Sunday, 23 December 2012

Finally, he retires

Took a long time coming. And finally, Tendulkar retires from ODI's. One big problem that ails BCCI has come to an end with this decision. Now, if only the fur blot Dhoni also retires from Test cricket, we can see winds of change. 

I am not holding my breath though. 

Finally, Tendulkar will be doing what he should probably be doing - playing tests and ensuring that his legend stays on. Took a long time coming - about a year or two delayed... but better late than never. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

Justice Markandey Katju responds

And he responds to the legal notice by kids in style, doesnt he. Whoa, Salute you, Justice. Brilliant response and very timely too. 

3. The English alphabets are all arranged haphazardly, there is no reason why D is followed by E, or E by F, or F by G, etc. On the other hand Panini in the first 14 sutras of his Ashtadhyayi arranged the alphabets in Sanskrit scientifically. Thus , the first sequence of 5 consonants (the  ka varga i.e. ka, kha, ga, gha, na ) are all sounds which emanate from the throat, the second sequence from the middle of the tongue, the third from the roof of the mouth, the fourth from the tip of the tongue, and the fifth from the lips. The second and fourth consonants in each sequence are aspirants in which the sound 'ha' is combined with the previous consonant e.g. ka+ha =kha.

Link here

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tatkal tales and travails

Terribly disappointing. I tried booking tatkal on 2 different days to come from NJP [New Jalpaiguri] to Howrah or Bangalore.

Stats from what I saw on both the days:
Both days had one straight train from NJP to Bangalore. I log in at 9.57AM dutifully so I can book tickets at 10.00AM the earliest. 

Day 1 and Day 2:
tickets available:
a. SL : 182 seats
b. 3 AC: 32 seats
c. 2 AC: 16 seats

A total of 230 seats are available on both days. 

I was able to login at 9.57AM on both days and was able to see these seats available for booking. At 10.00 AM and a few seconds, I was dropped off the site when I tried to book [service unavailable]. So, logged in at 10.03 AM [10.02 35 to be precise] and I see REGRET/WL001 as the status! WHAT? Now if we think about it, what this would mean is that 230 tickets got booked in about 150 seconds... that too using a terribly slow to respond irctc site at 10.00 AM. Sounds weird? But its true.

Not withstanding all this [I realised that there is no way in green hell that I can get tatkal tickets if this is the way the ticket booking works], I promptly went to the reputed travel agents there to see if I can get a ticket... but I was refused in most places. I kept trying and went to one more reputed [IRCTC authorised agent apparently] who said all tickets for December is booked. So, I asked him if he can book a tatkal ticket for me... [Authors note - mark my words here] Says the old man in the shop "I am only talking about tatkal tickets - all tickets till December is booked". Me: "Are you really sure? Tatkal gets opened one day before the travel date. How can they get booked in advance. Are you talking about tatkal or normal tickets". Old fat shop keeper: "Yes. Tatkal only. All tickets are booked till December.Now, you go away". I didnt budge. Asked him: "So, what do I do now? I need a ticket." Old rude son-of-a-bitch shopkeeper: "Buy a general class ticket and go in the train if you are in a hurry". I gave him a withering glance and legged it to the next shop. He said he will try his best to buy tickets using his high speed internet for the next day [legal way] but he couldnt succeed and gave my advance back.

Lessons learnt:
a. There is a massive black market for tatkal tickets from NJP. I hope some authority is aware of it and atleast attempts to sort it out. Take it from me - a person who travels in train often. It is statistically, humanly and IRCTC-ly impossible [knowing how the site works] to book 230 tickets in 120-150 seconds. I can agree that outliers exist and it can happen on some rare day [even that is possible only if we want to be very very generous and think that laws of physics didnt function too well on that particular day]. BUT, I saw it happen for 2 days running. I am sure if you check it tomorrow at 10.00AM, the same shit scenario will happen. 
b. Tickets are surely being blocked or stored for usage later [sold at a higher cost? I wouldnt know the way it works. They probably stuff it in the backend at 10.00 and take it back by 10.02 or something? Only god knows.]
c. If a foreigner asks for tickets, the answers are different. I saw it before my own eyes as a friend of mine [non-Indian] asked for a tkt to HWH from the same reputed IRCTC agent and he happily says that he can arrange tickets. He sees me in a while and he says no tickets. Sadly, he didnt realise that we [friend and I] came together and we just wanted to poke around.

Sad state of affairs. Truly shocking and very shameful.  

