The flight!

Posted: March 22, 2014 in Diary

*As I sit on the window seat of SG322, looking into the vast expanse outside, a zillion images rush past my mind, each moment still so fresh.

IIM Shillong

IIM Shillong

I remember the summer of 2012 when I got the “coveted” IIM Shillong convert somewhere in mid-May. Most decisions in my life have been taken on the spur of the moment; so was joining IIM Shillong. Not that I had too many choices. :P Then there was the “IIM Shillong 2012 Final converts” Facebook group that consumed a significant part of my summer. There were few people who discussed about watching Euro 2012 Finals together in the campus, few who had shared interests in the rock culture of Shillong, few who were already discussing academics and few busy making friends. I remember observing everything silently, expectations of meeting these people increasing by the day.

In June 2012, I remember attending “Nexus”, the annual IIM Shillong Alumni-Students-Prospects meet, organized by Public Relations Cell (I didn’t know then). There was only one other person from the PGP12 batch (Prasanna Kumar) who attended the meet, but Seniors, Super-Seniors and Super-Super-Seniors turned out in pretty large numbers. That gave a very clear indication as to how much those people were attached to IIM Shillong.

Then came the first of July, 2012; the day I stepped into what was going to be my home for the next 21 months. That day, I had no idea that in the coming 21 months, I would make some friends for life. I remember stepping into the hostel to see my neighbors (Shivank and Himanshu Singh) already doing some assignments. The first day.

What followed in the next two weeks is something I will not (rather, cannot) forget for the rest of my life. I remember every single night, the assignments we did, the foundation course we spent sleeping, the time we spent knowing each other, the ice breaker sessions, the first trek to BSNL tower and the freshers party. We owe a lot to our Seniors, who took out time from their acads and other commitments to mentor us, in the first two weeks. It really helped. Thank you.

I distinctly remember DK Sir’s classes in Term I. He was an extremely humorous man despite his misleadingly serious demeanor. Rohit Sir’s QT-I (the only subject in which we read the text book, properly), Saravanan Sir’s style of teaching, Kakoty Sir’s “Gyan” filled classes. I remember them all.

I remember the committee inductions. For a campus run predominantly by students, committee inductions were a serious affair. First, the Placement Committee (Place Comm) followed by the other committees. Looking back, I regret not doing the second round submission for Symphony, the committee in charge of minting out IIM Shillong’s annual magazine. I feel I would have done a decent job as part of that committee. You win some. You lose some. LIFE!

I remember the practices we did for the Talent show. We spent two-three full nights practicing for a mime for the Talent Show. Somehow, the Talent Show never happened. We would go on perform that mime in our Senior’s farewell in March 2013, to an awesome response from them. We loved it. They loved it.

I remember the Student Council elections, and all the drama that preceded it. I am happy we got the perfect Student Council, the right mix of people who cared for the batch and did not shy away from responsibilities.

I remember EmergE 2012 and Golf Cup Season 5. As first years, we were made volunteers to help Seniors successfully stage these two events. First real lessons in event management.

i-Cube happened in Term II (i-Cube, the Entrepreneurship Cell is one of the nine clubs functioning in IIM Shillong). One of the better things that could have happened to me, easily. Over the next one year, we would go on to become the best of friends. Special thanks to Senior i-Cube for inducting all of us into the same club. :P

Summer internships started parallelly. Acads took a backseat as people started preparing hard to get a good internship, for what you do during your two months there, decides your fate (read final placements) more or less.

I remember the  corporate and B-School competitions we participated during Terms 2 and 3. Being first years and competing with other colleges across the country, we couldn’t produce much results. I remember working with Lijosh and Ernesto on a competition when others were busy enjoying Diwali. Sad part was that we didn’t get through. :D But yeah, it was all worth the effort, we realized later.

I remember all those TT sessions, right from first year. It’s been an integral part of my life, TT. Sai Murali has been one person with whom I’ve enjoyed playing TT the most. On the TT table, we share a rivalry that can make even the likes of Ind-Pak and Eng-Aus look small. Lol. :)

RannBhoomi, the intra-college sports tournament began in Term 2 and extended beyond schedule, almost till farewell. Hostel Committee did a commendable job, organizing RannBhoomi, I must say.

I remember working with my Study group (Group P) over the two years. Like any other study group, we were a bunch of diverse people. That was the best part. Spent the first few weeks decoding their Hindi. Got used to it later. :P

(Writer’s note: I know it all sounds random and vague. But this post was written in uncensored stream of consciousness. So, excuse me.) 

