Saturday, November 29, 2008
Tents big enough to accommodate 15 grown-ups were pitched in a huge square with a quadrangle in the center. Every tent had a snake pit around them. The first day, we were read out the camp rules and allowed to settle in our respective tents. We explored the park out of curiosity. Found a couple of bore wells and water taps, our source for water to drink and wash. We discovered there were no bathrooms or toilets, Indian Army wanted us to be real close to nature.
This was the first time I slept in a tent, with just a mat on the earth. Wind was blowing like crazy through the night and our tent had a nice tear in a corner, right next to me. I hardly slept through the night. The next morning, we were woken up early. It was cold and we had to wash with cold water… ooohaaahah! What an experience!
We all assembled in the quadrangle, dressed in our uniforms. We went for a cross country jog and then exercised, after which we had a short break during which we had breakfast and relaxed. Then came the drill session… attention! Baye mood! Dhaine mood! Piche mood! By the left quick march!! left-left-left-right-left... look straight, swing your arms high, left-left-left-right-left... keep your knees straight, dig your heels into the ground… Oh man! The Gurkha officers made us spend double the energy of what their food gave us. The sessions never seemed to end. Most of us were just waiting to hear 'squad-halt!', 'stand-at-ease' and 'disperse'. We were served three meals a day and we could choose between veg and non-veg. Food was no way near to home food but not bad too.
Most of the officers were friendly but strict. I remember there were three ‘Chatri’s. And in our college group, there were three Prasads. Babu Prasad, Skanda Prasad and me. The Gurkhas asked us if we were cousins and we asked them if they were brothers. My other tent mates were Gurudutt M P, Ramesh P, Bharath, Sridhar...
One morning, our officer made us jog down to the Doddaballapura Railway Station, it was a deserted little place with hardly any activity. We exercised on the tarmac road with a few local people watching us with amused expressions. On the way back to the camp, again jogging, we stopped every half kilomater and made to push ups or sit-ups or any activity to sap our energies out. Most of us were hungry and just waiting to reach the camp food area. What a morning that was! The camp was not just drills or exercising, we were given tasks to make us get used to hard work like watering plants, levelling the dirt path within the camp area for which we had to dig with spades and move dirt from a near by spot. We fetched water from a bore well and sprayed the dirt path we had repaired. The officers never ran out of ways to kep us busy... One of the nights, four of us were asked to watch the food material store room. I remember how we struggled to stay wake in the cold weather till morning.
After a week or so, one after-noon, I got a surprise. Dad, Mom and Dipi had come to see me. They stayed for few minutes, 15-20 minutes and left. Dad gave me a bundle of snacks which got over in no time.
One of the days, a day trip to the near-by Nandi Hills was organized. We were dropped off on the main road at the base of the hill, given breakfast and asked us to take the road up. A 8km trek. It was fun! We made it to the summit in about 2 hours. We explored the hill and it’s fort and ruins and assembled back at a pre-designated time and spot expecting the trucks to be there to take us down. No! We were asked to climb down the steps!! Most boys started complaining pain and few experienced cramps by the time we reached the base. That was not the end, we had to trek 4kms of rough terrain to reach the trucks. With the sun blazing down, mouths dry and stomachs growling… You are in the army now!
Our camp had a small open air theater in natural settings with granite slab benches for seating an audience of about 300. The stage area was sheltered with Bougainvilla creeper and other small trees. On the tenth evening, couple of senior army officers were present for the closing… not a ceremony, whatever you call it …who gave away prizes and gave short speeches. I revisited the place sometime 1996 with Gulli.
No beds. No electricity. No hot water. No bath for eleven days!! When I got back home, my hot water bath lasted one hour.
Friday, November 28, 2008
I got permission from my Dad to go on a business (actually a service trip) with two uncles and a service engineer to rectify a nagging problem in a weighbridge supplied by our company, EFGE Load Cells to Bhagawathi Tea Estates, Wynad, Kerala. EFGE is pronounced FG, which means ‘foil gauge’, a delicate little strain sensor.
We left Bangalore in our HM Ambassador Mark III by 6 30 pm heading towards Mysore. On the outskirts my uncles picked up few beer bottles. After a while, one of my uncles, handed me an open bottle and asked me to have. What?? I was like… Anyway, I tasted the cold beer and liked it. I went real slow. I enjoyed my first bottle of beer. We broke our journey at Mysore and decided to continue the next morning.
