Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

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: https://www.iotshow.in/

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

Iโ€™m happy to share that Iโ€™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.

โ€“ Suramya

– Suramya

July 10, 2022

It’s a wrap: Done with my Cyber Security Degree!

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 6:12 AM

After a bit more than a year and half of studying, I have completed my Degree in Cyber Security from EC Council University. The course was quite interesting and I learned a lot during the classes.

I am happy to tell you that I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the course along with being on the President’s list.


Final score

Now that things are done, it’s the beginning of a new chapter in life for me to work on some new and interesting things.

– Suramya

June 25, 2022

Attended Siddesh’s wedding reception today

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:35 PM

Today I attended the wedding reception for one of my close friends who we all thought would never get married. Siddesh had always told everyone that he wasn’t planning for ever getting married so it was a surprise to get a message from him stating that he was getting married and the reception was on 25th. His wife was also someone I knew so it was a certainty that I would attend the reception. So today me and Jani went over to the reception and met up with a few of the old Goldman co-workers who had come for the event as well.

It was great catching up with everyone even though we didn’t get a chance to talk much with Siddesh & Soumya much since they were busy with the traditional photo session at the reception. Things have really changed in the past 5 years since I left GS so it was great meeting everyone again. I will try to catch up with the both of them post the completion of my finals tomorrow assuming they are still in town.


Gaurav, Saloni, Subbarao, Rakesh, Jani and myself at Siddesh’s reception

We do have a pic with Siddesh & Soumya as well but that was taken by the official photographers so will get it once the official pics are shared. Wishing the two of them a very Happy Married life together.

– Suramya

May 26, 2022

Visiting Sikkim: Home to glaciers, alpine meadows , Monasteries and lots of wildflowers

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 11:53 PM

The North east has always been a part of India that is not as well explored as the rest of India and it has been on our list of places to explore for a while now. Last year we traveled to Assam and Meghalaya and over the last week we did a week long trip to Sikkim with Exotic Expeditions and it was an amazing experience. It was our 3rd trip with them and as always Santosh made sure we all had a great time. The trip was supposed to be for 9 days but due to Jani’s exam getting rescheduled to the day after we were supposed to fly out, we had to miss the first day and half of the trip. Thankfully the first 2 days were mostly the shopping and stay in Gangtok which we were ok to miss, as we had another evening in Gangtok half-way through the trip.

The start of this trip was pretty hectic, both me and Jani had our exams (my mid-terms and her 3rd sem) so we barely slept and had to leave home at 2:30am to reach the airport on time for the 5:30am flight. The flight was fairly smooth and we reached on time, But then we had to take a cab from the airport to Dzongu to catch up with the rest of the group. Due to the issues with inner line permits the cab we got from the airport couldn’t go all the way so the driver coordinated and got hold of another guy who would take us the rest of the way. The drive was very picturesque but we both dozed of for the most of it as we had hardly slept for 2 days.

Unfortunately the road system in Sikkim is amongst the worst in India beating even Bangalore (which is a hard thing to do). So the drive was not super comfortable as the roads are full of potholes and in some places there are more pot holes than roads. The issue is exacerbated by the frequent landslides which require a lot of repair work. It was raining in Sikkim from when we arrived there due to the weather disturbance caused by the cyclone in the south and this created a high risk of land slides. In fact we were stuck for about 45 minutes during the drive because there was a road slide ahead of us which was still being cleared. One thing I really like about the drivers in Sikkim is how they all follow the lane discipline, when the traffic is stopped due to something hardly anyone will try to drive on the wrong wide of the road to try to skip the other cars waiting. This ensures that when the issue is resolved the traffic starts moving immediately.

After a few scary portions of the road, a drive under 2 water falls on the road, we reached where Google Maps told us the Lepcha Homestay was located and the map showed that we had to walk about 600m to the place, which was true if you don’t mind climbing a vertical hill with luggage, but since we didn’t want to do that we drove another kilometer or so to reach the place. It was still raining when we reached so we quickly scrambled down to the homestay and settled into our room. This place is basically a traditional Lepcha home and the rooms were cozy and quite comfortable. After freshening up, we had Lunch where they served us fried rice and a local specialty soup made from a local cheese with some other stuff. Initially the soup had a very sharp taste and I thought I couldn’t finish it, but after a few minutes the taste settled and combined with the rice I really liked it. Jani wasn’t much of a fan but I loved it.

Done with Lunch, we finally got to meet the rest of the group as they had also arrived just before we had. There were 9 of us in the group including Santosh which made for a cozy group and allowed us to get to know each other easily (which is sometimes difficult in large groups). This place had a really cozy seating area where we all hung out for a while and after getting to know each other we played dumb charades and had some local made wine. The wine was decent, similar to the homemade wines we get in Goa etc.


