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Oct 31, 2019

My wife's take on Bharwaan Bhindi

I am in the mood for recounting some good moments of 2019. 

One of many such things was a rather rare opportunity when the missus got to appear on TV. It was not for singing this time, but of course her ability to sing, which made her friend approach her for appearing on a cookery show called Kitchen Durbar. The segment which she took part in was called athithi abhiruchi where guest chefs from different walks of life come over and display their culinary skills.

Traditionally, South Indian palate is what we have grown up on, but since both of us are foodies, she loves to keep trying unique recipes. One such recipe she got hooked on to from some/nowhere was Bharwaan bhindi(which translates to stuffed lady's finger). She had tried it with decent success at home once, but was convinced it would be awesome for the show. 

Having no experience before in front of the camera, thought the missus would be a tad bit nervous, but no sir, not her. She aced it like a queen !!!

Being a dutiful husband comes with privileges and of course responsibilities. This time it was the privilege of seeing the episode being shot. I was absolutely amazed by how many people it takes to get a show like this running seamlessly. 

Check out this show on Hotstar, try it out and do let her know, how it turned out.

Feb 28, 2019

Renovation - Not just another undertaking

Hi Pa,

Been a while you see since you showed up in my dreams, a very long time actually. Knowing your penchant for written communication, here's writing one hoping it will reach you somehow. 

Since you left, we took sometime in steadying ourselves, supporting each other through what not only seemed, but was also a very dark phase of our life. Ironically those things, time and tide that you said would wait for none, which seemed prophetic then, was the only reality that helped us looked forward to other things. I got married and then sister got married and life started presenting newer possibilities. 

During all this transition, we moved from upstairs to ground floor and rented out the first floor for a few years, after sister got married. In this time, I did scout for some properties with a hope that I might be able to invest in real estate. But then, didn't see economical sense and dropped the idea. Realized that with the current scenario in Bangalore, there is no better place than what you found and made for us. 

Anugraha - Circa 1988
Thanks to your bold aspirations, from the humble beginnings(img above) in 1988 you made our abode to what it was in 2001(image below on Left).
Circa 2001(Left) and Circa 2019(Right)
Last year I took on an ambitious renovation project of our first floor residence, with objective of making the residence more spacious, modern and a structure that we wanted to wholly utilize. Here's(the image on the Right above) what it looks like in 2019 after completing this major undertaking. Some of the changes that went in making the new structure are listed below-
  • The front elevation of the first floor also underwent a major change, the security grills, the balusters are all gone. You'd see a new chic looking stainless steel pipe with 12mm toughened glass, which by the way has a presence even on the terrace. Both the FF and GF front elevation now bears texture paint which kind of gives the whole building a nice classy look.
  • Elevated the ground area of the portico, in order to eliminate the problem of stormwater seepage from the street by creating a small elevation starting from the stones that form the pathway outside the main gate until the staircase to the first floor.
  • In order to use the elevated portico for car parking, i did away with the original criss-cross gate and have a sliding gate, with this I am able to park my sedan inside. Can't believe how time is running away, this is my second car after you left us.
  • Got rid of the open well which was being used as an alternative potted plant. This gave way to an sump with increased storage capacity. Redid our old sump which was around thousand five hundred litre capacity, to get it to almost eight and half thousand litre capacity.
  • The enhanced water storage of the sump helped in getting rid of the original overhead tank which we had on the landing of the staircase of the first floor. The tank was not being of great help as there was not enough pressure for the ground floor, due to which I had made it defunct and had the overhead tank increased to 1000 litres on the terrace, which was serving as the main source of supply. While the arrangement was working for 8 people who stayed in both the ground and the first floor put together, with rare instances of water shortage, did not want to let go of an opportunity to enhance the overall storage.
  • The stairs themselves bears a new look with granite being cladded onto to the balding concrete stairs which has been there since 1988.
  • With the neighbors on our right who also rebuilt their house, light had been a major casualty to the GF, hence did away with the attics in the front, near the staircase to the first floor, grill work are all removed to enable sufficient natural light entry into the house. 
  • As you walk through the staircase, am sure the absence of the main door in its original place will strike you. This brings us to the genesis of the project, the south entrance of the first floor, has been shifted to the east, right next to the pooja room.
  • As you'd remember we had a tiny 2ft balcony, which is now extended to a spacious almost 5ft balcony, by constructing 3 pillars from the ground floor, one of which originates from the sump. You'll be happy to know all this by staying in the confines of our plot, just used the space better. This additional space has given the balcony a great look and now doubles up as a good portico for both the GF and FF.
  • The pooja room itself which used to be protruding outside on the first floor, is now leveled with the hall and kitchen wall in order to give the elevation a clean seamless look.
  • This brings us now to the inside of the house, the main door (a 6ft frame which includes long windows) facing east welcomes you to the living area, which now also comprises of the open kitchen. Yes, you read that right, the place where we kept our TV for so many years has now made way to be the main entrance to the first floor. The previous main entrance on the south has been closed and is now part of the kitchen. The older verandah no longer exists, its now the dining area and part of an open kitchen with walls separating the hall, verandah and kitchen knocked down up to the lintel beam level.
  • The offset that we had near the verandah entrance to the hall has been removed and moved towards the kitchen area to give the kitchen a unique look, resulted from creating a much spacious living area. This new wall is now the TV wall.
  • The bachelor room that I owned is now my home-office cum study, after closing the entrance to the verandah.
  • The 2 bedrooms which were like adjacent excel cells have been merged to make a single large master bedroom, to which entrance is from the passage which starts from the end of the living room. The wash basin which existed in the passage has been moved to the washroom.
  • The washroom itself is now more vertically spacious, as i did away with the attic, since it had become a dwelling for other creatures alongwith our barely used resources/materials etc.
  • Other than these structural changes on the first floor, the only other changes are on the terrace, where a new room has been built with access from the terrace. A tiled canopy structure alongwith the room is the new terrace attraction.
  • The overhead tank and solar being shifted atop this room, has given a lot of space on the terrace for all sorts of future avenues. 
No doubt you'd have asked me how much of it was necessary, well i would say I have tried to balance between essential needs and aspirational wants. 

