Tuesday 29 November 2016

Travel diaries : Tadiyandamol trek, Coorg

Tadiyandamol in Coorg, is the sixth highest peak in Karnataka. Standing at 1748 meters MSL, this trek is not too difficult even for a beginner, yet is laced with great scenic beauty along the way. 

It is common knowledge that planning a trip with 10-15 people is as difficult as to persuade a cat to not chase a rat; basically it is nearly impossible. So I decided not to wait for anyone and just booked this one with the 'Bangalore mountaineering club'. They would arrange for the travel from and back to Bangalore, the stay in Tadiyandamol, the food there, a couple of instructors to travel with us, and the permission from the forest department, so I thought it is a pretty good idea to try it out. Another plus is, being in a relatively foreign city, I would get to meet new people; be it interesting, boring, hostile or friendly, but new people, which for me is an exciting prospect anytime, anywhere.

So I reached my pick up point at 10 PM on the 11th of Nov'16, Friday, and got onto the bus 15 - 20 minutes later. The bus was already packed with the rest of the participants, and I did feel as if I was the only one who was alone, and would be trekking alone the next day too. Nobody was talking much, so I just slept off and woke up when we reached the homestay at around 4:30 AM. We would start trekking at around 8:30 AM, so we got ourselves another couple of hours sleep. I expected to be sleeping in some run down hut somewhere in the middle of nowhere, but the homestay was much better than I expected.  

After waking up 2 hours later, we freshened up a bit and went down for some coffee and breakfast. I started talking to a couple of people while having breakfast. Our conversations were mainly limited to treks which each of us had gone on before, but it was really nice to hear them talk about their experiences. 

We left all the unnecessary luggage back at the homestay and carried with us only the essential things like flashlights, raincoats, snacks, caps etc. The starting point of the trek was half an hour away from the homestay, so we took off on the bus again and reached by around 9:30 AM. Vehicles can go a couple of kilometers further, but we would walk it, because come on, what's a trek if it we do not sweat it out! 

After walking on concrete roads for a kilometer or two, we reached the point where the trek through narrow paths and trails would start. Just before that, all of us gathered at one place. The two instructors gave us a tiny brief of do's and don't's, and all of us gave a brief introduction of ourselves. And off we went!

One of the instructors was leading us, and I stuck with him almost the entire duration of the trek. The trail went through forests, then greens, then meadows. The view was awesome and the feeling, indescribable. Even though pictures too fall short of the exhilarating and surreal feeling you get when you are there in person, let the rest of the journey be spoken by them.

View from the top of a rock

Trail going through a forest

View from about 50 meters from the peak 

We reached the peak at around 12:30 PM. Even though all of us were tired, reaching the peak just injects one with renewed energy and vigor. It was completely cloudy and was impossible to see anything beyond 3-4 meters. It was a little nippy too, which was refreshing actually. We had our packed lunch at the peak and started descending an hour later.

A view while on our way down

The descent took us another 3 hours or so, as we were almost ambling down and taking over long breaks, unwilling to part from the greens that easily. We refilled water from a nearby waterfall, and the chilled, pure water felt out of the world. 

We reached the homestay at around 5:30 PM, and coffee and hot pakodas were waiting for us. We gobbled as much as we could and went for baths one by one. 

A campfire was set up for us when it got dark, and that's when the inhibitions melted away, as everyone joined in on the conversations. Dinner was served at around 8 PM. The food was amazing. Chapatis, dal, sabji, and even chicken was on the menu. 

After dinner, most of us stayed back, and played dumb charade. It was a lot of fun, especially because it was around 12-13 strangers playing a game which requires team work, albeit in a small way. We were really tired too, so after a few games, we retired for the night.

Next morning, we woke up around 7 AM, freshened up, got some breakfast, and left for Bangalore. On the way, we went to the 'Golden temple', which is a Buddhist monastery. We sat there for a good 20 minutes, and it was really peaceful.

The bus journey was also an interesting one. We played 'Mafia' almost the entire way, and it was a lot of fun, so much fun that I never gave a damn about my luggage and forgot my camera in the bus when I hurriedly got down. I got it back later though, as the BMC people kept it in their office, and I went and collected it from there a couple of days later. 

This trek was unique for me because I went alone on this one with a dozen strangers. But it is also one I will cherish for a long time because it was a great experience overall. Also, meeting people who are so passionate about trekking, has infected me with an inclination to go for more treks and experience the beauty of nature, raw and unadulterated. Trekking with BMC was awesome too, and I went again to Kudremukh a couple of weeks later; a post about which will be up shortly. 

