Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

December 27, 2023

25th Reunion of the 1998 Computers Batch of AFBBS: The Class with a Class

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:33 PM

This year is the 25 anniversary for when I passed out from Air Force Bal Bharati School (AFBBS). I was there for two years and they were some of the most fun and memorable times of my life. During my time there I made some lifelong friends and learnt a lot about life and the good stuff. I was in the computer section, XII-C or “The Class with a Class” as it was otherwise known.

Class photograph of XII-C
XII-C The Class with a Class

A few months ago a group of people from one of the other sections in our batch started a thread about having a reunion and started working on it. Over the next few weeks I noticed that it was mostly folks from the other sections who were interested and actively planning for the reunion, our class was mostly silent on the topic. Since I was not much in touch with anyone from any of the other sections, or rather was never friends with anyone outside of the C section (my class) I was of two minds about attending the reunion. Then we found out that the event was not happening at the school and instead was in a place in Qutub Minar area somewhere.

Then someone asked a question in our class group if anyone else was going. Interestingly most of the folks said that they would rather meet separately with just our class instead of the whole batch. After seeing that me and Tarini got talking about it and thinking about a separate reunion for our class. Tarini was nice enough to volunteer her place for the event and thus we decided to have our get-together on the same day as the other one.

The event was planned for the 16th, and Jani and I flew in early morning that day to reach Delhi by 2:30pm. Since it would have taken us too long to go to Noida and come back (we would have spent the entire time traveling instead of spending time at home) we decided to show up early at Tarini’s place and start the party early. That way we got to spend time with the kids and Aunty as well before the rest of the folks arrived.

The evening was quite memorable with a lot of old stories being told to spouses about folks who I hope didn’t get into too much trouble once their wives found out what they had been up to in school. Crushes were explained in detail, famous pranks explained etc. It was much more fun and intimate than attending a party with loud music, though that also would have been fun if we knew more people there.

Its hard to believe that its already been 25 years since we all were in school together and we have gone from:

to looking like this 25 years later:

I wish I could say that we all kept in touch throughout the last 25 years, but sadly that wasn’t the case. I was meeting Ravi after 25 years, Ankush and Rahul after ~16 years or so and it was a lot of fun to catchup after such a long time. To be honest it didn’t feel like so much time had passed since we last met. The rest of the folks I had been meeting them more frequently; some more frequently than others. It would have been great if the rest of the 40 odd classmates could have also made it for the reunion but that’s ok. There is always a next time.

In spite of only getting back to Delhi the day before Tarini went above and beyond with the food and drinks. I especially loved the mulled wine and that reminds me that I need to get the recipe from her, or instead get her to make it for me everytime I visit. Actually the second option seems a lot more fun and less work for me so I will do that.

The party went on till almost 4am, then me Tarini and Jani chilled out for a while after everyone went home and just chatted. The next day was again hectic as we had a brunch and headed back to the airport to come back to Bangalore so that we could prep for our next trip to Malaysia which we were leaving for the next day (18th). Got back to India on the 25th and that is why this post was delayed as I was having too much fun there to write about the reunion.

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

– Suramya

December 3, 2023

My Birthday celebration: A perfect day with friends and family

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:58 PM

Birthdays are usually a lot of fun and this year was the first one in a few years where I was at home instead of traveling. Brief list of where all I celebrated my Birthday in the past few years: 2019 – Antarctica, 2020 – Maldives, 2021 – Assam, 2022 – Nagaland. So this year we decided not to go anywhere and just spend time at home only. Now that we are older we had stopped cutting cakes at midnight for a few years but recently restarted doing that as it was a lot of fun. This time Akanksha, Ayush, Bagri,JD, Himanshi, Rajani, Samariddhi and Shahrukh showed up near midnight to wish me and that was sweet of them. Even though folks have come over to our place multiple times some of them still managed to get lost on the way and it was really hard not to make fun of them.

While sitting and chatting we started talking about ice-cream and and obviously I started craving for some ice-cream as we had been talking about it constantly. Rajani and Jani ordered ice cream for me and in total got almost 1.5 kgs of ice-cream. I am going to be eating that for the next quarter unless we have more folks over and I manage to feed it to them 🙂 .

Since I don’t like chocolate, Jani had asked for a Pineapple cake for me. The bakery folks forgot to write my name or anything on the cake and we were all making fun of Shahrukh about it, since he had picked up the cake. JD immediately jumped into action and at first tried carving ‘Happy Birthday Sur’ on the cake. Since that was too long and we had a Happy Birthday cake topper he switched tracks midway and carved ‘Sur’ on the cake. I guess they wanted to make sure people knew it was for my birthday and not a reused image from someone else’s birthday.

Pineapple cake with my name carved in it (look carefully, it is there)

Once we cut the cake everyone fed me a slice and thus I personally was forced to eat almost 3/4th of the cake. It was an awesome cake which made it easy but then I didn’t have any space to eat anything else after that even though the Pizza we had ordered was awesome.

