“Hello, my friend from India” | Visit Sri Lanka !

golden buddhaAs a kid I was taught that learning comes from interacting with people, places and objects. Any type of interaction with anything is a learning – be it a book, your laptop, your dog, any new person or place. Visiting new places, meeting up new with people sharpens your wit, boosts confidence, feeds variety to your brain and is a great way to explore the world around us.
A few of us visited Sri Lanka this time.

This blog will detail our journey on the big island country. It will tell you what to do and what not in Sri Lanka. There will be tips and tricks for the ones planning to visit Sri Lanka. Finally, it will also have my personal opinions and comparisons, but you are free to ignore them.

Planning the visit to Sri Lanka

Well, there are two essential things you need to have – your plane ticket and your ETA for Visa.
As far as the plane tickets price go it is cheap if your’re travelling from India and if you book the tickets well in advance. We booked about 1.5 months prior to the date of journey and it costed less than 6.5k INR per person, round trip. That’s cheap!
You can apply for the ETA for Visa at http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/ . This is also cheap. It costed like 15 USD per person.
Once this is done I would suggest you pick up a copy of Lonely Planet Guide to Srilanka. We did not buy any such book but I would strongly recommend such a guide so that you don’t have to frequent google and travel forums to know where to go and what to do in Sri Lanka. Once you have identified a few places and few activities according to the number of days your going to be there it’s time to pack the bags.
Note that I am against leaving the entire trip planning with a travel agent. Why? Well, I can come up with a couple of reasons – they charge a lot, it’s no fun following their strict schedule – what if you want to take a detour and change your plan about visiting a place there, what if you want to take that ‘no one goes there’ trek route. C’mon, be an explorer, not a tourist!
We had identified the following places – Colombo, Kandy, Dambulla, Sigriya, Nuwara Illiya, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Bentota. Activities – google out activities for each place you intend to visit, read on tripadvisor.com.

We were Sri Lanka for about 8 days and here is the day by day account of what we did and where we went.

Day 1
We reached Colombo from Chennai on a very small SpiceJet plane early morning.

small plane

Our plan was to reach Hikkaduwa (place with awesome beaches!). We took a cab from the airport for Hikkaduwa. We were 8 guys so we took an 8 seater. Now please remember that Sri Lanka, just like India, is a place where you have to bargain a lot. The price they tell you for anything – be it a cab or anything you buy from the market, will be atleast 40% more than the market price they can offer you. I will detail this with more examples later but just to get started, the cab guy told us he would charge us 10k for the ride. We settled at 8k.
The ride from Colombo to Hikkaduwa is excellent. The highway journey is so very scenic. It was early morning. I was very tired. I had every reason to fall asleep but that did not happen. I was in awe of the greenery and beauty of the country. The road was like some United States high speed highway and seeing some of the houses in that undulated green paradise I wondered whether these people realized they were living in heaven. I am sorry I did not click any photograph there.

Upon reaching Hikkaduwa it did not feel we were Sri Lanka anymore. There were more tourists than natives to be seen. We took a temporary (and expensive!) accomodation at Kuku’s Nest. Hikkaduwa is all about that one long road parallel to the beach. You will find everything there – road side restaurants, hotels, bikes and scooters for rent, trainers for Scooba diving and Snorkelling, et al. It is immensely pleasing to sit in a sea facing restaurant and take the meal. Well, that’s what we did just about for every meal we took in Hikkaduwa. The place we took for the first day was a bit expensive – 4k for one double bed room (the room was not good!). Later we took a cheaper and better accomodation at Hotel Blue Fox with 3k for one big size room with three beds, nice bathroom and air conditioning.
I should mention here that the Hikkaduwa beaches are the best beaches I had seen in Sri Lanka. I am not saying that there could not be better beaches there but Hikkaduwa IMG_2387 IMG_2388beaches are just so awesome!

Having slept well, I went for a walk with two of my friends. Now, I would not be wrong in saying that this 13 km walk starting early evening was the most enriching things that I did it Srilanka. You remember I said that one should be an explorer rather than a tourist. Well, here’s the explorer part. And it was worth it.

We took a little detour from the main road and went a bit ‘inside’ opposite to the direction of the beach. Take any of the roads going away from the beach and perpendicular to the main road, you will find yourself walking in the villages of Sri Lanka! And by God, it was some experience. Houses among the Palm trees, the Bamboo trees, rice paddies in lush green forest like environment – that was the place for appreciating life and its beauty. The place was extremely clean. We were interacting with natives there. This place is not frequented by tourists taking a walk. Foreigners who do explore this place are always on a bike or scooter. Probably it was one of the rarer times when those people saw non Sri Lankans taking a walk in their villages. They were extremely welcoming and friendly people. Everybody looked at us gave a smile. The kids said ‘hello’. People from the houses waved their hands welcoming us. It was so good! There was no noise of any automobiles to be heard – there was only the chirping of birds. This was the real Sri Lanka. Nothing artificially beautified or made for the tourists.
We also went inside a school and interacted with one of the teachers there.
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Having walked considerably, we again started walking towards the main road, crossed over to the beach and then we walked about 5-6 kms more on the beach till we reached our place. The sunset on the beach was very beautiful!


