Category Archives: Travel

How (not) to share your photographs

Bitten by the shutter bug, I have been looking up a lot of photography blogs/other people’s work. With media sharing taking over our lives, it is very important to curate what you put out there. In photography it’s almost guaranteed that out of a session you will get only a few really good pictures.

Some good advice:

The easiest way to show people that you take good photographs is to simply not show them every frame that comes out of your camera. To appreciate a photograph, the viewer needs to make some sort of emotional connection to it. It is very hard, if not impossible, to make such connections with a huge number of pictures in one set.

If you want me to make the effort to look through your pictures, you could atleast do me the courtesy of presenting it nicely. How many times have you come across pictures that have been taken in portrait & then posted without rotating them? It tells me that you apparently don’t care much about this, so why should I?

Hit up this link on how to sort your pictures so that everyone looks forward to going through them.

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Panshet…An experience a of a different kind.

With Eid falling on monday, we would have two full days of chutti. Faced with extreme boredom we planned to head out somewhere. It was a tossup between Shivneri Fort & Panshet. With Hemant vetoing the fort with as much intensity as China did India for the UNSC seat, it was Panshet that won. The “We” consisted of Anuj, Anshu, Hemant & Me, with Raghav being in Mumbai & Soni refusing. The departure time was set for 8 AM, but being what we are, we got up at 7:30. :)… miraculously we were out by 8:30!
Had breakfast at Mayur Colony [Loni Dosa] after which we set our course for Panshet. The route was pretty simple, head onto Sinhagad Rd., past Khadakwasla, towards Sinhagad Fort & turn right when you see the sign telling you to do so 🙂 [If you don’t then you will end up at Sinhagad Fort & that we had already done!] From there it’s another 20kms to Panshet. The drive was the best, comparing to Mahabaleshwar & Matheran. Mahabaleshwar made us work the gears going uphill, & Matheran was not as scenic. This was a perfect mix of the two…the climbs were gentle, the road was smooth with minimal traffic, & we were surrounded with lush greenery throughout. Riding pillion, unfettered, I was completely mesmerized by the beauty. With my custom playlist [created esp. for the trip] setting the mood, I was simply in another world altogether. Glorious.
On arriving in Panshet, we followed the signs that led us to a small place that catered to tourists[food/water/entertainment]. It was pretty secluded & there were hardly many people at that time.
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The main attraction was “water sports“[if you could call it that!] in the form of Paddle boats *bleh*, Motorboats rides, water scooter, Speedboats & Kayaks. We settled on Kayaks deeming the others ‘unworthy’ of such a trip. It was then that we got an FYI from Anshu that he & water were not really compatible…infact he had never been in water that was more than waist deep.
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Thankfully there was a Kayak that held two people so Anuj & Anshu went on that, with Hemant & me going solo [another FYI :I am a pretty good swimmer, have been so for quite sometime & completely at home in water. All thanks to mum’s constant hounding :)]. So on went the life vests [damn bulky things I must say, made movement difficult 😦 ] & we climbed into the kayaks. Its one funny boat! You sit with your legs stretched out & if you want you can lie back too [atleast normal ppl can, Hemant could barely sit stretched out, let alone lying down :p]. You have some holes beneath your heels & your bum, I suppose its to let out the excess water that you bring in while paddling, the kayak stays afloat as its made of hollow plastic. You have a two sided paddle that you row with alternating bet. left & right [or would ‘port’ & ‘starboard’ be the correct terminology?:p].
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It took us some time getting the hang of it…the trick is to dip in the paddle deep, stroke, pull, repeat on the other side. Soon we were rowing like pros! [well almost :D]. I had taken a coupon for half an hour but it was so much fun that I extended it to one hour. We horsed around, raced each other [Anuj & Anshu won 😦 ] & had all sorts of fun!
Hemant went ashore to get the camera & took our pictures. While he was getting back on the Kayak again, he fell in the water! The best part? The camera was strapped onto his life jacket & that too took a nice dunking!! That kind of cut down the excitement & a few mins. later we were out of the water. Hemant was sad as there was’nt a photo of him on the kayak. He took out the batteries & the memory card & set it to dry. Will have to give it to the service center & hope it has not taken a major hit. The photos that had been taken were on the memory card & I was pretty confident that they would be OK, & they are.
As he was already wet, Hemant decided to take a planned plunge into the lake. Anuj followed him, on his return Anshu gave in & he too stepped in. Though he did’nt know swimming, the life jacket kept him buoyant & soon Hemant was teaching him how to swim. The heat was making the water look so very inviting that I could’nt resist :). Soon it was the three of us in the water & anuj was ordered to take the pics :). Swam around, splashed, taught Anshu & floated along enjoying the cold water against the hot sun.
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It was almost an hour later that we got out & changed. Everyone was VERY well tanned leaving Hemant very distraught! [I have made peace with my skin tone knowing that it cannot get any darker, so have no concerns whatsoever :D]
It was now 2pm & the only thing we had eaten was the dosa in the morning. All the activity brought on the hunger pangs [Rowing is not an easy thing! Our arms were burning with the effort . And they are still sore at the time of writing this!] so we decided to have lunch at ‘Preet-da-dhaba’. After taking a couple more pics, we bid farewell to the place & headed back.
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Reached Preet-da-dhaba in half an hour & after the scrumptious lunch, topped with the heavenly lassi, all we wanted was to lay down & sleep. Somehow we made it back home [approx 4:30 ]& after a nice cold shower I fell on the bed…& did not get up before 11!
Overall a day VERY well spent! Went to an offbeat place & did something new. One awesome experience the beats the hell out of the regular khadakwaslas, lonanvalas & the khandalas.
That’s how we do it!!

