Thursday, April 24, 2014

Indelible inking

If you are from Salem/Erode/Tirupur/Coimbatore or nearby towns from these places and earning a living in Bangalore, chances are very high of having traveled in Kurla Express - and then spending 2-3 hours in station after beating traffic.Yesterday was no different. Having arrived at 10 PM, various PA and screen displays kept pushing the arrival time and just before midnight, announcements stopped altogether leaving us travelers lurching in the dark. Talked about an hour with a friend and then was unexpectedly joined with college mate with whom I used to commute in train.

Train eventually arrived 40 minutes into April 24th morning - famous day for cricketing religion, birthday coinciding with writer friend of mine and three other in my FB list. Travel further spoiled by no water in coaches, frequent unscheduled stops and body deciding to fall sick.

Arriving at Tirupur to lot more humidity and heat than Bangalore, I was greeted with large crowd queuing inside a school, policemen guiding and controlling movement of vehicles, various parties lined up outside the school to help with voter slips (incase the slips didn't arrive at their homes) (along with last minute canvassing).

I freshened up, had Mom's delicious Parantha and masala tea (I never have managed to make it taste so good). Was given detail info like exact queue to stand, signature & inking process  and which numbered row to press the button - you see, it is first time my name's been issued in voters list.

My father too repeated those instructions and also let me know that cell phones aren't allowed inside school premises. He dropped me outside the school and indicated the line to stand behind. I entered, went past bunch of policemen and policewomen and stood behind 40+ men. Separate queue for women. Total three polling booths - for different wards. I looked up my voter-id and voter-slip, could verify the numbers mentioned and that written on wall beside the entrance to polling booth.

Picture used from this link
Like the other school I saw in the morning, there was provision to get the voter slips incase one didn't get it. Some were outside the school and one inside. Sizable crowd there too. Police personnel frequently helped in indicating which queue to join and preventing people to linger around.

Some people still carried mobile with them, were told to switch off. We were standing in the shade of large Neem trees with gentle breeze around. But that also meant some were sprayed with crow blessings. A pot of water covered with a plate and plastic cup placed on top of it quenched our thirst. People mostly were middle/old aged, some come along with their kids and only a few handful like me in 20s :P Bit congested to have three polling booths, so not much arrangement to seat the elderly (they sat in veranda as best as they could and accommodated by others).

The queue was slow moving and I spent time reading the list of candidates and party symbols (read it in Tamil, no less :P). The list was divided into national parties and local-parties/individual candidates, plus NOTA (none-of-the-above option). One name featured thrice with different initials and few others were similar. Other details like locality names under the ward, voting help, etc were displayed too.

Once inside the room, I noticed a bit more of the voting process. There was a guy with laptop, net connection and some gadgets (presumably recording the events), a place for polling officer, an assistant officer who collects final slip before one goes to electronic machine, bunch of poll workers noting down number and name read aloud by conducting officer and another to get signature/finger-print and ink the finger. Frequent assistance was especially given when aged people with difficulty in eye sight went to the machine.

So yeah, I have voted too :) Then walked back home (about 1.5 km) with Sun raising the heat and my sickness.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

IoT lab in Bangalore - where ideas can take shape

IoT, that is, 'Internet of Things' is becoming quite popular these days. Check out this wiki page, I don't have a good grasp on the subject. I actually shudder to think if all objects we use in our daily existence get connected and remotely controllable through world-wide-web.

As is norm these days, came to know via facebook that such an event is going to happen. I was only mildly interested. The IoT lab is in JP nagar, about 15km from my room in Indiranagar. After speaking to Yatin (from whom I came to know in fb) and combining the commute with bib collection for RFH 5k run (Jayanagar), I reached about 15 minutes early on Sunday afternoon, April the 20th. Hardly one vehicle was parked outside, so I cycled around, ate Gudbud and came back few minutes past 3 PM.

This time three others were hanging around entrance. After parking my two wheeler inside the gate (for extra safety) I joined them. We introduced ourselves and went to the lab (one floor below). There was a sizable crowd already assembled! Perhaps many had come in car and parked somewhere else or by public transport.

IoT lab Bangalore
IoT lab, Bangalore (Picture procured from IoT FB page)
A recently painted room with tables, chairs, equipments, white board bespoke of nerdy environment. I usually keep away from electrical and electronic components - afraid that I might cause some damage without knowing how to handle them. What attracted me was a rather large telescope kept at a corner (learnt later that there is plan to make the telescope automatically point to particular planet/star in the sky!)

Knowledge Sharing

There being no specific agenda for the meeting, enthusiasts of many kinds were present - jobless people like me, s/w engineers wanting to get a taste of h/w, start up specialists, marketers distributing brochures, students, researchers and even media! And of course exchanging names, contacts, business cards, etc (surprised looks when I corrected my name's spelling to S'u'ndeep and more surprise/pat-on-back when I told I was jobless). Causing a very noisy environment - difficult to communicate beyond 2-3 feet.

What stood out was knowledge sharing - from Arduino to Raspberry Pi, Smart grids to self driving cars, IP rights to IoT standardization issues, Energy saving to Energy harvesting, it was all too much to take in really. A 9th standard kid and college 2nd year student using equipments with confidence motivated a few and showed there is fun too in serious stuff.

Moment of the day

Vivek, a researcher from IIT Bombay, was particularly active and popular. He had come all the way to Bangalore mainly for this meeting. I was interested in his work and asked many questions (some silly too). Noted that students can apply for two month paid internship in IIT Bombay (to convey when I visit my college next). Then when he was writing his contact details for Anoop (a student who has signed up with Aditya (Entrepreneur) for a project at IoT), he noticed 'psg' in my email-id and inquired whose it was. After so much talk we hadn't realized we were alumni from same college! :D

Lab facilities and projects

Though not my cup of tea, I felt good in coming to the place and that there are choices beyond routine work. Especially, perception of Bangalore being only a s/w hub gotta change or is already changing. Not sure of details, but one can use lab facilities for monthly fees.

