Saturday, December 31, 2005

Rantings on celebration, and my 2006 eve..

NOTE: The server seems to be located in Western Samoa.

To start with, wishing all readers a happy and successful new year 2006. Ah, the number keeps on increasing, and every year I realise I spend the new year's eve in a radically different way. This year was no different as far as the change was concerned! Yet another chance to chew the management cud 'Change is the only constant'. Aw cmon.

I remember greeting 2005 by staying at home, mainly because I felt like staying at home then, and to add to it I had my cousin and his wife who'd come down from Uncle Sam's land. It was fun greeting 2005 with them.

This year, I was sort of bored. Initially had plans of partying hard at Goa, and all seemed set. Then there were reasons for not being able to make it. As for partying, I'd enjoyed a wonderful Christmas eve party with Kaveeta (my new friend from the Caferati Writer's Forum). Partying all seemed to be the same old thing - underdressed girls having fun away from the city, over-intoxicated folk trying their level best to control themselves, super skimpily clad girls trying desperately to hunt for a corner for you know what, blaring music thats more often than not pathetic, useless food, and all of the above for a heavy sum that I now think I'd rather save for my treks :D

In the past week or so, songs of a particular movie were seeming sorta good to me. Nothing great, but better than the grind mill types. Called up Prajuctaa, and she seemed interested in the idea too, since she wanted to watch the movie as well. Enough reason - we went for a 2230 show. Oops, I did not mention the name as yet eh - its bluffmaster starring Abhishek Bacchan, Priyanka Chopra, Ritesh Deshmukh and Nana Patekar. Worth a watch I'd most certainly say.

The movie carried on, good songs, Abhishek and Priyanka acting well, and the interval was at 2355 hours. A good place to greet the new year I felt. In the interval, I and Prajuctaa shared one end each of the earphone, and enjoyed watching SouthPark on my iPod. We didn't even realise when the clock struck 0000, and thankfully the crowd didn't make any hoopla about it either. The movie ended a while later, and we couldn't resist listening to songs of bluffmaster, they were very nice. Once again the iPod came into use, and we listened to couple of songs before reaching MH-12 CD-4046 (my car).

For over an hour after the movie, we were chatting next to my apartments, in what was a chilly cold for Prajuctaa (who luckily had a jacket to wear). It never seemed to be cold to me somehow [I had no alcohol]. We bid the final goodbye at 0200 hours, and I tucked myself to cozyness. Its been just 2 hours since I've woken up, haven't brushed as yet, was watching TV. No one at home, and in under 2 hours I've got to meet some friends. Anyone betting whether I would be able to take a bath before I leave? [I'd taken a bath at 2130 hours on 31st Dec]. Darshana?

Bloggers - Life has just become easy/simple!

Blogger mates,

For those of you who use Firefox as your browser, here is some good news. There is a new plugin that works with Firefox 1.5 which is called performancing. Performancing for Firefox is a full featured blog editor that sits right within Firefox.

You have an option to set up accounts with various popular blogging services, including,, LiveJournal, MSN Spaces,, and any of your custom blogging services too! Once this is done, all you need to do anytime you want to blog, is type F8 or press the pencil icon that sits at the bottom right of the Firefox window, to bring up the blog editor within Firefox itself.

This is especially cool because this becomes a one-stop editor, or in technical terms a unified interface (Manjit is this correct :p) to many blogging service providers from one place. Those of you who have subscribed to more than one blogging services will find this pretty useful.

Before I forget, let me say that I heard about this from Manjit's blog but not all of you know who he is. So I thought it would be good to spread the word around (about performancing, you nerds).

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Katraj - Sinhagad trek, 2003

"Where there is a hill, there better be a way!" would be an apt way to describe this trek in a one-liner. Factors like scorching heat, long distance, strenous route, were all won over by enthusiasm and sheer will power. After an exciting and challenging 'Dhak chi Bahiri' trek, VxTrekkers (VERITAS Adventure Unlimited Trekking Gang) set their next target as Sinhagad, to be approached from the Katraj side. This was to be the last summer trek of 2003.

The Sinhagad fort stands about 25 kms from Pune and is one of the important Maratha forts having a colourful history linked with it. The fort was formerly known as Kondhana, its literal translation is the "Fortress of the Lion". In 1670 Shivaji's General, Tanaji Malusare, led a force of men who scaled the steep hillside in the dark and defeated the unprepared forces of Bijapur. There are monuments at the spot where Tanaji died, and also at the place where he lost his left hand before his death. There is also a historic bungalow up there, where Gandhiji met the freedom fighter, Tilak, in 1915.

The aim of this trek was not solely to climb the fort Sinhagad, but to enjoy the trek en route. We first travelled to the Katraj tunnel top in a bus that we boarded from Swargate. The group was a mixed bag of VxTrekking regulars as well as newbies. It was fun though, there were quite a few enthusiasts present.

