Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Kanush's first year (Dec 2005 - Dec 2006)

My daughter was born on the 6th of December 2005. As if to prove she had my genes in her, she hurried out and my tickets home weren't till a month later. But her mother called me and told me all about it .. or as much as she could manage between sobs and chuckles (oh!! Yeah .. I was firing away with my poor jokes even at that moment). I hugged the receiver, blew a kiss to my daughter thousands of kilometers away and soaked up the feeling of becoming a father. For the sake of those who haven't become one yet, I'm not going to spoil it by describing any further.

I flew down the next month and finally saw her. That's right .. saw her .. it would be a full week before I held her. She was born premature and she looked really frail. On top of it there was this thought in the back of my head about some portion in the back of her neck that needed to be supported. Altogether it was a task that required finesse and skill .. and the last time checked I dint have either. So I held back on my temptation to give her a bear hug and a high five and waited patiently for her to 'muscle up' a bit. After a week of waiting I held her anyway .. albeit with her mom also holding her from the other side. She looked into my eyes and smiled. We bonded .. right there.

All wasn't rosy though, there are so many obstacles to overcome. Like the naming ceremony, easily my worst moment, one that exposed my deepest darkest secret. I couldn't sit with my legs folded and that was what the priest asked me to do. Nor did the added bulk after marriage help my cause. After a long, arduous and painful struggle I finally managed to fold and lock my legs. They stayed locked right through the ceremony .. and after it too. It took another long struggle to unlock them. But it was over. We named her Kanush, it means beloved, and that is what she is to us.

Three months later Kanush had passed all the fitness tests her grandparents could throw at her and her mother and she were declared competent enough to live with me in Hyderabad. The big day came. I rose early and spent the whole day cleaning and decorating the house. In the evening I gave up and paid the watchman's mother to do it all over again. Then I rushed to the airport, made it in the nick of time, and brought them home. I spent the whole night looking at her and harassing her mother. "she doesn't look comfortable". "What do you mean she doesn't need a pillow?" "Get out!! How could you say that!! I'm just trying to help" And on and on and on. I had bought a few child rearing books but she, having read them all, made sure everything she did was out of the book . It was frustrating to me who had build my expertise on the strength of the books I had read. Little by little she opened up. First with smiles, and then with chortles and gurgles and finally with words. She learned to crawl and took a sinister pleasure in watching our faces as she made a dash for the edge of the bed. That game ended recently when she fell out of the bed for the first time. Her first birthday has just passed and she had a wonderful time eating the wrapping of the presents while more resourceful kids made off with the presents themselves. She has given us some heartstopping moments but it's been a fun ride so far. I hope the future is just as joyful.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Half Marathon (Nov 2006)

A half marathon is twenty one kilometers. Why would people want to run twenty one kilometers and end up at the same place they started running? Two hours and six minutes after I started, I had the answer .. It takes 21 kilometers of running to figure out how good it feels to finally stop running. But again .. let me start from the beginning.

As with all my mad moments, there was a wheelie behind this one too. Anand Takale. Wheels' resident marathon runner. It all started with him innocently directing me to the website of 'running chick'. Hers is a fascinating story .. started off as an amateur trying to lose some weight and as I write this she has qualified for the Boston marathon with a time of 3 and a half hours (a marathon is 42 kilometers). I was inspired. Much like the dog 'Dollar' in 'Richie Rich' cartoons, I was transported to a world where I was beating the Kenyans and Ethiopeans in 100 kilometer races. It all looked so easy. Twenty one kilometers was puny in comparison .. and so I resolved to run the Hyderabad half marathon.

There I was, in KBR park, all set for my first run. 30 mins, easy pace, piece of cake. And so I started running, it seemed like time itself had stopped for me. When most people say 'time stopped' it's usually to describe some wonderful, romantic moment in their life. In my case, it was because I was gasping and panting and about to throw up and the darned watch was showing only 5 mins. I huffed and puffed for another 5 minutes and finally gave up. Walked a couple of kilometers and went back, a dejected and demoralized 'former runner'. The next day the aches and pains started. My ankles pained, my knees pained, my groin pained, even my shoulder pained. I wanted to throw Anand off the 5th floor balcony. Fortunately for him it was all I could manage to reach my seat. That pain, however, saved my cause. There was no way I was going to give up after going through that.

So I soldiered on, day after day, following my schedule and I did my 12k a full month before the half marathon. That was my best run. I dint get tired, I ran fast and after that I really felt I could target a sub 2hr half marathon. Unfortunately the one above chose that moment to throw a spanner into the works. He laid me low for a couple of weeks with a severe cold. It was a low blow that I never saw coming. A failed attempt at 15k dented my confidence even further.If that was a test of character I failed miserably. Only a pep talk from my wife made me decide to turn up for the race.

The race was at 6:00 in the morning. Ganesh, Atul and I had planned to run together for as long as possible. There were a surprisingly large number of people there and I couldn't find either Atul or Ganesh (turned out they arrived at the last minute). So I had to start off alone. I managed to find someone to run with and we set off. He said he was a policeman who had just run a 5k in 18 minutes and was now looking to see how good he does over long distances. I dint even bother to tell him who I was, this was the time for action. In a flash I bent down as if to tie my shoelaces and told him to run on. Whew!, saved from being forced to retire at the 1k mark itself. By then I had caught sight of Ganesh and Atul and we ran on for a few kilometers. Those two, however, were doing a recovery run as part of their Mumbai marathon training. They dint plan to go all out. So I was forced to move ahead. I ran into a couple of runners who seemed to be running at a manageable pace and I fell in step behind them. We plodded on till the halfway mark. Surprisingly I was still fresh. The adrenaline of running a race as well as the wonderful atmosphere was getting to me. I really want to thank all those policemen who held up the traffic for us (It's really difficult to do that in India, and they did a wonderful job). That little sub 2hr dream of mine peeked out again and I picked up the pace. I was on target till the 16k mark, but by then I was exhausted. I had to slow down and I regretfully decided to shoot for that in the next race. By 18k I had to stop, walk a bit, and start again. I did that twice more and finally there was just 1k left. I don't know where it came from, but suddenly I was fresh again. I pretty much sprinted down that stretch, with lots of people clapping and cheering me on. Final time - 2hrs 6 mins. I guess that's ok for a first timer who had never run more that 12k in practice. I loved the run. I loved the race. I'll do it again, and again, and again. Alright Anand, I'll hold on that thought of throwing you off the 5th floor.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A bike race to remember (1994)

I got my first bicycle in 7th grade. It was a mini Hamilton. Wasn't the fastest nor the most reliable, but , against all odds, I loved my bike. There were four of us 'bikers' in the neighborhood. Kiran, Niran, Nitin and me. Come summer vacation, we used to pack our lunches and set off early in the morning to find a quiet place and have a picnic. Pedal away for hours on end, finding rarely used bylanes, short cuts over sewage pipes, even through compounds of friendly folk who would wave us through. We had a map of the city in our head more comprehensive than that with the finest surveyor.

