the loony tales

world and life through words of a neighbourhood boy

A Daak from Ladakh- the Man and Four wheels

Pangong Tso, the Tibetan for a high grassland lake; Pangong Lake is the world’s highest salt water lake, a closed basin lake which extends from India to China. It is a large waterbody which covers 600 square kilometer of area with only 20-25% of its southern part in India controlled territory. It has recently become a hot-spot for tourist post Amir Khan in the climax scene of 3 Idiots gives Kareena Kapoor a kiss on the banks of the lake.

IMG_2820

Coming back to us, the Crusaders reached Pangong Lake and we just couldn’t move ahead. We were awestruck by the beauty and grandiose of the lake surrounded by golden mountains and the setting sun giving the whole landscape the perfect lighting.

So we didn’t have any place booked here for stay.

I think its time for a little flash back and story.

I had a friend in Pune who was the first person to tell me about Ladakh and how he and his wife went all the way from Leh to Pangong without planning for anything, and all the trouble they faced. In short, the moral of his story was plan everything beforehand, make your bookings prior to journey.

Now when I told this to the gang and tried to find a room online, the prices were as high as 8,000-9,000 rupees. No one could believe that uninhabited place like Pangong can have temporary settlements as costly as that. The budget constraints were high and we chose to risk finding the accommodation when we reach the lake.

Back to present day, we reached a little before sunset and the few settlements on this end had almost no tourists in them. We got rooms for less than two thousand and I got to hear stomach full from all of them about how I might have got them ripped if we had booked online.

In fact we got to know about this the next day that major tents and establishments were further ahead from here little above the mountain. The place where we camped up was just one-fourth of the total tents. It didn’t matter to us, because it was comfortable enough for us, cheap enough for us and the lake was in front of us to see whole night and day.

Post a fun filled cold, cozy and social night beside the lake we woke up to the warm sun and the panoramic morning view of the great Pangong lake. It was just breath taking.

IMG_3046

As the others were just warming up, Blue asked me to join him on a little bike ride ahead to check out if anything lay ahead of us or this was it. Just riding on that road which went by adjacent to the lake, it was a treat in itself. Pangong was worth every hardship we faced to reach the place.

We went ahead and saw the point where the climax scene of 3 Idiots was actually shot. We also realized that we were in Changthang Wild Life Sanctuary, which explained the police permit and other boards we saw. We also realized that there was a place ahead, a bit higher above the mountains overlooking the lake where there were more settlements.

Now came the most important activity of the trip: photoshoot on the Pangong.

Well I might have looked down on this activity during the photoshoots but well you can’t actually blame me, I don’t have a photogenic face or anything else for that matter. But have to say that the photos we clicked on Pangong that day were the highlight of the whole Ladakh trip. And if I had a doubt that men don’t actually do much grooming, my beliefs were shattered as throughout the trip most of them spend significant amount of time in accentuating whatever they could to get a pic with enough ­“swag”.

IMG_2828

Post getting enough pictures clicked in various poses, with and without the bullets, we decided to leave. I could also tell the part where we took the bike very close to the lake where we were not allowed to and got a lot of pics clicked but I will choose to not tell that bit.

IMG_20180831_093758959IMG_4701IMG_4421IMG_2942IMG_4390IMG_4321IMG_2846

The journey back to Chang la didn’t seem that eventful or even delightful as it was the day before. Maybe because it was pleasant evening then and it was hot afternoon now, not sure though. We moved on to Chang la pass making good speed.

Well something I missed to mention before was about the petrol cans. I had mentioned that we had rath so that we can carry these cans but unfortunately one of our cans was damaged and another was stolen the day before, and while going to Pangong we couldn’t buy them, so because someone said “they have petrol pumps there” we went ahead without the petrol cans.

Petrol pump we saw last was down at Karu, which was around 30-40kms below Chang la. Post that there was no petrol pump anywhere till Pangong and back. Now the 500cc bullets were giving better mileage but people were concerned about ‘what if’. So we tried to find out where can we get a refueling.

Apparently, Tangtse, a collection of small bunch of houses before Pangong serves as the unofficial refueling point for private vehicles. Initially we felt it was a shady set up because legally no one can sell petrol loose like that, but it turned out that this was kind of a popularly known thing. The rates were fixed and it was all out in the open. They had one liter plastic bottles filled with petrol for measurement sake. On the way back too we filled our tanks to the brim and not kidding but one of the bikes was giving some impossible mileage! Pangong’s charm maybe!

Now I was sitting behind Hotshot because well, we made good pair on the wheels.

All of us were looking ahead to trounce Chang la for once and for all, and to reach back Leh safe. Honestly for me, the Ladakh trip was done. Nothing more I have heard about Ladakh was more beautiful than Pangong and I was in no mood for more bike rides through these dangerous roads.

Hotshot leading the pack went up the pass in great speed. It was bumpy. It was bumpy to the level I felt dizzy and was almost crying in agony with my bum on fire. We climbed the pass and reached the Chang la top in good time. But both of us were so done that we dropped to the ground and sat there for some time.

IMG_20180831_142417276

We went inside the only café there and waited for others. We knew we had come up fast but now it was taking alarmingly longer time for them to come back.

Our concern was not misplaced.

One of the bikes got a punctured tyre. It would not be very tough to guess whose but for the delicate sensitive calamity it was, I will let it be.

We were all shaken. Others were trying to ask around if we can find a repair shop on Chang la top, I was trying to make sure the guys had something to eat because I was pretty sure that we would find nothing on Chang la top to repair puncture and we were officially screwed.

All six minds were racing with different thoughts when our angel in disguise just reached Chang la top in his Innova.

Tashi, the Ladakhi driver was leaving his foreigner clients at Chang la top for another vehicle to take them ahead because his vehicle had a minor clutch issue. He saw us troubled souls with punctured bike. We were actually asking the biker gangs around for an air-pump, because we realized that we could just push it down the mountain till Karu if it had little air. That is how we met Tashi. He had air-pump and also a big heart.

Using his car’s battery he fired up the pump but he realized, so did we that this air would not last long. He gave an idea that he can take bit of our luggage and come behind this bullet, fill up air when required and help us reach Karu.

It was a brilliant idea and the best we could hope for. I had few wires spark up in my brain and I suggested that I will come with him in his Innova because well, we were bunch of guys from Gurgaon, how can we leave our luggage with a stranger, and why to burden a punctured bike with two people. Truth be told, my bum had the last laugh because both of us were finally relieved to be settled on a comfortable bucket seat.

IMG_20180831_155015226_BURST000_COVER_TOP

One more guy stepped up that day apart from Tashi Bhai, our very own Maverick!

He would say I have some issue with him or I don’t love him much, but truly after what he did that day, I can never praise him enough. Some might say it was stupid of him to take it on himself to ride the wobbling airless 500 CC bullet down the Chang la pass; I would say he took one for the team.

So it was Maverick riding on the air-less bullet ahead and me chilling in the Innova with Tashi bhai as we got down the Chang la pass. Believe it or not when you are in comfortable Innova with a confident pro on the wheels, Chang la pass doesn’t feel all so dangerous now.

Tashi Bhai was a gem of a guy, like all other Ladakhis we met. I chatted with him all the way about various things, the fact that he was a cook for half the year when Ladakh was closed and how they all collectively hated the customers from Delhi.

IMG_20180831_155047257

Tashi bhai throughout the way had eyes on Maverick and would ask him to stop if we felt air was too low, pump up the wheel, then go further and repeat this drill. You won’t believe, he stopped at least 7-8 times throughout the trip down to stop and pump the wheel.

When we finally reached Karu, everyone had a feeling that he might ask for some money, and for a change even Pete was ready to give him whatever he would ask for, but he never asked. Out of gratitude I and Maverick paid him some amount which even collectively we all agreed would not be equivalent to the help he provided.

