Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A day in Sin City of the world ...

Some things in life are just unbelievable!!

My first attempt to go see Las Vegas was a major nightmare. I met with an accident on my way to vegas and spent next 2 months in the hospital. I went through a skin grafting surgeory on my left hand and the mark will remain on my hand probably forever.

and today, after only about 7 months since my accident, I have just returned from an incredible visit to las vegas. Things could not have been better for me in this successful visit. Before the accident, Las Vegas, was just another sightseeing attraction to me. But, past the accident, it had become a special place. Luckily, I got the opprtunity way before I expected. I jumped on it.

The long weekend of Thanksgiving, 2005, me and 2 of my very good friends decided to go hike in the Grand Canyon and spend some time in the Las vegas on our way back to Bay Area. We had a successful hike in the canyon and reached Las Vegas on nice n sunny saturday afternoon. We had about 20 hours to spend in the city and had a room booked in one of the hotels on the strip itself.

Since we came from Arizona, the very famous Hoover dam was right on the way and we had a nice break there. My earlier impression about Colorado river, from what I saw in the canyon was not very good. I thought the river is too small and is overhyped. But, after seeing this Dam, I realized that the river is actually pretty huge on the other side of the dam. The location and the architecture of the dam is really some smart piece of engineering work. This dam is serving most of the cities in Nevada and Arizona including las Vegas.

As we were getting closer to the city, the sight of high rise Hotels on the strip was really attractive. Most of the big/famous cities in the world are located near a river/sea; The place where Las Vegas is located is in the midst of desert and you could just wonder how much efforts are put in to get the basic infrastructure needed for this city. Although the City is not too big, If you drive about 30 miles in any direction from Vegas strip you can only see the endless desert around you. But in the city, its really happening.

Vegas really Rocks! You will see casinos, hotels everywhere. The entire city lives on gambling/entertainment/partying business. People come there from all over the world to blow out some cash. They want to get married in Vegas, we saw a couple walking on the strip who just got married in one of the hotels. We also saw few high rise condominium apartment complexs which I learnt is a new concept there now. To make this place attractive and to maintain that, I think a lot depends on the construction business there, I wont be surprised if some really bright civil engineers have a dream to build something in Vegas.

All the action is around a street named Las Vegas Boulevard and more popularly known as The Strip. About 1.5 miles of the strip has big hotels lined up on it. All these hotels depict a theme. Some of the themes include Paris, Alladin, MGM, New York among many others. very creative designs to depict such themes makes it a big attraction and its really a treat to watch. Most of the saturday evening we spent walking on the strip and watching these hotels. We went inside a few of them, the things to do insight are pretty much the same. There is gambling, sports bars, pubs in all these hotels. All of them also host entertainment shows to attract more people to their hotels. These hotels also host some free shows outside and around the hotels to attract people. This time not all the hotels were running these shows. But, we got to see the volcano show which was really exotic.

Its a crime not to gamble in Vegas, at least the first time you go. Its a damn good experience. I went around the gambling hall in MGM for a loong time and finally decided to try my luck with roulette. I was watching others play, win a lot and loose a lot. I decided to change the table and put my $10 bill on the table. The lady said, "denominations of 10 sir??" "yes! I would like to start small " ;)! I decided to play on the colors, than the numbers, the probability of winning was still 50%, but the multiplying factor was only 2.

As they say, you will probably win the first time, and thats what happened. I placed my $10 on the red and red it was. I now got 2 coins. Unfortunately, the next few rounds didnt go well for me and I lost both the coins in next 2 rounds. I walked away with loss of $10. I found it very tempting though and now can imagine how gambling can make a life or completely ruin it.

Apart from these big names there are lot of others things that one can do on the strip. We checked out Harley Davidson cafe and Margaritta bar where there were special celebration going on for Thanksgiving. I could not have left vegas without buying a souvenier. Walking down the strip itself was a lot of fun. We were on the strip till about 9 pm. After that, we did a lot of stuff which I am not going to talk about here.

Las Vegas has everything for everyone. I am not sure how many people will go there again n again if they are not interested in gambling. But, I thought its a place for me and I am surely going to go back there and get even on the money I lost, hopefully!

