My Rediscovered Love For Tamil Mega TV Serials

I understand that most of us are going through a tough time during this quarantine/lockdown period, the case same with me. But, on the flip side, it has brought back some great things too. Personally, things weren’t that great for me at the beginning of this Corona outbreak, which kind of even continues till today. But, despite all the personal miseries, I would really like to thank this lockdown for one thing. That’s for bringing back Tamil Serials back into my life.

During my childhood days, I used to enjoy watching these mediocre and average soaps such as Marmadesam, Vidathu Karuppu, Veetukku Veedu Looty, Chinna Papa Periya Papa, Sakthiman and Kana Kaanum Kaalangal, etc. Later, due to bad influences such as my friend Murali Krishna, my interest got shifted to Prison Break and FRIENDS of the world. From there on, I ignored the TV and pretty much stuck to my laptop watching English series, right from downloading them via Torrents to Netflix and Prime. Eventually, I lost track of the innovation, transformation, and revolution that happened post-Chithi Era in the Tamil TV Serial ecosystem.

At home, I usually like to be in my own zone, and spend most of the time in my room, minding my own business. But now, due to the lockdown, I have been spending more time in the hall with my parents. Initially, I felt like being forced to watch these Tamil series. As time progressed, I ultimately started picking up appreciate the artistic nuances in them. I believe platforms such as Netflix, HBO, and Amazon prime are misleading us, and make us think West is the Best. I urge that we all should come out of that particular mindset and start appreciating the creative gems treasured in the form of the Tamil TV Serials. If you are not convinced yet, the following are the main reasons why you must pick up watching these epic serials.

  • Subtle Acting
    The ability of the Tamil Serial artists to uncannily bring out sort of emotions subtly during the act is quite astonishing. Especially the romantic and angry family fight scenes.

    The act of subtle acting

  • Exceptional Cinematography and Editing 
    I would say, Cinematographers and the Editors are the real unsung heroes of the Tamil Serials. The way they literally freeze the time in their frame is another level, especially when they employ “Repeat Surpised Flash” and “Emotional Zoom” kind of shots. They have always been quite generous and inclusive. They would make sure that the beautiful and subtle emotions of ALL the artists (including the junior artist standing km apart) for every scene is captured and telecasted.

    Another level Cinematography

  • The Story
    Tamil Serials are quite efficient when it comes to repurposing the story. With an almost inexistent storyline, new serials are created just by changing the location, artists, and character names. You could also notice how most of the stories are highly feministic and revolves around strong female characters. One of the recent trends across the series is, the hero and the heroine gets married accidentally and waits for another 500 episodes to consummate the marriage.

    Name only different, Story the same. Source: hotstar

  • Engaging Screenplay
    Multiple engaging elements such as contests, festival celebrations, event organization, and divine intervention are added to the scenes to make the serials engaging and connected to the audience. It’s even quite common to combine these elements between two Serials when the writers run out of ideas.

    Audience Engagement

  • Mesmerizing Music
    Though the title songs are quite nominal, the BGM scores in most of the serials are out of the world. What really makes me wonder is the level of reusability of the BGM tracks. You can observe this aspect not just within a Serial, but also across the Serials. In fact, I even doubt if they use shared libraries just like the developers do. Just like the cherry on the top, the way they add existing movie song tracks to the romantic scenes is always class apart.

    Amazing BGMs

I am really sorry if you are a true fan of Tamil Serials and didn’t get the sarcasm of the post. I might have failed to be sarcastic but feeling very content, as this is something I wanted to rant for a very long time. I think the quality of the content in Tamil Serials has gone down to drain. And, also quite happy that the OTT platforms have started producing quality content in regional languages and the current generation is embracing and enjoying the same. Not so soon, these TV channels would lose their audiences if they are not resilient to change in audience preferences. I rest my case with one of my favorite comedies scene below.

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 4

A quick recap from the last blog posts (post 1post 2post 3) in this trek series. We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp. Then, we traveled to Joshimath by bus and trekked to Ghangaria from Govindghat. From Ghangaria, we hiked the most beautiful Valley of Flowers and the divine Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib.

