Trek to Sandakphu – Part 2 – Dear Darjeeling

Recap from the last post: We reached Kolkata by flight, roamed there for a couple of days. Then, we took a train from Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri.

Our late night train brought us to New Jalpaiguri around 10.00 am on 24-04-2016 (Day 0). The best way to reach Darjeeling (2,042 m) from there is by car or van. But, we had a tough time finding one for us. Most of the drivers weren’t ready just for the drop, they were looking for passengers who would take a package which is profitable for them. The other problem is the language which made the bargain hard. But, somehow our guys managed to get an SUV and a Car for a better price. Around 12 pm we had a pitstop for out brunch. I should call it lunch, as we haven’t had our breakfast, I would better go with brunch. That place served us yummy MoMos, Chowmein, and Fish curry. After the lunch/brunch, our cars continued to climb up the mountain. As usual, I enjoyed peeping out the window, observing the changing landscapes and feeling the temperature of breeze caressing my face drop. The enjoyment continued until our car’s tyre became flat, luckily it got a Stepney and we decided to take a walk around till it’s fixed. While walking we heard a voice “Neenga Tamil ah” (Are you Tamil?), probably it’s our looks. The voice turned out to be Harish’s, who’s from Pondicherry and got settled in Darjeeling. Though he made fun of us that none of us drink, he pointed us to his shop where his wife served us some good tea. In the meanwhile, the tire got fixed and we resumed our journey to our base station. For me this place, Darjeeling reminds me of only one thing, my uncle. Me being a naughty and talkative kid during my childhood, he always used to scare me that he would put me in a strict convent in Darjeeling if I am not behaving myself. He would also mention that it’s on top of the mountain and I can’t even escape. This thing flashed in my mind on the way and all I could do was laugh at myself.

We reached our base camp Youth Hostel Association of India – Hotel Kadambari around 3.00 pm. Then, we got our rooms allotted in no time after registering by submitting our admit card and medical certificate. After freshening up and resting for a while we assembled for tea followed by induction programme. Out of 40 registered 38 reported  and the programme started with an intro section, where we all gave a brief introduction about ourselves. Then, the programme coordinator instructed us about the schedule, route, safety and other DOs & DONTs. Then, he also distributed our ID cards which are must be worn through out the trek. We also selected the group leader, sub-leader, Master of Ceremonies and environment leader who are Shubam, Sowmya, SakthiyaGiri and Geethakala respectively. After some chit-chat, we wrapped up the day with dinner.

The next day, 25-04-2016 (Day 1)  started with a short run and some stretching. Post our breakfast few of us visited a nearby Buddhist Monastery, it really felt calm and good to interact with the monks there. Then, we had an acclimatisation walk to the Zoo and to Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI). It was fun all the way, singing and enjoying the beautiful scenes around. HMI not only train mountaineers but also got one awesome museum where so many artifacts related to mountaineering, especially mount Everest. Even the original gears used by Mr.Tenzing Norgay and Mr.Edmund Hillary, the ones who successfully summited the Mount Everest is preserved. Unfortunately, it’s not allowed to click pictures inside the museum. But, outside the museum, there exists the final resting place of Padma Bhushan Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and a beautiful sculpture commemorating his Everest summit, which was unveiled by his companion and friend Sir Edmund Hillary himself. Mr. Norgay was also HMI’s first director of field training and HMI is one of his most favourite place on earth. Just thinking of this man would give me goosebumps, such an inspiration he is. The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park a.k.a Darjeeling Zoo is home and captive breeding center for endangered species which are adapted to alpine conditions like snow leopards, red pandas, gorals (mountain goat), Siberian tigers and a variety of endangered birds. After roaming around the Zoo for a while, we walked back to our base camp with singing, even more, louder all the way in spite of strange looks from the locals and others in the group. We never miss a chance to enjoy, you see. Taking a bath (as we won’t be able to bath for next 4 days), a bit of shopping and finally packing our bags for the trek consumed the rest of the day.

We woke up early on 26-04-2016 (Day 2), had breakfast early and prepared to leave. After the ceremonial flag off we boarded Vans that would take us till Dhotre which 2+ hours drive from our base camp.