If these good hearted men were not there, we would have been stuck with the bike on Chang la top or we might have left the bike there and paid a hefty fine to the bike dealer for leaving his bike there.

We sat for some time in Karu where we ate a lot of snacks, got the puncture repaired with some difficulty, I got scolded by one of the DATA boys for using lot of data and we again thanked our stars again for Tashi.

We went on to Leh, and then to Nubra Valley the next day, and the last day was almost spent in taking rest but someone’s resolute desire took us to the Leh Palace to give us some awesome photos to cherish.

I will not write more, especially about the Nubra Valley trip because well somethings are left unsaid. If someday I feel I might separately write about a few particular incidents. But for the time being I think Crusaders will take leave and you will hear more from Captain, Hotshot, Pete, Blue and Maverick later.

To the good people of Ladakh, the mesmerizing beauty of those lands and lakes, and a lifetime of memories, I dedicate this daak.

Julley!!

Advertisements

A Daak from Ladakh- The Third Bullet

It is important to note here that none of us were pro-bikers.

Chuck that! Apart from Captain and Maverick I guess no one had ridden a bullet before, and 350kms of non-stop ride in a day from Drass to Leh was hectic on all of us.

But we knew we had a little more to do before we could crash on the bed.

  • Get better bikes
  • Get permits for tomorrow and decent dinner for the night

Well I didn’t mention this but we had got 350 CC bullets for this trip and at certain stretches of the journey we could understand that this bike would not be able to climb either Khardung la or Chang la pass which we need to cross ahead. So, 500 CC bullets were our first priority now. And apparently both Nubra Valley and Pangong Lake needed permits to be taken for visiting them. Good thing we had done this part on the day 1 itself. We just needed to collect them from the “guy”.

Now one might think why am I extensively beating bushes around one tired night. But as Hotshot once said, these small funny moments make the trip memorable down the line.

So bikes needed last minute touch ups and permits were collected. It was almost 9.30pm and we were all extremely hungry. Considering even the restaurants might close down we decided to move to the market asking the bike guy to wait till we get back.

As all diverse Indian friend circles we also had the usual veg vs non-veg fight. I should have let the non-veg folks go to the place they wanted to and asked the veg people to choose your place but alas my stupid naïve heart wanted the gang to eat together. Stupid decision!

We chose a pizza place which turned out to be sold out and then someone suggested a family restaurant just a floor above that. No! not telling you the name of the restaurant. I want everyone to suffer our fate. And also not telling who suggested the place because everyone is allowed one stupid decision.

So we order at this place and its getting really late. We are all worried about the bike shop closing because none of us wants to drag our ass on foot to Phandey House. After a lot of debate and discussion Pete, Captain and Blue agreed to go. I still don’t know why I went but anyways that question never has a good answer.

By the time we come back we see two very very disappointed faces sitting in front of half eaten veg dishes. We had asked the non veg dishes to come in only after we came back. We dug in to our non veg stuff anticipating below par food, but apparently it was not bad, it was absolutely horrible. Captain immediately called the manager and scolded him for serving us such bad food at 11pm at night. I chipped in a few sarcastic statements as we moved out paying only for the little veg food which was consumed.

Six beaten down souls consumed Leh’s late night street food from the market because the beaten down bodies needed some petrol to run after all. But let me tell you this is no generalization on Leh restaurants as we found out later. That night was just one lousy comedy of errors that is it.

I could close the night here but one more mentionable thing happened which I have to tell.

So we had booked our stay at Nubra Valley and not at Pangong, which meant that guided our plans. Given the lack of internet we had once on day 1 asked Pete to find out the mail of booking because though I did it, but it was using his email. And we assumed he saved it and knew the dates.

Throughout the night we were discussing about how we needed to gear up to ride to the highest motorable road the next day crossing which we would go on to Nubra Valley. And Pete never cared to re-check the date until at the restaurant where we could not eat.

You guessed it right, we had to ride to the great Pangon Tso the next day, crossing the ever so treacherous Chang La Pass.

We began the next morning journey to Pangong lake. Yes, it’s the one where Phunsuk Wangdu was kissed by Viru Sahastrabuddhi’s daughter.

Not going into the morning breakfast details because it was the same- bread jam, Blue’s snacks, milk powder tea.

I should tell you about rath before we move ahead and also about Pete’s big red bag.

IMG_3903

So one of our 3 bikes had a metal carrier attached to it on both sides for luggage. It cost us 100 rupees more as rent per day and still we had at least one of them was because it had a compartment where we could safely keep the petrol container. And the reason we didn’t need more of them was that all our bags could be carried on our shoulders, except, u guessed it right, Pete’s red bag.

The bag was a big size trekking bag which would actually carry two people’s luggage for an overnight stay. And hence the bag was always tied to the carrier making the bike with carrier slightly heavier than the other two bikes, which is one of the reasons I named it rath. Now I can imagine Pete reading this and saying, why was the bag a big deal, well it isn’t big but it was certainly a deal worth mentioning.

I never sat on rath during Kargil trip because it seemed a difficult task to board and alight from the beast. But somehow during the last stretch I got a chance and it seemed to be having a few perks for the pillion rider which others didn’t have, so I sat on rath for the journey to Chang la. Again, very stupid decision!

For the sake of my friend I will not tell you who was the person behind whom I sat but lets just say his height was slightly less than others which had some grave repercussions. So the road to Chang la top and a little beyond it was under repair. We never thought that would be a big deal, but when you are riding up to 17000 feet and road curving the hill is not even 7-8ft wide; it becomes a very big deal.

IMG_2924

The climb was turbulent, the road was bumpy. To be honest at places the road didn’t exist, there were just stones and gravels lying around. We slowly progressed pulling our 500cc bullets. One such moment we saw that Maverick and Pete were having some issue with their bike. We just stopped to take a look at them.

Now as I had mentioned Pete’s red bag was tied on right side of the bullet and the stand was on the left side. Being pillion on rath meant that I couldn’t keep my foot down unless the bike is held by someone or is on stand. Given all these conditions, we stopped the bike and by chance tilted to right. By the time my short friend could get hold of it both me and bike were on the ground.

It was a funny incident, we all had a good laugh. We were all carefully driving on the dangerous pass with deep valley to one side and bumpy road ahead, and rath fell down once again. Though again no one was hurt but it wasn’t funny anymore.

Both of us got down and refused to mount the rath again.

It was difficult for us to think as to why someone would take so much pain and cross this Chang la pass, is Pangong Lake really worth the effort. And it didn’t help to know that 3 Idiots crew undertook this perilous route, I mean they were at least being paid for it.

I for once even decided that this was the last time I was coming on these mountain trips. I don’t enjoy having my heart in my mouth throughout the journey.

 

Chang la top was cold, windy and at around 17,000 feet which is 6,000 feet above Leh you feel a sudden rush of breathlessness. It had just one small coffee shop where we all stretched our legs and ate a lot of things, Maggi, tea, biscuits, chocolates; we shouldn’t have but no one told us then.

We quickly started down the Chang la top and the descent was fast, and relatively easily done. Though more carbs is recommended at low oxygen, high altitude places as body burns the food at higher rate keeping body warm but I think some people like Blue stuffed up a little more than required.

While we were waiting beside one of the streams flowing through the middle of the road and helping Blue with ORS, Captain and Hotshot came up. They had been a little behind both the other bikes and we didn’t suspect anything until we saw them both. Hotshot had a ‘I-am-about-to-tell-you-something-funny-smile’ and Captain had that ‘oh-yea-we-screwed-up’ smirk.

We asked them what happened and this is what I understood. Captain again got little into his biking groove and was going at a good speed. Beyond the Changla Pass we were in a valley and there were no trenches as such on sides of the road. But the bends were still curvy and on one such bend Cap slightly lost control of the bike, he slowed it but he knew fall was inevitable; and in Hotshots words they were thrown on to the ground as the bike went the other way. It was funny the way he narrated the story but honestly we had enough falls for a day.

