2014-05-12

Wow what a coincidence!!

For the upcoming  2014 TCS Bangalore10K, I am running  for a cause.  I will be supporting an NGO called ILP (India Literacy Project) which I became familiar with through my running group. I also volunteered to raise funds for ILP through BangaloreCare.  

This is my humble effort to raise funds for a cause close to my heart.  ILP is working in 17 states and 850 villages of India to make this basic right available. More about ILP and Bangalore Care can be found in their website. There is no amount as small amount when it is comes to collective power.  To make my pledge more personal, I began growing a beard inspired from “Beard-a-thon” which I am going to keep till the race day.

Let’s make India 100% literate! Click here to help me raise funds: Fundraise Detail  Bangalorecares.in

After sending the initial mail  and Facebook requests to friends and colleagues, I left for a 2 weeks vacation in April.  When I came back from vacation on 26th April, I was disappointed to find there were not much funds raised at all.  I am now making another round of chat, mail and socializing the idea to my friends and colleagues to gain support and funds.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with a wonderful set of friends and family. As of today, I have collected 40K INR  via the Bangalore Care website in last 2 weeks and  received around another 15K in personal account, as Bangalore care does not accept International Credit Card. I also collected funds directly in-person from a floor walk in Technopolis and will continue till this Friday 16th May. I also plan to apply for  a Matching Gift  in the hopes that the ILP would essentially receive double the amount raised by me through a grant from Thomson Reuters at work.

But there is another very interesting fact - I always recollect the first organized run I ran back in USA in 2000. That was a small run organized for Literacy Project for India in Shoreline - Mountain view (close to Google Campus . Shoreline being my primary running course, it was very natural that I participated  and was very happy with same.  However, being the first race,  still remember that Sunday morning quite well and had that T-shirt for long time as a memorabilia. 

Now after 14 years, today morning I just did a quick search and wondering if there will be a  digital foot print from that race?  Look what  found in few seconds. I am really emotional to see that I was there. And, both these are races are connected by same NGO - ILP.  I feel that my running life suddenly came to a full circle.











2014-04-29

PaceMakers

Coach Kothandapani

Believe I shared it before  many times, my likeness of an active lifestyle. It was not  new to me but last year  found like minded group and joined them and now i can say i do exercise few times a week. A passion drives us to wake up at 4 AM twice on weekdays to reach stadium and start workout by sharp 5AM.  It is tough but once you reach there and start your day the whole day I find myself with plenty of positive energies.

This group is called PaceMakers and it is under the guidance of coach KC. He is a veteran runner  with many accolades. It also  feels like a being part of  big family.


Yesterday we had an awesome Birthday party celebrating coach’s birthday and sharing our new web site to the world. If you are looking for coach and a running group and stick with discipline you may want  try to run few times with us. Please take a moment to visit the  websites.

2014-04-26

Driving Himachal


View Larger Map

We are back to Bangalore from our first trip to Northern India. It was touching the dot of the "i"  in the amazing Incredible  India. The eco-friendly state of  Himachal Pradesh and Himalaya has so much to offer is just amazing.  Feeling proud to be Indian....really Amazing India! Abundance of natural beauty ranging from beautiful snow-capped and green mountains, at times rolling hills, valleys, mountains cut in mushroom shape to give way to narrow roads and tunnels, gushing river like Satluj, Beas, Ravi etc, meadows giving ways to rock around highest peak,waterfalls,apple orchards with great variation in climatic condition..... more said about it will be less....

2014-03-29

Tanflora -- Our own Keukenhof around Bangalore

Got an invite to visit a Rose farm from one of our running group member. Though this trip was long due it was like now or never as the season for roses almost comes to end with HOT Indian summer. From Bangalore we need to go via Sarjapur, Bagalur in Housr District of TamilNadu. Google name is Amuthugondapalli. Due to exam time many people could not come but it was still a sizable group of 30. 

Myself and Aarush joined another dad & son in car-pool to drive down there. Both the boys of same age became better and bitter friends quickly. The road was a long one for us as we have to travel on ORR to Sarjapur Junction and pass Decathlon and Sarjapur village till we reached Baglur Village. From there we took a right turn next to Police station and drive for 7+ KM to reach a place with a sign for Tenaflora. We were the first one to reach and as soon as Aarush and Abhinav got out of the car started to run and explore the vast open space. 

Soon we were joined with our hostess and other group members. She briefed us on a quick background the farm and how it works and we stared the guided tour. Roses are pretty but they needs lots of care and best resources to grow. The green houses are computer controlled to ensure the right level of temperature and humidity is maintained. The water that needs to be filtered and ensured right level of pH and EC maintained. If you are wondering what is this EC it is Electrical Conductivity of water may be we studied somewhere long time ago. There were those huge cold storage where unsorted and sorted roses are kept once they are picked form the green-house. The whole process is very tedious and labor intensive just like tea. Like tea garden ladies work with their delicate hands for sorting and ensuring right set of roses are packed together. The global standard is of 20 rose stems in one. We completed the post plucking production from un-sorted roses to a final packing and ready to be shipped in those big card-board box.

After that we had a stupendous lunch spread before us. The outside temperature was very hot but after a rest we walked towards green house. It was really hot out there. Inside greenhouse it was a great relief and it reminded us Shilshila. Growing up in India in 70/80s you it is kind of marked in your memory with permanent marker. Here we saw how they take care of each buds right from when they are in the size of peanuts. 

The best was kept for the last each of us were given a rose bouquet of different colors. Hope these pictures tell you the story better than me.