I was really happy to have worked this trip very well in terms of everything. I had just imagined this same good time in las vegas the first time I started. Things went wrong that time and they went all the way I wanted this time. Its just unbelievable !!

Oh wait! please dont ask me about what I did on that saturday night in Vegas, Its a sin city, you know, and ....


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Rural California...

On my trip to Grand Canyon I had a chance to stay in a town called Williams, AZ.

This place is about 50 miles from Grand Canyon South Rim and its really on the way to canyon. After our 13 hour drive from Bay Area to state Arizona, we had planned to stay at this town before we go hiking in the Grand Canyon the next day.

Even though this place is commercialized with lots of lodges, restaurents (for the people visiting Grand Canyon), it still has that rural feel to it, which is why I liked this place a lot. It was the first time I was going to stay in a small town like that in the US and I really enjoyed the time we spent there.

The town was very small with probably just 100 occupied blocks including residential and commercial buildings. Very few, wide but empty streets and a church. The church was being decorated for christmas and thanksgiving. That was the first christmas decoration I saw in the US, and realized that it is not much different from our diwali decorations!

I remembered all those movies which featured such towns, the stories related to loong road trips, people staying in motels and all that stuff. I felt like am a part of one such movie. Well, naturally, After seeing that town, the only thing that I could relate to was those movies... I am sure, now I have something real to relate to when I watch those movies again :)

Hiking in Grand Canyon

This is really special... Grand Canyon !

People go there, take pictures and come back! Not only we did that, but also hiked all the way down to a place from where you can see the Colorado river. I think it is kewl !!

We had this hike planned way early and pretty well. I have done hikes/trekking before in india in western ghaats of Maharashtra and Karnataka, so have some good experience. As you can imagine there is whole lot of information available about Grand Canyon trails and hikes on the internet and so it was much easier to plan ahead. Going to Grand Canyon for a hike from Bay Area is about 13 hours journey by road and a good night sleep was much needed before we could start hiking the next day morning. We stayed over at a small town, Williams, about 50 miles from Grand Canyon and the plan was to start hiking early next morning.

We reached the starting point of our trail, bright angel trailhead, around 7:30 am. On our way (1 hour drive) to Grand Canyon we saw the SunRise on the horizon of the desert around and by now it was getting a little warmer. But that was not enough for me. It was freezing cold. I had never even been in that freezing temparature. My finger tips, inspite under the gloves, were paining. I realized that my snicker shoes arent good enough to keep my feet warm. and I thought may be we should just take a walk here, get some patel snaps and go home :)

But, I was'nt that unlucky! We got some more information from the visitor center. When we reahced the trailhead, the sight of Grand Canyon was amazingly beautiful. The fresh sun light hitting the huge canyon was a treat to eyes. We could see the Indian Garden from the top and I was now thinking of going there. The days are short in winter so we had to reach back before 5 pm. We knew it was going to be tough climbing back up coz it was too steep. But, all 3 of us really wanted to get to that Indian Garden, about 6 miles. We decided that we will reconsider the decision of going back every hour depending on where we are... engineers, you know !!

We started at around 8:15. It was still very cold. The worst thing was that I was carrying water, food items and some more thing in a GAP carry bag. I know its a crime not to have a good backpack for such hikes, but I just could not manage it. Going down was easy and fun even in cold. I had never done a trek which starts with going down first. I would recommend everyone who is planning to go see Grand Canyon to do this hike there (if they are capable), and thats because when you go down, you can see the Geology of Grand Canyon. The difference in the layers is very distinct and thats not possible to see from the top.

We made a real good progress in a short time and seeing lot of people around us was really encouraging. We had a good company around us. There was also a tour group to the Indian Garden with us. All these people were taken down and back up on mules. We started almost together and we knew if we stay closer to them, we have better chances of completing this hike. There were 2 intermediate points where you can take water/restroom break. Being winter, water wasnt available. As we were getting down, we could see all the plants, bushes in that desert. This kind of plants, I had never seen before. They grow from the top and die by their bottom, so there height is short and almost constant always!

