Cycling in Chennai

Those things that we love to do or those that we are obsessed over, generally, do more harm than good to us- physically, emotionally and mentally. Rarely do we love those things that are good to us.

But I seem to have found one….

Cycling!

I discovered cycling to be the perfect fitness activity for me.
I have tried gymming and yoga before for fitness. But they seem to go no where. The reasons, why those activities did not work for me are many: be it yoga or gym they are both indoor activities- which made them boring. Unlike those activities, cycling is an outdoor activity through which you can discover many great places in your city.  I have already visited many amazing places in Chennai on my cycle, and I am just getting started!

The second reason is the dozens of other people you encounter in gyms and yoga studios, which in India are over stuffed with people. You end up idling away a lot of time in waiting for your turn to get on the thread mill and in totally unnecessary-but-unavoidable small-talk. This makes these activities very inefficient. But when you allocate one hour to cycling, you end up burning calories for that one hour, nothing less. Even if you join a cycling club or find a cycling buddy, the chit chat is reserved for when you are off the track.

The third reason is that you are in total control when you are cycling. You don’t need the help of a gym instructor or a yoga guru to perform your activities. Many times you might find the guru/instructor incompatible with your personality or you may feel uncomfortable if you have issues with authority figures! Cycling on the other hand is very intuitive. You just need to learn the basics of cycling and you are good to ride. For any advanced knowledge there are a plethora of websites which provide awesome free content.

Lastly, I am somewhat of a solitary creature, I like to have some alone time with myself, every day. Cycling allows me to enjoy those crucial moments when i let my mind wander with random thoughts. This is helping me deal with emotional and mental stress. Also I would like to think that the free association thinking i indulge in improves my creative capabilities.

I discovered these benefits of cycling two months ago when I rode my neighbor’s bike, at my home, for a few days. I had not only felt better physically but also more emotionally balanced. So the first thing I did after getting my salary was to buy a cycle.

Buying Process

As I had decided that cycling is something that I would be doing for a long time to come, I wanted to buy a cycle that’s little more advanced than the basic ‘Hero’ and ‘Hercules’ cycles, but also something which stays with in my budget. After doing considerable research on various forums and Facebook cycling pages, I decided to buy either BSA’s iBike or Btwin’s myBike 7s. First I visited a BSA showroom in Pallavaram to try the iBike. It was a small shop and the owner did not allow me to test ride it, but the bike ‘looked’ good. Next I went to the Decalthon showroom which was 25kms from my place. Immediately after reach there, I fell in love with the Decalthon store house. It was a big warehouse like structure, with every sport related equipment and accessories available under one roof. There were a lot of athletes and kids with their parents, who were trying new equipment or cycling inside the warehouse. These was a small football court outside the place where a serious game was going on. The people who were working there were themselves sports persons and were very friendly and offered me genuine advice about cycling. I was allowed to test ride any bicycle I wanted, even the high end ones even though they knew i would not be buying them. It all felt more like a sports club than a commercial store. I was converted a life long fan of Decalthon brand in my first visit itself! Some body must make an MBA case study about the excellent customer service and joyful environment created in the store by Decalthon.

But ironically, I didn’t buy my bike from the store, though I decided to buy their bike. As any typical jugaady Indian, I searched the bike on olx and quickr to buy a second hand one. I was lucky to find an almost unused myBike 7s(10months old) whose store mrp was Rs 8000, for Rs 7000, plus it had Rs 1500 worth of accessories!

I succeeded in negotiating the price and got the bike for Rs 6.2k 😂, on 31st of last month, the day on which I received my pay check.