2014-03-18

A Weekend - supposed to be perfect

Aarush reminded me it's  Friday,  at breakfast table and that he should have the I-Pad with charger for the Weekend; somehow he remembers when it is Friday very well for his age. Well the weekend was supposed to be a just another weekend on the calendar with no specific plan. There were some weekend work/changes/releases at office but not a major ones. Nowadays my running group is doing long runs on Saturday instead of Sunday. And I thought to myself if I start sharp at 5 I should be able to  finish by 7:15  and back home before 7:30 so that I can take care of Aarush.

On Friday I headed to bed early put the alarm for 4:15 and I left home for GKVK at 4:30. It was bit spooky to reach there and be alone in the dark. The only street light was working was around gate of NCBS. So did few short rounds of quick jogging on the road luckily there were no stray dogs. As I was finishing up my warm up exercises one by one my running group members started to show up. Without much time at hand I started running alone in the dark. I was thinking the faster ones will cross me any time after 15-20 minutes and then the others will follow. But saw my running buddies almost when I completed first loop and was at 9.8+ KM mark. I joined them back and to complete the remaining part without a break as I was carrying a small water bottle. Soon the second loop almost started to get complete and finished 20K in 1:50. 

At 20KM mark reached back to car and had little water break and then started the last 3KM. Now the real challenge was supposed to be faster by 1 minute for the last 3 KMs. I did OK and finished them within target shared by coach. It was 7:12 and with that headed back home. By the time I reached home Pamela already left for work and our maid and cook were busy working. Aarush was still asleep. Complete the workout with some stretching exercise; it was a real achievement to run 20+3KM within the plan.

After that had a quite morning, Aarush woke up, we completed shower, breakfast &  homework. He played little bit of games on Ipad while I uploaded my running details in GARMIN. Around 11ish dropped Aarush to Abacus class this was his 3rd session, something to keep him away from TV and IPAD on the weekends. 

Picked Aarush and Pamela around 1PM, after lunch had a nice nap and whith my best try Aarush did not slept. But he was ready for some rounds of roller blades within our apartment complex. It was kind of boring so called even friends with a hope if they are free;  will catch up with them.

After 9:30 in the night there was some glitch at work so spent some time on that issue ; was thinking to join Nike Run Club with Pamela on Sunday Morning. 

Sunday morning the alarm went off on correct time but two of us were lazy to go out - a perfect Sunday morning finished Breakfast late then completed household chores. Had lunch on time followed by a nap. I really felt good after a long time that got a restful weekend. 

The following day being Holi – festival of colors. There was some celebration within our complex ; Pamela and Aarush stayed there while I came home to prepare dinner.

After 30 minutes or so Aarush came back home and said he is not going to have dinner and going for sleep. Got little irritated with this as how he can skip his dinner and go to sleep; called Pamela and spoke about the same. So after 3 min (precise time from phone call log) I went inside and asked Aarush to change his dress and I washed his hand and face. While pat drying his hand my almost perfect weekend came to an abrupt halt and left me jolted on seeing Aarush left  hand was completely broken and it was twisted. 

I ran got some first aid to support  his hand and called Pamela again informing her to return immediately. And we rushed to ER of hospital next door. 

Everyone at hospital was shocked that how this 6 year old was not crying or howling and showing a brave expressionless face. They called the on-call orthopedic and by the time completed his first round of X-ray.

The only sound that came from him was when they applied traction to straighten his hand. Again another round of x-ray to confirm whether the setting was OK and finally we came home. 

Well today is only Tuesday and tomorrow evening we need to visit hospital again for another round of x-ray to confirm all is OK before they put a complete hard cast on his hand for 6 weeks. 

Today, I feel bad not for his broken hand but for hiding this incident because of the fear of being scolded . Looks like I failed completely and still trying to find an answer what triggered him to behave like that as on the same evening I have spent a good time on the play ground with him before leaving for home to prepare his favorite dinner. 
the x

2014-02-17

Pinkathon

 Pinakthon is a initiative to encourage todays women of India to participate in active life style. Being  little active myself I know it is very difficult for modern urban Indian women to follow the same. There are many logistical issues staring from family, in-laws, sons, daughters, job and what not.

But the biggest block I think is they themselves as to take initiative of starting an active lifestyle and being committed to it which is not an easy commitment . Though I am not expecting them to run Full-Marathon in sub 3 hours but even if they can do atleast 30 minutes of speed walk or other cardiac activities on daily basis that would be great.

So this year, Pamela & Pixy signed up for the 5K events. Picture courtesy to Flashbulbzz.

2014-01-28

Planning a summer escape - 2014


View Driving directions to Chandigarh, Chandigarh, India in a larger map
Looking for travel advice!!! Ticket booked from Bangalore to Chandigarh round trip. We flyout  on Sunday(13th April) and stay that night at Chandigarh and next day would like to start  for Himachal Pradesh. And return after almost 2 weeks, on Friday to Chandigarh and take next Morning flight to Bangalore on Saturday (26th April).

2014-01-17

Goa ... beach and x-mas

In 2013 we had very little family vacation time. I personally travelled here and there for single nights few times due to running and other personal work. The worst was to spend a week in Calcutta just after Durga Pooja and not able to accomplish anything there. So when December vacation time was only few days away I booked for Goa for 4 nights without much thinking. Personally felt quite happy with the booking as got a decent price for Goa just before X-mas.

We left Bangalore on Saturday morning at around 04:30 morning; the road condition was great and for the first time I was maintaining 100/110 KPMH. The road widening on NH4 between Chitradurga and Neelmangla was completed and now we have 3 lanes on each side. We stopped at Kamat before Haveri and soon reached Hubli around 10ish. From there we left the toll road but the road condition did not deteriorate at all. Thanks to Supreme Courts’ verdict on Illegal mining : ) there was no over-sized dumper carrying Iron ores. We reached Karwar by 12 and did not felt like stopping  for lunch that time. On entering Goa border we had to pay whooping 250 INR as entrance fees which was little surprising for us as never had to pay such fees with Private self-driven car in India.

