It all started about 6 days ago, when Arvindh (my Kalari buddy) sent a message asking whether we can visit Alamparai Fort on the ECR on 15th Feb. Paramesh and myself were excited to hear about this idea. Driving on ECR is always fun. Imagine starting the day as early as 4 AM. That would be fun! So, on 15th Feb, the three of us, Arvindh, Paramesh and myself met on the awesome Old Mahabalipuram Road (now known as Rajiv Gandhi Salai or the IT Highway). We started the ride at about 6 AM. It was still dark, considering the fact that it was winter. We drove until Sholinganallur and took the left turn to enter ECR. The whole of IT Highway was flawless, wide and very smooth. It had some advantages:

  1. No unwary speed breakers.
  2. Lanes were marked clearly.
  3. Bright lighting and sign boards to show the way.

All this meant that our ride would be very safe and enjoyable if we followed them & we did! 🙂 Barren lands were covered by soft white mist & passing through them sent a chill through us.

Mist

Soon after, we crossed into ECR and drove consistently at 90 kmph. The Sun appeared and graced us with his generous morning rays. We caught a few of them on our imperfect cameras and headed to Mahabalipuram for a well-deserved breakfast. After breakfast, it was a continuous 1 hour drive for about 50 kms to Alamparai Fort. On ECR, to your left, you will see a sign board like this:

Sign Board

Take the immediate left after this sign board and keep driving on until you see another direction sign board on a black board. We went ROTFL after seeing that 🙂

Black Sign Board

This road ends at the fort & to the left is a beautiful beach. There are lots of fishing boats here. Most parts of the beach is busy in mornings and slowly the population dwindles as the day winds on. By now, our Sun was shining brightly over the horizon. The sand was pure “white” in colour. 

The Fort

History says that this fort was built by the Mughals during the 17th century. More details about the history can be had from the snap below. 

Fort History

Most parts of the fort got washed during the 2004 Tsunami. What remains here now is just a fraction of what it used to be before. Local folks said that almost all of the fort got buried in the sands during the tsunami. Inside the fort, there is only an old Islamic Dargah, leaving a reminder of the once famous and majestic Fort. Weeds were growing in many places. During nights, I guess the whole scene will present a eerie sight 🙂

Part of the perimeter

Part of the perimeter of the Fort

Broken Watch Tower

Broken Watch Tower

Sandy path

Sandy path that leads to the beach

Aali

Aali – A locals’ favourite dish of the snail variety

We also crossed a few superb lily ponds on the way to the Fort & took some snaps.

Me, Paramesh

Here’s me & Paramesh. Oh! Boy, I’m so smart 😛

Arvindh, Yours truly

That’s Arvindh & myself.

The Adventure

Following is by far the best part of the whole morning. We talked to a few fishermen here & they said they would take us for a ride in the deep sea. They warned us to be cautious on the boat because it obviously doesn’t have any railings etc. It was a small fishing boat & the smell of freshly caught fish was wafting through the air. They had just emptied the nets & put them back on the boat for the next ride into the sea. Few other guys who came to the beach also joined us. A rope was tied around the plate on the side of the motor of the boat. Then four of us pulled it together. The motor came to life. My heart started throbbing with excitement. I’m sure Arvindh must have had the same feeling because he was all smiles. Paramesh for some crazy reason didn’t join the boat ride.

There were lots of small islands of sand on the sea. It was like, “land-sea-land-sea-land-full sea”. Hope you get the idea. The boat chugged along the curves of the small islands and before long we were on the edge of the land, looking into the big blue sea 😀 . Words can’t do justice to the excitement we were experiencing. Adrenalin was in full flow.

As we were talking and making fun of each other, a huge wave started making its way towards our small boat. The wave was high enough that we couldn’t see the waters behind the wave! This was the moment we were waiting for. The fisherman eased the boat on to the wave. The boat’s angle was now about 30 degrees to the water level. Within seconds, the wave lifted the boat very easily! as if it were playing with us … and then it dropped us on the water. For some unknown seconds we were flying 🙂 . The boat landed with a huge THUD!!! on the water and made a HUGE!!! splash, salty water sprinkling on us.

This repeated for about 7 more times. The waves were making us dance to its tunes & boy … we did dance! Totally in love with Mother Nature. Then the waves eased and the sea became calm. The fisherman told us that deep seas doesn’t have much waves & they are usually calm. The water was crystal clear but very salty. One of the accompanying dudes tied a rope to his hand and jumped in the water … IN THE BIG SEA. Then the boat started moving slowly, pulling him along the water. If only I had anticipated this ride, I would have got some spare dress & jumped in too.

After about 45 minutes, we turned back to the land, negotiating the waves again as we were approaching the land. This was one of the best moments of my life until now. I just cannot forget it! Nor can Arvindh. Here are some snaps for you to relish.

The young fisherman who accompanied us

The fisherman who drove the boat

Me - sitting on the boat's edge

Me – sitting on boat’s edge

Arvindh - Posing from boat's edge

Arvindh – posing on boat’s edge

Both of us

Both of us

Fish's head

Fish – dissected – Front View

Fish

Fish – dissected – Side View

The Ride Back

We reached Mahabalipuram in about 45 minutes. From there we took ECR until Kelambakkam and then drove to Chennai on the awesome IT Highway a.k.a Old Mahabalipuram Road a.k.a Rajiv Gandhi Salai. Paramesh is coming up with a guest post about the OMR and some driving lessons. I will put that up in a few days here. We reached Chennai by 2 PM.

