Sunday, November 29, 2009

holiday planning is so much fun!

Yeah some of the things i love!
done with the holiday planning for this year.. somehow it just reminds me of the holiday last year..
It just feels like yesterday.
Though the holiday consisted of Corbett, Nainital and Agra.. for the sake of my love for wildlife, i would call it the Corbett trip.

Lots of planning had gone into it. Right from the bookings for the trains and flights to the stay in the forest.. everything had to be taken care of.
Thankfully for me, Tina my wife, also has an eye for detail and that makes the planning part a lot easier. Had even one of us been the causal, 'chalta hai' traveller who is content with 'flight-nahi-toh-train-and-train-nahi-toh-bus' attitude like the current XBox generation, our holiday life wouldn't have existed.

We readied the plan for March in December itself. Took half a day off from office to go to the KMVN office at Hyd to book the forest lodge. Got the air tickets to Delhi done and we were done to go!

Day 1 : Flight from Hyd to Delhi -
4 people, me, Tina, Vijay(my college pal) and Vyanks(the Finacle wonderboy) were onboard. Night flight, what else could you expect? Dozed off till we reached Delhi.
There, my overzealous cousin picked us up from the airport and took us home for the nightstay and we were served yummy home food.

Day 2 : The trip begins -

Early morning, a decent looking car picked us up from our house and we started the trip to Corbett. The journey was dusty as expected on Indian roads.. but the highway was pretty good except for places where we encountered villages and overcrowded towns. We stopped somewhere in UP hinterland at a dhaba for breakfast which was amazingly cheap and good in terms of food. Paranthas aren't the prescribed food for road journeys but with a Punjabi foodie on board.. paranthas were the way to go!
The journey lasted for about 5 hours and we kept ourselves busy by talking ... mostly about college :)
Once we reached KMVN in Ramnagar, we were taken to a decent looking but old guesthouse where we were asked to wait for getting the permits. It pretty much functions the old sarkaari way, but then they cannot let every tom dick and harry into the tiger territory :). I just couldnt wait to get in, the wait was killing me.

Half an hour flat, our over friendly driver, Sunil got us inside the gates of Dhikala which is one of the four zones that the park has. Do not confuse Dhikala to be a small area... it could be of the size of a small city like Mysore or Pune.
The entry was symbolic. Something like this :

Once inside, the feeling was surreal.. our driver was over enthusiastic but had a very good eye which amazed us. He kept spotting fauna which were camouflaged. We then had to use Binoculars or the video cam to zoom in and see...
He also tended to exaggerate a lot.. he said that the last time he came here, he saw a tiger on the road which we all just laughed off :)

Dhikala FRH(Forest Rest House) is about 40 kms inside the jungle from the gate.. the road is anything but motorable, so dont take your car :) .. but if you are in a taxi.. then there are very few things that you will ever compare to the nature beauty on platter.
We reached FRH by 3 pm. It was a nice decent block with a few buildings. The mistake people make is that they book resorts.
I just wanna say, are you in tigerland to do the sauna? You need to be close to nature and feel the pressure of living in the dark. Thats what makes the experience worthwhile.

Anyways, had very nice tea with some snacks and the person at the front desk was kind enough to us.. he was ever smiling.. the pahadi people always do. Thats why i love them!
He got us an elephant safari arranged for the next morning.
We wandered outside the cafeteria when we saw some commotion in the grasslands in front of us.. people said.. "Tiger, Tiger..."
I got my binoculars out and saw a tiger chasing a herd of deers and scaring away a few kid elephants far far so good..
It was dusk and darkness was approaching.
The beauty was surreal...

We had dinner and were walking to the rooms.
Then the fun began. Suddenly we realized that we couldn't see the path. The darkness in Corbett is to be seen to be believed.
To add to that, there were all kinds of sounds and calls of animals. Tina was afraid if there was a snake on the way to the room or worse still if there could be a tiger looking at us with his night vision eyes.
But then it was just about 10-20 metres which was dark. We heaved a sigh when we saw our rooms :)

Me and Tina went into our room when Vijay called out from the other.. "Akshay, do u need odomos??"
Boom.. not again.. i stepped out of my room in total darkness.. and before taking the next step jumped back in again.. "Vijay, you get it in my room please" I shouted back..
Vijay : "No ways"
Then i just took Tina to the door and showed her the darkness. It's hard to believe but i haven't seen anything as dark as that night ever.
Somehow i managed to go to their room and get the damn thing.