P.S:With this trip my bike has crossed the 10,000 Km mark ! [And about time too!]

American Adventure:Panama City Beach

Left rome at about 8:30….almost on schedule 🙂
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The distance was 392 miles[630km]…covered it in 7hrs exact. Would have been less than 6 had we not been sidetracked, gone through small towns instead of going around them. The GPS keep on taking us into narrow streets instead of the highways. But I must say, I was really impressed by the sign system of the US. You can go from A to B over any distance just by know the direction of the destination [north/south etc. ] & get on the respective highway. You have signs telling you when to take the exit, which rd. you need to be on next. As you approach a traffic signal you have a signboard as well as spaced out strips on the ground that produce a different kind of noise than the regular road. The closer the you get to the signal, the distance bet. the strips decreases. I have seen 4-way intersections with no signals, just a 4-way stop sign. The car that arrives first at the intersection, is given the right of way, without any mishaps or blocking up the intersection. Excellent roadway system…no wonder ppl drive over long distances!

Ok enough of the road now…you must think I’m in love with the sadak & that i must do lotpot on it!

In PCB, checked into the edgewater resort. It’s not as good as the one in Orlando, but it good enough & this is the only one we could get reservations in, given the short notice. PCB is located in the Gulf Of Mexico…had planned to go to San Destin ,but the resort there were full. They gave these ‘resort tags’ to differentiate us from outsiders who might be wander around the resort…I call them Dog tags :), you may catch a glimpse of them hanging from out pants/hands/ankles. Very irritating. Also if you lost them there was a $5 fine…& it’s easy to loose one, considering you are on a beach swimming & playing around. Then there was a mandatory $25 breakage insurance, that the reception guy said covered us till $1500 worth of damage, making it sound as if he was giving us some sort of a gift. The advantage is that now we have something to vent out our frustration on :p

Ours is a beach front condo so you can see the the sea right from the balcony & being on the 7th floor, the view is absolutely breath taking!!!!!

Panorama picWhite sand…green blue ocean extending into the horizon…the sun reflecting off the water. You can hear the surf breaking on the shores all the time.
Beautiful.

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The afternoons was hot & no way were we going out in the blazing sun! I don’t know how the ppl can stand the heat & lay on the beach…the sand gets pretty hot too. Anyway since PCB is in a different time zone, it is 1 hr. behind Rome time, had plenty of time. So we relaxed for a couple of hrs, had lunch [finally had Peanut butter jelly sandwich!! thanks to Shivani SS Singh ]
Put on our bathing suites & walked down to the beach at 6 [local time] as it is the sunset is pretty late here…we had atleast 2 hrs of light. The sand was really soft & felt good beneath my feet, though they do make walking a bit difficult! It was white, & not brown making it look like powder. Walk down to the edge & tested the water…was cool. Walked along the edge letting the waves crash around my feet soaking in the surroundings. This is the second time I’ve been on a beach in my life. Am not counting Lakswadeep as I hardly remember anything….Had gone to Andaman & Nicobar, a long time back….memories are faint now.
Did’nt waste much time hanging around [just enough for a couple of pictures :)] & were jumping into the sea. The water felt cool, the waves kept pushing us back at the start, but soon you feel them pulling you out. ! there was some seeweed floating around, but that wasn’t a bother…the saltwater unfortunately was…It was too salty, after sometime you had a bitter taste with the water going in your mouth.
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Also you couldn’t keep your eyes open underwater as it would sting & that made swimming difficult. But these were only minor inconviniences compared to the fun we were having!! Swam out a bit, dove into the oncoming waves, scared shivani by going underwater & catching her legs :p. With the sun gone behind the clouds the beach had also emptied out [no sunbathers] Played around waiting for the sunset…the cloud hid the sun just before it dipped into the ocean, but still it was beautiful. Came out sat for a bit & then took a shower to wash out all the sand…

”]The Sunset[Click to enlarge]

It was starting to feel cold with the wind picking up, so decided to go into the resort pool as it is a bit heated. Swam in the pool for another half an hour with aabhas, shivani & mama [mum pa & aastha were still at the beach].
All this swimming had made us all ravenous so reluctantly we had to go inside, shower, change & then go out for dinner. It took us 45 mins to find a place to eat! There was way too much traffic on the road….ppl walking were going faster than us :(. It seems during the day everyone is at the beach & during the night everybody is on the roads…Crawled our way across beach road, found nothing so turned onto another, Hutchison, which turned out to be exactly opposite. Zero traffic! But then it had nothing on it…Cruised around till mama spotted Applebees. The place was nice, & we had a good dinner. An added bonus was some really good music, almost all were my favourites.

