Sunday, December 31, 2017

A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

Breath-taking views of the green valleys, sparkling waters, flying seagulls, clear skies with beautiful clouds, good food, great people and comfort. What else could one ask for!
Such was the amazing last week that greeted me and my parents with warmth and cold alike. Sunlight’s warmth and the mountain breeze made the experience a beautiful one for us.

A day’s visit to Alibaug via ferry from the Gateway of India created a perfect teaser of the journey to come. The wait in the long queue at the ticket counter, the bumpy bus ride and the wait in the scorching heat was worth the experience. The ferry ride over the not so calm waters with seagulls flying past the main deck seemed out of the world. It was a calming experience altogether. Alibaug seems to be a “Beach house” as it houses numerous beaches and the famous Murud Janjira Fort surrounded by water on all the sides. However, the paucity of time led us to Varsoli Beach which had water sport enthusiasts on one end and families and friend groups occupying the rest. Taking a ride in the horse carriage with the horses breaking into a gallop as soon as their feet touched the water added to the beauty of the moment. Though the beach was not a sandy one where the sand slipping beneath feet feels surreal, a casual walk along the coast with slippers in one hand felt nice. 


The ride back to Mumbai in a ferry with the sun setting in the backdrop marked a perfect end to a perfect day











What followed the next day were long hours of drive along the highways and by-lanes of hamlets to reach “the Queen of all Hill Stations” - Mahabaleshwar. A homely resort with courteous staff welcomed us in Panchgani which was to be our home for the following three days. Time flew by in unpacking and with food of course! 

The evening was spent in a boat ride along with a friendly family and a good natured helmsman in Venna Lake. The cool breeze got us put our sweaters on and the coldness of water added to the chill. However, nothing could dampen our spirits. With cameras on in selfie mode, big smiles on our faces and a green backdrop, we tried to capture each and every moment we could. Mapro Farm was our next stop where we were awestruck with the number of strawberry products present and the strawberry farm. We tried varied flavours of crushes while my mother was busy selecting the stuff she could take back 
home.That marked the end of Day 1 for us.

The next day was to be devoted to Mahabaleshwar sightseeing.  The journey started off from Kate’s Point with Echo Point and Elephant Point adjacent to the same. The place gave a beautiful view of the valleys below which shone in the bright sunlight. The packs of monkeys creating a chaos was unbelievable. Though they only approached the tourists for food, particularly “chanas” and snatched away a water bottle or two from the unsuspecting tourists, the monkeys kept to themselves in complete harmony.


Arthur’s Seat awaited us a few kilometres away. It appeared like a natural balcony to the mighty mountains. However, the walk to the point involved climbing up and down a long flight of stairs that passed through the Tiger Spring, Hunting Point, Malcum Point and Echo Point. We braced ourselves for the long walk with juicy carrots from the hawkers. We made a brief stop at the Marjori Point and drove by the Savitri Point, Castle Rock Point and Monkey Point on our way back. 


The next pause was to be at the Elphinston Point. The Point provided a mesmerizing view of two valleys: Koyna Valley and Savitri Valley.  I could see high mountains as far as my eyes could take me. The skies were the perfect shade of blue with the clouds of different shapes and sizes spread across till what appeared to be the horizon. The depth of the valleys, the height of the mountains and the faraway skies made it a great picturesque location. We had masala corn at the point and left for our resort post a savoury fruit snack.
      


 The journey would not have been deemed complete without a visit to a strawberry garden. The garden had a main garden where the plantation is done and a smaller section with cardboard racks set on the iron pillars where the saplings were transferred from the main garden. The iron pillars were actually a part of drip-irrigation system and had small sprinklers at the bottom to water the plants growing underneath the shelves. The efficient systems complete with checks to conserve water was commendable. The last visit for the day was Lingamala Falls where we took the shorter route to the smaller falls which I’m sure will become incredibly huge during the monsoons. We sat on the rocks and soaked in the bubbling voice of the spring before proceeding to the final destination for the day, that is, the resort.
      
 The next was to be spent in the valleys of Panchgani. However, the journey took a toll on our health and we spent the day indoors taking rest and well, ORS too! The day turned out to be an unforgettable one as it showed us the human goodness that touched our hearts. In the difficult terrain when we were writhing in pain, the owner of a local pharmacy delivered the medicines to us after making numerous calls with queries regarding the address or apologies for the delay. But he got to us well in time and helped us as we were tourists in the part of the country he calls home. I don’t know his name but I just want to say that I’m really thankful to you and equally touched by the gesture.(Hope you are reading this post; Fingers crossed)

We ended our stay in Panchgani on a positive note with gratitude in our hearts under the blissful skies.

The onward journey to Shirdi was strenuous beyond our expectations and we were troubled by a tout who took us places with promise of a comfortable accommodation and a guidance for the darshan to the famous temple. It was with great difficulty we got rid of him after giving in a bit to his whims and fancies. But a good hotel and the Darshan of “Sai Baba” and a good night’s sleep made us forget all about the horrid experience we had initially and charged us with the strength to complete the journey back to Mumbai.

