Sunday, November 19, 2017

Adventure Trip to Rishikesh - Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, I had written in detail about the plans we had made and the overall summary of our Rishikesh trip. In this part, I will give a breakdown of each day and activity and will post a video from each of the activities. All 5 of us had an exhilarating time doing these activities and thanks are due to 2 professional organizers - Adventure Nation who is an online aggregator based out of Gurgaon who was our primary contact from Chennai and Red Chilli adventures who were the local hosts who took care of our activities and stay at Rishikesh. The entire crew from both these professional organizers were amazing and helped us have a fantastic time that we will remember forever.
Here is how our trip panned out. We left Chennai by the 10am flight on November 4 (Day 1) and reached Rishikesh by 11.30pm the same day. We had the land activities on 5th November and Water activities on 6th. We traveled back on 7th. So effectively we spent 2 days on activities and 1.5 days on travel. 

Nov 5 - Day 2 of the trip.
A car picked us up near Lakshman Jhula around 9.30am and we reached Jumpin Heights around 10.30. Our package covered 2 activities- Bungee Jump and Flying Fox. There is a 3rd activity too "Giant Swing" which was not part of our package. But we badly wanted to do it so we requested the park to squeeze the 5 of us in to the slots (which were fully booked already) and we waited for a couple of hours extra to get these slots. The experience from the activities were out of the world and truly as the staff at the park said it was an experience we will remember forever. 
The adrenaline, the fear and the subsequent relish after the jumps are beyond words. The high you get when you jump off is inexpressible. All 5 of us were scared at the edge but we jumped off in our first attempts itself (you are given 2 attempts, some back-off just by looking at the sheer height of the jump). Once you jump off during the bungee or the swing, you are lowered down and to come back up you have to take a strenuous trek back up to the base. More than the jumps, this trek tired us 😊 And since we did both Bungee and Giant Swing, we had to do this twice and we spent more than 30 minutes each time to climb back up. It was tough yes, but when you go as a group, this experience would be so much fun 😊 Don't worry too much about fitness etc. I was/am the heaviest person in our group but still managed the treks without issues.
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We were supposed to finish our activities here by 2.30ish and reach our campsite for lunch by 3pm. But we finished and packed up only at 4. We had to hence, stop on the way back for a late lunch. It was 6pm by the time we reached the campsite. There were (only) 5 other people in the campsite. We had some refreshing tea and spent the evening around the campfire. Post dinner we retired to our absolutely comforting and compact tents which had electricity and cots. We had 2 tents for us, one with 3 cots and the other with 2. The night was a calm and peaceful one. Since we were all tired, we slept very well.

Here are the videos from day 1. (Don't forget to like on youtube 😉 )
Bungee Jump:
 

Giant Swing

 

Flying Fox

Nov 6 - Day 3 of the trip

On schedule was a 26KM rafting course and multiple short water activities. We were all extremely excited as we had seen glimpses of mother Ganges flowing throughout the city the previous day and much to our surprise the water was pure throughout without a sign of dirt or pollution. We were told that 90% of the pollution happens downstream when the river enters Uttar Pradesh. We reached the rafting point and after a detailed briefing on safety instructions and operating procedure, we were on a superbly maintained raft. Each raft can hold upto 6 individuals plus an expert. On our raft was an instructor from Netherlands and a fellow tourist Matt. The rafting was incredible and physically and mentally challenging. This course is touted Level 3+ meaning this is a hard course. There were 5 rapids where we had to negotiate with skill and follow instructions cleanly. The video below is from the toughest rapid.
We were also allowed to jump into the water in between where water was relatively smooth. The stream was really fast and when I jumped in, i had no clue how fast the water actually was. At one stage I drifted off really far away from the rafts within 2 seconds. To swim back was extremely tough against the current and it was an amazing thrill. The instructor kept waving at me to come back fast as I was drifting off with the current at a fast pace. I managed to reach our rescue Kayak which was operated by Harpal Negi from Red Chilli adventures. He was amazing and followed us on the river course throughout often flaunting and playing with the water just to show-off 😉 He showed us how to do a Eskimo Roll and when we asked him to let us do it, he was gracious enough to encourage it. Check the video here - Imagine doing this 5 times back to back. This looks easy, but requires enormous physical strength to carry another person and pull it off safely. Harpal was a master at this and his professionalism is awesome.
After the rafting, we returned back to the campsite around 3pm and had a sumptuous lunch. My major complaint on the food in Rishikesh is that it is very spicy. Also other than Paneer there is very limited options for vegetarians. They seem to have only Paneer available from road side shops to restaurants to our campsite. I requested our campsite chef to cook gobi for a change and he obliged, but Paneer was also served. We relaxed a bit by playing some football and cricket and by 4pm we were out again to do the remaining activities. 250metres away from the campsite we had a pathway that descended down the hill to the riverbank. Here again it was almost therapeutic to watch mother Ganges flow smoothly with a relaxing sound and a gentle breeze soothing your senses.

