Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 375: That Felt So Good!

29 November, 2010

After 3 months and 9 days of completely ignoring yoga, I went back to the hot room yesterday. It took a great amount of will power and overcoming of fear to get up to the studio - hot yoga is never easy and after three months of no practice it was expected to be a sure shot torture!

BUT... it was all SO worthwhile.... it felt so so so so Good!!!

I felt like a god damn idiot for having missed so many days of this wonderful form of exercise! Sure, it was pure torture during the class... I felt dizzy, was 99.9% certain of throwing up and sometimes had to try my best to focus on a spot because all I could see where waves and circles and blotches in my eyes. But ultimately I got through it and felt like I was on top of the world!

Ah! Glorious!

Bless the yogis of yesteryears and Bikram Choudhary for coming up with this beauty. You guys rock! Muah!

625 more to go.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 374: Fully Back!

Ever since I was done with the trek, I have been talking about how I am getting back to various things. First it was just getting back to Singapore. Then it was about getting back to work. Followed by getting back to the film's work. And now finally I have managed to get back to some exercising with a swim this morning! That gets me to be "fully back" to me pre-trek life (obviously the trek has made me feel like I have been to a whole another world and back)!

The swim was great not just because it brings me back to me exercise routine, but also because it was the first swim I've had with the hubby in a really long time (at least some 6 months, if not more)! So that was definitely quite fun, even though all he did throughout was complain on how the sun would make him dark! Apparently that's less of a problem for me since I am "so dark to start with anyway"! OK then.

Post the swim we made the routine weekend meet-up with friends and watched the movie "Break Ke Baad". I dunno whether it is because I am generally very upbeat about life lately, but I do seem to immensely enjoy the movies I watch these days in spite of the kinda of negative reviews they get. After Guzaarish, I thoroughly enjoyed "Break Ke Baad" as well!

So all in all quite a good day!

626 more to go.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 373: Back to Dubbing!

The trek is over and so is the "rest period" post trek. This weekend am back to film work and to kickstart that I had a few hours of dubbing. It was good to see a few members from the team and to get back to the film once again.

Post the dubbing, I also ended up having a long conversation with my cinematographer on some of the story threads I have for future films, and it felt good to bounce off all the ideas! It's like there is no dearth of ideas for sure but it would take so many years to see all of them through, if at all! In any case, just thinking of them makes me happy!

So yes, am back to work!

627 more to go.

Day 372: Guzaarish

26 November, 2010

Guzaarish is a recently released Hindi movie which has been getting some very polarizing reviews. While one group hated it from the bottom of their hearts, another group loved it like no other film before. So I went in to watch the movie with pretty mild expectations, not sure of which way I would sway and was pleasantly surprised! It had its fair share of flaws but it was a riveting watch, to put it simply. I thoroughly enjoyed the visual grandeur, the performances, the overall tone of the film and the way way it was so different from usual Hindi (or Indian, for that matter) films. Throughout most of it, I was smiling for the right reasons and that's always welcome! All it takes is an enjoyable movie to make my day and Guzaarish has done just that!

628 more to go.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 371: Easy A & TGIF!

Today was a cool day! For the first time ever, our team decided to catch a movie and have lunch together as part of our own celebration!

Since we all think we have done some incredibly kickass work during the last few months, we wanted to have some sort of celebration. After the cliched after-work drinks and other such random, boring things were thrown out of the window, my manager said that maybe we could go for a movie during office hours! Needless to say, everyone was ON!

And since the team had 7 girls and 1 guy, we picked what's called a "chick-flick". The name was "Easy A".

Easy A turned out to be less of a chick flick and more of a really funny, clever movie! And I thoroughly enjoyed it! After movie, we had a good lunch at TGIF. I was stuffed with potato wedges, brownies with icecream, fish & chips, buffalo wings, chicken fries and yummy mac & cheese fried balls! Awesome!

So yes, it was a totally cool working day!

629 more to go.

Day 370: The Editor is Coming!

24 November, 2010

Mausams journey is getting more and more interesting by the day and this time it has got to do with editing! So here is the history first:

a) I did a fair bit of editing in the beginning as I was shooting, just so that I could finish up as and when I shot.
b) But then my eyes started to crumble under the strain and was tearing every now and then and I was having a hard time managing it.
c) That's when my film maker friend in UAE, on his own, offered his services as an editor for Mausams! It was like God was listening to my prayers!
d) But then there was the issue of how to get all the footage to him, because there were 35 tapes (35 hours of footage) that comes to a good 700 GB of data. I didn't want courier all those materials over.... too risky after all that work!
e) That's when his brother and family, who also stay in UAE, decided to make a holiday trip to Singapore and suddenly that issue was solved! I sent all the materials through the brother all the way to UAE!
f) Then the edit was done and for totally personal reasons of his own, the editor moved from UAE to Mumbai. I happened to visit Mumbai on work around that time too! So we met up and he showed me the first cut of Mausams edit - which was really really good and got me terribly excited! The effort was praise worthy considering that he and I had not had even a phone conversation prior to that, and he had based the judgement of the edit solely based on his understanding of the script and some chat conversations with me!
g) I came back to Singapore, went through the edit in detail and started to give my big and small feedback. But that turned out to be a nightmare... because without the video reference in front of us, it was difficult to really convey what exact changes I needed. So I did an edit on top of his edit to be used as a reference for the second cut and sent it to him. Then it was his turn to edit that into a high res file and make more changes and send it back to me.

And then I realised that the whole process was turning out to be a nightmare! Every small change I want to make would mean a few phone calls, work on his part, rendering of the file, sending it to me, me viewing it, then sending another file with changes required, more phone calls etc. etc. etc.... that's just a slow, painful process!

But looks like it doesn't have to be slow or painful after all! Because things fell into place somehow and now the editor is making a trip to Singapore for about 10 days, just to work on Mausams! How exciting is that?! He has decided to make spend that much time and effort solely for the movie and that would means wonders to the film!

He will be here in two weeks time and I am very excited about finally getting to work with the editor of the film in the actual way it is supposed to be (surely, virtual director-editor working is not efficient)! And this also means that by the time he leaves Singapore, Mausams edit will be locked and loaded. From the first frame to the last. Yes!

630 more to go.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 369: Back to Office!