Group pic on my Birthday

Unfortunately for Rajani she was extremely tired and decided to crash early and the rest of us continued to hang out and chill. At around 3am people decided to start heading out and we took a group selfie. Since Rajani was sleeping she wasn’t in the photo so we came up with the bright idea of taking a photo with her as she was sleeping and that was an awesome decision. She was very sporting about the whole thing when we showed her the photo the next day.

Pic with the sleeping beauty

After folks headed out we crashed (even though I wanted to stay up and watch the new Dr Who episode that had just come out) and the next day we were supposed to meet for Lunch with Surabhi & the kids, Anil and Manisha. As I knew we won’t be getting up early I pushed lunch to 2pm and then slept off. Waking up in the morning was painful but we managed it and drove over to ARAKU Coffee in Indiranagar.

Group photo during Lunch at Araku Coffee

We didn’t know it at the time but they were having a Taco themed event today and since I love Mexican food it was an awesome coincidence. We ordered pretty much every type of Taco they had listed and loved it. I also tried a Spiced Mead cocktail and it was soo good that I barely got to drink it as others (mostly Surabhi) kept stealing sips and I ended up having to order another one. It was one of those awesome lazy lunches where no one was in a rush to be anywhere so we all just hung out and chatted.

But all good things must come to an end so around 5 we had to call it a day and head back home. Once I was home, Jani crashed after finishing some of her work while I watched the new episode of Dr Who. It was an interesting episode, not one of my favorites but not one that I disliked either. The 14th Doc’s personality is noticeably different from the 10th and that does get disconcerting at times but still a lot of fun.

Well this is all for now. Have a really early morning tomorrow so an going to call it a night.

– Suramya

November 22, 2023

My Deepavali vacation 2023 – Part 2

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:36 PM

Continuing from my previous post My Deepavali vacation 2023 – Part 1. After Diwali we relaxed for a day and finished the Bhaiya Dooj festival. On Wednesday, we met up with Tarini and Varun at their place for dinner and drinks. I am not a cricket fan but if you are in India (or anywhere where there are Indians) it is impossible to escape the craziness of the World Cup.

Since India was playing in the Semi-finals we ended up going to a nearby sports bar to have a few drinks and watch the match. Watching any sport with a crowd is an interesting experience as it is almost impossible not to get caught up in the excitement when everyone is on their feet cheering and screaming their heads off. After a few drinks we headed back to Tarini’s place for dinner and finished watching the match over there. India won the match even though it looked it they might not earlier in the game so that was good.

We would have loved to stay back longer but folks had to go to office the next day (not everyone was on a holiday like me) so we headed back home to Noida. When I got home we found that the parents had forgotten to leave the outer door unlocked (I had the key for the inner doors). As I didn’t want to wake anyone up, I ended up jumping over the wall, unlocking the inner door to get the keys to unlock the main gate to let Jani inside.

The remaining week went by with us just chilling at home. On Saturday, I had friends from college visiting for the weekend. Amit, Vinit, Pranav and his Wife Jigna came over and stayed with us in Noida. I was meeting Amit after almost a decade so it was fantastic to catch up after such a long time. I have known these folks for 24+ years now. Saturday afternoon we went out to Lunch at Burma Burma where the food was so good… we ended up overeating to the point were we barely had room for dinner a few hours later. (We started lunch at 3 and ate till around 5:15 or so).

Lunch at Burma Burma

After lunch we were almost in a food coma so we hung out at home while Jigna caught up on her sleep and Amit visited his uncle. Jani had meetings so once she got back we drove over to Ravi’s place who is another friend from NJIT for dinner and drinks. Since the last time we had met, Ravi had learnt how to make amazing cocktails so we had drinks and just caught up with each others lives and were up almost till 3am just chatting and then drove home.

You don’t often make friends with whom you stay in touch and remain great friends even decades later and it is a privilege to have such friends. Or as Yeats said “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends And say my glory was I had such friends.”

Group Pic at Ravi’s place

For Sunday we had planned to go out somewhere where we could watch the match and spend the day there. But as always the laziness quotient was high and dad moved the TV to the drawing room from the living room to give us more space where we could laze around and watch the match. The setup was a complete jugaad with my Dressing table being used as a stand for the TV and cables being run all over the place.

Watching the Indian Cricket Team’s pathetic performance at the 2023 World Cup Finals

Unfortunately for us the Indian teams performance was not worth the effort that we spent setting up everything. It got to the point where some of us actually dozed off in the middle of the first innings. The second inning was a little bit more interesting but the Indian fielding was pathetic so we stopped watching the match when it was clear that India is not going to win and went out for Dinner.

Diner was at this lovely place called Theos Cafe & Patisserie. The food there was quite good and pretty much everything we ordered was good. Once we finished dinner we just hung out at the cafe till it became obvious that they were waiting for us to leave so that they could close up so we headed home and spent the next few hours looking at old photos from our College days.

Dinner at Theos Cafe & Patisserie

The next day everyone except me and Vinit left to go back and since I was working on Monday I spent the day catching up to emails and things that had piled up during my vacation. My return flight to BLR was supposed to be at 9pm but Spicejet delayed it till 11pm (we actually flew out around 11:30pm). Thankfully they did send an email/sms/call about this early enough that I could plan accordingly and not end up sitting at the airport from 6:30pm… The Delhi airport Terminal 1 is undergoing renovation so not much to do there except sit at the lounge. I ended up working for a bit before catching up with my reading.

