Monday, November 12, 2007

Of Nothing in Particular

Hi Peeps.

It's been a long time, and a lot has happened since then. I cant help it, that I am a happening guy. For those of you wondering how incredibly vain, is this blogger, please check out "bad sarcasm" on Wiki.

Been to Nikko a couple of times in the last month. The second time was to check out the Autumn colours a week ago. Apparently half of Japan had the same idea and I ended up stuck in a interminable traffic jam to get up to the woods and the lake from the Temple complex downhill.. I was far better off than people who followed an hour after me. They spent 5 hours, to my couple of hours staring outta the window of the bus. The scenery itself wasn't too bad though.

Growing up as I did back home,hanging outta the foot board of buses, jumping in and out of running trains, deep sea diving without oxygen and parachuting off 30 floor buildings(guess which two I made up :P ) , the announcements in the buses here never fail to tickle me.
"We are now approaching the Irohazaka Slope.The bus will largely sway from side to side. Please fasten your seat belts and secure all baggage. Passengers may experience motion sickness..blah blah". In that goddamn traffic jam, if we moved any slower, we would be going backwards !!! Yuri Gagarin wouldn't have got those many instructions when he blasted off into space... It would probably have been [Thick Russian Accent] "Theez eez Borisz , Hope yzou have tanked up on Vodka and don't forget to pee righd into ze vaccum pump.Dont get too cloze though!! 3.2.1.Blast off"

With minimal observable damage I reached the Lake inspite of the allegedly apocalyptic journey, but not before I flexed my new found Japanese muscle with the pretty "Call Center Lady" sitting next to me. CCL had apparently backpacked in Tibet, travelled in a bus for 4 days from Yunnan.. after dropping out of Arts College. CCL also had a blinding revelation that my thick spectacles were a result of staring at miniature robots, after I solemnly told her that I was an Electronics grad. The specs were a result of staring at entirely different, organic specimens of the female sex, for long hours during my long adolescence ,but obviously I didn't tell her that. After holding her spell bound with my Japanese for a good hour, I concluded that my Japanese was coming on quite magnificently or that I was a stunningly handsome male specimen, if it wasn't my Japanese :P . If you still haven't checked out "Sarcasm" on Wiki, You should do so now......

I stayed overnight in a Pension next to the Chuzenji Lake after spending the evening trying out my new Canon EOS Kiss Digital X. I quickly figured, how much I don't know bout this gizmo...

The next day, I loitered around the Ganmangafuchi Abyss near the temples and came back to Tokyo to check tryout my new contraption in Meijijingumae ,Harajuku, which always has more than one good photo op in store...

Check out the dude with Gold Fish Earrings.

And they lived happily ever after......

I've been reading loads off late... Staying up well into the night. My most recent reads.

-Alan Turing's Bio
-The History Of the Orgasm - Very informative. For the ones with leers on your faces.. This ain't got any pictures :P
-A Nick Hornby Novel- How to Be Good... Classy.
-Murakami's Dance Dance Dance .. Abstract and Dreamy
-Currently reading - Oppenheimer's Biography. Spectacular stuff this. I am half way through and this is easily one of the most lucid works in contemporary writing that I have chanced upon.. It really deserved the Pulitzer it got.
-Got another book on the futility of religion and a Nietzsche which I might not understand at all...

Happy Diwali to all the desis. And to all the non-desis... Look up Diwali on Wiki.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Of Empty Streets and Simple Complications...

He continued walking in the misty drizzle. The tiny raindrops, almost apologetically, gently landing on his face, and ever so slowly mingling with their brethren on their random traverses across his cold cheek. He didn’t particularly like to face up to the idea that the next five days would be spent pecking at a keyboard in an antiseptic office, but the weekend wasn’t much of a respite at all from the jarring futility of his excuse for a life. He wondered which he hated less…. The weekend won…But only just…

Weekends were something he had always looked forward to as a kid. The promise of a couple of days break from the rigors of the unimaginative and institutionalized, almost ritual boredom called school…. Looking back, he tried to remember when the concept of the weekend stopped being a novelty and became a tooth in a wheel, mindlessly being driven by an iron chain with a will of its own. Somewhere between the time he’d sleep walked through school and found himself in a university, he hadn’t planned on getting into in the first place, he quipped soundlessly. He tried pinpointing the exact point in the crowded timeline, despite a voice in the back of his head trying to reason with him about the meaninglessness of the entire exercise. After a relatively short battle, the voice won.

The rain helped. It kept people in their homes, leaving the streets and the little puddles for him to negotiate in a calm he so loved to have around him. He allowed himself a rare smile. Not rare, because he didn’t smile too often…Nope, to most people around him, there couldn’t be a happier man... It was rare, because it didn’t have an agenda…
The voices made sure that these moments were far and few in between though.

Although he had lost his religion somewhere along the way, he believed in a certain interpretation of cosmic justice, almost bordering on the concept of Karma.
The only way he could explain his present situation was through this means. A certain part of him, told him that this was an escape route the mind sought to explain seemingly random connections between unconnected events. But there are times when a refuge in such “reason”, however farfetched can make life so much less complicated. Also, the “reason” gave him hope… He had been a good man, a confused man but an honest man in the last couple of years that he knew what exactly he was up to…or so he thought. Yet life had dealt him the cards, from a deck, he desperately hoped in hindsight, had been shuffled one more time. Using his definition of cosmic justice, he reckoned that he should be in the black sometime in the future. His not so distant past’s bad karma should be annulled by the events in his all too recent past. Maybe not entirely, but certainly in the near future…..
The rain suddenly morphed into an angry hail of thick raindrops…He looked up …He smiled again… Not a bad weekend he muttered and kept walking.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Of the Birth and Death of Indian TV

Japan may be the second biggest economy in the world, but the jingle industry here is stuck in a time-warp and they refuse to stop using high pitched juvenile voices to scream their punclines. The same "Sugooieee ......%*%^&*^&(^(^....aeeeee" is used to sell every product from toothpaste to Automobiles. There are a few ads which tickle the senses but most of it cacophonous non sense.
The talk show hosts are so goddamn over-the-top with the canned laughter and the exaggerated laughathons that even if I undertood the language any better, it still wouldnt make any sense.Check out Lost in translation for a better idea of what I'm saying.

