The Fall of Tataka

Vashishta was surprised to see the caller id of his phone displaying a familiar but not so friendly name. It was Vishwamitra, his colleague and the most capable competitor. Vashishta was wondering why he was receiving a call from him, though in his heart he knew it had to do with his students. Hesitantly he answered the call, “It is always a pleasant surprise when you call. So what favor do you seek from me now?”

Vishwamitra: “You do know, you would be the last person on the earth to ask for a favor. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Vashishta: “What do you want from me?”

Vishwamitra: “Not from you, but your students actually.”

Vashishta: “They are still kids, Vishwamitra. What on earth do you need them for?”

Vishwamitra: “A hacker has stolen a very sensitive data from our facility.”

Vashishta: “You need to track a hacker? It is a simple task, why you need them? What’s the catch?”

Vishwamitra: “Had it been that simple we would not have been having this conversation. We caught the hacker, but the information was already sent to a secure location. I need them to break into the warehouse, retrieve the data and destroy any evidences.”

Vashishta: “Still, you have your commandos who can do this easily. I’m still waiting for the real reason.”

Vishwamitra: “Damn it! You have to make me say it every time! The warehouse is in Tataka’s forest and Tataka is personally guarding the warehouse with her men.”

Vashishta: “Are you out of your mind? It is too risky! They are just kids. I’m afraid I can’t allow this.”

Vishwamitra: “I knew you would say this. That is why I took the liberty to meet them with their parents directly. In fact, I’m on my way to meet them now.”

Vashishta: “Fuck you and your bureaucracy! You guys would go to any lengths to cover your ass!”

Vishwamitra met Dashrath and explained him the reasons why he needed his son and Laxman. Dashrath was hesitant initially, but was convinced later by Ram and Laxman. Vashishta arrived at the scene and tried to warn them of the danger they were walking into. “This is a part of my duty towards my motherland. If I’m not capable of fulfilling it, then I should not exist.” Ram said to calm everyone and to announce his resolve.

Vishwamitra, Laxman and Ram got into a car and proceeded towards the military base.

Vishwamitra: “Ram and Laxman, before we start the mission let me be crystal clear, it is an extremely difficult task and we do not have an official clearance for it.”

Laxman: “So we are going unofficially? What if we are caught?”

Vishwamitra: “Once you enter the forest you will be on your own. If captured, we will deny your existence. You will no longer be the citizen of India.”

Laxman: “Ram? Say something man. Is this really worth?”

Ram: “Relax Laxman, we have trained all these years for something like this. Nothing will go wrong.”

Vishwamitra: “If I were you I would not be so over confident. You don’t even know the place and the circumstances.”

Ram: “As a matter of fact I do know. Your facility was working on human enhancements and recently you had a groundbreaking break trough. This research was stolen by one of your employees and not some hacker. It is now on a hard drive in possession of a bandit known as Tataka, and most likely we will be encountering super humans or mutants created using your research.”

Vishwamitra: “Impressive, Vashishta was not wrong in praising your intellect. But how did you know about this?”

Laxman: “He won’t tell you that. I have been trying to figure it out for years now. I even spied his online activity, but still nothing!”

Ram: “Laxman, next time at least encrypt the crawler and mask it under some different process, I didn’t even have to make any effort to redirect your crawler to my father’s computer.”

Laxman was flabbergasted with Ram’s response. They arrived at the facility and were taken to a secure room, where they held the employee. Vishwamitra pointed towards a location on the map, “This is the warehouse where the hard drive has been kept. It is guarded by 50-60 men. We cannot monitor their activity as this is a densely populated forest which is pretty much inaccessible for our satellites. As far as we know they have installed a defense mechanism for protecting the hard drive.”

Ram interpreted him and asked, “How you know this is the place?”

One of the operators answered him, “This is the only place in the forest with such a large scale human activity. Also we had our reports from the locals around this area reporting about a high tech device being transported.”

Laxman laughed out loud, “It’s a fucking hard drive, it can be transported in a pocket, why would they attract such unnecessary attention?”

“The hard drive is encrypted with a 512-byte cipher block chaining encryption. So you need a high end computing device to decrypt the encryption.” Vishwamitra added with a hint of sarcasm.

Ram signaled the operator to vacant the seat and then started typing on the console, “It’s a goddamn forest people! No one uses internet to that extent in a forest! Cipher block chaining encryption uses IV and a key to encrypt the data, it would take many years to just recover a key for usual 128-bit encryption. We are talking about 512-byte key, so they will be using a grid to combine the processing speed which will require a sending and receiving large number of packets, so now if you look on the screen the areas marked in red are the ones with unusual amount of data packets. There are two areas in particular which have almost same amount of packets exchanged, but the strange thing is these locations are almost 5 km apart. Laxman, don’t just stand there, give me a hand, let us check the topography of this place. Everything in the 10 Km radius of these two particular sites.” Laxman tapped on the shoulder of another operator who was just staring at Ram, and started typing on the console. “You are re-routing the satellite, is this even legal?”, the operator who vacated his seat for Laxman exclaimed. Laxman gave him a cold stare and whispered in dead serious tone, “Mate, your boss brought us here. So nothing is illegal for us. But for you, yes it is illegal! And one more thing from one professional to another, in your career, never ever question the guys your boss brings along as experts, especially when he is still in the room.” Laxman gave him a fist bump and then again continued his work, “There is a maze of underground tunnels in this area. Ram, I’m going nuts, looking at this labyrinth!”

Vishwamitra: “There used to be a mine in that area so the tunnels were created for transportation.”

Laxman: “Well, these tunnels are being used as an escape route now. Ram, the two peaks you mentioned are the two points were all the tunnels meet, basically it’s a station.”

Ram: “What I don’t understand is why two places.”

Vishwamitra: “The other must be for producing the serum, only the last phase of the serum was in the hard disk, rest of the material was not that secure.”

Ram: “Still doesn’t make any sense; decrypting it at different places means additional security at both ends also more chances of attracting attention in a remote place.”

Laxman: “I guess they are using the other place to design high tech weaponry.”

Ram: “That makes perfect sense then! Keeping both at different sites means they can salvage at least one.”

Laxman: “So, Sir what help can you offer us? But before that, just tell me who the fuck gave you the location of the hard drive? It’s almost 50 Km apart from the actual location.”

Vishwamitra: “That is the reason I bought you both here. The forest is in Myanmar, and as you know we have a peace accord with them, so the maximum help we can provide is transport you into the forest. From there onward you are on your own.”

Ram: “That’s fine, we can manage the rest, but before going there we need a couple of things.”

Vishwamitra: “Everything here will be at your disposal. Take anything you need.”

Ram: “First, we need the perfect maps of all the tunnels and if possible we need constant thermal imaging of the two sites. Second, we need a couple of small drones with good cameras.”

Laxman: “And we need access to weapons.”

Ram and Laxman started working on a plan to retrieve the hard drive. Vishwamitra ordered his men to prepare the required equipments and started working on gathering as much intel as possible.

After few hours Vishwamitra was back and looked dejected. Ram asked him the reason.

Vishwamitra: “We have captured one of their men.”

Laxman: “That is a great news, why are so gloomy then?”

Vishwamitra: “I think it will be impossible to retrieve the hard disk. I’m considering to order an airstrike on the entire forest and declare it as a natural calamity.”

Ram: “What have your learnt that worries you so much?”

Vishwamitra: “The captive told us the real use of the tunnels. They are not escape routes, instead those are death traps. One of the two locations you showed, holds a mechanism which is in sync with the decryption. If there is any tampering with the hard disk or even if a few data packets are missed, the mechanism will trigger explosives all around the tunnels, instantly killing everyone inside. The explosives are placed at strategic points that support the entire weight of the tunnels, if any of the explosives is disarmed, the remaining will blow up other tunnels.”

Ram: “Laxman, what is the length of the tunnels?”

Laxman: “The two locations are in the center. So if we take the shortest route it will be around 7 kms patch, but only 4 km of it will be through tunnels. If we take a bike through the tunnel it will take us 8-10 minutes to get in and out of either of the locations.”

Vishwamitra: “You don’t have that much time. Once you disconnect the hard drive, it will take couple of seconds for the packets to go out of sync and the explosives will detonate.”

