Thursday, December 15, 2016

Life has changed, indeed

My flight has been delayed and I am sitting at the airport. To idle away my time, I started browsing through the pics on my phone and suddenly realised that there is this 90cm of a guy who has taken up all the space on my phone. He is present everywhere, he is on all the videos and on all the pics. He is all over the place. I realised that I don't have a single solo pic in all of the 'more than 1000 photos' that I have taken in the last one year. He has taken over my wardrobe space and 2 shelves of the shoe rack. His possessions (read toys and books) are spread across the entire house, as if he has marked his territory. Our conversations usually center around him. My God, This guy has taken over our lives!!!!

Oh yes I forgot to mention, he is my 2 year old son and no one else. A sudden reality dawned on me, my life isn't mine any more. I don't control my life, the reins are in the hand of this little chap. He decides what I do every evening (post office hours), he decides what we eat every weekend, he decides where we travel and how we travel, he decides whether I can watch a movie, he decides whether I can catch up on the latest episode of Narcos. In short he decides what I do in my life. Scary isn't it? How these cute little things can manipulate us with their cuteness and antics, and we just surrender ourselves to these pint sized humans.

Well how much we bemoan the loss of freedom and control over our lives, don't we secretly allow ourselves to be controlled by these mini creatures. Who can resist falling for these guys? Don't you wonder, how do these miniature creatures learn to manipulate grown ups and mature people? I might be blabbering, but deep inside I am grateful that my life has become more meaningful with the presence of this little chap. Well, he is proving to be pretty useful too. He brings my phone, my snacks, my shoes and also attempts to pick up my laptop (he will get trained in a couple of weeks)

My happy hours are over, time to board now. Can't wait to get enslaved by this magical creature again and dance to his tunes, literally.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Are Indian customers most unforgiving?

When I booked an Uber ride recently, i realized that the driver assigned to me was rated less than 4. In my recent memory, this was the lowest rated driver that I had ever come across. I did not cancel the booking, but went ahead with the ride. The driver, Arif, arrived on time, he greeted me as I sat and even offered to turn up the air conditioning. As the ride started, I started wondering why was he rated so low? His mannerisms were in place, his car was well maintained and he was properly dressed. So i started chatting with Arif and brought up the topic of ratings aka performance appraisal. Arif told me that most of his customers did not give him a good rating and women were most unforgiving. Statistically speaking, cash paying customers gave a lower rating as compared to wallet/ credit card customers. While Arif was bemoaning the poor ratings given by his customers, I started wondering whether Indian customers are really demanding and unforgiving?

I could empathize with Arif. I have also come across similar instances in my current role. Customers are highly demanding and unforgiving and more so with eCommerce companies (and taxi hailing apps). Similar experiences or product quality could be condoned or overlooked when they transact at offline stores (or hire an autorickshaw). But Customers' expectations and benchmarks are higher when they deal with eCommerce companies. Add the internet skills and social media pressure to it and you have got yourself a potentially powerful and vociferous group of customers. Lots of products end up with poor ratings and mind you these are good quality products from top notch brands. Even the brand managers express their surprise at the poor ratings given by online customers, whereas such products are not panned by offline customers.

Assuming that the online customers have higher expectations, then what can be done to better measure their feedback and use it constructively. here are few tips
1. You have to break it down: If you ask for overall ratings, then you might risk missing out on the message. It will be better if you give customers the option to rate the most impressive or most outrageous part of the service or product. For ex. if the customer is not happy with the product, then he can either rate the product on quality, packaging, instructions, value for money etc 
2. Law of averages: wait for critical mass of ratings as the initial high or low ratings can just get averaged out. 
3. Voice of Customers: call up customers who has given a highly poor rating, understand the reasons
4. Cull out problematic customers: some customers have a habit of consistently giving poor ratings. Companies have to identify such customers and take appropriate action 

The eCommerce companies have to live with demanding customers and that in a way is a tribute to the high benchmarks that have been set in customer service and experience. We just have to know how to engage with this set of uber powerful and opinionated group of customers.

While getting down, I thanked Arif and he smiled at me. He requested me to give him a good rating. After all who doesn't like to be appreciated, especially if one deserves it

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Why is the Indian driver angry

I spend a decent amount of time on the Indian roads and sometimes the traffic, nonchalance of other drivers, pedestrians, hawkers, illegal encroachment, unruly bus drivers etc etc leaves me fuming with rage. The best I can do is mutter some unmentionable words if I am alone or if I am with my wife, then i just hurl inaudible abuses under my breath.

