Monday, October 18, 2010

Back 2 school for the ultimate post graduation : The Roman Catholic Marriage

The bell rings sharply at 5AM in the campus on the cold mornings of September in a small town in Kerala...and worse still, it rings repeatedly in a stern shrill tone that commands due acknowledgment. The students get up with sleepy faces and look at each other wondering 'This can't be happening to me' , and then 5 seconds later are jolted back to reality only to join the race to occupy the limited bathrooms lest they have to stand in long queues.

By 5.45AM the 150 odd students are assembled inside the chapel (in military line formations strictly monitored by the nuns at all times) on the 4th floor for the morning prayer followed by the Holy Mass while the wardens go through the rooms just in case some naive soul decided to sleep a wee bit longer. After the mass, the students come down to the cafeteria for breakfast and are inside the class rooms by 8.45AM. The classes go on till 12 pm followed by a 45 min lunch break. People hide in corridors during break time speaking in hushed tones on their phones because mobile phones are banned in the campus till 10.30PM.Then more classes follow till 4 pm when groggy eyes light up for the much awaited 20 min Tea break...

The final sessions of the day last till 10PM.This is followed by the "introduce yourself" sessions till 10.30 pm so that people get to know the fellow students who are slogging along with them. Finally by 10.45 PM, everyone retires to their rooms (shared between 3 to 10 individuals depending on the room size) and the nuns lock up the iron grills that separate the boy's and girl's sides of the campus.The break times are not filled with loud voices or much movement and the air reeks with love in the 'campus' as most of the 'students' have come to the course in pairs and all break times are judiciously utilized to talk to their partners.The same cycle goes on for 3 days. (I heard fellow students at the Bangalore campus get away with a single day course...lucky rascals)

As you guessed from the title, the 'students' here are people who have decided to get married and have come to attend the mandatory 'pre-marital course', whose completion certificate is a must to get married in a Catholic church in India. For me, a person who had very limited time before the D day of my marriage, my parish priest bend the rules and conducted my marriage based on the promise that I will attend the 'pre-martial course' post marriage.

The first week after my marriage consisted of endless visits to the houses of close relatives as per the custom followed by a quick 2 day getaway to Munnar (where I came down fever, the gory details of which are coming up in a future post). Then just a week after my marriage, I was sitting inside a classroom of 150 students for 3 whole days learning what the Church expected me to have learned before I got married.

Now I went to this course with a biased mind.I had resolved before hand that I wont give ear to any the selling of religion or how 'our religion is the best' kind of stuff. But Boy was I wrong !

Those 3 days zipped by very fast, and contained well crafted sessions of various topics like

- Monetary budgeting after Marriage
- Work life balance
- Maintaining Family ties and the addition of your spouse to them
- Elaborate FAQs session on physical relations (it was a detailed and well handled fun session)
- Handling differences, respecting your spouse and accepting their quirks
- Past is past (dont ask or brag about old relationships)
- Abortion is not acceptable (the only session with pronounced religious bias)
- Chance to prepare for a proper confession (Christian belief that one's sins will be forgiven by God if one truly repents doing them, and will strive not to repeat them)
-Divorce is not an "option" (Divorce is not acceptable in our Church unless due to grave issues like mental illness, impotency etc )

My worst fears were left to rest as never did I feel that Christianity was being sold to me... instead it was explained how old customs help family life in the modern world. An example is how the habit of daily family prayer helps to break the ice during quarrels when the spouses are giving each other the cold shoulder. The classes are (predominantly) not taken by priests or nuns but by highly qualified doctors, psychiatrists, marriage counselors who know first hand about the common pit falls today's marriages could fall into.

The highlight for me was during the self introduction sessions when people introduced their would-be's to the whole class . Every couple who came to the stage stood 2 to 3 feet apart and then introduced each other with expected shyness as they were still not married. So I decided to spice things up by going there and then holding my wife in my arms to introduce her. Of course this joy was short lived as the organizers came rushing to separate us stressing that majority in the hall were unmarried and hence we should not be flaunting our marriage status.

