Monday, December 14, 2009

Go check out Rocket Singh

If you've ever been an entrepreneur, there are so many things you'll find endearing in this movie. Being a salesman is the foremost thing an entrepreneur has to learn -- being able to sell, and sell effectively, is probably most critical to a company's success.

But salesmanship isn't the only thing that's needed -- you have to be able to deliver. Make your customers happy, and they will make you successful.

Rocket Singh delivers well. Go check it out.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Random Bollywood quotes..

There are many Bollywood quotes that come to mind every once in a while -- for all different reasons. Can you guess the movies?

1. "Loha garam hai, maar do hathoda"

2. "Aisa to aadmi life mein doich time bhagta hai -- olympic ka race ho, ya police ka case ho. Tum kai ko bhagta hai?"

3. "Galti se mishtake ho gaya sir."

4. "Thoda khao, thoda phenko!"

5. "Tu apni jawani jee chuka hai to ja, ab meri jawani jee ke aa!"

6. "Aaj waqt ne mujhe maara, tu bhi mujhe maar le..."

7. "Jab jab jo jo hota hai, tab tab vo vo hota hai"

8. "Ek to mujhe aajtak yeh samajh nahin aaya ki tumhare maa baap ne tumhara naam Calendar kyon rakha"

9. "Hum jahan khade hote hain, line wahin se shuroo hoti hai"

10. "Tareekh par tareekh par tareekh!"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ladakh - Zanskar Trek: Day 9 and the Trip home

Day 9: Pishu to Padum, via Karsha

From Zanskar Trek

We started the last day of the trek hoping to find a taxi along the way. It had rained a bit through the night, and the morning was colder and cloudier than usual. It helped make the hike easier, but the clouds also hid the tall mountains around us.

The hike to Karsha from Pishu was along an unpaved path that clearly had car tracks. Cars clearly did make it to Pishu, but we didn’t see one until Karsha.

The hike was along the flat bed of the valley, along the Zanskar river. As we walked, the valley opened up more, and we started seeing taller, whiter mountains around us. We saw the Stongde monastery on a hill across the river -- something we would have thought about making a detour to if we weren’t that dead tired. Past Stongde, we could see Padum in the distance as well.

From Zanskar Trek

We didn’t meet any hiker this day -- in either direction. We suspected that most people must either drive to Pishu, or even Zang La to start the hike in the opposite direction. We were the only idiots who hiked the entire distance.

It took us a good part of 5 hours to get to Karsha. We expected horses to catch up to us by the time we got there. We had hoped that if we couldn’t get a taxi, we can ride the horses to Padum -- we definitely did not want to hike the last two hours to Padum. As we neared Karsha, we realized the horses weren’t going to catch up with us. They had taken a different path and were taking a shorter route directly to Padum. We could see them in distance closer to the bridge on the river, while we stood on the hill in Karsha.

From Zanskar Trek

Luckily we found a taxi as soon as we entered Karsha. It was a different matter that the guy expected us to pay him Rs 800 for a 10 minute ride. Under normal circumstances, I would have refused to pay anything more than 50, but this time we settled for 700.

Ten minutes later we were in Padum -- which clearly looked like a town with facilities.

Immediately we set about finding a proper hotel to stay in. We looked at three and finally took the third one -- none of them was as clean as we would have liked. Once we had found the hotel, we ventured out looking for food. Our notion of “food” was clearly different than what was available in Padum. Apparently they don’t have any vegetables, so we could only get mutton, or chowmein and mo-mos. We, on the other hand, had been day dreaming about all kinds of meals we would feast on once we ended the hike. Alas!

However, we had a hotel room, beds, shower, warm water and a taxi for the next day to take us to Kargil and Srinagar.

The Drive to Srinagar via Kargil

From Zanskar Trek

The drive to Kargil goes through the Zanskar valley and it was probably the most breathtakingly beautiful drive I have ever been on. We passed through valleys and passes, always surrounded by tall snow covered mountains. As we neared Kargil, at some point the region became more lush and villages became more frequent, roads became better. We also noticed that the population changed from being mostly Ladakhi to mostly Muslim.

It took us 12 hours to get to Kargil. Kargil itself is a pretty big town, especially when compared to everything we had been subjected to so far. It seemed bigger than Leh.