Thanks to the delays I reached Bangalore around 2:30am and home around 3:30am. That concluded a very restful and fun vacation and I am already looking forward to my next trip.

– Suramya

November 20, 2023

My Deepavali vacation 2023 – Part 1

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 7:30 PM

Last week was a lot of fun, we (Me and Jani) went to Delhi for Diwali which was on the 12th as we try to be with parents for Diwali whenever possible. Took an early morning flight and landed in Delhi around 10:30am. I was worried about the air quality in Delhi but thankfully it had rained the night before so the pollution level was one of the lowest I remember. My air purifier at home in Delhi usually runs at about 300+ but that day it was in the 70’s so it felt great.

11th was also Axu’s wedding anniversary so we went out for dinner with Axu, Montu and their parents. It was the first time I had gone out of the house on Choti Diwali (the day before Diwali) and I was surprised to see the number of folks who had come out for dinner. I always thought that most people would be at home but apparently that is not the case. Dinner was a lot of fun and it was good to catch up after a long time.

The next day was Diwali where we started the day with a Havan. I have a problem with it because of the smoke so ended up having to take an Allegra tablet to ensure that I can function. When I was a kid my nana (mom’s dad) used to do a Havan every morning and I had just learnt about air pollution and how smoke is bad for you. So I used to take a bucket of water and pour it on his Havan kund to stop the ‘air pollution’. It is a wonder that I didn’t get smacked into the next year.

All of us seated at the Diwali Havan in our house

After the Havan I escaped to the garden outside the house while the smoke dissipated from the house and then we all just chilled around for a while. Met some of the neighbors which was interesting because most of the folks I knew when I was living in Noida had moved out and I didn’t know any of the new folks.

Mom, Dad, me and Jani in the garden at our place

At night we did the pooja and lit candles and Diya’s all around the house.

Diwali Pooja

Photo taken outside the house with the full lighting on

One of the questions that has been asked a few times is:
“जब दीपावली भगवान राम के १४ वर्षो के वनवास से अयोध्या लौटने के उतसाह में मनाई जाती है, तो दीपावली पर “लक्ष्मी पूजन” क्यों होता है ? श्री राम की पूजा क्यों नही?”
(We say that Diwali is celebrated on the occasion of Lord Rama returning to Ayodhya after 14 years of Vanvas (Forest living) so why do we worship Lakshmi on the day instead of worshiping Lord Rama.)

The answer to this questions is:

“दीपावली उत्सव दो युग “सतयुग” और “त्रेता युग” से जुड़ा हुआ है!”
(Diwali is associated with two Yuga’s or ages as per Hindu Mythology, The Satya Yuga and Treta Yuga)

“सतयुग में समुद्र मंथन से माता लक्ष्मी उस दिन प्रगट हुई थी! इसलिए “लक्ष्मी पूजन” होता है!
(In Satya Yuga, Goddess Lakshmi appeared during the churning of the ocean to produce Amrita. This is why we worship Goddess Lakshmi on this day.)

Devas (gods) and asuras (demons) were both mortal at one time in Hinduism. Amrita, the divine nectar that grants immortality, could only be obtained by churning Kshira Sagara (‘Ocean of Milk’). The devas and asuras both sought immortality and decided to churn the Kshira Sagara with Mount Mandhara. The Samudra Manthana commenced with the devas on one side and the asuras on the other. Vishnu incarnated as Kurma, the tortoise, and a mountain was placed on the tortoise as a churning pole. Vasuki, the great venom-spewing serpent-god, was wrapped around the mountain and used to churn the ocean. A host of divine celestial objects came up during the churning. Along with them emerged the goddess Lakshmi.

भगवान श्री राम भी त्रेता युग मे इसी दिन अयोध्या लौटे थे! तो अयोध्या वासियों ने दीप जलाकर उनका स्वागत किया था! इसलिए इसका नाम दीपावली है!
(Lord Rama also returned to Ayodhya on this day and the population of Ayodhya welcomed him by lighting diyas. Which is why it is called Deepawali/Diwali)

इसलिए इस पर्व के दो नाम हैं, “लक्ष्मी पूजन” जो सतयुग से जुड़ा है, और दूजा “दीपावली” जो त्रेता युग प्रभु श्री राम और दीपो से जुड़ा है!
(This is why the festival has two names, Lakshmi Puja which is associated with Satya Yuga and Deepawali which is associated with Treta Yuga and Lord Rama).

After lighting and decorating the house, me and Jani went on a drive around the sector to see the decorations which was a lot of fun. Jani wanted to walk but I was tired so we just drove around for a bit till we got tired and cold so we came back home and crashed for the night.

The days after Diwali were a lot of fun as well and I got to meet some old friends and I will talk about that in the next post.

– Suramya

December 15, 2022

Visiting Nagaland: The land of festivals

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 4:54 AM

North East India is not a very well explored area of India and over the past year we have been making an effort to explore more of it and have already covered Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim so far. This time we decided to visit Nagaland as Santosh from Exotic Expeditions had organized a trip that included the Hornbill festival. It was our 4th Trip with Santosh and as always it was a fun experiential trip.

