#GoaDiaries: In Search of The Banyan Tree Baba

Late night beach parties. Bikini clad Russians. Cheaper than water alcohol. Yes, I am talking about Goa. But no, its not about those crazy Goa stories which you would have heard and read several times. Its about a baba- The banyan tree baba and his peace garden. Its the same baba who has been referred in the song ‘Babaji ki booti‘ from movie ‘Go Goa Gone’.

One of our friend had told us about a baba situated near the Arambol beach. Not that we were any religious bunch, but what all we had heard about that baba was exciting enough to give him a try. We were told that we had to take some fruit for the baba and in returns he gives a magical booti as prasaad. We were also told that we can have a mud bath at baba’s ashram and umpteen foreigners visit baba’s peace garden.

So the five of us enquired about that baba on the beach and took the way towards him. We were shown a small hill, at some 500 metres distance, covered with thick green cover and told that baba stays on it. The hill was beside a sweet water lake. While some said its a 10-15mins walk to baba, others warned us that it may take an hour. Not the distance, our worry was time. It was already 6 and sun was touching the Arabian sea.

We were at the footsteps of hill and we could see the beach at some distance now. There was not any way visible which could take us to this mystic baba. It was starting to turn dark. As we were about to turn back, three foreigners came and took a way in the hills. Only then, did we realize that there actually was a trek to climb the hill, going through the forest, which may take us to the baba. It wasn’t a laid down trek. Less than a metre in width, it was rocky, muddy, slippery with sweet water lake on one side. And it was all dark. And we had no idea if baba will still be available. Not so apprehended, still we decided to take the road less taken.

The trek was taking us up. It was taking turns every few metres and we could not see anything ahead. Five minutes in the walk, there were just five of us. In the middle of a jungle, walking a path in total darkness, not knowing where it may take us and for how long do we need to continue our walk. One wrong step and it could be the end. Needless to mention, there were no mobile signal either.No practical reason could define why we were still going ahead. But we continued.

Forest trail leading to Babaji (Image courtesy: sulekha.com)

It could have well been a scene from a horror or suspense movie. We were all scared by now. Few foreigners crossed us as they were heading down. And trust me, none of them could help in settling our nerves. The way they were dressed up and their body language, it was only adding to the screenplay of this thriller.

15-20 minutes. We were still walking to meet that baba, with our mobile torches on. Some of us, now wanted to go back. But the others continued to walk. At one point we reached a juction, with two ways heading towards right amd left. There was a board indicating peace garden towards right. We turned and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, in the middle of a jungle, there was this man. With the built of a bouncer, that Russian guy scared off whatsoever the shit was left in us. We asked him the way to baba and he told us to take the other way. It was very much clear now that we were at a wrong place at the wrong time. But we continued to walk.

10-15 mins further. Another junction. But both right and left seems to be bringing us to a dead end. Then we realize, there was an arrow heading right towards peace garden. We could also hear some voices now. And that’s it, we knew that we were that close to our destination. Before we could move further, one of us backed off. Scared, he gave up and started walking back. Being so close and after so much of the efforts, we couldn’t have missed the chance to meet baba and neither  could we allow our friend to go back on that dangerous path alone.

“Come back yaar!” “We have reached our destination.” “You can’t go like this” The remaining four of us were shouting. He had already made his mind. He was gone and we could only hear him refusing to come back. And you really can’t blame him for this, because we all knew that what we were doing was stupidity. But going back alone in pitch darkness was idiocy. And when I add that his cell phone was switch off and he had no torch light, his decision becomes insane. Not to forget that his panic button was on.

The four of us were looking at each other’s face. What to do now? After so much trouble, when our destination was right in front of our eyes, we couldn’t give up. So we shouted and asked him to wait as we were coming back. Meanwhile we decided to just go and rush through our meeting with babaji, expecting/ hoping that he would wait for us. There were some rocks over which we had to move and move carefully because had we lose our balance there, it could mean disaster as a small stream of water (that hill’s natural drainage system) was flowing beneath. Few steps towards left, a turn on the right and we were at our destination.

Have you seen in any of of the movie where a tantrik would be doing some kind of pooja in the middle of a jungle at night. It was something like that. There was fire in the middle and the baba was sitting across it. There was a guy lying on the left side and 2-3 others, probably his chelas. We took our floaters off and stood on the right side of fire. The baba was having a chat with his chelas. If I remember it correctly, he was dressed the way a baba is supposed to be i.e. in a saffron dress. But he was not your ordinary baba. He was speaking Punjabi and using all sorts of cuss words involving mothers and sisters.

We had no idea what to do now. We were just standing trying to figure out what were we doing there. Meanwhile, the baba offered us to have a seat. We politely refused. “Baba ko kabhi na nhi bolte! (No one dares to say no to baba)” came a voice amongst his chelas with an intimidating undertone. We sat on the mattress spread beside the fire. Obviously, we were hell scared. So much that, none of us had the courage to present to the baba the gift we had brought for him. Twice did the baba’s chelas prompted us to offer gift by asking babaji to accept gift from us. We were just sitting, looking at each other’s face with the question that should we move now. Meanwhile, in background, we could hear the voice of our friend, “Where are you guys?” “Are you guys coming back?” But we could not shout back at that moment. I don’t think so it was more than 5 minutes that we spent there. Without uttering any words, we made an exit.