The next morning, we had dosa for breakfast at a real tiny place in the narrow streets of old Mysore city. The dosa just melted the moment it landed on my tongue. This is the most memorable dosa I ever tasted. We got with our journey… Gundlupet, Sultan Battery… and we reached Wynad some time afternoon. The weather there was hot and humid… typical for a tea estate. I guess we did not work much, may be just a cursory check of the weighbridge. That night we had wine, and I had some and liked the taste. The color was wonderful and taste was excellent. As it is, grape juice was one of my favorite. We had a good dinner and peaceful sleep in the silent hills.
We started the new day with typical Kerala style tea served in glasses and after a while was Kerala breakfast. I think it was ‘Pattu’ with Bengal gram and 'Appam'. Every morning our guest house cooks served us different dishes of Kerala. Real expert cooks they were. For me it was more of a holiday… while my uncles were trying to sort out the weigh bridge problem. I walked around the estate through the tea shrubs, up and down the slopes. From one point I looked down towards our guest house and then to its left further down the hill, a little stream flowed in the valley with little houses next to it, children played around while the women washed clothes in the stream. Typical story book scene it was.
This is where I first saw tea leaf picking. It was a women’s job, they carried huge woven cane baskets on their backs and dropped leaves into them as they chose and picked the leaves from the shrubs. Once the baskets were filled, they carried them down to the factory area where the leaves and weighed and wages paid accordingly. One of the days, the factory manager showed us around the plant. It was interesting to see how raw leaves were washed, dried, dehumidified and turned into dust and then graded and packed. The place was full of managers… AM, DM, EM, FM, GM, etc. I can recall few; Accounts, Deputy, Estate, Factory and General.
Not sure if it was the second or third evening at the estate; we were invited to the GM’s bungalow for drinks. Whisky was offered and I declined it, I was not sure if I could handle it. The GM was an ex-army person and cordial to us. I think, the same evening, my uncles decided to go to a nearby town to fetch drinks and on the way back a big stone hit the underside of our Ambassador damaging the oil sump. Back at the guest house, the booze session was little wild with one of the uncles in real high spirits.
Work on the weigh bridge was going nowhere and the managers were getting impatient with us. After several rounds of discussions over phone with my Dad, it was decided that we head back home, leaving the job incomplete. Somehow nothing was going well… no progress on work, bad remarks from the customer and a damaged car. Our journey back home was a real drag; because of low oil pressure the engine was damaged and we drove real slow... litreally limped back.
If not for anything else, this trip introduced me to the world of booze. I had the confidence to handle it while most of friends had not even touched it. Now, I'm a teetotaler.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
That's my Hero Honda Splendor. Great bike it was. We got 70+ kilometers per litre of petrol riding mostly between 50 to 60kmph and occassionaly touching 80. My Spledor was smooth, effortless and efficient through out our 13 day trip circling Karnataka covering close to 3000km. Not even a flat tyre.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Even 180 years after her death, it is still not clear if she died as a prisoner in 1829 or she was let off and died at an old age.
To see paintings of the brave warrior queen visit this post- Rani Chennamma.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Anyway, we managed to get the weighbridge working.
We saw different seasons of the market, peak and slack. During the peak season, I saw red everywhere; massive heaps of red chilly, women sitting around cleaning & sorting and men filling and weighing sacks and loading trucks.
The place, not just the market, the entire town buzzes with activity; trucks, bullock-carts, material, people, dogs, pigs... The air in the market is strong with the aroma of chilly.
This where I first saw how tough a farmer's life can be. They toil and sweat in the fields for months to get a good yield and bring their produce to the market to be harassed by the heartless APMC staff. Everyone of us, should know what a farmer goes through to feed the country and learn to value food. Never ever take food and water for granted.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Satish, Prithvi, Ganesh, Praveen (Mama) and I took off on my Kinetic Honda scooter and two Yamaha RX 100 bikes. We left Bangalore at 6PM with one tent, booze, soft drinks, a one-foot Rambo style knife. We hardly travelled 45km, these guys stopped (against my wishes) at a road-side restaurant on the outskirts of Kolar. these guys were desperate for booze. We had dinner also and the session went on till 10PM.
We continued towards our destination... Madanapalli and then Horsley Hills. We crossed Karnataka-Andhra border and after few kilometers, we stopped at a fork, we were confused and the map was confusing us even more. So we waited for some vehicle to come by... a KSRTC bus almost ran Satish who was waving at the driver to stop. After about 5 mins, a Ambassador car came by, this guy stopped but a good 30 meters away from us. Satish walked towards the car trying to find out the directions... the driver just took off. It was Mama's doing- he waved the knife at the car driver and done the same at the bus too. Finally we decide to take the direction of in which the bus and car had come.