We reached our hotel Colva kinara around 14:00, so first we had lunch and then checked in later. While checking-in got a shock of life time. There was mention of “Mandatory Gala Dinner on 24th Dec 2012(X-Mas Eve)” but the price of the same was never mentioned while booking and personally did not open the hotel coupon to read the fine prints. Now Hotel guys were asking rs.3000 per person for the same so in total 7500 for our family of 2 and half . Called up MakeMyTrip and told them they should have made this clear prior booking as it was too extravagant amount being asked by the hotel but looks like there was no option other than paying. It was a bad start .

Visited family and friends twice on the northern side in the evening ; it was OK drive but quite long. 

The 4 nights stay at the hotel was event-less but the hotel was not a great for the money we spent. These 4 days we really not did do much other than drinking, eating, walking to beach, take a swim at sea and repeat the same.  As got robbed on the day one due to that great dinner thought of extending the stay and even out the damage. Checked for a property in Agonda beach (further south close to Karwar) and decided to go there. The plan was if they provide us with decent room we stay or else we go back. The property was right on the beach and it was beach hut called Dersy's beach hut with minimum bare amenities. For example there was no running hot water but all we were looking for was beach, sand and tranquility.

The next 3 days were more or less similar we had breakfast at ‘On the wayGerman bakery, lunch somewhere and dinner at “La Dolice Vita”. Both the place were excellent in terms of quality of food and price. Last day, we went  to Palolem beach at "Cozy nook huts" right on the beach and enjoyed our lunch there.We really liked them. Afternoon were pretty hot even in December- mostly left with no option other then power nap. Two evenings I did barefoot running along the beach in the evening. But ended up getting body ache and eventually fever. 

The drive back on Saturday was hard on me being sick and Aarush too was down with fever. We skipped lunch as didn't feel like eating that afternoon. I had to take a power nap (after lots of request from Pamela) for 40 minutes. But the sad part is no CCD(cafe coffee day) around or decent break area along this NH4 while returning. There is one CCD only near Tumkur and that too on the other side for which I was not at all keen to take 2 U-turns on the Highway. Thinking back, the drive back west when the sun is in-front of you its not at all easy to drive and ended up with severe headache accompanied with fever.

So after a wonderful week of vacation, I was completely down with Viral fever for almost a week and had to visit a Doctor and take antibiotic medication to recover. So going to Goa in the peak of season may not be a great idea as hotel price is just sky rocket at that time. 

2013-12-18

PHP iptcembed Gallery3 to Flickr

A journey of sharing photo only got me into having a website of my own. When digital camera came out with decent mega pixel was an early adapter of the same. But soon realized sharing Pictures on email was not an option and  hosted pictures  on Tripod. Oh! they used to give 10MB of free hosting :) now Flicker gives one 1TB free. So long  story small after the managing own gallyery app writen initally with csv and php , later mysql and php and lastly Gallery for almost 10 years. found gallery development is kind of not that active it used to be. So thought of moving into Flickr which was big no in-between as they had restriction on free accounts. But now those restriction gone managing 7000+ picture and importing them with proper details remained a BIG challenage. At last came up with iptcembed  where all the details where written into  JPEG file itself and imported those image as set to Flickr.And all your details, tag, captions are set properly.

Here is how I did it

1. Copy Gallery's items table to temp table so we do not mess with live data
2. Add a new column to the temp table
ALTER TABLE `Yours_G3_items-new` ADD `album_name` TEXT NOT NULL
3. Find out the parent album id of each items and add that data in the new column.
UPDATE Yours_G3_items-new,Yours_G3_items  SET Yours_G3_items-new.album_name = Yours_G3_items.title WHERE Yours_G3_items-new.parent_id = Yours_G3_items.id
4. Export the new table with "|" as separator and "" as enclosed.

Now the PHP script
<?
//File to be opened
$file="/tmp/csv.txt";
$gallery_album_base = ..../gallery3/var/albums";
$new_gallery_album_base = <new location>/albums" ;
//
$handle = fopen($file, 'r') or die ("Fail to open input file \n\r") ;
$ln= 0 ;
// Some Functions Start
function csv_explode($delim='|', $str, $enclose='"', $preserve=false){
$resArr = array();
$n = 0;
$expEncArr = explode($enclose, $str);
foreach($expEncArr as $EncItem){
if($n++%2){
array_push($resArr, array_pop($resArr) . ($preserve?$enclose:'') . $EncItem.($preserve?$enclose:''));
}else{
$expDelArr = explode($delim, $EncItem);
array_push($resArr, array_pop($resArr) . array_shift($expDelArr));
$resArr = array_merge($resArr, $expDelArr);
}
}
return $resArr;
}

// iptc_make_tag() function by Thies C. Arntzen
function iptc_make_tag($rec, $data, $value)
{
$length = strlen($value);
$retval = chr(0x1C) . chr($rec) . chr($data);
if($length < 0x8000)
{
$retval .= chr($length >> 8) . chr($length & 0xFF);
}
else
{
$retval .= chr(0x80) .
chr(0x04) .
chr(($length >> 24) & 0xFF) .
chr(($length >> 16) & 0xFF) .
chr(($length >> 8) & 0xFF) .
chr($length & 0xFF);
}
return $retval . $value;
}
// Some Functions End
while ($line = fgets ($handle)){
$line = str_ireplace("\x0D", "", $line);
$line = urldecode ($line);
++$ln;
print ("just line : $ln \n");
if ($line===FALSE) print ("FALSE\n");
else {
//print ("I am $ln \n");
//print ($line) ;
$variables = csv_explode ("|", $line);
//print_r ($variables);
//26(album or photo) 25(title), 13(image_path), 4(details),33(album_name/tag)

if ( $variables[26] == photo ){
//Path new and old path
$old_path = $gallery_album_base . '/' . $variables[13];
$image_name_new = $new_gallery_album_base . '/' . $variables[13];
$path_parts = pathinfo ($image_name_new);
if (!file_exists($path_parts['dirname'])) {
print ("makeing directory {$path_parts['dirname']} \n") ;
mkdir ($path_parts['dirname'], 0777,true);
}

