Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

May 12th - Day 1 in Cannes

An artist making a sand sculpture at the Riviera/ Croisette beach..

Ok. blogging from Cannes, reporting live about the happenings here.

The Palais and the surroundings is bustling with activity. Contractors running to and fro, laying of the red carpet, barricades for the public and the parparazzi are being set up. The hotels around, the Majestic, Carlton and Hilton have been decked up with larger than life cut-outs and posters. The D-day is tomorrow when the place becomes filled with the who's who of the World film industry attending the screening. What am I doing here? Well, just got a tad lucky to be here ;)

The place during the festival becomes so expensive. The apartment I am staying 10 min from the Palais costs an atrocious 300 Euros per day and yet is cramped up.. I am told the cost to book this place in any other time is around 80-100 Euros.

Nothing much to do here right now, so i will get the accreditation done, have food and beer with a couple of good friends and click some snaps and post it here.

Till then.. au revoir!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rishikesh - Rapidfire Action!!!

Under the sheet of a starry sky,
We bade our worries goodbye.
Away from reality, it seemed
A distant dream fulfilled.

The arms of the flowing river
Tossed us far up into air,
All squealing in laughter,
Our hearts filled with joy.

We jumped from a cliff,
We where swept in a whiff
We slept in the sand
Caressed by mother’s hand

We lived like there is no tomorrow
We laughed like there is no sorrow
We walked on the sands of the river bank
Where there were no trails to follow.

If you have not taken a risk in your life, you probably have never lived in your entire life. Few people who have dared to take this risk will tell you how true this is. The experience of risking all, engraves moments in your heart that will make you smile till eternity.

Our trip to Camp Rapidfire began in the wee hours of the morning. We left from Gurgaon at 5.30 in the morning. The entire gang was finally picked up from Connaught Place and we were on the road by 7.00 on the way through Ghaziabad, Meerut, Roorkee, Haridwar and Rishikesh, with many stops in between for the growling stomach and the overflowing bladder. The roads were all bumpy and it always seemed that the better side of the road was on the other side. The car whizzed past sugarcane plantations, canals and intermittent towns, which were bustling with activity in its markets. The intermittent misspelled English hoardings, instructions and warnings gave us a reason to smile and the nonsensical fights between Udit, Gurjeet and Karan made us wonder about the various hidden mysteries of life.

As the long winding roads on the hill overlooked at the Ganges far below, the rapids looked considerably small and the river seemed friendly. The height was unprecedented and there was no sense of scale. The waves looked tiny and made me think that it was easy to tame it. Well, it was only time that revealed who tamed who!

We were already late by a few hours and Shane informed us that we would be going for rafting directly from Marine Drive and later head to the camp. Rafting activities had to be closed on the river by 5.00 PM. We reached Marine Drive at about 3.00 PM. The first activity here was to sign away our lives disclaiming any responsibility on the organizers if we lost our lives! Phew! It was so heartening to hear that we are solely responsible for our own death. Gave me a belief that this procedure would build accountability into employees if this method was adopted for corporate organisations.

We were then handed over safety gears, a life jacket, helmet and an oar. Hari da and Deepu were our guides for the rafting trip. They were our saviors in case we were swept away in the currents which now, that we were close to it looked to be at a speed of 50 to 60 km per hour. Hari Da is a veteran in river rafting for the past twenty years, and Deepu, a national level kayaking champion. The team then was neatly divided and within no time we were in the water. Hari da first spotted the swimmers and the non-swimmers. So that I know who to rescue first in case of a capsize, he would tell us later at the bonfire. A couple of exercises, Forward paddle, Backward paddle, stop… etc, later we were asked to jump into the water. This was for everyone, including the nn swimmers to know how it would be if they were thrown into the water, that they were safe. The water was chilling. It must have been approximately 6 degrees. After floating for a while we were on our way to the baby rapids. The waves that we had seen from the top as tiny waves were in fact magnanimous in its size. The first rapids were named as ‘The Glasshouse’ and ‘Black Money’. A little while later came the ‘Three blind mice’ which were three consecutive rapids. The name was due to the fact, Hari da tells us that the patter on the waves keep changing in the three rapids making it difficult to navigate. It became quite evident at this point that we were just hitting the paddles into the water, but it was Hari da, who was controlling the entire raft with two big oars in the back. The Tree blind mice rapids were huge enough for everybody to gulp down water of the ganges. After this was a long course of plain water where everyone body surfed before we reached the shore. After a drive back to the camp we trekked down around a kilometer to reach the white, pristine beach which had a row of tents put up towards the mountain, where we all parked our bags and hit to the sand. The food was amazing an the drinks overflowing. Shane and Hari da joined us telling us about the exploits of the ganges and the perils in rafting.