Sunday 23 October 2016

Travel diaries : Kumara Parvatha trek

More often than not, the journey leaves a more enduring legacy than the end. Certainly, the view from the top of Kumara Parvatha (above) will be etched in my memory for a long time. 
But entwined firmly with the triumph of scaling the summit, is the story of the expedition to the peak. 

So on the 30th of September 2016, we set out for Kumara Parvatha. After a 7 hour bus journey from Bangalore, we reached Kukke Subramaniya at around 4:30 AM. We were 12 in all; few of them having trekked to the top as many as 7-8 times before, and the rest of us, rookies, attempting our first climb. We had some breakfast and packed ourselves a lot of 'pulao' and water, as we wouldn't get much of it till the next morning, when we would descend. In case you are looking forward to go for this trek, here is a list of essentials you might want to have with you. I didn't have the important things myself, but I was lucky because it didn't rain, and I descended down just minutes before the mist set in and got really dark, and also that I didn't slip down the cliff hundreds of feet below and die.

- A strong backpack     (I didn't have one)

- A rain coat     (didn't)
- A flashlight with new batteries     (nah)
- Shoes with a nice grip     (nevermind)
- Lots of water and food
- A fresh set of clothes
- A blanket or some warm clothes to keep you warm at night
- A cap
- Sunglasses

The picture above might have been taken at around 6:45 AM, and this is just moments before we started. After walking through the streets for 10 minutes, we entered a forest, where the trek officially begins. Most of us rookies were excited enough to make the climb and back three times that very day. 45 minutes later some of us were already praying to God for forgiveness for our sins, and to stop this pain and suffering.

From my experiences of treks (albeit from just one before this!), the first hour is the most difficult, and the journey becomes easier after that. So most of us actually got acclimated as we kept going. 

An annoying bit was leeches. The forest was crawling with them, and 17 seconds after we removed 5 of them from our shoes, another 8 would magically appear.

An hour and a half later, we reach a rock and took a much needed 15-minute break. 

We kept moving through the forest for another hour, before we reached this clearing. The view was so soothing, that I completely forgot about the last couple of hours and just sat there for half an hour, soaking it all in.

After this point, the trail is no longer through the forest, but through open land. The view just kept getting better and better, because I couldn't keep my camera down for more than a minute, but I had to keep walking too. 

Three and a half hours after we had started on our way up, we reached viewpoint 1. We took another half an hour break here and had some snacks that we had packed. The breathtaking views, steady breeze and the infectious calm was the perfect recipe for divine peace and tranquil.

We walked a mere 5 minutes from here and reached the forest check post. Important to mention here that nobody is allowed to camp at the peak of Kumara Parvatha at night. So after the climb, everyone has to descend to this place to camp.

We kept most of our stuff here barring water, food, flashlights and raincoats, which we would need for the rest of the trek. We had run out of water, so we refilled our bottles too.
Just next to it is Battermane (or Bhatru mane, I'm not too sure), a place where you can get food if you inform the guy beforehand. I hadn't, so I slept hungry that night, but don't make that mistake! Here is his contact number I found on Google :  +91-9448647947, +91-9480230191, +91-8151036344.

As we already had a long break a little while ago, we ventured out for the remainder of the journey with renewed vigour, having had the satisfaction of completing about half of it. 

The path was rocky, as it would be till the peak, but it was amidst lush green grass all around. It wasn't getting any less steeper though, so some of us did struggle a little bit. But at around 12:30 PM, three of us reached another landmark, called Kallumantapa (below). 

Here we took out the pulao and devoured it, but we couldn't eat much too, as we still had some distance to cover. So I started clicking pictures again. Everything around was so pure and untampered, that I could just sit there all day long.

We waited till about 1:15 PM for the rest of the group to reach Kallumantapa, and as soon as they reached, the three of us deserted them again and started climbing up.

The view just kept getting more divine and etheral. 

An hour later, we reached the Shesha parvatha. It has a ledge looking down almost 1500 meters. With the strong winds and the infinite drop, it is really scary to go near the edge. But even sitting a few meters away from the edge is exhilarating to say the least.

The penultimate phase of the trek involved another 25 minute stint through a forest (with leeches again!).

And just like we have the toughest level in the end of a computer game, we came out of the forest to a steep, slippery monolith. Just to remind you again, wearing sneakers is a bad, bad idea. One misstep, and you might tumble down like Jack or Jill. I thankfully didn't though.

At around 2:45 PM, four of us reached the peak, standing at 1712 meters high. We were hungry, exhausted, but satisfied and happy. 

There were clouds all around and we could hardly see anything around the hill. Just a 10 second window allowed me to click a couple of pictures.

We had a packet of Oreo, the best Oreo I ever had. 20 minutes later we were on our way back down. 

