Friday, November 28, 2008

Another Day…Another Terrorist Attack…

I thank Ms Meera Menon for choosing my blog to publish her below post.

Today marks another dark day of terrorist attacks on the Indian soil…again…each time an attack happens we think it is the worst it can get… today is as brutal as it can get…

Each time an attack happens, it creates a panic in my mind. Every attack happens in a place familiar to each one of us. It could be an unsuspecting me or my loved ones tomorrow in the place where an unfortunate few were today…

But what is the answer to fighting terrorism?

I believe the answer is to simply move on with life….with your head held high….

When I say "move on”, I am reminded of the words that the protagonist in the movie "The Mighty Heart" says after her husband is killed brutally by the terrorists..."The intention of the terrorists is to terrorize us...I am not terrorized. Neither should any of the others be".

"Moving on" to me does not mean forget what happened yesterday and go on with your life...but it means realize the enormity of what has happened or rather what is happening and put up a brave front. Don’t paralyse your life with fear....move on.... we have a choice other than moving on?...

Do we blame the politicians and system here? I don’t think so, because the fight here is not against terrorists, but against a bunch of cowards who have no might to fight in the open for what they want….cowards that attack unarmed, innocent people. What can the Government do?....

Set up an anti terrorist squad? They have done that already and very effectively.

Check each of our bags in every place we go to? it practicable?

Go on a rampage against terrorists by trying to kill them all like what the US is doing in Afghanistan? Unfortunately this is also not practicable because terrorism has dug its roots too deep in the country. There are reports of terrorist activity in Kerala, Karnataka, Mumbai, Delhi, Andhra (and who knows where else?). Does the army go and kill half a thousand innocent lives in search of a half a dozen terrorists?

All we can do in a small way is extend our support to people who fight terrorism…may be in as small a way as not getting irritated when your bag is checked in a mall or a railway station or any other place....

The option left with us is to "move on"....the way we interpret this is left to each one of us. I choose to not feel terrorized....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Feel the Sanctity of Silence - Exploring Silent Valley

“Believe me the air in the atmosphere itself was different. The purity and the freshness were pumping in gallons of energy into us with each breath we took. We were in natures preserved lap called Silent Valley Reserve Forest”.

Oct 28, 2008 - Diwali Day. A normal tele-conversation between me and Rithwik gave birth to our trip to Silent Valley National Park. We jotted the date of visit to be Nov 8 & 9. Palghat was decided as our meeting point.

Even though we had heard about these rain forests before, the info was not sufficient for the travel and the final hunt to all the details needed was launched. Browsed through lots of blogs, editorials, and travelogues to get a clear picture of the preparations required for the trip ahead. Remya Naresh helped me with the details on the accommodation as well as the procedures to get the permission for entry at the reserve forest. Rithwik was also at his side trying to get in touch with the warden of the reserve forest. The site was of a great assistance to us. You get all the contact details for permission, stay, etc on the portal.

We called the contact no listed on the portal and booked our stay. As all the suits were fully booked to capacity we were given the dormitory. But we had requested for an up gradation to suite if any cancellation happens. Tickets were booked- towards journey in KSRTC Volvo bus (in train there were no seats available) and return in Train.

Nov 7, 2008 –Boarded the 2030hrs Bangalore – Palghat Volvo from Bangalore. The journey was horrible. The driver was driving the bus like he was competing in F1 rally. Sudden brakes were like adding insult to the injury. Honestly was not able to get a wink of sleep.

Nov 8, 2008 - My bus reached at 7:00hrs at Palghat. Rithwik was already waiting for me there. Without wasting any further time we continued our journey to Mukkali. We boarded up the direct bus to Anakatty, via Mannarkkad. If you don’t get a direct bus also, nothing to worry. You can board the Kozhikode buses and get down at Mannarkkad. From there you will get lot of buses to Anakatty. You need to get down at Mukkali where the base camp is located. We boarded up the Anakatty bound bus by 0725hrs and by 0945hrs we were at the base camp.

