Airavat: Bangalore to Mysore

Airavat

Part 1; Yes there is Part 2, I take joy in inflicting pain upon my readers.

Airavat is a special state bus with certain amenities like A/C and better seats, as opposed the State transportation Red bus. I saw an uniformed driver and conductor guiding me to get into their bus. I said, “I want to ride an Airavat“, the conductor who was loading the passengers baggage paused and showed me the sign Airavat written on the bus. The name was partially blocked because side luggage door panel was open. I gently smiled and said, “I want to ride that Airavat“, it was one behind this bus more posh looking and a picture of Baby stroller; which meant when you travel in that bus you felt like a baby in the cradle, “That has A/C“. To which he replied, “This has A/C too, get in we will leave soon“. It was his inviting smile and sense of responsibility to fill the bus to capacity, he need not do that, since this was a state run bus and he was a govt employee. This bus looked lot beaten up compared to that Baby Airavat, but I decided to go with these guys. At the wheels was the Mahout; taming this beast of the bus. Concerned about the state laws of ladies reserved seats, I asked him if I could sit right behind his seat. To which he said, “Sit anywhere you want sir, the whole bus is empty“. It was, I was their first passenger to board. Then I asked him gingerly, “When will this bus leave?“, it appeared that people were walking past this bus and going to Baby Airavat. Usually they would not move until the bus is to the capacity, literally there was no schedule. “Just now a bus took off, we will be moving in five minutes“. For me it was the seat I had got, a full POV road view seated right above the driver seat, sitting on an elephant where Mahout was at the helms.

The view all my ride
This is the Baby Airavat, which I wanted to ride

I had started my journey at 6AM from RamaMurthy Nagar, my brother’s house who had dropped me to Bayappanhalli Metro, the plan per my brother was, I get off at Majestic and get the Airavat to Mysore. As soon as I got off at Majestic, I was awaited for a rude awakening, no buses departed from Majestic to Mysore, all of that service had moved to Satellite. My bother had no idea about this and I don’t blame him, he always travelled by his personal car and never used the public transport. Majestic is an area where all modes of transportation are housed next to each other, The Southwestern Railway Station, The circular maze inter and intra-city bus stand; Kempegowda Bus Station and now the newly constructed Namma Metro. I just had to walk around a little and finally had managed to get into city red bus to Satellite.

Barely it had been 5 or 10 mins, they had decided to keep moving, although the Mahout said, “How many seats do we have?“, to which the conductor responded, “We have some 19 passengers.“, “let’s look for few more, we need to cover the diesel price at least.“, another family got on and we were off the stand. The time was 8AM, I had spent 2 hours of my time to get to the Mysore bus with all that Metro-city bus switch and ride.

Majestic bus stand

I am not a big fan of breakfast on a regular day other than a cup of tea, but I do look forward to IWS (Idli Wada Sambar) on my Indian road trip, it is my BLT to an American. While conductor gave me the ticket, I had asked him when would they stop for breakfast, very soon came the answer.

I call this driver Mahout with huge respect, it is impossible to maneuver the bus through these streets packed with all kind of vehicles cutting ahead of the bus, needless to say even the pedestrians are crossing the streets, he was stopping the bus within inches of other vehicles. The duo was courteous to all the passengers who boarded in the middle of the road, including help them load the luggage in the compartment. It was a bright sunny day, could be hot outside but I felt pleasant inside the bus. Wonderful restaurants passed by where the private buses were parked, the time was nearing 9AM and the driver was in no rush to halt. I figured, they had a designated restaurant where they stopped. They did and it was next town the ChannaPatna bus stand; the city of toys. The time was 10AM and my stomach was growling, had my IWS with double chai. Complimented the Mahout for his driving skills, to which he had humbly said, “Well, we have to manage in this crazy traffic“. Sadly the roads from Bangalore to Mysore are completely under construction for the 6 lane highway. Currently the buses and other vehicles get by the old roads and some time getting on the partially built highway. What bothered me the most was the trucks with any disregard, overload blocked the road without giving way for the bus to pass thru. Technically that should be considered as illegal to block a commuter bus. In western states the bus has the highest priority second only to ambulance, the simple reason for this privilege is, a bus transports at least 50 people which other wise would have been 50 cars on the road.

From ChannaPatna the conductor took the wheels, otherwise called Mahout 2. The ride from here on was fairly smooth although these are still the service lanes to be, once the highway is complete, which would reduce our commute time drastically. Thoroughly enjoyed the ride, thanked the duo handsomely and asked for the bus to KR Nagar my final destination bus ride. To which they gave me the platform number, grabbed my belongings and got off. Alas! I had an electronic reader/writer reMarkable, which I had used to jot down my thoughts about this very blog and left it on the seat next to me, which was camouflaged in gray seat with a gray sleeve!

Part 2

Once you loose an electronic item in a public setting, it is next to impossible to recover it, I was extremely disappointed as I realized it when the KR bus was on the move. I brushed it off completely assuming this was the collateral damage for my fun filled trip, had no mood to spoil rest of the vacation with my family. Reached KR, spent time with my other brother and family then came back to Mysore to visit his new house, met my old friend Manoj settled in Mysore from New Jersey, never mentioned anybody about the reMarkable. I really wanted to put that behind. On the way back to Bangalore, I narrated about the Mysore bus chaos starting point and road conditions, to which my SIL (sister-in-law) suggested that I always ride the trains, the best mass transit system. She helped me book a sleeper in the afternoon to Bangalore and had a pleasant ride back.

Now that the trip was over and the thought of reMarkable re-lingered, felt helpless and the loss wasn’t the money, but the notes I had gathered on it over a period of time. There are few people like my brother in Hubli and my BIL(brother-in-law) in Bangalore, you tell them about your worries and they see that they find the solution to it. I felt too embarrassed to mention him about this loss, had I lost the Passport it would have been a different matter. I knew if I mentioned him he would drop everything and get behind this, so just slept thru the night. Next morning I had plans to meet my other New Jersey friends settled in Bangalore.