All in all I had good time there with the celebrity status in campus bestowed on us due to the fact that we were already married but still came for the course while all others had come for that coveted course certificate. I am equally sure of the fact that that there was hardly anyone who wanted to attend the course in the first place if it was not mandatory as I am sure of the fact that in the end there was hardly anyone who felt the 3 days spent there were not useful for their future life.

In the end I have found new respect for the Church for the very fact that they take marriages so seriously and ensure that newly weds enter into it with the right mind set.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Las Vegas : Spectacular Bellagio fountains & Over hyped warm America Apple Pie

Man, i really like Vegas - Elvis Presley

...Tired from a week of hard work and followed by a 6 hour ride, i was walking half asleep at 1AM through Fremont street in Las Vegas trying to find the Subway outlet suggested by my '8 time Vegas veteran' friend. Suddenly the lights around me switched off , and just when i thought "So Vegas does sleep after all", 550000 watts of sound coupled with 12.5 million LED light display started 90 feet above me with a bang, as if to tell in pure Vegas style
" Welcome to Vegas Honey"...

The following 2 days were spend doing the usually things in Las Vegas like going from Casinos to casinos, visiting the night clubs and walking up and down the strip. One gets reminded about the time only during early morning to noon when the city is bit calm and quiet as the people recuperate from the long nights. But then to those people who dont leave the Casinos, i don't think there is any sense of time is...especially the elderly people hogging the slot machines...

The highlights for me were

- Spending around 3 hours looking at the Bellagio fountains
- World buffet lunch at the Rio for which i stood around 1.5 hours in the Q to get in, and losing all appetite when i saw around 250 dishes...will do it again for sure...
- Traffic jam on the strip when the July 4 fireworks started at Caesar's Palace
- Seeing a famous night club filled with 60% of my brothers from India
- The girl at the club who told she made 3000$ that weekend by dancing
- The lady who took me to dinner at a country music place at Harrahs
- The old lady at the restaurant who gave a wonderful surprised smile when i came back from the exit to tip her 5$
- My friend who woke up at 1am daily to go out and gamble and came in morning only to sleep out the whole day...
- Seeing sunrise when we came out of a club and realizing that we were inside all night...
- and of course getting a chance to try the "Warm American Apple Pie" and finding it not living up to the hype that i had created for it myself in my mind...

I guess its accepted for even the most money wise people to lose money in Vegas...Somehow the money is not lost in vegas but rather spend enjoying life...

Someone famous summarized this,

I did my time for the rape.
I paid my money to Las Vegas.
I paid my dues...." - Mike Tyson

Just know your limits, leave the credit cards in the Hotel room and even thought you have heard the famous guilt freeing phrase a thousand times 'What Happens in Vegas...Stays in Vegas', remember that certain things do come back from Vegas (remember the FIL's advice in Hangover ?) and am sure you will have a great time in Las Vegas...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kiss...I mean Run...its an Earth Quake !

We friends decided to go shopping on Monday evening , probably owing to the inertia of the long weekend of partying in clubs and night hangouts. I was surprised to find many people at the shopping mall on a Monday and my wait outside the shops while my friend selected what to buy, was not too boring. So after a longggg wait for the friend who wanted to finalize 6 out of 15 T shirts he selected, we went to an outlet of California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) which is supposed to have great pizzas.

Half way through our Pizzas (i will give 6/10 to them), the whole place started shaking.This was the 2nd Earthquake i had felt so strong while the many others were just a jolt or two in office,wherein you just smile at the guy sitting next to you and continue with your work.

At first we felt the table shake, then the plates and glasses on the near by tables added to the clatter..Only the young doorman looked worried while I guess the 'experienced' Californians expected the shaking to stop pretty soon. Only one friend at our table was not feeling the quake while the rest of us were looking at the exit and waiting for a sign when we know its time to make a run for it. Once he also felt the shakes we all stood up in unison and made a run for the door. Being on the first floor of a big shopping mall made me uneasy as open ground was no where near.

