Category Archives: Diary

SriniTravels – Europe 2018 Part 3

Having spent 3 days at Paris, Aarav and I were in no mood to leave the beautiful city brimming with History.

The photograph below was clicked when we were just about to leave Paris for Brussels.

Brussels, the Capital of Belgium, was not a big line item in our agenda. We just spent about 3-4 hours in the city. On our arrival in the city, our Coach halted near a majestic cathedral (I later came to know as the Saint-Michel Cathedral). With an impressive facade and tall towers on either side, the cathedral stood out completely from its surroundings which looked like modern day buildings. After a brief photo-op outside it, our Tour Manager took us straight to the city center of the Brussels Old town.

Right in the heart of the Old town is the city’s main plaza, known as the Grand Palace. Stand in the middle of the square and you could literally feel like you’re back to the 17th century. The horse carriages, buildings, sculptures all give you a feeling of medieval Europe.

The highlight of the Grand Palace to me was the ornately carved stonework with rich golden decoration.

We then walked down a street bustling with tourists from all geographies thronging the restaurants and cafes on either side. Brussels is famous for Belgian Waffles, Belgian Chocolates and French Fries (which apparently originated in Belgium and not France as the name suggests).

We treated ourselves to some authentic Belgian Waffles topped with melted white chocolate and headed to see Brussel’s most hyped landmark – the Mannekin Pis; nothing but a small 2 feet statue of a baby urinating. There are multiple Legends associated with this boy and how he went on to become a symbol of people of Brussels. It also embodies their sense of humour and independence of mind.

After a brief photo-op at Atomium, we headed straight to the sin City, Amsterdam.

To be continued…

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SriniTravels – Europe 2018 Part 2

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. ” – Walt Disney.

One look at the sprawling Disneyland Paris campus and you get to understand what this young little teenager Walter Elias Disney might have dreamt about, when he started taking his passion seriously.

On an overcast morning with rains imminent and without carrying umbrellas, we stepped into the Disneyland Park. It was the first experience of visiting an international Park for all five of us, and we had all day at our disposal. “Neraya nadakanum polrukkey?!?”, my mom sighed! “Looks like we’ll have a lot of walking to do”. She was right. The park was huge! Disneyland Paris Android App, the maps and signboards helped, but it was difficult for all of us to stay together and not get lost.

Disneyland Park entrance

Aarav enjoying the “Small World” ride

Just near the entrance of the main Park, I noticed a statue of Snow White, Disney’s first princess. Hair as black as ebony, lips as red as the rose, skin as white as snow, she was wearing a bright smile with a pose gesturing a welcome.

As I pushed the baby stroller forward to start making a move, I was thinking to myself, “Snow White, if only you could guide us through this Park!!!”. I noticed someone’s hand on my shoulder when I heard a sweet voice from behind. “You are an honourable guest of this fabled park. I’ll guide you through it. Don’t worry”, said Snow White, as I turned back, stunned. And so, we entered the park, ably guided by Snow White, enjoying all the rides that were worth their salt. After what seemed like hours, Snow White bid adieu to us. “I’ll have to get ready for the evening Disney Parade. I’ll see you all there. Don’t miss it”, she said, as she seamlessly disappeared into the crowd.

We wasted an hour in the afternoon owing to the drizzles which had picked up by then. After having a sumptuous packed Indian lunch, we went ahead and explored a few other rides in the Park, mostly suited for my 1 year old son. He was the hero of the trip for us afterall. By the expressions he gave (he can’t speak yet), we gathered that he had a great time. I made a mental note to myself that we’ll come back to Disneyland (not necessarily Paris) when he is slightly older (5-7 years old).

Parade

To be continued…

SriniTravels – Europe 2018 Part 1

Europe has something to offer for all (or should I say “most”) kinds of people – history lovers, foodies, pahaadi ladkas, city explorers, leisure seekers, among others.

On June 8, 2018 (on the eve of my son Aarav’s first birthday), the five of us (mom, dad, wife, son and me) left for a 2 week long trip to Western Europe. The preparations began in Jan 2018 with the usual suspects (mom and wife) doing most of the planning and work related to the trip. The fact that we had booked a fully loaded package through MakeMyTrip helped ease the load a bit.

