Monday, August 8, 2011


One can imagine the plight of people working with high temperature equipments on hot afternoons in mid-summer; and that too at the sea-shore. It is pathetic to say the least. I have been oft en working in such a severe environment.
Before I begin, a word of caution: Day dreaming might be fatal to your career!! On one such lethargic summer afternoon, I had received a call from my colleague, stating that one of our seniors wanted us to be in his office to discuss few technical issues. When I reached his office, my colleague informed me that our Senior had gone to the Group Director’s office to make an STD call to Bangalore.
Suddenly, Bengaluru knocked my brain!! He might be sending me there. I might be going there for some official work; far away from this hot and humid climate. Wonderful weather, gorgeous girls, huge malls… a real city in all respect! How cooooool is that! Hoping for a long tour, I was already packing my bag in my thoughts. “Will the tickets be available during this holiday season? I have to make arrangements for my accommodation too!! Will I have enough ti me to spend with my friends there? ”. And in no time, my dreams took off and I was on a Kingfisher flight to Bangalore with svelte air hostesses making me feel very comfortable in the air!!
Oh Wait……. Really?? It’s an official tour Bro!! And you are working for ISRO! I counted my gray hairs and told myself that it might be years before I travel by flight.
My thoughts wandered to a more realistic mode of transport and I saw myself sitting in the train, enjoying the changing landscapes and musing about my stay at Bengaluru. Then I was
in Bengaluru, roaming around with my friends.
This went on for what felt like two days. By the time our senior entered his offi ce with a wide grin on his face , I was uploading the pictures of my tour virtually in facebook. Two days of tour in less than two minutes! Mr. Christopher Nolan, you might really want to reconsider the time scale for dreams in your recent film ‘Inception’!
So, I was back in his offi ce in VSSC, Trivandrum, still so excited about the virtual tour. I was waiti ng impati ently for him to reveal the good news. He sat down relaxed and started posing questions about our solar system. How many planets are there? How far is Mars? What is there after Neptune? Is Pluto still a planet? How dangerous is the asteroid belt? And so on…
Without my knowledge, the lid on my brain opened and I was drowned in the thoughts that overflowed . My desti nati on had changed; I need to change my iti nerary. I was about to embark on a journey to space.
Bengaluru to Space!!!
I was in my ISRO space suit and was posing with my hand rested on a helmet, which was on a 4
feet high table. The National flag of India was there in the back ground, and I posed for the typical astronaut photograph.
I lifted the rocket boosters, which to my astonishment were very small, and hung them on my back and walked towards the Launchpad.
“Oh WAIT! How could I possibly forget that!” I came back, opened my lappy and changed my Facebook status to “Hurrayyy!! Going on a Space Mission… Miss you all!!”
Now, with a sense of contentment, I went and stood on the launch pad. As the countdown began, I was thinking “How can I miss them without even starting from here? Huhh!! Aint it Crazyy!!!”
The boosters I was carrying were ignited. In a jiffy, I was soaring into the sky at never ever experienced acceleration. THRILLING!!! I crossed the earth’s atmosphere and slowly entered the earth’s orbit. What a breathtaking view of earth that was!! I could see the constellation of the man-made satellites. The moon that we conquered long back just seemed to be a leap away! The entire scene was captivating. What an awesome feeling!
After two revolutions around the earth and after having taken a whole lot of pictures, a few in panoramic view covering earth and moon, with my compact Sony Cybershot cam, I came out of the orbit and set sail into the deep, dark space away from our mother earth, very excited and thrilled about what I was going to explore next. After a while, I saw a sign board showing the ways to the different planets. I was baffled!
“OMG Where am I going ? Which planet am I supposed to go to now!! I forgot to ask my senior. How could I possibly mess it up like that?”
While I was cursing myself, slowly, the empty dark space around me transformed into a small room with my Boss sitting in front of me and my colleague by my side. Both of them were
staring at me and seemed to be waiti ng for my involvement. I regained my senses and nodded my head indicating that I am back. He started the discussion and it turned out to be on Human in Space Program (HSP), indeed!
Are all these crazy dreams because of my boiled brain due to the hot weather??? I have no idea.
Anyways, the idea of going into space is really fascinating and motivating!!!

