Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Woman's Cry !!

A married woman set ablaze by her husband and in-laws…. A woman raped, harassed and killed….
A woman stripped and paraded naked in front of villagers….
A baby girl killed at birth….
Husband beats up his wife to death….

Does this sound familiar? Or are these just myths borne out of my vivid imagination?

I am not a feminist or an Atheist, but why am I sometimes forced to question the existence of god? Why am I forced to feel misery, pain and empathy for my fellow women? This is one of the ironies of life.

Women have been subjects of undue oppression, be it in the pre-historic times like the Mahabharatha or the Ramayana where Draupadi and Sita were made the victims of man’s insatiable greed to now when we hear horrendous stories of women being subject to misery every other day.

It is not just the Indian or the Afgan Society that has not yet woken up to women, the Western Culture is not a free society for women either, no one, not even stringent laws or a broadminded society can prevent a woman being harassed mentally and physically abused.

Female Infanticide has been an omen that has been rampant for long, particularly in the third world countries like India and China. It is by far one of the most brutal and arguably the most appalling of anti-female bias that pervades our societies. Mothers killing their new born daughters on the pretext that she is a liability to the family is no uncommon scenario. The statistics of such death is equally shocking. When demographic statistics were first collected in the nineteenth century, it was discovered that in "some villages, no girl babies were found at all; in a total of thirty others, there were 343 boys to 54 girls….! In Bombay, the number of girls alive in 1834 was 603’.

Dowry deaths and killing of women according to an article in Time magazine, have increased 15-fold since the mid-1980s from 400 a year to around 5,800 a year by the middle of the 1990s. Killing women or domestic torture for dowry and the like is by far the most questionable of all evils. My only question that comes out of this is…. Are women mere objects of Trade between the Father and Husband or are they assured of an identity of their own?

Rape and molestation of women is one more of the evils that plaques our society today.
Not one woman can be confidant of herself even in today’s free and broadminded society. Using force on a woman is not an act of showing a man’s prowess but dastardly behavior of an absolute loser who cannot call himself a man!!!

Irrespective of being educated, good looking, having a strong position in society, women are being subject to all forms of violence within the four walls of her home, she is reduced to a victim status not very different from women not so well provided for as her. Why do women tolerate the intolerable? Why is it that baring a couple of them, none have the voice to raise against the society, the system and the world that takes women as lesser beings. The reasons are far too many and complex. But even if this has an answer, the reasons why men hit and abuse their wives is something for which there can never be a reasonable explanation or a generalized answer.

If a woman wants to raise her voice ……what are her options? Will the law come to her aid? Before 1983, there was no specific law dealing with domestic violence. Women were expected to produce witnesses to prove that they were the victims of abuse. Between 1983 and 1986, several amendments were made to the Indian Penal Code such as the introduction of Section 304B where the death of a woman from unnatural causes within seven years of marriage had to be investigated as a dowry-related death. What is funny is does the woman have to die before she gets JUSTICE???

There might be arguments that ‘Todays Woman’ has all her rights and is getting her due recognition. But one cannot deny or ignore the fact that this is but a pure myth.

A woman’s innate physical weakness has become her biggest enemy. Her spirit, her compassionate heart, the love that she is capable of giving and her clear soul is no bargain for the brutal strength men are endowed with. Men of integrity and men who are secure of themselves will only be able to understand the beauty in the soul of a woman. A woman is made not to be the slave but the companion of a man. She resides not at the feet but the heart of a man. She is a mother, a daughter, a wife and a sister, and she deserves her due respect.

There is a change that is required to be made, and that is in the mindset.
Will that be possible?!?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Capital Punishment – Crime against crime

Is Capital Punishment fair or not? This has been one of the highly debated topics right from its early days and it always comes to the limelight when one is subjected to it. Wikipedia defines Capital Punishment (also known as Death Penalty) as the execution of a convicted criminal by the state as punishment for crimes known as capital crimes or capital offences. In India too, capital punishment is being practiced, the latest being the hanging of Dhananjoy Chatterjee on August 14th, 2004 for raping and killing a 14 year old girl in 1990.

But is it justifiable to take the other person's life? Are we bestowed with the right to kill someone, no matter how evil his deeds maybe? Can we play God? European countries, Australia and Canada have abolished this act long back, while Russia and countries in northern Africa haven’t practiced it in the last 10 years.

