Monday, May 18, 2009

When the going got tough: Katraj-Sinhagarh trek

"Come back", came the shout along with the torch light. No, the light came first because that was when we had thought that someone is following us.

"Why?", shouted back Nandu.

"That path goes to the valley."

Shucks. This was second wrong path that we had taken this night and for the first and only time a trace of fear swept my mind, are we going to fall in front of finish line? Not that falling was an option. Metaphorically as well as grammatically! While the latter would have been obviously more damaging physically, the former would not have been any better since we had to reach Sinhgarh before sunrise and the impending scorching heat.

Earlier we had tried to take a path around a hill, because one of the guys was '90% sure' that it was the right way, only to come back and climb that hill.

We had started from Katraj at about 9.30 and were supposed to walk all night and reach Sinhgarh crossing 13 hills on the way. It was 3 or 3.30, in the morning (or night, how ever you take it.) We had been "walking" for 5 hours now and still there was a debate whether we had 3 hills remaining or 'there is a small 4th one'. The red signal on a tower at Sinhgarh was closer now but it still demanded all the mental and physical strength to reach there.

Earlier we had started with a lot of enthusiasm, easily divided among 'Hyderabad group' and 'Pune group'. Each group having a lot of easy camaraderie among itself. My primary concern at Swargate was food. Are we not going to eat anything 'proper'? Just 3 chocolates and Parle-G-for-genius didn't seem to me such a genius idea after all. Two bottles of water each also seemed somehow insufficient but I understood we can't carry water tankers with us!

The climb had started with a bang, rather a burst from our 'trek leads'. After this unpleasant start, the group was divided meticulously into smaller groups with sweeps and leads and these groups and sweeps and leads got dissolved and lost equally meticulously within first half an hour. There were many teams trekking on that route that night and each had torches and it took us a long time to understand that every torch that we see in that vast expanse might not be one from our group. Actually torches were used for most of the time only for marking presence and signalling to other 'torch bearers', since it was a moon-lit night there was sufficient light for walking.

The first major challenge came at the descent of second hill. It was a near 70 or 80 degree steep incline and lots of tiny pebbles didn't make things any easier. First thing that I did was to keep my camera in the backpack and then did a combination of slow climbing down holding stones and sliding where ever standing was dangerous. To be honest my legs were shivering by the time I got down. We were told that first couple of hills are steep and after crossing this one we thought that we had put the worst behind, but descending kept on being difficult for a major part of the journey. Rathi gave such descents a not-so-pleasing nickname: 'Suicide Point'. The climbing always seemed easy but even before climbing, imagining the descent gave goosebumps!

During the entire journey the glittering Pune city kept us company. Even at 1 the lights didn't seem to dim and someone wondered aloud 'don't these people sleep'? Another element that accompanied us for a major part of the trek was wind. Heavy wind. Quite cold at times and though I was getting quite irritated due to constant howling in ears, it was due to this wind only that we didn't feel the heat or the sweat.

In the last leg of the journey, most of the group was left far behind and there was no trace of even the 'leads'! There were no visible trails and so we decided to do the easier thing: take a crow-flight route to Sinhgarh. Just cross all the hills on the way. This was easier said than done because the first hill to stare us was a nearly 70 degree incline ( We climbed this one in 9 minutes flat!) and by now the moon had moved so we had to climb in near darkness. I decided to hold my torch in mouth (thank heavens, it was a slim Eveready) and use both my hands for climbing faster so that I had enough momentum to move forward. I am still surprised that none of the shrubs scratched my face because almost entire way-up it seemed I was bumping into one!

By the time we reached top of last hill, it was 4.30 and sky had started acquiring whitish shades. Sinhgarh was almost at an arm's length (read 6 km). A small walk (towards a sound that sounded like waterfall) and we reached the Sinhgarh road. After a brief photo session on the vacant road, we walked again for about 3 km to Sinhgarh fort.

I had survived the toughest trek of my life, ready to face tougher ones!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Election Results: From Millionaires to Slumdogs!

Prakash Karat (CPIM)

'Karat'-and-stick policy didn't work. Hammered in Kerala and sick-led in West Bengal demands are now rising that Karat be 'left' out.

Mayawati (BSP)

Unfortunately you can't have elections as many times as you want, that's the difference between installing-demolishing-reinstalling statues. The only party in the country to contest ALL 543 seats could not even beat Congress in UP!

Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD) and Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP).

Formed a grand '4th Alliance' with SP (in UP). Lalu played safe and contested from two seats and managed to win one of them. Paswan was not so lucky and lost from Hajipur, a seat from where he had won by a record margin some years ago.