Day 3: Corbett -

Next morning, elephant safari was wonderful.. we got onto an elephant whose name was 'Chanchal'. I wish i had a better camera.. there were so many birds and other species that my point and shoot couldn't click.
Just before the end of it, we saw couple of other elephants which had stopped in the middle of the path.. just waiting and doing nothing.
The mahout told us that there is a tiger around. We could see the deers in alert state ready to sprint. The sound of the air was twitching their ears. The hunt was on the cards and the silence deafening.
But nothing happened. The king was around but chose not to show up in front of so many people.

All great beings on earth are solitary. I am solitary too :)

We went back dejected, but the feel of the jungle had gripped us by then.. our hearts were pounding sometime back but now we were having the yummy breakfast in the middle of the jungle.

Evening 3 pm :
We were ready for our jeep safari... we roamed the grasslands, the riverside and the reservoir.. clicked some amazing snaps.

Few of them :

We were more than happy with the sighting of the herd of wild elephants and hyenas and deer.
Just then our tour guide got a call on his walkie talkie..
watering hole 24.. he asked the driver to rush.. watering hole 24.. 24.. quick...
our jeep zipped through with amazing speed.. it was a 4*4 drive.
We were asked to hold ourselves firm.. the ride was bumpy but we were there in about 3 mins... We saw an elephant charging towards the bushes.
We were told that whenever a tiger is sighted all the resort elephants charge and create a huddle so that the tiger doesnt get violent.

Everyone waited with gasping breath. Minutes passed.. one .. two .. three... there was a countdown.. so silent. Nowhere do a group of Indians sit in such silence.
and then, an overwhelmingly idiotic moron from Delhi who had lost his senses in his Alto just before us got down from his car. People yelled at him.. "Kya kar raha hai be?? Mar jayega(What are you doing man? Wanna get killed?)"
And as lightening strikes, yellow stripes leapt 10 feet maybe couple of metres away from the lost Delhiite.
It had leapt 10 feet from one side of the path into the deep jungle the other side.
It was a tigress.
Our day was made. People were spellbound.
But that guy from Delhi, i am sure would now never get down from his car even in Delhi. His pants were wet.
But we were happy. We just saw the king of the jungle in his territory in full glory.

By now, we got used to the rules of the jungle. We thought like animals. The feeling had sunk in and we were happy that our holiday was so successful.

We had our dinner and slept peacefully.

Day 4 : Corbett -

We got up to another jeep safari.. This time we went to the other part of the jungle.
Had a long drive of about 3 hours.
By now, we were so mesmerized by the aura of the king, that we anticipated it everywhere.
But then, if the sightings were so easy, the fun would be lost. It was like an Indo-Pak match of the 90s, which happened once a year and the tension was palpable.
The joy of seeing the king in its territory is something which cannot be explained in words.
Catching him in his habitat is so different from watching it in a zoo.
We saw a lot of pug marks which indicated that he roamed the territory not so long back.

We did not get to see the king today, but our holiday was so enriching that we had forgotten the mundane city life by now.
We just did not want to leave the place.
But as they say, parting is the most difficult part.. and we had to part.

We recorded our sighting on the tiger sighting board too :)

With heavy hearts and very refreshed minds, we took leave of the king's territory.

We asked the king for permission to leave.. and he gave us a 'Roar of Approval'

PS :
We proceeded to Nainital and Agra thereafter which were beautiful too, but were holiday destinations that people generally do. So you would get a lot of matter on that elsewhere too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

memories.. the ones that leave a sour taste

i was thinking about the past..
one of my past friendships seems so stupid now.. there was a particular person who gave so much gyaan about everything and everyone around thought that the person was a genius.. the mature one among the bunch of immature fools...
but in retrospect.. i realize how much of a bore and an idiot that person was...

Like they say, what you see is not what you get sometimes...

I just feel like going back and doing an erase.

The mind is so bloody immature during the growing up days... just want to do a Ctrl+Z of many things....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Relationships.. can they be decoded

Yesterday, me with a few friends had a very interesting argument over dinner which brought me to a question about relationships.
There is a friend who doesn't take kindly to Sachin Tendulkar's achievements. There was another person favouring him.
Similarly there was one person on my side.. goes without saying that we were supporting Tendulkar.
Now call it hero worship or pure emotional attachment or plain data in our favour, we were very forthright in our arguments. They, understandably were towing the opposite line. We asked them for data to back their line of argument, they couldn't and we said you cannot.
Typical argument eh!
But wait.. we all were running high on emotions.. whether for or against him. An emotion is still an emotion.
As much as they love to loathe him, no force in the universe can ever make me give into it.. and i will hold the fort.
But why?

This brought me to the next question.. is it inbuilt in our DNA to get emotionally connected to a person whom you have grown up watching... does it affect you to such an extent that you will simply dismiss any counter argument against him or her?
If yes, then why is it built?

