Monday, July 30, 2007

Senji Fort Hike

Went hiking today and explored the 2 forts at Ginjee - Raja and Rani Forts ( Senji Forts). I almost wanted to skip it - Had "work" to do . But the good weather and thought of hiking up the fort enticed me into the plan. I am glad i did the hike!
The drive to the fort was quite scenic and smooth - An experience that is not expected in a drive out of Chennai. The fort is a 3 hour drive away from Chennai that took us through NH 45 speed way till Dindivanam. From Dindivanam, we were on the much smaller and less traffic country-side road to Thiruvannamalai which took us to the Fort, 15 km into the road! For someone who has driven a bit in India, the NH 45 speedway from Chennai to Dindivanam was a pleasant experience. Roads were wide ( 3 lanes each way ) and small hillocks by the road side were green topped. Driver had the "driver's" high on the drive and the passengers had a high on the visuals. Its a tribute to the roads and the scenic roadside that we went on driving and missed the turn towards thiruvannamalai at Dindivanam!! The road from Dindivanam to the Fort ( on the way to Thiruvannamalai ) passed through the small villages and was thickly tree lined. These trees had a "hood" formation on top of the road. Reminded me of my days in Coimbatore and the million road trips through the villages that dad has taken us through! ( Pic below is my first ever "click" using a pro cam! and am hooked!! )

We eventually reached Senji fort ( There are 2 forts - Raja's and Rani's and am not sure why they both lived seperately!!! ). We decided to go up the Rani's fort first. Rani's is a shorter climb to the summit and probably has an elevation of 600 feet from the base to the top.

We climbed up at a slow and a steady pace, hiking through the beaten steps and also through off beat path over the rocks. Sometimes we were on all fours, trying to climb up a steep rock.

It took us 20 mins to reach the summit. The view from the top was fantastic. We explored the fort at the summit. The climb down took a longer time since the steps were not broad and we had to slow down the pace and watch our foot placement. In all, we took and an hour and 10 mins from the car park to the summit and back.

It was 2 pm and we drove back to Ginjee town for lunch . After spending time to hunt for a "decent" place to eat, we realised the restaurant had a long queue of hungry people. We decided to have a "fruit-lunch" and got apples, grapes and bananas to have them on the way up the Raja's fort.
Raja's fort is a longer climb to the top - 4 km and about 1500 feet elevation from the base. The base was a long walk from the car park and we guys enjoyed the conversation and the fruits. It was 3 pm when we reached the base and were informed that the fort closes at 4:45 pm. We were tired by then but decided to tread along for the next 30 mins and turn back.
This place is filled with monkeys and you are advised not to carry any eatables with you. As Karthik realised later, he literally had to wrestle with the monkeys to carry the fruits safely ( Yes, made sense to give the fruits away to the monkeys but Karthik had a logic - Monkeys just "learnt" to scare the humans into giving up the eatables).
At this point Karthik and I decided to run up the steps ( that made up for my morning run-miss). Both of us were panting hard in a short while . We managed a clean run for 8 mins and waited for the other guys to join us. At this point , we finally called the hiking quits, some distance from the summit and turned back.

We were exhausted. Sat at a "view point" for a while soaking in the view and the conversation. The bunch was largely enthusiastic and pushed each other to move out of our comfort zones, though the exhaustion was clear. Thanks guys, for a fabulous day!

We were famished by now and wanted to drive to the nearest "decent" restaurant. But decided to keep the hunger at bay and drive to the SRM hotel which was an hour's drive away. No prizes for guessing that we finished off the plates clean at the restaurant!!

After a great day outdoors, all of us drove back to chennai with tons of pleasant memories... if only we had completed the second climb as well, the day would've been complete. The unfinished climb will surely make me go back very soon...

Planning a run here sometime. If you are keen to do a run ( 2 laps of 8 km, a clean 16 km of climb) do get in touch with me. This pic sure is inviting for a runner. Thanks to Manu for the snaps. He is a pro photographer works magic his Nikkon D70 and really got me hooked to photography. Some day soon, will get my hands on a Nikkon D80.

Place : Senji Fort
Route : Chennai - Dindivanam - (15 mins on the Dindivanam - Thiruvannamalai road ). 3 hour drive away from Chennai.
Infrastructure : There is none at the fort. Please carry water along and leave behind any eatables in the car.
Rating : A for the roads to the fort , B for the climb and the view from the top!
P.S. "Kid" if you are reading this, don't kill me ! Will surely plan a hike there soon!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Autorickshaws - The lessons i learnt

Last 3 years in Chennai has been a very interesting period - Learnt tons of lessons ( some of which i learnt on my own and "life" taught me most of them). From the "lesson" repository, i bring out the guide for anyone attempting to use the 3 wheel - scooter ( Autorickshaws ) in Chennai.

