Monday, October 27, 2008

Trek To Kalavantin

Went to Kalvavantindurg last Sunday actually, but it has been a long long week, so found time to blog about it only today. Anyways, took an early morning train from Thane to Kurla, then backwards to Panvel. The Thane/Vashi route starts up at six thirty, which made it too late for our purposes. Landed up at Panvel station, then walked it upto the bus stop, and caught the six fifty bus to Thakurwadi, which is the closest bus stop to the trek. Now Kalavantil is a pretty prominent pinnacle right next to Prabalgad fort, and the view from Prabalgad is amazing... might go there sometime soon just to get the godawesome pics of Kalavantin like the ones here.
The route is pretty short, not at all tiring, and actually a good "tough" trek for beginners. Early in the trek, while everyone was taking a break, I was looking through the bushes for some good critters to snap. Found this crab hiding from me. The funny thing about a crab is that because of the way it moves, its bound to cross directly in your path while running away from you - many times over! That's the curse of running sideways. A sight to watch would be a snake chasing a crab. Anyway, so I got this:

Anda villiager I came across at that point of time asked if I got it. I said I did and showed the picture to him, and he was so happy that a crab from his mountain was snapped by an alien photographer. On the trek was another fellow with an EOS 400D, the same cam that I use, but with a much better lense. The route to the top took around an hour and a half. That's to the base villiage before the pinnacle. Now Kalavantin has a sort of pinnacle on top of a pinnacle. Both of them rest on the base villiage. There is a pasture about half way to the base village, which is a plateau. We rested here, and it was a great place for a photoshoot. This is a group photo, but one guy called Crimemaster Gogo was totally over the top at this point of time. He was totally over the top most of the way. The evidence is in the title link, but here is a group photograph of all of us except me. This one is captioned "सब लवडे खड़े हैं"

At this point I split ways with the party to follow a path of my own, while they came up an alternative route. I came up a little quicker than them, because I stuck to the path, and these guys went over a rock patch and caught a totally different path. This is a pic I took of them from the a higher level.

Seen in the background is Chanderi. The villiage on the top is great, and a lot of friendly people here. If you ever come across such a place, please do not spoil them by giving them an excess of money. Rajmachi and Harishchandragad are ruined because of this. This one is untouched. We even got a large cucumber free, with the chatni. These folk are terribly hospitable, and simple, happy people. There is another real world here, a much wholesome place, untouched by evil, so if you are taking any bullshit with you, leave it before you reach here. We rested a while, replenished ourselves with water, filled up our water bottles, talked to the kids and went on.

There was a winding staircase here, the upper staircase of Cirith Ungol minus Shelob for me. (To narrate a half-weird side story, was reading LOTR on top of Lohgad, while the others were sleeping when a group of three trekkers asked me what I was reading, when I told them it was LOTR - and they 1) acknowledged the fact that it had a lot of "enviornment" in it, and 2) were glad it was not Harry Potter) anyway, we climbed to the top, fooled around a bit there, and came back home.

We could see a Chanderi and Karnala from the top. This is us waiting for the four o clock bus, tired out, and at an office of some "enterprises"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The out of the way tea stall

