November 29, 2013

The Ultimate Frontier......

"The feeling of weightlessness, floating around like a feather. The absolute silence where you will not be able to hear anything other than your own breathing or at the most some radio chatter. The abyss of darkness extending to astronomical distances which a human brain is not able to put into perspective. The best view ever possible for a human, of seeing the Earth, from a height of 330km, to see the planet as gigantic blue ball and the one we call as home. The fear that even a small malfunction would put a big question mark on ones ability to survive."

Now that can be described as my ultimate frontier..... SPACE !!!!! And this frontier is placed even higher than entries such as Antarctica in my bucket list ........ Ofcourse I would have liked traveling to other planets, staying there and that sort of things, but come to think about it, I don't suppose that would happen within my lifetime, unless someone introduces a wonder drug that would make me immortal :) !!!!! (philosophers stone someone ???!!!! :P). I even thought of applying for the recent competition for the one way ticket to Mars. But it got me wondering whether I would really like to spend all my life in some barren planet breathing compressed air from a cylinder which I might have to carry for the rest of my life in that god-forsaken planet. The answer was definite NO... I would love to visit any planet, but no matter what, I would love to return back to earth, which is MY HOME...!!!!! The serious applicants must be truly brave(or mental :P ) to take a one way ticket to this planet and NEVER TO RETURN BACK TO EARTH...EVER !!!!! Definitely not my cup of tea. The first batch is expected to blast off from Earth in the year 2022. Lets see how that goes.

And movies like Gravity are further fueling my urge to achieve this final frontier. This movie was hyped as "The Closest you will ever get to Space !!!!!" and watching the movie in IMAX 3D paying 500 odd bucks I in fact felt a lot closer to space. But deep down I know that such sort of virtual experiences is not gonna satisfy my spatial urges on a long term basis. And the reports that they have started commercial operations beyond the stratosphere has been quite encouraging, such as Virgin Galactic, a ticket for which would make one poorer by around quarter million dollars. Of course the cheapest among these so called space tourism operators is the $75,000 balloon based trip to the edge of space. (Link) That comes around to INR 45L, which of-course is still quite a big amount. Interestingly in comparison one can reach the summit of Mt. Everest for around INR 25L (assuming one is in top physical condition). Hopefully by the time I retire (not sure when I will be doing that :P ) I would have saved enough and there would have been higher frequency of space flights so that the ticket price would have come down considerably. Probably would have to start an account similiar to my PF so that I would be able to contribute small amounts to it on a yearly basis and watch it grow until the final showdown :P.

The nearest space like experience I had apart from the above mentioned virtual one has got to be scuba diving, which I did in the beginning of this year. The weightlessness, the silence, the view(of course a different world altogether) and the fear. In short it was all there.Being born as a human has got to be one of the most gifted things one can possibly have on this planet. So many experiences one can enjoy and yet somehow I wonder whether one lifetime would be enough for it. Hopefully some sense would prevail and all the so called "humans" would try to protect this planet in unison. This is one experience wherein my blog title "My Earthly Experience" would not be appropriate for !!!!!!. Funny that for everything else it is :P.

November 2, 2013

A Blast from the Past, With A Centurion Ride !!!!!!

Manchanbele Dam
The year is Nov 1998 : Shashi encourages me to ride my cycle to school. A total of 6+6=12 kms in a day, something which was unimaginable during those days. Finally both of us rode to school and back. My legs were literally shaking after the ride !!!!! After that became a regular cyclist to school. 

Now cut to Nov 2013, 15 yrs after the so called long distance ride, me and Shashi decided to have a get together and guess what, we decided for yet another long distance ride :P.  A nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Plan was to take the shortest distance to Savandurga and return back in the same path resulting in a total ride distance of around 80kms. But fate (and some dogs!!!! :) ) were planning to play a big prank on us and instead of the shortest path we took the longest path to Savandurga and Manchanbele dam, and hence resulting in it becoming an unexpected centurion ride, my first after a gap of nearly 2.5 years.

