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December 14, 2017

My primary desktop is dead

Filed under: Computer Hardware,My Life,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 12:00 AM

The fan on my computer was giving me some problem (it sounded like an aircraft taking off) so I thought I’ll replace it with a new one. The new fan/heatsink arrived earlier this week and today I finally had the time to try installing it.

First I had to remove the old fan and heat sink so I looked at the video online on how to remove the fan and followed the instructions exactly. But unfortunately the Glue used to stick the CPU to the heat sink was a little too strong and while I was trying to remove the heat sink I managed to get the top half the CPU separated from the bottom half. So now my computer is a very expensive paper weight still I get a new CPU. 

Looking online I found that the AM3+ socket that my motherboard uses has been phased out and even though there are processors that will work with it for the same cost or slightly cheaper I can get a new more powerful CPU and motherboard. So obviously I am going for the latter option.

I have selected a new board and CPU on Amazon but didn’t order it yet because I want to check the cost at some of the local shops before I order. Plus the Amazon order will take a couple of days to get here and I want to avoid the delay.

Its not that I don’t have a machine right now as I have two laptops but the desktop was my primary machine configured to be exactly the way I like it and it’s annoying to have to use a laptop which is not configured exactly the same as the desktop. 

I am dictating this blog post on my phone using the Google voice type and it’s about 99% accurate which is pretty cool. I still can’t figure out how to put punctuation during the dictation but other than that it works perfectly.

Well this is all for now will write more later hopefully on my new desktop.

– Suramya

December 6, 2017

How to ensure that your friend request is never accepted

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

Those of you who know me know that I don’t log on to facebook very often. At max I will check it every few months or when someone asks me to log on to check something specific (or when I have to accept an event invite which is only on FB). So its quite common for folks to send me a friend request that sits in my inbox for a few months at a time with no response.

Yesterday I was on FB to reply to all the birthday messages and I happened to check the messenger messages from people not on my friend list. That was where I found this gem. This is from a person (lets call him Mr P) who I met during a trek and he apparently sent me a friend request after the trek and since I log on so infrequently I didn’t see the request. Instead of sending me a polite reminder as some of the other folks have (both on FB and via whatsapp) he sent me the below message. When I first read this I actually seriously considered posting the screenshot here without blurring out his name but in the end decided that just because he is acting like an idiot, it doesn’t mean that I should as well.

After reading the message a few things are quite clear, there is no way I am ever adding him as a friend on any social media. I will no longer be interacting with him politely if we ever meet in person on a trek or elsewhere and he has confirmed my opinion of him as an immature idiot.

Have you received any such requests/messages when you don’t accept / respond to a friend request? If so how do you react? Other than posting this blog entry I have not replied to his message/interacted with him at all.

– Suramya

December 5, 2017

Dominos Pizza online has stronger password requirements than Citibank India Online

Filed under: Computer Related,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

Today I decided to change my IPIN (Internet Pin) on Citibank as I haven’t changed it in a while and its a good idea to change it on a regular basis. So I logged in to my account and clicked on the password reset link and I got the following text:

The first item there is fairly standard but what really surprised me were items # 3,4 & 6. What do you mean I can’t have any special characters in my password? Why can’t I have a password longer than 16 Characters when the NIST password guidelines recommend that you allow a password of up to 64 char’s in length.

In contrast The Dominos Pizza’s Online portal has stronger security and requires you to have Upper case, Lower Case, Numeric Char and a Special Character in the password. Making it a lot more secure and harder to crack than the Citibank password.

This is not all. The best part is yet to come. I use a password manager and my generated password was 22 characters long this time, so I pasted it into the form and the system accepted the password change. Now since I am a paranoid person I decided to check if the password changed successfully by logging in with the new password. Imagine my surprise when an error message popped up on screen when I tried to log in telling me that my password can’t be longer than 16 chars. I was confused since the password change form took my 22 char password without trouble, so I tried logging in with the old password and that obviously didn’t work. Finally I tried removing the extra 6 characters from my password and was able to log in.

Basically the stupid system truncated my password to 16 and then saved it instead of warning me that my password was too long when I was changing the password which would have been the logical thing to do.

Citibank needs to update its system to follow the NIST rules and start allowing people to choose more secure passwords.

Well this is all for now, will write more later.

– Suramya

December 4, 2017

Singapore: A trip to remember

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 10:32 PM

Just about a month ago I went to Singapore for a 4 day trip and I loved the city. The people were very friendly for the most part and I quite enjoyed my time there. I have been there once before on a disastrous trip back in 2011 where I ended up spending 2 days at the Airport because of issues with a transit visa. Thankfully this trip didn’t have any such problems.

