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Whirlwind non-stop tour – A travelogue

Happened to travel to Delhi on a family visit last week. This was one whirlwind of a tour – spread over 7 days, inclusive of travel to and fro from Benagluru, accompanied by my wife, mom, sister and my 5 year old niece.

Day 1

We started off on a Saturday morning from Bangalore with a typical rough ride to the airport. The flight was at 8:40 AM, which meant that we had to be at the airport at least by 7:30 AM and that meant leaving from home by 6 AM, given the unpredictability of Namma Bengaluru traffic. As it happens generally with vacations like these, the cabbie reported late and then to our horror, stopped at the fuel station to refuel as soon as we set off. I could see my mom saying muted prayers to invoke divine blessings to make sure that we reached the airport on time. Blessings they did provide! From then on, it was a mostly incident free journey to the airport, save the rough ride!

I was surprised by the change at the Delhi airport, more at the fact that there was so much space, which I had never imagined possible at the cramped old arrival terminal. The fact is that the infrastructure in Delhi was a lot better, but that is something that I will talk about on another day.

The sun was scorching and heat close to unbearable. Bengaluru had also played its fair part by bringing down the tolerance levels! My uncle had come to pick us up and we reached our “adopted home” in no time. After lunch, we moved to Noida to my in-laws place.

Day 2

We visited Mayur Vihar Phase-I. Two of my father’s elder brothers live here and we had lunch with one and dinner with the other. It was fun to catch up with all my cousins and their better halves and of course all the kids J Had a gala time. Also visited the Mayur Vihar Uttara Guruvayur temple in the evening to pay respects to Lord Krishna. This was the temple where I had my spiritual awakening about 11 years back 🙂

Day 3

Wife had an interview for MBA at IIMK. This was done on video conferencing from the Noida Hughes centre. Thanks to the advancement in technology, we had set it up so that she could take it from Delhi and thus not affect our planned vacation.

 We set off to Qutab Minar in the mid-morning for some sightseeing. One thing that hit me, apart from the heat literally, was that Indians were charged RS 10 as entrance fee while if you happen to be a foreigner, you will have to shell out RS 250 or 5 Dollars to set your eyes on this historical monument. Talk about preferential treatment 🙂 I for one did not complain, it was fun to be a domestic tourist in Delhi.

After renewing the ties with the sultanate, we moved on to acquire some bliss – Chattarpur Mandir was not far away. Gratification was instant. No sooner had we stepped in and offered our obeisance, God showered us with his holy water. Yes, the clouds opened up. All of us had that look on our face that is a wee bit difficult to describe. Alas, little did we know about what was in store.

We moved on to Palam Vihar, a suburbs near Gurgaon, where the last of my father’s brother lived. He passed away last year and we wanted to meet aunty. After spending some time with them, we returned to Delhi. I started off on the drive back at 6:30 PM. I had the expectation that I would be caught in the rush hour, but the downpour had changed the equation. After numerous diversions, I managed to drop off my Mom and sister at Gole market by 8:45 PM and proceeded on to Noida, only to reach at 11 PM. A distance of 45 kms in 4.5 hours. Come on, you got to be kidding! That is the time I would take to run that distance (full marathon)

Day 4

A late night meant a late morning and after the sumptuous brunch, we proceeded back to Gole Market. This was becoming a set routine. Nights at Noida and the morning drive to Gole Market to pick up Mom an Sis! I could do this route in my sleep now.

Today we planned to visit the Akshardham temple. Before that, we had a date with a positive side of urbanisation…yes a ride on the Delhi Metro. I parked my car at Patel Chowk (Yes. The metro stations have parking and lots of them). After paying for travel up to Kashmere Gate, we moved underground. The stations were clean and under closed circuit surveillance. Though the entry system needed getting used to, I was impressed. This was my second sojourn, but I was as eager as a child awaiting for his first cycle ride. We hopped in to the next tube and enjoyed the ride to our destination. A voice over announced each station as it neared also letting us know which side the platform would be. This was awesome! Can this be done on Indian Railways? As someone who has regularly travelled in the IR system, you would appreciate this. We alighted at Kashmere Gate and then went outside, as if to make sure that this was indeed Kashmere Gate. Once we had established this fact, we went back in bought tickets for the journey back to Patel Chowk to retrieve the car and begin the second leg of Delhi Darshan.