The adventure was far from over though, not for me but for the others. I raced down to the forest check point along with a friend so we could set up tent for the night, and the descent might have taken around an hour and 45 minutes. But even at 5 PM, the clouds started to get heavier and visibility reduced drastically. I must say I made it just in time, but the others clearly did not. The other 10 people were divided into 3 further groups. One made it at 6 PM, another 8 PM, and the last of them at around 10 or 11 maybe (I was too worried for them to notice the time). It had started to rain a little, which makes the path very slippery. Also, they had one torch among three people, so they had to stick close together and take one careful step at a time. These guys came back with a hundred tumbles among them and leeches all over there feet. That is why a recap; carry good shoes, a flashlight and a raincoat.

After all the drama, we retired for the night. Probably because of the dew setting in, the tent was completely wet, and water was dripping inside too. I slept in the corner, and everytime my hands or feet grazed the fabric, I would wake up instantly and recoil like I touched a live wire. I woke up in the morning shivering, but the view outside calmed me down. 

At around 7 AM, we began our descent to Kukke Subramaniya, and in 3 hours we made it without any hassles. After a long due lunch, we took a bus back to Bangalore.

The trip was one I will always remember, because it had all the elements of an epic expedition; it had adventure, mistakes, thrills, suspense, joy, a sense of fulfilment, and a happy ending where every one made it back alive! I have already planned a few more treks in the coming months, and I hope it will be as epic as this one.

Monday 10 October 2016

The real life 'Electric-man' - Nikola Tesla

(image courtesy : payload288.cargocollective.com)

When we talk about some of the greatest inventors of all time, we immediately think of greats like Galileo, Edison, Graham Bell, or the Wright brothers. Most of us have heard of 'a' Nikola Tesla, and some of us even know that he was a great inventor. But very few people actually know how much of an impact his inventions has had on the world as we know it. Even I had no idea to be honest, until I decided to dig deeper. Now I regard him as one of the greatest inventors who ever lived. And please don't compare him to Edison... Edison was a douche...a great man, but a douche nonetheless... and I'll tell you why in a bit. 


He was born on the 10th of July, 1856 in Smiljan (present day Croatia). His mother would invent household things all the time, and that spurred an interest in young Tesla towards sciences. His father was an orthodox priest and a writer, but Tesla attributes his success to both his parents. For more information about his childhood, you can refer to the links provided below.

Wikipedia page
Full biography


During his college days, Tesla was struck by an idea of a working motor that produced alternating current, but his professor ridiculed him. He also built a prototype trying to explain investors his idea of alternating current, but none of them backed him. So he decided to move to New York in 1882 to meet none other than Thomas Alva Edison, who by this time, was a renowned inventor and businessman, and was earning a great deal of money from his invention of direct current. Edison however termed the idea unnecessary, but he hired Tesla to repair lighting systems. Soon Tesla became one of Edison's most valuable employees. So in 1885, Edison offered Tesla $50,000 to improve the efficiency of Edison's DC generators. What does Tesla do... he delivers on his promise. What does Edison do... tells Tesla that offering him $50,000 was just a joke, and offered him a raise of $10 a week. Just like anybody else would do, Tesla resigned immediately.


Tesla was forced to take up a job digging ditches. Two investors however soon approached him and offered to invest in his alternating current project and offered him a laboratory in New York, where he built systems and generators, thus, earning him 7 patents. But his real breakthrough came when he was asked to lecture at the American institute of Electrical engineers, where his visionary ideas caught the eye of the investor George Westinghouse. Tesla built a lab for himself and got to work on his ideas of not only the alternating current system, but many other systems which were a framework for many of our modern day gadgets and technology.

Meanwhile pets were disappearing at an alarming rate in New York... Why? Because young children were paid 25 cents per pet they catch... By whom? Well Edison of course!... And why? Because Edison and his investor, Morgan, knew that if Tesla's AC systems were allowed to be developed, it would kill their own DC systems... Which is why electrocuting animals with alternating current to show people how dangerous it could be, was Edison's way of quashing competition. *slow claps* . Oh wait, frying a few animals isn't really enough to catch public attention. So what does Edison do... he finds a human guinea pig (William Kemmler), and electrocutes him to make his point, thus giving the world its first electric chair. *more slow claps*

Tesla's response was pretty epic. He demonstrated the lighting of bulbs by letting alternating current through his body. If there was any doubt as to who was the winner of the batle of the currents, the contract provided to Westinghouse and Tesla to light up the Chicago world fair in 1893, laid everything to rest. Tesla used flourescent tubes and bent them to spell out people's names, thus, making the world's first neon lamps. The 100000 lamps which lit up when the President switched them on, wowed the crowds like nothing else. He even displayed many of his other inventions on display, such as emitting lightning bolts from the Tesla coil. 

