Friday, April 30, 2010

Coimbatore Bypass

Coimbatore Bypass is a two-lane bypass road, spanning a distance of 28 kms, which was built by L&T and was operational in the year 2000. This road helps a traveler to bypass the city of Coimbatore (officially known as Kovai) by connecting Neelambur on the Salem side and Madukkarai on the Palakkad side. I use this road for the same objective when I go home to Ernakulam.

I travelled on this road for the first time in the year 2002. At that time, I was working in the US and came down for executing a project in Chennai. During this time, we had hastily planned for a pilgrimage to Palani. After lobbying and subsequently gathering a small group consisting of immediate family and relatives, we hired a mini van for a comfortable journey. As soon as the mini van entered the bypass road, two of my younger cousins couldn’t contain the excitement and the virtues of the bypass road gushed out of their mouths. Having seen bigger things by that age, I wasn’t excited. For me, the road was small and it didn’t deserve to be praised to the sky. But, I was amused at their passion in which they were comparing notes.

Of late, I have been travelling to Kerala very frequently by road. Every time I travel on this road, I become less fond of this road for two reasons.

  1. Two-lane highway: Before reaching Kerala, this is the last stretch of road where we can make up the lost time. Once you cross over to Kerala, the road are busier and narrower. The bypass road being a two-lane highway, you end up playing hide and seek behind a slow moving vehicle in front of you before you can overtake it. Since this road is favored by the heavy vehicles, the ordeal of overtaking can be very frustrating as there are at least two heavy vehicles in front of you and the oncoming traffic never thins down.
  2. Toll booths: There are 6 toll booths on the bypass road. This is essential for the operators(toll collectors) as there are multiple entries and exits all along due to major roads cutting across the bypass road. In order to levy toll from everyone who uses this road, the toll booths are setup at 6 locations before these exit points and after these entry points. The flip side of this for someone who has to go directly from Salem to Palakkad or vice versa has to stop at all the 6 toll booths. You pay the toll and get the receipt from the first toll booth. Then, you stop at the each of the 5 remaining toll booths to display the receipt and get it examined by the guards.

It has been only 10 years since the bypass road has been operational and it is already outdated. What was the rationale while building the tollbooth? How long did the authorities think this will last? Were there only thinking of reducing the congestion inside the city instead of decreasing the time taken to travel? Are the authorities planning for a bypass widening project and flyovers across the roads that cut across the bypass road?

The widening of the bypass road will have a longer implementation cycle. But the authorities should try to eliminate the time wasted at the tollbooths. They can have two lanes – one for passing traffic and the other for collecting toll. In addition, they could also devise a way to easily identify the people who has already paid the toll. A color coded receipt will help. The colors will have to randomly change every day in order to avoid misuse and mischief. If the color coding does not work, the authorities can use token and automatically operated gates which opens on depositing the tokens. Using this method, you still have to stop. But it is more efficient way than a person squinting to check the receipt in dim light and adverse climatic conditions!

See below for the map of the bypass road and also the pictures of the toll booths.

View Larger Map






Tags: Travel,Bypass Road,Coimbatore,Kovai

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meenmutty Waterfalls, Wayanad

DSC05071 Meenmutty Waterfalls is situated off the Ooty Road around 29 kilometers from Kalpetta in Wayanad district in Kerala . A friend recommended the place to me. He liked it because the hike down to the falls is longer and the falls have a taller drop. We were able to easily locate the signboard which indicated the approach road to the falls. The approach road was 2 kms long and the unpaved. We noticed other visitors leaving their cars where the approach road started. Since the approach to our resort was similar, we decided to drive.

At the end of the approach road, there was a makeshift hut made by the forest authorities. We parked the car on a piece of open land devoid of construction. As soon as we parked the car, a lady approached us demanding parking fees. We gladly paid her. On our way back, after seeing many cars parked in such pieces of land and also in front of houses, we concluded the parking fees serve as an additional income for these households.