Rules for Rickshaw Passengers :

  1. Never go to the "Auto Stand" to get into an auto. Demand-Supply economics don't work here. Too many autos and only you around - you expect a clear bargaining power. But it just doesn't work here thanks to the Unity of autodrivers.

  2. So, always try to get the attention of an "empty-passenger" auto guy who is passing by on the road. Empty auto's that follow the stopped auto will provide you with a favourable demand-supply scenario. Besides, the stopped auto guy will rather have you in his auto than go empty.
  3. Never give a "big name" destination. Period. If your actual destination is Taj Coramandel, then your "Auto destination" is Nungambakkam church. If the destination is Park Sheraton, then "Auto Destination" is Amma Naana store. Once an auto guy reduced 15 buck on his own when i told him i was going to Raghavendra Mutt!! He told me that he won't charge unfairly since i was going to the "mutt"!! ( In reality, "Mutt" was a mere landmark for a meeting with a pal !!! )

  4. If you take an Auto at some unearthly hour, this is how a typical Auto guy would negotiate and the counter. "Auto Guy - Its too late and i can't get passengers after dropping you and you pay 1.5 x the day time rate . You - Roads are free without any traffic and you can ride freely and save on petrol ! "

  5. If your destination is a congested location - "Auto Guy - Traffic is very dense and you can pay 20 buck on top of the usual charges . You - You drop me at the destination and tons of new passengers swarm around you at my destination.
  6. If you see a passenger getting off an Auto, that is the Auto you must take. Auto guy would be pleased to keep his "meter" ticking and would be willing to make a trade-off.

More when i "experience". If you know any, let me know!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Saturday Ultimate Frisbee - Photos!

Some photos that Manu shot during the practise session before the start of the ultimate frisbee game. This guy has an eye for the "moment"!
Nanditha showing off her clean throwing skills!!

That was a neat catch, on the toes!!

Anu and I discussing the nuances!! ( probably discussing about the Dosa at Murugan Idli after the game ) . This fit girl ran up and down the sandy playing space ! Some girl this one!!

Going after a frisbee throw that went wild !

Manu's shooting skills on display!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Another ride into the sea!

The sea is inviting. Period.

For the entertainment starved Chennai makkal, sea offers the best escape route for fun and adventure. Needless to say, my pals and I are totally in love with the catamaran rides !

Here are some pics from a recent ride into the Bay!

Pals with the lifejacket strapped on and rushing to the sea!

We jumped into the catamaran and rolled over the waves for about 3-4 km into the sea . Catamaran was stopped and rope was thrown in and the guys followed, dived into the inviting sea! After 45 mins of peacefully floating around, swimming, ducking the pals, splashing the waters and more, we turned back to the land.

Personally, i find that these rides "complete" my weekend. It refreshes me and helps me unwind!

I know i will go back again... very soon!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Marathon" by Rush

Rush performs "Marathon" here .
Found the lyrics to be pretty much in-sync with the marathon spirit. Here it is
It's not how fast you can go
The force goes into the flow
If you pick up the beat
You can forget about the heat
More than just survival
More than just a flash
More than just a dotted line
More than just a dash
It's a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race
More than just blind ambition
More than just simple greed
More than just a finish line
Must feed this burning need
In the long run...
From first to last
The peak is never passed
Something always fires the light that gets in your eyes
One moment's high, and glory rolls on by
Like a streak of lightning
That flashes and fades in the summer sky
Your meters may overload
You can rest at the side of the road
You can miss a stride
But nobody gets a free ride
More than high performance
More than just a spark
More than just the bottom line
Or a lucky shot in the dark
In the long run...
You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you've got to last...
Via Jacob