The second challenge was to ride that bike after buying, to my place which was 16 kms away, and it was already night time. My roommates thought that it was a crazy idea and I could not be able to do that. I was kind of amused about how little they know about me- the more crazy the idea, the more excited I get. Though I was riding a cycle after many years, I completed the journey in 1 hours 15 minutes! This gave me lots of confidence and encouraged me to try tougher challenges in quick time. Since then, in the past two weeks, I have already completed 250 kms on the bicycle. You could say that I have got to a flying start!
These are the pictures of my bike:

image

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Its a basic 1*7 gear cycle, with Shimano gears. It has a simple structure, with light weight and no unnecessary accessories. Btwin brand of cycles are made by Decalthon itself and today this French company is one of the leading producer of innovative and economical sports goods in the world. MyBike is just such a joy to ride, and i would recommend it as ytheir our first bike to anyone who want to start cycling as a hobby.

I have also been using an awesome fitness app called ‘Strava’ which records the speed, map location, elevation etc of our activity. More than that it also offers us challenges and tells us our performance when compared with others who have travelled on that ‘segment’. Its a great motivator and recorder of the activities. You could follow me on strava through my name or email id.

Cycle-Rain-Life

My most adventures ride was the one from my place in Pallavaram to Ambattur Industrial estate and back, a total distance of 50 kms. The motivation for the ride was actually some personal frustration. This happened at start of the last week. Like on any other previous occasion, I would have got a beer and a fag to drench my frustration. But then I had my bike this time and took my frustration on my cycle pedal and the poor road! I was like that guy in Mad Max fury who yells- “What a day!”, “What a lovely day!”

It was 7 o’clock in the night and I started the 25km on ward journey. Apart from the maddening Chennai traffic, the ride went smooth. Also because of the low weight of the cycle and its superior build, I could easily manoeuvre and lift it on to foot paths to dodge traffic. I could reach Ambattur by 9 o’clock and had dinner in Ambit food court and relaxed for a while and started my reverse journey. Meanwhile my phone battery died down, leaving me vulnerable to the kindness of the tamil-speaking Annas’ to guide me home. Of course most of them assumed I was cray-cray when I asked them directions to a place 20 kms away at that time of night. A well meaning Anna directed me towards the ‘bypass’ route through which there would be less traffic. But my cycle did not have a headlight nor a safety signal light. It was a bit terrifying and risky. I quickly changed in to by lanes and came back on to city roads.

Then happened the biggest twist- it started raining, not just any rain, it was a full on cyclone. Thankfully I found a bus shelter under which I took refuge for an hour and half till the downpour became a drizzle. Even though I was thirsty, sleepy and tired, I could not stop marvelling at that nature’s force which just destroyed anything and everything in its path, filling up the gaps on the roads, dancing with terrifying force on the roof of bus stand and it’s forceful gale punching my sweet new bike on to the ground. Only such an experience reminds us how small our worries and frustrations are. With this new found insight and with the rain finally slowing down i started back to home. But of course it rained again, this time an under construction metro station gave me shelter, under which i crouched for another hour. The rain was even more forceful this time. The wind was too chilling for my thin t-shirt. The water guessing down from the metro station formed an awesome little water fall and it was so strong that it made a little crack on the tarmac road by the end. Another insight I learned this time is the importance of patience when you embark on such unorganized adventures- which is how life is for most of us.

Finally, reached home at 1.30am, faced some nasty looks from my worried room mates, woke up in the morning and went to work as usual.

After that ride, I became more organized and am planning trips ahead with proper timings, water for hydration and full charge on mobile.

My next major adventure would be to travel to the great temple city of Kanchi which is about 60 kms from my place. So the entire time journey would be 120+ kms. I plan to take this journey in the first weekend of next month. Before that I have to prepare physically, mentally as well as financially- because I need to get some accessories for my bike for such long journeys. I should get a head light, a safety light, a good helmet, a water sipper, a small travel bag, a portable mobile charger etc. Will buy them in next month.

I hope to learn more through my bicycle adventures and as well share them on my blog, in coming months.

Happy riding 😂!

Thoughts on Kabali teaser

I couldn’t resist any more, I have been behaving like an addict for a week now, I need to get it out of my system…

…by writing about it.