All of us

All in all, this was an awesome half a day spent very well! Loved it!

Trip to Tirumala

February 10th, 2009

Feb 8, 2009 was a good day 🙂 About 40 of us from Chennai drove to Tirupathi & then went to Tirumala by foot. This trip was organized by Chennai Trekkers Club. All of us assembled at Koyembedu at around 4.45 AM in morning. After a few minutes of roll calling & fixing, we started our drive to Tirupathi in 4 cars and 4 bikes. It wasn’t very cold in Chennai. But as we crossed the border into Andhra Pradesh on NH5, the chill started hitting. As always, NH5 is an awesome road. Road is very smooth that you don’t want to drive at anything less than 80kmph. Soon after the check post, we took the turn towards SH51 that goes to Uthukotai & Periyapalayam. This is the same route that we took to Kone Falls few months back.

Few minutes into the SH51 & we knew what we had ahead of us. Road condition was bad. Very bad. There were mini craters everywhere that you have to carefully bend your bike to avoid them, sometimes facing the wrath of the vehicles coming in the opposite direction. One particular 25km stretch from Uthukotai town to Periyapalayam had 31 huge craters & about 12 minor craters that driving on it was like going on a roller coaster 🙂 . I just couldn’t believe that it was the same road we took to Kone Falls few months ago. Now it had been battered & it was badly in need of repair.

After Periyapalayam, the roads became sort of ok. Ten kms after Kone Falls, we crossed into the Andhra town of Puthur. Road from here to Tirupathi was good, except for one major glitch. The road was supposed to be a highway & there were speed breakers sprinkled at random points. They weren’t even coloured differently. At one point, we were driving at 90kmph speed & seeing a speed breaker barely 5m ahead, I breaked hard. Thank goodness we didn’t fall off the bike. Man… what a chill it spent up the spine! As soon as we landed after the speed breaker, the bike refused to listen to the accelerator 🙂 so we reduced our speed & then slowly increased it again … only to find another speed breaker few kms ahead! This time we were able to manage properly.

Reached Tirupathi

Reached Tirupathi :D

Reached Tirupathi 😀

 

The whole gang reached Tirupathi safely after a 3.5 hour drive. Riding at a constant 90 kmph on fairly good roads, with chilly winds kissing your body & bumping along craters had its toll. All our bikers’ arms & legs were shivering for close to half hour. The chill in our bodies left us only after we emptied our tanks. We had breakfast at Tirupathi & then drove to Alipiri. Alipiri is the base of the hill from where vehicles can go to Tirumala (the abode of Lord Venkateshwara). We waited for a few minutes here for some Tirupathi folks to join us.

We then proceeded towards Srinivasa Mangapuram from where our trek was to begin. We reached the base camp, which was the entrance to the TTD (Tirupathi Tirumala Devasthanam) forest area. We parked our bikes & cars, and had our water bottles, glucose & snacks distributed. We started “trekking”.

Climbing Up

Few minutes into our route, we came to know that there were 2388 steps to reach the top of the hill into Tirumala. These steps were quite steep at many points. At certain points, climbing at the center of the steps proved to be a bit difficult because they were constructed at certain angles. Nevertheless, we climbed up and reached the top in about 1.5 hours. The alternate route that walkers take at Alipiri is a very long one and takes 4.5 hours to reach the top. This one is shorter but steeper.

Along the way, we made good friends with lot of people from the gang. Notably, Naveen & Praveen, the brother duo who had passed out of RMK College School of Engineering. We had absolute fun ragging each other 🙂 . Then we made new friends with Jean, Arun, Delphine & Maria, who had come to India from France (Paris) for internship. It was fun getting to know them. Its always great to remember someone of the past. One guy from the BlogCamp team named Karthik had joined us for the trek with his friend Vetri. We chuckled about the “How do you feel now” story which most blog-campers of Chennai know about 😀

At one of the steep turning points during the climb up, all of us took a group photo.

Group Photo

Group Photo

Six of the gang deviated from the original route and were following a rocky path for a brief period 🙂 Hope they had fun doing that.

Kutti Trek

Kutti Trek

Reached Tirumala … Yay!

Reached the Top
Reached the Top

We had pears to celebrate the victorious walk up the hill 🙂 lol. After everyone assembled here, we had lunch & proceeded towards Akasha Ganga. There was a surprise at this place. Lot of hawkers were selling “instant photos” of frame-able size. They had Dell laptops which were connected to colour printers. The overall circuit looked like this — Exide Battery (cars, lorries – big ones) -> junction point -> laptop -> printer -> digital cam. Whoa! That’s a cool use of technology. Isn’t it?

Myself and a few guys climbed down to reach the small water falls. We reached its top and took some pics. Unfortunately, those pics got deleted from my mobile because the card got corrupted. Damn. There were about 110 photos on the mobile & everything vapourised into thin air. Here are two of them from Vikram’s camera.

