Sunday, July 22, 2012

Roja Jaaneman Paradigm Shift Cover/Tab

This is my own rendition of the Roja Jaaneman cover that Paradigm Shift did at blue frog. I just tabbed out the basic melody because I've been getting so many messages on youtube asking for the tab. I transposed this by ear and you should too! But I thought this would give you a nice starting point to figure out the rest of the song. In the sixth section of this tab, I played the "Roja jaaneman, tu hi mera dil, tujh bin tarse" part differently in the video. In this tab I added slides instead of flat notes because it gives a more authentic feel I think. Here's the video for reference and the tab directly below. Cheers. 

I tried copy pasting it here, but the formatting is askew. So I'm just going to post a download link.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ride to Nandi Hills


I had a beautiful Saturday. I completed my first ride since moving to Bangalore. It was the second time I rode with BK and the destination was Nandi Hills. It's funny how everything got underway and the impulsivity was typical of the particular hue of friendship that we share. BK, I and Akash drank together on Friday and Akash was leaving on the morning of Saturday to Nandi Hills on his first long distance cycle ride. He had never ridden for more than 30 kilometers and that was the entire triplog both ways. This ride was at least 70 kilometers one way. I had shared my apprehensions with him and asked him to pick a closer destination, but again, as is typical of all of us together and each one of us individually, he paid no heed and decided to go anyway. I murmured expletives in my own head, and a silent prayer, and resigned myself to the fact that the bald fool would actually undertake this arduous endeavor. BK and I were woken up early in the morning by Akash and through the ocher haze of dying inebriation we managed to convey our good wishes and revisited the unconscious state of slumber in an effort to bridge the lacuna of restless somnolence with a few minutes of blissful oblivion. BK left for college later on and I was left at home to my own devices.

 I decided to cook us some lunch and hastily prepared some sub par Paneer Butter Masala and a cheese omelette. BK got home some paranthas and we had an indolent lunch together.  After lunch and a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory we were lazing around and I floated the idea of making the ride to Nandi Hills to go meet Akash. One of us suggested that we should surprise him and then we got down to discussing logistics. I think it was I who suggested that we take both bikes and invite a couple of girls as well. We called AR first and she picked up on the second try. She was sleeping and as soon as I told her about the plan her response was, "Mereko bhi jaana hai!" I said, "Call kisliye kiya lag raha hai tumhe? Bataane ki liye ki hum jaa rahe hai?!" And that was that. BK spoke to AG and she was on board as well. We decided to meet the girls in half an hour near their university and we left for BK's PG to pick up his riding gear. We rode straight to the rendezvous point after that and found the girls waiting for us there. 

 I was meeting AG for the first time. I had heard a quite a lot about her but nothing you hear about someone prepares you for the first time you meet them. The reality of the first meeting is a fire cleansing the piece of the slate you've reserved for that person. Right up to that moment all you have are barely legible scrawls and the first meeting is the beginning of a work of calligraphic script imprinted onto the slate, sometimes in delicate, affectionate strokes, and sometimes, blunt, erosive lacerations. It is the gospel of imperfect perception, painted in the vivid colors of subjectivity carefully done in accordance with the intransigent fickleness of the merciless atelier; your mind. I am a bundle of gaffes when meeting new people. I've made some progress through the years but I have a lot of residual social anxiety within me and this leads to some embarrassing situations. BK introduced me to her and I said, "Hello" and when she repeated the same looking at me, a shiver of fear ran through my heart and I looked about in all directions, unable to maintain eye contact. A few minutes later, we decided to start the ride and I was putting on my jacket and gloves and I thought I heard her say my name. I looked at her questioningly and she returned a confused gaze. I stared at her for two seconds before I realized that she had said nothing and I wanted to bury my head in the ground, so much for first impressions. AG was to ride with BK and I got AR to myself and we began riding towards the airport road in the most humid of conditions. The ride was underway. 


We hit traffic right from the outset of the ride. As we passed through dairy circle, wilson gardens and lalbagh gardens we hit stop-and-go traffic and it was a painful experience to be riding that slowly in such humidity. The heavy riding jacket did not help matters in the least and I was under some duress navigating the sea of vehicles and unnecessarily stentorian noise of all the horns together. I think every idiot on the road has his own brand of belief in magic. He truly believes that the sound of his infernal horn will magically turn the red light to green and the vehicles in front of him will part, leaving a single straight path for him. I don't know what reinforces this inanity but one can only presume, after being subjected to such a racous din, that their belief borders on faith. We were in the vicinity of Brigade Road I think, when the rain poured down in a hurry. A slight drizzle turned into heavy rainfall and drenched us thoroughly. And no more than 10 minutes later, it was all done. I questioned the motives of this truly purposeless and unscrupulous rain and sullenly carried on. We got a little lost and ended up at Commercial Street, but somehow managed to pull our heads together and head in the right direction after all. Near the ITC windsor bridge, the rain hit us again and this time it was harder and longer. The wind and the rain made it difficult to see and my breath was fogging up my visor and I was forced to proceed extremely cautiously. We made it through and got onto the airport road and it was smooth sailing from then on. We had agreed that the cruising speed would be 70 KMPH and we adhered to this, mostly because the conditions would not allow us to go faster. AR was a little jumpy at first because she was extremely apprehensive of speed, but she settled into it and she was a good pillion to be riding with. 

We had to endure crawling traffic, a multitude of traffic signals, a rally, and saddlesoreness before we finally found ourselves at the turn to go to Nandi Hills. We rode up to the train crossing and passed them when AR wanted to take pictures, and more importantly, what is known in the biking community as, a 'Butt Break'.  I decided to call Akash to see where he was so that we could set him up for the surprise. He answered the call and I heard the sound of a highway and I asked him where he was. He told me that he had already left for Bangalore and was 20 KMs away from Nandi Hills onto the airport road. He also added that there was no point in making the ride up to view point because the cut-off for vehicles was 6:00 PM beyond which no vehicle would be allowed onto the ghat roads. This was a bit of disappointing news for us and the time was 5:25 PM with close to 23 KMs left to reach the top. AR suggested that we head back, get some tea and then ride back to Bangalore. BK echoed this sentiment but AG was persistent about trying to get there in time. I agreed with her and we thought that we should at least try to make it, having come this far. We quickly got onto the bikes and raced ahead. The roads were perfect and it was very easy maintaining an even cruising speed and we took the turn to get onto the ghat roads.