Shashi replacing Deepika in Nescafe "Shake It" ad :P
Plan was to leave in the early morning of Nov 1 at around 6.30 am from Kengeri. Initial part of the ride was relaxed with us catching up with each others life after a long time. Mysore road even at this hour had heavy traffic which was reminiscent of the upcoming long deepavali weekend. We left Mysore road at Ramoli cross and after that we encountered hardly any traffic. Reached the Big Banyan tree within no time.  Even though I have been to Manchanbele dam earlier I had hazy memories of the route. We came across the crossing and my intuition said that we might have to take a left. Before I could stop and ask the villagers around or check the google maps, out of nowhere a pack of dogs (nearly 5-6 I suppose) started to chase us and all the intuition went running down the drain and we went straight. Animal instinct took over human logic :).

Now this small event was the source of the ripple effect we were to encounter the rest of the day. A not so fine example of  "Butterfly Effect" eh :P. We went straight enjoying the ride and still I didnt even bother to check the maps. Then suddenly we joined a fairly main looking road. Again a sense of "something is not right" seemed to creep in. Finally stopped and checked the maps. To our amazement we had overshot our destination and heading straight towards Magadi. Now there were 2 options, either retrace our path and take the right turn or continue to Magadi and then take a deviation from there. Obviously we didnt want to retrace the path, hence we continued towards Magadi on this road which had steep inclines and the sun was also determined to torture us,  for the remainder of the day.

With no breakfast and no eateries along this route our tummies were grumbling within no time. Had a couple of tender coconuts and a couple of bananas which fueled our entire ride. This has got to be the most ill planned cycling trip ever :P :P. After Magadi we were back to village roads and we finally reached the cross roads to Savandurga. The road from the crossroads is more of an offroad trail and we enjoyed riding through it. After spending some time at the base of this giant monolith, we were on our way to Manchanbele dam. But again we overshot the turn that we had to take towards the dam, by around 5kms and heading towards Ramanagara :). Again after some time sense prevailed and we started retracing the path. But fortunately we found a shortcut to the dam from here thanks to Google maps which was working only in certain pockets.

The initial part of this path is dotted with quite a dense forest and then starts the killer climb towards the dam. This 2km climb is so steep that even vehicles like loaded trucks have a hard time climbing it. A tractor was even doing a wheelie :D :D. We stopped at a spot where we got some awesome views of the dam's backwaters. After that it was back to climbing, climbing and more climbing. It was more or less a climb till we reached the spot where we were chased by the dogs. Just imagine if we had taken the route in the morning, we would have sped like a rocket.

A neck and neck fight  between Shashi and a Tractor on a steep incline 
We finally reached Mysore road and then on reached Kengeri at around 1.30 pm. I  had only 9 kms to reach my home, but unfortunately my quad muscles started to pull bcoz of all that climbing. Had a hard time pedaling in this final leg of the journey ..... Took an hour to pedal the final 9kms. Must be a personal record of sorts :D. Shashi on the other hand bid adieu at kengeri to pedal all the way to Yelahanka to meet his lady love. The things people do for love ;). Overall this has to be the second toughest cycling trip ever (after Solo Nandi Ride ofcourse :) ), which happened primarily because we were totally unprepared for a century ride and also because of the steep inclines. The weather also didnt help us either. But at the end of the day it was one hell of a ride.

Route Taken ->
Kengeri->Rajarajeswari Dental College(Ramohalli Cross)-> Big banyan tree-> Magadi-> Savandurga -> Manchanbele -> Bylalu(ISRO Space Dish) -> Big Banyan Tree-> Kengeri 

Trip 'O' Meter ---> 107 km
Total Time Taken ---->  8 hrs (6 hrs 10 mins of saddle time)

Career Stats :

100's ----------------------------->3 (107, 150, 104)
50's ------------------------------>6 (70,55,86,91,55,81)

September 20, 2013

Why India needs a Mangalayaan (or even Chandrayaan 2) ????

