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Jitendra Vyas and The Bangalore Front End Developers

January 15, 2014

The following blog post was written a while ago. Due to one reason or the other, it never got published. Well, the wait has ended!

It is just like “Wolverine and the X-Men”, but a way more creative bunch.

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Jitendra Vyas
 is one among those who were enthusiastic about art and design even before the Internet was widespread in India. Passionate about experimenting and learning new ways of web design, he was always on the lookout for further knowledge and experience. As such, it was important to him to find people who knew more than him; to share what he knew, and to learn what he knew not. It was this yearning of his that led him to bring together the Bangalore Front End Developers community.

According to him, in this world where tools and technologies are changing so fast, the ability to understand and start using a tool is equally important as having a thorough understanding of the basic concepts related to web development. “It is one thing to say you know HTML and CSS really well, but it is completely another when you use notepad to type in your code”, says Jitendra. “You have to pick up tools that will make your life easier, tools that increase your productivity. Without them, you will be left behind in no time because these days, speed is as important as quality”.

His career as a web designer primarily started when he joined a software firm in his home town Bikaner, Rajasthan. There he started experimenting with HTML and CSS as a way of bringing his design skills onto the web. He found Dreamweaver to be extremely helpful in this regard. With fiery enthusiasm, he explored and experimented on his own, thereby learning a lot. Even though his company fared well, his thirst for exploring new horizons couldn’t be quenched remaining there. After 3 long years of work, he quit.

His thoughts on design as a profession were quite insightful. According to him, finding a good designer is not that hard if you stop comparing them with each other. The trick is to search for them at the right place and be open to hire them from any part of world. However, it is a bit difficult to always give them the correct combination of interesting work as well as good pay.

He thinks that as far as a company is concerned, just hiring a good designer is not enough. You have to listen to them, give value to their thoughts, give them the freedom to experiment, give them time to read UX blogs, invite them to attend product meetings, send them to design conferences if you can afford to, buy them good books, etc. Designers should not be considered just as a pixel decorator. The more he understands the expectations from a project or product and about who the target audience are, the better he can design. Also, a good design is not a guarantee of good user experience. There are many cases where even fantastic graphic designers tend to lack in UX skills. Due to that reason, everyone should be involved in design decisions. Good User experience is a team effort and everyone is a part of that – Designer, front-end developer, copywriter, back-end developer, product manager, etc.

From his experience in the industry, some (not all!) good designers don’t prefer to work at big companies because they think they would not be able to make good designs with their own vision, as well as because they might have to work with people who have less understanding of design than them. He quoted the following:

“The enemy of good design is rarely bad design; more often, it is politics, and poor understanding of the problem at hand”

Moreover, as a freelancer, you are free to choose your own clients and interesting projects and can earn even more money than a regular job, if you are really good at what you do. However, if you are able to find the right enterprise, this shouldn’t be that much of a problem. There are actually many good designers who work at big organizations as well, and these people make designs too.

FED

Being at Bangalore, he looked forward to meeting people with similar interests and learning new technologies related to front end development together. He used the most popular and easiest method of reaching out to everyone – Facebook.

He put down his initial thought on the UX India group. He received an amazing response as many people out there were excited to find a kindred soul. The replies and comments from them was the motivation that Jitendra needed to take the initiative to form the Bangalore Front End Developers group, comprising of a group of elite developers from Bangalore. The group came to be on 26th August, 2012. Read his first post in the group.

Things kicked off when Kavita Arora of the Bangalore Designers group invited Jitendra for giving a demo on SASS for one of their meetups, which was held at CIS. This was done as a joint workshop along with FED.

The group started growing when Jitendra started adding developers from his network to the group. The growth continued when his friends added their friends and so on.

Still being in the early stages of growth, they have not fixed any strict schedules for meetings as of now. Yet, the group is very much active, brimming with discussions regarding the latest and coolest front end technologies.

Apart from just geeks talking to each other about heavy duty front-end issues, they help each other out whenever one of them gets stuck at some point. They have online meetups every now and then, by which they are slowly moving forward on the beautiful journey that lies ahead.

The group is thriving with 800+ members today and instead of simply increasing the head count, they strive to keep the group alive and productive with the ones who are already there. In Jitendra’s own words, “It is easy to start a group, but to prevent it becoming useless, is hard”.

Jitendra specially thanks Praveen Kumar, Mikul Gohil, Maulik Suchak and Pulak Kanti Battacharya for helping him to keep the group going strong.

Maulik Suchak says

First, FED is not a term for me. Its a platform where Geeks becomes ‘SuperGeeks’. As we already know, there are lots of things that keep happening day by day in the Front-End world. This is the group where you can share ideas, meet front-end geeks and share tricks!

Talking about the future of the group, I must say it looks very bright. If we do something with good cause, people will surely admire it. Moreover, all of us are putting in our best to keep it alive.

Personally, I like the group because the people there are very enthusiastic and active. We even have plans to take this discussion out from Facebook to our own website if we can achieve it. We are thinking of organizing outings as well.

Mikul says

FED is great! I have never seen such an active group. The good thing is that people are friendly. We joke, we fight and we help each other out. It is just like family to me.

FED has many talented people in the group. I would love to work with them if I ever get a chance. It has helped me in many ways as a developer as well. I had an illusion of knowing a lot about front end development, but after joining this group, I realized that there are still lots of things out there that I need to learn and explore, things that I did not know of in the past.

Bangalore is the place where people come to develop and educate themselves, to make one’s self the best there is. This group has many such motivated people and to have people like that around, makes a lot of difference in your work as well. From getting help to fix issues when you are stuck at some point, to getting to know the latest trends in the market.

If you want to learn something new, then this group has a lot to offer you.

Praveen says

Jitendra started this group after we were discussing about SaaS in User Experience India fb group. We decided to organise a meetup where we got to meet many other front end developers and got a chance to discuss about the workflow each one uses. We also pledged to never hoard the knowledge we learn/acquire and always share it in the group. Then we had a Google Hangout on various CSS frameworks. Non-bangalore folks joined in as well.

I was under the impression that all good designers and front end developers had moved to the valley and nobody stayed back in India. However, the group proved me wrong. I think it encouraged a few of them to come to Bangalore (to attend events like Meta Refresh and then meet other members)

So far, I’ve learned a lot from the discussions we’ve had in the group and I see regular meetups/learning sessions happening in the near future. I hope this encourages developers from other parts of India to start their local user groups as well.

It would seems that Christian Heilmann is an active member of the group. Check out what he had to say once: https://twitter.com/codepo8/status/405747481201229826

In a interesting turn of events, Praveen accidentally made the group a secret one, which unfortunately, was an action that Facebook doesn’t let you revert. So if you want to join in, you should be friends with someone who is already in the group and they have to send you an invite. You can see the current members here: http://labs.apnerve.com/bangalore-frontend/

Well, that’s it for now folks! Here is to the future!

Being a part of the Mozilla community.

December 22, 2013

It would be appropriate to start by saying that this is my baby step, the first step in trying to contribute back to the Mozilla community for all the effort that they have put in in order to connect people around the world and make amazing products. To be quite frank, I used to have an impression (as is my impression about all things amazing) that all this talk about “community” and “contribution” were only meant for the elite and masters of technology out there, two of whom I know being Sajjad and Nigel, two hardcore techies.

Now I know am wrong.

This realization came about due to two reasons, which I will come to later.

I started using Firefox almost 7 years back, when I first got my computer, about which I have written here. Chrome was not there then. As mentioned in that post, I was quite new to computers and my understanding of browsers was that they were what people referred to as the “Internet”. So I went on using “Internet”, unaware of the fact that I was using Firefox for about a year. Thinking about it now, I am not quite sure when I started understanding about browsers for what they were, but since then, till the December of 2012, I continued using the same.

I was employed by this time and the pressure of having to learn and understand technology was on me. In my journey of understanding more about computers, I used to do the online courses at Udacity and Coursera now and then. However, one day during the course, the video classes started to crash with a message, “An error occurred”. A reload used to solve that, but this kept on happening until one day, I just could not watch any of the videos.

I got irritated. Showed it to my colleague who tried opening up the same video link in his Chrome browser. It worked. I switched.

For the past 10 months I’ve been using Chromium, until recently, after I shifted my career to becoming an Engineer, when I found out my RAM was being eaten up by Chromium. I tweeted out saying this and without further delay switched to using Firefox. I would have been happy using it and simply going forward, if not for Firefox’s response. It was not too much of a big deal, but I was touched. At that instant, I felt I was a part of something bigger.

This was one of the reasons why I had the realization that I mentioned earlier. I came back home and started looking for opportunities so as to how I could get involved even further. I landed up on their contributions page. I filled up my email id, chose my area of interest as “Documentation and writing” since I was more confident in my writing skills than my coding skills at the moment, and submitted the form.

