Monday, December 16, 2013

Pot of Purple Flowers...

Man is structured with complex thoughts. More you simplify, more you make your life easy. I took out a leaf from my heart and the complete house(mind) was filled with joy. I saw the flower smile, the aircraft appear as an angel and the mirror transform to a pair of beautiful eyes. Drawing up a constellation, star gazing and looking at half-moon earrings- we live our life for these small moments of happiness, right?

Rays of mid day Sun sneaking in,
My room had lit up...

With the pot of purple flowers,
With the memories of your smile,
With the tears on moments we laughed,
With the blessings of Gods you gifted...

My heart took a deep long breath,
Ripples of my reflection in your eyes...
I could see you fly with the white angel,
And you smile in my Soul, my Soul...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Trip to Lepakshi: Place where Jatayu fought Ravan

After living through serious back aches and period of illness, caused mainly due to my massive two week north India trip, I was back to what I insanely love doing, travelling! And what a way to start, the experience just couldn't get better. Here is my travelogue- visit to beautiful Lepakshi.

“Ley Pakshi” translates to “Rise bird” and is believed to be uttered by Lord Rama to the bird Jatayu, who had fought Ravan in order to release Seetha, in the process incurring life threatening injuries, losing his wings, counting his final moments at this very particular place and waiting for Lord to arrive. Jatayu was cremated here and Lord Ram established a “Shiva linga” on top of it, one among atleast 4 of Shiva linga’s I saw here(I recall- some of them are established by Hanuman, Sage Agastya and Constructor Virupanna). This place has a massive footstep of Seetha (Locals believe that Seetha was 25 feet tall) on a rock and is filled with water all-round the year!

Lepakshi is located at a distance of 120kms from Bangalore and driving becomes pleasure in this AH 47 once you cross new Bangalore Airport at Devanhalli. We started at 8am and stopped for breakfast at “Kamath Upachar”, 4 kms away from Chikballapur, at 9.45am. Route was pretty simple after that- cross Bagepalli, enter AP (it is till AP!), you’ll see a signboard to Lepakshi soon after Konikonda, and then, 15kms of drive in a state highway (that goes to Hindupur, which houses thousands of weavers and you get silk sari’s for half price!) to the destination.

The Veerabadhra Temple is built on a rocky hill called Kurmasailam and today is spread over 2 acres. India’s biggest monolithic “Nandi” is the prime attraction (2nd biggest is in Tanjore and 4th is in Basavangudi of Bengaluru). The temple has over 4000 designs, many sculptural illusions and 80 pillars, out of which one is the mysterious hanging pillar that actually balances the complete stone structure. Hire a guide and you’ll enjoy the architecture and no doubt, you will end up praising our 8 feet tall (again a local belief!) ancestors! You get a feeling of entering a cave and the calm and cool weather inside is very enjoyable.

Built in 1538, rooftop of which is painted with herbal colors- stories depicting Shiva’s marriage, Ganesh and Ravan’s “Athmalinga” encounter, pictures of nobles of Virupanna who built this temple is mesmerizing. There is incomplete portion of a “mantapam” dedicated to Shiva’s marriage to
Parvathi in Kailasa. Virupanna, constructor of this temple, was a cashier of this province ruled by Achyutaraya, brother of great Krishnadevaraya. Due to unstable government and dirty politics, Virupanna removed his eyes off before the King would order to do so, and our guide claimed/showed that there were blood stains in the wall (I still don’t digest this!).

“Mantapam” remained unfinished as great Vijayanagar empire fell off to Bahamani rulers, who also damaged some idols. The “Halagannada” (mother of modern Kannada) inscriptions are also notable. Here, every pillar tells a story, every idol is artistic, the way the stones are carved out is just astonishing, beautiful paintings are breath-taking (Painting of Veerabhadra on the ceiling before the main sanctum sanctorum is the largest in India of any single figure), architecture at it’s best, peace and serene, less
than 2 hours to tour entire place, beautiful folk tales those are associated, spiritual bells ringing in the heart, indeed, what a place to be!
Every truth becomes justice,
Before it’s not too late…
We turned them into morals,
Immortalized in our sculptures… 
Today, I am staring at them,
Waiting for a story to unfold…
Staring at the antic glory untold…
Before it’s not too late…

[Photo Credit: Sharath P R, Thanks to Chikkappa [Ramesh], Chikkamma[Ratna], Doddappa[Karunakar] and Munna[Sharath] for being the part of this trip!]

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

LUCIA dreams: My Movie Review

I had well spent Ganesh Chaturthi with artistic idols in display all over the temple town of Udupi and my favourite arshina kadubu’s, modaka’s, pathrode’s, unde’s and chakkuli’s in my plate. The food took the toll and I slept like a log. To wake up from this dream, I choose to watch a Kannada movie that night in Alankaar theatre Udupi, 7.30pm, hardly 15 people were in audience!

Best thing that can happen in this world is- knowing what you are doing and realizing where you are going! Director Pawan Kumar clearly seems to know both of them and has come up with the best-Lucia. Otherwise, who can motivate me to write my first movie review, seriously!

