Thursday, July 30, 2009

Drawer Power

Just the other day I was rather jobless at home and with the rains playing havoc I had to restrict myself to indoor activities. My usual rainy day activity of flipping through a few magazines wasnt doing the trick & rummaging through a drawer unopened for months in the hope of finding something to do seemed to be a good option. Which fortunately led me to discover a lot of artifacts from my earlier days (im just in my ahem early twenties, so my early days werent that far off). And behind every artifact was a long story, a few of which I have listed below
1) A parking ticket dated 10.01.2005 - My first & only run in with the cops in Cochin. My friends & I parked in a no parking zone by Marine Drive where the no parking sign was placed in such a way that most people could not see it. The cops were more than happy to fine us despite our protests that were with merit. Been extra careful while parking ever since that day.
2. A set of pics of me & my friend on a 2004 R1 in Yamaha's showroom - Actually thought that I had lost those pictures. We happened to be passing by the showroom on a sunday when we saw the bike outside. Got some pictures before we were shooed away. Mercifully not many people got to see 2 college going guys act like kids and then even more embarrassingly get chased away by a geriatric guard.
3. A game outline - Had this idea for a computer game when I was in school which in my eyes at that time was golden & which probably would have catapulted itself to Mario levels of fame. Being me, I never got around to doing anything about it & the world moved on. The years have wisened me & the game no longer looks like the Pacman beater that it once did. Or at least thats what I tell myself.
4. Hall ticket & board exam papers - These are of varying vintage with the oldest being 11 years old now, dont know how in the world I never got rid of them. I look at some of the questions and wonder when I learnt about these things. Was fun jogging my memory though. Strangely the questions seem familiar but I havent the foggiest clue as to the answers.
5. A book of my thoughts - Ide forgotten how much time I spent penning random thoughts in a book while in college. Others might call it a diary. I would say a wonderful peek back in history. So what if the history penned in it is from around 2004.
6. CDs - Stuff varying from Jim Reeves to the soundtrack of the movie Scorpion King. Been years since Ive listened to this stuff.
7. Dried up pens - Had a bunch of them (good ones even) received at various points in time which I thought I'll use at a better time & not in college. Kept them so safely that I forgot about them over the years. Had to toss them in the bin. A lesson on life maybe ?
Im sure theres a ton of other stuff lying around waiting for me to pick up & start remembering the story behind them. Come to think of it after Im done posting this I don’t think I have anything to do. Time to go raid another drawer then.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No poor man's Ooty this ....

On Thursday I get a call from my friend Alton asking me if I wanted to join his friends and him on a weekend trip to Yercaud. Initially the guys in Blore had planned to go by bus & join the guys coming in from Madras at Salem. Lady Fate however kindly intervened. Yamaha had sent me a mail regarding their Photo Contest on Thursday & Alton and I had already done a photoshoot session of my R15 with his amazing Nikon coolpix P 90 the previous weekend and we had planned on doing another photoshoot later. With Yamaha’s contest everything seemed to fall into place. The only thing to be done was research – climate (riding in the rains wouldve been a strict no - no) & directions.

After weeks of postponing I finally go & get myself the DSG Nero & in the process second glances from everyone all the way to office. Time for more research. Surprisingly there wasn’t too much on the net about travelling to Yercaud from Bangalore. Which was a good sign for us as we wanted a nice chilled out weekend far far away from the maddening crowd.

Being the big planners that we are, the original plan we hatch is to make it to Salem by 7:30 AM so we leave Silk Board at 4:30 AM. 3 of us are travelling from Bangalore on bikes – Alton on his P180, Adi on his Avenger 200 & me on my R15. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the amount of traffic on the highway at that god forsaken hour. We rode for an hour before stopping for petrol and realising that we had just done around 60 kms in an hour. The sun was just starting to make its way up and that made for a good background for our first (of many) round(s) of photos. Post break our speeds improved once the sun made its presence felt & traffic (mostly lorries) thinned out. The L & T stretch was freaking awesome, the best road I have ever ridden on in my life. A couple of long stops for pictures ensured that we would not reach Salem at the designated time. Blame the really scenic settings.