Already four projects had been put up on white board with details of lead and contact number. From what I gathered, they are comprised of both students and professionals. Anyone with interest and commitment are welcome - it is a place which encourages doing than just theoretical learning.



Links and Contacts

IoT meet ups: IoTBLR and/or FB Group
IoT contact: Nihal Kashinath
Other meet ups: www.meetup.com

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cadence90 morning ride to BWSSB, Harohalli - Kanakapura Road

This is a ride I almost missed. I did one step better than Raj and Simran of DDLJ - hopped on after the train had left the station.

I have a ~2300 bucks Samsung phone with more than adequate features for my daily use. But then, bugs are everywhere. A peculiar one with mine - when I activate an alarm used before, it doesn't ring unless time is changed from previous value. Usually, I keep changing the time, so I forget this bug. On Friday April 18th night, I set for alarm for 4:45 AM. My subconscious mind reminded me to keep another alarm at 5 minute difference as a back up incase I slept after first alarm. My conscious mind was confident that I won't miss and thus I slept. These days I wake up many a times in night (as I rarely over work my mind and body during the day being lazy). I woke sometime after 4 AM and slept back. When I woke again - it was 5:17 AM!

I didn't want to miss as I hadn't done even 35+ km ride with my bike and this one was supposed to be around 50. After getting ready hurriedly (some minutes lost in turning on PC to get Chethan's number, also saw that route was along Kanakapura - further away from Cadence90 in relation to my room), I left 1 minute past 5:40 AM. Chethan responded to my call and he said ride might start 15 minutes past 6 AM depending on when everyone gathers. That gave me some hope but I told him to not wait for me.

With full josh, I cranked up my speed to 30 kmph on CMH road only to find myself parched and out of breadth before reaching Old Madras road about a km ahead. After that, it became difficult than normal. Halfway, I wished that I wouldn't be able to catch up so that I can return back instead of becoming a problematic rider for Cadence90. But inspite of my misgivings, I reached at 6:12 AM only to find not a soul around. I felt disappointed a bit but also relieved that I can go back. I had gone few meters ahead to Kanakapura road when unexpectedly Chethan came and informed me that I could catch up with the group if I peddled straight.

Physically, I wanted a break before turning back to home, but good news revved me up and I cycled hard again. Road felt familiar once overhead metro was in sight, having cycled to Mysore in December 2012 and thrice for trekking. I wasn't sure how much of headstart others had. I was okay to peddle as much as I could and return back. In 10 minutes or so, I caught up with Radha (whom I had met in Wayanad tour) and Sowmya (previous Cadence90 ride). Apparently, they too started a little later than main group.

Bangalore being located about 3000 feet above sea level, there is downhill generally when one leaves Bangalore. Even as we enjoyed this thrilling ride, we were weary about the uphill climb back - when it would be hotter and tired legs. In cool morning air with trees forming arch gateway on good NH 209 highway, Kanakapura is famous among bikers and motorists alike. The parallel Mysore road being preferred, there is relatively less traffic too. Waiting for a ride in monsoon season ;)

With so much happening from morning, I threw caution to wind and cranked up 45+ kmph at a small stretch of downhill (Warning: do not try without expert training) which resulted in small wobble instead of straight ride. I didn't try that again :)

We passed Art of Living, NICE road, Kaggalipura(where Bannerghatta road meets Kanakapura road) and then met the other guys waiting near APS college. On the way we passed a cyclist with some sort of issue in tyre, wonder how he fixed/got-back.

It was just past 7 AM, but some of us were feeling tired and dreading the way back. Expert riders - Phaneesh, Parameshwar, Kranthi - knew from same Waynad trip, Archana (previous Cadence90 ride), Satish and two leopards (leopardskyn racer jersey) - Aditya and Yashas completed our group. We had stopped for much needed rest, stretching and tender coconut.

Phaneesh, Parameshwar, Kranthi and perhaps Satish too are regulars on this road - most/every weekend. They coolly fooled us that BWSSB on pipeline road was about 10 km ahead with mostly flat road. Agreed it was the best part of the morning, but we were taken for ride!

Having studied Electronics and Communication engineering, 'pipeline' road was a confusing name for me. Until I saw about 6 feet diameter 'pipes' (supplying water to Bangalore) on both sides of the road. This road goes through villages and intersects Kanakapura road at various locations.

Road was excellent with only few patches here and there. Very very less motor traffic. Trees and grasslands around, chirping of birds, a village house here and there, frequent ups and downs. We kept going at steady pace, some climbs stretching our limits and gears - but secretly happy that some downhills will be there while returning. Gradually, the group got spread more than a kilometer apart. I had someone ahead in view for about 13 km in pipeline road but lost sight near Siddapura-Bidadi road. I was tired and suddenly afraid that I missed some turn so came back (just about 500m from BWSSB :( - some kids far off were shouting something related to cycle-cycle, perhaps that too strengthened the notion of missing).

Trail route from my house
Altitude Profile (one way)
Created on www.gpsies.com - check above map here.



The ride back was of course pretty tough, downhills providing only a temporary relief. Chatting with Phaneesh helped in keeping up riding despite body crying for rest. When I did stop past Kanakapura intersection for water and break, muscles let me know full extent of pain.

Phaneesh's advice of keep peddling slowly instead of frequent stops helped a lot. I enjoyed the leisurely ride and satisfaction of moving on under difficult conditions :P We stopped briefly outside APS college before moving on further for another electrolyte filled hydration round of tender coconut. I gobbled up my two bananas (should have got the whole bunch from home :-/ ) and stretching as well. When Phaneesh confirmed that this is the ride they do most weekend (remembered from Wayanad trip), I symbolically suggested that they are a bunch of crazy guys.

It was just few minutes to 9 AM when we started again. Next stop was to be at Adiga's for breakfast. This time we were given correct estimates - about 12km ride ahead, landmark being after NICE road. Despite all tiredness and back pain and mostly uphill climbs, it wasn't very difficult. Most of us made it in about an hour's time. Kranthi got a flat tyre (wrath-of-flat-god as Phaneesh puts it, twice in 3 days!) which delayed them.