My ride next to Red bus

Next day ate my brunch; technically I was full and ready to take on the hot summer day without the worry of lunch. Instead of going towards Marathahalli; friends residence, I decided to take a solo trip to Satellite opposite direction, with a last ditch effort to contact the Airavat office and ask about the bus I had taken two days back with the license plates; I had captured it as my blog thought, my Airavat! Got of the auto a decently charged fare, not happens all the time with autos in Bangalore, every one was in distress about the gas prices that has shot up in past six months from Rs 50 to Rs 80 plus. There was another Airavt ready to leave and I enquired where was the office, got a suggestion that a I take next bend, I will see the office. I rushed to the bend and more Airavats were lined up and to my amazement I saw my Mahout standing and guiding a bus. I ran to him and said, “Sir, you recognize me?“, him little perplexed by my sudden interruption, then I pulled my mask down to show my full face. “Ah! you are the one that travelled to Mysore the other day“,
Yes, I had a left a reader on the seat“, jumping to my main concern
Yes you did, I sent the conductor, to find you at the KR Nagar platform, we could not spot you“, I had gone to platform 5 which housed KR buses somebody else suggested me that I take Hassan bus which went en-route to KR and reached faster, hence the conductor could not spot me. “My conductor has kept it safe with him, give me your number to contact, he is currently on the move but he will contact you as soon as he reaches Bangalore or wherever you will be“.
Sir, tonight I am travelling to Hubli.
No worries we will arrange to ship it to Hubli thru another driver, let’s keep in touch and note my number as Balu“, thus the Mahout I adored came to be known is Balu, “Here, this number of the conductor, save it as Ismail“, my Mahout 2 was Ismail.

Thrilled and thanking Balu, I took off for my main event of the day, met with my friends, enjoyed Sanjeev’s handmade Irish Kulfi. Later that night, I took the Channamma Express to Hubli. Next day contacted Ismail, about his schedule, to which he indicated that he was in Trivandrum and would be back to Bangalore on Saturday the earliest. Thursday I was flying out of Mumbai to New Jersey.
Finally, I reached out to my BIL who was shocked to hear and readily agreed to do the needful. I exchanged the numbers of BIL and Ismail, they got in touch on Saturday and brought the reMarkable home.

New York Five Boro Bike Tour

Abstract
I was inspired by this idea that we could bike entire New York, while the cars were taken off the street, it’s a forty mile ride spanning all five boroughs of the city and ascend few iconic bridges to reach the final destination. I added additional spice to this event by choosing to get the event by riding my bike from home taking mass transit to get there and back.

Jump to:
History
The journey begins…
Destination Downtown
New York Penn Station
The kick off
Knowledge is Power
Fly overs
Verrazano’s bridge
The finish line
The Ferry
West Side Hwy
Thanks

The official FIVE BORO BIKE TOUR map

History
Back in 1977 some 250 NYC bike enthusiasts held a 50 mile bike challenge to promote cycling in the city. Then with minimal security and within the NYC traffic they had completed the event successfully. Next year the then NYC Mayor Ed Koch officially changed the name of the event to FIVE BORO BIKE TOUR instead of challenge to attract more bikers to participate in the event, ever since it has been a popular NYC event, with the capacity as high as 25 to 30 thousand participants.

The journey begins…
Well below is the picture taken at 5am on a Sunday morning. Most Sundays I spend my mornings in bed while my wife goes to jog. I had signed up for New York Five Borough Bike Tour. My luck had it that it got cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19, hence rescheduled in May 2021. As things did not improve it got postponed to Aug 22nd. Then came the Hurricane Henri it got postponed to Aug 29th, finally the day had arrived, I had to get off my bed.

Sleep biking to train station

Destination Downtown
Most people would have written about the event experience itself, but I wanted to capture the whole stretch as to how I got to New York and back. Like the picture shows at 5am it was air/brake and water bottle check. I actually started to ride my bike at 5.30am to Princeton Jn station. The plan was to take scheduled 6.02am to Newark Penn and then board on to Path to downtown. Wanted to reach train station in time giving about 20 minutes to reach there but had reached in 10, was I pumped or what. So after a long wait the train arrived. The doors opened and there is a special section for bike storage in the train, to my amazement there were already two bikes stashed, bikers from Hamilton or Trenton headed to NYC Bike Tour. After Hellos I settled next to them. While we struck with conversations, time had passed by one of them asked what station is this, I looked up it was Newark Penn and train had started to move. Surprised as I asked them aren’t you getting off hear and taking path? to which the lead among them, now I know he is Israel, said, no we are going to New York Penn and from there will bike down the venue. Train had left the platform and now I was following them throwing my original plans out the window.
Conductor passed by looked up at us as one of us was supposed to get off at Newark Penn. I raised my hand and said “that’s me and I want to bump my ticket“, pulling the cash out. Conductor has his way giving a pass to their patrons once in a while today was that day, he goes, “why don’t you download the NJ Transit app and purchase the ticket their and show it to me, I will be back” and he took off. This generally means that he will never come back and he wants to give me a pass. I know this since I am regular commuter. As expected NY Penn came and we all got off.

New York Penn Station
Israel set out to look for the elevator and there were ten other people with their huge luggage waiting, the elevator looked small it would not fit three bikes and besides our turn would come after two shifts at least. I suggested lets ride escalator, which is what we did. Now we were in the main lobby of the station we had to take another escalator to get to the streets, riding an escalator with bike was easy, the tricky part was opening the heavy double doors with one hand while holding the bike with another. Last escalator, Israel had done and held the door for us, now it was my turn, with a struggle held the doors open and let the second biker out, by then Israel was on the street laughing at us. There was another set of double doors next to mine that was ajar all the while. Fun had begun, ice was broken.
It’s been more than two years now that I am not a regular at New York, due to Covid-19 reasons, the beautiful change I noticed was their is a designated bike lane on either side of the road marked with green patch in all of Manhattan, I am like wow, New York City is getting Europenised; if that’s a word. So it was a breeze biking down the roads to downtown, soon we saw a bunch of bikers settled in huddle.