  • I am no Masand or any ac“claimed” critic. I watch movie for entertainment and if it goes beyond it, I love them. For instance- Ship of Theseus.
  • Neither I have invested a single penny on this first ever Indian crowd funded movie, nor I am an online distributor for this movie.
  • I have followed the making of this movie in social media and really felt it was all over-hyped till I watched it for myself. Today I agree, it is indeed a trendsetter.
  • Let’s appreciate “Team Lucia” brave effort, their courage to rely on social media/blogging and congratulate for winning in London International Film Festival.
Lucia, starring Satish Neenasam and Shruthi Hariharan in lead, no doubt rides high on a strong script, catchy cinematography, ruthless editing and Director’s blessed story telling skills. Based on unique concept of “lucid dreaming”, movie starts off the following philosophical lines of Poet Kanakadasa, written way back in 16th century and still relevant, much more sensible with each passing day-->
Are you a creature of illusion? or illusion is your creation?
Are you a part of the body? Or is the body a part of you?
Is space within the house? Or the house within space? Or are both space and the house within the seeing eye? Is the eye within the mind? Or the mind within the eye? Or are both the eye and the mind within you?
Does sweetness lie in sugar, or sugar in sweetness? Or do both sweetness and sugar lie in the tongue?
Is the tongue within the mind? Or the mind within the tongue? Or are both the tongue and the mind within you?
Does fragrance lie in the flower? Or the flower in fragrance? Or do both the flower and fragrance lie in the nostrils? I cannot say, O Lord Adikeshava of Kaginele,
O! peerless one, are all things within you alone?

I would have gone with 5 out of 5, had there been better casting (For example- Director Pawan and Virendra in director role- both fail to do justice in their small cameos) and if the hero introduction song was cut (5 min of nonsense!). I would have gone with 3 out of 5, had there been no Sathish-Acchut chemistry. These two mind-blowing actors share brilliant moments and hold the movie together. Hence, I go with 4 out of 5, for the movie- LUCIA.

Climax is picture perfect with a strong message; clearly, movie can’t have a better ending than this. All Rajni and non- Rajni fans, go for it, there are English subtitles along and it is worth a watch!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Himalayan Trek in My First Trip to North India...

I think it had rained an hour ago. Chill in the air and stagnant water at the roadside were clearly indicating this fact. After acclimatizing to temperatures ranging from 2 to 40 centigrades for over 2 weeks, I was back to the city that boasts a constant weather of around 20 centigrade, Bengaluru. I was walking towards home with a bagful of stories to tell- some adventurous, some philosophical, some controversial. Here it is- the travelogue of my first trip to North India!

This entire trip was very very well planned in paper with all hotel and travel bookings already done.Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani”. A week after watching the movie, with official nod from parents we had booked the complete itinerary while having an icecream, sitting in the Corner House of Kasturi Nagar, Bengaluru. Our trip had a disastrous start as the main trip planner, Manu met with an accident a day before our departure. We were given a royal send off by Vijay and Yashu, after a tasty dinner (Thank you, Aunty!) at Yashu’s place. Did I feel that I won’t return forever? Nah!
Hadimba Temple

I’ll traverse through the states of India that I visited in this trip. I have provided links for complete story. Enjoy, as much as I did!

#1. Himachal Pradesh, a romantic state that shares it’s borders with Tibet. I visited two districts- Kullu and Shimla. The charming skin tone and excellent physique of the citizens deserves special mention. I got down in Shimla with a 20kg luggage, looked around to find no auto rickshaws, instead plenty of man labor. I and my friend decided to walk to Hotel Chaman Palace. 5 min after we started, we realized that it was a mistake! 70 degree slopes and stairs took out all the energy as we reached the hotel located close to Mall road. Mall road is the busiest and the most happening with lot of eateries and shopping outlets. Veg momo’s and burgers of Krishna Traders are the best I have had till date. Street food- channa kulcha and chatpati chat- I recommend. This city was incredibly disciplined with no smoking and
Toy Train
no plastic policies followed till the last dot!

Kullu, on the other hand is more ethnic with localities wearing the vibrant “Himachal ki Shaan” topi and apple sellers everywhere. Base camp for our trek was in Manali. We visited a Tibetan architecture influenced Hadimba and Ghatodgakch temple, built atleast 500 years ago. Beas River flowing along the canopy of Pine trees gives this city an artistic look. We got to visit Nicholas Roerich’s museum in Naggar, 25kms away from Manali. His breathtaking paintings of Himalayan inexpressible beauty and the peace flag (harmony of religion, art and science) that he designed for “League of Nations” (current UN) is the highlight.

Remember Kareena in “Ye Ishq” song of “Jab We Met”, we were at this serene place- the Naggar Castle, built in 16th century. We had delicious snacks in the hillside view balcony of the hotel there, Cutlets, yummm!! We made sure to visit the famous Johnson’s cafĂ©, and of course, had a great
With Bishi and Gursagar
evening with 11 buddies!

I have deliberately put the best part of Himachal in another blogpost. Trek Hampta pass (Click here) yourselves!

#2. We entered Punjab, land of 5 rivers, through the UNESCO heritage narrow gauge toy train from Shimla. Toy train to Kalka, running since 1902, brought us best of landscapes. We made our way to beautifully planned Chandigarh from Kalka via couple of auto rickshaws which run like public buses here. We visited my friend, Bishas and Gursagar (Thanks a ton guys, you rock!) for dinner and they redefined hospitality, we set off to explore Punjab the next day (Click here, yeah, story is long enough for another blogpost)!
Golden Temple

#3. The Delhi Honeymoon was a dream come true. As we keep hearing the daily happenings of Delhi, I was excited to see how it really lived, the capital of “The India”. My experience that changed “Delhi” to “Dilli” (city of heart) is indeed heartening, I suppose, why wait, read here The Delhi Honeymoon!

The trip plan was executed almost near to perfection, all thanks to the 3 hours delay in “Hirakund Express” from Amritsar to Agra, because of which we had to skip Agra since there would be little time left to explore Agra that Thursday evening and Taj Mahal shuts down every Friday. Dear Taj, will see you soon!
Whenever I achieved some small feats,
Hampta Pass
People blessed me that I’ll go places…
I sit and contemplate on what it meant,
Realizing answers are sole aim of our life… 
May be a different perspective of new place,
In the thick thread of cobbler’s spool…
Showing the life that I never lived,
In the kaleidoscope of a roadside kid… 
Today, I really want to achieve more feats…
Today, I really want to visit more places…
Today, I really want to find more answers…
[Heartfelt gratitude to Manu, Akhilesh, Bishas and Archi for planning this out. Cheers to Thomas, Tanja, Parijat, Naaga, Harsha, Sowmini, Spurthi, Chandrashekar V, Neerav, Niladri, Akshat, Bharath, Shushanth, Saranbir, Thakur Saheb and IndiaHikes for making the trek super awesome. Photo Credits: Akhilesh, Parijat, Chandru and Harsha.]