5 seconds later we all were standing outside the restaurant, standing on the edge of the railings at the first floor balcony and looking at all directions to see if the shaking had stopped or not, as the quake was not strong anymore. We could still see the lamp posts in the parking lots shake and also felt the vibrations in the iron railings running through out the perimeter of the shopping mall. We were standing at a place overlooking the open center podium of the shopping mall, looking in all directions for signs of damage when a friend smiled and pointed out something in the center of the Shopping mall in the floor below...Slowly my eyes also found what he was pointing to...a couple holding each other tightly and sharing a passionate kiss at the center of the shopping mall floor, when the whole world was shaking around them...

It was not like in movies where in all the shopping mall started to clap and the couple suddenly broke away from the kiss only to look around sheepishly... In reality people just returned to their life and we returned to our Pizzas before they got cold, giving the couple their 'privacy' at the center of the shopping mall floor.

Sometimes Life is much more beautiful in its plain simplicity...

PS : The quake was put at 5.7 on the ricther scale and was an after shock of the Easter day quake of 7.2 magnitude. Click here for details on California's quakes.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day : Remembering all Soldiers

Well for a change, Monday is a Holiday...Hurray !!!

The long weekend is about to come to an end with me having done absolutely nothing (and having had a blast doing it). Three days spend alone at home sometimes going to bed at 6 pm, waking up and eating dinner at 3am, watching movies till morning, listening to songs (and shamelessly trying to sing along out loud), going to the gym at noon, all without ever considering what the clock showed. Its been a really long time since i spend so much time alone without ever having to consider the clock, and I have made a promise to myself to do this once in a while...

Last night i was watching Twilight movie, and just as i saw the new town with the dull sky and big trees, i got reminded of seeing such a town in my all time favorite movie - First Blood.

Immediately, i stopped seeing Twilight and went for First blood.

The opening sequence reminded me when i had come to San Diego early this year, and used to walk to my room back from office (1.5 mile walk) in the cold late evenings,i always had this image of Rambo in my mind...Alone in a new place, walking in the cold with cars zipping past,almost no pedestrians in sight, and trying to pull tight my jacket collar to keep my neck warm...

Finally i came around to think about the reason for having Monday off here in US : Memorial Day, to commemorate the death of US soldiers. (Similar to Army Day in India on Jan 15th)

Went on to listen to songs related to soldiers n war like Como Estais Amigos (Iron Maiden , strong lyrics), Winds of Change (Scorpions), Buffalo Solider and lastly to the haunting song from We were soldiers

Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun
Ains a year say a prayer faur me
Close yir een an remember me (Scottish Version,Translation in below video..)

What ever may be the reason for the war,where ever it may be,who ever may be fighting it, in all cases people at the either ends of the gun barrel have no personal enmity...They strengthen their hearts, and do what is required in the belief that all this blood shed is for the greater good.
So dont blame the hand that pulls the trigger in the battle field, but maybe blame the hand that sends them to the field.

All across the world, lets pay tribute to the soldiers, maybe walk up to one and say a big thanks for what they do for the country...hope none of them ever feel like our dear fictional John Rambo when they comeback from the battlefield to lead a normal life.

As Col.Jessup said in Few Good Men,

"You want me on that wall,you need me on that wall ! "

A big standing Salute to all Soldiers of this world !

(The Videos and songs listed here are what came to my mind while blogging this, and are not intended to mean any disrespect to any Soldier)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Perceptions : Miscellaneous incidents from life in San Deigo

Perceptions sometimes get changed in an instant and a few occupy a permanent place in a cozy corner of one's memory...

