Sunday, September 11, 2011


We reached Leh, late at night on 15th Aug. After the adventurous and strenuous journey of two days, we were really very tired.  So we decided that we will not start early in the morning the next day, 16th Aug. 

View from our room at the Nature Residency
On waking up on the 16th, we found that our hotel, (The Nature Residency Hotel) was by a small river.  It was a beautiful and peaceful location. We stayed at this hotel in all for 4 days and enjoyed the stay very much.  But at such a good hotel too, we found that the things we take for granted in cities like Pune don’t come by easily. There are regular power cuts in Leh – for good 8+ hours daily. The hotel used to run an inverter/generator for some time, but a few hours in the afternoon and in the night there was no electricity – and at night it got pitch-dark. Hot water was another luxury which we had to do without for most days.

As we discovered going around the place, Leh is a very nice and friendly town. When we went sightseeing or went to the market to shop for gifts and souvenirs, we came across simple and cheerful people who were happy to talk to us, provide information or generally have a conversation about life…

Shanti Stupa
  On 16th August, we started with Shanti Stupa and went to different monasteries and palaces. This is such a hilly region that each place you visit, there is a climb to reach the place. Most places, you go to the entrance gate of the place in a vehicle but beyond that point, you need to climb to reach the actual palace or the monastery. Even within the complex, you need to climb to go from one building to another or one temple to another. These climbs are about 50+ to about 150+ feet at a stretch but since Leh is at an altitude of 11000+ ft, each one of these seems quite difficult.

We started our sightseeing at the Shanti Stupa and ended at Sindhu ghat where we watched the sunset.  And during the day, we visited the Stok Palace & Museum, Thiksey monastery and Shey palace.
Shanti stupa itself and the view of Leh from the top of the hill is magnifiscant! We spent close to an hour here and took a lot of photographs. Devendra and Mayuresh got people to wear big sunglasses so that they could take photograph of the stupa reflected in the glasses. It was a lot of fun!

Stok Palace & Museum
 At the Stok Palace and the museum, we took a lot of picture outside, near the entrance of the museum since photography is not allowed within. The most impressive item on display in the museum was a sword that has been made into a “knot” by king’s oracle to demonstrate his muscle power. How does anyone do that?? Make a knot in a sword, as if it’s a cable??!!

Lama Monlam Gyatso
 As we were coming out of Stock, we met Monlam Gyatso, a lama and had a wonderful conversation with him. He talked about his path as a lama, his views on various things from army (its necessity) to various places to visit and of course about life. Sitting there in the Stok portico, feeling very relaxed and happy, looking around at the beautiful place and listening to a lama talk about various things – that will remain with me for a long time…

Before climbing to Thiksey, we had lunch at this quaint restaurant called “Chamba” near Thiksey. We sat outside in the courtyard, under a shade and spent time looking at the birds and butterflies and bantering with each other, waiting for our food. The place runs at a laid back, relaxed pace (which means the service is slow ), but it’s a place to enjoy just sitting around, taking in the atmosphere – especially if you have a good group.
Thiksey was quite impressive – the Maitreya Budhha is 2 stories tall.  There are old frescos of Jatak kathas (These are tales depicting the Buddha in several of his births in the form of animals) in the courtyard and there is a temple for Tara. I found this place really beautiful – the combination of the architecture and the colors and the views of the surrounding mountains, they make many beautiful frames…

Jatak Katha frescos


Shey Marshes
   Climb to Shey seemed the hardest and you also can’t enter the palace; but the view of the Shey marshes from the top makes the climb worthwhile.

Sindhu Ghaat
  Sindhu ghat was the last thing on our itinerary for 16th – the river is very small in Leh, but the ghat was picturesque, with the small chhatris there. It was made more attractive by lack of tourists..

   Then on 20th, we went to see the confluence of Sindu (Indus) and Zanskar. On our way there, we saw the Himalayan Urial (Shapo) high on the mountains. It would have been impossible to spot these for me. And the only reason I got to see them was that Devendra and Mayuresh, with the trained eyes could spot these!!

Movie shooting...
  Driving ahead, we also saw a movie being shot – a song, for sure. Watching the girl do the same steps again and again, the camera, the people around – it looked pretty ridiculous and we had a good laugh! Of course, it also looked like a LOT of work  - standing in the bright & hot sun, in a fancy dress and doing the same dance steps again and again definitely can’t be easy or fun!

On the way we also passed the memagnetic (??) hill. At the magnetic hill, they ask you to park your vehicle in neutral and watch it slide up the slope; which is supposed to be due to the magnetic force. However, this is not so – its only an optical illusion caused by the layout of the landscape. Also, it looks like the vehicle is moving up the slope, only from s specific spot.

At the confluence of the two rivers, one can see each of the rivers distinctly different from the other – Sindu looks muddy and Zanskar looks “white”.

Hall of Fame museum, Leh –
On 19th August, after returning from the Nubra valley, we went to the Hall of fame museum in the late afternoon. It is a glorious museum built/setup by the Indian Army.  The museum has two separate sections one of which covers various facets of Ladakh region – like the geography, history, culture as well as flora and fauna. The other section covers a lot of information about various wars and operations carried out by the Army. It makes one realize about the difficulties faced by the army – especially when you read about the highest war zone of the world – the Siachin glacier; it makes you proud of your army and it also makes you feel very emotional.

Shopping in Leh – We went to the market street 2-3 times in all – looking for some things specific – like the T-shirts with embroidery, so instead of a T-shirt, with “Ladakh – at the top of the wolrd” printed on it, you buy a T-shirt with the same embroidered on it!! And it makes a big difference to the overall look of the T-shirt. There were a lot of cool T-shirts too – about Leh, about Khardung La. Some of the ones I really liked were “My sister went to Ladakh and all she got me was this silly t-shirt!” – having this embroidered on the t-shirt in beautiful silk colors, makes it look anything but silly!  The best one had 5 yaks standing in a line with this line at the bottom – “Yak Yak Yak Yak Yak” – just loved it!! Needless to say I got t-shirts as gifts…
Apart from these, we were told that one gets good turquoise (which is found in Ladakh) and other semi-precious stones here. We mostly only window shopped for these…

Apart from the T-shirts, things we ended up buying were apricots, apricot jam, prayer flags, prayer wheels and some small souvenirs like key chains.

By the time it was time to leave Leh and return home, we had gotten very comfrotable in Leh - with its simple people and simple life as well as the beauty of the surrounding, start mountains and the background of blue, blue sky! It was really difficult to say goodby to the place on 21st morning and board our flight to Delhi...


