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Friday, 20 September 2013

Long Weekend Getaway: Part 6: The Sringeri Stay

Continuing on from the 5th part:

After the Kundadri exploration, it was time to plan the night stay for day 1, and since we had decided not to go back to Agumbe as that would have costed us a lot of time the next day in our travel towards Jog Falls, we had decided to go to Sringeri and stay there. Ashok, the auto driver dropped us at Bidaregudi, a town 15 kilometers away from Sringeri, and guided us about the bus timings to reach Sringeri. By the time we had a hot cup of coffee at Bidaregudi, the bus was there, and we ended up at Sringeri at 7:30 in the evening. We visited the Sharadamba Temple right away, and had the Prasadam at the temple as our dinner and proceeded to take rest at the lodge we had booked on arrival.

The next day early in the morning, Karthik and myself payed another visit to this serene place of Bhakti, witnessed the Puja offered to Sharadamba and Vidyashankara and various other deities in the temple complex, and soaked in the atmosphere of sacredness that one gets at the very first moment of stepping into the complex. Even as many families brought their little kids for their initiation of studies through "Aksharabhyasa", other devotees bathed at River Tunga, at her ferocious best, but appearing somewhat tempered by the early morning calmness.

This visit was more for the mind and soul, and no words or pictures can explain the tranquility it brings. And we had our breakfast in Sringeri and started towards Sagara, to catch a bus to Jog from there.

Some images of the Vidyashankara Temple

The Sharadamba Temple

The Tunga River early in the morning

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Long Weekend Getaway: Part 5: Kundadri Hill Greenery and the Jain Temple

Continuing on from the 4th part:

We had the option of going to the other famous waterfalls near Agumbe, the Onake Abbi Falls, but the Dodda Mane folks were quick to let us know that the number of leeches we would encounter there would be ten times of what we saw at Barkana Falls. We thought we had seen enough waterfalls for the day, and decided to have lunch at Dodda Mane, take rest for about an hour and head towards Sringeri where we had planned to stay overnight.

The Dodda Mane lunch served by Kasturi Akka was heavenly, and having trekked along in incessant rain and braved the leech attacks, we definitely needed that. But just as we were planning a slow evening after coming back from Barkana, the auto driver Ashok had planted the seed of taking us to the Kundadri Hillock, where we could witness the evening mist, enjoy the ride to the top, visit the 17th century Parshwanatha Tirthankara's temple, and be amongst more greenery. This is one of the potential sunset points by the looks of it, but the Sun had decided to not show up throughout our trip anyway.

So, we went there in his auto with dangerously low levels of brake oil that ensured his drive back was mostly in careful first gear (as if we were not having enough fun already), and witnessed some really cool breeze and algae covered slippery slopes.

The priest gave a good overview of the ancient Parshwanatha temple, and we enjoyed about an hour there as nature played hide and seek with thick mountain mist covering all around the region.

Here are some pictures from the trip to Kundadri:

Anurag climbs the last few steps to the Kundadri hilltop

The 80 feet deep pond that neither dries up nor overflows throughout the year!

Foggy and Green. All around

An inscription describing the construction details of the Parshwanatha Jain temple 

Adinatha, the first Tirthankara, on the right side of the temple entrance

Chandranatha, the eighth Tirthankara, on the left hand side of the entrance

The main deity, Parshwanatha, inside the temple

The temple in the fog

More of green everywhere...

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Google Doodle on the 97th Birthday of M. S. Subbulakshmi

Google came out with this doodle on the 97th Birth Anniversary of Carnatic Music Legend M. S. Subbulakshmi:

Surely, they could have done better.

First thing that turned me off was the Sari in the MSS depiction in letter 'g'. The caricature is nice, but that gray dull Sari is not what you associate MSS with. She was graceful and humble and was personification of great Bhakti in her simple, yet colourful Silk Saris.

