Monday, June 18, 2007

We came. We saw. We conquered !

It was a tossup between a trek and a night at a beach. Heated conferences on yahoo messenger, telephonic convos and finally a get-together-brainstorming session sealed the matters in favour of a trek. Mahuli was chosen as the final frontier. Initially there were only four of us. Lots of coaxing and cajoling later and the party had finally swelled to seven. And what a perfect seven it finally turned out to be. Trek-experience wise, the composition of the group was highly colourful. There were three of us who were total novices - Sumit, Anand and I (Arunabh). There were two who had been there and seen that a couple of times - Aashish and Nirav. Rounding up the group were the hommes responsables - the trek hardened warriors, Sai and Poddar.
We left IIT for the railway station at around 5am. Wihin half an hour , we were inside the local heading towards Asangaon. Most had slept only a few hours the previous night while a couple were on nightouts. But that didn't reflect on anyone's spirits as most were quite chirpy and cherubic. And no, we didn't play any antakshari in the train. It was more about the hitherto unheard 'manly' games as the pic clearly shows :P. In around an hour we were at the small decrepit Asangaon railway station. The sun was out in all its might which was not a good sign. The place reminded me the of typical Hitchcock murder plots but i somehow managed to keep it to myself.Only one eaterie was to be found- hot succulent vada paos, amul kool and walnut muffins formed the brekfast. Having a couple of marathis in the group made communication with the locals much easier. The bravehearts that we were, we decided to walk the distance from Asangaon to Muhali. A little help from an autorickwallah, who seemed high on something didn't help too much either. We could have actually asked him to take us all the distance to the base camp. But one of the more enthusiastic group leaders thought that walking the distance shouldn't be a big deal. The decision was catastrophic. But no blame games here :P
The road definitely seemed the road less travelled. There were only autorickshaws plying on the road carrying loads of trekking enthusiasts. Alas! every group but ours had a good enough sprinkling of the other sex. This added salt to the wounds. But then Lady Luck had better things in store for us. Not for the first time. Black clouds started gathering. Now we could see the silhouetee of the intimidating peaks. I could literally feel the butterflies in my stomach. But the enthusiasm didn't sag. Even the four kilometers of walk had not done much damage to the enthusiasm. At the base camp we were greeted by the sight of another group which was almost 6 times as large as ours. And they also had girls:( This group had a wonderful origin upon which i would dwell later. The sight of the peaks was awe inspiring and intimidating for a newbie like me. I was going through a gamut of emotions which i did well to keep to myself. Not that i would have frightened others but would have made me the butt of ridicule for the remainder of the trip.
The initial climb was a child's play as we were almost running. The land was largely flat which made it easier. But hardly had we gained a little height when all of a sudden, unannounced, the climb became steep. The path had become ragged, slippery and stony. After about half an hour of ascent, i was left high and dry. The party came to a halt on a little piece of flat land. It was only when i looked around did i realise that we had actually gained a lot of height. The other group used this opporunity to get a lead on us. A friendly talk with a group member and we realised how omnipotent Orkut has become. The group comprised trekking enthusiasts from Maharastra who had come together through a trekking community on Orkut on a whim. This gives the Govt another reason for considering/not considering the idea of clamping down on orkut. 10 minutes later we started the second round of our ascent. This was more gruelling and more demanding. I was feeling something that can be best described as a close cousin of vertigo. The other group was using 'Aye O!' to keep in touch with each other. The whole landscape kept resounding with loud screams of 'Aye O!' every now and then. It also turned into an 'Aeee O!' when one of the female enthusiasts decided to give it a voice. We had to fight back. We zeroed upon the F word. 'Fuck u' was how we were going to communicate with each other. And soon the "Fuck u"s drowned the 'Aye O!'s That was the first among many of our victories that day. Then came the time for the second break. My legs were giving away and i wasn't the only one who was making noises. The climb was also showing its effects on Aashish and Sumit.
The second rest was a tad shorter than the first one because Sai and Poddar were keen on making the conquest asap. We were forced to tow their lines, but not before i had done my lil bit of Pranayama. And Nirav his lil bit of smoking. The climb now was the toughest. For this purpose, the party was practically split up into two. Sai would be dragging me and Sumit up the slopes while Poddar would lead the remaining three ahead of us. If Sai was getting frustrated by the way we somehow dragged our loads, he didn't show it. At some places, he was even pushing me.
Meanwhile, kaviraj Anand kept twisting the lyrics of "Ganpat" of the Lokhandwala fame to egg everyone on. Lady Luck seemed delighted with our efforts. Scintillatingly (for the lack of a better adjective) soothing wind began to blow combined with a comfortable drizzle which was pleasant enough so as to not hamper our ascent.For the last 500 fts or so, the slope became absolutely precipitous and the ascent gravity defying. Had i missed a step, you would not have been reading this account. Every 100ft, i paused, did a rapidfire version of pranayam and then repeated the question to myself,'To do or not to do?'. The answer always came from behind in the form of a light push from by Sai.