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Manali to Leh – the Trans Himalayan Safari

Hadimba Temple, Manali

Our journey was a little complicated. We flew from Pune to Delhi, and then got on a bus to Manali around 6:00 PM. It took us 16 hours to reach Manali. It was sunny and actually quite hot, when we reached Manali at about 10:00 AM the next day. We were doing the Trans Himalayan road Safari from Manali to Leh.  We were to start for Leh early morning on 14th August, but it was raining incessantly from 12th evening. The Rohtang pass closed down on 13th due to snowfall and landslides. Due to the heavy rains, the Delhi-Manali road also was closed.  We were stuck in Manali! However, if we had started for Leh from Manali on 13th, we would be stuck at Rohtang; if we had tried to reach Manali a day later than when we did, we would have been stuck on the road from Delhi and not reached Manali. So if we looked at it from the right perspective, our timing was perfect!

So, whether we would start on 14th morning for Manali was something we were going to be able to decide only on 14th morning. On 14th morning we were all packed but as it turned out, on 14th morning, the pass had not yet opened so we definitely were not starting on that morning. Around noon we decided to start from Manali at about 3:00 PM and drive to Rohtang. If the pass had opened we would go across, if not we would come back to Manali. 

As we made our way to Rohtang, we were going close to the snow clad mountains, the sky started opening up and with all the tall trees and the clouds that we were driving through was creating just the perfect atmosphere. I couldn’t help thinking about Shammi Kapoor, my favorite actor who had passed away just that morning. I couldn’t help but imagine him going “Yahoo” in that place – the setting seemed like out of one of his movies from 60s.

We made a stop at Marhi, the last place before Rohtang, where one can get good, water etc. After our drivers discussed the situation with many other drivers, it was decided to drive to Rohtang. It meant that if the pass didn’t open up, we will have to stay put in our vehicles close to the pass for the night. As we got closer and closer to the pass, the road became gradually worse. There were large patches where we were driving in feet deep mud. The fear of having a vehicle stuck in that slush or slipping on it and going over the edge was on everyone’s mind.

As it turned out, the wonderful people of BRO had managed to work on the patch where the landslides had taken place, and though the road could not be cleared, they had managed to make an alternate road and light vehicles were able to drive over it to make way to Rohtang after about 6:00 PM. So we were able to cross that patch around 6:30 PM and make our way towards Rohtang pass.  But it was now getting dark and the road was pretty bad – and very narrow. Finally we crossed the Rohtang pass at about 8:15 PM that night. Watching all the snow in the dark of the night was a different kind of magic!

We kept driving through the night and reached a town called Keylong, around 11:00 PM. But we could not find any accommodation and so we decided to drive over to Jispa; as per our original plan we were supposed to drive to Jispa that day and had a booking in a good place there.  Driving another hour through the night on another patch of bad road, we reached Jispa around midnight and went over to the hotel where we thought we had confirmed accommodation for the night. Since Rohtang was closed and so was Barlacha, the pass on the other side, the people who were to have moved ahead, had been stuck in Jispa and so there was no rooms available for us. So it was past midnight, extremely cold and we didn’t have any place to stay… So we drove on… went to a place called Darcha – about a few kilometers from Jispa. Here, we found place to sleep on cot basis in two Dhabas. We, four women took four available beds in one dhaba. The three men in our group and our two drivers took 5 available beds in another Dhaba. 

The dhaba we stayed at in Darcha

The accommodation was really very basic – there were about 10 people sleeping in one room in the Dhaba where we slept. The toilet was outside and basically was just a small enclosure with 3 walls and one curtain. But we all were very tired and it felt awesome to lie down and relax for a while. By this time it was past 1 AM. The next morning we woke up around 6:30 AM and after having some tea at these Dhabas went back to the hotel where we were supposed to have stayed the night. We thought we could freshen up there and have a good breakfast.
When we went over the hotel they gave us a good breakfast and couple of rooms to freshen up. While freshening up we realized that the place where we were supposed to stay was really good. Where we ended up staying was the most basic of accommodations, even in these remote areas. Two things struck me – one, that people stay is such basic conditions and seem quite happy. And two, even our basic needs are very simple. We complicate our lives and think that all these things we have - our houses, cars, computers, TVs, Fridges, phones and so many other things are “essential” – but they are definitely not! While I have trekked many times and staying in tents on the trek seemed right. But to live in a dhaba, with the family who runs the dhaba, to see how they lived is something that I learnt a lot from.

After having a good breakfast, we started ahead.  It was a wondrous journey from that point onwards – the vast open spaces, snowed in valleys in places, the painted mountains in others and no trees as this complete journey is above the tree line. 

We kept passing through changing landscape – and kept looking at the mountains, the valleys, the moor planes and various birds and animals that we came across, quite mesmerized. It was long drive, but it seemed to get over too soon – we wanted to spend more time going through that terrain – looking at the valleys and mountains.
We definitely wanted to spend more time looking for the animals we were hoping to see – Bharal (mountain goat) and Tibetan wild ass.  But we didn’t see them. The weather that had changed unexpectedly – the untimely rains and snow must have been the culprits.

This was quite an adventurous journey – it turned out to be a lot more adventurous than what was planned, thanks to the weather - but it was an amazing journey. It turned out to be the most memorable journey of my life so far!!

Ooh Ladakh!!

I had heard about Ladakh – how it is a very different place and how it is beautiful; I had seen some beautiful photographs of this region first when my uncle made a trip there. Later on, I saw pictures takes by some friends – some amazing almost professional pictures. So I thought I knew what to expect when I went there – Blue sky, Buddhist architecture & culture and stark mountains. I recently went to Ladakh with Foliage Outdoors and though I found all these that I had expected, I realized that really didn’t know what to expect!!

I am planning to write about the place and the journey here in 2-3 parts.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mountains and Melodies

“Juda hoke bhi…. Tu muzme kahi baki hai….” I was hearing the notes of this song from Kalyug for the first time when we were making our way to Gangtok from Baghdoghra. It was late in the evening and we had been driving for about 3 hours. We had all been fascinated by the narrow mountain road we were driving on, the tall mountains, the clouds and the greenery. We had watched mesmerized till there was light and then the mood had become silent and thoughtful. It was quite dark when the driver switched on the music player and these notes floated to us. All we could see in the dark were many, many stars in the sky that we didn’t normally see in the cities and the electric lights far away in the hills – that was Gangtok…

The natural beauty surrounding us, hidden from us by the curtain of the darkness now, was still very fresh in our minds. The darkness, starlit sky and the dipping temperatures were adding to the feeling of being in an unearthly place. And this song, “Juda Hoke bhi…”, added beautifully to this overall experience. I don’t know if I fell in love with the song because of the overall atmosphere of the time when I heard it for the first time, or it was a lovely song which made the atmosphere so amazing. But, every time I hear that song now, I remember that late evening, that starlit sky and the mountains that we were driving through. 

