Saturday, December 31, 2011

Curtains 2011.. !!

Its a strange feeling, and certainly one that is difficult to describe, that one gets on the morning of the 31st of December and on the day after that. There is, of course, nothing different in the way nature treats both these days. The sun rises and sets at approximately the same time and the weather remains generally the same. Yet, as far as the human mind is concerned, these two days are as different as chalk and cheese. On the 31st December, most of us, I suspect, have this feeling of relief and of a burden being removed from our shoulders. For those of us (and I guess that is a majority) for whom the year has not really gone the way it should have, 31st December finally seems to be end of it all. We think to ourselves, let this one day go and from tommorow, I will behave myself and the world will be alright. But before that we allow ourselves one 'final' chance at doing things we want to avoid henceforth. So a final day of no-holds-barred boozing before we start moderating ourselves. One final binge on our favourite food before we embark on the diet. One final day of sleeping late before we hit the gym from tommorow morning. And this repeats every year on 31st December, no matter if the year has been good or bad.

But 2011 has been a different year in many senses. Here I will not dwell on the many events, good or bad, that have taken place around us this year. Of course, some stand out : the Lokpal saga, India's World Cup win, the many gems that death took away from us etc. But remembering those is best left to the media. From a personal viewpoint, the year was somewhat a mixed bag. As always, it started off well as far as my new year resolutions were concerned. Was very regular in the gym  in January and to add to that, had a personal best finish in the Mumbai Marathon. In fact, the gym is the one place with which I have kept my date throughout the year. Cannot say for sure it has made me stronger or fitter, but still, feels good to see one major resolution being achieved in the year. But for the other ones, the less said the better. Finished 2011 without still getting a car, a decision that I somehow seem to always push. Plans of learning a new language started of well but then had to stall that since 'Ich war sehr beschäftigt'. Financially, it was a nightmare year. The sensex dropping off by 25% this year meant that some of my stocks were reduced to pulp. Thank God for the good ol fixed deposits !!. The political and social environment around us did little to spark encouragement. In fact, politics kept touching new lows during the year, finally culminating in the midnight farce at the Rajya Sabha a few days ago. Surely we cannot go any lower than this, or can we ?? The government was in a virtual coma throughout the year. Thus, in 2011, it was left to the individual to make the year special for himself/herself. The world certainly did not help ! :(

But all these negatives were washed away by that one moment !. When at half-an-hour past midnight on the 29th of March, I held a tiny human life for the first time, the world changed forever. And, of course, me as a person too. And for that moment itself, 2011 would be a year to remember !!. After that day, life was thrown out of gear. I have hardly had a six-hour sleep at a stretch since, but all this minor discomforts pale when I see the smile on her face when I return back from work !! (speaking of which, work-wise it was a decently good year, hoping for different things in 2012). So I thank the Almighty for giving this precious gift to me in 2011 !!. In fact, if I were to describe this year in three words (as is trending today on Twitter) it would be 'Me Daddy Cool' !!!.. :-)

And so on to 2012 !! I will talk more about it in a subsequent post. But one of my 2011 resolutions was to keep blogging regularly. And with a grand total of less than 10 posts on both my regular and cricket blog combined, this has been a most spectacular failure. And I carry forward this resolution for 2012. And just to spur myself on, I have decided to move the blog to a new place. Henceforth, I would be blogging on 'Thoughts Along the way.. ' ( Let us see if the change of name and address improves things as far as the updation of the blog. I have done a similar thing with my cricket blog as well, which is now at

So with this, I sign off and bring down the curtains on 2011 as well as on this blog !!
Hope to see you all at my new blogspace. Keep following there !!!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A mid-winter day's trek

The title of this post might sound suspiciously similar to a play written by a certain Mr. Shakespeare, but let me warn you that the content does not contain any fairies or Athenian lovers. Instead, this simple post is about a trek that I went on last Saturday. It was my first trek in quite a while (more than a year infact). And when the idea of this trek was floated by Ali, I jumped on it. I thought it will be more than just a good outing over a Saturday. I saw in it a chance to test out my fitness in handling the demands of a trek. And so it was, that last Saturday (24th December), a motley group of 12 (linked together only by their common acquaintaince with Ali, and most meeting the others for the first time) assembled together for a trek to Sarasgad.