It feels like ages since I have been to office! Even though yesterday I did work, it was from home. I was still under considerable fatigue from the trek to drag myself to office. So I stayed at home and I just cleared up all the backlog of emails, attended some meetings over the phone etc. and today I got to work properly.

And contrary to my expectations, it actually felt good to be back! I did miss the mountains terribly but the emails and calls and documents and numbers that I had to slog through were not too bad. The fact that no work progressed in my absence actually kinda made me feel like I do add significant value to my company!

I can honestly say that I was happy at work today. Happy even after a holiday. That's a rarity but a welcome one.

631 more to go.

Day 368: Visiting Mom-to-be

22 November, 2010

I have a very good friend from work. We are from the same place back in Kerala and she is one of the nicest people I know. She genuinely cares for whatever I do and is very supportive in everything. She is a pillar of strength for me in office and a good listener to my cribbings whenever they come by!

She is expecting a new addition to her family (her first baby) soon and is on maternity leave starting today. I didn't get a chance to say a proper goodbye at work to her, since I was away on the trek, so today I made my way to her place to catch up!

And we had a nice evening together! Am glad I dropped by because next time I meet her, her hands are going to be full with the baby! So this was quality catch up time. We talked about the trek, her preps for the baby, random gossips etc. etc. I also filled myself with all the delicious food her in-laws had prepared!

Felt really good but am gonna miss her at work now!

632 more to go.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 367: My Little World

The hubby got back from US late yesterday night. We had hardly spoken to each other for the last 10 days because I had no mobile network throughout the trek and at most places there was no electricity to charge the phone. So the whole of today was spent on filling him with the trek news! Then it was back to a normal Sunday - going to Murugan Idly for breakfast, watching TV in the afternoon, doing laundry, getting a cup of Starbucks Chai Tea Latte and general chilling out. Life's back to normal and SO different from the last 10 days. It's like I have been transported from one world to another and back. As much as I loved the other magnificent world, it's good to be back to my normal little one. Feeling so good!

633 more to go.

Day 366: Memories

21 November, 2010

Today I got back to Singapore after that awesome trek! After 8 hours of catchup sleep it was time for picture sorting and catching up on the blogs about the trek! It took me several hours to do that. And during those hours I was reliving the trek once again! And that alone was enough to make the day beautiful -Hours of being with the memories from the Himalayas!

634 more to go.

Day 365: One Year!

19 November, 2010

Today I successfully complete one year of the blog! Phew! Quite the achievement, I feel!

The other highlights of the day were:
a) Farewell by Wangchuck, again with the Khada, the Tibetan customary white piece of cloth
b) The cutest Gorkha driver who showed us the way to Bagdogra airport and who was a perfect Nepali replica of Malayalam film comedian Innocent. He kept stopping his car in the middle of the road to double check our destination a number of times, each time with an extreme poker face!
c) Getting five airport officials in Bagdogra run hither and tither in search of my black sweater that went missing!
d) Good long meal and conversation with dad at Bagdogra airport restaurant.

At Delhi, dad and I parted ways. I took my flight back to Singapore while he took his back to Kerala. The Singalila trip has officially ended. And what an incredible experience it was!

635 more to go.

Day 364: Pony, Two Falls, Gorkhey, Jungle at Night

18 November, 2010

Today was the last day of the trek and probably the most eventful one. An early morning climb up and down the Phalut hill didn't prove to be too fruitful because of the heavy fog and there was no view whatsoever. So without much ado, we packed up, had a quick breakfast of pancakes, bread and porridge, and got ourselves ready for the last stretch. The plan was to get to Rimbick via Gorkhey and Rammam, a distance of about 35 kms.

The ponies had been arranged and were waiting for us. I got a brown female pony called Dully and my dad took a white male pony called Myla. But we decided to walk the first km at least to warm up a bit before we climbed atop the ponies.

Just as we were about to start riding, I looked up at the horizon and saw the clouds parting to show at the Kanchenjunga! I screamed with excitement! In the most dramatic way, I declared that the mountains are coming out to say goodbye to us!

We gazed at the mountains for a while in awe and then was ready to move forward. Just as I was taking a last look at the ranges, I heard a commotion in front of me. I turned around to see that my dad had slid down the horse and was clinging onto its side for dear life. Ashish and the Amal, the pony-man, were rushing towards him and trying to prevent his fall! Apparently dad, in all his excitement at seeing the mountains, was not ready for the pony which moved forward a bit too fast, resulting in him being thrown off its back!

After that incident, dad decided that he is gonna walk instead of riding the pony, without heeding to my reassurances that the ponies would be perfectly safe provided you cling on to them properly.

So Ashish, Vikas and dad walked while I rode the pony ahead together with Amal. We covered about 10 kms this way. We passed through beautiful dense forests and bamboo thickets on our way. Throughout Dully was well behaved while Myla, who no longer had a passenger on him, kept grabbing and chewing every passing plant. It was quite a fun ride and I thoroughly enjoyed the forests around, the view of the valleys below and also Myla's antics.

After about an hour, Amal suggested that we take a break and wait for the other guys to join us. So we stopped at a beautiful clearing abundant with yellow flowers and let the horses graze while we both sat back and enjoyed the views. When there was no sign of the other guys after 20 minutes, I suggested to Amal that we will go down to Gorkhey and wait there because the others might have taken a short cut or some other path. So we proceeded to Gorkhey. This time I walked because I was already pretty stiff from riding the pony.

Gorkhey is a quaint, beautiful little village in the valley and I fell in love with it immediately! It had about 15 houses, each with its land of cultivation, mainly terrace farming and vegetables such as radish and corn being dried on its roof.

The village of Gorkhey & Dully, my pony

I sat down to enjoy the beauty when I noticed my dad, Ashish and Vikas coming down the slope to Gorkhey in a very awkward manner. My dad had one hand bandaged and with the other hand he was holding Ashish for support. While I was trying to figure out what could have happened, the two British trekkers from yesterday who were a bit ahead, reached the valley first and told me that my dad had fallen down and dislocated a ligament in his arm!

Needless to say, I started panicking! With no range for the mobile and with no mode of transportation available other than ponies, I was not sure how to get any help for my dad! I was trying to figure out what to do when dad, Vikas and Ashish finally made it to the valley and dad told me that he knows how to fix this with a bit of help.