Well, don’t your legs need any comfort after so much walking on Day 1? Hell, they do! And that is why we went for an Ayurvedic massage. Please do not end up going to a shady place – that’s the only advice I have.

We had our dinner at a pizza place called Wood Fire. Slept like a baby.

Day 2
This was the Galle day. Now, you can take a cab from Hikkaduwa to Galle but then is that any fun? Take a regular bus, sit with the regular people, merge in the environment you are in.
We took the bus. Got down at the Galle bus stand and walked to the Galle fort. Well, there is not much to be seen in the fort. If you’ve ever been to Rajasthan in India then don’t bother yourself with the fort itself. Walk towards the Indian Ocean side of the fort and the view of the ocean is superb. We walked on the fort walls parallel to the ocean, found a spot to take a dip in the water and stayed there for about an hour or so.
Galle also houses an international Cricket stadium.

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From here, we planned to make a visit to the Unavatuna beach. We ended up planning our trip with a tuk tuk driver. Now, let’s take a step back here and know this thing. Tuk tuk drivers sometimes will be helpful and will be able to plan outings for your day. We talked to this guy and for a fair price (remember bargaining!) he agreed to take us to a local restaurant for lunch and then to the beach. Now, hold on. There’s something to learn here. One, never ask a tuk tuk driver to take you to a local restaurant. Chances are that these guys mostly won’t have the same quality standards as you have so you might get dissapointed. Two, it’s all about business (well, mostly) and the chances are really high that the tuk tuk driver might have some understanding with the restaurant he’s taking you to. For example, he could have a commission on the number of people he brings, etc. In such cases, you’ll end up paying more because such restaurants won’t have menu cards!
We reached Unavatuna beach and it was as expected – clean. You can do snorkelling and scooba diving here as well as in Hikkaduwa. It is recommended that you try out these activities at morning time since the sea is calmer at that time. We had got a bit late so went for a glass floor boat ride into the ocean. We stopped at 2-3 kms away from the beach and wearing a jacket, we threw ourselves into the ocean. The waves were a bit high and it was a very good experience to just lie there and look at the unending ocean around you.
There’s a noteworthy tip here. The Unavatuna beach was very crowded by natives when we went there. Why? It was a Sunday. The local crowd had simply chased the foreigners away. So, what do you not do on a Sunday? Visit a place. What do you do on a Sunday? Shopping! This is the lesson we learned.


Day 3
Day 3 was very interesting and we did quite a few things.
We hired two tuktuks and went to a Moonstone mining factory near Hikkaduwa. Please do visit one of these. It will be a very good experience. We visited one of the factories that had the full workflow for mining the stones, cleaning/cutting/refining them and then finally it also had a jewellery shop setup where you could buy the polished stuff. The same factory also had a Cinnamon farm setup and they make also make Cinnamon oil, powder, etc. We saw the Blue Stone that is mined in Sri Lanka and (as they told us) is not found in India. I bought some of the raw stones to add to my stone collection. Again, please remember that if you buy anything from these places, do bargain a lot!

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Next we visited the ‘lagoon’. Well, just tell the tuktuk driver that you want to visit the lagoon and he’ll take you there. Lagoon is basically backwaters near Hikkaduwa but comprises of a number of things – jelly fishes, fishing, trees that produce poisonous fruits, snakes and crocs (I hope you don’t encounter one!), Temple Island, foot massage by fishes, et al.
I just loved this boat ride. All those places where the trees form cave like surroundings, you just hope nothing drops on your head. I saw the blue jelly fish for the first time. I’ve heard they are extremely poisonous. The foot massage by the small orange fishes was very ‘ticklish’. The guy there also had a small crocodile baby with him. We also went to the Cinnamon island. The thing that I liked the most though was the Temple Island. Some buddist monks stay here. As soon as we entered the place, I picked up a cat and she remained with me till I was there. I saw a 600 year old written book on Palm leaves with Pali script. I don’t know. The ‘connect’ with the monks and the place was much more. I felt very good there. The head monk also tied a white thread on our right wrists.

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From there we went to a tutle hatchery. This hatchery was destroyed in Tsunami but was rebuilt with the help of local people and donations from tourists. No help from the government they mentioned. We saw 1-2 day old turtles and turtles as old as 60 years. Nice!

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The last stop for the day was at a Spice Garden. It was already dark by the time we reached this place so we could not see the actual plants. We just took a tour of the shop that had the Ayurvedic medicines, soaps, shampoo, creams derived from these plants. I would suggest not to buy anything from here. The guy just quoted the price multiplied by a factor of 10.

Great day!


Day 4
This day was all about water sports at Bentota. You should catch the train from Hikkaduwa to Bentota but due to our leasurely breakfast we missed the train and had to take an extremely crowded bus. This made me feel right at home. We convered the whole distance standing! We searched for a few water sports places and settled on one. Again, remember to bargain. He was asking 3k per person for the package but when we started moving out, he immediately settled at 2k per person. Three of us also tried water skiing but only one was able to do it successfuly. The water sports – banana tube, cube tube, jet ski; was all very good. The best part was one in which he took such turns that the tube overturned throwing us all in the water!
The package also came with a boat ride to the backwaters. This was similar to the one we had at Lagoon near Hikkaduwa but this one was a bit lacklustre – but hey, another guy with another crocodile baby.
We returned to Hikkaduwa early since Day 5 we have to leave for Kandy and the train was at 5:30 am!