Helpful Lady @ the Airport -

I was waiting for my connecting flight to San Diego from Los Angles and it suddenly struck me that i still didn't know if anyone was coming to pick me up in San Diego. As i hadn't yet used dollars with me, i didn't have any coins for the pay phone. All around me were people hurrying about to catch their flights or busy minding their own business. I tried to make some eye contact in the hope of asking for some help but to no avail. As luck would have it, i couldn't see a Indian around . I wish i saw that proverbial Malayali who is supposed to be in all corners of the world.

So i decided to buy a burger and went to a nearby shop. I ordered the burger combo and asked for the balance in coins but the girl at the counter had only 1 quarter with her. Wondering what to do next as i slowly walked towards the soda machine and filled by glass (way too big for a new comer from India) with diet coke. As i was moving towards a vacant table, a lady dressed in boardroom formals with a sleek briefcase, a laptop bag and a big shiny leather overcoat called me from behind and asked if i was the one asking for quarters at the counter. When i told yes, she gave me 3 and hurried away...I made my first call later in San diego with those quarters...

Austin 3:16 @ Office -

It was my second day at office and since everyone here had individual rooms, the office corridor looked more like a hotel one to me, being more used to seeing at least 50 people in any direction if i stood up in my India office. As i was standing in front of a office map of room numbers trying to find the conference room i was supposed to be inside 10 minutes ago, i heard a booming voice from behind... "Are you trying to find someone ?"

I turned around to see a guy looking like Austin 3:16 (yep - dark Tee,blue denim shorts with frayed edges , shaved head and a french beard) who then patiently explained the 'route' i had to take to reach my conference room.

'Little Man' @ Vons :

I was on my way to a popular grocery store called Vons and was walking through the big and pretty much empty parking lot when i heard some one call out to me...I turned and looked around but didnt see anyone as it was dark. As i was about to continue my walk towards the store, i heard a loud "Over here" and saw someone waving to me from a dark corner of the parking lot. It turned out to be a guy leaning onto his sport car's door wearing a bandanna on his head with chains all around his neck. I could make out 3 of his friends in the dark close to him and mugging scenes from Hollywood movies flashed through my mind for a second.

The guy called out : "Little guy, do you have any smoke on you ?"

I replied no and walked on...

Among all the customers entering/leaving the Vons store that day, the 'Little man' had the biggest smile for being called so.

...We don't see things as they are. We see them as we are....
- Anais Nin


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Persistence hunting : How our ancestors used to earn their 'Burgers'

...the 8 hr chase has come to an end...the hunter pays tribute to his quarry's courage and strength ; with ceremonial gestures that ensures that it's spirit returns to the desert sands which it came from..

... while it was alive he lived and breathed with it and felt its every movement in his own body...and at the movement of it's death he shared it's pains...

...He gives thanks to the life he has taken so that he may sustain the life of his family waiting for him...

Having seen Avatar in all its 3D glory in the theater some time back, I was seeing it yesterday on DVD by chance. The story as such is like a 70s Hindi movie but then its the whole colurful 3D package that the audience loved...Anyway while seeing the movie, specifically in the scene where the hero completes a successful hunt and thanks the animal for sharing its energy, a faint memory of seeing something similar in National Geography cropped up in my mind...some good old web search (yes it was google) brought me to what I was looking for...Persistence hunting.

To someone who had ordered Jake's special Cheese Burger for lunch, the video was a reality check and reminded how we take the daily food for granted...Philosophy about earning ones own food is good but not the topic I had in mind ...

Persistence hunting is a hunting style where the hunter chases down his prey till the end...its practiced by only one tribe in the whole world even now and the video is worth a watch...its a good one...of course as an icing, you have Sir David Attenborough narrating the scene for you...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chennai Memories & favourite part of Polladavan Movie

After being away from Chennai for around a month, for the first time I thought for some time about my Chennai friends today...Actually I was seeing one of my most favorite portions of the Polladavan movie (guilty of the habit of watching specific scenes of movies repeatedly when bored ).

The scene has great comedy, superb background music, showcases the tensions of nonreciprocating love and comradeship (Disclaimer : YMMW).