Before we could analyse what was that, we had to find Saurabh. He was not at the place where we had left him. We kept walking and after every few seconds, were yelling his name, but in vain.  “He is not a kid. He must have gone back”- was one set of thoughts, but it was such a dangerous path to walk alone at night without any light. We were obviously, very concerned.

Meanwhile, we reached the beach and tried calling him. His phone was obviously switched off. Where could he go? We kept trying him phone and finally, we could go through the call. He was at the parking lot safe. He then told us how he was standing alone petrified and was in tears when none of us was replying to his calls. It was at that time a foreign couple crossed him and helped him to reach the beach safely. At the end, we all were safe.

This crazy little adventure ended without any harm being done. Or probably, it wasn’t any kind of adventure, just the fear of our minds. In the midst of all lunatic things we did at Goa, this crazy experience will stand apart. But I will have to admit, it was by no means a wise thing to do. There could have been much better ways to celebrate Valentines Day (Yes, it was 14th Feb!) then visiting an unknown baba on top of a hill in the darkness of night.

Keeping all this aside, we then visited the Saturday night market, followed by the famous Curlies shack at Anjuna beach and enjoyed Goa the way it is more traditionally supposed to be enjoyed.

An image of Banyan Tree baba as found through Google
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Sikkim- The Unblemished Beauty!

You will have to visit it once, to realize why its called Nye-mae-el. This second smallest and the least populated state in the country has everthing to offer you- the lively city of Gangtok, one of the highest lakes in the world- Gurudongmar Lake, casinos- a rarity in India, the historic Nathu La pass of the Old Silk route, breathtaking landscapes and astonishing waterfalls. But most importantly its the beautiful people of this state, which makes it a must visit for any traveller.

The post can go endless if start giving details of my week long experience in Sikkim during June 2014. I will try to keep it short.

Beautiful, peaceful and they don’t have arranged marriages

The second thing we noticed about this city of Gangtok was cleanliness. Its an aberration to an otherwise filthy image that we have for India and an example for rest of the nation, that a clean city is possible in India. As we entered the city, we were warned by our taxi driver not to smoke in public as it may attract hefty fine of Rs. 5000. The plastic bags are completely banned. And the best part is that these rules are implemented strictly. But the first thing that beheld our attention were the beautiful women of Sikkim. They have this default smile on their faces and I must say, they have amazing fashion sense.

During our stay, we had this habit of having small chit-chats with locals. Like, one of those nights in Gangtok, we stayed in the market a little longer as all the shops were closed down. There were 3-4 policemen who joined us as we were sitting on a bench. For next hour or so, they shared their experiences, about the culture of city, crime scene and also asked our whereabouts. Unlike the image of police we have in other parts of India, they were very polite. One of them was, in fact, NSG trained commander.  We got to know that Sikkim is a very peaceful place, partly due to the fact that with such a small population, a criminal does not have many options to hide. Also, its a zero-corruption state. As I googled, I got to know that it was once on the list of Guinness for being a ‘zero-crime state’.

As we had chats with more people, we also realized that its a very different culture. Like in Sikkim, they do not have this concept of arranged marriages. Its love all. Also there, women are not only safe, but equal too.  You can trust the people of Sikkim. But they are also quite adamant and you can’t argue a lot with them. Like once, we had an argument with our taxi driver as he was not allowing us to stay longer at one of the place. But later on we realized that it was for our own safety sake as we had a long way to travel that day and the skies turn darker very soon in that part of the nation. And yes, like other north-eastern states, its football crazy.

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Welcome Back to the Medieval Age

It was a blessing in disguise. No mobile networks for 2 days!

The journey to the real Sikkim began beyond Gangtok into the higher altitudes. Its a military controlled area and only authorized vehicles are allowed there. You have to take permission a day in advance before going. It was 2 nights and 3 days journey mostly involving travel into the mountains of Himalayas. There were beautiful waterfalls in the route and we took stop at few of them. There were times when we were actually passing in between the waterfalls. 4-5 hours into the drive, the mobile networks disappeared. And trust me, there can not be anything more peaceful in life than this. For next 2 days, we were safe from all those cancer causing rays. No whatsapp or facebook! We learnt that only BSNL network is available in the region that too on alternate days only.

By the time we reached Lachen, our first stop, a small, lazy town, it was already dark.  Stay was already included in package. We were provided with candles and matchsticks as after 7 PM the generators would stop and there would not be any electricity.

The wooden finishing of the hotel only substantiated our belief that we were teleported to medieval age.

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Gurudongmar Lake- Breathtaking, literally!

From Bagdogra, place from where mountains start, its a 4-5 hours drive to Gangtok. From Gangtok, its another 7-8 hours drive to Lachen. And from Lachen, it further takes 5-6 hours to reach Gurudongmar Lake, situated at the height of 17,100 metres, the highest accessible lake in India. Its, actually, second highest, but Cholamu lake, 5 kms from there, is restricted for access for being in a sensitive area near Indo-China border.

