Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bangalore to Pondicherry in an Alto

[Please read this post as an addendum to my previous post: Give Time a Break: Pondicherry. That is a detailed one and more generic account of the trip, and has some photos as well.]

Driving to and fro was more fun than I had expected, even though I had to do it single-handedly the entire time. The other three people in the car knew as much driving as they knew swimming; they had not entered the water at any beach at Pondicherry, and I had to do that alone too. Anyways, a third of the way comprises of NH7, which is an extremely well-built highway with picturesque green hills on the sides, and is a part of the Golden Quadrilateral. The next two-thirds is NH66, a two-lane undivided road by the countryside, but the traffic is very less and we had to slow down a bit only when we passed certain villages. The following is the best route from Bangalore to Pondicherry.

View Larger Map

The entire stretch is 308 km, measuring from the MG Road-Brigade Road junction in Bangalore to MG Road-Nehru Street Junction at Pondicherry. This can be broken down into seven(eight, if you want to drive along the East Coast Road) segments:

Map IconStretchDistance (km)Surface/ TrafficTop SpeedRemarks
Bangalore-Hosur39Good/ Heavy80We started at 5:30 am to avoid all city traffic.
Hosur-Krishnagiri52Excellent/ Average130Very good divided highway. Can drive above 100 consistently.
Krishnagiri-Chengam77Good/ Average110NH66 starts, undivided, two-lane. Not much traffic though.
Chengam-Tiruvannamalai32Average/ Meager80Patched roads that make you downshift frequently.
Tiruvannamalai-Gingee40Good/ Meager90Passing through the crowded town Tiruvannamalai takes time.
Gingee-Tindivanam28Good/ Meager100The Gingee Fort on the way is a good stop if it is not very hot.
Tindivanam-Pondicherry40Good/ Heavy70Pay attention to the right turn, else you will enter the state highway.
Tindivanam-Marakkanam33Good/ Average50Single-laned SH134. Have to slow down for oncoming traffic.
Marakkanam-Pondicherry34Good/ Meager100Drive on the ECR, fields on one side, Bay of Bengal on other.

A third of the way comprises of NH7, which is an extremely well-built highway with picturesque green hills on the sides. I could consistently drive above 100 kmph on this highway after crossing Hosur, and touched a max of 130 in my Alto. The next two-thirds is NH66, a two-lane undivided road by the countryside, but the traffic is very less and we had to slow down a bit only when we passed certain very small villages.

At some stretches on NH66, you have patched roads, where you have to slow down a bit. Also, some farmers lay down haystack on the middle of the road to dry and crush by means of vehicles going over them. We also stopped at a very beautiful sunflower field by the side of NH66 near Chengam.

Tiruvannamalai is the largest town on the way. It has this Arunachaleswarar Temple, which is supposed to be quite a holy place. There is also a Ramana Maharishi Ashram, close to which is Hotel Auro Usha, where we had our breakfast on the way back. That was a very nice place, quite unexpected in a place like Tiruvannamalai. [Details about the restaurant in my next post: Eatouts in Pondicherry.]

Just 68 kms before Pondicherry is the Gingee Fort, a 9th century fort by the Chola dynasty. We got down to have some snaps, but did not climb up the fort because the sun was scorching hot and it looked like a high trek/climb. We could have done that on the return in the morning but Ashwin had to attend office. We stopped at a small Shiva temple instead, for 5 minutes or so.

We lost tracks at both the places you are liable to. First, after the Krishnagiri toll plaza, where you need to take a left from under the flyover. We had instead gone up the flyover, and 15 kms towards Salem. The second place was at Tindivanam, where you need to take a right from a roundabout atop a flyover, and remain on NH66. We instead went straight on SH134, which was a one-laned road with traffic from both sides. And the bitumen was thick enough, it was difficult to get down the road whenever a vehicle came from the opposite direction; a car and a bus could not parallely cross. After 33 kms of driving on this difficult stretch, we hit the East Coast Road at Markkanam, which was a pleasure to drive on with the Bay of Bengal on your left, and some fields (I thought it was paddy, don't know for sure) on the right. The second detour is highlighted in red in the above map.

The return drive was smooth and fast, and we did not get lost anywhere. It took us 7 hours (6 am to 1 pm), with only 5 hours of drive for 308 km, an hour of breakfast and another of various tea-breaks we had. An overall average of 60 was again higher than my expectations.

The drive was a very important and fun part of the trip. We enjoyed it, even without a music system; Pawan and Ashwin sang the entire way; and Chaitanya complained of all songs sounding the same. On the way back we had a fun game where Ashwin used to sing from the middle of a song and we had to guess the beginning. The drive was pleasant and comfortable, you could cruise at high speeds for a long time. I only wished I had a more powerful car.

