still out, lighting up the beautiful landscape all around. I don't know how to put in words the feeling you get when you see clouds floating around your doorstep, shining bright in the moonlight. We climbed up Battadarashi peak at 5:20 in the morning and stood there watching the sun slowly coming out of its slumber. It is an awesome sight to watch the sky changing colors, from grey to red to orange to a fine blue. The group we met at Bhat's place had camped just across the hillock and we had a chat with our 'neighbors' who joined us on the peak. After a quick breakfast we rolled up the tent and resumed our journey. As you cross Battadarashi, the first peak, Seshaparvatha will look like the tallest peak, only to realise as you reach the top that both KP and Sidhaparvatha are taller than it. Sidhaparvatha is a rocky cliff you find between KP and Seshaparvatha and looks inaccessible. Seshaparvatha offers some great views in all directions. The path we walked looked like a huge snake, crawling around all the hills and valleys.

KP is another 45 minutes from Seshaparvatha. We walked through some beautiful shola forests for about 20 minutes till we reached a stream. From there we followed the stream to a waterfall, which fortunately had very little water at this time of the year. You must be thinking what is the fun in having a waterfall without any water. I said fortunate because we had to climb up this waterfall, which cascades down a rock at an 80 degree elevation! I am sure it would be great fun to climb this rock against the gushing water during the monsoons; another reason to visit KP again. The peak is about half a kilometer from this steep rock and is wide enough to accommodate a few hundred people. There is a small temple on the peak, made out of stacked stones. We had a good time wandering around the place and having the last pieces of bread we had with us. It was sad to see the peak littered with plastic bottles, beer cans and other junk. We expect a certain level of commonsense and decency from the kind of people who go trekking out of the love of nature; but there will always be some a**hole who screws up. Our plan was to reach Bhattar mane for lunch and hence started our descend carrying a bag full of water bottles and other junk from the peak.

Climbing down was not a joke, in fact it was more strenuous than the ascent. If you need a good pair of lungs to manage the climb, you need an extraordinary pair of legs to take the pounding and get down in one piece. By the time we reached Bhattar mane, we could not even feel parts of our legs. The plain rice, sambar and pickle at Bhat's house was ambrosia for our hungry stomachs. After a couple of servings of rice and some much needed rest, we started for Subramanya. It took us about two hours to cover the 6 kilometers and we checked into a hotel as soon as we reached the town. Rob had to travel to Puthur the next morning and hence decided to stay back at Subramanya that night. I took a shower and got into the 9:15 bus to Bangalore. Though it was a bumpy ride, I slept like a baby, much to the surprise of my co-passengers, who shouted at the driver every 5 minutes as he maneuvered the vehicle from one pothole to the other.

I reached Bangalore by 5 in the morning and was under the blankets by 6, for a couple more hours of sleep. The pain in the legs might go away in a day or two, but the memories will remain for a long time to come; at least till my next visit to KP.

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Ideas for the 'Activity-Challenged'

I was never the hard working kind. Given a chance, I don't want to work. But bestowed with the responsibility of maintaining a six foot, eighty kilo colony of energy-greedy animal cells, I do work for food. I try my level best to restrict work to the five days between my travels, and also rely on a variety of other therapies to stay afloat. Music is my religion. Travel is what keeps me moderately sane. Photography helps me pamper my already bloated ego as I go around clicking ugly pictures of beautiful places.

Does that qualify me to be called 'Lazy' and 'Stupid'? In the name of the omnipresent holy Octopus, YES! (Though I prefer the term 'Activity-Challenged). I can afford extensive spells of laziness and inactivity without complaints of any sort. In fact I feel at peace with myself during this time. I dream for exercise and have almost got a six pack.. three on either sides of the body. It was in this premise that I started thinking about ways to make money without doing anything. Life is too precious to be wasted working. So I started discussing the idea with my cousin, and you won't believe the kind of shit two lazy minds can cook up together. We already have enough ideas to write a book on 'How to make money without getting off your ass'. As soon as we figure out ways to overcome a few minor glitches, you will see all of them in action. And as there are so many of these ideas floating around, I thought of documenting a few here. As nobody reads the stuff I write, no need to worry about idea piracy.

The most promising of the ideas took shape when we read an article on Global warming, which said animal exhaust gases like Methane, are bigger culprits in rising temperatures than the poor Chloro Fluro Carbons. If there is some truth in this, we humans should also be contributing generously through our burps and farts. As responsible animals with over sized consciousness we thought it would be a good idea to sensitivise people on this crime we are unconsciously committing. So our idea is to set up pollution control centers for humans. These centers will analyze human exhausts for its Methane content and suggest diet plans to reduce harmful emissions. We can even expand the business to sell diet-packs for custom emissions.. imagine the scented fart to impress your partner when you are on a date, or the stink bomb to flush out unwanted visitors! High end packages for special occasions will also be available - the petal shower fart which can create instant floral decorations or seed dispersal farts for afforestation and so on. The only problem is how to induce instant farts or burps for analysis.. you sure can't wait for customers to come up with them in their own sweet time. Once we are ready with a solution for this we should be rolling!

