Thursday, May 20, 2010

Indian Music on Wheels

For people who frequent India, or are Indians, this may sound familiar. But for the first timers, who think they need to visit here, I'm damn sure they would be annoyed. And why not? Afterall, it is those people who know the fact that India is a multi-cultural country. They have different types of cultures and heritage. From Tansen to Rahman, India has had some really great music composers. We have also had aspirants like Anu Malik, who succeed at first but fail when they're caught. But it is not limited to just composers. Even the type of music and dance is varied. From Carnatic to Hindustani classical, to devotional and soft music, each language has its own explicit collection which can really add to your collection.

From the Bangalore front though, the most recent addition have been a huge number of instrumental artistes. Yes, the people who use their automobiles. Honking is the in thing and people have their own skills which are all worth it in different occasions. Like the soft songs of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi or Carnatic of Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna. But again, everyone has their own speciality.

While driving on the roads here, people have the tendency to express their emotions at times, while at many others, the vehicle itself tries to express the emotions. Lets say, for example, a college boy was gifted his first bike ride on his father's bike. He expresses the joy of convincing his dad for a ride, by honking at all empty stretches and any other wrong places. Or, a mechanic is trying out the new 1000W home-theater effect he just managed to setup and equalize on a customer's car. So, the mechanic will always be looking for a favor. Hence, he would blare out the horn and ensure that the customer is deaf for atleast the rest of his life.

Now, when a vehicle gets emotional, this is what would happen::

Scenario 1: The vehicle has idled for 172 seconds on a traffic signal which would be of a 180 second duration. In Bangalore, the timer LED starts blinking when there is 8 or less seconds remaining for "Lift Off". This is not for people to start their engines, because they dont know how to shut it off. But it is for the vehicles from the second row and further behind to actuate their horn. Yeah! This is a real booster for the first row guys to jump the signal with just 1 seconds. And many would also be proud when the cops hand them the trophy just after the signal jump.

Scenario 2: The vehicle has again idled for over 400 seconds at a railway level crossing, which would be closed for atleast 15-20 minutes, which is stretchable by another 10-15 minutes if the railway motorman and the guy at the gates are from the same home-town. The vehicle is already concerned that it cannot churn out the mileage, which the humans have already delegated to the ECU. Next, the carbon foot-print is also too high. So, even as the train passes by and the gates are halfway up, the war is on at the first layer of automobiles on either side. While this is so, the troops behind motivate the ones at the frontier by incessantly honking. This is again, a vehicle emotion and I wouldn't blame the humans.

I just see a few remedial steps for this:

1. Driving schools should have an All-time horn like All-time 4WD. This would help a few things. One, people would know that the car has a big red "L". Second, the student would get so irritated of horns, that he/she wont use the horns. And also, since they dont learn how to honk, they wont know where the switch of the horn is in their cars. Finally, there wont be damage to any kind of civilization, as all of them would make way to incessant honking.

2. Every time the driver honks, the brake pedal should actuate. That way, by banging the head against the steering almost thrice a second, people would realize it is safer for all to brake than honk.

Well, if my suggestions were to be considered, why would I be blogging this? I would be riding back seat on a car with a red beacon light and asking my driver to honk his way to the fore.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Muthodi - A Travelogue

Well, it was that time of my life where I needed a dose of nature to get back to my human senses and recollect that I was born a human being and not a Computer Engineer. So, I gathered out another 3 such non-humans to go on this trip. This time, the location was Muthodi.

When - 14th - 16th May 2010.

Who - Balu, Raj, Mohan and Me.

How - My own Scorpio

Total expenses - 2000/- per head

Accommodation - Forest department guest house, Muthodi Range, Bhadra Wildlife Division, Chikmagalur.

Route : Bangalore - Kunigal - Hassan - Belur - Chikmagalur - Mallandur - Muthodi (Total distance of ~300 Kms one way)

Roads : Totally tarred, barring small stretches which are still motorable in even a Formula1 car.

