Sunday, December 10, 2023

Book of Life - 5

The day came and went quickly. In the morning, there were so many things on the to-do list. By night, most of them were done. It's so rare that I was able to put a tick mark across most to-do items. However, in the night when I sat back and took stock of things, there was no sense of achievement. Was I chasing ghosts? Or was I eating the sweetest frog first instead adhering to Brian Tracy's counsel to confront the ugliest one first?

When I went through the articles about recent world events, an interesting pattern came to my attention. The first event was the climate summit (COP28) just finished in Dubai, and the second one was the cease-fire in Gaza. Regarding COP28, it was hosted by UAE, which is ironic because the summit aimed to save the world from increasing carbon emissions, and the UAE is one of the largest producers of fossil fuel. UAE's interest is aligned with the continuing use of fossil fuel. The irony didn't end there; the president of the summit also has a full-time job as the head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)!

The second event, the Israel-Hamas ceasefire, was brokered neither by the UN (the world organization supposed to stop wars), nor the US, EU, Egypt (Rafa crossing is between Egypt and Gaza), nor Jordan (which ruled the West Bank until 1967). Instead, it was brokered by Qatar. If one follows the news from the Middle East for a while, it's clear that Qatar is everywhere. They even brokered the mediation between the Taliban and the US in Doha during the US exit from Afghanistan. Now, if you look at Qatar, its size is slightly larger than the tiny Indian state of Tripura, and it has 3-4 hundred thousand native citizens who hold the passport. That is not the point; the point is, Qatar is the 4th or 5th richest country (by per capita GDP), and they are ready to use their wealth. As we all know, wealth also brings much power and opens doors if you are ready to use it.


1, ADNOC is the 12th largest oil producer by volume!!! 
2, Egypt is the only country other than Israel which shares border with Gaza. Also Egypt controlled Gaza strip from 1948 to 1967.
3. West Bank- the other bigger Palestinian territory - was ruled by Jordan till 1967. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Book of Life - 4

I finally finished 'Annihilation of Caste' by B.R. Ambedkar. One may or may not agree with his thoughts, but I strongly believe people should read this speech at least once.

Later, I picked up Richard Feynman's 'What Do You Care What Other People Think?'. I liked the book immediately. He started with his childhood days and how his father explained concepts to him, and how he began looking at things for what they are. There are some interesting incidents, such as finding a logical explanation for miracles mentioned by priests. On another occasion as a child, he believed in a story until the narrator admitted to spiking it to get attention. After hearing this the kid started crying. The book later goes through the courtship with his wife, their subsequent marriage, and the initial misdiagnosis of her disease. The misdiagnosis occurred because the doctors overlooked an obvious disease that explained her symptoms.

A good portion of the book is dedicated to explaining his role as a member of the presidential commission investigating the shuttle accident. It discusses how information did not move up the chain of command and how often and easily the data and opinions provided by people directly working on the machines and engineers on the ground were disregarded. There is a part where Feynman asks a group and their manager to write down the probability of shuttle accident; while engineers wrote a possible value, their manager provided an impossible probability. It's really insightful to read about how their commission worked.

Without telling you about 'Feynman's Lectures on Physics,' this is not complete. I heard about this book a long time ago when I was in senior secondary. During my first year in college, I found this book in the post-graduation section of the library. This book had a reputation for explaining physics concepts in simple, understandable terms. The problem was that the book was in English, and for someone like me who went through the vernacular medium (i.e., Malayalam) throughout school life, it was not an easy task to go through a book purely due to my interest in physics. I wish these books were translated into local languages and available in all libraries. That time, I read the first book in the series and then left it on the rack.


Monday, November 27, 2023

Book of Life - 3

I subscribed to Audiable sometime back. It didn't turn out the way I expected. Hearing a book read by someone else is totally different compared to self-reading. However, I kept the subscription and over a period, heard a few audio books. The last one I added to library was - 'Ambedkar's India'. It’s a collection of three works by B. R. Ambedkar. Yesterday, I started listening to the second work in that series, the famous speech from Ambedkar which was never delivered!!! - The annihilation of caste. 

The irony is caste was never annihilated; instead, politicians/religious leaders etc. from all spectra used it to accumulate wealth and power. There were many improvements, many states in India witnessed the formation of new social contracts between castes. However, this didn’t extend across the length and breadth of the country. In some cases, when previously downtrodden caste became the elite, they didn’t help the castes which are still below them in social order to come up. 

I am yet to finish the book. Some of my favorite lines are, 

"..who repeats the dogma of Mill that one country is not fit to rule another country, must admit that one class is not fit to rule another class..."

"..India, where the priest holds a sway over the common man often greater than that of the magistrate, and where everything, even such things as strikes and elections, so easily takes a religious turn and can so easily be given a religious twist.."

"Caste System is not merely a division of labour. It is also a division of no civilized society is division of labour accompanied by this unnatural division of labourers into watertight compartments. The Caste System is not merely a division of labourers which is quite different from division of labour—it is a hierarchy in which the divisions of labourers are graded one above the other. In no other country is the division of labour accompanied by this gradation of labourers..."

