Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Incredible India

Best part of writing travelogues- when you look back at it, you relieve those moments and cherish them! I am very fortunate to have got some chances to travel, explore and live the cultures- may be for a day or two. Though I have missed blogging on my trips to Mysore, Dandeli & Goa, here is the best of incredible India for you-


Anandpur Sahib

Mountain of Blessings..

A special day. Yeah, I woke up before my alarm buzzed. Today, I didn't carry my heavy laptop to office. Instead, I had sixteen chart papers, ten crayon boxes and hundred fifty balloons. Blue clear sky, as always, I ran to catch my office shuttle. In this chaos, a stranger managed to stop me on the way, to check if I am an artist, I just ended up saying “I work for SAP”!

As a part of induction here, a day out was planned to Gerizim( means mountain of blessings) Rehabilitations Trust. Forty new hires had a day to spend with eighty charming kids. Small amount of planning went on for fun games and events. This trip was surely expected to teach us more than the month long gyan on technologies. To understand on how we make the world run better!

Mood was set right with rounds of antakshri in the bus. Friday, 27 July 2012, schools had a day off on account of Varamahalakshmi festival. Hence, the owner of the trust took us directly to hostel hall and introduced us to kids. Acchu, youngest of them, took no time to make friends with us. He hadn’t started to speak yet, but just a sight of him would make anyone remember- “We see God in children”!

We made ten teams out of them and set them a challenge to paint as a group. All of us sat with them, helped them, encouraged them, learnt from them and in the end, we had magical sketches. We set the ambience by pasting these charts on the wall. Somebody was up with 3D sketches too! We had got the taste of their talent. Some of us relived our childhood by making paper aeroplanes and paper fans. Their dance and singing skills showed us that these kids are indeed “special”. Lunch packets were served and after that, as planned, we screened “Dumbo” and watched them laugh. Large cartoon elephant printouts that we had got made them happy. Goodies and chocolates were given out regularly to cheer up. Our hearts had all the love for them, and they deserved it, man makes mistakes, but God never does. We were melting inside, and outside, it was raining!

Small steps I take are not leaps today..
I have forgot and foreseen the past..

Outstretched hands are my blessings..
Raining humanity, peace and love..

I belong to the same world as you..
Hold my hand, let’s stroll the walk of life..

End of the day, we were not strangers, warmth of their hands pulled us back. Important lesson learnt- “Don’t count the contributions you make, let the world do it for you!” I would have never mentioned SAP in my blog if this day had never happened; we really impact the world in all sense. As we headed back, roads had dried off; title track of “Taare Zameen Par” playing in my IPod had redefined its meaning!

Photo Courtesy: Rohan Kalra and Jahnavi Reddy.

Agani, I'll visit you Again..

Sakaleshpur, known as Scotland of east, was our weekend target. Six of us, set out on Saturday morning with a hope to dwell in nature for a day. 260kms or 5 hours wasn’t far away, with our car- Innova showing its Ferrari instincts. Great morning, great breakfast, oh yeah, Hotel Mayura near Bellur cross in BM (Bangalore-Mangalore) Road, quality of food here was surely not comprised with its little upward flying rates. We ended visiting the same hotel while returning back for snacks!

Cottages were ready to welcome us when we reached Agani resorts. Refreshing sound of waterfall music was on air. Crickets chirped, amidst lust greenery, we were destined to stay in a wooden-built cottage (hut) for a day. Sun was hiding behind the sky-kissing-huge trees. We had arrived to a place where our civilization had started, digitally unconnected. We pledged to make the most of next 24 hours. Life jackets on, we were trying water rappelling, swimming, pedal boating in a 16-feet deep natural lake. It didn’t take much time before we realized that this place was blessed. We could see mountains romance clouds, thick pastures and greenery all around. Next day trek looked very very promising!

Soon we could hear rats running in our stomach. The owner had told us that they always serve special food. Indeed, it was! Lunch menu contained “kayi kadubu”, tasty side dishes, pulav, raitha and curd. We learnt that the ingredients like masala were homemade here and most of the vegetables, spices were naturally grown. We rested for a while and were soon playing game of cricket before we went in for natural Jacuzzi. Tiny waterfall had in them underwater jets of water for a perfect massage of the body. As I mentioned, it was always dark in this dense forest, and to set the mood, it started to drizzle. We realized that it was dusk and we were off for a camp fire. Speechless experience of fire and the chilly drizzles happening together!