To Be Continued…

Trek to Sandakphu – Part 1 – It’s Kolkata again

They say history repeats itself. Yes, in my case it almost did. Last time I was in Kolkata for my best friend’s wedding, hope you have read my blog post on the same. But, this time, it’s on our way to Youth Hostel Association of India trek to Sandakphu.

First, let me start with the story of “How It All Began”. About 8 months back we a set of friends had an awesome trip to Coorg and Goa, which I never wrote about. The same gang decided to go for yet an another trip and we ended up with this. Fortunately, a few got added and unfortunately a few couldn’t make it. As some of us are from Chennai and some of us are from Bengaluru, we decided to meet up at Kolkatta and continue our journey from there.

On 22-04-2016 (Day -2) We Chennai guys, i.e, Me, Jai (Buddy), Sudhakaran (Puppy) and Thiyagarajan (Daddy/Thagappa) had our early morning flight to Kolkata by 2.20 am. We boarded our Jet Konnect and the best thing about that flight is, they gave me something good to eat even as early as 3.00 am while I was half sleep. We touched down around 4.30 am and headed straight to our hotel after a tea. The hotel was in a century-old building on a rustic narrow crowded bazaar lane and that was a huge shock for us. But, the rooms were neat, clean and modern as if they got no connection or relevance with the locality. Sincere thanks to OYO Rooms and our friend who booked it. Prem yet another from Chennai and our Bengaluru guys Nigilan (Padhala Dhadha), Sakthiyagiri (Giri), Lavanya and Lakshmi joined us later that morning.

While others were resting, I had a critical mission to complete. To meet my friend Srijani’s mom and deliver her the thing which my mom got for her. Luckily Jai and Nigilan voluntarily accepted to give me company. I think it was a wrong decision to take a bus to her home as the weather was hot and humid as much as Chennai. My friend Srijani’s mom is so sweet and lovely person. Last time she gave my mom a beautiful Bengali cotton saree, this time, she gave my sis and my friend Shaul’s wife a beautiful Salwar suit. She also fed us with yummy authentic Bengali food. The Potol, Prawns and Fish curry were super yummy and Rasgullas are something to die for. She must have made food with so much love, It filled our stomach as well as our soul. Couldn’t thank her enough for it. From there we took a cab back to our hotel.

On reaching hotel we realized that we are already running late for the wedding that we had to attend. Yaaay, yet another Bengali wedding. Knowing that our stay at Kolkata coincides with her wedding, Nigilan’s friend Madhura Banerjee has graciously invited all of us to be present at the auspicious occasion. As the wedding is in Bandel, a suburb of Kolkata, we decided to take a train from Howrah to reach there. As it’s peak hour and that too on a weekday, the trains were heavily packed. We somehow managed to board a loaded compartment and ended up standing for rest of the journey, which is around an hour. We had a warm welcome at the wedding. After wishing the couples who were busy with the wedding rituals, we enjoyed our favorite part of the wedding, FOOD. After having a sumptuous wedding dinner, we boarded the train back to Howrah, but this time, it was lot emptier. It was already around 11 pm while we reached there and the taxis demanded an atrocious fare to drop us back. So, we decided to take a walk as the hotel was just 2 km away and as it would aid a bit in digestion. We walked over the famous Howrah Bridge. The full moon, the strong breeze from the Hooghly and my favorite track in my ears made the moment memorable. I was dead tired when we reached our rooms and my body refused to do anything other than sleeping, and that’s how the day ended for me.

Next day 23-04-2016 (Day -1) started with something funny, our friend Nigilan went to the nearby shop and this happened.
Nigilan: Bhaiya, Ek plate Vada (Bro, 1 plate Vada)
Shopkeeper: Thambi neenga tamil ah? (Bro, Are you a tamil?)
Though Nigilan used his best Hindi, sad that he couldn’t conceal his original identity.

Then, we started to Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission which is one of the significant institutions in Kolkata and was founded by Swami Vivekananda himself. But, one doesn’t get lucky always, the Math got closed for lunch the time we got in there. After finishing off our lunch at a nearby shop, we all headed to the famous Victoria Memorial. As I wrote enough about this place in my last Kolkata post (Sun TV, Top 10 movie style) let me better introduce the ones who joined us there. It’s none other than Geethakala (G2/Puli) from Bengaluru and Monica (Micky/Eli) from Chennai. From there we hopped to Babughat to experience the ferry ride to Howrah. From Howrah, we hoped to go to Kalighat, but we had to drop that plan due to the insufficiency of time. We went back to our rooms, got freshened up, checked out and started to Sealdah railway station. What else, It was dinner time, we finished our lunch at the railway canteen and boarded Padatik Express to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) around 11 PM. This city has been very kind to me, Wish I could have met a few more beloved ones there. But the situations are such that I couldn’t, my apologies, hopefully, will meet when I am there next.

