Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mockery of One Day cricket on 24-02-2010 by the Indian Superman

He's done it again.
I have run out of words. I definitely cannot reproduce similar text to what I had written on his 175 runs in Hyderabad.
But what I would, if I were the prime minister of India, is dedicate the country of India to this man.

This man, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, has what it takes for a human to be happy with life.
He is world famous, he has 90% of the batting records in the world.
There is no peak left for him to scale.
And yet everytime, he defines a peak for himself 10% higher than the one he scaled a while ago... and amazingly at 36 years of age, scales it.
What do I say.. I am short on words, but full on emotions.
Amazement is something you have, when you witness the man doing the unachievable.
But he achieves the unachievable so often that you are bound to be wordless, speechless and blinded.
Yes, he leaves a blind spot in my eyes and a hemorrhaged brain every time he does this.
He gives me a high that nothing can... and all this, when I am not certainly ‘attracted’ to him.

That’s what I call aura. Aura is not just a make-believe phenomenon, aura is ‘Sachin Tendulkar’.

Again, this time, the 200.. something that was so effortless to him, definitely is something which seems unattainable to any other living creature in the world.

200 in a one day international is like blasphemy in ODI.
But when he is blasphemous, the world loves it and the country bows.
Today all the Aaj Taks and the Star News Hindis of the world would be performing theatrical poojas of him. They would make him a deity.

But to people like me, he was always a deity.
Always the one person I would give my eye tooth for just to earn his autograph.
This man is something beyond my comprehension.
Today, I am just all shaken up from within. Shaken up because I never thought that anyone could ever score a double in a ODI.
But when I think that it was blasphemy by my favourite man, I feel the pride gushing from my blood.
This is the Kohinoor Diamond of India.

24th Of Feb,2010 is when my Dad retired from service and it’s also the day the master chose to shake the world of cricket.

The day belonged to both my heroes.
Salutes and Bows.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
22 mins of treadmill, 45 mins of pumping iron in the morning : one balushahi in the night.
It doesn't get simpler than this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My paunch(as the people call it) is sore from a workout after a couple of weeks!!
My response to them :
People sometimes mistake 8 swollen abs to be a paunch.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A trip to Lakshadweep - the emrald islands

The below journal is a travelog which will help fellow surfers in knowing more about Lakshadweep islands.

We started our Lakshadweep trip after the trip from Agra.
Reached Kochi airport at noon, from there we proceeded to Willingdon island(that’s where the ship starts from).
Willingdon island is 40 kms from the airport and a simple, no frills indica cab would charge you about 700 bucks to reach the island.
At willingdon island, we had booked accommodation at a place called Maruthi tourist home, which was a decent place to stay, not too expensive either.. the main plus point was that it was just 1 km away from the SPORTS office(SPORTS is the organization which controls the tourism at the Lakshadweep islands).

The introduction done, time for the movie to roll .
We were booked on the ship MV Kavaratti which runs from Kochi to Lakshadweep islands on designated days.
We collected the boarding passes from the SPORTS office.
From there, they arrange transport to the jetty for boarding.
Now, this place resembled a war torn country area where people were lining up for free food.
One of the foreigners with us quipped that this resembled a refugee camp.
Picture this, a small walled area of about 200 sft and about a 100 odd people waiting to rush in through a small door.
Everyone had luggage, but we were stunned when we saw the islanders. They generally travel from Kochi, which is their only source of shopping.
Everything from vegetables to blankets to cartons full of provisions to LCD tvs were lined up as luggage.
Me and my wife shuddered at the thought of all this luggage being scanned and then each person going through the small door one by one.
There is no separate line for tourists. You need to jostle your way through.
Just then, the small door opened and one by one, all the luggage belonging to the islanders was put in.
But, we were amazed that in about 10 mins, all of it was checked in and we were at the counter with our luggage.
It felt great, the staff was efficient, if only they had managed the crowd outside the counter too.
Then we got our luggage scanned and we were quickly taken to the jetty.
There stood the impressive MV Kavaratti.
Majestic from the outside, we expected it to be the same from inside as well.
The luggage was efficiently tagged with room numbers and whisked away by porters.
We boarded the ship and by the time we found our cabin, we saw that our luggage was already at the door.
Impressed! We had nothing to complain about the ship and its staff!!

The ship then waited for I don’t know what… by the time it started moving, it was 2 pm.
The first class cabin allotted to us was quite nice, it had bunker beds, a table, a fan, cupboards, an attached bath and was air conditioned.
Don’t expect it to be of the class of the star cruises, but then its not bad either. I would say, it does justice to the amount charged.