Every biker worth his salt loves the mountains. The sloping curves, the steep bends and the insane hairpin curves offer an opportunity, even for the amateur biker, to feel like he's on a racetrack. Mountain riding gives you the opportunity to test your skill and the moment we were on those curves, my mind screamed in silent glee as I tackled the turns. Every curve was perfect in its own way. Some hairpin bends unfolded into a steep climb and the delicate interplay between braking and accelerating contributed to an exhilarating experience. As we slowly gained altitude and passed each curve, pieces of the panoramic landscape were revealed to us. The mountain had close to 41 curves I believe; truly the dance of the  41 veils as she revealed her splendor to us. The weather was gloomy, with dark clouds and a sharp cold wind. I don't think there's better weather than that to be found anywhere. It was 5:53 PM when we reached the top and parked our bikes. We raced to the ticket counter,  suffered impatiently for a minute while the person in the stand rambled away on the phone, and finally bought tickets for the entry. We were still under the impression that everybody would be shooed out promptly at 6 PM, so we ran to the entrance, presented our tickets and stepped inside the fort with great anticipation. 


The first thing you notice as you step into the fort is a shamble of sorts to the left. The signboard said that this was Tipu Sultan's Guest House; no wonder he died, we said. It wasn't the battles, nor the pressure of being a rebellious monarch, it was cheap accommodation that got him in the end. The road leading up to the view point is a smooth one and wide enough for most cars. The policy of the place allows only cars to drive right up to the view point and all bikes have to be mandatorily parked in the space provided adjacent to the entrance. I don't quite understand this policy and will chalk it up to idiotic discrimination against the otherwise vehicled. Walking forward, you come up to the fort wall on the right and the vast landscape that lies beyond it. Still laboring under the presumption that 6:00 PM was the closing time, we raced ahead to get to the viewpoint. On the way we saw a particularly amorous couple sitting on the walls, oblivious to the crowd passing them by. It reminded me of a Telugu saying which, roughly translated, goes this way, "A cat closes its eyes and drinks milk and thinks that nobody's looking at it" We left them to make their memories and carried on. 

After ascending that incline we came to a makeshift children's play park on the left. It had the usual fare, plants, monkey bars, swings et al. There was a pile of sand at the entrance right outside the compound wall and we chose to stop here to take some pictures. BK the conqueror promptly climbed atop the mound and surveyed his kingdom and then it was time to walk forward again. At this point of time we had observed that noone was in any particular hurry to get out and we deduced that the time table wasn't really as stringent as it was made out to be. We relaxed and took our time walking up the road, reveling in each other's company, the splendid weather and vistas. No sooner had we walked on from the play park we came to a group of a tree houses constructed with bamboo. They had ladders and BK and I scurried to get into a house. It was a quaint dwelling. It offered no protection against the rain and you couldn't exactly spend a night in it unless you wanted to feel like a bohemian hobo. But the house that we got into was connected to another beside it by a walkway and both of them offered nice views. After shuffling around for a while, we took the road and found ourselves a few minutes later at the view point. 

There is no way that I can accurately depict what my eyes saw and stay completely truthful to the vision. The landscape was dotted with voluptuous hills as far as the horizon and surrounded by mist and a dense fog. There were dark clouds in the sky and and the scene looked like a benign version of Mordor or maybe the Shadow lands of Asshai. Put an army of orcs there, a dragon or two, and nothing would really seem out of place. The picture  almost seemed to lack the above. There was a small valley in between the two hills closest to us and it had a dried up lake or a pond. The pale granite bed seemed to be a reflection of the dark sky and it made for a stupefying sight. Between the fort and the hills, you could see the roads carved into the landscape, fields of varying shades of brown, splashes of green, and dwellings so tiny that all of it together made you feel like a giant surveying the life of ants. The girls stayed at the edge while BK and I scampered along the rough path, jumping across rocks and gaining momentum until we slammed against the parapet and explored. We looked over the wall and found a bottle of DSP Black and Smirnoff Vodka. Plastic and alcohol are banned inside the premises, the visitors must not have noticed. I'm a stickler for rules when it comes to monuments and such a flagrant disregard for regulations would have rendered me apoplectic but, this time, I could really empathize with the desire to drink in this marvelous setting. The altitude, the feeling of having reached the summit, the weather and the view, drinking at this place would be truly wondrous in every sense of the phrase. I only wish they had taken the bottles back with them. The waste, haphazardly strewn about over the edge of the wall, was an eyesore and I hope the authorities will consider having it removed.

As is custom and in adherence to our simian natures, BK and I monkeyed about for a while before asking the girls to join us midway on the rocks. All four of us sat there looking into the distance. The silence was broken by astray snatches of conversation but nothing could disturb the curtain of pensiveness that falls down on your thoughts in the presence of the magnificence of nature. All of us were together there but each of us was alone also, in our own slice of our own world, undisturbed, solemn, and at peace. We heard a plane flying in the sky and we looked up and saw a small toy making its way in and out of the clouds. We took a clear shot of it and then watched it disappear into the distance. We just sat there, not wanting to leave, until the sky got dark and then remembered that there was the task of riding downhill in the darkness and we left for the parking lot, savoring all the images, slightly darker now, in rewind. A drizzle started as we reached the road opposite the group of tree houses and the wind picked up. We reached the parking lot faster than we would have wanted to and put on our riding gear. It was decided that AR would ride with BK and AG would be with me this time. I experienced that small flutter of nervousness once again, but quickly suppressed it and decided that this would be unique opportunity to get to know her better. How many first meetings culminate in a 70 kilometer bike ride together? We started off, BK taking the lead, and began our descent in the darkness and rain down that curvaceous hill.


The drizzle that had started at the group of treehouses had amplified into a significant downpour. Add to this the chilly wind and the darkness, and the descent seemed to be a daunting prospect. I could not have been more wrong about this. As soon as I hit the first hairpin curve (number 38 I think it was), I realized that this was going to be a supremely enjoyable experience, much more than the ascent. The accelerator was almost forgotten and the task simply involved proper braking, hugging the turns, and approaching the curves at the right speed. AG was an ace pillion rider and she was an absolute rock. The fact that was she was comfortable with me taking the turns at the speed I was was a huge factor in how I handled the descent, and how much I managed to enjoy it. People underestimate the effect that a pillion rider has on the rider and how much they can influence the outcome in certain situations.  An incident happened later that night that strongly reinforced this knowledge but I'll get to that later. I love my bike for a variety of reasons, one of them being the fact that it has powerful headlights. BK's bike is sorely lacking in this department and he was thankful for the light from my lowbeam. It lit up the entire road for both of us and this was very useful in keeping us safe from any sort of danger, minimal as the risk of it was. The conversation between AG and I during the descent was sporadic and sparse, but the warmth of the tone made for a very amiable atmosphere. Soon, we were off the ghat roads and reached the 'Villege limit'. I'll digress for a moment here and tell you the story about these signs. When BK and I took our first ride together, we went to Shivgange and at the base of the hill we saw the exact same sign. We're both spelling and grammar nazis and coming across the same sign this far away was nostalgic in a most amusing way. So we reached the limit and we came to this small 'restaurant' and decided to stop to dry off and eat something. All of us were starving and we aspired to fulfil that cliched desire to have tea and snacks in the hills during the rain.

