Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Level 4 – the unofficial adventures – El FinalĂ©

[This entry is the last of a 3-part series. Click here to read the 1st part. Click  here to read the 2nd part]

Coimbatore railway station. 10.05 pm. Obtained a ticket for general travel on board the Cheran Express. I rushed to platform 2 where the train stood for departure. Found the general compartment coaches. They were full. Still I did not give up hope. Kept searching the coaches one general coach after the other, until I noticed a coach with only women seated inside of it. Oops, wrong coach! Retraced my path to the previous coach; got in. There was hardly space to stand.

I stood beside a woman seated on the floor. She looked all braced for the journey, wearing a scarf over her ears, and all. She kept a small green bag beside her. I was standing beside her in the small space I could afford. Even in this pathetic condition people were trying to move about from one end to the other either checking out if there was place or returning to their seats. I asked another person where he was getting down, and he said Chennai. Damn, all these people must be alighting there…Getting a seat was hopeless.

At the woman seated beside me I lend out my hand and offered to keep her bag on the top rack for the luggage. There was a fellow neatly squeezed up on that rack, but he wasn’t so much of a bother. Just wanted to keep the bag up so that people can pass about. Are you going to sit here? the woman asked. I didn’t reply, but thought to my self: No, but seriously what made you think I’d actually do that…?

Then all of a sudden there was quarrel. Somebody’s luggage landed on somebody’s head. They were quarrelling and quarrelling, until the owner of the bag protested: this is what to expect in the general compartment…I felt like this journey is definitely going to be a sour one. It was not the quarrel, or the lady who was about to offer me a seat on the floor, or the fact that almost everyone on that coach was headed for Chennai. I felt may be if I left, it just be one less trouble for all of them.

So I went and asked the owner who hurled his luggage at a fellow passenger: Can we refund a general ticket? He said that we could, but they’d deduct Rs.20 or so. I was a little happy on hearing this. I turned the other way, grabbed my bag, and made for the exit. The owner noticing my relative absence beside him called out to me and said,

Enna boss, dedinu plan maathithingala?
(Why boss, this sudden change of plan?)

I shrugged. Wanted to say something: God bless India. But I quietly got out of the train.

10.30pm. The moment I stepped out of the train it felt like as if a strange divine relief dawned over me. May be getting out of that coach must have been one of the best services I ever did for the Indian Railways.

Level 4 complete!

Getting back to chennai wasn’t that hard after this point. I went to the Kanthipuram bus stand. (Thats the same bus stand I got down earlier). I had to find a bus that goes to Salem. Instead, on reaching the bus stand I asked around for direct Chennai buses. Fortunately there were private bus services. But they cost a little more. What the hell, I’ve come this close to a direct bus to Chennai, I thought, and took the 1st bus I could find. It was a non-ac semi-sleeper video coach. There was a movie going on when I boarded the bus. Dhoom 2. Looking at Aishwarya Rai on the tv screen I felt a little repulsed; I saw Pink Panter 2 the night before on Star Movies. I had enough of Ms Rai for one whole month already…They played Dhoom 2 half way, and then switched on to one of Surya’s old hits – Kaka Kaka.

Don’t remember anything that happened after the 3rd song in the movie. Then I knew the bus halted somewhere; I woke up and got my self a new bottle of water. Activated the Google Maps app on my phone; it showed Thorapur. Heck haven’t heard of this place before. Who cared anyway. Got back into the bus. The next thing I knew, it was morning 7.30 am, and I was in Chennai.

Perhaps the holidays thought me a valuable lesson. Always book your return tickets. But this ride, though it seems like a crazy thing to do, was enjoyable. I don’t regret not booking the tickets. This was truly an experience – another small step towards celebrating the spirit of life.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Level 4 – the unofficial adventures – Part Deux

[This entry is a continuation of another post with a similar title. Click here if you haven't read the 1st part]

The queue for the Coimbatore bus looked ordinary. I knew it was long. But I didn’t know where it ended, or how long would I have to stand in the queue. I passed the line of people, one by one, from the point just before where the bus stopped for boarding the passengers; followed it to the inside. The building would have been 10-15m in width. Standing on one end you can see the back entrance. I thought that was the end. But as I went closer, the line shifted to my right; the queue stretched down to the main road. When I reached the main road, again, the queue shifted right. It followed the building and back to the main entrance only just a few meters from where I had initially noticed the queue’s start.

