Wednesday, August 31, 2005

HaHa Tonka - Laughing all the way

Anyone would get mesmerised by the name of the place and so were we. This was one of the reasons why we wanted to visit the HaHa Tonka state park located maybe 50-60 miles off Rolla. The Council of Graduate students decided that as a great start to the semester, it would be befitting to start off with a nice little picnic and so the place decided to be Haha Tonka.

I got this information from the University website.
In 1904, Robert Snyder, a wealthy Kansas City, MO businessman, was so impressed with the natural beauty of the location that he purchased around 2,500 acres of the land for use as a resort. Synder originally started out in St. Louis and worked in the wholesale grocery business. He later moved to Kansas City where he became involved with the wholesale grocery business, banking, land speculation, and utilities. Snyder owned the Snyder Gas Company of Kansas City and was one of the first automobile owners in that city. In his business dealings, Synder was always said to operate with honor and integrity. Construction on Hahatonka Castle started in 1905. Snyder dreamed of a resort built to resemble the finest of European castles. In order to fulfill his goals, he hired Scottish stonemasons and a European supervisor to complete the project. The entire resort consisted of a 3.5 story castle, stone stable, nine greenhouses, and an eighty foot water tower, all built of locally acquired stone and timber.

The name Haha Tonka stems from the fact that the Osage Indians referred to it as the Laughing waters. We had to trek to the castle ruins. Ruins I say because the castle was guttled in flames in the year 1942. The castle was short lived as it was built in 1922. The beauty of the castle is not awe-inspiring. It is the pathway to the castle that is laid with breathtaking sceneries. Natural springs, nice pathways, lush green, blue waters, a sea of boats engulfed in the lakes and the huge college crowd, made it an exciting and easy walk for us up the hill. We were around 60 of us and the trek was not as easy (just like any other). The (dis)advantage of the places here are the fact that it is not like in India where if you are refering a place to be a trek spot, it is surely going to be a tough shot. The pathways are etched to perfection with signboards placed at regular intervals. Once you reach up the hill, there is no necessity of climbing down since beautiful roads make our work easy. We had our refreshments - soda, chips, burgers, doughnuts, honey coated buns and then drove our way back to Rolla.

Overall it was a fun-filled day of trek and basically getting to know a lot of fellow mates.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Mor Kuzhambu

Whoa! What's this mysterious sounding word. This is nothing but a South Indian sambar made from curds. What a paradox! Sambar and curds getting combined. Yeps! That's the speciality of this item. It was Saturday evening at 6 o' clock. The baays in my room got ready to experiment on yet another item. Oh! I had a sound sleep for an hour and as I got up, I was smacking my lips seeing the dish. We laid down the matress on the carpet, the mor kuzhambu and aloo curry. One of my roommates got up to take the container of yoghurt from the refrigerator. On seeing the brand of yoghurt, I let out a scream. We can't have the curds. It has gelatin. So, I told them, we won't have the curds today. So, my roommate gave out an equally loud scream...In that case, we can't have the kuzhambu too! Then it struck us what had happened. There was curds in the kuzhambu. For a moment all of us were caught on the wrong foot. Here we have a mouth watering dish right in front of us but just not in the position to taste it. So, we decided to give away the dish to our non-vegetarian counterparts in the apartment below. They were delighted to have it.

So, we had to do with some of the podis that we had got and the mor kuzhambu transformed into nil-kuzhambu. But we also thanked our stars in just missing out on testing the sample of gelatin unknowingly.

The bottom line is being a vegetarian is fine but to practise it real hard is indeed real hard. I just hope we live upto the name of vegetarians knowingly (of course) as well as unknowingly.

PS : If anybody wants the recipe of this item, get in touch with me :-)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The need for conversion!!

I am not a religious leader here campaigning for a particular religion. If you think that this is going to be one of them, then you are completely wrong. What is so obvious in a foreign country? To compare the price of a commodity back in India. That's exactly what I am doing. The whole point is whether it is right comparing prices in two different countries. The topic which started as a very casual talk at 9 o' clock in the night ate away almost two hours. Four of us had our own ideas.

One of my roommates said that comparisons were inevitable and that is the whole point of having conversion rates. Imagine buying a coke for a dollar here, which costs around 20 rupees in India. By the way, the dollar conversion rate is approximately 44 Indian rupees. Does that mean that coke is cheaper in India or here? Various factors have to be considered to determine which is economical. Consider an average working personnel here with a monthly salary of approximately 3000$ and consider the same in India to be Rs 25000/-. An Indian might be shelling Rs 20/- for a coke, but his monthly income is much more than what a person here can save with a monthly income of 3000$ and by spending the 1$ for a coke. So, its all in the amount of money you get that determines the economy factor.

I too had to put my ideas (obviously)! Consider a high end model car of a decent company here. It would cost around 20000$ and the same in India would cost about Rs 8 lakhs. A person here can spend one-half or one-third of his annual salary to get a good car but that in India would mean three or four years of your earnings. Let's forget about the import duties and other things. In this case, we know which is more economical!!

The advice from the seniors here is Do not compare the products bought here with that of in India! The earning capacity here and there is totally different is the advice. But at the end of the conversation he says When you go back to India, you will find India to be very economical! That's exactly what we have been trying to prove When you come here, it is very costly compared to what you get in India!!

Monday, August 22, 2005

What's the end?

A day after tenth exam,
Prayers in your head cram,
If I can make it big here,
I can live life without fear!

The exam results are out,
Into a college hard fought,
Is life going to be easy?
But its all the more busy!!

Now you are ready,
To study to get steady,
Twelfth exam is as crucial,
To make your life special!

Engineering is a cake walk,
Seniors and the others talk,
Atlast you are relaxed,
No reason to get taxed!!

Yes! You get into a good school,
To mingle with the bright pool,
Now, you have to work hard,
Its all exams, results and the marks card!!

Theory and lab exam is no joke,
And there is every chance to choke,
You pray, pray and hope,
That you should be able to cope!!

Four years of your time,
Spent like this is a crime,
A realisation a little too late,
But then its all in the fate!

You need a job now,
But you don't know how,
Placements and resumes do the rounds,
And talks of good pay in pounds!

Time it is to earn,
Without any to learn,
But money it is that counts,
And live your life in haunts!!

In life there is many a game,
To win and rise to fame,
A ray of hope always beckons,
It is upto you to take on!!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Avani Avattam

Hey! Wondering what this mysterious word is? It is nothing but one of the most sacred and religious ceremony of the Brahmins. It is the Upakarma. Belonging to the Yajur veda, the thread changing ceremony ( to be simple) fell today and the three of us in our room were ready with our waishtee ( dhoti ), vivudhi ( sacred ash) on our forehead, dharbe, new poonal ( thread ), pancha pathra ugruni, arisi ( rice) or to be appropriate akshadhai and of course water.

A scanned copy of the Kanchi madam upakarma copy was there on my lap and with great vigor and challenge, I was reciting the Sanskrit words written in Tamil. Never easy to get a good foothold in the subject if you've never read it before. All the time we are involved in science and technology that you realise what you've been missing in the long run. Vedic knowledge has always been a boon not for a particular community but for the whole wordly sphere. It encompasses all that we can think of and a lot more.

Life gets too intricate and complicated if we don't understand the real meaning of our deeds. I think with the advancement of science and technology, the values, morals and ethics are taking a backseat. The competitive edge is so razor sharp that fellow feelings are not anymore being administered in the right sense. Its always a trade off! Do you want to spend more time thinking about your progress or do you want to spend time for the society? Its a tough call considering the kind of circumstances that one has to go through to earn his bread.

Vedas, Upanishads and other religious manuscripts have mesmerised me as well as baffled me. It has so much of content that we pretend not to have time so as not to read them. The content is obviously over the head but the process is worth it. I would consider it a Once in a lifetime experience to come close to reciting the vedas let alone mastering them. I have always had this fancy of learning the miniscule of atleast one of the vedas - Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana veda but then I don't have time!!

It is never easy to change but a change for the better is really worth it whatever maybe the ordeal that one has to undergo for it.

A little too philosophical but I just hope that it does sound a lot pragmatic!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Aaj ka vichar...

