Monday, December 16, 2013

Technology - so where are we going with this?

To start with, this post is a result of a blog that I read today.

My story of technology began with a mobile phone that I bought during my engineering days. It was a basic handset which I bought using my scholarship money. I almost exclusively used it for messaging. My incoming/outgoing calls were minimal. In a sense, the mobile phone was used for emergency purposes or to chat with a few friends who happened to own a mobile. I used this phone for a good 4 years before I switched to a slightly advanced mobile handset. This wasn't a big leap. The next change was a bigger leap. A touch screen mobile. A smartphone.

To be fair, the term smartphone doesn't make much of a dent in the current society. Almost every other person owns one. But the real question is, does one use a smartphone to the fullest potential? Most of us don't. But there are a few of us who use a substantial percentage of the features provided. Unfortunately, I fall in that "few" category. 

So coming back to the blog I was referring to. Meeting neighbors, meeting relatives et al. Honestly, even before I owned a mobile, I never used to do that. I know I fall in a rare category. But I have to agree to one thing: before, my days after coming back home were occupied by reading books or playing volleyball. Now, it's more about changing TV channels and checking my mobile for twitter updates or checking whatsapp for group messages. And yes, the occasional facebook updates as well. Now that's not the most worrying thing(for me). The most worrying thing I see is when I travel by public transport. I rarely see anyone who is not looking at his/her smartphone! Now that scares me. For me, that's an indication our lives are being bound to things which aren't really going to help us to become better human beings. I agree, I'm a culprit too. Either to escape the boredom, or just because we can't live without, we end up staring at a screen which keeps us updated about what others are doing or where the world is headed towards. So what do we gain from all of this information? Actually, very little. 

We come to know about what the world is up to. But do we ever think about where we are going? Mostly not. Our human interactions have reduced. When we do meet, we talk about phones, latest trends in technology et al. When we aren't checking our phones, we are on laptops watching youtube videos or uploading photos on facebook or checking tweets. 

Where do we go from here is a question that bothers me every time I check a tweet or my whatsapp messages. The reality is, the week long/month long breaks we take once in a year or two doesn't undo the harm we do to ourselves for the rest of the year. Someday, we'll have to find a balance. Hope we are not forced to learn it the hard way.

This post took around 40 minutes to compose. I checked my phone at least 3 times during this. Replied to 6 tweets. Checked my facebook timeline(Thankfully I'm not that addicted to fb anymore). Replied on whatsapp to two contacts. And of course, the ever running television was blaring out something which I hardly noticed.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Born out of boredom.

Been a long time since I wrote and felt compelled to address some serious social issues. But then, as usual couldn't make much of an inroad into anything and came up with this post.

So this post is all about how socially inept I become sometimes. Especially when at marriages and other social functions which people (some of them at least) tend to enjoy a lot. I'm not judging you guys who enjoy this social functions thing (maybe I am), but instead I'm just airing my views (in fact enforcing them on you) about how and why I feel that some enjoy and some don't. 

Lets begin with those who enjoy. According to me (which the universe will agree is true), those who enjoy are the social butterflies who are pretty famous among their peers. They usually are well dressed, or good looking (or unfortunately both) and who know about it as well. And hence, whenever they end up at a party/marriage/some social bull****, they end up enjoying it to the fullest. They got competition as well, but usually the numbers are less. Hence, there is nothing stopping them from dressing up in their best attire and being the center of attraction.

Now a days, the trends are changing slightly. Although good looks still tend to rule the social events, there's this additional factor of money which has added some spice to the otherwise bland dish. These money makers I'm referring to are not the ugly money pits of our society (politicians, businessmen, goons) but the offshore settlers. These are the geeks who have settled outside and have flourished money-wise. These guys make a good killing at the social events (to be fair to them, many of them despise these events). 

Moving on, we meet the average Joe who's forced to attend these functions due to reasons beyond his grasp. Meet, me! I'm neither good looking nor am I good at dressing up. Once I turned up at a social event in denims and tees while the rest of the crowd was in suits. And to add to it, I'm tall and skinny (my teammates even nicknamed me a scarecrow :-/). I don't earn as much as the other bigwigs and I'm just super average in every aspect of life. Add to it the fact that I'm a moody person and you have the perfect recipe for someone who wants to avoid social gatherings at all costs. I am a perfect specimen of whom not to be if you want to be a social butterfly.

I guess there are a shit load of us who feel the same. Who don't fit in into these social gatherings and want to get out of it at the earliest. For all those brethren O' mine, remember always, that we suck and we will continue to suck. But those social butterflies suck more than us(lets just believe in it OK?). 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Agumbe trek. (Narasimha parvata trek)

All right, after a previous trek, a friend suggested an idea of posting the actual logistics of my next trek. Hence, the following will give you an information regarding trekking to the "Narasimha Parvata" from Agumbe. The itinerary is the one we followed. There are other routes/options available. I'll try to point them out best to my knowledge.

