Category Archives: Pictures

Photo Walk – Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

We reached the entry gate of Keoladeo National Park at 7 am, after completing breakfast. When we eventually stepped out, the clock showed 4 pm. Surviving only on 2 bottles of water and a packet of Haldiram’s Namkeen, we spent 9 hours inside the sanctuary. That’s how engrossed the birds kept us.

Sunrise at Bharatpur

Sunrise at Bharatpur

Samarth, Sidharth and I were mere novices in DSLR Photography, barely figuring out the right combination of ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture to get a decent click. We were stunned to say the least, on how many bird enthusiasts had turned up on a Saturday morning, and more so, by the size of their lenses. There were lenses as big as 2 to 3 feet long that could probably zoom into the eyes of a Grey Heron sitting half a mile away.

That's a big lens!

That’s a big lens!

The National Park has a main road that’s 5.5 km in length, one way. After walking around for a couple of hours early in the morning, we hired cycles to cover more ground. There were innumerous detours one could take, to explore the park. In one such detour down soggy roads, we spotted this beauty.

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn’t she beautiful?

It took me around 15-20 minutes to click this. She wouldn’t stay in one place. When you start slowly approaching her, she’d fly to some other branch. Look at her expression. Truly an Angry Bird.

Bigger birds were easier targets. One, they’re big. Two, they don’t move much.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

One of the detours in pursuit of the Indian Saras Crane didn’t yield any result. On advise of one of the guards, we took a detour and walked for 20 minutes one way in pursuit of the Saras. She was playing Hide & Seek 500 metre away from us. With 250 mm lens, you can only do so much. On the way back to the main road, we spotted this.

Python at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Python at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

I was scared of it. I just clicked this pic and vacated the area in a minute. There were others who spent 30 minutes around this snake, out in the open, to get a good click.

The following three clicks were easily done. Biscuit crumbs were the bait.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

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Some other clicks from the Photo Walk, below.

If only we were birds, we could fly across countries and continents without Passport, Visa

If only we were birds, we could fly across countries and continents without Passport, Visa

Photo Courtesy: Samarth Dargan

Photo Courtesy: Samarth Dargan

Coots

Coots

At the end of the trip, this was my reaction! Paisa Vasool.

Clicked at Deeg Palace, Rajasthan

Clicked at Deeg Palace, Rajasthan

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Shopclues Diwali Mela 2016

Festivities are in the air!

Shopclues celebrated Diwali in Office on 27th Oct, Thursday. HR Department had organised “Shopclues Diwali Mela” where employees had a chance to set up stalls (food or fun). I participated in the event along with 8 others, to set up a Food and Fun Stall, under the team name “The Fat Boys”.

I had great fun, working with the team, conceptualising and executing our Food and Fun stall. As Head of Marketing and Branding of The Fat Boys, I spammed my Twitter feed with posts about the event (which eventually made 6 people unfollow me :P).

We won the award for “The most innovative and creative Team”, among the 12 participating teams.

Some pics from the event below.

Happy Diwali folks.

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Photo Diaries #7: IIM Shillong night life

Of late, due to work, I have had to stay awake for nights together to get things done. But it wasn’t (hasn’t been) tiring. In fact, I’ve been loving it, burning the late night oil, relishing the calm of the night. It’s a great time to work; or do anything for that matter.

This whole thing made me recollect/relive my days in IIM Shillong, where the day (for many of us) started after dinner. It was a great feeling, working with friends, bonding over business cases or a cup of room-made tea. In fact in the last term when things were light, more often than not, we hit the bed only after breaking fast in the Nongthymmai Poori shop which used to open at 6 am.

This pic was taken on the night before our presentation to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who was a visiting Professor at our Institute.

Those were the days

Those were the days

I cannot forget those moments (20 odd minutes) when we were presenting to Dr. APJ. Great feeling. 83 then, he was still as curious as a front bencher in School, taking notes eagerly. That thirst to learn had never faded.

Those were the days.