It was 6:30 in the evening. All of us were feeling cosy due to the warmth of the snug rug adorning the living room of the apartment. All of us were lazing around after another tiring day running between the university and the apartment. We got into a long conversation. Guess about what! The talks were centered on India, India and India. Politics, condition of roads, owning independent houses, fields, farms, temples, food served in South Canara temples, Dharmasthala, Sringeri, Udupi, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kancheepuram, Kanchi madam ( Mutt), Jayendra Saraswatigal, corruption, concerns, goodwill, railway lines in India, Indian economy, Impact of Chinese goods in the United States, textiles in India, Why Chinese bikes didn't hit the Indian market?, Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Golden Quadrilateral dream, state highways, national highways, use of local dialect in the respective states and what not!!!

An Indian atmosphere is certainly recreated here. A general feeling of being abroad is not evident at all, the way we carry ourselves. A lot of discussions on day to day topics in India coupled with the fact of being in the Indian hub has made it very homely till now here. Arguments, counter-arguments, facts, quotes, teasers and light hearted discussions has added an aura of Indianness in all of us to a large extent.

What fun to get into these animated discussions!! But there is a pitfall too! At the end of the marathon session, we happened to see the clock ticking. Believe it or not! It was 9 PM, which means that we had a Hard Talk for two and a half hours without realising what in the world we were upto. We were lost in this conversation.

Of course, the sad part after all this is we had to buck up to help ourselves with rice, dal and curd rice!!

Monday, August 15, 2005

What's cooking up?

So, here we are, a bunch of four gluttons, ready to devour almost everything in the world provided it is absolutely vegetarian. What do we cook today? is a question that gets our taste buds rollicking. To be honest, we are not bad cooks either. From Sambar to elimichapazham (lime) rasam, semiya (vermicelli) upma to godhuma ravai upma, everything has come out highly edible. We are getting the basic ingredients right to match our ever-demanding appetite. It was just a matter of a couple of days, and we were getting bored. We tried to shift the protocol to something slightly different and jeera rice it was. We were absolutely bang on target. It was perfect and different from what was cooking up every other day. What surprises all of us is that whatever gets cooked, doesn't last for more than a course of meal. The quantity does not matter, but the quality definitely does! No wonder it beats us as we tend to realise the quality of food thats being prepared. Is it that good? To top it all, we have got ulundu and arisi appalams that when roasted on the gas, adds a new dimension to the rich aroma of South Indian food. The ghee soaked ven pongal whet our appetites to new limits.

Talking about food all along, I am reminded of a wonderful quote by the legendary Mark Twain

Eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside!
And that's exactly what we are upto!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Swades...Vibrant India

On the eve of the 59th Indian Independence, what better movie to showcase than Swades, and that's exactly what the Indian Association at Rolla decided. I was seeing the movie for the second time. Once before leaving for Germany and then now of course. I would rate this as one of the brilliantly shot movies in a long time. The kind of emotions that runs through Shahrukh Khan could be felt by every one of us at the theater. A classy movie and at what a time to see it!!!

Its always great to have your community following you outside your motherland. It feels all the more nostalgic when you can associate with something deeply patriotic. We have had 58 long years after our independence and the famous Tryst with Destiny speech by Jawaharlal Nehru can be read another million times. The message conveyed in that brief span of 15 minutes transports the reader to a patriotic frenzy. We have had a sea change in the last decade due to a number of economic reforms, started by the then Finance Minister and today's Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Indians are a part of the society in almost every part of the world. A lot of emotions run through you when you sit to ponder about India. India, with its strong backbone, and cultural diversity, has a community abroad that is equally diverse. People from all corners of the country get together to sail in the boat of togetherness. There is a freshness and eagerness that keeps the boat from sinking. What we do not see much in India is a clarity etched here! In the long run, all of us would want to contribute our mite to India. What we have got from our country is huge and what we can give back is only a handful and if we succeed in doing that, it would be one of the greatest moments of pride for every one of us!

With this and many more ideas, I sleep to awaken for the 59th Independence day celebrations and hope to see a hugely vibrant India that can carry along the wishes of billions of people at home and abroad!!

Let's celebrate our 59th Independence day with resolutions that can make a difference!

Happy Independence day

Saturday, August 13, 2005

First few days in Rolla

At the Seniors' place

Coming to Rolla early in the morning or late in the evening ( depending on the convenience of the usage) at 1 AM is meant to be tiresome for any traveller. A new place with a new set of faces is not going to add any joy to an already questions-filled person like me. My mind was trying to get adjusted to the scene. There were three seniors in the comforts of a two bedroom apartment. The best part about them was they made me feel really at ease. I chatted with them for a few minutes with no appetite for a dinner. I was offered my place to lay down for the night. I went to bed with a lot of questions obviously in no mood to ask anybody about anything. Nothing teaches man more than travel. The comfort of the place is not determined by the facilities available in the place, but by how best one can get acclimatised to the living conditions of the place. The availability of the comfort is not as important as being in the comfort zone and the comfort zone is reached only after a matter of time.

After a fairly disturbed sleep, I got up in the morning at around 8:30 PM. There are small things in these places that adds to the dilemma of simple people like me. The way you turn the bathroom knob to lock the door may be a trivial issue for the people living here, but it is as important for a newcomer. How do I use a shower? may evoke a laughable response from anybody else, but then it is as serious to me!! But seniors that they are, they too have lived these issues in the initial phase, and so they were really helpful to me to help me with the right usage. Luckily the concept of tissues were not alien to me!! That might have been another shock to me else. This whole idea of taking bath in a bath tub has always had me in a deep sense of mystery. What is the pleasure of having a small bathtub of not very large dimensions with a bath shower a few feet above, and then to complement that, a shower curtain by the side to prevent the outflow of water to the other side(which again is not very comforting)!! Beats me like hell!! I couldn't understand why people shun water here. There is a difference when you don't have water ( Madras people should know) and obviously can't use it to having water ( Europeans and Americans) and not using it. After the initial hiccups, and then bundling out my old clothes to my cabin baggage, adorning myself with a fresh pair of clothes, I set into the kitchen. Thank God, I was not expecting a south Indian breakfast. I gulped my share of corn-flakes with milk. Corn-flakes and bread, along with a host of other bakery products are big time business here. This is where a company like Kellogs has got it all wrong in India. Who would want to leave a plate of Masala Dosai or Idly-vada to get into the habit of eating a variety (As you go to the mart, you find a variety of packs. I don't know why!! All taste the same ) of corn flakes.

The morning rituals completed and now all set to go to the univesity. I had to finish up the general formalities to register myself as the student of this wonderful university. I had the opportunity to meet a couple of professors submitting my resume and explaining my interests and area of work that I would like to push myself into. A lukewarm response on the first morning didn't cheer me up at all. I was worried as to what would happen to me in the coming days. Living in US without a job or an assistantship position is no joke what with the number of people getting enrolled in my department. It was afternoon by the time my stomach began to churn. I went back to the apartment and had a sumptuous gulp of bananas and water-melons. There was nothing else there!! I began to wonder for how long this is going to go on. Another round of roaming, checking mails and reading some books, got me to the apartment at 7 PM. There was still so much daylight. It was like 4 PM India time. I sat back to watch an episode of the evergreen serial Friends. One of the seniors made an entry at 8PM. I got the taste of Pasta, that he cooked. Still no trace of rice. This procedure repeated the next day, except that I got to have the taste of rice and dal, and the very presence of rice was highly comforting.

Booking an apartment
In the meanwhile, I had to search for an apartment. There were three more of my friends to come from India. I couldn't obviously wait for them since the apartments were getting booked everyday. I went to the nearby real estate dealer and booked an apartment close to the university. All this running around had to be done in swelting heat. The temperatures were easily touching 40 degrees. My shirt was like as if I had played a fifty over cricket match in India. I had to fill up separate forms to enable the gas and electricity. The initial deposit had to be made for electricity, and the very thought of walking so far had me sweating. I wanted to touch the comfort zone quickly!!