These are my thoughts on Kabali teaser which I must have watched about 50 times!

I wondered, why, out of all the previous teasers and trailers of Rajinikanth, Kabali has caught the fascination of Rajini fans like none other. The answer is pretty simple- it is the longingness and nostalgia for millions of fans, to their past “Rajani memories”. Rajini memories  are those awesome childhood memories that give you an instant high. They range from memorizing  Rajini’s pet dialogues,  imitating his every move-from a flick of his fingers to his climbing down the steps, to immersing oneself in the latest Rajini songs.

Though Rajini has done movies later in his career, any true Rajini fan would acknowledge that the years from 1991 to 1999 is Rajini’s golden era. From Baasha to Narasimha he set box office records afire, set benchmarks for an ultimate masala cinema and imprinted his name as a living legend of Indian cinema.

By offering these humongous number of ‘views’, ‘likes’, ‘tweets’, the fans of Rajini are collectively saying: “Welcome back Thalaiva, We missed you…”

Now lets go in to what the teaser has offered and what are some of the Easter eggs hidden in it.

firstlook_Kabali.png

 

This is clearly a Malaysian Jail, with prisoners in the background and jail officials in the foreground. Rajni is in the centre of the frame, and the police personnel stand as though they are welcoming him, I think here Rajini is walking out of the jail after serving some time. Interestingly he has the same costume here as he does when he is bashing goons later in the teaser. May be Rajini the mob boss in his twilight years after a long hiatus, has come back to town to reclaim his city-Bangkok. This is parallel to how Rajini has re-entered the arena of south Indian mass films to show who the Big Daddy is, the other stars standby as Thalaiva takes the centre stage!

title_Kabali.png

I haven’t watched any previous movies of Pa.Ranjith but those who did claim that he has a great humane perspective on films and is one huge talent to watch out for. This title card in the teaser hints about the undertone political philosophy of the film. For a movie about a don, it surprisingly depicts poor and working class people in the background of the title card. The same is done inside the words “Kabali”(written in Tamil) in which the picture  of Rajini and Petronas towers are also embedded. Probably this hints that Kabali’s motivation  to became a don is to protect “his people” who probably are the poor working class Tamil migrants to Malaysia.

jail_Kabali.png

They say, that a setting sun(Rajini) shines the most brightest. Is it what this shot depicts?

conference_Kabali

 

This frame is beautiful, kudos to G. Murali the cinematographer. It shows Rajini looking stylish as ever addressing a conference of sort, in the background of a sun setting(rising?) over Bangkok skyline. Looks like, apart from being a Don, Rajini does charity work through his “Free life foundation”. The name suggests that the foundation would be working for “freedom” of his people. But what’s most fascinating here is the poster of Charlie Chaplin on the right wall. What is this supposed to mean?-not able to decipher, we need more hints Ranjit!

 

One of my favourite mannerisms of Rajini is how utter-devastatingly he mocks people and here we a great example of it.

 

shoes_Kabali.png

See the brute force in his expression. This is the badass-muthafukin-Rajini we have missed all these days.

young_Kabali.png

This scene seems to be Rajini’s take on Al-Pacino’s Godfather-1 assasination scene, which also takes place in a restaurant. The young Kabali seems to be walking out of a restaurant in the most badass way possible, holding a gun. The surprised expression on the man behind him says that a non-planned assassination must have taken moments ago. This might be the beginning of Kabali’s rise as the don-Bahubali, the beginning beware of your records, Kabali is coming with all his swag!

I am holding my breath for the trailer release of Kabali, till then…

cheers_Kabali.png

P.S: According to some online analysts, the Youtube teaser with its 15 million+ views must have already generated Rs 25 Lakhs for the producers!

 

 

A short story. A Screenplay.