This is when the second reason for the realization hit me. My friend Haseeb. He was passionate about the Urdu language as well as about community development. Both these combined led him to take part actively in translating Mozilla to Urdu. His contributions were not at all gone unnoticed when he received an invitation to be a part of the Mozilla Summit in the U.S. a couple of months back. So have an open mind to contribute, with whatever you know and whatever you are passionate about. Hence, here I am, having reached the point where I had submitted my volunteer form.

All this was done in that adrenaline rush, which I knew had happened to me more than once before. However, nothing of the sort would continue as all would end up in a couple of automated emails that I would receive asking me to act. The same happened here as well. Though things would have continued like that, even before I had the adrenaline rush die down, I received one more email. This time from a certain human being who goes by the name of Janet Swisher.

Even though she told me that technical documentation was where they were best setup to bring in new writing contributions, she did not discourage me on what I had pointed out saying I was better off as a story teller or a biographer than a technical writer when it came to writing. With the promise of passing on my remarks to their creative team and reading my blog posts to provide her feedback, she ended the mail.

That part where it conveyed it was not just about them and what they wanted, but also it being a part of what I was and what I could do, was quite heart warming. I replied and we exchanged a couple of emails where she pointed me to a couple of links as well as read a few blog posts that I had already written, complementing me on them. It was her suggestion to take the first step by writing a personal blog on what Mozilla means to me.

At this point, more than just thinking in terms of Firefox, I was inclined to think of a bunch of nice people trying to strengthen human relationships across the globe around technology. Hence, I was inspired to write about how touched I was with their effort to actually take the time to reach out to a complete stranger and offering to help him out. And here I have written about it. May this be the first step in a journey of  a thousand miles.

A year at Bangalore, a year with HasGeek.

December 5, 2013

“This is official huh?”, I asked.

“Yep. Hop in”, replied my brother as I got into his car.

This conversation happened a year ago. A year ago when a certain ambitious lad landed in the Silicon Valley of India. A lad who would skulk away from a conversation happening in English, a lad who had only seen two places outside of his state in his life. A lad who had not been on a flight since he started remembering things, a lad who knew only his brother’s home and the home bound bus boarding stop in Bangalore. A lad who was afraid of smartphones, who was allergic to social networking, who did not have a bank account and did not even know how to use an ATM.

Well, things definitely have changed. Yep, they really have.

Although October 8th, 2012 was my “Official” joining date at HasGeek, since my brother was coordinating volunteers for Droidcon India 2012, both of us decided to drop by CIS office in the afternoon on 7th itself to have a talk. Someone passed by us when we reached there on the bike and I was asked to go and meet him. Apparently, this was the jovial and cool Mr. Kracekumar whom I know so well today.

My first time at CIS. I had heard a lot about the place and I had pictured it to be a glass building with a huge lawn, fancy tables and chairs, with a lot of atmosphere. Suffice to say I was surprised when my brother walked me into a home.

We went up the stairs. And there they were! Among many others, two of my bosses. My mind’s fuse was blown.

“Oh my God, what are so many people doing here? And do they all speak in English? I can’t talk to all of them! I should have just come here tomorrow and met with Kiran and Zainab alone. Then at least I would be shown my desk to sit and work at so that I would not have to talk to too many people just yet. Hey, isn’t that Anu whom I met for last year’s Droidcon? And where is Sajjad? God, what should I do now? Since I don’t know the rest of them, maybe I should not care. I will just say Hi Kiran sir and Zainab ma’am. But is that what I should be calling them? Or should I just use their names? Gosh, Zainab looks different than the last time I met her and is this the office that I was dreaming about for so long? This is just a house, isn’t it? Maybe I have gotten something wrong here”

And thus went the thoughts. I don’t know if anyone there including Ashwan, Anu, Krace, Zainab, Kiran or my brother noticed how uncomfortable I was. I let the introductions be made and just shook hands saying “Hi”. I was asked to sit down while they discussed about the volunteer training and coordination.

My heart was beating fast. “Is this an interview? They told me not to bring my resume, so what are they going to ask me? And I have to speak in English!? Maybe my brother will talk to them and I can just get by with a couple of yes’s and no’s”

“Haris, would you like to come and sit over here?”. My heart burst. Well, not literally. It was none other than Mr. Kiran Jonnalagadda himself. There was a big chair on the other side of the table, which, I had made up my mind about, was for one of the bosses to sit on. It was this chair that was given to me. I felt totally out of place, uncomfortable and what not.

By this time Praseetha also reached the office. She was much more composed and I just could not understand what was wrong with me.

“So Haris”, said Zainab, pulling a chair and sitting next to me. “What are your expectations in working here?”

“Gulp”, I pulled myself together.

“I, ummm, I don’t exactly know how things are done here. But I can help you with whatever I can. Logistics, management, your blog and you can mentor me to learn how to write code”.

I had no clue what “logistics” meant back then. The only thing I could say with confidence was that I could help them with their blog. I was wondering what kind of stories they would have me write.

“Do you know Inkscape?”, interrupted Kiran.

“Not really, no”, said I.

I remember him having a “Then you can’t help me much right now” look on his face. However, Zainab picked up the conversation.

“Well, here is how things are. Kiran needs a lot of documentation to be done. With the events and the code. However, we will need to sit and discuss about it. So we will get to that. But for now, since JSFoo and Droidcon are close by, there are a lot of tasks that needs to be done. I’ll brief you about it over email, alright?”

“Alright”, said I.

Once we were done there and about to leave, I felt incomplete about one thing. “Gosh, I did not ask about the office timings!”

“Zainab”, I called out. I guess I had made up my mind about ma’am and sir by then. She turned around. “Umm, so by what time should I reach office?”

She let out a hearty laugh.

“There is nothing like office timings. Frankly, I don’t think any of us are going to be here tomorrow. And I don’t mind wherever you work from as long as you get things done.”

I was baffled. Thoughts rushed in. “No office timing? What am I supposed to do? Where is my seat? No cubicle? So how do I talk with all of you?”

She was gone by then. My brother and I went back to his home.

Thus it started.

It has been a nice ride all along.

I should say that Bangalore is an awesome place in terms of finding and meeting people. It is a networking person’s dream come true. The fact that educated people from various parts of the country have accumulated in a certain place gives a platform for people with niche interests to easily find and meetup with each other. In my case, it was writing.

I went to my first ever writing workshop which was hosted by Gaurav and Nisha, both former Tehelka writers. It was brought to my attention by Ashwan, someone whom I have been terribly missing. I’ve already written about my team here, and he is one of them. It is nice to think of those days where he would sit with google maps on the wide screen monitor and would walk me through the entire world, sharing stories and histories related to many a place.

I have  had my fair share of experience planning and organizing events while being at HasGeek. One of the things that I have realized is that the amount of ground work and grunt work that goes into producing the kind of events that HasGeek does, no matter how excellent and smooth it looks to participants attending, is tremendous. To keep up the spirit for that kind of work during each and every event is just amazing. I guess my colleagues are made of sterner stuff. All of them.

Kiran had always been this person with a strong and silent personality. Quite frankly, someone whom I was afraid of to talk to and be heard from. During the very rare occasions when he would say “Good job”, the feeling of happiness was so strong that I would text my brother at the very instant saying, “Kiran said I did a good job!”.

I still remember the first time my throat going dry when Kiran talked to me about how it was completely wrong dealing with people in a fire and forget manner. I am not sure if I was able to understand and implement that lesson during my time at HasGeek, but I guess I have done a not too bad job at it. I hope so.

In contrast, Zainab was this lady with a cheerful and open character that you could, without thinking twice, share whatever you had on your mind with. I am not sure how I would have made it through the first couple of months if she had not patiently sat and listened to what all I had in my mind. Sometimes even taking the time to go out for a chai to talk things over. Impressive how she could find time for all that despite being overburdened with work.

I am not sure career wise how much the work I was doing has helped me. All the people whom I have talked to has told me that at some point in my life, I will look back and realize how much valuable the things are that I have done. I guess I haven’t reached so far down the road yet in order to look back and feel like that. At least, not yet.

However, life wise, it has been just amazing. How much I have learnt and experienced! Starting from eating food stuff, fruits and vegetables that I had never eaten in my life before to travelling around India all the way from South to the North. I mean, trekking and working on the Himalayas? How often do you get to do that? Apart from Triund, Mcleod, Dharamsala, Delhi, Mumbai, Hampi, Pune (my first flight), Goa (my first scooter ride) and of course, exploring Bangalore.

All through these journeys as well as through my entire one year, I have to say that Kiran is the most selfless man I have ever seen. Making sure we know what he knows all along the way. For all the whining that I have done saying that I have never had a good mentor in my life, I would be lying if I said I did not find Kiran to be a really good one.

I hope to document these travels at some point. I have already written about my volunteer management experience during The Fifth Elephant over here.