Isn’t the pattern Kolkata, Bengali Wedding, Rasgullas, Aunty’s Gift, Victoria Memorial and ferry ride to Howrah sounds familiar? Definitely, it won’t unless you read my previous Kolkata post. That’s how History Repeats Itself.

To Be Continued…

A Musical Day

People who are close to me know well that I am such an ardent music listener, especially my colleagues who sit near me. Nothing would upset them as much as me singling out of blue. Music is something that would keep me happy, pacify me when I am down and keep me motivated. Enough of introductions, let’s come to the point. I can never say no to anything that has to do with music, that too when I was invited to visit a music school. There was no second thought, not even first thought, it was an instant yes from me.

It was like a trip, along with Bragadeesh Prasanna, Vidhya, Mahesh Lakshmanan and Sindhu JP, my blogging friends from Chennai Bloggers Club. We were also joined by Sai Vinai from Brand-comm, a PR agency. We started around 11 am after driven for 2 hours we reached Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music at Seekinankuppam village on ECR by 1 pm. We had our lunch at their cafeteria along with students and faculties. The students are too passionate that they were discussing music even while having food, which sounded greek and latin to me. Then we had a tour around the campus. The whole building was designed in the shape of a piano. We visited their classrooms and practice halls specially designated for piano, guitar, percussion, and vocals. They also had 2 big recital halls meant for events and lectures. One could notice most of the classrooms and practice rooms in the college are named after great musicians like Dr. Balamurali Krishna, Beethoven, Mozart, etc.

I have always dreamt of and still dreaming of learning music, hopefully, some day. But, at times I become lucky. It was the concluding day of their 5-day spring camp and I got a chance to attend Konnakol (vocal percussion) class by eminent Ghatam player Dr.karthik. The class was about basic talas (beats) and kaarvais (rhythmic rest). Though I was completely clueless about most of the things he said, I sat throughout the session and thoroughly enjoyed it. The class got concluded with an awesome extempore performance by the faculties which includes Mili Vizcaino for Vocals (Western), Sid Jacobs on the Guitar, Pablo Lapidusas on the Piano, Fabio Bergamini on Drums, Johann Berby on Bass Guitar, Sreyas Narayanun for Vocal (Indian Music), Dr.S.Karthick  on the Ghatam.

The best part of the day was listening to Dr. L. Shankar a violinist, singer, composer, and Grammy award winner . He is well known for his invention of the double violin. It was inspiring listening to his musical journey. Following are few of his words of wisdom.

  • Don’t express your view unless you are asked for.
  • Practice to make your music perfect; do not practice for a performance.
  • Do what you believe in, it I’ll take care of everything.
  • Don’t be around people who are negative to creativity, they are like poison.
  • What’s good to somebody is not good to somebody else.
  • The importance of breathing and not using drugs, to youth in general, to musicians in particular.

The day got concluded with a great performance by Just Fusion, a fusion band. On the way back we listened to all our favorite track. It made the day even more memorable.

Just fusion band, Playing.

Just fusion band, Playing.

The One Who Ignored

Incident 1:
It was a usual Monday at work and definitely not an exciting day. I usually have lunch with a group of friends and this day is no different and usual conversations continued.

Me: I went to this Wild Tribe Ranch in ECR last Friday eve and it was awesome.
Friend: What’s that?
Me: It’s an adventure park, you must try it.
Friend: How much did it cost you?
Me: I didn’t pay, they had their pre-inaugural event that day and I was invited.
Friend: How come they invited you?
Me: I am part of this Chennai Bloggers Club, and such establishments collaborate with them for brand promotion.
Friend: Is there a shortage of bloggers in Chennai?
Me: No, There are plenty. (Innocently)

It might have taken me some time to understand his mockery. But, at the same time I was wondering how many posts of mine he might have read, probably none.


