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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pondicherry

Backpacking - Day-01

A week had gone by with me doing nothing but relaxing at home. At times, it was frustrating because despite me having so many hobbies to keep myself engaged, I wanted to do nothing but laze around. Life seemed like a never ending Fjaka. So, on Sunday, the 6th of May, I decided to go on an unplanned backpacking trip to Pondicherry and near by areas. I immediately booked an overnight bus to my planned destination. I am always guilty of overpacking when I travel. Hence, this time, I decided to go the Minimalist way. I tried to take only what was necessary and believe me, for someone like me, that is a very hard thing to do. 


I reached Pondi at around 5:30AM. I had planned on staying at the Youth hostel. So, I took an auto rickshaw till there. The place is almost in the outskirts of Pondy. Though the location was pleasant, the building looked like it was about to crumble down at any moment. I knocked at the front door which was locked. Nobody responded. At the beach, several fishermen had gathered to chat as they got ready to set out for the day. This whole place looked so sad that I decided almost immediately to not stay there. 


I walked back to the town centre which is about 2.5 kilometres from the Youth hostel. The walk was enjoyable as I observed the locals as they were slowly getting the day started. It seemed very relaxed. At 7:30 AM, there were no restaurants serving breakfast. That was strange!

I reached the promenade by the beach where many were beginning their day with a morning walk by the shore. 




I sat there for a while and booked Valentine’s hostel on Hostelworld App.  After having my breakfast at a local restaurant, I walked towards the hostel. Valentine’s hostel is very close to the railway station. It is a 3 Bedroom house turned into a hostel with each room having two or three beds. The owner, Mr Senthil lives close by and he was kind enough to let me in early. "There is only one other guest at the hostel", he said - A French national. He told me that currently it was off season and thus there were not many travellers around. He showed me around the facility before leaving. I got ready and decided to go for a walk around the town. 

Walking by the White town, I noticed the remains of the French colony. The beautiful architecture and colourful mansions constituted to an impressive sight. 



Except for the hot and humid weather, everything else seemed just perfect. I visited the Notre dame church and then took a walk to the park and passed via Vinayaka temple. 





To avoid the summer heat, I preferred to relax at a cosy restaurant called Surguru spot that serves excellent south indian vegetarian meal and of course the AC made the experience exceptionally enjoyable. 


After a good meal, I returned back to the hostel for a siesta. In the evening, I headed back to the promenade/beach. The ambience out there was great. Locals had gathered by the beach and were enjoying the evening breeze. I grabbed a croissant and Pain au Chocolat at the old and famous restaurant called Le Café and enjoyed the sea breeze. It felt like France!



It was lovely out there and it was a perfect place to feel lost. Feel 'peopled out'; feel Engentado!


From 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM, I sat by the beach, along with the locals, listening to music and enjoying the breeze. It was peaceful. Even though the locals seemed to tirelessly enjoy the evening, I decided to call it a day at around 9:30 PM and returned back to the hostel. It had been a long tiring day after all! 

Before going to bed, I had a short chat with the French traveller. Its always a great feeling to be able to speak the language with the natives. He is about to finish his exchange program in Delhi and would be soon returning to Paris. He had planned to take break and travel a bit in the South, before heading back. 


Saturday, May 05, 2018

Kalchikki Trek, Kudremukh

Details of the homestay could be found in my previous post -  Here 

As indicated in my previous post, I had planned this trip such that I could take a break from all that was happening in my life and prepare myself for an uncertain future. I badly needed this respite. On Friday, the 27th of April 2018, I met Gautam, Ashirwad, Mir and Ramin at KSRTC bus stand and we set off on our journey to Kalasa. I always enjoy forming groups that has a mix of people who don't necessarily know each other. Gautam and I had met at an art workshop that I conducted in Badeladku village. Ashirwad is my ex-collegue and Mir and I met at a vineyard tour arranged by Alliance Française de Bangalore. Ramin, Mir's friend is from Kabul, Afghanistan and has recently graduated from an university in Bangalore. 

At around 5:30AM next morning, the sleepy little town of Kalasa was covered in mist. Manju, our jeep driver was there to pick us up. Having already met him during my previous visit, I was delighted to see him again. Mir and I had hoped to view the coffee blossom like the year before but unfortunately we were late by two weeks. The rains had arrived early this year and within a week from the first rains, the flowers would bloom. 

In an hour or so, we reached Rajjapa’s house at Mullodi village. I was glad to see Rajjapa again, a very kind and soft-spoken man. I had carried a painting kit for his kids and thus conducted a quick painting session for them before I was ready to leave for the trek. 


When we were ready and had had our breakfast, Prakash, our trek guide directed us to the trail that would lead us to Kalchikki hill. The trek was great! This was the second time that Mir and I were scaling this peak but I enjoyed it as much as I did during the first time. However, I must admit that I was preoccupied with all the thoughts that were bothering me. I had to analyse things and let go some of them. It was essential. And thus, immersed in retrospection, I remained mostly silent during the entire trek.