We got there early in the morning on Sat and we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express where the rooms were quite tiny. Infact the entire room along with the bathroom would fit into my living room here in India but the stay was quite comfortable and I liked the hotel. The one issue I did have was due to the hotel being an express hotel so they didn’t have an all night restaurant or room service. They did have an all night bar where the only veg option was a Pasta where they literally boiled noodles, soaked the result in olive oil and then added huge chunks of garlic (boiled to tastelessness) and served. I ate that one night and that was more than enough.

The first day (Sat) we mainly roamed around near the hotel as we were still a bit jetlagged and feeling lazy. πŸ™‚ While walking around we saw this restaurant called Central Perk that looked very familiar and decided to have a late lunch there. It took me a few mins to realize why it looked so familiar and then I realized that the place was a replica of the restaurant from ‘Friends’. It had great food with some of the best fries I have had in all my travels. The portions were huge and it was a struggle to avoid wasting food. In addition to the great ambience the staff was super friendly as well and we spent quite a lot of time eating/relaxing at the place. After lunch we walked over to the China town and shopped for a bit over there.


Friends themed restaurant

That night we met up with Sid, Rithika, Varsha, Manav and a few other friends for dinner. It was great fun to meet up with people I hadn’t met for years and wasn’t expecting to meet. (We had gone out expecting to meet only Sid & Rithika)

The next day we went to Santosa Island starting with the ‘Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom‘. It was an eye opening experience to see all the different species of butterflies in one place because we don’t normally think about there being so many types of butterflies in the world. It also had a section dedicated to the insect kingdom but I didn’t really find that part as interesting except for the 370 million year old fossil they had on display.


Butterflies are supposed to taste great


A 370 Million year of fossil

Next we tried out the Megazip and Megazip Adventure line where you zip over forests and beaches at a height of 75 meters traveling at speeds upto 60kph for almost half a kilometer. They have 3 lines running in parallel so you get to race your friends down to the beach. We also did the Mega jump which is a 15 mtr jump from the top of the tower but I didn’t find that as exciting as the zip line.

We walked around quite a bit as we had to wait till 7:40pm for the ‘Wings of time’ show. At first I was annoyed that we had to wait for so long but it did give us enough time to walk around the entire island and check out all the attractions. We ended up sitting at a beach side restaurant for a drink because we were tired of walking around and had time to kill and saw a really picturesque sunset. Finally it was time for the show and it was worth the wait. The way they projected the show on spray’s of water was very different and innovative. After the show we took the cable car back to the main island and then the subway back to the hotel.

We spent the whole of Monday at Universal Studio’s and as expected it was awesome. I loved the rides and could have spent another day over there. The Transformers and Cylon rides were the most fun for me but Jani wasn’t a big fan of the roller coasters so she didn’t enjoy them that much. By the time the park closed we had tried out pretty much all the rides and loved it.


Universal Studios

After the place closed we had dinner and went on for the night safari at the zoo. It was a different experience but I didn’t like it that much. Possibly because I am not a big fan of animals locked up in a zoo (even in one without evident bars). This took a while and by the time we were done it was quite late so we headed back to the hotel and crashed.

On my final day we moved out from the hotel and checked Jani in to the Marina Bay Sands as she was going to stay back for another 3 days for her conference. The hotel is quite lovely and I wish I had more time to explore all the stuff/places they had in the hotel but I had limited time. So we decided to check out the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest instead. I am not that interested in flowers and horticulture but even I was impressed by the sheer variety of the flowers they have managed to cultivate in this area. The Cloud Forest was a whole another experience all together as well, when you walk it the first thing you see is mist followed by a 3 story waterfall. It was nice and chilly inside the domes and I loved it. The dome has some lovely plant life and I got to see a Venus Fly-trap for the first time in their Lost world exhibit.


The Flower Dome

All too soon the trip was at an end and I had to take the cab to the Airport where I had some time to kill and ended up buying a nice klipsch speaker as I needed one quite badly and got a good deal on the speaker as well.

Going forward will try to document any trips immediately after the trip ends so that I can do justice to the narrative and experience. This is all for now, will write more later.

– Suramya

October 31, 2017

One night (or rather one week) in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster.

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 7:13 PM

The lyrics of the 1984 song “One Night in Bangkok” by Murray Head perfectly captures the spirit of visiting Bangkok (and Thailand). I was lucky enough to visit Thailand and experience it myself a few days ago. I was there for 9 days but was working for 3 days in the middle. We (Jani and Me) flew out from Bangalore on Saturday morning which in itself was quite exciting. I had to come home from Whitefield to pickup my luggage and then drive to the Airport. For some reason I couldn’t get any cabs from the office at the time so had to book a shared cab instead which went all over the place and I wasn’t sure if I would make it home on time but luckily I did make it back and was there at the Airport in plenty of time to catch the flight.

