Ode to Panchgani

Panchgani is my idea of an ideal life. Really. Its a small mountain town in Maharashtra. About 5 hours drive from Mumbai and about 2 from Pune. More about it here.

I went there for the first time with Neo. This was way back in 2006 or 2007 when both of us were in Mumbai and had nothing to do on the weekends. We had this stupid notion about leaving the city behind on the weekend and drive away to distant unknown places. In those couple of years we covered a lot of places around Maharashtra. And unlike all other tourists, we hardly took cameras or fancy clothes with us while we were on the road. Our idea of travel was to pack some basics (undies, toothpaste, toothbrush, a book, a notepad) and just leave. Often, we would decide on the destination hours after we had left the civilization behind. In fact Neo had this awesome blog at wknd2wknd.blogspot.com where he captured some images from these drives.

On one such sojourn, we went to Panchgani. Though it was far for a typical weekend ride (we liked doing distances that were between 2 and 3 hours), we went for it and it was a decision that we've been thanking since.

I was amazed at the beauty of the place. It was like the perfect small town of my dreams with all the activity around on small roundabout. And it had everything that you could ask for. The breakfast shop (Lucky's), a barber, long walks, mountains, civilization at a touching distance. Everything. Including the weather

And this is where the love affair with Panchgani started. I want to retire in a place like Panchgani. Not very far humanity (Mumbai is about a 5 hour drive) and yet secluded enough to allow you to go for long walks without any nuisance of traffic or pollution.

How would it be if I could wake up every day somewhere in the hills. The weather is just right. Not too cold, not too warm. I then take a leisurely stroll through the winding hill roads, sucking in the clean fresh air. I make my way towards the town center. Once I reach Lucky restaurant, just off the center, I would order my regular - two toasts, an omelet and a coffee. I would take time to read the newspaper, hear the gossip of regulars, see the staff serve the customer with fervor and attention. I would leave them with a handsome tip. Walk some 50 steps to the barber. Get a good head massage. Walk back home would be even slower. With millions of thoughts running amok. Probably the next business idea. Or may be solution to the next big problem. Once home, post a shower, I would spend the rest of day working, taking a break for stretching myself and catching up on other mundane errands. Once I would be done for the day, I would head to the volleyball court or a swimming pool for the work out. Spend some time there. Work up an appetite. Spend some time with other people at a tea shop and then head back home. End the day with a few poker games on the Internet, some writing and then work on some more problems.

And live like that, happily ever after!

The Houdini Show

Houdini. Image Credits: Wikimedia
I have been unwell for almost a month now. I mean not-on-the-bed-sick for that long but been in and out of bad shape for a while. Its mostly been fever and cold but its starting to bother me now. And so much so that I cant concentrate on things and little thing piss me off easily. Been really irritable for last few days. Still am. Please watch out what you say on those comments.

Last week I was travelling and was in Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore. And I got so unwell and so sick of things around me, I had to rush back home. I have done my Houdini's vanishing act in the past but this time it was in a different league. No one but the travel guy from my office knew where and when would I escape from Chennai. The phone and all the intruding alerts were switched off and clients and their whims could take a hike for all I cared. Thankfully I escaped.

Anyways, few rules for at least next 15 days.

  1. No flights. I can not get up at 3, reach airport at 5, catch a flight at 6 and then do it again. And again. And with work across Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, I am sure I am flying more often than some pilots. Definitely more often than those Kingfisher pilots!
  2. No over time. Work is so far from home that I end up leaving at early hours to avoid traffic. And meetings require me to be in office till late. This leaves me with very little time for recreation, family, side businesses, writing, health, sleep, reading and million other things that I want need to do in life. Starting this Monday, strictly 9 hours of work. Though my employment contract has no mention of hours but I will assume that these working hour norms must be followed by my employer as well. 
  3. More of what I like and less of what I dont like. P.S. Got this from Sagmeister (you should read his website, which IMHO is super cool). With in my work, there are quite a few things that I love doing. And there are more things that I abhor. Starting December, I shall try reducing focus and time on things that I hate doing. I know it would affect the way I work and my career and all that but then who cares. I still cant plan for the long term and I am happy to stay like that.
  4. Health. I know I have told this myself a zillion times but unless I keep doing it, I will have to keep reminding myself about it. I did start the gym and some cardio but then I had to take a break this month. I know these are mere reasons. Not lame but reasons. I could have taken time out and done small routines, but I did not do!
Thats it for the time being I guess. More soon. 

P.S.: I am typing this on sgAcer. Please excuse typos. 