As the weeks rolled by and the start date of the much anticipated trip came closer, the excitement built up. I had only visited one country outside India before, and we were about to visit 7 countries in this trip (8 if you count Vatican City separately). Also, this was the first long travel for my one year old son; we were anxious if he’d be able to manage the conditions there continuosly for 2 weeks, outside his regular daily routine (sleep, eat, play, sleep, eat, sleep).

Our first destination of the trip was Paris (not to be confused with Parry’s in Chennai). We spent the first day at leisure, just going out for an Indian dinner and a lazy late evening walk in the locale surrounding our Hotel. We had a long day ahead the next day, June 10 (which also happened to be the day of French Open Finals).

“To your left guys, is the first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower” said our Tour Manager. The 324m tall wrought iron structure took me off guard while our Coach Captain slowed down the Bus for us to absorb the first look of the majestic structure. We eventually spent a couple of hours with the World Wonder, going up to it’s second level to get a bird’s eye view of Paris. Aarav had a good time chasing pigeons underneath the Tower, once we were back down.

Aarav in front of the Eiffel Tower

Aarav Playing with birds, below the Eiffel Tower

Second Level, Eiffel Tower

We then moved to Louvre Museum, home to “Mona aunty”, the world’s most photographed and visited painting. As I walked on the corridors of the historic museum, I strangely recollected scenes from Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.

The museum was HUGE! We had only about a couple of hours to spend there (limitations of booking a tour package). So we headed straight to catch a glimpse of the painting which currently has an insurance cover of $800M, the Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa

I looked at Mona in the eye and said “You look beautiful!”. SHE WINKED, as if to say thank you. And then she added, “All credit goes to Thala da Vinci, for making me immortal”. I couldn’t believe it. Paintings talking and moving. Happens only in the Harry Potter world. I dismissed the incident as just an imagination in my head and continued clicking pictures when my wife came running. “Mona wants a selfie with Aarav” she said, unable to control her excitement.

We had enough time to barely cover only one section of the museum. There are 3 sections. Our Tour Manager told a stat “Even if you spend 1 minute in front of every exhibit in the museum, you’ll need about 3 months to view all the exhibits”. That put things in perspective.

Later in the evening, we went on a cruise on River Seine, the main river flowing through the city. During the hour long cruise, we got a glimpse of many a landmark of the city. There were bridges, bridges and more bridges for as long as we could see. Around the time our cruise ended, I got the news that Rafael Nadal won the French Open, yet again. Well yeah, Sun rises in the East. Delhi is the Capital of India. Nadal wins French Open. In 2009, Sun rose in the West.

After dinner, I was just walking in an area near the Eiffel Tower when I saw huge crowds gathering nearby. I didn’t know what the fuss was about, till I saw Rafael Nadal. He had apparently come to the Eiffel Tower for a photo shoot with the French Open trophy. I couldn’t believe my luck. I found my way through the crowd to reach Nadal. “Rafael, big fan! Can I have an autograph please?!”, I requested, panting for breath. “Ofcourse”, he said, grabbing my cap. While he was about to leave, I blurted out, “You are great Nadal, but Roger Federer is the Greatest Tennis Player EVER! G.O.A.T”. He smiled back, as if to say “I know”, patted my back and moved on.

To be continued…

Sachin vs Kohli: A Different perspective

In this post, I try to compare the ODI careers of Virat Kohli (till July 2017) and Sachin Tendulkar.

The summary below shows how the batsmen fared compared to their Top 50 counterparts in their respective eras.

As one can observe, Kohli averaged 14 more than his peers, while Sachin averaged 7 more. This is an indirect indicator that Kohli is better than Sachin when it comes to ODI batting.

Captures

The graphs below show cumulative runs and batting average since ODI debut for the 2 Legends.

Notice Sachin’s graph taking a steep climb in Year 9? Right. 1998 it was.

Dream year for Sachin with a whopping 9 ODI Centuries (remains a record till date) and an average of 65 with 100+ Strike Rate.