AG and AR went to order while BK and I parked the bikes and settled down in our plastic chairs at a table made of the same flimsy material. Getting out of the heavy, wet riding jacket was bliss and I sighed in content as I sat down. The undercooked pakodas were first to arrive and we ate them with heavily diluted tomato and chili sauce. The snacks were miserable but not a single one of us complained. We were perfectly happy scarfing it all down. Then the 'finger chips' arrived, dripping with oil and looking like a nightmare. They tasted how they looked and they were polished off at great speed this time as well. With our bellies full, we sat there for some time talking to each other and resting. I observed a particularly frenetic card game going on among three locals and the table opposite to us changed two couples in the duration as well. And then it was time to leave. None of us were particularly excited to be leaving Nandi Hills but there was no other option and we pulled out of the parking and set off again. 

We had to go through the 'villege' road to get onto the highway and it was easy enough with it being dead straight and mostly empty. We were able to manage an even cruising speed and there was no rain either. I started talking to AG and this time it was a full conversation; as light as a conversation can be. The conversation distracted me from the distance and proved to be a gentle aside from the ride itself. We got onto the highway soon and then it was a redundant riding experience. The roads were so free to ride upon, the weather so pleasant, and AG such a good pillion rider that I forgot that I was riding with BK. I throttled upto 80 kmph and I was lost in my mind whizzing past in bliss. There was one harrowing moment though and I could not be more grateful to have come out of it unscathed. 

We had reached the outskirts of Bangalore and I was riding at 70 kmph and a crossing came into view. The signal was red and were were riding in the middle lane. A car had found itself behind a lorry on the extreme right lane and the driver was impatiently waiting for the signal to change so he could get back to the correct lane and proceed. Right as we approached the crossing no more than 50 feet away from the car, the driver suddenly swerved to the left and started moving. I instinctively hit the brakes as hard as I could and drifted to the left and we missed the car by a few feet. AG was thrown onto me but she somehow kept her balance and both of us were safe. My heart rate was spiked and my head was an absolute mess. I was torn between guilt and anger. It doesn't matter whose fault it is on the highway. The rider always feels responsible for the events that transpire. I let loose a string of abuses as the other car sped off and I was shaking with anger when AG patted my back and asked me if I was okay. I turned around and asked her the same and her calmness steadied me absolutely. As I said before, the pillion rider decides the outcome often. I'm not saying that I would have crashed if it was another girl riding pillion with me in that moment, no. You cannot call it that way. A thousand variables are involved in that fraction of a second and you can never really pin the difference between life and death down to one specific reason. What I will say though, and I'm sure other bikers will agree, is the fact that the pillion has a tremendous role to play in how the ride goes on after the incident in question. A nervous, anxious, or skeptical pillion can poison the rider's mind and infect him with doubt. I'm glad I had AG with me then. Her reaction to the incident and taking it matter of factly helped me take the incident in proper perspective and carry on in the same way that I had prior to it. In a way, the incident functioned as a terrifying icebreaker. Only, it didn't just break the ice, it sublimated it. Two people who face a dangerous situation together have their personal walls torn down as a result. After the brush with the possibility of a horrible accident, both of us were extremely relaxed and we conversed for the rest of the way. 

We had a few other incidents occur on the way back. A jeep sped through a puddle and drenched us with muddy water, mindless pedestrians imparted a fright or two, and we hit a few bumps that jarred our bones. But everything was taken in its stride and we had an overall amazing evening/night ride back to Bangalore. We were exhausted by the time we got back and the girls decided to stay over and drink before turning in. We greeted Akash, the man of that hour, for having successfully completed his journey and he seemed fine, exhausted, but physically fine. We got to my house, made some food, opened up some beers and talked endlessly. The mute revelry went on till the early hours of the morning and we went to bed inebriated and exhausted but absolutely elated. In a single day I went on a ride to an amazing place, made a new friend, AND drank happily. It truly was an incredible Saturday. I can't wait for another ride now, life seems simpler when the destination is etched out clearly and it is those small destinations that offer us a sliver of comfort in the bigger picture of life where neither destination nor road is certain, and it's not really that much fun either.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A night ride to freedom

I am in Bangalore now. I've been here since 8 AM on Monday. Sunday was a mad rush with me packing all the bags in a hurry and dropping them off at the cargo transportation service at 8 PM. I was supposed to leave at 4 AM in the morning after sleeping for a little bit but this politician got arrested by the CBI on a multitude of charges and as all perfidious people seem to nowadays, he had his throngs of followers ready to instigate disaster. Paramilitary forces were deployed in the city and the borders were quickly being manned. I figured that I had a few hours before all of this would come together and if I needed to circumvent all this, I had to leave straight away. So I hastily put on my riding jacket, knee guards and armored gloves, slung my guitar on one shoulder and the laptop on another and started riding towards Bangalore.

The first fifty or hundred kilometers went smoothly. The weather was almost perfect. I was riding on smooth tarmac and there were vast expanses of lush green fields on either side. I could not perceive color quite obviously but the breeze blowing through them suggested to me a scene of utter fecundity and tranquility. The baggage that I was carrying was hurting my shoulders so I had to stop after 70 kilometers. My usual policy is to stop after every 200 kilometers but these were extenuating circumstances I told myself and I stopped to rest for a while. This continued through the ride with me stopping every 100 kilometers on average. Sometimes it was 114, sometimes it was 90 but every time I stopped to rest it felt like a 'Sweet Jesus' moment. The bike's seat is rather uncomfortable and when you get off it, you feel rather saddle sore and step around gingerly hoping that nobody notices that you've been a victim of sodomy. Towards the latter half of the ride I started feeling quite sleepy and the fatigue coupled with the sleep deprivation of the night before acted in a synergistic manner on me and brought a crippling sense of fear to my heart. I was more than halfway away from home in pitch dark on a highway that was eerily empty. I had no option but to persist and this led to quite an interesting first. I experienced my first hallucinations. 

I don't know, first of all, if they can be called those. Whatever they were, they contributed to a harrowing experience. They were imperceptions I suppose, illusions caused by the darkness playing tricks on my weary mind. Oh the images, the images. I was riding at 95 kmph and to suddenly witness a woman holding a child on the side of a road in the darkness of the empty highway is nothing if not terrifying. When I rode on I discovered that it was just a pair of lights, evenly spaced out from each other, on an emergency call box. This continued for a long time and I saw many inexplicable images, having the process contributed to by my disordered imagination. I saw a man on a scooter with a female child looking blankly at me, I saw a house that had suddenly manifested in the middle of the road, and I saw innumerable carcasses. After a while I learned the ropes of it and merely let the initial shock of the image pass and rode through it. This proved to be an effective way of dealing with it but I was still very aware of the fact that in my wanton abandon I might fail to recognize the tangibility of something real and run straight into it. I managed, however. 

