Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 1

If you are curious about the reason, me penning down this post about a trip that I took nearly 6 months ago? No worries, I can completely answer it all in a couple of points.

  1. I am a master procrastinator.
  2. I love to get nostalgic.

There had been several inspirations behind my trips such as Friends, Food, Nature and Adventure. But, what if the main inspiration for this trip is a song from a movie that got released way back in 2006.

Yes, ever since I saw the movie Rang De Basanti, visiting Amritsar has become a dream. Unfortunately, my multiple plans to visit Amritsar never realized until this trip. Initially, I intended to travel solo. But, later chose to go with a bunch of friends. Isn’t more the merrier Firstly, let me introduce you the gang. Shashi, Remya, Kavinnila, Shalini and yours truly.

Day 1: 27th Mar 2018

As planned, all of us assembled in Chennai Airport to board our flight. As we were all a bit early, it was perfect to catch up over some food and coffee. Around 8 pm, we boarded the Indigo destined for Delhi. The flight wasn’t a long one, so we reached our destination Delhi by 12 am. We had to spend our night at the airport as our train to the next stop was scheduled to depart the next day morning. We killed most of the time conversing diverse topics over Momos, Tea and some occasional walk around the Airport. Finally, I felt a lot of excitement burst into me when the dawn broke.

 

Day 2: 28th Mar 2018

Early in the morning, we took a metro to the New Delhi Railway Station. From there, we boarded SWARNA SHATABDI around 7.30 am, our train to Amritsar. To my relief, they served us Tea and Breakfast on the train. We were expected to reach Amritsar by 1.40 pm, but the train got delayed and arrived around 3 pm only. That almost put us on the verge of spoiling the entire plan for the rest of our day.

You can call it all luck, and there is always someone for the rescue when in trouble. This time it’s an auto driver whom we hired to drop us at the hostel from the railway station. My bad, I even forgot his name. After hearing me stressed up and discussing options to reach our next destination on time, he came forward and offered to take us to Attari – Wagah Border and back at quite a nominal price. That’s so kind of him.

Yeah, you read it right. How come I come all the way to Amritsar and miss the beating retreat ceremony at Wagah border. Even watching it on TV or YouTube would give me goosebumps. Our initial plan was to go to the hostel, drop our bags and immediately start to Wagah. But, few of us prioritized taking a shower and getting freshened up. That pissed me off as we had a short window of time. Considering the usual crowd there, we had a high probability of denying entry.

Our Auto Anna drove awesome that day. He was swift on the road overtaking other vehicles. It was such a nail-biting moment. Finally, we reached the border entry almost on time. Shashi chose to stay back as he had a business call to take care. We ran to the security check area so that we could secure a spot. As the ques are different for men and the woman, I lost track of my friends. All my efforts to search and reach them went in vain. Even the calls didn’t connect due to no cellular network. Just hoping that they were safe, I continued to the stands to witness the ceremony. The following is the excerpt from Wikipedia about the ceremony.

The ceremony starts with a blustering parade by the soldiers from both sides and ends up in the perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nations’ flags. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again.

Amidst a large crowd, I somehow secured a spot at the bottom-most level of the stand. Continuous slogans such as “Jai Hind” & “Vande Mataram” and playing of patriotic songs made my blood rise and beam with patriotism and pride. One must be there to experience the intense energy around. Then started the actual ceremony and our Border Security Force put out a spectacular show. They marched with Pride, Patriotism, and Aggression. India would easily outrun Pakistan when it comes to cheering for their soldiers at the ceremony. While trying to click some pics, I got stamped in the crowd. Luckily a woman BFS officer came to my rescue and lifted me up. My sincere thanks to her. It was such an electrifying atmosphere. I am currently in the deficit of words in expressing the same. Finally, the ceremony got over with the flags lowered on both the sides and it’s unquestionably one of the experiences of the lifetime.

Then again I resumed my search for my friends. I had to move away from the border gates to gain some signal and contact my friends. Finally, after a few calls and text messages, we got united. Phew, what a relief to know that they were all safe. We were all super hungry as we skipped our lunch in a rush to get here on time. So we temporarily filled our stomach with some Aalo Tikki and Pani Poories.

Our Auto Anna was awesome. He stopped by a lush wheat field to click some pics. He even took us to a nice Dhaba that served yummy Rottis, Naans and Butter Chicken for dinner.

