Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alone in tranquility

Summer rain in Bangalore. After days of harsh sun and humidity, the clouds finally let go of their burden and as it always happens, when someone loses something, others gain it. True to this universal truth, people in Bangalore gladly looked skywards and felt the little drops from heaven light up their faces with a smile. Almost like a paintbrush moving across the scenery the trees and grasses were transformed from a dull tired brown to a verdant hue, alive from within. This continued through the evening and beyond, and finally stopped after dusk, leaving the weather fresh and the mind energetic.
I looked at my latest love; my new bike, shining black as the night, and decided to take it for a spin with my roommate Vinay. I could see his poetic mind reflected in the serene expression on his face as he was looking out from our balcony towards the changed atmosphere. So away we went, out of our regular haunts, to the less crowded inner streets in the residential areas of Kormangala. Both of us were looking out for the same thing; a nice little café nested in the small bylanes. We were sure a couple of such places existed in this area. Finally we found one, went in, ordered our coffees and sat down.
The ambience was tranquility itself. The time was 11 p.m. I was sitting in the café verandah, on a cane chair at a wooden table, surrounded by tall plants. The small lane was silent, empty save for a couple of bikes including mine. The soft yellow light of the street lamp glistened over the wet road surface and my bike. On either side of the lane were small bungalows, short and wide. Most were built of natural stone and wood, with big gardens in the front. The gardens were not manicured lawns, but rather natural grass and tall trees with colorful leaves and flowers. The light emanating from some of the windows bathed the trees, adding to the surreal atmosphere. As I was watching this scene I sipped Ethiopian Cappucino from my cup. All was silent, even I and Vinay were alone in our own thoughts. The combined effect of the rain, the beautiful locale and the coffee penetrated inside me and suddenly I felt a little apprehension. No fear or anything, yet something mildly unsettling amidst the tranquility. It was the feeling of opening an ornately carved treasure chest and finding it empty. It was then I realized what it was. My own thoughts were taking in the whole scene as if from outside my body, and they had made the mistake of trying to get inside me; the treasure chest.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mind-boggling sci-fi

