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Posts tagged ‘Friends’

The singing sensation, The ultimate bathroom singing list & The band…

The singing sensation…

Sometime in the very hectic last two weeks, I did something I haven’t done for ages…sing out aloud!

Music is a big part of my life, like it is for any normal person and for a brief phase of my life, singing away to glory was a potential career option. I sang at every opportunity in school, trained myself in music and did all that jazz (pun intended!). That was before the damned disease that plagues teenage boys struck and my voice cracked and crashed my life. After that phase I could never cross a certain high-pitched note to my satisfaction. And yes, I am self-critical and obsessive, and like to do something in an excellent way or not do it at all.

For completely different reasons, that was when my dream of being a cricketer was also done and dusted with, so I had to figure out what to do in life 🙂

Thankfully, I did okay in my career so livelihood was taken care of. But I have never sung with others around after that. I mean, if I am with a few good friends who can tolerate me, I do break into a song, but it is otherwise restricted to the bathroom (looking at the mirror proudly after that!), or with my headphone on when am alone at home. And yeah there are times when I can’t hit a high note (like when I want to sing Hey Ajnabi from Dil Se, for example), and I curse myself for that.

But this time around, my friend Silja and her sister were keen on doing Karaoke with some funky system they have at home. She has this pretty cool contraption, which plays the lyrics as you sing along so you don’t make a fool of yourself with the words. And that is very important for me, because I have always had an ear for notes and tones, but not lyrics.

Filtering through the few English songs she had that I knew, I realized how out of sync I am with most artists, songs, and bands. And so I kept saying “Next song please”, for every song I could have done a karaoke for, till they got impatient.

I finally saw the words PINK FLOYD and I sprung to life. Bloody hell, I could sing most Floyd songs that have some vocals in them! (Or so I thought!)

And so for the next few hours I broke into a wonderful musical journey till it was so late, that the peace loving swiss neighbors would have called the police! I can tell you I haven’t had so much fun in ages, and at some stage it didn’t matter if I mixed the words, even with a neat display on the screen. We all had a huge laugh riot about it….

I’ll leave you with a bunch of songs in Hindi, Thamizh, and English, that have come out in the recent years, which I find most suitable for humming along. This is not my favorite songs per se, just songs on my mind from recent memory.There is something about them that is haunting and makes me sing along, and you would enjoy it even if you can’t understand the language…music is without any barriers!

My ultimate bathroom singing list:

1. Tum ho toh, Rock on:

2. Pehli baar mohabat ki hai, Kaminey:

3. Aaogi jab tum saajna, Jab we met:

4. Kangal Irandal, Subramaniapuram:

5.  Strawberry swing, Coldplay:  

6. Fix you, Coldplay:

7. City of blinding lights, U2:

The band…

A bunch of my expat friends have decided to start a band. I was hanging out with Mark, James and Daniela (James’s wife) at Cargo Bar (where else?) the other day. James said he wants to start a band, but he knows s**t about music. Mark nodded in agreement and then they decided they have enough in common to start a band. (Actually those gentlemen know a bloody lot; James has the most mind-blowing music collection I have ever seen in anybody’s house, and Mark can name more than half the tracks. I was the only one who was speaking the truth when I said, I know s**t about music).

Daniela was immediately appointed the manager of the band, and I felt so out-of-place as I had no role in the band. As the evening wore on, and the basic rules of the band were laid out, I decided I have to have a role in the band. No, it is not that of lead singer, and I am very thankful I avoided that temptation.

I am going to be the official recorder of the band’s story. After 20 years when they become famous I am going to make a hell of money publishing my diaries. And after 30 years when they split up, I am going to write about why they split up and make even more. As an excellent blogger/  writer (!), and an eye-witness to the historic night by the Rhine when the band was formed, I have earned my job.

I’ll keep you guys updated on how the band progresses, starting with when we decide to have a name 🙂

Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: If you liked this post, you may also reading: https://vasusworld.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/friends-jazz-rain-bombay/

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Playing around with words, images & themes…

(Note: This was first written on April 15, 2010 based on that day’s blog template. I intend to keep updating this post as and when I make changes to my template, to trace the journey of my blog design!)

As people who visit this part of the virtual world would have noticed, this blog has seen a fair bit of tinkering over the last few days.

I would say my attempt at developing a good blog site, is going more or less according to a loose plan I had in mind last year, and here are some points beyond what I covered in an earlier post:

  1. Read a lot of blogs to get a sense of discussions in the blogosphere and develop my point of view. My first experiences of the blogosphere led me to believe that the most popular blogs are run by any combination of cute / hot girls, people who ultra aggressively promoted their blogs, people who wrote about topics designed to get greatest hits, people who poured their heart out with poems of love or wrote extensively about every guy / girl they met. (I read some very popular blogs by some girls that described their multitude of emotions with so many men, that I lost track, and wondered how they kept track so well as to record it!). Since I could did not fit into, or did not want to fit into, any of the above, I was fairly skeptical about blogging, but thankfully probing further revealed that there are some extremely impressive bloggers whom I could seek to emulate
  2. Get the content in – a good bunch of entries on a variety of topics. This is the most critical phase for an old-fashioned, “content is king” guy like me. This would probably explain why some of my posts are so long…it’s my obsession to look at a topic from all different angles and in-depth (which I don’t want to change), plus my writing style in general (which is evolving & improving constantly).
  3. Look at forums where I can promote my blog and read more blogs, and
  4. Play around with the layout, themes, widgets and tools to make it more interactive, attractive and for lack of a better word, jazzy

The next steps are to keep building on what I did well above and at some later stage think of having my custom website / domain. (I’ll stick to the free to use wordpress.com version without any ads for now).