First the journey from Lachen to Gurudongmar. We were instructed by our taxi driver to be ready by 4AM in the near freezing temperature. Though, not on time, but leaving by 5AM was an achievement for us. It was about to dawn. Not the best of the roads, and neither did we expect it to be, it was just sufficient for tyres of car to fit in. One wrong move and we would have been experiencing a free fall. Also, hardly, there were any other vehicles visible in route. Sometimes scary, it was adventurous.  The terrain outside was captivating, mountains capped with snow, deep trenches and then there was this sight. Water was flowing few hundred meters below us and there was this mountain on the other side of it. There was vegetation on its slope, but in between it was appearing as if a razor has been used to cut out all the vegetation. The driver informed us that it was the result of 2010 earthquake. One could imagine what kind of landslide would have occurred at that time and it was enough to give goosebumps.

As we moved further, vegetation disappeared and it was all rocky- a vast plain of rocks with only mountain peaks visible. We were told that this whole area remains covered in snow in winters. Since, it was June, there was not much of it, but whatever little snow was there, with sun rays falling on it, it was shining like diamond. We were very near to the Chinese border and the tanks of Indian army were visible. En-route, we took a short break at “World’s Highest Cafe” at 15000 feet. It was run by the military and they even gifted us chocolates.

The car stopped near a temple. We were finally at our destination. The water was cleaner than the mirror. It was reflecting the snow clad mountain peak without any distortion. It was Gurudongmar lake. The driver warned us not to stay for more than 15 minutes as low oxygen level can make it difficult to breath. But our breath was taken away, by the very first sight of this lake. Luckily, there was pleasant sunshine, otherwise the wind was bone-chilling. We tried to manage to stay as long as possible. 45 minutes, out of six, two were already on grounds and while the other two, including me, could barely walk. It was only after an hour’s sleep after coming back to Lachen that I could get rid of the headache. But the hangover of the mesmerizing view has stayed till date.

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Zero Point- Sliding in Snow

We left Lachen for Lachung and again it was dark by the time we reached. And it was raining lightly. A perfect setting to go out and have a walk. There was this small shop run by a lady where we had maggie. You could not have asked for anything better. The next day, again in early morning, we left for the zero point to have some fun in snow. On the way, we took the necessary gears- shoes, gloves, jacket- on rent. We also crossed the valley of flowers, but not being a season, there were not many flowers.

Probably in 3-4 hours we reached the zero point, having a slope of mountain covered with snow. We had to cross a small stream of water to reach that mountain. And then it was like a pig having a mud bath. It took some efforts to reach to the top of the slope, but for coming down, we preferred to just slide. As a result, all our clothes were wet and it was only after we reached back to hotel in Lachung that we stopped shivering.

Same day, we left for Gangtok to complete our North Sikkim tour.

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Nathu La- Welcome to China. International Roaming Charges will Apply

There was just this fence of four wires separating 1.2 billion people on one side, and 1.3 billion on the other. I even tried to shake hands with the Chinese soldier but of course he was not allowed. Though we could not cross the fence, we did manage to get ourselves clicked in China, as window of the building on the side was black and reflecting our images. If that proof wasn’t enough, we also did receive as SMS from Airtel welcoming us to China. Not just on land, there is Chinese intrusion in mobile network too.

Few kilo-meters off route, there is temple of Baba Harbhajan Singh, an army office who had died in 1960s but is considered to be still performing his duty. All army persons in that region have full faith on this. So much is the belief that the government of India also pays salary to Harbhajan Singh. Infact, in Indo-Chinese flag meetings a seat is always reserved for Baba Harjbharan Singh.

We also visited the Tsongma lake en route Nathu La. The lake has its cultural value and its water is considered very sacred. Not comparable to Gurudonmar, it was still a worth visiting place. We got ourselves clicked on a Yak and also enjoyed the momos and chinese near the lake. The food was perfect for a drizzling day.

The whole trip was completed in a day’s time from Gangtok.

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Some win. Some lose. The Casino always Wins

It might not be the best place to visit and though it was my first experience of a casino, I can say that casinos in other part of the country (called Goa!) would be better. But still, it was worth of an experience. We went to Mah-jong , the better of the two casinos in Sikkim, at 11 PM and came back at 5 in the morning, only to visit it again at night. There was a stage where dance performances were taking place and by what I have seen in movies, it was very much closer to a Mumbai dance bar. In the rest of the arena, it was all money!

We had got few chips with our entry passes and we tried our hands at Roulette.  Few of us, in fact, made good amount of money. But we were the small players. There were people who were dealing in 6 digit figures. Few lakhs here and there was not much of their concern, as long as they were having fun. Its these places which makes you realize that no value of money is too big.

Apart from Casino, Gangtok also has places like, Cafe Live n Loud and Lounge 31A, which can compete against any hangout place in Delhi.

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Nye-mae-el

This week long trip made us realized that size always does not matter. Its such a small state but will leave you mesmerise for the whole life. Its very unique and its still very much untouched. If you want to have something more than just a weekend gateway, to experience the nature as it is, to have little adventure and at the same time, do not want to miss the fun part, then Sikkim is the place to visit! No matter why, the Lepchaas, the natives of Sikkim, has named it Nye-mai-el, meaning paradise.