We did Kayaking, Cliff Jumping, Rock Climbing & Rappelling here and as luck would have it we finished all these exactly 1 minute before darkness engulfed us completely.

Kayaking

Cliff Jump
 

Rock Climbing & Rappelling
 

It gets pretty dark here by 6pm and it was quite an experience trekking back up in complete darkness through the really tough terrain. Surprisingly none of us felt the need to use even a mobile torch. Somehow we felt so safe and really happy after all the activities that we just kept speaking (and panting) and climbed all the way up in 20 minutes. Once back, we all took hot water showers and by 7.30pm we had dinner. We were splitting up the next day - 2 were going to Gangtok on an extended vacation, 1 going back to Lucknow (IIM student), 1 to Vijayawada and I was returning to Chennai. My flight was at 1.30pm from Dehradun airport, so we made a plan to visit Neelkanth Mahadev temple the next morning and then reach back to Rishikesh city from where we could split. We retired early and once again slept peacefully through the night.

Nov 7 - Day 4 of the trip
We hired a cab that would take us to the Neelkanth Mahadev temple which was 90KMs away from our campsite and would drop us at Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh. The cab costed 3k for this trip which is a normal fare. The trip was uneventful and it took us 90minutes to reach. We were eagerly looking forward to praying here as we were told this was the #1 spot to visit @ Rishikesh and about 7lakh people visit here every year. We reached the temple, prayed and came back to our cars in 30 minutes and if I were to be truthful and honest I was severely disappointed. The temple is maintained horribly with about 500 shops surrounding the main structure and you will easily miss the temple itself. The main Shiv linga is so small and anyone can touch with their hands and do a ganga jal abhishegam. Maybe it's just my fault, but I felt no sense of spiritualism or calm that overpowers you in a temple like Kabalishwarar temple in Chennai. This is just my view from 1 visit and I maybe wrong, take this with a pinch of salt please.

We then reached back Rishikesh around 11.30 and I immediately took off the airport in a cab again and reached by 12.15pm. To my horror though my flight was delayed by more than 2 hours. I could have spent this time usefully going around Rishikesh and visiting the multiple temples, if there was a proper notice from Spicejet. My flight departed late around 3pm and i had to change to another flight at Delhi (this was on the same day when an Indigo passenger was manhandled) and finally I reached chennai by 8pm.

It's been a fortnight since we returned back to our normal lives, but the 5 of us had an experience of a lifetime. We will never forget this trip and in more ways than one it has brought all of us closer as friends and I am pretty sure this is just the first of many such trips!

Thank you Aasish, Uday, Goutam and Nandith. Without you guys, this trip would have never happened.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

An Adventure Trip to Rishikesh - Part 1


Rishikesh is most popular as a holy city. It is part of UNESCO's heritage cities alongside Haridwar. It was hence, a surprise for quite a few of my friends when I proposed going to Rishikesh for an adventure trip. In my quest of finding newer, yet popular activities to do, I came across the extreme adventure sports park setup in Rishikesh. It was and continues to be the tallest Bungee point in India. Also, Rishikesh is home to mother Ganges and she flows through the city in abundance. This actually sets up Rishikesh as one of the best places in India for some medium to high adrenaline adventure.

River Rafting and expeditions, Rock Climbing, Para sailing/air gliding, Kayaking, some steep dive/jump points along the might Ganges, Bungee Jump, Flying Fox, Giant swing etc are some of the fantastic activities we can do here.In this post I will stick to detailing and explaining my itinerary and suggesting alternates. Will post the videos and some references for some good action. In the posts to follow I will write my personal experiences and will describe in detail what emotions I went through during these activities.

We were 5 in our gang. 4 of us went from Chennai and 1 came from Lucknow. There is a direct train from Lucknow to Haridwar and he took that.
From Chennai, there are 2 ways in which one can reach Rishikesh.
  1. Take a direct flight to Dehradun (`5 hours). From Dehradun to Rishikesh we can take a cab ride which will take 45 minutes. This is the BEST and easiest way to reach Rishikesh.
  2. Chennai to Delhi by flight (3 hours). Delhi to Haridwar by train (4 to 6 hours) and then Haridwar to Rishikesh by cab (1 hour). Total travel duration would be roughly 12 hours including the wait times and transits (if all the modes are without delay).
When we traveled, the flight to Dehradun from Chennai was too expensive (7.5k), so we booked an Air India flight to Delhi at 9.55am (this flight was AMAZING, with super spacious cabin and in-flight entertainment systems) on Saturday morning.

