The Joy and Pain of Parenting

Now I’ve had a rough childhood, and for that matter had it rough growing up as well.

Before the peoples go off on a tangent, when I say rough, it has nothing to do with abusive parents! Quite the opposite in fact, loving, tough but fair about sums it up. Though my darling mother did have a penchant for swatting me (hard) with whatever came into her hands! Boy oh boy, did I get beat up! But no broken bones, and no erosion of love, so it’s all good.

I’m talking about my kids. See pics. These are from an age, when they were very young and very innocent, not contaminated by my circumstances, by my decisions, by my indiscretions, nor for that matter, by this age of instant gratification that we live in today, and the poor kids have been brought up in.

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How many of us really remember that sometime in the distant past, we were truly in joy about ourselves, our kids and in general? Being a parent was such joy, it wasn’t a case of constantly being on high alert!
 That changed as we grew and they grew, didn’t it?

Well I was a paret even before the kids came along. See, my kid sister Shruti is fourteen years younger, and I’d been through the changing diapers, studying with, teaching, drop and pick up duty, being on high alert bit already.

We talked about the generation gap when I was younger, and how our parents couldn’t seem to understand us, and now I can well imagine that my kids probably think the same way.

Save of course my daughter, Keertana, who thinks I am receding into my second childhood, and have the mind of a 12-year-old! Which may well be true by the way.
 So they probably have it hard, understanding my twelve-year-old mind.

So what prompted this entry? A host of things. My age (not young), the kids growing up, the little fella, Kartikeya, in junior college now (on the verge of graduating), the girl pursuing her Masters’ Degree in Psychology, and Krishanu, the accomplished photographer.

Bhavna and I were once visiting with his photography school professor, taking about his prospects, how he had fared, and the like, when the professor brought up the generation discussion.

So the professor says, that our of a class of 40 something, there are only 2 students who seem to be driven, and are possessed, and have the hunger to succeed beyond their own expectations. If that is a statistic, then I’m a bit, no let’s face it, very worried!
But permit me to set the right context first, and with that away we go on a ramble through my thoughts, but the public who has time to read my drivel is used to that by now…..

When my son Krishanu visited me in the UK, I took several days off, and took him around, spent quality time with him. I’ve been a keen amateur photographer, and so the DLSR went along with us, to save those precious moments that we spent together. That’s where he caught the bug, and soon the DLSR wasn’t mine no more, and I happily gave it away.

What I didn’t know was that the shutter-bug had bitten him, and during on of my visits home, over a cup of coffee, my son told me he wasn’t happy with his academic pursuit of Statistics, and wanted to do something different. Gasp! Pause! Choke! What??? WTF is more like it actually.

But one thing I admired about him is that he had to courage to come up to me and tell me, what was on his mind, even though it was earth shattering news, if not to me, to his mother, and my parents as well.

Guys and Girls, we are Indiana, we live in India, and even though we are fairly cosmopolitan and occidental in our thinking, the “what no degree?” syndrome is very prevalent and ingrained into our psyche.

But I was loath to impose upon him what he should do, and so I thought about it and in a few minutes decided to support him. The boy-man was finding himself, and this was part of the process.

The family of course reacted. In the melee was da mudder, da grande mudder, da grande father, da auntie, well actually two. Oh! And I forgot the da grande parents from his mothers’ side completely! So for those of you who have now not been spared the family drama, you can well imagine the proceedings, and the festivities! It wasn’t pretty.

But with support from my sagacious father, we prevailed and Krishanu gave up his academic pursuit and took up photography. And not just any photography, he wanted to do wildlife and nature, to add to the complications. Well in a way I was greatly relieved that he wasn’t swayed by so-called the glamour of fashion photography.
 It’s a completely different matter, that he found his calling in street photography, and that too night photography. I’d better ask him if that’s changed as well.

Now I must admit and I think he will too, he was a bit confused and didn’t quite know how to go about it, and so the querying began. I pulled in my contacts, and through them went and met two of India’s leading photographers, and a classmate of mine who is one of India’s leading film producers. Advise sought, fashion and glamour ruled out, so what next?

So apart from reading and simply shooting pictures, he took a few primer classes and soon he told me that photography was his chosen profession. But that course didn’t really excite him, and then one day, someone told him about this new school that was run by professionals and they would teach commercial and photo-journalism! That was it and he enrolled for the rather inexpensive one year course. 
After that came the final stint (maybe).

Now should I add to all this by saying that the media school was based in Bangladesh, and was famed as the leading school in Asia? Bangladesh? Yes! You heard right!

So that’s the background…the situ is that he has the talent, he’s got the skills, but he’s still struggling, and it seems as if his generation has the same problem. That’s what this is really about, it’s not about Krishanu per se, though he’s the victim of the piece.

I’ve talked about this with other parents, with kids, with some young, bright and really intelligent people who work with me, and it just seems that they have real problems dealing with the way things work. They don’t want to go through the grind, they don’t want to put in a structured effort, they want to wing it, they don’t prepare, they are argumentative, they seem to think they know it all, they lack respect, they lack the basic values that we (ye older generation) were brought up with. They are aggressive, some of them at least, they are extremely frustrated, they are over dependent on technology, and this can go on and on and on…..

How has it come to this? Why has it come to this? Can we change this or is it too late?
I can’t but help believing that we are to blame.

I believe that unwittingly we have set them up to deal with a whole lot of things that we haven’t equipped them to deal with. We expected that our values, our beliefs, our culture would somehow be passed on to them without actually taking the trouble to impart any of it.

I believe that this has transpired because our generation was on the cusp of greatness. Whereas we were still trained in the old traditions, we were able to adapt and live a dual existence, one that was traditional and has the underpinnings of all its benefits, and at the same time exploit the technological advances to our benefit both personally and professionally.

We saw our parents slog, slave and sacrifice for our benefit, and we worked very hard so we did not have to suffer the same plight. So instead of spending quality time with the kids and family, we spent a lot of that time chasing a dream of wealth and of a happiness that wealth could buy. And in that process we severely handicapped the very people we were working so hard for.

We allowed that onslaught of social networking to command an irreparable influence over our kids, and they live and breathe the concept of instant gratification. Their belief in GOD (Gratification on Demand) is absolute, and anything that stands in the way gets shot down.

The constant onslaught of media and the marketing juggernaut, the sensationalization of trivial issues and the setting of unachievable expectations through these channels builds the peer pressure, to have more, to want more, to possess and to live a life beyond normal sustenance. And that has in turn impaired the ability to think rationally and has caused irrational behavior.

Of course GOD (Gratification On Demand), is a hard task master, and all but the very wise succumb, end up frustrated, confused and think it’s too late to make amends.

The amends are easy to make, go back to the ethic of hard work, diligence, consistency and work up the stamina to pursue things through to their logical conclusion. The results are bound to follow, if only we set aside the false notion that we can be wildly successful straight out of school.

There are too many stories of dropouts becoming millionaires and even billionaires, and the sooner they realize that, these cases are exceptions and not the norm, we will see the balance swing back to a semblance of sanity.

Back to parenting…..I never was able to really see, to truly realize how my parents surely suffered as I was finding my way, but when I suffer seeing my kids find themselves, ever so painfully, I can now realize what I put my dear parents through. And I was a radical and still am in many ways, and that wasn’t easy on them either.

My kids? They are a darling lot. They are not tainted by several ills, save few, of the modern influences, but, making it in this age of acute competitiveness, isn’t easy on them.

I was able to let go and let then find their way, because I remember what my dad would always say. Give then a strong foundation, and stray they might, but will always find their way back home.

It’s not that I don’t worry, that I am not concerned, but as far as possible I don’t give them grief, much too much to the disappointment of their mother and mine as well. It’s a regular conversation, that I should be tough on them, simply because they fear me to some extent. But I can’t, nay I refuse to be this fearsome father figure. I prefer to be a friend, philosopher and guide, and that’s what I’m going to stick with. I have faith and confidence and trust, that struggle they will, but make it they will too.

That Game Called Life

A special someone inspired me to write about this, someone I met quite by accident. Accident no, Destiny yes.

Life is strange, it likes to do strange things. It plays with you, toys with you. It can make you, or break you. Some call it fate, others call it destiny. Everybody is challenged by it, and none have figured it out in totality. None can control it, but some think they do.

I believe that Destiny (Fate) is that all-encompassing master program written by That Master Programmer up in the sky. But guess what He doesn’t care to comment His code or explain His algorithm.

There is a school of thought that says, Destiny is in our own hands, that we can control our destiny. I believe that this is fallacy. The only control you have is to reconcile with events as they unfold, and embrace possibilities with the intent to explore and unravel the mysteries.

The trick is to imagine that Life is nothing but a series of roller coaster rides, and try to enjoy the thrill at each twist and turn. We are all strapped in, the moment we take birth, and we get let out when our time is up. Surely the moment we take birth we start to die don’t we? Then why do we find it so difficult to understand that when time has already started running out the moment we are born, we must simply seize it with both hands and live each day as if it were our last?

Unfortunately most of us fail to seize the moment, and live the rest of our lives in regret, saying, thinking, feeling and hoping….what if?

Throughout our lives we keep meeting people, some we like, others we don’t. Yet even from the ones we like (and I like very few), there are some people with whom there is an instant connection, a chemistry, a bond, and a feeling that it was meant to be.

Sometimes, the odds are so stacked against us, it makes one’s head spin. Well we have choices, however, like a firefly that gets attracted to the light, we get drawn towards circumstances, people, situations, that seem daunting, challenging, and even impossible. Such circumstances, events, situations test the mettle of a man. Most walk away from it, seeking the beaten path.

I believe in and seek abstraction, and one of my favorite ones is the good old 80:20 Rule.

How many times have we seen or at least heard opinions about people who choose to the buck the trend? We’re called “radical”, “maverick”, “outlandish”, and even mad.

So let me ask this. That someone who proposed that the world was round, against the conventional wisdom of a flat world……..need I say more?

The general population is divided into two sets, those who can and those who can’t. And even in the “those who can” category, there are but a few, who will willingly, go up against all odds, fully well knowing that the chances of achievement are next to nothing. For those who dare, taking that impossible step is an achievement in itself. That is what we must mean when we say that we can control our Destiny.