The terrorists had managed to put everything on hold today. Mumbai… the largest city in the world, the financial capital of the largest democracy in the world, held by the balls by a bunch of dim-witted fanatics. Fuck the MNS, I have no problem with them, there will always be terrorists around, but what I have a problem with is the city taking it. Everyone shutting shop and sitting at home and let the handful of troublemakers bring everything to a standstill. The tea shop I take a cup of tea from in the morning was closed. The tea shop I take a cup of tea from before traveling to office was closed. The old bald man who everyone in the office has an account with, and who slyly slips in an additional ten to twenty bucks didn’t show up with his cup of tea. I had to resort to the vending machine in the office, which ran out of tea by mid-afternoon. The vending machine uses horrible powdered milk anyway, so the tea was rotten. There was a cigarette crisis because none of the tapris were open. By evening I was in a terrible state, totally deprived of tea, and my hopes were up because a few people had found their balls and had opened their shops. But not the tea fellow who I take tea from before catching the bus home.
I really wanted tea, so I entered the Gaon Devi maidan nearby, into the big vegetable market. I found a guy who sold sugarcane juice, a vendor for old comics and magazines, a sweetshop and a small boy who was selling lanterns for Diwali, but no tea. I walked around a bit, and asked an old geezer with those soda-glass spectacles if there was a tea stall around. He told me of the one I frequent. I told him it was closed. He told me of another near the temple. So I walked around the market, found it, and discovered a great place for my evening cup of tea. I asked a guy there settling a hundred rupee account if I could get some tea. Of course I could he said, definitely. Courteous fellow, friendly place. Nice quiet atmosphere, with a bunch of playful beggar children running around, an old dog that sleeps on an empty cart put in the side, and a lady who has the balls to keep her shop open during tough times. And by the way, excellent tea. I just found a new place to frequent.

Friday, October 17, 2008

They come for you

Back when you used to go to school, you were made to wear a white shirt and blue shorts. The shorts were always too long or too short, and you got your leg pulled for it either way. The shirts were all supposed to be white – but they never really were. Everyone’s shirt was a different shade of brown, with a botch of ink thrown in for good measure. They had the nerve to call it a “uniform”. The seats won their war against the buttocks, but the desks lost to the pencils, the pens and every other pointed or sharp instrument of education. In the afternoon, after spending the recess gobbling up food as fast as possible, and running around in a frenzy to spend all the energy confined to a space of about a foot and a half square, getting back to the classroom was a taxing experience. A few times you were lucky to be late enough to spend the time on your own but on your knees. When you had submitted to the classroom, you were forced to listen to what the teacher was saying. The teacher said something like “…to find the reciprocal of a number using the simple division method…” you would spot a contradiction in the sentence, you were not stupid, so you got bored. Then the drowsiness would come, despite all the pleasures of the last bench, and you would go to sleep. Good thing you did. You escaped a lot of bullshit, but school taught you much more than you give it credit for.

It is the middle of the night. You are unable to sleep, so you go out for a walk. Outside your apartment complex, the dark grey concrete is hardly illuminated by the long row of spaced out yellow streetlamps. You start walking in no particular direction. A few dogs are hiding in the shadows. You are familiar with a few of them. A car zooms by. Some guy is watching late night television a little too loudly. You have your time. You feel the air heavy with smog, though you cannot smell it or see it. You feel the chill. It is the chill of the night. Of the darkness. You think of the sun, in a distant place, relentlessly exploding in heat and light. At least the earth, and everything on it takes a rest and rejuvenates. You like walking.

You begin to run. You can feel your breath almost break into a pant. You control it, you time your lungs, you can feel the muscles and tendons moving in your limbs. Your feet move in a rhythm on feet, the careful but rapid footfalls beating to the sound of the heart. Your arms swing, their momentum keeping you steady. You break into sweat, you can feel your shirt getting wet, a few drops trickle down your spine.
You reach the highway. Cars and trucks are going up and down it, busy even in the middle of the night. You wait, catch your breath, and look at each vehicle in turn. You see the headlights streaming your way from a long away. You hear the doppler of different engines. You are at the edge of the road, your eyes catch the headlights of an approaching vehicle. It looks like a large 4x4, but the headlights put the vehicle in the shadows. You cannot see anything but a vague frame. Your breathing slows down. You move to a side, the headlights are still trained on you. You are a little startled. You try to stare at the windscreen, you can’t even make out if it is tinted. You step further back. The vehicle keeps coming right at you. For a second, you stop thinking, and the light blinds you, but you can hear a harsh screech of the tires. You stand there, a little shocked, when a figure nimbly gets out of the car. You expect the man to come to you, but he moves out to the back of the car. You walk around the large black vehicle, but the headlights have temporarily blinded you, so you cannot really make out enough to move much. You stop for a second, by the time you can see anything, the figure is on a cycle, and riding away. You start to follow him, but you turn around at the sound of the vehicle starting up and going away. On the ground though, is a carelessly thrown cycle. You take a closer look at it. The bicycle has a light frame, no fenders, a high seat and a good suspension. It is a racing bike. The fellow who got down was a little down the street, cycling at probably looking in your direction. You call out “Hey!”. The cyclist does not say anything. He starts taking the cycle around in circles, at a little distance from you. He looks like he is waiting. You don’t know what his problem is, but you get onto the bike, and start to pedal after him, down the road you ran up.

