Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Break from Monotony, Athirapally Waterfalls...

At last, I am on a train to Kerala, where I am heading to attend a marriage function of one of my friends. During the long night journey, traveling in a second class sleeper compartment, of the Indian Railways, sleep is difficult to procure. I sit by the window, and just take count of the invisible sights in the dark that pass by as the train races. In the mean while, I didn't realize and fell asleep. The mild rain that poured through the window railings provided the natural coolness.

Finally at around 4 A.M. early morning, the train reaches, Thrissur a town in the coastal state of Kerala. From the station, I ply on a local bus to reach another small town Chalakudy. The early morning freshness, and the luxuriant tropical scenery which unfolds as the bus speeds towards the destination, affords me perpetual delight. The sight of houses, palisaded by shady coconut trees, and plantain trees is in sharp contrast to the apartments that I see in my daily life where greenery in such expanse is a rare sight.

At around 8 A.M., after having my breakfast(idli, vada, sambar and coffee), I head towards Athirapally Waterfalls, located at the entrance to Sholayar ranges which is about 35 kms from Chalakudy. The journey to this place, traversing curvy tracks, throws some spectacular views of the valley, intertwined with lush green forest cover of Western Ghats and sizzling silver cascades. Though, I learnt from the locals that monsoon is the best time, to be here, but still this off-season visit was gratifying.

Coursing Through

Once you reach the spot, one can see the source of the waterfall, before it plunges down with vigor.

The river bed

To enjoy the waterfall at its very best, I walked across the riparian forests to reach the foot of the falls with my minimum mountaineering skills. The journey was a bit tiring, but the pleasant breeze revived me. As I stopped at regular intervals, I was able to locate some forest houses amidst the greenery which are maintained by the tourist department to attract visitors.

Forest House

The breeze stirs a row of trees which line the entire stretch from the top till the foot of the waterfall. The farther I walk down, the more incredible sights opens up before me.

From the jungle

The ground around is covered with virgin bush, sometimes thickly overgrown. The cacophony of birds chirping in the woods gets diluted as I descend further down only to hear the roaring sound of the water as it dips with force. The enduring landscape reveals nature in all her own raw grandeur. There were families of grey and brown monkeys around jumping across the clumps of trees and garden chameleons too.

Someone taking a sunbath

There were hardly any people at the foot of the fall, though there were some security men guarding this area. The air was covered in mist and visibility was hindered to take many photographs, as the tiny droplets carried by the wind just settled on the lens of my camera. I settle under a rock, and watch this inexplicable performance of the nature as the water falls down this 150 feet cliff, with a standing puzzle. (Please be careful, if you go down, as the area is bit slippery and the best way to be here is bare foot.)

Athirapally Falls

The quite ripple of the waves came to my ears. It is a pleasant to catch the tang of a faint breeze which blows and carries with it tiny droplets, as if someone is using a water sprayer. The waves in force appear like liquid sapphire.


After spending a couple of hours near the base of the fall, I made my return trip to reach the top again, traversing the same path that I followed for downhill trek. Once I settle near the top, I was completely exhausted and was hankering for some water or a cool drink. There was a humble soul who was busy constructing, a roof with leaves, who rushed down, seeing a visitor near his make-shift stall and offered me two tender coconuts.

Constructing a Hut

After I feel a bit energetic, after sipping in two tender coconuts, I board the bus that would take me back to Chalakudy. As the bus journeys through the valley, the hills vanish behind in the curtains of the forest. The sound of the water pouring, gurgling and trickling diminishes and all I can see from the window of the bus, are few streams which run brown as Indian Railways tea.


Places, people, insights, colors and above all experiences. All these sum up what traveling is all about, don't you feel so?

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Happy, happier, happiest...

This Sunday, CBS news had an interesting, report that highlights an engrossing story about the happiest country in the world. This story is covered in an exhaustive fashion in Yahoo! News 60 Minutes page.

Now if you look at it, happiness is by itself very subjective and can have varied interpretations. What, I could make from the video is that the study focused on life satisfaction and gratification rather than short-lived emotional states. There are many linking tags if one starts to bisect and analyze this issue.

Is happiness linked with a capitalistic system? Some may agree to this and some may not. Just take any simple family, what defines happiness for the individuals differs across age group. But a totality of all these separate fixtures when assembled together makes a content society.

Indirectly, each and every facet of happiness, apart from the emotional state of an individual is softly coupled to many external factors. Economics, politics, education system, business, infrastructure, weather conditions, social system, etc are all the bricks in the wall that contribute to a perfectly cemented society. Each nation has its share of problems and triumphs, but in this traffic of highs and lows, ups and downs, any country that has a majority of its population that is contented would definitely accelerate towards the north in any graph. I guess that's what has set Denmark, apart and this year again it is ranked as the happiest nation in the globe.