So the question is, why is the average Indian driver angry? Here are some of the reasons
- Because of nonchalance of auto drivers, since traffic rules do not apply to them
- Because of the inexperienced drivers who clog the highway, whereas they should be practicing the driving in the by-lanes of the city
- Because of the unruly bus drivers, who drive the 1000 ton mammoth vehicle and can muscle their way through the traffic
- Because of the lady drivers. Now I am not a woman-hater. But i seriously doubt the driving skills of most of the woman drivers. If the car ahead of you is stuck and is not starting then 9.9 out of 10 times the driver will be a woman
- Because of the people who drive at economical 40kmph on the extreme right lane. Dude, if you want to drive at 40, then move to the left lane.
- Because of the hopping pedestrians. seriously driving on Indian roads require you to have eyes on either side of the head, just like a horse, so that you can look to the right and left simultaneously. Oops, you also need eyes on the front so that you can look ahead for the boulders, broken trees and potholes on the road, apart from the traffic
- Because drivers never use dippers at night. But they cannot be blamed, as the streetlights seldom work and the 'upper' is required to watch out for streakers and animals on the road
- Because bikers don't care a damn about you. They will cut you from left and right and you will be left maneuvering to the opposite sides. At the Traffic signals they will just squeeze themselves and zoom ahead
- Because traffic signals do not work. And even if they work people seldom obey them. If you want to obey and wait for the green light, the car behind you will honk and force you to move
- Because of drivers driving in the wrong direction just to avoid the U turn which is 100 meters ahead of their convenient turn
- Because the autorickshaws make so much noise that the auto driver can not hear your honking
These are some of the reasons, why driving on the road is so stressful. So the only stressbuster is to hurl some unmentionables and chill. Happy driving.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Where do you place yourself?

I was having a discussion with a friend of mine and we were discussing our respective jobs and the jobs of our friends. It suddenly dawned on us there is no such thing as an ideal job, because we human beings by nature have an insatiable hunger for better things. And that incessant pursuit for better things leave us as a dissatisfied person. Anyways, we even discussed a 2X2 matrix to classify our jobs. Have a look at it and think where do you lie?

Monday, February 02, 2015

Became a proud owner of a baby boy!!!

Let me use this blog to share a very personal experience. I recently became a member of the Father's club - I became a proud owner of a cute little baby. The feeling is just not easy to describe in words – it has to be felt, it has to be experienced. It is heavenly.

When I was called inside the recovery room to have a look at my son, I was totally zoned out. I had imagined that moment in my head numerous times and had also imagined how I would react to the news, but all that was no match for the real thing. I felt numb as I made my way across to the recovery room, opened and closed multiple doors and I felt as if I am just sailing on the floor like a ghost.

Then suddenly there it was!!!, you wait for a lifetime to experience this moment and now suddenly it was unraveling right infront of you. Wrapped in a light blue blanket, moving slowly and gazing sheepishly at the yellow light of the bed warmer. The blanket covered half of the left eye, the face was flush with blood, right hand  moving in an awkward manner. His eyes were beaming, they were like two black buttons. He looked so ethereal, so fragile, and so pure that I hesitated to touch him. I touched his face and his fingers, felt the softness of his cheeks while he made some inaudible sounds. There were some passers-by who stopped to adore him and congratulated me. I touched his hand and he wrapped his fingers around my index finger. Immediately a euphoric feeling engulfed me – this is my property, I own this cute little thing, he is mine. 

I know life will change for the better from now, there will be difficult moments - moments when we would debate the rightness of the decision to have a baby - but everything will be forgotten and forgiven when the little one smiles back at me. Let the adventure begin

P.S. Once you become a parent, only then you tend to appreciate the hardships faced by our parents while raising us and the numerous sacrifices made by them

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Let Simplicity be thy virtue

While reading an article that talked about a Professor, I had a flashback about my days at IIT Madras. I recalled an important lesson in simplicity 

One evening i was entering a lecture theatre that was holding the inter hostel debate competition. As usual i was early and checked my name with the organisers. Being in first year and taking part in a public speaking event after a long time, i was visibly nervous. So i got up and went outside and started pacing the corridor. I approached the water cooler, when i noticed a dark coloured man wearing rubber slippers and a simple shirt. Pardon me for using the language, but that person looked like a peon to me. I noticed that he was carrying a sheaf of papers and a notebook. I thought that he must be an assistant to a professor. I looked at him and took the tumbler from him and started drinking. He looked at me and asked "are you nervous, you must be a fresher". I looked at him with an annoyed look and gave a cryptic reply "yes". He said "don't worry, after few hours nobody will remember what you spoke, just forget that there is any audience in the room". I thought "yeah right, like you would know". I didn't want to be thrown off the track so i just walked away (i used to be a tight ass back then). 