Monday, July 16, 2007

30 X 30 - Fun Run and a real HIGH!

30 X 30 - 30 runners doing a distance of 30 km. Chennairunners came close to doing that yesterday.
Route : Toll booth on ECR to Mahabalipuram
Participants : 24 runners sped away from the start line
Distance : 27.6 km
Thats the running gang at toll booth on ECR, starting point ( Reflecting stickers on every runner's shirt was an nice idea by Ramesh)
We woke up at 2:45 am, met at the in-city assembly points at 3:45 am, drove to the toll booth on the ECR and started off at 5:30 am. Sunday was a perfect day for running - Sun hiding behind the clouds and the cool weather helping the running efficiency ( or energy will be wasted trying to cool down the body ).
Personally, it was a mixed day for me - Ran at a good clip in the first half of the run. Smooth and steady and always had my heart beat under 164 beats per minute ( Averaged 147 beats per minute). Shahid and i ran together during this part of the run and we really cruised along. We did some 16 km in 1 hour and 40 mins, non stop. I stopped at this "support point" to tend to the blister on both my feet - Result of using a "stiff" pair of socks. The volunteers helped with the some band-aids and i started off again. But the run was never the same - i did run/walk cycles here on and finally finished the distance in 3 hours and 37 mins. Was a bit disappointed since i was targeting 3 hours and 10 minute finish.
Volunteers - Aravind, Satish and Abhinav ( and Jaykanthan in his Bullet ) readily volunteered to be our support crew for this run. They loaded Satish's Maruti 800 with water bottles and first aid .

That is the support car, with Satish at the wheels, Abhinav - the other guy at the front and Aravind hiding in the darkness, at the back.

"Mobile support" came to our rescue at 30 min intervals and ensured that the runners never went "dry". Their help with the band-aid for the blisters, was timely for me! They did the difficult task of helping the entire pack - which meant that had to stay with the lead pack who were miles in front and also aid the trailing pack. Hats off guys , for missing your Sunday morning sleep and helping us! and btw, all these guys are regular runners. Aravind and Abhinav have completed a half marathon and Satish has done 3 full marathons and 8 half marathons!!!

We completed the run at Coral Surf Restaurant at Mahabalipuram - These guys at Coral had the best welcome for the runners - Buckets of ice, refreshing towel, a lawn to stretch and space to move around, besides a sumptuous breakfast with Idli, Vada, Masala Dosa and Pongal!!.

Runners enjoyed the hospitality and the experience. Only miss was the "swimming pool"!!
The gang at the Finish line, Coral Surf Restaurant.
Highlights of the run
  • 20 Runners finished the distance
  • Some guys were so determined to finish the run, despite the physical discomfort they were in. Hats off guys.
  • Since we always ran facing the traffic on the right side of the road, we had a "safe" run
  • Amazing camaraderie amongst the runners. Always wondered why most sports "teams" displayed this trait which only a few "corporate teams" did.
  • Some of the runners finished the race only because they ran/walked in "groups" and pushed each other to reach the finish ! If you want to experience group fun, join the group.
  • ECR route beyond toll booth is one of the beautiful routes to run in Chennai with the sea close by and not many people on the roads - Its just you, your thoughts and the sound of your foot steps (or music on the IPOD).
  • Fastest runners ( Karthik "kallu" and Hari ) finished the run in 2 hours and 35 mins !!!! Serious running that.

Chennairunners is planning to have this run, once every quarter. Don't miss the run next time!

Thanks to Ram and Satish, for the photos!

More accounts of this run :

Ram on 30 x 30 at Chennai Living.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Idea # 3 - Offline Communities!

Ram (Thunder, Stanes buddy) and Ramachandran ( Mullu, BITS buddy ) got me thinking on this.
People at offices spend quite a bit of time on social networking sites such as orkut, which has led company management to prevent access to these sites - That is just one instance of the popularity of the social networking sites and online communities.
Now, how about taking these "online" communities "offline".
What will the company do : Provide a platform for members of online communities to meet up offline. For example - if there is a community in orkut on " Salsa Dancing - Chennai " - The members can meet up at a phyical location in Chennai and learn, discuss, practise and even make friendships!
Why will the members meet : Though online communities are an excellent platform to discuss but to "do/ execute" the discussions, we need real/physical entities. I've been a part of 2 online communities - Chennai Runners and Chennai Ultimate Frisbee gang. Both of these communities have an online and offline presence. Each cannot exist on its own and each complements the other. We discuss ideas on training, diet , exercise etc in the chennai runners google groups and meet up every morning for a run. Same happens with the frisbee gang as well.
This company will target those communities that do not have a physical presence in a particular city.
What are your thoughts on this idea?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Champs-Elysees , Mount Road and Chennai Marathon

Champs-Elysees , as all us know, is one of the most beautiful and prestigious avenues in the world. This avenue ends at Arc de Triumph. Along with Champs-Elysees, 11 other avenues meet at Arc de Triumph . Vehicle insurance companies insure all vehicles for travel in all roads/places in France except Arc de Triomphe. That gives an idea about the vehicle traffic around Arc de Triomphe. ( Yes, thats me standing in the middle of the avenue Champs - Elysees, with Arc de Triomphe in the background )

