Monday, December 27, 2010

Travel and Deception

While on a tour one has to always watch out for deception. Its happeining all around us and in many different forms but we seem to overlook it all the time. Well its quite obvious that people are the usual suspects but anything under the sun can be deceptive! Yes deception is an everyday phenomenon but it according to me can be the decisive factor between a great holiday experience and a shambolic one. Though I was lucky enough to experience a few "fairly mild" deceptive incidences but it helped me become more cautious of anymore future threats!

So I hired this bike in Bhuj to visit the beach town of Mandvi and the White Rann. Initially the bike dealer wouldn't give out his bike to an Indian but after a thorough background check he agreed to lend a lesser bike model which seemed hardly capable of touching 60 kmph. But I still had to cough up the same rate that applied to a better bike say a Pulsar. And that is deception point 1. I was made to believe through all the sweet talking during and after the background check that I was one of the select few Indians who could hire a bike in Bhuj and thus was an elite! Yet for this privilege, I could only get a bike that was last seen on Indian roads almost a decade back! And not to forgot the bike came at the price of a modern bike!

Deception point 2. On a scale of 10, I gave the bike a 2 for its performance before I set out on the ride. I was really not happy with the deal that I'd struck but the whole "elite Indian" feel good factor made up for it. And surprisingly, though the bike scored very low in terms of overall performance, but it was by no means a Gas Guzzler! And this was enough to win my heart 'cause mileage in any motor vehicle is very very crucial for a middle class Indian. In this case, I was "pleasantly" deceived.

Deception point 3. The bike suffered two flat tyres on the first day. But by some strange coincidence, both 'em happened right outside a bike mechanic shop! Initially I didn't pay attention to this as I was relieved that I wouldn't have to go through too much of an ordeal but on closer observation I realized this was no coincidence. Its a dirty game that these mechanics play. They carefully lay out these nails and other minute metal scraps that can cause a flat tyre, around their shops on the highway to ensure steady business through out the day. Deception at its very best! So the next day I was really careful whenever I came across any such "puncture repair" shops and slowed down the bike in order to watch out for any such alien metal pieces that would derail my journey.

So that brings us to the questions, is it possible to get square with deception? And does Newton's third law apply to deception? The answer is not known to me at the moment but there is hope in the form of caution and awareness. Oh but I did get my chance to get square with the bike dealer for lending me such a shitty bike. I was bored of nurturing the bike through out the ride and on the last leg I decided to push its limits. Though I was a good 100 kms away from Bhuj, my night halt, I didn't hold back and as expected the bike broke down due to the extra throttling! I knew God was with me on this one because within 10 minutes I found a trailer to a hitch a ride back to Bhuj. On reaching Bhuj, a little play acting and a sad weary face was enough to convince the dealer that I had gone through shit 'cause of the bike and he waived off the rent for the second day! Yay!

Deception is unavoidable during travel but having a calm head always helps!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Castaway at Alibaug

Its been a day shy of a week since I had the most amazing time at my friend's beach house in Alibaug and the experience is still fresh in my mind. Its great fun hanging out with the Capoeira gang in this part of the country and the guys are very passionate about this martial art form. Its like Brazil is right here in Mumbai. I can't wait for Baba, the Capoeira instructor, to start classes in Bangalore. Am sure its gonna be well recieved!

Here's a sneak peak at Capoeira..

Big thanks to Baba, Zorro, Mancha and all those who shared their space with me and made my holiday a better one!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Philosophy of Mumbai

Mumbai as we know has a huge influx of population from the smaller Indian towns and villages too, who come to the city in search of a better life. Its not everyday that someone goes up to them and speaks to understand their psyche but when the opportunity presents, these guys are efficient enough to hold on to the attention that they are receiving presently. I chatted up with one such Mr. A Balsubramanium, a street food vendor on Marine Lines promenade last evening.

Bala hails from a very small town in Tamil Nadu (can't recollect the name) and has been a regular to Mumbai for the past 32 years. Why I say regular 'cause Bala has a peculiar work philosophy. He detests permanent jobs and his work locations are decided by the Indian monsoons or the lack of it! So when there are rains in Mumbai, he heads to Chennai and when the rains are in Chennai, he is in Mumbai. Or when Mumbai is burning in the summer, he is in Kashmir carrying out his trade. He just doesn't wanna settle down in one place!