The Delhi Honeymoon: Capital of India

I always admired E. Sreedharan for connecting my hometown Udupi in the beautiful and equally astonishing Konkan railway, now I travelled in Delhi Metro, my respect to this man grew heaps and bounds! Nothing is impossible here and when we really understand SRK’s repetitive dialogue in recent movie- “Don’t underestimate the power of Common Man”- images of Team Anna’s recent march to statues of famous Dandi march which I saw here rings the bell! I spent fair number of days to visit most of the places here-
Humayun Tomb

#Humayun Tomb was the first place I visited in Delhi and what a way to start. Brilliant architecture and peaceful gardens. Looked like it was extremely well maintained. As the Sun rose it started getting really humid, but this extremely lavish monument kept me happy. Superlike!

#India Gate, Parliament House and Rastrapathi Bhavan are not at the walking distance! Amazing disillusion (not the Parliament, come on, we should respect them)! We misread the distance and my t-shirt drenched with sweat was the testimony! So near yet so far. Entry to Amar Jawan Jyoti in India Gate is unfortunately restricted and we had to pay our respect at a distance. I spotted couple of TV News channel crew in this popular Janpath road.
Parliament House and Rastrapathi Bhavan

#Connaught Place, Rajiv Chowk and Central Park were extremely crowded and as we had no intention to shop, we strolled around, had milkshakes and I was particularly surprised to see more people than the number of trees at Central Park (Lalbagh of Bengaluru, you rock!) Ahh, bit of time waste toh banta hai!

#Jantar Mantar, wow, what was this! I thought IIT JEE entrance exams were the last thing that went over top of my head and here was something new! I tried hard and understood one of the astronomical structures. I respect you for this brilliance created way back in 1700’s, Sawai Jai Singh!
Jantar Mantar

#Rajghat Gandhi Samadhi is where our father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, is laid to rest. With great interest we visited Bapu’s museum as well. One thing which I thought I won’t share, but here it is, Rajghat has a paid chappal stands and right opposite to it is the free one (less than 50mtrs distance between them). When some foreigners were about to use those free one’s, guy sitting in the paid shouted that there won’t be any security there! What an irony. Gandhiji, comeback, we need you more than ever!

#Akshardham Temple, oops, with due respect to the believers, I first declare that I am free to write what I feel! Can we take off the word “temple” and replace it with “mall”. Shrewd business place this was, where your camera, phone, baggage is not allowed and if you wish to take a snap,
you end up paying over hundred bucks- “service” provided by “temple”. Even airport officials didn’t frisk so much and to clarify, I asked an official there who was sporting a grand tika, he replied-“These are the rules and we don’t know the answers for your question”. God has answers for everything and truth is God- this was my understanding. I am sure God would seek devotion, humility, pure heart and service- not money, nor He would sit in these white marbles! Why am I still writing about this!

#Qutub Minar was very artistic, all thanks to the aero planes that flew frequently. I was amazed by it’s sheer beauty and magnificent structure built in 1100’s. Hat’s off!

In #Chandini Chowk I didn’t miss having Gol Gappa’s! Also visited Parathawala gali and got my
Qutub Minar
hands into unique lemon, khela, ghajar and normal parathas in ethinc, 1882 established, Babu Ramdevi Daya Parathewala where I spotted Lal Bahudhur Shashtri’s picture eating in this place hung in the wall!

#Dilli Haat was small and sober shopping area where most of the states of India have an outlet or eatery. I bought some souvenirs here.

#Red Fort, I always reserve the best for the last, yes, the Red Fort, you beauty! I entered when it was dark and directly headed towards the light and sound show which runs at 7.30pm in Hindi language. The story started and to be frank, sounds were not impressive. Lights were decent. But God had different plans, and in between the three monument-like structure where light was being projected for the show, there appeared a faded circular object in the sky. I was, for a change, witnessing a moon rise!
I wish you were here in my arms,
To watch this moon turn yellow…
We would had a silly fight, whether,
We see the rabbit couple or a smiley face… 
I wish your strand of hair had fallen,
In my face when those cold winds blew…
I would carefully put them aside,
And kiss those colorful hanging earrings… 
I wish I gazed at your eyes so closely,
That I could see the reflection of moonlight…
I would wait till it got red intense,
As I knew my fort had been conquered…
[This was part of the tour. Read the complete experience here] 

Land of braves: Visit to ethnic Punjab

Catching glimpses of Chandigarh on the way to Bharathgarh- well planned sectors with disciplined site maps and green areas- I promised myself to return to explore this city. This trip we had opted for ethnic places over malls. 3 days well spent in Punjab, we had ample time to read the pulse of this state which mostly follows ideals set by Guru’s, led by Guru Nanak. Places I visited...
Bharatgarh Fort

#Bharatgarh fort is located in the banks of River Sutlej, close of Roopnagar or Roopar. Set amidst the Shivalik Ranges, this magnificent Fort of Bharatgarh was constructed in 1783 and incidentally, this is the only standing live-in fort of Punjab. There is a portion of it that has been made open to tourists in the form of a heritage home. Beautiful interiors, paintings, antique furniture and “The window” will give you immense happiness. I had the pleasure of learning the entire story with it’s historical significance from the proud heirs of this fort, my friend Bishas’s wonderful parents (Thank you for everything!).