The forest authorities charge a nominal fee of Rs 30/- per visitor. They have discounts for bigger groups. They assign a guide after assembling visitors together into a small group. Since our visit coincided with the Easter weekend, guides were scarce. So the guides were posted at key locations in order to help the visitors. As we were having difficulty in carrying our daughter, the guides helped us. They carried our daughter down to the falls and also on the way back.

After a hike of one km which comprised of many zig-zags, small uphills and steeper downhills, we reached the falls. On the way, there were ropes tied to the trees which aided us in our journey to the falls. The falls was a sight to see! And to think the monsoons start in another two months. Imagine the sight then! The most difficult part of the journey was the next. We had to climb up to reach our starting point. It was slow and painful!

DSC05103 DSC05090 DSC05094 DSC05102

Tags: Travel,Wayanad,Meenmutty Falls

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Movie: Love Sex Aur Dhoka

Rahul(Anshuman Jha) is directing a movie as part of his curriculum in the film school. He finds his heroine in Shruti(Nushrat Bharucha). While filming, Rahul and Shruti fall in love despite their different social and economic situations.

Adarsh(Raj Kumar Yadav) is a security consultant who works in super mart. He has been instrumental in setting up the CCTVs in the store. As he is heavily in debts, he decides to use the CCTV to record something saleable. For this, he pretends to be interested in Rashmi(Neha Chauhan), who works at night.

Prabhat(Amit Sial) is a journalist who specializes in sting operations. His career is heading nowhere and currently possesses suicidal tendencies. Ironically, he rescues Naina(Arya Banerjee) from committing suicide. With the help of Naina, he plans to do a sting operation on Loki Local(Herry Tangdi), the famous singer.

Dibakar Banerjee directs this episodic movie. He has intelligently linked these seemingly disparate stories thereby giving us the best episodic movie in Hindi. Dibakar has used fresh faces in this movie. The new comers are so comfortable on the camera that their performance is better than of the stalwarts. The direction, the scripting, the camera(by Nikos Andritsakis) and the editing(by Namrata Rao) play a major part in this movie. Camera is one of the key characters in this movie. In the first episode, the look is of being shot using a video camera. The second episode has a look of being shot using CCTV and the third using a spy camera.

This is a definite watch. Please use discretion as some of the scenes are not suitable for children.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,Dibakar Banerjee,Drama

Movie: Le Cercle Rouge

The Commissioner Mattei(Andre Bourvil) transports a convict Vogel(Gian Maria Volonte) from Marseilles to Paris on a train. On the way, Vogel escapes by jumping out of the train. Elsewhere, Corey(Alain Delon) is released from the prison. Just before he is released, a prison guard tips him about the newly installed security system in one of jewelries in Paris.

After robbing his ex-partner Rico, Corey sets off to Paris in a newly bought secondhand car. A fleeing Vogel hides in the trunk of Corey’s car while the latter eats in a restaurant. Corey sees this and stops the car in a secluded place for Vogel to get some air. Vogel is initially suspicious of Corey and subsequently trusts when he comes to know that Corey has been released from the prison.

Corey helps Vogel escape from the police and Vogel in turn helps Corey from Rico’s thugs. Soon, Corey enlist Vogel in the jewel heist. Based on Vogel’s suggestion, they also invite a marksman Jansen(Yves Montand), who is a retired policeman. Meanwhile, Mattei is under pressure after Vogel’s escape. He squeezes his informers to locate Vogel. The rest of the story follows the events in lives of these three men.

Jean-Pierre Melville directs this thriller. The movie is leisurely paced with events taking time to unfold. Still, supplemented by the photography and performances, the movie is interesting to watch. The heist takes around 20-25 minutes of screening time. It is not a daring heist but a very entertaining watch. The intelligent use of background music enhances the thrills. The heist is silent without any use of excessive background music.

An excellent thriller! Watch it!

Language: French

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

Tags: Movies,Alain Delon,Andre Bourvil,Yves Montand,Gian Maria Volonte,Jean-Pierre Melville,Thriller

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yes or No?