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Day 5
The day had an early start. Got up at 4 at catch the train at 5:30 am to Colombo. We will have to catch another train from Colombo to Kandy. We bought the 2nd class compartment tickets. The ocean view from the train is simply awesome. You would be amazed to see how close the track is to the waves. During tsunami 1700 people were killed in a similar train on these tracks when a wave had consumed the train and had swayed it to a considerable distance. The officials took four hours to find the whereabouts of the train!
The Sri Lankan people are very friendly. It is not uncommon to see people looking at you and giving a smile. I cannot avoid feeling a sort of attachment to them.
We got down at Colombo, had some breakfast and bought second class compartment tickets for the train to Kandy at 9:45 am. Big mistake! Do not buy 2nd class compartment tickets to Kandy otherwise you’ll end up standing all the way to Kandy! That’s what happened to us. The train arrived and got filled thrice it’s capacity in just 2 minutes. And we found ourselves standing. In fact, unable to move. The same happened with a Swiss couple who were travelling with us. We got aquainted with them during the journey. Later in the day, we would end up staying at the same guest house they were staying in.
There is no online booking for trains available in Srilanka, as of now. Please go the respective stations and reserve your first class compartments tickets as early as possible.
Kandy is a little hill station city in Srilanka. This is also one of the major cities in Srilanka and also has an international cricket stadium. The people here are much more trendy. I cannot keep myself from mentioning that Srilankan girls/ladies in this part of the country seem more liberal and fashionable. They are much prettier, taller and fairer as well. Kandy seems like a mix of Nainital and Delhi’s Connaught Place – with Nainital like environment and lakes and CP like architecture and crowd.
If you plan to stay in Kandy then book your accomodation somewhere near the lake. If you do so, then everything is at stone’s throw. We ended up booking three good rooms at a guest house called Traller’s Nest. It’s a bit uphill near the Swiss Hotel. The caretaker, her son and the manager were very good people. Extremely well spoken and very helping in every way. It was Christmas and they offered us cake. The place had hot water, free wifi and was very clean and affordable too!
Later in the evening I went for a walk with a few friends. The caretaker of the house had got us tickets for what’s known as traditional Kandy Dance that happens every evening. The dance was very good and the fire arts that followed were, well, astonishing. We ate at KFC (I needed my proteins!) and slept early. Just too tired to make any plans for the next day.
Here I should mention that the lake in Kandy is very beautiful. It gives life to many monitor lizards, ducks and many species of birds.

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Day 6
Still had some muscle pain when I got up. Need more chicken! After a repeat trip to KFC and a few Zingers later I was good to go to Dumbolla.
So we walked up to the bus stand and boarded a bus to Anuradhapura. This bus will take us to Dumbolla as well, which is on the way to Anuradhapura. Please note that you only want to board a red colored bus, which is the government bus. Do not board a private bus. They will take a lot more time and will stop at many more locations on the way to get their seats filled. Sitting next to me in the bus was a French group of friends – two of them were studying in Mumbai and one of them was working in Chennai as a Facebook app developer. He told me that his team had made the fb app for the movie Dhoom 3. So, tip time. Foreigners coming to India, Sri Lanka and other neighboring countries should remember that they have to keep a few things in mind when speaking to someone. This is for your own safety. For instance, the guy who was talking to me was giving away too many details even when I did not ask for it. He told where he works in Chennai, for how much time is he there in Sri Lanka, where he stays – everything! Please do not reveal your addresses, your next day plans, your evening plans, your travel schedules to strangers!
Anyhow, we got down at Dumbolla and decided to visit Sigriya only of we had enough time left at the end of the day. This was a good decision since going to Sigriya would have meant more journey before actually seeing/doing anything.
At Dumbolla, we bought tickets for the Rock Cave Temple. Basically, it’s a 30 minute uphill walk to five caves that have huge Buddha statues. I am not much of a temples fan (I mean c’mon, India is full of temples right!) but the uphill/downhill walk filled with scenic beauty. We clicked a few snaps. There were many monkeys all along the way. Here I’d like to mention that I realized that cats too were very commonplace in Srilanka. I mean you can see cats everywhere.
After seeing the rock cave temple, we went to see the Buddha museum. This was again very good. It evoked a lot of thoughts as I went through the life stages of Buddha in a series of paintings. The museum had many 10th, 11th and 12th century Buddha statues as well.
We came back to Kandy, had some Chinese for dinner, went to a pub and tasted the local liquor – Arack.