He sees you on the bike, and starts cycling away. You think it is a good thing you warmed up. You begin to peddle, and catch up speed. The faster you go, the faster he goes. You daren’t go any faster, so you settle down to a decent coast, pedaling every now and then. You shout a few more times, but he shouts nothing back, but measures pace with you so that he is always a little ahead. He is wearing a loose yellow t-shirt, and a pair of aged jeans, and sneakers without socks. You follow him around a bend in the road, and there is a flash of lightning in the sky. You slow down a bit, temporarily suspending the pedaling. The sky thunders, and you worry about the rain. Suddenly, for just a flash, you see a fork of lightning move across the road, from the bike in front of you, towards you. You wonder if you imagined it, and a little intrigued, you follow the cyclist. A dog starts barking at him, and follows him, signaling the stranger in the area. He leads you to a relatively quiet area, and you start down a road without any streetlights. It is a colony under construction, the half build buildings around the place looming all around. There are piles of sand, mud and bricks lying around carelessly on the road. High above, there are a few lights. A few rusted iron rods are jutting about. You look at the cyclist, and you make out a glimmer in the air around him. There is another flash, you just imagine you zipped through a ring of fire, look around, and see no ring receding from you, but a faint, glimmer in the air – or maybe you are imagining that too. You shout again. He does nothing to acknowledge you. Then you hear it, the heavy footfalls, of hoofs beating on the concrete. A heavy black bulk is coming towards you, its back undulating a distant light catching a glimmer of white on a black coat with small, thick hair. You see the points of the yellowish horns, coming straight at you. You see the large, flaring nostrils, a heavy drool flying out of it. The bull passes you, you hear the footsteps fading quickly but the bull fades quicker. You lose your balance and fall down.

You are on the ground, stunned, immobile, and you feel long, careful fingers on your back, a soft but icy voice help you on your feet. You can make out a round head, but you cannot see any features. There is a sliver of light, where the eyes of a man a little shorter than you would be. He is stockier than you are. He jabs a strip to your elbow, and you feel him taking a drop of your blood. He removes a strange rectangular gadget from his pocket. He pushes a button, and the LCD comes on with a green light. You can make out some figures on the screen. He slips the strip of paper into the machine. The display changes. He looks at the screen, and not you, when he says “Hello.”

There are a hundred different ways you can respond right now. As a result, you remain silent for an unusually long amount of time. He looks at you. “What the fuck do you think you are doing?” you have lost your mind. You grab the thing from him, look at it, can’t figure out anything, and ask him “What the hell is this about?”. He looks at you, sizes you up, considers something for a moment, “What…” he asks, “…do you know about magic?”

You consider him for a moment. You wonder sarcastically if he is going to levitate. You decide to humor him, “I know a few card tricks my uncle thought me.” “You talk of mere deception” The stranger says, in a raspy voice, as if your answer disappointed him. “I donno… making stuff float I guess.” “That is nonsense.” He answers, definitely glum. “What do you know about magic then?” You ask, a little irritated with him. “Glad you asked” he says, and waves a hand towards a sofa that just showed up where the bikes were lying a second ago. “Please, have a seat” he says. “Is it really there?” you ask, definitely a little bewildered now. You sit down, and he sits down after you. “Let us have a little chit-chat, what will you drink?” You look around for the cameras, wondering if you are stuck in some stupid show. You cannot spot anything or anyone close by. Just the empty stretch of the road. You get excited though, you behave as if a thousand people were watching you. You become theatrical; you hide certain aspects of your reactions by exaggerating others. You wonder if this is the magic. You cannot think straight. “Do you have watermelon juice?” you ask. He gives you a glass of it. He is holding a glass in his own hand. “Thank you” you say rather meekly “How did you…”