I entered the lecture theatre and saw that man talking to the student organisers. Later i realised that he was judging the competition and he was the Dean of Student Affairs (DOSA as we called them). I was really embarrassed and felt ashamed of myself. When i walked up to the podium and looked at him he smiled and winked. I smiled back at him, albeit sheepishly.

Later i saw him several times in the campus. If i had not met him that day, i would have still mistaken him to be a peon or a worker. But he had this charisma, this aura, this personality that would command respect and deference from everybody. He later became the Dean of Department of Management Studies.

It may not appear to be a very strong example of simplicity but it left a deep impression on me. IIT is the place where you will find accomplished professors riding a rusted bicycle along side you or standing in the queue at the xerox shop or lighting up at the tea stall at Tharamani (a small cluster outside the campus). That place really teaches you to be humble and simple in life

P.S. this is the first time i have blogged using a smartphone 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 16th - Unprecedented event !!!!

This year's General Elections have thrown up a fascinating mandate. Irrespective of your political hue, you cannot deny that this election has been path breaking and starkly different from earlier elections. Given the mind blowing voter turnout and sheer enthusiasm among the youth, this election will serve as a reminder that our democracy is very much alive and kicking.

Even I was inspired by the Election Commission's call to register as a voter. With online registration, the EC had really made the process user friendly. So there was no excuse for not registering. Sometimes I wonder, that Government's adoption of technology can really bring a sea change in the last mile delivery of services. Finally, my name was included in the voter list and I became a registered voter (I had never imagined  that I will ever be able to vote given the fact that I have not stayed in the same city for more than few years). But I did vote and still have the mark on my finger.

As soon as the final vote was registered, all News channels started holding frenzied discussions on possible numerical strengths of various political parties and whether Mr Modi will be able to make it to 7 RCR. All sorts of permutations and combinations were discussed and fly-by-night political gurus sprung up everywhere. But the D Day was sort of an anti-climax. By 1100 hours it was pretty evident that the political pundits will have to eat crow and their earlier political arithmetic exercise was rendered as futile.

Mr Modi won a landslide victory, not seen in the past 30 years. Country's youth are looking up to him, expecting him to take out his magic wand and set things right. I understand that things will not change overnight, but no one can deny that there is a palpable sense of excitement in the air. The election verdict has undoubtedly helped in countering the negativity that seemed to be engulfing everything around us. 

May the Prime Minister be successful in implementing his plans

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sanity restored - back to 5 days work week

I am writing this blog after nearly 2 years of my previous blog which talked about the survival strategies incase you work 6 days a week. Recently, my company updated its HR policies and we moved to 5 days a week arrangement. Sanity restored, eh?

For the uninitiated, there is not much of a difference between the two work regimes, but for the affected people, it makes hell of a difference. An extra day helps you to unwind, help you to enjoy extra snooze time without any guilt feeling and finally helps in resurrecting your social life. Now, I don't have to smile sheepishly while excusing myself from the Friday night poker or Saturday brunches. 

I must say Ache din aa gaye hain

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dummies guide to coping with 6 days working week

For more than 10 long years (including college), I had gotten used to working/attending lectures for 5 days and then chilling out for remaining 2 days every week. Infact for a brief period of 1 year, at ISB, I even enjoyed a 4 day week. Though, remaining 3 days were as hectic as the rest of the week, but that's not the point here. Most of us have gotten used to slogging for 5 days and then unwinding for 2 days. Now, I am not going into the definition of unwinding or chilling as everyone has his own ways to let loose. 

So when I accepted a job offer last year that required me to work for 6 days a week, I initially thought that I will be able to cope with it and quickly adjust to the new work schedule. But nearly 1 year later, the body secretly longs for an extended weekend, fatigue is building up and social networking sites (with friends narrating their plans for long weekends and then posting photographs of their exploits) are not helping with the matters here.

Let me define my revised concept of long weekend / extended weekend - for rest of the world a weekend means 2 days break and an extended or a long weekend means 3 - 4 days break with some convenient holidays or leaves thrown in along with a weekend. Whereas, for me a long weekend means 2 days break and extended weekend does not exist anymore

