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May 12, 2011

Seven bikes and 24 punctures.

Filed under: cycle, cycling, personal, travel — neosurya @ 18:00

On Sunday, seven colleagues from work set out on a biking trip. I had planned a mostly tarmac route going from Koramangala to Sarjapur to Chikka Tirupathi and back. But destiny had other plans for us.

5:45 AM: Vishwa calls saying that they have started for veloinvillage to pick up bikes.

6:00 AM: I get there on my trusty Kona. Ravi has already given them the bikes and are all gung-ho to start on the trip. They have some huge bags to carry: Maaza, carrots, apples, a bunch of towels. I was only carrying my puncture kit, two liters of water and a dozen granola bars. It seemed puny in comparison to the kitchen and a bit of the wardrobe that was going to load their heavy shoulders. I put one of the bags on my front rack, and the rest is carried by others. I think that there is no need for so much food/beverage/toiletries. I was to be proven wrong; food was to be extremely important on this ride.

6:15 AM: We are off. Santosh is lost. Santosh was riding a KHS 500 from Koramangala, gladly loaned to us by Mayank. A few frantic calls reveal that he is opposite the “commandants house”. We advise that he not venture further in said area, and return to Sarjapur road. He swears that he is not lost, Vishwa and Guru stay back for him and the rest ride toward Decathlon.

6:45 AM: Two of us have just crossed Decathlon, and stop for others to catch up. A guy in bike gear comes out of Decathlon, possibly on his routine ride. He stops by us, asks us – “Would you like to ride?”. A quick discussion reveals that he does off-road riding, and takes newbies on rides every Saturday and Sunday morning starting at 6:30 AM from decathlon. I am excited: “Sounds cool, let me ask my buddies.” By the time we wait for others to catch up, I find out that he is Eugene who works for Decathlon.

7:05 AM: Eugene takes us on a detour just a few KMs after Decathlon. Within minutes we hit very beautiful, tree covered kaccha/pakka roads. The next couple hours are best told in pictures:

9:00 AM: We stop for breakfast.

9:45 AM: We enter a forested area, as seen in the 5th image above. Everyone is super-excited, but Eugene has a puncture. As his bike is getting fixed, juntaa gather around for a photo-op. The fomas is bandied around, with everyone exclaiming how nicely the slick tires have held out.

9:47 AM: We find another puncture.

9:47:35 AM: Two more bikes have a flat. The count ends at 7 bikes having a flat. Only myself and Aravind (Eugene’s colleague from Decathlon) are flat-free.

10:30 AM: It is evident that the punctures are many, and the puncture fixers only two (myself and Eugene). Others quickly obtain a crash course on fixing punctures. Spirits are high; everyone is helping out fix the flats, doing photo ops and generally enjoying the experience. Maaza and bread pastry is passed around.

12:00 noon: By this time, even people are deflated. We did not carry kits to handle humans :-/. We have fixed ~24 punctures, and both myself and Eugene start¬† running out of tube patches. There are multiple flats on some of the wheels and there are mistakes when some people put the tube back without removing thorns. Even Eugene “Master-ji” who has so far refused food and drink is close to swearing and takes it out on a bread pastry. ūüôā

Eugene and the bread pastry

12:30 PM: We conclude that most tyres are OK, but do not risk riding them through the shrub. Jokes are made about the fomas, which is the most punctured of the lot. We push our bikes through the thorny shrubs for about 2 KMs and make it to the village of  Sarjapur. By the time we reach Sarjapur, a few more flats occur. We find a cycle repair shop, and hand him over our tired tires.

1:30 PM: A vehicle is hired to carry the bikes and ppl back to BLR. Three of us ride back to BLR, and most make it home by around 2:30/3:00 PM.

By the end of it, we had ridden for about 40 Kms. Not bad for a first ride !!! The bike ride is a big discussion at workplace, and everyone wants to go again !!! Many thanks to Vishwa who helped do most of the planning, and to Eugene, whom we met at the right time :).