Now i have watched this portion of the movie many many times...but today it brought back the memories of Chennai weekends...dont ask me why...maybe its because of hearing Tamil, or maybe becuase it was seeing friends spending time together...

We used to have a gang of 10/12 guys who used to meet on Fridays and Saturdays and do nothing except hang around and talk about anything and everything under the sun and after mid night, we would go to Gopal Chettans Tea Shop and have sizzling omelet and hot Tea..The talks would resume once we are back and continued many a time till the wee hours of the morning...

Times have changed and some of us have moved to other places but i am sure that every once in a while we all think about those weekends spend on top of terrace or on the wall overlooking the vast ground, laughing and pulling each other legs while waiting for the Kerala Barbaque 'in Velachery Style' getting ready...Well that's another post in itself...but later...not now... for tonight my dear friends, is dedicated to going through the photographs of those weekends...

There's a saying that revenge is dish that tastes best when its cold ... I think such a person just has to try the dish of nostalgia and i am sure he will be hooked for life

Monday, March 29, 2010

Its yet another normal workday coming to an end (its 10 past 12,so its over I guess) and apart from the fact that i slipped and fell twice in the bath tub in a span of 1 min (first one was accidental and then second when when I tried to reproduce the bug), I had one of the best dinners of my was nothing special other than 3 room mates getting together and cooking a normal dinner with no special occasion to speak of.

If you have read my old blog on cooking, you would know I am not even a average cook. But as my roomate upon hearing my shaky confession (that i have never cooked a vegetarian dish ) told with a serious face on day one , " Once in US everyone learns to cook..."

Well today we cooked Rice,Alu fry and Shahi Panner and in a span of 3 weeks I have got hands on exp on the following items :

Alu fry
Shahi panner
Panner masala
Bhindi curry
Mix veg
Mushroom curry
Egg curry
Chinese Noodles with soya sauce
The humble Rice & Dal (which is highly under rated when its freely available)
Veg biriyani
Gobi masala
Cabbage roast
and last but not the least , the daily ritualistic Masala Chai with ginger,cardamom and masala...

This blog started as a notepad list of the items I have cooked in such a short time and when I saw the number of things in it, I thought about blogging it.

For someone to whom cooking equated to chicken curry (made with no specific plan, other than adding all the masalas that one could lay hands on) its been a fun ride which just seems to be getting better each day...this may not be the case for the guys who have to eat up all this...a.k.a. my room mates...

PS : I do ensure there is milk and cereal in stock before I start cooking


Sunday, March 21, 2010

America's Finest City is really Munnar with beaches

(Having been in US for only two weeks as i write this , and having not been to any place other than San Diego, i have no reference to validate the city's 'Finest City in America' tagline. But many friends who have worked in other states confirm its true and since this tag is very popular it must be true indeed.)

The climate in Munnar in and around summer consists of cold chilly winds along with bright sunlight where you feel cold in the shadows while love the warmth of the sun when in sunlight.San Diego has similar climate (at least in feb- march but its getting warmer now). Plus the city has great beaches, so for someone who lived in Munnar for 4 years, this place is a blessing compared to the more extreme temperatures of other states.

Lesson #1(in US) :
The first and most important thing you learn in the US is being independent in all aspects.

When i landed in San Diego airport and reached the entrance,there was hardly anyone around to be seen . I had four quarters (how i got them will be told in another post) with me so without reading the instructions on the payphone i put in the coins and dialed my new colleague's number whom i have never met till them. Needless to say i never saw those 2 quarters again and nor did i get my call connected ! Now stuck with just 2 quarters i dialed first, then put the coins, and was relieved to hear my colleague on the other side, who gave me the directions for the hotel which was to be my stay for a week.

Standing at the entrance of the airport with the cold chilly wind blowing fast and the sunlight vanishing behind the horizon among the gray clouds, i felt a bit alone...There was hardly anyone around at the entrance so i asked the security guard about the cab and then got one. I had noted only the address and not the name of the hotel so when my cab reached the address i was not sure if it was the correct place. Coming from a country where one is used to see std/isd booths at every nook and corner, the rarity of seeing a pay phone was a discomfort indeed when you dont have your own phone.