Getting back to the main topic - How to cope with 6 days working week. I will list down few tips on how to cope with the new world order - incase you are forced to work for 6 days in a week
  • Accept it - trust me it will help you and your loved ones immensely if all of you accept the new reality of life. There is no benefit in living in denial and still telling yourself that this too shall pass. Obviously life is in perpetual motion and things do change but accepting your present helps in numbing the pain somewhat. 
  • Sacrifice on sleep - if you are the sort of guy who counts "deep slumber" as his closest buddy. Then I have bad news for you - you will have to get rid of it. Band-aid therapy works just fine here. You no longer enjoy the cherished "right to sleep". Who said this world was a fair place, eh? So say good bye to getting up late and afternoon siesta. if you want to squeeze the maximum out of the "weekend", then just throw this habit out of the window. Ideally, you should be averaging 5 hours of sleep on your "weekend". 
  • Saturday nights are for friends and Sundays for family - you will have to balance your social life with your family life. So reserve Saturday nights for outings with friends, late night movies, cards, poker and dinner. Sundays are for you family - pets, wife, kids, parents (not necessarily in that order)
  • do non value added jobs on weekdays - Finish off all non value added jobs like visits to salon, doctors, bank etc, payment of bills, visits of electrician and plumbers etc on the weekdays
  • No Parties - Cut down on get-togethers, parties and all forms of merriment. imagine that you are living in Siberia and there is simply no point in enjoying life. Because the more you mingle with the common man or aam aadmi, the more you will realize that people are actually enjoying their lives while you are just going through the motions 

Run, rabbit run.
Dig that hole, forget the sun,
And when at last the work is done
Don’t sit down it’s time to dig another one.

So the mantra is to squeeze every ounce out of your limited "weekend". Remember for YOU, the week begins as soon as it ends

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sorry, Please retire

At the outset let me state that I am a selfish guy. When the Indian team is down in the dumps I will not support them, on the contrary I will take potshots at them.

Yes, I supported the Indian cricket team and cheered them when they were going great guns and seemed to be winning all over the world (except Australia)
Yes, I was on cloud 99 when we won the world cup for the 2nd time
Yes, I reveled in the fact that we were on top of the Test rankings
Yes, I am dismayed and depressed after watching the dismal performance in Australia

Somehow, the past 2 tours of England and Australia seem to have wiped out every positive feeling about the Indian cricket. There is gloom and doom every where. Even the most optimistic fan out there cannot go out on a limb and claim that we can win even one session out of maximum possible 15 sessions in a test match. Is that too much to ask for? Our lead pace bowler has the hallucinations that he is playing in a T20 match. So instead of staying at the crease for as long as possible, he tries to swing his bat and try to hit every ball out of the park. I wonder what must be going through the minds of our senior citizens in the cricket team. True, they have done a great service to the nation. But the nation is not obliged to provide them with a guaranteed employment (the usual refrain is that these guys know when it is the best time for them to retire). Lot of people will say that fans are fickle minded and they go over the top while expressing their feelings. Let us be frank, the world is a cruel place. We are living in a capitalist economy - you perform you play, you slip and thank you very much. That's how the world is. Other less fortunate players have got even lesser opportunities - doesn't that prove that this is a cruel world and the 'seniors' should not expect a better treatment.

The problem with us Indians is that we are hardcore believers in TINA (There is no alternative) factor. We believe that in a country of 1.2 billion only 4 guys are talented and have the right to a guaranteed place in the national team. The youngsters do get opportunities. but only when the seniors are either oiling their creaking bones or do not consider the opposition worthy enough. Some will say that we do not stand any chance in the absence of these experienced players. I agree but a smooth sea never made a skillful mariner.

Now I wonder that I am not the only selfish person out here. These seniors are selfish too. Aren't they thinking only about their career? Aren't they worried about retiring on a high? Why can't they have a modest last match and just retire? Why should an entire nation suffer in agony so that 1 individual can have a perfect retirement?

P.S. What the hell is the coach doing?
P.P.S. Sack the Coach and get DADA on board. :)
P.P.P.S. Conspiracy theorists are saying that the Indian team is trying to prove that England is not the #1 team and they are trying desperately to lose more convincingly to Australia, just to prove their point

Friday, July 22, 2011

Typical Indian Cricket Fan

Like "aam aadmi", cricket historians and commentators world over have often wondered, who is this ubiquitous but invisible Indian cricket Fan (ICF). He could be anyone, right from our milk delivery guy, grocery shop owner, tech geek, politician or head honchos of some blue chip company. Just like God, this Indian Cricket Fan (ICF) is omnipresent. If you want to test my hypothesis, then try this. While traveling in a crowded Mumbai local train (the only place where you can get statistically significant homogenized sample of unbiased people) try mentioning that Sachin Tendulkar is one selfish person who is only after milestones and can never perform in crunch situations. I can bet you anything in the world, that you will be bombarded with expletives, remonstrations and even glares that will make you pray to Harry Potter to lend you his invisibility cloak. Reams of newsprint have been written about India being a cricket crazy country and recent world cup triumph has only added to the rolls of this community. Indian Cricket Fan (ICF) is a much bandied word, just like Congress' favorite person "Aam aadmi". But no attempt has been made to understand or identify this ICF. Aam aadmi has been immortalized by RK Laxman's cartoons, but ICF still is waiting for his due.

