Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shabari Malai Trip

Things happen for a reason.
Different things happen for different reasons.
These things are continued for different reasons.

And so it is regarding the Shabari Malai experience.

When Avi and I went last year, we had different reasons in mind. By different I mean that they were different from this year’s. But between us, the reasons were similar.

And now, it is something else that drives us both. And that is no expectations. It somehow helps the whole thing.

Ok…I am done being cryptic and here I go easy.

Avi and I decided to do the entire “Shabari Malai” seriously. We came up with a set of rules after sufficient research, conversations, discretion, and a bit of convenience as well. From our observations, around 90% of the pilgrims follow 10% of the rules. These are rules that we did our best to strictly adhere to:
1. Continence
2. No alcohol, no non-vegetarian food, no smoking
3. No onion, garlic, drum-stick, radish
4. No footwear
5. Sleeping on a mat. No pillow
6. No shaving. No hair-cuts
7. Bath twice a day

After 40 days of deeksha, we (Ganesh, Ganapathy, Niranjan, Avi & me) left for Shabari Malai on Friday night by the Kanyakumari Express. There are two stations where most pilgrims generally get down – Kottayam and Chenganur.

We got down at Chenganur at 12:39 PM, a delay of one hour, and were heading to catch a bus, when we were swarmed by taxi-drivers. The fare ranged from 1800 to 2000 bucks for a to & fro journey. But there was one benevolent soul who agreed to drop us at Pampa for just 500 bucks…with just one hitch; he was drunk. Avi vehemently refused to get into the vehicle if it was the drunk who was doing the driving. I didn’t have a problem, as I was of the opinion that the man generally spoke in a slurred manner, and walked a bit clumsily. I didn’t want to get too judgmental.

So, he made us wait under a shop, and realized that jeep had already left. So he tells us, “Don’t worry. Only 2000 rupees. I will get you a Tavera. Get into it. Ok?”, before we could object. So we just walked back to the bus-stand, and surprise surprise, he was waiting there asking us to get into a bus. Apparently the bus went to a place called Pathanamthitta, and from there plenty of buses plied to Pampa.

So, the drunkard did his job. In a way. He even closed the door of the bus for us. Very kind of him. From a jeep to a Tavera to a bus, he had shown us all avenues. Very versatile indeed.

We got down at Pathanamthitta, which is around 29 kms from Chenganur, and walked to the KSRTC bus-stand. That was when we faced a problem that kept recurring. With no footwear, and hot tar roads, our soles were literally baked. For me, it was almost walking on the sands of Devbagh beach once again. We braved that and managed to get into the Pampa bus.

Now, the river Pampa, I’ve been told, is very dirty during the peak season. But in March, it was quite clean. Atleast, as clean as a river where 1000s bathe can be.

We finished our quick dip, put the irumudi on our heads and began the climb up the hills. Now, a special mention on how the hills are.
People who’ve climbed up Tirupathi would know that there are steps well laid-out. There are a lot of lights along the way, and other basic amenities. Shabari Malai is quite the opposite.

The climb up is basically stones and gravel. You have a few steps, and these are made of cement and more stones. You then have a few more steps made of very big stones, and quite slippery, and very definitely do not qualify to be called a step. After the first half of steep climbs, comes the trek through a forest. Again, with stones and mud. Only difference is that the stones are sharper now.

I mention all this in a bit of unwanted detail only to emphasise the importance of the 40 days of austerities. Walking barefoot for those 40 days, as stupid or illogical as it may seem to a lot of people, goes a long way in hardening your soles. They are able to withstand more heat, more sharp stones with only the minimal registry of pain.

We reached the foot of the temple at 8:30 PM, and there in front of us were the hallowed 18 golden steps. Those who don’t have a maalai and irumudi aren’t allowed to climb up these steps; they have a side entrance.

The beauty of the temple lies in its simplicity. You climb up the 18 steps. And there is the God right in front of you. That simple. We finished the rituals and after a very good dinner (by Kerala standards) found a room to stay. I shall get to the food problem in a bit more detail later on.

The next morning, couple of the guys went for another darshan, and then we began our climb down. And people who think that climbing down is easy are mistaken. It is easier…yes. But definitely not painless or strenuous. As you come to the steep portions, your legs begin to shake and your calf muscles ache. That is, if you attempt to walk down. Instead, just run. And that’s what Ganesh and I did. We were lucky to not trip over a stone or some person. But those were risks worth taking.