One of the reasons given by the retentionist countries is that capital punishment serves as an example or warning to others for inhuman acts committed by the convicted criminal. But does it really decrease the crime rates. In contrast, the crime rates have increased. Take the example of Dhananjoy. He being hanged after serving 11 years in jail is but a shame to the entire judiciary system. If Saddam’s recent hangings are any indication, it has actually created a rift between the Shia’s and Sunni’s in Iraq. Also, the person being hanged gets hailed as an anti-hero. Instead, life imprisonment would have kept him under wraps and away from the media glare.

One of the main fears of capital punishment is the scare of an innocent getting convicted. A mistake here would mean the life of the wrongly accused. Add to it, the public outcry that would erupt when such a news goes to the press.

Secondly, right to life is one of the basic human rights enjoyed by everyone, and the state cannot strip anyone, of that right. This is more a question of the philosophy and ethics than anything else.

Perpetrators of CP would argue that, a psychopath is best dead, than otherwise. They would however agree with the fact that the death penalty should be reserved for exceptional cases; only when keeping a criminal in custody would do more harm than good. Also, acts of recidivism (committing similar crimes over and over again as in the case of serial killers), terror or barbaric acts of violence deserve this kind of punishment.

Though judiciary believes prison as a place for rehabilitation and reform, the truth couldn’t be farther. One of the reasons for supporting death penalty is that, in the unlikely event when a convict escapes from the prison he is once again free to commit more crime. Instead of nipping the problem in its bud, the state is in effect giving the convict a chance to commit the same again.

I rest my case here saying that, there is no one conclusion is such a situation where you have equal factions supporting either.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On The Highway to Economy

About half a decade ago, the road transport sector in India witnessed some pretty dramatic changes. It was marked by the materialization of some of the ambitious road-building projects being undertaken by Central Government. The number of designated “National Highways” in the country close to tripled - almost overnight. Big money was being pumped into the roads under myriad schemes. It was touted as the harbinger of economic revolution.

Now that substantial chunks of the road-building projects have been completed and are operational (more than 95% of Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) is completed - more details regarding the schemes, budgets, completion status and the like can be found at the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) website and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) website), its time to analyze if, and to what extent, these have helped the economy.

Fuel Savings

A majority of the newly constructed 4/6 laned roads are tolled. While the toll amount is not uniform across the country (the Ahmedabad-Vadodara expressway levies Rs.63/- for about 85 kms; whereas Tumkur-Nelmangla stretch of NH4 costs Rs. 21 for 35-km stretch), it would be safe to assume an approximate of close to Re.1/- per km, as the average for a car. I have heard many people complain that this is too steep, saying there is no way one can save enough fuel to compensate for the toll. Some even argue that since cars usually drive at high speeds (often 100+ kph) on the 4/6 lane stretches, it might actually result in more fuel consumption. True. So where’s the "fuel savings"?

The real fuel savings for the country lie in the transportation sector. Enter - the ubiquitous Indian lorry. Prior to the advent of divided highways, there used to be lot of fuel wastage because of slow-moving heavy vehicles, for example, in the event of one fully loaded truck overtaking another (not to mention it was a painfully slow event).

Especially on the gradients.We have all witnessed quite often, the scene of one mammoth lorry trailing another in low gear; both vehicles groaning under the strain and spewing out tonnes of exhaust. Now, with the widening of roads and construction of dividers, lorries consume considerably less fuel per consignment run. Some websites like this one and this one point out the enormous fuel savings that the NHDP projects are expected to bring about.

Time Savings

This is quite evident. Almost anyone who has travelled on these highways during the pre- and post- NHDP era will vouch for the stupendous time gain factor of these highways. Again, this applies not only to cars and passenger transport, but to goods too. Trucks which used to cover only about 300 kms per day now do close to 500 kms!


That the newly constructed highways offer greater safety has been debated. The argument against this safety aspect is that people drive much faster (3-digit speeds are common these days).

However, the additional safety that the newly constructed highways cannot be undermined. Most head-on highway accidents are related to overtaking. With divided highways, such accidents are minimized. Moreover, the NHDP highways are being built to certain standards, like better road geometry etc. These factors definitely make road travel safer than ever before.

