My weekend trek gave me an amazing tan. I began asking for tan-recovery methods and found quite a few of them. I’ve listed them out. They might be pretty useful for people who return from summer adventures.
1. Rub tomatoes on the tanned skin.
2. Use rose water regularly.
3. Malai with Turmeric will work wonders.
4. Curd and honey go a long way in bleaching the skin.
5. Apply malai on the tanned skin and then use atta (wheat flour) and rub over those parts.
6.(This’ll work for girls): Best time to get your arms and legs waxed. 😀
These are the exclusive tan recovery techniques. If anyone has more, do tell me. 😀
I had known for a long time now that the Sahyadri mountain ranges are the trekking mecca of this part of the country. Not too high or difficult, it doesn’t need specialized equipment unlike the Himalayan treks. Pune being in the core of this mountain range, has numerous trekking destinations which make enjoyable hikes. I was always interested in going for these one or two day hikes in and around Pune. Then summer came with its killing forty plus temperatures and dry hot wind and roasted away all my plans. Pre-monsoon showers that lasted Thursday and Friday changed all that.
As we sat in my cubicle over a coffee-break , Sonali and I decided that since the weather is now behaving, we can try a trek. What better place to start other than the super-famous Sinhgad? We made enquiries about how to get there and the unanimous answer was “Go on a two-wheeler”. That option being impossible, we chose the other not-so-exciting-or-romantic option of the State Transport Bus. There is a motorable road that takes you directly upto the Fort, just 400 mtrs short of Pune Darwaza or the city-side entrance to the fort. “Don’t try the trek, it is too dangerous, go by car to the fort entrance and enjoy”, many such suggestions came by. Suddenly, everyone was the fort and Sinhgad and trekking expert. We listened to everything patiently and then used the www to make our decision. No, we were trekking. All the way up.
The bus ride was beautiful. The NDA and the huge Khadakwasla lake comes enroute and we began clicking. The last few kilometers had pathetic roads which shook us up out of our laziness and almost was a mini-warm-up. We could not see the fort from below. We captured what we then thought were tall and vertical cliff-like mountains, only it later did turn out to be the fort. The bus stopped at the last stop of Atkarwadi and a small, narrow road started the trek. It was a brown, arid landscape just recovering from the intense heat, not green and cloudy as everyone else told us it would become in monsoons. We were leaving Pune before proper monsoon set in. This was infact the last weekend we had to ourselves. The morning was cool and breezy and a few trekkers were already returning from their hikes at 8:30 am, just as we were about to start!
At first the route seemed pretty easy. First was small rocks set in a pattern making it appear like a stone road. The walk intensified and so did the slope. After nearly one kilometer, the path disappeared and it was just wilderness. There were a couple of people walking ahead of us and they traced a path. As I stood there waiting for Sonali to catch her breath, I could slowly make out the way we’ll trek all the way up. It was vertical rocks at some places, other times it was a meandering path.
Climbing was always easier than coming down. We continued our walk. The sun brightened our path and the hills surrounding us slowly appeared from under the early morning fog. In the distance we could see the Khadakvasla lake and the expanse. The village of Atkarwadi became smaller and smaller and we reached the top of the first mountain. For the first time, I realized where my gymming and running had helped me. I could walk up easily, no tiredness, to leg-aches, my breath for normal and I needed no breaks. But stop I did coz Sonali couldnt take the walk as well as I could.The trek isn’t easy for someone who doesn’t exercise regularly. My own stamina surprised me. I scampered up rocks and my mind was able to formulate patterns to climb spotting crevices for footholds. We climbed on all-fours, ran up other parts and sometimes had to stop to think and decide where to place the foot next. At almost half-way up the next mountain, I could see tiny human figures at the top and strained my eyes to get a glimpse of the fort. I did! It was so beautifully hidden, that the broken ramparts gelled in perfectly with the rocks and was almost invisible unless you look up intently. We could see the fort walls and the Pune darwaza. We now knew our destination. I felt a surge of energy come again as the excitement grew.