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Day 7
We were on a 8 day trip. On the 7th, we decided to stay in Kandy, visit the Tooth Relic temple (not be missed!) and do some general shopping.
We bought quite a few Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts from a shop called ‘Ranjana’ on the first floor of the Central Market. Why? Because these same t-shirts cost about 4 times more back in India. They are manufactured here and hence, are cheap. Please remember the bargaining. Initially, he quoted 1200 per t-shirt but we ended up negotiating at 800! We had to buy a bag also to keep the t-shirts and we did. They quoted 1600 but we got it for 1000.
Later that day, we visited the Tooth Relic temple. Well, if you don’t already know then I should tell you that Srilanka is a Buddhist country and the Temple of the Tooth Relic is a major attraction and a place of high significance to buddhists all around the world. Why? It contains the ‘tooth’ of Buddha! Yup!
We did not get to see the actual tooth but only the golden container that holds it. The temple is quite big and you need about 2 hours to walk around the place. I was especially pleased to see the big Buddha statue that India gifted Sri Lanka. I should mention here that if you’re Indian or belong to any of the SAARC countries then look for discounts on the ticket prices. The ticket price for tooth relic was 1000 but was 500 for SAARC countries and was free for Srilankans.
We had our lunch at a south Indian restaurant called ‘Balaji’. Guys, more red chillie does not mean spicy food! Thick dosas does not mean good dosas. Same goes for the Sambhar! The only thing that I liked there was the tea! Actually it was a mistake to go to an Indian restaurant – I can have a lot of Indian food back in India right!
Day 8 we were to catch a flight to India from Colombo. To reach Colombo we had to catch a train early morning at 5:30 from Kandy. This means sleeping early.
Well, the last day would be spent at Colombo and the trip is coming to an end. I wish we had taken the air taxi from Kandy to Colombo, visited Sigriya and did trecking there, visited Anuradhapura and did white water river rafting at Kitugala. But then, we only had so much time and I am not complaining! It was a very good, fun filled trip and I think we struck a good balance between resting and touring.

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Day 8
I should mention that the train ride from Kandy to Colombo was something. The journey was filled with scenic views. The first class compartment seats that we had reserved in advance were very comfortable.
Upon reaching Colombo, we kept our luggage at the Cloak room at the train station and set about to see Colombo. We watched a movie – The Hobbit. Boring! And did some shopping – we went to the Majestic and Liberty malls and got ourselves many flavours of the popular Srilankan tea and also bought some authentic ‘Batik’ clothing.
Time to leave for India.

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Thoughts? Comments?

Panghal.com is up and running!


About a year back panghal.com used to be a simple showcase of my html5 learning exercises but today it has my resume, the two html5 sites, two wordpress blogs (technical and general), links to my old blogspot blog and has a brand new landing page that’s quite slick.

I am not very good with writing UX stuff from scratch, which is why I chose the default twenty thirteen and twenty eleven themes for the blogs, without much tinkering on the UX side. But under the hood, the word press installations are fully loaded with Yoast SEO, periodic backups to my Dropbox accounts, contact forms, enabled for smart phones, et al. !

Can we say the setup is all good to start blogging? I think so!

Small Poem

I saw him in an alley in the night.
And gave him a smile.
He came closer to me and looked straight in the eye.
Then he came up on me and I held him, hugged him tight

Then he wagged his tail in appreciation and walked beside.

… to be continued

Allergic Rhinitis and Yoga hacks

I want to give you some first hand account of the difficulties I am facing while practicing yoga to cure my Allergic Rhinitis. Oh, did I tell you that I suffer from Allergic Rhinitis?
Well, yes. I am allergic to dust, dog hair and some specific pollen. I am also aware that many kids and adults alike suffer from Allergic Rhinitis. And I am not going to give you some escapist advice that stay away from dogs, cats, pollen, dust and smoke. I won’t do this because I do not believe in escapism. I am strictly against it. I am a fighter and I want all of you to be the same.

The good news is that you can overcome Allergic Rhinitis and all sorts of allergies by disciplined practice of yoga, especially Pranayam – the breathing exercises. I am not going to recommend any medicines nor am I going to tell you to stop going outside. But yes, I am going to ask of you some discipline. I need at least 20 minutes of your time daily and then we can go on to 40 minutes but starting with 20 minutes daily is a commendable feat in itself. I used to do Yoga (Pranayam) as a kid when I first encountered this problem. Having tried numerous medicines and having been to many doctors, it was in the end decided that the best way to counter this problem was to stay away from dogs, dust and pollen. The problem was that as a kid this is not at all possible. I had a dog in the house (I am a big time animal lover and enthusiast. To try to keep me away from animals was close to taking a chunk of my life away from me), I went to school where we had to indulge in outdoor sports. After being tired of everything I turned to Yoga in desperation. The most important thing I had to do was to put my belief in Yoga and that it worked.
Long story short, I practiced for a few months and my life had improved beyond measure. Then I stopped caring and stopped doing Yoga. This was a big mistake. So now the situation is that every 3-4 years during a particular time I suffer from severe cold, running nose and breathing problems.

As part of 2013 resolutions I have decided to practice Pranayam daily and I have recently started to do so. I have identified Anulom Vilom (alternative nostril breathing) and Kapalbhati to be useful in allergy problems.

So far so good.

It is recommended to do these exercises at least 10 minutes each daily. Here’s the problem I am facing – I am finding it extremely difficult to sit in one place for 20 minutes !!

I can sit at one place for hours if I am studying for working on my laptop or talking to someone (although I consider gossiping extremely boring!) but to sit in one place and practice Yoga? It was just not happening till today ! When I found out a hack for it.

Here’s what I do – I love music and I have decided to take it’s help, maybe just initially. I put on songs and practice Yoga alongside. It has worked today and will work every single day. I am sure of this because I can sit in one place listening to songs to all day long. Ha! well, that’s only what I did in college !

