Saturday, June 30, 2018

Life in March 26 - June 30

This report covers a significant milestone in the journey of yours truly. We decided to merge our startup with another company. Right now, I have a deep feeling of gratitude and humility  along with some fond memories and very crucial learnings (some of them quite painful as well :) ) While the memories will be cherished forever, I do hope that learnings stay and remembered and made use of in future. But overall, it has been a very exciting ride and I am very glad that I did it. So many fears had to be overcome and it takes real effort to see it through. And it takes effort not just from me but from family and everyone around you to make it happen.

Note - I am intentionally not saying the name so as to not make this searchable. It is quiet ironic given that I have worked on SEO for so many years now. While blog is public, it is largely meant to be personal reflection along with some random musings.

There will be a detailed post mortem and I will write more in a more private setting :)


With that, it is time to cover what other interesting stuff happened.

- Family trip to Munnar. Detailed post here -

- Finished Sahir Ludhianvi's biography by Akshay Manwani.  Book review was shared earlier.

- Finished The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation by Ravish Kumar.
It is a small and tight book by one of India's finest journalists. It is a difficult read, it is a reflection of life in our times. But this is what makes a nation. Tough times and how its citizens deal with it. To run is easy, to stay and fight is the challenge. We as a nation are becoming quieter and that is what Ravish is arguing us to not do. To speak up is the need for a revolution and we must participate in it.

- Running has started. I ran 22K in May as part of training but had to go on a break due to work pressure. Now, it has started again.

- Movies :
Incredibles 2 - 3.5/5
Good movie especially on highlighting the gender issues and pushing the envelope on fathers taking care of kids. Good to see in Incredibles as Mr. Incredible always was shown as the macho man. I think they did it little bit much with JackJack.

Ocean's 8 - 2.5/5
I do not feel good to be this much harsh on a this genre and this intent but come on, it could have been so much better.

My happy family - 4.5/5
I think this review sums up my feelings bout the movie -

I am Jane Doe - 4/5
A good documentary based on a true story is so much better than any fiction. Plus, I am a big fan of Jessica Chastain

Florida Project - 3.5/5
Best move of 2017 as per avclub, I found it to be good but not that good to be the best one.

The Shape of Water - 3.5/5
Loved the effects, the acting. A touching tale of pure love with a fantasy ending.

A standup comedy show by Varun Grover.
Good one, typical grover saab.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Munnar 2018 - The family trip

Let's do a family trip ! yayyy!
Destination - Munnar
People - 8

How should we go ? Flight/ Train to Kochi and then temp from there? Two cars from bangalore?  One tempo from bangalore? Direct bus from Bangalore to Munnar? Note - Three people have acute travel sickness.

Should we leave on 18th night and come back on 21st morning? 22nd morning? 21st night? Can we travel overnight? Note - Three people out of seven are more than 58 yrs old

Where should we stay ? Homestay? Close to city centre? Outskirts in nature with no network? In a tea plantation? Budget kitna hai? Note - Three people do not have any preference, they are ok with anything :)

Planning a family trip that satisfies all the constraints is practically impossible. Given all that, we decided to take a tempo traveller 13 seater on 18th night to Munnar. The plan was to travel overnight on 18th night and comeback on 21st night by travelling during 21st day. We will have full two days in Munnar 19th and 20th to enjoy. Munnar from Bangalore is 9 hrs drive without any stops. With stops, it will be 12 hrs and if we leave by 8:30 pm, we will be there by 8:30 am next day.  The stay was booked at a top TA hotel to minimize any concerns and to top it, it also had a swimming pool :)

Day 1
The tempo was clean and okay - only issue that it made noise on acceleration but it had a functioning TV with DVD player and we had taken Amol Palekar movies - Formula for success. We wasted one hr while leaving Bangalore trying to find a mosquito repellant but with no success. We forgot that the bus will have to stop at RTOs for permits. On top, our driver was really sleepy through the night and made 3 extra stops to drive his sleep away. It took us a total of 16 hrs to reach Munnar at 12 noon and we were really exhausted.  On the way, we had stopped for breakfast at a typical Keral breakfast joint and it served yummy food

We reached our hotel - The leaf at 12 noon. We quickly decided to get fresh, have lunch and sleep for sometime. The plan for Day 1 was to go to Kalari Kshetra and see Kathakalli and KalariPayattu shows. Kalari Kshetra was very close to our hotel. The shows were decent, definitely a one time watch. They do not provide a good justice to the history behind it, also not very polished but a good start and if more people come, they can make it a lot more polished as well. 

Day 1 ended with us having dinner at our room - some home items and some hotel items. At midnight, we cut Aarti's birth day cake.

Day 2
Day 2 was going to be a full outing day. It started by a visit to KFDC garden. Followed by a boating at Matupetty dam. But before that, we stopped at a classic Munnar view point and clicked like hundred pictures.

The garden was okay. Matupetty dam was crowded with huge lines for everything - from food court to boat rides. We booked a Shikara ride and to our joy, we even saw an elephant family. While the boat ride was on, it had started to rain making the experience even better

Post the dam, we decided to come back and went to a Kerala massage centre to have a oil massage. I also tried Shirodhara for the first time. I have realized that I am not a big fan of oil based massages. Once we came back to hotel, Aarti gave her birthday treat with a big dinner buffet.

Throughout the day there were lot of traffic and our tempo was stuck. I leveraged this opportunity to my favor by finishing half of Sahir Ludhianvi's biography. Even in the morning, I had decided to skip the pool and enjoy morning coffee along with the book while cool breeze was blowing. 