Day 5: 1st August 2019

As usual, we woke up early and was all set and packed by 7.30 am to commence our descent back to Govindghat. I decided no to repeat my mistake, so along with others, I dropped my backpack to the Mule Guy, hoping he would safely transport it to our bus stationed at Govindghat. I decided to trek down on foot, whereas Buddy, Nigi, Govi, and Thiyaga had another plan, to fly by Helicopter.

Luckily, I got the company of the super-fast Himakar and Kavya for this leg of the journey. We oddly stopped anywhere in between, except for some lemonade on the way. It was a fun and easy downhill trek. In fact, we even waved at the chopper that our guys flew, I wonder if they had noticed it. It was just around 10.30 when we reached Pulna. Again, I was determined not to repeat my mistakes. So, we took a shared cab back to Govindghat instead of trekking down the motorable road. We were a little tired and super hungry as we reached Govindghat around 11 am. Again it was a Gurudwara to the rescue. We had a heavenly Langar before returning back to our bus. It took around 3 pm for the rest of the folks to return to the bus and head to our next camp. In the meantime, we whiled away the time chitchatting and catching up with some sleep. After an hour and a half drive on the thrilling mountainous roads, we reached our next camp, YHAI Badrinath.

Hands down, it was possibly the poshest camp that we have stayed in all our 3 treks with YHAI. As usual, we were welcomed with some hot tea and Potato Fritters. Badrinath is also home to the most famous Badrinarayan Temple. It’s considered to be one of the Char Dham (“four abodes”), visiting which would help in reach salvation. To our advantage, the temple was just a km from our camp and is open only from April to October. So, after a quick fresh-up, we merrily walked to the temple. This one is definitely one of the unique temples I have ever visited. The front face of the temple looked more like a Buddhist monastery, rather than the typical towered structure. After the temple visit, we roamed around shopping souvenirs for our families. Then, after heading back to the camp, post our dinner, we had some fun time dancing and singing at the common hall. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 6: 2nd August 2019

I woke up with all the excitement, cos we would be visiting a place of both geographical and religious importance. The camp had a long-standing tradition that every group visits the camp plants a sapling. So, we planted a couple of plants before starting for the day. A 20 mins drive and a couple of mins of walk bought us to our next destination, a significant one. Around 8 am, we reached Mana, the last village of India. Located 10,500 ft above the sea level and 26 km of the Indo-Tibetan border makes Mana the last inhabited village of India. Quite interestingly, while exiting on the other end of Mana, you would notice a few shops self proclaim themselves to be the last shop/tea shop in India.

From there, we had to trek another 6 km to reach our next spot. The first half of the trail was kind of flat, and the next half was quite steep and challenging. Nevertheless, it was the most scenic route of the whole trek and a bit adventurous too. As we approached, I was awestruck by the view of the magnificent Vasudhara Falls. The scene of the water cascading 145 mt tall mountain cliff and the sound of the water splashing down the rock bed was absolutely breathtaking. Views like these signify how minuscule and weak we humans in front of nature’s forces. We spent almost an hour at the falls enjoying its sheer beauty, before returning. It was already around 2 pm when we reach back to Mana, and we were super hungry. So, we went to “India’s Last Tea And Cofee Corner” and had some Potato Fritters and some Maggi. Then back at the camp, the rest of the day was spent relaxing and chitchatting. Just like the last night, we even had some fun sessions at the common hall. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 7: 3rd August 2019

Life is uncertain as much as the mountain weather. We were supposed to start back to our base camp as early as 7 am. But, as it heavily rained the last night, our departure got delayed till 10.45 am due to landslides. The clogged roads and very slow-moving traffic further added to the delayed start, and it was already 1.30 pm when we crossed GovindChat. Again yet another massive landslide after VishnuPrayag caused a heavy traffic jam and delayed us further by an additional couple of hours.

