The J Travels – Ahmedabad, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer

Ahmedabad:

I stayed in the railway dormitories in Ahmedabad. Though not exceptionally good, they were dead cheap and for that amount of money, I couldn’t complain. Also the first thing I noticed about Ahmedabad was that it was super hot. I didn’t expect that kind of temperature in winter. I couldn’t tolerate the weather in the afternoon and so went to a movie. The mall was pretty big (AlphaOne I think) and I thanked God for the comfort of AC. While coming back in the evening, I checked out Kankarla Lake. This was super clean. Kinda wished Hussain Sagar was as clean but then remembered I was no longer a Hyderabadi J . The next day, I visited the Sabarmati Ashram and the Sabarmati river front. Keeping a river clean in India is no small task and you got to hand it to the Gujarat govt for managing to keep this clean. My final thoughts while leaving the city though were that I didn’t like it much for some reason. And I booked a bus to Jodhpur from here. So, I popped the customary Avomin tablets and jumped into the bus. The journey was pleasant. Suggested duration of stay in Ahmedabad: 1 day

Jodhpur:

This was only an intermediate stop for me because there was train that I needed to catch in the evening to go to Jaisalmer. So I checked into the railway dorm again and headed out to see the fort. It was magnificent and reminded me of Halo game (there is one level where there is a huge structure like this). I also got tempted by the Flying fox thingy they had there. I definitely enjoyed it but couldn’t shake off the thought that I shouldn’t have spent 1.8K on it. I also saw a place called Ganta Ghar (clock tower) and the food was amazing there. I would’ve stayed for at least one more day here if I hadn’t already booked my tickets. You can easily stay for three days without getting bored.

Jaisalmer:

The dorms were really cheap here (200 per day) and the hotel I stayed at was pretty decent for that price. That night was going to be a full moon and I didn’t want to miss that chance to be in the sand dunes. In a hurry I booked a package that I later felt bad about. This package involved a luxury swiss tent and was about double the price of sleep under the stars package. But I had fun all the same. I had never seen the sun shine so brightly. The camels slowly took us to the desert where we enjoyed the sunset. I tried sliding down the dunes but there was just too much friction. Then we headed to the tent for the night stay. While everyone was getting drunk and enjoying the Rajasthani dancing, I walked off for a bit following my own shadow under the moon. It was cold but not so much I couldn’t handle. I came back just in time for dinner and dozed off immediately afterwards. I was really thankful for the super-hot water in the morning and took a long shower and headed back to the hotel.

And oh! Because this was a tourist place, there were a bunch of other folks who were travelling. We spent most of the days just playing cards or watching shows on the computer or just walked to a nearby lake for the sunset or swimming in the pool. It was interesting that I had seen more British comedy series than some Brits. They loved one of the shows ‘Coupling’ which they hadn’t even heard about and that became our daily evening routine. I also wanted to go to the border but the hotel guy advised against it.

My suggestion: In Jaisalmer, get a bike. You can cover all the places you want to on the bike itself. You can save money on the desert safari too that way. Suggested duration: 3 days.

Next stop: Delhi

The J Travels – Pune

Pune:

After Bangalore, I had to go to Mumbai again for submitting my passport for visa stamping. I then left for Pune. Unfortunately Pune didn’t have any hostels. I checked in to the cheapest hotel that I could find and it was dreadful. It was a small cubicle that had a door and I could constantly hear a rat squeaking somewhere in the night. I decided to spend a little more and checked into another hotel (slightly costlier but way better). By this time, I had lost two days and done nothing except visit malls (FYI, loved the phoenix mall in Pune). The next two days I went to lonavala and to matheran. Both the times, I woke up way early in the morning, rushed to the railway station in the cold and took the first train I could find.

I reached Lonavala by 8:30 and was told that the first bus to the Lion-viewpoint wasn’t till 10. I decided I will walk to that point. Bad move. It was a steep road and I was tired by the time I walked a kilometre. There were 6 more kilometres left. Another bad move was, not taking a bottle of water with me. I saw an auto guy going who demanded an insane amount of money to go the view point. I bargained to half that insane amount and reached the point. First thing I did was to buy a bottle of water and then took a look around. The views were mind-blowing. I spent like an hour there just admiring the views. Then I headed back to the station. I also checked out a wax-museum there (which was just ok not that great) and then headed back to Pune.