Enjoying Tea, Wine and snacks at Lepcha Homestay

The interesting drink we got to try was the ‘tongba’, which is made from fermented millet. It is a popular drink in Sikkim and Nepal. The drink is served in a bamboo container also called Tongba which is filled to the brim with the fermented millet seeds and boiled water is poured in it to the brim. It is then left undisturbed for about five minutes after which it is ready to drink. You use a bamboo straw to drink from the container and as the level of water goes down you can refill it with hot water to renew the drink. Each container can be refilled multiple times before you need to replace the seeds. There is a local ‘superstition’ (if you can call it that) that you should never mix the drink with the straw when drinking it. If you do that then you will get drunk very quickly as it will hit you badly. The drink tastes a bit like beer which Santosh liked so he finished it after the rest of us had a taste.


Trying out tongba, a local drink

Dinner was a traditional spread of food which was quite tasty. Post dinner we didn’t have much to do as it was still raining so most of the folks went to bed early while Jani, me, Santosh and Chaitanya sat outside our cottage and chatted till late night. Had a surprise visit by a frog which crossed the sitting area in 3 jumps making us all jump out of our seats when it first appeared. Since Chaitanya and a few of the others were planning on waking up early (~6am) to go to the nearby monastery we didn’t stay up too late. We would have loved to go to the monastery but it was raining (plus we hadn’t had much sleep the past 2 days either) so we decided to sleep in. Got up to lovely birdsongs and had a traditional breakfast (with a few non-traditional items added in) and we were ready for the next portion of the trip.


Group photo outside the Lepcha Homestay

We started the drive to Lachung in high spirits and enjoyed the views while driving. We had to get out of the car in the middle because the road was broken and the driver was worried about damaging the underside. I was planning on making fat jokes but managed to stop myself in time to avoid being beaten up by the three ladies in the car. ๐Ÿ™‚ It took us about 3-4 hours to get to Lachung and on the way we stopped at this amazing waterfall for pictures. When we asked about the name of the waterfall we were told that there were too many waterfalls in Sikkim for them to name each one and during the rainy season new ones come up all the time. It was freezing cold due to wind chill so we quickly took some pics and then ran back to the cars to continue on the way.


Jani and me at the unknown waterfall


Group Pic (Chaitanya, Neha, Saniye and me) near the waterfall

After a bumpy drive we reached Lachung and checked into the Wonder Hill Inn which was where we were staying. That is when we found out that there was a severe rain warning in effect through out north Sikkim and due to the heavy rains all of north Sikkim had lost power. Based on the history of such incidents we couldn’t be sure when the power would be back but we were hopeful. So after checking in and freshening up Jani, me and Neha decided to walk around to the shops nearby whereas Saniye and Chaitanya hiked to the nearby Monastery and Tasneem and family decided to call it an early day as they were feeling the effects of the height combined with motion-sickness. Walking around we bought some good quality woolens for quite cheap and Jani found an interesting new dish made of Yak meat to try out. Apparently it was quite tasty and both Santosh and Jani quite enjoyed the dish. Dinner was at the hotel but only three of us (Santosh, Chaitanya and me) had dinner as the others had decided to skip dinner. We had a candlelight dinner since there was no power and crashed early.

Next day we woke up early and after a quick break-fast headed out to Yumthang Valley followed by Zero point. The hotel had waterproof shoes, gloves and jacket available for rent (for Rs. 250 for the full set, Rs 100 just for the Boots) and because the lady told us that we would need to cross a stream we all ended up getting the boots. However, it wasn’t required since the stream had a small wooden bridge over it. It is very cold there so if you don’t have a proper jacket/gloves I recommend you rent a set. The water proof shoes on the other hand were a waste in my opinion but you might feel differently. The drive to the valley was uneventful and we made good time even with the poor condition of the road. There was a bit of crowd at the valley but it wasn’t too bad.


Jani and Me at Yumthang Valley


Group Pic (Santosh, Saniye, Chaitanya, Jani and me) next to the river

Neha wasn’t feeling too well at the valley due to the altitude (11,693 ft) so she stayed in the car (which was the best thing she could have done) and the rest of us walked down to the river and took pics. Then we fooled around trying to do yoga (All of us), cartwheels (Chaitanya) and hand-stands (Saniye). Saniye even took a Yak ride while the rest of us watched. The view from the valley was awesome and luckily for us the rain had stopped and it was a clear day so we got to enjoy the valley without worrying about getting wet.