We (Jani, Me and Punita) started on the 3rd morning at 4am from our place for the airport for the flight to Delhi. Initially we had booked via Calcutta but one of the legs of the flight got cancelled so we decided to route via Delhi instead. At the Delhi airport we met Uma, Veena and Jaclyn who had flown via different flights. This was the first time I was flying via Terminal 2 and found it to be a lot more crowded than T1 & T3 but not insanely so. The flight to Dibrugrah was uneventful and once we reached Dibrugrah Santosh received us at the Airport and we drove over to the Hotel where we were staying. This trip people came via different transportation methods, we had 2 folks who came by train and another who came via bus and the rest flew so it was evening by the time everyone arrived at the hotel. Another interesting fact about this group was that it was a majority women group with 4 guys and 8 ladies.

Since it was my birthday, Jani and Shankar had planned a surprise cake cutting and it was a pleasant surprise. After the cake cutting, we stayed up for dinner (the hotel only served dinner at 8:30) while the rest ate out and then crashed for the day. Santosh, Shankar, Jani and me hung out for a while and then crashed hard post dinner.

Group photo taken just before the cake cutting

The next day started early as we had a long drive ahead of us. I wanted to try the local breakfast food for breakfast but when I asked the cook what the local folks ate for breakfast he answered that they also eat bread and omelette. *shaking my head*. The food was decent and post breakfast we all piled into the cars and started the journey. About an hour into the drive, we were told that since it was a Sunday most of Nagaland would be closed so we picked up snacks from a local bakery and while the bakery looked a bit shady, the quality of the food was great. In addition to the baked goods we also picked up samosa’s and assorted junk food. One of the packets Punita picked up was a packet of Paneer Bhujia which was something I was seeing for the first time. Turns out that there was a reason that it wasn’t popular and we hadn’t seen it because it tasted pretty bad. During the stop we did see various pigeons in colors that we normally don’t get to see them in.

Group photo at a random stop on the way

The views as we were driving were amazing, we stopped for a bio break next to an abandoned bridge over a small river where I managed to click some really nice pics.

Abandoned bridge we found on the way

Abandoned bridge over the river

We reached Longwa around 4pm and within 30 mins of us reaching there the sun had set and it was already dark. We stayed at the Longwa Homestay (+91 8730-027353) where Nok Au was our guide. As we hadn’t had a proper lunch yet, the first thing we did after dumping our luggage was to sit down for a meal. The food was all sourced locally and was a bit bland to be honest. However, they did give us naga chilies which more than made up for the lack of spices. The Longwa Homestay is owned by the tribes and the main hut served both as a kitchen and gathering place. This was also the home of the king and queen of the tribe and their family only took care of us during the stay.

Having local tea in Bamboo cups

Photo with a Head Hunter who has collected 5 heads

After food, we explored the hut and the large collection of handmade jewellery, masks and other items. Jani bought a necklace and others bought a bunch of stuff. I was tempted to buy a mask but then decided not to because of a lack of space at home to put them up. Amongst other things, they also had carvings made out of Mithun bones (a species of ox), wild boar teeth and spinal bones of animals. Interestingly, all the carvings etc were done with a machete which is something I didn’t think was possible because of the size of the blade, but these folks were extremely skilled with the blade and did some intricate work. We also got to meet a real live headhunter who was gracious enough to pose for photos with us. In addition the front of the hut was covered with the skulls of animals that had been sacrificed during festivals. As per their beliefs they keep the skull as a reminder of the sacrifice made by the animal. We could identify wild boar, Mithun, Monkey, bison skulls amongst others which was quite fascinating.

Sunset photo I took near the homestay

After food and meet and greet we walked around for a bit before it became too cold to hangout outside and got some nice photos of the sunset. Post dinner we hung out for a bit before crashing as we were all tired from the long drive. The rooms we were in were a concrete structure but the walls were extremely thin, to the point that we could hear snoring in the next room and conversations at a normal volume were easily understandable in the other rooms. To make things even more interesting the toilets for the two rooms (ours and the next door room) shared a common wall that only went up 2/3rd of the way. So, anyone in one of the toilets could easily hear whatever was going on at the other side. To reduce the awkwardness we ensured that both were not occupied at the same time. Another very innovative implementation we saw in our bathroom was their version of a shower. As you can see from the pic below, instead of a showerhead which would have been expensive and difficult to maintain they just put a tap on top that you could open to have a shower.

Fancy Showerhead we had in our room

Post shower and breakfast we started the next portion of the itinerary where we walked up to the watch-tower between the India – Myanmar border. Since it was a bit of a distance we did take the car partway and then walked the next. From the tower/viewpoint we could see both India and Myanmar. The views were fantastic and the pics we took came out beautifully. Indu and me took a lot of pics (she took way more pics than me of the landscape while I mostly focused on the people).