My apartment
Luckily my roommates arrived shortly and I was able to move out of the seniors' place to the permanent residence. It was just a floor below. Atleast now I could unpack my baggage and arrange my clothes and other things. There was a sense of belonging in the new place. All of us are non-smokers, tee-totallers, vegetarians, religious and more importantly like-minded. The first day of cooking it was and we made saadam (Rice) and sambar. It was too good. We gulped it in glee. The next day it was sadam and rasam, and today it was ven Pongal. We were making good headway with our cooking skills. We decided that we would cook properly atleast till classes start.

Shopping at Walmart
Walmart is the biggest chain of super mart in the United States. Almost anything to everything is available. It is around 3-4 kms from the apartment. Three of us ( One guy had slept) went walking to the place and picked all the necessary things to make the initial start. We had a lot of items to buy and stuffed all the plastic covers as much as possible. Luckily the plastic covers are not charged here. With all the items we purchased, we came out and hired a taxi. By the time we reached home, it was close to midnight. By the way, Walmart is open 24 hours.

Movies and cricket at Rolla
It is a practice here in Rolla to screen Hindi movies twice a week - Fridays and Saturdays. Last night it was DUS (it is different that the movie is terrible) and today it is Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya (Me going just for Katrina!!). This is taken care by the Indian Association of the university. We also play cricket in the evenings at a small concrete plot near the Schuman Lake. The setting is just too good to play cricket. It looks like a scene lifted from one of those ever-lively Enid Blyton books.

All in all, a very pleasant time in Rolla till now. Though it is a different matter that I miss Bangalore, Rolla is not a bad place at all.

A Start

Out of Bangalore
A lot of indecisiveness, deep thoughts leading to nowhere and inconclusive meetings with many seniors and friends, finally brought me to the Hindustan Airport on the 23rd July night (11 pm Saturday Evening : Data for posterity) at Bangalore. I was amidst a whole group of relatives and friends who had come to see me off on this marathon voyage leading to hopefully a bright future. The airport was embellished with a pall of gloom. I was all set to leave the city I love so much. The thoughts of leaving the family coupled with the fact that I had to leave Malleswaram was one of the most emotional moments in my life. Its always a tough call leaving your motherland, your near and dear ones, friends, relatives, and the city with its soul hidden to others but so visible to a person who has been here since birth. But then, tough shots were the need of the hour. Its always nice when someone else is calling the shots for you. I too felt the same way, and thankfully I put all the burden on the omnipresent being. I tried to shy away as much as possible from my family. I did not have the courage to face any of them without moistening my eyes. I tried to put up a brave front in front of my elders, cracking meaningless and silly jokes which would have fetched me a reprimand if the occasion was something else. But then, everyone wanted to forget about my departure. With tons of agony, depression, gloom, apprehension and what not, I went into the International terminal lobby to check in my suitcases, whisking myself into the security check cauldron. At last I was out of sight of my family members. I was through with the emigration process. I waited, waited and waited. The flight was about an hour late. I had all the time in the world to be cut off from the world. I sat there facing the future without any idea as to what it beckoned. I did not have the interest to start off a conversation with anybody around. I wanted to face solitude. Sometimes, solitude is the best company for a troubled mind. As the public announcement proclaimed the availability of my flight, I got ready to board with sleepy and yet thoughtful mind, the flight to Bombay. I just had to get into my seat and I had no time to discomfort my mind with mindless thoughts as I went into a deep slumber. The next thing I heard was the air-hostess announcing the arrival of Mumbai.

Wait in Mumbai
Mumbai it was and my connecting flight just got delayed by an hour. I had a four hour wait in Mumbai, and thankfully I found company. There was a group of four people, and we struck instant compatibility, sticking together for the rest of the wait. Breakfast was served at the restaurant lounge and for anything in the world, I just can't figure out why Rotis and Channa dal was served for breakfast. Beats me!!! (Its a different story that I would like to have the same thing for today's breakfast considering the circumstances). The tiredness was creeping like hell, what with a half hearted sleep the night before and only for less than two hours, and as luck would have it, all the push back seats meant for sleeping had weary occupants. I really envied them! Finally, it was time to board the flight to Chicago!

Out of the country : Mumbai to Chicago
Yes! I was all set to fulfill my ambition - getting a Masters degree! I boarded the flight checking my documents more than a hundred times for its safety. Obviously, I can't afford to lose any of them. They were more precious than me then. I ventured carefully, finding my seat number, to be seated next to an Andhra (not very surprising) couple. I was fortunate to have good company throughout the flight journey. They kept me abreast of the formalities to be taken care at the Chicago airport. The flight had a brief stopover at London for about two hours(another hour's delay) and then a seven and a half hour journey to Chicago. I spent most of my time with my eyes closed, what with the time zones playing havoc. Wherever the flight went, it was only daylight. The refreshments in the flight was not great, but it wasn't bad either for an empty stomach. At last, Chicago it was!!

At the Chicago airport
Chicago airport is a huge airport, considering the cities from which we come from. It had terminals across buildings that can be traversed only by rail (rather metro). I had to take a metro to terminal three. The size and magnitude of these airports are huge and gigantic. I finished my immigration and customs check formalities, and frantically found my way to the metro that could take me to terminal 3. I was in Terminal 3 in three minutes time. I just had twenty minutes to catch my connecting flight to St. Louis. I produced my ticket at the American Airlines counter to get the free boarding pass. Then, I had a security check (a thorough one) for close to fifteen minutes. I then had to walk for around a kilometre to get into gate G19. I stood in a queue for around ten minutes and then was ready to get into my final destination by flight journey. Here too, the flight was late by around 15 minutes to enable the passengers in transit to be available on time.

At St. Louis
I was there in St. Louis in about an hour. Luckily for me, my senior was waiting for me, along with the taxi. I collected my baggage (one of my checkin baggages had a broken wheel. Boohooo), and then it was a one hour drive from St. Louis to Rolla.

At Rolla
Finally, I was there in Rolla. I was temporarily to be put with a senior. I entered the house at around 1 AM in the morning. I just finished the basic formalities and was ready to get up in the morning at around 8 AM. Believe me, I wasn't affected by the jet-lag!!

More from me later!!

To Rolla

Across seas and oceans I set;
An appetite for studies to get;
Amidst family and friends,
A flight to catch the new trends

Bangalore to Bombay; an early call,
A delay of an hour; what a pall!
With sleepy eyes and tired faces,
We caught our places!!

A wait in Bombay; four hours;
All the time in the world; it was ours,
New friends joined the fray,
We were then well on our way!!

Bombay to Chicago through London,
A long journey, we weren't undone,
An Andhra couple were company,
We talked too many!!

A flight journey too long,
The air hostess' all along,
Fed us with food and beverages,
I thought I slept for ages!!

Chicago it was; O Hare airport,
Too huge compared to our port,
Through with immigration and customs,
Carrying our bags which weighed tons!!

American Airlines to St. Louis,
One more security check through,
At last the final flight of the leg,
People were comfortable with a peg

A cab from the airport,
Rolla it was, the final port.
No more flights to catch,
I was one of the first in the batch!!

The night at the seniors' place,
The streets; not a soul to trace,
A quiet town to while your time,
Without having to spend much dime!!

Brightened up...

One and a half months in a foreign country is not all that bad. A lot of things seem to have inclined my views on a more favourable stance in the last few days. The white sleet has disappeared to obscurity, what with the sun shining bright spreading its mirth to the girth of the countryside, a new set of friends from other departments and new found love and happiness cannot leave a petulant image in my mind anymore.

Time, I realise, brings different mood swings in a person. As the common phrase It is just a matter of time finds its usage in the daily activities of life, it is only experience that really teaches us to understand the invaluable message hidden in this. My first two - three weeks in Germany was forgettable inspite of having good company. There was an unexplainable uneasiness crammed into all parts of my mind. I saw life as being null and void with the state of mind being absolutely chaotic and wretched. At any moment of time, I had only one thought lurking in my mind often I have to get out of here fast. The meticulous way the people lead their lives, planning even the simplest of things to perfection, looking at the weather reports with vivid alacrity was observed by me with dumbfoundedness. See the difference in India. If you have to travel to another city or state even 1000 kilometres away, a lot of things get decided 24 hours prior to the time of departure including the booking of tickets and accomodation. But here, things are different, if you plan to travel then you must plan to plan, which then takes you to the actual plan and the verification of a simple checklist is the road to travel. I have never given any importance to weather when I was in Bangalore, what with the meteorological department predictions being as unpredictable as the weather itself. So, generally, we are acclimatised to any situation whether sunny, very sunny, rainy or very rainy conditions. The amount of importance attached to the meteorological department here is the fact that weather conditions are tracked to a nicety. Things as small as It is going to be sunny in the morning, with snow in the evening results in the exact duplication of the weather conditions as given in the report. This is sufficient enough reason for people to track the daily changes in weather from the desired sources.