For all those who have seen the movie ‘The Core’, I hope my blog will refresh their memories and for those who have not seen it, I hope I can impress upon them the mind-churning concepts that this epic movie has to offer. (I hope that by now you may have figured out that I am obviously being sarcastic) This movie has revolutionized sci-fi and expanded the borders of the already large ego of the American movie industry.
Till now, the US Govt and Army have been shown to save the Earth from numerous threats like meteors, aliens, and even storms and tsunamis. This movie takes the scene to a new height; the core of the Earth has stopped rotating! So apparently all the electro-magnetic reversals are going to play havoc and as usual destroy every living thing on Earth. Oh, I forgot to mention how the core stopped rotating; the US has developed some machine to start earthquakes! (You know, just casual research and stuff). So during its trials the machine ‘accidentally’ stops the Earth’s core. (Wow!) Now everything starts going haywire; lightning storms destroy Rome, planes crash etc. So its up to the US to find a solution (Of course).
The solution is that somehow, a team has to reach the Earth’s core and plant some bombs there which will just ‘jumpstart’ the core again. (Kinda like pressing restart aint it?) The army starts preparing a hash-dash team now. There is apparently a scientist who has been developing a weapon with a beam of some sort which can vaporize anything. (At this point, the educated film-goer notices that the weapon is supposed to send off ultrasonic waves which destroy things in its path, however the word ‘LASER’ is written on the beam generator, leaving us confused as to whether it is light or sound that destroys things) Also, very conveniently, the scientist has invented a new material which he appropriately names ‘Unobtanium’ which can withstand the beam. Naturally, now a ship can be built from this material, whose headlights will throw the beams and sitting inside it, the team will just dig into the Earth till they reach the core. And they just happen to have a lady astronaut at hand who can drive the ship. To demonstrate her ability, she takes one look at the ship, for the first time in her life, and starts pointing out flaws in the next minute. (See, every problem has a simple solution)
At this point, the US army feels the need to have a hacker on the team. (God knows why) So they find some teenage kid who’s supposed to be the best hacker AND electronics and telecommunications expert in the world. To demonstrate his abilities, the kid takes the cell phone of a scientist, opens it, sticks a bubble gum wrapper in it and declares that the phone can now make long-distance calls free for life!(Reliance Telecom can use someone like that!)
Now the team starts the ship, aims it downward and dives down into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, since it is the lowest point on Earth. So now they have less to dig in order to reach the core. Now, while diving, they start their ultrasonic beam. And what do you know, the beam apparently is pleasant and melodious to dolphins, who converse with each other using ultrasound. (The scientist says its like the ship is singing to the dolphins. How nice!) So anyway, after entertaining the fish, they reach the bottom of the Earth’s crust and then start penetrating into it. The solid part seems to be no problem. It just exerts a pressure on the ship which would make a nuclear bomb seem like a balloon bursting. But of course, the Unobtanium has no problems with that. Now between the solid crust and the molten magma layers, they find themselves in an empty space, with actually nothing. At this point, they GET OUT from the ship to explore! (Perhaps their dresses are made from Unobtanium too) The ceiling looks dark and has some points glowing, which makes the astronaut feel right at home, as if she’s in outer space. The scientist reaches the conclusion that they are trapped in a ‘gem bubble’ (Whatever that is) So after sightseeing for a while they go down again.
When they reach the core, they find that its density is higher than what they thought, so the bombs aren’t going to be enough. So they decide to take some ultrasonic beam generators out of their ship and plant those along with the bombs. IN the Earth’s CORE! And lo and behold, when the charges go off, the core starts rotating again. (Hurray!) Now there’s another problem. Since they gave away some of their beam generators, they don’t have enough energy to reach the surface. (The ultimate sacrifice wasn’t it?) Well, the game is not over. They remember the dolphins now. They gather enough energy to call out to the dolphins with their ultrasound. When the dolphins gather together and start talking (maybe they are singing along to the tune of the ship), the dolphins’ voices lend the extra ultrasound energy needed for the ship! So the ship returns, the core is rotating, Rome is free from storms, and airplanes can fly again. The US once again has saved the planet. (Sigh!)
Never underestimate Hollywood guys! I rank this movie right up there with our own Jaani Dushman cadre of movies.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Vasota trek – Test of mind, body and soul

The start

I was going through the website of my favorite and revered trek group Yuvashakti, and saw that they are conducting a trek to Vasota on 25th. Since my trekking days Vasota had held a fascination for me, especially since it is considered as one of the toughest treks and is a forest land, with tigers, leopards, bear etc and you can only enter the area with permission from the Forest Officer. So seeing that Yuvashakti has done all that (I trust them so much that I always assume that whichever trek/trip they are conducting has been well planned and thought through), and I hadn’t trekked in 4 years, I thought I would give it a go.

It started on 24th April at 11 p.m. It was a 4 hour journey in a rickety old bus in which around 7 people were extra and so we took turns standing. We reached the starting point of the trek at 3:30 at night, and were supposed to sleep in an abandoned warehouse at the edge of a lake. As soon as we got down from the bus we could hear thousands of bats screeching overhead as we went towards the warehouse. Most of us got ‘gifts’ from the bats in the form of unwanted designs on our clothes. But after a sleepless night the 2 hours of sleep from 4 to 6 were welcome. At 6 we got up and took in the beautiful sight of the lake from our warehouse.

We saw a plain flat land till the lake, which posed a problem regarding answering nature’s call. It was a tough task, especially for a group of girls for whom this was the first trek, to search for some boulder to hide behind. Anyway, all this was a minor thing and we got past it and had breakfast and left by speedboat to the base of the trek.

Climb to Nageshwar

We were already tired from only 2 hours of sleep. But we took on our huge sacks and started the climb. Now it was a fairly steep climb. And it turned out to get steeper, and climbing it with sacks weighing us down and the hot sun baking and dehydrating us was not an easy task. This lasted for 4 hours. At the end of the first hour many had given up, don’t know whether it was their minds or their bodies. But people were refusing to move. So one group leader took ahead the fast walkers, one went with the middle group, and I and a senior group leader Vinay took on the responsibility of the last few people, since they can cause problems. Eventually it did happen that I had to carry 2 sacks on that climb for 2.5 hours since an uncle was unable to move with it. By the time I reached the top, my water was almost finished, and dehydration was giving me cramps in my legs. At the top we rested for 10 minutes and started the descent to Nageshwar.