April 7, is termed as a ‘High alert day’ along the river. Almost every year, there HAS been a casualty(read deaths) in the river, either someone drowning or a leopard attack. Shane later explained us with exquisite detail how it is mostly swimmers who drown as they try to save themselves using their knowledge of swimming. Apparently, swimming in the rivers and in a pool is very different from each other. Hari da said that he could easily navigate through the river water but if he was put in a swimming pool, he would probably drown. Shane explained to us that the following day we would be doing the “Golf Course” which had nine consecutive rapids. There were huge chances of capsizing. Even more so the ‘Wall’ would also be challenging as all the rafts that had attempted it on the day had capsized. Post dinner it was all games and fun at the bonfire. Splashing up the early sleepers and recounting humorous stories of the past led us into the dark night under the starry sky.

The earling morning bought in the fog that was illuminated by the lanterns that burnt through the night outside our tents. Many of us preferred to sleep outside the tents under the sky. An hour later , started the game of beach volleyball after which Shane called us for breakfast after which we were to do the Grade III and IV rapids. A wonderful breakfast and an hour later, we left for the place we had finished yesterday. The team remained the same. Stories from the last night trickled into our minds. Some of us changed positions. I became the High tider. The High Tider is the one who has to push the front of the raft down and his responsibility was to drink a lot of water. I think the high tider has the best view of the raft, as the raft dives into the wall of water, the exhilaration and the excitement it generates is tremendous. The first rapid was ‘Rollercoaster’. There were two rafts ahead of us. Hari da jokingly told us, you might get to see how a raft topples. Everyone fixed their gaze at the other two rafts. The two other rafts went to the side indicating Hari da to take on the rapids first. The tables had turned. We would be the first one to ride the rollercoaster rapid. And probably we would be the first one to capsize too! Soon, huge walls of water came dashing into the raft and within no time we were out of the rapid. Everyone was fine and everyone was inside the raft.

Later came two gentle rapids called ‘Clubhouse’ and the ‘T-off’. Well it was not gentle, but the rollercoaster had prepared us for more difficult stuff. T-off was the rapid which then led us to the Golf course. All of us got off the raft and went along with Hari da to read the rapids. The other guides from other rafts joined him. Hari Da gave instructions. Get into the rapids sideways to the left of the stream. You should be fine. Within no time we were in the rapids. Huge walls of water came crashing into the raft, this time waves bigger than the earlier ones. The time we were in the rapids were longer. Waves after waves hit the rafts trying to topple it, but Hari da wouldn’t let go. All the other paddlers screamed and paddled hard, all the synchronization thrown far away by the unruly rapids. Soon we were out of the rapids intact. We turned aound to look at other rafts. All of them made it without capsizing. The smile on Hari da’s face showed that he was glad everyone was out of the rapids safely. Then came the cliff jumping. A cliff 20- 30 feet high beckoned all of us to make the jump. Looking down from that height, the calm water looked as if it was waiting to gulp its next prey. I then let go off myself into the water. I felt my arms ripping apart. Unknowingly, my arms had spread apart as it hit the water. In no time I was on the surface checking my arms which had gone red at the impact. Swimming next to the raft, as I inspected my red arms, I hear someone shouting out. Vikrant was being swept away in the flow of the water and he had reached quite far. Shane dived into the water and pulled him to the raft by his life jacket. Vikrant was shivering as he was pulled on to the raft. Shane was a hero that day. One miscalculation and lack of attention could have changed the rest of the day for all of us. Later we all rowed to the shore and then drove back to the camp. The food smelled great and all of us went hogging around as if we were hungry for years. Slowly each part of our body started aching, making its presence felt. Some of us lazed around the tents while some of us tied ourself to ropes and went body surfing into the ganges. In the evening it was time for some rock climbing. A 20 ft rock was our target. Many of us did it with ease. The highlight of the climb being that of Gurjeet who took 25 minutes to cross a certain point. His tummy was coming in between, he promsed he will ‘try’ to reduce his beer drinking habit!