Now, there are constant announcements on the ship which are audible in each of the cabins.
The first announcement was for lunch, the horror was about to begin.
It was now that we realized that on the ship, were 2 groups from 2 states which were about 20-30 people in size each.
The groups were also aged between 50-70.
They were also ignorant of basic rules like following queues etc and this is where ship crew failed badly, there was absolutely no attempt from their side to rein in the mob.

We were aghast at the aunties pushing and prodding their way through like they would at the local sabzi mandis.
At times, there were a lot of intrusions in the queues, they would reserve places for their brethren. They were loud.
People from state X thought that they were the only people on the ship and made loud noises… they made fun of the state Y people in their language.
The state Y people reciprocated their feelings.
Caught in the cross hairs were a few couples like ours and a sensible uncle aunty from Gujarat.
Somehow we managed to withstand them just stopping short of retaliating, because our traditions teach us to respect elders. How I wished, elders followed basic rules of civic sense.
I was a little upset with the way the trip started, thinking that this would mar the whole trip ahead because we would be spending time with these people.
Then me and my wife thought, why should we even care?
Believe that you are on your own and things would not seem so bad after all!

And yes, this worked!! Ah, we were so happy. When we went out for dinner, we cared a damn.. when an aunty tried to break the queue, we kept her a name(just for our consumption) .. and had a hearty laugh.

One important info about the food.
The food at best can be termed bland for the Indian taste buds. Food is decent, but you would be much better off carrying some pickles along with you.

Day 2 : Minicoy

The ship reached Minicoy early in the morning, we all disembarked and were taken in smaller boats to the island.
All the worries about the crowd and other things got sidelined when the island started approaching, it was amazing!
White sand beaches were visible from a distance.
The lighthouse made a perfect setting too!

All too excited, we were welcomed on the island with tender coconuts.
We spent the first few hours on the beach, clicking pics, sea bathing and swimming in the ocean.

Then in the afternoon we went scuba diving, which was 750 bucks per head for a 20 mins dive.
It was great fun! The corals and fishes amazed us. But according to the instructor, the visibility in the sea wasn’t that great on that day because of the strong currents. However, I found it quite good because I had only seen the sea water elasewhere in India 

After the scuba diving trip, we had lunch, it wasn’t that great, but since we were very tired, the hunger took precedence over taste.
We then toured the lighthouse. To reach the top you would need to climb about 200 stairs.
Most people backed out. My wife said we should do it, and when we reached the top, we were glad we did it.
Those were the best views of Minicoy island. The island had already amazed us, but the all round view of the white sand beaches along with the cast coconut trees are too good a sight to be put in words.

The lunch and evening tea were served on the island.

Once back on the ship, the journey resumed, we were to reach Kalpeni island by the next day.

Day 3 : Kalpeni island.

This is the most low profile island on the trip. To be frank, there is not much to do on this island.
When we reached there in the morning, it was beautiful, but nothing compared to Minicoy.
Minicoy had set the expectations so high that we were a tad disappointed.
Then came the snorkeling bit, that was when some pride was salvaged and this island too looked interesting.
There is a huge lagoon near the shore rich in marine life and coral reefs.
They give you the gear which can be used for snorkeling.
We did it for almost 4 hours, there was a huge variety of corals and fishes.
Initially I was overawed by he size of the things in water, and I swan cautiously, but as the first hour passed, all the cautiousness turned into curiosity and I was swimming away with ease on the surface exploring the coral reefs and the marine life.
But there is a caveat here, this should only be done by people who can swim. If you cant swim, its better to walk and put your head in the water as soon as you encounter a coral reef.
This walk too would become difficult in time of the high tide.
So its better if this thing is attempted only in supervision of someone. The problem here is that there are instructors, but the number of people are too huge to control. They start moving in all directions.
I have been swimming for many years(in the pool of course), but I was overawed by the sight of ocean grass and corals spanning over large tracts of the ocean floor.. initially all that looked scary and I stopped every now and then and stood on my feet… imagine what would an elderly person do at this sight.. coupled with the fear of the marine life… although everything there is harmless.

One very sad accident happened at this place, when we finished our snorkeling after exploring different areas in the lagoon, one of the instructors spotted a floating life jacket drifting down. It was an elderly lady in our group who had strayed too far away from everyone’s sight.
She was rushed to the hospital and was put on ventilator, but couldn’t survive it. Her lungs were full of saline water.
Nobody knows what exactly happened, but the most probable reason is that while watching something, she must have bent too far and water must have entered from the top section of the snorkeling pipe. Then there could have been a panic attack which prevented her from raising an alarm.  Really sad.