Finally, after approximately 3 hours of an arduous jouney we were there where everyone craves to be. Been there and done that! Now was the time for the hunger pangs to start showing their effects. Biscuits were all we had. I was having an uncontrollable craving for non veg food and could have eaten anything raw. Alas! that was not to be. We rested our tired limbs and then decided to explore the landscape. If there is beauty on earth this was it. We were literally walking on the clouds. And it had started to pour now. The script couldn't have been better. We were all soaked -Nirav and I more that the others because we had landed there without any protection. No words can do justice to the divine beauty of the place. So i would let the pictures speak for themselves. After roaming around and soaking in the beauty of the place, thirst started getting the better of the men. We had been forewarned to carry enough water on us. But we never knew that the enough would not be enough. We were having a steamy hot affair with Lady Luck. We chanced upon a group of locals who emerged as if out of thin air. They led us to a source of water where they did rain water harvesting. We drank water as if there was no tomorrow and then filled all the bottles. Replenished and rejuvenated, we were back at our helms. We had still a lot to explore before we could be on our way back. This curiosity had us walking into a jungle which reminded Anand of Kali's jungle from the bolly flick 'Kaal'. The jungle had lots of variety to offer. But the most noteworthy was an engraved stone with a long key drawn on it- something that brought back memories of another bolly flick Haatimtai where there was a tilasmi chaabi. This one had a chaabi but the tilasmi part was beyond the comprehension of mere mortals like us. Finally, we came upon the Kalyan Darwaza which was a paradise for the rock climbing enthusiasts. Fortunately for me, my group members had not given a thought to this and so were without the basic paraphernalia. Which meant that we weren't going rock climbing :D
Now having seen all that was to be seen, we started our descent. Compared with the ascent, the descent was a child's play. Although the legs were hurting badly and there were rashes, bruises, broken nails; the descent lasted for approximately two hours. Once we were grounded, we turned back and bid our final adieu. Once amongst the population, we dined at a restaurant in a way that would befit a pack of hungry wolves.
Before i wind up, a few facts and figures to spice up this gory and wonderful tale. This is approximately 2700 feet high which means i can go up 1/9th of Mt Everest :D. Sounds boastful and vainglorious but i would count that as an achievement for someone who had not climbed more than 500 feet before. A few casualties here and there - my costly nike shoes suffered irrecoverable damage. A few wind cheaters that weren't actually wind cheaters - couldn't bear the brunt of pre-monsoon showers. Someone lost a cap.
For a newbie like me, a few lessons were also there to be learnt.
Like jeans might look cool but thats not what you wear when you go on a trek.
Never ever look up. The height left to be covered keeps increasing in geometric progression. Water bottles might be difficult to carry but you realise the importance of them, only when you have to stick out your parched tongue in the hope that some rain water will fall on it and quench your thirst.
Lady Luck changes even before you have had time to thank her .
Pranayama rocks !!
Having a few girls is always a bright idea. But boys dont suck either! You all rocked!
The guide is the GOD!
And finally, the joy and excitement and the kick that you get out of such a trek is simply unparalleled. Hats off to all my mateys. You made my day :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Quite a few things change as you make the transition from the comfy existence of a home to the tougher grind of a hostel life. One of the major changes is your relation with the idiot box. While at home, the television is forever at your beck and call. In a hostel, its always a compromise where everyone has to go along with the majority's opinion. So things like 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' and 'Laughter Challenge' always get a precedence over a cricket match. This has basically killed my appetite for the game played between the polished willow and the red cherry. But whenever i get the opportunity, i try and catch up with the game that once used to be my passion. Cricket also means Hero worship. The moment you develop an infatuation for the game, you also develop an infatuation for the gamers. This post dwells upon the kind of cricketing hero worship that i have indulged in
Hero worship is something that i indulged in the moment i started to understand the nuances of the game. My first childhood hero was - who else but Kapil Dev. I wonder if there would be anyone from my generation who hasnt idolised Kapil Dev at one point or the other in his life. All i began with was this little piece of info that Kapil Dev was India's best quickie who also wielded the willow ala Dhoni does today. I grew up on tales of how a young lad from a small town in Haryana had become the biggest sporting sensation ever to have hogged the limelights. My mom, very mommy-like, used this phenomenol success story time and again to drive home the importance of milk in any person's success - the kind of story which can have great impact on the impressionable minds of young children. Stories about how Kapil could drink 5 litres a milk everyday had us siblings more mesmerised than his actual cricketing exploits.But a mom will always be a mom. She was also quick enough to point out that sports was one area where the number of success stories were far outnumbered by those which could somehow never make the cut.
Padhoge likhoge banoge nawaab
Kheloge Koodoge banoge kharaab