Trekking to Meesappulimala

A hard trek to wild hills of Munnar had always fascinated me and a trek to the highest peak of south India, Anamudi peak (8682 ft.), still remains a dream. Meesappulimala the second highest peak (8640 ft.) has flickered many times in my google searches for trekking routes in Kerala, but I had never considered it seriously, because Anamudi is also in the same region. However thanks to my friend Jayesh, who has been regularly trying for permission from forest department to Anamudi trek, that I got a chance to trek to this peak. Jayesh had finally suceeded in getting the permission for trekking in Meesappulimala overcoming all the difficulties of contacting the forest officials during Vishu holiday and confirming availability of an experienced guide.
Unlike my earlier trips, this tour to Munnar was a planned one (I booked a room in a fine resort two days ahead) since I had past experiences of diffculty in getting a descent lodging during vacation time. Me and my collegue Anurag Kumar Sinha reached my home at Perumbavoor on the previous day of Vishu and on the day of Vishu we started to Munnar after break fast. The drive to Munnar from Perumbavoor took nearly four hours as we progressed the journey through NH49 enjoying the scenic beauty of wilderness. There are two spectacular water falls on the way namely Cheeyapara and Valara. We checked into the Ayur County resort by 3 p.m. which is located at Chinnakanal, 20 kms away from Munnar town on the way to Theni on NH 49. The resort was selected mainly because the tariff was moderate and as we checked in we realised that it was worth the pay. The room was well furnished with all facilities and the view out side was breath taking, ideal for any family vacation. Rest of the day we spent roaming around the hills and tea plantations near Chinnakanal.
The climate changed suddenly in the evening. The heavens threatened to open up, accompanied by thunders. The down pour continued for 2 hours and Jayesh failed to reach Munnar in time due to his other responsibilities towards family. However, we got assurance from our guide that climate will be fine in the morning and we can have an early start. Jayesh also stuck to the plans and he stayed over night at Adimaly and promised to reach Munnar next day by the first bus available.
Next day we woke up at 4 in the morning and by 6.30 picked up Jayesh from the Munnar town and then proceeded to Kerala Forest Development Corporation. We had to wait a bit for our guide Muthu, who came only by 7.30. However, we finished our breakfast in the meantime and also bought a few bottles of mineral water and some appams for our lunch. As soon as Muthu came we paid the entry fee to the KFDC official and proceeded to the trek point.
The trek point for Meesappulimala starts from Silent Valley tea planatations, near the Mattupetti dam. As suggested by Muthu, we didn’t hire any Jeep from Mattupetti and drove upto the trek point in Sinha’s car. We started our trek and in order to save time Muthu deviated from the regular trek path and chose shortcuts which consisted of steep climb all the way. By the time we covered the 4 kms through steep hills we were very tired and we thought if we continue this way we may not have the energy to retrace our steps on completion of our ascend of 16 kms. Luckily the Forest Department’s yearly road maintanence was in progress and we could avail the jeep used by the officials. We rode upto the Rhodo Valley which is the last point accessible by a four wheel drive on the route.
From Rhodo Valley we resumed our journey through the hill side though another easier route to the Meesappulimala is available. It was physically demanding trek but the mesmerising view of the valley from the hills kept our mind and body active. We saw a herd of Nilgiri tahr gracing in the valley. Sensing our presence they disappeared on to steepy rock cliffs in seconds. The Nilgiri tahr in this area are quite wild and shy animals unlike those in Rajamala since the presence of humans are quite rare in these localities.
By the time we reached the top most point of the Meesappulimala it was noon. The sight of the surrounding valley through the clouds was quite fascinating. We rested for a while and had our lunch. At 12.30 p.m. we started our descend from the peak hastly to avoid the evening rain as we could already see the formation of clouds. We chose the route through the valley, for our return, which we found more easier. The route consists of many elephant tracks and marsh lands and the valley was blooming with flowers. We stopped for a few minutes in the Rhodo Valley which is a campsite occasionally visited by many forgien tourists and where overnight camps are conducted. By 3.30 p.m. we reached the place where our car was parked and by the time we boarded the car thunderous shower started. We drove down to our resort slowly in the rain and by the time we reached our room we just fell on the bed at the very first sight and slipped into a deep sleep. Next day also we woke up early by 4.a.m. and reached to Kolukku malai, a view point near Chinnakanal after a one hour long bone jarring jeep ride. The beauty of the sunrise from Kolukkumalai is beyond words. We can also see the peak of the Meesapulimala from Kolukkumalai. The tea garden at Kolukkumalai is the worlds highest organic tea garden. We made a quick visit to the tea factory and had a few cups of refreshing organic tea. We came back to the resort and after break fast started our journey back to trivandrum.