During all this I started getting very very drowsy as well. My eyes were fast closing and the monotony of the darkness was proving to be lethal. Once or twice, my eyes shut for a second and I almost drifted across lanes causing me to rouse with a start and focus doggedly on the road ahead of me. I did so many things to try and keep myself awake. Things that I would be mortified to reenact even under the most inebriated of circumstances. I sang continuously for two hours till my voice went hoarse. I exhausted my musical vocabulary and sung out every single song that I knew in some entirety. Key, tone, timbre and pitch were lost to the wind and all that mattered was that I was screaming out those syllables to the rushing wind as if to conjure up around me a miasmic imperative cloud dictating the homily of focus. When I was out of songs to sing, I began conversing with myself. What began as an affable introspection soon become a heated dialectic about why it was not, per se, wrong, or insane, of me to have a dialectic with myself. Both sides of me made excellent points and this sustained me for quite a while as well. Towards the later end of the ride I also became my worst task master barking out orders and simultaneously delivering moving inspirational speeches designed to keep my eyes on the road and keep me going. 

Despite all this, at about 5 AM, when I was close to 131 kilometers away from Bangalore, I started breaking down and seriously considered stopping at the side of the road somewhere and falling asleep. Just then, I spotted a petrol pump and I hastily pulled in to fill the tank up. I reasoned that this would give me some time to settle my nerves and rest my body and mind. I had failed to take into account the first light of dawn being a few minutes away and when I pulled my bike out of the pump it felt like the curtain had been drawn and the world lay before me in all her splendor. The first rays of light seemed to obliterate my fatigue and put the soporific effect of the kilometers behind me and I was a new man. Not bound by the restraints of encumbered vision, I proceeded to accelerate to 125 kmph and I was screaming my head off in the cool wind, my eyes darting to take in all the visions of the landscapes I was passing. I came to this place called Chikballapur which is about 50 km from Bangalore. It is a hilly area and viewing it in the morning light was a splendid sight. I could not describe to you what the vision entailed but I will try and do so without adulterating any of it. There were several hills on the horizon full of greenery on their slopes. And to each summit a dense cumulous cloud of mist seemed to be married. The clouds were of all shapes and sizes but the consistency of the clouds aligning themselves to the subtle contours made for a profound ocular spectacle. The clouds had descended onto the mountain in a very gentle manner, not overbearing in the least. One cloud was shaped in the form of a slug resting it's head on the summit of the mountain. They seemed to be in their twilight years of a relationship when reciprocity has been a certainty for an epoch and the promise of the togetherness is taken for granted. It made for quite a moving sight. 

The rest of the trip was rather uneventful. The weather was cool, breezy and just slightly humid. There wasn't too much traffic on the roads and I managed to reach the place that I needed to get to at about 7:30 in the morning. As I stepped off the bike, I groaned, ravaged, but very happy at having finished my first over night long distance ride. I moved to Bangalore to reclaim my independence and freedom and in many many ways the ride was quite a fitting symbolic beginning to all of it. In the space of 10 hours I experienced the entire spectrum of emotions and emerged weary but triumphant. I'm hoping the ride becomes a metaphor for life itself. Since then, I have been busying myself with setting up a household and getting my affairs in order. I drank quite a few times enjoying the weather of Bangalore. It feels good to be back on my feet again. I am in the company of friends and in the arms of a very gracious and warm city. My love is on her way here and life could not be better.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My account of the Zeb and Haniya Lahori Blues Concert

Lahori Blues Concert Today I went to Lahori Blues concert at Ravindra Bharathi Stadium where I saw Zeb and Haniya perform live in Hyderabad for the first time. The 60 minute concert was part of The Hindu Friday Review November Fest 2011. I've loved Zeb and Haniya ever since I was introduced to their music through Coke Studio Pakistan and their recent collaboration with Shantanu Moitra and Swanand Kirkire, 'Kya Khayaal Hai' was nothing short of magnificent. I was listening to Paimona at about 12:30 in the morning today and it suddenly struck me that I hadn't 'liked' Zeb and Haniya on facebook yet. This was obviously unacceptable and I did the needful instantly. I was going through their wallposts and found to my delightful surprise that they were playing at Ravindra Bharathi today at 7:30 P.M. I raced to and tried booking the tickets and was utterly distraught at the knowledge that all the tickets were sold out. I also tried the Hindu website and was starting to become very downcast when I noticed the availability of a 'Season Pass' for the November fest in I was elated for a moment but confused immediately afterwards because the information about the season pass was far from clear and I wasn't sure if it would get me into the Lahori Blues gig. I took a chance anyway (thanks to some well-timed support from Abhipsa) and booked the pass immediately. I woke up in the morning today and called The Hindu's office immediately and asked them about the season pass. The information I got lifted my spirits greatly and I was informed that I was entitled to attend the concert today and that I just needed to reach slightly early to pick up the pass and get a decent seat. I reached the venue at about 6:33 P.M and swapped my e-ticket for a season pass and then sat alone watching the incoming crowd as we all waited to be allowed into the staidum. The crowd comprised mostly students and groups of young people, but to my surprise there were also quite a few elders present in the mix. Logistical issues such as handling of ticket counters and parking was well done and people started entering the stadium at about 7:10 P.M. I brandished my pass at the guy in-charge and was ushered into the season pass section. I've never been to the Ravindra Bharathi Stadium so upon entering it I found that it was a little too small. My section barely encompassed a few rows of seats and the person present told me that I was free to sit anywhere I pleased. I looked around and selected an aisle seat at a mid-point and I deluded myself into believing that this was acoustically the best seat in the house. A small projector screen was set up in front of the curtains on the stage and a series of ads by the sponsors started playing repeatedly. The Bose ads were the best, but, after watching the ads on loop several times over I was just about ready to start shouting for the band to perform. Just then the projector was turned off and the screen was quickly disassembled and an official looking lady manned a microphone in one corner of the auditorium and started giving us some background information about the November Fest and also Zeb and Haniya. The audience patiently sat through a lot of what they already knew. By this time the auditorium was almost full and some late stragglers were edging their way into any free seats they could find. A very excitable girl and a couple of her friends had found their way next to me and were jabbering away continuously. I sighed a little too loudly but no hints found their way home and the status quo continued. Finally I heard the lady say, "Without further adieu" (there was PLENTY of adieu) and the curtains opened and we saw Zeb, Haniya, a lead guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a flautist standing amidst a very tastefully decorated stage. That's when the night took a turn for the awesome. Zeb looked gorgeous and within seconds the ensemble launched into the first song, 'Chup'. The initial impressions of the ensemble were excellent. The whole setup had a very tight feel to it and it was very well done. Zeb sounded perfect live and Haniya played magnificently alongside the other musicians. The presence of the flautist was an added bonus as he brought a completely different tone of musicality to the whole gig. Since the concert was to be wrapped up in a matter of 60 minutes the whole thing felt slightly rushed but the audience didn't really mind listening to the songs being belted one after another in quick succession. The setlist comprised a variety of songs covering a lot of moods and influences. It was an experience in and of itself listening to 'The night song', a melancholy tribute to lonely nights, one moment and in the next listening to 'Rona chhod diya', an upbeat, fast, optimistic, and carefree number celebrating new beginnings. The setlist also showcased a few unreleased songs and the judging by the response of the audience, those songs are well on their way to being a hit themselves. They covered all their classic numbers including, 'Chup', 'Chal diye', 'Rona chhod diya', 'Paimona' (twice) and 'Bibi Sanem'. They also performed a couple of covers that included a fast Turkish number. Some incredible moments included long guitar and flute solos in the middle of songs and also a fantastic percussion part in the rendition of 'Bibi Sanem'. I would have loved if they did 'Kya khayaal hai' but as Zeb pointed out, the song would have sounded right only if Shantanu and Swanand were present as well. Musically speaking, the Lahori Blues gig was one of the best that I have ever had the privilege of attending. The quality of sound was fantastic (small wonder since the title sponsor was Bose) and the whole performance was extremely professional and well done and ended with the audience on their feet clapping and hooting earnestly. I found Zeb to be an extremely charming person who had excellent stage presence. Her voice never slipped up during the 60 minutes and handled the big numbers with just as much finesse as the smaller ones. She worked within the constraints of time and never failed to talk to the audience about the music as much as possible. Her tone was very amiable and it was very insightful listening to her talk about her influences and what the songs represented. Haniya did not speak much, but when she did, I found her to be very witty and she had a wonderful voice when she sang. I would love to hear voice more often in the songs. She is an excellent guitarist and breezed through the setlist. The rest of the musicians were extremely adept as well. The lead guitarist was masterful during the solos and that led to a couple of funny moments when he was engrossed in playing a solo and Zeb mistakenly started singing thinking that he had finished his part. The whole thing didn't feel rigid at all and it was a joy to be present at the event. There were a couple of other instances to note too. Remember the excitable girl that I mentioned? Well apparently her way of expressing her appreciation was in making the weirdest noises possible. As a result I had to sit through the concert listening to, 'Oooooo', 'Whooooooo', 'Yeyyyyyyy', 'Whoaaaaaaaa', and 'Auuuuuu' among other things. I wish people would just freaking clap when they like something... There was also another hilarious moment that occurred right before 'Chal Diye' was played. Haniya was giving the audience the background of the song and talking about the inspiration of the song which was Islamabad. Describing the city she said, "Islamabad is a small city, calm, peaceful and green..." and somebody behind me said, "Haan, bomb phat ne se pehle sab calm and peaceful hi rehta hai". I almost laughed out aloud but I managed to stifle my laughter. I know it's politically incorrect but in the moment it was extremely funny. The concert represented a series of firsts for me. It was the first time I was attending a concert by female artists, the first time I was witnessing a concert that didn't belong to the rock/metal genre, and the first time I attended a concert alone. Everything worked out perfectly though and I'm glad I made it to the concert. It was a surreal experience sitting in the audience and listening to Zeb and Haniya in their element. I have no qualms in recommending them to everyone and will urge people in Delhi to go to their concert happening in Purana Quila on the 2nd of December. Go! You will love it! Their music represents the best of an eclectic fusion of music and their compositions are extremely heart warming and connect with your soul. I hope you find as much happiness in them as I do :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Six Days at Bryn Mawr