#Virasat-E-Khalsa, Anandpur Sahib is an hour away from Roopnagar, boasts of an enchanted museum and an old Gurudhwara. Life size paintings depicting the journey of Sikh faith with sensors attached to it, narrates the story in the headphones that is given and the theme is so well set that I was amused and couldn’t believe that museums can give us much more than what I always thought. It’s a must visit place. We visited Gurudhwara and had our meals (Langar) before heading towards Amritsar via Jalandhar. Bus conductor cheated us to grab some extra money and this journey stirred lot of thoughts in me- relevance of Gurbani (preaching of Guru Nanak) and where greediness is taking us. I’ll reserve my further comments for later.
Golden Temple

#Golden temple, Amritsar is the calmest, peaceful and one of the most well organized temple I have ever seen. Gold reflections of the temple in the lake, golden fishes at times creating those small waves, the soothing Gurbani’s sung melodiously and luckily full moon at display- I sat down and prayed at peace- one can sense God here- with some many volunteers contributing for this perfect functioning of the temple. Also, here we met cast and crew of Kannada reality show-“Indian”.

#Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar still speaks for that disastrous day when an English officer ordered his troops to open fire without any prior warning on thousands of people including women and children who had peacefully gathered on
Jallianwala Bagh
occasion of the Punjabi New Year on April 13, 1919. Marks of gunshots, well where many laid their life jumping into it, Shaheed Uddam Singh’s (One of shot the British viceroy of Punjab in London) ashes and memorial dedicated to martyrs inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru are the highlights of this place.

#Wagah Border, Indo-Pak border was definitely a sort of let down for me, 30 kms away from Amritsar. Patriotic songs were being played when I arrived at 6pm here and a large crowd with tricolor was running/jumping around. When I was about to soak this patriotic feeling, “Koi Kahe” of “Dil Chahta Hai” started playing! 6.30pm, parade started at respective side of gates of India and Pakistan. As gates opened I could hear some swear words come out for Pakistanis from a person who was sitting next to me and seemed like quite a few of them being emotionally charged. Probably to mock at the whole set up- A white bird was entering India, totally carefree, in a different level!
Wagah Border

#Bharawan Dhaba’s Amritsari Kulcha had at least a glassful of ghee, is the most famous Dhaba in Amritsar running since 1912! I went to Punjab with very different set of expectations and had to return back with unexpected experiences. I wish general public won’t just restrict their beautiful ethical culture only to their Gurudhwara’s. People were greedy for money and I saw outsiders being literally ripped off. The poor cycle rickshaw drivers were the only people who looked very honest and hardworking to me. May the God bless their tribe and let the Gurbani prevail!

[This was part of the tour. Read the complete experience here] 

Tryst with Destiny: Trek to Hampta Pass

After many days of speculation and infinite warnings from family/friends midst Uttarkhand flash floods, it finally happened- the Hampta pass. It was a five day affair, thanks to snowing and wet tents/clothes, we had to wind up in four days, oh sorry, we were more than happy to get back heart and hale as early as possible!

Checklist of the trek was really long and it took quite a while to arrange everything. Starting from trek poles to shoes to rucksacks to thermal inners to rain coats to synthetic tracks to energy boosters to medical kit. Once the gear was ready, it weighed at least 9kgs, which I carried on my back, every day, don’t I deserve a bravery award!

13-08-2013: Manali to Chika basecamp
Supposed to be day where we get the trailer of what is probably waiting. With Saranbir (got your name right!) and Thakur sahib guiding us, we started off to Jobri in 3 vans, yeah, I met 17 awesome fellow trekkers! Jobri to Chika was an easy stroll of 2hours, small steeps and small river crossings; we reached at 5.30pm and learnt how to pitch the tents. Chapthis with paneer and dal was served for dinner, not to forget, there was a soup and a desert as well. Food just got better by day and chai, kept tasting best as we scaled the altitude.

14-08-2013: Chika to Bhalu Ka Ghera via Jwara
After a good sleep, woke up fresh. To answer the nature’s call, I explored toilet tents, not satisfied with the ambience, decided to carry axe to dig cat hole and enjoy the landscapes! This happened for next 3 days as well!
Sky kissing pines are dark green,
And as white color sets,
On a chilled night with creamy fog…
I see no moon, no stars!

The mild wind stretches the peg,
That holds my hand built tent…
Not strong enough, not weak though!
Yes, my nest is going to stay!

As the sun rises from the hill,
My eyes focus on a flying eagle,
Fighting rains, all set for a hard day…
I wrap my tent, head for a new journey!
We were served good breakfast and bananas/toffees to munch on the way, trek of 5 hours. With plenty of short breaks and decent pace, we were trying to acclimatize to the environment. Ah, I forgot to mention that this trek was mostly river side! Saran (Our trek lead) made it compulsory for us drink these riverside fresh water, basic idea is to overcome AMS (Acute Mountain sickness). Enough of huffing-puffing, making friends with fellow trekkers- we managed to reach Bhalu Ka Ghera, means Land of Sand, and we pitched in our tents.

When everything was so perfect, it started to rain. The rain that took this trek difficulty level from easy to moderate! The rain that made most of us wear same clothes everyday due to the drenched rucksacks. The rain which almost shattered our dreams of making it to Hampta pass the next day. All of us were working on the alternate plan of things that we would do if we got back tomorrow. With dejection and sorrow, most of us prayed for the rain to stop. It kept raining. It kept raining.

15-08-2013: Bhalu Ka Ghera to Shia Ka Garu via Hampta Pass: The Independence Day!
I came out of the tent, looked at the skies, obviously clouds had not cleared, no sign of the Sun, I sighed. 10min later, Saran comes out, probably after working on some of his magical tricks which he kept throwing at us throughout the trip, Bazinga!, tells us- “Guys, we’ll celebrate Independence day in Hampta pass” . All of us were electrified and we hurried to pack our belongings, I knew I was going to live “Tryst with Destiny” today!