By the end of our dinner, it was 11pm & we were all beat…Aabhas was literally asleep on his feet! Headed back to the resort & lay on the bed without even bothering to change. Was asleep soon 🙂

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Today [writing this on the 28th] plan to go parasailing & jetsking. Plus there is go carting & maybe even a bit of bowling.:D
Expect another post soon
Cheers

American Adventure:Florida Edition 1

If you have been reading my blog regularly, you’ll know that we were to leave for Florida on the 13th. You will also know that we were supposed to have left Rome by 6am. The first part was taken care of..but the second part was woefuly out of sync. Instead of 6, it was 8:30 by the time we left![many reasons:us packing late into the night & shivani returning late from ‘The Fray’ concert….she could’nt get the poster, so she got me the T-shirt instead. Thank you SHIVANU!!]
Had packed before on the 12th before going to sleep…2 pcs of luggage with our clothes, 4 backpacks with odds & ends, & 4 big bags of food/snacks & associated content[masalas,tea sugar, pressure cooker, nimki, bhujia..,you get the picture, right?]!! Thankfully, everything,JUST fit in the trunk. Took a whole bunch of pics throughout, the good ones are on mama’s camera & will try to upload them asap, but the ones with me are up on the album, link in the RHS under “US trip Links”. Left by 8:30. Stopped to get gas & some cappuccino for us all…I don’t know why but these rest-stop cappuccinos are always thick & yum! Chatted, goofed around with shivani, snacked, took pics [silly/funny/good ones]. Saw some great cars:many Mustangs, a couple of Corvettes & a Porsche 911 turbo.Had loaded up on DVDs & watched shivani’s ‘Take the Lead’ followed by ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’. Had lunch around 2pm at IHOP[International House Of Pancakes]. Loved the three egg omelette filled with chicken with pancakes on the side! [eating complete different food here…fajitas, pancakes etc. & more to come :)]. Lunch took us an hour…slept for an hour or so once in the car….woke up to a strong rainstorm [heard later that there was a high alert for the storm] with the rain & wind making a huge din, reducing visiblity & increasing out ETA :(.
Finally made it to Orlando, Florida. Stopped at a mall to pick up some milk, eggs, bread, butter & water. In case you are wondering why we are picking up/packing cooking stuff that’s because the resort we are staying at [Sheraton Vistana Resort]
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is like a large housing colony with rooms that are like a 2 BHK’s[Bedroom Hall Kitchen set]. A resort with apartments[though they call it villas] you could say. Staying here for a week so must have groceries to cook breakfast/ snacks/ tea etc. Checked in, got our keys, free gift, coupons etc. & went to our ‘apartment’:1939.
It’s on the ground floor, with a lake as its ‘backyard’. It’s a sweet suite! Small & cosy, yet fun [with a jacuzzi in the bedroom!]svo5608gr-41256_ub.jpg.
Having food courts/gyms/swimming pools & loads of other activities within walking distance of 2mins…It’s gonna be fun!!
Moved in all the stuff into the apartment/villa & had tea[the kitchen if fully furnished, down to the microwave & dishwasher]. Aabhas & mama were going swimming, so we tagged along & took a small tour of our neighbourhood. Got back withing an hour, freshened up & left for dinner. Had planned to go to the pizza hut in the food court, but there was a long line & they didn’t have much choice in the pizzas & so we left for Uno.It was located out of the resort & Aabhas was the one to recommend it. Like the previous two times [at Chili’s & IHOP] I chose what mama likes at the respective places, here it was chicken milanese[roasted chicken breast, with salad & & garlic toast]. The servings were large & we ordered the food accordingly, & this time there was minimal waste of food [unlike chili’s!]. Place highly recommended….lots of stuff available[am staying off burgers & pizzas to try stuff you don’t get back in India] & everything we had was tasty.
After dinner [& a picture] we took a short drive around ‘Downtown Disney’ before returning to the resort. Everybody is now asleep except me…& no, no midnight coffee tonight!

Tomorrow we will leave for JFK Space Center, an hour long drive. This time no departure time has been set, so hoping we don’t get too late!!

More tommorrow..cheerio 😀

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PS:Check out my trip location/landmarks/routes etc on my google maps. You can also follow me on Twitter. All the links are available in the column on the right under “US trip Links”

American Adventure:Atlanta Daytrip

Had loads of stuff to do before 12:30pm today. Why? Mama had some meeting in Atlanta, so we decided to join him for the trip to have a look around. We were to leave for Atlanta around 12:30.No morning walk today…instead I went cycling for 3 miles…felt good, ridden a cylce after a LONG time :). Got back, mum oiled my hair [dandruff??] & we packed for the weeklong trip to florida, beginning tomorrow. Shivani was going to a concert [The Fray were performing in Atlanta] with her friends & her iTunes library would not sync with her iPhone…fixed that to stop her from fretting to kingdom come. Had to take Buddy & drop him off to his doggy hostel, for the time we would be in florida. Showered, got dressed & pestered Shivani to shower quickly [she was the one who knew the location of the hostel, or so I thought!]. Left with Jason, got lost, kept looking for a florist found it & soon located the neighboring doggy hostel. Dropped buddy along with a week load of food etc., rushed back, stuffed backpack with snack & water for Atlanta & heated a ‘Lean Cuisine’ Pizza for brunch.
Mama pulled in the driveway with me just gulping down the last bite. Wished everybody goodbye, reminded Shivani to get me some stuff from the concert & were off.

It was a hour long ride, mama dropped us off at a mall, whose name I can’t place now…we or rather mum & Aastha went snail pace shopping while Papa & I scouted the whole mall in an hour & a half[Trust me, it was BIG]. Spent 3 hrs. in & around before mama called to say that he was done. Joined us soon & we had ice-creams before heading back. Aastha got some clothes, a pair of her dream brand sunglasses [those huge ‘bumblebee’ ones! Hate them!! *yuck*]. Mama got me an iDesign Cube Clock…verryy cool & slick :), I was looking for a laptop sleeve but they had only the 15.4″ ones, not 13.3″, mama said he would take us to an electronic store & I could get the sleeve there. Mentioned the thing about an external HD, to which he replied that he already had a 320GB one at home!
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[Though I was planning to get a 400GB one, I am not one to look a gift in the horse’s mouth! 320~400 anyway :p]
Reached rome at around 6 & played with the HD[3 partitions:Mac, Time Machine & Windows/NTFS. Fiddled around with time machine till I finally had it down pat. Convenient & classy]. Set up the car headphones/remote so that we could watch movies on the car DVD player…afterall it would be a 7hr drive :(. Checked to see that everything played on all the screens & the headphones. Helped mami to pack food stuff esp. Indian stuff [masalas,daals…going to make khichdi there :p. Obviously, not ON the beach!!!] Had dinner two hrs. ago, now having piping hot cappuccino & finishing this.