Days like today are the worst. They start out on a great note but eventually things fall apart in my head and the clock seems to count down the hours to a crushing void within me. I’ve had countless days like this in my life, some better, and more that were far worse than today. That doesn’t seem to change a thing however and every single time it feels like a stitched wound being slowly pried open. I know there’s nothing I can really do when this happens but it never stops me from trying. Today, I went to Necklace Road and stood there staring at the Hussain Sagar for a very long time. It didn’t really help me much but it brought a lot of old memories to the surface. I remembered the 6 days I spent at the Bryn-Mawr in-patient psychiatric unit.

I left for the USA immediately after the 12th grade to study in the West Chester University of Pennsylvania. I had a great first semester despite my trouble adjusting to a new culture and an utter lack of social skills. I started feeling the weight of all of it towards the end of my first semester but somehow I managed to see it through and register myself for the spring semester. I started losing energy and focus as the days progressed and depression was taking hold of me. Suicidal ideation had firmly entrenched itself within my head and every aspect of my life was in shambles. Utterly bewildered by the entire thing, I confessed to my Aunt and I was taken to the emergency room at Paoli Hospital and that’s where the little adventure began.

I was ushered into a room by an understanding looking rotund woman who spoke to me gently and asked me pointed questions about how I was ‘feeling’. I told her and she left me to go speak to my Aunt and after a few minutes of conferring, both of them came to me and the nurse informed me that I would be put in an in-patient psychiatric unit for a few days until I felt better. I was dumbstruck by this suggestion and for a few minutes all I could do was to gape at them pitifully, pleading with my eyes not to do this to me. In my head, psychiatric units were places where people with serious mental disorders were confined and I felt like I didn’t belong in such a place. Having come to the realization that they were utterly serious, I weakly protested and told them that there was no way I’d go to a psychiatric unit. The gentle lady adopted a very forceful and determined expression and bluntly told me that at this point of time I had no say in the situation and I’d be taken there, with or without my consent. I turned to my Aunt and I saw no solace there. I bowed my head and surrendered and waited for my imminent ‘transfer’ to the facility.

I was left in the emergency room while my Aunt hastily went back home, packed a bag for me, and got back. The entire hospital scene was a blur in eyes and I had shut myself off completely from all external stimuli. I just sat there blankly staring at a set of medical instruments and then my Aunt got back and the nurse escorted the both of us out to the car and told me that everything would be just fine; I wanted to throttle her. The ride to Bryn Mawr was a silent one and I spent it looking out the window at the cars passing by on the highway. A part of me refused to believe that all of this was happening and I couldn’t bear to bring myself back to reality and really experience what was going on or consider the implications of it all. And then we reached Bryn Mawr.

I don’t really remember the walk to the facility. All I remember is being in the car one moment and the next moment staring up at two huge yellow doors with reinforced looking glass and a metal grill over them. This did nothing to help my perception of the place and my heart was racing standing there at the entrance waiting to enter the fortress of gloom. We were buzzed in and a young African American nurse walked out to greet us. She had my Aunt fill some forms and then ushered her out telling her that I’d be just fine and that there was no need to worry. My Aunt turned to give me one last forlorn look and then she was gone. I felt forsaken.

My bag and I were shown to the tiny room. There was a small bed opposite to the door and a small cupboard. I noticed that sharp objects were conspicuously absent and I fell asleep; my first night at the psychiatric unit. I woke up the next day and I was taken to the psychiatrist for an evaluation. After a lengthy session the psychiatrist finally diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder Type 2 and explained to me the medication that I would be put on and then outlined to me what my next few days in the hospital would entail. He asked me if I had any questions and all I could think of was, “When can I get out?” “When it’s time for you to”, was the only reply that was forthcoming. I was officially a checked in patient of the facility.