All set with rain coats, head caps, gloves and some food on the way to eat, we started moving slowly but steadily, like a wind which is waiting to turn into a storm, we picked up pace and with regular breaks we crossed valley of flowers. With every ascent, it just got tough since it had started raining and now, we were not even bothered about it. We crossed glaciers and I could not hold my excitement of seeing them for the first time in my life, I stepped on the sides and in a split second, my left leg had gone in, I threw away my trekking pole and held on to a rock nearby, managed to get out safe. I looked through the hole my leg had made; I saw a river flowing in deep silence!

Breathing got tougher and when we reached the Hampta pass, we let it go, shouting slogans of Independence Day and congratulating each other for the feat achieved. It had taken us 6 hours to reach the pass. We started the descent. Oh man, numerous slips and knees hurting, ascent was better than descent! Blue lakes far away were a treat to watch. We even spotted mountain rats, sheep, goats and dogs.

Shia ka Garu means land of cold, and temperature was easily in single digits, not sure, if it went to negative! After 9hours long trek, pakoras and chai was the savior before the yummy dinner. With our wet clothes, wet inners and wet tents, sleeping was out of question, I kept shivering. With trembling hand and hoping for Sun rays, I penned this down...
Sun will smile tomorrow,
Marks of yesterday’s water…
Will speak the story of valor,
Of incredible belief in destiny…

Footprints in snow glitters,
Hiding enormous flowing river!
I press my shoe hard, hard enough…
To kick away those vacuum…
To kick away that emptiness…
To kick away those failures…
16-08-2013:Shia Ka Garu to Manali via Chatru
Plan for Day 5, i.e., Chandratala was cancelled since we had spotted fresh snow and it was almost impossible for another wet, cold night. So we headed to Chatru where we were supposed to be picked by motor vans. 4 hours of easy descent plus plain land. We started our day with clicking group pictures and crossing the crazy freezing cold river barefooted. We reached Chatru and were relieved to have finally finished the trek successfully. Then the news broke in!

There were 3 landslides and we had to trek for 13 kms more to catch our waiting van. It started all over again in Spithi valley and we were running out of words in praise for the landscapes, numerous waterfalls. To support green initiative of IndiaHikes, some of us kept picking up the littered items. Crossing the first and second landslide was not easy, and then came the third, like the climax, JCB of Tibetan Border Force, that was clearing up the road, gave me a “lift to remember”! We jumped into van and best of music to listen with satisfaction of trekking successfully- what more can you ask for!

To sum it up, I can easily recommend anyone to take up trekking, yeah, “taking up”, it’s definitely a sport! It’s not about lavish landscapes or scaling 14000ft (Hampta pass), trekking is like life- sometimes you walk alone, sometimes you laugh, you face anxiety, you meet new people, make friends, talk about diverse topics ranging from politics to finance to mules, sometimes you fall, someone will lend you hand, sometimes you help your friend tie shoelace, learn a thing or two, sometimes you work hard and smile, basically, you smile from your most satisfied heart!

[This was part of the tour. Read the complete experience here] 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

DWAR: This is how The War was waged Against Rape...

Days roll, ideas change. When entire nation is talking about Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, things that need to be addressed is shown a blind eye. Petty fights for mere media attention have become daily saga. Corruption, economic slides, soaring prices, recurring woman harassment cases, monetizing of health and education sector- has indeed taken us far away from the nation which Mahatma Gandhi had dreamt about!

We hear that this century belongs to India, due to its enormous young population. We age and with maturity, we turn into a leader. We at thought that we should initiate agenda based politics- no man or political party is important to us. Only motive is to make this world we live a better place. Only aim is to collaborate with the current youth for our own empowerment. We named it Dwar or D-war. Door of Transformation! We the change!

It took us no time approaching Ravin Productions. With me and Chandrajith chalking out the screenplay, we had nourished our progressive thoughts. We saw a twinkle in Prateeksha’s eyes when we narrated it to her. Dance sequences were shot under Vyjayanthi madam’s guidance and then the daylight scenes, with Prince Haravinthan and Ruchi getting us best of angles in their cameras, we really saw a beautiful sculpture in making! I have to laud Prince Haravinthan's priceless hardwork in molding video to what we see today. Martin Charles music rendering just added to the flavor. For the work done- Sharath, Ashwin, Shruthi, Nyna, Deepa, Jenifer, Pranita and Kiran sir-guys, pat your backs! A team is a reflection of its captain’s capabilities; director Chandrajith deserves a special mention!

I sincerely thank everyone who led us to this work. Starting from the guy who helped us arrange lights to people who give their honest opinions to correct ourselves. We believe that these 4:42 minutes will be as entertaining as it can get with a small pinch of society quotient.

Dwar is not a series of educational videos, but instead a Movement. Dwar won’t preach, but will trigger a tsunami of thoughts. “Winning Women” is its first video. I am sure, the video says it all. I wish to see no more Nirbhaya cases. I wish to see a country where people live in harmony. I wish to see thousands of protectors all around us. I wish to see a world where everyone walks with their head held high…

It was a no moon day, black and dark…
Crimes on mirror, sent me chills!
The war of shadows, sleepless night…
With trillion heart-wrecking stills!

Thirst of my soil had not quenched…
Unfazed devotion for a world, where-
No business meant business…
No politics meant divine kingdom…
No love meant unconditional love…
No fear meant garden of roses…

I saw a bright bird fly, past the sky
White wings open and spread…
And a blink of hope in the Dwar
Cleansing the dirt and agony…
With a storm! It has brought! A storm!
[This article is written for , official page for launch of Dwar- Door for Transformation! Visit the page for complete story and other wonderful articles! Join the Movement]

Friday, July 19, 2013

Trek to sea of pearls: Dudhsagar Waterfalls

Thursday, after office hours, I looked at my wrist watch. Time was always right. But for a change, there were water droplets in the glass. This reminded me of the experience I lived. Or the joy that flowed. From the top of a split mountain to the bottom of deep valley with white clouds making the picture perfect, I knew, for sure, that the time was always right!