That is why I would stress again, that all these sports are very interesting, but they come with their own bit of risk especially for the old people.
I myself have seen the lagoon, nowhere was the water over 3 feet. But when there is panic, the depth doesn’t matter. The life jacket also did not help.
If you know to swim, then you are at ease. If you don’t know how to swim, then make sure you walk on the white sand and only put your head in water when needed. Make sure you are around the instructor at all times, so that he can spot you in times of distress.

Everyone was oblivious to this accident till evening, we then went to the beach on the tip of the island. It was totally untouched and beautiful.
One of the few interesting places in Kalpeni.

The ship then sailed to the last destination, Kavaratti, for the last day of the trip.

Day 4 : Kavaratti, capital of Lakshadweep islands.

This was by far the best managed part of the trip, everything from the welcome drinks to the boat rides to the lunch and further program was very well managed.

The beach was again amazing with white sand. We clicked a lot of pics here again.

They take you for a glass bottom boat ride also into the sea for a coral reef tour.
The water is absolutely crystal clear.
You can clearly see the aquatic life and the corals from the bottom of your boat. I shot a few videos of it.
The trip lasts for about 45 mins.
Once back, we lazed on the beach again.
Then I went kayaking, this was really cool.
The sea breeze was on the opposite side to my kayak, I thought I would fall into the sea
But with practice I managed to stay afloat!
I spotted 3 turtles swimming from my kayak too… had a small race with them, but they outpaced me
After an hour of kayaking, I came out tired, then the lunch was served.
The lunch was good here.

There are paid options for snorkeling here. I did not go snorkeling here because I had done it in Kalpeni, but the corals and marine life seemed better here, so if you wanna do it, take a shot. They charge reasonably. 200 bucks.
Then there are other options like para sailing, water skiing and scuba diving.

You name it, you have it at Kavaratti.
But if you ask me, Minicoy was the most beautiful island.

There was bon homie all around. The last day, people were all friends by now.
On some stupid reason, one member from the state Y picked up a fight with one member from state X.
Immediately, people played the song “Tum rootho nay un hasina” from an old hindi movie…. Some people danced and the mood was light again 

The ship then sailed back to Kochi on the fifth day.

Lakshadweep is one paradise of a place.
Totally untapped, untouched. Very serene.
The water always so clear at all islands…
This is nature’s beauty at its cleanest best. By the end of the trip you would be left gasping and asking for more.

If you are going with your wife or girlfriend and you are below 35 years of age and want to be alone or want to be yourself, I would strongly suggest you not to book the Samudram package because of the company you would find. Although if you can ignore the people around you and have fun, just like we did, then there is no place like Lakshadweep islands.

There are other packages like swaying palms etc which offer you accommodation on the islands. That would save you from group travel.

Either ways, the thing that cannot be ignored is Lakshadweep.
The most amazing beaches and as good as the best in the world … coupled with a totally non commercialized setting where you would find only nature and the islanders who love the nature.
Miss it at your own peril.
You would have missed a paradise on the Indian map.

PS : The SPORTS staff in the ship and the islands is one of the most amazing staff I have seen with total regard for efficiency in service. They are always courteous inspite of the annoying tourists.
They will never ask you or even hint for tips. Very well mannered too.

Few pics here (quality severely downgraded because of size restrictions):

The amazing Bharatpur bird sanctuary trip

Bharatpur, inspite of reviews of birds not being spotted this year and the water problems did not disappoint me. I am not a bird connoisseur, but still I could see many birds.
We started the trip at about 12 pm.
I had hired a guide to take me around the park.
The bicycles were out of stock by the time we reached. So the only option was to take a cycle rickshaw.
My wife and sis-in-law on one rickshaw and me and our driver on the other, we were all set to begin the journey.
The only loophole is that the rickshaws tread on the main roads in the park. So a good part would have to be covered on foot if you really wanna capture the birds on cam.
The guide was knowledgeable and helped us spot birds.
It also made sense for me to keep noting the names of the birds which I spotted because there were many I did not know of.
So, do keep a piece of paper and a pen handy when doing such trips.
We spotted a total of 23 different species of birds, most of which I managed to capture on camera.
Few pics and names are available at the end of the page.

