The Travel Kick

And here’s another post. So a lot has happened, and a lot will be written about, hopefully.

I started out on the 19th of February, when I made a quick trip to Jodhpur to attend Ignus 2015. The emotions that I felt on this trip are indescribable. It was the fourth edition of the festival with humble beginnings, then known as Ignus 2012, and by, has it come a long long way. Another emotional sentimental call out to all those seven brothers of mine who made this festival possible (you know who you are!)

With Jodhpur under the threat of Swine Flu, quite a few people didn’t turn up, but it was always good to be in a place where people know who you are (oh my ego!) and you are comfortable with your juniors, your seniors and your batchmates turning up around the corner and no one really is looking to mess with you, because that’s the fun of college y’all.

Returning to Bangalore would have been tough, because it would have meant work, but that was my last week at work, yes, I am officially jobless, and hence the last week whizzed by in a jiffy. Which called for another trip, and this time, it was to Goa. I have been to Goa twice previously, once with family, once in my final semester in college (why does 2013 feel like so long ago?) and now here I was, returning to my farewell place, maybe.

Goa is and will always be beautiful. From the crazy party scene of North Goa to the calmness and the peace of the south, every grain of sand and drop of salt water is enjoyed. Add to that new experiences in the food section – Martins and our old favourite -Goodman, and it was a trip to savour. Being the designated driver is fun in Goa, because you get to drive 200+ kilometres on Goa’s beautiful curvy roads through 4 days, and enjoy every moment of the sun, the wind in your hair and the saltiness in the air.

Made even special was the fact that a whole bunch of people I’ve grown to know in the past two years accompanied me, and made this trip so much fun and I admire them all the more for taking out some time to come spend a final few days with me. We tried out the Airbnb cottages, and spent a few nights of luxury having the time of our lives.

Returning back to Bangalore, I made a splash-dash trip to Mumbai before heading out on a 22 day journey through the lands of West Bengal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Assam and Meghalaya. This was the longest solo trip of my life. I had no agenda, no plan, no company. And it wasn’t a mistake at all. I’ve had so much fun, understood so much about my own limits, my weaknesses, took in cultures, learnt languages, hitch-hiked, got cheated, bargained the hell out of people who don’t like bargaining, and in general experienced life. Travel teaches you so much, it just can’t be put into words.

I will be writing more about this trip, and be sharing a lot of pictures. But once again, this trip would not have been possible without so many people, who helped me before as well as during the trip. I have made an immense number of friends, and I’ve been much better for it. Now it is time to travel again, and I will be relocating to Hyderabad for a year to continue my studies. That’s bound to be another adventure, and another journey with no end.

I have ten days at home before that, and I will have to learn to savour every moment that I get with family, as years go past faster than I can count, the amount of time I spend at home seems to be reducing. It’s now been six years (soon will be seven) since I’ve spent more than a month at home, and it feels unusual to actually be spending this much time at home. When you own home starts feeling strange, maybe you’ve outgrown it, no?

Will write soon about the amazing 22 day trip I had. Watch out for that. As you leave, listen to a friend sing this beautiful rendition of “Feeling Good.” This is beautiful.

Random December Thing.

I’m attracted to you.

I would keep hanging out with you forever if it were possible.

You’re hot, you’re a star. I keep circling around you all day, wondering how it would feel to actually touch you.

I’m jealous that I’m not the closest one to you, but happy I’m at least in your inner circle.

Everyday, you brighten my day, and I feel like breaking this orbit and homing in to you, letting attraction work wonders if possible.

But you look at me with sorrow, crying out to keep my distance, begging me to not burn myself in the process of coming closer to you.

You believe that when we meet, I will be destroyed and life will hold no meaning.

I know exactly what this means.

I’m the earth. You’re the sun of my solar system.

And as long as time remains, I will be around, waiting for you to embrace me and give me your warmth, even if that is the last breath of my life.

What are some trippy thought experiments?

Answer by Jim Stone:

You enter a library, . . .

. . . take a book off the shelf, and notice that it’s filled with seemingly random strings of characters.