We waited below sipping on some hot tea, as the others slowly came down. Avi, who climbed up the fastest (without a break), was incidentally the slowest to get down. And my case was the opposite.

Now about the food. Given the strict restrictions we followed, it was almost impossible to eat anything. Vada has onion. Sambhar has drum-stick, onion and garlic! And this plight continued even on top of the hill, which was quite strange. We managed to get a plate of meals, and I went for a cup of rasam and asked him, “I hope the rasam doesn’t have garlic”, to which he replied, “It is garlic rasam only!”. Sigh!

On the way back, we decided to go to a temple at Aranmula, which apparently gave some very good prasadam. This place was just 9 kms from Chenganur and on the way as well. We asked the guy at the temple what was the prasadam, and he said, “vella pongal”. So, we bought 5 plates of this, and it turned out to be plain boiled rice! We had also bought half a litre of paal-paayasam, which we mixed with the rice and ate. And that was the last solid stuff we ate for the next 15 hours.

Slept through most of the train journey, while all the other pilgrims around us enjoyed biriyanis, porottas, and what not. We had bread with milk at Palakkad, and that tasted like nectar to our starving stomachs.

Back in Bangalore on Monday morning, and went to the temple to get our maalais removed.

Thus ended another successful trip.
And back to…err…not that much of a difference actually. To modify Chandler’s quote, “my entire life is a Shabari Malai”.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Reading Stephen King's The Cell currently. Incredible writing once again. But what stands out more than that is his characterisation. And that includes people who just disappear in a flash as the story progresses.

For example, the protagonist chances upon this scene where the mother has killed her daughter. This is what King writes:
And had her mother stopped to consider before popping the gun from its clip between the TV and the can-opener, where it had been waiting who knew how long for a burglar or rapist to appear in this clean, well-lighted kitchen? Clay thought not. Clay thought there would have been no pause, that she would have wanted to catch up with her daughter's fleeting soul while the explanation for what she had done was still fresh on her lips.
Genius. We do not know the mother. We do not know the daughter. We know the reason for the killing. And with those last lines, you are exposed to an image of the final thoughts of the daughter (who gets killed), and the mother (who kills herself).

Every book has a mood. In the case of The Cell, it is almost a fatalistic view that SK seems to have taken. In a few ways, it is almost similar to his Black House (co-written by Peter Straub). BH dealt with a very common thread of thought running through all our minds, "things can go wrong...but never to always happens to the others..." And here Cell speaks about what sets in once that wrong-that-can-never-happen-to-me actually does.

A totally different kind of mood can be seen in The Shining. The characters, their lives, dispositions, environment, etc goes steadily downhill. And the beauty of the whole book is the inevitability of this slide. You can pray all you want...but the brakes aren't going to work.

Speaking of downhill always brings to mind Rand al'Thor's character in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. You would have to wonder about his status as a hero...especially after all that RJ seems to be doing to him. I actually find a few similarities between Roland of SK's Dark Tower, and Rand. And after Knife of Dreams, the bond seems to be stronger. cool would that be? Roland and Rand meeting each other in a story. SK intersected a lot of characters from a lot of his books in the Dark Tower. Ok...that's hoping for too much.

But what is not hoping for too much is a Dark Tower comic...coz that is going to happen soon...ok...2007! Marvel Comics & SK are working on it. Expected to be shipped in Feb 2007.

Ok, let me hold my horses and get back to The Cell.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Great sporting weekend

South Africa whip the Aussies.
India completes the formalities against the Poms. can one ignore the best action of the weekend...a 11 second pit-stop!!! Gosh! Please control your excitement. They need to put a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen - Warning: This pit-stop shouln't be watched without the supervision of an elder. Highly dangerous!

That pit-stop, unfortunately, got relegated to the sidelines by this conversation at Coffee Day.
Ameya: You can change the tyres!
Me: Wow!!!
Kaushik: No...I mean...
Me: Wow!!!
Kaushik: Last year, you couldn't change the tyre's...err...what is that called da...
Me: You mean drivers could go with 3 tyres. Wouldnt that be an auto-rickshaw? Hey..."naan autokkaaran autokkaaran..."
Kaushik: No no!! A tyre's...
Me: material? It can be glass or paper or thermocol?
Kaushik: da. You can change the tyre's...
Me: colour? Has to be the colour.
Kaushik: No! I got it. If you choose dry tyres, you can't then change them to wet tyres even if it begins to rain.
Me: Hmm...but dont my tyres automatically change from dry to wet when it rains. I mean...all objects do...seems a bit strange. Oh ok...the tyres are hydrophobes?
Kaushik: No da...the grip. The grip. You can't change the grip. Or couldn't. Now you can.
Me: Ohhhhhh...
Me again: But seriously think about it. Different coloured tyres? How cool would that look! You could entice the circus-goers as well...ok...that is too high a goal.