Cash Flow and Economy

These various factors contribute a long way in boosting the economy, especially in the countryside. In addition to the financial savings resulting from less fuel consumption, there are numerous other aspects of economic growth attributable to the roads improvement projects, few of which are listed below.

  • Goods are transported quicker than before.
  • "Wastage" of goods is minimized (especially food products and milk products).
  • Wayside businesses along the highways - This is interesting because it is opposite to the conventional economical model for roads. Conventionally, roads were aligned to pass through towns for the purpose of enhancing business. But, the NHDP envisages smooth, uninterrupted flow of traffic. Hence, most of the towns are bye-passed. However, highwayside businesses (like restaurants, lodges, fuel stations, garages) flourish in the new model. (CNN IBN recently aired this feature on the flourishing business along the Golden Quadrilateral)
  • Massive employment during the construction phase.
  • The increase in travel comfort has been a boon to the tourism industry.

How much is too much?

Since the Highway projects have been such a huge success, it is very easy to get carried away. There are 2 highways between Mumbai and Pune - the traditional NH4 and the Mumbai-Pune expressway. In Karnataka, the Bangalore-Mysore state highway was recently 4-laned, and work has begun on Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC). Delhi-Chandigarh and Bangalore-Chennai expressways are also on the cards.

The authorities got to be careful here. There's no point in having 2 separate highways between two cities. After all, the interests of farmers have to be protected too. Where will all the land come from? What about the environmental implications? If the traffic in these corridors is so high, then why were these stretches not built at 6/8 lanes in the first place? The GQ has not yet been completed, and there's already talk of widening it to 6/8 lanes by 2012. So will the public have to re-live the misery that it went through during the initial construction?

Only if the answers to above question are satisfactory, should the respective Governments go ahead with the proposed implementations. Its great news that we as a nation have finally woken up to the advantages of a sound infrastructure backbone. Now it is our duty to ensure that rural economy is not adversely affected by this; and it is definitely our responsibility to see to it that this road-building spree does not eat up our farmlands and our forests.

Looking forward to an economically booming India. JAI BHARATH.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Aaya Aaya Gurubhai!!!

GURU... This movie is all about the vision of a person – Gurukanth Desai (Abhishek Bachchan) & his efforts to realize the dream, fighting against all odds. Some people say it is based on the life of Dhirubhai Ambani. I can see why they say so. But, this is actually a movie about a simple guy trying to make it big in this world. It can easily relate to just about any successful entrepreneur who has been able to achieve his vision.

This movie follows Guru’s journey, starting from his teenage days; his first work in the petrol industry in Turkey. As he matures in age as well as in riches, he decides to start working for himself & begins his “bijjness”- His foundation stone & his first business takeover being his marriage with Sujatha (Aishwarya Rai). He steps into Bombay and bids to cut out his own route in textile trading, through the weed-infested fields of the trading unions. His entry into trading, is greatly influenced by the works of a news editor with great principles, Manikdas Gupta (Mithun Chakraborthy). The relationship between these two, then, goes on to progress to a father-son standard. Flanked by his innovative ideas & his sole will of realizing his dreams, he dares to foray into other areas, manufacturing polyester, producing chemicals etc.

But, as we near intermission, an important incident occurs, which makes Mithunda to take notice of the ways & means of Guru’s success. To investigate Guru’s work, he appoints a young reporter, Shyam Saxena (R Madhavan). This is where the story really starts developing its many twists & turns; involving many intricate plots bearing great emotion, building up wonderfully to a Grand Finale worth the huge expectations from this film.

Mani Ratnam as the Director does a commendable job of realizing his screenplay dreams. His attention to detail in every aspect of the movie is commendable, be it the evolution in the type of clothing which the characters wear or the concept of using different shades of colours for different decades in the movie, there is typical Mani Ratnam uniqueness written all over it. High points in the movie are the sequences between Mithunda & Guru, the simple chemistry between Aishwarya & Abhishek & of course, the Finale. The cinematography by Rajiv Menon is very nice, capturing the essence of the India of the bygone days. The editing though good for the most parts, was a little too flashy for my liking towards the end.

The music by AR Rahman is another huge point going in favour of the movie. The soulful song & tune of “Jaage Hain” & the ravishing song “Tera Bina” are pieces of musical brilliance. "Barso Re" is a melodious number, shot very beautifully with nice choreography. ARR plays his charm though his innovative & fresh music.

