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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 …

Bansky & Lane – A Year Since We Got Married

“I Love You”

This is how I precisely concluded the last blog post on the Bansky & Lane series. For starters, Bansky is the nickname of my wife Banupriya and Lane is mine. As many of you might have guessed, I am writing this post celebrating our first anniversary.

30th August day is a special day for us. It’s not only our wedding day but also Bansky’s birthday. As the most famous Chronicwriter suggested, probably we should go ahead and celebrate this day as BanGok Day. Believe me, I badly wanted to write and publish this yesterday, on our special day. But the only reason it got deferred is, I wanted to spend the whole day with her and for her.

One of our most fav pic PC: SharathKumar

One of our most fav pic  –  PC: Sharath Kumar

We knew each other for just 6 months before we got married, and that’s not a lot of time to know and understand a person. As they say, knowing someone is totally different from being with them and we are no exception. Obviously, like any other couples living together, we either complain over the habitual differences for life or eventually adjust and get used to it.

A great relationship is about two things: First, appreciating the similarities, and second respecting the differences.

To be honest, I always wanted to marry someone who has similar taste as mine and appreciate things the way I do. But, now I realize the importance of having a person with a completely different taste and perspective in your life. Though both of us have contrasting views and preferences, we continue to appreciate the differences and learn from each other. Of course, there would be arguments and small fights at times, but don’t you think those are inevitable in a relationship.

I really don’t believe in the concept of soul mates. I bet on the relationships that evolve over time with lots of love and tiny compromises. I sincerely wish ours matures that way too.

She is a simple, no-nonsense person and that’s the trait which I admire a lot. At times, what really dazzles me is her wittiness. The below tweet is one such example. Sorry, it’s hard to translate to English. I can go on and on about her, but don’t think it’s the right place. In the interest of time, both yours and mine, I better conclude it.

Dear Bansky,

I dedicate this blog post to you.
Thanks a ton for putting up with me for the past one and half years.
Thanks a ton for having my back always and saving my head often by being a great emotional support.

Cheers to many more awesome years to come.

Yours Awesomely
Lane

P.S.: I Love You

Loosing My Wing Man

It’s quite a common tendency for people to get emotionally attached to their stuff. Whatever might be the reason, a few would turn out to be much more special. I am no exception, I even remember addressing my 1st PC and Laptop with nicknames, Blacky and LaNeo. One sounds like a dog name, Isn’t it ?. Do you remember how you felt while starting your college, on one hand, you might be excited about a new phase of your life and on the other the pain of missing your thick school buddies. It was pretty much the same feeling for me when I had to upgrade them. Obviously, the excitement in getting a new one was undeniable. At the same time, missing something that has supported you for a considerable period becomes inevitable too. Likewise, the feeling was nearly the same when we moved from our home at Thiruvottiyur where we resided for 10+ years. After a long time, I experienced a similar mixed feeling when I had to sell something today that’s been with me for many years. It’s something special and close to my heart. In fact, it was the very first noteworthy thing I bought out of my own earning and would always be proud of it.

During my college final year, my dad wished to get me a motorcycle. It was merely a rub off effect caused by a few of his colleagues boasting about gifting bikes their sons. Like any other college going guy of my age, I wanted the same. As much as I desired, I was equally determined to get my own and not burden my dad. Though I started working almost immediately after college, I saved money for a year to make my dream come true. Finally, on 2nd July 2011, I bought my Honda Shine. I used to call it wingman because of the wing featured in the Honda logo. Yes, it’s the same one that I had to sell off today.

Since then it had been carrying me around for 8 long years and been part of some of the important moments of my life. It gave me a sense of freedom to move around without depending on anyone else. Some of the rides are truly memorable, especially the long ones to Pondicherry and Kanchipuram.

It had been a reliable partner even in spite of multiple accidents as a result of my sloppiness. In the end, it was hard for me to see it struggle to take me around and decided to give it the rest it deserves. In a week time, a new bike would replace its place however, the wingman will always be missed because there’s no love like the first.

Opinions Does Matter, So The Differences

Let me start with a petty story, but a pretty story.

I have a close friend named Murali. During our college days, I was super fanatic about Microsoft Technologies and Bill Gates while he was an Apple and Steve Jobs zealot. Most of our meetings would end up each other defending our favorite brands and our icons.