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October 3, 2010

123 Kms of cycling and some social work

Filed under: personal, social change, travel — neosurya @ 19:29

On 2nd Oct, I and KP rode to the village of Tekulodu to visit proto-village, a project on village development (Pics here). Kalyan and a bunch of his friends are planning some pretty amazing work in this border village, and I wanted to see it first hand. Also, this was my first long cycle ride. Thanks to Mayank who helped me get a good bike. There was no way I could have done it on my Thunder MTB. Also thanks to my wife and kids, who had to stay back at a friends place at IISc.

The distance was approximately123 Kms (googlemaps) which we covered in about 6 hours:

4:30 AM: Met KP at Sanjay Nagar flyover.

5:20 AM: Crossed BIAL flyover.

6:00 AM: Stopped for a 10-min break at Jain temple.

6:50 AM: Saw the photo of a dosa outside a restaurant, decided to drive through Chikballapur in search of an eating place.

7:00 AM: Stopped at “Hotel Brindavan Garden”

9:46 AM: Crossed the AP check post. By this time, KP was ahead of me by about a kilometer or so. As I rode under an overpass at Bagepalli, KP yelled from the bridge – he was having a Sprite and wanted me to pull over. I continued yelling: “Cant stop now man, my body will refuse to get back onto this saddle.”

10:00 AM: Caught up with Kalyan who was riding from Hindupur toward the NH-7 – Lepakshi junction.Chatted for a while and started off for Tekulodu.

10:45 AM: Reached Tekulodu.

The regular hydration, and chikkis kept us in great shape. We were stretching all through the route and took a couple of minutes break every hour or so. We were energetic enough to walk through the village. There was one problem though – my left shoulder was aching, and I had pins and needles on my left palm. The shoulder pain went off after some stretching, but the pins and needles on my palm refused to go away till the next day.

We dropped by the house of one Harish, a youth from the village who was to be the host for the afternoon. The kids in the village were totally ga-ga over our bikes. In about a few minutes there were about 20 of them asking us all sorts of questions. Several of them rode our bikes.
Bikers !!!

We walked over to the primary school where a celebration about the ICDS program was on the way. Kalyan also spoke for a few minutes.

 

ICDS program

ICDS program

 

We had a long walk, where Harish (a youth from the village) showed us around the place. Kalyan and I discussed various problems going from water all the way to ecological housing. All the while, KP was getting popular with the kids:

 

KP getting popular with kids.

KP getting popular with kids.

 

We had lunch at Harish’s place. KP had to leave in the evening, and I stayed back for an SHG meeting. Most women of the village participated in the meeting. We discussed the flouride problem in their water. Kalyan described possible solutions, and recommended that they should plan on having a purification plant installed by Nov. end. He had already spoken to a firm in Ahmedabad, and went over the pricing details.

It was almost 10:00 PM by the time we ate our dinner. We climbed onto the terrace of a house that was still under construction, and settled down for the night – the bedding was sparse: a straw mat, a pillow, and a bed sheet. Nani, the Panchayat president’s son accompanied me and Kalyan. What a night – the sky was so clear that we could almost see the milky way.

A nice way to spend a national holiday, I thought. I and Kalyan left for Hindupur on Sunday morning. After breakfast at Kalyan’s place, I took the APSRTC bus from Hindupur bus stand to Mekhri circle.

September 8, 2010

Cycle Yatra.

I recently joined the Bangalore Bikers Club. And the very first post got me interested. The post spoke about the “Swapathgami Cycle Yatra“. A brief note about the yatra:

it is a week long cycle trip into rural
Rajasthan. What sets this trip apart from a general cycle trip is that
we do not carry any money, electronic gadgets or first aid medicines
with us. We stop at villages along the route and find work to earn our
board and lodge.

The following you tube video is from the yatra in 2006:

May 5, 2010

Travel by Air India and comparison with Lufthansa.

Filed under: personal, travel — neosurya @ 11:34

We recently traveled by Air India flight from Delhi to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to LAX by Lufthansa. This was our first flight by Air India. So, how was it – Good interiors. Crowded staff. Good food.

Interiors: The flight interior was refreshingly different from any of the international flights that I have taken in recent days. It was definitely Maharaja interiors, with almost everyone having great legroom, and a personal entertainment system.

