Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Last Ride

As I bid good bye to my last customer at the airport, the walkie talkie cackled. Victor was on the other end. He was assigned a late night pick up in the neighborhood next to the clover intersection of the Airport Road and the Northern Corridor Highway. He was having a bad headache because he hadn’t slept too well the previous night, and just wanted to go home and crash. He asked me if I could go.

I agreed. I was an owl and always enjoyed the late night pickups. In the tranquil of the night, driving under the yellow halogen lamps on the empty streets of the city, I had met many an interesting traveler in those wee hours. Whether it was the silence around, or just the state of their mind that early in the morning, the conversations with the passenger in the back seat, in those trips were always interesting.  I spoke little and always loved to listen. Maybe that’s why they always loved to speak! They opened up a part of their lives to me… their stories, experiences, joys and sorrows…  Once I dropped them, our ways parted, yet that little lovely intersection of our paths, always made that last ride worth it.

Victor’s sms with the details of the pickup buzzed on my phone. It was a lady. That late in the night? A party-goer who wanted to be dropped home, I guessed. Or maybe she had company. Or maybe some lover who had had a fight with her man. As my mind wandered aimlessly, I pulled into the parking area opposite to a row of beautiful old villas. They all were from my parents’ generation, easily over 30 years old. The beautiful arches over the windows and at the corners of the fences, nobody made those sorts these days.

3:30 am. My GPS said I was at the right place. I looked across and saw just one light among all the apartments. It came from the first floor of the beige villa across the street. I switched off the engine and peered at the window if I could get a glimpse of someone. I could see a shadow. I called the mobile number in Victor’s message. The phone rang, but no one picked up. I called again. No response either. Weird… I thought.

Any other driver in my place, would have probably honked to call the attention of the customer. I hated to honk. And in fact never did it late in the night. It disturbed the calm of the night and the neighbors. The city had been safe since I was a teenager, and unless there was a visible sign of danger, I preferred to walk up to the customer’s door and knock, than honk. And who knows, the person there, might’ve been in need of my help, maybe that was why he or she did not pick up her phone, I reasoned.

I walked through the old creaking rusted iron gate and rang the doorbell. There was a noise of something heavy being dragged across the floor. After quite a long time, the door opened and in there stood an old lady. She looked as old as my granny… over 80 years old probably… In the faint light from behind her, I saw, despite being heavily wrinkled and frail, she had one of the most beautiful smiles I had ever seen.

“Can I help you ma’am?”, I asked, reaching out to the heavy suitcase behind her.

“Yes my son, that’s nice of you...”, she said, kindness in her eyes. “But I have something else to pick up from up there. Could you help me up the stairs please? It’ll only take a while.” 

“Sure!” I said.

I pulled the suitcase aside and took her hand. It was evident that nobody had lived in that house for some time. – covers on the furniture, with dust settled on them and cobwebs in the corners of the wall. I walked her to the stairs from the left corner of the big hall and helped her into the room with the light – the one I’d seen from outside. It looked like a huge study, but had no lights. Instead it had a large number of candles lit on candle-stands, across the room. From outside, the house had only looked old, but, now from inside, the candles gave the house the look of a medieval palace.

On the right, were huge racks of books along the length of the wall. But the wall on the left, just left me stunned. It was covered from the top to the bottom, without an inch to spare. With several large poster sized pictures of what probably was the old woman’s family. And there were little post-it’s stuck all over them. In the dim candle light, that mesmerizing collage of someone’s life story, literally took my breath away.

So awestruck was I that I did not realize that I had let go of the old lady’s hand and stood rooted, gazing at the wall. The lady walked over to the table at the back of the room, in what seemed like a depression in the wall. Behind the table, was a large window, through which the full moon came flooding in. The lady picked up what looked like a rolled poster from the table, and kept looking out of the window for a while. I looked back at the wall, and realized that there was in fact one poster missing there, in the shadow of one of the candle stands - which I missed before.

I stood right there and waited. She turned around after a while, her eyes moist and slowly walked back to me.

“Are you ok, ma’am? “ I asked tentatively.

She looked up. There was pain in her eyes, but she smiled through it and said, “Yes of course…”

“That’s a beautiful wall you’ve got there, very creative and tasteful”, I said, admiring the art on the wall again.

She gave a little chuckle. “Ah yes, that was husband’s idea.  We would put up some of our most memorable pictures up there, and every time there was something we wanted to capture as a memory, we would put up a post-it recording it”. She walked to the wall. Stood close and looked around. Touched the pictures, and felt them… like she wanted to hold on to them, live them all once again.