Sarasgad is situated near the temple village of Pali, which is famous as being one of the eight Asthavinayak temples of Lord Ganesh. Pali, in turn, is around 25km off Nagothane on the Mumbai - Goa highway. Our group of 12 (in two vehicles) started off around 6.45 am. After the usual time spent in waiting for some of the members to show up, we went out of Mumbai and onto the Goa highway. Before that, we stopped at the Datta Snacks outlet after Panvel, only to see a mob of Mumbaikars at the place, all stopping by while leaving the city for the X'mas weekend :) We managed to get vada-paos for ourselves, thanks to Vinay who (allegedly) reached the kitchen. Going on, we had another stop at the Kamat outlet after the Karnala bird sanctuary. This was a more leisurely stop with Idlis, Vadas and Dosas being gorged upon. Of course, the downside of this is that we got late in reaching Pali (also thanks to the omni-present traffic jam at Vadhkal Naka - from where to road to Alibaug splits from the highway). Reaching Pali nearly at mid-day, as we got out of our vehicles in the parking lot near the temple, the first sight we saw was that of our destination. The twin peaks of Sarasgad (around 1500 ft high) stood imposingly over the car-park and, indeed, the entire village. I would be lying if I said that, on first glance, nobody had any second thoughts in going ahead with the trek. But thankfully, any apprehensions were quickly dispelled and off we went, exactly at 12 noon by my watch.

Sarasgad is relatively a simple trek. However, the obscene time at which we started the trek more than made up for the gentleness of the track. After about half an hour, the distance within the group started widening. To the credit of those behind, they showed great strength of character (more than fitness) in continuing with it. Mostly, the trek consists of a mud path with small natural steps. There is a small plataeu (with a torn down hut) about halfway up. However, the absence of any big trees with their shade meant that we could not escape the sun, now scorching right above us (even though it was mid-winter). After about an hour and half of pushing and constantly motivating each other, we all reached the base of the two peaks that are so characterisitic of Sarasgad. There are a series of steps in between those two peaks that finally take you to the entrance (darwaaza) of the fort (now almost non-existant). We stopped before the stairway to recharge ourselves and then set out for the final phase of the ascent. Managed to reach the fort entrance just before 2 pm.

There is precious little on the fort by way of things to see. There are some caves with fresh-water natural tanks around. Actually, Sarasgad is not so much a fort as it is a vantage point. Hence, there are none of the sights that you would normally see on the better-known forts (e.g. fort ramparts, cannons, temples etc). Though, being a vantage point, it gave us wonderful views of the surrounding hills. The village of Pali at the foothills could be seen in detail (including a cricket match from 1400 feet up !!). Nevertheless, we were overjoyed to have made it and quickly found a place near the caves and sat down for lunch. The group lunch was a delightful and delicious assortment of fruits, sandwiches, theplas with cheese and even Maggi :). After a lot of gup-shup over lunch, the more enterprising of us set out to go the summit of the peak (a couple of hundred feet up) while the others opted for a snooze besides the cave in the cool afternoon breeze . This was a short 15-20 minute climb that took us finally took us right to the top. On reaching there, we found a big group of TCS people who had come for a trek. After surveying the summit for 10-15 minutes, we started our descent only to find a big traffic jam caused by this group who were just beginning their descent. It is said that the commercialization of Mount Everest has meant that there are traffic jams at 25000 feet plus too. As we awaited our turn to start descending, I could partly imagine what it must be to have a traffic jam near Everest  :) We rejoined our team that we had left behind just below the summit. After the mandatory photo-session and after refreshing ourselves with the ice-cool (even in the afternoon !!) water from one of the tanks, we set out for the descent. The descent was relatively easy, although we did make it interesting by following a couple of local boys who took a different route (also to avoid the TCS guys). Starting off at 3.45pm, we were back at the Pali village in just under an hour. Then it was time to hit the watering hole i.e. the many juice stalls that are situated near the temple. As just rewards for our exertions, each one of us had nearly 3-4 glasses from amongst nimbu-paani, kala-khatta, kokam etc. Finally, we started back at around 5.30 pm. Taking a different route (Pali to Khopoli and then onto the Expressway) we were back much quicker than expected (even after taking a dinner break at Chaat Ke Thaat in Khargar - highly recommended !!). I was home at 9.30pm, having loved every moment of the day and excited at getting back to trekking and looking forward to more such times ahead !!