Adiga's was very crowded even at 10 AM. We freshened up and sat talking till everyone arrived. Breakfast was awesome followed by tea/coffee. Kranthi's flat tyre made up for much of the discussion and whether law-of-averages or murphy's law would apply for Kranthi's next ride. When I got up, it felt like non-intrusive lead transplantation had been made to my shin.

After group photo, some made U-turn and others continued forward. I still had more than 20 km to reach home which took more than 90 minutes. I turned right at Sarakki Junction, while others went left. I asked multiple times to reach Silk board after which I know the route very well to my room. Stopped once for water break in addition to multiple wait at Traffic signals - I seemed to catch Red at every one of them. In all, it was 90+ km according to my odometer, but more like 80+ km if Google maps is to be believed.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kumara Parvatha trek - 29,30 Sep 2012

The famous three big K's of Karnataka - Kodachadri (1343m above sea level), Kudremukh (1892m) and Kumara Parvatha (1712m). I first heard of it from Satya during Rangaswamy Betta trek (when I was still newbie to trekking). He gave a vivid detail of trek's toughness and how he had to go back in dark to locate an injured member(a first timer to trek - audacious!) of his team. I was like I won't even try to scale KP - beyond my abilities.

Well, after scaling few mountains in western ghats and spotting from afar during Sakleshpur train-track trek, I have tried and come back without reaching KP's peak. And that was not the most disappointing part of the trek. Not to impress that the trek is bad, it is AWESOME. I simply have to try again to conquer it's height and width and steepness ;) - hopefully this year itself. I know a few fellow trekkers who do this trek like 2-3 times a year! BMC is mostly/always overbooked for KP and that is despite scheduling weeks together, starting usually from September.

Thanks to my laziness, it is more than 18 months later that am recording the trekking experience. I have forgotten many of the little moments which I fondly mention in my blog posts - including guide names. The captured snaps in my camera comes handy though ;) From them, I guess one of them was Krishna, whom was my first ever BMC guide during Madhugiri trek and met him guiding another group during my Tadiandamol trek.

After the woodlands shoes gave me three blisters, I tried to prepare better for one of the toughest treks in Karnataka. I went to Decathlon and got myself a Quechua trekking shoes, blister reducing socks and got supposedly leech proof gaiters from Basecamp (actually, Yatin got it for me). And like previous two-day treks, I ended up packing very heavy backpack (I have consciously tried to reduce the stuff I pack every trek after this).

Three of my colleagues (Gaurav, Yatin, Gautham) and Gautham's friend Krishna Karthik joined me, rather fortunate considering the number of treks I have gone knowing nobody. We reached Kukke Subramanya on Saturday morning around 7:30 AM (don't remember anything of night journey, but we were late in reaching this place). KP can be reached from two opposite sides - this one is the tougher one.

By the time we freshened up, had breakfast, some visiting temple and started the trek, it was around 8:30 AM - atleast an hour later than ideal. About 10 minute walk on village roads, flanked around by tall trees, we reached the forest base spot from where the climb starts. I think there were multiple guides, our group size being 20+. We were given instructions - safety precautions and to avoid littering.

At the starting point of KP trek
Starting point - just before entering forest
The next two-and-a-half-hours were a grueling lesson for mind, body and spirit. And thats just the starters that KP offers. Humidity, leeches, steep climb, slippery forest leaves and tree roots/trunks, stones covered with moss, heavy backpack. But once outside the forest (after close to 100 minutes trek), one is greeted with heavenly greenery all around. The views are worth every drop of sweat. I don't remember a previous occasion where I lost so much of precious salt - at one point I felt as if suffering from severe fever. I chastened myself for opting for this trek and questioned my likings, but in retrospect, I am going to go again someday :P :P :P


Trekking forest from base of KP
Tough going inside forest

For majority of climb inside the forest, we  were in groups and close to each other. Once outside in grasslands and largely free of leeches, we spread out very far, even our little group of five. Those with very good stamina were far ahead, I was somewhere in the middle and others behind. The guides have a thankless task of keeping us co-ordinated, one has to be ahead of all to make sure we don't miss check-points and one behind the last member to avoid slow trekkers losing track.

Lonely trek is good enjoyment for me, allows ample time to look for macro shots, landscapes, take in the views and soak in its serenity. But a constant fear exists too - of losing track, unknown grips me senseless most of the times. While taking rest, about 20 minutes hike after emerging from forest, I accidentally had put my heavy bag on a spider - I noticed once I stood up to leave. Not sure if I unknowingly freed a soul or not :-/ 

Spider on rock during KP trek
The spider I accidentally placed my heavy backpack on

Taking a haggard looking selfie, winding paths, far off river amidst thick forest with couple of bridges built over, peaks all around crowned by clouds, being assured when I spotted a group or two ahead or behind, some nice macro shots, mounds of stones (a feature I've noticed in many western ghat treks, good sign of being on right path, may serve as milestones to those who know every occurrence), slumping just before Battarmane (not sure of spelling) - sipping Real fruit juice and finally dropping exhausted inside paradise of hut maintained by amazing old man. Reasons enough of the lure of Kumara Parvatha. All this comprising less than 3 hours of trek.

On the way to Battarmane during KP trek
Just before Battarmane

Battarmane, what I remember, provides ample space for group of 20-30 to stay. A typical village house, with all round the day water supply from mountains and as far as I could gather, the old man is sole caretaker. I did see few workers supplying him food items (these workers trekked fast, heavy load on their heads, no footwear and sweating glistening on their bare torso). The food prepared by the old man for all us was good, wish I knew Kannada and conversed with him. The house is nestled out of sight from trek path - there is a tower of sorts near the trek path for a landmark and two diverging off roads to reach the hut from either side. From a higher vantage point further up the path, one can see it easily.


Battarmane
Battarmane
We rested more than 100 minutes, dried as much possible our smelling clothes, removed leeches (taking care of keeping distance from our stay) - I didn't have any bite that I could see, chit-chatted and generally felt better to trek ahead. Many, including me, didn't think had the energy to reach the peak. We happily shed most of luggage, but prepared for rain on guide's advice.

