1990-20** : Not so uneventful after all.

Going through the various debates, discussions running across every avatar of accessible media makes me feel that I am witness of something significant, never mind the magnitude of that significance. This does feel quite good after a decade of complaining about the stagnation, uneventfulness and lack of excitement among the perils of being born and alive in modern India. Whether or not AAP’s political career is able to sustain itself beyond its thunderous beginning and subsequent rapid downslide, it  needs to be given due credit  for bringing a huge change in the political scenario. For once, it is a battle of agendas much beyond the usual sops promised to minorities and underrepresented classes. AAP came up with its set of appealing promises. Rival parties sent their human and animal investigators to rip each shred up leading to micro examinations of subsidies, policies no one cared about before. Each contender wants to now portray itself as the most progressive one to look out for in the near future, notwithstanding unimpressive previous track records. Even amongst our lot, the act of taking political sides and going into depth to establish a logical ground behind choice definitely has brought  a lot to the table.

Brainstorming for logic behind Movie preferences

Does the standard of living of the general public decide the genre of movies that rule the theatres? Having ,for long, resigned to the possibility of a decline of taste, patience and cultural ignorance among the masses, I had given up hopes of finding absolutely any point in defense of their preference of movies like Chennai express, Dabangg, R..Rajkumar etc. But there actually could be one.

It is arguable why one would want their entertainment, the source of distraction from life’s troubles, to  bring them back to what they left behind at their homes. The availability of time to devote purely to think freely, randomly or pointedly for that matter, thinking as an exercise really, is probably not something that most can afford for themselves. Mundane uneventful lives, cobwebs of emotional and financial trappings incite desires to escape to a different world- a fantastic world-where problems are few but exciting and their resolutions are sources of successive adrenaline rushes. A desire to be transported to a world of fantasy- whether its game of thrones, lord of the rings, spiderman, superman for the ‘intellectuals’ or Chennai express, Rajkumar for the simpletons. It basically all boils down to the same thing. One is basically craving for moments, albeit transitory, of oblivion. Thought provoking movies, in this context, either are ignored as too taxing on the brain or are through a series of procrastinations, saved for a day that probably exists in a parallel universe. 

Everyday being spent in the pursuit of a purpose in life

It is in no way a free world. It is by no means a menial task to rise above the fetters that are cobwebbed all around you. Every move you make, there will be a flock of wise men who’d seek you out to explain why one must step back immediately and make amends. Also, why he must never venture out again without their prior consultation. There are scripts. Scripts written by men-folk who luckily arrived on the planet earlier (but unluckily couldn’t enjoy the luxuries made possible by themselves and their contemporaries). Those scripts are boons for the faint-hearted who like their lives smooth and easy. In peace they are too. But unfortunately, a few, and that’s the sad part, only a few find their peace in turbulence. Of them are the smaller and rarer few who find it easy to relinquish the strings of emotion and passion that seem to hold you down. The other few are the ones who live the hardest lives. For them to triumph in their pursuit of purpose and subsequent happiness, the amount of energy and effort required is immense to say the least. Nor do they want to hurt the tender hearts of those who hold them tender strings, nor do they want to fade out , living a scripted life, and god forbid, die purposeless. May the unseen forces of this world aid these souls and help them rise, they would turn out to be the most valuable of all players, given the right tilt.