We stayed at a hotel that our guide had said is the best hotel in Kargil. Pooja took it to mean that this was going to be a 5 star hotel, complete with spa and shops and all elements of luxury. I asked her to not expect too much, and indeed she felt quite disappointed when we arrived at the hotel. The hotel was quite alright though -- a bit baroque, but had warm water, and everything we needed. It was probably the first day in many that we enjoyed a really good meal.

We left early morning the next day for Srinagar -- we were on the road by 4am! I realized why we needed to hit the road that early a litle bit later. The highway to Srinagar is closed in the night and the barrier at Drass opens up at 6am. The road is lined with cars and trucks waiting to cross at 6am.

I had thought the drive to Kargil was pretty, but as we got closer to Srinagar I realized why this place is the one people rave so much more about. Ladakh and Zanskar are extreme places -- and very brutal -- but Kashmir is just as beautiful and a lot more habitable and soothing. It is very saddening to know that this place suffers from chronic militancy and disputes -- because you fall in love with Kashmir very quickly.

From Zanskar Trek

We stayed at a houseboat on the Dal Lake -- the houseboat called “Teharan,” owned and run by an elderly gentleman whose hosptality made our stay very memorable. Based on what everyone called him, we addressed him as Haji sahib too. His cook made for us lamb curry, biryani, seekh kebab -- and we downed them all. If you are ever in Srinagar -- look up Teharan houseboat!

For a change, Pooja’s expectations were also met -- we thoroughly enjoyed our stay, however short it was. And it did feel short. Both of us promised ourselves to return to Srinagar for a longer visit.

But after a long trek, we were looking forward to the comfort of home. Sweet home.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ladakh - Zanskar Trek: Day 8

Day 8: Hanumil to Pishu, via Pidmo

By the eighth day, mountainous trek had given way to relatively flat walk along the river. It was a lot easier to walk. However, the sun was beating down harder than it had earlier, and the trek didn’t feel any easier. It of course didn’t help that we were getting quite tired -- mentally more than physically -- and were really eager to finish the trek.

This day we were going to get to Pishu. An option we were thinking of was to go to Zang La, another village across the river and take a bus from there to Padum (our destination) the next morning. While the bus sounded very tempting, the additional hour of trek to Zang La from Pishu didn’t.

From Zanskar Trek

The guest house owner in Hanumil had said that we will start to get cell phone reception in Pishu. We decided we would call up from there to our agent in Leh, and try to have him send the car all the way to Pishu or at least to Karsha. We also thought maybe Pishu is a more populous place, and we might find even more facilities there -- such as a guest house!

The hike was actually quite nice -- we hiked through the pretty village of Pidmo, and hiked along the river. After a 5-6 hour hike, we eventually reached Pishu. The first thing we did when we reached there was to get our cell phone out and start looking for signal. No such luck. We tried hard: we walked around, we held it up, we checked at different times of the day, but our cell phone refused to find a signal. “You should be able to get a signal here,” said a local. “But sometimes they turn off the generator so the tower may be switched off!”

From Zanskar Trek

The campsite in Pishu was, for a change, very green. And huge. It was soothing to the eyes, being jaded from all the dust and rock the past several days. We thought the horses must be going nuts -- having arrived at a buffet after days of fasting. The horses indeed were -- and so was the land owner. He didn’t want horses grazing there for the night and insisted they be taken into the mountains as usual.

This was something else we felt somewhat amazed at on our trek. After each day’s hike, the guy who tended to the horses will hike up further into the mountains and take the horses to greener pastures. Often he would sleep there in the open as well and return the next morning, and then hike with us for the rest of the day!

From Zanskar Trek

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ladakh - Zanskar Trek: Day 7

Day 7: Parfi La to Hanumil: Entering Zanskar valley

We were very excited about the seventh day: we were going to cross the Parfi La -- the last pass on the trek -- and we were going to enter the Zanskar valley.

As was usual now, we started early, ahead of our entourage. The climb started almost immediately to the Parfi La. Though not as a steep or long as the climb for Hanamu La the previous day, Parfi La felt more tiring. For one, Pooja’s diarrhea was back. We concluded that any time she eats something made of flour that is not fried or boiled, her stomach can’t handle it. Earlier it was the mo-mos and this time the pizza.

From Zanskar Trek

This day we met quite a few other hikers -- all headed in the direction opposite to us. One of the guys we met was doing the trek entirely by himself, and had done the trek a few times before too. He expressed surprise to see Indians on the trek -- he said he didn’t see enough Indians walking in the mountains. He of course wasn’t counting the staff that accompanies every hiker. And he was right -- invariably the people we met on the trek were not from India.