This post would not be complete without mentioning the rest of the people in our team.

Jamna, who joined us around January. She and I were the ones who actually worked as a team most of the time since both of us were involved in handling the workshops at HasGeek. A lady who transformed from her shy self to one who does public speaking, organizes and manages geeks as well as takes up initiative to bring order to the whatever chaos she finds around her, within a span of less than a year. Both if us have learnt a lot form each other and I must say I’m truly inspired by her sheer amount of sincerity and dedication.

Supreeth, the quick witted, well traveled young man who always had a joke or story up his sleeve. I haven’t found anyone as skillful as him when it came to getting through to a person. He would be able to find some anecdote or experience that the other person would be interested in and then, he starts weaving his web. One who is well read as well, he has always been there to correct my English whenever I have made a dumb mistake or been there to help whenever I have been at a loss for words.

Nimisha, the illustrator who joined us from the North East. A very cheerful character who just love pets, of all kinds. Rabbits, cats, dogs and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found a baby dinosaur in her home! A really good company whenever you feel like talking to, always ready for some fun, a die hard coffee addict, you can behold her drawing skills if you visit the HasGeek event websites and Flickr photo streams since Fifth Elephant 2013.

I have to mention Mitesh and Devi as well. However, they have been involved in the tech side of things mostly. Working remotely or from the Microsoft Accelerator. That reminds me, towards the last few months, we had three offices! One at CIS, one at the bakery, which we shared with the amazing team of TripThirsty comprising of Sundar, Kingsley, Sandeep and Anenth, and the wonderful (and extremely mouth watering) cup cake factory of BiteMe run by Kingsley and his wife Divya, and last but not the least, one office at the Microsoft Accelerator

If I were to write down the names of people whom I have come to know and love over the past year, that is going to be pretty long list. I will refrain from doing that and just say that I will keep in touch with all of you because I want to.

I have moved on now. With valuable lessons learned and interesting observations. I work at Eventifier now along with three awesome guys namely Jazeel, Nazim and Saud. I was a geek herder. Now I call myself the Python tamer. Things are looking bright.

Here is to the future!

A thief’s grief.

July 22, 2013

It was pouring that evening. Ahamed loved the rains. He would never fail to be mesmerized by the pitter-patter of the rain drops and hence, it was not surprising that he did not heed to the call of a few busy customers standing outside his grocery shop.

Some say that customers should be the top priority. However, for him, taking the time to reflect on and enjoy nature was far more important. He made himself a nice tea and continued to enjoy the evening.

It was getting late and he did not want to miss the Kebab his wife was making for dinner that day. He had hit his daily earning goal. So a quick sort of to-dos list based on priority landed the Kebab on top. The boy next doors helped him carry the heavy trays and tables inside. He knew he was not in his salad days anymore and did not do any heroics. At least, his body was not, even though his spirit and mind were.

Thanking the boy and giving him his daily wage, Ahamed walked home with his Umbrella. Even before he opened the door, the aroma of the kebab started watering his mouth. That was not all. The surprise that awaited him was much greater when he was greeted by his grandchildren. Could one ask anything more than the lovely rain, loveliest grandchildren and a delicious Kebab along with them? Nope. Ahamed was as content as a person could be.

They finished dinner. Ahamed’s eldest son described about his business ideas and how he was planning to move back close to home once his idea took off. His children made a mess out of the dining table fighting with each other over a piece of kebab because it remotely resembled a gun. One bite out of it would have solved the problem, but no. They had to pull the trigger.

Everyone retired to their rooms and Ahamed had his own little space. He liked his room. It was one of the smallest ones in his home, but was perfect for him. Everything was at a hand’s reach. The small rectangular room had windows on one side, his cot just beside it, the hangar on the opposite wall and a table in the corner.

He hung his shirt on the hangar and changed into his dothi. Answered Nature’s call, applied a little musk to the bed sheet and pillows as was his daily custom. He sat down on his bed, content with the day and yearning for a good sleep. However, the pitter-patter of the rain could still be heard outside. Ahamed wanted to listen to it, to sleep listening to that lullaby. He opened the windows, turned the light off and put his head to rest on the pillow, breathing in the cold air, soothing his mind and body.

Little did he realize the day was not over yet.

After a while since Ahamed slipped off into deep slumber, the beings of the night were set into motion. The moon tried as best as she could to take a peek at the world through the thick clouds, but it was just not her day. There was complete and utter darkness. So dark that it could chill the bones of a mortal who would be awake at that hour. Well, all mortals’ except one’s.

His steps were nimble and the dark added to the swiftness of his motion. Nothing could be heard or seen except for the occasional rustling of leaves, dripping of water and hooting of the owl. He was a master of his trade.

Unsuspecting, Ahamed slept soundly. Not realizing open windows were for creatures of the dark what sun light was for plants, he dreamed on.

A bamboo pole slowly found its way into Ahamed’s room through the grill of the room’s windows. So slow and yet so steady that even a fly wouldn’t have been able to detect that motion. The pole slowly moved in, not even scratching in the faintest at either sides of the narrow window grill. It crossed Ahamed’s bed, steadily continuing forward above him.

Masterfully and skillfully, the pole reached Ahamed’s shirt on the hangar. Maintaining the heavy pole so steady was too much effort and his muscles were acting at its peak. But it was worth it. It was art and sheer talent. Bravery.

Slowly the pole hooked onto Ahamed’s shirt, slowly lifting it off the hangar. Utmost care was needed now for the weight just became unbalanced. The shirt hanging on the pole made it so that it had to be lifted way above the cot before bringing it closer to the window. He was determined to do it.

However, what he did not realize was that Ahamed had been living in this home for the past 25 years and he knew every nook and corner of it. Even the draft that would run through the room was familiar to him because barely anything would change its place. As such, when the shirt was taken off the hangar, Ahamed awoke.

He did not get up. He slightly opened his eyes and beheld his shirt nicely floating by. It amused him. He admired the skill with which the pole was being held steadily. He did not move.

The pole slowly continued to move back towards the window. Almost 20 minutes had passed with that pole in the air. He was clenching his teeth, but his tiredness was overcome thinking about the gratification of achieving this feat. He knew he was getting better day by day.

The shirt was right over Ahamed now and he kept looking at it, admiring its consistent movement. Slowly, it went over, inch by inch. With utmost discipline, the shirt gracefully reached the window. He could not believe he had done it. He was euphoric. He gave all the strength to one arm holding the pole, bit his lips, and slowly moved his other hand to fetch the shirt.

Ahamed got up, took the shirt from the pole, hung it back on the hangar, and went back to sleep.

The Fifth Elephant – Bonds made.

July 15, 2013

My 9th month working at HasGeek. Being away from actually writing something non-trivial has taken its toll. However, the time I had in managing a part of one of the biggest HasGeek conferences, the Fifth Elephant, deserves a blog post.

The main reason why I am writing this post is because of the wonderful time I had in working together with the volunteers who came forward to help us and make the event a memorable one. My involvement in organizing the event was pretty much zero. I kind of felt bad not being able to understand and take over anything from Zainab while she was managing the speakers, sponsorship, ticket sales, marketing and a million other things including inventory for the event. Even though I was neither experienced nor comfortable, I did help her with talking to the workshop instructors to get their installation instructions ready as well as with managing the volunteers.

It all started when I received the following mail from Iliyas on June 19th.

Greetings !

Fifth Elephant is coming soon ;)

As you know I’m an active participant and volunteer in many FOSS conferences in India. I would like to contribute my best to this event as well.
 
Please do guide me for the point of contact / organizer.
 

Thanks.

For some reason, I knew that this responsibility was going to be on my shoulders and I am only too glad now that it was.

Once I received that mail, I talked to Zainab about it and she told me to round up the usual suspects. Well, no, not the group manipulated by Kevin Spacey. But a bunch of wonderful people who are always there to help out us at a HasGeek event. They’ve been supporting us even way before I joined the team.

Without delay, I wrote to all of them and narrowed down their availability based on their commitments and other responsibilities. Among the usual suspects who came this time were:

Anand. The force behind PyCon India for this and the past year. A passionate programmer and a hardcore Python expert. Sit through one of his Python trainings and you will come out mind blown with the realization of how much more there is to learn.

Haseeb. The young lad hailing from Gulbarga. Passionate about open source & free software, he is an active contributor to Mozilla’s Urdu translation. His contributions have not gone unnoticed and as such, has been invited to the US for this year’s Mozilla summit.

Anenth. The cool and simple fellow with a thing for Android. One among the founders of ideophone, he is someone whom I hope to get to know better in the coming days. Especially since we share the same office space now.

Sidharth. Genius. Well nothing more is to be said about him. Still, it would be worthwhile to mention about his extraordinary skill of remaining calm in any given occasion and facing it with a cool head. Lately, it seems that he has been having visions of the dark side. May God protect him.