We plucked oranges, musambis and figs, all directly from plants, really, for the first time in life! Wild elephants strolling in the surroundings were big news around. Fear of encountering them was always there. Midst, we had dinner, which had “Kori Rotti” and other tasty offerings. I could see the fireflies creating magic, lying down from my bed. This was the testimony for the day well spent!
Early morning, nature at its best, we were on our way for a trek. Splendid way through the forests, valleys, pastures and clouds. Leeches were plenty in numbers and gave us memories on which we can laugh on. The tiredness made us have a heavy breakfast. A shuttle badminton game was refreshing which made food digest fast so that we could have a quick swim in the lake before we checked out from resort. On the way back, we visited Belur- Chennakeshava temple, and Halebeedu- Hoysaleshwara temple, built 900 years ago by Hoysala dynasty, both UNESCO heritage sites, were incredibly magnificent. Drizzles, forests, long lane roads, 550kms, yes it was, a weekend to remember!   

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Delhi Trip: Capital of Dreams

I have been to Delhi couple of times now & every time I visit, it just amazes me and always has something special in store. This time it was no less, thanks to amazing weather, meeting Delhi’s Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung with my author boss Ferose, GIFTED sessions with Kiran Bedi ma’m,
Kingdom of Dreams
Sundeep Rao & happy hours that followed, and of course, ticking off some places that I had missed visiting last time- Here is my travelogue on extended Delhi for you-

#Kingdom of Dreams (KoD) and Cultural Gully is the place I love the most and I have promised myself to get back here for another show. Since it was close to my office’s guest house and was a Saturday when I had pretty much nothing to do, I visited KoD with no idea or expectations at around 12pm. Luckily there was a show called- Zangoora at 2.30pm & was filling fast. I bought the tickets,hoping for some entertainment. I explored the Cultural Gully to kill time & it turned out to be marvelous- artificial sky, buildings representing cultures of Indian states- to put it in a phrase- it was “the melting pot” of incredible India we love. Zangoora started right on time. Performance was mind blowing- all thanks to amazing production, music, artists, acting, lights & all the breath-taking acrobatics. It’s an experience; do visit when you are in Delhi next time!
Lodhi Gardens

#Lotus Temple & Chhatarpur Temple, covered them in half a day, while Lotus temple symbolizes harmony among Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam, Chhatarpur temple is built by a sant from Karnataka! Best part in both of them- notable architecture & beautiful walkway from metro station where you can enjoy good street food. Sometimes, journey is more beautiful from destination, right?!

#Amar Jyoti School was covered in Satyameva Jayate by Aamir Khan recently and I personally wanted to visit this 1981 estb. inclusive school to understand their style of imparting education. When I stepped in, I saw kids on wheelchair playing
Amar Jyoti School
& what a game it was! This set the tone for my tour of an amazing school where children with disabilities sit alongside any normal kid and attend classes. School premises are completely accessible with ramps & mobility for visually impaired. Kids are trained with life skills & they can opt for vocational trainings those are available. I met the principal of school, Seema ma’m & was taken aback by her vision & strength to lead by example. The high moment of this tour came when I met Uma Tuliji, Padmashree awardee, founder of the school, young at her 70s. Positivity oozes out from her, and as my eye-opener educative tour came to an end, I sought her blessings!
Navjyoti Foundation Nayagaon

#Navjyoti foundation, run by Kiran Bedi ma’m, operates in multiple places. To get the first-hand experience, I visited their Nayagaon campus, set up in small village which was nightmare to find & I was already convinced that they are doing marvelous job by setting up in the real India, a far-away village! As I reached there at 4pm, kids were coming in after their regular school & settling in classes, where teachers were waiting. This was like a mini school that operates from 4pm-6pm for village children. In addition, it had vocational training classes, self-help groups of villagers, computer lab, leadership classes to youth of village{I was blown away with this idea} and Vivaan Music School {set-up by Ferose to mark his son’s birthday!}, that taught kids-instrumentals & vocals. 3 ladies whom I met here- Chandini, Ujala & Fatima- are inspiration in themselves. No doubt, Navjyoti is definitely on a mission to transform villages, like Nayagaon… the real India…

#Lodhi gardens is amazing place to be in the evenings with beautiful well maintained gardens &
With GIFTED Sundeep & Ferose
couple of tombs with breath-taking architecture built in 1500s. Do visit Lodhi restaurant which is adjacent to garden for a quick byte & chai. Five stars for the marvelous ambience!

#Sarvana bhavan, located in Connaught place is an old south-Indian eatery famous for masala dosa, filter coffee & ice creams. I was amazed by the huge demand they have!

#Pure Punjab in Khan market, is a restaurant where we had food in between "missing lunch" & later "missing dinner"! You’ll require three stomachs to finish a thali here, thumbs up for the taste!