In the night everyone got back to the camp and Hari da organized camp games called levitation and also a round of truth or dare. Another game was the boat race which involved drinking beer bottoms up in succession by two different teams. The truth and dare extended into the night and after dinner, everyone crashed into a deep slumber.


The morning was lazier than the day before. Each of our body parts aching for rest. A minimum of 8 people were required to do the Wall, but the number did not add up. So we had to be content to see other rafts doing the wall. Some of us went up the road to watch the rafts doing the wall. Far away at the top, the raft looked like dots in the waves. One of the raft toppled down and the guys were swept away. A kayak that had gone along with them was on a rescue operation. The second raft became a bit lighter as two people opted out of the raft prior to the rapids. The only option for the raft was to avoid the rapids as it was sure that it would over turn. The raft went through the side but soon was caught up in the whirlpool and they remained stuck in it. No amount of paddling would rescue them out of it. All of them sat still waiting to be rescued. Shane told us how a girl had got caught in the whirlpool. It took nine hours to rescue her. They had to rapple and pull her up out of the whirlpool.

Risking your life is a way to overcome the fear of loosing your life. And this fear is an emotion that can take years to heal, but yet can be healed in a fraction of a second. Once your fears of loosing your life are conquered; there is nothing far greater to fear of!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Lonavala Trip

After a long time, it was time to take a break. A break that was needed to introspect on where life was heading, where am i in terms of my dreams that i wanted to achieve. So when the Diwali weekend came, i decided to take off. Diwali has always been like this for me. I would just take off, away from the madness, and explore the interiors of different states. Two Diwali's earlier i had discovered Kollur, Mookambika and there was a huge gap after that. So I decided to go somewhere close, yet a place where few had gone. Kunal and I along with his dog, Sasha were my company. We were meeting after a long long time and wanted to make the most out of it. Kunal had a small get together at their farmhouse on Diwali day, so we had to stay put till the functions got over. So i had to baby sit Sasha, when he wasnt there. Finally on Sunday, we hit the road. In search of the elusive beautiful landscape, which we can aspire to look at every day some day.

We drove down the Old Pune highway. On the right, came a board which mentioned KAMSHET village. Inquisitive, we took a right turn. I had heard about Kamshet village, but i donot remember where, but the name was vivid in my memory. As we drove down we encountered nomads, trekking with their mules. It was a beautiful sight. A group of people walking n the road, with all their belongings they own, on animal backs, including their pets. The cutest was the rooster tied on to a basket, that wuld try to fly out flapping its wings.

We could see the hills at a distance completely covered in green, inviting us. A few winding roads and we opened into a small village junction bustling with activity. People walked in the centre of the roads and there was no use honking. The roads were owned by them, they got the first preference. As we drove ahead, around 15 kms from the highway, we saw a huge wall that was spread before us for many meters. A left from there and a consecutive right and the view that we saw was the most amazing. It was of a dam, Palini dam. Photography was prohbited, and a guard came and started to talk to me in marathi, and i started to talk in gibberish. Finally, he gave up and i took some snaps...

After soaking in the beauty for another 10 min, we decided to explore further. The light was dimming, but we took our chances, and we were glad, we did. After a five minute uphill drive, we came up to a mount which i swear, was the place, i saw my dream house to be built. The beauty was unparallelled and the view breath taking. The clouds had given way to the sunrays to bless a little hill on the horizon, I knew, this is the place i wanted my weekend home.