I have put up snaps from the trek (snap courtesy others in the group) on my Facebook profile.

Some info:

Difficulty level: Easy to moderate. Only be mindful of the start time. If one starts early morning, then it should be a comfortable trek even for first-timers. There are a couple of spots where one has to be careful though.
How to get there: From Mumbai, taking the Khopoli route is better. The road from Khopoli to Pali is quite good. The traffic on the Goa highway can be bad.
Facilities avaliable: None at the top. But Pali has places for basic snacks etc. Advisable to carry your own food.
Duration: Easily completed in a day from Mumbai or Pune


Monday, May 02, 2011

What's in a name ???.. A whole lot. if you ask me....

This is my first post after a long while, and certainly my first after an event that has changed my life forever. Just past midnight, as the 29th day of March dawned, we were blessed with a baby daughter. Its been more than a month now, but am still getting used to life as a father now. In fact, with the baby still at her grandma's place with her mother, it will be a couple of weeks more before the reality fully sets in. And with so many of my friends never failing to remind me of sleepless nights and soggy beds, I cannot say that I was not warned.

But more than changing diapers and trying to pacify the new-born, there is another activity that I am currently running very scared of. I guess it would qualify as of one of our first duties as parents (after having actually given birth of course !!). And that is naming the new-born !! Unlike in the West, where you do not leave the maternity hospital without naming the infant, here our traditions give a full month and a quarter (before the naming-ceremony) to parents for discussing, debating, arguing, agonizing and even fighting over the name to be given to the child !!. And to make things all the more difficult, astrology limits you with a letter(s) by which the name ought to start. And the sheer enormity of the task is mind-boggling. Firstly of course, I am confronted with a fundamental dilemma: how can a person's name be decided by someone else, even if they are as close as parents ? Sometimes I feel there should be a easier provision in the law for a person to change his/her name on turning eighteen. Imagine being named Mahendra Singh just because you happened to come into this world on the 2nd of April 2011 around the time that six was hit ? Talking of naming after celebrities, I feel it also sometimes burdens them for life. On the other hand, there are names which, though beautiful to utter and hear, have unpleasant associations. For example, I really like the name Aarushi but the association with the Talwar case is so strong that I simply cannot seriously consider it. And then there is the danger that parents might choose a name that reflects their own aspirations and expectations from the new-born. Nothing wrong in that, but when it becomes obsessive behaviour on the part of the parents, it can turn out to be painful for the child while growing up.

Anyways, I have about a couple of days before time runs out and my little princess finally gets a name that she has to live with all her life. May God give me the strength to choose the right name for her !! The bard might have said 'Whats in a name ?' but I wonder how he would have named his own children !!


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sundays from a different era...

Today has been a relaxing day. The kind of day a Sunday ought to be. Wake up without the sound of the alarm clock, have the leisurely chai-paper, tune into the two World Cup games on offer today and have a princely lunch of Aloo Paratha, Pulao and Gulab Jamun. In between found the time to update my cricket blog as well. As I sit down to write, India is off to a good start against Ireland. All in all, it looks to be a perfect, relaxing Sunday. But the reason I write this is because the Aloo Paratha for lunch reminded me of Sundays in an era long gone by, Eight years to be precise. Sundays that were, just like today, meant to be only spent on relaxing and recharging, to be spent without a care in the world. It were the Sundays on the IIM Bangalore campus.