Related posts:
         Give Time a Break: Pondicherry
         Eatouts in Pondicherry

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Give Time a Break: Pondicherry

Giving time a break is what I was exactly doing last weekend, away from the din and congestion of Bangalore, away from this 15-inch screen I glare at for over 15 hours a day, away at this peaceful and passive retreat at the capital city of the eponymous Union Territory, often cited as La Côte d'Azur de l'Est (The French Reviera of the East).

We had been thinking of visit Puducherry from quite some time, but somebody or the other had some work every weekend. Three days of visiting beaches, driving, less-than-four-hours-sleeping, eating at French restaurants, and exploring the laid-back township could sum up the fun-filled tour I could have easily extended for two more days had I been given the choice. Beaches and restaurants were all we could go to. I had wanted to visit a few churches and maybe a museum, but very unlike me, I had not planned at all this time. I had hardly spent half an hour on google, and that too a month prior to the trip.

We went to three beaches. One, the rocky beach besides Goubert Avenue, a great walk very similar to Marine Drive, Mumbai. Two, the peaceful Auroville Beach, with no one there; I had taken my car almost on the beach and it had gotten stuck in the sand. We had planned to be there before sunrise but managed almost 15 minutes later. The water was good and cool, but no one else from our group entered despite my repeated come-on-at-least-taste-the-water yells from within the waves. The third beach was more populous and cleaner, where we had reached through a boat on the Chunnambur backwaters. The resort had scooting and speedboating too, but only two of the four of us could do that because we were short on time and they on scooters (they only had one actually).

We ate at a few French restaurants, about which I'll write another detailed post, but this amazing place called Baker's Street should find a mention here. Everything from the tiles to the furniture, the crockery to the delicacies, the owner to the visitors there was French. [Please refer to an elaborate post on the same: Eatouts in Pondicherry.]

We had stayed at Ginger Hotel the first day, quite a spic-and-spam place with excellent interiors and comfortable rooms. The hotel had free wifi internet and though we initially regretted none of us had brought our laptops, I am now glad none of us took one. The second night we moved to a cheaper Sea Side Guest House on the rocky beach, which was comfortable too, but not as swanky as Ginger. The worst part was that they would not let you after 11:15 pm, so we had to wind up our evening walk short.

The mode of local transportation is autos, who charge heavily. Rs 50 for a 2 km drive to the beach, and Rs 30 is the minimum fare. We learnt that the hard way when the auto we hired from Hotel Mass ran out of gas barely a km away. And the autowaala got hurt when one of us called him a cheater. Next we had to witness a drunk Chaitanya consoling the pony-tailed auto driver for 15 minutes. Quite fun was the following 20-minutes walk at midnight in that unknown place, before another auto skidded menacingly to stop in front of us and charged us 60 for a km of distance. This was the evening we had arrived; the next day we drove to wherever we went.

Driving to and fro was more fun than I had expected, even though I had to do it single-handedly the whole time. A third of the way comprises of NH7, which is an extremely well-built highway with picturesque green hills on the sides. I could consistently drive above 100 on this highway after crossing Hosur, and touched the max of 130 in my Alto. The next two-thirds is NH66, a two-lane undivided road by the countryside, but the traffic is very less and we had to slow down a bit only when we passed certain very small villages. [Please refer to my next post: Bangalore to Pondicherry in an Alto, a detailed one on the route and the drive.]

The aftereffects were very good too. We'd woken up before 5 all three days, and gone to bed not before 12-1. I was so tired that when I came back on Monday and went for an afternoon siesta at 4 pm, I ended up waking up 11 hours later, at 3 in the morning! That was the most undisturbed and satisfying sleep I've had in ages.

Overall a nice place where time actually seems to have taken a break. Do not expect Goa. You won’t find the crowd and the rush and pubs, which are anyways aplenty in Bangalore. An ideal place to spend some lazy lamhe with someone special and enjoy French delicacies. As I repeatedly kept saying while at Pondicherry, I would come here again, on my first outing after my honeymoon.

Related posts:
         Bangalore to Pondicherry in an Alto
         Eatouts in Pondicherry

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Miss You, Love You, Thank You

Missing you so much, which I always do
But on this day, the whole world is you
Though it is difficult, I wish you were here
But whenever I need you, I know you'll be there.

Brother, sister, girlfriend, you've been so much
Loving, caring, understanding, encouraging and such
Covering up my shortcomings, you had so much to endure
Yet never complaining, you had a love so pure.

Ever by my side, in sunshine or in rain
With that sweet smile, you ease away all pain
A baby at times, a mother at others
You come to help me when I am in smothers.

You're the best friend I could have ever had,
The cutest companion who makes me so glad.
We share everything, and more than often we fight
But all is resolved when you kiss me good night.

You can feel my voice, you know when I lied,
You can read my face, you know when I cried,
You can sense my feelings, from a land so distant:
Whenever I think of you, you ping me that very instant.

