My Travel Diaries - Nilgiris: Part 2

(Continued from an earlier, equally happening post, named 'My Travel Diaries - Nilgiris: Part 1')

It was dark. Very dark, by the time we declared ourselves the unconquered champions of Frisbee! We even did a 'samba' to prove a point and were soon joined happily, by the losing team.

After I joined the rest of them again in the garden, now pretty cold after an hour, they had started 'Dumb-charades' on movies - girls vs boys! The girls gave old movies to enact, hoping that we won't know. And we were ahead for two reasons precisely - one, me, as I'm the biggest movie buff in the gang! And two, we had the biggest nautankis (if there is a male version of drama-queens) among us. However, we couldn't get the better of them, as some of our girlfriends joined the opposing team to successfully guess the most insane movies we have told them about. 'Caligula' and 'Prometheus' were heavily regretted.

At the camp fire

The camp-fire was lit on the other side of the villa and we were asked to join everyone there. Most of us played 'Passing the parcel' there and followed it by dinner. After the dinner, few of us sat down closer to the rekindled fire. And by the time everyone retired back to their rooms, me, Madhu, Pinto and a few others huddled down in the cold, quiet ground, very close to the dying fire and started telling real ghost stories..

Somewhere in the dark, we were informed that a wild pig had come out from the wild and was roaming in the grounds. The manager of the villa went to investigate further as I formed a mental image of us, chasing away the boar!


As I headed upstairs, I found the entire gang there in one room. I was half asleep by the time I joined them for a session of some uncensored truth or dare. Here's only a part of what I can tell you from that night. My girlfriend seemed keen to sell me off to anyone willing for that one night. Then, although there were ample amounts of soft drinks lying around to adulterate the sinful ones, I was seemingly the only one to sip at them. And that it was airing 'Baby's Day Out' on Star Movies that night, quite ironically!

As I had already dozed off, waiting for the bottle to turn my way, my eyes opened up a bit on their own. They caught a glimpse of Aarushi, and her unflattering gaze down at me, 'If you want to sleep, you can go to the next room (spoilsport!)' I obliged, more out of fear. Ijaz also followed me into the room on the other side of the corridor and we passed out quick.


The next day, when everyone was sober, (there were obvious exceptions to this) we went up the Dodabetta peak, highest of the Nilgiris, at 2637m. A very picturesque place, we however, breached the security and ventured into the wild as we had an hour more to kill. We stepped on an aslant forest floor and a number of rocks to prevent ourselves from tumbling down thousands of yards, further into the clouds. We clicked photos and I had the first of my 'never gonna happen again' moment there, as I looked on at my crazy best friends.

Here, we took a souvenir for all of us - a Polaroid group photo! They all came wonderfully, and the photographer earned heavily enough from the whole gang. Lucky guy, caught us at our weak point..

Me, hanging from the branch, bums up, like a leopard!

Next, we went to Pykara, but not before having a fantastic lunch at Ooty for a change. We dished out a couple of grand on all the non-veg items mentioned in the menu. Our home-grown PETA workers, Aarushi and Arpita probably hate us for that. At Pykara, which was higher than Ooty, we first encountered bone-chilling cold and the macho in me, who had decided to just put up a half jacket on top of two t-shirts was regretting the whole time. However, I got some piece of extra clothing from Anshu and Madhu to get along.

After a long hike on the muddy, hilly track, we reached the water-less Pykara Falls. We were informed by the woman sitting at the forest dept. owned barricade that because there was no water, we won't be charged the 2 rupees entry fee.. Okay, THANK GOD!

Mildly disappointed to hear about the purposeless nature of what lay ahead, we welcomed the full blown explosion of green and grey as we reached the falls! In the center lay flat rocks, with fast flowing water akin to that of a rapid, but a lot less in volume. To the right side was a dense, tall pine forest and on the other side was a coniferous forest denser than the other. We were informed that there are leopards in these forests so we should remain huddled together all the time and should not cross on to the other side.