As we were getting closer to Indian Garden, we realized that we can complete this trek. We reached Indian Gardens at abount 11 am and decided go to the Platteu Point which was another 1.5 miles walk. This is the point, from where you can see the Colorado river, the lowest point of the grand canyon. There was also a trail going straight to the river and it was about 3 miles from there. That was too much considering that we have to climb back up.

The walk to the Platteu Point was more fun. We had come down almost 90% of the slope and this walk was much straighter. we were going to the center of the Canyon and the sight of Huge rocks around us was stunning. Platteu Point is almost at the middle of the Canyon. You can see the North Rim valley also from there. Looking at the Colorado river from there, was also amazing. The valley of another 1000 feet and then the small river flowing between that was worth this hike. We were making plans of going down to the river the next time we come here. There are also colorado river rafting tours that can done. These are 6 days tour, because the valley is soo huge that the only way to do river rafting on this river is you start from one end and get to the other end after 6 days of rafting. There is a loong list of people waiting already for this and if you enroll for that now, you will get your chance in 2007 summer, may be !!

We had food there, took some snaps... I managed to get a nice small video of the entire valley from platteu point on my Canon A610. We then headed back to the Indian gardens. We took another break at the indian gardens and started to climb up. It was about 1:30 pm when we started from there!

With lots of food and water already finished, we decided to put the rest of the stuff in 2 backpacks and carry them in turns on the way up. It wasnt about being engineer, it was about survival... :)

I was having a real tough time climbing up. I never imagined it would be soo steep. It was endless... at every turn I thought the distance to reach back up was increasing and not decreasing. I realized, this is my first trek after the accident and am still not fit to do this kind of a venture, but it was too late. It was all getting on to me. I tried so many things... breathing techniques, baby steps, strategy of setting small targets... but the task was huuuuuge. Among the 3, I was really having a tough time there. I was doing it at my own speed... rather I was crawling. The amount of time spent climbing up was decreasing exponentially and the time taken for the breaks was increasing exponentially, as I was making progress. After about 3.5 hours of crawling, I made it.... and made it before sunset.

Hushhh !! I thought my legs are broken, but the pain due to the cramps was ensuring that they are still there. But, it was very very satisfying... It was alllll worth it!

We didnt bother to watch the sunset now and headed home. On our way back, we realized that we were blessed with such a great bright, sunny day today and everything went to the plan.

Nov 25th, the day after thanksgiving day, 2005, I conquered Grand Canyon!

Friday, December 9, 2005

Just another working day in the Bay Area...

Sometimes, its just good to write about something common !!

Another day of early morning meetings... that was easy with the jet lag I was going through for last few days, but today was different. I got up just in time and had to rush for the meeting. This made me feel that I am getting back to normal, you know. It was a busy day in office, touching lot of topics and too many things to handle. But, Sergey and I managed to have a couple of pool boards. The games turned out to be good because both of us were at the same skill level.

We decided to go to the Great Mall in the evening. It had rained a lot at around 5 pm and was still drizzling when we started at 5:40 pm. The sun sets quite early in this season here. It wasnt my first time at great mall and I have been there on weekdays also but there was no crowd at all today.

I saw couple of interesting things at the mall. There is now an instrument which you can connect to your cell phone when you are in the car and put it on the steering wheel. With That instrument, you can listen to the voice of the person on the phone from the car stereo speakers and the unit also has a good microphone. The device connects to the car stereo with a redio frequency, 88.7fm. Savvy ??

It was getting colder and colder and for some reason I was feeling tired and sleepy. We decided to head home.

That night on TV, the loreal ad on one of the channels featured Aishwarya Rai. That was a pleasent surprise.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

"A man in dark times" at Rangashankara

RangShankara is a place for theatre in bangalore.

If you've ever heard of Prithvi theatre in Mumbai then I think Rangshankara is "Prithvi Theatre of Bangalore". Not only because it has two big names (Girish Karnad and Arundhati Naag) associated with it, but mainly for their commitment to theatre. It just completed its first year and has already earned a lot of respect among the theatre enthusiasts in bangalore.