“Ma’am, do you want some more time with yourself?”, I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Ah no, it’s ok”, she said, turning back… “I’ve been here since evening, I’ve had my time”, she came back, took my hand and we walked out. I walked very slowly supporting her, afraid that she might just trip and fall.

“You are a very helpful young man”, she said, patting me on my back, as we got to the cab. 

“Well, I always love to treat people, like I’d have wanted my mother treated”, I said. She stopped for a bit, and looked deeply into my eyes  for a while, and smiled. I wasn’t sure what that meant, I wondered if she thought that I was just sweet-talking her. It was awkward.

After we settled into the cab, I asked her, “Where to ma’am?” 

“Let’s go to Austin Park, through the old coconut grove road”, she said.

“But that’s not the shortest route ma’am” I said, turning back.

“I’m not in a hurry son, besides my doctors say, I do not have very long to go. I might as well go today”

I turned back to the street, thought for a bit, and quietly shut down the meter next to my gear box. “Alright ma’am, let’s go the way you want” I said.

We started out, taking the detour through the coconut grove road. Before long we veered away from our path to Austin Park. The old lady began showing me the places around the city, narrating to me how they were intertwined with her life. The movie hall, where she had watched most of the movies with her husband, the book store where they spent many Sunday afternoons reading together, the park they both had frequented at odd times,  the school where her kids had attended high-school, the playground where her husband used to bring their kids to play, their favorite ice cream parlor, restaurants and food pick up joints…

For two hours, we roamed the streets of the city, and she shot a movie of her entire life for me, showing me around. She was so excited and happy as she did this, it felt like a young child had just spoken on her favorite topic in the ‘show-and-tell’ session of her primary school class.

As we came to the city’s “Blue Lake”, she asked me to stop at the hawker who was selling tea to the city nocturnes. She slowly walked out, bought two glasses of tea, gave me one, and walked to the edge of the lake. A gentle moist monsoon breeze swept across, making it a perfect night under the full moon.

Looking across the expanse of water, she said softly “We’d been here on countless number nights… before we got married, and even after the kids came! He loved sneaking out after the kids went to bed”, she said and gave a short laugh. “And can you imagine… we did it even till two years back… before he left us…” her voice trailed. Silence again.

“Uh… ummm... how did he… I mean..if I may ask?”, I hesitated.

“It was a Sunday evening, and he was with our first granddaughter... his favorite, the apple of his eye. And they were there, taking a walk in the garden… and well... he just collapsed… And left just like that… the way he came into my life… out of nowhere…”. She was staring into the darkness in disbelief. It was evident that she still couldn’t believe what had happened.

My heart went out for her. “I’m… I’m so sorry ma’am, I shouldn’t have asked”, I stammered.

“My granddaughter... poor thing... she was inconsolable”, she continued, her voice cracking with the pain in her heart. “You know... she’s so much like him. The way she looks, the way she talks, thinks… she has his eyes, smile.. and the chin too. And they were the best of the friends… always together… She had cried for months after that... and she’s still not over him… she probably misses him more than I do”, she sighed.

“But she’s up there, living his dream”, she said, pointing to the star like lights of a plane that had just taken flight.

I walked up to her and put my hands gently on her shoulder and said, “She’ll be fine, ma’am. Her grandfather will always be looking over her and be her courage”, I said. I felt a lump in my throat and quickly took her empty tea glass and went to return it back to the hawker.

“Where are you going to, in Austin Park, ma’am?”, I asked coming back after a while.

“To my sons’ place… You saw the picture of the twins on the wall, dint you? That’s them…They live in one apartment, on two different floors in Austin Park… Near the highway… back there… well that used to be our home till my husband passed away. After he left, my sons decided to move to a different place, because they felt that old memories of their father troubled me too much in that  house… I go back there once in a while… Today, I also picked up some of the old stuff I’d left there… which I was missing for sometime… “

“I  know he still lives there, I can feel his spirit”, she finished, dreamily after a pause.

“Then why dint your sons come to pick you?” I asked, a bit surprised.

“Na…", she waved her hand, "I told them, I wanted to come back in a cab today. But they did not agree. They sent me one of their drivers to wait on me, in the evening. But at about 10 pm, I told the driver to go away, and that I wanted to get back in a cab. He left me only reluctantly”, she whispered, sharing her secret with me. “Well, so long as I get back home safe, and the driver keeps the secret, it should be fine right?”, she said winking at me mischievously. I smiled at her looking amused. “There is something special about a cab” she concluded mysteriously.