I remember all the birthday celebrations. Well, most of them. The GPLs, Salsas, Cakes, pictures, parties, etc. Birthdays were something I looked forward to. At least the birthdays of the near and dear.

I remember the trips that we went as a batch and in factions, in first year. The first trip to the Shillong peak, the one day trip to Cherrapunjee, the visit to the Sacred Forest in Mawhphlang, among others.

I remember Kopda Cup in term III. As a part of the Kopda Organizing Team, it was fun conducting the intra-college cricket tourney for the batch.

I remember the celebrations organized by Cultural Committee. Diwali, Dandiya, Ganesh Chaturthi, Janmashtami, Dussehra, Holi, etc. Thanks CultComm, you never made me miss home!

I regret not having a camera in first year (Well, Sony Cybershot is not a camera :P). Having a DSLR has its pros and cons (the cons being, being asked to click “candid” pics :)). But yes, it was awesome viewing the world through another eye. Enjoyed it!

I remember the farewell we gave to our seniors, and remember hoping that our farewell doesn’t come for a long long time. Farewells are not easy. Again, CultComm made a great show out of the farewell with equal efforts from many in the batch.

I remember the TamGang farewell party that our seniors gave us, in Tripura Castle, in March ’13. Speaking of TamGang, those were the people who bonded with me the most in the initial days, and quite naturally. We didn’t know or understand the common language in which everyone were conversing. Hindi. We came together by force, rather than choice, I guess. They are awesome people. Each one of them.

I remember breaking for the Summer internships in late March, after bidding goodbye to the Incredibles, our Seniors. Not the best of summer internships, but yes, made the most of what was served, I’d like to believe. Made some really good friends too.

I remember coming back home (read IIM Shillong) in early June. The entire campus then belonged to the Stalwarts, the 108 of us. It was an awesome feeling. We celebrated Stalwarts Anniversary, some time in June. Around that time, we also went on a batch trip to Amalarem and Bangladesh border, I remember. The legacy trip.

I remember the goosebumps we felt when we came to know that Thala APJ Abdul Kalam was going to take a course for us. A Zero credit course, but a course nevertheless. APJ truly rocks. Humbleness personified.

In July 2013, PGP13 arrived. I saw the cycle repeating itself. Only, this time, our roles were different. But what an amazing batch, theirs is. Clear indication that IIM Shillong is going in the right direction. Cheers.

I remember EmergE 2013 and all the effort that went into organizing it. I remember those loooooong walks when we went scouting for sponsorship. Anupam (whose idea of “Travel”, is walking through cities) made me walk along with him on all those trips. Not that I hated it. I remember working on the inaugural edition of INCUBATOR, the annual entrepreneurship magazine of IIM Shillong.

I remember working for competitions in second year, and this time a bit more successfully. Loved working with the Meluhan Warriors (Ernesto, Lijosh and Sai Murali) for Mahindra War Room. Ernesto is a champ! Lijosh too…

I will fondly remember all the tea and QWERTY parties that happened predominantly in Ganesh’s room and the conversations that followed. And yeah, even tea can create some serious burns. Please be careful.

I remember going for Pandal Hopping in Shillong during Durga Puja ’13. I remember helping Master Chef Rutwik to make Modaks on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi.

I remember all the fun that we’ve had in our wing, the Tamgang. I remember staying awake the whole night and having Puri at Nongthymmai point as early as 6 am.

I remember our farewell; every bit of it. The flashmob, the shopping, the pictures on the corridors, Tattle your Tales charts, the cultural night, the farewell night. Everything.

I remember all the fun that I’ve had post farewell. TT, Chess, Cards, the long walks and breakfasts.

I feel so jealous of PGP13 and PGP14 who have one and two years at IIM Shillong, respectively.

I remember a lot of other things but feel too sleepy to list them down.

The Headmaster in the movie “Happy Days”, says “It’s the end of the most happy days of your life, but also the beginning of the most purposeful days”. My foot! :P

I say, it’s the end of the most happy AND purposeful days of our lives. Accept it, and move on.

My good friend said (I borrow excessively from him), “Don’t be sad that it has ended; be happy that it happened”. I wish!

*This post was conceived during the four hour flight from Guwahati to Chennai (my last, for years), and written later. It’s my dedication to IIM Shillong and all that it had to offer to me.  

Every once a while, a person comes along in your life, who inspires you, cheers you, consoles you, makes you want to live and celebrate every second of your life with utmost gusto. We consider ourselves very lucky to have known such a person in Karttik Mishra. Today marks exactly one year since Karttik left us all. A fighter, an inspiration, a role model and the incorrigible, he will always live in our hearts.