So who is this ICF???? I have made a humble attempt to demystify this ethereal being
  1. He believes in only one religion - cricket and worships only one god - Sachin (even if he is a Bengali his first loyalty is towards Sachin. Though, Dada comes close second)
  2. Inorder to test ICF's faith in Sachin, you need to either criticize Sachin or charge Sachin with ungentlemanly conduct. This trigger is enough to wake up even the most latent and soft ICF. Don't believe me? Ask Mike Dennes, the match referee who charged Sachin with ball tampering
  3. He can dish out stats at the drop of a hat. Though his memory is limited to last 15 years.
  4. He believes that the Indian cricket's glory days began after 2000 (after Dada's ascension to the throne)
  5. He gets extremely excited after watching Sehwag whack the fiercest bowlers and gets equally frustrated on seeing him getting out casually. He doesn't mind giving his piece of mind as if he Sehwag was standing right infront of him
  6. He is someone who lauds Dravid's gutsy batting when the Indian batting crumbles. He doesn't mind Dravid scoring 30 runs from 200 balls. But he gets equally frustrated when Dravid doesn't alter his strike rate even if 80 odd runs are required from 90 balls.
  7. He follows cricket religiously - on TV, car radio, mobile phone (GPRS), Office (internet) and frequent visits to the cafeteria
  8. He may have never got up at 6 AM to study or practice yoga. But he gets up at 5 AM to watch India take on Australia down under, even on weekends !!!!
  9. Actually, he alters his body clock according to the geographical location of the Indian team
  10. He is an expert batsman, bowler (spin, fast and swing) and fielder
  11. Chances are that he may have never touched a leather ball in his life. But that doesn't prevent him from criticizing Harbhajan's lack of spin technique or sermonizing Zaheer Khan on how to extract swing
  12. He can read, interpret and discuss about pitches more efficiently than Udayan Mukherjee can slice and dice the stock markets
  13. He hates Aussie cricketers more than Pakis
  14. Finally, he thinks every cricket series is important be it Australia, West Indies or even Zimbabwe

Thursday, July 07, 2011

State of Limbo

I recently found out that the world's most difficult words are "Can I talk to you in private for a minute?"

This sentence evokes mysterious responses. People let their imaginations run wild and most likely conclude that something is definitely wrong. So I witnessed similar responses when I put down my papers recently. I went up to the HR person and asked her, "Can I talk to you in private for a minute?" She was bewildered. The fact, that this is resignation season, didn't help either. Immediately she was suspicious and the long walk from her cubicle to the conference room seemed like eternity. Inside the conference room, the atmosphere was sombre and tensed. People passing by were glancing inside and wondering, what is the conversation about. When I walked up to my manager to say "Can I talk to you in private for a minute?" I think she had guessed it, because appraisal seasons are long gone, no project related work was ongoing and I looked visibly very tensed and stressed.

When you put down the papers in your organization, things change immediately. You feel the piercing gaze that is directed at you, evaluating you, doubting your intentions, doubting your professionalism, doubting your commitment towards work etc. Now I have entered a state of limbo. Where you realize you are neither inside nor outside the organization. You don't know whether you should attend team meetings, you don't know whether you should act normally and offer your opinion on the state of affairs of the company, you don't know whom to tell and whom not to. You always feel that incase you arrive late some day, people will start mocking and doubting your professionalism. So this is the state of limbo. You just want to go through the motions without emotions.

Let me conclude with a borrowed a line from Facebook status of a friend - "Appraisal hote hain... Disappointment ka sama hota hai..... Aise mausam mei hi to attrition jawaan hota hai...Dil ki khunus hum jubaan se nahin kahte...Yeh fasana to resignation se bayan hota hai"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nandi Hills - best pics ever

We decided to visit Nandi Hills yet again (3rd time in last 2 months). That's because it is very close to Bangalore and secondly, you can be back in a couple of hours. Every time we had been there, the weather has been totally different. First time (May) there was no sign of mist and clouds - so it was little disappointing. Second time (October) - there was mist all over the place and clouds blocked the view of sun rise. Third time - we decided to skip Nandi Hills and trek over to the hill opposite to that (that again was a hell of a trip). Fourth time - there were clouds all around, but below us... so we had clear sky but clouds below our level.