Located in the Kundali Hills of the Western Ghats, the Silent Valley National Park holds a valuable treasure of rare plants and herbs. The Park is rich in its wildlife, and elephants, lion-tailed macaques and tigers are the most common residents of this park. Perhaps, nowhere else can you also find such a representative collection of peninsular mammals, over a 100 species of butterflies and 400 species of moths and other fauna like the ceylon frog moth, great Indian hornbill, the Nilgiri laughing thrush and the lion-tailed macaque. It is proudly Kerala’s 7th national park. It has a mystical history linking back to the Mahabharata. The caves here were said to harbor the Pandavas when they were in this area.

The forests of the Silent Valley - christened so because of a perceived absence of cicadas (tropical insect with a loud, chirpy sound) - are home to rare mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. They are also home to a variety of creepers, ferns and orchids. Some say the valley got its name from Macaca Silenus - the scientific name of the lion-tailed macaque.

We reported to the base camp and to our good luck, the stay was upgraded from dormitory to suits. The suit was named as Siruvani. We got freshened up fast. Got ready by 1100hrs and went out for breakfast as the camp didn’t serve any food. We found a small hotel at a walk able distance. Being a vegetarian was a negative point at Mukkali. Rithwik was enjoying his Porata and fish curry and poor me managing with green peas curry! We got ourselves stoked with the food and water needed during the trek at Sairandhri.

We returned back to the base camp and did the formalities for entry passes, jeep booking, camera charges, guide charges etc. The jeep took us to Sairandhri through the buffer area. On the way we spotted the lion-tailed macaque and the Indian giant squirrel. The road was really bad and only jeeps were allowed.

Nearly after 90mins drive we reached Sairandhri. There we got a briefing on the reserve forest by the forest officials. After the briefing we started our trek towards Kunthi River. The trail was really amazing. We got lot of good shots of varieties of flowers and insects. River Kunthi, with its clear water untouched by man was a sight to be remembered life long. We got some very nice snaps of the river. At about 1500 hrs our guide reminded us that we need to get back to the base camp before 1800hrs and hence have to hurry up. We started trekking back and since it was uphill and with all our equipments hung on to our body it was very tough. But we managed back. There is a watch tower which gives you a good view of the whole valley. By 1830hrs we reached back to the base camp. Later when I removed my shoes feeling some pain, I found out that I was bitten by a leach . Sodium Chloride (common salt) came to my rescue. So beware of this tiny little enemy!

We had our dinner at the same hotel where we had our bf in the morning. Rithwik had a great supper with a side dish of beef and me with the same old faithful sambhar curry. Still I survived. Night we waited for long to try shooting star trails but were not lucky enough as the moon was in its full glow. Tired and exhausted we retired to bed by 2300Hrs.

Nov 9, 2008 – 0630hrs we were out with our cam and tripods shooting the macro subjects like the flowers, insects etc. Could not shoot the river Bhavani as the sun was in its full glory by the time we reached the spot. We took a break and freshened up ourselves. Had our break fast and started again to explore the buffer zone. Time was like running away from us. We were only left with 2 more hours!

We met Mr B.N.Nagaraj, the Forest Ranger at the base camp. During our discussion we were really feeling jealous for him as he was so lucky to be in close contact with nature. We saw some of the photographs taken by him of rare species of flora. Meeting him was really educative for both of us.

The clock was ticking and it was time to say Good bye. We packed our stuffs, thanked Mr Nagaraj and the other forest staff for all the support extended and left the place by 1630hrs . In our minds we were sure of coming back soon!

The greenery, the freshness and the purity has not left our body and soul. This in itself is testimony to the beauty and grace that India needs to remember more and more. It’s high time for our country to lead the way for a new green revolution. Sharing some pictures to share more words as the pictures would itself speak the greatness and the wisdom of the nature in the country that holds so much wisdom in it’s ancient texts singing to nature and singing to her protection. Please Click here .

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kalyan Varma Photography Workshop

Before I go into details let me first thank kalyan Varma for organising such a beautiful and informative workshop ! secondly Rathish, my friend who told me about Kalyan. Thanks again to both of you!!

