Between the Walls

How much can one’s perspective change while viewing a movie for the second time isn’t it? When I watched the first time I remember viewing the movie like a painting. Nothing really moves, the story, screenplay, frames or even Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler’s (Ulrich Mühe) facial muscles. Of all Haup’s muscle doesn’t move at all.

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This is a movie where you could have given a ‘great’ touch by including a self-induced grin from Ulrich Muhe. But to have not done shows the control the director has over the film and Muhe has over himself. Exactly what Nolan needs to learn and more recently while I watched Sshivada in Adhe Kangal where she overdid the grin.

The way Wiesler’s character develops is phenomenal. He remains there, like a stone, camouflaged into the walls wearing grey. In fact most of his scenes are surrounded by different shades of grey/blue. Nice use of colors there. And the transition from being bad to good was equally phenomenal. We don’t really see a specific incident for him to change colors. In fact when he does that, his ego is hurt and he immediately goes to his superior to report but changes his mind. You don’t expect such a change of heart from a man of his stature.

In the end the movie becomes pretty conclusive, may be that could have been avoided. It’s not a complaint but may be an open ending would have worked better.

Sunthara Boomi

I did a terrific mistake by reading the title as Sunthara Boomi and kept on reading it as Sunthara Boomi whenever Suthanthira Bhoomi was mentioned even inside the book. And that seemed to be more apt for the unrelenting sarcasm written in the book. Only after reading the prologue I got to know the title to be Suthanthira Bhoomi.

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Well, let’s talk about the prologue first. If Kagidha Malargals epilogue was the best I’ve ever read, Suthanthira Bhoomi’s prologue was one of the best I’ve read in recent times. I have the habit of reading anything apart from the story only at the last but may be for this, this one alone I felt I could have read the prologue first.

The book takes a different tone from any other political drama’s I’ve watched or read. The problem with the political dramas is that they always talk about rise and fall of people but they forget the very fact that they are people first more than the politician or celebrities. Here we get to know how those people will talk and behave at home other than being politicians. Like Sarala says, “kathar sataya kelatitu manusana va, politciana venam.”

The characters were nice, I don’t know whether I could go ahead and call it as brilliant because Indhra Parthasarathy is so oral, sometimes he talks so much that I feel like asking to shut up. I always feel like he overdoes, explaining each and every emotion and what’s worse, I don’t get a wow factor out of it. You see he can’t do what Woody Allen could do in an ‘I luff you’ in Annie Hall. But somehow I ended up reading his novels more than the other.

 

Winds of Change

500 Days of Summer is a kind of film which you’d love to write as much as you’d love to watch. It would be like how Levitt comes up with lines after he gets laid. You get that fluency while writing about this movie. That confidence you get when you know that you are a writer.

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It’s an ideal movie to watch with your girlfriend if you are within the first 250 days of this Summer episode. It might work in a different way post that too but holding hands and watching this movie with popcorn and Pepsi to your side and arms in the middle would be like how Levitt and Deschanel move around the model apartment in the film. From a distance I feel as if I’m one of the younger couples being seen by an older couple while getting cozy and giggle about it. What a beautiful scene that was, in bed.

I didn’t find Summer sexy, nor beautiful but autumn, yeah, incredibly sexy. May be not my type of girl. But this guy Levitt scores big time. Huge fan of him. I should have put this as a disclaimer first up. I guess I was the only person who wrote about Levitt more than Bale or Tom Hardy or Nolan when I reviewed The Dark Knight Rises. I equally liked him in 50-50. He’s got something about him which would make you instantly connect with him. That Vijay Sethupathi effect that he has…

Like Ebert mentioned or I don’t know, somewhere else I read, the movie talks about 500 days of Summer. 500 in brackets, which means it’s not the 500 days in chronological order. That’s how you remember love, the best moments, the worst moments, and the moments. It’s only the moments and not the complete story. I think I’d have quoted this ‘n’ number of times, right from my lecture to stories to my book. That’s one favorite point about the movie.

The disclaimer at the start of the movie, if you remember, holds out for a good few seconds more than a regular disclaimer. It also ends in a pun. Bitch! It gives you a cue that it’s going to be a soup story but with films like 500 Days of Summer you can’t really be sure which side it would turn. It goes here and there till the final moment in the climax. But you got to accept that no matter how it’d have ended you’d have come out of theatre as a happy man..

500 Days of Summer is about a pleasant sadness, mild happiness, not a shout out loud moment as if you’ve won a trophy, it’s that feel that you get when you drive at a constant speed in a deserted road and a silent music without earphones.

Talking about music, if a movie could work so much for a person who has limited knowledge about English music, how lovely it would have been for someone who loves music and had enjoyed it like how we did for Ilayaraja. They’d have got the nostalgia that we get with Ilayaraja music in Subramaniapuram.

It’s not only that, even the references are beautiful. In music if it was about naming the pet dog after Springsteen, Bruce, of course. In movies it was about Before Sunrise, only that they end up in adult store instead of record room, and in movies within movies it’s Bergman which for Allen fans automatically draws inspiration to Manhattan scene and the park where Levitt scenes, without the parking lot of course. Isn’t it beautiful? Shouldn’t films be made like this, for joy, more than anything else? What’s more pleasant than getting a Kulfi at 10 PM when you walk home tired from office. No Häagen-Dazs or Baskin Robbins is gonna match that. Hopeless romantic that I’m, but, without spending a penny.

You don’t appreciate framing or cinematography out rightly in 500 Days… because that’s how it was supposed to look like. Rather you appreciate moments in film making as well, that opening and closing of lift when he initially sees her, the edit from some 100th to 300th day through lift, the way the number of days changes from 1 to 2 to 200 to 400 to 400.5 to 401 etc. etc. Just random sequence. Random! What’s best, the song after he gets laid. I’ve never felt so happy even when my friends got laid. Oh wait, is Manja Potuthan from Kakki Satti choreography inspired from this song. I’m not complaining. I’m a fan of the song. But with Levitt and his innocent happiness, it looked a lot cuter.

I sincerely hope that Levitt lived happily ever after with Autumn, if not for anything else, for hotness sake.

P.S: Look, how easily I can write. Didn’t I say it before.

 

 

Eye for an eye

It was a jolly good feeling to have watched a pleasantly surprising movie after a long time in theatres. On a pre-valentine weekend when Love was toxically there in the air everywhere and I all could see was red color, hearteen symbol and cozy couples everywhere. Having got a seat next to couple’s seat in Escape, I was afraid that I’d be distracted by that, but good I wasn’t. They came at a juncture where the movie had picked up pace and I could hardly be distracted.

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The movie moved at a lazy pace initially. For the first fifteen minutes it was leading to nowhere. Lethargical acting, hurried screenplay and needless songs. Too many things were happening but we weren’t able to get involved with the film. Till the first twist, I was not sure where the movie was leading to.

There were a lot of twists and turns in the movie. Even though few were guessable and I had a noisy partner to accompany me, I could still enjoy the twists. Especially the climax twist with Thandhira song. Superb use of counterpoint music and the suddenness of the song was lovely. Music in fact was the best attribute to the film. Ghibran does few jazzy backgrounds, funny stopovers when Panju chases a guy and pleasant songs.

Kalairasan who was brilliant in Madras does a very mediocre attempt here. His character was reasonably well written. I loved the irritation he constantly has but he could have done a lot better. Sshivada was the only character among the leads who does a reasonable job and makes us like her in the climax. The real life saver was Bala Saravanan as Panju. What people were trying so hard to execute, he does it with élan.  It was like a team having a steep chase and batsmen were struggling at one end and someone comes and plays as if it’s the easiest pitch to play on. That’s what Bala Saravanan does here. The surprise package was Abishek Joseph George as Manoj. He does what Kalairasan couldn’t do in spite of having all the limelight on him.

