Tag Archives: general stuff

Monsoon Treks: Mumbai

So many people going out on hikes and treks near Mumbai these days. Out of curiosity, I was going through my email, and looking at the different hikes and treks that happened this monsoon that I came to know of.

In the lead to trak Sahyadris Rajmachi leads with 7 treks followed closely by Lohagad and Matheran with 5 and 6 respectively. Matheran weather in August seems to have a lot to do with this. Misty dreamy atmosphere in a town without motorized transport…… Other popular picnis spots near Mumbai seem to be Karnala, Peth trek, Lonavla in general and Sudhagad. The focus seemed to be (unsurprisingly) on places to visit in monsoon near Mumbai.

In terms of interests, wildlife and people seem to be made for each other followed by photography, trees and a small number of people engaged in waterfall rappelling. Figure 8 rappelling is a new term I have learnt these days after hearing it from at least 5 different sources in enquiries for programmes. As far as I am aware, there is no such thing. I assume people might be referring to the figure of 8 descender used in rappelling. Though why would an activity get its own seemingly different identity simply through the label of one of the equipment used, is anyone’s guess. We use that descender anyway. How would naming the activity after it be anything significant?

Adventure learning activities and leadership games seem to be a growing interest and one group of friends actually turned their trek into a thrilling and learning experience by including active reviewing into their plans.

Great feeling. So where have you been this season?

Really safe dangerous adventures

Ah, what do I say, the growth pangs of a young company are torture indeed. I’m in the process of negotiating a deal for outbound soft skills training for a BPO. Money is a crunch, and they want the world as always, but what’s more annoying is that they want really safe “high
adventures”.

In the clients words, “Most of us have never been in the outdoors, so we want to experience something really dangerous and spectacular” and in the same breath, “it shouldn’t be too scary”.

I think they want to have some kind of a good time in the outdoors, but as usual, the focus is on the adventure rather than the learning.

That’s fine. I guess I’ll just need to show them some fancy pictures
and some explanations on actual and perceived risk.

Let’s see how it goes.

Missed the monsoon ISABS event

How dumb of me. I’d completely forgotten about the annual monsoon event ISABS usually has. I wanted to attend, but sigh! It already began on the 4th September. I’d completely forgotten about them, and whn I remembered and rushed to visit their site, I found that the event had already started. I’ll probably go for the next event. I was hoping for this Mumbai regional one – it works out cheaper than the national events.

I rarely write about this, so the posts are probably buried among others. For the curious, my previous posts about my ISABS journey were about improving myself after my BLHP – Basic Lab in Human Processes, and then when I was just back from my ALHP and when I went all sentimental about my journey continuing.

For those who are clueless about what I am going on and on about, ISABS is the Indian Society of Applied Behavioural Sciences. They conduct a variety of laboratories (as they are euphemistically called I guess – they are anything but impersonal) oriented toward self-discovery and interpersonal skills including facilitation skills with groups. The series of programmes are collectively referred to as a journey in the sense of self-discovery and improvement.

I honestly recommend these programmes to anyone interested in self-improvement.

Busy with code

Its time for my sporadic obsession with the website. These days I’m trying to spruce up the entire place. I fiddled around and learned new stuff. I found this thing AjaxWP and installed it on the site. It requires a little fiddling around with the theme, but once that is done, it makes the site run much faster, as no doubt regulars here will have noticed.

Its a really neat modification, though I’d have appreciated a little more clear instructions. Newbies to code have a duty to mess up everything we touch, and I take that seriously :D

It took me a while to figure out that I have to create versions of my theme files for the ajax, and rename them and keep them in the same folder as the rest of the stuff. Now that I’ve figured it out, it seems kind of obvious, but until I arrived at enlightenment, I tried replacing the files, creating a separate folder, sub-folder….. you name it, I done it – all except the very obvious – just let them be where they are :P

Other than that, I’m reworking almost the entire site now. Trying to generally tweak things around to make them prettier, faster, read better, etc. I’m at a stage where I’m totally confused, but there seems to be emerging some kind of path through the chaos.

I’m in a somewhat “overreaching” kind of mood as usual, so I’d appreciate any comments, suggestions, complaints, etc that can help me toward better webdesign. Pleeeeease don’t wait for me to revamp the whole thing and then show some major glitch I’ve created somewhere. My abilities are rather limited.

Blister season

Heh. Monsoons near Mumbai are fun, but let’s be honest – this is blister time. Whether we go on a fun picnic, or a long hike, or simply roam around in the city. The continual wet feet are quite blister prone.

This is why I was so impressed with this product – GlacierGel I came across as I was surfing. It is a clear blister dressing that protects the blister, and is soft and is transparent as well, so we can keep an eye on the painful spot. The perfect recipe for feeling free to risk our feet and know that we can deal with any blisters that pop up?

