Kolhapur Goa trip

Kolhapur is a city bustling with life.  We stayed at Hotel Pearl, which is good and real worthy place. Mahalaxmi Temple awesome.

Visited Panhala Fort, historical and takes you back into time and think about great son of India, Sivajee Maharaj.

There on we went by road to Goa. APSICON 2010 was splendidly organized by Nitin Mokal, Sailesh and their team. Holiday Inn has a spectacular beach. The meet was good academically and had good entertainment activities with every dinner. Spouses were well engaged and that gave us good freedom listening to lectures.

Sikkim 4/Feb/2010

Day 2 ( Feb 4th)

Click here for day 1

Scheduled to visit Nathu-La Pass and Tsomgo Lake.

Our Travel agent kindly loaned us with a pair of real mountaineer’s jackets. Though we looked puffed up wearing those jackets along with gloves and caps we took from home, we were warm inside.

We were taken to JN Road Taxi centre by a Maruthi car from our hotel. It was well beyond the scheduled 7AM . Every morning many vehicles take passengers to Nathulapass from this point. This centre is a huge complex with parking on 3 floors for the vehicles.  Most of these vehicles are Tata Spacios. The capacity is driver +9 passengers. That makes it 10 altogether.  It is a tight fit in. The inconvenience is negated by the warmth generated by 10 people in one vehicle.

The route isn’t very pleasant but the driver is the key. He can give you hell if  driving is bad. We were lucky that our driver  handled the vehicle smooth, as opposed to the driver who ferrried us from Bagdogra to Gangtok. Sikkim being a mountainous state, driving skill is very important either in terms of safe driving  or smooth handling of the vehicle.

For Nathula pass one needs prior permission as we are taken very close to Chinese Border.  An identity (Photo copy of Passport or Voter Card and a photo are required). I have sent our passport copies and scanned photos to our travel agent by email a week before and we had no problem thanks to our travel agent. Some tourists found themselves unable to take up this trip due to absence of proper documents or photos. So be aware if you plan to visit Nathula pass. And what is Sikkim trip worth without a visiting Nathula pass!

We left the Taxi Stand at about 8.30 AM and after one hour of drive we stopped at police picket called 15th Mile Police Picket. There are few tea stalls here. Most vehicles stop here for a cup of tea. The altitude is about 10,400 feet. The air is cold and the elderly may experience some difficulty in breathing. Tsomogo lake is about 8 KM from here and Nathula pass about 25 KM.

Few shops selling fast and junk foods are here. Few houses are here too. Children were seen sitting out along with pickle bottles to get what ever heat from the sun that was shining.  Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary is accessible from here. We were not scheduled to visit this park and is known to be interesting to those studying the flora

An arch way indicates the route and distance to Nathula, Tsmogo and Baba mandir from here.

After about one and half hours drive from here, we reached Nathula pass. On the way landscapes are partially covered by snow. It was our first sight at snow and it was exhilarating.  We also crossed without a stop, the famed Tsomog Lake. We were to stop here on the way back.

We are at finally Nathula pass. It felt dizzy and took some time to adapt. There were many who could not climb up a few steps. The temperature was about -4 and there was a strong cold wind blowing into your faces. Your ears and fingers start to feel numb and and mildly painful. But the scene is awe inspiring. You are literally and the border of India and China. There is a sense of fear and exhilaration at the same time. You cannot but feel grateful to the soldiers who are living there and taking care of our borders, our lives and are the cause of our peaceful life.

Soldier Memorial at Nathula Pass. This is a sacred place. I and Jahna stood there for a long time with out talking with each other but fully aware of thoughts in each others mind. These soldiers gave their lives for us. They are like our fathers and mothers. These soldiers lost their live saving ours. Jahnavi wanted to find some flowers and lay them at the memorial. We could not get any. Even if we found some, the security there would not have allowed  us civilians. We gave our silent respects to all the soldiers who lost their lives for the protection of our nation.

I recalled my Surgery professor who taught us clinical methods and surgery in our fourth year clinicals.  Once we were examining a soldier who came in with a lump in his abdomen. After an hour of bedside clinics, he taught us all one important lesson apart from surgery. He asked us not to charge any money to soldiers when they walk into your clinics or hospitals. I did follow that rule all the time. Two years ago, a soldier bought in his wife for a Tubectomy reversal. I did the surgery free. A year later, the proud again father brought in his gift happily: an army ration whiskey bottle!

India and china at nathula pass are reduced to 2 buildings. separated by few feet of land. You can see both the building in the picture to the left. The red star is shown on the frontage of chinese building. At the time we were there, we could not see chinese soldiers at close quarters. The Indian soldiers told us of regularly seeing chinese soldiers face to face and proably exchanging a word or two with each other. Probably a cautious greeting now and then. On the Indian side, there is a board with common chinese phrases like “Good Morning”, “how are you?” etc. If there were any soldiers, we would have wished them.

Canteen and STD booth at 14200 feet. This is one good thing present at this altitude. It is sparkling clean and maintained by the army personnel. There is a STD booth run by the army from where you could call your kith and kin and  preserve the bill for the phone call you made from 14200 feet. You could also buy a certificate for Rs50 that you visited Nathula pass.

Our Jawans guarding us (Bihar Regiment) Mr.Ohja in his duty. We took permission of Mr.Ohja and clicked this photograph. You cant stop admiring these heroes at our border. Incidentally, Mr.Ohja sports fantastic moustach.