Could I have been more conservative? Maybe. Did i splurge? Maybe not.

When i thought of what you'd feel about these changes, I think you'd be thrilled, and also manage to slip in some changes yourself. 

The activity was arduous to say the least while it was in progress. Without your and Amma's blessings, my wife's stellar partnership and most importantly my employer's understanding, it would have been much harder. 

Here's a snippet of the journey 




Do let me know in some way, what you think of all this ? 

Yours Truly,

Aug 18, 2018

Hampta Pass'd

After yearning to go on a Himalayan trek for years, it finally happened one evening during the summer this year and to think of it that it would happen while we(missus and I) were out to make acquaintance with my wife's cousin's fiance, was a bit of surprise. What was meant to be a meet, greet and eat session turned into a rendezvous of getting to know each other and talking of common interests. Scuba-diving, travelling, anything that we spoke struck chord. It was almost a topic that was waiting to be touched upon, as soon as trekking was uttered things just fell in place one after another. 

SN: How about trekking ? 
Me: Oh I love trekking, have done quite a few treks. [Before going on any further, the mind provided an exclamatory statement as if to remind me of 2010]. Just that work has taken toll on all extra curricular stuff, i said at the risk of sounding old and mundane.

SN didn't say much, he probably wanted to hold his cards close to the chest, probably vary of the fact that we were after all relatives of the family he was to wed into, who might subtly scrutinize him. While we didn't harbor any such intentions, the questions that were posed to us at the end of the day by the more older folks surely made us think if we missed an opportunity to don this hat. But then it was like meeting a friend, and we don't judge friends, do we ? 

Couple of days later we got to know that SN and his friends were planning to scale the Hampta Pass with IndiaHikes, and we obviously got invited to the same. Though we were not 100% sure of making it, we signed up for the trek which was slated to happen from July 28th to Aug 2nd, only after knowing that we had time to back out until the beginning of July with 100% refund. Couple of weeks after the registration formalities, we forgot about it with life in general charting its course. We started receiving a lot of communique from IndiaHikes, about the trek, what to expect and how to prepare. The manner in which the preparation journey is laid out, makes you realize how far one really is from being trek ready. 

Hampta Pass Trek is a high altitude Himalayan trek, and being physically prepared is the least of the initial preparations that one can put in. Do note, i am calling it physically prepared and not physically fit(mountain fit), as there is a big gulf that awaits to be abridged before being considered as the latter. IndiaHikes did a superb job of keeping the trek aspirants informed about the mandatory fitness requirements. We had to clock 5kms in 30-35 mins to be considered trek ready. An initial assessment showed that both of us together were not even close to 40% of the target. The goal was so motivating that plans until the day of the trek were etched to achieve it. Running every weekend at Lalbagh/KR Park to get closer and closer to the target. Surely the plan wasn't faulty, the schedules had it's say, and we obviously couldn't have ours, managing to run thrice, once every month starting May, June and July. So much for being prepared!!! By the way, it just strikes me that there are some management lessons i can derive from this experience, but that's for an other day and post. 