My Hamilton gave way to a bsa slr and finally a Hercules MTB. I had moved to 10th grade .. but my pedaling never stopped. Biking taught me a lot of things. I learned to ride without touching the handlebar. Learnt it wasn't such a good idea after all. Learnt how much fun it is to ride in pouring rain. Learnt I could beat a moped uphill .. and nowhere else. And finally .. Learnt I could never beat my brother in a race without cheating. Here is the only race I won against him without doing so.

It was my second year of badminton camp. 12 months of training and it was beginning to show. I was as fit as I had ever been. My brother and I were pedaling back from camp after a rather easy workout. Both of us were fresh. I hadn't raced my bro for a while, having still to recover from a particularly nasty loss when he beat me without holding the handlebar of his bike. Anyway .. I heard this voice in my head telling me that this was the moment. "Race you kinu" I screamed and took off. We were on the main road. Heavy traffic on our right and the sidewalk on the left. I felt great. Had a headstart and I felt like I had never pedalled faster. My feet whirled with lightning speed and for one spectacular moment I felt I would actually win .. but the whizzing sound of my brother's bike scorching the road brought me back. He had caught up, he had overtaken, and he was getting away. Suddenly a wobble. Something came flying out of the back of his bike. It was a cog from his bicycle chain. Before I could shout a warning, the whole chain was off and had tangled itself in the back wheel. The wheel locked and Kinu was airborne. I'm sure he would have flown and bounced, skidded and gone on past the remaining 10 meters to finish the race but there was this post in the way. Flew straight into it with a sickening 'thunk'. Poor post .. It dint stand a chance. After all this is a guy who would kick a tree and make it's fruits fall down. I believe there's still a huge dent where he struck it. As for him, he was already up and readying to make a dash for the finish line (still ahead of tortoise me) . Unfortunately concerned citizens who witnessed the crash and had no idea of his superhuman abilities got in the way. They made him sit down. Pointed fingers, asked him how many numbers it was, lectured him on road safety, shone a flashlight on his pupils, checked his tongue and almost got him admitted to the hospital. By the time they realized he was ok, I had won and was standing there grinning from ear to ear, waiting for him to join me. I would have loved to not race him ever again, but a black eye and body slam later I agreed to race him the next day and normality was restored.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Badminton (1986-1998)

I started playing badminton at the age of six. For three years I used to escort my dad to the badminton club and hop onto the court between games. I would swing and swing at balls thrown at me till I made contact with one and then I would run off the court celebrating wildly and wait for the next game to finish. I once asked father why he let me play in the evening when all other kids used to study. He told me I was such an exceptionally gifted student he had a bet running with mother that I wouldn't make it past high school. This went on for three years and slowly I got pretty good at it. So I was enrolled in a badminton camp. I was ecstatic .. I would get a court to play in and someone else would run in between games and try to hit the ball. I swaggered in on the first day .. I walked in on the second .. I crawled in on the third. By the fourth day I was crying to get out. The first year of camp was all about running, stretching, conditioning and anything else that wasn't remotely connected to badminton. I think I got to hold a shuttle racket in the 5th or 6th month of camp. By now you probably guessed that we had a good scientific coach. His name was Sivaramakrishnan and he ensured that, despite my scant abilities, my game improved.

By the time I was 13 I was a well know face in the badminton circuit. This was when a new coach came into the camp, Balachandran Sir. When it came to pushing us to the limits, sir had no equal. Workout session generally ended with all of us soaked to our balls in sweat and panting like an ironman triathlete in the last mile. And so I was forced to become better than I already was. Doubles was my specialty and at 16 I was fortunate enough to get an excellent player as my doubles partner. His name is Roopesh and as I write this he is the defending national champion in doubles. All this culminated in me rising to an alltime high ranking of national 2nd in doubles by the time I was 18.

Unfortunately, roundabout this time, betraying the high hopes of my dad, I passed out of high school showing a hithero unseen genius in academics. This brilliance took root on a bright sunny Sunday three months prior to the exam. Having nothing better to do I thought I would study a little. While searching for my text books I opened my desk and saw a brand new set. It took some time for me to realize they were mine and the only reason they were new was because they were never opened (with the exception of the maths books .. I loved math, I love math and I will always love math). Fear like I had never known before took hold of me and from that moment to the day of my exams I spent every minute of freetime pouring over the textbooks. I dint have any syllabus with me. So I had to study the whole thing. As usually happens when people panic, I overshot, and I ended up coming within shooting distance of the elite brains in college. Originally it was planned that would take a bachelors degree in arts and keep playing. But after this result intense pressure came on us from all quarters and I wavered. My brother was already doing engineering. Unlike me he was a real genius and so he found it very easy. "it's cake" .. he told me. "Just read the text book once before the exam and you will get atleast 70% .. trust me" . Woe be me ... I trusted him .. and took engineering. By the end of the first semester I realized my folly. The difference between my brother and me was a 0 .. the 0 that comes to the right of the 7 in 70%. He reads the textbook once and gets 70. I read it once and I get 7. So, in the third semester, I wound up my badminton career and dedicated my life to assembly language, digital signal processors, speech and audio codes and so on and so forth. I threw away my chance to be extraordinary so that I could become ordinary.

P.S: I am now notorious for boring people with my old badminton stories. Dreadful tales of 7 hour workouts and marathon matches. So be warned in case you run into me in the office corridor.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Beach Soccer (2002)

When I came down from US for holidays I had to finally face the fact that I had gone from hunk to huge. Like any self respecting adult I had stoutly refused to acknowledge my rapidly expanding bulk till the day my buttons tore as I struggled to compress myself into my shirt. I stole into my brother's room and borrowed his shirt and would have kept doing that if he hadn't informed dad about my creditable achievement. Much remonstrating and cajoling later I was forced to commit to a more healthy lifestyle. Consequently I ended up one day, joining my friends, on an ill fated outing to play beach soccer.

There was Anish, Vinod, Janson, his cousin and me. We got together at Janson's place in the morning. Chatted, joked, ate, played games and had a rip roaring time till roundabout 3 o clock in the afternoon. That's when I sat on that wretched weak chair of Janson's which promptly squeaked it's final breath and collapsed under me. It was a none too gentle reminder of our decadent lifestyle and so we decided to do something outdoors. We talked about different options and soon we were all pumped up. We wanted to climb mount Everest and take K2 on the way down, but because we dint have any equipment we settled on soccer, or beach soccer to be more precise.

