Tuesday, April 15, 2014

randomness

my vjti classmate-friends and i were at a rented flat. it was the morning after a random sleepover. i remember siddharth, prasad, sachin, gaurang, shweta, komal, niti, reshma. we were supposed to be going to work, me before the rest, because I had to reach office at 830 am. I was getting ready while everyone else was just lazing around and recounting stories of the previous night. chit-chatting with them, I realized it was already 830, and i was going to be late. anyway, I figured that it was fine as long as I reached by 930, as we had a team dinner the previous night, and everyone else would probably be late as well (strangely, i didn't realize the contradiction, considering I also thought I had a sleepover last night!) when i was on my bike, on these unfamiliar roads, it was quite obvious that my dream wasn't set in bbay, but possibly in pune.

i picked up my teammate pratik on the way, and we had to then ride through a slightly wooded area. the weather was pleasant, but the air was moist, as if it might rain any time. as we passed through this area, i saw a clearing, with low walls but no gate. inside, the ground was grassy, and there was an asbestos shed with benches, as well as some concrete benches outside. pratik and i decided we'll take a break here for a bit, so i parked on the road and we sat on one of the benches a distance from the shed. we made random conversation for a few minutes, until we suddenly heard music. a group of three (a guy with a guitar, and another guy and girl) were walking towards us, singing the Herman's Hermits song "no milk today". i started talking to pratik about how I loved this song and grew up listening to it.

the group of three walked past us, and continued towards the shed. we picked our bags and followed them there. when we reached the shed, they were playing another familiar song from the '60s. i discreetly tried to record a video of them, and later tried to just record the audio. by now, a small group had gathered around, maybe around 10 or 12 people, mostly sitting around on the benches in the shed. the band had a full ensemble now, with a drum set and the works. they played another favorite song, and we both decided we would like a cigarette. i figured there might be a shop nearby on the road, so i left the shed and walked towards there.

there was no shop at all, and in fact nothing but forest on both sides of the plot we were at. disappointed, i turned to walk back, when a piglet, dirty and squealing, rubbed itself against my leg, depositing a lot of muck and possibly shit on it. the piglet was filthy and i didn't want to touch it, so i called for help, hoping someone would get a stick or something to shoo it off. instead, a passerby guy grabbed the piglet and nudged it away. I told him the piglet was filthy, and he then noticed that his hands were quite mucked too.

turns out the shed had a very rudimentary toilet, and there was a bucket of water in it. we washed up, and i got back to where the band was playing, and was surprised to see that nickolai had just arrived too. she was wearing the same white dress that i remember she wore last Friday. we sat listening to the band for a while, till I decided it was time to go. we left (i'm not sure how, since there were 3 of us now, but i remember nickolai was on the bike with me).

suddenly, it turned extremely overcast and started to drizzle. we hurriedly parked and took shelter in a roadside shed, which was already quite full of people taking refuge under it. it was actually a tea stall and as the drizzle turned into a heavy downpour, we got ourselves a cutting chai each.

that's when i realized it was nearing sunset. somehow, the entire day had passed. i would have to somehow explain missing the entire day of work.

and that's when my alarm went off. 6:30am. time to get to work.

Monday, April 07, 2014

my favourite camping spots

i started camping way back in 2005, when i was still a student. it was thanks to my friend dhruva (a.k.a. "fatak") who gave me his tent, saying he didn't expect to use it ever again. it was a biggish 4-man tent, which could hold upto 6 in a pinch. back then, i only knew of one camping spot, and that's actually how it stayed for over 5 years! thankfully, with my trekking and riding, i've had a chance to explore a few more spots - and i have a few more that i'd love to try.

kashid beach


kashid is the aforementioned first camping spot. it's still one of my favourites, thanks to the sea (i *LOVE* the sea!) and the proximity of facilities (washrooms/shops). besides, familiarity does *not* breed contempt. i must have camped there at least 15 times!


directions: this spot on the beach is near kashid village, not the other end (the other end is overrun by cheap tourists and overpriced stalls - no way i'd camp there!). to find the spot, look for a bridge over a small stream, after kashid village. take the first narrow lane towards the beach, after the bridge.

kolad


this is the second camping spot i discovered, and probably had the biggest adventure to get to, and i'm not sure if it's camp-able any more: we had gone there by car, and managed to get to the river only because a couple of fences were broken. the car also got stuck and had a flat tire, but isn't that what fun is all about? our camping spot was also on private property (a partially fenced-in farm), so we kinda hid and camped. not for the faint hearted. but the river is worth it: it's wide and calm, and the water is a little over waist deep until quite far in. perfect.