Staff: The ground staff were friendly, they were going out of their way to help people with children and elderly passengers. The staff in flight were weird – there were at least 2 flight attendants who were not doing anything except instruct other flight attendants what to do. I could be mistaken, but the body language and behavior of these folks was paternalistic even toward passengers.I even overheard one flight attendant lecturing a passenger: “You should not ring the bell too often, I know my duties and I will respond when possible.”

Food: Good, typical North Indian fare.

Our onward flight from Frankfurt to LAX was on Lufthansa. The experience on Lufthansa is usually very German – no-nonsense, no frills, just travel. It is like other things German, like their engineering – dull, but will get the job done. Interiors were composed of plain vanilla seats, no personal entertainment, legroom enough to survive the trip without complaints. Service was OK – one attendant was particularly rude, but you do end up finding a bad apple on most flights. Food – taste OK, quantity enough to make you survive, but you would search for a restaurant the moment you land.

So, the comparison:

Food: Both are on par.

Ground Staff: Air India is slightly better on this one.

Air crew: Air India is so bad that it would make passengers never take another Air India flight again. Lufthansa is also bad, but it is bearable.

Interiors: Air India better.

February 27, 2010

Trip to Bhubaneshwar

Filed under: association for indias development, travel — neosurya @ 11:16

The family went on a trip to Bhubaneshwar – From 23rd January to 1st Feb. We had a report of what we did, and AID Bangalore was nice enough to mirror it. We are trying to raise money for a village school in Parlakhemundi. Please contact one of us at AID, or put a comment here in case you would like to contribute.

Here are some pictures from out trip to the school: http://picasaweb.google.co.in/smilesjosu/AIDOrissaSchoolAtParlakhemundi#slideshow/5434677361723018626

February 7, 2010

What to do when you do not have printout of eTicket?

Filed under: Indian railways, travel — Tags: , — neosurya @ 19:33

All my bags are packed I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin’ it’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’ he’s blowin’ his horn…

And then I remember – Shit !!! I forgot to take print-outs of the eTicket.

Happens all the time – we book eTicket through the IRCTC website and then forget the printout. What to do? As per the IRCTC FAQs, you can get a replacement ticket on the train by paying a fine of Rs 50.

If the passenger is not able to carry the ERS but is carrying the proper Identity card as given during booking, an excess fare ticket will be issued by the TTE/ Conductor Guard against payment of Rs.50/- per ticket, provided if his name is available in the chart. If the name is not available in the Chart, he is not authorized to board the train and the case will be treated as ticketless travel.

We availed of this “facility” while returning from our vacation at Bhubaneshwar:

IRCTC eTicket Chalaan

Replacement chalaan issued in lieu of an eTicket

Now, why is this important if it were already in an FAQ? It is important, because rules never always worked on Indian Railways. Now they do. On one leg of our trip, Mother and Jyostna were traveling together. Jyostna fell sick; The TTE got her a special tea and also got her some medication. This kind of service was not available a few years ago.

June 6, 2009

Trip to Coorg, Mysore palace, and Bylakuppe golden temple

Took the family for a trip to Coorg for three days. A few pictures:

We were six people; and we went by my indigo marina. We stayed at an estate stay; the price was Rs 1,500 per room per night assuming double occupancy. Unlimited coffee and breakfast is included. Dinner was Rs 100 per head. They do not provide lunch. Some other folks [1] have written about less expensive accommodation, but I believe this money was worth it. The cost at this estate stay also changes with number of people and rooms occupied; a colleague was offered very different pricing. The place has a very large coffee estate and Indu Pooviah, the owner took us all around, introducing the local flora and fauna. A trek on a small part of the estate engaged us for over 2 hours. My wife and mom got introduced to a snake during the trek; a rat snake crossed their path as they were walking. I was recording them just a few seconds prior to the incident, and could have nearly had it on camera. We were not very keen on touristy stuff, and wanted to spend the day in a relaxed fashion. The only touristy place we went was the Tala Cauvery, the source of the Cauvery river which was very peaceful and quite. An interesting claim that Tala Caveri is not supported by geographic proof [1].