Coming to the performances, the beauty queen – Aishwarya Rai has given a wonderful performance, suiting her strong character in the movie. This is one of the few occasions, where her acting has done the talking & not only the looks. Madhavan does justice to the role of the sincere journalist. Vidya Balan runs her charm in the brief, but, important role she plays; portraying her unrelenting love for her quarreling caretakers. Mithun Chakraborthy’s comeback role is the best that I’ve seen coming from this Disco dancer of yesteryears. He is involved in a few quite memorable scenes in the movie, adding his charm. Mallika Sherawath fans would be disappointed to find out that she doesn’t have any role in the movie at all, except for a song.

But, this movie belongs to Abhishek Bachchan & none other. This is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play such an important role & he has grabbed it with both hands. This is not a typical hero’s role, which he portrays. There is the interesting addition of grayish shades to his character. His choice of role means that he probably wont have too many of his female fans swooning over him during the movie; but, it is his acting which steals the show here. He graces almost every frame with his presence. His dialogue delivery is immaculate, his energy & confidence in the movie is truly breathtaking, towering over all the other good performances in the movie.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Quadbike - Solution to Urban Personal Transport Problems?

Picture this: You reside in one of those cities which have a pathetic public transportation system (well, that covers just about every one of the big Indian cities) and you have to use your private vehicle to commute to work. In a majority of the cases, this would mean using a 2-wheeler for your daily transportation needs. It is the cheapest, quickest and the most convenient way of getting around our congested cities. Well, almost.

One point that we conveniently forget (or choose to knowingly ignore) is Safety. It has been proven - statistically or otherwise - that 2-wheelers are not at all safe. Even if one rides responsibly, one is left at the mercy of the other drivers and riders. That, coupled with the possibility of falling off, makes it really unsafe. There are also other factors that come into play here. 2-wheelers are all the more unsafe for women, mainly because of the way they sit in the pillion (both legs to one side).

The combination of all these factors has resulted in me not allowing my parents, especially my mom, to sit on a 2-wheeler of late. Whats more, I constantly find myself finding excuses to take the car rather than the 2-wheeler whenever I'm going around the city. "I have to carry the laptop, it is very heavy". "It looks like it might rain in the evening". The excuses get sillier every passing day. Like, "I just washed the car yesterday. I want to take it out atleast once before it gets dirty again"!!

So there you are: Me, a staunch environmentalist, driving the car to work - ALONE, or when there are only 2 persons. And yet, I justify it. I don't want to compromise on my safety or my convenience. Is there any solution to this?

Well, the obvious solution that comes to my mind is that the Government should improve public transportation. Although steps are being taken in this direction, it still seems a tall ask from the Governments, whose primary focus these days is to safeguard their own existence, rather than public interests.

This is where I think automobile manufacturers could step in. Before we look decades into the future (like fossil fuels being entirely replaced by solar energy), I think we need to think about the nearer future. Why not bridge the gap between car and bike? What I'm referring to is 4-wheeled motorbikes, or 2-seater cars - whichever way you look at it; with the seating arrangement being one behind the other, rather than side-by-side. A bit of googling around threw up some interesting results, but not quite what I had in mind. My brain dug out something I had read in an automobile magazine about a 6-7 years back. It had a hand-sketch of this really neat concept car. Since I do not have the image or the link, let me try to describe the vehicle in words. For want of a better term, I call it a quadbike.

The quadbike would be shorter than our small cars (about 3 metres), it would be just about half as wide (0.7 to 0.8 m), and to compensate for the slim-long make, it would need to have a low center of gravity, thus making it shorter in height too (maybe about 1 m??). If powered by, say a 300 cc engine, it might generate around 20-25 bhp. It would be easy to maneuver around the city, and especially easy to park. It could return a fuel efficiency figure of around 30+ kmpl. Probably it could be steering-wheel driven too.The entire package could cost less than 1 lakh rupees if mass-produced. It seems to be a good compromise - offering the safety of a car and maneuverability and efficiency of a bike.

It all sounds so simple. Someone somewhere must have thought about it (I mean among manufacturers AND Govt). To my delight, I found that a recent issue of the auto magazine "Top Gear" also has echoed my thoughts! Then why is it that nobody is doing anything about it?