And the Tabla, as my friend pointed out, was probably a very rare accompaniment in MSS concerts. Tabla is more of a Hindustani percussion accompaniment, but we can consider it as indicative of the Meera Bhajan recitals of MSS. But Tabla is a pair of drums, not one. The two of them would have perfectly fitted the "oo" part of the word Google. Ghatam could have become the final 'e'. By the way, what are those meaningless concentric circles representing 'G' and 'e'?

How can one forget "Bharat Ratna", which would have fitted into the letter 'G' perfectly?

Here is my 'wireframe' attempt towards this:

And, Happy Birthday MSS :)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Historic Test Series: Zimbabwe V Pakistan 2013: Zimbabwe Player Report Card

Yes, what a series, what nail biting test cricket and for those who watched the series between Pakistan and Zimbabwe, although the scoreline read 1-1 in the end, it was clear that Zimbabwe won 8.5 out of 10 intensely fought days of cricket. I was looking forward to bring out the ratings of the Zimbabwean players for this series, since most players would be getting good ratings for a change :) .

Here are the score cards:

So, here are my analysis and ratings - out of 10:

Tino Mawoyo: 5

Coming back from a long injury lay-off, there were question marks on his form and fitness, but Pakistan is a team he should not mind playing even if he is woken up at the stroke of midnight, what with the 163 not out and all that. He did struggle in the first test, and got a rough decision in the first innings of the second one to make matters worse, but boy what a knock in the second dig and what a partnership with Hamilton Masakadza. That was the most difficult phase of the series for us batting-wise, with the pressure of consolidating the lead and wresting the initiative, and that patient 58 amidst some remarkably accurate bowling by Pakistanis rates very high. His chirping in the first test to win mind games against Saeed Ajmal the batsman earns him extra half a point :).

Vusi Sibanda: 3
He got one score of 30+ in the series where every other batsman made at least one good contribution. He is soon becoming the focus of attention as the weak link. He is probably the most talented player in the team (in absence of Williams) but unless he showcases the talent and performs, no amount of talent matters. He held on to his catches, which is a plus and is generally quick in the field, but is in a precarious position with his place in the starting XI.

Hamilton Masakadza: 8

What a series, what an excellent series for the only remaining link to the Flower-Streak era. Burdened with captaincy an hour before the beginning of the first test with no heads up whatsoever as Taylor went on paternity leave, Masakadza captained so well that coaches, experts, and the opposition camp alike kept singing praises. Brought in a great deal of imagination, enjoyment and chirpiness in the field, but probably got affected by the burden when he batted. Took the attack to Saeed Ajmal - the most important thing Zimbabwe did in this test series, and as Taylor took over captaincy in the second test, brought out all his experience to finish as the outstanding batsman of the test, playing the two most important knocks of his life. The second innings rough decision was an anticlimax, but every one of those 44 runs and the way he got them, Gold! Bowled with the same stinginess and control that he is known for, but was unlucky not to get in the wicket column due to dropped catches.

Brendan Taylor: 7
Came back from the paternity leave, looked very scratchy and out of form, but to his credit, stuck it out well, as the two most senior guys in the team laid the foundation for the Zimbabwean victory in the first innings. Had a tricky 4th day to handle, and although did not achieve what most people hoped for - taking Zimbabwe lead beyond 300 - he did well to take time out of the game and added a few runs too. Captained way better that what he has done in recent past, so earns points there too. Little Mason Taylor who made sure daddy missed the first test was there to witness the Zimbabwe win on the last day, probably the youngest kid in the cricketing lineage to witness his country's test victory :). Pic below, of young Mason, courtesy, Brendan Taylor's twitter account...

Malcolm Waller: 6
Form got progressively worse as the series progressed, but a solid counter attacking knock in the first test set the tone and went a long way in Zimbabwe winning many sessions of the first test. His catching in the second innings of the second test under immense pressure was another highlight. Should have done better with the bat in the second match though, given the form he had gotten into through the ODIs and the first test.