[Special Thanks to Ferose for giving me an opportunity to accompany him. Thanks Sundeep for that hilarious & insightful day. Thanks to Archi Garg for showing me right directions]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fanship Days: Learning Lessons for Life

I had ended my previous Fanship Days experience blog with a quote from Socrates- about life/living/worthiness/basically, lot of philosophy. I'll take up from where I had left and will do an honest attempt to put my learnings in this blog- you know like the last emotional note that you write
Gearing Up- Yakshagana
before good things end. As I write this, India Inclusion Summit 2014 is over and my six-month fellowship as well! Post-IIS withdrawal symptoms are evident and we have already started preparing for IIS 2015! Luckily I have found a new internal development team to work with, who have thankfully recruited me… But you know, my fanship days are going to continue…

Why?! I thought of jolting down the lessons I have learnt in past six months and to which, I plan to keep coming back, whenever in the future, to relearn the learnings! Here we go with rainbow lessons:
  1. Always give others Permission to Succeed- give hope to someone, encourage others to succeed!
  2. Desirable Difficulties- face adversities to realize our true potential.
  3. Right intentions can change the world- do with pure heart.
  4. Be thankful & acknowledge- gratitude is always the best virtue.
  5. Leap of Faith, trust & Delegate- can get things done in lightning speed and collective passionate efforts can create magic!
  6. Everyone of us has "Other 8 hours" : 8 hours of work + 8 hours of sleep + "Other 8 hours" to make this world better.
    Volunteers- all of us in IIS 2014 Dias
  7. Humility, being humble- is what people will remember us for, forever!
Above lessons are very frequently used in speeches & for a change, I was fortunate to experience them first-hand. Trust me, these things if put into action, forms an unwaverable energy that will conspire for our success and well-being.

It was such sweet period of time during the fellowship, along with the above lessons, I also got opportunities to get involved in GIFTED, SalesJam 2014, India Inclusion Summit 2014, program office strategies and communication-related activities. I can only be thankful for the opportunities
Lamp Lighting: Open Day IIS 2014
showered at me!

Being part of GIFTED journey itself was so fulfilling that you remember the struggle to deliver a box of books at 2am with smiles! Toiling hard for IIS 2014 with amazingly talented & very hardworking team was priceless when audience walked away with pinch of positivity and heaps of hope. This blogpost won’t do justice to put my experience on what went through those 15 days before IIS 2014. It was beautiful to watch things falling in place, all of us egging each other, stage setting up, brochures being made, deck getting ready, finer aspects taken care and finally speakers & performers showing up with their gusto! I can't rate any speakers/sessions in specific since I had interacted with most of them personally, and I only see their tireless efforts in 
My Team: Thanks Annika for Clicking this!
creating #InclusiveIndia and they giving their 200% to achieve our common dream of inclusive society.

As the IIS drew to close with Rajan Brothers performance, crowd danced with ecstasy, I sat in the corner of stage where I had spent my full day, my legs were aching and my stomach had starved, I watched the stage holding tears in my eyes and heartfelt smile, I knew, I couldn't have asked for better perfect happy ending. To my surprise, Rajan Brothers sang a song of Mohd. Rafi from “Hum Dono” that emotionally strikes all of us strongly, me in very particular, and those lines went something like it stuck beautiful balance between heart & mind- happiness & sorrow, like a journey of heart, that can never end, that can only continue to prosper, like my fanship days…
Gam aur khushi me fark na mahasus ho jahaan
Mai dil ko us muqaam pe laataa chalaa gayaa
Mai zindagi kaa saath nibhaataa chalaa gayaa
Har fikr ko dhune me udaataa chalaa gayaa…

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mumbai Trip: In search of Infinity & Beyond in a City that Never Sleeps

I previously didn't know that one of the perks of Fanship Days is that you get to experience & attend high profile INK talk. This time it was organized in Mumbai, city that never sleeps, where I almost never slept {this is what one says when you sleep for 3-4 hours instead of regular 10-12 hours!}. It was easy for me to introduce myself to anyone from the elite audience at INK- thanks to Gifted book authored by my boss that was in the welcome kit! I did manage to visit some places in this short trip, predominated by INK. Hope you enjoy reading:

#Juhu Beach & Chowpatty visit was the last thing that I did in the trip, but it moves up the ladder in this travelogue for following reasons- beach, sand, sun, pav bhaji, vada pav, paani puri, gola and
Marine Drive

#Night Life, Very first day at Mumbai, walked all the way in Marine Drive to Nariman point {where numerous Munnabhai movie moments were shot}, and was fascinated to see all age group crowds at 2am. Sky lanterns & cycle chai were the best part. Visited Gateway of India too in the night and grabbed a “veg” roll at Bademiyaan. Ice-cream sandwich {I had Walnut crunch, sitaphal & cocum juice} at K. Rustom {estd.1940s} was divine. I’ll cherish eating Pav Bhaji & caramel custard at Sardar {estd.1966} near Tardeo at 1.30am, for a long long time!