IMG_20180830_161253726

The route from Chang la to Pangong was picturesque beyond words. Streams flowing through the middle of road, greenery, exotic wild life; maybe the pictures would tell you a better story.

IMG_20180830_175036300IMG_20180830_174413042_HDRIMG_2759IMG_2748IMG_2689IMG_2682

And beyond all this lay Pangong Tso.

IMG_2820

A Daak from Ladakh- On Two Wheels

LEH- KARGIL
It was a unanimous suggestion from whoever we discussed the matter with that Leh-Kargil should be the first bike trip one should do post getting acclimatized to the Ladakhi climate.

IMG_2369

Blue woke the Crusaders up and I decided to make tea for everyone. Due to the obvious scarcity of cows and maybe other logistic issues, milk was almost a scarce resource. Milk powder was the common substitute used all over the region. I am neither a fan of milk powder tea nor a fan of boasting about myself, but that morning’s tea was one of my personal bests.

Off we went for our first Ladakh biking expedition, with all our biking gears set and luggage packed up tight. There is a curious case of Pete’s big red bag but we will talk about it when the incident comes.

We took an initial halt in the market to buy cans for reserve petrol and also at the only petrol pump in town to get our tanks filled up, and the crusaders took off.

I was obviously the pillion rider but the feel was amazing. It was exactly like the pictures we had seen on the net. Big barren mountains, wilderness on both sides, and miles and miles of tar road ahead.

IMG_20180828_102818631_BURST000_COVER_TOPIMG_2417IMG_2439IMG_2508

All of us were so engrossed in enjoying the maiden Ladakh bullet ride, taking photos in the Ladakh wilderness, that we didn’t think about time and distance which lay ahead to be covered before sunset.

It was only at our first halt at a tea stall in the middle of nowhere that we realized that we needed to buckle up and hit the gas because afternoon was coming on to us and we were not even halfway.

And hit the gas we did!

A little too literally in the case of Captain.

So I was initially pillion to Hotshot, who according to my post trip analysis was the most sound rider to ride along with. Then I was moved to sit with Blue, who wanted me to make things interesting so we started playing songs on his JBL speakers. So we four- me and Blue on one of the bikes and Pete, Maverick on the other were riding in tandem with Captain’s bike being way far ahead of us. The roads were smooth so all of us were enjoying the ride and the speed when we saw Captain, Hotshot bent worriedly over there Bullet. We could see drag marks of tyre on the road and sensed something was off.

Apparently Captain was enjoying the ride and the speed a little too much. And at a point in road he had to hit the brakes really hard for a stop, and the brake got jammed into that static state.

We were stuck.

It was afternoon, we had not had food and we have still not covered much distance, close to 120 kms were yet to be covered.

We needed to find a mechanic. There was a tyre shop and a small restaurant ahead where Hotshot and I waited, meanwhile Maverick and Blue went to Khaltsi, a town we just passed to look for a mechanic.

It was a painstakingly long over an hour wait at the restaurant for us where we dealt with some nosey Kashmiri locals. During this time we later heard that finding a mechanic was not happening the way we all expected. Finally few armed forces personnel helped us with some jugaad techniques.

Everyone was frustrated, tired, hungry and in a state what we call “BT”.

We quickly rode out planning to go non-stop till whatever time we can.

We traversed huge expanse of really high barren mountains, and stretches of wilderness before entering the region of Kargil. The region was fairly greener and more populated than other places. But now the setting sun was beating down on us making it extremely difficult to see the road. This time I was behind Maverick who usually paid very less attention to ride quality.

IMG_20180828_161351759

You know there is a common observation, when you feel like using a urinal the pressure on the bladder is moderate, but as you approach the urinal which if by chance is at a distance then by the time you finally relieve yourself the pressure on the bladder reaches an unbearable level.

Same happens on trips with the highway milestones. As you approach your destination the fatigue, excitement and everything together takes toll on your minds. Such was the last stretch of 20 kms approaching Kargil. As soon as a toll booth around 8kms outside Kargil city stopped us we all just parked the bullets and dropped dead on the tables of a nearby tea stall.

IMG_20180828_190951707

This was when one of the biggest downsides of bike rides hit us.

Pain in the ass!!

230 kilometres of ride and our whole body was creaking in unspeakable languages.

The next half an hour reaching the Kargil 0km milestone and finding a decent place to crash in for the night was a rush because it was already dark and we were tired.

The image what Kargil name brings to the minds of most of us Indians is very very different from what Kargil city actually looks like. But we were never really were in the mood to enjoy beauty of Kargil city at that point of time and we got another bomb dropped into our laps.

 

KARGIL- DRASS- KARGIL – LEH

So crossing the bridge over Suru river we stopped short at the first decent lodge we saw. It was night and we wanted a cheap place to crash. Few minutes of negotiations by Captain and Blue, and we were on the beds within minutes. But the bomb was still exploding in our laps and minds, and we had to sort out dinner plans too.

The bomb was that the only “thing” to watch in Kargil, the second largest city in Ladakh after Leh, was the Kargil Memorial, which was located in Drass, 60 kms away from where we were at that moment. For bunch of guys who have rode 220 kms on bike from Leh, 60 more kms should not have been a big deal, but thanks to our college for enrolling only bright minds of the country, all of us were quick to figure out that it would mean additional 120 kms above the existing 220kms which we would need to cover tomorrow before sun down to reach Leh.

I wasn’t very sure about others but I was pissed like hell. On this, on my body, the fact that I can’t ride, on these people for dragging me to this trip, on basically everything.

Someone suggested we walk to the market and have something to eat. It was a bad idea.

Kargil might have been the second largest city but it was nowhere lit or lively as Leh. We walked through the dark roads for some distance but then decided to drop the plan. Fortunately right opposite to our lodge was one of the luxury hotels of Kargil, and yes it also had a restaurant where we could dine.

Post an year at Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub and Sector 29, the rates at the restaurant didn’t appear too premium to us. Only thing which kept reminding us of the place being pricey was the presence of a large NRI bunch from London.

The SIM boys did some “bhaav”-eating -something which I will keep using throughout the trip.

But the lodge had wi-fi and their phones didn’t have good connectivity so guess who had a good laugh.

Maverick was the one who was pushing for visiting a few local spots before we went to Drass in the morning, so everyone expected him to get ready first, but well things don’t always go according to plans.

Finally we planned to just visit the Plateau-nath Baba Mandir in the morning.

IMG_4028

The place was where an old priest lived in his small hut and worshipped Lord Shiva. It is believed that during 1971 war a few Pakistan bomb-shells fell near the hut but none of them exploded. And when the priest threw them into the stream below, they all exploded, making the locals treat the place like a wonder.

My only issue with the place- I had to visit the temple without taking bath.
Anyways “Har har Mahadev!”.

We had some grand breakfast and quickly started our journey to Drass.

I was pillion to Hotshot who was my favorite rider. He was usually safe, cautious, and easy to talk up. But this time I was not sure whether he was rushing because the road was awesome or because he thought we needed to maintain a steady speed to make it back to Leh in time.

IMG_4063

The route from Kargil to Drass was actually the highway to Srinagar, and it was as beautiful as it can get. It was nothing like the wilderness of Ladakh. We could feel ourselves approaching the green beauty of the Kashmir valley. By the time we reached the memorial situated on the foot of Tololing hill, we were actually contemplating changing the plans and moving on to Sonmarg which was just less than 100kms from there, on the way to Srinagar.

IMG_20180829_105203542

Kargil War Memorial

No words can describe what we felt there. It was built in the memory of the great Kargil War of 1999, and after our visit we could feel the pain millions of Indians would have felt during the time of war. It was not just pain, we felt pride, immense respect and along with all this a pinch of sadness and guilt on the thought that the ones who sacrificed their lives are not given their dues. The losses and causalities the country endured just defending its lands, were they worth it?