Have to get up by 5…the plan is to leave here by 6. How fruitful it will be? Hah! Unlikely :). Anyway must atleast give it a shot. So off to sleep.

Good Night 😀

American Adventure:The Journey Concludes

[American Adventure:Part 1Part 2]

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We are here!! 23 hrs of cramped seats, ear poppings & constant noise later we are here. And it seems to have been worth it.

The Crappy Part:Getting here
I knew it was a long journey & was humoring myself that it would be an easy one, with my pune-lucknow-28hrs-travel-experience & all. But it was uncomfortable. Left for IGI by 9:10pm…got there by 9:40. Had 8 bags & checked them in quickly [thanks to the uncle who helped us to get it done qiuickly], went through passport check as well as the security check without any hassles, pokes or prods 🙂

Had to wait until 12:30 till boarding began, [flying on KLM]we were in the air by 1:40am[all times are w.r.t IST]. I had the window seat & papa was across the aisle[ Our seats were 18G,H,J,K…funny thing:No ‘I’ between ‘H’ & ‘K’!!]. One redeeming feature of the arduous flight is that they have the new planes with the mini-tv’s in headrest’s rear. Once that was turned on I was in heaven! [pun intended:)]. It had movies, TV shows & music. Had to make a whole list of what to watch…spoilt for choice.
Saw the foll. movies & TV shows, in between dozing off, listening to the radio or ipod, taking pics, & eating [:)].

  • The International
  • Valkyrie
  • Watchmen
  • Yes Man
  • He’s just not that into you
  • FRIENDS [again :)]
  • Scrubs
  • 30 Rock
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Numb3rs
  • House
interesting stats

interesting stats

over moscow

over moscow

Distance in perspective

Distance in perspective

Over Amsterdam

Over Amsterdam

Dawn in the sky

Dawn in the sky

Arrived at Amsterdam [Schipohl Airport] at around 9:20am IST [6am local]. Got down & freshened up[European loos rock! & by that I mean they are clean :)]. An Indian looking girl with a weird accent came up & asked me for some money to make calls to her parents, unfortunately we weren’t carrying any euros & none of our phones work in Amsterdam…

The connecting flight to Atlanta wasn’t until 1:30pm [10:20 local], so we whiled away the time roaming about the huge airport

on the horizontal escalator at Schipohl,Amsterdam

on the horizontal escalator thingie at Schipohl,Amsterdam

[our Indian airports are nothing compared to it…we had to use the horizontal escalators/conveyrs to take us from part to the other!]. Since we did not have the Schengen visa, could not go out of the airport. Had some breakfast:3 Croissants, 1 Hot chocolate[have to drink the american coffee to see the difference between freshly grounded beans & our instant Nescafe!

Breakfast@Rs.720!

Breakfast@Rs.720!

Plus I have to taste to believe the so called caffiene ‘kick’], 1 tea [costing €12 i.e Rs.720! *winces* ] & lay down to stretch out or bodies [the plane seats are damn cramped. No width or legspace 😦 ]. Half an hour later started our ambling about again, the duty free shops, electronic stores [handled the Aluminum MB & drooled :D], bookstores etc. making our way to gate F3 where we were to board KL 0621 for Atlanta.

Wings of fire

Wings of fire

After the long que past the security check we boarded. This time all our seats were together in the center 21-D,E,F,G but somehow we ended up sitting in row 20! Papa noticed the mistake about 15 mins into the flight but thankfully nobody asked us to change…would have been so embarrassing!

This was the worst part of the journey. A second flight of over 10 hrs. & the excitement of getting to our destination doubled the frustation. Time seemed to pass so ssslllllooowwwllly! Same routine as in the previous flight:Movie, food & sleep. This time we had to fill in the custom & immigration forms as they are required in the US. Finally landed in Atlanta around 11:10pm [1:45pm local,6.6.09,saturday]. Home free!!

The Good Part:
Mum, having been here many times took it upon her to herd us, though why she was running I had no idea!. Customs & immigration were a breeze, while baggage claim was unnecessarily time consuming & convoluted. We collected our bags after the custom/immig. from the conveyer belt[8 HUGE bags…other passengers were staring with wide eyes & open mouths! One woman asked mum if we were moving here :D], loaded them on the trolley, & rolled them to another conveyer belt. Loaded the luggage onto it & then went for a security check. Was pretty thorough, this one. Had to remove all electronic gadgets, belts, jackets & shoes. We went down an escalator then up another to finally board the APM[Automated People Mover] to get to the exit of the airport. Here there was another conveyer belt that brought our luggage…after a wait of 30 mins 😦 [why the double work? Why cant you just bring the directly here, instead of asking us to pick it up inbetween?] Here the luggage carts were pay to use, so papa who was excited to try out his credit cards internationally, got his chance!