I have discovered a fault in myself – lack of patience. And I am working on it by practicing Yoga and hacking Yoga practice by taking help of music. I will, at some later stage, turn the music off and be just on my own. Patience is very important for everything in life – for studies, for work, for persevering, anything and everything. A mind that cannot force a body to be still for a meager 20 minutes cannot be expected to do any great things in life.
I am working on building patience, discipline and good health through Yoga.

What you up to?

Little story, short story

Lol. This was nothing serious. I just wrote this to make a friend realize one can write just about anything. We laughed at this stuff later. Here it goes –

She was a girl. I was a boy. I had never met her nor heard her. I only visualized her through the photographs I saw of her. And then one day she called me and her voice was like music. Good music mind you. The kind of music I liked. But then I realized I liked all kinds of music so probably it was a judgement that was getting passed about her voice. But I did not care. All I cared about now was to see her talk. See her lips open and her tongue touch the palate of her mouth while she spoke. And the teeth. Those glorious white teeth like diamonds that were just waiting to be touched. But I could not touch them. So I was sad. But happy in a sad way. Her tongue was so red and her voice was so heavy in a girlish way. I liked voices like that. Voices that weren’t like pikachu was given a voice translator. I liked her voice. I would give anything to make her say my name over and over again. Maybe next time I’ll record her voice and sleep with my earphones on. And find myself in a visual ecstasy filled with dancing tongues, frolicking teeth and the background score of her voice. Im happy in this moment to have known her, to have heard her, to have seen her. And I am hopeful that one day that voice will be mine. That not a moment will go by that I won’t hear her. That I will anticipate her calls(in a very passive way so as not to disturb my work) just to hear her say my name but till then I am going to put on some funk music and jiggy with it.

The end.

Tic Tac Toe Board ? Hmmm…..

“Arrange numbers 1 to 9 on a tic tac toe board so that the sum of each row, column and diagonal is 15”

Tic Tac Toe Board ? Hmmm…

Circa 25th August, 2009.
Not a big deal, one might say. But things happen differently when your mind is occupied someplace else.

When I switched from a computing problem that I could not solve to this puzzle my mind was actually thinking something else. It was busy trying to extract an algorithm for the computing problem. So things did not quite come naturally when I read “Tic Toe Board”.

Here’s what I thought – Hmmm. Tic tac toe board. Hmm. I have definitely heard of this “tic tac toe” earlier. Yes, I have. But it’s a board. A tic tac toe board. Hmm. What does a tic tac toe board look like ? Could it be a wooden board ? Hmm. Or is it a cube sort of a thing ? Now how can diagonals run through this cubical board or any board ? I have no idea. Lets move to the next question.

So I wrote down there – “I have no idea what a tic tac board is. Sorry.”

Having finished with whatever little I had to offer in the test I came out. Just then I was called back into the test room. Mr. Ratra was holding my test paper and he looked at me with puzzled eyes and said, “Vaibhav you don’t know what a tic tac toe board is ? “. I confidently said, “No sir”. “It’s a 3 by 3 board vaibhav. Ok you try again. You have 5 more minutes. ” 5 more minutes ? Yes ! Maybe I can somehow solve that computing problem now. But let me first quickly think about this tic tac toe “board” again. I thought and somehow the noun “board” kept the image of a wooden board recurring in my “visual studio”. How can diagonals run through a wooden board ? So i again wrote down there – “Still not getting it. Sorry.” And I went back to my computing problem. But there also I could not have much luck.

When I came out, a guy was sitting ( in formals ) on a sofa. He had also take the test ( like me ) and was probably saddened by the fact that I might have done better than him ( it was an off-campus placement drive dude ) . But I assured him otherwise and then he felt a little better ! By the way, he was a computer science graduate from Australia. “No placements there ?”, I asked and he said that they prefer the natives. Hmm. That’s some racial abuse I guess. Anyways, I turned to this guy and said, “Dude, by any chance, do you know what a tic tac toe board is ?”. And he looked at me surprisingly and said, “You don’t know what a tic tac toe board is ? “. I said, “No”. He shook his head at the “native” indian stupidity and said to me in “hindi” – “Kabhi zero katta nahi khela kya ?” . Pause. Pause. “What the……? “. Pause. “WHAT WAS I THINKING ?”, I shouted at myself and he started smiling at me in sympathy. I was so ashamed ! Ya, ashamed with a capital ‘A’. The purpose of my visit had changed now. From “get a placement” it had become “save your image”. I just wanted to run from there and hide in a corner of the world where people are not aware of things like “tic tac toe” . Then my comments kept haunting me –

“I have no idea what a tic tac toe board is. Sorry.
Still not getting it. Sorry.”

What would these people think of me ? I didn’t know what to think or expect. I would not have been surprised if they had kicked me out with a stern warning – “Never be within 500 metres of this company or we’ll shoot you.”

But none of that happened. These good people somehow figured out that I knew some computers too and took a chance on me.