The next couple of days were spent getting adjusted to the ways of the facility. In many respects the unit was nothing short of a prison. There was a fixed schedule with hours that one needed to strictly adhere to. There were also bars on the windows and sometimes, our rooms were searched randomly. There were activities that we were forced to participate in, therapy sessions that we needed to attend, and pathetic attempts at inspiring socializing between locked up patients. We also got good points for falling in line and doing all of these things and these good points could be redeemed later on in exchange for freedoms that the ordinary person wouldn’t spare a thought about. Initially I was stubborn and aloof but I realized that the sooner I fell in line and acted like it was all working, the sooner I’d get out so I started playing along.

I grew up with an alcoholic father and apparently this is a fairly common variable when it comes to patients of major depressive disorders so I was put in a dual diagnosis therapy group where all of us had alcoholic fathers and we sat down and talked about our feelings. I spoke about my childhood in a monotone and had everyone commiserating with me. It made no difference to me to speak about my childhood or my depression but I saw how important it was for many others to speak and more importantly, to be heard. I felt guilty a lot of times back then because of my lack of sincerity during those therapy sessions. I had art therapy, did Rorschach tests and also took the TAT (Thematic Apperception Test) among other things. I was also put on a mood stabilizer (Lithium) and an anti-depressant (SSRI) and had a blood test every day to check for the level of lithium in my blood. I played the part of a good patient and attended all the therapy sessions and took all my meds at the right time. My reward was that I could go on a supervised walk for 15 minutes around the hospital and breathe in the fresh air and feel the sunshine. Freedom was really put into perspective for me there.

A very significant aspect of my stay there was the interaction I had with my fellow patients. I had the opportunity, for the space of a few days, to get to know them through their reasons to be at the facility. There was Zoe, a waitress who was fired from her job, Frank, a middle aged truck driver abandoned by his family, Robert, a businessman suffering from neurosis, Ashley, a teenager and a cutter, Debbie, a housewife and many other people. All of us came from different walks of life and some of the experiences that I had with them have changed me for life. I’ll try to recollect some experience to shed some light on some of the minor epiphanies that I experienced there.
I first met Zoe at my dual diagnosis therapy session. She was a tall, stocky, redhead who always seemed to be smiling. At first glance she seemed utterly out of place and it was only in the sessions that I came to realize how much she was at home here. Zoe was an orphan who was shifted around a lot in foster homes and had a very fragmented childhood and adolescence. Apparently she had incidences of alcoholism occur very early in her life and she grew up to a hard life. She had always struggled with depression and she had been trying to get her life together with the job as a waitress but when she got fired, it pushed over the edge. She swallowed a lot of pills but her roommate called 911 and she eventually ended up at Bryn Mawr. She was there before me and she played a major role in helping me adjust there. She had a very dark outlook about life but she managed to find humour in it, she left a couple of days before I did and I missed her very much then. I haven’t heard of her since.

The recreation room in the unit was right opposite the dining room and it had a piano, a ping pong table, and a few chairs and tables with board games haphazardly strewn about. I first saw Frank sitting at the piano one of the evenings we were doing our activities. He was a thin middle aged man with glasses and at first glance he looked more like a professor than anything else. He was very mild mannered and soft spoken. When I got to talking to him I found out that he was a truck driver who got laid off because of his depression and he came to Bryn Mawr almost the same way I did. He told me over many conversations about his life and how his wife and children had abandoned him after they found him too tedious to put up with. He told me that he lived alone and that he looked forward to dying. The calmness with which he uttered these words will always haunt me. It was the first time I was witness to such an abject lack of hope. During one of our conversations he strolled up and walked over to the piano and started playing Beethoven’s Fur Elise. Speaking all the while, he played a little of Mozart, a little of Paganini and some Beatles to boot. My jaw hit the floor and I came to understand that he was a classically trained pianist blessed with perfect pitch. Often, after dinner I would see him at the piano playing silent notes, always lost in thoughts, a weary expression on his face. He was still there the day I left and he was very happy for me. I asked him to take care and all he said was that life would take care of him eventually. I never heard from him again.

Debbie came in a couple of days after I did. She was a thin attractive female in her late 20’s. She was very nervous initially but she warmed to me eventually after discovering that I played the guitar. She was a housewife and her husband was an investment banker and they had a son together. She told me that she had struggled with depression for a few years now and that it was affecting her domestic life. There had been huge fights within the household and she was forced into coming to Bryn Mawr. She could play the guitar as well and we did Beatles songs together in the recreation room and those moments are some of the happiest in my life. She was deemed stable and left two days before I did; the same as Zoe. Before leaving she gave me her number and after I got out of the unit I gave her a call. Her husband picked up the phone and asked me who I was, in a very rude tone. When I told him, there was silence for a few moments, and then he told me that he didn’t need Debbie to be talking to the likes of me and told me never to call again. My mind was a blank as I cut the call and in that moment I felt the full depth of the stigma that mental disorders have in society. I never called back again.

There are many more memories of the people I came in contact with there. I remember playing Ping Pong with Robert for hours on end. I remember trying to cheer up Ashley and watch her tears run down onto her scarred hands. I remember the paranoid schizophrenic lady who never bathed and stole my chocolate pudding twice. I remember the guy with delusions of grandeur; I remember another with severe OCD, and many more with debilitating depression. We played board games together, we bowled in the hallways, we enjoyed the 15 minute walks together, and each one of us suffered the pain of a farewell when we watched someone leave that day. My stay in Bryn Mawr had far reaching consequences in my life but all I can think about, even to this day, are the people I knew there. I wonder if Zoe has a job now, if Frank’s still alive even, and if Debbie is that perfect mother that she was expected to be. I hated the therapy sessions, the closed doors, the medicines, the rigid schedules, and the general atmosphere of the hospital but what I hated the most was the fact that I formed bonds with people in those 6 days and I’ll never have closure as far as they are concerned. And on days like today, the memories float up to the surface and form the black eyesore on a lake of chaos. I hate days like these...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ride Report: Bangalore to Shivagange

Ride Report: Bangalore to Shivagange (02/07/11)

Having partaken the previous day it took some effort for me to clear the mists in my head and wake up at 4:30 A.M this day. This ride was a long time in the coming for me and it was a pretty special event. This was the first time I would be riding with B.K; a great friend and an avid tourer himself. It would also be a first for the both of us in that we’d be taking female pillion riders along. We had initially planned on going to Chikballapur and covering Jaramadagu waterfalls in the same trip but we found out that the waterfalls were best in the monsoon and decided to miss it this time. I didn’t want to repeat my Kuntala Waterfalls folly and end up looking at a thin stream of water falling off of a giant rock. Our rendezvous point was Christ University where we were to pick up the girls and start off at 6. I quickly got ready and went downstairs to find that it had rained heavily in the early hours of the morning. There was still a light drizzle falling and I rode to Christ and got there to find everyone geared up and ready to go. The girls in their helmets looked especially good. We eventually started off at 6:30 A.M and began enlisting the help of auto drivers to find Yeshwantpur from where we’d take the NH4 Tumkur road to Shivagange. The rain started to get pretty heavy by the time we reached the first toll gate and we braced ourselves and rode on. We were utterly drenched by the time we reached a Karnataka State Tourism Board signboard that indicated Shivagange was 18 km away. We were elated and experiencing a fresh burst of energy we finally got off the highway and headed left towards Shivagange. The road was absolutely beautiful and the lush green rain drenched landscapes dotted with hills were gorgeous to behold. We were fortunate enough to tackle two twisties before we finally arrived at the ‘villege’ limit of Shivagange.