Since we were all committed to this new healthy lifestyle and were all going to be chiseled hunks in a few months we decided to play were all the babes would be out to watch us. Off we went to the most famous beach in Kerala where we could play with loads of sand in front of us and a turquoise blue ocean behind us. Unfortunately this is also the place where the foreigners crowd. They are very friendly folk, but they attract a lot of anti socials and so the police presence in such areas is quite strong. These policemen are instructed to keep an eye on the locals to make sure they don't harass the guests. Not ones to worry about these minor details we rolled into the beach. Soon a spirited game was on and a small crowd had also gathered to watch us. Suddenly something shot through the feet of the people and charged at the ball. It was a dog. Looked like a mangy mongrel that needed a good feed. "I got it" said Vinod, gave it a kick, and sent it yelping on it's way. Police whistles blew all around us and a fuming cop came charging through the crowd.

"How dare you harass foreigners!! They are our guests, where is your culture?"

"psst Vinod .. You sure you kicked the dog? Or did you get someone else?"

The policeman was staring straight at Vinod who, for some insane reason, was staring right back. It dint help matters that Vinod looked like a bouncer at the local bar. His body had run out of space for his muscle and it took up a little space in his skull too, that was the space reserved for common sense. The situation was getting out of hand, but we had a veteran troubleshooter with us. Pratheesh stepped in and negotiated a truce with the cop. Apparently, the mangy mongrel was actually a pedigree dog that came on an airplane with one of the foreigners. It was the guest the cop was talking about. Anyway, we apologized to the foreigner, to the dog, to the cop, and even to the fishmonger who wandered by see what's going on and finally the cop cooled down.

"I'll keep the ball, you folk go, take a swim and come pick it up from me on the way out" he said.

We clapped pratheesh on the back for his slick handling and set off for the water. But something was wrong. We were 6 people and right now there were only 5. Elation turned to dread as we turned round and saw Vinod still staring at the cop.

"I paid money for that ball, who are you to take it?"

Next thing we knew we were all in the police station with one foot in the lockup. Vinod was still trying to handle the situation by waving the ball in front of the head constable whose face was getting redder by the microsecond. I stamped down hard on vinod's foot and brought him back to earth. The cop dint care who was right. You insult him .. you get thrashed .. it's as simple as that. He started off with the choicest abuse I had heard in my whole entire life. It was almost like poetry, the rhyme he managed to find while stringing out the sentences. He was heartily joined by any cop who happened to wander down to where we were. A good fifteen minutes later he said that the rest of us could go but Vinod would stay. Us leaving then would be like leaving Vinod to the guillotine. We doubted if he would make it out alive. All of us started remonstrating with the cop explaining how his tough exterior hid a soft and tender heart and how his muscle had invaded the common sense portion of his brain. The policeman responded with a new string of words even stronger than the first. But we persisted and finally he relented. The evening was over and so were our aspirations to reform our lifestyle. A sadder, wiser group of friends trudged home and resolved to never mention this incident again.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fighting with my brother (1985-1995)

My elder brother's name is Kiran. He takes after my mother, big built, strong bones, ferocious strength and a ruthless fearlessness, altogether not really a person to mess around with. All this toughness hid a soft heart inside it but that's besides the point as, being his younger brother, I believed it was my birthright to pester the sanity out of him, and once insane he really was a terror. There was hardly a year and four months difference in age between Kiran and me. This was negligible enough for my parents to treat us like twins and so if my parents got wind that my brother and I fought, both of us would get a thrashing. That would be my second thrashing of the day since I would already have got a thrashing during the fight. However, logic not being my forte, fight I would, and emerge with a black eye and an appointment with a bamboo cane I would.

Our fights usually broke up when we hear dad's car honk from the workshop half a kilometer from the house. A frantic attempt to hide all traces of the fight would begin. Book cases would be made upright, bruises would be hidden, floors would be cleaned and by the time the car reaches home both of us would be in our respecting rooms buried inside our school textbooks. When I grew up I realized that it was the textbooks that gave us away. We weren't exactly Einstein wannabes to study when no one was home and dad knew that. So, when he came home, if both of us were studying, a fight had just taken place. Out would come the bamboo cane and my brother and I would begin our dance around mom's legs to try and land the cane in the least painful spot.

I've tried many ways to avoid this. I remember once I ran to the balcony and threatened to jump. Dad closed the door back to the house and said that if there was any way I come down, it would be by jumping. After putting me through a miserable afternoon in the burning summer sun he let me in at tea time and I quietly took my caning. I never tried that again. Another time I refused to eat after getting the beating. Mom told my brother that he could pick whatever he wanted from my place. The delicious chicken legs that were on my place disappeared in an instant. It was all I could do to save my dessert by screaming out that I would eat. After many such failed attempts I learned to take my thrashing and also control my urge to pester my brother. I guess that's what they call growing up. To those who haven't yet done that, let me inform you, it is a very painful process.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Shopping for US (2001)

After my visa arrived I had to face the reality that I would be leaving India soon. All of a sudden even the beggar crying for alms outside the house was an expert on America and all things american. Comments and advise flew in from all sides. Some made sense, some dint and some were outright hilarious. The joke, however, falls right back on us if we choose to follow any of these outrageous comments.

One of my dad's friends was from England. A sane source for advise .. or so we thought. "you have to get atleast three pairs of coats and trousers. Abroad, you wear it all the time" he said with an oh so sagacious expression that dad fell for hook line and sinker. The next day we set out to get the coats and trousers. I saw a few decent looking shops on the way and suggested to dad that we should stop. "No way! This is America we are talking about .. Best place in the world!!" he said contemptuously and drove on. Off we went to the most expensive shop in town. By now I was working out the math. I dint have any coats but I had once bought a shirt from this shop .. it cost Rs 1500. Putting a coat at three times that would make it Rs 5000. "Whatever", I told myself "it is America, land of opportunity, where gold flowed on the streets .. I'll get back my investment in a jiffy." Poor poor me.

Once inside, I could see that the shop was empty. No surprise that. Who in his right mind would shop at a place like this! The person at the counter saw us and came sprinting. I think he was waiting all day for a customer. "show us the coats please" dad said. Now this one was a smooth talker. He had already sized us up as those who don't usually buy coats. He walked us slowly to the coat section.

Salesman:"for you sir .. or your son?".
Dad: "My son .. He's going to America."
Salesman:"I see .. Handsome boy .. He will look good in a coat and suit"

I glanced around to see who he was talking about ... No one in sight. That meant the game was on. I had seen this pitch before, having done it many times to get my way with people. As if on cue he started off.

salesman:"Sir I have a suggestion. Your son has broad shoulders. I think a tailor made coat would look better. We have a wonderful tailor here. Just pick the cloth and we'll take care of the rest."