The last mountain or the mountain where the fort stood was the toughest to climb. Vertical rock-faces, pathways of loose stones and precarious ravines laced the route. There was a part of the climb which was almost a 90 degree upward walk and we needed to climb a tree and then jump on the other side to climb out of the steep ravine. A loose rock from the people walking upwards hit me on my ankle. That was the only injury during the upward trek. Some parts of the climb were so bad that the person trekking in front actually stopped by to check if we could climb up and if we needed any help. We didn’t. Sonali was now almost cursing the route and I kept encouraging her, luring her with the apparent short distance to the fort walls. Finally, we did it! It took us a good two hours with numerous breaks. Good time for the first time, I’d say!
The fort is now in ruins. We entered via the Pune darwaza which had hawkers lined up selling lemon water, dahi, cucumbers, Taak (chaach) and other refreshing drinks. Stone steps lead up all the way into the fort. The half-standing doorways give the place a mystic touch. There are many huts inside the fort area and stone walkways leading to the various places. First we saw the Kalyan darwaza (another entrance to the fort). The sites did tell us that there are ways to start trekking from other base villages to reach Kalyan darwaza but this route is even more dangerous and not frequented by many. We traced the path from the top and boy! it did seem tough. Then we continued walking to the other ruins and lookouts located at the ends of the fort. We walked along the fort walls, climbed broken stone steps, looked through the chutes used to pour hot-oil on the invaders and basked in the cool wind. It was fierce and blew away our caps and sunglasses regularly. The sweat evaporated in the cool breeze making it even better. The rustling of the tall grass and the sound of the wind among the trees was enchanting. It wasn’t very crowded being a Saturday. Our stomachs growled with hunger.
The food was by far the best part of the trip. The small huts provided authentic Maharashtrian village-fare in the typical style. We sat on straw-mats under the shade of a tree and ordered our lunch. We weren’t eating heavy since our trek downwards beckoned us. We ate hot Bhakris ( jowar rotis), Jhunka ( besan sabji), Thecha ( hot chutney) and I gorged on the fresh matka dahis. We took off our shoes and rested. At 1:30 we began our descent.
The route downward was tougher for the first 45 minutes. There were places were almost sat and walked down on all fours, sitting and scraping through huge boulders. Loose gravel made the walk even more slippery and I fell in the first 10 minutes of our trek. No damage done but further caution was exercised and we walked even more slowly. The rocks were now very hot in the heat and it wasn’t easy to sit or scrape or even hold on to them. One stretch was indeed very bad and scary and it was only later we realized that there was an easier but longer route to descend. The trek downwards after that was faster and we took just one break from the sun. It required immense concentration and we hardly spoke to each other. All the focus was on where to place the next step and choose among the alternatives which route was easier. We reached the Atkarwadi bus stop at 3:00 pm.
We ordered lemon juice at a small shack and washed our faces with cool water. Our hands were dirty from the falling and the scraping and there were salt patches on my clothes where sweat had evaporated. We weren’t hungry just red and black from the trek. Only tomorrow would we know how many shades of skin-colour we had changed. The tan was impressive. There were lines from where the sleeve of the shirt ended and the watch outline was engraved on the arms. We waited for the bus to arrive. It came at 4.
We got off the bus at Shaniwarwada, the last stop, 25kms away from Atkarwadi into the city. An auto-ride later to F.C Road and we were digging into food at Vaishali, perhaps the dirtiest and reddest customers they had at that time. By 6:45 we waited for another bus to take us home. Another 45 minutes and a kilometer walk later, we crashed on the sofas, took off our shoes and cooled off under the fan.
Easily, the most thrilling and adventurous days I’ve had in recent times. This became my second-favourite trek till now. The first and the best one was the walk to Kedarnath in the Himalayas. But this was a different experience. Not something I’m going to forget in a long-long time.
I believe that the best and quickest way to have a tour of India is to travel in the long-distance trains. I enjoy train travel more than any other mode of travel. Plane rides are comfortable and rather convenient but the shock of the quick travel sometimes gets to you. Like two hours back, you were sleeping in your mom’s lap and BAM! you are sleeping on your cold bed in the hostel room. Trains have an aura around them. The constant chug-chug sound, the cacophony of the bearers walking up and down the aisle, plus the opportunity to glimpse the astounding diversity of our country make the journey all the more pleasant. Never mind the dirt or the lack of opportunities to bathe. It is indeed India at its quickest and best.