( A section of traffic around Arc de Triomphe).The Arc de Triomphe roundabout and the avenue Champs-Elysees are closed 3 times a year and twice for an interesting reason - Tour de France finish and Paris Marathon, big sporting events. The third is for Bastille day.
One of the busiest , prestigious and beautiful avenues in the world is closed for 2 sporting events - Is anyone organising the Chennai Marathon listening to this ?
We all know the number of times the Mount Road ( easily, the busiest road in Chennai ) is closed every year - Lets say some 10 times. All the 10 times for an interesting reason - A politician is travelling across that stretch or a major political party is organising a function to glorify the party/its chief man.
Runners who ran the Chennai Marathon (42.2 km) and who were still running after 3 hours were asked to stop and the roads were open to vehicular traffic. Runners like me who take close to 6 hours to finish the marathon will never want to run on the home turf. If Paris can close Champs-Elysees for the entire day during the 2 sports events, if Mount Road can be closed for 5-6 hours for a political party's internal function - then the roads between Marina and Elliots beach in Chennai can easily be closed for atleast 6-7 hours for a marathon!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Winning or Losing!

Have had more than a few discussions with pals on a lazy evening, during "night outs" and during drink sessions on this : which is better - winning or losing?
Ofcourse, everyone likes to win. After these discussions, i firmly beleive that winning a lot takes away the real "understanding" of people and life. But, losing has resurrected many many lives. That doesn't mean, we lose all our lives. If someone is genuinely trying hard, losing teaches more lessons than winning.
Andre Agassi - His marriage failed and his ranking dropped below 100. He returned to win the crown and marry the princess Steffi. I heard from a tennis player pal (ATP ranked) that during this phase Agassi used to run early mornings/late nights up a hill and run on and on till he hit complete exhaustion and puke.
Steven Waugh - Enough and more said in his book " Out of my Comfort Zone". I have a copy and i read some pages atleast once every week :). He isn't a genuius by any standard of batting, except his own - the "fighting" style.
Rahul Dravid - Dropped early in his career in the one day squad. He fought back in, fought all his critics. And he is an ordinary human being and the best guy to lead the Indian cricket team, at the moment.
Sachin - The reason why he failed as a captain - The man won all his life. He could never understand the mortals. He is a genius and he gives some 150% all the time. He can never understand failure and its difficult for him to get a person out of a slump ( Dravid is a genius here). But there is hope. He has had a bit of tough time oflate and there is hope that Sachin can learn captaincy by the recent "failures". Think if he captains the team now, he can get the team to perform much better than his earlier stint.
Lance Armstrong - Am a big big big fan of his. Lived a "easy" life till cancer. Cancer and possibility of death woke him up. 6 tour de France after cancer - that says it all.
What do you think?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Love and Hate!

Type "love" in orkut community search, like i did . You get over a 1000 results!
Type "Hate" and you are in for a surprise!
A similar number turns up and each of the "hate" communities can match up "love" communities in the numbers game!
Hatred unites people as much as love!! Typing that made me feel sad.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Sports Story # 3 - Women, Running and Cornell

A year and a half ago, i was all pumped up to run the 1st marathon of my life. I trained with a bunch of guys in Chennai and having seen the benefit of training as a group, i was keen to bring this idea of running the marathon into my Alma Mater's alumni group ( BITS Alumni Association ) . Mails were shot to the yahoo groups and about 10-15 of them were extremely enthusiastic. One of them was Anu .
I was very much suprised on seeing her interest mainly because she was the only girl expressing interest in the initial days ( At the back of my mind, a doubt lingered that her enthusiasm won't last long ). With every passing day, the doubt cleared way for appreciation. She used to hit gym regularly to improve stamina and increse strength. She also was upping her running limits every week, from a 20 min continuous run to a 45 min continuous run.
The group communicated over e-mails and till now (july 2007), we have never met face to face. Each of the members mailed their running experience and pushed the rest to run. Anu did her bit and more, with the mails and encouragement for fellow runners. All this while, she was in Hyderabad and most of the others were in Bangalore and i live(d) in chennai. We met up when she came to Chennai ( her hometown) for what else - Run! We decided to start early at 5 am, starting point being the Gandhi Statue at Marina and decided to run a distance of 10 km ( would be her longest so far). I thought running with her would be relatively easy ( the group i train with in Chennai, pushes me to exhaustion every time i run with them and thats a HIGH!!) and i had a long night with pals and went to bed at 1 am.
I was really hoping she would call me at 4:30 am and feign tiredness ( infact, i was sure she would!). When she didn't , i thought she might be sleeping and decided to give her a wake up call (in reality, i was still in bed when i called and was hoping she was fast asleep and would not answer the call - its a double win for me , i get to sleep and still i won't be blamed for the missed run). The phone rang and the worst thing i could hear - she was on her way to Marina!!!!!! and i was still in bed!!!! That news bolted me out of bed and i was rushing through the morning activities! Grabbed a gatorade bottle and rushed to Marina! Just made it on time!!!
We met for the first time offline - though we were batch mates at BITS for 4 years, we haven't spoken a word. We stretched for a little while and started running. Ran steadily for 15 mins and soon we reached labour statue at the end of Marina ( i was hoping she would stop and we could walk back to Gandhi statue ). She was running at a steady pace while i was cursing all the drinks that i had the previous night ( i was keeping up with her though!!). We kept running at the same pace and at 30 mins, we were past the war memorial and were on the Mount Road and still haven't stopped. At 45 mins, which was her longest ever run till then, we hit Anna square, having run 7.5 km. She was still looking strong and by then i was fervently wishing she would stop ( though my longest ever run till then was 26+ km, i was dehydrated and tired from lack of sleep). I didn't want to lose face by walking and i was telling myself that i would lose respect !!!
It helped that we had good conversations and that took away all the ugly thoughts. Soon, i was crusing as well and at 45 mins, we decided that we will up the speed and do the 10 km run under 1 hour. We pushed hard and she matched the pace i set and she was raring to go even faster. We sprinted the last 500 odd metres and finised the 10 km run in 58+ mins!!! Her longest ever run!! The joy on her face was clear!! She managed to win the mind battle and went past a milestone!