We stood there for some more time and had another round of tea. As she turned back to get to the car, she held my hand and said, “Thank you son, for spending this time with me… you gave an old woman something to smile about, on her birthday… when she was so badly missing her husband of 50 years.”

I looked into her eyes and did not know what to say. Instinctively, I just put my arms around her and gave her a big hug. Tears rolled down my cheeks. “I’m glad ma’am...” I said, in between my tears… “And wish you a very happy birthday!” As I looked back at her, she kissed me on my cheek, placed her hand on my head and said “You’re a very nice boy, God bless you my child”…

I got her back into the car. “Let’s go to Austin Park now, son… I’m tired”, she said. She did not say anything any more. I continued to drive in silence, taking in the events of that wonderful night. As I drove east, the streaks of dawn arrived on the horizon and came in through my windshield. I can’t explain what I was feeling… It was a mixture of joy, and yet an ache deep down… In the past six years I had been driving a cab, I’d had many interesting late night drives, but nothing had been as quaint and beautiful as today…

What'd have happened if it was someone else, instead of me, I wondered. Victor would have probably wanted to take her through the shortest route and get back home as soon as he could. Anyone else might not have been as nice to her, had the patience with her… probably would have left, since she did not pick the phone call. But it was I who was there. I looked up and thanked the Lord, for that night. For having me there. For bringing some happiness in the life of an old woman and making her birthday a little better…

Half an hour later, I stopped in front of a plush two storey modern looking villa in Austin Park. This was it, I thought. The end of a journey, which would remain in my memories for years to come. Somewhere deep down, I did not want it to end. I just wanted to be there with the old lady for some more time, and see her happy… some more…

“We’re here ma’am” I told her. She did not respond. I turned to the rear seat. Her eyes were closed, head tilted back and the poster opened up, in her hands. I stepped out, opened the passenger door, leaned over the seat and gently shook her, wondering if she’d been tired and dozed off.


No response. I shook her a bit more vigorously. Her head tilted to the other side, and she slumped on the seat.

I froze. The poster was still in her hand, clutched tight.

It was a poster from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, of Calvin kissing Susie on her hand. And there was just one post it on it.

“You win, my love… It ain’t another Susie… Its Calvin… and not one, but two of them!! But they both have your smile!”

Biwi… colorful…Thank you, for all the color that you have brought in my life.

Thy Absolut, ever…
Flying man…”

(Inspired by an article I read, and dedicated to my all time favorite comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ramblings about a long hiatus...

We get into habits. Some stick for a lifetime. Some wear out. New ones take their place. Habit is second nature, they say. tch tch... habits are what make up the nature! the incessant ones, the not-so-regular ones, the once-in-a-blue-moon ones... all of them.

I started blogging over two years back, as an extension to my 'habit' to talk a lot, have opinions about almost everything, and let people know about them. Yes, I also hoped, it would help refine my writing skills which I needed for things more than just voicing opinions in a nice way for people to read! :-)

And I would regularly blog - obsessive compulsive blogger - some one once made fun of me during those initial days! It was fun, and yes, although not obsessive, it became a nice habit that I loved - a 'hobby' like it is called.

Somewhere about a year back, things changed. I got way too involved in work at office. And then some other things. And beyond that, some other things. I got out of this enjoyable 'habit' of mine. And to what extent! It was never that, in this one year since the last time I posted on my blog, I did not find the time to post, nor was there a dearth of topics to share about. In fact, I went on two international tours in these 12 months, watched a lot of movies, and had a number of unique experiences - basically a LOTTT of things to write about!

But I simply had gotten out the habit! Old habits die hard. Maybe this wasn't old enough. Laziness is the prime culprit, of course, no fooling myself on that. But a lethargic inertia had grown slowly. And the older it became, the stronger it became. And for one year, this part of the cyber-space remained untouched.

What made me get back onto it, this fine day? Well! Some time with just myself - no work, no friends, no distractions - and more so, an hour, for which I had to wait for my good friend to finish her day at the office, so we could talk about her latest adventures in life! :-)

I read somewhere - not sure where - that it is better to be hated, than loved for something, some times... Coz some one's hatred gives us an amazing energy to overcome it; an energy stronger than the one that propels us to gain more love and affection than that already exists.