This and That in Pune

1. That extra bit of an effort to hoist above the ever so welcoming mattress, getting past the uncertainty of reaching the intended destination starts getting its deserved accolades even before reaching the goal post once inside the Pune University campus. The walk through the wilderness while discovering multiple paths within, all equally inviting was culminated at the university canteen- the one under the huge banyan tree and opposite the desolate looking Sanskrit department. We didn’t seem to the only ones taking the nature trail as we crossed many a jogger huffing and puffing their way through the woody alleys. Though I’ve been there twice now, both in the month of December, an acquaintance slipped in the temptation of venturing out here in the monsoons when the bare twigs are all encased in moisture and leaves. Quivering tastebuds incited by the gently alluring aroma are more than satiated with a plate of hot and piping idli/vada/poha/upma and a cup of tea.
2. Good luck cafe- another of our favorite hangout places in Pune. You can’t help but love the commotion interwoven with the aroma. There are waiters specifically allotted to tables, and no matter how hard you holler, no other waiter will pay heed to you. So one’s got to be patient and wait for his majesty to pay u a visit. I’ve tried Irani chai, a few vegetarian dishes, roomali roti, mutton keema, chicken tikka, and fruit funny and caramel pudding among the desserts. They’ve got an amazing variety for nonveg, I’m yet to exploit it to its full potential.
3. The Chaturshinghi temple hill is also something that I’d recommend to people, the charm being the serene peace that surrounds the place. After the temple visit that requires a climb of say, a 100 steps, it is worth it to climb a few more and secure yourself a clean and comfortable spot on the hill. Early mornings and late evenings are undoubtedly the best times to perch yourself atop the hill and enjoy the view of Pune.
4. The Dagru Sheth temple at Laxmi Nagar is charming, to say the least. The magnificent temple afloat on a sea of humanity dazzles away to glory, looking its best during Ganesh Chaturthi. Laxmi Nagar is the place to be for the taste of every festival- I’ve seen two there-Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali. Specially for people living in the outskirts of Pune where the festive environment is pretty cold, Laxmi Nagar vibrates. Love how there’s a street dedicated to every possible ware, one for books, one for steel, one for gold, another for sarees and so on and you get a variety of price and quality, enough to obfuscate even the seasoned buyer.

Anything on a daily basis can get suffocating. Even sleep.

Ankitadasgupta's Blog

Thought I’d ask for a little more time
But, I’m not sure how long it’d take
to live it all over again..
Tried counting them all up, i did
Counting the moments of joy
But all in vain..
A little help i need here, my friend

A moment to lie on the grass with you again
staring at the sky
soaking up the sun
thinking of nothing
nothing at all
nothingness at its blissful best

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Forest of the Sal

Corbett National Park

The journey from Noida to Ramnagar took us roughly about 5 hours. This was of course, minus the stopovers we’d planned we’d take en route. Damaged and stretches of roads still under construction gobbled up minutes. A seemingly never-ending ride to the resort-Corbett woods took us through stretches of the forest interspersed with villages, just two in fact- the only streetlights in those 4 kilometers of darkness. Its always an advantage, being put up away from the commercial area in any tourist place. Corbett is no exception. This advice holds for those who aren’t amongst the lucky ones who’ve booked the forest rest houses, which need to be booked much in advance, not a plausible option for those who plan trips at the last moment.

The very well advertised dhela river is only but a seasonal stream which was largely dry when we arrived in april. This and the other hundred streams in that area flood their banks in the monsoons- june-october, months when the park is closed for visitors.

Corbett woods is a real nice place to stay. The hotel manager’s an over-eager fellow who speaks in a strange accent and works up to a sweat with every sentence. The rooms are large and the food (buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner) is amazing.

20 kms to dhangari gate, the starting point of the safaris to the dhikala zone (the core jungle area). We visited the dhangari museum there which houses a few tiger, leopard and elephants which were either found killed or were shot dead and were later preserved by taxidermy and kept in this museum. The place had the look and feel of a typical neglected government museum that could do with a bit of maintenance.

We also stopped at garjia temple on our way back to our hotel, which is atop a rock smack in the middle of the river bed of kosi. There is a bridge and a flight of stairs leading upto the shrine. From atop the bridge we could see schools of mahseer, which were in plenty.

By the time we were on the stretch of road connecting ramnagar to the village dhela, where we were put up, it was pitch dark. It was quite thrill traveling those 8 kms on an empty road, no street lights and dense forest on both sides. Adding to the effect were the incidences of python, elephants and tigers having been spotted on the very same road. Staying away from the commercial zone that way , we figured, is actually a blessing. We had a good chance of spotting wild animals in and around the place we were put up. The hotel manager over a game of pool, told us about how these resorts and the villagers nearby are terrified of tuskers attacking the fields of wheat and sugarcane. It was a useful bit of information, since right next to our room was a patch of wheat farmland where a day ago, a tusker was spotted. The villages beat their drums and fire airguns as a warning shot to scare them away and also alert the other villagers. In fact while im typing this out, ive already heard three airgun shots. I scrambled to the reception in my pyjamas asking him if there were any tuskers spotted nearby that we could see, also pleading him to awake us at any time of the night in case of a sighting.