At around Year 10, in terms of absolute runs, the graphs more or less coincide.

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I’ll leave for you to decide who is the better batsman among the two.

And Kohli is not done yet. He scored 2 more centuries in 5 matches against Sri Lanka after these Stats were compiled.

#SriniStats

Bitten by the #Sarahah bug

Sarahah, the online anonymous messaging app recently hit the market. I liked the idea, for multiple reasons,

We Indians (most of us) many a time are hesitant to give feedback on the face, be it positive or negative (“Constructive”). When under a mask, it becomes all the more easier.

I created my Sarahah account to see what my circle has to say to me. Got quite a few responses – some good, some “constructive”.

Sharing few of them here.

Having said that, Sarahah is just a wave (for may be a week or two) which has swallowed curious people on its way. Come September, people might not remember it.

 

Srini’s Favourites – 70 Movies

I’d like to quote Kamal Haasan before I start. “This is not a bucket list – 70 films you should see before you die. I’m not trying to recommend movies, or impose my choices on other people. The way I react to a film will be different from the way other people would. I’m sure I will probably notice nuances other people may not. Finally, it’s like falling in love! Why do you fall in love with someone? Who knows? It’s the same with movies.”

Let’s get started. Here’s my list, not in any particular Order.

  1. Nayagan
  2. Mouna Ragam
  3. Thalapathy
  4. Roja
  5. Iruvar
  6. Kannathil Muthamittaal
  7. Mudhalvan
  8. Anniyan
  9. Annamalai
  10. Baasha
  11. Padayappa
  12. Mullum Malarum
  13. 16 Vayathinile
  14. Rhythm
  15. Aboorva Raagangal
  16. Yennai Arindhaal
  17. Pudhupettai
  18. Vaali
  19. Mugavari
  20. Ramana
  21. Ghajini
  22. Vaaranam Aayiram
  23. Karnan
  24. Thevar Magan
  25. Salangai Oli
  26. Dhuruvangal Pathinaru
  27. Bahubali 1
  28. Bahubali 2
  29. Lagaan
  30. Rang de Basanti
  31. 3 Idiots
  32. Aashiqui 2
  33. Chandralekha
  34. Thirumal Perumai
  35. A Wednesday
  36. Taare Zameen Par
  37. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
  38. Happy Days
  39. Mozhi
  40. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
  41. Papanasam
  42. PK
  43. Rockstar
  44. Vasool Raja MBBS
  45. Panchathantiram
  46. Michael Madana Kamarajan
  47. Thillu Mullu
  48. Virumaandi
  49. Anbe Sivam
  50. Chandramukhi
  51. Naattaamai
  52. Suryavamsam
  53. Ek Duje Ke Liye
  54. Sindhu Bairavi
  55. Subramaniapuram
  56. Chennai 28
  57. Mankatha
  58. Deiva Thirumagal
  59. Aadukalam
  60. Moondram Pirai
  61. Ko
  62. Ghilli
  63. Thenali
  64. Avvai Shanmukhi
  65. Saamy
  66. Appu Trilogy
  67. Pasanga
  68. Madrasapattanam
  69. Thani Oruvan
  70. MS Dhoni, The Untold Story

Indian Cricket Team is not Paneer Butter Masala

I was one of the most fortunate souls today. 

Firstly, today was my first Father’s Day as a father; completely different feeling to have an innocent tiny bundle of joy in my hands. 

Secondly (and related to this post), I could not watch or even follow a single ball of the Indian chase and collapse in the Champions Trophy final today against Pakistan; I was flying the entire duration. I got all the shock at once, after I landed in Delhi at around 9.30 pm.

Yes, it’s disheartening to see our Men in Blue lose a Final. We were the favourites to retain the trophy, especially after India were to play Pakistan in the Final. We had beaten them comprehensively on June 4; they are also No. 8 side in the World and barely managed to scrape through and qualify for the tournament. 