#INK talks 2014, held at Grand Hyatt, started with “The Big Bang” midst the beautiful backdrop and elements on stage that set up the mood-“Beyond Boundaries” for the event. Event was opened by Ani
Ice-cream sandwich
, who'll also perform at India Inclusion Summit 2014, with peaceful & soulful music. Most of the talks were just amazing, particularly, one from Henry Kaiser{unforgettable videos on seals in Antarctic with his guitar humming}, Anshu Gupta{Goonj}, Abhijit Bhaduri{CLO of Wipro & supporter of IIS}, Daniel Kraft, Aurelie Chauleur{remember her telling- can we do math/science for one hour at school and rest of the hour dedicate to harness talent/interest?!}, Ramesh Rao{dancing heart}, Dhairya Dand{tickling technology}, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy{closing quote from Oscar winner from Pakistan was best by far}, Steve Boyes{amazing crocodile video}, Raghava KK{for his cartoon on my diary} and Shashwat Ratan{DIY gaming} stood out.
Pav Bhaji at Sardar

Needless to say, from inclusion space, Arunima Sinha {Mt.Everest summiteer with prosthetic leg} & Bhavesh Bhatia {blind entrepreneur} walked away with standing ovation; incidentally, both were in Hindi. Satyajit Bhatkal {Satyameva Jayate director} & Raju Hirani {of Munnabhai, 3 idiots & pk fame} opened up interesting insights on storytelling. I made couple of friends from INK fellows who in themselves had an incredible story to tell-Pulkit Datta {TCK- third culture kid, filmmaker} & Gazal Dhaliwal {LGBT activist & Bollywood script writer}.

Performers were definitely show stoppers- mystician Ugesh Sarcar, Abhijit Jejurikar with his band Dharavi Rocks{consisting of slum dwelling kids from Dharavi}, Shantanu Moitra with Monali
Juhu Beach
bringing Tagore alive, Bickram Ghosh on Tabla jugalbandi with Arun on drums and of course, what a delight it was to watch legendary Usha Uthup perform live! She started off by praying- "Dear God, please help me perform my best, make me sing like I have never done before". Such great humility even after mammoth experience of singing for 45 years!

Event was very well curated and nicely put up by the team INK, spearheaded by Lakshmi Pratury, who effortlessly moderated, pulled off Gandhi wisdom jokes and recited poetry that touched every heart. Stories stood out.
Stories stood out…
Stories change hearts …
Stories change lives…
Stories shape the hope…
Stories propel humanity…
Stories take us on giant leap…
To infinity & beyond… Stories to Stars…
Following are some decisions & inputs from my Mumbai experience:
  1. I won't apply to INK fellowship {I had a failed attempt in 2013!} till I really reach the
    INK talks 2014
    achievement levels of current fellows!
  2. My wardrobe will change to suit my persona… lesson learnt from Lakshmi. All three days, she didn't skip a story on her elegant Saree.
  3. People who advocate on women empowerment need to go for a walk in Marine Drive all the way to Nariman point at 2 am!
  4. Visit Candle Factory run by Bhavesh Bhatia, blind entrepreneur, where he also employs 1000 blinds.
  5. Will look forward to return to Mumbai soon and explore more. Dear Mumbai, you were just A.W.E.S.O.M.E…
{Special thanks to my friends- Ekta, Nikhil & Lekhana for showing me around. Thanks to Praveen, Prasoon, Rishabh, Jayakumar, Happy (Ajay) & Ravi for making this trip memorable. Thanks to Ferose & GS team at SAP for giving me this opportunity.}

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fanship Days: Exploring the Road Less Travelled

Sometimes, road less travelled always gives you the greatest feeling of contentment. I was happily coding and writing research papers, then this call to take road less travelled came. It had small trees that shined in green and glittered with sweetest of sweet fruits. But where the path led to? I didn’t know… And I took that road. The road less travelled…
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” - Andre Gide
I was loaned from my organization that paid my salary to work for a genius called Ferose, master mind behind high profile, India Inclusion Summit, author of recent national bestseller, Gifted, and more importantly, one of main architect who transformed SAP Labs India into a great place to work. They called it fellowship. I call it “Fanship”. I remember running behind Ferose for a picture with him on my very first day at SAP, way back in 2011. He was dressed up in Dabaang Police uniform and he had arrested many hearts that day. I am not planning for a bail anyways!
Author in right corner! In 2011!!

I learnt quite a few interesting things from this experience. I started reading official mails, got involved in organizational updates, researched ecosystems & stakeholders, thought of employee engagement initiatives, googled on how to brand & market, figured out why these executives take home fat cheque every month, started valuing time, attended meetings, worried about sales & quarter results, learnt to communicate better and in particular, started understanding what it really means to follow design thinking to solve problems!