Post dinner, we were finally back to our hostel. All we wanted was to rest after quite a long day. As always life had a twist for us, but there was both good and bad in it. The bad part is, the dorms got double booked due to some software glitch and got allocated to the other foreign guests. Now the good part, We were provided dorms at a hostel quite near to the Golden Temple and got transported there free of cost too.

That’s how an awesome day came to an end.

I am concluding here, as our next place deserves a dedicated blog post.

To Be Continued …

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Force Majeure

A wise person once said, “Do your duty as you see it, and damn the consequences”. So, writing this in spite of my wedding tomorrow (Yes, a dedicated post on it will be up shortly) as I feel obligated to do the same.

If you are someone who deals with business contracts a day in and day out, I am pretty sure the title makes sense to you. However, for the rest, the below must help.

Force Majeure literally means greater force. These clauses excuse a party from liability if some unforeseen event beyond the control of that party prevents it from performing its obligations.

Before I start, I just wanted to assure you that this post is definitely not about the Force Majeure contract clause and sub-clauses. It’s just a fancy title hook to make you read the post.

I am gonna try put forth my views through a hypothetical situation. Hope it helps.

Let’s consider that you had a long day and you are on your way back home, kinda late at night. En route, you see a bus got into a brutal accident. You witness the passengers were struggling to get out of it and the bus entirely flipped. As it’s late in the night, they are mostly on their own and striving to get out of it. What would you do?

  • Wouldn’t you run to help them?
  • Try to save lives?
  • Call the ambulance?
  • Try to get all the assistance you could?

OR

  • Would you be standing and investigating the root cause of the mishap?
  • Sit and debate if it was cos the passengers had the food that you wouldn’t approve
  • Discus if it was cos a female driver wanted to drive the bus which was usually driven by a male driver?
  • Obstruct others from helping by stating some laws?
  • Shamelessly portray that you are helping and stealing the credits of the genuine saviors?

The above is not any other hypothetical situation. You can very much relate to what’s happening in Kerala. And, it’s quite heart-wrenching to see what’s God’s own country is going through.

My very first trip out of Tamil Nadu (excluding yearly trips to Tirupathi) is to Munar, Azhapuzha & Thekadi in Kerala during my school days. I still treasure the pictures I clicked there using a film camera. Many others followed including the recent Vagamon, Wayanad and Cochin trips. I have always been awestruck by its astounding natural beauty, food, and culture. But now, it’s saddening to see it getting drowned in floods.

What’s most unfortunate is a few who are politicizing the situation by paining it with tints of religion and caste. It’s ok if you don’t want to lend a helping hand, but don’t stop others from doing so. We are a county with high human values. There have been instances where we had even helped the people of counties considered as our enemies in their hardships. My hope on humanity never dies, whatever the case is, it triumphs surpassing all boundaries. I can say that confidently having witnessed it loud and clear during the Chennai floods.

My contribution to the flood relief might be pretty small, but I don’t feel it’s insignificant. When tiny-tiny raindrops could collectively cause this terrible flood, in the same way, our tiny-tiny contributions will collectively help to bring the state back to normal. And, that’s what makes the tiniest of our efforts significant. Let’s pour in all the help we could.

Dear Kerala, not far are the days when we will visit you for some peace of mind and see happy faces around as usual.

Till then let’s Care la for our Kerala.

4 The People

Yaay, it’s the last day of the month, my conventional blog publishing day. There is always something special about the month ends. Those are the days I deliver something concrete in spite of my thoughts drained as much as my pockets. Time to time, I use my blog to pour out my frustrations. Maybe, it’s cos I feel doing so in social media is kinda cliche.

“4 The People” was a Malayalam movie that was released when I was in my 10th grade. The same was released in Tamil as “4 Students” too. The song from the movies used to be my favs especially Lajavathiye and Unthan Vizhimunai. Most days pass by tuning into the morning radio show waiting to listen to these songs along with my other Rahman favs. That’s quite nostalgic. But, this only hit me after I started writing this blog post. So, this post is definitely not about this movie. If you are as nostalgic as me, you can listen to the songs below.

If you are from a middle-class family like mine, there is a high probability that you would die without meeting that “Naalu Peru” (4 /*the*/ People) who influenced your life more than anyone else in the universe. They are dedicated and care for you so much that their long nose is poked into your life forever. Fortunately, my parents didn’t impose much the choices of that “Naalu Peru” on me, until lately.

