Friday, July 18, 2014

73% Guerilla Warfare

A young, ambitious boy goes to his mother to declare his desire to capture a fort. He lays out a detailed, well-thought of plan in front of her...
"... and so this is the plan. We'll have prepared guerilla tactics..."

His mother, a woman well aware of the current affairs, gives him a stern look and says, "STOP! Don't you worry about capturing that fort, my boy. It has been specially reserved for us."

"But mummy I want to capture the fort based on our fighting skills and merit!"

"Merit! Stop talking like a rational, educated fool!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Torna 2014

I have written a post on the experiences we had during our previous Torna Trek that was done after the onset of monsoon. This time around the monsoon got delayed a bit. Though we enjoyed the scenery, we missed walking in the clouds towards the top of the mountain and the lush blanket of greenery all around us. We had sensed the grandness of Torna by the slight outlines that stood out amongst the dense fog, but this time around we actually saw the grandness of the mountain and the immense fortification of the fort.

Just like last year, we completed the trek and then went to Mirch Masala for some scrumptious lunch.

Some pictures from this year's visit to Torna:
A familiar sight. Sometimes these dogs will accompany you throughout the trek. We rewarded them with some egg yolks.
Some cloud cover hovering around the top of the mountain
The view of the grand Torna. (Click to see the larger version)
The railings towards the top
The trekking route as seen from the top
Fortifications that have withstood centuries of human history and forces of nature
Torna trek route from Velhe

Monday, June 9, 2014

Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy - Book Review

Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the WestBlood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is someone in there? the first man said.
The man who was relieving himself did not look up. I wouldnt go in there if I was you, he said.

Is there somebody in there?
I wouldnt go in.

He hitched himself up and buttoned his trousers and stepped past them and went up the walk toward the lights. The first man watched him go and then opened the door of the jakes.
Good God almighty, he said.

What is it?
He didnt answer. He stepped past the other and went back up the walk. The other man stood looking after him. Then he opened the door and looked in.


What he must have seen is a copy of the book "Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West"
--
I had approached the book with a lot of caution, but not only did it shock me and took me off guard (more than) once in a while, it made me cringe like never before. I usually read and watch a lot of violent books and movies. Gore and slash. But nothing ever prepared me for the bone-chilling, heart-squeezing, brain-freezing violence that suddenly pounced and as swiftly went away.

Eventually making me feel lonely. Almost making me miss the violence. Suggesting conversion. Submission to the ultimate.

While he danced around in my thoughts. Picking my nerves and playing notes I've seldom experienced before. Rendering me restless to understand the deeper meaning beyond the depths. I tried to clarify the symbolic ideas that shadowed the harsh yet metaphoric simplicity, where the most fearful activity was swiftly executed. But I failed. I couldn't coagulate the bits of the underlying objectives and reasons and weave them in a string of logical succession.
--
To say I loved the book without understanding it completely yet feeling a lot of it would be accurate. I caught what the author throws at you in the landscape trying to make you understand the vivid yet harsh surroundings that is probably a mirage for the twisted members of the society.

I understood the wonderful symbolic summarization of the transgression of the Kid.

I almost accepted the terrorizing portrayal of the most violent tendencies of humans and the consequences in an unrestrained candour that were told in a matter-of-fact way.

I bowed to the beautiful landscape and it's survivors. The pilgrims of the oldest sect of mankind.
--
My hook in this book was chapter 4. Here is what I had noted after reading it:

Starts on a very slow note. Bulldozing a vivid landscape with beautiful descriptions that were at times beyond comprehension and needed re-reads to get some meaning out of it. But how the tempo shifts, how the hunter becomes the hunted, just flames across the eyes. Just like lighting matchstick in a pitch dark room. Suddenly you see ghosts and monsters inches in front of you and all you have to do is submit. Submit and surrender to the clarion screams and chaotic hooves stamping off the slithering words that deliver a sudden shock.

"Chap prays for rain, blood pours from the skies."
--
So then, "What's he judge of?"
--
While reading this book, I was reminded of Detectives Hart and Cohle from the TV show True Detective. Glanton echoed a bit of Hart's personality and Cohle echoed some of Judge Holden's.
--
You can read proper reviews and evaluations of the book here and here. I wrote what I felt. I need to read it again objectively. But I dare say that I will come out just as foggy.
--
I would also like to drop in this amateurish post "I am You" that I had written in 2011. The book reminded me of this post.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Running, music, and some confessions

I was never a serious runner. I used to love the 100 m dash in school and considered myself a short distance speed-runner (Ha!). Then as usual, I grew up. I started enjoying the tipple, or two, or three, and puffing the nicotine on and off. Started working out in the gym but balanced it out with a beer for every kilo progress with the dumbbell. Eventually giving up exercises and just devoting myself to Lord Bacchus (Dionysus).