On our trek in the Kanchanjunga national park, before which we had visited Gangtok, when we reached Bakhim after a long and strenuous trek from Yuksum, we stayed at a Jungle lodge. In this lodge, after we had had our dinner, our sherpas sang for us; some of them also danced. “Resham Phiriri” is a Nepali folk song that I heard for the first time in that wooden cabin at Bakhim. It was around 8:00 PM but it seemed much later because it had gotten dark even before 6:00 PM and there were no lights anywhere as far as we could see. The only light was those of the candles burning on the big wooden dining table. It was very cold and so a fire was setup in the fireplace. We had had our dinner in the candle light after a long and tiring trek. It was another of those surreal times. I think of that song sometimes when I remember that jungle lodge. And I think of that jungle lodge when I think of this song. I don’t know which one is the stronger memory; they are so completely associated with each other…

There are other melodies that I have heard in mountains at different times that have stayed with me as reminders of those places and times in the mountains. Some of these are old Hindi movie songs, some that have always been my favorite. But even these favorites have become more special because of the specific times & places in Himalayas.

On the same trek in the Kanchanjunga national part, we had a guide called Amar, who sang quite well. “Phoolon ke rang se” from Prem Pujari was a song he sang very well. I heard Amar sing this song many times on this trek. I myself had requested him to sing this a few times as I have always loved this song; its one of my all-time favorites. But the one time it made the most impact was when we were climbing down from Samiti Lake to the camp. There had been just four of us at the lake and it was possible to imagine yourself to be all alone; it was so beautiful and peaceful. Samiti Lake is one of the most tranquil places one can go to. After spending some time at the lake, we made our way back to the camp where others were waiting for breakfast. When we were climbing down to the camp, Amar started singing “Phoolon ke rang se”… We still had 4 days of trekking, but it was all going to be much easier since we would be climbing down. It was early morning of a surprisingly clear day and we had just visited one of the most beautiful places we had even been to. Because of all these, we were in a very happy frame of mind. That climb down to the camp, and that frame of mind is what I remember now every time I hear “Phoolon ke rang se”…

My trek to valley of flowers has been one of the most fun treks I have been on. In Rahul Bhusari and Dinesh Patil, we had 2 very good camp leaders, and we seemed to have a group with great sense of humor – that always helps on treks. When we started off on this trek, it had been raining very heavily and we weren’t sure we’ll be able to make it to the valley. In fact, that year we were amongst some 5 groups who did make it upto the valley. The first day’s trek from Govindghat to Ghangaria is 13 kms of up and down through the mountains. Its tiring but the view throughout is really beautiful; so much so that later on your remember the beauty of this path rather than the struggle you had climbing. After we reached Ghangaria in the evening, we washed up, had dinner and then went to the visiting center there to see a short film about Valley of Flowers.  After the film, when we were walking back to our lodge through the small town, I heard “Chand fir nikala, magar tum na aaye…” from Paying Guest. It was a dark night, very cloudy and no moon in the sky.  We were walking on a small mud road with a big ground on one side. And this song was probably coming from one of the small houses, being played on a transistor radio and the station tuned I would guess was Vividh Bharati. But hearing the longing in Lata’s sweet voice, at that place and at that time brought me to tears. This is another of those beautiful songs that I have always loved. But it had never made my cry earlier; somehow the impact of this song at that time was so much more intense. And now this song reminds me of walking through Ghangaria at night; I can clearly see the open ground we were walking by…

Somehow, the songs heard in the quiet of the night leave a big impact, especially in the mountains when you are already “away” from the real world. But sometimes even on quiet afternoons, when you are resting on a mountain slope, when you can see leaves fall noiselessly to the ground, you hear some melody as it rides the light breeze, coming from somewhere in the valley,  that can take you by surprise and touch your heart like never before. 

I was on a trek to Saurkundi lake in Himachal Pradesh and I got sick at Baggi Thatch. So I didn’t go up to Saurkundi lake that day. Along with Meena, who too had stayed back with her daughter, I went on a small “picnic” – we took our books and climbed a little distance away from the camp. We spent a beautiful afternoon there, reading side by side, napping when we felt like and talking very little. On this afternoon, seated there under the tall trees on that mountain slope, I heard “Hai duniya usiki, jamana usika…” from Kashmir ki Kali. It floated to us from some small village down in the valley. It was coming from a distance and if it had not been for the tranquility or the fact that we were absolutely quiet at that time we wound not have been able to hear it. But barely audible notes of this soft song, heard there on the remote mountain have remained with me very solid. Now, when I hear this song, in my mind I am back on that remote mountain….
Hearing music in remote mountains, where everything else is quiet and you are feeling closer to the universe,  is such a magical experience!! I have felt this in Himalayas every time I have trekked there.

Friday, May 20, 2011

America that I miss...

I moved back to India in 2001 after living in America (US) for about 5 years. I moved back because I missed India a lot and India is where I felt I belonged. Of course the India I had left in 1996 was different from India I came back to in 2001 but I belonged here in India (changed one too).  But, I loved my time in US and there are many things I miss about America – specifically the America that I left behind in 2001. Things have changed there too in the last 10 years; some things a lot more than others…

After 2001, I have traveled to US some 7-8 times and enjoyed each of those visits, but have not “lived” there. And though I meet many friends and visit some of my favorite places every time I travel, I still miss the America I left in 2001. Here are some things that I loved about living in America…

Melting pot of world culture:
I worked for Microsoft and a product development team had people literally from all over the world working together! People from many European countries, South Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Korean, People from Middle East,  Indians  and of course Americans – all working side by side, making software and in the process sharing their stories, food, experiences and feelings. One learnt such a lot about each other’s culture, developed a more open and tolerant views and became more aware and capable of handling diversity. This was probably one of the best things from those days at Microsoft – those crazy days of working really hard, trying to meet the milestones, meeting to discuss and debate requirements and designs…. Playing foosball and throwing darts!!  And making some great friends!!!

I lived in Bellevue, near Microsoft campus. And in 1996, driving around was such a pleasure.  The traffic got really bad after about 2000, I think. But I LOVED driving around then… Of course, driving in US is still a lot easier than India (I guess for most part), but before 2000, it was really simple and easy. The gas also was a lot cheaper…

Western Washington:
Whenever people hear about Seattle or western Washington, all they can think about is rain – how its cloudy for days and rains some 300 days a year. But its also a very beautiful region. On a clear day, its so beautiful… Seeing Mount Rainier in distance, and the skyline of the city – it’s a site one just does not get tired of… And it’s a great place for hiking, climbing and outdoor activities in general. I enjoyed living there a lot… It never really got very hot, and it never got too cold. I could handle the rain – I love rain anyways…  Oh and the people of the region were simple and friendly. I have made some great friends in this part of the world and really cherish their friendship…

Community College: 
I took art classes and dance classes and language classes and oh, mountaineering classes in the Bellevue community college. Loved these classes that let me explore new things and work on my hobbies. With my mountaineering class, I also went snow shoeing and went climbing Mt. St. Helens in the month of March when it was fully covered in snow (and hurt my knee badly – but that story some other time).  I wish we had something like community colleges in India… We do have different classes here, but most of them are private classes and there is no way of knowing how good they are going to be, their format or how the facilities are going to be etc. Of course some ARE quite wonderful…