As I mentioned , came to know about Kalyan's photography workshop thorough my friend Naroor Rathish. I had visited Kalyan's web page and registered a month back for the course. Last week I got the mail saying that my seat is confirmed for the 8/23 and 8/24 workshop. The venue was Nandana Grand Hotel at Kormangala.

8/23- Day 1 (Classroom Session)-The route map attached with the mail was very helpful and with my friend Sathish's tip's I was able to reach the venue by 0915hrs. The conference room was all set to go and the workshop started at about 0945hrs. We were a group of 8 . Kalyan briefed us about the whole workshop.

During the day topics like introduction to Photography, basics of Photography - Aperture/Shutter/ISO/Depth-of-Focus, exposure and composition were discussed. Adding on Kalyan showed us all the equipments he uses in the field while he shoots.

The sessions were really good and informative. We had our tea breaks in b/w and to tell you all, the lunch was really yummyyy ! The day's session ended at about 1800hrs. We planned to meet at Lal bagh the next day at 0700hrs with our equipments.

8/24 - Day 2 (Field Session + Classroom Session). Today we were supposed to apply all the theory we learnt the day before in the class room on actual field. Reached Lal bagh at about 0700hrs, fully equipped with our cams. The team was already present there by the time I reached . Kalyan briefed us on the theme based on which we were supposed to do the clicking. We started exploring for great creations. After the theory classes it was so evident that lot of my pics dint have the optimum exposure. It was real fun doing the shoot at Lal Bagh. And I bet people at the park would also have enjoyed seeing us taking pics of all the plants and flowers as if seeing for the first time ;)... Kalyan helped us in our shoots. It was a great experience for us to shoot with a well known expert in the field. His expertise helped us to get more hands on our machine/pics. We finished our shoot at about 1030hrs and headed back to the hotel. On the way back we refreshed ourselves with breakfast at Sukhsagar. Reached back in our conference hall at 1130hrs. We reviewed the pics taken by us in the morning. And I am sure that all in our team would agree that we were better photographers than we were the day before. Post lunch kalyan briefed us on various after shoot processing software's and guidelines to be followed. The session got winded up about 1730hrs. We all in the team were fully charged up and ready to explore the world of digital photography. We realised that any picture becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.

This workshop again proved it -- Cameras don't take pictures, photographers do. Cameras are just another artist's tool.A camera catches your imagination. No imagination, no photo - just crap. The word "image" comes from the word "imagination." It doesn't come from "lens sharpness" or "noise levels." Your equipment DOES NOT affect the quality of your image. The less time and effort you spend worrying about your equipment the more time and effort you can spend creating great images. The right equipment just makes it easier, faster or more convenient for you to get the results you need !!!

Please Click here for the pics taken during the session and you can view Kalyans posting at his web page here . Happy Clicking !!!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Nostalgia 2008 -- A Rendezvous with Nature at Bandipur

I think I am in love with the Jungle. Just last week I was at Mudumalai and now Bandipur. And you wont believe the nature always gives you surprises.

The credit for the trip to become a reality completely goes to Bhavya, the advisor in the team. She was planning for a get together last Sunday but few of us couldn't join and she proposed this week. It was really difficult for us to get a booking as most of the resorts were already full. Then as an angel came Shine Chechi, my friend Shiju's sis in law, who helped us to get a stay at the Safari Lodge, Bandipur and that also with a discount of 20%. I on behalf of our team thank her for the support she has extended and we will avail the same again next time :D

Nithin had come to blore on 6/27 one day prior to the trip. He was staying at my place. Suhas and Rekha were reaching blore on 6/28 early morning 0430hrs. The plan was like the vehicle would pick Srijit and Sachin first and then Bhavya/Meera and last 4 of us ( me , Nithin, Suhas and Rekha ) from my place.

6/28 morning 0500hrs myself and Nithin picked up Suhas and Rekha. They got refreshed at my place and by the time we were ready the vehicle was already at my place after picking the other 4 . As planned we started at 0800 Hrs from my home.