Even when you were here, even when we're miles apart,
You shall forever remain firmly in my heart.
I shall love you always, eternity and through,
On this auspicious day, let me thank you my Baebu.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Wills and The Ways

If you are born to illiterate parents, and spent your early childhood in a village riding buffaloes, and the latter part a wheelchair and were an object of curiosity to the villagers who wanted to see how a boy without legs looked, would you ever think of cracking the IIT-JEE? And then bagging one of the most prestigious campus jobs, at Google four years later?

This story might seem straight out of an Amitabh Bachchan starrer rising from rags to riches against all odds, but that is what Naga Naresh Karuturi just did.

Born in Teeparru, a small village in Andhra Pradesh, Naga was a normal child till that fateful day in 1993, when the lorry-driver father took his family to a nearby village for a family function. Our seven-year-old hero was fiddling with the door latch and it opened wide throwing him out, scratching his legs in the process. The government hospital he was taken to conducted a surgery as his small intestine had gotten twisted, and bandaged his legs. A week later, they realized gangrene had developed in his legs upto the knees. He was referred to the district hospital where both of his legs were amputated upto the hips.

It requires amazing levels of optimism, courage, zeal, and determination for a seven-year old kid to recover from the shock of losing both his legs, not being a normal child anymore, but still continuing his studies to reach one of the top institutions in the country. The credit also goes to supportive parents and sister. His parents did not know anything about the residential school he later went or about IIT, but they always saw to it that he was encouraged in whatever he wanted to do. If the results were good, they would praise him to the skies and if bad, they would try to see something good in that. They did not just want him to feel bad. Wonderful supportive parents.

His sister Sirisha's contribution to his success was even more. She had to sacrifice two years of her studies to be in the same class as Naga, so that she could take care of him. She never complained. She was always there by his side.

Naga has an unflinching faith in God, and believes He plans everything for you. "If not for the accident, I may not have studied after the 10th, and may have started working as a farmer or something like that. I am sure God had other plans for me.", told Naga Naresh in an interview to rediff.

He also believes in destiny and that the world if full of good people. From MFMS missionary school that gave him and his sister free education upto 10th, Gowtham Junior College that waived the school fees of 50K a year, IIT-Madras where lifts and ramps were installed for him in the Computer Science department and an attached bathroom in his hostel room, to that stranger in the train who took care of his hostel fees from then on, he has been helped by everyone. He says, "I feel if you are motivated and show some initiative, people around you will always help you.", echoing the famous quote from The Alchemist: When a person really desires something, the entire universe conspires to help that person realize his dream..

Visit his orkut profile and you'll see floods of scraps from people congratulating him, asking for interviews and all. I am not sure whether I should contact him. Now that he is in Google Bangalore, I would even like to meet him, but do not know if that would be warranted. But I can get inspired by him and explore and use up my potential rather than procrastinating and leading a laid-back life.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

To Abort or Not to: A Win-Win Situation

The nationwide debate on abortion has rather intensified after the Mumbai High Court's dismissal of Niketa and Haresh Mehtas' plea to terminate a pregnancy to prevent birth of a disabled child. The case has split opinions from two sects: pro-life versus pro-quality-of-life.

Though it was everywhere on the news, a brief about the case for the uninitiated: the Mehtas learnt after their second sonography and echocardiography that the foetus she was carrying for 22 weeks has two abnormalities in the heart and malpositioned arteries, which would require a pacemaker soon after birth and the entire life of the child. Sensing life-long trauma and probable handicaps and shortcomings for the unborn baby, the expectant parents decided to move court to seek permission to abort. However, the Mumbai High Court refused to allow Niketa to abort her 26-week foetus following a second report from JJ Hospital, which had modified "fair" chances of the child having congenital disorders to "few" chances, claiming that to be a typo.

The court quashed the Mehtas' honest and brave act with a viewpoint that it would set a bad example. Isn't a worse example set now? No other parents who face a similar problem will now go the legal way. Mothers-to-be are getting more worried now, and are going for repeat sonographies and other obgyn consultations lest their wombs have foetuses with congenital diseases. The verdict of this case would surely increase the already high number of five million illegal abortions in India every year.

Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said there was no need to change the MTP Act just for a one-off case. But exceptions could be made. Around a month ago, the Romanian government permitted abortion to an 11-year old girl due the exceptional circumstances of her case(pregnancy as a result of rape by an uncle), even though she was 21-weeks pregnant and the Romanian abortion limit is 14 weeks. Abortion laws are much more lenient in India than many other nations as can be seen here and here, but we fail to make exceptions and set examples. Rather, we tend to stick to age-old laws and rule out any amendments, on the contrary claiming that if it has been working for so long, it should work now also.