I am actually missing the early Indian Television scene , which I grew up with when I was a kid. I remember, when we first bought a TV in 1986. Those days were extra special with the whole household's routine planned around Chitrahaar,Ramayan, Mahabharat,Samachar,Fauji, Buniyaad and Circus. My fav spot used to be the Sunday evening 5PM with Giant Robot .. Then, ads were never considered the nuisance that they are now, cos most of them made sense and most of the everyday average-Pandus could understand and relate to em. Anyway since DD was the only one channel around, there was not much scope for channel hopping during the ad-sequences. If DD decided to air only ads on Saturday evening, we would have uncomplaininingly watched em:)
We knew the names of every single newsreader ...Minu, Rini Khanna who later became Rini Simon or the other way around, Tejeshwar Singh, Neeti Ravindran,Gitanjali Aiyar,Komal GB Singh,Sunit Tandon. TV has lost that personal small town feeling it had when it first hit India.
The color stripes with that annoying shrill background sound giving way to the DD opening song in the afternoon was the thrill of the day..The DD emblem slowly materialising outta a circular orb, with the shehnai Taa na nana naa in the background.

The oldest ad that I remember is the one with Javed Jaffrey in Cinkara. "Bechara kaam ke boj kaa maara" and then a spoon of Cinkara and he flying thru the glass door. Fascinated me endlessly to see all the glass flying around :)
Then there was the Goodwards gripewater ad. The one featuring the three generations. Very touchy feely ad.
I still like the freshness in the Torino jingles set to that very catchy tune.
-Its a great great feeling,
the taste sends u reeling ..Aah..Torino Orange
and the
Its a new new sensation,
Orange fascination .Aaah..Torino Orange

Then there was the ubiquitous Nirma Ad..
Doodh si safedi, Nirma se aaye..Rangeen kapde bhi khil khil jaaye..Sabki pasand Nirma.

The Maggi tomato ketchup sequences with JJ and Pankaj Kapoor..mouthing inanities like 'Lily, Dont be silly' and 'It's Different' :)

NECC: Sunday Ho Ya Monday, Roz kaye ande.....

ECE: Jyada de ujala, hyaada din chalne waala ECE Bulb aur ECE tube :)

No new fangled "Isme me hain Ultra phenicol penta sodium meta isosilicate zinc chlorate micro granules jo Dandruff ko jad se nikaale " [Shudder], just old fashioned Pappu-Kamala stuff.

Sue me for being an emotional cliche, but I'd rate Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, Baje Sargam, Ek Chidiya Anek Chidiya,Purab se soorya uga as the best ever social messages that have been conveyed via the visual media in the history of Indian Television... Simple, subtle , classy...

Anyways, while the Cable TV revolution was a breath of fresh air for the Indian TV scene when it came in, all they seem to air off late is the mind numbing Saas-bahu crap.

Ting Tin Ti Ting.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Of a Summer Sojourn on Trains...

One of the few perks of a deputation to Japan, which kinda slightly makes up for the torture of having to consume my own culinary creations, is the Summer vacation. The basic idea is that people go back to their hometowns from the repititive rigarmole of their everyday lives and do the Obon thingy, which is a Buddhist festival, honouring and communing with the spirit of their ancestors.
Now given that my ancestors would be kinda chilling out with Indra and co, in the upper reaches of the Himalayas sitting on cumulus clouds (Please refer to Ramanand Sagar's Mahabharat for more visual clarity.They probably hit Goa every winter, but that would be speculation), we decided to check out Hokkaido in Northern Japan. The "we" in question happen to be myself and Santosh Datta aka Babruvahana(Pls refer below pic for details of the aka).

My vacation kinda kickstarted on Fri,10th Aug, with a party in Ginza with a few of my Japanese friends after which I was supposed to join Babru in front of a Starbucks in Ikebukuro at midnight. The plan was to spend the rest of the night in a pub , but we ended up spending it in a 24 hr MacDonalds since the pub was closing early for the nite.

After pretending to drink one Coke and eat one Burger from 12 AM to 0430 AM, we caught the first train out to Ueno to begin an epic train journey across Tohoku in the process maxing the benefits outta our 5day, 11500Yen Seishun 18 kippu.

The route:

We had to change 10 freaking trains to get to the northern tip. Lunch was a hassled bakery affair someplace midway.The plan was to take a night ferry to Hakodate and then take it from there.
But the Railway dude informs us that the Ferry is a no-go since they'd stopped operating it(Incidentally,he was wrong)....
We missed the 1045 Hamanasu Express to Hakodate too, so we were destined to spend the night in Aomori. We had an alleged burger for dinner at a MOS Burger joint and after wandering the streets watching the hip hop junta try their latest moves and a shamisen player entertaining an audience of exactly three, we crashed outside the Train station with our backpacks for pillows.

Day 2:
We rise bright and early and made for Kanita on the morning local. After reaching there, we were too consumed with our previous day's success in negotiating the Japan Rail System and jumped on a train to Mimmaya, assuming it would get us further on till the Seikan Tunnel.
Mimmaya turned out to be a nothing place which looked liked the ones where life revolves around gossip at the station waiting room. It was a dead end and we retraced our way back to Kanita and then took the express under the Seikan Tunnel into Kikkonai, then catching an afternoon train into Hakodate, where we were interviewed by an Assistant Director of some Television channel about what we liked about Japan. I must have made it on TV, and I looked like a train wreck :D

We moved on to Onumakoen St to camp around Onuma Lake around Mt.Komagatake. We scouted out the local station and the information center and booked our rooms for the onward journey to Sapporo. We stocked up on dinner supplies at a local combini and moved to Choshiguchi St, where we got down to camp.We got a empty piece of real estate at the far but prettier end of the lake.