IMG_20180829_111236144

Again, no words can describe what we felt there.

It was close to noon and we started our long 290km journey back to Phandey House. We literally rode like it was a race against time.

We bid adieu to the city of Kargil, and now we (at least I) had brief time to really take a good look at the beautiful town as we went uphill away from it.
On the banks of Suru river just below the glacier ice tops, Kargil was a green and gorgeous place. One of the few things we noticed while driving through the bustling market was that the population of the town was pre-dominantly Muslim, unlike most parts of Ladakh which were Buddhist ladakhi people.

Hurrying through the town Hotshot and I missed the point where we were supposed to halt. Hotshot was riding at a different level and once we realized we missed it we had to make a stop to ensure the others were not looking for us.

We made good distance at steady speed when we took the next break around lunch time. Logically we should have had lunch but we were all tense about being stuck in the mountains when its dark, so we planned to stop only at Khaltsi next.

Khaltsi; it will be always etched in our memories because this is where Captain jammed his breaks when we were going up and now this was going to be the place we were gonna drop dead.

We already had driven around 200kms for the day and the asses of most guys were baked up like hell. Especially folks like me who were pillion riders for the whole time. It was somewhere just before climbing the last hill before Khaltsi that I asked Maverick behind whom I was seated to stop the bike.

Maverick was one of those who gave least importance to ride quality, and riding seated behind him was always a pain. But this time it was agony. I got down from the bike and I could feel my whole body screaming out. Captain and Hotshot stopped their bike, and approached us.

“What happened? Are you all right?”

“It is hurting. It is hurting a lot!”, and I started weeping all over the place.

Took some lying on the road and stuff for me to recuperate, but we sure did move on.

We reached Khaltsi by early evening. Six dead bodies stretched out on a random dhaba at the edge of the town. We took a long haul, ate, drank and gathered up whatever was left of ourselves.

We genuinely thought that we had maintained good speed and would avoid at least travelling on hilly terrains once it gets dark. But we were slightly off target.

We rode an hour almost in dark, on the hills. It was dangerous but the stars we saw that night. It was better than any video of beautiful night skies we see on Discovery Channel. It was glorious and mesmerizing, but we had to keep our eyes on the road because it was pitch dark.

We made it back to Leh. This was just the beginning of the adventures that lay ahead I guess.

A Daak from Ladakh- Pehli Chitthi

Well if you guys are trying to figure out what “Daak” here means. Just google it.

It is just me trying to brush up my old literary skills. When I say old it makes me sound a lot older than I am but I guess that is alright because half the world already thinks I act double my age, in a totally negative way.

But really I used to consider myself good with English; in pre Modi era when people didn’t used to judge each other’s English with VA percentile and amount of strange words as ammunition in anyone’s vocab-arsenal.

Anyways not stretching up this part, so we went to Ladakh. Big deal!

It is slightly big a deal to visit this part of the country because at 11,500 feet above sea level, strangely enough you fall short of breath. Cruising over Himalyas, falling over each other to catch a view of the snowy mountains from Airbus 320, when we landed at the small runway of Leh Airport, along with the cold winds what hit us was the shocking feeling of breathlessness.

IMG_3762Before I proceed, it is very important to introduce you to the characters of the story. I agreed to go to this Ladakh trip with a bunch of boys. What do we call them?

Let’s give their gang a name- Crusaders.

I had already missed the last trip Crusaders took to the mountains and I has since then made up my mind to go along with them for the next trip whenever the call comes.

Ladakh was a large shout as it was a long trip which was gonna be heavy both on body and bucks, but it felt like a now or never deal.

Without going into much detail about Crusaders, let us talk about the guys. We were six folks including me. I am obviously not revealing their real names, so let’s call them Captain, Hotshot, Maverick, Pete and Blue. Yes! My story, my names.

Captain had the whole plan made along-with Blue, and he was our main man, the money man, boss-man, whatever suits your boat.

Once we got down the plane and collected our baggage we all huddled up near the exit. We needed to move to our hotel and being the “booking” in-charge, I had the hotel details. I went with Cap to ask around for taxis. By the time we fixed up 2 taxis to take us 6 guys to our place, our boy Pete here had chatted up with an army man about rates.

This was just the beginning of many-many such incidents coming up.

I just imagined Pete would have been unhappy with us booking taxis for slightly higher fare but only later I realized that he made quite a ruckus about it with Cap, with the cab driver, with lotta people.

Leh is a not so small yet small town in Ladakh.

IMG_20180903_180806360.jpg

Ladakh, which we later realized is more than half of the Indian part of Jammu and Kashmir (oh please don’t crucify me for this yet!).

So everyone in Leh knew almost everyone else in Leh. Our host Phandey, whose place we were gonna make our base camp for next 8 days was also a very popular figure. We heard that this Airbnb listing through which we booked the place was done by his nephew or relative names Debashish who was currently not living in town. You will soon understand why this information is of essence.

Phandey’s house was a pretty little place, and for the peanuts we were paying for this place, it seemed really worth it. The hospitality of old Phandey ji and his daughter-in-law also felt really soothing.

IMG_20180904_053711834

Our plan for day 1 was to acclimatize to the place and sleep we did, like logs we were down till early afternoon. Like good Samaritan Maverick came up and rallied everyone to move to market to get things into motion. I realized little late that he had some ulterior motives, like getting his hands on some connectivity.

Yes, we were off grid since the time we landed in Leh. You need a local connection of BSNL or Airtel to have network connectivity in Ladakh.

So we bundled out into the streets of Leh. We had had a little talk with the lady at the guest house regarding bikes and average rental fares around town. We soon saw one decent shop at the edge of the market place.

We fixed up some deal with him and moved on into the market. It is a beautiful L-shaped alley they have made with cement pathway and no-entry for vehicles. Might give you a little feel of Shimla Mall road but minus the scenery. It was tough for 6 guys to stay together. We had lot of connected and aligned goals to achieve in the market but somehow the focus was on delegating the work to someone and moving on to next task.

IMG_3768.JPG

After splitting up, getting lost and patching back up we successfully got 3 SIMs running.

Why 3? We thought we would go full ‘off-the-grid-nature-is-calling’ kind of trip with phones just to reach out to our parents and loved ones. And some folks might wish to check some “important” emails.

But sooner you will read that I did regret this decision big time.

So the SIM boys were Captain, Maverick and Hotshot. It is very important to designate them as SIM boys as slowly you might read how having other’s internet in their control gave them some powers.

We walked out post getting the SIMs in search of a Tibetan Kitchen my friend had suggested. It was a little walk in the afternoon outside market, but the food seemed fairly authentic Tibetan. Yes! That is all I am saying about that.

Once the phones came in lot of calling and social-networking started, which was not there for half of the day and you could tell the difference.

Our boy Pete again was hell bent on finding the cheapest and best possible bike rental option. I have to mention this because others had somehow zeroed in on getting it from the first shop.

Finally Pete gave in and we got the bikes from the first shop. The activity took a decent amount of time and it was sun down when we got the bikes back to Phandey House.

What to do for dinner?

No one wanted to move their ass, literally.

Blue volunteered to cook, known for his self-acclaimed culinary skills. And Phandey ji had given us permission to use the kitchen.

But who would get the supplies.

My biggest trouble of the journey just started biting me in the ass. I was readily up for going and getting the supplies but I couldn’t ride so needed someone to come along with me.

Finally Pete agreed and we went down to market. It was lit in the night. I decided that we are definitely having dinners in some good restaurant in the market from tomorrow onwards and not doing this again.

I was almost sure of the way but we did take a couple of wrong turns. And it was shit dark in the lanes around our guest house. Luckily we made it in one piece.