“Free will” he shrugs, before you can finish your question. “Free will?” you repeat, a little hesitantly “You can will things to happen?”. “Not exactly. There is only one kind of magic, that of creation, of conjuring.” You consider what he just told you for a second. “So, you can create anything?” you ask him. “Yes… and no. You can create only two basic things – good and…” He stops speaking for a second. He looks around. He stands up. You look around to. He starts sniffing. “Dammit. They are here.” He says. You look around. You cannot see anyone. He turns around. You can make out an approaching figure. “Hello Mer, how are you?” calls out the figure. He is wearing green pants and a yellow shirt. He has a large tattoo of a dancing elephant on his right arm. His face is round, his eyes deep, and his nose a large bulbous protrusion. He is wearing a wide red hat with a tall peacock feather sticking out at an odd angle. You gape at him. “Hello Lok” says Mer, a little wryly. I see Dom is here and listening. “No you don’t” says a voice from just behind you. You turn around startled. You can sense something. You cannot see anything. “Oh, how can I forget, you are invisible” says Lok. “Invisible only to the blind” says the voice of Dom. “Don’t start with your cryptic bullshit.” Says Mer. And you are lost in the middle of the magi.

“Don’t believe what this freak told you” says Lok, “all magic is illusion, deception… that’s all there is to it.” “Oh yeah?” answers Mer, kicking the sofa, and addressing you “You think this is an illusion? That your brains are addled somehow? You can be fooled into seeing and feeling things that aren’t?” You cannot think of an answer. You are wondering if this is true, and wondering what this is to begin with. “Magic is not too different from knowledge.” The voice of the invisible guy says, a little farther away than the last time he spoke. “Knowledge is the light, knowledge of all things, past, future and present, knowledge of nature, of…” You cannot stand it. The freaks. You wan’t nothing to do with this. You start to run away from them. They call out things to you. Ask you to stop. Ask you to come back. But you run without paying heed. You look back. The night has swallowed them. You keep running. You hear a rustling. You look to your left. Nothing. You look to your right. Nothing. You look behind you again, and again, nothing. You look up. There is a fat woman in a billowing rainbow colored dress flying above you. She has a smirk on her face. “Hi” she says, in a voice like the ringing of a small bell. “Hi. I am Oona. Running away from them was the smartest thing you ever did.” You scream. Not because you are scared, but because you cannot escape them. Whoever they are. “Why are you after me?” you ask, stopping to run, as you realize you cannot get away. “Because.” She says. You think about it for a second. You shrug.
“So…” you ask her “… what is magic according to you?” You have to bend your neck upwards to speak to her, she is hovering above you, perhaps forgetting that she can stay on the ground. “To put it simply, it is the language of the cosmos. Not numbers. Not physics, but magic. It has a syntax, and a grammar. Spells and enchantments. You speak the right words, read out from the right spellbooks, and you can tweak the universe to your convenience.” “So” you ask, a little sarcastically, “how can I help you?”

She begins to speak, utters a syllable, when she begins to fall. You realize you are standing right beneath her. You get out of the way, and then suddenly, you realize you cannot, because you are falling too. Falling through the ground. You look up she is not there. In her stead, is an ugly creature. You recognize it as a gargoyle. It speaks in a slow, raspy voice. “The only true magic, is not your own, but of creatures from other dimensions. You have to summon them, and they will do your bidding. Beware though, it is difficult to control them without a force of will.”
And then you fall. Floating around you, are the figures – the ghosts of Mer, Lok, Oona, the gargoyle, and the invisible Dom. You hear them calling out to you, beckoning you to choose one of them. “it’s the spells, you always knew its in the words!” “Its imagination, of creation, the fundamental magic in existence itself!” “Deception, illusion, lies, but magic nonetheless!” “Sell it, a soul is nothing without pleasures, and you may yet discover that hell is a good place” “wisdom, my friend, knowledge, the light”.