A long train journey across the length or width of India gives the best chance to savour food from all parts of the country. The most authentic cuisine of the particular place is served at the railway station. I remember being ever so hungry on the trains almost eating everything that that particular station had to offer as its specialty. The idlis down south, the piping hot biryanis of Andhra with the Gongura chutneys, the Missal-pav and Vada-Pav of Maharashtra, the Bhakri of Madhya Pradesh, the aloo chats, chikkis, doodh pedha, everything you can get to have in its authentic style in just one train journey! Coming to the locales, its like a mini-sightseeing trip. More than the destination, it is the journey that is worth enjoying. You can watch the landscape melt into different forms, from the dense jungles, arid plateaus to the hills, cities and towns. Who can forget the numerous rivers cris-crossing our country. It was always fun to watch the river from the train. People drop coins hoping for good-luck, you can watch the dry river beds, the water meandering through the plains and the tiny boats hoping for a good catch of the day. It is like a movie playing before your eyes.
You meet different people, get to watch them closely traveling with them in such close quarters for such long periods of time, strike conversations, get lucky in love sometimes, enjoy the journey playing board games and cards, chat and gossip and read books uninterrupted. Every platform goes into a frenzy the train stops and it is fun to watch the intense activity suddenly erupt in the otherwise calm station. People filling water bottles, coolies trying to get clients, people hunting for change, hawkers selling all kinds of things, relatives and friends welcoming each other or saying good-byes, grandparents welcoming grandkids for their summer holidays, all of this makes every journey memorable.
Of course, there are certain aspects not that welcoming. The dirty toilets, the unreserved people straying into reserved coaches and occupying floor space, the thefts, the robberies are some of the many things that Indian railways should not be proud of.
I know many will wonder why the sudden post on railways. As I was reading the paper that Mamta Banerjee will mostly be the Railway Minister, my thoughts went to railways and the changes in the pre and post Lalu days. The days when tea was still sold in cups and not Kulhads, the days when railways were not so prompt or clean,when 24 hour delays were commonplace, when accidents hit an all-time high to the recent pasts when railways are once again back in form, maintaining even better time than even the Airlines sometimes, posting huge gains, improving service and speed and becoming the delight they truly once were.
Railways are like a throbbing lifeline of our country. One of the most coveted ministries and the largest government agency, the numbers they transport, employ, earn, serve are simply mind boggling. The number of trains operating, the reservation system are all technological marvels. Sadly, we never seem to look at it in awe. All we mostly do is crib about the cleanliness, the food, the heat or compare it with others like the Euro-rail and boast about the things being better there.
Overall, nothing can beat Indian Railways.
All the best Mamta Banerjee, you have a lot to live upto.
This is a pretty controverisal take on Jerffrey Archer by Shobha De. I dont know if it is true or not, but I think it should be also read by everyone. Not being judgemental here, just the information provider. ( I thank Sonali and Arushi for giving me this).
Excerpt from her blog:
Jeffrey Archer is a real character. I’d been invited to an intimate dinner the last time he was in Mumbai to promote his books. I found him racist, impatient, arrogant and conceited. All he did was complain. About Mumbai’s traffic, Mumbai’s readers, Mumbai’s everything! Just before we exited India Jones, someone at the table asked him if he had read or heard of any Indian authors. He dismissed that question instantly…. but swiftly thought better of it, perhaps anticipating more such questions from the desi press. He turned to me and asked who my favourite Indian writers were and I mentioned R.K. Narayan and Vikram Seth. The canny Archer looked totally blank, but being a smart cookie, asked for some paper, pulled out a pen and requested me to jot down their names and the titles of their books. He also asked about the contents of Narayan’s novels. Perhaps he did take the trouble to pick up the books at the airport and has indeed read them before whizzing into Mumbai again. He has been dropping both names at every press conference.I didn’t want to meet him one more time and skipped all the functions – alas, I’d seen through the guy. He has obviously sensed numbers in the India market and is determined to create a record here. Fair enough. Which author doesn’t want to sell in great numbers?? But in every interview, I notice with glee, he trots out the names of Seth and Narayan like he has been following their work for decades. Intellectual dishonesty? Or just good salesmanship and P.R.?? You decide…
This one is going to be big. More for myself to read and re-read and relive those amazing moments.