Mine definitely wasn't a case of hatred! :-D It was the right combination of being left alone, having to wait for someone, having no other "work" to do, and for once, slightly under-control laziness! And if I can believe for myself that inertia once overcome, can resume the motion more easily, then I can hope to be bloggin a little more often hence!

Thanks Koosu, for that additional one hour of urgent work that you came up with. And twink, for those Karachi bakery biscuits, which are waiting for me and Koo! :-)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Dimmy does 10000

Dimmy. My bike... :-) My Bajaj Discover 125cc. My companion everyday to almost everywhere I roam around in Bangalore. And to all those bike trips - short and long, that i've been to.

And today, she reached the milestone of 10,000 km. A few days shy of being 18 months old. Wow! What a feeling! For me. For her. She must be proud! I am! Of her :-)

And on this occasion (just a few days back) she got a major servicing done... with changes to her oil filter, spark plugs etc. That cost me 1300 bucks. But it was good for Dimmy. She rides smoother now! Whew! More miles to go together! :-)

Monday, February 25, 2008

The bike trip to Yercaud

Having been used to it for two consecutive years now, a Jan-Feb period for me, now seems empty without a long bike trip. Two years back, it was Mysore, and last year, it was Kemmannugundi. When this year's February just seemed to be slipping out, this two day trip to Yercaud, kept the tradition alive for me.

Kamal and MaaNi had vowed their allegiance to any biking plan I made. Kamal then hit upon Yercaud two weeks back, and after some reasearch, we knew that it was an ideal location for a two day bike trip from Bangalore - in terms of distance, places to visit and the quality of the road, to and fro.

The trip was initially planned for the weekend after Valentine's day, but we soon discovered that every known lodge and resort in Yercaud had been booked for that weekend, owing to a function in a popular residential school located there. The trip was thence, postponed to the next week - 23rd and 24th February. The size of the group interested grew, and Ashish, his wife Rashmi, SP, Suresha, and my frens Shirish and Madhukeshwar battas joined in. Some tireless work by Kamal, saw three cottages being booked for our stay in Grange resorts, Yercaud through by Tuesday.
Unfortunately for us, in the evening before we were supposed to leave, Ashish and Rashmi had to pull out owing to some personal problems Praveen joined the gang in their place.

Day 1: 23 February 2008, Saturday

The eight of us - Me, Kamal, Suresha, SP, Praveen, MaaNi, Shireesh and Madhukeshwar batta started out after meeting at the BTM signal at 5 am, and hit Hosur Road. The dawn was pretty cold and prompted us to take the first tea break after 25 km. The initial plan was to have breakfast at A1 Plaza at the Reliance Petrol bunk beyond Hosur. But we reached that spot at 6 30, and all voted to keep going on. Krishnagiri was the next preferred stop for breakfast, but the weather was so pleasant and conducive for riding, that we rode past it, with just one stretch-cum-photo break in between.

At 8 15 am and 102 km from the start, we reached Kaveripattnam, and were determined not to go further without getting the tummy to stop growling. Hence, despite passing through the town without finding a good hotel, initially, we doubled back and settled for the last small hotel in the town by the highway - Hotel Selvam. After a satisfying round of dosas, idlis, bread omlet and tea in a small Thela a little further, we hit the road again. With a couple of more breaks in Dharmapuri and another non-descript place, we reached Salem another hundred km later, at 11:30 am.

From here, Yercaud is 32 km up a winding and picturesque ghat road. The road has 20 hair pin bend curves which needed extra care while maneuvering. We took several stops to admire the resplendent views that were on offer and to give the cameras some great moments to capture.

We entered the hill town at about 12 30 pm, to a welcoming view of the big lake right in the middle of the town. After some searching about, we found our way to the Grange resort, four km from the town square, where three pretty cottages awaited us.

After freshening up, we headed back to the town and to Hotel Tamil Nadu, for our lunch. This is the hotel run by the TTDC (Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation), directly overseeing the big lake. The restaurant attached to the hotel was smaller than I'd expected, and was full, when we reached there. We ordered for veg buffets and a few plates of veg and non-veg starters from the very limited menu available. While the non-veg starters did come in time, the veggies had to wait for a woefully long time to get their plate of gobi manchurian. And when it did come, it looked like a dish we'd not seen before, and tasted bad too. In short, the lunch experience there was pretty unimpressive, and we walked out vowing to find another place for dinner.