We were there for two nights; left on Wed morning, visited golden temple along the way, reached the estate at 6:00 PM. Relaxed for the night. We took a 2-3 hour trek around the estate the next day in the morning. At afternoon, we left for Tala Caveri and returnd at 6:00. The next day, we started off for Bangalore at around 10:00 AM, stopping by the Mysore palace and reacing Bangalore at 6:00 PM. Lucky for us, it did not rain much when we were there.

There is much to be done around coorg, and several bloggers have written about exciting treks in the brahmagiris [1, 2, 3]. The place is slowly getting spoiled by plastic and other issues related to tourists; we saw mounds of garbage dumped along the road to madikerri. Had a long talk with Indu Pooviah about how local people had petitioned that plastic be banned in the area. Plastic is now banned there, but you can still see garbage dumps along the road with plastic.

May 22, 2009

Which place do I belong: Bangalore to Buffalo to Bombay…

Filed under: personal, travel — Tags: , , — neosurya @ 00:29

This is the reverse chronological order of cities where I have spent a bulk of my adult life. I belong to both Bangalore and Buffalo. Now, where would Obama place me?

The most enjoyable moments for me in Bombay was when I went out riding a bicycle alone on the roads of BARC. The train ride with friends while going to college, and foot boarding across the Vashi creek was something I always looked forward to. When we were in Ghatkopar, I recall being able to witness awesome sunrises. On clear days, we could almost see up to the hills beyond New Bombay.

Buffalo (Sheridan drive) – our residence for the first three years of our married life. What can I say about this place; my wife can describe Buffalo and our life there better than I can. No matter what I say about the Niagara Falls, Kissing Bridge, the simple Buffalo temple, or the Griffis Sculpture Park, there will be people who still call this the “dead city”. I recall myself driving through the wilderness of South Dakota – miles and miles of nothingness, and when night came, a perfect star-studded sky. Most of my friends would not understand the beauty of an un-spoilt night sky.

Unfortunately though, in these times an individual cannot belong to all places. One has to choose.

Take me for example: I consider myself to belong to three places Рand love them all equally. But if I walk up to the US consulate today and tell the consular officer that I want to visit Buffalo or South Dakota  to spend a night at the outskirts of nowhere, there would be little chance of getting a visa. Now that Obama has Bangalored us, we will not be able to go anywhere with any amount of ease.

Forget Obama, even politicians in Bombay once agitated that all non-locals must be sent back. One can see “local sentiment” in Bangalore as well. Watching the Niagara waters flow by on a full moon night, I had exclaimed: “With so much love in the world, how can one think of a war”. They can, because they “think”. I sometimes wish that whoever made us had never given us the power of thought.

May 20, 2009

Travel by sleeper from Hyd to Blr

Filed under: Indian railways, travel — Tags: — neosurya @ 22:59

Its about 500 Kms from KCG to SBC, almost the distance from NYC to Buffalo. And it costed me Rs 274, little over 6 dollars to travel the distance. I had the dreadful side middle berth [1, 2, 3]. The TC later told us that side middle berths would be discontinued from July end. It was very warm as long as the train was at the Kacheguda station, but once it started moving it became much better. By about 7:50, it was very cool and beautiful. The compartment was very neat. It was unlike the AC compartments – no cell phone or laptop chargers, no hooks to hang bags. But everything was functional. However, there were loose screws here and there and some of the fittings were sharp.

Across from the side berths was  a family of four lads, 2 girls and their two gaurdians. A mom and dad were taking their kids or a trip to Mysore and the cousins also tagged along. As we settled in, the kids had become a little more noisy. There was also a family that boarded with a baby about 6-8 months of age. It was almost like my childhood, when we used to go on long train journeys; fighting for a window seat, jumping about on the upper berth, daddy scolding us to not touch the chain.

It rained pretty heavily tonight. And that made the trip even better. As we sped through drenched farms, the storm occasionally lighted up the countryside in a bright hue. The¬† brief glimpse of nature’s bounty with the sweet smell of rain-drenched soil was beautiful . While it sure was beautiful, the rain was heavy enough to have damaged standing crops. I later found out from Shekhar that his farm suffered about 50% damage to the beans plantation.

The train got to SBC about half an hour behind schedule. Even though it was a sleeper without the comfort of an AC, I did not fare too badly.