So, about 10 minutes to 1 PM, we started our journey again. I had changed to shorts for convenience and removed the leech gaiters - not needed for grasslands (though they still are there). We were in for a treat better and bigger and longer and tougher than morning session. Turn any side, it was green except for a few patches of brown cliffs on high rising peaks. We passed near a forest office (don't remember if it was house/office/both) with a large poster explaining in English that this was 'Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary', its wildlife, area being 100+ sq.km, a request to be kind to nature and then daring us to explore. The sky more gray and white than blue. Very good lighting conditions (in so far as my experience) for photography.

Seating arrangements in stone/cement/wood benches were in place at view points (atleast two), we didn't waste the opportunity to rest and snap pics to be posted on social media. We crossed valleys covered with lush green grasses like fur on blankets, just too good to keep trekking despite the steep climbs and need to rest often. Clear path indicated frequent trekkers and later found that water gushed downhill through them - so perhaps a very natural trail.


Trail picture on the way to KP
Far to go, KP not in view
In all this spectacle, we never got a view of Kumara Parvatha itself, it is hidden behind whatever assortment of peak we saw. A little dispiriting too - as one cannot gauge the distance left, except someone who knows the path very well. Guide too far ahead to share knowledge. The sky became lot blacker than gray and white. Still, it was humid. I started getting cramps, as probably did for many others. Bananas and Electral helped a bit.


Crossing hills on the way to KP
Crossing hills

The climb increasingly became tougher. To reach one particular steep hill, we had to be careful stepping inside rather large grown grass - uncertainty arising because of possible stones underneath. There wasn't any clearly visible natural path, a mesh of grass. And tiny, thin blades on edges. My idea of shorts was so ignorant. There were tiny black spots all over my shin. Having company of my colleagues was re-assuring. Gaurav and Yatin in the lead always ready to wait for me. Gautham and Karthik were behind, enjoying the trek and not worrying about reaching the peak.


Mandap on the way to KP
Check point - Mandap
90 minutes after lunch, we reached a spot referred as mandap/temple - though it has just the four pillars with a roof and no walls. From the numerous images I had clicked in this duration, I feel as if a day had passed. Most of us, if not all, welcomed another rest - a long one this time. The place is definitely a good vantage point, I clicked the river amidst forest with two bridges again. A stream is close by. And we were just few feet below the clouds. It is just magical place, if you are going, just forget worldly problems, take along friends and loved ones - I promise a heavenly experience (except perhaps when it is dry and arid in Feb/March)

Grasslands on way to KP
Looking back, patch of river visible beyond the mountains

On we marched and marched, no idea of an end point. Ignorance is bliss - not always ;) My furrowed temples stand out in pics my buddies took. I am always worried about time, on this occasion it was the sense of urgency to reach peak and not miss out in rain. At some point we had gotten message that we will have to descend down roughly around 4 PM.

I got more opportunities for macros though, a wild flower, tiny bouquets,  a caterpillar, frog (or tadpole, dunno which - but camouflaging with rocks) new shoots of leaves.Visibility dropped heavily as we treaded amongst the clouds. Seen often, somehow some member gets a stick to lean on during treks.


Sesha Parvatha
Resting atop Sesha Parvatha
Around 3:30 PM, we reached Sesha Parvatha, final peak before the elusive Kumara Parvatha. It is here than one can glimpse the peaks of KP. Guide was waiting there to lead final ascent - only 5-6 went ahead while some of us decided to stay put at Sesha Parvatha. Speed was necessary to beat rain and darkness, I was too cramped and exhausted and generally opt for safety than risk.

Kumara Parvatha
Glimpse of Kumara Parvatha (peak on left)
For around an hour, while waiting for the small group to return from KP instead of descending back, we did our best to enjoy the view, take pictures, chit-chat and gobble snacks with other members. I brooded a bit for failing to reach peak for first time in my short trekking career :P Very briefly, we got glimpse of twin peaks - the left of which is KP. To one side was small area of grassland and followed by forest. The other side was fatal fall ending with a sprawling dense forest. We were hard pressed to stop posing for snaps atop stones, near the edge and mountain peaks behind.

When the conquerers returned, they looked pretty tired. But loads happy. Reported a leech haven along the route. They didn't rest much and we started back soon, in hope of avoiding rain and reaching Battarmane before it is too dark. Such a desperate wish it was :P

Not sure how long, but within 20-30 minutes, nature opened its fury on us. As if in retribution of daring to trek even if it was last weekend of September, well past the monsoon season. Makalidurga was on top of my mind. Rain and trek don't go well with me. Though it wasn't bodily harm this time.

I had the same water-proof jerkin with me as I had then at Makalidurga. I had trusted it then and safely got purse and mobile back by placing them in inside pocket. But this, I thought I was acting clever by using instead water proof wildcraft backpack. I knew water would seep in through the zips, so used the water proof cover for the backpack to place my valuables (including the camera) at bottom of the bag (Normal usage is to cover the backpack).

Every step was prone to disaster. Water gushed along in tributaries. Shin high. I got worried for my new shoes too :P Walking besides the path on grass was not all a option - too muddy and slippery compared to wading through water, not knowing if a stone was there or not and if that was loose. Rain wasn't relenting anytime soon, so we didn't stop much at the Mandap.

A few slipped here and there, I caught myself many a times without falling. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Light was fading. Temperature dropping to make us shiver. We trekked as much as possible without taking out torches out even after rain had stopped. The not so confusing path while ascending suddenly was fraught with too many alternative paths made visible with flowing water. A familiar sight here and there guided us for long.

Before I spoiled things further when we were trekking along the edges of hill. Guides were behind us, making sure no one is left behind and compensating for the slowest members. Very few had gone ahead of us. Fog was heavy, darkness soon to envelope us. Leeches attracted to our heat. Torches were out, mine strangely working despite getting wet a bit (was in front zip, I was carrying the bag in front of me for warmth). I had no notion of having crossed this section on our way up, so I brought everyone to a halt. I argued that if this was the correct path, guides would soon be with us and we can proceed safely. If not, it would be good idea to not get lost further (remembering Satya's rescue too). Many were against me. I would not listen and told they were welcome to proceed.

