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.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Movie Review: Taare Zameen par

Name: Taare zameen par

Genre: Children’s movie, for adults!

Director: Aamir Khan

Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Lyrics: Prasoon Joshi

Cast: Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan, Tisca Chopra, Vipin Sharma, Sachet Engineer

My rating: 5/5




In his debut as a producer, he gave us Lagaan – one of India’s best movies and strongest contenders for the Oscars and now, in his debut as a director, Aamir ‘Perfectionist’ Khan gives us Taare Zameen par – another gem of a movie, which can as well stake a claim to the most prestigious cine award. I can’t remember any other movie in recent past, which ever made such a deep impact on me. It was truly a memorable way to enter the New Year 2008, watching this movie on the night of 31st of Dec 07, in the 10 pm show at the PVR multiplex.

The story is not just about one dyslectic child, who despite his best efforts, does not get the necessary help and support from his parents to come out of it, and is instead scolded, beaten, and branded lazy and stupid. He is just a face of those millions of young children, who are being robbed of their childhood, in the mad race, out in the big, bad and competitive world. Children, who are shouldering the burden of increasing expectations from their parents and teachers. Children, whose natural talents get lost amidst the mad frenzy to acquire the ‘important’ skills of reading, writing and math.

And yes, it is a splendid and poignant eye opener for all those adults around them, who have created this unforgiving and harsh environment around them.

At eight years, Ishaan Awasthi, a std III boy has a world of his own – filled with colorful and wonderful things like fishes, kites, spacecrafts and dogs, and is out of sorts in the adult’s world of homework, marks, discipline and competition. He finds it difficult to read and write, because every time he attempts to, the letter seem to be dancing, and out of his control, and this in turn results in his poor performance in class. Add to this, the fact that his older brother Youhan (Sachet Engineer) is a class topper and excels in tennis too. Bogged down by the trouble of dyslexia, sky-high expectations, and parents and teachers, who don’t understand his problem, Ishaan finds it impossible to come out of his problem. Fed up of him, his parents get him admitted into a boarding school. The separation from his family comes as an additional trauma to Ishaan, and things become worse for him. He goes into a shell – so much so, that he even loses his love for colors and painting, and his life becomes miserable.

One day, Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) joins Ishaan’s boarding school as a temporary art teacher. He comes in as a fresh whiff of air, for all the students, who till then, were taught by teachers how to think and do things. Nikumbh encourages the children to set their imagination free and learn to think and create for themselves. He realizes that Ishaan is besot by some problem, and finds out about his dyslexia. Having had faced the same problem in his childhood, Nikumbh empathizes with him and also goes on to help him learn in novel ways and overcome the problem.

Everything about this movie is delightful! The story is conceived and superbly scripted by creative director Amol Gupte has wonderful music and lyrics, is edited beautifully, and is studded with brilliant performances by all the characters. The best of them all – the true hero of the movie – is the Darsheel, as Ishaan, whose acting tugs at your heart strings throughout the movie. And a great part of the credit goes to director Aamir Khan, for bringing out such a stellar acting performance from him, and also for also performing his role as the art teacher with great finesse. Vipin Sharma as Ishaan’s strict father portrays the character of a strict and demanding father so well, that even you can feel the sting that Ishaan feels, when terrorized by him. Tisca Chopra as Ishaan’s mother has also done well. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s pleasant music and Prasoon Joshi’s lovely lyrics, blend extremely well with the main story and add to the effect of the story-telling. Everything, just so perfect!

Verdict: Don’t miss this movie for anything! It is a must watch for all children, parents and their schools.