It started getting dark by 7 pm as we crossed the Rudraprayag. And, our driver advised us that it’s not safe to drive on the mountain roads all night, That crashed our hope of reaching Rishikesh by the same day. As advised by YHAI, we reached the town of Srinagar Garhwal around 9.30, where we would be spending the night at a Gurudwara. Again, a Gurudwara to rescue. We were super tired traveling on the bus for a whole day. So, we went and hit our bed straight after having our dinner at a nearby cafe. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 8: 4th August 2019

As per our initial itinerary, we should have already been in Mussoorie. But, due to the delays the last day, we haven’t even reached our base camp, Rishikesh yet. Now, expecting the unexpected on the mountain had become a new norm for us. As planned, we departed to Rishikesh as early as 5.30 am. After a quick stop for breakfast around 7, we finally reached our base camp by 9.40 am. Then, we got freshened up, collected our extra luggage, and completed the checkout formalities before finally bidding adieu to the base camp.

By noon we got a cab and headed to our next destination Mussoorie, a hill station located a couple of hours drive from Rishikesh. On arriving, we decided to chuck all our initial plans to visit the famous touristy places. And, unanimously chose to relax and unwind after one hell of an adventurous trek. As soon as we reached our homestay, it started to rain heavily. Damn, yet another curveball to our plans. In the meanwhile waiting for the rain to subside, I took a relaxing hot shower and ate my lunch. Luckily, the rain stopped around 4 pm, and our chances to roam around became as bright as the sun that began showing up. Our first stop was the Lovely Omelet Centre, one of the most famous eateries in Mussoorie. I was super impressed even with their plain omelet and was able to see my friends happy devouring their chili cheese and butter versions.

Next, we took a cab to Landour to taste the food at Char Dukan, one of the oldest eateries and well known to be frequently visited by celebrities. There, we had their famous Bun Omelet, Choco Banana Waffles, and soothing Ginger Lemon Tea.

Then we roamed on the Mall road for a while, just for the food to get digested. Finally, we concluded the outing with a sumptuous dinner at Kal Sang, a Chinese & Tibetan restaurant.

Back at the homestay, we spent the night boozing and playing board games. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 9: 5th August 2019

The day started well with a yummy Poha made by the homestay people. Being the last day of this trip, and I felt both homesickness and the anxiety of going back to the routine. It was a kind of hard to describe mixed feelings for me. Around 11.30 am, we took a cab to Dehradun Airport, from where we would be boarding our flights to Chennai via Mumbai.

On the way, we decided to try the Biriyani at the most famous Doon Darbar restaurant. Against my expectation, the not so spicy Biriyani failed to impress me but loved their Special Chicken Changezi.

After a splendid meal, we reached the airport around 2.30 pm and checked in on time for our flight scheduled at 4 pm. Our bad, the flight got delayed due to the bad weather and took off to Mumbai only by 4.55 pm. Again, the bad weather played the villain and made our flight circle the Mumbai skies for a while. Only after landing around 7.30, we realized that our 8 pm connecting flight to Chennai would depart from another terminal. Damn, we took an Auto and rushed to the Terminal 2 and literally ran in the airport to board our flight on time. For a while, it felt like “The Amazing Race” tv reality show. Finally, we landed around 10.30 pm and, there is nothing like the feel of homecoming. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t quite welcoming. It seems, unlike us, our baggage didn’t make it on time to the flight, and we had to wait for another hour to receive them. At that point, all I needed was to get done with this trip and the endless curveballs that it throws at me. Ultimately, we got back our languages just past midnight and headed back to each other’s house after bidding adieu. And, that’s how an awesome trip came to an end.

Right from the bus accident on day 2 to the baggage delay on the very last day, this trip was full of twists and turns, just like those mighty mountains. That’s definitely why this is a Trip To Remember.

The End.

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 3

A quick recap from the last blog posts  (post 1, post 2) in this trek series.
We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp. Then, we traveled to Joshimath by bus and trekked to Ghangaria from Govindghat.

Day 4: 30th July 2019

It was around 7.30 am, we started our trek from camp Ghangaria. A few meters down, the route branched into two. One led to the most anticipated Valley of Flowers (VOF) and another to the Hemkund Sahib. As per the itinerary, we headed towards the former as the latter was scheduled for the next day. With a tiny waterfall, a rapidly flowing river, and flowers all along the way, the route was serene and scenic. Just like the icing on the cake, the misty climate added to the bliss. It was roughly 4km trek with an altitude gain of 1500 ft to the opening of the valley. The rest 3 km into the valley was kind of flat. As the mules aren’t allowed inside the valley, a few porters carried the elderly persons and the kids on their back. The route wasn’t as tough as the last one, which made the trek less demanding and enjoyable.