Till last year that is. Sometime in May 2013, I realised that I need to build up stamina for the upcoming trekking season. I started walking a bit and then combined walking and a bit of running. In the first couple of treks, I realised how screwed up my stamina was (Not that it has improved to the teenage-level, but somewhat significant improvement. And more so, boosted confidence!). I realised that not only should I take up running a bit seriously, but I should also be cutting down on the Bacchus potions (Easier said than done!). But then I somehow, surprisingly, stuck to chasing the breeze a bit, pushing the ground and running about. Soon the walking and running combination evolved to just running. Treks happened in between, and running continued.

One thing I would like to specifically point out was the motivation given by the Android application called Runtastic. I don't remember if it was the application that made me take up running or whether it happened after I started walking-running. Whatever the case (that eludes my memory) is, it has been motivating me throughout. I really started enjoying my run, and further enjoying the treks. Did a lot of treks last season!

Coming back to running, the course hasn't been easy. Yes I set up some goals like 5K continuous, then 10K continuous, and then average 15-18 K per week, and thankfully I was able to achieve them, but with all the sudden intensity, shin splints returned. Google helped me to realize that a lot of runners experience shin splints. Everywhere I checked people mentioned that there is no cure as such for shin splints, just try changing shoes, modify your gait, apply ice after every run, and keep doing stretches after a run. Shin splints are painful. Shins hurt not just while running, but they make every step painful if they are inflamed.

I don't remember when I switched from a random 3-4 K per day to 6K every alternate day. The rest day in between helped me contain the shin pain. I got into a good running regime and then ran the December 2013 Pune Marathon in the 10K category. (That marathon made me realize how beneficial it is to have a running partner!) Sometime back I did a continuous 10K on a weekend and then joined a Pune Running 10K event and was happy to complete it in 65 minutes.

So, after 12 months of somewhat consistency, Runtastic tells me that I have managed to do 170 km walking, 70 km hiking (haven't measure all of the hikes though), and 320 km (rounded up) running. There is a lot to do. Next up I would like to target more immediate goals like sub-60 min 10K, sub-25 min 5K, sub-30 min 6K, et al. Then a 1000 km running year. I need to pray more to the Greek God (TIL Goddess) of running now and also pray to whichever gods the Tarahumara people pray to.

Now, on to the reason that triggered this post and the second word from the title of this post.

I never tried running with music because I remembered making a mess of the headphones and the way they kept pulling out. I also got used to observing and following the rhythm and rhythmic change in my breathing during a run. I kept wondering how it will be to run with a non-falling pair of headphones and good songs. Searching for the difference between runners who run without music and runners running with music gave me some good insights on the psychology of runners and running. But then, there are times when you are bored with the usual routine and want to try out something new. So yesterday, I made a playlist of what I thought would be good songs for running and added an early-morning reminder to not forget the headphones, and today I ran while listening to music.

Yes, it was a positively good experience. I had to keep pushing the headphones back in the ear frequently, but it was all right. What need adjusting was my habit of listening to my breathing. As I mentioned earlier, I am mostly a nose breather and tend to exhale loudly thus forming rhythmic exhale sounds that change with different pace. Music distracted me from listening to my usual air-music. But then after 1-2 km I was grooving. I must tell you that Lonely Boy by The Black Keys has got a nice rhythm to it that matched my running pace brilliantly and I enjoyed that stretch quite a bit. I had added Daft Punk, Prodigy, Avicii as well, but it's The Black Keys and AC/DC that I enjoyed the most.

Music distracts you from the usual thoughts and sounds while you run, if you are used to running without music. It adds to that necessary change as well. I might not run with music every time, but I will definitely go back to running playlists once in a while.

Specially when I need some motivation to run.

On that note:

Oh, oh-oh I got a love that keeps me waiting
Oh, oh-oh I got a love that keeps me waiting
- Lonely Boy by The Black Keys

Those lines could very well be dedicated to a glass of fine whiskey and puff thereafter. ;)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett - Book Review

Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8)Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, well, well. I wonder if the chance of this review turning out to be all right is a million-to-one. In that case... Oh, who am I kidding!

