Wednesday, December 3, 2014

With the only communication coming in the form of wails and cries, we are at times reduced (or elevated) to reciprocating in the same manner. - Kd's Journal.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Reminiscing the South Indian road trip

Almost a year back, we started with a plan for a small trip Bangalore. What was an innocent 2-3 days trip to a lovely city with the aid of sheer adventurism and longing wanderlust snowballed to a 2-weeks, ~3300 km, east coast to west coast South-Indian road trip.

The idea of touching the sand on the east coast and west coast in the same trip was the main trigger if I try to recall by clearing the happy fog of colourful memories a bit. With that romantic idea, somewhere the seeds of visiting a historically important place called Hampi were sown. Somewhere in between, other nearby locations like Pattadakal, Badami, and Aihole were brought into the travel plan. West coast was finalized as Goa much before we even began to discuss, but to give the trip due justice, we planned Gokarna en route Goa. For east coast we picked Pondicherry. At the centre of it all was Bangalore! The place that made us think of steering away a bit on its either side.

Once the tentatively-final plan was charted, we began detailing. Talking to experienced people, Eicher maps, tons of blogs, travel forums, shared spreadsheets, hotels, guest houses, best routes, highways, and thus slowly all the little circuitry started connecting bit by bit.

The first decision was whether to go east before west or vice versa. The heart said west (read Goa) before east, but the mind and experienced folks said otherwise. Eventually east to west made more sense. Then we resumed our information gathering for the trip.

Thereby, a grand road trip was planned in our little Wagon R and the three of us took off!

The route was:
Pune > Bijapur > Badami > Pattadakal > Aihole (we gave this a miss eventually) > Hampi > Bangalore (planned this slight detour while sitting right near the paddy fields and rocky boulders of Hampi) > Pondicherry > Bangalore > Jog Falls > Goa (skipped Gokarna)

Dates: October 12, 2013 to October 26, 2013
The route we travelled
It's almost a year now when we initiated this beautiful road trip. For almost the entire year I have felt that I need to write a travelogue about the trip. It will take a lot of dedication to sit, think back and actually pen down the beautiful feelings in fitting (or close to fitting) words. I'll try and attempt it. Someday, I'll look back at these words and they'll connect me to the feelings hidden deep inside.

Here's to wandering!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut - Book Review

Mother NightMother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up Mother Night after reading Maus. There is one major, dreadful, heartrending thread that binds these two books together:


While Maus paints a deeper and detailed picture of what it would have been on those unimaginable, worse-than-hell grounds, Mother Night superficially mentions it. But this outwardly treatment is done by Kurt Vonnegut in his own melancholy-inducing stylish humour. Very few authors can write war humour so well as Kurt Vonnegut does. His humour has the power to make you realize the degree of destruction caused by a war and the effect it has on humans. Both the victor and the vanquished.

Vonnegut’s proud characters, unfolding of events, and the subtle humour stitches together a meaningful tale in the form of Mother Night. Here we listen to or read Howard J. Campbell’s memoir about the way he pretended to pretend during war times and weaved together a complex identity for himself. How things tumble down during and after World War 2 for him and how the seeds he has sown grow into trees that creep towards him and pull him back to tangle him upside down by the hanging roots. I also loved his talk about the little "Nation of two."

As Vonnegut describes very early in the book the moral of this story is: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." The intensity behind this apparent "moral" becomes jarringly obvious as we trod along the story through the little twists and turns.

Compared to his other works like Slaughterhouse-Five, Cats in the Cradle, and Sirens of Titan, Mother Night is more grounded and is without the grandiosity (sometimes interplanetary!) of the other books. It is definitely a lovely little book, if you can describe a WW2-related book as lovely. I will certainly be returning to Vonnegut books again when I become older and maybe a bit more eccentric to enjoy the books even more than I do today.

Till then...

P.S.: One of the other vivid moments I recall from the book is the incident about the corpse-carrier. It still keeps haunting me thinking about how dreadful WW2 must have been for some. Just to think that people survived hell... and oh what a hell that must have been. It's really sad when people used WW2 related jokes when the German team won the football world cup this year (2014), specially the earlier semifinal against Brazil. Indians joking about WW2 and the German war juggernaut? Do you even know what you are talking about?

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Went for a run

Went for a run
Today I saw the sun
We looked beyond the clouds of yesterday

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. ;)