Crossing the Parfi La we entered the Zanskar valley. We were surprised to see a large river -- Zanskar is actually a much bigger river than we had thought. It was hard to imagine that this river freezes up in the winter and people trek on it.

Initially, the Zanskar valley was underwhelming -- probably because we had been walking through some amazing scenery the past 6 days, or because the long trek had tired our senses. We were expecting lush green valleys, but all we saw was more barren land. One difference, though, was that the valley was much wider and much more open. And we didn’t have any more passes to climb!

It took several hours of walking on a rocky path along the river to get to Hanumil: a relatively green village with 2 houses, 5 people and 3 “hotels.” One of the houses carried a big “Guest House” sign -- and that raised our hopes quite a bit. I could sense Pooja’s excitement as we walked towards the guest house.

From Zanskar Trek

“Look, it says ‘Guest House’ doesn’t it? Yes it does!”

“Hmm.. yeah, but is it open? It looks closed... Look there’s a drum blocking the entrance.” said I.

“Why won’t it be open? It says Guest House!”

“Look, it’s locked.”

“Let’s ask that guy. At least we can find out about a shower.”

As it turns out, the guy in question owned the guest house. He showed us the room, which looked pretty inviting. There was a slight problem though. When we asked him about the bathroom, he pointed to the river.

“I want to build a bathroom, and toilet and more things. But you can’t get plumbers and skilled people to come here.”

We spent yet another night in the tent.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ladakh - Zanskar Trek: Day 6

Day 6: Hanamu La to Parfi La base camp close to Jing Chan

The next day started off pleasantly. Pooja was in great spirit -- she had slept well for the first time on the trek, and she felt a lot better. We left the camp with lesser load on us than normal -- giving away even our backpacks to be carried by the horses. Pooja intended to climb the pass herself and we left even earlier than normal to put some distance between us and the horses.

It turned out to be probably the most pleasant day of the trek. The climb, though steep, was pleasant. We made it to the top in about 2.5 hours. We had now given explicit instructions to our entourage where we were going to stop each day -- a hike of no more than 6-7 hours for the entire day for any of the days remaining.

From Zanskar Trek

The hike down from the pass was straightforward -- along a narrow gully that kept showing signs of opening up but never really did. We stopped at Nyestre -- all it had was a tea stall (aka “hotel”) -- where we ran into a couple of hard core French backpackers. Unlike us, they were carrying their entire stuff on them (tents, food, everything) and -- yet more unlike us -- they had started that morning from Lingshed, were going to cross another pass the same day. I bowed in respect.

From Zanskar Trek

We reached our camp in an hour’s hike from Nystre. The camp was in a mountain gorge, next to a beautiful mountain river. It was the first day of the trek that we reached the camp site early in the day and were feeling well. Things were finally beginning to look up! :)

We took full advantage of the flowing river and washed and rinsed -- we were finally going to get some clean clothes to wear the next day.

That day, for dinner, our cook made pizza with olives as toppings.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ladakh - Zanskar trek: Day 5

Day 5: Gajo to Hanamu La base camp, via Lingshed (aka another Really Long Day)

We started the fifth day somewhat lazily. We had made a resolution that we were not going to hike more than 5-6 hours that day. Our plan was to stop at Lingshed. The guide book indicated that there was a guest house there -- and that sounded like a welcome change.

The hike to Lingshed was much easier than the hike of the previous two days. We crossed a small pass on the way but it didn’t involve much of a climb.

Lingshed is a beautiful village, situated in a green valley, surrounded by tall rocky mountains on all sides. No roads come here -- though there is a helipad that mostly recently had brought the Dalai Lama here for a visit a week back. Lingshed Gompa makes a pretty sight as you come over a tiny pass and start to descend into the valley.

From Zanskar Trek

However, Lingshed does NOT have a guest house. Upon enquiring, someone told us that there was a “homestay” just a short walk down the mountain. As it turned out, the “homestay” was an empty house that you could take your sleeping bags to and live in -- a far cry from what we had in mind.

Our guides made some excuses why it wasnt a good idea to camp there (too much sand blowing around, no water, blah) and we, grudgingly, decided to hike forward to the base camp for Hanamu La. Having wasted several hours in Lingshed, it was near dark by the time we reached the base camp. We could see the trail leading to the next day’s climb in front of us -- in fact we could see it in the distance from Lingshed itself. We knew the next day was going to be a long climb.

From Zanskar Trek