But, over time, we have realised that it’s easier to understand even Quantum Physics but not this Pakistan side. Who’d have thought they’d come up with such a complete performance? And what a day and stage to up the ante. Complete credit to this young Pakistan side for lifting this Champions Trophy when everyone were thinking South Africa, England, India.

They have not only surprised the cricketing world, but also themselves. 

Where is Thissara Perera hiding? His dropped catch in hindsight defined this tournament.

Coming to India’s performance, today was a day when all departments collectively failed. Bowling discipline and batting specifically. It so happened that Pakistan also simultaneously produced their A game. Result is there for all to see.

But take nothing away from the Indian side. We could have done a few things better, but it’s unfair to expect them to produce best results every day. 


Indian Cricket Team is not Paneer Butter Masala. They cannot make us happy everyday. The fact is, they make us happy most days. We should cherish and savour those moments. On days when they don’t, we should take them in our stride and continue to support this champion side. If Champion sides can win all championships, then there is no excitement in watching. The unpredictability of this sport (or any) is what makes it fascinating to watch/follow.

Men in Blue, we stand with you. Now go clean sweep West Indies and Sri Lanka and come back. 

Congrats to Indian Hockey Team on the 7-1 win against Pakistan. Congrats also to Kidambi Srikanth on the historic win.

Virat Kohli has matured as a person hasn’t he? His post match pressers/interviews are a treat. 

Documentary Review: Sachin, A Billion Dreams

What’s a harder job than being Sachin Tendulkar? Making a film on him. 

Sachin is an open book to Indians and cricket fans across the world. What more, there’s also an autobiography out in the open; “Playing it my way”. What then can a movie about the great man add on? Director had a tough job at hand indeed. 

Did he succeed? Nope. “Sachin, A billion dreams” is a good documentary at best. There is no need to go to a Cinema hall to watch this documentary. Cinematography credits for 50% of the movie goes to Anjali Tendulkar. The movie is replete with personal moments of Sachin as seen through her handicam. 

The movie could have been shot in 12 hours, and thus adding another record to Sachin’s already loooong list of records. Not sure what took them so long to get this movie together. 

No scope for Rahman. Where can he score when most of the film has people talking to the camera? 

There are goosebumps moments in the film, but very far and very few. 

This movie is not meant for Indians or people who know Tendulkar. It’s meant for people who know nothing about Sachin or cricket. It might seem entertaining to them. Not for us Indians or Sachin fans, who know Sachin in  and out. Maria Sharapova might enjoy it. 

You can’t blame the Director too. There’s no scope for him to create any sort of suspense. 

What about screenplay? Last thing we wanted was Sachin’s story told in chronological order. That’s exactly what the Director has given us. 


“Sachin, A Billion Dreams” is like a good documentary on Cricket you would want to sit in your home and watch on Star Sports. Not a movie you need to go to Cinema halls for. 

“Fire in Babylon” is a better made documentary on Cricket. Watch it if you haven’t yet. 

I hate you, Rajamouli Sir!

Dear Rajamouli Sir,

I hate you. I mean this from the bottom of my heart. I truly do. And there is a reason for it. 

I happened to watch “Bahubali 2: The Conclusion” for the third time today. Two times in Tamil and once in Hindi. I was stunned to see that you’ve managed to create the same impact as the Originals (Telugu and Tamil) in a dubbed version (Hindi). When I walked out of the cinema hall today, spellbound as I was, just like the first time, the reality slowly sinked in. That’s the end of the Bahubali series, at least on the big screen. That’s why I hate you. 


I know “The World of Bahubali” will continue to exist, through book series, comics, TV series, games, virtual reality, etc. like you have been saying in interviews, but none can match the impact created by your magic on the big screen. 

There is a dialogue in your movie where Sivagami says, “Once in a while, even God who sits in his temple has to come out to the streets to hears the sukh/dukh of the people.” It applies to you too. Once the Bahubali 2 wave is over, take some time out to hear what people have to say. Open your twitter account to see the comments. People are thoroughly gutted that this series has ended in just 2 movies. Why oh why? Why can’t you take another movie as a prequel to tell us the story of Amarendra Bahubali’s dad? Or may be the story of Mahishmati under its current Ruler Mahendra Bahubali. I sincerely hope you do. Take your time. Take a long, well deserved break. But take a good decision. We need more of Bahubali on the big screen. 