This is a major failure on the part of our judicial system. They might have saved the law in this case but in the process opened gates for more cases of breaking the same law. The only concern that the lawmakers should have had is how to prevent people trying to legally abort female foetuses under the blanket of congenital diseases. That could have been dealt with deftly by stricter laws for other procedures like amniocentesis rather than outrightly dismissing a very valid case.

Sonogram at 26 weeks The unborn baby is already a hero, and is seeking attention and debate from all over. Pro-lifers like the Archbishop of Mumbai have proposed adoption of the child by his church. The CEO of Jaslok Hospital has offered to bear the complete cost of surgery and pacemakers. The Mehtas did the right thing, and they would now be happy to bring the child to this world. I see them rewarded in a way; this has brought their child already to the limelight. Godforbids the Mehtas' worst fears come true, the child will not suffer because of lack of medical care or finances; I am sure the best possible medical facilities developed by mankind would be readily available. And one day when the child grows up and learns to read and understand, and comes to know of this trial and the nationwide furore, pride for his parents would definitely be one of the feelings.

The Mehtas have been accused of not wanting their child. I don't think it is easy for any mother to think of aborting her baby. What the Mehtas do not want is a disabled child, who might have to face innumerable challenges throughout life. It is more for the baby than for them. They love the child so much they do not want to bring him out to face the atrocities of this cruel world. It takes a hell lot of courage and heart to do so. I hope their efforts do not go in vain and this case acts as an eye-opener and no other Mehta couple faces this.

As Bachi Karkaria puts it, the end of the case will not be the end of the debate. And that itself is a victory.

Image: 26-week old foetus, Courtesy:

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Menstruation and the Origins of Culture

That's the title of the thesis submitted by Chris Knight for his PhD at the University College, London, which was later published as a book by Yale University Press. Chris is a professor of Anthropology at the University of East London and a founding member of the Radical Anthropology Group. This thesis presents and tests a new theory of human cultural origins, and forms an interesting read. I've already downloaded it and have started digging my teeth into the 530-page tome.

Christopher Denis Knight mentions in his 32-page CV that he worked as a postman/van driver for the Post Office before studying anthropology. His list of publications counts at 43 now, 12 of which were jointly authored. His thesis was a reconsideration of early twentieth French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss's work on symbolism and truth, and no, that's not the cloth manufacturer.

With that overdose of trivia, let me come to the point. The aforementioned thesis is in .doc format, has been 'reviewed' the MS-Word way, and is available only on the author's official website. It has a reviewed spelling error correcting protohumen to protohuman. So, when I run a google search for protohumen, that is the single place on the world-wide-web (Ok, before I mention that a thousand times on this blog) referring the word. does not find the word either, but gives Google reference to the same Word document, still abiding by the Googlewhack rules of having a link to for each word.

Add one of the 7,114 distinct words from the document (out of a total of 185,108 words) and run a Google search, and you have a googlewhack! The whack engine is smart enough and does not let you record whacks with the same word more than if you use it excessively, four times in an hour, but technically you have plenty of whacks for you unless someone else picks up.

So this is another loophole in whacking. There are now four ways to record whacks:

Method 1 :

  • Find a pair of words resulting in zero Google search results.
  • Create a web page with the two words.
  • Wait for your page to get indexed by Googlebot.
  • Record your whack on the stack as soon as it appears on Google results.
  • I used my previous post to record my first whack using this method:
             triskaidekaphobia dancegoers
Method 2 :
  • Find a single word that gives a single search result on Google, and gives a link for definition on the right. I believe you can only get non-existent words this way.
  • Scan that document for distinct words (Ping me for the java application I wrote to get the above count of 7,114). You can do a few hundreds manually too.
  • Club those distinct words with the master word, one at a time, and record four whacks, after which you wouldn't be allowed.
  • Come back after an hour a couple of days to use the same 'uniwhack' again.
  • I whacked the following using this hack:
             sexual protohumen
             traditional protohumen
             protohumen cosmology
             coherent protohumen
             peasanties forestry
             peasanties oblivion
             peasanties scourge
             ragged bildungsromen
             bildungsromen emerald
             bildungsromen asses
             bildungsromen kush
Method 3 :
  • Try pairs of words from already existing whacks, you have many combinations possible; they've already recorded 610,000 whacks, out of which the latest 2,000 are visible.
  • I 'copied' to record these couple of couples:
             spreadably outcry
             insidious spreadably
Method 0 :
  • Try pairs of rare, unrelated words (opposites are related; unrelated words would be from entirely different spheres). This is the actual intention of whacking.
  • I could do a few couples this old-fashioned way too:
             linguaphiles endoderm
             linguaphiles pachyderm
             lactic linguaphiles
I am sure there are some other cheats you can discover to find whacks. I am done with my share of whacking, and none of the methods I mentioned above would work for the words I have in my whacks as soon as Googlebot crawls and indexes this page.

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