I hate to be the integrator. Integrator if I’m using eloquent words and the middle man if I do away with the niceties. An integrator needs to be watching his steps carefully lest he ends up in quicksand, the deadlock situation!

During one of the resignation dramas, I ended up being the integrator. After consulting with the resigned, I passed the relevant information to the higher authority and watched events unfold from a safe distance so as to help both the parties reach an amicable solution. All the while, I constantly checked on both the people – the resigned and the higher authority. The higher authority was always upbeat. But the enthusiasm was never reflected on the resigned. There was no conclusive decision as the days moved forward.

YesNo So I confronted the higher authority first. He had cleanly parked the ball on the other court and was waiting to hear from the other party! Armed with this information, I confronted the resigned. “Yeah, he did say something”, the resigned replied in an offhand fashion. Sensing his disinterest, I advised him, “This will not work with the higher authority. You have to specific as in telling him a yes or a no”.

There was an uncomfortable silence. So I asked again in simple terms, “Yes or No?”. He said softly, “Yes”. I was about to let out a sigh of relief when I realized something wrong with the tone! So, I questioned, “It is a yes, which means you are staying”.

He replied softly, “Yes, I’m moving on!”

People, I say, love to communicate positively!

Tags: Musings,Resignation

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tree House

While searching for a place to stay in Wayanad, I came across many places offering tree houses in the name of eco tourism! Having grown up on a healthy and rich diet of Indrajal Comics, the memories of Phantom – the ghost who walks - came back to my mind! Phantom and Diana stayed in a tree house occasionally. I vaguely remembered a contraption used to reach the top of the tree house!

Owing to the Easter weekend, all the resorts especially the ones featuring tree houses were sold out! I hated Wayanad for being 5 hours away from Bengaluru and also the Bangaloreans for their meticulous planning that results in all the major nearby areas being sold out weeks before the holidays! Seeing my desperation, a friend pulled strings to get me a tree house for the weekend.

Fantasizing about living like Phantom for the weekend, I arrived in the sleepy town of Chundale in Wayanad around 12:30 pm. On the way, we were greeted with many hoardings announcing the distance between us and our tree house! The excitement was coupled with fear when we saw the approach road to the resort. The approach road was unpaved and covered a distance of 3 kms. This unpaved approach road would be an ideal place to test the off road capabilities of SUVs.

DSC05187 While checking in, the resort manager showed us the tree house. The tree house was not high up in the air resting amidst the gigantic branches on a tree like in the Phantom comics. But this tree house was on top of a small hill. I was short of breath after I climbed up 200 meters to reach my abode for the weekend.

The 5 hours of drive from Bengaluru, the 3 kms stretch of unpaved road and the 200 meters walk had drained all energy from us. We decided to take a short nap. A couple of minutes after we hit the bed, the side effects of eco tourism hit us! The afternoons in Kerala is hot even in Wayanad. The tree house did not have a fan! There was not even a phone to call room service! We opened the doors and windows! It helped a bit as there was very light breeze coming in. We were even able to sleep for a short while. After rejuvenating ourselves with the short nap, we spent the rest of the day visiting nearby places of interest. While returning back to the resort, we were skeptical about our choice of accommodation.

The night was cooler! We were sleeping soundly as soon as we hit the bed. The cell phone alarm woke me up at 6 am next morning. When I switched off the alarm, there was still a loud noise. The birds were chirping! It was soothing to hear the birds. I opened the door and sat on the bamboo chair and watched the distant mountain. The chirping of the birds took me down the memory lane. I was transported to the vacations I spent at my maternal grandmother’s house! The entire household took turns in waking me up! But, I just stayed in the bed and listened to the birds chirping!

Tags: Travel,Tree House,Eco tourism,Phantom,Wayanad

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wayanad! It is a district!