We saw Aabhas first followed by Jason, Rachel & the former little, but now not-so-little Shivani [she is getting taller than me! not that I am tal, but still!]. Finally saw Amar Mama, greeted him & gave him a big hug! Due to the large number of bags mama had to bring 2 cars, one he drive, Jason & Rachel were in the other. Loaded up & left for Rome[Rome of Italy is has seven hills & three rivers around it. So does this place, hence the name too], a 2hr drive from Atlanta. The drive was great, being in the company of family & driving through a beautiful place in a fantastic car[Hemant would have liked the car!]!

Reached home around 4:30 to finally meet dear Mami, making the reunion complete :). An addition to the household is now Buddy,a Japanese Chin, a super funny & cute dog[though it was some time before I stopped calling it Jelly & started calling it Buddy :)]. The first thing we did was to take a tour of the house. And what a house it is!! Beautiful & comfortable, blending regal with futuristic. Absolute fantastic.

Beautiful Home

Beautiful Home

The neighbourhood was the crowning glory. Located within a former forest, Berry Forest, it is surrounded by pine tree. There is a golf course behind the house adding to the greenery. No walls or fences, just a change in the colour of the grass to mark property limits, tall trees with birds nesting in them & NO noise. No vehicles, ppl shouting, dogs barking or anything. Feels like a resort at a remote hill station. Perfect spot for a vacation. Give it 20 on 10!
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Chatted away for an hour, then sat down for Lunch/Dinner. Had Shrimp, Chicken, Paneer:Scrumptious! had a bath & drank a BIG mug of tea :). FInally went to sleep at around 12, almost countering the jet lag.

Random Notes:
-The shops at the IGI were way overpriced! 1 glass of soup for Rs.90, 2 Samosas for Rs.160!!
-Aastha dropped her boarding pass in Amsterdam & mum dropped her passport in Atlanta. Thankfully the other passengers attracted their attention in time!
-Weather is super nice here. Not hot or cold…just right.

FOR ALL PICS CLICK ON “AMERICAN ADVENTURE” IN THE BLOGROLL COLOUMN, ON THE LEFT

American Adventure:The Journey

Bags are packed. Everybody is ready & just waiting for me to finish this & then we’ll be gone. Have to be at IGIA by 9:30pm.

Route & timings:
ND[1 am]->Amsterdam [5:50am local time] .
Departure from Amsterdam at 10:30am [local time]…meaning 4hrs of aimless wandering inside the terminal at Amsterdam *BORING*. Amsterdam[10:30am]->Atlanta[1:40 pm local time]
[Amsterdam is 3.5 hrs behind ISt & Atlanta is 9.5 hrs behind IST].
The whole journey will take 23hrs[should be in Atlanta by 11:10pm, 6th June by your watches]….a piece of cake for me considering it takes 26-30hrs to get from Pune to Lucknow!!
Since we are heading west, we will be gaining a day.

The next time I put up a post it will be from the US, unless of course I get an open wifi connection at Amsterdam.
See you all soon!

American Adventure:Prelude

This is the first of many entries that will encompass my month long vacation to the US, visiting family [specifically:Mamaji!…if you don’t get it, no worries. It’s an inside joke with my roomies!]

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Finished with my exams had to rush home to finish with my packing. Had approx. 2hrs. to wrap everything before I left for the station. Planned to reach early so that I could stash the hulking piece of luggage that I was carting around.
But I am getting ahead of myself.

Put clothes, shoes, kit, in the BIG bag. Plugged in the Mac for charging & plugged the iPod into the Mac. Though my phone was almost fully charged, plugged in that too. Had to collect all my clothes lying around the flat, hanging on the clothesline, sort them & put it in the cupboard or bags as required. Since I would be back after a long time, had to put stuff away to protect from dust & prying eyes.

Looking at the clock-3:20pm. ETD-1 hr[ETD as in Estimated Time of Departure…self derived from ETA :)]

Surveying the mess, I saw my travel sandals covered in dust, washed it quickly & set it to dry. This reminded me that I had to wash my nike shorts also, did that too & hung it to dry along with a prayer [for a quick dry :)]

Had a bath & got dressed. Set up my backpack: Put in the MB, iPod, my 3 standard pair of headphones[yup, 3-Sony’s noise cancellation,default white iPod buds & Creative HQ-80], book[The Appeal:John Grisham] etc. Put the cables & chargers in the BIG bag [though I don’t know useful they will be in the US, considering the different ratings used there. But since I will be needing them in Delhi had to pack them]. Zipped up. Gave a mental rundown of anything I had forgotton, crosschecking it with the written list I had. All Done. Gave the flat a look over, put away some of the important things in the cupboard.

Final check:
Ticket:Yes
Wallet:Yes
Phone:Yes

Locked up & ready to leave. Pressed the lift call button & as usual, it was out of order. Carried the BIG bag down three floors & hailed a rickshawallah. Got in & got on the road. Time Check-4:20pm…on the dot 🙂

Reached the station at 4:45 paid the auto guy Rs.75 [the guy was honest, & I did not have to haggle]. Its a good thing Pune station has ramps all over because carrying it all over would have been a b*tch :(. Asked a passing coolie “Boss, pushpak kis number pe aaegi? ” The guy gave me a quizzical look & walked away without answering. It took me a moment to realise that I had said pushpak insead of jhelum ! Anyway found the train & hoped in the first AC 2 compartment I saw, headed to my berth, no.19. Was dismayed to find that the whole block was full, with zero space for luggage anywhere. Started to argue when the guy pulled out his ticket & said that his berth was 19. Opened my mouth to say something, but then my dimaag ki batti went ON [without any help from mentos or any other associated mouthfreshner!]. This was 19 of A1, I was in 19 of A2! Proffering my apologies & feeling embarrassed [one advantage of being dark or saavla is that you can’t see me go red when embarrassed :)] Went into the right compartment & thankfully this 19 had loads of space to put my BIG bag. Stuffed the dang thing under the seat & heaved a sigh of relief.