The comic turn the film takes after Panju gets introduced was real nice. It wasn’t forced just to induce comedy. It was a good feel, more than the laugh out loud moments. Everyone were enjoying his presence on screen and the earthiness he brought to the film. The crowd got into splits especially when he says, “yaruya ava, enakae avala love pananum pola iruku.” Terrific timing. Not only that, he keeps performing in the side like the Oreo biscuit to Janani Iyer scene and explaining about his injury to a police during climax.

Good that they didn’t have a climax of climax and make Sshvada do something silly. It was good to see a heroine performing really well without any exaggeration after a long time. Even though the grin was good, it could have been avoided being done these many times. It loses its value you know. But seriously Sshvada looks different in each and every character she takes in the film. Be it the dressing style, body language etc. The final talk with Vikram still makes us believe her in spite of us knowing that she is lying. That’s a mark of good actor isn’t it?

 

 

 

Wings of Fire

A very very heavy novel which we all know would end up in something heavier in the end. And thus it does. But I didn’t like the climax, it was literal. There were a lot of events before that which got me more angry, more restless, more helpless than the climax.

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You see the way the story ends and the way it evolves. Even though we know that it’s the only way it could have ended, it could have been written in a million ways, it could have started in billion ways and it could have evolved in a trillion ways.

Why Siva who is a friend of Gopal who is an orphan who is already in his village leaving his job in Delhi acts as the starting point of story. It couldn’t have been made more multidimensional. It could have been so easily made like Swades, only with a harder climax. A guy from metro coming to a village which has caste bias and not succeeding but look how the focus shifts from Siva to Gopal to Comrade to Naidu and final clash between Naidu and all of us. Yes, us. That’s the power of Indira Parthasarathy. The way he makes us all root for the protagonists and how we all feel that our only enemy as Naidu is epic.

The story which is based on Kilvenmani incident mostly makes us restless through the prelude towards the incident, rather than the incident itself. By the time the incident had occurred, I had already given up and was only wishing that the lead characters don’t give up.

The problem with this novel is the problem that I generally have with other Tamil novels as well. The communist influence. Most of the novels that I’ve read have communist background, well, here even the foreground is communism. If it’s communist it becomes propagandish and anything propogandish loses its artistry. Here I’d attribute my liking of the novel to Siva and Gopal more than Naidu and Kilvenmani. Such helpless souls.

It’s not a surprise that a number of protests were held for the novel. I haven’t read anything bolder than this and it’s direct. But at least Tamil novels could be this honest. We can’t even think of making a movie half as honest as this. Don’t know whether to be proud of the fact or be sad that the novels don’t have any reach at all.

Powerless Spectacle

A film which I had been expecting for more than a year ended up to be a damp squib. Not sure whether it was the disappointment which made me sad or the ending of the movie. I’m unsure, really.

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There was lot of promise when the film started. A young Raees stealing glass from Gandhiji’s statue as he doesn’t have money to buy frame, I thought he was trying to paint some bigger picture with that. Of course we see the transition of specs and usage of specs in various ways but I didn’t really get the point. At the end of the movie it ended up to be a fancy spectacle and not an identity or some metaphor.

It was really sad to see Shahrukh not able to get a hold of what’s going on out there. My friend said how he was not in his elements recently. I was not aware that he wasn’t having a great box office run. Both Fan and Dear Zindagi looked promising to me, even though I haven’t watched them. Raees I thought would elevate his stature as what looked to be a serious film after a long time. Also the director looked like a very promising guy from what I heard. But the film was a major disappointment.

Look how inconsistent the movie was. A cinematic heroic SRK in the first half suddenly turns like a crying Kuruthipunal crying Kamal in the second half. Only that we empathize with Kamal but here we only could pity SRK for how it didn’t work at all. I feel bad for him, seriously!

A similar film Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, even though a commercial entertainer had all the mass elements, every scene works there, you feel like whistling for action sequence, dialogues etc. But here except for Shahrukh Khan’s intro, no scene really worked.

What’s sad is the whole movie would have looked great on paper, while shooting the director would have thought that he had made a great scene, actor would have thought that he had given a great performance, but as audience when we see it, there was absolutely nothing, no emotion at all.

I’m sure Shahrukh Khan would have done what would have been asked of him, I don’t know how much he’d have interfered with the director’s vision. Even if it had been that way, the film shouldn’t have been as bad as it was. If in Kabali, even though we get to know that Ranjith wasn’t given full freedom to do a film of his own, we get to see certain awesome scenes which only he could have done. In Raees we couldn’t see anything of that sort.

The only part that worked was the last ten to fifteen minutes, which at least stopped me talking to my friend. The only take away from this film was Nawazudin Siddique, what a terrific actor he is. Right from the Michael Jackson start to the stone faced end, he rocks in each and every scene. SRK, after whom the film is made of, doesn’t get the screen presence even in one scene.

The film is almost a Nayagan, only that it’s not. If the same film would have been taken by Mani Ratnam, he’d have given a totally different treatment and would have taken it to a whole new level.

I also didn’t like the making of film, how songs appear, how item song ends with violence, how SRK takes his wife for spin after she announces her pregnancy, the punch dialogues, the interval blocks etc. All these should have been done twenty years before. It should have rather been a tribute or a realistic portrayal. It was neither here nor there.

I don’t know why, the fact that the film didn’t work me has made me sad than being disappointed. May be it’s because of the selective movies I watch or because of the even more selective movies in theatre or worse am I losing interest in movies. What could be worse than that?

 

Close Shave

Even though it took me three sittings to finish watching the movie, not because the movie was uninteresting but because of the tiredness, it was such fun. Like any musical, the very first song gets you off hook. May be we are not used to the pattern, maybe we are to watch it in a different frame of mind or may be musicals aren’t just for me.

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Once it registered in my mind that I’d be taken off guard every now and then, I got more inclined to the story. I guess it was 3D to start with, the imageries were brilliant, giving it an animation and reality mix. You can’t really tell what it is.

Tim Burton is great fun to watch, his violence shocks you but in a good way, In Edward Scissorhands when Johnny Depp cuts the hair, you see Depp from bottom angle, its mostly his face that would be visible and scissors would be out of frame but with that screeching sound, it gives you enough thrill as a kid. And Burton is one director who takes art seriously. Children should watch his film. Not that it’d make any difference if you watch it as an adult. Most of his movies still worked for me.

With respect to Sweeney Todd, I found the violence to be a little bit gratifying to my taste. I’m more of a Tarantinoish violence fan. Sweeney had that violence with Burton’s humor. In fact, I missed humor for most of the part, or was it just me. Sweeney Todd to me was a very serious unrealistic movie. Or was it sarcasm to the highest level where I can’t even find out the sarcasm? Look how Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall) comes looking out for foul smell from chimney but no one knows about so many men missing. Could something be more absurd than this.

For Harry Potter fans you instantly are going to recognize everyone in the movie. Yes, like you, I too got a wait – what’s – Johnny Depp – doing – with – these – guys feeling. It settled after a while. Brits are brits. Period. Of all, definitely its Timothy spall, yes our very own Peter Pettrigew, who steals the show with that stylish cane of his, such fine acting. But it doesn’t mean that rest weren’t great. In fact, it’s the one movie after Donnie Brasco that I liked Johnny Depp’s acting. I’m not a big fan of his and his you-see-I’m-acting method of acting. He proved what’s he’s worth of there. This being Burton’s movie I was expecting another over the top performance by Depp which you’d love while watching but would never rate as one of the best acting performances. Both Burton and Depp proved me wrong here.

Loved the look of Depp too in the movie. In fact, make up was done to perfection. Of course its Burton and it’s a piece of cake for him.  But can you see how much effort would have gone through the scenes where the slithering of throats starts. All the actors who appear in the song would come just for a minute but they had to be given a complete makeover. Its scenes like these that elevate the experience of the moviegoers subconsciously and shows the sincerity of the directors. There are hundreds of ways to have avoided that and people wouldn’t have even known but it wasn’t. Respect!