After relaxing for a while at the summit, we returned back to homestay and headed directly to the waterfall. It is under those gushing water that I felt cleansed; of all my worries. I realised that a new life awaits me and I had to design it myself this time without repeating the mistakes that I have committed before. Yet, there are some emotions that I fall prey to; that could be an hindrance. But my past experiences should help me move on very quickly. 

Something that occurred to me while I was at the waterfall was that I have already experienced a lot of emotions and everything that I feel now is just a repeat of something already felt or known. Hence, I guess its time to find something more exciting! and do things that I have not attempted before.



Back at the homestay, I helped the kids finish the painting we had begun in the morning. Later, all of us assembled at the front yard and sat there absorbing the serenity in the surroundings. The spectacular view from there motivated me to begin a sketch. 


Around that time, my friend Charan and his family arrived. Charan, Mir and I had been to Mullodi together last year and it was only a happy coincidence that we had planned to be there on the same day this year as well. Sitting around the camp fire, we chatted among ourselves and with other trekkers staying at the homestay. After dinner, we called it a day. Lots of snores followed!

Next morning, as always, I woke up early. I decided to sit outside and continue with my sketch. Ramin joined me. We had some discussion about the situation in Afghanistan and he shared some of his experiences. It is disheartening to hear some of those stories and it is hard to imagine how all that would effect someone. I was curious to know if Ramin grew up with a sense of constant fear in him. His reply to that query took me by surprise.  "No. I did not fear anything while I was there. But, on the contrary, today, I do. I fear returning." He replied. He elaborated on it by recounting a disturbing incident that I choose not to retell. In few words, he had told so much that there was no need to enquire any further. We turned back at the beautiful view in front of us and succumbed to its beauty and silence. Though, I continued to sketch, my thoughts remained with what we had discussed.

When everyone was ready, we had our breakfast and drove to Kyatanmakki. Manju was kind enough to give me a discount of Rs 1000 on the jeep ride. The jeep can take you all the way to the summit. The road is bumpy but fun. The views from the peak is spectacular. We took a stroll to reach a neighbouring peak and relaxed there for a while before deciding to head back.





Manju dropped us at Kalasa from where we took a direct bus to Bangalore. On the way back, I had a long discussion with Ashirwad related to work, future plans and other random topics driven by the effect of stream of consciousness that we both are constantly in. Listening to someone else's plans gets me excited. Because many have dreams, but only a few have plans. I find it necessary to share some of my experiences with them so that they could perhaps gather something out of my learnings or mistakes and stay committed to their dreams. 

I also had a candid conversation with Mir who had lots to share. In the last few months, I see a lot of changes in him too. At this age that we are in, I think we begin to see life differently and we notice the change in relationships. Life indeed gets complicated as we grow older. I guess we realise almost intuitively, which relationships matter to us and which do not. Mir mentioned something profound. He told me that he is no more eager about making new friends. He would rather work on the friendships that matter. Though, I don’t mind making new friends, somewhere down the line, I know that, the search is almost over. I have to strengthen those that exist. These are the people who know me so well and have accepted me the way I am. Gosh! I love the late thirties and the thoughts this phase of life is bringing. 

We reached Bangalore at around 9:30PM. On my way back home, Gautam, who had observed my silence all through the trip told me something that though I knew, I was refusing to admit until then. He told me that I had changed a lot and become extremely silent while on the contrary, before, I took pleasure in the smallest of smallest things; I would be excited about everything. I totally agree with him and I realise how that eventful trek that I did earlier this year has changed me completely. Slowly but surely, that incident and the experiences that followed has moulded me into a different person. 

I have never denied change, as long as it is for good, but I think, I should try to retain some of those qualities that define me. I have been through so much in the last four months that it feels like almost an year. I feel ready for another backpacking trip to rediscover myself; perhaps to reform myself! And I know very well that things would never be the same again and I don’t want it to be either. Because I do not wish to remain stagnant. I have always preferred to evolve. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Notice Period

On the 13th of February, 2018, when I woke up, I had an epiphany. I was going to resign from my job and pursue my masters in French and English literature. I could continue with my home tuitions or do part time teaching to sustain myself for two years. My family supported my decision and that boosted my confidence. After all, they trusted me and believed in my reasons. 

I have had an exciting career as an Engineer. I have been part of 6 major NPD programs and had led three of them. Work wise, I had always had great interaction with my counterparts in the US. I learnt a lot from them. Couple of years back, I began leading teams and that indeed was the most satisfying experience of my career. I enjoyed working with my team members; most importantly, I enjoyed working for them. They gave me a purpose to stick around with this profession. But, everything, I believe has an expiry date! Work began to get monotonous and I longed to do something more satisfying, something more meaningful. 