Bloody Bagreen!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Initial thoughts on the Bagreen Grand Prix

For all those F1 ignoramuses, the Formula-1 season begins at Bagreen this year. And it promises to be one heck of a joy ride…or drive as the more appropriate it may be.

This news item has quite a bit of snippets, and some more hidden lines, that I managed to unearth thanks to my perspicuity.

Look at the picture in the page. Obviously, the guy in red likes the blue guy more than the white guy. Is he suggesting anything here?
Could it be that Mr. Red is actually planning on switching his alliances to the Blue side. Strange you might think, but not if you consider this gem of a quote from Mr. Red:
Also, we all have team mates so it’s got to be a nice season for all of us.
Now…why on earth would someone mention this explicitly?
Does a soccer player say, “Also, we all have team mates so it’s got to be a great season!”? Obviously not.
Then why did our pal mention about having team mates?
Here’s my reasoning:
The intimate camaraderie with another driver (who wasn’t a team-mate) definitely implied what I doubted. So, to sidetrack the loyal fans (I think they are called toffees (Ravalgon?)), he decided to proclaim his loyalty. Fast one…but not fast enough for me.

Another person mentions his fetish for urine. Remember the late 1960s when they actually banned drivers from peeing into the fuel tank? Apparently that rule has been relaxed. Atleast that’s what I gathered from this dude’s quote:
but obviously this weekend I will have number one on my car so it’s dream come true and I will try my best again
He goes on to enlighten new fans like me with some breathtaking announcements. Sample this:
It will depend on how quick the car is
And here I was thinking the whole time about how the slowest guy would end up with the lungi cloth they wave to signify victory. Thanks for that pearl!

The season hasn’t even begun, and the excitement is already so palpable. That’s why they say, “There is no sport better than F1”.
(Actually the original quote was more along the lines of “There! F1 is no sport”. But all that is water under the bridge)

F1 Rocks!!!

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I have been targetted!
I have received hate scraps. (“hate” might be too strong a word here)

I shall get to the details, although I am a bit wary of being asked to “get a life”.
Sigh. Why do these things happen to me?

Anyway, here is what happened.

Ages ago, I started an orkut community on F1. It was called F1 Sucks. Now, please do not point out the obviousness of this name. At about the same time, Rajjo had written a post and a mail on the “greatness” of Formula 1.


Then I went ahead and wrote a post on the “joy” of F1 watching, after receiving a notification on some jerk winning title.


Double standards. Note to self: get a life!!!


Now to the present. Or rather, the recent pastish present.
A guy called Eternally (?) leaves this in my scrapbook:-
jus found ur community "F1 sucks"... u say u were a mclaren fan... too bad u think f1 sucks...its not a sham by the way... and u insult the drivers too... maybe u shud try driving 70 laps over a 5 km circuit at 325 kph...special effects it seems... ha! the only special effect that might happen is 'IF' mclaren wins a championship...screw u , ur community and the members in ur community...funny thing though is that u started the community in july last yr or 2004? after all this time u only hav 8 memebers including u in ur community...thats saaaad maaaan... ha ha

>> jus found ur community "F1 sucks"
I am not really that conversant with the SMS lingo, but pardon me if I ask a simple question. Isn’t “ur” short for “you are”? So that would mean I am a community. Or does he mean kamminaatti? I would go for the latter (for the uninformed, kamminaatti is a swear word in Tamil)

>> u say u were a mclaren fan
??? Now this was a surprise. Given the choice between being born again as a mclaren fan and a commode, I would opt for the latter. So how did Eternally come to this conclusion?
Upon further research, I realized what caused this – I had written, “If you think this is a group started by a vexed McLaren fan, you couldnt be further off from the truth.” Brilliant work Sherlock!

>>... and u insult the drivers too
Agreed. I think I would do that. Always. So our pal finally gets something right. Just had to give him some time.