Image Courtesy :
In January 2013 there was an announcement that ISRO would undertake a mission to mars, probably in the month of November. If successful India will become the 5th country after US, Russia, Europe and Japan who have had a successful Mars mission. Magalayaan, as India's Mars mission has been christened, will look for signs of life and reasons why the red planet lost its atmosphere. But with this news, the critics of Mangalayaan kickoff their arguments with the following hard facts :

"Half of India's children are starving and on an average 3,000 children die from malnutrition every day."

Read more here:
"The World Bank report which declares that one-third of the world’s desperately poor people lived in India,  which amounts to 400 million people who survive on less than $1.25 a day."

Eventhough I do not contest the above stark ground realities of our country, I am compelled to comment when they conclude that it is a total  mindless cause of spending close to 500 crores for such kind of mission, whereas the same money can be used for the betterment of the Indian society.

But my question to those critics is whether 500 crores even a significant amount when you compare it against the gigantic problems faced by the country.  It is a decimal point when you compare it to the actual spending of the Indian government every year (considering for the fact that Mars mission cost is spread across 2 or more years ). It precisely comes around to 0.3% of the total govt spending's every year. Miniscule when considering the burden the government will endure for fuel subsidies or even the recently passed food security bill. Further consider if the same amount was allocated for some development purpose, the total corruption involved and the actual money which would benefit the target audience. Hence this amount is actually insignificant when you consider the scale of the problems faced by the country.

They say even if its a decimal point , why to waste it on something from which you get no returns. For that I love to disagree and I believe those returns can be divided into 2 major pointers, one tangible and another intangible :

1. Technology
2. Pride

Being a country which foresees itself to be developed country in the future, technology is one of the strongest and the fastest stallion to reach that destination. The r&d  for such a program will not be restricted to the space and defense applications, but it usually spills over to civilian technologies too. It is not a matter of surprise that US of A's technology might had its seed sown during the WW II, with one of the finest examples being nuclear technology. In Indian context you have the ready to eat technology which has come out Defence Food and Research Labs. India as a country never really had an industrial revolution thanks to the British occupation which literally ruined the local manufacturing industry by flooding Indian markets with the factory made British goods. Hence we cant really afford to miss the next step in technology revolution which might be exploiting resources of other planets. We have to become self sufficient and not reliant on other countries to provide us the resources at a jacked up price, which might throw us back by a few centuries again. Further our space budget is very miniscule when compared to those of the developed world, hence making it one of the most efficient space organizations around. ISRO is kinda like The Toyota Of the Space Organizations :P.

The second major pointer is that of pride. Imagine being one of the best in the world which might instill a sense of second to none attitude among us Indians. I recall the story of America's Moon Mission of 1969. Prior to this USSR was much ahead of US in terms of space technology having been the first to send a man made satellite, first animal in space, first human in space. But President Kennedy inspired the entire nation to beat the Russians at their own game and we can say the rest of it is history. I believe such an impossible task is the need of the hour for the Indians, to have that feeling of pride for the country. Some say that corruption which is one of biggest problems facing the nation can be solved by bringing in stringent laws,bills and other external forces, but somehow I feel this can be solved internally by instilling a sense of pride and patriotism among the citizens. And such missions to the heavenly bodies enables us to take baby steps towards that direction.

In short we have to capitalize on our strengths which are programs like these and as well as work as a nation to improve our weaknesses which are quite a plentiful, to ultimately secure the tag of a developed nation. 

September 3, 2013

The Tadiyandamol Story

Of late trekking in Karnataka has been a bit of a pain in the ass. Some stray incidents of irresponsible trekkers, combined with some naxal activities in the Western Ghats and with a topping of heavy monsoons resulted in us not getting permission for most of our to-do list of treks. The initial 3 day plan was reduced to a single day trek to Tadiyandamol in southern Coorg district, which is the third tallest peak in Karnataka standing at 1748 MSL and the tallest one in Coorg district. But looks can be deceiving since even after having this distinction; it was a relatively easy trek. 