Trek to Narasimha parvata:
From Bangalore to Agumbe:
We  hired an Innova for the six of us. The cost per kilometer was 12 along with the daily allowance for the driver. There is a bus available from Bangalore to Agumbe (KSRTC) which leaves Bangalore around 2230 every day and reaches around 0700. The time taken by a taxi or a personal vehicle is around 6-7 hours based on the number of stops and the quality of driving.
There are two routes to Agumbe:
  • Bangalore to Shimoga to Thirthalli. The route is good till Thirthalli. A small section of the road is bad near to Thirthalli to Agumbe. Buses take this route.
  • Bangalore to Hassan to Chikmagalur to Agumbe. This route is good till Chickmagalur. After this, the road is good but its a complete ghat section which might slow one down.
Agumbe is the place where the famous Malgudi Days series was shot. The village in itself has nothing interesting to see. There is a hotel, a lodge as well. But the most famous place in Agumbe is "Doddamane". This is where most of the trekkers arrive in the morning. You will have to inform the residents of this house beforehand and they will keep breakfast ready for you. They even prepare packed lunch on request. And yes, the best part is, they do not have fixed price tag. You can give whatever you feel is right.


Routes to Narasimha parvata:
There are two routes. One from Kigga, one from Agumbe. Both require forest permits. The route from Agumbe side is thickly forested and there are multiple routes. If you are trekking from Agumbe side, you need to catch a transport to a village named Mallandur and start trekking from there. Remember, none of the routes from Agumbe side are well marked. We availed the services of a guide. I am not sure if solo trekking is possible from Agumbe side. The forest can be penetrated only by someone who knows the route. The trails get lost in the thick forest and getting lost here seems highly probable.
A view from Mallandur village.
The easy part of the trail.
Thimappa, the guide. (He has worked with discovery channel for a documentary about king cobras)
Trail broken by fallen tree.
Negotiating the thick forest.
The guide (Thimappa) took us through a very thick jungle to get us to the top of the Barkana falls. From here, you can actually see down the falls. The rocks are super slippery and a slip here make you loose 850 feet in a jiffy.
Barkana falls plummets a staggering 850 feet. (This is at the top of the falls)

After Barkana falls, the trek turns into a steep forest and the route from here till the grasslands is taxing. The humidity held by the forest can sap you. The forest gives way to grasslands after a climb of around 2 hours.The grasslands are a welcome change to the thick forest due to the possibility of cooler winds. The climb doesn't end though. The peak is around an hour and a half from the start of the grasslands.
The high grassland.
Within the clouds.
The climb continues.
The peak:
The peak in itself has very little to do. If lucky the lack of cloud cover will allow for a good view from the top. Most probably, by the time one gets to the peak it'll be around 4pm and time for the later afternoon rains.
Trekker arrive in thick fog.
The campsite:
The campsite is different from the peak. You need to get down to an old building at a lower level. Here, you can actually get access to a water well and a flowing stream. The building has two rooms and possibility is that the room will not be clean enough for anyone to camp inside. By the time we arrived at this site, it was raining heavily. We had to wait for an hour for the weather to clear up before we could pitch in the tents.
The campsite. The building with two rooms. And a few tents.
The night and the morning after:
The night wasn't cold. It didn't rain either. But then, prepare for the worst and assume that it will rain when in the Agumbe region.
The morning was clear. We couldn't really see the sunrise as the clouds at the horizon blocked the view. The view of the distant mountains was a view to behold. Our guide had left the previous evening itself and he had shown us the trail to be followed to reach Kigga. We started off almost immediately. The route for Kigga is very well marked. Some places are slippery due to the fungi on the rocks. Still it's not challenging or dangerous. For us, the walk down to Kigga took around 2 hours.
The view from the campsite.
The western ghats.

We had called up our cab driver while coming down and he was already there. From Kigga, you can go to Sringeri to freshen up and then move towards Bangalore. There are quite a few buses from Sringeri and a booking can be done beforehand. If you have rented a vehicle, the route from Sringeri is straightforward (Again either via Hassan or Shimoga).