Come Get Blessed Sikkim

P.S.: These many places should ideally be more than enough for a small state like Sikkim. But it does not stop here. You still have Pelling hill station, East sikkim, hot springs, Tibetian Museum, rope-ways, temples, monasteries, trekking! Just “Come, Get Blessed”.

21.0975 km: Pain can be sweet!

Sometimes you dream of something and achieve it. And then there are times you achieve something, which you haven’t even dreamed of. For me, completing the half marathon falls in the latter category. For someone who hasn’t even ran in temple run or subway surfer, 21.0975 km was like “Are you kidding me!” But yesterday i.e. on 23rd Nov, I actually did finish the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM). The feeling of finishing it was incredible, but at the same time, when you see people 3 times of your age finishing ahead of you, you realize that you can do much better!

It all began is September, when a mail from HR invited everyone to participate in ADHM. And my department decided that we should all participate. On personal front, I had no idea of how long 21 km actually is and if it is anyway possible for me, but then participation was the only way to find out. Moreover, probably this was the challenge which could motivate me to focus on my fitness. Had this challenge came 3-4 years back, I would have been sure to complete it. But the Chartered Accountancy course does take its toll on fitness. And now in job, there were these excels and ppts, which contribute nothing towards your body.

I registered. There was excitement and at the same time, a nervousness. Nervousness because I know my colleagues. If they managed to finish the race and I could not, there were not going to spare me. So, the preparation for marathon started the very moment I registered. I googled- the history of marathon, where and when it all began, why this peculiar timing of 21.0975 km. See that’s the negative impact of a Chartered Accountant job, you feel that your PC is the solution of everything. But it was not any taxation or accounting problem. So finally, I got a schedule (again, through google!) on How to prepare for your first marathon.

It was a schedule for 2 months, with focus on adequate preparation as well as giving rest to your body- 4 days of practice and 3 days rest in each week. For next two months, I followed the schedule, not completely, but partly for sure. I followed all the rest days and decided to give practice days a skip. In simple words, I didn’t prepare. In 2 months time, I went for a walk only 3 times. The first two times, I covered around 6 kms in an hour. That was in the beginning of 2 months period. For next 1-1.5 months, I did nothing (except following the rest days, of course).

It was the last weekend before marathon. Without any practice, I had no idea of my capabilities. I needed to run atleast once. And this time around I was able to complete 11 kms in less than 1.5 hours- not great, but a far better performance than my expectations. It provided me the confident that my body can make it to the 21 km length, no matter the time it takes. So, my target for the upcoming weekend was- Lets keep the timing for next marathon, this time just focus on finishing it!

The Race Day!

Apart from lack of preparation, there was this big challenge for the race day- Getting up at 4:30 AM on Sunday! Race had to begin at 7 AM, but the venue was quite far and I also had to pick up my colleagues in between. There was this enthusiasm for my first marathon race and surprisingly, i was awake even before 4:30 AM.  It was the end of November in Delhi, so it was chilling and dark outside. At 6 AM, I was at the venue.

The venue was- Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium- one of the few nicer things that otherwise filthy CommonWealth Games have provided to Delhi. It was nice to see that a sporting culture is slowly developing in India. People, 32500 in numbers, were all geared up- doing their warm ups, relaxing and simply, enjoying themselves. Despite the weather, there was warmth and a positive vibe in atmosphere. The arrangements were top-class. Take for example, there were over 100 washrooms at the assembly area. There were instructors helping people to warm up, actress Bipasha Basu was there too. I was ready to roar!

DSC_89596:30 AM was the start time for elite runners and from 7 AM, they started releasing us in batches. At around 7:15 AM, the race began for me! Bipasha Basu flagged it off. There was music playing. There were cheerleaders. There were people cheering for us. I was feeling like a celebrity. For first 2-3 kms, it was a cake walk and I could maintain a steady pace. At each kilometer there were water supplies, energy drinks, washrooms and medical aid.

After 2-3 kms, I realized that I need that to conserve my energy. So I followed this strategy- walk steadily and after each kilometer, run for few meters and then walk steadily again. Just don’t burn yourself and do not think about timings even once! During the race, human spirit was clearly visible. No matter if you are waist 42 or 22, you have to keep moving. For me, the most inspiring sites were these two people.

There was this 82 year young guy (he was wearing a born in 1932 tshirt, that’s how I know his age). He could not bend the knee of one leg and even a normal walk was difficult for him. But there he was, running a marathon. There was no surprise why people were saluting and applauding his spirit. He was truly an inspiration for anyone.

The second was this girl, probably in her early 30s, having a prosthetic lower left limb. I had heard about making the most of whatever we have and these she was making the most of whatever she doesn’t have. She had a coach who was running with her- inspiring her, pushing her. After regular intervals, she would stop, re-adjust the prosthetic limb and then move on again. Hats off to the girl as well as her coach!

Coming back to race, at around 6-7 kms mark, I had reached the India Gate. There was slight pain in legs, but I was comfortable. I was waiting for the half way mark at jantar mantar. 8. 9. 10. And there was the half way mark. Reaching half way mark was the mental battle won, because I knew if I could reach the half way alive, then I was going to finish the marathon for sure. The legs were paining, but now I was sure that I can make it. Legs can be taken care of later.