But I guess the philosophy that we were following was that it would be an icing on the cake if a leopard shows up and grabs one or two among us away. Shubh-shubh bol, beta!

The water-less Pykara Falls

Arpita, being a toad!

At Pykara; do you see the Pine forest I told you about?

By evening, we decided to head back to the commercial centre of Nilgiris, that is Ooty, to chill out, maybe get some shopping done and perhaps finish off dinner. A few of us discovered a Cafe Coffee Day, whose existence I had no idea about last time we came here, four years ago. Irish coffee, some hot chocolate, an american chocolate muffin warmed us from inside, as it was nightfall and very chilly outside. The rest of us, I think, went to a Dominoes Pizza, which was also a new addition to the hill-town, for me.

After CCD, we ventured out and went shopping to all the places I remembered from four years back. Bought home-made chocolates from the same shops, a cowboy hat for Naidu from where the girls had bargained heavily four years ago. It was all coming back to me. There, another of those moments. Rupsa bought a t-shirt from a hippie shop and Rahul, who incidentally grows backwards, bought a toy laser-guided gun with small yellow pellets! We had such a nice laugh about it the whole time after that.


At night, I found myself sleepless suddenly and went to the room with all the action, in the previous night. There were a bunch of people playing the card game 'Bluff' with obvious addition of some new rules laid down by our very own Nikunj Daga. I barged into the mattress shared by my favorite couple and ex-roommate, and was half watching the movie Salaam Namaste, and half following their game with two of my drowsy eyes. As they would have it, Nikunj's rules were twisted such, that no one could finish that game. Everyone was left with one card in the end and from the brink of winning, they were thrown back to a downhill of never-ending card campaign. Everyone, but Akhil though. That clever fellow and a 'bada waala chhupa-rustum' calculated his game and brought it down to two cards and a game over in the end.

Unlike the previous night, this night was an end result of everyone either being tired or hungover, or feeling lightheaded due to the quick climbing down the hill and the resultant pressure drop. Good night it was, after that.


The next day itself, was the pack-up day. Sad. Those moments flashing by every now and then. Maybe, that's why few of us, including me, missed the early morning trek into the forest. The trekkers, seemingly found porcupine spines along the trees, birds of different colours and wild elephant calls from far. We woke up aaram se, taking our own sweet time, and started packing up, after a hot water bath.

Arpita, Aarushi, Akay, me, Arjun and Ady

Me and Rupsa, at the CCD in Ooty

By the time we checked out of the villa, it had started drizzling, something we were afraid of throughout our stay. Good to see that we were spared of it until the very end! We started our downhill climb and everyone remained bogged down for sometime after that. But it wasn't the end as we decided to stop at one more place before heading back home. After lunch at another non-veg heaven (which we barged in just because we heard some veggie-heads say 'that the place even smells of chicken!'), we visited the Bhavani Sagar, a hydro-electricity generating dam.

However, none of us had any interest in the dam and all of us decided to go down the memory lane and play games we used to play when we were kids. Games such as lock and key, followed swiftly by kabaddi. In kabaddi, Spoorthi  humiliated 5 of us guys, including me, by literally dragging herself to the line as we hung on to her, and took ourselves out along with herself! Something, our team captain Naidu will regret forever. We got scratches, cuts, bleeds and Rahul tore off his shorts in a not-so-comfortable-in-front-of-girls way. But he pulled it off pretty easily, thanks to his colourful boxers.

The bus wasn't really quiet after that and everybody wanted to end the trip on a high. So back to what we do best, we danced to Bollywood item numbers crazily, again! All started sweating and panting for we were no more in the high lands and it was now pretty humid. We stopped to have dinner at Adyar Anand Bhavan, near Dharmapuri and dozed off soon after that..


We reached our respective hostels at about 3:15am and plunged into a deep sleep soon afterwards, dreaming about the places we visited, songs we danced at and the friendships we strengthened. It was difficult getting oneself out of the 'mode' we had set ourselves into. Kind of like the last few scenes of the movie Swades. Shahrukh Khan was seeing the flashbacks of his Indian hometown and the Indian-ness around him, while we were seeing the hills, the smiles and the fun-clad lawlessness!

