Wednesday, June 18, 2008

King of forts ... !!

I feel very lucky being in Pune. Its like the epicenter of all tourist destinations. Beaches, forts, renowned temples (read Ashtavinayak and Jyotir-ling) ... everything is accessible with minimum of effort. Due to monsoons hitting Pune earlier than expected, all monsoon plans had to be preponed. Yes, preponed and not postponed. Last weekend, we (read Biwi, Omkar, Dinesh, Prakash and I) visited a fabulous point at Mulshi and we didn't want to waste this weekend too.

The original plan was to trek from Arthur's seat in old Mahabaleshwar to Pratapgad on Saturday. But Dinesh had to stay in office on Saturday. So we rescheduled it for Sunday. We called up a person in Mahabaleshwar to inquire if traffic to Mahabaleshwar is proceeding. The answer dampened our spirits a bit. Apparently, traffic to Mahabaleshwar it halted at Panchgani itself during heavy rain. So, now what?

Oye koi gall nahi baashaaon. We decided we will trek Rajgad. So, everyone assembled at my place at 6 am sharp (quite a surprise huh?). We stopped 16 km off Rajgad to have naashta and then proceeded to reach Rajgad at 8:30 am.

I could vividly remember my first trip to Rajgad on Republic Day in 2005. That was CoV's first official trip and what a joy that was, although it was in January when most of the greenery was wiped out and we had skipped the trek to Baale Killa. Cut to 2008.

We started our trek from a place called 'Gunjavane paayta'. It was a pleasure to be amidst such a green and misty locale. The scenic horizon tempted us to hurry up with every step.

The last section was extremely treacherous, at least when we saw it first. It was a vertical climb with a few railings for support. But we managed to negotiate it and reached the top at around 11 am.

The atmosphere around the lake was astonishing. Almost surreal.

We had tea at a place called the 'Kacheri'. There was a nice statue of Shivaji Maharaj kept over there.

Sipping hot tea along with chips was the perfect recipe for this kind of weather. Did someone say 'Kaanda Bhaji'?

But then started the fun part. We had to go up to Baale Killa. This was even more hazardous.

Kudos to everyone who pulled their weight and completed the 2nd trek successfully. No wonder that everyone was overjoyed on reaching Baale Killa.

It was even more misty and windy at the top.

After spending around an hour on top, we started trekking down, which was non-trivial. It was a long time before we came back to Gunjavane. I guess it was 5:30 pm. We reached home at around 7 pm.

One of the most enjoyable as well as difficult treks so far in my life. King of forts as well as King of treks ... RAJGAD ... !!

Cheers ... !!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Trends ... !!

Its funny how trends change. In fact, if they wouldn't change, I don't think such a word would have existed. Its worthy to note how you discuss stuff with your family/friends at various junctures in your life.

For instance, during childhood, your eye would always be on your friend's toys. Why cant I have that toy? Why don't I have his fancy shoes? Some more years down the line, you would be inquisitive about the school your friend goes to. Your conversations with your friends/cousins would revolve around exams, marks, weird teachers, etc.

Your first bicycle would draw comparisons and lead to discussions. For days, you will discuss how many times you fell off while learning to ride your bicycle.

During the 10th grade exams, the focus would be on each other's preparations for the exams. Your strong and weak subjects. As soon as the exams are over, the focus shifts to expectations, possible career paths and colleges. Once the results are out, accompanying each other to various colleges for admission.

Attraction to the opposite sex is a long term activity, which is at its peak during these days. The time you spent talking to one particular pretty lass makes you brag about it to the entire circle. Then its about career, specialization courses, etc. IITs, IIMs, Engineering, Hotel Management, Business, etc. This becomes normal jargon.

At the end of your education, its basically talking about jobs. Indulging in your family's business or seeking an opportunity in an MNC? You are dead curious to find out where your friends/cousins are placed and how they are doing.

Then comes marriage. All of a sudden, everyone starts getting hitched. All you know is that you are running from one marriage hall to another to attends weddings. This doubles when you are married yourself since you have to attend weddings of all people related to your better half.

Then kids take over. Its moves from marriage halls to hospitals and Baarsaas.