directions: this is next to where the river rafting ends. about 200 metres downriver from the rafting end spot. the left side of the river, when facing seaward. gps coordinates: 18.440665, 73.260625

bhandardara


an accessible camping spot, but not all that great because the mtdc resort is barely 100 feet away, and literally overlooks our spot.


directions: follow your gps to mtdc bhandardara. the way to the camping spot is through the village (or if on foot, down the steps from the restaurant towards the lake)

purushwadi


one of our most inaccessible camping spots. getting there involves a fair bit of off-roading on two wheelers, and a 2 km walk through fields if on four wheeler. the beauty of this spot is the chilly climate and the isolation (the nearest shop is in the 2-km-away adivasi village, and it's the only shop in a 10 km radius - don't even expect bottled water to be available there!).


directions: get to purushwadi from rajur (it's a right turn at rajur off the road going to akole). there's no mobile network for the last few kms, so your best bet is to ask passers-by for directions if you're lost. and don't even think of attempting it after sunset. the spot overlooks kurkundi dam.

malshej


a recent discovery, this is the perfect camping spot: accessible by road, 1 km from the national highway, 2 km from the nearest shops. the nearby village has plenty of hay, even though firewood is slightly harder to come by. only possible drawback: you might find random people hanging out for a clandestine drink by the lake. but that's a matter of luck, and we've been lucky so far.


directions: get to mtdc malshej, and continue along the national highway for about (i think) two curves, after which you'll find a narrow tar road branching off to the left. at that spot on the highway, on your right, you'll see the aforementioned last shop. the spot overlooks pimpalgaon joga dam.

naneghat


right next to malshej (you can see the pinnacle of naneghat from the malshej camping spot!), this spot is slightly less accessible by road, but can also be trekked to. there are caves at naneghat, which is why i've never actually camped there (despite having lugged my camping gear all the way till there), but camping remains an equally attractive possibility.


directions: continue along the highway past mtdc malshej, until the right turn off the highway that goes to junnar. there are no clearly mapped roads (most of them are barely dirt tracks!), and mobile network is mostly non-existent, so you'll need to ask villagers for directions to ghatgarh/naneghat.

tungarli


close to lonavla, accessible by good road, this camping spot is quite popular now, and hence comes with the usual pitfalls - including unruly drinkers in the day. the perfect camping spot requires a walk on the dam wall to the other side. you need to inform the caretaker of your intention to camp, else you might be rudely chucked out post-sunset. tungarli dam has a reputation for people attempting to swim and drowning, so it's under a bit of scrutiny, but nothing that should spoil the experience if you take permission from the caretaker.


directions: the camping spot is tungarli lake, which is slightly further away from tungarli village. pass through the lonavla market, and take the left to tungarli, go under the expressway (there's no direct connection to the expressway itself!) and get to the lake. the spot on the other side of the dam wall is better for camping, but there's a clearing on the road side of the dam wall where vehicles can be parked.

khandala


the one's far from perfect, for two reasons: no nearby water source, and the expressway is near enough for you to hear vehicles honk and trucks howl through the night. it's still a good 1 km or so of an actual walk from the nearest parkable spot though. also, i've been warned about snakes (the grass was about 2 feet high in jan when i went, so that's a rather scary prospect!). best for camping at night, as there are bound to be curious (and possibly interfering) authorities in the day, thanks to its proximity to lonavla and khandala, the associated unruly crowd, and the fact that you're passing through church-owned private property to get to the spot.


directions: at the first expressway exit (khandala), take a left towards st. mary's villa. cut across the compound, down to the next hill, and up to the next, until you get to the cliff.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

abhishek (or why some people will live forever)

it's unbelievable how, days after I had a conversation about my beliefs regarding "death being a celebration of the fullness life", I received the news of abhi's untimely passing away. there are very few people who have made such a difference to my life, and definitely none else who managed to do so despite living in different cities and even countries for many of the years since we got to know each other.

abhishek and I met when we were halfway through college, by virtue of us both being in the comps department for malhar. despite the general geekiness that pervaded those first couple of months, it's surprising how we found so much common ground, from movies, to music, to books, and even food. but I guess abhishek and I connected so well because we shared our attitude to life. in retrospect, abhi has a greater part to play in me becoming the person that I currently am, than I ever imagined possible. and I think that's the mark of an awesome person. he touched lives without making it seem so. most of my friends would say I'm a happy person, with a positivity that sometimes borders on the irrational. but abhishek is one person who I've never seen sad or depressed, even in situations where I'm sure I would have been. and it wasn't a fake happiness. he genuinely saw the humour in everything, and I'm glad I've picked up a bit of that from him.