This time around, when monsoons are creating happiness, havoc and agony, I visited the serene Dudhsagar falls of Goa. This is located near Goa-Karnataka border, in between Collem and Castle Rock railway stations. Dudhsagar falls is India’s fifth tallest waterfall and what makes it exotic is the railway bridge that passes forming a two-tiered visual treat.

5 of us boarded the Netravati express from Udupi at 1am and reached Madgaon at 6am, Monday. A Monday that turned out to be a Monday worth remembering forever! After having one of the worst possible breakfast at the station, we boarded a passenger train to Collem, reached the resort we had booked, dropped our
luggage and we headed back to Collem station.

Collem looked like a very small town with very few small shops and mini restaurants. We had our lunch- buns with yummy baaji- ethnic Maharastrian cuisine. We bought some biscuits and carried fruits, a torch, windcheaters and umbrellas, all set for a big trek.

13kms. We set a target of 3hours-oneway for ourselves, since it was already 1.30pm and in worst case, if we couldn’t find a railway transport backwards- we should reach by 8pm. With every 100mtrs, trek started looking more tedious. We kept walking, enjoying the heavy rains every now and then. Needless to say, this was mentally more challenging than physically. Stones the hit our toes made us more determined, 4 tunnels that we encountered showed what darkness was, numerous mini waterfalls kept us
motivated. Fear of encountering a wild animal or reptiles was always there as we made our way along the tracks in this dense jungle.

A kilometer before the falls, the first view of this majestic beauty, took us to a different level of happiness. The hard trek seemed all okay, anyday, for this, anyday! Cloud slowly uncovering the zenith of the waterfall was definitely His work of marvel. This sight gave us the sneak preview of the final climax.
Then, I stood, opening up my arms…
For her, not that she was not coming!
I looked up at her, like a Kid…
She came down, for me, fighting clouds
And bombard with her boundless grace!
I wore a smile of content and sighed,
She left her countless kisses on my face!
Standing on a bridge of the railway track
My journey had taken me to her pearl sea…
Waves of which carried the aroma of milk…
Feeding enlightenment with every silk!
Then, I stood, opening up my arms…
For her, since I knew, she was already mine!
All of us were completely drenched as soon as we stood in front of the waterfalls. Exquisite sight! We felt very lucky when we learnt that a goods train engine would be at Dudhsagar in an hour or two. It arrived and stopped for less than a minute. A Journey standing in the engine, trust me, we couldn’t stop shouting with ecstasy. We reached the resort by 9pm. A Monday well spent!

We had booked tent rooms in Dudhsagar Spa resort, set up in a beautiful backdrop of a wildlife sanctuary, 6kms from Collem. Except for the poor food, I literally couldn’t ask for more from this place. We checked out on Tuesday afternoon to board train to Bangalore
via Londa, in Rani Chennamma Express, reached Bangalore at 7am, surprisingly on-time after an hour delay at the start!

When I sat to write this today, I was really short of words to describe the experience. Hence, if I couldn’t provide complete justice in this travelogue, then pack your bag, head towards her before the monsoon ends- enjoy the struggle, let her get you drenched and fall in love- all over again- with yourself!

[Thanks Pranita, Aditi, Supraj and Anudeep for making this trip memorable. Photo credits: Pranita, Aditi and Supraj.]

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pearls from Crown of Karnataka...

We can spend days together arguing on- “Location” vs. “Place”. I say, every location may not be beautiful. But, every place is always beautiful. This time around, when monsoon was about to set, I enjoyed a two day vacation in one such place, exploring Gulbarga, chest of Red grams, and Bidar, crown of Karnataka (Trust me, both place looked more to be in Maharashtra!), and also visiting Mantralayam, in Andhra Pradesh (Trust me, it looked more like a place in Karnataka!)
Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Saheb

That Saturday was legendary, interviewing two achievers for and attending a family function. Train was scheduled at 9pm from Yeshwantpur. 8pm around, 6 of our friends were waiting for me and my cousin, who was in a hospital consulting with a doctor for the sudden health upset of his mother. We ended up missing the train, for the first time! When situation got under control, we searched for tickets and luckily, were able to book last 2 seats of an Airavat travelling to Mantralayam, starting in less than an hour. I took a deep breath after catching the bus, 5 min prior to its departure!
Bidar Fort Entrance

Sunday, 6.30am, we arrived in Mantralayam, to visit Guru Raghavendra Swami Vrindavanam. It’s built somewhere in 18th century, interestingly, while entering the Vrindavana, Guru Raghavendra Swami stated that he would be there (in the Vrindavana) for 700 years! It was heartening to see the wall pictures (around 30) depicting life of Guru Raghavendra Swami and his previous incarnations tracing back to Bhakta Prahlada and Madvacharya(known for Dwaitha philosophy). River Tungabhadra looked dry but the cloud filled sky made sure that we didn’t encounter the heat this place is known for!

After a heavy breakfast in “Pannaga Udupi Hotel”, we set off to Gulbarga- via Raichur. An hour of bus journey took us to Raichur and to reach Gulbarga, it was a train journey of 4 hours. This is where I penned down…
I see blue horizon kissing soil,
Arch in Bidar Fort
Glittering black fertile soil…
Those scarcely flowing waters,
Midst occasional tall single trees…
I saw an immensely blessed soul,
Toiling under the Sun for our life…
Ensuring us a square of meal,
Forming backbone with his torn attire…
I saw an immensely blessed soul…
Monday morning, after catching well deserved 4 hours of sleep; we were ready for Bidar, couple of hours away from Gulbarga. Bidar indeed had lot to give. We first visited Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Saheb, built by none other than Guru Nanak, around 500 years ago. Pond of never drying clear water, Punjabi neighborhoods and surprisingly, green landscapes. Peaceful delight!