In fact, the stage for a Sunday on campus was set by what happened the night before. Saturday nights (most of them) were the time for the famous L^2 parties on campus. The action started before midnight on Saturday and went on (sometimes) till the sun came up. And even a person like me, who fell somewhere in between the retire-after-two-pegs and dance-till-you-drop categories, used to go back to his room not earlier than around 4.30am. With this background, the Sunday usually did not start till 10am. And the first thing to look forward to on Sunday morning was the aloo paratha for breakfast in the mess. Aloo paratha was the de-facto breakfast dish on most Sundays and served unlimited, and with dollops of butter, it was a great start to a lazy day. And accompanying it were cups of coffee and the Sunday newspaper. After this lavish breakfast, it was either straight back to bed (to catch up with the balance sleep) or take a stroll around the campus (especially during winters). By this time, the mates on the floor had also woken so it was just the ideal time for gup-shup. 

Around lunch-time came the musical attraction. Every Sunday, between 12pm-4pm, Radiocity 91FM used to play old Bollywood numbers around a theme each week. For a musical aficionado like me, this was music to my ears. Hosted by the vivacious Sheetal Iyer, this was something to look forward to for me and my floormates. After the heavy breakfast, lunch was generally a light and sedate affair, though sometimes we would drive down to Jayanagar to have 'kheer' at a small joint simply known on campus as 'Aunty's place'. Afternoons generally meant either another snooze or a time to catch up on the latest movie on the campus network. Around tea-time was another trip to the mess, and this time it was (generally) sada dosa on the menu. By this time, the hard-core party animals had woken up for the day and would make their way to the mess for their first meal of the day. And finally, evenings were spent catching up, finally, on some assignment or the other and to prepare for the week ahead.

As far as campus memories go, a lazy Sunday was definitely something that I remember vividly, after more than 8 long years. Here's looking forward to one more such Sunday on campus !!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Another time, another race...

Sunday was the day again. The third Sunday of the year. A day that is eagerly awaited by many runners, professional and otherwise, and enthusiasts like me who get to put their bodies through the 21km grind that is the half-marathon. And although this was my fifth year at the half-marathon, there were butterflies in the tummy. What if I do not improve on my time last year? What if the weather gets too hot ? And worst, what if I cramp up and have to give up? The extra couple of kilos that I gained over the past month did not help either. So, inspite of getting ample rest on Saturday, there was more than a niggle of doubt as I awoke early on Sunday morning and left for Bandra.

The nip in the early morning air atleast partially allayed my fears on the weather. Mumbai is having a good winter and that, I thought, would certainly help. As I reached the starting point, the infectious enthusiasm around cheered me up. As the clock ticked past 6.15am and the starting gun sounded, I was off alongwith nearly 11000 fellow runners !! The first couple of kilometers before we hit the sea link were quite adventurous. BMC had, in its own wisdom, switched off the street lights and since the sun had not yet appeared, it was a unique experience of running in the dark. I almost collided with one of the advertising hoardings. Once we touched the sea link, things became much better. By then, my initial jog had been converted into a brisk walk, alternately looking at my stop watch and the next kilometer post. Following this ‘short jog-brisk walk-short jog’ routine, I managed to reach the 8km mark in 1h02min. At this point, a quick calculation told me that I needed to cover every km in around 9 minutes to have a sub-3 hour finish. It is said that the marathon is run in three parts: the first with the body, the second with the head and the third with the heart. I followed that advice and concentrated on achieving the km-wise objectives. And to my joy, discovered it was working well. As I passed the Worli Sea Face and reached the half way marked well within 1h30min, hopes began to rise. Still, I was mindful of the fact that something needed to kept in the tank for the end, so I kept at the strategy rather than being over-ambitious. The tough incline at Peddar Road and Kemps Corner was negotiated without any substantial decrease in speed. Egged on by the wonderful people that line the Peddar Road every year, ever generous with their water and biscuits, I entered the Marine Drive stretch (17km) at around 2h20min. This is where things have turned tricky in the past. With the morning sunlight growing in intensity, not to mention sheer fatigue, cramps are quite common here. When I reached 19km at 2h36min, I resolved to have a final dash for 1km, and then crawling the final kilometer and a bit if needed. Thankfully no crawling was required, and I arrived at the finish line in 2h53min, 10 minutes better than my best timing. More than that, I was pleasantly surprised to see myself in decent shape after the race (no cramps, no blisters). In hindsight, I could have been 10 minutes faster but then, there is always a  next time. All in all, it was a race to remember !!!