We would later help co-ordinate the run for a cause program at BITS-aid . The program was a success - 15+ runners ran the Bangalore Marathon 2006 and managed to raise about INR 50K for the causes the BITS aid supports. Anu did her first big run - Completed the half marathon (21.1 km ) in under 3 hours ( the only girl who i know, had run the big distance ) and i completed my first Marathon ( 42.19 km in under 5:59 hours).
She would go on to run the half marathon in Mumbai, jan 2007 and regularly hit gym and keep fit. While doing all this, she was also aiming to get into a top Bschool in US. She got a top score in GMAT - 710 and had worked in a top tech company. She had also volunteered at BITS aid and had run a few marathons. Just the perfect match for the Bschool admission committee.
She just heard the big news - She made into the 2007 Batch at Cornell ( Johnson school - a Top 10 Bschool in the world).
A survey of top School admits would reveal a high number of the big race finishers!
Its not a coincidence that marathon runners make it to the top B schools!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

30 X 30 - ECR Run

30 X 30 - 30 runners doing 30 km!
Chennairunners is planning a run on the ECR, on July 15th, 2007
Route : Start near Toll Booth and Finish at Mahabalipuram, on the ECR [ approx 30 km ]
Start time : 4:30 am from the toll booth

Last time the group did this run, we had about 14 runners taking part [ when the group was much smaller ]. We are 5x the group size now and really hope as many can join this run.

This route gives the perfect opportunity to stretch the limits for a runner - scenic route and less traffic [ plus for safety, we run in the direction of on-coming traffic] . Ask any runner who ran this route and they would swear that the ECR run was the best run they ever had in chennai.

People who do 5-10 km right now, can look to stretch the limits to 15-20 km [ and take the bus/auto to mahabs ]
If you want to join, start practising and go here and "Join Chennairunners"

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


RIFLE Vs SHOT GUN approach to marketing! Learnt this concept during a meeting yesterday.
Shot gun approach can be adopted at the start of any initiative [ Start-up companies, initial days of a group initiative etc]. Many seeds can be thrown and hope that some [ all ?? ] of these will be grow into a sapling and bear fruit some day. But as the group/company grows a combination of SHOTGUN and RIFLE can be used.
Data gathered from the SHOTGUN approach can be used for the RIFLE approach -That is, data from SHOTGUN approach will give indications on long term and short term opportunities. The long term opportunities can be shifted to RIFLE!
During the meeting, we were told [educated??] that many companies in the Valley went bust because they ran after all opportunities [ shot gun approach] !

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sports Story # 2 - Firesticks, Cricket bat and Will to Change

Shanba*, is a good pal and was/is a big part of my ex-cricket team. This is his story.
End of 2005 - Low fitness with "firesticks" lit up most times - Only run he did was running to the firestick- refilling place and obviously the only thing he held in his hand was the "firestick", burning away his lungs!
Middle of 2007 - He lights up the people around with his energy and fitness leves, "firesticks" replaced by the cricket bat in his hand [ that last 60 he scored is a proof!! ] and he burns the road with an hour long jog in the mornings, most days of the week.
Amazing attitude and will to change & improve!! Hats off!
*Name changed