He did it well. Never once mentioned the price. My protests were silenced and back we went to the tailoring section. There was an even slicker talker there. "Hariharan sir?? Do you remember me? I was your student in college". My dad's face suddenly took on a knowledgeable dignified look and I knew right then that dad would buy ice pops in the artic circle from that guy. He showed a lot of cloth pieces and recommended the most expensive one. Dad just nodded wisely and send me off to give my measurements. I was able to talk him out of buying a third coat. But by the time we got out of the shop we had spent Rs20000 on two pairs of coats and trousers and dad's pockets were empty. Eventually dad came back to earth. We sat silently in the car on the way back. By the end of the trip dad had exercised his parental priviledges and somehow passed the blame on to me. Told me that this was the end of all my US related shopping. I wore the first coat only once, on my flight to US. The second one is still to be worn by anyone. They are now 4 years old and neither my dad nor I can bear to look at them.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Combined Study (1997-2001)

The average engineering student opens his textbook for the first time after the first semester results have come in. By now, the euphoria of having made it through the entrance exam would have died down and he would be extra motivated by the fact that he has failed most of his subjects in the previous semester. A session of panic follows when he realizes that the scoundrels who write engineering text books write in a language more similar to Greek and Latin than to English. What with all the sigmas and Pis and Kasais, the poor fellow would barely be able to make out the page numbers. After a night of tossing, turning and dreaming bad dreams of begging for a living, our hero would turn up in college. He wouldn't have shaved, his eyes would be red and he would bear an uncanny resemblance to a monkey in a tunnel caught in the headlight of an oncoming train. Senior students would see him, nod sympathetically and remember a similar day in their lives. Birds of a feather flock together, and so, very soon, a group of students would get together and form what is called a combined study group.

Engineering college being what it is, depression never lingers, and our study group too would not stay dull for very long. After a couple of hours discussion a broad set of rules would be outlined. For every group that I have seen, they are the same rules.

1) Thou shall not commence study until a week/a day/ a night before the exam.
2) Thou shall study only what is in two out of three modules in the syllabus, if possible, thou shall not study that too
3) Thou shall not study for more than 5 minutes at a stretch
4) After this 5 mins thou shall take a break of at least 15 mins and finally .. most importantly,
5) There will be plenty of snacks

I was no different from the average student and so, in the fourth semester, armed with a failed subject, I ventured into the mystic world of combined study. Since I was a semester late in failing for a subject, most of the combined study groups had already formed. All I needed to do was to join one. I ended up in Janson's group. This consisted of a core group of 6 people. Janson, Anand, Pratheesh, Paulose, Akhil, Faizal and finally me. Akhil was the meticulous one. He would already have gone through the textbooks once and would attend the combined study sessions only for the food and some clarifications on portions he hadn't yet understood. Usually these portions would be stuff not in the syllabus and would hence end up never being discussed in the combined study. Faizal would have collected all the notes from all the girls. He would also have bought a copy of the syllabus and managed to get his hand on some old question papers. Without doubt, leaving Janson, he was the most important member of the combined study group. Janson was important because he was the host of the study group by virtue of the fact that his mom made the best tea and snacks. Also he lived in a protected forest outside city which meant we could make as much noise as we wanted and the only creatures that get disturbed would be hyenas and buffaloes. Anand and I were the regulars. We came early, cracked jokes, discussed politics, played computer games, had philosophic discussions on the irrelevance of mundane degrees like ours and finally bid polite good byes to everyone and left. In four years and eight semesters, we never once risked trying to decipher the cryptic messages inside the textbooks. That left Paulose. His was a cardinal role. He was what we called the benchmark for combined study. If he understood, everyone had mastered.

Janson being the fundamental and also the mental one, would read the portion we were to study. This is when Paulose would be at his active best trying to make Janson's task as hard as possible through such juvenile measures and pouring tea down his shirt, or sneezing boogies onto his face. However, once Janson is done studying, Paulose would retreat into a shell to wake up only when Janson is done explaining the portion to the rest of us. This meant that after a protracted session of crying and scolding, Janson would sit down and explain the portion again. Unfortunately, while Paulose is a wizard at some things, those are not in the syllabus for engineering. This means that by the time Janson is done teaching for the second time, Paulose would still be looking expectantly at Janson, waiting for that elusive explanation. Another crying and blaming session would follow and an exasperated Janson would agree to teach Paulose 'one last time'. By now Akhil would be snoring loudly, Anand and I would be into our 10th game of Mortal Combat and Faizal would be making whimpering noises from the next room wondering how we would manage to finish 2 out of three modules by the end of the day. Janson's mother would save the day. I am sure that without her Paulose would never have made it out alive from Janson's house. She would surface with her magical tea and myriad snacks and we would all forget our little differences. We would eat, drink, make merry, and when the last morsel is down Paulose would have forgotten all about the subject. Janson would pick up the book to study again and Paulose would pick up the remnants of the tea and pour it down his shirt again. Thus the cycle repeats till the morning of the exams.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Kalsubai (2006)

We have a trekking/biking/backpacking group in office. They call themselves the wheelies. I call them the crazies. What else would you call those who go trekking to forts, mountains, rivers et al in the peak of the monsoon and come back boasting about the number of times they fell and sprained their ankle. Like anyone else, I am not immune to moments of madness and in one of them I committed to joining them on a trip to Kalsubai.

Kalsubai is the highest peak in the sahyadris. The peak stands 1600 meters above sea level. The climb is approximately 1000 meters. That dint sound too bad. Google said the trek is an easy climb. How tough could it be, specially for a person who had been halfway down the grand canyon? It is strange how I always end up grossly overestimating my scarce talents. When I went down the canyon I was a person who would run a 5 miler at a good pace atleast twice a week. Now, two years, 1 marriage, 1 child and 15 kilos later I would huff and puff my way to the water cooler across the hall.

Anyway, Pratibha was in Trivandrum, and weekends were boring. So I decided to go ahead and do the trek. I wrote my last will and testament, signed it (and again at the witness page .. Since there was no one else), packed my bags and set off for mount Kalsubai. The train ride was great. The wheelies sure were seasoned travelers. There was cards, food, jokes, songs .. fun all the way. Each of the wheelies had a nickname that ended with 'baba (saint)'. There was 'rassi(rope) baba, cycle baba, vada paav baba, running baba, bhai baba, baba.latest and so on and so forth. The little knot in my stomach was beginning to dissolve. Ganesh aka 'baba.all' planned to take a tent and a sleeping bag with him when he climbed. I figured, worst case he could pick me up too if I collapsed.

Consensus was that we'd hit the sack early since we had a long trek the next day. However Ganesh had different ideas. His hoarse voice reminiscent of several donkeys braying in unison kept us awake till the early hours of the morning. Time flew, it was close to 2 O clock at night Anand and I had given up our miserable attempts at sleep and baba.all was still hee hawing in the background. Suddenly Siddharth aka vada paav baba rolled off the top berth. He was wide awake and sniffing the air like a greyhound on a rabbit trail. Then we got it too. The train rolled into Manmad and the tongue tickling smell of hot vada paavs filled our nostrils. vada pave baba took a running jump from the train. By the time the train stopped and we found him, he was already into his third one and had also ordered a bread omlette and 5 chais to boot. I don't discriminate between different foods. Vada paavs or Sonu's rotis, I eat till I can eat no more. And so we had a quiet 5 minutes when we tried to stuff as many hot vada paavs into us as we could before the train started again. Finally, fully sated and with a few more packed as backup, we boarded the train.