The first place we visited after lunch, was Kiliyur Falls. After riding a couple of km on a road next to the lake, we had to trek down a steep path for just over half a km, to reach the foot of the falls. Although short, the steepness of the trek made it quite arduous - the way down was slippery, and the way up, very taxing. The falls were a namesake, at this part of the year, but would surely be very beautiful, during and after the monsoons. We spent some time there and came back. SP and Praveen were worn out a lot by the time we reached the top.

Back in the city, we refreshed ourselves with tender coconuts and then went to the Big Lake for boating. But since it was evening time, the place was very crowded and we retreated, planning to cover it the next morning. From here, we went to the Pagoda Point which was a diversion and three km away from the road to the resort we were put up in. Pagoda Point lies on the eastern and South-eastern part of Yercaud hill, and provides a great view of the hills around, and the Salem city. The place has a small temple and several small 'pagoda' shaped structures, made by stacking stones, which give it the name.

Next, we came back to the town square, and took another road to the West, to the Lady's seat point. This is another cliff edege, which provides a great view of the Yercaud ghat, a part of Salem city and the sunset. The heavy fog fizzled the splendid beauty of the sunset towards the end, but other wise, it was a beautiful spot. There is a telescope house at this point, which helps you get a telescopic view of the landscape below, but unfortunately for us, it was closed :-( There are a couple of other spots - the Gent's seat and the Children's seat somewhere around there, but we did not visit them.

It was 7 pm then, and we decided to go to a good place for dinner. I remembered the multi cuisine restaurant - 'Sky Roca' - the first place you see enroute Yercaud, after the ghats, and we decided to go there. This restaurant also enjoys a very beautiful location on the hill edge and is very plush. We were told that the restaurant wasn't open, owing to a corporate party it was hosting, but would probably have turned back anyways, looking at the prices on the menu card! :) Thanks to the kindness of a good natured restaurant attendant, we got a chance to go out on the balcony of the restaurant. The aisle which connects the hotel reception to the balcony had a glass floor which made it a miniature version of the the famous Grand Canyon Sky Walk near Phoenix in Arizona, USA. Although pretty small, it came to us as a surprise and was enough to give us the momentary thrills, before we decided to push out, lest we be kicked for trespassing!!

We then had dinner at a restaurant called 'Star Holidays'. This was much better than the lunch both in terms of quality, quantity and prices. We came back to our cottages, freshened up, and again went to the Pagoda Point at 9 pm to enjoy the cool evening. The view of Salem city from there, at that time of the night was simply breath-taking!! It was like a sea of lights down there, and words cannot describe the exhilarating feeling of enjoying it.

The lone car, which arrived there after us, but did not spew out any living being, inspired Madhukeshwar Batta and Suresha to let their creative minds imagine spooky stories of 'gay' ghosts!!

We returned back to the cottages at 10 30 pm, and crashed on our beds, immensely satisfied with the great day we had!

Day 2: 24 Feb 2008, Sunday

I was lucky to force myself to wake up at 5 45 am the next day morning, to go watch the sunset. It took quite some effort to cajole the rest of them to get out of their beds and make it in time. Yet again, it was Pagoda Point - which eventually turned out to be our favorite spot in Yercaud. We were pleasantly surprised to see a clear horizon, sans the heavy fog we'd expected, and hence were able to enjoy a grand sunrise. It also made up for the disappointing sunset, the previous evening. Once again, we were the only people there to enjoy the sunrise, and the serenity added to the tranquil morning experience.

As we headed back, we saw another group come there, when the sun, the good way up in the sky.

Since it was just 7 30, and the complimentary breakfast was due not before 8 45, we went around exploring the town on the bikes. The weather was very pleasant and ideal for biking and during out detour, we saw the the famous Montford School, Holy Angels School and the Holy Trinity Church.

After the pleasing ride, we came back to our cottage. Madhu, Sireesh and Maani were lucky to get some hot water from the solar water heater in their cottage, and had a bath, while the rest of us were forced to skip it.

The complimentary breakfast that was provided in the resort restaurant was one of the few nice things about our stay there, and although the service was sluggish (Praveen pointed out that they might have been using just a single burner stove to prepare the breakfast) the food was good, and we ate dosas and bread omlet to our heart's content, till we tea arrived an hour after asking for it!

We reached the Big Lake at 10 am for boating, and as predicted, had the entire lake almost only to ourselves. We took two 4-seater pedal boats and enjoyed boating for half an hour. The
huge mass of water weeds in the lake told the story that the lake was dirty and not very well maintained.