It is step 4 above that’s been on my mind in the last few days, and I would say that’s the most challenging task for me. That’s primarily because I am not too artistically inclined. (I used to use terrible colors and fonts in my early days of work, before consulting helped me settle down to making professional content, but it’s never been jazzy or stylish). It’s also because I am a bit technologically challenged. Trust me, I took a long time understanding how to use widgets, create a web feed and all that. I used some type kit fonts on this blog and still don’t know if they are active or not 🙂

 So playing with a custom style sheet (CSS), or experimenting with a web template is a scary thought for me! At the same time I was really impressed with the templates used by a fellow blogger, Shruti. Check her blog template and the story behind that at: http://songofsacredeastwind.blogspot.com/2010/04/my-aeshu.html

And I do have a sense of imagery and a liking for photography. My Flickr page is lousy, but I have taken some pretty decent pictures over the years in so many places, that helped me appreciate the power of visuals.

So, I have tried to get a few images on my header, that blend well with the blog title (Journeys across a pathless land), and the nature of topics. Some random  keywords I had in my mind while looking through my pictures and that of others on FlickR were Journey / Travel, Climb, Rough terrain, Adventure, Beauty, Lonely  man / animal / vehicle, Nature, Unchartered or remote places, Fun, Learning, Movement, Mountains, Color / vividness

The previous picture I used, was taken by me during my trek in the Himalayas, and the full picture is below:

Himalayan sheep

I liked it for many reasons including the sheer effort I spent that tiring afternoon stalking this massive flock of sheep to get some pictures in.

The picture I have put up now, is titled “Shepherd in Morey Plains”, and attributed to Koshyk, who has been kind enough to authorize me to use it. It turns out that he his also a blogger and runs a very interesting blog! Do, pay him a visit at: http://scretlover.blogspot.com/

The full picture is reproduced here:

Shepherd in Morey Plains

It can also be found in his photo stream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/2260639712/

It captures a shepherd and his sheep in the barren landscape of Ladakh. Ladakh has always been a dream destination, and if I make it there one day, I’ll probably end up dedicating a full day for pictures (to be shamelessly publicized on FlickR, Facebook and on my blog!)

I see myself experimenting a fair bit with a variety of images, colors, themes, and possibly some art (If I have the right friends for the job!). It also gives me the chance to use so many wonderful things others have done to their blogs / photo sites on the internet and leave a dedication each time. I know how nice it feels when someone visits your site and appreciates any words / images / videos that you have created!

So, please do leave any tips on how I can JAZZ UP my blog, and please give a feedback on the image I have used now. (I’ll also try to create a poll for that some time)

I pride myself in being well-connected with so many people who have special talent each, but I don’t have a single friend who can claim to be good at art! So till I can take that master piece of a picture myself, I will be hounding Suman, who is an awesome photographer, to take some pictures with my blog in mind. His photo stream is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vrsuman/

If he does take that perfect picture for my blog, the advantage is that I won’t have to pay him. After all, what are friends for?  🙂

Cheers!

Vasu

Update 1: April 19, 2010

New picture titled “Insuperable barrier of Nature – Lonely truck in the Himalaya”.

 

Many thanks to alles-schlumpf for allowing me to use a brilliant picture she took at Leh, Ladakh, in 2006. Danke 🙂

Update 2: May 6, 2010

I have adopted a newly launched theme called Bueno, which gives me new features such as Custom background, Featured posts. The picture that seems to look best on this background, is something I took during my Himalayan trek in 2007. It was the end of a long day of uphill climb, and some time in the afternoon I saw very interesting jagged rock formations, juxtaposed against the vast sky above. It was just me, the earth, the sky, and nothing in between.  It was a very spell binding, almost primal feeling.

So, till the next update, this would be my theme background:

Touching the skies!

 Update 3: February 2011

I set up this theme called Coraline. The custom picture I have used for the header, is that of a Tram approaching the picturesque Schützenhaus stop in Basel:

Tram 8 at Basel, Schuetzenhaus

Bucket list entry # 6561: Indian man, German shepherd dog!

Have you seen the movie “The Bucket list”?

It’s not a great movie, or a classic; it’s pretty much candy floss Hollywood, but just happened to feature two stalwarts in Jack Nicholson & Morgan Freeman, who made a very simple story line look good on-screen.

In fact, on a guys evening out at Prithvi’s place in Bangalore, when there wasn’t anything exciting to do, we hired the DVD almost as an afterthought. The only other notable event of the day was Akash’s ridiculous claim that “The Dark knight” wasn’t such a great movie, and all of us pouncing on him like a pack of wolves!

Back to the bucket list; without getting into a movie review, or storytelling, I would explain the central theme in brief: two old men, who know the end is near, exchange notes about a “bucket list”, or things to do in life, before you “kick the bucket”; and they set about doing just that in the last few days of their lives.

The list itself is a combination of some very simple personal desires that they yearned for, to the extravagant, such as skydiving, tattoos, climbing the pyramids, the French Riviera, the Great Wall of China, a lion safari in Africa etc.

Many random things to do, and places to visit, capture my imagination every once in a while. I think that’s the case for most of us. The only cue I took from the movie was to actually write it down and make a list. However silly the list may sound!

This particular item in my bucket list is a very old fascination: of owning a pet, a dog in particular, and a German shepherd to be precise. Of all dog breeds, I dig the German shepherd the most, the Labrador comes next. To me that’s the best choice for a man, and though many other dogs look much cuter, in terms of intelligence, utility, versatility, and ease of training, the GSD / Alsatian is the king of the canine world! I don’t have too many friends who own a GSD. My cousin Vaish has a terribly cute Pug, but I haven’t played with him 😦

It may not sound like a big deal, and a relatively easy item to tick of the list, but trust me, it’s been a bloody difficult wish to fulfill all these years, and will possibly stay that way for a few more.

To start with, I have to grapple with this huge contradiction that I love animals, but I am scared of being very close to them. Dogs in particular! I am the guy that ticks “Like animals, but at a distance” box in any questionnaire. My pet theory (pun intended) is that if I happen to have my dog starting from the days when it’s a small puppy, I would eventually overcome my fear.