Check this video and you can know the underlying chords that contributed to this. It also provides lots of interesting theories as to why people are so content in a land that doesn't have excellent weather, has delays in its public transportations, pays one of the highest taxes in the world and has many other fractures too.

Video 1 is here.

Video 2 is here.

In this snippet, one can also see how strong the social 'safety net' meaning free education, free hospital care, state-sponsored pension plan and unemployment checks, etc is in Denmark. Also a well-regarded Harvard psychology professor seeks to find answers to a very fundamental question: Why Americans are so unhappy today and what can be done to get happier?

In the words of Tal Ben-Shahar, the Harvard psychology professor, we just expect too much: In America, part of the ethos, part of the American dream, is that more is better, and the more is better usually applies to the material realm. And that doesn't pan out, that doesn't work, it doesn't make us happier...It is about having realistic expectations. It's... it's about not trying to fit in more...more than we can handle. We can't handle it all, we can't have it all, but we can have a lot.

Well, if you ask me these are some of the cardinal issues that plague many people, especially those that live in cities and metropolis around the globe and the solutions are also quite universal in nature, its not region/country specific. One of the key points that you can find in Denmark's key to happiness is lowered and realistic expectations.

Khush raho yaar :)

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Have you been here ?...

A couple of days back, BD had chronicled his experience of having dosa with his family at a classy restaurant in Lucknow. (This part is a bit off-track from the post and I learnt about this from a recent read, 'Umrao Jan Ada' by Mirza Hadi Ruswa. Asaf-ud Daula, the successor to Shuja-ud Daula had moved the capital to a site on the river Gomti which according to some was known as Lakshman Tila meaning 'The Mound of Lakshman', the younger brother of Lord Rama. With time, the Sanskrit name Lakshman developed into Lakhnau, spelt in English as Lucknow. So that's the genesis of the name of a colorful city, Lucknow.)

Smallsquirrel posted a comment on BD's yummylicous post:

I must say, though, that I prefer my dosas from the itty bitty darshini down the street, eaten standing next to my neighbors and assorted rickshaw wallahs, and washing it all down with a cup of steaming filter coffee (which only tastes good when made from packet milk and not that hyper-pasteurized stuff in tetrapacks found at five star joints).

I say this not because I scoff at 5 star hotels (who does not love a bit of luxury) but because the dosas at these places are always a lot nicer somehow... the potato palya is spicier, the chutney is more flavorful, the dosa more crisp...

don't you think?

Yes, I do. One needs to be in a place commonly known as V.V. Puram, Food Street or V.B. Bakery Road to Bangaloreans, a street that has its own tenuities, and its own history. In a city, which is today witnessing a growth rate of close to 10% and is home to almost all global brands even in the food segment, this street still offers something that sets one salivating.

The Full list

Come twilight, the air is charged with the scent of jasmine, unnoticeably blended with the fragrance of jalebis, pav bhaji, akki roti, masala dosa, gulab jamoon, potato bonda, American baby corn and a host of other mouth watery eatables.


The akki roti served with a spoonful of butter on top along with different types of chutneys such as coconut, onion, and chilli is a must eat for any visitor. There are a number of dosa joints that dot this 150 meter long street and the variety of dosas range from the simple plain dosa to the foot-long paper masala dosa served with fresh coconut and onion chutneys. The most striking feature is there is no sitting arrangement and in most places, paper cones, paper plates or plantain leaves are used to serve food. There is never any wastage and invariably every bit is literally licked till the last morsel. Also, the food stall owner makes food right in front of you, typifying the 'WYSIWYG' format (what-you-see-is-what-you-get). I found that these chaps do not compromise on quality as most of the stall owners of dosa were using 'Nandini' ghee, (the brand/make that is used in most households in Bangalore) to embrocate the dosa.

Yummy Dosa

How can you be here and miss the bondas, which are generally made of potato, chilli, capsicum, and banana. One can see, hear, and smell whatever was happening in the kitchen, wherefrom a constant traffic of trays loaded with garam garam jalebis passed on to the front counter.


As long as there is frying, serving, and sizzling noise in the kitchen, with trays and plates leaping across counters and various hands, it means the the action is on. The street starts welcoming the clientele at around 6:30 P.M and the process continues till 10:30 P.M.