Travel Diaries: Paragliding at Bir-Billing

Following my guru Bhaskar ji’s footsteps, I tried to live tweet my two day trip to Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj last weekend.

Tweets in chronological order follow:

And here’s the link to the shortened video 🙂

Read about my trip to Sikkim, here.
Relive my whitewater rafting experience at Rishikesh, here.

Know more about the trek to the mightly Velliangiri peak, here.

An evening with the Chennai Super Kings

There are followers.

There are fans.

And then, there are maniacs.

When it comes to the Chennai Super Kings, I fall into the third bucket.

The company I work for is one of the sponsors and the official e-Commerce partner of the Chennai Super Kings for this edition of Indian Premier League. So when I got to know there was a  meet and greet function organized, where we’d get a chance to meet a few CSK players, I wasn’t going to miss it!

Paaru and I reached the gates of ITC Maurya, realizing (as we walked to the entrance) that we were a bit over-dressed for the occasion.

Right at the entrance near the reception area, I spotted Ishwar Pandey, Pawan Negi, Mohit Sharma and Russel (the CSK manager who is hyper-active on Twitter). With players so accessible, I though it was going to be a great evening. Realized later that I wasn’t disappointed.

All three players were into their phones. Talk about heights of technology overdose. Just for a moment when Ishwar Pandey looked up, I seized the opportunity to request him for a pic. He obliged. We wished him good luck for this IPL campaign and clicked a selfie with him.

With Ishwar Pandey, Chennai Super Kings

With Ishwar Pandey, Chennai Super Kings

Just when I was about to meet Mohit Sharma, a bouncer whose biceps would have made Dwayne the Rock Johnson jealous pushed me aside with a stern look. “No more pictures”. That’s all he said.

Shortly, the players vacated the reception area, still deeply engrossed in their phones.

A little while later, I bumped into Irfan Pathan near the loo. “Irfaaaaan, big fan!!! One pic please”, I exclaimed. “Hi (looking into his phone), give me a moment. I am trying to figure my things out”. And off, he vanished.

After 2 futile attempts of giving those big players a chance to get pictures clicked with me, I gave up.

The event kick-started at 8 pm. The CSK players made it to the stage with a huuuge roar from the crowd. Non-stop whistles as Mike Hussey, Suresh Raina, Ravi Ashwin, Irfan Pathan and Ronit More made it to the stage one by one.

Hussey wore that infectious smile all through the evening. What a gentleman! Ronit More was a sub for Sir Jadeja who was initially slated to attend the event. Raina, Ashwin and Irfan Pathan didn’t miss a single opportunity to kalaaichify (make fun of) Ronit More. Ashwin called Ronit the upcoming Waqar Younis of India, while Raina and Irfan set him up with a girl, who made him blush all through the evening. Hussey and Ashwin played Dumb Charades with loud cheers from the audience. Irfan sang a couple of songs. Raina judged people from the audience who went on stage to enact their favorite “Sholay” scenes, Sholay being Raina’s all time favorite movie. Raina and irfan enacted a few scenes too.

To see the CSK stars laughing their hearts out just a day after a thumping defeat against the Delhi Daredevils was a lesson in itself.

The crowd was well organized and all of us got a chance to get clicked with the CSK lions.

I managed to say, “Huge fan Sir!”, to Mike Hussey who was sitting in the corner. He smiled back!
Something I can tell my grandchildren. “I have a pic with Mr. Cricket!”.

Mike Hussey, Ravi Ash, Ronit More, Raina and Irfan Pathan, Chennai Super Kings

Mike Hussey, Ravi Ash, Ronit More, Raina and Irfan Pathan, Chennai Super Kings

An evening with the Chennai Super Kings that I’ll remember for a long time!

Photo with a Dhoni standee is good enough

Photo with a Dhoni standee is good enough

Travel Diaries: Whitewater Rafting at Rishikesh

Memories are strange. At times, you find yourself under the Lockhart Memory Charm, not being able to recollect memories even from the recent past. There are other memories from 10, 15, even 20 years ago which stay crystal clear in your mind, as if it had occurred yesterday.