Blue cooked maggi for everyone. Captain tried to make omelets but decided to make scrambled instead. I warmed up a cuppa noodle. We had a lot of snacks we had brought from Delhi. So in all we ate something and the group collectively decided not to let Blue cook ever again.

B-School Dearies: It was a long day

It was a long day.
I had lost the count of number of companies I had sat for and this one was maybe my 15th one.
Random company, random shortlist, random process…..

I was sitting outside in the hall, waiting for my turn. I had been called up for PI.
I closed my eyes, last three months just flashed across.

25th June, 2017, 00 hours
My birthday. Fortunately that was the night our seniors gave us freshers’ party. After the grueling week long induction that night was our night. And it was my day.
I am not a party person. Well dancing might be my forte but screaming and jumping around in neon lights is not particularly my favorite way of enjoyment, though I am still a good sport when friends call me out. But what I love about parties is talking to a lots of people, or networking as you call it in B-school lingo. Credits to the freshers on that day I got introduced to few awesome people especially Miss Bubbles (name changed for obvious reasons) who turned out to be delightful and great support in the journey ahead.

July
KOK happened and Rangmanch happened, along with we being pushed into tasks for clubs and committees. Well KOK was something which was to increase bonding amongst your classmates, but due to the whole CR election stuff I started off on the wrong foot with most of my class. Though honestly I thank my stars every day that my classmates did not choose me. Thanks a lot guys!!
During July I did make a bunch of friends. I never lived a proper hostel life back in my B.tech due to the infrastructural handicap IIT Bhubaneswar had, it is after coming to MDI that I understood the charm of living in a hostel, with shared bathrooms, wing and stuff.
Throughout the first term I feel I made a decent rapport with many of my wing mates, who at the end of two years will surely become my brothers for life. Some of them already are close; hostel mates are your most basic lifelines during initial months of college.
Then there were few other friends I made out of nowhere, by some random co-incidence, and I still feel lucky for walking to Sharma that evening and walking up to them.
Miss Peppers and Miss Pumpkins were a mere acquaintance in the beginning but their support during this pre placement time has been indispensable. Somehow I feel particular ailments need specific treatments, like a famous movie dialogue from south says “you don’t use AK47 to kill a rat, you use rat poison” similarly, I too feel

“Har ek friend zaroori hota h!”

MDI Gurgaon: Ready for the storm

My mind drifted to the small gang we formed last month. It was a self-help group to prepare for placements and basically help yourself and each other. If you ask me today would I have benefited more if I had done self-study instead of wasting 2 hours every night there. I would say NO. None of us were experts but bit by bit we did add value to each of other, and I am pretty sure tomorrow that group is going be one hell of a brotherhood.
Am I forgetting someone? Were there more people who helped me during these months?
YES. There were a few more seniors, few WhatsApp groups which made the roller coaster ride of a life so much more easy and bearable.
It is surprising how even after being just 2 hours away from my home I have just visited my parents twice in last 3 months. They have travelled thrice to see me because I give excuses of not having time. It’s not that I am a bad son, I call them every night. It’s just that I love being on campus.

“17P063!! PGPM 63!! Abhinav!!”
“Yes!”
“Are you sleeping?!
Go inside!”

I think I am done for the day. Need to find a way to get the news before the official one comes. It’s always exciting to be in command of the grapevine in the campus.
It has been a few hours now. Results of the day have started doing rounds. Again it’s all in the channels beneath the surface.
I am getting a few signals, I need to get a credible source before I start smiling ear to ear.
I think it’s done. Finally!!

17P063 Signing out of Summer placements!!

Bombay Meri Jaan: where I first met Tata Motors

It was the Monday morning of August 3rd 2015; in one of the corporate double rooms of Best Western Hotel Sahil in Bombay Central, I got up from bed. To be honest I was awake long before the alarm rang. I had this problem of being over-anxious, and I don’t get peaceful sleeps on the nights before big days. But that day was not just any other day; it was my first day at my first job: Commercial GET Tata Motors.
It has been a year since that morning passed away. With not the same anxiety but even today I wake up each day looking forward to go to work; to my dear colleagues at TML PVBU Spares Department.
From the month long stay at Moshi Guest House, to the market visits to Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Thrissur, to ABRM in Goa and the corporate dinners; I have enjoyed each one of those moments. But today I feel like recalling the initial fifteen days of Tata Motors and Bombay which together left me overwhelmed by the end.

ONE INDIABULLS CENTRE: You know how they say about “first impressions”. Maybe this is what they teach you in basics of HR Management. One Indiabulls Centre was and still is the best office building I have seen in all my life; and hence having our induction there was the best decision made by them. Most of you who have seen the American TV series “Suits” can relate to it if I say the lobby of IB is almost comparable or maybe even better than the lobby we see Harvey Spectre walking in every episode.
The building bowled us over completely. It is one of the glass towers that have newly popped up in Lower Parel, a locality which was pre-dominantly covered with the “mills” in the post-independence years.
The super-fast lift to 20th floor which was like a simulation pod for flight take offs, the glass walled office from where you could see everything till the Arabian Sea around and the far greens of Sanjay Gandhi National Park; from where the local trains running down looked smaller than the toy trains we used to play with.
It was everything we dreamt about in a corporate office, but alas since that first week, it has been almost exactly a year now and I haven’t got a single chance to visit that place ever again.

BOMBAY CENTRAL: The amazing location of Hotel Sahil was a gem of a place in itself. The old buildings and streets of this place had witnessed the actual growth of Bombay, the maya nagri. Just behind Hotel Sahil is the famous Maratha Mandir where DDLJ ran for over a 1000 weeks. Everything you have heard and seen in the old 90s movies about Bombay shahar was blocks away from this place. The popular religious spots of Siddhi Vinayak, Haji Ali ka Dargah; the infamous Grant Road and Pakmodia Street which housed D Gangs’ Headquarters; and even the heart of Mumbai which lies on its Southernmost tip: FORT; everything was just a couple of kilometers away from this place.
You may or may not be able to share my enthusiasm regarding Bombay Central but for me, the place excited me every time I walked down its streets.
I have been to many cities in India and a few abroad too, no place has stolen away my heart like the next one I am going to tell about.

FORT: Tata Motors is famous (can also be read infamous) for having offices in too many places. So is the story with its office”s” in South Bombay. Apart from Bombay House, the abode of Tata Group of companies; Tata Motors has rented two more offices. The one where we had half of our induction was ONE FORBES.
A visibly regal looking old building with a tinge of Victorian architecture emanating from it’s dull pale outer walls. Inside too was filled up with old ornate teak wood interiors, completely opposite to the glass walled swanky One Indiabulls Centre.

When I talk about FORT, One Forbes was the last thing which caught my attention. If you are unaware of the address of landmark Mumbai locations like Churchgate Station, Victoria Terminus, Gateway of India, Taj, Marine Drive, Dalal Street, Fashion Street; I am tired typing because all these and many more popular spots share this one common address: Fort, Mumbai.
From where shall I begin so that I compress my emotions and the descriptions to a bare minimum, because I could go on and on about this place.

download (1)

Let me start from One Forbes itself; it was on the street next to the famous Dalal Street which is the house to Bombay Stock Exchange. For all of you who haven’t seen the place, it’s a small dingy street and isn’t even half as grand as “Wall Street”. But the power of BSE, the beating heart of India’s financial capital can be seen in the hustle and hush-hush in and around Dalal Street.
If you get out on the street behind One Forbes and Dalal Street, take a five-minute walk passing through Indian Navy office, crossing Police HQ you would enter a street which would take you to the great Gateway of India. The street parallel to it has the famous Leopold Café, which now has recovered from the horrors of 26/11.