We met a local Japanese couple who were chilling out on evening chairs next to our tent. They gave us local dope on wuts best and where to hire the cheapest bikes.
We had dinner and took a nap in the tent at 2000 and got out at 2130. Watching the reflection of stars in the water was a first for me. The sky was perfectly clear,the air crisp, the chill faint and I aint gonna forget that sight for a long long time...little shimmering silver dots in the still water.I also saw 5 shooting stars..I'd seen only one my whole goddamn life till then :)
We crashed out for good at around 2300.

Day 3:
We were the last people to wake up in the camp. We packed our tent into the backpack and made for an onsen resort at Nagareyama St. I almost fell in love with the cutest ever Shop attendant,Babru being the gentleman sacrificing et al :P. We hired MTBs there and went around the 14 km circuit around the lake and also island hopping the small islands around Komagatake and returned in late afternoon to return the bikes and popped into the onsen. Not a great onsen, but was charging the moon cos one can see Komagatake from the pools.
We returned back to the camp site and pitched the tent. We slept early .The night was a bit overcast. Not quite like the night before...

Day 4:
We moved camp and after encountering a snake at the station, moved on to Mori-> Oshamambe->Otaru->Sapporo.
After reaching Sapporo , we unpacked at the YH after a breakfast at a Mister Donuts at the station. We went to an Indian Restaurant for dinner and then went on to the Odori-koen where the Summer Festival was being held. Babru danced himeself into a trance to the repititive though catchy beat of the Hokkaido Odori around the stage..

Day 5:
We moved outta the YH next morning and took the 1000 AM to the Historical Village of Hokkaido, where we were shown around the place by an English speaking ex-Animal Husbandry researcher and English Teacher would taught Japanese in Australia and Argentina...phew...

We then went to the Beer Museum to same their exhibits. I kinda liked the early 20th century poster of the Beer Ads...Very kitschy, very cool.

We then went to the Bus Station to book the tickets on the night train to Utaro in Shiretoko.
And then walked the length of Odori Koen. We returned to the Bus station behind the TV Tower to catch the night train to Shiretoko.

Slept like a baby on the bus... The push back seats went way back. Real comfy :)

Day 6:
We woke to a rainy morning, and arrived at the Utaro terminal early. We went out to the information center and waited for it to open up at 0900. Getting all the info that we needed at this superb Info Counter, we made for the campsite on a ridge overlooking the Sea of Okhotsk.
We made camp and then it started drizzling again, so we got back into the sleeping bags and slept fitfully until late afternoon. We woke up at bout 1300 and made for the Nature Center a 6km walk from the camp. We then went to the Furepe-no-taki, which is an amazing piece of real estate. The setting is absolutely mindblowing... Open flowering grasslands will deer loitering about, a deep craggy rockface and the sea. We shutterbugged for some and got back to camp. We were out by 2000 after the combini meal.

Day 7:
Cloudy skies and damp grass on the morning were pretty good indicators for the rest of the day to come.
We took the bus out to Kamuiwaka Falls, which is basically a water fall over 5 levels forming a natural rotenburo. The water at the top originated from a hot spring, so the water at the bottom levels is still pretty warm.

We then came down to the 5 lakes, to find that we could not go to three of them since the route was closed because of bear sightings....grrr..

We walked the 14 km back to the camp from the lakes. A long long walk, but the greenery makes it worthwhile. Climbed the Oronoko Rock at the harbour after the return..

We hit the bed early. This is pretty much a one horse town, not the kind where you go out and let your hair down and party. At 2000, the place completely closes down...

Day 8:
With the weather finally clearing up, we decided to climb Mt.Rausudake a 15 km hike from the base.This is one of the must do hikes , the most scenic one by far amongst all my treks.. The trail is well marked, but gets steep in a couple of places, and has a final rocky incline which is tricky to negotiate. I was half dead on the way up with all the inclines... Downhill was much easier, but the gravel trail is slippery in bits. The views from the top are stunning to say the least. The Pacific covered with a cotton candy layer of low lying clouds on one side and the Okhotsk on the other. Totally worth the painful knees and sore tendons.

There is a rotenburo onsen, a konnyaku at the base of the climb. We did the full monty and jumped into the hot water and boy was it relaxing... We chatted up a couple of old Japanese men, who were curious to know if we were Brahmins ...Duh....

We came back to camp, packed up and took the night bus out to Sapporo after watching a perfect sunset from the view point at our campsite.

Day 9:
We took the first available train outta Sapporo to Otaru and then onto Oshamamabe and Hakodate. At Hakodate, we caught up on shopping for souvenirs and gifts for people back in Honshu and took a taxi to the Ferry terminal. We caught the evening ferry to Aomori and we spent a good bit of the first hour on it catching the different shades of the setting sun.

We arrived at Aomori at about 2130 and took the train out to Hirosaki, where we spent the night with a Nomihodai deal at a Skylark Gusto All nighter....

Day 10:
We trudged out early morning around 5AM and went lugging our backpacks et al to the Hirosaki-jo. The castle is kinda Ok, but the grounds are pleasant and make for a good place for a morning walk.
We started back on the return journey retracing our route back to Tokyo from Hirosaki

I dont remember much of the return journey cos I was basically in a state of suspended animation.

Overall an extremely fun trip. Lotsa things to remember years from now.