Couple of hours later we reached Igatpuri where we got down and boarded a bus to Bhandardara. Right beside the bus stop was the guest house where we had booked a 15 bed dormitory for all of us. But .. Before that .. More vada paavs. The few vada paavs we had packed from that stall in Kalyan had done little but wet the appetite of the other babas. Right at the bus stop was a tea stall. Wasn't much more than a few benches and a gas stove. But the food was awesome. I often wonder why food in these dingy places invariably taste better than those at post hotels. Take this fellow for instance. He had a very special chutney that his wife makes at home. It is fantastic. It gave such an awesome flavor to the vada paavs that we ended up gorging all of them and giving an order for more to take with us on the trek. Why is it that the high profile chefs with fancy degrees cant come up with a chutney half as good as this one?

Off we went to the dorms and got ready for the trek. True to his word, ganesh packed his tent and sleeping bag into his backpack. By 9:30 all of us were ready to roll. We went down to the bus stop paid for the vada paavs, forgot the packet there, and took off. After some searching we managed to find a jeep that would take us to bari from where the trek begins. 1 Jeep and 15 people .. not exactly a cozy fit. My added 15 kilos and ganesh's size let us down. I had put on so much weight that if I sat in the jeep I would take up the space of two people, likewise Ganesh because of his height, and space was at a premium. This meant that we spent the whole journey hanging precariously out of the back of the jeep. By the time we reached bari my calfs were aching and I was wondering if I should ask Ganesh to pick me up already.

The view from bari dint look too bad. 1600 meters can look deceptively simple. Consequently (and in retrospect foolishly) I ended up offering to take 2 more bottles of water with my current load. I also ended up doing the first leg of the climb with Anand and Ketan, two exercise freaks one of which runs marathons and the other bikes close to 100kms every week. Pretty soon I started to resemble a marathon runner myself. Tongue hanging out, foot dragging, stumbling every alternate step, I knew it was time for a break. As for the other two, I doubt if they had even properly warmed up.

Waving them ahead I sat down for a break. Just about when I had caught my breath Saurabh and Manoj aka rassi baba caught up with me. Saurabh dint look very different from me, drooping tongue, bulging eyes and all. He had a bottle of gatorade in his hand which he was stoutly refusing to open till he reached the top. They dint stop though and I fell in step with them. During the second leg of the climb, I completely forgot about my exhaustion. There were more pressing matters .. like how am I going to climb this rock face?? When your life is at stake you don't usually feel tired. There were ladders in the really tough portions, but the others weren't exactly a walk in the park. All along I was thinking "If I could only get my hands on the fellow who called this an easy climb" .. and "why oh why did I agree to come?" It culminated in a raw rock face. The drop was well over 500 feet. Saurabh and rassi were already 10 feet out, but I stopped. There was no way this could be the right route. We needed ropes for this. So I stood there looking at them go .. and then I noticed a very funny thing. Neither of them had looked down yet. Their plight reminded me of the old Tom and Jerry cartoons .. where tom goes over a cliff and still keep going for a few steps before actually realizing what happened. Saurabh was the first to look down. In a very small scared voice "guys!! ... er .. I think I am lost". rassi .. in an even smaller voice "Nishant .. If you haven't gotten onto the wall .. don't .. I don't think this is the right way" . Me "if this is the right way .. I turning round" . By now By now Saurabh and rassi were mumbling all the prayers they knew as they slowly made their way back. I retraced our steps till I found the right path and we continued on.

The experience had pumped so much adrenalin into us that the rest of the climb was cake. Before we knew it we had joined Anand and Ketan on the top. About half an hour later the rest of the group caught up. They were held up in a tricky portion of the 2nd phase where some people needed a hand up. Lots of photos later realization dawned on us that we had forgotten the vada paavs in the tea shop. A blame session followed when everyone blamed everyone else and vada pave baba gallantly agreed to shoulder all the blame. The less said about the descent the better. Suffice to say it was so slippery we spent more time on our butt than on our feet. As for the second section, I consider it a miracle that I made it down in one piece. Another precarious jeep ride later we were back in the dorms eating our sorely missed vada paavs.

The next day we split up into two group. The hard core wheelies went on a second trek to ratangad. The rest of us spent the day lounging around the guesthouses, did a little boating and finally caught a Jeep to kasara. Here we were joined by the wheelies. From Kasara we caught a local train to Kalyan.

Local trains in Bombay are fascinating from a distance ... Once inside the perspective changes. The first thing you do as soon as you are in is to get as far away from the door as possible. Woe be you if you fail to do that. If by the time you reach the next station, you are still near the door, a flood of people would push you out and unceremoniously dump you on the platform. Without so much as a second to protest, you should pick yourself up and shove into the second flood of people to get back into the train. I watched this pattern for a few stations from the safety of a seat that I managed to capture and very soon Kalyan came up. I picked up my bags, joined the flood and was washed onto the platform of Kalyan station from where we caught our train to Hyderabad.

Will I do it again? Sure .. Because 1) I like the wheelies 2) I love the vada paavs and three 3)Kalsubai rocks :):):)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Courting Pratibha (1999-2000)

Pratibha (or Sonu as she's called at home) joined our lab group in the 4th semester. She was a feisty character. Jolly good fun to have around but what really attracted me to her was her lunch box. She was a north Indian and there's no food like authentic north Indian food. Sadly I wasn't the only enlightened one. Every day, at lunch time, there used to be a mad scramble for pratibha's lunch box. Sampath, Neena and I were the usual culprits but very often there were others. Everyone but pratibha used to get a fair share of the spoils (what!! Have you ever heard of the victim getting anything?).

Very soon I realized that half a roti and curry wouldn't do. I had to find
a way to get more. Also I had gotten to know her very well (subtle way of saying I had fallen in love with her .. heh heh). First I tried to impress her in the lab. But that retarded moron of a showstopper, Anish, who was also her friend, showed her the source of my lab wisdom. The next thing I did was morph into the chivalrous 'do gooder' guy that society could never do without. Couple of weeks later, standing in pouring rain, looking quite the fool, changing a flat tyre for her scooter, I realized that that was going to be quite hard to sustain. Desperate times required desperate measures. Moreover all is fair in love and war. The time had come for the underhanded route. I solicited the help of all our common friends (including Anish .. told him it was his sole chance at redemption). Day in and day out they sang paeans to me into her ears until I was sure she had a picture of me next to the gods and goddesses in her house. Finally I proposed .. and got rejected, was lucky to get away in one piece. Dang .. She was smarter than I expected. Why should girls be smart anyway .. what will boys do?