Stars among us often leave us early,
But they are stars and they are truly incorrigible
For whatever may happen,
They never cease to twinkle in mischief, they never cease to laugh, they never cease to shine…

*The first paragraph was written by Annam Vaibhav and the poem by Anupam Das, both PGP12 students

 

 

There’s this awesome dude called Pranav J (PJ) in PGP13 who is awesome beyond words when it comes to playing the Keyboard. That he reminds me of another awesome dude called Shiva, from my undergrad college, is another story.

Today, Kamalesh (a trained Carnatic singer) and PJ (a self-made keyboard maestro) took a session on the maths behind Carnatic Music, which had the Director, a few faculty and fewer students in attendance. The session was organized by Koutuhal, the Activities Club of IIM Shillong.

Given that it was just an hour’s session on something as huge as Carnatic Music, I thought they did a wonderful job. Kamalesh talked about the foundation of Carnatic Music (the 12 notes), the Melakarta Ragams, Katapayadi Sankhya and differences with western music, among other things.

The session also brought back old memories of the theory classes which my Violin master used to take. I distinctly remember how I would be playing cricket with my friends on a Sunday evening when I would see his dreaded figure driving a bicycle (later, a bike) towards my apartment. Used to hate it when I was a kid. I remember feigning illness one day, to skip his session so that I don’t miss Baasha on TV.  :) But as years passed, I began to love the instrument and his sessions.  Today, I’m glad I sat through those sessions and learnt that wonderful instrument.

Let me start by declaring that I am now officially a fan of Imtiaz Ali and Aliaa Bhatt.

Having not watched Student of the Year, I had little idea about Aliaa Bhatt’s thespian skills. Don’t know how she performed in SOTY but she stole the show in Highway, with an equally impactful performance from Randeep Hooda. The duo in fact carry the movie on their shoulders with subtle, real and unexaggerated acting, may be with some help from Imtiaz Ali.

Be it the scene where Aliaa opens up to Randeep or the one where she confronts a relative to set things straight, Aliaa proves that she is currently the best in business when it comes to acting, in Bollywood (though it’s tough to imagine her as a Tamil in the movie version of Two States, coming soon).

If Rockstar made me a fan of Imtiaz Ali, Highway has strengthened that bond further. Among Directors like Rohit Shetty, Ali doesn’t hesitate to take the unconventional route to produce masterpieces. Musically, Rockstar may be the album of the decade, but Rahman and Imtiaz have given themselves a tough competition with Highway.

In the past, silence has been used to great effect in re-recording by Ilayaraja. Rahman takes that route in Highway and succeeds. There is hardly any background score apart from the album track, which too is used minimally. Visuals (especially in Himachal) are stunning, making you want to visit places like Shimla and Poh.

Highway - An Imtiaz Ali classic!

Highway – An Imtiaz Ali classic!

There is a high chance Highway may bomb at the box office, much like Kamal Haasan’s critically acclaimed Anbe Sivam, and the likes. Highway is not a movie you can go with your family to have a good laugh. It is nowhere close to your usual commercial cinema. You don’t see the hero entering the scene with the sound of trumpets deafening your ears. In fact, there is no hero. There is no story also, to think of it. Imtiaz Ali is the hero. Screenplay is the hero.

Highway is unconventional. It’s offbeat. And it’s awesome!

“If fate doesn’t make you laugh, you just don’t get the joke” – Karla, in Shantaram.

Day 0

On a lazy afternoon, Ramprasad and I were strolling through the second floor corridor sipping hot coffee from the college canteen when we bumped into Gourav Sachdeva (Saddy) and Vaibhav Annam (Annam). I came to know that a group of six people were about to leave on a 4-day trip to Sikkim, in the next 45 minutes. Annam asked me if I were game to join them. With an extended weekend with only one class in the coming four days, the offer was too good to resist. I joined them as the seventh member in the trip.

Karla’s lines from Shantaram (mentioned above) struck me immediately. Had Ram and I gone to have coffee 10 minutes earlier or later, I would probably have missed out on the trip.

And so we began “The Sikkim Trip 2014” at 5 pm from IIM Shillong campus premises. A Maruti Ertiga carried us to Guwahati Railway Station, in time for us to catch the Kanchanjunga Express at 10 pm. En route to the railway station, we halted for dinner at Makhan Bhog Palace, which serves top-class authentic veg food at affordable prices. Highly recommended for people living in and around Guwahati.

