Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Dining on Diwali

Come Diwali and its celebration time. Lights, crackers, festivities and of course, food! Several arcadian creeds and tribes, make this an occasion to treat themselves to a tasty meat dinner. High on the list of favourites among these is boar meat. The scene is not very different from Obelix's Gaulish village sometimes, with the whole community feasting together on wild boars.

Year after year since my early days, I've witnessed this annual ritual of boar hunting. And this is how it's done. A large group of atleast a dozen people enter the bush with wooden staffs. Hooting and bellowing, they literally beat the hell out of the place. Raising as big a ruckus as they are capable of, they scare these shy and peace loving animals out their hiding and into the open. The fleeing beast is either shot with a rifle, trapped with a net or just brought down with a spear. The ones that are trapped using a net are captured alive, with their legs tied, as seen in the pictures here. Their throats are slit and they are allowed to bleed to their death before their meat is extracted at the meat shop.





This year again, when I had been home for Diwali, I got to witness this, should I say, barbaric act? Four boars were caught alive, of which atleast two were young nursing mothers, who hadn't even grown their trademark tusks. Their piglets supposedly disappeared back into the bush. Without their mother to nurse them, death would only be a matter of time for them. The four captured boars were unceremoniously dumped onto the back of a three wheeler and trucked away. Weighing upwards of 50kgs each, with the meat selling at a hundred rupees a kilo, each of these was easily worth several grand!



Shooting pictures of these helpless beasts struggling to free themselves, I was struck by two thoughts. One, of my own greed of making a story out these creatures' death. I don't want to justify my act by drawing parallels. The other thought that occured to me was how the food chain gave one the authority and/or justification to kill in the name of sustenance and survival. In this case however, it was apparently neither. Yet, there lay these hapless beasts before me, shocked and traumatized, waiting to meet their end.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Cover Story

This one will sound like yet another of those rags to riches story.

She was an orphan, abandoned within a week of her birth. She was however adopted, along with her twin sister, by a caring elderly couple. Her other two siblings were however not as lucky, and met a brutal death. Perhaps it was her luck ... or was it?

She's as beautiful as beautiful gets. Loving and charming as she is, her beauty would not go unnoticed for long. Not much later, in August 2008, she was splashed onto the cover pages of the highly regarded fashion tabloid Chique - a place coveted by the likes of Gisele B√ľndchen, and someplace where even Indian belles like Aishwarya haven't been able to make it.




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For more stunning pictures of this prodigy, please follow this link.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Wayanad

Starting Point: Bangalore
Places Visited: Chembra Peak, Minamutty falls, Edakkal caves, Thirunelli Temple, Kuruva Island and Pookot Lake
Dates: 2nd - 4th October
Distance: 300kms
Conveyance:Toyota Qualis
Approx Cost: 2000 per head (for a group of six )
Album Link: http://picasaweb.google.com/vin.kamath/Wayanad

Our weekend escape to Wayanad was a welcome break from the humdrum Bangalore life, but was a tad damped as we had chosen a very busy time of the year. The tourist places we visited were teeming with people. A bit of a disappoiontment I must say. However there were umpteen other reason to revel.

We set out from Bangalore at 5am and our route took us through Mysore, Gundalpet and the Bandipur wildlife sanctuary. Roads are good and its a 5 hour drive from Bangalore. It can take almost an hour at the Karnataka - Kerala border to get the permit, but the place around the check post is worth exploring. Bamboo groves with a little, lazy stream meandering along, with loads of fresh elephant dung here and there! By the time we reached, it was noon and the sun was shining high and bright.







Edakkal Caves

This was the first of the places that we hit in Wayand. Defying all our expectations, this place was flocking with throngs of hooting Mallus, who are capable of weaving their way through a lung crushing crowd - even wearing a lungi or otherwise! The 6 of us buying tickets and getting in was an accomplishment in itself!

You must go to the Edakkal caves for two things. One, the supposedly pre-historic engravings on the cave walls and two, for a short trek. The caves are located some place between the base and the peak of this mountain and getting there is a short climb from the entrance of the cave.
The best time to go would be anytime other than noon. Check the visitng hours before making your plans though.

We stayed in a sleepy little town called Ambalavayal, which is comfortably placed with respect to many a places of interest and is a 10minute drive from the Edakkal caves. It was a decent, clean place with cheap food available (at just one hotel) nearby and so, boarding and lodging wasn't an issue.