"..The ancestors of the present-day English fought on one side or the other in the Wars of the Roses and the Cromwellian War. But the descendants of those who fought on the one side do not bear any animosity—any grudge—against the descendents of those who fought on the other side. The feud is forgotten.." 

Well you know what is happening in India now!!! Descendants are fighting over things which happened centuries ago!!!

"Chaturvarnya, it seems to me that the system is neither fool-proof nor knave-proof. What is to happen if the Brahmins, Vaishyas, and Kshatriyas fail to pursue knowledge, to engage in economic enterprise, and to be efficient soldiers, which are their respective functions? Contrarywise, suppose that they discharge their functions, but flout their duty to the Shudra or to one another; what is to happen to the Shudra if the three classes refuse to support him on fair terms, or combine to keep him down? Who is to safeguard the interests of the Shudra—or for that matter, those of the Vaishya and Kshatriya—when the person who is trying to take advantage of his ignorance is the Brahmin? Who is to defend the liberty of the Shudra—and for that matter, of the Brahmin and the Vaishya—when the person who is robbing him of it is the Kshatriya?

"...although there are castes among Non-Hindus, as there are among Hindus, caste has not the same social significance for Non-Hindus as it has for Hindus. Ask a Mohammedan or a Sikh who he is. He tells you that he is a Mohammedan or a Sikh, as the case may be. He does not tell you his caste, although he has one; and you are satisfied with his answer. When he tells you that he is a Muslim, you do not proceed to ask him whether he is a Shiya or a Suni; Sheikh or Saiyad; Khatik or Pinjari. When he tells you he is a Sikh, you do not ask him whether he is Jat or Roda, Mazbi or Ramdasi. But you are not satisfied, if a person tells you that he is a Hindu. You feel bound to inquire into his caste. Why? Because so essential is caste in the case of a Hindu, that without knowing it you do not feel sure what sort of a being he is..."

Well, I am not going to quote more here. The link at the end has full text and Ambedkar’s reason on why he was not able to deliver the speech. By the way, the last paragraph reminded me of an incident which happened probably a decade ago at Baroda Railway station. I reached the station very early in the morning and had to spend some time there (to save cost, I used to travel in the night and use railway clock room to keep the luggage while visiting the city) as Palace and other tourist attractions in city will take some more time to open. 

I met a guy here. He was probably coming from Pune and going to his native town, some place bordering Delhi. He completed B.Tech from a famous government college and is now preparing for GATE exams also working for reputed Indian private company as a Chemical engineer or something. As it happened sometime back, I don’t remember all the details. Why I give this otherwise lengthy introduction is to show that he is a product of modern India. 

During the conversation, he asked my name. I told him the first name. He looked at me for some time and asked for the second name. This in fact perplexed me. Other than in government documents or to fill in some form no one ever asked my second name so far!!! I told him that too. He was confused and it looked like he wanted to clarify something but didn’t ask anything. To this day, I am not sure why he asked. My guess is, he may want to find out which caste I belong to. Anyway, my second name is not useful for that purpose. 


You can read Annihilation of Caste here -> Full Text

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Book of Life - 2

Usually, if I like the theme, then I watch 'Cut the Clutter' program by Shekhar Gupta during breakfast. Today, while waking up, I opened YouTube and yesterday’s episode was on 'Rezang La'. I read about this battle long back, while reading an article on Major Shaitan Singh who was awarded Param Veer Chakra (PVC) for this battle. 'Rezang La' witnessed one of the fiercest last-stand by Indian army during India-China war of 1962 in western part of high Himalayas. Not getting into the details. Links are available at the end. 

Today afternoon teachers from Divya's mother's school came to visit my daughter. She slept most of the time they were here. However, when they were about to leave, she woke up to say Hi. Had a brief chat with one retired teacher in that group. She recently went to Lakshadweep, Bhutan and Russia. Her mother, who is in the 80s, was one of the energetic participants in their Lakshadweep trip!!! I like to travel, but will I be so physically fit when the 90s touch my door? I don't know. I would like to say yes; and hopefully time will prove me right. Currently I don’t want to think about any other answer. 

You can read about the war here -> Rezang_La and watch Shekhar Gupta's episode here -> 'Cut the Clutter' - Rezang La


Friday, November 24, 2023

Book of Life - 1

Fridays are often good. Day starts with the great expectation of upcoming weekends and day goes by making plans on how to spend the weekends and upcoming long holidays. In the office too people don't schedule meetings on Friday afternoons. Except for an unexpected deployment task, there was nothing scheduled for today. Most used portal on Friday (apart from work) is google maps. I usually go through the length and breadth of India in maps to see where I can plan my next trip. It’s interesting to see some overseas destinations too. However, flights are costly. So need to find a destination which can be reached via overnight train journey, overnight bus journey or up to one and half hour bike journey. Looking around my current location at Malappuram district, nothing much came up. Promising places are either already visited or not possible to reach there by early morning. This means nothing for Saturday, but something is still possible for Sunday. 

One interesting thing about this weekend is, I let all my entertainment plans expire. Amazon Prime, Netflix, Sony, Docubay etc. Disney+Hotstar is probably still there but it’s a been a while since I watched that one. Will I renew some of them, over the weekend to watch a new series? May be; maybe not. I like the not part but it can happen. 