At midnight, we celebrated Anshika Didi's birthday by cutting yet another cake

Day 3
Day 3 started by us taking advantage of the pool before we depart these beautiful premises. While the property was beautiful, the thing that stands apart for Leaf is their hospitality. They were able to get us cakes for both nights and were very patient in attending to our other requests as well.

Return journey was straight back journey. It was already 10am by the time we left the property. On the way back, Aarti, Kanishka and Babu were feeling travel sickness. We had to stop so that could puke. It was 2 by the time hunger hit us. We stopped at this local place for lunch which served us amazing Kerala food on banana leaf. 

After watching Amol Palekar flicks, Jaane bhi do Yaaron, we also watched a travel movie - Riding solo to the top of the world. It was a new one and I totally dig this movie. While others may have found it boring,  it is a very special movie made with lot of pains as it is a solo movie. 

For dinner, we stopped at A2B for a treat by Anshika didi. We had Appe along with very good North Indian food.  By the time we were home, it was 11 pm. We were all exhausted but it was a good family trip! We truly had lot of fun.

Books in 2018 - #1

2018 is going to be a year of books. At-least far higher than previous years. I had made a resolution to read about Indian authors / books about India. But that is not the only thing that I am going to read. Here is a brief summary about what I have read so far -

Miss Laila armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph
Review here -

Aap & Down by Mayank Gandhi
Review - A decent book to give a glimpse on what went behind the journey of AAP - both its rise and subsequnt downfall, as told from the first hand experience of Mayank Gandhi. I liked all Mayank explains the AAP chapter when it comes to dealing with Anna Hazare, and sums up his experiences of working with Anna before. This information is something that not everyone has been pricy to and is a delightful read.
However, I have many misgivings about Mayank's role in the AAP saga during its downfall. He should have spoken more eloquently and atleast resigned much earlier. Even in the book, those chapters needed more details, more information should have been made transparent. But it fails to do so. In addition, Mayank has some spiritual philosophies which are difficult to digest. However, given that Mayank is doing some wonderful work now in Parli, it is difficult to have any misgivings about him.
Overall, this is a fine book, written in easy English and is a good accompaniment for what may be the best political struggle of my time yet.

The Dreamers by Snigdha Poona
Review - A must read. The idea behind reading about Indian author or books about India is to know and learn about India up close. From the position of privilege that I have, from this bubble that I live in, it has often been hard to understand why India is behaving the way it is. Deep down, I like to believe that people are rational, sensible beings and they truly want what is the best for the nation. Yet, given that, the choices they make are sometimes difficult to rationalize with. 
The Dreamers by Snigdha Poonam goes to the heart of my conundrum by focussing on folks from all walks of life and trying to make sense of the idea of India through their aspirations. While at one end are individual stories, witty, delightful, full of interesting people and their colorful experiences, hard work and sometimes scary as well. But where the Dreamers shine is when Ms. Poonam is able to find the common emotion across these diverse narratives - that of challenging the status quo and an intrinsic nature to stand apart from your surrounding milieu and fighting very hard to win the respect of your local peers. This drive is the one that pulls India ahead and it is this drive due to which folks are able to look past the trashy environment and plow to build a secure and rich future for themselves.
I would highly recommend the chapter on Richa Singh - who for the first time became the President of University of Allahabad and the one which involves a Gau Rakshak.

Sahir Ludhianvi - The People's poet by Akshay Manwani
Review - My fascination with Sahir Ludhianvi's lyrics has been in the background for quite sometime. In numerous cases I had marvelled at the quality of lyrics of songs and upon research I had found that they were penned by Sahir saab. In addition, his zidd to have the name of lyricist announced on radio is something that i deeply respected. The newer radio stations do not follow this and I hate them for it. In March, I saw a play Ek Mulaqat featuring Deepti Naval and Shekhar Suman as Amirta Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi respectively that touched about their stories. While the play was alright, the next day I had ordered this biography and I finished it during my Munnar trip.
On the biography itself, Manwani does a good job in covering the childhood and young days of Mr. Ludhianvi. It is his roots from his earlier days, his association with the leftist, the people's movement that has shaped Sahir views and his poems are mere reflection of his conscience. Manwani talks about his struggles and then the first breakthrough and from there on documents his journey. This journey documentation becomes little non-interesting as it is devoid of much anecdotes. Manwani shows glimpse of various eccentricities of Sahir, example - his fear of lifts but does not go into its manifestations. Sahir was also very arrogant and had taken fights with everyone, Manwani documents these instances but feels incomplete in certain ways. However, the first part of Sahir's life, his pre-Bombay life comes across very nicely in the book. 'Bada artist banoonga' - Sahir's claim to become successful and awareness that he is very good put against a backdrop of partition, bad father and a family to take care of. The other great part of the book is that it is filled with his lyrics along with their English translation. 
Definitely a good read for fans of Sahir Ludhianvi.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Review - I had always longed to read novels about people, the kind which are frequently adapted and made into movies such as Fault in Our Stars. But I have always been confused on which one to pick up. This dilemma was solved when Parul had recommended this book.  With this weird title, I thought to first check its reviews and was surprised that it was loved so much. So, I immediately picked it up, ahead of my this year's reading list.
TGLPPPS is worthy of all its praise and probably more. It is truly a delightful read, written with wittiness and a tone of utmost candidness and genuine caring and warmth. Set in post-world war II UK, it is a story of an author living in London where half of the city is in ruins. She starts to communicate with residents of a island under the United Kingdom which was under the German occupation, these residents had created the TGLPPPPS. Narration unfolds in the form of letters that flow from its characters. In the backdrop of a literary society, casualties of a world war, an island with beautiful landscape, it is an unlikely love story but very fulfilling read.
I highly recommend this book, infact I have already gifted three copies of this book,