We took a detour to visit “Trimbakeshwar Temple” but stood no chance to even reach the temple gates amidst the jostling crowds before a good three to four hours. After struggling for an hour or so, we resumed with our remaining six hour long journey to Mumbai where we breathed in peace after spending the day standing in long queues or sitting in the car during the drive occasionally searching for a clean washroom or a restaurant on the way.

On the whole, the entire trip was a good blend of walking down the nature’s trail and relaxation. It provided us with tranquillity and the human touch etched an everlasting memory in our minds and hope in our hearts. Though we couldn’t capture each and every moment on celluloid, the imprint of this journey is to last forever.


P.S. The Picture Credits for this post goes to my itchy fingers.




If you have similar stories to share, just put your itchy fingers on keyboard and share your wonderful memories in the Comments Section.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

BLOG NOW LIVE FOREVER!!

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers


When asked to introduce my Blogger’s identity and my blog as well at Indiblogger’s BNLF event, I said that it is the manifestation of my random thoughts, vis-à-vis technology which did not go shoulder to shoulder with a tech job earlier. Those two minutes of introduction were enough for the others to figure out who I am and what my blog is all about. It was nothing special that I specified, but the quest of every blogger to know each other better. The Valley Of Words’ members, Indiblogger crew (as we were called 😊) and the team brought in a lot of vibrancy to the occasion. I would like to relive the memory through this post and hope it is equally evocative for other attendees.

I landed in the mystic Dehradun hills and breathed the fresh crisp air of Doon valley at about 12:35 pm on 17th Nov’17. There was no looking back in the amazing moments that followed. Though my guest house was just a 5 minute walk from Hotel Madhuban on Rajpur road (where the event was about to start), I hardly spent time there. With all the hustle bustle in the Madhuban lawns, I resisted going back until Indiblogger team provided with safe crepuscular drive to my lodge. Though my eyes were still droopy and I longed-for sleep when I started with this post, more Indiblogger sessions is what I truly long for.
The event kicked off with QR code based registration followed by distribution of Indiblogger badges. Since this was my first Indiblogger meet, my enthusiasm was similar to reporting for my first job and being issued with an I-Card or even more than that. As an introvert, I started moving around on my own, but the zest and small talk around persuaded me to exchange a few greetings. What followed half an hour later was bloggers dining together, speaking blog, clicking pictures and reveling at Bobby Cash’s euphonious guitar performance. Supper was succeeded by an introduction of bloggers which was a superb way to know each one of us. The blogger bond of togetherness was so cohesive that we even ended discussing next day’s plan together before heading to our humble abodes with excited puffy eyes.

Though I couldn’t sleep very well that night (probably because of too much caffeine in my system!), I was up and at the venue round 07:30 AM the next day i.e.,  18th Nov’17 for the Ruskin Bond walk scheduled with “Been there Doon that”. I am not an avid reader of Ruskin’s work, but I got a chance to visit the bylanes he’d been in yester years writing and know the life that he’d lived in Dehradun before heading to London and finally Mussoorie. It was a pleasurable walk midst greenery and aged structures. Next, followed a scrumptious breakfast at Bikanerwala consisting of chhole bhature, grilled sandwich, idli sambhar, cuppas of coffee and lassi to go with. Not to forget lots of instagrammable images which still make me reminiscent of my journey. Without spending more time speculating, we headed to Forest Research Institute, Mindrolling Monastery and the very famous Paltan Bazaar (which indeed reminded me of Delhi bazaars). For me it was a good respite from smoggy and cloggy Delhi and an opportunity to soak in the Sun, the pristine blue sky. The architecture of FRI and colours of monastery were rejuvenating too.

Next, we headed back to the venue not knowing really what’s in store for us. There were few speeches from VOW’s illustrious speakers who were very impressive and motivational at the same time. Post feast and music, the real Indiblogger magic began with my first hurr-hurr rendezvous. Keynote speakers and their experiences were very edifying and enlightening. Blogging ways and debates were also interesting. Indiblogger games and other informational talks kept the energy and tempo very high. To be true, never was I that attentive post my college days as in those sessions. Time and sleep were taking a leap on our bodies but souls refused to return to their dwellings. After multiple clicks and goodbyes and promises to meet soon, we finally bid adieu to each other.

I went all alone by myself, but met wonderful, warm and creative writers and returned with memories to be cherished for long.

Courtesy : Indiblogger

I rest my itchy fingers on this note.

Do let me know your take and comments on this.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

CASUALTY ::: TIME AND LIMBS !!!!

I notice a guy from the corner of my eye every morning when I go for a jog. He always looks confident with a great gymming outfit. He looks ready to take a leap of faith, catch the airborne basketball and score for his team. I can almost feel the hunger in his eyes. 

However, with my mundane office routine that follows I completely forget about how's and what's of the visuals with which my day had begun. Day long exhaustive meetings, never-ending tasks with modifiable deadlines and other corporate lobbying or "politically correct" activities eat away a larger chunk of my time. Not only does my employer in Delhi/NCR pay me for my precious minutes in meetings in the office premises but also for the formidable minutes spent on road and in public transport in order to reach my home in cosmopolitan space from my office conveniently ensconced in remote suburbs. Though spending 4-5 hours daily on travel to be in my comfort zone, i.e., home, itches me on a regular basis but not in a way it did one day, in a bare minimum fraction of seconds.