Now looking back at maps finally I selected several places from India's seventeen states. Out of those four are from states which I never visited – UP, HP, Uttarakhand, Assam, Sikkim and Meghalaya. Looking back in history, I think I may not be able to reach even a quarter of the places in the list. However, why should we look back? life is to look forward only!!!


Friday, August 18, 2023

Savanadurga (Karnataka) - Steep face


Savanadurga is considered as the largest monolithic hill in Asia. In fact, Savanadurga is two giant hills - one is black in color and hence called as Karigudda (black hill); the other one is white and known as Biligudda (white hill). As per one article, the earliest record of this name is from 1340 AD by Hoysala Ballala II; then it was called Savandi. Like many other places in this area, Savanadurga too was under Vijayanagara Empire during their heydays. After the fall of Vijayanagara; this place came under reign of Mysore kings; then came Hyderali followed by Tipu Sultan. In 1791, after Third Anglo-Mysore war, Lord Cornwallis brought this place under Company rule. 

Situated at a height of 1226m above sea level, this place mostly have very thin shrub and bushy forest. There are no steps cut in to the steep face of rocks to reach the top of the hill, and hence trekking is a bit difficult. 


Savanadurga hills mainly consists of peninsular gneiss, granites - which are common in these areas, basic dykes, laterites etc. Well, these are some hi-fi jargons from geology; but what it actually means? Let's see.. 

Consider gneiss first. An existing igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic rock may get subjected to high temperature and pressure. There are multiple reasons for this - these rocks might get buried deep under earth surface or as a result of tectonic collisions etc. High temperature and pressure will force the rocks to undergo significant chemical and physical changes. During this process, rock may remain in solid state; however, eventually it will re-crystalize to a new structure. Dyke is a sheet of rock that is formed after the fracture of an existing rock body. Laterites are the soil/rocks that are very rich in iron. Due to iron content, these rocks will be red in color.

Savanadurga is probably the most difficult trek in the immediate vicinity of Bangalore. Like we did with Makali Durga trek couple of weeks back; here too I booked the ticket with Karnataka tourism for three people. Me, Divya and Jithu. It was after a long time, me and Jithu were going together for trekking. Our last trip together was a long time ago - Kailasagiri Cave exploration in Chinthamni (Karnataka). 

Hitting the road

On Saturday morning, we went to Old airport road and picked up Jithu. Its very rare to see Jithu in Bangalore during weekends. He mostly leave Bangalore by Friday night and come back on Monday morning. This time due to some reason, which I am not able to recall while writing this article, he stayed in Bangalore for the weekend. When I called him, he was very eager to join. 

After a while we reached Kengeri; went further ahead and took a right turn after Christ University's Kengeri campus and left the highway. Road suddenly became very quiet. We took some wrong turns and ended up in narrow lanes. Couple of people were awake in that early morning and helped us to get back at the right road. By sunrise, we reached at the vicinity of Manchanebele Dam. 

Manchanebele Dam

Manchanebele dam is built across Arkavaty river and located in a village of the same name in Magadi Taluk of Ramanagara District. One can plan a short trip to this dam and easily spend half a day here. 

Arkavaty river is a tributary of river Kaveri and originates from Nandi hills. This river is a casualty of Bangalore's rapid urbanization. Currently in Bangalore, Arkavaty looks more like a drainage channel. In downstream there are multiple dams built across Arkavati - TG Halli, Manchanbelle etc. Initially TG Halli provided drinking water to Bangalore. Later, due to shrinking water level and quality concerns, BWSSB (Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board) replaced TG Halli with Kaveri stage I. Afterwards stage II and III were also commissioned. 

Currently, Manchanbele dam, looks healthy and sound. Dam reservoir was visible from the road itself. By this time,  both Divya and Jithu woke up from their sleep. We slowed down for sometime to enjoy the sunrise and went ahead to Savanadurga. At the entrance, there are temples of Sri Savandi Veerabhadraswamy and Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. The area is crowded with people visiting the temples. After parking the car behind the temple (here we have ample parking space), we walked towards the starting point of the trek. 


View was magnificent; one big black hill and a white one close by. Slope is very steep and there were no steps or ropes. There was a guard, standing at the starting point, who note down the names of people entering the area. We told him that we already paid for the trek in the website. To our shock, he never heard about the fees!!! I just looked around, every one is just coming and climbing the hills!!! Looks like the rules are not implemented everywhere. In some places they collect the fees and in other places they don’t. Well, next time onward will never book it online; will come to the spot very early and see whether it is really required. 

We started climbing. Initially it was not difficult; but as we moved upward, it became very difficult to hold on to nearly smooth rocky surface. At some points, we took considerable time to make progress. The surface was very steep; on top of that there was nothing to hold on to. If we fell accidently, we will definitely reach all the way down and sustain grave injuries.

Like Kudajadri, Jithu was in much better shape and he was slightly ahead of us. After a while Divya gave up and told us that she will wait there till we come back. That option was swiftly rejected; with strong persuasion and coercion she started moving again and reached first mile stone. From here onwards, slope is much better. Still it’s a long way to reach the top. 