God, farewell is going to be a painful heartache now..

My Travel Diaries - Nilgiris: Part 1

This was bound to be the most nostalgic one, obviously! But not as intense as it actually turned out to be. God, we're going to miss each and every aspect of the trip and the bums involved..

After the awesome experience and preliminary bonding in the trip to Ooty, in the October of 2008, our first year, that place was set in deeply in all our hearts. We always wanted to visit it all over again, but the opportunity never showed itself up. So after a few other minor attempts like the trips to Pondicherry and Yercaud, we ultimately managed it in our final academic year.

Our actual destination was the tea-garden-on-one-side and forest-on-the-other hilly, green town of Kotagiri, some 30km from Ooty and another so from Coonoor. Weather was perfect, it was cold yet no need for sweaters. Only a simple fashionable jacket would suffice. The trip was made in two buses - one large and one small. The latter, having just about 14 seats, was conquered by just us, a gang of about, say.. 25? No wonder the bus driver was so grumpy! The place we'd stay at was BelAir Villa at the Club House Road - old British housings, with wooden furnishings and huge washrooms and it would be doing them wrong not to mention the veranda connecting the washroom that opened our towel-clad selves out to the world, for reasons unknown!

I'm getting ahead of myself. I do that a lot, don't I? Anyway, before I start describing this trip, I'd have to tell you that I'm exposing perhaps just 40% of the whole, for the other stuffs that we did are just for ourselves to muse about later. And no, we didn't mass make-out. Let me start with the overnight bus ride.


'Ab Toh Forever', 'Munni Badnam Hui', 'Jhoom Barabar Jhoom', 'Tu Mera Hero', 'Boro Boro, Bure Bure', 'Bhool Bhulaiya', 'Rum, Whiskey' - were a few hit Bollywood songs among many, to which we shook our legs (legs, hands, waist, head, hair, the entire self rather). And to think of it, we normally discard these willingly from our playlists! Anshu and Arjun deserve a special mention here. One being the daddy of prop-dancing and the other being innumerable latkas and jhatkas ki maa! (Sorry about the language, no other way exists to describe it!) It definitely got the most stubborn non-dancers like a few of us, to do the thumkas - here's what Aarushi had to say about it on Facebook..

'Must be a fantabulous trip if it made Rahul Shivakumar, Karthikeyan Naidu, Deeptiman Chatterjee and Arpita Bisht dance to ekdum dhinchak wale Bollywood songs! Ah here's to the besure tunes we hummed, to the bruises and bumps, to the crazy poses, to the booze doses!!'

Even the ride after our stop at some omelette-making shack near Krishnagiri was fabulous. The topics we discussed, the plans we made of the next 3 days, the conspiracy theories and sitting next to our loved ones, in a speeding bus, on a lonely, dark, winding road on a rainy night. And how did I forget to add to that statement, the empty, midnight roadsides we peed at! Oh, but you didn't want know that, did you?


We reached Mettupalayam at 6 and Nikunj came from the other bus, with his bus-conductor voice, shouting and banging, 'Ooty, Ooty, Ooty, Ooty..!' As the bus stopped to get filled up with anti-freeze fuel, me, Rahul and Aarushi went out to look for tea and ended up drinking coconut water. Such was the uncharacteristic start to our morning. The next 3 hours, however, was quiet as we ascended through numerous hair-pin bends and steep hilly turns and that was when the few night owls among us, including me, decided to take a nap.

After we reached the cottages, the guys took the first floor rooms as the girls took the ground floor rooms - soon to be mixed and jumbled, as no one would ever know where they slept last night. The bathrooms had geysers, thankfully. But they being gas-lit geysers, Nikunj freaked out thinking he blew one up as he turned one on and flames lit up.

Arjun, Nikunj and Jaggu - on the bus

The BelAir Villa - as we just reached

We had almost converted the 'Industrial Visit' into a picnic, as we played badminton. Anshu learnt quick and from teaching the girls to hit properly, it became a nice and fun game when Naidu and me teamed up. We had breakfast of Idly (which I gleefully ignored) and had 22 pooris instead. Something that no one, including the professor, forget to tease me about!