Vamsee. This name always brings back a lot of good memories. Especially from the good old days back when I volunteered for Droidcon 2011. Those were one among the best couple of days in my life in more than a few ways. Anyway, this Rails dude is one among the coolest and most reliable people whom I have ever met. I was only too glad to see him at the event.

Sandeep. One of the founders of ideophone along with Anenth, he has been there supporting HasGeek since a long time. A mallu brother, if I may say so, he is one another person whom I am looking forward to get to know better in the coming days.

Jitendra. An artistic interface Engineer. A gamer by heart, he feels that HasGeek is one of the best reasons why you should consider staying at Bangalore. Passionate about trying out new stuff and as such, always a learner.

Well, that covers the usual suspects. Now for the ones who came forward willingly to help in spite of it being their first time as well as them being busy with myriad of things ranging from interviews, to night duties to daily office hours to commitments at their homes. In no particular order:

Iliyas. As I had already mentioned in the beginning of this post, he was the one who set the universe in motion. He had been volunteering for events and organizing meetups for the sake of communities since he was 16. He believes that is the best way in which he can contribute back to open source. One of the most wanted figures during the conference, he picked up the ContactPoint app in no time from Mitesh and helped to get it up and running all over the venue. In fact, almost all the first time volunteers came to know about the event through him. Without doubt, if it was not for him, we would have had a hard time getting volunteers.

Anusha. The beautiful young lady who was only too nervous to volunteer. Sister of one among the usual suspects, Ashwin. This time, he wanted to attend the talks as a participant and hence, could not volunteer. However, he made sure that his spot was not left vacant and he convinced her to come forth to volunteer. Even though extremely doubtful of herself at the beginning, it was amazing how she came out of her comfort zone to handle her tasks flawlessly. Hope she had a wonderful time at the event as well.

Abhijith. One of the most reliable and pleasant personalities that I have ever met. He was dedicated to make the event run smoothly as much as us and was someone who took the tension off my head with his presence in an auditorium. He had his interviews in between the event and I pray that he got through. A mathematician at heart, I hope I can get his help to learn a lot over the coming days.

Ali. The cool one whose presence was felt almost everywhere during the event. He reminded me of myself when I volunteered the first time as he had just completed his 3rd year exams. Enthusiastic about technology, he made the most out the event by handling registrations to mic to camera as well as by paying heed to the talks that he found to be of interest to him.

Vinay. It was admirable how he found the time to come forward and help us despite running his own firm. More than once in between the conference, he had to run outside to meet clients, seal deals and hurry back in ensuring that his duties were taken care of. I wish him all the success with his venture and may his willingness to help amidst his busy life be rewarded in plenty.

Ralph. A jolly, energetic and enthusiastic person who impressed us all with the amount of dedication he showed towards his duties. What was special about him was the fact that he learned from each context he was in and shared his learnings with us without any shyness. He possessed one of those rare qualities which was more than just doing his best at what he was doing, to improvise and act based on his observations. Hope his family was not too hard on him for taking a three-day volunteering sprint. He he.

Niraj. The pleasant young chap who walks around with a smile on his face all the time. Someone who became an expert camera man within a day, he spreads joy to the ones around him with his quick witted jokes as well as his sudden burst of words. He certainly has learned from his uncle Vijay and is one nice guy to be with.

Basavaraj & Rajshekar. I would say these two were godsend. When I had a couple of volunteer withdrawals towards the event, I was sort of feeling a bit tensed until these two came forward to help. Friends of Charitra, who had to unfortunately go back to his hometown due to the sudden announcement of his project demo. I could not get enough time to know both of these young lads well enough. But I will make sure that I do. Raj had his interview for a job on the second day of the event. Here is wishing him all the best and hope he gets through.

Sagar. Although his plan was to volunteer just for helping out Edouard during his MongoDB workshop, he decided to stay back and help us out as much as he can. This young man was present everywhere amusing us with his charming personality as well as insights. A lad with lot of potential, I hope that he chases his dreams. Let’s see what stirs up after he watches ‘office space’ which I recommended for him.

Zubair. My roommate. One of the best friends I have ever had. An open source lover at heart and a passionate learner of every day things. He observes, takes input from all that is around him, improvises, concludes and executes the best possible course of action. Even though a bit reluctant to come over, he was only too glad that he came over in the end.

There were others as well who came forward but just could not make it due to their commitments and responsibilities. Charitra, as I mentioned earlier. Rinku, who offered to help even though she had bought a ticket. Pradeep, who had a lot of last minute work popping up. Vinayak, who was there for the first day and then couldn’t make it due to work. Asif, who fell sick. Here is wishing him a speedy recovery.

That sums up all who came forward to help. I haven’t got the photos from the event yet, but I will post them here as soon as they are up.

I am not sure whether I was a good task master. Whether I gave them the chance to feel what I felt back in Droidcon 2011. I hope I did. And I really hope that they had an amazing time and finds it in their heart to take initiative and volunteer for a lot of events.

Of course, this post won’t be complete without mentioning the amazing HasGeek team of Kiran, Zainab, Krace, Supreeth, Radha, Nimisha, Kingsly, Gaurav, Jamna, Praseetha, Mitesh and Devi, who gave more than 100% for the success of the event. But they deserve a post for just themselves.

Here is to the future! May the bonds that were made last long and strong.

The rising sunsets.

March 28, 2013

“No hangovers this time!”, Rakesh was adamant about it and his friends had no say over it.

“Sheesh, alright, aright…”, said Midhun. “What else do you want to do?”

“Let’s do something totally wicked, eh?”, Rakesh had the million dollar smile on his face. That meant he already had something on his mind and his friends, who knew this, waited for him to spit it out.

“Are you saying we aren’t wicked enough at our parties!?”, blurted out Ayer.

“Heh, we are wicked alright. But this time, we want to break all boundaries. Go wild and do something we have never done before!”, Rakesh was bursting with excitement.

“Out with it already man”, said his friends in the same breath.

Rakesh’s eyelids came down a little, his lips went on either side of his face; a perfect naughty grin. Midhun raised his eyebrows, not being able to read Rakesh’s mind. Ayer and Vishnu had already given up on guessing because they knew Rakesh was in one of those peculiar moods where his brain was working at its peak, the only difference being that this time it was not on debugging code, but on planning how to celebrate new year’s.

“Well folks…,”, Rakesh started. “believe it or not, we are going to see the sun rise over the horizon!”

There was a deadly silence. His friends could not even begin to fathom the meaning of what he had just said.

“See the sun rise over the horizon!”, exclaimed Ayer. All ghastly thoughts came pouring into his head, the first and foremost of them being waking up in the morning! He had not done that since his High school and he was pretty sure his mind would get a nasty shock if he were to wake up that early and start thinking about something, anything.

“Yes Ayer”, Rakesh interrupted Ayer’s thoughts. “That is why I said it is going to be something totally wicked”.

“But still..”

Rakesh laid out the plan, “Okay guys. We are going to Konark, the archaeological site on the eastern border of our country. We are going to sit on that darn beach and see the sun of a gun slowly come up out of wherever the heck it hides during the night. Unless any of you are going to say no, I am going to book the tickets”

No one had anything to say. They were totally taken by surprise and off their guard that either they could just sit there gaping, or they could not say anything, thereby approving Rakesh’s proposal.

They did both.

So it was decided. The 4 friends were going to Konark, the eastern beach, to see the sun rise. The tickets were booked and the preparations were made for their journey.

After a few weeks, they started off on their journey, a two day train ride, which was supposedly to end in a shocking new real life experience that would make all of them better human beings.

They made it to Konark in one piece. Reached there early in the morning, got together all their stuff and figured out the location of the Hotel where they were going to put up for the week. They had a good rest, cleaned themselves up, had a good lunch and by evening, decided to go out and figure out a perfect place to go and sit the next day morning to see what they had come to see.

The 4 friends walked a while, on the way passing by the amazing Sun Temple. The beach was almost a kilometer away from the temple and they covered the distance on foot. It was vacation, and they were cool with time. Finally, they reached the beautiful, golden colored beach.

“Ah, here we are!”, said Rakesh and emptied his can of drink.

The four friends sat down, the gentle breeze blowing on their faces, the calming rhythm of the sea soothing their hearts, the wide stretch of open water lying wide open in front of them. They felt at peace.

They sat there for a while, getting into a conversation amongst themselves, cracking jokes and sharing a few life stories. They were having the time of their lives, and the setting sun added to the lovely feeling around, bathing the world in a reddish tint.

Vishnu could not help but praise the scenery. “Guys doesn’t the setting sun simply look awesome?”, he said pointing to the sun. “It turned red from the fiery yellow it was a couple of hours ago. Simply amazing…”

The others nodded, remaining calm and silent, enjoying the scene. Suddenly, Rakesh had this terrible feeling inside him.