>>... maybe u shud try driving 70 laps over a 5 km circuit at 325 kph
Is that some Maths problem for me to solve? Either way, the answer is Boredom! But yes, I shall listen to Eternally’s (ok I have to confess! I really enjoy using his name. His name is almost a vindication of all that is “great” about F1) advice and try doing that driving.

>>...screw u , ur community and the members in ur community
Redundancy galore. But isn’t that what F1 actually is? So, I shall let that pass…

>> funny thing though is that u started the community in july last yr or 2004?
Yup, that is funny. Frankly, I can’t see what tickled you Eternally. But, let me play along, and show some sensitivity to your fragile mental state.

>> thats saaaad maaaan... ha ha
You forgot a few more A’s in your “thats”. It should be “thaaaaaats saaaaaad maaaaaaaan”. Gives a better effect. Make that special effect.

Apart from this scrap, there is another person whose name is either Saad or Saab, who asks me to show some sportsmanship, and delete the community. I am perplexed. What does sports have to do with F1? Am I missing something here?

There are a few more posts in the community by a few anons requesting me to perform unnatural tasks (as Rajjo would have said). Quite spineless of them to not leave their names. But they are not F1-haters…so that explains…

But all this is history, albeit quite recent.

I have reformed.
I have lit the bulb.
I have got a life.

So, I shall now cover the upcoming F1 season assiduously. Expect a lot of inside information on each of the races, drivers, fuelboys, mechanics, etc in this blog. I initially decided to pick a favourite and look at things from his perspective, but that reduces the humour…I mean honour…quotient. So people…rejoice!

F1 Rocks!!!

(Do I need to add a :P to the mix? :P)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The T-Disc

I have an idea.
(I know that sounds a bit grandiose along the lines of “I have a dream” by Martin Luther King (ahem ahem). But just humour me…)

I have been talking about this for ages now, and have never gotten down to actually penning it. So here I go.

I have never been to a disc…which is short for disco…which is short for discotheque. I wonder what they are going to call it next…anyway, that isn’t the point here. I have been to pubs, and I know that discotheques are going to be just an extension (literally from the couches to the dance floor). And that is where I freeze. Err…freeze isn’t exactly right. Let me use Stephen King’s “give the best imitation of a flower-pot”.

I presume there are a lot more like me. If not, this entire idea would be a major flop…but I don’t think that would be the case. And it is for such people, that I shall launch the…

*start of major background music similar to Rajini’s opening scene in Muthu*

The T-Disc

*end of major background music similar to Rajini’s opening scene in Muthu*

T-Disc? What it is?

If you are the kind who jump out of your seats to Appadi Podu, and not to Abba & Boney M…
If you are the kind who think that Dire Straits is what you tell your mechanic after your 2-wheeler takes a nasty fall…
If you are the kind who look at “headbanging” as something that people outside the Mariamman koil do during the “saami vandhirchu” times…
If you are the kind who can fold the tongue, glare angrily, make swishing noises…all at the same time…
If you are the kind who can’t determine the lyrics of English songs, and find it even harder to know when a new song starts, and the old one ends…

You would love The T-Disc!

This is the land of devastating dappangoothus
This is the land of galatta gaanas
This is the land of tumultuous tamil music

You educated dog, don’t come near!
Oops…that is not the motto of my T-Disc. It is just how the subtitling of the songs would look on the plasma screen.

A typical day at The T-Disc would resemble this:
Begin the rounds with a proper Naattu Sarakku, enjoy the AC’s cool Kaathaddikidhu Kaathaddikidhu. We also promote religious worship…so you could either go to Thirupathi Ezhumalai Venkatesa, or for the more austere Yappa yappa Ayyappa. The food menu, though it might seem to be leaning towards seafood with Uppu Karuvadu and Vaala Meenu, can always be digested with a Soda Bottle Kaiyile. We have some very exotic cocktails from Goa, and we decided to dedicate the place of origin in the nomenclature as well; you could try out a Podango…or a not so popular Gummango. People who feel that there would be a substantial lesser female population needn’t worry for too long. Vaadi Vaadi Vaadi would definitely bring in the crowd, and you can all peacefully Sight Adippom.

The Happy Hours would obviously be dedicated to playing songs of the one and only Super Star.

And more importantly, you would have never to face such situations –
Bouncer: Sir, you have to pay the cover charges.
Customer: cover-a? What cover??? Aavin or Arogya?
Bouncer: Not paal-cover sir. But…

Customer: Nonsense! T-Disc me going. Fun having. Varttaaaan…

All this and more…only at The T-Disc.
Coming soon…