I was really scared, imagining all sorts of wild dangers and ways to survive the cold if we were indeed lost. Looking back, it is strange really. Consciously, I am not convinced why life should exist, but at that hour, I was afraid, very very afraid for my being.

Thankfully, we weren't lost. About 15-20 minutes we waited in the dark, many switching off the torches to preserve battery, but now and then checking legs for leeches and flinging them off. I am sure, atleast a few were fuming to know that I brought them to a halt unnecessarily. But I guess, I would do the same next time I find in similar situation, unless I get wise about trekking and know tricks to identify routes.

My day got worser after we reached safely to Battarmane. Pool of water got collected in the very place I thought was less prone. My effort to tie up valuables was shoddy, water seeped generously inside mobile phone and wallet. Camera was safe in its own pouch even though sides were exposed. The battery of my phone had blown up so much that I could prise open the back cover to dry for hours. It had served me more than 4 years, a sorry way to lose it (and all data and contacts with it - I still haven't learnt to backup the contacts. Sim was saved that day, but I had stored most contacts in phone and card memories)

We changed into dry clothes without assurance of throwing out all leeches. Some were clinging swelled round. While waiting for dinner, we devoured plenty of snacks in candle light. Don't remember much of dinner, but we sure were well fed. Sleeping bags took care of cold but our joints ached in the morning. Not sure, but I think it rained heavily again in the night around dinner time.

I counted about 2-3 leech bites from previous day's trek in rain. (There were more waiting to be discovered above knees when I reached home). Some applied copious amount of turmeric turning their footwear yellow (given the success the day before). Some others used tobacco powder. I trusted my gaiters again, still unsure of right way to wear them - they droop down often.

After heavy rain, even the open sky trek before forest was fraught with danger. Now it was more suitable to avoid slippery muddy path in favor of grass patches. The trek through forest never seemed ending. After midway, we were numbed and resigned to walk and walk. And often keeping a lookout for leeches. The leaves clattered all around the pathway is very vivid even now, as is the sensation of seemingly endless walk.

But of course, we did come out. I immediately removed my wet shoes. My feet were crying for relief having been soaked for about 3 hours of trek. I was so happy with myself for carrying the 'extra' luggage of a pair of sandals. Some walked barefoot from that point to TT at Kukke Subramanya in favor of wet shoes.

About half a kilometer before Kukke, some of us stopped at village hotel. And to remove leeches. We freshened up our faces by splashing water. Had tea/coffee and some buns with sambhar (the ones you get in Karnataka hotels). Our attire got more than a few amusing glances, though I feel villagers ought to have seen plenty before us, year after year, weekend after weekend.

We had lunch in same hotel again, ice-cream outside, 1-2 glasses of sugarcane juice - whose shop was very crowded. After all that shivering the previous evening, it was damn too hot under the noon Sun. Considerable time we had to wait for everyone to assemble and finish lunch. The market is pretty good with plenty of dry fruits, handicrafts and the like. Large crowd on account of Sunday and popularity of temple.

Don't remember any thing at all of ride back to Bangalore. Guess we slept a lot. After writing this post finally, I can't wait to do the trek this year post monsoon :P May even train for the trek :D And definitely will take a good plastic cover and carry only absolutely necessary items :P


Little Beauties captured during KP trek
Plenty for macro shot lovers

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday morning ride with Cadence90

There are all sorts of clubs and groups in Bangalore, we just need to find the ones that suits and pay close attention to recommendations on social sites like facebook. Thats how I got to know about Cadence90. I haven't been inside their bike shop yet, but gotta be good from what I hear. They conduct workshops too, hoping to attend it next time.

My primary interest has been in the morning rides they conduct, most/all weekend mornings, starting from the bike shop in Jayanagar. I have been in Bangalore more than six years, but I hardly know road routes, except around Indiranagar. After I got B'Twin my-bike (a 7-gear cycle suited for city roads) more than a month back, I am learning a bit about routes as well as traffic rules.

The ride starts at 6 AM. So, I did a recce on Wednesday morning (another perk of being jobless :P) Took around 85 minutes for about 26 km round trip. Despite noting route on Google maps, I missed a left turn near Lalbagh. An auto-wala and an elderly man on morning walk helped me out.

And so, today, I finally rode with bunch of cycle enthusiasts. I left around 5:10 AM from my place - thankfully the dogs didn't bark at me. But the bad news was some miscreant had scratched my odometer (yeah, they exist for bicycles too) and changed gears. I don't think people abuse motorcycles or cars as badly as a decorated geared cycle.

With two missed turns near the bike shop, I reached a minute before 5:50AM. No one was around, the shop closed. I stopped to check time, frail violet rays shining in front from my little safety light. Two workers carrying sugarcane on their bicycle went past in other direction, speaking something about my light.

I went ahead to street's corner and stopped. Shop nearby wasn't ready yet to serve me tea/coffee. About 5 minutes later, saw people reaching Cadence, not on cycle though. On reaching, Chethan (owner of Cadence) greeted me. Slowly, others reached and we started about 10 minutes past 6 AM.

Knowing Mahendra and Kranti from Waynad ride eased uncertainties and soon I felt at home speaking with others. We were 7 (Mahendra, Kranti, myself, Pathanjali, Dipankar, Sowmya, Archana) to start with, 3 others (Ramesh, two more I didn't get to know) joined shortly after we started. I learnt today that I was wearing helmet wrongly - Dipankar and Ramesh helped to fit it better, a bit tight for my liking though. It was a jolly ride. Seeing hi-fi thin tire bikes, I thought I would be pressed hard to keep up to them, but pace was even around 25 kph on mostly flat city road.

Traffic was light, even after we hit Bannerghatta road (bumpy ride for some distance though). There were small ascent now and then but I continued without changing gears for whole ride. Passing Forum mall, we reached Sony World signal on 100 feet road at 6:40 PM, 10 minutes later than promised to Abhimanyu. We frequently spotted other cyclists too.