For most of my life, I was brought up as a freethinker. Even though I had a lot of thought differences with my parents, we always discussed and debated openly on those. Predominantly I was left to my own choices. As soon as my marriage got fixed, things gradually began to shift. I could see my preferences been overridden with what considered to be the preference of that “Nallu Peru” without any logical reasons that I could comprehend. All of a sudden, from the color of my clothes and my beard to the way I talk required the social approval of those “Naalu Peru”. Eventually, there were instances where I saw my self-respect vanishing into thin air. What really pisses me off is, when I shake my head for whatever crap you say for the same of courtesy, I am one good obedient guy. But, when you push me beyond my threshold with your stupid pieces of advice and make me counter it with questions that make sense, you bloody question my upbringing. “Pullaiya romba arpurdhama valathurukka ma nee” (Sarcastically commenting, you have awesomely raised your kid )  moment only.

Probably, These are the questions that I would definitely ask when I face those “Naalu Peru”.

  • What’s your problem?
  • Where were you when we had problems?
  • How are you this good at finding faults?
  • We have a dedicated job in our company called Quality Analyst, who’s only job is to find faults, would you be interested in joining full time? Why do it for free when you are good at something?

If you are one of that 4 people, kindly pay attention. I don’t want to live 4 the people, but to live 4 my people. To live 4 me and my loved ones. So, get lost. Peace.

P.S: Really sorry for the frustration overflow, I really needed to vent it out of my garbage collection.

Essence Of Time

It’s already half past 9 in the eve and all I got is less than 3 hours to publish this post. My laziness, a busy month, procrastination and a lot could be blamed for writing this in the nick of the moment, as usual. However, my strict monthly target of at least one blog post per month and a hand full of readers who regularly read my blog is what that motivates me to keep on writing. Can’t thank you guys enough.

I almost hit the wall deciding on the topic for this blog post. What came to rescue is the topic that I was discussing with my fiance yesterday. Yeah, you read it right. I am currently engaged and getting married pretty soon. Wait for it guys, that episode deserves a separate blog post.  There is a reason why I had to mention her here and I really feel pity for that poor soul. Just for the mistake of making me wait for a couple of minutes, she had to painstakingly listen me talk about punctuality and integrity of the Japanese people for half an hour. In the ESSENCE OF TIME, I will keep this shot.

There is a general opinion that we Indians are quite insensitive about TIME, which I feel is true to an extent. I have this best buddy of mine, out of all the times we have met, only once he was on time and that lead me to a deep shock. I am really sorry da to pull you down here, didn’t have a choice. This doesn’t mean I am punctual all the time, but at least try to be on time. Worst case, I apologize when I am late.  It’s okay to be insensitive about your own time, it’s once own choice. But, where we fail the most when we fail to appreciate the time of others.

“Arriving late was a way of saying that your own time was more valuable than the time of the person who waited for you.”
-Karen Joy Fowler, The Jane Austen Book Club

I wish I could say the above is my all time favorite quote and all that. But, just copied from Goodreads site so that it suits the context.

Have you appreciated the friend who patiently listens to all your ranting whatever the time of the day it is, the friend who spends hours and days to get you an awesome gift  for your birthday just to make you feel happy, your parents who lost all their own time taking care of you and finally, that relative who takes finding mistakes and advising you as their lives mission. We fail to appreciate their sincere efforts and take them for granted, don’t we?. They are spending something invaluable on you. It’s only fair we return them time and undivided attention, cos that’s the only thing that’s at par that’s worth their efforts.

Thanks for taking your valuable time to read this post. Now it’s your turn to thank me for spending my precious time writing this to enlighten you all. Just Kidding. Peace.

Serendipity

Believe me, I don’t even know how to pronounce the title properly. Thought of using some fancy word in the title so that it would boost the readership of this post. But, later realized that it’s no longer a fancy word. #Overuse #TwistInTheTale

Serendipity
ˌsɛr(ə)nˈdɪpɪti/
noun
The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Most of the people close to me are well aware that I collect postcards, even a bit obsessed with it. So far, I have collected 541 postcards from 90 countries and made a few awesome friends across the world. If you aren’t aware of the term Postcrossing, I highly recommend you to read my post “The Story Of The Random Postcards“. Don’t worry, if you are too lazy (like me) to open the link and read, the following must help.