Some guys in Germany recently tried using flies for advertisements. They attached light weight banners to these flies and let them loose inside shopping malls and other crowded areas. The weight of the banners ensured that they flew around at viewable heights and settled down frequently on whatever landing spaces available, garnering even more attention. We thought it would be a great idea to replicate this in India. Depending on the target audience, we can use a multitude of carriers like cockroaches, mosquitoes and rats apart from flies, as they are pretty common out here. By using these so called 'pests' for useful purposes, we might even be contributing towards upliftment of their living conditions and social status. This can very well be the next big step in human history since the domestication of sheep. We are but yet to figure out how to deal with Maneka Gandhi and her PETA friends.

We might even start a school to teach people the fine art of idea generation. Its is by far the laziest money making tool discovered by man, of course after religion. Once people come up with brilliant ideas like ours, they can attach a revenue model and sell it off for millions. If Prophet Yahweh can start a 'Yahweh School of UFO Summoning', why can't we start an 'All Saints School of Idea Generation'? (More about the Prophet later; with his level of stupidity, he deserves at least one full post for himself)

Once we implement these ideas successfully, the greater vision is quite humble like anybody else's. Write a book, make a reality show, sell the story to M Night Shyamalan and spend rest of the life in a lakeside villa, eating pork!

Class Reunions

Class reunions are evil.

I am saying this not because my high school sweetheart (I wasn't hers.. if you are wondering) told me that I look too old for my age and I should get married soon. I had reconfirmed before starting for the get-together, that I had just three gray hairs on my head. I was under the impression that a lot of guys would be having much more than mine; but then I had terribly underestimated the power of hair dyes. I am saying this also not because her swanky Investment Banker husband asked me whether I sell cassettes for a living; after I told him that I work for a company which operates in the music industry. The ass-faced moron could have at least said CDs, not cassettes!

As soon as I walked into the hall, I got a feeling that the day is not going to be as exciting as I thought. My left eye started twitching, a sure sign of bad things to come. As if to confirm my worst fears, a huge, disproportionate figure paddled into the room and said 'Hello'. I couldn't believe that it was her. On a different occasion or on the street, I would have easily mistaken her to be a Queen Latifah clone. I tried to conceal my surprise, thinking that there is no excellent beauty that has not strangeness in its proportions. But then she had the audacity to tell me that I look old and introduce me to her ass-faced hubby who matched his wife with his own sarcastic remark. As we were talking, two little monkeys rolled on to the scene, whom she introduced as her kids. What a wonderful family I thought.. my choice for the next season of 'Arrested Development'. I couldn't believe that this is the girl I tried writing poems about, once when I was even more stupid. As I stood there the next few minutes, listening to the husband and wife taking turns in abusing some air-hostess, who served them hot water when they asked for lukewarm water, I thanked my good fortunes for not letting me get involved
with this non stop talk-show.

I soon spotted the bar, crowded with few of my friends who never miss a free drink. Seeing the elixir of life in beautiful crystal glasses, my body got into auto-pilot mode and started navigating towards it, much like the hind leg of a dog once it sees a telephone pole. Soon I felt alright amidst the already-drunk half-wits, vigorously arguing whether Johnny was the first guy in school to kiss a girl. In a matter of minutes we were reliving those moments, when we were a bunch of carefree teenagers having no clue about life or future. Things aren't much different now, except that we are no more teenagers. As the mother of all pain killers slowly started taking effect, the 'dudes' hijacked the dance floor and starting dancing as if they were epilepsy patients buttoned up in nice suits for the night. I wanted to look 'cool' and had carefully chosen a beach shirt and jeans for the event. Like many other occasions I ended up like a gypsy in the church, a spilled drop of color in an otherwise bland canvas.

Reunions are another chance for the 'cool' guys at school to show that they are still pretty high on the cool factor, even though many of them have not progressed in life beyond the steering wheel of a taxi cab or a department store desk. For the 'lesser mortals' at school, who got attention for all the wrong reasons then, this is an opportunity to prove the cool guys wrong. Imagine the eternal-front-bench-warmer walking into the hall right out of a luxury car, holding the hands of a girl who looks like the younger sister of Katie Price Jordan. As the crowd turned towards the 'dude', acknowledging his presence for once, ogling at the beauty who walked beside him, he carefully took the victory lap, ensuring that the guys at the beer parlor got a good look at his prized possessions. He then approached the bar with confidence shown never before, and announced that he lives in Singapore and works for a multinational consulting company. As the cool dudes stared back with a 'so what' look in their eyes, he realized that there are a few things in life that money can't buy.. for everything else he might have his Master card!

