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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Series Of Unfortunate Events

In the month of May 2005, Seb, Jonah and I were in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA for a month on work. The month as a whole was a very memorable experience. We drove to Brown county national park where nature’s display of greenery was at its best. We drove to Niagara Falls and Old fort Niagara from there. We tried all the Indian restaurants in the city and enjoyed some good training programs and met interesting people. But the last three days makes this trip the most memorable one.

June-2nd-2005 …Thursday

Bj, Sush (My colleagues) were working in Indianapolis office. So that evening, we all decided to go out for a dinner together at an Indian restaurant at the downtown. After parking our car at a main junction, we walked around the place. We searched for the Indian Restaurant and had a good dinner. By the time we were done and reached back to the junction, it was 20 minutes past 10 PM. We went around the Junction but did not find our car. The board next to the parking lot said that we could park cars only till 10:00pm. So one thing was clear - Our car has been towed away. The gorgeous blue Sonata was towed away!


Indianapolis Downtown Square.

Now, none of us had had this experience before, so we all started discussing how to go about it. We called 911 and tried to find out how to handle this. The lady at the other end told us where we needed to go. Since the audio was not clear, we had to hang up the phone without properly understanding her. Now, the next thing was to search for the place. We walked into a hotel near by and asked for the directions to this place. After getting few hints from them, we started walking towards the office, where we expected to find our car. This place was only about 2 to 3 blocks away, so we reached the place very quickly. There were some more folks like us; some worried, some pretty cool, as though it wasn’t something that bothered anymore. Jonah had to go in and talk to some guy as the car was rented on his name and we had to pay a fine of $65.

Well now the question was – “where is our car?”

Answer – “8 blocks from here sir, we keep all the cars there.”

So we walk again for about a mile or so, at almost around midnight to the suburbs of the city. If we hadn’t been a group of 5, one could not even think of walking on those roads all alone at that odd hour. The streets were dangerously deserted. Shabby houses hinted towards a poorer suburb. But anyways, while in a group, such experiences are always a fun. We had our share of jokes and then reached the place. Plenty of cars still waited there for their owners. After this tiring experience, we returned back to our hotel and retired for the day.

June-3rd -2005 -Friday

We had nice plans for the evening; to watch a Hindi film “Bunty Aur Bubli” at one of the IMAX Theatres in the city museum. Jonah, Seb and I walked out of office a little early and after freshening up, drove to the theatre. Obviously we were very happy trying our driving turns on the beautiful blue Sonata car.

Seb was driving, I sat next to him. Jonah was in the back seat. So as usual, we were talking loud, joking and having fun. When we were near the parking lot, there was a good looking girl who smiled at Seb and neatly offered him the parking lot ticket. As always we loved pulling Seb’s leg. (He is the silent type).We teased him about it.

Seb was so excited about all the fun talks that he quickly hit on gas to accelerate. We had to take a slight turn and enter into the parking lot and a pillar stood in front of us. Seb drove straight and hit the pillar with a bang. The side mirror crushed and turned to face me. We were all laughing till that moment and suddenly all of us turned shockingly silent. Seb did not stop but took off and the entire side of the car dragged itself past the pillar. Obviously our mood was out. We did not know how to handle this situation. Of course the company insurance would pay for it, but still this was a situation which we did not know how to handle at that moment.

Surprisingly the movie “B Aur B” managed to take away the tension for at least a few hours. Once we were out of the world of Bunty and Bubli, the bad shaped Sonata, brought us back to the reality.


The After Effects.

June-4th -2005-Sunday

So after all these bad events, we are ready to say good bye to Indiana and board our flight to Colorado Springs. Our flight timing was at 2:00 PM. After calling Hertz, we found out that the insurance from the company would cover the expenses and we only had to fill up a form. This reduced our tension a little and we decided to have some good Mexican food for lunch. Well now this place was really late in service as they had just opened a couple of minutes before. So after eating the food in a hurry we rushed to the airport. We went directly to return the car and filled out the required forms. After which we waited for a bus that would take us to the terminal. By the time we were near the counter it was 1:30 PM. The lady at the counter said that we could not board the flight as we had to be at least 45 minutes before the take off. She could not send our checked in baggages now to the flight. She then enquired about the next flight and put us on it. And that was at 7:30 PM. That is, waiting for 6 long hours in airport.