Pictures do not do this setting justice
We were blessed with a light drizzle that didn’t hamper our progress much but everyones pair of jeans were a bit soggy as a result of it which was a bit irritating.
Reach Salem and find a small place that gives us tasty south Indian breakfast (around 200 kms on the clock by now) and get quite a few glances cause 1) people can see we have driven down from Blore & 2) we are the only ones wearing helmets in Salem. The way people ride on the roads there is quite crazy and was the most dangerous section of our trip. We hit the 4 roads junction and soon we are enjoying Yercaud’s 20 hairpin bends with mile wide smiles on our faces.
Huge bamboo shoots on the way up to Yercaud
Word of caution - anyone doing this stretch needs to be careful of the monkeys that might decide to dash across the road. We ended up seeing more monkeys lazying around on the side of the road than people while on our way up. More photoshoots (courtesy even more scenic settings) and we finally set foot in Yercaud only by 10:30 AM (roughly 230 kms).
The first thing we noticed was the climate which was absolutely heavenly. There was a chill in the air, not cold enough to have your teeth chatter but a very very pleasant chill. After dropping our stuff at the room & freshening up we headed to Pagoda Point which offered a really great view of the valley & spent some time there.
The view from Pagoda Point
Mandatory photo session completed we pushed back to Yercaud & went to Hotel Shevaroys for lunch. A combination of an irritated customer at the next table (poor guy got his drink after 25 mins with no sign of the food) & the waiter not coming to take our order even after 10 minutes of sitting there meant that we marched out and had a tasty south Indian lunch next door at Hotel Malar. We wanted to buy some stuff from Yercaud and on asking the locals we found that only coffee / figs / pepper would be available and that too at an estate 14 kms away. We were amazed at the lovely narrow winding roads with estates on both sides with the only real scare of the trip coming when a bus from the opposite side came charging in and just missed the bike in front of us by the faintest of whiskers.

While on the way there we saw a signboard to the Servarayan temple & decided to see the temple. Just as we were reaching there the cloud cover enveloped the mountain to such an extent that visibility was down to less than 10 feet. We couldn’t even see each other despite putting on our headlights on high beam (thank goodness we were not half way up or something when this happened). As they say every cloud has a silver lining (pun unintended), in this case – brilliant photography. There was a ferris wheel & merry go round which coupled with the ridiculously thick cloud cover made for a really spooky experience. I wouldn’t have been surprised if an axe wielding psychopath wouldve charged at us from the blanket of whiteness with murder on his mind. Or even Javier Bardem from No Country For Old Men.... Im not joking. The temple is actually a cave temple & apparently locals believe that the deity protects the neighbouring villages.
More like a scene out of HBO's show Carnivale

Guess Who ?
Soon the clouds cleared and we were laughing at how spooked we were by what appeared to by an ordinary playground and we were off biking to the above mentioned estate where it turned out that nothing was available. Wanting to avoid riding after sunset we headed back to our hotel and sat down and did what we wanted to do - relax. By then it had become really cold with a chilly breeze that made everyone want to go grab a blanket and throw it around themselves. Decided that an early dinner was the best option for our tired bodies and we went back to Hotel Shevaroys (I know, I know, some people just don’t learn). Decent food though expensive. Sleep that night was, as expected, heavenly.

We were out for a stroll followed by a late breakfast / early lunch and set out for a walk around Yercaud’s lake.
Yercaud's focal point - its lake
It wasnt too long ago that boating in a lake was a big thrill for me also. Looks like Ive outgrown it before I knew it.
Boating in the lake
More pictures and we decided to leave early to avoid the evening weekend rush into Bangalore. The temperature today was higher than on saturday & it was a bit sunny by lunch time. We left Yercaud by 12 with rather fond memories of a totally unspoilt, in fact virgin mini hill station that was the perfect antidote for living in Bangalore.

Ghat roads - heaven on earth
The ride down to Salem through the ghats was again brilliant with hardly any traffic & fortunately had a Sumo in front on me who was honking at all the turns and ensuring that no vehicles were waiting for us on our side of the road ready to send us to the grim reaper. With the sun out we had a glorious time riding back as the highway was empty and this made the ride a hoot as we shot past whatever little traffice was there. I am one who cribs about the nature of roads in our cities but the highway was a dream come true & I'll shut my mouth for now. From the outskirts of Salem to Bangalore we encountered not one pothole, speedbreaker or roadblock. I was in 6th gear with the throttle fully open for quite a long time though the cross winds ensured I could only do a max of 130 kmph. More stops for pictures and we were back in Bangalore by 5 oclock. Which meant being back to potholes, people crossing the road without looking, speedbreakers, people riding on the wrong side of the road & then cutting across traffic without signalling and everything else. I had half a mind to turn and ride back to Yercaud…...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Apples & oranges, Bikes & ???