Public library:
Oh the public libraries!! The public library system and how much you can read, listen, see and learn!!  I spent many Saturday afternoons at the Public Library in Bellevue. Unfortunately, there is nothing comparable in India…

Pro Club:
Pro Club in Bellevue was the first gym I joined. It is big and has many facilities – from a huge section of treadmills & cross trainers & climbers to personal gym machines, to tennis courts and basketball courts… to Aerobics, kickboxing as well as Yoga studios…. It was just too good. I have not seen another gym which can come anywhere close to Pro club in terms of facilities or the services offered… And especially in India, gyms have been quite disappointing…

Yoga Class:
I used to practice Yoga in India before I went to US, and I practice it (on and off) even after coming back. And I have attended different Yoga classes in India, some good, some not good and some definitely not good. I live in Pune, where the world famous Iyengar Yoga institute is and many people from all over the world come here to learn Yoga. But they conduct courses not just classes. And I have to say that the best Yoga class I attended was in Bellevue…

Travel around:
In those days, traveling around US was so easy, and so affordable!! Going to the airport to see people off meant going and seeing them off right at the gate, see them board the plane. I remember that even when my parents were to board their flight for their return to India, I had gone to see them off till the gate on the SEATAC airport. And it was so easy to take the car and go someplace, just for the day or a weekend or even longer (which I guess still is) and so affordable (which is not as affordable with the gas prices now).

I grew up with books around me and have always loved going to bookshops. But the bookshops I saw in America just blew me off – they were big, had so many books that I didn’t even know anything about, on so many subjects, they had neat little places to sit around and read, and they stayed open for a long time!! There was a Barnes & Noble very close to where I lived and many times I would spend late evenings there, since it did not close till 11:00 PM. I also used to frequent a Borders store in Redmond. And how can I forget the Half Price Books???
We have big bookshops in India too now, but they still don’t compare well with the bookshops in US.

When I went to America in 96, India didn’t have “malls”, per say – some big shops yes, but the malls no. And America was full of them!! And those big malls had so many big stores and big parking lots!! Oh and so many things that I had never seen or heard of in India. Simple things like chocolates and cheeses – I went berserk buying these!! And when my sister got engaged, I actually sent her a suitcase full of chocolates and cheeses from America!! Just the abundance one saw in these big chain stores or malls was over whelming. Till 96, I didn’t know that there were so many different varieties of milks to choose from – we had only choice of buffalo milk or cow milk – and packaged milk or fresh milk from a milkman… Things have changed a great deal on this front in India – India today has big malls in many places, big chain stores too – but they are a lot smaller, a lot more crowded and I just HATE the way the shop assistants keep following you around!!! I tend to avoid the malls in India….

Having said all this, if someone asks me whether I want to move back to America, my answer would be “no”.  I figure, its better to live in India and miss America than live in America and miss India.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ganesh Festival and two songs

When I was about 12-13, we moved from our rented apartment in a gated society on the outskirts of the city to our own house in the heart of the city. Our new house was close to a big Ganesh Mandal  (group or circle) – one of Pune’s well known Mandals – namely Hatti Ganapati (meaning “Elephant Ganapati” – the idol is a big one – hence Hatti Ganapati).

The Ganesh Festival in the city was very different from what we thought of “Ganesh Festival” when we lived in the outskirts. The decorations for the festival were huge in the city. There were pandals put up right in the streets. Many of the big Mandals put up big scenes in front of the Ganesh idol – many times the scenes were based on some story in the Hindu mythology. Sometimes there were some scenes which had a political message. There were also some other scenes which showed some scientific progress. Some other mandals didn’t have a scene, but huge lighted decoration, where the lights “danced” to the music. But one thing that was common to most of the Mandals was that in the evenings, they played records of songs – many songs from Hindi movies. Many of the songs were from the latest movies, but some old, famous songs too were played out.

Whatever music Hatti Ganapati Mandal played, we could hear loud and clear in our house.  And many times it was source of major annoyance, since you heard the loud music from about 7:00 PM till late in the night – till 11:00 PM or sometimes even later. The loudness became more and more annoying as the evening progressed.  I came to dislike many of the songs that they played out again and again and again. But there were two songs, that no matter how many times they played, how loudly they played and how late in the night they played them, I just loved them. These two songs were played every year, every day for ten days. And till date, they are amongst my favorite songs.

Both are from 60s – Both have been composed by S. D. Burman and sung by Lata; both are also dance numbers – “Raat ka samaa” from Ziddi (1964) – a very young Asha Parekh dances to this number, and “Hoton me aisi baat” from Jewel Theif (1967) – Vyjayantimala sets the floor on fire with this one! “Raat ka samaa” is penned by Hasrat Jaipuri and “Hoton pe aisi baat” by Majrooh Sultanpuri.

And while both are my favorites, I like them for different reasons. In terms of visual presentation, the choreography, or the dancing skills – “Hoton me” is definitely the winner. Every time I hear the song, I visualize Vyjayantimala dancing – and dancing so gracefully and with such ease!! But then she is one of the best (if not the best) dancers to have ever danced in Hindi movies. But minus the visuals, I love “Raat ka samaa” lot more – the tune, the way Lata has sung it – its extremely sweet. To sit in the open at night, under the stars, light breeze bringing with it fragrance of some flowering tree nearby, and listening to a song like “Raat ka samaa” can transport you to a different world altogether…

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gulmohars and Cherry Blossoms

Summer has been here for a while now. And though it has been quite mild this year, compared to the usual, and though nights are actually quite pleasant, it is quite hot during the day.  And driving on the road in the afternoon, you can feel the heat as well as the brightness of the Sun.

But when you drive around, in the city, and especially outside the city, you can’t miss the Gulmohar trees. They are everywhere… and in full bloom!! They are a riot of color on the background of the blue sky - You can see various shades from dull orange, saffron to fire red… and even some very deep red – almost close to maroon. They look wild! And oh so beautiful!! Every time I look at them I am mesmerized. I watch these trees as long as I can, and I don’t feel like looking away. I just can’t seem to get enough. 

And every time I look at them, I also remember the Cherry blossom trees…  They of course belong to very different climatic regions. They won’t be able to bloom in this heat; in fact they would not be able to tolerate this heat at all.

The two are quite different – Cherry Blossom are extremely delicate, even in their coloring – its so gentle... They also look very, very soft and refined. Gulmohars, are definitely not delicate – they are hardy – they have to be, to bloom in the heat like this. And while Cherry Blossoms are all soft & refined, Gulmohars are completely wild!! Cherry Blossoms are all pastel shades – soft, soft pink – could almost seem white. Gulmohars on the other hand are loud colors like bright Red!!

And yet, I find something similar in these two – both are, for one extremely beautiful. Somehow, no matter how much you look at them, you don’t feel satisfied… you want to look some more.. And there is that same abundance in the way they bloom.