Ram: “Leave that to us, we will survive and retrieve the disk. Laxman, just take our bow and arrows, and a few knifes. Just drop everything that makes noise.”

Laxman: “Explosive arrow heads?” Ram raised an eyebrow. “Okay. I guess that’s a no then.”

Next day Ram and Laxman were dropped near the Tataka forest, they resumed their further journey by foot. After walking for 2 hours they finally reached near the tunnels. They hid in nearby bushes and prepared for an ambush. As soon as the number of guards at the gate reduced to two, two arrows came flying and hit the guards in the head. Ram and Laxman stripped the guards, wore their uniforms and disposed the bodies.

They traveled through the tunnels to reach the first location on the list. Ram started to check the computer while Laxman was checking for any threats.

Laxman: “Ram, hurry, we got company.”

Ram: “Fuck! Bad luck mate. The drive is not here. It must be at the other location.”

Laxman: “Fuck, now what? The guards will be coming in any second now.”

Ram: “Now, we fight.”

Both of them carried a bow and quiver filled with different kinds of arrows. Ram shot the door with an arrow filled with concentrated acid, setting the door ablaze and killing the guards with the toxic fumes. Laxman shot the militants at the other end of the tunnel. A horde of militants surrounded Ram and Laxman, pointing the guns towards them. They both surrendered with out much fight.

They were taken to detention center and were tied to a chair. They were beaten brutally by the militants and then their commander, named Subahu came to visit the duo. He was a strongly built hunk with long scar that stretched from left forehead to right side of the jaw. The militants stopped as soon as Subahu entered the room.

Subahu shouted, “Who sent you?” seeing neither of them reply he punched Ram in the gut, Ram spat blood and tried to free himself from the chair. Subahu repeated his question, this time targeting at Laxman. Laxman smirked at him and answered, “Take a wild guess nut job! Who the fuck would send us here other than the people from whom you stole.” Subahu lost his temper banged Laxman’s head on the table. He ordered his men to keep an eye on them and stormed out of the room.

Late at night when Ram and Laxman were alone.

Ram: “What is the status?”

Laxman: “The virus is still uploading. It may take a couple of hours more to infect all the hosts in the network.”

Ram: “Once all the hosts are infected, redirect all the traffic to the bomb triggered computer.”

Laxman: “Yes, I have already patched the MAC address in the script. I’m taking a nap, wake me up when the uploading is completed.”

Ram: “How will I know?”

Laxman: “Oh, I forgot to mention that, they have an intruder alarm which didn’t go off when we entered. This time it will go off!”

Ram: “I hate when you change the plans on the go!”

Laxman: “I didn’t tell you because you wouldn’t have allowed it.”

Ram: “Of course not! The less alert they are, the better for us.”

Laxman faked snoring and closed his eyes. Just then the door opened, but this time a man in his late twenties entered. He was wearing a suit and was sporting a handlebar mustache. He smiled slyly and sprinkled water on Laxman’s face. “My name is Marich and I have come to save you guys.”

Laxman: “We know who the fuck you are. We have already met your retarded brother.”

One of the guards punched Laxman’s face with the butt of his rifle. Marich stopped him and asked the guards to get out.

Marich: “You do know that the hard disk is rigged to a bomb, right? You don’t look as dumb as my brother.”

Laxman: “So, was it your idea to use these tunnels?”

Marich: “In every battle the victory is assured to the one who chooses the battle ground. I have spent your entire life in these tunnels, admiring their beauty and complexity.”

Laxman: “I like your intelligence, it would be such a shame if you have to die today. So I would offer you a piece of advice, stay away from these tunnels tonight and you might survive.”

Marich laughed loudly and said, “You are one hell of a funny guy. Even after being held as a captive you dream of the stealing the damn disk. So, I will also offer you a piece of advice, stay away from the disk and you might survive.”

Marich, Subahu and Tataka were planning the next attack using the super soldiers once the disk was decrypted. They were just about to leave when all the alarms started buzzing. They ran to the control room to check what was happening.

Operator: “Sir, I guess we have multiple intruders. All the alarms at all the entrances are buzzing.”

Marich: “Do we have any activity on our cameras?”

Operator: “No sir, the cameras do not show any activity. I fear even the cameras are hacked.”

Marich: “Who is this idiot? Just get the hell out of here. Subahu, order your men to scout the entire area to check for any attack. Mom, do me a favor and check on our captives. I will stay here and monitor everything.”

Tataka wore a khaki attire with a double barrel rifle strapped on her shoulder. She also wore a bandolier around the waist. Tataka ordered the militants guarding Ram and Laxman to open the door and check on them. It was hard to visualize in the UV lights as the main lights were still not functioning due to alarms. Even after 5 minutes there was no reply from the guards. She sent another group inside, they met the same fate. Tataka instantly knew something was off and asked the remaining unit make a formation and surround the room. The walls of the room were made of plywood, which were easily detachable, Tataka ordered the removal of the walls. When the walls were removed, her men were lying dead on the ground, there was no trace of the duo. She was furious at the site, “Go, bring me their heads. How did they escape with we guarding the only exit?”

Ram and Laxman had freed themselves from shackles by breaking the chair in which they were bounded. They collected their bow and arrows which were kept in the same room by the guards, and then patiently waited for the kill. They had heard Tataka giving the order to the guards. Ram and Laxman stood close to the door and just as the guards went closer to the chair they shot the guards with arrows straight in their throats. They collected the arrows again and now waited in the darkest corner of the room. They heard Tataka giving order to the next group and this group also met the same fate as the previous. They heard Tataka speak again, but this time she asked the guards to remove the walls, Ram and Laxman were wearing the same uniform as the guards, they waited till the first wall was removed then joined the closest bunch of guards and helped them to remove the adjacent wall. They escaped under the pretext of keeping the plywood.

Tataka realized two of her guards were still missing and she figured out the two missing guards were none other than the prisoners themselves. She ordered few of them to look for the guys who went to keep the plywood and she took rest of the unit towards the server room where the hard disk was kept, as a measure of safety she ordered them to strip their shirts.

Ram and Laxman had memorized the entire map in the free time. They proceeded towards the location of the hard disk. The guards on their trail cornered them into a tunnel, but Ram and Laxman were took quick with the bows and the guards never got the chance to reach the gun’s trigger. One of the guards who was left behind saw one of his friends fall and he fired in the direction blindly.

Subahu heard the gunfire and ordered his men to return to the server room. Tataka soon joined him and Marich was finally able to establish a contact with them.

Marich: “I still don’t have control over the camera. So I’m blind as of now, but I have cleared the radio channel and at least we can talk now. So what’s the status? Have we captured the intruders?”

Subahu: “I haven’t seen anyone yet. But I heard gun shots so I have ordered all the men to protect the server room. Mom has also joined me with her men.”

Marich: “Joined you? Why? What happened to the captives? Don’t tell me she killed them.”

Tataka: “Wow, my own son thinks so little of me. I have not reached where I’m by being a fool.”

Marich: “I didn’t mean it that way, mom. Anyways that’s not the priority right now. What happened to those two?”

Tataka: “They escaped somehow. I had sent a few guards on their trail, but hearing the gun shots and no return of the guards so far means they have managed to kill them and now are proceeding this way. Marich, do one thing isolate the cameras in this room from the server and we will manually reset them.”

Marich: “I have already done that, now just reset the cameras and we are good to go.”

Tataka and Subahu restarted the cameras.

Marich: “I have the cameras under my control, but still there is no trace of them. Can you send some of your men to reset the remaining cameras in the tunnels?”

Subahu: “No Marich, we do not know the exact number of intruders. It might be possible that there is another group which freed the captives and now are heading this way. We need every possible hand at our disposal to defend.”

Ram and Laxman were listening to the entire conversation between Marich, Subahu and Tataka. They reached near the server room and were observing the enemy formation.

Laxman: “We will have to avoid cameras, we can attack from south and then proceed towards east. There is a watch tower at the east, once we climb that we can take them down easily.”

Ram nodded in approval and they waited for the camera to turn towards left, once camera was facing the left side they stood under the camera and waited for it to turn right. They evaded most of the cameras using this technique. As they came near the watch tower Ram was about to step out when Laxman held him back and whispered, “Look, this camera has a viewing angle of 270 °, it will be impossible to get in the tower without being noticed. There is a wall on the left side of the tower, we can take out the guards on the watch tower and then climb the wall and the tower. You do have the special one with you right?”