Things to keep in mind:
  • Carrying tents is a better option if you plan to stay at the top. Relying on the building to be empty or clean is risky.
  • The forest is a leeches galore. If you are scared of leeches or blood, think twice before attempting the trek.
  • As I've already mentioned, you need to get permit in order to trek to the peak (This is a reserve forest). We gave the guide three photocopies of our ID proofs and he took care of the rest. I'm not sure where exactly can one get the forest permit. You can contact any forest office and get the information.
  • Mobile connectivity is available at the peak and the campsite. You might not get connectivity in between though.
  • If you plan to camp at the top and cook food at the top, make sure you carry some inflammable stuff with you. Most probably the firewood at the top/campsite will be moist and will not catch fire easily. 
  • Make sure you have the mobile number of an ANF official. This being a naxal area, it doesn't hurt to take precautions. 
  • The campsite is clean. There are very few human leftovers. PLEASE KEEP IT CLEAN! Carry the plastic/paper back and do not litter along the way.
  • Thimappa's mobile number: +919483496142
Leeches leeches.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Excerpts from the Stok Kangri expedition.

Day 1. 07/08/2013 21:28:41
Waiting for the flight to Delhi. Flight delayed by a good 20 minutes. This is the first time I'm facing a flight delay!
Leh flight is at 05:15 am tomorrow morning. I've set the alarm at 04:05 am. By the way, #NowPlaying Von by Sigur Ros #Love.

Day 1. 08/08/2013 03:21:35
Waiting for the flight to Leh from Delhi since 12:30 am. Cant really sleep on these airport seats. Reset the alarm to 03:30 am. The security guards here thought that we were from the armed forces!

Day 1. 08/08/2013 22:56:39
Leh is hot and tough. Weather is dry. Dehydration is a threat. Sun rays are strong. The heat today was beyond our expectations. Saw a star studded sky while coming back from dinner. Highlight of the day was the masala tea, under the open sky, listening to the running stream.
A view from Leh of the Shanti Stupa.

Day 2. 09/08/2013 22:30:30
Uneventful day. Met the fellow trekkers. A very fit and healthy group. Rahul is our trek leader.

Day 3. 10/08/2013 19:41:48
First campsite. Shang. It's next to a stream. Water looks murky. I was advised not to drink it. One major update is that the skies are clouding up! Also, we spot wild mountain goats!
Shang campsite. A wild mountain goat.

Day 4. 11/08/2013 15:05:41
4 hour trek to Shang Phu. A slight neck pain. Heavy downpour when we arrived at the campsite. The group is singing a beautiful song - "Mein shayar to nahi"...
Shang Phu campsite. Pic taken from within our tent.

Day 5. 12/08/2013 22:23:03
A very long trek of 7 hours. Two high passes. One of 16,500 ft and the other of 14,500 ft. Tricky walk after the second pass. Walked in hailstorm and rains. Right now, a few kilometers off Gangpoche campsite.
Tents at the campsite. (A few kilometers off Gangpoche)

Day 6 and 7. Written on 14/08/2013 21:18:27
Stok Kangri base camp. Altitude of around 5090m. Very bad weather. Visibility of around 100ft. Punjab police team to attempt summit tonight. Climbed up the ridge today. Yesterday, we were at Mankarmo. By the way, James seems fine with me now!!!
Pic taken when we arrived at base camp. Weather turned bad the same night.

Day 8. 15/08/2013 18:51:56
Bloody hell! It's been raining all day long. Very very bad weather. No sunshine. Independence day celebrated with vigor. Summit climb tonight. Fingers crossed. Weather is cold. We are within the clouds!

Day 9 and 10. Written on 17/08/2013 00:52:41
Evacuated base camp yesterday due to heavy snowfall. Crazy plans going around. We are going for a second try. We leave for the base camp from Stok village today (17/08/2013) and attempt the summit tonight. If the weather is bad, me and Raghu will attempt it again tomorrow night, while Phoebe and Janka will return tomorrow(18/08/2013) morning/afternoon (Their flight is on 19/08/2013). Kushal to accompany us! Indiahikes is not responsible for anything from now onwards.
Base camp situation on 16/08/2013 around 07:00:00.

Day 10 and 11. Written on 19/08/2013 17:55:05
A flashback.

17/08/2013 08:35:00 - 10:05:00
Walk from Stok Village to base camp. We carry only our day packs. Walk is fast paced and motivated. Sky is still overcast. Kushal keeps the spirits up. Janka struggling a bit due to her day pack. She's a fighter. She'll get through. I know.

17/08/2013 11:30:00
Mankarmo campsite. Met other groups going down while coming to Mankarmo. Other guides here at Mankarmo cheer us up and ask us to climb the summit! They don't want us to go back empty handed. Kalyan, our guide to be, seems unsure if he'll join us.

17/08/2013 around 15:00:00
We reach base camp. We spent around an hour and a half at Mankarmo. Rain and hailstorm while coming to the base camp. Again worried about Janka. Kushal worried as well. We push through though. The Singaporean group is surprised to see us. We meet our guide Kiran. Food and sleep to follow.