Climbing the small falls

Climbing the small falls

Climbing the falls

Climbing the small falls

That was fun 🙂 There was algae all around, so we had to tread a bit carefully. After Akasha Ganga, we visited Papavinasam. Jean applied Srichoornam to his forehead & was looking like a monk (albeit with his shaved head). Lol. That was something I least expected.

Jean the monk ... lol

Jean the monk ... lol

John the monk 2

Jean the monk 2

After Papavisanam, we started climbing down the same way we had come to Tirumala & reached the basecamp by 6.30PM. After settling the accounts & stuff, we started back to home sweet home.

Bye Tirumala

Bye Tirumala

Pictures Courtesy …

Vikram and Rajasekar. Thanks a lot photographers 🙂

Some Improvements

As I had found out from this picnic, my stamina has improved a lot. I was able to climb (up & down) the steps without sitting anywhere, after a visibly blown out ride. There was no body pain or anything of that sort on Monday morning. I woke up fresh to the memories of the trek with an awesome gang.

Hope you enjoyed the read! More coming soon … 2009 is exciting I should say. Heheh!

Night Driving Lessons on ECR

November 3rd, 2008

Update: My friend Sriram, who accompanied us during the trip has written a very good post. Please check it out here.

East Coast Road is an amazing stretch of road from Chennai to Cuddalore. The road is very smooth and long with plenty of instructions along the way on how to drive (with redundant bright boards). So much that you just can’t miss any of them.

So, on Sunday (02-Nov-2008), Nagarajan, Siddharth, Sriram and yours truly decided to drive to Pondy by bike along the ECR. Its about 150 kms from Chennai. If you drive non-stop, you can reach Pondy in two and half hours. I will blog about the Pondy trip in another post ‘cos I’m waiting for the photos to get ready.

This post is about the driving lessons I learnt when we were driving along the ECR for the first time. This post would be useful to you if you are driving along the ECR.

Day Time Driving – Until Mahabalipuram

Though many consider day time driving to be fairly easy, it is not. Until Mahabalipuram, you will encounter lots of villages where dogs’ favourite playground is the middle of the road (or) one crazy dog would have seen a calf or rat on the other side of the road & they would form small packs to hunt them down. I witnessed a medium sized dog being brutally run over by a bus. But then, nothing can be done. If it were a biker who ran over, he would have surely fallen down and broken his bones.

Please follow the instructions along the road. There are many places where there are sign posts with “speed limits”. That’s an amazing guidance. There are also lots of sign posts which announce “accident zones” and more importantly “cattle zones” where livestock is bound to cross the road and tend to become deadstock. So, drive carefully. Until Mahabalipuram, driving through villages is very risky if you overspeed.

Day Time Driving – After Mahabalipuram

After Mahabalipuram, there are back waters of the sea on both sides of the road for most part. Hence, there are not much villages. So there are no cattle/humans/fighting-dogs waiting to be hit by you. Actually in most places, you have to drive at a minimum of 80 kmph 😀 . That’s a boon for racing freaks. But be careful ‘cos the 100km stretch after Mahabalipuram is full of wild twists, turns and bridges. Most medium and heavy vehicles such as cars and busses turn without even honking. So, the safest bet is to travel at 60kmph on the left side of the road. But if you are a bit adventurous like me, you may want to experiment carefully and do turns at 85 kmph 😉 with a Toyota Innova overtaking you at an even greater speed.

There are quite a few places where there are 4-5 km straight stretches without no villages in between. The road is clearly visible. You can go at full speed your bike allows. I touched 100 kmph along such stretches & its pretty much safe.

Oh! You must bring down your helmet’s visor. Otherwise, your eyes can’t stand direct dragon fly hits.

Night Driving

I loved it. Driving during the nights on highways like ECR is a superb experience.

Nothing can be more wrong if you say night driving is dangerous along ECR. Its actually safe. For all its bend and curves, if a vehicle is turning along from the opposite direction, its headlight gives away that something is coming. That will give you enough time to adjust your speed and balance. All along the curves, the sign boards illuminate beautifully when light is showered on them. Even the road’s medians light up very well along the drive way. So you always know where you are driving.

Always dip-dim-dip your headlights when you see a vehicle coming in the opposite direction. When you are overtaking another vehicle from its right side, switch on your left side indicator before completing the overtake.

Night Driving – Good, Fair and Ugly

On the way to Chennai during night travel, you will encounter lot of insects which will hit you. Putting on the helmet visor is a problem because light from the opposite direction will disperse and will make it tough for you to see. So, follow a big vehicle from a safe distance.

Siddharth did just that. For nearly 30 kilometers, he followed a Chennai bound bus at a safe 10m distance. The bus took all of the glare of the vehicles from the opposite direction, all insects don’t reach you and most importantly, you are shielded from dangerous overtakes. Wherever the bus overtakes, you also do the same. Wherever the bus stops, you also stop and the wherever the bus goes fast, you also go fast. It will be safe, fast and secure.

Second best thing is to follow another medium sized vehicle. I did this. Most cars travel at not less than 90 kmph. So, you can actually wear your helmet visor, shielding yourself from insects and you can also drive very fast. Chill wind kissing your body is a superb feeling 🙂

All the villages along the ECR after Mahabalipuram (towards Chennai) sleeps early. So, no cattle/dog torture in nights. This enabled us to cover the 55 km stretch from Mahabalipuram to Chennai in 30 minutes flat 🙂

Hope these instructions will be useful when you drive along the ECR. If so, do let me know. Definitely give importance & follow all of the sign boards along the road. That will ensure a very safe dirve. All in all, it was an awesome driving experience. Pics of Pondy coming in the next blog post.