Ram: “Of course, how can I forget the one arrow which always gets us out of trouble.”

Ram and Laxman went back in the tunnel and found another tunnel which led them to the wall near the tower. Once they were close to the wall, they grabbed the attention of the guards by shooting an arrow at the top of the tower. All the guards gathered to see who shot the arrow, and took out the radio to inform Marich, his head was decapitated before he could speak anything. Other guards went in a frenzy watching the head of their fellow mate, but before they could recover from the shock, they were shot dead. Ram then shot the special arrow, the arrowhead split into two mid-air, with one head hitting the roof of the tower and other killing the last guard. The force of the arrow made the guard fall down from the tower. The arrow also contained an ultra-thin transparent fiber and a mechanism which converted the first part of the arrow head as a pulley and the second head as the dead weight, the other end of the fiber was attached to Ram’s belt. So as the guard fell down, Ram landed on the top of the tower, Laxman detached the head from the dead guard’s body. Ram threw his belt down at Laxman which caused the free head to come up, he then attached the free head to another dead guard and threw him down. As soon as Laxman reached the top, they took down the guards who were standing away from the cameras. Marich noticed a shoe in the corner of the screen and asked Subahu to check. Subahu saw a bunch of dead guys and shouted at Marich, “What the hell Marich, what are you doing up there? A bunch of the guys die and you don’t know about it?” Marich was surprised to hear that, “I don’t see any dead bodies, Subahu. I don’t think there are any more intruders than these two. These guys are very clever. They know the locations of our cameras very well. I’m coming down there, there is no point watching from here. They are already near the room.”

Laxman saw Marich as he got out from the control room and was about to shoot him when Ram motioned him to stop, “Don’t kill him just now, he will lead us to Subahu and Tataka. Once we know there position it will be easier to take out rest of the guys.”

As Marich reached the northern entrance where Subahu and Tataka were waiting, he heard a cry of one of the men behind him. He instinctively took cover near the shelter and was searching for the source of the arrow that killed the man. Subahu pointed towards the tower and motioned his men to surround the tower. There was a rain of arrows on Subahu and his men as soon as they were in the range. Arrows flew from Ram and Laxman’s bows like bats out of hell. The entire unit of 30 men were eliminated within few seconds, Subahu somehow managed to escape the arrows and took shelter under the shed. All the men rushed to the site hearing the screams of the dying men. Tataka was furious at the site and fired the grenade launcher at the tower. Ram shot an arrow which exploded in midair causing the grenade to explode before reaching the tower. With a lightning speed Ram shot another arrow which lodged into Tataka’s shoulder. At the same time Subahu aimed a bazooka at the tower. Laxman shot an explosive arrow, which hit the bazooka as soon as it left the barrel. Subahu was torn to pieces by the explosion. Like a demon Tataka gave a shrill cry seeing her beloved son explode, and started firing in the direction of the tower aimlessly. She went inside the room and injected herself with the unstable serum. The serum accelerated her cellular growth, healing her wounds instantly. By the time Tataka came out again Ram and Laxman had wiped out almost all the men, just Marich and few of her men remained, they were hiding behind the wall and planning an attack.

Tataka grabbed a cement bag and lifted it as if it was filled with cotton. She hurled the bag towards the tower, Ram and Laxman had just a few minutes to dodge the incoming bag. They were astonished by her strength. Ram shot three arrows in quick succession, taking out her arms and leg. Tataka felt no pain despite losing both the arms. Another set of arms started generating as a result of the serum. She kicked the base of the tower, demolishing it in few blows. Ram and Laxman jumped on the roof just in time to avoid the impact. Marich was terrified at his mother’s new found strength, but he quickly regained his composure and ordered his men to be injected with the serum.

Laxman: “How the fuck are we going to kill these beasts? We cut them down they get restored,  for them this is just like a game with cheat codes on, you are on verge of dying just enter the cheat code and voila, you are back to 100% again!”

Ram: “Look carefully, it is not back to 100% always. The regeneration process is not proper, look at that guy’s fingers, there are 7 fingers instead of 5.”

Laxman: “So you mean keep shooting until they die? That might take ages with these normal arrows and we can’t blow things up because we are under a fucking tunnel!”

Ram: “A little fire will do the trick. I hope you have put the mini flamethrower in one of these arrows.”

Laxman: “Yeah, I have couple of those, but one arrow can burn only one person at the max, we are talking about 25 super humans.”

Ram: “Let us split, you stay here and cover me, I will get the hard drive.”

Laxman aligned three machine guns in an arc position and tied a string to each of its triggers, as he pulled the string all three guns started firing in different directions creating chaos among the men on the receiving end. He also shot them with arrows in heart and head. A headshot meant 5-6 minutes of time for the regeneration process, while the shot in heart required 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, Ram climbed down the roof and started running towards the lab, Laxman cleared his path. Tataka understood this and she caught up with Ram, before Laxman could shoot her, she held Ram by his shoulder and threw him against the wall. Laxman shot 3 arrows at her in quick succession, which gave Ram time to steady himself.

Laxman, over the walkie-talkie: “Sorry, she was too fast.”

Ram: “I know, I barely had time to react. Anyways leave her to me, you keep other engaged.”

Laxman: “Roger that!”

Ram shot Tataka in head five times with his revolver, but still that didn’t have any effect on her. She charged at Ram like a wild elephant. Ram dodged her and shot her with arrows in the back. Seeing the weapons having no effect on Tataka, Ram targeted her joints and started shooting arrows in her joints. But she removed the arrows quickly before Ram could shoot another. Ram shot her in eyes with two arrows simultaneously, Tataka was blinded momentarily, taking the advantage Ram escaped from her vicinity and proceeded towards the computer. Tataka got her site back within few minutes, by that time Ram had reached near the computer. Tataka picked up a gas canister to throw at Ram, but Ram was quick enough to shoot the nozzle with an arrow and fire gun at the canister to explode it while it was in Tataka’s hand. Half of her body was destroyed by the explosion, and she laid on the ground unable to move. Ram proceeded towards the computer and was about to remove the drive, when he was shot in the back, Marich was waiting for the moment and ceased it as soon as he had a chance. Ram was not fatally wounded as Marich had expected, Ram was going to shoot him with the explosive arrow he had reserved for Tataka but in the moment of pain and dizziness he fired an anti-missile arrow, which carried Marich few hundreds of meters, but did not do much physical damage . Marich was paralyzed due to adrenaline rush and the fear of death. He ran out of the tunnel as quickly as he could once his sense regained composure. Ram removed the drive and informed Laxman to descend and proceed towards the exit. Tataka’s body recovered and she again attacked Ram, but this time Ram had his eyes on her, he jumped sideways to avoid impact and shot her with the explosive arrow. Tataka burst into flames, she tried to put out the fire but the flammable liquid in the arrow had spread all over her body. She was soon vaporized.

The other men were confused at the loss of the last of their commanders. Ram and Laxman escaped out of the tunnels. Once outside, Laxman restarted the router which triggered the explosives inside the tunnel.

 “That wound would leave a scar on your back!”, Laxman said teasing Ram’s wound.

Ram: “Every dog has his day! I regret not killing that bastard.”

Laxman: “Oh, I thought you let him off deliberately.”

Ram and Laxman delivered the hard disk to Vishwamitra and were about to leave, when he stopped them, “There is someone I would like you guys to meet. You can rest for today; we will meet them tomorrow.”

Laxman in a waning tone, “Dude? Another mission? We have not yet enrolled here.”

Vishwamitra chuckled and replied, “It is not a mission, just a meeting.”

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The most embarrassing morning assembly.

When something wrong is about to happen, your instincts scream at you and you feel the restlessness. On that fateful day I felt the same restlessness, I had to read news of the day, which was my daily routine, whenever Rajaram (green) house was on duty. It was a bad start as I couldn’t get the newspaper at the usual stall and school newspaper guy didn’t show up on time. I reached school with few minutes to spare for the assembly and raced towards the podium. This was a time when internet was only on computers, we grabbed the headlines from here and there. My initial idea was to read out previous day’s news. Trust me, I have tried that before, no one gives a fuck about it. Not even the teachers notice it. That day I tried to reason with the coordinating teacher of Rajaram house that I would like to call it a day and assign the task to someone else, as I was not well-versed with the national pledge. (Yeah, I know, I should have memorized it!) But that day only two members of my house were available, one of them being me. So it was decided that the other guy would be dealing with the national pledge and rest would be handled by me.