“! What the…!?”, he almost sweared.

“What’s wrong?”, asked Ayer.

Rakesh looked as if he had seen a ghost. His eyes were almost bulging out and his face had an expression of complete disbelief on it.

“Dang! The sun sets!”, he exclaimed.

“Ha ha.. What did you think? That it stays… ummm… What the!?”, it dawned upon Ayer, which in turn dawned upon the others as well.

Rakesh flipped out his smart phone and checked the GPS to know where the heck they were. The phone showed the location, which was correct. They were on the eastern beach at Konark. The train tickets were correct and even the hotel accommodations were fine. And yet there they were, sitting on an eastern beach, watching the sun set.

“What the bloody hell is going on guys?”, a tone of disbelief and fear was there in Rakesh’s voice.

After a long time of puzzled looks and freaked out replies, the friends managed to find out what was going on. It seemed that the beach at Konark started from an eastern tip, went down south a little, then took a sharp turn towards the west, running a few hundred kilometers in that direction, and finally turns south again, proceeding thusly till the southern tip of the country. So what happened was that they were almost in the middle of the large strip of beach that was headed west, and thus could see the sun set into the sea facing westwards. The interesting thing that they figured out was that if they faced east, the sun could be seen rising up from within the sea as well.

The case was completely weird. They were now in a place where they could see the sun rise from the sea and set in it as well. However, what they came there for. was there, and that was what they wanted.

They were made better men, when the four of them waited since 5am the next day, and saw the sun coming up from within the sea, slowly to light up the world in all its glory.

Hampi – A short and sweet trip.

March 14, 2013

Prologue

So we were done with Meta Refresh, an awesome conference it was and I enjoyed myself being there. Usually, we take a day or two off and rest ourselves after such a conference. However, this time it was different. Benjamin Lupton had flew down from Australia along with his wife Helen, to speak at Meta Refresh, and they wanted to explore India.

“Hampi!”, Kiran had already decided.

On Saturday night, while we were packing up all the stuff from the conference venue, I was asked about my willingness to go on the trip. Even though I was reluctant at first, being extremely tired, when he said he would take care of organizing the trip, I’m only too glad right now that I said yes.

It was decided. Sunday morning was hectic with having to wash all my clothes early in the morning and waiting for all of them to dry so that I would have something to wear. Unfortunately, I missed the Bangalore Front End developers meetup on Sunday due to this very reason. What an excuse, huh?

Anyway, on 24th night, Kiran and Zainab were going to come to the Bus station directly, picking up Nimisha on their way. This left me, Krace the King, Praseetha, Ben and Helen at CIS (HasGeek office). The KSRTC bus, Rajahamsa was at 11pm. Although a bit overwhelmed by the endless list in the Hotel menu, Ben and Helen did a good job at ordering food from Nandhini. We had a quick dinner and left CIS by 10pm.

The absolutely useless user interface of the KSRTC bus station direction boards made us walk around a bit before we could figure out where our bus was. It was not the luxury type coach. An ordinary semi sleeper bus, but that was the only direct bus available to Hampi from Bangalore. We got in.

“We have half a pack of cigarettes, a full tank of gas, it is dark and we are wearing sunglasses”, said Jake. Elwood did not think twice, “Hit it.” And we were on our way!

Hampi

Day 1

We landed at Hampi at 7 in the morning. Most of us hadn’t slept well on the bus, but we were fine. All of us had done our fair share of having read the Wikipedia article on Hampi and guess what the first thing that we saw is?

Virupaksha temple

The first thing we saw in Wikipedia itself! Centuries looked down upon us – The Virupaksha temple entrance. Ben was such a kid, jumping and shouting, all excited to see the huge temple entrance. I think he was more excited to see monkeys all around the place. He was clicking pictures like anything, at the same time trying hard to keep up with all of us.

It was quite a walk to be doing the first thing in the morning, taking into account the disturbed sleep of previous night. Kiran had been to Hampi before and I believe that is why he did not have his GPS in his hands. When we reached the ferry, I honestly admit that I was actually scared about the spectral wolf.

Ferry across Tungabadra river

We hopped in, crossed the river, walked again and finally reached the “promised hotel” at about 8.15am. Even though we were tired, the walk was nice with one side full of tourist attraction shops having all sorts of stuff from dresses to souvenirs to theaters! And the other side a wide open paddy field.

On the way to the hotel

The accommodation place was awesome. It reminded me exactly of the Gaulish village in Asterix. They had several huts close to each other, made out of bricks, hay and stone. A footpath laid out in stone connected the reception area, the eating hut and the other huts. The place was full of trees, grass and faced a wide open paddy field, which had long paddy standing high up in its full vigor, pleasing the eye with its pleasant green. This was to the west, which would be lit gold by the setting sun, and I did see the fields of gold.

Shanti Hotel - Accommodation

Me and Krace were sharing a hut. Oh boy, did it feel good to lie down and stretch me legs! I sent a message to Kiran asking what was the plan and that it felt so good to simply lie down and rest. That is when I realized that the network coverage there sucks. BSNL was awesome as me and Praseetha had full reception, but I don’t think any of the others could use their phones. Man, am I in favor of BSNL or what? He he…

The accommodation was perfectly prepared to receive us. Bath towels, soap, blankets, mosquito nets and hot water! Simply awesome. At about 9, I was ready, having attended nature’s call and having finished my bath. While I waited, swinging gently on the hammock, for Krace, everyone else had already suited up and were at the eating hut ordering breakfast.

By 10:00, we had our breakfast. 6 slices of cheese toast, one huge cheese omelette, butter and a nice milk tea. Yummy! It tasted really good although it was a bit too much for me. So Zainab and Krace helped me with one of the toasts. On the table opposite to us, Helen or Ben had made a nice mistake ordering cappuccino. Through all the days I have been with them since Meta Refresh, I have never seen them waste food; they would eat whatever they ordered. Hence I am guessing how good the cappuccino was when both of them together couldn’t even finish half of it!

Everyone had their fill and we took a stroll down the paddy fields. Zainab stayed behind to attend to a few work related calls and mails. We chit chatted and simply walked along the narrow paths in between the fields. I know! It is not much of a “wild exploration” or anything, but we did find a huge hawk’s nest, or so I think. We kept walking South west until we reached a small clearing just beside the river.

Through the paddy field...

We spend quite a while trying to make the stones bounce on the water and I think Praseetha was the one who did it the best. 6 bounces! The girls started losing interest and walked further away when me and Krace decided to test our arms’ strength. We threw the stones far and tried to hit the huge rock on the other side of the river. I could only cross half of the river. However he had a really good cricket arm and his throws went across.

We got back to our rooms by 11, as it was time to go for the “Kiran thing”, which basically meant going to visit the monuments. By this time, Helen felt the need to buy a pair of loose pants as the climate, unlike what I thought, was really hot. Yes, really really hot. She bought, and we will see her tastes shortly. Oh man, she is going to kill me for this!

By 12.30pm, we had crossed the ferry back again and reached the temple gate. I don’t think any of us had a clear notion of where to go or what to do. So we did the obvious thing of going inside the temple.

The Sun peeking

Contemplative

We were the last ones to enter the temple at that time because they were closing it down for lunch I guess. Camera charge was 50 bucks due to which I decided not to have any clicks. There was this cool elephant inside who would give “special blessings” to foreigners and “normal blessings” to others. I think this was the first time I touched an elephant as well. Just as we were about to get out, this guy in a yellow T-shirt ran upto us and started talking, which, I am glad he did.

The official tourist authority of Hampi was conduction cycling trips among the ancient monuments where you’ll be accompanied by a guide to fill you in on half a century of details all along. We signed up for it instantly. 350 bucks per head. The cycle tour would start the next day morning at 9.30 and we were asked to be there by at least 9.15. We had a few among us who were not too comfortable cycling, but we ready to take it up as a challenge.

We got out and slowly started climbing up the hill, wondering about the architectures, trying to be philosophical and thoughtful.

Jack and Jill, went up the hill

Ah, there you can see Helen’s pants. I bet even MC Hammer wouldn’t come close. He he… We walked around the place till 1pm, seeing the various structures. Here Kiran explained an interesting fact that all the temples were made facing eastwards. It seems the custom was that the idol should get lit up by the rising sun. By this time, all of us had a rumbling tummy and we decided to go and eat.

We walked all the way down the hill, went beside the ferry, under the hope of getting some tasty food at a restaurant called the “Mango Tree hotel”. Our efforts were proved to be in vain when we were greeted by a board that said “Mango Tree hotel is closed forever!”

Darn! Now what do we do? The only thing that we could do. Cross the ferry over to the other side and get food from there. So be it!