Bahubali franchise can give the likes of Marvel, DC a run for their money. I am not joking. 1500 Cr is not a joke. 

Till you come up with Bahubali 3, we shall make do with stuff like “Rise of Sivagami” and other books, media to stay connected with the Bahubali universe. 

But remember Rajamouli Sir, like Devasena waited for 25 years for Mahendra Bahubali, we will be waiting for the return of Bahubali. 

I hope this letter reaches you.

Yours truly,

Nitin

Jai Mahishmati 

Movie Review: Baahubali – The Conclusion (No spoilers)

Author’s note: Don’t worry. This post doesn’t have the answer to why Kattappa killed Baahubali. Nor does it have any other spoiler about the Epic. But I am assuming you’ve at least seen the first part since I will be using certain references from it.

Having seen how the first part of the Epic ended, with Kattappa (Satyaraj) narrating Sivudu (Prabhas) on the legacy of The Great Amarendra Baahubali, we all knew what was going to be the eventual conclusion.

Sivudu (alias Mahendra Baahubali) would rout Mahishmati with his army and kill (burn to death) Bhallaladeva in the pyre in the presence of his mom Devasena (beautifully played by Anushka), as vowed by her. 

We knew this was going to happen. Despite that, Director S. S. Rajamouli manages to keep the audience hooked, throughout the movie well into the climax. That’s where the success of the movie lies.

The love sequences in Kuntala kingdom between Devasena and Baahubali could have been released as a separate movie in itself. Beautifully scripted. 

Anushka was the perfect choice to essay the bold, strong, gorgeous, righteous, caring, lovable Devasena, Princess of Kuntala Kingdom who falls for Baahubali. 

Ramya Krishna will now have Padayappa as the number 2 film in her career. Baahubali her best. No better person to play the pivotal Sivagami role. 

Rana Daggubati as Bhallaladeva is not the traditional villain you’d see in Tamil, Telugu cinema. His characterisation based on jealousy, inferiority complex sort of blends into elevating Baahubali’s character too. Key role.

Kattappa essayed by Satyaraj gets most screen presence in the movie, after Devasena, Baahubali. Powerful role played to perfection by veteran Satyaraj. Humor in certain scenes in first half equally laudable as the emotional, pivotal scenes.

With Prabhas, Anushka Shetty, Ramya Krishna, Satyaraj and Rana, SSR has got the casting spot on.

There are many people who have essayed the role of Karnan. But when you think of Karnan, you think of the Great Sivaji Ganesan. Similarly, Kattabomman – Sivaji Ganesan; Bharathiyar – Sayaji Shinde.

After Baahubali, when you think of a great Warrior King, the first image that might strike you could be of Prabhas. What a man! His 5 years dedication to the movie and script shows. The film is flooded with scenes that will give you goosebumps. SSR might have written them, but you still needed Prabhas to carry that on screen. Stand up and salute Prabhas for that. 

Watch out for the scene where Kattappa introduces Baahubali to the Kuntala Kingdom or the court scene where Baahubali gives justice to the Senapati. Cinematic peaks. Excellent scripting, bgm and camera.

Appreciable effort from Art Director Sabu Cyril and Music Director MM Keeravani for bringing mythical Kingdom Mahishmati to life. 

The Conclusion could have ended at the place where The Beginning begins, i.e. when Sivudu (Mahendra Baahubali) is born. Audience could have easily guessed on their mind as to what was in store.

SSR takes the pain to picturise that part too. 

Amarendra Baahubali is immortal. He will live on as long as people in the World talk about cinema. Hats off SS Rajamouli.

P.S: Utterly gutted this series had ended in just 2 parts. 

Zapwheels customer testimonial

There are no Vespa service centres in Gurgaon. Yes, not even one. There was one in Sector 14, but then they shut shop. If I were to service my Vespa at a service centre, I’ll have had to take it all the way to Dwarka.