As usual, we reached before the gates opened at 5:30 AM. Bought the tickets and were the first guys to reach on top. Sudden impulsive decision to take a short cut and reach the top proved to be a boon as we witnessed the best ever sun rise. We were just in time as sun was rising over the clouds. The view was akin to that seen from an airplane. It was just spectacular, as we saw the sun rising slowly and then clouds engulfing the sun. The clouds were at very low height and they covered the view below the hill. We were at sufficient height to get a clear view of the surroundings. Words cannot do justice to the awesome sight. So I will let the photographs do the talking

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Travelogue - Ooty, Bandipur, Mudumulai and Conoor

After exploring Coorg and Mysore, we decided to head to the Queen of the hills - Ooty for a short vacation over the extended weekend. I was aware of the fact that Ooty has lots of places and some planning is required to shortlist the places and chalk out an itinerary. After looking up the Team-BHP posts, I shortlisted Bandipur National park, Ooty, Conoor and Mudumulai National park. After the experience at Nagerhole national park, we were quite enthused about going on a safari at the twin national parks that fall en-route to Ooty. We took the following route Bangalore-Mysore-Gundlupet-Bandipur-Mudumulai-Masinagudi-Ooty-Conoor

As usual we left early and hit the road by 4 AM. we were anxious to reach Bandipur before 9 AM because the safari ends at 9AM. We were cruising on the Bangalore-Mysore road and before the sun rose we were in the vicinity of Mysore. There were heavy rains all through out. We exited Mysore and were greeted by the cloud covered mountains (Chamundi Hills). That boosted our spirits and we were literally waiting to get engulfed by the clouds. We rushed through to Bandipur and reached there by 0815. But unfortunately we were told that the safari has been cancelled due to rains. However, the forest staff told us that Mudumulai wildlife reserve operates safari as it has tarred roads. We rushed towards Mudumulai, to beat the 9AM deadline. Here too we were unlucky as they did not have the required number of people to operate the safari. We were told that we can go on the safari on our way back because there is a sizeable crowd in the evenings. So we decided to head towards Ooty. While passing through the national parks we did sight lots of deer. But we did not give them too much importance (height of conceitedness). Anyways, we decided to take the famous "36-hair pin bend" route to Ooty.

We were greeted by the first sight of the Blue hills (Nilgiris) and i must admit, the hills appeared quite imposing. We could make out numerous waterfalls on the hill. That was the sight to behold and we were absolutely looking forward to the trip. As we reached Masinagudi, we could see the clouds covering the mountains that were looming infront of us. We just could not wait. After stopping for some photo opportunities, we hit the 36-hairpin bends. To be fair, they were not tough to negotiate. However, one must liberally honk and look straight ahead instead of the spellbinding view around you. We did stop after every couple of bends to soak in the beauty around us.
We just could not get enough of the hills, clouds, waterfalls and the tea gardens that were beginning to appear. We reached Ooty at around 1030 and decided to check out a couple of hotels. We had planned to visit Emerald and Avalanche lakes on that day. We checked out a few hotels and decided to head towards the lakes and check into the hotels after returning. The road to the lakes was again a spectacular one. We came across several tea gardens and hill settlements. We reached a cross road and took a left turn for the Emerald Dam/Lake. It was a pretty steep climb and the roads were in bad conditions. It seemed that we required a 4X4 to negotiate the treacherous road. We persisted and carefully negotiated the narrow, potholed (understatement, they were infact craters) road. Finally we reached a bridge and there were two lakes on either side. The left one is called Emerald Lake and the right one is called Avalanche lake. there were no sign boards to indicate anything. there was no parking space and there was not a single soul in sight. then we heard a roar and there a truck appeared from the opposite side. We managed to get on one side to give the truck enough space to pass through. There appeared a couple of people (locals) on bikes, but it was difficult to converse as they did not know english. WE decided to park somewhere and climbed down to the lake. It was a tranquil beautiful lake, very different from the usual lakes that we see in the cities. There was greenery all around and the cattle were grazing. That was a sight to behold. After clicking several pictures we decided to proceed to the dam. But, the roads were in very bad shape. There were huge craters (filled with water) all across the road. We decided to turn back as the road was not motorable. It was kind of getting late evening and the early morning start had started to kick in. We decided to head back to Ooty and check into some hotel. We found a hotel located near to the lake and took a cottage there. This was the end of day 1