The flight was nothing special so not much to say about it. We got to Bangkok early in the morning and since Jani was there for a conference and was a panelist we got the VIP treatment. There was a lady from the conference waiting right outside the flight door and escorted us through the entire process of immigration, baggage pickup etc. Once we collected our luggage there was a car waiting for us to take us to the Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park hotel which was sponsoring a 3D/2N luxury experience for the Panelist (I got to tag along without having to do anything which was great πŸ˜‰ ).

We reached there early in the morning and once we had breakfast we just crashed for a bit since it had been a long few days before the flight. The hotel was great and the facilities were very comfortable. We didn’t do much the first day except walk around the hotel for a bit but the next day we had some fun activities. I got to make a traditional Thai dish that I couldn’t sample because it had shrimp/Fish oil in it. However the chef did give me alternate ingredients to use when I got home. I can imagine all of you who know me well shaking their heads at the idea of me cooking something but it was an interesting experience.


What we cooked

At lunch since I was the only vegetarian in the group I got served a special meal. I have to say that the staff went out of their way to make sure I had a great experience. Although there were times when I felt a bit discriminated against as you can see in the photograph below where the white bowl at the bottom of the pic is the bowl in which I was served soup and the big silver dish in front of Jani is what the rest of the folks were served in.


What vegetarians got vs what the rest got

On Monday we moved to the Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Center at Central World which is where the conference was being held. We visited the ‘Uno Mas’ restaurant near the top of the hotel and the views were amazing. Not much happened for the next few days as Jani was busy with the conference and I was busy at work. Below is my ‘office’ during the stay there and as you can see it was an great place to work from. I did consider working from the pool side but that would have been too distracting and too hot to be a feasible option.


My Office in Thailand

The hotel has a great bar/restaurant on the roof called the Redsky and because we had heard such great reviews we decided to have dinner there one night and even though the cost was a bit on the higher side it was worth it because the views were spectacular and the drinks were quite nice as well. We were there for a few hours and the time flew. Plus they don’t have the idiotic shutdown at 11:30 that Bangalore has during weekdays so we could stay there as long as we wanted. I did get Jani to try out Blue cheese and she absolutely hated it. I have a lovely video of her trying to control her expression after eating it but in the end she made such amusing disgusted expressions that I was on the floor laughing. (Ping me if you want to see the video πŸ˜‰ )


Dinner at Red Sky


Having drinks on the rooftop


Bangkok skyline


Bangkok skyline Part 2

On Friday we took a city tour of Bangkok starting early in the morning which in retrospect was a mistake as Bangkok is a city that is dead during the day for the most part as everyone is sleeping, nights are when the city actually comes alive. Inspite of that the Golden Buddha temple and the other sites were quite spectacular. Unfortunately since we were a bit strapped for time we didn’t stop at the flower market but rather just drove through it. We did but a few souvenirs but for the most part refrained from shopping.


The Golden Buddha


The Golden Buddha

Shortly afterwards we bid farewell to Bangkok to drive over to Pattaya for the remainder of the trip. We got in touch with Sunny from Sunny online Travel who helped us plan out our itinerary for the last few days of the trip. He went above and beyond to suggest things to do and places to see within our budget. Thanks to him we didn’t have to worry a bit about what to do and where to go in Pattaya. If you are in the neighborhood do visit him and he will ensure that you have a great experience at a reasonable cost. To give you an idea of his hospitality he personally picked us up from the hotel and drove us to see the Alcazar Show and then drove us back to the hotel once the show was done. In all my years of travel I can’t remember any other guide doing this without charging a ridiculous price for it.

The Alcazar Show was an amazing experience, and I have to be honest that initially I was a bit skeptical about going to a lady boy show but the show was so tastefully done that I was floored by the experience. I wish I could have taken pics with all the staff but that wasn’t possible. But we did manage to get a pic with one of the main stars and she was super nice about it.


Pic with the leading lady

After the show Sunny dropped us at the Walking Street which is one of the biggest and busiest party hotspots in Thailand so that we could explore the nightlife. There was a ton of great pubs/bars/exotic dancers in the street and it was a very different experience for other such party places in the world that I have seen in the past. We walked around for a while and then it looked like it was going to rain so we started walking back to the hotel and just as we were about a third of the way there it started pouring. As Jani always carries an umbrella in her humongous purse we didn’t get too wet but for a while it felt like someone was pouring water on us with a bucket.