To my dismay, the other guy chickened out at the last-minute and disappeared in the crowd as soon as the final bell rang. The coordinating teacher and I exchanged glances, me being outraged at the turn of events and the teacher remaining calm as a seasoned warrior.

The non-verbal communication went something like this.

Me: “He will pay for backing out at the last-minute! Damn this shit even I’m walking out”

Teacher: “Cool down! Carry on with the news and other stuff. Pledge will be the last item. I will make some arrangements till then.”

So now I was the only one left to start and finish the assembly. I read out the news, thought of the day, announced the birthdays and read out some other stuff! Then I stood near the podium, switched of the microphone and whispered to the chorus girls about the situation. I told them to start with me instead of following me as usual, the front row of girls nodded in approval.

So I went back and stood at my place as the school head boy gave commands to the crowd, I asked the teacher if he was able to find a replacement, to which he shook his head in disappointment. For the first time in my life, I was blank with my instincts clearing indicating a fuck up laid ahead.

I walked towards the podium, with a heart rate of at least 140 bpm. I started with the first statement. ‘India is my country.’ and was shocked not even a single girl said it with me. I looked back at them in utter shock! A few seconds were lost and I could hear the entire school repeating the sentence, along with the girls who promised to read out with me. I thought to myself, “They forgot! Damn females, now I will be crucified! Thanks for the coordinated murder!”

And national pledge took a nose dive after starting at ‘India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.’ to ‘To my country and my people.’ Skipping rest of the content.

I received hostile stares from entire staff, few of them enjoying the moment! It was the Principal who spoke first (read snapped!), “You can’t even memorize the national pledge? How will you clear our exams?” I wanted to say, “What the fuck this has to do with the exams?”, but then I just kept my head down, staring at the coordinator and scanning for the guy who ditched. The vice-principal ordered me to get the school diary which contained the national pledge. I ran back to the nearest classroom, opened the first bag available, grabbed the diary, ran back to the podium and started with the pledge fresh again. Finally, the assembly was over, but the Principal was not done with me. As I proceeded towards the chorus girls, demanding an explanation for the utter betrayal, she called me by my name. I was shell-shocked at the fact that the principal knew me by my name, which meant, damn, one of my deeds has reached her ears! (not the good ones, of course) either ways it meant one thing for sure, I was screwed! I went to her with my eyes fixate on the ground. What happened next was rather pleasant, she commended me for my courage to face the odds, but also ordered me to recite the national pledge next time again when my house was on duty. Which meant I had four weeks to memorize it, there was no running away for me, as the principal knew me by my name!

Cursing my luck, I lashed out at the guy who had disappeared, the coordinator finally calmed me down. As it was Saturday, the last day of house on duty, I was not found on the assembly ground for next entire week. The next time when there was national pledge to be recited, I made sure someone was available to do the god damned job!

Bike Trip: The Southern Invasion

Agenda : Invade the entire Nh66 (2000+km) in 6 days


Marshalls Weapons
Akshay Tapkir a.k.a Maverik Royal Enfield Continental GT a.k.a Fire Bolt
Aniket Kolpe a.k.a Sergeant Cross Royal Enfield Classic 350 a.k.a Dhaka
Nikitesh Kolpe a.k.a Sunray Bajaj Avenger 220 a.k.a Little Beast
Rohit Sutar a.k.a Optimus

Planned Route

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Pune Goa Malpe
Shirval Karwar Venoor
Kolhapur Murudeshwara Someshwara Beach
Goa Malpe Kannur
Day 4 Day 5 Day 6
Kannur Ernakulam Alappuzha
Peralassery Edappally Backwater ride
Ernakulam Paradesi Synagogue Thiruvananthapuram
Alappuzha Kanyakumari

Day 1:

After spending almost an entire week on shopping, everything was set and 0500 hours was the decided time to start the invasion, but alas, like every time it started late, this time Maverick (Akshay) arrived late and then tying luggage took another hour. Finally, we left at 0700 hours with Maverick on the Fire Bolt leading the way, Optimus (Rohit) on the Little Beast with all the luggage in the middle and me and Sgt. Cross (Aniket) on Dhaka at the rear.

First halt was on the highway for petrol (it’s cheaper than the city) and after filling the bikes belly, it was time for ours.

Shiv Krupa near Shirval is an awesome place for breakfast. We left for Kolhapur at 0830 hrs. As we were late by 2hrs it was time to cover the time by increasing the throttle. So we shifted the riders. Maverick continued to lead, I took the Little Beast and Sgt. Cross took Dhaka. The road was in awesome condition so we let throttles loose and reached Kolhapur at an average speed of 70. (Max speed: 140, Min speed 80). We covered the time gap as well as tested our bikes for the rest of the journey.

Dehati, one of the most popular restaurants in Kolhapur served us Mutton LoncheMutton MasalaChicken Fry and Chicken Masala with Solkadhi was fabulous and lived up-to its fame.

We were all pumped up by the high speed ride up-to Kolhapur, hence we decided to go with the flow for the rest of the distance. Next on the road was Amboli mountain pass, one of the most scenic mountain passes in Maharashtra. Tilting the bikes on the curves gave us an adrenaline rush. After taking a break at a spot and witnessing the sun set, all of us informed our parents that we reached Goa. (We were still closer to our home than our destination and a night ride on the very first day of the trip would have had serious consequences on the trip, as our parents were against riding at night) We reached Goa by 2130 hours, then began the search for the room we had booked. The hotel we had booked was in Calangute, after 3-4 calls to the owner and asking almost everyone on the road we were finally able to locate the hotel after 2 hrs.

We got freshened up and left to check out Goa at night and have dinner. We dined at Aqua-Shell restaurant near Calangute beach. Crab soup was crappy, but the fried prawns and butter, garlic prawns made up for the soup. Old Goa was some 30+ km from our place, and we were in no mood to drive another 60 km so we roamed a bit in Goa and slept.

Day 2:

The next day we were supposed to leave by 0900 hours, but the Goan air makes you lazy. We got up at 0900 hours, then breakfast and tying the bags on bike ate another 2 hours. When we left Goa, we were 5 hours off from the schedule. Hence, we decided to switch riders, I with Optimus in the front, Sgt. Cross in the middle with luggage and Maverick at the last. The next halt was Karwar, 130 km from Calangute. After crossing another scenic mountain pass, Optimus (Rohit) selected the spot for the pic of the trip depicting tilted bike on a hairpin curve. Though the pictures came out really good (only mine and Rohit’s pic were clear) we wasted another couple of hours in the process. When we reached Karwar we were still 6 hours behind the schedule. We reached Karwar at 1800 hours. Maverick had set the coordinates for Karwar instead of the Naval museum, which we were supposed to visit. I was a bit skeptical when we turned from the national highway, as we had seen the location of the museum quite near from the road. The size of the road started to shrink as we proceeded ahead, then there came a point where the we met a procession which blocked the entire road, but the damn google map said proceed straight for 1 km and refused to show any alternate route. Locals took pity on us and asked us where the fuck are we headed, they must have had a nice laugh as we were 15 km away from the destination. The guys tried to explain us the route in broken Hindi, after crossing the procession, Optimus had the eureka moment and then set the destination as Naval museum, instead of Karwar. Maverick was not given his phone back for the entire trip to set any location. We were expecting huge boats and heavy naval equipment at the museum, but the museum was more of a kid’s place. Disappointed with the museum, we decided to skip it and have lunch/dinner, it was 1800 hours so too late to term it as a lunch and too early to be termed as a dinner. To add to our misery, the food was tasteless and the waiters took ages to take the order.

Our ideas of a national highway were shattered after Karwar where the NH was just a 2 lane road, filled with heavy duty trucks on both sides of the road. Driving at high speed was next to impossible with such heavy traffic. The next halt was Murudeshwara temple. We reached there by 10:30, but the temple and the Shiva idol both were closed. The guard told us to come back in the morning, dejected we still decided to pursue the guards to let us in. One of the Marathi guards helped us to convince the head of security. Finally, after checking our religious authenticity (we sport long beards, so it was okay on his part) he allowed us 5 minutes to take pictures.