Visit to Kone Falls

October 5th, 2008

It’s been quite a long time since I visited a good place and had fun for a full day. I hadn’t even gone for a long ride on my bike until now. So, it was five of us. Arvindh, Karthik, Paramesh, Siva and myself. Arvindh is my friend from the Kalari class, a cool talkative guy. Karthik doesn’t talk much but likes adventures. Paramesh was the very practical guy among us and Siva was the paranoid. You know about yours truly. Hence, no “about me” here.

Kone falls is also called “konai falls” or “kona falls” or the “kailashnatha kona”.

The Drive

Kone Falls comes 10 kms before Puthur (Andhra Pradesh). Its a couple of 100 Kms from Chennai and takes about 2 hours if you drive at 60 kmph. The first one hour journey through the national highways was simply awesome! Roads are superb and there were no potholes at all. Driving speed was consistently between 80 kmph and 100 kmph. I was even able to touch the magical 100 kmph a couple of times. Once we reached the toll plaza, we took a left turn to reach Periyapalayam and then the road straight to Uthukottai. From Uthukottai, it was a 34 km ride on a perfect road. The weather was awesome! It was drizzling slightly for a few minutes in the morning. But apart from that, there was nothing much.

Paramesh, being the crazy biker among us, tried to do a few dangerous bends on his pulsar 180cc. But the turns on the road weren’t turning deep enough. I was even caught meditating on the middle on the road during the last 34kmph stretch 😀 The roads were free with an occassional lorry or two to disturb the silence.

The Falls

The entrance to the falls looks like this.

Kone Falls entrance

This entrance is tucked away from the main road. You need to watch for the milestone (on the right side of the road) that reads “Puthur 10”.  This entrance comes immediately after that milestone on the left side of the road. From here its a 2km drive along the single road. Be careful when you drive along this road. There are a few really sharp bends & cars come dashing through without any warning.

The Temple

The end of the road takes us to the base of a small hill, on which there’s a temple of Lord Shiva. To the left of the temple, there is the actual “waterfall”. The flow is not huge. But its sufficient for a few people to bath. We, being the more adventurous, didn’t want to bath here. There was a way up the hill which led to us small pools on top of the hill. We decided to trek to that place.

The Trek

This was the part of the trip that I loved the most. Armed with a couple of water bottles and a few cameras, we set out to explore the hillock from where the waterfalls’ started its downward journey. A quarter way up the hill, we were confronted by a gang of rowdy monkeys. They threatened to rip our bags apart from us to check its mysterious contents. Earlier, I would have just thrown my hands up and surrendered. But hey, what for am I learning Kalari if I can’t even handle a bunch of silly monkeys?

This culprit monkey was responsible for surrounding us with his friends.

Just as I was about to get into position, they all jumped in fear and ran away. As I turned around to see what happened, our beloved Karthik, remembering that our forefathers were monkeys, bent down and made mock faces at them. He also tried to pounce on them. Seeing this in action, we broke into peals of laughter. To celebrate the victory, with the monkeys out of the way, we stood on the edge of the rock and took a couple of daring photos.

On the Edge

That’s me and Arvindh standing on the edge. Its a steep fall from this place 🙂 We continued our trek. We found a few interesting grasses along the way. One such grass was that, if you crush its leaves, it gives a nice lemony smell. Local folks said that, this smell keeps them away from suffocation if they keep climbing too far.

After an hour of trekking, we reached the place 😀

The Waterfall and The Pool

We all beamed when we heard the sound of water rushing. It was like salvation. A goal that you had reached after some hardwork. But we were yet to see the place from where the water was falling through. Making our way through the trees, we found that the waterfall had formed a small pool which was overflowing and filling another pool about 15 feet below. We climbed down the waterfall and reached the pool in a couple of minutes. The water was amazingly clear and cool !

The pool with myself, Arvindh and Siva (L to R)

We bathed here for about an hour and a half. This pool overflowed and filled another pool about 15 feet below, which is where the adventure began.

The Adventure

I got out of the pool and was sitting on the rocks through which the water was flowing to fill the pool below. I was sitting with my legs folded and suddenly I slipped. The slope was steep and slippery and I couldn’t hold on anywhere. In the same sitting position, I fell through 15 feet with my a** bumping the rocks along the way and whooosh! … I just plunged into the pool below. With the force with which I fell, I touched the base of the pool and came up again. Thank Goodness, the pool deep enough.

I swam back to the rocks, held to a tree root, climbed it up, stepped on yet another rock and then made my way to the place where we were sitting. Phew! it was nothing like I had encountered before. This experience threw out a lot of imaginary fears from me. I escaped without a scratch.

I was almost like a caveman. Dressed only in an underwear, with a few leaves stuck around my hips, and climbing the rocks to our place, the sight was quite hilarious. Only Karthik saw me fall through very clearly. Others just heard the splash.