Well the reason i can think of is this: I think car and bike manufacturers alike consider a quadbike as a threat to their respective products. Who knows, such an idea might have been proposed by some well-meaning entity, but put off by the car and bike manufacturer's lobby. However, what surprises me is that if these manufacturers see such potential in a quadbike, then why don't they seriously give a thought to foraying into it themselves?

One reason could be the R&D costs, as well as the time and effort that might be required for developing such a vehicle. These factors would scare away the smaller companies for sure. Still, the big names could pitch in. The Tatas are spending billions on their Rs. 1 Lakh car - thats an example of big money being spent on R&D. Nissan has already "announced" plans to come in with a small car in 2009 - three years in advance! That shows companies have devoted plenty of time for R&D.

So, it would definitely be in evreyone's interests if the Govt and industry take the 4-wheeled bikes concept seriously.Just think about it. Less congestion, less pollution, more easily accessible, affordable to the public as well.

And most importantly, all this without compromising on safety. Such a technology would buy us more time before we run out of fossil fuels; thus lengthening our endeavour to perfect the technologies of the future. The public will definitely do its bit to save and protect the environment. As long as the Government and industry play their part.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Digital Photography....Demystified

Laying your hands on your new digital camera, you suddenly find all sorts of symbols on the dials of the camera. You open up the instruction manual only to find it flooded with an array of technical words. Understanding very little, you fiddle around the dial, slotting it in the “Auto” mode & click a few snaps. You are pleased with the outcome initially. As you go on experimenting, you find that although the photos are average, they aren’t upto your expectations. This is when you must start venturing out to see what the other symbols & terms in your camera stand for & explore the vast array of customizable features offered by your camera. Before doing this, however, it is better to have an idea about several of the terms used & the concepts behind them.

In this blog, I make an effort to simplify the concepts used in photography.

Optical zoom v/s digital zoom

Optical zoom uses the physics of optics to enlarge or reduce the image using lenses of different focal lengths. In the photographers’ language, the zoomed-out position is called “Telephoto” (T) & the zoomed-in position is called “Wide-Angle” (W).

On the other hand, digital zoom magnifies the individual pixels of the ordinary sized photographs. So, one gets a magnified image alright; but, at the cost of the image clarity. Hence, when analyzing the capabilities of any camera, it is wise to take the digital zoom out of the equation & considering only the optical zoom characteristics.

Aperture is the opening in the lens of the camera. This is what determines the amount of light falling on the image sensor (the analogue of a film in a digital camera). Aperture is denoted using what is called as “F” number. The aperture size & the F number have an inverse relation. Thus, a large aperture has low F no in the ranges of F1.8, F2.8 etc. Small aperture has a high F no, like F8, F16 etc. Representations of aperture sizes are also made as f/8, f/16 etc

Shutter Speed is the time for which the shutter allows the light to enter through the lens. If the shutter speed in a camera reads 1/125, it means the aperture is opened for 1 by 125th of a second. Some of the cameras have shutter speeds in excess of 16 to 32 seconds. Seconds are represented using the ‘ mark.

ISO refers to the sensitivity of the image sensor to the light falling on it. ISO representation is based on the speed rating. ISOs ranging from 50, 80, 100, 200, 400 etc can be seen in various cameras. The lower ISO ratings mean the image sensor is less sensitive to light & can be ideally used in well-lit conditions. As the speeds increases, their sensitive to light also increases. Hence, these come into better use as the lighting decreases. But, this means that the fainter light signals also get recorded now, resulting in the appearance of 'grains' on the photo, which is called “Noise”.

Flash is the external light which one provides to fill-in for the lack of natural light at the setting, in order to attain a proper exposure. Fill-in flash can also be customized in many of the cameras, having positive as well as negative ranges.

Thus, we come to Exposure, which is the end-result of all these – Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO setting, Flash – put together. If the subject appears optimally bright, the photo is said to have a proper exposure. If the photo comes out with dull & insufficient lighting, then the photo is said to be underexposed. Overexposure is when the photo appears too bright. Hence, what all photographers strive for is the optimum exposure of the sensor.

Depth of Field (DOF) is the amount of the subject which is in focus. If the whole image is in focus, it is said that there is a Great DOF. This is desirable usually when capturing sceneries or in landscape photos. On the other hand, if only a part of the image is in sharp focus, with the rest being blurred out, then, it is said to have a Shallow DOF. This is sought-after in cases of portrait (close-ups of people) photographs, so, as to lay emphasis on the subject & not the surroundings.