We reached Delhi by 2.30pm as the flight was late by 1 hour due to congestion at the airport. We had a connecting train from Haridwar to Rishikesh at 3.20pm. We took a metro from the airport and reached the railway station at 3.15pm. (When in Delhi the best mode of transport seems to be the Metro) We boarded the Jan Shatabdi train just on time. This train was poorly maintained and seats were pretty bad and basic hygiene was terrible. Better to avoid this train, especially if you are booking the non-ac coach.

We reached Haridwar railway station around 9pm. The train was late by close to 2 hours. Since it was late already, we had dinner at a hotel opposite to the station "Big Ben". Food was average and too spicy for my taste and I felt it was at least a few 100 rupees overpriced. After dinner we went back to the railway station and were lucky to find a Bolero, which was returning to Rishikesh. We got the ride Rs. 1100. It was 11.30pm on Saturday, when we reached. Our activities were starting only the next morning & so we googled for some economical stay options in & came across a bunker bed stay @ "Nature Villa" which costed 425rs per head when booked online (we realized later that if we had booked across the counter, it would have been at 350 only). It was a neat bunker bed type room with ac and had 8 beds and the washrooms were neat. Would definitely recommend this place if you want to stay. We did not try the in-house restaurant for breakfast next day, but reviews seem to suggest it is below average.

At Rishikesh, we had booked the adventure activities as a package from Adventure Nation. It was for 2 nights and 3 days. The cost was roughly 11k per head. This included free accommodation in tents at a campsite, 6 meals, 1 free cab ride of our choice, Bungee jump, Flying Fox, 26KM river rafting and some smaller activities like short distance kayaking, cliff jumping, rock climbing & rappelling and evening camp fire plus some outdoor games.

Flights, Taxis, Local sight seeing, food on the first and last days and shopping fares were all separate. We also undertook one extra activity at Jumpin Heights - Giant Swing which costed us about 3k extra per head. Also, at this place they take videos and for you to get those videos, you have to pay 1200rs extra (500 for one activity video, 900 for 2 and 1200 for videos of all 3).

All in all we spent around 23 to 25k per head for the 4 day trip (~8k for the flight and cabs, 13k for activities, 2k for the pics, meals and 1 extra night stay and 2k miscellaneous expenses). With slightly better planning and timing we could have reduced at least 2k per person easily. We postponed our flights by a week and that made us spend Rs 1600 extra per person and if we had taken a direct flight to Dehradun instead of the Delhi-Haridwar transit, we could have saved some more. But be prepared to spend at least 20k if you are planning a trip similar to ours :)



A detailed breakdown of how we spent the 3 days and the activities and pictures of our trip are posted in Part 2 of this blog. If you want to see the videos of the Bungee jump, flying fox, swing, rafting and more do visit the 2nd part. Click here to for more → Part 2

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Promise

I was not old enough to understand the sacrifices my mother made all her life for me. I never paused to think of how tough it would've been to bring me up. I was a rowdy growing up :) It never occurred to me that the beautiful women who brought me up have given away so much. My mom, whose life has been dedicated for her only son; My grandmother, whose stories and interpretations of Krishna and Rama are now part of my DNA; my aunt who gave everything she had to the 3 rascals (my brothers and I); the domestic help we had at home who used to sit hours in front of my crib rocking it so that I would sleep... all of them have made me who I am today, given me every shred of love they had and continue to give me everything they have. Never before have I really understood their love as much as I do today - thanks to the Gold biscuit I have now @ home Aadya 😊

I stayed with Mytri @ the hospital through the 28 hour labor she went through. I saw her endure 28 hours of non-stop pain, the likes of which she has never faced in her life. I couldn't stand it, it was unbearable to watch and I can only imagine how it would have felt to withstand it. But Mytri stood strong and magically, from deep within, she found the resilience and courage neither of us knew she had, to withstand the pain. When Aadya was born, all our attention shifted to the baby. It took me a while to realize that I had forgotten the last 28 odd hours in a few seconds and moved on from the pain to joy in an instant. I felt guilty, but Mytri was not complaining, instead she wanted me to promise that I will always protect our daughter and hold her dear. I realized for the first time how amazing a Mother is!

