Monday, 20 November 2017

Travel Snippets: Lonavala on a Weekday 2.0

Monday, 25 September 2017

Little Yellow Flowers

I like to call them 'nameless little yellows'. Don't tell me the flowers have a name and spoil it for me. Let it be mysterious and unknown in name, and sighted and viewed in that constant enigma. 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

September, In the Hills

Unseasonal rains have extended the wet spell deep into September this year, coinciding with winter's snail-paced arrival in the hills. 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Travel Snippets: Lonavala on a Weekday

Lonavala on a weekday in its foggy, deserted quaintness. Minus the cloud and clamour, you experience a hill station as it should be. Unhurried, still and beautiful. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Published Poetry: 'Eco-Friendly Homes' and 'Long Live Routine!'

I have lately resumed submitting my poems to online literary magazines for publication. Two of my poems were recently published on Indian Periodical, an independent online opinion-based magazine, that also features fiction and poetry.

Here are the links to the published poems:  

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Blog Preview: Movies, Music & More

The Boom Box in the Projection Room features blog posts on latest and upcoming movie releases, apart from posts on Hindi film soundtracks.

Movie Reviews, Mini is more of a random movie review blog of any other movie I watch, irrespective of language or country.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: Introductions, First Steps (Day #3, Day #4)

An evening of introductions commenced and a clear, astounding picture emerged of my fellow trekkers. I was among Limca and Guinness Book Record holders, individuals delving in their passion for photography, cycling, yoga, boxing, marathons, teaching and other pursuits. This was one varied group, many among us fiercely independent and self-sufficient.

We had a cozy home stay here at Dhaula. Post dinner some of us retired early, comfortably cocooned in our sleeping bags. The rest engaged in several enjoyable rounds of card games and conversations, before sleeping in late.

Wednesday: Morning brought apprehensiveness, tea, and rain. Experienced co-trekkers had already mentioned about the utter discomfort of trekking in a Himalayan downpour. The drops feel like needles, they said, and you would rather wish to be somewhere else when that happened. But, wondrously, as the local hosts had prophesied, the skies soon cleared. We began our trek with what was to become a rousing daily practice, hailing out a battle call in praise of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the legendary Maratha king.

A long and leisurely day of trekking followed. There was barely any significant altitude gain, the scenery was breathtaking. Clouds floated by mimicking lazy travelers, a gigantic spread wedged itself into a valley. To the omnipresent roar of the Rupin river, we passed cute, curious children calling out, "Hello." Some of the kids hailed us in shrill voices, asking for chocolate. Chocolate distribution, group photo sessions and nibbling on local village store lollipops followed.

By 1 pm, we were at Sewa for another home stay. A long gorgeous afternoon and evening lay before us, as we placed our bags in the wooden-floored rooms, washed and refreshed ourselves. What a lovely beginning and no stinging rain as yet. Hurrah!  

Friday, 30 June 2017

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: Dog Run (Day #3)

Caution: The first paragraph may disgust some readers. Reader discretion advised.

The horror of horrors, three hours into the ride, once the rickety bus started snaking through the high mountain curves, the scenery dimmed in my eyes. Suddenly, I couldn't wait for the journey to end. Nausea took over and I placed myself strategically by the window for the rest of the bus ride. My lively co-passengers slowly melted away from my notice. It was a kind of a temporary self-quarantine. By the time we reached Dhaula by around 5 pm, I had mastered the art of setting myself up by a bus window for a good vomit trajectory, polished my skill of doing so without causing any widespread disgust. Uh, ah. ow.

First Base 
We alighted at Dhaula and waited for the organizers to arrange for the jeeps to take us to the base camp. A few members petted and pampered the local dogs. The dogs all flowing hair, bushy tailed, fearless and robust. The mountain air perked me up, by the time we boarded the jeeps, the towering oaks, pines, a river flowing to the left and a steady drizzle brought me home to the trip again.