Day - 1: Friday 14h May. Even as we planned a whole week in advance, there was always a sign that God had sent (although through India Post) that things are going to be a little twisted and off plan. And GOD is right. Confused? Well, I had sent a booking letter with my own name and address on the letter and all Balu had to do was get a demand-draft for 2400/- for the accommodation (2 tents for 2 days, each with 2 people), and send that along with the printed letter. He instead put my name against his home address, assuming that I've started living in the same house. When we planned we thought we will start just before 12. So we started eating at 11:40. We all in our gang know that eating is a pretty detailed phenomenon and we wont take anything less than 40 minutes. So, we left at 1:15 and started off towards Kunigal. 20 minutes later, Balu realises that he has forgotten the booking/reservation letter at home. So there is action replay at 2:15. The reservation letter said your reservation wont be yours after 5 PM that day. So, we had to call up the DCF office and, like true Bangaloreans, had to lie saying that we were stuck in traffic for almost 2 hours inside Bangalore and hence, would reach by 7 PM. Thankfully, he agreed. The rest part of the drive as almost uneventful. We stopped at Chikmagalur to top-up fuel, since we didnt know what the rest of our trip had in store. There, I asked a policeman for the route. He guided us to go through Mallandur. I asked him how good were the roads. He said it is doable. I showed him my car and asked him, will this go? He said not only this even Buses will go. Did he mean to say that my car is more manouverable than a Bus? Or was it that my vehicle is awful than a bus? Anyways, The roads go through some really scenic stretches with coffee plantations on either one or both sides. But beware. Though the roads would invite you to do a good 40-50 Kmph speeds, it is too narrow for 2 vehicles to squeeze through and hence you will need to drive at a sane speeds that a cyclist would do. 20 Kmph would be nice. The reason I say this is because there are timber trucks that ply these roads and if you see one of these animals charging at you, you will need to reverse up until you find a drainage where you can park your car until the phenomenon passes by. Because, they are overloaded and stopping the truck would mean trouble, for both of you. He cant take off again and you wont have any where to go.
Finally, we reached the gates of the forest range and a drunken watchman opens the gates for us. Watch out for a board which diverts to the right to take you to Sigekhan guest house. This is 3 kilometers of sheer off-roading and you will need a good ground clearance to keep from scraping. Go straight and the roads have been recently reparied. The only thing missing on the roads is tarmac. But the roads are level enough and there are enough loose stones and stone-powder, just in case you want to practice Lagori. The guest house has a parking lot on one side of the road and a bunch of guest-houses, dormitories 2 tents, and staff quarters on another. All this is looked after by a Deity that sits right at the gates. "Om Namo Ganeshaya". It was precisely 7 PM when we reached there. We were given 2 tents loaded with enough beds+cots, hangars, running water, electricity and other exotic insects. We have a very decent dinner and settle down as the electricity is pretty automatic (turns on at 6 PM, turns off at 11 PM).

Day - 2: Saturday 15th May. We wake up to the calls of what is presumably a road-romeo of birds. Such impeccable whistle, I just wish our local road-romeos dont learn. Or all of them will end up with a slipper trade-mark on their face. We have a nice time seeing our beautiful surrounding. Huge trees which are a playground to the Giant Malabar Squirrel, the Grey Langur and the Bonnet Macaque, surrounded our tents. There were also some beautiful daffodils and other exquisite flowers, which threw open a door of opportunities for photography, which we promptly exploited. Then, we walked down to the stream which looked peaceful, but at the same time, was pretty unclean with little water flowing. Then was the time for another meal, the breakfast. We were served with pulao which tasted like it was prepared with raw-rice. Anyways, we had to eat just because we had agreed to pay him Rs. 20/- for his efforts of keeping the rice as raw as possible. And also that his wife was looking at us as if she would banish us from the guest house if we didnt finish. We got ready by bathing in freezing waters flowing out of the tap marked "HOT" (since the tap marked "COLD" was literally frozen cold), screaming happily for every mug if water that we poured on ourselves. We left for Mullayyanagiri which was a good 30+ kilometers away, continuing in the path that we took the previous day to reach the guest house. The path started well, but seemed like a video game, becoming narrower with each passing kilometer, as if to go to the next difficulty level. After the neighboring town, the path is well tarred. This left me wondering if the steam-roller used there was air-lifted to the peak and rolled down in neutral across the roads. The gradients were pretty big. At one spot, we saw a big landscape and wanted to snap a few pictures. The silence was such that we actually heard the growls of some big cat (tiger or leopard) some miles away. Poor thing, tried to growl twice and scare the humans there. But the humans are no bad. They used their guns, which could make louder growls. I just hope that they only growled and didn't maul the poor cat with their guns. Remember that we have only 1411 (-6 or -7) tiger left with us. We continued on our journey and reached Mullayyanagiri by 11:45 AM.