He got the boys to put a mattress out in the open, lied down on it and instructed Ashish to help him move his arms this way and that. I watched the painful process for a while without much hope that anything was gonna come out of it. But then all of a sudden, my dad was up, completely fit and fine! He said that the ligament is back in its rightful position and all was well! OK then.

I was hugely relieved and couldn't thank God enough! My dad was by now already joking about the whole incident, once even mentioning that all that drama happened just so that I would get material to write about on the blog! I told him that no matter what he would ride the pony now. I wanted to get out of that place to somewhere with some infrastructure, as soon as possible!

After the miraculous recovery, we proceeded to take some pictures of Gorkhey, had a lunch of Aloo Parathas (Ashish's final recipe since this would be the last meal cooked by him!) and started on our journey to Rimbick.

This time both dad and I rode the pony for about 2 hours until we reached Rammam. The journey continued to be through very dense rainforests with the occasional streams and waterfalls. It was a lovely experience and the only downside was that the pony ride was beginning to get extremely uncomfortable! I was suffering from very stiff knees, thighs and ankles and couldn't wait to get off the ponies and walk a bit!

About 3 hours later, we reached Rammam. Here, we had to let go off the ponies and Amal, and cover the remaining distance until Rimbick on foot. Since it is a steep downhill, the pony ride would be risky. Also it was already 5 pm and it was getting very dark. So we said goodbye to Amal, Myla and Dully.

The next couple of hours were yet another highlight of the trek! We walked through the dense forest in pitch darkness, with the help of just a torch for about 10 kilometers! We walked through muddy paths, swampy ditches, rocky paths and sometimes even through streams, splashing water all over. The only things we could hear were the sound of our own footfalls, the tapping of our walking sticks, the constant gush of water from nearby streams and the frequent hoots of owls. It was such an amazing experience!

Finally after what seemed like a lifetime, we reached Rimbick where our car was waiting. All of us were terribly exhausted and plonked ourselves in the car right away. The car made its way with great difficulty on the bumpy roads. Only land rovers are suitable for that terrain but the car had come a bit further to pick us up because of my dad's injury and also the fact that it was already the middle of the night. So we rocked and bumped as the car inched forward!

Ten minutes into the ride, the car got a wheel stuck in a ditch! Seriously, it was like the excitement for the day was not yet over! We were in the middle of nowhere, in pitch darkness with a car that can't seem to get its wheel out of damn ditch! But once again God didn't play too tricky a game. When all else failed, four guys appeared out of nowhere and helped Ashish and Vikas to actually lift up the car and move it out of the ditch! From then on things went on smoothly for the rest of the 4 hour ride to Darjeeling.

We dropped Vikas in his village Maneybhanjang on the way and I gave him all my vitamin C tablet supplies. The poor guy must have been so exhausted after walking 35kms with that luggage! He was seriously a very sweet chap and both my dad and I are surely gonna miss him!

We finally got to Darjeeling at 11:30pm in freezing cold. We were received by Wangchuck, the tour operator. The night's stay was arranged at his home, which he runs as a home stay. We got a really nice warm room and a good warm dinner of chowmein and soup cooked by Wangchuck himself. After dinner, it was time to say goodbye to Ashish as well! I am so grateful to that man for taking such good care of us throughout the trip! It would definitely have been a lot harder without him!

After a quick hot bath, I hit the bed. Exhausted but very, very satisfied.

My first ever trek thus came to an end.

636 more to go.

Day 363: Phalut

We woke up to a foggy morning in Phalut. Just as I was about to get depressed at the thought of having to walk yet another day through this fog, it started to clear up slowly. And as it cleared up, I realised that Phalut is one gorgeous, like I mean mind blowingly gorgeous place! With every inch the fog cleared we could see a bit more of the hills and valleys and forests and meadows. I stood at the edge of a ridge near our rest house and took in the beauty for a very long time. It was spectacular!

Later when we were having our morning cup of tea, Ashish came up with a brilliant idea. He suggested that we stay on for an extra day at Phalut and give the weather a chance to clear up further. Then since we would have accumulated a day's distance, instead of walking all the way down and trying to catch up, we could take a pony ride!

I was super excited by the idea! Firstly it means I can be in this super gorgeous place for a bit longer! Secondly, it gives one day's rest which is more than welcome post yesterday's 21km hike. Thirdly, I loved the suggestion of the pony ride! That would be a brand new experience and it is much nicer than having to take the land rover which is the only other mode of transportation in this terrain! So we readily agreed to the plan!

After another yummilicious breakfast of rotis, a couple of vegetable dishes and a lip smacking pickle, we decided to climb up the Phalut Hill. It is a 2km climb and gives us 200 mt more of altitude. At 3600 mt, it would be the highest point in Phalut.

Dad and I took a slow and gentle walk up. When we reached the top, we were greeted by a Buddhist stupa. It was just my dad and I alone on top of that hill and it was perfectly calm and peaceful. The only sound that could be heard was the fluttering of the prayer flags from the stupa. The Buddhists believe that every time the wind blows, the prayers on these flags are taken upwards towards the heavens. And I really felt like that was happening! There was something so indescribably spiritual about that place!

The stupa on Phalut Hill

We spent a couple of hours just sitting there and gazing around. It was one of highest points of the trek for me. With that magnificent view, the gentle breeze, the prayer flags of the stupa and intense silence around, I felt like I had never been more at peace before!

Atop Phalut Hill

Later Ashish and Vikas also joined us. During his previous visit, Ashish had set up his own little stupa on the hill, in honour of the mountains. He spent some time modifying it with Vikas' help, and lit incense sticks on it. I was very touched by their love for nature!

Ashish's stupa in honour of the mountains

We spent the rest of the day relaxing inside the cabin - listening to music and reading a book. We got two more awesome meals (lunch and dinner) cooked by the staff of the rest house. Ashish also provided me with a basin of salted hot water as a cure for my blisters.

Over dinner I struck up a conversation with a couple of trekkers from Britain who had just been to the Mt. Everest base camp and were now doing the Singalila trek! I was amazed by their passion and determination!

When I finally hit the bed, I felt very much at peace. Phalut is a piece of heaven on earth and I didn't want to leave.

637 more to go.