Photo at the border, the stone visible in the back is the India – Myanmar border marker

From the watch tower we walked back down to the cars and on the way passed a house having its roof being put up. Interestingly the entire structure was built without the use of any nails etc. They used cords made from bamboo to tie the components together and the roof was covered with palm leaves which were again tied down with bamboo cords. The roof needs to be replaced every five years or so and most of the village comes together to work on it.

Pic taken on the way

Then we drove over to the Ang’s (Chief) and met the king, queen and prince of the Konyak tribe. His house is on the border of the India – Myanmar border and their kitchen is bisected by the border, so half of it is in India and the other half in Myanmar. They also had a lot of indigenous crafts available for sale and a few folks did end up buying from them.

Group photo with the Ang (Chief)

Once we were done meeting with the Ang we walked down to the local gunmaker’s place where we got to observe the gunmaker making a gun from scratch. When we saw him, he was building the stock of the gun and there were a few complete guns on display as well. One person can make about 15 guns a year and they only cost about 20k INR each and they don’t require a license. I really wanted to get one but there was no way for me to get it to Bangalore without getting arrested for carrying a gun without a license. They offered to let us shoot the gun if we wanted and I volunteered thinking that I would get to shoot at a target in a range setup, but unfortunately, they didn’t have such a setup. So I got to fire the gun without a bullet in it (basically a blank shot). Which was interesting but not as fun as firing a proper shot would have been. It was easy to figure out that the gun was locally made and not 100% efficient as some of the gases from the firing came out from the back/side as well and a few sparks hit my cheek. Divya has also wanted to shoot but backed out at the last minute stating that she really liked her fingers and wanted to keep them.

Naga Gunmaker handmaking guns

After people made sure that I was still in one piece and had all my fingers we went on to visit one of the last head-hunters who had captured five (5) heads as a youngster. He showed us the head-hunter victory dance and allowed us to take pics with him and trust me, we were all very polite while dealing with him since we wanted our heads to stay attached to our bodies.

Pic with one of the oldest headhunter

Post the photo session, we drove back to the homestay as we were done with the official itinerary for the day. At the homestay we had our lunch (which was again chow-chow and a few other things) and then Jani crashed and some of us decided to take a walk around the area to the nearby helipad which gave us a wonderful view of the setting sun. Near the helipad there was a field growing radish so me and Divya walked over and picked one (technically stole one) and ate it with our dinner. While waiting for the sunset we just chilled out and got to know each other better.

Picking (or rather stealing a Muli/Radish) from the field

As soon as the sun set the temperature dropped so we all hurried back to the kitchen / central hut where we found a carom board already setup so 4 of us decided to play with me and Divya teaming against Santosh and Indu. It was a lot of fun to play carom after years (decades) and while we didn’t plan our strategy as seriously as the other team we did end up winning multiple times. After a few games, others took over and we hung out waiting for the dinner. At this time some of the other guests who had arrived earlier in the day also joined us so we got to spend time with them as well. Post dinner, we all hung out for a while and Santosh, Jani and Shankar had a dance session with the queen, king and their family members.

Carom session

Picture at the Tribal Kitchen

Group photo outside the homestay

The next day, we started early as we had a long drive ahead of us. Initially we had planned for about 8 1/2 hours but were told that the roads were really bad and took another group 10 1/2 hours to travel the distance. Calling what we traveled roads was being extremely generous as they were ditches & potholes with delusions of grandeur. There is a song that I have been listening to and the lyrics go something like: “Itne Khaddon Se Hoke Nikli Hai Gaadi Nut Bolt Hil Gaya Hai Har Ang Ka” that translates to “The car has traveled through so many potholes that every body part is hurting” and that basically captures what the travel was like. The roads were so bad that we even got a flat because of the bumpy roads. Thankfully we had a spare and were able to change the tire otherwise it would have been a major problem since we were barely getting any signal.

Waiting for the tire change after we had a flat

After over 10 1/2 hours of bouncing we finally made it to Mokokchung in time for dinner. The rooms here were decent but we were all pretty exhausted so we crashed soon after dinner. Next day we started early again without breakfast as the plan was to visit the Longkhum village and have a breakfast picnic over there. The road to Longkhum was bad but not as bad as what we traveled the previous day and we made decent time. The village was quite picturesque and we had a lovely picnic over there and took a ton of photos. The villagers were super friendly and helpful and we had a fun time walking through the village back to the cars.

Panoramic shot at Longkhum

Picnic at Longkhum

Group photo taken at Longkhum

Then it was time to resume our journey to Kigwema near Kohima. The roads were better than earlier but still not good. Basically, there is a lot of construction going on across Nagaland and most of the roads are being expanded and repaved and due to this they are quite bad right now till the work is completed. We made good time with a short stop for lunch on the way and reached the Hills home stay, Konama. The owner Stanley (+91 96128 88938) was there to greet us and helped us get settled in.

Night view from Hills Home Stay, Konama

The homestay only had 3 rooms available, with 5 beds in 1, 3 in one and 2 beds in the last one. We moved beds around so that 5 girls were in the largest room. Jani, me, Divya and Sapna took the next largest one and Santosh, Shankar and Venkat took the last room. Originally the plan was for Santosh and Venkat to stay in tents but with the reshuffling we managed to get everyone to fit in the rooms, which was a good thing because the temperature outside was pretty cold. (At 5am when we checked it was 4 degree Celsius outside).