But these are not the small trees I mentioned in my first para…

I first met Ashwin & Bharat, thanks to my failed attempt to shoot a video trailer for Gifted. I learnt what hope is and how humanity has thrived…
Ashwin, Bharat, Ankit, Sundeep, Vilas with Ferose

Then it was Sundeep Rao, his non-stop arrays of jokes & self-thoos on life & beyond, showed me how one can visualize and construct a heaven for oneself…

Vindhya, run by Ashok & Pavitra, what a day it was watching Gifted trailer on a white cloth that was hung couple of minutes before the event began. Lovely homely atmosphere at a corporate… Right intentions can change the world. You’ll agree with me if you have been to Vindhya before.

I got a chance to interact with Kiran Bedi for almost 2 hours. She happens to be guide & mentor to my boss. I was quiet for most of the time I spent with her… I concentrated on grasping things. It has given me enough fodder to think… to think…
Vindhya Gifted Book Launch

Highlight is definitely my Trivandrum visit, NISH & conversing with Paul Kronenberg will remain close to my heart. Register for IIS 2014 to meet them!

My respect & admiration to this lady who runs EnAble India, Shanti Ragavan, has only grown everytime I have met her. If you wonder how & where to derive positive energy from, meet her.

Dr. Shruti Mohapatra, was invited to our office and I got a chance to spend a day hosting her. Her activism & work, has made her torch-bearer in the space of Inclusion. She has had tremendous influence on me and keeping calm alongside fighting for one’s right- is her greatest trait. Even today, her kind smile haunts me and inspires me to keep fighting- any problems for that matter. She is surely an epitome of the saying-“Truth always prevails, no matter what”

This Diwali, more than any sweets, greetings & gifts, what I cherished the most was simple heartfelt message sent by Haseena, acid attack survivor, who I happened to connect through my dear friend, Malvika Iyer.
Dr. Shruti Mohapatra
Many small trees indeed…

Community driven India Inclusion Summit 2014, is shaping up in style now! I am one of many volunteers there... Biggest tree in the road less travelled… Where my path might just close…

There looms big question mark on my career. As I actively look up for jobs to take up after my fellowship, which is within next 2 months, many argue that I won't be able to code like a pro developer again… And many of them opinion that I experimented very early in my career… But for me/now, not knowing much is an advantage, hunger stays, and I am content with those new footmarks of mine in the road less travelled, I am indebted to the learning that I have received, I cycle back home. Where am I going from here? I sub-consciously remember Dr. Shruti Mohapatra’s kind smile. And I smile…
"An unexamined life is not worth living."- Socrates

Friday, October 17, 2014

Trip to Sirsi: Aarankusamittodam Nenevudenna Manam Banvaasi Deshamam

Rains… Clouds… Greenery… 3 words kept buzzing in our minds when we started from Bangalore at 9.40 pm after a hectic week. I took no time and crashed in our pleasant overnight KSRTC sleeper coach bus to Sirsi. Next morning, sleepy town that had unique 5-road circle welcomed us with phone network. Why is it so unique? We went on to discover that our phone networks only when we are this

Sirsi is in the middle of Malnad, which is famous for its natural beauty and various other treasures of nature. Monsoon was just wrapping up, waterfalls were overflowing and greenery was all over, we could not have asked for more. We had booked not-so-great Bakula homestay, 9 kms from Sirsi. Although the homestay was in good landscapes, bad food and poor hospitality killed it all- we had a memorable fight with the homestay owner who happens to be related to local MLA! Nevertheless, we had good time by making up with great games of Carom & a long night around campfire!

#Sirsi town is centrally located to all waterfalls, temples, beaches and viewpoints. Town has a famous 16th century Marikamba Temple. We also made sure to get a taste of gobi machurian & gudbud at Hotel Satkar, which was strongly recommended by our taxi driver, Rajeev!

# Yaana , 32 kms from Sirsi, is known for the wonderful rock formation. There are 2 sanctorum: dedicated to Ganga Chandika Bairaveshwara and Parvathi. Priest welcomed us and narrated to us the glorious history that included Sage Ashwattama, Pushpaka
Unchalli Falls
Vimana and Pandavas. We had to trek to go round the temple that displayed the beauty of mammoth tall rocks. Local shops here served very good snacks like bhoti, shankara pole, mirchi mandakki, little hearts & punarpuli juice.

# Manjuguni Venkataramana temple, known as Tirupati of Karnataka, was a special inclusion in our schedule to accommodate lunch. It was one of the best foods we had during our entire trip consisting of typical malnad culinary items like boiled rice, tambuli, kayi payasa and appe mango pickle. Old lady was serving and her enthu was unmatchable. We missed having locally prepared “Attirasa” here.

#Unchalli Falls was classic example of prosperity monsoon boaster’s. It was just amazing with water
hitting the face and those who went close to get better view were drenched. I remember enacting Modi for Swatchh Bharat Andolan by picking up lays packets after wonderful chai here!

#Bheemanvare gudda or Bheeman gudda had best visuals of Western Ghats but not much visibility! Amazing trail of a km that led to top of the hill was the best part. For a moment Sun appeared but we mistook it moon! This explains the God level serenity!