In “The Last Samurai”, there is a quote – “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life”. – I think that’s beautiful – and maybe it applies not only to Cherry Blossoms.  I think that is true about Gulmohars too.
And the last words of the same person (Katsumoto, I think), in the same movie are – “Perfect. They... are all... perfect...” – again he is talking about the Cherry Blossoms. That, I think holds true for all the trees, trees that blossom with such abundance!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Awesome Assam!!

Earlier, the only place I had visited in Assam was Guwahati – on my way to Shillong. And honestly, I did not have a very good impression of Guwahati – it’s not a very clean city, I felt very uncomfortable in the Kamakhya temple, many of the places we tried to see on a Monday were closed… And of course we had a “wonderful” evening cruise on Bramhaputra (that story, some other time… :-))

But Assam, as I found out in a week-long visit, is simply wonderful. And absolutely nothing like my first impression of the state based on its capital. Its beautiful and green, with abundant wildlife.  And tea gardens on either side of the roads… You also see a lot of open spaces and driving from one place to another is a very pleasant experience – well mostly, unless you come close to Guwahati – then it’s a big mess! I loved the small towns that we saw along the way and was just amazed at how many cows one comes across!!  And I just fell in love with the simple old type small houses that were everywhere…
We visited Tezpur, Nameri, Kaziranga, Shiv Sagar and Majuli. We landed in Guwahati and Assam started to weave its magic as soon as we left Guwahati and started towards Tezpur.  The most prominent color that we could see everywhere was green. And so many shades of it!! The trees, the fields, shrubs – everything lush green!!

Our formal “sightseeing” began in Tezpur with a visit to the Mahabhairav temple.
We then went to Chitralekha Udyan (for some reason we had thought this is a tea garden – we couldn’t have been more wrong…). But Chitralekha Udyan (or Cole Park) is a beautiful and tranquil plac. We also went to Agnigarh – as per the mythology, this is the place where Krishna’s grandson, Anirudh married Usha which was the cause for a bloody battle between Shiva & Krishna, and got Tezpur, which was earlier called Sonitpur,  its name (Teza in Sanskrit means blood). The view of Bramhaputra from the watch tower on Agnigarh was spectacular!

Road to Nameri  was pretty bad – that is to say, wherever there was road, it was bad… And so it took us longer to reach Nameri that what we had thought. But once we reached the Eco-camp, Nameri, we immediately forgot everything about the bad road etc. The place was wonderful. The tents were the most luxurious I have seen – ever!! Each tent had an attached bath AND a changing room!! And there were fans in the tents!! One felt really “relaxed”… But our experience with the activities done here with Eco-camp was not great.

We went for a hike/trek in the Jungle with a forest guard in the afternoon. We crossed the Jiabharoli river in a small boat and started our trek… This was a great walk in a deep forest, but it definitely would have been a lot more enriching, if the forest guard knew more about the flora and fauna. He was not interested in anything but walking as quickly as possible to the end point (which was a watch tower) and then on returning from the watch tower to the river bank.

Next day early morning (after it had rained cats and dogs in the night), we drove in a SUV towards Balukpong, thinking we were going white water rafting. But it just turned out to be a long boat ride on a raft. The boat ride was wonderfully relaxing. Moving gently with the river, watching birds and passing through small villages where odd fisherman (or woman) is fishing with the traditional fishing contraption is such a wonderful feeling… But it definitely was not rafting… :-)

After Nameri we made our way to Kaziranga. Drive to Kaziranga was good till we started seeing the national park on the left side of the road. From that point onwards it was simply great!!  We actually saw couple of rhinos in the park, at some distance even before we reached our hotel.

Kaziranga was awesomest part of the awesome Assam experience! We started our time in the national park with an elephant back safari at 5:00 AM in the western range – Jungle was still waking up and we managed to get really close to the rhinos and deer; also saw lots of birds… In Central and Eastern ranges we took jeep safaris instead. 20th April was a really beautiful day. On this day we saw many wild elephants and rhinos in Kaziranga.

From all the different safaris in Kaziranga, one vision that I just can’t get over is a tusker walking straight at us. He was in his own world, walking at a relaxed pace; walking so gracefully. But we had gotten scared. We had of course stopped the jeep and gone absolutely quiet– we were wondering if we need to reverse out; wondering if he will charge; and if he does what should we do…. And then we saw another elephant behind him! I can still remember that moment so clearly!!

It was mesmerizing and scary at the same time. The tusker in the front became aware of us when he was at about 50 meters distance; and there was a sudden change in his whole demeanor. It felt like he suddenly became more “formal”. He turned at a right angle and walked in away in the forest. The one behind, saw him turn and did the same…

We thought that nothing else would be really impressive after Kaziranga – but Majuli did impress us! Of course before Majuli we went to Shiv Sagar. The temples, pavilion and palace here were quite picturesque.  The desert pink stone temples and palace on the background of lush green fiends are really something!
And then we went to Majuli – it’s a completely different world. The satras there, their lifestyle and the way they are cultivating the arts – mask making, dramatics, music and dance…. It would be worth going to Assam to just visit Majuli! And the private performance of Gayan-Bayan that they put up for us, in the main hall of the North Kamalabari satra, was definitely an experience of a lifetime!

I left Assam after spending just a week there, but its definitely a place I have on my “to visit again” list. I also have added Assam to my list of most spectacular places I have visited in India!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Do you remember that movie?

(This is for my sister, Motiya, and at her own suggestion too…:-))

When we were small, there was no easy way to refer or search for information about the movies, actors, musicians, directors or lyricists. There was no easy way to get the lyrics of the songs you liked. It was almost impossible to listen to your favorite songs as and when you liked. The only radio stations that played movie songs were Vividh Bharati and Radio Ceylon.  We tried and listened to Vividh Bharati as much as we could. And when it played a song we loved, we wrote down the lyrics!! And if there were 2 of you writing the lyrics together, then it was better – then you could get most of the lyrics down in one go!!

So many times we wrote down the lyrics, but didn’t quite remember which movie the song was from. And many times we knew all the songs from a movie, but didn’t know who were the lead actors in that movie or the situation in the movie a particular song was for.

And the avenues to watch movies were very few.  There was only one TV channel, Door Darshan and there was only one movie shown on TV every week. So, on Sunday evening we watched the movie on TV, if and when we weren’t doing anything else like playing outside with friends or made to do something else by parents like study, especially when exams were approaching. And if the movie was not “censored” by the parents. Oh AND if we had electricity at the time of the movie!!
We went to movie hall to watch a movie very few times.We would go to the movie hall hardly ever when school session was on and just once or twice in holidays. I remember in one summer vacation I had felt really privileged because we had watched all of THREE movies in the movie hall.