Once we entered the valley, it felt like heaven. Especially if you are someone who enjoys the tiny wonders of nature. The place felt mesmerizing with thousand of flowers around me. After having my packed lunch around 11 am, I tagged along with the YHAI guide who patiently pointed me to many unique species of flowers around. One of the best experience was running behind the colorful buzzing honey bees and try clicking it while drinking the nectar from the flowers. Must say I got lucky and managed to capture one awesome pic. Undoubtedly, this natural botanical garden was one big feast to my eyes. Below is the little I managed to capture through my mobile camera. Brace for some pic spamming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After clicking a ton of pictures, we reached the second waterfall by 12 pm and started returning back from there. On the way back to the camp, I felt much delighted. Literally, the person inside me was jumping out of joy. Roughly around 3 pm, we arrived back at the camp. We relaxed a bit after having our usual hot soup and snacks. Then, around 7.30 pm, we had our dinner and played UNO after that. That’s how yet awesome day came to an end.

Day 4: 31st July 2019

The day started with a cup of hot tea early in the morning, followed by some hearty breakfast. Initially, we planned to begin our trek by 7 am. But, rain doesn’t seem to agree with our plans. So, we started our ascent around 7.45 am as soon as the downpour subsided. It was almost the same route as yesterday for the first 1 km. Then, at an intersection, we switched to the one that led us to Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib, the summit of this trekking expedition. Situated roughly 15,000 ft above sea level, Hemkund Sahib is a sacred place visited by thousands of Sikhs every year. This leg of the trek was quite challenging as we had to trek 6 km one way with an altitude gain of ~5000 ft. Buddy, Nigilan, and Govi accompanied me for this whole stretch. Considering the altitude sickness factors, we decided to go slow and steady. After a couple of km, we stumbled upon a small tea shop and decided to take a short tea break. To our surprise, we noticed some soaked rice being laid out on a wooden plank for the birds to feed and a few Himalayan Sparrows feasting over them. Such a cute scene it was. With melting glaciers and ice-cold waterfalls, the route was a breathtaking one. Literally breathtaking, as you would feel your lungs screaming for more oxygen as you climb. Again, I got lucky. I somehow managed to click a beautiful pic of a Honeybee sucking nectar from a Himalayan Blue Poppy flower, the state flower of Uttarakhand. The last 1.5 km was strenuous and steep, but with great company, nothing is unconquerable. Finally, after 5 hours of excruciating trek, we reached the summit around 12.30 pm.

The Summit Pic - A mix of physical pain and mental joy

The Summit Pic – A mix of physical pain and mental joy

Finally, we were at the world’s highest Gurudwara, and this place had amazing positive vibes. What made me wonder was, how on this world did they build this Gurudwara, high over the mountains. After depositing our footwears to the kind volunteer there, we all entered the star-shaped Gurudwara and spent some time in their prayer session. In spite of not understanding even a single word, we sat throughout the sermon. To my surprise, they even provided us with some woolen blankets to keep us warm and comfortable. While exiting the prayer hall, we were served Kara Prasad, a sweet devotional offering. Just adjacent to the Gurudwara, located a beautiful lake filled with icy cold water straight from the glaciers. We even noticed a few devotees taking a dip into it, how strong!!. Just next to the lake, there exists a small temple that’s dedicated to Lakshmana, the brother of Rama. What astonished me was their Langar service, in spite of being located in such a high altitude. The hot tea and Kichadi served for the Langar was undoubtedly some of the soul touching food that I ever had.

After done with Hemkund Sahib, we began our descent around 1.45 pm. With continuous drizzling and mist causing low visibility, the downhill was as painful as the uphill trek. We took it slow with a couple of stops on the way for some hot tea and Maggi. Finally, we returned to the camp around 6 pm, totally exhausted.

