Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A corny story

This post is dedicated to something that has given me immense pleasure all these years, the corn or the bhutta, as it is called lovingly. The story started in my first year of college, as the first rains indicated the onset of monsoons, we were treated to an unusual sight. Hordes of bhuttawalas were filed neatly on the road overlooking our college cricket ground. Evidently they occupied the same very place every year and found patrons from all around Nagpur, not to mention the NIT crowd. The once peaceful roadside very soon became the center of frenzied activity as the bhuttawalas vied for the attention of the passers by.

When I had my first roasted bhutta from there I was hooked, it was not like I hadn’t eaten roasted bhutta before but it had never tasted like this. From then, a visit to the bhuttawalas after college became a ritual of sorts for me. Anyone from my batch who wanted to have a bhutta found company in me.

What goes into making a mouth-watering bhutta? The process for me starts right from selecting the right bhutta; it should neither be very tender nor very tough. The tough ones (yellow kernels are a give away) give your teeth a tough time and the tender ones (cream kernels) leave you feeling unsatisfied. A right balance is needed, yin and yang as they say. When the very important task of selecting the right bhutta is done, it is put over burning coals; mind you, a bhutta roasted over gas can’t even come close to the yumminess of the ones roasted over coal.

The bhuttewale bhaiyya keeps the fire astir as he fans continuously; he also keeps turning the corn to roast it evenly from all sides, the sound of bursting kernels is music to my ears. After being roasted perfectly, he deftly applies lime and salt to it and then coats it with chilly chutney to make it all the more tempting. The best is yet to come though; he finally smears it with butter that melts at the very touch of the garam garam bhutta! Aah... nothing like it!! The butter dissolves the lime, salt and chutney, and it all seeps into the niches between the kernels producing a uniformly heavenly texture and taste. The bestest part is when I dig my teeth into it; I relish every kernel every bite of it. And every time I finish, I end up wanting even more.

All the years in my college I always waited for the rainy season, those two months when I could enjoy this delicacy. No other fad has sustained with me for so long and it’s still going strong. As I came to Bangalore to start working, I was elated at the sight of the bhuttawala in front of my office. Here you get corn all round the year, unlike Nagpur, but they don’t make it like they did there, still, I like it here too. I treat myself to a bhutta everyday as I walk back from my office in the evening, a repeat of the ritual I followed in the college.

In the age of fast food, the humble corn still wins hands-down for me; it is healthy, yummy and filling. For a person like me, who doesn’t like to fuss much over food, its just the thing. I hope the association continues, and I keep deriving pleasure from eating bhutta for years to come! :D

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An incident of human wickedness

Many people wouldn't find this incident wicked, but I did. And maybe I do sound ridiculous, but I am posting this anyways.

This happened when I was going to Bangalore from Nagpur after Diwali last year. I hadn’t got a confirmed direct ticket, so had to come via Chennai. There was a family in my bogey from Nagpur, parents and a cute kid, Ria. I had become quite friendly with the kid during the journey; we kept playing all the time. So when we had a stop at the Chennai station I tagged along with the family. This is where the incident happened.

We were waiting at the station; three men were sitting around a pillar, discussing something. Ria went close to them as one of the men started spitting on the pillar. When she saw this, she said very sweetly ‘Uncle, Please don’t spit.’ I was amazed at the sense of righteousness of the young girl. I thought that the man would oblige to the lil’ girl’s request, but it was not to be. The man spit again, this time not because he wanted to, but because he had been asked not to do so. And after this he smiled wickedly, Ria seeing this came back, disappointed and hurt.

How could he derive pleasure by purposely hurting a kid whom he didn’t even know? I was forced to think that if given free rein would he go to any extent for this sort of pleasure. Is it the fear punishment that keeps him bounded now, and if somehow he gets over it what would he do? Say for instance there is a riot and hooligans are having a field day with no police control whatsoever, would he go berserk too? Was he a criminal in the making, or was he already one? Just a thought... I am no psychologist after all.