Did you know that Sir Terry Pratchett has his own cathedral where he summons interesting stories, intriguing characters, slithering plots, and quite a bit of laughs that he can surprisingly control and cage in the form of Discworld books? Then again, Discworld devotees know this already.

If I were given a chance (whatever the odds) to change the title of this book, I'd safely baptise it as "Dragon 101" where the "0" is slightly altered to resemble the shape of the heart symbol. I very well know that "Love is not love. Which alters when it alteration finds...," but come on, Shakespeare rarely infused magic in his equations, didn't he? Look at all the gastronomic difficulties, the best of them, the worst of them people, and the ever-summoning circumstances. Love flames it all. Even the ladiest of them ladies and toughest of them guys.

This book is such a splendid specimen, that it makes me wonder why it's just the 2.5th Pratchett book that I've read so far. Then again it's more whole than the remaining 1.5 Pratchetts combined together in a complexly probabilistic equation. I surely will be accompanying Captain Samuel Vimes a lot more when he performs his duties in the streets and citadels of Ankh Morpork. I hope the rest of team allows me to! I'll buy everyone a well-deserved drink for sure!

Quotes! Have you ever had the chance (again?) to highlight sentences in a Kindle book so much that almost all of it appears to be highlighted? Like a long tongue of yellow flame that surpasses the pages? Enough to form a Brotherhood of Kindle-highlighters? Imagine if the highlights enter the L-Space. Imagine... L-Space...

Well, at this point in the review I sincerely echo the strong sentiments felt by Vimes throughout the book. That of needing a drink. On that note I'll leave you with this:

Oook!

(Hah! Million-to-one chance! More like this review had a probability of 0.9 of being good. That means almost nothing at all, isn't it.)

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Football

So I saw this football video early morning and it brought back the nostalgia from school. Blue and yellow house versus green and red. A division versus B. Morning versus Afternoon. All that passion for the game, all the sliding around, kicking, and display of amateur skills. All the teenage angst geared up towards winning but eventually losing. The wait for that particular PT day when we flew on the football field like eagles in the sky. Shouting and Screeching. Life was all about chasing that lump of air constricted in a rubber ball. It meant so much more than that though. It still means so much.

Someday, some of us who stopped chasing the ball after school, need to get back on that Law College ground and then kick some football!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Harishchandragad via Nalichi Vaat

The year 2013 was the year of mountains and it was fitting that 2014 began with a trek that is considered to be one of the most exhausting yet enthralling treks in the Sahyadris.

Harishchandragad is a mystique mountain. With roots creeping long back in history and the presence of various magnificent ancient artefacts, the alluring magnetism of this mountain is completely justified. It is also not surprising that because of the huge base of the mountain, there are several routes leading to the top. Villagers from the villages scattered around use their own routes as per the closest available option. In the monsoon we had used the very comfortable Pachnai / Paachnai route to climb Harishchandragad. Nalichi Vaat is in a different league altogether. So much so that we did descend via Pachnai route and it took just about 12% of the total trekking time.

The entire experience during the trek was so overwhelming that I still cannot fathom the right words to describe it. That moment when I saw the silhouette of the Konkan Kada at night from the village of Walhivale, realizing how grand it was when the early light of the day elucidated it further, the climb towards the Kada, the left towards the path between two cliffs (ghali), the boulders, rocks, stones, talus, and scree along the route, the relief-laced ecstasy felt on the top of the Kada, just cannot be fit into the right words. Same goes for the lovely stay on the top of Konkan Kada in tents, the lovely group that had a fun time over a camp fire, the descent via the familiar Pachnai route, realizing that it was just a small part of the way back, seeing the impressive Sadhale Ghat, thanking the Lord that we have to walk down and not climb via Sadhale Ghat, realizing again that it is just as painful and exhausting in different ways, and finally making it to the village and coming back to Pune.

Even if I jot down some hasty words right now, I get a feeling that the impact of the words would be ephemeral. To a certain degree, this is true even about the pictures. I hope the combination of these two would help me travel through time to the memories of the beautiful trek.

Before I begin the short photo-log, I would like to add this note I had written for my Facebook Nalichi Vaat album:

Some mountains keep calling you back. This one, after engulfing us in mist and fog earlier this monsoon, beckoned us for a strenuous climb via the route known as Nalichi Vaat. This route begins in front of Konkan Kada, detours along the left side of it and then concludes on top of the Konkan Kada. The surface changes from big boulders along a dry river bed, to smaller stones on a steep ascent, to talus and scree, to manageable rock faces, and finally through friendly shrubs. While walking down, we descended via the lovely Pachnai route and then circumvented Harishchandragad via a route called Sadhale Ghat. It was Nalichi Vaat without the difficult part, but very similar. A lovely trek that enthrals and frightens at the same time, whispering to you that you are but a spectator in this big world.