Frankly, I haven’t been up to speed with respect to automobile service start-ups. When you don’t have an answer to a question, reach out to Google. Google can’t say no for an answer. You can even try your luck asking Google why Kattappa killed Bahubali, if you can’t control your curiosity for another week. 

Google threw up Zapwheels as a plausible solution. Their website is fairly simple to use and very well guided. Fill in some basic details like Two wheeler model name, your name, email, phone and tadaaaaa, you are done. You can also book time slots for service basis your convenience. You are then informed via email and SMS on order confirmation, service guy details, etc.

They do a compete regular service at your doorstep for Rs. 249 all inclusive, without you having to move an inch out of your home. I hadn’t serviced the bike for 9 months. The service guy easily spent close to 2 hours on doing the 24 point check mentioned in their website, very diligently. 

Overall experience. 4.5 out of 5.

Will I recommend Zapwheels to friends and relatives? Big yes. 

Will I book my next service with them? Most definitely yes. 

200 not out

I started this blog in July 2012, almost 5 years ago. Today, WordPress reminds me our journey together has exceeded 200 posts. For me, that’s not a small number. It averages out to one post every 8.5 days. I am happy to know I have been a fairly consistent blogger. 

What started as a personal account of my life in IIM Shillong now comprises posts on a number of topics of my interest which include travel, music, books, movies, photography and sports (cricket specifically). Cricket Stats deep dives have been a recent addition to my blog where I randomly pick one aspect of the game, dig numbers from ESPN Cricinfo and make a post out of it.

I write out of my own interest. It’s a great feeling. Creating your own content. There are no other intentions of maintaining this blog. Feedback from friends and family on ways I can improve is an added bonus. 

There have been days when I have published posts and there’s hardly any readership. Other days, when there are few 100s to even 1000 visits. Remember one such instance when I wrote a letter to MS Dhoni and posted it on Twitter. The Official CSK handle had retweeted it, leading to massive readership. That was a memorable day in my blogging journey. 

I would like to thank Bhaskar NH, my friend from Undergraduation, who was the motivation behind me starting this blog. I have thanked him many times, and I will keep thanking him in the future, with every milestone. 500 posts. 10 years. 1000 posts. 20 years. A million views. 

Until next milestone, it’s goodbye. 


P.S: Sachin was the first to reach there. I have reached the milestone too. Next target, Brian Lara. 

Movie Review: Dhuruvangal Pathinaru (Tamil, 2016)

Being a regular on Twitter, I remember reading rave reviews about the film Dhuruvangal Pathinaru and its Director Karthik Naren around the time of the movie release in late December 2016. Noted film personalities like Shankar, Gautam Menon, Murugadoss, AR Rahman and the likes had high praise for the 22 year old Director on his directorial debut. My former room mate Divakar told me the movie is now available on Amazon Prime Video. I watched the movie last week, with zero background about the movie and its plot. I just knew that it was a thriller movie.

9/10 to the Director for the screenplay. Kudos. We have seen multiple crime thriller movies in the past. But the way the narrative moves from past to present to one POV to another PoV is pure genius. It’s a short movie, little more than 100 minutes long. In those 100 minutes, there are more U Turns than a Kejriwal speech. Every twist is unexpected and takes you off guard. 


Rahman as Police Inspector Deepak hits a high in D-16. Most of the movie in fact is narrated through his character. His narrative and carrying of the role lifts the movie to another level. The fact that he is the only known face in the movie shows how confident the Director was, on the script. Celeb faces didn’t matter. Screenplay was the true hero. Camera work is pacy. 

If you have 100 minutes at your disposal, download Amazon Prime and watch D-16. You wouldn’t regret it.

And yes, I’ll be watching Karthik Naren’s next movie, irrespective of Genre or reviews. The Young Director will go places. Remember the name! 

Movie Review: Joker (2016) Tamil Movie

The 64th National film awards announced Joker as the Best Feature Film (Tamil) recently. I took to Twitter to ask my followers if the movie is worth a watch. I got a unanimous yes for an answer. The movie thankfully was available on Amazon Prime video, and so I began to watch the movie, 8 months after its release in August 2016.