With a lot of free time at hand, I decided to pursue screenplay writing as a hobby. For the last one week I have been studying the Syd Field’s Screenplay-the foundations of screenwriting which is considered as the bible of screen writingto learn the basics of this craft. If I can give you its most important take away from it, it would be this: screen writing is about giving words to ‘your’ pictures. These words will then be used to create their ‘own’ pictures by film directors. Never mention the inner emotions and feelings of the characters and other things which cannot be seen, instead try to show them through the character’s behaviour.

Armed with these basics, I decided to give myself an assignment. I downloaded a bunch of best Telugu short stories(old ones) and decided to write screenplay for one of them.

One of the best collection of short stories in Telugu, named “Amaravati Kathalu“(The stories of/from Amaravati) was written by Shri Satyam Sankaramanchi. Sankaramanchi is one of the pioneers of modern Telugu short story literature and his style of writing is simple yet profound.

The first story from that collection that I read was ‘Varada'(The Flood), and instantly loved it, and decided to try screen writing it. The story starts with beautifully describing the geography of the Amaravati town in just one paragraph. Then the author rues how the once glorious Amaravati(the capital of Satavahanas the emperors who started the Salivahana Saka/era), has lost all its riches, culture and values, through providing many illustrations. Then suddenly the story plunges us in to a devastating flood which destroys much of the town. In the midst of this chaos, a Brahmin(the highest caste) casts away his caste rules momentarily and asks an untouchable to serve him food, saying “Sanga! I am hungry…so are you, if others serve it , it is Ghee and if you serve it does not become not Ghee….so serve me”.

A Brahmin explaining this simple yet unrecognized logic to a untouchable is profoundly ironic. The readers might think that may be, after all there hope to eradicate caste boundaries between humans. But the author having seen the evils of caste system for far too long stays cynic and ends the story by saying that no number of floods is able to clean off the ‘dirt’ from the hearts of people.

Like many other Indian writers, Sankaramanchi anthropomorphizes the great river Krishna which flows through Amaravati. The author implies that having seen the past glorious days of Amaravati, Krishna is furious at the current state of sad affairs and so she shows her anger by flooding Amaravati(in a way to wash it off).  This shows the author’s desire for destruction so that Amaravati can start from the beginning. But by the end he realizes that no amount of destruction can bring lasting change to people’ minds. The change of attitude in people brought about by the people themselves is the ultimate solution, which the author is sceptical of ever happening. In this story the author took castism as a representative of all things bad about Amaravati.

After understanding the story at a more deeper level, I concluded that I will not be able to do justice to the story through my present screen writing skills. The story is too visually dynamic, to show the contrasts between the past and present state of Amaravati, the geography of the town and the flood destroying it, is very challenging. Also the story had very few dialogues which makes it very difficult to express the inner feelings and the hundreds of years of caste dynamics through pictures.

Hypothetically speaking, even if I was able to write it, it would be too high budgeted to make a short film out of it.

So I decided to write some thing of my own as a continuation to this story, sort of a prologue to ‘Varada’. This screenplay consists of three pages and can be made with minimal resources and takes. Also I changed the destructive element from a flood(varada) to a cyclone(toophanu).


The Cyclone

by

M V Teja Chilamakuri

Int. Under the Gopuram(of a small temple) – Night

 

An ancient looking, dark and damp room under a small temple’s ‘Gopuram’. Outside of it, the retreating cyclone’s rain is lashing at the tarpaulin/cloth that is being tied up by SUBBAIAH to keep out the rain.

 

The young wife of Subbhaiah, LAKSHMAMMA– a short and thin women, who has a slight bend in her spine because of constantly bowing down to the ‘masters'(upper castes) who visit the temple, is sitting on a dirty rug on the floor inside the small Gopuram hall. She is trying to soothe her child who is terrified and crying incessantly. The rain is lashing heavily with ghoulish fervour, with frequent thunders.