Delighted, we took some pictures and came out, where Optimus was arguing with us to change the halt from Malpe to Murudeshwara. We weren’t sleepy, but Optimus had his safety reasons and the argument went on for next one and half hour. I tried to argue with him for some time then when I felt I was about to lose the argument, I turned to the lawyer and Maverick showed us how he earns his bread and butter. After convincing (read forcing) Optimus we took off again for Malpe at 0030, we had cold drinks near Murudeshwara and chatted with a lovely 5-year-old girl from Kolhapur. She initiated the conversation, when most of the kids we met were scared of us.

Road from Karwar to Malpe is under construction for past 5 years and from the condition it looks like it will take another decade to complete. We reached Malpe at 0230 hours and started searching for a place to set up a tent for a few hours. After some initial search we found a school nearby and raised our tent on the volleyball ground, surrounded by our bikes. The shadows of bikes on the tent walls were mesmerizing. Sadly, we were too tired to take pictures and the few we tried didn’t come out that great.

Day 3:

We decided to get up at 0600 hours. But Optimus was not able to sleep due to 2 snoring giants (I wasn’t one of them), so he decided to return the favor by waking up Maverick and Sgt. Cross at 0500 hours. I enjoyed my 3 hours of sleep as Sgt. Cross knew waking me up early would have meant a hell lot of trouble for him. (Being a brother, he knows!) Finally, we packed our tent and arrived at the beach as locals had started lurking around the area with suspicious eyes. The plan was to leave Malpe by 0800 hours, but again that was not in our destiny. The ferry ride started at 0900 instead of 0600 hours, in the meantime, we took some photographs at the beach and had local breakfast consisting of Dosa, Parota and yellow sambhar.

The ferry to St. Mary’s island took 20mins, the island has one of the cleanest water I have ever seen. The island is known for its shell beach and breathtaking views. We got the best out of the tour since we were on the very first ferry and it was comparatively empty. Loud music was played on the ferry and people were dancing on the songs, for the first time we were feeling what foreigners must be feeling watching us dance on Bollywood tracks. We left Malpe at 1230 hours headed towards Kannur, 280+ kms, the second largest ride of the trip. We drove continuously for next 2 hours, stopped only once to fill petrol and switch riders. By the time we reached Panambur we were almost starved to death, learning from yesterday’s experience, we decided to google some decent restaurants. After googling for some time I found a restaurant named Giri Manja in Mangaluru with 4.7-star rating from almost 150+ people. It was a bit away from our route, but no one complained about it.

We reached Giri Manja at 1500 hours. There are two restaurants with the same name facing each other. We were a bit anxious about which was the one from the reviews. Finally, the security guard cleared the air by stating both the restaurants belonged to the same owner and have the same kitchen. Disappointment followed us here too, we inquired about their signature dish and learnt that it was over as we were late. Cursing our luck, we asked the owner for the next best dish they had. He suggested us to try the Tawa fry along with the Thali. By the time the food was served we were already salivated.

The Angal(kingfish) tawa fry and white Pomfret tawa fry made in the traditional Mangalorean style were heavenly. Kingfish is never our first choice, but the Angal fry was so tasty that we ordered two more plates of it, rather than Pomfret. The owner was very keen to know about our bike trip and was also very informative about the further route

I was driving the Little Beast and I found the rear brake a bit troublesome on the way to Mangaluru, but satisfying the wildfire of hunger was the first priority. The mechanic did some minute adjustments to the brake and we were ready to roll out. We drove for a few hours, then Maverick suddenly flickered his headlights and asked us to take a break. We thought he had to pee or something, but he gave us a shock when he announced that he was feeling sleepy. Optimus had announced on the previous day only that he won’t be driving in the night. And now here we were in the middle of nowhere with Optimus still sticking to his decision. We went a bit ahead and found a tea stall. It’s quite rare to find one serving tea/coffee in South India. Sgt. Cross asked the waiter to get the coffee powder to make the coffee strong, especially for sleepy Maverick. He was all charged up after the caffeine boost, we switched riders with Maverick taking the Little Beast and staying in the middle while I stayed in my position. Sgt. Cross was on the Fire Bolt at the end. We encountered a heavy traffic jam somewhere near Payyanur. There was a huge procession of some goddess with a perfect south Indian flavor. It was divided into many small segments, each performing its own act. I wish we could spend a little more time there, but the queue of trucks was getting excruciatingly long each second and the road ahead was too narrow for us to overtake those trucks again, hence we took the advantage of the traffic and sped ahead.

As expected we lost track of each other in the traffic, since I was leading I halted as soon as we were clear of the traffic and couldn’t see Maverick in my rear view. Maverick was just behind a truck and he too halted, seeing me on the road side. Sgt. Cross on the Fire Bolt was having speed rush and sped past us. Maverick was on call so we couldn’t catch up with him immediately. After his call was over we started the hunt for Sgt. Cross. He was all panicky when we finally found him. As his useless Iphone was not working and he thought we were still way ahead of him. By the time I saw his bike I had missed the parking spot, so I went a bit ahead to park the bike. I had my back towards Sgt. Cross and Maverick, who were sitting on their respective bikes, as I parked my bike and turned around to walk towards them. I saw Fire Bolt lying flat on the road and Sgt. Cross rolling on the ground; as if that was not enough, I saw Maverick was about to hit the floor too. I and Optimus ran towards them. Optimus helped Maverick with his bike, while I lifted the Little Beast. There was another group of bikers headed towards Goa who were passing by us. They also rushed to help us. Sgt. Cross revealed that the uneven road caused the bike to slip from his hand and he lost his footing as well, that explained the rolling as well. Maverick on the other hand was driving Little Beast for the first time since we started our journey and was used to parking the bike on the side stand saw Sgt. Cross roll and in a hurry, he parked the bike on the side stand, the bike was unstable on the side stand due to heavy luggage and then Maverick was struggling to balance it. Finally everything was set and we left for Kannur after having a chat with the other group and giving them the heads up about the condition of the road ahead. We reached Kannur by 2300 hours, and passed some good hotels. Maverick lost his cool when we passed ahead of all the open restaurants. We went a few kilometers behind and found a decent looking restaurant named Kairali. As it was late in the night the restaurant was almost empty and the waiters were cleaning up. The owner was very friendly and helpful. We had garlic butter chicken and a few other dishes whose names were difficult to pronounce. We were done with the dinner and were chatting with the owners, inquiring about the places that we can visit nearby and the chef inside Sgt. Cross was awakened, he was all curious about the desserts they serve. The owner was happy to answer his questions and gave us some desserts to taste. When the bill arrived, we found the deserts were not mentioned on it. Upon inquiring about it the owner simple said the deserts are on the house. After paying the bill we had to cover another 10 kms to reach our hotel. On the way we were stopped by cops, who were quite bugged of their duty, so were chatting with us for some time. They just asked us where are we headed to and then directed us in the right direction. Our stay in Peralassery was booked at Broad Beans, it was a three-star property and the rooms were lavish. We dropped dead on the beds within few minutes.

Day 4

Optimus informed us in the morning that the breakfast was complimentary and we were supreme hungry. Free unlimited breakfast! I guess we emptied half of the kitchen pantry ordering seconds, thirds….and on we went.

We went to the Peralassery Temple; it has an awesome pond with a hell lot of steps. We took lots of photos and left for Kochi. After driving for almost 3 hours we reached Kozhikode and decided to have lunch in hotel Opal. The road was narrow for our bikes to be parked with the luggage, so we sent scouts in all directions to check for parking space. Maverick returned with a parking space for lodge that was empty and I returned with a street that was empty but was risky to park with all the luggage. So we went with Maverick’s suggestion to park inside the lodge. We had Roi (fish eggs), chicken and Biryani. I and Sgt. Cross stayed behind in a bakery beneath the hotel and Maverick and Optimus went ahead to shop for a trouser for Optimus. I did not pay attention to my phone and was walking towards our bike when I saw Optimus outside a shop, he said there was some issue with the owner and Maverick went ahead to resolve that. So I and Sgt. Cross went ahead to check on Maverick, as we entered the parking area we were informed by the people that Maverick was called in the nearby police station. I asked the Sgt. Cross to look after the luggage and the bikes. Mostly for bikes because flat tyres would mean wasting another hour and a hell lot of exercise pull almost 200 kgs. As I started to take my bike and go to the police station one of the guys closed the gates on me, well, I told him I was not walking to the police station and forced the gate to open. Well, back in the police station we were still clueless why the fuck police were involved in a parking issue. Apparently the owner knew the police inspector at the police station and planned to extort money from us. Maverick being a lawyer by profession gave in his credentials to the inspector and we all said sorry to the owner. The police officer knew he wouldn’t be able to extort us, let us go but the owner was a cheap son of a bitch, he still asked us ₹150 as parking charges. We gave him the money, but then we spent a good time wearing our gears and giving him looks.