It all started with my neighborhood in Chennai. As little kids, my sister (Poorni) and I were taking a walk around the streets when a friend of mine, who used to have this Alsatian, lost control of the leash and the dog. The dog ran wild and bit my sister, and I was helpless nearby. Poor girl is still petrified of dogs, and I am just 1% less afraid than her! She would hold my hands when there was a dog anywhere in the near vicinity, and I used to act brave. There was no way I could tell her I am equally scared, as having me around was her only source of comfort against any dog!

The problem of stray, street dogs is massive in many Indian cities, most notably Bangalore.  There were these incidents last few years when street dogs attacked people in packs (children in particular) and remains a source of huge debate between animal lovers and the regular people on the roads. Despite being a massive animal lover, in this context, I would place the interests of people above dogs. It may be sad, but that’s the pecking order.

Even if Bangalore evolves an effective mechanism for tackling the stray dog menace, it still doesn’t address the problem of irresponsible owners. Like my friend whose dog bit my sister.

Trust me; this is a massive problem in our country. And it felt even more massive to me when I have traveled abroad. Pets are so well-behaved, and owners are so mature here. I have never heard a dog bark and scare a stranger, or appear intimidating in any way. I have seen that in US, Japan and in Switzerland. I figured out the laws for keeping are very stringent, and well-regulated. Along with pet insurance, regular medical checkups, there are mandatory classes for pets, and owners.  The system pretty much ensures that if at all you have to keep a pet, you have to be extremely sensitive to the animal and fellow human beings.

So that comes to another reason I haven’t had a pet so far. The challenge of keeping a pet to the standard I would like to maintain is difficult in India. There are millions of pet owners in India, but from what I know, not too many of them are sensitive to the pet’s psyche, and its behavior in a public place. What would be easier in India though is to take care of my dog when I am working late, or travelling for e few days. I would find it relatively easier to find a neighbor or friend who takes care in my absence. There are dog walkers in Switzerland, but they come at a price and have their own schedules! Bottom line is, I would like to be a very responsible pet owner, or not have one at all.

On a lighter note, one of the most enjoyable sights from my apartment in Tokyo was a regular “owner – pet – pet – owner” routine I would see from my balcony every evening. The dogs are so well-behaved, (and bloody cute as with anything Japanese) that on the rare occasion when a dog barks at another on the street, the masters stop, apologize profusely  in the long tradition of Japanese manners, exchange pleasantries and become friends. God knows how many business alliances, and love stories have come about that way!

But, by far my biggest challenge has been living in one city long enough to keep a pet. I wouldn’t want to put my dog through relocating cities / countries, and flight journeys! There is no way any dog can live off a suitcase like I do! I remember pleading with Amma to keep a lab, when I wasn’t working yet and didn’t have a place of my own.  Her decisive statement was “If you insist on getting a dog, fine. I can only feed so many people in this house, so it’s either you or the dog. Your choice!”  Appa, and Poorni were eagerly waiting for my response. ..in one of the most decisive moments in my life, I chose myself over the lab instinctively 🙂

 I can thankfully laugh about it today, but on that day I was an angry young man!

So perhaps one day when I know I am going to stay in one city for years together, I would finally knock this long pending item off my bucket list.

Till such day when you visit my house and play with my dog, enjoy the amazing videos here!

Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: Since I have made, chopped, and changed such lists  for so long, that it doesn’t make sense to start this series with #1. Those who know me know my fascination with numbers and patterns in numbers. So I would number this series with my favorite numbers rather than 1, 2, 3…6561 is one such number. I was born on a terrific day for a number lover: 8th January, 1981, or 8-1-8-1. 81 * 81 =6561. Also, 8+1=9, and 9*9*9*9 =6561. There you go!

The dark and sinister confessions of a facebook addict

Facebook threw up an interesting statistic to me. “How addicted am I to facebook”. It was a shockingly high number, and so high I dared not publish it. Damn, it was even higher than that of a good friend of mine S,  who I keep taunting in jest for being on Facebook all the time! 

And she coolly  suggested I have to first admit there is a problem. She made it sound as if I was an alcoholic in need of help! 

While all that was in good humor, I couldn’t help thinking about it. Have I let the online social networking world take over my life? 

The short answer was no, and the long answer is as follows: (And this is dedicated to my well meaning friend who got it wrong nevertheless!) 

I have been observing how people use / misuse social networking for a while. I think some people use it very smartly and that is irrespective of how much time they spend on it. Some people may spend less time, but may go about it in a way that doesn’t help them or their online  friends. So while it is a good idea to keep your time spent on it to the bare minimun, it’s also important to understand how we use these technologies, and where we should draw the line. 

I have a few guidelines that I try my best to follow when it comes to social networking, specifically for Facebook. This is based on what I did in the past, and found to be a waste of time / harmful, and what I have seen others doing: 

  1. I don’t typically add friends I do not know at all
  2. I do not add friends to show that I have a few hundred friends on my Facebook
  3. I do not use it to read up about people’s personal info or stalk women (Women, you could be either flattered or shocked if you know how many men you never know stalked you online!)
  4. I try not to share very personal feelings, discussions, moments, photos etc
  5. When I see something very significant posted on a friend’s profile (such as a child’s birth,  a separation, or a new job) I make it a point to contact them over phone / in person. A lot many people think it cool to just click on “like” and not bother there after
  6. I use the privacy settings pretty well, to control who can see what
  7. I do not see my friends as “virtual only”. If anybody on my Facebook happens to be in and around where I live, I make it a point to call / meet hang out with them
  8. I use it to promote my thoughts / websites etc, but I do not rely entirely on Facebook for that
  9. If I go somewhere and take pictures, I do not upload a few hundred pictures and expect my friends to see all of them!
  10. I do not play any games on Facebook 🙂 

Now you may, or may not agree to the points above, but I think it’s a good idea to develop your own guidelines and stick to them. Else we all may have technology like this take over our lives, and affect our ability for normal human relationships one day! 