Bunch of cycle enthusiasts
At Sony World signal, Koramangla (Picture credit: Mahendra)
After a break of 10 minutes and group photo, we continued on inner ring road and took left to join old airport road. Pace was still steady that I enjoyed some hands free minutes and chatted with others. Water on road near Command Hospital sprayed our backs dirty.

Another break at start of Trinity Church road to allow others to catch up. I was in good shape, but decided to leave the group at Trinity circle - didn't want to push my body too much, it was supposed to be rest day today in my running schedule.

In total, I did about 30 km in more than 2 hours (atleast 25-30 minutes being breaks). A pleasure ride, thanks to Cadence90. Looking forward to more in future :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The perks of being unemployed

Fact (Dan Brown style) --> The 'perks' in the post title is a 'white lie' ;)


Long tale, but I promise, it is 'interesting' till last paragraph :)


I have been wanting to write this post for a long time, to start even before I left my job on March 28. Wanting is so different than what we actually do and when we do it. So many times, I have had the uncanny feeling that things will happen only when they are ought to. Of course, we do have the power of choice. But, how do we arrive at a particular choice? Is it a conscious or sub-conscious decision? For example, when I did start this post, I didn't have any intention to be talking about 'choice'. Or perhaps, I did have that intention, only it was buried deep in sub-conscious mind :D

Let's leave the fuzzy philosophical thoughts aside and return back to one's wish ;) I wanted to leave the job about 2 years back, when  I lost interest in the field I was working on. The practical mind didn't let me. Or perhaps again, it was just how things were to be. My regret is that I still left some of my responsibilities unfinished and forgetting to thank appropriately. I am not good in things like that :(

'Lost interest' is so odd? I don't blame you, my own understanding of myself and my actions isn't great too. But then, it is a pattern I have had to live with. After 10th, I chose Physics group over Commerce purely because my eldest brother got better marks with that compared to my middle brother. My own 10th marks were reason too - History 87 and Geography 71 were disappointing compared to 90+ in Maths and science subjects (despite my 'fear' over science). I didn't choose Biology group as I hated the subject vehemently.

In 12th, I got some 'interest' in Electronics, but my aim was to become 'software engineer'. So, I chose 'ECE' over 'CS' - falling to popular argument that one can always join s/w company by studying electronics but not other way around, similar to Physics over Commerce group argument in 11th (also the fact that CS in PSG wasn't govt. aided). Before 2nd year was done, I 'hated' software (due to complete mental drain after 10 days of continuous coding to solve a 'digital logic problem' for department project competition). I then switched 'interest' to hardware course in process of working with my teacher.

Masanobu Fukuoka's quote on 'work'
Beautifully put by Masanobu what I felt once I lost interest in my field of work (Image copied from friend's facebook post)
My handwriting is another enigma. It is somewhat good one day and pathetic another day. Don't remember exactly when, I once tried to change to 'slanted' cursive writing and even did well for a time. Similarly, my biology drawing in school varied too - once, in 10th, I did such a bad one that my class teacher assigned a biology teacher to oversee that I improved (which was after school hours!!) I confounded myself and the teacher by doing a very good job of some diagram - but then, I took about an hour, one doesn't have that luxury in exam hall.


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My father often chastens me that I am not practical and all theoretical. I got a very good taste of just how bad am in real world.

Saturday, March 29: 
In all eagerness of trying to take care of little things, I set out in Metro from Indiranagar. Getting down at Trinity (noticed price rise of metro ride too), I walked the few meters to Axis Bank. I was 'prepared', having photocopy of 'Rental Agreement' which I thought will be enough as proof for change in communication address.

I walked in and had no idea where the help desk was. Standing in the way and going nowhere must have been enough for help desk (by the right side of entrance) to call me, thankfully! I explained my requirement - pat came the reply that 'Rental Agreement' was simply not acceptable. Gas, BSNL landline, DL, voter-id, Aadhar, any other bank statement - none of them I had! I only had Airtel broadband bill and after some checking whether it is acceptable, I was given go ahead. Phew! By now, I was sitting and being given personal attention. All said and done, I was asked to fill a form, get a photocopy of broadband bill, identity proof and a passport size photo. And I clearly remember, I was asked to come on April 2. (My father would have probably found out required docs and gone and finished the process in one shot)

Feeling a bit disappointed, but grateful for any excuse to keep withdrawal effects (from office work) at bay, I then went on foot to Blossoms book house (famous for second hand books) and got more books to read (not withstanding the few still to be read).

Tuesday, April 1:
I cross checked all I had filled in the form, hoping to avoid mistakes and having to fill the form again at the bank. On an impulse, I called up ACT broadband to check if availability in my area has come up (few weeks back they had come back saying it wasn't). But the call wasn't picked. I improvised a bit, I carried a file to keep papers, rental agreement as a backup. Had juice and then got 'two' copies of PAN card (My father always advises to get extra copies than required).

Then, I walked to Airtel customer center, close to Old Madras road (about 10 min walk). (You see, I have a bicycle, but not trusting to park at Axis Bank and to avoid U-turn on MG road, I was playing safe). Again not knowing who to ask, I eventually asked someone that I have some queries about my broadband. I was informed that I will have to go to Airtel office on 100 feet road - this one won't help me. Trying to confirm, I asked if he was referring to Airtel office close to Domlur (knew it when my office was in Diamond District). He didn't exactly confirm that but I walked to KFC and took a bus to Doopanahalli. Walked back a bit trying to locate - saw Vodafone but no Airtel! A security guard of clothing shop informed me that Airtel office has now moved closer to KFC! Cursing myself for not looking up Google before leaving house and not owning a smart phone, I took a bus back to KFC 'and' walked back to finally reach the right Airtel office. (About 40 minutes of unnecessary walk and bus rides)

This one had a designated reception desk in plain view. After getting my point across, the fellow asked me to get a ticket request from touch machine by the entrance. Well, what do you know, I had to enter my Airtel landline number to get a request (the words to that effect was ambiguous, I wasn't sure if I was being asked landline number or account number - something like 'relationship' number). I thankfully had noted down both in note pad, but neither of them worked (the touch screen difficult to operate too). On verge of losing patience, I called receptionist to help me (thankfully keeping my voice low). He entered my landline number, without the '0' in Bangalore's STD code '080'. You tell me, how could I know?