The seven of us (including Photographer Annam)

The seven of us (including Photographer Annam)

Day 1

Kanchanjunga Express reached Siliguri (New Jalpaiguri) early in the morning where a driver from Sunflower Tours and Travels was awaiting our arrival. The journey from Siliguri to Gangtok (113 km) takes around four and a half hours by road. After breaking for a tiffin at Hotel Hi-way, located an hour’s distance from Siliguri, we were well on our way to Gangtok, oblivious to what was coming up for us.

Mid-way through the Siliguri-Gangtok journey, we were caught in a traffic jam that Bangalore denizens could be proud of. Remember the Padayappa climax scene where tens of hundreds of vehicles are shown in an aerial shot when Thalaivar says, “Idhu chumma trailer dhaan ma!” ? Something similar to that. An army truck had collided head on with a lorry, causing the commotion and the jam. When Saddy and Annam went to the accident spot with their DSLR, the locals mistook them to be people from the press. One guy even gave a short interview to Annam. :P

We reached the State Capital late in the afternoon. Gangtok paints a very good first impression on the visitor – neat litter-free roads, fresh cold air, breathtaking views and well maintained footpaths on either side of the road. We checked into Hotel Magnolia, a decent hotel with very ordinary service. The Hotel was located pretty close to MG Marg, the happening area of the city. After a quick bath in ice-cold water, it took us a 5 minute drive in the taxi to reach the Gangtok ropeway.

The ropeway was similar to the ones I had been to in Mussoorie and Dehradun, offering a good view of the roads and settlements beneath us.

Gangtok ropeway

Gangtok ropeway

A local monastery at walking distance from the ropeway was our next destination. We spent a good half hour there and then headed straight to MG Marg in search of good food. I noticed that the taxi wallahs in Gangtok (unlike in Shillong) do not accommodate more than 4 people. They also follow a fixed price. Here in Shillong, it is possible that there are already 6 people in a Maruti 800 and the driver still stops the car to accommodate more people.

MG Marg is easily the best area in Gangtok. Being the central market of the city, it has restaurants, shopping complexes and gift shops. It is a no vehicle zone, which makes it a walker’s paradise. The cool breeze and zero vehicle noise makes it an awesome hangout place.

Gangtok like most cities in this part of the world, sleeps very early.

View more pictures of MG Marg, Ropeway and the local monastery, here.

Day 2

Day 2 marked the beginning of the two-days-one-night package to Lachung village – Yumthang Valley – Zero Point. We were gifted with an awesome driver, Laxmi bhaiyya from Sunflower Tours and Travels. He is a Sikkim local who speaks very good hindi and has an infectious smile. Rajiv bhaiyya, the cook, also accompanied us in the Bolero to Lachung.

The first leg of the journey from Gangtok to Lachung Village (110 km) took us six straight hours. In that stretch, we traveled through all kinds of roads – concrete, beach sand, gravel, huge stones, wooden bridges, etc. Most parts of the road were pathetic, thanks to the frequent landslides that occur there. BRO (Border Roads Organization) was courteous enough to keep “Inconvenience is regretted” boards every few hundreds of metres (sometimes adding “deeply regretted”, rightly). We could notice continuous road construction work going on at many places.

With a local kid, as a dog inspects me - On the way to Lachung, Sikkim

With a local kid, as a dog inspects me – On the way to Lachung, Sikkim

Our backs got a break when Laxmi halted at three different waterfalls during different phases of the journey. The first falls, named Seven sister falls, was a disappointment. I am still not sure how they actually made a tourist spot out of it. One could see tens of such falls during an evening walk here in Shillong. The second falls, called the Naga falls was better; much better.

Naga falls, Sikkim

Naga falls, Sikkim

Amitabh Bachchan falls was the best of the lot, though. True to its name, it flowed majestically from hundreds of feet above. It wasn’t just about the falls; the view of the ice-capped mountains from that point was incredible.

View more pictures of Seven sister falls, Naga falls and Amitabh Bachchan falls, here.

It became dark by the time we reached Lachung village, our final destination for the day. Rajiv bhaiyya made soupy maggi for snacks, along with tea at our request. We had fun playing Boys vs Girls Dumb Charades in the time Rajiv bhaiyya took to prepare our dinner. Being the sole cook for all of us, Rajiv did a commendable job with the dinner – Roti, Rice, Dal, Aloo Gobi and Paneer.

Having to get up pretty early the next morning, we curled into our kambals soon after dinner.