This, like Final Destination proves what kind of sadists we are rooting for a person who had killed so many in the movie. If it’s us waiting for next accident to happen in Final Destination, it’s us waiting for next throat slit here. What funny people we are. When Sweeney (Johnny Depp) gets close to Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) towards the climax, I was cheering so loudly for Depp to slit everyone who comes across, his wife, his daughter and even the poor stupid kid. I had a good hearty laugh when that kid Toby (Ed Sanders) got his dose of cane whips from his master Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen).

That kid ought to have been killed, oughtn’t he?

This was the last of the planned Karnataka treks of the year. A lot of permutation, combination happened and four of us got together for trek. Hari – my wingman, Karthi – a regular from my yearly school trekking gang and Siva – friend of Mohan. None knew each other before the trek.

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Day 0 – Guilt, Pleasure and Solace

Half your trips are spoilt by your leads. If you had read my trek to Har Ki Doon, you’d remember how my TL spoilt the mood. It was the same this time too, just that this new person spoilt it a day before. I had to leave early so it felt even more horrible. This feeling of overcoming guilt is such a curious decision. What’s worse is I’ve to decide between working long hours to not feel guilty or be guilty and carry on with what I wanna do. Things would be lot better if I don’t work and not feel guilty. But I belong to the latter case.

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Anways sitting in Paranur station at 10.15 AM and thinking about future, getting sick seeing tons and tons of people going to the office while I’m waiting to get out from there. So similar to my life isn’t it. Every other day I would be one of those people. After the crowd dispersed I was sitting there head down along with my trekking bag, wearing my trekking shoes. Felt so much like M S Dhoni film poster. Sometimes you’d feel like, why not someone shoot my photo in this angle, it’d be epic. It was one such moment.

There were four boys, popcorn sellers, I guess from UP, two of them were fighting with each other, of course for no reason, violence is part of their life. The securities from my office were inquiring about the kids whereabouts and one was telling to each other, “ivangalukellam sapadu kedacha podhumntu irukanga” (they feel that getting food is enough). They were also inquiring, why they haven’t gone to school, why they came out of town etc. The kids didn’t have proper answer, they started playing (fighting) with each other, and they started playing with their own lives too.

A poor lady who came along with her kid in a shabby dress bought a popcorn, he was so happy, his mother was so happy seeing him happy. Later in the day while returning to Central after having lunch, near the subway I saw couple of people keenly looking to buy a small hand stitching sewing machine. I laughed inside, “Inga vanguravanum ezae, vikiravanum ezae, ithula nama kasta padromnu solitu irukom” (it’s the poor who buys, poor who sells, but we complain about our life) Don’t know why such varied thoughts were crossing my mind but it did.

Once I got into the train, in which I settled in a seat where sun wouldn’t beat. There were regular train goers, mostly sad and dejected. Looking at everybody’s face made me even sadder. Chennai being a sultry place, made these people sweat and look even sadder. And of course there were a couple who were getting cozy, not as cozy as go-get-a-room but cozier than aww-they-look-so-cute-together. At that moment I thought how I would have behaved. I think we’d have been the couple where an old lady, if she comes and sits opposite would smile to my girl. Of course I’d have been holding hands but not in a face turning way. Too many thoughts.

As I was reading a lot of Sujatha’s short stories off late. I thought everyone sitting there would have been a protagonist of the story, except for me, I was the only misfit there. I decided that I’m going to write a Tamil short story next, I decided even the title and what I am going to write.

An elderly man, around fifty years of age and who looked older than what he really was came and sat next to me, “Sir konjam time mathi thara mudiyuma? Railway time vaikathaenu ethane vati sonaen kekala” (Sir, could you please change the time, I asked him not to keep railway time but he did in spite). I took his phone, changed the date format to 12 hours from 24 hours. Took the phone again to change the date to that day’s date and PM to AM. When I asked the date, whether it was 2nd, he said, “confirm ah second thaan sir, yenna inaki engaluku strike.” (It definitely is 2nd ,sir, because it’s a strike for us today). I know that if I look at him or nod as an approval I’ll get story but even though I was curious I didn’t do it because of the number of people around me. He started with, “thevdiya pasanga…” but post that I didn’t hear anything and his voice too got lower. Without much drama I got down at Park station and crossed the road to Central.

I thought of having lunch at the same place where my friend and I had last December before the Kumara Paravartha trek. But when I went there, I saw a restaurant in the street next to it. Sat there for meals but when I asked the waiter to bring meals he saw me with an eyes which said, “are you just gonna eat that”. So I changed the order to non-veg meals. It was a simple meals with fish curry and chicken curry apart from rasam and buttermilk. Fish curry was amazing, it had a Kerala style preparation. Sometimes, things sweep you off your feet without your knowledge.

Went back to my second home, central station. That too when the Wi-Fi notification comes, I literally feel it as my second home. So used the Wi-Fi, checked in, sent last few messages to whoever I thought to be important (vice versa might not be true) and boarded the train as soon as Hari came. Karthi came in right at the dot. I changed to a more comfortable dress which I was going to make shabby in the forthcoming days.

Thanks to a talkative Hari, Karthi got comfortable with us. I switched off the net and started with the last couple of stories from Sujatha’s short story collection. It took a long while to read the penultimate story, the time when Karthi was engrossed in his mobile and Hari was busy sleeping. For the record, I didn’t sleep that day and I don’t know how. May be I was so hell bent on finishing the book which I did after talking for some time.

There was a Brahmin lady who was time and again feeding another older Brahmin lady with Degree Coffee, the smell was divine. She seemed to have relatives on almost every stop, one gave them vegetables in one stop, and another lady came and sat with them after a few stops. So much planning. And she welcomed everyone with coffee from flask. She and the grandma took my book and gave it a glance.

Post that I read the last story and then there were some serious discussion about arranged marriage, Hari’s life, cinema, sex etc. etc. and finally reached Bangalore station after an hours delay.

We had meals in the restaurant near subway. It was decent and sambar wasn’t as sweet as we feared. We topped it up with an excellent sweet beeda and walked to Majestic amidst the chaos of weekend trippers and trekkers.

Our bus which was supposed to arrive at 10.30 got there at 12.30 and we used that time to get to know each other. Mostly the other three got to know each other well. In fact so well that I thought they knew each other from their past lives. Siva joined us there and as he was fresh he took the onus of searching for our 10.30 bus.

All the time I was thinking whether to go to Kodachadri or Jog Falls the next day. It was almost decided that it would be Jog Falls but we kept our options open and thought we’d decide depending on the time we reach.

Day 1 – Jogging to the Jog Falls

Yea I couldn’t have come up with a cheesier title. But ever since I wanted to upload an Instagram picture with this title, this one was haunting me. People have their own things that haunt them. White frames, black specs etc.

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We reached Shimoga around 6.30 AM. Inquired about buses to Kollur for Kodachadri and to Sagar for Jog Falls. When they said it’d take around four hours to reach Kollur we decided that we’d go to Jog Falls instead. I was inquiring in Tamil to the timekeeper who couldn’t understand a bit. I was of the opinion that like Coorg people would understand Tamil easily. Only post that I thought, yeah, I could talk in Hindi as well. Post that things were smooth.

We got the bus to Sagar, did cash pooling and got tickets. Within minutes we all slept off and didn’t know how time flew. As soon as we got down we went to a restaurant opposite to private bus stand for breakfast. Had Dosa, Masala Dosa, Idly and coconut filled vada for breakfast along with tea. Food was decent.

We were getting second glance, of course not for the looks but for the big big bags that we were wearing. We crossed the road and asked for bus to Jog Falls. In few minutes we got the bus and again started to sleep. The scenery was superb with lush green blanket everywhere. Ever since I rewatched Stalker, the whole place reminded me of the movie. Just like the movie there were power lines, plastics and power stations. I’ve found the Hydel power plants to be the scariest place on earth. The flow of water, that too with that speed, scares the shit outta me. I realized my aversion to Hydel Power Plants during my Spiti ride, ever since then I’ve been trying to stay away from it.