Lesson 2 : What you took for granted in India like payphones everywhere,cheap phone plans,cheap taxis,cheap and more importantly robust public transport connecting even the remote nooks and corners of the city were blessings indeed.

Lesson 3 : You seem to have lot of free time in your hands when your new to a city, but more so when your new to US.

Will keep posting about what i see around here and give my lessons learned gyan as i really feel the need for a outlet of my thoughts after coming here so God save any readers of this blog :-)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Music is what life Sounds like...

May it be the Mortal combat title song which takes me to my school days when 45 of us bunked school and went for the first day show,the day I felt my body wanting to break into weird dance steps on hearing Chikubuku raile (Gentleman) for the first time which also incidentally introduced me to Tamil music n AR Rahman, Hotel California (Eagles) which brings back misty evenings of Munnar college life into memory, Pachey Riramey (Alaipayuthey) which was the only song allowed to play in the hostel on the eve of the first semester Exams during Engineering(allowed only once every hour throughout the night)..., Har ghadi badal rahi hai (KHNH) while I was sitting on the wall of PWD hostel during the preparations for the last hostel day of their's and then the fact hit me that college life is over and everything around me started moving in slow motion for a while...songs have a way of stirring up old memories...

The below list of songs hold a special place in my heart and are related to particular phases of life. Whenever I hear them, each one brings back a distinct warm memory to my mind and a barely visible smile comes to my face for a second or so as i relive those old days for a few seconds...

Ore Nyabagam (Minnale) ;
Ente Ellaam (Meesha Madhavan) ;
O Hansini (Kishore Kumar) ;
Vaseegara (Minnale) ;
Fear of the Dark (Iron Maiden) ;

Most of such songs are the threads that instantly take us back to those memorable occasions and reminds us of those special faces and those golden old days when life was as carefree as one wanted it to be.I am sure you have your own big list of such songs too, so do take some time to go back to them...

Someone wise had once said Music is what Life sounds like...and i couldn't agree more...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How to Save the Tiger

Image courtesy :

2010 is the Year of the Tiger as per the Chinese calendar and as you rightly guessed, this blog is the result of the recent Aircel-WWF ad campaign for the Save our Tiger initiative.

So I am doing my bit now to help out those stripped majestic creatures whom we call with pride as our National Animal - the Tiger

My fascination for tigers started by reading shikar books by Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson...the jungles and incidents they described in such vivid detail created a visual effect akin to seeing Avatar on screen in 3D ;-) ...

So this post is also a dedication to one of the first Tiger conservationist in India : Jim Corbett (in pic with the leopard of Rudraprayag which killed 125 plus people till it was slain by Jim Corbett )

Lot of people are spreading the message to 'Save Tiger' via social networking sites and twits and I was doing the same but then it felt like I was shifting the actual responsibility of saving the tigers onto others. Now spreading the news of this danger of losing the tigers is a good thing but I wanted to do more and checking the various sites gave the impression that many people do want to help but dont know how to help , other than spread the word for now.

We all know that the presence of a tiger shows the health of the jungle, ie a single healthy tiger validates the presence of around 100 of healthy jungle environment (which in turn ensures the survival of countless flora and fauna in the same area) . So instead of telling people to save the trees, the undisturbed grasslands in the forests, the pristine mountains or to tell them not to kill deer,wild boar,wild buffaloes etc, its simple to tell in one single line : Save the Tiger !

Direct threats to Tigers :

1. Disappearance of forest area and human killing of the tiger's prey :

The biggest threat to tigers is the disappearance of prey which has resulted in the existence 300,000 sq.kms of tiger habitat which hardly has any tigers as there is not enough prey for the tigers to survive and breed successfully .