The next day I headed to Neral and took the toy train to Matheran. This was my first toy train experience and I loved it. I was sitting on the right side of the train and for about the first 20 minutes, it was just rocks on my side and beautiful views on the other. I was so pissed off. But then the trail changed and my side of the train got the best views. I have posted all the details if anyone else is interested in this in a separate blog.

On the last day, I went to Mumbai again to collect my passport back (with the Netherlands visa stamped) and then came back and relaxed.

Next stop: Ahmedabad

The J Travels – Goa

Goa:

Getting to Goa from Mumbai was pretty easy. There is a train that runs every day that starts at around 5:30 and reaches Goa by 2 pm. A sudden entry into a healthy environment from a polluted city made me fall sick. I caught cold. Despite that I rented a bike and roamed around Goa without any pre-determined destination. This was the part that I loved the most. There were so many awesome places where I just parked the bike and sat down for a while and absorbed the scenery. I was staying in a hostel again and I had told my roommates that my name was Thej and when they had trouble pronouncing it, I told them it rhymes with page. I roamed around again on the second day and at the end of the day my cold was worse. I took a couple of tablets before I went to sleep that day and didn’t wake up till 12 in the afternoon the next day.

A couple of guys that I had become friends with in Mumbai had come to the same hostel. I had told them that I was going to stay in that hostel earlier. They had asked some folks whether an Indian named Thej was staying there, everyone said no (apparently they thought my name was Page). I also met an Indian here but he was still employed and was on vacation so when he left for those expensive beach parties, I, being a budget traveller couldn’t accompany him.

But we four were stuck together wherever we went for the most part. I visited a bunch of beaches, climbed a fort and then trekked down into the sea from the opposite side of the fort, lost a bunch of money in a casino, beat everyone in a pool table game.

There was a bunch of folks who were heading for Hampi from there but I decided to get rid of the ultra heavy luggage I was carrying with me. I, an Indian was carrying the heaviest luggage there when some of the foreigners just had a couple of shirts and a couple of shorts with them. So I booked a ticket to Bangalore, to leave the luggage at my sisters’ place and travel light from then on. I had one more night in Goa after these guys left so I just decided to get high. There was a British-American there for who it was the last night in the hostel and who wasn’t drunk. She chauffeured me around the town in a bike. We got the weirdest look from a guy when we went to a party and ordered strong masala chai.

Three things that I learnt by this time and will probably be useful to others as well:

  1. Keep your things organised or you will end up misplacing/losing your stuff. At any point you should know which bag pocket has your toothbrush and where your phone charger is. I had to learn this the hard way when I had lost both the laptop and the phone charger. (Side story: The charger costed 2800 rupees. And Goa is probably the only place in India where if you say “How about we make it 1500 rupees and I buy you coffee” to the sales girl, she would laugh and say she already has a boyfriend (could’ve been a polite lie) instead of slapping you)
  2. Being a back-packer, you need to know how to utilise space in your bag effectively. One tip, don’t fold your clothes. Roll em up individually but ensure you there are no creases when you roll them.  That way they stay wrinkle free and occupy less space.
  3. Travel light. Don’t plan for very corner scenarios. That means no rain-coats, leather jackets, umbrellas etc. What if it rains? Buy a polythene cover for the time being. And what if it gets cold? If you are outside, light up a small fire else put on more layers. (two shirts worn on top of each other are better than a sweater)

Next stop: Pune

The J Travels – Mumbai

Please note that this is just a travel log, might be useful but I don’t think would be as interesting.

It definitely made more sense to work at Microsoft as long as possible before heading to Rotterdam (for those who don’t know yet – I am joining RSM for my MBA and classes start in January 2015) because I would need every rupee that I could earn/save for such an expensive course. But you know me, I quit two months (2.5 to be more accurate) before the classes start and decided to travel through India.

Mumbai:

My first stop was Mumbai. Now, though I decided to travel, I wanted to keep the expenses at a minimum. So the first thing I did was to fire up Google and search for the cheapest accommodation in Mumbai. That’s how I found out about hostels. I had never known before that you could stay in hostels (read dorms) and save up money. They are a lot cheaper than hotels and you get to meet a lot of new people. I met several interesting people here – and old uncle, who has been travelling the world for the last two decades at every chance he got, a 17 year old American girl who had plans to be in India for 6 months, a Brit guy who was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t fully believe he was in India for a whole week, a Dutch girl who had travelled throughout India for a year and perhaps seen more of India than most Indians I know and an Estonian who wanted to discover himself through travel. The unusual thing was, though I did meet few Indians, I was the only Indian who had travel plans that were longer than a month.