I had always enjoyed teaching French. I have had five students so far. When my students would call me to announce their results, the happiness I noticed in their voice would give me immense joy and satisfaction. In Sanskrit, this state of mind or this emotion is called- Muditā. This feeling definitely reinforced my decision. Since 2011, I had considered taking an early retirement and start teaching. But circumstances were such that, I had to make this decision much earlier than I had anticipated. I feel that this is the right time to chase my passion. There are several other reasons that motivated this decision, but I think I shall save those details for another day; for a different post. However, despite having made that decision to leave, I had to wait till the end of the month to announce it. Those two weeks were terrible.

It was difficult to contain my emotions. So, I cleaned my office cupboard and discarded or gave away everything that I had stored for future reference. As I emptied my belongings, I went through the nostalgic feelings attached with them and thus got rid of that phase before anybody else could even get a hint of what I was going through. 14 years is a long time and I had several memories to detach from. And finally, on the 28th of February, 2018, I turned in my resignation. The two months of notice period that followed was like a long roller coaster ride of varied emotions. 



(Early morning sky on the 28th Feb 2018)

I often wondered why companies were so particular about two months of notice period when one had decided to resign anyways. Of course there are reasons such as knowledge transfer, transition plan et all. But, only when I went through this phase, did I realise that there is much more to it than just that. Personally, I felt that this was the time to reflect upon my history with the organisation, spend some quality time with people I care about and mend a few relationships that had turned soar. 

I had realised long ago that professional relationships are complicated and most importantly, they are temporary. Hence, I often focused on building personal relationships with people at work. However, in a corporate setup, as we grow in position, our priorities change and conflicts arise between friends. And one has to make a choice, no matter how hard it is. Moreover, things can get political and sometimes nasty. Could I handle it? definitely! I have handled it during all these years. But, did I want to? Perhaps not! I realised that I could no more allow the corporate world to change me. Hence, I  decided to unlearn things and try to get back to who I once used to be or who I would want to be and these two months of notice period helped me in that journey. 

Apart from performing the necessary formalities of transferring my responsibilities and finishing some pending work, I chose to ameliorate a few relationships. I also decided to spend some time with people, with whom, for whatever reasons, despite wanting, I could not spend enough time with in the past. Because, It was important for me to make them realise that the friendship we shared was more important than the professional relationship we were forced into. That truly helped me maintain my emotional balance. Additionally, this retrospection was not limited to the relationships at office but it also helped me reconnect with my good friends from school, college and French class. I think, I have begun to value friendship more than ever now. It is after all friendships that have always given me more joy! And so, slowly, my last day at office approached. 

My last week at the office was actually great! I lunched or dined with several of my colleagues who had emotions to express, memories to recollect about our association- long or short. I truly enjoyed my candid conversations with couple of juniors who were eager to learn from my experience in the industry. I think, that really made up for all the disappointments that I would have had. Overall, I had prepared myself pretty well for the last day. Two months had given me enough time to go through all the emotions and nostalgia, without people really noticing it. Hence, on my last day, like at the end of a roller coaster ride, I remained stoic. To be precise, no particular emotion took centre stage. But, being aware of my own unpredictable nature, I had arranged for a backup. 

I had organised a trip to Kudremukh national park on the same evening. So, on my last day at work, I was rather excited about the weekend I was about to spend in the mountains! Because by then, I knew very clearly on what I was leaving behind and what I was taking along.


Home!

On Friday, the 7th of April, I drove to Suratkal. I always love my solo driving trips to my hometown. I stopped at A2B near Channarayapatna for some snacks before continuing the journey to Hassan and taking a deviation to Belur. Since the roads at Shiradi ghat were under construction, I had to take the Charmadi ghat. The roads looked haunted. 


I stopped at Kotegehara cross to try some neer dosa. Every shop at this place sells neer dosa. 


Soon after that food stop, I began descending Charmadi ghat. The road ahead was covered in mist and it was a challenge to drive down the mountains with reduced visibility. 

At home, I spent quality time talking to my parents, walking around our little farm and enjoying the delicious food prepared by my mother. 











 Dosa and Jackfruit Sambhar

 Shemmey Dadde (Rice Noodles)

Brahmin's Chicken 65 - Jackfruit Poddi

In the evening, I went to the beach to watch the sunset. It was a normal day at the beach, with locals playing with the waves and fishermen at work. 




On Sunday, I visited one of our family friends to collect compost for my plants. She owns 8 dogs and they are adorable. I immensely enjoyed playing with them. Previous day, one of the  German shepherds had given birth to three lovely puppies. 





I drove back to Bangalore on Sunday evening with one of my colleagues via Charmadi ghat.  We stopped at the view point to witness the sunset. 



This drive to Suratkal was different. The recent decisions that I had made about my career had lightened my mind and I was not preoccupied with any thoughts or stress. Thus, this trip to my home was the most pleasurable one. I do not recollect ever having experienced something similar before.