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 introduction, no embarrassed silence.... starts off talking about a 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 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. "'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 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 :)