When someone handed over me the brochure of a homestay in Wayanad, I innocently asked him, “So, what is there to see in Wayanad?”. In response to the question, he shot a reproachful look at me. Then, he left out an inaudible sigh and replied, “Wayanad! It is a district!”. I still didn’t get it! Seeing my confused look, he continued, “It is a district! There are many things to see!”. Seeing this to be right moment to close a conversation that was increasingly showing off my ignorance, I smiled feebly and looked around.

A few months later, I’m back from a visit to Wayanad “district”! After spending 2 days in Wayanad, I realized the inner meaning of the words spoken to me! Two days were not enough to see the entire place. There are many places of interest listed under Wayanad on the internet. In two days, you can hardly cover 25% of these places. To make matters more complex, any two places of interest are separated by at least 20 kilometers which translates to a lot of driving. It is difficult to get an accommodation closer to all places you want to see.

So, if you are planning to visit Wayanad, reserve a week. You need as much to cover all the important places. Visit during the monsoon season. It will be raining cats & dogs and the visibility poor. But, it is a beautiful sight! During my stay, there was a light drizzle and the earth around me changed colors! There are no words to describe it. The homestays and the resorts are overpriced. Drive a hard bargain as you will be only coming back to room to drop dead on the bed after all the driving and the sightseeing.

Seen below are some of the pictures taken from the Lakkidi viewpoint that offers a good view of the Thamarassery ghat pass. See video for the famous reference to Thamarassery ghat pass!

DSC05022DSC05027 Tags: Musings,Travel,Wayanad,District

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Movie: Clash of the Titans

Zeus(Liam Neeson) becomes the king of Gods while his brother Hades(Ralph Fiennes) rules the underworld. Hades secretly harbors hatred towards his brother as he was tricked by his brother to rule the underworld. Hades also possesses a wily monster called kraken.

During this time, a fisherman named Spyros(Pete Postlethwaite) comes across a floating coffin. He finds a dead woman and a baby in the coffin. Spyros adopts this baby who grows into Perseus(Sam Worthington). On a fishing trip, Spyros and family watch the soldiers of Argos destroying a statue of Zeus. The soldiers are immediately killed by Hades who appears from the ocean. In the aftermath of the battle between Hades and soldiers, the happy family of Spyros gets drowned. However, Perseus escapes.

Perseus is rescued by another group of soldiers from Argos and taken back to Argos to present before the king and the queen. The king and the queen are defiant about the gods and compares their daughter Andromeda(Alexa Davalos) to Aphrodite. As soon as the words are uttered, Hades appears and creates havoc. During the melee, Perseus is unharmed. Then, Hades realizes that Perseus is a demigod. Hades warns the king of Argos to sacrifice Andromeda in 10 days in order to avoid the wrath of kraken.

Perseus embarks on a quest as a man to save Andromeda and fight the kraken. Even after he realizes that Zeus is his father, he is adamant in completing the quest as an ordinary man. He is assisted by Io(Gemma Arterton) and Draco(Mads Mikkelsen). How Perseus saves Andromeda by fighting Acrisius(Jason Flemyng), killing gigantic scorpions born when the blood of Acrisius touches the ground, confronting the Stygian witches, befriending Djinns and killing Medusa forms the rest of the story.

Louis Leterrier directs this remake of the 1981 movie. The script has been adapted to project Perseus as a mortal fighting against the wrath of god. But the director fails in generating a feeling of adventure while watching this movie. Moreover, Perseus’s struggle – both internal and external – does not inspire. So, the movie degenerates into an action piece ultimately. In spite of having great performers, the movie remains pedestrian.

Watch it on DVD. If you really want to enjoy Clash of Titans, pick up the DVD of the 1981 movie. Even with the crude stop motion effects, the original is far more enjoyable.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,Sam Worthington,Liam Neeson,Ralph Fiennes,Pete Postlethwaite,Alexa Davalos,Gemma Arterton,Mads Mikkelsen,Jason Flemyng,Louis Leterrier,Action

Monday, April 5, 2010

Movie: Paiyaa

Shiva(Karthi) comes to Bengaluru for an interview. In Bengaluru, Priya(Sonia) and other friends help a laidback and disinterested Shiva. During his stay, he is smitten by Charu(Tamannah) and bumps into her at many places. Shiva also misses his interview as he follows Charu after spotting her at the place of interview.