Adios Amigos.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Misty Window Panes

The rains started sometime when he had fallen asleep on the couch, the hum of the air conditioner lulling him into an uneasy sleep. He nuzzled his head on the pillow, trying unconsciously, to cradle it into that sweet spot.
He was woken up by the distant rumble of the approaching thunderstorm,feeling a vague uneasiness. A throat parched and with a heavy head, he placed his bare feet on the cold vinyl floor and felt the chill run up his spine pushing him into the realms of wakefulness. He walked across the room and ran the water from the tap into his favorite jet black cup. He liked the cup. He drank half the cup, suddenly no longer thirsty, unhurriedly emptied the remaining half into the sink.Watching the water etch its way across the metal at the bottom, disappearing in a half murmured gurgled sigh.
His eyes adjusted to the dim light, he went to the window sill and pulled back the curtains,just a bit, and rested his head against the cold glass window. The sky was a tortured canvas of grey with the last rays of the sun, desperately trying to hold sway from the far horizon. The rays were fighting a losing battle. The lightning bolts streaked across the southern skies, lighting up the heavens in a flash of cosmic brilliance followed by the rumble that shook the glass against which his cheek rested. He stood there for a long time, staring unblinkingly at the rain drops falling off the sill. A steady patter almost in sync with his silently beating heart. He stood there until he could not longer see with his breath condensing in a translucent mosaic on the glass. He stood back and painted a squiggle on the misty canvas with his finger. He spent a long while admiring it,until the squiggle disappeared into a meaningless sludge.

He sighed and wondered, what if he had not taken the chances that he took, in the blind belief that whatever the outcome, he could rest assured that he did all he could?
With the benefit of hindsight, he thought would have been easier not knowing.....

He closed the curtains tight and walked back to the couch and snuggled into its deep cushions hoping for sleep to wash over.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Of Fireworks and Crowded Metros.

Half of Sunday has already been spent in bed. Breakfast comprised of all of 4 chocolate chip biscuits and am contemplating my options for lunch. The newly opened Indian restaurant is bout 20 min on cycle from my place and the Pakistani joint is bout 10 away. The other option, the cheapest and by far the the most nutritious is to cook a meal by myself,but needless to say it's the most least appealing option.I am tired of surviving on Avalakki ,but yeah with the range of culinary skills at my disposal, I dont have the luxury of ticking off from a list of exotic dishes,what I plan to conjure today.

Yesterday was particularly tiring. We were not the only people who thought that the Asakusa fireworks were a good distraction from the grindmill of our daily lives. The place was like Chickpet on a day when all cloth merchants decide to give away their wares at half price.
We had to walk for a good hour before we found ourselves a 20 cm gap in the line for the couple of us to fit in.After an hour of staring at the sky at a particularly awkward angle owing to the barricades and a few boughs of a goddamed tree obstructing my peripheral vision, we decided to call it a night and boarded the overcrowded trains back to central Tokyo,nursing the back of my neck on the way home,sweating buckets...

Dinner was a doughnut and a Banana-something in Italian-Frappe at a Starbucks in Ikebukuro.

Finished a few more pages of the Bertrand Russell book on the train ride.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Of Lazy Weekends and English Weather

The past few weekends have been not too different from from what my more illustrious countrymen in white flannels have been seeing in the ol Blighty. More or less rained off .

In a desperate attempt to retain a sense of connectivity with the world where I come from aka where every one,including the overweight techie project manager(whose idea of exertion is a stomp on the aspirations and personal lives of the minions working under him) to the doodhwala, knows better than Rahul Dravid, who should be in the team and which shot to play to the ball pitched on middle and leg,swinging in and seaming out, I have been up quite late these last few nights following the progress of the Indian team losing the script of the "How to win a Series Victory in England" manual and occasionally finding a few pages.

Btw , in a moment of quiet reflection, I am sitting back and just wondering if the above sentence was the longest I've ever written in my life.
The story of my life these days..these Moments of utterly pointless mental excursions :)

Anyways watching Cricket in England has its own moments, the sartorially elegant crowd, with everybody from the village idiot to the mayor turning out in their best hats and ties to watch the progress with emotionless blank faces. Compare this with the atmosphere in Eden Gardens or Sabina Park, you know why there was/is/will be so much talk about the British stiff upper lip.

Have been reading Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy for ages now. It's a pretty heavy tome written in tight English prose. Anyway this is not light reading, and being a Cambridge grad, he has quite a reputation to live up to, so I will not complain bout the rather bland writing style . I must say that, this is pretty informative guide to the Western thought process.
Have Haruki Murakami's "Dance Dance Dance" next in line.

In other (rather stale) news, I fooled around at the Disney Sea Resort(got hold of some free passes from my manager here :) ) a month ago and went on another weekend jaunt to Karuizawa and pottered around a volcano. The 21 km hike had long lasting after effects
though.. Limped my way through most of the week after.

Have a weekend(a sunny one for a change) of lazy reading and train trips to central Tokyo in store.....Fireworks display in Asakusa tonite.

Schönes Wochenende

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Trek to Kumotori-san(45th Highest Mountain in Zapan..Applause..)

Its 2230 on a cool Wednesday nite, but its not what I plan to blog about.
A couple of weekends ago, 26th and 27th of May, we peeps decided to catch up on a long pending trek, which we had to postpone for various reasons in the past...
A 20% chance of rains were pretty good odds and we took the train out of Higashimatsuyama to Yorii on Tobu Tojo at 0700. We changed over to the Chichibu Line and got off at Mitsumineguchi. The plan was for a two day trek, so we were pretty loaded up with the ubiquitous MTR Bisi Bele Baths and Palak Paneers along with a clutch of boiled eggs.
We did not take the Lonely Planet Route, where we came across the trek in the first place.

A slight digression from the subject at hand...
Speaking of Lonely Planet, I cant but wonder at the genius that conjured up the whole idea of the travel guide in the first place. I would place it in the forefront of ideas that have changed the way we travel. "Recommended by Lonely Planet" has become the Travel Industry's equivalent of Michelin Stars. I am pretty sure that if a funny Lonely Planet scribe were to conjure up a story claiming that the island of Bora Jora has this wonderful culture, where if the visitor to the famous Wooden Bridge, stands in the middle of the bridge and takes his shirt off, twirls it 3 times over his head and screams "Jiklatoobooga, ilikeyourmoogamooga", the local girls living in the huts near the bridge would troop out and dance the Giligga Dance in their handcrafted coconut shell bras. You can be sure as hell, that the first few visitors will be met with weird stares for their rendition of "Jiklatoobooga, ilikeyourmoogamooga" at the first bridge in sight, but soon the locals will learn about their famous culture which by now would have got pages written about in travel sites ,all of which ofcourse, will be "Recommended by Lonely Planet" and they will build a new Famous Wooden Bridge(the direction to which will be signboarded every 300mts all the way from the aiport),and the huts and will import Coconut Bras from Hawaii, and dance the Giligga Dance..
As to how does one dance the Giligga in Coconut Bras,I leave it to your fertile imaginations....