We visited a tea estate. A tea-processing unit, to be accurate, where an uber-impressed Nikunj Daga tried to get himself adopted, if you know what I mean. It wasn't a total waste. I've never seen such an industry before, and it was a good source of information. Could have been better if the guy explaining it to us, stopped using the word 'fermentation' for it was not! From there we went to the Kodanadu view point, where I repeatedly pointed out the geography to disturb everyone's levelheadedness.


We had a south Indian lunch in Kotagiri, nothing to brag about at all. After we returned to the cottage, we rested awhile and later took on a game of Frisbee. The game that started casually, took on the look of an international friendly. A small space to play, low-light conditions of the impending nightfall, inception of new rules and the fact that we were leading from the front made it more interesting! However, after a team swap on the other side, it became difficult to maintain the lead and we were level headed at deuce (thanks to the new rules, we were treating it akin to a hard-court tennis match)!

By the time it came down to deuce for the tenth time, we took on an advantage. If we make them drop it, we win! Just before I threw, Nikunj called me from behind (I was like the center-forward and him, the goalkeeper! Ady the right-winger - yes we had girls playing with us - and Akay the left-out, Jaggu, Rahul the defenders! Here's to laughing out loud..) Nikunj kind of huddled and said, 'Bhai, jeetne ka hai isi round pe, light nahi hai zyada! Isi round pe g#@nd maarna hai!' His emphasis on winning this round was perhaps more, due to the taunts we were facing from Kuntal and his teammates on the other side.

We won that round. No sorry, we absolutely killed it!


My, this is turning out to be a huge one to write about. So consider this, the first half of the trip and I'll soon complete it out with a second part. There's so much more, the night! Aah.. Hang on for 'My Travel Diaries - Nilgiris: Part 2!'

After an Unhappy Day..

There are friends, then there are enemies,
then there are the allies-turned-foes.

And surviving that military-ish school,
wasn’t it the best thing that went down the hose?

Yet I find myself looking forward,
looking around for another.

For, as it turns out, the saddest day is-
when you’re abandoned,
and glory comes to a brother.

I maybe, am a little intoxicated,
I’m not going to deny.
But I’m being subjugated to face a rough one here,
-right at the end of the line!

If there should be a dark yellow light,
run away to which, I certainly would.
For I’ve heard, it leads to a land with no guilt,
or yearning – and if only I just could..

‘Know I’m there for you’ said the one who should.
But how does it matter, when you’re running different ways?
He will wrest the chance offered to him,
while for me its sunset, and someone already stole my hays.

I beg to scream away from the hollow promises,
the shallow advices and material consolations.
For its that particular cadency in life,
when all around, and everywhere-
everything is a vexation.

And, there’s nothing you could do about it.


PS. of all experiments that I have ever carried out, this one too, is spontaneous and sudden. I'm NOT AT ALL a poet and I don't understand poetry that doesn't have a rhyme - they just have to rhyme for me. Lately, not in a great mood for a quick humour, moi. So I'll leave you to these stupid verses of mine, and mark the celebration of 'one year completion' of an extremely successful hobby!

A Finnish Night in Kolkata...

I missed them in IIT Kanpur.

I narrowly missed them in the Oktoberfest, Bangalore last year.

Though I missed being born in Helsinki, in the very first place! Yeah, like they wouldn’t have deported me! Mental asylum cannot be pursued in holy places. Places such as Finland. Holy for precisely two reasons -

NOKIA, world’s most indestructible cellphone, conceived in ancient times, forged from the volcanoes on Mount Doom (surely you have seen the e-memes on Facebook now!) is Finnish. The first thing from Finland that I consider holy. The second is the god-awesome band named Poets of The Fall.