It so happened that the day was filled with instances of comparisons in different shapes and forms and in the most unexpected of places. In a random fit of thoughtfulness, I was contemplating on what is the best thing to compare a bike to (dont ask why, even I dont know why). Shouldnt have been too difficult a task, one might say. After all its just 2 wheels, an engine in between & seating for 2, right? Not exactly. After a lot of soul searching, head scratching & goatee tugging it eventually dawned on me that women make for the aptest comparison. And so here I am penning my thoughts on the 3 bikes in my life so far & how closely they actually resemble women in their traits.
**DISCLAIMER - Any resemblance in characteristics to any woman I know is purely coincidental.**

Wild Thing
To say that my brother's Apache RTR 160 was a bit of a eye opener for me would be a massive understatement. Dressed in the right clothes (in this case yellow) she looks hot & has a really wild streak in her. She may not grab eyeballs any more as she is doing good numbers (akin to a woman wearing what’s in, along with every other woman) but she will always be beautiful in my eyes. She just begs me to rip the throttle & unleashes that trademark roar which accompanies the sudden burst in speed & adrenaline which to be honest is pretty addictive.
But it isn’t all dreamy. With that manic mindset she gets vibey by the time she crosses 60 kmph & emergency braking will have you fishtailing like it was nobody’s business. And the constant revving braking revving routine can get a bit tiring over long rides especially because your fingers & your bottom are going to be tingling with all the vibes. Restrict yourself to shorter rides and side roads to rev the bike a bit and you can be sure of a big grin by the time you reach.

Almost like the woman you know who is one of those hyper types who would dare you to accompany her on some crazy ass kamikaze mission that is bound to get you both in trouble. Of course you the fact that shes a girl & hence not supposed to be tougher than you troubles you no end but the thrill of the risk will give you kicks to last the week. Your legs might tremble, your voice will tend to go a bit soft but you sure as hell will pretend to be brave and agree to jump headfirst into danger. And in the process write a true story to tell your grandchildren. She will push you way beyond your comfort zone & you know the only reason you aren’t doing more is because you've got smaller gonands than her. Living on the edge aint always that great though, so a bit of caution is best mixed with this dangerous diva who makes for a heady rush.

Uptown Girl
When I think of the Yamaha R15, I think of red wine. To truly appreciate the beauty of it, you need to have drunk (and gotten drunk) on beer, rum, whisky (including scotch), brandy, vodka & local stuff at different stages of your life. After all these if you do move up to wine, you start understanding what makes it so expensive & why its worth it. Critics will say, you can get a better kick out of rum or vodka. But theres no point in convincing them. Its about you knowing.
Its fast, no wait, make that bloody fast. And yet its not about the speed. It is an absolutely brilliant masterpiece of Japanese engineering & on less congested roads, when you start exploring the seemingly endless potential of the bike you know you are always safe. The bike is reassuring, you can almost feel it holding your hand & making sure that you are comfortable. Always. Super smooth does not begin to explain how it feels. Add to that the fact that wherever you go, you are guaranteed a second look and you know whatever you have spent is worth it. Did I mention it is ridiculously quick without the drama?
The R15 is like the gorgeous model who people would love to go upto & impress with their wit but something about her aura tends to tie tongues of even the slickest talkers. You will spend an extra 5 minutes combing your hair before you go to meet her. You will make sure your shoes are shining even if you are meeting her at night & nobody is going to look at your feet. You know that when you walk into a restaurant or a party all eyes will be on the two of you. Their lips might be saying 'Look at her, all showstar looks but Im sure she must be a dodo'. But their eyes will be green with envy.

