Monday, September 29, 2008

Krazy @ Karnala

After a tumultuous week (the Big 4 investment banks biting the dust), M and I decided to cool it off by taking off on a short ride, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. And so, some last minute planning later, we decided to head to Karnala, about 60 kms from the city. Karnala is a bird sanctuary with a fort on top and trekking trails thrown in for good measure. We closed the planning on Friday evening, resolving to wake up early and hit the asphalt before eight. A great deal of self motivation and we were on the road by ten. Some packed lunch, emergency rations and we were set.

Or so we thought. A wrong turn, as many as three massive traffic holdups and multiple diversions later, we were finally on the track to Karnala, albeit delayed by an hour. The moment we entered Karnala, the climate changed drastically, the temperature dropping by a couple of degrees. Encouraged, we decided to explore the place first and lunch later. Some fooling around revealed that there was a 3 km trek to the fort, at the base of the famous ‘thumbs up’ of Karnala. We decided to trek and eat the packed lunch at the top. After all, a 3 km trek shouldn’t take longer than an hour, right? Wrong! We underestimated the difficulty of the trek. After the first 200 metres, we knew we had made a mistake. Not one to give up, we egged on. Much of the stretch was a steep ascent over rocks and boulders that were no doubt sparkling streams during the monsoon. We had covered barely a kilometre in the first half hour.

The first stroke of encouragement came shortly thereafter, in the form of a kind fellow trekker, on his way back. ‘You got another hour and a quarter more’, he informed us. That should have been enough to discourage us – we had endured an hour of the torture and were in no shape to go through another excruciating hour – considering we had to return by the same route! ‘Your footwear is adequate and at this pace, you will do it in about an hour and a quarter, with a minute or two break every 15 minutes. The view from the top is worth it. Do it!” We had already covered half the distance and it only took as much to cover the rest as it did to turn back and reach base. Convincing ourselves thus, we marched on. Thankfully, we rationed water and soft drink, so that we would have enough for the return trip. The trek only got tougher thereafter. There were straight and level patches, but these were interspersed with steep climbs, strewn with boulders. At several places, we had to climb near vertical stretches. There were also insect bites to contend with. After about an hour, we made it to the base of the fort. We stopped for a quick snack break and realised that anything more than a light bite and we would not be able to walk. And so, we limited ourselves to some juicy (and really sour) mosambis and apples. That was a godsend – we were recharged and more importantly, rehydrated. We decided to give the final stretch one last push and clambered up the fort. This was thrilling – some places, the path was as narrow as two feet, with the fort wall on one side and a vertical drop on the other. Maybe because we were too exhausted, the view was not as exhilarating as we expected it to be. After a short five minute break at the top, we decided to head back. It was already past four and we had to be back at base before dark.

The descent proved to be more physically challenging than the ascent. Though not as exhausting, the physical strain of the climb turned our joints to jelly and progress was slow. After several stops to regain our balance, we finally reached base, exhausted, thirsty and hungry. We had also exhausted the stock of water. By some stroke to luck, the dhaba at the base was just closing for the day and we were able to re-stock on water and juices. We devoured the packed lunch like we hadn’t eaten in ages. A brief respite later, we were back on the road, heading home. Luck was on our side – there were no traffic jams to hinder us and we made it in about two hours.
Looking back, the trip as such was not great. However, overcoming the intense fatigue was a personal victory: at two junctures, we almost decided to give it up and turn back. Had we given in, the guilt of defeat would have forever rankled. After reaching the top, I silently rewarded myself two small pats on the back.
PS: I don’t think the trek itself is too difficult: on our way, we encountered several women in sarees and salwars, struggling though they were, make it to the top. The combined exhaustion of riding through three hours of traffic and pollution, lack of fitness and an abrupt, physically intense trek was what made it difficult. Nevertheless, for future trekkers, I suggest that you start the trek early and carry enough fluids – two litres per person and high energy snacks. Oh, and yes, exercise regularly and stay in shape!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Konkan coast

I have fallen in love with the Konkan coast of Maharashtra. Here have I walked on some of the best beaches. Beaches elsewhere pale in comparison: the world famous beaches of Bali, even the Nusa Dua beach resort, rated the best in the region by Conde Nast, pale in comparison to the pristine Anjarle, calm Kashid, furious Ganapatipule, serene Revadanda, majestic Murud... the list is endless. It seems God in his playful mood hop skipped and jumped along the Konkan coast, pulled out of the bowels of earth by Parashurama's mighty axe, creating paradise at each step that fell on the ground. Looking forward to the next beach on the trail...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dvaita Advaita reconciled

This some reference to the earlier post The Whole and the Part. As in the earlier piece, consider an apple. Now, cut a small slice from the apple. What do we now have? We have the big apple from which the smaller slice was cut out. Is it apple? Yes. We also have the small slice that we cut off. What is it? It is also apple! So, the smaller piece that also has the essence of the apple is also apple. Thats Advaita. Now, look at it from a different angle. How many entities do we have now? Two. The bigger apple is distinct and separate from the smaller slice, there is no refuting that. Thats Dvaita. Essentially, Advaita and Dvaita and two different ways of looking at the same thing. There is no conflict at all. Wonder what all that brouhaha over the ages was about.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


1258. That’s the number of days that I have spent in Mumbai, in the current stint. What an eventful period this has been! New jobs, finding domestic bliss, beginning to ‘settle down’… The three and half odd years have not been without the fair share of thrills either. Floods, bomb blasts, riots, curfew (lived through it)… been there done it! The adventures have been several: jumping off a marooned local train in the middle of nowhere and wading through waist deep water, living through a curfew for four days (I was saved by the magnanimity of my kind landlady, who ensured that I got a regular supply of meals), riots replete with firing outside my apartment block, bomb blasts…
What a journey it has been, from the day I set foot at Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Terminal, with two bags of luggage! I remember walking along Marine Drive one of those early days, flinching at the unmistakable stench emanating from the sea. Not surprising, considering the waste of over twenty million and more humans pours into it! And yet, not more than a year later, I remember walking along the same path, enjoying the cool breeze blowing over the sea. That particular moment, I did not feel a stranger in the city any longer.