On a lighter note, one of my best friends ever – B, refuses to tag herself on photos of us together. She truly believes she does not look cool enough in those pictures, and apart from laughing out loud and screaming “Women”, I didn’t bother about it. I know a lot of other friends who take such things seriously. Do  you need a Facebook picture / wall post, or some stupid Facebook quiz to tell you who your best friends are?

 P.S: I know the title of the blog is misleading, but it’s always a nice feeling to pull a fast one on people 🙂

 Cheers!

Vasu

Saurkundi pass trek – A travelogue.

(First published in May 28, 2007, and I would have written differently if I had to write now. But I am keeping the original piece here)

I just came back from a truly memorable vacation in the Himalayas. It wasn’t your usual routine of hill stations, hotels and shopping, but an 11 day trek! I am a member of Youth Hostels association of India (YHAI). This is a nonprofit organization that, in addition to providing low cost accommodation, arranges some extremely wonderful adventure trips all over the country, at an unbelievably low cost.

The plan was hatched by Freyana and I. Freyana was my classmate in Rishi Valley, my boarding schoo. Last time I met her, we were both teenagers! It was pretty exciting to see her after ages, and we had a great time catching up old stories on the train to Delhi.

In a few days met some great people in my batch and made some interesting friends. Here is a part of the story of my travels – I say a part because some of the topics I reflected upon and discussed with people are separate talking points by themselves.

The cast:
Our group name was SK 13. It consisted of:
The senior citizens:
Phatak Ji, Joshi Ji, Kulkarni Ji, Saifuddin, Amin, and Makarand Lele.
The young guns:
Anirudh, Bharath, Purva, Ruchitha, Rohan, Soham, Ameya
The Surat, Bhopal brigade:
Dev, Kalpesh, Nilesh, Kaimas, Vineet
The Bangalore gang:
Venky, Ramya, Srinivas, and of course, yours truly!
The global traveler – the one and only Freyana Polad!
Others were the Ganapatye family, Mandhre family, which included Rajendar – Purva & Rohan’s dad, Mr. Neelkanth Mandhre aka Senior Mandhre – a regular trekker and a versatile musician.

The build up:
The story starts with our train journey from Bangalore to New Delhi by the Rajdhani express on May 3rd. Traveling by train is a fantastic way to discover the country, with the landscape, culture, language changing by the hours as you head north.
We reached Delhi on May 5th and caught up with another old school mate – Kadambari. We had a fairly quiet day in Delhi, content to do a lot of catching up as we are all meeting after ages!

That evening we took a HRTC Volvo bus to Manali. Quite typical of a Bangalore resident, I had done sufficient reading on the net, at various forums and booked the tickets online. We met some Bangalore folks on the bus – they belong to SK12, the batch that was reporting a day before us.
We did not report directly to the base camp of YHAI at Babeli, but decided to go all the way to Manali and spend a relaxing day there.

The bus route was very scenic, and in some ways nostalgic as I had done the same trip 7 years ago with my college friends. I saw snow for the first time out of my window and saw the River Beas winding its way through the Kullu valley.
The highlight of this route is the tunnel at Aut – it is around 5 kms long and never seems to end. My memory of when to expect this tunnel was intact and I was awake just in time to re live this experience.

We had a fairly normal day at Manali and behaved like the usual travelers – eat, shop and chill out!
Manali is filled with Multi cuisine restaurants (surprise package – Tamil, Andhra style food, not so surprising: Israeli, Tibetan). I always try to eat the local cuisines whenever I travel and tried Momo’s for the heck of it!
Amongst the interesting places we went to were Hadimba temple, a Tibetan monastery and Vasisht kund.

I did river crossing off the park – 8 years back I don’t think too many people heard of adventure sports in Himachal – now every shop has something adventurous to offer! It was fairly tough and a reminder of how unfit I was.

We met lots of people at different stages from all over the world. We hung out with an Israeli who did a trek in Dharamsala and is now off for the Chanderkhani pass trek.
Manali is also full of the trappings of typical hill stations – restaurants, shops, hotels, clubs (would you believe there are at discs in most hotels there!), crowd, traffic jam
Reminded me of Kodaikanal – I guess Manali is no more a place for a quiet holiday.
Some nice places were Johnson’s café, Blue moon Café in Old Manali, which we discovered very late in the night!
The river looks less full as compared to my last visit which was in monsoon time
I thought it was gentle until I did rafting there some time later and experienced the Beas in full fury! 

Day 1: Manali to Babeli (reporting at base camp)
We took bus to Babeli and reported at base camp in the afternoon. We were struck by the warmth of the people out there…it felt like family
I sat by the Beas for a while and quietly meditated…this is the closest I have been to heaven!

There are loads of shops around YHAI selling food, utilities, tickets, trekking stuff
The base camp provides a good view of the hills, forest and rivers and is really a serene atmosphere.
The first day was all about introductions, travel stories and diplomatic chit chat!
But the people you meet first up tend to be your favorites pals on such trips and it was the same case with this one as well.

My tent is full of senior citizens – little did I realize how well I would bond these people and become a “senior citizen” myself in a few days!
Most if the people are from Bombay and regular YHAI trekkers
They need not wait for the information on the YHAI websites, but have their grapevine for getting early news of exotic treks. I made a mental note of doing some treks in North east, doing the Mount Everest base camp & Mount Kailash Parikrama & Manasarovar Lake treks.