The sun was becoming harsher. But luckily, there were adequate supplies of water and energy drinks. I could again see the India Gate and I knew from India Gate, its just a matter of few kilometers. But wait! There was a diversion just before the India Gate and though it was few meters ahead of me, I had to cover another 2-3 kms to reach there. But no issues, I was going to complete it. The brain already had an  agreement with pain, and now it was just numbers. At no point of time, I felt like stopping, taking a break or quitting.

And there was the board- 500 meters to go, 400, 300, 200, 100 and I crossed the finish line. It was a sense of achievement. I did it. Not bad Sarthak! Ha! It was n’t that tough. 21 km is very much achievable. And I have achieved it.

The Finishers Medal!

How amazing isn’t it? When we are sitting, getting a glass of water is so tiring. One round of Cannaught Place used to take away all the energy from body. And now I have covered the distance equivalent to 25 rounds of CP and I still wasn’t that tired. I could easily cover 3-4 kms more! Truly, its all in the brain. If we have to, we can achieve what we never ever thought possible.

Post-Marathon

I came back home with the finisher’s medal. The legs were paining, but the pain was sweet. The pain was constantly reminding me of my achievement. That yes, I have finished my first half-marathon. The distance of 21.0975 kms!

But yes, there is more to achieve. The next time, I need to practice and is surely going to improve my timings by atleast 10 percent! That would be the real win. And there is full-marathon too!

Its my strong recommendation to all of you, do give marathon a try. Not for the achievement or any benefit. But to experience that capabilities of your body is way beyond that you can even see or imagine!

The next day was Monday and I was back to work. Another milestone in life crossed. The marathon continues. Normal life, normal routine.

How was your first marathon? Do share your experiences!

Indeed the Centre of Excellence: The first Impression!

30 people. From 11 different states of India. Under one roof. For 28 days. Everyday you are given different tasks. No mobile networks. One can’t go outside. A list of rules, 4 page long. And no I am not talking about some crap Bigg Boss airing on TV.

Welcome to COE, Centre of Excellence!

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I heard about this 4 weeks residential program called Personality Skills Development conducted at Hyderabad by Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. After giving away all my happiness for 4 years, my enjoyment, my college life, time, sleep to articleship and classes, I knew that this is the opportunity to get back something from CA. And I enrolled into program.

Never been out of the city alone, never been seen the hostel life, I knew beforehand that this was going to be life changer experience for me. And did it live to my expectations? The 4 weeks experience was way beyond what I could have ever thought!

The first impression

Day 0. It was 11th August, 2013- the day I reached Hyderabad. There was big glass building around 40 floors in height which was the ICICI Bank Headquarter and with reflections of sun pouring from ICICI Bank Building over it, was the campus nurturing the future CFOs of Companies- Centre of Excellence. Was it a hostel or a hotel? There were wooden furnished AC Rooms with LCDs, there was gym, swimming pool, lawn tennis court, a recreational room where we can play TT, carrom, chess, we could sit and relax in lounges, there was a well maintained cafeteria and the lawns were simply beautiful. In outskirts of the city, away from the chaos of traffic, truly going with the name, it was indeed the Centre of Excellence!

After exploring the facilities out there, it was time to interact with other people. From places like Shimoga near Bangluru, to marble city of India, Kishanganj in Rajasthan, to the city infamous for its opium crop, Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh; people were present from all over India. Delhi, Mumbai, Sungroor in Punjab, Jodhpur, Guwahati, Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Patna- There was virtually whole India at one place, called the Centre of Excellence. And we all were locked up there for next 4 weeks! There were no girls which was disappointing but nothing in this world can be perfect, and not having any girl was the only imperfect part of CoE.

That evening, we all sat down in the lawn tennis court and had our first formal introduction with each other. We had all India rank holders, singers, yoga-guru, air-rifle champions, musicians, tech-geeks, politically inclined, writers amongst us. Some were aspiring to be a great entrepreneur,  some were already entrepreneurs, some were looking for jobs, people were having dreams of IAS and while others were still trying to figure out their future. But one thing was common between all, of course apart from CA thing, that we all wanted to gain maximum from the upcoming 4 weeks, both in terms of learning and having fun.

Next Morning. Day 1. Unlike the Bigg Boss house, there was no song playing to wake us up in the morning, and getting ready on time was a big challenge. There was rule that no breakfast will be served after 9:15 AM and our class timings were 9:30 AM. Day 1 only, I and my room partner were late for breakfast, but luckily got a parantha to eat, and the rest we managed with biscuits.

Nevertheless, we reached for our classroom. What a classroom it was- air conditioned, having projectors, mikes on each seat. To top that, everyone was dressed in their finest formals- shirt with ties, blazer and trouser. Even the best of MNCs could not have created such professional environment.

Having no idea what we really are going to learn, the Centre of Excellence kept surprising us. Just look at the activities we had on Day 1 itself- Strategy formation on how to survive in air crash in a desert, presenting our business idea for raising funds, participating in a virtual auction for establishing business and learning how to convert a group into a team.

The class ended at 5PM, but not the day. It was then time to try our hands on TT and Lawn Tennis, and thankfully not many of us were good at playing it. 10 PM was the time we were supposed to go back into the rooms, but they did not specify that into your “own” room. And from there began the legacy of “Club 1Show13” and our late night group project work.