While I was trying hard to fit in amidst the chaos, I realized I should have watched 'Ronnie and Michele's High school Reunion' a few more times and picked up some tips. If not 'Post-Its', I could have at least claimed that I invented 'Viagra'. I told you, class reunions are evil !

The Dog Squad

I am not the only dog in my locality. There are plenty of them, all sort of breeds in all different sizes...agile and good looking like me! The only difference is that I cannot sniff as good as most of them, perhaps because I carry my nose so high above the ground and I got a day job too.

Take the case of Sam and Samantha (not the Fox variety). They are the two BIG well bred Labs who have made the nearby chicken shop their home. I have never seen a collar or chain on them.. always free and roaming. They are very friendly and won't mind cozying up to you whenever you walk along the lane, though at times you get a chill when you turn around to that jingly feeling on your legs and see these huge dogs behind. But lucky are these two to have chicken everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it does show on their body. The only person who doesn't like Sam & Samantha is the guy who sells Samosa and Bajjis nearby. Many a times I have seen him yelling at these dogs..when they steal something or other. But the fun is, unlike other dogs these guys don't run away... they just stand still, staring back at the screaming guy, enjoying their plunder. I have to pay for the samosas, they just need to stand some noise!

Then there is "Hero", the head of the Boxer family which takes out a route march along the road, every morning. He is so dignified a dog and not like the younger members of his family. He won't look down or to the side when he walks....head is always up, straight and forward. He takes his own sweet time to move gracefully across the street, much like an Ex-Service man who retains military discipline in his retired life. This guy definitely has some character. But other members of his family, they are a bunch of jokers... jumping here and there, giving their owner a tough time.

How can I forget the sweet little one who lives just across the lane. She is a hairy,loud and black Pomeranian who lives with some hairy and louder people. I don't even know her name yet. It is difficult most of the times even to distinguish her sound from the noise. She is always active, busy chasing sparrows during the day and running after the street dogs in the night. And there is this little kiddo.. the new kid in town, a Boxer puppy who lives two houses down the lane. Looks like a harmless neighbor, still clueless about many a things. The road is his playground, scaring the kids around is his new found hobby, not listening to his master's call is what he's majoring on.

With all these guys and their stray cousins around, there is always something happening just around the corner.

Now playing: Innercircle - Bad Boys
via FoxyTunes

Belief !

How do you define your belief..? Its probably one of the most misunderstood and seemingly complex questions to answer. I came across a simple verse that kind of explains it... without the frills and strings.

Who plants a seed
Beneath the sod
And waits to see
Believes in God

Belief is just this... nothing more, nothing less..!!

Its sometimes funny to watch how people perceive God and religion. Most of us are so blinded by these two ideas, that we have stopped using our commonsense at all. Religions which preach liberation and compassion are in turn creating a bunch of slaves who are brutal enough to kill fellow beings at the gesture of a stupid priest or pastor.

Belief for them is truly blind and they don't really care to think about it... it has become a way of life and peer pressure takes care of its sustenance. Very few realize the fact that religion was a mechanism created by us to give social life a structure. Brand God has become 'THE' superbrand with loyal fan following of billions.. without much endorsements or advertisement. This is the true example of a public service campaign turning shamelessly commercial, word of mouth creating unbelievable market penetration and 'sense of fear' ensuring brand loyalty.

What is it with us?

What make us disregard relationships? Is it just the cheap thrill a breakup provides or the false sense of freedom loneliness offers or the selfish survival instinct to look for better alternatives? Something has to fuel this otherwise painful phenomenon where parents abandon their kids, lovers leave their loved ones and children dump their parents in old age homes. Is comfort and its close cousin greed, the new affection and selflessness of the world? Have we taken sides with competition and mercilessly butchered empathy and truthfulness?

I had decided a few days back to stop whining about things around me and start thinking constructively. I am no saint to pretend to understand the ways of the world and offer sermons on the righteousness of life. I know there are many ways to reach Rome and none of them is better than the other. But there are times when I put on my complaining persona and start blabbering gibberish. I just cannot help it at times. Whatever be the circumstances, can a mother decide to abandon a kid which she carried inside for nine to ten months? If she was forced to do that, I feel equally responsible with the society, for making her do that, so that she becomes more acceptable or comfortable in her life. Remember, we used to frown at the Spartans, calling them barbarians, for getting rid of the deformed or malnourished new born babies.