Day 3

Not all days do you get up to see the mighty Himalayas through your window. Lachung gave us that opportunity. The road from Lachung to Yumthang Valley was far superior compared to the Gangtok-Lachung one. Yumthang valley was about 25 km from the village, and took us about an hour to reach. We stopped at a mini-marketplace to have breakfast and also to equip ourselves with boots, gloves and coats which were available for rent. We needed them to brave the cold and to walk on ice.

View pictures of Lachung village and Yumthang valley, here.

Travelling on the road from Yumthang to Zero Point gave us a splendid view of the valley, with a turquoise blue stream of water flowing through it. Laxmi said that the valley looks best in March-April with a full bloom of flowers.

AR Rahman’s god-level BGM from the movie Baba started playing in my mind as soon as we reached Zero Point. There were ice-capped mountains on three sides and a small hillock in the centre. Though the boots helped a bit, the ice was still slippery. Laxmi gave us a maximum of 45 minutes at Zero Point, warning us that it might be difficult to breathe beyond that.

Saddy who was flaunting a mega sized ice-proof jacket, tried in vain to slide on the ice. Annam didn’t fail to play football even there, at 14,600 feet. There were some dudes who were posing with a bare body and cooling glass as a few of their friends rubbed ice on their bodies. Seriously?!?!?!

Football at Zero point, Sikkim

Football at Zero point, Sikkim

After spending close to an hour and clicking loads of pictures (both with the camera and mentally) at Zero point, we began our long journey back to Gangtok, with a halt at Lachung to have lunch and check out from our rooms. We bid adieu to Rajiv bhaiiyaa before we left Lachung.

Top - Annam with Laxmi bhaiyya; Bottom - Yours truly with Rajiv bhaiyya

Top – Annam with Laxmi bhaiyya;
Bottom – Yours truly with Rajiv bhaiyya

This trip was more about the journey than the final destinations, I realized. Frozen streams, frozen water falls, bumpy roads and beautiful views – it was all there.

We reached Gangtok at 7 pm and went to sleep early, after having dinner at Apna Dhaba in MG Marg.

View more pictures of Zero Point, here.

Day 4

“When you go home, tell them of us, and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today”, read the war memorial at Nathula Pass, the Indo-Chinese border.

Nathula is located 60 km from Gangtok, at a height of 14000 odd feet. The place was very very calm and serene despite a number of people being there. We got a majestic view of the mountains of Tibet from up there. Someone told us that the closest civilization from Nathula on the Chinese side was some 570 km away. It was only mountains and forests and more mountains till then.

View from Nathula Pass, Sikkim

View from Nathula Pass, Sikkim

The cafeteria there was aptly named “14000 Cafe”. From Nathula, we could see the roads we had just traversed to reach there; it was as if a huge basilisk lay on the mountains, twisting and twirling.

View more pictures of Nathula Pass, here.

The driver (a new driver, not Laxmi bhaiyya) told us that a Baba Mandir located close by is very famous. He also added that not visiting the Mandir is like going to Agra and not visiting the Taj. I thought it was a temple for Mahavatar Babaji of “Baba” fame. The driver cleared my doubt by adding that it was a temple built for a Late Sepoy Harbhajan Singh, who lost his life at the age of 26, in the hostile conditions of Nathula while guarding the India-China border.

The Legend behind Baba Harbhajan Singh Ji is very interesting. Read this comprehensive piece on Baba Harbhajan Singh ji to know more about him and the samadhi.

A “Naya Baba Mandir” was constructed recently for the convenience of tourists who cannot visit the old and original one. We visited both.

We next halted at Changu Lake. a frozen lake, on the way from Nathula back to Gangtok. A cabinet of Yak stood there in front of the lake, dressed wonderfully. By the time we reached the lake, we were pressed for time, since we had a train to catch from NJP at 10 pm. Niveditya was disappointed that she wasn’t able to try out the Sikkimese costume which was available at the lake. We spent a maximum of ten minutes there.

Changu was the last place in our agenda for the 4-day trip.

A back of the envelope calculation showed that we had traveled 1840 km in total (920 km on the road). At the expense of two classes and not able to see my team win Kopda matches, this trip was totally worth it!