The Trek Down

We bathed for some more time and then made our way down. No rowdy monkeys this time. We were able to make out the route now and reached the base of the hill in under 30 minutes.  We visited the Lord Shiva temple, ate some prasadam and then made our way back to home sweet home.

Driving back!

It was a superb trip/trek, that I enjoyed thoroughly 😀 after a long time.

 

A Trip to VGP

July 2nd, 2006

Whoa!! Its an exciting time today 😀 6 of my cousins came down to my house yesterday. This excited my mom too. It was some kind of holiday for all of us and that too yesterday being a sunday, there was nothing to put down our enthusiasm. Suddenly, we decided to go to VGP golden beach.

VGP may not be the best amusement park in town and honestly, I don’t know how or why we wanted to go there. My mom is a great cook 😀 and piping hot masala dosas were waiting for us. Masala dosas make us thirsty. So, I made some thick ice-cold mango milk shake to wash the dosas down the throat. We left our home at around 10 AM making our mom happy 😀 We were making so much noise that the roof would have come down.

After a quick ride down the ECR, we reached VGP at around 11.30 and it was all fun because all of us were meeting each other after a long time. Had great time teasing each other, splashing water, riding the boring rides and making fun of the stalls. Took some nice snaps on my k300i. Honestly, the camera on k300i is too good. The picture clarity was well worth it and took lots of snaps.

Left VGP at about 6.30 PM and reached home by 8. This time, all my aunts had come down to my place 😀 and a nice spread was getting prepared. Veg fried rice, poori, aalu masala and banana, mango mash along with jaggary (will tell you the recipe in another post) and my favourite well-decorated curd rice. Ravenous, we sat down and attacked all the dishes at full speed and ate for 1 full hour 😀 The nice day came to a glorious end.

Hoping to meet them soon!

Yep, Its the next tour :)

March 30th, 2006

Yippppeeeee!!! im going to Bangalore again :D. Bangalore is 1 place that i love like hell. Love ‘cos of the cool weather and hell ‘cos of the traffic. Moyeen, Reza, Siva and myself are going to take part in the MEDC (Mobile and Embedded Developer Conference) 2006. And you know what, my college is sponsoring the cost of the conference 😀 :D. Myself and Moyeen approached the college Directors along with our project guide Mr.Thiagarajan. We told him that our project was based on advanced mobile devices 😉 and attending this conference would be very useful. On hearing that, he immediately agreed to sponsor us.

The Directors showed interest in our project and told us to move the project to a dedicated server :). We are very grateful to them for sponsoring the conference and ofcourse our project guide who took all the steps to ensure that we got the sponsorship.

Barcamp
The BarCamp Chennai organisers meet is scheduled to happen this saturday (1-APR-2006); not a april fool joke 😉 at Anna University at 12pm. If you are interested in knowing whats really happening, do drop in. We would love to have you there 🙂

HOL @ RMK.NET Bash Live!
The Microsoft Student Partners of Chennai are conducting .Net Bash Live! at RMK Engg. College on 2nd April 2006 (sunday) from 9am to 3pm. .NET Bash Live! is the new name for Hands-on-Lab sessions conducted by us for the community. If you are interested in having one at your college, contact me at aswin [dot] net [at] gmail [dot] com. My landline number is 24853416 (or) contact Krishnaa at gkrishnaa [at] gmail [dot] com. His mobile number is 9841190039. If i’m not available plz leave your contact details so that i can get back to you. Many more colleges are joining in the bandwagon and its all happening very fast 😀

We have also started planning for a mega event on the 1st week of May; like the Date with .NET, except that this will be a full day event with lot of fun, demos of Vista Beta and Office 2007 and lots of technical sessions by professionals from the industry. Will post more details about it as and when we are fully into it.

Coming back, MEDC 2006 will be great experience and i will be getting to meet new friends and student partners of Bangalore again. Its lot of fun to be with them 😀 Looking forward to the trip. See you all soon.

Bye!

The Andhra RoadTrip

March 8th, 2006

Hi! all, im just back from the Andhra trip. All the days were fun and personally i made some good friends during this trip. And all those guys have the same mind set as im. I had to leave on 25th morning by Brindavan to Bangalore where we had to meet the Bangalore champs to go that evening to Hyderabad. It was a rejoiceful meet. This time, we had a new person in our team named Nirmal, who had nicknames such as AbNirmal, Psychic etc…

That nice after a very very late dinner at a good place, we left to hyderabad.

[26th Feb 2006]
Reached hyderabad at about 12 pm and had breakfast. We met 3 hyderabad champs who had lunch with us at 4.30 pm ;), after which we left for Microsoft IDC (India Development Center) at HiTech City. The whole city of hyderabad is superb. The roads are excellent. Most of the roads are of 8 lanes or 6 lanes. Imagine the traffic going at an awesome speed of 80kmph. You can never imagine that in chennai and in bangalore if you are able to cross 20kmph, you are God!