The big inspiration was Phatak sir (age 72) and Saifuddin sir (75). Their physical and mental fitness and the impact of that on their happy demeanor were tremendous. They never had any trouble at any point during the trek and always managed a glowing smile…

I called our free time discussions “infotainment” sessions. They were entertaining and extremely informative. The star of the show was Mr. Vijay Joshi who has a tremendous knowledge of India’s history and socio political scene. His pet subjects were the armed forces and mountaineering!
I and Lele sir would bombard him with questions or which he would give us witty and detailed answers. The rest of the tent would listen to the conversation!
I felt like a bridge between two generations.

One generation of Indians grew up with the freedom movement, independence and a period of hope. That generation was also saddled with a narrow view of the world, a socialist legacy that was tough to shackle and had to grow up in the license raj, which meant an entire lifetime of service (you don’t get into business unless you were born filthy rich or were Dhirubhai Ambani), where your last take home pay would be a fraction of your kid’s first paycheck!
My generation, on the other hand, is not very hands on with the reality and the real politic of the country, mainly because:
We are faced with tremendous opportunities in the corporate world and want to devote our full energy and time to it.
1. We have developed a tremendous sense of cynicism with the way this country is run by in efficient politicians cutting across party lines.
2. The growth is in the cities, and this leads to a disconnect with the rest of India. There is a huge wide gap in the lifestyle, aspirations, and education levels, thought process of people in the country.

A classic case in the point is the HRTC bus from Manali to Delhi. I could sit in Bangalore, do some reading on the net, and manage to book my tickets online from Delhi to and fro Manali. There is a town called Mandi, some 100 kms from Manali, en route to Delhi and a local got into the bus and was involved in a squabble with seats. He made some remarks about how poorly the locals were treated, which appeared junk until I realized that he has to travel 4 hours to Manali to book tickets for the bus! As the gap between the rich and poor, urban and rural, educated and not so educated widens, this would lead to a polarized nation, which appears far more dangerous than an India polarized along religious and caste lines!

As someone who is extremely fascinated by history and culture, and its impact on the society, it was a treat to listen to people who were walking encyclopedias on India’s post independence history and its future on the global stage.

There were a host of other topics we would talk about such as films (mostly old Hindi films, and the Wild West type films, tourist places in India and across the world). In addition, I had some amazing conversations with Srini who has tremendous knowledge of Indian mythology amongst other subjects. Forgot to add that we had some amazing food. The taste and quality of food we had throughout the trek was excellent and I really relished them. 

Day 2: Acclimatization and orientation.
Day begins with Bed tea, PT, and already it feels like school!
Being woken up at 5 AM gives you a license to be pissed; until you realize the guy who is waking you up with bed tea probably had to get up at 4.30!
Once you step out of your tent, you realize how beautiful it is outside. The sun is just getting up, the birds are chirping, and it’s going to be a lovely, warm day!
We all assemble in a line, and start our job up hill. It was a tremendous experience amid such a break from the treadmill routine in the gyms.
For once in my life, I felt like running even after reaching the destination – I wanted to keep running as far as I could go.

I did some exercises by the river side, and after wards I sat down to meditate. As I am writing this, it’s been a few days upon my return, but I can still hear the gentle music of the Beas, feel the clean air I was breathing, and see the lush greenery all around me. Nothing is as beautiful as nature….

Post breakfast, we went on our acclimatization walk – our first test of endurance. It was actually a fairly easy walk, but since we were carrying our rucksacks, it gave us a feel of what we can expect. We reached a small Kali temple and it started pouring. We were getting drenched, and took shelter in the temple. Some folks started singing, and it turned out to be the best ice breaker. Soon we were having a musical choir of old Hindi songs, and loving every bit of it. We had a round of formal introductions a little later and shortly after that started deliberating on the cultural show we had to put together for the camp fire that night.

I had become the MC for the event, and it also meant rallying the folks to put together something decent. With the talent in the group, it wasn’t so difficult.
We decided to stick to our core strength of music, and this is where Dev and his gang from Surat showed their mettle. Kalpesh , who was a walking encyclopaedia on hindi films and music helped with the lyrics and after intense preparation, we came up with the goods and managed a very lively show.
With Senior Mandhre enchanting the audience with his mouth organ, we managed to keep them interested with appropriate songs and concluded with a funny song on trekking. This was one of the more entertaining camp fires we had at the base camp. 

Day 3: Rappelling & Rock climbing
Started with the same bed tea, PT routine.
We had Rappelling in the morning and Rock climbing in the afternoon. Although it would take weeks to master these things, it was like a beginner’s guide to rock climbing and rappelling. It was good enough for me to begin thinking of doing some mountaineering courses. Anybody that has done such courses is free to give me some gyaan on the same!

I spent the evening doing last minute shopping in Kullu. (gloves, socks, paper soap, sun screen, rain sheet)
I had no idea how useful that would be in the coming days!

Day 4: Base camp to Segli
So we actually start trekking today!
After breakfast and packed lunch and a rousing send off, we took a bus to Pathlikot, and then started on our long and fascinating journey. We crossed a village called Badagram, and got to know of some of its peculiar customs from the guide. Apparently, we are not supposed to touch anything as we pass the village, especially around its temple. Violating this rule ensures in a fine of up to Rs. 6,000!
This sounds like the other village Malana, whose tales I have heard from people who have trekked the Chanderkhani pass. The story of Malana is indeed fascinating.

We stopped after a steep climb in a dense deodar jungle, which was to be our route for a fair part of the trek. There were little boys and school girls selling juice, and pushing to school after that. We tried, a dark red colored concoction called “brass” juice, and it tasted divine. I figured out the fruit is also red in color, but never got to see it! Trust a hard core foodie to be interested in such details!

After all this comes THE cricket match, that is going to hog the rest of the space for awhile. Those of you who equate cricket with Indian cricket team, please move on to the next section!