I first heard their music in the year 2007. It would be precisely 2 years after they released their first album Signs of Life. And it was right then that I turned into a HUGE FAN of their music! Not too hard, not too soft. Also, sometimes too hard and sometimes too soft. Exactly the way I like my music. So when they decided to tour India for the promotion of their sixth album Temple of Thought and included Kolkata, I sprang up to cloud nine!

I had exams during which they performed in Hard Rock CafĂ©, Bangalore, the city which would usually be my venue of choice, considering it’s proximity from my University. But as my good luck was to have it, I was homeward-bound and they were going to finish off the tour in Kolkata! I couldn’t help but beg to dad, to get me the tickets for the concert – he yielded. And in some style. VIP TICKETS!!

'Dad, I love you..'

“The boys will be doing what they do best with their clothes on”, declared Marko on the stage and that’s almost exactly what they did out there!

And on the blessed evening of 28th of August, 2012, the Poets ‘rocked’ Kolkata!

FINALLY! Finally, an international Rock band didn’t avoid the original Rock capital of India. (Though many won’t agree, I personally believe in contemporary times, the Rock capital has shifted it’s base to Chennai, with Kerala standing up for fusion Rock and Goa still being the Indie/Jazz haven) The gates were supposed to open from 4pm and I arrived about half hour late. Suits a VIP, doesn’t it?

I took my seat in the front row with the other VIPs (I won’t stop mentioning it, nope!) and as the numbers grew in the rows behind me, I decided to get to know my neighbors – Arjun, an official from Budweiser who missed the show in Delhi; Nandini, a class 8th kiddo from Kolkata, and a POTF fan (read fanatic!); three others, I forgot their names, were from Bangalore. They had missed the show there, likewise. The hall was almost 3000 strong..

At around 6:30pm, there was a huge uproar outside and before we could dart towards the gates, I saw this hand shoot up in the air, towering way above the crowd. It was a fair-skinned, strong looking arm, with the thumb, middle and index finger curled up inside, while the fore finger and the pinky were uncurled and held straight - \m/ - the symbolism was an omen for the things to come. I suspect it was Olli, the guitar-fingered blonde.

The band came up on the stage one by one, casually. The crowd erupted even before Marko made a bursting appearance with Kamikaze Love, one from their latest album. And the very first performance was proof enough to believe that ‘It is finally happening!’

The ‘Setlist’ for their show in Kolkata included the following songs, and the number being as large as 18 surprised the heck out of me:

1. Kamikaze Love
2. Diamonds for Tears
3. Temple of Thought
4. Roses
5. Cradled in Love
6. Locking Up the Sun
7. War
8. The Lie Eternal
9. Stay
10. Gravity
11. Illusion & Dream
12. Late Goodbye

13. Desire (Acoustic)
14. Sorry Go 'Round (Acoustic)
15. Someone Special (Acoustic)
16. Dreaming Wide Awake
17. Carnival of Rust
18. Lift


The most catchy moment in the entire thing was when everyone swayed their cellphone lights to the tunes of ‘War’, the amazing, REALLY AMAZING crowd, Marko’s dance moves for 'Sorry Go Round' – the Bossa nova version – and of course the last 2 songs! As Marko interacted more with the crowd, it was just ooh, too much fun for a day.

If you were there, you'd surely remember the moment when the audience sang along 'Carnival of Rust' and the drums came on.. Aah! Nothing possibly could be better than that feeling. And in 'Illusion & Dream' when Marko, Olli, Jani and Captain came forward to literally 'raise their glasses' for us. That was something special, followed by the amazing solo ending for the same song by Olli..

But the icing on the cake came a few moments later when the Poets tweeted:

Kolkata, the most unruly city known to me. I surrender, for you really RULE sometimes! Don't get excited now, I said SOMETIMES! It certainly was a dream come true, and I plan on to see them once in Helsinki itself. Someday.. Someday for sure! And I'll drag a few friends along too - they all know which ones!

... named me as a Notable Newbie today!
I'm so flattered, but never too shy to flaunt my laurels, moi.

Haha! Thank you, I'm so glad you all like what I have to show. Uh, my blog posts, I mean.. Caio! Off to dinner!!