Gateway of India is a really grand monument in its own but its charm reduces by one hundredth if you remove Arabian sea from behind it and Taj Mahal Palace from front of it. It is this whole package that stands as a marvel; a true gateway to India’s prosperity: magnificent nature and the elegant Taj which is an epitome of India’s hospitality.
Now let’s walk in the other direction towards the popular Churchgate Station. I don’t think there is any other occupation center in India walking through which even after a hectic day at work you would feel more relaxed than tired.
All roads from One Forbes to Churchgate would take you through such roads that would transport you to some old neighborhood in Western Europe full of trees and old buildings of Victorian architecture. You would see Flora Fountain at Hutatma Chowk and the Western Railway headquarters (one of the magnificent edifices of Indo-Saracenic style). You can also go through Fashion Street, popular for the roadside vendors selling a variety of low value stuff from dress to books to accessories.
Now let’s take another, more popular route. Let us walk from Dalal Street to Victoria Terminus, or as it is officially known today; the Chattrapathi Shivaji Terminus. From the Flora Fountain when you walk towards VT via Dr. Dadabhai Naoroji Road, at every step you are awestruck looking at the old buildings build by the British. If they had looted us, they sure spent a few of it on building up the whole area of South Bombay.
The bustling shops and street vendors might pull you back to present but again the next building will wake up the exploring tourist in you. I remember insanely clicking away nooks and crevices of those old structures with the local shopkeepers eyeing me with suspicion and a little amusement.
Your appetite for the day is almost full by the time you reach the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai’s office (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) which stands tall since 1884, build in Gothic design and is a Grade IIA heritage building.

Jpeg

But almost no one gives it a second look because your head automatically turns to one of the wonders of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture just opposite to the BMC office.
The great Victoria Terminus is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the busiest train stations in the country. The majestic structure is spread out in such an expanse of area that viewing the whole beauty from one point is impossible. I still remember that clicking photos from all angles, I finally crossed the road and went till the gates of BMC office to get a proper full view of this brilliant example of British architecture working with Indian craftsmen.
Luckily on the night before Independence Day I happened to pass by VT and it was lit in tricolor using this amazing lighting facility they have. It rendered me speechless. Such grandeur! Such a beauty!
The two weeks I spent there I also got a chance to walk around the streets of Colaba, visit Bademiya’s Kebab store, sing and sit around Marine drive throughout the night with hoards of other people, bathing in the sea breeze and enjoying the city which never sleeps. And then taking a “kali-peeli” taxi back to Hotel Sahil at wee hours. Chatting up with jolly cab drivers who were mostly from Bihar or UP. Eating Sev-puris, Bhel-puris and Dabelis.
I can go on and on but I think I should stop it here for your sake.
I sat to recall my induction and beginning of Tata Motors’ life but apparently such was the effect South Bombay had on me for those two weeks that it took a 3 hour trip through Mumbai-Pune Expressway and winds of “Pimpri-Chinchwad” to finally shake the Bombay Blues off me.
I might go to Fort Mumbai again someday, try to relive those days, but there was something different about that period; we were fresh out of college; just joined the best brand in India, we were happy.
Things have changed but I would always be grateful to Tata Motors for the most memorable few days I spent in the Maya Nagri.

Peshwa Bajirao Ballal: a flawed hero?

No please don’t plan of ransacking my place or beating me up in public. Just hear me out first.
I have got sincere respect for the guy and he definitely deserves credit for his accomplishments in growth of Maratha Empire under Chatrapati Shahu. He was definitely one of the greatest Peshwas the history had known; brilliant tactician and a ferocious warrior.

Bajirao_2514735f

But all this doesn’t justify the infidelity he showed towards Kashibai by bringing Mastani Begum as his second wife. And surprisingly no one has come forward to justify that; instead they had other problems.
I just tried to dig around as to why so many people were pissed by the movie before actually seeing it.
They claim that the songs “Pinga” and “Malhari” do not portray a Peshwa or the Peshwa’s wife in a decent way.
OKAY.
If you see the movie; after such an impactful performance by all the main characters, who bring the story of Bajirao, Kashibai and Mastani to the status of an epic; you won’t even think twice of the song. Honestly the songs just give you some breathing time to consume the grandeur of the story which just transports you to the courtyards of Shanivar wada, wars of Marathas and elegance of Maratha aristocracy.
I heard some saying they had issue because the song showed Kashibai and Mastani dancing as girl-pals. I don’t justify Bhansali here but throughout the movie he has shown Kashibai being a noble woman who could never accept Mastani, but neither did she have such hatred towards Mastani to harm her in any manner.
So then where was the issue?
Now let me speculate. I repeat, I wish to tell things I “think” might be true. Do not take them as conclusions.
Somehow the movie has come at the right moment with so many hue and cries going on about intolerance towards Muslim, ban of Pakistanis in Maharashtra, ban on beef, and so on.
Some people didn’t want this story to be shown to the world. Not because it shows Peshwa Bajirao in a bad light in a song sequence, but because somewhere deep in their hearts, they still wouldn’t accept a Bajirao Ballal, no matter how much that person had contributed to the society.
They didn’t want the movie to be out in public because it makes them realise deep down that even after centuries, nothing has changed. The movie makes them feel guilty about their own ideologies. It makes them question their ways. It makes them uncomfortable that even a patriotic warrior, people’s leader, couldn’t fight the barriers of religion and customs.
And people resist change.

A married man falls in love; he will not be accepted by anyone, neither society nor his family.
A Brahmin tries to raise his son from a Muslim lady as a Brahmin, he wouldn’t be allowed to.
The movie and the subsequent allegations and protests make us think about a lot of things:
A man falls in love and has a child with a woman from another religion after being married himself; and has the audacity to harbour her in his family home as a second wife; but is still remembered with devotion by his descendants and people for his achievements. Can that happen today?
And moreover just because he is a hero from a glorious period of Maratha history; does it mean his story has to be crystal clean? Politically correct and socially acceptable?
Why can’t people accept a flawed ideal, or in this case a flawed hero whose valour and prowess as a warrior will always be remembered?
Think.

What’s the point???

Two months into a company, I liked the job.
No offence to other profiles, my profile had few unique perks and somehow the whole package ( I am not talking about my salary) suits me very well.
DETAILS NOT BEING DISCLOSED DUE TO CONFIDENTIALITY CLAUSE.
But something happened today which shattered the whole cocoon of complacency I was harbouring.
Again, not defaming anyone or any place; my office crowd comprises of many localites who speak the local language which I don’t understand much. I have been advised by many and even I can figure it out that it is always better for your professional life to have acquaintance with as many people as possible at your workplace. Though language is a barrier, I give it a try.
Seriously, I am not a big talker and quite an introvert until I “open-up”, but last few weeks I have tried my best to just hang around discussions, interact with people. But again language barrier has been tough on me. People who know me from college will know that I am good at learning other languages, so I give it a try here too. I catch a few words and chip in some comments to be the part of the discussion. It’s tough at times but I try.
Today I simply lost all hopes. I was called for a small discussion; a mini meeting of sorts. Mind you I was “called”. From the word go they began in the local tongue.
I was furious.
It was like Sherlock Holmes rushing through his witty quick dialogues and you keeping up with him reading the sub-title running down. Finally you realise that you put so much effort in just getting the dialogues that there was no time to enjoy them.
How could they expect me to give any input or suggest things when the discussion was going over my head?
Believe it or not I still chipped in at a few places but then my head started aching with all the translations being made in my brain throughout.
Again I was furious.
You realise at such instances, how meaningless are your activities and how worthless are you.
Then you start thinking if some other profession would have made you feel worth.
Countless people do research all over the world and end up just piling on papers just to sustain themselves. Sure if they would have been given infinite time and resources, they too might have come up with something good but performance pressure kills them off.
Serving ones country is always proud job even if it is of a lowly clerk at a remote corner of the country. Then again even there you might not be able to do your job in peace if you don’t align your interest with you bosses and their bosses who eventually will turn out to be some power mongers whose interests might even clash with your interest.
SO corporate seems OKAY.
At least you can switch from one power monger to another power monger where finally you and he and everyone have one sole interest: existence, progress.
In the exact order I mentioned.
It doesn’t matter what language who is talking in.
It doesn’t matter if you feel worth a shit.
You think you can survive- CHECK.
You think you can sustain it- CHECK.
You think you can progress- MAY BE, I could even do better may be: DOUBLE CHECK.
SO maybe I should just shut up and get back to my sole interest.