Well, this blog isnt really about Rangshankara, but its about my maiden performace there.
It is one of the major highlights of my career in theatre. I never thought that, my first ever play (back in 2001, named "Limit") will go into the history of biggest marathi theatre competition, Purushottam Karandak. While that still remains at the top of my list of highlights, I think this one is just after that. For various reasons, First, This was a professional play in its a true sense. I started theatre with competitions in college, continued as a hobby after college and did quite a few plays after that. They were professional plays because they were done professionally (by us) and people paid money to see them. But, they were all marathi and there is no repeat audience for marathi theatre in bangalore yet, so we could do maximum 2 shows. This one was different as it was managed in a true professional sense. Second, It was an english play. To me, having spent about 4 years in marathi theatre, this was new and very exciting, and third, it was the Rangshankara.

Rangshankara is not one of those auditoriums where plays can be staged, but it is a stage where ONLY plays are staged. It has that stadium feel to it where audience is sitting around you, unlike the typical auditorium. It is indeed a state of the arts facility with great arrangements for lights, back stage, green rooms.

But what really is amazing about that place is the acoustics. On-stage performers are not given any microphones. We thought it will be an added responsibility on us, to make sure every word is heard, but after now having done a play there, I can guarentee you that, it is in fact much easier as you dont have to worry about your voice. I was the one who had the first lines in the play and was the one responsible for setting the sound levels for that show, when I spoke my lines "Hello, Jambhekar here, Yes! the Vice Chancellor", The feedback of that was so clear and loud that, it gave me a kick really. Thats what an actor needs I think. I enjoyed that performance immensely.

I am looking forward to performing more there!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Mann udhaan varyache

This is my latest favourite song ...

Its a marathi song from the movie "Aga baai arechchya". The song has very melodious tune, touchy words and the best part is Shankar Mahadevan's singing!!

Enjoy the wordings...

Maayechya haLavyaa sparshanni phulate
naatyaanchyaa bandhaat dhoond moharate
mann udhaaN vaaryaache, gooj paavasaache
kaa hote bebhaan, kase gahivarte!

aakaashi swapnanchya harapoon bhaan shirate
hurhurtyaa saanjelaa kadhi ekaTech jhurate
saavarate, baavarate, jaDate, aDakhaLate kaa paDate
kadhi aashechya hindoLyavar mann he veDe jhulate
mann tarang houn paaNyaavarti firate
an kshaNaat firuni aabhaaLaalaa bhiDate
mann udhaaN vaaryaache ...

ruNjhuNate, guNguNate, kadhi guntate, haravte
kadhi gaharyaa doLyaanchyaaDohaat paar buDate
taLmaLte saarakhe bhaabaDe nakaLat kaa bharakaTate
kadhi mohaanchya chaar kshaNaanna mann he veDe bhulate
jaaNate jari he punhaa punhaa kaa chukate
bhaabaDe tari bhaasaanchya maagun paLate
mann udhaaN vaaryaache...


Saturday, July 9, 2005

Sarkar - the movie

After a loong time, got a chance to see a movie on its first day. was actually waiting for this one.

The movie is inspired by Godfather in a true sense I think. May be for the first time Bollywood is seeing a lead Role Hero who is 50+ in the BigB. Lot of people tried this before, but Amitabh is making it really outstanding with the kind of movies that he is doing. We have seen movies made for Amitabh in his angry-young-man image days and now we are seeing that again with all sorts of new old-man images that he is putting up. and what better character can he portray than The Godfather!

The movie is a very good attempt made to justify the great story and mainly characters of The GodFather, considering that no film variant of that book can justify the greatness of it. and Ofcourse, it is an indianized version. All the actors have done a great job. Abhishek, KK Menon and ofcourse Amitabh have done justice to those characters. I would give all the credit to the director for playing really suttle. None of the scenes are too loud or too soft. He has chosen to use expressions than the dialogues and was able to get them out of his actors.

I came out happy and felt it was worth watching it.

The surviving instinct

Life is very unpredictable and you have to be prepared for the worst all the time.