In the background, Subbhaiah is covering the side of ‘Gopurm’ hall that opens in to the main temple, with a cloth. The other side is closed by temple doors. The rain & wind are making it hard to tie it. Subbaiah’s face looks calm even as his wet hands are working hard.

Lakshmamma
Pilladu edupu aapatledu, em seyyalu teliyatledu(Eng: The Child is crying uncontrollably, I do not know what to do)

 

Lakshmamma’s voice gets drowned in a thunder, Subbhaiah does not reply as he is busy providing the child and its mother a protective shield against the rain.

 

Lakshamamma presses the child in to her bossom to keep it warm and rocks it gently.

 

Lakshmamma
Pantulu garu nee chetha nayyi veyinchukunnarantaga…andharu dani gurinche matladukuntunnaru(Is it true that Pantulu master had asked you to serve him ‘Ghee’ with your own hands? Every one is talking about it)

SUBBHAIAH
Avune, Pantulu garu entha manchoro. Nacheta veyinchukoni, emannarante, Nenu vesina gani, inkevaro vesina gani nayyi nayye kada ani annaru. Mahanubhavudu.(Yes, Panthulu master is a very good person. He said that it doesn’t matter if its me or any other person who serves, the Ghee remains the same. Such a great person).

 

LAKSHMAMMA
Entha manchi mata chepparo! (His words are full of wisdom!

 

Lakshmamma’s face looks more hopeful

 

LAKSHMAMMA
Mari mari maava, manam kuda garba gudi lopala padukuntamani adagochu kada?(Dear, then why don’t you ask him if we could also sleep inside the main temple area(more protected)?

 

SUBBHAIAH
Nenu bhayapaduthu adi adiganu Pantulu garni. Adi aacharam ki vyatirekam, thana chetullo emi ledu, avvadu ani anesaru(With fear, I asked about this with the Panthulu master. He said that it goes against the ‘tradition’ and the matter is not in his hands and so he said no)

 

Lakshmamma
Kanisam pillodinaina?(Atleast the child?)

 

Subbhaiah
Aacharam ee adhi, ee thoofanu lage aacharalu kuda devudi chetilo vuntai. Vatiki anugunnamga naduchukovali-velaithe vatinunchi kapadukovali, anthe gani vatini edurinchakudadu.(This is the ‘tradition’. Just like this cyclone, traditions are created by God, we should only adapt to them and sometimes try protecting ourselves from their harshness but one should never go against them.

 

Subbhaaiah by saying that, finishes tying up the protective cloth and sits beside Lakshmamma and looks at his Child’s face, while holding Lakshmamma’s hand.

 

Lakshmamma looks at her now calm child’s face and asks

 

LAKSHMAMMA
(sarrowful voice)
Ee “thoofanu” baadha eppudu teerudhi mama?(When does this suffering from the cyclone end for us dear?)

 

Subbhaiah reaches for the Kerosne lamp and increases the intensity of its light and warms his hands over the heat. The glow illuminates the Child’s face. Looking at it, he says:

 

Subbhaiah
Aa painunnodike teliyali! (Only God Knows!)

 

The protective cloth’s fluttering increases, the knot of the tied cloth looks shaky and it is about to undo

 

Fade out to black:

 

The End

 

Credits roll(sound: ROAR OF A THUNDER FOLLOWED BY A CHILD CRYING)

In Sankaramanchi’s ‘Varada’ the flood shows the author’s anger towards castism and other ills in the society. In “The Cyclone”, the raging cyclone symbolises the castism itself, where the dalits try their best to protect themselves and their families from its effects but not actually revolting against it. They have full faith in their God in whose name they are being discriminated against.

Chennai Dairies: A sultry welcome

To recap, after incessant multiple attempts, I again couldn’t scale “The Wall“- The ‘Civil Services Mains examination’ in 2015. After roaming in the ‘wilderness’ for far too long, I decided to bite the bullet and embark on my “settling” phase of life and have joined as a TA(Tax Assistant) in Chennai Customs house, Central Board of Excise and Customs. So here I am, in Chennai, working for the government of India and looking forward to new adventures.