I acted as the unofficial guide at times to some of these folks, especially those who had recently arrived in India/Mumbai. It was fun watching them struggling to eat chapatis or trying to cross a busy street. One time I managed to stop some of them right on time before they went inside a Hindu burial ground (having mistaken it for a temple).

I stayed a week in Mumbai and understood the place well. I knew all the local train routes and could get from anywhere to anywhere in most cases without asking for directions. I also visited all the things worth visiting – Elephanta caves, Juhu beach, India Gate, Marine Drive, Nehru Planetorium, Khaneri caves etc.

Next stop – Goa

Everything happens for good – part 2

This is a continuation of the post I wrote 8 years ago – http://thejkumar.wordpress.com/2006/11/18/everything-happens-for-good/. If you haven’t read yet it, would suggest reading that before this.

This is 7 years late in coming but better late than never.

Let me tell you the story of how I got into MS. Like Irfan says in Life of Pi, you might start believing in Fate if not God J

My grades sucked in college and I decided getting a good score in CAT was the only option as no company in its right mind would look at those grades and hire me. I prepped well and was getting good scores in mock tests.

T- 7 days:

This was the last day for applying for MS Campus Selection. Rajesh wanted to apply and wanted me to accompany him to the placement cell to drop the resume. I said bug off as I wasn’t going to apply and my GPA was too low anyway. He pestered a bit and I gave in. Decided that I might as well apply if I am going all the way. But I hadn’t even prepared my Resume, so he gave me a blank Resume template that he had a print out of. I filled in a bunch of details with my pen. I think I was the only one in that entire year would have submitted a hand written Resume.

D Day:

It was a Tuesday and I already had a BABA beard. But since all barber shops are closed, I decided to bunk the MS interview. Someone, I don’t remember who said he had a unused blade and for the first time in my life, I shaved (obviously a few cuts here and there). Went for the written exam, seemed pretty easy, wrote some algos which I thought would have worked. Now, I was in a stupid full hand checkered shirt and torn jeans. What usually happens is folks announce who got selected and ask them to come for an interview in an hour during which we go, change into the formals and come back. Here, they called a bunch of names and asked us to stay for the interviews that would start in a minute. I was horribly dressed for the occasion. But I was super confident that I wouldn’t get through and my mind was very relaxed which resulted in solving every question posed to me with ease. The interviews were over and they asked us to wait in the conf room.

Now, though I had no hopes initially, I though I might get selected because the interviewer had told me this after I solved the problems.

He: I see a spark in you

Me: Million dollor smile

He: Not a bright spark, but spark all the same. (not the exact words)

Me: Sad face but realized I did the interview okay.

So we were in the conf room. One guy came out and called out somebodies name and said he was selected. The second name he called was ‘Tej’

I was prepared to say, “I wish to thank my friends, my teachers, my parents…” but before that he said “Tej Pal Singh” and the guy next to me stood up. He was an MCA student who shared half of his first name with my full first name.

Then he again said Tej. I thought, yea we already heard that no need to repeat, when he said Thej Siddhotam. And that is how I got into MS.

Now, I was getting a freaking 9.1 package but I still decided to save 1000 bucks by not applying for CAT.

Something wanted me in MS, I don’t know what yet but I am sure it will make sense someday and I will write the part 3.

Note: A few points that I know belong to part 3 have already happened but I still don’t see the full connection which is why I am not writing it yet.

The happy sad story

It all happened so fast. The old lady was crossing the street talking on her cell phone and the next instant the biker hit her, panicked for a second and fled. Welcome to India, where the first thing you do in an accident is to flee. It was clearly not the bikers fault but he fled anyway. I stopped my car and rushed to her. She definitely was in a lot of pain.
“Aunty can you stand” I asked while try to lift her.