My co-passengers constituted of an uncle, his son & a girl. They were cool, we chatted throughout, making this journey way better than my previous one! Tina got down at Gwalior at around 4:15pm the next day. The train finally reached H.Nizaamuddin at 9:30pm & I was at UP Sadan by 10, having palak paneer 🙂 [I had nothing except a packet of Goodday biscuits & kurkure+water during the 28 hr journey …BTW check out the label on the bottle!!
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URIA:that’s what I read initially, till i figured it to be URJA 😀 ]
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Had been watching LOST Season 1, till I remembered that I too was going to be traveling on an international flight across the world…watching a plane crash on an abandoned/alien island definitely not a good idea before a 16hr flight.

Watching ’13′[of House MD fame] get punk’d! Hahaa that was fun! *yawn* time to sleep[though I wish I could have a warm glass of milk]…mum, pa & aastha arriving here at around 9.

Keep an eye out for more entries.
[Links to pictures etc. in the  blogroll on the right hand coloumn]

Tripping my way to Delhi-2

THE VISA EXPERIENCE
Basically one has to convince the interviewer that we will not overstay or try to remain in the country illegally. That is the only ground for rejection in the case of a tourist visa. For that one must have adequate documentation/investments proving your connection to your country & that you will return after the stipulated time. We had bank statements & CA documents that showed our total assets-House, Money, Investments. The fact that both our parents were employed & were doing well. We had letters from our school/college showing that we are studying here. We had to convince them that we had strong links in our country that would guarantee our return. We had to have sponsorship letters from mama stating that he had financial stability & could support us. The first time we had applied for the US visa, we were denied. That would cast a negative shadow in the mind of the interviewer, but that denied stamp was in the old passport, one that had expired. The questions we were asked during that interview are foggy [it happened way back….I was in class 6 at that time], but the whole thing had been filed under “scary” in my conscious! On the positive side, we had been granted US visas when we were in the UK & had applied for the visa there. Also helpful, was the presence of other visas-UK, Schengen. [when we applied for the visa from UK it was way easier. All papa did was fill the form, send it along with the passports & the money. No interview, not even a personal appearance! The passports came back with the visa stamped!]
Then there was the thing about my name. It has been changed so many times that it warranted some questions. The reason for the changes were purely astrological, but explaining that to a foreigner[the interviewer is always from the foreign country] would be hard. There was the fear that me & my sis might be considered a flight risk on the basis that we may start to study there, get job offers in the US & then stay there permanently…a very common occurrence .
A lot of our acquaintances & family members have had a lot of trouble getting their visas ,so applying for the visa is a BIG deal

Spoiler[read from right to left]————- asiv eht tog eW ————

-The Visa interview was on the 17th at 9:15. We were staying close by & reached the US embassy by 8:30. Thankfully we were not made to wait..
-No mobiles/ipods or other electronic gadgets allowed in. Only documents, in a clear transparent folder. The person sitting outside noted our application number/name/passport number & asked us to proceed.
-Opened the super heavy door to get into the embassy. There was the usual security check. Xray of documents/wallet etc. walk through a metal detector, frisking.
-Collected everything, got into a shed-like-room. On being asked we presented ourselves as visa renewals [we had filled the renewal form], told the dates of the visa expiry & were given token numbers. Being blood relatives, we were supposed to go in together, but somebody came in between & we were assigned different numbers. We got that changed & out token number was E25.
-Sat down & were chatting away, unmindful that our number was flashing on the electronic notice board. The guy sitting next to me pointed it out :). We got up hurriedly, thanked him, hoped that he too would get his visa & marched off to counter 7.
-Counter 7 was behind another heavy door. We entered to find people standing & being asked questions. I was like “whoa, that was fast, we are at the interview”. The suddenness had gotten me a bit nervous till I heard the questions. It turned out to be a scanning of documents, collection of the visa fee receipt & fingerprinting the applicants. Waited for the couple in front to finish up.
-Our turn came up. The guy took a look at our documents, entered some data into his computer & asked us register our fingerprints. Aastha’s application photo was very different from her present self & he kind of blasted her a bit, stating that the picture should not be older than 6 months. Though why he was being rude, I had no idea. [as it turned out the indians stationed all over the embassy were considerably ruder than the foreign interviewer! The guards outside were rude with mum, who is ever happy to pick a fight, lambasted them for their behavior :D]
-We then proceeded into the inner room where the actual interviews were taking place. There was another electronic notice board that would flash the token number & the counter number. It was flashing E12, so we had a long wait ahead of us. The tokens were’nt only of the ‘E’ category, there were ‘P’,’J’,’L’ etc. [as in P34,J14,L22]. Only 5 counters were open & any number from any category could flash so we had no idea how long the wait would be.
-We had each other’s company, so it was ok. We didn’t get bored. I had already had my dose of adrenaline at the previous counter so now I was pretty calm. Kept an eye on the flashing number & chatted away. I tried to figure the average time of the interview, tried to guess if ppl had gotten their visas or not.An hour later E24 came up & we got ready. Unfortunately it was another half an hour later that E25 finally flashed. The unnecessary wait had instilled some jitters. Got up & went to the counter for our interview
-Interviewer was a middle aged guy. Wished him Good Morning & took our places. I had planned to stand near the speaker as I can sometimes have trouble hearing clearly. That backfired when to were asked to confirm our fingerprints on the FP machine. The speaker was on the right & the FP machine was on the left. First Aastha went on the machine,switched to the right & then I had to go on the machine. Eventually I ended up on the left 😦
-Gave him the applications & the passports. He asked us about our previous visas, I showed him the old passport. It had my old name & thankfully he did not ask anything about it.For the next 5 mins he checked our applications, scanned our passports, entered stuff on his computer, compared our pictures to us, asked me to take off my glasses etc. This was good as I get a bit flustered at the beginning of any interview, need 10-20 seconds [not as lucky during my oral exams!]. Standing there I felt pretty confident
-Finally, the questions.