Foundation 2 & Foundation 3 by Asimov
What a joy to have finished the ultimate Sci-fi series of all time. I would rate Foundation 1 > Foundation 3 > Foundation 2. I did not like that much of Mule storylines. Also, Foundation 3 ending finale reveal felt forced as well but other than that, books are awesome to read. Truly inspirational in their scope from beginning, what I loved about these books is that Asimov continues to add mysteries and unravels them masterfully in subsequent chapters. With such a premise, the options are numerous and many will not work. It is truly Asimov's skill that he binds these instance in a coherent manner while keeping the literary thrills intact.

Its been 7 books so far and one that is 65% over. More about that one in next edition.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Life in Jan 1 - March 25, 2018

2018 was going to be a year of a lot of activity and change.  It was going to be a change from passive to active.  My new year resolutions for this year are -

- Attend 20+ music concerts
- Read 20+ books by Indian authors or Indian subjects
- Do 2+ GHR runs
-Run 2-3 Half marathons

Here are the highlights so far -

Travel -

- 1D-1N trip to Urban valley Resort, Kanakpura
This was our team outing to celebrate the NY season. Did ziplining for the first time along with Kayaking. Also, played cricket and swam at the resort pool. Played scrabble and also did some kite flying or rather kite crashing.  Good fun but got tired because of too much fun. 

- Trip to Malaysia - Langkwai and Kuala Lumpur.
Kanishka and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary with a trip to Malaysia. It was part relaxing and part touristy trip. Album and blog post to come out soon.

- 3 day trip to Mumbai
While this was a work visit, I had plenty of time to explore this city. I was lucky that the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival was happening at the same time there. Went to some amazing cafes such as Poetry by Love and Cheesecake, Kala Ghoda cafe, Cafe Leopold and finally Theobramas. Also, went to NCPA and saw the play Chanakya. Finally ended the trip watching sunset at Juhu chowpatty. Liked the city a lot this time and it has a lot of stuff to offer

- Office trips - 1D trip to Delhi and 1D trip to Mumbai
1 Day trips are just too hectic causing loss of sleep and just throws schedule off balance

- Udupa Music festival
As part of my NY resolution, Kanishka and I ended up attending all 3 days of Udupa music festival.

Feb 16,2018:
Vidwan Shankar Mahadevan: Vocal
John McLaughlin: Guitar (Special Guest)
Vidwan Selva Ganesh: Khanjira
Vidwan U Rajesh: Mandolin
Gino Banks: Drums
Sheldon Dsilva: Bass Guitar

Feb 17, 2018:
Vidwan Guru Karaikudi Mani: Mridangam
Vidwan Mysore Nagaraj: Violin
Vidwan Abhishek Raghuram: Vocal
Pandit Yogesh Samsi: Tabla
Vidwan Guruprasanna: Khanjira

Feb 18, 2018:
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma: Santoor
Pandit Rahul Sharma: Santoor
Pandit Vijay Ghate: Tabla
Pandit Bhawani Shankar: Pakhawaj

Day 1 was quite good. John McLaughlin is truly versatile and Shankar Mahadevan is a treat to hear for his classical voice is so familiar because of his mainstream music. Day 3 was my favorite as I just love the Santoor. Both SKS and his son were amazing. Day 2 was also quite good. But traveling to Malleshwaram back to back on 3 days was quite a challenge. But it was totally worth it.

- Attended Tamasha Theatre's Soul
An evening of bhakti music from different languages.  Created by Sunil Shabag of Stories in a Song fame. Delightful experience.

- BIFFES 2018
Attended two days. 9 films screened.  Detailed report here -

- Books -

Read Miss Laila Armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph. Review here -

Almost finished Dreamers by Snighdha Poonam
5/5. Fantastic book. Review coming soon !

Aap & Down by Mayank Gandhi.
Read it just to understand more about how AAP the movement has failed

Foundation - 2 (Foundation & the Empire) by Isaac Asimov
Little bit let down as compared to Foundation 1 but still very good. I was expecting a good clash between the two worlds but it did not turn out that way.

TV Series -
In 2018, I restarted my Netflix membership and in 3 months, I have just exploded here.

Daredevil Season 1
Veery good action masala series. Very engaging with a very good villian.

Daredevil Season 2
Ok season. Not as good as S1 but still worth going

Defenders Season 1
Average, borderlining bad as it is just painful to see good talent go to waste.

Money heist Season 1
I was not aware that it had a next season until it reached the end. A very good series to binge watch on.

Breaking Bad S1-5
It took some time to get used to it but once I got it, it was amazing. Very well written and shot very beautifully. In particular, the characters are sketched out brilliantly. I can go on and on about it.

Jessica Jones Season 2
Should not have seen this one. But did so out of respect for season 1.  While in season 1, it was good to keep JJ mysterious, but in season 2, it maintains that same layer. The only wrapping is done in background which is basically to introduce the series villian. In season 2, it becomes frustrating

People v O.J.Simpson - An American Crime
Loved it. Very good acting. With a real world story that is full of unexpected plot twists, this is a treat to watch.