All the time during the travel the music was on ( Nithin's collection ) and our DJ was Sachin. He was really playing with our mood. He would play soft no, then suddenly a fast no... but it was fun. We stopped at Kamat on mysore road for breakfast by 0900hrs. Finished our Bf and moved on from there by 1015hrs. On the way we took some cans of beer. We reached the resort by 1330 hrs. In b/w we stopped for pee breaks. We had our lunch at the resort. It was really good. We had a safari to Bandipur forest at 1600Hrs. We boarded the Jeep and geared with our cams started for Bandipur.

I had been to the same forest last week. You will not believe, the jungle was fully different. This time I could spot more of wild elephants, bison's and sambar deer. We even spotted a fresh kill done by the wild dogs. The guide took us to a hill top and it wa awsome. Every one loved it. We were on our extremes !! We stayed there for nearly 20 min. It was real fun. Returned back to our resort after that. There was a wild life film screening at 1930Hrs. I checked it out and dint find it interesting and hence decided to stay at the room and get warmed with my drinks. Others went for a stroll and after that we sat for a long chat. In b/w went for a dinner. The chat continued till late night. It was really a good feeling to be with your school friends after years.... too good and cant be expressed in any words the dictionary supports. Here I thank again -- Bhavya Chechi. She is a bit upset with my drinking habit and I have decided to reduce on it ;)

6/29 - Again I was the last one to get up as usual. Got ready fast for the trek. We trekked for 8km and believe me it was fun, the meter to check our fitness. Myself and Rekha were partners leading the team. We got back to our resort for break fast.

Did some shooting at the resort. Packed our backpacks and started our journey back to blore. The music was still on. Same DJ, same cd. Got our stocks of beer refilled. I was literaly drunk by the time I reached blore. We dropped Suhas and Rekha at the Yeshwanthpur railway station as they had their train at 1600Hrs. Then we cam back to my place, had our lunch.

It was time to part. The wine urges me on, the bewitching wine, which sets even a wise man to singing and to laughing gently and rouses him up to dance and brings forth words which were better unspoken. This trip brought me closer to my old friends - Bhavya, Sachin, Srijith and Suhas. I got two new friends too -- Meera and Rekha.

As Aristotle said "A friend is another I." I was missing myself when we were parting. Meeting is a pleasure... parting - sorrow still -- expecting a reunion again soon !!!

Sharing some moments ... please Click here

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jungle Retreat Mudumalai, The Nilgiris.

Finally after lots of discussions the place and participants were confirmed on June 5, 2008. The team - Maja, Zoe, Sathish and myself. On 6/6 we got our rooms booked at Jungle Retreat through the phone and we were helped by Nandini, the resort Manager.

We had scheduled to leave Bangalore by 1400hrs on 6/20 but got stuck up while procuring the beverages. At last we started at 1600hrs in an Innova, with Malikarjun as our pilot. We planned to take the route Bangalore - Mysore- Gundulpet --Teppakadu - Masinagudi - Jungle Retreat. We stopped first at CCD for a tank clearing break at 1645hrs. Did some small shopping there. Moved on. The roads till Gundulpet were very good. After that , they were in a wrong shape. this reduced our pace. In b/w we had stopped at Lalit Mahal. Took some snaps, cleared our tanks and again continued our journey. We managed to reach the resort by 2200hrs. Had our dinner . The food was Delicious. The music was simply good. Good No's were been played. We got to see a live band there and the singer was none else, Nandini. Cool ! The booze and the drive had made me really lost. We retired soon to our beds. I slept like a baby that night :)

6/21-- 1000Hrs we reached the living area for the BF. We had missed the early morning safari/trek. Got our trek planned for 1100hrs. Zoe and Danny ( the trip coordinator ) planned all the activities for the day and next. After our BF we went to the pool side and spent some time there. Maja was determined to make her new cam handy before the trip ends. She was reading the camera manual sitting by the pool side. Jungle retreat has a very good pool. We dint have much of a time to use it though. Sidda was the guide allocated for us. He was also a bird photographer and had done more than 20 nestings. We all geared up with our cams and started to trek at 1100hrs. The sun was high and all the animals had gone to shelters and hence had very less chances of seeing the animals in the wild. We trekked for nearly for 180 mins. The trek was really good. Spotted the rare Malabar squirrel. After reaching the hill top, it was such a good feeling -- fresh air , greenery all around. No one to disturb us. No mobile calls. There is no other network than BSNL available in the jungle. We reached back to the resort by 1400Hrs for lunch. Before the lunch Zoe and Sathish tried some Mojito. I had my minted lemon juice. The lunch was really good. It had both veg and non veg dishes.