To our relief, there was a shop nearby with electric massage chairs that eased out our pain a bit. Nothing like a hot water bath after a tiring day, followed by a good sleep. And, that’s how yet awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued…

Hey Little Pink Line

Dear Iniyaal,

I hope you are Happy, Hale and Healthy.

I am writing this, even though it’s quite unlikely that you would read it someday by yourself. But, knowing the narcissistic me very well, I bet I would definitely make you read this when you are old enough. Probably when you grow up, the hobby of blogging would have become a history. And, I would brag that I used to blog and all and even wrote about you. So, apologies well in advance.

To a maximum extent, I try to jot down the key moments of my life in this blog. Something like a memoir, predominantly for the sole reason to savor those memories later. Though the objective of this blog post is no different, it does feel extra special.

It was on 25th March 2019 we suspected that your mother was conceived with you. Then, you were just a little pink line on a pregnancy test. A couple of days later, I was just leaving the office after a bad day at work. While I was just about to get into the cab, your mom called me to deliver the good news. Yes, the doctor has confirmed that we’re pregnant. That completely changed my mood, and I was jumping out of joy with a big smile on my face. Momentarily, I even clicked one horrible selfie and shared it with your mom. Cos, that’s a moment worth remembering forever.

Since then, it had been one hell of a roller coaster ride for us. It was your mom who went through all the hardships in bringing you safely into this world. Right from diet restrictions, morning sickness to discomfort, and swelling of the foot, she somehow managed it all. All I did was support her a bit by taking her to the hospital for checkups. And, still complained that my weekend got ruined cos of the same. The journey was a bit challenging for me, as I was struggling to fit into my new job at the same time. But on the other side, it was filled with many memorable moments and a few that I would love to recall.

When you were just a 6-7 week only embryo, we went to the OBG doctor for the checkup. During the visit, the doctor showed me a small dot on her Ultra Sonogram machine and made me hear a sound. Then she said, it’s your baby and what you heard was its heartbeat. That moment my heart skipped a beat, hearing your heartbeat.

Your mom started feeling your little movements as early as 4 months. But, I had to wait a couple more months to feel you kick inside her. Now and then your mom would promptly pull my hand towards her belly, just to make me feel your movements. She would always mention that you jiggle a bit extra than usual whenever I used to talk and sing to you (despite my horrible voice). One of those days, you kicked in your mom so hard that I was able to feel it hit hard on my palm. It was such a blissful moment that momentarily got me goosebumps.

This one is definitely unparallel to the above two moments, in fact, unparallel to none.
It was quite stressful as the due date approached. It seems you felt so comfortable inside and didn’t even bother to come out, as your mother didn’t have any sign of labor pain even after the due date. On 27th November 2019, around 1 pm, while I was still in the middle of my work, I received a call from your mom that put me straight into the panic mode. She told me that the doctor has advised a c-section, as there was some complexity. I swiftly rushed to the hospital, where your mom was all prepped for surgery in a surgical gown. She instantly noticed my face filled with fright, then she held my hand tight and comforted me that it would be all fine. Yes, it should have been the other way around, but your mom is a strong woman. It’s really tough to explain how I felt waiting outside the operation theatre. It was a mix of anxiety and excitement at the same time. It was almost an hour since they took your mom into the OT. On the other side of the wall, I was trying hard to calm my nerves down with music and ignore everyone around. Around 6 pm, the nurse came out and announced that it’s a baby girl. OMG, I was literally jumping out of joy and can’t wait to meet you for the first time, because I always wanted a girl child. Then 15 mins later, the doctor walked out of the OT holding you and handed you over to my mom and mentioned that you were born at 5.25 pm and weighed 2.450 kgs. You looked so adorable and cute. I can’t be happy enough. A few minutes later, they bought your mom out of the OT. Despite the effect and discomfort of anesthesia, her face glowed with a faint smile. That smile meant a lot of things to me, it’s like telling me that I got what I wanted always. I am pretty sure that she would have been the happiest person that day. That’s definitely one of the most defining and exciting moments of my life.