I don't know what the next phase would be in my life. But I don't think this will stop. Trends will remain just that .... trends ... !!

Cheers ... !!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fairytale finals ... !!

No, this is not related to cricket, soccer or tennis or any other fad sport followed by Indians earnestly. Its about basketball. Yes, its NBA finals time and ever since the Playoffs started, I had been rooting for just 2 teams ... they go by the name of Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. For some, these 2 name might sound like ... What? ... while for true NBA fans, it will sound like the biggest sporting phenomenon in the world. Yes, a NBA finals comprising of the Lakers and the Celtics is almost like a fairytale ... in fact it is a fairytale.

Now, why is this a fairytale. Well, just looking at it from a historic point of view. For starters, just talk about the legends who are part of this storied rivalry. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are two unparalled icons in the NBA history. Both were pillars for their respective teams, almost like blood running through their team's veins. Talk about the hookster Kareem Abdul Jabbar (famous for his hook shot), the sublime Bob Cousy, the irresistable Bill Russell, the energetic Danny Ainge, the most amazing Jerry West or the larger than life Wilt Chamberlain. Each champion willing to slug it out till the last second with its competitor. 4 quarters of 12 minutes looked like a never ending highlight reel.

Who can forget a forward/guard like Magic Johnson filling in as Center in place Kareem to win the deciding game for the Lakers in one of their Finals contests. Talk about colour ... White and Green for the Celtics and Purple and Gold for the Lakers. Talk about the venues ... the Boston garden and the Forum at LA.

They have met 10 times in the past in the finals. Boston have won 8 of them. It does not reflect the intensity with which these two teams have played. Its just that Boston has upped their tempo in the clutch moments. Together, they have won a staggering 30 titles together. Phenomenal.

So its no wonder that when the playoffs started, I desperately wanted these 2 teams to be in the finals. So who will win? Or whom do I want to win?

My heart says Lakers but I think the Celtics have a better team. Its gonna be Garnett, Allen and Pierce from the Celtics against Kobe Bryant of the Lakers. Yeah, Lakers dont have that kind of "Big-3" force but if their bench plays the same way as they played against the Jazz and the Spurs, then Lakers might just pip the Celtics. I cant wait to watch the finals. As an update, Celtics won Game 1 tonight. My prediction is 1-1 in Boston ... then 2-1 to Boston in LA and finally 1-1 in Boston again. So my prediction is 4-3 to Boston ... but I would still like the Lakers to win ... Cheers ... !!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

First brush in 2008 with favourite season ... !!

Yeah, my favorite season has kicked off ... just at the right time ... since IPL just concluded ... ;)

My first brush this year with the rains wasn't according to script though. I was in the middle of a meeting when the sound of thunder forced us to peek out of the room. At that time, it was just dark clouds and plenty of thunder and lightning. But what followed was the true essence of the Monsoons.

After completing my naashta at office, I took off for home at around 6 pm. It was going according to script till Mehendale Garage (by script,I mean enjoying driving my bike in rain). After that, it was a first for me. There was a traffic snarl close to Mehendale Garage. This is another bare essential about rainfall, especially in Pune. You cant keep traffic jams and monsoon away from each other. In fact, % increase in the number of vehicles added in a year can be thought of being directly proportional to the % increase in time you spend in traffic jams (during monsoons) between the 2 years in question.

I kept my bike running for the initial 100 meter struggle. But after that, I heard the sound of my bike at around 10 pm, when I was close to City Pride (Satara Road). It was a tough ordeal not to drive my bike for 4 hours but just push it forward as and when the traffic inched ahead. This was my first stint with the Kothrud-home stretch in the monsoon since for the last 3 years, I had been going home from Aundh and I could easily escape from Khadki station during those days. But Kothrud to home is like a nightmare since it includes negotiating Mhatre Bridge, Shastri road, Sinhagad road, Swargate/Parvati and finally the chaotic BRTS Satara road.

But thats what monsoons are all about. A little hit here, a little whimper there. I made some friends during this horror journey. Yes, I call it a journey. I was audience to some of the most hilarious conversations. There was this woman who was on her Spirit and she was constantly getting calls (presumably from her home). When she received the first of such calls, her response was ... "Mi ata traffic jam madhe adakli aahe ... maala vel laagnaar ghari pochaayla". Fair enough. Next call ... "Naahi, azun tithech aahe ... khup vel laagnaar asa distay". Encouraging. Next call ... "Naahi, tithech aahe". Sublime. And the clincher was ... "Ho baal radat asel, pan ata mi pan radnaar aahe". That was brilliant.