Before - After

Today, for the records, was the first time in my life that I worked out in a gym. More than the workout, I did some cardio. Did some speed walking, bicycling and stretching. I did break some sweat but overall I think the experience is kinda over hyped. I would rather walk the city (if lanes were less crowded), bicycle through scenery (if I had any scenery around where I live) or simply do some yoga (if I had any worthwhile yoga groups around where I live).

So, at the cost of making a few sweeping generalizations, here are a few things I noticed about gyms and people in gyms.
  1. Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fittest of them all. I have no clue how other gyms are designed but this one has mirrors all over. The reception, the loos, the shower area. Even the ceilings. I wonder how they missed the floors. Anyways its like a mini glass house. Of course everyone like those mirrors and there has to be some secret exercise that requires you to stare at your reflection for long durations. Because everyone, including the coach and the supervisor, would go find their sweet spot in front of a mirror and flex their muscles. To the point that the entire work area is empty and you could play cricket there if you had to. Note to self. Ask the coach about the secret exercise next time I go to the gym.
  2. Six pack. Eight pack. I thought that wave that swept the entire nation in the six pack abs frenzy is more or less gone. How wrong I was. I see more people doing crunches and abs than there are statues of Mayawati Ji in Uttar Pradesh. And they are serious about doing abs. And in fact whatever time they are left with after stating at themselves in the mirror, I reckon they spend bulk of it on their abs. 
  3. Tattoos are more important that anything else if you want to show off. No one, I repeat NO ONE is sexy enough unless they have a tattoo with an obscure meaning that only they or the tattoo maker knows about. And more obscure the meaning, better it is. After all we need some fodder for conversations. And to add to it, the more obscure place the tattoo is, better it is. You can then nonchalantly show off the tattoo. Like if its on your ankles, you may remove the shoes and wear some bright chappal. Get attention to the chappal and the ankle and thus the tattoo. More subtle you make it, better it is. 
  4. Eat your supplements. Fruits. Fancy colored waters. Soya. Raw meat. Think of the most obscure thing that you could subject your taste palette and abdomen to. I think more than fitness they want to test their abdomens and gastric acids. Everyone comes with a small duffel bag stuffed with the choicest delicacies. Including raw fish!
Anyways, thats about it for the time being. Lemme see people some more and then I shall file an updated report.
And did I tell you that I have clicked a couple of profile shots. One frontal and one from side, to do comparisons when I actually lose weight!

The itch

Last few days, I have been travelling like crazy. And as a direct result, I have missed out on the treadmill farce and writing. So much so that I had this urgent itch that I had to scratch and write something. Ofcourse I am not a good writer and unlike most people I dont even have any story to tell, but there is something about writing that gives me kick. The readership remains at a dismal 2 (including myself), all the fan mails (and hate mails - what ever I had) have stopped, comments were anyways absent, that elusive book offer never materialized, even the random visitors that Google searches sent my way are on a decline.

So while I am at Mumbai airport, en route to Bangalore, I had some ten minutes and I couldnt think of a better time, place or the opportunity to scratch the damn itch and get over with writing something. Even if its a rant. About itches.

Open Letter to Ms. Vidya Balan

Dear Ms. Balan,

This letter is to being to your note your recent actions for the movie The Dirty Picture. Though its a very gutsy role and all that but if you look at yourself objectively in mirror, you would realize that you look gross (for want of a better word). Of course this is my opinion and you may ignore it. But you need to realize that fat oozing out from under skimpy clothes is NOT a turn off. In fact it may squeeze all the blood out of a man's brain. If you know what I mean. First time I saw the photographs of your semi naked lewd pose I almost puked. Even thinking about it gives me jitters. You may consider acting in Final Destination franchise. They are on a constant lookout for things that induce slow death on viewers.

I understand that Silk Smitha might have been voluptuous and desirable back then. But like all things, times change. And they have changed for sure. We no longer live in an era where availability of soft porn is a concern. Back, may be there werent enough women who were ready to drop their clothes for pennies. All respect to her for whatever she did. I am uneducated about the matter and whatever I know about her is because of your new movie. At least that is what your movie portrays Ms. Smitha as.

I know that the business of making movies is going through a rough patch and you guys are in dire need of good ideas and concepts. If only you guys get out of the self-delusional mode and accept this, there are tons of able writers and thinkers who are willing to help you. Look at your counterparts in the west. Look at their cinema. Their movies are much more meaningful and even if when they stray of the tried and tested formula, they come up with gems like Slumdog.

I have nothing to do with Bollywood apart from being an occasional movie goes but I am hoping to make a career in the entertainment business. And as a result I become a minor stakeholder. Would request you to take a deep breath and relook at what you've done.

I normally dont write into actors but this time I have made an exception and I am sincerly hoping that someone from your PR team reads this and puts some sense into you.