My bike tour buddies

The kick off
From the selfie below you can see the other two have Yellow number tags; they had signed up for yellow wave which would start at 8.30am and I had signed up for Orange wave which was scheduled to start at 9.20 which was basically a last wave after another which was Green. The Blue wave had started at 7.30am. We had reached the venue at around 8am. Israel suggested I hope on Yellow wave and I did not hesitate and we were off at 8.30am biking down the roads along with bunch of other bikers with no cars on the road, zipping by the red lights.
Like the event says, this biking spans all the five boroughs of NYC, starting from Manhattan downtown, barely touching Bronx, cross the river land in Bronx and then take the next bridge and back in Manhattan. I wonder why, Bronx is the most notorious of all the five boroughs, although it is home of Yankees Stadium. My guess is next route would have been on National Highways, which the city authorities had no rights to block them. Then we crossed the Queensboro bridge also known as Ed Koch bridge to land in Queens. This was the first big bridge with steep elevation, people took a break to take pictures on the iconic bridge. Soon after we were forced to walk the bike in the rest area. Johnny’s lined up on one side and volunteers serving banana and water to the bikers on the other. Grabbed a banana and few snacks, relaxed on the side and we were back on the bike.

Knowledge is power
I learnt this the hard way, while we began biking there was huge bottleneck hence we chatted while we rode, Israel asked “What is the pressure on my tires“, to which I said, “To make my riding easy I have pushed it to 20 or 22“, to which the other guy said, “What! mine is 100, 22 is way less, this will slow you down“, he rode a classic Schwinn, where he had received several compliments. “At next rest area you should check your tire pressure rating and put to the max” recommended Israel. The next break came after the Queensboro bridge. I had always put 18 to 20 on my bike comparing it to cars 33 to 36 PSI. My tire read 68 to 86, so I pumped it to 80 and then the life was smoother.

Fly overs
We ride through huge bridges that is given but we also constantly bike over the fly overs pushing our limit of exhaustion up the hill and then a free ride down the hill. As easy as it sounds and rewarding riding down the hill, it can be really be painful on your rear if you don’t stand on the bike pedals.
This reminds me of one thing, it is good to have a very good bike, I could see few of the riders breezing thru me with easy pedaling, they were probably very good bikes, but if I have to say one thing, if you can buy and $1000 bike then invest $500 on the bike and rest on bike seat, trust me your bum will thank you. After Manhattan, Brooklyn is the most beautiful borough, we drove thru some chic streets. Sad as it may sound we did not ride on the most iconic bridge of all the Brooklyn Bridge.

In this picture you get to see sea of bikes as opposed to cars on FDR drive, this is akin to Tom Cruise running in the middle of Times Square in Vanilla Sky.

Verrazano’s bridge
I guess Verrazano’s bridge is on the highest elevation in NYC, correct me if I am wrong, but on this bike tour it was. Also the winding road that leads to the bridge is quite a ride, a familiar car rider would know that. Hence this was the last climb up the hill of our 40 mile tour, with that excitement I pushed on and reached the peak of the Verrazano’s. I dismounted my bike to take pictures, from this peak I could see Russia but that’s me. From hear on it was down hill to the destination. Mind you there are few more flyovers and by definition there will be ups and downs.
While I was taking pictures and recording, I saw a commotion next to me. There was a man lying on the road and someone else pumping his chest. The man lay still and people took turns resuscitating him, I stood afar from the crowd knowing that I had nothing to contribute while the pro riders were at work. Most of the bikers had stopped at distance and prayed for his recovery. Suddenly cheers erupted from the crowd yelled spread out and give him some air. That is when I thanked god and mounted my bike to ride, as soon as I peddled two steps, I heard the OHHH in the background, turned and looked to see that the man was back to square one, others thumping his chest again.
Crowd was building up so I took off, paramedics and FDNY vehicles drove head on to us to pick up the man in distress. The man had made the peak, if only he had taken a little breather in between.

The finish line
As for me cool breeze was slapping my face while I zipped by the down hill, by crossing the bridge I had landed in the fifth and final Borough Staten Island, somewhere it was posted 35 mile mark, I gave sigh of relief, but then the flyover came, now you have to pump again, I had to make a decision which cheek do I like more and whom do I punish. I repeat invest in the seat comfort, don’t make the mistake I did. Down the flyover and huge right bend, not having to pedal and then I see someone standing on the mega phone shouting, “Congratulations you have done it“, I was like, did I?, 40 is done, it’s over, should I drop the bike and kiss the floor? The next megaphone lady shouted dismount your bikes and walk it to the Bike Festival arena. And just like that my Five Borough Bike Tour had come to an end.


After freshening up and some water headed to beer stall to get some beer with my train buddies, who had finally arrived looks like they decided to hang out more during the tour unlike me just riding it down. The choice was IPA or Fat Tire, fittingly I chose Fat Tire having ridden lean tire for a while now.

Enjoying Fat Tire after the biking!

The Ferry
My friends chose to hang out there so I headed to the Staten Island Ferry that would take me to Downtown. Walk the bend led to the ferry, upon arrival the line was not huge, assumed everybody was still hanging out and having fun. The lady ahead of me was puzzled “Do we have to pay for this ferry?“, she was expecting it to be part of the whole tour package to land us back to the place we started from. I mumbled “Welcome to American capitalism madam!“, Immediately the lady attending the ferry pointed further saying that “You can board that ferry, that is free ride arranged by Bike Tour“. That led us to another ferry where more than 200 cyclists waited for the next ride. Thought this is going to be a long wait, to my amazement the next ferry hosted all the 200 and more, I had got the front seat(standing) overlooking the view to World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge in a single frame. It was a cloudy day, hence the gray pastel, great for biking but not for landscape pictures. You can’t have the cake and eat it too.
Hoped off the ferry, it is amazing to watch how quickly they dock it, no wonder it is a everyday busy commuter ferry for SI residents, I had heard about this ferry as NJ residents could drive up to SI and park there cars to ride this ferry to reach Downtown for everyday work. NJ Transit trains who bag awards year after year are the worst transit system to NYC.