We reached Jog Falls in about an hour. Near the ticket counter there were taxi walas who were willing to show certain points around jog falls for some fare. We went past them and got tickets. The ticket checker cum watchman made us hurry to the point where people were clicking pictures. That’s the view point of Jog Falls. We went there, took our time to freshen up and take pictures. Only after fixing my zoom lens I got to know why the watchman made us hurry. By the time I fixed the gadget it was full mist. We waited for a long time but it didn’t get cleared so with disappointment, kept the luggage in cloak room and started walking with only the camera and water bottle.

In our descent to 1400 odd steps we clicked a few photos. At each juncture one person. Hari was explaining about his experience when he visited the Jog Falls last time. That got me curious. I think it got the rest of the people too curious. While we were almost at the bottom we could see a huge fence being erected and people were not allowed beyond that. So the thought of taking bath in the falls vanished. We went down and tried few photos and there was a big rock below which a group was passing time. Once they left I tried few silhouette photos for the first time which I think, came out reasonably well. Post that we started our walk back to top.

That’s when the water came in real handy as we were getting exhausted. The weather too changed and it got sunny. While climbing down there was a security to check about plastics. We enquired the same person after our visit about the taxis to visit the nearby places which includes Raja falls, Rani falls, Power Station and Boating. Maximum we were willing to spend was a thousand rupees but we couldn’t get it below 1200. An additional fee for boating made us all cringe and we unanimously decided not to go.

We came out, took our bags from the cloak room where a photographer was photoshoping one person with Aishwarya Rai with Jog Falls background and also blackening all his hairs, desperate fellow. While waiting for bus Hari and Siva were talking about another guy Mohan’s antics. Everyone were sharing their own story as it took a while for the bus to come.

Once the bus came we luckily got seats. We somehow placed the luggage in space we had. A horrible K S Ravikumar film, Mudinja Ivana Pudi. One of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It would have been fun if we all had got seat together. We’d have enjoyed even more. But the actual horror story was post that. There was a stop were college students were waiting for the bus. Around 50 people were waiting. Already the bus had standees, still almost everyone who were waiting got into the bus. I was sitting in half seat, in twenty degree angle. It was even tough to breath. Somehow I managed to survive without oxygen mask and reached back to Sagar.

I started searching for restaurants to have lunch. We intentionally didn’t go to the restaurant we had breakfast in the morning. On our search to have lunch in a new restaurant we went to few hideous places. One turned out to be bar so we went to the restaurant opposite to it, which was mentioned as ‘Family Restaurant’ and I also saw a lady getting so went inside to see but that one had dingy cabins closed by a curtain and with zero watts bulb. Looked like an execution room from Subramaniapuram. We immediately ran out of the place. We again came back to main road and went to the restaurant adjacent to the street.

Our standard four meals arrived. Food was better than what we thought. Sambar wasn’t as sweet as it used to be before. But we had trouble in getting the side dishes again as people weren’t understanding anything but Kannada.

We thought we couldn’t do more than Jog falls that day but as we came back by afternoon we were thinking of seeing one more place. As per the advice of the security there in Jog falls we chose Sigandar. We thought it to be an island, so we decided, what if we missed boating in the morning, we’d do it in Sigandar. The fact that Sigandur is en route to Kollur made us take our decision easily.

We took the bus to Sigandur which was again super crowded. The lady sitting in the front row was making fun of Hari. We both were laughing, neither of us knowing why. After a long time we got seats and within minutes we reached Sigandur. The much coveted island was nothing but a water body which we had to cross by the help of launch. As the bus was up to Kollur, we thought we could to Kollur directly but as there was a temple in Sigandur we decided to go there.

Our bus went to the gates of the temple only for us four to get down. Chowdeshwari Temple was pretty empty. We took turns and went inside the temple. Once out of the temple we got to know that there were no direct bus to Kollur so took a bus to Nittur. A lady said it was just 2, 3 stops from there but Nittur came after one hour of sleep. Good that I didn’t keep awake believing the lady’s words.

Nittur bus stop was the best. There was absolutely nothing except for a petty shop where we had desi cool drinks, one of the two flavors we had was awesome. Bus came after half an hour but this time we didn’t sleep. We reached Kollur in about half an hour and got a decent room in one of the lodges attached to temple.

After quickly freshening up and getting to know that the Kollur Mookambika temple would be open till 9.30 PM we decided to go the temple. It was not in my list. Thanks to ODC, phoneless life and less internet access, my means of research is getting weaker and weaker.

It felt really good taking a bath after couple of days. Temple too was really nice. Siva and I joined the queue. Hari and Karthi stood out. It started to pour and we were the last person to enter the deity. After we came out we bought a Laddu for fifty rupees and here comes the best part. Karthi told that there was free dinner being served. That got everyone of us excited.

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We went and joined the queue. After getting a place, it took a lot of time for them to serve food. That was one of the toughest wait. First rice, sambar, again rice, again sambar and buttermilk on top of it was very different experience. The food wasn’t as filling as we expected.

We came out to see that our slippers were missing. The chappal stand people seem to have taken it and kept it near the cabin. We had to shell out Rs. 5 for each pair of slippers. We came out and had dinner, banana and tea. Tea wasn’t as good as we expected.

We inquired about the next day’s travel to Kodachadri. We got to know that the first bus was around 6’o clock in the morning. We went to our room, kept our alarm at 5 AM and slept after sleep talking for a few minutes.

Day 2 – Leeches, On the Rocks!

As usual after all the four alarms started blazing I got up first and woke up the rest of the group. We got ready within minutes, had not so good tea and took bus. I hurried with my tea as I didn’t want to repeat the Tadiandamol experience.

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The bus stopped for few minutes near the temple. Karthi reminded us about the Chickmangalur experience where we got into the bus, slept for an hour, ate breakfast, then slept for an hour and bus still hadn’t started but luckily it wasn’t a repeat of Chickmangalur experience.

We were dropped at Karikatta from where we started the trek. Our idea was to go through Santhosh Hotel route and return via Hidlumane Falls. But even after we started our trek we were not sure whether we were taking the right route. There was one solo trekker who was with us in the bus and took the same route.

When I said that he should always be under our vicinity, Hari told, “he’s the guy alone, he should think that way.” So true. The next 1 to 1.5 hour was through leech palace, literally. In all the treks I’ve been, I’m the one who would be getting least to zero leech bites but this time within a couple of steeps there was a leech on top of my shoes. I tried to remove it but it was playing around. For the next one hour, till the check post there was no shortage of leech bites. At least for me it climbed only on legs and hands but for others it entered inside the t shirt too. The worst problem was, if we stand to remove the leeches from body, more and more leeches would stick on us so we were dancing while removing the leeches. While typing this, I’m still having the itching from these leech bites.

After crossing the leech palace we were asked to provide our contact information and sign in the register. He asked us to sign the register again while coming back, but we said we’d be returning via Hidlumane falls, then he agreed to it. When we asked whether it was the Santhosh Hotel route, he showed us which was Santosh Hotel.

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The small hut post the forest check post was the much coveted Santhosh Hotel. We met the solo trekker inside and a negative person inside. There would always be this kind of person wherever you go, who tells you that it is impossible. He first told us that there would be lot of leeches in the path that follows, he also told us with shoes it would not be comfortable to climb and when we told him that we were planning to return via Hidlumane Falls he told us that it would be impossible as even they miss the route a number of times. Needless to say we disproved him in every aspect.

As soon as we ordered Dosa and Omelet, our first task was to remove our shoes and socks to check whether there were any hidden leeches. Luckily there weren’t any. Only one leech was sticking to my shoe which we killed mercilessly. The negative person asked us not to spread the leeches there. Our breakfast arrived, a double omelet instead of single omelet and set dosa with sambar. Every single thing tastes divine in a trek. That too tasted the same.