2. Direct poaching.

3. Getting killed in conflicts with humans when tigers accidentally enter human settlements which exist very close to the reserve forests.

People can Vote while Tigers cant !!!

So any effort done to save tigers should directly address the 3 points above and according to me , the best step is to help the people living next to tigers. (See video below)

I had attended a workshop by Kids for Tigers , as this initiative was being sponsored by my company, and the organizers thought the company staff should also know about saving tigers.

During the session, we were told that the main aim was to bring in the love for the tiger in the kids because even if one of them reaches a high (political) position, then the tigers will get saved. After all, all the tiger reserves in India got created because Indira Gandhi loved tigers !

But its too big a risk to wait for the kids to grow up with the love for tigers intact in them :-)

So what can we do ???

1. Go green :

2. Save greenery anywhere you see it.

We are not concerned about a woodland being cleared or a small hill being flattened if it happens 50 kms away until the same thing causes the water level to fall in our own backyard.

Already most of the cities have outsourced the food and water supplies to others, so just imagine what will happen if the goods carries and tanker lorries start coming back empty handed...

As we become more and more independent on our food,water and livelihood requirements, the less will our eyes stray towards the forests...

3. Get involved with NGOs :

which work for the welfare of the people who directly protect tigers (forest rangers) and for the welfare of the people living near forest areas.
Because even if we all urban people show our love for tigers online, it wont matter if these key people don't have anything to gain by protecting tigers !

NGOs help in collecting news from various sources and spreading awareness so that you and me can try to pitch in, which will only happen when we know about some issue...

4. Read more on how to help the Tiger by googling and visiting sites like

5. Last but not the least, Spread the word by sharing links via twits and other social networking sites, forwarding emails to friends, bringing up this topic when chatting offline.

So lets come out and do our bit so that the Tiger continues to roar in our jungles for ages to come...

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? - William Blake(1757–1827)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Motor Cycle Diaries

( This post is a way to Thank some great people and dedicated in no particular order to - Nit, Adda, Ak, Amalu, Biju, Albert , the Friend mentioned below, Mada, Binu, Neha & Undappan )

Everything was going fine until his friend said : "My office cab is only at 11 pm and i will reach very late by take a bus now would mean i will have to walk alone on the streets..."

As chain snatching by bike borne youths was rampant , he offered to catch a bus and meet her mid way at the bus stand and escort her to her home.He was glad that buses still ran this late and he could help her out.But while escorting her to her home a silent thought troubled him...what if next time the bus service is not there...what would he do...there was only one way out... and he had known that fact for a long time now but never faced it...

His earliest memory of trying a hand at cycling was when he was in the 3rd standard and it was of going down a slope, only to lie at the bottom in a heap...that was the end of cycling as the thought of taking a risk and being ridiculed again put a damper to his spirits.High school was walkable from home so he never 'needed' to ride...

As years went by, the fear of trying a hand at cycling at an older age stopped any momentary wishful thoughts of cycling that dared to come up.While friends rode on cycles he didn't feel missing out on anything...he had given up hope and resolved to be four wheel driver for life ; albeit when he got the car that is ;-)

4 days to be on Road :

In College, his friends pushed him into giving cycling another try...and in 2 days he was cycling on an open ground...confidence and friend's motivation brought him to the next stage : Cycling on the open Road. As expected, within 5 minutes on the road, he banged into a kid walking by...the kid was sore but by Gods grace nothing was broken, so he and his 'personnel escort service' (comprising of 2 guys on cycles in the front and two guys on cycles at the back) moved on...Since the winding mountain roads of Munnar were dangerous, the strategy was if any big vehicle came from the front or back the respective escort team of two would shout out to was a peculiar site for onlookers who didn't get fully get what was happening seeing 5 guys cycle in military formation...

In total he rode the cycle for around 4 days but the next stage of progressing to bikes didn't materialize...his college being on a hill station made parents reluctant to get him a again riding took a back seat and confidence dropped back to being low...