The last spot we visited was the Shevaroyan temple named after the hills that Yercaud is situated on. It was 6 km from the town square on the north east side and is apparently the highest motor able point in Yercaud. The temple was in a very small cave around which a small concrete structure is built, which gives it the look - more of a small shed or shop, than a temple! We wanted to visit the Bear Cave which is inside a private estate adjoining the Shevaroyan temple area, but the parking staff told us that it is no longer open for the public.

On the way back, Kamal's great idea of a photograph was cut short by a bee that stung him on his forehead, as he was readying for the shot. We were then forced to make our way back quickly to the town, where Kamal got temporary respite by using curd and lemon. We got back to our cottage, packed up, checked out and started out. On the way, we visited a clinic where Kamal got two shots of antidote and tetanus booster for his bee sting.

Yercaud is a small town, roughly stretching 6 km at max in all directions, and with bikes, we had easily covered all the good spots, from noon - noon on the two days. After 24 hours of great fun there, we said goodbye to the place and headed on our way back at 1 pm.

The ride down the ghat was fun again, since we only needed to put the bikes in neutral gear and direct it, without needing to switch on the engines for 30 km.

We reached Salem at 2 pm, and found a vegetarian restaurant - Annapoorna - for lunch. We finished lunch by 3 30 pm, and started the 200 km journey from Salem to Bangalore. It was extremely hot uncomfortable for another hour of ride, but then got better after that.

On our way back, just before entering Dharmapuri, we took a deviation that would take us from the outskirts of the town. We had thought that this road would join the NH7 some where before Krishnagiri. But the road took a totally different course, and took us directly to Hosur, through Palacode and Rayakottai. That way, we missed the chance to ride easily on the four-laned highway for about 100 km. We reached Hosur by 7 pm, and the Karantaka border at around 7 30 pm. After saying our final good-byes at Bommasandra, we reached home at 8 pm after a very memorable two day bike trip

Acknowledgements: - for providing us directions.
Wikipedia - for giving us all details we needed about Yercaud.


Fact file:
  • Distance from Bangalore: 234 km
  • Best time to visit: Feb - May, June
  • Means of transport - Better take your own car / bike, would be useful to roam around in the town too, and you can enjoy the good drive/ride to and fro.
  • Apporximate cost of accommodation: Rs 500 - 2000 per head, per day in the private resorts (Except for Hotel Tamilnadu - the TTDC lodge, which is much cheaper - about Rs 200 - 500 per head per day)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Movie Review: Mithya

Name: Mithya

Genre: (Dark) Comedy !

Director: Rajat Kapoor

Cast: Ranvir Shorey, Neha Dhupia, Naseeruddin Shah, Harsh Chaya, Saurabh Shukla, Vinay Pathak, Irawati Harshe

My rating: 3.5/5

Now that I’ve watched the movie, I agree with Rajeev Masand, the movie critic of team CNN-IBN that this is one such movie, where telling almost anything in the plot is like killing the fun of watching it. Masand’s 4-star review of this movie was what prompted me to try it, and although I do take his overtly harsh reviews of movies with a pinch of salt, I didn’t mind having taken his word on this one.

So, bearing in mind not to let the cat of the bag – here’s a bird’s-eye-view of the landscape of the story. ‘Mithya’ is the story of VK (Ranvir Shorey) who is a struggling actor like thousands of other aspirants like him, in Bollywood, and nurses ambitions of making it big in the film industry, while working for tidbit roles as a junior artiste if few of the movies. A strange tryst with destiny makes him an object of interest of underworld dons Gawde (Naseeruddin Shah) and Shetty (Saurabh Shukla). A cleverly plotted plan by them, sees VK, on his looks and acting prowess, being inducted into another gang headed by ‘Bhaisahab’. The rest of the story is about how VK walks the tight rope of conducting himself so as to not be identified by the rival camp, while being forced to being a puppet of Gawde & Co, to save his own neck.

The movie is studded with some of the best and classic actors in Bollywood, and even better, is superbly cast by director Rajath Kapoor. Leading the pack, is Ranvir Shorey, who for the first time as the sole lead character, carries the film on his shoulder with his aplomb and fantabulous display of acting. From his days as a stand-up-comedian to this powerful role, Ranvir Shorey shows that he not just has a brilliant comic sense, but is also a class act, a complete actor. While he fills life into the humor scenes, his acting of the sad scenes really makes your heart go out for him. All the other actors around him, rightly look like supporting cast – and to take nothing away from them – Naseeruddin Shah, Saurabh Shukla, Neha Dhupia, Irawati Harshe and Harsh Chayya – do perfect justice to their respective roles.

