October 29, 2013

Jingle Bell

It may not be that big day
There may not be a big plan
Yet to give it what you can
You need not be Batman

The reluctance beats the best of us
Never easy getting off the hook
Yet once you log off, close facebook

You never regret this step you took

A place far off is always good
But not everytime within the reach
Somedays it will be Lol-Bagh
Instead of a sparkling beach

Tire me out - drag me off
Or I would rather sleep at home
Until one day I fear I become
Merely a number in your phone

You can let the day end
Or keep it still alive
Plunge into the usual virtual
Or into the real one dive

Greet the sweet intoxication
Meet the darkness around
And keep that mental snapshot
Of you ROFLing on the ground

Knocking yourself out
Pushing the four walls about
Madness is but perception
What's peace within lest craziness without

Let the day going by
Give you a story to tell
True as far as honesty persists
Rest replaced by 'jingle bell'

The picture will change - people will leave
Although captured in the clicks
So weave a few stories - drunken memories 

And stud them with GPLs and kicks

So count up the fellows
Lest another day turns to crap
Pop the bubble, meet the mishap
Let what lies ahead, un-bubble-wrap

Rights to exaggeration and bragging reserved.
Its not how it happened; its how you remember it.
No characterisation intended.
Data and information may have been skewed to suit the storyline.
Everything is relative to your perspective.

October 20, 2013

That Halo Behind The Head

On an average, about 50,000 to 1,00,000 people visit the Balaji Temple at Tirumala, Tirupathi everyday. On special occasions, the number may swell well beyond 3,00,000.
This Saturday, the estimated number was 2,50,000. I and my friend, Ravi 'Dude' Singh were two of them.

2,50,000 people.
Anybody who knows anything or has heard anything about being at that temple will make it very clear to you that you will stand in a seemingly infinitely long line.
2,50,000 people. If you make each one of them stand in one single line, exactly behind each other (and with one arm distance between them), the line would stretch right upto Bangalore. (The distance between Tirupathi and Bangalore being nearly 250 Kms.)

I am unsure what caused the rush that day. It was the weekend. Last night I did see a big full moon through the bus window. And I guess some sort of festivities were on too - some Kalyanotsava.
Well, what it meant for me was that, despite opting for a 300 bucks special ticket, it took me 8 god-hours to come out at the other end of the temple. Everyone's best estimate put it at 3-4 hours. But not that day.
8 hours. You could have gone back to Bangalore and came back before I entered the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

What was all this for? I cannot say. Not that I am very religious, unless you discount the daily morning agarbatti (incesne stick) I light up (only because my mother asks me too) and my college-(semi)circle nickname Sangam (earned owing to a partially non-religious activity).
But I had wanted to visit it for some time now. And Tirupathi not being that far from Bangalore, only made it dependent on me deciding (when to get in that line).

Its a test. You are in there, with people (sometimes) getting too close to comfort; with the line just not moving (or worse - the line beside you moving while your is not). You can very well quit in the beginning, but later, when you are half the way there, quitting would take just as much toll on you as going ahead. You would not have your phone or your music; you can't just kill the queue-time like you normally do.

What you will do is think, talk and maybe when you got absolutely nothing else to turn your mind to, chant Govinda, govinda - maybe stressing more on the syllable 'GO' to set  your line moving miraculously. And it will.
Enroute Tirumala
Windmills at Tirumala
Sri Vari Temple
I and my dear devoted 'Dude' (who following the ritual, got his head shaved) had been on a self imposed upvaas vrat (fast). Going by the initial estimate, it was only a matter of 4 hours. We contemplated that this would truly enhance the flavour of the famous Tirupathi Laddoos. Although the things did get awry, we held our resolve, until the very end.

Its a big satisfaction, having completed the journey. One where barely any actual distance was covered, but each moment in those eight hours was felt in its entirety. One where the fatigue was way worth the reward (read Laddoos) and those final few minutes under the golden gopuram - when no matter if you are an atheist or a painted pandit - your eyes would just remain fixed at the great deity in front of you.

Rights to exaggeration and bragging reserved.
Its not how it happened; its how you remember it.
No characterisation intended.
Data and information may have been skewed to suit the storyline.
Everything is relative to your perspective.

October 15, 2013

Misty Mountains Cold

1/4 KMS

It made no sense.
Neither did the absence of a reason for us to be reading that (or trying to read that), quarter of the way up, on a somewhat 'misty mountain cold' from an easily imaginable Tolkien universe.