DOF is mainly influenced by the aperture size. A large aperture like f/2.8 will produce a shallow DOF, whereas a small aperture (f/8) results in a greater DOF.

Regarding the different aspects & terms used in photography, I found a very appropriate analogy on the net. Let me share it with you. Consider a hosepipe conveying water to fill a bucket. Here, the diameter of the hosepipe is like the aperture of the lens, regulating the amount of light passing through the opening at any given time. The duration for which the tap is kept open corresponds to the shutter speed. The speed of the flow of water through the pipe corresponds to the ISO speed in the camera. And finally, the amount of water collected in the bucket refers to the amount of exposure.

Let us consider this. If we have a narrow pipe (small aperture = large F no), then we will require the tap to be kept open for a longer time (higher shutter speed) & with optimum speed of water (ISO setting) to fill the bucket (optimum exposure). Keeping the other settings constant, if we turn off the tap half-way through, the bucket will not fill to the brim (under-exposure). Keeping the tap open longer (lower shutter speed) will result in excess of water in the bucket (Over-exposure).

Similarly, keeping the shutter speed constant, if the aperture is increased (lesser F number), there will be over-exposure. Decreasing the aperture size will result in underexposure.

Another important thing to be kept in mind while photographing any object is the Rule of Thirds. The basis of this ages-old rule is that if you were to divide a frame into thirds, both ways-horizontally & vertically, the points of intersection are the points where your subject should be placed in order to be most interesting, while also being most pleasing & easy-on-the-eye. The photos taken keeping these rules in mind tend to grab instant attention. However, these are actually just guidelines, not absolute rules. Feel free to experiment with different positions.

All said and done, you don’t get good photographs by just learning about the different aspects of it. You must go out & shoot as many photos as possible, letting your creativity play its role, looking at things from a different perspective. Shoot multiple snaps, try out with different settings, compare & decide; you can always delete them later. With the advent of the digital cameras, photography isn’t such an expensive hobby now. Knowledge of these things just helps you to get photos which are closer to what you had in mind while shooting that snap!!!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Prayaana to Yaana in our Vaahana

They say if the first button of a shirt is fastened properly, the rest will fall into place automatically. I suppose, that applied to our journey to Uttar Kannada starting on the 23rd of Dec, 2006, as, once the basic itinerary was carefully set & decided upon, the trip was bound to progress without many hiccups. This was the case with this journey taken by Rahul, Abhishek, Sandeep, Yours Truly & Kiran to his native place near Sirsi. We started early from Kiran’s house in Bangalore at 5.40 am in his Maruti 800 with Kiran on the wheel.

Our very first stop-over was to tank up the car to the brim at Dasarahalli. Rahul took over the reigns of the vehicle from there & zoomed along the splendid new stretch of highway to Tumkur. At the next piss-stop, it was my turn to burn the road. With our stomachs making their presence felt, we made an early stop at Tiptur to fuel our appetite at a reasonably good restaurant called Kamat at around 8 am.

Our satisfied appetite was evident with a lot more activity happening by the passengers, while I sat at the drivers’ seat to continue on my stint from where i had left of. As we zoomed past the ever-increasing traffic, we took part in a very healthy discussion whose topics ranged from the latest business moves to the state of affairs of the economy to sports & photography. As the discussions ceased, Sandeep started humming some of the popular songs in Hindi & Kannada in his melodious voice & we gave him company by singing along in our harsh & loud voices, managing to mask his singing brilliance. The roads, although very smooth & straight for the most part, were dotted with a couple of potholes here-and-there. That coupled with the very bouncy ride of the Maruti wouldn’t have made life very comfortable for the occupants at the back row.

At our next stop to answer nature’s call, Rahul took over the wheel, being freshened up by the brief nap. He continued on at a very good pace. While on the way, we decided to meet a friend of Abhi and Rahul – Ananda Mattur & we called him to Shimoga. Having reached Shimoga at 11.30 am, we waited till Ananda came & escorted us to his native house at Mattur (the famed village, where people converse in Sanskrit). After being audience to the procedure of processing Areca nut in his farm, we crossed the river Tunga to view a typical, old village house. In and around Mattur, me & Kiran scouted for a few scenic photographic opportunities. I'm glad that we have a few decent ones atleast to show for the effort.