The movie, although does not make you laugh as much as, say Bheja-fry – Rajat Kapoor’s previous comic flick which was a hit, and which would probably be a reference for you to try out this movie – has its moments of good natured humor that would evoke a lot of laughs. But while humor rules for most part of the movie till slightly beyond the interval, from then on, the movie takes a serious turn, and becomes more grim and dark towards the end. The screenplay of the movie, is imaginative and rides the story well.

On the flip side, I felt that the ending was almost abrupt, and that for the magic it initially creates, the movie needed a smoother landing at the end. The movie, although runs for about 100 minutes, feels much more longer than that, and could have been stitched closer, by cutting down a few ambling sequences in between. And Vinay Pathak, is utterly wasted and this would surely disappoint many of his fans, including me.

But barring these few glitches, the movie is a well made- movie, worth a watch.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

kalavarahaLLi (skandagiri) again...

Three months after I first went to the place, where you could literally stand atop the clouds - kalvarahaLLi beTTa or Skandagiri, 70 km from Bangalore... I went there again a few days back... this time with a different gang of friends - Kamal, naNNu (Narendra) and moTe (bhuvnesh)

I was itching to go on a bike ride, after being tied up with my mba apps since the last time I went out on a trip. Kamal joined hands, and with him, his friends naNNu and moTe... none of them had been there before. skandagiri was chosen, coz the other places for one day bike trips got eliminated for various reasons... and some wonderful photos, from my last trip helped Kamal make up his mind.

The plan was similar to the first trip. Start at 2:30. Reach kalavarahaLLi through ChickbaLapur in another couple of hours. Park bike near Paapagni mutt. Trek to the hill top in moon / torch light and view the sunrise there. The plan went well all the way, except for a very narrow escape I and naNNu had, on the way - when we just missed crashing out of the road at a road deviation which had no sign board. All of us thought we'd had it - especially naNNu behind me! I was lucky to hold on my nerves and steer to safety in half a second of a superb (and lucky) reflex!!

Last time i'd been there in October 2007, ours was only the third vehicle parked at the foot of the hill. The popularity of the place had multiplied several times over since then and it was evident from about a hundred vehicles there this time, and also introduction of 15-bucks-per-head 'forest department trekking charges'. We were able to save a couple of hundred bucks by not needing to take a guide.

We trekked up leisurely. moTe had a double whammy when his not-so-great stamina was joined by a muscle catch in his right thigh. It took a lot of breaks, the lure of the of helping make frens with one of my cute frens, and a lot of "bas... aur sirf dus minat" lies, to goad moTe into making it to the top, right in time for the sunrise :-D

After all the effort, our rosy plans of watching the ocean of clouds around, and the magnificient sunrise was ruined by dense fog which hid the sun till we lost hopes and began climbing down couple of hours later. It was not just us, but also the entire big crowd of few hundred people who were there, who were disappointed... The cold mountain winds and a few peeks to the wonderful scenery around were the only saving graces...

We climbed down by 9 30 am, and got back to Bangalore by lunch time. moTe and naNNu were dead tired and hit the sack as soon as we got home. All in all, it was a great bike trip cum trek... but if skandagiri was its legendary fervor, it would have been heavenly!!


To see what kalavarahalli is really about, see these photos caught on a Canon S3IS by my friend Keshav Kolle in his trip about a month back, have a look at these...

KoLi's kalavarahaLLi photos: (copyrighted - displayed with permission :-))

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A EBGF* day trip to hogEnakal

*EBGF - Eighth Block Ground Floor, NITK Surathkal, Class of 2005 inmates :-)

It took Nelli and Argod to come down from the US, to get us, the BTM gang, to pack up and get out on an outing - something which would remain confined to just plans on most weekends. The last time we had been out together was in October '07, when all but me, had been to Hampi.

Even this time, the plans started ambitiously - as always! :-) Munnar, Kodaikanal, Ooty, Pondicherry - there wasn't one popular picnic spot in South India that wasn't considered! But finally of them were scrapped, and we settled for a one day outing to the Hogenakal falls in Tamil Nadu, on the border between TN and Karnataka.

