Thursday, October 12, 2017

laguna de quilotoa | A moment of bliss

When: year-end 2015
Where: Ecuador

A 2015 year-end sudden trip to Ecuador....Apart from Galapagos another bucket list item was the Avenue of the Volcanos; given the time I had, I decided to go for the 'avenida de los volcanes' (Ecuador doesn’t require a visa for Indian passport, hence made it easier).

On day 3 of my trip, i visited the Quilotola Lake (or Laguna de Quiltola) in the Cotopaxi region. It was an old volcano crater which got blasted into a caldera via a volcanic explosion and essentially the crater hole became the lake. From the lip of the crater it is a pretty steep hike down to the lake (vertical drop 300 m) which can be done either on foot or on horseback…I chose to go down on foot along with a travel friend and took almost 1 hr to get to the lake…

As I stood at the top itself the Quilotola lake vista was as stunning as it could get…in the middle of the Volcanic Andes, the blue-green volcanic walls of the crater and the emerald green water shimmering within it! We couldn’t wait to get down and hence when we reached the crater lake after the steep hike we couldn’t wait to get into the water. The water was too cold to swim and hence I chose the kayak way…

And there while I paddled away to the middle of the lake Quilotola - it struck me…I was experiencing one of those what I call 'A Moment of Bliss'…that moment when time stands still in suspended animation, the surrounding ceases to exist and when you seem to touch a moment of Nirvana within yourself.

There while just floating at the center…I paused to take a shot of the view right upfront over my outstretched legs in the kayak; I looked around, I thought back to the full year I had…moments of joy, sadness, anger…that is where I tried to forget the bad memories, relive the good ones, was thankful for all that I had in terms of family, friends and blessings and all that I am able to do….and let the rippling waters carry me gently towards the new year of our lives!

A wonderful destination - Ecuador. If you ever get a chance, do visit.

i owe at least another visit to this wonderful country of wonderful people that i have met to experience the  Galapagos...inshallah sometime soon.

That's my treasured Panama, bought from it's country of origin - Ecuador!

I did end up taking a horse ride back to the top...was too exhausted

The entire volcano caldera- now a lake

(some parts of this piece i had written for an India-based traveler-group blog, modifying it into a blog piece for my page)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Moments of Happiness | Night out at Palolem

When: Some time in the Summer of 2004
Where: Palolem Beach, Goa

As i chanced upon an old photograph from our GIM days, it dawned upon me that our 2 years at GIM holds countless such memories of 'Moments of Happiness'. While the passage of years might make it difficult to remember all of those, but once when an incident is recalled at some time- somehow magically all the characters and events fall into place chronologically in the mind.

Today while i was scanning through the photos i recovered from the now defunct Orkut album (which was our first foray into social media i believe) and now stored for posterity on a Facebook album - somehow this grainy, pre-Digicam, pre-High Resolution Phone cams, in-all-probability-taken by-a-film-cam photograph instantly evoked that feeling of happiness i normally associate to a good aged Single Malt going down my throat spreading it's warmth throughout...

We are young;
So let's set the world on fire,
we can burn brighter,
Than the sun
what better a pub than palolem beach
Left-to-Right: Manshu, Nishit, Shaiwal, Me, Pavan, Mugdha, Sumit-Tak, Anthu, Abhinav
Posted in Facebook over here

As memory serves, this was one of those randomly planned trips that we used to have - announce it in the hostels via IP-Mssngrs and loud hollers, gather the bikes, make a pillion-rider distribution and head for the beach.

i am sure if i search my GIM archives i would get my hands on more fotos from this trip which would tell a lot more tales - of events before and after this moment captured above (along with photos of the rest of our batch-mates all lying around this frame somewhere along the length of the beach); but the one great thing about this snap is that everyone looks so damn happy...even ol' Booboo Behari in his sleep!

The alcohol had been drunk (the empty bottles strewn around being testimony to that fact), but there was still more to go around it seems (from the bottles held by Pavan and I...and yeah, that's not water that Pavaan is holding)...Proff (Nishit) indulgently cradling Chacha (Shaiwal) and Bhatija (Manshu) in his lap, Pavan holding a crab pose while trying to balance himself and the mixture bottle in his hand, Mugz in all probability trying to wrest the bottle from my hand and I resisting it (or could hve been the other way round too)...Tak saab managing to hold a pose for the shutter before returning to his pillow of sand/ Booboo's body - and Anthu (maybe the only non-drunk one around within a radius of 2 miles) lulls ol' Behari to sleep! 
Don't miss the palm fronds being used as mats...and then later to be used as mattresses too!