Altered Carbon
I liked the imagery, the premise and Poe :)

Gilmore Girls - Season 1

Too much binge watching has happened. I have now cancelled my Netflix membership as well.

- Made Gajrela of 5Kg gajar. Again tried two methods - one with Khoya and other one with Milkmaid. Khoya one was better

- Made Upma after almost a decade. Turned out ok

- Reading Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Movies -
Black Panther

Mukkabaaz -
4.5/5 Loved it

The shape of water

Star Wars - The Last Jedi

- Have joined RH and resumed running. Ran 10K, 12K, 14K in last three weeks.  Feels good to run long!

Life in Sept 11, 2017 -Dec 31, 2017

Writing the Life In Series in March, 18 but ending on a date prior is going to be a first. But it had to be done as 2018 has gone off on a very different start.

Life in Sept 11 - Dec 31, 2017

It is amazing that memories are getting so fickle. Perhaps, all I can remember now of this period is the insane work that had gone in to make the NY season work for Events High. Indeed, from Oct end to Dec 31, I was thinking of just work. It was crazy but I enjoyed it a lot. While the results were good but little less than expected, in terms of journey, I am so glad that I did it.

Outside of work, my memory draws a blank. My phone camera serves that purpose of documenting my outings and I must say, it does a decent job at it. So, lets start the way back from Dec 31

- NY night was celebrated once all work was done and EH support closed for the night at around 10 pm. At home, there was an awesome pineapple cake to have.

- As is the ritual, Ruhaniyat was attended this year. Like always, it continues to bring some amazing talent that I had known of . This year it was this amazing group called Char Yaar ( First Char  Yaar also happens to be one of my fav song from the Sharaabi film. This group among bringing some amazing poetry to music also sang the famous Beatles' song "I am a dreamer" that too in Hindi. Once the dot was connected, it was amazing.
Watch their video here -

The other highlight was this Russian music duo - Two Siberians ( They had some amazing instrumental compositions. Kachra Khan his group were there and the Qawaali at the end was by Nizami Brothers.

- Kanishka and I did manage to steal a weekend to run the KTM 2017 run on Nov 26. Weather was much kinder this time. We decided to have a car rental instead of driving down there which made it lot easier. But this time, we left at 2 am in the morning and were back by 12 noon after finishing the run. Feels good to have run KTM

- The Diwali tradition continued with this year we made Badam Katli at home. It was done in two batches with two slight variations in recipes. Making the Badam Katli was an easier process unlike others but the result said that we did missed a step as it did not match the commercial standards. 

- Out Diwali celebration in office involved a potluck. I experimented by making white cheesy pasta, a deliberate deviation from usual tomato based one. Also, office desk was decorated minimally, but other folks in office did a much stellar job at it.

- Gadayi Kallu trip is documented here -
A much needed break needed.

- William Gibson's Neuroamancer
Phew! Yes, Somehow I managed to finish this book. It was a great experience to have finished it. Book is definitely classy but written with a vision that requires a lot of effort to visualize and a language that is at times hard to comprehend.  It is a difficult read. Requires will to go through it. Some pages provide sheer joy and some just make the jaw drop on his vision was so wide and could be so true.

- The Absence of Guilt by Mark Giminez
After Neuromancer, which took forever, I wanted to get hold of a page turner masala flick, so I picked this one. Did not like a bit. Found it to be too dull for my taste. Needed more conspiracy and plots to make it more engaging.

- The Foundation by Issac Asimov
Absolutely brilliant. First, the premise which is so awesome is set in first chapter. Then the person behind all this setup is dead. What follows is a just too original, too much style, witty characterization, very smart narration. Loved it. Have ordered both the sequels.

- Movies :

Newton - 4/5
Thor Ragnarok - 3.5/5
Blade Runner 2049 - 3/5

Person of Interest - 5/5
Kanishka and I finished all seasons loving every bit of it

Mr. Robot - 4/5
Watched couple of seasons and it is a good watch.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Review - Miss Laila Armed and Dangerous

Manu Joseph's Miss Laila Armed and Dangerous punches way over its height and only because of its author's ingenuity, it is able to hit more than miss.

MLAD has three sets of action unfolding in parallel. In the first, it is a straightforward case of Miss Akhila Iyer, a journalist lands up at the debris of a collapsed building due to an earthquake. As actions unfold, she becomes a primary messenger between an man stuck under the debris and the army outside. This man becomes a crucial person of interest as he mumbles about a terrorist plot and sets a sequence of events which includes national security advisors, a sangh like organization with no actual official position but a lot of political capita and finally a Damodhar Bhai, a fictional take on you-know-who.

The second set piece is the actual Miss Laila a muslim person suspected of a terrorist plot being chased by officers from a fictional IB unit. MLAD switches between the story lines of Miss Laila and the police officers trying to capture her along with his male colleague, also a suspect.

The third arc of the book, unarguably the best part, is the part where Manu takes down both the right wing and left wing individuals and ideologies. Under the guise of giving background to Miss Iyer, we see her taking down of top left leaning individuals such as Arundhuti Roy. How Feminist Men Have Sex - is a video of Miss Iyer, where in he brutally takes down the pseudo liberal thought.

Timing-wise, Manu places this action right after the victory of DaMo, and then fills various chapters on what it means for the country through various characters. This becomes his canvas to poke fun at the right ideology - from Koran burning lawyers to Gau rakshaks.

