#16315 Kochuveli Express

February 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

As usual, I crashland some 30 seconds before #16315 Kochuveli Express leaves platform5 and board coach S4.

#25: George Tom M25; Yours Truly.

#26: Emmanuel Jose M22; New to Bangalore. Asks me where I work. I give my one-word answer. Dude then rambles on for the next 30 minutes about Indiranagar and all the places along the way till Electronics City. Metro. Telecom Industry. Recession. MAS and Kairali. McDonalds and KFC. Shopping Malls. Kallada’s Volvo vs Shama’s Volvo vs Airavat. Android and iPAD and Kindle. Train touching Andra Pradesh before entering Tamil Nadu. Basically, me, some 4 years back. And I hate that guy.

#27: Santhosh Madhavan M28; Gets on to his funky winnow-sized phone the moment the train leaves the station. The next 2 hours, except when the signal breaks and our man religiously regains it, has a 70mm smile fitted on his face. Talks in extremely hushed tones, with frequent loud giggles. Valentines Day hungover cheap flirt, I conclude.

#28 & #29: Lindo Varghese M26 and Titty John M26: #28 takes out this laptop with, <wait_for_it>, 2 headphone ports. #29 adds his headphone too to the equation, and we have 2 best buddies staring into the screen enjoying a pirated print of ‘Pranayam’. Glued to the very same position for the next 3 hours and then #28 closes the laptop, saying “Aliya, we should have seen this in the cinema”. Was it tears in #29’s eyes?

#30: Maya Thomassukutti F25. DOES NOT CARE TO BOARD THE TRAIN!!!

And thus, for the nth time, Indian Railways teamed up with that son-of-a-son Murphy and pulled a hard one on me, this weekend, like every other weekend.

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An Elephantine Elephant Herd

December 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

A huge herd, at least 55 strong.  Looked like they wanted to cross the road and migrate to the forests of Andhra like their forefathers used to do.

Just that the old small road is now a national highway connecting Bangalore to the cities further south. And that there is no forest whatsoever on the other side for many kilometers. They stay in the nearby forests and instincts bring them closer to the road in the night. Villages are petrified, crops damaged. People are on watch-towers (read tall trees), posted up there to give alarms to the villages if the herd moves in their direction. Crackers are burst, and they all shout in a crescendo trying to send them back to the jungle. Forest Department is torn among the man, the animal and their fatigue as most of them haven’t slept properly for weeks. Experts and research papers give various solutions. But no one is sure what to do.

With forest cover dwindling and we guys using the last remaining patches for over-grazing/over-fishing/over-mining/over-partying, there is no surprise we have such huge elephant herds literally waiting at zebra crossings. We need to do something; do something fast. The ball is in our court, but then, when was it in the elephant’s court ever?

Unityed we Ubuntu; Gnomed we Debian

October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

October 20: Finally manage some free time to do my routine OS upgrade, to Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot this time. Everything goes fine, but then, who took my minimalistic, efficient and awesome gnome2.x!!? All I have is this flashy animated Unity which shows firefox and movie player icons everywhere in so HUGE sizes, I feel it treats me like #$@%$!

October 21: Officially hate Unity. Get Debian Squeeze. Ubuntu is powered by Debian anyway, so lets go back to mama. So I begin the installation. After a million clicks, a billion MB downloads and a zillions eras (read: overnight), it simply says “Ooops. I screwed up after I formatted your drive and while installing grub”! I say thanks and restart the whole sweet process. This time, it says “Done!”. Yay! I boot it up and it boots in a record 4 seconds, and gives me a 320 B.C. command prompt! I then search from my friends PC and manually install GDM. It then logs into my dearest gnome2.x gui. Awesome! And then Debian becomes Debian again. Sees my wifi and graphical cards but doesn’t bother to say Hi. Bye Bye Debian. Got too used to things being made simple.

October 23: Ubuntu 10.04. It is LTS. It is stable. It is gnome2.x. All goes fine. After all, it is my favourite OS till date. Format out the drive again and does the installation. Everything works. But then why does it look a bit primitive now? Why am I stuck with technology that is two and a half years old??