We were glad to meet the hyderabad ADE (Academic Developer Evangelist) Prathiba and her champs 😉 at the IDC. After a brief meeting about the bandwagon, we chennaites were on a tour of the IDC. There are 2 huge buildings and a sprawling green lawn that will hold your eyes for hours together. Its beautiful :D. The lawn also extends to a cricket ground, basket ball ground and many other outdoor games. The office building we visited is where actual development of Microsoft softwares takes place. Every floor has a pantry, where you get all types of cool and hot drinks (for free !!). There are also libraries (obviously) and places where you can play snooker, table tennis (my favourite), carrom, chess etc. Infact, more than place for work, its a place for enjoyment; in short its a small amusement park :D. Since it was a sunday, the place was deserted and we were able to move around freely 🙂

This day concluded with the outing at “Eat Street”, one of the most popular hangouts at hyderabad. Eat Street is located on the shore of the lake Hussain Sagar. In the middle of the lake is a huge statue of Buddha. The hyderabad guys told us that this was the largest statue in Asia.

[27th Feb 2006]
We reached IDC early today. The Andhra roadtrip began today and it was flagged off by Mr. Srini Koppulu, the big boss of the IDC :). Aarthi was also there with us to flag off the event. The first college we went to was Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU). The sessions were with the MCA people. They were not too good. In many respects, TN students are way better than Andhra.

The second session was also at the JNTU for the CSE dept. This session was good as the crowd was good. As a matter of fact, the first session was good because, we were able to them lots of things they didn’t know about. I’m sure the interested guys will go back and check the websites we gave them. This was the main purpose of the Community Bandwagon and the roadtrip. Spread the word of community and technology.

We went for a movie at iMax theatres today :D. The movie was Taxi No. 9211 starring Nana Patekar and John Abraham. The movie was good and lasted for 2 hours. We had dinner at iMax itself.

[28th Feb 2006]
We visited two more colleges. Since the colleges are far apart, we spent a lot of time travelling. In the evening, we went to Birla Mandir. The temple is a architectural marvel and we took lots of photos there. Will upload some to flickr soon..

We went to Fortune hotel for dinner. It was supposed to be THE star hotel in hyderabad. The dinner was ok.

[1st Mar 2006]
I met a geeky genius named Dhaval Bhanushali. He is a very good programmer in C and Core Java. He has extended HigLayout to make it a bug free one. He participated in code4bill and went for the interview. Due to some silly mistakes, he lost it. Nevertheless, he shared his valuable experience with me and gave me lots of websites and tips. He is also a level 7 hacker 😉

A down-to-earth person, there is no hint of pride in him. A Great Soul. Along with him, i met another gem of a person named Mahendar. Both of these guys taught a lot of things i never knew (both tech & non-tech). It was an eye-opening experience today 😀

During the whole travel time today, i was reading Linda Goodman’s Star Signs book. And within few minutes, i was telling each of them what their name and dob meant to them. Since I’m interested in java, they crowned a title called MCJA (Microsoft Certified Java Astrologer)….ha ha ha! Every minute of the tour was exciting.

[2nd March 2006]
We went to some more colleges. The response at every college we went was excellent. During the dinner today, an exciting thing called Operation Salt happened. The core persons of this being myself, Chitresh and Gautam. After we were seated at the hotel with Prathiba (it was her treat), we were served water. We took the salt container that was meant for soups and emptied half of it into Chaitu’s glass. A minute later, all the salt got dissolved in it.

We called Chaitu for Cheers! and the minute he drank the water, his face changed colours. It was so funny that we were laughing for the next 15 minutes. Instead of pouring out the water, the glasses were slowly exchanged with that of Prathiba. Now, all the 15 of us “cheers”ed and Prathiba drank the salt water..ha ha ha! This time, the salt jar was empty ! Imagine her surprise when she drank the water that was as salty as sea water !

We left for Vijayawada tonight to visit colleges there.

[3rd March 2006]
At Vijayawada also, the response was excellent. Today is one day i won’t forget in my life. After the exciting day, during the dinner; mine was almost over. I was over a cup of ice-cream when someone shouted, “Hey, anna university results have come”. I almost spilled the ice-cream and dashed off to make phone calls. After some frantic tries, i got a reply saying that the results will be out tonight. The night passed sleeplessly, when at 3AM i heard that familiar “keenk- keenk” sound of the mobile. I was sweating despite the A/C in the bus. The mobile almost slipped out of my hand.

Shivering due to both fear and A/C, i opened the “1 Unread Message”. This is what it said, “Machan, yay! we cleared da! u got 83%, let us have a blast in Chennai when u r back..yoo! hoo!”. Yipee! i saved my job. Thank God! I fell asleep immediately.

We were going to bangalore to attend the Academic Days event at PESIT college.

[4th March 2006]
Like the Coimbatore one, we reached PESIT directly. The only change being, this time we brushed our teeth. The 16 hrs of travel wore us out completely. The sessions by Yashavant Kanetkar on VC++ programming was tooooooooo good. The event ended with Kevin’s session on “Intro to .net” with Reza and Sharath doing some cool demos.

Myself and deepak left for chennai tonight. The whole tour came to a nice end. I’m looking forward to more of this 😀

Bye!