Descending is actually tougher than climbing, since you have to hold your legs in place on small footholds to prevent from slipping into a valley. The descent was a steep one, and with loose mud. It was a narrow path so only 1 person could walk at one time, and there was a valley on the side. For first-timers this was an unnerving and scary experience, since they kept feeling that if they slip they will fall into the valley. We could not even help them down since the path was too narrow to walk side by side. So to reassure them, I and Vinay stood on the sides of the narrow route with our backs to the valley and herded the scared group past us, giving them confidence that if they do fall, we will catch them. And we did catch them about a dozen times each. So it was a slow descent, and standing precariously while guiding others had taken its toll on my leg muscles, which were by now screeching desperately for water. Finally at 4:30 p.m. we reached Nageshwar. Some poor people thought this was the end of the trek. But it was our lunch halt only. Till now we were on empty stomachs.

Walk to base camp

From Nageshwar we had to walk to a different site where instead of warehouse we had tents. Since I was dehydrated, I had to take water from a well at Nageshwar. There was no bucket so I had to climb down inside it, and take green coloured water from a pool filled with litter and frogs!

I drank the water without second thoughts and we started walking. Now one guy got severe cramps and both his legs gave way. In order to reach camp before dark, Vinay told the other group leader to take the rest of the people ahead, and asked for volunteers to come with him and the kid slowly. By now Vinay was somewhat sure I would volunteer, and of course I did. So we helped the kid walk slowly, along with a local guy and his dog. I recognized the dog since I had given him a biscuit while climbing and he had accompanied us the whole way up to the top and down to Nageshwar. Dattu the dog wagged his tail when he saw me again, and if I had one I would have wagged it at him too. For now, a pat on the head would suffice.

Now Vinay took me aside and told me to run ahead to the group gone ahead and hold back a few more volunteers, since after dark the predators like leopards, bears etc would start moving about and only 3 of us would make an easy target. So I went ahead, and saw that no one was volunteering. So I dragged back a hesitant guy to have at least one more head. As darkness fell I was glad we had Dattu who would warn us, but then realized that a dog in a jungle is an invitation for leopards and tigers who love to eat dogs! So I and Vinay not only had to take care of ourselves and the kid, but Dattu too.

The next 2 hours were unforgettable. Walking over a stony uneven path, at night, in a jungle full of animals, is not for the faint of heart. With torches throwing small light for our feet, we trudged ahead and soon caught up with some of the girls from the group ahead. Then Vinay went off, and soon at 8 o clock at night in pitch darkness I was guiding a group of scared teenagers through the jungle. We kept hearing sounds to our sides from the bushes, but we could not stop. We kept walking, the stones twisting our ankles and hurting our feet and toes every minute. At one point we were crossing a small water body, and suddenly a huge swarm of small insects descended on us, attracted by our torches. They were everywhere...sticking on our sweat-covered hands and faces, entering the eyes, ears and noses. If we switched off the torch we could not see the path, so we kept it on and ran through the blanket of insects, emerging with a lot of them sticking to our bodies. Finally we reached the tents and collapsed. That night my legs had severe cramps, my toes were bruised, feet abraded, stomach hungry, sleepless brain. And what damage the frog-infested water had done would come to light later.

So you ask, why do all this at all? Well, it is inexplicable, this spirit. For even though I felt I had done something good today, by walking 10 hours over mountains and through jungles, climbing with 2 sacks, helping out many people so that they could complete the trek safely, go without sleep and with little food for 2 days, it is still nothing special. The Yuvashakti group leaders do this every weekend when they lead treks, and since it is a non-profit organization, they work on the rest of the days in their respective offices. Next morning we all woke up feeling good. Although I didn’t get sleep this night also, which makes it 2 nights in a row, by morning I was feeling fresh, and could go without food and tea till noon easily, and in the return bus journey I again volunteered to stand for the entire 4 hours. How and why do we manage it?! There is a drive to be amidst nature, accustom our body to primitive living, go where few people go, help people experience it, keep the group together, help each other, face any challenges confidently, solve problems instead of crib. This is the spirit of Yuvashakti, this is the spirit of the trekker.