We were near the coastal road around 2200 hours and Optimus informed us that this was the last Dhaba where we can eat after this it was only sea near the road. We had an okayish food for just 150 (Only Me and Maverick ate the gravy and fish, Sgt. Cross ate the Parota with the gravy and Optimus had the Parota with tomato ketchup). At one of the hairpin turns Maverick had a near death experience as he was on a course of a head on collision with a bus which was trying to overtake a truck, he was saved the narrow gap. In his own words, “Those few seconds felt like ages and I could recollect all my life’s decisions, the thoughts continued for a few more kilometers.” But the lady luck was not in his favor that day. One of the floodlights of Fire Bolt broke and he had to tie it to the speedometer. We reached Kochi at 2300 hours, after some initial confusion about the hotel address we finally found the hotel after a half hour of search.


Day 5

We just had 80 kms to cover in the day, hence we started late. We had lunch at hotel North Pride and set on the first destination, St. George Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church in Edappally. The church has a truly mesmerizing infrastructure. We took some photos, it was very cloudy atmosphere and a downpour was expected any minute. So, we hurried to the Paradesi Synagogue, a Jewish town 20 kms away from Edappally. It was a beautiful town with Jewish style houses. We did some shopping and left for Kochi fort, where the carnival was happening. We were skeptical about the carnival as no one knew anything about it. The area near Kochi fort was lit up by lights and street art flooded the roads. It felt finally felt like Christmas. We roamed until evening and had dinner near the fort. The dinner consisted of red snapper, Squid, prawns, Kingfish and homemade chocolate coconut cake. The owner was from New Zealand who had settled in India. We left for Alappuzha and reached there in time. For the first time after Goa we reached on time at some spot. Maverick and Sgt. Cross were hungry again, so we asked the owner about decent food places nearby, he told us about a food truck which served awesome food. He helped us to set up the coordinates on google map, well the google map led us to an under construction road. Damn the maps! We knew it was somewhere on the highway so we first went on the main road and then found the truck. It was a crowded place even at midnight. Maverick who claimed, he was shit hungry was done after 4 Parotas, whereas Sgt. Cross and me, who were less hungry as compared to him gobbled 30 neer dosas and 4 Parotas, we also had four cornettos and four Mysore Pak (Indian sweet).We sat on the porch of the dormitory for some time and then went off to sleep on bunkers.

Day 6

Backwater ride was the main agenda of the day. We got up by 8 and decided to skip bath due to lack of time. Optimus was the only one who bathed. (He had the bath twice that day!) We went downstairs where English breakfast was waiting for us. The omelet was awesome, but the coffee was not that strong. We asked the owner’s wife to get us the coffee so that we would make it strong as per our standards. She got a jar of Bru Gold and I was like, female you just made my day!

We took the backwater ride for two hours, but after 1 hour of the travel in the water and taking photographs in all the possible ways, the ride was a bit boring. We went to the local market and purchased a few spices (Our moms would have barred us from entering the house without these spices) Sgt. Cross and Maverick were tasked at selecting the spices, whereas Optimus and I went ahead to buy lungis. After buying the lungis I requested the worker there to tie the lungi in southern style. Walking in the market in Lungi was fun, everyone was staring at us as if we were aliens. We decided to cover the last patch of 300 km on lungi. (It was my idea and Optimus was the only one who preferred track pants instead of lungis, as he was the navigator.)

Optimus wanted to drive the last patch, but then again we were late and driving at the speed Optimus desired was not possible, hence we decided to switch the riders. Maverick would lead on Dhaka with Optimus, I would be in the middle on the Little Beast while Sgt. Cross would be at the end on Fire Bolt. We drove till 1600 hours, then had lunch at Ramees. The food was tad expensive and was a bit bland. We played Foosball for some time and then we switched the bikes as Maverick was not able to unleash the Dakha at its full potential. So I was in the lead with Optimus on Dhaka, Maverick in the middle on Little Beast and Sgt. Cross continued on Fire Bolt. We decided to cover the maximum distance before the dusk. I and Optimus had a near death experience when on a hairpin turn in the mountain, a bus was trying to overtake a truck and was in the opposite lane covering the entire road. It was a valley with the mountain on my left and valley on the other end. I found a small pothole and jammed my bike in the pothole millimeters away from the bus. The jerk was so sudden that it caused Optimus to jump in the air and land on his balls. He was jumping for next 5 minutes. We rode continuously till Thiruvananthapuram, when Maverick suddenly signaled us to stop. He told us Sgt. Cross was lost and he didn’t see him in vicinity for past 15-20 minutes. We were shit scared as Sgt. Cross is the youngest driver and he had the most powerful bike with him. (Read his driving skills can’t be trusted.) We waited for almost 20 minutes, but still there was no sign of Sgt. Cross and his phone was on Flight mode as usual. So Maverick and I decided to go back and check on him, while Optimus would wait with one bike. As we were about to leave, Sgt. Cross called us to inform that the bike was down. We found him just half km apart from our site. Now the things got serious as it was almost 2100 hours and the bike was not starting. First we thought the engine might have shut off due to overheating. The bike had electronic fuel injection, which makes a sound when you turn on the bike. Well, there was no sound when we switched on the bike so we thought the battery was drained out and we were in the middle of nowhere. I had taken an insurance which provided 24×7 roadside assistance, but yeah, those assholes never received my call, after being sent to the answering machine for 5-6 times we decided to call other garage friends for help, finally one of them answered. After hearing the condition, he asked us to check all the fuses of the bike, when Maverick opened the battery compartment a fuse popped in his hand, we were relieved to see the fallen fuse. We fixed the fuse and started the return journey. We reached Kanyakumari at 2300 hours and decided to check -in our bikes. We were shocked to hear from the parcel authority that the parcel acceptance was only until 1700 hours. We had previously inquired at Pune Railway station about the parcel and luggage procedure. It was a 24×7 service, after a bit of arguing and pleading he agreed to check-in our bikes. Then the drama started, he decided to play the role of I’m doing a great favor on you guys kind of guy. After running back and forth with him we finally checked-in our bikes at 0400 hours in the morning. The parcel authority guy asked the guys who were packing the bikes to take all the petrol we had in our bikes. They have a huge scheme running where they try to rob the needy by overcharging them and stealing in all possible ways from them. Had it been in Pune, I’m sure, few bones from his body would have been broken that day. We managed to keep 3 liters for 3 bikes.

Day 7 and 8:

The journey in the train was not that eventful, we slept till the afternoon and then were woken up by noisy kids on the side berth. Those were a noisy bunch of people who kept us up for the remainder of the journey. I finally had to shout for silence when we were busy doing the calculations for the trip and there was a mismatch of almost eight thousand. We reached Pune at 1630 hours and had to take down our bikes. Train halting for only 10 minutes and it had a parcel bogie at either ends of the train. Maverick and I were tasked with getting the bikes down. Optimus and Sgt. Cross were tasked with taking all the luggage. When we got down from the train, I noticed the bag of mirrors was missing. I and Maverick raced back in our bogie and started the search for the mirrors. It took few more precious minutes to locate the mirrors, we got them and raced out where Sgt. Cross informed us that the bikes were on the other end of the train. I started running towards the other end of the train after sometime I glanced back to find Maverick was not behind me. I continued to run towards the other end and Sgt. Cross was trying to catch up with me. By the time I reached the other end of the train the parcel bogie was sealed and it would be opened only in Mumbai now. I ran back to where our luggage was kept. Maverick had already unloaded the bikes, when he reached the parcel bogie they were already sealing it, he somehow managed to get down the other bikes in time. We finally got our bikes and the saga thus ended.