Just before 15 days, on 15th December 2019, we officially named you Iniyaal (இனியாள்) in a simple naming ceremony at your maternal grandparent’s home. Guess what, I am the one who came up with that name even a few months before you were born.

Now you are just a month old baby who spends most of the time feeding and sleeping. I admire every tiny aspect of you and go really crazy when you smile, though you smile quite rarely. Very cute and adorable, I must say.

That priceless smile.

Currently, you are a Chamathu innocent baby, but soon you would become an annoying kid. I hope eventually you transform into an intelligent girl and a strong woman. I wish that you grow up as a queen of your own world, rather than the little princess of mine. And, I extend all my support for the same.

Your mom would definitely kill me for posting the below pic. But, just look at the way she adores you. She loves you a lot Iniyaal.

Again, I apologize for the lengthy and boring letter.

Be Happy and Keep Smiling.

Your Awesome Loving Dad,
Gokoulane

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 2

Surprised?

Pertaining to a hypercritical life event, I am quite unsure about the availability of my time by the end of this month to write this blog post. So, trying to churn out something before I get super busy. Isn’t something better than nothing?

A quick recap from the last blog post in this trek series.
We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp.

Day 2: 28th July 2019

We woke up around 4 am as instructed. Being a habitual early riser, it wasn’t hard at all for me. In no time, we quickly packed our bags and lunch for the day. Then we had a quick huddle for instructions followed by flagging off the bus by 5 am. The route was quite scenic with the clouds passing over the mountains, the valleys and the rivers flowing through them. Believe me, there is nothing like the view of breaking of dawn over the mountains. And, that’s the kind of scene I adore a lot.

It was all fine until our driver stopped the bus out of nowhere. Initially, we thought he stopped for nature’s call. But was super shocked at what we saw a few feet away. It was a bus simar to ours met with an accident and about to plunge down the valley. The only thing that was holding the bus from falling down was a thick fiber optic cable and a stone beneath it. Luckily it was just the driver riding the bus empty who somehow managed to escape safely. Then I realized it’s not just the climate on the mountains that’s unpredictable, the roads too. It took almost an hour for the local authorities and workers to slightly widen the road allowing passage of vehicle in a direction at a time. In the meanwhile, we had bread-jam, biscuits, and juice that we packed in bulk from the base camp.

That one bus crash

After a couple of hours on the road, the driver stopped by a Dhaba. Damn, I wouldn’t have stuffed myself with bread-jam and biscuits if I would have been aware of such hot and yummy Parathas that I could get on the way. Again around 11 am, we took a brief stop for some tea. It was such a bliss to drink tea by the riverbank covered by mountains. OMG, the view was breathtaking and even made not so good tea feel worthwhile. Later we crossed the town of Karnaprayag and stopped for lunch around 1.30 pm. We munched on stale Chapathi and Bhindi (Ladies finger/Okra) that we packed from our base camp. Luckily, the nearby shop served some Maggi for rescue.

A yet another 4 hours of tiring continuous bus journey took us to our next camp Joshimath aka Jyotirmath by 6.30 pm. Luckily they served some hot Tea and Pakodas for relief as soon as we checked in. As we freshened up, around 8 pm, some hot Rotis and Potato Curry were served for dinner. After some 12 hours of continuous and tiring bus journey, all I needed was some good rest. I dozed off with a little excitement of trekking after a long gap the next day. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 3: 29th July 2019

Being an early riser, I woke up around 5 am as usual. As the dawn broke, I stood in a corner and rejoiced the view of clouds slowly moving over the mountains far away. Though it was a bit cold outside, the serenity of the environment brought peace and warmth to my soul. Narcissistically, I thanked my self for giving me such a blissful experience. Then came the hot Tea to add some warmth to the body too. While I was busy clicking some pics, our camp leader pointed to a nearby mountain and asked what do I see. After taking a closer look, I replied, it looks like a face. Then he corrected me saying, they call it the sleeping lady. Damn, how did I fail to notice, it did look like one.