Hogenakal in Kannada means smoky rocks. When the water falls on the rocks it looks as if smoke is emanating from the rocks because of the force of the water. Hoge in Kannada means smoke and Kal means rock thus giving the name Hogenakal aptly to the place. The place is about 45 km from Dharmapuri in TN and 150 km from Bangalore. It is the spot where the Cauvery river, after flowing through the highlands in Karnataka, falls through a ravine, forming a multi-headed waterfall, along the border of the two states. To its credit, it also has few beautiful sequences in popular Tamil movies that have been shot there - including the "chinna chinna aasai" song from Roja.

05th Jan 2008, the first Saturday of the new year. We were ten of us - Me, manju, prajnesh and Paddy from the BTM gang with Figur, Bhupi, Achari, TG, Nelli and Argod. It was a sort of reunion for the big chunk of the NITK EBGF junta. Lobo missed out, owing to some urgent work at office, while Devu was too lazy, after a couple of games of AOE till 4 am that morning.

Bhupi had arranged for a TT for the trip. He landed at our place in BTM at 8 am and then got all of us to move our butts from infront of the TV, when we were deeply engrossed in watching the 4th day play of the now controversial Sydney test between India and Australia.

We hit the road at 9 am. Stopped near the entrance to Electronics City for some breakfast. We then continued on the NH7 through Hosur and Dharampuri, and took a right there to the Hogenakal falls. It took us 2.5 hours from Bangalore, to reach the place.

A stop about 10 km before Hogenakal, relieved the old 'cooler' moments of our EBGF days at college! :-D

One of the main attractions of Hogenakal, is the coracle ride through the ravine. Although it does seem scary for the aquaphobic non-swimmers, it is pretty safe, if the water is not in spate, and you follow all the precautions while floating in the coracle. For us, it was a good time to be there, since the water current was just right.

The most difficult part of the coracle ride, is digesting the astronomical costs that the local boatmen charge, and not succumbing to it!! While some of our friends told us that they had paid upto 500-600 bucks for each coracle, we were greeted with "normally 1000 - but for you, we'll do it for 900" kinds of offers. After letting go a dozen of them, we finally negotiated a prize of 700 per coracle with a couple of best-among-the-pack guys, and hired two coracles.

Sailing in the calm waters of the Cauvery in the coracle, was a great experience. Many of us also tried our hands on the oars of the coracle, and realized that steering the boat was much tougher than it seemed by the look of it! We sailed close to several tributaries of the water falls, and kept the camera busy.

A few interesting things we got to observe during the ride, were the mobile shops, which sold all the junk food you'd like, and a few young boys, jumping off some of the peaks on the banks, into the river, at the behest of the tourists, for a fee of two bucks.

At around 2 pm, we reached a beach on the banks, beyond the ravine. Here, there were some shack-shops which served meals with freshly caught river-fish curry. Although the food looked tempting to a few of us hungry souls, the vegetarians and hygiene-conscious had their final word, and we skipped that lunch. It would have been great, if we too would have packed some good lunch for ourselves, like more than half of the other tourists who were there.

We sat down on the sand, talked about the good old days of college, and 'debated' excitedly about the "new phase of life" Argod was about to enter into. Infact this matter about Argod ruled the roost during most of our discussions throughout the day. Dead sure, by then Argod would have cursed himself a thousand times, of having let the cat out of the bag, amongst a flock cackling geese!! :-D

On our way back, we stopped by at a small part of the waterfall, and also took a dip in the water. Despite the falls being small, it had a few good currents which we throughly enjoyed, and was worth the experience for having come that far!

We started back around 5 30 pm. On the way, our cabbie took an alternate route, which was supposedly shorter, through some reserve forest. We had to pay a bribe of 30 bucks to the watchman at the gate, to ride on rocky mountainous path they called "road". The only pacifying factor, which compensated slightly for the bad ride, was that we chanced upon a couple of elephants crossing the road in the forest.
We reached Bangalore at around 9 pm. That included a half an hour break to save our starving tummies with some snacks, till we got home to a filling dinner and a good night's sleep after a great trip!

Fact File:
  • Ideal time to visit: October to February. Good place for a one day trip from Bangalore
  • Route: Bangalore - Hosur - Dharmapuri - Hogenakal
  • Distance from Bangalore: approx 150 km
  • Food: Suggest carrying your own food for lunch. Some local hotels and some shacks on the shoals in the river, and river banks provide fresh fish curry meals. Not much variety, otherwise. Other than the place itself, next closest place for food is Dharmapuri 46 km away.
  • Cost of one coracle (ideally): 600-700 bucks.