James came, saw and almost conquered

James Abraham, my Hughes ex-colleague, eating-out partner and friend was in Bangalore for his recording work. He managed to stay at our place for two nights. Although we met pretty recently during my visit to Delhi and Dehradoon, but still had a lot of catching up to do. Actually managed to chat till six in the morning! We went to Mysore for a day trip. Saw the usual tourist places – Mysore Palace, Chamundi hills, Lalitha Palace, KRS dam and Brindavan gardens. We planned to get back to Bangalore early so that we could dine at Casa Piccola. If I know James, he would have loved Casa. Unfortunately, we were late and tired, so ordered food instead. Just in time, the electricity went off, so we had a candle-light cum moon-light dinner at our terrace. Not bad, but I still wish we had time for Casa. Next morning James left for Delhi. James: next time, first thing. Then it will be conquering Bangalore!

Amit Junior came to our place on Saturday evening. Kailash, Arun, Amit, Rahul and I went to Pecos for a couple of drinks before dinner. Sushant joined us before we left for Bobby Dhaba near Ulsoor lake. The authentic Parathas with Rajma and Dal Makhani was well worth the wait. Even the huge glasses serving mathas looked imported from Punjab. Out of the many things that came up for discussion during the wait was blogs. Many of the questions that Sushant and Amit were asking were after reading my blog. Like Arun said, it has now become an open diary. If you don’t know what someone is doing, just go through his blog! People actually went through my blog from Arun’s blog and started asking questions to Arun about the many girlfriends that I had written about. Even Abhishek asked me to write about James' visit so that he could read it! Gives me renewed faith in blogging.

I am uploading a pic of Sushant here. He was playing the guitar when he came to meet us a couple of weeks back and I couldn’t help but click some photographs. I was photographing after a long time. I was probably not getting inspired. Since clicking Sushant’s photographs, I haven’t stopped. In just about two weeks, I have finished three rolls, and still clicking! Thanks Sushant.

Thadiyendamol trek

Since the failed trek in Uttaranchal, I was looking forward to a trek somewhere. Kailash also wanted to go somewhere exciting! As usual, Arun was game. We decided on going to the Coorg side as it was one place we had heard a lot about and none of us have been there. Kailash did some research and I consulted my trekking holidays book and together we found this trek to Thadiyendamol, which looked interesting. Apparently, the only two places to stay there were Honey Valley Estate and Palace Estate. Honey valley was full; however Palace Estate had some rooms. In the process of booking, we spoke to Vincy and Prasad, the owners of the place; and even before we left Bangalore, we knew they were nice people. Prasad gave me the perfect route plan over the phone (only later did we came to know that he is incredible in charting routes). Later we also came to know that Prasad is the youngest of three brothers. The other two brothers are Prakash and Poovanna.

Friday evening, Arun and I had an evening shift. We went back home at three in the night and by four we were ready for the drive. I think it is relevant to mention over here that Arun was the last person to get ready as he was busy with a "phone call" and later he couldn't find the car keys! The drive was smooth and in just two hours, we reached Mandya (118 kms). The later part of the drive was not that smooth; however, it was scenic. Especially the parts near Gonikoppal and the Nagarhole outskirts are very beautiful. The route was Bangalore - Maddur - Mandya - Shrirangapattanam - Mysore (bypass) - Hunsur - Gonikoppal - Virajpet - Kakkabe. The directions given were perfect and we reached there by 1130.

The Prakash Poovanna Palace Estate is a beautiful place and the view that greets you takes your breath away. It is like an endless carpet of hills. The main house is 120 years old and the guest house has been re-built last year. There is a well maintained garden in front of the two houses with coffee beans drying over a square patch. I don't think I will do justice by writing about it; let me post some photographs. This one here is the guest house. Two rooms in the ground floor and four in the first floor. All rooms with excellent view.

Prasad discussed and suggested what to do there while we sipped coffee. There is something about the way he talks that makes you feel very comfortable and at home. He also drew a map for us to follow. After a hearty homely lunch, we went for a short walk around the estate. Saw the Nalnad Palace, which is just below the Palace Estate. Once again the views everywhere were just awesome. We also went to a small waterfall near the house. Dinner was again homely affair with some treat waiting for us - the pork curry was simply unbelievable. Over dinner, met the other guests. One thing about going to unusual and non-tourist spots is that you get to meet unusual and interesting people. Met Elizabeth and Denisse from London, who are with the music industry and have seen more of India than we have. Also met Sam, who is from Lebanon / US, who is on a tour since January, 2005. It was very interesting to listen to them. It gives you a new perspective about our country and it's people. We chatted till about midnight in the balcony.

Next day, we went for the trek. Again Prasad had drawn a map for us to follow. We left at 06:30 in the morning. The trek was divided into four sections. The first section was through the estate itself but it was steep. I think it was difficult for us because our body was not ready for the ordeal that early in the morning. The next two sections were gentle till you reach the base of the Thadiyendamol peak. After that, the tracks are difficult to follow. We actually wandered off twice - all because of wrong left: I never understood the leftist view anyway. Once we took a left that we were not supposed to take and landed up in a valley with no where to go! We managed to trace our way back to the stone wall (landmark) and then instead of taking the track to the left took the other left track to a deep jungle! After wandering again for about half an hour, finally decided to come back. Came back to the wall again and this time took the right track. By this time, there were four other trekkers who almost caught up with us. They seemed to have fresh legs and we were already tired. Realizing that they will soon catch us, Arun wanted to catch his breath and suggested that we don't stop for him. Kailash and I decided to make it to the top without stopping. We wanted to be the first to make it to the top that day! the view from the top is beautiful. It was a very clear day and we think we saw one river meet the ocean! We had our brunch there - rice cakes, eggs and a very sweet pineapple packed for us by Prasad / Vincy. By this time, we had finished all the drinking water that we had.