Walking into this huge ferry, it almost looks like a cruise liner
Statue of Liberty on left, WTC in the middle and zoom in to right to see Brooklyn Bridge

West Side Hwy
Now starts my personal bike ride to reach NY Penn Station. Had known from past that there was a bike path along the Westside Hwy, which I used to cross over to the park during lunch from CITI overlooking Hudson river. Bikers gave a hard ring while we crossed their path. It was an amazing ride fully divided with two way bike path, following the bike rules, the rookie NYC riders who had come for bike tour rode on the other side of the path and got yelled by the opposite side, “Stay in your lane“. Through and through the bike lane is established along the length of Manhattan, I had to get off at 34th street while I looked at my old work building. Had no mood to ride on 34th street since it was another up hill and buses shared the bike lane for offloading passengers, hence walked the bike for most of the path until I reached Penn Station. My next train to Trenton was scheduled for 3.52pm which was more than 45 mins wait, trains run every hour on a weekend schedule. Was hoping and praying that the track assigned to our train would be 10 or higher number which usually have escalators, which is what we usually get on weekday schedules. To my hard luck finally 10 mins before departure they posted track 1, you need to walk down the steps with bike, uggh!
This was going to be an hour commute to Princeton Jn, now I had to carry the bike thru underpass one last time and ride it home. I said my self “last mile” while I took a bend to my home.

Thanks
Last but not least thanks to mother nature our Bike Tour was peacefully sandwiched between Henri and Ida, and special thanks to you for making it to the end, I feel your pain 🙂

It is very common in European countries that all the major cities have adopted to pollution free commuting, like riding bicycles around the city.

Corona Virus(2020) or Contagion(2011)

Image courtesy : IMDb.com

“In order to get sick, you have to come in contact with a sick person, in order to get scared you just have to get in contact with a rumor.” Laurence Fishburne.

WhatsApp is a wonderful place to look for rumors, so I did, there is a video viral of Contagion’s trailer playing with uncanny references to the current Covid-19 predicted in 2011. As I dig deep into the movie, it is any other Sci-Fi thriller based of the previous virus outbreaks which almost all have been from China. Frankly speaking I have not seen the movie Contagion – duh! then what are you critiquing about!!!

Well as I googled to watch this movie online (you know I am working from home), although I have Netflix and Amazon Prime, I need to rent it to watch. So I googled Youtube, I did not find the movie but watched a review written by a Real Doctor, not Whatsapp doctors, but a certified one, Medlife Crisis.

Apparently he was compelled to review this movie in the wake of Corona Virus comparison. Boy do I love his review. He explains about the movie in such detail medical terms and finally gives a thumbs up to the attention to detail. More cool about his review, he sips a Corona Extra(vaccine) and runs for an extra boost once it’s over, doc has some funny bone.

KRSNA

KRSNA is a mythological story told by himself for children in a very simple language.

TIMS_KRSNA

Excerpt

What Next…

Well it’s been five thousand years and I am meeting with Lord to land on earth. We feel like we left it for you humans to handle it on your own without we meddling too much, but we are noticing the state this earth has been brought to.

The constant argument here is who will lead the effort to go down there and take care of the business. Every time; all of these thirty three million us, none wants to come down there. Everybody has gotten very comfortable up here, we look down and see the technological progress you guys have made, frankly lots of devas fear of being outdated. I remember few decades back, if I am not mistaken Narad went to Varanasi; the university of Hindu literature. He even met with you people and explained that he was Narad, Lord Brahma himself had sent him down there to address your concerns. He was heckled so bad, that we couldn’t help but laugh at his plight.

Narad went to one beggar who had his legs crippled and twisted from knee down, beard, hair and body starving for nutrition, clothes falling apart rotting on their own and said, “I see you in distress, is there anything you need from Lord?”

The man looks at him like Narad was some kind of an alien and goes, “Who are you?”

“Oh! I am Narad, the messenger of Lord himself”, explicitly displaying his signature Veena and Jasmine flowers tied around his head and arms.

“Well you seem like a nice guy, what’s up that hairdo”, he scooted over a little and continued, “come sit here, this is a popular spot, every temple visitor passses from here, you can collect a lot of money here, you seem like a nice guy, what brought you to this state”, he spread another rotten gunny bag next to him and patted to dust off.

“No! I am not here to beg!”, Narad looked up into the sky, frankly we were laughing out loud, this embarrassed him and continued to the beggar, “I am sent by god to check with your concerns”, frankly he was losing his cool.

“Alright then, give me hundred rupees”, said the beggar, “you make my day today”.

“No I can’t pay money, I don’t have, I can carry your concerns…”

“Alright beat it now, you are obstructing my busy hours here, go check concerns of other people out there and take them to your lord”, he threw an air quotes around Lord.

Narad, stepped away from the man and got moving, beggar yelled back, “Hey watch out godman, a bus will run you over, nobody has time for your Lord concerns out here, take it somewhere else”.

Narad turned to look around and a cyclist knocked his Veena and broke it, he just yelled back “Sorry” and kept riding his bike. Some other person picked up his broken Veena and handed it to him, “Are you looking for the drama theatre?, you look lost, it’s right there, you see that cobbler sitting down there, turnaround you can’t miss it”.

Narad frustrated, “No, I am not…”, before he could complete the man had taken off, was hanging on to a moving bus. The wooden slippers were also knocked off, he decided to meet the cobbler to repair. Limping on one leg with broken Veena he approached the cobbler.

“My good friend, can you fix these sandals for me?”

Cobbler busy sewing a leather sandal adjusted his broken glasses and looked at Narad, “What are these, you don’t wear these on streets”, he continued with his work, irritated.

“No! This is all I have worn all the time, please fix them for me”, pleaded Narad, his feet was burning in the hot sun, his other wooden sandal had stuck in the melting tar and had no clue how to get it off. Cobbler wanting to take a break, dropped his sewing and grabbed the water jug and gulped the water. Wiping his mouth turned to Narad and said, “I can’t fix these sir, leave them here, walk into the theater and when you return maybe I will see if I can fix them”.

“I am not going to a theater!!! I just need these fixed, I need  to go home”, said Narad visibly irritated by people asking him to go to theater, feet were killing and sweat dripping off his temples.

“I can’t fix them, here you can buy these”, cobbler handed him a pair of Hawaii slip ons.