// Set the IPTC tags
$iptc = array(
'2#120' => "$variables[4]",
'2#105' => "$variables[25]",
'2#005' => "$variables[25]",
'2#015' => "$variables[33]",
'2#116' => 'Copyright, www santm com'
);
// Convert the IPTC tags into binary code
$data = '';
foreach($iptc as $tag => $string)
{
$tag = substr($tag, 2);
$data .= iptc_make_tag(2, $tag, $string);
}
// Embed the IPTC data
$content = iptcembed($data, $old_path);
// Write the new image data out to the file.
$fp = fopen($image_name_new, "wb");
fwrite($fp, $content);
fclose($fp);
print ("working on $image_name_new \n");
//$size = getimagesize($image_name_new, $info);
//if(isset($info['APP13']))
//{
// $iptc = iptcparse($info['APP13']);
// var_dump($iptc);
//}
} //end of if photo loop
} // end of else loop
} // end of while loop
# Close the File.
fclose($handle);
?>
I Wish there was API where I could import the image from my old hosting company to Flickr directly instead of uploading them via their PC up-loader.

More here on major phpfunction

http://www.php.net/function.iptcembed
http://www.php.net/function.pathinfo
http://php.net/manual/fr/function.explode.php

2013-12-14

Moving away from self hosting

Well after all these years of self hosting and WordPress I am kind of let go the Self-hosting. Moved pamela.santm.com to Tumblr and all the pictures from Gallery3 to Flickr

Still need to move www.santm.com somewhere and aarush.santm,com pictures to somewhere, most likely it will be Flickr again. hope to complete the all these before 2013 finishes.

2013-10-25

Kurseong

Kurseong


The first-daywe got little suspicious with the transport rates being quoted by Kanchan View Hotel Manager. We reported that back to Calcutta the tour operator Mr. D. Ghosh. But once you are away from home and you have limited option to negotiate a bargain. The Hotel person by now have charged us 2500 for the first day covering only Tagore Smritivan , monastery and forest bungalow. For the second day we paid 2500 to cover 5/6 places but the distance was more. By now we have checked few blogs and travel sites thanks to borrowed usb modem and quite certain that we are being robed :( The charge for travelling to Burniok to Kurseong was a whopping 4500. Somehow by now we kind of lost faith on that travel agent :( of Calcutta. 

Only good part we got a new Mahindra Xylo and started travelling back to Jorethang on the same road and took a turn there towards Kurseong The road was really bad as we entered West Bengal luckily we were in a SUV. The road was narrow, long and without any major village to stop or rest over for few minutes.
We called the guest house in Kurseong to get a direction and he explained the same to our driver. On the way weather also changed its mood and it became very dark and started to rain as we approached Kurseong. Ghum (highest point on Toy train line ) was completely submerged in cloud. We could hardly see anything beyond few meters. Once we reached Kurseong we were lost with direction and had to come back to towards Darjeeling again to reach our home-stay. The home-stay is on a hill top near St. Mary. We approached it via such a narrow lane that there was no chance for our SUV to go to the end and had to drag our luggage ourselves. It was not a pleasant way to approach a new place & moreover there was no help from the home-stay and it was raining. By the time we got into our room it was almost 2:30 PM and it was really cold. Although the house had wooden floor but it was really cold and we felt little unprepared for this weather in the middle of summer. We had some hot Maggi and sandwiches as snack or late lunch. My mother decided for a rest while we decided to explore the market of Kurseong. So we walked back to the highway (Darjeeling -Siliguri NH 55) and got a shared jeep (taxi) which took us to the market.

The market we explored about travel option of our own this time. We fixed one taxi for next day's sightseeing and also inquired about rate for going to Darjeeling and Siliguri. With that our suspicion became reality ? that we were cheated by our travel agent.

We walked around the market area and it started to rain. We left the market area behind and tried our luck in stopping a taxi to drop us back. But that turned out negative and we continued and reached “Kurseong Tourist Lodge”. Stopped there for a break we ordered coffee and French fries for Aarush. Must admit after a long time had a good coffee in the kingdom of tea :). The sky got little cleared and we started walking back again on NH 55 to reach our home-stay. Walking along the Highway and toy train had its share of fun. Aarush did an excellent walk of 3 KM walk with uphill. Dinner was a simple-one egg-curry with rice and we headed to bed as it was really a long day for us.

Next day, the weather was not better compared to first day. After breakfast we started with our sightseeing. The first stop was Dow Hill Girls School. The place was not open to public that day and due to rain and cloud we could hardly see anything. This school is 130+ years old started in 1879. From there we went to Dow Hill (Deer Park) which is little further on the same road. It seems there is a big plan to make a zoo/entertainment park with rope-way in couple of years. Knowing it is West Bengal I have personal doubt that it will ever be made.

From there we went to Makaibari Tea Estate, normally on a regular day you can visit the factory and have a guided tour of tea leave processing. But being Sunday factory was closed and we just bought some tea. En route we passed Castleton Tea estate which is one of the most expensive Darjeeling tea. While heading back we stopped for few minutes to explore Cochrane Place and taking pictures around tea garden as Sun suddenly came out between the cloud. This resort/hotel is really cool and worth checking out if you are looking for better stay with excellent view.