It all started with an sms. Being a Landmark Fellowship member, I got an sms saying that Jeffrey Archer would be in Landmark Chennai on so-n-so date. I was disappointed about the fact that it was something I was going to miss and with a great effort put it out of my head. All that until an advertisement appeared in the Pune times saying he was going to be in Landmark today. (17th May, Sunday). It was decided. We had to go.
I was all excited to meet this author whose nearly entire collection I have read. It all began with ‘Shall We Tell the President’ and then I read my favourite books of all time ‘The Prodigal Daughter’ and ‘Kane and Abel’. This man was a genius. I enjoyed his short stories the most, ‘A Twist in the Tale’ being my favourite collection. As I sat impatiently drinking lemon juice in The Coffee House, I kept thinking what an evening it would be! It was remarkable indeed.
We got chairs in the fourth row from the dias (only that it became 6th later since they made additional two rows last minute so unfairly- its India man, such things are bound to happen) and we picked up our copies. He was here to promote his new book ‘Paths of Glory’ which I had already finished reading a month back. They didnt allow us to bring our old copies inside so we had to buy new ones. Sonali hadn’t read his books so it was an easy choice for her. For me though, it was very difficult. The point being, I had read all his books except the Prison Diary series and I racked my brains to remember if there was any book missing from my collection. I found the answer. ‘Not a Penny Less, Not a Penny more’ was in the form of a battered old copy of my dad’s which had the last two pages missing. It was also the first book Archer wrote. It would be perfect to get this signed and so I bought it. The rest of the hour as Landmark slowly filled up, I engrossed myself in reading ‘Oxymoronica’, an interesting book full of paradoxical quotes and sayings. It was enjoyable to listen to people’s views, mingle with a crowd of well-read, decent people and watch as the excitement in the crowd grew. I was also super excited to see him.
The proceedings began very promptly. He was there in Landmark at 7:05pm, with a permissable delay of just five minutes. Clad in white khakis and a blue sweater (?), he ambled up the walkway and everyone stood up. Lord Jeffrey Archer was here in person. He spoke immaculately. His British accent in place, he narrated with extreme poise and confidence his hilarious experiences about his books and publishers which made the crowd holler. He narrated that he was turned down by 14 publishers before his first book ‘Not a Penny Less, Not a Penny More’ got published. He went on to add his funny experiences in promoting Kane and Abel in the USA ( the ones where he had to share slots with Mickey Mouse whose policy was ‘If its the last question, never stop talking’ or the Radio Chat show where his introduction was replaced by Edmund Hillary’s and he wasn’t given a chance to speak!). He did tell his story about the part-biographical latest novel ‘ Paths of Glory’ with the main lead, George Mallory being a real person. ( I didnt know that). He also remembered how he kept nagging his publishers to publish just 25,000 more copies of his book ‘Not a penny less, not a penny more’ every month when the publishers would tell him they werent going to publish any more. Today, that book has sold more than 23 million copies worldwide.He added that R.K Narayan was one of his favourites, Malgudi days being his best book and he considers him to be one of the best authors ever. It was heartening to hear him appreciate Indian fiction and he was all praise for the educated youth of India and also the Indian women. 😀 He also added that he wont write a book based on India since he believed that it was wrong to dwelve into someone else’s world. To prove his point he said ” Perhaps R.K Narayan could never write anything like Kane and Abel just as I can’t write Malgudi days”. Absolutely right he indeed was. In addition, he also showed us the subtle differences between a story-teller and a writer ,emphasizing that he is a story-teller and a story-teller is one who prompts the reader to keep turning the pages like Charles Dickens who is the grand-daddy of story telling. Writers are those whose works are heavily laced with literature and the Nobel prize winners are precisely those people. He proved that people tend to prefer love story-tellers than novelists.
He added that he has re-written ‘Kane and Abel’ and the revised version will be released October 3rd this year followed by another collection of short stories and followed by a family saga. He answered many questions from the audience and gave a few key tips to budding novelists and authors. Some questions were funny like the one where one person asked ‘ Aren’t your plots predictable, I mean you always kill the bad guy’, to which he cooly replied ‘If it worked for Shakespere, it’ll work for me’ which sent the audience into pearls of laughter.