Tour De Coimbatore

February 23rd, 2006

After the grand event on 13th, 13 Microsoft Student Champs from Chennai and Bangalore, left for Coimbatore from where we had to proceed to Erode and Madurai after visiting some colleges there. As it was already late by the time we left Chennai, we stopped for a mid-night dinner at a nameless roadside dhaba. This is where all the fun started 😉

When the bus stopped, we were all shocked to have dinner at a place like this. Jk pushed all of us, came to the front like a gaint and asked, “Where is the damn menu card?”..We all roared into laughter when he asked that. Tell you, this was the worst place where i had eaten till now. The oothappam they gave started stinking the minute he served it. Donno how i managed to eat it :(. And Vivek gave us a surprise by ordering chicken noodles ha ha ha…and it was like “veratti (dried cow dung, used as fuel) cut in pieces and soaked in kurma”…

We reached Coimbatore next day by 10.30 AM. As it was already late, we had to skip our hotel and proceeded to PSG directly. Imagine all 13 of us, without even brushing and dull from the night’s sleep entering a college ! Thankfully, we were given rooms for refreshment, which gave us enough time to brush and get ready for the 1 hr session at this college. We had prepared a separate set of quiz questions. The first question was an easy one; the CEO of Microsoft. Lots of hands came up immediately and a guy confidently told “Bill Gates”. When i said the answer was wrong, all the hands came down in a milli-second. Another guy told it was “Allen Paul”…(some of the champs were already giggling). None of the colleges gave this sort of an answer. Well, PSG shocked us beyond the bizzare dreams. The answer is Steve Ballmer.

After this college, we went to GCT. The crowd was pretty ok there…no fumbling with the CEO of Microsoft. They also answered the $1 question. We reached the hotel by 7PM and had our lunch! On a side note, our breakfast was at 1PM 🙂 Dinner consisted of juices and salads !

[15th Feb 2006]
This day was an awesome one! All of us went to Black Thunder water theme park, to chill out the travel pressure. It is very cheap. For Rs.260 per head, all rides are free and is allowed for unlimited number of times. Ofcourse, they don’t give free lunch ;). We had a good time pushing everyone in the water after they got on to their floats he he…Reza triggered a mini-tsunami as soon as he landed on the water from the slide…Rajagopal had a tough time getting on his float and as soon as he got on the float, everyone pounced on him and pushed him once again ha ha ha…Even i got pushed twice or thrice…

Of all, the wave pool was the best. It simulated the sea environment by creating waves thro’ the water. The whole pool had a depth of only 7 feet, starting from 3. It was awesome enjoyment when you have to jump up as the wave hits, otherwise a huge amount of water will fall on you.

The best part of this day was during the lunch when the hotel waiter was ragged for not getting us extra pappads. You should have seen the waiter’s face go red when Deepak asked him whether they were still frying the pappads. He was embarassed by Krishnaa when he asked “whether water was the only unlimited thing here”…

This nice day came to an end after the excellent dinner at Recidency.

[16 Feb 2006]
We went to Kongu Engg. College today. The crowd was good here, they answered the quiz questions. Krishnaa finished off, by doing a demo of Office 12. Reza also did a demo of VS2005. On the way to Kongu, we had a really tough argument of netbeans vs. VS2005 IDEs. Though i wont say which side won ;), the argument was good enough ‘cos we were able to able to convince the college staff’s that we are more of student technologists 🙂

The evening passed off by a visit to Tirupur, the t-shirt town of India. We purchased some nice ones and rates were 5 times less than what you have in Chennai.

[17 Feb 2006]
We went to Thiagarajar College today at Madurai. After visiting KLN college and Sethu Institute of technology, we visited the Meenakshi Amman temple. On the way to the temple, the Sethu guys sang some Madurai folk songs for us. They were a really cool bunch.

This day was also the birthday of Siva. We were treated at Taj on Microsoft’s expense 😉 and he got splashed with chocolate cake all over him. The exciting trip came to an end with this.

It was an awesome experience in planning something this big and making it happen too. The main reason for some colleges not answering simple questions was that, their exposure towards the technology and industry as a whole is very limited/nil (null, for the geeks out there). At the end of this tour, we feel confident that we have sowed interest for technology in them.

This is just the beginning
Towards the end of the month, we are moving to Andhra. In the near future, we are touring Karnataka and Maharashtra too 😀

And i wont hesitate to tell again that the new year 2006 is exciting 🙂

Enjoyment Unlimited – Part 1

February 19th, 2006

Hi!! friends, the last 2 weeks has been too good. Let me start with the first one. The first week was filled with 2 things.

1. Sun Tech Days 😉
2. The Community Bandwagon

Sun Tech Days
This is a technical conference that Sun Microsystems (inventor of the Java programming language) holds annually at different countries. Last year, it was in Bangalore and this year it was in Chennai, at the Chennai Trade Center. The crowd turned out to be more than 4000 and they had a bonus 3rd day. It had 2 tracks called the “Netbeans day” and “Solaris day”. This big event ends with the JavaOne conference that is held at San Fransisco, USA.

As usual, the 2 day event was superb with experts showing off the new features of Java language, developing web services using netbeans IDE, sun java studio creator, sun java enterprise studio, AJAX and a lot of other cool stuff. The sessions i liked the most was the ones on mobile devices, web services security, AJAX, Matisse (the new GUI creator for netbeans) and developing web applications using the sun java studio creator.

All the tools mentioned are 100% free. Netbeans 5.0 can be downloaded from here. By becoming a member of SDN, you can download Sun Java Studio Creator 2 and Sun Java Enterprise Studio for free. Even the membership for SDN is free.