Sikandar Raza: 6.5

What a debut! What positive attitude. That makes you wonder what would have happened in the T20s and ODIs if he had played all the matches. Excellent counter attack in the first test in partnership with Waller, and tried the same again in the second innings there too. Lightning and chirpy in the field, he lifted the spirits of the team throughout the match. Unfortunate to miss out in the second match as the captain returned, but you can't keep him out for long.

Elton Chigumbura: 6
He was playing this series effectively only as a batsman as his bowling gave way in the ODI series, raising eyebrows and legitimate questions about his presence in the playing XI. He did very well with the bat in the first match though, controlling his aggressive approach and adding very valuable runs to the team total. Unlucky in the first innings of the second test as the pitch got the better of him. Bowled tightly in his only spell of the series.

Richmond Mutumbami: 6
Solid behind the stumps throughout the series, and probably scored the most important 29 in the history of Zimbabwean cricket in the last innings of the series. Made many a fans along the way, and the test wicket keeper debate is now put to rest for a while. Tough character, fighting spirit and chirpiness in the first test in particular, adding to his final tally.

Prosper Utseya: 6
Zimbabwe needed an attacking spinner, but Utseya isn't one. But to his credit, Utseya's bowling in the first innings of first test was excellent. He was actually attacking the batsmen, and took wickets in the second innings there too. Dismal in the second test, but took crucial wickets in the second innings. Batted with lots of heart and even fronted up to open the innings in the absence of Vusi. Won my heart with that there, always a team man.

Tinashe Panyangara: 9

Well, I wasn't sure if he can take the rigors of test cricket, but boy, did he come through in flying colours? Great to see him in the form he is in. Second innings of first test and first innings of second test being highlights. And good contribution with the bat too in the second match. Excellent stuff.

Shingirai Masakadza: 8
There was no reason to drop him for the second, but Zimbabwe seem to have so many options these days with the pace bowling, and his replacement did well too. But in the first test, he was probably the standout bowler without much to show in the wickets column. He created pressure from his end which led to wickets at the other end too. And played an important lower order knock there as well. Lion-hearted and ever energetic. Great performance when he got his chance.

Tendai Chatara: 10

Well, no, i'm not stopping at 9.5. The guy did everything he could and lots more. Lower order batting and sensational bowling. We haven't witnessed such commanding bowling performance throughout a series since Heath Streak's days. I'll not belittle him by trying to explain this further.

Brian Vitori: 8
Another guy whose fitness was in question. Many did not see too much sense in disturbing the successful pace bowling combination from the first test, but Vitori came on, and strolled through to a 5 wicket haul! And contributed with the bat. 4th day bowling could have been better, but an excellent performance nonetheless.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Long Weekend Getaway: Part 4: Agumbe: Barkana Falls Trek

The next stop after the Jogi Gundi Falls was the rain forest trek to the nearby Barkana Falls, which is formed by the Sita River gushing down - one of the highest falls in the country - in the top ten to be precise - a curtain raiser before we went to the big Jog Falls itself. The auto driver Ashok took us a couple of kilometers further from Jogi Gundi Falls, and brought a "Guide", a local student who was happy enough to help us navigate through the forest to reach the falls. We were supposed to walk from there through the dense forest, to reach the destination. With incessant rains throughout the last month or so, the path was soggy throughout, and there were leeches, quite a lot of them, welcoming us gleefully. The choice of wearing the shoes instead of slippers for the trip (for the three of us, Thomas, Karthik and myself) was vindicated / looked foolish, depending on how you wanted to look at it.

There were enough warnings at the Dodda Mane about leeches at Barkana Falls and the precautions to be taken. They had guided us to preparing a mixture of castor oil and snuff, which is supposed to act as a deterrent for leeches (or "Anti-leech Solution", as Thomas preferred to call it). We applied it on our hands and legs before we started off on the trek with the guide, which also meant that we had very little opportunity to take more pictures as we progressed, with hands all dirty, smelly, and us needing to be on out toes (quite literally) to avoid leeches climbing on us.