Full Moon visible from the homestay

The sky was crystal clear and since it was a full moon I took the opportunity to take a few pics of the moon with my phone that in my opinion came out really well. After dinner some of the folks went to sleep early and the rest of us were outside in the cold snugged up to the warm fire with drinks and snacks. We managed to get Shankar to dance and he then ensured all of us got up and danced as well. It was good that we were the only guests at the place since we were making quite the racket. There are videos of our dance but they will not be shared as we are all pretty bad dancers (except for Shankar and Uma). The dance party continued for a while and then as we were all tired we crashed as the next day we had the Hornbill festival to attend.

Hanging out in the cold outside

Early morning pic of the ladies

The day after started with a nice breakfast in the sun post which we all walked over to the Hornbill festival. The Hornbill Festival is an annual festival celebrated from 1st to 10th of December to encourage inter-ethnic interaction between the tribes and to promote cultural heritage of Nagaland. It is also called the Festival of Festivals and was started in Dec 2000.

At the entrance of Hornbill Festival

When we got to the venue we found nice seating right in the front, but what we didn’t realize at that time was that that particular area of the amphitheater was empty because it was in the direct sun. I walked around the venue quite a bit to get some really awesome photographs of the tribal performances. Towards the middle of the show I found the perfect spot to take photos from and basically didn’t move from there for the remaining show. Each tribe showcased their cultural heritage, which included songs sung during harvest, games played by the youngsters, contests of skill and courage etc. The morning half of the show ended with the tug-of-war contest between various tribes and it was fun to watch. The winners of these games claim bragging rights for the rest of the year and also get a cash prize.

Our seating during the cultural events

Tribal Dance during the event

During the lunch break the group broke up in two, with vegetarians going one way and the non-vegetarians going another. We veg folks had a Chinese buffet while the nonveg folks tried a bunch of weird stuff like silkworms etc. The second half of the cultural event was as interesting as the first half and this time I went and sat in the venue itself on the grass and got some more fantastic pics and videos.

Tug-of-war participants preparing for their match

Once the show ended, we all walked over to the stalls to check out the massive range of stuff available. We bought a bunch of stuff even though we weren’t planning to buy much except a naga-shawl. After we got tired of shopping we had a snack break where I ordered two drinks that sounded cool but were pretty bad. Divya was kind enough to help me finish the coffee but I had to finish the other one (cranberry + vodka). As soon as we had fortified ourselves with food, we resumed walking around the festival to see all the huts etc that had been setup that showcased how each of tribes traditionally built their houses. Took a ton of pictures and explored a lot of the setup and by then it was time for the music festival part of the show to start so we headed back to the main arena to grab a good seat.

Group pic in front of a tribal hut

By this time the sun had set and the temperature was dropping fast. We were one of the first to reach the stage and got a nice seat on the grass. The evening show started with Swarathma who have been doing a collaboration with 14 tribes to showcase their traditional music mixed with Swarathma’s music style. I have heard the band before a couple of times and really enjoyed them. Even this time though the collaboration didn’t always work overall the performance was excellent. The band which followed them unfortunately wasn’t that great and played songs that were quite depressing. As per Jani the singer must have had a recent breakup and was thus torturing us by playing breakup songs. By this time, most of us were freezing and Jani wasn’t to be seen as she was buried under so many layers of clothes that it was difficult to identify her. So, we all decided to head back to the homestay to warm up.

Hornbill Festival 2022

Waiting in front of the stage for the concert to start

At the homestay after we defrosted some of the folks again slept off early and the rest of us didn’t have the courage to sit outside for long so the four of us snugged up in our blankets and chatted late into the night. The homestay folks were nice enough to stay up late to ensure we had hot food and didn’t freeze.

How Jani watched the musical performances at night

After a cozy sleep with freezing temperature outside, we again had a nice breakfast in the sun before starting off to Khonoma which is an Angami Naga village located about 20 km Kohima. The drive was again quite bumpy and because of the poor condition of the road it took us almost an hour to reach the village which is the first green village in India. In addition to being India’s first green village, it is also the site of one of the last major resistance against the British by the Nagas, who were fighting to stop the British from force recruiting Nagas as bonded labourers. The naga forts are quite small as compared to the forts in other locations but looking at the terrain it was apparent how difficult it would have been for an attacker to capture the forts.

The folks here are very simple and trusting. We saw multiple stalls of fruits and snacks where no one was there at the stall but a jar was kept where people would put in the money for whatever they picked up. I thought think that this setup would work in most of the other places in the world but here it looked like it worked beautifully. From what I could see most of the houses didn’t lock their doors either so I guess crime was almost non-existent here.

Photo of the jungle path we saw

Once we were done soaking up the atmosphere and had some really tasty guava’s & oranges we wrapped up for the day and headed back to the Hornbill festival with the idea being to reach there before the second half started. We made it to the venue on time and this time we had lunch at a different setup called the ‘Food Paradise’ where they had multiple stalls selling different kinds of food. We tried the burger, fries, veg noodles and fried rice. The food was decent but the desert was phenomenal and we ended up ordering multiple servings.