Postcrossing is an online project that allows its members to send and receive postcards from all over the world. The project’s tagline is “send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world!” Its members, also known as Postcrossers, send postcards to other members and receive postcards back from other random Postcrossers. Where the postcards come from is always a surprise. – Wikipedia

So by this time, you must have understood that most of the cards I receive are absolutely from totally RANDOM people. Random coincidences are some of the best kinda stories to narrate and brace for it, cos here comes one.

Two friends from The Netherlands Sanne and Kristen planned to write postcards together cos it would be so much fun. Yes, there are people like us in this era of Facebook and WhatsApp who think writing postcards is so much fun. Now, let’s come back to the story. So, Sanne & Kristen requested for an address together from the site. Guess what? To their surprise, they both got mine. Whenever an address is requested, a code is also generated along with it so that the recipient can register the postcard upon receiving the same. Guess what? even the Postcrossing code were consecutive numbers. Here comes the best part. They wrote, “We weren’t sure if Ravi is your first or the last name, so we decided to start differently”. As they were confused with my name, Kristen addressed me as “Dear Gokoulane” whereas Sanne addressed me as “Dear Ravi”. They even posted it together at the same place and time, so that I would receive it together. Thankfully it did.

As I love food, they have sent me yummy Dutch Snacks Postcards with awesome stamps.

So, Thank you, Sanne & Kristen.

The Land Of Trolls & Hypocrites

How about a quick itsy-bitsy blog post to meet this month’s target. Really can’t help my BUSY schedule and procrastination.

I wanted to write about this topic for a while. But, had to hold on until I complete my Sar Pass trek series. What inspired me to write this blog post is a series of comic styles cartoon titled “The Artist-Troll War” by one of my favorite artists Gavin Aung Than, the one behind Zen Pencils.

The Artist-Troll War 1: HATRED BREEDS HATRED
The Artist-Troll War Part 2: NEGATIVITY DESTROYS ALL
The Artist-Troll War 3: CREATORS > HATERS
The Artist-Troll War 4: GOOD ART TRIUMPHANT

The land I am talking about is not something not alien to us, in fact, it has become an indispensable part of most of our lives. Once it was quite greener. A great place to socialize and make new friends. A playground for new ideas. But now, as the title says, it has just become a land of trolls and hypocrites. As many of you might have guessed, I am talking about the SOCIAL MEDIA and its beloved NETIZENS.

Every day when I scroll down my social media feeds, what I see is people fighting in comments and tweets trying to force their opinion on others. Isn’t It used to be much more fun, peaceful and secular place? I wonder why we have become less tolerant? I sight scavengers who paint everything out there with the shaded of politics, race, caste & religion, and shamelessly feed on it for their personal gain. I really pity the guys who invested their passion, time and talent to build such platform. They might want our data and mint money on it, but definitely not this.

I really appreciate constructive feedback, but trolling other works just for the sake of getting attention is totally unfair. As one of my friend mentioned in his status, we must be mature and learn to see art as a distinct entity from the artist who creates it. Trolling and personally attacking a person for their work is just unjust. If you like someone’s work, do appreciate them. As Kevin Smith once said, “It costs nothing to encourage an artist, and the potential benefits are staggering. A pat on the back to an artist now could one day result in your favorite film, or the cartoon you love to get stoned watching or the song that saves your life. Discourage an artist, you get absolutely nothing in return“. But, it’s absolutely ok to dislike one’s work or even feel that it’s below par. In that case, better leave them undisturbed. Either they find their own set of audiences or later realize it’s not for them. Trolling them gets you nothing.

Do you know what makes me laugh even more than the hilarious memes? The long, well-drafted statuses of the hypocrites. It’s fun to be a spectator, that too when you know the person well in reality. It’s good to share things on social media, but I don’t think, to do things just for the sake of the status is any good. BTW, whom am I to judge. I just fear that people have lost their originality when it comes to social media. Whether we admit it or not, we all have become moral hypocrites. It’s just the degree of hypocrisy that varies.

I got nothing to conclude. Just reflecting my thoughts with a far-fetched hope that social media would be a sane place to socialize, share information and productively discuss actual problems.

Itsy-bitsy? Who am I Kidding?

Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 6

Finally, will get myself done with this blog post series. Here goes the final one.