After this we came to TV tower which is also known as Eagle Crag. It is a high point and provides panoramic view of the valley down . The sky was not very clear but it was better than the initial morning and we could see the road going to Siliguri and the great flat land near from there. The river Torsa;’s white mark was very faint.

The driver suggested some options which really did not appealed us but then he suggest Goethals Memorial School. For that we drove past our home-stay. This time we got lucky and guard let us in the school yard. This school is the boy’s convent started in 1907. There are many distinguished alumni’s who represented India from Olympics to Corporate leadership. It was a real nice feeling to explore this school from outside, reminded us of the Montfort School of Yercaud,TN.

The driver dropped us back to the same place where we had snacks previous day evening. The place was packed with tourist but luckily we managed a table and had some hot meal there. We went back to our home-stay with a local Taxi.

Now like weather our camera also made a big drama, one of the plastic pins of memory card got broken and it refused to work. We explored St Mary’s Hill in the evening. It was a nice stroll from home-stay. We crossed Eastern Forest Rangers' College (another British Legacy) on our way. It is a scenic natural area covered with lush green forests all around and the way leading to The Grotto. A statue of Mariam (Mother of Isa) is placed inside a open cave. There were only one or two worshipers when we were there to lit candles.

Well that is also end of Kurseong, settled the bill & booked a Taxi for next day morning to take us early in the morning to train station to get a ride on famous Toy train to Darjeeling

2013-09-30

Mysore Half Marathon 2013


This was Mysore Celebration Run 2013 ; well there was BIG celebration at Pacemakers running group. Coach was brand ambassador of the run, we had a promo run in Bangalore for the same. Few runners from group also got featured in Life is Calling's web site.

Initially I was against this run as I rescheduled my Mother's return flight from Bangalore to Siliguri on the same Sunday :(. But big thanks to Maa and Pamela as they supported to run me this event. Initial plan was Pamela to drop Maa at airport, but at the end Maa said she would go via Taxi of her own. I traveled in car with fellow runners post lunch on Saturday and with small coffee break reached Mysore around 18:30. We had a simple South-Indian rice meal - a well carb-loading with rice. The hotel we stayed was 100 meters from the start/finish line.

On the race day we did not had to wake up that early compared to weekends run as run was starting at 06:30. Prepared myself for a hot day with a very light sleeve-less , ca and sun-glass. Was double minded about the tee as it felt little chilled as we walked out of the hotel. But as soon as did warm-up felt great about the choice of attire.

Initial plan I had in my mind was to stick with one lady runner from our group and try to finish as best I could. We started together but around 2KM mark there was little down hill and I continued my pace which I was comfortable once I go ahead from her. I continued my own pace and most time did not checked my garmin at all. I knew I was running faster than normal weekend runs but there was no discomfort. Around the lake where we took "U" turn could see all the the elites were coming back and a majority of them were from our group. Around 17 and 18 KM I wish the finish line was nearer as mind always plays devil game at the end.

The last 500 Meters there were Pacemakers waiting to cheers and pace the last part. I tired my best to push myself and get get a 1:50 finish. Well a minute shorter I would have beat my own record from 2003. But the length of the race is not 21.1 so if I really need to finish 1:50 next time I need to save 2/3 minutes overall and a target of around 1:45 would be dream come true.

Special thank to Flashbulbzz for the capturing these wonder pictures.

2013-09-19

West Sikkim - Hee Bermiok

We initially planned to visit Bhutan during summer vacation of ’13. Somehow during the planning phase we found it was overshooting our budget. And moreover, was advised against it during late April & Early May as there is a high chances of rain during that time. So we had no plan and no places to visit while we are going to be in Siliguri for 10/12 days.

We called one travel agent in Calcutta from train and told him about our requirement and he said he would be able to put an itinerary of 6 nights ( 2nights Sikkim, 2 Kursuang and 2 in Darjeeling). We had no clue on the suggested itinerary as we were too preoccupied with our trip to Gaya.


Day-1



The d-day before of our trip cab driver called and informed us he is coming down to pick us. He suggested it would be a good idea to start from Siliguri as early as possible. We started around 7 from home to Bermiok (West Sikkim) via Sevoke road. The road along Assam riffles was just magnificent straight road without any potholes(a miracle in India) and trees lined on the both side. Soon we were climbing the twisted roads and crossed Coronation Bridge over the Teesta river ( few days later the bridge become news when “An Indian Guinness World Record holder who attempted to cross a river suspended from a zip wire attached to his ponytail has died during the stunt”. We continued on the Siliguri-Gantogk(NH31A) road and took a turn at Melli for Jorethang and continued on Melli-NayaBazar Road. After Jorthang the road became more steeper and narrow you really need to know how to manage those hills and steep incline and hairpin bends with zero visibility. Only relief was there were not many cars on the road. We reached Bermiok after passing by Nayabazar, Rinchenpong, Kaluk. The road was more or less well maintained but many places would be quick target of rains and land-slide is common which would cause major havoc for commuters.

The Hotel( Kanchan Hotel) was pre-booked and we were the only one to stay there. Surprisingly, the last visitor to this place was two months back. The rooms were nothing great but as they are on the hill you could see Kanchenjunga Range from your room. Suddenly, we realized we are feeling cold as this place is 5650 ft above MSL. But the caretaker gave us the first surprise mentioning we need to spend 2500 on Taxi for sight seeing. It was a shock but we did not have a choice. In the meantime, the sky was getting cloudy which is very common post noon in hills. We had a simple Bengali lunch Dal, some veggies and fish.