Getting back to the subject at hand. We had to take the 0850 bus from Mitsumine-guchi Sta. to Owa, where we were to be whisked up 1000 mts by the Cable Car.A conversation with the Bus Driver in my stone age Japanese, indicated that something bad had happened to the cable car in question.
We got off at Owa at 0905 and started looking for the trail in the one horse town. An old lady from the nearby store told us that the trail upto the final destination of the cable car was 3km and would take us 2 hours,since well...something bad had happened to the cable car.
So we started the trudge, and after a not so long time, we arrived at a Waterfall, where we stopped for a much needed break. Not to say that we hadnt taken breaks before that,but this was a pretty big break.
We moved on and at around 1145, we reached the Top of the cable car station, where decided to launch into our lunches. A gaggle of girls of mixed nationalities were climbing down and looked positively lost. One Oriental looking lady, gingerly came up to us, with a "Sumimasen". I was ready to reply with my most polished "Hain", when she "Can you speak English"ed us...They were relieved that we could as much as we were relieved that they could. They just wanted to know how long it took to descend.
We moved butt, after lunch into the Mistumine Jinja grounds, in and around which we shutterbugged in all and sundry poses.
We then commenced the 10.3 km to the top of Kumotori peak. Just outta the grounds, I had my first encounter with wild life in Japan. Maybe "encounter with wildlife" is a hyper dramatic term to use, but yeah, I did see my first snake in the wild in Japan. It was sitting in the shade beside the trail, when I caught its rustle.
The climb was pretty smooth for the first couple of kilometers. Soon, we encountered the first steep inclines, which I so hate climbing for long intervals because of what they end up doing to my lungs and knees. This stretch was inclines all the way up. After bout the first 1/3 we did get to run down a pretty steep decline, and then it was all the way up again. There are some points along the route with superb views of the valley. We had to break for another grub break,where we cleaned up the rest of the eggs with pepper and salt.
We trekked and we trekked,and we trekked more, but every trail marker indicated,we'd covered 500mts, when it looked like we'd done a good couple of kilometers.
We finally came upon our first sight of habitation, a dilapidated rundown wutever, which we assumed to be the mountain hut, we'd booked. Gentle tapping, followed by violent tapping on the windows confirmed that we had to move on. Another 500mts up the hill, we finally came a bunch of tents, which confirmed that we had made it to the Kumotori-sanso camp grounds.

Its close to dusk when we walked in to the Mountain hut, where we had reserved a room the previous night. It might be spring down in Tokyo, but up in the hills at 2000mts, its bloody cold this time of the year, and I was gallivanting the slopes in my Woodland Sandals,which made for some pretty sensationless toes.I caught up on some reading,after chatting(again in Stone Age japanese) with our nearly 60 year old roommate. We were the only people below 30 in the goddamn place.We had tasteless Soba with Tofu for dinner, for which we paid 1000yen. The room cost 5000Yen. We shared it with three other people.
We got up at 0415 to catch the sunrise.The whole camp was awake and running,by the time we moved out shivering in my chuddies and sandals. We had a breakfast with a couple of Japanese girls from Tokyo and a bunch of old ladies from wherever old ladies who climb hills at 60 come from. The breakfast was certainly not going to be the high point of the day. We moved out at 0600 for the peak still "a short climb away"(once again, a quote from the Lonely Planet). We had not yet warmed up and it was bloody goddamn windy. The trudge was slow and painful.
We finally made it to the peak and took some Edmund Hillary/Tenzing Norgay style snaps on the peak(2017mts) and went to check the free mountain hut, where we could camp if we had sleeping bags. We were loafing around the hut,when a elderly Japanese gentleman mumbled something is Japanese. Unable to catch him, we mumbled our apologies in equally incoherent mumbles,when with a blustery Aussie accent, he went "That's a bloody awfully long way to climb up". The bloke was climbing with a 25 kg backpack.For the unitiated, that a bloody big bag..and as he sermoned "Only a bloody bastard would carry a 25 kg bag up this bloody hill"
We clicked some snaps and went into the hut, where we met a couple of Japanese ladies, we had seen in the hut the previous night. They were friends from Tokyo and Yokohama and one lady has visited Rajasthan and Nepal.We chatted for some more time, when the Aussie-Japanese came up and told Arjun who was outside, to click a snap of his on the peak to show his wife. He apparently peeped in and commented to Arjun, "Lazy Bastards, still here chattin up the gals"
The down hill climb is a long one, but not too difficult, we finished the Bisi bele baths at 1100 and then reached a village from where we walked another 30 min to the bus stop and figured that the next bus was a long time away and we walked another 3km to the main road. Point is, we walked a long long way...Around 20 km is my guess...

We took the bus back into Okutama city, and then back into Tokyo,for dinner at our usual weekend haunt,the South Indian restaurant.

The trek is moderately difficult, but the views esp. on the way down make up for all the aching joints.

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Saturday, June 2, 2007

A long pending blog entry......

Long time , no blog. Guilty as charged....

Seems like ages since Day3 in Chaweng. There were a few more days in Thailand followed by a couple of weeks in India and a couple of weeks in Japan hence. So much has happened since, that the very thought of sitting and bloggin all of that without missing details actually puts one off.

When you sit to recall a really hectic vacation, a month later, chronology is something that's hard to stick to or recall.The memories that remain are not the mundane that you recall at the end of the day, but stuff that's gonna stay with you for a long long time to come.

Some random snapshots from the rest of the days of the vacation.....

