Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Deepavali

Posted by Varun | Friday, October 24, 2008 | Category: , | 22 comments

To me, Deepavali was always synonymous with firecrackers. It is hard to believe that I have not touched even a single firecracker in the last two or three years. It is not that I am against bursting crackers. It is just that I am no longer interested in lighting them. I still love to watch fireworks though. I was one of the lucky few who got to watch the New Year fireworks in London. It was one awesome spectacle.

I believe a lot has to do with company as well. I cannot light a flower-pot all alone and clap for myself! During my school days, all my cousins would come to my place in Mandya and we used to enjoy Deepavali for all three days. The crackers would never suffice. This prompted my dad to go to Sivakasi, a town famous all over India for its fireworks factories, to get a carton full of crackers which, believe it or not, lasted for more than 10 Deepavalis :). If you need tips on how to preserve firecrackers, please contact my mom. She did that! I have never ever dared to complain after that :). I need to thank my parents for providing me with what I wanted and, more importantly, when I wanted. 

Three things then started happening parallelly with each passing Deepavali;

- The contents of the box started depleting.
- My cousins and I were growing older and wiser :) 
- I gradually lost interest.

I have had my small accidents lighting small crackers but then "What is a Deepavali without a burnt finger!?” I am now looking for a spark that can ignite the interest back in me. One such little spark is in US of A, my sixteen month old nephew who has just learnt to say “BA-BA-BU-BU”. If he wants to light a firecracker someday I'll be the first person to get him what he wants and I will be more than happy to light it along with him. 

Now, when I look back at each year and remember each person with whom I have shared my joy, I feel overwhelmed. I want to go back - go back and light that 100-wala all over again.

Here's wishing all the readers of my blog a very happy, safe and a prosperous Deepavali. If you love lighting crackers go ahead and light them. Just make sure you read and follow all the safety instructions written behind those cracker boxes. May the glow of prosperity, happiness and joy brighten your days in the year ahead!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

First Impression

Posted by Varun | Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | Category: , , , | 21 comments

I finished my work quite early today and have been listening to new movie songs that I loaded on to my Zune this morning. I have been listening to songs from the movies Fashion,Golmaal Returns and Yuvvraaj


This is not really a review. It is just the first impression that that these songs have had on me. I am going to give them my stars anyway :)

Yuvvraaj - A.R.Rahman and Gulzar have teamed up alright but that Jaane Tu Ya Janane Na spark is missing. Tu Meri Dost hai which has already hit the TV screens is undoubtedly the best track of the album. Salman Khan has managed to strangle Beethoven in one of the tracks but there are other tracks that sound good. The album surprisingly has 8 original tracks and just one remix. The first impressions are not mind blowing but I am hoping that it might start sounding good to ears once I get to watch Katrina in the videos :). Until then, they will all be any other ARR melodious numbers to me. I give it three stars out of five (***). 

Golmaal Returns -  The chor Pritam has managed to compose (or steal) three peppy tracks for this album. Vacancy, Tha Kar Ke and Tu Sala. The rest are just remix versions. The music entertains by illustrating the hilarious feel of the flick. It is not as good as RACE or Jannat but it fits the bill. The Viva girl Anushka Manchanda has one solo track Tu Saala Kam Se Gaya to her name too. Golmaals Returns also gets three stars out of five (***). Three stars for the three lively tracks in the album. 

Fashion - Surprise! Surprise! I loved almost every track in this album. Salim Sulaiman has undoubtedly made a fashion statement with his tracks. The instrumental track Theme of Fashion simply rocks! The santoor used in this track cannot go unnoticed as it is very soothing to ears. The other tracks Jalwa, Mar Jaavan, Kuch Khaas and Aashiyana are quite good. The find of fashion is Shruti Pathak who has sung Mar Jaavan. Her husky, melancholic voice suits the track perfectly. Another Viva girl, Neha Bhasin has made her mark in Kuch Khaas. I give Fashion four stars out of five (****). 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's a new day, it’s a new template

Posted by Varun | Thursday, October 16, 2008 | Category: , , | 33 comments

I loved my old template, I really did but I think I loved it a little too much. I got bored! So here's presenting to you, the all new, the trendy, the cool, Varun's Digital Diary :)

In case you have still not noticed, I have changed my blog template :). The dictionary meaning of change is 'Become different in some particular way, without permanently losing one's or its former characteristics or essence'. That is exactly what I have tried.