Man Creates Thorns, Nature Creates Flowers

Tadiyandamol literally means "the tallest one" in the local Kodagu language. Initial plan was to trek the peak, cover the palace nearby and finally Chelavara falls. And this we were gonna do in true blue spartan style, i.e. travelling in public transport all the way, hence resulting in the entire trip costing us just 950 bucks which was kinda shocking in today’s inflammatory times. The main advantage of travelling this way is that you interact with the locals a lot more and unlike some alien who is transported directly to the destination, sees it, enjoys it and returns back. We had booked an overnight bus to Virajpet, the nearest major town to the trek spot. 

5 of us (Manju, Harsha, Raj, Sandeep and Myself) left on the night of 30th  Aug 2013 from the Mysore Road Bus stand. With the distance to be travelled around 270kms to Virajpet, we reached the place even before we could have a proper sleep at around 5.30 am. We got freshened at the bus stand restrooms, which was pretty decent to our standards. Had our breakfast at the canteen before we could catch the first local bus towards Kakabe which starts at around 6.45am from the private bus stand (around 10min walk from the KSRTC bus stand).

After close to an hours ride from Virajpet we got down at the starting point of the trek (Aramane stop or you can even say Tadiyandamol stop, people will understand) which is around 3-4 kms prior to Kakabe. From this starting point it is close to 8 kms to the peak (GPS reading). The initial part of the trek is via a tarred road and surprisingly the same road goes all the way to the peak without taking any diversions. So a guide is never required for this trek. But at one point trekkers might be confused, which is a Y fork they might encounter almost halfway, and at this point one has to take a left.  The road goes through all the phases possible. Initial tarred road to kuccha jeep trail to kuccha bike trail and finally a trekking trail. The initial part of the road is dotted with numerous estates and resorts, primarily coffee and cardamom ones.

As we gained elevation the views started to get better, surrounded by absolute greenery and greeted every now and then by some cheerful mini waterfalls flowing across the trail. Soon enough we came across a clearing and we suddenly got the first clear view of the Tadiyandamol peak and the lesser dominant peaks flanking it, and this clearly was a “WOW!!!!” moment of the trek. The weather so far was quite pleasant and from this spot onwards the trail was going through grasslands. Since this was post monsoons we encountered some leeches (1-2 bites each), but much lesser than what we had actually anticipated.

@ Peak-With another gang from blore
Only after we reach the base of the peak does the real climb start, which until now can be termed as more of a walk in the park. With an elevation of close to 45 deg, the last 1km was the most taxing part of the entire trek. But we were welcomed by so many wild flowers which have sprung up post-monsoons. When we were close to reaching the peak, we were suddenly engulfed by mist and it started to rain out of nowhere. But thankfully this didn’t last for more than 5 mins, hence not drenching us much in process.  Finally we reached the top, where clouds were playing hide and seek providing some enchanting views. Also we came across a “married guys” gang from B’lore who were giving gyan for our “unmarried guys” gang about the dos and dont’s of marriage: P. They were quite drunk which explains all the gyan distribution, but they were quite responsible trekkers, going to lengths not to litter the place. So I have no complains :). 

After spending close to an hour at the top, having our lunch, we started the descent at around 1pm.  As expected the initial km was taxing on the legs. Reached back to the bus stop at around 3.30pm after a long walk. As soon as we reached the stop it started to rain cats and dogs, “WESTERN GHATS” style.  Our plan was to take a bus to Chelavara falls(Cheyyandane stop) retracing the same route back to Virajpet and from there take a local auto till the falls. Soon enough the rains stopped and a bus arrived and we boarded it. The last bus to Virajpet leaves Kakabe at around 6.15pm, after which there are very less transportation options. So we had to visit the falls and return back before that.