There was that other group of four too, who had come well prepared with shoes tailor made for treks in rainy forests. But in the end, as we found out, all of us were in the same catch 22 situation when it came to leeches climbing onto us, and the anti-leech solution ended up becoming the postprocess suffocator for the leeches more than the preprocess deterrent it was supposed to be. (I sincerely apologize for the software developer language in this paragraph, but I seriously felt like sticking it in there, especially as this was about "sticky" leeches, and in any case, it is better than the management lingo like "heads up" which I pondered using for the word "warning" in the previous paragraph. Anyway, let us get back on track...)

So, we braved the leeches (towards the end of the onward journey, we were so frustrated at the sight of leeches that we threw caution to the wind and started ripping them out from their stronghold on our shoes and legs instead of being careful - it worked like a charm in most cases) and reached the "view point" for the Barkana Falls, only to realize that the whole area was covered in mist and we could barely see the person standing next to us. Heavy rains pounded for half an hour again, we braved more leech attacks, and then got the glimpse of the Barkana Falls far away from the view point through the clearing mist. The picture that was definitely worth taking all the pain of hiking in the slippery rainy forest removing leeches. The valley was filled with greenery everywhere, and although we could not be close to the water like in Jogi Gundi, the effort put in to reach this blissful place, and the elegant falls far away signifying the beauty of nature, made us forget everything and take in the sights, sounds and the fresh air for about an hour's time, before we headed back to the village.

Here are some photographs of the Barkana leg:

The starting point of the trek. Looked quite a simple walk in the park here.

We were surrounded by forests and mist as we proceeded further...

And we had to cross these streams regularly, this, the starting point for leeches

The view point when we reached there. The Falls must be there somewhere...

The path looks so serene when not raining, and when you blank out the leeches from the mind

The first glimpse of the Barkana Falls

And in full bloom...

The valley full of greenery

Folks drenched in rain, posing in front of the Barkana Falls "view"

Lush paddy fields back at the village

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Long Weekend Getaway: Part 3: Agumbe: Jogi Gundi Falls

Continuing on from the second part:

Just as we eased into the rainy day at Agumbe at Kasturi Akka's Dodda Mane, we were also wondering how to achieve our plan of visiting the three waterfalls in and around the town. As if they had understood our thoughts, Kasturi Akka and her family members suggested that we can get the help of Ashok, an Auto driver who regularly carries the tourists around the town, to the falls and the hills. As the Independence Day march past went on, he was ready for us to get into his auto, with plans to take us to the first of the waterfalls, Jogi Gundi. It was close by, about 4 kilometers from the town center, and the vehicle could go all the way, except for a couple of hundred steps inside the lush green forest, where every tree was drenched and dripping with rain water.

We also had another team of four Agumbe explorers who started from Dodda Mane in Ashok's auto, and we were at the entrance of the forest in no time. As we walked in, the greenery was so dense that it started looking like it was 7 in the evening, although it was still 10:30 in the morning. The rains were incessant, but we were super excited about the long watery day ahead, and the first sight of the Jogi Gundi falls took our breath away. It was a relatively small waterfall sorrounded by a pool of water, from where the water flew downhill with great intensity.

We enjoyed a blissful hour of seclusion from the townships, with great sights and sounds of mother nature being our only company. Words can't describe the amazing time we had there, so let us directly get to some of the photographs...

Karthik and Thomas as we enter the forest that is home to Jogi Gundi

First look at the Jogi Gundi Falls

Us at Jogi Gundi

The roaring crystal clear falls

Anurag contemplates, surrounded by water

And joy for Thomas as he faces the falls

Water gushes downstream from the pool

Thomas and Karthik as we head back out

Anurag and I say a final goodbye to the Jogi Gundi natural beauty