DEVIATIONS TO NOTE: The roads are pretty obvious except for at 2 points. Except there, take the wider roads as the other ones would generally lead you to some private estate. But at one point, you have a huge fork (one going sharp left, upwards and another going easy right, downwards). At this stage, we tossed a coin and since we didnt care about heads or tails, we chose to turn left. It was the right decision. Be careful to turn right at this spot while returning also, lest you forget. Again, we end up joining a bigger road at one point. You can fairly realise that at this point, you are in the middle of a massive valley, mountain range on either side (one you arrived from, and one you think you will be going). At this point, if you continue in the same direction, you will surely reach other famous places, Datta Peetha/Baba-Budan hills and Kemmangundi. Turn sharp right (again, the gradient goes upwards). Drive for about 7-8 kilometers. You will see a small building, which the poor locals trust to be a police check-post. Notice that there is a Karnataka Tourism board (yellow color) saying that Mullayyanagiri is 7 kilometers to your right. Turn right and you will reach the foot-hills soon. There are some paths there which tempt you to trek. Trek at your own risk since there is no "Other End" of those hills where you can "Safely" get off. My friends had to jump off 7 Feet (the lowest place possible) to avoid walking back for a good long distance.

Mullayanagiri is around a 150 steps walk up to reach to the temple on top of the HIGHEST PEAK OF KARNATAKA. It lies at 1930m (6330 ft.) above sea level. We leave at around 1 PM and decide we have enough time to visit Baba Budan hills. Locals say it is wise to ask for "Datta Peetha" if you are asking for directions instead of "Baba Budan" since it could instigate political parties. How much of it is true, is not something I know of. You will go back in the same direction you came from and continue further until you pass a small, apparently man-made, falls. Once beyond that, you will have a deviation, one going extreme right, and one going right just after this turn. Take the extreme right. If you go on the outer turn, you will end up in Kemmangundi, after around 30 Kms. From this turn, Datta Peetha is around 7 Kms. As of now, since the cave "caved" in, you wont be able to go down and pay a visit to the tomb of the saint there. We had another BAD lunch here. The only things that tasted good here were the Omelettes and water. Anything else was meant only for locals and cows. But holy Cow!! We are not locals!! Anyways, we did show "COWLY" meekness while we finished whatever we had paid for. Yes, it is pay and eat. Next stop we visited manikyadhare. This is supposed to be the water falls where the water falls in the form of pearls. But, this time of the year had it like a leaking tap. Locals here say that if you get drenched in the falls, you need to leave your clothes there. But neither did we carry extra clothes, nor are we Hrithiks or Salmans. So we decided to take a pass. We returned back to the guest house by around 6 PM, right on time to enjoy the sunset anthem by the locals. I meant the birds, not the people. We noticed one happy thing. We get mobile connectivity only for BSNL, 4 kms away from the camp. So, we remained sane, and away from the technology. We told the local guy that we want to be the first folks to go on the Safari in the morning and went to bed. For some reason, the electricity went off at 10 PM this time. Maybe it missed the time-zone part on the "Time".

Day -3: Sunday 16th May. Finally, we woke up. Earlier than planned. This time we were up by 5:45 AM. We left for the safari after brushing our teeth. Afterall, we didnt want the animals to start their day with a foul-mouthed Human being. We chose to go in our own transport and leave the noisy tin-box from the forest department for those who were proud of going offroading and not for a safari. We paid 350/- for the vehicle and 40/- per head. We were assigned a guide. He took us through the same paths that other jeeps would do, but did promise us that he is taking us in a special path. We only realised it when the Department Safari jeep came rumbling down the roads behind us when we were almost done with the ride. As usual, the department folks said "Your vehicle wont do our terrain". Afterall, they had customised it to make money. But unfortunately, Mahindra has customised the Scorpio to take on anyone's terrain. We did get to see a big bunch of Indian Gaur (bison), the Barking deer, the Red spotted deer, peacocks, elephant dung, bee-hives and some other excellent flora. We also saw the place where the tigers have its meal. Afterall, the forest-department officials are know all. They also were kind enough to show us the dining table, the bedroom etc. of the tigers there. And to know it all, the tigers have a lake-view suite. Well, since we were in the middle of the forest, we had to agree that the tigers will ALWAYS come there with the bait everyday. They had also named the lake as "huli-kere". Which translates to "huli -> Tiger" and "kere -> lake". Read it as "who-lee ;; care-ray". I know, it sounds more like a Chinese whisper from the Karate Text Book. We also saw a 404 year old Teak tree. Amazing thing is they have a name for each path inside the sanctuary, and they can even remember them. We returned to the guest house . We were right on time. Because just as we landed, the skies opened up as if to remind us that we have not had a bath for almost 24 hours. Of all the 3 people, 2 leeches chose to attack Balu. One after the other, at the same spot. Well, lucky him. We were served with Pongal and chutney. This was mostly the tastiest of all the meals we had here. Partly because we were too hungry and partly because it was served straight from the cooking vessel. Finally, it was time to return. We started our journey back at around 12 Noon. We reached Hassan in 90 minutes flat. We stopped at Shri Krishna Deluxe for lunch. We had a power lunch (18 minutes flat). Mohan dropped off from there. And we had another of the laziest drives back. We had a coffee break at Mayura near the Adi Chunchanagiri mutt. And Bangalore had one of the nastiest welcomes in store for us. By the look of what we were doing, I had assumptions that I would reach home by 5:30 PM. But, Bangalore welcomed with one of the nastiest, windiest rains of all times. Visibility was really too horrible. And there it was, a Traffic Jam. This time due to a Tree which decided to lean over a bus for some time. I somehow dropped off my friends, picked up my wife and reached home by 7:30 PM. That was JUST 2 hours late, considering the traffic jam, the rains and all the trips I made before heading homewards.