Walking Street

Once we made it back to the hotel we crashed early as we had a hectic day planned. We started the day with a visit to the Floating market of Pattaya where we were one of the first people to get there and the iconic floating shops were still in the process of setting up. In a way it was good because as the place was still starting up there was not much stink and it wasn’t very crowded either. We started of with a canoe ride to the other side of the market where we checked out some cool shops and interesting items for sale. We walked around the whole market and attended a few shows like a monkey show that kept things interesting. They also had a zipline which looked interesting so we did a round on the lines. Due to the fact that we were there early in the day we didn’t have any queues anywhere which was great.


The Floating Market


All dressed up in traditional dresses

After we were done with the market we went over to Nong nooch tropical Botanical garden which was ok, nothing too special. There was an hour long cultural show which honestly felt boring especially after having been to the Alcazar show. The pots and the garden there was quite nice but in my opinion we could have spent that time at the floating market and enjoyed it more.

After the garden we drove over to the marine Underwater world and it was good. A bit of a let down after having seen the one in Europe in summer but still quite nice overall. If I hadn’t seen the one in Europe I would have def been wow’d by it. Fun fact was that Jani spent most of the time telling me about which of the exhibits she had eaten already, in the end I had to tell her to only tell me about the ones she hadn’t yet eaten and that list was a lot shorter πŸ™‚

After the exhibit we drove over to Ripley’s Believe it or Not and we did all 7 exhibits. I liked most of them except for Tussaud Wax works which wasn’t too great. The horror rides were great fun though Jani did manage to confuse everyone in the cast by keeping her eyes closed throughout both the haunted ride & haunted house. Unfortunately I listened to her and didn’t get the photo they had taken of us and now regret that decision. Ah well.. The next time I am taking the pics no matter what. This visit concluded our day so we headed back to the hotel and it started raining again… But we weren’t in the mood to do much so we just crashed as the next day we had an even earlier start to go Diving :).

The next day we again woke up early to go diving with the nice folks from the Jomtien Dive Center. They picked us up from the hotel and then we sailed for about an hour and half to get to the first diving spot. The water was a bit muddy but we did manage to see some great sea life. Lots of sea urchins and fishes. After the first dive we had lunch and got to our second spot where we dived again, this spot was a lot better with more sea life and corals etc. I did see some sea horses as well which was quite cool. Both dives were approximately 45 mins each (which is the usual length for a recreational dive). The entire thing took us the most part of the day so once we got back to shore we walked about a bit and then called it a night.


Pic on the boat, on the way to the diving spot


Shot of me in water (I am the one in the center)

On our final day in Pattaya we again got up early (which is something I would like to avoid in future trips) and started the drive back to Bangkok. Since our flight back was at night we stopped at the Jungle safari where we spent the entire day walking around in the heat to see the various animals. It was quite fun but I really didn’t like the heat and would have prefered to be in an AC car or something. Still the birds & animals we saw were worth the effort so… There were quite a lot of shows highlighting the various species so it was fun.


Front row seats for the seals show


Entry to the park (Apparently it was quite stinky)

Once we were done with the safari we drove to the airport and bid adieu to Thailand for a flight back. I would want to go back again for a longer trip so that I can explore the rest of the country but probably will travel to other countries first. I took quite a lot of photos (~600) so I am not going to be posting them, although Jani has posted the highlights on Facebook so if you are interested you can check them out there.

I finally finished this post just about a month after I made the trip which is all thanks to Jani for bugging me everyday about the blog. This is all for now, will write more later.

– Suramya

July 11, 2017

Like XKCD but don’t get the jokes?

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 11:38 PM

Do you like the XKCD Comics, but don’t always get the jokes? Or do you have someone in your life that keeps quoting it but you can’t make heads or tails of it? If so then you should check out ExplainXKCD.com, a website dedicated to explaining the XKCD Comics. e.g. Lets take the following comic from July 3rd 2017:

The site explains it as follows:

In the United States, the 4th of July is celebrated as Independence Day. This comic claims to show the timeline of different activities that are used to celebrate the holiday. One common activity is to watch fireworks displays. With the rise of personal drones there have been several videos of fireworks from drones, including flying the drones through the middle of the display. The comic then purports that starting in the year it was published (2017), fireworks and drones will be at some sort of war with each other, starting with drone pilots leading their drones into the path of the rising fireworks before they explode, leading to fireworks technicians intentionally trying to strike down drones. In 2019, Randall posits that the drones will be weaponized with fireworks and competitions will be held to shoot down your opponents’ drone. This wanton destruction of drones leads them to turn against their pilots and humanity in 2020 (after gaining sentience, presumably by their AI evolving through the competition), and then in 2021, they will be celebrating their Independence Day from the humans.

