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.

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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.

Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 5

Dear Reader,
If you are growing impatient about this ever going series and wondering when would this end? Just be patient as always, probably one more post after this one. All you have to understand is, yours truly is neither creative to come up with new content frequently nor blessed with frequent awesome trips like this one. So, got to manage with this for the love of blogging.

Day 10 – 27th May 2017

I woke up wishing someone would wish me that morning. Wondering why? It was my birthday. The day started with a great disappointment as my only expectation wasn’t met. I was absolutely fine with the fact that others in the camp had no clue about my birthday. But, what let me down was my friends forgetting the same. Can’t blame them either, it was actually a bit hard to keep track of the day and date during the trek.

The only thing that I gave me comfort was a bunch of candies that I carried all the way from Chennai. Sudeshna, my pen pal sent me some chocolates and candies for my birthday all the way from Guwahati, Assam. She also made sure that it reaches me before I leave for the trip and in her letter, she instructed me that I must have them only on my birthday. Being a sucker for chocolates, it was too hard for me to resist having them all along the trek and save it from myself for the D-Day. With a strong will, I made it happen. Thank you Sudeshna for all the love. Following is a small video I recorded to thank her.

For the first time on my birthday, I felt lonely without anyone around wishing me. I restrained myself telling my friends that it’s my birthday. On the contrary, the narcissist in me acted otherwise and let them know by my own mouth. They served noodles for breakfast along with some hot tea. As usual, we cleaned our tents, packed our bags and assembled for the count before leaving the camp. To my surprise, all of sudden, everyone sang the birthday song and wished me. Wow, isn’t that awesome?. Once complete strangers are now my friends and wishing me for my birthday, this is what I call the beauty of traveling. These sort of instances make me realize that traveling is definitely not about the destination, but about the journey and the people whom we come across. Think it’s enough talking about my birthday, let’s move to the trek part.

We were excited about the next camp not just cos it’s the last camp of the trek. Since the induction, have heard plenty about the serenity and beauty of this place from the camp leaders and the batches who have completed their trek. I would say, this was the easiest leg of the whole trek. All we got to cover is 12 km with an attitude change of just 3000 ft. The only exciting part of the route was doing rappelling that too with a minimum vertical drop. Other than that, It was more like walking in midst of the woods all the way. Not soon after our lunch, an excited bunch of us, including me, lost our way to the camp and got stuck in the pine forest. Thankfully, our guide came to the rescue and directed us to the camp.

One of my most fav pic from the trek

No wonder every one praised the beauty of this place and call it the Switzerland of India. Around 2 PM, we finally reached the most beautiful camp of the trek, the Bhandak Thatch (8000 ft). It’s grassland and a grazing land where the cattle are reared in the summer, everything there seemed lush and green, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. I haven’t been to Swiss yet, but this place made me wonder if Swiss is as beautiful as this one. We were able to spot Cows, Horses and Sheep. With plenty of time in our hand that day, we played UNO, Kabadi and did some funny Dubmashes too. At times, I would just climb up the slopes, spot a silent spot and get myself immersed in the mesmerizing beauty of the mountains.

The guys managed to arrange for the campfire after getting permission from our camp leader. Later that evening, we had our dinner early and gathered around the campfire. The burning pine logs gave a distinct pleasant sweet smell uplifting the mood around. From there on, it was all fun. We sang, danced crazy and everyone wished me again for my birthday. The craziness continued until the rain disrupted the fun. With half a heart, we dispersed into out tents and dozed off.

IMG_20170527_195147389

One best pic of the trip. Still feels like a magic

Started with full of disappointments, it turned out to be one of the best birthdays in my life. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued…

Morrie & Me

When is the last time you saw me writing a blog post on a book?  You wouldn’t have, cos I never did. In spite of my reservations against blogging about books, this one made me do otherwise. If you ask me why? the most appropriate answer would be, none other connected with me as deep as this one.

First of all, I would like to thank my sis Sarumathi for gifting me this wonderful book with a sweet personal inscription on the first page. During one of our conversations lately, she mentioned that the book reminded her of myself when she read it and that’s the reason why she gifted the same. So, Saru, I am too glad that you did. As you mentioned, it’s definitely something that I will treasure forever.

Where do I start, how about the book’s name? It’s TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom. This short read is all about the author’s discovery about his terminally ill old sociology professor via a TV interview, his efforts to connect back with him and a series of Tuesday meetings between them that follows. This non-fiction is a project of Mitch Albom, a wannabe musician turned sports journalist along with his dying professor Morrie Schwartz to fund his treatment.