I have one such memory from 20 years ago, when I was a 5 year old kid. We had gone to Haridwar for the first time then. I remember taking a dip in the mighty Ganges, tightly clinging on to my uncle with one hand and holding on to the steel ropes with the other. The temperature of Haridwar and that of the Ganges was as contrasting as CSK’s and MI’s performances in IPL games. Ma Ganga was freezing cold. I remember my body and teeth shivering even 20 minutes after the ordeal I had with Her. I vaguely remember walking across Ram/Laxman Jhula, feeling accomplished after crossing them, as if I had conquered the mighty Velliangiri hills (Of course, I was a 5 year old then :P). Well, that was 20 years ago.

Last week, I went to Rishikesh again, this time with a set of 6 colleagues-turned-friends, mainly for whitewater rafting.

A lot can happen over lunch. Our two day trip to the adventure capital of India (yes, that’s what Wikipedia calls Rishikesh) materialized during one of our lunch sessions between Office. Over the past one year of my stay here in NCR, I’ve heard a lot of people talk a lot of good things about whitewater rafting in Rishikesh. So when Parkavi Vasan (referred to as “Paaru” going forward) initiated talks about a two day trip to Rishikesh, I was more than game for it.

Nothing about the trip was planned, apart from the onward train from Delhi to Haridwar. I quote my Guru Bhaskar NH, when I say, “If you want to see the real India, travel in a sleeper class train”. We reached Haridwar Junction, early in the morning.

At Haridwar Junstion

At Haridwar Junstion

The roads were deserted and the climate soothing and breezy, with a sense of holiness attached to the Holy city. Tour Managers Adwait and Sumeet found us a makeshift room near the banks of the Ganges.

Streets of Haridwar

Streets of Haridwar

Ganga hadn’t changed much in 20 years; it was as cold and mighty. All of us barring Lijo took a dip in the Holy river.

Ganga, at Haridwar

Ganga, at Haridwar

Manasa Devi Temple was an enjoyable climb of 30-45 minutes, barring the heat, which had set in by then.

View from Manasa Devi

View from Manasa Devi

After munching piping hot Puri with Aloo and Choley for brunch, we left for Rishikesh, which is an hour’s drive from Haridwar.

Hot afternoon at Hardiwar, with Shyam

Hot afternoon at Hardiwar, with Shyam

At Rishikesh, our tour managers started scouting for the tourist agency guys, to book a package for us. We wanted to take a “Camping + Rafting” package which is generally the most sought after package for visiting tourists. There are a lot of other things one could do at Rishikesh – kayaking, rock climbing, flying fox (800m journey on a rope between two cliffs, with Ganges flowing 80 meter below you), among others.

The tourist agency guy took us to a horrible place initially – a nothing place with our tent facing a small hill, with Ganga nowhere to be seen. I was like, “My two colleges (Amrita and IIM Shillong) offered better views than this!” Others were of the same opinion too. So we ditched that guy and started scouting for camps on our own. Deepanshu, Adwait and Sumeet managed to find a beautiful camp, river facing and breezy.

We spent most of the evening playing in the waters and lazing around within the camp premises. It was a great setting. Hundreds of tents on the banks of the river, white sand, cool breeze and a breathtaking view. Remember those “Diu tourism” ads? Something like that. Welcome break from the drudgery of daily life and the noise of the cities. I didn’t want the clock to tick. Sitting there on a chair outside my tent, facing the river, I let my thoughts take over and felt at ease with myself. It was a good feeling.

Outside our tent, Rishikesh

Outside our tent, Rishikesh

Meanwhile, the likes of Lijo, Shyam, Sumeet and Deepanshu were having a ball in the waters, doing some solid stunts. Adwait was showing off his fitness and gymming skills by doing “push-ups” in the water.

At the waters outside our tent

At the waters outside our tent

While the only thing Paaru was doing was shuffling his hair all the time and clicking selfies. Reliable sources reveal he clicked at least 400 selfies of just himself in the tour span of two days.