Going beyond all these restrictions when we were able to watch a movie, we weren’t too choosy. We were happy to watch whatever movie was on the TV any given Sunday. And we mostly went for whatever movies my parents let us go to or took us along with them. (Well, of course except for a phase when I just HATED all the movies, and didn't want to go watch any movie!! ).

We told stories of the movies that we watched. And this story telling could go on for hours – because you had to explain things in detail – like the kind of saree the heroine was wearing for a particular scene or the jacket the hero wore, the facial expressions of the comedian – oh and the “adda” or den of the bad guy, which had all sorts of mind boggling instruments and contraption for torturing the "good people".  And we also had to tell our understanding of why characters were acting in a particular way. Many times this was not explained in the movies – it was our interpretation and COMPLETELY off the mark. When you watch the same movies after many years, you very strikingly realize this.

Then sometimes, when you were trying to remember a movie, you asked each other “What was that movie in which blah blah blah happens?”  And if your sister or mother or friend could not place the movie, you gave more hints – like who was the hero or a song from the movie you remembered or a little bit of the plot….

My sister, had a unique “gift” shall we say, in this game of “Do you remember that movie”. Here is how the dialog with her will go on –

Motiya:   What movie is that, do you remember?
Me:         Which one?
Motiya:   You know in which the hero is very poor and his mother is always smiling?

Now that described more than half the movies shown on Door Darshan in that period! Most times the Hero was poor and struggling and his mother was unusually “nice”, always smiling, even in hard times.

Me:        What else?
Motiya:   And his mother makes “Gajar ka halwa” for him, because he loves it?!

Again, every poor hero liked “Gajar ka halwa” and his wonderful mom always managed to make that for her beloved son even in dire poverty!!

Me:        Who is the hero?
Motiya:   Don’t remember. It could be Dilip Kumar or Rajesh Khanna oh, or maybe Kishore Kumar?!

Now this was really going across generations of heroes, and different types of movies!! And of course there was a very good chance that the actual hero was someone else altogether!!
But we still continue our efforts to figure out…

Me:        Who is the heroine?
Motiya:   She was someone, I don’t know at all…

Now that really helps, right??

Me:         So what else do you remember?
Motiya:   Well, towards the end, the hero drives a car on a mountain road, very fast!!
Me:         And?
Motiya:   Then there is a fight at the villain’s den!!


Me:         Do you remember any songs?
Motiya:   Yes!! There is a song sung by Asha Bhosale! Or maybe it is Lata Mangeshakar.

In those days, I think about 95% songs for women actors were sung by one of these 2 sisters. It was like there was no other female singer around!!

Me:         Do you remember the song?
Motiya:    I don’t remember the words, but it is something about “pyaar” and “duniya”… But I remember the tune!!!

Now "remembering a tune" and being able to reproduce it correctly are two different things!!

Thinking that she was humming the tune currectly, my sistent then started to hum the “tune”.  And that really  sounded like a mosquito’s humming to me!!! “Hmmmm hmmm hm hmm hmmmmmmm hm hm hm”

I just gave up all the effort to figure out the movie, at this point!!!!
And anyway, by the time we reached this point, we both were really angry with each other.

One outcome of this was that we didn’t talk to each other for quite a while. Which I am sure, my parents thought was a blessing!!!

Of course, needless to say, we would repeat this game again and again every few days!!! And everytime it would go like this with exact same results!!! :-)

Now I really miss those days......

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Indian Traffic & Life

Travellers from outside India, when talking about their first impressions about India, will tell you that they were completely shocked by the traffic. That when they were being driven around in cars, they were extremely scared. Indians who have lived in countries in Europe or the US, even for just a few years, come back and find it difficult to understand the traffic here. When people have lived outside India for sometime, they are really scared to drive here... EVEN people who have never gone anywhere outside India find the traffic really horrible most of the time.
And of course there are many factors that make it what it is. The two main categories are -
  • Infrastructure & authorities
    • The condition of the roads
    • The way the constructions /repairs are being done on the roads
    • The amount of traffic compared to the size of the roads
    • Insufficient & sometimes careless authorities (even people responsible many times do not know what is right and what is wrong)
  • BAD drivers
    • People who drive on the wrong side
    • People who do not follow the traffic lights
    • Many, many people who drive without knowing the rules
I get very annoyed while driving mostly because of the bad drivers. We all travel on the same roads, so the infrastructure factor is common for all of us. But the second factor, bad drivers, make it even worse. And they make it especially bad for the drivers who follow the rules.

Having said that, recently it has struck me that Indian traffic is really like Life!! :-) The traffic in US, for most part is very orderly. No body's life can be like that. And if it was like that it would probably be extremely boring.
In Indian traffic we start with an idea of getting some place by certain time, but will we get there in that time, no one can be sure. That's so much like what happens in life!! Also, in Indian traffic people, carts, cycles, two wheelers or cars, basically many different things keep coming at you from any direction at any speed - that's how life is! In life too, things keep coming at you at different speeds and from various directions. In Indian traffic, we see many people getting ahead of us who we know don't deserve it or we feel are getting there with wrong means. That too is so much like life!!

And sometimes you are taken completely by surprised and you have a wonderful experience with people being fair, following rules not being too pushy and you managing to get someplace ahead of time. Is this about (Indian) traffic or life??? In my opinion, both!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Earlier travelogues

So, earlier I have written a little about my travels. And that time I put it up on MSN Live spaces (because I was on messenger, and had the ID and it was so easy you know....)

Anyway, now it all has been migrated to wordpress. So that is where some of my earlier travelogues are. You can read about my trek in Kanchanjunga National Park,Sikkim (June 2006), my trip to Hampi (Nov 2006) and trip to Germany & Austria (May 2008), on wordpress at

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Imagination - what can it do?