Immaculate Canteen at this altitude. The table tops and counters are fantastic and clean every inch. There are few pretty girls from the local families who are assisting the counter. Fantastic breads, samosas are available piping hot at very very nominal prices. The clean environment, warm room and hot foods served by smiling girls make you feel like sitting a bit longer than the patience the driver has waiting for you to come back.

Baba Mandir

My first contact with snow (Rather frozen water)

Yetis on Yaks at Tsomogo Lake

Sikkim 3/Feb/2010

I and my wife Dr.Jahnavi decided to go on a holiday. It had been a long time since we went out. I mean just we our selves, minus our son. My fourteen year old son easily agreed to allow us to go without him and it was a surprise to us! We did not fail to notice that he  is growing up and maturing fast.

Next point was where to go? We wanted a short holiday and not a very expensive one, since we are in the midst of some heavy expenditures. I read enthusiastic opinions on Sikkim from www.indiamike.com besides being aware that the local transport and hotel prices are low, almost half in this winter season.  Never being averse for some risks (Biting colds), I had persuaded my wife and managed to get her approval. I got in touch with Yaknyeti travels at Gangtok by email/phone and booked my stay(3rd to 7th Feb), local transport and sight seeing. We live in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh. The options were to reach New Jalpaiguri by train or Bagdogra by flight.

We did want a short break from work so we decided to take a flight. Bagdogra does not have direct flight from my nearest Airports, Hyderabad or Chennai. After some research I found that Spicejet runs a flight from Chennai in which we need not deplane in its Kolkota stop. This saves few hours transit time.

Day 1 (Feb 3rd)

Reaching Gangtok.

We  reached Chennai from Guntur by train on the early hours of 3rd Feb. We spent few  hours in my brother in law’s place, finished bathing and had a quick  breakfast and dashed to the airport in  Skoda to catch the SpiceJet SG 323 direct flight to Bagdogra. We left Chennai airport at 10.50 AM and reached Bagdogra at 2.40 Pm Bagdogra is a defense airport, has a single runway and  allows civilian aircrafts to operate. The airport is small. You walk down the stairs and simply continue to the terminal. We found, military personnel everywhere and as we were entering the terminal there was a booming sound in the air. We turned back to see an airforce jet take off in a flash. My son Aditya would have loved to see a take off at such close range. Photography is prohibited in this airport.

As we exited the airport, there was the taximan sent by the travel agent who took us into a Chevrolet Spark. It was small but new. The driver had already sat one un-authorized passenger in the front seat. An young man, chatty in nature and kept the driver engaged all the time. It usually takes about 4 hours of drive from the airport to Gangtok.

We took 5 hours as our driver and the un-authorized passenger helped themselves of one hour shopping at a makeshift vegetable market.We took a look at the counters for a while and found stunningly large vegetables, thicker and fluffier greens etc. I saw Broccoli for the first time there. The drive can be quite tedious I found out later if  the driver does not handle the steering wheel well. Our driver gave us real bends in the tummy. We stopped for a short tea break at a road side shack. It is run by a Nepali family with plastic tables and creeky chairs. You get quick food like noodles etc. We were hungry and had bread and Omlette and syrupy tea.

Behind the counter I found a large poster of Saibaba. Then you begin to notice his pictures are seen at many place,

behind taxis, on the dashboards and many tea and snack shacks. We saw many more in the next few days.
The day light went down by about 5.30 PM. The temperature started to climb down. In February, the driver explained, the days are shorter, the visitor crowds thinner and work slacker. No wonder he took an extra passenger in the front seat.( Against the travel agent’s rules)
The travel up to Gangtok, from the plains of West Bengal takes you through some bad stretches of poorly maintained roads.
Of the approximate 4 hours of the drive, the last hour is through Sikkim state after leaving West Bengal. Once you are into Sikkim state, it was refreshing to find, more developed dwellings on the way. We started to find many more liqour shops.

We entered Gangtok at about 8 PM. It was really cold by this time.We reached Hotel Himalchuli ( our boarding place arranged by the travel agent), after dropping off the un-authorized passenger earlier in the town.The hotel looked quaint but not to our liking due to poor maintainance, the windows were letting in cool air.  We managed to say there for the night with the help of a room heater and blankets. But we resolved to change the hotel the next day. We were to leave at 7AM the next day to Nathula Pass  and were quite tired to make a change of hotel that night.

Click here for Day 2

3 Idiots

Amir did not have to do all those promo trips round the country. He should have had more confidence in the movie!

The movie gave good laughs and you could forgive the length (20 or 21 reels) because of that. And all the while doling out advice. Advice to parents, advice to students, advice  those about to be engaged.  And most importantly advice to the Teachers.

IIM Bangalore’s campus was well utilized and the locales in Ladakh were awsome.

And at the end of the movie, I had a little change of heart. May be I will be more more sensitive to my son’s wishes than I am now and hope to improve on this issue.

I have to thank the movie for an wholesome entertainment in conclusion.

P.S: Chetan Bhagat did not receive enough credits. ( Is someone telling me to ‘shut up’?)

TheSmileTrain

I work for SmileTrain.

Unlike many charities that do many different things, The Smile Train is focused on solving a single problem: cleft lip and palate.
Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where there are millions of children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly. Aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. And face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation, pain and heartache.

This is our mission:

-To provide free cleft surgery for millions of poor children in developing countries.
-To provide free cleft-related training for doctors and medical professionals.
Until there are no more children who need help and we have completely
eradicated the problem of clefts.