I gave up .. resigned myself to half a roti and curry. It was the end of the semester, time for lab exams. As was the usual practice, I brought out my trusted old PDA watch into which I stored all the inductance and capacitance values for all experiments. Following the pattern of my rotten luck all semester I got the toughest experiment. Fortunately I could remember the diagram. I drew it and copied down the values from my watch. And went to my table. As luck would have it, Pratibha was in the table right next to mine. There is a certain higher power upstairs. I believe he (male chauvinist me .. I'll call him a he) was touched by my sincere efforts to win pratibha and was sorry to see me fail. He decided to step in and help me out a little. Usually one to look only at her table and nowhere else, this time Pratibha glanced at my diagram. "psst .. Nishant .. you've put 20uF it is 20mF" .. Little whisper coming from my left. I couldn't believe it. I knew she was wrong, my trusted watch couldn't fail me. But here was my chance. Screw the output, I told myself .. Get some sympathy. Eyes gleaming wickedly I changed the value, messed up the whole lab and stepped out.

There she was, my sweet little sonu, looking all horrified and sorry. I put on my most forlorn face, said bravely "It's ok ... You only tried to help" and walked off. That was the turning point. I grabbed onto that thread and pulled, and pulled .. until one fine day she fell into my lap. She's my wife now and we have a sweet little daughter. Every single day I eat 10 rotis and loads of curry.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

GRE and TOEFL (2000)

My preparation for GRE and TOEFL were officially kicked off as early as the third semester of Engineering. Again I had my nerd friend Akhil to thank for that. Having failed miserably in his attempt to make it through to IIT he decided that rather than commit suicide he would leave the country. We scouted around and came to know that there is something called a post graduate degree. It is a degree for those whose brains haven't yet been addled by undergraduate study. That sounded like a good fit for Akhil. As for me, I dint have any brains, so there was no question of any addling. However, before we applied for admission to universities in USA, we need to get two scores. They were the GRE and TOEFL scores.

All you needed to do to get a good score in GRE is 'mug up' 2500 word meanings, get really good at solving puzzles and become a math whiz. Walk in the park ... Yeah right!!! I ran for dear life, and for once, so did Akhil. Back to college life it was, for an additional two semesters. By then most people in class were looking toward the future and I too started thinking. My badminton career was over .. The devil (head of Dept) had ensured that. I needed to do something too. Roundabout this time Devraj and Sampath caught the GRE bug. This was a shock. Sampath I could understand but Devraj!! My intellectual twin .. taking the GRE. I had to do it too. So I joined them for study sessions.

First we hit the word lists. There was an upside to that. We used to go back to class with all these new words swimming through our heads and strike up a conversation with any unfortunate soul in the vicinity. It usually went like this.

Me : Hi Shalu. What are you doing perambulating down the corridor.
Sampath: Yeah you should be cogitating the last lecture.
Devraj: In fact .. I myself am ruminating over the last portion.

(by now shalu would be sweating profusely thinking all these new words are part of the syllabus)

shalu (flipping feverently through the text book) : Perambul .. is that in the Induction motor section? How come I dint see it?

Little by little we conquered the word lists. Analytical (or the puzzle section) wasn't too tough. I had spent so much time cooking up excuses for my many screw ups that lateral thinking had become a way of life. That left math. Turned out high school level math was all they expected from us. No probs. Pretty soon we were consistently getting scores over 2300 (out of 2400) in the practice tests.

That left TOEFL. I followed the first stage completely and faithfully. It required us to watch as many English movies as possible to catch the American accent. I did that .. Heck .. I had been doing that since I was 6. For the second stage we had to listen to tapes of people. We did this in sampath's house. It was a quiet place, so quiet it was scary. I could hear the clock ticking in the hallway as we studied. Visions and ghosts and past inhabitants haunted my daydreams. However making out what was said in such an environment was no big deal. The remaining sections of TOEFL were similar to the verbal section of GRE.

So that was that. We were ready. The first real roadblock came in the form of campus interviews. I cant describe how distracting it is to have a job in hand. I had done the dogs work for well over 8 months and still, after I landed a job, I wanted to call it quits. Moreover I had fallen in love .. and she had no plans to come to US. Not just me Devraj wavered too. Sampath really saved us there. He was firm in that we were going to take the test. He made sure we sent in our applications and pretty soon it was time to take the TOEFL

There was no place to take the exam in Trivandrum. So we flew down to Chennai to take the test. Devraj and I were on a flight for just the second time. During takeoff and landing Dev changed a wonderful shade of Lilac that I should really have captured. It could have won prizes in photography contests. Things really weren't going well for him.

Once in Chennai we split up. Each of us had a different venue. Mine was inside a university. It was quiet and peaceful. Very much like sampath's place. The test went smoothly and soon I was on my way back. The first person I met was Devraj. He dint look too confident. He said "there was this crow dude .. right on the window beside me. Drove me crazy .. I couldn't hear anything." .. followed by a string of swear words I'd rather not type. Sampath joined us later. He had no issues at his venue.

One down .. one to go. Sampath and Devraj both got dates for GRE before mine. As their scores came in I realized that the real thing is not as easy as a practice test. The big day came. It was a little bit of an anti climax. I dint get nervous, and I dint screw up. Came out with a decent score of 2130. Enough to get me across the seas. And across the seas I went.

Labs in College (1997-2001)

Labs in colleges all over India are very similar. They consist of a bunch of bored instructors huddled in a corner, a vast collection of apparatus from the Jurassic age and a large group of students broken into groups, taking apart these machines and trying to get them to work. The 'instruction manual' for labs are few old lab manuals handed down from the Nile valley civilization. Successive generations of prospective engineers faithfully copy down every word while putting their engineering brains to good use checking out the scenery around them. This meant that no one knows what is copied and if it is copied correctly. Mistakes are inevitable and these add up. In short, by the time I entered the college, the instructions in the 'lab manual' was 'the one way the experiment was sure to not work'. I found this very convenient. All I needed to do was hang around, do nothing, and finally blame it on the apparatus. After all, no one was going to get the result.
But a scan down my previous blog would tell you that I was unfortunate enough to have a nerd in my friend circle. And nerds don't like bad outputs. To add to that he found a real fundamental (read mental) guy called Janson to help him investigate what goes wrong. Anand joined in with them and they huffed and they puffed and soon they had an all new set of experiments that used to actually work. Lord knows how many curses I rained down on them the day their efforts came to fruition. Soon, however, I came to look at it in a far different light.
My lab group consisted of 5 people. Neena, Musfira, Paulose, Peyush and Me. Musfira, bless her, would ensure paulose, peyush and I had our rough records up to date (wont be allowed inside the lab without one). Then Neena and Musfi would answer all questions fired at us by the instructor before we are allowed to lay our hands on the apparatus. Paulose would promptly disappear to reappear only when the output is on view. Neena and Musfi would begin their doomed attempt to get the experiment up and running. Doomed for two reasons
1) they are girls 2) As proved by my nerd friends, the circuit diagram is wrong.
Peyush and I would stand around passing snide heartless comments waiting for the inevitable. Then, like some junior Einstein I would strut over to lab book, try to imitate the thoughtful look of the previous night on Akhil and Janson's face , say a few intelligent expressions like "hmmm ... interesting" .. and finally redraw the diagram I had painfully committed to memory. Inevitable I would draw back to looks of awe from Musfi and Neena. To this day they believe I am a very fundu guy .... Thank you akhil and janson .. Sob (tears of joy) my gratitude is unbounded. Peyush would take over and before you know it .. The output would be on the screen.