Summer 2005! I was visiting San Jose, California for a month on business. It wasnt the first time in US for me and I know how things work there in gerenal. I am not the kind of person who will sit at home after my work and relax... and that too in a country where there was still lot of stuff to explore, naah! In fact, I was making some big plans of visiting Las Vegas.

Fortunately, A friend of mine who was currently visiting Las Vegas was ready to company me. I had only one weekend left before I could go back to my country and I made my decision to go see my friend in Vegas on that weekend. I tried to get another friend of mine who could join me from San Jose, but that didn't work out. On the friday, I got home pretty late but still continued with the plan as I thought it was worth taking the risk of driving in the night for las Vegas than sitting at home.

I packed my bags and got all the maps that would help me reach to my friend's place... then got into my car, Green Hyundai Sonata with a moonroof, at about 10 pm. It was going to be around 8-9 hours drive and was planning to take about 3-4 breaks. At around 3 am, I overturned the car at one turn and then in the correction lost the control of the car completely. The speed was around 75 miles/hr. Sitting in the car, I knew it could be all dark in just few seconds. I saw all the people in my life flashing in front of my eyes. I was completely in the shock. In just 4-5 seconds the car hit something on its right side and at that speed it toppled in the air. It made one complete round and landed back on its wheels. I was conscious and when the car stopped I tried to get out of it before anything else could happen. I removed my seat belt and tried to open the door and realized that my left is badly hurt at the wrist. Blood was drooling down heavily from there and saw that some of the flesh of my hand is lying there. I could still manage to get out of the car and saw another car stopping! I came out and sat there and by the time that guy came out, I think he had already dialed 911 and was talking to them about what has happened and where exactly we are.

More than the pain, I was still in the shock. But still, I knew that I am in for a big trouble now as I am alone and not a US citizen. I was worried about my stuff still in the car, as it had my passport and other documents which will be of utmost importance now. I went to the car and tried to get my stuff out but could not. After finishing the call that guy came to me and asked me not to touch the car. He looked horrified after seeing my open wound, but I was more worried about getting my stuff out. I told him if he could help me, but he said "you stay away, I will get it for you". He tried, but could not get it out as well. Then he got some cloth for me to put it on the wound and then asked how this all happened. It seems he saw the car toppling in the air and huge smoke around it and stopped. He was like God to me then.

Within next 5-7 minutes, the emergency help reached there. The first thing they did was to put the neck-strap around my neck. Now, this was really very irritating. I thought my neck was fine but then they say this is for your safety precaution and they do it for all car accidents. I was still worried about my bags and asked these folks to get them. Everyone was worried about me and hurrying to get me in the car and I was thinking about my passport. In next 2 minutes, the the highway patrol car came. The officers asked me what happened and completed my statement. They finally got my stuff out and put that into the ambulance car. I was lying on the stretcher with extreme irritation due to that neck-strap. Until, I left that place, I did not see any other car passing by. I just thought what would have happened if that guy was not behind me, I didn't even have a cellphone.

I was taken to an emergency hospital. From the reactions of people there, I could make out that my hand is in bad condition. The neck-strap irritation was killing me. Xrays were taken for my left leg, left hand and neck. Finally, the doctor came and said, your hand needs to be grafted so we will shift you to another hospital. I asked him about the neck-strap, he said "put it on! its essential. You neck test are not completed yet". I was taken to a big hospital which was about 30 mins drive from there where I spent next 24 hours.

It is very difficult when one is alone in the hospital as a patient. There are so many things that are not told to the patients. So, everytime I got into any conversation with the nurses or the doc, I had to ask all sorts of questions to figure out whats exactly happening to me. Lots of Xrays were taken for my left hand and Neck. For the neck they found that I have survived from a hair-line fracture in the neck and it could have been a lot worse. By then, my neck was completely swollen and it was very stiff. Thats when I realized why they forced me to wear that strap.