After that long wait, it was not a smooth journey again, due to lot of turbulence. A funny apprentice flight attendant, who was scared of any beep in the plane, kept unknowingly entertaining us. So finally we reached Colorado Springs. We were back home!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ernakulam

It has been a very long weekend than anticipated and even more exciting than expected. Here is what I was up to in the last couple of days –

Saturday the 12th of August –

I reached Mangalore a little late, at about 8:30 AM. The house appeared hauntingly silent; kitchen was abnormally clean like it had not smelled the Indian spices for ages and refrigerator stood strangely empty. Yes, Mom isn’t home. She is in LA with my sister Anu. And my father is alone and gets food from a near by mess.

This day went by nicely. Tired from the jerky road trip, I took a nice nap. Later at 8:30 PM, after dinner, I met Vasu at Suratkal bus stop. Our bus to Ernakulam / Cochin from Mangalore KSRTC bus stop was at 10:00PM. We reached Lalbagh at around 9:00 PM and my eyes quickly turned towards the Pabas Ice-cream parlor. How could I be in Mangalore and not taste the Special ice cream? Yes, Ideal and Pabas ice cream parlors in Mangalore offer the best ice creams in the world. They are simply different and great. I haven’t tasted such excellent ice cream anywhere else, until now. And Ideals ice cream parlor is three storied and offers more than 60 varieties of ice creams. So after treating ourselves with Banana split ice cream we walked to the bus stand to find the bus already waiting for us.

Sunday the 13th of August –

We reached Cochin or Kochi or Ernakulam at 9:00 AM. My father had lived in Ernakulam for 8 years. My mother and sisters have also lived there for some time before I was born. So, I have heard a lot of stories from them about the place and thus when Vasu mentioned about a trip to Guruvayur temple, I wanted to include Ernakulam in it. We checked into some fairly cheap lodge and got ready within half an hour. After our breakfast, I spoke to the manager and collected some information about the ferry that takes us to different islands near Kochi. We did have some trouble finding the KSTDC tourism, but a teashop owner who had some funny name for his shop, which meant “Mayor Of London” or something like that he said, helped us find another agency. We booked tickets, but the tour would begin only at 2:00PM he said. So he helped us find an Auto, which could take us to the Hill Palace and Chottinakara Temple.

We went to Chottinakara temple first which is about 10 KM from Ernakulum. There are two temples, one old and the other new. We could visit the old one but the new temple was closed. Some interesting things to notice was dolls being nailed to a banyan tree. People suffering from mental illness or as people say – affected by evil spirits, are said to be cured here. The entire tree was covered with scary little dolls.

We then moved to the Hill palace, which now is a museum. There isn’t anything noticeable about the palace architecture. But the collection of antiques and jewelry is worth watching. A huge dinosaur statue behind the palace, took us by surprise. Deer park is fairly well maintained.


Hill Palace


This deer was not interested on feasting over the freshly brought lunch instead, relaxed watching other deers crowd in for the food.

After lunch, the Auto driver dropped us back to the place where we would begin our ferry ride. The ferry was well crowded. We were first taken to the Wellington Island. On the way, the naval base and Ernakulam cosmopolitan city with its multi-storied buildings and apartments formed an excellent backdrop.


View of Ernakulam City From The ferry

At the island, we first visited the Matancherri palace, which again is a museum now. The palace was gifted by the Portuguese to the king of Cochin for allowing smooth operation of trade. Again, the palace is not very impressive if compared to Bangalore or Mysore palaces. But the Kerala mural paintings are something to look out far. The walls are painted with stories from Hindu epics. But sadly most of the paintings have faded off due to lack of proper maintenance.

A temple within the palace premises was closed at the time we were there. But it looked very impressive from outside.

We then walked to the Synagogue. Synagogues are Jewish temples and there are about a dozen families of Jews who stayed back in Cochin. Well I was not allowed to enter the synagogue because I was wearing short pants. So, I had to rent out a pant for just RS 10. (Which are readily available at a near by shop) Even though I could not clearly make out how the prayer is performed, it was nice to see a Synagogue with a brass pulpit at the center & blue painted tile flooring.


A Street in Jew Town With Excellent Collection of Handicrafts

After this we took off again and viewed the Chinese fishing nets that are being used till date by the fishermen.


Chinese Fishing Net

There is a small island called Balghatty, a palace there has been converted into a 3 star hotel run by the government. We did not actually stop there, but took a glance at it during our return.