All abandoned children are not result of illicit affairs, a large number of them happen as the parents feel incapable of taking care of the new born. Anyone who goes through such a traumatic experience might be knowing that the memories will haunt them all their life as well. If that is the case, if that is the kind of value system we manage to build into our young men and women, then I think as a society we are a big failure. I know this is probably one of the many arguments to reach the same conclusion, that we have screwed up. What can we do to avoid situations like this? Taking good care of the abandoned kids might help in the interim, but we all know that's no permanent cure. Orphanages are a necessity of the present, but definitely not a solution for the future. They will only evolve into a comfortable arrangement, acting as collection centres for babies, where parents can drop them without feeling much of a heartbreak. More like the glorified Old-Age-Homes, where you can 'abandon' your parents to the care of professionals, feigning discomfort and incapability!

This is a two part problem, the first being a question of personal convictions. Any relationship needs a lot of patience and perseverance for its success. If we let go of these two in our mad rush for comfort and better opportunities, more kids will be abandoned, more hearts will be broken and more tears will be shed. Being opportunistic is no crime perhaps, but the cost we pay in terms of destroyed dreams, devastated lives and carried-forward regret, might not be really worth it in the long run. This basic sustenance-philosophy, which seems to be missing from our education system, provides the personal conviction to face relationships responsibly.

Equally important is the role of society in providing a conducive environment, where parents are not threatened by their inability to provide the kids 'everything' they need. The ever expanding scope of 'basic needs' has already attained monstrous proportions. It is high time we move away from the competition and comparison oriented lifestyle and let life reclaim its 'life'.

I know, easier said than done!

Childrens Day Outing

My faith in human beings as a responsible and sensible species is getting weaker by the day. Off late I am realizing that the value systems have undergone a sea change over time, and we no more believe in love, trust, relations, compassion and kindness. They have been replaced by selfishness, greed and utter irreverence towards life. Otherwise how the f**ck would you explain a mother leaving a new born baby in the drainage or on the street? How else you explain three babies, all less than 3 months old, ending up in an orphanage in a span of 6 months? As a species we have reached Mars and are right on top of the food chain. Big deal!

I was at Sisu Mandir last Saturday with Jayan, to take the kids on a day's outing on Children's day. Jisha and Shalini, the two social workers there, introduced me to 12 days old Vinod, 28 days old Angelina and 40 days old Ritu. All three were peacefully sleeping in their cribs, blissfully ignorant of the unfair deal handed over to them by fate. Angelina opened her eyes and looked at me when I approached the crib. She was one of the cutest kids I have seen in my life. I wanted to take her in my arms, but I was literally shivering. I couldn't digest the fact that someone can throw away such a beautiful bundle of joy so that they can have a hassle-free life. She started crying and I tried in vain to 'shush' her back to sleep. I tried rocking the crib, saying all the nice words I know in Hindi, English and Malayalam in the sweetest possible way. Probably annoyed by my voice, Angelina decided its better to get back to sleep. Jayan and family joined me in the room and I could see his wife and mom quietly drying the tears. No one with a heart can stand the sight of little babies abandoned like garbage.

Our plan was to take the kids out for a day of fun and there was no better day than Childrens Day. Leaving Vinod, Angelina, Ritu and 1 year old Bhavana at home, we took off with 22 other kids. Shalini and Norah also accompanied us. Norah is a volunteer from Germany, who was on her second visit to Sisu Mandir. The kids sang some beautiful songs like Jamaican Farewell, Country Road, Seasons in the Sun and few others, while we were on the way to Lalbag gardens. It was a jolly little group - Anusha, Navya, Kavitha, Sandhya, Ruth, Suman, Kavya, Naresh, Laxmi, Sukanya, Stella, Raayappa and others. Ooops.. how can I forget Vijay and Mickey, the dolls of Stella and Kavitha, which they carried in their little backpacks. We reached Lalbag by 10:30 and started our little picnic. We climbed uphill towards the small temple on the hill and decided to sit down there for a while, enjoying the breeze and blowing soap bubbles. The kids all sat together and sang 'Sweet Mother of mine' while we took out the balloons. Navya is very much scared of sound and we had to cut short the balloon fun as she started crying hearing them burst. I had to take her on a short walk to pluck some yellow wild lilies to calm her down.

As we climbed back to plain ground from the hillock we noticed a big gathering, and the kids got really excited when they saw 'Upendra', the Kannada film star on the stage. They ran into the crowd but were too far to get a good glimpse of the actor. So we thought of giving a small surprise to the kids. Just as the function was getting over, Jayan and myself approached the actor and requested him to come over and meet the kids. We knew its a long shot, but much to our surprise, he agreed instantly and started walking towards the kids. He said hello to all, shook hands with them and posed for a few pictures as well. The kids were super excited and started singing a song. The actor also joined them in the song for a few minutes before he finally said goodbye and walked away. Those were the best 10 minutes most of them had that day, I could hear the older ones talking about it all day! It was probably just another 10 minutes for the actor, but that short gesture of his, made the day for a bunch of kids, for whom miracles rarely happen in life.