Post lunch we started with Tagore Smriti , a nice park dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore. Personally, doubt did Tagore ever visited this part of Sikkim as there is no solid proof for the same but the local tour guides thinks he did. From there we went to Rinchenpong monastery. There were small monks inside the monastery for their afternoon classes so we did not went in. This is a very old monastery built in 1717 with wood. The driver/guide told us there is another monastery ( Resum Monastery) if we are willing to walk up-hill. We wanted to explore so continued it was long walk up-hill with many steps. My mother stopped climbing in the middle and we three continued. It was a price-less walk reminding Master-card Advertisement as it was complete silence and the soundings are too green and pristine. Once we reached the top there was not much to see honestly. There is a old monastery which seems now part of dispute between different sect or family and there are few families staying as caretaker. Photograph of the monastery was not allowed so we took some pictures outside and headed back.

Now we headed towards to the British “Dak-Bunglow”( Now Government Guest House) , we crossed Poison lake on the way. The story of poison lake goes like this “when the British attacked Sikim(1860). They reached up to Rinchenpong when Lepchas (the original inhabitants of Sikkim) poisoned the water of the pond, the only source of water in Rinchenpong. In the process killing almost half of the British troops and forcing them to retreat.”

Well it became dark by 4:30 PM and we headed back to hotel and enjoyed hot tea with pakodas. Sitting at the rooftop restaurant we enjoyed clear sky and innumerable number of stars glittering on the sky, the lights of Pelling and Gayzing was illuminating like diamonds. Cold was getting unbearable so after an early dinner we retreated to the room quickly.


Day-2


Wow! what a sun-rise with rain washed blue sky we got a clear view of Kanchenjunga Range. It was simply magnificent. We clicked many shots and special thanks to Pamela for being up so early. Post breakfast we left for other local destinations. We started with Chayataal a picnic spot. This a Government resort on a remote hill top. The road is really bad there was no tar and with previous night rain it was really muddy. We found it bit strange and could not understand why government of Sikkim is allowing guest house/hotel/Govt- Bunglow like mushrooms. If it continues for another couple of years this remote part will become like Uttarakhand tsunami one day.The USP for this western Sikkim is remoteness, being closer to nature with plenty of trees if that is gone it will be a real shame.

From Chayataal as headed down we stopped at Rock Garden; another park/picnic spot. It is located next to a stream and it was walking up and down taking pictures. The place is really nice to enjoy yourself with nature and not being bothered as there was no other tourist around.

Now we traversed the hills towards Pelling(Major town of West Sikkim) and crossed the beautiful valley of Dentam, stopped at Cheese Factory and bought some cheese for ourselves,. We took the road going towards Uttarey and visited the famous suspension bridge ‘Sinshore bridge.’ From Sinshore Bridge we took an U-turn came down to Dentum and drove towards Changey falls. Now we are on the complete opposite hill range and could see the road that we came in the morning. The Changey falls was OK but as we were end of summer there was not much water but good enough.

On the way back to Dantum we asked the driver to stop Kalej Khola, this is near Dantum Bridge. We went to the stream to soak our feet the water was cold but it was really relaxing. We were hungry and headed back to our hotel for lunch. Post lunch we went for a stroll on the same road for couple of kilometers.

2013-09-05

Indian Babus(Govt Official)

Today went to the local BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) office to get my property Tax receipt which I paid in June there. Was told to go other one as this office is being closed. God only knows why Government build office first and operate there for few years and move to another one. On going to next office

 The guy told without looking at me "Come Monday"


Me -  "Sir Monday is Off due to Ganesha Festival"


Him -  swallows  his words and says "OK come Tuesday"


Me -  "Sir I need it today"


Him - Now he looks up and says "come afternoon"


Me -"Sir it is already afternoon as it is 12:20 PM"


Him - "OK get the bank statement" to prove the money is credited as you paid by Cheque"


Me - little annoyed  -"It is three months and I am telling you it is debited from my account"


Him - takes the acknowledgement slip and goes to a room and comes back  in 5 seconds.


Me - Goes to the same room after 30 Sec; ask the lady with computer for the receipt.


She hands me over the print outs.(surprise surprise so this is the time it really takes 1 minutes max) 


Me  asked for Official Seal


She points back to the first guy


Me  come back with the printouts he signs and puts the round seal.


Thanked him very politely. And got out of there.


The whole thing took only 10/15 minutes a max and my good luck that my work was done. Best part he spoke in Kanada and I kept on replying in English.  Whatever we do as Indian with watching MTV and eating McDonald a visit to Government Office still  remains nightmare which I postpone and procrastinate for ever. As those Officer or a Clark does not change their attitude.

 

2013-08-28

Blessed

Blessing is a simple word, but yesterday night (Monday) just before sleeping I was thinking about the same again and again. Wished for a gadget to record my thought as I was too tired to use any keyboard or voice recorder. At times we  wonder and sometime make fun of those award ceremonies where people on the stage  keep on thanking people around him or her and sometimes even their dogs. I always love to read the preface of a book where authors thank about their loved ones and early critics and business partners. Webby Award (considered as Oscar of Internet) being techie kept it simple --- as they have "5 word Acceptance Speeches” rule. Well I was not thinking about those awards and long speeches but more about the people around me who are allowing me to cherish my daily life on my own way.

After a horrible finish in Bangalore TCS 10K(1hr plus) and Chennai Half Marathon(2:27 my watch/2:09 race web site). I was determined to be regular with Coach Kothandapani K C and Pacemakers group. Earlier, was just running once a week with the group on weekend for long run and that too bit irregular. Now for one month started to leave home at 4:30 AM to reach Kanteerava Stadium for Tuesday and Thursday training. Tuesday, is interval training something I never ever tired before when I  started to run,  in early 2000. I struggled for weeks but eventually saw some improvement in me but there is still a lot to go. Thursdays we do tempo or core strengthening exercise which really helps running as core is the power house of our body. And couple of Nandi hill runs on the weekend ensured we were not scared of those flyovers in upcoming Airtel Hyderabad Half Marathon .