Bala, fondly called as Anna (elder brother in Tamil), goes on to explain the two simple things that make Mumbai tick, according to him. He says just soak up everything thats happening around you and when you are asked to testify, hold on to your ear lobes (the Indian way of gesticulating that you are sorry) and say you saw nothing! The other he says is the Marathi phrase "Aamchi Mumbai" which till yesterday I thought meant "My/Our Mumbai". Anna tells me it actually means "Maa Chudaye Mumbai"! Quite shocking coming from someone who has made Mumbai his second home for so long. But I guess thats how he has been able to survive in this big bad city.

As for me, only time will tell which of the two meanings will apply to my life!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Traveling the way I do..Aint for the faint hearted!

"Travelling" or "traveling"? What's the right way to spell the word? Nevermind... 'Cause there aint a right or wrong way to travel either!

This is gonna be the focal point of this post..

Had the most heart stopping experience last morning while boarding the train to Mumbai. Everything that could go wrong, went awry!

For starters, to catch the early morning 630 a.m. train, I woke up late. And then discovered that there was no hot water for my shower. Got delayed even more 'cause I'd to now wait for the water to heat up and by the time I got ready and headed for the station, it was already 620 a.m. Took me 5 minutes to get to the station but I landed on the wrong platform! My train was to depart from platform 6 and I was at platform 1! While I was dashing to my platform, the zipper of my bag gave way and all the contents started spilling out! If not for some friendly passerby I wouldn't have even noticed it. Had to retrace and pick up all my stuff from the trail and dump them in the bag and shut it. All this while precious sands of time slipped away...

Finally when I got to the designated platform, I was relieved to see the train still there and also that I didn't have to run further to find my wagon as it was parked right where the overbridge descended. After depositing my luggage on my berth, I was like "OK! This is it! Finally made it! Nothing can go wrong now!" but wait, episode 2 was even more gripping!

In my haste to the railway station, I missed making a pitstop at the ATM and so now I was pennyless! I had no idea where an ATM could be in this railway station! I ran the length and breadth of the platform and quite obviously there wasn't one! In the meantime, I bumped into an old pal who was also making the trip to Mumbai in the same train and who obviously was quite shocked to learn my current situation. We inquired at a vendor and learnt that there was one outside the station. So I made a dash for it and returned back just in the nick of time! By some stroke of luck, the departure was delayed by 5 minutes and the train started to move right when I got back from the ATM... Quite an eventful morning!

So like I said, there is no right or wrong way of traveling and the purists are definitely not gonna applaud my performance from yesterday but what the hell, I enjoyed every bit of it! This also gave me a chance to test the condition of my heart and it passed with flying colors! (Thanks to all those cardio workouts!)

The rest of the day was spent recuperating from the experience and in some rural landscape photography. Will put em up once I am back to my crib!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Break

Today's the first day of my first winter break since, lemme see, school may be. Hmmmm.. Considering I left school in Y2K, its quite a long time! So since these long breaks are hard to come by, I've some interesting things  lined up for myself. (My closest buddies know how much I detest plans but everyone also understands the value of a well deserved break, so I'd no choice but plan! Not that I'm gonna be a time table freak for the next couple of weeks, but I've managed to combine my "no plan" policy with a bit of travel research in order to make the most of this time on hand. The days of being brash are long gone I guess.. )

Winter is when the sub continent is most generous to travelers and there is a lot of activity over here as a result. Be it Kaziranga in Assam or the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat (Am excluding other options 'cause my choices were torn in between these two destinations). So where do I go was the big question for most part of November. What clinched it for me was the Annual Batizado, a capoeira convention in Bombay, of which I wanted to be a part. Even though I couldn't make it, I still believe that Batizado was the sole reason I ditched the north east.

Winter is also the best time to be in Bangalore 'cause of the weather primarily and also for the festive season. But the downside of being in town during this time of the year is I end up spending my New Year's eve at home every year. I do not know yet where I am gonna be for twenty11's new year eve but its most definitely not gonna be at home! May be Bombay.. Oh and for Christmas, I plan to visit Bombay's biggest church - Church of Mount Mary.

Am gonna miss my doggie, Magic the most for the next15 days!


Fingers crossed for the trip! Have a good one Bangalore!