Monday, 3 December 2012

Himachal Trip: Part I: Dharamshala, Manali and Naggar

My friend and I did a 9 day trip to Himachal and Chandigarh last September. It was a beautiful trip and the more I think of it, the more I truly believe that it was the best that we could have done in 9 days considering that it was a sudden on-the-spur-of-the-moment trip that we didn’t really plan for.
We [I rather. My friend brought my stuff along with his - my bag included - from bangalore. It was that sudden as far as trip goes. Had to depend on someone to bring my clothes and stuff for the trip duration] started from Chennai and headed to Delhi on the Duronto express with an idea that things will work out fine [and we would be able to book tickets, hotels, have buses available and on time and we should be able to reach the Himachal and see the Himalayas from that place and so on. What we did end up doing was something that surpassed even our most optimistic imagination. More on that to come]. We had a nice 28 hr journey to Delhi [and my friend was travelling by Duronto the first time and most of the journey was a very pleasant shock to him]. We met nice friends along the way and had interesting conversations and headed to the ISBT once we were in Delhi [we used the metro in Delhi to reach there. A good ride!] Once we were in the ISBT, a hop skip and a jump and we were on the bus taking us to Chandigarh with no idea as to what we were planning. [We were also looking at going upto Amritsar and have a look at the Wagah border and see the Golden temple too. Besides Chandigarh is also on the way to go to HP]. We were slightly late at Chandigarh and we decided to move ahead full steam to HP and do Wagah and Golden Temple on the way back. [A sensible decision in hindsight as we couldn’t have afforded to spend time there] So, off we went to Dharamshala.
3rd day of trip: We were in Dharamshala at about 3.30 in the morning and we were on the lookout for a place to stay. The dogs in the road were having a keen interest in what we were trying to do [and were on the lookout for some fresh flesh too, probably]. We escaped the dogs and finally ended up in a hotel for a decent bargain and off my friend went to sleep. Unlucky for us, it rained almost the entire morning, [here] so we bought ourselves new umbrellas and started walking towards McLeodGanj in search of Enlightenment food and entertainment. More walking brought us to the Monastery [Tsuglagkhang complex] and the sights kept us at peace with the world. More walks in the Tibetan museum, Kalachakra temple, more momos in the entrance and some book and souvenir buying later, I realised that I  had left my umbrella at the book shop and it was locked... and no one knew when the shop keeper will be back as he had left for the day... As I was left brooding about my new umbrella, a thought chanced upon me to talk to the guys around... random talking with security led me to the monks quarters where we met a few monks and they helped us catch the shop keeper on phone and get my umbrella back. [Lesson No.1: Every problem presents a new opportunity...] So, once I got my umbrella, we said our goodbyes and went on our way back. We were just roaming around the place and were doing nothing when my friend caught up with a security there and was speaking to him. I was waiting for him and ready to move along when he stopped me and said “Wait, the Dalai Lama might come”. So we waited, along with the rest of people, for a while and lo and behold, he DID zip through in his car and the customary cavalcade. [Lesson 2: Some problems present beautiful opportunities]. Later, quite satisfied with the day’s work, we went through a carnival and my friend played a bit but won nothing and we walked through onto a small hill and ended up somewhere near the mountaineering institute in McLeod Gunj. We rested for a while after our efforts and also to plan on what next was required...
We decided on leaving McLeodGunj as it was too touristy and move on to an equally touristy place – Manali. [Except that we had no tickets... talking to the hotel owner helped and he pulled a few strings and arranged for 2 tickets...and in no time we were in the bus all over again after just about 12 hours of staying without travelling after 3 days of all kinds of travel.] Off we went through to Manali – the roads were long and meandering and had lovely views of the lower Himalayas... we were more awake than asleep and we were mostly looking through the window at the nice sights. [My friend had a nice sight even in the bus - on his left [I was on his right, FYI] and behind him, if you want to believe him]
4th day of trip: Landed in Manali. We were in “safe” hands and territory even before we got down – about some 15 hawks  hotel brokers descended upon us ready to push us to the hotel that they want us to move in to. We took it in for a few minutes and then started walking away to decide matters on our own. Came across the very interesting looking HP Tourism Rooms [called HPTDC, if I remember right. good place to stay!] and decided to stay in it [friend initially had reservations as it was slightly on the higher side [for him]... but in the end, he was very satisfied with the place too]. Some more sleeping / surfing, lonely planet checking to check the stuff to be done and logistics and we were prepared to take on the to speak.

We went and had a look at the Manali Museum, the Dhungri temple [Hadimba temple. Sad that we had to see Genelia the Bollywood actor in it too when we were there. My friend was very happy on sighting her and reckon, he also winked at her and she smiled back... or so he says],  Gadhan Thekchokling gompa and a few more. It was time for lunch and we came back to the hotel and had our hearty meal there [HPTDC has a good place to eat [restaurant] too!]. I slowly started initial negotiations and talk for a ride upto Leh, Ladakh or somewhere closer to the mountains [without knowing what we were getting into, obviously]. The initial rates and time quoted were expensive and we weren’t really looking at it - we were more likely shooting in thre dark at that time - and thought we will take it a day at a time. We were in a quandary after lunch – visit Solang Nullah or Naggar. Friend said Solang Nullah and I said Naggar... finally, settled on Naggar as it was mid point to Kullu too.
Maheshwar temple

Interior of temple

Yak in tow

In the meanwhile, more talking with the tourism desk and more decisions later, we finally decided on a 750 km Himalayan hinterland jeep ride [ the Lahaul, Spiti, Kinnaur, Sangla and Shimla valley]. We were paying a fairly steep price and the driver said that he hasn’t done a 5 day trip of the Spiti valley and it would require atleast 8-9 days... so we compromised to do the travel on best effort basis and decide on a day-by-day basis as to what can be done.
Naggar is a beautiful place in the midst of the road between Kullu and Manali and it was also the erstwhile capital of Kullu region in the 1460’s. Naggar has a nice castle with good views and also an old temple close by. 

Naggar Castle

View from Naggar castle

Temple inside Naggar castle

We came back to the room, after viewing all the sights, fully aware of the fact that we will start on the most important part of our trip on the next day - getting up close and personal with the Himalaya mountains.