Dog Run
Something out of the ordinary also occurred on the way to our first camp. One of the local dogs began chasing our vehicles in one steady, strong run. This was no casual chase. The dog kept up with the vehicle's speed and moved to a sprint, tirelessly. After almost five kilometers did the dog cease at a settlement, more out of instinct and curiosity it seemed, or perhaps in catching a delicious aroma. It was one extraordinary run, a touch of the predatory in it, riveting to the eye.

It was still raining when we reached our first camp, post a 30-minute ride. Rain, not a good sign for the trip, if not ominous. Tea was served from a smoky kettle, hot fried snacks served as we watched the drops mingle with the wild green below.

A cell phone grab of the dog run

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: The Journey Begins (Day #3)


We were 22 on the bus from Dehradun to Dhaula that morning, apart from the local guides and the driver.

We passed the Indian Military Academy with the cadets in full uniform, amidst a parade to our right. The remnants of the small-town that this part of Dehradun seemed to be was swiftly left behind.

But the journey really began when the road became precarious and we steadily gained height. A river roared way down below us. Trees, always a balm in vision. The mountains appeared, looming, not gigantic, but green, forested and beautiful. Anytime I looked to the left, the tires were inches away from a free fall.

The journey began when the danger and uncertainty became apparent.

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: Chair Car Blues (Day #2)

Next Episode: The bus from Dehradun 

The Story So Far...

Sunday: The NINE board the train to Delhi with ONE trek leader. We indulge in idling, small talk, sleep, sweat, rain, cards, guessing games and songs from a Bluetooth speaker (Aaj jaane ki zid na karo and other hits). Our group includes a champion sleeper and lover of economics, restless boxer and potential writer, 16-year-old veteran Himalayan trekker, rookie trekker, teacher, doctor-to-be. software engineer, girls, blah, blah, blah.

Monday: Morning rain brings respite.The NINE alight at Delhi, a bit late, but on schedule to catch the train to Dehradun. 

Still Monday
Barring four people, who are to join us at Dehradun, the rest of us met up at the concerned platform. The organizers have booked a chair car compartment for the 9-hour journey.

The thing about chair car compartments is, suddenly, there is nothing much to do. You may well be in your drawing room. Each to their own. Of course, you can move about the passage to the main entrance. After some time, potato chips and other packed snacks get passed and munched on. Selfies and group photo sessions follow.

Though I have grabbed a coveted window seat again, there is not a single splendid view. I don't know if it happens to other first-time Himalayan trekkers. We expect to see mountains everywhere, anywhere we can set eyes on. It's like your first day jogging. You sweat, you pant, get home and almost involuntarily check in the mirror if your stomach has magically receded into a six-pack.

Dehradun, At Last 
Afternoon turns to evening and evening to dusk. The train finally crawls to Dehradun Station sometime beyond 10.30 pm.We amble, bags in tow, in a single line, first for a late dinner at a little eatery and then to the reserved hotel. Rooms are allocated on a sharing basis. It's nice to spread out on the bed, after a long day's journey. We are not to sleep on a bed or bath again for over a week. Dehradun is bearably cool, comfortable, quiet and mosquito-free for a good night's rest. There's still a day's travel between us and the first camp.

The wonders of the English language evident on the bus inscriptions

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: The Window Seat (Day #2)

A train journey can be an ultimate joy even at the fag end of an Indian summer in a second class sleeper compartment. But only, and only if you happen to reserve the window seat. Many sibling wars have been fought over window seats. But you don't fight for it with people you have just met. It would have been devilishly awkward to do so.

Happily, the trek organizers had numerous reservations on the train. Window seats were thus readily available. With that 'main impediment' solved for me, the journey began.Though the train crawled to New Delhi station about half-an-hour behind schedule the next afternoon, it was mostly a joyful ride.

New friendships, card games, dumb charades and other frivolities were indulged in. There were nine of us were on the train to Delhi, the remaining 12 were to join us on the Delhi-Dehradun train.

Meanwhile, please join me in paying tribute to those simple, intelligent people who created three simple train travel joys - the barred window, the four compartment doors and that ultimate breezy bliss - the window seat... 