Though there was no blood, she was crying in pain and nodded no. With the help of few bystanders we got her into my car and I started towards Image hospital in Madhapur which was the nearest. I thought I would call her family but her phone was broken completely and wasn’t working now. Okay, that can come later.
We reached the hospital and she was rushed to the emergency ward. I waited for about an hour. The doctor said it was a fracture in her leg but everything else was fine. Phew, that was a relief. Her leg was patched up when I went in. They shifted her to the general ward soon. I asked her for a phone number that I could call. She said her son had just gotten into a flight to Malaysia and she was returning after sending him off.
“Anyone else I can call aunty?”
She put a weird face, blank with no expression and gave me another number.

“That’s my daughter, she lives in Warangal but she won’t come.”
“Why Aunty? Anyway let me just call her”
My phone battery had died, I called her daughter from my hospital landline, her husband picked up the phone and I explained everything. He said he will be there in another 3 hours. I assured him everything was fine now and asked him to drive carefully.
So, I had a few hours to kill, I called my wife, told her I would be late and asked her to have dinner by herself. Then I started talking with Aunty. After a while, I asked her what she meant by her daughter wouldn’t come to see her. So what happened was, her daughter had loved someone but was forced to marry someone else and ever since she got married, she stopped visiting her parents home. same bloody story everywhere.. But it is hard to argue with someone who is heavily sedated with pain killers, so I let it slide. She asked for water and I saw that the bottle was empty.

“Wait a second aunty, I will go get a bottle”

“No no, don’t take the trouble, I thought there was some water available here”

“It’s no big deal aunty, I will be back in a second”

“God bless you beta”, she said as I was stepping out of the room.

I asked for a mineral water bottle from the medicine room, when I saw her running towards the reception. The receptionist directed her towards the general ward. I quickly paid the guy and followed her. I peeked into the ward and she was hugging Aunty and both had tears in their eyes. My phone rang as the pieces of the puzzle fit in together in my head. It was my wife on the phone.

“Honey, you are not going to believe this. Remember the girl I was in….” I said in surprise quickly walking out of the hospital.

An easy choice

My senses see

“A chance very unlikely

A destiny unknown

A path mostly unlaid

An idea, at best, vague

A fear so dreadful

A risk brim with failure”

My soul sees

“The chance of great rewards

The unknown super exciting

The road full of surprises

The peril conquerable

The prospect very challenging”

I see it as

A choice of a life lived long

or a life LIVED,

I go with my soul..

I’d rather

I’d rather eat all I want than follow a diet
I’d rather jump, run or dive than hit the gym
I’d rather find greenery than sit under AC
I’d rather sleep a lot than earn a little more currency

I’d definitely rather stay healthy than look the same!!

I’d rather run fast than fight to death
I’d rather let go than cling onto her
I’d rather work for pleasure than for a prize
I’d rather travel than belong in paradise

I’d definitely rather be happy than a man of success!!

FAQs if you don’t want to get married

1. Don’t you get bored?

Sometimes I do, but don’t you too? But I am guessing a lot less than you do believe it or not. I spend time on activities that I enjoy doing rather than activities that my partner does.

2. Aren’t you scared?

Duh! You think I am old enough to get married and raise children but I would be scared to live alone? Next question please!!

3. Do you watch movies?

Yes I do.

4.   I mean movies in the theatres?

Yes I do. I go to movies to watch them not to chit chat around. Plus I only watch movies that I like. It’s been ages since I watched a boring romantic masala.

5. What if you fall sick? Who will take care of you?

Well, first of all, that doesn’t happen everyday and getting married for a corner case doesn’t seem logical. Secondly, when I fall sick, I see a doctor, take medicines and rest instead of being a crybaby.

6. What about having kids to carry on your name?

I will figure out ways to carry on my name(whatever that means) in other ways. There are a million ways to do that without reproducing. Become famous, help a bunch of people etc.

7. When you get old, who is gonna take care of you?

Hopefully, I will have earned enough money to take care of myself and live of pensions etc.

8. What exactly are the benefits of being alone?

Financial security – I only earn for myself. Peace of mind- I don’t have to worry about leaving my wife/kid alone in the apartment before going to a party etc. Freedom – No need of asking permissions before doing anything new

9. So you aren’t gonna get married ever?

Right now that’s the way I feel. But I am not rigid. If I find someone who bowls me over with her love, yep I will consider but the chances of that happening are slim to none.

10. What about sex?

:-( Yes. This is one area where having a partner trumps being single.