P.S: It’s time for Champions league…

How fate runs my life

This might look funny or philosophical to most of you.
But I am being absolutely honest here.

Well the decision to take science was more or less my choice, but NO! my “passion” for science wasn’t even the 3rd reason from the top. Once I opted for Science, engineering coaching and preparation for IIT-JEE came as part of the package.

Since then, most of the major decisions regarding academics and career haven’t been under my control; they never went according to my plans.
The above statement might sound vague and portray me as a weak soul who just went with the flow. But, well, actually that’s not the case.

Trust me.

Just like every third engineer in India today, I didn’t take up Mechanical for my love of kinematics. I just took it because it seemed an ‘okay’ option; and I totally feel it was one of the best choices I ever made.
Since then it has gone HIS way. Always.

I got IIT Bhubaneswar; missing IIT-BHU Civil by a few 100 ranks.

In mechanical curriculum, manufacturing was the topic which least excited me but when I was hunting for an intern after my 2nd year I could only get one at TVS Sundaram Clayton where I worked two long months; maybe a time enough for me to be liking assembly lines and machines.
That pushed me into thinking manufacturing to be my forte.

Now I toiled for months and wasted a lot of e-mails pursuing manufacturing Professors all over the globe, but finally I got an internship in Taiwan through a programme to which I had applied seeing a post in our college Facebook group.

Are you seeing a pattern?
How ‘man’ is proposing and ‘God’ is going on disposing, imposing and executing something else?

I thought it stopped there but it had just started.

images

After my stint in Taiwan I felt good about mechanical engineering and the whole idea of working with machines. This greatly helped me complete my B.tech Project and along with which I charted out a plan to give GATE, and get into a good PSU; become a government technocrat.
Actually the priority was ‘technocrat’ and not ‘government’.

I won’t stress on this point but my college folks would testify that I actually did put in some serious efforts into my preparations for GATE 2015.

But there was something wrong about the whole thing. I remember when I gave my IIT-JEE. It was my day. I have heard so many cricket commentators say this line “its his day; anything he touches runs off to the boundary”.
That was my day. The whole six hours of examination was like a fun tutorial session. I was meant to clear that exam.

GATE 2015; I wasn’t.
It was a disastrous exam and a horrible day. I still don’t know what exactly went wrong but nothing was happening right and I scored pathetically low.
I might not be a very technically astute person but I wasn’t that dumb. I worked, and I should have got some result but I think it was just not meant to be.

I decided after the result day, that was it; GATE and technical research is not my forte.
But I still wanted to use my four years of engineering somewhere.

Blame it on my disillusioned heart but it kept stressing on the fact that I should make some use of the 4 years of college education.

So the placement season began and I decided to sit only for core mechanical companies. Believe it or not I bought two pairs of formal wears because I always thought it would take me at least 2-3 interviews to crack it.

Yet again fate had other plans.

The only test I wrote, the company came in on day 2; I went through for PI.
After waiting whole afternoon and evening my turn came.
Once I got the chance to speak, I went on rambling about non-technical stuff and the exposure to extra –curricular activities I have had all life. Finally fed-up with the banter, the technical guy threw in some usual questions, to which I gave some very unusual answers.
At the stroke of mid-night they rolled out the names and the guy with no interest in automobiles got placed in India’s most prestigious automobile company, Tata Motors Limited.

Between then and now, fate has taken various twists and turns.

After planning to work at a manufacturing plant for 7 long months, in July I discover another profile for GETs which they called “commercial” and that I have been placed in it.
Tata Motors are pioneers in the field of commercial vehicles, big trucks, the revolutionary ACE; but even before I could feel happy about these facts, I was pushed into the Passenger Vehicle Business Unit where in front of Japanese giants; TML is just a “key” player.
I had come in terms with my commercial job profile and the fact that passenger vehicle industry is on a rapid growth in India.
All throughout the induction and the long technical training sessions we were pushed into liking the profile of Customer Support Manager, who is the field face of Customer Support PVBU; and with all due respect a glorified post for a Customer Support GET.

All was going well. I had tuned all my senses and was looking forward to getting into field service as a CSM when fate took a sharp turn, sending me tumbling ahead.

In a bizarre 15 minute session a handful of lives changed as I being one amongst them was handed his final posting: Spare Parts Division Pune.

It was a totally different world but I was as always content with the decision fate made. The role of fate really struck me hard on the morning of 24th September when we went to the Spare Parts Office for our training session as GETs.
It was the first time I was entering the place, my future office and as we stepped in the air was filled with the aroma of incense sticks and hum of prayer was going around as the office people were immersed in Ganesh Aarti, as it was a special day in the Ganesh Puja week.

Like a deja-vu the whole set of events mentioned above flashed through my mind reminding me of so many twists and turns the fate has taken, guiding my life into the path it is on now.

I am not running away from all above things and blaming fate for where I am right now.

Neither am I being very humble by giving fate all the credit for my achievements.

Long story short, I have always tried to picture where will I be 2 years down the lane, and life or fate or GOD (for the believers) has continuously surprised me every single time.

So today I sat for the first time at my desk, starting a new chapter of life, thanking fate for everything.

THE END.

Wait. The story has just begun!

In turn, I got an Intern

It was somewhere in my 5th semester. At an awkward moment I was standing waiting for Winger; obviously for some work related to Alma Fiesta. Vani, a senior student whom I had known for quite some time was standing alongside me. In an attempt to conquer the awkward silence she opened for me a door I was planning to kick-open sooner or later in future.
“Did you start applying for FT (Foreign Training)?”
“No” I replied.
“What are you waiting for? Some auspicious muhurtham!”
Her friendly rebuke and sisterly scolding felt good, and so I decided to begin working for a Foreign Internship.
I had absolutely no idea from where to start. After few enquiries I made to some seniors, I understood I had to collect contacts from sites like Science Direct and Scopus, and then mail to these professors, requesting them to take me as an intern for this summer.

IMG_0063

By the time I prepared a mailer and started on the “contact hunting” process, 5th semester came to an end.
We have almost reached December and that was the most frustrating winter vacations of all time, with me staying back for AF work, and people going for Inter IIT Sports meet and my exclusion from football squad. Even trips to Kolkata and Jharsguda for AF work didn’t give any solace.
Back home I tried to focus and look for contacts.
Seriously all these years in college, the one dream I have had in academic front was Foreign Intern. I never thought of me to be a guy who would end up working abroad, so a funded summer in some European country was my dream. Honestly that was the only thing which pushed me ahead to maintain a decent CGPA.
But it seemed impossible to hunt contacts this way, it was tedious and time consuming. It was New Year 2014 by that time, and all of us were back in IIT Bhubaneswar auditorium gearing up for AF; our AF. I was sort-of Operations Chief so I had no work but was always busy. It was at that time I came across this sexy tool in Gmail called ‘Mail-Merge’.
It was my roomie Sravan who seemed to have mastered the funde of FT mailing who taught me how to use mail merge. It was a pretty handy tool in Gmail, which helps you send bulk mails changing names and a few things here and there.
I and my other room-mate Jay used it quiet relentlessly, with the excitement of kids who get a new toy to explore. But soon the steam went out. Mail Merge was handy but it still took lot of time to scheme through research papers and put their names on an excel sheet and do the whole process, just to get abysmal rejections that too with rate of 1 response for every 10 mail sent. We were not going to make it to FT. It seemed a tough fight against probability and time.