Maybe I was overreacting and what I saw was just the primal instinct present in all of us ‘to not submit’, something which we call ego, in this incident which meant obeying a child. But maybe I was right and the person I saw was actually wicked, I can only surmise. We see incidents like this happen around us, sometimes we react sometimes we don't even give it a thought. Maybe we have reconciled to evil, which these days is ubiquitous.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My stint as a fresher

We had a cultural fest(Kaos) going on in the company and I acted as a fresher in a short video for the fest.The video is a take on the life of a fresher as s/he joins OSSI (thats the name of my company) , I guess everyone who works for a Software firm will more or less identify with it.

Shooting the video was fun, with all of us getting all excited even as we shot it. :D I realized that acting is no mean feat when we took some 2-3 hours just to shoot this two min video. God knows how people have the patience to act in a whole movie, but then they get paid exorbitantly for it. Anyways , I immensely enjoyed acting in it,I had initially uploaded the video but came to know that my company refrains me from doing so, so removed it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Vidyanikethan-Sponsor a child project

I have been volunteering for a NGO named Vidyanikethan for 5-6 months now.I accompany a group of volunteers on weekends and we try to help the NGO in documentation and stuff like that, essentially making ourselves useful in whatever small ways we can.

Sponsor a child project was thought of because of the observation that many underprivileged students drop off the school mid-way.We wanted to keep the child's education free from any hassles of money for atleast one year. Initially it was meant only for girls but eventually we opened it for guys as well. The field workers of Vidyanikethan collected data of more than 100 chidren in need of sponsors, you can view the list here. You can sponsor a child single-handedly or in a group of six people, it just takes Rs. 400 a month for twelve months. Check out the frequently asked questions here. If you stay in Bangalore and are intereseted mail to asap.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ignorance is bliss

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” but then is more of it not a killjoy?

Is it better if to be unaware of the harsh realities of life and be carefree and ignorant like children? We all go through experiences as we grow up and certainly not all of them are good. We see so much unhappiness in this world that we are all touched by it in some or the other way. And ignorance meaning ‘to not know’ is possible only if we shut ourselves from the world completely. But we can’t shut ourselves from the world completely, can we?

Ignorance in this phrase can mean something else too, ‘to choose to ignore’. There are so many things that can work against us in our lives, things over which we have no control whatsoever. Is it not futile to get perturbed by them? True it is human to get upset, but for how long? Is it not the best at times to just forget and ignore things? Cowardice you say, denying the truth, but I say it is accepting the truth and choosing to get over it. Don’t we all want to be happy? But still we don’t understand that happiness is by choice and the choice is for us to make. It is difficult at times but then who said that being happy was an easy task?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Bangalore Mountaineering Club

Are you a travel enthusiast? Do you like exploring new places? Does a touch of nature rejuvenate you? If the answer to all these questions is yes then ‘Bangalore Mountaineering Club’ is the right place for you.

These days it is really difficult to find a group of people interested in trips and treks. People prefer to laze around on the weekend after a hectic week. If you organize an outing the initial hurdle is to pull people in. Bangalore Mountaineering club makes this job easy for you.
Bangalore Mountaineering club is a non-profit organization started by a group of travel buffs. It organizes events like camping, backpacking, paragliding, white-water rafting, rock climbing, scuba diving, skiing etc. These events are usually on the weekends, which make them even more doable. I am a part of this club, which now has 1600 members and is still growing. They’ve had some really exciting events like scuba diving and paragliding in the recent past. To join, you just have to register at their site and you’ll be regularly updated about the events through mail. So don’t wait any longer, join now.

Happy traveling! :)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Exploring Chhattisgarh- Bastar

I had always regretted the fact that having lived in Chhattisgarh since my childhood I never really explored it. As I visited my hometown Raipur (the capital of Chhattisgarh) this time I had resolved to go on a short trip to Bastar. Bastar had many things to offer: Chitrakote waterfalls, Kutumsar Caves, Tirathgarh waterfalls, Danteshwari temple. I was mainly tempted by the Chitrakote waterfalls, which are the largest in India in terms of water volume. Many people dissuaded me for the trip, as summer is not the best season to travel in Chhattisgarh, the heat is sweltering but paying no heed to them me & my family decided to go.

There are very few travel agencies offering standard tour packages for Bastar you have to decide on your itinerary. Jagdalpur is the district headquarters of the Bastar district and is well connected by road from Raipur. All the above-mentioned tourist spots are approachable from Jagdalpur by road and it is a sensible decision to base at Jagdalpur if you are on a trip to Bastar. Jagdalpur is around 250 Kms from Raipur and by bus it is an overnight journey, the buses being quite frequent.