One of Paaru's 400 selfies of the trip

One of Paaru’s 400 selfies of the trip

There was enough room for all seven of us to sleep in the same tent. The photo session continued in the morning too.

Rishikesh!

Rishikesh!

We had booked for a morning rafting session. We had chosen the 18 km package, which had 9 rapids (part of the river where the waves are high, irregular and fast).

I had to deal with a lot of butterflies in my stomach just before our rafting begun. I had heard stories about the boat capsizing in between a rapid and had visualized that happening to our boat. Our instructor’s introduction didn’t help my cause in any way. He warned us that the waters here were mighty and dangerous and if we didn’t follow his instructions to the word, there were chances our boat would capsize.

At Shivpuri, our starting point

At Shivpuri, our starting point

I kept chanting the “Darr kea age Jeet hai” thing in my mind to ease things up.

Just before the ride!

Just before the ride!

For the first 3-5 minutes when we were riding on still waters, our Instructor trained us to the different commands he would be chanting throughout our journey.

Initial stretch

Initial stretch

There are, I came to know, 4 different grades of rapids. Our first rapid was a Grade I rapid and was supposed to be easy to negotiate. We failed. Our motions were not synchronized and the waters took control of us rather than the other way round. We were pushed to the shore and had to start all over again. This time, we successfully surpassed the Grade I rapid.

Grade I rapid, near our camp

Grade I rapid, near our camp

I was just thinking what Grade IV rapids would have on offer.

When the waters were calm!

When the waters were calm!

The second rapid was Grade III and the most thrilling of them all, I realized later. I can’t quite put down that experience in words. My mind went blank. I closed my eyes out of fear, and realized water splashing onto me from all directions. All of us were shouting our lungs out. Then a lot of other things happened and finally we were out of the rapid, onto the still waters. Our instructor shouted “Ganga maiyya kiiiiiii” and we screamed “Jaiiii” in unison. Somewhere in that rapid, my fears drowned and I felt liberated. We came across a few rapids which were trickier, faster and narrower that that one, but now that my fears were conquered, they were all completely enjoyable. Each of those rapids apparently have names too. Roller Coaster, Hilton, Golf Course, Double Trouble and Club house are few names I can recollect now.

One from the internet

One from the internet

We went to a nearby Gurudwara in the evening. My first. Felt good. They offered free food too. That mess hall reminded me of my Amrita mess and the Amrita culture of respecting food above all else.

“The World is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.

Cheers to more such trips with awesome set of people.

Trek to Velliangiri Peak

Scene I

We were just about to start our ascent of the mighty mountains of Velliangiri (also called South Kailash) when we were confronted by a man wearing a helpless face, trying to live a respectful life even in poverty. That kind of face. He said, “Ayya, please give me an opportunity to smoothen your bamboo sticks. I will charge only 5 rupees per stick. I have two kids Ayya, and I want them to study”. We could see a small boy (referred to as Jet Lee, going forward) playing around in the temple premises, having little idea about the poverty his family was in. Just behind him, the man’s wife was feeding their second kid. We gave the man 30 rupees and also asked him to make sure Jet Lee studies and comes big in life. The man thanked us with a beaming smile and wished us good.

Scene II

A boy, all of 14 years, was manning a small shop in the middle of the mountain forests, selling biscuits and other refreshments. Abishek asked him if he was going to school. Their conversation follows.

Abishek: “Brother, do you go to school?”

Boy: “No” <without any signs of resentment>

Abishek: “Why not? Your parents couldn’t afford it?”

Boy: “They could. I was going to a Government school till Class VIII. Then I stopped”

The boy shooed away a few monkeys which were interested in the bananas in his shop

Abishek: “Why? Why did you stop?”

Boy: “One day I got angry in Class and hit my teacher bang on his head. I never returned to school after that”

All of us were in shock.

Abishek: “Why? What did he do?”