I gulped half the Gulf of Thailand and was at the risk of becoming the first drowning incident in the history of snorkelling with a Life jacket on.Frankly I hate any activity that gets me to part with my beloved spectacles, and given that I lose all motor abilities in a water body where my feet do not touch the floor, I am reduced to clenching and unclenching my butt muscles at random frequencies to convince myself that I am still in control of the situation .. but anyways , a visit to the Emerald Lake a while later made up for that. Thailand is really full of nice surprises where sometimes the wares turn out better than advertised. Angthong Marine National park is one of em.....

A long walk on a beach in Lamai,with the occasional gust of sea breeze giving you the chills when you are sweating buckets, and the sun set ambience, sitting on a few craggy boulders, watching the sea mindlessly break itself against the rocks...
Walking on the beach, you have a very thin band to walk comfortably on. If you walk too close to the sea, you go all squishy squishy in the wet sand.. Fun for sometime, but gets to you... You walk too far away, your feet sink right into the sand, no traction, lots of shells to prick your feet.. The beach life...has this small zone .. nice, warm yet cool, compact stretch where you can make the perfect footprint..... And like the beach, Life aint a straight line.......

Another memory that has stayed is a random act of kindness that only travelling can give you a chance to experience. We were waiting on the Pier to catch a boat on our way to Patpong from the Grand Palace, where we asked a bloke in a uniform standing there, the number of the ferry which would get us there. The Thai Navy dude actually paid for our tickets, the next thing we know.... He told us he had a daughter who was 5 years old and that he likes playing with her on weekends....
I haven't met her, but I can almost imagine, how sweet she probably looks......

India was a really draining two week vacation this time round... Covered a bunch of places I`d been meaning to cover..or uncover....
But there are some places, you just just cant seem to reach... However well connected the road,however quick your steed, however strong your will..... Ran into a couple of em.... Another day,another time...

Anyways drinking beer from a huge burette was a first for me.. That was in Leopold in Mumbai. Music was too 1980s to write about.
Usha's wedding and an old boys(and gals) meet in Mumbai was pretty good fun.

Managed a solo climb to Lohagad fort in Lonavala. The view from the top is worth the 9 km climb from Malavli railway station. The trek was something I really needed to do to clear my head. There is a certain catharsis in this whole business of trekking .. It does not solve any problems but gives you a much needed break from em. 18km in 3.5 hours was bliss.
Btw dont go to Khandala if it aint been raining for sometime yet.. Not worth it....

Last weekend was spent communing with nature ,climbing the 45th highest peak in Japan(for those going Thbbt!thhbbt! Snicker! ... Byatches! the inclination is not a function of the height:)) )
Will put up a detailed write up on that in the next blog.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Thailand Diaries -Day 2 and 3.

Blogging this entry from a Travel Agents office on Chaweng Beach, Ko Samui :)

Yesterday morning, we got up nice and early and went to Wiang Kum Kam, bout 6 km outta Chiang Mai Inner City . This place is a bunch of ruins dating back quite some time....700 years ago..Not exactly Macchu Picchu though.. We were the only foreigners in the place..We went around a few of the ruins and were chased out of one by Soi dogs.. We walked to the Highway after getting hopelessly lost among the deserted Wats.. We finally managed to snare a Tuk tuk back into town after a long trudge in the heat... We went to the same Arabic Restaurant for lunch and we had a long chat with the Pakistani owner, who was born in Amritsar bout the travails of life in the Sub continent. Afternoon, we rode on a Songthaew to Doi Suthep and did the usual touristy stuff on the peak..After a zillion pictures of Buddha in sundry poses, we went back to the room to get some shut eye.
The hotel we were staying had a decent pool,so to do full paisa vasool, I slipped into it after a small siesta... After bout an hour in the pool, went down to the place where on Sunday we loafed aound in that amazing market and found a bunch of stray dogs and some locals loitering around in the street... The market apparently is not a perennial feature...Just a Sunday thingy...kicking myself in the butt for not having bought some of the stuff on display, thinking I could I have done it today :(

Anyways, we retired for the night after a visit to the Night Market,not exactly the same thing as the one on Ratchadamnoen Rd on Sunday...

Decided we had enough of Chiang Mai and went to the Airport early morning today on One-Two-Go Airlines from Cnx to Don Muang airport in Bkk.From there we took a shuttle into Suvarna Bhoomi and we took off for Ko Samui on Bangkok Airways flight. Had originally planned to take the chaper option of going into Surat Thani and then take a Ferry into Ko Samui. We landed in Ko Samui at about 1PM .... Kinda cute airport(if you can call an airport cute that is..)... Its completely open air and apparently run by Bangkok airways..who have the monopoly on this route.
Took a Taxi into Chaweng and checked into Silver Sands Resort... The room is a fan cooled deal..and is horribly hot, but it is made more habitable by the fact that the AC Rooms cost 3 times higher... Anyways the plan is not to spend much time in the room.
Went to an Indian Restaurant for Lunch...and then spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach.

Returned for a afternnon siesta and slept unti 1900... Went out and booked a boat into Angthong Marine National Park..The setting for the movie "The Beach ". Just coming off a dinner in a real cool joint, with a very hip laidback Goan ambience. 4 Margaritas and a Pizza.

Retiring for the night.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thailand Diaries -Day 1

A post from Northern Thailand this one :)

Yesterday i.e 21st Apr,Sat we(Arjun and myself) left Higashimatsuyama for Narita by the 10:45 express to Ikebukuro. After a lunch in the before mentioned Nepali restaurant, we went on to Narita by the 1304 NEX to the airport. We flew outta Narita at 1825 and reached Suvarnabhoomi Airport at 12 midnight courtesy North West airlines. Since we had not bothered to update the airline with our meal preferences, we had to choose between Fish noodles and chicken..Not a difficult choice to make for a veggie :).. However, I managed to wrangle some extra slices of bread outta their pantry. Watched a British movie, Notes of a Scandal, starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett followed by The Holiday, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet et al...Decent stuff both... The turbulence for the first couple of hours was beginning to tell on my bowels..and was more than pretty relieved when we finally managed to skirt the storm.