We had already spent about 4 hours on the park bird spotting.
Then when we returned from one stretch of the park, I asked the guide how much of the park was left because we needed to get back to Agra before darkness sets in.
There are a lot of accidents on the highways because of fog these days.
The guide said that we had 2 options, one was where there were bigger birds like cranes and many other birds near the watering holes in the park.
The other option was the Python point.
The difference between these 2 points was that, bird sighting was guaranteed, but Python sighting was quite rare.
I asked him a few more details like what’s the probability of sighting pythons especially with the sun beating down .. because it is winter season and the pythons too would love to sun bathe.
He agreed with my logic, but still said, that there is no hard and fast rule.. and moreover to sight pythons you will have to walk about 4 kms one way.
I looked at wifey and sil(sister-in-law) .. they looked tired and wary, but they were aware of my instincts and that my day would be made if I captured a wild python moving on my cam.
Very sweetly, they said yes, I felt bad bad because that would mean that both of them would have to walk 8 kms up and down at the risk of not seeing a python.
But then, the same feeling was there even when I was at Corbett, wild life spotting is all about taking chances
All of us started off, it took roughly about 30-35 minutes to start reaching the first burrows where Indian Rock Pythons hide.
Porcupines make these burrows, but during monsoons, when the rain comes down hard, the pythons have nowhere to go, so they occupy these burrows.
One, two, three, four, we kept on spotting burrows, but no pythons…
I knew, the chances were bleak.. but I was only feeling bad for my wife and sil.
Then we spotted a skull of a cow, our driver excitedly asked if it meant there was a python around?
The guide brushed aside his question and we kept looking.
Then the guide said, there is another place, but that’s about half a km inside and there is thick dry grass all over.
I agreed to go, but I asked my wife and sil to stay put on the main path, because the terrain looked scary.
Me, guide and the driver set on the path full of tall dry brown grass.
I asked the guide how he would he able to sight it? Because it would easily camouflage itself.
The guide said that they are lazy creatures and would be near the burrows only.. so you would need to spot the holes.. not the pythons, that’s the trick.
We kept on walking and after 6-7 mins, saw a burrow, empty again ..
I kept standing there, reluctant to move further, the guide was moving and as I turned, I saw him quietly signaling to me to come over.
Amazed, I asked, if it was a python or a bird that he wanted to show… his expression was very cautious.. immediately without asking another question, I moved silently to him.
I saw four fully grown pythons basking in the sun.
Totally awe struck, ,my driver ran back to the main path to call my wife and sil.
Meanwhile, the first python made a movement and started slithering to the burrow and in no time disappeared.
Now, the second also started moving, I knew that this would enter the hole too.. so I ran to the burrow as quickly as I could with my camera.. and waiting for the second python to come to the spot.
As soon as it came, I clicked a few pics of it along with the third one.

Now, I wanted a video, there still was a fourth python which was unperturbed by all this activity.
By this time, my wife and sil also came to the spot.
I moved swiftly again back to the burrow.
I was ready.
In seconds, the fourth python came, tongue wagging, probably seeing the camera too
I was too close for comfort, hardly couple of feet away, but the joy of capturing the video kept my feet glued.
Finally it started slithering down the hole and the trip to the python point was a success.

On the way back, all of us were happy and satisfied that the last leg of 8 kms had paid off.
We left the park by 630 pm and reached Agra on time.
For all people who wanna visit this park, you definitely should consider visiting it.
It’s not all that well managed, but its not bad either. Birds would leave you smiling at the end of the day … and if you manage to spot an Indian Rock Python, then that’s a welcome bonus.
Also, the rates have been fixed and are to be paid as per the charts.
Please do not pay tips to either the guides or the rickshaw people. This is also clearly stated on the ticket windows there.
Because if people start this trend, then it becomes an expectation from their side, they keep pestering tourists at the end of the trip. Personally, I feel, this leaves a bad taste at the end of an eventful trip.
The standard rates are as below :
Entry : Adults(Indian) : Rs 25/-
Rickshaw : Rs. 70/- per hour
Guide : Rs. 100/- per hour
Bicycle : Rs 10/- per hour

Video of the Indian Rock Python available here :

Pics available below (quality severely degraded because of size restrictions:
2 Indian Rock Pythons trying to get inside the burrow

Common sparrow having his bajra lunch

Common sparrow again

Green peas

green peas again :)

flower bud


Indian Roller - commonly called neelkanth

Purple Sunbird

Common Parakeet

Dusky eagle owl

Indian Hoopoe

Indian Hoopoe 2

Collared scops owl

Monitor Lizard

Spotted Owl

Brain Fever bird

Oriental Magpie Robin

Blue Throat


Kingfisher Silhouette

Water hen


Kingfisher Silhouette

Common Pigeon
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