We reached Jagdalpur in the morining and put-up in a hotel close to the bus-stand. As I mentioned earlier all the tourist attractions are approachable by road from Jagdalpur but there are no tourist buses to these places, you have to hire a vehicle on your own. We hired a tata sumo from the taxi stand and set off for our first destination the Kutumsar caves.

Kutumsar caves

Kutumsar Caves are 38 Kms from Jagdalpur and are located in the Kanger valley national park. As we entered the National park a forest guard accompanied us, as the caves cannot be entered unguided. We didn’t see any wildlife just cows and goats in the park; I guess you have to go on a separate trail for wildlife sightings. But I was more than happy to be on a road surrounded by trees on both sides; even on a summer afternoon it was a pleasant journey. As we reached the Kutumsar caves our driver said ‘Don’t be afraid’, good advice and was coming at the right time too.

The forest guard had a solar lamp with him and he gave another lamp to us, which my dad, mom and sis handle taking turns, I was busily clicking pictures of anything and everything. The entrance to the caves was the scariest part, the stairs being circuitous and slippery. As we entered the caves we could feel the decline in temperatures as the last rays of sun left us. Spooky and eerie are the words that best describe the caves; our guide lead us to nowhere. He showed us the Stalagmites and Stalactites, which I remember from my geography books just because I always used to get confused between them. The wonderful circuitous patterns formed on the rocks modern art handcrafted by water. Rocks, which look so much like idols, our guide told us that they too are the works of water. We walked for around 330 meters dodging pools of water (which breed blind fish), unsuspecting niches and reached the end of the permissible area of the caves. The cave meanders to another kilometer and half but that area is restricted because of the low oxygen levels. Short of breath (because of walking or because of the decline in oxygen level, I guess both), we sat down there for some time. I remembered the many Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries set in caves, which were a part of my childhood; in Kutumsar I had at least lived a part of the adventure.

Kailasha Gufa around 2 Kms from Kutumsar caves is similar and we didn’t visit it.

Tirathgarh waterfalls

The Tirathgarh waterfall on the Kanger River is also located in the Kanger Valley National park. We could hear the waterfall even as we walked down stairs to its base and we caught glimpses of it through the trees. As we reached the base I couldn't stop admiring the waterfall, which though not in its full glory was still a sight to behold. I clicked pictures of my parents and sis with the waterfall as the background. I was tempted to enter the puddle of water formed by the waterfall but stoppd short, not confident enough of my swimming skills. We reached the point where water from the fall enters the puddle, there is just enough place for a person to stand. I held to the rock precariously and stood there for a long time, feeling the pearl drops falling on my face. The view from there was breathtaking, the Sun behind the hill lights up every drop, every gush of water.

Chitrakote waterfalls

This was our last stop, and we all felt rejuvenated after the yummy lunch at the Dhaba on the way back from Tirathgarh falls. Chitrakote a horse-shoe shaped waterfall formed by the Indravati river is called the Niagara of India and it certainly deserves the title, the best time to visit it is after Monsoons but even in summer it had a reasonable volume of water. Two thick strands of water fall down the steep height, we watch as a fisherman rowed his boat right to the spot where water falls with full force. (I so much wish that I were in his place.)

Much to our parents' chagrins my sis and me wanting a piece of the adventure wanted to go close to the water. We reached the place were the water from the river gushes down but is stranded by a rock before falling down. We were literally on the top of the waterfall now; I dipped my feet in the water as it rushed with full force. The place where we sit would have been submerged in water totally if it were Monsoons, I imagine the fall in its full splendor during the rainy season and tell myself that there always is a next time.

The Chhattisgarh tourism has log huts overlooking the waterfall, one can even arrange for a performance of tribal dance there.

Chhattisgarh certainly has potential to become a tourist destination if promoted in the right way. The fact that there were no bus tours shows that we have a long way to go; unless there are a reasonable number of tourists it would be foolish to start bus services but unless tourism is organized there will be very few tourists. It is a vicious circle of sorts and we have to get out of it.

P.S. - Would have posted the pics but the memory card got corrupted. Will load them if I have any luck retrieving them.