DSC02809

I left it and rejoiced in the festive season with our Alma Fiesta, then Wissenaire and then one last ditch effort at Centrifuge, Spring Fest. The hangover of the fests got down as the news of my other batch mates getting hefty offers from Europe and US hit me square on the face, and slapped me around.
Our Intern-geek Sravan had somehow got hold of another trick, and this one quiet literally changed the whole dynamics of mailing.
With the advanced search filters of Scopus and a few tools of MS Excel, we could download contacts so easily that the only constraint which stopped us from sending a gazillion mails was the restriction put by Gmail and Mail-merge tool.
The ratios didn’t improve, in fact it deteriorated because many of our mails were going to graduate students and PhDs, but still the quantity of replies were so high that we didn’t care much about the ratios. It was similar to the gaming consoles at arenas; if your only aim is to get maximum coupons, doesn’t matter how many hands you are getting to put the ball in the basket.
As long as 1-2 darts were hitting the targets, we didn’t mind blindly throwing scores of them.

DSC03037

Somewhere near Valentine’s Day, lady luck kissed my mail and I landed a Skype interview from Germany. It was my first and I was nervous. I took a few funde from my seniors, and one of them was sitting in the classroom where I gave the interview; he was really helpful.
The German Professor was cool; he offered very little pay but said that was all he could afford. I was ready to live poor in Germany for 2 months if that is what it took. I was delighted, jubilant to be honest.
But I was basically a self-righteous and over-confident fool.
I asked the German too many things over an e-mail which he didn’t like, and he instantly called off the offer. I took a German for granted. Even while typing the statement feels dumb. How stupid could I be then?
Soon it was mid-March; and people around were getting confirmations. I had even applied for many programmes which required lot of paper work that I did with utmost diligence. I knew though somewhere in my heart that if they look at my mark sheet, my academic records, then I will not be selected. Because almost consistently I have received B and C grades in most of the courses related to my major ‘mechanical’. I was technically a “major” failure in my major.
I was not a very optimistic guy. I had faith in God and lived by the principle that ‘everything happens for good’.
But I was not someone who waits for opportunity to walk up to me, because it never happened that way. So I changed my strategy and started sending mails to a lot of Indian companies, research institutes.
This strategy started boring fruit immediately, with me getting calls from Thyssen Krupp, Ashok Leyland and BARC. Though none of them offered any money which was disheartening, and this was not how I dreamt my 3rd year Summer Internship would be.
Holi arrived and my room-mates left for the weekend to their homes. Holi was never my type of festive season and it seemed particularly gloomier this time. When even a stint of celebrating with foster-care home kids couldn’t particularly improve my mood, I decided to ask for help.
Popkorn might not know a shit about FT but you can simply find consolation with her for any problem. I rang her up and she handled me well for over half an hour. It was more of me pampering myself with her cacophony in background, which sure uplifted the mood.
There was one very lucrative programme in a US institute called WHOI. They were actually giving a shit-load of money and the Professor who was referring me seemed very much hopeful that I will get. And that gave me some hope too. But as you can guess, I didn’t get. It was like a nail in the coffin. April was fast coming and I was still just applying.
It was sick and pathetic to watch others gear up for their interns while you are still firing blanks. I had other people with me too; a bunch of failed souls.
It was around that time I received a mail from a Professor in Malaysia with an offer letter attached along with. I was euphoric. I was so naïve and stupid that without a second thought, I booked a return flight to Malaysia. Surely that day my dad would have cursed himself for giving me the freedom to use his credit card with such boorishness.
I started finding out more and more about the internship and it turned out to be in a company owned and run by a middle aged lady Professor. She was going to make me live with her employee who was a Pakistani, running her Cyber-café. Over all the whole arrangement sounded way too shady to my dad who tends to get chills on hearing “Pakistan” due to his profession.
One night as soon as he heard that word again from my mouth he asked me to reject the offer and not go. There was no discussion, it was an order and I was spending his money so I didn’t feel I had much say. I was heartbroken, had tears in my eyes, but I said OKAY. And gone was Malaysian-intern. Sadly my boorishness before cost dad 10k as the flight I booked was “Non-refundable”.
I will never forgive myself for that 10k.
Just like WHOI there was another programme in Taiwan at some institute called AIM-HI where I had applied. The supposed date of results had gone by and I hadn’t received any mails so I assumed this one too slipped out of my hand. It was high time and I was almost going to commit for the BARC offer when the mail arrived; congratulating me for being selected for AIM-HI Summer Internship Programme 2014.
The mother of all ironies grinned at me, as the guy who had sent 35 thousand mails got in an internship programme (not exactly because of mailing), to which he had applied partially because one of his batch mates informed him about it.

IMG_0852

I was ecstatic; and as mentioned before, the pay was above average. That was a notable feature with all the ‘programmes’, the pay and facilities are always good.
I switched sides and now I was in the “happy-FT-group-of-VISA-appliers”.
I had to make quite a few afternoon walks to get a decent company to take care of my VISA formalities. Everything was going smooth and fine when I started thinking, have my stars changed their positions, because things are not supposed to happen smoothly in my life. And then came the mail.
The VISA protocols at Taiwan Embassy had a queer norm; recently introduced. For students going to Taiwan for educational purpose, they need to procure a letter from the Ministry of Education, Taiwan R.O.C, authorizing their visit.
When I heard about this thing first, I just waved it off my head thinking, “come on these people are running this programme since years, and people from IITs visit them every time, they would surely know how to deal with it”.
Apparently as you would have guessed it by now; they didn’t.
It was the day of my last end-semester examinations and I was supposed to head home next night. I should not have switched ON my data to check my Gmail before entering the exam hall, but as they say, everything happens for a reason.
The mail was from the internship co-ordinator who asked us to postpone our trip by one week at least so that she can arrange for that letter from MOE. Somehow her words were highly demoralising.
I still don’t remember how I wrote that exam for 3 hours. My whole demeanour that night was one of a Kollywood hero, going through a love failure and is dancing in his sorrows. It is worth taking a look at the plight of my room that night as I made a complete mess of it, taking full advantage of the absence of my roommates.

DSC_0077

I went home to Chennai to my parents. I totally erased from my mind the thoughts of the trip being delayed or not materializing.
The days moved in their pace. I was packing up for the intern with utmost enthusiasm. I literally filled up the whole big suitcase with just ready-to-eat and noodles. I was a man with a plan, determined to save every dime possible.
It was somewhere in the middle of one of our religious temple trips that during my routine checking of mail-box I received the mail with the letter from MOE attached. I scorched the temple area looking for a cyber-café on bare feet that day. Finally I found a place and sent the document to the travel agent. I thought it was done, but not so fast, said the Almighty.
Less than a week was left when the agent called again saying that he immediately needs me to send him a soft copy of my passport size photo. I still distinctly remember the rush and frenzy in which I drove to the studio clicked a pic and sent it to him from a nearby cyber café.
Now all I could do was wait.
The travel day was coming close. If I didn’t reschedule the flight one day prior to the journey then I would lose some amount of money and I was not prepared to throw away more cash after the Malaysian-blunder. But rescheduling it to next week meant losing stipend of 7 days which amounted to about 4200 rupees.

It was third-last day and I was on my routine evening walks. I passed a Ganapati temple, which is a common site in Tamil Nadu. You can find one in literally every street. I was in distress and I looked at the shrine and begged for some quick action solution to my problem.
It was as if I had struck some direct connection with God’s Head Office. I just walked 2 blocks to a bakery from there when I received the call from agent telling the VISA had been approved.
Elated, ecstatic, the best description would be relieved. He said he had sent it ASAP so it will reach me the next day. And so I received my VISA a day before the trip.
You know the story of how the perfectly packed me had to run a rampant shuffling of luggage at Chennai Airport, leaving behind a filled up small suit-case? No? Well that one may be for another time.

So this is how in turn, I got an intern.

IMG_0718

Post Navigation