Then comes the other part, equipped to be on the trek with the right accessories. This was relatively easy, one trip to Decathlon sorted 80% of the list and the other 20% was covered with a trip to Woodlands store. Its easy to be overwhelmed by the occasion and buy to cold proof oneself, don't fret it, because on the mountains more is less. But then its also prudent to buy something that you won't mind carrying in a 60L backpack, look for the new age smart buys. After all that, not much was left to be done physically, the mind takes over from here. Many times when the goal is so clear its the mind that pushes the body. Lack of mountain fitness was probably overshadowed by the aspiration of scaling the Hampta pass. 

Cut to the present, a week after completing the trek, here's a recollection of how the days unfolded. 

Day 0: Travelled from Bangalore to Delhi, followed by a 14 hour bus journey to Manali. The whole journey was very eventful, with a fellow passenger having a bout of fits, and then the last part of the highway in Manali being blocked due to land slides. All of us had to alight the bus with our luggage and then reach the hotel by private vehicles. 

Day 1: On reaching the hotel Keylinga,  the congregation point before the trek we quickly freshened up and were ready to gobble up the meals before heading out for the trek at 2.30PM. The next 5 days was to be without getting a chance to shower unless someone was to be extremely adventurous in braving the cold winds and the water. We started for Jobra immediately after lunch and reached there in an hours drive. From here the trek to the Jobra campsite was more of an acclimatizing half an hour trek which we took about 45 mins to cover. Rest of the day was spent getting to know the trek group, the modalities and what was ahead of us. 

Our group that trekked the Hampta Pass
Day 2: Trek from Jobra (9,800 ft) to Jwara (11,072 ft); 7.14 km, ~6 hours. The day was meant to be very difficult as there was going to be steep ascent, so per out trek leader we had to follow a 6-7-8 schedule (Freshen-Eat,Pack-Leave). [Packing a 60L trek bag to its brim was not something I'll take away with pride, however over packing layers is something I'll take any day to being cold]. We reached Jwara after some heavy duty trekking in constant rains . The Jwara campsite was extremely pretty with the whole valley looking like a carpet full of lavender flowers, tall pine trees and a few maple trees making it a perfect setting for impromptu photo sessions.
Flowery trek route
One for posterity like they say
Day 3: Jwara (11,072 ft) to Balu ka Ghera (12,411 ft); 5 km, ~4 hours. This route was very scenic and had dramatic change of landscapes as we got higher. Balu means sand and we particularly loved the feeling of walking barefoot on sand parsed with ankle length water from the mountains. After walking for long on stones this was very soothing on the feet. Rest of the day went in getting ready to face Day4, with some card games and other impromptu stuff with our trek group. Talking about the trek group itself, we were 25 of us from different walks of life. There were architects, folks from IT, families who trekked on vacation, etc. The only non-diverse factor was that 21 out of the 25 were from Bangalore and the other 4 were from Pune.
A panoramic view of the Balu Ka Ghera campsite.
Day 4: Balu Ka Ghera (12,411 ft) to Shea Goru (12,254 ft) via Hampta Pass (14,035 f); 6.65 km, 9 hours. This day was the toughest day of the trek and we were on 5-6-7 schedule today, the altitude gain was rapid and the ascent extremely tough. Added to this, sparing oxygen and the altitude was giving many of us altitude sickness. Thankfully, Diamox tablet used for high altitude acclimatization was majorly helpful in dealing with this. Beyond all this, the views of the valleys enroute the summit point was the highlight of the day. We reached the summit point by around 12 and stayed for sometime before proceeding to the Shea Goru campsite, after a descent of about 3 hours again. The whole experience was chilling and thrilling in the true sense of the words. The Shea Goru campsite was so scenic and the best of all the campsites. The tents were pitched next to the flowing Beas and when the sun was out, it was a sight to behold.
Shea Goru Campsite
Day 5: Shea Goru (12,254 ft) to Chhatru (10,898 ft); 6.87 km, 5 hours; visit Chandrataal lake and return to Chhatru camp. This was the last trekking day, and again after a descent of 4 hours, we reached the last point of the trek. All along the way were tremendous valleys, so scenic that a lot of pictures were clicked. On reaching the last point there were Tata Sumos waiting for us, which took us to Chatru campsite. This camp was right besides the road which connected Chhatru to the civilization. The day also saw us taking a tortuous journey to Chandrataal lake(due to the roads being in very bad condition). But then weren't expecting any better, with landslides similar to weather change in Bangalore, its not difficult to understand why. After a journey of almost 3 hours each way, we saw the most pristine and thankfully well maintained lake again at an altitude of 14000 plus ft.  After some pictures and reflection time(both figuratively and literally) at lakeshore, we headed back to Chhatru. Here's a timelapse video shot near the lake.