The title text refers to another popular 4th of July activity in the United States: Barbecues with fare such as hot dogs and hamburgers. But since the drones don’t have mouths or a digestive tract, they simply make a mess by using their rotors as a blender.

Check it out if you have some time to kill. Its a fun and distracting read.

– Suramya

July 6, 2017

Dear HDFC Bank: Please stop making life easier for phishers

Filed under: Computer Security,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:32 PM

I recently had to create a HDFC account because I changed firms and needed a HDFC account in order to be paid πŸ™‚ . Once I created the account I got a few SMS messages from AM-HDFCBK asking me to register online for Netbanking and Mobile Banking which is quite normal (though the no of messages were a bit annoying), what was scary and concerning was that the link in the message was a generic bit.ly URL. (See screenshot below)

HDFC Messages Screenshot

Screenshot of the Messages I got

For those who don’t know, bit.ly is a URL shortening service that allows you to create a short URL that redirects to a different URL. e.g. I have configured http://bit.ly/1MUISmu to redirect to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing. The service is most commonly used on Twitter where the max allowed characters are limited and the URL lengths are long.

However since anyone can create a bit.ly redirect there is no way of verifying that the link I got in the SMS was actually created by HDFC and points to a legitimate site and not a website controlled by a cyber criminal who is out to steal my data. The link can point to literally any website in the world that the sender wants including sites that are copies of the legitimate HDFC bank but in reality are storing your credentials to allow people to steal your money or sites that infect your system with a virus/ransomware.

There is a reason why computer security professionals tell people not to click on random links you get via email/SMS/whatsapp.

If you think that since the sender of the SMS is ‘AM-HDFCBK’ the message is legitimate and thus safe to click then think again. There are a ton of websites out there that allow you to spoof SMS sender details to anything you want at a cheap price. In fact you can also code your own software for doing this in bulk using publicly available API’s at ridiculously cheap prices. These are sites I found after a couple of mins of searching on Google, I am sure there are more secure/untraceable methods of sending fake/spoofed SMS messages on the dark web. So the risk of clicking on unknown links that I got out of nowhere is not worth it.

Normally what companies do in similar scenarios if they absolutely have to use a shortner is that they but a short domain name and use that so people getting the messages can identify the link as something pointing to the official site. But I guess someone at HDFC is trying to save money by not registering a new domain that would protect their customers. *Shrug*.

Ah well, looks like I will need to go to their official site and register my account from there.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

June 16, 2017

Visiting Nagalapuram – Queen of waterfalls

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 1:04 AM

This past weekend I took part in another trek organized by the awesome folks at Nature Walkers. This one was to the Nagalapuram Waterfalls and was a little bit easier than the last trek I had done with them (Tadiandamol). From the trek summary:

Nagalapuram is one of the beautiful hill station situated in Chittur District, southern part of Andra Pradesh, around 280 km from Bengaluru. Normally known for the various water falls situated in the hill station. We say Nagalapuram is β€œQueen of Water Fallsβ€œ, to see why you should come with us to explore

The trek started off on Friday night and was a bit of a crazy start for me as I had to rush home from Whitefield to make it to the pickup point on time. We were a group of 22 folks from different backgrounds and personalities who got together to experience a totally amazing trek. The group was quite diverse with lot of first time trekkers and a few regulars. Unfortunately due to the size of the group and the ridiculous cost of travel permits for large buses we had to break the group into two TT (Tempo Travellers) with 11 passengers in each. That kind of sucked because the group got divided into two and the folks in one TT didn’t get to interact with the people in the other TT as much as I would have wanted. It was an overnight drive to the falls and a few of us (Me, Jani and Shahrukh) were up till late catching up and then talking about jobs and interviews etc. I am sure after a point folks around us were wishing that we would just go to sleep.

We got to the Homestay around 7am and went in to freshen up. The homestay was run by the Andhra govt and more than anything it reminded me of the haunted houses in horror movies because of the look and the surrounding forests. The rooms were fairly basic but since we were planning on staying in tents it didn’t really matter. The rooms were just there so that we had a place to freshen up.


The not so haunted Homestay

We were welcomed by a whole bunch of monkeys and dogs and we offered them tea as a gesture of friendship which was accepted. After tea a few of us decided to go hang out with the monkeys in their native environment and ended up in the branches of a nice and comfortable tree. All this time the remaining normal folks were getting ready and waiting for breakfast.


The Three musketeers monkeys.