Close to us there were a group of three people; out of that one was over weight and struggling to climb. Other two were lean and fast. They encouraged the third guy a lot to move in their pace. Unfortunately, that was not something he could do. Eventually they split up, two people moved ahead and third told  them that he will meet them on the top later. Third guy joined with us. In these trips one might end up having a lot of temporary friends who share the same goal and suffer the same problem. The new guy joined our group started calling the name of his friend very loudly in every 10 minutes. 

By this time, a large group of KAPF (Karnataka Armed Police Force) battalion from Bangalore also joined us. Continuous training enabled them to move faster in these steep inclines compared to arm chair philosophers like me. Up, up, up…. Soon they overtook us and marched towards the top.

Shortly we reached a comparatively flat segment of trek; and started moving faster. After a while destination became visible. It was not very far but the way ahead was no longer flat either. The new joiner kept on calling his friend in every ten minutes. There was no reply from other end; but lot of people start calling that name thinking…. I don’t know what they were thinking. Finally we reached the top and there was a large crowd standing there. Many of them were taking selfies rather than enjoying the magnificent view ahead. I walked towards the edge and sat there. Cool and gentle breeze from opposite side started wiping sweat drops from my face. Police personals and others were engaged in taking single, group and selfies. Some wanted Nandi and other the sky as their background.

We spend some thirty minutes on the top. Mercury started rising and we started our return journey. Divya was overenthusiastic with her achievement of overcoming the fears and physical strain to reach the top. However, in that ecstasy she ran over a small boulder and fell down. Tears started coming from her eyes as monsoon rains. I helped her to sit one a nearby rock and gave some water to drink. Unfortunately medical kit was way down in the car. Another girl appeared from somewhere and give her volini tube. Jithu broke a branch of small tree nearby and made a rough walking stick.

After idling there for sometime; we restarted our return journey. We moved fast and quickly reached the area where the surface is close to vertical. Other than air there was nothing to hold on to!!! By sitting, and walking inch by inch we covered that distance and crossed the steepest area. Then I saw a father and his son coming up. Kid was just 1-2 years old and laying on father's shoulder. He started climbing the the rocks; I just looked at him for sometime; does it really worth it? He is not just responsible for himself but the kid too, who can't even walk. Even a small slip will take them all the way down!!! 

We continued our downward journey; tired but happy that we completed the trek and back on time. After having late breakfast from a hotel opposite to the temple, we started our return journey. 



1, Savanadurga is located around 50km from Bangalore's MG Road Metro station.
2, Big Banyan Tree is also located close by. 
3, As per some articles "Megalithic burial urns have been found in the area".

Divya me and Jithu

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Makali Durga (Karnataka) - For splendid views

Makali Durga from a distance

Laziness is a disease; which pierce her tentacles deep in to victim's life. Once we fell in to her moh-maya, its difficult to come out. Over past couple of months; most of my weekends were gone just like that - sleeping, eating snacks, binge watching movies, series and sleeping!!! again!!! No trips were planned or executed.
As some wise man told, a wanderer's mind never stay at ease at the same place for long. Slowly I started reading blogs and exploring maps to find out the next place to go. One website came across during that search was Karnataka EcoTourism -> This has information about places to go, ideal time to visit and fees!! Many of these places has an entry fee. Not sure why government is collecting the money. Other than some arrow marks painted in the hills, there are hardly any services from their end. This is a recent phenomenon; previously hiking these hills were free. I booked two slots for Makali Durga (for me and Divya). 
On the designated day, we woke up early in the morning; fired up the Thunderbird and left home. There was hardly much traffic during the wee hours. After a while, we crossed Doddaballapura and continued on to Makali Durga. For this trek, many consider 'Makali Durga Railway station' as starting point; we opted the foothill as starting point. After parking the bike, we crossed the railway track and reached the entrance. Couple of people were standing there to collect/verify the ticket.  


There were hardly much people along the route. Looks like this trail is not that popular among people. We kept on walking. After a while the trail split in to two - one goes straight and other one to the right. Straight one takes a longer path and reach very close to Gundamagere Lake; from there path take slight deviation and goes to the top of the hill from other end. We took the one which goes to the right and followed the arrow marks. 
Makali Durga trek is not difficult; in many places its more of walking than trekking. Trekking route is narrow and devoid of steps. After reaching some height; we looked towards the route we covered so far. Views of the hills in the opposite side were amazing. Further upward, from another view point, one can see the Gundamagere lake at the bottom. This lake don't have any shape and water was muddy. After spending sometime here - looking at the lake and near by areas - we continue our journey to the top. 
We need to reach the top quickly before sun moves further to the west. All these small hills are good for trekking either in the early morning or evening only. Day time is definitely not a good idea!!!
We continued our walk after talking couple more breaks here and there. Vegetation was mostly consist of small trees and shrubs; there were hadly any animals or evern birds. Finally we reached the top. There were couple of groups sitting there; most of them were concentrated in and around a structure that is believed to be a granary during the era of kings. Other were sitting at some other corner playing music from portable speakers. 