Regardless of that, kapil continued to 'haunt' my imaginations like no one had done before. So much so that i had a secret plan up my sleeve - study during the day to keep my parents satisfied and work upon my batting when the whole world slept. Yeah, i didn't fancy myself as a 'bowler Dev' but more as a 'batter Dev'. But very soon i knew that shadow batting wont take me anywhere.
So to overcome the disappointment, i went for a hero-change. Replacement came in the form of the indomitable Sir Vivian Richards. Arguably the most destructive batsman to have ever wielded the willow with elan. Though he was nearing retirement, he showed no signs of mellowing down. He was as menacing as he used to be though the effect was not quite the same (so said the old timers). I remember buying old issues of sportstar from the raddiwala at exorbitant prices, even if it carried a single article about King Richards. And i drank in all that like a heady wine. But then the inevitable happened. Sir Viv called it a day. I was heart broken and for the first time in my conscious memory, was left 'idol-less'. Days passed and i became more and more desperate for an idol.
W.V. Raman ( now dontcha ask raman who? ) came in as the compromise choice. This incident took place sometimes in 1995-96. My joy knew no bounds when i realised that he was travelling in the same train as me (ofcourse in the 1st AC) for a ranji match at Jamshedpur. As soon as he alighted from the train, my younger sister and I rushed towards him. He was accompanied by the now infamous Maninder Singh, once-also-clicked Ajay Sharma and Atul Wassan who is now the host of some of the most boring cricket shows on DD National. Yawn! I got his autograph on the back of my tshirt while Mani obliged my sister. That was the last i heard of W V Raman. I briefly experimented with the likes of Ian Healy,Bevan, Azhar, Dominic Cork, gentle giant Walsh,even Aaquib Javed and few others who do not merit a mention. But all these experiments were ephemeral. Because by that time Brian Lara and Wasim Akram had become the big names that were going to rule international cricket for years to come. I agree that i discovered Wasim Bhai a tad late. He had already won the hearts of cricket lovers around the world with his bowling which clearly reflected a hunger for wickets. The kind of killer instinct that gets the adrenaline pumping. His trademark lethal toe crunchers which were almost unplayable. I can still vividly remember a grimacing Kiran More; almost on the verge of tears due to the sheer physical pain; dragging himself back to the pavilion when he was trapped in front of the wicket. And the celebrations thereafter were what folklores are made of :) FYI,More's toe took almost three days to heal thereafter.
But my search for the elusive idol finally ended with one man everybody loves to call Brian Charles Lara. The man the machine. The run scoring machine. One man who singlehandedly saved the Windies from plummeting to the abysmal depths that it ideally should have once the Ambrose-Walsh-Richardson era ended. For a team that had suddenly been bereft of all big names, Lara led from the front. A terminator to the core, who always let his bat do the talking. And the real test of character came down under in the face of possibly the best bowling attack ever in the cricketing history. An attack that boasted names like Warne ( i also flirted with him briefly), McGrath ( how i hate his consistency, Gillespie(why did he perform the vanishing act?), Lee (man!! he sure knows how to celebrate) etc etc. And he dominated them all. So much so that Mcgrath rates him as the toughest batter he has ever bowled to. Now that he has officially called it quits, Brian Lara would still continue to be my idol - FOREVER!!
Amongst the current crop, its a neck to neck between Freddy Flintoff and Huss Hussey. But i guess it would be Hussey in the end because i dont see England breaking the Australian jinx in the near future. And i sincerely hope they dont.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What man proposes, God disposes