Waiting for breakfast.

After a little while the food arrived and we had to climb down since no one was willing to feed us in the tree. πŸ™ During breakfast we were fortunate enough to witness the declaration of true love and managed to get a photo of the happy occasion πŸ™‚


True Love!

After food we started off to the base camp to begin the trek in the TT as it was about 30 mins away from where we were staying. On the way we entertained ourselves by dancing (trying to dance in my case) and singing.


Starting the trek

By the time we got to the starting point the sun was up and it was really really hot. In this trek the first half hour is on a plain with no shade so it was like being on a flat plate getting roasted slowly. To pass time and distract ourselves from the heat me, Shahrukh and Anupam started singing and continued to sing till we reached the first stream. I am actually surprised that the others didn’t strangle us after the first 10 mins to get us to shut up. Once we crossed the plains and entered the forest the heat became a lot more bearable. The path was pretty smooth during this part of the trek. After about an hour we reached a stream and all of us took a break. Honestly none of us wanted to continue without a long break to relax and cool down but Manoj convinced us that the first waterfall was just a few mins away and a whole lot better than this small stream so we packed up and started the second stage of the trek.


Recovering from being roasted in the heat

This second portion was a lot more challenging with us entering hillier terrain and narrower trails, but it wasn’t too tough so we made good time to the first falls and reached it fairly quickly. It shows how well organized the Nature Walkers team is and how much they care about safety that they had ensured all the members of the trek had life jackets so that we could enjoy the water without taking undue risks. (This is in addition to banning all alcohol and smoking during the trek) We wasted no time in changing and jumped into the cold waters of the fall. Trust me the water was really cold and it felt amazing after the heat. We all swam around, climbed up the falls and basically had a blast. All too soon we we summoned out of the water so that we could head out to the second waterfall and we did so with a whole lot of grumbling as we were having a ball in the water.


Having a blast in the water

The path to the second fall was even more hilly and the trail was challenging with really steep climbs in parts. There were portions where we had to climb around a rock on the trail by stepping on a ledge that was not more than 2-3 inches wide. Then there was this rock chimney which was interesting to climb.

Unfortunately this is when the trip took a darker turn as we found out that one of the trekkers from another group had gotten injured in the next fall and was being carried back to the head of the trail. On speaking with the members of that group we found out that the guy had jumped in the water and for some reason failed to surface after going under. After 5-6 minutes his body surfaced and that’s when the rest of the group realized that something was wrong and rushed to help him. They did manage to get a lot of water out from his lungs but failed to get all of it out so he was still unconscious and they had to carry him through the hilly terrain back to the start of the trail.

One thing that I felt really proud of while watching and helping them was that *every single person* in the area pitched in to help when they found out about the accident. Not one person refused or ignored them. Its not everyday you see people helping so selflessly. However by the time they had reached where we were it had already been more than an hour. The kid had started bleeding from his nose and his pulse was really thready so we weren’t sure if he would make it or not. After helping them down from a chimney in the trail we continued on to the second pool but it was a much more subdued group that reached the second pool. We broke there for lunch but didn’t get into the water as no one was in the mood.

After a brief rest break the group started off for the third pool but a few of us decided against continuing to the third fall as we were still a bit upset/saddened by the accident. So 6-7 of us stayed back while the remaining folks continued to the last pool which apparently had a really good view along with a place where you could dive into the water safely. The folks who stayed back watched some idiots trying to prove how brave and macho they were by drinking and performing idiotic stunts to impress the girls. Its a miracle someone else didn’t get hurt as well.

The remainder of the group got back with just enough time remaining to allow us to make it out of the forest before dark. By this time we all had recovered our sense of adventure so we had a blast singing, chatting, and getting to know our fellow group members. When we boarded the TT our driver told us that the injured guy was pronounced DOA (Dead on Arrival) by the ambulance and that this was about the 10th death in the past 3 months in that region. It just shows that trekking and alcohol don’t mix. There are calculated risks that are ok to take and then there is being an idiot. At times the line between the two is extremely thin and once drinks are involved, it is non-existent. But there was nothing we could do so we started back

After stopping for Tea on the way we reached the homestay and there was almost a stampede for the bathrooms as everyone wanted to shower and change. By the time we all freshened up dinner was ready and we fell on the food like starving people. Since they gave us the food in buckets along with Pattals instead of plates, we all ate in the traditional style with a few people serving the food and the rest sitting on the floor to eat. Then the order was reversed and the folks serving in the first set sat down for dinner and the rest served food to them.