 

 

 

 

Nathula Pass, Sikkim

Nathula Pass, Sikkim

 

Tibet in the background - Nathula Pass, Sikkim

Tibet in the background – Nathula Pass, Sikkim

Nathula Pass, Sikkim

Nathula Pass, Sikkim

Tibet - Nathula Pass, Sikkim

Tibet – Nathula Pass, Sikkim

 

War memorial - Nathula Pass, Sikkim

War memorial – Nathula Pass, Sikkim

Nathula Pass, Sikkim

Nathula Pass, Sikkim

Left - India; Right - China

Left – India; Right – China

 

 

Sikkim framed: Zero point

Posted: February 6, 2014 in Diary, Pictures, Travel
Tags: , ,
Zero Point, Sikkim

Zero Point, Sikkim

Climbing the mound - Zero point, Sikkim

Climbing the mound – Zero point, Sikkim

Zero point, Sikkim

Zero point, Sikkim

Zero Point, Sikkim

Zero Point, Sikkim

Zero point, Sikkim

Zero point, Sikkim

 

Atop the hillock - Zero point, Sikkim

Atop the hillock – Zero point, Sikkim

At Zero point, Sikkim

At Zero point, Sikkim

Lachung village, Sikkim

Lachung village, Sikkim

View from Lachung

View from Lachung

Early morning at Lachung, Sikkim

Early morning at Lachung, Sikkim

 

Breakfast at Yumthang valley, Sikkim

Breakfast at Yumthang valley, Sikkim

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Vikash, Saddy & Annam @ Yumthang Valley, Sikkim

Vikash, Saddy & Annam @ Yumthang Valley, Sikkim

 

Divya di @ Yumthang Valley, Sikkim

Divya di @ Yumthang Valley, Sikkim

 

At Gangtok, Sikkim

At Gangtok, Sikkim

Seven Sister falls, Sikkim

Seven Sister falls, Sikkim

Naga falls, Sikkim

Naga falls, Sikkim

Annam at Work - Naga falls, Sikkim

Annam at Work – Naga falls, Sikkim

Amitabh Bachchan falls, Sikkim

Amitabh Bachchan falls, Sikkim

A view from Amitabh Bachchan falls, Sikkim

A view from Amitabh Bachchan falls, Sikkim

Amitabh Bachchan falls
Amitabh Bachchan falls

 

Gangtok Ropeway

Gangtok Ropeway

Inside the ropeway

Inside the ropeway

The local monastery at Gangtok

The local monastery at Gangtok

Inside the monastery

Inside the monastery

One of the over-bridges in the city

One of the over-bridges in the city

MG Marg entrance

MG Marg entrance

MG Marg - no vehicle zone

MG Marg – no vehicle zone

MG Marg

MG Marg

 

Man's best friend

Man’s best friend

Season 6 of IIM Shillong’s annual intra-college Cricket tournament, Kopda Cup, kick-started yesterday.

In the past two days, the seven competing teams have played two games each. In one of the close games, Dabang Dudes beat Lafange Parindey by 1 run when they defended a paltry 36, thanks to their awesome bowling. There were also games where the opposition was totally decimated. Khatron Ke Khiladi mauled Manoranjan Ke Baap in what was a clinical performance by the former.

The audience (which included students from both batches, team managers, faculty, faculty’s children and workers) had their bit of fun outside the field with amazing Hindi Commentary by Dev Sir, Siddhant, Aditya and Nirmit, to name a few. Specifically, Bai Surali and Asad Ali’s cases were taken the most by the commentators.

People who turned out in large numbers to witness Satish Kalal’s brilliance with the bat were disappointed when Gujju (Satish) failed to smash those huge sixes he is famous for, in both the matches.

KKK vs MOB

KKK vs MOB

KKK Star Player - Bai Surali

KKK Star Player – Bai Surali

An animated Vangal Srinath at the fall of a wicket

An animated Vangal Srinath at the fall of a wicket

Aditya Kumar at the Comm Box

Aditya Kumar at the Comm Box

With Anupam and Star batsman Kalal

With Anupam and Star batsman Kalal

MOB mid-field meeting

MOB mid-field meeting

Dodo never failed to entertain the audience

Dodo never failed to entertain the audience

 

Our batch of 107 people (Stalwarts, we call ourselves) has a lot of diversity in terms of geography, age and educational background. Having a hotel management grad (Rutwik Dilip Phatak) in our batch came in handy when he decided to make Modaks (Kozhukattai) for both batches, on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi. Of course, he wasn’t going to do it alone; that’s where the help of people like me came into use.

Rutwik took care of the main part of mixing the ingredients in the right proportion. Others helped him around with the easier, repetitive manual work involved in making the modaks. It took the 10-15 of us three full hours to make around 300 modaks.