I once met a young girl, smart, witty, intelligent, attractive and on the face of it, all seemed well. But I trust my gut, and my gut told me something was amiss. A few snippets here, a little there, a little probing, and it all came out in the wash. She’s challenged with happiness and has but two options to achieve what she is looking for. One is the middle of the road, run of the mill way of doing what society expects, what family expects, of not hurting people.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing as is experience. Like her, I’ve continued to meet, several people in similar predicaments, and working with such people is such a wonderful experience in itself. Challenging? Surely. But in learning what makes them tick, enables me, at each step, to learn a that little more about myself.

We end up hurting ourselves, and all around us when we are not true to what we really want. Trust me, I say this with authority.

Everything we do has an effect of somebody, some like what we do, some don’t, and there will always be an opinion. The question is, are we living our lives for everybody else, or are we allowed to hope, to dream. Indeed are we allowed to be happy?

What is happiness, how is it measured, where are we looking for it? Elusive are the answers, and more often than not, they are buried deep within ourselves. Problem is that the search in itself is futile, when we pose those questions with an underlying of “what will people say, what will they think?”

And then of course are the overwhelming odds, that we will ever get the opportunity of truly achieving our goals and our true potential. Sadly, the riders deflect the opportunities away from us, and we end up with a “could have”, “should have”, “would have”.

When the situation is hopeless, that’s when we should be hoping against hope. Hope is a wonderful thing. Hope for a new tomorrow, a new relationship, a new opportunity. If we embrace all of these with the spirit of accepting that there are forces at play that we cannot even begin to comprehend, then the experience can be truly amazing.

When we deal with adversity, through procrastination, we only succeed in making things worse. All adversity can be overcome, provided we take that step of recognizing that we need to do something.

Perhaps it will sound contradictory to some, that on the one hand I believe that everything is predestined, and on the other I prescribe in taking on the odds?

The trick lies not in the result, but in the actions that we take to realize impossible dreams. Leaving the result to destiny is not bad, however, sitting back waiting for “something” to happen is a waste of time. At least we would have tried, and the success or failure of that attempt, will only eliminate that which is not possible.

Every life event is an opportunity, even adversity, and every opportunity has two possible outcomes, success or failure. Decision trees surround us, but being up to taking the decision is something that most of us walk away from each time, taking us one step further from what “could”, “should” or “would” have been.

Even if it’s all written, is pre-destined, we don’t know whats written, so how about exploring the possibilities or the options just so we can arrive at the predestined conclusion a little sooner than later?

Cycling to Work

Benighted

I’m called the Marquis de Chandivali.

The office is in Chandivali and it’s not pretty getting there from anywhere. Cost cutting dictated that we move from the prestigious Prism at Mindspace, Malad to Chandivali.

There is this really special friend of mine, who would call me and whenever he called, through some strange coincidences, I would be on the bike either on my way to Chandivali, or on my way back home.

Therefore, the name, Marquis de Chandivali.

Anyways now that I have my title…..

Not Pretty

Getting to Chandivali from Bandra, by whatever means of transport is not an enjoyable experience. Not by any stretch of the imagination. By car, by rickshaw, by anyhow. Getting there means contending with horrendous traffic, especially at the turn off from the Highway to Sahar, then at the Leelavati Junction and all the way to Sakinaka. I would take a minimum of an hour to traverse the 16 odd km to work, so go figure the average.

Cycling to Work – Advantages

Whenever I had to go in on a Saturday or a Sunday, I would take my bike to work, and thus dawned the realization that perhaps its simply more practical to bike to work, as it would take me all of 45/50 minutes. Added to that, it gave me a sense of achievement, that I was being eco-friendly, I was working out. I arrived at work free of stress, no road rage, I arrived home free of stress, as cycling helped me to ease out of the work day pretty nicely. Win, win, win.

See I have to get my morning cuppa coffee at Gloria Jeans, or what used to be Gloria Jeans and is now Krispy Kreme. Well they promised that the coffee would still be Gloria, but I think that’s a bunch of bull. As I was waiting for it to re-open as Krispy Kreme, I ended up stopping off at Starbucks, Khar. Once I realized that the cuppa quality, aroma, etc was never gonna be of the Gloria standards, I figured that I would end up at Starbucks once again. Anyway this is supposed to be about cycling, right? So let’s cut to the chase by saying that I did end up at Starbucks, albeit, this time around it was at the outlet closer to my apartment.

Challenges Galore

So getting out of Bandra via the by lanes running from Bandra all the way to Santacruz is a synch, since I avoid most of the traffic lights (called traffic robots in Zimbabwe). But then you get to the road from the Santacruz Police Station leading up to the Milan ROB (Rail Over Bridge) as they are calling it, and that stretch is a total mess. The option is to take the right from the Police Station and hit the main road, but that’s even worse than the other approach.

Once you get past the desperate and chaotic morning traffic and hit the ROB you’re fine, temporarily, that is, until you hit the Sahar Junction. Then some more jostling and then the fast stretch all the way to the Leela Junction on the Andheri – Kurla Road. Of course it does help when you ride a heavily customized, full suspension, mountain bike, called Iron Horse-Warrior Pro, courtsey The Chief of Pro9, Faisal Thakur.

Tried Saki Naka a few times but you end up inhaling more fumes that you would care to imagine, and have to dismount every few minutes, what with traffic that comes to a standstill every few meters, so the best bet is the Military Road (no idea why it’s called that), which brings you to the Saki Vihar Road.

Just a short stretch of jammed cars, trucks, buses, tempos, scooters, mo’bikes, and you’re at the Chandivali Farm/Studio Road junction and then you’re home safe.

The ride in peak traffic is challenging to say the very least, but hey! I like the challenge, and I can’t miss my coffee, can I? I’m a bit of a traffic junkie, and nothing gets the adrenaline going better for me as I zip through traffic. Seen Premium rush? Now that the kind of riding I do when in traffic. Extremely challenging, but satisfying at the same time.

The one thing that stands out when you bike to work is just how disrespectful and aggressive most people are towards cyclists. The only saving grace are the cops who have got used to seeing me daily, and wave me through bad traffic, when they see me at the head of the mad herd.

I’ve said it before and I say it again, many of the cycling fraternity are talking about getting special bike lanes, etc and I think they are missing the plot. There are no lanes, there is no discipline, there is no mercy or consideration. Good Luck guys, I think its only getting worse! They think it’s a bunch of rich kids, riding fancy bikes, mostly for pleasure. Try riding to work every day people, you have some waking up to do.

So the only way you’re going to be noticed and heard is if the community takes to the streets and rides to work on busy roads, instead of these fancy bike clubs, and just waiting around for the facilities to get created. Lest I’m not interpreted incorrectly, I’m all for awareness, but if you’re actually looking at reducing the carbon situation and achieving other such dreams, a lot more need to get on the roads, and brave the daily commute, traffic, indiscipline, ill-treatment, danger and the like, and allow these dreams to turn into reality.

The Smart Commute

A few years ago, I started hearing about a Cycle2Work initiative, spearheaded by Firoza and some other noble souls, and being a daily cyclist, I knew they have their work cut out.

The Smart Commute is encouraging Bombay to embrace cycling as a viable alternative to commute to work.

At first I thought that this was a rather ambitious initiative that would fade away, but its been several years and this initiative is certainly gaining momentum.

You can know more about this initiative by clicking on the following links:

Indiainfoline ArticleMid-day ArticleYou Tube Video.

If you want to connect with this initiative, they even have a Facebook Page.

They now even have an app available for Android, that assists in setting up rides, tracking rides, and getting the whole Cycle2Work initiative into the palm of your hand. Called The Smart Commute (Beta), you can easily download it from the Google Play Store.

Awareness is the Beginning

An awareness of this alternate means of transport, is merely the beginning. A lot needs to be done, in terms of making cycling safe, providing adequate facilities both at the government level and at the corporate end as well, such as parking, bike lanes, shower and changing facilities, all with the intent of encouraging this super initiative.

Me? I’m hooked and don’t need to be preached to, but I certainly don’t mind doing the preaching. As always, lead by example, and what the heck, I just love it, so guess what? I’m on a bike to work, and that’s how its going to remain for the foreseeable future.

Each stop I make, whether for coffee at a coffee-shop, whether I bike to an important meeting at a 5 star hotel, or I show up for an interview (well I did this once), I can see the admiration in the eyes of the people who I meet, the people who I interact, with my co-workers. I get this look, saying, “I wish”, and my rather simple response to that is, WHY NOT?

One time I checked into the Hyatt, and I rode in on my cycle with backpack. You can imagine the reaction of the hotel staff, right from the security at the gate, to the security at the lobby entrance, to the front office staff. Well, it’s an entirely different matter, that they were so very impressed, that they parked the bike at the lobby entrance for the duration of my stay. The bike did look mighty impressive, so that may have helped, and it may have just been my swag, but still….

Get on a bike people, its fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Back to India – Amchi “Mumbai”: Circa 2010.

End of Several Overseas Stints

The loyal brood who know me and who have read some of my posts, would know by now that I’ve lived on four continents, and worked in five, Asia, Middle East, North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific.

After having lived overseas for several years on and off, I was finally going back, back home to Bombay. Yes, yes, I’m still stubborn and call it Bombay, not “Mumbai”. Man this is what I grew up with, and I’m not about to change it for anything.

I didn’t know how it would all pan out, many challenges, several hurdles or I would readjust seamlessly? I didn’t know how long I would be there, but it seemed at least a few months if not more….. Hindsight is a great thing, and so I’m still here in Bombay, albeit, I travel quite a bit.

By now I’ve lived in major cities in the four major geographies, Singapore in the Far East, Abu Dhabi in the Middle East, Chicago in the US, and London in the United Kingdom, apart from travel to many, many countries for work and just a little sight seeing. Living abroad is a fantastic experience, broadening your horizons, a lot of learning about culture, psychology, customs, traditions and so on and so forth. Highly recommended and an essential grooming for one and all. Go for it and encourage your kids if they want to do it, its well worth the challenge and the adjustment.

Once I knew that I was going back, I was a mix of emotions, apprehensions ….. would I re-adjust, would I like it, would I get used to the heat, dirt, etc, all associated with Bombay and India. Don’t get me wrong, if you cut me I bleed Indian, but people who have lived overseas will understand what I mean. There are so many things we take for granted when we live abroad. And living is so different from visiting on business or for personal reasons. When you live someplace nice, you get used to the comforts, the conveniences mainly I think.