Gundamagere lake - A view from the hill
We walked from one end to the other end; and finally came back and sat on a fort wall area from where one can get the uninterrupted view of lake and lands beyond that. Time passed quickly; mercury started rising sharply and we started our return journey. At the bottom while crossing the railway track, I looked at the granite hilltop one last time. 


During the heydays of Vijayanagar Empire this hillock was part of their vast empire. Later it came under the rule of Nayaks etc. Father of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Shahaji Bhosle, also controlled the fort when Dodaballapur are was under him in the 1600s.

1, From MG Road Metro station Makali Durga is some 57-60km to reacht he stating point. 
2, There are two stories for the name as per websites. According to one legend, "Makalidurga is named after a woody climber called “Makali Beru” or Makali Root, the juice of which is used to prepare a health drink. Some medicines also include juice because it purifies the blood". According to second legend, "… Makaliraya used the fort as his granary during the late 1800’s and that is how Makalidurga got its name".

Divya looking towards the distant lands

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Yercaud - Queen of Salem

Yercaud Lake


This journey was waiting in the queue for a long time. Yearcaud is a hill station located close to Salem in Tamil Nadu. We passed through Salem very often; could have took a detour during any one of those journies. However, life don't work the way we expect it to work! That detour never happened…. Yet!!! 

Salem City

Recently Divya's cousin's - Athira's - husband (Jithesh) was transferred to Salem from Bangalore. He works in a public sector oil company and get transfers once in every three years. In a way its good; as one can see different parts of India and her vibrant culture. Three years is enough to get to know the place and see all her beauties. At the same time, for family its too difficult. One just reached a city; found some home to settle; learn the local language; built friend circle; kids were admitted to a good school; and bhoom!!! Company send you transfer order. Now pack up and go to another place; by the time one become comfortable there company send another transfer order. Life become a series of pack-up, unpack and then pack-up again. By the time this series ends, one may reach close to their retirement age.

Agriculture market, Salem. A view from top

However for us, this created an ideal situation. We could split our journey to Kerala to two and take a break at Salem to visit them. On a Friday night we started the journey; usually there won't be any work meetings scheduled for Friday afternoon, evening or night. In fact many people I know keep Friday afternoons free of meetings. Leaving Bangalore city limits - except at midnight - is always a problem. Hence we left Bangalore in the late night and cruised towards Salem.

From Bangalore, Salem is just 4 hours away. For me the roads are very familiar. In the past whenever it was difficult to get a train ticket, I used to hop on a SETC bus going to Salem. Salem is a major junction in Tamilnadu, from here one can get buses to a lot of places in the state. From Salem, I hopen on to a nonstop bus going to Coimbatore. By the way, if you reach Coimbatore too early, then you may end up waiting a long time to get a bus to Palakkad. If you reach Coimbatore's Ukkadam bus stand close to sunrise, then its easy to catch a bus to Palakkad. When SETC started 3.33 service from Bangalore to Salem; I switched my Salem journey to 3.33. In case you didn’t see the bus, then you may be wondering what is 3.33. It's the time they promise the bus will take to reach Salem from Electronic City (last stop in Bangalore) - three hours and 33 minutes.

After leaving the busy bees behind Athibelle, we swam through a web of lorries. Those huge vehicles moves very slowly and often spread across the lanes. Rules like slow moving vehicles keep left are not applicable here!!! Hosur, Shoolgiri, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Thoppur, Omalur and Salem. In between we stopped only once, at 12:00 sharp to cut the cake for my Birthday. Unfortunately it was a place where there was hardly much light; but whatever was there was enough to cut blueberry cake precisely and to eat that as well !!! As Bhima told Arjuna in MT's 'Randamoozham', hand always know where the mouth is and how to reach there! I read that book long back - a wonderful book by the way; hence my translation may not be exact. I hope you got the idea!!!

It was not difficult to find out Ahira's apartment. There were more food waiting for us and mid-night didn’t bother me from taking a dip on that as well. Anyway, time to sleep.


We woke up very early in the next morning. Well, I might be a little exaggerating about the word 'early'!!! After breakfast, Athira was very eager to show us the city from the top of her apartment complex. So we went up and looked around; it was a nice view. Athira told that, Salem city is surrounded by hills. I looked around and then checked the map. Indeed it is!!! City has Nagaramalai on north, Jarugumalai on southern side, Kanjamalai on the western side, Godumalai at the east and Shevaroy Hills at northeast. South-west was guarded by Kariyaperumal Hills. Our destination - Yearcuad - is in Shevaroy hills.