Working in the outdoors

One of my freelancers was just enjoying a cup of tea with me during some spare time on a programme. He wanted some advice, and I had all the time in the world, unless something went wrong, so we plunged into the subject.

He had been offered a job with another company and was wondering if he should be taking it. He does some freelance work with Hills and Trails, Wild country Learning, us, OET, and some other companies as well, and earns, (like most other free lance outbound resource people in India) in a very erratic manner. A good month is riches and luxury and some months are a step away from being very badly broke. Not that it isn’t the same with any self employed person, but I find this particularly of concern in the outdoor adventure industry in India.

The salary offered in this case was pitiful, but it would be guaranteed every month. On the other hand, this boy would lose his freedom to choose jobs that he liked, paid well or even helped him learn and develop. It was a tough decision.

Most Indians are not too aware of adventure tourism, and even those aware of it are not always happy to pay big money. Most adventure businesses do reasonably well, but the pool of freelancers we mint our fortunes on, are not as lucky. Some of us are now taking care to offer better rates, more reliable working relationships, some security, etc.

But on the whole, an adventure instructor in India, is leading a life with its economy also in a desperate rescue scenario.

Most such people are more into the business as it doesn’t require any specific qualifications or skills beyond those they can earn on the job. So they aren’t always equipped to have any other profession. They are in a physically demanding profession, and even barring accidents, very few can work in the field as they grow older. They need to be able to figure out other ways of sustaining and providing for their futures, which is something that doesn’t really seem to occur to them.

Not having the benefits of a regular income, or investments through the work place, there is also no source of back up for money. Hardly any invest in any sizeable life insurance, medical insurance or even basic “nest-eggs” for emergencies.

I suggested the best I could. I asked him to tell his new employer that the amount offered was really low, and he couldn’t accept it, unless he was allowed to accept bookings from other companies on the days when the company employing him did not require him. In my opinion, he should have asked for a basic amount per month, with an additional smaller amount calculated according to the number of days he spent in the field. This is what I offer my regulars. Unfortunately, his new employer wouldn’t have allowed that, and I don’t have vacancies.

I hope things work out for him.

Rafting time

Its monsoon time again, and the world is a rich green. While we conduct rafting trips all through the year, monsoon is a special time, because the river is really full of water. We no longer are slaves to the dam that releases the water for our precious white water.

The season is good this year. The field staff have got in another raft to deal with the work load, and trips are running full. Bookings actually need to be done two weeks in advance to have any guarantee of getting a place on the raft. And all this, in spite of having enough water on the river to allow an additional late morning run as well as the usual early morning one with the dam water.

Not bad. Raka and I are in a good mood these days. We’re planning to join a group from JP Morgan who have booked with us this Sunday, and hope that this is going to be a time for us to get away from the city and feel truly like being in the outdoors for fun again.

Who knows, there’s a group from the same company on Saturday as well, and we just might make an overnight trip out of this. Monsoon is certainly not a time to be sitting in the city.

I’ll see if I can get some fun pics out of this.

From Sangli to Kule Narshingpur

This post will be split into two, as there is plenty of content. I’ll focus this on the travel and the people and the next can be about the religious experience.

Getting from Sangli to Kule Narshingpur is a pain. First, there is a state transport bus journey to Islampur, which takes about an hour, and then there is the further journey by bus/rickshaw to Kule Narchingpur, which takes another half-an-hour.

We were lucky to find a luxury bus waiting as we reached the bus station at Sangli, and the journey to Islampur was comfortable and quick. Not much to do, except watch the kilometers tick by, and the wierd little conductor interact with the people on the bus in his singsong voice.

This region is all about sugarcane production, and we passed fields with sugarcane standing, or in various stages of being harvested, sugarcane loaded on tractors, bullockcarts, being stored….. whatever – sugarcane – and loads of it.

In Islampur, we gave up trying to figure out further state transport and simply hired a rickshaw to take us to our destination. The road was now bumpy. I guess the parents in law were not exactly comfortable. Raka was sitting on half the driver’s seat in the front, as these rickshaws are designed to seat only three, so I guess he wasn’t too comfortable either, but I was enjoying the ride through the countryside.

Thr Krishna flowing behind the templeThe lane leading to the templeSitting in the mathMy father-in-law and Raka entering the village

Narrow bumpy roads, blocked with bullock cart traffic – pretty heavy – we seemed to be waiting more than moving. Charming glimpses of the river, and all kinds of people chattering with our rickshaw man as we passed them. Very charmingly rural, if you overlook the not-so-charming ruts on the road.

Bullocks and goats seemed to be all over the place. Parked in front of homes having lunch, yoked, pulling carts, being loaded, unloaded…… I’ve never seen so many bullocks in one day.

We reached the home of the pujaris at our destination. Actually, the pujari on duty was someone else, but my parents in law had good relations with another, who wasn’t on duty, but we stayed with them anyway. I was surprised to find a Marathi family – I was expecting Kannada Brahmins (my in-laws are Kannada) like in Sangli. Apparently there are historical migrations and stuff involved and the seeming discrepancy was a normal state of affairs in such issues.