...And as it so happens, some of these outings would result in an Anthem of the trip...for this one it was the parody of 'Ek din beet jayega' introduced to us by Rajat Mishra and absolutely seared into the memory during this trip. Any song which is peppered with obscenities - voiced by 40 odd drunk people - at the top of their voices - all night long - while sitting on the beach - is bound to stay imprinted!

That and the wonder of waking up on Palolem Beach in the is a sight to behold!

while i write this, some of us are planning to be at our 10 yr reunion at GIM this October...i really hope a lot of us can make it....even though life happened to us after these moments and tunred us into work-riddled middle-aged people, we can still gain succour from the reliving of these memories with those who were a part of it...those magic years of GIM...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Moments of Happiness | At the Phuket pool

{For the context behind this series of posts called 'Moments of Happiness' do read this one}

When: Aug 2012
Where: Phuket, Thailand

One of the days from our 1st Hangover Trip at Thailand….we were at Phuket and was put up at a little resort which was a gem of a discovery by our mate Chiki Sen - Prince Edouard resort.
All of us were a bit travel-lagged and we decided to take it easy for the day; and what better way to do it than lounge at the pool and keep downing the cold Singhas.

It is at one such moment that Chiki Sen captured of the 3 of us (Chatts, Gobs & I) while we lay submerged in the waters…

Photo Credit: Chiki Sen
When I looked back at this photo after our vacations were over and even multiple times after that, I seem to recall an amazing sense of happiness and peace that I felt at that moment…it was almost tangible.
There we were…quite a couple of beers already down and in all probability either recalling some past incident involving the buoys or taking a piss at any the other buoys…for the moment cut off from the worries of the world.

And what wasn’t there to be happy about -  our vacation was just beginning, some of us oldest mates were getting together for it in Thailand - half of us were there and the residual slated to meet us at Ko Samui within the next 2 days, we had an endless assembly line of beer bottles materializing beside us at the pool and the holiday sun just makes everything happier!

Life took a pause as we basked in it's moment.

Chiki Sen a.k.a. Abhishek Sen…one of the Buoys
Chatts a.k.a. Arjun Chatterjee…one of the Buoys
Goba a.k.a. Abilin Mukherjee…one of the Buoys
The Buoys - The DBPC boys and all those non-DBPC ones who have come to be associated with them

Moments of Happiness - the idea behind it...

Unfortunately it is an oft occurring event, that in our strive to achieve happiness we often tend to either overlook, or forget to enjoy & celebrate and forget too easily those sudden moments of happiness which brings forth that elusive nirvana within yourself, even maybe for some moments.
As I often recall that quote from (for some reasons) a favorite movie of mine - The Beach - as Richard poignantly puts it:
"…And me? I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it's not some place you can look for. Because it's not where you go. It's how you feel for a moment in your life when you're a part of something. And if you find that moment... It lasts forever…."

So as an ode to those sudden moments of joy, happiness and peace in our lives which we often ten to ignore, I thought of starting this 'Moments of Happiness' where I would try to recapture some moments from my life where I felt at peace with myself and the events which built up to it.

Will try to keep it short and as accurately as I remember it, just such that years later, these memories can still stay fresh I my mind and can be relived again…

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Travel memory: Thailand | The leap of faith...

When: Aug 2012
Where: Somewhere in the vicinity of Ko Phra Ngan/ Ko Tao, Thailand

We looked down from the cliff…the water was at least 30 feet down. To us  - it looked almost 60 feet down!
(swallowing gulps…) "Guys are we doing it?"
"Only if the rest are doing it and they survive…"
(Silent nods of agreement)…and we step back to allow the rest to take the leap first!

[Cut to - 10 mins before the above conversation]

We were on a day excursion from Ko Samui across the islands of Ko Phra Ngan and Ko Tao. It was an absolute tropical paradise with blue crystal waters, coral reefs in the water and loads of marine life!
We made a lunch stop at Ko Tao and had just finished a superbly assembled Thai lunch with all the delicacies you can think of; and was just about to stretch our legs and rest for a bit when suddenly the guide bounded towards us in general with fingers pointed and issues the challenge in his unique style;

Thai Guide (pointing at various people including our group): You man? You man?
We: (interpreting it to be an invitation to some kind of challenge to prove our manhood, kinda looking at each other in a bit of confusion and trying to apprehend what's coming next)
Thai guide (more emphatic and almost with a finger on our collective chests): You man-o-not? If you man, come-wi'-me...