Soon we said good bye to Athira, Jitesh (Athira's husband) and started our journey towards Yercaud. Mostly, we went through rurban (rural + urban) areas and reached the foot hills. From here the ascent starts. Fortunately, this time we never ended up behind any big lorries. I always liked to drive slowly in hill stations without much vehicles either in the front or back. There are around twenty plus hairpins on the way to top. Each hairpin is named after a famous Tamil personality - Sangam era kings, literary icons and freedom fighters. Unfortunately all names are written in Tamil only. Here is the list of hairpin names which I grabbed from another article,

1. Kavichakravarthy Kamban
2. Avvaiyar
3. Thiruvalluvar 
4. Ilango Adigal
5. Kabilar 
6. Paranar 
7. Mahakavi Bharathiar (Subramania Bharati)
8. Ramalinga Adigalar
9. Cheran Senguttuvan 
10. Karikala Cholan
11. Vallal Paari
12. Pandiya Nedunchezhian
13. Dheeran Chinnamalai
14. Cheran Senguttuvan 
15. Velu Nachiyar
16. Veerapandia Kattabomman
17. Thagadoor Adhiyaman 
18. Vanchinathan 
19. V.O. Chidambaram Pillai
20. Tirupur Kumaran 
21. Subramania Siva

After crossing the hairpins one after the other, we finally reached the top. In between we stopped at one place which provided a magnificent view zig-zag road we came so far.
Our plan was to visit all major view points and do some boating in the lake. We thought of going to Lady's seat first and then visit the rest. However, we missed some turns here and there and ended up far from Lady's seat. To make the situation better, we changed the plan and decided to visit Pagoda point first. Well, we didn’t like the place much; may be it was because of the fog which blocked the view. Next stop was at rose garden; that also was very different from what I imagined. However, it offered a place to sit for some time and do nothing. Sometimes that is what we really needed!!! Time moved slowly…

Lady's seat was near by and we covered that distance on foot. The view was good, but place was full of monkey's and eateries. We hardly spend fifteen minutes there and left. Genetic heritage garden and Gent's seat was nearby but there was hardly any excitement left. We skipped both and went straight to hotel. After lunch it was boating time. Lake was crowded but we got a pedal boat quickly. In front of us there was a couple and it looked like they never wanted the boating to end and they took the longest possible route. We just circled the lake; escaping the shock waves from motor boats and went back to the jetty. Boating along with hot tea at jetty was nice but over all the trip so far was less than satisfactory.

Still hours of sunlight left on that day and rest of the plan didn’t look interesting. What to do next? We started going through the blogs of people who visited the place earlier; re-read many and read some new one as well. Not that interesting. However, I came across an article where someone mentioned their experiences about staying at an estate. It was not about Yercaud, but Yercaud is also a hill station and there should be some coffee estates. Does any of them offer safari? I started searching again and found one estate - Tipperary. To try the luck we went there.

Sun was slowly moving towards western horizon and there were some dark clouds. Ignoring those we went to the estate premises and enquired about trips. They told, they can arrange one but we need to pay for the entire vehicle. They charge per vehicle. Ah, no one waiting in the queue for sharing and even if we wait no one was going to join. This problem I encountered very often in the past. In solo trips, in many places, where they charge per vehicle I had to wait till it gets filled up. In Jabalpur, I went along with a very big Bengali extended family. In Kanha, the operator told me to go along with small Bengali family and not to tell the driver that I am not with them. Driver didn’t ask and I didn’t tell either. Later, I always thought why that guy who arranged the gypsy told me like that? Probably the family might have paid for the full jeep and I also for myself (single separately) and he may not want to split the additional profit with driver. I don’t know, just guessing.

Anyway here we told yes and waited for the vehicle to came. Meanwhile they offered us Tipperary's complementary special coffee and told us about its special taste. I didn’t find anything different with that coffee. May be because, I like tea much more than coffee. I like black coffee a bit but not a big fan of coffee as a whole. During this time we strolled through the place, there was an old colonial bungalow. As per Tipperary's website that colonial bungalow was built around 1900 by the family of Charles Dickens. 

Old banglow at Tipperary

After a while the vehicle came- it was a 4 X 4 Toyota Hilux. Soon we left the colonial banglow and moved forward. After a while the vehicle left the blacktop and took left; it was a rough road and even Toyota struggled to move forward in the steep angle. After taking some sharp turns there the vehicle was stopped on top of a hillock. From here one can see the entire place very clearly - it was indeed a wonderful view. Probably the best one in the entire journey. After spending some time here we returned and hit the blacktop again. Road was narrow but devoid of any potholes. After a while we took another turn to a muddy road. This time to Tipperary's coffee plantation. In Toyota driver sat in the front and we selected the large open back to stand. This vantage point offered a very good 360 degree view. The experience of chilly wind mixed with smell of coffee plant hitting the face was really a good experience. Toyota jumped up and down in that uneven muddy road; after couple of turns we reached next view point. From here one can see all the way down and numerous groups of small concrete buildings faraway.

Driver (cum guide) told us about the plants and how big entire estate really is. He also showed us some coffee verities and told that, most coffee beans of very high quality are marked for export. This sentence, I heard numerous times in the past. Good quality is always paired with the word export. Does it mean, we in India always get second class? Well you know the answer. India is one of the most price sensitive markets and majority are not willing to spend extra for high quality coffee (high quality of anything for that matter). Anyway, that is topic for another day.

After taking one more look at that arabica coffee plant we jumped back in to the Toyota. By the time we reached next view point, there was hardly much light left. However, it was enough to locate a bison group roaming freely at a distance. Guide told that, bisons were frequently located at that view point as well. In forest, bison is probably one of the most overlooked animals as most people often search for deers, tigers and elephants. If one take a careful look, bisons too look majestic with lot of row power stored in those big muscles. Indian male bisons weigh between one to one and half tonnes; females weigh around 700kg to a tonne.