We went out of the airport to book a hotel room for the night. But the humid hot night air hit us like a wall and we traced our footsteps back into the cooler confines of the airport.
We decided to change our initial plan of taking a night train from Bangkok's weirdly named Railway station on Sunday night and decide to take a flight into Chiang Mai early today morning. I half slept the night on a very uncomfortable bench. Early morning we bought a ticket outta Bkk to Cnx on a Air Asia flight cost us 1620 baht each . A couple of hours later at 0800 AM today, we plonked into a hotel, randomly pulled outta my trusty Lonely Planet. Don't ask me whats Top North Hotel supposed to mean. We checked in after a horrendous breakfast in a "Indian Vegetarian Restaurant" (Yup..That was the name) ...We ordered a Full Thali costing bout 90 baht,obviously famished after the North West meal debacle. My Lonely Planet(not so trusty sometimes) promised "adequate portions", which there were, but the food tasted like it had come straight outta my cookbook.. We left the place in a hurry to take a short nap, which extended pretty much into late afternoon. Finally acclimatised to the heat of Thailand(remember, I am just comin outta a Japanese winter) we ventured into the Inner City, visiting a bunch of Wats including Chiang Man Wat and Wat Phra Singh, the most popular ones, we even managed to find a Hindu Devi Temple on the outskirts of the Inner City.

As the sun set behind the hills of Chiang Mai, we went down Th Ratchadamnoen , where a superb Market sprung up outta nowhere... Today morning, there wasn't a soul in sight on these streets.. This city springs to life after sundown. So we went checking out the wares and bought some trinkets here and there. We returned to the rooms to dump the stuff and set out again at 2100 into the other side of the city walking along Th Loi Kroh. I finally bought the Che Guevara T Shirt which I have been looking for, for ages now. Dinner was an uneventful event in an Arabic Restaurant unimaginatively called Arabia. A couple of Allo Paranthas later, we came to a pub with some live moojik had a cocktail and after this blog entry, am headed straight for bed.
Btw there were these cool Paper balloons which they were playing around with around our hotel. They use a small fire to fill out the balloon and the paper lantern lifts up into the sky, looks darn pretty in the night sky....friend caught it on video.Will post later.
If not anything,the night market makes this place totally worth a visit..
its 1 AM on Monday now.Have a long day tomorrow...

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Someday..Eventually..I hope to be a traveller and stop being a tourist.....Eventually ..Someday.

I know I will be one....I just know..

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Silent Illusions

The evening mist, the glistening dale,
In the twilight,shimmers her veil.

She smiles beneath, the heavens sigh,
The curls askew, the twinkling eye.

The silent gaze, the fleeting illusion,
Its all a haze, a frantic delusion.

The setting sun, the hue on the horizon,
The fading sound of a distant clarion

The night sets in, the pole star bright,
Her veil still shimmers, the face still alight.

The dancing shadows on her face,
She stands framed against the star knit lace.

The timbre of her voice,drowns out the noise,
A mere mortal, Did I ever have a choice?

Will the veil ever be raised?
Will the heavens ever be shamed?

I wait in the hope of the promised moment,
I ...shall always be her unheard lament

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Kitschen Blues

I've got back home at reasonably earthly hours for the first time this week.. That alone would be reason enough for a long rambling blog entry about the "joys" of work.
I'll save that for a crappy day :) This one is not worth ruining.

But this whole business of getting home early is more of a double edged sword kinda thingy...
While the pros are
-I get to listen to Clapton and Dylan like they should be listened to.
-I get to fiddle around with the blog.
-I get to stalk profiles of random pretty looking females on Orkut.
-I get to catch up on my reading...Gotta finish the John Gribbin I've picked up.. like ages ago.
-I get to put on leather stockings,play death metal, get my fetish whip outta my closet and play "Whose your papa,bitch!!" with my atrociously kinky Japanese neighbour... (With pros like these, what kinda loser even thinks of cons" :P)

Now the Cons....
When you get back home at 1130 PM, you dont have to make much of a choice..
More like
1130: Return Home.. Swear bout job.
1132: Remove three layers of clothing.
1135: Still swearing bout job.
1140: Switch on comp. Open the packet of bread.
1141: Eating bread. Reading mails.
1143: Login to Orkut. Finish eating bread.
1145: Take a leak..Conjure witty reply to those scraps whilst at it...close zipper.
1147: Send witty replies.
1149: Strip
1149, 20 sec:Snore.

But you get back anytime before 9PM..
There's the bane of every Godamn Veggie Desi Software Engineer in Pardes(True to my profession,we'll abbrev. to GVDSEP for further references) to be confronted....

GVDSEPs, who usually need a map to the kitchen during their comfortable formative years in India , get a rude wake-up call when confronted with the ground realities.(also chopped realities, mashed realities, burnt realities). While trained to confront most challenges in life head on , GVDSEPs have been known to breakdown after being confronted with the "Scrape Charred Rice outta your Burnt Pressure Cooker (SCROBPR)" problem, especially when accompanied by "WTF is burning in the Microwave"(WTFIBIM) situation.

With only a solitary Pakistani Restaurant close to where I live.... most days I have to cry, bludgeon,chop, fry, burn(thats unintentional), toast,roast in the kitchen to ensure that my daily nutritional needs are met....

On that note..
Hungry GVDSEP.

PS: If you meet me on the street, dont ask "Whats Cooking in ur life?" ...Expect violent reactions.Dont tell me I didnt warn you, but then look a the pros...You'd probably be the topic of my next blog entry..."One Liners Can Kill"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The French Connection

Weekend almost bout to end ... Another weekend dedicated to the Patron God of Sloths and other such maligned animals , who are just abiding by laws of natural physics... Principle of Least Action. All of you who spent it climbing mountains,worked on your 1 mile run time or working out at the neighbourhood gym..

Watch out!! ..You mess with Nature...She'll mess with you ..Buhahaha...
<..Quip..>Atleast that's what Al Gore has been claiming , and he got an Oscar for that!