# Magod Falls was the best of all! It had rained a lot on the 50km drive and mood was perfectly set. We arrived to learn that clouds had not opened up since last 3 hours and nobody had caught glimpse of waterfalls. We took round in this zero-visibility park and hoped for luck! Finally the moment
Magod Falls
arrived! Royally following L-shaped fall and then a u-turn, describing this waterfall was beyond words and I got into free anchoring for video makers who had come there! Homemade mandakki and chai was like icing on the cake!

#Banavasi temple, 22 kms from Sirsi, is the oldest town and first capital of ancient Karnataka state and has Madhukeshwara Temple built starting from 2nd century. Tales on how it survived Muslim emperors attacks (havali shivalinga story), shiva linga’s from various parts of India, parallels to Varanasi, amazingly carved 2 eyes of Nandi looking at different directions at Shiv & Parvathi, nritya mantapam with convex concave pillar and architectural marvel wooden bed made up 10 pieces are the best part of this temple. I was carried away. Mind was remembering poem of Adikavi Pampa written when he visited Banavasi in 9th century: “aarankusamittodam nenevudenna manam banvaasi deshamam” “puttidirdode maridumbiyaagi men kogileyaagi nandanavanadol banavaasideshadol” {If to be born, one should take birth in Banavasi. It is a virtue to be born in Banavasi as a human being. If by
Bheeman Gudda Walk
any chance, one cannot take birth as a human being, at least he should be born as a bee or a bird in the garden of Banavasi.}

We left Sirsi refreshed & rejuvenated on an early Sunday morning. We stopped at Shivamogga to watch blockbuster Kannada movie, Bahaddur, and for a heavy lunch at hotel Mathura, before we headed back to Bangalore to reach before 11pm! Sirsi, a must visit! Glorious small town with history, fun and knowledge packaged together!

Here is me describing the beauty of the waterfalls in typical TV9 Kannada channel style:{Shot by Srinivasa, photo-traveller, stranger to me, who was doing photography here!}

[Thanks to Manu D K, Akhilesh, Yashu & Sushma for making this trip memorable! Photo credits: Akhilesh & Yashu]

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Trip to Kerala & Tamil Nadu: Discovering Mystery of the Time-Traveller...

Ganesh Chaturthi long weekend had an incredible tour in store for me where I got a chance to visit some temples, ethnic places and ethnic wedding! This journey took me from Bangalore to Trichy (350kms) to Trivandrum (6 hours from Trichy) to Kochi (3 hours from Trivandrum) and chance to travel in
Brihadeeswarar Temple
auto-rickshaw, local TN bus (8 km=4 INR), inter-state bus, car, train and finally, airplane! Listing down the places I visited, mostly in the order of visit-

#Namakkal Anjaneyar Temple had no roof! Tall Hanuman is the highlight here. Missed visiting ancient site, two cave temples, Adiyendra Visnugrha (Ranganatha swamy Temple) and Adiyanavaya Visnugrha (Narasimha swamy Temple) of 7th century. Falls in between Salem and Trichy.

#Brihadeeswarar Temple Thanjavur is the place that I visited twice in this trip and everytime I did, fell deeper in love. Built in 10th century by Cholas who ruled south-east Asia, the campus is covered by a canal of Kaveri river where crocodiles
Wedding Glitters
were bred to protect. Once you enter, you’ll see marvelous 2 gopuram’s marking victories of Rajaraja chola. Beautiful sculpture of Dwara palak(door keeper) curbing python that is eating elephant with one of his foot will remain in memory forever. First ever Capillary Barrier System and mysterious European man (time traveler?) with a hat in 10th century is the highlight of this temple. I strongly doubt that if 21st human beings can ever produce this kind of engineering and cultural marvel!

#Rock Fort is the highlight point of Trichy. Must must visit. 400 steps to climb inside the big rock and once you step out, you reach the top! Bird view of Trichy, beautiful Kaveri River, gopuram of Srirangam and mesmerizing winds that hit your
face are the best of part of this experience. Also, you’ll see tiny Ganesha temple at the top!

#Jumbukeshwara Temple, Trichy, is not so popular, not so crowded temple. It is one of Pancha Bhoota Stalam, meaning a Shiva place dedicated to one of 5 basic elements of nature, i.e., is water. You’ll see water oozing out continuously near the lord Shiva lingam that is inside a cave. Temple has a beautiful corridors and majestic rock pillars. Do visit!

#Srirangam temple, was over-crowded and 250 INR for fastest Darshan of 2 hours. Didn't work out. So was content looking around amazing build of this ancient temple. Avoiding weekends is the
Rock Fort Temple View
best thing to do here!