Night wiped out last traces of the day and we started our return journey to colonial Banglow. Tipperary offers some more activities like trekking(with guide) etc. However, our plan was to levae Yercaud next day morning. Hence we left that place to have some hot snacks in the lake side. From there to hotel. While sleeping, I tried to build a mental picture about the stories our Tipperary guide told us - Norton's banglow, bear caves etc. How the place might have looked like in the beginning of the last century.

Next day(Sunday) early morning we went to Sunrise point. There was hardly any vehicle on the road; fog was thick and visibility was very low. After some time we reached the entrance of a large ground called sunrise point. There was a guy standing at the gate to collect parking fee. I wonder why they collect parking fee, its just and open ground with a circular road! 

Near to the entrance there was a small observation tower; nothing fancy. Further down there was a temple (yet to open for the day), then a view point. We continued walking; there was old transmission antennas and a small building in the middle of that ground. Finally reached a place which don’t have any hinderence to view sunrise; slowly sun was coming up and started showering us with light. Couple of four wheelers were parked here and there. Some bikes were parked at one end. In a remote end a group were playing songs in portable speaker. We continued walking; by this time sun teared down the last remaining traces of night and made the fog disappear. Slowly mercury started rising and we walked towards the exit and left the place.


Kanva Dam and Ramadevarabetta (Karnataka)

I didn’t know that there is a vulture sanctuary near Bangalore. As soon as I knew, plan was put in place to go there. Due to headache, Divya dropped out at the last minute. So finally it was me, Gokul and his mother-in-law. We left Bangalore before dawn and reached the sanctuary just around sunrise. It was too early, sanctuary is yet to open. Well, without wasting much time, we changed our destination to Kanva Dam; located close to Ramanagara city. 

Google maps showed us the shortest distance; unfortunately not the best road. So we ended up going via narrow broken roads through villages. Cows mostly in white, black and white; some where in different shades of brown were roaming freely. Houses were mostly small and located close to the road. Slowly we started seeing a water body on one side; however, dam still eluded us. Finally we entered a much wider road and reached the dam quickly. 

Kanva Dam

This reservoir was formed as a result of damming the Kanva river in 1946. Located in Ramanagara district, Kanva dam occupies close to 800 hectares and aids in irrigation of fields.

Main gate was closed, however there was an opening in the side and we went inside via that. Major outlet of dam was close to the main gate itself. After crest gates there was a long earthen bud which blocked the water and formed that reservoir. Other side of the bund was a steep slope, lined with lengthy coconut trees. I sat at one place; Gokul and his mother-in-law continued walking; Gokul was pointing at something and explaining about it to mom. I looked in that direction, didn’t notice anything special. Well, I sat down in the green grass and looked at the water for sometime and then walked through the earthen bund and joined them. Atmosphere was cool and reservoir was calm and clean. We walked till a rusted iron structure which was slightly pointed to the dam. From top of that structure, it looked like a kind of valve through which water was gushing out to the other side. Hardly five people were there in the vicinity of the dam. 

Landscape around the old dam was quite beautiful and natural. After being the part of nature for close to eight decades, dam fit well in to the naturally scheme of things! As sun moved up, we started walking back. Sanctuary might have been opened by this time. 

Temple and Vulture Sanctuary

This sanctuary was established in 2012 to protect vultures, who are one of the essential part in the animal chain. For many vultures are not that glamorous animals and focus is probably less on protecting them. The drop in vulture numbers are alarming. It is estimated that, 97% of the long billed and 99% of the Egyptian vultures have disappeared.  Environmentalists and bird watchers campaigned to have the area declared as a sanctuary. In 2012, around 346.41 hectares was earmarked as a protected area for the vultures. Although I didn’t find any, as per the records this sanctuary is home to long-billed, Egyptian, white-backed vultures.
While we were about to take a turn to sanctuary, one police personal requested for a lift. We stopped and picked him up. On the way, he told a lot of things about that place etc. Close to sanctuary he got down from the vehicle and showed us where to see the vulture. I hardly see anything in the direction he pointed. Probably Gokul has sharper eyes as he was agreeing to everything. Did he really see the culture or the place? Police guy looked at me and tried again, this time I saw the point in the rocks which matched his description but not any vultures.
Anyway we said good bye to him and went inside the sanctuary and parked the vehicle. There was a good number of people there. A lot of them were actually came to visit the Sita-Rama temple on the top. "It is believed that Sri Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana lived here for a certain period during their exile life. Hayagriva hand sculpted the idols of Sri Rama, Seetha, and Lakshmana which reside in this temple. There is a Kalyani (pond) which is said to be formed by Sri Rama's arrow when Seetha couldn't find water for bathing. There is a Saptharshi hillock on the side of this hillock which was formed by Seetha's curse to Saptharshi (Seven sages) because they were peeping at the pond when she was bathing". The famous Gabbar Singh's hideout (from Sholey movie) is said to be visible from this viewpoint.
Even Gokul's mom was very much interested in the temple and praying there. However, it was not easy to reach there, there were a lot of steps to climb. Please note that easy is a relative word here; probably this will be very easy for someone else. However, stuck in the home due to COVID for a long time and laziness - not much Physical activity other than eating!! took its toll.