We reached back to Ernakulam by 5:20 PM. Rushed back to the hotel, freshened up and took off for another expedition. I wanted to watch Kathakali – Folk dance of Kerala. When enquired with the Auto driver, he had mention about this place where they conducted Kathakali shows daily. It is called “See India Foundation” and is located near Ernakulam railway station. We found out that it was at a walkable distance from our hotel. On our way, we also stopped by a “Darbar hall”. An exhibition of Kerala mural paintings by three girls was being held there. The paintings were reasonably cheap and both Vasu and I liked them. We enquired with the girls about how to get them shipped to Mangalore and other information if we needed to order some. After a quick talk with them we rushed to the Katahakali show.

Now, this was something that I had least expected. When we reached there, the show had already begun. The director was speaking about how the dance evolved. And two artists were applying makeup on their face, right there in front of us. The director gave a very nice explanation of the dance forms, steps, expressions, paints used and stories enacted. The room was filled with foreign tourists.


Performer, displaying the makeup.

The director first told us the story and then the actors enacted the same. It was much easier to understand the performance after the story had been told. Because Kathakali actors do not speak, story is conveyed through only expressions. Director had clearly explained to us different symbols and expressions before the play began. All together it was a spectacular experience.




Tired from the day’s adventure we retired to bed soon after dinner.

Monday, 14th of August –

We got up at 5:00 Am and in half an hour we were ready to check out of the hotel. We walked to the railway station. Our train to Guruvayur left Ernakulam at 6:00 Am. It’s a passenger train and I am not sure if the bus takes lesser time. Well this train took 2.5 hours to reach Guruvayur. But unlike previous trains that I have been in, this was almost empty. I enjoyed the journey as the trained twisted and turned between the palm groves, green fields & rubber plantations. It felt like I was somewhere close to home. After reaching Guruvayur, we took an Auto to the temple which is not more than a kilometer from the station. Now, here we had to change to “Panche / Veshti” (A traditional dress for men) to enter the temple. So we kept our luggage and chappals in the cloak room and stood in a queue that was 10 times longer than the train that we had just traveled in. The temple was over crowded and after 3 hours of waiting in the queue, we finally got to see the main deity. Bala Krishna idol, spectacularly painted mural paintings, excellent carvings on stone within the main shrine made all that waiting seem negligible.

We then took another auto to Annekotte, this is about 4 KM from temple and it houses more than 60 elephants. Now this again was an unexpected exciting part of the trip. It was awesome experience to watch one dedicated mahout for each elephant. They trained it well. Mostly when spoken in Malayalam they clearly understood the instructions. It’s worth spending an entire day there watching how the elephants are trained, fed; take bath and how some misbehave too. Yes there was this one elephant who denied coming out of the pool even if the mahout ordered it to. The elephant kept splashing water showing its disagreement. He finally had to beg her to return. The whole episode was very funny and nice to watch. They all assembled for lunch near the main building. This month full was a rest period for the elephants when they would be fed and medicated.



Elephants Assembling For Lunch

By then it was very late, so we decided to move. We took a bus to Trissur. After enquiring about the railway and KSRTC Bus timings none suited our plan. So, we finally booked a private bus which not only would reach Mangalore early but also would drop us till Suratkal. After that we took an auto to state museum and palace museum in Trissur. Both were closed because Monday is a holiday in most places. So if you are planning a visit to some historic sites of Kerala, keep Mondays out.

We then visited Vadakunathan Temple located in the heart of the city. The temple architecture is spectacular. If you are anywhere near Trissur, definitely do not miss this temple. It houses many small temples within the premises, main being the Shiva temple at the center. The temples are hexagon shaped build mostly of wood and a spectacular bronze roof.


We then walked past the busy streets of Trissur, yet enjoying the crowd. A cathedral near the city built in 1930’s is also good place to visit. To kill time, we continued walking on the streets of the city, bought some Kerala special food items like, Banana chips and my favorite Shakarvati. Had a good dinner at some restaurant and then returned to the bus stop. We left trissur by 10:00 PM, totally exhausted by the long day.

Tuesday, 15th of August –

I reached home at 7:30 AM. My sister Anu called from LA to give me the good news that she had given birth to a baby boy. After a small nap and breakfast, father and I left to Padil; to my uncle’s house to attend a pooja. It was nice talking to cousins and relatives. After lunch, I took a bus to Pollali. I have had strong faith in Pollali Rajarajeshwari Goddess since my college days. And if you haven’t been there or plan to be in Mangalore, do visit this temple. Three huge idols made of mud attract the devotees. People also say that it hides golden idols within them. The idols, people say were covered with mud once when the place was under threat of attack by some muslim rulers.

I decided to add some more to the adventure, so I took a new route back to Suratkal through Bajpe. I had been through this road before too and this time it brought back the memories.