We carried on with the next part of the trek inside the forest area, we moved swiftly with good pace, the area was moist and it was evident that there would be lot of leeches. Except for one path where we went in wrong direction, we did fairly well. Good thing about taking the wrong path was, I went first and beyond a point I could see a lot of cob webs and cob webs touched my face too. I decided that cob web couldn’t be in the regular trail as people would have crossed it. It wouldn’t be possible for cob web to appear all of a sudden. That was useful in the later part. Of course there were leeches but only one tenth of what we encountered in the first part. We reached the place where jeeps were there i.e. the PWD quarters. From there the temple was just 1.5 km away. We were so happy to have not taken the jeep. It wouldn’t have been a trek at all if we had taken the jeep. People in formal attire, fancy shoes, selfie stick etc. were coming by jeep. We felt good to be different from them with blood stained socks and sweat stained t-shirts.

While taking what we thought to be the last route we met the solo trekker again and that was the first time he seemed to be interested to talk to us. He asked us where we are from and whether were planning to stay. We told about our whereabouts and mentioned that as camping was not allowed we’d be leaving back. He told that he wouldn’t be camping but stay just like that. Now we knew that he was a serious trekker. Prodding more about his history we got to know that he’s a freelance mountaineer and Kodachadri was his first trek in 2003 and he does it every time he visits Shimoga. All this while there was a leech which had got its feel and was making me bleed profusely. That didn’t sting but what he told did. Not only for me but for Hari too. He was the first one to open the topic. “Intha mari evanayavathu patha than da depress ayidudhu” (only when we see people like this the depression starts) That led us to talk about society, how we have to falsely make our claim for social acceptance and how we were far better than people who were not even aware of what they are missing. But as he said we were depressed seeing a person doing what he wants to do.

After climbing for some time there was a lime juice/tea shop near where a small cave was there in which there was a small boy sitting and doing prayers. People said there was a falls there but we couldn’t find any.

We reached the peak in sometime which had a temple. We saw the guy going past the temple to a point where blogs mentioned that Arabian Sea would be visible. But we lost the sight of him and returned back to the temple point and had our lunch. The usual bread and cheese along with Tea, as there was a tea shop there.

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When we were about to get down I asked whether there is a point from where we could see Arabian Sea. The Tea Shop owner asked a person there, who was about to take a couple of women to that point, to tag us along too. We went along with them in the same path we took before. After the point from where I returned, we had to walk for around thirty minutes more to reach the point from where Arabian Sea would be visible but as the whole place was mist covered, we couldn’t see anything. It was not the actual end of the road, there was a small path post that too, which when we prodded, we got to know that a Babaji lives there.

There was an excellent nature made shed between the rocks where there were already a couple of people residing. One among them was the mountaineer and the other guy who came down while we reached that point asked us what we were doing in Tamil. We told that we are from Infosys and he told he was an ex infoscion who was co-director of Jigarthanda, Theeya Vela Seyanum Kumaru etc. He told that Nalan Kumarasamy had just went and we would have passed by him. They seem to be on a big road trip about 3000 km in Karnataka. He also told how beautiful the view would be from that place and it would be great to capture it in telephoto lens. He also told how he was a photographer and his short movie was selected as one of the top films by Anurag Kashyap and co. We also talked about few film making techniques and in general about cinema and scripts. He was there with us till the temple point. Hari came back and the same dialogue after we met the mountaineer got repeated. Our depression touched a new level.

We touched the PWD quarters again in no time. There were lot more people climbing at that time. People who’d have come after nice leisurely breakfast and bath. There were a couple of bikers who had walked because their bike had broken down. One among them where asking how to go down, which route to take etc. when the other guy told him to ask us. He told, “they are trekkers, they’ll tell everything as easy path, better not to ask them” Another proud moment. Thus the pride and depression fluctuated.

It was around 1.30 PM. We had targeted 1 PM to be at the top at least. But we went to top, even post that a couple of times and returned to PWD by 1.30 PM. All thanks to the co trekkers who didn’t slow down or waste time at any point of time. We asked the route to Hidlumane falls, which they said, we had to take jeep road for some time, one said 2 km, one said 5 km etc. and then get into the forest. We followed the orders and walked on the road. Nice leisurely stroll with mist and slight drizzle. Took few photos too. None were photo crazy, so that too was a time saver. In fact we didn’t open the camera till then. Thanks to leeches, rains and time constraint.

At a juncture I got doubt, not knowing where to go, there was a big open path and two roads. Intuition said it must be this left which everyone was pointing about but we were not sure whether they meant the left on road or the left into the forest. We decided that we’d proceed only after asking someone about the route. I thought I’ll proceed till some point inside the forest until I have the vicinity of my friends. Luckily for us, we saw a couple of foreigners and two more people coming with a guide. We asked them about the route to falls and he said we were taking the right route.

I called out for my friends and they came down, I clicked few pictures. We proceeded in the same direction and there was a brilliant place from where we could see the much sought after Arabian Sea. A small piece of flat land where none except us where there. We sat there sometime for chitchatting and finishing the rusk packet and rest of the cheese. That was the best point of the trek.

There was a huge descent post that which I crossed in a hurry and entered the forest area. I lost sight of them but I decided to go to falls and wait. There were a big group of foreigners and NRIs huffing and puffing to get on top. The route closer to Hidlumane Falls was actually wet and tough. Good that we didn’t take our bag. It would have slowed down our progress. As soon as I crossed them I could see the falls. The falls is a perfect place to take bath, shallow water, not so deep and not so force. After checking for leeches I placed by bag, removed my shoes and got ready for a dip. My friends came after some time which I used to click pictures of falls but I couldn’t use the classic slow shutter pictures as I thought it wouldn’t look proper, once they came I took few decent pictures of them and we all got into the water.

Another big gang from Mysore Infosys had come, most probably trainees or freshers. Karthi who was last to come out of the falls told that a snake had passed by, that made everyone jump out from water. We asked an elderly man there, route to hit the road, he asked us to follow stream. We did the same, got all our shoes wet (the most annoying feeling), used the cob web technique to find the right path and almost got on the path. In addition to the cob web technique, there was also the plastic paper technique, where we follow a certain path and if we don’t see any plastics we get to know that humans hadn’t traversed that path. The same had happened when we took a wrong left near the fields. But it took us a lot of time to know that it was a wrong path and I had got enough scratches in my legs and cob webs on my face by that time.

The elderly person asked us to come up and follow him. We did and reached the house where a couple of jeeps were there who asked us whether we would want a ride. When we asked them how long it’d take to reach the road they said its 5 km but the road was never ending. We walked for 100 minutes to hit the Nittur road. I walked first for some time, missed the free jeep ride because of that, walked along with other people for some time, was offered and politely rejected coffee/tea by a stranger, finished all the snacks.

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We sat at the junction, got the net connection and Karthi checked in his phone and what we saw was a miracle 38000 steps and 31 km we had walked in one day. Now that was satisfaction. We missed the bus which crossed us, he didn’t stop, and generally all buses stop whenever they see people standing for them but that didn’t. There could be some reason but for the next one hour we didn’t get the bus. Karthi who was so disappointed that he couldn’t use the torch light that he had bought for the trek was happy that it could come to use now. I was not getting net connection in bus stop. We had various time pass games like star gazing, dog chasing, mime making and few censored games too. Siva was the target in the last part but it was fun. Like Mani said it previous trek, bus stops are always fun.

We got the last bus at 7.30 PM from there which stopped at a point where we had tea, we continued the censored games but as Hari started to vomit we didn’t have a proper quiz master. When we reached near Kollur we checked whether there was any direct bus to Bangalore. There was one at 8.15 which was standing near the temple. I asked Karthi and Siva to stop the bus but they seem to have said that they wouldn’t wait for fifteen minutes.