From the beginning of January 2009, I had known due to professional developments that I will have some change in my job profile, which could possible lead to me moving to another country, perhaps back home, back to India. In October 09, due to certain unfortunate “developments” I received a call from my boss and on speaking to him it became more likely that the move would happen sooner than later. A few days after my call with him, it was confirmed that I would need to go back and work from Pune, in India until it was finally decided what was to become of me. By mid November 2010, I was asked to return to London, wind up my establishment there and come back.

So by now in this job I had moved from Bombay to Pune, Pune to Chicago, Chicago to London and finally from London to Bombay, back to the home of my parents, back to the family.

The “fun” part was getting all my stuff shipped back to India under the re-location package my employer had given me. I’ve been away several years and in that time I had gathered a “little” stuff, stuff that I could not just throw away or discard. So the packers and movers were called in to pack my stuff in London, and arrange shipment and related formalities in India.

I’d thought of where a lot of the furniture would go, replacing some of the older items at my parents place. Now nobody knew what was coming their way, except Krishanu who had visited my in London, and seen all the “stuff” I would be bringing back.

The essential fact that a combination of 60 cartons and boxes of assorted dimensions were headed home was information not for the faint at heart! But was I ever so professional at getting all the stuff in, especially the larger items of furniture like the bed and sofas. In two days flat a majority of the shipment was unpacked and stowed away. The balance was completed in another week, so all in all great going, with minimum pain.

What was worth seeing, was my mothers’ face when she saw the guys unloading 60 assorted boxes into the apartment! However, it was all hands to the wheel and everyone pitched in to get it sorted.

During my stints overseas, I visited India almost every other month, but mainly for work, and just spent a day or two at home. But in October – November last year I spend about two months in India, so I had a whiff of what it would be like, and that time perhaps helped me get used to being back and living like I had in the past.

One of the great things about being back is that I’ve had the opportunity to spend quality time with my kids, Krishanu the older boy (almost 20), Keertana the darling girl (15), and the little fella Kartikeya (10). Living abroad for an extended period of time had in a lot of ways estranged me from my family, and whenever I did come back I was a visitor for a couple of days, en route to some location or another.

It has been a period of bonding, of getting to know each other all over again, for the kids to realize that there is a father figure standing behind them. It’s been very hard on the family, my being away, and I had no realization of how difficult it must have been, until I’ve stayed put and spent most of my time at home with them over the past six months.

Bhavna kept telling me that I should try and spend time with the kids, go away somewhere with them, that they are growing up very quickly and are very interesting. Being caught up in my world of the corporate, flying all over the place, hotels, lunches, dinners,
I just didn’t have the time to do that, or perhaps it would be more honest if I just say, I didn’t make the time to do that. She and the folks had been doing that, and I would get supplied pics that did often, leave me in tears.

It is my loss as time has gone by, I’ve already missed those times, but I’m so happy for the last several months of being in that “in-between” condition as they put it, when you’re seeking another challenge. Talking on the phone or Skype or email periodically does not really include you in the day to day stuff that goes on with the kids.

Just today, Krishanu my eldest, comes to me and shows me this note. Its a “To Do” list made by Kartikeya. See what I mean? Its these small little day to day things that you miss when you are away.

kartis-to-do-list

I’m beginning to dread the prospect of being away from them again should things pan out the way I plan. The way it’s looking, I will get much better opportunities overseas, and that will mean relocating yet again, something I’ve become quite professional at.

I’m sure my audience will say, “so stay put in India dummy” or “don’t you know what you value more” or something to that effect. However, “its complicated” as they say, and it will suffice to say here that I’ll look for opportunities back home, but its not a huge possibility. I’m hoping that they will elect to study in a location close to me, wherever I am, and that way I will get to spend quite some time with them.

But let’s talk about the day to day logistics of being back. Well for starters, no room to myself, so I share with Krishanu. He’s kindly emptied one of his closets so I don’t need to live out of my suitcases and boxes. Even before I moved back, one evening, we were on chat, and I felt bad that he was forced to share space with me, and I told him as much and thanked him. Krishanu being Krishanu, (that gentle, sweet boy), and insisted that it was no problem at all. And I’ve not been used to having so many people around me, mom and dad, three kids, Bhavna, house help, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment that.

I had gotten quite used to being the recluse, my time was my time, my way of cooking (my time of Zen), my way of cleaning, all of that stuff. Then there is the stuff about transport, having only one car one that “belongs” more or less to Krishanu (he calls it “Nightwing”), getting around is not as much a taken for granted thing as it normally is. Even simple things, like waking up, sleeping, dinner times, etc are all adjusted to suit all. It was hard to begin with, but I settled into the rhythm, and everybody has been really accommodating about it. I’m pretty sure that on one side, they love having me back, but sometimes they probably say, “what a pain!!!”.

Then of course there is the train and bus system which is great, but of course the crowd, the levels of cleanliness, all pose certain challenges to using mass transit.But that’s all the flip side.

Personal relationships and friendships are so much easier in India, just hanging out at the local coffee place, the street corner, at the club, one meets old friends and after the first meeting aeons after the last and the catching up, it’s like I had never left.

I met my cousin sister Anuradha, after about 10 years, and we picked up right where we’d left off, reminiscing about the time we spent as kids in each other’s houses. I

I’ve made a firm resolution that no matter where in the world I finally end up, I will make that extra effort to keep in touch with immediate family and a few select friends. Casual bonding, instantaneous rendezvous, unplanned coffees and dinners and drinks with friends and family, is such a rarity in western societies in general.

I made a good friend in London, and over drinks one evening, Sulamif (that’s what we’ll call her- she likes it, something to do with Sulamif being the favorite and most beloved wife of King Solomon-The Wise) and I got into a long argument about culture and traditions. I think she sparked something in me (maybe my pride in my rich traditional and cultural Indian upbringing was hurt), when she said that the English had a lot of tradition and culture. Because my reaction, we dwelt on this particular aspect quite a bit, and after an hour or so of arguing, sometimes animatedly, I discovered that we were agreeing violently about the same basic tenets.

My only objection to her stand was that she seemed to generalize and believe that the English traditions and culture were deep rooted across all levels of society, to which I violently disagreed, but only because I’ve seen tradition and culture in India, the Far East, the Middle East, The Americas, UK and Europe and it is my belief that if there is tradition and culture across all strata of society, then the Far Eastern societies are leagues ahead.

Of course we both supported culture and tradition and I have developed a lot of respect for Sulamif, therefore we were able to reconcile our views and opinions and grow the friendship. Maybe I should do a blog entry on Culture, Tradition and Religion. So maybe I drifted a bit, what was my point….. hmmmmm, I think, it was to say, that being back in India, I’ve been re-exposed to the traditions and culture of my youth, and my knowledge and experiences are recharged by my time here. So that’s been another good thing!

Then of course there was the wedding. My cousin, Nikita getting married, all the relatives and old friends reassembling after many, many years, a traditional Indian wedding. I can say that it has been one of the best weddings I’ve ever attended. The arrangements, the events, the bonding, all went towards making it great. I could write so much more, but that is saved from another installment, a website complete with pictures, et all. But as a parting shot, I really felt for the first time in my rather colorful life, that I would soon be in the same position as Mickey (my Uncle), getting a daughter married!

Strange feeling that. Even though she’s still very young (not so youn, I could almost feel deep pain in my heart, as if she’s going away already. I did get a similar feeling when my kid sister Shruti was getting married, however, I was too preoccupied with other serious goings on in my life at the time to dwell on it.

Coming back home has meant spending quality time with my lovable mom and dad… I call them Mama and Papa.

Papa turned eighty earlier this year (we think). March and April are when most of the birthdays happen in our family, with the exception of Shruti, myself and Krishanu, who are in July, August and October. Mama and Kartikeya in March, Bhavna, Keertana and Papa in April. Well, Papa happens in March and April, but that is something we will leave out of this blog. So we did nothing special, except order cake on one of the days, and went out for a common birthday dinner to Basilico.

I think they really would like me to stay put in India…. having a son around I guess is reassuring. Me, on my part feel better if I’m closer to them as well. They have been there in my absence for the kids, who have essentially had to deal with an absentee father. What can I say about my parents! They are the best!

They have faced so much in life, they have taught me by example, they have taught me to face adversity and hold my head up high. They have taught me to face life, its not what everyone gets to learn from parents. I’ve learnt a lot from the school of very hard knocks, however, they taught me the principles and values and above all they gave me faith, which has been my foundation in the face of storm.

What more can I say, except that I feel more and more love for them each day (but I’m a bit off in expressing that openly enough), and tearing myself away, if that comes to pass will be very difficult this time around.

I should write about each one of the family, they are all wonderful people in their own right, I stand humbled before them in so many ways.

Before I get too nostalgic, I’d better conclude, and so in conclusion, I love being back, albeit with some minor challenges, would love to remain here if I get a good professional opportunity (which seems quite unlikely), especially as I’d be so much closer to family, culture, traditions.

On the other hand, wanderlust, professional aspirations, a desire to be at the top of my game, and to have that which has been missing in my life……..But that’s not in my hands as of now. Maybe another blog entry of yet another stint abroad will be supplied. Time will tell…….

Sunday Ride: Marine Drive – Camp Evergreen.

It is another Sunday and its that day and time. The day and time to let loose, and get onto the saddle, and head out of the confines of the City of Bombay, on yet another long ride. As far as distances go this is not really a long ride, but given that it has been a while since I have done a proper long distance, we will let it pass off as a long ride.

I had been itching to go, and the perfect excuse presented itself. A friend of a friend had this place, about 60 odd km outside the city (so he said), and he was looking to develop a dirt track for mountain biking (bicycling). It isn’t for any silly reason that people kinda believe that Pro9 and its crew are authorities on cycling. So that as it is, our buddy, Anish (The Friend), suggested to his friend (friend of friend), that we get together and talk about this idea (of setting up a mountain biking trail/track at Camp Evergreen.