College pains (sometime in 1998)

My first semester in Engineering was one of the most interesting chapters in my storied B-Tech days. It all started with me being dragged down, kicking and screaming, from the badminton circuit to CET. I can still remember the sinking feeling I got when I stood in front of the Head of Department on my first day in college (I was a month late and he wanted to know why). We dint like each other. It was pretty obvious. He saw in me another of those sports walas. I saw in him another of those twisted narrow minded nerds who were the reason sports dint flourish in India. His first words dint help either. "Lets get one thing straight...If you fall short of attendance, you fail...It doesn't matter if you bring a certificate saying you are world champion. Anyway...what are you now??" "I'm national champion".
So off I went to meet my advisor. She was a pretty stern lady...but hey...what's a pest after a session with the devil. She took me to class and I settled into the third bench next to a really friendly guy called Anand. On the other side of Anand was a nerd if I had ever seen one. Round glasses, serious face, but what finished the picture was that Physics was being taught and his nose was buried in a chemistry book. I'd seen people do a whole bunch of things when they get bored with lectures... play games, read magazines, pass notes....But I'd never seen someone study another subject because the lecture was boring. Anand chucked at the shocked _expression on my face and assured me that everyone was not like that. The nerd's name was Akhil, and we went on to become best friends. A week after that the fourth member of our gang came to class. His name was Devraj. Anand and I had progressed to being back benchers by then. We came to know in the morning that two students had transferred from another college to ours. And in the second lecture they were done with their meeting with the devil and the staff advisor. Devraj came into class and took the seat next to me and Anand, looked up, nodded at us and said "did you see that girl outside??? Maaaaannnn...she's too good!!!!"... A moment of silence..followed by a low chuckle from Anand... Now this was funny. Here was this complete stranger...no introduction, no embarrassed silence.... starts off talking about a girl...to us....a couple of misogynists. We liked him right then. After all the statement showed he was one of us. He had priorities...and academic excellence was not on top of that list. A few weeks went by..I remember a particularly interesting lecture in which my advisor tore apart the fundamentals of electrical engineering by proving I=VR inspite of feverant protests from me,Anand and a few others.

My second month in college was when I scaled the heights of notoriety. That was the third month of class...midway through the semester. One fine day I got a letter saying I have been transferred to the Industial Engineering Department. I dint want to go. All my friends were in Electrical Engineering...and for the first time in my life I dint hate girls. I enjoyed talking to them and all that. But there was the order...and the hope of being freed from the clutches of the devil. I took the order home and showed it to dad. I've always read of people turning purple...but till then I had never seen it. Dad was livid. He knew me...and he knew that if I were in a class of fun loving boys...I'd probably never clear engineering. It seems that when I applied for sports quota I had ranked industrial engineering over electrical engineering. But I had finally used my merit seat and so the sports seat was supposed to be cancelled. There was some mixup and the seat dint get cancelled. That how I got transferred. Que sera sera .. I told myself .. and went to bed. The next day I had a particularly long session in the badminton camp and was late for class. To top it all.. I spent about five minutes finding out where the Industrial Engineering classes were. Finally, I reached the class, fifteen minutes late. Something was wrong. Industrial Engineering was supposed to be one of the noisiest classes...but the class at whose door I stood was so quiet one could hear the lecture from my electrical engineering class. Then it struck me....I had walked into a pop quiz. I looked at the board where the questions were written and got a familiar sinking feeling. My first day in this class would also be the first time I get zero for a quiz. Better get it over with quickly, I told myself. I took out a paper and pencil and started off furiously writing down all the questions (I dint know the answers...so I figured questions were better than a blank paper). The subject was Organic chemistry. The teacher was a pleasant and friendly looking lady. With all the wisdom of years spent teaching chemistry to those who would never need it again .. she realized my problem. To pass time, we struck up a polite conversation.

Teacher :" So, you're new here eh!"Me :" Well, I'm new to the class, but I was in Electrical before "Teacher :" Really? Well, who teaches chemistry there?"Me : (not turning pink because I'm dark) "umm...lemme see...well..."Teacher :" come on, it's the middle of the semester"Me : (turning pink inspite of being dark) "umm..yeah...well...I know her...or...well.."Teacher :" Does anyone teach you chemistry"Me : (Relieved to get the easy way out) "I'm not sure ma'am, I don't quite remember"

And that was that. I got my zero and she went her merry way. The next day I ran into my actual chemistry teacher (her name was Mary). A few caustic comments from her later I had committed her face to memory and considered that chapter closed. Woe be me .. A week later, dad had the transfer order revoked, and I was back in Electrical. And guess what the first period of the day was? There she was, my favorite Chemistry teacher, doing the roll call, and there I was, sunk so low in my seat, you couldn't tell me from the varnish on the bench. My number was 42. The whole class had gotten quite used to skipping from 41 to 43. So this time after 41, there was me calling 42 in a voice so low the fly buzzing over my head asked me to repeat it, and there was Manju screaming 43 like she wanted the windows to crack when she said it. But still Miss Mary managed to pick it up. The temperature in the class dropped by a couple of degrees. Her pencil stopped and her hand came up signaling the end of roll calls for the day. I made another fruitless attempt to sink through the floor, and finally looked up into a pair of coal black eyes. "So....you're back" . "Listen up everybody, this young man here believes we don't teach chemisty in Electrical Engineering". (huge laughter from the sycophants in the first two rows). And so it went on for the rest of the lecture.....and for the rest of the semester. I got good at chemistry though, thanks to her, and eventually, we got to develop a healthy respect for each other too. Thank you Mrs Mary .. you dint know it then, but you probably saved Engineering degree

Trip to Grand Canyon (sometime in 2003)

It all started when my brother came to Las Cruces on a visit. He and his friends are jolly good fun and they hit off real well with my roommate and close friends (Vidya, Wiplove and Srujan). So we decided that we should visit them for the spring break too. A rough plan was chalked out and then we forgot about it. Close to the spring break the idea caught heat again. But Albuquerque (where bro is) is only a few hours away and we wanted a road trip. In came Elephant Butte Lake, Sandia peaks and the incomparable Grand Canyon. The car rental (Dodge Stratus) came to 250 bucks. So we scouted around for another traveler to join us. Enter Harshad. That made five of us. A quick trip to Walmart (supermarket) and supplies were in place. Maps were downloaded from yahoo and we were ready to roll.