"When a man wants something very badly the whole universe conspires to help him achieve it!" Words of 'infinite wisdom' straight from the horse's mouth. Paulo Coelho must have never been to Bombay. Or even if he might have been, he might have never risked going to one of the cinema theatres. Even if he might have risked, it must not have been a Sunday. I have always disliked Paulo Coelho and his 'wisdom'. Now i have more reasons to do so.

Before i get to the original story, a prelude would be in place.
The prelude: This is the story of a young guy. The guy doesn't mind watching movies once in a while regardless of the language, theme, quality, actors etc etc. What matters is the medium. A television or a pc would be more than welcome. But the guy shirks at the thought of spending a few precious bucks for the sake of watching the same movie at the theatre. The only movie that he has ever watched to date in a theatre has been Dilip kumar-Vaijyanthi Mala starrer 'Madhumati'. The reasons for watching the movie would require yet another post.

The story: Then something happened one day. The guy, tired of vegetating within the four walls of his hostel room, decides to grace PVR theatre with his benign presence. The partners in crime being the ever scheming 'S' and 'An' who quite deserves the 'bapu' tag. I would stick to these names so that they can be in no way used against the guy when he stands for the post of President of India or the President of World bank or for that matter, Chief Justice of Pakistan in future. Change of heart was brought about by the fact that 'An' had two free tickets. Deal was that the three of them would contribute equally towards the cost of the third ticket with 'An' being generous enough to not make noises about it. Catch - the movie was 'Fool and Final'. The guys land up at PVR well ahead of time. Then came the second biggest shockof the day. The biggest ofcourse being the guy relenting to go to a theatre. The movie was running housefull. Unbelievable yet true. Even as Himeshbhai was crowing nearby, the scheming 'S' got into a huddle with 'An' thinking of ways to 'katao' the guy. But in vain. The guy won't budge without them in tow. Ultimately, 'S' came up with this bright idea of first selling off the tickets and then deciding what was to be done with the money. Finding fools for the foolery was the simplest thing to do. A pair of what were definitely love birds (though the guy must have been the same age as the girl's father) leapt at the offer. Now the troika was richer by 300 bucks. But the foolhardy didn't stop at this. Huma theatre was the next target. Nothing changed. Soldout. A few expletives directed at the person manning the counter didn't help either. They had been fooled and this was final. The writing was clear on the wall. But the booty had to be utilised. An awesome combo of pizzas, nutty chocolate rolls, french fries, garlic bread and chilled coke at a cool 300 bucks enough to serve three grown ups more than made the day. Sumptuous meal !

The End: The guy rounded it up by watching Eastwood's 'Letters from Iwo Jima' in his room.
50 bucks are still 50 bucks. For the mathematically disabled, when you split up 150 bucks between 3 people (which would have been the cost of that elusive ticket), each ends up paying 50 bucks. The guy had planned a tear-to-shreds review of the movie on his blog (regardless of the movie starring some Miss Takia). A free treat is a free treat is a free treat. In conclusion, all is well that ends well. "What man proposes, God disposes!"

Before signing off: Left to me, i would rephrase Coelho as "When a man wants something very badly the whole universe conspires to ensure that he doesn't achieve it. This makes the universe very happy. But this happiness is rather shortlived. The man realises that by not having achieved that 'something', he has endedp up happier". Now beat that !

PS: No marks for guessing who the protagonist is.
No marks for predicting that there is no love lost between me and Coelho