Frankly, the first and second story lines exist just just because Manu wanted to have that fictional cloak to unwrap the intellectual sham that exists around us. The fiction exists just to provide the existential cover for his inner frustrations of the present political milieu. Following Manu on Twitter and through his recent articles, you can see that these are truly his views and not a stab at fiction. And when Manu vents, it is his usual no-holds-barred takedown.

What also makes MLAD a treat to read is that Manu packs some of his amazing observational wit in his writing as well. For example read this para -

Or consider this one - The legends of men are the proof that they overestimate the beauty of their own lies.  MLAD is filled with such rich nuanced nuggets that it is a page turner not from a story point of view but to get to the next nugget.

MLAD is definitely a one time read but to make it worthy of your time, spend some time to know more about the author. It is definitely an extension to his non-fiction articles. It is also becomes a challenge because at many places Manu's ideology and mine are at odds but what makes him so good is that many a times, he definitely asks the right questions and sometimes is also able to change my position in the process.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

10th BIFFES 2018

A lot of things need to align for me to attend BIFFES. The last time I attended was in 2012.  I still remember watching Amour, Pieta and Certified Copy that year, running from one cinema to another. I got pass for it in 2013 as well but could not attend. The reason I write about the pass is because getting a pass for BIFFES itself requires a day of effort.  This year, instead of screening in December, it was shifted to Feb end and with just enough luck, I was able to steal a weekend to catch it.

Day 0 - Getting pass for BIFFES required traveling to Yeshwanthpur will photo ids, two photographs etc. It took 4 hrs of time largely me working from cab to get passes for Kanishka and myself. No photos were needed as they have printed the card based on our online application. Other than the distance part, the process was quite smooth.

BIFFES festival was a week long festival but we decided to spend only the weekend there. All screenings were done at PVR Orion mall, Yeshwanthpur. To optimize the distance, we decided to book a room at Malleshwaram and atleast have a good night sleep.

Day 1 -
I had done the research on which film to watch at what time slot. There were 10 screening going on in parallel. One could watch five films on a given day. Festival opened at 10 am. We reached early on to grab the best seats (recliner seats on first row). Our first flick was Five Fingers of Marseilles

Five Fingers of Marseilles
Rating - 4/5
The Audi 10 of Orion has a nice widescreen, perfect for FFM. FFM is a South African film in which a group of friends come together to clean their small town from a local landlord. It is a classic retelling of a western genre with slow narrative and excellent cast.  This served a perfect start to BIFFES

Yellow Heat  -
Rating - 2.5/5
Having won multiple awards at Moscow international film festival and Istanbul film festival, I had high hopes from this Turkish flick. But turned out to be a tad slow for my taste and a lack of cinematic touch such as background score, perhaps this was done to make it more raw and true. Yellow Heat is a movie of struggle and ambitions - a farmer and his family struggle to make ends meet as they are under debts. Farmer's son wants become a truck driver and is willing to break the traditional rules to get extra money to pursue his ambitions.  The movie does a good job in establishing the canvas of farmers distress and lure of getting out.

After Yellow Heat, we had meant to catch Call me Thief but the queue for the film was so long that we could not make it. Instead we went to another Moscow film fest winner - Crested Ibis

Crested Ibis -
Rating - 3/5
The winner of best film at Moscow international film festival, Crested Ibis, is a drama about friend relationships with an angle of environmental pollution. Shot in black and white, the film raises important questions on how it is ok that cities are polluted but how it is frowned upon when same pollution happens in villages. A traditional village funeral, a color shot showcasing the village beauty are highlights of this film. While the black and white choice was intended to remove the beauty bias, the blandness extends its influence to the overall film as well.

After Crested Ibis, we had wished to see On Body and Soul, an oscar nominee, but after waiting in a queue for 40 mins, the movie could not be screened due to technical reasons. Forced, we had to look for a substitute and ended up in Directions, and boy! what a delight

Directions -
Rating 5/5
A taxi driver in Bulgaria shoots a banker as the banker now wants twice the bribe amount as was originally demanded for the taxi driver's loan. It is an act of rage and soon after the taxi driver shoots himself. We then follow six other taxi drivers picking up rides in Bulgarian as the radio discusses this case. Each of the taxi driver has the radio on where the RJ is allowing listeners to tune in and share their sentiments about this episode. What follows is the study of a country, how systemic corruption corrodes the belief system, how its citizens are loosing hope, some even planning to flee the country. The radio participants mostly empathize with the taxi driver who shot the banker, some even going to say that he should be given a medal. The rides of each of the taxi driver are captivating with very crisp writing. This is a must watch and the reason why BIFFES throws a surprise beyond expectation.

On the Beach at night alone -
Rating - 0.5/5
One of the very few films in my life that I had walked out off. There is a non-existent story with some cliched dialogues and a slow pace makes it an incredibly dull movie to watch. Almost painful when you have seen 4 films since morning.

Day 2
Spending the night at a nearby hotel was a good idea instead of traveling back to HSR. To top it, we had breakfast at Veena stores - #1 Idli place in bangalore :) We wanted to begin Day 2 with a film that was tried and tested. The debacle of On The Beach at Night Alone was little too much. We started with the Russian retrospective sample at BIFFES with the 1997 classic Brother

Brother -
Rating - 4.5/5
A typical yet not so typical crime genre film made with a lot of heart and some amazing music to go along with it. An ex-army kid goes to Leningrad to help his brother with the crime business. The process from a nobody to take over the local crime lord is shown in great detail. The kid is also infatuated with the soundtrack of Wings by Nautilius, at a time when CDs are the new craze in the market. Brother is a learning exercise on storytelling. Highly recommended.