A Java jacket is given to 1 person among the audience. 6 people have to volunteer from the audience and they have to showcase their unique talent. Based on the response of the audience, he is given the java jacket. This year it was won by Sivanand working for HCL.

The Community Bandwagon
Myself and many Microsoft Student Champs from Chennai and Bangalore worked on an idea called “The Community Bandwagon”. The main purpose of this was to promote technical usergroups and create awareness about the latest technologies, particularly .NET. As part of the plan, we had to visit colleges in and around Chennai and talk to students about technology. We covered about 4 colleges per day and went to more than 12 colleges in Chennai. The Bangalore guys joined us on 7th Feb.

After enjoying a superb dinner with the Bangalore people, we set off to colleges from 8th morning. We took a bus with us to different colleges and told some students of each college to paint a portion of the bus. The painted bus will then move to other colleges. This was absolute fun and every moment was recorded. At the end of the tour, the bus was completely painted and it looked colourful with the creativity of the students.

In every college, we spent about an hour and half by giving out pamphlets on Microsoft Academic Project Program, Imagine Cup. From the 20 of us, some of them were selected to talk at each college on introduction to the user group and its activities etc. We conducted sudoku contests, JAM and a quiz session at the end. Those who got the answers right were given t-shirts, visual studio 2005 express editions, visual studio 2005 trial editions and original windows xp professional. We received very well at every college we went and the event was a huge success.

The Community Bandwagon at Chennai lasted for 4 days covering more than 12 colleges and it culminated with the “Date with .NET” event organised solely by/for the students. The event was held at Kamaraj Memorial hall, Chennai on 13th Feb 2006. Eminent speakers at the event included the Anna University Vice Chancellor Dr. Viswanathan, Former CSE HOD at IIT-M Dr. MuthuKrishnan, Microsoft Academic Lead Mr.Chander Sundaram and Microsoft Academic Developer Evangelist Mr.Ashwani Sharma. More than 1800 students all over the city participated and in one word, the event was “excellent”.

After an excellent week of ceaseless excitement, the Bandwagon team moved on to a tour of South India comprising of Coimbatore, Erode and Madurai. More about it in the next blog 😉

Trip to Bangalore

December 12th, 2005

hi!! I went to Bangalore for the past 2 days…1st day to attend the launch event…2nd day to roam around the place.

Day 1
Reached bangalore at 6AM and had a lunch-like-breakfast with 4 aloo parathas, 2 club sandwiches and a pineapple juice. Phew!! getting quite heavy with that, went to the nearest lodge & flopped for the next 4 hrs, almost shivering due to the cold weather.

Finding it was already 10:30AM, had a good bath & after another small breakfast 😉 headed to Palace Grounds, where the launch event was about to take place. Btw, if you are wondering what the launch event was, Bill Gates was visiting Bangalore to launch the latest version of the platform for developing and deploying software….Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006.

Event started at about 2:30PM; Bill Gates giving his keynote address for about an hour and after other blah blah blah, the event was over at 6PM. Parikrama was good with their Super Hero song, but other than that i could find they were only screaming with their voices and guitars :)) .

The event as a whole was great. The audience, around 6000 IT pros in and around B’lore and we Microsoft Student Champs from chennai, coimbatore, b’lore and mumbai. It was great learning experience, in that we got to know how Bill thinks. He is thinking at about 20 to 30 years ahead of today (duh! ofcourse he does) & with his proper timing of events, no doubt he is the richest man personally and built a company that is building 300 odd products. He was sharing his vision of the tablet pc as the next revolution, his next investment of $1.7 billion in India over the next 4 years etc. He also mentioned that India is 1 of the primary development centers outside USA. Getting a seat barely 100 metres away from the man, i was no doubt very attentive to his keynote. Thanks a lot to the ADEs for arranging that. Moreover, we had a great time meeting the other champs.

As with any big event, there are some negatives too. The food was as bad as it could be. They served 2 very small bananas (each 1 about an inch in size), 1 cake, 1 veg puff, frooti cool drink, 1 small sandwich, 2 cookies. Anyone with the right brains couldn’t have thought of such a wonderfully stupid lunch. That apart, the event was a success.

Day 2
Night dawns early at B’lore and it gets dark very soon. So, waking up at 10AM the next day, i got ready in half hour and went to Lalbagh Gardens. It was a half hour journey from the place called J.P.Nagar. The garden is so huge and its right there in the center of the city. It also has a mini lake inside and the whole atmosphere was cool and great. If you would want some peace amidst the noice of bangalore, then this is the place to go (i would recommend Thekkady lake in Kerala as the first destination).

Now for some positives about Bangalore…
1. Its a good place with a cool-cooler type of weather in contrast to Chennai’s hot-hotter weather.
2. A city with lots of opportunites for IT pros because this is the home for some of the biggest software companies.
3. Helpful people and uncheating autorickshaws.
4. Its the place for bird hunting 😉

As for some negatives,
1. Very crowded. If there is anything else that would determine the time required to reach a place its the worst traffic.
2. Cost of living is high. You need to earn a decent amount to sustain yourself in bangalore.

Personally, i love Bangalore and i would love to work/live there, but it would only come next to Chennai bcos its my darling hometown. How much i had missed this place for the past 2 days??? Phew!!!

hey! did you ever wonder why Bill had to visit this time for the launch???