Later I met my relative/friend/neighbor Harsha and we took a walk near the beach. How could I miss going to the beach during a trip home? It’s totally out of question. Well on our way, I was surprised to see 4 peacocks. Harsha told me that they are always there. Two ships in the beach were completely lit up. They celebrated Independence Day by shooting out spectacular fireworks. This was an unexpected treat again. I returned back home and packed my bags for yet another journey, back to Bangalore.

Tuesday, 16th of August –

At 6:45 AM, when I had to be near Bangalore, I was still in Sakleshpura Ghat; stuck in a traffic jam all night. At dawn, the traffic jam was cleared and we finally got rolling again. It was again an amazing view; hills covered with mist. There is something mysterious about the things covered in mist or snow. They hide and unhide nature’s beauty in an appreciable manner. I enjoyed my trip back and called my colleagues to let them know that I was not coming to office. I reached Bangalore at 1:00 PM.

So this has been a wonderful long weekend for me, lot of experiences, lot of fun, lot of learnings, more pictures and of course much more traveling. 

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

To My Sisters

It is Raksha Bhandan today. So obviously this post is dedicated to my sisters. I have two elder sisters. Akhila (Akki) and Anu. And I am their only brother.

My sisters, even today remember that day, when a nurse at the hospital brought me wrapped in a towel, a pink baby and asked them to hold me; their little brother.

And of course, I had a wonderful childhood; I was treated royally by my two sisters. Couple of interesting things from my childhood related to all of us is - I demanded that we play “Ganesha” game. So that I would pretend to be a Ganesh idol and Akki & Anu would perform pooja, offer prasadam and even carry me till the well. Of course, they were kind enough not to throw me into the well for all that boring games I asked them to play.

Both my sisters would fight with each other, if they got a smaller share of the cake that was brought home but they never cared how big a piece I walked away with. 

They did transfer to me the family fooling pranks. Akki would fool Anu and Anu in turn fooled me, by taking me to the two palm trees near our house and telling me fake stories that the trees were once lovers who were cursed by a saint to become trees, so she would ask me to apply talcum powder on the trees, to prevent them from diseases. My cousin Anupama and I repeated this prank with her brother and thus forwarded the legacy to our juniors.

I have had a fun filled childhood. I have fought with my sisters, had fun, enjoyed family outings, laughed at various jokes, good or silly and also chased my sister Anu around the house, with a stick or even a knife. But it’s interesting to notice that when we grow up, suddenly the same siblings, who we once liked or hated you for various stupid reasons become the best of the friends.

Both my sisters are today my best friends. We have shared a lot of fun stories from college, we have tapped each other for advise, suggestions or recommendations. And today, we have grown to be the best of friends, which is a wonderful feeling.

But one thing that always makes me sad is the fact that today we are headed in three different directions and we hardly get to meet each other at the same time. The last time all three of us met was in 2002. Of course I have met them individually in Mumbai and in Los Angeles but the fun shared in togetherness is something I miss. It appears like we shall meet up this year; all three of us. And I eagerly wait for those moments. I look forward for all that fun by refreshing childhood memories, bringing up funny acts of dad or mom and remembering the good old days, people we once were and at the same time, appreciating each other for the maturity and positive changes that time and experiences have brought in us.

This post will be incomplete if I do not mention the three people who chose to be my sisters. Vijaya Lakshmi from my class (I guess in 7th) made Rakhis herself and tied it on the hands of every boy in the class. Well at that moment it was a joke, but today I extremely appreciate and respect her thoughts.

Samsu, my neighbor, being a Muslim tied a Rakhi to me and I consider this as the best example to spit out all the hatred that we have between religions.

Dhanya, my classmate in Engineering, is a sweet dear sister to me.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Diary Entry

Felt like sharing this edited version of my diary entry yesterday. Not sure what it discloses or hides, not sure what one can read out of it but just putting a thought in front of you.

2nd August, 2006 – Wednesday


I do not want the pages of my diary to repeat itself, the words to recollect again in a same fashion, to disclose the feelings in a mysterious manner; events, I wish would not reappear with new looks. But the mind can not help recognizing the similarities; analyze the past experiences as the body reacts.

The sun shines down on the piece of ground; mud with stones as dry as if it had not rained for ages but with happy leaves, smiling flowers. The clouds have disappeared to an unknown side of the picture, unseen to the eyes; mirror never reflects them. The dance of the sunlight reflects on the leaves; smile on the flowers fade and reoccur. Leaves fall off, petals fly and everything repeats silently; these are the things which appear as though they never happen when one is watching. But moments repeat; leaves are happy to absorb the light; flowers glow with intensity. And in the night, waves jump to different heights in its effort to touch the moon; to reach its space and not just the reflection.