IMAG0069

The Master Chef, Mr. Phatak

The Master Chef, Mr. Phatak

Saiprasad posing as if he's working

Saiprasad posing as if he’s working

Ofcourse, other than  clicking these pics, I did some of the work too. It felt gratifying when the final product didn’t turn out to be too bad; in fact, it was well received by both the batches, with a few of them (notably Priyankar Pandit :D) sneaking more than their permitted amount of one modak.

That was the day I realized how much effort had to go in by the mess workers to prepare food for 200-300 people, four times a day. That was also the day I stopped complaining about my food. Cooking is tough.

Modaks, ready to eat

Modaks, ready to eat

IMG_7376

It was fun preparing Lord Ganesha’s favorite snack. He must have liked it.

IMG_7404

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bombay Lassi

Posted: January 21, 2014 in Food, Thoughts, Travel
Tags: , , ,

I stay in Kilpauk (notorious for the “World renowned” Mental Hospital present there). One day during my vacations, when I was engrossed into the world of  Shantaram, I received a call from MP, my school friend. He invited me to have Samosas in a place somewhere near Mount Road.

Anyone who knows Chennai geography would think travelling from Kilpauk to Mount Road is a little too much for having Samosas. But having little else to do, I accompanied MP in his Activa, first to a Hard Disk Service Centre in Greams Road and then to the Samosa shop he was talking about. Thanks to the Chennai Metro work which was going on, we had to travel through the entire stretch of Mount Road and then through some gullies and small lanes that I had never been to before, to finally arrive at the shop beside the parking entrance of Devi Paradise Cinemas.

The shop was a humble 10×10 size and was run by 3-4 North Indians. The lane was too narrow for even a Tata Nano to pass through comfortably. There was a slum settlement just metres away and slum dwellers’ children were playing with each other, oblivious to the happenings around them. One elderly bearded man was frying hot samosas in a big “Anda” just outside the shop. The crowd was pretty huge considering the size of the shop. MP ordered a Samosa initially for me to taste. The piping hot samosa was easily one of the best I’d ever had. The semi solid paste inside the Samosa comprising mashed potatoes and green peas had a taste that was irresistible.

IMAG0404

With the little Hindi I knew, I told the guy in the shop, “Bhaiya, aur ek de deejiye!” (Brother, give me one more!). Even with the bearded man frying 30-40 samosas at a time, the demand far exceeded the supply. Hesitant to stop with 2 Samosas, I heard myself say, “Aur ek, bhaiya!”, and again, and again.  

I could have gone on to have a few more but decided against it.

In a few years from now, I am sure Bombay Lassi will have a number of branches across Chennai, like a Murugan Idli Shop or a HSB. That day, I’ll take credit for writing about Bomaby Lassi first.

I distinctly remember that day, some four years ago in Coimbatore when I persuaded few of my mallu friends to join us for “Asal”. I told them Thala will not disappoint. That day, unfortunately, he did.

Today was different. Completely different. Veeram – SDFS (Second Day First Show) @ Inox, Virugambakkam.

The story can never be more predictable. Hero has a happy family. Villain (having a huge mustache and dishevelled hair) does all the wrong. Hero can do no wrong. Thugs fly like ping pong balls. Hero triumphs and wins everyone’s heart.

But the fact that Ajith dons the role of Hero makes a lot of difference.

Other than the Super Star Rajnikanth himself, there’s no one ( I REPEAT, NO ONE) in Tamil Cinema who has a screen presence as huge as Thala.

Not Vikram. Not Suriya. Definitely not Vijay.

The slo-mo walk of Ajith as his face is revealed from under the umbrella in one of the scenes got a ear deafening roar from the audience.

Awesome scene in the movie

Awesome scene in the movie

There were many other scenes (backed by very good re-recording and camera work) which other actors can pull off only in their dreams.

Veeram also witnessed Ajith in a light-hearted role (at least for most parts of the movie) after many years. Billa, Mankatha, Arrambam, Asal all saw only the serious Ajith.

The comedy track involving Santhanam, Tamannah and Ajith’s family in the first half is hilarious. Thambi Ramiah tries his bit in the second half.

DSP’s songs gave us a break to catch up with friends. Barring the intro song and the song by Adnan Sami, other songs aren’t even hummable. Take nothing away from DSP in the re-recording though.

Some punch lines by Thala were very deep. To quote one, “Unna suththi irukkaravangala nee paathukitta, mela irukkuravan unna paathupaan” (If you take care of the people around you, God will take care of you).

If Tamil Cinema is an empire, then Ajith is its undisputed king and he is here to stay. Veeram is enough proof.