Kinetic : Open ground -> Estate Roads -> Hill Stations National Highway

When all hopes of progressing to a bike were lost, out of the blue, a dare devil friend of his accepted to sit behind him on a kinetic with the 4 days of cycling few months back still fresh in memory, he gave it a try...and found it more easier that cycling ! Seeing that he was getting his confidence his friend urged him to take the kinetic out of the open ground and through the small tea estate roads where traffic was almost nil.They reached the main road connecting the hill station some 20 kms below and his friend urged him to move on.Driving on empty roads was one thing but the mountain national highway was a different ball game. Also it had started to rain by then but the thrill was too much to give up now...So he continued to drive to the town below. Barely 3 kms from the town, he rammed the kinetic on a boulder and both of them fell...his friend jumped up, put up a brave face and told him that if he stopped now, he will never lose the they rode on.

When they reached the town, his friend who wanted him to start driving solo, got down and told something about a pending errant and left hastily...Now it dawned to him that he had to drive the kinetic solo...this brought up the memories of the kid he rammed and of the numerous 'final destination' kind of accident scenarios in his last he drove the 2 kms alone and reached his room being wet,tired,shaken but feeling on top of the world...his room mates didn't believe that he rode all the way from the top for such a long distance and they actually came out in the rain and made him ride in front of them to make sure he wasn't lying. It was one time when he didn't mind going back into the rain and he proudly gave a demo ride for his friends...

Mattupetty Trip

Within 2 days of handling the kinetic, confidence and adrenaline based bravado made him take the kinetic from Munnar to Mattupetty dam...On the way, seeing his swaying style of driving, a loaded truck actually stopped on the side and let him pass through thinking that he was a drunkard on wheels while actually he was trying to keep the bike in a straight line !
Even now that day sends shivers down his spine and he never forgets to thank God for bringing him back in one piece through the 30 odd km journey through the winding mountain roads of Munnar.

Free License

When we went for the license test he got cold feet as he knew that he couldn't take the mandatory '8' with the bike so he actually had to give it in writing to the authorities that although he applied for two wheeler license, he did not want it and to grant him only the 4 wheel license, the test for which he passed. Lady luck loved him so much that in spite of all this, the dept goofed up and gave him the two wheeler license as if urging him to get on a bike asap !

Chennai - Own wheels at last

A job in Chennai followed and office being nearby gave riding a back seat...One day he and another friend who needed to learn riding bought a old kinetic honda for 3 grand, did all the repairs and then forgot about it ! It stood safely in the garage gathering dust...

And then the phone call happened...

He knew that it was odd to ask for help to learn to ride again at this age , but then as the adage goes 'Better late than never', he asked his roommate to help him out. The roomie used to go for badminton practice every day at 5 am and told him to come along...His friend would drive him to a 5km long road which was still not fully open for traffic where he would practice...the freshly built 50 foot wide road with hardly any traffic was like a dream runway and he quickly got back to riding with confidence. Then he started riding the kinetic at 5 am on the by-lanes near his flat and then slowly started to ride during day time. His arch nemesis , came back in the form of a cycle born kid who rammed into his kinetic one day but luckily nothing was broken except the front indicators.

Since the kinetic didn't have any RC book or insurance, the next step of driving it through traffic didn't work out...The rampant police checking in his locality to catch bike born chain snatchers only made matters worse so the riding was done in near by areas only...

An old rusty motorcycle of a friends was the next step...his friend told that there was nothing wrong with the bike except that its brake was almost nil and it had no horn ! Excellent choice for a learner was their opinion. Good sense prevailed and he got the brakes corrected and followed up with a week of lessons near a railway station.

One day while riding near a deserted road near a railway station at night, he switched on the headlights, put the bike in 4th gear and raced like hell...

It was a moment worth all the effort till now.

His only wish is to spread the word that its never too late to try your hand at your dreams as you have 100% chance of missing the shots you don't take. So got out and Face your Fears !

And as for him, he has miles to go before he sleeps....miles to go....