While waiting in the queue my sister calls. She thought I boarded the train to chennai from calicut (whose departure was @ 5.40 pm, she imagined I’d be sitting in the general compartment of course). She was a little surprised when I corrected her saying that I took the bus instead. I told her that there are many options from Coimbatore to reach chennai. She specifically enquired about the train timings. I told her that I had no idea. Then she began to give me advice on what I should eat for dinner. Have only vegetarian…! she told. I said, I already gobbled up 3 porattas and a bowl of pepper chicken curry. For a moment there I felt like she had the doubt whether I was actually her brother! I had to console her saying don’t worry, everything will get digested as I come to the end of the queue. I’ll let you know 1ce I reach chennai, and wished her goodnight.

I enquired about the train timings and bus timings with a fellow co-worker via phone. By the time I got all information I was nearing to get into the bus. So my options stood as follows:
a) heard that the last state transport bus to chennai to was at 10 pm. But if I had to miss this bus, I’d have to get to take a bus to Salem, and then catch a bus to Chennai from there.
b) if I were to reach there before 10 pm, I’d could catch the Cheran express train which starts from Coimbatore. It departs @ 10.20 pm.

On reaching Coimbatore, I asked around for the state transport bus stand. Crud! People didn’t know what ‘state transport bus stand’ meant…I told them I wanted to go to chennai! All of a sudden their faces kind of animated with the joy of having understood what I initially meant to ask…There were 2 bus stands from where you could get buses to chennai. I wasn’t sure where to go. The guy I asked suddenly called out to an auto driver and asked me to take him to some place I never heard of before. And the auto driver again asked me where I wanted to go. Even he repeated the fact that there are two places you can get a bus from, and offered me a ride for about Rs. 60.

Didn’t really like the offer. Someone told me earlier, that all the important places (bus stand, train stations, etc are all nearby. Therefore I told the auto driver I can’t pay him that much. He was straight faced; didn’t even come to negotiate. It was about 9.45 pm. I asked him how to get to the railway station. He pointed to the main road via the terminal’s exit.

I was expecting the station to be somewhat at a walkable distance. But as I stepped out, there was no sign of a railway station. I asked around again, and learned that I had to take a bus. So I got into some bus. Fortunately all the buses that stopped there would eventually go to the station. So I took the bus, got down at the railway station, and made my way to the ticket counter.

[This post is intentionally a series…to be continued…as I cannot write everything in one stretch]
[Edit: Click here to read the last part]

Level 4 – the unofficial adventures

I am not affiliated with the actual site. But I guess there are some good photography available there to publicly view, albeit a little old.

The usage of this (unofficial) way kind of hit my mind when I realized that it was absolutely pathetic travelling via train to chennai (from calicut) especially during the holiday season with no reservation. Of course I should have done the reservation first a long time ago, but I somehow didn’t. Therefore I was rampantly finding out other means of getting to Chennai. Finally I chose to take the bus. And as most of you may know there are no direct bus services to chennai from calicut.

So yesterday after a bit of asking around learned that the best way to reach chennai was to somehow reach Coimbatore, and from there take either the train/bus. (Again, the former choice was a bad one). But unfortunately the frequency of buses to Coimbatore from Calicut is very rare. If I remember correctly theres only 2 services - in the morning and night. It was somewhere around 2.00 pm when I learned this…

Okay so how do I reach Coimbatore?

One of the state transport drivers told me to take the private bus to Palakkad. There are services to Coimbatore from there regularly from there. So I boarded one such bus. And this was my first journey to that place. Feel asleep most of the way though. I for some reason kept thinking that this bus had to go via Thrissur, Ernakulam, etc. Calicut to Ernakulam is a 5 hr journey. But after a late realization, I figured out that these buses fork at Ramanaatukara; it takes the road from there which goes to the Kozhikkode airport, Malappuram, Perintalmanna, etc.

And thus I finally reached Palakkad at around 7pm. To make it to coimbatore however you had to find the state public transport bus stand. No idea of the frequency of buses to coimbatore from there. Heck, no idea where the state transport bus stand was either…! After a little asking & walking around I finally found the state transport bus stand.

It was around 7.15 pm. The 1st thing I saw when I entered the station was a bus to coimbatore completely packed with people. Okay now when is the next bus? Is it the last one? If not when is the last one?! I went and enquired for the station master. Noticed that even the buses for Tiruvananthapuram (or Trivandrum) were packed, and people waited in queue hoping to catch the next bus for a seat. Looking at the passengers inside I told my self ‘God bless India’. (Even though I know I’ve not seen the worst – God bless India).