It is a common sight in India to see a large group of people clamouring at bus stops and waiting for eternity for that single elusive bus that can come either fifteen minutes late or early, and can stop anywhere upto a limit of 200 metres from the bus stop, not to forget the fact that sometimes the bus would never turn up at all!! So, we are prune to a lifestyle, where we can easily take deviations from normality. We are immune to the unpredictabilities so much that predictabilities end up being unpredictable. With this notion, I vividly remember the incident in an S-Bahn station in Vaihingen. We were on our way to the Indian store in SchwabStrasse from the Hauptbahnof, which is the Stuttgart main railway station. Due to heavy snowstorm, the S-Bahns were cancelled to SchwabStrasse and all of them were diverted to the Flughafen through Vaihingen. We were stuck in Vaihingen for close to 15 minutes without any mode of travel back since there was no news of any S-Bahn in the near viccinity. I saw the station covered with nearly 40-50 people waiting anxiously for the next announcement. The tension was writ largely on their faces. Some of them were walking up and down with the feeling Oh no!! What the hell is happening! We were three of us in the group, enjoying every moment and passing comments at will. We imagined the same situation in India. On any given day, there are around 100 people waiting for different buses in the bus stop. People are prepared for any situation. If the actual bus does not arrive on time, people start thinking about the alternate options. If there is a bus strike, people are ready to grapple that situation also. Imagine what would happen if there is a strike in Germany!! Bus delays in India is a very common feature. Its another matter that the S-Bahn came after 15 minutes and the relief on their faces was largely noticeable.

Food was pathetic for the first few weeks. Things were going out of control with the quantity of salt or the sambar powder or one of the 1000 powders got from home always being short or exceeding the normal limits. But then, things can't go any worse from here. Everyday was a new learning experience. Cooking could only get better. Initially, I even blamed my mother, who has been cooking for the past thirty years for her sambar powder saying that she has made a mistake with the ingredients this time. She could only laugh it off in the presence of the other family members. As I prepared the sambar yesterday, I realised that it was I who was to be held responsible for the sambar!! Cooking has gone to new heights with the following dishes - sambar, rasam, vermicelli upma, rava upma, tomato rice, coconut rice, potato curry, vendekkai (Lady's finger) curry. In case of emergency situations, I have puliyogare, karuvapilai powder(curry leaves powder), paruppupudi(Dal powder), MTR ready mixes(not worth eating though!!). The best food in any situation is the ever wonderful curd rice with hot and spicy mango pickles. Nothing in the world can taste better than this according to me. I also tried jeera rice, that was really good for a supper. I still have to open my noodles packets. A glass of butter milk or plain milk forms my dinner everyday along with a wide array of the possible dishes that can be cooked by me.

My stay was made absolutely enjoyable by some new friends I found here in Stuttgart. Remember my new found love and Happiness. It was the last Sunday. I was on my way from the Hauptbahnof to Feuerbach in a U6. I happened to sit opposite a girl, who seemed highly conservative and with Indianised looks. Though I am generally a quiet person by nature, I decided that I have to engage in a small talk with her. I realised she was from India(that of course), Tamil Nadu and from Madurai. She is a student in Stuttgart. We spoke for some time and our conversation was too brief before I had to get down at Feuerbach krankenhaus, while she had to travel all the way back to Gerlingen. I let things pass forgetting everything about our meet. It was about two days back, when I had to leave office early and had to take a bus(501) to go to Hauptbahnof. I happened to meet her in the bus and it was as if I knew her for long. We spoke about many things, from Germany to Madurai, studies to work, family and what not!! She is my senior by two years(2001 graduate) and doing her Masters in automotive technology. We became instant friends. It was then that she told me to accompany to her flat for dinner. By the way, she stays with her hubby here. It was great to see them living their life here and pursuing their interests 6000 kilometres away from Madurai in Tamil Nadu. They made me feel absolutely comfortable. We chatted on everything under the sun. I could listen to the latest Tamil songs and watch some tamil movie clippings from my favourite movies. And soon, dinner time it was. I was served with wonderful delicacies - superb sambar, podlanga curry(snake gourd), thalichukottna curd rice(like the way it is served in hotels of course in India) and lime pickle. I had never had a more hearty meal even in India. The love and affection on their faces was unmatchable and I was totally moved by their hospitality. What more!! They even took my lunch box out of the bag and packed the next day's lunch for me. It was around 10pm in the night when I left their abode(They even accompanied me upto the Gerlingen Ubahn station) and headed back to my hotel room with pleasant memories lingering in my mind. My mind was filled with them for the rest of the night and the rest of the days to follow. This is the most pleasant memory of my stay here and I would definitely miss Germany once I get back to India not for its Ubahns, Sbahns, the buses, the Strasses, the people, the culture, BOSCH and the other wonderful places but it would be only for this lovely couple whom I met which has left an indelibe image in my mind and I am sure I will have these pleasing thoughts for the rest of my life.

I have really learnt a lot from this relationship and I hope this helps me in bringing postive overtunes in my life. That sums up my last few days and I am definitely not as desperate as before in returning back to India. Nevertheless, three more weeks to go...


In a town lived a bull dog,
Which always tried to hog,
And when caught in dark,
Always tried to force a bark
That left everyone agog!!

From rags to riches we rise,
And still not forget our ties,
Lone were your sad times,
No one to give you any dimes,
But we all know time flies!!

Life is not any fun,
When all you have is nun,
Enjoy life without the fizz,
Too boring without the Miss,
Until you find the right one!!

I once upon a time read a book,
Which was about a highway crook,
For the sake of love did he live,
He always had lots of things to give,
And he got in return not a look!!

I was in search of a girl,
To change my life with a twirl,
There was only one face,
Who could change my pace,
But she was caught in a whirl!!

In Germany I missed a lot,
What it was I knew not,
To search back home was the lure,
For what I still wasn't sure,
With that I fell back on my cot!!

Food for thought

It is winter time in Stuttgart,
Better to live on bread and jam tarts,
But come you have from Bangalore,
Where food you have galore!!

An early wake up call,
Takes you to the breakfast hall,
And all you get to see,
Gives enough reasons to flee!!

No reason to think twice,
To eat what you despise,
If you get to be chosy,
Life cannot be any rosy!!

A hurried breakfast and a run,
In the cold and no trace of the sun,
To catch the bus in a few miles,
Can give you no morning smiles!!

As you get ready for lunch,
And absolutely have no hunch,
The food prepared last night,
Will it end up alright?

As you prepare the food to heat,
You realise it is no mean feat,
To eat self prepared food,
Which is not all that good!!

Soon, Dinner time it is,
You don't want to miss,
To try out something new,
So what if you eat a few!!

You learn at last,
That to cook good and fast,
Practice once, twice and thrice,
Before you pay the same price
Move on..

Life moves on in the same pace,
When you have nothing to face,
Once the tough times start,
It is then you must learn to move on!!

Not in every Maths exam
It is that you can score a centum,
Back your instincts and hard work,
To score well and move on!!

It is not every time,
That you take the right decisions,
Many a times, they backfire,
But stand by them and move on!!

You place your trust in all,
No time to reflect until,
One of them betrays your trust,
Now, time to find real trust and move on!!

There is a trace of over-confidence,
Without a hint of caution,
You realise it is too late,
But then, you know life has to move on!!

There is a glint of self talk,
And soon it turns to pride,
Things take the worse turn,
Learn to take the fall and move on!!

You know you can keep in check,
Whatever may be the prick,
But it soon gives way to anger,
Learn to check the tempest and move on!!