Usually, I am the one who would kick start the debate with how Microsoft empowers the masses by building a great developer ecosystem and philanthropical activities of Mr.Gates. As a counteract, he would highlight the iPhone revolution and the innovation made by Apple in consumer electronic device space such as iPod, iPad and iMac. We would also spend hours debating about the “Pirates of the Silicon Valley” movie on who’s the most unethical of them. My tough times were the one when Steve Balmer became the CEO of Microsoft and both its innovation and stocks prices were going down the drain while Apple was turning out to be one of the most profitable companies in the history of the Wall St. Forever we spent our time comparing Apples to Blackberries.

Time moved on the same way until I moved from software development to marketing in my job as the Microsoft Windows Phone platform plunged. Consequently, the company provided me a MacBook Air as a replacement to my Windows Laptop. That was the moment I experience the simplicity, seamlessness and comfort that the Apple products provided. When I moved out of the company, I had to surrender the MacBook air and switching back to Windows laptop was quite difficult. Eventually, I decided to invest in a MacBook myself. I am petty sure, Murali would have laughed for minutes together when I told him about the same. It’s not just me who had a change in opinion, surprisingly, all of sudden he also started appreciating Microsoft. Now he likes how Microsoft is democratizing technology under the leadership of Sathya Nadella. Moreover, he started frequently complaining about how Apple lost its capacity to continuously innovate under TimCook.

That’s not the only contrast of opinions we had. He is one super religious and a devotional person who visits the temple almost every day. On the contrary, I visit the temple only during the festival times only for the sake of my friends, Prasadams (food offerings) and to catch a glimpse of our area girls.

The reason for me quoting the above story is to highlight the fact that, regardless of all the vast difference in opinions we are still close friends. During the course of time, even our opinions got changed naturally, but what didn’t change is the friendship. Murali is not alone here, there are quite a few people with whom I share a strong friendship despite our varied stance and perspective over things.

This post is just an overflow of frustration witnessing people in real life and social media trying to simply force their opinion on others and fight over the same without even empathizing the other’s situation. Time might one day change your opinions, just don’t be in the place where you regret losing people for the same.

P.S: Sorry for too many “opinion” on the post, definitely not trying to force them on you 😀

The Stained and Strained Collars

The International Workers Day or Labour Day is just around the corner. As much as the significance of the day, this short, quick and dirty blog post also aims to celebrate the working class across the world.

“Uzhaippali Illatha” song from the movie “Uzhaiplai” is always the first thing that would strike my mind every time I think of the Labours Day, followed by the famous Triumph of Labour statue by Marina Beach. I am yet to hear another song that glorifies the significance of the workforce as much as this one.

Whenever we think of this day, we mostly relate it to the blue collar workers, the stained collars who do the manual labor. Undoubtedly, they are the most suppressed workforce throughout history. We tend to often sympathize them when we learn about their hardships. But, what we fail to do is to empathize and that includes me too.

A week back, I was a bit furious with a delivery person for canceling my order and with the other not delivering my lunch on time. Then a couple of days back, a few relatives dropped by home for lunch. So, my family tasked me to pick up food from the same restaurant where I ordered last week. I felt burned out just for one trip to the restaurant and back in the hot Chennai sun. It took doses of juice and a long afternoon sleep to completely recover from the fatigue. At that point in time, all I could think off was the delivery guys whom I was furious with. Probably, next time when someone comes to deliver in the hot sun, I would give them something cool to drink or give them some extra tips. Among all their struggles to make their ends meet, these little things might put a smile on their face and keep them going.

With enough being said on the suppressed sect, let me jump to the depressed sect. Yes, If you have guessed it right, I am talking about the white collar workers, the strained collars who are tied to their desk forever. Typically, we tend to oversee their strains. Maybe cos they don’t have to do any physical labor. Maybe, cos they dress neat and work comfortably in an AC office. But, on the flip side, they are the ones who suffer the maximum from the mental health problems as a result of workplace stress. Lack of work-life balance and physical activities put them under the high risk of inducing major lifestyle-related conditions such as depression, insomnia, hypertension, diabetes, and heart diseases.

Self note: So, my dear desk clinging friend, it’s high time you keep a check on your mental as well as physical health.

Wish the stains wash away and the strains loosen up and relax. Happy International Workers Day.