Day 2, we again decided to start early. So we left the hotel at 8AM and headed towards Conoor. and the weather was awesome. there were clouds and then there was sun. We even witnessed a rainbow forming across the hill. The drive towards Conoor was simply amazing, there were lush green tea gardens and there was cultivated farmland spread across the valley. We headed towards Lamb's rock view point and Dolphin's nose. There was very less traffic (because we started early) and by the time we reached Lamb's rock, it was almost 0930. The view from there was simply spell binding. The sky was clear and we could clearly see the two cities - Mettupalayam and Coimbatore. We enjoyed a hop cup of masala tea and chocolate tea, and also posed for pics in the adjacent tea garden. After sometime clouds appeared and covered the entire landscape. The cities were no longer visible. We left for another view point (this was the real Lamb's rock view point). The trek was amazing and we were told that several movies (like No entry's final scene and Jungle) were shot there. We could see the clouds covering the hills and the place where we were standing and were too excited to reach Dolphin's nose. After resting for some time we left for Dolphin's nose. There was dense fog/mist along the entire route. The clouds had engulfed the entire route. This was just what we wanted. We thoroughly enjoyed the place. Due to dense cloud cover, we could not get a good view from the Dolphin's nose view point. nevertheless, we wanted to enjoy the clouds and that what we got. We wanted to explore Glenmorgan and decided to leave from Conoor. But on the way we got to know that a permit from Forest dept is required. so we abandoned the plan of visiting Glenmorgan and instead explored the Botanical Garden and waited for the arrival of Toy train at Ooty railway station. It had started to rain and the weather was cold. chilly wind was piercing us and it was the perfect weather. We decided to call it a day and started our search for a hotel.

Day 3 - This was the day we had to go back to Bangalore. We enquired and decided to check out Pykara lake and falls. It was around 27 km from Ooty. Pykara falls were disappointing as there was hardly any flow. We arrived at Pykara lake at around 1000 on Day 3. Pykara lake was simply breath-taking. there were clouds all around and the lake was huge. We got into a boat to explore the lake. Again, the lakes in Ooty are very different. the shores are pretty steep,but the lakes are not deep. The weather was playing games with us. Suddenly it would start raining heavily and then stop all of a sudden. But, the tranquil lake was simply a treat for the eyes. We left Pykara and turned back towards Ooty for some chocolate shopping. We had decided to take the 36-hairpin bend route for our return journey.

Well the drive down towards Mudumulai was uneventful. We were just in time for the safari at Mudumulai. The people in the safari made enough noise to scare away any animal in the vicinity. Nevertheless, we still magaged to spot Elephants, deer, peacocks and one leopard (it was eating its prey, but ran off due to the sound of the safari). This safari made us greedy and we decided to stop again at Bandipur national park for another safari. We waited for the required threshold of people to gather, then another safari started off. This time we spotted wild boar, deer, some birds, bisons and peacocks. By the time we left Bandipur, it was 6pm. We had around 240 km to cover and I had an 8AM meeting in the next morning. We drove non-stop to Bangalore from Bandipur. 240 km in 4.5 hours and there were torrential rains for nearly 100 kms where the visibility was hardly 10m.

Overall the trip was totally rejuvenating one and one of the best holidays we had ever had

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Travelogue - Coorg trip

Here comes my first travelogue. After selling the theory that "there are no good places to visit near Hyderabad" to my wife for an year, I knew I could no longer hide behind that excuse when I moved to Bangalore. Everybody knows that Bangalore has no dearth of weekend getaways. So I planned a trip to Coorg (or Kodagu) in order to maintain credibility of my Hyd theory.

After consulting few friends and reading about Coorg on Team BHP website, I realized that the trip is best made by car and the journey is as beautiful and enjoyable as the destination. Monsoons and clouds did not deter me nor did the fuel price hike :). After packing clothes and some eatables in the night we were all set to travel to THE hill station. I had finalized the route after reading a lot over net and realizing that the entire region cannot be covered in a single trip. So I converged on the following route Bangalore-Mysore-Hunsur-Nagarhole-Kutta-Irpu Falls-Ammathi-Siddapura-Dubare-Nissargadhama-Golden Temple-Mysore-Bangalore. The printouts of the maps were taken and the only thing left was finalizing the homestay. Homestay is a concept unique to Coorg. Coffee estates have been converted into guest houses by the owners and that provides a chance to enjoy a stay in the serene and verdant environment amidst coffee and pepper plantation. Combine this with hospitality and warmth extended by the owners and the experience becomes unmatched. I had already decided that I will stay in a homestay and not a hotel, now the only decision left was the place where I should stay over in the night. I had decided that I would go via Nagarhole National Park (Rajiv Gandhi National Park) and visit Irpu falls on day 1 so I could either stay at Ammathi, Siddapura or Kutta. I had anticipated that we will have some time before night falls and thus we should try to reach as close to Dubare Elephant camp as possible and halt for the night accordingly. Thus, I finalized Siddapura as the place to stay over in the night. I booked a homestay after reading the reviews on the different web forums. So I was all set for the trip

We had decided that we will leave AEAP (as early as possible) so as to avoid the mad Bangalore-Mysore traffic of the weekend. We got up at 0330 hours and hit the road by 0440 hours. This turned out to be a wise decision and we were soon cruising on the Bangalore - Mysore highway. after reaching Mysore, the weather gods obliged us and the dark clouds covered the sky - thereby making the trip comfortable. we decided to take a detour on the Mysore ring road and also visited the Krishna Raja Sagar dam (KRS dam) on Cauvery. This dam housed the Asia's first hydroelectric power generating station. Meanwhile we kept a close watch on the time and we had reached KRS Dam in flat 3 hours. We also saw a huge flock of ducks (possibly thousands) on the roadside, that was a treat to the eyes.