“What are these?”, asked Narad looking at the soft sandal shaped pair.

“Go ahead try it, they are very comfortable”.

Hesitantly Narad slipped on the Hawaii and was amazed, they were soft, did not have to pinch his toes to hold to them like he did with wooden sandals.

“What are these”, asked Narad, a smile had broken on his face, they were so comfortable.

“Just pay two hundred rupees, I feel bad for you”,said the cobbler while he got busy with his sewing.

“I like these, but I don’t have rupees!!!”, said Narad, “Here take this, but I need these sandals”, he jumped with joy handing him a gold chain.

“I don’t want your chain, you seem to be a nice guy, go home now it’s hot, pay me later, don’t cheat me, I know you come to this theater”, cobbler waged his finger sizing up Narad.

Narad turned around the bend to check on this theater, he saw bunch of people dressed as Amitabh Bachchan and Elvis Presley impersonation, of course he could not make anything of it. This was it for him, drifted back into the clouds and reported to Lord Brahma, “Fire me if you want to, I am never going back there”, flashing his new sandals.

“I am not firing you! Go take rest”, Lord could no longer control his laughter. Narad walked away with a swag enjoying his new sandals.

The meeting went on for hours at end and there were no takers who would go down there and do the job they are supposed to do. Lord Shiva had declared, “I have gotten too comfortable with Kailash, it’s hot down there, I am not going”. Of the top three two had already ruled out. I being the third, well if you don’t know I am an incarnation of Lord Vishnu; the third supreme god. I had to speak up, “We can send Ganesha, he is very popular among them, I see every car dashboard adorned with elephant head wobbling there”.

So Ganesha was summoned, he came with a laddu in his mouth, looked and his father respectfully, then sized me up and bowed his head to Lord Brahma.

“Ganesha, we want you to go down to Earth, looks like they need your help, also they believe in you”, Lord Brahma was like a car salesman selling his idea.

“What! Did you see what they did to Narad?, he looks so normal yet he was ridiculed, I have this elephant head, thanks to this man here, if I go down there some billionaire or a politician will claim my ownership and keep me in a cell and start billing the customers for my viewing”, he went and fell to the feet of Brahma and Shiva walked away staring at me, for suggesting this idea.

The meeting continued, actually it was only me and Brahma that were discussing, Shiva was peaceful. Lord Brahma ran his fingers through his gray beard and looked at me pleading.

“Alright, alright, I will go”, I said throwing my flute on the floor. Shiva just smiled in the corner, he stood up to leave, it was settled. I had to work on logistics with Brahma, first thing I said was, I am going to lose this attire, thanks to my mom, who made my look a legend but this peacock feather and dhoti had to go.

Brahma got curious and asked, “What do you plan to wear?, I know you like those gold jewels”.

He is right, I have this affinity towards this bling, I just love it, “I don’t know yet, I just don’t want to be fooled like Narad.” I really can’t believe you guys treated him like that, what a change millennials can bring. After he saying he wants to help a beggar, he was ridiculed, what will a common man do us when we get down there, I wonder.

Anyway Lord Brahma has left it to me to wear or do whatever I want to, all he wants is somebody to get down there and bring some order. So good or bad news, I am coming, I do need some input from you guys, especially the millennials, it’s your time to shine. I am planning on getting hooked with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, really what do I do with instagram, I am the most progressive out here but, I am clueless about instagram, I know people post pictures there, but what good would do that to me. I am also done with these chariots, planning to get a fast ride; Lamborghini or Tesla, I am torn. Tesla will be good in a sense, I don’t have to drive and relax at the back.

I am thinking we will see how it goes…

Kirik Party (2016)

The prologue (jump to review)

This has been the most elusive movie for me, ever since I have heard about it, it had already been taken off the screens here in New Jersey, needless to say I had least interest in watching Kannada movies when Bollywood churns out everyday a new movie and friends around me dropping their jaws for not watching this one or that, recently I have also been watching Marathi movies like Sairaat (2016) and Court (2014), which had made waves of their own. Got calls from India; Kirik Party is a good movie, you should check it out. My quest for the same in local stores for a pirated copy went in vain. Many a times I googled for an online copy, never watched Kirik Party but ended up watching some other Hindi movies. There are times I was jubilant to see on YouTube Kirik Party run time 2 hr 40 some minutes, the movie starts fine and then after the ghastly cigarette ad, it turns out to be a third rated movie. Dejected I gave up on watching the movie or so I say with blood shot eyes.

After an year of air date, I landed in India for vacation, vacation was fine, family was even better. It’s my wife’s sister-in-law that disturbed my peace.

“Shrikant anna, did you watch Kirik Party, it’s Superrr”, she said.

“No!”.

“I will get it for you, you need to watch it”, she darted out the door.

I lay on the couch, day after day in front of TV, she being busy with her house chores ran to neighbors house to get me a copy of DVD, she did manage to find few, one was a very bad Camera recording and rest just did not work. I just thanked her for trying so hard and she was depressed that I couldn’t get to watch that one good Kannada movie after long time.

After landing back in US, once in a while I googled for Kirik Party, nice song videos but never a complete screening. I had begun to like the movie. Sadly I am not here to preach about marketing but Kannada industry has lacked a lot in this, every Hindi, Tamil or Telugu ends up on Einthusan after a week but Kannada; how do you expect Kannada movies to become popular. Recently bought another Chinese video box that streams pirated videos of entire worlds collection but English; we have Kodi for that. Started watching live cricket matches and latest and greatest Sony TV comedy shows. For the first time in US my wife bragged she had watched Jagga Jasoos (2017), where her friends dropped their mouths in awe.

“Where did you get that, I want to watch it too, is it on Einthusan?”

“No! It’s not on einthu, it’s on this box”, she beamed.

Out of curiosity and zero hope browsed Kannada section for Kirik Party; you thought I had given up on this movie. Lo behold I found it; a working HD copy!