We got atop the first small hillock and were able to see the path that we had to cover. Or thats what we thought. A couple of hillocks more and we had to cover a slightly tricky way. We had to cover a hillock by walking along its edge where there was no proper path to walk along. People somehow managed to get through there, and then another drama followed. While walking along the mountain edge, we had a couple of people sliding along the way, luckily to be saved by fellow mates. It was an interesting part that we covered, and a short break followed before we moved ahead.

Time was slipping by quite fast. To put it in other words, we were not maintaining the required pace. No one was exactly sure as to how much was left ahead, since after crossing every hillock, Sinhagad appeared equally far. Apparently, there were just a couple of hills to cross before we would hit the base of Sinhagad fort. As we progressed, there was a huge gap that was created amongst certain of us. Some of us managed to descend the next hill pretty fast, and got atop the one after it, while some others were trailing on the previous descent. A common trend observed when a large group goes for a trek.

It was already getting dark, and we all were now atop a hill from where Sinhagad top was clearly visible. And a bit closer this time. Ostensibly again, there was only one hill that stood between us and Sinhagad. We waited for all to regroup, and got all set to cover the "last" hill in the way. Now that we had covered so many hills, rather than follow the same trend of descend - ascend, we decided to walk around the next hill to reach the other side. It would be a trifle longer, but less tiring, as it seemed to the genius who suggested it and the others who followed suit.

As a result of taking this 'shortcut', we came to realise after some time that we had reached a dead-end. Backtracking would be too far-fetched an idea, so we decided to get atop the hill along the slope with a comparitively higher incline and amidst bushes. It was really a risky thing to do: We knew by sense of direction that we were heading in the correct way, but there were two fears that I had at this point - a) We could reach another dead-end from where backtracking would be the only option, and b) there could be another small valley that we might have to cover before reaching the hill top. I took the chance, told the gang to wait till I went ahead and checked if the way we were going to take was correct. Five minutes later, the entire gang was treading along the mountain side. There were dense bushes as mentioned before. At one point, there was a steep route that seemingly led to the mountain top, though it was slippery, covered with gravel. We managed to get over it, with the way being guided by torches. After a 10 minute steep climb, we had finally hit the correct path again! It gave a tremendous sense of relief to all.

It was a mixed feeling after some time. We had hit correct path, only to realise that there was yet another hill that we had to cross. And by now, everyone realised that there could very well be some more as well, as we were deceived for the umpteenth time now. But willpower to reach destination again pumped up some energy into all of us, and we started our journey again. We were way past the scheduled time, but we had no better option than to carry on. After getting past another couple of hills we were clearly seeing Sinhagad road on either side of the hill on which we were (one was the road that comes from Pune, the other was the one that joins from Khed Shivapur).

We knew that we were there, but the estimated time to go on after this, would be another couple of hours to reach our final destination - the MTDC resort atop Sinhagad fort. And it was past midnight now. Given the physical and mental condition of the group, it was a unanimous decision to halt right then and there. And that was atop a hill, with some bushes around, in chilly weather. Though it was summer, nights happen to be quite cold, and it is especially too windy on open regions - like the hill we were on. We were badly in need of fuel (read food), and having it past midnight after going through normally unimaginable circumstances, was quite an experience. That's part of the trekking experience though, a common thing that generally happens when trekkers happen to lose their way at odd hours.

A chilly night's stay in which very few of us actually were able to "sleep", we proceeded on to cover the part that we missed out last night. There was hardly anything left to cover, but given the amount of trekking that we'd done last night, we probably were short on the psychological front to cover the remaining part, rather than the physical energy required. Anyhow, once we reached the Sinhagad Road, reaching which 15 minutes of what looked like 2 hours the previous night, we were lucky enough to get a jeep that took us atop Sinhagad fort. After refreshing and refuelling, we "completed" the trek in the true sense of the term, by climbing down Sinhagad on foot! It was fun altogether, a nice experience - that was a real test of strength and character I would say. Sahyadri treks are indeed great ones, but Katraj - Sinhagad has its own charm.

Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji !!!

Monday, December 12, 2005

The visa interview and fuss levels

On a day like Monday, I wouldn't have asked for more. A 3+ hour drive from Pune (my home city), Mumbai is the place I've always loved to go right since I've been a kid. Mumbai aka Bombay, the financial capital of India is arguably the single most important city of country. A sweet little break from work - to go appear for a Business Visa interview at the American Consulate in Mumbai sounded like the perfect reason :)

Two others from my work place were accompanying me as well, for their respective visa interviews. I, being the standard calm self, had just begun enjoying the "working-weekday-break" when I sensed that one of my two fellow companions possessed a noticably high fuss-level (explained below). That is where I realised I was going to enjoy more.

With every event, there is an associated "fuss level" as I put it. A "fuss level" is an index that expresses increase in panic level when the event approaches. To put it in other words, it expresses a person's inability to stay calm as he/she gets close to the event. Common examples of events are examination days, job interviews, dates and this event that I was witnessing for the first time personally - a visa interview.