 The next destination was Lotus Temple. We passed the pillar that had given away while under construction on the metro line. We reached Nehru place and I looked at Ansal Towers. This was the building where my career began. Who would imagine that I would be back in about 12 years like this. The Bahaian Lotus Temple, an epitome of silence, was impressive. The structure is built like a blooming lotus. The silence inside was deafening. NO – This is not an oxymoron 🙂

It was now time to visit another impressive structure – The Akshardham temple. I was impressed by the system at the entrance. No mobile phones and cameras allowed inside. The guards were efficient and frisking done ala airport style. The structure was impressive, apparently built without using any steel reinforcements. The temple was closed, but the cultural complex was open. The complex is truly something that has to be seen to be believed. It was like one of the monuments that will survive civilization and continue to awe future generations. We spend a good part of 3 hours inside and returned home. We missed watching the musical fountain and the audio-visual show due to time constraints.

Day 5

How can a vacation be complete without “shopping”! This was the day earmarked for that one dreaded activity. I dread this because I am told that I am ESTJ and like structure, something that you cannot associate with shopping. It is that most unorganized and unstructured of the activities. I told myself in the morning – Dude, you have to bite the bullet!

Off we went to Sarojini Nagar. My folks took to SN market like elephants taking on a sugarcane field (HA HA – for all the mallus out there try to transliterate this into what you hear frequently in Malayalam). The carnage lasted 6 hours and all the heat. At the end of it, I was one tired man.

My niece found the energy to go to India Gate in the evening and I obliged. We were all sweating profusely even at 8 PM in the evening, but in the end, I was glad to have gone there.

Day 6

 The last full day before I flew back. This was kept aside for some return visits and some socialisation. My folks took the opportunity to complete the pending shopping that they had to complete. How in the earth, can someone do so much of buying? Go to SN to find out!

Day 7

Mom was down with dehydration. The doctor paid a visit and gave her an injection. I was worried about her being able to travel! The flight back was at 5 PM and we had to get to the airport by 4 PM. I needn’t have worried since this was Delhi and not Bengaluru. I finished some last minute chores and set off for Gole Market from where we were to leave for the airport. My wife decided to stay back for an additional week in Delhi with her parents.

The new terminal 1D at Delhi IGI aiport was too good to describe. A far cry from the old 1A & 1B terminals. GMR had done an impressive job.

 The flight back was pretty uneventful and we reached Bangalore by 8:30 PM. It had rained here and the temperature was pleasant. What a change from Delhi. The traffic though was bad and almost had me wishing I hadn’t come.

That culminated a week long hectic, but enjoyable vacation. There were a lot more that I wanted to do – visit Haridwar & Rishikesh, visit Teen Murti Bhavan, Raj Ghat etc. Time was a constraint, but I hope to do this in my next visit. Till then, Adieu!

Test Cricket – Writing an obituary too soon?

Back to my favorite topic – Cricket! Pundits around the world have been busy the last month or so. They have been busy writing an obituary to Test Cricket. Not to blame them – The last 3 months or so have seen an explosion of pajama cricket. With IPL II generating the kind of interest that it did, it was an easy thing to do. IPL managed to successfully export its fan following outside India. This was followed by the T20 world cup in England. Though watching cricket in England is not the same as it is in South Africa, people will admit. All this contributed in a sense to the early “Obituary”.

ICC was busy getting its act together. There was a talk of cutting down the duration of Test matches to 4 days, increasing the pathetic over rates and even changing the color of the ball to Orange! What next?

I strongly believe that ICC has gotten it all wrong. Test Cricket is not dead, nor is it going to be gone that easily. Not if the first 2 test matches from the current Ashes series, serve as any indicator. The grounds were full and the quality of cricket did not disappoint. England managed to hold on to a narrow draw at Cardiff and then came up with a convincing win at Lords. ECB & MCC have always done enough to attract crowds to the test matches. Most grounds are very spectator friendly. They also have the big wide screen for people who missed the live action. Except for the famed English weather, watching test cricket appears to be fun. The other thing that seems to be helping – ECB is not eager to exploit ODIs and T20s. There is no overkill and of course, the stage actors (the players) get enough rest!