As the elder ones were slowly recovering from the shock of talking to Upendra, the younger ones spotted the popcorn and candy vending machines. There was a childrens playing arena as well, with sliders and rock climbing. All of them had a good time for the next hour or so and finally settled down on the lawn under a tree, all exhausted and happy. It was almost noon and we had rice, pooris and rotis for lunch as Tom and Kapil also joined us. Though we had plans to go visit the planetarium in the afternoon, we decided to skip that and spend the rest of the day playing some games. Sandhya and the small kids started playing 'Home', preparing lunch with leaves, gooseberries and other berries they collected from the nearby bushes. Tom joined the kids for some volleyball and Kapil was busy taking them around and posing for Photographs. Soon some of us came together for a round of 'Dog and Bone', while Anusha and Kavitha were busy playing 'aunties', making saris out of some shawls and towels.

The games went on till evening when Norah reminded that we have to get back home in time for the evening bath and dinner. So we took a walk along the lake as Naresh wanted to catch some fish for dinner! Though we didn't see any fishes, there were enough monkeys to keep the kids amused, especially once the donuts were out of the bag. By five in the evening, we called it a day and boarded the bus back home. Kapil and me accompanied the kids and as we got back to Sisu Mandir, Angelina was all awake and smiling. She was just out of her bath and was happily enjoying all the attention. Bhavana was running around planting kisses on every available cheek. Bhavana is such a doll! Anusha and Sandhya took me to their room and gave me a demo on how to get on a double-decker bed. Naresh offered me a bed in the office room if I could stay back that night... he said his bed would be too small for me! I promised that I will meet him again and take them all to the planetarium. I know I will be going back to check on Angelina and the rest of the fairies pretty soon.

As Kapil and I were walking out of the compound, Sandhya accompanied us to the gate and wished us good day. I told her I already had a great day. But I was lying.. In fact, I had one of the 'BEST' days of my life!

Click here for more pictures..

Make Up Act

You cannot let a moment of madness ruin a life time of fun and happiness. True to the statement, I patched up with a friend of mine the other day. We talked, gave up the accusations, retracted the charges levied against each other, buried the hatchets and decided to 'act' like grown ups. Each of us made short speeches about the good qualities of the other, the stuff you generally get to hear in memorial services or farewell meetings. We suddenly realized -over the course of the dialogue- that the two of us possessed many good qualities, apart from the ability to piss people off in no time.

But if we are such great people, why did we mess up at the first place? We agreed mutually to ignore this small insignificant detail and decided to call it 'a moment of madness'. It was not really about forgiveness, it was more like a confession. One of us pleaded guilty for screwing up and creating all the havoc. The entire street lit up with the sparkle in the others eyes that moment. One person's stupidity is always some others delight.

The whole conversation was interesting. One of us said something like 'We both know what happened in the past, the hows and whys of it. There is no point in us whining about it any more, we cannot change what has already happened'. Though the words came out like that, the real message was 'You know that you screwed up in the past, but I am ready to forget all that. Let us play the game once again'.

The other person understood it his own way and said 'Its alright bro', which actually meant 'So you have agreed that you screwed up. Good that you realized it at least now. Do try not to mess up again'.

So without actually saying what each of us wanted to say, we hugged and made up. All said and done, I do feel better about it now. Anyway, as there is no real forgiveness or forgetting than amnesia, this was kind of the best we could do.. pretend!

Fatal Fallacies..

Our every day life is based on a number of misconceptions. Right from childhood we are made to believe some things about life which we rarely review or question. Even when all circumstantial evidence force us to believe the contrary, we somehow latch on to these so called 'universal truths'. In reality many of them break down on closer examination, without even applying the slightest of rational or logic.

Concept of luck is one of them. You have to believe in luck, how else will you explain the success of those you hate? And I don't see any other reason to believe in it. We never care to take a second look at the concept and realize that it is but just another name name to call somebody else's hard work. While we claim pride for all the successes in our own life, the same things happening in somebody else's life is discounted as mere luck. Luck is about being at the right place at the right time and it seldom happens by chance! Just because we are not able to see things in its entirety, we feel that a lot of them happen by chance. Like a fruit falling from a tree is still a matter of chance for many!

Good brings good - Now, how does that work? It used to work in the Darwinian world where it made sense for everybody to be good with each other, as a necessary condition for group survival. But I don't think it works the same way in the hopelessly 'engineered' world we live in. For us, being good is no more a pre-requisite for survival. So be good if you 'feel' like, not because it will come back to you one day. We better use that superior intellect we have and 'decide' to be good because that is the most 'sensible' and 'meaningful' thing to do, even if it is not so tightly attached to survival these days. Show the world that we don't need some white bearded guy hiding behind the clouds to threaten us with a list of 10 things, for us to be good!