A dense fog enveloped the top of the hill and the trails punctuated with temples and statues viewed from afar added to a sense of mystery about the hill. We parked our bikes outside the temple and deposited our helmets at a shop right next to the entrance and set off up the steps. We reached the door of the first temple and discovered that it would open at 9:30 A.M so we decided to take the trail leading upwards. We went up the steps and saw beautiful carvings on them.

I tried to step around them but ended up stepping on most of them and we continued up the trail. After the solid steps we came to our first surprise. The steps from here on were carved out of the rock-face and had two railings on either side to help support the climbers. The steps were thin and demanded utmost care from all of us to cross. The fact that they were wet didn’t help matters one bit. We made our way slowly with B.K and I leading the climb and the girls following in our wake. The walk turned into a full blown trek later on with no steps, and mud and wet rocks to contend with. Huffing and puffing we inched our way upwards on the trail taking frequent stops at little shelters that exist to provide the climbers with a well needed break. We came across many a Nandi Statue and stopped frequently to take a breather.

The girls lagged behind for most of the climb until B.K and I stopped at a place to let them catch up. We finally made it to a place where the statues of Shiva and Parvathi were visible and these egged us on to reach a landmark and inspire a sense of fulfilment within us. None of us were really fit but a kind of stubbornness descended upon us and we made it to the temple, gasping and sweating despite the cold weather.

We thought that this would be the end of it but I noticed a trail leading still higher up the hill and I pointed it out to them. The reaction was something to the effect of, “You’ve got to be kidding me” and all of us looked at each other uncertainly. I immediately expressed my desire to reach the summit and B.K voiced the same opinion. The girls were a little uncertain but decided to tag along eventually and all of us started off yet again. The real challenge was to begin now. We had reached high enough to see the fog begin to envelop us. We crossed the temple and headed to the next part of the trail and our jaws dropped. The steps were extremely narrow and slippery and the climb looked almost vertical. Completely consumed by our desire to reach the summit, B.K and I didn’t say a word and started climbing. To reduce the chance of any mishap we used the three-point hold at all times and edged up carefully with the girls lagging far behind us. Along the way, I wondered if it was such a good idea to let the girls climb and toyed with the idea of asking them to remain behind. I didn’t voice this concern however, because I didn’t want them to feel offense, so I focused on the climb and led the way. After many slippery narrow steps, vertical rock climbs, and heart-in-the-mouth moments we finally reached level ground with a shrine.

We were above the clouds now and the visibility was poor with the fog completely enveloping us. Here, we got a call from the girls informing us that they had turned back and that they would wait for us at the Shiva and Parvathi statues for us to return. This was good news for us and now we could go on with the climb, one worry removed. We made the final run to the top without stopping and reached a ladder leading up to a Nandi Statue which is also called the Shantala Point.

Legend has it that Shantala, queen of Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana, committed suicide from this point. The steps were merely slippery footholds leading up to the statue and I decided to climb up first to test the feasibility. Climbing up was not that difficult, albeit scary. Once I reached the statue I noticed that there was a trail leading up to the temples atop the hill and I decided to climb back down to proceed to the temples. I realized, however, that I couldn’t come back down the way I climbed up because the angle was very awkward and the steps were extremely slippery; one wrong step and I’d be tumbling down the hill. I realized that I needed to step around the statue to the other side where the steps were a little more distinct. I reached the back of the statue and saw that the only way to the other side of the statue was to walk on a piece of railing that was suspended off of solid rock and hanging in the air. I prayed fervently for the railing to hold against my weight and gingerly stepped on it and in a rush of terrified frenzy ran to the other side of the statue. In hindsight, the railing was pretty strong, but the fog and the slippery conditions made me fearful of falling off the hill. It was a pretty harrowing experience, but I made it down the statue and B.K and I continued onwards to the temples.

The visibility was very low at this height and the temples set against the background of dense grey fog made it seem like we were in a ghostly dream. We experienced a tremendous sense of accomplishment and spent some time just gazing around into nothingness. It was at this point of time that we heard voices coming from a distance and realized that there were other people around. We squinted and saw that there was another part of the hill a little distance away and we could barely make it out in the fog. We figured out the way to get there and a few minutes later we were finally at the summit of the hill. The summit of the hill had two pillars and a railing running around the edges.

The fog was at its thickest and we couldn’t see anything beyond a few meters at this point. We came upon a group of college kids who had climbed up before us and waited for them to leave before we finally stood and took in the beauty and the magnificence of the atmosphere. To be standing in that dense fog, in wet clothes, and shivering in the cold imparted a feeling to us that cannot be described. It was a consummate sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that we felt there and we basked in the glory of our subjectively grand achievement.

We eventually turned our attention to the pillars and saw that they were adorned with bangles. We deduced that this was some sort of a religious tradition and took some pictures. I told B.K that it was only right to leave some mark of our coming behind and he agreed wholeheartedly. We frantically searched our belongings to see what we could leave behind and all we could find was the visiting card of one of our previous professors at the university. We secured the card to a thin rope around the pillar with the help of safety pins and had a good chuckle at the thought of someone coming across a visiting card in this spot.

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We gazed at our handiwork for a little bit before deciding to head back. The climb back down was done with the same care and we steadily covered good ground. It was easier climbing back down than it was climbing up. As we descended lower we found the steps and the trail to be drying out and we slowly made our way down. There were a few scares when I slipped slightly a couple of times but all in all, the climb down was good.

We got back to the girls a good amount of time later and found them lazing about on a rock enjoying a mango. We spared no expense in telling them about the wonderful experience they had missed out on and then took some typical touristy pictures before starting the climb down. As we climbed down lower we started noticing crowds of people making their way up the hill. We also came across monkey-infested areas.