17/08/2013 17:30:00
Out of the tent for a toilet break. I see patches of clear blue skies. Kushal is around. I smile and point to the heavens. He laughs.

17/08/2013 21:30:00
Kushal shakes my tent up. Tells me that he's running back to Leh. I'm worried that the weather has turned bad. I rush out and he shows to me the clouds running past the moon. Clearer skies! Apparently he was sent to wake me up for the dinner! We go to the Mitra cafe for dinner. Raghu, Janka and Phoebe already there. We dine.

17/08/2013 22:05:00
Me and Raghu discuss about the gaiters. We will prepare them out of garbage bags. I dress up in the clothes I will be wearing for the climb and go off to sleep.

17/08/2013 23:35:00
I hear rain drops on the tent. Raghu wakes up and goes out. I peep out to see that the visibility has reduced. We go out to the cafe. Kiran wakes up and starts to dress up. No one else seems to be there. We prepare our gaiters. Janka and Phoebe join in.

18/08/2013 00:45:00
We start off to the summit. Very light drizzle. Formation is discussed. Kiran, Phoebe, Raghu, Janka, Me and Kushal will be the order. A Hong Kong guy joins in and he'll go behind Kiran.
Ridge climb starts out to be tougher than expected. My jacket chokes me near my neck. The balaclava prevents rapid breathing. At the top of the ridge, I remove the balaclava and loosen my jacket. We march on to the advanced base camp. Takes us around an hour and a half. Fleeting glimpses of snow.
Next is the glacier. Snow is heavy. We put on the crampons. We continue our climb. The zig-zag climb to the shoulder is hard. Hong Kong guy keeps slipping. We see flashlights in the distance. A few other teams have started. We continue in dark with our headlamps showing the way. Sky is still overcast.

18/08/2013 around 05:30:00
We turn back and see fog approaching us. We are near the shoulder of the mountain. Janka gets worried. I assure her that the fog wont catch us. Destiny, I say. Phoebe seems to be slow. Something's wrong with her. My phone begins to ring. Oh no wait, it's the alarm. I'm too lazy to switch it off. Everyone gives me a look!

18/08/2013 around 07:00:00
We are beyond the shoulder and climbing towards the peak. I tell Janka that the fog didn't catch us. I shout destiny. Kiran asks me if I'm fine. He suspects that the altitude has hit me now! Phoebe is still struggling.

18/08/2013 08:30:00
Summit. We make it to the summit despite all odds. The sun is slowly starting to shine on us. The weather clears up just enough to show us a glimpse of where we stand. I bow down to the mountain.
Footprints show the path we came from.
Phoebe is back to her normal self! The feeling of reaching the summit is beyond words. Other teams are slowly arriving.
Pic taken at the summit.

18/08/2013 13:00:00
Base camp. Journey down was more taxing than expected. Phoebe was in high spirits. Chatting all the way. Janka almost asleep. Raghu tired and sleepy. Me? Just tired.

18/08/2013 15:30:00 - 21:00:00
Walk back to Stok village and drive to Leh. Uneventful.
Inspiring thoughts are written on stones all along the way.

We still cant believe that we achieved the summit! All of us are tired. I doze off during conversations. We finish dinner at around 00:00:00. The girls fly out tomorrow morning.
Some jagged mountains on our way back to Stok village.

Day 12 and 13. Written on 20/08/2013 09:49:21
Met Rahul yesterday for lunch. He was happy for us. Proud as well. Janka and Phoebe flew out yesterday early morning. Now I'm waiting for the flight back to Delhi. What a memorable journey it has been. An adventure that I had never expected. Thank you Raghu, Phoebe and Janka. And yes, the ever smiling Kushal and the knowledgeable Kiran.

-So long! 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Musical Ramblings.

There is something in music. 
Something which transcends the living. 
Something which takes you beyond  your thoughts and feelings. 
I doubt if I'm the only one who feels this. 
I doubt if there is anything more potent than music, 
To heal a wounded soul. 
A crying heart. 
Or even a disturbed mind. 

I was just lost in the thoughts of some good old friend. Lost in the memories which I felt like reliving. That's when I just switched on to some music. More specifically, Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo. A cover by Shankar Tucker. Now I am no audiophile, but there's something about getting carried away far into the horizon on the shoulders of a beautiful song which I cannot resist. 

Those feelings, when carried on the wings of music,
Those thoughts, when caressed by the notes,
Create a melody beyond the grasp,
Of the human mind.
Or that of the Creator even.

Why am I writing this post? I have no clue. Just a thought that my mind had to put forth.

Till then,