At about 2, we saw this place that had written outside it “Real coffee”. “Ha! This must be good after the cappuccino we had today morning”, said Ben and we all got in. It was a pretty comfy place. It was an open air hall with beds on the floor on either side. The hall had a huge screen in the middle of one end, where they play movies during the night I guess.

We lay down on the beds and stretched ourselves. It felt good to be under shade once again after walking for so long under the scorching sun. Kiran recommended “Shakshuka” for me, which is an Israeli food. It was pretty awesome. Take a look.

Shakshuka

Sort of egg masala, french fries, cucumber, some kind of a chutney and some kind of a roti. Tasted pretty good and filled my tummy well. We sat chatting about education in Australia, how his studies were, the cost of education and stuff like that.

We returned back to our place of stay. I flipped out my little notepad and made notes of what all we were doing so that I could build up this blog post without much of a trouble. Ben had noticed me doing this for quite a while and introduced me to an app called “Moves” on his iPhone that would track your travel and give you details of what all you were doing at what all times. Made a mental note to try it out.

All of us retired back to our huts and had a good sleep. I woke at about 5.30, finished my prayers and went out, wanting to see the sunset over the fields. This accommodation place had one open hut on a lower level facing the paddy field straight. The lowered part was slanted so that we could lean on it and they had beds on the floor. I went and sat over there for a while, enjoying the serene scenery, feeling peaceful and humane.

Sunset at Shanti hotel

Evening at Shanti hotel - 2

After sitting there for a while, I decided to take a stroll towards the river once again. Just when I was starting, I was accompanied by Kiran and Zainab. We went over to the same clearing we had been in the morning where Zainab practiced throwing a few skipping stones.

We headed back and at about 7.40, all of us decided that we should go and watch “Django unchained” from one of the nearby wanna be theaters. Since Kiran, Praseetha and Krace were working on something, the rest of us decided to go ahead and wait for the others.

Just as we got out of Shanti hotel, we witnessed a huge commotion outside. There were two excavators, lots and lots of policemen and dozens of local inhabitants. We did not stop for long in between that. We hurried ahead and reached close to the ferry, where Django unchained was supposed to be playing. It was pitch dark, all the lights were off and we could not even see if there was a building there or not. We slowly felt our way up and asked one of the inhabitants about the movie. That is when we found out what the whole ruckus was about. It seems that the Government had suddenly decided to wipe out all the illegal shops and vendors at the area. So in short, there was no movie being played.

By 8. 30, we got back to our place and sat for dinner. We hadn’t booked the return tickets then. So after we placed our orders for dinner, I made use of my Nexus 4 to book tickets on the KSRTC website. There were 10 seats left out of which we had to book 8. However, the maximum number one could book at a time was 6. So I had to book 6 first and then 2 after. As soon as we finished booking 6, dinner was served and we decided to do it after eating.

Zainab jokingly asked what we were going to do if we did not get the two  tickets. I told her to be optimistic and assuring everything was going to be fine, started digging into our dinner, which consisted of butter naan and aloo gopi for me and Krace and bunch of other stuff for the rest of them.

We had a good meal and I flipped out my Nexus 4 to do the rest of the 2 ticket booking. I went over to the KSRTC site, logged in, chose all the fields and guess what? That lady was right! Darn her pessimism. It said the service was not available any more. Oh great!

We tried a few more times, but with the same result. Cursing her, we went onto to check our other options. Thank God I at least had the common sense to book the tickets for 4 of the ladies and two of the men. Otherwise things might have gotten a bit nasty.

Anyway, me and Krace found tickets on an AC bus which started from the neighboring town. Booked and all of us retired for a good night’s sleep, having decided that we would at least have to leave that place by 8.30 in the morning if we were to go on that cycling trip.

Day 2

I woke up at around 6.30 in the morning, finished my bath and prayers. Went out to be greeted by the peaceful morning. To my surprise, the lights in all the huts where the rest of my team stayed at was off! This called for extreme measures. I knew how I would react if someone would come and disturb my sleep on a comfy morning of a vacation. I took a deep breath, mustered up a lot of courage and went over to Kiran’s hut first.

“Knock, knock”. Nothing. “Knock, knock, Kiran”, I knocked and called again. Heard him mumbling something from inside. That was my cue.

Went over to the hut where Praseetha and Nimisha was staying. “Knock, knock, Praseetha”. No response. Knocked a few times again, hoping that they would’ve got the message and hopped over to Ben’s hut. “Knock, knock, Ben”. Heard the tap running and Ben saying something (or was it Helen?) Anyway, I had done the damage.

At about 8:15, we were done with breakfast. We checked out of the hotel and were “homeless” to leave our bags  at someplace. Ben was a bit concerned when Kiran told us to drop our bags at the reception. “That’s how we always do it”, reassured Kiran. All of us left our bags there and went out light, all ready and enthusiastic about cycling.

However, Ben was not quite used to having a scorching sun as in Hampi back in Australia. You could see his skin turning red from last day’s burns and he absolutely was not looking forward to becoming a tomato at the end of the day. Helen, even though had a white skin, was not entirely of Australian origin and thus, did not get affected by the unforgiving sun.

So Ben wanted to buy a full sleeve shirt to protect himself. Alas, all the shops that had pretty clothes in them were cleared the day before itself by the Government! What a day to be at Hampi.

Ben (You only seem him and nothing on the fence behind him, okay?)

We caught the ferry and crossed the Tungabadra river.

Ben and Helen

Just as we got down and were going up the stairs, a sudden idea struck me. Why not exchange shirts? That way I can wear a cool JavaScript T and Ben could have a full sleeve shirt. Message communicated, understood and executed. Let’s proceed soldier.

So we went inside the temple, looking for our guide, Chandra. He was waiting for us and we reached there sharp at 9.15 AM. There were a few more people who had signed up for the trip and we had to wait a while for them.

Our team!

All of us arrived at the spot and the guide took us to our Bicycle depot. We chose the ones we wanted, me picking green as that was my favorite color. They adjusted the height of our seats for us as per our convenience. At about 9.45, all of us had a bike and we were ready to roll!

“Autobots, transform and roll out”, said Hotrod.

Krace and Zainab with their cycles

IMG_20130226_095049

We started our journey and just a little distance ahead, Praseetha had a bit of trouble with the bicycle. A few of us hung back trying to fix it. The guide noticed us missing out and rushed back on his moped. He told her to ditch the cycle and get on his bike. Lucky girl! She got a free ride for the entire tour!

We cycled up a hill at the beginning, tiring myself out as soon as we reached the top. First on the agenda was the Ganesha temple, having a huge monolithic stone carving of Ganesha, the Elephant god, who was the God of eternal knowledge. This was a huge idol for the Royalties to worship. For the common people, there was a small one further down.

An interesting fact was mentioned here. Half of the trunk had been cut off from the front of the idol. The story goes that the Islamic rulers cut it off in hope of finding hidden treasure inside it. Alas, there was nothing. The more interesting part was that almost all the idols that had a living image associated with it were damaged. However, the Shiva Lingam, which did not have an image of a living being associated with it, was not touched upon by the Islamic rulers. It seems that they were not against God or religion, but just against the idea of worshiping images. An interesting fact.

We left there and had our next stop was at the Krishna temple and the huge market place opposite to it. It was 10.30 then.Market place opposite to the Krishna temple

The Krishna temple

On the entrance, it was engraved the 8 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. It seems there are actually 9, the last one which is a White horse, that is yet to come.

We entered the temple within. It had an outer room where the beautiful dancers would dance, entertaining the people. There were a lot of Kamasutra carvings as well on the gate. The inner room was where the idol was kept. Just when me and Ben were getting out of the inner room, we found a door, pitch black inside, just to the side. Curiosity struck us!

He turned the flashlight of his iPhone on and we went in. We figured that it was just a passage/corridor around the inner sanctum. It went around the inner room and ended at the other end. We went in and after reaching exactly behind the inner room, we heard some buzzing sound. Uh oh… Not a good place for that sort of a noise. Was there a hooting sound a well? Or was it chirping. Involuntarily, his flashlight shone all around. We could not find anything around us. Slowly, he lifted his light up.

Aughghghg!! Bats! Truck load of them. Ewwwwwwwwwwww…. Now I know how the criminals in Batman feel on seeing him. Man, were me and Ben freaked out! We screamed and ran out of the corridor with our dear lives! Ho ho… That was plenty fun.

We had enough of the place and we started from there. The next stop, at about 11:00, was at the Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha temple, the God of destroying Evil!

Krace and Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha.

Zainab proposed that we use the above photo as Krace’s matrimonial photo. See the resemblance? With the awesome mane and what not!

This temple was at a nice and peaceful spot. Sort of reminded me of the creeks Bill Watterson used to draw in the Calvin & Hobbes comics.

Creek

There was another Shiva Lingam temple that was still active today. It had not been tampered following the philosophy that we stated earlier in terms of destroying only images.