Chelavara Falls

Modeling for Cinthol-Alive is Awesome ad :P
Got down at Cheyyandane town, had a wonderful lemon tea at a stall nearby and took a 4 wheeler auto ;) to the falls which is around 3-4 kms from the main road. There is road right upto the falls. And within no time we were into the freezing waters of this beautiful falls. Infact I found this falls to be much better than the much hyped Abbey falls near Madikeri. Finally we returned back to the main road and the last bus arrived at 7pm (delayed ofcourse J ) and we reached back to Virajpet at around 7.30pm.  Then it was time to find some good eatery/restaurant and unfortunately we didn’t find one and had to content ourselves with some crappy meal. Boarded the 10.15pm overnight Rajahamsa bus back to Bangalore, which unfortunately was infested with bed bugs….!!!! The WTF moment L. Anyway reached Bangalore early morning and spent the remainder of the day just catching upon lost sleep over the last 2 nights.

Trek Details:
Trek Distance->   17kms (GPS reading)
Total Cost Per Person -> 950

Snaps Link: 

The Group Snap

August 30, 2013

Dreamz Of The Desire Society

Social Entrepreneurship was one of the unconventional courses I had taken during my MBA. One of the requirements of this course is that we go and study a social organization. Even though interacting with the cooperates to study their organization is not a new concept to us, but never was there any emotional connect, like we had during the duration of this course. We had selected "Desire Society", a social organization which helps kids who are infected and affected due to HIV/AIDS. Infected were those who are actually infected with the virus. Affected are those who are not necessarily infected with it, but some of their near ones especially parents might have contracted it. Hence this leads to the stigma, even though they are perfectly normal. The organization focuses on disadvantaged  HIV+ victims, especially children abandoned by one or both parents,  children of sex workers, truck drivers and children who have been abused and  belong to poor socio economic conditions.

One of the major issue faced by such an organization is awareness. This issue of awareness is not just prevalent in the lower strata of the society where the reach of this disease is much higher, but even among the highly educated class. When we were short listing organizations for the social entrepreneurship project there was a sense of uneasiness in dealing with an organization such as Desire Society. The first day we went to meet the founder to ask for permission and I must confess that we were not at all comfortable visiting the premises. We were constantly surrounded and bitten by mosquitoes and this freaked us out , later we found mosquitoes can't transmit HIV virus. Then we realized when people like us who can have information at the tip of the fingers cannot differentiate between facts and fiction, then what could be the state of ignorance among the common masses. 

We had visited the Bangalore unit almost 3 times, which has 34 students and it is really humbling and a truly enriching experience seeing those kids all upbeat about their future. They had so many full time volunteers and frankly speaking they are an inspiration to people like us. There was one electrician from Tumkur, who travels to this center on weekends and does voluntary work without any pay !!!! It is kinda sad that people like us(at-least majority of us) always expect monetary compensation for any work done. After this experience there is a call from within that I should give something back to the society, at-least on a part time basis if not on full time. And finding a cause for which someone has a soft corner is not at all a problem here in India :P.  But the problem with me right now is the time... but that is gonna last only for another 3 months, till I will complete my MBA. After that I suppose I will have the time to indulge in such sort of social activities. This brings me to the introduction of the "Nithin's Framework for the Soul". Being an MBA I couldnt resist creating a framework :P.

Nithin's Framework for the Soul:

According to me the soul is like a platform which needs to be supported by multiple pillars in order to lead a happy life. These pillars are some entities which in a way define your life. And obviously more the pillars, more stable will the "21 grams" of weight will be (Interesting theory abt soul weight :P). Right now I could identify 4 pillars in no particular order:
1. Work
2. Studies
3. Family and friends
4. Interests and Hobbies (like travel, movies, endurance sports, reading, blogging etc)

Hence having 4 pillars is kinda stabilizing my soul I presume, but in a few months with my MBA completed, the pillar count would be reduced to 3. Now 3 is not a stable number (of course much much better than 1 and 2 :P ), kinda similar to an Indian autorickshaw which can topple any time. With the weekends completely freed up, there is something which needs to take its place. And I can think nothing other than some social service. The least I could do is to spend a couple of hours every week to teach some of the less fortunate kids (can end up in Desire Society itself :) ) and no more will I spend my weekends just lazing around. This is one promise I am hoping I would be able to keep.

Desire Society Website:

My 100th post. And coincidentally this month signifies 4th anniversary since I started blogging :).

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