Forget being kingmakers, Paswan is not even an MP, his party LJP stands at nill. And I don't see Lalu being invited to B-schools anymore.

J. Jayalalitha (AIADMK)

Her price for support: suspend DMK Government in Tamilnadu. With DMK's tally a double of AIADMK, her only exploits were flowers from Modi, a day earlier!

Vaiko (MDMK)

It's thumbs DOWN actually to the best spokesman LTTE never had in Sri Lanka. Lost miserably and now planning for the job there but unfortunately his would-be-employers have already shut the shop!

(My questions about post-results scenario: here.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Eye Pee Elle Bandwagon!

(Well the reason of that 'Oh-so-clever' title is that I wanted to write something before procrastination gripped me again!)


Indian Premier League vs Indian Political League that is! This is a season of plenty for news channels with both elections and IPL demanding their fare share of airtime. Star News has tried to achieve a not-so-subtle balance by doing a show which they have named - not so
 imaginatively - 'Deepak vs Siddharth'. So Deepak Chaurasia uses a cricket lingo to get you the political news of the day while Siddharth uses , obviously  cricket lingo to give the report of IPL matches! Pretty interesting format I would say.

Run of the underdog

I have put an Adidas poster on my desk featuring Michael Ballack and it reads "If your team
 wins, wear your Team shirt. If your team loses, wear your Team shirt." I haven't switched loyalty after poor performance of Deccan Chargers last year. So this time it was almost heart breaking to see our team neglected, almost outcast, ruled out without even being given a chance, before their first match with Knight Riders. Most of the news channels had not cared to update the Chargers logo in their programming, most of the ads had DC at the fringes and there are hardly any sponsors for this team! 

I was pissed off most by NDTV, which had become a mouthpiece of Knight Riders and before our first match their entire coverage was revolving around KR and SRK with hardly even a mention of DC. Now with KR in deep mess, NDTV must have learnt that it is not good to keep all your eggs in one basket!

Cheer-less leaders

The cheerleaders selected by Knight Riders in NDTV Imagine show 'Knights and Angels' could not perform in South Africa because authorities there forced organizers to use local talent. But the girls were atleast given a free ride to SA by SRK and they got to watch few KR matches too. Ofcourse KR performance would not have brought any cheer to anyone!

Silly moment of Shylockness

I am a very understanding person. Really. I know having a commerical, er strategic break after 10 overs makes a case of 'attempt to murder' the game but they had to do something to recover the increased costs this year. But a break after 6 overs? Definitely it would have put even Shylock to shame!

And I bet the total number of times commentators have spotted 'Citi moment of Success' during a game must be more than the total moments of success put together by entire Citi group during last year and half. Unlike that dreaded 'DLF Maximum' I have still not been able to understand why and how a moment gets its name linked to the Citigroup. BTW, does DLF really think, renaming a sixer will fool people in buying more of their flats?

Adding the ads

IPL has found special liking from infrastructure sector it seems! If the IPL's title sponsor is DLF, last year's both finalists have cement companies as their title sponsors. Chennai Superkings is obviously owned by India Cements, Rajasthan Royals has got UltraTech Cement as theirs!

Shilpa Shetty's team has HDFC Standard Life, Puma and TCS (!!!) apart from 5 others. They don't mention Real (the new Miditech owned GEC) surprisingly.  
MSD is doing most commercials these days, so it comes as no surprise that his team CSK has maximum number of sponsors: 15 and that includes 'Official Face-Care partner Nivea'.

KKR has 11 sponsors including brands like Nokia, Sprite, TAG Heuer, Star Plus and Reebok.
King's XI Punjab have heavy weight Emirates as Title Sponsor along with nine more, including Gulf Oil. 
Delhi Daredevils have a very impressive sponsor list which includes GMR, Hero Honda, Coca Cola, Kingfisher Airlines and Adidas among others. They have got a rich media presence too with Fever 104 FM and some Network 18 channels and sites. 
Mumbai Indians has 12 with RIL, MasterCard, Idea, Pepsi and Adidas being the noteworthy names. 
Deccan Chargers being the poor church mouse have to be content with Puma, Pepsi, Kingfisher, McDowell's, Big 92.7 FM and Odyssey (chain of book stores). 
I found no mention of sponsors on RCB site. Maybe it is below Vijay Mallya's dignity to accept that others are sponsoring his team ;)

The least score

What is the minimum amount you have used a credit card for? I bet you can't beat my score. 12. Yes. 10+2=12. No zeroes missing. Just good old 12!
I purchased the DC anthem on their site and it cost me Rs. 12 which had to be paid by card. And to be honest, it is not even worth that money!