This is the same Anish who cold brews a mean coffee under the name and style of The Tribal Brewing Company. The Coach sampled once, and labled it “Liquid Crack”. I ‘fess up and say that I had a few large swigs of the liquid crack pre-ride.

So we meet the owner of this Camp Evergreen and I be like, I need to go recce, and I’m going Sunday. So that was the perfect excuse. Position stated, no backing out.

Nothing like great company on a ride out of town, so I be like, lets get our friend The Coach (not mine) to several top executives across the globe, and our friend the Pro9 Chief, The Faisal, to come with. Damp squib that, both bailed due to unavoidable reasons, that too last minute. So I’m now at Marine Drive, the rendezvous point with The Coach, and shes called in sick, and so has The Chief.

Like that’s going to spoil it for me? I head out. So I figure, I’m already in town, and the quickest way out of the City will be to take the Eastern Freeway. I’m on the said Freeway, only to be turned back a short ride into the length. See, the said Freeway is not open to two wheelers (deemed dangerous to two wheelers), but hey, I do it all the time, except that this time I get flagged off the Freeway.

Reroute quickly, and now I’m on the Bombay Port Trust Road (read backroad) that will lead me to Chembur, then on to Vashi, to Mhape, Shil Phata, MIDC Road, Ambarnath, Badlapur, Camp Evergreen. Given that I’m now heading from town, I’ve added about 10/15 km to the original distance of 60 odd km. No sweat.

I make really good progress, despite the bad road conditions, thanks to the custom built Cyclocross (The Black Shadow), designed ground up (based on my aggressive riding style) under the care and supervision of the Pro9 Chief, Faisal Thakur. Despite a couple of oddities, she glides, nay purrs over the rough terrain I’m traversing and am about to traverse. One of the major oddities, being that she has an Atomlab rim on the front, and another lesser brand on the rear. The tyres are both 23 inches, but since the Atomlab rim is a mountain bike rim, the tyre spreads and is more like a 25. So thicker in front and substantially thinner at the back. Takes a bit to control her as you corner at speed, but I’m used to it by now. Why the varying rims? Well, something to do with the vendor “loosing” one of the rims, and not having the wherewithal to order another one, to complete the pair. And the rims aren’t exactly cheap. Perhaps I should just order the second rim. You think?

I even find time to stop off and take some lovely pics of the sun rising over the hills and the transmission towers.

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Despite leaving at 6.45 am, I’m at the major checkpoint, Ambernath by 8.30 am, not bad time given the terrain I’ve traversed. An hour and 45 mins, cool.

My iPhone is dishing out a beautiful, racy mix of Trance from Aarmin Van Burren, and turn by turn directions, but at Ambernath, all that is coming our of the headphones is Trance, minus turn by turn navigation. Lost the GPS signal and didn’t download the offline maps. Bad move Sumir.

I call the caretaker of Camp Evergreen, but he’s not exactly good with directions, so I use my backup Moto Z Play to do the navigation. Switch the phone on so, and punch in the coordinates. Now keep this particular moment in mind for later reference.

I supposedly find the turn off from the MIDC Pipeline Road, duly prompted by the navigator, and I am guessing I’m no more than about 20 odd km away from Camp Evergreen. No such luck. What I discovered much later, is that I had mistakenly punched in the city office coordinates of Camp Evergreen, and the damn GPS kept trying to get me to go back. Took me a while to figure this out, and punch in the right coordinates, and get to even keel again, but this did add a good distance to the proceedings, and when it was getting pretty hot.

I need to cool off and I find a seemingly abandoned farm, and use its sheltered driveway for the said purpose of cooling off and some photo ops.

Finally I’m on the home stretch, and can see the Barvi Dam ahead of me.

Due to the detours and really bad roads, I’ve had to ride a slow pace, and to top that off, I’m out of water, so stop I must, and stop I do at the gates to the dam complex.

A friendly watchman, lets me in and points me to a tap that spews the sweetest water I’ve ever drunk, fresh from the lake. And its cold water, so fill my Camelbak backpack, the sippers and I’m off again en route to Camp Evergreen, which is barely a few km away.

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Turnoff to Camp Evergreen, Badlapur, MH, India.

The road (actually path) leading to Camp Evergreen, is really a dirt road, and I’m thankful to the Cyclocross, but I’m wishing I’m on my rugged and tough dual suspension Iron Horse – Warrior Pro, a 19 kg metal bike, with really thick tyres.

Camp Evergreen is a fantastic campsite, with 13 huts, a mess, a 150 ft swimming pool, with a river running around the periphery of the site, a climbing wall.

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Short stop, survey the establishment, grab a quick bite, and its time to head back to the metrop. I don’t ride back, its gotten way too hot, and so I bung the bike into a transport, and head back to home, back to Bandra.

Another Sunday, another “long” ride, another Sunday well spent, doing what I love, cycling. Here are the stats.

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So until we meet again, adios.

 

Chicago to London – Compelled to Compare: Circa 2008/9.

International Mobility is a fantastic experience. You see the good, the bad, the ugly across boundaries. The apartment hunting, the packing & moving, the hooking up of services, setting up shop, getting to know your way around, getting lost quite a bit….

I’m quite the veteran at this, having moved from India to Singapore (my very first stint overseas), then back to India, then a few months later to Abu Dhabi – UAE, back again, then moving to Pune within India, then from Pune to Chicago, on to London, and finally back to India.

As you go through the process you can’t but compare life in general, but specifically products and services in various countries.

This is about moving from Chicago to London, but extrapolate that to a  comparison between the US and UK.

Basic Amenities – A Cinch in the UK? Think Again

I think it’s a safe assumption to say that I’m a simple guy, needing the basic conveniences in life, like a cable connection to watch some “telly” as the Brits would put it. I don’t think adding a landline connection, and a broadband service would mean that I’m expecting a bit much, would it?

So I ask around to get some advise on how I can get connected, get some phone numbers of service providers. Things seemed to be looking up finally! Were they really? Nah, was an illusion after all. Now I did speak with the service providers, but I started getting some strange responses.

Some previous tenant, has kindly left behind a broadband connection, which works, but I really want my own, don’t I?

Here I am asking for a Broadband Internet connection or a SKY cable connection to be set up, but all they want to know is if I have a BT landline at home? Now after telling them all that I had only just moved to London, I sort of assumed that they would figure that I didn’t. Nevertheless……

So I tell them, no I don’t have a BT landline at home. “Well sir, we cannot install our service if you don’t have a BT connection”. For the life of me, I have not been able to figure out, why would an Internet Service Provider, insist that I have a BT landline, when BT offers it’s own Internet service as well? Perhaps my stint in the US made me brain dead.

Call Centers in India – Service Levels? WTF is that? Ditto for IT folks.

I’m a really unpopular guy, perhaps to the extent where squads are being sent to exterminate me. I make no friends and neither do I take prisoners in two places, the IT folks, the BPO folks (read Call Center). Since the BT calls were redirected to some dimwit in India, yes, this is about my experience with Call Centers in India.

I am dead sure we have all seen movies that at some point add humor by having a scene or two involving a chat with a call center agent based our of our beloved India.Bhaiya or South Indian accent, nose digging and all.

This horror and frustration I have experienced first hand, didn’t have to see the nose digging though. Not nice. The reps read from a frigging script, and if your query is even remotely off the script, then boy oh boy! Are you in for a marathon call, with absolutely no hope in hell of getting your issue addressed.

As the saga continued, I tried, tried in vain, and several times at that, to get that damn BT Line installed. Now to say that I’m frustrated is the understatement of the century. I get off the phone after being on for about 30 minutes, only to gain access to what its going to take to get a landline installed, and only to get disconnected after all that work. This to please be coupled with the previous episode where the call got cut off, and that too after getting my land line number. And even before that, speaking to BT who promised to send an engineer to survey the property to determine if a landline had ever been installed at that property before, an engineer who sent an SMS that he was coming over but never showed.

Is this what we call doing business or is this how we deliver a service?

Now I started getting a bit ambitious (pretty much glutton for punishment) and wanted to put in a TV connection! So again I do the usual internet search, again shamelessly using the broadband connection that didn’t belong to me, and converge on SKY as the service provider.  Determine the mix of shows I want, and am feeling all happy now. I guess my happiness was meant to be short lived. Now it seems that the only way I can get a SKY box installed is if I have a BT line. What??? What’s this obsession with BT? Could it be something to do with the ugly word “monopoly”? Or would it just be a technology issue.

So very hopefully I ask SKY if there is any way I can get a connection without a BT Line? Yes, there is and all I need to do is pay an amount of 85 quid. So the said sum is paid, the SKY engineer comes over and gets the service going. Soooo at least one thing goes right, albeit at a cost.

So now I’m thinking, well there is an internet connection at home (not mine), there is a SKY connection at home (legitimately mine), and they both need a BT line to function, perhaps BT has a record that there is at least one connection at the penthouse, so let’s talk to BT again.

So talk I do … goes pretty much like the first time, endless waiting on the phone (cellular of course), providing all possible detail, and as luck will have it I got disconnected at the penultimate moment. The agent had given me my digits, saying that this would be my new BT landline number. I waited for about 45 minutes thinking (wishfully) that the agent I spoke to for about 45 minutes, would call me back, since they wanted to earn some money by clinching the deal. Well, she did not and I called BT again.

Should I be surprised that there was no record of my call, no record that I had been signed up (after providing my payment details)? Perhaps not. So I am on the phone for 45 minutes, again, and tell the agent up front that if for any reason I get disconnected, PLEASE call me back. To make a long story short, my cellular battery went dead, I connected to the mains, but I didn’t get a call back in confirmation of the deal.

I finally gave up, but a few days later when looking at my bank statement, discovered a standing instruction favoring BT. So it seems that finally I would get a line, but how?  I did get an SMS letting me know the anointed time when the engineer would come over to get me going, by first surveying the property (at my cost of course). Speaking about surveying, don’t forget that there is a BT broadband connection working in the apartment (kindly forgotten behind by the previous tenant), and one which I’m shamelessly using. What’s more the SKY technician had to put in a landline connection to install the SKY service. Now with two landlines in the apartment (without the broadband SKY will not work), BT still maintains that there is no record of a landline at that post code, at that property, and at that apartment. What gives??? I just don’t get it, and by now I’m beyond caring, and about to give up the whole enterprise. Screw it, will just get an internet dongle.