Hypertension and Madness Follow

Your heart beat increases even as you are lying down listening to slow, soothing songs. But they make no difference because your brain is thinking something else. Then you suddenly get up – panting – and wipe the sweat off your face and throw away your ipod. Mixed feelings follow – nervousness, anger, frustration – and helplessness. You grab the pen in sight and start scribbling something on the paper. And then you stop and shout out aloud in your head – WHY ME ? Then you get up and fill the water bottle and drink a lot of icy cold water. Doesn’t seem to help. Then you (I mean “I”) look around the hostel. You are alone. All the others have gone to work. Unlike you, they are people who “do something” ! Suddenly you feel pathetic. The future ‘had’ to be bright. You were not meant for this, you dude. But that’s how it is today and today you cannot change it. This is the day that you have to live. And this is the effect that rejection can have

– You can be a writer !

And then anger grips your veins again and you say to yourself, “I will win”. That’s the residual effect of repeatedly listening to “We gonna win”. Ha ! Bryan Adams, I tell you. But this is no joke. Time is slipping out of your hands. Then you begin to reason. Reason always takes over a reasonable mind. But you don’t want your mind to be just reasonable anymore. You want it to be mad. “In a moment of madness” is a good topic for Group Discussion, I suppose. And in a moment of madness you say to yourself, “There must be something that can be done. Every problem just sits pretty and waits to be solved”. That’s it. You’re done. You’re fed up. You’re fired. You’re fired up.

Unconvincingly and without purpose you pick up your pen again and start thinking that maybe someone wants you to be tougher. Someone. You “hope” there is a “someone” who wants you to be tougher. But you don’t know if that entity exists. You yourself are the creator of all your problems – this is a fact that you are aware of. Then maybe that “someone” is you only.

Escapism is a bad thing. Actually all the fun lies in looking straight into the eyes of your fears. Your fears are your weak points. Achilles heals. And you know that your fears have beaten you many times in the past. You remember those times. Oh how your fears have mercilessly left you to be ignored while others strolled by. Others, they were not better than you, you assume. Look at the most successful person you know. He is fearless – at least in what he does to be successful. That’s how it goes. “A person who cannot overcome his weaknesses can never be successful”, I overheard someone saying it once. Guess it. Your fears are your weaknesses. Think about it. Who can stop a person who has overcome his fears ? None. A person who beaten his fears goes about his way fearlessly. His actions will show you his strength. When weakness eliminates, only strength remains. Persevere. Yes, persevere. You know a lot, you think. Reason has taken over but a shining metallic element of madness has decided to take room in your brain – permanently.

Prophecy maybe a good thing sometimes, you think. But speech without action is like heart without blood – lifeless.

It’s time to act. It’s time !!


Ramayana, in today’s times, holds very little relevance and I’ll explain that afterwards. Ramayana reminds me of two things . Two unusual things – Mahatama Gandhi and the BJP.
The father of the nation died dreaming of an ideal state – the Ram Raj where all sections of society would be given the same privileges. And where all religions would be tolerant. But do we have the India he dreamed of? Of course not. We have all the examples that we need – gujarat riots, maharashtra riots, orissa riots, babri masjid, malegaon, train blasts – if one is outside the house then one is not sure to return. And do I believe my eyes and my ears when a major political party like the BJP supports hindu extremist organizations like the RSS, VHP and the Bajrangdal. And when the same party promises a Ram Raj to us.
Ram and the Ramayana have merely been reduced to literature which is why in the beginning I said that Ramayana holds little relevance today. But that sounds pessimistic, right?
You see its so easy to be an optimist and to have sophisticated intellect and discuss high sounding matters while sitting in the comfort of our homes. To be an optimist is a great virtue but at the same time one must remain realistic too. Like Sri Ram himself who was optimistic of winning his wife back but at the same time he did not go empty hands to fight the great king Ravana.
So let’s be practical. Ramayana is of little importance in today’s times but this is the very reason that we must strive to follow it. We only give importance to something when we lack it. It is high time that we realize the fact that we so much lack the Rama values and let it be the motivation to study Valmiki’s Ramayana.

The Time and The Table

I’ve made time tables. A lot of ’em. And I’ve made plans. Quite a lot. Let me not surprise you now – they all failed…..eh miserably. Which is why I began asking myself The Fundamental Question of Reason – why do we plan?
And let me play the oracle now. We do not make time tables to wrap up stuff or to schedule our days or to cover up our sinful backlog. We do it so that we could fool our brains into believing that all is ‘OK’ and the power of time management can, in fact, turn things around. And that in the end things will fall in their proper places. But that’s alright too. It’s human nature to be hopeful.
No, it’s not that time tables and plans just cannot work. They can. And they sometimes do. But it’s just that they require ‘not-so-common’ qualities like sincerity, diligence and discipline.

“A Dimpy-less life”

Anybody who knows about me, knows about Dimpy. It has always been official and always a pleasure. If you find the english childish or lacking in vocab, do not complain. Today I write for her and I know she wouldn’t mind- my first love.