October 24: Back to Ubuntu 11.10, with the gnome-3 this time. I now begin to get it why Ubuntu had a biieeggg fight with gnome and started working on Unity. Switched back to Unity, reduced some font sizes and exterminated the pink/lavender/purple extravaganza. It looks like this now:

Desktop will never be clean again, thanks to Unity Dock 😦

The good news is, you get more space for applications. Unity integrates the application's menu onto the taskbar and the dock on leftside is autohide by default.

The main menu has undergone serious cosmetic changes. I can't find my applications where they used to be!

So, 24th October early morning, I realize gnome2.x is long gone, no one is going to support it and gnome3.x is equally bad as Unity, if not worse. So, I have decided to give Unity a second chance. But need to reduce the sizes of those icons. They are insulting. Seriously.

P.S: The rest of the stuff… Browsing, Office, Video, Songs, basically EVERYTHING works perfectly fine as usual.

In the Land of Tigers and Tahrs

May 4, 2011 § 5 Comments

Back in school days, I used to completely look down upon one Mr. Wordsworth for writing utter non-sense like ’emotions recollected in tranquillity’, and that too about some stupid daffodils! Today, I was stuck at Silk Board Junction and I couldn’t make it across, even though the lights had gone from red to green four times (situations like these kind of reminds me about CAT, which clearly doesn’t help when one is stuck at a signal). Now I have no idea what made me think about Mukurthi amidst all that chaos, but within seconds, blue-green mountains and grey mist and wild flowers of every colour from a trip I did months ago ‘flashed upon that inward eye’!

Thillai had invited us to spend a  couple of days in Mukurthi National Park, a place he calls, in his own words, “My Breath, My Soul”. After a week, which felt more like an year, we finally met the big guys with the big jeeps at Ooty town. It was a rude shock when we found out that none of the TASMACs in Ooty have even heard of Old Monk! Finally settling for something called Bolt (or, was it Bullet?), we loaded the jeeps with the rest of the stuff from chicken and mutton to salt and pepper and started the long jeep-trek away from civilization.

Tarred road gave way to mud track and soon, there was no path to be seen. Curious Sambhar Deers and Nilgiri Langurs stopped and stared with curiosity at us strange intruders. Birding too was awesome and for a novice like me, it was raining lifers!

It had been quite sometime anyone had threaded this stairway to heaven and doc’s beast had a tough time ‘making’ the way. Someone posed a hypothetical situation of encountering a tusker in the midst of all this and there was pin drop silence for a minute as everyone pictured the hopelessness of the situation in their minds.

We finally reached Fishing Hut by evening and by then, we were 5 full hours and 35 kms away from any other human being, mobile connectivity or electricity.

Day 2 6 AM, amidst a light drizzle, we set out to trek the 14 kms to Mukurthi Peak. It was nature at its best, the raindrops and dew on leaves, the wild flowers, the big trees which made sure we had to crawl and creep and climb to keep going, the big yellow ferns which looked like Mr. Stripey from distance, the streams with ice-cold water…

A good 5 hours later, we were at the base of the final stretch, looking at the fire-line. Now, at Fishing Hut, there is a very big framed photo of a tigeress walking this very fire-line. None of us were speaking one word. Now, I don’t know if it was the fire-line, or the usual thing that happens to me in the last steep stretch in treks, I lost steam, decided to call it quits, and settled on a comfortable rock soaking up the view of Nilgiri Thars grazing at a distance in the grasslands, with the majestic mountains in the background.

Thillai joined us soon and I got my earful for quitting! So, off I went again, carefully climbing up the stretch they call “nenjum-medu” (heart-meadow), with Ananth and had I not done that, I would have regretted the whole of my life. Surprisingly, there was no mist at all, and the view of the Nilambur forests from top is something I will never forget. Just makes one wish if he could spend all his life, here in mother nature’s lap…

We started back soon, as we had to get to the hut before night fall. Trekking on foot in a tiger reserve at dusk is a feeling in its own. Every little leaf in yellow-orange, every strange smell, every scrape on the ground sends a thousand alarm bells ringing inside of you. Tired, but full of awe and inspiration, we finally got back by 6 PM, to a wonderful night by the fireside, with James’ trademark mutton pepper fry, rum, old songs, jungle lore and conservation debates.

The next morning, while returning, I saw my first ever tiger pug mark. It was fresh, huge and unmistakeable, even for a first-timer like me.