But this time the moon is the viewer, sun is the creator. It shines over the leaves and enjoys the shades. With fall of the day it displays different colors on them. It enjoys the game and its stay. As the day turns night, moon is entertained by the play of waves, with its sincere effort to reach the shore. Moon tries to find its reflection on the moving waves, which fight over each other to have a touch of its reflection in return.

But no matter who is the viewer or who the performer; who the creator or the creation – moon or the waves; sun or the leaves or flowers…one cannot help getting attracted by the other.

And from deep within, the words repeat- the pages of my diary should not repeat, the events filled with words, moments full of thoughts should never bother the mind or weaken it rather by displaying a new look of a familiar mystery.

There is always an intelligent way to deal with re-occurring moments, events or thoughts. May be, its wise being the sun or the moon.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Touched By Angels

In our life, we meet many people. Some become friends or foes and some go unnoticed. But then there is another category of people from whom we get inspired and influenced. I get inspired by people very easily. Since my childhood, I have been influenced by so many people, who I believe, have helped me to become what I am today. I have always been a very silent observer of others nature and if there is something remarkable, which lacked in me, I would quickly grasp them.

I believe that Angles and demons are nothing but the qualities in human beings itself. Every individual is an Angel or can be a demon to some one else based on given circumstances; it’s in our behavior. I would always like to call these people as my Angels. I am touched by these Angels and In this post I would like to list down some of the qualities that I inherited from them.

Angel -1 - “Independency”

This angel has been in my life for a long time now, the start of which I shall never be able to guess. There was a time, when I was very much attached to things or people and believed that who ever became close to me would part soon (And many did too). I was at the verge of loosing all the hope in whatever I believed in at a point when following words from this Angel kept repeating in my mind – “Be in the loop but always as an outsider.” This has helped me a lot. I am not sure how you want to take it, but I took it in a way that has helped me manage every relationship of mine in a better way now; in a very positive and interesting manner and with very less expectation. I am a part of everything, yet may never belong to one so deeply to be trapped in it.

Angel -2 – “Attitude”

This Angel gave me a total new perspective towards life. Until I met this Angel, I was a reserved, silent guy who did not know how to communicate with people. My silence was what people noticed and probably liked me for. This Angel is no less than a boon from whose behavior I learnt that people with moderate knowledge and excellent attitude can go places. Also, this is where I learnt to laugh at myself and enjoy life to the fullest by making humor the act of my life. I was inspired by this Angel’s way of dealing with people or various situations. As a result I was transformed into someone with  spirit to enjoy life.

Angel-3 – “Confidence and Let go”

I was not a very confident person before. May be that was the reason I was a silent type. But the level of confidence and self respect that this Angel has is what attracted me the most. I also learnt to speak out my thoughts, my worries and my feelings very openly. It is so easy to spill out the suppressed thoughts and put it away once and for all. If you like yourself, only then people will like you and thats what made me more confident in life.

Angel-4- “Spirituality”

I am not a religious person but I am spiritual. Since childhood, I was influenced by many different views - Rituals at home, temples, speech by an atheist. And my opinion on existence of God was totally mixed up. Even though, deep within my heart I had strong faith in God, I was a confused person. This Angel and our discussions and debates made me grow as a spiritual person. I was shown a path to confirm my faith. Today, I have my own theory for the existence of God but I must appreciate this Angel for initiating and accelerating the thoughts in me.

Angel-5- “Healing”

I have known this Angel for a very short time of my life. It wouldn’t be wrong if I say I hardly know this Angel. And in this short span what I have grasped is to help others without any expectation in return. When I began to practice this, it felt really good. Not that I never helped others, but this Angel pointed me out the happiness and peace that one can gain by helping another human.

Angel-6 – “Recognition”

I have learnt a very good quality from this Angel. That is to identify and recognize the good qualities in others. Knowingly or unknowingly most of the times, we always try to find fault or the mistakes in others. I believe that every individual is special in his/ her own way. With a critical perspective, I will never be able to appreciate the good in others. And taking most of the things positively is the best way to manage stress.

I will always be thankful to these Angels and many more of them whom I have not mentioned but who have strongly contributed in shaping my life. I have taken their good qualities and made use of them with a touch of my own individuality. Yes, simply copying others will bring us no good. It would not be permanent. Angels are around us, near us, we only need to recognize them.