We reached Sukhni for our lunch and post lunch started the most bizarre cricket match I have ever played: At a height of 6K plus feet, in a place full of ditches, ups and downs, bushes, and with a ball made of cloth!
The match was SK 13 vs. the locals and the guide played for the local team. (It made a huge difference in the end!)
The locals, in addition to home advantage, were fantastic athletes, playing for pride and money (Rs. 10 / person to be paid by the losing team – I guess this amount means much more to them than us!), and had been unbeaten for 13 days in a row.
Once I saw them play, we knew that it required a Herculean effort to beat them!
We scored 20 odd runs in 8 overs and it was no easy score to defend. I was run out without scoring, underestimating the athleticism of the local fielder.
We lost the first match badly, in spite of a heroic bowling performance by our own Wasim Akram (Bharath), purely based on terrible fielding.
I was guilty here, dropping two tough catches while keeping, although I managed to hold on to an inside edge down the leg side. I would never forget taking a brilliant diving catch to my left in the second match, only to hear the umpire scream not out, and the batsman pretend he never nicked it. They were close to winning and we were anyways out in a no hope situation. There was a sensible voice inside me that said this money means much more to them, so don’t make a fuss and I asked my team mates to drop the appeal. Bharath was furious screaming “Aise haar nahin maanthe bhaiyya”.  At his age I would have fought like crazy to make an issue, but age does fny things to your personality 🙂
The second match was much more competitive, as we were better prepared with the conditions. We lost in the last over, but fought gamely. Had there been a third match we would have surely won, but we had to move on.
The real tragedy for me was the fact that I had a huge blister on my foot, as I was playing bare foot and my skin started to peel off. I was so pissed I could not get to bat because of this, but bigger problems lie ahead of me and my left foot!

We finally reached Segli (7,100 feet) in the afternoon, and it was then that I started to realize the extent of my injury. The camp site was not great, and thankfully, the other camps were much better. I decided to take rest, and not to venture out for the day. I was so touched by how well I was taken care of by all around me. It felt like I was with my family, and it made me feel so good in spite of the severe pain. 

Day 5: Segli to Hora thatch
We had a lazy and relaxed start, and later discovered this would be the pattern for the rest of the days as well. Crossed a village, and spotted a lovely young girl, Tannu, playing on the ground. I tried to make some conversation with her, but found it tough to make her smile.

At many times during the trek, I would just gaze in awe at the majestic mountains & the dreamy river & thank god for the beautiful life he has given all of us.
We reached Hora thatch fairly wet as it was just starting to drizzle. I must say the rain spoilt our time at what was the best camp of all. Right in the middle of the jungle, it could well be called a jungle lodge.

I guess my foot was the focus of my thoughts for most of this day and apart from the rain don’t recollect anything great to keep note. 

Day 6: Hora thatch to Maylee thatch
This was the toughest day of all. The climb was relentless and steep, and there was just no respite. The snowline was clearly visible now, and in some sense, it kept us motivated to climb higher and further. After a tough climb, we reached a huge open meadow flocked with sheep. We could see the camp but it was deceptively far away from us. But we had enough time, and the sun was in full splendor, so I could relax and enjoy the view and the sound of the sheep. I had a tough time getting the sheep on camera – they were extremely timid and would run away if I got anywhere close to them. There was one brave heart that managed to, and posed for me and I love how this picture came out. Makes every minute of the hour I spent stalking him worth it!

Maylee camp was one of the most picturesque locations we had. And it was on a locale large enough to have a mini cricket ground. Tried batting against the locals and could not get bat to ball – they were too good or I have just forgotten how to bat and should stop trying – I guess the truth lies somewhere in between. But I must mention how extremely athletic and fit the locals are. These are the places where our sportsmen should come from. Somebody who treks up and down a steep mountain everyday for his living is surely fitter than most of us city bred, gym going individuals!

The camp leader at Maylee was a very proactive, interesting person. He teaches geography in Bombay and arranged some games for us in the evening. It was great fun, and got as all excited we started playing Dumb charades after that and the real star was Ruchitha. Ruchitha’s sister is studying dance, which Ruchi dropped off but she is still very expressive. This helped her act some near impossible movie names – sometimes we were too DUMB to figure it out! The most hilarious episode was when I asked her to enact ““Omkara”,a movie I really enjoyed. She tried to act the song “Beedi” by smoking. The folks were guessing all kind of things but came nowhere near the song and the movie and she finally gave up. When we broke the name of the movie, Kalpesh came up with the explanation that her acting of a beedi smoker was misleading. Then he came up with a demo on how a beedi smoker squats and holds his beedi in a way very different from a cigarette smoker. It was a laugh riot. Since I don’t smoke and hate smoking, I had not bothered to spot the difference – it is safe to assume a Cigar / pipe smoker would have a completely different style.

The radio at the kitchen was playing some of my favorite Hindi songs, and it was so wonderful to sit at 11k feet and listen to some soulful music!

 Day 7: Maylee thatch to Dora thatch
The next morning we had a cartography class conducted by the camp leader, although I felt it was too short to understand such a complex subject. Anyways it aroused my interest in map reading and that I guess was good enough.
This was followed by PT and breathing exercises and I was so thankful for them.
Soon it was good by time to the lovely Maylee camp and time to ascend further.
We were soon to set foot on snow and really charged up as we came nearer to snow.
The walk was very pleasant and not very steep. While walking I was pleasantly surprised to hear somebody whistling from “For a Few Dollars More”. Who else could it be, apart from the irrepressible Mr. Mandhre. I realized how distinct and clear sounds are on top of a hill as there is no interference and disturbance, it made the whistle even more haunting and magical. He followed that performance with tunes from “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and had all of us marching to his tune!

We were soon walking on snow and quickly realized it’s not as fun as it seems. You never know how solid the grip is, and you don’t know how deep the snow is.. we were following the footsteps of the previous person, but even then I would slip further into the snow with my weight! I made an important discovery, that the breaking point of this snow was around 80 kgs! We stopped for lunch at a spectacular natural rock formation. I forgot to mention how well some of our lunch spots were chosen – there was always a stream of water, enough open space, and some place for the locals to set up a shop and sell tea, coffee, juice and omelets. This one was by far the most awesome, with the shop housed securely under a boulder of rocks.