But like all good things, this trip too, had to end, and while returning, even Ooty was an eye-sore! One of the awesomest trips I’ve had; a big thanks to Thillai and Shanmugam and a big sorry to Wordsworth 🙂

(Pictures flicked from Thillai, Ananth and CK)

Edubuntu Natty Narwhal

May 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

OK! My Edubuntu 11.04 is up and running; the installation was a breeze as usual. Here are some screen-shots (click on images for high res):

Natty comes pre-installed with loads of latest software including the latest Firefox-4 and Empathy.

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If you need to install third party software like Skype/Chrome/VLC, it is all just one click away with Ubuntu Software Center.

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Libre Office makes sure you don’t need to pay through your nose for a good office suite, capable of opening even the latest docx, xlsx formats.

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Edubuntu is also pre-loaded with hazaar educational packages for kids of all ages.

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If you’ve been bored with traditional desktop environments, you can try the brand new Unity.

Or, you can stick with the good old gnome as I did.

Add to this, the awesome banshee music player which has been beautifully integrated into the panel, mplayer which can play EVERY video format available on the planet, glitch free driver support for wifi and graphic cards, one click activation if you want to use your phone GPRS/3G over bluetooth/usb for internet … All this with the no-virus, no-spam, no-anti-virus, no-compromise-on-security, no-slowing down, no-ages-to-bootup/shutdown, no-crashing-down,  no-blue-screen-of-death guarantee, that linux offers. And it is free, and free as in both free-speech and free-beer.

I hear even Opus Dei doesn’t use Windows these days. Why the hell are you still stuck with it? Salvation is here.

Volunteer for Melagiri!

January 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dabguli festival takes place around Shivrathri time in an old temple located along Kaveri, in Urigam Range of the Melagiris. This year, the festival is marked to fall on the 5th and 6th of February, 2011. The festival is a grand event, and during it, this otherwise pristine and untouched land sees participation of villagers in numbers as high as 10,000. With plastic becoming such a big part of our lives, the impact of such a gathering for 2 days along Kaveri poses a serious threat to the subtle ecological balance of Dabguli and all the forest ranges down-stream.

Kenneth Anderson Nature Society (KANS) has taken up the task to contain the effect of such a huge social gathering . We have already made arrangements with the organising committee for the festival to replace plastic plates with areca plates and promised them that we will bear the extra costs incurred. We would also like to remind the attendees not to litter the forest and river bank and deposit the used plates in the pits arranged for that purpose. Also, at the end of the event, we are planning to pick up any plastic that is littered around the area. A screening of the Kannada Version of the Nagarhole Video is also being planned.

We are looking at around 20-30 volunteers during this period. The initial plan is to assemble at Anchetty Guest House on Friday night, go to Dabguli on Saturday, stay over-night and come back on Sunday evening.

The villagers and the organising committee are sincere about the damages caused by pollution. Our presence and the efforts we take along with them to clean-up the place, will further drive home these points in their mind. If you are interested to be a part of this initiative, do let me know / mail ka.naturesociety@gmail.com

It’s a Jeep Thingie!

December 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

A handful of trips to the Melagiris and I have become obsessed with the idea of getting a Jeep. The world, in association with Mahindra & Mahindra has been conspiring towards it in a Paulo Coelho way by launching this tough guy.

But at 5.5L, it is ‘slightly’ out of my budget and so, the next option is to get an old MM550 ex-service man. And what better source than my dad, who grew up in the high ranges of Idukki? So, off late, on my calls back home, all we discuss, is Jeep. I tell him to call up his old friends back home and enquire if someone has a Jeep to sell and he forgets it everyday. But he’s been  generally enthued towards the whole idea and, today, he calls me up and this is what happened:

Dad: Da, do remember your second-cousin Saji back home, Francis Chetan’s son?

Son: Ya. The guy who failed in 10th and has been looking after their family estate, right?

Dad: Exactly!

Son: Wow! He has a Jeep to sell?

Dad: Err.. Don’t really know. But when he was young, all he had to discuss with us elders was Oxen! Like how powerful Josekutty’s Ox is and for how much Thomachen sold his Ox to Mariyakochu… … …

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True Story 😐