Interviewer:What do you do?
Aastha.Student, Loreto Convent, Class 12.
Me.Student, Studying in MIT, pune

I.What are you studying?
M.Enginerring.

I:Ok, What kind of Engineering?
M:Mechanial Engg.

I:What does you father do?
A:He is a bureaucrat, secretary to the CM

I:Why are you going to the US?
M:To visit our uncle, he is a doctor

I:Where does he live?
A:Rome, Georgia

I:What kind of doctor is he?
M:err…he’s a physician[could not remember what it was!!]

I:*laughs* I know he is a physician! What kind of physican!?
M:umm…[What does he do!!internal physician??no…]
A:Internal Medicine.

I:How long will you be staying?
M:About a month.

I:Who else is going with you?
A:Our mother

I:Who will be financing you?
M:Tickets etc. will be bought by our parents. In the US our uncle will be taking care of us.

I:So you will be staying in Georgia for a month, with you uncle?[the tone implied incredulity ]
M:Leisure activites. We have another uncle who lives in california, so we will also be visiting him.

I:Ok

-Entered some more stuff on the computer. Then he picked up the passports & put it aside & said that the passport would be mailed to us with the visa. Man hi man laddu phoot rahe the!

Wanting to scare mum a bit, we tried to straighten our face & make it look sad. A very tough job since my mouth would automatically form a grin! Aastha got the brainwave of holding our old passports in our hand [if we had been denied the visa, our passports would have been returned to us]. So we walked out looking for mum. She was standing with an umbrella & we saw her face tense up. The moment we got close, aastha jumped on her about the way they had advised the filling of the form, how the photo was not new, & the data erroneous etc. [I had planned to go soft, but aastha launched into an offensive!]. Mum had this shocked expression till we told her that visa mil gaya! The relief was instant & then came the expected lashing!![She had already had the tiff with the embassy security. She told us about that later!]Called up papa & told him & later Nana Nani & Mama.

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We came out in 2 hrs. That was very quick. Last time Aastha went it had taken them 4 hrs.! The procedure was very streamlined, but maybe that was because we were applying for a renewal. Whatever the case, we got the visa. The duration will be known only on receiving the passport, but hey, I am going to visit both Mamas this summer!!

Tripping my way to delhi-1

I had applied for the US visa & had requested the interview date of 17th April as my cousin brother, Ranjan bhayia was getting engaged on the 19th & I planned to kill…err hit… two events with one trip. Well I got the date & was all set to leave for delhi.

Getting from pune to delhi was a major headache. A communication gap between me & the agent resulted in a cancellation of a confirmed AC ticket, leaving me without any means to get to delhi. And I came to know of this gaffe 12hrs before my supposed departure date! [I did not tell mum as she would go all hyper] Thankfully the agent got me a waitlist-ed ticket [WL 86!!] on the Jhelum Express that would atleast get me to Delhi. The next day I got to the station, caught hold of him again & he got the ticket confirmed. How, you ask?well let’s just call it “Indian Jugalbandi” 🙂

The journey was the most excruciating one I have endured. The mixup had gotten me a ticket in the sleeper coach, in the near peak of summer.In the block of 9 seats [yes, it was one of “those”…even the side berth had three, & I had to sleep in the middle :(] there were 15 ppl. Of them, 8 were aunties that were on their way to Vaishno Devi that screeched on top of their voices throughout. I had to use my Sony noise cancellation earphones to tune them out & prevent the onset of a headache. The heat was melting me, the air was too hot & no place to sit.All the water I was drinking was being sweated out & I was scared for my kidneys!! [After watching House MD, I am scared that something that I think to be very minor is going to land me the hospital. That TV show has made me do some crazy things, something that will soon write about ].The berth was very small & I was cramped throughout the night. One small consolation was that I had my friends iPod touch that provided me with some entertainment in the form of 3.5 movies [the battery ran out during the fourth]
I dont eat much during train journeys, having a phobia for using train loos. The aunties were concerned when I did not have any dinner, unfortunately for me they did not see me having breakfast & were adamant that I share their lunch with them. Now I know their intentions were noble but the food they were eating was just roti with various pickles. The rotis had become hard & dry, the pickels did not feel good in the heat. Sadly in India we have a habit of going overboard when trying to make a guest eat. Each aunty gave me 2 rotis, so I ended up with 16. As it is, I was not hungry, & even if I was, no way could I have eaten all of that. Somehow I managed to return most of the rotis, but still ended up eating 6 as it would have been impolite to leave it unfinished. They had to throw away the pickles [they had given me pickles as if they were subzi!]. Again I dont mean to be disrespectful but I had to stuff the food so as to not offend them, food that I did not like one bit [tasted like sandpaper :(]

Anyway,I was mighty glad to get to delhi when I did, which was at 10:30pm on the 16th. Went to the guest house where Mum & sis were.I was surprised to find that the place had an internet connection & a VERY good one :). Have a couple of torrents lined up for download!!