Later, when he goes to railway station to pick up a friend, Shiva is mistaken as to be a taxi driver by Charu and another man who accompanies her. They ask for a ride to Chennai. Shiva obliges. In the car, the person accompanying Charu constantly scolds her in Telugu. Their movement is monitored by a lady called Amma over the phone. When Shiva stops at a gas station to fill in gas, Charu requests him to dump her companion and escape. Shiva obliges again! Then, Shiva takes her to Mumbai. On way, Charu is chased by an Andhra gang of ruffians. As they approach Mumbai, a local gang of ruffians are on their pursuit. But they are pursuing Shiva! How Shiva saves himself and Charu from these ruffians using brawn forms the rest of the story.

Linguswamy directs and writes the screenplay of this action movie. The movie fails on two accounts – the pace is very slow for an action movie and the stunt choreography has moments but aren’t great overall. There is nothing much happening in the movie and there are songs popping up every now and then. The director has failed to capture the essence of a road movie in spite of shooting extensively on major national highways covering multiple states. Linguswamy has badly written and shot the confrontation between Shiva and the two bad guys - Baali(Milind Soman) who is the leader of Mumbai pack and the fat guy who is the leader of Andhra pack. What could have been an interesting action sequence turns out a damp squib even before it starts. Shiva knocks out Baali very early in the movie leaving no suspense for the viewer. The fat guy gets a kick that lifts off the ground before even he can flex his muscle.

The songs tuned by Yuvan Shankar Raja is more pleasing than the action scenes. For a movie of this genre, the songs should add value to the overall movie and should not take away credit from the action scenes! The camera by Madhie and editing by Anthony do not even suit this movie.

Karthi fails to register an impact despite giving a sincere performance. Tamannah gets ample footage but has no scope for acting! Milind Soman is wasted.

Skip the metamorphosis of Paiyya to Super Paiyya and avoid the torture.

Language: Tamil

Genre: Action

Rating: *

Tags: Movies,Karthi,Tamannah,Sonia,Milind Soman,Linguswamy,Yuvan Shankar Raja,Action

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Read the newspaper!

IMG00050 My dad always tried his best to tell me the importance of reading the newspaper even before I stepped into the teenage years. He wanted me to possess a better vocabulary and a writing style. More than the elegant prose and presentation, he wanted me to stay in touch with what was happening in the world.

Parents are always driving a point relentlessly into your head and also making life more difficult in your teens. As I entered into my teens, I had plenty of evidence to back up the above adage. So, the natural tendency was to ignore my dad’s advice! But, during those days, I went through a flip flopping emotions of love and annoyance where love mostly won hands down. In order to please dad and to give boost to my ego, I found a middle path. I decided to read the newspaper.

Every morning, I picked up the newspaper and read the local listing of the movies. I also garnered the knowledge of upcoming movies too. As for what is happening in the world, remember, I said “middle path”! I have religiously followed this ritual till date although the frequency has reduced from 7 days to 1 day namely Friday.

As with all bitter lessons in my life, lack of respect for my dad’s advice caught up with me last Friday! After a hard day’s work, we – me and a group of friends – gathered at a local watering hole. On that night, we were surprised to find that the watering hole was not serving water – in our case, alcohol! Agitated, we asked why. They couldn’t serve alcohol because of the local corporation elections. We retired for the day with a tired soul and an aching body!

If I had listened to my dad’s golden words, I would not have landed in this situation. I would have found this piece of information by reading the newspaper! Like the ants stocking up food, I would have stocked my house with alcohol for the dry period that lasted three grueling days.

Tags: Musings,Dad,Parents,Newspaper

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