We took our luggage from the lodge, got back our hundred rupees and asked a couple of people how to go to Bangalore that night. He asked us to take bus to some place which would come near the temple and from there many buses would ply to Bangalore. As soon as we reached the temple we got the bus and went into immediate slumber after buying the tickets. One hour’s sleep went just like that. Once we got down in somewhat a scary highway we got a sleeper bus to Bangalore for Rs. 600 which looked like cheating to me as the ticket collector was talking some secret in conductor’s ears. I took the upper berth along with along with Karthi, I could tell how stinking my clothes were but we managed to sleep, thanks to the tiredness.

Day 3 – Better not to read

You’re done with our information gathering, getting envied or getting irritated session. Last day always is reserved for drinks and that’s what we did here too. So you can drop off here if you wish.

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We reached Bangalore with bursting bladders at 6 AM. After answering the nature’s call I asked them whether we could have tea. Everyone said ‘yes’ and Hari told the exact words I use, “Tea kudikalam, apo than clarity kedaikum.” (Let’s have tea, only then we’ll get clarity) Every guy needs a wingman. Period! We missed going to treks right from the first, thanks to our common friend, a reason behind us not becoming friends from the first.

At last we had good tea, after searching for a couple of lodges we got an average room for a day. Siva told that he’d go to his friends room and meet us in the train (We smelled something fishy there) Finished our morning ablutions, took bath, took our all our wet clothes to dry and made our room as stinky as possible. With our hunger pangs increasing we went on a restaurant search. I searched for Mudde Madappa Restaurant but that building was being demolished so that was closed and so was MTR. We finally went into a restaurant which we saw first. Annapurna. Upma, dosa, vada, rice bath, sweet bath etc. everything was fabulous. And for the first time in life I had a repeat order of coffee. After having our fill we watched TV and slept again.

For lunch we decided to go to a pub SodaBottleOpenerWala, looked like a fancy pub with good variety of drinks and food. It was also highly rated. We called and enquired whether there was any dress code, luckily for us it didn’t have. We went there had a couple of drinks and some great food, played caroms, sat in park bench for some time and came back.

We were dead tired. We watched TV for some time and went for dinner, again our first choice, another Telugu Annapurna restaurant was closed so went to a restaurant next to our room. Food was fabulous and thanks to Hari, curd rice with Brain Masala was out of the world. We went back to room again and packed our bags for station. It was a long walk from there. I don’t know why I don’t remember that part exactly.

Siva who had told that he’d be coming to KR Puram station was already in Bangalore Central. Contrary to what I expected, the train was not crowded. We talked for few minutes, settled our accounts and slept off. One of the most satisfying treks and might be the last short trek of the year.

It was a long impending wait, this long drive. At last the dream came true. Avenger, you beauty, thank you very much for staying steady and steadfast all along. Oh! How I loved all those longing glances trying to look who’s behind the helmet that is cruising past them.

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The preparation

First things first. The preparation. This 400 km drive itself is a preparation for something big which I’m trying to attempt later but for this first drive as usual there were lot of hiccups. I luckily got a 3 day holiday and my hometown is luckily a drivable distance for a first timer and even more luckily there is a hill station nearby. Everything got together very well. But the placement of holidays was what a bother, at least for the outer world. I’m supposed to be tired after a two week trip to Delhi-Himalayas. I’m dead tired and add to it as usual office pressure. The first week of this New Year was the worst since I joined this job. But let’s leave aside the gloomy things and look at the brighter side of life.I don’t know whether I’d have attempted this if I had been happy with my work. My frustration is what is pushing me to do ‘something different.’ So here I am.

Chennai (Chengalpatu) to Madurai

After a lot of cajoling I finally set off to Madurai. The day started with me riding for the first time to office. A 50km stretch from my home. At morning 6.30 with pleasant weather (chilly by Chennai standards) I started off. The ride was average, nothing extraordinary. I wasn’t very interested as the destination is a dungeon. I went to office by around 7.45. An hour drive. Was constantly checking the petrol. I didn’t want to fill it before reaching office as I had a BP bunk near my office. After 4 hours of bench warming I started off to Madurai telling a lot of lies. I’ll just tell the major one. I’m supposed to get the best trekker award by YHAI at 2’o clock. So I started from office at 1’o clock. With a single major lie a lot of lies evolves. So when my TL asked what’s the criterion of this award I again instantly lied that it is given to the one who reaches the base camp first on all days. So that’s how I got this award. I’m quite like Thillu Mullu Rajnikanth in office. They never let me talk truth.

I escaped from my office at 1PM. To my shock I didn’t have Speed Petrol in the BP bunk near my office. I’ve fed my baby only with Speed till then. I had to compromise as I didn’t have a drop of petrol left. After noting down the kilometers and liters of petrol I started from the bunk. I cruised, literally, with my cruiser. I’d have driven at 90Km/hr on an average with a maximum of 115km/hr. Boy o boy speed does thrill and my beauty made me realize that she was a beast too. My first stop was to have a cone ice from a young passerby. He charged me 20 bucks. Too much for that silly piece of shit. Nevertheless I didn’t mind. A road trip is not complete without a lick of an ice cream. I had driven around 150 Km by then. I didn’t feel even a bit tired.

As and when I started from there I decided that my next stop will be Trichy. It was about 120 Km from there. I drove fast and steady. The roads being a four way lane was pleasing to drive but I would not say it was an all in all smooth affair. I had my heart in my mouth for a couple of situations. The scariest one was when a share auto in spite of knowing me coming at around a 100 km/hr turned suddenly. It was purely intentional. That son of a bitch!

Apart from that there were a lot of stray dogs and cows trying to creep to the middle. I carefully overcame all those hindrance thanks to my friend Pandi who already had the experience of hitting a cow with a 100km/hr Avenger. His bad was my benefit otherwise surely I would have gone through that situation.

I stopped about 10km after Trichy for a break. It was a compulsory break. I didn’t feel like taking one but I did. The sensible part in me took advantage of my heart there. Then I started off for what was supposed to be the last lap. Trichy to Madurai. 110km flat.

The weather after reaching Trichy was awesome, the twilight, cold breeze, mountain back drop. The setting was just perfect. I felt like driving in Lonavala again but with a better bike. Just when everything seemed to be working in favor of me my bike stopped all of a sudden. I parked my vehicle in one corner and looked at with starry eyes. I don’t have any idea of what is what when it comes to engine. I tried to switch off and on a couple of times but the starter didn’t work. Being an IT guy switching on and off was the best solution I could think of. But my machine was as averse to computer as me.

Without knowing what to do I called a trespasser and asked whether there is any mechanic shop nearby. Being a nice fellow that guy suggested he’d go tell the mechanic that my bike is down. It’s so good to see people with heart. When you get down to south people give you a lot of respect. After some time I tried honking and then starting. A trick which generally works with Scooty. But sadly mine is not a Scooty. I then tried starting the bike after applying the clutch. The bike started. I don’t want to exaggerate by saying that I was jumping with joy. I was happy but, yes. I wasn’t terrified at first place when the bike stopped midway. I knew I could manage. I’m someone who is confident on all aspects of life other than work.

The bike started to play tricks with me from then. After a few minutes it again stopped. And another gentleman, this time a lorry driver came to my rescue. It started of immediately but I gathered knowledge of some few quick fix tips. He asked me whether petrol is flowing in the tube. I stared at him like I do during Reverse KT.  He kept his mouth in the petrol tank and blew. He said that if petrol is not flowing through the tube this remedy will help. He wished me all the best for my journey to Madurai. It was still 60 Km more. Then as soon as I saw petrol bunk, this time a HP, again a first time HP petrol for my bike. I filled it till brim and drove.

Initially I thought that engine was getting switched off during high speeds so drove only till 80 Km/hr after filling the petrol. This time engine was smooth. I gradually picked up speed. Finally came to know that the petrol had totally dried off. My fuel indicator was disturbed due to the heat I guess for it didn’t show that the tank was empty. Anyways I’m not complaining.