Meenamutty Falls

This is a wonderful place to visit with ample place to take a dip and relax. Its prudent to reach the place before 4 as it gives one ample time to trek to the falls, bum about at the falls and return before dark. We happened to reach a bit late and hence had to cut short our fun. The route to the falls is circuitous but you will not need a guide unless you are mentally challenged or emotionally paranoid or just a bunch of girls [No offence meant ladies]









Karapuzha Dam

Karapuzha Dam is a surreal and mystifying place; provided that you are there at the break of dawn, before the harsh sunlight kills it all. Placid tranquility with a light mist gracefully kissing the delicate ripples on the surface of the water, as fishermen patiently cast their hook time and again breaking the water surface in silent anticipation.

The dam is a short 15min drive from Ambalavayal and the Sunshine Valley is located nearby too.


Thirunelli Temple

Located nearly 70kms from our stay and 32 kms from Mananthavady, the renowned Thirunelli temple is also known as the Sahyamala Kshetram. It is believed to be more than 3000 years old. Legend has it that this temple dedicated to lord Vishnu was built by lord Brahma (The Creator) himself - an architectural marvel with 30 granite pieces supporting the shrine and the floor paved with huge square granite blocks. [Source:http://www.naturemagics.com/kerala-ethnic-traditional/thirunelli-temple.shtm]. We hit a rough patch when we made a visit to this renowned temple. The temple was closed for renovation and we had to quell our disappointment by spending time by the stream that flows nearby. Present in the temple premises is a'Uduppi Hotel' that serves quintessential Kerala meals.



Kuruva Island
Kuruva is a small island that has been now been commercialized. My mental picture of a peaceful island with lush green trees and wet grass underneath full of chirping birds turned out to be a long shot from the reality. The island is mostly comprised of bamboo groves with ample places to swim and bath at numerous places along the banks of the island. Hand rowed boats connect the island to the mainland.

The time that we visited was atrocious in terms of the crowds present. However, if one were to visit it during any other time however, it would be a nice place to sit and relax.



Pookot Lake
Pookot lake is yet another place that you can visit in the evening. Its just about 3kms south of Vythiri. There are boats to leisurely paddle around. Again, be forewarned that the place is fairly commercialized (quite contrary to what the official website of Wayanad claims) and if you want to spend some lonely time in peace with nature, this is definitely not the place to go.
The lake is closed by 6pm and hence, make sure you get there on time. We turned up at 6 at the lake and hence had to return disappointed. Not to be undone, we headed off to nearby tea estate located beside the highway and waited for the sun to set. This is something that you have to do if you're visiting Wayanad.




Chembra Peak
This was clearly our main course and we had no plans of any compromise on this. So we made enquiries a day in advance and found out that to trek, one needs to get a permission from the Vana Samrakshana Samithi / Forest department office located within Chembra Estate - which is where the Chembra Peak (and not the Meppadi Forest department office as mentioned in most pages across the web). The estate itself very close to Meppadi town, but the base of the peak is a good 3km drive from the estate entrance. The pass office is located enroute and opens as early as 6 to accomodate the heavy flow of trekkers.
A pass costs a min of Rs.500, and is issued for 10 or less people. You are offered the services of a guide; free with the pass, so to say. The advantage of having a guide is severly handicapped, if not nullified, but the fact that our guide spoke (not surprisingly) only malayalam and some scant tamil. For that matter knowing malayalam or having someone onboard who speaks malayalam is almost a necessity when travelling through Kyarala. Despite the fact that Kyarala brags of being the most literate state in India, both the lingua franca and the 'lingua comprehendo' are limited to malayalam.
If you are to scale Chembra peak, start at the break of dawn. Or else you have another option. Just don't do it.Heart Shaped Lake - Chembra Peak
The peak is a 3 hour trek from the base. A heart shaped lake is located midway and the path from the lake to the peak is steep. So, the trek is moderately difficlut from the lake onwards, but definitely not something to fear if you are in decent shape (Remember, we are engineers working for MNCs and the most exercise we get other than tapping on our keyboard all day is at most a 10min walk). Near the heart shaped lake enroute the Chembra PeakThe climb to the top is definitely worth the effort with brilliant sceneries flanking you, right from the word go. Be sure to pack some breakfast. Cool spring water is available enroute, providing a refreshing pitting area to pause, refill and resume.Resting on the way to Chembra PeakThe trek to the peak is, in short, a challenging (not a punishing) and enjoyable trek - a great sensuous treat for trekking enthusiasts!

You can find all the pictures of Chembra here.


Mysore Dussera and back

It being dussera time, we did not miss the grandeur of Mysore dussera during our return journey. The entire city was brimming with energy and the air was thick with the celebration mood. You could feel it in the air. The excitement was tangible! The mysore palace was looking glorious as ever, drowned in a bath of a million incadescent lamps, reminding one of Mysore's glorious history and heritage. The entire crowd went "Ooo..." as the palace lighting was thrown on, on Abhinav Bindra's arrival.