Waking up to the views like these

Least I knew, Joshimath is famous for its temples. It’s also home to one of the four Maths established by the Indian saint Adi Shankaracharya. As most of us were interested, we decided to visit a few temples before heading towards our next camp. As planned, we started at 7 am after breakfast. First, we visited the most famous Adi Shankaracharya’s Math (monastery) and the nearby Kalpavriksha (divine tree) where he worshiped. Then we visited the marvelous Narsingh temple.

It was around 10 am when we got dropped at Govindghat, from where our trek would commence. For the ease of trek, we were given a couple of options. First, our bags could be ported directly to Ghangaria camp by Mules. Second, the initial 4 km of the route is motorable and could be covered by Jeep. Only after trekking the 1st 4 km, I realized that I failed to factor in an important aspect while considering the options, and that’s my fitness. By the time we reached the Pulna village (end of the motorable road), I was tired and dehydrated. While everyone else in our gang went ahead on their own phase, it was Nigilan who stuck with me accompanied me the whole route. After having our packed lunch at Pulna, to reach the camp alive, we decided to put our bags on the Mule and continue the trek. The next 6km wasn’t that difficult with moderate ups and downs. At the end of 10 km, we had Maggi and Tea in a shop along the fierce stream of water running down the mountains.

I must say, we literally crawled the final 4km. Blame the super steep stretch and exhausted us. It was the mutual pep talks and serenity of the mountains that motivated us all along the way. The sky was almost dark when we reached our camp at Ghangaria (10,000 ft) around 7 pm. Though our friends were worried about us being late, that didn’t stop them from playing a big prank on us. They almost made us believe that our bags were lost as the Mule fell on the way. After freshening up, we had our dinner and played some UNO. I dozed as my body screamed for some rest. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To be continued …

You Might Be The Next One To Get Hacked

Spooked by the title? I was equally shocked after hearing about the incident that happened to one of my friends in the US.

It has been a long time since we last spoke, so we connected over a WhatApp call. Post sharing the usual pleasantries, out of curiosity and concern, I asked him why he isn’t active in social media these days. I was expecting his answer to be a hectic work schedule or some personal problems. But, to my surprise, he replied that his accounts got hacked. Eventually, when he had to decide between saving his financial accounts or social media accounts, he had to let go of social media accounts. If someone techie as my friend could get hacked easily, the case of the rest sounds really scary to me. Digging a little deeper, this is how my friend got hacked exactly.

  1. My friend entered his mobile number on the day of flight information while checking in for an American Airlines flight scheduled for the next day.
  2. Data breach at AA systems
  3. A few hours later, my friend received a notification from his mobile service provider that his number was activated in yet another device. Yes, you read it right. The telecom operator provides a feature that enables customers to use the same mobile number across multiple devices.
  4. Realizing something fishy, he immediately reached his mobile operator to report the issue and block the new device.
  5. Within the next 10 mins, he received two One Time Passwords (OTP) one for his personal Gmail account and the other for the Cash App (payments/fund transfer app)
  6. After getting access to his Gmail, the hacker not only changed the password but also the mobile number used for 2-factor authentication.
  7. Using the e-mail, the hacker also got access to all of my friend’s social media accounts and started posting abusive content.
  8. In the meantime, the hacker also transferred $100 out of my friend’s account via the Cash app.
  9. Not just that, the hacker ordered a cheesecake via a food delivery app using my friend’s credit card (Too much I say).
  10. The worst part was, the hacker even tried to apply for a loan using my friend’s Social Security Number.

Somehow my friend was able to recover his financial losses as the bank refunded the unauthorized transactions. But he lost his e-mail, social media accounts and definitely his peace of mind. If this could happen to my well-educated techie friend, all I can wonder is the case of the people who have just started using these digital channels. Especially the elders who aren’t much exposed to technology and not much aware of its risks. If you think this issue only concerns the people in the US, you are wrong. India is no exception in this as many similar sim-swap frauds have been reported in recent times. Probably, the following precautions might save you from becoming a victim to these hacks.