Photo-log: Walhivale to Harishchandragad via Nalichi Vaat

Driving till Walhivale. Crossing Khubi Phata, crossing Malshej Ghat and then taking a right ahead of Moroshi. As easy as it sounds, it was a different experience altogether in the night. Single winding road, no street lights, no village in immediate line of sight, and not so obvious road signs.
Walhivale village route via Khubi Phata, Malshej Ghat, and Moroshi
After a spending the night in the quaint (oft used word describing the base villages in Sahyadris, I guess!) village of Walhivale, we woke up early morning to see the hazy splendour of the Konkan Kada.
Konkan Kada from Walhivale
Starting the walk towards the Konkan Kada. The path is strewn with boulders and almost-dried water channels. We start walking directly towards the massif of Konkan Kada.
After walking quite a bit, the route moves towards the left of Konkan Kada and finally we see the Nalichi Vaat and the "Ghal". You can see from the picture how massive it looks. Looking at these pictures, it all seems so unreal now.
Towards the Ghal in Nalichi Vaat
As we turn left, this is the view of Konkan Kada. The sun had started to rise up lighting parts of Harishchandragad.
Konkan Kada on the left
 More play of sunlight as our strenuous climb went on and on...
Spot the fellow trekker
... and on and on...
 ... and on and on through talus...
... and scree...
... and a few rock patches en route. Ropes are essential for some of the rock patches. The good part is that there is no direct exposure to the valley, but we have to take utmost care. All throughout.
 Finally completing... about 1/3rd of the route.
And then we saw the glorious Konkan Kada from a bit close. The rest of the route was getting on top of the Konkan Kada.
Just about there on top of Konkan Kada.
The following picture is the route map from Walhivale to the top of Konkan Kada via Nalichi Vaat. Total distance was approximately 8.03 km, and total time taken was 6 hours 35 minutes.
Walhivale to Harishchandragad through Nalichi Vaat
Photo-log: Harishchandragad to Walhivale via Pachnai and Sadhale Ghat

After camping on top of Konkan Kada and spending a lovely camping night, we started descending via the Pachnai route. It was lovely to see it again, clearly this time, without the haze and mist.
Pachani route in the Winter
Almost the same location that was captured in the Monsoon earlier this year
After Pachnai, we had to circumvent Harishchandragad using a plain, drivable road, and then through a little forest till we reached Sadhale Ghat. After a long and hard walk, with the remnants of the pain from Nalichi Vat still significantly present, we started descending...
... all the while I was well aware of the bone structure in my knees, and was getting more aware of it with every single step...
... and after a rather long walk down and then through relatively knee-friendly plain grounds, we reached the village of Walhivale.
Konkan Kada as seen from the village of Walhivale
The following pictures is the route map from the top of Harishchandragad via Pachnai and then Sadhale Ghat. Total distance was approximately 11.72 km, and total time taken was 5 hours 20 minutes.
Harischandragad to Walhivale via Pachnai and then Sadhale Ghat
"So, are you ready to do this trek again?"
Am I?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson - Book Review

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasFear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This little gem is like one of those drugs in the back of the Red Shark. You never know what the good doctor is going to pick up next and garble something.

I guess now I realize why people praise Hunter S. Thompson so much. He has practically introduced a lot of new phrases that have become staple material later on. Such as "Passively hostile" (passive aggressive), "in the general direction of..." (that Monty Python line) and some others.

I loved the commentary on the phasing out of Uppers and the demand of Downers (that happened along with Nixon), the few lines on general drug-life during the late 60s (I remember being amazed by that line where the doctors writes about driving to any place and still being able to find drug-addled crazy people.), and the metaphors used to describe people from under a drug haze.

My favourite line from the book, amongst others, is "In a scene where nobody with any ambition is really what he appears to be, there's not much risk in acting like a king-hell freak."

I wonder if I can say that it is a problem, but Johnny Depp narrated the book most of the time interspersed with shouts from Benicio Del Toro.

Someday, I'll read the book again and write sweat out a book proper review. Someday, I'll also visit Vegas and see if some of it still stands true as described in the book.

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