You take another book off the shelf. Same thing.

You examine a few more books and notice that all the books are quite similar.

Each book has exactly 500 pages. Each page has exactly 40 lines. And each line has exactly 50 character slots.

You examine a few more books and estimate that there are roughly 100 potential characters (including a blank spaces) that can go into each character slot.

Hmmm. Interesting.

Then you notice a sign that says “START HERE.” You go there, pick the first book off the shelf, and see that every page is blank.

You pick up the next book. It has a single letter ‘A’ in the first character slot, and all the other pages are blank.

You pick up the third book. It has a single letter ‘B’ in the first character slot. And, again, all the other pages are blank.

Then you look out across the library, and the shelves go on and on as far as the eye can see.

Your best guess is that each book in this library is a unique combination of characters, and that, collectively, the books in the library cover all the combinations that can be formed in books of this nature.

You do some quick math and calculate that there must be 100^(500*40*50) books — or 100^1,000,000 (one-hundred to the millionth power) books. 

A vast number indeed.

Then you begin to wonder what books might be out there.

There must be:

  • A copy of “Hamlet," — TAKE THAT, infinite monkeys!
  • A copy of “Hamlet” with one typo.
  • A copy of "Hamlet" with a different typo.
  • A copy of “Hamlet” with two typos.
  • A book containing all the best Quora answers that can fit in 500 pages — including some Oliver Emberton answers that haven't been written yet.
  • An accurate 500-page biography of your life (from your birth until your death).
  • An extremely elegant proof of the Riemann Hypothesis (or is it a counterexample?)
  • A book containing a cure for cancer.

Wow! Just wow!

This is exciting.

Those books are out there somewhere. You just know it.

You have a cure for cancer almost at your fingertips!

Then the reality of the situation hits you, and you realize that the odds of finding any book you might want to find are very, very, . . . in fact vanishingly, . . . slim..

The numbers are just too big.

And there you sit with mixed emotions — torn between absolute wonder at what books must sit in this library, and abject depression because you’ll never find them.

———

This is basically Jorge Luis Borges’s “Library of Babel” thought experiment.

It never fails to blow my mind.

What are some trippy thought experiments?

Finding the Beatles.

Yet another trip. Yet another experience.

I was happily on my way to Roorkee this week, when my driver (a prodigious chap named Shekar) told me that we would be crossing Haridwar on the way from Dehradun. Since we reached Dehradun in the early afternoon, and the trip to Roorkee would take a couple of hours at most, he suggested I should spend some time in Haridwar and maybe explore a few places along the way.

Always happy to take a detour, I decided we would stop at Haridwar and maybe I would collect some Gangajal for all those sinning friends of mine. Halfway there, however, a fork in the road and a wrong turn meant we were almost at Rishikesh before we knew it. Now, anybody named Rishi would love to visit Rishikesh, and though the place has a huge list of beautiful places to visit, we wouldn’t have much time if we did.

How then could you spend an hour in Rishikesh and view all that it has to offer? Google it, and you get 49 places to see in and around Rishikesh. Damn, no chance. So I prepared myself to do a recee of the place, and return when I had more time on hand. We crossed the Laxman Jhula and the Ram Jhula, past the mountain where India’s highest bunjee jump is set up, and decided to try our hand at rafting this cold and unruly part of the Ganges.

We were out of luck. Modi’s Swachh Bharat abhiyaan is in full swing (I have mixed feelings here) and the river has been dried up to help clean the source and the paths at Haridwar and further. Rishikesh now has a drying Ganges flowing through it, providing enough water for the temples, but not enough for rafting. Even the Triveni doesn’t draw the crowds in this year.

And on Google, I finally found what I knew I would most certainly enjoy, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. For those without a background, this is where the Beatles came down in the 60’s for most of their inspiration. (Thanks Akshay Harikumar for all those stories of the Maharishi! I knew at once that this was the place.) No one on the street did know, however. We tried to grill at least 50 locals for the location, no one knew it. They could count out fifty places of significance in Rishikesh, but no one knew who the Beatles were.