The clocks read 02:10 in that half-mooned Saturday night. My usual warm bed and cold beer was 70 kilometers behind. And I was trying to find solace in a spelling error.

Fantom. Of course it doesn't mean a phantom.
But with a thick canvas of darkness all around, you can imagine anything. And with swaying trees, hissing bushes and large rocks around, you could imagine everything. There was a monster behind every tree.
I wished we were home. And we would have turned homewards, had that old man with a dire wolf not found us some 42 minutes earlier.

About 42 minutes earlier…
We were lost. All that we knew was that we had to find a sign saying 'way to hills' and we would be on the right track.

We did. Yet we had been finding dead ends no matter which way we turned.
Someone flashed a light in our direction. Certainly a signal.

Could it be the Police? As we wondered, the guy who planned the trip quoted wikipedia : "As of December 2011, Skandagiri trekking has been completely banned by Chickballapur police, during night as well as day. " (Click here to read more dreadful stuff, refer to section: 'Important Information')
So that’s why we had to take a detour around the police chauki and crawl underneath a no-entry barrier to get to the starting point. We had gone about it so very casualy because then, unlike now, our minds were without fear and we held our heads high.
We could have scorned at him for keeping this from us but the light was drawing closer. This time accompanied with a distinct whistle.
Should we respond, we wondered. Could he be a lootera? All wondering aside, we flashed back.

The closer he came, the older he looked. His dog, black and dire-wolfish, closely trailing him.
He said something. We said something. Neither understood the other. The dire-wolf wasn't even interested.

He tried again.
We shook our head in negation.
Having watched all of Samantha Ruth Prabhu's movies, I thought maybe I could catch his drift. I had barely shaken my head in affirmation and he began rapping in Telugu.
We stopped him. "Hindi??" "English??"
"Hindi illey, English illey", he said.
"Kannada illey, Telugu illey", we said.

Then he said, "Paisa kodi, paisa kodi". Money was brought in picture. And we understood each other quite well from there on. He led us out of that labyrinth until we were back on the right trail.

"Follow the white arrows", he manged to make us understand this before leaving.

We could see half the hill ahead of us. The other half lay engulfed by the mist. Moving ahead , we kept feeling lost, but always found that reassuring white arrow.
That was until we came up to the 'Fantom' writings alongside the white arrow.

We were four people. We had one Flash-light. I know ki ye bahut na-insafi hai. But mujhe seriously laga tha ki it would be just about the climb. Jai-mata-di bolunga and would race to the summit. So I never bothered to carry a torch. The way up to the raw 1350 m peak was whatever places you could root your feet into.

The city lights afar faded as we entered the mist. At about 3:30 am, nearly half the climb was done. Cold and fatigue were setting in. Overnight trek. The idea seemed a bit less appealing than it had done some 12 hours earlier.

12 hours earlier…
A very good friend of mine was in town. Ideally, I should have spent all of the weekend with him, but for this trek. For a better part of Saturday morning (and afternoon), I was cleaning up the mess I made at work on Friday. Well, with responsibilities and jobs, your schedule changes before the numbers on your keyfob.

Anyway, we met up. He is not a guy, but a whole package (literally :P ) 'strappoed' into one, bringing all us scattered people, cluttering, chattering, cooking, rebuking and peeling off lahsun as the good times roll'ied' on.
G1 rocked. :D

I could have stayed on. But I chose differently. Joined by fellow trekkers, I was enroute to Hebbal. Then to Yelahanka. And then to Chikaballapura. And then halfway up Skandagiri, mist soaked and with winds getting fiercer with the rising gradient.

The mist never let us know that we had reached the top until we actually did. The wind was so fierce up there that it could have seriously blown me off (and its not because I weigh less but because that wind velocity could blow away a storm). And it was cold. Us t-shirt clad noobs hid in that small rocky temple. Last time I felt that cold was during the Roopkund trek. We talked about how we had beaten the cold back then. My advice - never trek without rum. A little wouldn't kill you, but make you stronger. :D

It was beyond 7 and still too windy and too misty for any sign of the sun. Trudging back was the only option and not a bad one. With every step down, the brightness increased, the optimism returned. And I realised, in totality, it was all worth the effort. The morning light showed us what we had walked through and if nothing, the cramps and sprains gave us self approved badge of achievement while reigniting the respect and love of our dear bread and bed.

Shortly before we hit the plains, we came upon the 'Fantom' sign again.

1/4 KMS

Rights to exaggeration and bragging reserved.
Its not how it happened; its how you remember it.
No characterisation intended.
Data and information may have been skewed to suit the storyline.
Everything is relative to your perspective.