In recent time, asked my younger brother to ship a  pair of running  shoes (4E-wide feet) & Garmin(GPS Watch). These items were personally carried to Bangalore by friends and colleague from US. These items are not easily available in India and if they are, they cost an arm and leg.

Can not thank enough Pamela for being there like a rock. Now a days, Pamela rushes faster than Bolt on those 2 days as she prepares breakfast, lunch box  and ensures Aarush and herself is ready with shower, breakfast and out of home by 07:30 to be at school on time.  Also,  in recent time lucky to have family members around who baby-seated Aarush on Saturdays as we are now running on Saturdays for long run instead of Sundays.

The result just speak for itself, finished Hyderabad Half Marathon strong with 2:01:33 on my Garmin. It is my best in recent time and  I am happy with the split timing for each Kilometers. I was consistent throughout and had only few kilometers where I ran slower than pace 6. The last KM I was able to push myself and was around 5:10 pace again ; where crossed a fellow runner from the running group and felt like winning the Gold medal. Yes, there was hard work, determination, strategy which helped me to achieve this. A minute shorter would have been a icing on the cake. But again, all these could not have been possible without these people and their belief in me; so feeling really blessed.

The race was an amazing one, met few finest Indian runners from other cities. The arrangement of transport, train tickets, hotel arrangement was too good; again special thanks to Coach and pacemakers team for that. The post-run lunch was something which I am going to drool and talk about for months to come. It was a unmarked restaurant named "Dine Hill", we were bit hesitant initially but once went inside for food; seeing the people and their plates we got a big cultural shock. There were those huge dishes which are as big as the size of the table and 4-5 people eat together from the same plate. We asked the restaurant guy if he is going to give us separate plate; He said YES but added why do not you try this way of sharing and eating food with friends - love grows between friends.




2013-08-04

Pipeline Road Run


There was a discussion in the running group to practice hill-run before upcoming Hyderabad run which I am trying to be a regular member. Normally the "numero uno" destination for hill training around Bangalore is Nandi Hill ; which is 60KM north of the city. Have already run Nandi hills few times and yes Nandi is grueling specially the last 3 KM. Nandi run is 15KM in total where you go 7.5 KM up and come down the same. But the run does not duplicate Hyderabad where we need to cross 3 flyovers. Pipe-line road at south of Bangalore parallel to Kanakpura Road is very similar to Hyderabad . The initial plan was to run 21 KM one way and had a sumptuous breakfast at one farm house.

On the D-day morning the plan was little changed as decided to do 12.5KM up and down to complete 25KM and then take our cars to the farm house for breakfast. So we started running from KSIT Engineering College and followed pipe-line road and crossed NICE-road, Ravishankar Guruji Ashram, Angana, and reached APS Engineering collage where Pipe-line road cross Kanakpura Road again. I turned back and completed my 25KM while few went ahead and reached the farm house directly. Here is the elevation graph from my new GARMIN :) I am very proud to say I did not stopped the whole trail and was able to run all along and completed it :) :)



  • Distance: 25.40 km

  • Time: 2:40:44

  • Avg Pace: 6:20 min/km



2013-07-15

1st class sleeper

It was a dream from a long time to travel in 1st class in Indian Railway. The last time I traveled in 1st class was early 1985 when we went to Puri ( a must stop for Bengali ). So when the dates for summer vacation became clear started booking for train tickets. It was month of December when we booked ticked for April. Wanted to book 2nd AC ticket but to my surprise it was already sold out so opted for AC 1st Class. The price of AC 1st class is almost like air-fare on a positive side you get a personal cabin/coupe and great food and service but it still takes looong time to travel between Bangalore and Calcutta. It takes 2.5 hours in flight and 28 hours in the fastest train which is called as Duronto (quick). We wished to get a coupe for ourselves as when you book a AC 1st Class ticket you don’t get a seat number like other class just till 4 hours of train departure that is when Railway prepares the boarding chart. Doing few search on internet one gentleman suggested the best way to get a coupe to yourselves is go to the boarding railway station and get a special ticket for your pet for a minimal price. Now that way Railway will not mix you with others and on the day of journey you can always say you left behind your pet with a friend.


The Journey:



The day of journey started with two unpleasant news. The first one maid called up to inform that she is not coming. Oh! that was hard, Pamela had to clean the house, utensils to her best as she was leaving for almost 4 weeks. And the second was rash on Aarush back. Hmm not a great start as we were not sure what the hell is this. The pre-booked taxi came well before hand and to our surprise we reached Yashwantpur in jiffy. We had to wait for an hour before boarding the train which was unpleasant with heat but a good warm-up session for the hottest summer ahead as we leave Bangalore.

The train started on time and we were greeted with red roses and wet tissue from the greeting staff. Soon they gave water bottles and told us they will be serving soup soon and checked if we need anything before that. The food was great and it was served with proper cutlery and there was foldable tables. They even came back to check if we need any extra item while having lunch. We had Indian Lunch and continental dinner and in between he had snacks, tea-coffee and soups.

The journey was really relaxing the way I wanted till we reached Cuttack (Orissa) next day, where our train and other trains including Rajdhani were stuck for 2 hours as there was protest from local people demanding one over-bridge. This two hours delay just killed all the fun, as soon passenger started to agitate and there was a big drama when people were complaining we in 1st AC still enjoying AC while they are not J. But the reality was we did not but as AC-1st class are cabins and have less people it was getting hot slowly. But again that reminded us of Calcutta which is synonymous with agitation all the time. Over the years people of Bengal have really do not know how to take ownership and lead to solve problem of their own they are always blaming someone. Any way after all that we started for Calcutta and soon it was lunch time.