Slowly we started climbing, Gokul's mother-in-law was the most fit among us. She hardly required any break. However, we both took three to four breaks. After a while we reached a small temple on the way and soon the two located close to the top of the hill. In fact its this temple which attract a lot of crowd not the sanctuary. In a relatively flat place there were two temples; one was a small Shiva temple and  the other one, Rama-Seetha temple, was relatively big.

Inside Rama-Seetha temple there was a lot of crowd and some bajan was going on there. We went inside and came back; just outside the main door there was prasadam. This time we met the police personal, to whom we gave lift earlier. We talked about the place and temple; in fact the conversation was between Gokul and him as he was the who can converse in Kannada better. 

Later Gokul's mom went to Shiva temple and requested the priest to do some poojas. That will take some time. From here one can see majestic hillock on the backside of the temple. Our destination standing on top of that. We three started walking and finally reached the point from where we need to climb vertically. A number of steps were cut in to the rock and an old rusted iron railing offered people something to hold on. 

It was not too difficult but very risky one to climb. Gokul persuaded mom not to go. She looked at the railing and steps ahead for some time - thinking what to say. Well, continued persuasion was very effective; finally she agreed to go back and wait for me in the temple. For me the view from top of that hill was too tempting to miss. So I continued further and reached the top. Wow, it was indeed a good view. I looked for a good position and sat there for next 30 minutes. 

Way to the top

View from the top

Top of the hill was very flat. Two girls and one guy were creating different videos for Instagram reels or for some other apps. They started recording before I came and continued even after I left!!! First time, got the realization that its not easy to create reels. People really spend a lot of time to create those. At one end, there was a group playing Hindi songs from a portable speaker. At a distance, two guys were trying various position to get the better photo. Hardly any one was there at the furthest end. After walking around, I came back to my previous position and sat there. From the top, views are always good!! Suddenly Gokul called and told that, they are exploring some other temple somewhere down and will be back soon. Well, some more time to spend on the top. Finally it was time to go back, so used the steps chiseled in stone and came down and walked towards the temple. 
Gokul and mom reached there some time before me and they completed some poojas. When I reached there. preist was giving some prasadam to her. Its time to climb down the steps and visit the final destination in this short trip - Cocoon Market. 

Government Cocoon Market, Ramanagara

Spread over two acres, this market is believed to be one of the largest cocoon market in the continent. As per their website, around 40 to 50 tons of cocoon are sold here in everyday. 
There were 4-6 police personals deployed near the gate. I walked towards them and requested permission to go inside. They initially looked confused and were not sure whether to say yes or no. After a miunute they asked for an identity card. I gave my driving license and waited. One guy took it and read the details couple of times. Looked like they are still not sure whether to say yes or no. Finally they asked us to go to the first floor and meet the person in charge. We climbed the steps and reached first floow. One office room at the left side was open. Light was turned on in that room and at the person in charge was sitting at his desk. 
I requested for permission to see inside of that market. He looked at me (Gokul was standing at the door step and mom was outside of that room) and asked – what is your purpose to go inside? It’s a valid question, I was neither a seller nor a buyer. I told him that we are coming from Bangalore and never saw cocoon in the past, so just want to take a look around quickly. 
Its from here things became wired. He repeated the same question, as if he never heard my answer. Bewildered, I repeated my answer. He could have said, yes or no and would have been the end of it. By this time, Gokul slowly came inside and he was standing almost mid way between me and the door. Officer continued his conversation; its possible that we may carry some diseases and it might affect the cocoon in his warehouses or thousands of people who deal with that everyday. Well, I just wondered what additional germs we might carry compared to thousands of people in and around that place! Also this happened during the third quarter of 2022; by that time people started wearing masks. Even the officer who spoke with us was not wearing one. 

Well that supposed to be the end of the visit. Most often (if not always) one can’t win over a government official by arguing on something. Being right is doesn’t help in these arguments!!! He kept on saying something and again asked what is your purpose to visit the market. This time, I didn’t repeat the answer; turned and walked towards the door. Gokul was standing at the same place and looking at this drama. While walking back, he started asking Kokul to tell me about the dangerous in visiting inside. I didn't wait for his sentence to finish; came down; collected my ID card; looked inside the market from the gate and left. May not be close, atleast I saw what a cocoon is.
I never understood why the beaurocrats behave the way they do. In many cases they were quick to reject any request and make people wait; just because they can do so. Almost half a year later, similar incident happened at Mulli checkpost in Kerala-Tamilnadu border. Tamilnadu forest guards forced us to drive all the way back to Coonnor and take Coimbatore - Palakkad road to reach Mannarkkad. That time, I could see Kerala checkpost couple of hundred meters away; but no they were adamant and didn’t let us pass!! More on that in Mulli article.


Gokul and his mother-in-law exploring the dam

Taking a break

At the top