11. Yay! See it’s better to be married

“No words….. Just a blank expression”

Return to the house of Kamshet!!

This was my second visit to this place. Naren, Nagaraju, Vaibhav and I had planned to go. Naren fell sick and couldn’t come but Nagaraju’s wife, Sarala and daughter, cute little Ahika joined. We reached the house after having breakfast.

The plan for the day was to visit a nearby waterfall and do some trekking in the hills around, comeback and swim if time permits. We played Jenga for a while, had lunch, gave a half hour break and then went along to see the falls (Sarala was baby-sitting Ahika in the house only). Vaibhav, Nagaraju and another guy from a different group started for the water-falls. We reached there, it wasn’t glorious or anything but good all the same. Now I was wearing my trek shoes, supposed to be useful to climb in all sort of terrain. As soon as I put my first step on the rocks, I realized it was slippery. I was careful enough but still in another few seconds fell. I managed to catch my glasses from falling down and got back up. I told others that shoes are a bad idea in this place and removed them.

Nagaraju followed me with Vaibhav behind him. The other guy, saw me fall and decided to bunk and headed back to the house. Now, I just finished removing the shoes that I heard a sound. Vaibhav had fallen down this time. Nagaraju was making fun of him and before he could finish his sentence, he fell down too. Having learnt the lesson, we all removed shoes, got into shorts and went to the rest of the falls, barefoot. There was a small cave on top which I managed to climb too. Was feeling good about everything. We spent about half an hour in the water and then decided to go trekking further up.

Nagaraju, Vaibhav put on their shoes very carefully and went to the muddy non-slippery area. I was still filled with the feeling of achievement for being able to climb till the cave and was in a hurry to start the trek as well. The end result, I was wearing shoes without bothering to sit down with one leg in the air on the slipper rock. End result – yep you guessed it, a second later I realized I was lying flat on my belly. Cursing myself, I got back up only to see red drops falling on my shoe. Cursed again that it was bleeding. Spent a few minutes trying to wash off the blood with the water from the fall. Decided not to wear those cursed shoes again and starting walking barefoot.

I plucked a big leaf from the near-by plant, pressed it against the would to stop the bleeding and started to walk. It started pouring heavily at this point making the trek even more awesome. We avoided slippery rocks and stuck to mud and grass most of the route. I think we climbed like 5 times the height of the water-fall and reached a point where it was just steep rock unclimbable without ropes etc. Took a couple of pics from here, try to remember the path we came from which we couldn’t and walked further in a different route.

We came across a guest house and asked them for directions. They were just campers who were shocked to look at a bunch of folks coming out of bushes, one of whom had blood coming out of his forehead. One of them told us that it might be a couple of kilometers and showed us the car route in which they drove to reach that place. We were a little tired, so decided to walk down that route only. We saw a couple of good spots where the entire area was viewable full of waterfalls and took pictures and stood there for a while and headed back.

When we reached back about 3 hours after we started, I asked for the first-aid box and it was then they figured out it was a deep cut and might need stitches. The nearest hospital was 10 km away. We took a jeep and went. And they guessed right, I needed two stitches. Nagaraju felt sick and so stood outside the room.

It was dark by the time we came back. I had a lot of fun playing with Ahika, answering her endless stream of questions. She calls me Thej baba, Vaibhav as BowBow mama.

The next day, we took Sarala and Ahika along with us to the earlier point we visited (the one that had proper road). I guess this was Ahika’s first trek :-). She was super enthused. I was careful enough not to get my head wet in the rain. Vaibhav and I were amazed at the amount of patience Nagaraju and Sarala had. I don’t think I am parent material if that’s what it takes. Vaibhav said it best when he said “It’s not gonna happen for me”.

We still had a lot of time and decided to check the Bhushi dam before heading back. Had a whole lot of fun there. Vaibhav went till the top. Nagaraju accompanied him to a certain extant and I was baby-sitting Ahika in shallow harmless water (I was told not to get my head wet at any cost for another week because of the stitches). Had a couple of Pav-bhajis and Cheese pakkoda and headed back to the bus stop.

 

All in all a fun trip. Of course I will have a couple of problems because of this, a minor scar is gonna remain unless I take some proper treatment. I cannot run till the stitches are removed which means my dream of achieving 5km in 20 mins before 24th August might now happen. I need to be a little extra careful till this Sunday.