Four Hands -
Rating - 3/5
Twin sisters had witnessed their parents being murdered in front of them when they were kids. Twenty years later, the murderers are coming out of prison and this throws their life in turmoil. Troubled and anxious, they get into an accident where one of them is killed. The other one suddenly develops split personality and tries to track down the killers. It is a reasonable attempt in the genre of split personality thrillers. Very well polished with the texture of camera being bleak and darkish, it is a decent film.

The Square -
Rating - 5/5
Winner at Cannes, Square is not a film but a sequence of episodes each dealing with concepts of humanity and empathy. Set at an art museum, where a new exhibit called Square is being prepared to open up, The Square is a sanctuary where anyone who is inside the square can ask for something and for others who are outside, if they can capable to help this person, must help. You enter The Square with the idea that you trust your fellow humans. With this, Ostlund, of Force Majeure fame, takes a satirical take on the world of art museums, advertising in the clickbait age, and on hypocrisy of the individuals participating in it. It goes to the extreme when a person suffering from Tourette's syndrome says curse words in a interview pushing everyone to their limits of tolerance. But there is one never ending sequence where in human being pretending to be animal invades a high class dinner and starts to attack people there. It is a very troubling scene as it showcases that no one stand to help others until it reaches a limit. The Square definitely pushes the boundary of cinema and is extraordinary in its ambition.

Loveless -
Rating - 4/5
Loveless is another Oscar foreign language nominee that deals with the lives of a couple after their kid goes missing. It is a nuanced study of modern relationships and where it is heading. The couple in loveless is heading for a divorce where in both husband and wife have got future partners.  It is very likely that the kid has run to escape this difficult process. The entire drama unfolds as various attempts to find the kid take place. We learn about the background of the parents, and of their future partners. Part of the appeal of this film is it acts as a mirror on us becoming loveless in our instgram driven lives. It could have been similar to Anurag Kashyap's Ugly but Loveless wants to delve more into the human pathos or the lack of it.

We could have watched a fifth film on Day 2, but we deliberately said NO to take some rest before the week begins. Frankly, both Square and Loveless took its toll. Finally we left after taking a quick selfie :)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gadayi Kallu + KadamGundi Waterfalls + Ermai Falls

I get an itch from time to time - itch to go to the mountains, see the nature, away from people, away from city life, at a place where there is just the raw earth that was created centuries ago and I am exploring the place as is.  I had witnessed such moments on my India Hikes treks, during my solo travels in US national parks. But i had been away from these for a long time.  My itch was growing and I had to do something.

It is with this, I signed up for a trek to Gadayi Kallu with Summiters. Group travel is not my strong suite but I had no energy to plan a solo sojourn. I convinced Kanishka and Aarti to come along and the Gandhi Jayanti long weekend plan was set.

Summiters was chosen precisely because they do not go with bigger groups and they are picking up trails which are not very popular. A different trek was chosen earlier which was even less explored but rains had made that trek impossible. This was the 2nd option and I took it.

Day 0 -
We met at the KFC at Koramangala Sony Signal, on to a tempo traveller and drove though the night to reach our homestay next day morning.

Day 1 -
Our first experience for the tour starts with drinking Kashaya. Kashaya is a local herbal drink made of Jaggery and black pepper in hot water. Various other ingredients can be added to make it more flavorful but ours was the basic one. It is part medicinal and part coffee alternative. I drank it half heartedly knowing my lack of immunity.  The breakfast was served on banana leafs and the Katori Idlis were back.

Gadayi Kallu is a big hill that sits out of nowhere. It was also used as a fort (known as Jamalabad fort) as it offered natural advantages from a strategic defense point of view. The way to top has about 1876 stairs. The climb would have been decent but it had been raining through the week. Stairs were slippery with moss on them making it a moderately difficult climb. The views while the climb were beautiful

The top was green and we did not relax much as there was a threat of rain. The way down was even more treacherous. We practically climbed down by sitting on stairs one at a time. There was nothing to hold grip on.

We were back at homestay before 2:30 or 3 pm. We had a hearty lunch and then spent time idling around. In the evening, we went for a stroll to a nearby stream and then had boiled eggs on the way back to the homestay. Dinner was again rice and rasam/sambhar. It was getting little monotonous by now.   We slept in sleeping bags. Sleep came quickly to tired bodies. But before that, there was a game of poker with like minded folks.

Day 2
We shifted our homestay to a different one the next day. This other homestay had a 1KM walk on the road which also included crossing a shaky bamboo bridge over a stream.

Day 2 trek was to Kadamgundi waterfalls. It was an easier trek but along the way there are 8 streams to cross some of which had water till my knee height. Shoes were abandoned to make way for slippers.  These stream crossing add more thrill to this trail. The waterfall is gem of a discovery.  The trail was completely clean. Waterfall is surrounded by big rocks from three sides. Where the fall hits the floor, there is a nice bed of sand making it a delightful to stand soak in the water. There is also a rock to sit on and meditate here. We spent close to two hrs just enjoying the fall.

Day 3

The morning started with a visit to the local waterfall -Ermai falls. Ermai main falls was little deep so we did not venture down there. But closer to it, one of its tributaries was falling on a sequence of rocks. It was a little difficult climb but once under the fall it was pure bliss. Standing under the fall we were getting a good water massage

After the bath, we went to the first homestay to have a delicious breakfast of avlakki bath and then drove back home.