Then we went to the highlight of this trip, a Narasimha temple in a cave. We were in our regular jeans and t-shirt. Guards stopped us when we entered, advising us to change our clothes for better. We found a locker room and just wore a towel to cover our lower half. We entered a cave which was at least 8 feet below the ground. Bats were flying and this cave of approx. 500mtr length, took us by surprise as soon we entered with its water level- almost close to my chest (say 5ft. from ground!). After making our way, we saw the Lord Narasimha at the end of the cave. Storyline goes like this- a demon named Jalasura was killed by Lord Narasimha and for his salvation, Jalasura exists in the form of water in this cave of the Lord.
Narasimha Temple

After changing the clothes, we visited Bidar fort, built by Bahamani rulers and later altered by Aurangzeb of Mughals. Master piece with limited premises open for public. Museum here is really astonishing, with guns to barrels to wooden works to Stone Age utensils to craft works, delight for any art lover. Once we found that it’s too big, even to explore limited premises, we gave up and left to last place for the day in our list, Papanashini Shiva Temple, believed to be worshipped by Lord Rama after his victory over Raavan and Sita Parityaga, to overcome the wrath he gained. This place had serene lake and we decided to trek to the main road, and it was very enjoyable.
Bidar Palace

All the places in Bidar were in radius of 5kms and we (7 of us) travelled in a single auto rickshaw, unbelievable but true! Once we returned to Gulbarga, we visited Market area for special Paani Puris and delicious snacks. Later in the night we caught the train back to Bangalore.

If you are pondering over the missing Sunday night, here it is- it was a jovial occasion of Nikah of our dear friend, colleague at Special mention for the ambience of hall, KBN guest house, Saath tombs, tasty dinner, amazing weather and loads of fun together, indeed, it was definitely great place to be!

[Wishing Iqlas Ameen and Roohina a happy married life. Thanks to Sharath P R, Kiran E, Vinod B, Basanth S, Ravinder A, Ambarish, Jaikrishna for being part of it. Photo Credits: Sharath P R]

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Flying to the Fort of Imagination...

Some places are just frozen, their hidden eternal beauty try to tell those tales that can mesmerise anyone. I was on one such trip this time. Main motive of attending a wedding, constantly kept us helping- to get back to the reality. Yes, I was constantly pulled by those ancient times, a privilege of visiting those places that were built way back in 9th, 11th, 13th and 19th century! An attempt to go back, from where we come, to who we are!

Vanivilasa Sagar
Early Sunday morning, I pulled out my old hat from the cupboard and set off to Davangere, 300 Kms away from Bengaluru, on a car. Once we arrived at Yeshwantpur, outskirts of city, Asian Highway-47 welcomed us. I personally haven’t seen any better road than this- imagine a road- with 4 lanes, no humps, scientific deviations, beautiful landscapes, and fertile fields with crops, ornamental flowers in the divider, clouds, drizzles and very insignificant traffic- this is how AH-47 treated us!

Here goes the Eight places that I visited, in visited order-->

#1. Vanvilasa Sagar or Mari Kanive, built by Mysore Maharaja, is a dam constructed over Vedavathi River. It’s 12kms off Hiriyuru, a major town in AH. We first visited Mariamma Temple, local deity, and started climbing the steps which was carved out in a unique zig zag fashion from a locally available big stones. We were awestruck when we reached the top. This dam was artistically built, which clearly showed out the great taste Mysore Maharajas had for building classic monuments! Long walk on the top of this dam between 2 mantapas (which were at the ends of dam), amazingly carved out 100 odd years back, will definitely make you think- why are we so incapable of building wonders now?!

#2. Halurameshwara Temple is 40 kms from Vanvilasa Sagar, towards Hosadurga. No doubt, was the highlight of this trip. As far as I know- this is neither historic nor beautiful, but it has stories to tell everyone. It has an astonishing well (Ugamagange) in front of Goddess Gange, were you sit and make a wish, and you are sure of getting Prasada in the form of things like- jaggery, grains, dates, bananas, coconut,etc.. The priest interprets the Prasada that you receive and predicts if your wish will come true or not. I laughed my gut off before I went to this place, and just to be a rebellion- made 4 wishes instead of only one that I was supposed to. I received “jaggery with curd”- which comes very rarely, and priest told me that my wishes will come true and that I had made multiple wishes!
Chandravalli Caves

#3. Chandravalli Caves is 40 kms from Halurameshwara temple or 3 kms from Chitradurga (again in AH). History dates back to 9th century here and a meeting room at a depth of 80 foot down from the entrance of caves took me by surprise. Initially a pious saint chose this place for his meditation and later, it stored a treasure chest. The dressing room, bath room, place to keep the treasure and ways they employed to keep it secure- is the reflection of the intellectual capacity back then. Also, serenity here is defined by- dense forest in one side, caves that are enthralling, river that is shining blue, waterfalls roaring down the rocks and gardens with pleasant colors!

#4. Chitradurga Fort is 3 kms from Chandravalli caves, or very close to AH itself, was built in
13th century and it took 211 years to build. It is heartening to see the Rainwater harvesting system being adapted here. A fort that is strategically built in a shape of a rippling snake has 7 mighty doors, surveillance (battheries) centers for soldiers and provisions for them to use rifels and canons, a palace built from mud to keep it cooler in the hot summers, 14 temples, vast ground over 3 kms radius, caves for soldiers and very famous, “Vanake Obbavva Kindi” makes this place special. For around 800 years this fort was safe from invaders. Haider Ali attacked this fort thrice and succeeded in the last. First and second attempts failed only because of the extremely secure architecture of fort. Here we got a chance to catch “Kothi Rama” live, India’s very own Spiderman, he climbed the walls without any help in less than a minute!