The Boy’s posing at the Valley


Trying out Yoga poses


All of us doing different Yoga poses

After a quick discussion we agreed to go ahead to Zero Point, which is called that because that is the last point till which civilians are allowed and after that only the armed forces are allowed access. The area is quite near the Indo-Tibetian/Indo-Chinese border. The drive up took almost 2 hours via a twisty-turny road but we could see an amazing vista around us while going up that kept us engrossed during the drive. We finally reached Zero point which is at 15,300 ft above mean sea level.


Group pic on the way to Zero-Point

We were all excited to go play with the snow but Jani wasn’t feeling too great due to the altitude so after taking a few quick pics she stayed in the car while the rest of us explored. Unfortunately most of the snow had melted so it was a good walk to where the remaining snow was. None of us had the energy to walk over so we just explored the area for a bit and took lots of pics. By the time we were all done, Jani was feeling better so she joined us as we took a break to eat Maggie with Channa (chick pea) and Egg. It was a weird combination but because we were all so hungry it tasted great (plus it had a lot of calories that we needed due to the cold). Me and Santosh also tried the local wine made from Rhododendron flowers which was also quite good and the rest enjoyed hot tea/coffee.


Jani and me at Zero Point


Chaitanya and me with the phenomenal Zero Point view behind us

Due to the altitude we didn’t want to stay for long and just as we were wrapping up it started to snow which gave us additional incentive to rush back to the cars to head back down. Thankfully we made it back before the snow caused problems on the road. Once back at Yumthang Valley we picked up Neha who was feeling better by then and had a quick bite to eat along with some shopping before starting back to the hotel. The power was still not back but was expected to be back by 8pm so we just relaxed and hung out till it was time for dinner. The food at this place was fantastic, even though the folks had to cook it in the dark all the dishes we ordered turned out to be great. Thankfully power came back later in the evening so we were able to charge our phones and power-banks.

Next day, we had an early breakfast and started for Gangtok. It was raining for a good portion of the drive but it had lessened to the point that it didn’t feel like someone was poring buckets of water on the car so we made good time to the hotel (Griffon’s Nest). The drive took almost 6 hours and by the time we reached the place it was time for lunch. We initially thought we would have food that the hotel but they told us that it would take a while because the cook was not there (they had gone out for grocery shopping) so we decided to head down to the market and have lunch there instead.

We (Jani, Saniye, Chaitanya, Neha and me) had lunch at Nimtho, Mahatma Gandhi Marg where we ordered the Sikkimese thali, Thakali thali and Thukpa. The ambience was pretty nice and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves since we were having a really late lunch. I liked most of the items in the thali except this dish made of fermented soyabeans which to me tasted like spoiled beans. I don’t think any of us liked that.


Thakali thali (PC: Neha)


Sikkimese Thali (PC: Neha)

Once we were done with lunch we walked down to the Lal bazaar with the intention of lots of shopping, thankfully for the sake of my wallet the market was closed as it was Thursday which is a holiday for the market. So instead we roamed around the MG Marg and did a bunch of shopping. I got some nice jeans and turtlenecks and Jani got some turtlenecks as well along with some other stuff. This took a while and as we were about done we decided to go for a snack since the shopping had made us all hungry, so we walked over to Bakers Cafe where we managed to snag a seat next to the window and had some really tasty Banana pancakes and coffee/tea/hot chocolate. After chilling there for a while we were ready to head back as it looked like it might rain again but thankfully we made it back before it rained.


Group Pic at M G Marg


Chilling at Bakers Cafe

Once back, we (Jani, me and Santosh) decided to hang out at the terrace seating area at the hotel which was quite nice and pleasant. We all sat there till about 2am and Chaitanya joined us as well half way through. It was good to just chill, have a nice drink (we tried some of the local wine and whisky that we had picked up) and chat. We would have stayed up longer but we had to leave early to make good time for the next day’s itinerary so at ~2 am we had to crash for the night.


Night time view from the Terrace at Griffon’s Nest

Next day was again overcast but not as much rain as before, we drove over some really nice terrain to reach Tsongmo Lake which had a phenomenal view. Jani, me, Neha and Chaitanya dressed up in local ethnic dress for photos which was fun. I really liked the cap as it was very comfortable and warm. There was also a cablecar at the place but none of us went for a ride. I was expecting that we could go down to the water and while there was a path we could take down for the most part we were about 2-4 feet above the water.


Chaitanya, Neha, Jani and me dressed in traditional Sikkimese dress

Then we drove to the old Baba Mandir which is located on the road between Jelepla and Nathula Pass.

The temple is dedicated to Sepoy Harbhajan Singh of the 23rd Punjab Regiment who went missing while leading a pack of mules from his battalion at Tukla to Deng Dhukla. A manhunt was organized when he went missing and as per the legend he himself guided the searchers to his grave by appearing to one of the soldiers in his dreams. Soon after solders started reporting that he was appearing in their dreams asking for a samadhi to be built in his memory at the location. He is supposed to still patrol the area and guards the lives of the soldiers posted along the border. The temple is located near the indo-china border and a lot of soldiers come here to pray before heading out to the border.