This saga of moving and getting settled in of course spans a couple of months, so let’s get back to the apartment, shall we? If you recall, I have recently moved from Chicago to London. Moving to London: Circa 2008/9

Still no mailbox key, outstanding issues, such as door not functioning, etc. Still not sorted out. So I speak to the office, the signatory to the lease, and ask them if I can terminate the contract, on grounds of breach. The general opinion is that it’s still not breach, but we do have grounds to send a strongly worded legal notice so I’m told. I waited for two whole months and finally sent a legal notice, after which the key strangely appeared under my door one day. Insert the key and it still does not work. I think that the landlord knows that the key is faulty or even worse the mailbox lock is bad, but does not want to spend 150 quid to fix it.

And they say that the UK is largely a service based economy? In my most humble opinion, it doesn’t seem that way.

Life in the US

The best way to describe life in the US is to say that it is idiot proof, or to be more specific (if you’ve not already guessed), is that the facilities provided allow you to leave your brains at home, therefore my words earlier “brain dead”. Unless of course we all go and assume that since a certain fellow with orange hair, recently got voted to power by popular adult franchise, that does say a lot about the rest of the voters.

I moved to London-UK, from Chicago-USA. That land of opportunity (then in severe recession), ultimate convenience and one that makes you brain dead. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way at all, except I try to use those words in order to amuse.

America is really an extremely easy place to live in, be it grocery shopping, subscriptions to service like cable television, telephone, broadband internet, and the like.  Then of course there are those fantastic highways or motor ways as I must now learn to call them!

We drove from Chicago to the Grand Canyon, all of 1700+ miles each way and didn’t even feel as if we’d traveled so far. Plenty of convenience stores, gas stations or petrol stations as I must learn to call them now, along the way. Things like grocery shopping and convenience shopping, are really made so easy, with Jewel, Target, Domnick’s, Walgreen, Walmart, all varieties of gas stations (oops petrol stations) all round the corner in practically every little town, or borough as I must learn to call them in the UK.

People Differences: US vs UK

The real difference between people in the US and the UK is that the average US citizen is not really exposed to anything outside of the US. Be it education about foreign countries, people, culture or languages. I remember from my very first visit to the US in 1978 as a Rotary Exchange Student, of people asking me if I had pet snakes, tigers, elephants, etc. I did have a whale of a time leading them up the garden path about stuff like that.

Now I do know from my first experience of living in the US that the school curriculum does not prescribe much international education, and that may well be a reason why people are so badly informed about international issues, but on the flip side, America has been known as the land of opportunities and for that reason people from all over the world flock to America.

So the question that begs an answer, is with the racial mix in the US being truly international in flavor, how come there is so much ignorance about the world in the US? I’ll be dammed if I know…

The average American is also generally a poor world traveler, and that is possibly because of almost everything in the US being idiot proof or incredibly convenient. Whereas the Brit seems to be a natural born traveler.

Now that may be because at one time the Brits ruled a large part of the world. My guess is that all of these character and national traits are in the genes of the general population. Another huge difference is that the US has influenced the global economy and culture, pretty much remotely, whereas the Brits did it by traveling the world physically. I’m talking history of course. East India Company rings a bell?

London is Expensive

Generally, life in London is expensive, and few will beat me up for saying that. The company I worked for took care of me, and I really will not complain too much. They paid for my “chick magnet” penthouse associated utilities, linen, cleaning and everything.

In spite of that if I were to compare the 1000 odd quid a week that the company pays for my apartment and the associated costs, what would that same amount of money buy me, in Chicago, Singapore, Bombay, or for that matter in any other major world city. A lot!

Since I do need to spend my money on groceries and personal expenses, I can say that it’s three times more expensive in London! Even take going out for that odd dinner or two a month. Expensive!

Clothes shopping is expensive too! However, I must comment that over the years that I’ve been visiting, the prices are becoming more realistic and better aligned with other comparable locations.

People talk about people being so well dressed in London as compared to the US, and the topic veered around to women wearing the latest fashions, snazzy stuff, which is not exactly cheap. The style and fashion scene in London, and generally in Europe is up market.

Now if I found London to be expensive, I cannot help but think, how does the layman, or woman as the case may be, survive here!  I do ask around, and what I’m hearing is that household income is pooled to get along, many people don’t have cars so that’s a saving, even people who have cars use the train or tube as it’s called here, and therefore several expenses associated with life in the US are not incurred here.

Raison d’être

I believe it goes back to how these nations came to be created. Europe being the old world where culture and all it’s components, art, language, literature, fashion and the like were allowed to flourish, and the Americas being the new world, where people flocked for several reasons …. escape from life situations, wanting a freedom that was not available in the old world, escape from financial situations, from criminal prosecution……

They all came and by the sweat of their brows, tamed a wild and largely barren land, connected huge distances by rail and road, and overcame mammoth obstacles to make it in a new and free world.

However, all said and done, people who went there, and indeed who still continue to go there (that’s about to change though), go with an intent to begin afresh. And the American system, supports that very well, going back to my points about convenience and ease, rewarding and celebrating success, and providing a basic living to all. Thus, America is still viewed as the land of opportunity, a varied cultural mix, with the old world inhabitants in the New England state of Massachusetts and New York, and the new settlers from across the world spread across the country.

Without a doubt, they looked at what didn’t work in the countries of their origin, and tried to make changes for the better. Of course there has always been a large rebellious streak in America, and perhaps they took it too far and made changes in extremes.

For example, from Cricket they made Baseball, from Football/Soccer they made American Football, from Squash they made Racket-ball. Instead of kilomteres we have miles, we have a different measure even for the gallon. In the financial system as well, it was pure diehard capitalism all the way, fiercely protective, money being the end all and be all, as would be the natural outcome for a race which left all behind to make a new beginning.

Public Transport

Apart from NYC in the US, in general they’ve missed the plot as regards public transport is concerned. You cannot really survive in the US without a car, as you really cannot get from point A to B. Whereas, in the UK the public transportation both intercity and intracity is excellent (save the outages on the Jubilee Line), but even then you’re not left stranded, the replacement bus services connecting the stations affected do manage to ferry you across. Not the most convenient, but it does work. A legacy that the Brits left behind in India.

Your Identity in Country

In the US your identity is your Social Security number and to sign up for anything you will need to quote that number. everything you do is tracked by that identification number. So be it bank accounts, credit cards, phone companies, cable companies and all service-providers, they all track your behavior based on that number. So guess what? Should you delay a payment, or for that matter even get sued, or sue someone else, it WILL be tracked and a whole lot of people will have access to that information! The system does compel you to remain straight.

In the UK your identity seems to be the Bank Account number, and the first thing they will do when you go to get signed up for a cellular service is ask for your UK bank issued Debit Card. That’s what they use for the address proof and verification.

People Differences

In the US I found people to be more open, more friendly, more receptive, albeit with some degree of caution. But in London, I found Londoners to be more closed, save the immigrant population. London, is largely comprised of immigrants, so London wasn’t half bad.

The London Pub Culture versus the US

I found that in the US, the work week was sacrosanct, and people properly went home after work, however, in the UK, and London in partcular, 4.30 pm onwards, its down to the local pubs, tank up and then people head home.

I could go on and on in terms of comparison, and could go on to compare UK versus Europe, or for that matter, Continental Europe with Central and Eastern Europe, but let’s save that for another day. I think one of my next blogs is going to be about working and living in different parts of the world, and my general observations of how people live and work across the globe.

Shipping A Car Across The Pond

Don’t Try This

Have you every tried this? Take my advise – DON’T! Especially if you’re shipping from a Left Hand Drive Country to a Right Hand Drive Country.

Why Ship at All?

See I was supposed to be in the US of A for about three years, and one day as I’m driving to work in my car, the Mercedes GL 450, I get a call from the boss of my boss. He’s a man named Carr.

He and I get on well, and after the initial preliminaries he starts telling me what a fantastic job I’ve done. We aren’t exactly stupid, we just look it, so when the Bosses’ Boss makes a transatlantic call, the game is afoot.

Now I’ve been in the US just over 10 months when this call came in and  so my antennae did go up a bit, and then he spilled the beans.

He said he had another job for me to do, he was facing a problem and he wanted someone to go fix it. Off the bat I told him, I was a team player but could I think about it and possibly speak about it in person. Which we did, and as things then panned out I got shipped, and so did a lot of my stuff to London!

Now about the car ….. The only reason why I bought a car that some consider to be up market or expensive, was that I wanted to ship it back to India which has relaxed tariffs on self owned used cars purchased abroad. Well that’s not completely true, I always dreamed owning a Mercedes and I got a really sweet deal on this. Read …. I negotiated the hell out of the dealer on the last day of the month when they were pressed to make a sale. (This tale deserves a full rendition, so let’s just save that for some other time).

Company Policy is a Hurdle – Time to Negotiate

Now as per company policy, I’m not allowed to ship the car, well I’m allowed, but the company does not pay for it. But my boss agreed that if I negotiated with the shippers to lower the cost of relocation to squeeze the car in, he would agree.

Did The Sumir hear negotiate? He did. Bring it on! And so the car make it’s way to London, along with furniture, clothes, CD’s, books, papers, and the like.

The Fun Begins

Watching the packers and movers, pack clothes, and stuff, no feelings at all, but, watching them take away the car on a skiff, now that is something else! Will it reach in one piece, will it be damaged, will it be scratched. All valid concerns and all come to naught! It’s arrived free of any customs duty, vat, or any other major expense. Until now, that is.

Dead Battery

They deliver the GL in a container, and I’m summoned to back it out. I’m handed the keys to do so. Turn the key so, no response. Try again, no response. And again, and again, and again. The dammnnn battery is dead!

Have you every tried to get a battery out of a GL series? I’m guessing few have. For starters, it sits under the front passenger seat. The seat needs to be moved all the way up front, the seat needs to be tilted forward all the way, and then you take off the matting/carpet, under which, you find a plate that needs to be unscrewed, and only then can you even access the battery. With no power at all, fancy moving that huge seat. Can’t be done manually. Finally we get a set of cables, jump start the engine, get the car off the container, and I drive it around for an hour in an attempt to charge the battery. Does not work. The battery is done for. Reason? some idiot turned on the lights and let the settings to stay on, even after the engine was shut down. It died of natural causes, in the container, in a rather confined space.