An ex-fan

The Road is a Friend

From my PhotoBlog
Luckily, I have had some time to think over the last few days. Though I was traveling and busy with some work but since travel involved 4 flights, I was relatively free to think and ponder on things. And that told me somethings about myself.

To start with, I realized who my best friend is. Before I talk about him, let me define a friend. For me, a friend is someone that makes you happy. A friend is someone with whom you could be yourself. A friend will not judge you for whatever you do. A friend is someone who gives you hope. Someone who is around, when you need him. I have been really lucky in my life to have got a lot to friends to count on. I know they would be there for me when I need them. If I started typing their names here, it would take me forever. So rather than making this post sound like a yearbook, let me come to the point.

The best friend. For me, the road is a friend. Inspired generously from the Apollo Tyres campaign. There is something about the road that mystifies me. There is something that attracts me. There is something that calls me. And when I do get to hit the road, I am at my best. I am upbeat. I am so full of excitement that I can feel pulsating in my nerves. There are endless possibilities in front of me. I can choose the destination. I can choose to stand still. I can choose to do what I want. I am the commander of my destiny. I become I. I come alive.

The romance with the road, I believe has always been with me. I dont know when I realized my individuality and started thinking (and with it, developed tastes, likes and dislikes). But I think love of the road was something that came automatically to me. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to travel. Explore the unexplored. Discover the hidden. Of course the perfect world we live in, there are factors like time and money to consider but there has to be able to become one with the friend. Exactly the stuff the dreams are made of.
P.S.: I am hitting the road tomorrow. I would be gone for a week. And like Red says, I am already feeling the excitement of a free man. A free man at the start of a new journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I feel Purple

Image Credits: Jerome B
The mood I am in, if someone asked me to describe it, I would say, I feel Purple. Dont ask me why. Though Purple is the color of creativity or ideas or something to that effect (a reason why CLA logo is purple), I am far far away from all such constructive pursuits.

I feel someone has sucked all the energy and vigor from me. Though I am suffering from fever, cold and cough and even a task like breathing is taking a lot of effort. So much so that I am wondering how cool would it be if we could recharge the batteries and then not bother about breathing, eating, peeing etc. In short, I really hate it when I am unwell.

I have noticed that in last few years, I get unwell at regular intervals. I have always prided in my immune system. I had stomach made of steel and I could eat anywhere and anything and still digest it. I dint have to wear any warm clothes even in peak winters. I could tolerate any extremes. But for last few years, I think after I went to MDI, my systems got fucked. Not that I do drugs or booze. I dont even smoke. But then something went wrong and I am now sick often. I need to do something about it.

Apart from that this is unrelated but I have been listen to Jo Bhi Main from Rockstar on a loop since morning. Hear it. Absolute bliss.

The New GMail Sucks

Ladies and Gentlemen, today I take up your precious time and invest my energy in putting forth an opinion, that in one short sentence says, The new gmail sucks.

So much so that since I started using gmail more than 7+ years back, I am considering moving to an alternative free email provider. I am inclined towards hotmail. I will give it a shot in a while and see if I want to port to hotmail.

Coming back to the new gmail,  I am not denying that there are some great features. The cascading search bar, the new tabs on left, the conversations are all nice but the underlying UI is really bad. Its very bland in the default theme and once I switch to the HD themes, it looks sick. Reminds me of geocities and freeserver days when people would make gory pages with glittering fonts, blinking images and haphazardly placed text in various fonts.

I sincerely hope that with time, they release some new themes because I cant seem to get the new theme working on my netbook. May be it works nicely on the large monitors used by developers and designers. May be I am too boring for the exciting world of coders and designers to appreciate the design and fluidity in the design! Ofcouse in time, Google devta would prove to be right and I would get used to the new look. This post would be easily forgotten and the anguish I am facing at this minute shall be rendered useless.


And just a thought. I dont use Google +. And I have stopped using Google Reader ever since I got the Pulse Reader and RSS Reader on iPad. Whats wrong at Google? Someone at design team at Google needs to be fired? Or its just me?

One in a million!

We are 7 billion strong. And funny bit is that countries from Brazil to Indonesia to Philippines to India are all trying to claim the fame! I mean dude! Are we guys serious? Are we proud that we are 7 billion?

And I heard on the radio that apparently doctors in India were told to hold births (or may be merely birth registrations) to ensure that the 7 billionth child is a woman. How stupid can we get?

This reminds me of the times when I was a kid. When I was growing up, my mom showered blessings on me and told me that I was one in millions. That time I just gushed at it and was embarrassed. I could not appreciate the true meaning behind her comments. Now when I travel in the Delhi metro (or Mumbai locals), get stuck in endless traffic jams, stand in long queues to even pee, I realize what she really meant. I am indeed one in millions. Wait. One in Seven Billion!

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?