Contact details of KFDC for trekking and overnight camps:
Office: 04865 230332

Tall Musings

One fine evening, I was making my way dreamily to the drawing room from the kitchen. Having just devoured a few sweets, my sense of contentment was complete. Unfortunately, my smooth progress was impeded by a collision between my head and the door frame. “AMMA...” I screamed, as a moment later, my brain decided to experience the sharp pain of the impact. Stars were circling around my head. Swearing, I rubbed my scalp and began grumbling about the sub-normal heights of the doors to my family members. They had all been summoned to the scene of the mishap, by my shriek of anguish. “It’s because of your arrogance, you should be more humble”, advised my hard-hearted brother. Mother nodded in agreement, enquiring anxiously, “Are you alright? Does it hurt?” Father chided, “You should be more careful. Always remember to stoop down at the low doors”. I sighed. This was turning out to be a regular happening now.
If you belong to that group of humans who are regarded as being taller than ordinary mortals are meant to be, read will surely empathize with me. For the uninitiated (read “people of normal height”), I hope this will give a peek into our world, a view from incredibly lofty heights...
Well, I measure about 172 cms (5’9”) vertically. Throughout my life, I have wondered whether my height is a boon or a bane and till today have not reached a conclusion. It will fetch you numerous, imaginative nicknames- giraffe, thotti, kudakkambi, beanpole are a few samples. If you happen to meet relatives or friends after a hiatus, they will invariably exclaim, “ How tall you’ve grown! Your parents will have a tough time finding a boy for you!” Although their concern is touching, it exasperates you no end. The last 10 years’ experience has taught me to expect this query, listen and respond to it with an impassive face.
All the comforts and infrastructure in this world are intended for dwarves. As mentioned above, you have to be humility personified to pass unharmed through many doors. If you are unfortunate enough to be travelling standing in a bus, utmost care has to be taken to avoid damage to your brain. I discovered the existence of a lamp on the ceiling of KSRTC buses towards the back, the hard way, when the bus went over every rut and hump on our ‘well-maintained roads’. On the other hand, if you are travelling seated, you will require treatment for sore knees by the time you arrive at your destination. Mind you, you will be cramped for want of sufficient space between seats in whatever mode of conveyance you employ- car, bus, plane or auto.
My favourite posture while reading or watching tv at home is thus : sit on a chair, stretch my legs and place them comfortably on the sofa on the other side of the room. The only drawback is, mother will have infinite reasons to walk across just then and my cosy reclining will be disturbed frequently. My stretching of arms finds no favour with her either. Both annoyed and amused, she declares on such occasions, “Only an abode of gigantic dimensions will suit you!”
Your extraordinary height also brings out the creative best in your kith and kin. My uncle often remarks, “ You’ll make a phenomenal basketball player. You can collect the ball and fling it through the basket countless times. The basket will be miles beneath you.” or “This girl will go to the giraffe’s cage in the zoo, compare her height with it and say smugly, “Not as tall as me, eh?” or “You know why ISRO recruited you? Now they can dispense with rockets to launch satellites. You can inject them into orbit directly.” Then there are occasions when the fact that you tower over normal people inconveniences them, albeit unintentionally. For instance, you will hinder the clear view of others, if you happen to be seated or standing in front of them, while enjoying a stage performance. My short cousin has had to remind me to be considerate of the disparity in our heights- when I hit the shuttle out of her bounds while playing badminton or my strides were too long for her to keep in pace, while taking a stroll together.
Once, during a family pilgrimage, the driver of our vehicle looked plainly disbelieving when I informed him that I was a student of 8th standard. He queried, “Have you failed in some class?” , much to my mortification, but to my cousins’ immense amusement. I also held the dubious distinction of consistently making up the rear of the row during our school assembly. Till recently, people generally found it hard to digest that I was elder to my brother by only a year. You see, he hardly reached upto my shoulders. Thankfully, a few years ago, the growth hormones in his body commenced their activities and public opinion has been altered. Despite not being a Complan girl, my physical growth was swift, leaving me to utilize the fridge and wardrobe at home to keep track of it. For other kids, I was the benchmark. I got accustomed to such claims- some one will announce proudly, “ My head is on level with her ears” or somebody else will despair, “ I don’t reach upto her shoulders even!”
Every dark cloud has a silver lining, however, and being tall is no exception. You will easily stand out in any crowd. Many will be grateful to you for shortening their search while looking for you amongst a group. You can perform such tasks as extracting objects from the topmost shelf or pluck mangoes or flowers from unreachable branches with consummate ease. These are daunting to ordinary people who have to rely on ladders and other equipment to accomplish them. Even if there are huge crowds at temples, you can enjoy the privilege of good darshan of the deities, from the very back also. You will often be the reference or identification for others. People will say, “ That tall girl’s parents” or “ I mean the one next to the tall girl”.
All said, I am quite at peace and take heart from the fact that “I AM A TOWERING PERSONALITY”, literally atleast!