You think. Each kind of magic encompasses all the others. You cannot figure out which of it is real. However, this IS happening to you, and one of them must be speaking the truth. You realize one thing. To stop falling, you have to choose. But this is not about a choice, this is about a quest. You have a lifetime to get there, but not more.

"Trek" to Korlai

There are many contenders for the easiest trek in Maharashtra. This is not including stupid stuff like walking up the stairs to your apartment during load shedding. A good contender is Karnala, which is a Trek that a lot of people are recommended to start of with. It is the perfect begginner's trek. Every weekend at least one batch of kids are taken to the top. But around ten times easier than that is the trek to Lohgad. It's more or less a picnic, because there is hardly any trekking involved. But Korlai, beats them all. This is so far the easiest trek I have gone to. From the base villiage, you are on the top in five minutes flat. FIVE MINUTES! This is actually easier than walking to the top of a fifteen storey building dammit. But it is a historically significant fort, and like Murud, is surrounded on three sides by water. We started from the Gateway of India, and crossed over to Alibag on a ferry. This was an interesting ride in itself, as we went past a couple of large ships, barges, catamarans and tankers.

About an hour into the journey, the whole boat was full of excitement as we spotted Dolphins. Dolphins so close to such busy waters is a rare sight. They can be spotted easily further down, in Goa for example, but here... that was a little bit of magic.

We spotted cannons on the beach. The fort was held by the portuguese for some time, so there is a lot of christian influence around. There was a large jesus in the middle of a hill.


once... just once, sheer luck puts me on the top of the charts

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Filthy copycats

The trailers were pretty unoriginal to begin with, but this one is just crazy... the art work, the posters in the stupid hindi film Drona are "inspired" from the Prince of Persia: Warrior within game.

Look at the warrior within poster and compare it to the Drona poster.

Now consider these set of images... both promotional material for the film and the game

Thanks to Rossi for pointing this out to me

In other news there is a great way to get free coffee or tea at any time of the day. This is a simple method and works anywhere in the world. Without going into the details, just grab a cup from a vending machine in any office building you come across. You can get away by signing the register with things like "homicide", "kidnap" or "corporate espionage". Invent something tamer if you want to.

Cows chilling at a beach

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.
~Ogden Nash

Cattle in movies

The fascination for ungulates continues... with this post dedicated to cows in movies. There is the flying cow from Monty Python and the Holy grail, the cow that gets a lot of mexican grass from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the cows that belong to the landscape from Forrest Gump and The Water Horse and the rampaging bulls in jackass 2.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Trek to Peth Fort

Peth Fort (known as Kothaligad) is actually more or less a picnic. The base villiage is called Ambivli - not to be confused with Ambivili. To reach Ambivli, we all climbed into a taxi - one of those jeeps where you get to stand on the footboard in a space crunch. Three people climbed onto the roof. From Ambivili, there is a pakka road all the way to the village of Peth. Here we found two guides who were below five years of age, who took five rupees to show us the way to the top. The trek starts from the village of Peth, where accomodation can be found for the night, tea and food being available throughout the day. on the top were caves, a cannon pointed towards the valley, cows grazing at an insane altitude and a view of Matheran, Bhimashankar and Siddhagad. The top of the fort is a small spindle shaped area, with loads of fresh grass and butterflies flitting about. Travellers can spend the nights in the caves as well, and lemon water is available as a refreshment here - although they cost Rs. 7 for a glass.