Changing templates is one BIG task. Believe it or not, it took me an entire week to zero-in on this particular template and modify it according to my needs. The search for template was no less than a treasure hunt. Even though I had the best tool in business (Google) for my hunt, the filtering process took a long time.

Here is a little erudition that I would like to share about template changing;

- Create a new blog to test your templates. Never ever make changes to the existing one. You can always delete the new one once you succeed in changing the template of your old blog.
- Make sure you have enough space for all your widgets.
- Make sure the new template supports all your widgets.
- If you are particular about the number of columns as I was, the search becomes a lot easier. I searched for a three column template.
- Make sure the colour of the template you select is soothing to eyes.
- Learn basics of HTML. It really helps.

Few links that helped me a lot in my search are listed below;

- Link 1
- Link 2

I have had to compromise on the width of writing space but then compromises are a part and parcel of everyone's life.

I have shuffled my widgets around and have managed to add a new picture. The movie, 'A Wednesday' inspired me to light this candle. It is a candle lit for all those poor souls who lost their lives in bomb blasts.

There are few awards that I have proudly displayed under the candle. It was awarded to me by Smita. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her. It means a lot to me. Thank you. :)

Coming to the most important thing now, Please don't forget to comment on my new template.

Friday, October 10, 2008

34 Bubblegums and Candies Book Launch - Bangalore

Posted by Varun | Friday, October 10, 2008 | Category: , , | 25 comments


The collage sums up Preeti's 34 Bubblegums and Candies Bangalore Book Launch. It was an amazing experience. I had always seen Book launches on television or had always read about it in the newspapers but to be a part of such a book launch was indeed amazing.

The launch started with a crossword employee introducing the author and the guest of honour. Mr. R.K. Mishra of Lead India fame was the guest of honour. I had always read about him but it was wonderful to hear him speak.

The book '34 Bubblegums and Candies' is based on true life incidents. The title might sound a little peculiar but here is what the author has to say about it.

"Because, there are incidents that make you ponder and make you want to think and may be re-think. Like chewing a bubble gum. Then there are others, spiked with doses of humour that make you laugh and leave you a feel-good sensation. Just like eating a candy." (Excerpt from http://34bubblegumsandcandies.com/)
The book contains lots of such bubblegums that will make you think again and again, and candies that will make you go into a guffaw.

I have yet to read the book but have already heard 4 beautifully woven stories from the surefooted author. It was amazing to see the confidence in her. Even though it is her first book ,there was no touch of nervousness. She was talking and interacting with people as though it was her tenth book launch :).

While the book reading session was going on, the real bubblegums and candies were distributed. I ate the candy as soon as I got it and I am chewing the bubblegum as I am typing this post. If you look at the collage closely, you will be able to notice the empty candy wrapper and the bubblegum placed on the cover of the book.

Some of the stories that were read out were, Please hug me, Sly Stallone does not open up easily, Radiators and Drains and What women want. The title of each story is as interesting as the title of the book. Mr. Mishra made even Satish to read a story. I am not sure if the Pune crowd were so lucky.

After the book reading session ended, it was autograph time :). I simply loved what Preeti wrote for me on my book. You can view that in my collage. I was overwhelmed with joy when Preeti's kids, Atul and Purvi gave me my personalized bookmark.The bookmark says 'Thank you for buying my mom's book' and 'Dear Varun, This bookmark was made specially for you. It was made by Atul and Purvi. Hope you like it.' I didn't just like it. I LOVED IT.

The question and answer session gave us a slight peek into the future. The grapevine has it that Preeti has started working on her second book. Shhh...

Here's congratulating Preeti on a successful launch of 34 Bubblegums and Candies and wishing her luck for all her forthcoming ventures.

PS:
Cost of the book: Rs 100
Available at a book store near you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A trip to God's own Country

Posted by Varun | Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | Category: , , , | 12 comments

Mahatma Gandhi's birthday and Ramzan (Eid) gave us (me and my parents) an opportunity to visit Kerala's Wayanad District last week. The district headquarters, 'Kalpetta' is around 280 km from Bangalore. The route we followed was Bangalore - Mysore - Nanjangud - Gundlupet - Bandipur National Forest - Sultan Bathery - Kalpetta. There are few other routes as well but this one is the best of the lot. The condition of roads in this route are better than the other routes.