By this time, he had developed a liking for us and spoke more freely.

He went on to explain how the teacher had shouted a lot of expletives towards him when he had gone to class without completing his homework. When the boy tried to explain that his father was taken ill the previous day, the teacher wouldn’t listen. At one point, the boy apparently lost his cool and hit him hard on the center of his head with a stick. And never returned to school.

In the middle of the forests, after 11 hours of trekking, sitting on the rocks, there was only thing running in my mind! What if Jet Lee grows up to become like this boy!

Anyway, these two scenes kind of capture the quality of life of people living in and around Velliangiri.

This was my second successful visit to the Velliangiri mountains, in three years. Something I can proudly tell my grandchildren, 40 years hence.

If you look at the demographics of people who come to Velliangiri, 80% of the people are from Coimbatore or its surrounding areas itself. ~19% from Chennai and other cities in Tamil Nadu. There were hardly any people outside Tamil Nadu. Other than being a pilgrimage center for Shiva devotees, it is also a brilliant trekking destination.

Velliangiri - the seventh mountain

Velliangiri – the seventh mountain

But there are a number of reasons why Velliangiri is not yet there in say, “The Top 10 trekking destinations of India”.

  • The Authorities probably don’t see it as a Tourist destination, and haven’t taken any significant steps in that direction
  • It is not safe.
    • We heard stories about a Tamil movie Director who got lost in the forests, and came out somewhere near Kerala, after nearly a month.
  • Lack of facilities.
    •  Apart from moonlight and the torch/mobile phone one carries, there’s no source of light, for 95% of the journey, up and down
    • There are only three sources of water, all seven mountains combined
  • No WOM
    • Since most of the people who visit Velliangiri are “not-so-tech-savvy” devotees, the word of mouth doesn’t spread beyond their close circles
    • Perhaps, the Isha Foundation can contribute in a big way to make it an awesome tourist destination

To kill boredom while trekking (we were only three of us), we surveyed people who were coming in the opposite direction. We would ask someone, “Anna, innum evlo dhooram na?” (“Anna, how much more distance to the peak?”), and he would say, “It’s very close. Will hardly take two more hours”. We would then walk for two hours and then ask another guy. “Just one more hour”. After walking for an hour. “Maximum one more hour”.

It took us 7 hours in total, to reach the peak. The mountains were deserted, that friday evening. In fact, there was a stretch of around an hour when there was not a single person ahead or behind us. Stories about the missing Tamil Director was there in the back of our minds, Our torch lights were dimming. That moment was my best of the trek.

After paying our respect to Lord Shiva at the peak and taking the load off our feet for an hour, we started our descent at 7 am. It was raining then and we were offered some breathtaking views by nature.

Rock bed

Rock bed

The rocks were slippery due to rain and it took us some extra effort and time to climb down the 7th mountain. Aradh’s obsession with clicking pictures didn’t help us either.

Rainbow

Rainbow

Sunrise

Sunrise

The next 4 mountains were relatively easier to climb down. By this time, after 12 mountains (7+5) and 12 hours of continuous trekking, my legs had given up. They were dead. Climbing down the last two mountains were the toughest for me, taking a break after every 10-15 minutes.

Trekking unlike say jogging, or gymming, is different in the way that you don’t have a choice. You cannot give up. You push your boundaries longer and harder. But when you are done, there’s no feeling bigger than that feeling of accomplishment.

Darr ke aage jeet hai

Darr ke aage jeet hai

At the end of 14 hours of trekking, some picturesque moments. some eerie moments, some calm moments away from the drudgery of city life, the experience was totally worth it!

If you do not have Velliangiri in your bucket list yet, it’s time you add it to the list and make it a point to visit the awesome place, some time. You will not regret it!

Sikkim framed: Nathula Pass

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

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

Sikkim framed: Lachung village and Yumthang valley

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

 

Sikkim framed: Seven sister falls, Naga falls and Amitabh Bachchan falls

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

 

Sikkim framed: MG Marg & Ropeway, Gangtok

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