The station master was a patient fellow. He answered my queries patiently. So the last bus was at 10pm; buses were frequent – 1 every 10 min; it takes hardly 1h 15m to reach coimbatore. It was only 7.30 pm. So I thought it was best I dine. Had a very quick dinner; quickly visited the public urinal, and then headed towards the queue where people waited for the coimbatore bus.

[This post is intentionally a series…to be continued…as I cannot write everything in one stretch]
[Edit: Click here to read the next]

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pulicat and Tada Trip

Went on a trip 2 pulicat lake n tada falls last sun (13th Dec). Rented out a car n made our journey. 5 different paths converged that day. 4 of them repressed with the corporate life. (me, sitaram, jerry & ashwin). The last 1 was prob sick of eating too much sea food - ganesh, sita's cousin, the marine engineer.

Our 1st stop was Pulicat which is about 50kms from chennai. Initially we thought we'd take our bikes for a ride, but then due to uncertain weather forecasts we ended up hiring the car just to be safe. The pulicat lake is 1 which adjoins the sea (the bay of bengal). Its a huge lake. There are many islands streching the mouth of the lake. We rented out a boat, and parked near on one of these secluded spots. All of us brought clothes esp 4 swimming, but nev had 2 use it. We were just happy 2 mke it in2 the waves with just our jockeys, frenchies, vips, n other unpopular brand of underwear.

Sita made me taste the bay of bengal; I think this was first time too! Ashwin collected a lot of shells. (He also made some pretty decent credit card debt collection calls from his cell phone). Even I had some shells stuck 2 my body; they must have thot I was a coral reef or sumthing! I and Jerry did wht we do best everyday in the office...wrote SQL queries...on the beach! Well he wrote SELECT * FROM TABLE. I as usual, compiled that statement and wrote Syntax wrong. Screw u!

All of us were exhausted after a dip in the bay of bengal. On the boat ride back, we took photos of the scenery, the lake, and the birds. The pulicat lake is known as a place of rest various migratory birds. You'd see all sort of these birds during the month of May which is touted to be the actual season to visit the place.

We did take some explicit photography of ourselves there while on the boat. These photos are available online. We have branded certain pages appropriately (as lite and full versions) (pun intended).

After the ride back to land we visited some Dutch tombstones. (This place was once a Dutch settlement too). There is a grave yard; its entrance gate leads you through an arch. There are sculptures of 2 skeletons there, adorned with some Dutch writings. One of the skeletons is ready to welcome you to the cemetery. I wanted to take a picture. But the scene was probably too scary for the camera film.

We were totally exhausted after the dip in the ocean. if all that wasn't enough we headed straight to tada falls. The tada falls is again about 40kms from pulicat; somewhere after the Andra border. This was my first experience trekking. You have to do about 3kms of trekking to witness the actual falls. When we reached the place it was almost evening. We couldn't make it upstream as it required too much climbing. But fortunately there was a place downstream where we could take a bath.

Warning: unless you want to bang your head, and consequently suffer from amnesia, please do not take a dive head first into the stream. The bed is rocky, and the water is freaking cold! But it was damn refreshing; we were all so energized after the dip in the stream.

We were exhausted again after the trek back to our ride. And then we slowly returned to chennai. On our way back we were famished. We spotted a punjabi dhaba on our way back. (some 40 kms from chennai). The five of us feasted around 47 chappathis in total. Dinner there was exquisite, and lovely. We occupied those traditional cots they'd provided. This was my first and best experience eating from a dhaba.

After having dinner Ashwin, was seriously thinking of a change in profession. He wanted to take a 2-day internship from this place; come back to chennai, and start a dhaba on his own. I wonder if you are lost & stuck with this guy in a forest, he probably setup a dhaba there too...

When we reached Thirumanglam, our car gave off. The front tyre punctured. Hey something bad had to happen. It was a 2007 alto we rented. Guess when we returned it became a 1997 maruthi...Fortunately we were in a busy town area. We approached a nearby cycle repair shop and asked if they'd fix a punctured car tyre; thus the car was fixed soon.

Overall, this trip was fun; it was a celebration of life. And we all look forward to having more adventures like this...

PS: more photos to be uploaded soon. Keep checking the feeds for the same link