At least I could understand what was being said. I found myself feeling at home. The family were really charming people, complete with a really charming old widow grandmother – a typical joint family.

We visited the temple in the evening, and I have never seen such a charming location in this region (plenty in the Himalaya). What can I say, I’ll let the pics do the talking.

Mother-in-law and I - washing hands and feet in the riverFather in Law washing feet in the riverMother-in-Law going to the riverSmall structure on the bank

Finally, my travel account – Sangli

We left Mumbai by train and travelled overnight to reach Sangli. Uneventful, except for a hugely pregnant and very charming lady and husband occupying the remaining two berths in our “room”. We reached Sangli early in the morning and headed to the home of the priest in the temple we were visiting. We got refreshed (bath and silk clothes, etc) and went to the temple.

My mother in law and I on the banks of the Krishna

The temple is at a charming location on the banks of the river, that looks pretty nice, but smells something awful. The priests actually bathe in it as a part of their ritual cleansing – a thought enough to give me the jitters – it is probably cleaner not to bathe. Anyway, we bathed in a bathroom, so life was good.

The guruâ??s samadhi

Leaving the parents with their God, Raka and I skipped off for a quick tea and food break and discovered a restaurant called Swagat (meaning “welcome”) which was amazing for incredibly delicious food, and the lowest bill (Rs.54/- that’s less than a dollar and a half) for two people I have ever encountered for stuffing myself till I had vadas coming out of my ears. Overall, pretty good.

Sitting in the math

Floating along in the bliss of a stomach full of extremely desirable food, Raka and I returned to the temple to find that the puja was already over. That is really quick and efficient for these temples. We did the obligatory bowing and donations etc and it was time for lunch! I could swear that I couldn’t eat a bite, after what we were just returning from.

Fortunately, lunch at the pujari’s home involved a significant delay as it was prepared. Then it was time to give a “supache vaan” which is something I cannot describe. Suffice it to say that it is a collection of assorted items related with a female’s fortune in Hinduism, that we gave to the pujari’s wife. What I remember is a sari, comb, coconut, betel nut, betel leaves, kaja, rice, dal, jaggery, salt, some money, mirror, etc. Then it was Raka’s turn to give a dhoti and stuff to the pujari, and we were “clear”. Time to eat.

Food was good, except that there was a massive quantity of rice to consume with assorted dals and vegetables followed by sweet rice, spiced rice and finally curd and rice. I’d had enough ric for a lifetime by the time I was done with that meal.

After this meal, the only thing possible was sleep :D and all the four of us crashed for a nap in unworded agreemment.

Sangli, Kule Narshingpur, Kolhapur

My parents in law are staunch theists. They believe in the multitude of Hindu Gods and the places they need to travel in order to obtain their blessings. One such location is this trip, which is actually three locations. These are the family Gods of our clan. No matter where we go, these guys are supposed to have their benevolent eye on us.

Apparently, my father in law had ignored the Gods for many years, as had his parents, and bad times came on the family, when my husband was young. Then some astrologer told them that their fortune will change if they go and meet their roots – the Gods who look after their clan. Full of suitable repentance, and reverence, they did so, and claim their luck has changed ever since. Health, happiness and money flowed.

I am skeptical. Where is this flowing health when my mother-in-law needs to take some 12 pills at one time 2-3 times a day? Diabetes, blood pressure, …. Their explanation is it could be worse. It is a matter of their previous actions that is causing them to come to these experiences now. Heh. It could be worse whether you believe in God or not.

But regardless of their beliefs and ours, I really respect them for not forcing us to conform. Except for this one thing. It is quite common in India. Newly married couples go to the temples in their villages to pray within a year of the wedding and ideally, immediately after. In our case, this didn’t happen. We managed to keep avoiding this tour because we were busy or something or the other. But whoever has lived in India, with Indian parents know, that once the mother decides on something, obedience is inevitable. It is simply a matter of time :D

Raka and I don’t believe this nonsense. We are both atheists. But we do love our parents, and you know how it is in India…… if your parents insist long enough, obedience is inevitable. We tried all the excuses and explanations we could. We didn’t believe, if God is everywhere, what is the need to go to a specific place…. and so on. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with our debating abilities. The parents believe that it is our divine duty and it must be done – never mind that we don’t believe – do the actions.

Whatever. We like the region and are ok with travelling there, but so many temples…..? I guess resistance is futile :D

So here we are. Leaving for Sangli tonight. By morning we will reach there. Then it will be a merry go round of temples and offerings. We will be supposed to show our gratitude to the powers that be for giving us good lives and asking for good lives :o

This promises to be very different. Stay tuned. I’m going to be back on the 9th and will be writing about this trip.