We had our first slide on snow post lunch and it was amazing experience. The toughest part was lifting your legs up, the way it should be done, because you are so tired aft6er days of trekking up! The pants get fully wet, your body aches with the impact of ice and you are scared whether you would land up in the right place – but it was worth all the pain eventually.

We reached Dora thatch, which was our highest camp, and probably the toughest conditions we faced – snow all over the camp, low oxygen levels and freezing cold water. It took a toll on Purva & Rohan’s dad and he decided wisely to return the next day. I must share his cousin – Ajay’s story at this stage. Ajay accompanied his brother back two camps lower, lost two days of the trek, but made up by climbing up rapidly with only a villager company, and completed the trek along with us. All Ajay said was “There was no way I am going back to Pune without completing the trek!”. And I thought I was brave, walking with my blistered foot!
It is in these circumstances that we realize how rudimentary, our lives needs are. All we need is a place to lie down, clothes to protect us, food & water, and that is it. The rest if life is about figuring out how you live with the essentials and keep your mind and body healthy. 

Day 8: Dora thatch to Saurkundi pass & descend to Longa thatch.
Finally, D-day arrives. We awake with the realization that we are finally climbing the pass today and it kind of pushes us out of the tents fairly early in the day. Or was it to find a nice spot to “download”? Since al the water was frozen and I am extremely finicky about being clean, I decided to walk a fair distance to a stream of water. The water was splendid but also terribly cold. I could not move my hands for half an hour or so after I returned!

It was a fairly tough climb, that too on snow. There were stretches of hard snow which made the whole affair terribly scary. The weather had started to become gloomy and in some ways it dampened my spirits. It was fairly dark at Saurkund – the lake near the peak, and this took the brightness out of the photos. The lake itself was nothing great, but the color of water was very interesting, and if I were braver, I would have ventured to its surface, but nobody bothered to go there.

We finally reached the peak before noon, and had a superb 360 degrees view, which was spoilt only by the sun and clouds playing hide and seek. We could see some other trekkers climbing up through an alternate route and we could see our next batch at the point where we had lunch the previous day.
Reaching the peak, took a strange toll on my mood. I suddenly lost all energy to trek further walk. There was a strange empty feeling, which we all get once your goal is reached. The question is always “What next?”.
I guess I was thinking that in a few days I would have to say bye to all these people and this place and head back to my routine city life. This tendency to live in the past and future and not in the present, has been the bane of my life, and I so desperately wish I could change it.

Post lunch we had a long rest and prepared to “slide down:. This slide was very dangerous, and in some sense bizarre. I do not think the slide route was laid properly, and the guide strangely decided to stay away from us. There was a stretch of around 50 meters we walked on hard and slippery ice, to reach the sliding point. Trouble was, we could have slipped any time and slid down without control. I had to stay at one point and help people down one by one, and I know how precariously I was placed for those 20 – 30 minutes!
The slide itself was long, slow and painful, but in hindsight I would rather use the word “adventurous”. We had to constantly get up, clean the mounds of snow that would accumulate in front of you, and continue till you stop again. For the last 5 minutes or so , I grabbed an extra stick that a lying down and walked / skied down. It was extremely thrilling J

As usual, we were welcomed at the next camp (Longa thatch) with a welcome drink, followed by tea and then soup. This daily routine at all camps was literally refreshing. We were also feeling much lighter, knowing the tough days are behind us.

Day 8: Longa thatch to Lekhni.
This was the day of serious descent. I am so thankful for my Woodland trekking boots, for helping me enjoy this tough workout. I had a very good grip for most of the day and really enjoyed walking down, in fact managing some short sprints downhill that were so exciting!

The route was lush green and pleasing. The meadows were rich in vegetation and the plants were lapped by the flock of few hundred sheep that were grazing. I particularly enjoyed our lunch point, which we shared with the sheep! These sheep appears much bolder than the previous ones I encountered and did not mind me patting them. I can still feel their soft wool on my fingers.

I could not help realizing that my face had become so dark, whenever I looked at in the camera. Some folks like Freyana, really enjoyed the tan, and I guess that was her ulterior motive on this Indian visit! I am usually not concerned about skin color, but I just could not recognize myself and learnt the importance of sunscreen the hard way!

We reached our last camp at Lekhni, which was actually a set of wood houses. I was already missing the tents, and realized I was getting closer and closer to the civilization I so longed to escape from. We were all busy chatting and planning our return trips. We had our first proper camp fire since we started trekking. Almost everybody participated and entertained the audience with some songs / jokes / stories. It was like a magical night , and I was a little upset it ended so early, when our camp leader asked us to shut stop.

We were woken up that night by a hail / snow storm and it was so much fun!

The last day of the trek, and we were inching our way to the road. A fairly un eventful day considering the adventures we had gone through earlier. This is the stage when the body starts complaining to the mind for the entire toll it has been out through for so long. This is the day when you realize this magical journey is soon over.

I went to Manali along with Mr. Lele, booked my return tickets, and got back to junk food! Came to base camp just in time for lunch and amazed everybody once again to plan things so perfectly that I never miss my food.( I had set a precedent by going to Kullu and returning bang on the stroke of the dinner bell!). I had bath after a week and it felt so good and clean. I changed into the only clean pair of clothes I had, and shortly realized what a big mistake that was.

Mr. Lele and I decided to raft along the Beas and walked up to “Rim Jhim adventures” which was organizing this close to our base camp.
It was a terrific experience for a beginner and the only spoiler was my clothes getting completely drenched. It helped me make up my mind about rafting and I promised myself I would do longer rafting sessions next time. I am not too much of a water sports enthusiast, but that afternoon on the chilling Beas changed my opinion completely.