#Typical Tamil Wedding on a Sunday morning at 6am! Glitters and religious aspects marked the event of Vinci’s marriage to Ranjani! Happy married life guys!

#TNFood- Jigarthanda(amazing juice with some ice-cream like thing!), Veg Flow (Veg Pulav!), Spide Rice(Fired rice!), Gopi Manjurian (no price for guessing!), Cilli Barota (Chilli parota!), Bombal special Badam milk(Kebab main haddi!), Payasam with vada and pepper rasam! Full-filling!!

#Kanthari, Trivandrum, story will be up in KnowYourStar.com soon!

#NISH, Trivandrum, National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) run by govt. of Kerala, set up
in 1997, amazes you with its environment that is set up. Now I believe that govt.’s can also do wonders!

#Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum, was almost closed when I reached. But took a walk in the corridors and got a sight of spell-bounding Kerala architecture.

#Pazhavangadi Ganapathy Temple, Trivandrum, got a chance to watch the maha mangalaarathi(final puja to mark end of day) and definitely is a blissful place with calm Ganesha as the main deity.

#Computer training centre, Kochi, run in collaboration with Rotary Club Cochin Global & SRVC (Society for Rehabilitation of the Visually Challenged), got a chance to interact with brain behind, Sunil Mathews, and meet his blind trainees, and listen to their ambitions. Sunil’s experience with
Onam Sadhya
blind soccer is worth notable, wishing them luck for upcoming Asiad games. Surely, Blindness is just another Imagination!

#Marine Drive, Kochi, strolled around since I landed up at Kochi on a Kerala Bandh day. Temples to churches to mosques to synagogues to jetty to port- Kochi has it all and no doubt, Dutch to Portuguese to French to English were here! Understood how the Kerala state transport operates inter-island boat service!

#KeralaFood- Pazhampuri, Onam Sadhya, Sharjah juice, Kerala porota in Arya Nivas and late night show of movie Raja Natwarlal at SL cinemas!

[Thanks to Sridhar Sundaram, Sharath, Chikkappa, Chikkamma, Vinci, Ranjani, Ashwin, Ambi, Ikku, Basya, Ragi, Kachappa,Akshay, Suhas and Cheeni for making this trip memorable!]

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Agumbe Malnad Trip: Be Unhoused O my Soul, only the Infinite is your Goal...

Although monsoons started off late, it didn't fail to make up for the lost time this season. To get the essence and to get drenched, I visited the famous Malnad(literal meaning “Rain Country”) in
Sunset Point Agumbe
Karnataka when it rained the most, July. Recounting the places I visited during one day trip.

#Kundadri Hills, is located 15kms from Agumbe (witnesses 2nd highest rainfall in India and only abode of king cobra), is a monolithic rock formation with a Jain Temple at the top. Rising 3,200 feet above sea level, on full moon day, one can experience sun rise and the moon set simultaneously. The hill is named after a Jain monk Kundakundacharya who is said to have performed severe penance here somewhere around 400 BC. This hill is motorable and gated. Since the gates were shut when we went up, we had to find the priest, Shantinath Pandith, who stays at the bottom of this hill. Visibility was less than 10m and I was literally midst the clouds. Astonishingly, you’ll sight 2 ponds at the top of hill in which, one is 200 feet deep! No wonder, Kuvempu (First Jnanpith
Kundadri Hilltop
awardee for Kannada and Padma Bhushan) penned his beautiful poems here.

At #Kigga Rishyashringeshwara Temple, deer-horned form of Shiva is worshipped and believed to be of Treta yuga( Lord Ram’s times). The Legend of Rishyashringa is very interesting and it would rain if one prays here (we saw Karnataka govt. doing that recently). Beautiful small temple. Serene must visit.

#Sirimane Waterfalls, is hardly 6 kms from the Kigga temple, one among the many waterfalls of the Western Ghats of Karnataka. It’s a very well maintained by govt. and views are simply soothing. Falls is in midst of jungle and your camera will have a busy schedule! Worth
200 feet Pond at Kundadri Hilltop
visiting and do not forget to carry extra pair of clothes (changing rooms are also available).

#Sringeri is a place blessed by Shri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaitha fame. Legend says that the Acharya, during his travels, saw a cobra sheltering a pregnant frog from the heat of the Sun, on the banks of the Tunga river and established Sri Sharadamba temple and Sri Vidyashankara temple, an architectural marvel consisting of 12 pillars known as Rashistambhas (zodiacal pillars). Interestingly, the design of the pillars involve certain astronomical concepts. For example, the first rays of the rising sun fall on specific pillars with the zodiacal symbol on the pillar corresponding to the position of the sun.