The impact Rahul Dravid made on my life.

I always find Cricket a bit boring (Football is my first love!), especially watching a test match. 5 days, everyday starts at 9 ends at 6, total 45 hours of play to decide winner of one single match. My dad is a cricket fanatic and we had Doordarshan, so having no other option I had to either watch cricket whole day or go out and play. Of course I preferred the later, till the time of the day when I was caught by my mom and brought back home.

“If I have to put anyone to bat for my life it will be either Dravid or Kallis”

– Brain Lara

This was the late nineties, and whenever this guy (Dravid) came to bat, my dad would either put the TV on mute or switch it off and start reading the news paper. Usually TV being switched off meant the match was cancelled or delayed, so with huge expectations of watching something entertaining I would ask dad, why are you not watching the match. Even if it was on mute I had the same question why is it on mute. Most of the times the reply I got was, Dravid is batting right now, there won’t be much stuff happening in this session.

This rose my curiosity levels to the extreme, how can Dad be so confident every time that Dravid will not get out. Not just my dad there were many others in my colony who had the same views about him.

So I started watching his innings, even when everyone was chanting Sachin’s name, there was something about Dravid that I found very charismatic. On the surface he was always calm, even against the sledges. His temperament was commendable. To get a better understanding of how his mind works, I started reading about him. (These were the days when google wasn’t used that extensively and we had to rely on newspapers and books for information.)

The more I read the more fascinated I was about him. How can someone be so selfless. I learnt a great deal about the sportsmanship from Dravid. Previously, victory was my ultimate goal and for achieving that any sacrifice was alright with me. But looking at Dravid, I learnt winning and losing are part and parcel of the game, how you play matters the most. You may not always win, but if you play beautifully and lose, you are still the winner.

Dravid was and still is my idol. It’s not everyday that you get to witness someone so great in your lifetime. Over the years I have seen him play, not that I loved cricket, but I loved the way he played his game, his approach towards the game.

“My wife and I have built a new home with a lovely garden which houses lovely bamboo trees. I got reading on the Chinese bamboo and learned that the tree takes 5 years, 3 months to grow to its whole height of 80 feet. Yet, for the first 5 years, you only see a tiny green shoot, but in the next 90 days, it grows into a full-fledged tree. But in those first 60 months, it is growing its strong network of roots underground, to support the tree.  In an era of instant gratification, we settle for shorter trees, but remember patience has its reward. These are your years of growing that strong network of roots but be sure when you finally achieve your success, people will call it “overnight success”. If only they knew of the Chinese bamboo!”

-Rahul Dravid

Patience, I’m yet to see someone with his level of patience and perseverance. The above quote explains it the best. Patience was never an arrow in my quiver. I learnt the most important thing from him, if you want to progress learn to control your temper. I have not achieved the quarter of his level, but I’m much better now.

Team Spirit: One of the things that I admire Rahul  most is his unselfishness for the team. According to Harsha Bhogle, “In cricket,opening the batting and keeping wicket were the two things Rahul didn’t like, but he was asked to do both and he showed the world what he was capable of.” He was there whenever the team needed him. The most important thing that I learnt was, you need to have faith in people around you.

Just like international teams and club teams, I had a club team, lets call it ‘Team Mix‘ and then during our PT (personal training) sessions the entire class used to play together, now here since we all belonged to the same class the usual scenario was  ‘Team Mix‘ vs the rest of the class let’s call it ‘Team Class‘. This way we got more time to improve on our coordinations. As an experiment to test this theory,I chose to play for ‘Team Class‘,against ‘Team Mix‘. I used to play for ‘Team Mix’ for years, hence I knew their weaknesses and their mind, and now that I was up against them I used all the experience to disrupt their play. It did not work for first few weeks and ‘Team Class‘ was losing heavily. It was not that the ‘Team Class‘ was playing bad, it was just the lack of confidence that got better of them. So after few weeks, just to boost their morale I changed my usual position from Full Center back to winger, this was the first time ‘Team Class‘ scored against the ‘Team Mix‘. We lost the match eventually but the ‘Team Class‘ learnt that ‘Team Mix‘ was not invincible. I continued to play in the winger position for next few weeks and we were still losing but not with a great margin. After that I switched to middle, and kept most of them in the middle with me. This reduced the goal difference further, now the matches started ending as draws.I finally returned to my original position and just kept 2 full backs and sent everyone forward. We were now winning! I did screw up my game a bit in those few weeks, but the results we got later were fabulous, for both the teams, ‘Team Class‘ gained confidence and were playing much better, and ‘Team Mix‘ who played leniently in these matches considered ‘Team Class‘ as a potential threat and played seriously which improved their coordination and team bonding. And for me, I learnt to be a playmaker rather than just a defender.

For the strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf

-Kipling Quoted by Dravid.

And then the God ceased to exist for me!

Fear the God.

God is watching everything.

God is omnipresent.

These are few of the everyday statements we have been hearing since our childhood. As a child, I first believed in the concept of God. (Well, you don’t have an option at that stage.) But as I started visiting various temples, the concept seemed to be fading. Then there was a chaos. Let’s see it as a conflict between two aspects of my personality; one which wants to believe in what has been taught about God, and the other which wants to believe in facts a rather rebellious one having a conversation with me.

As a 10 years old:

Taught-minded philosophy: “Listen, your parents said that God is everywhere and the idols are a mere representation, they know more stuff than you.”

Atheist-minded philosophy: “I can’t relate to any God, There is no-one even in my mind which resembles God-like figure. Besides if I meet a four-handed human or a four headed human it would be interesting to see how they coordinate with those extra sets.”

At that age I imagined God as shown in the daily soaps of B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharat or Ramanand Sagar’s Krishna; armed with weapons, dressed in those flashy gold studded attire. It took me 2 more years to understand that it was fake.

I remember my mom explained to me that all that shown on TV isn’t real. I took the words in a different sense, for me, cartoons were fake (which I had suspected for long after few failed experiments!) but other than that it was the real deal. Real Gods were shown on the TV. Then came the Eureka moment, I met the actor who played the role of Krishna, and was relieved as well as sad that he had only 2 hands and wore normal clothes.

12 Years old:

Taught-minded philosophy: “Those damn daily soaps! Stop painting God as those serials show them.”

Atheist-minded philosophy: “Temple has an idol, but that is not God; It is just a place for people to gather and conduct business. The devotees come to the temple seeking peace and relief from their problems.”

Taught-minded philosophy: “If not God, then how this universe was created?”

Atheist-minded philosophy:  “There sure must be some logical answer to this.”

14 Years old:

Atheist-minded philosophy: “Yeah so, Darwin’s theory explains the evolution.”

Taught-Minded philosophy: “Still, there are lot of loop holes in it.”

Atheist-minded philosophy: “Oh, so your theory which says god created everything in 4 days makes more sense to you rather than the one which explains it in stages.”

Having experienced village life from an early age, I had seen the extremes of religious fanaticism and always marveled at the concept of God being used as per everyone’s convenience. There is a ceremony which happens quite regularly everywhere, it’s the ceremony where a spirit of an elderly or someone with equivalent stature enters a human body and people ask for guidance from these spirits. I guess my relatives were the most beloved humans of these spirits, cause every alternate day I would find someone seeking advice from these spirits. Not just the day-to-day activities, these spirits were consulted in grave matters such as land deals, quarrels, also finding the damn cattle. As a kid I was first fascinated by these spirit loved humans and always wondered why these spirits won’t talk to me, so I started paying attention to the details of these particular relatives of mine. I stayed in their vicinity for as long as possible, the more I understood their thinking the clearer the picture became to me. There were no goddamn spirits, these relatives of mine enjoyed the power being  bestowed upon them and also their greed. There were many incidents were the dispute was settled by making an offering to the spirit in form of a temple or just barren land or cattle and since the spirits favored these few people, they were given the ownership.

Then I started paying attention to the temples and it’s working. The temples worked on a grand level when it came to scamming people. Building a temple is now as good as starting a business. I have seen the rise of the temple from a ‘normal temple‘ with a ‘normal God‘ to a grand multi million rupee structure with a ‘wish granting God‘ within a span of a year. Not just temples, same modus operandi is followed by every religious house.