Incident 2:
My office was sponsoring its employees to run in Chennai Marathon.

Friend1: Last time you were volunteering na so, this time, you better sign up at least for a 10Km run.
Me: I think I’ll give it a try.
Colleague: You!! Run? You look like a potato, and you would probably end up rolling all the way instead of running. (Laughing heavily)

This was probably because I was this fat, stout looking guy back then and he, a slim one. But now, I am pretty much the same fat, stout looking guy who can run and cycle a little longer than before.


All my life I had people around me who would look down upon me. Maybe it’s my looks or my attitude or their natural tendency or whatever, I am still clueless about it. At times, it’s from people close to me making it difficult for me to act indifferent. My greatest struggle is bypassing all those negativity that makes me feel inferior. Since my childhood, I had so many people around me telling me why I won’t and can’t do certain things. I know it’s the same case in most of our lives.

The only way for me to overcome struggle is to simply ignore them, if not the person, at least, their words. Nowadays, my weapon against them is my smile, my “good, thank you, now go and mind your own business” smile. They say “Ignorance is bliss”, but in my case “Ignoring is bliss”. Being optimistic has made a significant change in my life. I learnt to put these silly things behind me and concentrate on the things I like to do. I learnt to get inspired and motivated from even the tiniest of things. Be it a second faster than my previous run or a bot following my blog, those tiny things are motivating enough for me to cruise ahead. I have also developed a kind of aggressiveness within, not the fierce one like a shark, but like a duck. Yes, duck it is. I know it’s not a pretty animal to compare oneself with. A duck might look calm outside, gliding across the water, but, beneath the water, it relentlessly paddles its feet. That’s the kind of aggressiveness I am talking about.

I feel happy when someone comes up to me and tells me that they have started running or blogging inspired by me or something I had said. It feels like an achievement. Nothing adds more positivity than surrounding yourself with positive people. Thankfully, there is another kind of people in my life too, the ones who stand by me, help me through my tough times and support me. I am grateful to all those wonderful souls in my life.

My smiles keep the negativity miles away. I just want to be this happy soul.


 This entry is part of ‘I Struggled but Overcame’ contest organized by Chennai Bloggers Club(CBC).

And here is the link to the trailer of the book which contains our very own impressions of the CHENNAI FLOODS titled ” AFTER THE FLOODS

Kicking Fear At Wild Tribe Ranch

I recently got invited to the pre-inaugural event of Wild Tribe Ranch, an adventure park at ECR. Apart from hanging out with really cool people, these are some of the perks of being a part of an awesome group like The Chennai Bloggers Club. As the event was  to begin at 3.15pm, on a Friday no less, I had to escape early from my office which is located quite far from the event’s venue. Sincere thanks to my manager who granted me permission to get lost without asking for much reason.

Enterance

We were welcomed with a drink and passed the time chitchatting with each other. Then there was a quick intro session about the place and their brand etc. I really liked their mascot, a monkey named “MicMac” which means “My Friend” in Native American tongue. It reminded me of a monkey character named “Rancho” from an age old DD series named “Raja our Rancho.” Probably Raja should have named it “Wild Tribe Rancho”. I know, I am thinking too much.

That happy me , Glasses Courtesy : Raji :)

That happy me , Glasses Courtesy : Raji:)

They have many adventurous activities and the 1st thing we tried was an obstacle course named “Devil’s Ramp” and I was the brave heart who volunteered to try it first, thanks to the encouragement given by my friends (Ippadi usupethi usupethiyae …). Definitely, it wasn’t as easy as it looks. I felt the adrenaline rush as I was crossing each and every obstacle. Thanks to my friends who were clicking pics, I could, at least, mask my fear with my smile. One good thing about the place is their safety policy which goes hand in hand with their slogan “Safety First, Fun Next.” Safety is being taken care of at each and every point, from safety sign boards at every corner to harness, ropes and helmet during the activities. Then, I spent some time taking bowling practice in their mini cricket pitch, where my short pitches and full tosses were blasted in all directions.

The next best part was playing paintball. I was so excited to play it for the very first time. I played it a couple of rounds. At first, I got shot in my leg, but thankfully I was wearing a thick jean which minimized the pain. But, I wasn’t lucky the next round as the paintball hit straight on my head and hurt me really bad. They should have probably named it pain ball instead of paintball.