  • This one is the most basic of all. Never ever share your passwords, pin numbers, and OTPs
  • Don’t blindly believe in the messages that you receive via WhatsApp, E-Mail, and SMS. Especially the Nigerian prince who wants to share his wealth.
  • Kindly reinforce the above message to your parents & grandparents as the majority of the victims fall under the same age group.
  • Both your e-mail and mobile number are sensitive information. Share it one and only when it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Better to have 2 sets of e-mail and mobile number. Use one solely for highly critical usages such as banking & payments related apps. Dedicate the other for less trivial usage such as website and event registrations.
  • Have a habit of periodically review the following in the security settings of your e-mail and social media accounts.
    • The devices you are logged in from – Remove the inactive devices from the list
    • 3rd party access to your accounts – Avoid this as you don’t have any control over how 3rd party use your data
  • Make a list of what you would lose if you completely lose access to your primary e-mail account. In the case of highly critical items in the list, either make a backup or add an additional recovery mechanism.
  • Keep your mobile devices & financial apps updated to protect you from new security threats.

As they say, precaution is better than cure.

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 1

Been a while since I wrote a trek series, the last one was the Sar Pass way back in 2017. It’s not like I went on a trek and didn’t write a word about it. I skipped the trekking trip in 2018 due to my wedding and went on a short trip to Amritsar, Delhi & Agra and honeymoon trip to Meghalaya. So when my friends were planning for the Valley Of Flowers, I jumped on the wagon with no hesitation.

Before marriage, I would simply inform my parent a day prior then pack my bags and go on trips. But the post-marriage scenario is a bit different and it would be worst on my part if I don’t credit my lovely wife here. She really understands my love for traveling and super supportive of me going on this trip in spite of some resistance from my family. So, thanks a lot Banksy, it was one much-needed trip for me.

As they say, any trip is good just as much as your company. So I better introduce the people who made this trip most memorable. To start with, it’s Jayashree (a.k.a Buddy) and Nigilan, yes the same friends from all of my previous treks and many other trips before. Then we had Thiyagarajan (a.k.a Thiyaga), the Thagappa/Daddy of the gang who was part of my first Sandakphu Trek. What’s charm without new people, we had Govindarajan (a.k.a Govi) and Himakar (a.k.a Hima) who are the work buddies of Jayashree.

This time also our trek was with the Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) and the main reason for this being their nominal price for the amenities they provide. Though the trek was scheduled for July the planning for the same has started well in advance by Jan. This helped us to register for the trek before the slots get filled, apply for leaves well in advance, and book flight tickets before the price goes sky high.

Day 0: 26th July 2019

In spite of all those advance planning, I was due shopping and packing with just less than a day left. Thanks to the gang for sharing one elaborate checklist which helped to a greater extent. I began my shopping only post afternoon and somehow completed the same by the eve. However, the mammoth task of packing was still pending. Finally, with some extra helping hands from my wife, I finished packing just before midnight. Seems I took the words packing at the 11th hour quite seriously 😀

Finally ....

Day 1: 27th July 2019

With our flight from Chennai to Dehradun via Hyderabad scheduled for departure at 11.15 AM, all of us reached the airport around 10 am and checked in on time. Nigilan was the only exception as he told he would be flying directly from Bengaluru via Mumbai. After roughly an hour in the sky, we reached Hyderabad airport. To our surprise, Nigilan was there at Hyderabad Airport awaiting us. In the meantime waiting to board the connecting flight, we munched on some overpriced airport restaurants. It was around 4.15 pm when we touched down at the Dehradun Jolly Grant airport. I was super excited to set foot on a state that I have never been to. Happy to cross one more from my list. From there, we hired a prepaid taxi and headed straight to our base camp at Rishikesh.

Upon arriving at the base camp, we completed our registration process and were allocated rooms. While repacking our stuff, we all realized that we missed packing a few small items. So, we decided to pay a visit to the nearby market for some quick shopping. After done with shopping amidst some surprise rains, we felt hungry and decided to have something light like a snack. Our search narrowed on a newly opened restaurant that served hot samosas, Kachoris, and fresh Ghewar. Back to the base camp, we separately packed the extra clothes and deposited the same before having our dinner. Before heading to the bed, we were all instructed by our camp leader to wake up and get ready by early morning 5 am. That’s how one awesome day came to an end.

 

 

To be continued …