Being brow-beaten into accepting the challenge, 3 of us khudirams (a close English approximation of this would refer to those fools who tread where angels fear) - Messrs Chatterjee, GuhaThakurta and I, quietly stood up to follow the guide to whatever it was we had to prove our manhood with or by. We turn around to the rest for a bit of moral support expecting them to join the ranks too…& this is what we got:
Chiki: Aami chhobi tulchhi toder ja korte cholchhish kor, tora jaa (I will click the photos of whatever you guys will be doing, you go ahead)
Vag (as a quiet undertone): aamio chhobi tulchhi…tora jaa jaa (I am clicking snaps too…go on, go on)
Bodhi: Already aamake diye snorkeling koriyechhish, byass ei t(r)ip'e aar adventure dorkar nei (already you made me do snorkelling, that's enough adventure for this trip for me)
Goba (leaning back with legs crossed over each other & rubbing his belly): ei just kheye uthlam boss….(I just ate…)
Pantu: (purposeful deadpan expression which effectively stalls any further querying upon his participation)

Proj (to me & Chatts in a super confident voice) - Chol to sala…aamra kori…! (Leave them, let us go do it!)

…and that is what brought us to the cliff-top!

[Cut to - the present]

Proj again (a marked decrease of bravado in the voice): Damn…it's high man
The Guide (gives a running start) - this is what you doooooo…..(one running leap into nothing…and splash!!)

We quickly run to the ledge - the man is already swimming towards one of the boat.

We quietly make way for the rest - and before long the first gent has jumped in! we check on him from over the edge…and we see this man has survived too and swimming towards shore! And that kind of opened the floodgates of the brave jumpers…one after another the small group jumped and some even came back for their 2nd dive, while the 3 of us continued to check out the safety aspects a bit more! ;-)

Suddenly the voice of the guide cuts across the group and finds us - You! Jump or not? Be a man?

Acutely conscious of not taking any insult to the manhood in front of this motley crowd (and especially when we had quite a bit of audience inclusive of beautiful women watching the action with interest) we start taking strides towards the cliff edge…and then a quick internal consultation:
Who's going first?
(Proj) - come on you guys…one of u start!
(Me): But you were the one who was most enthu…you brought us here!
(Proj): That was before I saw the height of the jump from up here…Abhi thoda phat gaya na! (essentially: scared shit a bit!)
(Chatts, me - with nods of agreement) - Me too. Me too.
(Guide, voice from a bit afar): Be-man…

Suddenly a scene from The Beach came up in my mind….while Di Caprio and the other guy (Etienne) argued over who would jump down the waterfall first, the girl (Francois) had taken a running jump - bisected them - and had jumped off the cliff into the waterfall…

Far from as dramatic, and with confidence that i didn't feel at all I heard myself say - OK…I am going first

With the life-jacket tightened, one last look down into the water to gauge the distance I need to jump to avoid the cliff-face, a running start and geronimo! I find legs flailing in thin air and then soaring and then the plummeting descent - the water surface getting closer and closer, my legs breaking the surface and then surrounded by  blue as you're 6 feet under!...and I survived!

My leap of faith...
 With a new vigor in my voice - Come on guys…it's super!!

I look up to see Chatts come to the edge of the cliff and almost making a pose to dive head first (yeah yeah, the mouth was still open)…
Shouts from all direction - Take a running start…
Chatts takes 2 steps back and suddenly he too is flying off the ledge…and quite a splash! Seconds later his head bobs out, mouth opens again with a smile on it - all's good!

Chatt's leap follows...
Last man standing - Proj. Go for it man…

Proj jumps (quite close to the cliff if we must say and almost feared for a second whether he's gonna hit the wall) and a splash later his head bobs up & we knew we survived to tell the tale!

Proj completes the leap-cycle
Almost like heroes we swam towards the shore (conveniently ignoring the fact that some of the over-enthu guys were making multiple jumps) and got onto the shore rocks!

To the guide: We man?
Guide (smiling) : You man!!