It’s not only these, they also have other activities like road ATVs, Gyroscope, Billie the Bull and Ejection Bungie that would be enough to feed the adventurous beast inside you. I thoroughly enjoyed being there and will visit again for more fun.

If you dare for more adventure, Go and kick the fear at
https://www.facebook.com/wildtriberanch

Sincere thanks to Annan Jothi Vel Moorthi of jovemac.in and Somu Padmanabhan sir of woodooz.com for those lovely pics. Special thanks to Sindhu JP of sindhujp.com for being our official selfie stick.

It all begins at home

I would better start this post by narrating a recent incident happened at my home.

It was a lazy Sunday and I was unusually at home. Late morning, my mom announced that my aunt i.e. my dad’s cousin sister and her family is visiting us today.  So, she gave me a list to get things from the market and I happily did it. Cos, vegetable and grocery shopping is the only shopping that I ever enjoyed since my childhood. Though the above fact is less reverent to the context, there is nothing wrong in knowing more about me. Mom cooked an awesome lunch for all of us, when it was about to be served, I saw the hall bit shabby and started to sweep it. My aunt got panicked and tried to get the broomstick from me. She said “How could you allow a man to sweep the floor” looking at my mom. My mom gave an epic reply “It’s his house and it’s his duty to clean. Nothing wrong men cleaning their house, your brother (my dad) would have done the same if he is at home”. Then my mom went on “He (me) wants to marry a working woman only and I don’t want my daughter in law doing all work complaining about my son sitting on the couch doing nothing. It’s right time he gets to learn and do all this work”. I couldn’t control my laugh, seeing my aunt’s confused and clueless reaction. This awesome woman, my mom has never failed to surprise and inspire me. I always wonder how she is this broad-minded, though being from a narrow social background.

They say Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus. But, fortunately, or, unfortunately, they both had to coexist on earth. As they both from a different planet, I strongly feel that they both deserve equal rights on earth. Sounds stupid and baseless? I know that. But today being International Women’s Day which insists on promoting equal rights, let’s talk Gender Equality seriously. The only reason I quoted above incident is to point the existence of gender stereotypes on one side and positive social transformation on the other.

I see no point when people just talk about feminism on and on but don’t even follow a bit at their homes. But, I feel few simple people like my mom, who’s least aware of all these jargons are actually the ones who is fuelling this social transformation. The only better way to sow good values into your son or daughter is to lead them by being a good example. You can’t expect your son to respect other women when you don’t treat your son and daughter equally at home. You can’t expect your son not to abuse other women when you abuse your own wife. Yes, society outside is pretty hard on women, but restricting them in the name of protection doesn’t help either. Better, be supportive to them in their initiatives and aspirations. What we sow is what we reap. Better sow equality at your home to reap a better society.

Wish my Mom, Sister, friends and all other great women who are part my life a happy International Women’s Day. This post is dedicated to you.

Loveu Letter

Dear Love,

Hope you are fine?. Probably, I shouldn’t be asking you this question today. It’s valentine’s day and the whole world is celebrating you. You are the one of the best things that came across my life, wish you stayed bit longer. I can’t blame you either, both villains EGO and religion played their part in temporarily flushing you out of my life. You know what, it’s been years, but I still miss those beautiful moments being with you. You are awesome and magical, aren’t u?. You pushed beyond my comfort zones and made me do crazy things. I enjoyed it all until you left me one fine day, alone and dry. It was hard and disastrous for me. Somehow I moved on, filled my life with things that would fill your absence. But, there is this small void which I couldn’t avoid. The wounds are healed, but the scar remains and reminds you. All I now wish is for someone who could bring you back to me. This time, I am gonna hold you tight and gentle. I have learnt how fragile you are, so will handle you with care. Hope you don’t keep me waiting too long.

Many are happy today because of you, please stay with them forever. Many more are still hoping for you, you are their last hope. Reach them soon and keep them happy too. I can imagine the world with no air and no water, but not without you. Be there for us always.

Love You Love.

Yours Lovingly
Gokoulane Ravi

This is a post written for a Valentine’s Day – Write a love letter campaign organized by The Chennai Bloggers Club.

Visit http://www.chennaibloggers.in for more details.