BTW, The Indian Railway Fan Club (IRFC) has a very interesting article on how railways evolved since independence. The trip reports also make for very interesting reading; one such report is about the incident at Nagpur’s diamond crossing junction (Photos here:[1, 2, 3] ).

May 10, 2009

Our visit to Nandhini Dairy Farm near Mandya, Bangalore and a small skirmish in the temple

Filed under: bangalore, bangalore sight seeing, travel, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 10:37

Took the ladies to Melukote today and during the return trip, took an interesting detour to the Nandhini dairy farm near Mandya. Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple (CST) first, and then theYoga-Narasimha Swamy Temple. The temples were not very crowded, well – by Indian standards. The concept of a crowd is very relative. The crowd was in some sort of a frenzy, somehow feeling that if they do not rush fast enough, they would lose something. I wonder what prompts crowds to behave in such manners. The crowd could be large, but if it is organized things get done quickly. Guess it is too difficult to explain such a problem. I was carrying a baby, and apart from a couple of people not many were concerned that they could end up hurting someone with all the pushing and shoving. This typical mindset is getting into too many people. The loss of patience has assumed epidemic proportions.

While returning towards Bangalore on the Bangalore-Mysore road, we saw several signs advertising Nandhini dairy’s ice-cream flavors a few kilometers after crossing Mandya.¬† It looked very appealing and made us stop after our recent (not-so-great) lunch. The badam milk and Pista icecream was divine. So was the burfi that we bought. I thought it would be a good idea to see how the ice-cream was made. Sheepishly, I and the two ladies approaced security, half expecting that we would be turned down. He had a couple of looks at me, the mother, and the daughter; guess it was the six month old lady who did the trick and he let us into the processing center after calling the office. We walked over to what looked like the admin building. How did we figure it was the admin building you say? Well, it had the quintessential white Amby, and little else of productive value. Most other building had chimneys, large freezer doors, and trucks of myriad sizes parked alongside. We were sure to find a babu who could grasp our broken Kannada and find a way to let us in.

Sure enough, we found one person who talked to us very nicely, but informed that the concerned person was not in and most of the people could only speak in Kannada. I rarely kept my arms down for fear of language; we insisted that “Swalpa Kannada maatlaadido, understand hogi”. He smiled, relented and was helpful enough to call one “Chandru” to take us around. Chandru took us to the processing center. At the first location, we saw milk trucks being weighed on a trucking scale. Milk is apparently measured multiple times from the trucks; first by weighing them and then measuring the flow of milk. The milk from each truck is sent for random testing, and immidiately put through a pasteurization unit. The pasturization system removes different percentages of fat from the milk, giving us the red, blue, and green packet milk. The fat separated at this stage is sent to generate ghee and butter.

The whole place smelled of milk. And me being the cow loving homo sapien, took all the lovely smells in. Imagine a machine processing 4,00,000 liters of milk each day, and a cow lover standing next to it!!!¬† The look in my eyes was that of a mesmerized kid. Wife was also equally pleased, but not as excited as she would be when we went to the next stop; the butter processing center. They had large wheelbarrows, each containing about 5-600 kilos of yellow, butter. The scent was overpowering, and my better half’s excitement knew no bounds. This was it, we felt – there was nothing more to be seen. Till we entered the ghee processing center :). Lovely place, it had a system that can process 10,000 liters of ghee every couple of hours. Apparently, the system is run non-stop and can just manage to meet the demand. There were vats that could take 2-3 wheelbarrows of butter and process it into ghee. Pure ghee was flowing through taps as large as a water hydrant. We next stopped by the skimmed milk powder unit, and the peda unit. The unit combined 80 liters of milk with 60 KG of sugar to get 18 KG of pedas, and the process took about 1 hour. We did some other simpler things like walking through huge cold storage units which were kept at 0 degrees centigrade, and the automatic milk packaging machines.The supervisor at the lab that tested milk was very friendly and explained some of the basic aspects of testing milk.

All in all, it was a wonderful detour. Some of the nicest things happen when we do not plan for them. The marketing manger can be reached here:08232-274074. Maybe some day I would take a few kids with me for an industrial tour.

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