Many a new things you learn,
From mistakes committed often,
Learn to learn fast,
Before you are well beyond your past!!!

From then on..

As a kid you were,
Lived life without fear,
You were filled with awe,
By things that you saw

The first time you crawl,
You are ready for a brawl,
People around you tear their hair,
That doesn't let you stop the fare

As you grow up to walk,
And you are ready to talk,
The questions that you ask,
Takes even tough people to task

Your first day at school,
Is not all that cool,
To learn, they think you are ready,
But it is not all that heady!!

You have found your best friend,
To talk about the latest trend,
School is not all that bad,
You end up telling your dad!!

Things take their course,
One find day, you are in remorse,
What is wrong, people wonder
Why did I do it? You ponder!!

You decide it is time to patch up,
Though there are others in the batch,
Its only him to whom I can go,
And he just can't be my foe!!

You are now in your teen,
And it is time to preen,
You look up and down,
To catch the stare of anyone in gown!!

You realise you have a crush,
Thoughts of her you can't brush,
It falls on another; your gaze,
The old one is now in a haze

Time to prepare for tests,
Its your fun that rests,
You work hard all night,
To score well with all might!!

You grow up to succeed,
And reflect on your past deed,
It was a lot of fun,
Now you are always on the run!!

She is my best friend; you think
You fight; Your friendship on the brink
You miss her too much,
You have fallen in love as such!!

Now, you know the difference,
That there is a huge fence,
Between infatuation and love,
And how you are truly in love now!!

New thoughts reflect your mind,
Mature they are, you find!!
As you take time to introspect,
You hope to have a bright prospect!!


A simple talk on fear can easily induce fear in a fearless person. The bounds and limits of fear are not tested by many though. It appears in various forms, and in various situations, leaving a perplexing situation for the person beyond which he is not in a position to explore its limits. It can be something clearly visible or at the same time something equally abstract. In any case, it has the desired effect in inducing a disorderly mental state. Psychologists worldwide have stated mental trauma to be a major factor in creating this fear psychosis. We fear by things which we do not want to see - it may be as simple as watching a horror movie on your TV screen. The more complex of fear concerns your day to day activities in life, some of which are totally inexplainable. Fear of something is immediately termed as phobia but there is something more than these phobias that constitute our day to day life.

Let the theorists and purists pour into its causes from the technical point of view. What is the major cause of fear? This question arises from a purely practical approach. Insecurity can be attributed to be one of its chief causes. Insecurity is evident in a one year old child to a hundred year old man. Consider the situation facing the child. The mother addresses the child in no uncertain terms : If you don't complete your homework today, your teacher will whack your knuckles. The most probable thing the child does is to complete the homework, all in a mental state called as Fear. This is the most basic stage of fear induced by the mother. This translates to a periodic disturbance experienced by the child at various stages of his life - in adolescence, in youth and in old age. The whole concept of fear would have been abstract had the mother rephrased her sentence to : If you don't complete your homework today, how would you achieve things that the great scientists have come up in the last century!! This would have helped the child to face life with a more positive outlook. He would still do the homework not with fear but with inspiration and a goal in life. More often than not, it is the short term goals that are evident for achievement and the feats in the long run are not kept in mind while creating a figure in society. Growing up with a you can do it approach is totally different from a if you don't do it approach. The basic mindset of two individuals with these contrasting development strategies are totally different. In both cases, the persons concerned may be successful but the quest for achievement will have different meanings embedded in these individuals.

Fear in adolescents and teenages takes a different turn. Teenagers hate losing which ultimately is fear of losing. They want to be successful in academics, arts, sports and what not!! They are built with the message stuck in their head - I can't lose!! They are at the receiving end from all quarters - parents, teachers, friends and the community in general. They are faced with many many responsibilities - I have to appease everyone!! The fear of disappointing so many people instills an attitude in them that can head in two directions - I am going to prove it to them or I don't care what happens. In this case, fear helps a teenager move in the right direction. But at the same time, if the teenager is fearless - he faces the world with Come what may, I am going to do it!! So, there are two ways of achieving the desired result - fearfully or fearlessly. Though the end result may be the same depending on his capabilities, it is the way you achieve it that determines your confidence. Now, we are exposed to another set of the society who fall under the fearless category but in the negative sense - Come what may, I am not going to do it!! This brand of youth are a lot weaker than the fearful lot!

The twenty year olds representing today's youth are the most confused lot. The insecurity facing them starts in the final year of their study itself (whatever may be the education). Will I get a job once I leave college? Do I have to go for higher studies? When do I get settled? What do I become If I take this path? Will I be bankrupt if I start off something on my own? A whole lot of unanswerable questions hits them at lightning speed. Insecurity creeps in even to the guys with the strongest of minds. If a right kind of job is found, another set of questions are ready in his mind : Am I doing the right thing by staying here? Why am I not satisfied here? Will I ever get an onsite opportunity? Am I doing things that I don't intend to do? All these questions don't force him to quit his job. It dawns on him that it is very easy to hold on to something but requires a lot of will power to let go. At this point of time, he realises he would have been better off had he gone for higher studies. The barrage of questions though now are totally different : Am I taking a big risk in leaving a good job? Will the market be good after I complete my studies? What happens If I don't get a job then? Will she wait for me till I get settled? Some of the most important questions in his career, but are still left unanswered as only time can tell the consequences - whatever they may be!! Insecurity is the fear of the youth.

The thought of marriage is easily solved if you are able to get the person of your choice, else another Q&Q(no A) session starts off once again. The late youth(a married man), the middle aged and the old men have mainly the family life hitting their heads. Of course, other problems too surface but nothing gets top priority than family. The kind of problems faced by man in his early forties are totally different from a man in his early sixties or seventies, but then family it is all concerned with. He is now more worried about the security of his family than himself, a total contrast to the early twenties.

Thus explains the different stages of man's life and his fears. It is sometimes unnerving to ponder about the kind of path that is laid in front of us and the bottomline is we are forced to walk on the path irrespective of our likes or dislikes. We experience the fears on a different plane at different stages. A lot of doubts and queries are a result of the permutations and combinations that we do in our minds to foray into a bright future. In the end, we fear whether we would be successful or not in our bid to be a valuable asset in our ever-demanding society. Only time will tell whether our fears are confounded or not!!


When the twilight hour leaves you weary,
And you're left with little time to hurry;
Life with its issues unfolds; is it dreary?
The dour highlights of yesterday unfurls!!

When close ones laughed at 'ur slangs,
Now no more to feel your pangs;
When friends to share 'ur pain; no longer the same,
And no more remember 'ur name!!

When the day before, you understood,
What it takes from life and then withstood;
But the tough nature of life that it is,
You realise that it was all amiss!!

When you had immense pleasure to win,
And celebrated with wine and gin;
When the streak of wins continued; and then a loss,
And in a go, you're no longer the boss!!

When you were always there in the hunt,
To please everyone with 'ur stunt;
When then had to fulfill everyone's grunts and whims,
And no longer could bear the brunt; your grims!!

When you thought you had too long to live,
And ofcourse, you had everything to give;
When you stand today with nerves of steel,
Is this all you have? And how does it feel!!

When you could talk with people at lengths,
And delight them with 'ur wits; drive 'em to fits;
When no longer you talk; you listen,
And the bliss of solitude glistens!!

When life was an easy ride; you were brash,
There was never a fall; never a crash!!
When the ease of life had to halt; the sheer pace,
The mature face had to falter in the race
When it still continues; the learning,
It just dawns; you no more have the yearning!!

In the midst of routine...

The adage goes Nothing is as permanent as change. But, life in Stuttgart follows everything except the shift from normality. Life beckons the daily routine to be confined to predictable limits without transgression of even the minutest of barriers. The white sleet of snow is a result of the fugacious attempt by the sun to peek through the dense clouds. The vast stretch of snow leaves a permanent impression in memory of the everlasting invasion of the white precipitate. The initial excitement of the sight of snow soon turns into customariness, as exhilaration gradually transforms to "daily stuff".