Having dinner the traditional way

After dinner a majority of the folks decided to crash from the night while a few brave souls stayed up to chat. Initially we had planned to have a bonfire but soon realized that it was too hot for it so just sat out in the open and talked. After a while we wanted to crash but found that the tents were doing a credible impersonation of being an oven. So we came back and slept in the open which was amazing as the moon was full (or near enough) and the the cool breeze made it quite pleasant to be outside.

In the morning we were woken up by monkeys who came over expecting morning tea like the day before and got really upset when they didn’t get any. Like any sensible people we decided that Discretion is the better part of valor and retreated in the face of their anger to the guest house to freshen up. Once all the folks got ready we broke our fast at this small shop where they made fresh dosa’s and puri’s and served them to us piping hot. Post breakfast we all visited Kone Falls and the Temple which was nearby and a few of the folks had a dip in the falls. We had to depart from the location a lot sooner that we wanted to but unfortunately we didn’t have any option as we were anyways way over the checkout time at the homestay.


Group photo taken just before we left

The drive back was again a lot of fun (and more interactive than the drive to the place) as it was daytime and everyone was awake. We played a bunch of games and sang (yes we do seem to sing a lot) quite a bit. All too soon we were back in Bangalore and had to head back home. With heavy hearts we said our goodbyes and went home.

I really enjoyed the trip and like always ended up making a whole new set of friends and am definitely looking forward to the next adventure/trip.
Special thanks to Manoj and Pavan for organizing the trip and managing it so well that all we had to do was focus on having fun.

This is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

PS: In interest of full disclosure just want to let folks know that I am one of the official bloggers for Nature Walkers starting with this trip.

April 26, 2017

When traditional stories meet a budding astronomer

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 6:21 PM

A little while ago mom, me and Vir (my nephew) were taking an evening walk and mom decided to tell Vir a story to keep him entertained. So here’s how the conversation went:

[Mom] Vir, see there is Chanda Mamma (the moon)
[Vir] No, that is not Chanda Mama, that is Earth’s Moon and other planets like Jupiter also have moon’s. (and he went on about various planets and their moon’s for a while)

At this point mom didn’t know how to proceed so we changed the topic. After a few days she thought she would try again, this time we were driving to get Ice cream and here’s how the conversation went this time:

[Vir] Nani, look there is the Moon.
[Mom] Yes, the moon (Chanda Mama) has come out because Suraj Chacha (the Sun) has gone to sleep.
[Vir] No, Sun doesn’t sleep, It is night because earth rotates and the sun is now on the other side of earth so we can’t see it. The moon is on the same side and so is visible.
[Mom] I give up… All I wanted to do was to tell him a story about the sun and the moon.

I don’t think she will be telling him any more stories about the Moon.

– Suramya

March 8, 2017

My Trek to Tadiandamol

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:13 PM

So last weekend I went for my first trek of 2017 with NatureWalkers to this place called Tadiandamol. Don’t ask me to pronounce it because I still can’t manage without sounding silly and it took me 3 attempts to spell it correctly. The trek is a total of 8kms long round trip and the peak which is the highest in Coorg is at about 1748 m high.

Tadiandamol is on one of the most beautiful, noncommercial peaks in Karnataka, it is elevated to about 1748 m and known as the highest peak in coorg/kodagu district. The Tadiandamol trek offers adventurers an opportunity to explore the stunning vegetation, rare mountain birds and pretty butterflies flitting from tree to tree. A panoramic view from the peaks is an eye-candy for the hikers. The trial takes you through the vast expanse of the Shola forest, It is a day trek which makes it even more doable for city folks- whether avid trekkers and hikers. A famous historical landmark β€œNalknad-Palace” resides at the foothills of the mountain.

This was my first trek with Nature Walkers and I loved it. A total of 18 of us were there for the trek with a wide range of trekking experience and age groups. The trip started at 10pm from Bangalore and we boarded the bus after donating a lot of blood to the Domlur mosquitoes (while waiting for the bus to arrive). We kicked off the evening with a round of introductions which included telling folks about something crazy you did and man some of the folks had donbe some crazy stuff (including me πŸ™‚ ) We had people asking their professors to dance, setting fire in the hostel to burn notes and scaring aunts with skulls.

After the intro round ended most of the people went to sleep but a few of us weren’t sleepy so we spent majority of the night talking and after a few hours just as we were winding down and I was about to fall asleep the driver switched on the AC at full strength and played some Kannada music at high volume waking me up. So we kind of half dozed while the driver took a nap and then we were on our way again reaching the Homestay at ~7am. We freshened up and then started for the basecamp after breakfast which was about an hour from the homestay.