The worst assumptions Internet ads/spammers make about YOU

20) YOU will take advise from strangers on how to "ride her hard" and "set her loins on fire" with YOUR "love rod" (70% off just for YOU)
19) YOU have a problem - and they have all the answers
18) Exclamation marks makes stuff more believable/buyable.
17) YOU want to know the secret
16) YOU need something organic to improve YOUR health
15) YOU are in pain, lonely, lost or suffering from acute depression
14) YOU are jittery about obscure diseases
13) YOU are constipated
12) YOU are desperate for subscription free medication - particularly Viagra, cialis or various painkillers
11) YOU can read Chinese or Greek
10) YOU have a fat, ugly belly and want to lose weight
09) YOU are underpaid
08) YOU are underqualified, and don't have a proper education - so YOU can buy the diploma/degree/masters/bachelors online
07) YOU will buy anything as long as its cheap
06) YOU have a minuscule dick (irrespective of gender) - and what's more, it is always floppy
04) YOU have problems with the opposite sex - hell, YOU can't talk to them, don't know how to please them, and they have mysterious problems with YOU. Also YOU are a dirty, smelly, uncouth bum.
03) YOU are into Hentai
02) YOU are worried about aging too soon - and want to look younger
01) YOU will respond if the mailers are addressed to YOU

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bus ticket game

There is this bus ticket game we used to play while on those long bus rides. This game can be played all over Maharashtra. Basically it involves the numbers on the top of the ticket. There are five types of tickets available in Maharashtra - the TMC bus tickets, the BMC bus tickets, the ST bus tickets, the AC ST bus tickets and the Asiads.

Now all of these tickets have nine numbers on top. In the TMC bus tickets and the AC ST bus tickets, these numbers are in English, in all the rest, the numbers are in Devanagari - but that does not matter to the game. The first three digits of the nine numbers are always separated from the remaining six either with a different type face, a different color, or a dash. The first three numbers are usually two digits - with 0 being the first numeral. The basic rules of the game are:
1) Consider the three numbers on the left as your target
2) The six numbers on the right are the numbers you have to add up to the target
3) Multiplication, division, addition and subtraction are allowed, no roots, exponentials or logs.
4) If the first three numbers is a three digit number, exponentials are allowed, still no roots. No squares or cubes by default though, only raised to the power of another numeral - you are lucky if there are 2s and 3s.
5) Two or more people play, whoever comes up with a correct equation first, gets a point. After both come up with a equation, you have to use the same numbers again in a different way.
6) You have to operate on single digits only, and not group adjacent numbers together (this rule can be relaxed by mutual consent, after a few rounds)
7) You HAVE to use all the numbers, not necessarily in order though

We played this game on many occassions. The stupid/hardcore/costly version is that if you do not do it by the next stop, you have to buy another ticket.

an example from a real ticket

012 - 248723


you get the idea right... beware though, this can get really competitive as the number of solutions are infinite.

Some more Macro

These photos were taken at Borivili National Park. The fly was patient, and so was the green and yellow beetle. The moth definately looks like a fairy - sitting on a flowery stool, with an air of magic around it. The butterflies were fickle, and it was difficult to compose, focus and click before they flew away. Both the butterflies sucked the necter rapidly, moving from flower to flowe in a bunch, and then flying away. One guy who looked at us with our cameras almost pressed against the flowers went away by wisely telling his friend that we were indulging in "Micro" photography.

These were taken at Lohgad. The snail is under flash, and was hiding beneath a blade of grass that I was lucky enough to turn around.

This is a photo of another guy taking a macro. The bug is still pretty clear, which surprised me.


The monkeys at Borivili National park are pretty approachable. Although we had to move slowly, and a few ran away when the camera was pointed at them, the older and the larger monkeys were bold enough to let us approach to within two feet of them. It was a relaxed group, and the food was plentiful - almost all of them were eating. One of the monkeys tried to attack a friend of mine, but apart from that, there were no incidents. A bunch of people saw how close we were to the monkeys, and three of them approached with their mobile cameras - for some reason, the monkeys went away then. An old man leading a group of old men through the park warned me that the monkey will take my camera and scram - fortunately, his dire warning did not come true. After a particular monkey had settled down with his fruit, I became bold enough to thrust my camera right at his face - and he just stayed there, continuing to eat. Pity you cannot teach wild monkeys to smile.