View from the old Baba mandir

It had been pretty foggy most of the way but we got lucky when the sky cleared up for a few mins and we got to see an amazing vista in front of us. Took a few pics before it got foggy again and then had a quick bite of spicy pasta to eat before heading out. One thing to know about this place, the toilets are perched on side of the hill about 10 mtrs down from the parking and are not the cleanest in the world. If you can hold it I would recommend you do so. ๐Ÿ™‚

During the drive down the weather cleared up again so we stopped for some pics, just as we were wrapping up the fog/clouds were back and within minutes we couldn’t see anything again. Phone signals were pretty spotty on this road and none of the carriers work here (Airtel, BSNL or Jio). Interestingly we did manage to connect to the China Phone system partway through for a little while, I immediately switched off data so that I didn’t get charged a ridiculous amount accidentally.


At Tukla Valley


Photo’s taken seconds apart showing how quickly the fog was advancing

We got to the homestay (Khangrri Home Stay, Phadamchen) that was a little difficult to spot as it was above the line of sight from the road but it was really nicely done. The flower beds and plants at the place were really amazing and the hospitality was great. It started raining when we got there so we spent a couple of hours playing Bluff after having some pakoda’s and tea. The food was pretty good and the company was even better so we had a great time. Dinner was traditional food and quite good. I especially liked the local ‘pickle’ though it was more like a salad than what we would call a pickle.


Breakfast at Khangrri Home Stay, Phadamchen

It rained throughout the night to the point that our driver was worried about possible landslides on the way. Thankfully we were lucky enough that there were no landslides on the way and drove all the way to Siliguri. The hotel we were staying at was a bit hard to find since there were two places with almost similar names but we managed to arrive in one piece. Lunch was at the hotel only since we didn’t feel like exploring immediately as we were all very hungry.

Post lunch we took an Auto to the Hongkong market which is a place for local shopping along with cheap stuff from China & Hong Kong. It is similar to how the shops are in old Delhi or Palika Bazaar (except that this wasn’t underground). We explored the market for a bit and then as it looked like it was going to start raining decided to head to the Planet Mall which is nearby. The mall was pretty much deserted so we strolled over to ‘Worth the Hype’ to check out if it was indeed worth the Hype. The food there was decent and the drinks were ok. The ambience on the other hand was fantastic though it was surprising that other than our group it was all girls at the place.


At Worth the Hype, Siliguri

Once we were done with the snacks we decided to check out the nearby Baisakhi Mela that we had spotted on the way to the mall. Initially I wasn’t super interested as I thought it would just be a bunch of stalls and a lot of crowd. Inside it turned out that it was a proper mela (fair) with lots of amusement rides and street food to be enjoyed. I didn’t like most of the street food as I found it to be bland but the others seemed to enjoy it. Chaitanya, Saniye and me went for multiple rides and really had a blast. It had been a long time since I have been at an amusement park and now I want to go to one again, with people who enjoy the rides so that Jani doesn’t get tortured riding the rides with me as she really doesn’t enjoy it. The rides were a lot of fun and way better than what I would expect from a small setup like this one. After the last ride where we were suspended upside down we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel. Since we had hogged out on junk food none of us wanted to have dinner and ended up crashing early since we had early flights.


At the Baisakhi Mela, Siliguri


Enjoying the Chaat at the Baisakhi Mela


Artsy pic at the mela

On the last day, we got up early to reach the Airport on time. I was a bit worried about the extra weight in the luggage but we just managed to squeeze by (we were about 600 gms over the allowance) without extra charges. The flight back was uneventful and soon we were back in Bangalore with the lovely Bangalore traffic.

Overall the trip was great, I would highly recommend it to others as well as long as they are prepared to rough it out a bit and not expect super high luxury during the travel. I mean it is possible to travel in high luxury places but then you don’t get to enjoy the local specialties and homestays.

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

– Suramya

May 24, 2022

Human Upgrade 2.0: Patch 3 (Vaccine Booster #1) Applied Successfully

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 4:56 PM

Got our booster dose today with no side effects so far. The process was quick and easy, walked over to Manipal and were in and out within 20 mins including the time to make the payments etc. Had become eligible mid last week (9 months from the 2nd dose) but since we were traveling at the time, we waited till we were back before having the shot, just in case.

I didn’t have major issues with the last 2 doses but did have a bad headache for a few days. Hopefully I will skip the headache as well this time.

PS: Am upset that I am still donโ€™t get a better 5G signal!

– Suramya

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