I was far too careless by my own standards, since I was just believing that nothing much could go wrong. And if it did, it really made no big difference to me (besides having a "visa rejected" stamp). More often than not, such an attitude can help one to keep the 'fuss level' down, grounded to zero in fact. As they say, it takes all types to make the world.

In this case, I was not carrying the most important documents that the consulate would have asked me to produce, and I was busy thinking about something else. And then I was suggested to try some stunts if possible to get the documents and be 'psychologically' safe. While I was travelling, I rang up a person from the Finance Department of our company. I asked him to email me my salary slips for the past 3 months. Two hours to go before I would be called in for the interview, and we were in Mumbai, right at the American Visa Consulate Office. And diagonally opposite the office, I saw a branch office of IDBI, with whom I bank. What a coincidence! I walked in and got my bank statements for the previous 6 months. And after hunting around for a cyber cafe, which was a stone's throw away, I got printouts of my salary slips. Lo and behold, I had all documents ready!

Then came the time to stand in the queue outside the office to wait for your turn. The favourite pastime, as you would have guessed (or maybe not) was to derive pleasure by watching the different 'fuss levels' people have. And what concepts people have.. Half the dudes were wearing their best formal shirts and trousers, a neat tie on, and donning a great suit. That's probably the only other occassion when they would wear such a dress, the most important being their own wedding. I was in casuals, which could pass of as formals. Only one dude was wearing 'home clothes' - a visibly not ironed T-shirt, a pair of general trousers, and chappals. This was another extreme - which to me made complete sense, but he drew the attention of almost all those who donned their coolest formals. He got a visa, so did I and most probably the ones who donned the suits too. Did I mention that the consulate didn't even care about a single document in my case?

A matter of 30 seconds did the trick - an experience of 4 years in the industry, 3+ with a very well known MNC, a super casual approach, a looong yawn while answering the consulate officer (result of getting up early to reach early to satisfy someone's fuss level). And dudes, that gave me a 10 year multiple entry B1/B2 class entry into Uncle Sam's land. With company sponsorship. A day off, the first of the week. Get me more reasons my lord!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Unforced errors

Many years ago, during my childhood, when I used to watch tennis I used to wonder what the term 'unforced error' meant. For me, error meant some mistake made by that person while playing his game. Even the definition of the word error seemed to favour my viewpoint. An error is a result of bad judgement, as clear as that. I learnt with time that some such errors made by a player are not attributed to his bad judgement per se, but more so because of factors not in his control.

On a Sunday afternoon, following my train of thoughts, I saw some 'forced errors' and some 'unforced errors' that brought about a considerable change in me. I did not want to lose this thought process.

Choosing one's profession and being dedicated to it, is something that is a very important part of one's life. Lack of a sense of fulfillment on the professional front has adverse effects on the non-professional front too. This part is pretty obvious. I'm going to talk about a lack of balance between the profession and personal fronts which disrupted several things.

I had never taken to writing very seriously, but whenever I felt like penning down something, I used to express myself. While managing my profession, I got a chance to write things like cricket match reviews and travelogues. The initial enthusiasm was there, but over time (not even a year later), I did not manage to put in as much volume as I used to. That zeal was fast dying and I was totally lacking control. A match losing unforced error I would say.

Another couple of years down the line, I think I am slowly but surely picking up myself. I had just some samples that a group of friends went through and have urged me to carry on. Many team members have been suggesting me to take on writing seriously.

I have many assignments.. The first and foremost looks like taking to completion the travelogue (mini book) of my Mount Everest Base Camp trek in 2004. I better do that soon, since I have planned another trek to the same place in 2006. I don't want a mix of 2 travelogues :) And then there are those cricket match reviews, waiting to be written, and the old ones to be archived. My poems ought to find their way here too. Let's just see how much I can do, let this be a personal goal for me targetted end Q1 2006.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Lip service

Behaviour (n.)
A manner of acting or controlling yourself.

So which all places do you visit each day? On a routine working day, I tend to be at two places, three at the most. I start from home, I go to office, and before returning back, I would probably meet friends and make merry at some arbitrary place. Your home (if you have one) is the place where no rules per se govern you. Of course there are couple of things here and there, but let's use the nice mathematical habit of starting with assumptions. When you step out, you start losing that freedom of being an animal, at least to an extent. This is where the behaviour that I am going to say something about, would come in picture.

Society is not something that is made or has been unique to mankind. There are a variety of species that have exhibited ways of how their society exists and how they commonly behave. But this brain that humans possess and claim highest intellect amongst all living species, is something that has pushed up a 'policy' upon every 'sane' individual to be hypocritical. Absurd, eh?

Societies of different nations reflect different behavioural patterns amongst the elements of society. Barring the deviations, all are more or less revolving around the hypocrisy principle. But then what new is being said here? The best part is that you have pretty surely got the drift but will continue on. Reason? To see how you fit in the model. Go on, it's good to go on such trips from time to time.