So that’s when I arrived at the conclusion, there is no God. We, the humans are the supreme and we should live the life as per our own rules of conduct; not the one laid by any religion or in the fear of any punishment in our after life.

I was fortunate enough to be born in India. There is a lot of diversity, there are lot of religions and also there are lots of mythological scriptures and traditions. I have always been fascinated by Indian mythology. They reveal a lot about the human psyche of that time as well as the current time. If you just look at these scriptures from an atheist point of view, you will see the flaws in the characters depicted as gods. Our ancestors knew in order to make people follow the rules, there had to be an entity which can install faith as well as fear in our minds, even when no one was to observe you; hence the concept of omnipresent god. The traditions and festivals were designed in such a way that it would benefit our body to adjust to the changes in the seasons. They were smart people, but the next generation wasn’t that smart or curious as to ask why. That’s where the things went wrong and people just started following blindly without knowing the actual reason behind it.

Being an Atheist doesn’t mean that one denounces all the rules of society, it just means you follow the rules but not because you fear the godly punishment, you do because you respect the other individuals.


The First Biking Trip

Year 2013: Last year of the college… Last PL (preparation leave)… Some considered it as time to prepare for your exams, we always considered it as the time for a trip. As it was the last PL it had to be grand to make it up to the occasion. So a plan of a biking trip to Kokan was hatched with Akshay, Rohit, Omkar, Pranav and Gauri (the usual culprits). The destination was Karde and the proposed route was

Pune-> Shirwal->Bhor-> Varandha Ghat ->Dapoli -> Karde


As the journey was not that long, I decided it would be better to take my bike (Splendor+, 99 CC ). Oh, boy I regretted that decision for the later half of the trip. Not that the bike wasn’t in good shape. I had taken her out for 200+ km rides before as well; but this time the bike was determined to show off in front of my girlfriend, just like the damn owner. The other 2 bikes included Avenger (220 CC) and Pulsar (135 CC). We were on a shoe string budget, because parents would have absolutely killed us for even planing a trip with exams so near and also would have ridiculed the idea of going on a bike. Especially, my dad would have thought of me as some maniac for taking my 10 year old bike.

Day 1:

We started the journey at 7 am. 1 hour late from the scheduled time, because 5 minutes on my or Akshay’s watch are not the exact same in the real world; they may vary from 1 hour to a couple of earthly hours. Since we were already late we thought it was probably better to have a breakfast and then set on the journey.

After riding for 2 hours we reached Varandha Ghat. The ghat road is treacherous with ample blind turns and step slopes. It was a thrilling experience to ride on the step curves. There is spot in the middle of the ghat from where the entire valley can be seen.Though it was not the best season to be there, but the view was astonishing.

The roads were not in the best condition, but the warm breeze and the smell of sea made the journey bearable. We reached Karde beach by 2pm. We had made the reservations at a beach restaurant. Yeah, a beach resort even on a shoe string budget, the rooms were not that expensive.(Just ₹1000 for 2 rooms and the balcony.) Since we had already booked and had asked the owner to prepare lunch for us. During our previous visits to Kokan, we learnt an important lesson the hard way. ‘You have to explicitly inform them to prepare the food, or else you have to STARVE!’.

Rest of the day was spent leisurely on the beach; swimming, playing football, building a castle and also destroying it!!

Day 3:

The original plan was to relax at Karde for next 2 days and then head back home. Next night after paying the rent and other expenses, surprisingly we were left with ₹4k more than expected. Rohit then came up with this insane idea of riding to his home town in Ranagiri. 250 Km from the current location and adding 500 Km to the journey! After putting up initial resistance concerning the condition of my bike, which was bluntly ridiculed, we prepared the route for the journey. Just as we were ready to leave Omkar got a call for his visa interview in Mumbai scheduled after 2 days. So now again we were in two minds whether to head back or to continue? Finally Omkar and Akshay headed back and we four went ahead to Ratnagiri.

The Route Omkar and Akshay took to return home is one of the most scenic routes and also the roads were in excellent condition.

Route: Karde-> Dapoli-> Khed->Kashedi Ghat-> Mahabaleshwar-> Wai->Pune


Route: Karde ->Dapoli ->Khed -> Asurde ->Chiplun-> Ratnagiri->Sakharparoute2

We left Karde early in the morning and headed to Khed, we had lunch together and after that we split in different directions. The road was in pretty bad shape after Khed, stones and gravels on the road. One of the pointy bastard dug a hole in my bike’s silencer, making it scream the loudest till date. To our awful luck, we were travelling on a Monday; which meant all the shops were closed in entire Ratnagiri. Another important lesson learnt, before travelling make a note of when all the shops are closed and avoid travelling on that day. Finally, we patched it up some what from a local welder after pleading him to open the shop. We reached our destination in the evening and fixed my bike next day.

We stayed in Sakharpa for next few days and hogged on many traditional Malvani delicacies.

Day 6

We had received a great review of NH 66 from Akshay and Omkar, so we decided to try NH 66 and NH 48. We left Sakharpa at 10am.

Route: Ratnagiri->Chiplun -> Satara->Pune


There are many good hotels on NH 48, so we had planned to have lunch near Satara, but since we had stuffed our belly with too much of breakfast, the lunch was pushed to evening. We reached Bhor by 4pm and since we had some time to spare before the hotels served dinner, we did some road photography.

We reached Pune by 9pm; completely drenched and extremely tired. Also Rohit had to face the extra music at home, firstly for not telling the entire truth (I prefer the word lying, when I’m not the one involved!) and secondly for the sun burns.(We also had sun burns, but I’m too dark for that! Never felt so good about that). Nevertheless it was one hell of a bike trip.

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Indian Technical Education System: Is it outdated or are our mindsets?

If you have been in any engineering college in India, you would have heard these statements at least once for sure ‘The current syllabus is outdated!’, ‘They just emphasize on writing theories rather than practicals.’

The topmost argument for lower grades being, ‘We do not have qualified professors to teach us.’ You know what, this is the crappiest answer I have ever heard from the students. It’s bad to blame teachers for the students not being good.

The educational system is going through upgrade. You can’t just change everything in one day. It is our mindset that needs to change first, then there is any point in upgrading the syllabus. I’m sure students will come up with some other reasons for their lower grades, which would hide their short comings.

Talking about the theory, yes at first even I thought why is the need of all this. Why a computer engineer has to study chemistry. But that is just to filter the crowd. As you progress in your course you can see that it gets to the core basic. If you took a closer look at your syllabus no doubt it will be out dated. Just take that course and compare it with any other university (from different country) which is of the same standard you will find the syllabus though out dated still teaches you the basics better. Of course you cannot compare the course material at MIT and a regional college.

The educational system of India can teach you a lot but you need to learn it by yourself. You cannot depend on any professor to teach you everything, as you grow up those shackles have to be broken at some point. This spoon-feeding has to stop somewhere.

Your progress depends upon your interest in the course you are doing. Most of the engineers I have seen in normal colleges are already frustrated with their life. They are doing it just to make their parents proud. They feel that since they didn’t make into IIT, NIIT or BITS they don’t stand the chance of excelling in their career. So they are dejected and just want to get through the course as soon as possible. They are not interested in learning the basics; they just snivel about the topics being outdated but never even care to bother why they were introduced in their course. If you like what you are doing you, you will always figure out a way to get the most out of it. If not then you will find an excuse to get away from it.

Let us highlight a few basic questions here:

1. How many students have you seen who actually perform practical and other assignments?
– In most of the colleges only a handful of the students perform the practical, AND NONE OF THEM IS A TOPPER. They are all low graders just excellent in the practical and in the end they are the only one who lead a better life than the others because their hard work pays off at some point of time.
2. How many of the students take the pains and refer the original reference books that the course says to refer to?
– Most of the students blindly read the local authors just to save the time of going through the actual text.
3. How many students really take time to understand the entire concept rather than just mugging it up?
– Students just want to get a better grade they don’t care what the concept is they just blindly copy the text in their papers and later forget about it.

Technical education is about self-learning and evaluation rather than the course material. The course material is just to guide you to the right path.

Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change with it.

                                                    -Steve Maraboli