Going on to less apocalyptic peeves, I just added a new one to my "Lousy Weekend Dos List"... Watch (F)Arty French Movies...

The French have convinced themselves(and most of the rest of the world), that to be considered as avantgarde they need have a plot with mandatory frontal nudity ,a nubile 18 year old and a sad 40+ male, and of course the Eiffel Tower where lovers hold hands, lock lips or generally violently grope each other.... Hollywood has convinced me that you can see the Eiffel Tower through any damn window of any damn house in Paris!

The movie in question is The Last Tango in Paris. An Italian Parentage, and a name that goes..Burrnaarrdho Berthaloochi,(If you picture Penelope Cruz saying that!!Brother, you would be salivating, with your tongue substituting for a neck tie, even if your name is not Bernardo Bertalucci) is apparently all you need to be qualified for this movie making job...
Anyway, I thought Swimming Pool was an aberration, until I watched this.... Total weirdo movie...or may be I aint Intellectually capable enough to appreciate the hidden implications(They must have been pretty well hidden, coz I never found a hint of any..quip quip)
Atleast I'd watched Swimming Pool on a Singapore Airlines flight from Changi to Narita...A kinda perverse pleasure, that my company was paying for a flight where I got to watch free porn!! One of the few moments when I deeply felt... that the slog was worth it...
But on this occasion, the sight of Marlon Brando...and a suggestion "The Complete and Uncensored Version" in italics on the cover, proved my undoing ...I shelled out my Yen gleefully, hoping for a snazzy story, with a bit of perversion thrown in....

An hour into the movie...I was like "what the @@##$" or as the French would say "Qu'est-ce que c'est"?
Other than that...Have spent a neat packet on a pair of Timberland Climbing boots, a snazzy evening jacket and a bunch of other stuff that I really dont need!
...I'd wager that the bill would easily surpass the GDP of most South American Countries......

Some fait accompli that....

Adieu!Mon amis..

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Sometimes I wonder, what's the easiest route to take if I wanna become filthy rich inspite of my meagre talents. ..
Lets see...
My vocal talents are positively an encouragement to the likes of Britney and her ilk, besides,my breasts are real.
I could try to be a politician, but George Bush has set such impossibly high standards of stupidity, that I've got to dumb my IQ down to the level of a flea high on cocaine to be any good.
I could try being a actor, but last I heard, Bollywood's gotten queer...Earlier the women had to sleep with the directors for the plum roles, but now I hear actors gotta do the same<..Shudder..>

But I do figure I can get into this business of selp-help books. Seems to be a lucrative business if you are a unethical, egoistic and kleptomaniac bag of cheap tricks who can lie through his/her dentures*.
*Dentures- To accentuate the fact that everything is phony about the bag of cheap tricks under consideration.

Now now now ..Thats not too difficult a criteria to match eh! A couple of years in the corporate business and.. well.. you meet most of the above criteria without even knowing that you qualify.
Ye ye ye ..Dont go all sanctimonious on me and say, "I aint like thaaaat" .... Your kids probably went hungry because you left the kitchen knife in my back.

My favorite bunnies are the ones who prophesise that going through their pearls of wisdom probably penned
a)In the office loo on the toilet paper
b)In the office loo on the used toilet paper
will get you out of your misery, get you the bumping Bill Gates outta the Top Salubrious Pricks list, get you humping outta your miserable sex life und so wieter.

Seriously theres a awful lot of money being made outta this hugely miserable,"I need to read a book to be happy, Here's my money" lot.

So here's my free Instant Feel Good Advice to make your existence a little surreal.

This works particularly well if you are stuck in a a corporate meeting where you are expected to keep your mouth shut and let the Niagara of wisdom flow forth from those higher than you in the pecking order..You can be the happiest person in there by using the Tickle-yer-palate routine.
Limber your tongue, curl it up backwards and start tickling your upper palate...Tickle with a vigor to get a soothing itch started at the back of your palate, but not too much so that you dont end up with a paralysed tongue after the callisthenics. You'd be the happiest cheapo* in the room.
*You got all this for free you sucker.
Tip: Remember to keep your mouth shut for the entire exercise. You dont want to look like a cross between an orangutan and Arnold Schwarzenegger while you are at it .

This one is even better. Works great to soothe those frayed nerves after a hard days work in office..
All you need is to relax, take a deep breath and slowly say ....Noounununununuugie-Noounununununuugie slowly...real slowly. Here's the catch, you gotta use your nose for this, not your mouth(remmebr your mouth will be a bit sore after excercise 1!!!)
Feel that vibration from the "ununununununun" oscillate every one of those unsightly nasal hairs which you braid up before sleeping.
Keep doing it until your eyes start watering with pleasure.
Tip: You can substitute the "Noo" and "gie" with whatever you are comfortable with. This one is used by my nieghbour of Chinese-Malayali ancestry whose fav song is Limp Bizkit's Nookie.

You can find this and more in my forthcoming book ....
"Happiness for Dummies!"

Reviews by people who found happiness and more....
I feel a strange feeling of unbounded joy, like I was heading straight to heaven after I read this bo...
-Anna Nicole Smith

I was sad enough to attack Iran, but reading this has made me so much happier. I will Nooununugie with the Shah* to solve the world's problems.
*All those politically knowledgeable pricks who are snickering ..The Shah was deposed ages ago.. You are forgetting , this is George.W.Bush.

Grab a copy now!!!!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Puppets Galore

What are men,
but puppets on a string

Contemplations, every now and then,
Dya hear the hollow ring.

Hours go by, days fly by,
Lost in asking, who am I

A conjured image, a stifled sigh.
Chagrined delusions, a yellow lie.

Do I dare visit my spring ,
In the autumn of my life.

What memories that shalt bring,
How bad could be the strife?

Lost in the whirpools, sands of time,
Innocence lost, a vocal mime.

Just puppets on a string,
That stone in the sling,
By my fingertips... I barely cling ...