Even as tears stop listening to me and cannot be held back, I write.
“Die , my sweetheart, die. It’s time for you to leave. Go now “. With such words and eyes ebbing of tears I bid Dimpy farewell. It was 2 am in the morning and I was sitting beside her, with her head resting silently in my lap. Caressing her forehead I somehow knew that this was going to be our last meet. Even though I knew that she had lost most of her audile and vocal abilities along with her eyesight, it was clearly visible on her face that she comprehended my message. After a while I went to bed and cried for a few more moments and never knew when I fell asleep and the next day came back to Noida. This was the last time I loved her. This was the last time we talked. This was the first time we separated ………. never to unite again.
Dear friends and dear foes, Dimpy left this world on 11:45 am on 25th July, 2008 – four days after our last interaction. Her condition began deteriorating just after I had requested her to die. She ate less, drank less, slept more and became almost bed-ridden – as if she was convinced that the world held nothing more for her. During her last three days she did not take any meals and refused to drink water or milk. My mother just used to wet her tongue with some ganga-jal (water from the holy Ganges). Her end had arrived and she was ready to leave. But maybe there was something, some unfulfilled desire, a last wish or hope that she was waiting for. On the 25th at 11:30 am my father rang me up to inquire whether I was going to come home that day or not ( they did not tell me about Dimpy’s condition ). Even though some voice at the core of my heart told me that I should go, I said no to him. This was the last mistake I made in her lifetime. …..she was waiting for me, she wanted me to be with her in her last endeavour. As if she came to know I was not coming, fifteen minutes hence she passed out her last breath . 11:45 am – Dimpy died. A phenomenon ended. A death less ordinary.
Dogs don’t die easily, they say . A dog’s death is like a metaphor for the worst of deaths possible. But no, not Dimpy’s death. She died the most silent and peaceful death. She had a beautiful death, just as golden as her life had been. People find it hard to believe but Dimpy was 18 years of age. I do not possess a formal proof for it but she has had been with me since the days she could be picked up by one hand. Since the days she weighed no more than a laptop. I never wanted a troubled end for her. She was having a lot of problems lately. It took her a lot of time to even muster up courage to stand on her feet and sometimes she just could not stand. For the last four years, she was regularly on medicines. Her bones had weakened, eyesight was lost, she hardly uttered anything and could no even hear properly. For such reasons, she had to be kept in chains all the time – something that I strongly disapproved of. She had grown thin and powerless and used to skip meals. These were natural age related problems and I wanted her to leave at the proper time before things went on to be worse for her. After such a wonderful life she had, I did not want see her leaving in pain. My mother is relieved that she died a perfectly natural death. Dimpy was no less than a daughter in disguise for her. Is my mother ashamed that she loved Dimpy as if she would have loved her own daughter? Not at all. Never. She never pretended to love her. She loved her deeply and would never deny that love.
Everybody does not have a best friend. But every dog (or any animal for that matter) is ready to be someone’s best friend. I was a best friend to Dimpy. She meant a world to me and still does. 18 yeras is a long time but it seems as if it were yesterday that we were fooling around the house. There are tales to be told and storybooks to be written about the life we shared. Such a life can spark inspiration in anyone.
Circa 1991. I am small and learning how to ride a bicycle. My father is with me and we stop at some neighbour’s house. There I see Dimpy for the first time ……..she is small too, very small, small enough to be called a pup. But she is quite a handful too. She rivets my attention at once. I always become excited when i see any pup, dog (any animal actually)…even today, although the reasons have changed. We stop there for a moment or two and my eyes remain fixed on her. But she ?Heavens, such attitude !! This was our first interaction. After that I used to go to their house on a regular basis – just for her. I wanted her, in my deepest desires I wanted her. As elders say, and if there is, indeed, some mechanism that listens to a child’s wish on a fast track basis, then I confirm it’s existence. I wanted her and after a few months, I had her. The aforementioned neighbour wanted to sell off Dimpy (retards or what ? ). I heard the news. And I knew my father loved me more than anything else so I explained him in the best possible way all the reasons I could think of for having a dog, all the reasons that an animal-loving small boy could think of at that age ( although today I can write a book on why you must have an animal in your life ). Wow, so great, Dad was on my side. But hey, great love has to overcome great obstacles too – that’s my mom. She’d had some unpleasant experiences back at her place with the dogs when she was a kid ( bites and all ) so she was like – ” why on earth do we want to raise a dog ? “.
It was summer and my mom took me to Gaziabad for vacations. The rest is history. When we came back, Dimpy was already home. I love my dad for what he did.
She was a bundle of hyperactive energy ready to explode anytime the chains went loose. In the previous life, Dimpy was called Jackie. Dimpy was given her name by Lovely bhaiya who initially taught me all the dog basics. Seriously, the initial knowledge I got from him still holds as the fundamental dog basics. In a few months time she had grown big enough to cause a racket around the place. Whenever she got (accidently) unchained she would run, she would run as if she was in some marathon and she had a gold waiting for her, she would run as if her running would inspire people to drop weapons and love each other, as if she was on a running mission, she would run wild and beastly and with full force and energy, letting her libido loose. An unimaginable force. A lightning bolt.