High-Fives all around…. :)

Public Photo

Legend to the Buoys:
Proj a.k.a. Prajato Guha Thakurta
Chatts a.k.a. Arjun Chatterjee
Chiki a.k.a. Abhishek Sen
Vag a.k.a. Agniva Mookherjee
Bodhi a.k.a. Bodhisattva Banerjee
Goba a.k.a. Abilin Mukherjee
Pantu a.k.a. Parantap Basu

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Travel memory: Scotland | A serendipitous find - the Commando Memorial

When: May 2012
Where: Scotland

Circa May 2012, a few of us from the Geneva Bong-gang (namely Kranti, Pavel and I) decided upon a Scottish road-trip partially owing to the fact that our esteemed Dr Kar (an erstwhile Geneva resident) had then moved base to Glasgow and we decided to make good use of his station.
A high level route of our trip was along the lines of: Glasgow- Loch-Lomond - Oban - Fort William - Isle of Skye and back - Loch-Ness - Inverness - round the north shore to Aberdeen - Stonehaven - Dundee - Perth - Stirling - Glasgow.

While writing about our entire Scotland trip - even a synopsis - would take quite awhile, given the sights, sounds and whiskies of the land & I will try to do it justice sometime; one of the incidents that stand out is our discovery of the Commando Memorial near Lochaber in the Scottish highlands.

This incident took place while we were on our way upwards from Loch Lomond via Fort Williams towards Eileen Donan and then Isle of Skye.

From Fort Williams onwards we had started getting quite a bit of hill terrain where the roads were undulating with the sway of the hillocks and the glens…and before long we had Dr Kar (also sometimes referred to as Deepak) and Kranti complaining of nausea with threats of a pukish follow-through. We were on the A82 highway having just crossed the Spean river and couldn't make a stop without a proper shoulder as it was a 2-lane highway mostly. With assurances flowing thickly from Pavel and I that we would definitely stop at the  next opportunity that he gets while hoping fervently the other two manages to hold it in for sometime we raced towards the next rest-pit on the highway.

Anyways, pretty soon we figured a sort of flatland opening ahead on the left side of the highway with a couple of cars swinging onto it and a statue of some kind rising up from there. Figuring it must either be a pit-stop or a view-point and seriously testing the sickness-retention capacity of Kranti and Deepak we swung onto it…and even before we stepped out of the car we knew this would be one of the finds of our trip!!

(Did I forget to mention that in all of this antiperistatical excitement we had failed to register that we were driving almost against a backdrop of the Aonach Mor and Ben Nevis…? This is what we were amidst...)
Ben Nevis and the Aonach Mor range

After taking in the absolutely majestic surroundings where we landed up -Ben Nevis towering right up front with the Aonach Mor range skirting it, the glens on the other sides and the Commandos' statue in the midst of it all, we started reading upon the antecedents of the statue and the history behind it.

It  figured that we had stumbled upon one of the oldest commando training grounds in the war history with this facility being set up during World War II for the original British Commando Forces and the statue was a commemoration to it and has come to signify the spirit, bravery and valour of Commandos since. It was like the prequel to the present British Commando forces like the SAS and all the ones worldwide which had drawn from this mode of specialized soldiers.
Some of the gutsiest men that walked the earth....whose lives might have been the stuff movies were made of....
This link might help to get a snapshot upon the history : Commando_Memorial

"United We Conquer"

...also there was the 'Garden of Tributes'; where friends and families of fallen Commando soldiers would pay their tributes to the fallen brave...the love of the Country and God etched forever in the memory of those who knew and these poignant surroundings. 

In memory of those who made the maximum sacrifice in the line of duty
The tributes, the sentries and the mountains beyond...
A wonderful find and one that stands out as a memory from Scotland.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Creatively procrastinating...

the last post from me on this blog has been years back...and it is not for lack of attempts on my part that it hasn't been replenished with fresh posts, but more for the lack of success of those random attempts that failed to convert the myriad thoughts in my head to some composed text over here. on top when i spoke to some near ones about re-starting it -i almost got branded as a dinosaur for wanting to get back to a blog in the age of micro-isms like instagram, twitter, fb, pinterest, etc. :-)

but...i am at a point again where i think i really need to re-order stuff in my life (like often) and one of the things i would like to bring on track is to catch up on my reading and writing; it is easier said than done - believe me.

...and to think that the things which consume most of my leisure bandwidth are the internet and smartphone; and here i am partaking the internet's ability to post my thoughts which i hope to gather away from the net and the phone...(the image expresses my present feelings)

i was thinking of putting in smaller pieces instead of long-drawn ones, maybe that will enable a higher frequency of posts. 2 themes that were swimming in my head were: (i) stand-alone incidents from my travels, (ii) moments where i remember experiencing happiness and sort of bliss...

as i write this sipping on some Spanish red, i have all the motivation reqd in my head...hoping to translate some of that onto the pages even when the wine has passed...