The sun was up by now and we were able to go into the temple to try and touch the Olakala Teertha. Legend has it that only the honest and good can touch it; by that logic, all people taller than 5’8” are honest and good. The girls couldn’t reach it and we managed to, and they had to contend with us accusing them of being sinners for the rest of the trip. We also looked at the Patala Gange and then it was time to trudge down the hill and ride back home. There were large groups of people walking up the hill and there were two files; one going up and one going down. Climbing back down was remarkably easy and we enjoyed watching the beautiful landscapes as we descended. We climbed back down all the way, collected our helmets from the shopkeeper (Rs. 5/helmet), and then rode off in the direction of Bangalore. We were starving at this point of time and decided to stop at the first decent dhaba we could find. We stopped at a place called Prakash Dreams Family Garden and had an excellent lunch at a very reasonable price. Our hunger satiated we left for Bangalore and reached a little while later. The total mileage of the trip was about 129 km. Although a short ride, I would count this to be one of the best rides I’ve ever been on. We were pretty unhappy with the rain but in hindsight it was fortuitous in that we got to witness Shivagange in a different light altogether. Although we missed out on clear views from Shantala point and higher, climbing in the rain and through the fog was an experience beautiful in its own way. I had excellent people for company and this is a trip that I’ll make again in the future sometime. I only hope that it rains that day too...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ride Report: Hyderabad to Kuntala Waterfalls

Ride Report: Hyderabad to Kuntala Waterfalls (25/06/11)

I woke up at 3:30 A.M today after a series of alarms on the phone and a call from my friend who was going to be riding pillion today. After much deliberation and planning, we had decided during the week to ride to Kuntala Waterfalls and we had planned to leave at 4:30 A.M. Google maps showed the distance to be 271.1 km and this was a perfect level up for me after my Nandi Kandi and Bidar rides. I quickly threw the backup camera and batteries into the bag and I was downstairs at 4:20 A.M. My friend had already arrived and after parking his bike we left my home at exactly 4:30 A.M, right on schedule. We started from Khairatabad and proceeded in the direction of Bowenpally to get onto the NH7 towards Adilabad. Shortly out of Bowenpally we stopped at a distance sign hoarding and took a picture just to get a perspective of the distances.




I noticed that Srinagar was 2601 km away; maybe another time. The roads were mostly empty in the morning and the highway was very smooth after Medchal. NH7 is one of the best highways I’ve had the pleasure to ride on and the ride was effortless until Kamareddy. We stopped for a short break to have some tea and relax for a bit.





After Kamareddy, heavy road work was being done and the roads were atrocious at some places. A single lane became a two-way road and it was broken up in many places. I had been cruising at about 85 kmph until this point but I was forced to cut my speed down to 45-50 kmph. After a good amount of riding like this we got back onto the highway and the ride was fun once again. But no sooner had we gone a little distance on the highway we came upon the diversion to our first stop; Nirmal. My pillion rider was suffering from a severe case of saddle soreness and he leapt off the bike the moment I stopped in front of a hotel. We went inside and had some breakfast and discussed our options to get to Kuntala. We could either go back the way we came and get on to the NH7 or we could ride through Nirmal and on the ghat road and join the highway. We ultimately decided to take the ghat route and left shortly after. The road leading up to the ghat route wasn’t that great but I could keep up a speed of 70 kmph so I wasn’t that bothered. It was a bittersweet moment getting onto the ghat road for me.





On one hand the ghat road offered beautiful overcast views of the scenery, but on the other hand, the road was absolutely horrible and had huge potholes. I couldn’t go any faster than 40 kmph and I had to ride really carefully to avoid all holes and broken up parts of the road. We found lots of monkeys on the sides of the road and we got to take a picture of a mom and her baby after much coaxing. Our pain was relatively short lived and after about 22 kilometres we re-joined the main highway and it was happy riding till Neredikonda. I remembered the directions from Google maps and decided to stop and ask for directions and I’m glad we did. There is no sign indicating the way to Kuntala and one needs to get off the highway at Neredikonda and take a right at the underpass to get to the waterfalls. The 13 km long road was narrow and bad and passed through a couple of villages into the forest and finally to the waterfalls. We reached at about 9:45 A.M and found that we were the first and only visitors there apart from a couple of lethargic villagers. Witnessing our arrival one of them quickly hurried up to us and offered to show us to the waterfalls.


We accepted his offer and he took us down the steps to a lookout post and gestured towards the waterfalls with a flourish. Kuntala waterfalls are supposed to be the highest waterfalls in Andhra Pradesh falling from a height of 45 m. It was a great moment of disappointment for us however; when we turned to look we found not waterfalls but merely a thin stream of water flowing down 45 meters of rock. We demanded an explanation and the ‘guide’ told us that the rains hadn’t come and this place would be much better in August after the full flow of the monsoons.


We had planned to spend an hour or two at the falls, but after looking at the stream, we were pretty clueless about whether to turn back or go down the 400+ steps to see the ‘falls’ up close. Eventually cognitive dissonance took over and we decided to go down to find something that would redeem the falls. The guide told us that he had no interest walking down the steps and asked for some money. We gave him a little and began our descent down the steps. The steps are huge and paved in dried leaves, twigs and all manners of cigarette boxes, empty alcohol bottles and gutka wrappers. We made our way down and looked at the little pond and from this spot the height of the waterfall was a little more apparent and we were cursing each other for going this early. The whole atmosphere was very serene however, and we sat there just enjoying the surroundings and listening to an obsessive compulsive bird methodically chirping every 5 seconds.




After about 20 minutes we decided to turn back and head home. Climbing the steps was torture for both of our unfit selves and we were gasping by the time we reached the parking lot. We braced ourselves for the ride back and made our way past the same roads to get back onto the highway. We debated going back to Nirmal to buy some handmade toys but ultimately decided against it and pressed on. After a while both of us noticed a dam in the distance and in my mad search for some sort of water body I decided to get off the highway and go in the direction of the dam. It was the Shri Ram Sagar Dam and it was a sight for sore eyes when we finally got there. The sky was still overcast and a strong wind was blowing and this only served to accentuate the beauty of the Shri Ram Sagar.




There was a lone fisherman fishing out in the lake and we spent some time just looking at the water before heading back to the highway. We stopped at a dhaba along the way and had an extremely tasty and fulfilling meal which cost only Rs. 188; nothing beats dhaba ka khaana! Bracing ourselves for the final (or so we thought) run we clambered onto the bike and rode on. After passing the horrible roads and getting onto the highway I began to get pretty impatient and also wanted to test my 220 a little bit, so I gunned the throttle. The rush of power was incredible and the bike immediately accelerated to 120 kmph. I decided to push things a little bit and after coaxing the throttle I managed to reach 132 kmph, with a pillion ride weighing 70 kilos. I didn’t dare go any faster because I was extremely apprehensive about some person crossing the highway so I settled for cruising in the 100-110 kmph range. About 70 km from Hyderabad, my friend couldn’t bear to sit on the seat any longer and asked me to stop the bike so he could give his butt some long needed relief.


We stopped in a truck lay bye and rested for a while and then left again. The ride was fun till Medchal where we hit some traffic and after Medchal the road was filled with speeding idiots, so I just hung back and rode steadily and we reached my house at about 6:00 P.M. The trip meter reading was 560.9 km and we were absolutely beat. We barely managed it up the stairs and needed a long rest to recover. All in all, the ride was pretty awesome and I’m glad I took it. For the next ride, we’re planning to towards Kurnool and I’m going to try and see if I can do anything about the rock hard seats. I don’t want my gluteus muscles to suffer permanent damage riding the 220 so something will have to be done. Until then, cheers!