Two college going boys were at the extreme left of the road, almost kissing the footpath. This footpath was very narrow. Hardly one person could stand at one time without falling out. Plus, the footpath was surrounded by short trees/plants/shrub. So, if someone was to walk on the footpath, he/she needed to jerk their head outwards to avoid the tree/plant/shrub. These 2 guys were immersed in some college conversation. Just then, 2 girls came walking from the opposite side. The first girl now had to avoid the tree/plant/shrub but if she bent her head outwards, she would be touching this guy who was driving the bike. The guy obviously wouldn't have minded. And these guys were the typical taporis. Good girl or bad girl ... comments would not stop. This is what their conversation was like ...

Boy 1 - arey bagh bagh ... ithech thaambaayla paahije hi ... majaa yenaar mag ..
Boy 2 - saalya maala de naa gaadi ... ata mi thoda vel chaalavto
Boy 1 - veda beda zhaalay ki kaay ... thoda vel thaamb ... hechya pudhchi mulgi tujhi
Boy 2 - chal zaao de ...
this is when the girl came agonizingly close to the guy. I really pity her.
Boy 1 (in a slight hush)- kasla scent maarlaay re ... gaadi nasli asti naa .. tar ... (i will skip this) ..
Boy 2 - chal pudha chal pudha ... raatra bhar ithach naahi thambaycha aplyaala ..
Boy 1 - Chyaaila ... maagchya 15 mintaat ek hi gaadi pudhe naahi geli .. ataach zaaychi hoti kaa ... B*******
Boy 2 - tula aadhich saangitla hota maala gaadi de ... tuzha luck futka aahe ...
Boy 1 - gapp re ch****, tuzha luck baghu pudhchya chowkaat ... aey pan mi tila vicharu kaa kuthla scent hota?
Boy 2 - vichaarun kaay gh**** karnaar aahe ... ladies asnaar .. tu laaun kaay karnaar?
Boy 1 - arey mi maajhya baayko laa laavnaar naa ...
Boy 2 - ho ... milaali tula baayko ... chal pudhe aata ...

This is what i call ... once in a lifetime experience ... ;)

There was another chap on a bicycle just in front of me ... since everyone was moving forward inch by inch ... I too tried to occupy every inch available. On one such occasion, the front tyre of my bike brushed the bottom part of this guy's trouser. He looked back ... I wasn't apologetic ... this happened again after some time ... this time he couldn't help but respond ...

Man - arey bhau ... zara baghun ...
Me - kaay zhaala?
Man - tyre laagla tumcha maajhya pant laa ...
Me - mag?
Man - dusryaanda zhaala he ...
Me - arey paaus padtoy, traffic jam aahe ... he tar honaarach ...
Man - te barobar aahe tumcha ... pan don da naahi hoyala paahije ...
Me - kaa?
Man - kaa mhanje kaay? ek daa zhaala ki theek aahe pan tumhi don daa kela ...
Me - Ok Ok ... sorry.

It seemed he had a tolerance value of 1 ... ;)

One person was coming from the opposite side of the road (wrong side) in such a huge traffic jam ... I was so angry at him that I told him ... "arey ch****, kuthun gaadi kaadhaaycha prayatn kartoy ... (and some more ... lets leave that). I expected him to reply aggressively. Instead, he was calm as a cucumber. He didnt say anything. I told him ... "arey aiku naahi yet aahe kaa ... shivi dili tar kalat naahi kaa?". His response was so surreal ... "arey kaay karu ... shambar shivya aiklet ith paryant ... tula kaay vaat ta ... mi correct side try naahi keli kaa?".

I couldnt help but smile at this.

It was surely a first for me ... trapped in a traffic jam for more than 3 hours ... what a start to the monsoons ... I need to get down to business planning my monsoon ...

I hope such encounters visit me day and again (just the conversations and not the traffic jams)... Cheers ... !!