Anyway, I took the ticket and was attended to promptly. I first asked a copy of my previous month's bill, explaining that it was needed for address proof. (All this was extra cautious steps if at all Axis asked me to validate). Next, I asked him to change my plan (I was unnecessarily paying for landline services I never used except for paying when Airtel service engineers placed a call - the irony of it! :( ) He replied that I could do that only by calling customer care or mailing to an id he wrote for me. I then asked the third reason I came for - procedure for termination, citing that I might leave the city given that I left my job.

Then, I walked back to metro station. After baggage x-ray, I got a call back from ACT. Train was arriving, so asking him to hold, I hurried up to catch. The air conditioning cooling my excited state, I was surprised and relieved to hear that ACT was ready to provide me connection. I gave my address and repeated to make sure it was noted correctly. When I reached the bank, it was closed - informed that it was holiday on account of April 1 (must be financial reason than fool's day I presume). I don't need anyone to play prank on me, am a big fool myself :D. I convinced myself that perhaps I was told 'Tuesday' not April 2, why would it be holiday, etc. If not for ACT good news, dunno how bad I would have felt after series of mood spoiling events.

After getting back to room, the ACT representative came. Here too, I had to give address proof, identity proof (happy that 'extra' copy was useful - remember, when I got copy, I didn't know ACT was coming) and passport size photo, along with signing the form where he filled the details. Rental agreement was acceptable, but I wanted to save a copy for myself. Airtel bill too (irony of it again :P), but I had only one copy. Soft copy of bill was acceptable :) Primary reason to change service was that I was getting better deal for Rs 600+ less! It is another matter to see how the service will be, my friends are okay with service so far.

Wednesday, April 2:
Hoping that I won't be sent back for lack of correct documents (or worse, if I forgot some other document required), I took the metro third time. Not before taking extra copy of both Airtel bill and PAN card (again following father's guideline, also I had HDFC card address change to take care too). I walked in confidently and straight to lady who had instructed me last time. Apparently, she was only helping me out, I had to meet someone else to submit the docs.

I fumbled a bit while taking a seat. I handed over filled form and proofs. I repeated that I had left job, etc. Well, can you expect in advance? I have to fill 'two' forms - one for address change and one for change of account from 'salary' to 'savings'. The other lady could have told me on Saturday itself :-/ And for that, I had to provide TWO copies of address proof. I produced it (thanking my father again). Rest of procedures went smooth and I was actually pleased that I got it done, despite the comedies.

Buoyed by success, I then called up HDFC customer care to politely ask procedure for address change. The representative, equally politely, gave every little step to follow - I just had to download a form, take a printout, write my new address and put in dropbox at any HDFC ATM! No address proof required. (FYI, I had looked up in Axis online account to see if I could change address online. But didn't do the same for HDFC credit card :-/ )

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Not exactly a street wise guy I am, you can infer. Which I know it too. Which, my father surmised so long ago. To summarize the post, I am as confused as anyone else what I am gonna do next. I certainly haven't figured it out yet. As can be expected, the void resulted in withdrawing effects. I should have seen it coming but didn't prepare for it. Fortunately for me, my friends had the right words of encouragement and solidify the confidence in myself.

I am enjoying the absence of work such an extent that I keep pushing away the process of trying to earn. I'll leave that to random probability of universe :P And entropy and atoms and Higgs boson :D Instead, for now, I enjoy the slow process of peeling an orange (used to make juice earlier), plucking coriander/palak leaves from strands for chutney, getting used to Ubuntu (detailed post coming later), sorting out old clothes and donating to my maid and isthiri wala, alarm free sleep, the extra time in mornings to go for a run/cycling, wandering in neighborhood to note eateries and other shops, blogging more than usual, learning a thing or two about social life and so on.

Have a nice day and listen to your heart once in a while at least :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Kaivalya - book review

I first read the book back in October 2010, when it was self published by Sumana through 'CinnamonTeal Print and Publishing Services'. I promised her then that I would write a post on my blog - the first ever review by me on a book. I couldn't though and it was really a case of not enough time. I wrote a few lines to her personally though - excerpts below:

"... Try as much, am not able to get enough time to write review for your novel. I finished it about 2 weeks back! Lest I forget it all, here is a compressed version:

Its a fast paced novel and a rank page turner, shades of Sidney Sheldon and Dan Brown in the unfolding of events. Easy flow of language means at no point do I feel to stop reading except for lack of time! I would also like to say that, at times I could see inexperience of first timer. Events could have been more tightly packed. ..."

Some more comments were there too, but they are spoilers. Well, you might ask, why am I bringing all this up suddenly, more than 3 years later on. The novel has now been accepted and published by Westland (who have brought out authors like Amish and Ashwin Sanghi) in September 2013.

Cover of 'The Revenge of Kaivalya'
Cover as put by Flipkart
More info about the novel, other reviews and where to purchase on book's facebook page.

I told myself that it was a good cue to reread the novel. The first time I had read, I was sick at home - the kind where you yearn for mother's lap. I was here, in Bangalore, all by myself and reading the book to pass time (and thereby forget the pain).

As with other things, rereading got pushed and only finished few days back. In between, I did finally meet her in January during book launch at Easy library, Koramangala. And didn't miss the chance for an autograph - another first for me. Surreal really that I was meeting an author :)

So, coming back to review. I wish this wasn't the first time to review a book and that I could put it eloquently. Here it goes:

Even for second time reading, it was fast paced. Easy to read and interesting events keep popping up almost every page. The setting spans multiple eras and all of them are nicely set-up. In between the two readings, I have trekked a lot and come to know Bangalore better, so I could relate to many landmarks in the book. They do enhance the experience. Flashbacks are interesting too and help build characters - too many for my liking though.