We arrived at the basecamp all bright-eyed & bushy tailed and started the trek on a high note. The start of the trek was fairly easy with a shallow gradient so it wasn’t too painful. Though it was bright and sunny so that made it a bit uncomfortable and soon I was sweating enough that I had to remove the cap.


Group photo at the start of the Trek and you can see the energy and enthusiasm

We walked the trek at a fairly slow pace and used the time to talk and learn more about each other, plus take a lot of photos and snapchat videos etc. A large part of the group was 12 friends who had come for the trek together and their enthusiasm was infectious. I haven’t downloaded all the pics yet and can’t post all of them in any case so here are a few pics to give you an idea about the trek and the route.

Selfie on the way to the peak
Selfie on the way to the peak about an hour into the trek


Random spot that looked interesting and was perfect for a break

After a little while the terrain became a lot steeper and it got a bit harder to climb. Since the distance to the peak is only 4 kms it was a fairly steep climb most of the way. About half way through there is a big rock and a stream so we took a break and obviously climbed the rock. πŸ™‚


Group photo at the rock

The stream was refreshing but with barely enough water to be called a stream. We filled our waterbottels there and I got to use my water purifier to purify the water. Don’t think it was absolutely required but I needed an excuse to play with my gadgets so… In any case we spent about 15-20 mins fooling around and taking pics before resuming the trek.


The Amazingly full stream

It took us another 2 hours or so to climb to the top. Both Manoj and Amrita ensured that we all were pacing ourselves and constantly provided encouragement so all of us reached the peak together and the view was worth the effort spent to climb to the top. Thankfully it was a little cloudy towards the end of the climb and the breeze was very refreshing as well so that made it a bit easier as well.


Thanking the gods of the Peak that I made it to the top while Tejaswani and Amrita look on.


Look at how happy we all look that we made it to the top in one piece πŸ™‚

Once at the top we all took a break to have lunch, meditate and enjoy the view while Manoj took a nap to recover from the stress of herding all of us to the peak.


Me, Jani and Shahrukh meditating at the peak


Manoj recovering from herding all of us to the peak.

We started back very reluctantly both because we wanted to extend the stay at the top and because our feet hurt πŸ™‚ The way down was more adventurous as the path was quite slippery and everyone fell at-least once though there was a contest going on to see who would fall the most as well with the winner claiming the throne with 8 spectacular falls.

By the time we reached the base camp we were all ready to be flat on the ground and not move. But still we ended up dancing for a little while in the bus on the way back to the homestay. Interestingly our bus had a laser/disco light setup which made dancing fun. Although initially it was more of moving hands and pretending to dance than actual dancing. Once we got home and freshened up we sat outside and chatted about topics all over the place from weird food people eat to physics to astronomy and horror stories. The campfire made it cosy enough to sit outside and since we didn’t have any portable speakers we got to show off our singing skills instead of our dancing skills. The jam session continued till almost 1 in the morning and we all dragged ourselves to bed quite reluctantly.

Next morning we again made an early start and left the homestay after a lovely breakfast.


Pic with the owners of the Homestay

We were all feeling a bit more energetic after resting over night so we spent a large amount of time playing Mafia which I enjoyed for the first time. The last two times I played the game I found it very boring but with this group it was a lot of fun. I was a cop in the first game and got to play a few turns before getting killed and it was a lot of fun watching the players try to convince each other that they were not mafia. In the second game I was classified as Mafia and was there till the end of the game (We won πŸ™‚ ) but in the last one I was the first person to be killed so didn’t get to play at all.

In the middle we stopped at Namdroling Monastery which I have visited a few times before but it was still worth the visit. It is a very peaceful place and since we got there just before the afternoon prayers started we managed to see the temple and then watched the monks start their prayers as well. We did avoid the shopping complex as otherwise we would have been stuck there for hours while the ladies shopped πŸ˜‰ and were on the way back to Bangalore with brief stops for lunch & tea and lots of dancing.

We all enjoyed the trip so much that we didn’t want it to end so most of us got down at Indiranagar for dinner at Copper Chimney instead of heading home directly. The waiter gave us a weird look when the 13 of us were done with just starters and dessert but none of us were very hungry so it was good that we didn’t over-order.

Overall the trip was a great success and I really enjoyed traveling with Nature Walkers. I would highly recommend them to folks looking for a fun well organized trip.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

PS: For those of you who are wondering about what happened to posting about the previous trips, I realized that the list had gotten long enough that I wouldn’t be able to post about them (15 trips in 2016) and because I was waiting to write about the previous trips I wasn’t posting about the new ones either. So decided to bite the bullet and start with a clean slate. Hopefully this year I will be more consistent with my writing.

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