Time being a great leveler is just another of the myths. We often say that time will heal everything. Time does not always wipe off the paths you traveled. You always remember all the good things you enjoyed from the time you were 5. Then why do you hope that time will do selective deletion of all those unpleasant incidents, just because you happened to dislike them? Time and memory have minds of their own and the feeling that you control both, is a necessary illusion created to ensure survival. Past is often a mixture of triumphs and failures, content and dissatisfaction, regrets and fond memories. The sad thing is that, its the disappointments and dejections that get more weightage once you look back at life. Probably we are wired to retain more vivid memories of pain than pleasure. There is no real forgetting than amnesia!

Heard this among the recordings of the 2005 'Rainbow' Gathering of the Tribes in Mexico. This passage by Hakim Bey is part of an essay called 'Chaos' from the book 'Temporary Autonomous Zone'.

"Everything in nature is perfectly real including consciousness, there's absolutely nothing to worry about. Not only have the chains of the Law been broken, they never existed; demons never guarded the stars, the Empire never got started, Eros never grew a beard.
No, listen, what happened was this: they lied to you, sold you ideas of good & evil, gave you distrust of your body & shame for your prophet-hood of chaos, invented words of disgust for your molecular love, mesmerized you with inattention, bored you with civilization & all its usurious emotions.
There is no becoming, no revolution, no struggle, no path; already you're the monarch of your own skin - your inviolable freedom waits to be completed only by the love of other monarchs: a politics of dream, urgent as the blueness of sky."

The Adventures of Roby Doodle !

I was struggling to get some sleep last night..its so elusive when you yearn for it and will come uninvited when there is some work to be done. Even 20 minutes after hitting the bed, my eyes were refusing to close.. that devil's workshop of a mind busy plotting new schemes. Then came this phone call from my friend Rob, who was traveling to Chennai by train. The thought brought into mind some nice feelings.

I always loved sleeping in the train and do miss those moments as I rarely travel by train nowadays. Though the train is so noisy generally, nights are so peaceful.. you have the rhythmic 'chuk chuk' to listen to and be in harmony with and before you realize, you are asleep. I am not sure what makes sleeping in train so great. I do suspect its the to and fro movement that gently rocks you, as if you are in a cradle...bringing you that peace and serenity you used to enjoy as a kid. mmm...another indication of my retarded brain. I never believed when some teachers told me about my under(un)developed brain. Instead, I used to think like Woody Allen that I was sent to a school for mentally retarded teachers. But they were so right. Behavioral psychologists might argue that these are musings of an unsatisfied mind.. craving for more of childhood. Is it that I did not get to enjoy the cradle as much as I would have liked to? Should probably check with Mom on this.

Rob had called to share some of the adventures he had on his train journeys. In fact he called while he was successfully executing one of them! He locked himself in the toilet for one good crap and as he was on with the process, the train stopped at some station. He did not want to come out of the toilet and claim responsibility for all the air pollution while the train is stalled at the station. So he waited and waited hoping that its a short routine stop. He was blissfully unaware of the fact that the train was indefinitely stopped there to facilitate crossing of another train. By the time the train slowly moved out of the station he had developed serious cramps on both his legs. He loves the Indian style toilets a lot more now a days!

And if you think that is not funny, you should listen to the next one. Rob is usually a smart dude, especially when he is not feeling sleepy. He thinks about the Physics and Chemistry of everything before doing anything and execute it in the most Biologically efficient manner. He was on his way to Delhi this time. After a sumptuous dinner, he wanted to clean his mouth and wisely decided to do it standing by the door, ignoring the poor wash basin near it. He wanted to see whether rainbows are formed in the night as well, as he sprays out the water from his mouth. He calculated that if he spits out the water in the direction the train is moving, the wind will bring it all back on to his face. So with a smile on his face he turned the other way round, extended his head outside and expressed his creativity by spitting the water in a double helix! He felt good that none of the water came back at him. But he saw something fly past him into the dark, but could not make out what it was, as the world around turned into just a blur. It took a minute for him to realise that it was his spectacles that flew away with the wind!

If you are still not impressed, I am sure this one is going to blow the lid off your useless heads. On his maiden trip to Delhi, Rob's mom did not want him to spoil his stomach by eating all the crap available on the platforms. So she had nicely packed a few cups of instant noodles into his bag. She had instructed him to ask for hot water from the pantry and prepare the noodles. But being smart right from childhood, Rob had other plans in his mind. Though he now claims that he was shy to ask the pantry guys for hot water, I am pretty sure that he just wanted to test out another one of his ingenious ideas. His logic was like this - How do you boil water? You need fire or electricity, which are essentially different forms of energy. So if all you need to boil water is a source of energy, why not use the mother of all energy sources - the sun? Happy with the theory, he now decided to test it practically as well. He took a bottle of water in his hand and extended it out through the window into the sun. He knew that he just had to hold it long enough to boil the water! (Off the record, rob claims that he indeed had cup noodles that day!)