Good things about this trip was that most things happened on time. People were ready when asked to and with a smaller group it was a pretty manageable. We stopped near Hassan for lunch and had a fulfilling meal.  By the time we reached home it was dark and raining. This trip will be remembered for amazing waterfalls, bathing under them and decent short treks.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Life in June 26 - Sept 10

2017 continues to be a year of short travel trips.  I do not think that there has been ever a year with this many short trips. And the year is not yet over. Between travel and people visiting, I have forgotten the concept of weekends for all practical matters.

Travel - 

- Trip to Chikamagalur with Office
It was a office party long awaited. After the Jan trip to Yercaud (if you do a short trip on the first week of the new year, it should be known that the year is going to be full of short trips). Entire bus ride both onward and backward was spent by playing Mafia. Our homestay - The hidden valley (the same one which I had recommended to everyone else except that I had never been there) was a good one. Quiet and serene with lots of greenery. Night was spent with barbeque and bonfire, with spirits and 'jahan chaar yaar' songs. Poor colleagues were sad to see my this side and I do not know if they have still come to terms with it yet.  Trip was good fun.

- Delhi and Varanasi trip
While Delhi was a trip that was required, I decided to club with the long pending Varanasi trip. While Delhi was part work, part other work and remaining family visits, it is fondly remembered as I got to meet Deepti didi and her family after a long time.
Varanasi was a town exactly I had imagined it to be. Like any temple town in India, it has more people (locals + tourists) that it can accommodate,  smaller  streets with numerous vehicles and a city that is looking for deep cleaning. Meeting Kanishka's parents and her home was definitely the best part along with the Ganga Aarti that we explored via a  kashti. Ganga Aarti is a an experience that is unique to Kashi only. The chaats were definitely delicious. The trip to Sarnath next day was ok. It was hot, humid and I was little tired.

- Independence Day Long weekend trip - Complete trip has been documented here -

Movies - 

I saw Arrival once again at home with Aarti. I think definitely, it is the best movie since Mad Max that I have seen. The second viewing was as much rewarding as the first one minus the IMAX experience. Definitely a 5/5

Hell or High water
3.5/5 - The opening scene builds the tension aptly and gives an idea on how rest of the movie is going to be . It is a good watch especially on a Sunday precariously saved to relax.

Freaky Ali
2.5/5 - A total masala movie to be watched with family. This is this era's David Dhawan film

4/5 - Loved it. Loved the storytelling, score, screenplay and everything

Raag desh -
2/5 - Good idea, badly executed. Had good hopes from Thigmanshu Dhulia, did not at all rise up to the expectations.

Wonder woman -
4/5 - Neat action movie with Gal Gadot as the lead. Good addition to the super hero genre.

Books - 

Started David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and it will be some time before it finishes :)

Events - 

Attended couple of comedy shows by Bangalore comedy club. A bunch of startup comedians try out their jokes. Decent evening well spent with spirits and high spirits.

Halli Mane - A rainy breakfast trip to Halli Mane in Malleshwaram. A very good Kannadiga breakfast place. Sambhar is way better than Adigas, Idli not so much.

Family visits -

- Nani, Mama, Mani and Divya visited for a week.  Made the ISCKON style Dal Torkari at home.

- Cheshta, Arun bhaiya and babhi visited.

Independence day weekend travel - 2017

When Nitin and Parul ask you to join them for a trip, even if you have lots of work, you have to make time.  I learnt this the hard way after missing one last year. This time, I was not going to make it happen.

Nitin and Parul did the hard work of finding the accommodation. The route was set to be
Bangalore - Jog Falls - Murudeshwar (night stay) - Udupi - Kundapur (night stay) - Agumbe - Bangalore

Items to be carried were decided a week in advance. Planning was spotless.We were to leave on Sunday (13) early morning and  be back on Tuesday night (15th). It was a long weekend, so we wanted to beat the rush. And we wanted to have a long Sunday, so it was decided to leave Bangalore at 4 am. The initial plan was at 5 am but I along with Nitin were able to convince everybody to leave at 4.

Before I describe the trip in detail (it was again a case of near perfect itinerary), a note on traveling with friends.  When it comes to traveling with friends,  my views are in agreement with this article by Sidin Vadukut  -
which basically says that avoid it. I have also been victim to such group travels in past and have arrived at a similar conclusion myself.  I think outside of family or office travel, a friends-only trip has happened after a long gap.  The biggest problem with friends travel is the time part. A day before everyone will agree that we should start the day early and I will be ready much before that time only to find people sleeping / with hangover / deciding to have a lazy morning as they are on travel. THe day goes downhill from there on when during lunch time, one person will insist to have Punjabi food as lunch  and we will ditch all the interesting local cuisines and find the only North Indian place in town. I have had numerous such incidents to have given up on this.

But with Parul and Nitin, who are probably more avid travelers than Kanishka and myself, it was not the case at all. 4 am meant 4 am. Our days started on a pre-arranged time and it was a trip where ROI of time spent was one of the highest.

Day 1 - 
We left Bangalore at 4 am and were already on the highway before sunrise.  Parul had carried her laptop with her amazing music collection. Along with her bluetooth speakers, the whole trip can also be called a musical journey as we were hardly without it.  Kanishka had prepared Paneer sandwich and cucumber-tomato sandwich - the kind which fills your heart and stomach at the same time. Nitin had already mapped out the route and the surprising bit was that he did not need Gmaps to navigate.