As the lights started to dim I switched on my head lights. This attracted a lot of insects. One getting into my gloves, one in my left ear and one in my right eye. I had to constantly wipe the glass of my helmet which made it dirty and severely spoilt the visibility. For the last fifty Kilometer I had to drive with utmost concentration. After a long drive through a straight road I took right to get into Madurai city. Liked the way a restaurant had used the nick name ‘Temple City’ to open its highway branch.

Once in the city I had to bring down my speed. The most critical and tough thing to do. I inquired a share auto driver as to how to go to my destination. First him, then a youngster, then a kid helped me in finding the destination address. Absolutely no hassles. I reached my destination with élan. Loved the innocence of these fellows and the way they called me ‘annae’ instead of the regular ‘na’ heard in Chennai.

There were a couple of bright moments during the journey which made me smile. The first one was when 3 or 4 vehicles with the name CAPTAIN written in nameplate came in the opposite direction. The second was when I was in Anna Nagar junction in Madurai and asked a fellow commuter in Signal as to how to reach Mel Annupanadi. His reply was, “athu rumba thoorumachungalae, oru nalanchi kilometer ponum.’ (It’s far off sir, might be around 4 to 5 kilometres) My reply to him through my mind voice was, “Dei naan 400 km thandi vanthurukaen da…”(Dude I’ve just driven 400 Km) in “naan 4 varusama suthiturukaen da” (I’ve been following her for 4 years, a Tamil comedy) tone from Polladhavan.

Madurai to Kodaikanal to Madurai

It was the second day. Everything was pre planned. It’s a pleasurable feel when things go according to your plan. It was one such day. Got up at 5.30 sharp, my regular getting up time nowadays. But for a change it was not irritating to get up at that time. Travellers’ thirst I guess. After a regular round of yoga and exercise for 15 minutes I freshened up and started in half an hour. At about 6.30 I and my cousin started in my bike. As we went through market the area was crowded. Thanks to the upcoming Pongal. It was irritating because I was wearing a leather jacket and it was sweating like hell. Once we crossed that point it was smooth sailing. We cruised in about 90 km/hr. Great road till a left we had to take to go to Bathalakundu.

Once I took the left and crossed the railway crossing we had breakfast in a local restaurant. Nothing to boast about. And filled the petrol to the brim as usual. Once again we started to cruise. But as there was construction work going on we had quite a few road blocks. Add to the horror we crossed the point where we had to take a right to climb the hills. There was no signboard there whatsoever. As we saw the signboard that Theni is only 30 Km away we asked an elderly person about the route to Kodaikanal. He annoyed us through his reply, “Athu intha pakam illiyae thambi antha pakkam oru 17 Km ponum.” (It’s not this way; you should go the other way, about 17 km.)

I failed to mention that the trip from railway gate to Bathalakundu was similar to the road we took during Nagala trek. Just while I was recollecting those moments what happened there happened here too. We missed the route. The annoyance with which Balaji took a U-turn and applied his gear, with the same annoyance even I turned my bike. How irritating a feel that is!

I cruised even faster then and reached the base point of the mountain. A couple of police officials stopped us and asked for papers. I showed my license and they let me off noting my bike number and name. The initial road to the start of the climb was amazing, as if mountains were coming closer to me. Then it was a regular hill station ride with my left hand writhing in pain by applying clutch. We stopped at a couple of points for photography and stopped quite a few monkeys. Nothing much interesting. Bike trip from Pune to Lonavala was better. In fact it was amazing, the scenery. This time the bike was amazing and the rest wasn’t.

Once we reached the top by paying a fee of rupees 10 for bike we strolled around The Lake, had pizza in Dominos and started from there in an hour. I was there just six months before and nothing had changed since then so I wasn’t interested to look around things. I wasn’t interested about the place at first place it was only about the ride. While returning it was fun to switch off the engine and proceed. We covered almost half the distance with this technique. While I was thinking that I was clever almost everyone were following the same technique. After all humans are humans.

Once we got to the bottom of the hill where the police checked my papers. I hit the gas. From there we literally flew to Madurai. It’d have been an average 100 km/hr ride. My cousin lost his earphones, cap etc thanks to my riding. Though the trip wasn’t as much exciting as I thought eventually it gave me a satisfying feel.

Madurai to Chennai

After a terrible night’s sleep, thanks to the mozzies playing spoilsport I got up had nice juicy pongal. For the first time sweet pongal was really sweet. Just after few gulps my eyelids started to get heavy. Even alcohol comes second to pongal when it comes to sleep inducing ingredients. I packed a couple of apples for my journey and few snacks to be brought home. My relatives can’t suppress their love so always add weight to our luggage with the available in Madurai only stuff. Duh!

The return journey as expected wasn’t as exciting as the first because it’s the same path I had to take. Things are interesting only when you don’t know and explore. On a well trodden path I came at a constant 100 km/hr taking a couple of intentional brakes to have apple and water. The first rest place was an amazing one. Shadow beneath the tree with corns field in the background. For a moment it felt like Australia. There were no passerby’s. Only vehicles zipping past. I took a nice 10 minute break there and updated my family and relatives about my whereabouts.

I filled petrol twice. For the first time rode my vehicle in reserve as petrol got over. Ever since I turned to reserve my eyes were eagerly searching for petrol bunk. Two naïve kids were touching my bike and exclaiming how smooth it was. I felt as if I’m SRK riding through the village in Swades. Lol.

Once the apples got over and there was still 160 km left I started off my bike and thought I’d stop only when I go home. But after 90 Km I had to stop as my neck was paining rather badly because of the helmet I was wearing. Since heavy winds gushed past me I had to crane my neck forward to keep helmet intact which made my neck sear with pain.  Good that I had snacks. I took a kuchi mitai (stick chocolate, sorry I know only the literal translation) and ate it. After 20 km I crossed by my office and the last 50 km was the most boring as it’s the daily route that I take and switching from highway to city mode was tough. I had to apply brake suddenly and came very close to a couple of vehicles.

I was given a hero’s welcome once a reached home, a regular ritual by my dad, my mom was teasing him that he was blabbering all the time about me and once I returned he became super enthusiastic. Dads are dads.

On the whole it was one hell of a journey. One thing in my list that I could strike off first up. I and my bike stayed super strong all the while. The purpose of buying a bike got resolved. And as I’m typing this I still feel the reverberation in my ass.

 

 

Any place where a girl who is hotter than the hottest North Indian girl in Chennai comes and asks you, “Hotel Oh Delhi kahan hae?” must be a great place. OH DELHI! It took me couple of moments to realize that she indeed was asking the question to me. Only when she asked the question for the second time I could hear more than ‘Oh Delhi’ because it was the only two words which were reverberating in my ears till then.

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Our much awaited event of last year was sandwiched between our stay in Delhi. I remember the first time I went to Delhi. Bread omelet in the morning and curd rice in the noon. As a person who loves travelling and journey equally I was much looking forward to two day train travel to Delhi. We started on a Monday morning, the day before Christmas, the bus travel from my house to station took just half an hour, the roads were empty, bus was empty etc. According to the bus drivers the emptiness were attributed to the crowd who had already used the two holidays before that, thus making it a four day holiday. A fact. But the scene in Central was no different than the ordinary days.

Balaji, Karthik, Prasanna, Seena and I were sent off by parents and siblings of the trio Karthik, Prasanna and Seena. It just took ten minutes for us to get into the monotony of laughter. However monotonous it might me it never ceases to amaze me. Seena and Balaji form a terrific combo backed by Karthik and Prasanna. I’m the loner of the five here but that doesn’t stop me from occasionally teasing one or the other. It was equally enjoyed by everyone. Thanks to my magnanimity and of course because of the 10 year break I wasn’t as close to them as they were with each other. But this is just for the writing. Otherwise we were equally enjoying.