I know making fun of people is a sin. How much can you humiliate a person without getting your access denied to paradise? I am not sure, but what the heck, nothing remains in my stomach anyway. I rather tell this one last story than ensure my acceptance in paradise. Rob had an RAC ticket this time which he promptly offered to the ticket examiner when asked. The TT scribbled something on the ticket and gave it back as well. Rob managed to pass the day by shifting from one seat to another, talking to people around to see whether any one of them will be interested in offering him a seat for the night. Finally one of the gentlemen was kind enough to let him share his berth. So they sat all night talking about Pakistan, Afghanistan, Beluchistan and what not! Another day, another TT and Rob politely asked him whether he can allot him a berth. The TT looked at the ticket and told that he has already been allotted a berth, the empty one he was staring at all night, across the compartment. So that is what the ticket examiner scribbled the day before.

Enough of train trash. I better run and hide before Rob finds out about this!

This is what I want in life...

"Just look around.. when there are millions upon millions on the same road, they are on the crowded freeway of life, going nowhere but traveling with plenty of company. Leading to life's summit is the way which only few travel.. the path." - Jules Dervaes

What is the purpose of life?
Why are you working.. Working hard ?
What is that you are trying to achieve in life?
What can make you happy, satisfied in life?
Will you stop the quest once you achieve a certain level in your career,financial status & self actualization?
When do you think this is going to happen?
What will you do after this?

I am sure all of us would have asked ourselves these questions at least once in life. If you think you have already figured out answers for all those questions, and is not confused as I am, then you should not read further.. the stuff that follows is more tuned for the lesser mortals.

I feel that my needs are ever increasing; not because of what I am as a person, but because of what I need to become, to not get sidelined by the society I live in. I try hard everyday to maintain a certain standard of living & social stature. Most of the things I do in my daily life are done NOT because I need them, but because I don’t want to be left out.. the better apartment, the bigger car, the higher designation etc. Unless I realize my REAL needs and stop creating new ones everyday for somebody else’s sake, all that I do in my entire life would be running the mad rat race. Unsatisfied even at the end of it, as somebody else would have just raised the bar!!!

For me, life's purpose can be explained in three levels - self, society and the world at large.

Self: Live according to one's convictions and not by the beliefs of the majority. I think that destiny is a function of choices we make and we are answerable to ourselves alone, for those choices. If there is ever a purpose for life, I think it is about understanding the choices we have already made.
Society: Get out of the clutches of religion, which has traditionally made us believe that the only reasons to be good to others are - Jesus is watching, St. Peter is accounting and paradise is waiting. Feel for your fellow beings and do things because you feel like doing them. Being at peace with self is not something we attain through meditation or alienation, it is a state which propels us to move ahead in life, taking others with us.
World: The best thing you can leave behind when exiting this planet are not memories, but a new generation that view things impartially, think clearly and act sensibly. If we teach one person how to appreciate life, we have done a good job. While 'understanding' is a function of the intellect, 'appreciation' is more of an art. In spite of all its pain, drudgery and broken dreams, it is a beautiful world.

I had decided long back that I don't want to be part of the madness, the race for fortune and fame. I want to lead a life closer to nature, with the least possible impact on the environment, giving back more to the society than I consume, raising a few kids who view the world without blinkers. Only thing I feel strongly about my dream is that I will definitely enjoy the journey and with a little commitment, perseverance and dedication, I will be better off than what I otherwise will anyway be.

I know it sounds like a romantic projection on life, far from what is generally defined as reality. But in some level, it does make sense to me. I think even an attempt is worth, and no better time to do it than now!

The Temple of Bacchus

My dinner is at the mercy of a restaurant nearby. They make some really tasty food and more over it is cheap! Adjacent to the hotel is a temple of Bacchus, where there is quite a rush in the evening for one cup of nirvana. As I place my order and wait outside for my parcel to arrive, its quite an amusing sight to look at the people who visit the temple. Some people come out of it as if hit by a hurricane and walk away quickly, while a few others put up a nice show outside the shop.

There is an old lady who sits on the pavement outside the store. The first time I gave her some money, she disappeared for a few minutes and I saw her coming out of the temple with a handful of peanuts. She sits there everyday and when she has enough money to buy a drink, she will run inside, have a quick gulp and come back to reclaim her seat. Then there is this ex-military uncle, lean as a lamp post, who still thinks that he is in the service. He comes everyday dressed up in a jeans, formal shirt and a hat. He will quickly have a couple of drinks and then come out to address the gathering. He talks about his good old days in the army and there is a regular audience for his stories. Its quite a sight to watch his animated narration of incidents. But these two are the least colorful characters who come there. There are a bunch of other jokers who create quite a scene after having a few drinks.