Shiva Lingam temple

Here Ben and I had an interesting exchange of ideas regarding people’s faith. One of the things that he mentioned was the reason why he turned agnostic from being an atheist. During earlier days, people used to believe that the Earth was at the center of the universe and everything else revolved around it. However, it was discovered that things were not so. When Nicolaus Copernicus found out that the sun was the center, those who believed in the former thought had a really hard time.

So according to Ben, you should always be ready to accept something new if it is proven, which, won’t be possible if you are adamant about sticking with an extremist point of view. There might be a God, there might not be, neither is proven and hence, he is ready to believe either if he is convinced. Thus, an agnostic.

Anyway, at about 11.10, there were refreshments available at the road side and everyone was on full swing fueling up. I must say that that must’ve been the only day in our lives that we spent so much money on just drinking water. We did not care if the same bottle was charged 10, 20, 30 or 40! We needed water and we were going to get it at any cost. We must’ve bought at least 15+ bottles of water. If it were not for that, I would have dehydrated and fried on the trek for sure. It was darn hot.

Refreshments

We were told to freshen up well as the next stop was almost 2 kilometers away. All of us got enough rest and we were again on our way. The uphill rides were extremely tiring and most of them ended up in me getting down and pushing my bike up. Anyway, by 11.30, we reached the Underground Shiva temple.

It wasn’t actually underground, but at a lower level than the natural terrain level. There was an amazing garden there, where we rested when the guide told us about the place. We sat there for a while and went down to see the temple.Underground Shiva temple

It opened up into a room and from there we could see more doors that lead us further in. However, the second door revealed a room filled with water. Filled as in it must be 1 1/2 foot deep. No one wanted to wet their shoe/slippers. As for those who did not have an issue with that, they were scared of skin diseases that this water might impart and some others were afraid of all the nasty creatures that might be lurking in the water.

Curiosity, adrenaline and what not pumped in. Took my sandals off and I stepped in. Just as the room was flooded with water, I was flooded with questions. “Is it cold?”, “How deep is it?”, “Any water snakes?”, etc. The list went on. I “braved” my way through a lit, 10 x 10 feet room (Yeah, not a big deal at all!) and reached the next door. Questions kept pouring in. The next room was an enclosure and it had no light except from the little that came in  through the one that I was standing at. Yep, it was spooky and I decided to not “brave” it any further.

I think Ben has a picture of me standing in that room. Have to get a couple of pics from him including this one. We came out and went around the temple, where we found that the walls had crumbled on one of the sides, making way into this spooky room directly through the side. Me and Ben looked at each other. We jumped over, placed our feet carefully on the stones lying in the water and making our way to the inner most sanctum. To reach the last door, even from the side, you had to hold the walls, place your feet on a 1/4 foot thick beam (a part of the foundation) and move like Spiderman climbing a wall. Ben was not too enthusiastic about the idea.

I got over, used Ben’s iPhone to shine light into the inner sanctum. Yes, you would expect the Wise One to show up and dub you with the ancient power of elementals and all. But none of that happened. There was a Shiva Lingam there and that was it. I came back out. Just as we were about to jump over the wall back outside, we saw a corridor that lead behind the inner sanctum, just as the one that we had seen at the Krishna temple earlier.

“Bats?”, both of us looked at each other. “Let’s see”.

We got in and obviously looked above to see if they were hanging on the ceiling. Nope. All clear. We went around and just like last time, reached the other side of the inner sanctum.

“Hey”, said Ben. “Wasn’t that a bat?”

“What? Where?”

“I think one just flew into the room right there. Didn’t you see it?”

“Shine the light, let me see”, and I leaned over to take a look into the dark room to the right.

Just as I was pulling my head back, this huge thing flew right at us from within!

“Whooooo! Augh! Ha ha ha ha”, we freaked out, again. This time it was much more fun because we were standing at a point where no one in the building could see us. There were these three guys who were “braving” their way through the watered floor. Our screams happened just as these people were in the middle of the room! Of course, they carried over from us with their set of screeches and laughter.

Well, causing a little havoc, me and Ben ran and jumped out of the building. As if nothing had happened, we looked here and there and went forward around the building.

Here I saw something. The next picture is dedicated to all among you who have played Oblivion, the Elder scrolls.

Ayleid ruins

We went around and saw this standalone structure which was supposed to be a dance platform. Me and Ben had the same idea at the same time. However, we were in queue when a certain lady went forward and started doing Taichi/Yoga/dance of some sort, which was actually pretty cool to watch. You should see how she bent and balanced all over. One guy was videoing this.

She had her time there and it was time for us. Behold, Ben the pundit and Haris the saadhu!

Ben, the pundit

Haris, the saadhu

Crap, my slippers and water bottle are there. Ah never mind!

We were done there and continued with our journey further into the Vijayanagara kingdom. By 12pm, we reached the King’s and Queen’s palace. Where it was 10 bucks for Indians to get in, it was 250 bucks for foreigners! Man, the discrimination. Little did they realize that nothing was going to stop us from getting in. We bought the tickets and went in.

Panorama of the King's palace

That’s a panorama shot by the way. Enlarge and take a look around.

From left to right in Panorama:

We first went into the Queen’s treasure trove, which was now a museum of old paintings and figures. It had pictures that compared the state of the buildings around Hampi before the Archaeological survey of India did renovation works on them, with the state of the buildings now.

Then you can see the watchtower, which were guarded by eunuch. Now, that was pronounced “unix” by everyone and I was a bit confused about the pronunciation as well as the meaning until Kiran cleared it both for me. So many there said that eunuch meant transexuals. However, it was not so.

Eunuchs referred to those bunch of males who had their reproductive organ cut off! Oh man, it was disturbing to hear that. Anyway, the King was a smart man having these people on the watch towers so that they could be sure no one messes with the Queen. It also seems to be a fact that in ancient China, only eunuchs were allowed to be a part of the administrative tasks within the Palace. Weird!

You can see the tip of the elephant stables at a distance. Don’t worry. We’ll be getting there soon.

Then you see the summer palace, which is supposed to be air conditioned. The water circulating through the pipes in the palace keeps the place cool all the time. Interesting piece of architecture it was. It was not enclosed, but had a lot of pillars on a plain foundation and it was not that large either. Surprisingly, no one got up on it and I did not see any reason why not to. Just to get a reassurance, I asked Zainab and she nodded her head saying, “Go ahead!”.

When everyone was busy talking admiring the beauty, I managed to sneak upon it. I lifted myself up onto the raised platform which was the foundation, stood up and took a few steps forward – spider sense tingling like mad!

And then I saw it. There was this dark lady standing on the left hand side of the building cladded in a yellow Saree, her eyes fixed on me, the cane in her hand waving, pointing at me! I jumped down and ran back, discreetly mingling with the crowd.

Ben saw this and found it very amusing that I got told off. It would have been fine, had he kept it to himself. But no, of all the people around, he just had to tell it to Zainab, who, found it super extremely amusing and just couldn’t stop laughing out loud, broadcasting the news like a freaking TV channel. Now it was my turn to turn red, the only difference being that it was not due to sun burns. Ooooh, that lady sometimes….!

Leaving behind a trail of shame, we crossed a gate in the wall and got over to where the elephant stables were.

The elephant stables

So that was where the elephants were kept. Take a closer look at the stone walls below. It was interesting to see how they were constructed. As in, the stones were not uniformly cut. They were in random shapes, but fit together with such elegance.

Stone wall up close

We went around the place, decided to return to the bicycle parking place. On the way, we had a brief look at the concert hall. We found a large number of Hanuman statues all over the place. He must have been pretty popular during those times.

Ben in the concert hall.

Starting from there, we reached the Royal quarters by 1.15pm. Man, was it super hot!

The place was supposed to be the heart of activities in the kingdom. Conference halls, meetings rooms, bath rooms, aqua duct water facilities, a raised platform for the royalties to sit and watch the entertainments and processions, etc. However, there was only a little to see and a lot to explain.

Ho ho! You guys must seriously checkout the Tali plates of that time. Imagine going for a buffet with one of these babies in your hand. Lol!

Tali plates

Then there was this awesome looking water reservoir which was only discovered quite recently when a few curious explorers dug up the place there the aqua duct led to.

Water reservoir

Which was fine. But guess what we saw next? Guess what the next picture might be. No, you. Guess.

King's bathing pool

Reservoir? Nope. Conference room? Nope. It is a freaking swimming pool for the king! Yes, just for the king and no one else. You can see KracetheKing coming out of his beloved swimming pool as well. Man, was that luxurious!

The raised platform that we talked about earlier was the final destination. Everyone started walking on the good old path through the floor in order to reach there, while I decided to take the scenic route. Walk over the aqua duct!