The other boards need to learn from ECB, especially the BCCI. BCCI created the IPL cash cow and is busy milking it. They better be careful, or the slam bang variety could soon be replaced by the T10 gully variety. Cricket in India could also end up like the story of the goose that laid the  golden egg. If they play it carefully, there is enough slice of the pie left for Test cricket and ODIs. BCCI needs to encourage the crowds at Test match venues. They can start off by reducing the ticket rates. They also need to improve the facilities for the paying spectators. This has to go hand in hand with the ICC initiatives aimed at improving the over rates and generally making Test cricket more interesting. Having a separate calendar will also help. The players need to be treated well and not be pushed to the brink! The BCCI also needs to rein in its state boards. There is a talk of KPL – Karnataka Premier League! I understand the intention is to give exposure to more local players,  but if this were to become another IPL?

June has changed

Dear Blog,

I realized this morning that it has been a while since I paid you a visit. I was wondering about the reason and I figured that June has come and gone in a jiffy. It is a month full of meetings, deliberations and speculations. It is one month when even the most silent will make noise! You have to pay extra attention to weed out the noise and make sure that whatever you hear is relevant. Then there is the inevitable planning sessions when you are trying  hard to innovate and come up with breakthrough thinking. What was it called again? Ah..yes, Ideate! June also gives you that pulsating feeling that you go through when you are trying to look ahead and try to predict or see ahead, whatever is in store for you around the next bend in the road. This June was no different.

June was never like this. In my childhood, I was taught that June heralds the Monsoons. It would be pretty hot in April & May when you have the summer vacations. You ignore the heat and try to have a pretty good time hopefully. June 1st meant that the school reopened. You wake up early and wear the brand new uniform along with the new pair of shoes and step out of the house carrying the brand new bag all set for the new academic year. As you set out, clouds gather and as if by magic, to keep their date with June, the rains arrive. This is perhaps the one common image that people in my home state carry about June. You may miss the date, but the rains will not!

That too has changed now. This year, even the “God of Monsoons” has stayed away, though there has been lot of speculation and reports of one-off sightings from here and there. You can never believe it till you see it. I hope he is not angry and staying away because the kids no longer enjoy puddles like they used to. Well, if they wear “Duckback” overcoats, rubber shoes and carry “Poppy” umbrellas, then whom can the “God of Monsoons” really trouble? He better stay away since that will definitely spell more trouble!

I got into some spring cleaning to break the monotony and discovered some interesting stuff. Chanced upon a disk with some forgotten songs and wow, I wonder how I missed them? This was a collection that reminded me of Monsoons the way I knew it, and then I remembered you! I was sure that you would enjoy it..

While you enjoy them, I got to go..another session of ideation!

IPL II – RIP

When I started off, I did not know what to call this post. I thought I will figure it out as I move forward.

The IPL ver. 2.0 is coming to an end today. The winner will be known in a few hours. Whoever it may be, both the finalists deserve a round of applause. These two teams were at the bottom of the stack in IPL v1. In this version too, they were not exactly toppling the opposition, but have build on their strengths steadily and now stand where they stand.

While reviewing the tournament, I felt that IPL 2 was not as interesting as IPL 1. It was new then and had caught the imagination of the country. The concept of city teams, auctions and merchandise had hit India. There had never been anything like this before. It caught on. In v2, the TRPs were clearly below expectations initially. There were some doubts about the success of an Indian Premier League held away from “India”. Mid-way something obvious happened. Matches were lost or won in the last over. Some teams lost from a very strong position (once, twice and then thrice). This rekindled the interest in IPL. Something looked fishy! The TRPs are back up.. so that was it..It all adds up now… the organizing committee may have had something to do with this 🙂

Something else that added to the spice..the FIP or the Fake IPL Player. This blog purportedly from a KKR insider caught the imagination of fans, media and many others. The nick names for many of the leading players was slightly overdone, but hilarious nevertheless.