Mytri's life has turned completely upside down now. She gets 2 hours at a stretch - to eat, sleep and to live her life. Then she has to take position and feed the baby. Sometimes Aadya eats quick and sleeps early. Other days she is a devil 😈 I lose patience when she cries, when she fusses too much, when she takes more time and energy out of us to calm down.. But Mytri stays calm throughout. Whether it takes 1 hour or 5, she is there... patient, loving, calming, sure of what the baby wants. I realized again how amazing a Mother is!

When we talk of the days ahead, I discuss with Mytri on where I should sleep, which room I should work from, how to balance work and home, who should cook and what to cook... she talks about where to hang the crib for the baby, when to feed her, when to switch to solid food, which doctor to fix, which school and what type of education we should provide for her... Mytri's thoughts are unwavering, its on the child and its embedded in her soul. I realized again how amazing a Mother is!

I held them both in my arms and I can see their calm in my arms. But the truth is, it is the mother, Mytri who is holding us both safe. It is she who is giving away parts of her life to me and Aadya, so that ours can remain whole. One half of my life is my mother's and the other half, which is holding the child safe, is Mytri's.

Today, I understand what a mother truly means. What a mother goes through in her life. Aadya is showing us all what it takes to be a mother. Mytri is showing me why I should never let go of the lovely women in my life.

I remember my promise and I will stand by it forever.

Happy Mother's day to all the lovely mothers out there. Thank you for keeping the dads sane and for reminding us all about our promise :)

Aadya Diaries

It's been just over a month since she stepped into our lives. This last month has been the best of my life thus far. I wanted a girl child, majorly because we have not had a girl baby in my family for a while now. But every second with her is changing me, changing all of us @ home.

My idea of love, life, happiness, pain, even of life itself has changed... Changed by the tiny tot who will not even know now how much she is teaching me. She has no idea now of what it means to me when I pick her up first thing in the morning, when she smiles at me, when she holds my hands.

When she cries it melts your heart and breaks it. When she smiles there is no happier feeling and when she tucks herself on my chest and sleeps, a tear invariably drops down in happiness. I had no idea a baby can make you feel so many emotions. Fear, Happiness, Euphoria, Helplessness, glee and much more!

There were days when I wondered why god gave mothers such a big burden. of carrying a baby for months and then having to be chained so as to feed... But I realize its not a burden, but a blessing.

When we see a baby crying in hunger, everyone's heart breaks and melts. Everyone wants to rush in, to make the baby feel better, to satisfy the hunger.. But only a mother has the gift to soothe a baby and feed it. And when I look at Mytri's face when Aadya eats gleefully, there is nothing else happier in this world.

Its just been a month and already Aadya has made this world and life much more beautiful. I can only imagine how beautiful life is going to be in the coming years. 


Thank you god for blessing us and Thank you darling Aadya, for being ours


Love,
Dad

Monday, June 15, 2015

Opening the delightful Kaakka Muttai

I initially wanted to title this post as Cracking open the kaaka muttai. But later felt it was aggressive and a movie as gentle and as subtle as this one deserved better. So even though the present title doesn’t fully express the idea I had in mind, I guess this should do. In more ways than one this is the first tribute to the masterful movie that KM is. I am unable to perfectly translate my view of this movie into a simple few words. So imagine how amazingly talented the director Mr. Manigandan must be, for having translated a concept as novel as KM into a movie so delectable and neat that one cannot help but be awed!

This post is not a movie review. It is merely a fledgling attempt at a tribute to the movie; a narrative of the beautiful experience that watching this movie gave me. Movies to me are an escape from my everyday life. I love mine yes, but the possibility of being transported into another world where things are bigger and seemingly better is hard to pass up. I went to KM expecting entertainment and some light hearted humor. But what it gave was an unbelievable experience. KM surprised me, moved me, made me happier and sometimes slapped me hard!


Perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of the movie was the subtlety prevalent throughout. Even the deepest and most profound messages of the movie pass by almost unnoticed only to come back and haunt your sleep long after you leave the theater. The movie never feeds you the rights and wrongs of the society. It merely plays you by showing what happens around us from a neutral, yet an extremely engaging standpoint. Be it the way the kids say they won’t be allowed inside the shopping mall, to the way that money makes even friends lie to each other, to the way the mom exclaims it is the fault of the so called upper class for making the lower rungs of society yearn for a better life… Every sequence is crafted with elegance, care, love and with amazing focus. The director has walked a thin line; one slip in the dialogues could have made the scenes preachy, and one percent less subtle would have made it appear biased. But no, this is dealt all too well and with amazing dexterity.
What really jolted me was how programmed my mind had become. The father of the kids is in jail and the mother is struggling alone. She is young, dark, earthy, vulnerable and absolutely attractive. Her everyday life is surrounded by a clutch of men. The cable TV guy, the lawyer, the petty thieves, the MLA and his cohorts, the Pizza parlor workers… After a while I started watching the movie with some trepidation. I was worried that one of the aforementioned men would make sexual advances to her and that would make the entire movie a lot less valuable. But the director steered cleanly away from all that cheap sequences. What’s more, it wasn’t as if she didn’t interact with any of these people, she does. Yet, every character stays true to their objectives and not even once was there any slip. When the movie was over, it jolted me that I even worried about such a sequence. My mind was so conditioned to experiencing that bad taste from past movie experiences that, half the time I was praying it shouldn’t happen here. Thankfully and to the movie’s credit it didn’t even touch that nerve.

KM’s biggest achievement though, is the way it takes us all in the direction it travels without any of us questioning it. Generally when a section of the society is frowned upon, they take offence and the movie loses that circle of the society. But even though KM lays bare the glaring divide among the sections of our society it never makes the audience question or argue. We become one with the kids. We journey with them as kids. They never complain about their status in the society, they never grumble against the injustice met to them, they never remember the bad that happens around them, they are seldom bogged down by failures and most importantly never do they ever give up on their self respect. They refrain from stealing, from eating a free bit. The prospect of taking a short cut never once appeals to them… To say that I was influenced and inspired by them on so many occasions during the movie would be an understatement!

How I wish I could be like those kids. Spirited, unfailing, confident, smiling and sportive…  Now that life would be a real golden egg wouldn’t it?
KM to me was an unbelievable experience. At various stages of the movie I felt various emotions and most of it were involuntarily pulled out from the heart. Every scene was delightfully crafted. Every sequence was written with amazing focus and simplicity. The kids sparkle in every frame and the humor makes everything a lot more fun and spirited. To me this is a once in a generation movie. I don’t remember the last time I walked out of a movie with such fondness and glee. To this and everything else I take my hats off! To the director, the kids, the crew and the spirit of KM I bow down! Thank you for everything!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mom - My First Expert

The relationship I share with my mom is really special to me. It is a unique bond that is perhaps incomparable with any other relationship in this world. When I think back to the days when I was a kid and when I imagine how much of patience and sacrifices my mom would have had to make for me, it simply blows my mind. I got married in January ’15 and I have moved out with my wife, and now I realize my mother’s value tremendously. My wife is exactly another me, and I am realizing that I simply cannot handle another me. But my mom has been amazing. I am the only son at home and the way she brought me up without ever showing signs of stress or impatience is simply… inexpressible.

Till my wedding I never paused to think how much my mom means to me and how much I had learnt from her. I never really spent much time imagining the amount of love she had for me nor have I ever asked myself how life away from mom would be. It never struck me how much she actually knew about life in general. After my wedding it’s almost as if the universe has turned upside down. I am happily married mind you, but I stand exposed now. I realize now how much I don’t know about life. I do not know to differentiate between the small things and the big things in life; I do not know how to plan, to save, to sacrifice as much as my mother. But I know my mom is still around to teach me.

When I think of it, everything I know about life starts from my mother. To pick out one memory from a lifetime is not only difficult but also unfair. Every day there is something new that she keeps teaching me. For instance, just the other day I bought a skin for my laptop and I made a mess of sticking it. My mom who has never used a laptop all her life took over and expertly cut the skin to fit my screen and did a beautiful job of it. This has been the case all my life. She has been the first and the best expert in my life. From teaching me science and math during school to keeping me away from bad habits at college to showing me what true love actually means, she has always been at the center of my universe. The guiding light and the staunch pillar that never lets me down.


I have made more mistakes than I can count or remember, but she has always been around… forgiving me and ensuring that I don’t repeat my mistakes. She has helped me succeed, guided me through the many ups and downs in life, she has taught me to handle rejections and kept success from going to my head.

In short, whatever I am today it is because of her. I have never faltered when I have done as my mom has asked me to. She has been the torch, the pillar and the expert that I have been gifted to have. To me she is everything and with every day my love for her grows deeper and my admiration for her selfless and unconditional love keeps increasing. You my dear mom are an amazing person and I know how fortunate dad and I are to have you. Thank you so much mom J

In all honesty I must really thank Godrej. Writing this post has been an emotional exercise for me and I have had to stop and start quite a few times because I got overwhelmed with emotions a few times. It was the call for posts from Godrej that got me writing, so thank you Godrej.


And mom… I love you J You are truly my first expert!