I found a few random blog posts claiming that the ashram was in ruins, and half engulfed by the forest. I knew now that this was a place I had to see. We took a forest route suggested by one site, and ended up at the other end of the Laxman Jhula, again in the midst of locals who had never heard of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Shekar was giving up now, intent that there wasn’t such a place and I was just reading the stuff of internet folklore.

I read somewhere that the ashram was close to the Swargashram, and people seemed to know where it was. But there was no sign near the ashram. Finally, a local who had heard that the foreigners flocked to this random cave in the hills pointed me in the right direction. When you move south from the Swargashram, you come across a cab parking area which is where the cabs drop visitors to the river bank. Somewhere along a small road from there is a one lane road which ends up the the river, with no where to go but a broken concrete bridge with cows herding all over. I left my cab here and started walking. The cab driver was skeptical, and said, “There’s nothing here. Let’s get to Haridwar, I will show you the best temple in India, and you get to go there via a cable car.” But he didn’t understand that I had a temple of my own I was searching for.

A good ten minute walk uphill, and you meet a few straggling tourists lost. Ask them where the ashram is, and they don’t know. They just came here to this lonely spot to ingest some narcotics approved by the local baba. A lone young foreigner walks down the hill, wearing John Lennon shades and a Beatles tee. Yes! I asked him where the Beatles Ashram is, and he excitedly points me towards the left, happy that someone else has at least a tiny interest in the ones he came all the way to Uttarakhand to understand.

We get talking, and he says, “It’s shut down. They don’t let anyone in, saying the Government has shut it down. Why would the Indian Government do that? In England, this place would be a museum. But I’m glad it’s not, preserves the feels. However, you need to pay the gatekeeper to get in.” He paid Rs. 100 to get in, and guessed that Indians would have to pay a little less. He walks away muttering about unofficial bribes and looting the foreigners.

Revitalized, I walk further. I reach a broken down gate, made of stone. This, is the entrance to the Maharishi’s ashram. A sneaky Indian youth sees me and informs me the place is shut down. Government doesn’t let anyone in. A persuasive conversation of how I’ve come all this way to see this place makes him open the gate. He shrugs, “Your wish. There’s nothing here. I don’t know what is wrong with all the people who come here.” He didn’t charge me a dime, as I’m Indian. I grin to myself, when has that ever happened?\

The ashram is an odd ruin, overgrown with weeds and hidden in the forest. However, all the huts of stone are intact. It is a nature lover’s paradise. Birds, fauna, flora, and happy people. There are close to 20 people inside the ashram. I’m the only Indian here. A Russian passer-by asks me, “Is there a temple here? Why are you here?” “The Beatles!” I grin. Relieved, he points me up the mountain and says, “House No. 9, you want to go there.”

House No. 9 is where John Lennon apparently stayed while here for six weeks. The Beatles wrote over one and a half albums while here, all within 60 days. The entire White Album was written here. And no one knows. Wow. At least now you do.

All the huts are the same, except 9. You crawl into it, and you are met by paintings and doodles by fans, a memorabilia which is worth visiting if you’re a Beatles fan. Hugely popular in the 70’s, hundreds of foreigners have visited this place, and still do, as an ode to the inspiration that created some of the Beatles’ best work. A few musicians sit outside, under trees, seeking their own inspiration.

I found the Beatles. I found peace, in an Indian setting, with huge history and amazing feels. I hope that the Indian Government conserves this goldmine of history, restores the area and maintains it. I’m sure any fan would pay Rs. 100 to visit this place, and many fans don’t even know of this place. But again, I don’t want it to be a crowded museum, it would spoil the legacy and the ambience.

My driver called, we don’t have time for Haridwar. Let us head back to Roorkee as soon as possible, before it gets late. I smile, it was well worth the time lost. And as I walk away, the White Album plays in my head…

Yeah, ob-la-di ob-la-da life goes on,
La-la how the life goes on.

And if you want some fun,
Take ob-la-di ob-la-da.

Thank you, uh, ha ha ha!

– The Beatles

Pictures up soon!