A final word on the organization: the marathon was very well organized. Water was available at more places along the route and the Lucozade energy drink was very useful. Thanks to this, and the benign weather, many personal marks were broken. For me, the Standard  Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2011 will always remain special. It was, quite nearly, the perfect race for me.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Kya line maari hai.....

A couple of days back, I was browsing through the Times Crest edition, and came across an article (unfortunately, not available online) that made the point that lately, Hollywood has hardly given us memorable one-liners. Of course, I do not watch much of Hollywood so cannot comment on that. But to substantiate its claim, it referred to the list of top 100 movie quotes, compiled by the American Film Institute in 2005, that hardly had any entries of recent vintage. The top one, for the record, is the memorable 'Frankly, my dear, I dont give a damn' from 'Gone With the Wind' (ironically, the line ran into trouble with the censors for the usage of the word 'damn'.. what times they were !!) . Anyways, reading that article set me thinking: if such a list was made for Bollywood, then how would it look like ?

Bollywood has always provided with superb one-liners through the ages, but the period of the 70s and 80s can be regarded as the golden-age of dialogue writing. In fact, I am hard-pressed to remember any memorable line from the 60s and before that, as also, from the last 10 odd years (and would gladly stand corrected on the same, readers can please fill me in). In my opinion, it might be because in the 70s, Bollywood movies started become more larger-than-life (thanks in no small measure to a lanky 6 footer from Allahabad). And to supplement the larger than life characters, Salim-Javed and his co-writers needed to come up with larger than life dialogues. And not the just the hero, in fact, the most memorable one-liners came from the villians. To name a few, Ajit ('Saara shehar mujhe lion ke naam se jaanta hai') or Amrish Puri ('Mogambo khush hua') delivered famous one-liners. And given the influence of Bollywood on the masses, more so then, the public lapped it up, incorporating them into everyday conversations. So much so, that even after nearly 40 years, one still hears them at every street corner. Of recent movies, maybe only Paresh Rawal and Hera Pheri comes close.

So which is the greatest of 'em all ?? The contenders are many. Sholay, is of course, a gold mine for dialogue lovers. Almost every character, including Jagdeep, Asrani and Viju Khote, had his/her place under the sun. But it was Gabbar who walked away with most of the taalis and ceetis in the theater. And while 'Kitne Aadmi The' is undisputedly the most famous, and most used and abused, one-liner in Bollywood, my vote goes to four words from a movie released in the same year. Those four words directly touched the heart of movie-goers. It elevated the first woman in everyone's life to a heavenly pedestal, above all material needs of the world. One need not even have a roof over his head, but her presence in one's life meant that the world was his. When Inspector Ravi Verma uttered 'Mere paas maa hai', an entire nation was hooked for generations to come. Nothing more needed to be said to silence the pompous older brother. It went to the core of all things Indian. Kudos to Salim Jaaved !!

So whats your favourite one-liner of Bollywood (except the generic and hackneyed ones like 'Kutte kamine...' and 'bhagwaan ke liye chhod do....'). Do post your comments !!!


PS: Wishing all readers, their family and friends a Happy, Safe and Prosperous New Year !!!... With a new visual look, I hope you will see more of me here in 2011....