The electricity hall at the Chicago world fair, 1893
(image courtesy : histroyrat.wordpress.com)

TESLA - 1    EDISON - 0


Tesla has a total of around 278 patents, but he could have had a lot more of those. The truth is he wasn't at all interested in patents or any form of monetary gains. He had an eidetic memory (more commonly known as photographic memory), which allowed him to visualise most of his experiments in his head, without making too many initial drawings. Due to this, and his disconnect from the material world, he often forgot to write down his inventions on paper. Add to it, the fact that Tesla was totally against war, and thus, never disclosed many of his technologies to the world, just so that it is not used in acts of war. A good example of this is the 'death ray', in simple terms, a continuous ray of electrical discharge, which he never disclosed, as he believed the world needs to beready to use it to end war, rather than to fight wars. Till date, nobody has been able to recreate that effect, but we do see it a lot in science fiction.


Many of the gadgets we use in our daily lives today, or technologies which define our modern day world, had its roots in Tesla's laboratory more than a century ago. A few examples would be


Possibly one of the world's first X-ray of Mark Twain in Tesla's lab, March'1984
(image courtesy : s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com) 

William Rontgen is known as the person who invented the X-ray. Truth is Tesla was the first person to investigate and take X-ray images in the world. Unfortunately his laboratory caught fire and all his work was lost, while Rontgen developed on the technology and got to the finish line first.


(image courtesy : a2ua.com)

During the first world war, Tesla put forward his invention of the first RADAR to the US navy, but apparently, Edison, who was the head of the research and development team of the US navy at that time, convinced them that it had no practical application in war. *some more slow claps*


Not saying that Tesla invented the transistor, but Tesla held the patents for the technology of transistors many decades before it was invented.


Neon lighting was invented by Tesla in the 1890's
(image courtesy : lh4.ggpht.com)

Yes this was Tesla too.


Again, Tesla

WIRELESS COMMUNICATION (effectively, the technology used in mobile phones)

Edison.. Eh just kidding. Tesla, it was Nikola Tesla!


The radio was built on a technology put forward by Tesla
(image courtesy : cdn2.ubergizmo.com)

Yes, Gugliemo Marconi is credited with the invention of the Radio. But his entire work was based on the works of guess who..? Exactly, Nikola Tesla! Tesla in fact is the first person to record radio waves from outer space. But when Marconi was given the patent for the radio, what does Tesla say... "Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents". Such a nice chap.


After the use of AC spread throughout the world, Nikola Tesla was supposed to get a huge sum of money along with royalties per horse power of AC motors sold, as per his deal with the Westinghouse company. But the Westinghouse company itself was going bankrupt due to some rumours spread by JP Morgan (Edison's investor). On hearing this, Tesla spoke to Westinghouse and said that the royalties which he owed Tesla at that time (amounting to about $1 million), and any further royalties could be waived, which allowed the Westinghouse company to remain in business. If Tesla got his royalties during his lifetime, he would have been the world's first billionaire. Instead, he died penniless in 1943, primarily because nobody at that time understood the practicality of his visions, hence leaving him without any investors in his later life.


What bothers me the most is the fact that even today, this genius is hardly given credit for his contributions to the world. I don't remember ever reading about him in school, nor anybody ever mentions how great an inventor he is. His story reminds me of Vincent Van Gogh in the art world, who like Tesla, never got any due recognition in his lifetime. But just like Van Gogh has finally become synonymous to the art world, I hope a day comes when Tesla too is placed high up the ladder in the world of inventors.

Sunday 14 August 2016

The story of a suicide - A review

(image courtesy : ste.india.com)

The story of a suicide is a tale of 4 lives, their journey amidst a flurry of emotional turmoil, and the repercussions of their actions, which forces one of them to call an end to his/her journey of life. It all begins with a bit of a backstory of two of the main characters, Sam and Hari, and offers us an insight into some of the people in their lives, their respective emotional states, and their starkly contrasting backgrounds. They are both enrolled into a prestigious institution which they are due to attend shortly. On the very first day of college, an unprecedented incident gets Sam acquainted with Charu and Mani, the former a rather attractive senior, and the latter, Charu's dear friend emotionally free falling due to the burden of expectations, and his failure to fulfill them. Sam and Charu immediately hit it off and Sam is head-over-heels for the strong, blatantly honest, and a rather quirky Charu. But the closer he gets to her, the quirkiness of Charu confuses him more and more and unveils a certain mysterious side of her. Meanwhile, Hari and Mani find solace in one another due to their dark pasts which has left a deep scar in both their lives. But it is not all rosy and joyous, as things take a turn for the worse for all of them.  All of it leads to a whirlwind of emotions and forces them to make choices out of anger, sorrow, deceit and passion.