Karthik was in 3/4th and everyone were teasing him that he has not got outside Arakonam but seems he is the only guy who has gone to Delhi before out of them four. The first night in train was cold but was bearable. I purposefully didn’t take out by blanket as I wanted to get acclimatized to the cold. Winds were oozing into the compartment, thanks to the invisible holes. Though I felt cold I somehow managed and came through the night. The next day’s journey went in style, thanks to the playing cards. After rounds and rounds of Bluff, Ace etc we settled for the night’s sleep. In between cards we got down in most of the stations and had everything that was available. As I haven’t travelled long distance in a while barring Pune I didn’t know that the food quality in train had deteriorated so much. The food was plain yucky, worse than the meals they show in Anniyan. So we had to settle for the food in station. It’s not that what we got in station was sumptuous but was way better than the stuff we got in train. It was costly as well as uneatable.

The highlight of all the food that we got outside was the Orange juice in Nagpur. While Karthik and Balaji had gone there before me to the juice shop and were making faces while drinking the juice. I went there and had the same juice in a gulp in spite of their warning. To their surprise I loved it. They didn’t like because they had added chat masala in the juice. What they were calling as ajinamoto. Poda naangalam peruchaliyayae thooki potu thooru varavanga, ithu enna jujube. Once I had the juice I packed three for the friends who were lazy to move their asses and come outside. I asked for few more masala and took it in a cup. Being an over enthusiastic person I mixed the juice with the masala without knowing that the juice already had enough masala in it. If not for me the rest of the guys would have spitted the juice. They all combined and had one cup and I had the rest. In addition to it we had a duplicate cool drink which gave a rotten smile. God!

Once we got on the second day morning we were eagerly awaiting for Delhi station, only to be disappointed of the four hour delay. Through the window all we could see was mist. “Enna orae pani mootama iruku” was our general feeling. Karthik received a scathing look from Seena when he said “enne da nama ooru margali masam mathiri thana iruku.” Then Seena almost fainted when he saw someone bathing in cold water in a hand pump in that weather.

After all the eventful happenings we reached Delhi and went to my relatives place. A small apartment in the second floor. We badly wanted to go by metro but were advised by them not to as it’d be very crowded. The auto driver took 80 rupees per auto for our journey from station to Karol Bagh. I thought it was a steal as the place was very nearby. Autowallas are autowallas no matter what. We were welcomed by hot idli and red chatni. It felt amazing. I gulped around 8 idlis and then my most unfavorite part, shopping, was in the agenda of the remaining lot. Balaji was the most enthusiastic out of the lot. I was barely interested. I was looking for various things to eat.

After shopping, their shopping, we reached home and refreshed. Without knowing the water scarcity in their home we all took bath and the rest started their photo session in the terrace. We started from there well before time, this time in a single auto after lessening our luggage. The ride in auto was nothing short of spectacle, he whizzed past all the traffic in a jiffy and reached the station in half an hour in spite of full traffic. When asked, “aap aise hi chalathe hae kya” he replied, “aisa hi chalana padtha hae.”

Our first witness of Old Delhi happened then. It was a wonderful site to see everything I craved for in the streets of Old Delhi. The place was shabby yes but that’s I loved about it, especially the hanging chicken. The station too was dull and shabby but had McDonalds much to the happiness of Balaji. We had French fries there and boarded our train to Pathankot. The train even though smaller than Tamil Nadu express was better and clean than the former. Added to it we had a couple of chicks in the next couple and one directly opposite to us whom Seena made eye contact throughout the night. She too reciprocated but it stopped without any further improvement.

Then after our lovely Himalayas trek our return journey from Pathakot to Delhi was annoying thanks to the cold we had to bear while waiting in the station. I was sad too as the trek had got over but everything stayed only till the next day morning. Once we reached our hotel in Delhi we were more than warm. We had a nice room with cozy bed, good water heater facility at a walk able distance from Metro station.

We reached the hotel by taking Metro. Our first glimpse of metro was amazing. I loved the Delhi crowd, not only the ladies. In spite of us having huge bags and shoving them with it and not knowing the language they didn’t make any face instead were commenting happily. Our first metro experience was awesome. I decided that we had to go in Metro from then on to whichever place we go.

We spotted Om Saravana Bhavan hotel (not to be confused with Hotel Saravana Bhavan) on the way to our hotel. Everyone unanimously decided to have breakfast there. The roundabouts were we stayed had Tamil hotels in predominance. We went there and had mini tiffin for 100 rupees. Seena was the happiest of the lot. After rounds and rounds of chapatti which he didn’t enjoy at all he was very satisfied with Pongal and Coffee and Vada and what not. We got a dizzy feel which could be attributed only to south Indian foods. And boy how we loved it!

Once we got ready we took the luggage from my relatives place and started to Akshardam. It was a beautiful place but was heavily commercialized. What I like about temples is their sculptures but the temple hardly had any. With mosaic flooring and flood lights the place looked more a museum than temple to me.

We partied that night with me having a couple of tequila shots and rest their own favorites. Nothing much to boast off. We settled in our home late night and got ready for our Agra trip the next day. I had a severe headache when I got up. I somehow managed and reached the bus just on time. All were old people from Tamil Nadu in the bus so we didn’t have much fun. Good for me as I slept the whole journey. They had played Ek Tha Tiger in bus it seems, the rest of the guys were discussing how comic it was and teasing Balaji for wanting the coat which Salman was wearing.

We had breakfast in a 3 or 5 star restaurant in the morning. Was decent enough, not of the standards on Om Saravana Bhavan but costed the same. We went to Mathura temple first where we had a guide whom no one could understand. His English was like Hindi and Hindi like English so we were flummoxed. Again I settled for an hours sleep and went to Agra fort. This time we had an awesome guide who looked awesome and also had an amazing knowledge about the place. Agra fort was decent. The first hazy glimpse of Taj Mahal from there was bewildering. Other than that and few clicks there was nothing much to look around.

We went to a handicraft shop from there; again I wasn’t much interested of it. Balaji bought a Taj Mahal for around 1000 rupees there I guess and we had terrible yet costly lunch at a nearby 3 star hotel. The old man who sat next to Karthik seemed to have had parotta for 35 rupees in a road side shop it seems. We were craving for it.

Our next stop was Taj Mahal. The one place we were eagerly looking forward too. Once we went inside the red building entrance and saw Taj Mahal it was a feeling that couldn’t be described in words. We took a lot of time there by clicking pictures at every juncture as we neared the place. But once we went into the Taj Mahal to see Noor Jahans crematory we got dejected. We expected much more, don’t know how to say but we expected something more spectacular. Then we took the bus and returned home. It was darn cold outside. My back bone got rigid because of the temperature difference as soon as I got down from the bus. We decided not to party and settled for a fast food restaurant on the way to our hotel. We had terrible fried rice and Seekh Kabab there and went for rest.

The third and final day in Delhi was the most amazing one. After a good night’s sleep we went to Kareems near Jama Masjid along with aunty. I bet no one can make better Tandoori chicken than them. Along with it Seekh kabab and Mutton Bura too were amazing. Briyani didn’t satisfy our taste though. That one lunch was enough for us to have only two meals for the next two days. Of which one is orange juice from Nagpur.

We roamed in Red fort, it was bigger and boring that Agra fort. Gladly enough we got a taxi for rupees 150 to go to station. We waited there and was so damn irritating to see guys flirting with an attu piece, Tamilians of course. At that time the temperature was 8 degree but we were not feeling cold at all. Seena and Prasanna went outside the station and had Kothu parotta along with Balaji while Karthik and I were safeguarding the luggage.

The return train journey again was similar to our onward train journey with cards and kalais. We were welcomed by nice coovam smell and humidity once we entered Chennai border. On top of it Balaji lost his shoe. So it was not such a great end to our journey but no regrets as what happened towards the end was barely negligible.