Day 362: Wild Yak, Clouded Leopard & 21 kms

16 November, 2010

Sandakphu is famous for two things as I understand - the sunrise and the view of the ranges. Thanks to yet another cloudy day, we couldn't see the ranges but I woke up with a beautiful sunrise! As the weather became clear, we could see that horrible uphill path that we took yesterday and I couldn't help feeling proud of myself and my dad for having actually made it across that!

As I was enjoying the wonderful view around, the 50 other tourists around me were all cribbing their hearts out about not being able to see the ranges. Most of them had taken jeeps to get to Sandakphu with the main objective of seeing the ranges and now they were all very disappointed. It was a bit sad that they failed to appreciate what we did see - the wonderful hills and valleys and clouds and sun that was just beautiful beyond description!

After basking in that beauty, it was time for a quick breakfast before we set off on one of our longest days of trek - the destination was Phalut, 21 kms away. The path was supposed to be relatively easy with a mix of donwhill, flat and uphill routes.

And what we saw on the way was just so...so breathtaking! The path was mainly through slopes and slopes of beautiful meadows and am not quite sure I can do justice to it in words. I just kept stopping at every other turn, sometimes taking a picture, sometimes just staring open mouthed. Needless to say we went hopelessly behind schedule and covered only 8kms in 3 hours. But those 3 hours were one of the best on the trek!

So enchanted were we by the beauty around that soon we were all walking at our own pace and no longer together. I had my music on and was quite enjoying the walk alone when I turned a corner and found myself bang in front of a wild yak! The creature was gigantic and was staring right at me! It obviously had heard me coming and was ready for attack if necessary. Ashish our guide had earlier educated us that the yaks can be dangerous, especially the bulls and it is best to avoid them. And here was a huge, healthy, bull of a wild yak just a few feet away from me!

I looked around for help. There was no sign of my dad or Ashish or Vikas, the porter. Where were all the men when one needed them?! I stepped back a few feet until I turned the corner and hid behind a bush. Ok I probably didn't hide well because the yak was still staring in my direction. Since there was no sign of the men still, I tried to do the only possible thing under such circumstances - take a picture!

I had happily passed on the SLR camera to Ashish and made it his problem to carry that burden too, so was left with only the iPhone which I was using to listen to music. Just as I clicked one pic from it, my dad came over. I am happy to note that he too was equally freaked out by the yak. He suggested we wait for the other boys to come before we proceed any further. But since we didn't know how far off they were or which route they would be taking, we decided that we have to figure this out oursleves.

We came up with a plan. The good thing was that even though the yak had chosen a very strategic position on the centre of the path to drink water from the puddle there, the path had some space on one side. A grassy slope ran down to the path and if we could climb that slope up and down, we could overcome the obstacle that was in front of us.

We executed the above plan to perfection. Not only did we overcome the obstacle, I also managed to take another picture of the yak enroute. And on his part, the yak simply tilted his head in recognition that we are simply just harmless passerbys.

The Wild Yak

By now the fog started to move in again. The vegetation too started to change. As we were quite at the highest points of this trek, the vegetation was sparse. Whatever effort a tree might have made in growing here doesn't really succeed because it gets the strongest winds, strongest rains, strongest snowfall etc. The result was that the landscape was covered with dry and damaged tree trunks. They almost look like the lean figure of a malnourishred man - a headless torso. With so many headless torsos floating around in that rising fog, the atmosphere turned rather spooky and I was quite glad when we finally stopped at Molley for lunch.

After having a bowl of noodle soup each, we set off once again in the fog. Since we were running late, Ashish went ahead of us to ensure that the room booked for us at the Phalut forest department's rest house doesn't get taken up by anybody else. So with Vikas as company and temporary guide, we walked on.

Then came yet another interesting sight. I was just turning around a hairpin curve uphill when I noticed a movement about 10 feet ahead of me. Upon taking a closer look I realised that it was a clouded leopard trying to cross the path! I froze in my track and held up my hand to ensure that my dad who was right behind me, doesn't make any noise. He too had seen the clouded leopard and was still. But the animal sensed us and turned around. Seeing us so close by, it completely panicked and raced back into the bushes with as much speed as it could muster! I was super excited and disappointed at the same time! Excited at having had what's considered a rare opportunity of spotting a clouded leopard in the wild and disappointed at not getting a chance of taking a picture because it all happened so fast!

But the sighting got us energized enough to walk on for a few more hours!

Soon we began to lose light and could see only a couple of feet ahead. We tried to keep as close to Vikas as possible who was leading the way. By 5pm it got really dark and we had to rely on torches. I was exhausted by now and was finding it harder and harder to control my breath in the thin air. The last 1 km was a steep uphill climb and only God knows how I made that!

I could almost cry with joy when suddenly the rest house appeared out of the fog right in front of me! I barged into the room that was shown to us and literally collapsed onto the bed, much to amusement of the caretakers! Ashish, the saviour, immediately brought two bowls of hot garlic soup which we gulped down in gratitude!

After resting for a while, we joined Ashish, Vikas and two of the staff members of the rest house in their tiny kitchen. And under the warmth of the fire in that kitchen, I had one of the most delicious meals ever! Starting with soup, rotis and dishes made of radish and lettuce, it ended with gulab jamuns that Ashish had carried all the way from Darjeeling! And it was topped with the best cup of coffee ever!

As I slipped into my sleeping bag soon after, the wind was howling outside, the temperature touching a zero degrees. I believe the last three things I thought of just before I drifted off to sleep, were the yak, the clouded leopard and the fact that we actually managed to make it through those 21kms. What a day!

638 more to go.

Day 361: Sandakphu, Zero degrees, Sleeping Bag!

15 November, 2010

Looks like the Gods were in no mood to listen to any good-weather prayers today. Even after a night of very heavy rainfall, it was a very foggy morning that we woke up to. The visibility was horrible. It left even Ashish, the guide, baffled. He said that never before in November has he seen so much rain and bad weather before. Even if there is heavy rain, the skies usually clears up fast after that. I left him scratching his head and proceeded to take some photographs anyway.

After a simple, hearty breakfast of cornflakes, pancakes and omelet, we set out for the what is supposed to be the toughest part of this trek. Our destination was Sandakphu, the highest point in West Bengal at 3636 meters. And to get there we had to pass a total of 6 kms, 2 on flat land and 4 on extremely steep land.