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: Pune (Day #1)

On that particular, clear-skied Sunday at the Pune Railway Station premises, this single pole of floodlights stood tall, hovering and unblinking in vision.

Way below, a collected sight of bulky backpacks, protruding water bottles, people dressed largely in track pants and t-shirts. The train to Delhi was running late by an hour. Early introductions, teeny weeny bits of wisdom and initial getting-to-know-each-other jokes are exchanged. A sample,"You can keep the backpack down now, the train is yet to arrive." That's right. Why am I bloody carrying it while we are just standing and conversing here? That's similar to a scene I often witness at my colony, men absent-mindedly step out of their homes wearing their helmets. I place my backpack among the heap of others. It is a sight. Like it was the first day at school for the backpacks or something, and they were getting to know each other, awkwardly, innocently.

Meanwhile, I take this picture. It is only after returning from the trip that I gauge its significance. An unwitting hint at elements we encounter the next fortnight. Heights, expanse, open skies, and mountains making midgets of us all...

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Pune City View: The Katraj-Sinhagad Trek, Apr 2017

Pune city view during the epic Katraj-Sinhagad night trek. Some may call this an awesome view, but for me, it was an alarming sight. Then you look up at the star flooded sky, feel the heavy cool breeze flow through you and are comforted... 

Cat at the Pet Store

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


Everybody knows Sholay. Released on August 15, 1975, Ramesh Sippy's Sholay remains an iconic and celebrated Hindi movie. "It's a part of India's heritage," says Hindi film director Dharmesh Dharshan.
(Check out the exclusive Sholay blog - SHOLAYISM)
From left: Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar and Amjad Khan pose between shots. 

As legend goes, after listening to the script, Amitabh wanted to play Gabbar Singh and Dharmendra wanted Sanjeev's role; writers Salim-Javed had a hard time convincing them to play their assigned parts. Dharmendra denied any such desire on his part in a 2010 NDTV interview.

For the first time, the music company Polydor sold dialogue audio cassettes of a movie in millions as the film gained cult status. Gabbar's dialogues are now part of Indian culture. Gabbar's pronouncements can be heard in jokes, weddings and social gatherings. Ad makers have wrung the Sholay lemon dry, yet the references keep coming. Children to elderly people will oblige you with their renditions. Satire, books, headlines, daily talk, all have allusions to Sholay's dialogues.

A hand painted poster of the film. Hand painted posters have long been replaced by glossy computer made images since.

An excerpt from a Sholay-based video game
The famous motorcycle sequence from the buddy song - Yeh Dosti...

Gabbar looms at a distance, a shot inspired from Sergio Leone's Clint Eastwood westerns of the 1960's.

Asrani does an impressive Indian take on Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator

thunders Gabbar as he plans to catch the frolicking Ramgadhians unaware on Holi - the festival of colours.

Viju Khote (left) in his famous brief role as Kaalia. Nafrati, the horse he was riding was very temperamental. Kote was relieved when Kaalia is finally shot dead by Gabbar.

The scene of Jai returning Radha the locker keys was the first scene shot for the movie...  

Veeru's inebriated suicide threat scene is the last of the comic scenes in the film, before guns start sounding all around.

Amjad and Hema did this scene over several retakes, until Hema's arm was sore with bruises.

In the original Sholay, Thakur Baldev Singh(Sanjeev Kumar) uses his nail-sole shoes to cut off Gabbar's hands. Two equals, they fight until Gabbar is killed, trampled like a snake under Thakur's feet. Thakur breaks down with the sudden loss of purpose in his life and from relief. The censors did not want this "anti- establishment" ending during the time of emergency and stalled the film's release. Ramesh Sippy had to re-shoot an alternate ending with the police arriving from nowhere, which we see today. The first ending exists in rare bootleg video cassettes and CD's and those who have seen it say, Sholay was better as it was first shot.

The iconic status of the film lives on with T-shirts and graphically designed posters, among other memorabilia. Ram Gopal Varma may have tried hard in the remake, but SHOLAY (1975) is forever.