Lady In Red
I still remember the day years ago when I first read the Overdrive (then India's #1 auto magazine & bible for us enthusiasts) issue which had the test drive of the then just released Bajaj Pulsar. They put together a comparo with the other bikes in its class with some really C grade models for added effect & the Pulsar twins (then the 150 & 180) blew the competition right out the window. Those sculpted lines, the perfomance they offered & the hard to swallow (for the competition) price meant that Bajaj had a sure fire winner on their hands. Bajaj is still laughing its way to the bank as they have succeeded in keeping the Pulsar brand alive with the constant upgrades. Its just that maybe, just maybe, they succeeded too well.
Its almost 7 years since I was gifted the Pulsar by my Dad. While I havent clocked a gazillion kms on it like others wouldve in this duration, every ride has been memorable. My first ever 100 kmph + experience, the first time the rear end stepped out of line on a rain soaked road thus throwing my heart into my mouth & the headrush that followed, the first puncture which fortunately happened outside a tyre shop, the first fall because of the notchy gearbox and the recovery from it both mental & physical ...... fact is, Ive grown up with the bike. Which is why she reminds me of the girl next door.
I guess a lot of people are lucky enough to have had a girl next door in their life. Not necessarily across the wall next door. Shes smart, shes always been kind, shes pestered you as a kid, shes given you inside tips that will help you garner enough confidence to go talk to the new girl in school who you have an itsy bitsy crush on, she provided a lending shoulder when you need someone to talk to when you realise the new girl has an itsy bitsy crush on one of your friends, she helped you with subjects you have difficulty in, she was the one who was as happy as your parents were when the results of your exams came out, she was someone you had to talk to before you decided on which college you joined & you knew that she would always tell you whats best for you (even if it means that the two of you will not meet each other regularly like before) , she introduces you to all her female friends in college and even put in a really swell word for you to her friends who find you charming. Shes been & will always be your rock. And sometimes that solidity is what you really want in life.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A post about a show about nothing

Everyone agrees that there are 2 kinds of people in this world. Everyone disagrees on the basis on which the world should be split into 2. Some say its into men & women. Others say its on the basis of religion. Common splits include - Adults & kids. Whites & non - whites. Rich & poor. Those who have read so and so book against those who havent. Bikers & non bikers. Vegetarians & non vegetarians. Drinkers & non drinkers. Winners & losers. Educated & uneducated. Street smart & book smart. ipod lovers & ipod haters. Good & bad. Skinny & fat.

And now Ive discovered one more - Seinfeld fans & Friends fans. To date I havent found a single person who is an ardent fan of both the shows. Seinfeld, the show about nothing, has its own characteristic feel that most fans of Friends can just not relate to. The latter are happy watching Joey playing dumb & Monica and Chandlers blooming romance & the ever evolving dynamics between Ross and Rachel & Phoebe's eccentricities and whatever else the show is popular for. Ive noticed that almost all my friends (who happen to be big fans of Friends) find that they dont get the humour of Seinfeld which they perceive to be a thinking man's comedy. I really dont know whats there to think when Jerry is at his witty best with quotes like this
"I was the best man at the wedding. If I'm the best man, why is she marrying him? "
"Men want the same thing from their underwear that they want from women: a little bit of support, and a little bit of freedom."
"Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge. "
"Seems to me the basic conflict between men and women, sexually, is that men are like firemen. To men, sex is an emergency, and no matter what we're doing we can be ready in two minutes. Women, on the other hand, are like fire. They're very exciting, but the conditions have to be exactly right for it to occur. "
"Somebody just gave me a shower radio. Thanks a lot. Do you really want music in the shower? I guess there's no better place to dance than a slick surface next to a glass door."

And while it might be a grown mans comedy (though not to the level of Fraser), the beauty of Seinfeld is that its so simple cause its about, well, nothing. And nothing displayed it more than when Jerry & George pitch to the producers of a TV channel to air a sitcom thats about nothing. Seriously, a show about nothing that has its leads pitching to the TV guys about a show about nothing. It couldve & by all means shoudlve fallen flat on its face but it was hilarious.
For shows that were so similar in their concept, the 2 ended up at opposite end of the spectrum. Both the shows revolved around friends & life. Before the shows became hits, none of the actors were masters of their art. But by the final season of each show, the actors had almost bigger than the show & earning big money for each episode. And yet how they differed. Seinfeld was always unpretentious & not just in the storylines - Jerry, George, Elaine & Kramer always had that difficult to describe chemistry which took Friends a long time to develop. Friends was never undeserving of its praise, to me its just that it was at the right place at the right time. The first few seasons I thought were so - so, the mid seasons were good but I somehow didnt like the last couple of seasons when things started to twist and turn & it kinda lost its old charm. It became a show that tried to capture life, friendship, relationships & growing up and eventually settling down in your 20s. Thing is, you could end up watching 4 episodes of Friends back to back, have a couple of laughs and get on with your life without remembering what you just watched over the last couple of hours. I still remember an episode of Seinfeld I watched 4 days back which had Jerry give up a cosy moment with a date cause he couldnt believe that she liked an ad that he didnt. Isnt Jerry's behaviour reflective of how real life is ? If you think about it, do you know anyone 2 people who have gone through as much ups & downs as Ross & Rachel ? I didnt think so. That and the pearls of wisdom that Jerry shared with the world make me the Seinfeld kind. What about you ?