(Photos at http://picasaweb.google.com/sahil.potdar/Vasota#)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Debates revisited- nature or nurture, aptitude or attitude, doing what you like or liking what you do

I always wondered about these debates, and whether there was a right answer to them or not. My experience says that only in initial days does nature, aptitude, and doing what you like is more important. Later on in life, all these sides of the debates take the back seat. Maybe there are different experiences for different people, and different reasons for those too. Let me tell you why I think the way I do.
In school days I was obese, shy, introvert, passive, and did not have many friends or hobbies or interests.
Now I guess my physique has improved a lot, im usually called 'besharam' rather than shy, extrovert, aggressive,have many good friends, and so many hobbies and interests that I dont have time to follow through!
Till school I despised all forms of exercise. However, when my friend introduced me to martial arts and my brother to gym, everything changed. Now I cant have enough of workouts.
A recently discovered passion for wildlife has further cemented by beliefs. I always loved animals, and towards the end of school, my mom and friends introduced me to trekking, where I fell in love with nature. However, till then it was limited. Now every time I see a mountain or jungle I feel like going straight in. Or I always feel like spending more time with animals....hence my visits to places ranging from Katraj zoo to Bandhavgad.
Also, I never used to study much in school days....till about 8th std. I used to read books that had nothing to do with academics, although some were saturated with physics concepts. Basically, I used to do what I like! Now, as I grow older (I refrain from using the word 'mature' since that can be a matter of opinion!) I realize that there are responsibilities which have to take priority over likes and dislikes. While I assumed the reins of responsibility, I started to realize that I actually like doing these things. That's when I realized I've graduated to liking what I do too. Not in totality though....because there are still many things that I would like to do more than the things I AM doing, but so-called responsibility had held me back.
Now as these debates brought to the front my actual likes, I am trying to go back to doing what I like more often. Which of course means gym, treks, wildlife etc..... am soon thinking of writing about my experience with wildlife as a separate entry.....coming soon to a mailbox near you!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Expectations and the fabric of destiny- ramblings of a wandering mind

I am resuming blogging after a year. No, time is not the main constraint. Or at least I can no longer keep pretending that it is. Probably some reasons for this hiatus in blogging are that my thoughts are so disjoint at times, so digressive, that to pen them down would simply result in incoherent doodles. Or maybe people dominate my thoughts, so to expose them to public scrutiny wouldn’t be fair. Now, after almost 3 trimesters in a B school, I have learnt how to be politically correct, i.e. how to slander people without actually pointing fingers. Yes, B school teaches you all sorts of things; how to be unethical and still pretend you are a supporter of corporate social responsibility, how to be pretentious yet appear suave, how to act like a person is your long-lost friend while plotting schemes for besting him, and how to exude confidence when you are scared. Remind me to touch on this point again as I go on. Well, the school also teaches some regular stuff and some good things too, it depends on the person which of the items on the menu to select.

One strange thing that happened to me in B school, as I mentioned above, is that I lost confidence! Strange isn’t it? A B school is supposed to teach you to handle all sorts of situations and thus build your confidence, not the other way round. This is where the fabric of destiny concept comes in. (Oh, by the way, B school stifles creativity- even at this moment I am wondering how to get intellectual property rights protection for my newly coined term ‘fabric of destiny’). Some famous person had said ‘I am the master of my fate, captain of my soul’. I used to live by that and consequently smirk at fatalists. It is also taught in the Japanese principles of ‘Bushido Kyohan’ or way of the warrior. It tells us that our destiny is shaped by our own choices and actions. I equate this to weaving the fabric of your own destiny. We are always confronted with choices, sometimes tough ones. Choosing an option is akin to selecting the type of thread with which you want to weave, and fixing the design of the fabric. Actually implementing the choice is like weaving the fabric. Here is where the chaos starts. Your life is full of people who are weaving their own fabrics along with you. Inadvertently, some patches of fabric stitched by different people are inextricably woven together into yours. Now this changes your intended design of fabric of destiny. So what to do now?