And with such energy around me how could have I resisted change. She had the ability to turn things upside down, topsy-turvy – and my life was not going to be an exception. But I was satisfied. I had a dog, and that too the one I wanted. I no longer had the will to sleep those “extra” two minutes before getting ready for school. She was the reason – she was the first thing that I wanted to see each morning. You can understand how a small boy can get excited beyond limits. But the passion was here to stay. And it did, for 18 short years. Each morning I got up, the first thing I did was to see her. Back then we lived as a joint family. There were too many people around for her to recognize the one. Among all the people who took her for walks and who provided her with meals it was difficult for her to estimate my importance in her life. So, she took me as an almost nobody. For her, I was just a curious boy. Nevertheless, I knew things would change.
Then we moved to another place where Dimpy started acknowledging me since there were just three people for her this time – myself, mommy and papa. She held mom and dad in high regards. But me ?? Naa. She put me equivalent to herself. A dog has respect levels in its brain. The first level belongs to the person(s) whom it considers the master(s) ( mom and dad in this case ). The second level belongs to the dog itself and any other person whom the dog thinks is equivalent to itself ( like other dogs ………and me, in this case ). In the third level the dog recognizes relatives and friends whom the dog thinks as mostly harmless. The next level belongs to people whom the dog has the authority to bite at sight.
At home, I always wanted to be in her proximity. It’s hard to explain the look in her eyes – full of mischief, ignorance but always full of curiosity. I loved that look. I poured my bagful of toys in front of her so that she could choose the toy she wanted to play with. As (to our horror) we found out later, all she wanted was to chew stuff to bits and pieces. And she did that – with all the things she could lay her teeth on – the curtains, footwear, bedsheets, plastic balls and what not. Her teeth were inexplicably sharp. But it’s all a part of growing up. We knew that. It would take volumes to explain all her growing years – dog biscuits, liver tonics, Ostocalcium vet, syringe shots and so on – all that a growing child could be provided for. She was one highly pampered kid in the family. Gradually but convincingly she became the center of distraction in our lives. Barking, running here and there, being able to wreck havoc if things didn’t go her way, she could do anything. She always wanted attention. She was not one of those dogs who would curl up in some corner or go beneath the bed and sleep there. She had all the place to herself and with the amount of love she was getting she thought that she was an incarnation of some deity. She always lay in the center of the room, and in the summers never drank non-refrigerated water. In the winters she ate omlettes, boiled eggs, cashew nuts, on a regular basis. I simply loved to see her eat. When I saw her eat, it felt as if I was the one getting filled. Her hunger became my hunger and her thirst became my thirst.
No words can explain the life we shared. People mostly fail to really understand their pets. The reason – they treat them as pets. I hate this word. Dimpy was never a pet. She was my first best friend and remains so. It’s only when you let them be a part of your life that you really get (the privilege) to unravel them. Just to give you an example how well we understood each other I’d let you know of a really simple game we used to play. I used to take a plastic ball (she knew what I was going to do and become excited but always remained calm) and place it on the floor. Unlike other dogs who would rush to grab the ball she simply used to stand on one side of the ball because she knew that what was to come was more fun. After placing the ball on the floor I used to step back a little. Standing on either side of the ball opposite to each other we had our eyes fixed on it and from time to time we used to look at each other too. Then one of us would initiate the game by moving one step forward towards the ball in a slow motion. The other would respond by doing the same. At all times the two pairs of eyes would remain fixed on the ball. When we reached close enough to the ball, I would move my hands and she would move her mouth towards the ball in a very slow motion. And then suddenly but intentionally one of us would attack the other and all hell would break loose. We would fight each other till we lay exhausted on the floor. The idea was not to grab the ball but to have fun by fighting each other. Rolling on the floor, sometimes one on top of the other, we played our hearts out. In the end I would caress her, she would lick my face and then I would pour water for her and drank some myself too. After that she would rest by my side while I did my school work. Life was simple Life was good.
I can write volumes about such games and incidents that are studded like gems and scattered throughout the fabric of my memory of the time we spent together. But they are not for public scrutiny. They are stuff that I would treasure for this lifetime. She remains forever alive in my heart, in my attitude, thoughts and in the way I still love her.
Things changed when I moved into college life. Another city meant that now was the time we separated. That’s when she started getting old. Away from each other, I longed to see her face. When I used to go home and during my project in the vacations she always used to stay and sleep beside my study table in my room. I too would remain in her close proximity – as if we were making up for the lost time. We were.
I would have to conclude it now. Day before when I was going to college I saw a lady standing at the roadside. She was caressing a stray dog. The dog was whining as if it had not been loved for ages. Constantly wagging it’s tale and moaning in appreciation, the dog made for an emotionally overwhelming sight. The lady, possibly waiting for some bus, felt no shame or insult in loving a stray dog. She had made his day. Something that they both won’t forget for a long time.
Some people use the word ‘dog’ as a derogatory comment. In India, especially, being an animal enthusiast is not considered a ‘very good thing’. Here society demands the person to look neat and tidy. Essentially, kids are encouraged to stay away from animals. Why, I ask ? Animal Planet’s slogan – Aakhir animals bhi toh human hain ( even animals are humans ) holds no meaning in this country. For those who think that they are superior to dogs I have something from Mark Twain – Heaven goes by favor, if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.

Take an animal home. Be it anything – dog, cat, parrot …anything. If you think that you cannot afford to have a dog(or any animal for that matter) I’d like you to know something – No matter how little money or how fewer possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich. Contrary to all beliefs, it’s not the bread that they are in urgent need of, it is the love that you have been holding back from them.