It was all just on the day 1. Some of the creativiti-est class activities, best of speakers from across the countries,  exploration of city of Hyderabad and the craziest bakchodi with hostel mates- these all were awaiting us in next few days. The next few days which were going to be the best few days in the lives of many of us!

 

(More on the experience of CoE, the hostel life and what influence it had on me: Coming Very Soon!)

The Wedding: Grand Finale

Wedding Series: Previous parts

Part 1:The Wedding

Part 2: Wedding: The card Distribution

Part 3: The Wedding Continues (3)

(What I thought to be a single post, has continued in a four part series, All thanks to my ability of not being able to write in short.)

Hello and welcome to the final day of the Wedding match of Garima weds Deepesh. We are coming to you live from the Silver Oak Farm House. The stage is all set. Spectators are slowly filling the stadium. The match is likely to begin very shortly. Before that, lets go down to our on field commentator, with the weather report.

“Thank You. From past few days the temperature was souring above 45 degrees and the wedding match was expected to have lots of skin release. But the weather has taken a U turn. Instead of hot temperature, there are now fears of rain which may just spoil the whole match. Though right now, pleasant winds are blowing through the ground. If it stays that way and rains remain away, we expect everyone to have a great time.”

Well the wedding ceremonies are about to begin. There we have bride’s brother, Sarthak Goyal arriving. He has been in his prime form past few days and is expected to give his best today. We can see, with assistance from his father and others, he is welcoming spectators for this big day.

Meanwhile, we have heard that the captain of the other team, the groom has arrived. But he is still waiting in dugout (ie car) as his teammates (ie baarati) are still on their way. On the other side, Sarthak Goyal has changed his stance. He is running towards the assembly point to face the opposition team (ie the boy’s side), but has been sent back.

The groom is out on the crease. Korath, a kind of welcoming ceremony for the groom, has begun. And oh no! There is a twist, Sarthak has been called back at assembly point, but only to be sent back again, as the umpires (pundits) requires some material. Sarthak is running from his father to his mother and now towards the parking area. You can see the frustration mounting on his face. The car is full of match equipments (ie ceremonial stuff) and he has no clue of what has been demanded by umpire. So he makes an referral (ie ask for help) to his mother. His mother arrives, gives him the required stuff and there sarthak zoops back to Assembly point.  (In short, Korath ke time mujhe pura bhaga diya tha. All thanks to the pleasant weather that I am still alive.)

After Korath, its time for baarat to cover the 100metre and 1hour long distance till the actual venue. Unlike IPL, here fireworks are seen before the match. The baarat is moving as if snails are carrying every person. I just hope they won’t be timed-out!

Meanwhile all plans have been chalked out to tackle (ie welcome) the opposition. And here enters the groom’s side, jumping..err.rr.. dancing! Bride’s sisters are welcoming them in the traditional tilak-and-all manner. Slowly but gradually, the opposition  captain is moving towards his place on the stage. As he was about to settle in, here enters the captain of the home team, the bride.

Both the captains are approaching towards the elevated center stage. It seems its going to one-on-one between the two captains ie Jaimala– the exchange of flower garland. Meanwhile, there is some confusion around the stage. There are two sets of jaimala and its becoming difficult to decide who will use the second set. Finally, it has been decided the keep the second set at bay and let the bride and bridegroom have the perfect match. First its the groom who puts the garland in bride’s neck, followed by the groom. And as both exchanges the jaimala, the stage has started revolving. The bride and groom are holding each other’s hand and flowers are raining over them. A perfect moment!

Finally they both captains descends down the center table and move towards the main stage. Our cameramen are doing the best job of getting their photographs from each and every degree of angle. These cameraman are the happiest person right now because they know its their turn NOW ie the photography session. Everyone wants to get one (and in some cases, more than one) photos with the captains. This photography session appears to be never ending with so many camera flashes to make anyone blind. (Now we all know why love is called blind!)

Meanwhile, Sarthak Goyal seems to be in search of someone. Busy in his match (wedding) duties, he hasn’t been to spend anytime with his friends. And if that wasn’t enough, some of his friends have reached some other stadium. They are now being called out to the right venue. And once they have reached, we can see Sarthak enjoying a break and having some relaxing time with them. In that time, the photographers’ inning has come to an end (though they will keep batting throughout the match!). And its time for the Maxx-Lava-Lemon Mobile Dinner Timeout.

This timeout is only valid for groom’s team. They are having dinner while the whole of the bride’s team are serving them. The timeout is now over, and now comes the Grand finale of the finale- the phere!

Phere– it is that part of the wedding where bride and groom vows to be with each other ever and forever. The umpires talks with the umpire almighty (the God) and asks him for his blessings for the two captains. After taking some rounds around the pavitra agnee and with all the rituals being performed, DEEPESH GUPTA and GARIMA GOYAL GUPTA are now officially HUSBAND and WIFE.

And with the final ceremony of vidaai, where the bride leaves for her new house (giving his brother the ultimate freedom), the wedding match is now over. Not over, infact a new match has been established today.