The weather kept swinging between good and bad. Sometimes it turned very foggy with poor visibility and sometimes the sun shined through bright and happy, clearing up some of the fog to give us a good view of the valleys below. I understand that if the weather was really good we would have started to see the mountain ranges as well but we weren't that lucky. But whatever we saw was beautiful enough to keep us going and we slowly made our way up in 3 hours. It was really quite a struggle with the steep climb and am really proud that I made it to the top without fainting!

At Sandakphu we checked into a small rest house called Sunrise lodge. Interestingly one half of Sandakphu lies in India while the other half lies in Nepal. By 'half' we are refering to about 3-4 buildings each. Sunrise Lodge is in the Nepali half. By the way, Sandakphu means the 'Land of poisonous plants'! These people surely have a unique creative sense when naming their villages!

After checking in and having the customary cup of tea, the first thing I did was to take a bath, something which I had skipped yesterday and felt really filthy post. Given that we reached by noon, it was the best opportunity to take a bath and I did just that in the hot water provided.

Then came lunch. Our options were noodles or rice and we opted for noodles. Once again we had the hot egg noodle soup and omelet. Yummy yum!

Feeling rejuvenated enough we stepped out and was greeted by much clearer skies! I almost cried with joy! We still couldn't see the mountain ranges but we could see all the surrounding hills and it was beautiful! My dad and I climbed up a small rock and waited there for the clouds to part for a glimpse of the mountain ranges. We waited for about 45 minutes, in 2 degree celsius, with a good breeze blowing, just looking out over and beyond the hills.

And we were rewarded by a very short view! For about a minute the clouds parted and we saw the mighty Himalayas before us! We were so awed by the sight that we just stared speechless! Then my dad came to his senses and urged me to take a picture. Just as I managed to take the camera out of the case, the clouds moved in and the show was over! But what a show it was!

Feeling rather encouraged and praying for a clearer weather, we returned to the lodge for another cup of hot drink (it was coffee this time) each. Rest of the evening was spent with listening to music and typing in some of the blogs.

After a dinner of rotis and different vegetable dishes, I curled in to a sleeping bag (yet another first time ever experience!) and piled on a few quilts and blankets on top while still wearing my sweater and down jacket! The temperature outside was estimated to be zero degrees. I had never been in that kinda cold before but thanks to the strenuous walk, I slept soundly.

Day three of the trek thus ended successfully.

639 more to go.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 360: Kanchenjunga & Kaalpokhri

14 November, 2010

So looks like God did answer my prayers! He ensured that the morning weather is reasonably clear and I got my first glimpse of Kanchenjunga, the mighty, unconquered beauty!

And 'glimpse' it was. For the weather cleared up just enough for us to see the peak but not the entire range! The peak hovered above lofty clouds that covered everything else up. But I wasn't complaining! With the peak above and the clouds below, it was really like I was on top of the world!

Glimpse of Kanchenjunga

After taking in the magnificent view for a while, we had yet another awesome meal (this is turning out to be as much of a culinary expedition as a trekking expedition)! This time it was Tibetan bread with jam, porridge and omelet. The bread was fried and brown and had a very nice flavour to it. I think I can easily be in Tibet forever and will never need to complain of food!

Then we set out for today's destination - Kaalpokhri, 13 kms away, at 3186 mts. The first part of the trek was actually downhill, which was more than a welcome change after yesterday's ordeal! It was a pleasant enough walk until Garibhas (which had another Indian army base camp) with a stopover in between at the Nepali village Jaubari for tea. Both these villages were also very quaint and pretty, like the ones we have been seeing throughout the route! With small houses, lots of hens and roosters roaming about, numerous cows and goats grazing on the pastures around, cute red-cheeked kids, friendly dogs and puppies (my favourite is the Himalayan mastif which is dark and really huge with lots of fur but is the most peaceloving dog I have ever come across!), occasional temples, several Buddhist stupas, that odd Nepali police station (protecting the 8 families in the village?!) and the shy, lovely people, every village has been fascinating!

Then came the climb (groan!). We trudged along another uphill route for 3.5 kms until we reached Kayakatta, where we stopped for lunch.

Lunch was again a bowl of egg noodle soup even better than the one yesterday, if that was ever possible! After lunch the path became relatively easy. Ashish, our guide, kept calling it 'flat' and kept cheering us on. Soon I discovered that 'flat' to him means on an average it is flat but it came with a fair bit of ups and downs! But still it was better than before and the only problem was the rising fog and threat of rain. The visibility was very poor once again and I understand that we missed out on a lot of good views of the valleys below including even Darjeeling!

But still there was enough to see with the changing vegetation back from pastures to very thick forests! There were a lot of rhododendron trees which usually bloom in spring and are set to give a spectacular sight then! We didn't come across any more villages until we reached our destination Kaalpokhri.

According to the internet, Kaalpokhri is actually Kalapokhri which means "Dark lake" or "Black lake". But according to Ashish, Kaalpokhri literally means 'Kaal lake' and Kaal is the Hindu god of death. Am not sure how I feel about staying in a place named after the God of Death but true to the name, it is indeed a lake that greets you as you reach the village. With the mist hovering above it and with some lotus leaves and birds making a few ripples in the otherwise deathly still waters, the lake was quite a sight. Ashish told us that no one really knows how deep is the lake. Apparently no one has entered the water before because the lake was very sacred to the people there. OK then.

The Kaalpokhri Lake

Without further ado we moved away from the lake and reached our place of stay for the night, Chewang's lodge. We got a lovely wooden room there and were immediately served one round of tea which was soon followed by another round of hot chocolate.

With nothing much to do until dinner time I started to type in the blogs on to my phone to be published later while my dad listened to music.

Then came dinner which was simply terrific! With the combined efforts of Ashish and the folks at Chewang lodge, they served us vegetable soup, rice, daal, two types of veg side dishes, french fries, another type of thinly grated potato fries, omelet, apple custard and a cup of hot chocolate! It was such a wide spread and all so very yummy!

Over dinner we also met a very interesting lady, Tenzin. Chewang's Lodge belongs to Tenzin's family. Tenzin is a trained mountaineer and is a part time instructor at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. According to Ashish, she has given up what could have been a very bright career in mountaineering to help her parents out at the lodge. She has also taken up the education responsibility of a little girl from the nearby village who stays with her and goes to a school next door. A very strong and inspiring lady!