It’s a hard hitting Tamil political satire movie, which poses some tough questions to the way we treat our regional and national issues. The first half though mostly filled with humour, makes one take a step back and ponder about the current state of affairs in our country. Director Raju Murugan has taken humour as a tool to subtly send across strong messages on a number of issues, which include illegal sand mining, safety of schools for children, basic toilet facilities and the likes. 


The way the Protagonist and his associates are seen as Jokers by the society even though they spend their time and lives for the cause of the people is the underlying irony of the movie. Somasundaram as the Lead character shines as the Joker in Present and a poor guy vicitmized by the system in the Past. Certain scenes from the flashback are tear jerkers. 

Somasundaram seems to be a versatile actor and I won’t be surprised if he gets called for roles in Mani Ratnam, Bala movies in the future. 

Such small scale films with a strong story and message need to be encouraged by us as audience. Kudos to the Director. And thanks to the National Awards jury for selecting this movie as the Best Feature film (2016). 

Almost got robbed!

This incident happened 6-7 months ago. I just got myself to write about it, today, me being on a blogging spree having published 5 posts in the last 24 hours. Yes, it happens with me all the time. Months without a single post, and then, days like these.

It wasn’t a deserted place. There were at least 20 people around. I was travelling by auto to office, waiting at the Traffic signal in Sector 49 (Gurgaon), mentally planning for the day ahead. 10 metres to my left, I saw a man with a full length beard, dressed in shabby clothes with a snake in his hand, begging for alms from fellow citizens. For a moment, just for a moment, he saw me looking at him and his snake. I don’t know what struck him, but he came running towards my auto. May be he sensed fear in my eyes (Yes, I was scared). May be he noticed the 3 gold rings on my fingers from that distance.

My heart started pounding heavily, with every step he took towards my vehicle. He wasn’t alone. There was one other bearded man who accompanied him, but without a snake.  Our Auto was in the extreme left of the road. The other man covered the auto completely from the right side and our man got into the auto, with the snake in his hand. The snake was hissing and moving, centimetres from my face.

He begged for money. I refused. He then told, “Do rupaya de do”. Give me 2 rupees. I then didn’t know it was a trap. I was happy to give 2 rupees to get that snake out of the auto. I opened my wallet to get some change. He noticed the two 500 rupee notes (those were pre-demonetization days) and a few 100 rupee notes in my wallet. I gave him 5 rupees.

That’s when his tone started to change, like the transition from Ambi to Anniyan. He was carrying a small bowl with some kumkum inside it. He demanded, “Take the note having largest denomination in your wallet, keep it on the bowl and take it back”. I wasn’t a fool. I knew where he was coming from. He would take the 500 rupees and run out of the auto. I blatantly refused. The auto driver started cursing at him. The other man said, “Tu Chup kar. Aaram se baat karo”. You keep shut. Talk politely. The Auto walah then gave up, his loud curses giving way to murmurs and rants. The signal was already green by then.

“I have given you 5 rupees. Please leave us alone”, I said, trying to sound commanding, with my stomach rumbling with fear, underneath. When the man refused to move an inch, I took 100 rupees from my wallet to put it on the bowl. He was holding the bowl in his left hand and the snake in his right. Now he caught hold of my hand tightly. When I tried to pull it away, he took the snake an inch closer to my face, with my eyes staring at the snake’s. In all likelihood, the snake could have been a poisonless snake, used just to intimidate people, but who knows? Who’d dare take the risk of grabbing it and throwing it onto the road?

Random photo of me with a snake. Jan 2015. Pushkar.

Random photo of me with a snake. Jan 2015. Pushkar.

The man wasn’t satisfied with 100 rupees. His target was the Gold ring on my right hand. He tried his best to remove it from my finger, It was tough to remove it, with me having clinched my fist real tight. At this point, the auto wallah started to accelerate the vehicle slowly and I don’t know what struck the man, he jumped out of the Auto, with my 100 rupees (105 rupees in fact), with all 3 Gold rings safe on my fingers.

That was the last day I wore Gold rings to Office.