The cleanliness of the city with the pristine air is a joy to behold. The rush of exhaust fumes directly to your lungs is a rarity in this part of the world. The Euro norms in the vehicles are adhered to strictly. People are driven by a sense of responsibility to uphold the basic rules and regulations, without the slightest tinge of non-compliance. The public transport system here may be one of the best in the world(though I have no idea about the other places!!). The bahns are a revelation here, with travelling from one corner of the city to the other corner being a highly pleasurable experience. The bahns from different stations are synchronized to such an extent that the connecting bahns from the other stations are not missed. Travellers are exposed to a new set of timings. 7:24 and 7:27 are totally different timings here. It is not taken as 7:25 or 7:30. Every minute is valued to a great extent.

Food is not at all a problem here as long as you are ready to eat anything. Unfortunately, I do not fall under this category. Being a strict vegetarian, every ingredient of the foodies is checked before arriving at a decision as to whether it is comestible by Indian standards or not!! Doner Kabab - a burger delight is a favourite among my Indian friends, although I didn't find it the same way. It is very popular here and comes in two modes of preparation - one stuffed with vegetables and schweine(pork) and the other is stuffed with vegetables and cheese. It can easily be substituted for a luncheon or a good dinner. The good old MAC finds its way in Stuttgart too with its wide array of delicacies. Gemuse MAC is the favourite of everyone here including me!! This too is a vegetable burger with scrumptious stuffings that rekindles your taste buds after every bite. MAC is a common sight here. The premier strasse of the city - KunigStrasse has a MAC almost in every other corner. There are other Chinese restaurants here and one of our regular hangouts is a place named China Town in the HauptBahnof - the main railway station. A huge bowl of delicious fried rice or noodles can easily be devoured by a bunch of hungry gourmets.

The daily essentials are procured by us in the local marts - Plus and Marktauf in the viccinity of the hotel. Although all vegetables are not available, we make do with the onions, tomatoes and potatoes. One great aspect here is the availability of a wide variety of dairy products - different kinds of milk, yoghurt, butter milk, cream puddings and what not!! The fruit yoghurt is one of my favourites, along with the vanilla - choco pudding, with creamed milk of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate forming the perfect icing for a nice evening. There are different varieties of biscuits and cakes too - butter biscuits, biscuits coated with choco and cream, soft cakes and so on. The applesaft and grapesaft quenches your thirst in the best possible way. The dinner is prepared with great care, but ultimately it has reached a level of saturation and not able to go that one notch beyond to what can be hailed as wow!!! That's great food!! Dinner ranges from chapathis and aloo parathas to sambar, rasam, tomato rice, dal and curds. The effort is doubled to duplicate our items for next day's lunch.

The temperature here is generally in the negative. In Bangalore, the lowest temperature to have experienced by me is not more than 15 degrees, while in Stuttgart the temperature effortlessly dips to -15 degrees. Unknowingly, we also had the pleasure of trekking at a temperature of -13 degrees one Sunday evening, and then terming it as an evening walk!! We are densely packed - an inner layer of thermals, vests, shirts, sweaters and on top of it a jacket which would have been unimaginable to be worn at Bangalore. Inspite of all this, our bodies feel the deep pangs of cold ripping through the wollen fortress. There is no effect of any kind of gloves here - whatever is worn ends up moist after some time and the hands are almost frozen within a few minutes. The local people are pretty comfortable with the weather. According to them, there is nothing called as bad weather but only bad clothing. I don't know how far I can agree with this statement!!

Stuttgart is a beautiful city with lovely landscapes in the backdrop. The most happening place is the KunigStrasse. It is a long street lined on either side by shops of all dimensions. Anything from vessels to fashion outfits, watches and junk foodies are available here. It is a common hangout for almost everyone to spend time on this street at any given time of the day. The Stuttgart palace, a massive building forms a part of this strasse. We too spent a Friday evening walking along on the street taking snaps at will. It is a different matter that we spend time here even during the weekends. It is an equivalent of Bangalore's MG Road. In simple terms, it is a hep and happening place. There is no scope for vehicles to ply on this road and it is exclusively meant for pedestrians to enjoy their shopping gleefully.

All in all, the adjustments are being done to enjoy the place. It also feels good to call up friends who are in the United States and have long conversations - thanks to the cost effective communication link from here. But then the countdown is still on….One more month to go!!!

The Sands of Time

The sands of time cannot be wasted away
By the wait for things to sway your way
If things have to improve tomorrow
Find your way today!

Destiny is but just an excuse
Which you may not find anymore in use
If waiting is all you want to do
Wants remain no more than wants

The ravages of time leave you disturbed
To realise the essence of time unspent
Its all a game at the end of the day
Without having taken part in the play

Frail exterior you may sport
The inner resolve will drive you forth
Work as hard as your dreams
Then they are no more in your realms

Success is not as tough
Though the path to it is as rough
Light at the end of the tunnel
Glows as a result of the struggle

Time is no more a healer
For you have got the feeler
The struggle had left you busy
But life is now just as easy

First few days...

A trajectory defined by a simple flight journey from Bangalore to Stuttgart translates to a meaningless path reaching miles beyond. Travelling for the first time from a pocket of Bangalore to a huge land mass, bounded by a totally different culture, with a lifestyle conforming to strictly organised ways leading to a socially different being, does not augur well for a first time traveller. The aura of a first time travel is dissipated within minutes of landing in a new place. Feelings of uncertainity creeps in at breakneck speed. Insecurity and solitude forms a bottleneck for further happiness. Life is strange in the sense that you begin to despise what you have been wanting for a very long time. Solitude becomes the sole companion with introspection, retrospection and what not hitting your mind at the speed of light. The luxury of all the time in the world, not with loved ones though, creates an atmosphere that can stifle even the mentally toughest of people. The confined happiness within a confined culture cannot be appealing to an outgoing extrovert from India.

India, with its unpredicatabilities, is bounded by a strong circle of family and friends, imbibing the virtues of life. The realisation dawns on you that your family is thrown into oblivion and the luxury of cramped living rooms in India with everyone vying for the possession of remote controls to take advantage of the channel of their choice turns into a myth, what with the remote being a showpiece object for a single English channel in an eternally switched off television set. Money and power plays a major role in the transformation of an individual. Neither can bring happiness in the absence of people around. The lurking thought is always there at the back of your mind - Is this all worth it? When do I return back to India? The strangeness of the place is compounded by the fact that people are obsessed with a sense of discipline and an organised way of life style.

My first day was spent in the company of friends who made me feel as comfortable as possible. I could get along with people who I couldn't have imagined to get along with some time back. I spent my day in the heartland of the city. The sbahns and the ubahns on the strasses were a revelation to me, with its almost perfect timing being not in sync with the Indian buses. The cleanliness of the city was in stark contrast to the kind of filth scattered on Indian roads. The public response to the rules and regulations specified by the Government was followed to near perfection. Violation of rules is a rarity. Traffic jams here is a common sight but the spacing between the cars is of such a length that there would have been another car and a motorcycle in between the cars if it was for India. The difference in the system here and in India is that everybody here tries to follow the rules and regulations to the maximum extent unlike in India where everyone is taking the first opportunity to bypass the system. How many times have we seen motorists looking at the first opportunity to flee at signal crossings when the traffic constable has his sight elsewhere!!!

A weekday passes in Germany like every other day. An early morning rise followed by a quick shower, brings you to the breakfast table for a quick 10 minute helping of bread, butter, jam, corn flakes and what not!!!(Don't look for idly vadas or dosas in the list) and a brisk walk to the bus stop for fifteen minutes frisks you to office in 20 minutes by the company bus that unfortunately arrives on time. A hard day ensures in the office with people around you working as if there is a deadline to be met in every subsequent hour. A lunch is taken for around fifteen minutes and tea for around 10 minutes and these are the only times during the day when you get to meet your Indian counterparts for a brief chat. A nine hour solid work session ends with a brief walk to the gate to take the bus back to the hotel. A host of other problems awaits as soon as you reach the hotel. A duo of amateurs think vigorously what has to be prepared for dinner and the next day's lunch. Though we have handled quite well with the cooking issues, we try as much as possible not to think about the Indian delicacies being prepared at home. Our day ends with each of us complimenting on our efforts and improvements, with a tiny cupboard called as kitchen being the source of our so called Indian delicacies. We end up eating food that would have been unthinkable if prepared at home. A Satyajit Ray novel ends up within my clasp for a few minutes before I have a sound sleep, with intermittent wake up calls in the middle of the night...…God knows from where. After three-four wake up calls, the morning saga starts with the same old raga!!!!!