And the little girl under Tenzin's care, Pima, was quite an interesting little lady herself! She is always running one errand or the other, completely on her own accord! She is either clearing cups and plates or carrying food for the goats or bringing water to the basins or transporting grains in baskets etc. etc. etc. Such a bundle of energy! I totally loved her!

Pima (without the hat) with her friend

With some great sights and meeting some very nice people, today was a good day!

640 more to go.

Day 359: The Trek Begins - Nepal, Hailstorms & Prayer Wheels!

13 November, 2010

Alright, it is the D-day! The long awaited, first-in-my-life trek starts today!

Wangchuck (remember the tour operator I love?) came early in the morning with our guide for the next 6 days, Ashish. The plan was to drive for 1.5 hours to Maneybhanjang at 2134 metres and then start the trek from there. The target was to reach Tumling, which's 11kms away and 2970 metres.

Before we set off for Maneybhanjang, the caretaker of our hotel Snow Lion, gave us a super sweet unexpected farewell. In true Tibetan custom, he put a piece of white cloth (called Khada in Tibetan) around our necks and bid us a safe and happy journey. How cute is that?!

So on that very good note, we set off to Maneybhanjang together with Wangchuck and Ashish. Upon arriving we had a yummy breakfast of hot rotis and a simple curry of peas, from a small local restaurant (restaurant here actually means a wooden shed with two benches and tables inside). Soon we were joined by Vikas, our porter who would carry our rucksack, sleeping bags etc. After making sure that everything was in order, Wangchuck bade us goodbye and we were off on our trek!

Interestingly, as soon as we started I noticed a board that said 'Welcome to Nepal". Upon inquiring Ashish confirmed that we are indeed going to be trekking half the time in Nepal! In fact we would even be staying at some Nepali villages a couple of nights! I was thrilled!! I would be trekking in India AND in Nepal! It is my first time ever in Nepal so needless to say, this is Freaking awesome stuff!

View of India from Nepal

OK then, after that initial exciting start, things did go a bit downhill. Mainly because about 8 out of the 11 kms we were to cover today were Uphill! And by Uphill I mean really really UPHILL!

I was readily exhausted even before the first kilometer and my dad was no better. But we chugged along slowly but steadily. The vegetation started with thick pine forests but soon gave way to hilly pastures by the time we reached Chitre monastery, the first monastery in Nepal. It was built more than a 100 years ago by a Lama from Ladakh.

We hung out at the monastery for a bit and proceeded for tea to a house at the adjacent village. This 'village' by the way, has a grand total of 2 houses. After a good cup of hot tea we felt refreshed enough to tackle the rest of the uphill climb. With great pomp and show we stepped outside, only to be greeted with a heavy rain. We waited for bit but realised that the rain is no mood to decrease in the near future. So we donned our rain gear and set out in the rain.

The next couple of hours were not great. We were surrounded by thick fog with very low visibility, frequent showers, difficult paths that were now not only steep but also slippery - and all at about 4 degree celsius. The only silver lining was the amazingly yummy egg noodle soup our guide cooked for us after barging into the kitchen of a local tea shop on the way.

Finally we reached Megma, which was the end of the uphill route. Megma has an Indian owned army camp and a Nepal owned village right opposite each other! After having yet another cup of hot tea (tea-drinking has reached an all time peak), we visited a monastery in the village. This monastery, as I understand, is not usually open to the public. But Ashish has his friends in the village who opened up the monastery to us. Thus, for the first time ever, I could go all the way into the inner shrine of a Tibetan Monastery and see the huge Buddhist prayer wheel! It was fascinating! There was no electricity in the village and because of the rain and fog outside, there was very little light inside the monastery but we still made our way around it. The monastery also had a collection of idols based on old Tibetan customs that were popular before Buddhism spread and also one entire wall was lined with huge prayer books. I was quite awestruck by everything in there.

After the quick visit to the monastery, we were about to set out on the apparently easier part of the trek, when we came across a hailstorm! We found shelter at the tea stall and I thoroughly enjoyed the sight of my first ever hailstorm! This trip is truly turning into one of many first-evers!

After the hailstorm was done we covered the last stretch to Tumling in the most dense fog ever. The journey was not pleasant and let's just say I was real glad when we finally made it there.

We checked into Shikhar lodge at Tumling. The rest of the evening was very pleasant with tea (of course), biscuits and some Tibetan snacks by the fireplace followed by a sumptuous spread of rice, egg curry, daal, banana custard and rosagullas (which Ahish had carried all the way from Darjeeling!) for dinner! After the delicious food and some pleasant conversation with fellow trekkers, we hit the bed at 8:30.

Just before dozing off, I prayed with all my heart that the weather clears up tomorrow and we would be able to catch a glimpse of the Kanchenjunga, which should be possible from Tumling if the clouds behave.

Day one of trek ends!

641 more to go.

Day 358: Darjeeling!

12 November, 2010

Darjeeling is darling little town and I fell in love with it the minute I stepped my foot here yesterday! And today I got to see more of it! We had kept the day free to roam around the town before starting on the trek tomorrow. Sights from Darjeeling that I loved:

A) Dali Tibetan monastery with its bunch of peaceful monks, naughty and extremely shy younger monks-to-be, classic tibetan architecture and location - high up on a ridge almost as if it is overseeing Darjeeling from there.

View from the Dali Monastery

B) The zoo and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute both of which were within the same compound. While the layout of the zoo was pretty interesting with the animal enclosures either below your level or very high above your level, the mountaineering institute was fascinating...especially the museum which even displayed the equipment used by Tenzing during his Mt. Everest conquest.

C) The toy train - the highest meter gauge in the world and apparently one of the few (or probably the last) remaining ones.

D) The tea gardens and most importantly the super duper delicious tea that was served there! It was seriously The Best Tea I have ever had (yeah, even better than Starbucks Chai Tea Latte)!

After yet another awesome meal at the Lunar restaurant and a bit of shopping, we're were done for the day.

Our tour operator Wangchuck came to pass on sleeping bags, rain gear, walking sticks and even an extra jacket because he felt that my dad's one probably wouldn't be warm enough. And also all that sightseeing today was Wangchuck's complimentary service for us! Needless to say, he is my most favourite tour operator Ever!