The Chennai-Trichy highway (NH-45) is a driver’s paradise. Once you cross Chengelpet, it’s almost like NFS-MW Tollbooth challenge – it’s only you, your car, awesome roads and LOTS of tollbooths; all the way to Trichy.

NFW Most Wanted - Toll booth challenge

NFW Most Wanted – Toll booth challenge

Sri Rangam has to be the temple outside Chennai that I have frequented the most. It is one place we (my family) love traveling to. One such trip to Sri Rangam began on Friday when we left Chennai by road at 8 am.

The road stretch from Ulundhurpet to Perambalur is awesome beyond words, considering that it’s in India.

Perambalur bypass

Perambalur bypass

NH-45

NH-45

The number of small shops selling Kumbakonam Degree Coffee on both sides of the highway was surprising to me. Almost every second kilometer, we could find hoardings advertising about the Coffee shop that also sold a lot of other stuff. For example, “Only Coffee”, one such coffee shop, offered snacks, rice mixes, halwas and books in addition to Kumbakonam Degree Coffee.

These small coffee outlets that adorned the sides of NH-45 (GST Road) were not present the last time I travelled through this highway. On googling, I found out that “Only Coffee” stores were recently set up by a gentleman G. Samyraj who wanted to create a means of livelihood to his struggling villagers. Aping his innovation, other Degree Coffee outlets followed suit.

They don’t serve overpriced variants of cold coffee like a Starbucks or CCD. Only frothy, piping hot, filter-coffee served in gleaming pithalai davara tumblers. And it costs Rs. 15/-

Kumbakonam Degree Coffee

Kumbakonam Degree Coffee

Somewhere near Perambalur on the highway, we took a small detour to visit Siruvachur Mathura Kaliamman temple. The shrine here, is open only on Fridays, Mondays and the first day of all Tamil months.

We next went straight to Sri Rangam, an islet formed by rivers Cauvery and Kollidam, located less than 10 km from Trichy. The Ranganathaswamy Temple at Sri Rangam is majestic, huge and divine at the same time. With 7 prakarams (outer walls), 21 gopurams (towers) and an area of 156 acres, it is the second largest Hindu Temple in the world!

Gopurams of Sri Rangam

Gopurams of Sri Rangam

But today, it doesn’t seem as large as it sounds because of the shops and houses that have been set up to as far as within the 4th prakaram. It’s still huge, though. You could spend an entire day inside the temple and still not end up covering even half of what it has to offer.

Sometime ago, Ms. Jayalalithaa had donated two mobile fuel efficient vans to the temple to help the elderly and disabled to travel within the temple premises. Ofcourse, Sri Rangam is her own constituency.

Ubayam: CM

Ubayam: CM

The Puliyodharai (Tamarind rice), Sweet pongal, vadai, athirasam and other snacks offered at the Prasadam Stall within the temple premises can act as more than just a substitute for lunch.

The temple also has lots of interesting legends associated with it. Try googling them (or read them from the walls of the temple if you happen to visit the place).

From personal experience, the people of Trichy and other small/medium towns are sweeter compared to the cities, at least when it comes to telling directions to a stranger. A particular bike man went to the extent of travelling a few hundreds of metres in his bike, along with us to show the road leading to Kumbakonam.

A 100 km from Sri Rangam lies Kumbakonam, popularly called “temple town”. It’s impossible to stand at any part of the town and not have a temple in your vicinity. During British Raj, it was a prominent center of European education, which gave it the name “Cambridge of South India”. The town is also world-renowned for its Degree Coffee.

The Little Flower Higher Secondary School (LFHSS), Kumbakonam has two notable alumni – Dr. M.S. Swaminathan and Mr. R. Aravamudhan, grandfather of Nitin Srinivas. :D

Outside Thatha's Alma Mater, LFHSS

Outside Thatha’s Alma Mater, LFHSS

M.S. Swaminathan might have forgotten about his Alma Mater but my grandfather hasn’t. He is still very fond of LFHSS and his childhood days in Kumbakonam.

Uppliappan Koil, located about 10 km from Kumbakonam was also a part of our agenda. The temple elephants at both Uppiliappan Koil and Sri Rangam had gone to the yearly elephant camp and were found missing from the temples.

Tender coconut vendor in Uppiliappan Koil

Tender coconut vendor in Uppiliappan Koil

If the road from Chennai-Trichy was awesome beyond words, then the road connecting Kumbakonam-Dindivanam more than compensated for it. We were only too happy to catch the NH-45 at Dindivanam and get back home to end yet another trip that had a lot to offer.