The review

To my pleasant surprise the movie opened up to a beautiful upbeat song, bunch of boys,  being boys in a college and having fun, is the most winning formula in any of the Indian movies. Hollywood has long given up on this theme since Grease series. For me it brought the pleasant memories of my college days watching another best Kannada movie of that time, Premloka. The comedies were not slapstick but some creative humorous dialogues. It was a long wait but it paid off for all the pain I had taken. It was almost a musical like Premloka; unlike stupid musical; Jagga Jasoos, got involved in the romantic comedy, had begun appreciating the directing skills of Rishab Shetty and decent acting by Rakshit Shetty until they killed that Senior girl, Rashmika Mandanna;no I mean really she looked senior. For a moment I thought it was his dream, asked my wife, if she really died. I don’t know if I dozed off; I do a lot with chick flicks, my wife is very annoyed with me for that. There are times I watch movies in installment because I sleep half way, sadly she watches every time the whole movie. Next thing I see is that there is an election in the college and best of friends have broken up canvassing against each other. I am like did I wake to Shiva (1989)? Just to confirm, I ask my wife, that Chasmish girl is gone, I had begun to like her. She said “Yes” sternly. Then I see this high school girl Samyukha Hegde flirting with protagonist, I am like come on, don’t kill him now gods sake. The girl is very good on the screen but again a misfit in the story; Rishab, where are you going with this man. Then he steals some scenes from 3 Idiots (2009) and makes Rakshit drive on the Royal Enfield and go missing, why? Now the movie has become so painful you start to enjoy the torture, I am saying let me see how he will tie all the ends of this movie and pull the curtain down, he does after three agonizing hours. The End.

You can’t help notice that the graduation party has the banner 2013, the movie has been delayed to release

Every good movie must be an inspiration but never implemented in yours

Hidden Figures (2016)

Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) makes a first movie and gets beaten up in NASA mission by our protagonist, thats a first. I could see him twitching with pain when Katherine Johnson, erases the black board (no pun intended it is black board not white board) and rewrites the formulas for John Glen‘s pod re-entry, unfortunately Penny was not there to console him.

The review

Hidden Figures is a wonderful uplifting story of three African American ladies during segregation, making it to the top in NASA space mission.  The bubbly, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) who wants to be an aeronautical engineer in the white mans world, men watch her struggle through a observatory window when her heel gets stuck on the launch pad. The senior, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) who is managing a colored computers – literal meaning is a black women employed for computing. The genius of the trio is Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) who is calculating rocket’s trajectory and re-entry crossing odds with Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons famously known as Sheldon Cooper). The movie is fairly star studded, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) is head of the launch mission who at first is very skeptical of the Katherine’s math abilities, he is a fantastic scientist with great leadership skills, but his human side is revealed when he discovers that Katherine took half hour breaks on a critical mission days just to learn that she had to walk half a mile (rain or shine) to relieve herself in the colored bathrooms. Takes a sledge hammer and shatters the  signs of color of the facility and declares “There are no colors here at NASA, we are all one color”. In the other building Dorothy updates her staff with coding (FORTRAN) so that they don’t become obsolete on the installation of IBM supercomputers in the building, in the interim gains the much anticipated respect from her supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst). Mary breaks the barrier to be the first women to go to a College for White only through a court order. The icing on the cake is when management decides to take off Katherine from the mission control since all the calculations can be done by IBM computers, John Glenn personally orders to get Katherine to verify the calculations done by the computer. She oversees safe re-entry of John Glen in the Mission Control room filled with White people (I mean all men dressed in white shirts), with Katherine in a bright colored dress. She later goes on to supervise the Apollo 11 launch, mission to moon.

The movie is a pleasant watch, very well directed by Theodore Melfi, a must watch for all children.

Passengers (2016)

Hmm, where do I begin with this movie, its an arms race to build a colony on Mars and beyond, first we had Gravity(2013) where you saw what it was like getting drifted in Space, then came Interstellar(2014) and Martian(2015) where they landed and grew a plant there. Here in passengers they have taken it to the next level, passengers settling on another planet. Every next movie uses part imagination and part scientific evidence to push the envelope backed by NASA. George Lucas is like you all so 18th century.

The review

The first 30 mins the movie is played by Chris Pratt (Jurassic World 2015) is awakened on a spaceship prematurely since his hibernating pod has malfunctioned, with no one available to talk; sounds scary but we have seen worst on Cast Away(2013). He scans through all the profiles of 1500 passengers and picks to wake up JLaw ( her name in the movie is Aurora, why did you not leave her sleeping, don’t you watch Disney Movies man). Don’t worry, ‘If I was you, I would be waking her up too‘. Now the next 30 mins or more they are busy trying to find out why only they are up and rest are hibernating peacefully for 90 years. Whatever happened to ‘Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Band Hon, Aur Chavi Ko Jaye‘, maybe I am old schooled they had a whole ship by themselves with all the amenities, food and wine at disposal. Lo and behold after an hour into the movie they find romance between them. It took less time to bring two Pandas together in NYC Zoo. Since Chris discovered sex; by the way JLaw claims this was her first on screen, he thought of waking up Julia Roberts too, but then the director yelled at him, it would cost them another 2o million.

All is well and Chris has planned to propose JLaw at the bar where our only humanized robot Arthur as witness, he takes off to get the ring and Jlaw is chatting with Arthur, disaster strikes, Arthur spills the beans as how Chris contemplated waking her up with guilt and finally went for it and now all looks so good with them together. JLaw is furious and breaks up with Chris for forcefully waking her up.

As fate has it, Chris waking up abruptly was beginning of more problems to arise on the ship and now Chris has to get out into the space and fix it. Love is lost, what more can he loose, he gets out and fixes it but drifts into space. JLaw could have let him go, Brad Pitt was sleeping in one of the pods, looks like she was smitten by Chris and risks her life to bring him back.  You think she will fail in the mission, hello so predictable, then they live happily ever after. No really they do and leave a legacy behind for the hibernators to see a rain-forest created in the space ship after 90 years.

I like JLaw, her movies are best but if I have to watch her I would watch Hunger Games again.