The taste of each of these edibles is difficult to reproduce at home. The reason for this is simple, for ages, the deft and magical fingers of these vendors have mastered the art of deciding the quantity of salt, or ghee or for that matter any ingredient that must be added to satisfy their customers, the simplest way. The skill and precision with which the Puran Poli, a sweetened stuffed chapatti is fried on a hot tawa (frying pan), then taking the Poli out from the pan at the right moment, and serving with a dollop of ghee is not only a spectacle to watch but also a teaser to taste buds.


But places like these are slowly fading and evanescing. Maybe this is because the present young generation’s tastes are changing and everyone wants to identify oneself with the mall culture that is dispersing at a fast pace. But trust me, if you want something simple and want to see the colors of life, places like Food Street at V.V.Puram are a must to visit. Parking becomes a bit painstaking during the rush hours of business, but it's manageable. Also make sure that you have lot of denomination of Rs.5 and Rs.10 in your wallet when you visit this place. Why do I say so? Be there and you can know it yourself.

Price List

This place is very near to Lal Bagh West Gate.

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(Note: That the gentleman who prepared the foot-long dosa that you see in the pic, didn't charge me a single penny because he liked the pic that I took for him. I requested him and told him that this was not fair as he deserved his due, but he smiled and asked if he could meddle with my camera for a while. So this post is for that humble soul.)

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Mix and Match...

What happens when Sawaariya dude meets Om Shanti Om babe ?

The answer is simple : You get a bottle of Pepsi. You don't believe me, check this, the first campaign this year from the house of Pepsi.

If you notice, there is someone who has turned from unckeeel to bhaiya. Now this isn't so difficult. Guess who ?

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Engineer 2008, to enquire, create and innovate...

Formerly known as KREC Surathkal, and now with the new name National Institute of Technology, Karnataka (NITK), this institute is one of the best places in India to spend the college days. Apart from being a top-notch engineering institute in India and ranked as one of the best schools in this nation for engineering talent, this college is a fun place to be in.

Situated in a secluded place, far away from the Mangalore city, this small hamlet of Surathkal has a picturesque beach which is just stone's throw distance from the college campus. The salt laden winds, the smell of fish on the highways near the campus, living on a shoe string budget, the road side tea stall @ Krishna, the clean surroundings of red bench on the beach and the lighthouse, all these make the life at this place for a period of four years, a never to forget experience in the lives of those who graduate from this esteemed institute.

NITK hosts, an annual technical fest, 'Engineer' each year and over the years it has grown not only in volumes but also has been a platform for some interesting discussion to celebrate the spirit of engineering. It also highlights, the impact the engineers can make to the society. Engineer 2007 was a well organized event, which brought together students from more than 120 colleges from within India and abroad. The symposium attracted the talent across India and also a gamut of sponsors with prize money worth Rs. 9 lakh.

The highlights of Engineer 2007 were video conferences with world-renowned scientists, including Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of C++ and Prof. John C Mather, a Nobel laureate in Physics. The Last Word, a debate about Government Expenditure on Higher Education, saw many eminent personalities discussing and debating on very important topics and the how the engineering fraternity should take more responsible steps. Prof. Deepak Phatak, Subrao Nilekani Chair in KReSIT, IIT Bombay and Dr. Anil K Gupta, Executive Vice Chairperson, National Innovation Foundation were some of the chief speakers at this event.

A workshop on building underwater robots by IURS (the Indian Underwater Robotics Society), a hardware workshop by Ashish Derhgawen, a young IT student from New Delhi was one of the most featured workshops. There were many such events and open house discussions. Events like these opens up new avenues for discussion and research and adds new dimension in the thought process of graduates. I personally feel that an event of such proportion has many benefits: helps students to plan and organize as the entire show is managed by a students committee, it helps to meet students from varied backgrounds and share ideas, and also makes students realize that there is a big world to explore outside, rather than settling for a career in the regular IT and services industry that paints a rosy picture in the pre-placement talks.

I also feel that this is most apt time for the students to explore as there are ample opportunities on the fray, the market is healthy and needs young blood doused with energy, innovation, entrepreneurship and ideas. To support my point, at the previous year's competition, few of the featured contests, were Mushaca, where participants were invited to create original software applications that could benefit from the use of a three-degrees-of-freedom mouse (pioneered by Dr. Tim Poston and Srikanth MB, IISc Bangalore) and Mock Stock, an online stock exchange simulation.

I feel that this year’s fest, Engineer 2008 will be even better, bigger and loftier., and all those who can make there, just rush to Surathkal, to Think, Create and Engineer. More details here..

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(If you watched the video clipping, there was one line that I liked the most: 'The qualification if you wish to be innovative is not that you become front benchers but become back benchers'.)

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