Well we reached a rain soaked Calcutta post dark, it was relief from heat but took a long time to reach our pre-booked hotel at central Calcutta. A journey we will cherish long time as not sure next when I am going to have the luxury of time.

2013-07-12

Chennai DRHM

Chennai DRHM ( Dream Runners Half Marathon) was on 1st Sunday of July i.e. 7th July 2013. It was the first run out of Bangalore for me. Last time I registered for Mumbai Standard Chartered was in 2008 and was gifted with Aarush just few days before the race :D  Well Aarush is the reason why I can not run on weekdays morning but he is the catalyst who introduced me to The Pacemakers running group of Bangalore.

 It was a great escape for me from Bangalore and daily routine. a big thanks to Pamela for supporting me on this. Knew it was not going to be my best run given the fact I was not practicing at all. The last time ran was beginning of June after that it was all about running around household and office work. Working late and on weekends and busy with Aarush's school and what not. In fact I was so messed up  posted The Pacemakers  Facebook page that “I am not going” but thanks to Pamela after an hour  posted  “I will” be going.

Thanks to fellow runners a cab was booked and woke up Saturday Morning at 4:30 and meet them at the gate at 5. We were at Containment Station by 5:40 where already few fellow runners were waiting, at 6:10 boarded the Shatabdi. The train journey was fun brought back the memory of college days where traveled  in a large group for the last time.  It was fun to be noisy and so many small group chit chat ... it was real entertaining.

As soon reached Chennai the humid heat welcomed us and oh! that smell of Chennai Central. Thanks to our Tamil friends we moved to the electrical (local)  train platform and took a local train towards hotel, the last part from station to hotel was long walk . We crossed many ministerial bungalows as walked from Station to our hotel Raj Palace.

Reaching hotel there was enough opinions for lunch venue/cuisine between 30+ hungry stomachs personally stayed back had the same in the hotel and had a long nap till dark. It was ladies Final at Wimbledon and soon our room was packed with 20+ people as it is more fun to watch in group. Everyone thought it would be a big fight between German and French. But Bartoli finished the tournament quickly in a straight set with ace. Well she did not beat any big names in this tournament but she beat those who did ... a dream came true.

Dinner was like lunch again many opinion and this time personally went out to explore little beyond hotel to ‘Saravana Bhavan’ the place was packed as usual and had Paneer Dosa a foolish choice before a long run tried to mitigate with Dahi Vada (yogurt to neutralize the richness of Cottage Cheese and oil) . The bus ride back to hotel was long we had we had a walk mile personally liked it after a big meal.


Race Day ….


Woke up at 3:30 had a quick shower and realized it is going to be a tough one as was not feeling good in stomach. We were supposed to be out of hotel by 4 but there was big time drama by the arranged cab drivers, was part of the last drop. The sky was dark with cloud and it rained a lot in the night but still the weather felt hot and very very humid bay around 75~85%  precipitation. Tried to follow Coach’s warm-up session but the school ground was full of sand and dropped out from the running one. The race started at 5 and started my stop watch for the first time running with a watch and that too a GPS enabled,  started with few pacemakers for the first few kilometers and then started running of my own pace which  felt very good about. And every Kilometers Garmin showed my speed and all was looking very nice. Soon say the lead runner coming back and it was none other than our Nanjundappa. The second runner was at least a KM behind him. Soon saw many of the Pacemakers taking the turn. But my run took a downhill  as I struggled from 13KM onwards. I felt there are too much water in my bladder and I am tired from the humid condition.  So I walked run and continued till the end and many people crossed me in that process. The 2 KM I tried again to push myself but by that time I was out. As soon as I finished the race said bye to pacemakers group and walked back to hotel. Well it was a long walk but did not want to haggle with Autos.

The race was very organized with lots of police and volunteers and roads are so good that it does not seem like India. The coarse was also perfect as we ran along Bay of Bengal and the famous Marina Bay only humidity was a concern but there is no way we can avoid that in this time of the year. The sun was completely out as sky was covered with dark cloud I think it can not be better than this in July in Chennai.


Reaching Hotel, freshened up had a big breakfast and by that time all others also came back. There was a celebration in hotel where someone walked and got beers  personally skipped beer just after exercise but the fun was too good to be missed.  The train  journey back was as much fun but this time everyone was little bit tired. Enjoyed every moment of this trip and next is one going to be Hyderabad Half Marathon  in late August. Well the result below is wrong to my it will be in the range of 2:27. In TCS 10k official time made me mad now it is making me smile :D


2013-07-03

Google Page Test, CloudFlare and W3 total Cache

Installed all these three on pamela.santm.com and blog.santm.com which are running on wordpress 3.6 trunk. moved the dns details to cloudflare. While Pamela's hobby site did very well Google page test result our blog result was not great. Looks like the culprit is inbuilt gallery of wordpress which is re-sizing images and seving them on fly causing high server time. the command that helped me a lot is "mogrify -strip *.jpg" which is part of imagemagick tool kit and removes exif data from images.



2013-06-24

Aarush~nama

Last Saturday, it was father & son time again as Pamela in school after long summer vacation. Aarush was doing his part to keep my hands busy and asked him are you a Nut for being such naughty? And the apt reply was “Yes, I am; I am a coconut”. Could not stop laughing for a long time. Even though we call it a nut but coconut is not a nut botanically?

Day 3 - Rishikesh

The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we...