I had my visions of my home, with a small drive-in, a pool and a study that over looked the view. Check out this link
Filled with greed we headed further. A board of 'Girivan' donned the roads. We followed the route and ended up in a place which is being cultivated for weekend homes. Acres of land being sold out for building bungalows and for horticutltural purposes. The cost of half an acre began at 8 lakh rupees, with a valley view. The place was nice, with good security and infrastructure. Kunal was interested in buying a plot there, and inquired about the project, while i walked down with Sasha to the edge of the valley remembering the view i had seen earlier. The image is now on my desktop reminding me about something i aspire for. The journey back was in darkness, but there was a light at the other end of the road...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Cannes - a photo blog

Old Cannes Street - in the night.
The night is full of aroma of good food and wine.

Old Cannes - Daylight

View from my hotel - A lovely serenading blue

The venue of Cannes MIPTV - Palais de Festivals

All the designer shops are on this street - La Croisette

A million yachts of Billionaires finds its way at this port

View of the Fort with the church - Ville de Cannes

Clocktower on the fort

View of Cannes from the fort

Snaps of paintings in the church

City Art from Ville de Cannes

An enigmatic Sunset

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Day - 3: The Sunrise

16th March 2006

I was awakened in the night by the breeze that whispered through the little openings in the window. I went out and the moon was just in the place the sun was in the evening. I looked at my watch. It was 3 in the morning. Behind, the other two guys also were not able to sleep, so we dcided to trek up to Sarvagnyapeetham. There was enough moonlight for us to climb.

The only thing we had to be careful were snakes. So we set off, armed with a camera and our mobile phone acting as a torch. Though there was no mobile range here, there was enough light in the screens to show us the way. As we trekked up in the darkness, we lost our way twice. The detours led us into a bush where there was no way ahead, and the second time, it led us to an edge of the cliff. Thanking the moonlight, we retreated back to the fork which led us nto the wrong direction. The third path was the right one. Slowly trudging on the cobbled path, we reached the top. It took us around 45 minutes to reach there.

To our surprise, we saw many people around the little shrine that was built of worn out stones. Some were asleep while some were meditating. “Are they sanyasis, or are they naxalites I was being told about?” There was not a stir amongst them as we passed by them. We went behind the little structure and the scene was to be seen to be believed. The full moon was high up in the sky bathing the valley below, which looked like an ocean of clouds that had just frozen in time. On the opposite side was a horizon bathed in pink and mauve and blue. Suddenly there was a flurry of electronic sounds on my mobil phone. There were messages from the earlier day, wishing a Happy Holi. I pressed the buttons on my fone and smsd all my important friends. Once the messages had gone, the range of the mobile failed. We were back alone on the mountains. one with the universe, the sun, the moon and the beauty that surrounded us.

As time ticked by, the moon was setting and the sun was rising. At almost the same time, the wonders of the world that are displayed every day, coincided, only to be experienced by a privileged few. Maybe, it was for this experience, I was here. Maybe, the people around me were just guides for me to reach there to experience the miracle called life.

The experience was one of the most sacred and spiritually awakening experience after my trip to the Himalayas. As I closed my eyes to feel the atmosphere, a feeling of calm swept into my heart. A feeling that cannot be explained, but it was a feeling that would remain distinct in my life forever. Perched high on the mountain I realized, it takes hard work, dedication and persistence to reach to the top. On the way, we find resistence, hurdles, problems… We might trudge the wrong path which can take us to impending disasters or dead ends. It is upon us to know when to retreat, take steps backwards and go on the right path again. At the end, when you look back from the top, the world is the most beautiful, the most exorbitant, and the little problems, hurdles and resistance are nothing but a mere fiction of imagination which challenges us to reach to the top. In the end, only if you deserve to be at the top will you be at the top, and there is no one who will stop you from reaching there except yourself!

I would not continue about my climb down, for it is nothing extraordinary, except that the extraordinary feeling that I carried back from the top. A light breakfast, a heavy lunch, a rocky ride later, I reached my hometown, back into obscure reality that looked more like a nightmare I would like to forget while the trek on the mountain remained etched as a dream that I will remember forever.


As the clouds cleared...

The Sun-kissed Valley

View from the room

The little pond next to the Bhatts house overlooking into the valley