It has been more than a year since I wrote anything here. There is a
lot of things that is happening in life and I hope I will come back
here to document atleast some of them.

But the reason for this quick post - I see a lot of searches landing
here looking for the Fort High School Rama Seva Mandali concerts. This website has the entire list of concerts. Enjoy!

Madras Cafe

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This morning, around 10 we went to Madras Cafe for breakfast.

While taking the order, the guy asked

H: என்ன சார், வேணும்.
B: பூரி வேணும் சார்.
H: 11:00 மணிக்கு மேல ஆகுமெ, பரவாயில்லநயா?
B: காலைல வேணூம்னு கேட்டா, அதான் இங்க வந்தோம்
H: எம்மா, ஒரு வளையல், நெக்லசு கேக்காம, பூரி வேணும்னா கேக்கரது?
B: சரி சார், ரெண்டு பொங்கல் குடுங்க
H: சார், ஒரு பொங்கல், ஒரு உப்மா வாங்கிகொங்க
B: ஏன் சார்
H: நீங்க ஒரு பொங்கல் சாப்படரதுக்குள்ள தீபாவளியே வந்துரும், அவ்ளோ ஜாஸ்தி
H: அப்பரம், சாப்ட்டுடு இங்கயே தூங்கிடுவீங்க.

And that is what exactly happened. We have been sleeping since 10 in the morning till now, barring a couple of more food breaks. :)

Appalam Mami and Mail Company

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I walked into a small gully off Raja Street, Coimbatore this Saturday to pickup my favourite Tapioca Appalam (மரச்சீனி அப்பளம்). I am going to this place after a long time and this is how the conversation went.

அப்பளம் மாமி: வாங்கோ, என்ன, ரொம்ப நாளா காணும்?
நான்: ஊர்ல இல்ல.
அ.மா: எங்க? USA-வா?
நான்: இல்ல, பெங்களுர்.
அ.மா: பெங்களுர்ல எங்கே?
நான்: JP நகர்.
அ.மா: இல்ல, Infosys-ஆ, Wipro-வா?
நான்: Yahoo!
அ.மா: ஓ! அந்த மேயில் க்மபனியா?
நான்: ஆமாம்.

And I ran away before she dissected me any further :)

I have done it once before and I know from my previous experience that you run a marathon with your heart and mind and not with your body. I ran the Auroville Half Marathon last year and finished in 2:08. The track was a little difficult but I felt the run got over too quickly. Sometime in November, when the 5th edition of Auroville Marathon was announced, I decided that I was going to attempt a full.

Started training but was not very successful at it. Did not have someone regularly to run along with for long distances and more than my body, my mind was playing games. Tried multiple attempts to do a 30+ run in Jan but never managed it. But one good thing was that I did a few half marathons and I was able to do them at a very decent pace. I also ran the NITTE Mangalore Celebration half and finished it in 2:04. I was hoping to finish the half in a decent time and will then see if I could walk the second half and attempt to complete.

The last few days before the race, nervousness kicked in and I lost all my confidence. The alter ego in me was telling me to finish a half and relax. Spoke to quite a few people to keep myself motivated. Also, told quite a few folks that I would be doing the full, in the hope that the embarrassment in telling them that it was a DNF will force me to finish.

We reached Auroville on Saturday and after check-in went to collect the bibs. Met Barefoot Ted there and was watching his unique autographing style - He would wet his feet and stamp the book and then sign on top of it. Feasted on the fantastic pre-run dinner and retired to bed early. Hardly slept that night.

On the race day morning, reached the start point in just in time to pick up a torch and start the race. It was pretty dark and the uneven ground and small pebbles made it difficult. Initially was running in a group but after 5 KM there weren't too many people around. I was maintaining a pace of 6:30. Around the 8K mark had a fall at a narrow turn. Thankfully was not hurt but had a few bruises. I started running again but the alter ego started telling me that I will not go beyond a half.

At the next aid station, stopped for water and checked that there were no major injuries. Started running again and completed the first loop. The run was 3 loops of about 13.5K each. Also around this time, there weren't too many runners around. Thankfully the aid station volunteers were cheering us and also there would be people on the loop waving and cheering at us. Ran till about 22K. Had the energy to run and was not tired at all but the alter ego was telling to stop. I knew well that once I start walking, I can never run again.