So we resumed our journey towards Hunsur. After reaching Hunsur we took a small break, had breakfast and left for Nagarhole. The road from Hunsur to Nagarhole was quite narrow, it was barely a 2 lane road. However, the weather was amazing and it was drizzling intermittently. We also saw a fake Cafe@Coorg, modeled along the lines of Cafe Coffee Day

We reached Nagarhole National Park entrance by 10 AM and the drive through the park was truly amazing. The dense forest coupled with amazing weather made it a memorable experience. The drive through the National park was the best part of the trip. We were lucky to spot some elephants, deer, stags and wild dogs. Due to rains, the animals were taking shelter under the trees and were not visible from the road. We were expecting to see the Tiger. However, the only Tiger we saw was on the board. Later some office colleagues told us that the best time for tiger sighting is the evening.

After exiting from Nagarhole at around 12 PM, we headed towards Irpu falls via Kutta. Suddenly coffee estates and pepper plantations sprung out of nowhere. there was greenery all around. the road was narrow and constant rains had cut off the road at the edges. The drivers on 4X4 coming from the opposite way were considerate enough while passing us and used to give our vehicle enough space to pass through. We had entered the hilly area and that was evident by the view of clouds covering the hill tops. The Irpu falls were a treat for the eyes, though the combination of rains and steep path had made the trek up to the falls a difficult one. At Irpu we could see the clouds enveloping the hills, making it a sight to behold. We just sat in the car and watched the amazing sight for an hour.

At 1430 hours we decided to leave Irpu falls and head towards our home stay in Siddapura. The distance was more than 80 kms and needless to say that some of the sights left us spellbound. We were surrounded by coffee plantations and it rained all the time. We reached our homestay at around 1630 hours. the place was beautiful and our host was gracious enough to provide us endless cups of home made filter coffee. We were famished as we had not stopped anywhere to eat, instead spent time in watching the natural beauty around us. Our host also provided us some snacks and eatables. We decided to take a walk around the coffee estate and explore the area. However the slippery ground quickly made us reverse our decision and we decided to stick to the metaled road instead. In the evening we were joined by another couple from Bangalore and we had a great evening mingling with them and sharing our experiences. It was all misty in the evening and the temperature had dipped several notches. After covering more than 300 km and witnessing some truly amazing sights we decided to call it a day.

The next day turned out to be rather dull and failed to live up to the expectations. Sunny day coupled with high humidity proved to be a dampener. we left the estate by 9AM and approached Dubare Elephant training camp. this camp was located on the other bank of the cauvery river. The river was in full glory and we could see several small islands and trees submerged under water. We saw several elephants taking bath and they performed several stunts on the directions of their masters. After spending an hour in the elephant training camp we decided to leave for Nissargadham. Nissargadham is an island made by different tributaries of Cauvery river. This again was not worth the visit. But we did spend some time there. The sun was rising and so was the humidity. By 1230 hours we decided to leave for Golden Temple (Buddhist temple). the terrain had changed from hilly and green to plains. The humidity and sun had sapped our energies. We reached Golden temple, a Buddhist monastery and temple, at 1300 hours. The temple was breathtaking and well maintained. we spent some quiet time there and left for Mysore at around 1430 hours. The drive back to Mysore was rather dull. We had witnessed some amazing sights on the previous day, therefore everything appeared dull when compared to the picturesque beauty of Coorg.

We stopped over at Brindavan Garden, but were too tired to walk around the whole place. So we decided to leave for Bangalore at 1700 hours. Drive back from Bangalore to Mysore was a mad race. It looked just like NFS (Need For Speed) game. With cars racing at 100 kmph and frequently changing lanes. You just had to follow the rules of the game otherwise you will be honked at and glared at. The Mysore-Bangalore stretch is also very congested, due to large number of people returning back to Bangalore on Sunday night. Anyways, we reached our home by 2030 hours. Overall, it was a memorable trip and has inspired me to plan another trip very soon. It could be either Bandipur National park or Ooty. Keep reading