So, that is the trip. Whew!! That was some excitement. Keeping that on mind, I am back to being a computer engineer and leaving my human self on the outskirts of Bangalore. For some more time now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Paapdi Chaat

For those of you who know what this is, skip straight to the section which says "More". Of course, at home, if I say "More", I usually get a tumbler full of white milky thingy which is enough to keep your tummy like a water tanker for the rest of the session. In any other context, it would be a "Butter-milk" that is known as "more" in Tamil.

Paapdi chat is a tea-time snack, which is prepared by mini chips, topped with mashed potatoes, like the cream in a cream-biscuit, except that it is not sandwiched on the open side. Now, 6 such open flakes are placed in a plate before being lavishly covered by a sheet of the sour "more". If you cannot comprehend that phrase, please read the last phrase as Yoghurt/Curd. This is then sprayed with a variety of garnishing, which generally only looks in different colors, but adds the same taste. What next? Eat till the last drop of Yoghurt is finished.

Coming to the TRUE MORE. If you can say what is more in this thread on the snack, here is what. We from India have a host of people who are true to their locale. i.e., people who like to eat things that they want. For example, you can imagine what kind of people would eat a Pumpkin or a drumstick or even for that matter, eggs. But when it comes to snack, the art of customizing the food is also something where you can earn a masters. Some also managed to get the doctors. This is really a six-sigma precision game and hence, you will need to experiment this for a good long time on yourself. And you still carry a chance of flopping your own experiments, because TATA salt is more salty than Annapurna is.

Artists first have to carefully calculate that around 3.90 ml of the Sweet is to be accompanied if the curd is 2 days old. If you been having a phobia about diabetes, you can instead add 0.25 ml of Green chilli sauce extra. This is by rule additional to what has already been added. Then you get the garnishing and or topping. Sometimes, you can even add onions and tomatoes, which the Vendor can buy, chop and serve you if you are his good acquaintance. Once the customization is done, you start eating with multiple other dumb customers, who dont have this art, stare at you in disgust about wasting their only time.

But this art is not like paintings or embroidery where the art, whether good or messed, is permanent. The only way around in paintings or embroidery it is either by changing the canvas or not change at all, although embroidery can sometimes invite a lot of flak and sometimes even the (National Commission for Women) NCW taking out a procession embroidered in silk better than you could, in an attempt to TEACH you a lesson or two.

People do have the uncanny knack of rectifying their assessments and go back to defaults many times during their session at the plate, and then, by careful calculation, tend to re-assess the situation and finally, get the LAST spoon to suite their taste. But they would've reached a saturation point by then due to eating 3 additional plates in the process of default-custom-default-custom moves. And finally, the bill.

Vendor: "Fifteen rupees Sir ..." with a moment of calculation pause (15x1 has got to be 15).

Artist: "Just three days ago I saw your board and thought you are cheap at twelve. I came here today and you already have hiked the price"

Vendor: "The neighboring vendor said that you are coming, hence this"

Artist: "What do you mean?" (Confused and proud at the same time).

Vendor: "I meant, you were the sole citizen who voted for the current Government from our lane, hence you are responsible for the price hike.... "

Artist: "@!#@#$!@$" (Although silently assuming it is his art that was being praised)...