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.

Click here for more pictures

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 !
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