Pushed for another couple of KMs but then gave up. Started walking and finished the second loop. Distance was around 30K and the timing was 3:45 hours. Slowly, I got a confidence that I could finish under the cut off time of 6.5 hours. Had a pack of Gu Gel and continued walking when an angel in the form a Hyderabad runner came by. He motivated me and said that let us run along non-stop until 36K, without worrying about pace or time. I started to run and interestingly had very good energy and ran until the 35K mark. Time was around 4:30. Suddenly a sub 5:30 finish possible but the heat was killing. Decided to walk for a while and covered 40K. After the 40K mark slowly started running. The last 1K ran with an old man at a very good pace and then the finish was finally visible. Ran the last 200 odd metres at a blistering pace and finished it in 5:55.

Endured the hot and difficult, lonely track, a fall, to finish it. But more than my finish, the happiest feeling comes for me from that fact that I have converted two couch potatoes to half marathoners. Both of them are interesting stories for another day :)

From devil to the deep sea

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I have been using two mobile phones, one a Nokia E75 for my personal use with a BSNL Cellone connection and an Airtel Blackberry for office use. It had been a pain to carry two phones but I let it be for almost an year. Last month, my E75's display died. I figured out that it would cost about Rs.2500 to get this fixed but if I tried it sell it would fetch me much less. I decided to use this opportunity to port my existing number to Airtel and do away with the need for a second phone.

I thought this would be an easy job but little did I know it would take so much effort. According to the process, it is as simple as sending an SMS to 1900, get a UPC number and submit a form to the new provider and voila, the magic happens.

But Cellone ruins this magic. For one whole day, any SMS to 1900, would result in a reply from 1901 with invalid message format, please send message 'PORT ' to 1900. I read, re-read, tried and retried in vain. Infact another co-worker said, I was sending it wrong and tried the same thing and failed.

The next day, I requested Vasu to call customer care to see if they could help. Their customer care was a serious joke. I was surprised how I lived with this pathetic support for such a long time. Thankfully, I never had to call them.

The next day I decided that I would walk into their CSC to see if it would help but wanted to give 1900 a last try and thankfully it worked. I thought it was the end of all my woes and walked into a Airtel Relationship Center for MNC. The guys were very pleasant, even waved off the paltry Rs.19 fee for MNP and told me that it would be ported and activated within a week.

In a few days time, I got a message from Airtel that my number would be ported the next day. Next morning, I inserted the new SIM into the BB and it worked. I called customer care to enable the BB plans and I was back to business with in a couple of hours.

Now I thought it would be another call to Airtel Customer care to get my existing Airtel BB connection cancelled. I called the customer care and they tried to woo me to keep the connection by giving me a bunch of offers. With great difficulty, I coaxed the customer care executive to take the request and give me a request number. When she finally did provide a request number, she told that the request would be completed in a month? I was baffled and asked again to be sure? It takes a couple of hours to activate a new connection but a month to disconnect one. :) And since the next day, for almost a week, I was getting calls to see if they can provide a better deals, so that I can keep the connection active. I got frustrated and showered my choicest cuss words and got them to deactivate the number. Last week I got a bill from Airtel for the old number with excess rental being charged. I am still fighting with them to get this resolved. Despite that, I still get emails from them every week if I would be interested in reviving that connection.

From devil to the deep sea, the network follows...

Locate Your Hacks

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I am at IIT Delhi for the Hack U. It has been a fun event so far with some interesting discussions on hacks. Met with a bunch of students who are working on their PhD thesis and some of them were awesome. Let us see how the rest of the event goes.

My presentation from the event is on slideshare.

RIP Steve Jobs

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I am not a mac fan boy. For that matter, I am not a gadget freak. I have been using a Mac for a couple of years. I very recently started using an iPod and an iPad, all thanks to Yahoo! And I am amazingly impressed by both the devices. I am sure both these devices are going to change the way I look at gadgets.

May be that is why, when I woke up this morning to the news of Steve Jobs death, I felt as if someone close to me has died. Even after all the fun we had today, somewhere in the bottom of my heart, that sorrow feeling lingers on.

RIP Steve Jobs. You have changed the way people will look at gadgets.


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In June, while I was preparing for my trek to Roopkund, I was looking for trekking shoes. I was recommended Forclaz 500 Ventiv by friends. The shoe was retailing at Rs.2999 at Decathlon. The same was available for Rs.2499 online with free shipping. I went to the store to try it out, thinking that will order online and save Rs.500. John, the salesman helped me out with my questions and suggested that I pick up a tight fit. It was too tight but he suggested that it will expand a bit and will be fine. He also promised that he will replace it if I find it uncomfortable after a couple of days use. I told him about the online store and price and he told me that he can give it to me for 2799 and joked that Decathlon needs to pay him salary and hence cannot match that price. I bought the shoe and paid the premium just for his service.