The two week long extravaganza has finally come to an end. Overall, it has been a memorable fare. When my two elder sisters got married, I was probably bit younger to actually been involved in the wedding. But this time, I got this opportunity- to experience to be the brother of bride. Despite the workload, it was fun! Infact there hasn’t been so much workload also as I have presented during the whole series. There is a long list of people who were actually taking the burden- my sisters, brothers, mom, dad and other family members. I was just contributing in bits and pieces. On the day of wedding, there were some scares of rainfall but luckily it turned out to be a pleasant environment without much of the heat or any rain. The whole function went out smoothly without any hiccups and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I do.

Epilogue

That was 28th May, 2010 and today its 28th May 2011 ie the first wedding anniversary of di and jiju. And I wish you both A VERY HAPPY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! :)

That’s it from the series THE WEDDING! I hope you enjoyed the all the 4 parts. Please leave your comments and share it with all your friends.

Thank You. Have fun

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The Wedding Series: All parts

Part 1:The Wedding

My life in Year 2010!

Few days ago, one of my friend asked me, how was year 2010 for you and my reply was, “For some mine was perhaps a dream year, but I am yet to figure out if it really is MY DREAM.”

MANAGE YOUR PRIORITIES AND EVERYTHING ELSE WILL FALL IN PLACE!

So another year has passed. There were some good, better, best as well as sad moments. Some new friends were made, some were lost. From a college guy, I became an office-goer. From blogspot, I shifted my blog here at wordpress. The 2010 was the year which has given direction to the rest of life.

If I look back, I can clearly divide the year in four parts- The transition, The Exams, Wellapanti (nothingness) and the Articleship period.

The transition period:

The year 2009 had ended on a low note with me struggling to balance my life with on going ITT, CA coaching, college exams and my bad health. (see here: Year 2009 for me). I wasn’t able to figure out what I want! And then in January came the last blow-another torture- The Orientation Program.

But things changed unexpectedly. The 5-day Orientation was the turning point! For the first time, I realized what Chartered Accountancy is all about. Things began to clear out from then on. I realized that now I can’t be running towards everything, I need to manage myself. I had entered a phase of life where getting the priorities right is THE most important task.

And for the next 3 and 1/2 months, my priority was clearing CA-IPCC Exams!

The examinations Period:

It was probably in the mid of Feb that I came in full-groove for studies. Before that I had relied more on my intelligence to score well[:P], but this time I needed hardwork too! And this hardwork stuff was very untypical of me. How I spent  2-3months mostly with books still surprises me. (One single blog post during this period shows it all!) But I knew I can’t handle failures and the very thought of not being able to clear the exams, gave me jitters. Plus the hopes of other people that I will surely make it, on one hand was giving me courage, it was adding pressure also.

From 8th April onwards, in a span of 45 days, I had to clear 12 exams including the 4 deadly ones of CA-IPCC and the rest those of college. My focus was entirely on my priority- CA-IPCC and I knew I can (and I have to) clear the college exams by only studying a day before. And then came the 12TH MAY. This was my status on that day-

“Dont kno if i will clear or not, but past 1month has given me immense confidence.. Giving 11xams in a month, studying regularly till 3 at night, managing colg and ca together.. i did it all this! I deserve a pat on my back.. I am the most relieved person on the earth at this moment!!”

(FBook Status)

It was my last paper of IPCC, of Tax and I am telling you it went out so badly. I was just doing the exam, not knowing what I am doing. But that day, I wasn’t thinking (was trying by best not to think) of it. My entire focus was on- yes, its all over and I am still alive! The examinations had completely drained me out, but I knew “rest” was still 2 weeks ago. I was having my sister’s marriage on 28th May!

The Wellapanti phase:

Only a brother can understand how much labour he has to put in his sister’s marriage. :P Be it the card distribution, welcoming guest or running too and fro for various things; its just exhausting. (See: The Wedding, Wedding: The Card Distribution, The Wedding Continues 3)

“Had a realy tiring day.. Back and legs aching.. Had to act as a waiter, photographer, peon.. all in one..”

( FBook Status)

But the prize of it (ie freedom) keeps you going. ;) On serious note, di’s maariage celebrations were the apt dosage I needed after those 3 tiring (and testing) months.

After the marriage, came the June. It was for the first time in the year, when I was having nothing to do.

“again playing cricket, watching tv, surfing net, sending smses, talking on phone, sitting idle….again i am living life!!!”

(FBook)

God! how much I had missed all these things during first five months! Hanging out with friends, chatting with them on phone, facebooking, blogging, doing absolutely nothing the whole day, wow amazing! I was back to life!!

“spend some time at cumsome (inderlok), then went 2 McD (Chandani chowk) and had water there, then went 2 red fort but returned widout goin in, then came bak 2 cumsome 2 hav lunch, then went 2 NSP 2 hav ice cream and now finaly returns bak 2 home.. But this is nt the end.. The journey wil b continued at night..

returnd bak 2 home in evenin, then every1 assembled at my place, then in Mohit’s car went 2 Model Town 2 hav maggie, then went to Mohit’s home and ordered Pizza, then played cricket at 1AM, then at 5AM went 2 symmetry(near Dhaula Kuan) but didn’t find the place, then went 2 India Gate but lost our way in between, then came back to Mohit’s place and finally through metro reached back our homes!!”