Day 11 – 28th May 2017

I woke up with a mixed feeling, on one hand, I was happy about completing the trek successfully, on the other, I was sad that it came to an end. Once done with our morning routines, breakfast, group pic and one final batch roll call, we left the most beautiful camp of the whole trek around 8 AM. The route was a bit steep and felt like never-ending. We had to lose an altitude of 1400 ft in less than 5 km. I stuck with Lavanya for the whole route. Once we even lost our way in the middle ignoring the route markers and was screaming for help. Luckily, one of the fellow trekkers responded and that helped us be back on the route.

A couple of hours later, we reached a small eatery down the Barshani Village (6600 ft), finally some place to rest. In the meantime awaiting Nigilan and Buddy to return, I indulged myself in hot Maggi and refreshing lemon tea served there. It was already 12 PM when they both joined us. Then, we took a short walk to catch the bus that would get us back to Kasol. In the bus, we noticed a couple of guys smiling and laughing at the silly things that we spoke in Tamil. Then came that magical words, “Neenga Thamizha?” (Are you Tamil). That’s how we meet Anirudh and Mukund, 2 civil engineering guys from Bangalore working on a construction project in the valley. It was awesome conversing with them.

Around 4 PM, we reached Kasol, should blame the terrific traffic at Manikaran for the delay. We were too hungry by then and the Tibetan Eatery nearby the Kasol Market came to the rescue. We had amazing Thukpa and Momos there. It was already around 8 days since we took a bath. So, we found a natural hot spring bath area and took a relaxing bath. OMG, the hot water in the cold weather felt like being in heaven. All the others in the group decided to reach Kullu the same eve, but for various reasons, yours truly decided to stay back for a night at the base camp and start the next morning. It was a great experience at the base camp, was awarded the trek completing certificate and was asked to share my experience to the upcoming batches. Everyone at the campfire gathering laughed when I ended my note with, “These mountains got some serious ALTITUDE problems”. As usual, I had my dinner and dozed off early, that’s how an yet another awesome day came to an end.

One heavenly Thukpa

 Day 12 – 29th May 2017

I was informed that the 1st bus of the day to Kullu will be by 6.45 AM, So was all set by then to leave the camp. The bus came spot on time and I boarded it just opposite to the base camp. The bus was mostly filled with students and locals. The best part all along the ride was the songs played in its music system, just loved it.

Around 9 AM, I reached Kullu and rejoined with my friends at the famous Sapna Bakery for the breakfast. There we ordered SIddu, one of the most famous and typical dishes of that region. It kinda looks like an enlarged MoMo but tastes entirely different. The one which we had was awesome and I loved it. Then we headed to the hotel when my friends were staying so that I could keep my hefty backpack and continue roaming for the rest of the day. There I met the retired defense personnel, whose son owns that place.  He was too courteous and patiently gave us the direction to reach the Naggar Castle, our next destination.

From Kullu, we reached Naggar by bus and from there we reached The Castle by taking an Auto Rickshaw. Naggar used to be the ex-capital of the Kullu region and the King ruled from the castle.The view from the castle was spectacular and it exhibited some of the old artifacts and objects used during the King’s period. We had our lunch at the in-house restaurant itself. The food was pricey but the taste wasn’t that great as it looks.

What came to rescue is the Home Made Bakery, just outside the castle. They served yummy Apple Pie, Brownies and Tarts along with refreshing homemade fruit juices.

In the meanwhile, this awesome Lost & Found incident happened and have already written a separate blog post on it. Then we returned back to Kullu in a crowded local bus, got freshened up at the hotel and left to the bus terminus to catch our bus to Chandigarh. I immediately dozed off as we boarded our bus around 9 PM, that’s how an yet another awesome day came to an end.

 Day 13 – 30th May 2017

It was quite early in the morning when our bus reached the Chandigarh bus terminus. We spotted a Maggiwala (the one who sells Maggi) a few meters outside the terminus and decided to get done with our breakfast there. He sold sandwiches and tea along with Maggi and I ordered an egg Maggi for my breakfast.

As our flight is around afternoon, we had a lot of time to spare. With not much energy to explore the city, So, we went to the Rose Garden, took some rest, listening music and again went to the famous Pal Dhaba for lunch. OMG, the food was awesome there. Their Butter Chicken is definitely something to die for.

Later, we took a cab to the airport and boarded the flight back to Chennai. Outside the Chennai airport, the harsh Sun kissed my skin to remind me that I am back home. Just as a kinda ritual, I brought home some Biriyani concluding the trip. That’s how an awesome trip came to an end.

 

With a lot of fun, food and awesome experiences, this is indeed a trip to remember.

The End.