It is not a whodunnit, but the suspense is palpable. Just like reaching the peak of a mountain is not all but the journey that is more interesting, here too, events and characters (seemingly unrelated) make it very difficult to put aside the book, even for a break or sleep. At times, one would feel that the author has slipped up, beware, something else is brewing up there! It felt like she purposefully put it like that to tease the reader. Some particular numbers keep popping up frequently too.

Though the genre is paranormal, I'll stick with my earlier impression that the book is Dan Brown and Sidney Sheldon rolled into one. And by that, I don't mean to compare those authors with Sumana here, it's just a way to convey what kind of a book this is.

Coming to characters, many of them are memorable and atleast 1-2 distinctive personality that one would easily recall even after years. While rereading, I was surprised that I remembered little incidents and yet forgot some big plot lines.

Putting a critical eye during the second sitting meant that I did notice few short comings too. I won't go in depth with those, some are plot spoilers. Though some coincidences are very subtle - the way I like them, few of them were hard to digest. But then perhaps, fictional novel aren't supposed to follow normal life. Falling in love at first sight, stylish men and women, expressions like 'biggest in a decade', etc give a filmy touch, which I personally feel could have been toned down or completely avoided. One particular support character disappearing in the later half felt odd.

All in all, I will strongly recommend anyone looking for a good read or a fast paced novel to give this one a try - even if one doesn't like paranormal genre. It is around 400 pages, but one would easily finish in 2-3 days.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Learning Sign Language - session-1

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” - Mahatma Gandhi

“...the greatest gift you can give someone is your time” - Rick Warren

Not that I went with this intention, nor have I yet served anyone. But, one can easily relate to above quotes. After feel good factor of Colorthon, I kept a lookout for such events. It duly arrived in form of 'Learn Sign Language' (the all knowing facebook letting me know through a friend)

Organized by "Empowering Social Impact" (ESI for short - mail id: esiteambangalore@gmail.com ), team, I went without much aim - learning something new and feel good factor being top two reasons. Afraid of being late, I caught an auto from MG metro station to Cafe Coffee Day at Vittal Mallya road (about 1.5 KM). I ended up being early after which I spotted Ashay (from previous trek) and later joined by Ramya, Dhananjaiah (Organizers) and Deepa. We had to wait a bit for Meghana to join - turned out all 5 of us are trekkers too, never short of something to discuss, be it some waterfall in Kerala (where Ravana was shot) or trekking to western ghats in summer. Ramya shared her workout in NGV training Kalaripayattu too.

We settled in shadows of one of the large trees in Cubbon Park for the session. Ramya and Dhananjaiah distributed a handout of what we were going to learn and then gave a short introduction on their two main types of social events - Uthan and Nirman (short and long term social impacts). Our course is long term one - raising awareness to understand/interact with differently-abled person. They are yet to bring up a full-fledged website about ESI.

I wasn't prepared when we were asked to describe our interest in joining the event. Ashay's interest dates back to DD1 hearing-impaired news (a sample), Meghana had a live experience and Deepa always wanted to learn it. I mumbled something - but won't have to do it the next time someone asks me :)

And so, we were ready to learn the alphabets again. Not before getting to know two main types of Sign language followed in India - American Sign Language (ASL), Indian Sign Language (ISL). There are other types in different countries like Japanese, Malaysian, Ethiopian, etc. ASL is more prominent in Southern cities like Bangalore, Mysore while ISL is common in North India. The main difference between the two you ask? ASL uses one hand for alphabets and ISL uses both.

As Ramya peeled off first four alphabets (a,b,c,d if you didn't know it yet ;) and no uppercase/lowercase nonsense ) in a hurry, we sure were in a trance. As were few people around us, perhaps their sleep stolen by us. Though Sign language is primarily language in itself and secluded from spoken ones, we do need alphabets to spell out words like someone's name. A good thing we were doing it in English - only 26 letters unlike regional ones - say Hindi/Tamil.

Over next hour or so, we did all the letters in stretches of four at a time. The fingers refused to co-operate easily when switching between alphabets and I often had everyone in fits by interchanging 'd' and 'f'. Practice, practice and more practice - it started to become familiar and all of us could do a-z in one go with just a few slips, if any. It helped that it wasn't exactly a class, we were out there by our own will. It was more fun, any mistake a cue to laugh out loud. If nothing else, the session certainly provided loads of 'feel good' moments. Very few times would I have concentrated on the present as I did during the session - mind freed up to do something without pressure is priceless.

Image credit : link (A bit different from what we learnt)
Learning the Basics

Spelling out our 'long' names as part of practice helped sharpen our memory as well as provide context to learning. We then proceeded to numbers - 6-9 are tough - one has to be adept how to enact as well as recognize the mirror image when deciphering. As with alphabets, I botched up the sign to indicate one is going to say numbers next - Ramya had fits throughout in telling me that I was frequently representing some other meaning with my errors. We practiced better by enacting out our date of birth.

Image credit : link


By now, Amitesh, another of ESI organizer joined us and we insisted him to take snaps :P He also elaborated more on 'spending time' and 'empowering kids' rather than donation (which according to him only makes the child more dependent).

We then moved on from letters and numbers to words. Like - how/who/which/what etc, good morning/afternoon/evening/night, thank you, can I help you, sorry, nice, etc. What's important now is that facial and body language becomes very important in conveying the meaning rather than signs alone. Most of them utilize both hands too. Ramya also stressed on how is/are/etc are ignored in such communications. (Needless to point out that I totally got confused with so many different words and again had everyone in fits with mistakes)

Group pic - identify my sign (hint, see video below)
We gave our feedback (both written and oral), also some discussion on next venue. Group photo for memories. Then I had to leave in a rush to reach Barton Center - thus missing lunch together :(

All in all, very good way to spend time. I hope I might one day find it useful to communicate with someone differently abled. Just the sheer pleasure of learning something new is good enough too :) I will leave you with this:



Other Works

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Beginner's guide to Command line and Scripting