Post this, the signing of books sessions started. He promised that he would be there till the last copy was signed. I got mine signed rather quickly being in the front of the crowd. Landmark was distributing hot spinach puffs and jam tarts with mango juice to everyone present. I ate the snacks waiting for Sonali to emerge from the crowd near the dias. After she did, we bolted to The Place, the most amazing sizzler joint just down the road to eat our dinner. We ate with gusto, hungry after all the waiting and excitedly discussed our amazing evening. It was an evening none of us were going to forget.
I met my favourite fiction author. I am on cloud nine. It couldn’t get any better.
I had been toying with the idea of a personalized header for a long time now. Given the fact that I had all the time in the world, I decided to use it well, a little more constructively than usual. Now, I had long removed Adobe Photoshop from my computer, to accomodate the COMSOL Multiphysics in the final semester. Without DC ( yes, that is a major handicap), setup was impossible to obtain. I asked Amrit for alternatives and he suggested GIMP. It was an open source software with all the features of Photoshop. So I immediately installed and set out to work.
Before you start thinking that the piece of art above is my handiwork, let me clarify. It is made by none other than Amrit himself. I did start off my ambitious project, mission header with an aim to make it like it has come out now, but turns out it was rather complicated for a first-timer like me. Various garbled versions emerged and three mishaps later I SOS’ed him to design one for me. He did a fab job, Thank you very much again.
I took out my drawing paper and charcoals after eons today. Not knowing what to gift my sister on her b’day, I decided a hand-drawn sketch would be so much more precious than anything I pick up from a shop. I always prefer handmade gifts. They somehow are so real and the effort that goes into making it is a perfect representation of the love you have. This was only my second hand made gift in recent times. The first was a scrap book I made for bloke. Now, this. I used to gift hand-made cards to mom and dad, but that was when I was younger, was regular at painting and had all the materials. So today, it was an awakening of sorts.
More than how it looks, I feel ecstatic about the fact that my oldest hobby has resurfaced. I felt the familiar thrill when my pencils drew long black strokes, the charcoals beautifully left a trail of blacks and greys and the picture finally came alive. Hmmm…its a sort of high I am on now. It feels great.
I go for a 3-4km walk/ jog every morning. It is not something I am forced to do and I can easily afford the luxury of sleeping till a comfortable 8 am. But I do it because I love it. Even back on campus, it was easily the best time I had. The quiet roads, the breezy mornings, the teachers with their dogs on morning walks…hmmm…it still brings a smile to my face.
I continue that habit in Pune. Though summer is easily my most hated season of the year (monsoon is the absolute favourite), there is something about a summer morning that you never enjoy in any other season. The cool air of the night before, the flurry of early morning activity,the bright sunlight at 6:30 am, the slow heat rays beginning to burn/tan your skin, the people scurrying to catch local trains, and the empty roads only to become unrecognizable a few hours later. I enjoy the walks with my ipod diligently playing my favourite collection of songs. Those few precious minutes (just more than an hour) give me the strength to face the day somehow. It erases the memory of the unpleasantness of the evenings before, the bitterness of words, the tensions, the deadlines. It somehow literally gives me a fresh start. It makes me revive my inner self and voice which gets drowned in the cacophony of the world everyday.
I am a nature lover. Big one at that. I enjoy walking around trees, looking at the various animals still surviving our brutalities on their habitats. The occasional chirping of birds, the bark of a stray dog, the cackle of hens, the roosters, the playful puppies in the gutter, the bird’s nest high up on the tree. I wonder how strong and resilient those creatures must be to survive in the concrete jungle, still keeping the traces of nature alive in our brick-and-mortar world. It has been my deepest wish to do something for these dogs and cats and all animals since I was a very young child. Brought up in lush-green garden filled homes and spaces, I cannot imagine my life without animals and trees and shudder to think of a future without them.
I stood silently watching a litter of puppies play with an empty tetra-pack of milk in the drain, smiling ever so slightly. I will do something for them,whatever little I can right now, but something definitely substantial in the future.