The best part of the trip was the drive and I am glad that I got to do the major chunk (Around 750 km) of it. We drove through the straight four lane highways, dense forests and through the curves and bends of the Western Ghats. If one loves driving or is a car enthusiast one must drive on these roads. I managed to test the upper limits of the Santro's to its limits. Not sure which screw or nut of the Santro has gone loose now :D

Day 1 -


We left our house at 7:30 am. It took us around fifteen minutes to dodge the Bangalore traffic and hit the highway. But once we hit it there was no stopping the Schumacher in me. This was when I was able to clock 140 km. It was a flat out drive till Srirangapatnam, our first pit stop. We had planned to visit the Nimishamba temple there. The temple is on the banks of river Cauvery and Goddess Nimishamba is known to grant one's wishes instantly. Don't miss visiting this temple if you are planning a trip to Bangalore or Mysore. The next stopover was Mysore for breakfast. We had yummy Dosa and chutney at the very famous 'Mylari Hotel'. On our way to Kalpetta, we cross Bandipur National Forest. We were very lucky to spot a parade of elephants enjoying themselves in a water hole. Here is a picture of the same.

Pic: Elephants enjoying a dip.

We reached our destination at around lunch time. We had booked Hotel Haritagiri two days prior to our departure. The hotel was recommended by most of the Kerala tourism websites and one of my cousins. It boasts of an Ayurveda village too. The service in the hotel is excellent. Very few people understand English/Hindi but we managed to get what we wanted. I even got a full body massage done :).

I am now going to post the pictures of the place we visited with a brief description rather than trying to explain everything in words. I will let the pictures speak for themselves :)

Pookot or Pookod Lake - Is a pristine fresh water lake enclosed by hills and has a walkway which goes around it. One can go paddle boating here but it was closed by the time we entered.

Distance from Kalpetta: 14 km
Entry Fee: Rs. 10
Paddle Boat: Rs 30 for 20 min
.















Pic: Pristine and placid lake









Pic : My mom and I on the walkway


Day 2 -

Banasura Sagar Dam - It is India's largest and Asia's second largest Earth Dam. There's a speed boat (a fast motor boat) that takes one around the dam. The trek from the entrance to the dam is quite long and tiring. One can hire a jeep to cover this distance.

Distance from Kalpetta: 24 km
Entry fee: Rs. 10
Jeep: Rs 50 for a round trip. (Max 10 ppl)
Speed Boat: 250 for a 20 min trip (Max 5 ppl)
View from the boat: Priceless :)















Pic: The Dam and its
Gates














Pic: Ye Hassen Vadiyan, Ye khula Aasman

Kuruva Island- 950 acres of evergreen forest on the tributaries of east following river Kabini. The island is uninhabited. Rare species of birds, orchids and herbs can be found here. The road leading to this island is in quite a bad shape.

Distance from Kalpetta : 40 km
No Entry fees
Boat: Rs. 20 per head (Required to cross the river. One can swim across too.)















Pic: Mom and Dad














Pic: Land across the river is Kuruva Island

Day 3 -

Soochippara Falls -
The road leading to this waterfall is amazing. Tea estates adorn both sides of the road. The trek to the waterfall is exhilarating as well as exhausting. One can get down the mountains quite easily but the slope is quite steep and the climb back up is very tiring. I did not want my parents to get down with me. My mom agreed to it but my dad didn't. He was extremely pleased when we finally got to the waterfall.

Distance from Kalpetta: 23 km
No Entry Fees
Jeep: Rs. 100 for a round trip (From the entrance to the stairs.)















Pic: Picturesque Tea Estate















Pic : Soochippara Water Fall

Pic: Thrilled Dad

There are lots of other places we skipped either due to the distance or lack of interest . I'll list them out here so that it can help the people reading this post.

- Edakkal Caves: Neolithic Caves
- Chembra Peak - 1200 metre mountain climb
- Lakkidi - A chain of Trees
- Muthanga Wild Life Sanctuary - 45 km from Kalpetta
- Pakshipathalam - 17 km Trek
- Neelimala View Point - Supposed to be good
- Sentinel Rock Waterfalls - Not very good
- Tholpetty wild life Sanctuary - 70 km from Kapetta

Wayanad is not a hill station. The weather here is more or less same as every place. It becomes cool at nights. One or two pairs of jeans, t-shirts and a comfortable pair of shoes should do the trick. Food used to be a problem in Kerala when I had visited it four years back but it is no longer a problem. We now get all kinds of food sans coconut oil too.

Like every good things come to an end, so did our trip. The trip to God's own Country was exciting, rejuvenating and truly a trip to remember. The pristine glittering waters, the drive, the picturesque tea estates, the time spent with my parents are some of the things that will be etched in my mind forever.