The story is clearly aimed at the younger generation, who undergo similar bouts of extreme emotional turmoil, and the story definitely succeeds in certain aspects. The characters are very relatable to a common Indian middle class person, just out of school, and aspiring to do something big in life. Some of us might have had similar dark pasts, or know people who have had a traumatizing childhood, so we automatically tend to sympathise with Hari’s or even Mani’s childhood struggles. My favourite character by far is Charu’s though, who comes across as a strong, independent and a smart woman. She is quite unconventional in many ways, especially with her views, but not many can question her logic. Even though she is disliked by most, she is unperturbed and refuses to change, which shows a lot of confidence and defiance in a person. Sam’s character is a little less justifiable, but anyone could have made the choices he made. In addition to all this, the topic of homosexuality was brought up in the story, which is sadly still a taboo in our society. But I salute the author for having the courage to address this issue head-on and I am positive that the current brigade of the younger generation will be more open to the idea of homosexuality.

Even though the book delivers in many ways, there could have been a few improvements to it too. I feel the backstory of the characters could have been a little more descriptive, especially Charu’s. Even Sam’s perspective of his actions justifying his actions could have been an interesting addition to the story. Another aspect which seemed a little incomplete to me is the climax. I feel the build-up could have been a lot more descriptive. Also, delving deep inside the mind of the person just before he/she is attempting a suicide would have added an extra dimension to the storyline.

Rounding up, I liked the story in bits and parts, but it surely was an easy, quick read. The language is not complicated or intimidating, but quite fluid and simple, which is perfect for the target audience. I read it all in one go, probably 3-4 hours, and I wasn’t feeling any kind of a compulsion to keep going; it all went by nice and easy. I will definitely recommend this book to the 18-25 age bracket, as they will relate to it the most. On an added note, I like the illustrations too, which goes hand in hand with the storyline. 
Everyone has certain key points by which they judge a book. I like to rate it based on a book’s storyline, character development, the quality of writing and the climax on a scale of 0-5.

Storyline - 3.5/5
Character development - 3/5
Writing - 3/5
Climax - 2.5/5

Overall - 3/5

For those curious to read this intriguing story, follow the link provided below.

Friday 22 July 2016

Travel diaries : Coorg

Finally after months of planning, the entire office set out on a short trip to Coorg. There was no plan, no itinerary of where we will go or what we will do once we reach there. We just booked a mini bus from Bangalore, and a homestay there, and set out on Friday night. We were 17 of us, 6 of us carried our cycles, we had a few board games too, and a guitar, so we had that much planned at least, and hoped to have as much fun as we could.

Before we reached our homestay, we came across this bridge.
A pleasant gust of wind welcomed us as we got down the bus and the view all around was amazing

Even though we were sleepy and tired, we spent a good 10 minutes admiring the beauty of the lake and the forest all around, and the peace and the calm was soothing beyond words

Our home for the next two days was going to be this one here. Situated in a tiny clearing amidst all the greenery and a lake right infront it, was more than any of us could ask for

The view from the homestay was majestic to say the least

We all sat quietly and admired the sunrise

One by one people started to crash, but nobody was in any great hurry to go out anywhere again; we went there just to relax. The one's awake took out the guitar and started playing whatever we could, and the mood was already turning into a soothing and joyous one. Soon it was time for lunch, and we all headed out to Madikeri. By around 3:30 we were done and made our way to Mandalpatti. We did not climb to the top, but instead decided to walk to a stream nearby.

On our way there, we were already walking into scenes we can never imagine while living in a city. The above picture shows the beginning of a stream running down the hill slope

Our first glance of the stream. Add to it its soft murmur, and what you get is heaven

A view of the stream from where we stood

Walking in the knee-deep, cold waters was pure bliss

On the way back, we found more majestic views of the forests and the clouds and the hills. The beauty of the place was almost poetic

After coming back to the homestay, we freshened up. It was time for board games and guitar and fun and frolic. We went on late into the night, and it was more enjoyable than we thought it would be.

Next morning we again woke up at our own convenient times. Whoever were up a bit early, they took up cycles and rode for a couple of hours. The experience of riding amidst all the greenery and breathing in the fresh air was a great experience.

Soon it was time for us to make our way back to Bangalore. Felt like it came to an end all too soon, but maybe that's where the beauty of a place like Coorg is; we probably can't get enough of it... ever.