Day 6: Chhatru to Manali; 4-5 hours drive. The day started with some yummy breakfast followed by a ceremony of awarding trek completion certificates, where each one of us got to share few words about the trek. While a lot of them spoke well, i was actually not my usual self. Was it withdrawal symptoms or just inability to sum up the 5 days we spent in the himalayas in the mother nature's lap. 
No wonder that i had this urge of writing this long past days and weeks after completing the trek. We had a day more which a lot of us chose to stay in and sink in the sights and sounds of Manali. Have to  make a special mention of our stay about Malhaar Cottages on Airbnb. We had a great time here with some awesome food and hospitality by the hosts.

Us twinning after scaling the Hampta Pass :)

The trek other than it's natural beauty on offer, also gave us an opportunity to meet some wonderful people, along the way. The entire group beautifully mingled and encouraged each other at all times both tough and easy. Of course, a lot of credit for the fantastic team of Indiahikes who made the trek an unforgettable experience for us. 

Apr 25, 2018

Keep calm and jump

Freefall has always given me a high, whether during a ride in a theme park or a pool. So no wonder that I got instantly driven by the idea signing in for a skydive during my recent trip to the US.

Before I go any further, a little flashback to 2012. While on the UK secondment in London, a friend and I were thinking of what to do for the weekend. My friend suggested that we sky dive, I looked at the prices and decided, that I'd much rather spend it on buying a D-SLR camera, which I was getting on investing a little more. Felt proud about it for the moment of being so prudent, but it didn't take me long to realise that may be I let go of something that I was to rue for a long time. Every other time, the thought of sky diving came to me, I had something else to think about. It just never happened. 

I'm a firm believer of not just being at the right place at the right time, but also doing the right thing for something to transpire. Almost as a converse, not wanting to make it happen, and not overthinking about it, on a Sunday morning in an alien land where nothing other than breakfast seemed interesting, a quick WhatsApp conversation with a cousin and his wife got things rolling. A quick google search for groupon deals and 20 mins later, we were already signing online waivers for the 2PM slot at Bay Area Sky Diving
The TV which displayed time to go for our turn
This was finally happening, and the first person I could think about was my wife with whom i had shared the longing to do this for so long. All she asked in reply was "Have you decided", "Please do it safely for my sake". Answer to both were "Yes" in the heart, but the mind wouldn't allow me to respond. Thanks to the timezone difference, being non-responsive didn't hurt.

What followed was a quick visit to the temple at Livermore, enroute to the location almost as if I were to subtly make my peace with God and seek blessings before the dive. On reaching the location the process was rather smooth, but the wait was long, with so many divers (tandem jumpers, solo jumpers, photo/videographers) waiting for their turns. By around 4PM, we got briefed as to what actions were expected of us midair, and we were harnessed on to the safety equipment. The guide shouted 10 mins before we took off and there we were, waiting with bated breaths for what I was counting to be a once in a lifetime experience. 

The journey was a unique experience, taken upto 13000ft in a small plane, with around 10 people on it seated like army troopers on a mission. In 5 mins, we were upto 13.5K ft and the experts felt it was good to let go. A couple of girls led the way and it was my turn to go second. Being tied to the expert jumper with the safety equipment, felt like the umblical cord that an unborn shares with its mother, so safe and so enriching. I guess the fear of the moment was manifesting through these thoughts, while I felt a tap on my shoulder and thumbs up from my expert jumper with which all thoughts subsided into submission. A submission to faith, efforts and perseverance of human race to get all things right. The tap, followed with a slight slide, and a little sway back and forth that the expert demonstrated like that of a high jumper raring himself to go, and in the blink of an eye, when the heart skipped a beat and I was freefall. The air hitting vigorously against the face, and the body forcing into submission against the nature. The minimum I could do was to enjoy, and that's all I did, all of which the videographer tried to capture. The minute and half free fall, after which the parachute opened gave me a sense of calm after the storm, and the landing followed. With clear instructions to get my feet as high as I could, or forget about them helped me land almost perfectly. 

A rush of emotions, jubilation and sense of having overcome loomed large for the next 15 mins. Thanked God for being there on my side and immediately messaged my wife "I'm Alive", to which she responded "woah".