Why I loved reading this book?
I experienced this strange feeling of feeling both heavy and light-hearted simultaneously while reading it. I was able to well connect with Morrie, his values and his view about life. Tons of times, I have questioned myself on my view on life and the values I uphold. Reading this book felt like someone sitting next to me, gives me a Hi-Fi and comforting me by saying, hey, I am more or less like you and probably you might die merrily if you stay the same. I am always quite skeptical about recommending things to others. But I strongly recommend this one. I completed this book on a Tuesday, isn’t that a silly coincidence.

Concluding this blog post with a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

“Accept who you are; and revel in it.”

“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.”

“Death ends a life, not a relationship. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on- in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.”

“The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.”

“Forgive yourself before you die. Then forgive others.”

“If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyhow.”

Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 4

I know it ain’t right, but I enjoy finishing my tasks in the nick of the moment, just like this blog post. It does give me a kind of rush.

Day 8 – 25th May 2017

It seemed to have rained the last night also. The place was damp and much colder when I woke up. In spite of sleeping bag and blanket, I felt my body struggling to cope up with the cold temperature out there. Though I got up early, I didn’t dare to step outside our tent until the sun showed up. Some hot tea and Chole Bhature made things better for me. It wasn’t only us from YHAI who were camping there, there was also a camp by another organizer nearby. Why I am mentioning this is, while I was returning to my tent after my breakfast, I saw folks from both the camps happily dancing the Garba (a traditional Gujarati dance) outside our tent. It was fun watching them go round and round dancing those simple yet elegant steps in total sync. Then we cleaned out tents, packed our bags and started to the highest camp of this trek.

The dawn breaks

With no doubt, it was the steepest route uphill on this trek. Though the altitude change was only 1300 ft compared to 1900 ft and 1600 ft in the last two days, we had to gain it in the short distance of just 5km. That was definitely a challenge. After a slow and steady climb, we reached our lunch point. Unlike the other lunch points, this one was tucked in between a crack on the mountain. The only common factor was a tiny shop that sold Maggi and Biscuits. Seems Maggi is inevitable in the mountains. Totally, the most frightening lunch point on the whole trek. We were even able to view our Mingtatch camp and the other trekking groups from there. Our guide pointed to a flag, not so far away and told that’s our next camp. With a clear target, we marched towards it. In not more than an hour, we reached the highest camp of this trek, The Nagaru Camp (12,500 ft).

View from lunch point

Once reaching the camp, everyone began calling their parents and their loved ones as they had the cellular reception in one particular spot. But, yours truly was quite stubborn not to use my mobile until the trip gets over. We were served Guava juice as the welcome drink and served tea and fried peanuts later. As we reached quite earlier, we whiled away the time singing and chit chatting. While I was in my tent, I heard some splashing sound. Initially thought it was raining. But to my surprise when I opened my tent flaps, I witnessed the first hailstorm of my life. It’s not just that, we were lucky enough to witness a double rainbow too. Wow, what a mesmerizing view it was. Yet another goosebumps-inducing experience of this trip. We slept early by 7 pm post our early dinner by 6 pm cos we must rise as early as 2 am the next day for one of the most exciting parts of the trek. That’s how an yet another awesome day came to an end.

The double rainbow

Day 9 – 26th May 2017

Waking up at 2 am is absolutely fine, but how about having your least favorite Rava Upma for breakfast at 3 am. My taste buds might have instantaneously rejected it, but my survival instinct thought the other way. The snow melts when the sun starts to shine and that would make the trek extremely difficult. So, we had quite an early start around 3.30 AM that day. Initially, it was too dark and most of us had torchlight or headlamp for the rescue. I was fascinated by the scene when the dawn broke. We were surrounded by snow and for me, the first snow of my life. It was my dream forever to see, touch and feel the snow. My excitement level was high and was overjoyed to realize my dream. That was one memory that will be etched in my memory forever.

After more than a couple of hours of trek, we reached the summit of the trek, the highest point of the Sar Pass (13,799 ft). With all the sides covered with snow, we took a lot of pictures. The joy of reaching the summit is beyond description and you feel just being on the top of the world. I would say, that joy is worth going through all the pain.

The Sar Pass is the route that connects the summit of Tila Lotni and Biskeri Ridge. So, we had a lot more to cover to reach our next camp Biskeri, predominantly on the snow. The snowy ice surface was very slippery and the poles helped extensively. In the middle, we halted at a shop that sold tea and Maggi for some rest. To the contrary, being surrounded by the snow, we were all totally restless and started playing with it. Either be it throwing snowballs at each other or making snow angels, I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. It was all fun, fun and fun. That place also had a small lake and the view of the sky reflecting on it was priceless.