While coming back, we took a de-tour to visit a waterfall and sat there for some time. The return walk was without any further event. We just joked about things like how Arun said "I don't trust you anymore" when we were lost in the jungle and how Kailash's shoe sole was all but non-existant by then.

After returning, we ate another wonderful meal: this time mango curry being the main attraction. We took the afternoon easy. We slept for some time before dinner. Next morning, after another cup of the fresh coorg coffee, we left at 07:30. The coffee flowers were in full bloom by then. This is not a very common site though since this happens only a few times every year. Sam took a lift till Virajpet. As Kailash said "One Bengali, one Punjabi, one Gujrati and one Lebanese listening to Spanish music in an American car". After dropping Sam at Virajpet, we drove towards Bangalore. We reached home at 3 in the afternoon. Back to office in the evening!

If you are interested, here are the details:

Prakash Poovana Estate
Palace Estate
Kakkabe,Kodagu – 571 212
Tel: 08272-238446
Mobile: 988 044 7702
Contact : Prasad / Vincy Apparanda

This trip reminded me of Gushaini more than anything else. Wish James, Sri and Milind were there to share this experience.

Marching into March

It's the end of another week and it's time for me to write the weekend report.

Weekdays were normal; after returning from Delhi, I took some time to settle down to work; good that I finished all my work for February before I left.

Weekend was lazy as usual. Saturday was all about waking up (big job), watching TV, listening to music, and finally dining out at Chung's. The food was very nice; service was slow though(for a chinese joint); portioning was great. What we ordered for three turned out to be enough for five!

Sunday was when we decided to give Samarth's TV back to him. From now on for a few days, we don't have television. Sushant had come over after a long time and we decided that we were to cook lunch for him. The menu - Dal, Dum Aloo, Papad, Pickles and roti; the chef - Mr. Arun Salwan; the helpers - Kailash and me; the guests - Sushant, Samarth and Anu; the food - GOOD! It always is when you cook yourself. We had fun while cooking pulling each other's legs and goofing up. I exceeded my own expectation when some of the rotis that I made were actually roundish in shape. Went out in the evening for some window shopping. Ended up watching "Fun with Dick and Jane" - my first movie in a Bangalore hall! Good hall - bad movie! We had choice of "Crash" and the Dick movie and I chose Dick: what a *&%$. Just came to know Crash has won the Oscar this year! Dinner was at Tigerbay (food court - Garuda mall) - they specialize in Seafood. The Prawn dishes were good. The fish cutlet was actually a fish chop! It didn't have a crispy coating of cutlet that is normally there due to the presence of egg. Heck - I am not your typical Bong, but I am a bong after all! Desserts and coffee were at Cafe Coffee Day, Indiranagar. Started missing the TV after we came back. But there is always a good side to everything. For about three hours, we were chatting about everything under the 'moon', which wouldn't have happened if there was TV! So let us talk, read and listen for a few days before we get a TV. Have to do something about the Champion's league matches!

Before I end this report, have to tell you a few positive things happening:
1. Shaji has gone to Dubai on Friday to find a job. I hope he does that soon and starts wearing "Dubai ka chasma". Settle down there Shaji - I will have one more place to visit!

2. After a long time, I felt the urge to click a few photographs: Model - Sushant; prop - guitar; set - terrace. Will post them as soon as I get them developed.

3. Anu just gifted Samarth a Motorazr V3i. It's sexy as hell and functional too! Thank whoever that Motorola had the brains to add expandable memory to the V3.

Five reasons why I think England might win the World Cup

1. Defense: Ferdinand, Garragher, John Terry and Sol Campbell can all play central defense. Gary Neville in the right back position and Ashley Cole(if he is fit) in the left back position and you have a solid defense.

2. Midfield: Beckham / Shaun Wright Phillips playing right, Gerrard and Lampard playing attacking midfield, Owen Hargreaves / Carrick playing defensive midfield and Joe Cole in left looks formidable. It's a pity Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham may not play together.

3. Forward: This could well be Rooney's world cup. Besides Rooney, Owen(if fit) and Crouch are there to play forward. Darren Bent can be a good replacement.

4. Bench: Jermaine Defoe, Jermaine Jenas, Woodgate, Ledley King, Alan Smith(if fit) can all be very worthy replacements to the replacements / alternates already mentioned.

5. The draw: If everything goes right they should top Group B. Second round they meet Costa Rica / Poland and then Mexico / Holland in the quarterfinals. If they manage to go through all these, in the semifinals, they meet Brazil. Then anything can happen!

Overall, England is a strong team. Against Uruguay, they showed they have the character to come back and fight. They have key players at all positions and also have good replacements. They can be a very attacking side. Think of this: Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick or Hargreaves fighting for the ball in midfield; Neville - Beckham from right and Ashley Cole - Joe Cole from left creating waves of attacks; Rooney and Crouch prowling in front of opponent's goal - exciting! Can't wait to watch them.