While I was walking back home from the Indian Ocean concert last week, I saw this man lying in the middle of the road. It was 1:30 in the morning, there was reasonably good traffic and the vehicles were honking and taking sharp turns to go around him. I initially thought that he was hit by some vehicle but once I got near, realized that he was peacefully drunk. I tried to wake him up and all he would do was raise his head, open his eyes and go back to sleep. I tried telling him that he is right in the middle of the road and some vehicle might run over him, but he was in no mood to listen. I dragged him towards the pavement by the side, and oh boy, he was heavy! He was hopelessly drunk and probably had a fall on his face. There was blood all over his face. I made him sit with his back towards the wall, but he could not even hold himself up. I tried waking him up a few more times, but gave up and left him alone to enjoy his moments of bliss.

Why can't people drink and be a little responsible about what they do afterward? Probably they drink to drown their sorrows or to detach themselves from reality for a few minutes.. but at the cost of making an ass of oneself in public?

Looks like water is the real culprit. Mix it with anything -whiskey, Brandy, Vodka, Rum- and you suddenly start behaving like a retard!

The Problem of Plenty

Two weeks back I accidentally washed my mobile phone (just rinsed it in soap water for about 2 hours) and went to the shop to buy a new one. I asked for a simple phone, which lets me make/receive calls and texts and do nothing else. The lady at the store smiled at me and said 'we don't have such a phone'. The closest piece that matched my description was one with an additional VGA camera. The yellow colored casing forced me to look for another, and as I decided on the next higher model with Bluetooth, MP3 player and 1GB memory, I asked her how many models they have on display. She said, 'about 300 different models' and gave me a sarcastic smile as if saying 'what do you care, cheap guy!'.

My friend had an internet connection at home, one where he had to plug in the cable to his system and connect. Fed up with the restricted movement while browsing the net, he changed the connection and set up a Wi-Fi router. Now he can walk around the house with his laptop, and check mails or access 'important' information even when he is taking a crap. But what if this connection goes down for a while and you want to browse? So as a backup, he bought a wireless internet card from one of the service providers. It has the additional functionality of connecting to his mobile phone through a converter cable and jack. He can now browse his favorite websites on his mobile phone, even when he is walking on the road. Though he is finding his mobile screen a little too small these days, that issue will soon be taken care of, once the new PDA arrives.

You might be thinking what an ignorant moron I am to make fun of advances in technology and the choices we have. This was the same response I got when I told the Insurance guy that my grand parents and parents lived a pleasant and healthy life without any Insurance. So stupid of me! Our general idea is that, more and more freedom and choices will actually increase life's quality. But the reality is far from this. The more the choices, the more miserable we feel, even after adopting the best of the available options. I remember seeing this presentation by Barry Schwartz at TED (author of 'The Paradox of Choice'), where he beautifully explains how shopping for a jeans was such a pleasurable experience, when the only available type was 'blue' in color and 'comfort-fit' in style. Now with all the different colors, brands and styles giving you thousands of combinations to choose from - you are first of all confused and then after making a purchase, inevitably regrets about not buying a better piece. You can watch the video here.

All of us want to surround ourselves with as many options as possible. What if something goes wrong and you are denied access to one.. so you better have as many of them as possible close to you. An excellent example is Microsoft Word, as quoted by David Pogue, the gadget reviewer of NewYork Times. MS Word -as many of us doesn't know- has an inbuilt Database, Calendar, VB editor, Web interface, Webpage designer and an Event scheduler. This is in addition to the regular functionalities like Thesaurus, Language Translator, Picture Editor and Speech Recognition tools. I am not denying that some of us are aware of these and are using them as well, but for an average user, Word is simply a text editor. When you have specialized tools for each of them available elsewhere, and 90% of the users never use MS-Word for anything other than typing and editing simple text, why do we need all these 'additional' functionalities bundled into a simple word processor? Because, we feel good with all these stuff around us. What if... just in case!

The fun is that Microsoft tried to introduce a word processor which does just word processing, called MS-Write. Now, no prizes for guessing the outcome...it was a complete failure in the market. Nobody wanted a word processor that does nothing else.. like we all need a mobile phone that can scratch our back, make tea and watch the baby, if possible. 'Differentiation' and 'feature enhancement' being a key ingredients of development these days, I don't see chances of our misery decreasing any time soon. An interesting solution proposed by Barry in his presentation, is to transfer some of the options the 'haves' got with them to the 'have-nots'. This is a mutually beneficial transaction where the quality of life increases for both the parties - the 'haves' by virtue of lesser options to worry about and the 'have-nots' by having at least some options. But can we do this? Only if understand the problem of plenty.

If you still don't get it, try this. Now a days marriage is like going to a restaurant; the moment you see what's on your neighbor's plate, you wish you had ordered for that. It is also like buying a mobile phone, you always feel you could have waited a little longer to buy a model with more advanced features, like the one your colleague just bought!
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