A couple of days burn-in did not help and it was causing pain in the toe. I called up the store and Kuldeep another salesman at the trekking section suggested that I bring in the shoe for replacement. I picked up one size bigger and it was very comfortable for most part of the trek.

On the last day of the trek, thanks to heavy snow and rain, the shoe lost its shape. There was a bulge around the ankle support and due to this the show wasn't stable, causing ankle strain. After I reached Bangalore, I called up the store and mentioned about the problem. Kuldeep asked me to bring the shoe along with the bill for exchange. I never had the time and I almost forgot about it. Last week I remembered and took the shoe to the store. I had already lost hopes but wanted to give it a shot.

I walked into the store on Sunday, explained him the problem and showed the shoe. Kuldeep / Jon, said only one thing "Give it at the counter calling it a defective piece and pick up a new one'. Absolutely no questions, no nagging, not trying to put the blame on the buyer, no delay.

This is an excellent example of customer service. I had to go to the store 3 times but I will never mind the distance of driving 20+ KM to the store for such excellent service. Looking forward to the store opening in Bannerghatta Road. I am a Decathlon convert.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

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I watch a movie to relax and laugh. And I prefer to watch it at my own pace, pausing it, rewind / forward, sometimes with subtitles. However, we have been thinking to watch a movie in a theatre for a while but that never happened. I hate this idea of reserving a ticket well in advance. I prefer to walk up to the window and buy tickets. But this mad rush in Bangalore does not help. So I decided to try my luck today for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Bookmyshow crapped out, INOX was unavailable, Cinepolis was giving useful error messages. Until I discovered Vision Cinemas and Ticket New. Got the tickets booked for the 7pm show, at 6:00pm. And a mad rush ensued we reached the theatre on time.

Enough story, now about the movie. The movie is about 3 people rediscovering themselves while giving up their inner fears. Nothing new in the story and I felt as if I have seen the story before. But what stood out was the amazing shots of Spain, the way the story was told and some really funny lines. Every one had played their role very well but Farhan Akthar was classy and stands out. There are some amazing lines in the movie (BML, Bagwathi). I have tried skydiving but the film makes me think about skydiving again and deep sea diving. Though the music was good, I don't think any of the songs stayed with me. And I did not get the ending where Kabir goes to marry Natasha.

Sitting in the first row, the full screen barely visible, a slight neck pain and the tension to get to the movie on time - All worth it for a good evening and a nice movie.

My name is Imran but my friends call me Majnu.

Making the minister smile

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Vasu and Me, after the 10K
Running has always been about me, my timings, my fitness, my races, etc. And every time I have gone for a race, Vasu drives me around, ensure that I get the right nutrition and struggles to keep me sane. And in the process, she has done a couple of 10Ks. So the moment she said that she was going to do the TCS 10k this year, I decided that I will run with her. We did not train with the NRC this time and so there was no lounge and the usual amenities we are used to.

The day of the run, Pratheepan, Vasu and me, managed to reach the stadium by 7:30AM to join the sea of runners. For the first 10 odd minutes, we just moved with the flow, while Pratheepan moved ahead. The crowd eased up a bit after the 2km and we saw a lot of familiar faces going past. I kept cheering while telling Vasu to keep moving. It was down all the way till the U-Turn point and it was a good place to pick up some pace. She was doing her run, walk routine but we could not gain much pace. Around the 4km mark, she got severe cramps and was struggling in pain, almost in tears. I was worried but suggested that she should keep moving if possible. And onlookers started cheering us and that gave the motivation to walk. I also tried my PJs but it did not help. We walked till about the 7K mark, but tried to keep a pace of about 9mins per KM. At the 7K mark, a wheel chair participant had an emergency and I suggested Vasu to go ahead, while I went in search of a support crew / ambulance. It took about 10 minutes to get some help, and then I ran to catch up with her. She had covered a good pace and was entering Cubbon Park, by that time.

We met another couple of folks who were walking at a decent pace. The next couple of KMs were covered with ease, since it was our regular route. I also realized that we would be missing the 90min mark but tried to motivate her to keep a good pace. We ran the last few hundred meters to the finish.

Garmin Connect Link

Except for a bit around the 7K mark, I ran along with her, most of the time holding her hand, and pulling her along, until the finish. It took about 94 minutes for the entire run, but it was awesome. It was my way of saying thanks to her, making this run memorable for her. And I did make my home minister smile at the end :)

It hurts up to a point and then it doesn't get any worse.
          -- Ann Trason

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