We started from Mattur at around 1.30 pm & reached our next stop outside Sagar where Kiran took over the wheel. Our emerging idea of a visit to the famed Jog falls had to be dropped, because of the inadequacy of time. This stretch of road from Siddapur to Sirsi was a confidence-inspiring one for Kiran, who enjoyed the twisting drive, while all the back-benchers utilized the time to catch a bit of shut eye. Thus, we reached his native house at around 4.15 pm, after a fuel-stop at Sirsi.

After being introduced to his relatives & filling our lunch-deprived stomachs, we set out to

Banavasi, the age-old temple which is just a 15 minute drive from there. On the way, we made a detour to the calm lake at Gudnapur, which was looking brilliant in the fading lights of dusk. Banavasi is a temple of Madhukeshwara (Shiva), but, its uniqueness lies in the presence of all the major deities around India in the corresponding directions. Thus, it is said, if you make a tour of Banavasi, it is like going on an India-wide pilgrimage.

The next day, we set out at around 10 am, being accompanied by the youngest of Kiran’s uncles & 3 of his other old chums in two bikes – Bajaj Wind & the Bajaj Pulsar 150. Our car also had new inclusions in two of Kiran’s kid cousins. We fueled the car again at Sirsi in our journey towards Yaana, a spot very well-known to trekking enthusiasts across the state. The drive to Yaana from Sirsi takes up more than an hour along the winding route. Drive becomes especially scenic after taking the deviation at Hegdekatte. Rahul at the wheel did a nice job of catching up with the bikes on those broken road surfaces. We parked the cars and started on the 4-km walk to the renowned temple at Yaana.

The walk towards Yaana is descending for most parts, including the crossing of a small stream. After having walked close to an hour along the trails through the jungle, we were starting to wonder about the distances yet to be covered. Then, as we rounded a bend in the trail, we finally caught a glimpse of the towering rocks of Yaana. The biggest of them called the “Bhairaveshwara Shikhara”, stands tall at 492 feet, having a circumference of over a kilometer and half, soaring above the encircling green vegetation. There is another huge rock opposite it, which measures close to 290 feet. The temple at the base is of Goddess Devi, with a steady, continuous spring of water falling all throughout the year on the natural idol. It is possible to encircle the temple, taking a cut in between the rocks, which is a fabulous experience, with the rocks appearing as if they are ready to collapse on you anytime.

After having a small drink to quench our thirst & few bites at the snacks at the shop there, we set out on our return journey. This was taxing to a few of us, especially, the seemingly non-ending ascent. Eventually though, we took about 45 minutes to return to our car. We gobbled up the food which Kiran’s aunt had packed for us. On our drive back, I commandeered the vehicle with my bro, Rahul taking over when we stopped to snack again.

Me & bro intended to return to our hometown of Mangalore from Sirsi on our way back from Yaana. To this effect, we boarded a bus to Kumta at 3.30 pm. Kiran, Abhi & Sandy intended to stay over-night at Kiran’s other uncle’s house & drive back to Bangalore the next day. We reached Kumta at 5.10 pm & took a quick auto ride to the railway station. We were able to catch the Verna-Mangalore Passenger train, only because of its over-an-hour delay. But, we were dismayed to find out the train was over-crowded & all the seats were occupied. That meant we had to stay standing for close to two hours, taking in all the nudges & pushes of the vendors & passengers till we finally got to sit at Udupi. We alighted at the Suratkal station & took a jolting city bus drive to our house.

Kiran & others started off early the next day, with Kiran solely responsible for the driving duties. They chose a different approach, preferring to take the Sirsi-Dasankoppa-Haveri-NH4-Bangalore route. On the way, they visited Sandeep’s house at Davangere & had their breakfast there. As Kiran drove on through the seemingly alternate stretches of silky-smooth & cratered roads, pausing at a railway crossing, he grew more & more confident, which was evident in his pedal-to-metal approach in the straights. After lunch at Kamat Upachar at Tumkur, they finally reached Kiran's house at 3.15 pm. For a detailed description of the routes and an assesment of the roads, check out Kiran's wonderful report.

All in all, it was a pretty relaxing trip for us; we were able to not only soothe our minds with the calmness of the village setting, but also, feed our adventurous hearts with a testing drive as well as a nice little trek.. And the excursion became all the more special in the presence of close friends.