After an hour from there, we reached the edge of the Sar Pass. Here comes the best part of the whole trek, an 800 Mts free slide down the snow. I was anxious when I saw my friends sliding down. It even worsened when my buddy rolled down instead of sliding. Then came my turn and I felt the adrenaline rush. Wow, what an experience sliding down the snow and the cold wind caress the skin. We were too tired by then and somehow pushed ourselves to reach the lunch point a kilometer ahead. We could see the snow around slowly being replaced by rocks and grasses.

Out of hunger, I munched the packed lunch and took a brief rest at the lunch point. My legs were sore and the rest was highly relieving. I also met a few porter women. In spite of carrying heavy backpacks of the trekkers, anywhere between 20 – 30 kgs per person, they had their warm smile intact. So much respect to them.

From there, within an hour we reached our next camp, Beskari (11,000 ft). It felt like an accomplishment completing the most grueling and demanding day of the trek. To give a snapshot, it was a total of 14 km and an elevation change of 1,300 ft uphill and 2,800 ft downhill. That’s quite a lot for a single day. We were served hot tea and Pakodas for the evening snacks as soon as we entered the camp. The rest of the time was spent on playing UNO. Then, as usual, sleep followed the dinner. I dozed of badly wanting the next day to begin, one of the significant days for me in the year. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued…

A Dream Come True – The Beer Challenge

Yaay, One more blog post for this month. That must be quite surprising for the ones who are following my blog regularly and my friends whom I torture to read my posts. It’s Just with an intent of blogging more frequently in the future. I badly wanted to publish this blog post before this year ends as I consider this as one of my greatest accomplishments of this year. After reading this post, you might think it’s kinda bragging or think why should someone write a post for such a trivial thing as this. But, for me, it’s a long dream come true.

There is a small backing story behind this enthusiasm. So, it’s flashback time.

Mosquito coil rotating …
My early college days…

Mom: I don’t want you to go night out with your college friends.
Me: Why? You never objected to night outs with my school friends.
Mom: I know few of your college friends drink.
Me: So what, I don’t.
Mom: I’m just worried that you would also start drinking irresponsibly like them.
Me: I promise, I definitely won’t drink now ma. But, I can’t promise that I would never drink forever.
Mom: No, you are not supposed to drink forever like your dad. It’s an addictive bad habit.
Me: I will drink when I get settled and when my dream come true.
Mom: Dream, really? What’s that?
Me: We should have our own home, sofa and LCD TV. I want to drink canned Beer sitting on the sofa and watching the TV.
Mom: You are seriously crazy. Let’s see.

Those were the times we used to live in a tiny rented house in Thiruvottiyur. Now, I have no idea why such scene became my dream. Maybe the influence of watching English movies and series.  My grandpa died cos of excessive drinking and smoking. My dad is still a teetotaler, in spite of having an alcoholic, abusive father and growing up in a rough neighborhood. The lives of above two men made me much determined against drinking and smoking. I always wanted to be like my dad. But, I do indulge in Breezer and Wine once in a blue moon. So this post is no more about alcohol or the beer as mentioned in the title.

Fast forward, I completed my college, got a job, even bought an own home and sofa. The only piece that was missing in realizing my dream was that LCD TV. There were many times I bought in the bill of buying a new TV to my home council and my mom vetoed it all. She clearly did it with a fear that I would drink Beer as challenged. It’s not just my mom who was against it, guess who colluded along with her?, my old LG TV. But I can’t blame it for being in proper working condition for the past 19 years. Consequently, my mom used it as a solid reason against buying a new one. As they say, perseverance is the key to success. After years of lobbying the home council on the benefits of a new TV, I eventually got the budget approved to get one. That’s how things are done at my home, nothing is bought without everyone’s consensus.

Our 19-year-old LG TV

A month went on researching, comparing TVs and awaiting the best deal. Finally, the day before the Christmas, I got my new Sony LED TV delivered home. It’s a mere TV for many, even my parents weren’t excited about it. But, for me, it’s a 10-year-old dream becoming a reality. For the sake of a closure, one day I will definitely have a Beer sitting on the sofa watching that TV. But, for now, I will enjoy the Breezer that my office friend bought from his Goa trip. Nothing gives the kick of fulfilling one’s dreams with his own hard earned money, not even the alcohol.

Just when got delivered

Finally

Happy New Year Fellas.