We collected our certificates at the camp fire that night and I felt a sense of pride I haven’t for ages. For somebody who has just been taking it too easy in life of late, it was a great way to come out of my “Comfort zone” and endeavor to do more in life.
In spite of a yearning for this experience to continue, and a touch of sadness that the reality is quite different, I had the most blissful sleep in years.

Time for good bye…

The last day was sad, but I keep the goodbyes very brief. Once we get back to our routine life, the memory starts fading away slightly and the people become somebody from a different world. I still think of all the amazing people young and old that I met, close my eyes and see snow clad peak, unplug my headphone and hear the sound of the river, but it becomes fainter by the day. May be it’s time to go back again, to live a kind of life our ancestors would have lived. They were certainly poorer than us, but I have a feeling they led much happier lives.

I want to trek more, travel more, meet more people and enjoy life in this peaceful manner and keep going on till I can….that is the best way to pay a tribute to this wonderful planet we are all blessed with!

Cheers!

Vasu

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P.S: It’s nice to look back at this post every once in while and reflect on a truly memorable experience. I do realize how much I have changed as a person, and a writer over these 3 years, but like the raw feelings and words expressed here far better than any refinement I could think of doing now.

This truly feels like an online diary now! There is no paper like in a real diary that could turn yellow, or smell of a different age, but I am still nostalgic whenever I recollect images and conversations from the trek.

And yeah, I am still in contact with quite a few people from the group (Facebook, of course!). The kids have grown up into men & women; some of the men & women have kids now and a few have receding / grey hair; and the elders are becoming kids again.

Such is life 🙂

A tribute to my favorite songs & videos, and the memories they bring…

(First blogged in early 2009, and reproduced here)

This is an out of the blue inspiration to write a blog that would be a poem / song that includes words from my favorite songs of all time. It’s sort of a tribute to a lot of people in my life and some of my favorite songs and videos!

I wake up to a “Tequila Sunrise” and I have become “Comfortably numb”. I wish I knew why, but “I believe I can fly”. Fly even higher than where I am and soar away….I dream that “I am leaving on a jet plane”, but I don’t know where to. There is a “Beautiful stranger” out there. She is a “Black magic woman” and she’s spun a web around me. I don’t know who she is, and I don’t know why she is there. All I know is she is “Taking my breath away” and “Nothing else matters

Now she is gone, I don’t know why, and till this day sometimes I cry. She didn’t even say good bye, she didn’t take the time to lie. Bang bang, my baby shot me down
It must have been love, but it’s all over now” and I have to “break free”. But I have no pain, and I still smile thinking of you. After all you are the “craziest diamond to shine

There’s always hope and I don’t know any other way. There’s too much love at stake and there’s no more I can take. There are friends, and they are god sends. I miss ‘em all but one more than the rest. “How I wish, how I wish you were here. We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year

I wake up to the fragrance of a “Jasmine flower”. Sometimes you know life is a “Bittersweet symphony”, but still want only the sweet notes on the symphony. Doesn’t all the bitterness makes life sweeter? Everybody sees it their own way and no way is the only way. All it goes is to show “You never can tell”. There’s always hope and I don’t know any other way. The fragrance is from a “Beautiful girl” and I feel intoxicated with hope. She is just around the corner and I ask myself yet again if she will be mine? Am I asking for too much? Should I just whiff the sweet scent of this woman and die in this bliss? Oh the smells, sight, sound of her. The look in her mystic eyes, the melody of her child like laugh – I can never have enough. “You fill up my senses, come fill me again

Oh “The way you make me feel, you really turn me on” and slowly but surely, “I am coming back to life”. Your words are poetry, and your “Sounds of your silence” is music beyond comprehension. All life I have been “Another brick in the wall”, but with you I have “Broken through” with you. Tell me what you need, tell me all. I know I can’t undo the past, but today and tomorrow is ours. Whatever it is, “I will try and fix you

Life is a fight and I have an ally now. I know you will be there for me as much as I’ll be and I feel strong. I feel ecstatic and powerful. I wonder if I’ll feel the same without you. Together, we can live our dreams, and climb the mountains we see. Together we can take on the world and smile through it. Together, we look into the “Eye of the tiger” and see the stronger animal.

Come, come, come with me, and come to me.” Come as you are” , cos you are perfect as you are. Your coming will make me run, make me fly and make me touch the sky. I can see the other diamonds in the sky, everyone who has touched my life, but none brighter then you. I am on top and I love every second of this life. This is what life is meant to be – an “Ecstasy of gold

Play list:
1. Carlos Santana – Black Magic Woman
2. Chuck Berry – You never can tell
3. Coldplay – Fix you
4. Eagles – Tequila Sunrise
5. Ennio Morricone – The Good, The bad, The Ugly – OST – Ecstasy of gold
6. INXS- Beautiful girl
7. Jim Morrison – Break on through
8. John Denver – Annie’s song
9. John Denver – Leaving on a jet plane
10. Kenny G – Jasmine flower
11. Kenny G – I believe I can fly
12. Madonna – Austin Powers OST – Beautiful stranger
13. Metallica – Nothing else matters
14. Michael Jackson – The Way You Make Me Feel
15. Nancy Sinatra – Kill Bill 2 OST – Bang Bang
16. Nirvana – Come as you are
17. Pink Floyd – Another brick in the wall
18. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
19. Pink Floyd – Coming back to life
20. Pink Floyd – Shine on you crazy diamond
21. Pink Floyd – Wish you were here
22. Queen – Break free
23. Roxette – it must have been love
24. Simon and Garfunkel – Sounds of silence
25. Survivor – Eye of the tiger
26. The Verve – Bittersweet symphony
27. Top Gun OST – Berlin – Take my breath away
Please use the YouTube links I have given for these songs in case you haven’t heard it before 🙂

Cheers!

Vasu

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