The Pain Begins

Now stupid as I am, even I know that I cannot just drive the thing off the container and on to UK roads. And so the process is to go to the SVA, VOSA, DVLA, (they are not expletives, though they might as well be), step by step, to finally drive the car that I’ve grown to love.

What’s not to love about your first Mercedes, fully loaded, V8 petrol driven engine, off road package, rough and tough speed machine. Despite its size (full size SUV), turns ona  dime, refused to skid what with traction control, frigging broad bad ass tires, amazing sound system.

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But, before I go into full drool, I’d better get back to talking about the aftermath, post shipping.

What’s mandatory, is an inspection for it’s suitability to be driven in the UK, cost 190 quid. Emissions, lights, ground clearance. If any adjustments are necessary, visit a Mercedes workshop, and make prescribed adjustments, more cost possibly? A follow up inspection and then go to the DVLA to get the car registered.

The car is still parked in my parking spot, waiting to be unleashed (I’m allowed to drive it to the inspection and back legally until I get it registered) on the roads. Not that I’m going to drive a lot in London, given that I live just minutes from the office, and the average speed through the City of London is 8 KPH. The odd weekend trip out into the country, to meet “Ness”, maybe to Europe, let’s see ….
 The driving to work did happen, as did the visit to Lochness, as did the drives into Europe, Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria.

Delighted in Some Ways

But here’s the real story on this …. I was growing used to getting poor service from utilities and service providers in the UK in general, but DVLA, VOSA and SVA have been a treat! I was able to download the application form for the inspection, easy enough to fill, attached the payment and sent it off.

To my surprise I received a call the very next day from VOSA and they found that the VIN number I’d entered did not match the VIN number that the Customs’ Certificate. I found that I had erred in entering the information in the application, and was pleasantly surprised when the voice on the phone corrected it on my authorization.

The appointed date was bit of a disappointment and I was given a date 3 weeks into the future. But the story of good service continues, when they called back and said they had a cancellation and could I please bring the car around a week earlier? Pleasantly surprised, and I hoped that the rest of the processes will be painless as well.

Fingers, toes, you name it, all crossed …. not much left to cross, is there?
 The inspection at VOSA went well, and all I really needed to do is get the headlights changed, and the fog lights adapted to EU standards. The head lights from a car in the US align on the wrong (or as the Americans would say right side) of the road, and in the UK that needs to be adjusted to suit driving on the left (or wrong) side of the road, and the fog light needs to be changed as well. So there was a 1000 quid trip to Mercedes, and back to the VOSA to get the clearance certificate.

The inspector was ab absolute gem! The lights though changed, were angled incorrectly, and despite the fact that he was not supposed to make any adjustments, he voluntarily did so, saving me yet another trip the the workshop.

Then the next step was to go to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Registration Agency), and actually have the car registered, which was very smooth. I get the permission to make a set of plates, and now I’m driving around in the car. It feels good to drive one’s own car…….
, especially a fully loaded, Mercedes GL 450, petrol (or gasoline), depending on which side of the pond you’re on.

The rush to get the care registered, was driven primarily by the fact that my son, Krishanu, was planning to visit me in the UK, and spend his 18th birthday with me, and I wanted him to get a feel of that mean machine. Come, he did, experience he did, and there is a topic for yet another blog on the live and times of yours truly.

Now I’m one to make comparisons between places I’ve lived in, and I have lived in a few countries. India (the land of my birth), USA in 1978 for a couple of years, Singapore on deputation from work, the Middle East again on work.

Guess what? More memories to document, more blogs……

Moving to London: Circa 2008/9

Living in The Past

Disclaimer!!!

This blog has been rewritten, so even though its being published now, it talks about circa 2008/9 or thereabouts.

Moving In


It’s been over two month’s since I’ve been living in London. Being a visitor in the past never did quite give me an idea, what it is like living in London.

The startup wasn’t the greatest if I may say that. Got here OK, flight from Chicago went smoothly, plane landed without any mishap or misadventure, asked for a people carrier telling the taxi company that I did have much luggage, since I’d been living in Chicago for about two years. Their idea of a people carrier and the one I had were different. So apart from that minor squeeze, from the airport to the apartment, things were not so bad.

Should I mention here that the Agency representative, a man from Mars, called Donald Mars, didn’t show up to hand us the keys, and escort me to the apartment as promised? But we got there all right, comdeered the keys from the concierge, entered apartment, so maybe I shouldn’t make such a big deal about this no show.

We’re renting an apartment, well the company is. The apartment is great, great view, great location (few minutes from Canary Wharf), overlooking the O2 Dome.

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About half and hour from Central London. The City Airport in my back yard! The doors and windows are well insulated from external sound, so the sound of planes landing and taking off is minimal and not a disturbance.

Minor Hurdles
 – House Hunting & Settling

At this point I may want to mention some “minor” hurdles. The letting agency we are dealing with seems to have a “Caveat Emptor” attitude (I’d been warned by my boss but didn’t heed), except that for some strange reason when you draw that to their attention, the get all upset!  Apparently, they seem to think, and so does the landlord of the apartment, that it’s perfectly normal to let a property out (especially an apartment) and not give the tenants a mailbox key! So having said that let’s list a few of the other minor hurdles I alluded to. Still don’t have a mailbox key that works, the main sliding window in the living room is broke, the doors in most of the rooms swing shut and really create a big bang every time.

Nice en suite bathroom complete with walk in wet shower for the master bedroom, but minus shower curtain. Bit of a damper to swipe the wet floors each morning, especially since morning is when we have the most time on our hands, don’t we?

Interestingly, some furniture mysteriously appeared, which we had not seen when we took a look at the apartment. It’s rather nice to get stuff that was not promised, except that based on the furniture and apartment set up at the time of the viewing, I shipped all my furniture over from the US. So you can well imagine the situation with having excess furniture at home. It’s a large penthouse but still ….

Now some in the company, in particular my then boss, a Mr. Smith, let’s say, called it a “chick magnet”, and not without reason, I might add. Location – check, interiors – check, penthouse – check, snob neighborhood – check, fancy car – check.

I guess it didn’t help much, that I kinda adopted this swag, and parked my showoff car bang outside the Crowne Plaza, which is literally across the road from the apartment building.

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I guess there were regulars at the Dockland Bar & Grill, and seeing me get into the car, and observing my swag, asked around. My friends, the barkeep, the manager, the waiters & waitresses, when asked, just pointed to the penthouse and were known to comment, need we say more. All I am willing to confess, is that I did get many a slip or bar napkin passed on with names and numbers.

Now that I’ve said a lot about the living conditions, and some may violently argue that I have not said quite enough, let’s leave the narration to some other blog posts.

 

Circumnavigating Bombay by Bike – Oct 15, 2016

It’s been a rough week at work, too much going on and too few folks to do it. Critical resources AWOL. You get the drift, yah? Welcome to the Indian software industry.

A welcome diversion comes in the form of the young cyclist, Niranjan. Bump into him at Pro9 and he goes, we are looking to do a ride that takes us around the periphery of Bombay. Have bike – will ride. Always. Sure I want to ride, but there is this little thing called travel on the cards, so it’s a bit iffy.

Carl messages day before the ride as well, please join, it’s fun riding with you and I guess that felt nice. A bit aghast seeing that they be looking to leave at 3 am. It’s not daunting that it’s the witching hour, but rather, it’s not that long a ride, let’s leave later. See it’s the sun and heat that’s the concern (not me I like riding in the heat), so I defer and go with the plan.

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Consigleri’s Customary Pre Ride Mirror Selfie

Perhaps I should say I don’t like riding in the rain, just so I don’t let the public get the impression that I ride 24*7. Oh well, I do ride 24*7 oftentimes starting late at night, but just don’t like the rain. Now that we have that little item settled….

Now I’ve done this particular ride at least a couple of times before, but given the circs, this is manna from heaven.

Had to rush to office for a video conference and got done pretty late. So with little or no sleep, start prepping for the ride at 2.15 am. Gear check, bike check, and man and machine all set to roll. Make the rendezvous point (Shivaji Park) no one there, so ride around for a few minutes and the pack arrives. Arvind, Carl, Niranjan, Vidit. Discuss distance (140 km appx), pace (should average 22 kph), and we are off.

First stop NCPA, hydrate, pics, kid around. Selfies not preferred, but will have to make do, no one around to take our pics, except some couples on the sea face whom we decide not to disturb.

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First Stop – NCPA: L-R: Vidit, Doc, Ninja, Sumir, Carl.

The next leg is NCPA to the Eastern Freeway that connects downtown Bombay to the hinterland and also connects to the Eastern Express Highway.

Good pace on the Freeway, and in almost no time we are connected with the said Expressway and a very short while later we are at the checkpost demarking Bombay from Thane. We take a pit stop and hydrate, get some morning tea and onto the next leg. Doc breaks out the super “Brown Salt” brand goodybag, with roasted nuts and cookies. Now Brown Salt is his lovely daughters’ brand, and the stuff is good. Breakfast point is decided as Bhayendar or Utan, but as luck would have it, the young lads Niranjan and Vidit get separated. A couple of calls and we decide to regroup at Decathelon on Ghodbunder.

Since we did stop, well we did make a stop of it and got some more chai and did a quick snack too! More Brown Salt goodies (of course). I sure hope he’s paying the kid for the stuff he’s stolen!

But we did loose time and are resolute to make up by a much shorter breakfast stop, which didn’t happen. Sorry, breakfast stop did happen, but was leisurely. Thanks to me. Was just keeping the rescheduled breakfast stop suspense.

The ride up Ghodbunder was nice and the downhill was super. We ride different paces, so decide to make Fountain at the end of Ghodbunder our reassembly point, before we get to the turnoff to Utan.

Up until this point despite our stops etc we are averaging 25 kph or so. Not bad, not bad at all. We have covered about 90 odd km till then I think.

Crack on and we are at Utan and we climb up to the chapel atop a really steep incline. This one is new to me despite me being a self proclaimed authority on Utan rides. Well, ran out of wind and the gears really slipped a lot so ended up walking up the final slope. But the climb/walk is really worth it. It’s beautiful up there. Thanks Carl. I will have to do this again, and make the summit, this time without dismounting.