We took a breakfast break at Shivamogga at a small place which served good idli sambhar. From there on, we drove to Jog Falls.

The best part of of Jog falls was the climb down & up. You can reach the base of the waterfall by climbing down 1240 stairs. While the climd down itself makes your legs shake, the upward climb is something that stays with you. Kanishka & Parul decided to stay at about 400 stairs. Nitin and I went all the way down.
On the way up

The lunch post the climb was done at the local canteen at Jog Falls. We ate 'paad ke' after having earned the meal. It was a busy place but we managed to find a place and after a tad bit of wait, food arrived and it was gone in no time.

From Jog falls, we drove to Murudeshwar. The road was little curvy but quite green and well maintained. It was a good drive. Our stay at Murudeshwar was at RNS residency which is surrounded by sea on three sides. So, practically all rooms are sea facing :) . It seems that the entire town is owned by RNS along with a giant Shiv-statue temple.  Rooms were ok at RNS. The seaside salty breeze along with improper maintenance have taken a toll at the hotel.
Bunch of foreigners traveling from Mumbai to Chennai on Autos

Night view of the Shiv statue

We decided to head out for dinner to an open bar, owned by the owner's son. Half of the items on menu were not available as it was an off season per them. Beer was good along with the classic Dal Fry. We soon retired after the early dinner.

Day 2 

Day 2 morning started with visiting the temple next door. Temple was ok, not so clean when compared to other South Indian temples. Inside each temple, along side God's statue, there was a framed photo of the owner - he is practically the God of that town. After the mandir darshan, on Kanishka's insistence, we decided to check out the beach. The left beach had too many people (even at 6 am in the morning), so we decided to go to the right side where fisherman were preparing their boats to start they work-day.

After crossing over few crabs and fish-stench, we were on a cleaner beach. This beach by-far has been my best beach so far on this side of India. The waves very so soft, we could walk 100 steps and yet water was only till knees.  In no time I decided to take full dips here and at this time, there was heardly any humidity and water was at a perfect temperature. This was awesome.

Post breakfast at the hotel, we were ready and all packed to drive down to Udupi with a stop over at Marvanthe . The plan was to stop at Marvanthe and spend the day next to the ocean just lazying around which is what we did. We stopped at Justa resort (Again Nitin had prior knowledge of it) which had all facilities including changing rooms, and beach accessories. We played ball next to the ocean.

The ocean here was rough with beach covered by small stones. It did hurt a little bit but the ocean-calling was stronger. Kanishka as usual was at the forefront on being inside the ocean. She had to maximize her ocean-time here. 

Post this, we had a heftly lunch with beer and drove down to Udupi. It was the day before the Krishna Janmashtmi and Udupi is famous for its Krishna temple. While walking the streets to Udupi, we serendipitously went to the Coin museum despite its closing time. The museum and its caretaker is wonderful and a must-do activity there. We were given a short tour but we longed for more

At Udupi, we first went to a wrong temple thinking it to be the Krishna temple. Kanishka corrected us and then at the actual Krishna temple, the queue was quite longer, so we decided to skip it. Parul and Nitin were able to get a back door entry and I was completely ok resting outside and enjoying the laddoos which frankly were not as good as the ISKCON ones. We also went to a Gaushala there and fed the cows.

The main attraction was to have the Anna Prasadam (langar like dinner) . For some reason, I had high expectation and expected a full course meal along with sweets. But it was a normal food and the expectation mismatch led to a little disappointment, given that Udupi had some amazing eateries to try. However, as an experience, it was pretty good. The fact that 600 people are fed every 20-25 mins mins is something that needs to be learnt to see how things work at scale.

From Udupi, we drove up to Kundapur to Meredian Resorts. The resort is little interior but it is truly a 5-star property. The property is huge with swimming pool, amphitheatre, tennis courts, golf-kart rides. Rooms were very fancy and lavish.  It was pure luxury, we were getting pampered and the best part was that we got this rooms at INR 1400 per room per night. We were glad that we came later here, because had we come earlier, we would not have left it. There was a temptation to stay a day more here but I had to get back. So, I was the spoilsport.

Day 3
We left at around 7:30ish without breakfast. It was independence day, so we took a quick stop and hoisted a flag on our car. Patriotic people we are.

Our breakfast stop was at this little place before Agumbe called Sri Satyanarayan (Thanks to this blog - ) Run by a family, the breakfast was fresh, hot and delicious. Mangalore buns were the best. An amazing discovery and undoubtedly the best meal of the trip.

Our stay at Agumbe was short as we did not have much time for trekking. We took a pit stop a view point and then explored the  place where Malgudi days was shot. We were done pretty quickly from both the places.

On the way back to Bangalore, we stopped at Sringeri and visited the Shankaracharya temple there. We sat for the 3D-video show which is not that well made but the images of Shankaracharya and his life are pretty well done. Temple architecture is very good.  We had a big difficulty in finding a good lunch place as practically all of them were serving only Rice-Sambhar-Rasam, a combination that we had last night only. We finally stopped at a cafe which only had omlette left.

After a late lunch, we just drove back to Bangalore. It rained intensely on the drive back yet it was fun. Overall, a very packed and enjoyable trip. It had everything - short trek at Jog falls, ocean dipping with beach games, temple visits, lavish resorts and some awesome food stops.

Life in March 26 - June 30

This report covers a significant milestone in the journey of yours truly. We decided to merge our startup with another company. Right now, ...