It happens many times. When we expect too much out of something, we get disappointed with the actual thing. Be it a movie that our friends praised a lot and told us that it is a “must see” or a dish that was said to be “to die for” at a restaurant. Or even a car that was supposed to be the “dream machine”. I have myself felt this on many occasions and of course I have heard this from many people. So when we expect a lot, what we get in reality does not meet the expectation and we are disappointed. And that is because we use our rich imagination when someone describes something as “too good”. Imagination wins over reality every time.
Similarly, when you get into something with no expectations or really low expectations, you are many times very pleasantly surprised to find that you actually don’t dislike it as you expected. In fact sometimes you actually like it – it may even become your favorite.  This is because you have either used your imagination to expect something really bad or not thought about it, not used your imagination at all.
So does this mean its better not use one’s imagination? No, I don’t think so! No, of course not! How can one advocate not using one’s imagination?  Imagination has given us so much.
Imagination of many great men has been the cause for many scientific discoveries and inventions; imagination of other great people has made them create beautiful paintings, wonderful sculptures and amazing melodies that would sooth our soles. Even capturing those melodies in tapes, records or CDs has been possible only because some scientist, some technician first imagined capturing them and preserving them. And if not for the imagination, what would we have in name of literature?
Actually, anything and everything that is good and is of any meaning has its origin in someone’s imagination. Of course, we can’t deny that imagination can also be cause for hatred and actions based on hatred. Imagination can also be cause for overindulgence sometimes and for ravaging of nature.
So obviously imagination itself is not enough to decide whether a person will be good or bad. And just imagining things will not do anything for a person. Just imagining things is called day-dreaming, living in a dream world. On a daily basis all of us are imagining something, about something we want to do, something we wish to see, something we want to happen, someone we would like to meet or something we want to eat. And of course it can be very enjoyable to just sit around and imagine things. But as we all know, just imagining does not do anything for our progress or growth. It does not do anything for our own good, forget someone else’s good or progress.
Imagination gives us wings – it gives us our dreams. Not only the dreams which we dream in our sleep, for those too come from our imagination, but the dreams you dream in wakeful awareness. The dreams that make one want to become a scientist or an artist. But to turn this dream into something real and meaningful, you need to firstly apply your thinking to the imagination. While the imagination itself is one type of “thinking”, one needs to apply a different type of thinking, a more logical thinking which takes into account ground realities and can define what your “aim” has to be for your dream to come true, can break it down in smaller steps if required and can come up with a sort of an equation of how to start with what you have and how to reach your goal.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Murphy’s Laws & Serendipity:

I have seen my life is fond of following Murphy’s laws. Laws, corollaries everything!!
I invest in a particular stock and it goes down. I buy gold and its price drops. 
Even on day to day basis – the day I decide to go home early, there is heavy traffic on roads when I leave the office earlier than usual and I end up reaching home later than a usual day. When I drive to work (and this happens practically every day), the lane I am in is the slowest.
If I change lanes, then the earlier lane starts moving faster. Of course, if I don’t change the lane, it keeps being the slowest.
If I decide to sleep early, either I get a phone call late in the night or there is a movie of the TV that I have been meaning to watch for a very long time!
When I decide to start exercising regularly, either I get stuck in something or better still, I get sick!!
I had missed my connecting flight from Washington DC to Seattle, the first time I traveled to US. I have missed Mumbai - Bangalore flight because the taxi came late. And I once got stuck in London for 2 days while flying from Seattle to Mumbai since there was a security scare at the Heathrow airport. They grounded all the flights and put us all through a lot of trouble.
You see, Murphy's laws are followed all the time!!
However, I have also seen Serendipity playing a part in my life – on a regular basis.
I end up meeting the right people at the right time, by chance. I find the information I need, by chance. Sometimes I get some information and find that I need to put it to use soon afterwards. I end up seeing the right kind of programs on TV even though I do not watch a whole lot of TV and don’t watch anything particular at any particular time.
So, I wonder if, even when the life seems to be following Murphy’s laws, it is actually serendipity at play in some form. And maybe I am not able to see it as such because I am looking only for obvious outcomes or for specific outcome I am looking for….

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My other blog

So, now that I have started blogging, one blog does not seem enough. And since I want to write about a particular topic apart from various thoughts, ideas and views, I have started another blog.

Check it out. Feedback is most welcome -

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why do I want to write....

I recently started blogging and right now I am struggling to write on a regular basis. And I have been thinking about why I have not been writing so far.
1.      One major reason was not having the time. But I have come to realize that, that is really just an excuse. It is a combination of laziness and not being very serious about the intention. The laziness is of the mind – to put in the effort to do something new, give it the time and effort required to make sure that the outcome is of good quality. And that effort is put in only when we are serious about doing something.
2.      Another reason has been not being confident about being able to write well. The fear that what I write would not be good or readable. But then, that will change only if I keep writing and keep refining what I write. After all, like everything else, writing too can improve only with practice.
3.      Yet another reason – who will be interested in reading what I write? Maybe many may be none. But not writing is no way to find out if anyone is interested or not.
So I finally had this nice little discussion with myself on the above points and making very logical argument about each, I told myself that you (that is I J) have to write – that is start writing regularly.
As for why do I basically want to write? It is simply because I feel like writing, because I think I have things to say and share.
Of course there is a more interesting answer to this question.  Here goes – I want to write a lot and become very famous. I should become so famous that when I die, if someone goes to a publisher with material that I had written but that I didn’t dare publish while I was alive, publishers should be really interested in publishing that material. For I have a lot of stuff that I would like to tell the world that I don’t dare to while I am alive. J

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010: Last Year in my life

2010 is over. It went by very fast. It seemed to have zoomed off ever faster than the earlier years. As one grows older, I think the years really speed up.  But in this first week of 2011, I really feel like reviewing 2010 – the year that is over.
2010, I thought was a good year. It was a year of new beginnings for me. I started living alone after a long time. I also created my blog and now hope to write regularly.
2009 had been a bad year for me in many ways, so 2010 was that much more special. 2009 was marred by some serious health problems and I was unhappy at work too. In 2010 both those things changed in my favor. My treatment got over by March 2010 and my role at work changed in April 2010. My illness forced me to do some introspection (or was it the medication that I felt had taken away my clarity of thought? J) and so in 2010 I was able to decide on a few things I want to do going forward. And this “year in retrospect” is a result of one of those things I want to do regularly – write, blog…
A few things happened in April 2010 – my parents, who had been living with me, moved back to their house in the city. And it was a big move for them but also for me. I too moved with them so that work could be done at my flat (kitchen and bathrooms to be redone and painting). As soon as my parents moved back, the stray cats came back too – they had not forgotten my parents. There is a small difference of course, earlier my parents fed them milk, now they feed them cat food!
In that same month my parent, Ojas my 10 year old nephew and I went to Mahabaleshwar (a hill station) for some R&R. we spent 4 wonderful days there. Ojas and I went for early morning bike ride and went hiking a little at various points there. Sometimes we all just sat in the veranda eating berries, chatting, or listening to prayers in the temple on the estate. It was good, relaxing time…
In May 2010, I went to US on work. I was going to US after a gap of 2.5 years, so I was quite looking forward to it. Like most of my US trips, this too was a wonderful trip. I met a lot of friends and some family, visited various places, shopped at some of my favorite places and ate the kind of food I miss in India. This was the first time when I was in bay area for over 2 weeks. I stayed in Santa Clara, near the train station and quite loved the surround area. I also took the train from Santa Clara to San Francisco and back.
Some major highlights of the bay area were –
·         Meeting Neeti, my dear friend from University days after a real long time (18 years?!) We spent a day together talking about everything under the sun – just like the old times. And of course remembering people from the past and laughing about incidents.
·         Day trip to San Francisco – took the caltrain from Santa Clara in the morning, spent the whole day in Frisco and after dinner with Matt, Sydney, and Rob I took the same train back to Santa Clara.  Matt was my guide in the de Young museum. I love going to art museums anyway, but going with someone like Matt, is really a great experience. He knows a lot; he can give you the history and explain how to look at different works. And he can even criticize supposedly great works. You do learn to see art in more depth. We also went over the GG Bridge to the other side, and to see the bridge from the view point on the hill. It was windy and did get kind of chilly. But it also was a beautiful and clear day; perfect for taking some pictures.  It is always a pleasure to spend time with them. They all are such warm people and Rob is very funny.
·         I also met Ram & Manisha at their place – Ram is still super funny! And both of them are still so simple, down to earth and warm people. Its very comfortable at their place.
·         Went over to Hemangi’s place couple of times – once when other cousins too were there and once just the night before flying back.  Both the times were fun but different kinds of fun.
·         Spent one evening with Chris & his beautiful wife Ina – the dinner at the nice Italian restaurant was good and conversation interesting…

I landed in Seattle on a clear, sunny and beautiful Saturday afternoon, (yes, strange, especially for a Saturday to be so sunny there! J)and spent about 4 days in the Puget Sound.