and so, I remind myself yet again that he lived life to the fullest, and that, hard as it may seem, the only way to honour his legacy is to carry it forward as he would.

as I wipe a silent tear from my eye, I remember one of those late evenings in college, in the comps room, playing unreal tournament, teamed up against "godlike" level bots, us humans equally matched with the game's AI, our teamwork against their accuracy, palms sweating, adrenaline pumping, until the server unexpectedly crashed. we were sad, because the game ended before we thought we had won. but the sadness was only till we realized we had held our own against what felt like an incredible challenge. and it strikes me that this isn't the end for abhi either. he has simply turned "godlike" :)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

change

i started 2014 expecting it to turn "normal" soon. january passed. february passed. march has now started.

i've stopped craving normalcy and started embracing the madness.

i've realized there is no comfort in being normal.

i've realized i am happiest when i embrace the moment, nay, seize it, and extract all that i can from it.

i've reaffirmed that balance doesn't need to be stable. and proven to myself that i can't be balanced *and* stable for long.

now for some new experiments:

1. taking a break from all forms of audio visual entertainment

2. taking a break from intoxicants of all varieties

3. tracking my personal time

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

ragasthan

the last three days have been amazing. the bus reached at about 7pm on Friday night, and once we hastily unpacked and pitched our tents, we were all set to grab a bite and take in the music. rock, followed by edm, as the nip in the air turned into downright shivering weather, and we sipped on old monk and danced by a nearby bonfire. legs aching, fingers numb, we danced until the wee hours of the morning.

the tent and my sleeping bag (and half a bhaang cookie) got me snoring in no time, and i even slept through the blazing sun until 10am.

after a lazy morning, we finally grabbed brunch (an unlimited lunch buffet, in which we made quite literal use of the unlimited part), and then settled with our beers at the  stage until sunset. it started slow and easy, with some blues and rock & roll, and then got pretty folksy. definitely the highlight of Saturday.

we then layered up on our winter wear, and were back at the rock stage. a few familiar bands, including the guys from our bus, but since everybody was trying to get up close to the stage, we climbed a nearby dune and watched instead.

I decided to call it an early night, and settled into my tent around midnight. the tactic worked well, as I was up well before sunrise, and got the chance to take some photos while the edm stage was still blaring psychedelic trance. turns out a few people were still dancing... everyone else was asleep. i stationed myself near the electrical sockets and charged up my phone for the first time in almost 3 days (it still had a good 30% left!), and struck up a conversation with a mexican lady who was randomly sitting there. I packed at 830, wanting to get over with it as quickly as possible, since I had to presumably start walking from the campsite at 930 to catch the bus at 10. eventually, i learned that the bus was at 1130, and would pick us up from the campsite itself. I really wanted breakfast, but thanks to a friend offering me her chilli rice crackers, and the bar announcing that beers are being given away for free, the plan changed.

the 1130 bus left at noon, and reached jaisalmer at almost 130 pm. i thought i had lost the couple who i was supposed to travel with, so i tagged along with 3 others from ragasthan who wanted to visit the fort... until, luckily, i bump into them again, at the fort. we didn't enter the museum, but instead walked through the fort complex until we reached a tibetan restaurant, where we had a rather generously portioned lunch. after a bit of shopping on the way back (i brought a tee and a pair of rajasthani wooden puppets), it was almost time for the bus, and to bid farewell to jaisalmer, and a few hours later, to rajasthan.

the adventure didn't quite end there though. it turns out the site I booked my bus ticket on, booked me on a seat that doesn't exist. luckily though, there were a few unbooked sleepers, and I was assigned one of those. as a side effect, I had to share the double sleeper with far more people than I had bargained for. at its worst, there were 3 funky smelling men attempting to share a sleeper, and I spent 6 out of the 12 hours of the journey sharing it with 2 guys who didn't budge at all at any of the breaks (I almost missed dinner, thanks to them).

I reached the airport a couple of hours before my flight, and tried to sleep through most of the wait... with little success. I didn't sleep through the flight either. I changed into my office clothes in a restroom in the airport, and took a ric to office, possibly getting ripped off in the process.

the last three days have been amazing.