P.S: “Durga” means fort and this place is blessed with stones that can be imagined (mentally) to be a frog, elephant, human face, lion, etc. (any shapes, forms- chitra). Hence the name Chitradurga! Modern Chitradurga has Asia’s second largest windmill power generating stations and city looks like as if it has arranged for table fans around it!

#5. Guru Kottureshwara Benne Dose Hotel, 60 kms from Chitradurga, is in Davangere. This is located in Gundi Chowltry road of extremely delightful city of Davangere (formerly known as Devanagari). Crowded place, no money for ambience, but priceless Benne Dosa!
HariHareshwara Temple
#6. Harihareshwara temple is 15 kms from Davangere and is off AH again. This was built in 11th century by Hoysala’s and has their signature star-shaped architecture. Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva being worshipped together, beautiful carvings, majestic pillars, recreational chess board like structure in verandas, gigantic stones consisting of whereabouts in clear Halagannada (mother of modern Kannada) will uplift your mood!
Siddaganga Matha

#7. Siddaganga Matha is in Tumkur, around 70kms from Bengaluru. Has schools and hostels, provides education with no or minimal fees. Completely conceptualized and executed by the pontiff, who is 106 years old, known as “Nadedaduva Devaru”, Dr. Shivakumar Swamiji. Here we finished mangoes that we had bought in Davangere, delicious!

Last, but extremely important and reason behind this trip-

#8. SS wedding hall of Davangere and Silverline guest house (inside Bapuji Institute of Engineering and Technology) where we spent a night. We enjoyed dumb charades and some new innovative games before we signed off for the day at Silverline. Bapuji institutions are all over in this city and herds of sheep that pass by your car will definitely teach you a lesson or two!

[Photo Courtesy: Pranitha K S. Thanks to Rakesh, Vinu, Manju, Sanjay and Siva for being part of it. Also wishing a Happy Married Life to Santhosh and Soumya. Cheers!]

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Trip to God's own Country

I have never written down a story with poems. Or a poem with stories. It had to come together one day. I didn’t see it coming. So I packed my bag. Joined eight wonderful friends. Feeling good on going for a vacation and breaking away for same old work, terrible traffic and boring daily choirs, we raced to embrace the nature, towards couple of very exciting place that I had always kept hearing, in God’s very own Country, Incredible Kerala!

Friday night, we caught Kallada travels to Alappuzha, a.k.a, Alleppey, the Venice of the East! Smell of humid air was welcoming after we got down 10kms past our destined drop point on Saturday morning. We had to travel back 28kms before we checked in at The World Backwaters in West Kumarakam. Sight of Pool Lake, boathouse, never ending backwaters and my first poem of the trip…

Rowboats those are tied
Aren’t on a sail today…
Nor is my daily struggle…
Still emotions, Still water…
Bound by the lush greenery…
I see the flow of Universe,
In the color of flowing reflections…
Of mine, of the water, In my tied boat…
After the refreshing paddle boat rides, I took time to teach swimming to four of my friends. This was the first time I ever taught swimming. Next morning, same friends pulled me out of bed to pool! We had hired a 12 seater tempo traveler for 3 days. We visited Alleppey beach in the evening, one of the very steep sea I have been to, in the sand we constructed a tunnel like structure with names of all nine of us scribbled in it, visitors also clicked snaps alongside it and an astonishing remains of an old bridge…

I saw a bridge to sea…
Today the remains were left!
Sun was past the red horizon…
Post the past, past my present…
Breeze blew off the remaining remains,
With those memoirs and smell of sand…
Silverlight jungles my house glitter,
In the buzzing roar I walk away…
Today bridge has lost its shine…
I saw its way to sea, And I walk away…
The sight of backwaters from our cottage made our day. Rest of the time was spent on badminton, dumb charades, antakshiri and cycling. 72 hours that we spent on this trip, most of us caught no sleep or very less sleep. Tranquility was being enjoyed to every bit and there was no need for any liquor to get our minds swinging! Sunday morning we were on our way to Munnar, place of Blue Mountains, from sea to top of hill, from humid weather to drizzling cold atmosphere…

Melodies of flute
Singing those tunes of life…
They lost the sun glasses,
Resistant to the heat and the glare…
I flew with clouds…
Kissing tall green trees…
Uncovering red petaled leaves…
Uncovering beauty and peace…
Burning tiredness in camp fire…
And it rained… On my face…
It rained…
In Munnar, we visited a garden with spices and area specific flora and fauna which included those wild orchids locally called Neelakurinchi which blooms once in 12 year. After a pinch of gyan on herbs and shrubs, it was time to enjoy the weather it is known for, drizzles of summer, we checked in at AyurCounty Resorts in Devikulam. It was located beautifully midst tea plantations and sky kissing mountains. On Monday morning, we did explore them and opted for Elephant safari. With a friend playing popular tunes in his flute and others singing along, with bag full of homemade chocolates, spices and memories, with those heartwarming conversations in our pockets, we boarded the SRS Travels, en route Bangalore, at evening 5pm. As we climbed down the Ghats, drizzling slowed down, nature started unveiling the beauty it hid, aroma of the blessed soil and then came my final words…

Mist had blurred my vision…
Of that all I see are blue peaks…
On a crimson morning where
Sunlight is pleasant…
Pond of water through tea palms
Brought the aroma of spices…
I took a deep breath…
Saw through the picture,
With the canopies of Nilgiri hills…
I closed my eyes…
Into a clear vision…

[Photo Courtesy: Yashaswini U & Yeshaswini P. Thanks to Manu, Akhilesh, Vijay, Amar, Yeshwaswini P, Yashaswini U, Sushma and Mridula for being part of it. Cheers!]

Also encourage you to check these posters sent to me from  Kerala Tourism!