2 AM, Madanapalli was sleeping except for two guys loading something into a car... We asked them directions for Horsley Hills and took off in that direction. We really took off since the roads were very good. At times I hit 90s on my Kinetic Honda even though it was not comfortable with a box full of bottles and a tent on the foot-board. We reached the hill-station but the place was sleepier than Madanapalli, not a soul to be seen anywhere! It was 3AM. The place was dark & misty and we were tired & sleepy. We did not bother to look for a hotel. We found a level grassy patch and pitched the tent.
The tent was too small for five grown-ups and especially with four drunks. I did not sleep at all... foul air, snores, stones poking from beneath and cold air. I was just waiting for dawn and the moment I saw light, I asked these guys to wake up. No. No response. I just crawled on them out of the tent! Freshened my mouth with 'Sprite' and started looking for a tea-joint. Nothing in sight. We hired a guest house for few hours, had tea and freshened up. By the time I finished my bath, Mama, Prithvi and Ganesh were drunk! At 9 30 AM!
We rode around the place... not a very big hill-station but a beautiful one. It's named after a British army officer Horsley. Andhra's highest point is located at Horsley Hills. We climbed up and finally reached a point where we had to climb through a tree's branches to cross-over to another rock. Only Prithvi and I went right to the top. Mama and Ganesh were too drunk for the adventure and Satish... Forget it!
We did some more sight-seeing before we decided to head back. The down-hill ride was fun, we free-wheeled most of the way, leaning heavily through the curves.
This time, we headed towards Chitamani instead of Kolar and stopped for a typical Andhra style meal. We stopped on and off through the journey... just like that. An unforgettable trip it was!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Shishunala Sharif, the was a popular figure who was spiritually enlightened. His simple, down-to-earth songs attracted masses and united religious communities. Even now, his songs are popular among Kannadigas.
Shishunala is a slepy little village off NH4 close to Shiggaon.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Going clock wise, starting from the top left image;
1. Savandurga as seen from Bangalore
2. Rapids of river Cauvery at Mekedatu, 100km from Bangalore
3. Sunflower, somewhere between Badami and Jamkhandi
4. Bidar Fort
5. Three friends at Chikkasiddarabetta
6. Ramdevarabetta, Ramnagar near Bangalore
Before I was introduced to Blogspot, I organised my photos in folders. This image was one of the welcome images to my photo gallery.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Praveen and I had come to Ramagundam to try an experiment on Volvo tippers operating in one of the coal mines of Sengareni Colleries. We got a chance to ride in one of the tippers...
...empty when we went down into the open-pit mine and loaded as we climbed up. While we waited for the tipper to be loaded, I looked up at the walls of the pit, 100m high, it was scary when a couple of pebbles rolled down. The tipper was loaded in a couple of minutes- quick job by a Volvo backhoe loader.
In the below image, the black strips are coal deposits.
We went up a man made hill created by dumping the OB (over burden). The tipper has to reverse very carefully, stop at the edge and lift the bucket... a very risky job.
During the three day stay, we took off few hours to see Godavari. The water, as you see was less flowingly sparsely creating tiny sandy islands. We waded through the thigh deep waters and reached one of the islands. To my surprise I saw a Shiva Linga made of sand... the day before it was Maha Shivaratri. As a kid, I always wanted to make one... I was so happy to see this.
It was a great feeling to be walking halfway through a might river like Godavari!
I picked small white pebbles unique to this river... smooth surface, white and light. I noticed my shadow under water... it had a ghostly aura. If you observe it, you can see part of me, my reflection and my shadow......
Our experiment was not a successful one but the trip was not a waste.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
My second ride in a coracle in a major river. Kali, the river is akin to the name. In this two kilometer ride, first we pass under an ancient bridge, pass by tiny islands on which people actually live, saw crocodiles, passed through mild rapids and finally reached the bank with lot of cover from trees with branches touching the waters.
You should try this once. Jungle Resorts, Dandeli, Karnataka.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
We used to see this unique creation (while under construction) on the way to Kurnool. It was located between three hillocks, next to the highway just before Anantapur. We stopped out of curiosity and were amazed at the sight.
This is an attempt to create the scene from the mythological story Ramayana; awakening of Kumbhakarna, the brother of the powerful demon king Ravana. According to the story, he was huge and was cursed to fall asleep immediately after a meal. Demon soldiers are trying to from his deep slumber using all possible ways… drumming into his ears, elephant prodding his head, pulling hair, poking with spears, tickling his sole, pulling hair, trying to get the aroma of food into his nose… The imagination is just too good.
We learnt from one of the workers that this is would be a restaurant under Andhra tourism department’s management.
This was the only visit to the place. Hope to see the restaurant some day.