 

Money Monster (2016)

The prologue (jump to review)

Wifey wanted to watch the Civil War with kids on Mothers day weekend. I politely declined  going to theater and waste my hard earned money. Then comes the emotional blackmail ‘you never want to spend time with your family’. I said if we have to go to movies then I would prefer to watch Mother’s Day – starring Jennifer Aniston (wink wink). Surprisingly she agreed too, the plan was we would drop kids in the Civil War hall and we go to Mother’s Day. The usual kids weekend activities began  and next thing we know it was bed time. Movies just vanished in thin air. Then came the following weekend, while I was taking care of Madhav’s activities and she doing Sarang’s, she just called and asked me to get four tickets to Civil War on my way back to 6.30pm show.

As usual I said again “I am not interested to watch Civil War.

“No, we are going with Josh (Sarang’s classmate), just get four tickets”.

Wow! she had just deleted me from the consideration. I was cool with it.

While I booked four tickets, couldn’t help but notice that there was Money Monster airing around the same time. Decided to go alone – felt lonesome, stepped out of line and dialed good friend who lived close by. Him and I been long time Wall Street guys, wasn’t a hard sell to convince him to join for the movie; especially starring – George Clooney and Julia Roberts put the last nail in the coffin. Believe me, guys who are not into guys, dig Clooney, and Julia is Americas sweetheart. Enough of the prologue, lets cut to the Chase (Manhattan)…

 

The review

 

There are scores of movies made on Wall Street and this is no different, but this starts with a comedy, where Clooney is Jim Cramer of Mad Money. I jump out of my chair cheering for Clooney for mocking Cramer (the bastard of Wall Street – no regrets on calling that), while the humor continued on the screen, I am wondering is this the movie where Clooney is Austin Powers of  Michael Douglas’s Wall Street with Julia as his sidekick, his voice in the ear. That comedy ends soon when on air Clooney is taken hostage by an unknown delivery guy(Jack O’Connell). Julia helps Clooney get thru the crisis while staying in his ear all the time. Finally the camera moves out of the studios and lands with the protagonist on the Main Streets of Manhattan for all those moviegoers to guess the streets while the camera pans thru. The usual 99 percenters are rooting for Jack to blow the heads of Clooney, disregarding their personal safety where Clooney is strapped with Bomb vest. Talk about saving money by Jodie Foster for creating the entire movie in a recording studio,  the camera is back into the Financial Building where the real villain; CEO of public traded firm IBIS; akin to Bernie Madoff  is made to face the camera and tell the truth as to why his stock crashed 800 million in half hour, where millions had lost their nest eggs. You guessed it, the hostage taker is one of them. The villain starts off with the usual line ‘This is one of those glitches in the computer that triggered the flash selling’. Clooney’s sidekick has done some research by now and demands a real answer, turns out this wall street genius who was delivering 18% returns to his clients over decades had made one wrong bet in South Africa that had wiped out his entire portfolio.

 The movie is fast paced and don’t miss the comedy in the beginning, because thats all you get. Clooney and Julia are good but it’s Jack O’Connell who steals the show. The movie is not a block buster.

Disclaimer:Although I have worked for two decades on wall street, you might wonder am I the The Wolf of Wall Street, I am not, I am just that bitch who creates the glitch; a computer guy from the back alleys of Mumbai.


Chase Manhattan: while Clooney walks on the streets you can’t help but notice the iconic Federal Building(Gold Reserve) on one side and Chase Manhattan on the other.

Shrikant: The grinch who stole Sarang’s Christmas

This blog is from the archives, was unable to post it earlier due to legal obligations 

Rohini had committed to buying  a Black Ops 2 for Sarang, I learnt it  later that she was shopping for one – she had come to my advise as to  where to shop for it. I showed my disapproval of the same, as I had  always been against buying gun toys for our children. Till date they  had never had a toy gun ever. This was somewhere two weeks before  Christmas and Rohini hoped she could buy one for a good deal and have it shipped by Christmas.

Now I stepped in to discuss this with Sarang. Up until now I had never shopped for kids Christmas it has always been Rohini’s arena. Moment he heard that I was planning not to get him BlackOps2, he retorted vehemently, “Papa, you can’ t do that, Mommy has already promised me, now she can’t take back her word.”
“But you know, how I feel about you playing those violent games”.
“But Papa!, you can turn off the blood and bleeps off the game, all  the kids have one since two years now”.
“Well, I let you play at their houses that is big enough, besides you  are not really into that game, why buy it”.
“Well you never bought me one, how could I get better like those kids,  I am getting one this time, you cannot stop me. I have also been a very  good boy this year and you know that”.

That was true, he was a very good and responsible kid this year and I  had expressed that feeling over and over this past few months , I  never do that – why that’s a separate blog all together.

“If you have to buy it and if your Mommy has promised you, you get it,  but I don’t approve it.”
My disapproval never flies by him, it always hits him.
“That’s fine, I am still getting it”. Well I will take back my previous statement.
Looks like he was determined to have it, I was surprised why he was so  persistent, he usually never is and never likes to own/have anything  without my approval, I always persuade him my way, but it looked like  I was loosing this battle. May be he was growing up, more determined  to his choices rather depend on his parents anymore.

I made one more last effort.
“How much does it cost?”
“60 bucks”.
“60 bucks??” , I screamed.
“That’s how much a game always costs”.
I had bought him a PS3 from past 3 years but had never bought a game. Just played on trial games.
“OK, here’s the thing, would you like to listen to me”.
“What now, I am not backing off”.
“You can get it, but can you wait to buy it after Christmas, it  usually goes on sale, you can have the 60 bucks right now, and buy it  after christmas  when it goes on sale for 40 and put 20 in your piggy  bank”.
“What I will not have a gift for Christmas!”.
“I will buy something for you, for this Christmas”. I really had  thought I will buy a gift for him this year as I had felt he really  deserved one not by Santa Claus standard but my standard. Note he was always a good kid by Santa Claus standard that’s why Rohini got him one every year.

“Fine!, soon after Christmas we are going shopping and getting one,  whatever price it is”, with a sigh.
“Deal”, I said. Strike ONE.

By this time the Sandy Elementary news broke out and I was not in the mood of discussing with Sarang and associating this with violent games played by the kids, but did not want to buy him a game for sure.