Just before dinner, we also took a short ride in our car accompanied by a guard, to the jhirna gate. The hotel manager had suggested we go there for a lucky spotting of wildlife. We were rewarded with a sylvette and three deers. The spotted deers, all females took a good look at us before scurrying off in the dark.

Day 2: Jungle day

Woke up to the calls of peacocks and ‘jai jagdeesh hare’ from a devotional household in the neighbourhood village. It was about six and pretty chilly outside. The lingering regret of not being awakened in the middle of the night to spot wild animals straying near our resort was shoved away by plans of driving down to kalagarh via the jhirna gate to try our luck at spotting some wildlife. We went by the same route as on the night before, and this time entered the jhirna gate. The road to jhirna gate is very picturesque, papa said it reminded him of roads in the black forest of germany. The road was wide and well maintained with huge expanses of farmland on both sides, outlined by the shivalik foothills. A struggle to find change for the entry fee (Rs 12) and short discourse on how not to stray into certain paths later, we set off on a rather bumpy ride. The plan was to actually go upto the kalagarh dam which was about 20 miles from our resort. Little did we know that we would actually be passing through the jhirna zone, the same route taken by the other jeep safaris. We realized two things – one, that we would actually going through the forest instead of a bypass road, also that private vehicles are allowed inside this forest zone. I don’t suppose many people knew that either judging from their looks of surprise followed by jealosy on spotting us seated comfortably inside our car.

Spotted cheetal, we saw in plenty. The females scampered away however quiet and still we tried to be. Later of course, we came across a rather indifferent baby cheetal who without minding us much, went about his business of muching leaves and coaxing a langur to play with him. We also spotted a full grown male cheetal who gave us an angry stare, but gracious enough to hold that look long enough for us to take a snap. Quite often we found a peacock blocking the path with his efforts to please its opposite sex, peacocks in their full glory. We also spotted a couple of wild boars and another animal which looked like a fox from a distance.

We didn’t really go upto the kalagarh dam since the government babu who’s supposed to issue us the permit for it wasn’t expected until 11 on a Sunday morning. None of us minded that much though, after the very fulfilling ride through the jhirna zone of Corbett. We later were told that our permit was only a thoroughfare ticket across the zone without permissions to wander into paths inside the jhirna zone or stop the vehicle anywhere in between. In fact, to keep a check on the vehicles coming in and out of the zone, they put down the time of entry at one gate and expect the car to exit within 45 minutes from the other end. The friendly guard however acknowledged us as first time visitors and excused the extra 45 minutes. 😛 He also told us about permits being issued at the charge of 100 per head using which you can take your vehicle inside the jhirna zone, anywhere you wish to. We did make tentative plans of coming back on Monday and making use of these passes, but the car seemed to grunt a tacit disapproval.