So now we roll down and soon we are a’climbing again, this time up the slope into the fishing village of Utan. Now this is where I spring a surprise on the guys and say at some point turn left. Now that left leads up a slope that kinda says, you da gonna go to heaven! Doing that incline after a 100 km ride is not to be taken lightly.

That surprise left leads to a place called Hotel U-Tan Sea Resort. A well kept secret. Beautiful little villas, pool, deck based dining area showing off the Utan coast in all its glory. And this the decidedly short break turns out to be a really long one. Albeit one well worth it. Discovery for the boys.

Now I’m forgetting what time exactly we descended from the “Road to Heaven” but methinks it must have been around 11 am or so. The next leg takes up down to the town market place and the view is really nice.

It shows fishing vessels anchored off the coast. It always brings to my mind the scene from the movie Troy.

A final climb and that brings us to the stretch running through the Gorai beach stretch, and at the end of that comes the fork in the road. One leading to Esselworld and the huge Buddhist Pagoda, with the bright gold stupa, and the other, leading our way. The stretch to the jetty at Manori. Gorai and Manori bring two things to mind. The Manori Belle I was seeing a long time ago. And targolas, those juicy things found inside a coconut like shell. Targolas we find at the jetty and do I have to really say that we dug in, what with the good Doctor wanting to take a closer look, ensuring that we are given only the juiciest of the lot.

Give us the juiciest ones please, or else….

Feasting on these only meant that we let a couple of ferries go, but finally hop on for a five minute ride to the other side, which is the Marve stretch.

The short ride brings us to the leg that ends at yet another jetty at Marve, and a two minute ride later we are at the fishing village at Versova. The sprawling city of Bombay is after all made up of seven islands joined together and created on the basis of humongous land fills. In effect Bombay is just on huge fishing village turned into a major and immensely populated metropolis.

Now this is where we are back in civilization, it’s around 12 noon, and realizations dawn. Dammn it’s hot, it’s crowded and by the way our little getaway is over. Welcome to the real world.

At Juhu Circle we part ways. I head straight to Bandra via Juhu Beach and the others turn left. Carl to Kalina, Vidit and Niranjan to Vile Parle and Dr to Wadala.

What a super ride, fantastic company, a few stops too many, but loads of fun anyway. A total distance of 134.7 odd km (read 140 odd, started Strava late) a top speed of 60.1 kph, calories burned 3551 (probably more).

 

Cycling: Konkan Solo Ride – May 2016

For starters it wasn’t 400 km, more like 331 (give or take) if we have to believe Google Maps, but it sure felt like a helluva lot more than 400.

The Invitation

I reached the target on May 22, exactly a month after Majidbhai (The Faisal’s respected father) had called inviting me to the family homestead, but that wasn’t the first time I’d been invited. Khaled (The Faisal’s younger brother) had suggested several times over the last year that we should plan a ride down to their farm.

But as we know things happen when they are supposed to happen, and so it all came together when it had to. The circumstances were right, the timing as well, what with The Thakur clan deciding to go on a family vacation.

What an amazing experience it has been, notwithstanding the extreme heat, horrible stretches of non existent roads, necessitating a change in my game plan.

Plans are a’changin

As game plans go, the original, was to ride all the way down the West Coast to the town of Ratnagiri or thereabouts, and then cut over to the NH 66 and then on to NH 204. This was supposedly the longer, but more scenic route, hitting the pristine beaches along the west coast of India. Following this route would have meant covering a distance of appx 370 km, as opposed to the shorter route (mainly along the National Highways), which can’t be said to be scenic by any stretch of the imagination. A highway is a highway is a highway.

So that was the plan, but as plans go, they tend to change, as this one did, and how! Had I forced along the planned route, I would only have subjected myself to willing torture, what with the roads and heat. So I guess I decided to be more pragmatic (read chickened out), and changed the plan in flight.

The Preparation

Bike Selection:

Well I have two, bikes, (count three) if I include Kartikeya’s (my youngest son) Merida Hybrid, which I don’t usually count. Me on a Merida? Common, gimme a break! Not that I have anything against the Merida, but still.

So the tradeoff was between the two dual suspension bikes, the Iron Horse – Warrior Pro , a hard core downhill bike, with some neat modifications done by The Faisal @ Pro 9 Bicycle Studio (10 speed group-set, hydraulic brakes, thick tyres) and the Trek – Fuel (also dual suspension), coming in at around 14/15 kgs.

While the Iron Horse is an amazing ride and strides at a great pace once you push her to a steady gait, its a bitch to push on steep inclines, but boy does she hug the road when riding downhill, especially around the curves! She’s built for that after all.

The Trek on the other hand, is so much easier to push uphill, but takes a lot more rotations to keep her going on a flat, and you have to be that much more careful when cornering at breakneck speeds. I did touch around 60 kph on some stretches. Sheer exhilaration!

That the terrain is not optimal, and I’m going to be climbing quite a bit, I settle for the Trek – Fuel. And a wise choice it was, else I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. My calves and thighs were taut in any case 🙂

Backpack & Contents:

I’m going to be on the road, two maybe three days, so was essential to ensure that I was carrying everything that I needed for this adventure. Not to forget, that its most certainly going to be hot, and its a simple case of HYDRATE or DIE, so 3 liter water bag, and the twin bottle-holders mounted behind my saddle, duly filled with that most precision of commodities – WATER, and a suitable amount of electrolytes.

Spare tubes – check, toolkit – check, cleaned and oiled chain – check, dry lube – check, tail and head lights (with extra backups) all charged up – check (not that I was planning to ride at night, but when you’re on the road, you never really know), power bank for phones – check, route duly plotted – check, potential overnight stop over points – check, mosquito repellant – check, bare essential toiletries – check, dryfit gear – check, sunblock – check. This is the pre-flight checklist, else its a no go. You get this gist? Its a whopping 10/12 kgs on my back, not something I really want, but can’t really do without.

Dress Code:

I’m geared for the long ride and adventure ahead, so Castelli tights, Endura jerseys, body hugging dry-fit underneath,  compression bands on my legs and arms, gloves, bandana round my neck, another on my head. Each is with thought behind it, especially the compression bands to lessen the muscle strain on rough roads, and the bandana’s to keep the heat off the neck and head. I’m a bit bald, see? The skin tight drifit? Well to keep the perspiration off the jersey. Did I mention the helmet with the built in UV shades? They don’t just look cool.

Ride Schedule:

Part of the plan was to do three sessions a day, each of 3-4 hours, give or take, 5 – 8 am, 9 – 12 noon, and 3 – 6 pm. But I ended up doing 2 sessions a day, albeit longer runs. You can’t just ride 3 hours and stop! You need to ensure that there is a logical stop location, to cater to rest, refuel, and stay the night.

Maps, Way Points, Distances, Speeds, Road Conditions, Weather Conditions

Route Map
Sumir’s Konkan Ride – Route Map

Route Distance & Speed

Blow By Blow Account, Thoughts, Experiences

Peeps you asked for it, well a lot of you did, so don’t complain about the detailed narrative that follows. Besides this is just not for the cycling (and non-cycling) fraternity, but for myself as well. As I write, I relive this amazing adventure!

Friday, May 20, 2016 – Day 1

My track record of getting onto the dammnnn ferry at Gateway is not exactly good, and so true to form I get the 8 am ferry to Mandwa, as opposed to the 6.15. Why is that not a good thing? Its the heart of the summer, and the heat is scorching as the day progresses.

The original plan as I’ve mentioned was to get to Harnai Beach down the coast the same day, and push on, such that I reach target destination by the end of day 2. Simply put that didn’t happen, and only made it as far as Harihareshwar by the evening on day 1, a full 56 km short of the plan. It’s another matter altogether that I didn’t make Harnai at all. You’ll see.

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I only managed to reach Kashid around 12.30/1 pm, and the minute I got off the road, took to much needed refreshments. The only breakfast I’d had was cold lime juice and poha….keep in light buddy, you don’t want to be throwing up due to a full stomach, and the heat.

Hydrated like a fish, a very light meal, and hammock snooze later, and I’m steeled to continue, but not before I put in a video-log of the progress thus far. Enjoy looking at my ugly mug and listening to my sexy voice :), or so I’ve been told.

The route took me from the comfortable hammock at Kashid Beach to Murud, up a fairly good incline, passing the Nawab’s (erstwhile ruler in a bygone era) dilapidated palace en route, overlooking the coastline. No wonder that….must cost and arm and a leg to maintain, and no privy purses post the Indian Independence :). It’s the perfect palace to convert into an upscale resort, and I’m wondering why that has not yet happened.

I arrive at the turn off at Murud, which takes me to the jungle jetty at Agardanda. Now this Agardanda is a good 9 km from the turnoff at Murud, but getting to the jetty is not exactly fun. You ride on and on through Agardanda, making the distance around 14 km, on roads designed specifically to test the linkages (my anatomy isn’t the best) of muscle to bone, and all manner of tissues in between. The road itself, is actually more like a trail, with dirt, gravel, stones and wide cracks in the road, therefore the jungle jetty bit kinda sticks.

Some cool refreshing sugarcane juice en route and I arrive at the jetty with perfect timing as there was a ferry unloading, just waiting for Mr Nagar to get on.

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Exploring the country, off the beaten path, though arduous at times, almost always has its rewards. I discover that this Dighi Port ain’t some small fishing village port, but is capable of taking in fairly large sized vessels….not sure if it’s ship repair or ships waiting to be scrapped, or just loading bauxite. The ferry was also quite a surprise, as I was really expecting a small boat barely capable of taking my cycle and a few passengers. Au contraire, it is pretty well sized, and capable of taking on several cars, mo’bikes and a truck or two, apart from quite a few passengers.

The ride across to Bagmandla is about 30/45 minutes, and I’ve taken the time to kick my shoes and socks off, hydrate, splash water on my face, neck, rather hot bald head, and finally soak the bandanas in water before I don them again.