Post lunch the group split up into two with Jani, Indu and me heading out to the War Museum and the rest went to see the cultural program at the main amphitheater. The war museum covered the battle of Kohima and it was an eye opener. I don’t remember ever reading about it in history books and reading about the fight sent goose-bumps through my body. You can read about the battle on Wikipedia and on the BBC site. Historians have called it one of the bloodiest battles of World War II but not many people know about it.

After the museum we walked around and explored a bunch of art exhibitions where the local artists were showcasing their paintings and while browsing I really wanted to buy some of them as they were done so beautifully but the price of the paintings was way out of our budget (some of them went up to Rs 2,00,000). One of the exhibits was by an artist who didn’t have hands and had painted the paintings by holding the brush in his mouth. According to the curator they had gotten over 20k postcards with his prints for sale and they were sold out within 2 days. They are also planning to create posters with his work so that more people can purchase his art. Next we walked over to a book exhibition where we picked up two books of folk tales from Nagaland. Haven’t read them yet as we are still recovering from the trip but it is on the agenda.

There was a horticulture exhibit along with a organic produce exhibit next to the book store so that was our next stop. The flower displays were done very beautifully and in the organic produce section we had the tastiest pineapple juice I have had. We picked up some naga-chili pickle along with some other snacks. By this time the cultural festival had ended so we regrouped with the others and had some snacks followed by a bit more shopping and then headed back as none of us wanted to brave the chill for the night music show.

Night time chats

During the walk back we bumped into another friend (Jyothi) unexpectedly who had also come for the festival and it was nice to meet her unexpectedly after a long time. The walk back was cold but uneventful and we once again decided not to brave the cold outside but rather sit in blankets to chat, so we went over to the other room and all of us cozily fit under blankets and chatted for a few hours which was quite fun. Some of the old stories came out from other trips and it was good spending time getting to know everyone. Pretty soon we all decided to crash as we had a long day.

Group photo outside the Hills home stay

Next day was a relatively lazy start as we were not starting that early in the morning. After another tasty breakfast we said our goodbyes to Stanley and family during which everyone got pretty emotional and were on our way to Kohima to visit the Kohima War Cemetery. After having read the history the previous day the cemetery had a lot more impact and allowed me to visualize how the fight must have taken place. The cemetery is beautifully maintained and one of the quotes I saw over there on a gravestone really hit me “When you go home, tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, we gave our today”. We don’t realize how much soldiers sacrifice for us and this quote really sums their sacrifice in one line.

At the Kohima War cemetery

After the cemetery we drove over to the Kohima Cathedral Church which was unfortunately closed due to renovation but from what we could see the church would be very impressive once the renovation is completed. We spent a bit of time outside taking pics but there wasn’t much to see so we quickly wrapped up and drove over to the Kohima Museum.

The museum covers the history and culture of the tribes and was quite interesting. It had a lot more impact since we had seen some of the things being showcased in the museum during the Hornbill festival and during our travel such as the games and the culture of the head hunters etc. Took a lot of photos, some silly others more educational and had a great time. Finally we were done and we started the last leg of the journey towards Dimapur. The roads in this part of the state were a lot better than what we had traveled through earlier so we made good time. We did manage to stop and buy chilies on the way so that mom can make some pickle for me.

We stopped for lunch on the way at this really small place, and while the folks having the thali got proper plates those of us who were having Puri Sabji had to make do with the food being served on a piece of newspaper. Here the food wasn’t that great and we suspect that it caused a few of us to get an upset stomach but as always Kutjarishta helped even though Divya claimed that we were trying to poison her with it. (The faces she made after she drank it were hilarious).

After we reached Dimapur we checked into the hotel and Jani crashed as she had caught a cold, I caughtup with my emails and some of the others visited the night market where they tried more of the weird non-veg foods available. The rest of us had dinner at the hotel only and crashed quickly since by this time we were all feeling like we had been beaten up with clubs during the journey.

Next day it was time for us to head back so we came down for breakfast only to find out that it was taking them hours to serve food. When asked to hurry up they had a standard answer that they only have one chef and that is why things are taking time. Luckily we had budgeted enough time so even with the delay we were on time for the flight back which was long and exhausting. It took us almost 11 hours from the time we left the hotel to the time we reached home in Bangalore.

Last pic at Dimapur just before we started back home

I really enjoyed the trip and the friends we made during it. The conversations we had ranged from philosophy to mythology to movies to travel stories. If I tried writing down all the stuff we were talking about this post would be another 10-15 pages longer.

It was really difficult to select the pics for this post. There are a ton of other pics that I wanted to share but would have made the post unwieldy so I ended up not sharing. Jani has shared a lot of the pictures from the trip over on Facebook so you can check it out here. Let me know if you don’t have access.

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

– Suramya

November 19, 2022

I am a speaker at SmartBharat 2022 Conference

Filed under: My Life,Tech Related — Suramya @ 11:56 PM

Happy to announce that I am one of the speakers at SmartBharat 2022 and I will be presenting on “IoT and Opensource: Re-purposing hardware & Improving interoperability“. My session is scheduled for 24 November at 12:30 PM in hall 2. As a kid I would read EFY regularly and now I am presenting at one of their conferences so this is a pretty big deal for me.