You have to see which weavers you can allow to change the design of your fabric, and which ones you have to avoid. Again you are confronted with choices, sometimes you unthinkingly pick one, sometimes some other weaver picks one for you, and you go along with it. As more and more weavers come in your life, your fabric takes a different look. If you like it, you go on. If you don’t, there comes a hard time when you have to rip off your fabric from someone who you felt was altering the design too much. This is even harder if you are the one whose fabric has been ripped off by someone from theirs; because then it spoils your intended design. You have to strike a balance between taking your choices alone by shutting others out (deciding which fabric to rip off and how much), and letting everyone come in and influence your original plans for your destiny.

Now what does this have to do with confidence you ask? Well, before I entered B school, I was confident about all exams and their results, confident about selecting the right weavers for helping me shape my overall fabric and keeping out the unwanted ones, confident of knowing who will rip off my fabric from theirs. The path to destiny was clear, or so I thought. After joining B school, I am constantly reminded of Heisenberg’s uncertainty, which basically says that it is impossible to fully predict everything. For me, that was, and is, unsettling. Some bad experiences have shown that I can’t really predict things like the adequacy of my studies, the expected results from them, or the suitability of weavers who I let shape the fabric of MY destiny. That has undermined my confidence about some things, although superficially I do and will live up to the expectations from a B school student.

Expectations. The weavers who spoil your fabric may not be doing it intentionally. However, it is difficult for a weaver to weave his own destiny and also help you weave yours. Sometimes the expectations we have from people in our life may be so high that from your point of view they may not be able to help you shape your destiny the way you wanted. So you might wonder whether it is any good to keep a fellow weaver with you if you are not expecting him to help you shape your fabric. This is a hard time. Experiences in this area in the past, both in ripping off fabrics and getting ripped off unexpectedly, have further reduced my confidence in my ability to shape my destiny.

See, this has become too long and either too deep or too vague. Maybe I was right in staying away from blogs.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What tires us is chasing happiness-how ironic!

Dont you get the feeling life is becoming hectic? You are running throughout the day for your work, and in between you try to sort out some necessary chores. Then you finally get a holiday. And you make a 26 hour plan for a 24 hour day,and run through it.
I took some time out to retrospect what I did in the past 3 weeks. I was busy working,keeping my house in an inhabitable condition, paying my bills,meeting friends,relatives who want to meet me,and when I got a holiday, we went on a trip which a sane person wouldnt have attempted in 1 day. Well,shouldnt have.
All your life you are chasing. Chasing happiness, satisfaction, contentment, money, etc. I understand that happiness is everyone's ultimate goal. Coz when you chase money,its because you want enough to be able to live happily. What keeps you happy? Do you want to live peacefully,spend time with kids,parents,friends,pets etc, or do you thrive on adrenaline? I belong to the former cadre of people. Well,do we achieve it? Think how your life moves:
10th std- 'You have to study hard now, so that you can get into a good college. When you get that, then you can do timepass,relax'
12th std(in a good college)- 'You have to study hard now so that you can get in a good college. Then you can relax'
Bachelor's degree(from good college)- 'No time to relax. Gotta struggle to be in the rat race.Get good marks for a good placement'
Good company- 'You are in a high class company...you have to struggle to prove your worth'
And so it goes on and on! At every stage in life, you struggle..so that your future can be happy. What future? At the stages in life when you WANT to relax a bit,spend time with people, chill a bit,those are the stages when you are struggling.
So I feel you have to stop this rat race, this chase. Even if it comes at the cost of losing a bit money, standing up to your boss, parents, etc. Ultimately your happiness will be affected by these people only. You try too hard to please them,you wont be happy, and neither will they!
Time to take a step towards this. Enjoy the present,not the thought of a future. :-)