I realise that I have learnt a lot in the last week or so, which I have not done in the last 23 years. The feelings of independence and responsibility are new found terms in my life style. Apart from solitude which can really tear you apart, there are a host of other things that this experience can teach for a person who has never learnt to be alone in life. The importance of family reaches a new dimension and you being to savour every happy memory of it. The separation from loved ones and dear ones may drive you to frenzy at times. But, on the whole, the whole perspective of the individual towards life takes a new and exciting turn, building up a more mature personality within you. Relationships are enriched like never before and in the end, the whole trip leaves you richer and wiser!!!

Lets see whether my opinion changes in the next few days…..till then……..:))))

The Flight

It was from India a huge flight,
In Stuttgart I had to alight,
Bombay the first stop,
And soon to be on top!!

Uneasiness steadfast crept in,
Standing along to see you off, kith and kin,
Far across seas and lands 'ur to travel,
With heart set many to unravel

Metal detectors, security checks and what not
Finish the formalities fast, you thought
All you wanted was a seat,
And many a times, 'ur heart missed a beat!!

The plane took off vroom,
You still were not in your groom,
Things slowly fell into place,
And with you to travel was a known face!!

Peeking through the windows,
You saw everything was in shadows,
Hills, mountains and buildings were tiny,
When on land, you thought of them highly

After a busy day, there was a groan,
Time a nice meal you were prone to,
Waiting with eager looks for food,
At the same time hoping the women folk were good!

Gracefully were the hostess' wrought,
Slowly and steadily they brought,
Bread, butter, spice and tea,
And you gulped it with glee

Then, about an hour later,
Mumbai it was, so famous for theatre,
Six hours to catch the next flight,
Awake we kept with talks light!!

All set to travel to the Swiss,
Keen to know about the Miss',
Only one to catch your eye,
Like Meg Ryan she was; a sigh!!

From Zurich to Stuttgart, a flight so small,
With regular tilts above the clouds, a fear of fall,
Hopeful that he was a skilled pilot,
Made us enjoyable and keep silent

Peeking through the window,
The sun rising from the shadows,
Bounded on all sides by the Alps,
And felt the clouds to be within our clasp!!

As the final frontier reached,
From atop we saw the surface bleached,
Snow it was all covered,
As the plane gracefully hovered

Yes, it was Stuttgart, the Stadt,
Our friends were there, as planned,
Cold!! A chill ran through my spine,
And soon I started to whine!!

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Journey of Life is never easy and so is a normal journey in a KSRTC deluxe bus, which is what we discovered in a night's travel from Bangalore to Kadur. The road was laden with a lot of potholes, sharp curves and deep curves (atleast that's what we felt by the way the driver drove the bus). Our sleep was disturbed by periodic sudden brakes and sudden overtaking maneouvres(this would have impressed Schumi).

After a five hour journey, we reached Kadur at 5:30 am. We had to wait for the next bus to Lingadahalli, which was at 6:30 am. This was a typical town bus lifted directly from a RK Narayan novel. The half an hour journey was filled with some amazingly beautiful landscapes - big arake nut fields and hilly terrains interlaced with the most popular method of farming - terraced farming. The bus was moving at a constantly slow pace, with passengers getting in and out at regular intervals. This was the only bus that served as a gateway to the hill station atop. Our cameras kept clicking at every possible scenic beauty.

On the way to Lingadahalli

We reached Lingadahalli at around 7:15 am. We were dropped at the bus stop that was frequently visited by the cows and buffaloes of the town. There were rows of shops on either side of the road stretching to about a kilometer (or maybe even less). It was a sparsely populated town, the number being a quarter to that of Malleswaram. It was clearly visible that agriculture formed the major occupation of this area.

We waited for around half an hour when we caught the bus to Kalathgiri, where we had booked a guest house for our stay, managed by the Department of Horticulture funded by the Govt of Karnataka. As soon as we saw the building from outside, it took us no time in naming it as BHOOT BUNGALOW. It had an eerie feeling that one couldn't explain. Though the building was not in ramshackles, the plasters binding the wall had withered off with the passage of time to give it a pale appearance. Nevertheless, the view from the balcony overlooking the Kalathgiri falls, was a sight to behold. A temple, sandwiched between the rocks and across the falls added a strange dimension to the place. It took us about an hour and a half to complete our morning routine before we took the bus to Kemmanagundi to traverse the hilly terrain. Our morning talk centered mainly on Mission Impossible(!!!).

Bhoot Bungalow and View from Balcony

The travel was filled with steep curves, and the bus was climbing up the hill. Everyone was vying for the window seat to catch the glimpse of the magnificient view. We reached the destination in about an hour and started the trek towards Shanthi falls. The 2hr trek was filled with light moments, each of us taking turns in carrying the food bag, admiring the natural beauty and comparing it to the fast paced city life. Shanthi falls was not as exciting as it promised to be, but it was a revelation to lay our hands on pure, icy cold water. We continued our trek towards Zed Point (of course the zed point is now replaced by various other names for obvious reasons known only to us!!!) - the highest reachable point in Kemmanagundi.

Zed Point and the View

This part of the trek was fascinating and highly adventurous. The pathway leading to this place was very narrow with support on one side(thanks to the hill) and land on the other side, but several feet below. We knew that one wrong step here and there would definitely take us up. The Z shaped pathway (so the name Zed point) was leading us to the top of the hill, meandering several miles. It was after around 1 hr that we reached Zed point. We had absolutely no words to describe the beauty of the panoramic view and this is one moment that will be cherished in our memories for years to come.

The view stretched to distant lands miles across, lakes and a sea of hilly ranges. It was here, where we hungrily devoured our bread and biscuit packets. The whiff of fresh, pure air that swept past us was highly enchanting. We spent around an hour in this beautiful peak before we decided to take the same path and catch the evening bus to Kalathgiri. We reached the bus stop, when it gushed forth a downpour. We thanked our stars for we could not imagine what could have happened to us had we been stranded on the peak in direct contact with nature's fury. Thus ended the first day of our trip not to forget to mention the unforgettable dinner of our lives at the Kalathgiri Canteen.

Pathway to Hebbe falls

Morning of Day 2, we took a jeep from Kemmanagundi to reach Hebbe falls, which was 9km away. The route to the waterfalls had everything except a proper road. The path was laid with stones of all dimensions, sludges and rocks, that it was inconceivable of us to imagine how the jeep managed to keep in motion. For parts of the travel, the jeep was moving almost vertically from the base. But the scenic beauty of the place stumped us. We can rate this place as an artist's paradise. The clouds had covered the peaks in such a way that it looked as if the a layer of blanket had been draped around it. The jeep dropped us at a certain point, from where we had to trek to the waterfalls. We first of all had to cross a small stream of flowing water, and then follow a tiny pathway, which was wet and muddy thanks to the intermittent rains. At some places, the wet and slippery rocks made it difficult to keep our feet on the ground. Coupled with slippery rocks, there were leaches, which had a good feast with all of us in the fray. It was about half an hour when we finally reached the waterfalls. Our initial reaction to it was unbelievable. The water was flowing from two levels in the rocks. It was indeed a picteresque sight. It was an unforgettable feeling when we got to the base of the waterfall and clung on to the rocks to see the water pouring down from such a great height and at a ferocious velocity. This is another sight which would be etched in our memories for a long long time.

Nature has bestowed us with wonderful gifts and what can be explored is only a handful. It would be magical if we live to see the different facets of nature in our lifetime.

Wayanad - A place to be in

The divine intervention of nature serves as an abiding force in extending the void between the human race and the natural habitat of a wide variety of wild plants and animals. Nature, due to the raging pollution and population, has lost its considerable reserves in the last century. The wildlife scenario of the planet has diminished consistently over a gradual period of time. The fascination for thick forests and natural beauty now leads through a narrow pathway to places that form the miniscule of the planet. It is to seek this impact of nature that we embarked on a two day trip to a district called as Wayanad, which is represented by a tiny dot in the southern region of Kerala in the world map. Wayanad is conspicuous by its natural beauty as it reaches to the Western Ghats and hosts one of the natural wildlife sanctuaries of the country.