We were back home by 11pm the same day - delighted, exhausted yet gratified, with a tinge of annoyance for the want of having chosen a better time of visit.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

FIR

The following play is based on a true life incident. Any non-resemblance to real life characters is purely unintentional. [All references to the police is factual. Karnataka Police Force does really exist and contrary to the common misconception it is not mythical. The 'force' however is mythical].

Characters :
1) Techie Vith a Kinetic (VK)
2) Techie with a Beard (TB)
3) Konfused Extra-terrestrial Looking Andhrite (Kela)
4) SWeater WearINg policEman (Swine)
5) SOB (SOB)
6) Constable at the door

Scene One
The scene is that of a typical police station [HAL police station, Bangalore, if that helps]. Its 9:00am in the morning and the station wears a desolate look. A constable is standing just outside the door, his .303 rifle by his side, spoiled by disuse. Another runs with a cup of tea towards the SI's cabin, trying to make up for the time lost in ogling at a girl who had come to book a complaint. A third cop wearing a sweater stands by a table in the lobby shouting directions to two others.

VK walks up to the cop wearing a sweater (Swine) with TB close behind.



VK: Umm... saar!
Swine: [With a tone of indifference] Aa!? Whats the matter !?
VK: Saar, I've come to lodge an FIR ..
TB scratches his beard.
Swine: Why? Whaat happened?
VK: Cell phone was stolen yesterday [With resentment in his tone]
Swine: Oh [Smiles]. When, where...?
VK: Yesterday when I was getting into a bus in Marathalli, this chap flicked it out of my pocket and ...
Swine: Why dint you catch him ? [Still smiling]
VK: [Not knowing what to reply] Sir! But..
Swine: And how am I to know that you own the phone? You have any proof?
TB scratches his beard.
VK: Sir you want the bill? But I don't have it here now..
Swine: Great! Then get it [Smirks]
VK: Eh!? Fine... Thank you saar.

Scene Two
The time is 6:20pm. The police station is full of people now. The constable at the door is bored to death and contemplating using the rifle once - on himself. A constable at the table is busy resolving a feud. After an extended exchange of words, a compromise is arrived at he begins to write down statements from each of the witnesses. A lady is running in and out of the SI's cabin - a cell phone in one hand and a child in the other.

Enter VK and Kela.

10 mins pass by.
VK: Maga... En sheke!
Kela: [Swallows] Mmm..

20 mins pass by.

SOB finally finishes taking down statements and turns to the two fazed teenagers standing before him. One of them is tall and has curly hair. The other looks like ... well.. Kela.

SOB: Eah!? [Taking out another pad from inside his drawer and beginning to write]
VK: Saar... I had come in the morning. My cell was stolen yesterday in Marathalli. Came to lodge an FIR. Didn't have the bill then... Now I have aa...
SOB: Ok Ok Ok. Sit down [Continuing to write]
5 mins pass by and VK realizes that he's been a moron. He neither has a pen nor a sheet of paper.
VK: Saar... Pen illa , paper illa.
SOB: Then why did you come here?
VK:[Trying to sound as polite as possible] Sorry saar.. I din't know... I'm coming here for the first time. How am I supposed to know all this...
SOB: [Turning to Kela, grinning] Look! You're friend wants to lose his cell again..
Kela: [You joke sucks man. Mine are better ]
VK: Sorry saar.. but.. what should I write...

SOB explains the format of writing a complaint letter

SOB: ... and get a xerox kaapi also.
VK: Xerox aa!? Where can I get one saar?
SOB: Its close by.. I don't have paper to give you. Don't ask me for paper.

The two techies exit.


Scene Three
Its growing dark now and the Banglore traffic has reached its glorious peak. Cows on the footpaths are zippping at enviable speeds past vehicles on the road. The whole road looks like one big parking lot, albiet that the engines are still running and the drivers are horning.
At a xerox shop 1km away from the police station...

Kela: So now we have to write a complaint letter and make a copy!?
VK: Ya.
Kela: And so we have to take a xerox copy right !?
VK: [In an irate tone] Ya!
Kela: So you'll write the letter and then take a copy, right?
VK: [Now losing his temper] DUDE!! Whats the matter with you!!!?
Kela: What...? I just wanted to be sure man..
VK: Whatever dude! Don't get on my nerves for God's sake!!
Kela: Fine man.. Why do you get so angry...