Due to snail paced traffic and paucity of movement space in Delhi/NCR, I had decided to ride an UBER bike in order to reach Delhi metro station timely and carry forth my journey towards my abode. Riding pillion on a bike is quite an adventure in NCR. But on 10th Oct'17, it turned out to be an unfortunate mischance. Just around NH-8, a car hit the bike I was riding on as the pillion, owing to miscalculation of time (which anyhow we always fall short of), speed and distance by the respective drivers. I don't have any memories of the impact of the collision but the impact of time. My leg got stuck in between the bike's silencer and the car in front. For an instant, I was there but then my sporty instinct urged me to go for a hop on the flip side. Neither was there any traffic on B-Side nor did anyone stop to help.

Thankfully, I was able to walk up to the pavement and the image of the guy's hungry eyes from the park flashed in front of me in the blink of an eye. Hunger because he couldn't. He couldn't jump off from his wheelchair. Period!

The thought sent a chill in my heart. However, I cleared the images from my mind as I regained composure, I saw a biker passer by, advising my motorcycle driver to quell the anger as he was too vulnerable to abuse the sturdy car owner.

I rode the same motorbike to the Metro Station afterwards, safely though. But mistakenly requested a seat in Metro only to be told to demand off from someone occupying seats reserved for differently-abled. Disgraceful indeed!

Well what followed were a series of hospital visits and heavy medicine dosage. I was relieved to escape the nasty fractures but the ruptures. They do pain. Like a lot!

Courtesy : Google Images


An accident was never on my contemplative list until my own personal experience. I felt as if the culprit is not only killing/hurting the victim but also reducing or terminating (in some scenarios) those minutes which the victim might have spent simply smiling. I generally used to empathize with those who were hurt but now I have sympathies from my family and friends. Icing on the cake, my sister and co-blogger fell off the running Mumbai Local due to both time miscalculation and paucity of de-boarding space. Strange co-incidence or something waiting to happen. Who knows!

Well, everything is fine now with no more surgeons in our lives. And I would like to rest my itchy fingers on the note :

In reality, time can't be purchased or sold ,
My time can be controlled only by me or sometimes by bullish souls.

Please share your comments and experiences.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

SYLLABUS FOR THE BOTS!!



Who are your best friends? Is it Ritu, Shilpa living next door or is it the high-end sophisticated digital assistants like Siri, Alexa etc. by your side.

Is it your mom instructing you to slow down your pace, breathe slowly, have water and speak patiently at your customer care job or is it some software commanding you to be super friendly with your clients to understand their needs?

Does your child wake up to a lullaby (set by you to go off at day-break) by an Automaton?

Did you all just randomly start off for a road trip and enjoying as per your heart or being constantly nagged by a gizmo guiding you to have more exciting options than soak in the beauty of one place?

Huh! The list is endless.

Gadgets are learning about my mood, my behavior, my health stats and what not! From recommending to buy blue coloured ankle length socks that matches with the boots which I had bought last week, to watch movies based on my last flick online to predicting my body ailments ten years from now depending on my current lifestyle, they know it all. And even if they don’t, they are perceiving it gradually through our quick revelations on various platforms which hastens their learning process. Be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat we are pouring our heart out and unveiling whole lot of personal real life data to the virtual world.

Time is not far-off when co-habitation with machines would be the fate. Imagine an advertisement : Flat mate needed for 1 bhk apartment, One Machine already living and comprehending! In small forms machines are joining us from the first-light. Keeping track of my morning jog to my gastrectomy in midnight slumber, they are taking care instead monitoring me all the time.

A recent debate between the tech bigwigs Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla’s Elon Musk stating that artificial intelligence is going to kill us all, sparked the fear of annihilation in me and I started to think about myself, err the new generations of faux-intelligent entities to be specific. What followed the discussion was even more harrowing. I found that Facebook had to shut down its AI systems after the chatbots started chatting in a language of their own instead of English which could not be understood by humans. For now, it was named to be a malfunction but the background picture could be worse and threatening.

Courtesy : Google Images
I am not against innovation in technology but what I feel is that machines are controlling us in various spheres apart from few naïve ones which aid us in our work. Time is just right to have a proper curriculum to which they should adhere to and learn only few things instead of our whole biological existence. Moreover, the irony of life is that the most brilliant brains who are leading Automation are losing jobs to these self-executing bodies only. This planet was destroyed by human beings in terms of nature and now advancement of technology if not regulated might fade away the homo-sapiens.


With this thought that I don’t want my brain to be enslaved by some synthetic spirit, I rest my itchy fingers and keep the shut–down button handy with the hope that there is a watchdog for these Artifical Beings. Additionally, I don’t want to be caught in a Matrix or be surrounded by I-Robots.


Let me know what you think before my article mysteriously disappears off the internet!!

"S"PECTACULAR "S"KY "S"HOW!!

“Did you look at the sky today morning?”, I asked my colleague at office who was engrossed in his laptop.  Courtesy : Itchy Finger...