So yes, I love Darjeeling!

642 more to go.

Day 357: Singapore -> Delhi -> Bagdogra -> Darjeeling

11 November, 2010

A very interesting start to the trip! Let me do a list on what all caught my attention, amused me or made me smile!

a) People-watching over a cup of hot chocolate as I waited at the Delhi airport for my dad to arrive. Watching travellers, both Indians and the rest is never short of high class amusement!

b) The really long wait at the super chaotic check-in counter of GoAir at the airport. We waited for a good 1.5 hours before we could even reach the counter! But made some equally frustrated and helpless friends as we waited!

c) The stunning view of the Himalayas as we flew from Delhi to Bagdogra

d) The temperature at Bagdogra that completely caught me offguard after all that Himalayan view - it was a whopping 30 degrees!

e) The lovely steep drive from Bagdogra to Darjeeling with the beautiful view of the mountains and valleys.

f) The very delicious lunch of soup and momos from a restaurant on the way.

g) The super good service by my travel operator who was incredibly helpful in finding a porter and a new hotel when my dad's bank holiday home that we had booked turned out to be a complete dump.

h) The super steep climb we had to make to get to our new hotel which is located on one of the highest roads in Darjeeling. The good thing about the climb was that I made it without much issue!

i) The cute Snow Lion hotel where we are put up and the lovely little market nearby.

j) The delicious vegetarian meal at Lunar restaurant. Loved the noodle soup!

k) The fact that it is pitch dark here by 5pm!

l) And last but not the least at all, the incredibly soft-spoken, lovely people of Darjeeling! Not only are they super nice, they all look so good with their chiselled faces, cute Chinese eyes and attractive smiles!

Net, I love Darjeeling already! And tomorrow we get to spend a whole day here!

643 more to go.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 356: Get, Set, Go!

Alright then. Today's the day! I would be making my way to Darjeeling in a couple of hours and the trek starts from there tomorrow.

Needless to say the whole day was spent checking and re-checking on my packing list, packing and unpacking a number of times, working on all the last minute things at work, working on all the last minute things on the film (as am writing this, my music director is actually sending me some files to listen and approve before I leave and one of my agency folks is sending me some work stuff to vet as well!) etc. In short, it has been one hectic day!

Now am all set to go for my first ever trek!

The next blog shall follow ten days later (am already dreading typing in 10 pending blogs in one go...but hopefully the content would be worth writing tons about!).

So till then... adios!

644 more to go.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 355: Storm Before the Calm

Tomorrow is my last day in office before I take 1.5 weeks off from work. But as it always is, I have been working at breakneck speed, rushing from one meeting to another, clearing document after document, email after email and literally panting to catch up with all that I have to do before I can leave for my holiday. It's almost as if the whole universe will collapse if I don't finish up these things and disappear for 1.5 weeks.


I loved it! I guess it is easy to love something difficult when you know it won't last anyway. So I enjoyed all that rush and felt super satisfied with all that I have accomplished through the day. The more things I got done, the more ready I felt for the trek!

I still have to get back to work after I post this blog... but I still am smiling. So it's all good. One more day and am off! This storm would totally be worth the calm that's about to come (hopefully)!

645 more to go.

Day 354: Preping Dad

8 November, 2010

I had a long chat with my dad today. It's only two more days before we both hit Darjeeling to begin on our trek, but he is taking off early morning tomorrow for Delhi.

My dad is not the type who gets ultra excited about anything... at least not outwardly. Nevertheless I could sense the excitement in him as he divulged the details of his packing experience, shopping experience, further lists for shopping, plans for Delhi, physical prep tales prior to the trek etc. etc.

I too gave him a checklist for his packing, reminded him to take his notepad to jot down points for a future travelogue (a habit he has picked up recently), details on my flight and so on.

In short, it was the longest chat I've had with him for a while!

The trip officially starts for him tomorrow. And it's gonna be a good start!

646 more to go.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 353: Cracking a Tough Nut

There was one scene in the film the edit of which was just not flowing through. It was because of a multitude of reasons like having to cut the original scene into about half to improve the pace (which is easier said than done when you have shot according to the script and now have to change a lot of the lines), horrible lighting inconsistency, several shots wasted because of people looking at the camera (it was an outdoor shoot), lack of adequate number of shots to make sense of everything etc. etc. It was the only scene which was still far from final, while all the rest were already cracked.

And today, after a million re-edits, I finally feel good about it. The tough nut has finally been cracked. Phew.

647 more to go.

Day 352: Singapore Shots

6 November, 2010

I had a bit of shooting to do today. Mainly random shots of Singapore that would be used as the filler shots between scenes in the film.

For that purpose, the hubby and I climbed up one of the high rise buildings of Singapore and let the camera run for a while. Unfortunately, it was a very hazy day and I don't think the shots came out well at all, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the view and breeze from that height! I literally felt on top of the world!

Here's a pic that says it all.

648 more to go.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 351: Diwali Time!

5 November, 2010

Diwali or Deepavali as it is called in some places, is not a popular festival in my state. Am not quite sure of the reason why but while the rest of the country seems to celebrate it with great pomp and show, somehow in Kerala the importance is more for festivals like Onam and Vishu. But since the hubby is a north Indian and hence a Diwali fan, I have been paying more attention to it in the recent years.

And today was probably the most celebrated Diwali in my life!

Firstly I got myself to wear some Indian attire (nope, not a sari... that's way too much, but a salwar, which is a considerable improvement from jeans and tees of yester years).

Then we joined a group of friends to watch a movie, Action Replay. OK fine, there's nothing very Diwali-ish about watching a film, but I did enjoy it a lot... so, it was still celebratory!

Then a friend, the hubby and I came back home and spent an hour decorating the house with lamps! The boys were quite excited about the whole process and their excitement also led to candle wax dropping all over my house, much to my exasperation. Nevertheless it was quite fun!

We also streamed a devotional song from musicindiaonline.com and did a puja. Then once again the boys got super excited about the sparklers that were available and started lighting them inside the house. The initial plan was to go downstairs and do it, but who can wait!