Scene Four
Back at the police station, its grown dark now. The constable at the door in now eying a sturdy branch of a nearby jackfruit tree to hang himself. He has long given up on his .303 which refused to fire despite his best attempts (which to his horror was manufactured in 1913). But a look at the size of his abdomen is only adding to his apprehension of climbing the tree. SOB continues to write sitting at the table.

Enter two techies.

VK: Saar!
SOB: Eah!? You're back? Sit down, sit down..

Techies seat themselves on the chair opposite SOB.
10mins pass by and SOB ignores the two techies and continues to scribble on.
VK: [Gingerly pushing forward two copies of the complaint letter] Saar.. If you please ... Sir its past 7 and the Vodafone outlet ...
SOB: You're in a hurry!?
VK:[Scared] Saar... Its getting late sir.. If you please...
SOB: [Now smiling] If you are in a hurry, you should not come to a police station.
VK : Yes sir! But I want my SIM blocked. So if you please will...
SOB : Fine Fine...
Kela: [I'm so hungry!]
SOB browses the complaint letter.

SOB: What is this!!?? [Pointing to a line saying '...my mobile was stolen on...']
VK: Why!? [Acting confused]
SOB: You're phone was stolen!!? Do you even know what stolen means?
VK: Yes saar, I do.
SOB: What 'do'? Do you know who he is? Do you know his name?
VK: No [WTF]
SOB: Then! How can this be stolen ... You've to write it was LOST.
VK: Sir, but it was stolen right out of my pocket.
SOB: Yo! Take this letter of yours and go away. I can't take it if you argue non-sense with me like this. Talk to the SI otherwise!
VK: [Realizing things will not go his way] Sari saar... Sorry .. I'll cut that line out and sign against it. But then will I get my cell back?
SOB: I don't know.

SOB continues to read futher.

SOB: [Clearly irritated at being defied] And what is this!? I can't take your complaint. Take this away [Refering to '... request you to locate my cell phone at the earliest...']
VK: Yes sir! I want my cell phone back... Not just my SIM blocked.
SOB: Come tomorrow. Take this back. I can't take this!
VK: But saar..
SOB: NO! You may leave...

VK: [Looking at Kela and back at the constable again] Fine saar... I'll strike that out too.. Now my complaint will only says that I lost my cell and I want the SIM blocked...
Kela: [I'm so hungry!]
SOB: Ya.
VK: Sir.. but.. my phone...
SOB: Do you want me to accept this or not?
VK: [Striking out the offending line, feeling humiliated] Here you go...
SOB signs the letter and applies a rubber stamp seal.
VK: Thank you saar.... [With a hint of sarcasm in his tone, getting up from his chair]

SOB eyes the two of them waiting for either of them to pay up. But neither does, each acting more innocent than the other.

Scene Five
The vehicle parking outside the police station is deserted. Two techies exit the police station. One of them is fuming. The other is well.. Kela.

VK: [Steaming with anger] THAT #$@#$(*$@#*$!@#$+..... !!!!
Kela: [Nodding his head] Hey, we'll have dinner at home man...

Friday, 10 October 2008

1 Missed Cell

For all that I know, I am obsessed with my gadgets. Last time its was my laptop and now its my cell.

It was lifted right out of my pocket yesterday on the way back home, when I was making my way into a jam packed BMTC bus. That unscrupulous mongrel actually escaped by a hair's bredth. When he tried the first time, I noticed him trying to reach for my pocket. But I looked at him and then dismissed it as a innocent brush against my pant in all the melee. What an irrevocable decision. Yet again, I find out how bad I am at judung people. Exactly a minute later, I am in the bus and when I reach for my cell, its gone! I did get out of the bus and try to looking around in the dark. And when that did not help, I pushed my way back into the bus and had my cell called up. It was ringing apparently, but I could not hear it ring. It was either drowned in all the noise, or the guy was not in the bus. Darn!

And I see no way in which to get it out my head at the moment. After all isn't it just a cell!?

In course of time, its very easy to get emotionally attached to ones cell (or computer) as I see it. I spend hours using it everyday and so its been a part of every event of my life. Be it the Jammu Convention when I had just bought it and loved to flaunt it or be it receiving some incredible news of my lost wallet being found at a place miles away. And now being suddenly separated from it is like losing a loved one.

I'm leaving no stone unturned to get my cell back. There seem to be not much to do other than

  • Lodging an FIR
  • Blocking my SIM and getting a replacement
  • Searching every other second hand handset shop in the area
I will try it all and my hopes are high. I have even come across instances like these describing how sending a mail to Chennai cops has helped in recovering lost cell phones. I shall give that a try as well.

In the meantime, if there is anything more which you are aware of that I can do, do let me know. Its not just another cell phone... it means a lot to me.