The same evening I met bunch of friends from my Microsoft days. Scott & Leanne were there, Dan was there with his girlfriend, Lawrence was there and Marion too. And of course, Rob & Viv who arranged the get together and their two adorable sons! It was a wonderful evening of catching up on each other’s stories as well as remembering old times.

      On Sunday, Sandhya and I went to see the Ice caves. Didn’t quite get to see the caves but it was a fun outing.
I went to Seattle downtown on work and had a parking nightmare, almost. It didn’t quite become the nightmare that it had all the promise of becoming but was good enough to scare me once again about me driving into downtown.
I went to the downtown once again with Anupam and Aditee and this time I was very happily not in the driver’s seat. Anupam managed to Parallel Park with such ease in a tight spot that I almost got mad at him!! They too took me to a Thai place for dinner - a veg only place – pretty cool. 
     Of course, as usual I spent one evening with Naomi and Henry at their house.  One of the things I always look forward to when I go to Seattle-Bellevue is spending time with Naomi & Henry. They are like my family there….
I also went over to Phoenix for a weekend. This was a fun weekend – time spent with Ritu, Manish and their very cute son Kush. It was wonderful to catch up with Ritu and also to discuss (argue?) capitalism with Manish and her. J And Kush is really a very loving child.  I came back to India all refreshed but also tired….
Soon after coming back from the US, I went to Bhopal in June 2010. There were about 10 of us from work – we went there for campus recruitment. We also managed a side trip to Sanchi to see the Stupa. This was a good trip – the museum also was worth the visit.
 The same evening, we went and saw the then newly released movie – “RajNeeti” primarily because good part of that movie was filmed on locations in Bhopal. The movie gave me quite a headache. I am OK with silly movies and fun movies and typical Hindi movies without logic but when movies that are supposed to be realistic defy logic my brain hurts!!
After coming back from Bhopal, I moved back in my own place on June 19th. My sister & brother-in-law moved into their flat almost at the same time. It was period of a lot of changes for our families. I moved in June but it started feeling like home only recently. These things take time – they take as much time as you give them… J
In July, I met a few of my school mates (Ashwini, Dhanashree, Shilpa, Deepa, Jayashree, Vaishali & Swati) after about 25 years. And we have to thank Mark Zuckerberg  for this gathering. In fact I need to thank Facebook for finding many, many friends…
I was supposed to go to Leh-Ladakh in August 2010. This was to be a Jeep Safari from Manali to Leh and then going across the Kahrdung –La to the Numbra Valley. Something I had really been looking forward to. But just a few days before we were to leave Pune, Leh had to face that disastrous cloud burst and the whole area became a victim of that calamity. We only had to cancel our trip but for many in the area, life changed forever…
In September 2010 I met more of my old friends. Manoj had come down from US and Shah, Sandeep Anand, Vishwas, Dhananjay Sapre and I met with him over lunch. It was a real long lunch that lasted over 3 hours.  Everyone had many stories to share – we were meeting after a long time. Manoj of course talked the most and Shah was really funny – like he used to be in Univ days. It really felt like being back in the Univ. The only thing different was that we weren’t at the OC (Old Canteen)…
On 27th October 2010 my Mama (my mother’s brother) turned 60. So my parents, two of my Maasis (mother’s sisters), my sister, my nephew and I went over to Nasik on this day to give him a surprise party. Another Maasi who lives in Nasik had arranged everything – like inviting the people over to Mama’s place in the evening, the food for the part, the cake etc. My Mama was definitely surprised. And I am not sure about how much fun he had, but we had a GREAT time! My sister shares her birthday with him and so we had 2 birthdays that day – though his was the big 6 O one…
In early November, my parents and I again went to Nasik – this time to spend Diwali with my uncle and grandmother who is very old and bed ridden.  Diwali turned out to be a lot of work. The maid at Mama’s place vanished and so my mom and I ended up doing lot of housework, including a long session of cleaning. But overall it was a good break. Nasik is always enjoyable and Mama’s place is very comforting…

Later in Nov, Arati and I went on a trip to see the Himalayas. We flew to Delhi on 20th morning and spent the day at Suchitra’s place. Harshavardhan, Suchitra’s five year old took care of the entertainment till evening when we left for our train. We got off at Ramnagar at around 5:30 AM on 21st – Arati’s birthday. Our Innova was waiting at the small station to take us to Pangot, which is a little north of Nainital. Our driver was a very nice person and a safe driver. He was quite knowledgeable about the state and that really helped. Next one week was spent in blissful serenity in Pangot, Binsar and then finally at Corbett national park. In Pangot and Binsar, the accommodations were very good; food was delicious and overall service was outstanding. Corbett was kind of disappointing but not really bad. It is just that by the time we went there our expectation were really high after Pangot & Binsar. This was a lovely one week away from the real world – no TV, no radio, no newspapers – the places we stayed were quite remote and so in Pangot and Corbett, there was no cell phone connectivity either. 

It used to get quite cold in the evenings and it used to be very dark too, since there were no city or even road lights. You could see so many stars that it seemed surreal… The sunrises and sunsets, the way the Nandadevi and surrounding mountains looked in early morning and late evening, the various species of local and migratory birds that we got to see – it all really felt like a different world or at least a different time…
In December we all gathered in Mumbai for my cousin Shirish’s wedding.We all gathered together on 24th since the wedding was on 26th. And for 4 days we lived life “Indian Wedding Size” – lots of relatives, lots of food, music and dancing, very little sleep and many rituals. It was hectic, of course, but so much fun too! On 27th night my parent, sister, nephew and I came back to Pune.
December turned out to be important for another reason. I had been thinking about blogging for a while but had not gotten down to doing it so far. But in December I finally created my blog and also managed to write a little.
My sister and I had already decided that we would quietly celebrate start of 2011 at my parents place – and that is what we did. We watched two of our favorite Shammi Kapoor movies, made coffee at 11:30 pm and cut the Irish cream cake at midnight. It was a perfect ushering in for a wonderful 2011, I thought.