So, I’m the troublemaker and the hooligan. Lol! I kept proving myself over and over to Ben and I guess this was the last straw. I somehow convinced him to walk with me over the duct. We followed the duct, which was pretty narrow and we had to balance ourselves quite well in order not to fall off. It was quite high as well. We started walking towards the raised platform from the Kingly swimming pool. The aqua duct led us to a T junction, from where if we took a right, we would end up on the ground, and if we took a left, would get us further close to the path that lead to the raised platform.

We took a left and had barely taken a few steps when we heard a shout. Uh oh, spider sense! Turning around, we saw this guard swishing a cane, and charging towards us, cursing and shouting in a language that we were ignorant of. The duct was some 8 to 10 feet above the ground and I was sort of reluctant to make that jump. As I stood thinking what to do, Ben had already made the jump and was waving sorry to the guardsman. While I, being the brave soul that I was, followed my path back to the T junction and took the right turn from there, which led me to a lower level of the duct, from where I comfortably jumped down and caught up with Ben. He gave me a nasty look as well as a hearty laugh.

We climbed up the 75 stairs of the platform and were all high and mighty. Ben surveyed the vicinity with the eye of a jungle cat. Well, a well dressed jungle cat.

King Ben!

The King's view

That was the final stop of the tour. At 2:00pm, we started our journey back, having brief stops on the way for resting as well as having a drink of water. Around 2.45, we made it back to the cycle shop, where we closed the deal and thanked our guide for the wonderful time.

By this time, as you can guess, all of us were hungry beyond words! We got in the second restaurant that we saw (WE SHOULD”VE GOT IN THE FIRST ONE THAT WE SAW!). This second one was called the moonlight restaurant. Well, its a restaurant (or so it says) and we were hungry. So why not?

We made ourselves comfortable and got the menu. They provided a book which was for us to write down the order. We decided and wrote down our orders by 3pm, and rested our tired feet, everyone getting into a few chit chats.

3.15 – Chit chat
3.30 – Chit chat
3.45 – Ben walks out having a headache from someone smoking on the neighboring table
4.00 – Kiran’s order cancelled and Zainab’s served
4.05 – All of us are pissed off.
4.10 – Ben understands the gist of the restaurant’s name. We get served only at moonlight.
4.15 – Kiran and Zainab leaves
4.25 – Nimisha’s, Ben’s and Helen’s food arrives.
4.40 – My food arrives. By this time, we are too tired and irritated to even crack jokes.
4.45 – Krace’s food arrives.
4.55 – We were done and were only too happy to get out of the place. (Don’t ask about the food quality)

So Nimisha was both mentally and physically tired to go back and get her bags. Hence, it was decided she would hangout over there somewhere while we went back and got the bags and stuff.

By the time me, Krace, Ben, Helen and Praseetha got back, Zainab and Kiran were having a good eat from the Shanti restaurant where we left our bags at. Even though Ben had eaten, it was just two vegetarian cutlets and he was still hungry. We grabbed our bags and by the time we reached the ferry, it was around 5.30 and our bus back to Bangalore was at 8:00pm.

Hurrying back, for some peculiar reason, both Kiran and Zainab got into the panoramating mood. Man! It was panorama all round. Up on stones, on the boat, on the toes, on the steps. So, as Zainab and Kiran stood panoramating with ground support from Krace, the rest of us decided to go back up and rest a while before we caught the bus.

As soon as we were about to reach the hotel next to the moonlight one, me and Ben remembered the lookout point at the top of the hill. Something that we could not miss.

“I’m inspector Lookout”, said the policeman from Scotland Yard. “Lookout of the Yard”.

However, Ben was super hungry. So we got into this restaurant, made clear our urgency to the staff and ordered a Shakshuka plus a few drinks. It came in 10 minutes and we had a quick drink as well as an eat. It was almost 6.10 by the time Ben had gobbled up the Shakshuka.

Both of us walked out of the hotel and looked up at the huge mountain on top of which was the lookout point. 8.oopm – bus home. 6.00 already. Tired, longing for a rest, too little time, a freaking long way to go and that too uphill…

“Let’s do it”

And just like that, we were on our way. No idea on how to get there, we tried asking a few of the local inhabitants, who unfortunately had no clue whatsoever. The journey had begun and backing out now was not an option.

“Do we go straight down the market and turn right? Or do we go up from here itself?”, I was ambiguous.

“Up we go!”, said Ben.

Just to give you guys a sense of where we were and where the mountain was. here is the same picture as earlier. Me and Ben were standing here, deciding which way to go and do you see that rocky mountain far ahead to the right? Yes, that is where we were planning to go and come back within roughly a hour.

Contemplative

Yes, we were bloody darn optimistic. But when you have a friend with you who shares the same spirit, only the goal matters. Well, suffice to say,

Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To get a glimpse of Hampi

Sorry that I can’t complete the rhyme as we really did not fall down (But we were pretty close!)

We ran uphill, on the road which was parallel to where the mountain was. Water bottles in our hands and bags on our backs. We took a left as soon as we saw one. There was a gate in front of us that said, “Private way”. We gave each other a quick look. “To  heck with that…”, we went forward. As soon as we entered the gate, the mountain seemed to have taken a step close to us, and that raised my spirits.

Drank a sip of water and changed gears. 6.15 now. We kind of reached a quite high area and there was a building over there that had a staircase from outside that lead us onto the roof. We climbed up and saw a panorama view. But that wasn’t enough! The mountain was standing behind us and we needed to scale it one way or the other. We got down the stairs and I had over exerted myself. I took a puff of the inhaler and we again moved up, to be greeted by Grott the Hoddle! Ahem… Sorry. An old man.

Well, this old man was an old man who was not too enthusiastic about two enthusiastic youngsters battling their tiredness and braving their way up over to the top of the mountain just to get a glimpse of Hampi. The old man had 3 words for us. “Gate close 6.30″.

We begged! “Can we like go up there and run back?”, ‘Or maybe on that little hill over there?”. “Surely on that raised platform on top of that building?”. The old man had just one thing to say, “Gate close 6.30″. Then he called a small boy who might be at least 9 years of age and told him something in Hindi pointing at us. And then the little boy explains to us what was going on!

“Gate close 6.30″

So we got the idea and decided to head back upon the roof of the other building that we had got on earlier. We went up there and as we were kind of relaxing, we suddenly saw this human figure on one of the mountains which was on the other side of the road which was parallel to the mountain. The one that we ran up on first.

“Let’s go!”

We ran down the slope, reached the place where we took a left and again went a little up on the opposite way, only to find that the gate that lead to the gate that lead to that mountain on which we saw the human figure, was closed. This was the gate to the Ganesha temple that I wrote about earlier.

“Now what?”, it was almost 6.35 and the day was coming to an end. But we had to do something. We looked around and something caught our eye. The stray rocks, or boulders if you may, that were lying there piled up and supported by one another.

“Let’s go up that”, said Ben.

I was reluctant and was not too keen on climbing huge boulders and jumping among them when the sun had already gone down. You never know which rock is waiting out there for a few more pounds on one of its sides so that it could roll down and cause havoc. However, Ben was already on his way, and I followed.

We started climbing up a few rocks and figured that there was no way were going to get onto the one on the edge, the one that we wanted to get on to. And we came back down. We started going back when suddenly Ben saw something that assured him that there was a way to that rock. Back we went and started climbing the rocks again.

So I was scared, but he was quite a trooper. He was adamant about creating a few unforgettable memories during his time in India while I was afraid of becoming a memory myself. Anyway, he blazed the trail and I followed. Jumping between huge boulders, sliding a few down, bending and walking underneath a few, and voila! There was our promised rock right in front of us!

We scrambled up and got on it! Ho HO hoooo. We had done it! We were kings! It was almost 7 and we decided to click a few quick pics.

Up above the world so high!

Ben has a pic with me and him. I’ll put it up as soon as I get it. We savored the moment, admiring and respecting our own bravery for a few seconds. The last thing we wanted to happen was to get stuck on some god forsaken rock on the Deccan plateau and miss our bus back home (or work, rather). So without goofing off for too much time, we got down, rivaled Tom Cruise’s mountain climbing abilities and got down on the road shouting “success!”.

Phew! Was that tiring. We exchanged our super sweaty shirts and joined up with the team at the same restaurant itself. Had a couple of drinks and went over to the bus stand. The bus was only going to start 20 minutes late and we had a nice little chat standing over there. Kiran entertained us with his water bottle balancing stunts for a while.

The balance!

By 8.30, we were all on the bus. We reached Hospet at about 9.30 or so where me and Krace got down and boarded another bus.

So that’s it. Those were two marvelous days of my life. A trip that I am never going to forget!

Epilogue

We’re just getting started man! So I’m sorry. No epilogue for now. It just feels good to have been with all of them and I eagerly look forward to meeting Ben and Helen again real soon.

Oh, and do checkout Helen’s “The adventure of Kyroku!” right here:

Cheers folks! Have a good time!

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