Another nurse/trainee doc came to me and said that they have found a gravel in my wound which has to be taken out. I asked if I could see the Xray but they refused to show me saying that it is on a computer and you cant be taken there now. I had no option but to allow her to play with my open wound. She came with the apparatus. First, shr gave local anesthesia around my wound and started looking for that foreign particle in my hand. She showed... rather educated me about all the internal things in my hand. Now, I know how does a nerve, tendent look like from inside... what happens to the nerve when you tightly hold your finger? I was seeing all that. She finally found a metal peace beneath another layer of flesh... I still have it with me. With every such incidence I was getting stronger I felt than breaking down. After that they cleaned up my hand and did the dressing. After lots of Xrays, a CTScan was done of my neck to make sure that it is completely safe. In the meantime, I called up my friend and told him that I could not reach Vegas.

At 4 am, the next morning, I was told that all my tests are now done and I could go home. "Thank you very much. How can I get home now ?". "Give us your phone number? We will call your family". "They are in India". "Ohh! So, from where were you going to Vegas??". "San Jose". "You mean San Jose up north?? how are you going to get back there??". "I dont know". After a lot of discussion, I ended up catching a GreyHound bus to San Jose. The bus started from San Beranandino at 9 am and reached L.A. at 12 noon. Another bus from there started at 2.30 pm and reached SanJose by 8pm. I travelled in that bus for about 9 hours with a neck-strap, limping swollen left leg and the wounded hand. Not to forget the other stuff like my own suitcase, a food bag given to me by one of the nurses and a laptop. I dont know how I did this, but when I saw my friends waiting for me at the bus stop I was about to break down, but didnt. My friends had called the hospital and found out that I will be in that bus.

The next day was lot of work. I had to go change my dressing and fill up all the insurance claim forms. At the hospital, I found out that the dressing was done with sticky gauze and everytime it was removed it would hurt me a lot as it will take out all the skin around my wound again. huh! It was not over yet. I had to fax some clain forms to the insurance person in India and hence went to office after my visit to hospital. Somehow managed to comeplete that with only one hand in working condition and was limping aroung in the office. The doc had told me that grafting cant be done immediately and it would take 2-3 weeks for the wound to be ready for it. I had decided that I would go back to india and then do my surgery. That day, I got my flight tickets confirmed for the next day evening.

The next day I packed my bags and called home. "Dad, my work is over and I am leaving tonight. I will be coming directly to Mumbai and will stay at home for few days. Can you come to the airport to pick me up ?". Flying half of the planet could be a lot of fun, but its worse when you are in such a state. I checked in all my luggage and only kept few fruits/medicine with me on the flight. With only one hand, It was not easy to eat anything in the fight. The worse part of the journey was the stopover at HongKong for about 7 hours. I could not move around with my limping leg, had no choice but to sit in one place and avoid people looking at me. Horrible.

The flight landed on mumbai airport on time. After the custom's clearance, before I could go out I removed my neck-strap and covered the dressing of my hand. I was going to see my family now. I came out and saw my family waiting for me with smiles. I went to them and spoke for few seconds. Dad asked me "whats wrong with your neck". I told him I fell in US. I showed them my dressing. Everyone was scared. I said "nothing much! lets get in the car and get home fast". In the car, everyone was quiet. I had to tell them what happened. I told them "accident". "car accident". "car toppled in air" slowly! I knew I have done the right thing by not telling them all this from US. Now, they can see me and will take it right.

After spending that night at my Uncle's place, we came down to pune, my hometown. The next 25 days or so, I was in the hospital in Pune. A Plastic surgeon and Hand specialist was treating me. My skin grafting was done successfully. Since I lost a lot of flesh of my hand, that part of my hand still looks very ugly. But, I have accepted it. I might do another surgery later to fix that. Its really amazing how body heals itself.

After every fall, you gather more strength to reach higher. Few minutes of that incident and 2 months of recovery has changed me. I still dont believe myself when I think of the strength that I had when I was going through all that, alone. I still remember the 5 seconds when was sitting in the car when it was out of control, the flesh lying in the car, the look on the face of the guy who called 911, the people in the hospital, the Cathay Pacific Crue Head lady who spoke to me, my family and friends when they first saw me. I am very lucky to get away with just one scar on the left hand, it could have been a lot worse. I didnt want to die alone and I think that surviving instinct got me back my life!

I am planning a Las Vegas trip soon!