We set out close to the midnight of the 22nd. High spirits was not the word. We were on air. Once in the interstate we settled down to a comfortable speed (80mph-abt130kmph) and the party started. Food was pulled out, cokes were opened and loud music filled the night air. Words can't describe the exhilaration we felt. We were off to the canyon, one of the seven wonders of the natural world. A couple of hours later we had all settled down. I was in the navigator seat and Harshad was driving. Music was off and the rest of the guys were slowly dozing off. That's when Vidya looked out of the window and up to the sky. It was picture perfect. Quarter moon painted on a clear cloudless sky with twinkling stars dancing to a merry tune. We pulled over to the shoulder an got out of the car. All were quiet taking in the marvel called creation. After a quiet few minutes we got back in and set out again.

At abt 4 o clock harshad and I gave way to vidya and wiplove (Wiplove driving and vidya navigating). That's when the trouble started (Vidya would say I missed the trail but I strongly contest the statement ). The map pointed to a Coronado trail (god knows if it exists) about 120 miles from where vidya took over. We were supposed to take it and join up with interstate 180 a few miles later. Wiplove drove for abt 300 miles...no trail. The sun rose...still no trail. Vidya threw up his hands and gave up. Our savior came in the form of a Ranch (full scale with horses and stuff). We got in and asked for directions. Much to our relief we were on a road parallel to the highway we were supposed to take. So we dint have to turn back. The ranch owner gave us a sumptuous breakfast (sumptuous for the non-veg guys.. harshad and I ate salad, bread and jam). It is amazing what a full meal does to your attitude. Our confidence restored we set out again to the canyon. A few gas stations for directions and we were back on the route.

That's when we came to Holbrook, A quiet town off Flagstaff (which is a pretty big city). Pristine and peaceful, we were caught in its spell. We parked at some corner of the town and another photo session followed. Then off we set to flagstaff. It was abt 9:30 in the morning by then. The sun was well up and time was slowly becoming critical. The speedometer slowly crawled up to 90mph. Flagstaff came and went. That's when the whole route turned green. I've never seen nature more brilliant. What hues and colors for flora and fauna. To top it the conifer forests beckoning like some irresistible force. We knew we had to stop. And stop we did.. not once but many times.

Finally at close to 11:30 we reached the canyon. Our first view of the canyon was a humbling experience. We were overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and splendor of Mother Nature at its peak. The Colorado River was so small in comparison. it was incomprehensible that that was the architect of this marvel. For those of you who go to the canyon I would suggest you don't just stop at the first drop, take a few pics and push of. I've known many who did that. They felt there was nothing more to see. The thing to do is to hike down the 'Bright Angel Trail' down to the bottom of the canyon. The trail is 4 feet at the widest and as thin as 2 feet at places. On one side is the sheer drop of the canyon and the other is the security of the canyon wall. The descent itself is something one would treasure for the rest of ones life. But what lies below is even better. The Colorado river in all its splendor still digging deeper into the earth as if what it has made is somehow not enough, greenery not seen anywhere else in the world, Rock formations better than any sculpture. A world on it's own. Those who go down should take camping equipment and camp for the night as the descent would take a whole day. We dint have any of those. So we went halfway down and then climbed back up. All of us have resolved to go back someday and go all the way down.

There's something about the trail that brings out the adventurer in you. There were so many things we did there that I would never have done even on a wall 10 feet high. I remember a rocky ledge jutting out into the canyon with a hole in it. It was called Angel's window. The ledge was abt 1/2 foot wide (no kidding). A slip would mean a sheer drop. And all except Srujan were bold enough to climb onto the window for pics. We played ice catch on the trail. we laughed, we screamed, we ran, for that short period we were free from the world. We wanted to be there forever but time stops for no man. Evening had come. We visited the Grand Canyon museum and bought a few souvenirs. Albuquerque and Indian food beckoned and so we set out again

Harshad and I took over again (me driving this time). The drive was pretty much uneventful. Halfway through Srujan took over the wheel while I took a nap. Pretty late into the night we reached Albuquerque. That was where we saw the first and only hitch of our hasty planning. I dint have my brother's address. A few phone calls and a long wait saw us through that. It was too late for the Indian hotel though. We settled down for a good sleep after more than 24 hrs in a car. The next day we went to an Indian Hotel. It was the first time I was going to an Indian hotel after coming to the US (we don't have one in Las Cruces). We showed it there too. Forks and spoons were thrown aside. Words came to a halt. For the next half hour the only thing I saw was Pulav, Nan, Kurma, Paneer Palak, Payasam etc. Gorged to the hilt we got up not without a tinge of regret that the meal was over.

Everybody was very sleepy. Harshad Vidya and Srujan went back to the flat. Wiplove and I however were not done with exploring. Off we went in search of Sandia peaks. It's a winter ski resort. Both of us knew it would be closed this time...but hey what the heck. Gas station again pointed out the way to us and soon we were climbing the hills to Sandia. We clicked a couple of photos on the wayƂ… and suddenly we ran out of reel. A quick discussion and we decided to junk the photos and continue. The climb was genuine fun. Hair pins, U - turns and what not. The Dodge held gamely and soon we were on top. A spectacular view of Albu was a fitting reward for foregoing the sleep. We hung around for abt 15 mins and returned to my bro's place. We were at the final leg of the road trip and by 7 o clock we were on our way back. The enthusiasm had still not died down and so we decided to go to Elephant Butte lake (which is close to Las Cruces) the next day. We dropped Harshad off at his flat and returned to sleep in our flats.

The next day we set out for the Butte. A drive of abt 1 hour took us there. The lake was amazing. Clear blue set against a flawless sky. The sight is to be seen, not described. We checked out the rate for speedboats, concluded it was too high and so chucked that plan. We had a small picnic at the sands of the lake and set back to Cruces, our wanderlust just whetted by what we had seen.

P.S ... I've still not gone back .. but I will .. but I will

first blog

Hi folks,
So I've finally joined the blogwagon. Cant imagine why it took so long. Lazy I guess (or .. like they say .. I'm not really lazy .. I just stop before I get tired). I'm going to use this space to write articles on my life. Different experiences, a little peep into me, something I can read when I'm too old to type :). .. so .. here goes

P.S :- the other person in the pic is yours truly's better half .. and as I get cruelly reminded every once in a while .. she really is better :)