A considerable amount of time was spent on planning the trip. The internet and word of mouth were the major sources of procuring information for undertaking the trip. Printouts were congregated from all valid websites having details about the hotels and tourist spots. The interested people were called for to finalise the planning of the trip. The touring group was conspicuous by the absence of two of the main protagonists of the previous trip to Kemmanagundi. That didn't stop us from finding two additional members to keep the momentum going. There were rare moments of indecisiveness, one such being the mode of travel to be chosen. The decision to go ahead with our own transport by means of a tempo traveller made things much simpler, without having to hassle ourselves with reservation issues.

The travel was scheduled for Saturday night at 11PM. The excitement was in the air as we got into the tempo traveller. The route to Wayanad had to be traversed through the hilly terrain of the Bangalore-Mysore highway!!! We never had a deep slumber on our way, as the vehicle thudded away to glory in a desperate attempt to avoid as many potholes as possible. Despite the shortcomings, we had our share of light moments with our discussions leading well into the night supported amply by the practical joke advisor Raghavendra . The role of watchdog was taken up commendably by Shashank and Vinodh in the night, holding up talks with the driver to prevent him from falling asleep. There were stoppages of 10 min at regular intervals to keep the driver afresh with a cup of tea.

The morning was characterised by beautiful roads leading to the countryside of Kerala. Our temporary base for the next two days was in a place called as Kalpetta, which is significant for being the district headquarters. The rooms were very cosy and we were lucky to get some early morning sleep. We finished our morning ablutions, ready to set forth to face the first challenge of the day - Chambra peak. We could not imagine as to what a tough day it was going to be.

The Chambra peak rose majestically high into the sky leaving us dumbstruck. We could not fathom its height from the base of the hill. Every one of us was geared up for the challenge. We employed a guide to lead our way through the narrow pathways. The pathway began like a Tarzan movie with wild grass engulfing us on both sides steeping up like a vertical lamp-post. If only we had a boomerang, it would have looked like seven Mowglis on a wildlife hunt. The early morning enthusiasm was quickly forgotten with all of us gasping for breath as we progressed forward and upward. This was only the beginning. We were about 50 metres up, when Netaji Vinodh decided that he had enough of the exercise. As knowledgible people say, motivation comes in various forms and from various sources. It came in the form of 150 college students from a nearby place. A majority of them were girls and they were making light work of the difficult stretch. They were able to maneouvre through the terrain without a fuss. We momentarily forgot the difficult terrain, with our only aim now being not to allow them to get past us. A little further ahead, we had a casualty as Raghavendra's leg gave away and he had to pull out of the trek. Keeping him company was Shashank and Supreet, while myself, Shrikanth(Vinodh's friend - he constantly reminded us of the HUTCH advertisement) and the son of adventure Vishwanath ambled along. Our failing arms and legs were nothing in comparison to the motivation to scale the peak. Our immediate target was to get to the lake which was half way up the peak. It was after about two hours of vigorous walking filled with short intermittent pauses that we reached the lake. The lake was unique with its heart shaped appearance. It was a moment of joy to lay our legs on the icy cold water. The undercurrents of the water gave us momentary relief from the spasms diverging from all parts of the body. The three of us were anxious about the people who couldn't pursue the trek. Our thoughts of returning back from the lake plunged into depths as we saw Supreet and Shashank trudging along to the top. This was sufficient inspiration to move forward. We had no clue of Raghavendra and we assumed that he had taken the route back. Then the fateful thought struck us. He had the food material in his bag.

The trekking continued after a half an hour break by me, Vishwa and Shashank while the rest decided to stay back. The path from the lake was equally difficult and the ascent upward was increasingly steep. There was a particular point where a small wedge was created between two rocks and we had to thrust our body forward and climb up by squeezing through the narrow space. Our hunger was impeding our progress to the top. The sight of the students having all the delicacies was difficult for us to digest. It was after about two hours of hardship that we reached the top. It was one of the most happiest and proudest moments of our lives. The view from the top was breathtakingly beautiful. Our happiness was compounded by the fact that Raghavendra was waiting for us near the lake with the eatables. The guide was able to move along without any trace of tiredness. We were dumbstruck when he went downhill(about 60 metres) to fetch a bottle of water and climbed uphill again without a fuss. We then climbed down the hill with a brief stoppage at the lake, where we devoured the bread and biscuit packets, and then reached the bottom of the hill through the tea plantations.

The evening was planned for Soochipara waterfalls. It was about 15km of travel from the Chambra peak. When we reached the falls, it was around 5:30PM. We had to trek for about 4km to actually view the falls. I almost gave up as I was suffering from cramps. But then, I summoned all my reserves to join everyone who had gone ahead. I certainly did not want to miss the beauty of the waterfalls after having travelled so far. The path to the waterfalls was not as difficult as the Chambra peak. We were covered by greenery on either side with wild grass sprouting to great heights. The toughness of the Chambra peak had immunized our tiredness. We reached the waterfalls after about half an hour of easy trekking. It was a lovely sight to watch the water gushing forth from the rocks above. The width of the waterfalls was not very large and that meant the ferocity of water as it hit the rocks below was great. We did not venture to go under the waterfalls as twilight cautiously crept in, with the moonlit night not sufficient to generate the required amount of natural light. Out came the torch lights and mobile phones to guide our way back to the vans. It was a strange feeling for the seven of us to walk in the moonlit night through a narrow path bounded by unknown limits of the forest. As we approached the van, we sensed the panic creep in to the driver in our latecoming. A sumptuous meal at the Woodlands in Kalpetta summed up the wonderful day of the trip. That Gobi Parathas and Alu Parathas along with curd rice without coconut oil will be eaten by us with a tinge of suspicion is another story that will be cherished in our memories for ever. We went back to the hotel room with our legs battered and bruised with a feeling of having starred in an action packed movie.

The next day morning, all of us awoke as though we were characters drawn from Alice in Wonderland. The feeling of uneasiness had crept in slowly but steadily. We planned to start the day with Pookot lake. It was about 20 km from Kalpetta. At first, we had decided to skip the lake but then good sense prevailed and the 25 minute journey to the lake was undertaken. The scenic beauty of the lake stumped us. It was situated amidst the backdrop of hills. It looked as though the hills were protecting the lake from all sides. The water was pristine with lotus and water lilies scattered on the surface. The temptation to pluck one of the flowers was nullified after we saw a warning board that displayed a prohibition message regarding the destruction of foliage. We took two boats - row boat and a pedal boat to go deep into the lake. We did quite a good job in the still waters, rowing in solitude without a pain in the world. We scaled the circumference of the lake quite comfortably and our hands on the placid water kept us cool.

We then started our journey towards Edakkal caves. The beauty of this place is that two rocks balance a small boulder, and the curvature of which results in a cave formation. The inscriptions on the rocks dated back to the modern stone age era. The cave is situated midway up a hill and we had to squeeze through narrow openings and climb up several stone steps to reach the place.

The evening was reserved for Chetalayam waterfall. Special permission had to be taken from the forest department to view the waterfalls as it was situated right in the middle of the Wayand wildlife sanctuary. We had the previlege of a forest officer accompanying us through the forests. The wilderness of the forest was something that none of us had experienced before.

This was the first time that we had to experience the muddy roads of Kerala as tar roads were not permissible to be built in the forest reserves. The Chetalayam waterfall was nothing as what we expected, as water trickled down from the top. The rocky structures provided us the foothold to reach the bottom of the waterfall. This watefall will be remembered by us for the sheer pleasure of having crossed the forest. The evening was very eventful with lot of stories narrated by the forest officer about the herds of elephants that manifested the area.

We returned back to Bangalore in the evening catching glimpses of the Mysore palace on the way. It was sheer pleasure to be associated with the countryside of Wayanad, where Nature had everything to offer - hills, lakes, caves, waterfalls and what not!!!!