“Papa, can we go to mall and get the game NOW”. Christmas had passed.
“Why would you want to buy now, you know we are going on a vacation  to Poconos and you will never get to play until we come back after new year, why not just buy then”.
“What?, fine but I am buying then, this is going on for too long.”
This was Strike TWO.

20150215_12140120150101_113751

Up on the snow mountains we had welcomed a brand new year 2013. During the vacation, I reminded him how much he loved Skiing as we  skied everyday. I slowly began to talk about the Sandy incident, he  had also learnt a lot from his teachers at school by this time.
“Why would you want to buy BlackOps2 now, when you know that it is all over the news that these violent games are leading to this aggressive behavior”.
“But Papa, there was some crazy guy who took up the guns and did a  terrible thing, not all kids who play guns game end being violent.”
“No not really, but it only aids,”, I said.
“But the people who go into military also use guns, so do cops, it is  like practicing to be one.”
“I know, I will buy the game in future, it is also rated “Mature”, may be when you become 12 or 13, just lets not buy it now when the sentiments are flying so high in the media”.
“No, I am still buying it, all my friends have it and you know it”.
“I know, but they already had it from past year or two, just buying it  now is not a good idea after this news has come out, hold it back for  some more time, you can keep playing at your friends place.”
“No Papa, NO, I am still buying it when we go back home.”

I thought now I had lost it. I was really surprised that he was so  persistent on getting it. This had never happened earlier except to  one time. He was five years old I had taken him to grocery shopping  one evening, a regular grocery shopping father and son, then go back  home. As we were walking to the checkout he noticed a small mattel car on the shelf.
He went, “Papa, I want it”.
You just don’t buy it because he wants, “No put it back”.
“Papa please, I want this car”.
“No we just don’t buy something when we find something in the store”.
“But papa, please I want THIS car, please…”.
“You have lot of cars at home”, I had got 20 car set for him.
“But papa, I want this car”, It was purple in color, I found nothing  appealing about it.
I said, “No put it back”.
“Papa please I am getting it”, he walked towards the checkout.
“Put it back,” I demanded. Tears started rolling, he pleaded.
“This one time papa, I will never ask for anything again”.
“You can’t come in the store and cry and demand for things, I not  buying it period.” it was costing less than 5 dollars.
He started rolling on the floor and cried for it as I put it up on  the shelf. Rolling on the floor was new to me. It baffled me, he had never done that before, but there is always a first time. I picked up the toy and asked him to get up and we walked to checkout. He wiped his tears as he carried the toy car to the parking lot.  Moment I buckled him in the car seat, I yanked the car from his hand  and told him that I will be returning this back to the store and he is not getting it. He cried all the way to home begging please and how badly he had needed it. I had listened to none of that.  We came home and he narrated to his mom about the incident and she told that it was alright to have him that car. I said, I am not buying  that, he had rolled on the floor in the store.  He begged again he would do anything to have that car. I said to him then I would place this car up on the shelf for a week and he not watch TV and be a good a listener for a week then he would get it back. He  accepted the deal. A week passed long story short he had earned the toy. Later I learned that it was a purple car from CARS movie and it  was fairly a rare find as per his friend who had it in his class. Did I feel bad, YES I did.

Now coming back to this day, I was sensing the same for BlackOps2,  else he would not do it. But I was determined to sway him away from  it, for Sandy news – at least for now, I had seen Fiscal Cliff gaining  steam in the media.

Vacation was coming to an end, it was very joyful for him, I still had in the mind that I am not supposed to buy him when we got back home. He on the contrary was making plans to play with his friends when he got home.

One more deal, as we drove back home.
“Sarang, how about I buy you  a snowboard, instead of BlackOps2”.
Snowboard was his favorite even though I had insisted him to practice  more of skies before he moved on to snowboard.
“Nice try Papa, I am sticking with BlackOps2”.
Rohini chimed in, “Sarang, think about the deal he is offering,  BlackOps2 costs 60 and snowboard costs at least 300”.
He thought for a minute…
“Papa, can I pick any snowboard I want in the shop?”
My eyes lit up, ” Sure you can”.
‘”Nah! I still want BlackOps2, I can keep doing skiing for now”.
Some more persuading went from his mommy, then he thought for few more minutes and asked, “Can I put some more demands with the snowboard?”

I put my poker face and said to him sternly, “Dude, you won’t get
this deal again and again,  I will give you till end of the day, you come up with your demands, we sign a contract, then it is  deal, else get going with your BlackOps2”.
“I want snowboard and some more what do I need to do”.
“When we get home you write up a contract between you and I and we will stick with that”.
“What does that mean?”
“That means you write what you want for giving up BlackOps2, I will look at the contract make some amendments to suit my conditions, we both agree then we sign at the bottom, that will be the contract, if you fail to stand by that then you get nothing and if I fail then I will have to provide you both the BlackOps2 and your snowboard”.

It looked like a deal to him, there was no further discussion until we reached home. He went straight writing his needs in the contract and later I made my amendments to the contract. Attached is what we agreed and signed upon.

SarangFirstContract

For now it looks like I have pushed it to July 2014. we are just barely welcoming 2013 – who has seen July 2014, I will deal with it then. Strike THREE, you are out!

As of date its Sep 2015, hope Sarang does not read this blog

Sarang and Madhav Skiing Video

No Bears in Yellowstone National Park

Tourists complains park authorities to train bears – News

Ironically we were there during the same time this person posted the note of not seeing the bear in Yellowstone National Park. I just hope it is just a cute note to tickle the funny bone, not a serious complaint against the Park authorities. That’s the beauty of nature, does not matter how expensive your trip maybe, you could see wild animals or not. I personally was evry disappointed that we could not see a single Moose in the park, although we spotted one in Jackson Hole, on our drive to Yellowstone. Fortunately we saw tons of Bisons our way, so much so that a couple wandered in our Parking lot of Grand Canyan. Bye the way, we did not see any bears either 😦20150812_135714 20150812_140159

What did the mother buffalo say to her child who was going to school, “Bison”

Fortunately we have The Old Faithful geyser that goes off every hour and quarter approximately, maybe the bears could learn something from this 🙂