About thirty minutes later, we had lit all the sparklers, had taken a ton of pictures, succeeded in getting one chokingly smoky house, and felt immensely satisfied. So satisfied that the immediate next step was to upload all the pictures on Facebook and gaze them with tender love ourselves.

The celebration wound up with a dinner at Clarke Quay over a brainless conversation with friends.

Thus a really nice Diwali comes to an end (and now am just 2 weeks away to completing 365 days on this blog. Phew! )

649 more to go.

Day 350: SK-II & Cards

4 November, 2010

Before I moved assignment to my current one on Head & Shoulders, I used to work on a premium skincare brand called SK-II. Now what I loved about working on it was the team! There were about 5-6 of us who were super thick and every day at work was a whole lot of fun! All of them had even come for my wedding in Kanpur three years ago!

As time passed, a couple of left the company and those who stayed on moved on the different assignments. Needless to say the interaction also dropped.

But today after a really long time, we got together and had a super fun session. It happened because one of them who left the company had come back to Singapore for a visit and initiated the gathering. And it was super duper fun!!! For better or for worse, none of us has changed even a bit and we had a 3-hour blast over some Spinelli coffee!

Post that I joined my other Indian friends to kick off Diwali celebrations with a game of cards! After winning a lot and losing a lot, I netted out at a no gain-loss stage (exactly $0 gain or loss) while the hubby made a grand $2 profit.

With that we wrapped up a really fun day!

650 more to go.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 349: Poetry!

3 November, 2010

A long weekend is coming up (Fri - Sun) thanks to Deepavali and I was already getting into the holiday mood today! So I got back home a bit earlier than usual and generally chilled out for a while with intermittent work. The whole idea was that I would really relax and refresh myself. After all it had been a few tough months.

However, after a couple of hours at home, I was readily bored. Bored enough to be cranky and a royal pain to the hubby who got home after a while as well. With nothing to do, now that my bit of the movie work was done, I was going out of my mind. So I thought I will do some clearing of files, emails and that sorta mindless work.

In the process I came across a lot of old emails from cast and crew on the film. Emails at the beginning of the auditions, emails post shoot, emails with ultra silly random jokes etc.

And I also came across a "poem" that the hubby had written on the film probably a month ago. I think, at that time, I had not paid much attention to it because I was neck deep in other work but today when I looked at it, I felt it so very well summarizes some of the behind-the-scene drama and fun!

And reading it really made me smile! For the memories that it brought back and for the fact that someone actually bothered to write a poem about the film (even though that someone is my husband... still I think it counts, since I never did ask him to do anything of the sort)!

It has gone up on the unofficial film blog and here is the link to it. http://bit.ly/mausams

651 more to go.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 348: Happy at Work

2 November, 2010

I have done some exceptional cribbing about work in the past couple of months because it was too hectic and I was under a lot of pressure. The cribbing might not have gotten through to the blog because I censor out "non-beautiful" stuff before things appear on the blog. So the frustration was probably not apparent here but it was very evident inside my head.

Now the truth is that I am not happy cribbing about work. I sincerely feel that if you are really unhappy about your work, you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. There is no point spending time and effort on something that gives you no satisfaction whatsoever, no matter how much you get paid. That would be an atrocious wastage of this life that we have.

And I always used to pride myself that in spite of some really crappy downsides, I actually am quite happy at work.

Today was a classic example for that! I was working for 12 straight hours and I actually felt good! And it was not because I had less work that before but more because I really could sense some excitement about the stuff I was working on. I felt on top of all my projects, I am meeting all deadlines, all my projects are meeting their success criteria etc. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction. In fact, I actually had quite a fun 12 hours and didn't for a second feel exasperated.

Now am hoping the feeling lasts for a long time before the next downturn appears (which is sure to). But as of today, am a very happy person at work!

652 more to go.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 347: The Breeze, The Marriott & The Skincare

1 November, 2010

Now that the film work has been completed...at least for the time being, I am back to having free evenings with nothing much to do! How cool is that! Since work is also going on a good pace, I thought I should really celebrate this.

So the hubby, who is always up for a celebration, and I first hit the Island Cafe in Tangs and had a yummy meal of Indonesian Fried Rice.

Then we had a very interesting shopping experience. Like, Very Interesting. It was the hubby's skincare purchase. Yeah, I did say "hubby's skincare" and needless to say it was quite a sight.

So the hubby shopped for his favourite skincare product (Biotherm Aquasource) which he says is the best thing that has happened to his skin. Apparently his skin was screaming "What the hell are you doing to me??!!!" when he applied some other product when he ran out of Biotherm.

He went on and on about how awesomely rejuvenated he is going to feel from tomorrow thanks to his about-to-be-awesomely-rejuvenated skin. He was so excited about his rejuvenation prospects that he was almost pouncing on every product on their tester bar and trying to figure out what else he must add to his skincare regime. To add to all this theatrical stuff, he actually tried some eye serum that they had and stood by his imagination (oh am sorry, "fact") that his eyes have "never felt better". I gave him one of dirtiest look which readily stopped him from purchasing that one.

Then we went to the Marriott (not a usual haunt for me since it is over priced for no particular reason), where we had more than an hour long chit-chatting over a glass of wine each. And am happy to note that on top of his Aquasource and eye serum, we managed to talk about some other random topics as well.

The best part was that we were seated outside the Marriott and there was this really lovely breeze. It's been going on for a couple of days but I had not spent such a long time enjoying it. I think it is the best weather I have experienced in Singapore ever!

Over that glass of wine, with the rambling-about-skincare hubby in tow, with the wonderfully cool breeze and no film work hovering above my head, life seemed pretty.... perfect!

653 more to go.

Day 346: Film to Trek

31 October, 2010

As is obvious from my recent blogs, I have been working hard on the film's sound design, edit etc. to ensure that everything is on track to the film's completion by end of the year and more importantly, to ensure that work on edit, sound design and background score can proceed even in my absence (when am on the trek). My aim was to complete all that's needed by November 10th so that I can leave in peace on November 10th.

But as of today, I believe I have done all that I possibly had to do and could do to make sure all the above happens. The work wrapped up at about 5pm after which I felt too exhausted to do anything but chill. I could literally feel my brain unwinding. Now the ball is in court of my editor, sound designer and the music director and I just sit and wait until they come back.

Which also means that now I can completely focus on the upcoming trek! Woohoo!

654 more to go.