I’m off the jetty like a jackrabbit, meaning to ride hard and fast to Harihareshwar, by now knowing that the stretch target of Harnai Beach is just that, a stretch. Ride hard yes, ride fast, well let’s just say, not so fast. Pretty steep inclines, more of really bad roads, designed to test the dual suspension Trek, and of course I just have to mention the rattling of my skull bones. There are some pretty good downslopes but the roads are bad. Nevertheless, I throw the bike down the slope, wary that putting a wheel wrong will only mean pretty nasty cuts and bruises and perhaps a few broken bones. The Trek took the punishment like a pro, but nothing compared to the metal beast, the good ole’ Iron Horse. I missed her sorely at such times.

It was a “dammed if you do dammed if you don’t” thing….dammed if I’m gonna ride the beast up the slope, but equally wishing that I had her when riding down. Guess as much as we would like, we can’t really have it all. Now to find a bike that is light enough to climb with, but smooth on the rough downslopes. Something I’m seriously looking out for, cost be dammed. If I’m gonna being doing this time and again (as I surely am), I’m gonna need such a geometry.

The really bad part of this leg, was the fact that there are these dumpsters carrying bauxite from the mines to the jetty, and they don’t let up, and they just don’t care if you are on a teensy weensy bike. Finally, it was getting dark, and rather than risk riding at night with these monsters threatening to extinguish one’s existence, I decide to find suitable means of transport to get me to the Hotel where I’m gonna put up for the night.

Finally, I get to Harihareshwar, log in at this place called Harihareshwar Beach “Resort” (don’t make the mistake of staying there at INR 2,500/- a night), well after the sun has set, and all I now need is a hot shower, and some real carbs, to take me through to day 2.

Saturday, May 21, 2016 – Day 2

Day 2 of my adventure sees me up around 8.30 am or thereabouts. Now that doesn’t exactly leave me time to get on the beach, or go for a swim or anything other than get my ass in gear, and get on with the plan for day 2. But, as is my wont, I get in a few pictures …. can’t let the public down.

Fortunately, the ride to the jungle jetty at Bagmandla is a mere 4 odd km, and the roads are acceptable….perhaps I’m just used to the road conditions by now 🙂

The ride to Bankot across the water is pretty short, but I had to wait for at least 45 minutes on the jetty, roasting in the sun bearing down  on me like its going out of style.

Now, this is where I think I made a wise decision, but I didn’t think so at that time. This is where I decided that if the roads, the killer inclines and the heat are all conspiring against me, perhaps I need to use some self preservation strategies. Namely reroute and get on to the NH network. Question is, can I? Is it too late? How far? How many km am I going to be adding? Valid questions ovot???

There are some pretty helpful truckers at hand on the jetty, and they look at me like I’m pretty daft! Where have you come from? Bombay!!!!???? They were like, you look like you can afford it, take a car dude! Anyhow, I explain to them, that this is my passion, and torturing myself is my favorite pastime, but for some strange reason, they are not buying this explanation. Waeva dude, have bike – will ride, you drive your trucks, no quarrel with you.

So the rerouting happens, and I am now making my way to Mandangad, via the steepest inclines encountered, and perhaps the longest ones on this ride. It can, of course, be my head affected by being in the sun too long, boiled to a crisp.

The roads, not too bad, I would even say really good on some stretches, but this stretch had me questioning of there is a God, he should put me out of my self inflicted misery. As I looked on ahead, all I could see was curve after curve, with no respite in sight, and when I did hit some flat stretches, they were far too short-lived for my liking. Were the truckers just having a go at me (having read the thoughts that ran through my head), and deliberately misled me? Nah! I don’t think so Sumir, why would anyone do that? Would they? Well, let the record reflect that they didn’t. Their advise, not to proceed down the coast and cut over to the NH, was compassion itself, and I’m sorry I doubted them, even fleetingly.

I hit some really fast downslopes and this was encouraging, not to mention that kept me cool, but when the final section ended, and I looked up and saw the snaking route up the hills to Mandangad, my heart sank. I thought I was gonna cop out, and even stopped for 15 odd minutes. I say 15 but it could have been a lot less, as my feet burnt up on touching the terra firme, and the soles of my shoes kinda merged with the molten tar.

This is what went through my head. Sumir, you make a big fuss about doing this trip solo, in this weather, at this time of the day, taking this route. And not only that, you friggin’ went and publicized it! Do you really have a choice, except to go on, or do you want to be called chicken? Fearing for my macho reputation was probably the most motivating factor, albeit via the route of negative discrimination. In the final analysis, I had to do it for myself, reputation be dammed.

And so, I finally made Mandangad, at around 1.30 pm, found this little shop and just sat myself down, rehydrated, recouped, and prepared to get myself to Chiplun via Khed. Sounds simple, afraid it’s not as it sounds. This route boasts of the famous Kasheli ghat, and this is what I am going to contend with, and so I prepare myself mentally. Truth be told, it takes me at least an hour to get back on the road, and finally I’m on my way, the final dash to Chiplun.

This stretch for some reason was not as taxing as I thought it would be, and the climbs though in the extreme category, didn’t daunt me. Fortunately on this stretch it was a case of balance, and what goes up must come down (this law of geography worked in my favor), and I attacked the downslopes with the greatest of zest, made the most of them, and made really good time, arriving into Chiplun around 4.30/5 pm. At Chiplun, well not exactly Chiplun but a few km outside Chiplun at a place called Shri Kshetra – Lote Parshuram, where the famous Parshuram Temple is located.

So the choices on places to stay were pure and simple, The Taj Gateway Riverview Resort @ INR 8000/- a night, versus INR 1,400/night. Price being the driver here, I wasn’t disappointed one bit, in fact delighted. Amraban Nature Resort, located bang next to the plush Resort, is value for money, with friendly owners, friendly staff, and the most delicious homemade thali for dinner, not to mention spacious and clean rooms. Guys, check this place out, really good.

I must ‘fess up that I did grab a quick bite at the plush resort next door, just for old times sake.

Ride, Eat, Sleep, Rave (no Rave though), Repeat, and thus I get dinner and crash, but not to miss the video log update.

Sunday, May 22, 2016 – Day 3

Its too early for breakfast, so I’m kindly served nice masala chai at 5:45 am, and before I know it I’m on my way again, but not before cleaning and oiling my chain.

Now this stretch from Amraban into the town of Chiplun is one joyride, an amazing, long downhill stretch, and its the perfect way to start the final leg. Not that it was downhill nor flat all the way. I did encounter the long, long climbs, but I’m off to an early start so the sun wasn’t as vengeful as the last two days. Yet, I’m drenched from head to toe, and I did get a chance to get some amazing lime juice at this random stall at the top of one of the long uphill stretches. At INR 10/glass there was room for 2 glasses, and barely a dent in the old pocket.

This followed an amazing long downhill stretch where I hit 55/60 kph. Superb, is all I can say to this. Of course, the long climbs are ‘awaitin and up up and up we go once more, and around 17 km from Sangameshwar, I just have to stop and get my breath back, do some stretching, as I had been doing all along. Prevents the lactic acids from building, you see, and this is a preventive technique to avoid muscle fatigue and cramps.

This is pretty much the last climb, and en route I get a call from The Faisal, who determines my whereabouts….. I had told him to look out for me between 11 – 12 noon, and I was just a little ahead of schedule. As I approach Sangameshwar, from where The Faisal’s place is around 60 odd km, we talk again, and all Faisal has to do is mention that he will meet me half way, spontaneity kicks in and I gladly say yes. Cheating? Surely yes! But I’m not ashamed. I’ve navigated the worst possible roads, done extra miles, some pretty daunting inclines, and so I’m not disappointed at all.

In hindsight, I should not have succumbed to that offer to be picked up ahead of the target destination, as there were beautiful favorable inclines all along the route.

I plonk myself at this dinky little roadside eatery, drink aerated water to my hearts content, and await the arrival of The Faisal and his merry band, comprising of Khaled, and the kid Mohammad and the little Abu. It is an hours’ wait, and then they arrive, hugging and patting of backs in camaraderie all around as they arrive.

The time spent waiting is not wasted, and is put to use for my final video log, here goes….This one is short, I’m pretty beat by now.

We make a couple of stops for some cold kokum juice, much refreshing, and sorely needed. The pick up party is thoughtful, and as they mount the Trek on the rack, I’m handed a big box of water melon and musk melon, perfect for the road warrior.

The Thakur Homestead

We arrive at The Thakur Homestead at around 2.30 pm, and I’m warmly welcomed with hugs and pats on the back by Majidbhai and Shakeelbhai (Faisal’s older brother – Abu’s father). Majidbhai reminds me that it is exactly one month ago, that he called me from the village, inviting me to visit.

I quickly shower, gobble the lunch served, and nap for an hour or so, and around 4 pm, I’m driven around the town, and to a beautiful vantage point a ways down the road to Kolhapur.

Back to base, tea is served with crumpets, and tidbits and come sundown, things become quiet in the village, and we go to bed pretty early as compared to Bombay.

Its a lazy morning, and the plan is to visit a nearby hill station, but that goes out the window, when I announce that I need to get back to the metrop ASAP, some developments at work, demand my presence.

So we run around a bit, and Khaled, Abubhai, Mohammad and I drive down this really steep incline, to the riverside in the village below. Beautiful, simply beautiful, so tranquil. Plucking and eating wild berries fresh off the trees on the way up, is simply a treat!

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Lunch is served, a nap follows and at around 4.30 pm, its time for me to leave. Majidbhai, Khaled and The Faisal drive first to Pali, then to Hathkhamba, and finally to Ratnagiri, to wrangle a cheap ride home.

The Thakur Hospitality

What can I say, except not stop talking about the Thakur hospitality. Majidbhai, epitome of humility, of affection and selflessness, even washed my clothes on the sly! I’m just humbled. I can’t not mention that I was gifted 2 whole crates of mangoes, cashew-nuts, and what not! I wasn’t allowed to lift a finger, treated as an honored guest, and the icing on the cake, is the fact that the entire family abstained from eating any form of meat, fish, chicken, etc in deference to my choice of diet. This completely blew me away, deeply touched, and won over forever.

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Thanks in Order

I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the constant flow of messages and calls in support of my quest. Juhi, Kavita, Sandeep, Bhavin, Veer, Rufina, and many others, too numerous to mention. Thanks guys, would be happy to take you guys along at some point in the near future. These are adventures worth embarking on. They surely test you but define you as well.

I’m back at work, back to the grind, and can barely wait to take up my next challenge……Keep you posted.

 

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