#Kavimane & Kavishaila, Kuppalli is the highlight of this trip. It is the home of Rastrakavi
Sirimane Waterfalls
Kuvempu, most celebrated author of Kannada. It was heartening to see his house, place where he spent his childhood and later part of life penning his marvels, household items his family used and his books. The reconstructed house turned museum’s architecture- Thottimane (meaning “Tank house”) - complements the weather (characterized by heavy rain during the monsoons) very well and gives a glimpse into the life of people a hundred years ago in the Malnad. If the kavimane experience is akin to time travel, the Kavishaila experience is akin to walking in heaven. Kavishaila houses samadi of Kuvempu. You can also see another samadi and rarest of rare photo-gallery of Poornachandra Tejaswi, another famous kannada author, thinker, photo enthusiast and son of Kuvempu. I bought Kuvempu's
Sri Vidyashankar Temple, Sringeri
autobiography "Nenapina Dhoniyali" for the memory.

#Agumbe Sunset point requires no introduction. Scenic beauty captured in the serial, Malgudi days is the perfect testimony to this place. Roadside pond near to this point where peddle boats function, was made completely invisible by the fog this time around!

#Eateries near Seethanadi & Agumbe will serve typical malnad food and most of them are cooked in the home kitchen attached to eatery. Pathrode, goli baje, neer dose, halasu gidde, upkari and many others. Rains, food and coffee = Bliss!
Kavishaila Kavimane- Kuvempu's house

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hyderabad Trip: Pearl that Glitters with Majestic Elegance

I never knew that my first trip to land of Nizams, Pearl City, Hyderabad, would turn out to be such wonderful experience. Hyderabad was completely lit up and decorated (for my arrival?!), since there was ceremony to mark formation of India’s 29th state Telangana. Although, beating the heat was a nightmare, I made most of my time here at Hyderabad, thanks to my host Akash and his friends, who made me feel home!
Waterfront View

For the first time I had boarded Rajdhani Express to Secunderabad from namma Bengaluru. 9 year old birthday girl, Ayra and 4 year old Ayaan, with their grandmom were my cabin mates. It was lovely spending playing time with them and they made me enjoy train journey like never before! Quality food of the train also deserves credit!

Saturday morning when I reached Hyderabad, I partially buried my dream of exploring the city due to excessive heat. Sorry, it was not excessive heat, it was CRAZY! 40c feels like 60c! And I was coming from city that constantly enjoys 25c-30c! Will it stop me from exploring, NO!

#Birla Mandir, Necklace Road and Hussain Sagar lake- Having lost on the way and midst of confusion regarding picking up a friend and “etc”, I with 4 friends managed to arrive at Birla Mandir which had replica of Tirupathi Lord at 8pm. It was freakily overcrowded- some stories, good winds, nice backdrop of necklace road and sight of calm Buddha in the Hussain Sagar lake pacified me, helped me attain peace of mind!
One of Qutub Shahi Tombs

#Waterfront Restaurant, lakeside restaurant in necklace road is where you have to be next time you go Hyderabad. Amazing ambience with lovely food. I couldn’t resist penning down when I sat there-
When you sit on a lakeside with live music...
You can’t afford to relax…
Those lamps that shined were in a pattern…
Provoking me to explore…
I quietly sat and spent time in picking…
Those bits and pieces…
That I always thought I missed...
That I always thought I had...
Of those friendships that
Got newly made…
Of those friendships that
Got newly made again…
Friendship is never a relation…
It is the relaxation... It is the revelation…

#Qutub Shahi Tombs is set of 7 tombs where Nizams were laid to rest. Beautifully picture perfect with shades of big banyan trees. Unfinished tomb is the showstopper. Serene!

#Charminar and Golconda Fort, didn’t catch much of my fascination but was kind of dream come true to stand next to it.

#Chowmahallah Palace is the best place I visited in this trip. Tells the story of Hyderabad and its shaping up since 1500s. Royally used armory, grocery items, accessories, photographs, clothing and cars- are the highlights here. Rolls Royce and Ford in vintage cars shed will put anyone in awe!

#Cream Stone serves deserts till midnight and I got my hands on Fruit Exotica & Willy Wonka with extra nuts. Awesome is the word! We had come here after our dinner at -The Pasta Bar Veneto, where IPL final was getting screened and ambience resonated- Abki Baar KKR! I also got a chance to visit -"The Chocolate Room" and "Karachi Bakery"!
Me as a Presenter!

#Friends, Thanks to Akash Budhia for hosting me. Thanks Umang Gupta for awesome selection of places and car rides, indebted! Thanks to Team CronJ, Monu, Aashish, Vijay, Aditi, Avneesh and Vineela for being around. Cheers to our new friendships!

My travelogue would be incomplete if I don’t mention Gopichand Academy which produces best of players. I also got a chance to play badminton and indoor games here at Hyderabad. Bdw, I forgot to mention the reason behind my trip, I came here to present my research work at an ACM conference held at spacious Hyderabad International Conference Center. This trip was indeed superfun and turned to be a great teacher!