So here I am lying in a big bed, in an air-conditioned room & tapping away….
Visa interview in the morning, so off to sleep now

Home

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So excited!!Bags packed, cant sleep. Have to leave at 6am & its now 2:55am.
Kuch karne ko toh hai nahi so have put steve Jobs Keynote speech foe streaming. Its an hour long, lets see kitna dekh pata hun.

see you…in lucknow!! 😀

Close shave Mamu!!!

In the past week I have been breaking the law, quite freely at that. Now before any of you break into a tizzy & call the cops or more disturbingly the MNS, its nothing BIG [by BIG I mean something along the lines of murder/robbery ]. I & other fellow indians [should it be capital indian have a capital I?] have been doing it for quite sometime & with impunity.What is it?Entry into a one way road. I am writing this post because I have been having really close shaves with the traffic police/mamus in the past week.

Now as compared to others, I am a stickler for rules or rather civic sense.

-I am very punctual, if I say i?ll be there 8, then it mean 8[my friends will vouch for that].
-I dont throw stuff on the road, I keep it with me 7 drop it in a bin. If I dont find one [which is usually the case], it comes with me to my flat & then gets binned.
-I stop at redlights, BEHIND the zebra crossing.
-I dont start blowing the horn at the intersection as soon as it turns the signal green.No unnecessary honking at all.

Then why do I do the one way thingie? Well its just that, they are shorter. I know that it might not seem to be much, but if you continuously ply over the same route daily, again & again, it slowly starts eating you until you start feeling foolish for not taking the shorter path.

The places where I had the close shaves.
Symbol index:
-Red circle black arrow:direction of travel not allowed
-Blue patch,blue arrow:Location of mamu to stop erring drivers

1)Aigaa Crossing
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As you can see, you can go into the road turning right, but not come out from that road. Anybody coming out from the road is caught by the mamu.
2)
m2.jpg

The mamus usually stand somewhere behind the bunch of ppl in the pic, hidden behind some trees ready to pounce
3)
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Turn right & you are done for!!

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So far I have been lucky & not been caught. Either I spot them [just…] & dont make the turn, or ppl/commuters coming towards me warn me[there is a unity against mamus :)]
Hope my luck continues.
And hope that PMC does not read this or I will be fined online. That would be one for the books 😀

Cena@Sinhagad Fort

This time the Sinhagad plan did work out, though not exactly the way I had expected it to. Hemant fell asleep, after staying up till 4:30am & so did not come along with us. Anuj, Raghav & Me decided that what the hell, we are already up…might as well make the best of it.

So we got ready & left at 5:30. I picked up my camera from Prashant [which went dead as the cells were not charged]& we went to Nal Stop to have some breakfast…well not exactly, I had pakoras 🙂 topped up on fuel & were on our way.

What we expected:
1.Long, cold ride
2.Beautiful scenery
3.Bad Roads
4.Reach fort, park , sightsee, eat
5.Back by 9 AM tops

What occurred
1.Long, cold ride
2.Beautiful scenery
3.Bad Roads
4.Reached the foot hill of the fort, parked, CLIMBED to the fort, got nothing to see, only drink
5.Back by 1PM

Nobody had told us, but there were 2 ways to the fort
a)Drive to the Gate
b)Climb up the hill to reach the gate

making a newbie/dummy/idiotic mistake we chose (b)

It took us more than 1.5 hrs to get to the top…reached the gate around 9 AM. I was dead way before that…anuj’s prodding [& my ipod] kept me going. In 45 mins my legs were dead & I was literally hauling myself up the pagdandi using my hands. I am surprised that my heart did not burst..

Basically I think we were not prepared [mentally/physically/equipment wise]. We had expected to have an easy fun morning instead it turned out to be hell.
When we started off it was cool, nice crisp morning with greenery all around. In half an hour it had become HOT, the sun was constantly in our faces, path became steeper, we had no caps/water & the whole place had become burning yellow courtesy the bright sun. Also please remember that anuj & I had not slept….& as I am not used to eating in the morning & certainly not at 5 am, my stomach was acting up. We bought like 10 glasses of “limbu sharbat” from the stands along the way[how they setup there, I have no idea]…& that added to my stomach woes, the sloshing liquid made me want to throw up

Anyway, we did climb to the top..& anuj was was right…it felt good…satisfying actually. There was nothing much to see really, the “fort” [double quotes intentional] was basically a fortification having a TV transmission tower. Only relics of the fort were a stable & some sort of room. We just sat in the canteen type place & cooled off…

Climbing down was no walk in the park either…my legs were shaking & my nikes had been ripped off. We started taking shortcuts [instead of going in the sweeping snakelike path we cut straight across ] but raghav started slipping & falling so we had to slow down. If the climbup was tiring, going down was plain boring.

n the end…we just wanted it to end. Finally we reached our bikes, I sent up a prayer of the thanks to the almighty & we slumped over the bikes too tired to speak. 15 mins later we bade farewell to the hill & started our return journey.

Aftereffects: Its been 2 days. My thighs & calfs[or is it calves??] still burn when I walk. Climbing up/down stairs is hell [I look like donald duck waddling]. Even my shoulders ache, but maybe thats just because my mattress is crap & I have a bad sleeping posture.

All in all it was an experience…good, bad…cant decide.

Pics

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