We went back to the hotel, freshened up and had a heavy breakfast. We lazed around the two hours time we had before our scheduled jeep safari to the bijrani zone of Corbett. It was an open jeep and all four of us had it all to ourselves ( me, baba, ma and dadu). It was very sunny but bearable since it was windy too. While on our way to the aamdanda gate, the entry point, amir- the safari driver entertained us with tales of maneaters and also other jungle stories, some that he’d heard and some that he’d seen himself. At the gate we were joined by our guide, shubham. There is first a buffer zone which stretches upto a distance of 3 km. This is the zone where villagers are allowed to cut wood, and resorts are allowed to come up. Then is the tourist zone, where safari jeeps are allowed from 6 am in the morning to 5 pm in the evening. The last and final core zone is only accessible to the forest officials. The guide directed the driver from one water hole to the next in pursuit of a tiger. Apparently, at the gate he had received some information about a tiger being spotted at a particular point. This was followed by a string of strategies, one after the other, to catch a glimpse of the royal Bengal tiger. On spotting two elephants carrying tourists entering the jungle along with us, he placed our jeep at places where we could spot him running away from the elephant. When that wasn’t successful, we tried another water hole. There are 9 such water holes constructed by the CTR inside the zone, artificial water reservoirs to maintain a supply of water for the animals. By the time we reached the ‘machan’, the area earlier used to wait and shoot deers and tigers, we had only spotted a barking deer. We did see a couple of pug marks at two different places but no tiger. A little dispirited and disappointed at not being able to see anything at all, we climbed back into the jeep and set out on our way back. The way back however was on a different route and the guide had other plans in mins. He was planning to try his luck at another water hole, which he referred to as no. 6. As we approached that water hole we saw an entire queue of jeeps waiting there in anticipation of the tiger. The guide asked the driver to park it at a strategic position to allow us a good view. Monkey calls had alerted us of the presence of the RBT in the vicinity. Within minutes, there were sharp, suppressed and excited shouts from the guides and visitors announcing its movement. My eyes followed the fingers of the guide and noticed a slight ruffle of leaves, and that was my first glimpse of the grand mustard with yellow stripes. Not letting my eyes leave that patch of the tiger’s body, I saw it move along the walls of the water hole, the grandiose of the bright mustard, the black patterns and the wavy royal movement leaving me dumbstruck in awe and excitement. Spotting a RBT in Corbett national park on my very first visit was something I wasn’t really expecting to be rewarded with. Since the Corbett national park is a completely wild forest area, there’s a one in hundredth chance of spotting the ever elusive tiger. People spend hours and days to catch a mere glimpse. Pugmarks and abandoned tiger kills are what most visitors have to be satisfied with. We consider ourselves very blessed and lucky to spot our national animal in its natural habitat. The tiger after crossing the wall settled behind a bush, and every tourist on the 20 odd jeeps that were stationed there had their hopes held high and eyes fixed on that spot to catch its movement again. Also amongst them was baba who hadn’t spotted it the first time. We could only see the ruffle of leaves by the swishing of the tiger’s tail a couple of times and a slight glimpse of the yellow and black from between the dense foliage. We kept waiting there for a long time, I was standing balanced on two narrow rods of the jeep but the creature had probably settled in a little nap. Since the time we had was limited, we started off on our way back to the entry point to be able to exit the gate before 6pm beyond which they’d charge us a fine of minimum Rs 500. On our way back we also spotted a herd of spotted deers on a huge patch of tall grass. While on the ride back to the hotel, we also saw two neelgai on the road, peacefully standing there before a man on a motorbike decided to blare his horns and speed past it.

Day 3

We woke up early at around 6 for a nature walk with a guide which was complimentary with the package. Two solar fences separated the resort area from the surrounding forest. We crossed the dried up river bed adjoining the resort..and walked through through the equally dried up and half burnt scantily vegetated patch which went on for quite a bit. The path went parallel to another river bed that meandered its way as we walked..baring its white sand bed dotted with rocks all along. All was well and dull before we were brought to a rude and abrupt halt by a deafening roar. The guard, trusting his keen sense and ear for tiger calls, told us it was a warning roar from a tiger nearby. He told us about a mother tiger who was seen often in the area with her two cubs. None of the trees around had height enough to be climbed on to for a better view. He managed to find one of a suitable height and jumped on to it to try and spot the tiger. The rest of us, meanwhile, were shifting our glance from the guide to the shrubs that lay ahead, looking out for a more definite sign. The feeling was amazing. The proximity to the tigress was overwhelming leaving us trembling out of fear and excitement at the same time. Also the fact that we couldn’t believe our luck for having a second tiger-encounter, that too on two consecutive days. Dadu sure knows how to work his charm on these cats. A couple of moments of staying transfixed on the spot later, we walked back to the resort to prepare to leave. To return back home carrying with us memories and pictures of the beautiful forests of the shivalik and our two lucky feline encounters.

The togetherness that i’ll always cherish..

Thought I’d ask for a little more time
But, I’m not sure how long it’d take
to live it all over again..
Tried counting them all up, i did
Counting the moments of joy
But all in vain..
A little help i need here, my friend

A moment to lie on the grass with you again
staring at the sky
soaking up the sun
thinking of nothing
nothing at all
nothingness at its blissful best

Multicolored Bulb Effect

20 hundred miles have come and gone
never once did i mean to stop
but i open my eyes and i find myself
i lie broken nd so strewn around

dont expect anyone to come by
not that anybody did
but you could stare and shed all the pity u got
oh yes u got that in plenty

im halfway through a loaf
crumbs all over the place
im looking for some marmalade
come smear it all over my face

you stink just as much
my clothes are just a shade darker
i could wash them off anytime
but they wouldnt be good enough for me
and you arent good enough for them

Stuck midway

Im caught up midway
Which way do i sway
show me the way
so broken i lay

Sing me a song,
Hum all night long
Take me along
To where i belong