One thing IPL v2 did was to give a lot of match practice to all the teams before the ICC T20 world cup. Indians seemed to be in good form.  The bowlers have all done well and the middle order has clicked. There is some worry about the opening pair – Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. They have not fired as well as they would have liked to. Dhoni too has not been in the best of form. He has not been that great with the bat, nor has he impressed with his captaincy. He missed the trick in the semi-finals against RCB. No one could figure out why Jacob Oram was in the XI, nor was Balaji’s role clear. Oram has neither scored runs, nor taken wickets in the recent past in international cricket – a state people call as being “out of form”. Dhoni did not try Ntini who could have made a difference. No one could also figure out why Muttiah Muralitharan was introduced late in the semi-finals. Well, Dhoni is entitled to have an off-day. Hope he gets over it soon 🙂

Overall, except for the doubts raised on the outcome of some matches, IPL v2 has been enjoyable and good to watch, except the fielding :),  Many folks that I talked to, felt that the standards in the field had dropped, or, is this also “by design”?

Go figure 🙂  

Verdict – by the people, for the people!

The people of this country have given the verdict. After a long drawn out process, for which the Election Commission of India needs to be congratulated along with the lakhs of Govt. servants who made this a real democratic people process, the people have decided that they need change. They do not need division, rhetoric and negativity! They do not need the support of a group of people who remain stuck in the 19th century. They do not need help from big time kingmakers with nothing but small numbers. They have decided that (as the media coins it), Singh is King!

Congratulations to the people of India!

It is also a time for introspection. A large chunk of people have remained apathetic to the democratic process, despite large scale evangelization by media, Bollywood and the NGOs. We need to identify the reason for this and identify ways and means to enable at least a sizeable chunk to be part of the process. Could it be the heat? Could it be the large scale migrations that happen frequently or is it just plain apathy? Should we simplify the process by making this an online referendum?

 

Finally, a warning to the new Government – The verdict has been given BY THE PEOPLE of this vast country. It is time that you delivered FOR THE PEOPLE now. We need inclusive growth, development and progress. The NREGA, RTI and JNNURM were good the last time around. We need more of such policies. You seem to have figured out the “What” in your manifesto! Keep revisiting it once in a while. Please do not waste this mandate!!!

In one of the earlier posts, I had expressed my hope that Dr. Shashi Tharoor would make it to the parliament. He has now! The people of Thiruvananthapuram have voted for Dr. Tharoor. Congratulations to Dr. Tharoor and to the people of Thiruvananthapuram.

Will he now find a place in the cabinet? The country could use his vast international experience in many ways. Our foreign policy needs a new direction in the current scenario and who better than Dr. Tharoor to provide this direction?

Some update

The last couple of weeks have been very hectic and time has really flown. The first week, we went on an outbound event and returned late on Friday. The outbound was exceptional and provided some great perspectives. More on that later. This was followed by a team outing of the peer group. An overnight event with, yes you guessed it, lots of spirits!

This week has been lot of catching up.. and in the process, this page got ignored, or to put it right, was not in the list of top 2!

Well this will not be for long. Today will be an exciting day. This great country has given the verdict and it will be out today. There is also a CSK match that is slightly crucial.

Let us wait and watch both these events unfold…

Master Percussionists at work or play!

I had been to Palakkad for a brief holiday last week. My visit coincided with the famous Puthur Thalapoli Vela. This is an annual temple festival that the organizers take great pride in. They line up 13 famous elephants from all over the place and the place is generally all decked up!

There was a pandi melam that extended for close to 3 hours and entertained to the core! The troupe was led by Shri Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, a renowned maestro at chenda vadyam. Needless to say, the 3 hours passed quite quickly. The melam was captivating and the master build up the tempo painstakingly over 2 hours to provide tremendous joy to the hundreds that had gathered. The sound of the chenda (south Indian drum), kuzhal (a form of clarinet) and cymbals resonated in my ears for quite a while. 

This was followed by a sumptuous dinner in the form of  3 hours of Triple Thayambaka. Thayambaka was performed by Shri Mattanur Shankarankutty and his sons. Needless to say, they entertained for 3 hours, again building up the tempo slowly minute by minute till the melam reached its crescendo. Thayambaka is a kind of friendly fight (competition) between the performers. At the end, the winner is always “Art”.

This was six hours of bliss for me. This felt like a feast that the two masters had filled you up to the brim!

How I miss all the other poorams of Palakkad!

 

 As a footnote, Shri Mattanur Shankarankutty was recently awarded the Padmashree award and he was honored by the committee before the performance.


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