We went back to our barracks after lunch for resting. By the way we were booked into standard rooms. The rooms are spacious and has all the luxury what we can expect in the midst of a forest. Morning we can find herds of deer near to our cottages. If i remember correctly ours was cottage no 6 and no 7. I would suggest these two if anyone is planning to visit the place. Maja retired to bed for a small nap. Zoe was into the process of making Sangria ( Red wine + Jinn + Fresh juices) . Sathish and myself were the wine tasters there. The drink was good. While making the drink Zoe revealed her plans of opening a wine bar. She promised us that we would be in the guest list for sure at the inauguration. I went around the resort in the mean time and did some clicking. We got geared up for our safari in Mudumalai forest. We reported at 1600 Hrs for the safari. Basi and Ravi were our guide and driver respectively. The drive in the jeep was really thrilling. We spotted some deer, peacocks, Gaurs, Mongoose during the safari. We went to a near by river to watch the elephants taking bath. Later visited the elephant feeding center. Here we could take lot of good pics with elephants. We reached back to the resort by 2030hrs. After couple of drinks we had our dinner and retired to bed by 2330hrs as we had to wake up at 0500 for the safari at bandipur. A wake up call was arranged. Viewed the pics taken through out the day and said good night to a good memorable day !

6/22 -- 0500 Hrs we woke up. Got geared up. Had to manage with a bucket of water as there was no water coming in the taps. Drove till bandipur in our car. From there we were taken in the forest dept gypsy. Sunil was our guide cum driver. Here we were really in to the forest. We spotted the Deer, Eagle , Peacocks,etc. This safari was really thrilling than the last evening one at Mudumalai. On the way back to resort we had the luck to see a gigantic wild elephant. He inspires us to be in the wild and get wild ! Reached back resort by 0900hrs and had our breakfast. Got back to our barracks, got freshened up. Packed our backpacks and started our journey back to Blore at 1200hrs. We stopped at CCD, Gundulpet for packing our lunch. We reached blore by 1750 hrs. We had plan's to party at night but cancelled the same as all were tired and Maja and Zoe had their early morning flights back to US.

The trip was really memorable. We dedicate this to Maja and Zoe . We thank Rogan, Nandini, Siddha, Danny, Pradeep, Karupan at the jungle
retreat for making our stay a memorable one. The experience we all had was so good that 'n' no of words or no picture can express !!! Sharing some moments ... please Click here

Even though the team parts now, we will meet again for another blast but with a difference -- Maja, Zoe and myself reducing min 10lbs and Sathish reducing on his cigis. Before keeping my pen down, allow me to quote Robert Frost --- "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep".

Monday, June 9, 2008

Karnataka Road Transport Corporation.

It has been a long time I blogged. The normal excuses -- work pressure, over time , blah blah ....

I had planed to go to Chennai last Fri and tried booking the tickets through the Internet for KSRTC. The page opened up, everything went fine. I selected the seat in the middle. Was very happy with the proceedings. But as if god dint like it , after i did the payment, the message came that the seat I opted had been already allotted to somebody else. My money was out of my account. I was helpless. But it seems that this is a normal practice happening with the site.The authorities have given an email id to correspond on refunds. Till now, after 3 days , I have not received any feedback on my complaint to KSRTC. Don't know when I will be lucky to get my money back.

I had a similar problem with India Railway. But appreciate the system where in my money got refunded in 24 hrs.

Can we say here that still central is much more capable than state !!

Hey friends ... I got my money back ...nearly after a month...