(FBook)

Life was again seeming to be happy fair. All the tearing of hairs were seeming to be a thing of past. So much so I was enjoying this period, that even the thoughts of result were miles away.

Then I also had my first tryst with Mumbai in mid-July. Be it sitting at the Marine drive and glaring at the unending sea, or the lovely never ending rains of Mumbai or the panipuri, sevpuri, vadapao and paobhajji, it was all so amazing!

The Mumbai trip was over and I was still doing nothing. The second year of college had commenced (See also:No more a fuchaa!). Though I hadn’t decided of whether to continue with the college or not, but somehow I knew what was going to be my eventual decision. Those 2-3days of college that I attended, they were more like a small clipping of what I had to miss- the wellapanti, the maggie, the unplanned programs and the carefree life! But I knew these things can’t be my priorities.

 

4th August 2010!

My CA-IPCC result was out.

“Got 244/400 in CA-IPCE :)”

(FBook)

I had done it! It was an amazing feeling of achieving something in life. But frankly speaking, I was not overwhelmed, because I knew what was to follow. The result meant my college life was over and I have to spend my next 3years in office doing my articleship. Its just that the other option-of failing and again giving these papers-was worse!

Meanwhile, my college result was also out and I surprisingly scored above 67%!

So after results, my next task was finding a CA under which I will spend my next 3 years of life. I was never so excited about the office life, the people were pouring in their suggestions and I was just hearing them.

“Looking for: a reputed CA firm, with metro connectivity, strict 10-5timings, saturdays off, providing 10000 as stipend, adequate holidays 4 exams and with proxy attendance system. Interested CAs contact me!! :P”

Finally I landed up with MGB&Co where neither of the condition was being fulfilled (except metro connectivity). And before moving ahead, a few lines on my first ever interview

“My fst ever interview! and was it good? I dont think so, but it was surely fun, especially the fact that i didnt kno it was an interview, until it actualy began!!!”

I had no idea that I would be having an interview that day. I thought I would just be introduced and then, if required, would be called upon for the interview. And then suddenly I was bombarded with questions! Even though the questions were quite simple but it had happened all so unexpectedly that before my mind could start working, the interview was over. I just remained in shock! But luckily (or unluckily) I was selected.

Before I could start my office life, some clean up work was left- I had to migrate from regular college to correspondence. And I am telling you the whole procedure of transfer was such a nightmare!! (Read this: OFFICE OFFICE: How to migrate fro college to correspondence in DU)

And with the migration process, a complete phase of my life ended! :'(

The Articleship

“Ghar se chal diye, bas ek bag pack aur ek pen… stipened ki fikar nhi, metro mein hum savaar.. Na jaane ab hoga kyaaa… Aooooo.. Ao..ooo… Auditinggg… Karni hai aaj!!”

16th September– This is the date which put a full stop to one of the phase of my life and started the other one. This is the date when my articleship period began. Though I joined the office from September 29! And how was my Day 1 at office?

“Day 1 at office! And it wasn’t that bad, but neither good. Actualy it was a so different and new xperience, i dont knw if it was gud or not. It will take sometime 2 get used 2 suffocating 8×10 rooms. A new phase of my life has begun frm 2day! :( :)”

It was such a different atmosphere. I wasn’t just able to make out anything. On one day, I used to like my office, other day I start thinking getting rid of it. I was just getting frustrated. I wasn’t able to make adjustment of office with the rest of my life. And the worst part was the distance. Daily I had to commute from Rohini to Noida ie 1.5hours one way in metro.

The rush, long travel time, not having anybody of my age, the office environment- I was just losing it. Leaving office at 9AM and then coming back at 11PM, I wasn’t able to take in anymore. And by the end of November, I had made full plans of quitting here and changing my office.

But then, out of nowhere, things changed- The workload reduced. I no longer had to travel to Noida, but to laxminagar only. Another of the article, who was on leave came back and I got a company. There were no more late nights at office. I was better able to manage my life. My mind got distracted in other issues. And finally, I dropped the plan of changing articleship!

11th December was another red mark day of my life! It was the day when I got my first ever salary Though a measly Rs.2000pm as stipend, it was special! Really special! Those were not just Rs.6560, but much much much more valuable than that.

In the year, I entered a completely new dimensions of my life. And you know what’s the best part of this new dimension? That I still have the most valuable items- my family and my friends- with me!

Epilogue

It was 24th December. Me and the other article, we both were working in the office and wondering if we will get an off on Christmas or not. At the time of leaving, we asked the sir, if there is holiday tomorrow. He thought for a while and when I was about to conclude that there is not going to be any holiday, he gave an affirmation. And you don’t know how elated I felt!

It was a hardworking year for me, and luckily, I got the result of all the efforts I put in. But there were small happiness like these which acted like seasonings on pizza and made this a wonderful year for me! And probably I was wrong when I said in the beginning that this wasn’t a dream year for me. I think it was! :)

And unlike the last year, this year has ended on a really high note

So the year ended on a high note! Got the new car and then the bonefire-dj party wid frnds! :)

(FBook)

Thanks to all who made this year the way it was, for me. Thank You.

With hopes that our tomorrow would be better than our today, I end this post.