And why do humans have this tendency of bonding more than any other species? Why the 'tera mera saath rahe' concept... why the 'saat janmon ka bandhan'? Was it a massive attempt by our ancestors just to keep the race together?
or is it actually inbuilt in our genes to live and let live??

I agree there will be exceptions always.. there will be terrorists who dont care .. there will be rebellious kids who dont think the way their last generation thought.
But in the end, peace will prevail.

Why do the most stable relationships have the maximum number of conflicts? I feel its the nature's way of ensuring that the spark is always there.. that it doesnt die because of mundaneness of life.
All the mature dads and moms say... jahan ladayi hoti hai.. wahin pyaar sabse zyaada hota hai...
I dont think they have formed this opinion about the relations.. they have learnt it from the nature.

Just my opinion though...

I have digressed a lot from the topic.. but then you see there is a connect between each of these legs...

The Sachin factor... for and against.. this had to do with emotional attachment that we developed with him over the years.. more importantly the formative years.. and on the contrary.. the other guys saw something they did not like about him and have carried on with that sentiment. He would have proved them wrong a zillion times with his bat.. but that few things that 'the other guys' saw in their childhood.. for whatever reasons.. will be hard to erase.
Same case with us.

Now how is this case linked to the next case about human relationships and making peace?
The atmosphere was charged up... the groups were divided and equally vociferous.. infact i should say voci'ferocious'.
People giving their own arguments.. getting pissed off and pissing people off.
But finally what happens? Nature takes over... calms things down... makes you realize how small you are and these things are in the 'larger scheme of things'.
And suddenly it dawns on you that what you have been doing might have been stupid.. i mean its good for passing time.. but its still stupid in the 'larger scheme of things'.
So what do we do next? As an automatic process without anyone making a genuine attempt.. out of nowhere comes out an olive branch in the form of a smile or a sentence which calms everyone down.

I might be hallucinating.. but I am intrigued by the ways of nature.. if at all what i am hypothesizing is true.
So much for the human brain and we still fight over things like Telangana.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The man, the legend, a living one

I thought I wouldn’t write this at this unearthly hour. Its 1:30 AM. But I would lie to myself if I thought I could sleep without putting my words in writing. The match refuses to get out of my mind.

Home sweet home,
1:30 AM,
technically 6th November.

Me, Abhishek, Alankar and Sankar set out from office in the afternoon. We were disappointed with India’s bowling effort which cost us 350 runs.
We thought we would watch Sehwag blasting the bowlers and leave the stadium once Sachin got out.
But boy, God(the real God) proves everytime and rightly so that we humans are just dust. We have no idea about whats gonna happen the next second, and we start planning big things like we have taken over from him.
What awaited us was not thought about by the billion minds in India and the paltry number of minds that exist down under.

If ever there was total hysteria, if ever there was utopia, if ever heaven existed then it was here, here in my city, here in Hyderabad.
The 5 feet 5 inch man came close to the real God when he started waving his magic wand. The wand which earlier was a MRF and now is an Adidas.
But if it were just for the 2 companies, then it wouldn’t have created 31,000 runs. The man has magical skull deep under which exists a brain that is unfathomable by human intelligence.
The brain that can bamboozle Ricky Ponting in sleep mode, the brain that can traumatize the number 1 team in the world, the brain that can make a daunting 350 look like a college team score.
The brain that is the lifeline of a billion hearts.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, he is still the man India looks upto.

Two decades after he rose to dizzying heights, he is still climbing up the stairs. If ever there were a CRR for him, he would blow the CRR meter. 1+ is pittance.

The crowd of 60,000 was a puppet in his hands. When a catch is taken by him, the crowd billows like they have triumphed over an alien planet. When he waves back in reciprocation, they miss a heartbeat.

To any person watching it on TV, I would sound pompous, I would sound like an idiot who is writing peans in his name.
But to me, it was the one of most memorable evenings ever. I have never seen a cricket match more exciting, I have never seen an innings more flawless.

Critics don’t deserve a mention, so I am sparing myself the pain. Chuck the critics.
He remains unparalleled after 20 years.
This man still commands the country.

After the match ceremony was over, he was the last cricketer leaving the field. I had been cheering for him and India all through the day. My throat was sore, my eyes tired and my heart disappointed. But one last time, I pulled in enough air in my lungs and yelled
”Love you Sachin”.

He might or might not have heard me, but the feeling of contentment I had at the risk of sounding gay is everything to me.

Cricket is his life, but he has grown too big for it.
He made my day, he made India’s day.
That man, Sachin Tendulkar, is still the one.

- An absolutely awe struck fan of 20 years who was witness to his 186 and 175 at Hyderabad.

PS : The loss India suffered disappointed me, but I take heart that my country tried and tried so hard that it beat the daylights out of Ricky Ponting.
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