You can register for the conference at:

If you are coming for the conference do stop by and say hello, I am planning on being there for all three days of the conference. Post the conference I will share the slides (and the video if possible) here.

– Suramya

October 20, 2022

I am a Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst (CTIA) now

Filed under: Computer Security,My Life — Suramya @ 10:17 AM

I’m happy to share that I’ve obtained a new certification: CTIA (Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst) from EC-Council.

Certification Number Certification Name Issue Date Expiry Date
ECC8907421563 Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst October 17, 2022 October 16, 2025

With this I have completed 4 out of the 5 certifications I am eligible for after my degree in Cyber Security. The last one is CHFI and I will be attempting that shortly.

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

– Suramya

October 7, 2022

I am now a CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)

Filed under: Computer Security,Linux/Unix Related,My Life — Suramya @ 6:23 PM

Gave my CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) exam on 3rd Oct and have successfully cleared it.

Certification Number Certification Name Issue Date Expiry Date
ECC8907421563 Certified Ethical Hacker October 3, 2022 October 02, 2025

The exam was interesting and required a bit of memorization but over all not bad. I do wish they allow us to access the books or use the tools on the computer. I have a hard time remembering the parameters for commands and there were a few questions in there about what parameter would you use to do x. Normally I would do a man command before running it but here I had to remember the commands so it was a bit more annoying and required some extra effort to memorize, other than that the questions were great and required a lot of thinking and knowing the system.

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

– Suramya

September 15, 2022

Thoughts on the Bangalore flood and how its citizens banded together to help each other

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 8:51 PM

The past few weeks have been pretty bad publicity for Bangalore with the flooding and the ineptitude of the BBMP and other govt services on full display, however I am going to talk about another aspect of the situation that I feel didn’t get enough coverage: The human factor and how people from various aspects of life banded together to deal with the situation together.

I was traveling during the floods so I managed to miss the major part of the flooding, but last year I wasn’t that lucky. I was visiting a friend back in Dec 2021 and didn’t realize that the water in the underpass was rising quickly and my car stalled as soon as I was half way through. I tried a few times to restart and with the water rising quickly I immediately got out of the car and tried pushing it out of the water. I wasn’t very successful because the car was heavy and not moving much. While I was trying this 3 guys passed by on scooters/bikes and they saw that I was struggling so they immediately parked their bikes and waded into the hip deep water with sewage mixed in it without me even asking them for help. They pushed the car out of the water and up to the main road through the water and the torrential rain. They only spoke Kannada and we both (Jani and me) don’t speak it so we just communicated with gestures and sign language. But none of that mattered these folks didn’t stop to ask if I was a northie or a proper kannadiga before they helped me in the middle of the night. Once the car was out and they were certain that we were ok they started to walk away and when I tried to give them some money but they refused. I insisted and forced them to take it because I wanted to show my gratitude and it was the least I could do. I wish I had asked for their names so that I could thank them and name them but I was a bit too frazzled to think of that at the time and by the time I remembered they were long gone.

This is what I will remember when people talk about Bangaloreans or people from the south being rude. It is just not true these guys didn’t have to help us, but they did it without us even asking for it. All they saw was that someone was in trouble and immediately helped.

The same scene played out in the recent floods as well where random people helped to push stranded vehicles to safety, farmers in tractors were helping people get to safety and boats rescued people from flooded areas etc etc. This was not the government coming in to help but people helping their neighbors and even random people who just needed help. There are so many stories that played out during this time that should have been captured but most people who helped were just being good humans and that is what we need more of in these times; people helping each other. This does help shore up my faith in humanity. After the floods folks in Diamond District have been donating money and essential supplies to help the people in slums (and other impacted areas) and the same is the scene at a few other apartment complexes as well. Companies are also looking at using their CSR budgets to help.

We need to celebrate these small acts of kindness and humanity. Trust me that these will be remembered for longer than random idiots on Twitter calling for all ‘northies’ to get out. I commented on a tweet by a friend whose apartment complex was flooded and even I had an idiot telling me to get out of Bangalore, but they are a vocal minority. Most people want to help and were/are helping as much as they can and I was happy to see the city where I have been living for over 2 decades come together to face this disaster together.

That all being said, the government and the agencies that allowed the situation to deteriorate this badly should be held accountable and action must be taken against them. This didn’t need to happen and the loss of life and property damage is their fault.

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

– Suramya

August 5, 2022

Happy to report that I have successfully cleared the Certified Network Defender exam

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 4:42 PM

I am really happy to report that I have cleared my Certified Network Defender exam. This is the second Cyber Security certification that I have done (I have 3 more pending) as they were included in my Cyber Security degree. It was a lot more interesting and had less stuff to memorize than the CSA exam but required a lot more study.

Certification Number Certification Name Issue Date Expiry Date
ECC1609574283 Certified Network Defender July 28, 2022 July 27, 2025

I will be completing the rest of the certifications shortly. Well this is all for now, will write more later.

– Suramya

– Suramya

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