First Impressions of Chennai

The Bad:

Let me address those issue which I didn’t like about Chennai, which by the way are far and few.

  • Biryani: Having been a Biryani lover for many years and having grown up in the Biryani ‘paradise’ of the world, one of my first exploration of Chennai was to check out its Biriyani restaurants. And boy! was I disappointed. I purposefully visited a location in Chennai with a sizeable Muslim population(in Triplicane), to get the authentic Chennai Biryani. In a line of Biryani restaurants, I choose the one that looked a bit ‘fancy’ from the outside(rest of them were too ‘local’). But the ambience inside the restaurant was starkly different, having cheap chairs and tables, and no A/C. However the prices were very low; I ordered a plate of chicken Biriyani(for Rs 90) and a Pepsi. The Biryani was served in a plate which had a banana leaf on it, which I guess makes it easy to clean the plates and saves water which would have been required to clean off all that grease from the Biriyani. The Chicken was cooked with its skin intact, which was disgusting to look at. The rice used was not as aromatic as one would expect and it was too ‘orange’ in color for my liking And by the way, Chennaites call Biryani as Briyani(not as ammusing as “La Royale with Cheese”), or atleast that’s how it is written on the hotels’ boards and the menu.
  • Humidity: Although I am enjoying the cool sea breeze, the profuse sweating feels irritating. For a lazy bum like me, bathing two times a day(or even 3) and washing the clothes after wearing them only once becomes a pain in the ass!

The Good:

  • The people: Who ever propagated the stereotype that Chennaites are unwelcoming to ‘foreigners’ were probably projecting their own feelings, or at least that is not what I have experienced in these first few days here. Indeed, many local people were kind to me, helping me out with finding addresses and giving helpful advice. In fact, I was actually fleeced by a non-local, a Andhra(a place from where I come) auto driver who charged me Rs 300 for a 4 km drive. But, of-course there are some rude and nasty people like the one bus conductor who wouldn’t tell me the right bus stop to disembark and made me get down at the wrong stop, but those are exceptions and you may find such people every where. In conclusion, people here are as wonderful and and as kind as any where else and you will come to appreciate their kindness.
  • Local trains: The ticket prices of Chennai local trains are so damn cheap that I almost feel guilty for paying far too less for the wonderful service they provide. The trains are regular, fast and they reach almost all parts of the city. You can download this mobile app here, to know more about the timings and map of its reach.
  • Sea Breeze: My PG is with in 200 meters from the Marina Beach, which is one of the most popular destination for the localites to chill out in the evenings. As my building is not surrounded by other constructions, I enjoy a constant cool sea breeze travelling from the sea towards land in mornings and from land towards sea in evenings(because of faster warming and cooling of land than water). I am enjoying this nature of wind very much.
  • History and Culture: Chennai is a haven for history geeks like myself. Do you know that Chennai is the first place where Britishers built a fort in India(St George fort) and many of its places like Thiruvallikeni and Mylapore have ancient history. I can’t wait to read and visit all those historical places and satisfy my inner historian’s curiosity. Also, being the capital city of Tamil Nadu, Chennai has a constant cultural buzz, hosting varied cultural events through out the year. If you know the right events to attend, you will never get bored here.
  • My Idols: Finally, I get to share the city-space with some of my biggest filmi idols such as AR Rahman, Mani Ratnam and Kamal Hassan, so three hurrays for that!

I hope to discover more ‘good’ about Chennai in coming months and share the interesting bits about this city on my blog 🙂

 

America’s imperialism after Monroe’s doctrine. Discuss

The “Monroe doctrine” was a foreign policy initiative by President James Monroe of United States in 1823. Since then, for a century, US’s foreign policy more or less followed the path set by the Monroe doctrine.

Continue reading America’s imperialism after Monroe’s doctrine. Discuss